Title: Never, Ever
Word Count: 5206
Warnings/Tags: Post-Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Spies & Secret Agents, Mission Fic, Bucky Barnes Recovering, Mental Health Issues, Pining, Angst, Misunderstandings, Vacation in Sunny Colombia, References to Drugs
Summary: "I didn't ask you for flowers," Bucky says, a few days after the not-fight.
Notes: For defcontwo and the steve/bucky springfling on tumblr. This is a really rough match to prompt #2 - a "Steve/Bucky falling in love story where they were never in love before or during the war." I think you may have intended something sweeter, and I apologize in advance! D:
Bucky dozes but doesn't sleep on the flight into Buenaventura. He's fucking exhausted, so tired he's dropping before they even cross the border, but he doesn't fall asleep.
The rhythms of dead-of-night infiltration are strangely soothing; his body recognizes these vibrations, the feel of the straps across his chest. He's swaddled in so many layers of flight and combat gear he might as well be in a sensory deprivation chamber, and his helmet completely cuts off his peripheral vision. Wedged into the corner like he is, the only thing to look at is the reflection of the instrument panel on the glass window. There's no chatter on the comms because they're not supposed to be anywhere near this patch of sky, and no chatter in the cockpit because he and Steve haven't spoken a civil word to each other in days; why start now? His hand keeps drifting down to a rifle case that isn't there, so he folds his arms across his chest and closes his eyes.
Bucky doesn't sleep, and jolts out of dozing when a burst of turbulence knocks Steve's shoulder into his. If Steve apologizes, it's lost in the wall of noise, but Bucky quickly hears a new note under the muffled drone of the engine. A glance at the window confirms it's raining, water lashing the helicopter in thick sheets as they spiral down into sprawling jungle.
The canopy hides a landing pad the size of a matchbox, and at Steve's brusque nod, the two of them jump the last fifteen feet or so to the ground. Their pilot is already pulling up as Bucky hits and rolls through the mud with his gear tucked to his chest. Through the downpour, he can barely make out a van parked at the treeline. It doesn't have its lights on, but the heat-sensing eyepiece built into his HUD picks out the cooling engine and one body with its feet on the dash.
Steve goes around the back and pulls the cargo bay door open, and from the front seat Natasha drawls, "¿Qué pasó, muchachos?"
She's wearing something in animal print that barely covers the essentials and gold stiletto heels. Normally Bucky would made a louche comment just to let her know he cares, but Steve's already climbing in. "Let's get rolling," he says curtly, hauling himself and two more bags of gear inside.
Bucky slams the door closed at just the right time to catch him in the ass, then jogs around to the front passenger seat while Steve curses under his breath in Bucky's earpiece. Natasha slants him an unreadable look as he slides inside the cab.
"Captain Asshole needs a nap," Bucky says in Russian, slouching down in the peeling leather seat. It stinks like cigarettes. "You know how old men get."
"Let's get to base, Widow," Steve snaps in English.
Natasha's still looking at him, so Bucky looks right back until she turns her attention to the windshield with a faint smirk. "Aye aye, Captain Asshole."
The engine starts with a hacking wet cough, and even though it's a long ride in the dark and quiet, Bucky doesn't sleep.
The first thing Steve says after Bucky asks him is, "What?"
"What?" is immediately followed by "I mean— you what?" and "Buck, I… I don't know what to say," and later, after the first paralyzing realization that Steve's trying to let him down easy passes and they're shouting and Bucky is so amazingly, viscerally pissed off he can feel it coiling hot and tight in every muscle he has, Steve yells, "Well, what the hell am I supposed to say? You were never— we never did before!"
Before, before, before. The forbidden word. Steve's almost as angry as Bucky, so he bites his lip but he doesn't try to take it back, spine straight, eyes all bright cobalt and flint. Bucky's a full nine-tenths of a person now but he still has trouble making eye contact, which Steve fucking knows, and he still stares him down. Bucky tastes copper and cordite but he holds that gaze as long as he can.
If it was a normal argument, they might have tossed each other around, busted a few walls in, left a couple shattered chairs and windows in their wake and ended up laughing about it. Instead, Bucky walks out of Steve's apartment holding onto himself like his body is a bomb, a mine just waiting for one unwary footstep, and he goes back to the soulless little room they gave him and he doesn't sleep and he doesn't sleep and he doesn't sleep.
