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New Year's Eve, 1943

Steve takes out the last HYDRA soldier with a solid hit from his shield; it rebounds back to him, and he grabs it and turns, already breaking into a run. Bucky had been with him one moment and then down on the ground the next. He'd still been able to shoot, though, which has to be a good sign. Steve's at his side in a moment, kneeling down in the snow as Bucky struggles to sit up.

"Stay still," Steve says, but Bucky keeps moving. Steve gives in, helping to ease him up into a sitting position.

"I'm fine," he says, but he's leaning heavily against Steve, one arm pressed to his side. "Just gotta get moving, get back to the plane."

"Yeah, we'll get Howard to come to us instead of the other way around," Steve says, pulling the communicator out of his pocket and hitting the signal button. It blinks for a moment, but then the light flickers out. He hits it again, but nothing happens.

"Aw, hell," says Bucky. "Do those things ever work?"

"Guess not. Must be the weather." Snow's been falling heavily all day; between that and the wind, visibility's practically zero, and now that the adrenaline from the fight is worn off, Steve's starting to feel the chill. "We've gotta get you someplace warm."

"I'm fine, Rogers," Bucky says again, but he's still leaning on Steve, and it's hard not to notice that he's shivering. "Probably oughta get you in out of the cold, though. You're the one who always came down with a chill as soon as winter hit."

Steve snorts, standing up. "Yeah, I don't think that's gonna be a problem this year." He holds out a hand, and Bucky manages to get to his feet. "You gonna be able to walk?"

"You sure as hell ain't carrying me. Just give me a hand."

It's slow going through the already fallen snow, especially when the icy wind's working against them, not to mention that Steve's supporting most of Bucky's weight and trying not to jostle him. "This isn't going to work," he says, and Bucky nods.

"The truck. We can wait this out there, see if the comm's working when the storm passes."

"Good idea."

They make for the HYDRA vehicle they'd ambushed; if Steve hadn't remembered where it was, he probably wouldn't have found it, already covered over in snow. He helps Bucky in through the back, then climbs in, pulling the canvas flap down behind them. It's not much protection from the cold, but it keeps the snow and some of the wind out, so at least it's better than nothing.

Bucky crawls to the back and slumps down against the wall, arm still tight against his side. "You good?" Steve asks, and Bucky nods. "Hold tight, then, I've gotta check this thing." For all he knows, HYDRA has it rigged to blow if it ends up in enemy hands.

His search doesn't turn up anything overly suspicious, but he does find a few useful things under a seat -- namely, a canteen and some blankets. He brings them back, setting them beside Bucky, who's looking pale. "Your ribs?" Steve asks.


"Let me see."

He pushes Bucky's shirt up, wincing when he sees the dull purple bruise already coloring his skin. "Sorry about this," he says, pressing his hand to the area and feeling around carefully.

Bucky inhales sharply, and Steve eases the pressure a little. "Sorry," he says again, feeling the other side, where there isn't any bruising. "Nothing feels broken, at least. Medics'll have you all fixed up in no time."

"Whatever you say," Bucky says, picking up the canteen, unscrewing the top, and taking a sniff. "Well, this sure as hell ain't water."

"It could be poisoned," Steve cautions.

"Only one way to find out," Bucky says, taking a swallow and grimacing. "Whiskey. Bad whiskey, but bad whiskey's still whiskey."

"Don't drink too much," Steve says. They might be in a decently-camouflaged truck in the middle of a storm, but they're still in enemy territory, and Steve needs Bucky sharp, even if he's hurting.

Bucky takes another swig and then hands it back to Steve, who gives it a considering look and then takes a mouthful. "God, you were right, this is awful."

"Works pretty good against the cold, though."

"Yeah," Steve says. Bucky's still shivering, though, and Steve rolls his eyes. "Get out of those wet clothes and under the blankets before you get hypothermia, dummy."

"Sure, mom," Bucky says, but he does as Steve says; it takes him awhile to get his shirt off, but he won't let Steve help him.

"Stubborn as a mule," Steve mutters.

"I don't know why you sound so surprised." He wraps one blanket around him, settling back against the wall. "Here, you take the other one."

"I don't really need it," Steve says. And it's true, but Bucky raises his eyebrows and Steve sighs, shifting over so they're shoulder to shoulder, and then he spreads the second blanket over both of them.

"You know what the weirdest part of tonight is?" Bucky asks. "This isn't even the worst New Year's Eve we've ever had."

Steve laughs, thinking back to the same night a few years before, the two of them sharing a rat-infested tenement, Steve with a rattling cough they were afraid might be TB. "Yeah, we've had a few bad ones, haven't we? I don't know that this one's any better, though."

"We had a pretty good Christmas Eve this year, at least," he says, and Steve smiles.

"I'm surprised you remember it." They'd been between missions, all of them holed up in a bar and celebrating the holiday with round after round. By the time Christmas morning rolled around, Bucky had been three sheets to the wind, all glazed eyes and loose, easy smiles.

"Yeah, yeah. Remember the mistletoe?"

"How could I forget," Steve says, laughing. Morita had snapped a couple of twigs off an evergreen, tying them together and hanging them from the doorframe in the hopes that Peggy would fall for it. She'd allowed him a kiss on the cheek, and then she'd looked closer. "I'm surprised Morita was still standing after Peggy realized it wasn't real."

"She said she didn't want to make extra work for the medics on Christmas Eve," Bucky says with a grin. "I think Morita was just trying to give you a Christmas present, though."

"What, a kiss from Peggy? If that was his plan, we're gonna have to stop asking for his advice on strategy."

"No kidding."

Steve had already been well-aware of the mistletoe by the time Peggy showed up -- he'd walked in with Bucky, much to the amusement of the rest of the guys. "Gonna kiss your sweetheart?" Dum Dum had called out, and Bucky had smirked.

