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oh meet me, my darling, where the sun sets over the barley

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Xavier's is big for an elementary school. Steve could easily get lost here, he thinks, if it weren't for the signs that point him in the right direction and the helpful teacher who tells him where Bucky's classroom is. It's on the first floor and the classroom at the end of the East wing hall which is the furthest from the playground and parking lot and the most quiet place in the building, he imagines.

It's not silent though. The door to the classroom at the end of the hall stands wide open and Steve can hear a couple kids' voices stream out from inside before falling quiet and be replaced by a low and familiar adult one. It makes his heart do a funny thing and by the time he makes it to the classroom, there's a smile on his face that becomes fond when he peers inside.

Bucky is sat crouched down in the middle of the room. The chairs and tables have been pushed to the back and aside and the kids are sitting on the floor in front of him, curious eyes glued onto Bucky as he talks, though a couple in the back seem to have gotten a little bored and are making origami as quietly as origami making can be.

Bucky has a tablet held up in his prosthetic hand while his right moves as he talks. When he talks, it's with a soft voice that would have been quiet anywhere other than this silent part of the building. There's interest and fascination in his voice, one that reminds Steve of when they were teenagers and Bucky fell down a research hole and would tell him about it, eyes bright and hands moving with excitement.

In retrospect, Steve thinks he might've fallen in love with Bucky then. As he watches him now, talking like that with his face bright and a small smile curling at the corners of his lips, Steve knows that he's still in love with him now.

It never went away. It was only buried by fear.

Titan is the one who notices him first. He's laying by the desk at the front of the class, vest on but leash off and on the desk instead. He lifts his head and stares at him and Steve stares back, finds himself smiling even though he knows Titan won't know what that means.

Bucky notices him second. He pauses in his speech to swipe a finger across the table screen. When he does, he throws a glance at the doorway and smiles when he sees Steve. Steve smiles back and lifts his hand in a small wave but he doesn't step further inside. He doesn't want to disturb the class.

Bucky continues for another couple minutes. Then he lowers the tablet and says, “I think we're gonna end it here today.”

He gets to his feet and the kids do the same, though a little more rushed than him. The kids move over to the pushed away tables and chairs and start gathering their stuff together while Bucky steps over to his desk and looks at Steve. Steve looks back at him and smiles when he does and when Bucky beckons him inside, he doesn't hesitate to walk in.

“And kids,” Bucky says, turning back to his student. “Remember to get a parent or guardian to sign the permission slip for our field trip next month!”

“Yes, mr. Barnes!” a couple kids chime before they all tunnel out.

Steve watches them leave and doesn't take his eyes off the doorway until their rushed footsteps have disappeared down the hall, leaving them in a pleasant quiet with a very distant background noise of playing children. Titan makes an aborted grunt as he scoots further under the desk but otherwise, it's quiet.

It's only then that Steve turns back to Bucky with a smile on his lips and a glint in his eyes.

“Mr. Barnes,” he says, lets his tone be a bit teasing because he can't not.

Bucky huffs at him. “Don't start,” he says. “I get enough of that from Clint.”

“I think it's cute.”

“Shut up.”

Bucky rolls his eyes but Steve doesn't miss the flush on his bare cheeks.

It makes him smile.

“Anyway,” Bucky says and smiles at him. “Glad you finally decided to stop by my school.”

“Me too,” Steve says and returns the smile. “It's nice to see you in your element.”

“My element?”

“Teaching. I haven't seen you that bright eyed since we were teenagers and I lost you for a week because you fell into a research hole and buried your nose in books.”

Bucky shrugs a shoulder, flush growing darker. “I like it,” he says.

“I can tell.” Steve's smile turns fond and he says, “It suits you.”

Bucky smiles at him and scratches his flushed cheek. He asks, “Did you bring lunch? I'm starving.”

“I did,” Steve says and lifts the bag in his right hand. “Sarge's was closed so I grabbed our usual from Howlie's, hope that's okay.”

“I wouldn't say no to any food right now, that's how hungry I am.”

“Then I assume you wouldn't say no to dessert either.”

Bucky lifts his brows, his smile widening. “You bought dessert too?”

“I brought dessert.” Steve hands him the container in his other hand and says, “Lily made you a cupcake.”

Bucky's smile falters and dies on his lips. He stares at Steve for a moment before his eyes drop down to the container and his face goes through a variation of different expressions before it finally settles on something akin to touched which brings his smile back fondly.

It's an expression Steve hasn't seen before but it's one that makes his heart go nuts.

When Bucky looks back up and locks eyes with Steve, he asks, “She made me a cupcake?”

“She did,” Steve says, ignoring the breathlessness in his voice. “Made me promise I'd give it to you too.”

Bucky doesn't say anything. He merely smiles and reaches out to take the container out of Steve's hand. He holds it so gently and looks at it with his head bowed but Steve can still see the smile on his lips and the way the thumb of his right hand brushes over the clear lid. He doesn't have to say anything either. The look on his face when he lifts his head and looks at Steve with a smile says it all.

