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Laughter Lines

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1. 

There were hundreds of things that Bucky could think of that he’d rather do, than spend a perfectly good Saturday evening spending time with sick kids. Maybe that made him an asshole, but he’d never deny it if someone called him that. He hated kids, he hated hospitals, and if he’d known when he’d signed up for that stupid ethics class with Natasha, that ten percent of his final grade consisted of doing community service, he would have dropped the course within the first week. But instead, he had not learned about that aspect of his final grade until just two weeks ago, conveniently the day after the add/drop period ended at NYU.

“I can’t believe you talked me into this mess. This is fucking bullshit, Nat. You swindled me,” Bucky hissed into the receiver of his cell phone. A feminine scoff echoed from the other end of the call.

“Jesus Christ, Barnes. Lighten up a bit would you? You’re going to help some kids, not being shipped off to a Russian prison camp. The last thing they need is for your brooding ass to show up and make them feel worse,” Nat said. Not a single ounce of sympathy in her voice. “Also, no one says swindled anymore, darling. Get with the times.”

“Fuck you, Nat. I didn’t even want to take this class to begin with, but you fucking begged me. This is all your fault. The least you could’ve done is come with me… Now I’m going to be alone for three fucking hours!” Bucky hissed. As he walked along the sidewalk towards the hospital he sidestepped puddles. So far, the month of October had been filled with constant rain.

“Don’t even go there, Barnes. You had to take this class either way for your major. You’ll thank me next semester when you’re actually graduated,” Nat said. In the background another voice started yelling, though it was muffled, “Clint says that you’re going to miss an epic party tonight. Apparently Stark’s throwing down.”

A long, angry groan left Bucky’s mouth. Tony’s parties were always amazing, and Bucky had always managed to bring home an incredibly hot girl after one. Only the best showed up at Tony’s parties.

“You are an evil, evil woman. You know that?” Bucky growled.

“Yes, I am,” Nat replied, and Bucky swore he could hear the smirk she most certainly had on her face. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a party to get ready for.”

“Fine… I’ll text you when I’m done. Maybe I can drop by if I get out early enough. Pray for me,” Bucky said.

“Oh, I’ll pray, but I don’t believe it will you do you any good. You’re too far gone for any hope of redemption, Barnes.” Nat said, the smirk still firmly in place.

“Love you too,” Bucky said and then hung up. After stuffing the phone back into his front pocket, he reached into the back and pulled out his carton of cigarettes and lighter. After lighting the cigarette, Bucky pulled up the hood of his black sweatshirt and continued walking towards the hospital. Hopefully the time would pass quickly, but Bucky had a sinking feeling that that wouldn’t be the case.

*^*^*

The hallway was bright, and smelled like antiseptic. Bucky’s hand clenched into a fist as he approached the nurse’s desk. Sitting behind the counter was an almost attractive woman in her late thirties. She had blonde hair and large hazel eyes. Bucky sighed and put on his most charming smile as the woman looked up from her computer at him.

“How can I help you?” the woman asked with a smile.

“Isn’t that a question that needs answering,” Bucky said with a flashy grin. The woman laughed and held up her left hand.

“Good try. I’m married, hon. Now what is it that you really need?” the woman asked. Bucky laughed lightly and shrugged one shoulder.

“Can’t blame a guy for trying… I’m actually here for my community service? I spoke with another nurse a few days ago about coming in and completing my hours,” he said.

“And what’s your name? I’m Regina, by the way,” the woman said.

“James Barnes. I go by Bucky, though,” he replied.

“Oh right! I remember Angela saying something about all that… Well, since it’s a Saturday, all of the kids are in the media room. They have their dinners and watch a movie together. You can go in and spend some time with them before their bedtimes. How many hours did you need to complete?” Regina said.

“I have to complete seventy five hours by the end of my semester,” Bucky replied. Regina let out a low whistle.

“What’s it for again?” she asked.

“It’s part of my curriculum. I’m a student at NYU, a business major, actually. Ethics is a required course, and as part of that my professor assigned community service as part of our final, so here I am,” Bucky replied.

“Right, well. The media room is just down that way. You’ll find it on your left,” Regina said, “Oh and Bucky?”

Bucky turned back around and looked at Regina’s face.

“A lot of the children in that room are terminally ill. Some have scars that you’ll be able to see, and some have them on the inside. I trust that you will be able to handle that situation delicately?” she asked. Her eyes were no longer soft and kind, but had a certain hardness to them. Bucky got the immediate sensation that he was being stared down by a lioness, whose cubs were in their den.

“I understand perfectly, Ma’am,” he said, and then turned and started down the hallway. His black boots squeaked slightly against the linoleum and he could see on his right, a darkened room filled with children. Pushing down the urge to groan at the situation, Bucky sighed and braced himself. It was only five hours, he could do this without any problem. And then when it was all over, he could go to Tony’s, drown himself in some whiskey and find a pretty blonde to suck his dick.

With a small smile on his face after his internal pep talk, Bucky quietly opened the door to the media room and saw every head turn to stare at him with wide, excited eyes. Then, all at once all of the excited expressions turned to confusion.

“You don’t have the popcorn,” one child, a girl with red hair that sat in a wheelchair nearby said brazenly.

“Uh, no… I’m Bucky. I’m here to do my community service with you guys,” Bucky said as he stepped further into the room. None of the children said anything that time. Most looked away from him, and some of the others glared a bit at him. Bucky clenched his hands, both the metal one and the flesh and blood one. If Bucky was a lesser man he’d say it was a nervous tick, but that was ridiculous because he wasn’t nervous. Especially not when standing in front of a giant room of children.

Suddenly from behind him, someone else opened the door.

“Alright then! Here’s the popcorn and— oh!”

The same someone that had come in had walked straight into Bucky’s back and stumbled backwards. Bucky turned and instinctively reached out a hand to grab the person’s wrist to try and help steady them. After the person was steadied, Bucky got a better look at them.

It was a boy, but he was a tiny boy. And although he was so small, there was no doubt that he was not a child. He looked as though a stiff breeze would knock him straight off of his feet. He was at least a foot shorter than Bucky’s six-foot-three-inches. The wrist encased in Bucky’s hand felt like a toothpick. He had pale, milky skin and plush pink lips that were parted in surprise. But the part that really made Bucky stare, were the kid’s wide, forget-me-not blue eyes. They were the most gorgeous eyes that Bucky had ever seen.

“James Barnes?” the boy spoke finally, and the words snapped Bucky out of his trance faster than a blink of an eye. He pulled his flesh and blood hand away from the boy’s wrist as though he’d been burned and took a step backwards.

“How do you know my name?” he asked. For some reason his voice sounded hoarse. Instead of answering, the blue eyed boy huffed and rolled his eyes.

“Figures,” he muttered, but did not elaborate. Instead he stepped around Bucky, leaving him incredibly confused by the door, and started handing out the bags of popcorn to the other kids in the room. All of the children seemed much more pleased with his presence than they had with Bucky’s. Still, Bucky couldn’t bring himself to care as he wracked his mind trying to place how he’d possibly known this boy. There was no way that he’d seen those gorgeous blue eyes before and not remembered them. He stirred around in his brain looking for an answer, trying to place this beautiful small boy, but nothing came to mind. When the boy was finally done handing out the popcorn, he’d taken up the remote and pressed play for the movie on screen. The familiar Disney logo splashed across the screen, but Bucky couldn’t bring himself to care as he saw blue-eyed-boy sit down in one of the unoccupied chairs against the back wall of the room.

The boy turned to look at Bucky once again and gave him a questioning look. It was then that Bucky realized that he was still standing by the door, looking like a complete idiot. As quietly as possibly, he walked over towards the boy and gestured to the empty chair beside him.

“Can I sit here?” he asked.

“I don’t know, can you?” Blue Eyed Boy replied. The response was as quick as a whip and startled a laugh right out of Bucky’s mouth. Several kids shushed him loudly, and Bucky was thankful that the lights in the room were dimmed, because his cheeks heated uncharacteristically. He sat in the chair and turned his eyes towards the TV screen, but that only lasted for a few moments before he looked at Blue Eyed Boy again. He was wearing a pair of light washed jeans and a pair of green converse high tops. His shirt was a soft looking white sweater that hung loosely over his tiny shoulders and on his head was a matching green beanie. Immediately Bucky wondered what he was doing his community service for. For a long moment Bucky thought about what this boy’s major was, and whether or not he went to NYU. Maybe he’d agree to get coffee or go to the library to study together. If Blue Eyed Boy was also doing his community service here, maybe they could do it together. The idea of getting to know him made Bucky’s mood brighten drastically.

“Hey, what’s your name?” Bucky whispered. Again, he was shushed by many different children. Bucky repressed the urge to roll his eyes. It wasn’t like they were missing anything, everyone knew that Beauty ended up with the Beast in the end. Blue Eyed Boy gave him a long look, but kept his mouth firmly shut. His lips even turned down into a small frown.

That wasn’t good. Usually Bucky was good at making people feel comfortable around him. It was one of the reasons why he was such a ladies man. He was the funny guy. He was the bad boy with a good heart. He gave the girls the edge that they wanted, while still retaining a slight gentlemanly attitude. It worked like a charm every time. It had even worked on the few men that he’d taken to bed with him. Bucky had been comfortable in his bisexuality for a long time, although the opportunity to fall into bed with boys was much more scarce than with girls. Thankfully, he wasn’t too picky when it came to whoever he was going to fuck. Male, female, everything was fair game. Natasha called him a whore, but Bucky liked to think of it as broadening his horizons.

“How long have you been coming here?” Bucky asked quietly. Instead of getting shushed, a boy in front of them turned around and glared at Bucky. Bucky resisted the urge to stick out his tongue at the boy.

“Why do you want to know?” Blue Eyed Boy whispered back. Bucky smiled internally, at least he’d gotten the boy to speak to him.

“Curiosity? Today’s my first day doing community service. I figure we can come together if you’re up for it?” Bucky whispered. Blue Eyed Boy’s lips twitched upwards for a moment before staying firmly in a line again.

“I’m only on this floor,” he said.

“That’s fine! I don’t mind sticking around here… Do you usually come on Saturdays?” Bucky whispered.

“I’m here most days,” the boy replied in a hushed tone. Bucky’s eyebrows raised a bit on his forehead. This kid was really into his community service. Maybe he was a goody two shoes.

“Well I’ll probably stick to weekends, you know? Have to keep up my social life and all!” Bucky smiled. This time nearly all of the kids complained and shushed him.

“Shut up!” one of the girls said, to which Blue Eyed Boy snapped to attention.

“Rachel, we don’t say shut up to other people. That’s rude,” he said. His face and tone held no room for arguments.

“But he was being loud!” the girl, Rachel whined.

“I don’t care. I don’t want to hear you say that to anyone. Got it?” he asked. Rachel nodded and slumped back down in her seat. For the rest of the hour and a half that the movie played, Bucky did not say anything else to Blue Eyed Boy. It wasn’t until the movie was over and all of the kids were moseying out of the media room and back down the hallway that Bucky realized that Blue Eyed Boy didn’t plan on saying anything to him at all. He passed by Bucky without saying a word and grabbed the handles of the little red head’s wheelchair. He started pushing the girl down the hallway while Bucky followed behind him feeling uncharacteristically pathetic. Usually he was the one that had people following him around. This was an entirely foreign concept to him.

“I’ll have Regina or Maggie come and get you ready for bed, alright?” Blue Eyed Boy said to the girl. She nodded and smiled at the boy who closed the door and turned back towards Bucky. Bucky looked down into the gorgeous sapphire eyes and let a small smirk curl his lips.

“So, you want me to walk you home?” Bucky asked. Blue Eyed Boy regarded him for a moment and then let a smile flit across his own pretty pink lips.

“Sure, I’d appreciate that,” he replied. Blue Eyed Boy started walking down the hallway, back past the media room and the nurse’s station, towards the elevators.

“Great, so where do you live? I’m assuming that you’re a student, but are you on campus or off? I’m off campus in an apartment. Actually, you know if you aren’t that tired I know there’s a great party going on at one of my friend’s places and… What’re you doing?” Bucky’s words came flying out of his mouth all at once, and in his rush to speak he barely realized that Blue Eyed Boy had stopped walking. Looking back at the delicate boy standing under the harsh light of the fluorescents, Bucky couldn’t figure out if he’d said something wrong. Blue Eyed Boy’s face took on a slightly sad expression and he crossed his thin arms tightly over his pigeon chest. Jutting a thumb over his shoulder, he pointed at the door behind him marked 1107.

“Thanks for walking me home,” Blue Eyed Boy said softly, his forget me not eyes staring down at his shuffling feet. A cold feeling started to drip through Bucky, down his spine and into his very blood. His brain whirred into action just like his metal arm as it came up to run the metallic fingers through his long, dark hair.

“Wh-what are you talking about?” Bucky asked quietly.

Blue Eyed Boy huffed a laugh, but there was no humor in it.

“I think that’s obvious… I’m not a student like you… I’m a patient here,” Blue Eyed Boy spoke. However the words didn’t seem to register in Bucky’s head. There was no way… But then he looked a bit closer and realized that all of the signs were there. He just hadn’t seen them. The thin, tiny body. The pale, sickly pallor of his skin. No eyebrows. A hat covering what was most likely a bald head. Bucky’s Blue Eyed Boy was a hospital patient.

Seeming to realize that Bucky was not going to speak anytime soon, the Blue Eyed Boy smiled once again. The same sad smile as before.

“Thank you, for walking me home, James Buchanan Barnes. I hope you have a good night.”

And just like that, Blue Eyed Boy had disappeared behind the door marked 1107.

Bucky stood there for what felt like hours before he moved towards the elevators. The entire journey home, Bucky felt a bit numb, and it had nothing to do with the increasingly cold weather that October was providing.

 

Chapter Text

2.

The next morning, Bucky was awoken by a loud knocking sound. At first he imagined it was part of his dreams, but when it did not go away, Bucky groaned and pushed himself off of his bed. Stumbling through his dark apartment Bucky reached the front door, undid the locks and wrenched it open. There, standing in front of him, perfectly polished with a smirk on her red painted lips was Natasha.

A glare settled on Bucky’s features as he opened his mouth to let her know exactly what he thought of her wake-up call.

“Shut that god damn mouth, Barnes. It’s almost two in the afternoon, you didn’t respond to my texts or calls, and you never showed up to Stark’s last night. Plus I brought you coffee and bagels,” Nat said, holding up a large styrofoam cup in one hand and a paper bag in the other.

Bucky’s mouth closed and he moved aside to let her into the apartment. She sauntered in and plopped herself down gracefully on the couch after opening the curtains in the living room.

“Where’s Clint?” Bucky asked through an enormous yawn. After closing the front door again he made his way back towards his bedroom.

“Had a meeting with the archery club,” Nat replied from the other room. Bucky pulled on a pair of loose black sweatpants, but didn’t bother with a shirt. Natasha had seen his metal arm many times before, and it didn’t bother her at all. He grabbed a hair tie and put his hair up into a messy semblance of a bun, and grabbed his cell from the bedside table where he’d left it last night.

“Give me that coffee,” Bucky muttered as he passed Nat. The smirk twitched on her face as she stared back at him.

“Not until you tell me what happened last night to make you not want to show at Starks. Had to be something good, because you missed an amazing party,” she replied. In response Bucky let out another groan, glared at her, and stomped his way towards the kitchen so he could put his phone on the charger. When he came back into the living room, he dropped into the recliner across from the couch where Natasha had curled up on. She looked at him expectantly.

“Look, nothing happened. I was just tired last night, and didn’t feel like going out. That’s all,” Bucky said. In his head, he pushed aside the image of the tiny Blue Eyed Boy he’d met last night. Nat just stared at him without saying anything.

“You’re a good liar, Barnes. I’ll give you that… Tell me about the community service. What floor were you on?” Nat asked.

“Uh, floor eleven? I think it was the kids floor?” Bucky said. Natasha snorted.

“It’s a hospital. There are kids on most of the floors! Don’t tell me you didn’t even know what those kids were in there for. Did you even talk to them?” Nat narrowed her eyes.

“I tried to! There was this one kid…” Bucky trailed off, immediately feeling the stone drop into his stomach again.

“Yeah?” Nat coaxed from the couch. Bucky sighed, there was really no getting around Nat when she wanted to know something. She was a scary, scary woman, and Bucky would rather not ruin his Sunday by having her interrogate him all day. Or at least for the rest of the day that was left.

“There was this kid that wasn’t much younger than us. He was really cute, too. Big blue eyes, and really small looking. I thought he was there for community service too,” Bucky said.

“Oh, James,” Natasha sighed softly. Bucky didn’t look up from his hands. He didn't want to see the look of disappointment on Nat's face.

“Yeah, I know it was really fucking stupid of me to assume that… I only figured it out after I’d asked if I could walk him home, like the idiot I am. And get this, I think I’d met him before. Or at least, he’d met me, because he knew my name the first minute we met… For the life of me I can’t remember if I’d ever seen him before. But I know I would have remembered his face if I had,” Bucky finished softly. It was quiet for a long moment in the apartment before Nat’s hand appeared in front of Bucky, holding out the coffee for him to take.

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say it sounds like you have a bit of a crush, there, Barnes,” Nat’s smirk was back in place. Bucky scoffed and opened his coffee.

“Don’t be ridiculous, I only met the kid yesterday. We spent two hours together, and he didn’t even speak to me. Not to mention he’s a patient,” Bucky said as if it was all very clear to him. Nat arched a perfectly sculpted red eyebrow at him. Bucky opted to ignore her and sip at his coffee, reveling in the hot liquid.

“So how do you think he knows you? You can’t remember ever meeting him?” she asked.

“He never told me his name, so who knows… It’s not like it matters. He’s just some sick kid,” Bucky said. As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Bucky wanted to retract them, but it was too late. Natasha had snapped to attention and stood up on the couch, her green eyes blazing like fire.

“Get dressed, James,” she hissed, “We’re going back to the hospital and you are going to find out who he is.”

“Can’t I finish my—“ Bucky was cut off as Natasha snatched the coffee out of his hands, walked to the kitchen and dumped it into the sink. Bucky made a pained noise as he glared at his supposed ‘friend’.

“You didn’t deserve that coffee,” Nat said simply, then pointed towards his room, “Well then? Go get dressed you moron!”

Bucky grumbled the entire way to his room as he pulled on the same black jeans from yesterday, his boots and a red t-shirt. He left his hair up in the bun, but snatched his black leather jacket from the back of his desk chair and meandered his way back out towards Nat.

“What is with you lately? You’re being so mean,” Bucky grumbled again.

“Get over it, ass wipe. Someone’s gotta keep you in line,” she snapped back at him before shoving him out the front door.

*^*^*

By the time they arrived at the hospital, the rain that had only been showers yesterday, had escalated into a full blown thunderstorm. Bucky took his hair out of the bun and shook it to get some of the moisture out. Natasha punched him on the arm.

“Don’t do that, you look like a dog,” she snapped at him. His only response was to glare at her. They walked up to the greeter’s desk where three women were all talking on the phones. It took a few moments but one of the women was finally done, and looked up to help them.

“What can I do for you today?” the woman asked.

“Can you tell me what floor number eleven is?” Natasha asked outright. Bucky looked down at the ground to avoid the receptionist’s eyes.

“That’s the children’s cancer ward, but I’m afraid visiting hours aren’t until tomorrow. Eleven to four,” the woman said. The ice that slid through Bucky’s veins returned with a vengeance. Cancer ward?

“Oh, it’s alright. We’re students from NYU, our professor sent us here to complete our community service hours. Mr. Fury. He told us that he worked everything out with the floor manager. I have his note right here, if you’d like to see it?” Natasha reached into her purse and pulled out a piece of paper. The woman’s phone began ringing again and she looked at us edgily.

“No, no, it’s alright. You can go up as long as it’s been all worked out. Have a good day--- Hello, Mount Sinai Hospital, how may I help you?” the woman picked up the phone, effectively dismissing them. Natasha smiled and started walking towards the elevators, leaving Bucky to follow behind.

“The cancer ward, Bucky? Really? You couldn’t have gone for the kids with minor surgeries? You had to go for the kids that might be terminal?” Nat hissed under her breath. She didn’t seem to be expecting an answer from him, and so he didn’t give her one. The elevator ride up to the eleventh floor was nearly silent, and when they got to the floor, they were greeted by the same fluorescent lights that Bucky hated.

“What room was he in?” Nat asked.

“1107… That one there,” he said softly. Nat sauntered over to the door in her black heeled boots, unconcerned that someone might walk by and see them. Bucky looked over her shoulder as she lifted the lid on the small box to the left of the door. She pulled out a manilla folder that was thick and heavy looking, laden with papers and charts. There, at the top of the paper was the typed name: STEVEN G. ROGERS.

“Steven Rogers? I don’t know any Steven G. Rog--- Oh, shit,” Bucky sucked in a breath as though he’d been socked in the stomach.

“You know him?” Nat whispered at him, her eyes narrowed. She replaced the file carefully, while Bucky’s eyes remained glued on the file. He didn’t answer her, as he lifted a hand and opened the door marked 1107 without a single thought to knock first.

The room was small, only one hospital bed occupied it. Multiple different monitors arranged around it. A TV was mounted on the wall, and some news channel was playing over it. The windows were uncovered, and two uncomfortable looking chairs were set up beside it with a small table in between them. For a moment, Bucky thought that the room was empty, until his eyes landed on the tiny figure wrapped in a blue bathrobe, perched on the ledge next to the window. An IV bag was hooked up beside him, and even from the doorway, Bucky could see the tubes that ran under the robe and assumingly into the boy’s body. Steve’s body. He apparently hadn’t heard the door open, because his eyes stayed fixed on the torrential downpour happening on the other side of the glass. Bucky noticed that he did not have the green beanie on his head, and that indeed, his entire head was bald.

Another rumble of thunder echoed in the sky, and Bucky cleared his throat. As if he had any right to announce his presence in that room.

Steve’s head whipped around and his forget-me-not blue eyes landed on Bucky’s own gaze.

“What’re you doing here?” Steve asked, a frown marring his pink lips. Bucky’s own words were frozen in his throat as he stared at the fragile boy sitting on the ledge next to the window. The boy he now remembered.

“My name’s Natasha Romanov. I’m Bucky’s friend, he told me about his service last night and I thought---”

“Are you in a gang or something?” Steve asked suddenly. Natasha paused and cast a look at Bucky. Bucky hadn’t looked away from Steve though. “You guys are matching in all black and leather jackets… You look like you’re part of a gang.”

Nat let out a soft laugh and moved further into the room. Bucky followed blindly, stepping in, and closing the door behind him.

“If I told you, then I’d have to kill you,” Natasha said. Bucky caught the small wince she did after the words left her mouth. Steve regarded her for a long moment and then his blue eyes landed on Bucky again.

“You’re here because you couldn’t remember who I was. Right?” Steve asked. His blue eyes left no room for lies. Bucky could only nod a bit. “And I’m guessing you looked at my file before coming in here, but tell me, do you remember yet?”

“Yes, I do,” Bucky answered immediately. His voice much steadier than he had expected it to be. Apparently, Steve had thought the same because there was a surprised look over his face. There was a long moment of tense silence.

And?” Steve asked impatiently.

“You… You lived next door to me… In Brooklyn when we were kids. You were a few years younger than the rest of the kids on the block, and sometimes you’d… you would… uh,” Bucky’s words, which had started out strong, dissolved into an embarrassing whisper. Fortunately, or rather, unfortunately, Steve picked up from there.

“I’d try to come and play with you guys… and every time, you’d all tell me I was too small, too sick, too ugly to play with you. I believe, egghead was the favorite nickname you all had for me. Considering that I’d been going through chemotherapy since I was three. Not that I’d expect a bunch of ten year old boys to understand that, but as a five year old, I’m sure you can imagine how crushing that was for me to experience on top of being diagnosed with cancer,” Steve said in his own steady voice. Bucky felt breathless as he stared at the sickly boy in front of him. The memories of taunting the tiny boy in Brooklyn, that had long been forgotten, coming back like whip cracks in his mind.

Steve pushed himself up off of his ledge, one hand gripping the IV stand beside him as he shuffled forward in his slippers. The bathrobe nearly drowned the tiny boy in fabric, but Bucky couldn’t keep his eyes off of him. Once again, Bucky realized how very small Steve was, as he came to stand only a foot away from him. His head had tilted back in order to keep looking Bucky straight in the eyes as he spoke.

“I’d forgiven all of you a long time ago. Little boys can be mean, and don’t understand the world yet. Clearly you’d put me out of your head. I don’t blame you, a skinny, sick kid from Brooklyn isn’t much to remember… Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to be left alone,” Steve said firmly.

The only thing that Bucky could do was stare at those blue ocean eyes.

“Steve, I---” Bucky started and then stopped.

“Please, get out,” Steve said softly, then turned back around and shuffled towards the window again. Bucky felt as though his feet were made of lead. He couldn’t seem to get himself to move at all. It wasn’t until Nat wrapped her hand around his wrist that he snapped out of his thoughts and looked at her concerned face. It was a look he hadn’t seen on her face since he’d told her about how he’d lost his arm.

“Let’s go, Barnes,” Nat said softly, and Bucky let her lead him out of the room. Before the door closed, he took one last look at Steve’s tiny body leaning against the glass window, staring at the storm. A strange feeling welled up inside of his chest. It felt a lot like fear, but Bucky wasn’t sure what exactly he was scared of.

*^*^*

“What a little shit head you were, Barnes!” Nat yelled at Bucky as they returned to Bucky’s apartment.

“I was ten fucking years old! I didn’t know any better! All the other kids on the block did the same exact thing, Nat! It was eleven years ago!” Bucky yelled back, running an agitated hand through his hair.

“That’s no excuse, Barnes! You mother fucking asshole!” she spat at him.

“Oh like you never teased someone when you were a kid!” Bucky growled.

“Never one that had cancer!” Nat screamed.

“Jesus, Nat! I’m sorry alright! If I could tell my shitty ten year old self not to do that, then I would, but I fucking can’t! It happened a long time ago!” Bucky yelled.

“I’m not the one you need to be apologizing too,” Nat snapped.

“You heard him, he’s already forgiven me!” Bucky said, though heat began to creep up the back of his neck.

“That’s pathetic, if you believe that’s an excuse not to apologize, Barnes. I knew you were an asshole, but I didn’t know you could stoop that low,” she growled as she turned to leave.

“I’ll see you in class tomorrow,” she muttered, and left Bucky’s apartment without another word.

As soon as she was gone, Bucky growled in anger, grabbing the half empty glass of water sitting on his counter and throwing it at the wall as hard as possible. The glass shattered and water sprayed against the carpet, but Bucky didn’t quite care. He sunk into the recliner and let his head fall into his hands.

Steve Rogers had been the runt of the litter as children. He could see, in his mind’s eye, the little bald boy with blue eyes asking to play with him and the others. He could hear, with clarity the laughter that was the response to the request. Her could remember saying that if Steve could beat him in a race, he could join them, and the triumphant smile when he'd left Steve in the dust. He could feel the words “Better luck next time, Egg Head.” rolling off of his tongue. He could feel the slaps on his back from the other ten year old boys that had thought his words were the funniest joke they’d heard in a long time.

The memories were over a decade old. Normally, that would mean that they were not relevant anymore. Bucky was twenty one, for fuck’s sake. The things he’d said as an ten year old shouldn’t matter anymore, even if they were mean teasing of some scrawny sick kid.

The thought made Bucky’s stomach flip around.

It wasn’t so much that he was bothered by what he’d said as a child, but rather the fact that he had been so abruptly confronted by it.

Steve Rogers was still the sick, scrawny kid from Brooklyn. Only now he was possibly terminal.

A flash of lightning came from outside and another rumble of thunder echoed across the sky. Bucky closed his eyes, and tried to ignore the image of forget-me-not blue eyes that floated through his head.

Chapter Text

3.

Class was a painful affair for Bucky the following week. Nat was in most of his courses, but she had taken it upon herself to give him the silent treatment, which by association, extending to Clint as well. Bucky tried to tell himself to ignore it, that Nat would come around and see how stupid this actually was. She couldn’t stay mad at him for something that he’d done fifteen years ago. It just wasn’t logical.

Clearly he had underestimated her cold shoulder abilities.

By Wednesday he had barely spoken to any of his friends, including Tony, Bruce, and Thor. On Thursday, after his business law class had been let out, he trailed after Nat until she got to the deli down the street from their lecture hall.

“How much longer are you planning to keep this up? Just so I know how long I’ll have to find some new friends?” Bucky said in an amicable tone. Nat did not look at him, but raised an eyebrow archly.

“How much longer are you going to pretend that you aren’t a dick head?” she asked.

“You can’t exactly blame me for being a dick head when I was ten, Nat. You didn’t even know me back then!” Bucky sighed, exasperated with his friend. Nat turned on him, her eyes blazing.

“Don’t you dare try and diminutize what you did to that boy. You were awful to him, and the least you could do was apologize, even if it is eleven years too late!” she hissed. Bucky stared at her with a glare on his face.

“You really aren’t going to let this go, are you?” Bucky asked.

“Nope.”

“Ugh, fine! I’ll go back this Saturday and apologize,” Bucky growled. Nat’s lips quirked into a self satisfied smile and she reached out to pat Bucky’s cheek. He dodged away from her hand and together they walked into the deli. Sitting in one of the corner booths were their other friends.

“I see Natasha’s finally speaking to you again?” Tony calls from his perch in his boyfriend Bruce’s lap. Bruce rolls his eyes, but gives Bucky a small smile as a greeting.

“She always gets her way in the end, doesn’t she?” Bucky replied as he sat in one of the empty chairs.

“I’ve learned not to fight it,” Clint said in a stage whisper. Nat smacked the back of his neck as a response, but he didn’t seem annoyed by it. Bucky had always wondered how their relationship had worked out.

“She told us you met some kid at the hospital you used to know?” Tony said loudly.

“Tony, don’t be rude,” Bruce hushed his boyfriend, giving him a stern glare. That was another relationship that Bucky was unsure of how it worked. Bruce and Tony were at two totally different ends of the spectrum, although their mutual love of science had brought them together at first. Bruce was seven years older than him being twenty six while Tony was only nineteen. However they were in the same P.H.D. class.

