Bucky laughs at Sam’s bad joke and turns to face Natasha who is standing at his elbow looking insistent. “You have a call.”
He excuses himself and walks up the stairs to his office, closing the door behind him and sitting at his desk. He lifts the phone to his ear and smiles, “This is Agent Barnes.”
“Did you get my card?”
Bucky nearly drops the phone and stands, waving frantically at Natasha through the window. He catches her eye and she nods, gesturing to her ear and mouthing we’re tracing him.
“I did,” Bucky says after a pause. He trails his fingers over the notecard sitting on his desk. It had been processed, fingerprinted, traced and decoded only to come back clean. It was from Steve, handwritten, congratulating him on his promotion and that was all anyone could find. “Thank you. How’ve you been? Last I heard you were in Switzerland.”
Steve chuckles low and dark and Bucky tries to focus on the background noises he hears. People, maybe a carousel. A park or mall, maybe. “You can save yourself the trouble of the trace. I’m at the Westfield Garden State in Paramus. I’ll be gone before you can get anyone here.”
“Jersey? You’re slumming it. But at least you’re back in the states, now. It’s been a while; do you miss me enough to come see me?”
Steve laughs again and Bucky can’t help but smile. “Thanks, but no thanks.”
“Oh that’s right. You’re on the run from me. Almost forgot.”
“Not you, never you. The FBI, though, definitely.”
Bucky twirls the cord around his finger and leans back in his chair, turning around to look out the window. “I’m not supposed to take that personally? Because I’m kind of taking it personally.”
“Bucky,” Steve says with a sigh, “Look, I’m not – I don’t. They’re going to move a stolen relic. The money is dirty, the whole operation is dirty. The money goes into drugs and weapons and people are getting hurt. He’s your guy who moved the counterfeit Magritte –”
“That you forged.”
“Allegedly. But that’s not the point.”
“That is the point, Steve. That’s the whole point.”
“Bucky, please. What they have is an original document from the Spanish Inquisition and they’re trading it for a cache of weapons. Art is currency because it’s a whole lot easier to carry around than six million dollars in briefcases. The meet is going to happen next Tuesday at three in the morning, by the Sandy Hook light.”
He turns around and scrabbles for the yellow notepad and a pen and jots down what Steve told him. He’s still writing when Steve sighs.
“I have to go.”
“Yeah,” Bucky says. “I know.”
Bucky doesn’t even get to say goodbye, not that he ever does. He hangs up and is still looking down at his notes when Natasha pokes her head into his office. “A payphone –”
“Paramus, yeah. He told me,” Bucky says, looking up with a grim smile. “What’s the police ETA on that?”
“They’re still five minutes out.”
“He’ll be long gone by then.”
Natasha nods, crossing her arms over her chest and leaning in the doorway. “Yeah. He’s trying to help you.”
Bucky laughs humorlessly. “He’d help me a lot more if he turned himself in.”
She looks at him in that frightening way that makes her an excellent interrogator and nods once, shifting her weight to stand upright again. “No. I think it would be worse for you if he did.”
“He really is quite handsome,” Peggy says, reaching out and taking a bite of Steve’s pretzel. “You know, for a suit.”
“His name is Bucky,” Steve tells her. Again. Pointlessly, of course, because she’ll still call him ‘The Suit.’
They watch Bucky standing outside the New York FBI headquarters, talking to the scary redhead and her guy Friday. Natasha and Sam. They work for Bucky, but it’s clear even to someone as far removed as Steve that they work better as an equal, cohesive unit than as supervisor and employees. And Bucky was never too great at being a boss for the sake of being a boss. Steve looks him over in his smooth, gray suit and dark blue tie. His hair is wavy and windswept, a lock of it falling across his forehead. He smiles, pushes his sunglasses farther up his nose and Steve feels that old, familiar throb deep in his chest. Has to swallow down against it to keep it from choking him.
“Do you really think your sweetheart will help us?”
Steve turns to look at her, the sunlight making the loose brown curls that frame her pale face almost glow. She raises a neat eyebrow, her dark red lips quirking up in a grin. “Come, now. Don’t tell me you’re going to take exception to that.”
“No,” Steve says with a sad smile. “He’ll help if I ask. I’m not sure I want to.”
