"I'll be your hero who's standing strong
Who protects you from any fight
And if your battles are piling on
I will take them on with all my might."
Things Bucky thinks about when he's lying awake at night, pretending to sleep:
His last few minutes as Bucky Barnes, his arm outstretched and his best friend's panicked face swimming in his vision.
The bone-deep cold that drove out all other thought except for the agony in what was left of his arm.
Opening his eyes and not being Bucky anymore, not being a sergeant or Steve's friend or a kid from Brooklyn, not being anything that he once identified as, just a shell of a person, with a purpose and a weapon and shinier arm that couldn't feel.
And then waking up, actually waking up – with Steve's hand at his throat, Steve's eyes so blue and anxious just inches from his, the smell of Steve, the memories of Steve, the feelings, everything that were suddenly there again. They told him it had been seventy years. Seventy years, and yet he could remember everything about Steve like it was yesterday.
The fact that Steve's room was just down the hall from his, so close he could almost hear him wheezing and coughing. Which was ridiculously anyway, as Steve no longer suffered from asthma and all the other ailments that once made Bucky so overprotective of his friend. But still, he thought about it, and he worried, and he wanted, but he buried those feelings deep down inside like he's gotten so good at doing.
Things Steve thinks about when he's lying awake at night, pretending to sleep:
All his failures, all his mistakes, all the different ways he could have saved Bucky and made things different. It wasn't that he wasn't fast enough or strong enough, the serum had given him that. So why, why had he let Bucky fall? If he was half the man Erskine seemed to think he was, he would have been able to save him. Save him from – Steve cringes away from imagining the seventy years Bucky lived without him, all that he had to do, to become.
Being numb. He thinks about being numb long after he stops feeling it. He remembers watching Bucky fall and feeling that stab of pain before losing all feeling. His mind disengaging, his hurt ceasing. It was something no amount of supersoldier serum could heal. He went through the motions of his life, doing what America needed him to do, but it was almost a relief that night he had to bring the plane down. At that point he just wanted it to end. Maybe it stemmed from being a "Capsicle"- in Tony's eloquent words- but to this day he absolutely loathes the feeling of not feeling.
More than anything else though, he thinks about the day they found Bucky. That was the day the haze lifted and he could feel his heart bleeding again. Relief, fear, pain, guilt, and grief – things Steve had never really gotten back, even after waking up in a whole new century, things that were finally real again. So real he choked on his own sobs as disarmed the Winter Soldier with one sweep of his arm and pinned him by the throat to the cement wall. And when the Winter Soldier's eyes softened with recognition, when that person bled into Bucky Barnes, when Steve's best pal in the whole world was with him again, it felt so damn good to be able feel something again. Everything had been grey and blurry for too long, until Bucky walked back into his life. But it's always been like that, for as long as Steve can remember, even back in Brooklyn when sometimes their lives were so grey and dreary and downright depressing. Bucky puts the colour inside of his world, and Steve simply refuses to imagine losing him again.
They all stay at Tony's place now, everyone except Phil who, when not practically living at SHIELD headquarters, spends every waking minute with his cello-playing girlfriend. It all started with Tony feeling sorry for homeless, lonely Bruce – that was Tony's story anyway, but Steve suspects Tony genuinely cares about Bruce – and bringing him to live at Stark Tower. Steve moved in next, surprised by Tony's offer, which he was pretty sure had a lot more to do with Pepper's influence than the kindness of Tony's heart. When Clint complained about "feeling left out of all the fun" and dropped his bow and arrows on Tony's couch – the Clint equivalent of moving in – Natasha came with him, because where one goes, the other always follows.
So when SHIELD finally let Bucky out of his handcuffs, so to speak, no one minded when he came to live at Stark Tower too. And when he moved into the room right down the hall from Steve's, despite the other ten floors that were completely unoccupied, no one said anything.
No one except Tony, that is.
"So, are you two fucking yet?" Tony asks casually during breakfast one morning, making Steve choke on his French toast. Bucky pounds him on the back with his non-metal hand and ducks his head so Stark doesn't see his face redden. He would never hear the end of it.
Thor looks up from his poptarts, puzzled. "What is this 'fucking' you speak of?"
Clint opens his mouth to explain, an innocent grin plastered on his face, but Natasha elbows him in the gut. "I forbid you to talk about this over breakfast," she snapped. "Don't you dare say a word."
"Hey that's not fair, we can talk about homicidal aliens and killing people over breakfast but not Rogers's relationship? That doesn't even make sense-"
Steve drowns him out with his protests, his mouth still full of French toast. "We aren't – no – Bucky – he likes women – I mean we both –"
"Mmhmm," Tony says, looking at them skeptically before downing his fourth cup of coffee that morning. "Whatever you say, grandpa."
With Clint laughing like a hyena, Pepper shouting at Tony for being tactless, and Thor expressing his confusion in his booming god-like voice, it was several minutes before the kitchen calms down enough for Bucky to say what was on his mind.
"You know they're not mutually exclusive, right?" he mumbles to Steve as low as he can.
Judging from the evil grin on Tony's face, it's not low enough.
"What do you mean?" Steve stutters, shredding his French toast into pieces too small to eat. He's red all the way down to the collar of his t-shirt, and – Bucky feels his stomach flip at the thought – probably lower too.
"Liking men and liking women," Bucky clarifies.
Steve looks thoroughly uncomfortable. "Yeah, well, I know, I mean even back then, back in the army – I mean, it's not like I was –"
"Really articulate this morning," Natasha says unsmilingly.
Steve takes a deep breath and avoids her eyes. "So, are you… like that?" he asks Bucky. He tries to keep his face as neutral as possible, but his traitorous ears are turning red.