“Yeah, I did… Some kid that used to live next door to me when I was in Brooklyn,” Bucky muttered.

“And now he’s in the hospital? What for?” Tony asked. Bruce had now removed the boy from his lap and was giving him a glare. It went largely unnoticed as Tony’s bright brown eyes were glued on Bucky. The rest of his friends were also looking at him, intrigued by what he was going to say. His metal hand clenched and unclenched into a fist under the table.

He cleared his throat and looked up at Tony, “He’s got cancer.”

The table was very quiet for a long moment.

“He’s at Mount Sinai right? My family donates to them every year, we have a benefit and everything. It’s a good place to go, a lot of state of the art technology is used there,” Tony began to babble about different scientific approaches to illness, and everyone started to zone out of his conversation. Aside from Bruce, who was becoming a neurosurgeon, and was always extremely interested when Tony spoke.

“Jesus, how can you stand him going on and on like that Bruce? It would drive me up a wall,” Clint groaned.

“He’s got a thing for my mouth,” Tony gave Clint a saccharine smile, and Clint began to mime gagging. Bucky laughed with the others and was content as the conversation turned away from talk of hospitals and sick kids. He had enough of that chatter going on in his head, and he didn’t need to hear anymore when he was with his friends.

“You know Barnes, I’m really pissed you didn’t make it to my party on Saturday. There was this girl there that you would’ve loved,” Tony went on.

“Oh yeah, and why’s that?” Bucky asked with a smirk.

“Well, for starters, she had these huge tits, like I’m talking jumbo sized. And this long brown hair… Her name was Shannon?”

“Sharon,” Bruce corrected.

“Right, Sharon! She was going on about how she’s seen you in one of her business classes and how she’d wanted to talk to you during the party, except you never showed up and she was mighty disappointed,” Tony said.

“Maybe I’ll catch her in class sometime, I’m sure she won’t be hard to miss if the description you’ve provided is accurate,” Bucky chuckled.

“True, I’m planning a Halloween party, so you better free up your schedule!” Tony said. Bucky nodded his agreement, and listened as the conversation drifted on. After a half an hour had passed, he returned to his classes with Nat, keeping his eyes peeled for the busty brunette that Tony had told him about. As luck would have it, he spotted a girl that matched Tony’s description, who also was giving him a good deal of side eye.

Throughout the class, Bucky sent her casual smiles, and was even bold enough to give her a wink. It worked like a charm, and as soon as the lecture was over, the girl sauntered over to where he was packing up his things.

“Can I help you?” Bucky asked with a smirk.

“Is your name James?” the girl asked, batting her long eyelashes up at him.

“Yes it is, and would your name happen to be Sharon?” he replied. The girl looked surprised and a blush dusted her cheeks.

“Have you already spoken with Tony, then?” she asked. Bucky laughed lightly.

“I may have,” he flirted.

“Well then you probably know that I’ve wanted to talk to you for ages?” she flirted back, a coy smile on her lips.

“Maybe, maybe not,” Bucky replied. The girl giggled and blinked her eyes up at him again.

“Usually I don’t have to be so blatant about wanting a date, Mr. Barnes,” she said.

“Oh, is that what this was about? I thought we were just being friendly,” Bucky’s smirk still firmly in place.

“We were, but now I’m asking if you’d like to go out on a date with me” Sharon said boldly. Bucky let out a laugh and Sharon’s eyes might have sparkled a bit, even in the shitty lecture hall lighting.

“Alright then, let’s say tomorrow night, we’ll meet at the O’Leary’s pub at eight?” Bucky asked.

“Sounds like a plan to me… See you around James,” she smiled at him and then turned right back around and walked out of the lecture hall. Bucky smiled to himself, thoroughly pleased that while he hadn’t gone to Stark’s party, he’d still managed to pick up a decent looking girl. Bucky left the lecture hall with a smirk on his lips, and not once on his way home did he think about forget-me-not blue eyes.

*^*^*

The next night found Bucky walking into the packed pub at quarter past eight, running his metal hand through his long hair to push it back from his face. Using his height advantage, he searched above the crowd until his gray eyes landed on a familiar head of dark hair sitting at the bar.

Making his way over, he touched Sharon’s shoulder, and she turned with a grin on her pink painted lips.

“Thought for a while that you weren’t going to show,” Sharon said.

“And miss out on a chance to spend time with you, gorgeous? Not a chance,” Bucky smirked back at her, and took a seat beside her. He ordered a whiskey straight from the bartender, and started talking with Sharon.

A few hours passed, and as more and more drinks passed down Bucky’s throat, the more he was looking forward to stripping Sharon out of her shirt and getting his hands on her tits. They talked about class, and how their masters were going, but there was no deep conversation other than that. Which was fortunate for Bucky because he despised when girls started to talk all about their past as if he actually cared about it.

Finally, a little after midnight, Sharon suggested that they should get going, and without missing a beat, Bucky invited her back to his place.

They’d barely made it through the front door before he had her pressed against the wall, devouring her mouth with his own. His own hands stripped her shirt off of her shoulders, and her tits were indeed just as glorious as he’d imagined they would be. The alcohol made his head swim pleasantly as he bent her over the back of his couch and pulled condom onto his dick before sliding inside of her. He fucked her hard as he pleased, and by the animalistic noises she made, she enjoyed it as much as he did.

When he had finally orgasmed, he pulled out and discarded the condom after giving her ass a good slap. After splashing some water on his face and wiping off the drying come from his dick, he pulled on a pair of sweatpants that hung low on his hips. He made his way out to the living room and found Sharon, still naked, sitting on his couch and smoking one of his cigarettes.

For a long moment, Bucky was a bit confused. Usually girls understood that they were supposed to leave after they were done… Not this one, it appeared. So Bucky sat down with her on the couch and tried not to squirm uncomfortably when she planted her naked body into his lap. She held out the cigarette for him to take a drag, which he did, and then leaned forward to inhale the smoke he exhaled.

“I’m staying the night,” she whispered against his lips. And before he could tell her to get out, she had her tongue wrapped around his own, and was grinding down into his lap. Bucky let go of what he was about to say, coming to the conclusion that maybe it wouldn’t be too awful if Sharon stayed the night.

*^*^*

The morning was met with bright light spilling from the curtains that Bucky had forgotten to close the night before, a crick in his neck since he’d fallen asleep on the couch, and a naked Sharon Carter wrapped around him like a boa constrictor.

Bucky’s head pounded a bit from his hangover, and just as he was thinking about how unusual it was that Nat hadn’t woken him by banging on his door, a knocking started up. Sharon groaned and squeezed her arms tighter around Bucky’s waist. It was uncomfortable, and in the light of day, he could see the smears of pink lipstick on his skin and it made him cringe. Not to mention Sharon’s breath smelled absolutely rancid as she breathed heavily in her sleep. The knocking continued at his door.

“Open up, Barnes. Time to get a move on!” Nat’s voice echoed through the apartment.

“I’m comin’!” he yelled back, startling Sharon awake. She blinked up at him with clumped mascara and smeared eyeliner. A ring of pink lipstick stained the outside edge of her lips.

“My friend’s here, so you have to leave, now,” Bucky said.

“Oh but I’m so tired,” Sharon yawned, her morning breath even more horrendous in full force.

“I can hear you’re awake! Open the damn door,” Nat growled. Sharon’s eyes narrowed a bit.

“Who’s that?” she asked. Bucky didn’t answer her as he stood up and swiped his sweatpants from the ground. Pulling them on, he handed Sharon the dress she’d worn last night. She pulled it over her head, giving him a bit of a glare, and once she was decent he opened the front door. Nat stood with a smile on her face, and Clint standing on her left side, two coffees in his hands.

“Morning sunshine, how was your night?” Nat asked.

“You look like shit, dude,” Clint said. Bucky rolled his eyes.

“Thanks,” he muttered and let them into the apartment. Sharon stood in the middle of the living room with her hands on her hips, not looking as intimidating as she’d probably hoped with the mess of makeup on her face.

“Who’s the girl?” Nat asked, casting a glance back at Bucky, but mostly uninterested in the other girl in the apartment. Clint snickered as he followed his brazen girlfriend into the kitchen. Sharon’s mouth dropped open, and her skin got red.

“She’s uh-” Bucky was cut off.

“I happen to be James’ girlfriend!” Sharon snapped.

The apartment was entirely silent, as Bucky’s face drained of all blood, and his friends looked at him with matching looks of disbelief. Bucky Barnes didn’t do relationships…

“Right… Well. Whoever you are. James has things to do today, so why don’t you be off,” Nat said, her eyebrow raising dangerously. Sharon opened her mouth to speak again, but Bucky placed a hand on her bare arm. She looked at him with flashing eyes, but he held his ground spectacularly.

“She’s right, I do have a lot of things to do… But I’ll text you or something, yeah?” he said. Sharon gave one last venomous look at Nat, who was still completely unfazed.

“Sounds good to me. I already put my number in your phone while you were sleeping. It’s not under my name, it’s under the a rainbow heart emoji. Text me,” Sharon said with a simpering smile as she leaned up and kissed Bucky’s pliant lips. Bucky gave her one last pathetic attempt at a smile as she grabbed her heels and made her way out of the apartment.

Once she was gone, Bucky locked the door behind her. He wouldn’t put it past her to try and get back in. He walked into the kitchen and saw his friends’ matching smirks.

“Not one word,” Bucky hissed.

“Oh believe me, I don’t have just one word for what just happened,” Nat responded.

“Seriously, man. She’s a psycho, and you let her sleepover?” Clint asked.

“I didn’t mean to let her stay over, it just happened! She’s the girl that Tony was talking about… I got drunk enough last night and thought I’d give her a try… Turns out she’s fucking nuts,” Bucky explained.

“Well, that’ll teach you to listen to Tony’s advice for matchmaking… Especially considering the only real information you had on her was the size of her tits,” Nat said sardonically. Bucky resisted the urge to stick his tongue out at her, and grabbed the last coffee on the counter.

“I mean… She might be the worst drunk decision you’ve ever made… And that’s including the time in junior year when you let Thor pierce your dick!” Clint nearly cackled as he took a seat on the other side of the kitchen counter.

“Oh, I’d almost forgotten about that,” Nat smiled sharply. Bucky groaned.

“There’s no way that can be topped. That was the worst decision ever. I can’t believe you made me do that, Nat,” Bucky glared at his best friend.

“Oh please. I didn’t make you do anything. I merely gave you a little nudge in that direction… Besides. It’s not like you disliked it afterwards. You still have it, don’t you?” Nat said with a smirk.

What?! You still have your dick pierced?” Clint shrieked, his laughter verging on maniacal.

“I’m not going to answer that,” Bucky said and took a long drink of his coffee. Nat merely smirked some more and Clint was close to rolling around on the floor with laughter.

“You two are the worst,” he muttered again and Nat merely shrugged.

“When you’re done with that coffee, go take a shower and we’re going to the hospital,” Nat said as she reached into the paper bag they’d brought and pulled out a chocolate donut.

“What? It’s only midday!” Bucky complained.

“Exactly. Last time you got there when they were all getting ready for bed. That’s not going to fly with me. You actually have to help these kids in order for it to count for your grade, Barnes. No cutting corners.”

“How the fuck do you put up with her?” Bucky looked at Clint. Clint smirked, and a devilish twinkle appeared in his eyes.

“Well… She does this thing with her fingers while we’re-”

“That’s enough! I don’t need to hear anymore!” Bucky yelled, and practically sprinted towards his room to jump into the shower. The sensation of anxiety was thick in his chest as he thought about how he’d see Steve Rogers again today. And hopefully get the chance to apologize to him.

Chapter Text

4.

Bucky felt uncharacteristically nervous as he and Nat rode the elevator to the eleventh floor of Mount Sinai Hospital. On most occasions, he felt in control of whatever situation he was getting himself into. He was able to stay calm and collected, and not be intimidated by the people he was meeting. But for some reason, Steve Rogers made him feel nervous.

He told himself it was stupid. There was no reason to feel that way any longer. He was a twenty one year old man, going to apologize to an eighteen year old over something he’d done eleven years ago. It shouldn’t be something to be nervous about. And he should have such a difficulty suppressing the warm feeling in his gut that arose every time he thought about the enormous blue eyes that Steve had.

“This is stupid,” Bucky muttered. His feelings spilling out of his head and into his mouth before he could stop them.

“I dare you to say something like that again,” Nat said to him softly.

When the elevator doors finally opened again, Bucky saw that the hospital floor was filled with much more action than it had the last time they had both visited. Nurses were walking along the corridor with some of the children, and Bucky and Nat made their way to the nurses’ station. Bucky was pleased to see Regina there once again, in front of her computer. When she looked up a smile lit her face.

“I was wondering when I’d see you again! James Barnes, isn’t it?” Regina asked.

“Yes, ma’am. And this is my friend Natasha Romanoff. She’s in the same class and here to do her community service as well,” Bucky said. Nat gave the woman a smile.

“Very pleased to meet you,” she said.

“And you as well. Do you know how long you’ll be staying today? I didn’t get a chance to sign off on your hours last week,” Regina said to Bucky.

“It’s alright, I think we’ll-”

“We’ll be here for about five hours,” Nat said with the same smile on her lips. Bucky gave her a sidelong look of hatred, but it was easily ignored by the redhead.

“Wow! Well then, most of the kids will be getting their lunches soon, why don’t you make a round and see if anyone would like company while they eat?” Regina asked with a smile.

“Perfect! Thank you,” Nat said with a smile and immediately set off in the direction of room 1107.

“Wait, I have to do this right now?” Bucky asked, a bit frantically, as he was pushed in the direction of Steve Roger’s door.

“Yes, right now! Better to get it over with! Plus, if he sees you here, he’ll think you’re ignoring him, which would be just as bad!” Nat snapped back at him.

“Well what’re you going to do then?” he hissed at her.

“I’ll go do a round… I’ll be back in half an hour if you don’t come and find me. Alright?” she said. And without another word she started walking down the hall away from him. Bucky sighed, frustrated, and ran his flesh and blood hand through his hair. His heart was clenching painfully in his chest.

He hadn’t felt this way since the first time he’d kissed a girl back in seventh grade. Teresa Mansfield… Bucky shook his head to clear the thoughts. Now was not the time to think about his first, horrifying experience with someone else’s tongue in his mouth.

He was here to apologize to Steve Rogers.

That was it.

After it was over he could go on with his life as if it had never happened.

End of story.

Right?

“Right,” Bucky nearly growled as he steeled his resolve and lifted his hand to knock on the door.

From inside came a very faint: “Come in.”

Bucky opened the door, prepared to come right out and apologize to the tiny, blue eyed boy, but to his confusion, there was no one in the room.

“Hello?” he called.

As an answer, the toilet flushed in the bathroom. Realization dawned on Bucky, and once again nervousness fluttered in his stomach as he waited for Steve to appear. Bucky closed the door to the hall once again and looked around the room, a bit closer than he had before. There were a few posters hung up on the walls, they were all famous pieces of artwork. A homemade looking poster was hung directly above the hospital bed and had Steve’s name written in large bubble letters, and different colored signatures surrounding it. The bed itself had a set of Star Wars bed sheets on it, which made Bucky smile, and on the small overhanging table above the bed there was a set of three pencils and a closed, tattered sketchbook that looked as if it was falling apart on the spiral that bound it together.

Finally Bucky heard the toilet flush again, and the sink run in the bathroom. Tearing his eyes away from the decorations, Bucky tried not to look as awkward as he felt. When the handle on the bathroom door began to turn, he opened his mouth to blurt out his apology, when all of his breath was suddenly stolen from him as  his eyes landed on the hunched over, trembling body of Steve.

“Whoa, you need some help?” Bucky blurted out instead, moving forward without stopping to think about what he was doing. Steve’s head jerked up in surprise, his slightly hazy ocean eyes landed on him and immediately narrowed.

“What is with you showing up all the time? Is this going to be a regular occurrence?” Steve’s voice was much frailer than his expression. Bucky was at a loss for words for a moment. He watched Steve hoist himself into the bed and situate his IV stand next to it.

“Well what’re you here for this time?” Steve finally broke the silence.

“Huh?” Bucky said.

Steve gave him an arched look. Clearly he was wondering Bucky’s mental capacity while Bucky himself was beating himself up for his stupidity.

“I meant… uh… Well I guess I came, well we came… Nat’s here too. The girl from last weekend? Uh, but yeah. It’s just me here, so I guess that I came by myself technically-”

“Just spit it out already!” Steve snapped.

Bucky’s eyes got stuck on Steve’s own gaze and he took a deep breath to steady himself.

“Right, sorry. Just a bit nervous… I came to apologize to you,” Bucky said. Steve remain impassive, staring at Bucky and waiting for him to elaborate.

“I told you that I’ve already-”

“Forgiven me… Yeah I know. But ever since last week, I’ve thought about it a lot. And even if I was just being some shit head ten year old, it doesn’t make it acceptable,” Bucky said. Steve’s face was still clear of emotion, so Bucky plodded on, “I wanted to tell you that I’m sorry for being a jerk. I’m sorry that I was a dumb kid and didn’t give you a chance. I’m just…”

“Sorry?” Steve supplied. Bucky nodded his head and reached up to push his hair out of his face shifting from one foot to the other uncomfortably.

“Yeah. I am,” he said.

It was quiet for a long time in the room. Steve was staring at Bucky with that expressionless face, and Bucky felt twitchy inside. He didn’t know if he should leave, or if he should wait for Steve to say something back to him. This was uncharted territory for him, and he wasn’t sure how to proceed. Luckily, there was a knock a the door behind him, and without warning, a nurse came in pushing a cart full of trays of food.

“Here’s your lunch, Steve! Oh and you have a visitor, isn’t that nice?” the woman said with a beaming smile. She was young and pretty looking. Short reddish hair that had a curl to it and wide brown eyes. Her lips were painted red.

“Thank you, Peggy. This is James Barnes,” Steve said. The woman- Peggy- nodded at him with a smile.

“Pleased to meet you. Any friend of Steve’s must be real sweet. This boy couldn’t hurt a fly,” Peggy said, giving Steve a fond smile. Bucky saw a light blush appear on the apples of Steve’s cheek and for a fraction of a second, fondness spread throughout his entire chest. His mind reeled as he shook off the feeling quickly. This was Steve Rogers. Not some blushing, giggling, schoolgirl. Pull it the fuck together, Barnes.

“He’s just a visitor. Not a friend,” Steve was quick to clarify. Peggy frowned and cast a glance in Bucky’s direction, but he was too concerned with the feeling of ice drenching his spine at Steve’s quick dismissal to be worried about it.

“Oh… Well here’s your lunch anyway. Just something light to go easy on the stomach after your treatment. I’ll be back in a little while to take care of the tray,” Peggy said, setting the tray down on the table that Steve had cleared off.

Bucky stood uselessly in the middle of the room as the nurse left with the cart of trays, closing the door behind her, and as Steve started to sip on the hot broth in the styrofoam bowl.

“So was that all you came here to do, or are you going to sit down?” Steve asked suddenly. Bucky’s head snapped towards him so fast that his neck cracked.

“What?” he asked. Again, with the stupid questions…

“Well, you’re apology was accepted. Obviously. I told you that I’ve already forgiven you. So was that all you wanted to do, or are you going to sit down with me? You are here to do community service, aren’t you?” the boy asked, looking up at him with those big blue eyes. Bucky nodded his head, and then slowly made his way to one of the chairs by the window. As he went he took a good look at Steve. He was wearing some cotton sleep pants and a plain gray t-shirt that looked like it was a child’s size. A matching gray beanie was tucked over his bald head, and he ate his soup slowly, almost cautiously. Bucky’s heart spasmed in his chest again for some weird reason, and he swallowed repetitively to try and get the lump down. He took off his leather jacket, throwing it over the back of the chair and saw Steve’s eyes run over the metal plates of his left arm, however he said nothing. Probably out of politeness.

“So you go to NYU?” Steve asked.

Bucky snapped to attention and cleared his throat, “Yeah… Business major… Well, working on my master’s now,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Is it fun?” Steve asked, not looking up from his meal.

“Getting a masters?” Bucky asked, confused.

“I meant college,” Steve said softly, looking up finally. The air left Bucky’s lungs as he stared in those ocean eyes. The picture of innocence.

“Oh… Well, I mean, yeah. It can be lots of fun at times, but it’s also a lot of work,” Bucky replied. Steve nodded and stirred his soup, looking a bit lost in thought.

“I wanted to go to NYU too… Art major. Obviously that didn’t work out too well,” Steve muttered. Bucky felt at a loss for words, but at the same time, saw the look on Steve’s face and felt the overwhelming need to say something comforting.

“Well, you could always just take some art classes when you get out of here. Local classes or something?” he said. Steve’s lips twitched up into a smile and he looked back at Bucky. The sight of the slight smile on Steve’s lips did something to him. Weird somethings.

“Right,” he said quietly.

“Are you any good at it? I saw your sketch book,” Bucky said, nodding at the spiral bound notebook lying on the bed next to Steve. Steve’s hand moved on top of the cover and his expression changed to wary. Bucky quickly held up his hands as if surrendering.

“I didn’t look at it or anything, honest. I just noticed it on the table before you came out of the bathroom,” Bucky said. Steve relaxed a bit and resumed eating. He moved on from the chicken broth to the small cup of lime JellO. They lapsed back into silence, and Bucky felt as though he had to say something to make Steve more comfortable with him again.

“So, during my freshman year of college, this one time…” he started off. He began telling Steve stories about his wild early days of college and all of the parties he’d gone to. He mentioned how he’d met his friend Clint. (He’d fallen through the air vents in one of his first lectures, and sat beside Bucky for the rest of the lecture because he’d been too embarrassed to leave the room after his entrance.) He told him about how he’d met Tony Stark (the rich bastard had insulted him, drank all of his booze when Bucky had hosted his first party in senior year, and then screwed some girl in Bucky’s bed-he’d also joined in with him, but Steve didn’t need to know that part of the story-)

He was just getting to the story where he’d met Natasha for the first time in freshman year. She had been shit faced out of her mind drinking straight from a handle of vodka and challenging boys to arm wrestle with her. When she’d challenged Bucky he’d been the one to beat her because of his metal arm. But since he’d been wearing sleeves, she hadn’t realized it. So after he’d won, she demanded to know how he’d done it and when he’d showed her that he had a fake arm, she’d been so surprised that she’d screamed, projectile vomited straight onto Bucky’s chest, and fallen over backwards to the floor and spilled the remaining third of the vodka onto herself.

By the end of the story, Steve was doubled over laughing on his bed and Bucky was laughing along with him. His chest felt light as a feather as he listened to Steve’s breathless giggles, his tiny arms wrapped around his waist with the strength of his laughter. Bucky’s smile threatened to break his face, if it got any larger than it already was. And then everything changed in a split second.

The giggles were replaced by a horrible rasping noise. Steve was no longer holding his waist in his mirth, but had moved his arms up around his chest as he gasped for air that refused to enter his lungs. Bucky leapt to his feet from his place on the chair and stared at Steve.

“Oh, Jesus. Steve? You alright? What can I do? Oh fuck!” Bucky was frantic, looking around for a call button for a nurse. He debated leaving the room to find a nurse, but he took one look at Steve’s wide blue eyes as he struggled to breathe, and realized that he wasn’t going anywhere. Without a second thought, he sat himself on the bed, slightly behind Steve and pulled the smaller boy to his chest.

“Easy… Just be easy. Listen to my breathing, and just calm down. You’re alright. It’s going to be fine… Everything’s alright,” Bucky said in the most soothing voice he could muster. Considering the fact that he was practically having a heart attack, that was saying a lot. Steve continued to gasp for air, and Bucky tried not to panic any more than he already was. It was a wakeup call he hadn’t necessarily needed in understanding that Steve was a fragile boy.

Bucky continued to mutter into Steve’s ear, trying to get him to relax, and finally the boy’s breathing evened out a bit. After another few minutes, Bucky heard Steve start to rasp some words.

“What was that?” he asked, leaning closer to Steve’s lips.

“My… inhaler… is over… there… you… idiot,” Steve gasped, pointing at the table underneath the TV on the wall. Bucky felt his neck heat up as his eyes landed on the small white device. He moved away from Steve as if he’d been burned and snatched the inhaler off of the table. Bucky handed it to him, and Steve breathed deeply from the device. Immediately his breathing evened out much more. Bucky stared down at his feet, feeling like a complete moron, and waiting for Steve to tell him how stupid he was. How could he have not thought to look for a fucking inhaler? He’d thought that talking him down from an asthma attack was the smarter option.

“Hey… You know I don’t actually think you’re an idiot, right?” Steve asked softly from his bed. Bucky looked up from the floor and into forget-me-not blue eyes. Steve gave him a small smile as he breathed slow and deep. “Most people start screaming for the nurse to come and help. It’s actually pretty embarrassing… But you were pretty calm and you helped more than most people would…. Thank you.”

Bucky was stunned into not speaking. He looked at Steve with a little bit of disbelief, but the blue eyed boy just looked at him with a tiny, almost shy smile on his lips and Bucky felt the tightness in his chest ease up.

“No problem,” he said softly, giving Steve a small smile of his own.

There was a knock at the door, and Steve called for the person to enter. Nat’s red hair poked around the corner of the open door.

“Oh, Barnes. You’re still here,” she said. A bit of surprise colored her voice, but Bucky knew that she’d deny it if he brought it up.

“Yeah, I was telling Steve about how we all met… He liked your story in particular,” Bucky said. From the bed Steve giggled again and Bucky didn’t bother to push down the warm feeling pooling in his gut. Nat rolled her eyes and stepped further into the room. Bucky knew that she was probably a bit annoyed with him for revealing one of her most embarrassing moments, but the smile on her face belied that.

“Don’t get too carried away telling Steve everyone else’s dirty secrets. Just remember that I have one too many stories involving your finest moments, Barnes,” Nat smiled sharply. Bucky’s mouth dropped in horror, but Steve’s laughter made him not as worried. If the stories she had up her sleeve made the boy laugh like that, then it might be worth it.

“Just came to check and see how you were doing… It’s been about three and a half hours since we got here. Regina said she’d sign for five hours if we wanted to leave now. I have some homework I need to catch up on, and need to do some research at the library,” Nat said simply. Always straight to the point with her.

“Oh… Uh, yeah… That’s fine. I’ll head out with you I guess,” Bucky said slowly. He moved to grab his leather jacket from the back of the chair under the window and shrugged into it. He looked towards Steve, who was seemingly finding a loose thread on his blankets extremely interesting. Bucky’s heart tightened a bit in his chest, as it had been doing all afternoon. Maybe he’d have to ask Bruce what was up with that, because honestly it didn’t seem healthy.

“Well I guess I’ll see you next week then?” Bucky asked softly. Steve looked up and gave Bucky a much more subdued smile than he had before.

“Yeah… I’ll see you then, James,” Steve replied. His soft tone and big eyes and deep breaths made Bucky want to crawl back onto the bed behind him and match Steve’s breathing with his again. But Nat was watching him closely, and now wasn’t the time… If there ever was an appropriate time for that.

Bucky,” Bucky said suddenly and firmly. Steve looked at him with a confused expression for a moment, “My friends call me Bucky. I want you to call me Bucky.”

Steve’s smile was much brighter than before as it spread over his lips, and Bucky found himself smiling back.

“Alright then… I’ll see you next week, Bucky,” Steve said.

“Yeah, you will,” Bucky replied and then followed Nat towards the door.

“It was good to see you again, Steve,” Nat said over her shoulder.

“You too,” Steve called, and Bucky turned to give the small boy one last wave before he shut the door behind him and found himself standing in the stark white hallway, face to face with Nat. Her red eyebrow was arched high and her green eyes delving into his soul.

“Your friends call you Bucky, huh?” she said finally. Bucky rolled his eyes at her.

“Oh shut up,” he said.

“So I’m assuming that you and Steven Rogers are friends now?” she asked.

Bucky didn’t bother to answer her, and she didn’t press the matter either. The smile on Bucky’s face was more than enough for her to go on.

Chapter Text

5.

The following week was an odd one, for Bucky Barnes.

On Sunday he spent the day cleaning up his apartment. He’d found Sharon’s wadded up pair of underwear in one of his shoes and proceeded to throw it directly into the garbage with a shudder. Hopefully there would be no more trouble with that particular woman, but knowing Bucky’s luck she was probably a stalker. He then spent the day trying to do a bit of reading for his business law class, however it was a gorgeous day outside, and every time Bucky’s mind drifted he found himself staring out his window. The sky was particularly blue, and Bucky immediately thought that the color didn’t look as striking as it once had now that he’d seen Steve’s own azure eyes. The surprising thought of Steve quickly made Bucky refocus his attention and put the skinny boy out of his mind.

Monday was torture. Bucky had woken up late for his 10:00 class and had been called out by his professor. He’d spent the rest of the class hunched over in the back row of the lecture hall and trying not to cast any glances around the room. Unfortunately, after the class he’d been approached by none other than Sharon. The look on her face made Bucky want to duck for cover.

“Why haven’t you called me yet?” Sharon demanded. Bucky had been at a loss for words until Nat had taken pity on him and came to save the day.

“Ready to go, Barnes?” she said to Bucky, then cast a look at Sharon.

Sharon had left in a strop, leaving Bucky to laugh with Nat over the entire situation. However Bucky felt uneasy about Sharon altogether. For a brief moment, he imagined that if Steve were there, he would have said something clever about how Bucky seemed to get in over his head. The thought, while surprising, was not entirely unwelcome in Bucky’s mind.

Tuesday, Bucky was sitting in the library and trying to study for the midterm that was only in a few weeks, right before Halloween. He sat at one of the single desks, books surrounding him on either side and his metal arm tapping a restless beat against the wood while he scribbled down notes. With a huff, he put down his pen and checked his phone. He’d been there for nearly three hours. He needed a break.

