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summer slipped us underneath her tongue

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Bucky likes his job, he really does.

Sure, the hours are kinda shitty, and he has to spend most of his days either sitting on a bus full of frat bros or showing them around various European cities and teaching them how to order shots in the local language, but it’s not all bad.

The good parts, Bucky thinks, are that he gets to travel around places he loves, finding hidden gems and determining the best times to visit tourist hot-spots. Bucky gets to stand up on the bus as they enter each new country, greet them in the appropriate language, and then teach them little facts that he hopes sink into their alcohol-soaked brains. Bucky gets to pick the music on the bus, pack whatever books he wants to read, and settle in.

He also gets to participate in rich cultural exchanges with people from around the world. Like the American college students who taught him how to shotgun a beer, the Australians who introduced him to a funnel attached to a piece of hose in what they called a beer bong, and then the New Zealanders who argued that the Australians had stolen their invention. Apparently that was quite commonplace between the two island nations. Bucky didn’t really understand the appeal in any of it.

There’s a type for these sorts of trips, and Bucky knows that. The type is people who want to get drunk in as many countries as possible before they graduate and have to become real adults. It’s fine. It doesn’t mean he stops offering them historical walking tours of old European towns, and trips to local museums and galleries, but he often spends them alone.

Romania is always Bucky’s favourite stop, namely because that’s where he’s from, and he welcomes his bus-load full of English-speaking tourists across the border from Bulgaria in his first language. There are, Bucky notes, many still-sleeping members of the tour - some of which are looking a lot worse for wear as they head into the final week of their twenty-one day itinerary. Bucky had simply told them that Varna had a vibrant beachside bar scene. It was them who chose to investigate it.

Bucky gives them the Cliffnotes history of the country, and Bucharest specifically, as their stop for the night, including both his favourite locations for a rich cultural experience, and where to find the cheapest drinks.

That, at least, draws some attention his way.

They’ve still got a bit of a drive into Bucharest itself, so Bucky leaves everyone else to soothe their hangovers while he stares out the window at the familiar roads. No matter how many times he returns, it always feels like coming home again - even if he grew up in Bucharest, even if the road doesn’t look any different from one side of the border to the next, really, it’s still a homecoming. Something in Bucky settles when he’s on Romanian land.

He is abruptly jarred from his daydreaming by someone settling into the seat beside him.

That, in itself, is not unusual. Bucky has always invited them up to ask him questions, seek out recommendations, or see if he can help with any of their issues. Typically he keeps some kind of electrolyte powder and painkillers in his bag, because 99% of the issues that are presented to him involve dehydration and the negative side-effects thereof.

Instead, one of the least seedy looking members of the tour is there, smiling quietly at him. Steve, Bucky knows from the ice breakers he forced them into on their first day, is part of a larger group enjoying their summer break drinking across Europe. Steve, unfortunately for Bucky, is also one of the most attractive guys on their trip, which makes him very distracting indeed. Bucky has, more than once, lost his train of thought when he noticed Steve staring at him as he spoke about the city they were about to reach.

Bucky, nonetheless, smiles at him. There have been hot jocks before, and there will continue to be hot jocks. It’s just a shame one of them is sitting next to him and he can’t touch. Stupid professionalism. “Hello,” Bucky says politely, praying that Steve isn’t here to tell him one of his friends threw up in the toilet at the back of the bus.

“Hi, Bucky,” Steve says, with some kind of uncertainty, and one of his friends has definitely ruined part of the bus. Bucky braces himself for it. “I was wondering - you were saying about some of the things to look at, in Bucharest.”

Relief floods Bucky, and he nods his head. Undoubtedly Steve is here to take down the address of where Bucky said they could get drunk on the cheap, but at least he’d be appreciating the city in the process… right?

“Well, I was wondering if maybe you’d be able to give me a little tour,” Steve finishes, with a tentative smile, before defensively throwing his hands up. “Nothing big! I don’t wanna take you away from your plans, just - some of the stuff you were talking about sounded really cool.”

Bucky realises belatedly that his mouth is open, and he closes it forcefully before speaking. “I’d love to!” Bucky doesn’t even have to try to sound excited - he is. Never before has one of the frat boys wanted to go on a tour with Bucky, and it’s only making Steve more attractive. Especially with that awkwardly cute American accent of his.

“Listen, I’ll plan out some places, and then drop you back at the hostel before everyone heads out drinking so you don’t miss out on the fun,” Bucky says, his mind already running off without him on the things he could show Steve - the architecture, the art, the history embedded in the streets and buildings of his hometown.

Steve waves a hand and makes a very dismissive noise. “Don’t worry about them. My liver could use the break.”

“Right, well… after you drop your things off, we can get started,” Bucky says.

Steve nods his head, then remains sitting for long enough that Bucky doesn’t know what else to say. To his credit, Steve realises that was a dismissal, though not in those exact words. His cheeks flush, and he stands up and excuses himself back down to his seat in the last row.

Bucky takes a breath and returns to staring out the window. He’s going to need to mentally prepare himself to deal with a hot guy who’s actually interested in learning something from him.

---

Bucky has it all planned out by the time they arrive at the hostel. He gathers keycards and hands them out to everyone, reminding them - as always - to take a photo of their hostel and room number so they don’t get drunk and lost forever. The bus waits for no one, and they have an early departure time the next day.

He’s definitely not waiting excitedly outside his room for Steve to put his bag away and join him, but Bucky can feel himself smiling a lot wider than he has recently.

When Steve emerges, wearing a t-shirt that’s too tight and shorts that could afford to be tighter, Bucky thanks God for his good fortune. He’ll savour these memories forever.

“Ready?” Bucky asks, and - at Steve’s enthusiastic nod - they get started.

---

Their hostel isn’t far from Romanian Athenaeum, so Bucky picks that as the place to start. He leads Steve along the path beside the manicured gardens, explaining the history of the building as he goes. Steve, to his credit, is a good listener - Bucky can feel his eyes flitting between Bucky’s face, and the grand architecture of the building in front of them.

When they enter the Athenaeum for a tour, Steve tips out the contents of his wallet onto his hand. There are a mixture of different currencies there - the pre-tour booklet had suggested converting into currencies other than the Euro for the few places they visited that didn’t use them. Of course, that suggestion had come with the implication that one would store said currencies separately. Bucky glances down at Steve’s palm, masking his look of horror, as Bulgarian Lev, Hungarian forint, Romanian Lei, and the Euro roll about there.

Steve, unhelpfully, places his mess on the corner of a counter, looking to Bucky with concern. “Do I have enough?” He asks.

“I have no idea,” Bucky says politely, as he starts to sort Steve’s money into piles.

Steve’s eyes burn into the back of Bucky’s head, and he wonders if Steve’s suspects he might steal some of it. Unfortunately for Steve, Bucky has more than enough money on his person, so he doesn’t need to watch that closely.