"Well, to be honest, it's not like I had that many opportunities while I was off assassinating people," Bucky replies lightly. "But yeah, sure. It's not that big a deal."
Clint and Tony are both giggling into their hands at this point, their respective girlfriends smacking their arms and rolling their eyes.
"Shut up, you're going to wake up Bruce, honestly Tony, is that what you want, do you want to be the reason half the city is destroyed before noon," hissed Pepper.
That immediately shuts them up as they remember with guilt the last time they had woken up Bruce on accident, resulting in three floors of Stark Tower being deemed unfit for human habitation.
"It's fine, I have to leave anyway," Steve says hastily. He stands up, stretches his long legs, and then goes to drop his plate in the sink. "Phil – I mean, Agent Coulson – wants me to come in today-" ("probably just wants you to check out his new Captain America underwear," Clint offers innocently) " - but I'll be back in a few hours." He directs the last part to Bucky. Habit, Bucky assumes affectionately, from all those days of living together back in their little Brooklyn apartment.
It's been months since they rescued Bucky, but Steve still hovers pathetically before he leaves a room with Bucky in it, like he's afraid his best friend won't be there when he comes back. Like he might wake up any minute and find that another seventy years has passed and everyone that he has ever loved are long gone.
Steve swallows an "I'll miss you", uncomfortable with saying something so private in a room full of other people – and Tony, especially – and so soon after having thatembarrassingconversation . And so he leaves quietly, trying to ignore how much he wishes the answer to Tony's question was "yes".
The subject is brought up again later, when Tony is tinkering with Bucky's arm down in his workshop. "So how does this little gem hold up in the sack?" Tony asks as he examines the shiny metal under a lamp. "I did a good job, didn't I?"
"I wouldn't know," Bucky replies dryly. The hand Tony is inspecting clenches into a fist, and Bucky tries to convince himself it's because of the residual Winter Soldier programming, rather than his reaction to Tony's teasing. "How does that hold up when you're with Pepper?" He tips his head at the arc reactor glowing faintly through Tony's white undershirt. "Wouldn't want you having a heart attack while you're inside her."
Tony just smirks. "Hey, let's not forget who in this room could technically be considered a senior citizen."
"I'd shut up if I were you, pal," Bucky says with a small smile to undermine the hostility of his words. "Anyway, as far as I know he's still moping about Peggy." He pauses to gauge how jealous he feels over this, and is surprised that he isn't. When Steve was around her, he was happy, and every fiber of Bucky's being likes when Steve is happy. He would spend every day for the rest of his life trying to make Steve happy if he could.
"You don't give yourself enough credit."
Bucky raises his eyes, wondering if he'd heard correctly – had Tony Stark just said something nice about him?
"Before we found you, he'd wake up in the middle of the night and trash his entire room, crying and screaming your name. Nightmares, I guess. We always pretended it didn't happen, y'know, when we got up in the morning, but we heard him. Everyone in the whole tower heard him. I think even Bruce was afraid to go near him when he got like that."
That knocks the breath out of Bucky for a few moments. He remembers the waiting, what felt like years of waiting in the cold for someone to find him. And when they found him, the Soviets, they told him things. Things that nearly drove him crazy, that Steve was never coming back for him, that he would never see him again, that it didn't matter because he wasn't supposed to have feelings anymore anyway.
And to think, that maybe Steve had been suffering that long too.
"Yeah, well, I'm here now," he says once he pulls himself out of the memories and forces himself to breathe again. "And Steve seems fine now."
"So what, you're never going to tell him?" Tony sighs in exasperation. "You could, I don't know, help him take his mind off the moping." He wiggles his eyebrows in a way that Bucky assumes is supposedly seductive when used around members of the fairer sex.
"There is nothing to tell," Bucky insists.
It isn't like he's too embarrassed to admit all the pent-up emotions he's felt since, well, forever. It's just that he loves Steve too damn much. He doesn't want to ruin everything and lose his best friend after finally coming back to him. He doesn't want to upset the dynamic of their relationship, to have Steve constantly on his guard against unwanted advances that Bucky's too proud to make anyway. He doesn't want Steve to feel any different around him. And he definitely doesn't want Steve to find out from Stark's big mouth, if ever.
"Bullshit," Tony says, shaking his head, "you're just scared he'll say no. Think about it, Barnes, would you rather have him maybe say no, or never say yes?"
Bucky snatches his arm back and stands up. "I'm not talking about this with you," he snaps. "And when did you become an expert on love?"
"Who said anything about love?" Tony asks. "I thought we were just talking about sex." He's goading Bucky, and both of them know it. But Bucky has become accustomed to ignoring the jeering of his peers. When he was in the army, the others had given him hell every time they caught him alone, jerking off while thinking about Steve. He never let it bother him, and he sure as hell isn't going to let it bother him now.
"I'd rather have some part of him, than none at all," Bucky says, and he stalks out of Tony's workshop, his metal hand really itching to hit something. Preferably Tony's jaw.
"Whatever you say," Tony calls after him. "Oh, and for your information, I am an expert on everything."
Two steps out of the workshop, Bucky almost runs right into Pepper holding a cup of coffee. His mind was clearly too occupied by Tony Stark and his obnoxious attempts at giving advice.
"Oh!" Pepper yelps, dodging out of the way like only someone who has spent half her life around Tony's explosive creations can. "Sorry, I didn't realize you were down here with him."
"It's fine, I'm sorry," Bucky apologizes absent-mindedly. He reaches out to help Pepper, but awkwardly lets his hand swing loose when he realizes she's okay. "You know he probably doesn't need any more coffee. In fact I think he's been allowed way too much."
