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we could take a chance, we could make it

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Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia, September 5th 1936

Steve Rogers crouched in the shadows as voices sounded in the thicket, getting closer by the second.

“And you sure it’ll be here?”

Steve smiled grimly. He’d been tipped off that an American was planning a raid on this temple today, and it was as he suspected. Fucking James Barnes.

“Of course! I told you, I did all the calculations.”

And of course, where Barnes went there was Croft. His excitable, slightly nasal voice rang through the vines, and Steve swallowed a sigh. If there were any poachers—or any other treasure hunters—out there then Croft had just given away their location.

“Keep your voice down!” Barnes hissed, and Steve rolled his eyes. It was a little late for that.

“Sorry,” Croft whispered back. “So anyway, the entrance should be right… uh. Here.”

“Larry. This is a stone wall,” Barnes said impatiently, as Steve crept forward to get a better look at them through the trees. “Not an entrance.”

What a fool. The way in was clear, if you had two brain cells to rub together. Steve only just managed not to snort derisively. He noticed idly that Barnes had grown his hair out, and now had it tied back in a bun at the nape of his neck underneath his wide brimmed hat. It suited him, the suave bastard.

“Sorry, Bucky. I could have sworn…” Croft sighed and leaned heavily against the wall. Steve groaned internally as Croft’s elbow caught the mechanism and the door rumbled open.

“Huh. Good work, Larry,” Barnes said with a chuckle, clapping Croft on the shoulder as he strode inside.

Steve made himself comfortable. It would be interesting to see if they made it through the booby traps in this particular temple. Steve had read that they were particularly good here—if “good” in this context meant “deadly”.

Not that he necessarily wanted to see Barnes dead. But Steve had no time for graverobbers, and delighted in stealing things back from them and returning the treasures to their rightful places or, if that wasn't possible, to the cultures who owned them. It would just be nice if someone taught Barnes a lesson.

Right on cue, a shriek echoed out of the door of the temple. Steve bit back a chuckle. They'd just discovered the flying blades, then. He crept a little closer to the entrance and peered inside.

“Fuck’s sake, Larry,” Barnes’s voice echoed back to him. “Calm down, will ya?”

“It nearly took my leg off!” Croft screeched.

“You're fine. I'll go on alone if you're scared.”

“I'm not scared!” Croft sounded as though he were pouting. “But, uh, maybe I should guard the entry. Just to make sure no one else gets in.”

“You do that.” Steve could imagine Barnes’s smirk—a little too vividly. “Make sure we’ve not been followed, okay?”

Steve only just managed to hide himself before Croft appeared at the entrance, pistol in hand. He didn’t exactly cut an imposing figure, being as he was pretty small and thin—though not as small and skinny as Steve himself. Steve stood a whole five foot four inches in his stocking soles, and was no more than a hundred pounds soaking wet. But he was tougher than he looked, although he tended to rely on stealth rather than brute force.

There was a loud rumbling noise from inside the temple, almost like thunder, and Barnes dived out the entrance seconds before a large boulder crashed against it from the inside.

Croft stared at Barnes, wide eyed. “Did you get it?”

Barnes grinned and held up a large, bejeweled statue. “Of course.” He stuffed it in his backpack, sighing happily. “Come on. We’d better get back to our hotel. We fly out in the morning.”

Barnes and Croft set off, and Steve followed at a distance. They’d be going home empty handed this time.

***

Dark had fallen, and Steve knew Barnes would be at the bar. Croft usually joined him, so Steve figured the coast was clear. He scaled the vines up the side of the hotel building, with an agility that would have been a surprise to anyone, up to the balcony outside Barnes and Croft’s room.

The balcony door was open, and Steve crept inside to begin his search. It wasn’t in their suitcases, or the backpack. Steve frowned, then got down on his knees to check under the bed.

Jackpot.

He stood up, and as he straightened the door opened and in walked Croft.

“Thief!” Croft screeched, his eyes falling on Steve’s frozen form, as he reached for his gun, lying on the desk. “Stay where you are!”

