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When You’ve Died For Your Country You Can Wear Whatever You Want

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Fight in a war alongside a guy and you stop batting an eye at the sight of him dirty or spattered in blood. You can't say the same though about coming home and finding them stretched on the couch in grey and white leopard footie pajamas.

That's how Steve finds Bucky when he comes in from a late briefing with Fury. He looks like something between an oversized baby and a human stuffed toy. The onesie—Steve thinks that's what it's called—even has a hood with rounded leopard ears.

"You lose a bet?" Steve stops in front of the couch.

Bucky shakes his head and sets down the hot mug of whatever it is he's drinking. "Nope."

"You lose your mind?" That one's not funny, but Steve wouldn't put it past Department X to leave behind a complex trigger that would force Bucky to regress into childlike behavior. It would be one way to make him easier for them to handle.

Bucky laughs though. "That's up for debate, but I had to see the SHIELD shrink again today. She says I don't think I deserve to be happy, so she told me to focus on harmless urges and give into them one at a time to practice letting myself have what I want."

Steve wants to relent—it's definitely a problem that needs work—but... "And what you want is to dress up like a giant snow leopard?"

Bucky's mouth falls into a pout. "Don't be a jerk!" He sighs. He knows he looks ridiculous. "I wanted to be comfortable, and warm, for all the times I've spent days on end in the fucking cold or slept on the hard ground with itchy army blankets."

"C'mon, Buck, that was fun." Steve pats him on the shoulder. “Especially when we got shot at."

Bucky's still pouting though because Steve made fun of his onesie, so Steve leaves him to it and heads toward the bedroom for a shower.

**

He's too warm when he comes out of the shower to put on anything but his boxers. Bucky sits up to make room for him on the couch and those footie pajamas are surprisingly plush where Bucky presses against Steve's bare shoulder.

He kind of likes it.

Steve's arms slide around him and he can't help running a hand over Bucky's fuzzy stomach, resting his chin on his shoulder. "You're soft..." He rubs his chin on the fur. Bucky's a lot of things, but soft and cuddly isn't one of them. He goes from deadly in a fight to naked and impatient and demanding, to being determined to torture Steve in bed. But this... Steve can't stop smiling. "You know, I've never really had a stuffed toy. Not that I can remember."

"I'm not a toy." Bucky's glower is a lot less intimidating under a hood with leopard ears than it is above a mask.

Steve yanks him extra tight against his chest on purpose, the way a kid would a favorite toy. It's fun to get a rise out of Bucky, but he definitely enjoys the way that onesie feels combined with Bucky's warmth against his naked skin. Just for kicks though, Steve scratches behind those ridiculous leopard ears and murmurs, "You like that?"

"Stop. I'm not a pet."

It has no heat in it. Bucky doesn't pull away either. He puts his feet up on the coffee table and turns, curling into Steve's side the way he does when he decides the point of Steve's transformation was to give him a nice pillow. Steve's arm settle around him for real and he rests his cheek against the softness of Bucky's hood. Lately, now that Bucky lets him, he's discovered he likes holding Bucky, likes keeping close the one thing he got back after losing everything, the thing that mattered most.

He can't keep his hands from roaming though, petting, smoothing over the plushness of that silly snow leopard suit. The more he does it, the closer Bucky gets to one of his rarer actual smiles.

Maybe he likes feeling harmless, after everything.

"You wearing this to bed?" Steve's having trouble keeping his eyes open. It's been a rough evening, trying to get people to listen. Cuddling up with a human stuffed toy in the shape of the person who's always had his back is just what he needs right now.

Bucky huffs a laugh, but indulges Steve with a “maybe."

**

Bucky wears the ridiculously soft onesie to bed, and although Steve's too worked up about SHIELD's insistence on spying on anyone they feel like to sleep, it's comforting to wrap his arms around a nice, plush Bucky while he's the one dead to the world for once.

He wakes with a start a couple hours later though, tearing himself out of Steve's arms in a cold sweat, unzipping the onesie and peeling it off like it's on fire.

His nightmares are a regular but lessening occurrence in their bed, but before Steve can ask what's wrong, Bucky flings the pajamas to the floor and grumbles, "Can't wear anything to bed sleeping with a human furnace."

Steve grins, out of relief and because he's sure it's such a terrible inconvenience. Five minutes later, Bucky's back to curling against him, naked and crawling in goosebumps.