Pepper laughs. "He once promised me that if I let him have as much coffee as he wants, he'll actually get as much sleep as I want. And if he tells you he works better with less sleep, don't believe him," she adds. "Last time that happened, we ended up seven vacuum cleaners that decided to eat all TVs. Thor missed The Bachelorette and you know how attached he is to that show. Now that was a disaster." As Bucky lets out a laugh, Pepper looks down at Bucky's metal arm. "Was he messing with that again? You know you don't have to let him all the time."
"Oh no, it's fine." He pulls down his sleeve to cover it up. "We were just talking."
Pepper casts him a significant look. "Oh."
He feels suddenly uncomfortable. It's one thing to talk about this with a coffee-infused Tony, but another to talk about this with a woman. A beautiful, clever one at that. "It's not about that, it was just – "
"He's right, you know," Pepper says, cutting off Bucky's awkward ramblings (Jesus Christ, he's getting just as bad as Steve). "You really should tell him, sooner, rather than later."
"How did you even know that's what we –"
"I know Tony," Pepper says with a dismissive wave of her hand. "And I may not have known you and Steve quite as long, but I do care, you know. Steve's a great guy. We all just want him to be happy. Both of you."
"Yeah, well, that's all I ever wanted too," he replies, trying to play it off as a casual comment, something a best friend would say.
"Alright." Pepper offers him a small smile. "I just think that if you don't, you might really regret it one day. Seventy years is a pretty long time to wait." She brushes past him with the coffee and pushes the glass door of Tony's workshop open, leaving Bucky standing motionless outside.
He stares vaguely after her.
For the first time, he starts to wonder if maybe they are right. Pepper and Tony have known each other for years. So have Clint and Natasha, for that matter. At one point, one of them had to have made the first move, to have worked up the courage to admit that all the affection they had boiling under the surface was more than just boss-and-coworker, more than just partners, more than just friends. Bucky thinks about the casual way they touch and laugh and look at each other. Sometimes Bucky catches Clint watching Natasha so unabashedly, when she's just doing the simplest things, like folding his shirts or changing the channel on the TV. Clint watches her with so much wonder in his eyes, like even after all these years together, he still can't believe that she's real and that she's his. He never has to hide it, and he never tries, because he simply doesn't have to.
Bucky wants that with Steve. He wants it so much that it hurts.
On the way home from SHIELD headquarters – the discussion was not, in fact, about Coulson's Captain America underwear, but about whether or not Bucky was adjusting well to his new living conditions, which Steve answered with an emphatic yes – Steve picks up at a bunch of flowers from a street vendor.
It would be so easy to brush it off as a spur-of-the-moment thing, or just say it was for a good cause, but Steve isn't a man to make excuses, even to himself, and so he just hopes Bucky won't laugh at him. It's not like he has lots of experience courting anyone, let alone his best friend.
The living room is empty when Steve arrives at Stark Tower. He shrugs out of his jacket and folds it neatly on the couch before taking the stairs three at a time to get to his and Bucky's floor (there are elevators, but he's never been a fan of those). He holds the flowers above his head and tries to keep them from dropping petals all over everything.
He pauses in front of Bucky's closed door for a few seconds, debating whether or not to go in. He decides he should probably shower first – and rehearse what he's going to say when asked about the flowers – so he continues to his room down the hall.
When he gets there, he finds Bucky sitting at the desk and rifling through a book. Caught off-guard, Steve stands in the doorway for a few moments and watches him. The curve of Bucky's back as he hunches over the book in the darkened room takes Steve's breath away. In a few quick strides, Steve is behind him, and he places his free hand gently on the back of Bucky's neck.
Bucky jumps and makes a spastic moment to close the book, but it's too late, Steve has seen it.
"Are those my sketches?"
Bucky looks up at him guiltily, but thankfully, Steve doesn't seem to be angry. "Just… old ones. They're incredible." He shifts his hand so Steve can see the sketch of a dancing monkey – a self-portrait of sorts, at the time. Steve smiles reminiscently at it. Bucky flips to the ones near the back of the book. "I like these ones."
Steve freezes, recognizing them with a pang of emotion.
They're rough, they're unfinished, they're smudged and haphazard. Some are sad and some are angry. But they're all unmistakably of Bucky.
"I drew these… after you were gone," he says quietly. He sets the flowers on the desk and uses both hands to close the sketchbook firmly. If he had his way, he would never have look at these again. They hurt too much, drawn during a time he would rather not remember.
Thankfully, Bucky notices the flowers and is instantly distracted. "Hey, are these for me?" he asks, and he sounds so happy Steve swears he can feel his heart expanding.
"No, jerk, they're for Natasha," he teases. "Of course they're for you, who else would they be for?"
Bucky looks up at him and tries to gauge the look in Steve's eyes. What kind of friend brings you flowers unless they feel something more too? Encouraged by this, he beams at Steve and stands up so they're more at the same eye level (still, Steve towers over Bucky, and he remembers fondly a time when this wasn't so).
"So I was thinking that we should probably talk about something. About what Stark said this morning," Bucky begins, wiping his suddenly sweaty hands off on his jeans. Jesus Christ, he never got this flustered when he was chatting up the dames.
Steve has become good at this, looking away before he wants to and leaning away imperceptibly whenever he is around Bucky. It has become instinctual, from years of hiding his feelings, especially during the army days. But the hurt never quite goes away. "Tony was just being his usual self, I'm sorry if what I said made it worse," Steve rushes to apologize.
"It didn't, and that's not even what I want to talk about." Bucky pauses, turning the words over in his mind before saying them. "Remember what I said, about liking both men and women?"