Steve wasn’t sure which of them realized first that Croft was pointing the hair dryer at him rather than the gun, but he couldn’t help a laugh as he dashed for the window. Down the vine, into his Jeep, and onward to the local government office. The local authorities were exceptionally grateful to have their national treasure returned to them, and thanked Steve profusely, both in words and in money.

Steve drove off into the night, laughing to himself.

A good day’s work, indeed.

***

“Fucking Rogers,” Bucky spat as he stuffed his clothes haphazardly into his suitcase. “This was gonna be it, the best payday we’ve ever had, and he had to come here and fuck it all up. Fucking do-gooder.”

“I completely agree…” Larry began, and Bucky whirled around furiously to face him.

“And you! You didn’t think to, I don’t know, stop him?”

“I tried!” Larry whined. “I just… mistook the hair dryer for the pistol. Anyone could have done it!”

Bucky snorted with suppressed laughter. “No, Larry, I’m pretty sure this kind of fuckup is one only you could make.” He sighed. “Oh well, back to normality tomorrow. At least until you find us another treasure trove, and all we can do is hope that Rogers keeps his big fucking nose out of our business.”

“His nose is actually quite proportional,” Larry supplied.

“I’m aware,” Bucky growled. All too aware. If Rogers wasn’t always screwing him over he’d have liked to screw Rogers over, if you took his meaning. He was small but perfectly formed, and had a lot of strength hidden in that skinny body. Bucky bet that he fucked like a…

“Bucky?”

Bucky cleared his throat. “Uh, anyway. You find us that big payday, Larry, and we can retire and live like kings.”

“Oh, I will! I already have some ideas.”

“Good.” Bucky slung his backpack over his shoulder and picked up his suitcase, patting his hip to make sure he hadn’t forgotten his trusty bullwhip. “Come on. We’ve got a plane to catch.”

***

New York, USA, three weeks later

Bucky was already bored with his day job. Which was not to say he didn’t enjoy being a history professor; it was just that the streets of New York weren’t quite as interesting as the jungles of Cambodia.

Still, his job at NYU at least gave him the funds to bankroll his less successful trips. Like the last one. He was still sore about losing the treasure thanks to Steve fucking Rogers, and swore to himself that he’d get the better of him some day.

As he walked out of the campus, he strode around the street corner, still lost in thought, and barrelled into someone almost knocking them down.

“Sorry!” Bucky cried, holding out his arm to steady the person, before stopping short. “You!”

Rogers brushed some imaginary lint from the arm of his jacket. “Barnes.”

“What the hell are you doing down here?” Bucky sneered.

Rogers looked up at him challengingly through those long, dark eyelashes, and Bucky felt his heart skip. “I’m visiting a friend,” Rogers replied smoothly. “Slumming it, I know, but sometimes you have no choice.”

“And how are you feeling in that ivory tower at Columbia?” Bucky asked snidely.

“Pretty good, thanks,” Rogers retorted.

“Must be nice up there on your moral high ground.”

Rogers smirked. “It’s great, actually. Really gives you a good view of the plebs below.”

Bucky flushed angrily. “Careful you don’t fall off that high horse, Rogers. You might injure yourself when you fall to earth.”

“Oh, don’t you worry about me,” Rogers shot back, eyes narrowed. “Better to be on a high horse than down slinging mud.” Bucky was about to reply when Steve looked at his watch. “Shoot, I’m gonna be late. I’m sure we’ll meet again soon, Barnes.”

He sauntered off and Bucky growled. “It’ll be too soon for my liking,” he muttered to himself before stomping away. Fucking Rogers.

***

Bucky stopped at his favorite cafe and bought himself a cup of strong black coffee, to which he then proceeded to add enough sugar to give him instant cavities. He took a seat in a shadowed corner, where he could just sit and observe without being noticed.

He was half way through his coffee when the door opened and in walked Rogers, a young, red haired woman on his arm. They were laughing and joking, heads close together, and Bucky felt his chest tighten in a disturbing way.

They sat a few tables away, in a booth next to the window, and Bucky didn’t exactly try to eavesdrop but he didn’t try not to either.

“Oh, Steve,” the woman said, laughing. “I’d tell you that you need to be more careful but I know you’d just ignore me.”

