Title: (I Can't Let This Go) I'm On My Way
Word Count: 4274
Warnings/Tags: Post-Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Amusement Parks, Coney Island, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - PTSD, Service Dogs, Fluff and Humor, Surprise Kissing, First Kiss
Notes: For the steve/bucky springfling on tumblr. Prompts: 1. Bucky trying to find himself again. Recovering. 2. Bucky gets/ has a service dog. 3. Steve and Bucky go to Coney Island, sweet, romantic and fluffy- maybe a little angst.
"This is what you wanted to show me," Bucky says, looking out the car window.
It's not a question, and utterly without inflection, but Steve rubs sweaty palms on his jeans and answers anyway. "Well, yeah. Good old Coney. I mean, it's different— they moved the aquarium out here, and added a couple things. But it's still..."
He trails off, and Bucky keeps looking out the window. The engine ticks as it cools and the air in the car starts to warm, the unseasonably hot spring day battling back the air conditioning. Steve swallows, and keeps the keys in the ignition.
"Do you, uh… d'you want to go in?" he asks. Jeez, he's nervous. He doesn't think he's been this nervous since 1940 and asking Mary Margaret to come dancing, standing out on her stoop with all her brothers and sisters watching and Bucky egging him on from under the stairs. She'd turned him down in front of God and country and even slammed the door in his face.
Steve really, really hopes Bucky's not about to slam the door in his face.
Outwardly, nothing in Bucky's posture changes, but there's a soft whuff from the backseat and Pyshka is nudging her nose under his metal arm, as much as she can while still strapped into her harness. Bucky reaches back to pet her muzzle.
"Sure," he says, still looking out the window. "Let's go."
"Yeah?" Steve says, fighting not to smile too big.
Bucky gives him bland look over his shoulder and opens his door.
When Steve comes around the car, Pyshka is already sitting on the hot asphalt and waiting patiently for Bucky to secure her vest, a flat blue against her golden coat. Her leash says SERVICE DOG DO NOT PET in big block letters for people who can't figure out what the vest means.
"I was thinking," Steve says, looking past the parking lot to the sinuous curves of the Cyclone.
"You were thinking," Bucky repeats, straightening up. A gentle tug brings Pyshka to heal, her gaze fixed unwaveringly on his face. "You want to ride that damn thing again?"
"Well, maybe not," Steve admits. "I don't know if you remember, but—"
"Oh, I remember, Mr. Conquer Your Fears," Bucky says. "Didn't matter if you puked every damn time, we still had to go. You're a goddamn lemming, Steve."
"I didn't puke every time," Steve mumbles, and Bucky points at him.
"That. That's what I'm talking about. If I get a say—"
"Yeah, of course," Steve says a little too quickly. "Anything you want."
"Alright. No Cyclone." Bucky clucks his tongue and starts walking, Pyshka leaping up to follow. "You want to ride something, find one that can fit all three of us."
Coney is smaller than Steve remembers, no more tigers or sailors or pin-head people, and the signs look tawdry next to the 21st-century sleekness Steve's mostly gotten used to. The sand in every crevice of the boardwalk is the same, though, and it smells like he remembers— popcorn and sweet cherry soda, and under it all the salt-stain of the sea. There are kids running around everywhere, shrieking and laughing at the top of their lungs, and he remembers that too. The dames, they're just— well. Maybe that's something he'll never get used to.
Bucky walks patiently in step with Steve, gaze cool and quietly accessing as they navigate through the crowds and brightly-colored rides, most of them for children. People are packed in pretty tight, but Pyshka walks on his other side, and between her and Steve nobody so much as jostles Bucky.
"You remember the Wonder Wheel?" Steve asks, after a few fruitless minutes. "We can get a better view of what's all here if we go for a ride."
"Sure thing," Bucky says, and smiles a little when Steve squints at him. "What?"
"Nothing," Steve sighs. Even if Bucky is just humoring him and his dumb ideas, at least he's here. At least he got out of the car.
The line for the Wonder Wheel is long, and the wait really isn't worth it. The basket is so small now that Steve's knees have to fit around Bucky's, Pyshka allowed to perch on the seat beside him. Someone's left a half-eaten candy bar on the floor under Steve's shoe, and the seat is sticky with God knows what. The whole basket groans as they settle in, the weight skewed decidedly towards Bucky's side. The operator looks on with fresh alarm, but Steve smiles brightly at her and says, "Thank you, ma'am." Politeness will get you everything, his ma used to say, and it gets the operator to close the door with an oddly dazed-looking smile of her own.
