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These Things Take Forever, I Especially Am Slow

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They're on a beach.

Where this beach is or the fact that it's freezing  and sprinkling rain doesn't matter. The two of them are on a beach and staring at each other. Well, Steve is staring. He's trying to physically will the unknown brunette to look at him. He was invited along to a picnic on the beach by his friend's Clint and Natasha. Maybe "invited" wasn't the right word; the couple had all but dragged him out of his rundown apartment. It's not that he didn't want to go, Steve's just busy finishing the panels for the comic he's been working on for over a month. He's a comic artist. Spending days- weeks- cooped up in his apartment isn't something to worry about. But his friends had insisted and even packed an overnight bag for him while he pouted on the couch. Natasha "I dare you to say no to me" Romanoff had even taken his work and hid it somewhere his short frame probably couldn't reach.

"You can't stay in this dump every day." Clint "no filter" Barton was just as eager to get him out. "It's gotta be bad for your asthma not to mention you need sunlight, Rogers." Clint tugged him along out the door while Natasha made sure things were in order.

"I got a deadline, I can't just leave." Both friends audibly groaned.

Natasha locked his apartment door and led him out by the shoulders. "Yeah, yeah. We both know you're already done and just nit picking. Plus, Sam invited one of his vet buddies; thinks you'll like him." He rolls his eyes at that. Ever since Steve admitted- in a very inebriated state- he was up for dating, his friends haven't let up on finding someone for him. And Steve was always a sucker for a man in uniform.

Which is how he ended up sitting on a log freezing his ass off, watching said friend of Sam's. He's going to get sick, like always, but he can't make himself leave. Not when he say Sam's friend.

He nearly fell when he saw the brunette. He quite literally tripped over his own feet. He was gorgeous; in every way Steve could think of. God, he wanted to draw this man. Natasha had mercifully let him bring one sketchpad with him; he busied himself trying to sketch out the man's jawline for over half an hour. Every time he thought he had it, it was wrong. He managed to get the curve of his eyes down near perfect. His arched eyebrow when he talked. Steve even got the slope of his nose down to a T. His jaw- and those beautiful looking lips- were his biggest challenge. He needed the man to look at him fully so he could get them down. But drawing attention to himself was not an option.

"Hey man that looks great!" Steve froze before quickly turning around. Sam Wilson looked down at him with a gentle smirk. "You got him down perfect. Hey Barnes, come here." Sam looked away from him and to the brunette. Said brunette was having a deep conversation with Natasha; Steve had heard them speaking in what he could only guess was Russian. He hadn't been able to even guess what they were saying. Before Steve could protest, the man looked over. And looked directly at Steve. Steve's drawing did not do him justice with those piercing eyes. They were the color blue he would happily drown himself in. It took Steve all of three seconds to realize the man- Barnes?- was walking towards him.

"What's up?" He nodded to Sam. Steve felt very close to jamming his pencil into his friends kneecap. Steve tried to keep himself out of the conversation, keeping his sketchpad close to his chest.

Sam wasn't allowing that. "This is my friend Steve, the artist I told you about." Steve's tilted his head and glared daggers at his friend. He didn't like people talking about him. Even if it was to a certain cute brunette.

He looked down at Steve and held out his right hand. "Oh nice! Steve right?" The blonde nodded, wearily taking his hand and shaking it. "M'names James. But everyone calls me Bucky." Steve felt a shock run down his crooked spine as he spoke. He could definitely get use to hearing that voice. It's a good minute before Steve realizes he's been holding Bucky's hand for too long. He pulls back like he's been burnt; his cheeks go red. Bucky just smiles a crooked smile at him. "Whatcha got there?" He's looking at the sketchpad. Steve tries to hide it under his coat but is stopped by Sam yanking it from his hands. He's handing it to Bucky before he can stop him. He loves his friend a great deal, but right now he was okay with giving him a painful end.

"He's good at sketching. Look what he did." Sam's showing Bucky the page of the brunette portrait. Steve is definitely about to stab his friend with his pencil; he's busy finding out where it would hurt the most when he looks up at Bucky. He feels Sam squeeze his shoulder but doesn't hear the excuse for why he's leaving the two of them alone. Steve's eyes are locked on the shocked expression in front of him. He grinds his teeth. He can almost physically see the expressions change on the other man's face.

He's worried. "I- um sorry. I know I should've asked before I even started but I just..." He just what? His mind can't form coherent sentences as those dazzling blue eyes look back at him. "Sorry." He mutters and looks away. He's embarrassed beyond belief now and he seriously is considering never speaking to Sam "I'm the best wing man" Wilson ever again.