“As if I could ever ignore you, Natasha,” Rogers replied, tone far too fond for Bucky’s liking. “But no, I can’t stop what I’m doing. I have absolutely no time for colonialist grave robbers who think that just because the country isn’t America—or Britain—then they can rob what they like.”

Bucky squirmed uncomfortably. He’d never quite thought about it like that before.

“I know. And you know I think you’re right. But you put yourself in a lot of danger. At least it was only Barnes and Croft this time. Some of the treasure hunters out there aren’t quite so principled. You know they’d shoot you on sight.”

“They’d have to draw faster than me,” Rogers said grimly.

“Plus, you know, there’s some odd things going down in Germany with that Nazi business.”

Rogers snorted inelegantly. “That’s Europe’s issue.”

“I don’t know.” Natasha sounded doubtful. ”They’re gaining a little too much power, and there are some stories I’ve heard about what they’re doing to certain groups.”

“Stories?”

Natasha began to talk about what the Nazis were doing to entire groups of German citizens, as Bucky listened in horror. It couldn’t be true. His dear friend Wanda was Jewish, and to hear that the Nazis were locking up whole swathes of the population because they weren’t what that Hitler guy considered “perfect”... It made him feel sick to his stomach.

“But… why haven’t the rest of Europe stepped in?” Rogers asked, tone aghast, breaking Bucky’s reverie.

“So far they’re just rumors. But I don’t like it, Steve. I don’t like it at all.”

“Me either.”

Bucky looked down at the dregs in his nearly empty coffee cup. He wanted to attract the waitress’s attention, but not Rogers’s or his friend’s.

“Anyway,” Natasha said suddenly. “I’d better get back, I’ve got a class in thirty minutes. Thanks for the coffee.”

“No worries.” Rogers laughed. “Your turn to buy next time, though.”

“And when will that be?”

“Not for a while. I have another trip planned next week to scope out some pyramids in Peru. I heard that some treasure hunters were planning an expedition there, and I want in on the action.”

Rogers and Natasha stood, and Natasha put her hand on Rogers’s arm. “Stay safe, won’t you?” she said.

“Always.”

Natasha kissed him lingeringly on the cheek, and the duo left the cafe together. Bucky heaved a sigh, disappointment welling up from a place he usually tried to suppress. He might as well just go back to his office. And maybe, just maybe, he’d call Larry and see if he wouldn’t mind a trip to Peru.

***

Puno, Peru, October 22nd 1936

Steve’s contact in Peru was a soft spoken local named Acarapi, who didn’t even try to hide the glock pistols he carried. Although he and Steve had become good friends, the blatant display still made Steve a little nervous.

“So where are we going?” Steve asked in Aymara.

“To a pyramid about twenty miles north of here, in the Amazon,” Acarapi replied. “I have heard Europeans intend to raid it for its treasure, and while there are plenty of boobytraps I am still concerned.”

They both climbed into Acapari’s Jeep, and began their drive.

“So you think you can stop them?” Acapari asked after a few minutes of silence.

“I’ll do my best,” Steve told him. “Okay, I need you to stop about two miles from the site with directions on how to get there on foot.”

“Why?”

“Because if there’s anyone else there, I’d rather my presence was a surprise.”

“Aaah.” Acapari nodded sagely. “Good plan.”

“So what do you think they’re after?”

Acapari sighed. “Legend has it that the Spanish conquistadors brought one of their greatest treasures here and hid it in the pyramid. Most of the stories claim that it was an ancient Egyptian artifact known as the Eye of Ra, given to European invaders to try and convince them not to colonize their country.”

“I take it that didn’t work?”

“It did not. The amulet, it is said, has great power. But because of the Europeans’ treachery, a curse was placed upon it. Those who stole it would have access to the power, yes, but at a terrible cost.”

“What cost?”

Acapari shook his head. “That has been lost in the mists of time. All I know is that it is only someone whose motives are pure who can wield it.”

“Huh.” It was interesting, but Steve was more interested in getting the treasure back to its rightful owners than what it could do. Besides, it was only a legend.

***

Making his way through the thickly vined Amazon forest floor wasn’t easy, but Steve had been in more difficult spots so he kept on going until he reached the edge of the clearing at the foot of the pyramid.