“Tell her thank you,” he says, “and that I loved it.”

“You haven't tried it yet,” Steve says.

“Do you expect me to eat it right now? Because I won't.”

“Why not?”

“Because I'm starving and would eat it too fast.”

“I think that's the point.”

“Absolutely not, I'm gonna savor every bite.”

With that, Bucky walks around his desk and bends down. He picks up his bag, opens it, and carefully places the container into it. After he's put the bag back down on the floor below the desk, he grabs Titan's leash and walks back around. Titan gets up from his spot the floor and stretches briefly before he follows him.

Steve watches him, a small smile on his lips.

“I'm gonna tell her that too,” he says.

“That's fine,” Bucky says and clips Titan's leash on. “As long as she knows I loved it.”

Steve smiles at him, then he lifts the bag in his hand. “Wanna go satisfy that hunger of yours?”

“Fuck yes, please.”

 


 

Bucky takes him to a staircase not far from the classroom. It's right by a couple windows that let in the daylight from outside despite a tree with a big, grown crown standing tall by it. It's quiet here too so when they sit down and Steve opens the bag from Howlie's, the sound of crinkling paper is loud and echoes in the empty hallway beside them.

Not that either of them care. Steve pauses once the bag is open and shares a look with Bucky that lasts no more than two seconds before they both snort and laugh about it. And when they get their food and unwrap it just as noisily, they both laugh too though more muted now.

Bucky wolfs down half his wrap within a couple minutes but then he stops and lowers the sandwich from his face. He leans back with an elbow resting on a step behind them and his leg stretched out to where Titan is chewing his way through a bone treat by the bottom of the stairs, vest off for now.

When Steve glances at him, he finds Bucky already looking back at him with a small smile resting on his lips. Steve would almost call it fond, even. The look in his eyes certainly is. Steve smiles back and raises his brows in a question that doesn't need to be said out loud.

“Did you ever think we'd be here again?” Bucky asks him.

Steve hums questioningly around the mouthful he's still chewing.

“At a school,” Bucky elaborates. “Hiding from everyone at lunch.”

“You couldn't pay me to go back to school,” Steve says around his mouthful.

“Steve,” Bucky says and shoves at him with his knee. “Come on.”

Steve grunts but thinks about it for a second. Then he swallows his bite and says, “I used to think about it. For a while, at least. Used to spend my lunches moping around in my dorm or wherever 'cause I didn't have you with me. It drove Sam nuts.”

Bucky smiles at him, then he says, “You could've visited.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“And I would've paid for the trip over.”

“I wouldn't have let you.”

“I know.”

“But I could've made it happen somehow.”

“Why didn't you?”

Steve pauses. “I don't know,” he lies. He does know why.

Bucky hums quietly but says nothing, instead takes another bite.

“Anyway,” Steve says and looks at him. “Did you ever think about it?”

“All the time,” Bucky says after swallowing. “I always hoped, even after we lost contact.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously.” A soft smile settles on his lips. He says, “You're a hard man to forget, Steve.”

Steve smiles at him, cheeks a little warm. “You could've visited me too, you know.”

Bucky looks at him for a long moment. “Sure,” he says though he doesn't sound sure.

Steve takes another bite, then he shifts and turns to the side to lean his back against the wall and to face Bucky. He pulls one leg up, resting it against the step beside him, and bends the other, his foot an inch from Bucky's thigh. Bucky doesn't seem to mind it.

“You haven't told me much about your college time,” Steve says.

“Not much to tell,” Bucky says. “I had a decent first couple years followed by a real shitty third.”

Steve studies him for a beat, takes in the closed off expression on his face. Then his eyes drift down to Bucky's prosthetic arm that lays with the hand resting on his thigh. He looks for what can't be more than a second but Bucky catches him anyway.

“Yeah,” Bucky says. “That happened during my third year.”

Steve looks at him. “You still don't have to tell me,” he says.

“I know,” Bucky says. “I want to though. Some day.”

“I'll be waiting.”

“Good. Don't want you to run off on me again.”

Steve huffs and kicks at his thigh, though it's more of a poke.

Bucky smiles at him and slaps the side of his boot in retaliation.

A silence settles over them. It lasts for a while and while it does, Steve watches Bucky. He lets the silence linger even as he shifts to change his position again. He mirrors Bucky's position; leaned back with both his elbows on the step behind them though he keeps his legs bend instead of stretched out. He shifts just a little closer to Bucky too, keeps his eyes on him.

Bucky looks back. Then his eyes start to drift downward.

It makes Steve pause. He tries but fails not to blush and takes in a deep breath.

“Are you gonna kiss me?” he asks quietly, his heart in his throat.

“I want to,” Bucky says, just as quiet and with his eyes locked downward.