He doesn't seem particularly sleepy anymore though.

"Why are you still awake? Still stewing about SHIELD?" Steve nods and Bucky's cool, metal fingers gently curl around the back of his neck, thumb stroking along Steve's jaw and drawing him into a kiss. "Come here," he murmurs against Steve's mouth. "Work out your frustrations."

Bucky rolls onto his back, pulling Steve on top of him. His mouth opens under Steve's and it's not long before his thighs do too. Steve grabs for the lube and for a while it's all heat and clenching fingers and quiet moans and breaths breathed out together, but Steve sleeps well when it's over.

When he wakes up, it's to warm kisses along his jaw and the tickle of Bucky's human fingers walking up his chest. Steve's eyes open and Bucky is smiling. Steve can see it means he's settled on another harmless urge he wants indulged.

"You don't have to go running this morning and I don't wanna train. I can exercise you right here."

Steve blinks, amazed this SHIELD therapist has actually found a way to help. Bucky never skips his training. He'll train until he hurts himself. Fortunately for Steve's part, daily runs aren't necessary to keep him in top condition.

He runs a hand through Bucky's tousled hair and grins at him, and after a long time kissing and taking Bucky in his mouth and a whole lot of touching, Steve has him on his stomach and he's inside him again.

"You want it hard?" he presses a teasing kiss to Bucky's good shoulder. “You know, to wake you up? Get the day started?"

Bucky's eyes meet his, his head angled to look back at him, cheek against the pillow. "No," his voice is rough and his breathing ragged and there's sweat shining on his skin. "Go slow, so it's like a good dream."

**

It may be too hot for Bucky to wear the snow leopard onesie to bed, but he wears it in the evenings doing everything else. He fixes dinner in it, folds himself up on the couch in it, typing up his SHIELD paperwork on the laptop, and lets Steve curl up to him in it mostly naked in front of the TV when Steve is tired of parading around in the costume. Bucky even sits at the kitchen table sharpening his knives and cleaning his guns wearing the thing.

He comes home from an overnight mission one morning and after sucking Steve off in the shower to the point where Steve would agree to move to Antarctica if Bucky wanted and making a pretty impressive attempt to fuck him through the tile for good measure afterward, Bucky announces, "I bought you something."

He often brings Steve back things from his missions—usually some ridiculous bit of Captain America merchandise or memorabilia that has found its way to the corners of the world. This time though, he hands Steve a shopping bag from a department store in the mall.

Intrigued, because even Captain America likes surprises when they aren't a potentially world-ending alien attack, Steve pulls out a silky-plush tiger-striped onesie complete with hood and fuzzy ears.

Bucky is smiling, pleased with himself. "It was the only one in your size. The way you're always petting me I figured you needed one of your own."

"I thought you liked it when I pet you." Steve tries not to sound too hurt.

Bucky grins. "I do, but I want someone to pet too. What's the point of you being my boyfriend if I have to pet myself? Besides, why don't the SHIELD shrinks get after you? When was the last time you gave in to some dumb thing you wanted? You're so busy letting the Captain America thing run you everywhere."

He has a point, but the SHIELD therapists get after Bucky because they're afraid he won't be useful if he unravels mentally. If they start encouraging Steve Rogers to think about his own happiness he might just start telling people 'no' once in a while.

Steve holds the pajamas up to himself. "Those army blankets were pretty itchy..." And really a tawny, tiger-striped onesie isn't that much more ridiculous than the suit he usually wears.

"Put it on," Bucky says, "so I can make us something to eat and tell you about the guy I stopped who planned on making himself a copycat me and blowing up a U.N. meeting."

By "tell him about" Bucky means he's upset about having to put yet another man in the ground and wants to curl up close to Steve for awhile and hear he did the right thing. It's progress, compared to the days when he would completely shut down after something like that, but Steve hopes Bucky keeps up the SHIELD shrink's advice and someday learns to ask for what he needs outright.

**

It turns out plush tiger footie pajamas are a lot more comfortable than a star-spangled fighting suit. By the end of the day, Steve finds himself eager to get out of the costume and into something fuzzier. He finds himself eager to snuggle up to an equally soft and fuzzy Bucky. It's freeing, lying around like a couple of oversized kids. They never had cozy pajamas as kids. They barely had heat in the winter.

The next crisis hits and forces them to spend the night in Avengers Tower, waiting for the next wave of semi-intelligent, overgrown spiders to attack.

