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I Love You As You Are

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By the third time Steve witnesses the horrible sight that is Bucky trying to rip his own arm off in the midst of an anxiety attack, Steve knows something has to be done. Bucky knows, when he’s of a rational mind, that yanking the bionic limb off isn’t as simple as it sounds. In fact, it’s downright lethal; Stark’s son, Tony, had already run an entire diagnostics on him with the help of his friend, Dr. Banner, and was able to determine that the wiring ran far deeper than merely where the scar tissue outlining his shoulder connected the weapon to his body.

There are dozens of nerve endings woven in and between the makeup of that fucking arm. That fucking screaming siren that tells the world Property of Hydra, even though Steve insists to him all the time that that isn’t true, not anymore. Stark and Banner had told him a lot of medical mumbo jumbo, little of which he understood, but this much he knows for certain: it was a chaotic surgical nightmare underneath all the scar tissue and flesh. If Bucky somehow succeeded in tearing the limb from his body, he’d be yanking out a whole lot more than just a metal contraption – and he could potentially bleed out within seconds, especially given that the whole mess is on the side closest to his heart. Despite whatever Bucky may think sometimes, the fact is, he’s still got one – beating and alive – and it makes him human. Human enough that it could get fucked with real bad if everything beneath Bucky’s skin attached to that goddamn fucking arm is too disturbed, much less shredded.

But the problem is, Bucky’s mind is only rational about as often as it’s irrational, and these days, that’s only about a good seventy percent of the time – maybe eighty, because he likes to think he’s been doing better. He’s long since regained all his memories back; that isn’t the problem. He’s also been seeing a S.H.I.E.L.D-appointed therapist (the same therapist Steve had been saddled with upon awaking from the ice, how ironic) for the past four months, and in the last two of those, he’d finally felt comfortable opening up. So that’s not an issue either.

It’s the flashbacks. It’s the flashbacks and the fucking nightmares. It’s the times when he suddenly blacks out and everything that makes him Bucky goes on hiatus. Sometimes it’s for only a few seconds - other times, whole minutes. In the beginning, he felt a lot like a tightrope walker, narrowly keeping his balance on the fine line between the Bucky Barnes Steve had grown up knowing and the Asset he’d been for what felt like far longer than that. In the beginning, he'd refused to go by any name other than James as he struggled to figure out who this knew person inside of his head was. Every day had been a struggle as he’d be caught up in a dance he always felt three steps behind in, where one second, he was Bucky from Brooklyn, only to have something trigger the Soviet Assassin still very much residing within him.

In the beginning, he was more the Soldier than the man. Then with time, the part of him that was still human started to gain back more of his strength, and it took less time to reign him back in and resurrect Bucky – James Barnes. Steve was, and still is, a large help in this process. The rest of the Avengers, who’d been weary of him at first but still protected him and aimed to help, if only for Steve’s sake, also assisted in getting him back on track. Bucky appreciated the way Stark would let him hang out in his labs while he fiddled away on ‘science experiments’ and chatted Bucky’s ear off, even if the latter rarely understood everything he was saying. Or how Sam had started inviting Bucky out for morning jogs, where the two bonded over their ritual of picking up Starbucks and then chatting over a morning bagel whenever it was over.

Dr. Banner, with all his pent-up rage that Bucky understood well, helped Bucky work through a list of failed attempts at mental relaxation until they found something for him that actually worked. Yoga had been the first suggestion, but Bucky only got frustrated when he couldn’t nail some of the more difficult poses in the first try. He had Bucky try knitting, deprivation tanks (which were meant to be soothing but that had been a shit show and a half), and even origami. Turns out the thing that now centers Bucky is cooking. (So it’s not uncommon for Steve to return home to their shared floor in the Avengers Tower to find the counters covered in different sweets or dishes, none of which have any connection or theme. Steve always eats them all, even if he’s not hungry.)

Natasha helped him embrace the part of him that was and always would be Russian, even if not by blood, as well as providing him a gateway - a reminder - of something from his past that he trusted another person could understand completely. Barton also helped in that respect. Natasha knew what it was like to be broken down and turned into a shell of a thing you were never meant to be, but Barton knew first-hand what it felt like to one moment be you and then suddenly be locked away in a glass box in the deepest recesses of your mind in the next.

Because that’s how it’d always felt to Bucky when he’d spent his years at the Winter Soldier; in hindsight, and after having had his memories return to him, he could see that now.

The night he’d opened up to Steve - tried to put into words how, for decades, whenever he was taken out of cryo, it was like he had been there the whole time, fighting in the background of his mind - had been the turning point in their friendship. His childhood best friend had looked at Bucky, hardly breathing, and asked what Bucky meant. So the brunet tried, struggling hard to explain… That it had felt like he was trapped in a glass box the whole time; like he could see everything the Soldier saw, hear his own thoughts, and feel his body’s physical pain… But he was right there, trapped in that box and unable to break out.

He had made a lot of frustrated sounds and none of it came out right in his mind when he tried voicing to Steve – to the first person he’d ever admitted this to – that for all those years, whenever the Asset was active, there was a part of the real Bucky that was still alive in there; thrashing against the walls of that glass box, bloodying his knuckles because his punches could never so much as shake the glass, as he watched through his own eyes the Soldier taking life after life, or feeling the excruciating agony of being tortured… But no matter how hard he screamed or tried to reason with himself and get through to the Soldier, it never worked.

Until he’d seen Steve. Bucky had sat there on the floor of Steve’s living room and tried to explain how when he’d seen Steve, mid battle in DC and the Soldier’s mission had voiced his name, Bucky could see him, clear as day from the confines of that glass box. And he’d felt so fucking terrified that the Soldier – that he – was going to kill his own best friend, that he’d pounded on the walls and screamed anything and everything he could until he could taste blood in his mouth.

“I didn’t even know how you could be alive,” Bucky had whispered, frowning at the floor. “But I just couldn’t let you die. I just couldn’t, Steve.”

After that day, until their fight on the Helicarrier, Bucky explained how he felt his voice had started to get through just a little bit more each time he spoke to the Asset. He could feel it in the way the shell of his body had seemed to hesitate more; questioned orders, and the Soldier had never done that before. He felt the sting of the blow when Pierce had backhanded him, but even as Bucky fell to the floor of that box from the force, he’d just grabbed the side of his face and shouted harder; begged the Soldier to listen to him and kept yelling things like, “You know him, you do! You’ve known him your whole life, he’s your best friend, for god’s sake, please!

“And then I heard my own voice, and I said, ‘I knew him… But I knew him,’” Bucky had explained to Steve. “And in that moment, I knew the Winter Soldier could hear me. It was the exact same thing as when we were on the Helicarrier.”

And Steve had sat there, stunned to tears. Bucky couldn’t recall ever having seen him cry before, not before or during the war, or in the time since they’d been reunited in the present. Steve knew that Bucky disassociated himself from the Winter Soldier; Sam had explained to him numerous times how, as part of a coping mechanism and as a way to deal with all the heinous things the assassin had done over the years, Bucky maintained his sanity by separating the Soldier from himself as James “Bucky” Barnes. But to hear Bucky make sense of it the way he had – imagining all too literally Bucky trapped in that glass container for years, screaming to be heard and constantly being ignored - it had been too much for him to stand.

Overwhelmed by grief, and guilt, and a love for Bucky that Steve would wind up admitting had been very much a thing since they were kids, Steve had taken the initiative that night and closed the distance between them; taking his face in his hands and kissing him, and Bucky remembers having thought, Sweet Jesus, finally…

They’d wound up making love right there on the floor; Steve working him over slowly, patiently, despite Bucky’s pleas for things to be rougher and faster. By the time Steve had been rocking in and out of him, Bucky was sobbing silently, and his memories had been taken from him time and time again, but Bucky would never forget the way Steve had looked at him that night like he was the most precious thing in the universe; like Bucky was a cracked piece of glass that was still just as beautiful and worthy of being cherished, imperfections and all. When Bucky had finally come, it’d been with tears streaming down his face and a breathless, pained cry of I love you.

Since then, Bucky and Steve have been sharing a singular suite in the Avengers Tower, and Bucky gets along a lot better at night when he jolts awake from a nightmare only to have Steve’s loving arms and Steve’s loving voice and Steve’s fucking loving presence lull him back to sleep. If he has his slip ups and uncontrollably turns back into the Asset, Steve knows how to handle it now without treating Bucky like he’ll break if he touches him; like he’s a baby that needs to be coddled. Steve doesn’t do that anymore. Bucky functions a lot better when Steve still gives him shit and sasses him with the same stubborn enthusiasm he’d always shown Bucky when he was small. Despite everyone believing that Steve needed the Bucky he’d always known growing up, it was actually Bucky’s recovery that benefited from the familiarity of Steve treating him the way he’d always had growing up, instead of the much more careful and over-analyzing Captain he’d become after the serum.