Steve licks his lips. “Then why don't you?”

“Because you told me not to.”

And just like that, Steve snaps out of it.

“What?” With a frown, he leans back a little and asks, “When did I tell you not to?”

Bucky looks him in the eye now. “Do you remember the night before I left for college?” he asks.

Steve flushes immediately and averts his eyes.

“I'm gonna take that as a yes.”

“I...” Steve clears his throat, scratches his cheek. “I... vaguely remember it.”

“What do you remember?”

Steve takes in a breath. “Kissing you,” he says.

“And?”

“Honestly? Not much else.”

Bucky pauses for a beat, then he asks, “Do you remember what you did after?”

“No,” Steve admits because he doesn't. Not really.

“Do you remember the kiss?”

Steve thinks about it. “I remember it was short.”

“It was,” Bucky says. “Barely a second. You shoved me away so hard, I almost fell off the bed. Then you apologized, told me to forget it ever happened, and ran out.”

Steve stares at him and slowly, bits and pieces start to come back. Hazy and vague but he remembers... something.

“We were at my place,” he says, eyes on Bucky.

“We were,” Bucky says and looks back. “I waited for you until your mom came home.”

“I ran to the alleyway next to the building and waited for you to leave.”

Bucky stares at him quietly.

“I had a panic attack,” Steve says. His first of many but Bucky doesn't need to know that.

Bucky stays silent for a minute. Then he mutters, “I suppose that makes sense.”

“It does?”

“Considering you didn't accept your attraction to men until your late twenties and you were eighteen at the time? Yeah, it does.”

Steve stares at him. “I'm sorry,” he says then.

“For what?”

“I'm the reason things got awkward between us, aren't I?”

Bucky smiles, though it doesn't quite reach his eyes. “I think it was only awkward for you,” he says. “You sounded so panicked and nervous anytime I called, I didn't know what to do. I definitely wasn't about to bring up the kiss 'cause that wasn't gonna help.”

“Probably not.”

“After a while, I stopped reaching out and gave you some space to figure yourself out. But then, uh.” Bucky pauses, shifts his prosthetic arm a little. “Well. Things happened and when you didn't reach out either, I figured it was too late anyway.”

Steve slumps back against the steps with a sigh and closes his eyes tight. “I'm a fucking asshole.”

“It's not your fault, Steve,” Bucky says. “I don't blame you.”

“I blamed you.”

Bucky is silent next to him.

Steve opens his eyes and tells him, “I didn't remember what happened after the kiss. I thought you stopped talking to me because of it.”

Bucky blinks at him. “You're an idiot,” he says.

“Yeah. I know.”

“But it's okay.”

Steve looks at him. He says, “You can't tell me you're not mad.”

“Honestly?” Bucky shrugs and says, “I'm not. I don't dwell on the past.”

“You're a history teacher.”

“Don't be a smartass.”

Steve smiles, small albeit sadly.

Bucky returns it in kind.

“Can I ask you something?” Steve asks after a pause.

“Of course.”

“Would you have kissed me back?”

Bucky looks at him. Then he reaches out and takes his hand.

Steve lets him, lets their fingers intertwine and never once does he take his eyes off Bucky.

“It would've been a lot harder to leave if you'd have let me,” Bucky says.

“Did you love me?”

“More than anything.”

Steve laughs, can't help. “I'm such a fucking moron,” he says.

“What, you didn't think I did?”

“Bucky, I thought you hated me because of the kiss. Of course I didn't.”

Bucky blinks at him. “You really are an oblivious idiot.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“That's okay. I love you in spite of that.”

Steve pauses and looks at him. His heart does a funny flip and trips over itself in his chest.

“Present tense,” Bucky says, a smile on his lips. “I never stopped loving you, Steve.”

“I never stopped either,” Steve admits quietly. “Even though I didn't accept it for a while.”

“Then I think you should kiss me again.”

“You want me to?”

“Yeah. Unless you want to run out on me again—”

“Oh my God, shut the fuck up.”

Steve leans in and shuts him up with a kiss.

The first time he kissed Bucky, it was rushed. He didn't get to commit these lips to memory, didn't get to fully experience how Bucky kisses. But he gets to now and so he does. He moves his lips over Bucky's in soft and light kisses as he makes himself familiar with the shape of them, the softness and the feeling of them against his own.

The angle is a little awkward with the way they're sitting; on stairs and side by side. But Steve stays leaned over Bucky and Bucky angles his head nicely underneath him, tilting it when Steve shifts closer to kiss him better. Steve knows it won't be long before the position will give them both cricks in their necks but right now, he doesn't care.

Kissing Bucky isn't what he expected it to be. He expected fireworks and weak knees and a rapid heartbeat. What he gets instead is a sense of calm rushing over him like a wave pushing the water to the shore. He feels warm and when Bucky lets go of his hand to touch the side of his face instead, he lets out a content sigh and lets himself be swallowed in the feeling.