"Sure thing, sweetheart," he'd said, holding up a fist. "Come on over here and I'll give you one, right on the kisser." A roar of laughter went up as Bucky winked at Dugan, who puckered his lips, and Steve had laughed, shaking his head and heading on over to the bar.

"The look on Dugan's face," Steve says now, chuckling as he raises the canteen to his lips. It still tastes awful, and alcohol doesn't do much at all for him these days, but it does leave a warm feeling in his stomach.

"I should've kissed you," Bucky says, and Steve fumbles with the canteen, nearly knocking it over. He screws the cap back on hastily. "Can you imagine the look on his face then?"

"Yeah," Steve says, feeling his face flush bright red. He hopes Bucky doesn't notice, but -- well, it's Bucky, and he starts to laugh right away.

"Jeez, Steve. If I'd known what your face would have looked like just from me saying it, I would've done it."

"You wouldn't."

"I still might," he says, and Steve drops the canteen for real. Bucky laughs harder, bringing his hand to his side. "Oh, ow."

"You okay?" Steve asks.

"No," Bucky says. "My ribs hurt, and you won't stop making me laugh, you jerk."

"Yeah, I'm the jerk," Steve says. His face is still hot, and Bucky shakes his head.

"I didn't realize talking about a kiss would get you all worked up like this, that's all."

"Shut it," Steve says.

"You must've kissed a few girls by now, right?"

"Yeah," Steve says, not bothering to mention that it had only been one, and she'd kissed him, not the other way around, and it had lasted about three seconds before Peggy interrupted. And then shot at him.

"Never kissed a guy?"

Steve rolls his eyes. "Yeah, that would have made a good headline."

Bucky's quiet, and Steve looks over; they're still side-by-side, which means he's closer than Steve wants right now, and his expression's calculating. "What?" Steve asks.

"'Would have made a good headline,'" Bucky repeats. "Not 'don't be disgusting' or 'I would never,' nothing like that."

And damn it, Steve's face had been almost back to normal. "I--" he says, before realizing he has no idea what to say next.

"I meant it, you know," Bucky says.

"Meant what?"

"I still might kiss you."

Steve thinks about laughing it off, because there's no way this isn't just Bucky trying to mess with him, but they're still too close and Bucky's face is serious and his lips are right there, just a few inches away until they're even closer than that. Steve closes his eyes, willing himself not to move forward or move back or -- he just wants to move one way or the other, and he can't make up his mind, and then Bucky's lips are touching his, and the decision's suddenly that much easier.

Bucky kisses soft, not like Steve would have guessed. His hands come up to Steve's shoulders, and Steve flounders for a moment, trying to figure out where to put his hands -- he doesn't want to risk jostling Bucky and hurting his ribs -- and Bucky pulls back a little. "Sorry --" he starts, but he doesn't get a chance to finish.

"No, it's just -- your ribs, I don't want to hurt you."

"I'll live," Bucky says, and he kisses Steve again, harder this time. Steve finally settles on cupping the back of Bucky's neck with one hand, pulling him a little closer, and he tangles his other hand in Bucky's hair, pulling just tight enough that his fingernails scrape gently against his scalp. Bucky gasps, and Steve takes the opportunity to lick into his mouth, just once, and then bites down on Bucky's lip.

"No fair," Bucky says, pulling back, and Steve grins, unapologetic. Bucky's never been shy about kissing and telling -- not to Steve, anyway -- and Steve's heard more than enough to make an educated guess at what Bucky likes, and it's easy to use it against him. "You messing with me?"

"Yeah," Steve says. "But you were messing with me first. And besides, you should have seen the look on your face."


"Yep. Hey, you know, the last person who kissed me, Peggy walked in on us. It wasn't pretty after. Bullets were involved." No need to say they were aimed at him.

"You're bluffing," Bucky says. Steve shakes his head, trying to hide a smile.

"Nope. I should've warned you. The look on my face probably wasn't worth it."

"I wouldn't say that," Bucky says, winking. His smile is crooked and fond and Steve can't help but smile back. "Just don't mention it to Agent Carter and we'll be fine."

"Don't mention what to Agent Carter?" Peggy's voice says as the flap on the back of the van lifts, and Bucky jumps, then winces.

"How'd you find us?" he asks, and Steve holds up the signal comm, its light flashing red.

"Weather must have cleared up. Looks like the signal went through."


Howard's looming over Peggy's shoulder, looking interested. "What is it you're not supposed to mention to Peggy?" he asks, and Bucky groans, dropping his head down.

"Leave him alone," Steve says. "He's in a lot of pain. Come on, Bucky, let's get you back."

"Thanks," he mutters, and Steve grins.

"Don't worry about it. Come on, hurry up before Howard needles you into telling him about how you were just saying you wished you were the one who got caught underneath the mistletoe with Agent Carter."

Her eyebrows raise, and Howard lets out a hoot of laughter, and Bucky glares, taking the hand that Steve offers him to help him up. "That's not what I --" He cuts himself off, and if Steve were a betting man, he'd wager that Bucky's trying to figure out what to say that isn't going to end up with Peggy shooting him.

"I'm delirious with pain," he finally says. "I don't even know what I'm saying."

"Indeed," is all that Peggy says. She glances back at Steve, who gives her his best who, me? expression, and her eyes sparkle just a little. "Do take care, Sergeant. We wouldn't want that pain to get any worse, would we?"

"No, ma'am," Bucky says.

Howard claps him on the back. "Don't worry, Barnes. If Peggy doesn't want to kiss you, I'm more than happy to take her place."

Bucky doesn't even look at him, just glares at Steve instead. "I hate you," he says.

"No, you don't," Steve says cheerfully. "Now come on, let's get out of here."