The mission was a regular, run-of-the-mill intelligence op against narcotraffic and bandas criminals before it was the wisps and whispers of a Hydra cell. Natasha and her bastard partner have been on the ground for weeks, and they've set up shop in the single most conspicuous base of operations Bucky has ever seen. When they crest a hill and Natasha points it out, he thinks she's joking— but no, they've really claimed the top floor of an enormous apartment building on the beach that's easily the tallest thing for miles. "We're borrowing it from a target," Natasha says, van screaming down the side of the hill and whipping into Buenaventura proper.
A squalid tangle of streets and shantytowns line the mouth of the river, crowded up to the ocean like they've been washed in by the tide. Natasha navigates the narrow lanes at a speed that has Bucky clinging to the seat with his good hand, the air rushing through the cracked window tinged with salt and sun-baked garbage. The whole town smells like bilge water. The blind alley behind the building where she parks also smells like piss.
Natasha gets to stroll right in through the front door, while Bucky shoots out cameras and Steve twists off the safety bars on a basement window in the back. There are a lot of cameras, and once they get inside, a lot of stairs. It's humid enough to feel like they're breathing underwater, hot enough that they're sweating like pigs in the dark, airless stairwell, all twenty-six flights of it. Bucky's thinking pretty uncharitable things about Natalia Alianova by the time they make it up to the penthouse suite.
"The elevator was right there, boys," she says, draped against the open door in a pose worthy of Betty Grable. The dress is cheetah print, Bucky thinks. That or giraffe. "Right there."
"Too risky," Steve grunts at her, and what the hell, Rogers, you could have taken a vote or something. Bucky's goddamn tired, he would have fought off all the bacrim in this goddamn city for sixty seconds of not walking. Steve strides past her into the suite, and Natasha looks at Bucky with that same slight smirk before following. Great. Bucky's glad someone around here is having a good time.
"Oh, thank God," Barton says as Bucky comes in behind Steve, dropping down from a second-floor balcony into the foyer. Bucky almost shoots him in the face, but Steve already has an arm up to block his sightlines. It's a thoughtless, instinctive gesture, and as soon as Steve seems to realize he's doing it the arm drops back to his side, hand in a fist.
"Thank the blessed baby Jesus and all the saints, I'm so fucking sick of this place," Barton continues, oblivious or faking it well. "Tasha, please, can we leave now, say we can leave now, I need to leave now, please please please—"
"We're leaving," Natasha says to Steve and Bucky, and behind her Barton punches air. "Don't get comfortable. We'll use our covers to confirm the lead, and when we have actionable intelligence we'll call. Burner phones are on the table."
"MREs are in the third bathroom. Grocery deliveries are Wednesday," Barton adds. "You won't be here long enough to meet her, but Consuela's a sweetheart."
"Our host was never a good tipper," Natasha says, slipping briefly into a smoky Colombian accent, "but his new girlfriend and her security are. No other domestic staff."
"All the channels are in Spanish." Barton chucks the remote with the same incredible accuracy as always and Bucky catches it an inch from his nose, giving him a dark smile. Steve scowls at both of them.
"Don't leave the apartment until we call," Natasha says, slipping on a cropped leather jacket with three built-in knife sheaths that Bucky can see.
"For real," Barton says, eyeing their muddy gear as he pulls on his own coat. Bucky's already sweating through his tactical vest, how do they stand it? "You're a foot taller and five Pantone shades up from most of the population. Don't go outside."
"And don't use the washing machine," Natasha says. She slinks towards the door and Barton follows at a whistling amble, arm slipping around her waist. "I have something soaking."
"I didn't ask you for flowers," Bucky says, a few days after the not-fight.
On the weight bench next to him Steve goes rigid, the equivalent of a midsized sedan in ludicrously large plates held extended without apparent effort. Bucky keeps doing curls one-handed, because technically he's spotting Steve and the servos in his good arm don't need the workout.
"I didn't ask you to take me to dinner or serenade me in the street," he says. "I didn't ask for any of that. All I wanted was—"
"I know," Steve says, and instead of getting loud again he's very, very quiet. "I know you didn't."
"It doesn't have to be a big deal, Stevie," Bucky says, deliberately cruel to stop the words from coming out like a plea. "It's a new century, aren't you always telling me that?"
"I know," Steve says. "Buck, could you just— stop?"
He walks around for the rest of the day slightly hunched, like someone's snuck in a punch to his solar plexus and it hurts to move. Bucky gets really fucking sick of Steve and his winces and the way he won't touch Bucky, not even accidentally; the brush of their knees under the table turned suddenly fraught, the backslap that never connects, the way he leans away instead of towards him when they stand together.