He hasn't kissed like this before, not that he has kissed many. He wants to keep doing this forever but when a door opens with a squeak in the distance and rushed footsteps echo down a hall nearby, Steve leans back to break the kiss. He revels in the lingering feeling on his lips for a mere second before he opens his eyes and looks down at Bucky.

Bucky is already looking back at him, a small smile on his reddened lips and his eyes bright. Steve smiles back and can't help but lean back down to kiss him just once more, though this one is a mere peck that lasts only a brief moment.

“I liked this kiss better,” Bucky whispers once they part, then he drops his hand from Steve's face.

“Me too,” Steve says and smiles at him. “And look at that. I didn't run away.”

Bucky huffs and shoves Steve away with a hand on his face.

Steve laughs and doesn't fight it but lets himself be pushed away instead.

Bucky sits up and says, “I think it's gonna be me who runs away this time.”

“Yeah?” Steve tries to ignore the disappointment that settles in his chest.

“Yeah,” Bucky says with a sigh. “You unfortunately had to kiss me while I'm at work.”

“I'll kiss you outside of work too then,” Steve says and it's a promise.

Bucky smiles at him. “I'm looking forward to it,” he says.

Steve gets to kiss Bucky once more before they part ways. He tries to keep it short because Bucky has somewhere to be but one becomes two and two becomes a lingering third. He doesn't get to go for a fourth because then Bucky shoves him away again and walks away with a chuckle and his cheeks a little flushed.

With a smile, Steve watches him leave.

 


 

By the time he picks Lily up from school, the smile is still there on his lips but it's slightly smaller now and that happy fluttering feeling is still warm in his chest. They stop by the store on the way home to pick up some things for dinner and a few things not for dinner because Steve is in a good mood and Lily asks nicely so he lets her have a small bag of skittles.

She eats them after dinner, snacking on them as she does her homework by the table. Cooper is on the floor behind her, rolling his ball between his paws to get the kibble out of it, and Steve is in the kitchen cleaning up.

When the last plate has been washed off and put in the dishwasher, he rolls his sleeves back down and lets his eyes drift over to his phone that's charging in the outlet in the corner. He thinks about it for no more than five seconds before he walks over, grabs it, and hits send on the message he types before he can overthink it.

Steve, 06:59PM:
Let me take you out to dinner.

He doesn't put his phone away, after. He keeps it in his hand and stares down at the screen until it lights up with a new message. He doesn't hesitate to open it, turning to lean against the wall with a smile resting on his lips.

Bucky, 07:02PM:
when?

Steve, 07:02PM:
When are you free?

Bucky, 07:02PM:
i get off at 3 on friday

Steve, 07:03PM:
And no therapy?

Bucky, 07:03PM:
no therapy. i'm all yours if you want

“Dad!” Lily calls from the table.

Steve doesn't look up from his phone, thumbs typing, when he calls back, “Yeah?”

Steve, 07:04PM:
It's a date then :)

“I need help!”

With a smile, Steve puts his phone down and goes over to her.

He doesn't see the string of hearts Bucky'd send him until an hour later but it still leaves him with butterflies and a smile so wide that his cheeks hurt.

 


 

On Wednesday, Steve drops Lily off at school with her travel bag. She gets picked up by her mom in the afternoon and will stay there until Saturday evening unless she wants to come back to him sooner, like they agreed. But by the time Friday rolls around, she hasn't expressed any want of that so Steve doesn't have to call in a favor to have someone watch his daughter or cancel his date.

His date.

His date with Bucky.

Steve takes in a deep breath and smiles at his own reflection.

He's trimmed his beard. Not much but enough to clean it up a little which he hasn't done in probably too long and it'd gotten a little out of hand. It's a little shorter but still full and clean cut under his jaw. He's pushed his hair back too, slicked down with a bit of product that he hasn't used in... years, at this point.

He's not wearing anything too fancy though. It's a simple blue button-up that Sharon has told him complements his eyes and the nicest pair of jeans that he owns. They fit him nicely albeit a little tight because they're a couple years old and his thighs have grown in that time. He's stepped into his dress-wear shoes too because they're nice and haven't seen the light of day in too long.

He's made an effort, of course he has. He wants this to go well because Bucky has seen him at his worst and he wants to show him at his best too. He wants to be able to treat him right, make him happy, catch up on all that lost time that he caused between them.

Steve doesn't beat himself up over it, even though he still feels like it was his fault. Because it was. But he doesn't want to dwell in the past, he would much rather focus on his future with Bucky. Whether that ends up being romantic or not, it doesn't matter. He just want to give it a try and if it doesn't work out, then... well, he doesn't want to think about that.

Regardless of the turnout, Bucky is his person and his person has waited long enough.