"It's fine," Steve insists, wanting desperately to ward off further damage to their friendship. "Just forget it please, you know how Tony gets."
Bucky's face falls at Steve's words. "What are you saying?" he asks, and he's embarrassed to admit his voice isn't as strong as he wants it to be. "But the flowers – I thought – "
"I'm sorry, I completely understand. I don't know what I was thinking…" Steve interrupts, feeling stupid. Of course Bucky didn't think of him that way, of course the flowers were over the top, how could he possibly think any different? Before things could get even more uncomfortable, Steve hurriedly says, "Don't worry about it, we don't have to let what Tony thinks change anything between us. And now that I know that you're, you know, flexible… I mean, that you like both men and women… it doesn't change anything, seriously, I don't care at all."
"You don't?" Bucky echoes. His voice sounds hollow even to his own ears. He's not good at hiding how wounded he feels.
Ah, rejection. The only other time he has ever felt this is with Peggy, that night when she was more interested in Steve than him. But it hadn't hurt quite like this. It hadn't felt like he was having his heart, and every secret hope he had harbored in it, ripped out of his chest and thrown to the floor. The fact of the matter is, Bucky has never been rejected before, not when it mattered. And nothing matters more than Steve.
Steve isn't looking at him anymore. And suddenly the hurt Bucky is feeling changes into anger, no – fury – because here he is putting his heart on the line just like Tony and Pepper told him to and Steve isn't even doing him the favour of looking into his eyes, or giving him a straight answer, and fuck that, he's come too far to let the subject drop. He needs confirmation, and he's not going to stop until he hears the words straight from Steve's mouth himself.
Bucky presses closer. "Look at me," Bucky breathes against his cheek, barely containing his frustration. Startled by the intensity of his command, Steve turns to meet his eyes.
"Say it then," Bucky snaps. "Just say you're not interested, stop beating around the bush. Damn you Steve, I never pegged you for a coward."
Completely caught off-guard, Steve's mouth drops open with a little pop. "Not interested? What are you talking about?"
There is silence for a few seconds in which Bucky glares at him with his arms crossed. "What are you talking about?" he demands, more childish resentment than an actual rebuttal.
"Clearly not the same thing," Steve says quietly. He takes Bucky's shoulders and shakes him, suddenly desperate for his friend to break out of his angry funk and actually talk to him. "Bucky, I'm not joking around here, tell me what you're talking about."
"I'm talking about the fact that I'm professing my fucking feelings for you and kinda maybe sorta offering you my heart and you're fucking brushing me off and being a total dick!" Bucky suddenly shouts, batting Steve's hands away with more force than he actually intended.
"Oh my god." Steve takes a step back, and instantly regrets it when he sees a flicker of hurt cross Bucky's face. "No, wait, this is so wrong –"
"Yeah thanks for making that clear," Bucky snaps.
"No, I mean I had this entire speech written in my head for this moment, and now it's actually here, and you're mad, and this isn't how it was supposed to go at all." He runs his fingers through his hair, messing it up in the way that Bucky has always liked, and he's just so relieved and ecstatic at this turn of events that he lets out a laugh, which is probably not appropriate at this moment. But without even thinking about it, he closes the distance between them quickly and he presses his mouth hard and rough against Bucky's. And that, he assumes, is appropriate at this moment.
It's a clumsy kiss, their teeth banging together, but Steve holds Bucky's waist close and revels in the feel of it. Bucky goes still beneath him, and for a terrifying heartbeat Steve wonders if he's misread the situation, again. But suddenly Bucky is kissing him back, angry and hard at first, his fingers pulling roughly at Steve's hair, and after a few moments Steve can feel Bucky's anger dissolving, and suddenly he's laughing into his mouth, he's gripping Steve's smooth cheeks, he's murmuring things Steve can't quite catch. The only thought Steve can think is finally. It feels so good, like water for a parched man, and he can't believe they didn't do this sooner. Their bodies fit together in ways Steve would've never imagined, and everywhere Bucky touches – his hip, his back, his neck – Steve can feel his skin humming with pleasure. And then Bucky is kissing his neck, biting at his collarbone almost desperately, and Steve moans into Bucky's hair.
"We must be the two stupidest guys in Brooklyn, eh?" Bucky says once they break apart to catch their breaths.
"You mean you're the stupidest guy," Steve retorts, trying to sound annoyed. It's difficult when he's smiling so damn hard. "How the hell was I supposed to know what you were talking about, honestly?"
"Shut up, punk." Bucky pins him to the nearest wall, a little less gently than he should have, and starts kissing Steve's ear and jaw. He knows that if Steve wants to, he could break away and switch their positions in a heartbeat, but he likes that Steve is letting him do this, letting him take the reins for a bit.
Steve's head is spinning and he has to remind himself to breathe. He can't believe this is happening. He can feel Bucky's hands everywhere, and they're hot all over his body. Even the metal one. Even through his clothes. Steve leans back, his eyes glassing over, and lets Bucky have his way for a few moments, because he can't muster up the coordination to do anything but sigh Bucky's name over and over.
But when Bucky repositions himself so his knee slips between Steve's legs – pressing against his cock – Steve jerks to life with a moan. "What do you want to do?" he asks breathlessly, practically ripping off his shirt. Bucky stops kissing him long enough to work at his pants, sliding his belt from the buckle and sliding them out from the loops in one fluid motion, like he's been doing this his whole life.
"Well I don't know about you, but I'm going to suck you off and then I want you fuck me, either against the wall or on the bed, wherever you want," Bucky says casually. He unbuttons Steve's pants and pulls them down quickly.