Upwards they creep, with shrill metal squeals and the suddenly louder cry of seagulls. The sky is mostly overcast, sun breaking through clouds in unpredictable lances of gold. Bucky seems at ease, hand moving slowly over Pyshka's silky head, but Steve honestly can't tell if he's enjoying himself at all.
"Hey," Bucky says when he catches Steve looking at him. "Aren't you supposed to be finding our next ride, Rogers?"
"Right! There's, uh…"
Steve leans in his seat to scan the ground, but there's really nothing to see. At least nothing that's dog friendly, although—
"What do you think about the carousel?" he asks and points.
Bucky doesn't follow his finger. His expression is mostly blank, though Steve thinks he sees a little amusement. "You want to ride the carousel with me, Steve?"
What Steve really wants to do is draw that little curl of Bucky's mouth in charcoal, but the carousel too. "Well, why not? You used to like the carousel. We were—"
"—knights. Pirates sometimes," Bucky finishes. "You always picked the ugliest fish-monster to ride. I had nightmares about that thing."
Steve thinks the expression on his face is probably kind of goofy, but Bucky doesn't look all that annoyed.
"Let's go ride the carousel, Stevie," he says, nudging Steve's knee with his own. "I get the white horse."
"You always did," Steve says.
There's a smaller ratio of kids on the carousel than Steve thought there would be, so they don't look too odd— with the exception of Pyshka, who rides on the back of Bucky's horse with an air of general resignation. Bucky kind of breaks the horse, which bobs up and down to groans of straining metal and lists sideways after he dismounts.
"Oops," Bucky says disingenuously.
"We should maybe," Steve nods meaningfully in the direction of the game stalls.
"Right," Bucky says, and they stroll off at a leisurely pace until they can turn the corner and the carousel is out of sight.
"Sooo. Anything else you want to try?" Bucky says, knocking their shoulders together. He's definitely making fun of Steve now.
Steve sighs, looking around. Coney Island is definitely smaller. He's going to ask Google about this as soon as he gets home. "Uh. Maybe they still have the bumper cars?"
"I got a suggestion," Bucky says, slowing to a stop next to one stall. It's a ring toss, rows of stuffed animals on shelves beyond the targets, and at the very top is— "That elephant. Get it for me."
The stuffed animal in question is pink, about as big as Pyshka, and is wearing a black satin bowtie. Steve squints at it, almost unable to believe they could be handing out something so ugly as a prize. "That one?"
Steve looks at the rings, and the bottles ten feet away. "I don't know, Buck. Wouldn't this be cheating?"
"Steve," Bucky drawls, tilting his head, "are you telling me you can't?"
Steve throws rings at bottles for at least twenty minutes. The first thing he wins is a dapper blue penguin, small enough for Bucky to tuck in the crook of his arm while he leans on the counter and watches Steve try and try and try to do better. The rest of the toys he wins get distributed to small children as they pass, but the penguin stays, right until the hovering stall owner suddenly declares it closed and pulls down the metal bars on Steve's affronted face.
"This game is rigged!" he calls after him.
Beside him, Bucky shrugs, crouched down to show Pyshka the penguin. "They're all rigged, Steve."
"I can get the elephant," Steve says stubbornly, still glaring at the bottles. "He's just going to lunch or something, and when he gets back I'll get it. It's harder to get the angles right with plastic, but I—"
"Speaking of lunch," Bucky says with a meaningful nod in the direction of the food stalls. "That Polish guy's place is still running."
Steve is kind of hungry, but— "Are you sure? I thought you wanted the elephant."
"I'm good with this little guy," Bucky says, as Pyshka thoroughly investigates the penguin with her nose. "Buy me a hotdog, Steve. And some water for Pyshka, she'll be thirsty by now."
Steve gets six hotdogs total, chili and onion and homemade mustard mounded two inches tall on the bun, and surveys the crowded picnic tables with deep misgiving. "I think we can bring it on the beach, s'long as we don't litter."
"Lead the way, captain," Bucky says, toasting him with a cherry icee.
Steve immediately regrets not taking his shoes off as they fill up with sand, but they plod along the beach to a clear spot and Pyshka waits patiently for water with her head on Bucky's lap while he swears and wrestles his longsleeve shirt most of the way off. He leaves on the sleeve covering his metal arm.
"Won't it get hot?" Steve asks, in the process of rolling up his pants. He's already taken off his socks and shoes.
"The trouble is getting it warm at all," Bucky says, rotating his metal wrist. "There, now I'm not sweating like a pig. Gimme one of those."
