Today is the day.
Steve stomach feels like it’s been riding the Cyclone all night.
He’s going to see Bucky.
They’re going to be together.
And then they’ll take down Hydra. Together. The way it was always supposed to be. The way Steve couldn’t without him.
But first, wedding.
He texts I can’t wait to Bucky’s number and aches with the lack of response.
Jarvis has to remind him several times that he needs to eat and drink. Why did the cathedral only have a late afternoon opening? His quarters are done. The new furniture has arrived and been swept for bugs and installed and furnished. The bed looks gorgeous and just the right height for… certain positions. He used the new sheets just enough that they smell a bit like him instead of the store. There’s a stack of wipes and towels on top of the bigger nightstand and underneath the extra-wide minifridge is full. Each side of the walk-in closet is half full. He had called up Pepper’s (not Tony’s) personal shopper to use their tux measurements to find a variety of clothes ranging from the very soft and cozy to stylish and debonair but there’s plenty more space for them to shop together one day. It was nice being able to try things on without other people around. The carpet is thick and soft under his toes. The book shelves are all at least half full, paperbacks of all Bucky’s old favorites mixed in with what Jarvis said was the best science fiction and fantasy of the past sixty years. Author names like Le Guin, Octavia, Wynne Jones, McMaster Bujold, Jemisin, and Okorafor hinting at adventures neither of them could have scarcely dreamed of back then. And Lord of the Rings , of course . Does Bucky know? Did he ever find out that his beloved Hobbit has a three volume sequel? Steve hadn’t been able to stand the thought of reading it without Bucky but now….
What is he supposed to do before he can head over?
The answer arrives with Natasha at 8am and is, apparently, “spa day”. Steve frets and fusses through sugar scrubbing his body and soaking in a tub full of something that may actually have been milk and honey and washing again and coating himself in a goop that he has to admit does feel quite soothing on his skin. But while Natasha grudgingly allows him his independence through all those steps as she herself is waited on hand and foot, she insists that the Tower spa staff be allowed to handle his face and nails “properly” while he lies still. She threatens him with her Widow’s Bites when he keeps bouncing a knee anyway so he tries to comply.
He had expected an interrogation. Some last attempt to talk him out of it or deduce his true motive. But there’s none of it. They just chat about things they were told or taught about marriage growing up and how it compares to what they notice around them now. Natasha’s childhood training in American society is most surprising. The 40s didn’t have many laws for things like spousal abuse but most neighborhoods did have policemen who’d usually look the other way if the men in a woman’s family decided her husband needed a lesson in manners. The time passes slightly more quickly than it had before and finally he can justify leaving the Tower.
Natasha has arranged a sleek Stark car and Happy to drive it and Steve helps her load in her outfit and makeup and the tuxes (he so hopes Bucky’s will fit) and the shoes and the last-minute hair products she says he’ll need once he changes and the marriage certificate and so much more. He assists her in, entirely unnecessarily, then pulls back, hand on the door. “I…. I think I’ll take my bike. Get some fresh air. I’ll meet you there, alright?”
Her face goes utterly cold. “Steven Grant Rogers, you will not waste the spa staff’s entire day of hard work by getting all gritty and dusty on your big day. What would you do with your bike afterwards, leave it at the church? Have it towed back to the Tower? Get a hold of yourself and get in the car.”
He obeys sulkily and she says nothing about him bouncing his leg this time, so long as he doesn’t mess with his neatly manicured nails or cuticles. He clenches and unclenches his fists as they wind through NYC to Brooklyn to pick up Sam already in his church suit and a small but gorgeously decorated cake for afterwards. He doesn’t even snark in response to Sam’s “Now, are you sure you have everything? Forgetting key details is kind of a wedding tradition.”
Steve stares out the window and goes over the ceremony in his head. There’s several options for Catholic wedding vows these days, and he hopes he chose the right ones. He’d said no to the “until death do us part” ones and yes to the priest saying the vows and them only needing to answer I do instead of repeating them all and he’s extra glad of that now because his sweaty palms suggest that speaking may give him some trouble later on.
Deacon Michael meets them at a side entrance as the previous wedding’s guests are still clearing out and directs them to two small rooms they can use for getting ready. Steve has just reached the doorway of the second, Sam close behind, when he hears the loud purr of what sounds like an absolutely gorgeous motorcycle pulling up outside. Is it? Could it be? He tries to turn to go look but Sam just marches him inside and Natasha calls from the door, “Go get ready, I’ll check it out.” Steve is ready to fight about it but she just trills, “It’s bad luck to see each other before the wedding, you know.”
