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to trust love one more time

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"Shave it off." Bucky drops the kit in his hands on the counter and pulls out the clippers. "I want it gone, please."

T'Challa stares at the man in front of him, at the clippers in his hand. He slowly lowers his own beard trimmer to the counter. He accepts the clippers from Bucky's extended hand.

"You are sure?" He can't imagine Bucky without the long hair, though logically he knows it used to be far shorter. "All of it?"

Bucky turns and grips the countertop, flesh fingers going white-knuckled as the new hand threatens to crack the stone.

"All of it. I want it gone." He sighs, locking eyes with T'Challa in the mirror. "I want it to be you. I trust you. Please."

T'Challa sets the clippers down and slowly wraps his arms around Bucky's waist. He doesn’t move until Bucky relaxes enough to preserve the integrity of the stonework. Even then, it's just to press a soft kiss to Bucky's shoulder.

"I will shave it, since it is what you want," T'Challa murmurs.

Bucky sinks into his embrace, tension melting out of his spine and shoulders. It is still so hard for him to ask for things, especially when he is unsure of how T'Challa will respond.

"It is. It's what I want."

They stay like that, wrapped up in each other, until Bucky grows weary of waiting. T'Challa releases him, watching as Bucky removes a chair from the vanity and sets it in the center of the bathroom.

"Put it into a ponytail, and I will begin there."

As far as T'Challa knows, Bucky has not done much to his besides the occasional self-trim since he escaped. Before that, Hydra never cared about his appearance. Since he came to the palace, Bucky has not bothered to cut his hair. It falls below his shoulders now, and T'Challa can understand the wish to be free of it.

He finds the scissors in the kit Bucky brought with him, making sure they are clean and sharp.

"I have the scissors," T'Challa says. He does his best to be purposeful in his movements. "I am going to cut off the ponytail first, to make it easier to clip the rest."

"We could donate it," Bucky rasps. The corner of his mouth twitches into a smile. "It's long enough, I checked. Make some kid a wig."

T'Challa knows his sappy smile is not fit for a king, but here, in his chambers with Bucky, he is not a king.

"I think that would be perfect." T'Challa checks to make sure the elastic is secure before he begins to cut it off.

Removing Bucky's hair feels like sacrilege, like desecrating something holy. T'Challa is not prone to dramatic similes, but this… this feels wrong.

Yet, looking at Bucky's face in the mirror, he knows he is doing the right thing.

Once the ponytail has been completely severed, T'Challa lays it on the counter to be packaged properly and sent to the appropriate institution.

(He takes a moment to enjoy the imagined visual of some tiny child running around in the resulting wig, happy parents smiling in the background. Perhaps this is not the sacrilege he thought it was.)

"The clippers next?" Bucky moves his hands to the edges of his seat. "Or will you cut more with the scissors?"

He looks faintly green, and T'Challa makes a point of setting down the scissors. He can continue without them, especially if it will make the frown lines ease.

"Just the clippers. It should be short enough to do so without difficulty." T'Challa picks them up and clips on one of the longer guards. "I will remove more of the length, then we can take it short."

"Okay." Bucky takes a deep breath and releases the chair. "I want it gone."

"There. It is gone." T'Challa brushes the hair off of Bucky's neck and shoulders. "Now it is all on my floor, save the ponytail."

Bucky runs his hands over his head. His shorn hair feels soft and prickly, depending on which direction he moves. It is all gone, all of it, just like T'Challa promised.

"It's perfect." It comes out rough. Bucky clears his throat. "Thank you."

"You have not looked at it properly. I may have made a mess of it." T'Challa rests a hand on Bucky's shoulder. "I am glad you are happy. The look suits you."

Bucky leans into the touch, turning his face against the softness of T'Challa's sleeve. It's grounding, the familiarity of the (outrageously expensive) cotton and bunny ass fur and whatever else this one is made of.

"How are clothes here so soft?" Bucky asks for the thousandth time, smiling slightly.

"Better technology," T'Challa answers for the thousandth time, smiling wide. "Not to mention the organic cotton and hemp."

T'Challa presses a soft kiss to the prickly-soft top of Bucky's head. "I have to be at a state dinner in two hours. How do you want to spend that time?"

"Shower and bed?" Bucky's skin itches from the shorn hair, and his brain itches from the stress of the clippers. "Just for a little while, until you have to get ready."

"It would be my pleasure." T'Challa squeezes his shoulder again. "I will start the water."

T'Challa disappears into the depths of the bathroom suite, to the area where the shower and the bath are actually located. Bucky doesn’t think he'll ever get used to a bathroom bigger than most people's apartments.

Bucky stands, approaching the mirror to get a better look. His neck is paler than the rest of him, the skin around his ears and forehead the same stark white. He doesn't look like he did before everything, or during the war, and he certainly doesn't look like the winter soldier.

He likes it. And T'Challa likes it. And Sam will poke fun at it during lunch tomorrow, but he'll understand. And Steve… Steve will smile that same bittersweet smile he always does.

That's okay, Bucky decides. He likes his hair.