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my bones hold a stillness

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“Come on,” Steve says, shoving Bucky into the shower stall.

Bucky is tired, and more sore than he’s let on to Steve after a solid few days of marching. Truth be told, he’s ready to drop.

"Don't think I'll ever get used to you pushing me around," he says, light.

Steve ignores him and turns on the water. It’s only a faint trickle, but Bucky hasn’t seen a shower in weeks and it’s better than nothing.

“Take your clothes off, then,” Steve says, very fond. He doesn't show any signs of leaving.

“You want a show or somethin’?” Bucky says roughly, in the middle of removing his boots.

Steve flushes, but his voice is firm when he says, “Buck, I’m not leaving you like this.”

And Bucky doesn't want to talk about this. Steve already knows enough; he knows too much. He's heard Bucky shivering himself awake with nightmares, he's seen the way Bucky pulls his sleeves down and shrinks away from any touch.

Bucky closes his eyes and holds still while Steve strips him out of his shirt and pants with terrifying efficiency. Steve is careful not to let his hands linger on Bucky’s skin, but Bucky can't help but notice the searing heat of his touch. Fleetingly, he thinks it must be something to do with whatever crazy science they used to turn Steve into the walking giant that he is.

“Bucky,” Steve says quietly, and Bucky’s eyes flutter open. A bar of soap is pressed into his hand, and he flinches at the curl of Steve’s fingers in his palm. “You’d better get in before the water gets cold.” Steve’s voice catches at the end of the words.

Bucky steps into the shower, trying not to think about the fact Steve is right there, waiting. It’s tricky to wash himself without irritating the cuts and bruises, but he manages.

All the way back, Bucky had been careful to make sure Steve couldn't see the physical evidence of what they did. He hadn’t wanted him to worry, but then again, maybe he’s underselling Steve. He’s always been made of strong stuff, and now he’s got the body to match. He can probably handle seeing a few scars.

When Bucky's done, he turns around to find Steve holding a towel: a thin, ragged thing. He has no idea how Steve managed to get hold of it out here.

“Thanks,” Bucky says, taking the towel. He dries off quickly, conscious of Steve watching the whole time, fully-clothed while he's naked. Now he's clean, he feels raw and exposed, a stripped-down nerve.

His hair’s dripping into his eyes, a mess of soaked strands across his forehead. Steve moves before he does, smoothing Bucky’s wet hair back with his hand.

Bucky looks at Steve and it’s like the ground is rushing up to meet him. Steve’s eyes are blue and wide. Bucky was expecting to see horror, pity. Instead, there’s acceptance in Steve's gaze, and that feels so much worse. Steve is looking at him like he hung the stars in the cloudless sky outside, and Bucky feels like he’s folding in on himself. His body sags against the wall, his legs no longer holding him up. An arm wraps around his waist, keeping him steady.

Steve doesn’t let him fall.

“I’ve got you, Buck,” Steve says into his ear, soft. His breath warms the cooled sweat on the back of Bucky’s neck, taking away some of the bone-deep chill that’s settled inside him. “I’ve got you.”

“’m just tired,” Bucky says, the most bare-faced lie he’s ever told.

"Alright?" Steve asks carefully.

"Yeah." Absurdly, that's when Bucky starts shaking, his breaths coming quick and fast, wrenched sharply from the space under his ribs.

“It’s okay,” Steve says, still holding onto him. “It’s just us. You don’t have to pretend anything with me.”

Yes, I do, Bucky thinks desperately, but it’s no use. His teeth chatter and his knees knock while he shakes himself apart in Steve’s arms. He’s never felt so small and helpless in his entire life.

“Better?” Steve asks when Bucky has finally stopped trembling.

“I'm fine,” Bucky answers. Now that’s over with, everything seems sharper, more defined. He can feel Steve's touch in a way he couldn't before, a low warmth in the pit of his stomach. He shrugs out of his grasp.

“You’re not,” Steve says stubbornly, and he’s reaching for Bucky, taking his face in his ridiculous shovel hands and pulling him forward. It cracks something inside Bucky—Steve's huge hands on his skin, gentle though he's seen them bending steel—and he can’t breathe all over again.

“I missed you,” Bucky says quietly. He gets a hand around the back of Steve’s neck, drawing him closer.

“I didn’t know you still wanted —” Steve starts to say, anguished. Then he’s kissing Bucky, hungry and wet.

At first, Bucky doesn't feel anything. Steve inches a hand up his thigh, teeth tracing the shell of his ear, and there might as well be a void inside Bucky, emptiness where desire should be. He’s afraid he’s forgotten how to want.

“Steve, I don’t know if I can —” Bucky mumbles, glancing down to where he's not even close to hard. He hates this. Of all the things they did to him, this has to be the worst. 

“We’ll see about that,” Steve says, determined, and then he’s sinking to his knees on the damp bathroom tile.

His thumb brushes the skin on the inside of Bucky’s thigh, and Bucky shudders. Then Steve licks down the length of him, where he's still soft, sparking fire in his veins. Bucky goes hard against Steve’s tongue and it’s better than anything he's felt in a long time.

“Steve,” he chokes out, because he doesn't deserve anything this good when he's all wrong inside and out, a stitched-up mannequin with an emptied-out head. "You don't have to.”

Steve doesn't reply, just presses his thumbs into Bucky's hipbones and sucks at him, slow. Bucky groans; he's struck by the thought that while so much about Steve is different, this part's still the same.

Though he was cold a second ago, Bucky's starting to feel hot all over. His fingers are in Steve's hair. Steve's hand trails down to cup his balls, and Bucky closes his eyes and comes in Steve's mouth with a small "oh", shaking all over for the second time that night.

"I've got you," Steve murmurs, raspy, moving to rest his cheek on Bucky's thigh. The wall is cold against Bucky's back, but Steve is warm and he is there.

"Yeah," Bucky says weakly, the ghost of a smile forming on his lips, "I guess you have."