Sam chuckles as he sets down Steve’s tux and shoes. “C’mon Rogers, let’s get you cleaned up.”
Steve dresses carefully, methodically. He’s already wearing silky black boxer briefs and a supima cotton undershirt because there’s no way he could get fully naked in a church. The dress socks are silky thin and he can feel every inch of the Italian leather wrapped around his feet. The white dress shirt is crisp, without a wrinkle or spare inch of fabric to bunch up anywhere and the waistcoat nips snugly at his waist. That and the jacket are a shade of blue that the tailor swore would be perfect for his eyes, with Bucky’s a few shades darker to bring out his stormy blue-gray ones. Sam nods approvingly. “Nice choices. How did you choose the design?”
Steve flushes. Sam is his best friend, surely he can tell him… something. “My best friend had a suit like this. He had a nice suit, way more than anything I could afford, but only the one so it had to be black to fit all occasions. The Depression and all. At my mother’s funeral I was devastated, so hurt I couldn’t even cry. But in the middle of it all, he was there, by my side, and still the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”
Sam squeezes his shoulder. “You sure about this, man? If you’re getting cold feet, there’s always other ways.”
Steve nods. “I’m sure. I know what it’s like to be alone. I can tell he’s been hurting and I want to give him… everything.” Sam just nods and reaches for the pomade, coaxing Steve’s bangs back from his forehead.
Natasha pokes her head in. Steve wasn’t aware of a third dressing room but she’s changed into a stunning but modest purple cocktail dress and high heels. “Hey, boys. Ten minutes till showtime.”
Steve looks at her, his stomach dropping. “So…. everything’s ready? He… he’s here?”
She smirks. “I even gave him a shovel talk. Now c’mere. If you’re going to be a human sacrifice, we can at least make you a pretty one.” She takes a vial of something clear and strokes the little brush inside over his eyelashes and eyebrows then a tube of something smooth and clear over his lips. “There we go. Altar ready.”
Natasha heads back to the other ready room while Sam walks him into the sanctuary. It seems bigger in its emptiness, their footsteps echoing loudly on the floor as they proceed down aisle to the chancel area. There is no organist that may let something slip and it didn’t occur to Steve to find music and ask about playing something over their speakers. There’s no wedding program, no printed evidence that may be left behind and discovered. No one can know that James Buchanan Barnes is alive, much less any possible connection with the Winter Soldier, until he is safely married to Steve and back at the Tower. The late afternoon sunlight stretches patterns from the stained glass all throughout the room. Steve is struck suddenly by the solemnity of it all. Whether he believes or not, he’s about to take sacred vows and he’s the type of guy that believes a promise still means something.
Father Patrick and Deacon Michael appear from a side door, stunning in ivory and gold wedding vestments, interlocking rings stitched into the embroidery glinting faintly as they take their place in front of the altar. Father Patrick looks at him closely. “Are you alright, my son?”
Steve gusts out the breath he didn’t even know he was holding. ‘Yeah. Yeah. I’m… yes. Good. Nervous. I think. I’ve never done this before.”
The priest chuckles kindly. “I should hope not.” The entry doors to the sanctuary open and Steve sees a glint of purple. “Ah, here we go.”
Natasha is smiling faintly as she walks stately down the aisle, the silence still and swirling. In her hand she holds a dainty little flower arrangement and he comes close to pin it on Steve’s lapel. A corsage. Steve had forgotten to get them. Sam chuckles a little from behind him and Natasha backs up to mirror Sam’s position on the other side.
All sound dies away but still Steve’s eyes are drawn across the room. And there he is, his Bucky, in his deep blue suit and lovely hair perfectly layered and tucked back behind his ears. But his face. Steve still can’t see his face. Bucky steps into the sanctuary and stops at the first row of pews, colored light from the stained glass dapplying strangely over his mask. Steve sucks in a breath. Does Bucky not want Steve to see him? Is he afraid? But slowly, slowly Bucky reaches up with his metal hand, cups the mask, and pulls it away, dropping it onto the cushioned seat next to him. Bucky. Steve’s Bucky. The nose Steve always nibbled, the cheekbones he’s sketched a hundred times, the lips too pretty for a welterweight boxing champion, the divot in his chin that begged to be pressed. He straightens his lapel with both hands and starts to walk towards Steve. “Hol-ee shit ,” Sam whispers faintly. “That’s Bucky Barnes.”
“Yeah,” Steve breathes. “It is.”
