It had been five months, sixteen days and roughly eight hours since Steve woke up, bruised and broken, in the hospital. Then five months, sixteen days, seven hours and roughly fifty-nine minutes since he had made it his personal mission to track Bucky down. Not that Steve had been keeping track or anything.
Natasha had shown up at the beginning of the fifth month with a confident “You boys need some help?” Slipping past Steve smoothly and into the cramped hotel room he and Sam had set up as a temporary base of operations. Steve hadn’t bothered to ask how she found them and Sam accepted it easily enough. Besides, her presence had been helpful. She had new information, useful information that led them all back to New York.
Supposedly, Bucky was in this old, abandoned Hydra safe house. Had been for a few days, and odds were it wouldn’t be long until he moved on from it. That meant they needed to act fast.
If he was being honest Steve was nervous. Or maybe anxious was the better word. Either way Steve felt unsettled. He hadn’t seen Bucky since their encounter on the helicarrier, since he had dropped his shield and refused to fight his friend, since he had fallen into icy water only to be pulled up by a metallic hand.
And while Steve was being so honest he also admitted to himself he had no idea what would happened if they managed to catch up with Bucky. There were hundreds of scenarios that could play out. If he was being hopeful maybe Bucky remembered something, anything. Maybe he would come to Steve first. Maybe he would leave willingly with them. Or maybe he would attack them the second they got close, knock them all on their asses and get away.
If Steve was being a realist, he knew it was unlikely Bucky would go with them without putting up a decent fight first. So, that was what he prepared for. He made sure his shield was secured across his back while Natasha double checked her guns.
“You know I’m trying to bring him back here alive right?” He asked her, pointedly looking at the weapons she held in her hands.
“Relax; one of them’s for tranquilizers.” She held up the one she had in her right hand. “I got ahold of some stuff strong enough that it should be able to knock even you out.”
Steve nodded in acquiescence. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know how she managed that one though he had to admit it was a good idea.
Soon enough they were ready to go. They had planned it out like this: the safe house was a two story place so Steve and Sam would check the larger downstairs while Natasha cleared the upstairs. When someone had a location on Bucky (if he was still even there) then they were to radio the others immediately. It should be simple enough to execute.
The house looked like it was crumbling away when they approached it. Soft rays of moonlight were just enough for them to navigate the darkness quietly. Natasha broke away as they got closer to find her own way to the upper level.
For as creaky as the place looked Steve and Sam were able to get in without making noise. A large white staircase divided the entryway. Sam nodded at him once before going left and down a hallway. Steve turned right and strained his ear for any sound. He was tense and ready for a fight, expecting the Winter Soldier to barrel into him at any moment.
It was too quiet. Steve was starting to think this was another dead end after all.
A loud crash that sounded like splintering wood above his head proved otherwise.
“Natasha.” Steve muttered under his breath and then he was going back the way he came to get to the staircase. Taking the steps two and three at time he was upstairs within seconds. To his left there came a low shout of pain and he turned, running to find the source as quickly as he could.
At the end of the hallway he found the right room. There was what sounded like someone being thrown into a wall followed by another groan. Steve didn’t even bother to see if the door was unlocked before he was forcing it open shoulder first and stumbling inside.
Ready to enter the fray, Steve looked around and saw that wouldn’t be necessary. Bucky lay unconscious on the dirty floor. A black dart stuck out of his neck. Natasha was panting above him, tranq gun still pointed down at Bucky as if he was about to get back up.
Steve rushed over to them. “You okay?” He asked, checking her over for injuries.
She nodded and brushed him off. “I’m fine Rogers. My wrist is broken but it’s preferable to another bullet through my stomach.”
“I’ll take your word for it.” Steve said. With a glance he determined Natasha was telling the truth and seemed to be okay. Steve sank to his knees beside Bucky’s still body to make sure he was alright too.
Then Sam burst into the room out of breath. “I miss anything?”
“Just all the important parts.” Natasha said while she examined her wrist.
“Good to know.” Sam walked up to them. “He’s down for the count then?”
“For now.” was Natasha’s distracted response.