And so he got up from the table, telling Clint that he’d be right back, and started walking amongst the stacks. The musty smell of old books wafted into his nose, and Buck reminisced on the several girls he’d brought back here for a quick make out. His nose tickled slightly, and he sneezed. There was always so much dust. Too much dust for Steve. He thought, his mind going back to the asthma attack he’d witnessed on Saturday. A small shudder went down Bucky’s spine as he remembered the horrifying gasping sounds that Steve had made, trying to regain his breath.

Stopping in a random aisle, Bucky looked at some of the books on the shelves. Curiously, he’d seemed to have stopped in the shelves belonging to Art books. One spine read: A History of Modern Art. Bucky pulled it out from its spot and brushed some of the dust off the cover. Flicking through some of the pages, Bucky thought of how it might be something that Steve would enjoy reading.

He began looking through the other books on the shelves and pulled a few more that looked to be right up Steve’s alley. Bucky made sure to blow off the dust from the covers and flick through the pages to try and dislodge some of the offending particles. After a good half an hour of looking through various art books and determining which ones would be right to bring to Steve, he made his way back to the table. He brought the books and set them down next to his own texts, then continued to write his notes.

He missed the curious glance that Clint gave him at the sight of the art book, and the sly smile that curved his lips after a moment of thought.

On Wednesday, Bucky was late for class again. He’d spilled coffee down his shirt and had had to go home in order to change quickly. By the time he’d managed to change, he realized he was almost twenty minutes late. Considering the professor had explained that any tardiness past twenty minutes would result in an automatic absence, Bucky figured it was pointless to show up anyway.

Instead he decided to take the subway to West 59th Street. He walked around Central Park, absorbing the late autumn sun and enjoying the crisp fresh air. He wondered if Steve had ever come to Central Park. The hospital wasn’t too far, and the fresh air would definitely do him good, right?

Bucky walked along the paths, doing some people watching and eventually heading back home once his stomach had started to rumble. He texted Nat, asking if she wanted to meet up for lunch and tell him what he’d missed in class. On his way back towards his apartment, he passed by a small shop that had several easels set up in the display window. Palettes of paints and different sets of charcoal pencils were laid out enticingly. On a split second decision, Bucky ducked into the store. After spending a good deal of time and speaking with the owner of the shop, Bucky purchased a small set of brand new charcoal pencils for drawing and a small hardcover sketch book.

There was a seemingly permanent smile on his face as he imagined what Steve might say when he saw what Bucky had gotten him.

On Thursday, Bucky was cornered by Sharon once again, and Nat was at home, sick, and was not there to save him.

“So where are you taking me tomorrow night?” Sharon asked with a smile.

“Uh, nowhere?” Bucky said, unsure of where this woman got the idea that he was still interested when he had clearly gone out of his way to ignore her.

“I was thinking we could walk around Times Square? Take in the sights, and all that! It would be really sweet! Oh, and next weekend my parents are coming to visit, so obviously you’ll have to come out to dinner with us… And-”

“Sharon!” Bucky nearly yelled to get her attention. He also managed to attract several other people’s attention, “I don’t want to go out with you. I’m really sorry, and I don’t want to hurt you more than I have to, but I’m really not interested. Last friday was a lot of fun, but I just don’t think that it would work out between us.”

Sharon pursed her lips in thought, “So all you wanted to do was fuck me?”

Bucky opened his mouth to say that he would’ve had a good time even if they hadn’t fucked. But before he could, Sharon had slapped him straight across the cheek, and snarled in his face.

“You’re a real dick, James Barnes,” she said, and then stormed off in the opposite direction.

Bucky’s cheek stung where she’d hit him, but wasn’t as embarrassed as he’d thought he would be. As soon as she’d hit him, the only thing that ran through his head was: If Steve had tried that, I could’ve caught his wrist and kissed him senseless.

On Friday, Bucky realized that he was crushing hard on Steve fucking Rogers.

His thoughts were nearly consumed with wondering how he was doing, and what kind of treatments he was undergoing. He wanted to talk to Steve about his friends and his day, and wanted to see what Steve was drawing in that old notebook, and listen to what he thought about his favorite pieces of art. He wanted to sit behind his fragile little body on that hospital bed and let Steve’s breathing matchup with his own. He wanted to see if his skin was as soft as he imagined it to be, and be able to warm it up if he was chilled. The color of Steve’s eyes was burned into his memory, and every other shade of blue in the world now seemed wrong somehow.

When Nat invited him out to the bars that night, he barely attempted to look for someone to take home. And it wasn’t from a lack of offers. Multiple women had flirted with him, and he’d politely engaged them in conversation. Even a few men had tried to chat him up, but each one quickly came to realize that he was not interested in anything more than conversation. Nat was giving him a curious look over the top of her martini, and Clint asked him what was wrong over the loud music and conversation flowing in the bar.

Bucky had merely said: “I don’t feel like having a repeat of last weekend.”

This had made Clint laugh and seemingly made sense.

What Bucky had meant to say, was that taking someone home, that wasn’t Steve Rogers, made him feel sick on the inside. It was as if his head couldn’t even entertain the idea of having someone else in his bed that wasn’t the tiny, sick boy from the hospital.

Friday was the day that Bucky realized he was falling hard for Steve Rogers. He also realized that he didn’t entirely scare him.

*^*^*

On Saturday, Bucky was up much earlier than he was used to. There was a current of energy flowing through him as he bustled around his apartment doing nothing consequential. He took time to shave carefully, and showered thoroughly. He spent about twenty minutes deciding what he wanted to wear, and finally decided on a pair of dark jeans, a white t shirt, his black combat boots and his classic leather jacket.

He emptied his backpack of his school books and stuffed it full of the art books he’d taken out of the library on Tuesday as well as the charcoal pencils and the new sketchbook. Once he’d done all of that, he realized that it was only eight thirty, and that Nat wouldn’t arrive for another half hour at least. He tapped one of his cigarettes out of the carton and lit it easily, taking a few long drags and enjoying the simple buzz in his head.

After realizing that he was too twitchy to just sit in his chair and watch TV, Bucky got up and started to make himself some breakfast. It kept his hands busy as he prepared an omelette for himself, and by the time Nat knocked on the door, he had set it out on the plate.

When he opened the door, his friend too one look at him and raised her eyebrow.

“What’s the occasion?” she asked with a smile. Bucky cleared his throat nervously and pushed his hair back.

“No occasion… Just got up early. Had some time to do stuff…” Bucky said.

“Right… Are you ready to head out?” she asked.

“Yeah!” Bucky said a bit too loudly. Nat did not make any comment on it though. Bucky turned back into his apartment and snatched his backpack off of the couch before hastily following Nat out the door and locking it. Nat didn’t make any comment about the untouched omelette still steaming on its plate on the counter.

Bucky was jittery the entire subway ride over to Mount Sinai, and Nat kept throwing him looks as if she knew exactly what he was thinking. By the time they were walking through the doors of the hospital, Bucky felt the urge to run up all eleven flights of stairs, but instead forced himself to calmly ride the elevator up with Nat.

When they reached the eleventh floor, Bucky’s flesh and blood hand began to sweat a bit and slipped on the strap of his backpack slung over his shoulder.

“I’ll let the nurses know we’re here… Just go see him for Christ’s sake, you’re making me anxious just by looking at you,” Nat muttered to him, but there was a smile on her lips. And not one of the sharp ones. Bucky gave her a smile of his own and nodded. He watched her head in the direction of the nurses’ station, and then walked towards room 1107. Taking a deep breath, he knocked on the door.

“Come in,” said a small voice on the other side.

Bucky pushed open the door and had to contain the adoring smile that threatened to break his face as his eyes landed on Steve Rogers, nestled in his bed under a mountain of blankets. His little face laying on a pillow, and his head wrapped in a white beanie. Steve’s own face broke into a shy little smile that had Bucky’s heart beating fast in his chest.

“Bucky! I didn’t realize you’d be here so early today,” Steve said softly, his lips turned down a bit into a frown. Bucky’s heart immediately plummeted.

“I can come back later, if you want?” he said slowly, dread filling his stomach.

“No!” Steve’s response was aggressive as he sat up in bed and looked frantically at Bucky. Steve’s cheeks immediately flamed in a pretty blush, and he twisted his fingers together, “I mean, please don’t leave. I do want you here, I just didn’t know it would be so soon.”

Bucky smiled softly at the boy on the bed and stepped further into the room. “Oh, yeah… Nat showed up at my place early today, and so we left a bit sooner than usual.”

It wasn’t a complete lie, at least.

Another knock at the door echoed through the room and Bucky saw Peggy the nurse coming into the room and pushing a wheelchair. She smiled when her eyes landed on him.

“Oh, Mr. Barnes! It’s lovely to see you again. Steve has been excited for your visit all week,” she smiled at him.

Peggy!” Steve gasped, horrified that the nurse had divulged that bit of information. Bucky only laughed and felt his heart lighten in his chest.

“I’ve looked forward to seeing him again as well,” he replied, throwing Steve a wink over Peggy’s shoulder. Bucky bit his lip to rein in his smile at the sight of another blush on Steve’s pale cheeks. That was a sight he could get used to seeing.

“Well, that’s good to hear! Steve is our favorite boy, so just know that if you do anything to hurt him… Anything at all… I know the location of several crucial arteries, and several different ways of severing them,” Peggy turned and gave Bucky a serious look.

Peggy!” Steve wailed from his bed, covering his face with his hands.

“I promise you, ma’am, that I would never do anything to hurt him,” Bucky replied, equally as serious. Even as he said it, the idea of hurting Steve was repelling to him. He could barely stomach the thought, and the idea of someone else hurting Steve made Bucky want to punch something… Hard… With his metal arm.

“Oh good! Well, since you’re here, you’ll be able to accompany Steve to his chemotherapy session,” Peggy smiled at him.

“I would be-” Buck was cut off.

“You don’t have too… I know you’re here for community service and stuff… I’m just going to be sitting there for a while,” Steve said quickly. Bucky looked hard at him, but Steve’s blue eyes refused to meet his own.

“I don’t mind,” Bucky said carefully. Steve finally looked up and, if Bucky wasn’t mistaken, his eyes looked hopeful.

Oh how fucking sweet can this kid get? Bucky wondered to himself. The urge to walk across the room and plant his lips on those two god damn rosey cushions that boy had for lips was damn near impossible to subdue. Thankfully he managed it, though.

He watched as Steve pushed the blankets carefully off of his thin legs, revealing a pair of american flag pajama pants, and a navy blue, longsleeve henley. He carefully maneuvered himself, with help from Peggy into the wheelchair, and was determinedly not looking at Bucky.

“Do you want to bring your sketchbook, Steve?” Peggy asked.

“No, thank you,” Steve murmured softly. The nurse gave him a long look and then sighed and shrugged her shoulders

“Alright then, here we go,” Peggy said, and started pushing Steve out of his room and towards the elevators.

“The therapy room is located on level nine. Most times, if you arrive and Steve isn’t in his room or somewhere on level eleven, then he’s probably on level nine,” Peggy said as they all stepped into the elevator. Bucky nodded at the woman, and kept an eye on the thin boy in the chair, who was resolutely staring at the ground. For a moment Bucky wondered if Steve didn’t want him to go to his therapy session… But then, he would have said something, right? Bucky wasn’t so sure.

When the elevator stopped, Bucky followed Peggy into the hallway, which was almost identical to level eleven, except there seemed to be only open offices and a few rooms without doors instead of patient’s rooms.

“Here we are… This one should be empty for a while. Give you a bit of privacy,” Peggy said, pushing Steve into the room marked 909. Steve didn’t say anything as he pushed himself out of the wheelchair and settled into one of the cushioned chairs near the windows. There was an IV stand beside it, and above it there was a curtain that could be pulled around to give Steve even more privacy.

Bucky quickly moved out of the way and took a seat on the hard wooden chair adjacent to Steve. The boy’s hands were trembling in his lap, and Bucky felt the need to reach out and clasp it in his own. Peggy had removed the wheelchair and was kneeling down in front of a large metal cabinet. She pulled on a pair of gloves and removed a bag filled with orange liquid. Without a word, Steve rolled up the sleeve of his right arm and presented the veins. Peggy was quick and efficient, and if Bucky hadn’t been paying attention he would have missed her inserting the IV entirely. He winced as she did, but noticed that Steve barely flinched. Peggy adjusted the IV a bit more and then turned the release on the IV and Bucky watched as the orange fluid began to drip down the tube and into Steve’s arm.

“I’ll be back to check on you in about an hour. Do you want the curtain closed?” Peggy asked with a soft smile as she removed her gloves.

“Yes please,” Steve murmured.

“You got it, sweetheart,” she replied, cast Bucky one more look, and then pulled the curtain closed around them. Bucky was finally alone with Steve.

Bucky’s eyes were fixed on the IV dripping chemicals into Steve’s body and it hit him like a train, that this was Steve’s entire life. He was fighting for his life against a disease that was inside of him. He felt as though someone was squeezing his heart in his chest and he felt as though he had to say something… Anything.

“Does that hurt?” he said.

Okay, maybe anything besides that, you moron! Bucky internally chastised himself.

Steve let out a small humorless laugh, “It does… You get used to it eventually.”

“You’ve done this since you were three?” Bucky asked, his voice held a bit of awe. Steve nodded instead of verbally replying. “I can barely handle getting a shot without whining like a baby.”

That comment made Steve look up at Bucky with those big blue eyes and laugh outright. Bucky chuckled with him, and the tense atmosphere dissipated quickly after that.

Steve asked about his week, and Bucky glossed over some things (the moments that consisted of Sharon being a psycho), and told him about how he’d spilled coffee all over himself and then spent the afternoon in the park.

Steve looked dreamy eyed at the mention of Central Park. “I haven’t been there in forever… My mom used to take me in the winter sometimes… I’d be all bundled up, and stuff, you know? But we would take one of the horse drawn carriages through the park in the snow. And we’d drink hot chocolate that we brought… I remember that,” Steve said wistfully. Bucky smiled, pleased that Steve had opened up a bit to him.

“Does your mom live in the city?” Bucky asked. Immediately Steve’s face became withdrawn and he looked down at his lap. Bucky realized that he’d obviously said something wrong, and opened his mouth to apologize when Steve spoke first.

“She’s gone… Died of lung cancer back when I was thirteen… Smoking kills, you know?” Steve said with another hard, humorless laugh. The carton of cigarettes in Bucky’s back pocket felt like a hundred pound weight all of a sudden. He could still taste the cigarette he’d had that morning on his tongue and was suddenly paranoid that Steve could smell it on his clothes.

“I’m sorry,” Bucky murmured quietly. Steve shrugged in his seat, and looked ten times smaller than usual, which was saying something.

“It happened a while ago. Still hurts sometimes though,” Steve said. It was quiet amongst them once again and Bucky breathed deeply before working up the nerve to reply.

“My parents and sister died when I was younger too,” he said softly.

Steve’s eyes snapped up to meet Bucky’s and for some reason, the sight of those vulnerable blue eyes made Bucky want to talk about what he’d never told anyone aside from Natasha.

“I was fifteen, and we were heading to the Hamptons for a week during summer vacation. I can remember that it was so hot in the car because our AC was busted. My little sister Elizabeth was arguing with me over which movie she wanted to watch on our portable DVD player… Our parents were talking in the front seat, and all of a sudden, we were hit from the side… Some semi truck drive had passed out at the wheel after pulling an all nighter. Hit us dead on doing 95. My mom and sister died on impact since they were on the side of the car that the truck had hit… My dad was in a coma for a few days until he died in the hospital, and me… I had to have my arm amputated after it was crushed and wedged between two pieces of the car… I was eligible at the time for testing the new era of prosthetics, and that’s how I got this bad boy…” Bucky took off his jacket and showed Steve his metal arm. He wiggled his fingers as a show of his dexterity.

The boy across from him was quiet for a long time, “Why did you tell me that?” he asked. Bucky looked up at the boy, seeing his face. He was confused, but not in an offended way. Just curious.

Bucky shrugged slightly. To be honest, he wasn’t sure why he’d told Steve that story. It had seemed like the thing to do. Aside from Natasha, none of his friends knew that story, and it wasn’t something he liked to divulge to people he barely knew. But something about Steve Rogers made him comfortable in a way that he’d never felt before. He felt like he could tell Steve anything and he’d understand him.

“You seem like a good guy, Steve Rogers. And you should know that you’re not alone,” Bucky said softly. Steve looked straight into Bucky’s eyes, and the most beautiful smile bloomed on his lips that made Bucky’s heart feel as though it was trying to burst through his chest.

“You seem like a good guy too, Bucky Barnes,” Steve said, and Bucky laughed softly, looking down at his hands. One metal, one flesh, intertwined together.

Steve seemed to settle back into his chair after that conversation, a lot more at peace than he had been when they’d first gotten there. Bucky was quick to pull out the art books that he’d gotten from the library (he’d aired them out and even used his vacuum to suck the dust out of the crevices of the pages). Steve had been thrilled and skimmed through the books, pointing out his favorite pieces to Bucky, who listened avidly as he explained why he loved them.

“Ever been to the Museum of Modern Art?” Bucky asked. Steve gave him a look over his book.

“What do you think?” the blue eyed boy asked.

“I’ll take you there someday,” Bucky said. The way that Steve’s eyes lit up made the words feel more like a promise he would keep.

“That would be really nice, Bucky,” Steve said with that shy smile that made Bucky’s stomach do odd flips.

“I got you something else, too,” Bucky said. Steve frowned a bit.

“You don’t have to get me stuff, as an apology or anything… We’re friends now, right?” Steve asked. The way his face looked so unsure made Bucky want to pick the boy up in his arms and settle him down onto his own lap and reassure him that he was most definitely a friend. He wanted to press his face into the juncture of his neck and shoulder. He wanted to lick that skin. Taste it, and see how soft it really was.

“No, I know that… That’s why I got you these,” Bucky said, reassuringly, as he pulled out the new sketchbook and charcoal pencils. Steve’s eyes grew wide as Bucky placed the items on his pajama clad legs. “I saw them and thought about how your other sketchbook looked a bit torn up… Thought you could use something more sturdy. And the pencils are good quality… Nothing too expensive or anything!” Bucky said when he saw Steve’s small glare.

“This is too much, Bucky. I can’t accept all of this,” Steve said softly, even as his hands ran over the shiny brown cover of the sketchbook.

“Of course you can! I ain’t taking it back now. They’re yours,” Bucky said, crossing his arms, and setting his jaw stubbornly.

“Come on, don’t be like that. I’d feel awful taking something like this from you,” Steve said, the glare intensifying on his face.

“Don’t be a little punk about it. They’re a gift, you’re keeping them. End of story,” Bucky said sternly. Steve’s lower lip jutted out as he continued to glare stubbornly at Bucky. Finally after a tense moment, Steve relaxed again.

“You’re a jerk,” he muttered under his breath, making Bucky laugh softly.

“Yep, I am, and you're a punk… Get used to it, kid,” Bucky said with a smirk. Steve’s mouth dropped open in outrage.

“I am not a punk or a kid!” he hissed.

“You’re three years younger than me…” Bucky smiled, knowing he’d won this argument.

“Three years isn’t that much…. I’m old enough to vote,” Steve muttered petulantly. Bucky laughed out loud.

“You’re still a teenager… So basically, still a kid,” Bucky said.

“Oh, whatever. Shut up, jerk,” Steve huffed and busied himself with exploring his art books some more. For the next few hours, Peggy came to check on Steve and Bucky and make sure they were doing alright. The conversation flowed between the two boys easily and non stop.

Bucky realized that talking to Steve was like talking to someone he’d known his entire life. They just fit together. And Steve could keep up with his banter, just as well as his other friends could. He didn’t cut Bucky any slack, and was as quick as a whip. Bucky found himself laughing more than he could ever remember before. Something about Steve Rogers matched up perfectly with Bucky.

And by the time he was saying goodbye to him, and leaving him in that hospital bed once again, Bucky felt his heart drop. All he wanted was to have Steve walk back home with Bucky and be able to curl up on his couch with him, all tucked up under some blankets and watching crappy television and eating take out.

When Bucky said goodbye to Steve and looked into those ocean eyes, he swore in that moment that he could read Steve’s mind, and knew that Steve wanted the exact same thing.

Chapter Text

6.

By the following Tuesday Bucky felt more jittery than usual. He could not get Steve out of his head and was constantly berating himself for not exchanging numbers with the boy. At least then he would have been able to ask how he was doing on a daily basis, and not tearing his own hair out wondering if Steve was sick, or uncomfortable, or sad, depending on what his treatment entailed during the day.

He had been sitting in the library with Clint and Natasha, jiggling his leg up and down and tapping his metal fingers against the desk. He’d read the same sentence over again about fourteen times before Natasha smacked her hand down on the page he was trying to read. The sharp sound made him look up in shock at her narrowed eyes.

“For Christ’s sake, Barnes. Go back to the hospital and see that boy before you push me over the edge. I’m not above using force,” she hissed at him under her breath so as not to attract any more attention to their table.

“She’s right, man. You’re freaking out right now… Is this all over that sick kid-”

“His name is Steve,” Bucky bit out. Clint’s eyes widened a bit, but then he smiled.

“Yeah… You should go visit him,” Clint said.

“No one’s stopping you from visiting on more days, Barnes. You’re torturing yourself, and worse, you’re torturing me with your incessant twitching. Go sort yourself out, and see Steve,” Nat said.

Bucky breathed deeply, “You know what, I think I will.”

Without another word he packed up his books and nearly sprinted out of the library. He didn’t even hear Nat mutter under her breath to her boyfriend “That boy is hopeless.”

*^*^*

The look on Steve’s face when Bucky entered his room was enough to make Bucky’s entire body heat up. His blue eyes got even bigger and a slight blush came over his cheeks and neck. The color of his blush made Bucky want to find out where else he could turn his skin that color.

“What’s up, Stevie?” Bucky asked with a smile.

“What’re you doing here?” Steve asked, beaming. He was wrapped in a blanket and his blue bathrobe, cross legged on the bed.

“You want me to leave?” Bucky asked, knowing the answer was no, but wanting to hear Steve say it anyway.

Steve rolled his eyes and scoffed, “Of course not! Just wondering why you showed up on a Tuesday…”

“I missed you, obviously. You punk,” Bucky said with a smirk. The words sounded teasing, but the truth of them struck Bucky to his core. The blush deepened on Steve’s cheeks and he cleared his throat gently.

“What’re you up to?” Bucky asked, settling himself on the edge of Steve’s bed. Steve’s old sketchbook was sitting on his lap, and Bucky wondered why he wasn’t using the new one he’d gotten for him.

“Just… Drawing some stuff,” Steve said.

“Can I see it?” Bucky asked, reaching for the notebook. His hand was slapped away sharply, but there was a glimmer of humor in Steve’s eyes.

“Not yet… We’ve only just become friends, Mr. Barnes. I don’t know if I can trust you with my secrets yet,” Steve said.

“You can trust me with anything,” Bucky immediately replied. He felt the back of his neck heat up from the words that spilled out of his mouth against his will. He really needed to work on fixing his filter. But Steve just bit his lip as he smiled bigger, and traced a finger on the outside cover of his notebook.

“So, I forgot to ask before I left on Saturday, do you have a cell phone?” Bucky asked.

“Yeah,” Steve said, reaching over to the table to his left. Bucky caught sight of the IV hooked up to Steve’s arm and felt a pang of worry for him. Seeing him covered and tubes and medical equipment was becoming harder and harder. Bucky wanted to see Steve without any of those things, outside in the world.

“Give me your number so we can text each other,” Bucky said. Steve took Bucky’s phone, and Bucky took his. Buck noticed that he had a regular old flip phone while Bucky had just gotten the newest IPhone. When they had exchanged numbers and given back the phones Bucky sent him a text to make sure it worked.

You’re a punk. -Bucky

Steve laughed at that, and set his phone aside.

“So what are you doing for Halloween? It’s this Friday,” Steve said. Bucky remembered that Tony had said something about throwing a party. Stark’s parties were always incredible considering his parents were never home in their enormous, Upper East side apartment, and Tony had cash to burn. He went all out on the booze, decorations, everything. Not to mention, the hottest girls always showed up to them. Bucky had always managed to take someone home after he’d gone to one of Tony’s parties… But now, the appeal of bringing home a stranger, someone that wasn’t Steve, made his stomach curl unpleasantly.

“One of my friends is having a party at his apartment… He’s a spoiled little rich kid, but he throws the best parties I’ve ever been too… I might go to that for a little while, but that won’t be until later on. I might hit the bars or something, maybe stay in. I’m not really a big fan of Halloween,” Bucky said with a shrug.

“What?” Steve nearly shouted, “How can you not like Halloween? It’s the one time of the year that you can pretend to be whoever you want!”

Bucky smiled fondly at the boy across from him. He shucked off his boots and crossed his legs, sitting right across from Steve. Their knee caps were inches away from touching and if Bucky were to lean in, he could cradle Steve’s head and kiss him silly, just like he’d been thinking about for the past week and a half.

“I guess so, yeah… I don’t know. Getting candy from strangers weirds me out… Isn’t that a stranger danger rule? Never take candy from people you don’t know?” Bucky laughed. Steve looked affronted.

“That rule doesn’t count on Halloween,” he said, his voice offended at what Bucky was talking about. It made Bucky laugh loudly and freely. When he was done laughing he saw that Steve had been staring at him with wide blue eyes and slightly parted, rosey lips. He could lean forward… Right… Now…

“Well… I know that it probably wouldn’t be all that much fun, but the hospital is throwing a halloween party for all the kids… Just a silly thing really. I’m going to hand out some of the candy, and stuff… I don’t know if you’d want to come or something… It could count towards your community service!” Steve stumbled over his words, his neck and face getting redder by the second.

God damn, I want to kiss him. Bucky thought as a slow smile curled his lips.

“Hey, Stevie!” Bucky cut off Steve’s rambling, “Of course I’ll stop by for a while. Community hours or not... It’s better than moping around my apartment and drinking flat beer. What time does it start?”

“Wait, what? You actually want to come?” Steve looked confused. Bucky’s heart felt hot in his chest and he wanted to just cover the boy’s face in kisses.

Jesus, Barnes. Get a grip. If Nat knew what you were thinking, she’d have endless ammon for the rest of your fucking life. Bucky thought to himself.

“Of course I do. I’ll get to spend time with you, right?” he asked.

Steve nodded and bit his bottom lip. Bucky wanted to bite that lip.

“Then I’ll be there,” Buck said with a smile.

“Promise?” Steve asked.

Bucky couldn’t help but be endeared to the look of innocence on Steve’s face, “I promise,” he replied.

“It starts at 6:30… Don’t be late,” Steve said with his own shy curve of his lips.

“Me? Late? Never,” Bucky said, and Steve giggled across from him. For the rest of the evening, Bucky was focused solely on making Steve giggle like that as many times as he possibly could.

*^*^*

What are you doing? -SR

Bucky grinned down at the display on his phone. He glanced up to make sure that the professor wasn’t looking and tapped out a reply.

In lecture… Boring as hell. What about you? -Bucky

To Bucky’s delight, the response was almost instantaneous.

I’m excited to see you tonight -SR

Bucky smiled at the text. He couldn’t deny that he was excited to spend time with Steve tonight at the hospital’s little halloween party as well. It was totally not his scene, at least, it wasn’t what other people would think was his scene. But Steve would be there, and it had made Steve smile when he’d said he would go, so he was going to go, god dammit.

I’m excited to see you too. -Bucky

I’m bored in chemo… Tell me a joke. -SR

Bucky frowned at the thought of Steve being alone during one of his Chemotherapy sessions. But then he restrained himself from laughing as he read the second part of the text. He thought about what jokes he knew when another text came through.

Any day now -SR

“What a little punk,” Bucky muttered under his breath.

Alright, alright… What’s a ghost’s favorite kind of pie? -Bucky

I already know that one -SR

Okay then, what do you call cheese that isn’t yours? -Bucky

I know that one too. -SR

Bucky huffed and leaned over to elbow Nat sitting on his right. She looked up from her notes at him.

“What?” she asked.

“Do you know any good jokes?” Bucky asked. Her face remained blank as she stared at him. Bucky rolled his eyes and showed her Steve’s texts. For a split second he could have sworn that a genuine smile flitted across her face. Bucky had told her all about the little Halloween party he’d been invited to at the hospital… He may have told her several times, but she still indulged him. But before she could tell him, another text came in. Bucky opened it hastily.

You’re bad at this. -SR

“He’s got some nerve,” he muttered again. This time Nat looked over his shoulder with interest.

I’ve got one. Why can’t you hear a pterodactyl going to the bathroom? -SR

Bucky showed Nat the text, and she shrugged, just as confused.

Idk, why? -Bucky

Because the P is silent -SR

The uncontrollable laughter that Bucky let out resulted in him getting kicked out of his lecture, but he walked out of the lecture hall still laughing hysterically, and Natasha giving him a fond look.

I hope you know that you just made me laugh so hard that I got kicked out of my class. -Bucky

Steve: 1, Bucky: 0 -SR

Bucky laughed again and found a bench to sit down on under a tree that had lost almost all of its leave. The wind was chilled, but the sun felt nice on his face.

Just you wait until I see you again, you’re going to pay for that. ;) -Bucky

As soon as Bucky sent the text, he wondered if he’d gone too far with it. Steve wouldn’t get weirded out by a wink face, would he? It couldn’t be construed as flirting so much as teasing. He’d meant it was teasing…. Or did he mean it as flirting? He wouldn’t be opposed if Steve thought he was flirting, as long as he accepted it and flirted back. Oh God, what if he was totally weirded out by it? What if he didn’t want to see Bucky anymore because he thought he was some creepy guy now?

Bucky had started to panic much harder than he intended to as his thoughts escalated quickly. When his phone chimed, he frantically opened Steve’s message, prepared for the worst.

And just how will you punish me? ;) -SR

What?

What?!

WHAT?

Bucky’s heart nearly exploded in his chest as he reread the seven word text over and over again. Had he read that right? Had Steve just flirted back at him? Was that a winky face in his text? Bucky’s hand began to sweat as he held his phone. His mind reeled as he tried to calm himself down.