Steve runs his laps twenty feet behind him, and Bucky doesn't sleep.
A week passes.
A week passes very, very slowly.
The penthouse is objectively a pretty good nest, if you don't mind being able to see into every corner from the main room. It's an airy, open space (a fishbowl, a panopticon), glass everywhere and stark white walls arching high over wide, low furniture. The white on white reminds him of something he doesn't actually remember, only feels the familiarity of like a high-pitched whine in his teeth. Bucky spends a lot of time sitting behind couches and anything that remotely resembles cover and cleaning his weapons. That, and staring at the burner phones on the kitchen table, willing them to ring.
Steve spends a lot of time wading determinedly through Gabriel Garcia Marquez in the original Spanish, holy shit Steve, and working out in the small personal gym they'd discovered on the first floor. He doesn't leave when Bucky joins him, but he looks pinched and tense the entire time. Bucky doesn't stop, because he finds it perversely enjoyable to know he's making Steve uncomfortable. Steve cooks, and makes enough for the two of them, and takes his plate into the living room and watches Canal Uno. Sometimes Bucky follows him. Sometimes he even eats.
Consuela is sweet. Bucky listens to Steve talk to her in halting, accented Spanish that gains more fluidity with every sentence, laughing at himself while the girl giggles. Bucky is tucked inside a tall alcove built into the wall, where Natasha's 'host' has propped an ugly sculpture and dusty fake plants. It's high off the ground and it's one of the few positions not immediately visible from the door, so Bucky's unsurprised to find candy bar wrappers and a box of nine-millimeter rounds behind the statue's plinth. Fucking Barton.
Steve talks to her for a long, long time, but when he shuts the door behind her, he pauses for a moment in the middle of the room.
Bucky debates answering, but after a few seconds and a noticeable uptick in Steve's breathing, he finally says, "Here."
Steve actually spins around and looks up at Bucky with something approaching his usual levels of relief, and pleasure, and a bit of wry amusement before his eyes shutter again.
"I'd appreciate it if— if you didn't," Steve starts, and doesn't finish. He walks off in the direction of the workout room. Bucky stays where he is, slowly tearing a Barrilete wrapper into tiny ribbons and thinking petty, murderous thoughts.
Steve eventually falls asleep on the couch with his head tipped back and his mouth wide open, plate slowly sliding off his leg until Bucky grabs it. Bucky stares at the ceiling of a million-dollar apartment on a druglord's thousand-dollar mattress and he can't fucking sleep.
"That's how it is? You wait until something bad happens, and then it's time to phone a friend?"
"He's talked to you," Bucky surmises, and Sam snorts into the phone.
"You might say that, yeah. Starting to feel like a helpline down here. What can I do for you today, Barnes?"
"Steve's an idiot," Bucky feels compelled to say. "I didn't mean— I don't know why he's doing this."
What he doesn't say and doesn't know how to articulate is that rejection is a wholly unfamiliar reaction on Steve's part. In Bucky's estimate, there are so many other terrible dark things he's done to deserve this, but Steve's never pushed him away for those. Just this. It doesn't make any sense.
"I'm not arguing with you there," Sam says. "But in my semi-professional opinion, it sounds like you two need to talk to each other, not me."
"If you're not going to help, I'm hanging up," Bucky warns him, and when Sam mutters something about mules, he does just that.
It rains for days, for eons, and the electricity cuts out every other afternoon in no discernable pattern. Bucky opens the windows that move and smashes the ones that don't to Steve's silent, brooding disapproval, and it still feels like trying to inhale through wet cotton. It's disgusting. Everything smells like salt and exhaust from the roads below them, and the heat even more than the not sleeping makes him lethargic and stupid and sticky. He hates being sticky. Bucky ties his hair up and shaves obsessively, and showers twice, sometimes three times a day.
He doesn't enjoy showers but baths are worse, far worse, even before the Potomac and the impossible strain of fighting against his own body weight and the weight of his soaked gear and Steve draped over back, when he couldn't keep both their faces above water at the same time and still swim so he just—
Showers it is. The water always starts out ice cold; you'd think a millionaire drug dealer would have a water heater that worked faster.