Steve blushes and he sputters out something that might have been an "okay". Bucky grins at his friend's complete inability to talk about sex with a straight face.
"Didn't you ever do this with Peggy?" Bucky asks, just curious, without a hint of jealousy. And that's what Steve loves best about Bucky, isn't it, the fact that they've been together so long and they've loved each other before anyone else has ever loved them – before the war and the serum and even Peggy – and there's no need to resort to petty jealousy. Because they've always known deep down that it was always the two of them. Steve can't remember a time when it wasn't so.
"Not really, we didn't exactly get that far," Steve manages to choke out, because now Bucky is on his knees, and he's palming Steve's cock through his boxers and making him forget how to form words. "I'll tell you when we get there."
Bucky admires his friend for a minute, simply because he can. He's seen Steve naked before – they practically grew up together – but now he knows he has permission to, and he's high off that knowledge. With Steve is looking down at him and mouthing silent words of encouragement, Bucky slides Steve's boxers down. Quietly he makes a hum of appreciation, because Steve really is gorgeous – he's always been gorgeous, even before the serum – but now he's so large and beautiful and breathtaking, and Bucky still can't wrap his head around the fact that he is allowed to be touching him and looking at him this way. Steve is hard already, just from kissing, and Bucky can't help but feel a little smug at that.
Slowly he closes his mouth around Steve's cock, all the way until his throat protests, and then he eases up a bit, using his hands to compensate. Steve is shaking and making little gasping sounds. It feels so good, everything he thought it would feel like and more, the weight of Steve's cock against his tongue and the taste and texture of him, so warm and solid in his mouth. Bucky looks up at him, and is surprised that Steve is staring down at him too, his eyes wide and his mouth hanging open. When they make eye contact, Steve twitches spastically. Bucky smiles – he tries to, anyway; it's a bit hard with someone's dick in your mouth – and continues sucking. His tongue swirls around the head, tasting the liquid already gathering there.
"Bucky, Bucky wait, I have to tell you something, Bucky." Big words, Bucky thinks smugly, because Steve's hands are tangled in Bucky's hair and urging him on despite his protests. But Bucky pauses anyway, praying to the gods that Steve isn't about to make him stop. He would've said as much, but his mouth was otherwise occupied.
"We passed it," Steve gasps, and when Bucky gives him a confused look, he says, "we passed how far me and Peggy got, as soon as you took off my pants, I just wanted to let you know."
Bucky slides his mouth off of Steve's cock with a pop – Steve makes a frantic sound of disapproval – and laughs out loud. "Great to know, Steve. Can't you see I'm a little busy?"
He kisses his way gently up Steve's inner thigh, licks the entire length of him, before taking him back into his mouth. Steve's panting now, and grinding his hips desperately against him. Deciding to stop messing around, Bucky redoubles his efforts, getting into a rhythm with his hands and his lips that has Steve trembling. He chases the little gasps and moans that Steve makes whenever he does something particularly pleasurable.
"Bucky, stop, shit, Bucky I'm going to – "
Bucky recognizes the insistent, warning tone of Steve's voice, but he continues to work him. He doesn't stop, not even when Steve starts tugging half-heartedly at his hair. Hollowing out his cheeks, Bucky glances up, and they accidentally make eye contact again.
That's it, Steve is gone, he goes still for a few moments and then he's coming apart in Bucky's mouth, warm and wet and sudden. The noises he makes as he comes makes Bucky shiver, and he takes one hand off of Steve to grind desperately at his own crotch, still clad in jeans. Bucky swallows as much as he can, doesn't take his mouth off Steve's pulsing cock until he's done. When he finally does, he wipes his mouth with the back of his hand.
They're silent for a beat as Steve catches his breath, his eyes wide and awed. Bucky can't help but feel a little proud that he's the reason why.
Then Steve pulls Bucky to his feet and kisses him sloppily. "Come on, take off your clothes, it feels weird with you wearing your clothes," Steve whispers against his collar, desperately tugging at the front of Bucky's t-shirt. Bucky willingly obliges, pulling it over his head, but it's not fast enough for Steve, not nearly fast enough. He bites Bucky's collar, making him yelp and fumble with his shirt.
It catches on his dog tags.
Steve stops suddenly to stare when he hears the tell-tale clink. Bucky avoids his eyes. Silently, Steve touches the dog tags – they're not his real ones, those were lost decades ago, these are just some he picked up a few weeks ago, with DIESEL stamped on them – and he doesn't have to ask why Bucky feels the need to wear these, because he understands, and Bucky knows he understands. Steve rubs the dog tags between his fingers, and he brings them up to his lips, kisses them, and then kisses Bucky's chest.
I love you.
Bucky wants to say it. He wants to say it so bad, he's literally shaking with it, but he swallows the words, because this is not the time. He's just taking what he can get, he doesn't want to push Steve too far, there are a million reasons to stop him from saying it, but he can't stop himself from thinking it. His heart is pounding against his throat while Steve kisses his way down his chest.
I've always loved you.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" Bucky asks quietly – shit, shut up, he mentally berates himself – but he has to know, and he can't keep the words from spilling from his lips. "I don't want you think that this is, like, a one-time thing." He hesitates for a few seconds, as a horrible thought strikes him. "Unless you want it to be."
"You've always talked too much, Barnes," Steve murmurs against Bucky's skin, brushing his lips against the sparse hairs that cover his friend's navel.
So Bucky shuts up, because apparently Steve has made it his personal mission to kiss every single inch of his body. He grazes his lips over the slope of Bucky's shoulders, scars that he remembers and the ones that he doesn't. The sharp angle of his jaw, the cleft in his chin ("I've wanted to do that since we were six," Steve admits in his ear), his full lips. And then he's holding Bucky's metal arm, palm up, and kissing that too, and Bucky isn't sure if he should be self-conscious or aroused, but he makes a small noise that could be either.