Finally, Bucky takes a note and a handful of coins, and gently places them in Steve’s hand. “Go pay for your ticket,” he says, like a parent speaking to a child.

Steve, who is cute and sweet but not altogether too bright, beams. “Thanks, Buck,” he says and heads over to the counter, politely trying out the Romanian Bucky had taught him on the walk over.

He butchers thank you, but manages hello and please quite well.

With a ticket in hand, Bucky then hands Steve his money back, currency by currency. “Put these in separate places,” he explains, very clearly.

Steve does so, and then they head into the main concert hall.

---

The interior of the main hall never fails to amaze Bucky. The fresco on the ceiling is gorgeous, though the hall feels strangely empty with all the plush red seats unoccupied. He hears the phantom music of concerts he’s attended there in his life - some prior to his current job, while others he attended as part of an optional activity. Bucky usually wound up alone, but he didn’t care.

What amazes Bucky even more than the interior itself, though, is the way Steve stares in awe at the intricate artwork on the ceiling. He moves at a snail’s pace, and Bucky did not expect this from one of the guys who has, to date, ordered a beer with every meal possible, breakfast included.

Bucky’s seen the concert hall before, many times, so he’s not as interested in admiring the fresco as he may have been the first few times. Instead, Bucky admires Steve as they make their way around the room, savouring his delighted little murmurs when he sees something he especially likes.

---

Next on Bucky’s list is Revolution Square, because what frat boy doesn’t want to hear about civilian uprisings and revolutions? It seems like a topic Steve might appreciate.

But Steve’s spent the entire walk, no matter that it’s only been about five minutes, talking about frescoes. As in, not just the one they saw, but the technique itself. Steve explains how it all works in detail, which then turns to talk of how it was used liberally during the Renaissance, particularly in Italy.

Bucky’s spent the entire walk just staring at him, in absolute awe.

The same man who thought throwing four different types of European currency into his wallet was okay, is now teaching Bucky about binders and pigments and all sorts of shit he didn’t know that he didn’t know.

“Steve,” Bucky intervenes at last, because he was about to start talking about the history behind Revolution Square, though he immediately regrets derailing Steve’s monologue.

“Yeah?” Steve asks, and Bucky pointedly does not look at his pleased smile or his stupid, sparkly eyes.

“Would you like to go to the Art Museum?” Bucky asks, instead of telling him about the very public execution of their last Communist leader, because Steve doesn’t seem as invested in that as he does about painting on wet plaster.

Steve looks even more excited. “Can we?”

And Bucky, who is excited about anything to do with history and culture and the arts, snorts. “Of course we can. Don’t be stupid.” Hell, Bucky would’ve taken Steve drinking if he was really missing his mid-afternoon beer, but he’s secretly glad that he’s picked something slightly more Bucky’s pace. It means Bucky gets to continue to stare at his very handsome yet poorly restrained chest and also some artworks as well.

This time, when they approach the desk, Steve pulls out his wallet and only pulls out the Lei. Bucky is very proud of him. He still just holds it out to Bucky, who carefully slides a few coins to one side, his finger tingling wherever it makes contact with Steve’s skin.

Bucky does all the talking with the kind man selling the tickets, turning to Steve when he’s asked if they’d like the audioguide as well.

“Can you just read it out for me?” Steve asks, and Bucky shouldn’t feel warm at that because Steve is, undoubtedly, just trying to save money.

So Bucky politely declines the offer, takes the map and guide, and they head on their way.

---

Bucky did not realise quite what he was getting himself into.

The art part of things is great. Bucky reads out anything that’s written solely in Romanian, which isn’t a lot because tourism, and listens contentedly to Steve explaining the history behind specific paintings and artists and techniques.

The speaking Romanian part of things is not great, because Bucky notices very quickly that Steve is looking at him in a very specific type of way when he does. The type of way Bucky looks at dumb jocks like Steve, because he wants to jump their bones.

It starts out with a few things. Steve points to a sign and asks what it says. Then, when it’s clear that Bucky will indulge him, Steve starts asking him to read out more things. He asks Bucky to read every page of the guidebook aloud, in Romanian, and Bucky obliges. Bucky doesn’t know why he obliges, but Steve looks at him so happily and also like someone who has no clue what’s just happened, because he knows three words in Romanian and one of them he can’t even pronounce.

The problem that Bucky sees with all of this, is that Steve is giving him hints that suggest he might be into Bucky, only Bucky isn’t in the business of getting his hopes up.

They’re just finishing up in the latest exhibit, one on art during the revolution, with references to historical events that Bucky has to explain in as simple a format as he can, when Steve says, “I knew I should’ve studied art history. This is so cool.”

“What do you study?” Bucky asks, curious, because he would’ve thought Steve studied at least some form of art to know as much as he does.

Steve exhales, and perhaps it’s an attempt at a laugh that falls flat, Bucky can’t tell. “Business. I hate it, it’s so boring,” Steve huffs again, then returns to a painting he’s already spent five minutes staring at.

Bucky continues to stare at Steve. “Why do you study business if you don’t like it?”

“My Ma’s been working her whole life, looking after me. I just thought I could get a good job, something that would let her retire. There’s no money in art history, Buck,” Steve says, and the whole thing feels rehearsed. Bucky gets the distinct impression that Steve’s said this before plenty of times - perhaps to himself, perhaps in his own head.

Bucky sighs. This is terrible. He said he’d take Steve on a tour. He thought he’d get to look at some of his favourite buildings, talk about all the cool historical events he learned in school because he was a nerd, and get some Steve material to fantasise about later.

Instead, he wants to give the guy a hug.

It’s the worst.

“Yeah, but what’s money if you’re not happy?” Bucky says, hoping that it’s not too much. It’s a tad presumptuous for a tour guide Steve will know for three weeks to start giving him life advice. It’s not like Bucky even has his own life together. The tour guide business is great, except summer is ending and with it the abundance of work. He spends most of autumn and winter just taking on odd jobs in tourism to get by until the next binge drinking season arrives.

Steve sighs and turns to Bucky. “Do you think I’m making a mistake?”

Bucky laughs a little breathlessly under his intense gaze. “I don’t even know you.”

“So let me buy you a coffee, you can get to know me, and then you can give me some advice,” Steve says, a flicker of uncertainty in his eyes - there and gone.

Bucky nods his head, because this is already terrible, and he should definitely make it worse.

---

They visit a quiet coffee house a few minutes walk from the gallery. Bucky orders a juice, because he’s not going to be up partying all night. Steve, in another surprising turn of events, orders a hot chocolate. He asks Bucky to read the food menu out to him, and then settles on ordering cake for them to share.

It feels like a date.

“So, what do you want to know?” Steve asks, once he’s ordered and paid - all by himself, too.