These days, they’ve finally reached a point where they are both evolved people from those they’d been beforehand; a near-perfect combination of who they’d always been in the past, without denying the changes they couldn’t ignore that makes them who they are now.

Except that arm. That fucking arm is the one thing Bucky can’t be rid of, and it makes him feel like he’s still a prisoner. Whereas the results of Steve’s experimentation had left him looking like a perfect specimen, Bucky always felt like his arm made him look like the botched result of a scientist gone mad – which wasn’t actually all that far off. In fact, the one time Tony had made the mistake of choosing Frankenstein on the Avengers’ weekly movie night, it’d resonated so deeply within Bucky – seeing the result of Frankenstein’s monster – that he’d spiraled into a fit of rage and had to be pinned down and sedated after screaming and turning the whole lounging room upside down.

He just wants it gone, but it’s too deeply ingrained in him; Hydra made sure that when they'd claimed him and stolen his life away, that it would be quite the struggle indeed for Bucky to ever get it back.

And Bucky isn’t even sure, he can’t remember (and he hates not remembering even the slightest details these days) what had set him off this time, but suddenly Steve comes home one day from a minor mission to find Bucky clawing at the mangled scar tissue on his shoulder with the nails of his right hand. He’s bleeding everywhere, but the damage is only skin deep. With his knock-off version of the serum – bastardized in comparison to Steve’s but still incredibly powerful – the wounds he’s given himself will be healed within hours. Still, Steve has to practically tackle Bucky to the floor and physically restrain him in order for him to stop.

And as Bucky lies there beneath Steve, wrists – both flesh and metal – pinned by either side of his head as he struggles and shouts nonsense, I need this fucking thing off me I’m a monster Steve I’m Frankenstein’s fucking monster I wish they’d have just killed me!... He suddenly dissolves, going from shouting hoarsely to crying and shaking, and Steve’s had enough. He loves every part of Bucky, including the bionic arm (and he’s made this known before), but Bucky can’t keep going on like this. If it bothers him so much that he’d rather put his own life in danger than live with it, then the arm needs to go.

That’s how he winds up coming in one night with a bag of items and a gentle smile on his face. Bucky’s sitting in the living room reading a book, and he’s having a good day, because when he sees Steve, his face lights up and he says, “Hey baby doll; where’ve ya been?”

“I’ve been gone for less than an hour, Buck,” Steve laughs, lowering the bag to the floor. He comes and sits next to Bucky and looks down at his hands with a small, nervous smile. Bucky knows that look.

“What is it?” the brunet asks, closing his book and straightening a bit.

Steve exhales a small chuckle. “I, uh, I wound up having a chat with Stark – about the arm situation.”

“Oh?” Bucky asks a bit hesitantly.

“You don’t have to do anythin’ you don’t want to, you know that,” Steve explains quickly before taking a deep breath and looking into Bucky’s eyes. “So you can feel free to say no if you don’t like the idea.”

“It’ll be easier for me to decide if you actually tell me,” Bucky jokes, trying to lighten the mood.

Steve chuckles anxiously. “Right,” he says. “Well… If you’d be comfortable undergoing surgery, Tony thinks he’ll be able to remove the arm. It’ll be tough and it would probably be a solid five or six hour procedure, because he’d have to be precise, but he seems pretty confident that he could do it. He’d even make you a brand new arm that he’d attach in the old one’s place; brand new start.”

Bucky’s looking at him in a mixture of shock, fear, and amazement. He never knew at this point that such a thing was even a possibility; when they’d told him the extent which Hydra’s bionic arm had been etched into his actual body, he’d just assumed that meant that the process was irreversible. Still, the idea of being put under at all sets him alight with anxiety – let alone for so long. He voices this to Steve.

“As I said, you don’t have to do anythin’ you don’t want to,” Steve insists quickly, taking Bucky’s flesh hand in his (he usually avoids touching the left, only because Bucky had asked him to out of discomfort). “But I promise if you did this, you’d be in safe hands. And I’d be right there when you fell asleep and right there the moment you’d wake up.”

“You promise?” Bucky asks slowly, chewing the inside of his cheek.

Steve nods, giving Bucky a small, sad smile as he runs his thumb over the brunet’s knuckles. “Of course, Buck.”

“And the new arm…?”

“You could even give Stark some design inputs if you wanted,” Steve suggests. “He made a few comments about how he could make it lighter in weight but just as durable; maybe even give it an option to cast some sort of hologram around it to give off the illusion of it being just like your other arm. He even said he could improve your sensation of touch so at least it tricked your brain into thinking you could feel things with it."

Bucky’s heart flutters at the thought. He’s grown used to the lack of sensation in his left arm; sometimes he thinks he can vaguely feel the ghost of certain touches, but he knows it’s all just in his head. He doesn’t even care if it still technically wouldn’t be real – the idea of being able to feel again, regain his semblance of being an actual human being and not some fucked up cyborg of sorts, already makes him feel a little more whole.

“I should probably say somethin’ like ‘I’ll think about it’ or whatever, but… You go ahead and tell Stark that I’m in,” he says after mulling it over in silence for a couple minutes.

Steve’s face doesn’t change at the news. He’s being mindful of making sure nothing he does sways Bucky’s decision in any which way. “You’re sure?” he asks, just to double check. “This is what you want?”

“Yeah,” Bucky insists, just as much for his benefit as Steve’s; sometimes, Bucky needs to remind himself that he’s allowed to want things again - to hope for more. “I want this fuckin’ thing off me, forever.”

Steve gives him a smile then, and it’s only a little sad, because Steve wishes Bucky could love every part of himself. But he gets it, he really does. He’s dealt with his own share of instances – and Bucky knows all this – where he had felt like a prisoner too inside of the body Erskine’s serum had given him. He knows all too well, those times where he wished for things to be different; when he wished for selfish reasons that his body wasn’t so near-indestructible, and yet it was fused into his genetic coding. It runs through his veins, always mixed just perfectly with his blood. The only way Steve could ever free himself of it is if he ripped his own body apart and let the serum and the blood and the life just drain away from his veins until he died. Bucky’s the only person in the world who knows that there were times where Steve had actually considered it.

“I’ll talk to him in the morning,” Steve says lightly before gesturing to the bag he’d brought home with him. “First, though – I thought maybe we could have a little bit of fun, in a sort of celebration.”

Bucky arches a brow. “Celebration of what?”

“Starting over; getting rid of the arm and stuff.”

Bucky gives Steve a funny smile. “What did ya have in mind?”

Steve holds up a finger and with a just wait one second, leaves the room and then returns with a big, worn-out blanket. Moving around stuff in the living room to make a decent area of space, the blond sits down and dumps the contents of the bag onto the blanket in front of him; bottles of paints, dozens of different colours and shades, as well as paint brushes of different sizes.

“You remember when you asked me once to paint on ya but I didn’t ‘cause I was runnin’ low on supplies and we couldn’t afford anymore at the time?” Steve asks with that little nostalgic smile he gets whenever recalling something from their youth.

He always phrases it in the form of a question – you remember…? In the beginning, Steve had done that because he’d always been desperate for Bucky to say ‘yes’. And since Bucky could feel that palpable desperation from his best friend, sometimes he’d lied and pretended to go along with it just so he wouldn’t have to see Steve disappointed. But a part of Steve had always sort of known – could tell, even when hope blinded him at times - when Bucky’s eyes were clear with the shared memory of when they fell blank for just a split second too long, so he always did Bucky a kindness by explaining the memory anyways.

These days, Bucky remembers everything, but he still likes when Steve asks him anyways. It’s a reminder that yes, Bucky can remember that and he can always tell Steve that without having to lie anymore. So he nods and laughs, “It just looked like you were gettin’ so bored always drawin’ in that sketchbook of yours. And I remember you also had a project for art class due soon and you were runnin’ low on inspiration. I thought using me as a canvas might get the gears turnin’ in that head of yours again.” He runs his eyes over all the bottles and then gets a small grin. “So you wanna take me up on my offer now, I assume?”

“Sort of,” Steve says carefully. He meets Bucky’s eyes and his tone softens when he suggests, “I wanna paint your arm.”

Bucky freezes slightly, immediately feeling defensive. “Why?”

Steve gives an apologetic shrug. “Well, I mean… Even if you’re goin’ through with Stark’s plan, you’ll still be stuck with the thing for a while. You always used to tell me I could make anythin’ beautiful when I drew or painted.”

“Because you can,” Bucky interjects quietly, now frowning.