Sam mutters something that might begin with, “Well, no wonder you….” but Steve can neither hear nor speak. His face has broken into a grin that’s so wide it hurts but he can’t stop, his lips stretching as if they’d split at the corners if it wasn’t for the goop Natasha applied. And still Bucky is walking towards him, that lithe strut he always had when they went out dancing and he knew Steve’s eyes would be on him all night.
He draws close, takes his spot opposite Steve, and reaches out with both hands. “Hey punk,” he murmurs.
“Hey buddy,” Steve whispers back.
Father Patrick is greeting them and those gathered (all two of them) and giving an opening prayer. Steve thinks. He’s not sure. He’s holding Bucky’s hands and Buck’s thumbs are rubbing gently over the backs of his fingers and he’s the happiest he’s been since 1945. He starts a bit when he hears their names.
“James Buchanan and Steven Grant, have you come here to enter into marriage without coercion, freely and wholeheartedly?”
“Are you prepared, as you follow the path of marriage, to love and honor each other for as long as you both shall live?”
He’s drowning in Bucky’s eyes and their voices are in sync and Steve might perhaps be floating.
“Are you prepared to accept children lovingly from God and to bring them up according to the law of Christ and his church?”
Bucky can quirk an eyebrow at that all he wants but by God, if children come their way, Steve will absolutely accept them and be happy about it because Bucky would make an amazing father and anybody who knows him knows it.
“Since it is your intention to enter into the covenant of holy matrimony, join your right hands, and declare your consent before God and his church.”
Consent is important, yes, absolutely, Sam just had a talk with him about it last week and how can he just join their right hands, that is 50% less hands than they are holding right now, how he is supposed to do that.
“Steven, do you take James to be your lawful husband? Do you promise to be faithful to him in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love him and honor him all the days of your life?”
Bad times, so many bad times, so much sickness, Steve wants more love and honor in his life.
“James, do you take Steven to be your lawful husband? Do you promise to be faithful to him in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love him and honor him all the days of your life?”
He does. He always has. Bucky has always, always been there, he’s proven himself a thousand times over.
“Do either of you have anything you would like to add?”
Catholics aren’t supposed to write their own wedding vows, it is absolutely not allowed but they are not good Catholics and they are not supposed to be here today and hang the rules and they’ve only each spoken 10 words so far but somehow he has no idea what to say. “I- I-”
Bucky smiles gently at his stuck tongue and reaches out as if to brush a wisp of hair back. The metal fingers are warm and slide gently over the curve of his ear. Steve tries not to shiver but Bucky just licks his lips and murmurs, “I’m with you, pal. To the end of the line.”
Steve bursts into tears. Bucky lets go of his right hand and pulls him in, metal arm wrapping securely around his lower back and flesh hand rubbing over his spine and shoulder blades. “Shhhh, Stevie, shhh. I gotcha, you’re okay. Shhh. Easy, now.” Steve buries his face into his neck, lets the shoulder-length hair drape over his too-hot skin as he inhales Bucky’s scent, warm and spicy and crisp with a hint of sweat-salt. It’s too much, too intense, and maybe it’s okay Steve forgot the corsage in favor of a pocket square because Bucky is pulling back enough to slide a silk black one out of his breast pocket and stroking it tenderly under his eyelids. Everyone waits quietly as Bucky puts Steve back to rights. Sam shifts his weight behind him, Natasha is permitting her eyes to widen slightly in surprise, and Deacon Michael just gazes at Father Patrick with utter longing on his lined face. The black handkerchief disappears into a different pocket of Bucky’s and they reclasp their hands. Father Patrick clears his throat before he continues.
“Let all present here today acknowledge that this couple has declared their consent to be married. May the Lord in his kindness strengthen the consent you have declared to fulfill blessings within. What God joins together, let no one put asunder.”
No one. No one. No one. He has Bucky back and no one is going to separate them again.
“And now, the rings.” Father Patrick gestures to them and Bucky slips a solid gold band out of a pants pocket. It could be any plain wedding band except that this one has a distinct diagonal scratch along the outside identical to the one inflicted in a dock mishap that almost cost one stocky Joseph Grant Rogers his finger. The one that never in a million years would have fit a pre-serum Steve Rogers.
Steve gasps. “Bucky, how could- is this- did you break into the Smithsonian?”, he hisses, eyes still red from tears.
Bucky just smirks a little. “No idea what you mean, buddy. This is just a simple vintage band worn by a WWI soldier. Plenty of pawn shops have ones just like it.”