There were already several jeeps parked there, each one bearing the unmistakable Nazi flag.

“Shit,” Steve whispered to himself. If this was a Nazi operation he’d be lucky to get out of there alive.

Wasn’t going to stop him from trying, though.

Two uniformed men strode past, speaking quickly in German. Steve stayed statue-still until they were gone.

There were sudden screams from within the pyramid, and a severed head flew out, rolling down the clearing until it nearly reached Steve’s hiding spot.

It seemed as though the booby traps in this particular pyramid were very effective.

“You and you!” one man, obviously the leader of the group, shouted in German. Steve had never been so glad of his eidetic memory and his ability to quickly learn languages. “You go in next!”

Two of the other men looked at each other, expressions fearful, before walking slowly up to the entrance of the pyramid. As they went inside, Steve couldn’t help but wonder how many men they’d sent in already.

There was a scream from inside, then a few moments of silence.

“I’ve got it!” one of the men called from inside.

“Bring it out then!”

“Wait…” the man inside shouted, before screaming, and the sound of his running footsteps pounded toward them. He appeared after a few moments, limping out the entrance, covered in something black which writhed all over him. He collapsed to the ground, hand containing the amulet outstretched.

“Scorpions!” one of the men yelled, and they all scrambled into their jeeps as the teeming mass dispersed to crawl all over the vehicles.

In the mayhem, Steve crept around the edge of the clearing to where the man’s dead body lay. He reached out to grab the amulet…

...only to wince, raising his hands in surrender as he felt the barrel of a pistol press hard against his skull.

***

“So the plan is we wait until Rogers steals whatever it is and then… we steal it from him?”

“Exactly!” Bucky said triumphantly. “Oh for fuck’s sake, Larry,” he added, irritation coloring his tone, as his companion tripped on yet another vine. “We’re trying to be stealthy.”

“Sorry.” Larry paused to wipe a sheen of sweat from his brow. “I think we should be just about there.”

“Stay behind me,” Bucky murmured, taking his pistol from its holster and treading softly through the trees. There was a clearing up ahead, and he could just about make out the pyramid between the lush green leaves, along with some jeeps. They seemed to have some kind of flag on them, and his eyes widened as they came into focus, along with…

“Shit,” he whispered. “Larry, it’s the Nazis, and they’ve got Rogers.”

“What?”

Rogers was kneeling in the middle of the clearing, a gun to his head as a man in uniform barked at him in German. Steve answered smoothly, also in German, and the man backhanded him across the cheek.

“What do we do?” Larry whispered.

“We rescue that little punk and do our best to liberate the artifact in the process.”

Bucky took aim at the Nazi who was holding Rogers at gunpoint, and fired. The Nazi dropped like a stone, as the others began shouting and running for cover. Beside him, Larry had opened fire; he was a good shot, but not as good as Bucky.

Rogers stood and punched out a couple of the Nazis before stealing a pistol and joining the fray. Bucky jumped and rolled from the undergrowth, taking cover behind a Jeep. He was about to peer over the side when Rogers dropped down beside him, scaring him half to death.

“Hey, Barnes,” Rogers said cheerfully as he reloaded his pistol. “Good timing.”

“Thanks.”

“I’ll get the artifact and their tyres if you can hold them off?”

Bucky grinned. “Deal.”

Bucky held them off as Rogers dashed out, punching out the Nazi leader and rummaging through his things, before shooting out two tyres on each Jeep. As Rogers ran back toward him, Bucky spotted a Nazi about to shoot. Quick as lightning, he used his bullwhip to grab the Nazi’s pistol, pulling it from his grasp.

They fled together back into the forest, Larry hot on their heels, and ran as the remaining Nazis yelled to each other and gave chase.

“This way,” Rogers gasped, jumping sideways into a thick, overgrown area. Bucky and Larry followed and they hid there as the Nazis rushed past. As soon as the coast was clear, Bucky led them all back to his Jeep, and they drove back to Puno in silence.

***

When they arrived back at the hotel, the trio traipsed up to Rogers’s room.

“So what’s the treasure?” Bucky asked easily, sitting on one of the chairs.