“Well… I thought maybe this could help you put up with it until you get to get it replaced. Sort of like, I dunno…”

“Sort of like the arm would be property of Steve Rogers, instead of Hydra,” Bucky finishes.

Steve gets a small little smile that quirks up one side of his mouth. “Something like that.”

When it’s phrased like that, Bucky has a hard time saying no. And the idea of walking around with anything showing him off to the world as Steve’s definitely sweetens the deal. It’s not that he still has some unyielding desire to feel possessed by others; he’s long since gotten over that confusing need to feel like a slave – a what rather than a who. It’s just different with Steve; it’s a different kind of possession. But the idea of Steve staring at that arm – that weapon that’s killed so many innocent people – so goddamned intently, like it’s something worthy of being a canvas... that makes his skin crawl. He mentally weighs both the good and the bad and then sighs resolutely, beginning to pull his shirt over his head.

“Alright Rogers, you talked me into it,” he mock sighs in order to hide his true hesitancy. Steve’s smile grows but the blond asks anyways, “You sure?”

“You ask too many questions,” Bucky replies, tossing his shirt onto Steve’s head. “I said yes, so stop givin’ me reasons to change my mind.”

Chuckling, Steve tugs the shirt off his head and then tosses it aside and off the blanket. “You’re gonna wanna take your pants off, too,” he advises.

Bucky gives him a cheeky look, but stands and starts undoing his belt. “Bit forward, ain’t it, Captain? We haven’t even had dinner yet.”

“Shut up,” Steve rolls his eyes, but still makes a point to visibly appreciate the view when Bucky peels the skinny jeans off his legs and then tosses it with the shirt; muscular legs now on perfect display thanks to those well-fitting black boxer briefs. “I don’t know how you even get into those things without an assistance team,” Steve says, referring to the pants.

“Ah, if I told ya, I’d have to kill ya, baby doll,” Bucky deadpans with a charming smirk before sitting down in front of the artist. “How do you want me?”

Steve bites his lip and replies wittily, “Any and every way I can have you.” Bucky’s pretenses drop and he bites his lip, too, but then to his disappointment, Steve laughs and adds, “But in all seriousness, sitting like that is fine. Do you mind if any paint gets on your underwear? I’m sure all this stuff could wash out, but you never know…”

“Yeah, it’s fine,” Bucky waves it off. He takes a breath and then grins at Steve. “Hey, Steve?”

Steve’s already raking his eyes over the bionic arm, trying to decide what he wants to do first. He meets Bucky’s gaze. Seeing that grin on his best friend’s face makes him break out into one of his own. “What?”

“Paint me like one of your French girls,” Bucky quotes overdramatically, batting his eyelashes.

They’d only just watched Titanic no more than a week ago, so the reference is immediately received. Steve rolls eyes and scoffs out a chuckle, retorting, “If you come up behind me one more time and shout, 'I’m the King of the world', I swear on my ma’s grave, I’m gonna sack you in the balls.”

Bucky pretends to pout. “Now that’s not very nice. Your ma wouldn’t like that at all, God rest her soul. She always loved me.”

“Yeah, because you always put on the best innocent faces whenever she was around,” Steve jokes, grabbing a bottle of the white paint and popping it open. Bucky chuckles and then Steve grabs the biggest brush and says, “Okay, so, I think what I’m gonna do is paint the whole thing white so I have a blank slate to go over. That okay with you?”

“Anythin’ to cover up that fuckin’ Commie star and I’ll be happy,” Bucky replies flatly, deliberately refusing to look down at his arm.

Steve looks over the arm again and then nods to himself. He gets Bucky to hold it out away from his body so he can pour the white paint directly onto the metal. Instinctively, Bucky realizes how much of a bitch it would be to have to clean it all out from between the plating, until he remembers that he won’t have to do any such thing, because soon enough, he’ll be rid of it. The realization is suddenly a lot more exhilarating than it was before.

Using the big, flat brush, Steve spends the first five minutes covering Bucky’s entire arm – up to the shoulder, but only as far down as the wrist. Bucky says he still needs use of the hand until the surgery would happen, and he doesn’t want dried paint to eventually fleck off everywhere. The two boys chat and laugh while Steve starts opening up different bottles, different colours, and using brushes of varying sizes to create doodles on the limb. Eventually, Bucky gets curious as to what he’s been painting and glances down – only to bark out a laugh and exclaim, “You’ve been drawin’ fucking daisies on my arm this entire time!?”

“Not just daisies,” Steve points out quickly. He points to the different types of flowers. “There are a couple roses here, and some Chrysanthemums – oh, and there’s a lily. And, because I hope still have a sense of humour, a Forget-Me-Not on your inner wrist.”

“Ha ha,” Bucky replies flatly. “You’re hilarious.” Then he turns his wrist so he can look at it and smiles to himself. “It is kinda funny,” he adds. Steve grins, big and boyish. “I still can’t believe you drew fuckin’ flowers all over me,” Bucky shakes his head, chuckling. “I know bein’ with another dude makes me a – what, a pansy, or somethin’? But you didn’t have to make it so damn literal.”

This gets Steve laughing loudly, and Bucky grins, having done his job. He’ll say and do anything to get Steve to laugh like that, since the blond so rarely does anymore.

“I can paint over them,” Steve says when he’s calmed down. There’s no offense in his voice, no hurt. He’s willing to paint whatever Bucky wants on the arm if it’ll make him happy. But Bucky shakes his head quickly and holds the arm back out so he can take another look.

“Nah, don’t. I kinda like ‘em,” he replies coolly. But his smirk and warm eyes betrays his nonchalance. Steve knows Bucky well enough to know that Bucky completely loves the flowers, and he’ll wear them proudly – namely because it was Steve who put them there. He encourages Steve to add some more, so the artist obliges, covering more of the vacant space with different types of flowers in different hues, before adding in some other tiny designs to give the overall arm a bit more variety.

Bucky realizes that the arm’s bicep – where the star had been – is still blank. “Whatcha plannin’ on fillin’ that spot up with?” Bucky asks curiously. “A dandelion?”

Steve smiles, eyes still focused on a little exploding firework he’s painting on Bucky’s inner forearm. “I actually thought that you could decide on that one.” Because that was the defining part of the arm – for all the metal and all the shifting panels and the soft whirring sounds and the destruction it had caused, it was somehow always the star that had driven Bucky insane. Hydra’s symbol: a red, five-pointed stamp that marked Bucky as theirs.

Bucky thinks about it, wanting whatever he goes with to be perfect. After a few minutes, he gets an idea and gives Steve an adoring look. “How about your star?”

Steve stills his hand and raises his eyes to meet Bucky’s. “My star, really?”

“Yeah,” Bucky nods. “I’m yours, baby doll; always have been. If I’m wearin’ your art, I want the world to know that it’s Captain America I’ll always be following.”

“I thought you were following that little guy from Brooklyn,” Steve teases.

Bucky rolls his eyes. “Okay, seriously, you pick now to completely kill the moment?”

Steve grins and mutters a half-hearted apology before cleaning up a couple of the brushes and then assessing the blank space. “So, you wanted…?”

“I was thinking maybe a white star, with a red ring around it and blue in the background,” Bucky suggests, but it ends more like a question; like he’s proposing the idea for Steve to accept or turn down, based on how much the artist likes it.

Steve leans in and gives Bucky a small kiss before replying, “One star, comin’ right up.”

Bucky stares off and they go silent for a bit while Steve works. Somehow, this feels more intimate, more vulnerable, and suddenly Bucky’s remembering why exactly he’d always hated the arm, and how he will never be able to understand why exactly Steve never seemed to be bothered by it. When Steve finishes, there’s something unreadable in his expression. His baby blues stare at the finish product as Steve takes a slow breath.

“What?” Bucky asks, puzzled. “What is it?” And then looks down at his bicep.

There’s a star there, alright. And a ring around it – but instead of the colours Bucky had suggested, the star is white, but the background is a navy blue (the colour of his old jacket), and the ring encasing the entire design is a blended pattern of green and gold.

“Are these…?”

“The Howling Commandos’ original colours, yeah,” Steve replies gently. “Pattern of the 107th.”

Bucky’s stunned by this; can feel his heart growing overwhelmed with sudden nostalgia and too many emotions. He can’t stop staring at it.

“The only person you belong to – the only one you ever belonged to, Buck, is you. Not Hydra, not me. You can have my star, I’d give you anything, you know that… But at the end of the day, if you’re gonna show the world who runs your ship, you gotta be your own Captain.”

Bucky exhales a chuckle, but it’s wobbly. “How long you been waitin’ to use that one?”