The lack of clean clothes is becoming a problem. Bucky goes to investigate the laundry room, and it's one thing to suspect their 'host' may have been disposed of, and another to find his liquefying corpse in a washing machine full of lye, Jesus, Natasha. Steve handwashes his clothes, even his combat uniform, and hangs them to drip-dry from a makeshift clothesline he's made from fishing line stretched across the living room. They sway in the breeze from the broken windows, and the constant movement out of the corner of his eye keeps Bucky so on edge he stabs a couple of undershirts. Steve asks Bucky to give him the knives once. Only once.
Even though the windows are open, they're too far up to hear the sea or traffic or shorebirds. The silence roars in his ears, fills up the careful space between them louder than the shouting, louder than gunfire, and Bucky doesn't sleep.
The plain truth is that Bucky Barnes, Steve's childhood friend, might not have been in love with Steve. He'll probably never know for sure. Bucky Barnes, Winter Soldier, wants him pretty damn badly and it felt like he could trust Steve with this, the way he's trusted him with everything else that makes him human and not a machine, not a trained animal or perfect weapon. It's not the only thing he's been wrong about, but nothing else has hurt in quite the same way.
Bucky is completely out of clothes he's willing to put on his body by the second week, so he digs through the aggressively-organized haute fashion that's hanging in their deceased druglord's closet and comes out with some tank tops, designer sweatpants and a very sharp-looking fedora. He's taking this one with him when he goes.
The druglord was five and a half feet tall at best (any more and he probably wouldn't have fit in the washing machine, unless the dryer is also being utilized. He'll check, later), so there's some skin showing between hems, but he's so miserably hot he doesn't care. The phrase high water pants floats in and out of his head, unconnected to any memory.
Unexpectedly, Steve hates it. Little Stevie Rogers never had any kind of fashion sense that Bucky remembers, which means nothing— but given Captain America's determined disdain for modern cuts and colors, Bucky highly doubts it.
It's a mystery, then, why Bucky rates a wide-eyed stare when he walks into the main room the morning of the eleventh day, stretching to work the kinks from his back from another night of not sleeping. Steve's face hardens into a stony expression as soon as he sees Bucky looking, and Bucky stops in his tracks. "What?" he asks him, wary.
Steve eyes drop to the side. "Nothing," he mutters, and heaves himself off the couch to pad towards the kitchen. "Breakfast?"
There's a mess of unfamiliar vegetables going soft and putrid in the refrigerator that neither of them knows what to do with. Bucky spends a long time staring at them anyway, enjoying the cold seeping into the air around him while Steve cracks eggs and puts bread in the toaster. They eat, and Steve starts taking his fucking laundry down from the clothesline, and Bucky drifts off towards the gym with the idea of seeing how many kettleballs he can put on his good arm before it starts to slow down.
Steve is, objectively, inside and out, in thought and word and deed, beautiful.
The man who goes by Bucky Barnes for lack of a better alternative is as much of a torn-up mess mentally as his body is physically, a patchwork tinman without a heart, or a brain or courage or fucking ruby slippers. It figures that as soon as he stops expecting him to, Steve would realize that and push him out.
Bucky gives up on sleep and haunts the apartment, easing from room to room as quietly as he can, and he watches the even rise and fall of Steve's chest in the dark until he feels calm enough to go back to his own bed and wait for morning.
Bucky's on his side on the couch, going back and forth between wrestling and some guy with blue hair on a kids show, when Steve breaks.
"Enough," comes in a burst from behind him, suddenly, and Bucky has his fingers on the hilt of the knife wedged between cushions and the blade half-drawn before his higher reasoning reengages and he can peel them off, one by one.
"I get it, okay? I get it," Steve says, and when Bucky turns to look up at him, he's glaring down at him with the oddest mixture of pain and frustration. "Give me your clothes, I'll wash them myself."
"What exactly do you get?" Bucky asks. "You don't have to wash jack. Actually, please stop washing things, it's really—"
"That's not what I— look, Bucky, I get that you're— that you've got a nice body," Steve stutters out while turning a splotchy tomato-red, tree-trunk arms folded defensively over his chest. "I get it, okay? So stop. Just stop."
"What?" Bucky says blankly. A nice body? He's scarred all to hell and has a huge metal prosthetic. He's more a war zone than a person.
"It's not fair and it's not… it's unkind," Steve says, and Bucky feels a little lightheaded with how quickly rage is rising in his throat.
"I'm hot, Steve," Bucky grinds out, and when Steve's mouth thins he adds, "I mean I am physically too warm, you ass. I'm not interested in wearing heavy gear in this heat, or doing my clothes up in the bathtub like you decided to. These are the only things I found that I can get on, so I'm wearing them. It's got nothing— less than nothing, to do with you and your fucking complex."