Alright… So Steve is showing an interest in flirting with Bucky. No big deal. It’s not like the kid had a massive fucking crush, like Bucky had for him. Just a little bit of harmless flirting… That’s all. Bucky breathed deeply. He’d really gone off the deep end….

That depends on what you’d like me to do… -Bucky

Just as Bucky was about to press send, his phone screen darkened and powered off.

Dead battery.

Bucky stared in horror at the dead phone for a solid minute before he leapt to his feet and took off running. Steve was going to think he was such an asshole if he didn’t reply!

Bucky’s mind was consumed with what Steve would be thinking, sitting in that therapy room, with a needle in his arm, waiting and waiting for Bucky to text him back. He was so lost in his worry for the boy that he almost didn’t hear his name being called.

Someone reached out and grabbed his wrist, and he snapped out of his thoughts, only to find Sharon holding onto him. He suddenly felt like a cornered animal, but she hadn’t said anything yet, and almost had an apologetic look on her face.

“James, hey… I’ve been meaning to talk to you all week…” she said softly. She still hadn’t let go of Bucky’s wrist. Bucky’s phone felt like a lead weight in his pocket.

“Look, now isn’t really a good time, Sharon,” he said, his eyes jerking around.

“Right… I just wanted to apologize for how I acted before. I kind of came off as really aggressive… I’ve just had a huge crush on you for so long, and I jumped at the chance, you know? I might have overdone it a bit though,” she said.

“It’s really alright. Seriously don’t worry,” Bucky said. Her fingers still wrapped around his wrist.

“I just want to apologize for what I said last week. It was uncalled for… Would you maybe want to go get a drink right now? Before the bar fills up? I just wanted to talk things out with you,” she said. Her brown eyes were wide and innocent looking. Bucky felt anxiety clawing at the inside of his chest. He opened his mouth to say no, to tell her he had to get home, but the words that came out were:

“Sure, why not?”

Sharon beamed at him and then started walking with him towards the edge of campus. Bucky tried to tell himself that Steve would understand if he was a little bit late in replying… His phone really had died, it wasn’t like he was blowing him off.

“Perfect! Just a drink or two! I’m sure you have other things to do tonight,” she said. Bucky didn’t bother to tell her his plans. They ended up at O’Leary’s bar again, and they started chatting. It was nothing like the awkward clingy persona she’d displayed last week, and was much more like how their “date” had gone the week before. She laughed sweetly and smiled at him. She touched his arm a few times, and offered to pay for their drinks since she was the one that was apologizing. and Bucky didn’t stop her.

Somehow, one drink turned into two, and then three. And soon enough Bucky had run into Thor, (the guy that had done Bucky’s tattoos and… piercing) and his girlfriend Jane, and they had offered to buy a few more rounds. Thor was going on about how he’d opened up his own shop with his brother and was making a killing, and Jane was talking to Sharon about her astrophysics courses. Everything became a blur as Thor bought Bucky a few more drinks, and they ended up playing pool together. Bucky didn’t even bother shaking Sharon off of his arm as she laced her fingers with his, and leaned against his side.

It wasn’t until Bucky had nearly fallen on his face after tripping over his own feet that Thor had laughed and declared that it was time for him to go home.

“Wait… Wha’ time’s it?” Bucky slurred as he walked along the sidewalk. Thor had his arm slung around him, barely affected by the alcohol he’d consumed. Jane was walking with Sharon, who was teetering like a newborn giraffe on her heels.

“Half past eight, just about,” Jane said over her shoulder as she walked ahead of them. A dull ripple of recognition went through Bucky as his intoxicated brain realized something was wrong with that statement.

“How long’re we there fer?” Bucky asked, his head lolled on his shoulders. Sharon giggled and looked back at Bucky with bleary eyes.

“We got there at like three… Soooooo,” she trailed off, a hiccup-burp came out of her mouth and Jane immediately stopped and directed her to the gutter. Sharon proceeded to vomit up everything she’d had for a drink.

“Oh Jesus, I gotta get to the hos… the hopstitle… Hos-ti-ple. Hospital,” Bucky forced the word out.

“Are you ill, James?” Thor asked, looking down at his face.

“No, its Steeeeeeeeeve,” Bucky whined.

“Right, let’s get you home, we’re almost there. And you can take a nap before Anthony’s party tonight. I know you wanted to go to that,” Thor said.

That was the last thing that Bucky remembered, until he was woken by a shrill ringing in his ears. He startled awake, sitting up quickly and finding himself half dressed in his bed with Sharon draped over his chest. His head was still swimming a bit, but he moved himself out from under the sleeping woman, his mind reeling over what was happening. His phone was creating the awful noise and he snatched it off of his side table, stumbling out of his room and answering it.

“‘Lo?” he mumbled into the receiver.

“Where the fuck are you, James?” Nat’s voice was seething over the phone. Bucky held the phone away from his face in fear that the device might burst into flames spontaneously.

“I’m at home, Nat. Jesus what’s wrong with you?” he asked again. He flopped onto his couch and tried to sort his brain out. He still felt drunk… He was probably still drunk…

“What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with me? You stand up that poor boy, and you have the fucking audacity to ask me what’s wrong with me?” Nat hissed at him.

“Stop screaming at me, Natasha! My head feels like a fucking construction site, and I’m still a bit shit faced! What the fuck did I even do?” Bucky growled into the phone, pressing his metal fingers to his temple. For the love of fuck, if the jackhammers in his head would be quiet for one fucking minute he’d be able to figure out what was going on.

“It’s two in the goddamn morning, James. Thor just ran into me at Tony’s house… Said he had to take you and some girl home from O’Leary’s because you two were shit faced at eight thirty! I thought to myself, no definitely not James. Not when he fucking promised Steve that he’d go to his party tonight!” Nat’s voice was cold as ice, and for a minute, Bucky forgot how to breathe. Ice poured through his veins and his head cleared instantly.

“Holy mother of fuck,” Bucky breathed. A humorless laugh echoed over the phone, and Bucky could just picture Nat’s death glare.

“Yeah, James. You’ve fucked up, big time,” she said. Bucky’s breath began to come in harsh pants.

“You said it’s two in the morning?” Bucky asked in barely a whisper.

“I’m hanging up, James. You’re on your own with this one,” Nat replied. The line went dead.

Bucky’s fingers flew over his phone as he checked his messages. Under Steve’s contact he had eight missed text messages. His heart sank even further in his chest.

Hey, sorry if that text came off as weird… I didn’t mean anything by it. -SR

I don’t actually expect you to punish me, Bucky… -SR

Look, I’m really sorry if I’ve offended you. That really wasn’t my intention. -SR

Please say that you still coming tonight? -SR

If you are, I’ll be the guy in the mask and cape :) -SR

Please respond -SR

The party’s almost over, are you still coming? -SR

I know you’re probably done with me, but can you please just respond so that I know for sure? -SR

Bucky felt as though his heart had been ripped into shreds within his chest. The thought that Steve had thought Bucky was offended by the bit of flirting he’d done. He’d clearly thought that Bucky was weirded out by it, maybe even scared off. His poor, little Stevie had thought that Bucky had stood him up on purpose. He could picture Steve, standing in his costume, whatever it might have been, waiting for Bucky to arrive, only to realize as the party ended that he wasn’t coming.

Tears burned in the corner of Bucky’s eyes, and before he realized what he was doing, he had thrown on a pair of shoes, and run out the front door. His cellphone clenched in his hand, and sans anything on his torso, Bucky sprinted down the streets. His heart was beating so quickly in his chest, and he felt as though he couldn’t breathe, though it had nothing to do with his running.

Somehow he managed to end up in front of the hospital. He tried the front doors, but the would not open for him. He tugged at it harder, tears blurring his vision now. He had to get to Steve and apologize for being such an asshole. Steve was right inside, he had to get to him.

“Hey, you alright there, buddy?” someone said from behind him.

“Leave me alone,” Bucky growled. Someone grabbed his shoulder, and Bucky’s anger surged upward. Couldn’t this person see that he was trying to get to Steve? He swung his fist around and made contact with the person’s face.

Before he could even realize that he’d just punched a police officer, he was face down on the ground and being wrestled into a pair of handcuffs. Bucky didn’t bother trying to stop the tears anymore.

Chapter Text

7.

“Thanks for this, Tony… I owe you one,” Buck muttered as he followed the shorter boy out of the police station.

“Don’t mention it… I know how awful being arrested is… The beds are fucking awful,” Tony smirked and pushed his sunglasses up his nose. Bucky nodded his thanks and got into the back of Tony’s black limousine. Bruce was sitting in the backseat as well and gave Bucky a little nod as a greeting.

“So… Assaulting an officer. What made you do that?” Tony asked as he cuddled up next to his boyfriend on the leather seat.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Bucky said softly. His head hurt from the hangover and his chest felt tighter than a snare drum from the guilt he was drowning in. Steve was his constant loop of thoughts in his head.

“Right… Right… Does it have something to do with that Steve kid?” Tony asked.

“I really don’t want to talk about it, Tony,” Bucky said again. Tony was quiet for a few minutes as the car wove through out the traffic towards Bucky’s apartment.

“I’ve never seen Natasha so angry before in my life… Must’ve been a really bad fuck up,” Tony said.

Tony! That’s enough!” Bruce’s voice cut sharp through the air. Tony looked thoroughly chastised and kept his head down. Bucky nodded again at Bruce, who returned the sentiment. Bucky also did not fail to notice that Bruce's fingers were lightly stroking the back of Tony's hand. The rest of the car ride was spent in silence, until it pulled up in front of Bucky’s apartment.

“I hope you figure things out, Bucky…” Tony’s voice was softer than before. Bucky nodded his thanks and mentioned that he’d wash Bruce’s shirt and return it soon before he got out of the car and made his way into his apartment.

When he unlocked the door it was silent inside his apartment.

Thank God. Bucky thought to himself. Just as he was taking off his boots, though, Sharon strolled out of the bathroom wearing her clothes from last night. She had a sheepish expression on her face.

“Hey,” she said.

“Morning,” Bucky replied warily.

“I didn’t expect last night to go like that… Halloween always seems to get the best of me… I knew you wanted to go to Stark’s party, so sorry about that… Maybe sometime we could-”

“Drinks might not be the best idea for us,” Bucky interrupted. Sharon laughed lightly, but still looked a bit embarrassed.

“I was going to say get lunch. You really are a good guy, James. I wish you were as into me as I am into you… But, things happen for a reason I suppose, right?” she said. Bucky didn’t know how to answer her, and so he wisely kept his mouth shut. Sharon seemed to take this as her cue to leave. She walked up to Bucky and laid a kiss on his cheek before she smiled at him one last time and let herself out of the apartment.

Bucky stood still in the middle of the living room. That had been weird… Very weird...

Well, at least that was one problem solved. He thought to himself and then pulled his phone from his pocket and typed a short message to Steve.

We need to talk about last night. I can explain everything. -Bucky

He pressed send and then jumped into the shower, washing himself as quickly as possible. His heart still felt like a ball of metal in his chest, so heavy that it hurt. There were a few scrapes on his face from where he’d been thrown down against the sidewalk as well. When he got out, he dressed in whatever clothes his hands landed on first, threw on his shoes and his coat, grabbed his phone and was out the door in a flash.

As he took the subway to the hospital, he checked his phone every thirty seconds or so. Still no response from Steve.

By the time he was riding the elevator up to the eleventh floor, his hand was shaking, and he felt like sprinting the rest of the way. After what felt like an eternity, the doors opened, and Bucky made a beeline for Steve’s door. He knocked a few times and listened carefully.

“Who is it?” came a small voice from inside.

“Steve, it’s me… Look you have to let me talk to you about last night. It was all one huge misunderstanding,” Bucky said through the door.

“Go away, Mr. Barnes,” came the hardened reply. Bucky nearly growled.

“Not until you let me talk to you!” Bucky replied.

“Well then you’ll be waiting a long time, let me tell you!” snapped Steve from inside the room. This time, Bucky did growl as he pushed aside being polite and opened the door anyway. Steve was sitting by the window, wrapped in a blanket, without a hat on his bald head, and his blue eyes that were rimmed with red had fire in them.

“Get out of my room, Barnes!” he snarled from his perch. Bucky thought it was a bit like a kitten hissing at him, but decided it might be best not to say that.

“Let me explain everything, please. It’s not what you think,” Bucky said. Steve barked out a laugh as he glared at Bucky with those azure eyes.

“Oh really? So you didn’t blow me off last night? You didn’t make me stand around like some idiot, all by myself after you promised me that you’d show up? After I’d told everyone that my friend was coming… And you made me look like a fool!” Steve spat at Bucky. Bucky winced at the venom in the words, but held his ground as he stared back at Steve.

“Look, I know that I blew you off. Alright? It was an accident… After you texted me, my phone died," Steve scoffed and rolled his eyes so hard, Bucky was surprised they hadn't gotten stuck in his skull. Bucky pressed onward, though, "And I swear I was heading home to charge it so I could reply to you, but I ran into someone, and she wanted to get a couple of drinks. So I agreed, and I went to the bar and I ended up getting way too drunk. My friend put me to bed and I woke up to Nat screaming at me at two in the morning! I fucking ran over to the hospital, still half drunk because I realized I’d missed it! I got fucking arrested for punching a cop because I was trying to break into here!” Bucky said almost hysterically.

“Yeah, I’m sure! Look, I know this is just some charity case for you, alright? I know you have actual friends, and that spending your time with some kid that’s dying isn’t that great. But the least you could do is not make promises that you know you won’t keep!” Steve growled out again. Bucky heard the tremble in his voice, and his heart dropped to the floor. Instinctively he stepped closer to Steve and reached out towards him. Steve held up his hand, as if to shield himself from Bucky touching him.

“You think I’m your friend out of what? Pity? Are you fucking crazy, Steve?” Bucky growled.

“Of course that’s what it is! Look at yourself! You’re cool, and have friends, and go to college parties, and go on dates with girls and you’re normal. And I’m just a sick kid in a hospital. You even said from the very beginning, this is for community service. If you hadn’t been forced to come here, then you never would have looked twice at me! You didn’t even like me when we were kids!” Steve’s voice wavered again.

“Oh, Jesus! For the love of… Steve! I was a fucking dumb ass kid! I’m here because I think you’re an amazing fucking person. And you’re funny, and I can’t help but fucking smile all the goddamn time when I’m with you. You’re not my fucking charity case!” Bucky’s voice was like steel, as he glared at Steve, trying to make him see the truth of his words.

“You’re a liar! Just leave me alone!” Steve growled but it trembled in his throat. Bucky caught sight of the tears glistening in his baby blue eyes, and before he convinced himself not too, he surged forward, and caught Steve’s lips with his own.

Steve struggled for a half a second, before he melted under Bucky’s touch and his lips began to move under Bucky’s. Bucky could feel the inexperience in the movements and easily took control of the kiss. Steve dug one hand into Bucky’s hair and the other curled in the front of his t-shirt. He let his metal arm wrap behind Steve’s back and cup the nape of his neck while the flesh and blood hand cradled his bald head oh so gently. Bucky’s lips felt wetter than normal, and he realized that Steve was crying. He ended the sweet press of lips and pulled back a bit to look at Steve’s face.

“Oh, baby. Why’re you crying?” Bucky breathed softly, gently running his hand over the soft skin of Steve’s head.

“Because this has to be some kind of joke… This can’t be happening,” Steve’s voice cracked and a few more tears dripped down his cheeks. Bucky breathed out a little chuckle, swallowing down the lump that appeared in his own throat, and looked adoringly at the boy wrapped in blankets before him. His thumbs, both metal and flesh, rubbed over Steve’s cheeks and caught the tears as they escaped. His mouth descended first on his left cheek, then his right, and finally rested on his forehead.

“It’s not a joke, baby doll. I swear it’s not. I’d never joke about something like this with you,” he murmured against the cool skin. Bucky wrapped his arms more securely around Steve and lifted him easily into his arms. Steve, surprisingly, kept quiet, as Bucky sat himself on the chair under the window and maneuvered the smaller boy onto his lap. Steve immediately tucked his head onto Bucky’s shoulder, his nose against his collarbone. Bucky felt as though he could fly straight out the window, his happiness was an enormous mass in his chest. His heart felt so full that it ached as he cradled Steve to his chest.

"Are we done fighting now?" Steve asked quietly.

"That depends on if you forgive me, Stevie. I truly am sorry about last night. I lost track of time and drank far too much than I should have. I was stupid, and it was a mistake. I can't promise you that I won't ever fuck up again, but I will always try my hardest to be the best I can for you," Bucky replied.

“I understand... I was just embarrassed... And scared that you weren't coming back... So what does this mean, now?” Steve murmured. Bucky felt his hot breath against his neck and couldn’t help but smile.

“This means that every time I visit you, I get to kiss you,” Bucky murmured against the skin of Steve’s head and laid a gentle kiss there as well.

“I’ve… uhm… I’ve never actually kissed anyone before,” Steve replied quietly. Bucky chuckled softly.

“Well then, I’m honored that you would give me something so incredibly precious,” he said. Steve made a soft sound of agreement and wriggled in Bucky’s arms so that he could put his azure gaze on Bucky’s own gray eyes.

“Does this mean that you like me? Like… Have a crush on me?” Steve asked quietly. His teeth nibbled on his bottom lip, and Bucky couldn’t resist, and leaned his head forward and sucked Steve’s bottom lip into his own mouth. A sweet, little whimper came from Steve’s throat and a thrill went up Bucky’s spine. He would be happy, if for the rest of his life, he only had to make sure that Steve made those little noises. Bucky knew that he had liked Steve as the little spit fire that did not take shit from anyone that he’d met weeks ago, but without a doubt he would fall hard and fast for the sweet, quiet thing, nestled in his arms.

“Yeah, Stevie... It means I have a huge crush on you,” Bucky murmured against Steve’s lips, and then dove back into kissing him fervently. Bucky kissed him, slow and soft. Teaching Steve as he went and laughing breathlessly whenever they knocked noses or teeth. Bucky was content just to feel Steve’s slightly chapped lips pressed against his own and moving in tandem. It didn’t matter that Steve had no experience. In fact, it was the opposite for Bucky. There was an incredible pressure in his chest at the thought that he was the first person to kiss Steve.  To hold him like this. He felt like he could cry from being so relieved that Steve had forgive him for his fuck up.

When they parted again, Steve’s eyes were a bit hazy and Bucky smiled softly at him. Steve grinned back, suddenly looking very cheeky and asked “Did you really get arrested for punching an officer last night?”

Bucky groaned playfully and dropped his head against the back of the chair.

“You really had to bring that up, now Stevie?” Bucky asked. Steve just giggled and tucked his face into the crook of Bucky’s neck. Buck’s metal arm came up and cradled the back of his head, rubbing his fingertips over the nape of his neck. Steve made another soft noise, and Bucky thought that he’d never felt so completely content before in his life.

They sat like that for a long while. Just soaking up each other’s company and enjoying the closeness they’d never shared before. Bucky wrapped his arms around Steve’s blanket-wrapped form and rubbed his back, listening to the small breaths that the boy took. He’d thought that Steve had fallen asleep on him, when the younger boy lifted his head and looked at Bucky.

“So what are we now? Are we just friends still… Or are we, uh, boy friends?” Steve asked slowly, unsure of what he was asking.

“Would you like us to be boyfriends?” Bucky asked, suppressing his grin. Steve nodded slowly and Bucky ran his hand down Steve’s back soothingly.

“Then that’s what we’ll be,” Bucky said softly.

“Good,” Steve replied, settling back down in Bucky’s arms. This time, he did fall asleep in Bucky’s arms, and Bucky couldn’t help but doze off as well, warm and content with his best guy held safe and sound in his arms.

*^*^*

Bucky was woken after almost an hour of dozing by a soft hand on his shoulder. Blinking awake, Peggy’s face came into focus beside him. A soft smile was on her red lips, and she put her finger to her them.

“I thought we might move him to the bed? His back will bother him tomorrow if he doesn’t move,” she whispered. Bucky nodded slightly and adjusted his arms more securely around Steve. He stood from the chair and brought one arm under Steve’s legs, which instinctively wrapped around Bucky’s waist like overactive vines. Bucky couldn’t hide his smile as Steve snuffled softly against the exposed skin of his neck as he moved to the bed. Trying not to disturb the sleeping boy, he leaned down and laid him against the bed before carefully unwrapping his thin legs from his waist.

Peggy had shifted the blanket that Steve had been wrapped in, out from under his body like a magician pulled out a tablecloth, leaving Steve completely undisturbed. She made quick work of checking Steve’s IV and some of the monitors alongside his bed before tucking his pale, thin body under several layers of blankets.

“You know, I debated hunting you down last night. I thought you were deliberately leading him on… I’m glad I was wrong,” Peggy whispered to Bucky over Steve’s sleeping form. Bucky nodded, his face solemn.

“I messed up last night. I thought I’d lost him…” Bucky said quietly.

“He’s a special boy, James Barnes,” she said. Bucky looked up and saw that she was looking at Steve with a fond expression on her face, “I’ve been with him almost since he got diagnosed… He’s been through so much, and he’s so strong… Sometimes I worry that he’s forgotten what it’s like not to fight. What it feels like to just be protected,” she whispered. One of her hands rubbed Steve’s arm gently, and her eyes suddenly flashed up to Bucky’s. Her brown eyes glimmered as she stared at him, “I swear, if you hurt him, I will hurt you myself,” Peggy said. Her voice left no room to be misinterpreted. She meant it.

Bucky looked her straight in the eye, “If I hurt him, I’ll ask you to.”

They looked at each other for a long moment, until Peggy finally smiled softly and nodded.

“I believe you’re a good person, James Barnes. I think you’ll be good for Steve as well.”

“I think so too, ma’am,” Bucky said.

Peggy snorted out a laugh, “Dear God, don’t call me ma’am. I’m not that old yet!”

Bucky chuckled softly and watched as she tucked Steve in a bit more.

“Visiting hours end soon,” Peggy said.

“I just want to sit with him for a little bit,” Bucky replied. She smiled again and nodded, then silently slipped out of the room. Bucky sat himself on the edge of the bed, running his hand down Steve’s arm and back up again. After a few minutes of this, Bucky was taken by surprise as Steve spoke.

“Bucky?” he murmured sleepily. Bucky smiled at the wriggling boy under the blankets. Tired blue eyes blinked open slowly, adjusting to the light.

“Hey, baby doll. Tired?” he asked softly.

Steve nodded and hummed, “It got cold.”

“Do you want another blanket?” Bucky frowned.

In reply Steve freed one of his hands and tugged on Bucky’s shirt, “No, you.”

Bucky laughed and allowed himself to be pulled forward. He braced his metal hand on the left side of Steve’s head and laced his fingers on the other with Steve’s. Steve yawned and the sight of his little pink tongue made Bucky want to suck the muscle into his own mouth.

“I’m going to have to leave soon, doll. Visiting hours are almost over,” Bucky said. The idea of leaving Steve in the hospital made him feel sick to his stomach. He wanted to smuggle Steve home to his apartment and cuddle him in his own giant bed. Internally Bucky laughed, realizing that if any of his friends found out that the only thing on his mind was cuddling then he would never hear the end of it. Steve seemed to have almost the same idea.

“No, you can’t leave. Hide in the closet and stay with me tonight,” he whined. Bucky found it entirely adorable and leaned down, covering Steve’s face in small kisses until Steve was squirming and giggling, playfully trying to push him away. The knowledge that Bucky could actually show affection for Steve like this made him want to scream and jump and fly.

“Believe me, if I could, I’d never leave you alone again… Truthfully though? Peggy scares the shit out of me and I’d rather stay on her good side,” Bucky said when he was done with his kiss attack. Steve smirked at him.

“Yeah… Peggy could probably kick your ass… Even with the metal arm, you’d stand no chance against her,” he said. Bucky gasped in mock offense.

“You little punk!” he said. Steve only laughed again and then wrapped his two thin arms around Bucky’s neck and pulled him down sharply, planting a sloppy kiss onto his lips. Bucky laughed against the enthusiastic boy’s lips and kissed him back. Guiding Steve as best he could, nipping at his lips playfully and running his tongue along the plush bottom lip. Steve whimpered against his lips again and Bucky tore himself away to start kissing Steve’s jaw and neck.

“Christ, baby doll. I really don’t want to leave you,” Bucky murmured as he nibbled the skin under Steve’s ear. When he wrapped his lips around the earlobe and tugged with his teeth a bit, Steve let out a moan. Bucky’s breath left him in a harsh pant and he felt himself harden in his jeans.

Using every ounce of strength he possessed, he pulled himself away from Steve’s soft neck and stared into the hazy blue eyes that stared up at him. Steve was panting quietly, matching Bucky’s own gasps for air.

“If we keep going, then I might do something really, really stupid,” Bucky murmured.

“Wouldn’t be stupid if I agree with it,” Steve replied with a cheeky smile.

“You’re killing me, baby,” Bucky said, bringing Steve’s hand up to his lips and kissing the chilled fingers.

“‘M not a baby,” Steve grumbled under his breath.

Bucky laughed, “Oh, yes you are. You’re my baby.”

Steve blushed at the comment, but didn’t argue anymore. Bucky looked at the clock on the wall and realized that his time was nearly up.

“I’ve gotta go, Stevie,” he murmured.

“Yeah, I know…” Steve said softly. He looked down at the blankets, but Bucky was quick to pull his face up gently to look into his blue eyes.

“I’ll text you though? You can call me whenever you want to… I have class during the week, but I’ll always call you back right after,” Bucky promised, his expression serious.

“Will you come visit me still?” Steve asked quietly and Bucky’s heart thumped hard in his chest.

“Of course I will, sweetheart. Whenever I can. I have some homework to do tomorrow, but is Monday okay? I only have two classes in the morning,” Bucky reassured the nervous looking boy lying beneath him. Steve looked up at him and smiled shyly, biting his bottom lip again. Bucky used his metal thumb to tug the lip out from between the teeth, then leaned in and laid a sweet, chaste kiss on them.

“No more biting. Don’t want you to split your lip,” he said to Steve, who rolled his eyes, but smiled at Bucky anyway.

“I’ll text you when I get home, alright? And we’ll plan on me coming to see you on Monday?” Bucky said.

“Okay,” Steve nodded, and Bucky couldn’t help but kiss him full on the lips again. When he pulled back he gave Steve’s forehead a kiss as well and then pulled away from the bed. He hesitated in the doorway when he looked back at Steve and saw him, tiny and curled up under the blankets, alone in the stark white room. He wanted nothing more than to scoop him up and hold him close and run him back to his apartment, but he knew that was impossible.

“I’ll text you,” Bucky said again and offered Steve a small wave. Steve nods, and he’s chewing on that damned lip again, but Bucky is already closing the door, and the feeling of loneliness settles under his ribs.

Taking a deep, steadying breath, Bucky squares his shoulder.

He’ll see Steve again in two days…

It’s only two days…

Forty eight hours…

Two thousand, eight hundred and eighty minutes...

Goddamn. He was definitely fucked.

 

Chapter Text

8.

The next day, Bucky had no motivation other than to sit on his couch and mope.

“Pay attention, Barnes. The midterm is on Wednesday and I know for a fact that you have no idea how to do this problem,” Nat said, not bothering to look up from her textbook. Bucky flopped onto his back and let his book rest on top of his face.

“Damn, bro. You’ve got it bad for this kid, don’t you?” Clint asked from his perch on a stool in the kitchen.

“He’s my boyfriend, Clint. And his name is Steve,” Bucky said with a glare on his face that no one could see.

It wasn’t as if Clint didn’t know that either. After he’d left Steve the day before he’d gone straight to Nat’s apartment. It was some kind of miracle that she’d actually let him in without handing his ass to him once again. He’d told her exactly what had happened that morning, and the night before. She’d listened patiently while Clint was uncharacteristically silent on Nat’s couch, through the entire story. (Bucky had made sure to leave out some of the parts… Mostly about how kissing Steve was the most delicious experience he’d ever had in his life.)

When he’d finished Nat hadn’t said a word, but instead wrapped her arms around him in a rare display of affection. Bucky swore that he’d even seen her eyes water a little bit, but he hadn’t wanted to push his luck by pointing it out. Natasha was his best friend, and while she was a tough mother fucker, he knew that she loved him as much as he loved her…. She was one of the only people that wouldn’t let Bucky get away with being an asshole. Without her, he wouldn’t have met Steve, and in his book that counted for something.

Bucky sighed as he wondered what Steve was doing right then. He’d been texting him all morning until Steve had said that he’d had to leave for a few meetings with his doctor. It had been a whole forty five minutes since he’d heard from him. Bucky sighed.

“If you sigh like that one more time I won’t be held responsible for what I do,” Nat murmured from the chair she was curled up in. Bucky pushed the book off of his face so that he would glare at her for real this time. She was, as usual, completely unbothered by it.

“Seriously, man… Go jerk off or something… It helps, believe me,” Clint said from his spot. Bucky made a face.

Obviously I’ve already done that Clint…. Four times already since yesterday! He thought to himself.

“Please, for the love of God, don’t talk about you jerking off,” he said to Clint.

“Just trying to help,” Clint replied.

A few minutes ticked by as Bucky tried to review his notes from his accounting class. He picked up his phone that was lying on his leg and turned it on. No texts. He turned it back off and continued to scan his notes. Once again he picked up his phone and checked the time. Not even three minutes had passed.

Bucky sighed.

“That’s it, we’re leaving,” Nat said, pushing herself up from the chair and stretching like a cat. Clint’s expression looked thrilled as he watched his girlfriend pack up her notes and textbooks.

“Where’re you going?” Bucky asked. He wasn’t going to try and convince them to stay. That way, if Steve called him, he’d be alone and could talk about anything he wanted. He could say anything to Steve and not get called out by Clint or Nat.

“The library. Want to meet for breakfast tomorrow before class?” Nat asked. She didn’t seem entirely annoyed at having to leave Bucky’s apartment, which made him pleased. He didn’t want to have a pissed of Natasha on his hands.

“Sure. Sofia’s at seven thirty?” he asked.

“Perfect, see you tomorrow,” Nat replied, slinging her bag over her shoulder and walking to the door.