The commute to Bucky's building is a long one. Halfway through it, he gets a text from Sharon. It's nothing but a picture of Natasha and Cooper walking side by side down the sidewalk. Natasha is looking over her shoulder, a small smile on her lips and her free hand held up and curled into a fist with only her thumb extended, and Cooper is happily trotting along with his tail held high.

Sharon and Natasha are taking him for the night because Steve doesn't plan on coming back home. He's not expecting anything but, well. He has hopes. And besides, Cooper loves Sharon and Natasha so it's no hardship for him to spend a day with them, getting pampered and getting to hang out with Natasha's cat Liho. Those two get along surprisingly well.

By the time he gets off the subway and heads toward Bucky's building, Steve can't deny that he's getting a little nervous. His heart is pounding in his chest and his palms feel a little sweaty. He's nervous and maybe a little afraid still but it doesn't feel as overwhelming anymore. So he lets himself be pulled up the stairs and down the hall until he stands in front of Bucky's apartment door.

He doesn't hesitate to knock. There's no barking on the other side but there is a muffled boof and ten seconds later, the door opens.

Bucky has his hair down today, soft looking brown locks falling down to his shoulders with one side tugged behind his ear and the other pushed back to not hide his face. He's clad in a simple white tee underneath a black bomber jacket and Steve doesn't bother looking further down because his eyes are stuck to his face.

There's a smile on his lips too, small and almost shy.

Steve smiles too, finds it hard not to.

Bucky looks the same as he did earlier this week but it's different now.

This is a date and seeing him knocks the breath right out of Steve.

“Hi,” he says, a little more breathy than he planned.

“Hi,” Bucky echoes and his smile grows on his lips.

Steve looks at him for a long moment, then he asks, “Would it be weird if I kissed you?”

“It'd be weird if you didn't,” Bucky says.

So Steve steps forward, leans in, and kisses him on the lips.

It's a light kiss, short too. It lasts barely two seconds before Steve leans back again and smiles at him. Bucky smiles back, whatever shyness lingered in his previous one gone just like that.

“You look nice,” Steve tells him in a quiet voice.

“Thank you,” Bucky says. “I showered.”

Steve lets out an amused huff and flatly says, “Thanks for that.”

“And thank you,” Bucky says and steps closer, “for showering too.”

When he leans in and kisses him, Steve doesn't hesitate to kiss back.

For a second, then he leans back and gives him a narrow eyed look.

There's a glint in Bucky's eyes, one that Steve knows to be teasing.

“What's that supposed to mean?” Steve asks him.

“Oh, you know.” Bucky rests his hand on Steve's hip to keep him close. He says, “Hospitals have this... smell. And it lingers.”

“So you're telling me I usually stink.”

“Only when you've been at work.”

Steve gives him a deadpan stare. But when Bucky grins at him, wide and toothy and so close to his own face, Steve can't help but roll his eyes and let a smile grow on his lips too. He reaches out and puts his hands on Bucky's waist, pulling him in.

“Well,” he says. “You're lucky I had time to shower before I came here, then.”

“I'm lucky just to have this,” Bucky says quietly and snakes his arm around his back, “but sure. I'm lucky you're considerate too. I hate the smell of hospitals.”

Steve doesn't question it, though part of him wants to.

Instead he merely smiles and, after a beat, asks, “You hungry?”

“Starving.”

Bucky steps back and out of Steve's arms. He turns around and steps back into his apartment where he crouches down in front of Titan who's been sitting quietly behind them since the door opened. When Bucky reaches out to pet him, Titan's tail wags and his tongue lolls out of his muzzle.

“Be good, boy,” Bucky tells him, then he stands back up and steps back out.

He closes and locks the door behind him and Steve frowns at him.

“You're not bringing Titan?” he asks.

“Nah,” Bucky says and turns to him with a smile. “I can go a few hours without him.”

Steve looks at him. His frown deepens.

Bucky rolls his eyes and says, “I've dealt with this shit for years, Steve. I know my own limits.”

“Okay,” Steve says slowly. “But... you know I won't mind if you bring him, right?”

“I know.” Bucky reaches his right hand out and Steve grabs it without thought. Bucky says, “But I don't think I'll need him.”

Steve smiles at him, his heart doing a funny flutter in his chest.

He squeezes his hand and asks, “Well then. Shall we?”

“Yes, please.”

 


 

Steve takes him to a diner fifteen minutes on foot from the building. Originally, he was going to make reservations at a restaurant, maybe even one that would be considered fancy, but that didn't feel right. He wants to treat Bucky right but that doesn't mean they have to do things the traditional way. Their story isn't traditional anyway.

The diner is nice though. Riley recommended it to him, it was where he and Sam had their second date. And it is a nice spot for a date; white table cloths draped over the tables with two chairs on either side and a small bouquet of red flowers decoratively in the middle. Steve leads Bucky to one by the large window in the back, the street outside dark and the lights dim.