"These are really good." It's a quiet reply but a better one than what Steve was expecting. Steve's cheeks warm again and he looks back up. He's honestly still expecting to get hit or something because no man he's ever met was okay with him drawing them; especially when it was from a distance. Bucky's still smiling and he hands him back the sketchpad. "No one's ever drawn me before. I'm flattered." And that's the second Steve's sure he fell hard from this man he's never met before. "Can I sit?" Bucky motions to the seat next to him. Steve falters for a second before nodding. He scoots over. Which is apparently for nothing as Bucky slides up right against him. He's glad Bucky sat on his right side- at least he can hear without a hearing aid on that side.

Steve's suddenly too warm to notice the rain stopped. He's too busy studying the broad chest and slightly too long hair of the man in front of him to notice people pulling out blankets to sit on the sand. He doesn't even notice- amidst the idle chatter the two have- their hands find each other and fingers lace together.

He isn't too busy to notice Clint watching them- and when the blonde signs 'damn' and 'you got this' over his shoulder.

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It's been a year and a half since they met. A year of friendship and honestly some of the best days of Steve Rogers' life. Three months of them being just friends, nine months of them actually dating. Everyone else saw it coming a mile away except the two of them. Natasha and Sam had all but forced them together; the two of them had been tiptoeing the whole time. Clint had been surprised when they made it official. Apparently, he thought they were together since the start. Nine months of them laughing, smiling, kissing, drawing, and loving each other.

But it's also been six months since they broke up.

Honestly neither knows how it ended. It just did. One moment they can't keep their hands off each other and the next...they can't stand to touch each other. Steve found himself working more and more just so he didn't have to see his supposed boyfriend. Not like said boyfriend was putting much effort into the relationship. They had one argument. Just one. But it was the one that ended everything.

"I don't get it, why can't you tell me?" Steve tossed his bag down with more anger than needed. The two of them had been out for dinner when Bucky got a call. A call he didn't seem to think Steve needed to know anything about. "Why is it a secret all of a sudden?" They went back to Steve's small apartment once the call ruined the mood. The shorter of the two was rightfully pissed at their evening being ruined. Bucky apologized but said he needed to go; he dropped Steve off and meant to leave immediately after. Steve wasn't having it and made him come inside.

"Look, Stevie. It's better I don't tell ya right now." Bucky ran a hand through his hair in the way Steve knew there was something he wasn't saying. On purpose. "I'll explain it later but right now I just need you to understand." Steve understood. Oh he did. Bucky never purposely kept something from him so why now?

"No Buck, I can't understand. 'Cause I have no idea what you want me to understand. Is it something with your ma? Your sister? You gotta tell me." It went back and forth until they were yelling. Bucky needed Steve to let it go for now and the blonde refused. Bucky threw cusses, Steve threw his sketchbook. It ended with Bucky slamming the door and rattling the whole apartment. Steve went to sleep angrier than he'd ever been and honestly wasn't surprised when he didn't hear anything from the other for a week. Then two. Then a month. After a month passed he worried and asked Sam how Bucky was. The box of Steve's things that just ended on his doorstep after a week was enough for him to get the message; they were done. Sam didn't know about any of this. His friend had blinked down at him, surprised.

"He didn't tell you?" They met up for coffee and the darker one was stunned. Steve shook his head in confusion; the look Sam gave him was one of near heartbreak. "Man, Buck got shipped out. His platoon was called out about a month ago and he left three weeks ago." Steve froze. Oh no. Oh no, no, no. That was likely what the phone call was and why Bucky didn't want to talk about it. He knew it would upset Steve for him to leave. But they had stupidly fought and he never got a chance to say anything. And Bucky had left angry; he wouldn't want to talk to Steve because he thought Steve was the one mad. Steve felt like a complete asshole.

But that was five months ago and he hadn't heard anything from Bucky. Steve had asked Sam if he could send Bucky a letter apologizing; his friend said he would make sure it got to him. Steve never heard back. Now he could understand why Bucky never answered. He had only asked Steve to understand and then he would tell him what was wrong. Steve didn't listen to his one plea. Months passed. There was a huge ache in his chest where it was once warm. But he could live with it. He did. He stayed focused on the comics he was commissioned for. He went out when Natasha and Clint dragged him. He visited Sam and helped out with VA counseling; who knew art could be a good outlet?

Five months passed and every single day he thought about James Buchanan "eyes that could pierce you" Barnes. He didn't admit it but his friends knew. They saw it in every pencil sketch and line filled. They saw it in the shadows under his eyes from tireless work. They saw it in the way he looked too hopeful when anyone resembling Bucky came into view. They saw it with the way his eyes and heart dropped when he saw it wasn't him.

He just wouldn't admit it. Only when he came home one night from helping Sam at the VA did he admit it to himself. He had stopped dead in the hallway and dropped his book bag where he stood. Steve wasn't completely sure he wasn't dreaming; he'd had this dream before. Maybe he fell asleep at his desk again and this was the result.

But no.