Bucky suddenly notices a hard pressure against his leg. He glances down and swears appreciatively when he notices Steve's hard-on. "Already?"
Steve would be embarrassed, but he's too turned on to care at the moment. "Must be the serum, the fast metabolism thing. I don't know, that's never happened before."
"Or it could just be me," Bucky replies coquettishly.
And then they're laughing, tripping over themselves to get to the bed, kissing maniacally at whatever part of the other's body they can reach. Somehow Bucky ends up falling on top of Steve – "Oof, gerroff me!"– and Steve grabs his ass and smiles like the idiot that he is. Bucky shifts against him, trying to get comfortable. He can feel the sharp ridges of Steve's hipbones against his body and it's so fucking hot he can't breathe. He's sure that if they don't stop touching he's going to come right then and there.
"Where do you keep your stuff?" Bucky whispers into Steve's ear. Steve shivers at the feel of his breath against his skin.
"Nightstand, top drawer."
Grateful for an excuse to stop the skin-on-skin contact even just for a few seconds, he rolls off the bed and gathers the condoms and lube from Steve's drawer. He briefly wonders why Steve even has these, America's golden boy and all. Maybe Captain America isn't as virginal as he seems. Maybe he's even jerked off to the thought of Bucky.
He's more turned on by this than he should be.
"Come back here," Steve says, wondering why Bucky's kneeling in front of the drawer grinning stupidly. He manages to wrap his arm around Bucky's waist and bodily drag him back into the bed.
Bucky swears, because holy shit, that was pretty sexy. "That's going to leave a bruise, you jerk." But Steve is rubbing his nose against his jaw affectionately now and he stops complaining.
"It'll match this one," Steve murmurs, tracing Bucky's collarbone with his fingertips. The skin was already darkening there from Steve biting at it. "Sorry."
"No you're not," Bucky mutters.
He gently tilts Steve's chin up and kisses him on the mouth softly. They drink each other in, slower, languidly, less desperate than before. The message is implied; we have time. The rest of our lives. It makes Bucky's head spin just thinking about it.
Steve can taste himself still in Bucky's mouth, from when he came before, and it's a little bit ridiculous how hard he gets at the thought. He wants to do this every day for the rest of his natural life – which is pretty damn long – if Bucky lets him. Running his fingers through Bucky's hair, he drags his tongue against Bucky's pillowy bottom lip and then kisses the same spot.
Bucky makes a noise that might've been an inquisitive "yes?", or maybe a "shut up". When Steve pulls away and flops down flat on his back, Bucky moves down to kiss his neck instead. His afternoon stubble rubs against the sensitive skin of Steve's collar, making him momentarily forget what he was going to say.
"Remember when you said you wanted me to, you know, fuck you against the wall or on the bed, and that it was up to me?" Steve asks between pants.
"Well I decided that I'd rather you do that. To me."
Bucky stops kissing him then, just for a few beats. "You sure?"
Steve swears he hears Bucky muttering something about making him do all the work, but there's a familiar smile in his voice. "Alright then." Bucky presses a hard kiss against Steve's neck, and it almost feels possessive, like he's branding Steve as his own. "Whatever you want, buddy."
Bucky leans back on his heels and fumbles with the jar of lube. He slicks his fingers with it as slowly as he can manage. Three of them. Steve watches him, his pupils so blown they appear almost completely black. The longer Bucky takes, the more impatient Steve gets.
Suddenly, with absolutely no warning, he jerks forward, hooks his hand around the back of Bucky's knee and pulls. Bucky loses his balance and collides into him. Steve's making little growls that Bucky has never heard before.
"Jesus, Steve, what is wrong with you, you're making a mess of everything," Bucky says, holding his fingers aloft to keep from getting any on the sheets. "Is this going to be a regular thing now, you shoving me around everywhere, you're so fucking violent when you're turned on, I had no idea –"
Steve cuts his good-natured complaints off with a kiss. "Hurry up, hurry up please," Steve whispers into his mouth.
"Okay, okay." Bucky uses his free hand, the metal one, to pin Steve's chest down to the mattress. "Not too fast though, you said you've never done this before, yeah?"
He kisses his way down Steve's chest, down the hard planes of his stomach, and then down to his groin. The lube, despite being warmed by Bucky's fingers, still makes Steve jump when Bucky brushes against his cock. Bucky watches Steve's face as he slowly, gently inserts one finger in him. He can't help but think that Steve looks so beautiful like this, his lips red and swollen from kissing, his hair a total mess for once, his eyes glazed over with lust. He looks completely wrecked.
"Tell me if you want me to stop," Bucky says quietly. He's up to the first knuckle now, and Steve actually manages a laugh – "yeah right," – and then he's up to the second knuckle. He curls his finger, stretching Steve as much as he dares.
Bucky shifts his position a bit so he can lean up and kiss Steve, but that makes Steve make a strangled gasp that Bucky might have assumed was from pain if Steve hadn't been grinding his hips so insistently against Bucky's fingers.
"You okay?" he asks.
"Mmph, yeah." Steve's face is flushed and he bites his bottom lip in way that makes Bucky's cock twitch. "Another, please, if you don't mind."
Bucky chuckles. "Well, since you asked so politely…" He presses his lips against Steve's chest, the highest he can reach without moving too much, and slowly slides in another finger. He scissors them and slides them in and out, watching Steve's mouth move wordlessly as he does it.