Steve eats two hotdogs and stealthily feeds the rest to Bucky while he's distracted with rolling up his own pants and getting Pyshka's water sorted, carefully replacing the red striped container each time he finishes one. Steve swears Bucky never eats enough, even when it's something as good as a Nathan's dog. Bucky only notices around the middle of the fourth, and then he glares and pushes it back at Steve. He's got chili all over his face, so the glare doesn't pack the potency it normally would. Steve's sketchbook is burning a hole in his back pocket.
Done with her water, Pyshka starts edging towards the half-eat hotdog with studied innocence in every movement, and when he's sure Bucky's not looking, Steve nudges the container closer to her.
"Rogers," Bucky says, without looking up from rescrewing the bottle cap, "I know you're not about to let my dog eat onions."
"That's… bad?" Steve hazards.
Bucky turns to scowl at him. "Worse than chocolate, even. Pyshka!"
Pyshka gives Steve a soulful look, but slinks back to lie on Bucky's leg. Steve finishes the hotdog himself, and jogs over to an oil-drum garbage can with their paper plates and used napkins.
Neither of them like swimming that much, so they stay up on the beach and talk while tossing a small stick around for Pyshka. She retrieves them at the same sedate pace she does everything, and eventually just rolls over onto her back and refuses to get up again.
It isn't so bad, Steve thinks, leaning back on his hands and looking out at the ocean. Bucky looks as relaxed as he ever gets, lying on his side next to Pyshka and rubbing a hand up her belly. Sure, Coney was mostly a dud, which Steve would have realized if he's given it any kind of thought beforehand, but just sitting here in the intermittent sunshine and listening to the waves is pretty nice. Now, if he can just get his sketchbook out without catching Bucky's attention...
Two minutes later, it starts to rain.
"Oh— for Pete's sake," Steve says, rolling to his feet.
Bucky starts to laugh, face half-buried in the ruff of Pyshka's neck. "I can't believe they let you lead troops. I tell them over and over again you can't plan your way out of a wet paper bag and no one believes me—"
"You're a real jerk, you know, Barnes?" Steve says, reaching down and hauling him to his feet so they can make a break for the boardwalk. "I make great plans, it's in the song and everything."
"You make great improvisations, at a thousand feet and dropping," Bucky corrects, shoving wet hair out of his eyes as he runs, Pyshka gamboling along beside him. "Plans, no. You better have a towel in the car or you're going to be smelling wet dog forever."
Because Steve is a great planner, thank you very much Bucky Barnes, he does have a mostly-clean towel in the trunk, and Bucky uses it on his hair before laying it out on the backseat for Pyshka. He tells her very firmly not to shake, and Steve's never seen such a pitiful look from an animal in his life. Steve sets his shoes in the footwell and lets the worsening rain wash the sand off his feet.
"I guess we can head home?" he says, after a bit. The sky is a solid gunmetal gray in the west, and faraway thunder rumbles.
"It's barely three o'clock."
Steve gives Bucky a look that's probably just as pitiful as Pyshka's, and Bucky rolls his eyes. "God Almighty. Pull your giant feet back in the car and take us to Neptune. I'll tell you where to turn."
They don't go far, just a couple streets to the east. Steve peers curiously through the rain at the small storefronts and says, "Hey, isn't this where all the Jewish kids were from?"
"Not anymore," Bucky says. "Or not just them. Pull over here, we can get umbrellas at the apteka."
The 'apteka' turns out to be a pharmacy of sorts with Cyrillic lettering across the window. Bucky is chatty with the man behind the cashier's station in a way he almost never is, fast-flowing Russian going quicker than Steve can follow, and then they're back outside and walking under the B and Q trains. It's raining so hard the water pours down from the tracks in streams, flooding into the street below. If Steve's shoes weren't wet before, they definitely are now.
Bucky leads him down the street a ways and up to a door under a dingy, unmarked awning. He snaps his bright red umbrella closed and looks pointedly at Steve. "Having them open inside is bad luck."
Having them open inside would be impossible, because Bucky is pulling him into a bookstore with aisles so narrow Steve would have to turn sideways and edge through that way. Bucky somehow manages just fine, after tucking Pyshka's leash into Steve's hand and saying, "Stay. Good boy."
Books are stacked on the floor and the tops of the shelves to nearly the ceiling, leaning companionably against each other and the occasional small bust— mostly Lenin, with varying amounts of hair. The vanilla-sweet smell of old papers is strong, and though his vision is keen enough now to see them from the door, Steve can't read a single title to save his life. It's not all Russian, either— some of it is Polish, he thinks, and Yiddish, and Hebrew.