“Why the hell not?” She asks, indignant and a little miffed.
“I don’t want him mixed up in this, Peggy.”
“Oh,” She says, and he can feel the sarcasm of that one word like a physical punch to the gut. “Oh, of course. That’s fine. Let’s just scrap the whole plan then. It’s a good thing people don’t want to kill you.”
Steve frowns, watches as Sam says something to Bucky and Bucky laughs. He can’t hear it, not from all the way across the street with the noise of the cars and people and the city swarming around them, but it’s almost like he can feel it. Startled and happy and a little husky. He misses him so much he aches with it.
“What do you think he’d want you to do? Die? Or let him help you?”
Steve sighs and stands, turning to offer Peggy his hand, which she doesn’t take. She turns and starts walking towards the park, the click of her heels on the concrete fading into the distance. He turns back to Bucky, hands tucked into the pockets of his trousers. He looks up and across the street, his smile fading. Steve doesn’t move, thinks for a moment that Bucky has seen him, but Bucky turns back to Sam without another glance in Steve’s direction. He waits for Bucky to disappear inside the building before turning and heading in the opposite direction from Peggy.
It’s nearly two in the morning when Bucky wakes from his doze on the couch. The table lamp is still on, the book he had been reading is on the floor, the coffee table is still littered with the notes and pictures he’d been reviewing. Again. Typical Friday night. He rubs at his eyes and stretches a little before sitting up, rubbing at the kink in his neck. It takes him a moment to realize what woke him, but when he does, he groans.
The yellow lab whines and does that impatient little shuffling thing he does when he wants to go out, his nails clicking on the linoleum near the patio door. Bucky sighs and Satchmo’s whines become more insistent.
“You don’t even have to go. This is a ploy,” Bucky says, standing and stretching his arms over his head again. “A ploy I’m going to fall for because I always do.”
It’s when Bucky turns towards the door that he sees the outlined figure through the glass. His heart feels like it’s going to beat out of his chest and he turns towards the side table, leaning down to get his gun out of the drawer. He glances back to the door, and the figure crouches down, the light from the table lamp being just enough for Bucky to make out a face. He’s somehow both relieved and even more on edge than he had been before. Satchmo, the traitorous mongrel, wags his tail so hard he’s practically vibrating.
“You haven’t seen him in like four years,” Bucky mumbles. “You shouldn’t be so excited.”
Though Bucky completely understands the sentiment.
He makes his way over to the door and twists the deadbolt, reaching out to pull the door open. Satchmo shoves him back and then worms his way out onto the back deck, whining and hopping around Steve’s feet like the ground is on fire. Steve smiles, wide and bright, his hair looking stupidly blond and his eyes stupidly blue even in the dim moonlight. Steve crouches down and Satchmo goes right for his face, licking at his chin even as Steve tips his face back. His laugh is soft and delighted and Bucky can’t help but feel just the smallest twinge of jealousy towards his own dog.
Steve looks up, his eyes taking in Bucky like he’s trying to memorize him. He wants to squirm under the scrutiny, but he manages to keep his cool. “Hi.”
Bucky grunts, opening the door wider and snapping at Satchmo. “You are a traitor and a terrible guard dog.”
He looks up at Steve, “And you are about thirty seconds away from being arrested.”
Steve nods and stands up, his face going from pleased to grim at once. “Buck. I’m in a lot of trouble.”
The tone of Steve’s voice gives him pause, the way he looks tired and run down but still like the best thing Bucky has ever laid eyes on. He looks Steve over and Steve does squirm under the scrutiny, shifts a little where he Stands and Bucky…it’s ridiculous, really, that Steve should still make him feel like this. The childhood crush he never grew out of.
“Yeah, I know.”
Steve shakes his head. “You don’t.”
Bucky feels like his heart is breaking because in truth, this was what he was most afraid of. Not for himself, but for Steve. He nods.
“Okay. Come in.”
Steve sits on the couch and Bucky sits in the chair across from him. Satchmo lies (very happily) on the floor between them, looking between Steve and Bucky like he can’t decide who he’s happier to be near. Bucky tells Steve that he can’t promise that this is in confidence, that he might, after all, have to tell someone and Steve smiles sweetly back at Bucky because he’ll always be the good-hearted boy he knew growing up and he’s happy that hasn’t changed.