“Are you just doing this so I’ll give you advice on what to do with your life?” Bucky asks skeptically, stirring his juice with a paper straw.

Steve shrugs. “Not really. I wanted to get to know you, too. But if you have any life advice, I’m all ears.”

“Well, then,” Bucky says, ignoring the fact that he can feel his own cheeks burn a little, “what did you want to know?”

Steve hums, thinking deeply about that. “What’s your favourite colour?”

Bucky laughs. It’s the most ridiculous question he’s ever heard. “Red. What’s yours?”

“Blue,” Steve answers, sitting back when his hot chocolate arrives. He manages to not butcher thank you quite so much this time. “Your turn.”

“Favourite food,” Bucky says, taking a sip of his juice.

“Hard one,” Steve answers. “In general? Or specifically?”

Bucky has no idea what he means. “Both?”

“Specifically, the funnel cake I got for my eighth birthday at Coney’s Cones,” Steve says, and that startles another laugh out of Bucky. “In general? Pizza. It’s delicious food, covered in cheese, on top of bread. You can’t go wrong.”

“That is very specific,” Bucky agrees. Steve stares expectantly at him until he answers. “In general… pasta, probably. You can get pasta almost everywhere. It’s usually good.” Bucky, for all his travelling, isn’t the most adventurous eater. He likes comfort food, and part of that comfort stems from familiarity. “Specifically, my grandma’s Papanasi.”

Steve nods his head slowly as if he understands when he clearly doesn’t. “What’s Papanasi?”

Bucky’s had this discussion many times before, because he always recommends tourists visiting Bucharest try out some of the local cuisine. He’s usually met with mixed responses. “Like a cheese donut, kind of.”

Steve just hums and uses a fork to cut off another slice of the cake he’d ordered. “Sounds good to me,” he says and pops the cake into his mouth. Bucky’s eyes follow the fork between his lips, the way he licks some icing from them when he’s done.

“It’s your turn,” Bucky reminds him quickly, looking back to his juice instead of Steve’s lips, Steve’s mouth, or Steve’s face.

“What made you get into this job?” Steve asks, and Bucky glances up at him.

That question is almost easier to answer than his favourite food, which should be a worry but isn’t. “I like to travel and show people all my favourite places,” Bucky says, shrugging, his eyes returning to Steve’s. “And I like learning all the little cultural differences between places.”

Steve’s attention is sharp on Bucky, and he feels it like a burn, but it’s not a bad burn. “How many languages do you speak?”

“Fluently?”

Steve shrugs. “In total.”

Bucky huffs a little laugh. “Romanian, English, German, and French,” he lists off quickly, “are my main four. With the exception of Romanian, you can get by practically anywhere in Europe with the other three. “Then I know enough to survive… practically anywhere we go.”

Steve looks impressed, even if the thought of that makes Bucky feel uneasy. It isn’t exactly unusual for people in Europe to know multiple languages, even though the tourists who were monolingual seemed to find it surprising. Bucky’s just a regular guy, and the only reason he has a few more language notches on his belt is just due to his work. It’s not like he’s a genius. Immersion is a quick way to learn any language.

“That’s amazing,” Steve says, and Bucky feels his cheeks heat with embarrassment. “Seriously. You know that many languages? I barely passed high school Spanish.”

Bucky rolls his eyes and answers, “si,” which earns him a joyous, head-tipped-back laugh from Steve.

God, Bucky’s in trouble.

“Anyway,” Bucky says, when Steve’s laughter finally subsides, “you took two turns.”

“Well, you can have two if you want.”

Bucky isn’t going to waste his chance. His eyebrows knit down, furrowed in thought, and he pokes some crumbs around on the plate between them as he contemplates his question. “Are you an artist?” Bucky says, because - despite Steve’s obvious knowledge of the arts - he doesn’t know if Steve actually creates his own artworks or not. He could just be a big art nerd who dedicates all his brain cells to art and nothing else, like common sense.

Steve sheepishly rubs the side of his jaw. “I guess you could call it that. I make art, but I don’t do it for work or anything.”

“That still makes you an artist,” Bucky notes.

Steve just smiles earnestly at him. “If you say so, then yes, I’m an artist.”

“I do say so,” Bucky says, then returns to thinking about his follow up question. “What sort of art do you make?”

Steve looks surprised by Bucky’s interest in him, but fair’s fair. If Steve’s going to be impressed by Bucky’s linguistic abilities, then Bucky’s allowed to be impressed by Steve’s artistic flair. Bucky can draw stick figures on a good day, and indecipherable blobs on bad ones.

“Uh, I guess it depends on how I feel,” Steve says, and Bucky can feel that he wants to talk about this, he can sense the same urge in Steve that Bucky gets when they cross into a new town, city, or country. He wants to go and go and go, but reins himself in because people don’t really care to listen to him. That’s the feeling that’s coming off of Steve, and Bucky wants to give him that permission to let loose. He wants Steve to know that Bucky will listen to him ramble about whatever he wants for hours, just like he obediently listened to him about the frescoes earlier. “I like pencils and paper, because it’s easy to fit in little sketches that way. Charcoals and oil pastels are fun, but messier. And I was never that good with paint, but it’s nice to play with, sometimes.”

“Do you have any pictures of your art?” Bucky asks, folding his elbows on the table and leaning forward, over the now-empty cake plate between them.

“That’s three in a row,” Steve admonishes, even as he pulls his phone out from his pocket and unlocks it.

Bucky doesn’t really care. “I’ll give you a bonus one after,” he says off-handedly, trying to catch a peek at Steve’s phone.

Finally, after much scrolling, Steve turns his phone around to Bucky. On the screen is a photograph of an amazing sketch, a photo-realistic drawing of a building in front of a lake, children playing by the water’s edge, parents watchful on picnic blankets.

“Shit, Steve, that’s amazing,” Bucky leans in, uses both of his fingers to zoom, trying to catch Steve out on the lie. It’s obviously pencil, but it’s only obviously pencil in the sense that it looks too realistic to be an edited photograph. “Do you have any more?”

“Do I get more bonus questions?” Steve asks, but he’s swiping through his gallery again, and turning the phone around to show Bucky another picture of his.

“As many as you want,” Bucky says, unthinkingly, as he gets to look at another masterpiece of Steve’s.

Bucky doesn’t know how long they sit there, or how many artworks he views, but by the time he returns to his drink - which has warmed to room temperature - Bucky feels like he knows Steve better than he knows anyone else. It took some coaxing, but eventually Steve opened up. He started by sharing more background to the pictures he drew, and then smatterings of techniques he employed, and by the end of it Steve’s talking about how hard he worked on improving his cross-hatching and how proud of himself he is.

Bucky’s heart swells.

It’s getting late.

“We should go,” Bucky says, because he doesn’t want to keep Steve all night - only, he really wants to keep Steve all night.