There, in Steve's favorite black jacket, stood one James Buchanan "likely the love of Steve's life" Barnes leaning against his door. There was a duffel bag by his feet and bruises under his eyes. And something didn't appear normal about his left hand. Which, he kept tucked at his side.

"Bucky?" Steve blurted it out. It got the brunette's attention. His eyes that use to shine were glazed over; it broke Steve's heart to see. He used to want to draw those eyes for hours but now he just wanted to wipe away any tears from them. He swallowed hard and picked up his bag, walking hesitantly towards the man. Bucky stood still. Steve worried a little as he came to stand only a foot away. If possible, Bucky had gotten bigger. Not that Steve was big by any means but still. The man seemed to tower over him even more. His hair had gotten longer and has haphazardly tied back. "Buck." Steve breathed and hesitated to reach out.

"Stevie." Bucky looked like he was going to collapse. There was no hesitance in his movements; he reached out and wrapped one arm- his right arm- tight around Steve's small frame. The blonde reacted and wrapped both arms around the man's waist. His face was pressed against his neck. He felt Bucky press his face into his hair and held on tighter. It shouldn't have been this easy, they coming back together. It shouldn't have been this easy for Steve to welcome and want Bucky back in his life; but it is. But he noticed something amidst their embrace. It did bother him slightly that Bucky was only using one arm. That's when he realized it. Steve pulled back slightly and brought one arm up to Bucky's left. Or where it should be. His hand was met with a long sleeve rolled and folded over a stump. Steve's breath hitched and he looked up. Bucky was biting his lip and not looking at him.

"Is that why you never answered?" Why it was the first thing out of his mouth, Steve didn't know. But it came out. His only answer was a tight nod. Steve took a deep breath and looked back at Bucky's shoulder. "Let's go inside." And so they did. Steve led Bucky into his apartment and made him sit on the couch. He went back into the hall and dragged the heavy duffel bag inside. When he shut the door, he took a moment to look at Bucky. He wanted to be angry. Not one word from him and then he showed up like this. But he wasn't angry. Because Bucky had a perfectly good reason. He just didn't want to listen. "I'm sorry." He says it first to get it out of the way.

Bucky just sits there for a moment. He's unblinking as he just takes in the blonde in front of him. He blinks once and holds out his hand. Steve looks at it unsure before he takes it. He forgot how small his hands feel in Bucky's; how small he feels and is in general. Bucky doesn't bring it up. He doesn't do anything really. Just holds Steve's hand. The blonde is more than willing to just sit there. Even if he wants answers.

"I should have said something before I left." Bucky's voice is hoarse. Steve feels himself unravel just hearing it, even if it sounds so different. "I should have told you about the call but I just couldn't make myself tell you, Stevie."

Steve panics for a second. He quickly kneels in front of the bigger man and looks him in the eyes. "You've got nothing to be sorry for. I shouldn't have yelled at you, should've understood you needed time." He's squeezing Bucky's hand and sighs. "We're both stubborn and I should've listened." Bucky was shaking his head and near interrupting him. "No, Buck listen. I was angry for no reason and I let you leave without letting you explain. I can't tell you how sorry I am."

Bucky pulled him in close. So close Steve felt the air leave his chest.

"I'm glad I didn't die before I met you." Steve freezes. He pulls back- tries to- but Bucky isn't letting him. He's keeping him as close as he can with his one good arm. Steve lets himself be held, be cradled against his ex's chest. "Every day I thought about you. Every damn day." Bucky's face was pressed against his hair and his breathing irregular. "I drove all night to get here. Was gonna be stationed in Jersey but I kicked up a fuss. I needed to be wherever you are." His arm tightens around Steve's waist and he's all but sitting in the other's lap. He resettles himself, leaning into the brunette. "Everything changed after I left. I was stupid to not tell you. Felt like I finally woke up when I realized I was leaving without saying anything. Like a cold rain."

Steve's chest feels tight. He can hear every ounce of regret and something else. He wants to soothe them, to tell Bucky none of that matters anymore because he's here now. And hopefully will stay. He wraps his arms around his neck and presses his face there. He should be mad, should be upset, should be a lot of thing. But all he wants is to stay where he is and never let go.

"I don't care where I am anymore. I just wanna be with you and I'm happy."

They have a lot to talk about. So many months have passed and they need to talk about them. Steve needs to tell him about how horrible it's been and how sad he is. He knows their friends aren't going to let this go lightly. They need to talk about Bucky's left arm- what happened and if he wants to do anything about it. They need to talk about communicating more and if they even want to be together- if they can. But now it's fine.

"I think I like you enough to keep you around." Steve's voice is small but he knows Bucky hears him. He knows because of the small quirk of his lips and the light kiss he places on his cheek. Yeah, they need to talk. But it's raining outside and it can wait.