Bucky steps between piles without a sound, running his eyes and slow fingertips over worn spines and Steve watches, wondering if he can sneak his sketchbook out of his back pocket without him noticing, and eventually he pulls out a brittle, dog-eared copy of something with waiflike girls standing in a river on the cover.
"Buy me this one," Bucky says, sauntering back to Steve and tapping it on his chest.
"You're awfully bossy today," Steve says, but he's smiling as he carefully takes the old book and brings it to an ancient man napping upright in a chair, presumably the shop owner by virtue of the lockbox tucked under his legs. He won't part with the river waifs for less than two dollars; books are so expensive these days, even the old ones.
Bucky carries the book close to his chest, in a brown paper bag with a stamped logo on it. It makes juggling the dog leash and an umbrella practically impossible, so Steve puts his umbrella over all three of them and resigns himself to a cold, wet shoulder.
They go up the street, past more aptekas and fruit grocers and strange clothing shops with names like EURO MODA. Steve is admittedly unfamiliar with this part of town, but Bucky seems to know right where he's heading.
The cafe Bucky stops at is on the corner of two residential streets, and has a few outside tables drowning in rainwater. Bucky weaves easily between them. Steve trips over one of the wrought-iron legs and almost falls on his face.
Inside, the smell of fried food is strong enough to cut into and eat, and the tiny tables are surprisingly crowded. The signboard on the wall has three things scrawled in chalk: the word ПЫШКИ, below it $1 / 3, andnext to that, $2 coffEE or tEa. Beneath it is a large hot drink dispenser and a glass-faced cooler full of unfamiliar soft drinks. The line moves briskly and seems to speak exclusively Russian, and Steve has just started to worry about how he's going to order from the sour-faced women behind the counter when Bucky nudges him out of the way and says a total of two curt words. The women open the cash register, he hands them money, and he and Steve walk away from the counter with no further conversation.
"Go sit down or we'll never get a seat," Bucky orders, and really, they're all full, but Steve and Pyshka lurk awkwardly in a corner before they manage to snag one from a departing couple. The tabletop is laminated in an awful green and white marble pattern, and the napkin holder has the Pepsi logo on it.
Pyshka allows Steve to pet her ears while they wait for Bucky, and Steve stares up at the board and tries to sound out the Cyrillic. "You speak Russian, right, girl?" he asks her. "What's it means when I say p… pwi… pwishi. Pwishki?"
"Pyshki," Bucky says, dropping a plate in front of him. It's the same durable plastic they used to use for meal trays and clatters a little on impact. "Plural of pyshka. And your accent is still terrible, it's more of an aue sound."
Under the table, Pyshka's tail is swinging at the speed of a lazy clockhand. Over the table, Steve stares at Bucky in confusion. "And pyshka means…?
"What you're about to eat," Bucky says, pointing at the plate.
Dusted with powdered sugar, a heaping pile of fried dough rings beckon. Steve takes one between two fingers, still hot from the fryer, and holds it up between them.
"Buck," he says very seriously, "are you telling me you named your dog Doughnut?"
"No," Bucky says, stealing what is definitely a weird Russian-style doughnut from Steve's plate. "No, I fucking did not. Natasha named my dog Doughnut, and one day I'll get her back so good she'll never sleep again. Also, it's not a doughnut. It's pyshki. Eat."
The pyshka is good, warm and melting in his mouth like lard beat out flour as its major ingredient. Steve sucks his fingers clean and goes for a second, only to have Bucky nab three in one go out from under him.
"Hey, I thought we were sharing!"
"You eat too slow," Bucky says, tugging the plate closer to himself. "Go get more if you want. And get me coffee while you're up."
Bucky's opened his book and is reading by the time Steve makes it all the way through the line again and back. He grunts in thanks as Steve nudges the plastic coffee cup into his hand, and lifts it to take a noisy sip. Steve follows suit.
"Jeez, that's sweet," he says, smacking his lips. "And strong. Did they use instant?"
"Only way they do it," Bucky says, looking up. "You okay if we sit here for a while?"
They're wedged in a corner where Bucky can see the whole room, and anyone would have to go through Steve to get to him. Win-win. Plus, the pyshki are really good. "Yeah, I'm fine. I've got my sketchbook."