Bucky's brought their footie pajamas for them to wear and he's bored. Every suite in the tower has a well-stocked minibar hooked up to a digital book of modern cocktail recipes. Bucky searches through them, confused as to why common knowledge says mixed drinks are for girls now.

He tries the recipes out on Steve since he can't get drunk. Bucky used to work tending bar before the war—one of many jobs anyway—and out of all his jobs, Steve remembered he actually enjoyed that one.

So far, Steve has had about three different types of trendy martinis, all tasting like fruity paint remover. Bucky's back behind the bar scrolling through the lists for something else to make and yells "Zombie!" with more excitement than Steve has heard from him for a long time. Bottles clink, and a few minutes later Steve is presented with a tall, orange-y drink reeking of rum.

"Remember this?"

Steve takes a sip. It's as awful as it was the first time. It burns going down and he coughs.

"Yeah. You had three of them at the World's Fair in '39 and puked on my shoes on the way home."

Bucky laughs. "Stark's really into his booze. You won't believe what's on those shelves."

Steve knows Tony well enough that he believes just fine. He takes another sip to be polite and hands the glass back to Bucky.

"You drink the rest."

Bucky eyes him. "Hoping you'll start to get prettier?" He puts the glass on the coffee table and sits beside him. "I just wanted to make it."

The truth is, Bucky doesn't drink much anymore. Steve suspects it's a control thing.

Bored with the bar and frustrated they can't get the fight over with on their terms, Bucky lays his head on Steve's shoulder and runs a hand down his plush, tiger-striped chest.

"'Bout time you had some hair there."

"Shut up." Steve elbows him in the ribs. He brushes the fur over his knee though and says more seriously, "Is this how you see me? As a tiger?"

Bucky plays with one tiger ear as casually as he plays with more sensitive parts of Steve in bed. "You ever seen that picture on the internet of the little orange cat that looks in the mirror and sees itself as a lion? That's how I used to see you." Steve doesn't know how the hell he's supposed to take that, so Bucky kisses his cheek. "What? It's cute."

He doesn't stop there. His mouth wanders down to Steve's neck and then his hands are on Steve's shoulders and he's smoothly straddling Steve's lap.

Steve's cock responds to the pressure of Bucky hot against him. His head tips up instinctively for a kiss, but while he wants to clutch at the firm muscle of Bucky's ass and pull him closer, he takes him by the waist and gently pushes him back.

"We shouldn't. We're technically on duty."

"Yeah," Bucky agrees, though he doesn't like it. He slides off Steve. "I'm gonna go watch TV and try to take a nap."

Steve doesn't mean to take a nap too, but he's bored and watching TV is about the only thing they can do while they wait. Bucky throws himself on the bed on top of the covers and Steve settles his arms around the furry warmth of him. They end up watching a show called "Sleepy Hollow" in which Ichabod Crane is serving in the Revolutionary War one minute and waking up in the year 2013 the next. It makes them laugh—when Bucky's not too busy ogling the actresses—because they thought they had it bad, and Bucky decides Steve probably inspired the show.

They turn the TV off and Bucky rolls to face him in the dark, kissing him lazily and tracing fuzzy tiger stripes with his fingertip while Steve does the same with his leopard spots. They both end up falling asleep, and stay that way for a good couple hours until the sound of metal clattering on the hardwood floor wakes them.

Bucky's alert in a heartbeat, bolting upright, eyes darting around. It's the grate on the air vent above the bar that's fallen and in the dark they see the hairy outline of inky spider legs slipping through the opening.

It's not just one spider, and the things are fast. A whole stream of them squeezes out of the vent, onto the bar, and down to the floor in a shattering of overturned liquor bottles. Bucky yells, and both he and Steve get to their feet. Steve spies the slim outline of a knife in Bucky's hand that he must have pulled from some concealed compartment in his onesie. He stares for half a heartbeat, but doesn't know why he's surprised.

Shouting for JARVIS to turn on the lights, Steve grabs for the shield. "I'll block them off," he yells to Bucky. The ceilings in the tower are high, but he can reach the vent climbing on the bar.

The granite slips even with the treads on his onesie, wet with slime and booze. Steve slams the shield against the vent and has to strain to keep it in place against a flood of more of those things trying to gnaw and push their way through vibranium with surprising strength. Steve doesn't scare easy, but the sound of oversized spider teeth on metal twists his stomach.