"My complex?" Steve growls, hands in angry fists at his sides, "you're the one who—"
"Did what?" Bucky snarls, sitting up. "All I did was tell you I—"
"You were my friend!" Steve says at the leading edge of a yell. "You were practically my brother! I can't just— you don't get to do this to me!"
Bucky gapes at him. "I— I can do whatever I fucking want," he says, stunned and trying not to show it. "And I don't need your approval or your permission, Jesus Christ, Steve." Bucky's spent months, literal months gathering up the scraps of his sense of self, and for Steve to come out now and say he can't have that? "You don't get to tell I can't love you, that's not how it fucking works!"
Steve stares down at him then, and it's like he's seeing a complete stranger. Steve has never, ever looked at him like that. Steve should never look at him like that, like he doesn't know who Bucky is, like he's never met him before in his life, he should never, ever—
The edges of Bucky's vision are warping and darkening, contrast of the room fading until all he sees is white on white. He tries to breathe through it, but it's overwhelming him faster than he can remember the calm, measured words of the endless parade of therapists they've forced down his throat.
"Bucky," Steve says helplessly, but now it sounds like a question, and no no no.
"Shut the fuck up," Bucky tells him, and shoves away from the couch because he'll be damned if he gives Steve the satisfaction of seeing him lose it. He staggers towards the room he's been sleeping in, the one with an attached bathroom suite. He's so tired. He's too warm. Sweat is beading at his hairline and getting in his eyes, making them sting.
Bucky doesn't answer, just pulls the door closed behind himself and tips the dresser in front of it. A crystal lamp shatters on the floor, and he ignores it. "Fuck," he mutters, "fuck, fuck, fuck," stripping as he walks, stepping into the bathtub and yanking viciously at the taps.
He sees the lever's still turned from bath faucet to shower head a split second too late.
Once, in the very early days when Bucky was still asset and Steve morphed unpredictably from friend to handler to TARGET and back again, there was a period when they weren't allowed to be in the same room, or make eye contact, or have any kind of contact at all. Steve sat outside the asset's cell, a very nice, sunny room in a building overlooking the sea of cranes and construction that was Manhattan. He talked to it, read to it, sometimes told it secrets and stories of things they had done together in another lifetime. He came every day. Like he was keeping vigil at a deathbed.
The asset didn't do a lot of talking then, mostly because it was waiting expectantly and even a little hopefully for a new mission objective. It was very eager to please. It was very good at what it did, which it earnestly assured Steve of. It had shaped the century, after all.
Steve had smiled at it, even then, and kept talking.
Is it any wonder Bucky's in love with him, really? That he'll never stop being grateful, even through this, even if they fall apart and Steve never talks to him again?
Bucky comes out of it in the very back of the walk-in closet, behind a neatly-hung row of slacks. His hair is wet and he's clutching a long piece of frosted glass, dark lines of dried blood on his fingers and forearm. His arms are around his knees, and his entire body is shaking.
"Bucky?" someone says, soft and entirely too close. Bucky's fingers spasm around the glass and it hurts, fuck, Bucky hissing between his teeth as it reopens the deep slices under his knuckles. He slowly opens his hand, letting it drop to the carpet with a few fresh drops of blood.
"Bucky? I'm right here."
'Right here' is on the other side of the narrow room, sitting with his back to the wall perpendicular to Bucky. His hands are in his lap, and his legs stretch out in front of him, crossed at the ankles. He's staring straight ahead, not looking at Bucky, and his expression is open and calm.
"Are you okay, Buck?" he asks, still gentle. "I saw some blood."
Bucky draws his legs up a little tighter, cradling his injured hand to his chest. "I'm fine."
"Okay." Steve's gaze drifts over to a point near Bucky's feet. "Do you… do you want me to go?"
Bucky weighs humiliation against relapse, and says, "No."
"Okay. I won't."
Bucky drops his face onto his knees. "Steve?"
"… tell me a story."
"Okay," Steve says. "I can do that."
The glass from the shower door is missing, along with the metal frame it hung in, when Bucky goes into the bathroom suite to clean his hand. Steve can't make the giant hole in the back tiles and the broken sink disappear so easily, but Bucky appreciates the thought.