Steve then proceeds to tell Bucky everything from the beginning. Bucky already knew a lot of it, from the parts Steve had already told him or from the parts he dug up on his own. After art school, he was asked to recreate Guernica for a decent sum of money. Bucky was in Russia recovering from his shoulder surgery and it was just Steve, so he did it. He didn’t know at the time that it was related to a huge forgery ring, or was going to be used as a replacement for the original. He hadn’t known that he was a contributing party to an art heist. After that, well, there wasn’t a way out. He kept working for them, never asked questions and he told himself that maybe it wasn’t so bad. The money was excellent and he was doing what he loved, but then came the people with the drugs and the guns and the people, they sell people.
“Why didn’t you tell me this?” Bucky asks. “Before now. Why didn’t you tell me this?”
“Because you would have done anything to protect me and these people…you don’t want to make enemies of them,” Steve says with a sad smile. “Trust me.”
“I could have helped you.”
“And then word got around that I might be trouble and they found out the FBI was looking for me in connection to an art forgery so they made me run. I didn’t want to, Bucky, honest. And then, well, it turned out I was running from the people they worked with as much as I was running from you. I became a liability because they thought I knew too much.”
“You do know too much,” Bucky says, leaning forward and putting his elbows on his knees.
Steve nods. “I want them caught, I do, I was trying to…”
“Natasha says you’ve been trying to help me.”
“Yeah. They’re starting to suspect that I might be feeding people information, though. My friend, she says they’re onto me. Onto her, too, she thinks. If you want me caught, here I am. But if you don’t get to them, they’ll get to me, no matter where I am. I’m just…tired.”
“We can keep you safe,” Bucky insists. “I can take you in, they’ll give you clemency for everything you’ve done.”
Steve shakes his head, leans back into the couch. Satchmo stands and yawns, padding over to the couch and climbing up, resting his head on Steve’s thigh. Steve scratches behind his ears and rests his hand on the back of his neck. “You have to make this case without me. I’ll tell you everything I know, but it can’t include any of the work I’ve done because it might incriminate more than just me. That’s why I couldn’t come in when you asked.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You want me in jail for what I’ve done, that’s fine, but it will ruin other people, too, and I can’t let you do that. Please.”
Bucky frowns and looks pained, rubbing his forehead with his thumb and forefinger as if he’s massaging away a headache. Steve lets the silence linger while Bucky thinks. Finally, he looks up at Steve and says, “I don’t want you in jail. I don’t. But what other choice have you given me? Yourself?”
“This. I’ll help you take them down, and afterwards, I’ll turn myself in. But they have to be stopped.”
“Why should I believe you?”
Steve recoils from the words like the stab they are and winces, curling his fingers into Satchmo’s fur. “Because that part of me hasn’t changed. I don’t think that part of you that trusts me has changed, either.”
Bucky sits back in the chair, looks at Steve, then Satchmo and back. He nods decisively. “I’m going to need help. You know that, right?”
“Sam and Natasha,” Steve says with a smile. He yawns and stretches, rubs a thumb against Satchmo’s soft ear as he settles again. “I figured as much.”
Bucky stands, his NYU shirt is old and rumpled, his sweats are hanging low on his hips and his hair is still sticking up in odd directions and Steve can’t help his smile. He wonders if it looks as lovelorn as he feels. He wonders, not for the first time, how different things would be if he’d let Bucky fly him out to Russia when things were so hard for him. Bucky was recovering from surgery, going through physical therapy. They wouldn’t have had a whole lot, but they would have had each other. He thinks maybe it finally would have happened between them, if he’d made a different choice. He tries not to let himself dwell on it for too long, and he doesn’t now.
“Will you stay here?” Bucky asks. Like Steve would want to go anywhere else ever again.
“Do you mind?”
Bucky snorts, “Someone needs to keep an eye on you and this way, technically you’re in FBI custody.”
Bucky disappears down the hall and Steve takes the opportunity to admire him from behind. He looks older than he had years ago, sadder maybe, and Steve isn’t so selfish that he doesn’t think he plays a large role in that. Still, he looks wonderful, comfortable in his own skin and finally okay with playing the hero he’s always been, at least to Steve. He comes back with a pillow and a blanket folded up under his arm and dumps them on top of Steve and Satchmo (who hardly moves). He’d be lying if he said he wasn’t hoping they could share a bed like they did before Bucky moved into the dorms.