“See you, Bucky!” Clint called from the hall as he followed Nat out and shut the door behind him.

Bucky huffed out another deep breath and stared at the ceiling. The phone resting on his stomach was silent and still. He narrowed his eyes, glaring at it, willing it to light up with a notification from Steve. A few moments passed and still nothing happened.

With a groan, Bucky pushed himself off of the couch and headed for the bathroom. He’d yet to shower since waking up almost seven hours ago, and thought that it might distract him from moping over not hearing from Steve yet.

The water was a little towards the lukewarm side, considering his shower taps were very temperamental. The water temperature could go from “arctic ocean” to “seventh circle of hell” if moved a centimeter in the wrong decision. Bucky stood under the spray and slicked back his hair from his face. He washed his hair quickly and began soaping up his body, taking extra care on his metal arm to work some of the grime out of the grooves.

When he was done with his arm he soaped up a cloth and began cleaning himself. He’d always taken good care of his body. Regular gym training sessions and having a friend like Thor made him keep his motivation to stay in shape. (Seriously, Thor was huge.) He’d grown into his tall body during puberty. His broad shoulders and trim waist that most women (and some men) lusted after.

He’d never given it much thought, just counted it as another thing that would help get someone into his bed. But now that he had a boyfriend? Now that Steve was his boyfriend? He was more conscious of it than ever.

The way Steve’s little body fit perfectly in his arms. How he could easily lift him and maneuver him however he wanted. His arms wrapped around Steve’s frail waist, for Christ’s sake he could almost wrap his hands all the way around his thin thighs. Steve was so perfectly small when put next to Bucky. It made Bucky want to wrap him up and keep him safe and sound for the rest of their lives.

Bucky belated realized that he had been running the washcloth over his dick the entire time he’d been lost in his thoughts and now it was half hard. With a groan he dropped the cloth and curled his flesh and blood hand around his cock. He stroked over the slick skin, making it harden fully. He’d never bragged about it, but he considered himself generous in his proportions. Last time he’d actually measured himself was back in high school after football practice one day, and when he’d been fully hard he’d measured out to be almost eight inches.

He squeezed the head, and his fingers unintentionally flicked over the piercing nestled against his flesh… Yes, he’d kept the apadravya. He’d figured it had hurt enough that it would be stupid to get rid of it so soon. Plus, a girl he’d been with after it had healed had said that it had rubbed her G-Spot perfectly.

His hand worked up and down his cock. Squeezing the head on every pass while his metal hand reached further down to fondle his balls. In his mind’s eye he could picture Steve, standing in front of him in the shower. Water sluicing over his skinny, milky white body. His big blue eyes staring up at Bucky as he tugged on his own dick.

An involuntary whimper left Bucky’s mouth as the Steve in his imagination sunk down to his knees and parted his rosy lips.

Those lips were perfect for cock sucking…

Imaginary Steve let Bucky cradle his jaw and fuck into his mouth. He could picture Steve looking up at him with those wide, innocent ocean eyes, his mouth full of Bucky’s cock… And suddenly he came with a violent shudder and a moan of Steve’s name. His cum splashing against the tiled shower wall and running down the drain. The aftershocks ran up and down Bucky’s spine and he trembled, panting as though he’d just run a hundred yard sprint.

He braced an arm against the wall and leaned heavily on it, eyes closed and trying to overcome the effects of his intense orgasm.

When the water began to run cold, Bucky finished washing quickly and got out. Toweling himself off, (and carefully drying his entire left arm), he only bothered to pull on a pair of red basketball shorts that hung low on his hips. He ran the towel over his head and ran his fingers through it to get some of the knots out, then snatched up his Iphone from his bedside table and stretched out on his bed.

The phone read that he had two new texts from Steve, and his heart fluttered in his chest. Internally he rolled his eyes at the reaction. He was acting like a seventh grade girl with her first crush… But Steve had a way of making Bucky feel like that all the time.

Hey there, how’s the studying going? -SR

I can’t stand hospital gowns. I’m freezing! -SR

Bucky smiled at his boyfriend’s texts, imagining the little pucker on his brow that formed when he frowned. He could tell that Steve was probably unhappy with being so cold after his doctor’s appointment. He tapped out his reply, smirking as he sent it.

Wish I was there to warm you up ;) -Bucky

They’d been flirting heavily over text since yesterday, but it had never escalated into anything more than chaste flirting. Steve’s reply was immediate.

And just how would you do that, Mr. Barnes? -SR

Steve’s reply made Bucky laugh out loud. He shifted around on his bed so that he was laying against the headboard, pillows soft under his head and upper back.

I would wrap you in my arms and hold you against my chest. Share some of my body heat, since I’m always like a furnace. -Bucky

There. That was still innocent enough. Buck knew that he’d been Steve’s first kiss, and chances were, he’d never done anything like sexting with anyone before either. The thought of Steve being entirely innocent made heat coil in Bucky’s stomach. However he knew that he’d have to take things slowly with Steve. He didn’t want to scare him or pressure him in anyway. Instead he’d let Steve call the shots and let him decide what he wanted to do, or not do, in his own time. Bucky’s phone buzzed in his hand.

I’ve heard that sharing body heat is much more conducive when you’re naked. Maybe we should try that? -SR

Bucky nearly choked on his spit as he inhaled sharply. He read the reply again, and smiled to himself… If that’s how Steve wanted to play it…

If you’d want to, then I’d be more than happy to oblige. Your skin is so soft, I wonder if you’re soft all over? -Bucky

Let him squirm trying to reply to that. Bucky smiled victoriously. The playfulness of the conversation was just as important to Bucky as the new, sexy vibe he was getting from Steve. It didn’t matter what they talked about, sexting or not, he was interested in talking to Steve. Not to mention that despite the fact he’d just jerked off in the shower, his cock was giving an interested twitch at the turn of the conversation.

You’re making me blush like an idiot in front of the nurses, Bucky. -SR

Bucky laughed as he replied.

Trust me, baby. That’s not even close to me trying to make you blush. I bet I could turn your pretty face every shade of red there is, if I wanted too. -Bucky

Do you want to? -SR

Baby doll, there’s nothing I want more… Except maybe see what other places on your perfect little body that I could turn red. -Bucky

Bucky sent the reply, and waited a few minutes without hearing anything back from Steve. He was starting to worry that he’d said something wrong and was going to type out an apology when his phone started ringing. Steve’s name shone out from the screen. Bucky nearly dropped his phone in his haste to answer the call.

“Hey, baby. You okay?” Bucky asked. He was impressed that he’d managed to sound normal instead of an overexcited child.

“Yeah, I’m fine… Just had to get rid of the nurses in my room first… Is it… Okay? That I called you, I mean?” Steve’s voice was soft.

“Of course it’s alright, doll. You can call me whenever you want to,” Bucky smiled, even though Steve couldn’t see it.

“Good… I uh... Wanted to hear your voice.”

The words made Bucky’s insides light up like fireworks. “Well ain’t that just perfect, cause I like hearing your voice as well.”

The line was quiet for a brief moment before Steve spoke softly again, “What did you mean when you said you wanted to do that?”

Bucky had to think for a minute before the text message came floating back to the surface. A sharp smile come onto his face. If only he was with Steve that very moment… He would eat that boy alive.

“Whatever are you talking about, Stevie?” he asked, feigning ignorance.

“When you uh… Texted me. Just now.”

“I’m having trouble remembering what I said…”

“Oh c’mon you Jerk. You’re messing with me!” Steve huffed. Bucky bit his lip to keep from laughing out loud.

“You’re going to have to tell me, Stevie. Use your words,” he urged. He’d forgotten how fun it was to tease someone this way. Since he’d been in college it was mostly a one-night-stand routine. No teasing… Unless it was in the bedroom while he was pounding someone into the mattress. None of this though.

He waited, listening to Steve breathe deeply on the other end of the phone.

“You said… Uh… Well, you said you’d want to see where else you could make me red. What did you mean?” Steve said in a rush. He could almost picture the pretty blush on his baby’s cheeks at having to say the words. Bucky smiled, this was going to be so much fun.

“Well where should I start? I could kiss your lips, slow and deep and make them the color of cherries. I’d kiss your neck and suck on your soft skin there, leaving little bruises so that everyone would know who you belonged to. I’d tease you, and tell you how pretty you are, just to see that blush crawl down your neck, and see how far it went down your body… You still with me, baby doll?” Bucky asked. He could hear Steve breathing more harshly on the other end of the phone. Bucky’s own dick was half hard already and he palmed it roughly with his free hand.

“I’m here… Tell me what else, Bucky. What else would you do?” Steve was breathless, and Bucky wanted nothing else in that moment, except to have him in his bed, instead of being several blocks away.

“Oh sweetheart, I’d tease your nipples after that. I’d suck them into my mouth and roll my tongue over them until they were hard. Get them nice and wet. Rub and pinch them,  and turn them the most gorgeous shade of pink. Jesus Christ, I wish you were here with me,” Bucky groaned, rubbing his dick through his shorts.

“Keep going, Bucky… Please,” Steve begged. Bucky pulled down his shorts over his hips and his cock sprang up, completely hard. He wrapped a hand around it and let out a groan mixed with a laugh.

“You have no idea what you do to me, Stevie,” he hissed as he squeezed the head of his cock.

“I think… oh! I think I have a p-pretty good idea,” Steve’s breath hitched on the other end and Bucky nearly came imagining Steve’s hand around his own cock.

“Are you touching yourself for me, baby? Are you getting off on the thought of what I want to do to your body?” Bucky asked. His mind was hazy with the pleasure he was giving himself.

“Yes… Oh God, yes… Please keep going,” Steve begged. He sounded desperate. It made the coil in Bucky’s body grow tighter.

“Mmm. Want to know what else would I do to you, baby doll? I’d hold your hips so tight that my handprint would be there for hours after we were done? I’d tease your cock with my fingers… With my lips. I’d kiss it and run my tongue over the head. I’m sure it’d be so hard and red from all of my teasing… But I wouldn’t swallow it down… Not yet… You want to know why, baby doll?” Bucky asked.

“Y-yes. Please, Bucky! Please! I’m so close! Please tell me,” Steve nearly sobbed on the other end. Bucky snapped out of his hazy state for a minute and made some soft shushing sounds over the phone.

“Calm down, baby. We’re getting there,” he said. His own hand was lazily jerking himself. He knew he had to take it slow this time. Steve’s voice would throw him over the edge much faster than the previous times he’d gotten off alone.

“Talk to me,” Steve whimpered.

“I wouldn’t suck your cock yet, baby. Instead I’d flip you over onto your stomach. I’d run my fingertips down your back and grab your perfect little ass in both hands. I’d massage those perfect pale cheeks, and kiss them and smack them. Would you like that, baby? Would you like for me to spank your pretty little ass until it was red just like your blush?” Bucky asked. Steve was keening on the other end of the phone, seemingly unable to answer. Bucky laughed darkly at the thought.

“I bet you’d fucking fall apart for it… You’d love it. You’d want to prove to me that you could handle a bit of pain… That you’re not as breakable as everyone thinks. Isn’t that right?”

“B-Bucky!” Steve whimpered.

“You’re so close, aren’t you baby? But you want to know how I’d make you cum if I was there with you?” he nearly growled into the phone. His own hand was flying over his cock now, jerking in time to the pants that Steve let out on the other end.

“Tell me!” Steve whined through his heavy breaths.

“I’d open you up nice and slow… I’d lean down until you could feel my breath against the bottom of your spine… I bet your pretty little hole would be a fucking beautiful shade of pink. So tight and perfect, baby. Fucking made for me. And I’d lean right in, and kiss it. I’d run my tongue over your little hole until you were begging for more… And only then, when you were crying for it, would I slip my fingers inside of you, and make you come on them alone.”

“Oh fuck! Bucky, I’m gonna! I’m! Oh fuck! Bucky!” Steve sobbed on the other end.

“That’s right, baby. Come for me. Give it to me, sweetheart,” Bucky moaned and felt his own orgasm fly through his body. His muscles locked in place and he swore that he saw stars behind his eyelids as he squeezed his eyes shut. The orgasm ripped through his body, leaving him exhausted, covered in his own cum, and panting with his phone held to his ear. He could hear Steve whimpering softly on the other end, seemingly coming down from his own orgasmic high.

The feeling of bliss was interrupted by the sudden loneliness he felt. He wanted to be able to wrap Steve up in his arms and cuddle his shaking body against his own larger one. He wanted to soothe Steve through the bliss and kiss his lips, dipping his tongue inside lazily and smiling against him. He wanted Steve to snuggle against his chest and be able to nap peacefully, knowing he was safe and protected in Bucky’s arms.

Bucky wanted this and so much more.

Bucky wanted everything with Steve. His Steve.

“Bucky?” Steve’s voice was so soft and sweet. It made Bucky’s heart thump uncomfortably hard in his chest.

“I’m here, baby. I’m here... How do you feel?” he asked.

“Incredible… Can we do that again sometime?” Steve asked and Bucky chuckled tiredly.

“Anytime you want, sweetheart. Except maybe not when I’m in class… Or with Natasha,” Bucky grimaced at the thought. The sound of Steve’s giggle made him beam once again.

“I can’t wait to see you tomorrow,” Steve said and then let out a loud yawn. Bucky chuckled again.

“I know, baby. I’ll head over right after my classes end, alright? Why don’t you take a little nap. Text me when you wake up?” Bucky asked. He could almost picture the adorable sleepy blue eyes Steve had.

“That sounds perfect…”

“Alright then, sweetheart. Text me when you’re awake.”

“Hey, Bucky?”

“Yeah, Stevie?”

“Thank you,” Steve murmured.

“You’re welcome, baby doll. Get some sleep, okay?” Bucky smiled at noone.

“M’kay… Goodnight,” Steve whispered. Uncaring that it was, in actuality, only a little past noon.

“Goodnight, baby.”

The line went dead. Bucky stripped his shorts the rest of the way off of his body and wiped the cum off of his stomach. He threw them into the corner of his room and pulled the covers up over his body.

He closed his eyes, feeling calm and content, and fell asleep with a smile on his face.

Chapter Text

9.

When Bucky walked into Sofia’s the next morning he made a beeline for his and Nat’s regular table. It was their favorite place to get breakfast, and was close to campus as well. When they were freshmen and a bit terrified of being in the city it was nice knowing a place off campus, without going too far out of their comfort zones. Many a hangover was cured by Sofia’s famous “Trucker Style” Breakfast.

Nat was already tucked into one side of the booth, mixing her coffee with an expression that closely resembled the face that a witch might make while concocting a difficult potion.

“Good morning,” Bucky said as he slid into the other side.

“For someone who hates being up before noon, you’re very chipper this morning,” Nat replied without looking up.

“I’m going to visit Steve this afternoon,” Bucky responded.

“Ah… Should have guessed that,” Nat smirked and sipped her coffee. The waitress appeared suddenly and Bucky ordered a coffee and an orange juice. Nat was looking over the menu, which made Bucky raise an eyebrow. Nat never had to look at the menu at Sofia’s. She always got the same exact thing. (Two waffles with syrup and whipped cream, and a side of fruit salad and sausage.)

“Something’s bugging you… What is it?” Bucky sighed and Nat looked up at him with a neutral expression. For a moment he expected her to tell him that she was fine, but then he noticed that her hands were twitching around on the table. Her fingers couldn’t seem to settle on anything. This was not typical Natasha Behavior.

“Serious, Nat. What’s up?” Bucky asked, concern dribbling into his tone. Nat was one of the most unflappable people he knew. It had to be something important if she was showing outward signs of her discomfort. With a sigh her green eyes cautiously met Bucky’s.

“I’m just worried about you,” she murmured. Bucky felt stunned for a moment before a laugh bubbled out of his throat.

“Why on Earth are you worried about me? I’ve actually figured out my life for once, and I’ve got an amazing boyfriend that’s-”

“That’s in a cancer ward,” Natasha cut him off. Her gaze was hard, but not necessarily angry. Bucky’s tongue seemed to tie itself into a knot as he looked at her. He was at a loss for words and Natasha knew it.

“Look, I’m happy for you, James. Please don’t think that I’m not. Steve seems like an amazing kid, and I think he’s sweet… But do you realize how risky this is? The boy has been sick his entire life! He’s got a disease that could kill him. Do you understand that?” Natasha asked him. Bucky’s real hand had started to shake and he stared down at it.

“I just don’t want to see you get hurt… If something were to happen to Steve, if you were to lose him… I know that it would destroy you. And I couldn’t watch as that happened to you.”

Bucky didn’t say anything and Nat reached out to cover his flesh and blood hand where it rested on the table. He jerked it away and glared up into her face.

“James, I’m not trying to be the bad guy. Honestly, I’m so happy that you met Steve. I think he’s changed you for the better… But don’t you think you’d save yourself a lot of pain if you just-”

“Just what, Natasha? Dumped him now? Broke his heart because I was scared that I might lose him? If I did that, then I’d definitely lose him! Five weeks ago I barely gave a shit about anything! And now… After being with him…” Bucky trailed off as a tiny smile quirked up his lips at the thought of Steve, he shook his head to clear the thoughts and looked back at Nat’s impassive face, “I could never leave him. Not now, not ever. He needs me, Nat. And I need him.”

They stared at each other for a long time. Neither one speaking or making any move to get up and leave. Their staring competition was interrupted by the waitress again who took down their orders, (Nat’s usual and the Trucker Breakfast for Bucky). When she was gone, Nat finally took a deep breath and fixed her gaze back on Bucky’s.

“I hope you know what you’re getting yourself into, James,” she said softly.

“I can handle anything concerning Steve,” he replied sharply.

“And what happens if he takes a turn for the worse? If the chemo isn’t working anymore? What’re you going to do when he’s wasting away in front of you, and you can’t do anything but just sit there and watch it happen? Watch him die?” Nat said back. Her voice was dead calm, but Bucky could see the pain in her eyes before she looked down at her lap. Realization dawned on him and his expression softened.

“Natasha? Did you… know someone? That had cancer?” Bucky asked quietly. It was a long time before Nat answered.

“My cousin Maria. She had seizures as a kid… When they took her in to check it out, turned out she had a brain tumor. It had gotten so big that it was inoperable… She died six months later,” she said in barely a whisper. Bucky’s veins felt as though they were filled with ice.

“She… She was the same age as me… And we’d visit her every weekend. I watched as she just kept getting skinnier… She hardly ate anymore. She just gave up, on everything. It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen, and I would not wish it on anyone, James. Especially not my best friend,” she said. Her green eyes glistened in the horrible lighting of the diner. Bucky couldn’t breathe, “I don’t want your heart to get broken.”

Bucky swallowed heavily and moved to hold Natasha’s hands on top of the table. He looked at her pale, sad face. “If I leave him now, I’ll be breaking my heart anyway.”

Natasha looked at him for a long while. Her eyes taking in his expression. It was as if she was trying to read his mind. Finally she nodded her head a bit and let go of his hands to wipe at her eyes.

“Don’t you dare tell anyone, Barnes. Or I’ll hunt you down and make you squeal,” she said to him. The words had no sting though and Bucky smiled softly at his best friend.

“I promise,” he said solemnly. She nodded again and sipped at her coffee. And the dynamic between them shifted back into its normal balance once again.

*^*^*

When Bucky opened the door to Steve’s room he was met with silence. Steve was lying on his bed, sleeping under his usual pile of blankets. His bald head covered by the green hat he’d seen when he’d first met him. A fond smile curled his lips upward as he shut the door quietly and silently made his way over to Steve’s bedside. The IV was hooked up as usual, and a few of the monitors were on as well.

Instead of sitting in the visitors chair beside the bed, Bucky sat himself directly beside Steve’s legs. His real hand started rubbing the thin thigh underneath the covers and he listened to Steve’s deep breaths as he slept on. After ten minutes and no sign of Steve waking up anytime soon, Bucky made his way to the chairs under the window and pulled out his laptop. He might as well get some of his homework done while he waited.

As it turned out, Steve didn’t wake up for another hour and a half. Bucky heard the sounds of sleepy murmurings on the bed, and looked up to see Steve stirring uncomfortably on the bed. Setting aside his laptop, he made his way back over to his boyfriend. His metal finger tips ran down the side of Steve’s face, as soft as whisper, and he was rewarded with sleepy blue eyes blinking up at him.

“There you are. How was your nap?” Bucky asked with a smile. Steve yawned and squeezed his eyes shut, and Bucky thought it was just about the most adorable thing he’d ever seen in his entire goddamn life.

“When did you get here?” Steve asked. His voice was a bit raw. More so than it should’ve been, even after sleeping.

“Little over an hour ago,” Bucky said, stroking his boyfriend’s cheek gently. Steve’s eyes widened slightly.

“Why didn’t you wake me up?” he demanded.

“I could see that you were exhausted, baby. It wasn’t a bad thing, I just hung around and got some work done,” Buck replied. Steve’s face slipped into a pout and Bucky felt the urge to kiss it of his face. So that’s what he did.

Steve’s lips were warm and pliant under his own, even as Steve made a small noise of protest. Bucky pulled back a bit with a questioning look.

“I’ve got bad breath,” Steve complained. Bucky only laughed and leaned down again.

“I don’t care,” he replied and then set to work on thoroughly kissing the daylights out of Steve Rogers. His flesh hand cupped the delicate curve of his jaw and tilted his head in so that Bucky could deepen the kiss. Lips opening and sliding over each other. Bucky’s tongue dipped in a bit and stroked over Steve’s own tongue before retreating a bit. He was startled when Steve’s arms wrapped tightly around his neck and the smaller boy opened his mouth wider, pushing his tongue out greedily, looking for more contact.

“Baby,” Bucky whispered against his lips, spit slicked and sliding together seductively, “I missed you so much.”

Steve whimpered and grabbed a fistful of Bucky’s hair and tugged. Hard.

Bucky growled, low in his throat, and the noise made Steve break their kiss and moan softly into the air. Bucky’s hand that still cupped his jaw, tilted his head back further so that he was granted access to the milky white expanse of Steve’s throat. He growled again as Steve pulled on his hair, as if urging him onward. The soft flesh was calling to him, and he couldn’t deny himself. Leaning in, he nipped, sucked, kissed, and licked at the column of Steve’s throat. Pulling the sweetest noises from the smaller boy, who had gone soft and limp in Bucky’s arms.

Bucky was sure that he could do this forever and never get tired.

You might not have forever. Whispered a voice in his head that sounded suspiciously like Natasha. It was only a whisper of a thought, but it made Bucky rear backwards, panting hard as if he’d run a marathon and look down into Steve’s hazy baby blues.

“What’s wrong?” Steve murmured thickly. Bucky had trouble forming words for a moment. After a hesitation, he reminded himself that Steve was still here. Warm, soft, and breathing. Safe and sound in his arms. Everything was alright.

“Everything’s fine, baby… Just didn’t want to get too carried away is all,” he said softly. He gave Steve a tender kiss on his forehead before letting the boy lean back against his pillows once again.

“You mean like yesterday?” Steve asked. His confident tone did not deter Bucky from noticing the deep blush that crawled up Steve’s neck.

“Don’t go there, doll. I’ve got little self control left after kissing your pretty mouth,” Bucky replied in a growl. Steve’s eyelids fluttered at the sound of his voice, but smirked anyway. Bucky couldn’t help but laugh at the cheeky little bastard.

“Why’re you so tired today?” he asked.

“Spinal tap this morning… Got some pain meds that knocked me out…” Steve replied. Bucky immediately felt bad for man handling his boyfriend after he’d just had a procedure. Steve seemed to know exactly what he was thinking and he reached out, entwining his fingers with Bucky’s.

“Don’t. Don’t do that, please. I wanted it. I enjoyed it. You didn’t hurt me. So just don’t say anything, okay?” Steve said. His blue eyes were begging Bucky not to make a big deal out of it. With a sigh, Bucky nodded and kissed his boyfriend’s forehead again.

“What do you want to do?” Bucky asked. Steve suddenly looked nervous and Bucky wondered what could possibly be going through his mind.

“I was wondering if maybe I could show you my sketchbook?” Steve asked quietly, his fingers twitching nervously against the blanket.

“If that’s what you’d like to do, then I would be honored,” Bucky replied with a fond smile. Steve nodded and pointed at the tattered book on the table beside him. Wordlessly, Bucky grabbed it, but made no comment about how the sketchbook and pencils he’d gotten for Stever were nowhere in sight.

He placed the tattered notebook in his boyfriend’s lap and Steve smiled shyly at him, before scooting over a bit on the bed, and patting the space beside him. Bucky smiled indulgently, but toed off his boots and shed his leather jacket before carefully sliding onto the hospital bed beside Steve.

His tiny boyfriend wasted no time in wiggling his way up next to Bucky’s side and breathed a deep sigh. Bucky wrapped his non-metal arm around Steve’s shoulders and let his hand slide across the boy’s pigeon chest, his hand secure over Steve’s heart.

“So what do you have in there?” Bucky asked.

“Promise me that you won’t laugh,” Steve said, his ocean eyes turning to look up at Bucky. He looked so hopeful and a bit scared, to be honest. Bucky’s heart clenched at the thought that this boy wanted to share something personal with him, and that he was nervous about it.

“I will never laugh at anything you want to show me, Stevie,” he vowed. The words were firm, and seemingly appeased Steve, because the blue eyed boy smiled brilliantly and leaned up to kiss Bucky’s cheek sweetly.

“Okay… So I started doodling back when I was about ten, during my chemo sessions. And I started getting all of these ideas… I kind of drew a comic…” Steve said softly. He opened the front cover of his notebook and the first page left Bucky breathless. There was an incredible drawing of two men on the first page. One was skinny and short, and resembled Steve as he was now, only he had blonde hair. And the other, was tall, broad, toned, and wearing an American flag-esque uniform, while also holding a shield. The words underneath the two men were: CAPTAIN AMERICA: BEFORE AND AFTER.

“Captain America?” Bucky asked quietly. Steve nodded against Bucky’s chest and started speaking as he ran his fingers over the drawings.

“He’s this guy, born on the fourth of July back in the twenties in Brooklyn… And he was born really sick and small, but he never lets it get him down and he always does the right thing and stands up for people. Basically, he’s already a hero, but no one pays attention to him because of his size,” Steve said. Bucky got the distinct impression that Steve hadn’t just made this character up out of thin air.

“And how does he become, that other guy?” Bucky asked pointing at the brawny man on the right.

And then Steve was off and running, his mouth moving a mile a minute. Telling Bucky all about how the man in his comic was an experiment in World War II, and how he became Captain America after being just a regular guy from Brooklyn. There was even a character named after Peggy that he’d created, she was a take-no-shit woman that worked for a special division in the army. He talked all about the evil Hydra agents, that wanted to harness the power of the Gods, and how Captain America destroyed their leader, and has to fly his plane into the icy water of the ocean in order to save the world.

“I feel like it’s missing something, though… Captain America doesn’t really have any friends, except the Howling Commandos. But that’s only after he joins the army… I just feel like it’s missing something, you know? Maybe I’m just being a perfectionist,” Steve muttered. He was letting Bucky flip through the pages and pages of drawings.

Fully drawn and detailed action sequences. The people looked almost perfect. When Steve had said he drew sometimes, Bucky had imagined something more simple. But this? This was amazing. He told Steve as much and earned a light blush.

“You think so?” Steve asked.

“Honestly, Stevie, you should send this in for someone to look at! I bet someone would publish this in an instant!” Bucky told him.

“I don’t know about that… I don’t really like to share my drawings… It just feels really personal,” Steve shifted uncomfortably. Immediately Bucky wanted to put him back at ease, so he used his metal hand to cup Steve’s cheek and tilt his face upwards. He leaned in and gave him a sweet, lingering kiss.

“You can do whatever you want with it, baby. Thank you for sharing this with me… It really is so amazing.”

“Thank you, Bucky,” Steve breathed out gently against Bucky’s lips. Both boys looked into each other’s eyes and smiled.

For the rest of the afternoon, Steve told Bucky all about the comic and the finer details of the series. He showed Bucky his sketches of all the characters. One was even named after Peggy, a sarcastic, witty woman in the army that the Captain seemed to have a thing for. Bucky teased Steve about this for a little while, asking if he really had had a crush on the nurse. Steve had only blushed and told Bucky to shut up, which had only made him laugh more.

When he asked Steve about the sketchbook he’d gotten him, Steve had blushed even harder and stuttered something about how he really was using it, but that he didn’t want to share it quite yet. Bucky had let the matter go, and gone back to kissing the breath right out of his boyfriend. Even if Natasha was right, and Steve took a turn for the worst, Bucky was going to make damn sure that he didn’t waste a single second of being with Steve.

He was with him until the very end.

Chapter Text

10.

The rest of November passed in a blur for Bucky and before he knew it, he was in the middle of December, and Christmas was fast approaching.

His days were filled with classes, essays, final exams, and Steve. On his weekends he spent most of his time lounging on Steve’s bed with a lapful of the tiny, beautiful, blue eyed boy. Peggy had even let it slide a few times that he could stay a few hours after the normal visiting hours were over. Most of the time, as long as Steve was feeling up to it, they spent their time kissing and heavily petting each other in various different positions. Usually it ended with Steve coming in his pants while grinding against Bucky’s body and Bucky needing to jerk off in the bathroom before laying down to cuddle and exchange lazy kisses.

Bucky couldn’t remember a time where he’d ever been this happy, aside from when his family had still been alive. Being with Steve was as easy as breathing. They could joke around with each other, tease and banter, and even argue sometimes. Steve was a little spit fire that didn’t know when to quit, and Bucky enjoyed letting Steve yell at him a bit, and call him a jerk. Because he knew in the next minute Steve would be on him like a magnet. Whimpering softly, nuzzling against Bucky’s neck as Bucky pinned him down against the bed and thoroughly explored Steve’s mouth. His Stevie could go from straight fire to real sweet in the blink of an eye, and it made Bucky’s heart stutter in his chest.

On the Tuesday two weeks before Christmas, he was on his way to one of his final exams, phone pressed against his ear and listening to his boyfriend whine.

“You don’t understand Bucky, the trees are made out of plastic!” Steve said.