Steve gives a small, playful shrug of one shoulder. “About two weeks,” he jokes. “Here…” He puts down the brushes and leans forward, bringing his face to Bucky’s bicep until his lips are inches away. Softly, he starts blowing out cool air against the paint to help it dry faster. Bucky watches with a slightly lost expression, and he doesn’t know why the gesture is so erotic but it most certainly is.

“I wish I could feel that,” Bucky whispers regretfully.

Steve doesn’t take his eyes off the new painted star, and he doesn’t stop blowing gentle streams of air, but he does bring up his left hand and gently cups the side of Bucky’s face to give him something he can feel; relaxing him as his thumb strokes back and forth over his cheek. “Soon you will,” he pauses to say simply, and then goes back to his task.

After a few more seconds, watching is simply not enough anymore for Bucky. He uses his flesh and blood hand to gently take Steve’s chin and lift the artist’s face so Bucky can kiss him. Steve goes pliant and doesn’t struggle; just closes his eyes and inhales softly through his nose the second his lips meet his best friend’s. Bucky slides the tips of his fingers along Steve’s cheek bone and then into the short strands of golden hair, pausing the kiss to say, “You know I love you, right? You know that…”

“Of course I do,” Steve replies sincerely. "I love you too, Buck." He opens his eyes and smiles at Bucky, and Bucky could live a hundred years and do a hundred good deeds, and still, he would never deserve Steve Rogers.

Bucky nods and pecks Steve’s lips one more time. Steve chuckles and dives in to give a smacking little kiss to the cleft in the brunet’s chin, making Bucky laugh, just like it always does. “Okay, you sap, it’s my turn to paint now,” Bucky says, changing the tone to a much happier one. Steve protests at first but then is laughing when Bucky wrestles him to the ground and pins him between his thighs, yanking Steve’s shirt up his perfectly-chiseled torso. When the shirt’s pulled over his head, Steve’s hair is left disheveled and standing up in about ten different directions, and he looks so fucking adorable like that – when he lets himself go and isn’t that pristine, perfectly perfect image the world always expects Captain America to be. Steve just lies there and smiles lazily up at Bucky, and the brunet’s intentions go from playful to mischievous in seconds.

With a gleam in his eye, he runs his right hand up Steve’s rock hard abs and chest (mindful to keep his metal hand inactive by his side). Steve hums softly and watches that hand travel the planes of his chest. They slowly make eye contact and then Bucky smirks and grabs some brightly coloured bottles of paint. He decides on a neon purple, popping the cap and then squeezing some onto Steve’s stomach. Steve watches at first as Bucky uses his fingers instead of a paintbrush to smear the paint around; drawing little lines and nonsensical doodles over his skin.

But the contact feels nice, so eventually, Steve just closes his eyes and enjoys the sensations.

After Bucky goes through six different colours and Steve’s front looks like a Jackson Pollock painting, he gets Steve to turn over so he can make a mess of his back. Steve smiles with closed eyes and hums whenever something feels nice, and Bucky absentmindedly uses his metal hand to tuck his hair behind his ears whenever it falls into his face. After a few more minutes, he gets antsy and says, “Turn back over and paint on me, too.”

“Never can pass up the opportunity to touch you,” Steve jokes lightly, following his orders and resettling on his back – basically smearing and fucking up whatever work Bucky had just done. They play with colours and runs their fingers and hands along each other’s skin, chuckling between themselves and grinning like a pair of idiots, until both their upper bodies are considerably marked and they look like they just got mobbed by a stampede of angry finger-painting kindergartners.

“You got somethin’ right there,” Bucky says, feigning seriousness and gesturing to Steve’s face.

“Huh? Where?” Steve scrubs his cheek with the back of his hand and then asks, “Did I get it?”

“Nope,” Bucky replies, popping the ‘p’ syllable as he dips his finger into some orange paint and then smears it from Steve’s temple down to his jaw in a diagonal. “There we go.”

Steve’s eyes widen and he pretends to be scandalized – but then again, he’s also basically a child in a man’s body at times, too, so he just swipes his finger through some green still wet on Bucky’s stomach and then dots the tip of Bucky’s nose. Grinning, Bucky crawls off of him and they both scramble to try and arm themselves with as many bottles of paint as they can. Then they’re wrestling with each other, trying to attack the other’s face with as many colours as they can. The bottles are hastily left open, the contents spilling out lazily and making little pools across the blanket. They grunt and pant and laugh with exhilaration as they roll around, trying to one up each other; getting messed as they roll through all the paint.

They’re not sure which one of them leans in first, but before they know it, Bucky’s got Steve’s wrists pinned above either side of his head and he’s bent down, kissing him and licking into his mouth as his hair fans around them carelessly. He doesn’t even realize he’s using both his hands, but Steve does, and when the coolness of the metal tightens reflexively around his right wrist and he hears that soft little whirring sound, he can’t help the sliver of a moan he releases into Bucky’s mouth.

He doesn’t know how Bucky takes that as a bad thing, but suddenly the brunet is pulling back with a confused look and then glancing up and realizing what he’d been doing the entire time. He withdraws his hand as if he’d burned Steve, but the blond quickly snaps his right hand out and grabs his metal wrist, stopping him. “No, wait!” he exclaims, gaze softening. His cheeks flush slightly as he gives a weak shrug and admits, “I kind of like it…”

“What!?” Bucky exclaims in shock; like he can’t wrap his head around the idea, because he really can’t.

“Bucky, listen to me,” Steve says gently. He doesn’t let go of Bucky’s bionic wrist, and though Bucky doesn’t pull away either, he’s still tense. Steve can hear the soft whirring sound of his plates shifting around again, this time sensing its owner’s anxiety. “When I tell you I love all of you, I mean it,” he insists. “Every part of you, even this…” His eyes slower lower to the metal hand – still its original colour, the only part not painted over – and he almost looks guilty. “Especially this, actually. I know you think it’s ugly, and I get why you hate it… I’ll be just as happy for you as you’ll be when Stark removes the damn thing, but… I find it beautiful. I don’t see it as something that represents Hydra, I – I see it as proof of how strong you are.”

“Strong?” Bucky asks bitterly. “I killed people with this thing, Steve.”

“You also saved my life with it,” Steve counters stubbornly. Bucky opens his mouth to argue but then makes a frustrated sound when he realizes Steve knowingly backed him into a corner with that one. “And… I mean… This arm, we established that it’s a brand new slate now, right? Not Hydra’s – yours, Buck. Even mine; you said so yourself.”

“Are you sayin’ you want me to touch you with it, Steve?” Bucky asks in disbelief, brows knitting together.

“I’m not sayin’ you have to do anything, Bucky.”

Steve gently tugs on Bucky’s wrist and because he really doesn’t know what else to do at this point, Bucky lets himself be pulled. He watches helplessly as his best friend brings that metal hand close to his face; instinctively, Bucky clenches it into a fist, tense all over. This doesn’t deter Steve in the slightest, though. He just brings his lips to his knuckles and starts kissing across the metal peaks. Then he presses gentle kisses to the tops of the fingers.

“How could I not want something that’s a part of you?” Steve asks quietly, and Bucky’s eyes fill with sudden tears as he finds himself relaxing and letting his fingers uncurl so Steve can turn his hand and start kissing the metal palm.

“I don’t… Steve, I don’t trust that hand with you,” Bucky croaks weakly, unblinking and eyes wide. He doesn’t realize that his pupils are dilating as he speaks; chest growing tight as heat starts to coil in the pit of his belly. “I don’t wanna hurt you.”

“I trust you,” Steve breathes. Unlike Bucky, his eyes are closed as he continues to kiss slowly along Bucky’s hand, turning it back and forth and coating every inch of the surface over and over again.

“What if I can’t control it?”

“I trust you,” Steve repeats.

Bucky can feel himself getting confusingly hard in his boxer briefs, and he makes a pained sound. “This arm is a weapon,” he argues weakly.

“It doesn’t have to be,” Steve offers. “Whether you kept it or not, it could be whatever you want it to be.”

“Steve, it’s not beautiful. It’s ugly…”

“Nothin’ about you is ugly,” Steve insists, before leaning up and grabbing the back of Bucky’s head in his messy hand. He shuts Bucky up with a kiss; one that the brunet groans into. Bucky grabs the side of his face with the right hand and presses his mouth back hard.

“Steve,” Bucky breathes guardedly. “I wanna make you feel good, but…”

“Just touch me, Bucky,” Steve whispers between kisses. “And trust that I trust you.”

Swallowing hard, Bucky nods and then brings his right hand to Steve’s hair to gently tug the blond’s head back and expose his throat. Steve gasps softly and then Bucky’s mouthing at his jaw before kissing and sucking softly along the outer line of his neck. All he wants – all he’s ever wanted – is the make Steve feel good. He’s always been desperate for it. If this is what Steve wants – maybe even needs – before Bucky gets rid of the arm for good, even if it’s just for Steve to feel he made some sort of point then Bucky will give that to him.

