Bucky’s first mission with the Avengers is brought about by Steve’s continued, terrifying faith in him, an invasion of alien robots, and SHEILD’s sheer desperation. This is the second run on New York in as many weeks and the infirmary is full up, the pool of available active agents dangerously low. “Suit up,” Steve says, tossing Bucky his jacket and rifle and tugging him toward the Quinjet.
Steve opens the bay doors when they’re in the air. The robots are spindly things with what look like plasma canons attached to their three arms. Bucky aims and shoots one of them in the face. It collapses to the ground, motionless.
“Well, not too sturdy at least,” Tony observes. “The alien engineers should be ashamed. I’ll start here. Cap,” he says, motioning Steve over. Steve goes, patiently long-suffering. “Good luck,” Tony says, putting a hand at the back of Steve’s neck and pulling him into a kiss.
Bucky feels himself pale, his grip tightening on his rifle. Steve never mentioned that he and Tony were together.
Tony powers up the suit and jumps. Bucky’s uncharitably glad to see the back of him. Then Thor says, “I will assist”, kisses Steve and jumps from the jet, cape flying back dramatically. What the fuck, Buck thinks.
“A little further west for me, do you think?” Bruce asks calmly.
Steve nods and points to where a group of robots are shooting craters into a skyscraper. “How about right there?”
“You got it, Captain,” Bruce says, bussing a kiss to Steve’s cheek. He unleashes the Hulk and drops.
Clint tightens a strap on Natasha’s parachute as she pecks Steve on the lips, then nudges her out of the way. “My turn,” he says, kissing Steve thoroughly enough that Steve’s lips are wet and red when he pulls back. Bucky stares. “Good luck, Cap,” Clint says, smirking.
“Thanks,” Steve says fondly, rolling his eyes. “Start at Central Park and work your way south. We’ll meet up at Times Square.” Clint salutes and reaches for Natasha’s hands so they can do a tandem jump.
“What the hell was that?” Bucky asks, when it’s just him and Steve left in the jet.
“Oh,” Steve says, like he doesn’t think anything of it. “That’s a team thing. For luck.”
“A team thing, huh,” Bucky says, because he’s on the team now and here’s the perfect opening, the perfect chance that he’s been waiting eighty years to take.
Bucky sees the moment Steve gets it. His eyes go sad and blue, the way they used to when all the dames would look at him and laugh behind their hands. “You don’t have to, Buck. It’s just a joke.”
Bucky steps closer. “Am I part of this team now or not?”
“Of course you are,” Steve protests.
“Well then,” Bucky says, grabbing Steve by the uniform straps, “Give me my kiss, soldier.” He reaches a hand up to cup Steve’s jaw and tugs him in for a kiss. Steve makes a noise and pulls him closer. His lips are soft and pliant and Bucky thinks of all the times he wishes he'd had the courage: splitting cotton candy at Coney Island, holding ice against Steve's forehead when he had a fever and against his eye after Johnny Maren threw a bottle at a homeless man, that day in the Alps, before they jumped onto a moving train. Bucky kisses him until he has to break away and gasp for breath.
Steve leans his forehead against Bucky’s. “All you ever had to do was ask,” he says, softly.
“I’ll be taking you up on that, punk,” Bucky promises. “Just as soon as we finish kicking some alien ass.” He kisses Steve once more, for luck. “Let’s go.”