Steve likes this, his body straining and arching up to get better leverage, just to be pushed back down by Bucky's hand. He moans his appreciation and squeezes his eyes shut.
"Bucky," he says when he can finally manage words. His voice is broken and ragged; his hands are fluttering around helplessly like he's trying really hard not to touch himself. Bucky smiles and slides in the third finger. When he brushes something particularly sensitive, Steve jerks violently, forcing Bucky's fingers even deeper.
"Did I hurt you?" Bucky asks with concern, and is about to pull his fingers out when Steve's hand snatches out and grabs his wrist with such force Bucky winces. "Ow, ow, okay, I'm sorry, I'm still here buddy."
"Come on, I think I'm ready now," Steve pants. "Wait, hands and knees, yeah."
He lets Bucky pull out his fingers, his eyes a little wild. As he repositions himself so he's on all fours, Bucky sits back on his heels and rips open a condom packet with his teeth. "Hang on, almost there," he whispers, and now his words are coming out in little gasps too. He rolls the condom on, and then the lube, trying hard to control the shaking of his hands.
He nudges his Steve's legs farther apart with his knees, and that makes Steve's breath catch in anticipation. Then finally, finally, he slides long and hard into Steve, and it's so smooth and incredible he's pretty sure their bodies were made to do this.
"That feel okay?" Bucky murmurs against his skin, holding as still as possible. It's pretty damn hard, with how warm and tight Steve is around him.
Steve is motionless for a few moments, every muscle in his body taut.
Finally he moves back against Bucky, sliding down the length of him. A hiss escapes his lips.
"Yeah, yeah, it's good, it's really good," Steve pants. He does a little twist with his hips that make Bucky's vision go white for a few seconds. "Are you going to move or what?"
"Fuck," Bucky swears through gritted teeth. "You jerk, where the hell did you learn to do that?"
And then he's really moving, thrusting hard in and out of Steve, and Steve is making keening noises that neither of them was aware he was capable of making. They quickly get into a rhythm, one that feels so natural that it's like they've been doing it their entire lives.
Steve reaches up and braces himself against the headboard, holding onto it for dear life. He's pretty sure he's never felt this whole in his entire life, with Bucky filling him, and touching him, and whispering things against his skin that he can't quite make out. His entire world shrinks down to the two of them moving effortlessly against each other.
Bucky reaches forward and takes Steve's cock in his hands. He jerks him off in time with his thrusts, and he feels Steve spasm against him.
"Feels good, huh?" Bucky says, laughing breathlessly against Steve's back. His laugh is a little strained because Jesus Christ, he's about to come, but he doesn't want to until Steve does, so he twists the hand that's wrapped around Steve's cock a little faster and drags his teeth down the length of Steve's spine.
Bucky's a dirty talker, he always has been, and as he gets closer to coming, it gets filthier. He's babbling, saying whatever comes to mind, because he can't really form the thoughts to say anything else. He's talking over Steve's muffled moans – and of course Steve tries to be as quiet as he can, what did Bucky expect –and all he can hear is their mingled moans, the clink of his dog tags, the creaking of the headboard under Steve's hands, the sound of skin on skin. It's enough to drive any man out of his mind.
Steve's trembling so hard now that Bucky has to dig his fingers into his friend's hip to steady him. He knows there will be dark marks against his skin in the morning, but neither of them cares, because even this feels good.
"Tony's going to be so mad, we'll have to apologize –" says Steve shakily, and he releases his grip on the headboard to reveal the imprints of his fingers in the wood.
"Steve, I'm glad you're so fucking considerate and everything, but can you stop talking about Stark while I'm inside you," Bucky manages through clenched teeth. "You're kind of ruining the moment."
Steve laughs a little, and the shaking of his body under Bucky's makes him curse and move a little faster.
They've lost their rhythm now, they're just desperately rocking against each other, chasing the end frantically. Bucky pumps Steve's cock faster, thrusts in him deeper. Steve moans his name like he's never said it before, long and drawn out and almost whorish. It makes Bucky shiver.
"Bucky, I think – I'm going to –"
"I know, Steve, I know."
Suddenly Bucky twists the hand wrapped around Steve's cock, fast and hard. Steve shudders and sputters out half of Bucky's name, coming all over Bucky's hand. Too paralyzed by sensation to form thoughts, he squeezes his eyes shut and presses his face into the pillow. Steve tangles his fingers with Bucky's, digging his nails into Bucky's palm and pulling it away from his cock. Everything is wet and hot and sticky, but it feels too good for him to care.
When Bucky feels Steve tense with orgasm, he lets himself go too. Rushed and jagged, he pushes into Steve. He's talking faster, making promises and whispering sweet nothings that abruptly cut off when he gets so close to the precipice he can't breathe.
When he finally comes, it's only with Steve's name on his lips. His vision goes white. He buries his face between Steve's shoulder blades and holds him so close that he doesn't know where one body ends and the other begins.
They stay tangled like that for a few moments, their harsh breathing the only sound in the room.
Bucky finally finds the strength to pull out. His limbs feel loose and shaky and he swears he's never felt so relaxed in his entire life.
Steve makes a tired sigh and collapses flat on his stomach, his head pooling on his arms. After a few minutes, he feels Bucky get up and go to the bathroom. When he comes back and sinks on the bed next to him, Steve turns over so he can look up at his friend. The first thing he notices is the moisture clinging to Bucky's dark lashes. "Are you crying?" Steve demands, torn between worry and laughter.
Bucky makes a face at him. "Yeah, because of what an ass you are," Bucky answers with a crooked smile.
Steve whips a pillow at his face.
"Stop it!" Bucky shoves the pillow off his head and scowls at Steve good-naturedly. "Seriously though, don't worry about it, it happens sometimes."