“I’m getting paint all over my mouth, should I be worried?” he murmurs as he gently guides Steve only his back and continues kissing down over his collarbone.

“Nah,” Steve sighs, eyes closed again. He doesn’t let go of Bucky’s metal wrist; as if finding some sort of security in keeping it close. “Got the non toxic stuff they sell for kids.”

“I feel like I should be offended by that.”

“And that’d be because…?”

“I don’t know,” Bucky says before tasting the paint as he runs his tongue over one of Steve’s nipples. “But I’m sure I could think of a reason.”

“Shut up,” Steve breathes, arching slightly with a moan when Bucky bites down on it playfully.

“I love when you boss me around,” Bucky smirks and then scrapes his teeth over one of Steve’s ribs before resuming his way lower and staining his chin and cheeks a mess of colours the closer he gets to Steve’s paint-covered pants. He sits back on his haunches and lightly swats Steve’s thigh with his regular hand. “Lift,” he orders.

Steve opens his eyes and stares down at Bucky, lifting his hips a split second later. Bucky gives him an apologetic look. “Gonna need the metal arm back for a second, soldier.”

Steve looks hesitant to let it go, as if worried it’s a ploy so Bucky won’t have to offer it back. Even though he still doesn’t get it, he gives Steve a small, warm smile and reassures him, “Don’t worry, baby doll, this is gonna happen. I wouldn’t bail on ya; m’gonna give you what you want. But first, I need you naked, and I sort of need both my hands to get the job done.”

Steve frees his metal wrist slowly with a nod. Bucky pops open the button to Steve’s jeans and then slides the zipper down. Steve helps him wiggle out of the pants and his own underwear. He’s left completely in his skivvies – the entire upper half of his body streaked and smeared in copious different colours of paints while everything below the waistline (from the front at least, because already, the backs of Steve’s legs are pressed in the puddles of paint) is completely bare.

Bucky snorts slightly to himself and then raises an eyebrow with an amused expression. Dipping his finger in some of the yellow paint, he traces a little line up Steve’s erection, making Steve exhale a strained chuckle. When the tip of his finger caresses that sensitive spot right below the underside of the cockhead, Bucky leans down and licks up the stripe with his tongue.

Steve shudders but grunts out, “Just ‘cause it ain’t toxic doesn’t mean you should be ingesting a bunch of it.”

Bucky rolls his eyes. “A bunch,” he repeats mockingly, scoffing. “It’s not like I’m eating it with a spoon straight from the bottle.”

“I wouldn’t put it past you,” Steve remarks.

“Are you gonna shut up and let me suck your cock?” Bucky asks impatiently, looking up at the blond. “Or am I gonna have to get us some towels so we can get ourselves cleaned up?”

Steve shakes his head. “Definitely Option A. But Bucky?”

Bucky stops leaning back in to peer up at him again. “Yeah?”

Steve blushes slightly. “You arm…”

Bucky blinks for a second and then remembers. “Oh, yeah, sorry. Here.” He reaches up his left hand and lets Steve wrap his fingers around the wrist again. It almost reminds Bucky of a child with a security blanket or a teddy bear. If he lets himself overlook the obvious fact that it’s still Hydra’s metal weapon, it’s almost cute, watching how intently Steve holds onto it and how much calmness it seems to bring him.

He puts his focus into making Steve feel good by putting his mouth on him. He licks hot stripes up along his cock until he uses his free hand to tilt him up and wraps his lips around the tip. When he starts sucking along Steve, his eyes are closed – hair blanketing over his face, but he lets himself get lost in Steve’s sounds; get driven by them. He can absentmindedly feel some tugging on the bionic arm but he pays it no mind as he hollows out his cheeks and swirls his tongue around the head, darting his tongue against Steve’s leaking slit.

When he draws the length of Steve in as far as he can take it, feeling the tip collide with the back of his throat and making him gag softly, Steve’s moan suddenly sounds muffled. Confused, Bucky pops open one eye to take a look and check in with Steve – and then widens them both with surprise when he realizes that Steve’s got the metal index and middle fingers between his lips. Steve’s eyes are still closed and he looks completely gone in the feeling of Bucky’s expert mouth unleashing its knowledge on Steve’s dick. The blond doesn’t even realize that Bucky’s watching him now.

Bucky doesn’t want to disturb the rhythm so he goes back to sucking, up and down, but he keeps his eyes open so he can watch what Steve does. If he lets himself overlook the obvious fact that it’s still Hydra’s metal weapon, it’s hot, it’s fucking hot watching the way Steve keeps his right hand wrapped around Bucky’s wrist – keeping the metal hand close as he shoves his mouth back and forth over those two thick digits. Without thinking, he runs the ring finger over Steve’s stretched open bottom lip, hinting that he wants Steve to take that one into his mouth, too.

At that, Steve’s eyes open. Glancing down at his lover, Steve doesn’t even look ashamed when he just lets his jaw tip wider; an open invitation. Bucky’s eyes widen slightly – Steve’s dick still halfway in his mouth – as he pushes that third finger in to join the other two. Steve exhales noisily through his nose and then goes back to bobbing his head along them obediently. Bucky groans around his dick, making Steve’s eyes flutter back into his head – but still, he doesn’t stop.

So fucking hot, Bucky thinks, momentarily forgetting that it’s still his metal arm and he shouldn’t enjoy that sight nearly as much as he does. Feeling that fire in his belly burning hotter, he closes his eyes and goes back to sucking Steve’s cock; his fervor reinvigorated.

Steve frees his mouth to pant, “Bucky… Bucky… I… Can you…?”

“Hmm?” Bucky hums before pulling back with an obscenely loud wet sound, Steve’s dick falling against his belly.

“Want your fingers in me,” he manages, and his erection gives a twitch against the paint-smeared abs just at the thought.

Bucky gets a small smirk. “I think I can do that, yeah.”

But when he leaves the room and comes back quickly with the lube, Steve stops him when he makes to coat the fingers of his right hand.

“Oh, you want…” Bucky says slowly.

Steve blushes, suddenly looking embarrassed now. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”

“Is that what you want?”

“I want whatever it is you want to give me.”

Bucky shakes his head. “Is that what you want, Steve?”

Steve opens his mouth and then closes it, exhaling quietly. He looks away and then back at Bucky, giving a self-conscious little nod. Bucky gives him a warm half-smile. “That’s all you ever hafta say. I’ll always give you whatever you want, baby doll.”

He may not have to clean the paint properly out from between the plating of the rest of his arm, but he most certainly will have to dedicate a good two hours to meticulously getting the lube from the graphs and linings of the metal hand – and that’s always a real bitch. But as Bucky uses his dominant hand to pour the lube onto the other, he sees the way Steve stares at the process with a flushed look of awe and Bucky knows this has to be worth it, if only to see the look on that face.

Glancing down at his left hand, he watches the metallic fingers work to spread the slick and coat the digits liberally, and he lets himself consider the simple mechanics; the fact that he can so effortlessly control the arm’s movements just as consciously as he can control his real one. It’s a weird thing, when he actually takes the time to think about it – that despite how completely fucked up the thing is, it still follows the signals sent from Bucky’s brain, just like a flesh and blood limb should.

He’s scared of using too much strength and hurting Steve, but the truth is, since the moment he’d first opened his eyes from on a Hydra slab and used that arm, he’d been able to completely control it from the get-go. Hydra sucked shit at clean, precise experimentations, but no one could say their results weren’t fucking successful. Bucky realizes that the only reason the bionic arm never felt like his was because he’d been acutely aware of that fact; but if he’d just randomly woken up one day and believed the arm to have been with him from the beginning, it would feel just as much a part of him as everywhere else on his body.

With this in the back of his mind, he brings that hand down between Steve’s legs, which spread apart wider as if of their own accord. Bucky chuckles, “Someone a little eager?” And Steve just tries to roll his eyes, but his top teeth are digging into his bottom lip and his head is lifted so he can watch the shiny metal disappear lower until it’s out of sight between his thighs.

“If at any point I hurt you,” Bucky starts to say.

“I’ll tell you,” Steve promises, looking the brunet in the eye. “But you won’t. I trust you.”

“Sometimes, I think you’re too trusting for your own good, you know that?” Bucky mutters.

Steve reaches down with his left hand and finds Bucky’s right one. Bucky sighs and glances up again. “You’re gonna feel so good,” Steve assures him quietly. His face is 100% naked trust, anticipation, and need all rolled into one, and Bucky’s cock jumps in his boxer briefs. He releases the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding and then looks down again, carefully bringing the tip of the index finger to Steve’s opening and circling it.