Bucky’s hair wasn’t as long. Longer than he would have kept it during the war, but shorter than when he had last seen him. Steve brushed some of the dark strands out of his face. His eyelids were fluttering and there was a slight frown to his mouth. He looked as if he was simply sleeping, restlessly and troubled from the way his body seemed to twitch every few moments.
“How long is this supposed to keep him out for?” Steve gestured to the dart.
“Should be about half an hour. Realistically speaking though? I’m not sure.”
Natasha’s statement was punctuated by a groan from Bucky. Everybody froze. They looked down to see Bucky’s eyes blinking open. Instantly they found Steve’s and their gazes were locked. However Steve didn’t find the cold, harsh glare of the Winter Soldier staring back at him. It was confused warmth. Maybe even recognition? Steve dared to hope.
“Well that answers that.” Natasha moved to shoot him with another dose. Before she could Steve held up a hand to stop her. Bucky wasn’t going anywhere judging from the way he was struggling to move.
“Do you remember anything?” Steve asked quiet and never breaking eye contact.
Do you remember me?
Bucky stared back looking serious and his left hand, his metal hand weakly clutched at Steve’s arm. Despite how slurred his voice sounded that didn’t prevent everyone from understanding what he said next.
“Fuck, look at you; I wanna climb you like a tree.”
Steve blinked. Then he blushed as Natasha and Sam began laughing above him.
Out of all the ways this could have gone Steve did not expect this.
He had expected violence, tough resistance from the Winter Soldier. Not his best friend seemingly high as a goddamn kite and trying to grope him.
It turned out a second dose of the tranquilizer was not needed because Bucky was happy to clumsily get up and follow Steve. He almost fell in the process and Steve had to grab onto him to keep him from collapsing back onto the ground.
Bucky had smiled huge and lazy, clinging to Steve saying, “Mmm you should carry me. You probably could, being so big and strong.”
Steve had politely declined much to Sam’s amusement and Bucky’s disappointment.
“What the hell was in that?” Steve asked Natasha.
“I honestly don’t know. It’s doing the job though; the target has been…subdued.” She smiled at Steve. Bucky glared at her.
“You know I ain’t sharing, this one is mine.” Bucky held onto him more tightly than was necessary.
“Oh he’s all yours.” Natasha said, starting to lead them out of the house.
“I’m sorry what?” Steve was having a hard time processing what was coming out of Bucky’s mouth.
“Shhh” with unsteady hands he smeared his fingers across Steve’s lips, “don’t worry I’ll treat you right.”
He mumbled against Bucky’s fingers. “Not really what I’m worried about right now.”
With slow and stumbling steps they made it back to the car. It didn’t help their progress that every chance he got Bucky tried to get his hands under Steve’s clothes. Then of course he had dragged one his hands down Steve’s back and grabbed his ass.
“Jesus christ Bucky!” Steve had startled away and Bucky had to hold onto the wall for support.
“Sorry, my hand slipped.” The grin on his face had been anything but apologetic.
Bucky had taken the opportunity their sudden distance afforded him to rake his eyes up and down Steve’s body. “You’re just all muscle aren’t you?” The heat in his voice had caused Steve to shift uncomfortably. "God bless America." He added appreciatively.
It wasn’t that he wasn’t flattered or disgusted by Bucky’s newfound interest. The problem lay in the fact that he was perhaps a little too happy about it. But Bucky clearly wasn’t in his right mind; it wasn’t like Steve could really do anything about it.
“I don’t think you know what you’re saying.” He held his arm out for Bucky to take.
Bucky was all too glad to accept it and mold himself to Steve’s side again. “Nah, I know what I want,” his words still came sluggishly, “and what I want s’ you in my pants, real soon.”
Another burst of laughter from Sam and Steve had turned his head to give him a look. Sam had grinned, unrepentant. “What? You have to admit that this,” he gestured to Bucky who seemed to be focused on staring at Steve’s mouth,"while unexpected, is funny.”
“Not sure ‘fun’ is the word I would use.”
Then Bucky had decided that was the right moment to chime with a mumbled “Should be a crime for you to be so pretty.”