“Thanks,” Steve says with a genuine smile.
Bucky looks from Satchmo’s tail poking out at the end to where one ear is twitching back and looks at Steve, his brows furrowing. “You know, for someone he hasn’t seen in years, he’s sure fond of you.”
“Yeah, uh, about that…”
“Don’t,” Bucky says tiredly. “Don’t tell me that while I was at work trying to catch bad guys – and you – that you were sneaking into my apartment and hanging out with my dog. Don’t say that.”
Steve grimaces, “I won’t because I didn’t sneak in. Miss June gave me the key?”
Bucky looks pained, shakes his head and waves at Steve, slipping into his bedroom and closing the door behind him. Steve thinks that’s just as well, because then he doesn’t have to mention that maybe June inferred that Steve was Bucky’s boyfriend and Steve (very, very selfishly) didn’t feel the need to correct her. He also doesn’t mention that sometimes she invites Steve upstairs for tea. He’s probably better off not knowing.
Bucky wakes late in the morning, later than Satchmo usually lets him and then sits straight up in bed. He looks at the alarm clock, kicks the covers off and stumbles out of bed and through the door. He walks into the living room to see Steve sitting on the couch in his undershirt and boxer-briefs, socked feet on the coffee table and a bowl of cereal in his hand. His hair is sleep-mussed and when he looks up at Bucky, he’s smiling, warm and happy. He kind of wants to kick Satch off the couch and take his place, put his head in Steve’s lap and watch cartoons like they did in college.
“You’re here,” Bucky says stupidly. Steve pretends not to notice.
“Yes. You don’t have a single fruit or vegetable in this whole place. I’m very concerned.”
“I usually eat at the office. There are vegetables there,” Bucky says, stretching his arms over his head but not taking his eyes off Steve.
“You don’t eat them.”
Bucky smiles, “Not usually, no.”
“I was going to make frittatas but you don’t have eggs or cheese or literally any organically grown food-product in your house. Not even frozen ones. Pop-Tarts, milk and Lucky Charms.”
“They’re magically delicious,” he replies automatically. “Frittatas. I love your frittatas.”
Steve raises an eyebrow and Bucky winces at the unintentional innuendo. “You know, what I’m wondering most is how you eat only crap and look, well, the way you look.”
He only barely manages to keep a straight face as he shrugs, “Just blessed, I guess.”
Steve takes the opportunity to look him over and Bucky smirks, turning and heading into the bathroom. He showers, does his best not to think about Steve half-dressed on his couch eating his cereal and watching his TV. He tries not to think about how nice he looks there. He walks out of the bathroom, towel slung around his hips, one around his neck from his hair. He can feel Steve’s eyes on him but he doesn’t look at him. He pulls on clean underwear and a shirt, considers going out in just that, but decides better of it and pulls on a pair of jeans. Steve is still on the couch, but he’s finished eating and is waiting for Bucky.
“Hey,” he says, motioning for Satchmo to get down off the couch. Bucky is both impressed and offended when he does exactly what Steve requested. “If I give you a list, can you go to the store? I can’t eat like this.”
Bucky steps over Satchmo lying faithfully at Steve’s feet – okay, seriously? What the fuck – and sits down on the other end of the couch. “Sure, but if you think this is bad, then wait until you get to prison.”
Steve grimaces, “You’re taking too much pleasure in this.”
“Probably,” he agrees. He turns to Steve, taps his thigh to get his attention. “What time do you want Sam and Natasha to come by?”
“Nope,” Steve says with a shake of his head. “No. They can’t see me.”
Bucky blinks at him. “So. You want me to tell them that I’ve just dreamed all this information up? They’re going to know it came from you.”
“I’m not saying that, it’s just…I don’t want you in trouble. Knowing information came from me and having them finding me crashed on your couch are two different things. I don’t want to put you in that position,” Steve says, tipping his head back and turning to look at Bucky.
“How considerate of you.”
“Do you want to hide in the closet?”