Steve startles slightly at the cold of metal and lube, and like a frightened animal, Bucky makes to pull his hand back, I told you, I fuckin’ told you, Steve, this ain’t a good—

“Bucky, please,” Steve says firmly, squeezing his flesh hand. “Was just a bit cold; would’ve reacted the same way if it’d been the other hand. C’mon, it’s okay… Touch me.”

Bucky chews the inside of his cheek, grimacing at the slick-soaked hand before slowly bringing it back to Steve’s hole and caressing it again. “‘Put your hands on me, Jack,’” Bucky mutters under his breath, and Steve’s whole body heaves as he lets out a loud peel of laughter. Unable to stop himself from smiling slightly at that beautiful sound, Bucky uses the opportunity to push the tip of his finger inside of his best friend’s body, because he’s a real sneaky prick like that. Steve’s laughter abruptly cuts off into a groan; his legs falling apart wider like a goddamn whore and his back arching from the messy blanket.

“Christ, that’s already better than I’d imagined,” Steve confesses breathlessly, and Bucky isn’t sure if he was even supposed to have heard that or not. He realizes with shock that that means Steve had fantasized about this before; of having Bucky’s metal hand touching him in all the right ways, pulling him apart piece by piece only to reconstruct him back together again. It shouldn’t make Bucky feel possessive and a bit smug, and yet it does. It also shouldn’t be hot to Bucky, but the mental image of Steve fingering his eager ass - biting off his sounds and trying to keep quiet like he always does whenever he touches himself (he’s always so quiet when he’s alone; reserves all his volume for Bucky’s ears) – as he pictures Bucky’s bionic hand in his hand’s place… Yeah, shit, that sight would be hot as fuck.

“Better than the real one?” Bucky asks a bit self-consciously as he slowly slides more of the digit into Steve’s body. Steve shakes his head and exhales noit’s just different. He realizes himself that whether flesh or metal, Bucky’s always liked watching the way Steve’s cute little asshole stretches and welcomes him in so prettily whenever Bucky’s fingers play around down there. The way Steve moans like a blushing little slut and needs it all so sweetly, that has to be a universal fucking constant.

And Steve, he takes it so well. Working him open is always a double-edged sword of a process. He’s so good at adjusting quickly – enveloping Bucky’s fingers, or his cock, within a very short amount of time and with very little discomfort – but thanks to the effects of the serum, his hole can never be left unattended for very long or Bucky has to start right back at the beginning again. It always leaves Steve feeling virgin-tight, no matter how long the brunet takes to prep him beforehand.

It’s just that Steve loves it all so fucking much, and he’s always begging Bucky for more, and Bucky could live for a thousand years and do a thousand good deeds, and he’d still never deserve Steve Rogers.

“Already got it down to the knuckle,” Bucky murmurs, always impressed even though this is the exact same way it goes every single time. “What do ya say – do I just start with this one for a bit, or do you want another?”

Steve nods vehemently at the suggestion. He even wiggles hit hips a bit at the invitation. “Yeah, another, more,” he babbles, and Bucky wonders if Steve even hears himself sometimes; if he’s even aware of what he says.

Moments like these are some of his favourites of all time with Steve – when his best friend trusts Bucky enough to help him strip away everything the rest of the world thinks they know about him and bring Steve Rogers down to the basics. Because the truth is, Steve does crave Bucky’s fingers and Bucky’s cock – he is a goddamn slut for it. And the world over would be just shocked and appalled at how the clean cut, all around moral Captain America can both fuck Bucky Barnes into an oblivion and just as eagerly lie on his back and moan, whine like a bitch in heat, while Bucky’s cock drills his prostate and makes Steve scream and curse expletives that would’ve made him a pariah at Church when they were younger.

So he knows Steve can easily take more and would be grateful to do it. He carefully rubs the metal middle finger against the outer lining of his asshole next, whispering, “Yeah, I know you can take it, can’t ya?” And then he works it in with the first one, forcing the air out of Steve’s lungs.

By the time he’s fucking in and out of Steve’s beautiful entrance, he’s got three thick, metal digits burying themselves deep, and Steve is still begging for more. A little reluctantly – worried that they’re pushing their luck - he squeezes the tip of his pinky in there with the rest of them. Steve’s straining a little, his body misted with perspiration and a little vein pushing against the skin of his temple, but he groans in relief when he feels the added stretch.

“You never get enough, do you?” Bucky asks, voice low and throaty. Steve just moans, pushing his hips down onto Bucky’s fingers and forcing them deeper into his body. The blond is already completely gone – he gets like that sometimes whenever he’s at Bucky’s mercy. It always leaves Bucky feeling breathless, because he can never fully believe it – that he can make Steve feel that good that he just becomes two-hundred and forty pounds of dead-weight and incoherent thoughts; pliant and willing to be placed however Bucky wants him, only capable of voicing his pleasure in the most fucked out sounds while he lolls his head from side to side uselessly.

“You’re so goddamn beautiful, Steve,” Bucky breathes, still looking down and now beginning to move all four fingers with purpose. It’s not fast or brutal – not yet – but it’s full and deep. As much as Bucky’s enjoying it – and he is, there’s no denying that – the truth is, he’s still only about seventy-percent able involved in the ride. Because even though the whole sight is breathtaking and even though he doesn’t falter his rhythm for a second, there’s still that thirty percent of him that stubbornly won’t give over and just let Bucky be in the moment; unfortunately, he’s still consumed with the worry of taking things too far or losing control.

He’s mindful every time he pushes his fingers in, and seems to take extra care when seeking out Steve’s prostate and pressing down on it whenever pulling back. Since he can’t feel for it, he has to go by memory. It takes a few seconds longer than normal but he also knows his best friend’s body inside and out, so it isn’t long at all before Steve jolts and cries out elatedly when that sweet spot within him is breached.

“B… Bucky…” Steve slurs, not really for any reason other than because that’s the first word his fuzzy brain can make sense of through the blinding pleasure.

“That’s right, baby doll, m’right here… Taking care of my sweet boy, gonna make you feel so perfect…”

“Wanna… ride your… fingers, Buck, please…”

Bucky stops, blinking like a fish as his mouth goes dry, and then stammering out, “O-Okay.”

Steve’s movements are sluggish, and Bucky almost groans out fuck when Steve’s eyes meet his momentarily but then just flicker away without any recognition – completely glazed-over and unfocused. As Bucky switches places with him and lowers himself onto his back (grimacing slightly when he feels the squelchy wetness of the paint dirtying his back again), he keeps a careful yet fascinated eye on Steve’s face while the latter crawls over top of him slowly and hovers over Bucky’s pelvis. Now the blond’s eyes are closed, and all Bucky can hear are his soft breaths as he brings the metal hand back between his legs and tightens the four fingers together, aimed upwards for Steve to sit on.

“Stevie… You still here with me, buddy?” Bucky asks gently, needing to be sure that his lover can still be in somewhat control on his own end. Bucky realizes in this moment that he hadn’t even considered that when it comes to Steve, who gets so lost sometimes in seeking the pleasure Bucky unleashes onto him, it’s just as likely for something to go wrong due to Steve losing control as it is from Bucky doing the same.

Steve doesn’t answer, but his head is hanging forward and he gives a small nod. This isn’t good enough for Bucky; he needs to hear it. “Stevie, where are ya right now, baby? What day of the week is it?”

It seems to take him a second to think about it, but then Steve whispers, “At home… S’Tuesday…”

“Okay baby, that’s good, you did good,” Bucky soothes, rubbing the blond’s hip gently with his right hand. “And what’s the word again?”

“Bucky…” Steve whines softly, trying to lower himself onto Bucky’s fingers.

Bucky tightens his grip on Steve’s hip and forces him to still. “No,” he says sternly, but still just as gentle. “You know that’s not the word, Steve. The word; I need to hear you say it.”

Steve makes a pained sound and bites his lip in distress, but he lifts his head and Bucky watches the way the blond’s brows come together and his eyes flutter around under closed lids in thought. A few seconds later, Steve breathes, “Brooklyn…”

Bucky breathes out a small sigh of relief. “That’s my good baby doll…”

“Bucky, please…”

Bucky relaxes his grip, giving Steve mobility again. He nods, even though Steve isn’t looking. “Go ahead, sweetheart.”

With a grateful groan, Steve brings himself down smoothly and impales himself on all four metal fingers, straight down to the knuckles in one try. Bucky knows the serum must’ve already tightened him back up a bit because Steve groans extra loud at the stretch. “You okay?” Bucky checks in, even though his own face is drawn together in pleasure simply from watching, because whether it’s his right arm or the left, the sight of Steve doing this every time never loses its effect.