Which sent Sam into more bouts of laughter, telling Steve, “No, you’re right. It’s damn hilarious.”
Once they were in the car Bucky didn’t appear to have improved much. Steve suspected he was faking a little just so he had an excuse to plaster himself to Steve in the backseat. Up front Sam was driving with Natasha sitting passenger side. They could have been nonexistent for all Bucky seemed to notice them.
Bucky seemed to think that because they were in the backseat they suddenly had all the privacy in the world. He pushed his face into Steve’s neck and inhaled. “You smell nice.”
“He probably says that to all the boys.” Natasha remarked from the front.
“Natasha!” Steve admonished at the same time Bucky said, “Only Steve, he’s special.” and then proceeded to mouth at Steve’s neck in a way that probably would have been much dirtier if he had the energy. As it was, all Bucky could manage to do was press his lips at random spots on Steve’s skin.
“You really shouldn’t be-ah!” Steve jumped at the first swipe of Bucky’s tongue and he felt Bucky’s weak laughter. He dragged his mouth up to Steve’s ear.
“C’mon I know you’re not that innocent.” Bucky’s right hand traced a slow path up his thigh,"lemme make you feel good.”
Steve fought the blush that threatened to color his face and grabbed Bucky’s wrist before he could touch him. “Talk to me again when you’re sober Buck.”
Bucky looked down to where Steve was tightly holding his wrist and licked his lips. He stared back up at Steve and said, “Fuck, I bet it’d be really hot if you held me down like that in bed.”
Steve nearly choked.
Through sheer force of will he refused to get flustered despite the vivid mental pictures that came from Bucky’s words.
“You need to stop saying stuff like that.” Steve let go of his wrist only to have Bucky slip his fingers under the hem of his shirt. Steve sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “You’re not making this easy for me.”
“Then you should just give in.”
Steve let out a small gasp as Bucky’s hand wandered further up his shirt.
“It’s not that I don’t wa-” His sentence was cut off when Bucky, moving quicker than Steve thought possible considering how drugged up he was, pushed his lips against Steve’s in a very sloppy kiss.
Bucky’s tongue was hot and demanding inside his mouth. For a few moments he couldn’t think past how much he wanted more.
“At least wait until you don’t have an audience guys. Damn, you’d think being born about a century ago would have given you a better sense of decency.” Sam was laughing again.
Steve pulled away and Bucky let him with obvious reluctance. Not that he could really stop Steve from doing anything in his current state.
Steve was about to explain that yes, he knew better than to be making out like a teenager in the backseat and that he couldn’t help that a certain former Russian spy had surprise kissed him (that was a legitimate thing, right? surprise kissing?) when Natasha replied to Sam, “I don’t know, Rogers has always struck me as a bit of an exhibitionist.”
“Now there’s an idea.” Bucky reached for his belt buckle.
Steve glared at Natasha, “Why? Just why?” he asked her as he took Bucky’s hand to stop him. He had to lace their fingers together because he knew if he let him go Bucky would continue to grope and touch everywhere he could.
“I’m only speaking the truth.” She said with a smirk.
Steve sighed, feeling too tired. He needed to do something about this fast.
Suddenly feeling inspired he leaned down to whisper into Bucky’s ear.
Neither Natasha nor Sam could make out what he was saying. When Bucky moaned Natasha turned around in her seat to make sure they hadn’t actually started doing anything. All she saw was Steve pulling away and Bucky drawling, “You got yourself a deal pal” with a huge smile on his face.
“What did you say to him?” she asked.
“Oh, I wouldn’t want to bother you guys with my lack of decency.” Steve responded.
Natasha raised her eyebrow at him, like she doubted he could say anything that would shock her. Still, she turned back around in her seat to direct Sam back to the hotel.
For the rest of the trip Bucky behaved himself. Yes he was still glued to Steve’s side and holding his hand like he never wanted to let go but he didn’t try to do anything else. Steve settled in and didn’t try to make him move; he liked feeling Bucky’s body warm and solid against him.
So while there were hundreds of ways this could have played out (and since Steve was still being honest), he could admit that maybe he was a little glad (and amused, because really when you thought about it, it was funny) that things had worked out like this.