Bucky and Father Patrick look expectantly at him and Steve feels the blood drain away from his face. “I…. I forgot to get a ring,” he admits, shamefaced. “I- I- was buying us a bigger bed and more clothes and some nice plants and I-” He stops and yanks at his collar with his free hand. He pops the top button and tugs down the tie and pulls the dog tags out from under his shirt, turning them so Bucky can see the names. “This… should be yours. And I’ll find you a ring that will work for your left hand, I swear.”
Father Patrick looks skeptical but intones, May the Lord bless these… tokens… which you will give to each other as the sign of your love and fidelity. Amen.”
Bucky goes first this time. “Steve, receive this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” His father’s ring slides home as if it has always belonged there on Steve’s fingers.
Steve fumbles the dog tags off from his head before gently looping them over Bucky’s. He brushes Buck’s hair back before running a finger over the raised lines and pressing them over Bucky’s heart before he recites, “James, receive this token as a sign of my love and fidelity. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Father Patrick grins indulgently. “You may now kiss the groom.”
At last. Steve is swooping in and Bucky’s arms are strong and the priest may be doing a final blessing or dismissal but Steve doesn’t know or care because Bucky’s lips are on his, pressing his mouth open, welcoming him in, and when Steve moans Bucky gasps out, “Sugar,” and it’s everything, everything in the world and they’re married and it’s 2014 and he finally has everything he’s ever wished for.
They stagger apart enough to face the back of the church, walking down the aisle with shoulders pressed together and leaning in for kisses every few feet but still moving until they’re out of the sanctuary and Natasha is wheeling a cake over to them on a cart stocked with plates and silverware. But it doesn’t matter because they’re here and they’re married and they’re kissing and Steve barely looks as he sloppily cuts off a small piece to shove into Bucky’s mouth, immediately leaning forward to lick the smears of frosting off his lips.
“Tower- go- now,” he gasps into Bucky’s mouth and Bucky nods, nipping both upper and lower of Steve’s lips as he goes. Steve wraps a hand around his and starts to tug him towards the door as behind them Natasha is saying something and Sam is waving a paper around. None of it matters, though, not when Bucky’s lips are soft and sweet and he whimpers whenever Steve pulls away.
They’re out the door and into the outside air and there may or may not be a Stark car idling some distance away until they get done but Steve needs to move now and there’s a gorgeous creation of a motorcycle right in front of them, a Harley built for two with wide tires and looking solid enough to take even their combined weight.
“Yours,” he pants. “Please tell me that’s yours, Buck.” Bucky turns one hip to him in offering and Steve’s sliding his fingers in, forward to where Buck had slit the pockets for easy access to his knife thigh holsters and back to find a key and security fob on a ring. Steve emerges with it and grins, keys aloft, remarking, “But however will we head back on a bike?” and then they’re laughing and racing to the bike, Bucky urging Steve onto the seat ahead him and plastering himself to Steve’s back.
The ride back is reckless and wild. Bucky holds tight and mutters in his ear at every red light, miss you and want you and so long, Stevie . At every green light, Steve races ahead, weaving in between lanes of traffic with barely inches of clearance, savoring Bucky’s thrilled laugh in his ear and the fingers rubbing into his abs through the suit.
Happy must have warned security because they’re waved into the underground parking garage instantly. The bike’s barely stopped moving when Steve kills the engine, turning around to swipe Bucky off the back and pull him in front of Steve for more kisses. “Bed- go- now,” Bucky pants and they’re tumbling into the elevator, pinching and pawing at each other as if making sure the other is real.
Jarvis says something that may almost have been, “Welcome back, Sergeant Barnes,” but Steve doesn’t have time to parse that right now, he’s busy, Bucky holding him in the longest, best hug he’s had in 69 years as the elevator shoots towards the sky.
When the doors open on his floor, Steve stops, takes a breath, and squats down a bit before scooping Bucky up into his arms in a bridal carry. Bucky laughs. “What are you thinking, punk? Put me down.”
Steve grunts. “Sorry, I’m afraid I can’t do that. It’s tradition.” He carries Bucky over the threshold of his quarters and kicks the door shut behind him before easing Bucky down and cupping his cheeks. Bucky stills under his hands, mouth parted as Steve strokes his thumbs over his cheekbones. Steve leans in for a slow, sweet kiss full of all the love and loneliness that has been swelling inside him since 2012. He pulls back and waits for Bucky’s eyes to flutter open at him, stormy gray-blue and dilated with wants. Steve smiles, soft and smug.
“Welcome home BB” he murmurs, then he wraps his arms around Bucky and pushes him against the wall.