Steve reaches out to brush the wetness from Bucky's eyes, still looking like he's about to laugh. "What, when you orgasm?"
Bucky's surprised that Steve can even say that without blushing like a 12-year-old. "Don't act like you're so much more 'manly' than me, I heard the noises you were making," he teases.
Ah, there it is, Steve flushes all the way to his ears. Bucky smiles fondly and kisses the tip of his nose.
They snuggle under the covers together sleepily, trading lazy kisses that don't lead anywhere. It's silent, but it's a comfortable kind of silence that comes from knowing each other so long (and now so intimately) that there is nothing more to say.
Steve speaks first. "Do you love me?" Steve finally asks, breaking the silence. He doesn't say it needy or demanding, like the dames Bucky used to date sometimes asked him. It's a genuine question, a good question, and Steve asks it because he's never been a coward.
"You know I do," Bucky replies casually. He chooses to pretend he doesn't understand the question. He isn't sure why.
Steve pulls away, almost unnoticeably, but it makes Bucky suddenly feel hollow. He's said the wrong thing.
"Bucky," Steve begins, and his voice is weary. For the first time, Bucky notices how old he sounds. And he is, he really is. He's waited ninety years for this, and he isn't playing around anymore, this isn't some childish crush, or some messy teenage fling, it's the real thing now.
Whatever his next words are, Bucky doesn't want to hear them. All he knows is that he never wants to see that look of disappointment in Steve's eyes ever again. "I love you," he blurts out. He means it this time. He means it in a different way, the right way. He watches a beautiful smile spread across Steve's features. "Ever since we were kids, you idiot, how did you not notice," he adds, pressing a kiss against the side of Steve's mouth simply because he can.
"Idiot, huh? Look who's talking."
In a tangle of arms and legs, they start shoving and pushing and laughing at each other, taking up too much space on the bed and yet not enough. It's just like in the old days. Bucky is grinning harder than he has in a long, long time. Since before he was the Winter Soldier.
When they finally settle down again, Bucky is tucked into the crook of Steve's arm. Both of them are breathing hard. Their fingers are interlaced, trapped between their bodies, but Bucky is pleased to notice that Steve is idly stroking his thumb over Bucky's metal fingers like he doesn't even notice the difference. Maybe he honestly doesn't care.
Suddenly Bucky is so inexplicably happy. Because this is what he has wanted all along, isn't it, not just the sex – which, of course, was great – but the cuddling, the easy way they touch each other, the thing that couples have. The thing that Pepper and Tony have, when Pepper brushes the hair out of Tony's face while he's working. The thing that Natasha and Clint have, when Natasha curls up against Clint as they watch a movie. Even Thor and Jane, when they're having those wordless conversations with their eyes.
And now we have it too, Bucky thinks with pride. He's finally forged something permanent, something that transcends all the decades he and Steve have been apart.
"Have what?" Steve asks.
Bucky starts, not realizing he'd said that out loud. "Just… you know… everything," he replies. And it's cheesy, and sappy, and romantic. He hides his face against Steve's chest in embarrassment, because he's never been cheesy or sappy or romantic guy. Not before Steve anyway.
"That's dumb," Steve scoffs. Bucky starts to bristle with annoyance, but Steve adds, "We've always had everything, didn't we? Even when we didn't have any money and we were burning my old sketches just so we didn't freeze to death. We were just too blind to notice."
And the way he kisses Bucky after he says that, well, it's not like Bucky can really argue.
That night, Bucky falls asleep curled up against Steve. It's the first real sleep he's gotten in a long, long time.
But Steve lies awake, tracing the lines of Bucky's back with his hand and staring up at the ceiling. He thinks he understands now. He's not bitter anymore, or angry, because he understands something that he didn't before.
Even if Bucky hadn't fallen from the train, even if Steve could have saved him, they would have never made it. Steve would have been with Peggy – and he loves Peggy, he really does, so much that his heart still aches whenever he thinks of her – and maybe Bucky would have married a dame as well. And their worlds would have expanded, no longer just the two of them, but the war, their spouses, their families.
Steve had had dreams, dreams of the joining the army and settling down with a nice woman and and learning how to dance. And in none of the possible futures he imagined could he and Bucky have ended up like this.
Steve realizes with certainty that this is the only way they could have been together. Seventy years later, with decades of memories between them. He still has dreams, but they're not the same.
Steve isn't exactly sure if he believes in destiny, but he can't shake the feeling that if all those things hadn't happened exactly as they had – and what are the chances of being preserved in ice for seventy-plus years? – Bucky would not be here with him right now. Sure, Steve's made a lot of mistakes, but he knows now that he needs to stop beating himself up over them. Steve's with Bucky again. And not just with him, but with him. As far as Steve's concerned, they must have done something right. Maybe this is exactly the way things should be.
He remembers the way Bucky had smiled at their intertwined hands, one metal and one real, and Steve is positive Bucky understands it now too.
He kisses the top of Bucky's head and whispers the words he remembers screaming in his head right before he let Bucky fall from that train, the words that felt like a bitter lie at the time but now ring truer than ever before. "I've got you."
Bucky shifts in his sleep, almost like he can hear the words through the hazy world of dreams. He presses his face closer against Steve's chest and makes a little mewling sound. Steve hopes that whatever he's dreaming, wherever they are, the two of them are together.
a/n: Oops, I feel like this entire fic should have come with a disclaimer. I know some things aren't canonically accurate, but I fudged some details to get things to work out the way it does in my head. This is basically all my headcanons put together, on steroids, to make up one 10k word story.
Thank you to everyone who stuck by me while I wrote this!