Steve left the second Bucky told him to, and now he's on the couch, arm across the low back in subtle invitation. Bucky, dressed again and dry, sits next to him, and over the period of one telenovela eases closer until Steve's arm slips down and he pulls Bucky solidly against his side.
Bucky freezes. Steve freezes, then slowly begins to lift his arm away. "Sorry," he says. "Sorry, I shouldn't."
"No," Bucky decides. It feels cooler in the room than it has in days, and Steve's shoulder under his cheek is pleasantly warm instead of stifling. "It's okay." Bucky lets his own arm, his human arm, drop around Steve's waist. "Really."
Steve lets his arm rest along the lines of Bucky's hip. "Listen," he says eventually.
After he fails to elaborate on that, Bucky says, "Listening."
Steve is tensing up again, and Bucky's grip on his side tightens in reaction. "I think… I think I might have misunderstood," Steve says. He takes a deep breath that makes his chest rise and fall under Bucky's head. "I might have thought you meant something else. When you said… well. I'm not interested in that— just that."
"Just… what?" Bucky says, staring at the television. His pulse is doing slow rolling knocks in his throat, and in contrast, he can hear Steve's heart beating rabbit-quick under his ear.
"More than just a quick, uh, ride," Steve says, shifting in place. "Listen, I don't think it'd be enough, the way I feel about you. And it seemed like, when you said it… I couldn't tell. I just didn't know if you felt the same." He sighs. "And I didn't even ask you. I've been such a fat-head, Bucky."
Bucky turns his head so that his chin digs into Steve's pectoral. "You think you don't mean something to me?" he asks. The idea is ludicrous. "Steve. You moron."
"I mean… this entire time. You're a goddamn moron."
"I know, and I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. You're not who you were," Steve says doggedly, other arm slipping around Bucky to hold him braced against his chest. "And sometimes I have trouble— I'll have trouble remembering that." He squeezes. "I'll try my best, I promise."
"But you want this," Bucky persists, reaching up to touch his jaw. "You want me."
This close, there's really no way Steve can hide his face, but he tries. "So bad, Buck," he mumbles, pink creeping in from his ears to his cheeks. "You don't know how bad. And you… you still want me? Even though I'm a moron?"
Steve is a stupidly bad kisser. Bucky doesn't know what he was expecting, but it wasn't that; what has this guy been doing with his life?
Luckily, he's also a very fast learner, and as it turns out, Bucky's not an awful teacher.
Barton tries to sneak into the apartment via the broken windows the fourth day of their third week. Bucky holds him down by the throat and waits until he stops kicking while Steve wastes valuable time and energy stuttering out excuses and rushing around trying to find a pair of pants they haven't torn.
"Hi," Barton croaks when Bucky lets up a little. "I guess you guys had fun?"
"Is that a mustache," Bucky says flatly. "Who told you that was a good idea."
"I think it looks nice!" Barton coughs out, both hands around Bucky's wrist. "Dapper, even. Also, our extraction team and the cleanup crew should be landing on the roof in— three and a half minutes?"
"What?" Steve yelps, and runs to the bedroom with the sheet around his waist flapping in the breeze. Bucky notes with satisfaction that the hickies from their last round are still smudged all over his collar and neck. And thighs. And ass.
Under his hand, Barton makes a choking sound. "Holy crap, you animal."
"Sam owes me fifty bucks," Natasha says, all feline amusement. "You might want to put something on as well. Just a suggestion."
Bucky looks down at himself, thumbing a still-warm bruise at the cut of his hip. "If you think so."
Bucky falls asleep two minutes into the ride out of Buenaventura and snores into Steve's collarbone for the next five hours, the illicit photos of which Natasha will show him only at a much later date. He briefly wakes up enough to be led out of the helicopter and down into a car, and after that only surfaces when Steve picks him up like a child and carries him inside. He'd protest, but it feels so damn good.
"Mngh?" he comments as they enter the elevator.
"Shhhhh," Steve whispers, and then there's a big soft bed with cool sheets and Steve's warm bulk easing in behind him, slightly hesitant until Bucky presses the whole of his back into him and sighs in bliss.
"Love you," he mumbles. "Moron."
Steve kisses the back of his neck. "Love you. Go back to sleep."
Bucky sleeps, and doesn't dream.
1. bandas criminales / bacrim are a thing; go google it since STILL DOES NOT ALLOW LINKS, really now
2. panopticon - I guess you'll have to google that too
3. Betty Grable - a pin-up star from the 1940s. Great victory curls and long-ass legs