Steve sits up and his eyebrows rise nearly to his hairline, “I haven’t been in the closet since I was seventeen. If I ever really was.”
Bucky rolls his eyes, “Har har. I don’t think you should leave, so if you don’t want to be seen, you can hide in my bedroom.”
Steve grins, “Good. I was wondering how long it would take to get you to let me in there.”
“You’re funny,” Bucky says, but he’s having a hard time not thinking about Steve lying in his bed while he, Sam and Natasha talk in the dining room. Going in after they’re gone and… Yeah. Terrible idea. Worst he’s ever had. He coughs, “So I’ll call them down here and tell them what you told me and we’ll work out a plan from there.”
Bucky shakes his head, “Store second.”
“I’m going to starve and die. I’m not eating Pop-Tarts,” Steve says, crossing his well-muscled arms over his chest. “You better make this meeting happen pretty quickly then, because I’m going to starve. And so will you because I ate all of the cereal.”
“Seriously? There was at least half a box left,” Bucky says in sheer disbelief.
“Bucky,” he says with a click of his tongue. “That was barely two bowls. That’s why I need a hearty breakfast with eggs and vegetables and a side of fruit. And why you need to go to the store. Right now.”
“Steve,” he says with a click of his tongue, earning a slow smile to match his own. “If Sam and Natasha walk in here and see…vegetation…they will immediately know something is going on.”
“Maybe they’ll think it’s that girl you were seeing.”
Bucky raises his eyebrows. They dated, very briefly, maybe a year ago. He hardly remembers her name. “That was a while ago, not sure that will carry much weight.”
“Oh that’s a shame,” Steve says with a barely concealed smile. “Fine. Call them down. I’ll starve, but then you have to go to the store right after. I’ll make lunch.”
Sam arrives first with coffee and Natasha arrives minutes later with an irritated scowl. Sam and Bucky discuss pleasantries but it’s Natasha who brings them around to the point.
“This is about Rogers, isn’t it? He’s made contact?”
Bucky nods and they sit down around the table. He recounts what Steve told him, tells them that Steve and his friend can give them details, information that goes all the way to the top. People who have been on Interpol’s Most Wanted list since before any of them even joined the bureau. They’ll be fencing stolen Cambodian antiquities and an authenticated original edition of Shakespeare’s First Folio and the money from that will go directly into human trafficking.
“It’s odd, don’t you think? White collar criminals usually stay white collar. Why get involved with actual scumbags? Human trafficking isn’t generally the kind of things these people do,” Sam says with a frown.
“I know,” Bucky agrees. “Which is why we’re going to have to loop in the Criminal Investigation guys.”
“I hate them,” Sam says.
“Everyone hates them.”
Natasha looks up from where Satchmo is lying in the hall between the dining room and the living room and looks back to Bucky, “And what’s in it for Steve?”
“His friend is in trouble, too, he says. Implies. If we catch them, shake the whole operation from top to bottom, we keep his friend out of trouble. I’m assuming Steve’s been refusing to come in for questioning to keep from implicating her. You’re the one who got the warrant, Natalia. Tell me what you have on him and I’ll tell you why he won’t come in,” Bucky says, giving her a level gaze.
“What I know is between me, Steve and the US Attorney’s office,” Natasha says with a smile. “But what I’m curious to know is why you’re so sure you’re not the friend he’s protecting.”
Bucky blinks, is struck dumb for a moment before his eyes narrow in a glare, “Are you accusing me of something?”
“Whoa, James, calm down,” Sam says gently but leaving no room for argument. He turns his eyes to Natasha, “She wasn’t, was she?”
Natasha, always the unflappable one says, “Not at all. I’m just saying, he put a lot of work, risky work into this. He’s in danger. If we can’t close this, they’re going to get to him and that’s a huge chance to take. He has to be trying to protect someone very close to him and I don’t know him, but I know what you think of him. His being caught might mean more than his own arrest.”
Bucky shakes his head, “I don’t know. He said he’d turn himself in if we did this.”
She shrugs. “It was just an idea.”
“I guess we should get to work, then,” Sam says. “We’ll have to present a case by Tuesday at the latest so we can have a team together by Wednesday and ready for the bust on Friday. This is good. Better than good.”
“Except the part where some people want Steve and his friend dead,” Bucky says with a smirk.
