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Pancakes & Apple Pie

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Steve sits at their usual table, wedged in against the window because he takes up too much space otherwise and with his broad back to the diner's only door. His brown leather jacket looks battered and warm in the morning sunlight. Bucky thinks he can already smell it and smell Steve inside it and he'd curse himself for choking up, but he can see the glint of yellow gold on Steve's finger, too. His heart swells and his breath catches. 

Sometimes he can't believe his luck. 

He remembers when standing outside just looking was all he could bring himself to do. Those days are long gone. Bucky pushes a hand through his hair and shoulders open the door. Now it feels natural to smile and half-wave at Margie, the middle-aged first shift waitress, and the way her eyes dart to Steve and her knowing smile warms her face doesn't make him want to run. The part of him that still worries about his brainwashing tells him he should hate that, hate that they're regulars here and recognized, but no one says anything in his part of Brooklyn. They never have and they never will. He shuts up that part of himself with the reminder that they're home. 

They're not Captain America and the Winter Soldier here. They're just Steve and Bucky. 

Steve's shoulder is solid and warm under his right hand, the leather as always unexpectedly soft, and the touch makes Steve half-turn into him and look up. Bucky thinks he lives for this moment, when Steve's whole face lights up, when his eyes shine like that. He wasn't going to kiss him--for all that things have changed, he still feels wary of public displays of affection--but, hell, there's no one around but Margie and Bucky doesn't want to resist. He dips, Steve stretches, and when their lips meet Bucky sighs. There haven't been enough perfect moments in his life but he thinks this kiss qualifies as one of them. 

Bucky runs his fingers through Steve's hair as he pulls away. He moves around the table and settles in one of the chairs across from Steve. He grins, can't help it with Steve looking at him like that, smiling with everything but those lips Bucky just kissed.

"Have you been waiting long?"

"Nah. I was just getting back from the gym when I got your text." Steve sips his coffee. "How'd it go?"

"Bad guys are dead, good guys are safe, and I conned Nat into doing all my paperwork. Things could be much worse." He leans back in his seat and exhales. It feels like every muscle in his body relaxes.

Steve's eyebrows go up. "What did you do to convince Nat to do your paperwork?"

"Told her I had a breakfast date with you."

Steve rolls his eyes.

Bucky's grin spreads. They've kept their marriage a secret except from Nat--because he's not going to not tell Natalia something this big--and Sam--because Sam helped them with licenses and certificates. The secret doesn't keep him from occasionally exploiting Nat's well-hidden romantic streak.

Post-mission paperwork is a nightmare.

Steve sighs, a long-suffering husband unwilling to die on this hill, and he shakes his head. "I already ordered for you," he says instead of the gentle admonishment Bucky knows he wants to give.

"Hey, this ain't the forties anymore, pal, you can't just--" Margie interrupts him, interrupts him making Steve grin, but he doesn't mind at all. Maybe the only thing he comes close to loving as much as Steve is the pancakes she sets in front of him, and when she arranges the bowls of fruit, the plate with the pads of butter, and the two little pitchers of warm syrup, he almost considers asking her to run away with him.

He thinks Steve would laugh at that.

"It's good to see you again, Bucky." She smiles down at him.

"Thanks, ma'am. It's good to see you, too."

Margie turns to Steve, tucking the big plastic tray under her arm. "Hungry yet, kiddo?"

"Just a slice of pie, please, ma'am. And--" Steve lifted his coffee mug.

"Gotcha."

Bucky doesn't watch her go. He cocks an eyebrow at Steve. "Kiddo, huh?"

He shrugs. "It's better than 'grandpa.'"

Bucky laughs. "You'd make a great grandpa," he says, reaching for a knife. He butters the pancakes, drops blueberries over them, and drowns them in maple syrup. Heaven. He can only think of one way this breakfast would be better, but he was never a big fan of public sex.

His life is thrilling enough.

Steve watches him, fond and amused. Bucky pretends that expression doesn't make his insides feel like they're melting.

"You gonna give me the kids who'll give me grandkids, Buck?"

"Maybe someday," Bucky says easily. The thought of raising kids--adopted orphans, they'd have to be, scrappy abandoned little fighters and maybe he's thought about this once or twice or maybe it has comforted him after nightmares when Steve wasn't there to pull him close and kiss the bad feelings away--with Steve doesn't fill him with dread the way he thinks that maybe it should. He knows they'll never get out of this life and he's not sure he's willing to bring children into it. Bucky doesn't think Steve will ever get the kids he wants. That doesn't keep some small part of him from hoping for the impossible. "If I still like you then."

"I do know how fickle you can be," Steve agrees, and they share a private smile because fickle might be the last thing either of them have ever been. "Oh!" Steve sets his coffee down and tucks a hand into his shirt. "Got something for you." He tugs his dogtags over his head.

Dangling there, on the chain beside his original dogtags, Bucky's wedding ring shines. He swallows a mouthful of unchewed pancakes just to force down the lump in his throat.