“Right!” Steve chirps, blinking back to reality and pocketing his phone. “Where’s next?”

Oh. Bucky’s heart settles a little. “If you want to keep going, we could visit the Contemporary Art Museum? It’s probably closing soon, but we can try anyway.” Even if the museum itself is closed, they can look at the Palace of the Parliament anyway, which is an artwork unto itself even if its origins aren’t the best.

Steve, like an overexcited puppy, nearly leaps to his feet. “Let’s go!”

---

For most of the half-hour walk from the coffee shop, Steve is silent. Bucky wonders what he’s thinking about. He wonders whether he should care or not. After the next week, he’s never going to see Steve again anyway.

They’re passing through Old Town - and Bucky dreads to think that they might cross some other people from the tour when it’s just the two of them, though he’s not sure why - when Steve finally turns to him. “So I get two bonus questions, right?”

“Sure,” Bucky says, looking at him and feeling immediately intimidated by the prospect of what Steve might ask him next.

“Which makes three?”

“The math checks out,” Bucky says, smiling a little as Steve nods to himself, satisfied.

“Okay, question one,” Steve says, and then falls silent for a few steps. Bucky turns to look at him. He looks concerned. Great. “Are you single?”

Bucky misses his step and stumbles. He blames the cobblestones, and he lets them know that by levelling a very sharp glare at the ground.. “What?”

“I’m just asking!” Steve says, and throws his hands up in surrender. “I’m sorry - I didn’t mean it in a creepy way or anything.”

Bucky swallows, and turns to face Steve in the street. At least it’s not late enough to be too busy, the pair of them able to have this awkward exchange in relative peace.

“Forget it,” Steve says, his cheeks the most delightful shade of red.

Bucky forces himself to breathe. “What were your other questions?”

“Well, they’d change depending on your answer,” Steve mumbles to the ground. He looks up, a little hopeful, a little puppy-dog-eyed. Bucky’s knees feel weak.

Bucky bites his lip. This is stupid. Steve is just another hot jock who probably just wants a lay. “If I said yes?” Bucky answers, because he’s still ruining his own day, apparently.

Steve kicks at a loose stone. “I’d ask if this was a date.”

“And if I said yes to that?”

Steve glances up at him again. “I didn’t plan for you to say yes.”

Bucky feels immeasurably soft. He steps in a little closer. “So, if I said no?”

“I’d ask if it could be,” Steve says, then narrows his eyes with conviction. “Wait - no, I decided on what I’d ask if you said yes.”

Bucky laughs. “And?”

“You have to say yes.”

“To being single?”

“To this being a date.”

“Okay,” Bucky says, amusement in his voice. “Yes, this is a date.” He doesn’t know if he’s telling the truth or not. He’s just happy to go along with it, because Steve asked, and because he’s deathly curious to know what question Steve came up with.

Steve inhales deeply, visibly fortifies himself, straightening up as if he isn’t both taller and broader than Bucky when hunched over in embarrassment anyway. “Can I kiss you?”

Oh, Bucky’s mind says. It says little else, except that. He’s sure there’s a yes written in his own widened eyes, his own pink cheeks and parted lips, but he can’t give life to the word just yet.

“Right now?” Bucky asks again, sounding a little strangled.

“Yes,” Steve says, self-conscious but committed, and Bucky has to respect that. “Or at the end of the night, when I take you back to your room and drop you off.”

Bucky laughs. It would be just like a real date, then. “What about both?”

“That’s two questions,” Steve says, stepping in - and now they’re close enough to touch, close enough that Bucky can feel the energy radiating off of Steve. He feels drawn in towards him, helpless to resist his gravitational. “So I get more bonus ones, right?”

“If you want,” Bucky answers, breathlessly, lifting his fingers up to brush against Steve’s cheek, then down the back of his neck, feeling the small, soft hairs there. “Or you could just shut up and kiss me.”

Steve, apparently, is quite good at following directions. What he is not good at is patience, but that’s fine, Bucky will take that. He’ll take Steve mid-laugh, leaning down to kiss him - he’ll take it gladly. He can taste the hot chocolate remnants on Steve’s lips, and then - when he parts his own - the sweetness of it on his tongue. Bucky leans up on his tiptoes and tightens his hold in Steve’s hair, pulling him down, while Steve’s arms wrap around Bucky’s waist to pull him impossibly closer.

It’s not the sort of kiss Bucky expected, but it’s better than that. It isn’t a frantic, fervent thing - a necessary prologue to nudity, and then everything that comes next. It’s almost chaste except for the way Steve slides his tongue against Bucky’s and melts his mind. There’s a certain restraint to it that Bucky wants to adhere to, wants to respect the boundaries of, because then he’ll feel less like a quick fuck and more like something special, at least until the tour is over.

Steve parts first, his panting breaths warm against Bucky’s damp lips. He blinks his eyes open and looks up into Steve’s own, lost in the deep black of them, the thin blue ring around his pupil.

They stare at each other for a while, surrounded by old buildings, standing on cobblestones and hundreds of years of history, and Bucky - for once - has no words.

“A palace, right?” Steve asks, at last, breaking the silence.

Shakily, Bucky nods his head and steps back. Steve lets him go easily, hands parting around his waist.

“It’s,” Bucky begins, then has to stop and get his bearings. He grew up here, and knows the streets of Bucharest as well as he knows his own mind. Yet Steve has him muddled, well and truly. Finally, Bucky points towards the way they were originally heading, “that way.”

Steve takes his hand, gently loops their fingers together, and starts walking.

---

The museum is closed by the time they arrive, the sun setting behind the monumental structure it’s housed within. They stand and admire it a while, nonetheless, the sun lighting up the impressive exterior.

“You can see it from space, you know,” Bucky says after a lengthy silence, his palm sweaty against Steve’s.

“Shit,” Steve says, squinting as if that will help him figure out how that works.

“Yeah,” Bucky agrees. “It’s the heaviest building in the world, too.”

Steve turns to look at him, now. “How heavy is it?”

“I dunno, I never lifted it,” Bucky replies, and Steve shoves an elbow into his side which makes Bucky laugh.

Steve starts laughing too, even as he pulls his elbow out of Bucky’s ribs, keeping their hands firmly attached. “You’re a jerk.”

Bucky hums. “I know,” he says, smartly, smiling up at Steve.

Steve leans down and kisses him - just a light, closed-mouth affair on the side of Bucky’s lips.

He swallows thickly. “Four billion kilos,” Bucky manages, instead of what he wants to say which is - something stupid, probably.

“Hm?” Steve asks, face still dangerously close to Bucky’s.

“That’s what it weighs.”

“What’s that in real numbers?” Steve asks, with the sort of mirth in his eyes that suggests he knows just how ridiculous he’s being.