“Bigger picture,” Sam says, clapping Bucky on the shoulder and standing from the table. “I should probably run my errands before I spend all weekend holed up going over every piece of information we have. I’ll see you Monday. Call me if you need anything else.”
Sam is out the door without another word and Natasha is looking at him like he’s telling her everything without even opening his mouth. She stands, walks over to the hall where Satchmo hasn’t moved from since Sam and Natasha arrived and stops in front of him. She kneels down, scratching behind his ears and patting him on the head before standing up and facing Bucky.
“He’s a good, loyal boy.” She grins, turns towards the half opened bedroom door, “It will be nice to meet you face-to-face when this is all over, Steve.”
She smirks and doesn’t say another word as she lets herself out of Bucky’s apartment. He looks down at Satchmo whose ears are perked, looking at Bucky like he wasn’t the one who gave up the ghost. “Traitor.”
Bucky steps over him and pushes the bedroom door open to find Steve standing in a pair of Bucky’s clean sweats and a just slightly too-tight-around-the-arms shirt. He’s staring at the painting on the wall across from Bucky’s bed and he looks very nearly heartbroken. Bucky glances at the painting and frowns. He hadn’t thought too much about it when he’d hidden Steve inside but now he’s almost embarrassed. Steve reaches up and brushes his fingers along the edge of it.
Steve smiles sadly, “You still have it.”
If someone had told him it was a lost rendition of Magritte’s Les Amants, Bucky would have believed it. Two faceless figures kissing, only in this version, they’re both male. Steve had painted it for him right out of college and had given it to him as a gift before his shoulder injury. Before everything about them fell to pieces. He’d only put it up after he’d moved into this apartment, after his graduation from Quantico. Steve has never seen it displayed.
Steve nods as though he’s confirming a previously held notion. “I thought you might.”
Steve turns to him, looks like he’s going to say something, something that matters but instead he shakes his head and smiles, “That Natasha. She’s pretty terrifying.”
“She’s excellent at what she does. She knew you were here in the first five minutes.”
“Sam didn’t?” he asks. “That worries me.”
“Sam trusts me.”
Bucky turns and heads out of the bedroom, steps over Satchmo who only bothers to move once he realizes he can follow Steve around again. “Natasha doesn’t trust anyone.”
Steve nods and follows Bucky into the kitchen. He leans back against the counter and Bucky wonders at him, mourns a little for the skinny kid from the group home who could never keep a secret from him.
“Someone should really go to the store.”
When Bucky glares, Steve turns on all the wide-eyed innocent earnestness he has and aims it right at Bucky.
“Well this is a nice little setup you have going on here,” Peggy says from her seat on the couch. Steve walks into the living room, towel clutched tightly around his waist. He looks at where Satchmo is curled up in his bed in the corner and shakes his head at him.
“It’s funny when you do this to Bucky, but not when you do it to me. Worst guard dog ever.” He turns his attention to Peggy, “Picked the lock?”
“Of course,” she holds up a picture that she took off the mantle of Bucky with his arm around frail, skinny Steve. Taken after high school but before college when Steve filled out. “This you? My you were a little thing, weren’t you?”
“Can I at least put on pants before you start criticizing my size?”
Peggy sets the picture on the coffee table, waving him away and Steve disappears into Bucky’s room, rifling through his drawers for some baggy sweats and grabbing one of his old FBI shirts and pulling it on over his head. Steve walks back into the living room and sits in the chair across from the couch, pulling on a pair of clean socks. Peggy looks him over and sneers.
“Not only are you advertising a government bureau, you’re wearing sleepwear. During daylight hours. How repulsive.”
Steve smiles at the look of distaste written into her every feature, “It’s all he has that fits me and it’s not like I can go back to my old place and pick up clothes. Or worse, send him there to get them. Not until this is all over, at least. Though, I probably won’t be needing a whole lot of clothes where I’m headed next anyway.”
She smiles, sharp and knowing and shakes her head, “You’re daft if you think he’ll turn you in. He leaves you here alone to play house, lets you stay with his dog and probably sleep in his bed. He won’t see you go to prison.”
Steve frowns, “I sleep on the couch.”