Steve hands him the ring, still body-warm and Bucky can picture it nestled there against his breastbone over his heart. Bucky puts it on and suddenly doesn't feel naked anymore. The thick smooth band of gold gives him the same sense of security the tactical knife at the small of his back and the holdout pistol in his boot used to.

"Thanks." Bucky flexes his hand as if testing the weight of it. Really, he just wants to watch the ring glint in the sunlight streaming through the window. "You ever think about not wearing those tags anymore?"

"I like them."

Margie appears as if out of nowhere and sets a saucer in front of Steve. Bucky's pretty sure she gave him a quarter of the whole pie and there's definitely enough whipped cream melting over the top to lighten a pot of coffee.

"Enjoy, boys."

"Thanks," they say in unison.

Bucky takes another mouthful of pancakes. Around them, he says, "They're noisy. Shit like that is why they don't let you go on the secret missions anymore."

"Nothing changed, Buck. Name's the same. Number's the same. Next of kin is still the same." Steve meets his eyes, flashes him a wry little smile. "Besides, what happens if they need to ID me on the battlefield?"

Bucky snorts. "You don't think the spangly outfit is ID enough?"

Steve laughs. "I thought you liked the outfit."

Bucky thinks of Steve's ass in the tights and short-shorts. "I didn't say it was a bad thing..."

Steve grins at him.

They eat in silence, scrape of forks on plates, slide of lips on cutlery. Bucky hasn't had a good meal in two weeks--and he hasn't had good company in longer, Nat excluded.

He never used to miss anyone. He never had anyone to miss. He remembers when it was all about the mission, one after another with no time off until he was a shell, not himself, just a weapon to be deployed. Now all he wants are the times between, without the violence and subterfuge.

"Are you off?"

"Until tomorrow."

Bucky's heart does somersaults in his chest. "What are you going to do all day while I'm sleeping?"

"Read a book. Have you heard of that Fifty Shades of Grey series? Seems pretty popular. I thought I'd check it out."

Bucky stares at him but can't tell if Steve's joking. He starts to open his mouth, to ask--and who suggested Fifty Shades of Grey to Captain America, anyway?--but he decides that this is some kind of trap he's just not seeing. It has to be. "Enjoy that," he says.

Steve smiles.

Bucky still can't tell if he's being serious.

They finish their meals and Steve pays their bill. Bucky lets him, leaning back in his chair, feeling. Just feeling. Full, drowsy, and so in love he thinks he'll burn up from the inside out. This is what they fight for. So other people can do this, can feel safe, can have breakfast with their spouses on sunny Monday mornings, so other people can tip their waitresses and shuffle out onto the sidewalk and not be afraid of the world crashing down around them.

Bucky slips his right hand into Steve's left as they head toward home. Before, before everything bad happened, even if they'd been together, he'd never have dared to hold Steve's hand in public. Before everything good happened, he would only touch Steve with his right hand. His left wasn't part of him, wasn't a part of himself he wanted Steve to think about it. Now, wrapping his hand around Steve's gives him a little thrill. He strokes his thumb over Steve's wedding ring, over warm skin and smooth metal, and he catches Steve glance down at him. The squeeze of Steve's hand around his goes straight to Bucky's heart.

He's getting sappy in his old age and he can't even care.

"You ever think about how lucky we are?" bubbles out before he can stop it. He used to be better at controlling himself around Steve. Being married to the guy ruined that.

Steve gives him an incredulous look. "Lucky? Us? Did you hit your head?"

Bucky chuckles. "Think about it. What if you hadn't ever met Erskine? I'd have died in Italy and we never would have had this. Or if the Russians hadn't found me, you couldn't have used the Cube on me, and we wouldn't have this." He waves between them. "We got more than one lifetime, buddy. Look where we are. That's luck."

Steve looks at him like maybe he needs to see a real doctor. "Luck. That's what you're calling it."

"What do you call it?"

Steve looks ahead of them. His eyes go faraway and Bucky regrets saying anything. He's too proud and too curious to backtrack now. "Stubbornness." He glances at Bucky. "We're stubborn. We were both too damn stubborn to let it go."

"And that's the difference between us."

Steve smiles. "Yeah. I guess it is."

Bucky moves closer the closer they get to their place near the water in Red Hook. The sun, the full belly, the man next to him are making him ready for bed. He wants to get reacquainted--because the best part of these long separations are the reunions, and he doesn't care what kind of romantic that makes him--and he wants to sleep in his own bed, with his own pillow (all right, with Steve's) and in twelve hours, he wants to get up and have dinner and maybe go dancing.

He can't remember the last time they went dancing.

Nat mentioned a new little swing revival place in the Village. He thinks he'd like to see Steve in a suit tonight.

In front of their building, before they slip through the new holographic wall and into the welcome shadows of the place they chose together, Bucky pulls Steve down. He kisses him in the sunshine and he tastes apple pie and home.