“You’re trying to tell me you think the imperial system is better than metric?” Bucky asks, and makes as if to pull away from Steve, disgust on his face.

Steve doesn’t let him go, instead reeling Bucky in again by their joined hands. Bucky goes, willingly, letting himself fall against Steve’s very impressive chest with a small, surprised exhale. “That’s exactly what I’m saying,” Steve mumbles, and Bucky feels him kiss the top of his head, then.

“Pounds are, like, double kilos, right?” Bucky asks. Steve shrugs. “So it’s eight billion pounds roughly.”

“That’s pretty heavy,” Steve agrees, finally releasing Bucky from his chest.

Bucky doesn’t move away particularly quickly. “I guess it is.”

---

After that, they return to Old Town for dinner. Bucky takes Steve to one of his favourite places, and reads out the menu to him. They share cabbage rolls, platters of breaded meats and cheeses, polenta with sour cream and fried eggs.

Bucky learns that Steve can eat, as he polishes off what Bucky doesn’t finish. He also learns more about Steve’s mother, a no-nonsense woman named Sarah who’s been working in the medical field for as long as Steve can remember. Steve paints a picture with his words, and then shows Bucky on his phone, of the place he lives in Brooklyn when he’s not away at school. He tells Bucky all about the alley cat he befriended as a child, that his mother didn’t let him keep but that Steve fed on the fire escape until the little creature just moved itself in. Bucky learns about the first time Steve got drunk with his friend Sam - the same Sam who’s on the tour with him now - and the pair of them got caught hiding behind a shrub in the park, making complete messes of themselves with one bottle of cheap wine between them.

Steve can eat, and Steve can talk, and Bucky is enchanted by the world he talks about, the world he comes from. It’s a place Bucky can only enjoy for a little while, but he immerses himself fully into it, asking Steve questions about anything and everything.

Talk turns to Bucky eventually, and he offers stories of his own. The way he and his sisters grew up together, all of them in a home barely big enough for his parents. Bucky talks about each of his sisters in detail, how Rebecca was the sort of sister that would kill anyone who talked shit about Bucky, but was relentlessly cruel to him at home; how Elena used to follow him everywhere like a shadow until she hit double-digits; how Ana would cry and cry until Bucky crawled into bed with her each night. Bucky describes his school years, spent being just bookish enough that people liked him, but not so nerdy that he was bullied.

(At which point Steve shares tales of his own sordid schoolyard days, and Bucky chokes on his beer)

They banter about their first crushes (Bucky’s was a boy called Cristian; Steve’s a girl called Peggy), their first kisses (Bucky’s with Matei not far from where they ate dinner; Steve’s technical first kiss a dare with Sam, but official first kiss with a girl called Sharon after a high school football game), and they glaze over their past relationships and why they ended (Bucky’s due to his line of work; Steve’s due to him not taking things seriously enough).

It feels altogether too deep for a first date, if that’s what this is, but hours pass and they’re laughing over dinner and touching feet beneath the table while Bucky orders Papanasi for Steve to finally try. He likes it, and demolishes over half of the plate. They go through a few beers each, Steve’s greater bulk and experience making him a whole lot steadier than Bucky when they finally stand to leave.

Bucky covers the cost of dinner, effortlessly handing over the correct amount of change and chatting happily away to the waiter when they’re done.

As soon as they’re outside, though, Steve is pressing Bucky up against the stone wall of the restaurant and brushing his lips over Bucky’s. “Can I kiss you?” He whispers against Bucky’s lips.

Bucky makes a noise that will never be spoken of again, high-pitched and needy. “Yes please,” he murmurs, and Steve does just that.

It’s more heated than earlier, or maybe it’s simply sloppier than it was. Bucky drapes his arms over Steve’s shoulders, wrists linking at the back of his neck. Steve’s hands settle on his hips and lift Bucky up, just a touch, pressing him against the wall. Bucky thinks he whimpers when Steve slides his tongue into Bucky’s mouth, but he can’t be sure.

When they part, Bucky is dizzy with it, the kiss and the alcohol and the good company, so he chases Steve’s lips as they pull back. He wants more, more than he’s ever wanted from a frat boy on one of his tours. They were always pretty to look at, but that was it.

Steve is - Steve.

“I hope you remember where the hostel is, because I have no idea,” Steve admits, smiling so broad it looks as if his face might split in two.

Bucky reluctantly takes his hands from around Steve’s neck, and - with a parting pat to one of his cheeks - wraps one around Steve’s forearm.

Steve lets Bucky guide him back to the hostel in a long, looping way - Bucky maybe shares too much of his life, pointing out various places he’d been and sharing unrelated history facts as they pop into his head. Steve doesn’t seem to mind, just holding onto Bucky’s hand and following wherever he leads.

When they finally return to the hostel, Steve does the gentlemanly thing and walks Bucky to his room. Unlike the rest of the people on tour, Bucky gets his own room with an attached bathroom, which is a luxury.

“Thank you for today,” Steve says, still holding Bucky’s hand. “And tonight, I guess.”

“You’re welcome,” Bucky says, a little dazed by it all. “Thanks for coming.”

Their conversation has the awkward quality of when you accidentally reply to a, “enjoy your meal” with a, “thanks, you too.”

Steve clears his throat.

Bucky looks away.

“Can I kiss you goodnight?” Steve asks, and Bucky nods.

The kiss is brief and chaste, and Bucky’s left wanting so much more.

“You can come in,” Bucky offers, gesturing with his head towards his room for the night, “if you want.”

Steve smiles, though it’s a little small and a little sad, not at all like his glowing grin from beneath the streetlights as they walked back. “I do want, Buck,” Steve says, and he runs a hand through Bucky’s hair, tucking a strand of it behind his ear like they’re in a fucking romcom. Bucky hates himself so much for loving it. “But I want to do this right.”

“Right,” Bucky echoes, quietly confused.

“Like,” Steve says, and looks away, huffing a short exhale. “I want to take you on dates before we sleep together. Right.”

“We’re adults,” Bucky says, his fingers still in Steve’s, “we can do whatever we want.”

“I know that.”

“The tour’s over in six days.”

“I know that, too.”

Bucky smiles anyway, leans up on his tip-toes to kiss Steve’s cheek instead. “Good night, then, Steve.”

For some reason, this relieves Steve. “Good night, Buck.”

Bucky watches Steve disappear down the hall before letting himself into his own room. He feels unsteady and ecstatic. It’s a strange combination of feelings that Bucky handles by laying down and promptly falling asleep.

---

The morning dawns, and Bucky feels a little dry-mouthed. He showers, brushes his teeth, and heads out to grab breakfast. They’re leaving early that day, because they’ve got a nine hour drive to Budapest on the cards.

Bucky does his job - helps the driver load the bags onto the bus, counts the hungover masses as they sleepily file into their seats, and explains the itinerary for the day. As on most days, the bus is silent in the morning, sans the music Bucky plays, as everyone sleeps off their hangover.