Steve nods his head feverishly and then starts rolling his hips to stir himself up a bit and loosen things inside. His paint-covered hands splay flush against Bucky’s brightly streaked stomach; fingers digging into flesh and muscle. All Bucky can do is watch. And then Steve starts expertly doing full goddamn body rolls that always end in his hips bucking forward against those fingers – and fuck Bucky’s life if Steve’s inability to dance growing up had somehow not hindered his ability to gyrate his body just perfectly whenever something was teasing the inside of the super soldier’s ass.

Within a minute, Steve’s bouncing himself on and off Bucky’s fingers, and Bucky sees an immediate perk about the metal arm – in that it doesn’t strain him to keep it angled like this, and he can take Steve’s weight effortlessly. He also can’t help but be blown away how much it actually turns him on the watch the gleam of the metal disappear over and over inside of his lover’s body. Steve’s moaning vehemently, breathlessly as if an uncontained afterthought, and Bucky wonders if the metal fingers feel somehow better. He’d never take his own bionic hand to himself, but it’s something he can ask Steve about later.

He wants to help push Steve over the edge – make him feel better than he’d ever made me feel before – so he asks in a strained voice, “I’m gonna jack you off - green, yellow, or red?”

It was all part of the system they had – green, yellow, or red? – that after the first month of them seeing each other, Sam had suggested they implement. Because in the beginning, Bucky was still hesitant to be intimate with Steve; not because he didn’t want to (that first night had been incredible to say the least), but because he still didn’t feel like he had complete control yet.

Sometimes, things would be going fine until Steve touched him a certain way – and it was completely innocent and could’ve been something Steve had done a hundred times before – and suddenly Bucky would be panicking and trying to attack Steve right there on the bed.

So they started taking greater care to communicate things through; before Steve would touch Bucky any which way, he’d ask Bucky which of the three colours he’d pick – green meant Bucky wanted it, yellow meant that Bucky was consenting but Steve should be careful proceeding because he was weary, and red was full-stop, no. He’d utilized the colour red a lot in the beginning, because Bucky didn’t trust that anything Steve did wouldn’t set him off. And Steve had always been so fucking patient and always listened exactly the way he was supposed to, and together they worked through it as Bucky had come back more and more to himself, and over time, they got to slowly phase out the vocabulary from their intimacy for Bucky’s sake.

Of course, that was only for Bucky to have been fucking into Steve one night to suddenly panic at the realization that the blond, for whatever reason, was so completely lost in the lovemaking that he couldn’t string together one coherent sentence. Despite the fact that it had been Saturday, Steve thought it was Thursday, and then he’d lost the ability to speak words at all, and Bucky had thought Steve was having some sort of stroke. He’d stopped the whole thing and had no idea what to do. Later on, once it had passed, he’d used the internet to research up on it and gradually discovered what had happened. That was when Bucky insisted that have a safety word they could use so, at the very least, Bucky could always at least be aware of what headspace Steve was in.

Steve nods slowly and breathes, “Green…”

So Bucky reaches his flesh hand out and wraps his fingers around Steve’s leaking cock. Squeezing, he begins pumping, quickly timing the movements to match the rhythm of Steve’s body on his fingers. Steve tosses his head back, now stimulated gruellingly from both ends, and scrapes his blunt fingernails into Bucky’s stomach, causing the brunet to grunt while Steve moans. As he increases his speed, rising and falling off of Bucky’s dick, he starts to breath out throaty moans, long and languid. The bouncing motion makes the sounds come out staccato, and Bucky moans himself at the sound because that right there, when Steve makes those broken up little noises, that’s one of his biggest motherfucking weaknesses.

“M’gonna come,” Steve whispers suddenly; breathing rising in pitch.

“Yeah,” Bucky exhales, breaking the rhythm to jerk Steve faster. “Come for me, baby doll, god, you look so fuckin’ nice. Come all over me, you’ve done so good, you deserve it.”

“Can you fuck me?” the blond gasps, sitting himself down hard on the metal digits and grinding himself against them, hissing when he rocks just right and stimulates his prostate.

“You want me to fuck you?”

“Yeah…” Steve whispers, barely audible.

Bucky licks his lips and then nods, feeling his prick twitch excitedly. “Okay, sweetheart, lie down on your back.”

Steve grunts uncomfortably, mourning the loss of Bucky’s fingers when he raises himself up and off of them, leaving himself gaping and empty. Bucky makes a sympathetic sound as he sits back up and grabs the bottle of lube again. Steve lowers himself down and Bucky says, “I know, baby, just two seconds and I’ll give you everythin’ you need.”

When he glances down at the bottle, he looks between his hands; the left one is already covered in messy slick, whereas the right isn’t so bad. He’d always vehemently never touched himself with the bionic hand before, but as he stares down at them now, he rationalizes that he might as well just go with the one that’s already lubed up anyways. So he squirts some more in the metallic palm before grabbing his dick and beginning to stroke as though it were second nature.

The grip is sturdier, but the metal is hot now from being inside of Steve’s body, and that makes it all the more arousing. The platings feel unusual as the hand slides up and down his cock, getting it wet, and he finds himself even more curious as to how that must’ve felt in Steve.

The blond watches, completely flushed and debauched; eyeing that metal limb and the shiny red tip of Bucky’s cock poking in and out from that enclosed fist. His lips are parted and his eyes contain both awe and hunger. “That’s so fuckin’ sexy, Buck,” Steve exhales.

Bucky answers him by shuffling forward and positioning himself between Steve’s legs. Lowering down, he covers his best friend’s mouth in a kiss as he directs his cock to Steve’s awaiting asshole. He knows his lover is too desperate right now for extended pleasantries and teasing, and his hole is slicked and stretched just the right amount, so Bucky can slide in with one push and not hurt him. Bucky lets out a strained groan as the tightness envelopes him and every time he thrusts into Steve for the first time, it’s always like coming home. Steve’s mouth falls open with a grateful gasping sound, and Bucky responds by licking straight into the space. Steve throws his arms around Bucky’s neck and beats their tongues together as the brunet starts to move.

They stay that way for a while, kissing and moaning into each other’s mouths with reckless abandon while Bucky undulates his hips back and forth, burying himself balls deep every time he thrusts back in. After about ten minutes, Steve has to break away; free his mouth so he can pant and gasp and make all those sounds Bucky lives for. Bucky pushes himself up by the palms of his hands and breathes heavily through a slack mouth as he just soaks in the sight of Steve lying beneath him – eyes closed, brows creased, and licking his lips with every few breaths as he twitches and whimpers loudly.

“My dick…” Steve struggles to say; voice losing its clarity again. “Touch it, please… The metal one…”

The request no longer fills Bucky with discomfort or shame; he simply plants a rough kiss to the opened stretch of Steve’s neck and then straightens up so he has free access to the blond’s erection. The angle changes to accompany the switch in positions, and as he takes up the hard-on with his metal hand and starts twisting his wrist and stroking, his own cock starts brushing along Steve’s prostate.

Steve’s eyes fly wide and his head snaps down to look. He chokes out a startled sound when he takes in the sight of the metal moving hypnotically along his dick, and the longer he watches it, the more engrossed – pulled in by it – he becomes. Bucky keeps an eye on Steve’s face and furrows his brows when he recognizes that familiar fog seeping into his baby blues. Steve’s moans die down in volume until they’re small utterances being released with every breath, and his head thumps back against the floor as he closes his eyes. His body loses all tension and goes completely lax against the floor.

Bucky slows down his movements, though he doesn’t come to a complete stop. “Steve…?” he whispers softly. Steve keeps breathing out soft moans but other than that, doesn’t respond. Bucky licks his lips and gingerly takes Steve’s chin in his right hand and tilts it down a bit. “Stevie, baby, look at me. Open your eyes, precious.”

It takes a few seconds, but slowly, Steve’s lids open half way and the blond peers down at him, eyes as glassy as fucking marbles. Bucky knows that from here on out, he has to be especially careful; the responsibility is all on him now. Steve’s no longer in the right state of mind to be able to say no, or pick the right colour, if any of what Bucky does hurts him. Steve can’t even seem to even be able to voice proper words when this happens – which, admittedly, has only ever happened one other time before, and not in months.

“Can you tell me the safety word, baby doll?” Bucky asks just to check, even though he already anticipates it when Steve just stares at him with a complete and utter look of adoration in his barely-there gaze and exhales another small moan. Bucky gives him a warm smile and strokes his hand through golden hair. “You feelin’ good, Stevie?”

Another incoherent exhale of a moan.

“Okay baby… It’s all okay… M’gonna take care of you, I promise.”