Rogers sighed, and reached into his pocket. A shimmering gold necklace dangled from his fingers, with an ankh pendant at the end containing a large eye-shaped ruby.

“I’m guessing you intend to return it,” Bucky said.

Rogers nodded. “Yeah. Sorry,” he added sheepishly.

Bucky shrugged. “I figured. So do you want us to come with you to the local government office or…”

“Oh. No,” Rogers said, shaking his head. “It doesn’t really belong here. We have to take it back to Egypt.”

“Huh.” Bucky raised an eyebrow. “So why did the Nazis want this, anyway?”

“Legend has it that it contains great power.”

“Do you believe that?”

Rogers frowned. “No idea, but I don’t like the idea of those Nazis getting their hands on it either way.” He looked at the pendant thoughtfully, before slipping the necklace over his head and tucking it under his shirt.

“Well, I think…” Bucky began, but Rogers held up his hand, shushing him. He was about to protest when he heard voices—German voices—underneath Rogers’s window. He couldn’t understand them, but Rogers obviously could, as his face went pale.

After a few minutes, as the voices began to fade, Rogers stood and began throwing his things in his suitcase. “We have to get out of here,” he said quietly. “They’ve figured out we’re here.”

“Where should we go?”

“There’s another pyramid. It supposedly contains the Staff of Horus, another item of great power. We have to find it before they do.”

Bucky gave him a long look, before sighing. “Yeah, okay. Let’s do it.”

“But…” Larry began.

“No, Larry,” Bucky said firmly. “We’re gonna be the good guys for once.”

Rogers looked up at him from under his lashes again, and Bucky’s heart beat double time.

“Thanks, Barnes.”

“No problem,” Bucky croaked, then cleared his throat. “No problem,” he repeated, and Rogers nodded, closing his suitcase.

“Come on,” Rogers said, and together they headed down to the lobby.

***

If you’d asked Steve that morning how he’d thought the day was going to go, setting up camp with his biggest rival—and his biggest rival’s sidekick—a mile from their target pyramid would not have been on his list.

“Uh, you don’t have a tent?” Barnes said suddenly.

Steve shook his head. “I always stay in hotels.”

“Oh.” Barnes paused. “Well, you can stay in mine. I’ll bunk in with Larry…”

“No you won’t,” Croft interjected. “You kick. Rogers can bunk with you.”

A faint blush appeared on Barnes’s cheeks. “Well, uh, I mean. I don’t mind if you don’t.”

Steve shook his head, an answering flush on his own cheeks. “Uh, I’m sure that’ll be fine.”

When their camp was ready, each of them made sure their pistols were loaded before beginning the trek to the pyramid. The entrance was blocked, and Steve narrowed his eyes.

“How are we supposed to get in?” Barnes asked impatiently.

“There’s an inscription here,” Steve replied. “It’s not in Aymara, might be Axininca…”

“Can you read it?”

“Give me a sec.” Steve peered at the writing. “Ohhhh okay,” he said, and pressed a few of the stones to one side in order.

The pyramid door rumbled open.

“Coming?” Steve asked, smirking as Barnes and Croft stared at him, mouths gaping open.

“Uh, yeah,” Barnes replied. “Larry, you stay here. Let us know if anyone comes.”

“Okay, Bucky!” Croft sounded far too happy to not have to go inside, and Steve stifled a grin.

He and Barnes stepped inside, and suddenly the torches lining the walls lit up.

“That’s not at all worrying,” Barnes murmured.

“Yeah.”

They walked slowly down the stone corridor, and Steve felt a breeze that shouldn’t have been there. His eyes widened and he dragged Barnes down on the floor with him as darts began to fly overhead.

“Nice reflexes,” Barnes gasped.

“Thanks,” Steve replied, grinning. Together, they crawled along to the end of the flying darts, then stood.

“Wonder what’s next?”

“Who goes there?” a voice boomed, and Steve spun around to see a stone sphinx with glowing eyes.

“Steve Rogers and James Barnes!” Steve replied.

“To pass, you must answer a riddle.”

“Okay?”

“Only one color, but not one size,

Stuck at the bottom, yet easily flies.

Present in sun, but not in rain,

Doing no harm, and feeling no pain.