A waiter comes over less than a minute after they've sat down. Bucky looks down at the menu laid out between them to figure out what he wants to order while Steve orders them some water. He doesn't look down at the menu because he's already taken a look at the menu when he looked up the place so while Bucky figures out what he wants—and he does so very quickly—Steve watches him.

He's still watching him with a small smile resting on his lips by the time Bucky gives his order to the waiter and looks up. Bucky meets his eye and smiles back while the waiter notes down their order and leaves them be.

Steve's smile grows a little wider once they're alone.

It makes Bucky breathe out a chuckle and he asks, “What?”

“Nothing,” Steve says. “I just can't believe I'm on a date with Bucky Barnes.”

“Oh really?” Bucky leans forward, elbows on the table and a smile on his lips. He says, “And here I am, not believing I'm on a date with Steve Rogers.”

Steve rolls his eyes with a halfhearted scoff.

“Don't give me that,” Bucky says and kicks him under the table. “Do you know how often I'd think about this? I used to daydream about taking you on dates every week when we were younger.”

“I'm sorry we didn't get to do that.”

Bucky gives him a look. “You weren't out,” he says. “And neither was I.”

“You know what I mean.”

“I know. But don't beat yourself up over it.”

“Fine,” Steve says. “I'm glad we get to do it now, at least.”

“Me too,” Bucky says and smiles at him fondly.

Steve returns the smile with ease.

He almost reaches across the table to grab Bucky's hand but before he can, the waiter returns with their drinks. She gives them each a tall glass halfway filled with ice cubes and pours water into both, then she places the can between them on the table. She tells them that their food will be with them shortly, smiles, and then she leaves.

Steve is the first to grab his glass. He lifts it, looks at Bucky, and says, “Cheers.”

Bucky smiles. He lifts his glass and knocks it against Steve's. “L'Chaim,” he says.

They drink; Bucky takes a quick sip while Steve swallows a good mouthful, his throat suddenly dry. He lowers his glass and licks his lips as he places it back on the table, eyes still locked onto Bucky. They're both silent after, looking at each other, and it doesn't take more than a minute before Steve realizes he doesn't know what to say.

He tells Bucky as much and Bucky lets out a little huff of a laugh.

“If it makes you feel any better,” Bucky says, “neither do I.”

Steve breathes out and slumps against his back. “It helps a little,” he says.

Bucky looks at him, studies him for a moment. “You're nervous,” he says then.

“Of course I am,” Steve admits easily.

“Why?”

“'Cause I want this to go well.”

“Steve.”

Bucky lays his right hand on the table, palm up in a silent invitation. Steve looks down at it and he finds himself hesitating for a long moment before he reaches out and places his own hand in Bucky's, heart fluttering when Bucky closes his fingers around him.

Steve closes his hand around his too and looks at him.

“It's gonna go well,” Bucky says and he sounds so sure, Steve almost believes him.

Almost.

“How do you know?” Steve asks.

“Because I've been gone on you forever,” Bucky says. “No matter how tonight goes, that's not gonna change.”

Steve pauses, then he says, “I don't know how to date.”

“Sure you do,” Bucky says. “We've had a few over the last couple months.”

“Those don't count as dates.”

“Why? Because they weren't official dates?”

“I suppose.”

“I got to hang out with the guy I like and have some good food. That's a date in my book.”

“So we did go on dates as teenagers too then.”

“In my dreams, yes.”

Steve huffs and rolls his eyes, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips.

“You don't gotta think of this as a date,” Bucky says. “We're two people having dinner together. Who maybe play footsie under the table and make eyes at each other.”

“Play footsie?” Steve looks at him, a grin on his lips as he asks, “How old are you?”

“Not as old as you.”

Steve narrows his eyes at him and squeezes his hand a little too tight.

Bucky sticks his tongue out at him and kicks him under the table.

Steve doesn't move his foot away when Bucky's stays after. Instead he says, “I don't wanna think of this as anything but a date. I want to date you, Bucky. Not pretend.”

“Okay,” Bucky says and smiles at him, small but soft. “It's a date, then.”

Steve smiles back. “Good.”

Despite the slight bump, they still manage to make easy conversation until the food arrives and the conversation continues long into their meal. Steve laughs and Bucky laughs too and it's nice. But when their plates are near empty and Steve's stomach is starting to get full, a natural lull falls over them and he watches as the smile fades from Bucky's lips and his face settles into a hard expression.

Steve frowns. He almost asks what's wrong but then Bucky clears his throat and speaks.

“I have something to tell you,” he says, eyes downcast.

Steve's frowns deepens. “Okay,” he says slowly.

“It's, uh.” Bucky scratches his cheek. “It's not exactly first date— well, first official date material.”

“I think we've known each other long enough to make it okay.”

After a moment, Bucky lifts his gaze and looks at him. “I wanna tell you about my arm.”

Steve loses his smile. He doesn't say anything, instead waits for Bucky to start.