Bucky was having a difficult time holding in his laughter, imagining the pout that was most definitely tugging at those pretty pink lips. He opened his mouth to respond, but was cut off once again by his boyfriend.

“And don’t get me started on the decorations! None of them match! They don’t even play christmas music until Christmas. And another thing-”

“Baby! Hey! Take a breath, yeah?” Bucky chuckled and could hear Steve huff on the other end of the line. “I’m sure everything will be fine. This isn’t your first time spending Christmas there, and I’m sure you’ll feel bad about saying all of this in a little bit. You’re just in a bit of a mood.”

“A mood? A mood ! He says I’m in a mood… I’ll show you a mood, James Buchanan Barnes!” Steve growled. Bucky had to bite his lip to keep from outright laughing at how adorable his boyfriend was being. “You’re just saying that because you actually have a place to go on Christmas! You aren’t stuck in his stupid hospital all the time!” Steve snapped and then the line went dead.

Bucky had stopped moving. The phone was still held against his face and his mind was moving faster than he could follow. He suddenly realized how stupid he was for assuming that Steve had genuinely been upset over the decorations. Of course his boyfriend was upset at not being able to spend the holiday like he wanted to. Bucky was constantly talking about his friends, and all Steve had were some of the other children in the cancer ward and the nurses. Obviously they were a great support system, but it wasn’t the same as having a family to be with on the holiday. Not to mention Bucky had told him all kinds of stories about Stark’s world famous Christmas parties with the twenty foot christmas trees, and shiny, red wrapped presents.

Bucky pulled the phone away from his head finally and immediately started dialing a new number. He held it to his ear and listened to it ring.

“Talk to me,” came the snappy, slightly impatient voice on the other end. The loud sound of metal being torn in the background made Bucky flinch.

“Stark! I have an enormous favor to ask you…”

*^*^*

Two weeks later, on the twenty second of December, Bucky arrived on Steve’s floor with a shit eating grin securely on his lips. He walked straight into Steve’s room without knocking, and watched his boyfriend startle on the bed, snapping closed the sketchbook that Bucky had given him, and holding it against his frail chest.

“Bucky! What’re you doing here I thought you had a final!” Steve asked in a high pitched voice. Knuckles white as they gripped the sketchbook.

“Well I guess I just couldn’t stay away from my best guy,” Bucky said with his grin still firmly in place. He sauntered over to the bed and planted a loud smacking kiss on his startled boyfriend. Steve’s body twitched a bit, as if it wanted to relax under Bucky’s attention, but the book in his hands prevented that from happening. And Bucky couldn’t give up the opportunity to tease his Stevie.

“Whatcha got there, baby? Something secret?” he asked, pulling back to look into wide blue eyes. Steve opened his mouth, but no words came out. Bucky laughed softly and leaned in, licking delicately along Steve’s slightly chapped bottom lip, and then teasing his tongue with his own.

“Show me what you’ve got there, baby doll,” Bucky whispered into his mouth. Steve whimpered and arched his back slightly. Bucky took the opportunity, and slid his metal hand back to curl around Steve’s tiny body. He pulled the boy against his chest, so that Steve’s knees rested on the bed, and his chest was flush against Bucky’s. Bucky could swear that he could hear the hummingbird heartbeat of his boyfriend.

Bucky sucked gently on Steve’s tongue, drawing out tiny whimpers from the boy that made Bucky want to throw him down on the bed and forget about every plan he’d made. His lips slid against Steve’s, slick with saliva and so perfect. Bucky broke away, panting slightly, and feeling his jeans a bit tighter than they had been before. Steve didn’t seem deterred though as he nuzzled his up Bucky’s throat, planting little wet kisses up the column.

“Jesus Christ, baby. You’re going to kill me. We have to stop,” Bucky murmured, though he made no move to do so.

“I think you’re just all a bunch of big talk. You don’t want me to stop,” Steve whispered against his jaw. His teeth gently nipped at Bucky’s jaw line. Bucky couldn’t hold back the low growl that rumbled through his chest.

“You’re damn right, I don’t want you to stop,” he said as he cupped the back of Steve’s head and felt his hot little tongue glide against his day old stubble. A deep moan came from Bucky, and he could swear that he felt Steve’s lips turn up into a smirk. Breathing deeply through flared nostrils, his brain seemed to clear a tiny bit, and he managed to pull back. “Wait, baby, wait. There’s something that I want to talk to you about.”

Immediately, Steve froze and drew his face back. There was a pucker on his brow and his forget me not eyes were cautious. Bucky frowned as he felt Steve pull even further away.

“What do you want to talk about?” Steve’s voice was gentle and wary. It made Bucky’s frown deepen. It was a complete turnaround from Steve’s previous emotional state.

“Hey, there’s nothing wrong. Don’t be like that, baby,”  Bucky said, his hands reaching out and winding around Steve’s slim waist. He pulled the smaller boy back towards him, although he could feel how tense his body was.

“Just, tell me what you want to talk about, and then maybe I’ll relax,” Steve muttered, though he made no move to get away from Bucky’s hold. Bucky settled more securely on the bed, and tucked his tiny boyfriend’s head under his chin.

“It’s nothing bad, baby doll. I wanted to ask what you were doing on Christmas Eve,” Bucky said calmly. Despite Steve being wary of the change in conversation, he could feel the small boy perk up at the mention of his favorite holiday.

“Probably just helping with the Christmas movies. The kids have a few crafts they want to do, and there’s a little christmas tree they’ll get to decorate. It’s the same one from the last couple years, but it will still be fun,” Steve said, nuzzling closer to the warmth of Bucky’s chest. Bucky’s metal hand rubbed gentle circles on Steve’s frail back. He could feel the bumps of the vertebrae underneath the plush material of Steve’s bathrobe.

“Wrong,” Bucky said simply. A smile threatened to break across his face as Steve jerked in his arms and pulled back to look at his face once again. Thankfully, Bucky managed to keep his face composed, and he stared back into his boyfriend’s gorgeous blue eyes.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Steve asked in a hard voice. Bucky simply couldn’t resist the tiny boy in his arms and he leaned down to kiss Steve’s forehead gently. He watched as Steve’s eyes fluttered shut and a small tremor passed through his thin body. A thrill ran through Bucky’s blood and visions or Steve trembling beneath him in an entirely different setting raced through his mind.

“It means that I have something different planned. It’s a surprise though. I just wanted to tell you that I’ll be here at exactly six o’clock, alright?” Bucky said softly. Steve’s eyes snapped open and narrowed. The look startled a laugh straight out of Bucky as he gazed down at Steve.

“And you couldn’t have just texted me this information? You had to come all the way here?” Steve asked through slightly pursed lips.

“Oh stop looking like you swallowed a lemon… Why would I pass up on an opportunity to see my best guy?” Bucky asked. Steve’s cheeks slowly turned pink and he ducked his head so that it rested against Bucky’s collarbone once again. Steve didn’t respond, and Bucky took that as a win.

“I do have to be getting back though, my final is in an hour. I’ll text you alright?” Bucky said softly against Steve’s head. Steve nodded and nuzzled his cold nose against the skin of Bucky’s neck. Bucky controlled a shiver that rolled down his spine, and his metal hand came up to cup Steve’s chin and pull his lips onto his own.

He kissed Steve slowly, and tenderly, gently licking into his mouth and tangling his tongue with Steve’s. The small whimper that was drawn from his tiny boyfriend’s throat made his body feel like fire. Finally, he pulled back, although there was nothing in this world that he’d rather do, than kiss Steven Grant Rogers.

“I’ll text you,” Bucky whispered. Steve opened his enormous blue eyes, which were slightly dazed, and he grinned.

“Alright,” he replied. Bucky couldn’t resist placing several more chaste kisses on his soft pink lips, before he tore himself away and walked to the door. He glanced back and saw Steve still clutching the sketch book, with a dopey smile on his face. A warm sensation dropped into his stomach and he felt the pull to march straight back over there and pull Steve into his arms.

Patience… His mind whispered back to him.

And with every ounce of effort he possessed, he turned back around and left room 1107.

Chapter Text

11.

Steve could not remember a Christmas that he’d ever been so excited about.

He had woken up at seven in the morning, on Christmas Eve, and had been calm as he looked about his room. The machines next to his bed beeped with monotonous familiarity, and his blankets had been recently straightened, thanks to Peggy, no doubt. He cast his sleepy eyes over to his window and was instantly delighted to find that small flurries of snow fell beyond the thick glass.

A white Christmas… Steve thought to himself.

And then, with the impact of a train, the thought of Bucky’s surprise came crashing back into his head. A smile so large that it pulled at Steve’s dry lips came over his face.

Ever since Bucky had come into Steve’s life, he couldn’t recall a time where he’d smiled so much. Aside from a time back when his mother had been alive. Even now, as he thought of his boyfriend, (and didn’t happiness just make his chest tighten at the thought of that word), he couldn’t help the heat that came to his cheeks, and the quickening of his heartbeat.

It remained a miracle that Bucky had been interested in someone like Steve. All pale skin and sharp bones, cold hands and no hair.

And terminal… Don’t forget that… His mind whispered traitorously. A lance of pain struck through his chest, as it did every time he thought about his cancer and what that might mean for Bucky. He’d given so much time into thinking of trying to cut things off with Bucky at the beginning. It would break his own heart to make this beautiful boy with the metal arm leave his life. But in the end, it would be saving Bucky from an even bigger heart ache when he… If he…

Died. Steve’s brain supplied.

A lump formed in Steve’s throat at the thought. His eyes stung and he tore them from the window where the snow fell peacefully, and the enormous city beyond that. He looked down at himself, covered in his thick flannel pajamas that Peggy had given to him two Christmases ago. Underneath the thick fabric, he knew there was a frail, tiny body, full of sickness, with little energy left to fight it all off.

His doctors had never given him a timeline. There was no “You have six months to live” talk that they’d had with him. Every month, they’d wheel Steve out of some kind of procedure, and straight into their office. They’d silently look over his chart, and steal glances at him when they thought he couldn’t see them. Sometimes, if there was more than one doctor in the room, then they would whisper behind the backs of their hands. As if Steve couldn’t tell that they were talking about his results.

And then, they would start listing the different treatments they had planned. More chemo. More spinal taps. More platelets. More everything.

At the beginning, it gave Steve hope. He was fighting this. And if he was fighting, then he could potentially win.

But after months turned into years of treatment, Steve just felt tired. He sighed when the doctors suggested new treatment. He nodded with the same kind tired acceptance that he’d adopted somewhere around the fourth year of treatment. And as he was wheeled from one procedure to the next, one chemo session to the next, one transfusion to the next, he only grew more and more tired.

And then… Bucky.

Bucky, with his shiny metal arm, and his broad shoulders, and solid, warm body. Bucky, with his long, soft black hair that was always falling in front of stormy gray eyes. Bucky, who made Steve feel precious, as if he was actually someone’s first choice. Bucky, who listened to every word Steve said, and actually cared. Bucky, who’s kisses made him feel as though he was made of fire, and who made him feel things he’d never felt before.

Bucky… Who Steve loved with every piece of his heart.

After so long, Steve had finally found his reason to start fighting again.

*^*^*

By the time five thirty rolled around, Steve was sitting on his bed, hands quivering where they lay clasped in his lap. He’d pulled on his nicest, clean clothes that wasn’t a hospital gown or some thick pajamas. They were a simple pair of dark jeans and a slightly oversized red sweater with tiny green christmas trees on it. On his head was a thick, knitted green beanie, and on his feet were his green converse.

Peggy had fussed around him all day. She’d had lunch with him, and they’d chatted about what he’d thought Bucky was going to do for his surprise, but clearly, due to her smug smile, she knew exactly what his boyfriend had planned. She’d also brought him some wrapping paper, (blue with snowmen sledding), and had helped him wrap his gift for Bucky. She’d assured him that he would absolutely love the gift, and if he didn’t, she’d said that she’d knock some sense into him. The joke had made Steve laugh, and relieved some of the tension he’d been feeling all morning. But now, Peggy was doing her rounds on the floor, and the tension was back full force.

He fidgeted on his bed again, clasping and unclasping his hands. Kicking his feet as he stared at the clock on the wall.

Twenty six minutes to go… he thought to himself.

He sighed and picked up the meticulously wrapped present that lay on the bed beside him. A small smile came to his lips, while a flutter of anxious butterflies danced in his stomach. He hoped that Bucky did like his present. It was a bit difficult to go out and get anything from where he was. Although, Steve was sure, even if Bucky didn’t like it, he would pretend to for Steve’s sake. Steve glanced at the clock again.

Twenty four minutes to go… he thought.

A large sigh passed his lips, and he imagined that this might in fact be the longest half hour of his life.

*^*^*

At six, Steve felt as though his heart was going to beat straight out of his chest. He tried to convince himself that Bucky might be a little late, and that he should calm himself down before his boyfriend got there. But just as these thoughts filtered through his mind, there was a solid knock on the door, and the door swung open to reveal his boyfriend.

Steve’s cheeks felt hot as he surveyed his boyfriend, who wore a pair of ridiculously well cut black skinny jeans, his black combat boots, and long black coat, over what looked like a dark green christmas sweater. His dark hair was hanging down, and Steve ached to grab it and feel how soft it was. And Bucky’s gray eyes were taking in every inch of Steve from his spot in the doorway. The gaze made Steve blush and squirm, though he would vehemently deny it if asked.

The one curious part was that, in Bucky’s metal hand, there was a large black coat, and over his arm was a red and green plaid blanket.

“What’s that for?” Steve asked, and if his voice sounded a bit squeaky, Bucky didn’t point it out. A smile graced Bucky’s lips and Steve felt his heart pick up speed again. Without speaking, Bucky walked across the room and dropped the blanket and other coat on the bed before cupping Steve’s flaming cheeks in both metal and flesh, and pulled his lips onto his own.

Steve sighed at the touch. He was sure that kissing Bucky could be equated to heaven because he’d never felt something so perfect in his entire life. Bucky’s lips were demanding as they moved over his own, and as Steve sighed again in contentment, Bucky’s tongue gently slid across his bottom lip. The feeling made something hot and bright ignite in his belly, and his own hands, which had been clenched in his lap, reached up to tangle in Bucky’s hair. A soft growl left Bucky’s throat, and the noise did something to Steve that could only be described as desperation. A whimper left his own mouth as he clung to his much larger boyfriend and kissed him heavily.

For a few long moments, that simultaneously felt like a blink of an eye, the only sounds that could be heard were the sliding of lips together, and the soft breathy sounds Steve made, and the occasional responding growl from Bucky.

Finally, Bucky pulled back, though not without looking regretful, and he placed a soft kiss on both of Steve’s cheeks, and finally his forehead. Steve’s eyes had closed, and a soft warmth flooded his entire body.

This is what it feels like to be in love… Steve’s mind whispered.

“Ready to go, baby doll?” Bucky asked quietly. Steve’s eyes snapped open and confusion took over his features.

“Go where? ” Steve asked.

“I can’t tell you where, that would ruin the surprise… But, I got it all cleared with the nurses station, and of course Peggy. You are all mine tonight,” Bucky said with a smirk.

“Really?” Steve asked in barely a whisper.

“You bet, gorgeous. Now we have to get going, before I decide to fuck up our schedule and pin you down on this bed for looking so absolutely perfect,” Bucky said, his eyes traveling down Steve’s body in a way that made Steve think Bucky’s mind was full of dirty, dirty thoughts. Not that Steve’s wasn’t, because damn, did Bucky know how to turn him on like a light.

“Okay…” Steve said as he pushed himself from his bed and then remembered the present lying on it. “Wait, this is for you!” he said, grabbing the gift and holding it out for his boyfriend.

Bucky positively beamed at him.

“Presents are later! Now, come here and get this on. Nat’s going to kill us if we aren’t downstairs soon,” Bucky said, holding out the large black coat for Steve to put his arms through. The material of the coat was thick and soft on the inside. It felt expensive.

Bucky also produced two thick mittens from the coat pocket and put them onto Steve’s hands, then made sure to zip up Steve’s coat and tug down his hat more firmly on his head. Steve huffed at the motherly behavior, but Bucky just gave him a fond grin.

“You’ll be thanking me, when you don’t freeze,” Bucky said, as he grabbed the present off the bed and headed back towards the door.

“Of course I won’t freeze, you’re like a human furnace, and I don’t plan on leaving your side,” Steve muttered, but judging by the way Bucky smiled proudly, he knew that his boyfriend had heard him. Once they were out in the hall, Steve was surprised to see Peggy standing with a smile on her face.

“Be safe, and have fun. Oh, and James, don’t forget about what we talked about,” she gave Bucky a pointed look, and Bucky nodded.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said. Peggy rolled her eyes at him, then stepped forward and hugged Steve tightly, and kissed his head.  

“I knew you were in on this,” Steve muttered, making her laugh.

“Did you really expect him to be able to pull this off by himself?” Peggy asked with a smirk.

“Hey!” Bucky sounded affronted. Steve just laughed with Peggy and the put a small arm around his boyfriend’s waist. Bucky responded by wrapping his real arm around Steve’s shoulders and ducking his head down to kiss the top of his hat. “We better get going… Places to be, people to see, and all that.”

“Have fun!” Peggy smiled at them as they made their way towards the elevator. Steve could feel the warmth coming from Bucky’s body as they stepped into the small space and the doors closed behind them.

“Will you tell me what we’re doing, now?” Steve asked finally. Bucky just laughed.

“Someone’s impatient! Just you wait, baby. You’re going to love it,” Bucky smiled, looking so pleased with himself that Steve wanted to kiss the look right from his lips. Instead he snuggled deeper against Bucky’s side as the elevator stopped and the doors opened to the lobby of the hospital.

Bucky’s stride was confident as he led Steve towards the revolving doors and out into the snowy night. The cold air immediately made Steve’s lungs tighten, and he coughed a bit. Bucky cast him a sidelong look, but Steve didn’t say a word, determined not to ruin any part of whatever Bucky had planned.

He led Steve to a big black SUV with its lights flashing, parked near the curb. After he opened the back door and he followed Steve into the backseat. Steve saw Natasha in the passenger side, and boy he didn’t recognize in the driver’s seat.

“Hello, Steve,” Natasha smiled at him gently. Steve smiled back, and the boy in the driver’s seat turned around. He had the brightest, most enthusiastic brown eyes Steve had ever seen.

“Tony Stark, a pleasure! Little James has told me so much about you,” Tony beamed. Steve laughed and caught a blush rising on his boyfriend’s cheeks.

“Shut up, Stark, and drive,” Bucky growled, tugging Steve closer to him.

“Aye, aye, Captain!” Tony said and then fit back into the traffic flow.

The windows were tinted, but Steve’s eyes were glued to the world outside of them. The last time he had been out of the hospital for any amount of time had been for his mother’s funeral. He had barely remembered how enormous the city was. He felt like a tiny speck as he stared up  at the skyscrapers, and the hundreds of people being dusted in the snow.

“It’s like a snow globe,” he whispered to himself. He felt Bucky’s nose nuzzle against his neck, and the small bit of skin that was showing under his ear, and heard his boyfriend hum softly.

“Are you happy?” Bucky asked quietly.

“Well, considering I don’t even know what the surprise is, I’d say you’re off to a good start,” Steve smiled and let his boyfriend nuzzle and place gentle kisses on his neck.

“Hey, no hanky panky in the backseat. Plenty of time for that later,” Tony said suggestively.

“Stark!” Bucky growled, and Steve giggled.

“What? I’m just saying!” Tony said, and Steve saw his eyebrows wiggle suggestively in the rearview mirror.

The drive continued for another ten minutes before Tony finally pulled over next to a curb. Steve looked around, but couldn’t see anything that might indicate a surprise. The excitement in his chest only seemed to grow.

“Here you are, kids. Don’t forget your basket, James!” Tony said with a smile.

“Got it,” Natasha said, and hopped out of her seat with a basket she’d grabbed at her feet.

“Ready, baby?” Bucky asked, and Steve nodded. He was barely able to form words because of his excitement.

“Should I leave this here, or?” Steve gestured to Bucky’s gift.

“We’ll bring it,” Bucky said, and took it from Steve, then hopped out of the car, and held out his hand for Steve to follow.

As soon as he got out of the car, he recognized where they were.

In front of Central Park.

Steve felt his mouth drop open as realization rocketed through his brain. As Bucky shut the door behind him, and grabbed the basket from Natasha, Steve could only stare like an idiot at his boyfriend. Natasha noticed his dumbstruck look and smiled at him softly, stepping forward and kissing him on the cheek.

“Happy Christmas, Steve,” she said, and then got back into the car.

Steve watched as the SUV pulled away from the curb, and turned back to his boyfriend.

Snowflakes dotted Bucky’s dark hair and his gray eyes watched him cautiously.

“Is this what I think it is?” Steve asked, almost breathlessly.

“Depends… What do you think it is?” Bucky asked with a smile that lit up his eyes. It was a smile that he always directed at Steve. Steve couldn’t find any words, and Bucky seemed to understand, because he grabbed his hand and gently turned him around until they were facing a large carriage parked near the entrance of the park, with a dapple gray horse attached to the front, and a bundled man in a top hat sitting in the driver’s seat.

Tears immediately sprung to Steve’s eyes, and he sucked in a deep breath.

“Don’t you start crying, baby doll. Cause then I’ll start, and it’ll just be a mess. Come on, now,” Bucky said in a slightly quivering voice. Steve took Bucky’s large hand in his own mitten clad one, and let Bucky lead him to the carriage. The driver turned and saw them, a large friendly smile on his face.

“Are you James Barnes?” the man asked.

“I am, sir,” Bucky replied.

“Oh please, my name is Ernest. And this is Lucinda,” the man said, indicating the horse. Steve’s eyes were wide.

“Alright then, this is Steve,” Bucky said, and Steve waved back, still entirely silent. Ernest just smiled.

“Well, climb up then. You’ve got quite a bit of time paid up for, and I wouldn’t want to waste any for the both of you,” Ernest said.

“Right, up you go Stevie,” Bucky said and then helped Steve into the carriage. As Steve sat on the plush velvet seating, under the slight canopy, he felt all of his words stuck in his throat. Every memory of his mother bringing him on a similar carriage ride when he was just a little boy flashed through his mind. Bucky smiled at him, and climbed up, setting the basket down by their feet, and shaking out the large plaid blanket, wrapping it securely over Steve’s lap. He sat down and pulled Steve into his side, and the blanket over his legs.

Steve could feel Bucky’s warmth seeping into his own body, and felt the snowflakes and cold air on his face. The carriage began to move and went deeper into Central Park, and Steve could have sworn that he felt his Ma sitting right there with them for a minute. But when he looked at Bucky, who had been staring at him with the most tender and fond look on his face, Steve was sure that his Ma would approve of him entirely.

I love you. Steve’s mind whispered as he stared into those stormy gray eyes. And as if Bucky could hear him, he smiled at Steve and leaned in to press his cold lips against his own.

In that moment, Steven Grant Rogers knew exactly what it meant to be perfectly, completely, unendingly happy .

Chapter Text

12.

The carriage ride lasted for just around two hours. And by the grace of whatever God existed, Steve’s asthma did not act up even once.

Bucky held the smaller boy tightly in his arms, trying to share as much body heat as possible, while wrapped up under the thick blanket. He shared the basket of Christmas cookies that Nat had helped him bake, and the hot chocolate that Bruce had made. They talked about every subject possible, and at times, Bucky was content to just listen to Steve ramble, watching his plush pink lips form words and the absolute joy in his eyes. Bucky imagined that he might be able to die happy now that he’d seen Steve this happy.

After he’d filled up Steve’s mug with the last of the hot chocolate, and the carriage driver told them that he’d be making his last loop, Bucky saw Steve’s face drop, and he had to bite his lip from spilling the beans to his boyfriend.

Steve looked at him with those gorgeous blue eyes, and opened his mouth to speak. Bucky leaned in before any words could cross his lips, and pressed his own against those chilled, plush ones. The kiss was clumsy from the cold, but the gentle slide of tongue made Bucky yearn to tell Steve about the second half of his surprise. Instead, he pulled back and smiled gently at the dazed expression on his boyfriend’s face.

“This is the best Christmas I’ve had since I’ve lost my mom…” Steve whispered into the tiny space between their faces, “I don’t ever want to leave this moment.”

Bucky felt the words stuck in his throat as he watched Steve tip his head back and stare up at the night sky, letting snowflakes fall gently onto his skin.

I love you.

The words sprung to mind before he could get a handle on them, and as if Steve could hear him, he turned his blue eyes back to Bucky and flashed him the most brilliant smile.

“Thank you so much for this gift, Bucky. It’s the most amazing Christmas gift in the entire world,” he said.

Finally Bucky found his courage and was able to speak.

“The night isn’t over yet, babydoll. I still have some tricks up my sleeve,” he replied, unable to keep the secret all to himself anymore.

A small pucker appeared between Steve’s eyebrows with his confusion.

“What do you mean?” Steve asked.

“You’ll see,” Bucky smiled. And then they lapsed back into comfortable silence, followed by small conversations of nothing in particular. Steve sipped his hot chocolate, and Bucky reveled in the warmth and lack of space shared between him and his boyfriend. He too, couldn’t remember a Christmas that he’d enjoyed so much since before he’d lost his family.

The carriage driver finally alerted them that they were back. Steve’s face held a smile, but it was a sad, small thing. As if he never wanted to get out of the carriage.

“Come on, gorgeous. I’ve got one more surprise for you,” Bucky said, untangling himself gently from the nest of blankets they had created. He took Steve’s mug and packed everything back into the basket. Then he helped Steve out of the carriage and wrapped the blanket over his parka covered shoulders. Bucky thanked the carriage driver, Ernest,  and gave the horse, Lucinda a pet of thanks.

“Take care of that boy,” Ernest said solemnly. And before Bucky could ask him what he meant, Ernest was driving the carriage away from them.

Bucky turned back to Steve, who stood in the falling snow, wrapped in his blanket and looking like a goddamn angel. Bucky wanted to do nothing more than scoop him up into his arms and… Bucky shook his head. Better to stop that train of thought before it completely ruined his plans.

Steve let out a small yawn, but tried to cover it, and smiled gently at Bucky.

“Come on, let’s get you home,” Bucky said softly, his face full of fondness. He hoped Steve couldn’t see how much love was there too.

Steve frowned a bit, but nodded anyway. Bucky grabbed Steve’s mitten clad hand, and started walking towards the still busy street. Bucky flagged down a taxi, and ushered the smaller boy into the backseat, following with all of their items in his arms.

“Where too?” the cabbie asked from the front. Instead of answering out loud, Bucky leaned forward between the front seats and whispered to the taxi driver. The car began moving and when Bucky leaned back he saw Steve’s eyes were narrowed at him.

“Give me a hint,” the younger boy said. Bucky just smiled in return and slung his arm over his boyfriend’s shoulders. His lips pressed against his temple, breathing in the crisp scent of fresh air, mixed with Steve’s natural scent.

“Nope. Be patient, baby doll. It’s Christmas Eve. Enjoy it,” Bucky commanded. Steve let out an annoyed huff, but did not protest further. Instead he snuggled closer into the space next to Bucky’s side. Bucky hummed in pleasure and barely noticed when the taxi pulled up to the curb at their destination, fifteen minutes later.

“Here you are, Happy Christmas, boys,” the cabbie said. Bucky paid the driver, and jumped out of the car, helping his boyfriend out as well. He watched as Steve’s face morphed into confusion.

“Where exactly are we? I thought you said we were going home,” Steve said with a frown. Bucky had to bite his lip to contain his smile. He took Steve’s hand in his own and led him up the front stoop to the front door he knew so well.

“We are home,” Bucky replied as he twisted the knob and opened the door. As it swung open, the warm light from within spilled out into the frozen outside world. Inside, Bucky could see all of the christmas decorations that Nat had helped him put up a few days prior. There was Christmas music playing faintly from deeper in the apartment, and the mingling of chatter and clinking of glasses.

Bucky looked to Steve who had fallen silent beside him. His lips were parted in surprise and his baby blues wide. He blinked rapidly, and then looked at Bucky with glistening tears in the corners of his eyes.

“Damn you, James Barnes. You can’t keep making me cry like this!” Steve said in a thin, quivering voice.

“Oh baby boy. It’s alright, you can cry,” Bucky said, reaching to wrap his arms around his boyfriend. The younger boy tucked himself against Bucky’s chest, “Let’s get inside before you freeze. Everyone’s excited to finally meet you.”

“Oh god. They’re all going to know I was crying!” Steve whimpered. Bucky laughed gently and smoothed his hand on the top of Steve’s hat covered head.

“They won’t mind, doll. And if anyone says anything, I’ll knock their front teeth out,” Bucky said softly. Steve huffed a laugh and then leaned back, nodding and wiping at his frozen, red nose. Bucky couldn’t resist laying a soft kiss on the boy’s cold lips, gently slipping his tongue in and feeling the boy melt against his chest. Of course it didn’t last long, as Clint’s voice rang out from inside the apartment.

“Would you quit playing tonsil hockey and get in here already? You’re letting in the cold air!”

Bucky pulled back from the kiss, rolling his eyes at his friend and Steve giggled softly. With one last kiss to the tip of Steve’s nose, Bucky guided the bundled up boy into the warmth of his apartment.

After shutting the door behind them, Bucky took off his outerwear and watched as Steve stood in the entryway, dumbstruck. He snickered at his boyfriend, and reached out to unzip Steve’s coat. This seemed to startle the smaller boy, who blushed beautifully, and shucked off his mittens quickly. Bucky left the hat on the boy’s head, knowing that Steve might be a bit self conscious with all of the people he’d be meeting. For a brief moment he was worried that this might overwhelm his boyfriend entirely, but as Steve squared his shoulders and walked into the apartment, Bucky knew that he was just panicking.