What is it?”

Steve looked helplessly at Barnes, who frowned.

“Can you repeat that, please?” Barnes asked.

The Sphinx did so, and Barnes laughed. “It is a shadow!” he replied, smiling, and the Sphinx’s eyes narrowed.

“You may proceed.”

Steve bowed to the Sphinx as he passed it, noticing that Barnes did the same.

***

The corridors branched out, but Steve once again managed to glean directions from the writing on the walls. The next two boobytraps—a collapsing floor and a falling spiked ceiling—they managed without much issue, before finally making it to the chamber in which the Staff of Horus lay on a plinth.

“Well, there it is,” Barnes said, striding up to it.

“Barnes, no!” Steve yelled, but he was too late. Barnes had already grabbed the staff in his left hand, and didn’t even see the falling, fiery blade until it was too late.

Barnes staggered round to face Steve, skin chalk white. “Steve?” he whispered, before dropping to the ground beside his severed arm.

Steve dashed to him, heart pounding. The heat of the blade had cauterized the wound, but he had fainted from pain and shock. Steve cradled the still body, holding him close.

“God, Bucky. You’re not allowed to die on me,” he murmured. “Wake up. Come on. Wake up!”

Bucky stirred, eyes blinking open. “Steve?”

Steve could have cried with relief. “Come on. We’d better get out of here,” he said, grabbing the Staff with one hand and Bucky with the other.

“My arm…” Bucky whimpered, and suddenly the amulet burned hot against Steve’s chest. He took it out, looking at the glowing ruby thoughtfully, and on instinct held it to the stump of Bucky’s arm, along with the severed limb.

There was a blinding flash of light, and Bucky cried out. As the light dimmed again, Steve looked down, as did Bucky.

His arm was healed.

They both gasped, staring first at the amulet, then at each other.

“Let’s, uh. Let’s not tell Larry about this,” Bucky said. Steve couldn’t help but laugh.

“Yeah, okay.”

***

Bucky was in hell.

Steve didn’t have a sleeping bag either, so Bucky had opened his and they were using it as a blanket. But in a one man tent, Steve’s proximity was proving to be too much for Bucky to cope with.

He huffed and squirmed a little, trying to get comfortable.

“Would you stop?”

Bucky turned his head to see Steve watching him, eyes glinting in the muted moonlight shining through the thin tent.

“Sorry,” Bucky said sheepishly. “Just… can’t sleep, that’s all. Weird day.”

“Tell me about it,” Steve said, laughing softly. He moved a little closer to Bucky—close enough that Bucky could smell his spicy aftershave. “Well, if you can’t sleep,” he continued, a hint of determination in his tone, “maybe we ought to tire you out.”

Bucky’s mouth went dry. “And how do you propose we do that?”

Steve smirked, before leaning in. Bucky moaned at the feel of Steve’s chapped lips on his, and rolled over so he could pull Steve closer. Steve palmed Bucky’s cock through his underwear, and Bucky felt himself start to harden.

“Mmm, nice,” Steve murmured against his lips. He pulled Bucky’s underwear down and off, and Bucky immediately got with the program and returned the favor. He wrapped his hand around Steve’s cock, feeling it harden in his hand.

“Looks like you’re not so small everywhere,” Bucky quipped, and Steve kissed him fiercely.

“Whereas you are huge everywhere,” he said, grinning.

Bucky blushed, as Steve spat on his palm and began to work Bucky’s cock. Bucky did the same, pushing Steve’s shirt up with his other hand to squeeze his nipples.

“Oh, fuck, yeah,” Steve gasped quietly. “Fuck, don’t stop touching me like that, Bucky, please.”

“You like that?” Bucky murmured, trying to focus on Steve and not the pleasure building in his own groin.

“Fuck, yes, fuck. You keep that up and I’m going to come.”

“Good,” Bucky replied, twisting his hand under the head of Steve’s cock on the upstroke. “Want to see that, want to make you come hard.”

Steve hauled him in for a kiss, and Bucky lost track of the time as they stroked each other, working towards completion.

“Fuck, Bucky, I’m close,” Steve whined at length.

“Yeah?” Bucky asked. “You gonna come for me, Steve?”