He turns. Bucky's in the middle of the living room. four dead spiders half Bucky's size litter the ground, leaking black blood and more slime onto the floorboards. The stench is choking, and a fifth spider makes its way to the door. Silver flashes and the spider ends up pinned against the wood by a throw of Bucky's knife just as the door bangs open.

Tony crashes through in the Iron Man suit, Thor beside him, hammer in hand.

"Oh my god." Tony goes dead still, staring. Steve thinks it's the mess, or maybe a paralyzing fear of spiders, but Tony's shocked and disturbed gaze moves from him to Bucky. "Is this what you two do? Dress up like huge stuffed animals together? God..." He rubs a hand over his eyes. "I don't even want to know what kind of jungle sex this leads to. Is there even a name for this kink?"

Thor looks equally dumbfounded. "I was hoping this was a Midgardian spiritual exercise I had not yet learned of. I am still hoping. Please, tell me it is."

"Yeah I'll bet it's spiritual all right. I'd wonder who's on top, but..." Tony shakes his head, violently. "No. Don't want to think about it."

Bucky pulls another knife from the leg of his onesie. There's still more spiders in the room, crawling through broken glass and liquor. Bucky stabs one coming toward him and gestures at Thor once he's got his knife free. "A little help here?"

Thor's so busy shaking with rumbling laughter it takes him a long time to answer. "Forgive me, friend. I cannot fight alongside a warrior so furry. The distraction is too much!"

Steve's arm is starting to burn from holding the shield in place. Bucky hops onto the counter and lends him a little extra strength with his metal arm.

"Cap's getting tired. Are we gonna help him or what?"

Another spider in the room tries to make for the door. Tony stomps on it, crushing it with a disgusting crack with the boot of his armor. He lifts his foot and it comes away stuck to the ground in strings of black goo.

"Yeah, just keep it up with that shield there, tiger, and we'll get on that. God, couldn't you two have been caught in women's underwear or something? At least that's a fetish I could understand."

Bucky bites his bottom lip. "It's not a fetish, now come on." His voice climbs an octave in frustration. "Those things are in the building. The air vents won't hold for long. I used to climb through things like that all the time."

"Yeah, yeah, Barnes," Tony isn't in any hurry. "First, I want a picture. This is too good not to go viral, especially with you guys holding the shield like big damn Garanimal heroes. JARVIS," he calls into his helmet, "capture the moment—and play me the Thundercats song while you're at it. I think it fits the mood."

Steve has had enough. "This isn't a game. Everyone in the tower is in danger and maybe the city too. It's not too far of a leap to assume these things are venomous."

"Fine," Tony says. "But the picture's still going on Twitter. Suit up, guys—and by that I mean your grown-up suits."

**

They stop the spiders and Tony puts the picture on Twitter, but not before Bucky beats him to it by tweeting "When you've died for your country, you can wear whatever you want."

The picture is all over the news for a while—the two of them facing each other in footie pajamas, holding up the shield together, standing on top of a bar sopped in liquor and dark goo. A great many people think it's a hoax and Steve is grateful. He doesn't particularly feel like being pressed to represent the "furry" community or to have the free world going wild speculating over what else he and Bucky are into, either in disgust or far too much interest. The fuss quickly dies though when the latest celebrity neglects to wear underwear beneath her see-through dress a few days later.

Bucky stained his snow leopard onesie in the fight, and when they get home and clean themselves up, he wears nothing but the towel he dried himself with. It doesn't last long though against the drive for release after a battle and afterward he's lying boneless and sweaty and satisfied, naked next to Steve on their bed.

"You gonna get another one?" Steve asks him.

Bucky shakes his head. "Should probably go for something else I want instead. I only get one thing at a time."

Steve's not sure he agrees with the idea of Bucky rationing things that might make him happy, but if one thing at a time is meant to be a start, he can hold his tongue.

"Yeah? what's it's gonna be?" He brushes Bucky's messy hair off his forehead.

"I don't know. Might wanna try making cookies. Haven't had homemade cookies since my ma died. Either that or..." Grinning, Bucky gives one of Steve's pecs a squeeze. "Maybe I want you to do a nice slow striptease in the uniform I always liked. I downloaded the Star Spangled Man Song."

Bucky's eyes and the way he says it are all suggestion and mischief, but Steve just shakes his head. "As long as I get to pick something in return." Because Bucky had a point. Maybe he should start getting in on this game too.