She laughs, a musical sound as pretty as she is and Steve thinks it’s unhealthy that he’s fondest of her when she’s mocking him. “Well that’s a crying shame. Isn’t that your painting he has in his bedroom?”
“You were in his room?”
She shrugs, crosses her legs at the ankle and tucks them to the side, “Of course. I was looking for bugs.”
“I was only in the shower for ten minutes. You’re a little crazy, you know that?” he says with a grin.
“Fifteen,” she says with a sly smile. “Besides, it keeps me safe. You never complained about my thoroughness when it was keeping us out of sticky situations.”
“We were never in sticky situations. You were.”
Steve is about to ask why she’s here (in Bucky’s apartment and how did she find him?) when the front door opens, startling both of them into silence. Bucky walks in, already speaking before he can get the door shut, “Hey, I picked up some movies from RedBox and I thought, if you didn’t feel like cooking, we could…”
He stops, movies in hand, suit jacket hanging off one arm with his keys looped around a finger. He looks from Steve to Peggy and back again and Steve feels vaguely unsettled. Bucky, after his initial surprise, seems to take the shock well, finishing taking off his jacket and setting the keys and DVDs on the coffee table between them. Satchmo gets up from his lazy doze to greet Bucky before sitting down between the chair and where Bucky stands.
He smiles over at Peggy, “You must be the friend Steve mentioned.”
She raises her eyebrows but doesn’t stand, “You must be the Suit.”
“His name is Bucky,” Steve corrects automatically.
Bucky grins and holds out his hand to Peggy, “James Barnes. You can continue to call me the Suit if you prefer.”
“I do,” she says, taking his hand and shaking it firmly. “I’m Haversham. Donatella Haversham.”
He grins and sits down on the arm of the chair Steve’s sitting in. Steve tries not to think about the heat he can feel coming off his body. “No you’re not, but we’ll go with that.”
She smiles at him and Steve can tell immediately that she’s taken a liking to him, “Thank you.”
Silence settles around them and Bucky looks between them, “Did you two need a moment? I can take the dog out.”
“We played a nice long game of squeaky ball-with-feet about an hour ago,” Steve says. “There’s no need to go.”
Peggy looks between them and purses her lips before sitting back against the couch and crossing her arms over her chest. “All right then. They’re looking for a bond forger, one of the middlemen asked to use Steve, but one of the lieutenants of the, uh, company we worked with said that he wasn’t with the group anymore. Which is neither true nor untrue, but it should be known that they’ve already looked into replacing him but there never has nor will there ever be anyone better. They’ve asked me to find someone which means they don’t suspect that we’re still in contact. I may have mentioned that the last I heard from Steve, he was leaving for Brussels. Though, they do seem terribly interested in finding him as soon as possible.”
“Are you safe?” Bucky asks Peggy.
She shrugs, “No more or less than I usually am in this line of work. The only concern I have is what they’ll do to me when they can’t find him as I’ve always been his first line of contact. They know of his…preference for me.”
Bucky nods, “If I were you, I’d leave town for the next week or so. We’ve been investigating your group for a couple of years and they’re into money, not violence. But these new people they’re working for, they aren’t as nice.”
“You’re telling me to leave town? Rather than turn myself in?” She asks in surprise.
“Never heard of a Donatella Haversham.”
Peggy stands, walks towards where Bucky is sitting and stops in front of him, “I like you, Suit. Take care of our boy.”
Bucky smiles, small and wistful, “I’ll do my best.”
Bucky walks Peggy to the door and locks it behind her, returning to the living room and loosening his tie on the way back in. He flops down on the couch, knees spread wide and Steve feels his heart lurch in his chest. Bucky cuffs his shirt sleeves to the elbow and turns to look at Steve.
“It’s a fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into,” Bucky says not unkindly. “I just wish you’d come to me sooner.”
Steve shakes his head. “I never wanted you to have to deal with this. I didn’t know who else I could trust.”
“And you knew you could trust me?”
Steve smiles, “Always.”
Steve watches from the bedroom doorway as Bucky straps Kevlar over his undershirt. He pulls on a white button down over that and reaches for his tie, tying it neatly at the base of his neck. He pulls on a navy blue windbreaker and goes into the closet retrieving his gun from the safe. He holsters it under his arm and looks up at Steve, a small smile on his face.