“Oh fuck, Bucky!” Steve came with a quiet cry, spilling over Bucky’s fist. His grip slackened on Bucky’s cock as he panted for breath. Bucky lifted his hand, licking the bitter come off his fingers, and Steve dragged him in for a bruising kiss as his hand tightened again around Bucky’s cock.

“Fuuuu-uuuuck,” Bucky moaned, feeling his orgasm build.

“Fuck, you’re so fucking hot, Buck. Want you to come for me, wanna see you come, wanna make you come…”

“Ohfuck, Steve,” Bucky groaned as pleasure overtook him and he came, hard.

As they lay together in the half light, exchanging lazy kisses, Steve sighed.

“Sleep,” he said, rolling over to face away from Bucky, who felt his chest tighten in disappointment.

“Okay,” he replied, closing his eyes.

But sleep still evaded him the whole night.

***

In the morning, they packed up camp and went straight to the airport to fly back to New York. Steve didn’t look at or speak to Bucky the whole way, and Bucky couldn’t understand what he’d done wrong. As soon as they arrived, Steve smiled tightly at Bucky and Larry.

“I’m going to book straight on the MV Britannic,” he said, and Bucky’s heart sank. “Don’t worry. Any reward I get, I’ll make sure you both get your share.”

“Thanks!” Larry said cheerfully, obviously completely oblivious to the tension between Bucky and Steve.

Steve nodded stiffly at them both, before heading off. Bucky couldn’t help but sigh. So much for that.

In his office at the university the following day, he decided to write Steve a letter.

Dear Steve,

I wish you would tell me what I did wrong. I had thought, after what happened in the tent that night, that there might be a chance for us. But given the way you acted afterward, I guess I was wrong.

I’m giving up the treasure hunter life, you’ll be happy to hear. Losing my arm—and gaining it again—kind of put things into perspective. I’ll miss our run-ins.

I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again. If I don’t, I want you to know that I’m half in love with you. I could have seriously fallen for you if given half a chance. Do with that what you will.

Yours,

Bucky

He folded the letter and put it in the envelope, addressing it, then shook his head. He must be crazy.

He dropped the sealed envelope in the trash can, not noticing when it bounced out and onto the floor by his desk.

***

New York, USA, December 20th 1936

It was the last day of classes, and Bucky couldn’t have been happier. He needed a decent break.

Steve hadn’t contacted him at all, not even to say if there had been a reward for returning the artifacts to the Egyptian government. Bucky couldn’t help but be disappointed. He missed the little shit, much more than he would have thought possible.

It was lunch hour, and Bucky had a while before his next class, so he bundled himself up against the cold and headed out to his favorite cafe. As he rounded the street corner, he bumped into someone, and immediately began apologizing profusely.

“God, I’m so sorry, I didn’t see you there…” He trailed off as he looked into a familiar pair of blue eyes. “You!”

Steve gave him a small smile. “Hey, Bucky.”

Bucky cleared his throat. “You, uh, you visiting your friend again?”

“Uh, not this time.” Steve looked up at him. “I got your letter. I only arrived back in New York yesterday.”

“Letter?” Bucky looked at him in confusion, before his expression turned horrified. “Oh god. Oh god, I’m so sorry. I threw it in the trash but my secretary must have seen it and mailed it, I’m so sorry…”

“Bucky.” Steve’s lips quirked. “Shut up.”

“What?”

“I said, ‘shut up’,” Steve repeated, getting up on tiptoes and drawing Bucky down into a deep kiss.

When they finally broke apart, Bucky blinked. “Uh.”

“I panicked. Plus you seemed like you didn’t want to talk about what happened between us, and I’m kind of a stubborn bastard so I was determined I wasn’t going to beg. Guess I misread the whole thing.”

“You mean you…” Bucky stammered.

“I’m halfway in love with you too, you stupid jerk,” Steve said, laughing, and Bucky smiled wide before grabbing Steve’s lapels and pulling him into another kiss.

Bucky could feel the snow start to fall as flakes hit his face, and he smiled down at Steve. “You wanna go inside and get warm?”

“Yeah,” Steve replied, eyes shining. “Let’s go get warm.”