Bucky's eyes drop back to the page, and he pats around on the table until Steve pushes the second plate of pyshki under his fingers, and takes two more. "You can draw me, if you gotta," he mutters around them. "I don't care."
Steve, who's already planning on how he's going to best capture the curls developing in Bucky's damp hair, bites his lip and says, "Yeah, okay."
A few minutes later, Bucky says, "Stop feeding my dog pyshki, Steve. It's cannibalism."
It's dark by the time they leave, rain falling harder than ever and the streets reflecting the city in neon and black. Pyshka curls up on her towel and Bucky cranks up the heater, and Steve starts to navigate back to Coney so he has a prayer of finding Ocean Parkway, and by extension Manhattan.
The heat makes Steve a little sleepy, and maybe Bucky too. They don't say anything on the drive into downtown, and even Pyshka starts in with wispy dog snores. Steve's yawning as he drives into their underground parking garage and slides into a spot next to Natasha's frankly terrifying sportscar.
Steve's expecting to come in and maybe watch a movie at Bucky's place, but Bucky stops just at the threshold of his apartment and turns to him. Steve, caught by surprise, is a little closer than he meant to be, but when he goes to step back Bucky touches his arm.
"Thanks for today," Bucky says. Pyshka noses past his legs and ambles towards the kitchen, trailing her leash. "I had a good time."
"You did?" Steve says. "I mean, uh, I'm glad you did. I am sorry about Coney, though, I really thought it'd be more fun."
"Still," Bucky says, and his hand is trailing up the back of Steve's arm and it's giving Steve goosebumps. "I'd like to do it again some time."
"Well, sure," Steve says, thoroughly confused. "Anytime you want to, let me know."
Bucky blinks, and gives him the wry, patient look he uses when Steve is missing something big, but for the life of him Steve has no idea what it is. Is Bucky expecting him to say something? Make a suggestion for where they can go next? They didn't get to the aquarium today, so there's a possibility, and the beach again if Steve remembers to check the dang weather—
While Steve wracks his brain, Bucky leans in and kisses him.
It's firm and brief, Bucky's mouth pressed to his so that Steve's bottom lip is briefly caught between Bucky's lips and licked. The soft-slick warmth of it shoots through Steve in a stinging rush of heat, low in his belly and crackling up his spine until he feels it tingling in his fingers, even. Bucky is kissing him, Bucky is kissing him, and Steve can feel the rasp of his stubble against his chin and then Bucky breathes out slow and it's, he's, wow.
Bucky draws away, but he has a hand cupping the back of Steve's head, and the feeling of nails scratching lightly through his hair is good too, even better when Bucky's thumb rubs along the bone of his skull. Steve leans into it and Bucky chuckles, a lopsided grin slanting across his face when Steve opens his eyes.
"Night, Steve," he says a little hoarsely.
"Night," Steve sighs into Bucky's palm, then staggers forward as Bucky pulls away. "Wait, what? Bucky!"
Steve puts a hand out as Bucky starts to close the door, and Bucky shakes his head and makes a shooing motion, even though his cheeks are bright red.
"Nosiree. Off to your own apartment," he says.
"But," Steve licks his lips, and it's not nearly as good as Bucky doing it, why is that? "But you—"
Bucky starts laughing, cocking a hip to lean against the doorframe. God, Steve has never wanted to draw someone so much in his whole life, all the creases around his eyes and the way his face rounds and his nose scrunches and the flash of his teeth between pink lips. Lips Steve could be kissing right now.
"What kind of girl do you think I am?" Bucky half-laughs. "I'm not about to invite a boy back to my place on the first date."
"Oh," Steve says, and as the implications hit him, "oh!"
"Seriously, Stevie, I have no idea why they even let you have a gun," Bucky says. "I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
"O… okay," Steve says dazedly, and Bucky gives him one last look that from anybody else would be bedroom eyes, except Bucky's closing the door and Steve's still standing on the outside with nothing but a stupid smile growing on his face and a cheap umbrella looped around his wrist.
Inside the apartment, Bucky starts whistling the opening bars of A Boy in Khaki, A Girl in Lace.
Steve steps away and lets the melody and the feeling carry him all the way to his own door and his own bed, warm and solid and throbbing in his chest like a second heartbeat.
notes, so many notes:
1. Google Coney Island in the 1940s, it's so nostalgic
2. Title from Good Old War's Coney Island
3. If you're ever in St. Petersburg (Russia), do me a favor and go see if the пышка place is still open.
4. Go find "A Boy in Khaki, A Girl in Lace" on youtube and awwww
5. Pyshka is probably a borzoi