Steve comes and sits beside Bucky. He doesn’t say much, just settles in with a sketchbook and pencils and lets Bucky watch him as she draws sketches of things they pass by. Bucky pulls out one of his favourite paperbacks and attempts to read, but he’s distracted by Steve’s thigh against his, Steve’s calm, knowing fingers around the pencil, Steve’s brow pulled down in concentration.

---

Steve, true to his word, does try to do things right.

Every city they stop through, he insists on going on a tour with Bucky. At one point, Steve overhears Sam asking if he should join them, but he gets told he’s not invited.

Bucky feels warm at that.

So Steve and Bucky hold hands as they wander along the Danube River in Budapest, then stroll up to stare at the mosaics and sculptures of Saint Stephen’s Basilica. They kiss on the Riesenrad Ferris Wheel in Vienna, and then again in front of Klimt’s Der Kuss, which makes Steve’s day. (Seriously, Bucky’s learned so much about symbolism he could write a book on it). They ride on a gondola in front of the Nymphenburg Palace in Munich, explore the medieval grounds of Bourscheid Castle in Luxembourg, and spend a lazy day wandering the Botanical Garden of Brussels.

They eat an abundance of local cuisine, manage to refine Steve’s system for managing foreign currencies, and Bucky gets kissed senseless every time he speaks another language. Which is a lot more than he typically would, because Bucky likes showing off, and he loves the way Steve stares at him when he does.

Every day, Steve talks animatedly about the art history of wherever they’re visiting - every night, Bucky wanders and talks general history about the cities they’re in.

And at the end of each date, without fail, Steve kisses Bucky goodnight at his door and disappears to his own room.

Bucky has never before felt so equally spoilt and neglected.

Steve’s fingers are a warm memory against his whenever they aren’t there, and Bucky’s learning Steve’s mouth by touch, but he wants more.

Which is, of course, when their last day dawns.

They drive from Brussels to Coquelles so that the tourists flying return from London, their starting point, can do so. Others part in France to continue their explorations elsewhere. Bucky rides the bus at Steve’s side, thrumming with a tumultuous mixture of nervous energy and dread.

Somehow, Bucky manages to make his usual farewell speech. He thanks everyone for coming, wishes them well on their journey, and accepts whatever hugs, handshakes, and tips they wish to bestow upon him.

Bucky’s eyes remain focussed on Steve as he shoulders his bag from the undercarriage of the bus. He slaps a brotherly hand on Sam’s shoulder as Sam disappears into the station.

Steve approaches Bucky. Bucky slides his hands into his pockets to stop from doing anything stupid.

“So,” Steve says.

“So,” Bucky echoes.

Steve looks down at his feet. “Remember my bonus questions?”

Bucky wants to laugh, but he feels too sad to. God, this is why he shouldn’t have let himself do this. It could only end badly. “That’s what you want to do right now?” Bucky asks, and he tries not to sound bitter, he really does.

“Buck,” Steve says, holding a hand out. Bucky looks at it for a moment, then takes it. “Where are you headed after this?”

Bucky shrugs. It’s the end of summer, and thus the end of peak tour season. Usually, Bucky makes his way back to Romania at that time, and works whatever odd local jobs he can get. That, or he picks up minor tourism roles in other places - running walking tours or managing bus rides, things like that. It’s not a very consistent life, but it’s what Bucky has, and he likes it well enough.

“I’ll spend the night here, probably. Then head back home, I guess.”

Steve fidgets. He’s going to scuff his nice shoes. Bucky rolls his eyes. “So if I could change my flights to leave a little bit later, maybe… could I - would you want to go out with me?” Steve asks, earnestly. Bucky can feel his sweaty hand squeeze tighter. “Properly.”

“How long will you be here?” Bucky asks, before allowing himself to get his hopes too high up. Sleeping with Steve would just be a bitter reminder at this point about what he had to lose - the conversations and the quiet alike, time spent talking art or history or nothing important at all, and then the time spent side-by-side silently, reading and drawing and admiring the world.

Steve shrugs his shoulders, but it’s not quite the fluid movement it usually is. “Only a few days, I think.”

Bucky sighs. A few days. It’s better than nothing. “Okay,” he says, mustering up a smile as he collects his own bag. “Have you already made arrangements?”

Steve nods his head, shuffling his weight from side to side. “Is that a yes?”

“Yes, it’s a yes,” Bucky says, shaking his head with a fond smile.

A few days is better than nothing.

---

Bucky has a small hotel room booked in Calais, so that’s where the two of them head. Bucky usually stays in the same place every time a tour ends, enjoying the fact that he no longer has to get up and wrangle hungover or still-drunk college students onto a bus, at least for a little while. After running back-to-back tours all through spring and summer, he’s grateful for the break.

And after weeks of endless sight-seeing, all Bucky wants to do is spend some time in bed.

Except Steve is there.

While Bucky’s bag is dumped by the foot of the bed, and Bucky slumped across said bed within minutes of opening the door, Steve hovers.

Bucky puts him out of his misery a few minutes later by rolling over and patting the empty side of the bed. Steve, somewhat reluctantly, comes to join him. Steve toes his shoes off, then turns to sit cross-legged next to Bucky’s artless sprawl.

They stare at each other in silence for a long time. It’s not the comfortable silence they’d established prior to this, but one that is palpable.

Bucky breaks it first. “How long is a few days?” He asks, and hopes he doesn’t sound as small, as sad, as he feels.

Bucky really likes Steve and that’s the crux of this whole problem.

“Until Monday,” Steve says. It puts them at two full days at most, depending on when Steve has to leave, and where he’s flying out from. “I’ve really liked the time we’ve spent together,” he says, and it sounds a lot like a break up.

Bucky smiles anyway. “Me too,” he mumbles, and reaches a hand out to touch Steve’s cheek. His fingers trail down his jaw, along his neck, and then drop onto the covers of the bed.

“I was looking at different university courses,” Steve says, slowly, his eyes shifting from meeting Bucky’s to staring out the window behind his head.

“Yeah?” Bucky asks, and it’s with honest excitement, even if his voice doesn’t quite show it. He hopes Steve will pursue art history instead of business. He already knows so fucking much, they’d likely have to fast-track him. “To change your degree?”

Steve nods and smiles, faintly. “I was also looking at different universities. They offer a junior year at Cambridge. You can study there for a whole year. I thought… it’s a bit closer to you. If you’d be interested.”

Steve lays his fingers over Bucky’s, and Bucky blinks at him, trying to get his head around what he’s hearing. Cambridge isn’t exactly close to Romania, but it’s a damn sight closer than the States, that’s for sure. “Interested in?” Bucky asks, because again - his hopes keep getting away from him, the stupid butterflies in his stomach fluttering over nothing concrete.

