Accepting The Inevitable

Bucky shivered as Steve placed a hand on his arm, part of him wishing he'd had time to put on a shirt before Steve had cornered him outside the showers. The other part knew this talk was inevitable, and no amount of clothing – or other flimsy barricades between him and Steve – would stop its happening.

"Bucky," Steve said, that softly warm voice of his sending tingles down his spine, the way it always had, oh-so-long ago.

Fury called him Barnes. Sharon and Sam called him James. Most everyone else, including those 'Young Avengers' kids, referred to him as Winter Solider; if anyone ever called him Bucky, it was only because they didn't know what else to call him. "You're the only one who still calls me that, y'know," Bucky said. Called him that and meant it. He wasn't sure if he even still thought of himself as Bucky; only knew that he wasn't…anymore.

"You'll always be Bucky to me," Steve said ruefully, his hand massaging up and down his good arm.

Bucky took it as a promise. "I'm not him anymore, though." He shifted a bit so Steve's hand would stroke across his elbow, wondering if Steve would remember…

Steve's smile was a bit sad, but also serious. "I know," he said, fingers dancing across the hollow next to Bucky's elbow. The one that always made him moan.

Bucky had learned how to be quiet, though. A tight burst of heat settled into his stomach, blooming a bit with each pass of Steve's fingers. It had been so long… Longer even than he could remember. "Steve…" He swallowed hard, voice strangling in his throat.

"Bucky…" Steve moved closer until he was crowding him against the wall. It was so like when they'd been back at Lehigh, having to hide, be quiet inside corners of the barracks. But so different too, than all those years ago.

For once thing, Steve was only half a head taller than him, now. And neither of them were kids anymore, as attested to by rising lumps inside their pants that were scant millimeters apart.

Bucky, shamefully, still found himself as nervous as he had been back then. He wasn't who he had been; Steve didn't even know the half of what he'd done, no matter that he'd been made to do most of it. Steve wanted someone who didn't exist, and Bucky was so afraid he wouldn't want who he was. "Steve…" He licked dry lips, found himself flushing when the move caught Steve's attention. "I don't– I haven't–" He flushed darker and looked away. Odd how he should be ashamed of not having taken another lover since Steve, except Steve, when he wouldn't have wanted anyone else.

When he didn't want anyone else.

Steve couldn't say the same, he knew, and the flush that colored his own cheeks reminded Bucky of when their experiences had all been the same. "It's okay," he said softly, reassuringly. "I still…" His eyes flicked away, then resolutely back to hold Bucky's gaze. "I've missed you, so much, Bucky. I just want…" His other hand came up to rest on Bucky's other arm.

Bucky reflexively jerked. Steve shouldn't be holding onto his cybernetic arm. Steve was too good to be touching something that…wasn't.

But Steve just continued looking at him implacably, as if he didn't see anything wrong with what he was doing. And Bucky was still conditioned to following Steve's lead on what was good and bad. That's why he was here, in this shitty safehouse, hiding from Star and his Registration crap. "You shouldn't–" he still tried to dissuade his friend. His friend, his brother, his partner, his lover, his…family.

"When it comes to you, there's very few things I shouldn't," Steve replied.

Bucky didn't quite get it. "Steve, I'm not…" He swallowed, cleared his throat, prepared to lay it straight out. "I'm not who you think I am. Not anymore."

Steve's eyes were sad, but his gaze was firm – as was his grip. On both of his arms. "I know that you're James Buchanan Barnes. And you will always be my partner. And…I want to know all of you." His ice blues eyes bored into Bucky's with all due seriousness. "Will you let me?"

Swallowing down so many emotions he couldn't name half of them, Bucky inclined his head in a nod. "You never even have to ask," he said, feelings tears prick his eyes and clog his throat. Bucky hadn't known until then just how much he'd missed Steve's unique brand of acceptance.

And how much he'd needed it.

But the fact that he was getting it…well, that was just as inevitable as the gentle kiss Steve pressed to his lips, one soft and indescribably sweet…and good. Like it always was, between them.