He starts to move again; resumes stroking Steve’s erection. What would normally have Steve arching and throwing his head back in ecstasy now has him just staring at Bucky in worship – face innocent and baby blues wide and doe-eyed – as he moans with his breaths, regularized and constant.

And Bucky doesn’t know how it’s possible – he can’t fucking stand it… The way Steve could love Bucky so utterly and completely – and he realizes that includes every part of him, even the metal arm – and that Steve could trust him so faithfully that Bucky could bring him to such an elevated plateau of bliss like this. Steve’s just lying there, his perfectly beautiful body rocking up and down from the push and pull of Bucky’s thrusts, and he won’t stop staring at Bucky like he hung the goddamn moon. The only thing that exists for Steve right now is Bucky, and Bucky could live a million years, and do a million good deeds, and he still wouldn’t deserve Steve Rogers.

His chest gets tight with emotion – his heart hammering away – and he fucks into his lover harder; nothing Steve can’t take when he’s coherent, so Bucky trusts he won’t hurt him. Maybe that’s what Steve was trying to get through to him this entire time… That Bucky would never hurt Steve, and Steve knows that without a shadow of a doubt. That’s why he can always give himself over to Bucky so effortlessly; if Steve can be brave enough to do that, then Bucky can trust himself to do right by Steve, too.

“I love you, baby doll,” Bucky breathes out in between soft groans. He keeps his eyes locked with Steve’s as he starts to feel the inner muscles of the blond’s ass twitch and shudder around him. Steve doesn’t reply, but he moans enthusiastically, eyes still hooded and hazy, and Bucky thinks that on some level, Steve understands what Bucky’s saying and is replying in turn.

Bucky pants, feeling sweat matt his bangs to his forehead and temples as he continues to vary his tempos; sometimes speeding up his hips and fucking into Steve like he was born to do it, and then burying himself in deep and simply rocking there. All the while, he stops worrying about paying careful mind of the metal limb working Steve’s dick as Steve leaks all over him; he trusts himself in this moment, knows he would never cause Steve pain.

He can’t feel anything, but his thumb instinctually works the slit all the same; knows exactly when and where to twist the wrist, and though Steve isn’t giving him the usual vocal signs, or facial expressions, to let him know that he’s close, when Bucky spares a quick glance down at Steve’s cock, it looks painfully hard and is pumping so much precome that it’s leaking in a thin steady stream without pause.

“Come for me, Steve,” Bucky breathes, grinding himself to Steve’s ass and circling his hips in a way he knows from experience gives his dick direct contact with Steve’s sweet spot. Steve exhales a soft moan. Bucky notices that though his face is impassive, save for those fucking eyes of wonder, the corners of Steve’s eyes are now wet. Bucky nods to himself and shakes some of his hair away from his face; muscular body still rolling on and into Steve faithfully.

“Baby, can you hear me?” Bucky whispers, stroking Steve faster. “I want you to come for me… It’ll feel so good, I promise. I love you so fucking much, Stevie; thank you, fucking thank you… You saved my life, you’re so good, you’re so fucking good, my sweet boy…”

He’s reminded of why watching Steve come when he’s in subspace is a sight and a half to behold. Because his cock stiffens in Bucky’s metal hand and Bucky can feel the walls of his tight ass seizing spastically around him – and when Steve’s cock starts spurting thick, heavy streams of come across the blond’s own chest and belly, he’s shooting so far that some even splatters his neck. Steve only ever blows his load like that when it’s a mind-blowing orgasm, and those usually have Steve shrieking when he comes, back snapping off the ground tautly until the super soldier slumps back to the floor, shaking all over.

And yet when Steve’s cock goes off like that now, and Bucky knows it’s one of those earth-shattering releases, Steve’s body remains unmoving and relaxed, and the only change in his facial expression is when his eyes widen just a little bit more. But even the moan he releases is still low and quiet, yet unmistakably blissful.

Steve is so fucking gone.

And that sends Bucky over the edge. He considers pulling out and painting Steve’s chest with his own come, but he doesn’t like the idea of doing that without Steve being able to give his consent – just because Bucky knows Steve would give it doesn’t mean he should be abusing his power. His heart also flutters when he remembers that Steve loves it when Bucky finishes inside of him, and he likes it too. So he gives in to the last final seconds before he tumbles over the edge, fucking in fast and powerful before stilling with a shudder, squeezing his eyes shut, and crying out before gasping loudly as he finally comes. He gives a couple last shallow thrusts while he orgasm rockets through his body and then he rides it out. When it eventually subsides, he carefully pulls out and then runs to the kitchen, returning with a cool face cloth.

Bucky had read that the aftercare is just as crucial as the care and precaution taken during sex is. He lies down beside Steve, whose eyes are closed again as he inhales and exhales lightly, and gingerly presses the cloth to Steve’s forehead to dab up the sweat.

“Hey baby doll,” Bucky murmurs lovingly. “Can you come back to me now? We’re done… You did so good, Steve, so good, you made me so happy.”

Steve slowly opens his eyes and lets his head turn towards Bucky. His eyes are still mostly lost, so Bucky keeps talking to him; continues to encourage him gently. He tells Steve over and over how well he’d done, how pleased Bucky is with him, and how much Bucky loves him. After a minute or so, Steve blinks and his eyes open normally this time. He takes a second to focus, and then closes them again with a short inhale and whispers, “Bucky…”

Bucky smiles, big and bright and genuine. He cups the side of Steve’s face, pressing the washcloth to it. “Yeah, baby, it’s me. Are you back with me?”

Steve clears his throat softly, smiling lazily with eyes still closed, and then nods. When he opens his eyes again and meets Bucky’s, he looks exhausted, but satiated and satisfied. Just to be safe, Bucky asks, “What’s the safety word again?”

Steve tries to roll his eyes, but he’s so tired that the attempt gets aborted halfway through. “Brooklyn,” he whispers.

“Did that feel good, baby?” Bucky asks quietly, now cooling off Steve’s neck and shoulders.

Steve nods, humming quietly. “Felt amazing,” he breathes.

“Haven’t had that happen in a long time,” Bucky says, grinning.

Steve hums out a semblance of a chuckle and closes his eyes again, a lazy smile on his mouth. Bucky leans in and kisses it, just once.

“I guess I got off on your arm a bit more than I thought,” he jokes.

Bucky smiles warmly – knows just as well as Steve that it was so much more than that and then leans back in and kisses his best friend again, soft and slow. “About that,” Bucky murmurs slowly, kissing Steve’s cheek, dried all over with paint. “Maybe I don’t have to be hasty to get rid of it.”

Steve opens his eyes at that and gives Bucky a confused look. “That’s – Buck, that’s not because of me, is it?” he asks quietly, immediately perking right back out of his fatigue. “‘Cause, God, Buck, I’m sorry, I didn’t do this because I wanted to guilt you into keepin’ it for me--”

“Steve, Steve, shut up,” Bucky laughs softly, covering Steve’s mouth with his hand and cloth. He pulls back after a minute and smiles, lowering his hand back down and wiping the cloth along Steve’s chest. “No,” he insists. “You know I love you, but I wouldn’t be keeping this thing just because I thought you liked it. I just… I dunno, I’m not sayin’ I’m gonna keep it forever. I don’t know if I’ll get sick of it again in a week, or a month, or even a few days, I just… I think you can help me slowly start to accept this thing as being a part of me."

The blond has one hand to Bucky’s cheek, stroking his thumb along his cheekbone reassuringly. “I’ll support any decision you make,” Steve promises, and Bucky believes him.

“You think if I keep the arm, you can keep paintin’ on it?” Bucky asks. “I’m sure the paint would keep coming off after a few showers, so we might need to stock up on supplies, but I mean… If you want to, y’know?”

Steve pulls Bucky down and silences him in a kiss. After a few drawn out seconds, he looks Bucky in the eye and smiles – big and boyish and looking exactly like the kid Bucky had always known and adored.

“I will paint you a dozen times a day, every day, until we got our laughter lines if you asked me to, Buck.”

“Just like one of your French girls?” Bucky jokes.

Steve smiles. “Just like one of my French girls.”


 

Bucky winds up keeping the arm. The Avengers eventually stop laughing when they get used to seeing Bucky strutting around the tower with an entire arm covered in brightly-coloured flowers. The one constant is always his Captain’s star in the middle of his bicep, backed by Bucky’s trademark blue and safely surrounded by the colours of the first real family Steve and Bucky had ever felt they had. And this group of whack jobs he’s surrounded by these days – yeah, they’ve grown on him, every last one of them. And Bucky realizes that they’ve become his family, too. 

They all start wanting to paint designs on him, too. Bucky lets them and he wears every pattern proudly.

After all, he’s got nothing to be ashamed of.