The look Steve gives him is, honestly, degrading. He looks at Bucky like Bucky is a complete moron, which is absolutely not true. Between the two of them, Bucky definitely holds the most brain cells. “Me. Interested in - you know, dating.”

Dating. Bucky’s eyebrows raise of their own accord. When Steve had said he wanted to do things right, Bucky expected that he wanted a few dates to make sure Bucky wasn’t the type of guy to bite his dick off. Not - this. A relationship. “You’d want to date me?” Bucky asks, the first question that he’s able to form. He sits up on the bed, feeling very much like this isn’t a conversation to be had laying down. “Seriously?”

“Yes?” Steve seems uncertain, taking Bucky’s hand and squeezing it. “Of course I do. I don’t know how someone isn’t already dating you. You’re so smart, and you know everything, and you’re beautiful.”

Bucky thinks he must be dreaming. Somehow, he’s fallen asleep on the bus, and this is all a stupid dream. Steve is conventionally attractive, muscular and with a sweet smile. Bucky is not so much, with his long hair and his interest in language and history and culture. Steve’s the guy who dates the head cheerleader, and Bucky can’t really touch his toes.

“Are you serious?” Bucky asks, because he can’t think of anything else to say to that. It must be a joke.

“Dead serious, Bucky,” Steve lifts Bucky’s hand and kisses it, which is so pathetically romantic Bucky wants to cry. “I wanted to do this a bit better, with flowers and a proper date and stuff, but I just… I just want to lay in bed and kiss you.”

Bucky feels a little hysterical, and he laughs. “Just kiss me?”

Steve leans over, then crowds Bucky until he lays down, letting his body be covered by Steve’s. “Do you know how hard it’s been to listen to you speak in every single language and not just touch you everywhere?” Steve asks, and Bucky’s breath hitches at how low his voice has gotten, at the glint in his eyes.

“Now’s your chance,” Bucky says, teasingly, as he tugs Steve into a heated kiss.

This kiss is different. There’s a final shift that happens when Bucky licks into Steve’s mouth this time, both of them knowing that there’s not the end of the night to put a stop to things. Bucky curls his fingers in Steve’s hair, holding tight to him, while Steve’s hands slide up under Bucky’s shirt. They’ve gotten good at kissing across multiple countries, but all finesse is thrown out the window in interest of speed. Once Steve slides a hand over Bucky’s quivering stomach, Bucky retaliates by sucking kisses along Steve’s jaw. Steve teases Bucky’s nipples with his calloused fingers, so Bucky wraps his legs around Steve’s lower back and lifts his hips up.

It’s almost like they’re fighting each other, both of them trying to drive the other to a breaking point first - a moan, a cry, a plea, anything. One of them will snap, and Bucky’s got no idea who it will be.

“Shirt,” Bucky pants against Steve’s neck, where he’s left a beautiful little bruise behind, a flag staked in unfamiliar territory. “Off.”

“You first,” Steve says, sitting up - though he can’t move far with Bucky’s legs wrapped tight around him.

They both somehow strip their shirts off, tossing them somewhere in the room, and return to kissing each other senseless. Steve’s hands are knowing as they trace Bucky’s nipples, the soft curve of his stomach. Bucky outdoes him by sliding down Steve’s body and taking one of his nipples directly into his mouth, dragging his teeth over the sensitive flesh and getting him that precious moan.

It’s his name, ripped from Steve’s chest, like he’s helpless to stop it.

And God, Bucky wants him so fucking bad.

“Pants,” Bucky demands, but he doesn’t give Steve a chance to act on his command. Bucky reluctantly peels his body from Steve’s and undoes his fly, pushing both his jeans and underwear down in one movement.

It’s everything Bucky’s ever wanted (except not quite - Bucky also wants to spend hours just beside Steve, absorbing his presence without needing to say or do anything, but this is good too). Steve’s cock is half-hard, flushed pink the way Steve’s cheeks do when he’s embarrassed. It’s gorgeous, and Bucky wants it.

“Fucking Christ,” Bucky breathes as Steve sits up to divest himself fully of his pants. His cock is standing up against his muscular stomach.

Bucky has so many ideas.

Steve smiles, lazy and smooth, as he leans down to kiss the top of Bucky’s head. “I don’t wanna be underdressed,” he says as he places his hands on Bucky’s own pants. He carefully undoes them and pulls them down, peppering kisses across Bucky’s chest as he does so, making him writhe.

Bucky, unlike Steve, is not half-hard. Bucky is fully hard, the sort of hard that leaves a wet patch on his underwear, that makes him shiver when air comes in contact with his sensitive flesh. “Please,” Bucky says, making grabby hands for Steve, missing his body covering Bucky completely.

The size of him was definitely doing it for Bucky, along with everything else that Steve was. Handsome, funny, not the brightest crayon in the box. Fuck. Steve’s the perfect combination.

Steve leans down to kiss Bucky on the lips, soft and slow, as he lowers his body and lets their cocks brush against each other. Bucky whimpers into Steve’s mouth, grabbing onto his shoulders and squeezing. Beneath his fingers, Steve’s muscles flex, and Bucky wants to cry.

Bucky loops his legs around Steve’s back again, ankles digging into his firm ass, and the sensation is unbelievable. It’s definitely not the fucking Bucky wants from Steve, but they have time - two days, almost - and there’s a pharmacy just around the corner.

For now, this is more than enough.

Steve’s hips roll against Bucky’s in a languid rhythm, and Bucky just hangs on for dear life and tries to keep enough oxygen in his body. They kiss - sensual at first, then sloppy, as they start panting. Whatever noises they make are given directly to the other, moans and whines caught by waiting lips, swallowed into desperate kisses.

Bucky feels his calves cramp and he powers through it, rolling his hips back up into Steve’s at a fervent pace, trying to chase the peak he can feel coming. Steve gives up on kissing him at that point, instead dropping his forehead onto Bucky’s shoulder, his sweaty hair dripping onto Bucky’s skin.

“Steve,” Bucky pleads, though he’s not sure what he’s asking for. He scrabbles for purchase against Steve’s damp shoulders. “Steve, please.”

Steve doesn’t reply in words, but he does grip Bucky’s ass with his fingers and start thrusting against him raggedly. Each sharp breath feels like it’s being punched from Bucky’s lungs, and he whimpers and whines as he feels his orgasm building.

Bucky chants Steve’s name like a prayer until words don’t come anymore, and then he babbles some kind of nonsense until Steve’s body rubs against him just right, and then he’s lost.

Bucky comes with a cry that Steve kisses him through, his body shuddering in Steve’s hands as he spills in the space between them. It lasts for an eternity and a heartbeat simultaneously, Bucky caught in a world where he can’t breathe, can’t think, can’t move, can only feel pleasure course through every inch of him.