As it turned out, Bucky was right. Steve took meeting all of Bucky’s friends with bright, genuine smiles. Because of course Steve would be the most genuinely nice human on earth. He didn’t even flinch when Clint made some of his more raunchy jokes. Nor did he seem to mind when a drunk Thor tried to bear hug him. Bucky quickly intercepted that one, and shooed Thor off to go speak with his girlfriend. Nat gave Steve a warm smile and a hug, telling him all about how she’d done most of the decorating, since apparently Bucky was useless with that sort of thing. Bucky would have argued that point, but the way Steve giggled sweetly and looked up at him from under his long lashes, made him forget about arguing entirely. Tony introduced Bruce, and was surprisingly well behaved, drinking only seltzer water, and staying well away from the hard alcohol. Bucky did not miss the way Tony preened under Bruce’s proud glances when he saw that his boyfriend was still sober.

And so the night progressed. Steve was sat in the middle of Bucky’s couch, nestled against Bucky’s side and chatting with all of Bucky’s friends. For most of the night, Bucky sat in silence, just listening to his boyfriend talk. He would giggle at the stories everyone told, and he would chime in with his own. But it was the beautifully serene smile on Steve’s face that made happiness burn bright and hot in Bucky’s chest. He couldn’t help but feel proud that he was part of the reason that the smile was there. And the only thing he could think of, was that he wanted to see that smile on Steve’s face, for the rest of his life.

*^*^*^*

Around eleven o’clock, Steve began to yawn and rested his head against Bucky’s shoulder. About an hour earlier, Bucky had draped a soft blanket over his boyfriend’s legs, and the boy was now snuggled entirely under the thing. It made Bucky’s heart thump hard in his chest whenever he looked at him.

It was then collectively decided (meaning, Nat had announced), that it was time for everyone else to go home. Everyone, including Steve and Bucky, was up and standing in the entry hall, saying their goodbyes and they all wished Steve and Bucky a merry christmas. Then in their varying states of drunkenness, they filed out of Bucky’s apartment and into the night. After the door was fully shut and locked behind them, and silence descended on the apartment, Bucky saw a sad frown tugging at the corners of his boyfriend’s lips.

“What’s up, gorgeous?” Bucky asked, winding his arms around Steve’s thin waist.

“The night is almost over,” Steve said quietly, looking down at his feet.

“Yes,” Bucky nodded.

“So I’ll have to go back to the hospital,” Steve said.

“That’s true,” Bucky said, and watched his boyfriend deflate more at the words. It pulled intensely at Bucky’s heartstrings. He couldn’t keep up the charade any longer, and he sighed.

“Unless of course, you wanted to stay the night?” Bucky asked.

Steve’s head whipped up so fast that Bucky was terrified the boy had given himself whiplash. His eyes were wide as he stared at Bucky, searching his face for some kind of lie. When he didn’t find one, Steve gasped.

“Really?” he asked. Bucky beamed widely and nodded.

“I cleared it with the nurses and everything. I wasn’t lying when I said you were all mine for the night. You get to stay,” he replied. A yelp of excitement left Steve’s mouth and he lurched up into Bucky’s arms. Bucky couldn’t contain his laughter, as he caught the smaller boy and hoisted him up, one arm wrapped around his waist, and the other under his legs.

“You’re serious? Please tell me this isn’t a joke!” Steve mumbled into Bucky’s neck. One of Bucky’s hand soothed down Steve’s frail back.

“No joke, baby doll. I promise,” he replied. Steve pulled back and immediately crashed his lips onto Bucky’s. Bucky moaned deeply, moving his hand up his boyfriend’s back to cradle the back of his skull. Steve’s tongue quickly joined in, as he kissed Bucky with a ferocity Bucky hadn’t seen come from the boy yet. He seemed frantic, and Bucky could feel his huming bird heartbeat against his own chest. Bucky tried to slow the kiss down, only for Steve to press forward more insistently. The younger boy slanted his lips over Bucky’s trying to go even deeper, and while Bucky’s cock was definitely all for this turn of events, Bucky’s brain won out the argument that this was moving too quickly.

Pulling back, Steve attempted to chase Bucky’s lips, but Bucky merely grabbed the back of Steve’s neck and held him back a few inches. The boy whimpered at the loss, and pouted, looking at Bucky with those forget me not blue eyes that he could drown in.

“Why’re you rushin’ baby boy? We’ve got all night,” Bucky whispered. Steve blushed heavily and dropped his forehead to Bucky’s shoulder. Bucky walked back into the living room with Steve securely in his arms, and took a seat on the couch, gently maneuvering the boy on his lap. In the end, Steve was straddling Bucky while facing him, his head still buried in the older boy’s shoulder. Bucky’ hands rubbed up and down Steve’s spine as they sat for a long moment listening to Bing Crosby sing about white christmases.

“I don’t want to waste it,” Steve finally murmured. Bucky’s hands paused in their ministrations, his eyebrows furrowing in confusion.

“Waste what, Stevie?” he asked. The boy pulled back and looked Bucky straight in the eye. His expression was one of fierce determination. The boy looked as if he was going into battle.

“Tonight! We could… I mean, I want to… Well, you know. Because what if we don’t have another chance like this. And we can’t exactly do it in the hospital. That would be bad. And it’s Christmas! I just want this to be good… for you,” Steve huffed, his cheeks tinged a gorgeous pink that made Bucky want to lick him all over. Honestly, he found the entire speech adorable and he smirked at the younger boy.

“What exactly do you want to do, baby?” he teased. Steve groaned in response, blushing even harder.

“Don’t do that, you jerk. You know what I’m talking about. Just… Don’t make this harder, please?” Steve asked quietly, looking down in his lap. Immediately the smirk dropped off of Bucky’s face. His metal hand reached up to cup Steve’s jaw gently, bringing his gaze back up.

“I don’t want to rush anything, Stevie. If it happens tonight, then that’s fine, and if it doesn’t, that’s okay too. All I care about, is that you’re happy, okay gorgeous?” Bucky asked. Steve bit his plush pink lip until it was red, and Bucky smiled. “I promise you that we’ll have plenty more chances if it doesn’t happen tonight.”

Steve looked up shyly, “Yeah?” he asked.

“Yeah.” Bucky replied, just as quiet. Then he leaned in and pressed gently kisses to the entirety of Steve’s face. His forehead, each eyelid, his jaw, under his ear, his nose, and finally his soft pink lips. It was not as fast as the kiss before, there was none of that urgency. It was as slow as molasses, and so intimate that Bucky felt as though he was pouring every part of himself into Steve.

I love you. I love you. I love you. Bucky’s brain chanted as their lips slid along each other’s gently. With one last peck, Steve pulled back with a grin and shifted so that he sat against Bucky’s side with his legs draped over Bucky’s lap, and his head on the metal shoulder with  the metal arm draped around his waist. The older boy pulled the discarded fleece blanket back over Steve’s legs and his own lap, and together they settled in on the couch.

The soft glow from the sparsely decorated christmas tree was the only light, as they traded soft kisses and fond looks, and watched as the snow continued to fall outside the window.

It was just past midnight when Bucky carried a sleeping Steve into his bedroom for the night. Gently, he roused the boy just enough to get him out of his shoes and his pants. He decided to leave the beanie on his boyfriend’s head, unsure if he would get colder without it on during the night. He was left in his christmas sweater, before Bucky thought of something. He quickly retrieved one of his own long sleeved henleys from his dresser, and swapped the sweater for it as fast as possible. The skinny boy in front of him grumbled at the cold, but Bucky could barely contain himself as the shirt swamped the smaller boy. Something hot and possessive snaked through Bucky’s veins, satisfied at the sight of Steve covered in his own shirt.

“Come hold me,” Steve slurred sleepily, blinking bleary eyes at Bucky, who was standing dumbly at the foot of the bed. Bucky sprung into action, shrugging his own shirt off, and his pants, leaving him in just his black boxer briefs. He gently lifted Steve and pulled the blankets back before settling them both in the large bed and wrapping the thick comforter over Steve’s shoulders to block the cold. Steve sleepily maneuvered halfway onto Bucky’s bare chest, his head in the crook of the older boy’s neck. Both of Bucky’s arms wrapped tightly around the tiny boy and he took in a deep lungful of Steve’s scent.

“Merry Christmas, Stevie,” Bucky said quietly a happy smile stuck on his lips.

All he got in response was a muffled snore in his neck.

*^*^*^*

Bucky was woken up by movement in his arms and a moaning noise. Immediately on alert, his eyes snapped open, peering through the darkness of his room. There was a low glow from the street lamps outside his window, providing just enough light to see with. Steve was squirming in his arms, breathy little noises coming from his lips. It took Bucky a few moments to realize that Steve was definitely not in trouble. Quite the opposite, in fact, if the hardness pressed against Bucky’s hip was anything to go by. Bucky felt himself harden almost instantly and had to suppress a groan as Steve rolled his hips against Bucky’s side again.

Another moan from Steve made Bucky come back to himself and he gently rolled so that the boy was laying on his back. Bucky moved to cage his arms around the boy, resting on his elbows and gently began kissing Steve’s neck while murmuring to him.

“Baby boy, wake up. Come on, sweetheart. Let me see your gorgeous blue eyes. Wake up for me,” he whispered. With a gasp, the boy beneath him woke up, eyes snapping open.

“Oh!” he squeaked as his hips stuttered beneath Bucky’s. Bucky pulled back from Steve’s neck with a devilish grin on his lips.

“Have a nice dream, Stevie?” he asked. He barely gave Steve time to gasp out a yes, before he was kissing the boy’s neck again.

“Wh-what are you doing?” he asked.

“I was going to take care of this for you,” Bucky replied, his voice husky, as he gently rolled his own hips down, grinding his own cock against Steve’s. He absolutely reveled in the whimper that the younger boy let out at the movement. “Is that what you want baby doll? You want me to make you cum?”

“Yes, please! Please, Bucky!” Steve yelped as Bucky ground his hips in circles against the younger boy’s. Bucky chuckled darkly against Steve’s neck.

“If you say so, Stevie,” he replied. He grabbed the hem of the shirt Steve had on, then remembered it was his own, and he decided to leave it on the boy. Not only did he not want him to get cold, but he wanted Steve to be entirely surrounded by him when he made him cum for the first time in person.

Slowly, Bucky shifted down Steve’s body, only pushing the hem of the extra large shirt up a bit to expose the soft alabaster skin of Steve’s stomach. He nuzzled the skin insistently, licking and nipping gently, listening to Steve’s breathy moans. The younger boy arched his hips upwards, making the hard bulge in his underwear bump against Bucky’s chin. The dark haired boy just laughed under his breath, muttering something about impatience, and then ducked his head down to mouth at the hot, hard cock in Steve’s boxers.

Despite the fact that he was only suckling on the shaft through the material, Steve let out a deep, nearly pornographic moan that had Bucky’s own hips canting uncontrollably. His metal hand dug into the sheets next to Steve’s hip in an attempt to gain control over his reactions. However when the boy moaned again when Bucky mouthed at the tip through the saturated fabric, Bucky nearly ripped off the boy’s underwear in his haste to get his mouth on his boyfriend. He took only a brief moment to appreciate the slender, pink, and dripping cock in front of him before he dove in.

With only a solid lick on the underside of the shaft as preamble, Bucky swallowed Steve’s cock to the root. Immediately Steve’s hands were clutching at Bucky’s hair and his skinny hips thrust upwards involuntarily. Bucky thanked every god there was that he had no gag reflex, and moaned in encouragement. His flesh and blood hand moved from the sheets beside Steve to holding onto his hip as he bobbed his head along the rigid member. On one upstroke, his tongue dipped into the slit at the tip, tasting Steve’s essence and groaning at the taste. The vibrations must have sent Steve into a complete tailspin, because the boy’s whimpers grew louder and higher.

“Oh god. Oh fuck, Bucky ! Please!” he moaned. Bucky redoubled his efforts, flicking his tongue out over the tip on every upstroke, and reaching with his metal hand to gently roll Steve’s balls between his fingers.

“Yes! Yesyesyes! ” Steve shouted at the feeling, “Oh, Bucky-Oh! Fuckfuckfuck. I’m gonna- Wait! I’m-- Ohhhh!”

Bucky cast his eyes upward and saw that Steve was staring at him with his wide baby blues. Not even a second later, Steve was spurting straight down Bucky’s throat. Bucky’s eyes fluttered shut at the taste of his boyfriend’s cum on his tongue, as he gently sucked Steve through his orgasm. Once Steve was shuddering with over sensitivity, Bucky pulled off with a small pop, and licked him clean. He kept one ear out for Steve’s breathing pattern, remembering that he’d gotten one of Steve’s inhalers from the hospital, just in case. (That had been awkward explaining to Peggy why he thought Steve might need one during his visit).

Finally, Steve’s breath calmed down while Bucky began to kiss and lick around Steve’s softening cock. The younger boy gave a breathy laugh and lifted his head to look down at Bucky. The older boy merely beamed at him, making Steve giggle again.

“That was amazing,” Steve said dreamily. Bucky let out a laugh of his own and shifted back up his boyfriend’s body, covering the tiny frame with his own bulk. Steve looked up at him with his slightly dazed eyes, and a soft, sated smile on his face. The expression made Bucky’s heart do a flip in his chest, and he leaned down to capture the boy’s lips in a sweet kiss. When he gently probed at his lips with his tongue, Steve pulled back with his nose wrinkled.

“I can taste myself on you still,” he murmured. This made Bucky laugh out loud and nuzzle his nose into the younger boy’s cheek.

“Want me to brush my teeth?” he asked. Steve quickly shook his head.

“No, it’s fine. I just didn’t expect it,” he replied. Bucky nodded, and then the two boys lapsed back into silence. It was very short lived when Steve suddenly gasped and looked down between their bodies.

“Bucky! You didn’t- Did you- Wait! I can uh… I mean, if you want me to, that is… Did you uh... Cum?” For someone that had just had their brains sucked out through their dick, and was still lying half naked, Steve looked so bashful. It made Bucky’s heart hurt even more in his chest. How was it possible for someone to be so adorable, and how was it possible that it made Bucky so god damn turned on?

“Baby doll, I’m fine. You don’t have to do anything you aren’t comfortable with yet, I’ll never push you,” Bucky said. This apparently was the wrong thing to say, as Steve frowned. Bucky immediately leaned down to kiss the expression away. Pulling back an inch, he whispered, “You can do whatever you want to me.”

Steve smirked, a twinkle in his eyes. “What if I wanted to top?”

Bucky let out a loud laugh and kissed him again, “If that’s what you wanted, then we’d try it. I just want you to be comfortable, baby boy.”

Steve nodded, chewing on his bottom lip, clearly deep in thought. Bucky decided to leave him to his thoughts, and began peppering kisses along his jaw and down his slender neck. It was a solid ten minutes before Steve spoke up again. It startled Bucky, because he’d thought that the younger boy had dozed off again.

“Can I just… can I touch you?” Steve asked, his voice timid and small. It made Bucky beam. He pulled back and looked Steve square in the eye.

“Of course you can. How do you want me?” Bucky asked.

“Uh…. On your back?” Steve asked, a bit uncertain. Bucky merely nodded and rolled off of the smaller boy onto his back on the other side of the bed. He put both of his hands behind his head on the pillow and watched as Steve sat up beside him. The boy looked a bit nervous, but Bucky could see clear determination in his eyes. He also didn’t miss the way the large henley slipped off of one pale shoulder, and draped loosely over the boy’s lap. Bucky swallowed, his throat suddenly dry at the sight. He was quickly pulled from his thoughts when Steve’s long fingered hand reached out and drifted down his chest.

Bucky’s muscles clenched at the touch, the elegant fingers leaving a trail of fire in their wake. They were both quiet as Steve took his time exploring Bucky’s torso. He traced along his collarbones, across the broad stretch from one shoulder to the other. Down one arm, pressing all of his fingers into the large bicep, then back up and across to do the same thing to the other arm. He skated his fingers across Bucky’s pecs, gently pinching each of his dark nipples and brushing through the dusting of dark chest hair.

Buck groaned at the touch, but Steve shushed him quickly. It made Bucky bite back a smirk, and he looked to his boyfriend, only to find that his eyes were trained with intense focus on what he was doing to Bucky’s body. The fingers slid downward, through each dip and valley of the muscles of Bucky’s abdomen. Tracing each bump and curve, circling around his belly button, and then sliding through the trail of hair that led down into Bucky’s boxer briefs.

At this point, Bucky could barely keep his hands where he had placed them behind his head. His breathing was harsh through his nose, and his cock was aching and dripping precum against the tight black fabric. It wasn’t until Steve traced the deep lines of muscle on his hips, and dipping his fingers into the waistband of his underwear that he let loose another desperate moan. He was amazed at how easily Steve’s touch could bring him to his (metaphorical) knees.

Steve looked up, almost surprised at the noise. It was as if he’d forgotten Bucky was there, despite being the center of his attention. Bucky wished there was more light in the room so that he could see Steve’s pretty blush, but that thought was quickly drained from his head when he felt Steve tugging at his waistband insistently. Bucky’s hand covered Steve’s, making the boy look up, his expression wary as if he’d made a misstep. Bucky smiled reassuringly and reached up to cup the boy’s chin.

“Just making sure you’re comfortable,” Bucky said. Steve rolled his eyes, but there was a smile playing at the edge of his lips.

“I want to see all of you,” he said, his voice quiet but confident. Bucky nodded and ran his thumb over Steve’s plush lips before returning it to its place behind his head. Steve’s hand gripped the edge of Bucky’s boxers again and pulled down. Bucky lifted his hips to help the process and when his cock was free, it bobbed up, curving up against Bucky’s lower abs. Precum drooled out of the slit, and the piercing glinted in the low light. Compared to Steve's little pink cock it looked brutish. Thick and large, with a slight curve.

“Wow,” Steve’s tiny whisper cut through the darkness, and Bucky had to stop himself from preening under his boyfriend’s gaze.

Bucky could not tear his eyes away from Steve’s face as the boy reached out and barely brushed his fingertips along the underside of his cock. A choked off moan was the only noise he let out. It seemed to give Steve a bit more confidence, as he shifted on the bed and swung one thin thigh over Bucky’s legs, straddling the top of his thighs to give him a better angle to work with. Bucky bit his lip at the feeling of Steve’s perfect little ass against the tops of his thighs, and the brush of his soft balls against his own.

“God you’re perfect,” Bucky husked out, lips parted and eyes heavy lidded.

“I think that’s my line,” Steve muttered. Bucky was about to argue when Steve’s soft hand wrapped around his dick. Instantly his hips twitched upward as Steve gave an experimental stroke. The boy shifted a bit on Bucky’s thighs, balls swinging and brushing more firmly against Bucky’s own. Another moan burst through his lips at the feeling.

“I’ve never touched anyone besides myself… You’re so big,” Steve said. If Bucky hadn’t been so blissed out, he would have smirked at the blatant ego stroke. As it was, with Steve gently, (torturously), stroking him, all cognitive functioning had vanished.

“You have a piercing,” Steve giggled. The sound made Bucky’s stomach flip, and oddly, made his balls ache even more.

“We’ll see who’s laughing when it’s inside of you, making you scream my name,” Bucky said, his voice dark with promise. Steve shivered, his eyes falling shut momentarily, and his hand gripping Bucky a bit tighter. When his thumb slid over the top of his dick, flicking the piercing gently, Bucky brought both hands down and grabbed and handful of Steve’s ass in each. Steve moaned in response, his own hips giving a twitch. Bucky could only moan as Steve’s hand sped up. He knew he wasn’t going to last long. Not after getting Steve off, and all of the build up to this moment. Especially not if Steve kept making those gorgeous noises and rubbing his half hard cock against Bucky’s hip while draped in Bucky’s shirt.

“Fuck, Stevie. Oh shit. I’m gonna cum, baby. Fuck!” Bucky had meant to give Steve a bit more warning, but as soon as he’d spoken, Steve leaned down and sucked the tip of Bucky’s thick cock into his mouth, playing with the piercing with his hot, wet tongue. It was Bucky’s ultimate undoing.

With a ragged shout, he started coming in hot spurts. The first must have taken Steve by surprise as it filled his mouth, because he pulled back and was hit across his cheek and chin, and the rest landed on Bucky’s stomach in a puddle.

After a few moments, Bucky came down from his orgasmic high. His breathing harsh and he watched, slightly dazed as Steve swallowed loudly, and then wiped Bucky’s cum from his face, looked at it, and then sucked his fingers into his own mouth. Bucky let out a weak moan at the sight, his hands tightening on Steve’s ass. The boy shifted his hips, and Bucky felt that his cock was hard once again. In the back of his mind he was impressed at the boy’s refractory period, but then the thought was shoved aside as he shifted him upwards a bit.

“Get yourself off, sweetheart. Let me see you cum,” Bucky ordered, using his metal hand to place Steve’s hands on his shoulders, and then returning it to his ass, and gently rocking the boy’s hips so that his little dripping cock was rubbing through Bucky’s cum on his stomach.

“Yesyesyes. Please, Bucky! Please!” Steve moaned. Bucky just shook his head.

“No baby, I’m going to watch you. Rub yourself off on me. I want to watch you cum all over me, baby doll. Give it to me,” Bucky murmured. The boy writhed on top of Bucky’s body, his hands clenching the muscular shoulders. Bucky knew he would have nail marks in his skin, and the thought made him nearly purr with satisfaction.

“You’re so pretty, baby boy. Fuck, I love seeing you like this,” Bucky said. Steve’s hips twitched and his rhythm picked up speed. Bucky smirked at the obvious reaction.

“Do you like when I talk to you, gorgeous? Do you like when I tell you how fucking beautiful you are when you’re rubbing off on me? Your pretty little cock is so hard, baby boy. Are you going to cum all over me?” his voice was husky and dark. Steve whimpered.

“I can’t- It’s not! Ohhhh. Fuck. Please, I need it- I need…” Steve was nearly incoherent with lust. Bucky smiled darkly.

“I got you baby, keep going,” he said, and gently used his metal hand to pry one ass cheek to the side, while his real fingers dipped into Steve’s crack. The boy keened sharply, his hips losing their rhythm.

“Keep going, baby boy. I’ve got you. You’re so good for me,” he whispered, lightly rubbing his fingers over the tight, furled entrance of his boyfriend. Bucky swallowed heavily and started rubbing circles over the tight ring of muscle. Steve’s thrusts picked up again, the boy nearly panting. For a brief moment, Bucky was worried about Steve’s lungs, but a sharp moan brought him back, as Steve’s spine started to arch.

“I’m close. Oh, Bucky. I’m gonna! Fuck! Please!” the boy cried. Bucky took that as a cue, and gently pushed the tip of his middle finger just inside of Steve’s hole. And just like that, Steve arched beautifully, his cock shooting out a smaller load than earlier onto Bucky’s stomach. He could feel the boy’s toes curling against his thighs, and he watched his eyes close and his mouth open into a perfect O. Bucky thought that he had never, and would never see something as gorgeous as Steven Grant Rogers in the throes of ecstasy.

Steve was still shaking when Bucky pulled him into the cradle of his arms, resting the boy’s head on his chest as he came down from his peak. The entire time, Bucky’s hands rubbed his back and murmured soothing words into his ear. It was a long few moments before Steve snuffled against Bucky’s collar bone and sighed contentedly, his shivers finally ending and his body completely relaxed.

“That was amazing,” Steve whispered. Bucky smiled and nuzzled his face into Steve’s hat covered head.

“It was,” he agreed. They were quiet again.

“Can we do that again?” Steve asked, breaking the silence.

Bucky let out a loud laugh, “Give me a break, kid. I’m not as young as I once was and I need some time to recover.”

He could practically feel Steve roll his eyes. “Oh shut up, Barnes. You aren’t that old.”

“You’re right, I’m not… But we’ll have plenty of time to do it again, I promise,” Bucky said. That answer seemed to please Steve, and he settled back down, “Although, I do need to clean us up, otherwise we’ll be stuck together by morning.”

Steve just groaned as Bucky shifted him onto the bed and slid out from under him. He wet two washcloths in the bathroom with warm water and was back in the bedroom in record time. He took a deep breath, the room smelled of sex and sweat, and Steve and himself, and it was the best fucking thing he’d ever smelled. He realized that Steve had shucked off his long sleeve and was gloriously naked on the bed.

“There was cum on the shirt… So hurry up and get back in here so you can keep me warm,” Steve said, a bit bashful under Bucky’s intense gaze. Bucky moved efficiently as he wiped his own stomach and cock with one cloth, and then did the same to Steve with the other one. Afterwards he threw the washcloth in the direction of the dirty laundry and then slid onto the bed, pulling the comforter and blankets up with one hand while Steve snuggled in against his body.

They were both naked and warm, with one arm under Steve’s neck, and the other wrapped securely around his waist. Steve’s face was pressed into the crook between Bucky’s neck and shoulder, breathing deeply and quietly. They were silent for a long time. Bucky was convinced that Steve had fallen asleep again, when a soft voice floated into his ears.

“I don’t remember ever being so happy. I wish we could stay right here, forever,” Steve whispered. His voice was suspiciously shaky, and all of a sudden, Bucky’s own eyes were burning a bit from unshed tears.

“We can, baby doll. We don’t ever have to leave if you don’t want to,” Bucky replied, fiercely.

He felt Steve’s shoulders quiver, and a small hiccup came from the younger boy. A few tears dripped from Bucky’s eyes, as he stared out of the window across the room, watching the snow still falling in the orange glow of the street lights.

All he could do was tighten his arms around the tiny body pressed against his own, and pray to whatever God was listening to let him keep Steve in this moment forever.

Chapter Text

13.

 

Bucky was the first to wake up. Light streamed in through the window, and a square of it landed directly on his face. Grumbling, he attempted to turn onto his other side, when he settled, he felt a warm presences nestled in against his back. Bucky’s foggy brain immediately came back online and a smile crossed his face.

Steve was here. It was Christmas morning. He got to spend Christmas with Steve.

Shifting around again, Bucky came to face the still sleeping boy. At some point during the night his hat had fallen off of his head and revealed his soft, bald head. His breaths were deep and even, his pink lips parted as he breathed through his mouth. Unconsciously the boy snuggled even closer to Bucky’s body heat.

“St’p m’v’n,” the boy mumbled as Bucky wiggled around in his spot.

“Wake up, baby,” Bucky prodded. His real hand rubbed down Steve’s back, tracing the bumps of his curved spine, “It’s Christmas.”

Steve’s baby blues finally made an appearance through heavy eyelids. A yawn made him open his mouth wide, and he stretched like a kitten in the space against Bucky. Bucky knew, without a doubt that he had the dopiest smile on his face, and nothing would be able to change that. Not even the adorable pout that Steve Rogers was sporting.

“It’s too early,” Steve yawned again.

“It’s Christmas! You’re supposed to be up early on Christmas!” Bucky replied, moving in and kissing the pucker between Steve’s eyebrows. “There’s presents to be opened!”

“But I don’t want to move. It’s too warm and comfy in bed,” Steve whined. Bucky just laughed and pulled the boy even more snugly against him. Reveling in the feel of sleep warm, naked skin pressed against his own.

“What if I go get them and we can open them in bed?” Bucky asked. Steve hummed in agreement against Bucky’s chest and kissed one of Bucky’s nipples. Bucky growled in reply and gently nibbled on Steve’s earlobe. Hastily, Bucky threw off the covers, making Steve squeal and glare as the cold air of the apartment was let into his cocoon of warmth. Bucky merely laughed and then strut over to his dresser, naked as the day he was born. As he pulled on a pair of grey sweatpants, he caught the smaller boy eyeing him from the bed. Bucky threw him a wink, which earned him a roll of Steve’s eyes, but Bucky beamed happily at the sight. He walked out into the living room and began gathering up the presents that were laid under the decorated tree. As he straightened out again he eyed the coffee machine in the kitchen.

“Hey baby, do you want some coffee or something?” Bucky called, walking into the small kitchen and opening up the cabinet with his mugs. Steve was silent in the other room, and Bucky chuckled softly, knowing that Steve had probably fallen back asleep. Slowly he set about making coffee, but as he measured out the coffee grounds, a loud thump echoed from the bedroom. Bucky turned to look over his shoulder, his eyebrows raised.

“Steve? You alright?” he called. Instead of a verbal answer, a loud shattering noise came from the room. Bucky dropped the coffee to the ground, rushing out of the kitchen and across the small apartment. As he burst through the door into the bedroom, he was greeted with a sight he had only imagined in his nightmares.

Steve was crumpled on the ground, convulsing violently. His body arching up towards the ceiling, his eyes glazed, and drool escaping from a corner of his mouth. A low moaning noise filled the air. And Bucky had never been so terrified in his entire life.

“Steve! Oh fuck! Steve!” He screamed, immediately falling to his boyfriend’s side. His boyfriend’s ragged breathing echoed around him as he stared helplessly at the convulsing boy. Any knowledge he had about helping people with seizures had flown out of his brain, and only horror replaced it.

“Shit! 911! I’ll call someone!” Bucky cried, snatching his cell phone and dialing the emergency number. It felt like a lifetime had passed before someone picked up.

911 What is your emergency?” a calm female voice asked.

“My boyfriend! He’s having a seizure! He has cancer! I don’t know what to do! I can’t help him!” Bucky cried into the phone. He distantly realized that tears were streaming down his face, but he could not bring himself to care about it.

“Sir. I need you to calm down. What is your address?”

“Oh God! He sounds like he can’t breathe!” Bucky gasped, feeling useless as the younger boy flailed and gasped.

“SIR! What is your address? I am sending units now!”

“East thirteenth street! Between first and second ave!” Bucky nearly screamed.

“Now sir? Sir! I need you to focus. I’m going to tell you how to help your friend until the EMTs arrive!”

“Yeah! Okay, yeah!” Bucky croaked.

“Do not attempt to open his mouth, alright? And don’t restrain his body. Look around you, make sure there’s nothing around that he can hurt himself on. Can you do that for me?”

Bucky could barely drag his eyes away from the boy on the ground long enough to follow the woman’s instructions. Carefully he brushed aside the shards of glass from a cup that Steve must have knocked off the nightstand before his episode started.

“You’re doing great, they’re almost there, alright?”

Bucky was sobbing quietly now. The last time he had felt this useless and terrified was after the car accident that had taken his family’s lives. He had always known that things could go wrong when Steve was concerned, but he hadn’t imagined what would happen when things actually did go wrong.

The sound of sirens were almost muted.

“Sir? You need to unlock your front door. I’m going to hang up now, alright?”