“It was a motorcycle accident,” Bucky says. “A... friend took me for a ride on his bike in the middle of January in 2005. I trusted him to drive well and he did but the road got slippery all of the sudden and then... well, I don't know what happened but they told me I was out for three days and the surgeon could only save a third of my arm.”

When Bucky pauses, Steve asks, “And your friend?”

“He's okay now,” Bucky says. “Can't walk but he's getting by.”

“Must've been rough for you,” Steve says quietly.

“For both of us,” Bucky agrees with a nod. “I, uh. I heard about your mom a couple months after I got out of the hospital. I wanted to reach out but... I was all kinds of messed up at the time.”

“Buck.” Steve gives him a look and says, “Are you seriously apologizing for that?”

“You were alone, Steve.”

“And you almost died.”

Bucky doesn't say anything to that.

“And for the record,” Steve says, “I wouldn't have cared how messed up you were.”

“That's a lie.”

“It's not.”

“You don't know how messed up I was.”

“Doesn't matter. It would've still been you.”

Bucky pauses. Then he says, “I guess we're both idiots then.”

Steve gives a small smile. “Maybe a little.”

“Well.” Bucky returns the smile and says, “No point in dwelling in the past.”

Steve hums. He says, “You seem to be doing okay now though.”

“I am,” Bucky says. “Most days, at least. I go to therapy regularly and I have Titan. The accident gave me some brain damage and sometimes I have issues with balance. He can support my weight and find me somewhere to sit when I need it but he's not specialized in it. Mostly, he's there for my anxiety.”

Steve smiles, just a little. “I'm glad you have him,” he says.

“Me too,” Bucky says and smiles back.

“And thank you for telling me.”

“Thank you for listening.”

“Always, Buck. Always.”

Bucky is silent for a moment. He says, “I do believe we were destined to meet again, by the way.”

Steve looks at him, a little flat because he can't not.

“Don't give me that look,” Bucky says. “I think we needed to spend some time apart, grow up and figure ourselves out before we could give this, us, a chance. Call it destiny or coincidence but I'm glad whatever it is brought me back to you. And let me have you too, finally.”

Steve smiles at him, look softening. “How did I not know you were such a romantic?”

“I suppose there's a lot you don't know about me yet.”

“Good. I'd like to know everything there is to know about Bucky Barnes.”

“That might take a while.”

“I'm counting on it.”

 


 

“We're gonna communicate better from now on, right?”

Steve huffs and says, “Yeah, I think we gotta.”

Bucky lifts his glass. “To no more misunderstandings?”

“No more misunderstandings and miscommunication,” Steve says and lifts his glass too.

Bucky knocks his glass against Steve's and smiles at him.

Steve smiles back, wide and easy.

It feels healing.

 


 

After they finish their meals and pay the bill, Steve walks Bucky home. Bucky holds his hand the whole time and while they don't talk much, it's nice and comfortable and Steve walks with a smile on his face the whole time. Bucky does too, he notices every time he casts a glance his way and finds him smiling quietly.

When they near Bucky's building, Bucky asks him, “Do you wanna come inside?”

“Do you want me to?” Steve asks instead of answering.

Bucky looks him in the eye and nods so Steve follows him into the building.

Titan greets them when they step in through the door. He doesn't bark but he does a happy bounce when Bucky reaches down to pet him and his tail slaps against their legs as he circles around them both. Steve gets to greet him too though Titan loses interest in him quick and goes right back to Bucky.

Steve doesn't mind that. He doesn't mind waiting for a couple minutes while Bucky takes Titan out to piss either, especially not when it gets him a chance to take in the details of Bucky's apartment.

It's a nice apartment. It's not that big but there's not much in it either which leaves a good amount of floor space. The front door opens up to a spacious room furnished with a couch by the big window on the opposite wall and a messy desk with a computer in the corner. There's a dog bed and bowls set up there too, a couple toys laying here and there on the floor.

Next to the desk is the kitchen and that too is small but it's clean and, as far as Steve can tell, well organized. There's stairs leading up next to the door and Steve can only assume that's the bedroom but it's closed off by a wall so he can't see up there. There's a poster hung up on that wall; an old movie poster and it makes Steve smiles because they may have spend eighteen years apart but Bucky is still Bucky.

By the time Bucky comes back with Titan, Steve is standing by the desk and looking at the picture standing on the desk. It's of the Barnes family, all grown up and at a formal party. The moment the door opens and Bucky steps inside though, his attention shifts from the picture and lands back on Bucky.

“Hey,” Bucky says as he closes the door behind him.

“Hey,” Steve echoes and slowly steps over toward him.

Titan bypasses him and trots over to his bed to lay down.

“You, uh.” Bucky clears his throat, then he asks, “You want something to drink?”

“No,” Steve says. He stops a couple steps away.

Bucky watches him, licks his lips.

Steve lowers his gaze and follows his tongue with his eyes. Then he locks eyes with him and asks, “Did you invite me in for a drink?”