His legs are locked in place around Steve’s waist, and Steve is still going. Bucky mumbles something that he thinks might be encouraging, running a hand through Steve’s sweaty hair and then tightening his fingers.

Bucky isn’t sure if that’s what does it, but as soon as he curls his fist in Steve’s hair, he’s gasping against Bucky’s collarbone. Bucky feels the warmth flood between them, and even knowing it’ll be a cold, sticky mess later does nothing to change how he feels now.

Steve bonelessly collapses onto Bucky, smearing the mess between them, and Bucky simply runs gentle fingers through his hair.

Eventually, Steve lifts his head and blinks at Bucky. Outside, the sun is starting to set. The golden light paints a gorgeous image over Steve’s back. Bucky wishes he was an artist so he could paint the sight of it, to remember it forever, long after their two days are up - to savour between then and whenever they meet again.

Their eyes meet, Steve’s crinkled upwards with the huge smile he has on his face.

“Steve,” Bucky says, voice raw, legs falling limply to the mattress.

“Yeah, baby?” Steve asks, and Bucky’s stomach tightens.

“Are you seriously coming to study in the UK?”

“I gotta do my application, but yeah,” Steve says, voice soft and sleepy.

“For me?” Bucky presses, his brain deciding that post-orgasm is the best time to interrogate your lover. Boyfriend? Whatever he is.

“Yeah.”

“Seriously?”

“Yes, Buck,” Steve says, with a hint of humour in his voice.

“Like, this isn’t a joke?”

“I don’t think so,” Steve leans in to kiss Bucky’s cheek, then rolls them over so Bucky is laying on his chest. The squeaking sound Bucky makes is very dignified.

Bucky settles in against Steve’s chest. “When’s the semester start?”

“October something,” Steve runs his hands through Bucky’s hair now. “Do we have to do this now?”

“Steve, it’s September.”

“I know.”

Bucky squints at Steve. Steve looks back at him happily.

“When’s the application due?” Bucky asks, already dreading the response.

“Monday,” Steve says, apparently completely unphased by the fact that he has to write an application for a year abroad, at Cambridge, within two days.

Within the two days he has with Bucky, who can now think of nothing else except being fucked into the mattress non-stop for that forty-eight hour window. And perhaps eating cheese and wine on the balcony, watching the sea. But mostly being fucked stupid.

“You are the most impossible man I’ve ever met,” Bucky says, wondrously, as he decides to put his stress aside for now and enjoy the moment.

“You’re pretty special yourself,” Steve replies, as if it was a compliment, and Bucky thinks maybe it was.

They lay there quietly and watch the sun through the window until it’s gone. And when it’s dark and they’re cold, they get up and shower together, before venturing out into the world to get food. Steve holds his hand, Bucky speaks French and handles their finances, and they spend the night in bed eating and kissing and touching one another.

Then, they wake up bright and early the night day - under Bucky’s orders - to write a fucking exchange program essay, worthy of a place like Cambridge.

Worthy of a person like Steve.

---

Bucky’s never been to university - he never quite saw the point - and he’s not sure if Cambridge is going to change his mind. It feels like a scene out of a movie, being there, surrounded by the fall leaves and the regal old buildings. Every inch of the college is imbued with a sense of academia, as if the very grass beneath his feet has a doctorate in something or other.

Bucky never quite saw the point in university until now, though, when he knows that Steve is on campus, finally. Bucky feels breathless with want, as he weaves his way along confusing paths and past buildings that all look the same to him, searching for his boyfriend.

That’s what that is, they decided.

“Bucky!”

The voice makes him turn. It’s the voice he’s fallen asleep to more nights than not this past month since they parted. Bucky’s heart does a horrible flip inside his chest, which it really shouldn’t do, Bucky suspects, but that’s okay.

Everything is okay, because Bucky’s turning and Steve’s sweeping him up into his arms, covering every part of his face with kisses. Bucky giggles - he can’t help himself - and tries to push Steve’s face away long enough that he can see it.

He hasn’t changed at all since Bucky saw him last, only he has. There’s a new sparkle to his eye, and Bucky hopes it’s not just him that’s put it there, but this new direction in his life, too.

“Baby,” Steve says, biting his lip in an effort to smother his smile.

Bucky places both hands against Steve’s cheek and kisses him, deep and slow, savouring the moment. Fuck the people walking around them, trying to move into their dorm rooms for the year. This is the most important thing in the world, the two of them finally getting to be together again.

Steve holds Bucky up for so long, kisses him silly, and Bucky isn’t sure he’ll be able to survive once Steve puts him down. The month they were apart - Bucky picking up casual work here and there where he could - was hard enough. Bucky doesn’t think he could ever leave Steve’s side again.

Bucky’s feet touch the ground at last, but Steve doesn’t let go of him. “How long are you here?” He asks, and Bucky understands the pain in his voice. The last time they’d been together, Bucky was the one asking the same question. It translated quite roughly to, how long do we have left?

“A while,” Bucky breathes, and he feels giddy with it - this secret he’s managed to keep from someone who’s otherwise learned every inch of him, the beginnings of stability forming in front of him.

Steve’s confusion just makes Bucky more excited, and, as much as he wanted to do things the right way - Bucky knows even more how Steve felt now - he simply can’t help himself. “I got a job here,” Bucky breathes, and he can’t smother the smile on his face.

He’s with Steve, again, the thing that’s been dislodged in his chest for almost a month now finally resettling in place, like a broken bone healing. Bucky’s with Steve, and he doesn’t have to leave.

“A job here?” Steve asks, incredulity in his eyes. “At the university?”

Bucky nods, sliding his hands beneath the cardigan Steve is wearing, like a proper little university boy. Bucky loves him so much it hurts. “The city. Cambridge tours. They wanted to run foreign language tour groups, and here I am,” Bucky says, biting his lip, waiting for Steve to say something.

Wonderment dawns on his face, and it’s like he can’t believe what he’s hearing. “You have a job,” Steve echoes.

“Yeah,” Bucky preens, just a little.

“In Cambridge?”

Bucky nods his head. “And a little flat,” he adds, because that’s the best part. Bucky has a flat with a double bed - or, rather a double mattress on the floor - and it’s all his. His and Steve’s, if Steve wants it, but Bucky won’t begrudge him getting the true university experience.

“Buck,” Steve says, and his voice breaks - but not before he sweeps Bucky up into his arms again, his feet dangling below him.

Bucky laughs and shoves at Steve’s shoulders again, but Steve only shifts his arms to pull Bucky down into another, searing kiss.

When they part, Bucky’s able to tip his forehead to Steve’s. He mumbles, “I love you,” without thinking, but he can’t even bring himself to regret the words.

Not when they’re the honest truth.

Not when Steve says, “I love you, too, baby,” right back to him, and then draws his mouth down into another kiss.