Bucky nodded, but didn’t reply. The line went dead as pounding on his front door began. In a haze, Bucky moved away from Steve and rushed to the front door. As soon as the door was open, several people stormed into his apartment. Bucky attempted to follow them, but felt a hand restraining him. He looked up with wet eyes to see a police officer holding him back.

“Give them space, son. Everything will be alright,” the man said. But Bucky was beyond rationality. He ripped his arm out of the officer’s grip and attempted to go into his bedroom. He could see several EMTs crowded over Steve’s tiny body. Another set of men entered his apartment with a gurney, and Bucky was grabbed by two officers this time. Helplessly, he watched as Steve was loaded onto the bed, covered with a blanket, and taken out of his apartment. He could see that his boyfriend’s eyes were shut, and his chest was heaving. There was also twin trails of blood that streamed out of his nostrils.

“Where is he going? Where are they taking him! I need to go with him!” Bucky shouted, pulling at his arms in the grasp of the two officers.

“Sir, are you a family member?” one of them asked.

“What? No! I’m his boyfriend! That’s my boyfriend!” Bucky growled. His anger was beginning to show through, now that the shock had worn off.

“I’m sorry, but only family members are allowed to be in the ambulance,” one officer said. However Bucky was no longer listening. He wrenched his arms away from the two men holding him, attempting to run after Steve, despite the fact that he was only dressed in a pair of sweatpants. Without warning, he was tackled in the front hall, chest landing hard and solid on the freezing cold wood.

“STEVE!” Bucky screamed raggedly. Distantly he was aware that tears were streaming down his face. Struggling against the hold of the two officers that were pinning him to the ground, Bucky watched as his tiny boyfriend was loaded into the back of the ambulance, and taken out of his sight. The doors of the ambulance closed, and Bucky cried out once again, but there was nothing he could do, as he watched them drive away.

*^*^*^*

“James!” A familiar voice cried out.

Bucky turned slowly, watching as Nat came rushing towards him. Immediately she flew into his arms, in a rare show of affection, and Bucky accepted the gesture. He held his friend close, and knew that she could feel his slight trembling. When the redhead pulled back she eyed Bucky carefully.

“How long have you been here?” she asked.

“Nine hours,” Bucky croaked. His voice was rough from screaming and sobbing. Twice he had been threatened to be escorted out of the building after shouting demands to see Steve. He had been told that the boy was in surgery, and the nurses did not know when he would be out. That had been seven hours ago. Every hour, Bucky grew more and more desperate for any kind of news about Steve.

“Is there any news?” Nat asked.

Bucky merely shook his head and dropped heavily back into the uncomfortable chair he had been occupying all day.

“And he was completely fine all last night?” Nat asked.

Bucky nodded his head. His eyes burned at the fresh memory of Steve in his bed and in his arms. A gorgeous smile on his lips and his baby blue eyes filled with so much happiness and adoration that Bucky had nearly told the boy he loved him on the spot...

Bucky cleared his throat and roughly rubbed at his eyes with the heels of his hands. He heard Nat take a seat beside him, but didn’t bother looking at her. They sat together in silence, watching nurses and other people come in and out of the waiting room. Every time a nurse came out of the restricted area, Bucky would watch them carefully, hoping that any of them would give him some news.

Another four hours passed with no word on how Steve was doing.

Nat had left to get some dinner, after attempting to lure Bucky down to get some food as well. He had denied, not willing to be away if anyone came to give him news about Steve, and Nat left with a promise to bring Bucky some coffee when she’d come back.

Bucky had just settled back into his chair, and watched as a middle aged nurse dressed in purple scrubs came out of the restricted area. She walked to the front desk and spoke quietly with the nurses there. Bucky’s dark eyes followed her and watched as she turned around, her own gaze landing on Bucky. His heart leapt into his throat as she made her way towards him and he stood, nearly falling over, as he got up so quickly.

“Are you James Barnes?” she asked.

“Yes! Yes, is Steve alright? What’s wrong with him? Please.” Bucky was nearly crying again as he begged the nurse for some news. The woman gave him a sad look, and Bucky’s heart nearly plummeted to the floor.

“He’s just gotten out of surgery. The recently diagnosed aggressive cancer has spread from his lungs into his brain. At the rate it was metastasizing, it pressed dangerously against Steven’s brain. The doctors were only able to reduce the swelling in order to help him regain normalcy.” the nurse said softly.

“I don’t… I don’t understand?” Bucky croaked.

“Did Steven tell you that he was re-diagnosed two months ago?” the nurse asked. Bucky shook his head mechanically, unable to process the words that this nurse spoke.

“I just. Can I see him? Please?” Bucky begged. The nurse sighed quietly and then nodded. Bucky followed her, as if he was in some kind of nightmare. Making their way through the halls of the hospital, until she stopped at a recovery room door.

“He won’t be awake for a while,” the nurse said. Bucky barely paid attention to her as he opened the door and walked inside.

There, laying on the starched white bed, with bandages wrapped around his head, looking paler and tinier than he had ever been before, was Steven Grant Rogers. Bucky felt tears well up in his eyes once again as he collapsed in the chair set beside the hospital bed. Immediately he gently grasped Steve’s hand between his own, careful of the multitude of wires surrounding the small boy. He looked so small and fragile, and Bucky began to openly weep as he pressed his head into the space beside Steve’s body.

He wasn’t sure how long he stayed that way. Eventually the tears dried up, and he inspected Steve with a careful, but unknowledgable eye. Steve’s chest rose and fell in shallow breaths, and Bucky kissed his soft brow.

“Everything’s going to be alright, Stevie. You’ll see. You’re gonna get out of here, and we’ll be together. Alright? But you have to promise me that you’re going to fight. I’ll be right here beside you. You don’t ever have to be alone again, Stevie… I love you. So god damn much,” Bucky whispered, watching as Steve continued to sleep, breathing deeply and evenly.

“I can’t imagine my life without you, baby doll. I don’t want to imagine it. I think I knew, even that first time that I met you, that you were it for me. You’re the part of me that was missing all this time, I just didn’t know it. And I’m sorry that it took me so long to find you. And I’m sorry that I can’t help you. If I could take all of this pain from you, I would, no questions asked.”

“I want to grow old with you, baby doll. I want to see what you look like as a little old man. I want to wake up next to you every day for the rest of our lives. And I want to fight with you, and get to kiss and makeup. I want to make love to you every night. But Stevie. You have to come back to me. You have to fight for me. Please. Don’t leave me. I love you. I love you so much.”

Bucky clutched at Steve’s hand, listening to the beeping of the machines that surrounded him, and the steady rise and fall of his chest as he took breaths. He wasn’t sure how long he stayed like that, just sitting beside Steve, and praying to anyone that was listening, to bring him back.

Finally, he heard the door behind him open slowly. Bucky glanced over his shoulder and saw the nurse that had brought him to the room before.

“Mr. Barnes? I’m sorry, but the visiting hours are ending soon. I need to ask you to leave,”she said, and looked like she regretted speaking the words. Bucky nodded, and turned back to look at his tiny boyfriend. As he stood, he leaned over Steve’s body and pressed a firm kiss to Steve’s soft bald head, one hand cradling his cheek.

“I’ll be back in the morning, baby doll. I promise I’ll be back,” Bucky whispered.

Gently he untangled his fingers from Steve’s and set the boy’s hand back down on the bed. Bucky swallowed the enormous lump in his throat as he walked out of the room. Glancing back at the tiny boy, unconscious on the bed, and wanting nothing more than to curl up right beside him, and never leave his side.

*^*^*^*

“Are you sure you don’t want to come stay at my place?” Nat asked, watching Bucky warily as he sat in the passenger seat of her car. Bucky shook his head.

“No, thank you.” He said, almost robotically. He felt entirely emotionally drained from the day, and Nat didn’t push him. She nodded and chewed on her bottom lip.

“I’ll be back at seven thirty. Visiting hours start at eight,” she said. Bucky looked at her and frowned.

“I can just take the subway, Nat. You don’t have to-”

“I’ll be here at seven thirty, James,” she said evenly. The look in her eyes spoke volumes. She was telling him that he wasn’t alone in this. Whatever came next, Bucky was not going to be alone. Bucky sighed and nodded, leaning across the console to kiss Nat’s cheek.

“Thank you,” he said quietly. Nat just nodded, and watched as he got out of the car and trudged up to his front door. He waved to her after he had let himself in, and after closing the front door, he was met with his silent, empty apartment. The place that had glowed with so much light and warmth and love only a day before, now felt cold and unforgiving. Bucky was almost nervous to go further in, expecting the ghosts of the events that had happened in these rooms would jump out and scare him.

Slowly but surely, he made his way deeper in. He saw the shards of glass littering the ground. Coffee grounds spread out from the kitchen. And the pile of presents still on the coffee table in the living room. Feeling utterly exhausted, Bucky sank down onto his couch and merely stared at the stack of brightly wrapped presents. The boxes that held Steve’s presents: New pencils, and a drawing journal. A few books on fine art. A box of new knitted hats. And two tickets to the Museum of Fine Arts, which Bucky had thought he would take Steve too that very day, before he’d been due back at the hospital.

Bucky sighed raggedly at the thought of how Steve had ended up back at the hospital earlier than expected anyway.

On top of the boxes that had been meant for Steve, laid the neatly wrapped gift that Steve had brought himself. Before Bucky could stop himself, he had snatched the gift from the pile and was running his hands over the perfectly made folds of the paper. He knew that if anyone else saw him, he would look a bit crazy. But at the moment, he needed desperately to know what Steve had wanted to give him. He wanted to have some kind of reminder that Steve had been so full of joy and happiness, and that he was not that pale, unconscious, fragile looking boy on a hospital bed.

Carefully, Bucky unwrapped the present. He did not tear at the paper, in a rush to see what was inside. When the paper finally fell away, Bucky’s eyebrows drew together in confusion. There, in his lap was the same sketchpad that he had first bought for Steve back in October. Almost reverently, Bucky lifted the cover and stared down at the first page. It was almost entirely blank, aside from some neatly scrawled words in the center of the page.

 

The first of many.

-Your Stevie

 

Bucky felt his heart beating heavily in his chest as he flipped to the second page. Immediately his breath was knocked from his lungs, as he found himself staring at an incredible sketch of his own face.

Clearly the sketch was done while Bucky had been reading something, his eyes were downcast, and some loose pieces of hair framed his face. He looked so peaceful, that he was in disbelief that it was actually him.

He turned the page and found a drawing of a pair of eyes. Specifically his eyes.

The next page contained his lips and chin and jaw.

The next page was his hands.

And it just kept going on and on.

Each drawing was done so carefully. Each line was precise. The shading done meticulously. The emotion that was put into each drawing made Bucky have to catch his breath. There were drawings of Bucky laughing, of him smirking, of him laying back with his eyes closed. There were individual sketches devoted to every body part. And on one page, a detailed drawing of his metal arm, that made Bucky realize how beautiful the metal limb looked to Steve.

By the end of the book, Bucky was close to tears once again. He could feel the adoration that his little Stevie had put into each and every sketch. And when he flipped to the last page, there was a sketch of Steve’s hand being cradled so gently in Bucky’s metal one. And there were hastily scrawled words underneath, as if Steve had written them down at the last minute, before he could change his mind.

Bucky felt his heart leap into his throat and he read them over and over again.


I love you.

Chapter Text

14.

 

When Steve opened his eyes, the first thing he thought was: Fuck.

He was no longer staring at the low, slightly dirty ceiling above Bucky’s bed. He was no longer swaddled in warm flannel sheets that smelled exactly like his boyfriend. Instead he was covered in starched white sheets, body wrapped in a pale green johnny, fluorescent lights buzzed softly over his head. His body ached, tubes were attached all over his body, and there was a distinct rattle in his chest. The last thing he could remember was Bucky leaving to go get the Christmas presents, and then everything had gone black.

Slowly, Steve shifted on the bed, and was both not surprised and slightly confused to find that his boyfriend was dead asleep in a plastic chair beside his bed. Dark circles marred the skin under his closed eyes, his hair was unkempt in a way that told Steve that the man had been running his hands through it near constantly. His leather jacket was draped over the side of the chair, and he was snoring lightly, his chin tucked to his chest.

As if Bucky could sense Steve watching him, the man’s head had lolled unexpectedly to the side, and he jolted awake. Blinking rapidly, he reached up and wiped some drool that had fallen down his chin, and yawned widely. Steve had to suppress a small giggle as he watched Bucky scan around the room with dopey eyes. Finally, his eyes were drawn back to the Steve on the bed, his face soft, as if expecting to find him in the same gentle, drug induced coma, however instead, their gazes met, and Bucky sucked in a deep lungful of air.

“Stevie!” Bucky rasped out, his voice rough with clear disuse. He lunged out of the uncomfortable plastic chair he had been sitting in, and leaned over Steve. His hands tenderly cupped Steve’s cheeks, and he was rapidly scanning Steve’s face. As if he was looking for something, and was terrified that he wouldn’t find it. There was only the sound of the machines and their breathing.

“I guess I ruined Christmas, huh?” Steve finally whispered. His own voice whispy from no use.

“Jesus! Stevie!” Bucky sobbed, his breath stuck in his throat as he leaned down and just barely brushed his lips over Steve’s. Steve could hear the heart monitor pick up as Bucky brushed his lips over Steve’s lips, jaw, cheeks, brow, eyelids, everything. It was that moment that Steve had realized how terrified Bucky must have been to witness an episode like that.

“Don’t cry, Buck. Please, don’t,” Steve’s words hitched in his throat as Bucky let out another choked off sob, moving his head gently into the crook of Steve’s neck and shoulder.

“You scared me, baby. God, I’ve never been so scared in my entire life. Seeing you on the ground I just- I didn’t know- And- Oh, fuck,” Bucky could barely string together an entire sentence. And Steve felt helpless at trying to console his boyfriend. He had no guarantees to give, that it would never happen again.

“It’s alright, I’m right here. It’s okay, Buck. Honest. I’m fine,” Steve replied, feeling a lump form in his throat. Bucky’s head whipped back from its spot against Steve’s neck, and the younger boy was shocked to see such a fierce glare set over his boyfriend’s features.

“Don’t fucking play this shit down, Steve. Don’t you fucking do it. I’m not an idiot, I don’t need this sugar coated,” Bucky hissed. Steve drew in a deep breath and nodded, lifting a heavy hand, careful of the tubes running around it, and carefully drawing his fingers over Bucky’s cheek.

“You’re right, I’m sorry. I’m not fine… I feel like I’ve been run over by a train, several times, and I can’t imagine how scared you were. And I’m sorry you had to see that,” Steve whispered. Bucky’s eyes were still hard, but he nodded and leaned forward to kiss Steve’s forehead.

“I shouldn’t have taken you from the hospital. It was too cold out. If you were here it would have been taken care of faster. I shouldn’t have-”

“Don’t you dare finish that sentence James Barnes,” Steve’s voice was the harsh one this time. Bucky pulled back and frowned down at him, but Steve could feel anger stirring in his belly.

“Yes, I’m sick. Yes, it would have been easier to treat me if I had been safe in my bed in that goddamn room. But if you seriously think that I would trade any moment I got to spend with out outside of these walls, for an easier ride to the operating room, then you clearly don’t understand how I feel about you,” Steve snarled. If there hadn’t been so many tubes restraining him, Steve knew he would have been in Bucky’s face. As it was, he was stuck to the bed, and had to use his eyes to convey his anger.

Bucky was quiet for a long time, his gray eyes softening at Steve’s words, though that did nothing to calm the smaller boy down.

“I opened your present,” Bucky nearly whispered.

“What?” Steve asked, confused at the sudden subject change, anger still in his voice.

“Your christmas present to me. I opened it after I got home from the hospital. After I saw you once your surgery was done… I was all alone and I couldn’t stand it, so I opened it,” Bucky continued on. Realization dawned on Steve as his boyfriend continued to speak, and he could feel a tidal wave of embarrassment forming.

“Oh Christ. Please tell me you didn’t see-” Steve mumbled.

“I went through the whole thing, Stevie. I’ve looked at every page at least a hundred times in the last three days. But do you want to know what my favorite one is?” Bucky asked.

Steve was now staring resolutely at the blankets covering his skinny legs. He did not want to look at his boyfriend, as terror seized his heart. He had written those words at the end of his sketchbook before he could convince himself not to. It had only been three months since he’d met Bucky. There was a solid chance that Bucky did not feel the same at all, and that Steve had made a complete fool of himself. Maybe it was for the best that Bucky had opened the gift without Steve being there to see the awkward rebuff forming on his boyfriend’s devastatingly handsome features. A rejection of love from Bucky was a more painful prospect than any therapy or surgery Steve had ever gone through.

“Look at me, gorgeous,” Bucky murmured, as his metal hand cupped Steve’s chin and brought his face up again. Steve could feel his face burning with a blush, and he willed the embarrassed tears back from his eyes. If Bucky was going to reject him, then Steve would just play it off as a misunderstanding.

But the soft look on Bucky’s face, made a traitorous flame of hope spring to life in Steve’s heart. Burning brightly, as the older boy smiled fondly down at him, gray eyes soft and warm.

“I love you too, Steve. I think I have since the first time I saw you,” Bucky said.

Steve felt as though the air had been punched from his lungs at the declaration.

“Really?” his voice cracked, as he searched Bucky’s face for any kind of sign that he was joking. However, there was nothing but absolute seriousness on his boyfriend’s face.

“As if I had a choice. You’re stuck with me now, punk,” Bucky murmured. Steve choked on a wet laugh as Bucky leaned in and slid his warm lips against Steve’s. The kiss felt like a promise, and it warmed Steve from the inside out.

“Til’ the end of the line,” Steve replied softly. Pulling back a fraction to look into Bucky’s stormy eyes. Bucky’s face hardened, but not with anger. Instead, he looked as though he was getting ready to go to battle.

“Til’ the end of the line.” He replied.

*^*^*^*

It was nearly an hour later, that their bubble was burst.

An hour of revelling in the fact that they loved each other. Steve couldn’t help but smile at that thought. Bucky had crawled carefully up onto the bed next to him, and taken him into his arms. Content to share soft kisses and lingering touches. None of them overtly sexual, but rather just a physical reminder that he was there, and Steve had no reason to be afraid.

However, with a knock on the door, came the subsequent bursting of the bubble. Natasha stood in the doorway with two cups of coffee and a surprised look on her face.

“You’re awake!” Natasha said in surprise, “I’ll go get the nurse.”

And before Steve or Bucky could stop her, she had disappeared back into the hallway. A few moments later, the two nurses that had been tending to Steve for the last few days came in and demanded they be able to give Steve a check over. Bucky grudgingly got off of the bed, but refuse to leave the room until Natasha had to nearly drag him out.

Once in the hallway, with the door closed behind them, Natasha turned to look at Bucky.

“You need a shower,” she said, her nose wrinkled slightly.

“Oh shut up, Nat. It’s not that bad,” he muttered in reply, taking his cup of coffee from her hand.

“Yes, it is that bad. You promised me you would shower and get some real sleep once Steve had woken up. Well, he’s awake now, so it’s time for you to hold up your end,” Nat said softly.

Bucky sighed, remembering their conversation clearly. But the thought of leaving Steve alone in that room after he had just woken up made him sick to his stomach.

“I know you don’t want to leave him, but he’s steady now. We both know it. He’s not going anywhere right now. Okay?” Nat asked. Bucky sipped his coffee and shuffled his feet. He knew that she was right. He really did need a shower, and his neck ached from sleeping in the hospital chairs at odd hours while Steve had been unconscious.

“Yeah, yeah. I will. I just want to wait to say goodbye to him. I’m not just gonna take off like that,” Bucky replied. Nat nodded and then kissed his cheek.

“I’ll go get the car,” she said, and then walked back down the busy hallway and out of his sight.

It was another twenty minutes before the two nurses emerged from Steve’s room and told him that he could re-enter. When he walked back inside, he saw Steve staring down at his blanket. The look on his face made Bucky’s stomach clench unpleasantly.

“What’s up, baby?” Bucky asked, trying to lighten the mood. However the moment that Steve looked up, with tears in those baby blues, Bucky knew that nothing good was about to be said. Taking a deep breath, that miraculously didn’t quiver, Bucky sat at the edge of Steve’s bed and grabbed his hand in his own.

For a long time it was silent between them, as Steve breathed heavily, and Bucky attempted not to start crying himself. He knew that whatever Steve was gearing up to tell him was not good news, and he wanted to be strong for Steve.

“The doctor says… He told me… Oh god, Bucky,” Steve broke down, tears falling down his pale cheeks. Bucky’s heart flipped in his chest as he leaned in, and laid kisses on Steve’s forehead. The smaller boy’s thin arms coming up to loop around Bucky’s neck as he nuzzled in, and cried softly.

“It’s okay, baby. Stevie, I’m right here. We’re going to be alright,” Bucky tried to say, feeling a lump in his throat at the words. These were all empty promises for this sick boy that meant the world to him. Steve finally pulled back after a few moments, red rimmed eyes staring up at Bucky, and making him want to take the boy into his arms and whisk him away from all of this.

“They said I don’t have much longer,” Steve whispered finally.

Bucky felt as though he had been punched in the gut. His throat ran dry and his heart threatened to burst out of his chest in panic. He felt miles and miles away in that moment.

“Buck?” Steve’s small voice came through his panic, snapping him out of it slightly. Trying his best to put on a mask, Bucky climbed fully onto the bed again and drew the boy into the circle of his arms.

“We’re going to be okay, Stevie,” he said softly. Even to himself the words sounded hollow. But the way that Steve clung to him, shuddering with each breath, he prayed that the words held some kind of truth in them.

*^*^*^*

Steve stared straight at the wall, trying to will himself to calm down.

He had been on a knife’s edge ever since he’d learned from the doctors that he did not have much time left. He couldn’t bear to give Bucky all of the details that the doctors had. He didn’t want to see his face drain of color as he told him that the cancer had spread to inoperable places, and that from here on out it would just be a matter of Steve wasting away until he was nothing left. Until he disappeared forever.

The thought made tears sting in the corners of his eyes, but Steve swallowed heavily and tried to ignore them. Bucky had been so good about holding him while he’d been upset, but he could see the way the strain was weighing on Bucky’s shoulders as well.

There were dark circles under his eyes, and he barely left the hospital unless Nat forced him to go take a shower. Which is exactly where he was now. But he’d left with the promise of returning as soon as possible. The nurses had been especially lenient with him since the news of Steve’s condition had broke, and they let him stay the night in most cases. They didn’t even reprimand him when he crawled up onto the bed beside Steve so that he could hold him through the night.

Steve knew that there was nothing left to be done. They had tried all of their options. There were no more therapies, no more surgeries. Nothing could be done. And despite the fact that Steve had prided himself on never being one to give up his fight, he felt utterly hopeless.

He would die.

And life would go on without him.

Such an odd concept, really.

Would the world even realize that he was gone? Outside of Bucky and his circle of friends. Outside of Peggy. The world would keep moving, without realizing that someone had gone.

A soft knock on the door startled Steve out of his thoughts and he quickly brushed away his tears.

“Come in?” he called, and the door opened to reveal a man that he’d never seen before.

“Steven Rogers?” the man asked.

“Yes. Do I know you?” Steve asked, a bit on the defensive side as the man came further into the room and closed the door behind him. Steve felt panic rise in his chest as the man closed the blinds entirely on the window facing the hall. When he turned back to Steve, there was a soft, knowing look on his face.

“My name, is Doctor Erskine. I’d like to talk to you about something called Project Rebirth.”

 

Chapter Text

15.

Bucky’s phone ringing shrill in his ear was what woke him up. Frantically he snatched it off of the side table and answered the call.

“Your order at the florist is all set, and you can pick it up anytime after ten,” Nat’s soft voice filtered through the phone. Bucky cleared his throat, and blinked sleep heavy eyes.

“Thanks, Nat,” he murmured softly.

“You’re welcome, James,” she said, and then promptly hung up. Bucky sighed and put his phone back on his bed side table. Rolling onto his back he stared at the cold, empty side of his bed. A leather sketchbook the only object on the opposite table.

With heavy limbs, Bucky set about getting ready for his day. He showered and made a cup of coffee. He dressed in a pair of black jeans with a red t shirt and his leather jacket over it. After checking the apartment one last time, he grabbed his keys and made his way out into the drizzling June day.

It was chilly for summer, at least below sixty, and Bucky felt his heart thumping uncomfortably in his chest as he made his way down the sidewalk. He walked to the florist that Nat had ordered from and picked up a large bouquet of forget me nots and white lilies. Bucky tried not to dwell on the color for too long as he walked back onto the street and hailed a cab from the curb.

“Where to, son?” the man in the front seat asked.

“770 Riverside Drive,” Bucky replied.

“The Trinity Graveyard?” the man confirmed.

Bucky sighed and stared out the window at the rain. The world moving past him, completely unaware of what day it was.

“Yeah, that’s it,” Bucky said as the cab pulled away from the curb.

*^*^*^*

The drive was long and quiet, and Bucky paid the cabby with cash before getting out into the rain. Thankfully it wasn’t falling too hard, and there was no threat of it freezing over anymore. Eyeing the gates to the cemetery, Bucky took a deep calming breath before walking through the entrance.

He’d never thought that cemeteries were creepy. On the contrary, Bucky had always thought that they were peaceful places. A place to rest, and be content. He trudged along the muddy paths through the light rain, uncaring that his hair would most likely frizz since he hadn’t bothered to pull it up. After a few minutes of walking leisurely through the silent stone monuments and grave stones, Bucky found the one that he was looking for.

Light, white marble, shining and clean.

Bucky felt his throat tighten as he stared down at it, and held the flowers close to his chest. He was about to start crying, when a soft hand wrapped around his own flesh and blood hand.

He’d know that touch anywhere, and wasn’t surprised when a pair of baby blues peered up at him sadly.

“You alright, Buck?” Steve asked quietly. The boy’s short blonde hair barely covering his once bald head. But Bucky was sure that he’d never seen anything more beautiful than his baby standing next to him.

Bucky huffed and tried to clear his throat.

“I’ll be okay,” he said, turning his attention back to the gravestone. It was quiet for a long time between the two boys, but Steve never let go of his hand.

“They would have loved you, yah know,” Bucky murmured, jerking his head at the grave. Steve answered the comment with a small smile and a blush.

“You think so?” he asked.

“I know so. Who wouldn’t love a punk like you?” Bucky asked, attempting to make light of the situation. Staring down at the three names of his mother, father and sister on the grave, he knew that his words were the truth. They would have loved Steve because Bucky loved Steve.

Bucky leaned down to place the flowers he’d bought on the ground in front of the grave and Steve put down his own smaller bouquet of daisies. Bucky had mentioned once that those had been his sister’s favorites.

Standing back up, Bucky breathed in deeply a few times and tried to untangle the knot in his chest. Steve just stood beside him, squeezing his hand and offering him the support that he needed. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed before he looked over at his tiny boyfriend, and leaned down to brush his lips against Steve’s. The smaller boy hummed happily into the kiss, pushing one hand into Bucky’s unkempt hair and cupping his cheek with the other.

When Bucky pulled back with a soft grin, Steve returned it. The brunette slung his arm around the blonde’s waist and slowly turned them.

“Ready to go home?” Bucky asked.

“Yes,” Steve smiled blissfully. They walked back out of the graveyard in content silence, and once they were on the street, Steve suggested they walk for a bit.

“How was class?” Bucky asked.

“Miserable! You know I hate waking up that early. It’s no fun when I have to get out of bed before you,” Steve muttered unhappily. Bucky bit his lip to hide a smile.

“Me either baby, but you aren’t going to be a world famous comic book illustrator with that kind of attitude,” he smiled.

“It’s a good thing I enjoy what I’m doing, otherwise I’d just lay around in bed with you all day,” Steve huffed. Bucky only laughed and pulled his boyfriend closer, kissing the side of his head, and nuzzling the soft short hair on top.

It had been six months since Steve had been the test subject of Project Rebirth. At first Bucky had been adamantly against it. It was a governmental test therapy. A serum that had been designed to eradicate any cancer within the body, and repair it to it’s original state. He hadn’t been sure of the consequences, and no one could give him a straight answer that it would work. Of course, leave it to Steve to go behind Bucky’s back while he was at home showering and agreeing to the entire thing.

However, once he’d gotten done with the first three treatments over the course of three weeks, Steve’s doctors, (and Bucky), had been amazed to see that his cancer was receding entirely. The entire project ended with a final dose of the serum directly into Steve’s nervous system. Bucky had nearly been beside himself with worry while waiting for him to get out of surgery. But when he finally saw Steve laying on the recovery bed, talking to Dr. Erskine about the serum, he had a fleeting realization that everything would truly be okay.

A month later, and what Doctors across the country were now calling a medical miracle, Steve was entirely cancer free. Not to mention several of his other ailments had either diminished or disappeared entirely. Still, Bucky carried around several cases of Steve’s medication with him at all times, much to the annoyance of his boyfriend.

After two months of monitoring, Steve had been let out of the hospital entirely, and there had been no argument that he would be coming to live with Bucky in his apartment. He’d settled in perfectly, and had applied to Art School for some summer classes.

It was the happiest that Bucky had ever been.

He got to wake up with Steve in his arms. He got to see him laugh. He watched his hair grow back in. He saw him concentrate on a sketch as he sat on their couch all curled up. He got to spend every day with his best friend, comfortable with the knowledge that nothing would ever take him away. He would get to watch Steve grow old at his side, and make him smile everyday, until his face was full of laughter lines.

“Did you know I love you?” Bucky asked suddenly, stopping on the sidewalk and looking into Steve’s baby blues. The blonde boy merely laughed, and the sound made Bucky’s heart pound happily in his chest.

“Of course I know that, you jerk,” Steve said, the twinkle in his eye belaying any heat that could have been taken from the insult. Bucky merely rolled his eyes and leaned his forehead against Steve’s. Laying a gentle kiss on his warm, pink lips.

“Til’ the end of the line, punk,” he muttered against them.

“Always,” Steve replied.

And Bucky knew he was right.


The End.