“No,” Bucky says with a shake of his head.

“Then don't offer me one.”

Bucky looks at him for a moment. Then he asks, “Wanna see my bedroom?”

Steve smiles and follows him up the steps.

Once they get there, Bucky kisses him before he can get to look around. Steve kisses back because how could he not and when Bucky puts his hands on his hips and guides him backwards, Steve's feet move willingly until his back hits the wall and he's pressed against it.

His own hands find Bucky's hips and he pulls him closer, tugs him in until they're front to front and pressed close together. The weight and closeness along with the shift Bucky's hips do very quickly makes Steve's pants feel a little tight and he doesn't even try to stop the moan that escapes between their moving lips.

They stand like that for several minutes, touching and kissing. Then Bucky leans back. He doesn't go far and when he speaks, his lips ghost over Steve's parted ones.

“Have you ever been with a man?” he asks, voice lowered to a whisper.

“No,” Steve says, whispering too.

“Wanna change that?”

Steve nods, maybe a little too eagerly.

Bucky smiles. He shifts his hips back and moves his right hand down between them to unbuckle his belt and undo his pants. Steve holds his breath when he does, staring into Bucky's eyes because he's so close that he can't look down and watch what his hand is doing.

But he can feel all of it, zeros in on every little touch.

“Breathe,” Bucky whispers against his lips.

Steve does and releases the breath he'd been holding though he does it slowly because Bucky is still so close and he doesn't want to blow in his face. Bucky kisses him after, only a a quick one that he doesn't let Steve return, and then he takes half a step back only to drop to his knees.

Steve doesn't hold his breath. Instead he curls his hands into fists and breathes in deeply when Bucky pulls his pants and underwear down to pool around his ankles, leaving him bare and exposed and half hard.

Bucky looks up at him, meets his eye with a heated look.

“Feel free to pull my hair,” he says and then he takes him in his mouth.

Steve does pull his hair. He finds it near impossible not to when Bucky is working his mouth on him and there's not much else to grab and hold onto, so he buries his fingers in his loose hair and curls his hand into a fist. Bucky doesn't seem to mind it; he moans around his cock and takes him a little deeper and Steve slams the back of his head against the wall and sees stars.

Steve could easily get off like this but he doesn't want that, so when he's fully hard, he tugs Bucky back and brings him back to his feet to kiss him. He can taste himself on his tongue but that doesn't bother him and he keeps kissing him while Bucky pulls him along toward the surprisingly big bed.

Their clothes disappear and Bucky takes his prosthetic off too. His entire left side is full of nasty scars that get worse and angrier the closer they get to what little is left of his arm. Steve looks and Bucky lets him but it's not long before Steve grabs him and kisses him, first on the lips and then he trails his kisses down his neck and down to his left shoulder until his lips touch scarred skin.

And then he goes further and further down.

Steve has never been with a man and doesn't really know what he's doing once he gets between Bucky's legs but Bucky guides him through it, tells him what to do and moans his praises when he does something right. Steve works him over for a while, finds that he really enjoys it and could do it all night if Bucky let him.

But Bucky doesn't let him and Steve ends up on his back with Bucky kneeling above him as he lines Steve's cock up under him. When he sinks down and takes him in, Steve has to scramble at his hips to hold on. Bucky sits down all the way and Steve lets out a moan so abruptly, it may as well have been punched out of him.

Bucky moans too, circling his hips and placing his hand on Steve's chest for support.

In the end, it doesn't last long.

Steve comes first and maybe embarrassingly quick but it's been a while. He holds onto Bucky's hips to keep him still and thrusts up into him a couple times before he empties into the condom with a deep and throaty moan. Bucky follows soon after, hand clutched onto Steve's heaving chest while Steve gets him off with a hand around his cock.

They don't move for a while after and Steve indulges in the afterglow for a few minutes, but then he pushes Bucky off and rearranges him on the bed. He gets up to dispose of the condom and to get something to clean them up with before they both get sticky.

When he gets back into bed, settling with the pillows below his head, Bucky instantly shifts closer to him. He throws a leg over his hips, his arm over his chest, and pillows his head on his shoulder while pressing himself against his side. Steve smiles and kisses his forehead while snaking an arm around his middle to pull him closer.

They're both a little sweaty still but he doesn't mind.

They lay there for a while in silence. Steve listens to Bucky's calm breathing and it's so deep that he almost thinks he's asleep. But then Bucky shifts against him and breaks the silence, his voice quiet and words slightly muffled by Steve's shoulder.

“Do you believe in soulmates?”

Steve looks at the ceiling and thinks for a second. “Not really,” he says then. “Do you?”

“Maybe,” Bucky says. “I think I might right now.”

Steve smiles, his cheeks warm, and looks down at him.

Bucky leans in when he does and kisses him softly. Against his lips, he whispers, “Stay.”

And Steve holds him close and says okay.