“Don’t look at me like that.”
“Like you’re watching me march into certain death. It’s off-putting,” Bucky says, herding Steve out of the doorway and into the living room. He picks up his wallet and his keys off the coffee table and stuffs them into his pockets.
Steve looks up at him and tries to smile. “Okay.”
Bucky laughs, “Jesus, Steve, that’s worse.”
Steve shrugs and then steps forward, wrapping his arms around Bucky and tucking his face into his neck. He’s much bigger now than he was the last time he hugged Bucky like this, but it feels the same. Maybe better. Bucky’s arms come around him, soft at first, like he’s holding something fragile, then he pulls Steve in close. He can feel the flex and pull of the muscles in his arms, strong and sure and Steve wants to melt into them. He’s impressed with himself when he doesn’t whine when Bucky pulls back, resting his hands on his shoulders, his thumbs brushing the sides of his neck.
Steve nods. “Be careful.”
“Always am,” Bucky says with that mischievous sparkle he gets when he’s doing something truly terrible.
“You know, I’m finding I have even less confidence in you, now.”
Bucky laughs, claps him on the shoulder and turns towards the door. Steve watches him slip out the door, is both disappointed and grateful when he doesn’t look back.
Steve flops down on the couch and Satchmo hops up beside him, curling up and settling in. Steve runs his fingers into his fur and reaches for the remote. Satchmo turns and tips his head up, so Steve scratches under his chin.
“Well,” he says flipping the TV on. “Now we wait.”
Bucky opens the front door to his apartment, tired, relieved and a little disappointed because this is the end.
They had busted up the big deal with a joint operation between ATF, NYPD, DEA and the FBI. The art forgery ring that Steve was party to was the easy one to break down. They weren’t actually involved in the drugs or the guns or the human trafficking, but a lot of their work served as a funding for some of the seedier legs of the operation. The drug cartel was the head operation and they had been blackmailing the art thieves into working for them. They turned over sixty percent of their profits to the drug cartel in exchange for high-profile contacts and protection from the FBI. Which clearly didn’t work out. The head of the drug cartel (rightfully) suspected that their internal leak was coming from someone in the art line, an underling perhaps, and when the FBI wanted to bring Steve in for questioning in relation to an art forgery, it raised a red flag for them. Fortunately, the drug cartel didn’t know who exactly they were looking for only that he was their main guy. The art ring never bothered to mention his name because as it turned out, they weren’t so keen on the death aspect of it, either.
The drug cartel had been hoping that they would spook him into revealing himself, but clearly they didn’t know that Steve Rogers had never been intimidated by bullies. Now that everyone was in custody, he would be safe. Provided he laid low for a little while.
It was over.
“Good news, Steve, we got –”
“Barnes, you asshole!” Steve shouts, stomping in from the living room looking exhausted and angry and hot as hell. Bucky has to gape at him for just a moment before he realizes he’s being yelled at.
“Huh? What did I do?”
“You didn’t die, that’s what you did,” Steve says, walking right up to him and stopping. It’s only like this, with Steve looming over him and really, really pissed that he’s noticing how much the size difference truly is now.
“You wanted me to die?”
“No, no I didn’t. But I figured that was the only reason for you telling me you’d be back in twelve to eighteen hours and not coming back until, oh,” Steve looks around for a clock but there isn’t one. Not that he needs it. “Thirty-six hours later. I thought you were dead.”
Bucky bites down on his lower lip to keep from smiling, but it doesn’t work, which just makes Steve glare harder, “I’m sorry. It took a lot longer than we thought because there were more people and more weapons and just…more. I’m sorry.”
“You could have called,” Steve gripes, his anger melting away, leaving him just looking tired and upset. “I was really worried. Did you know it was on the news?”
Bucky winces, “No. I didn’t know.”
“They said that eleven federal agents were injured, six critically wounded.” He reaches out and pokes a finger into Bucky’s chest. “You’re a federal agent, Buck. When you didn’t come back…”
Bucky reaches up and wraps his hand around Steve’s wrist. Steve turns his hand over and Bucky holds it loosely in his own. He brings his other hand up to cup Steve’s jaw, “Hey. It’s okay. I’m okay.”
Steve’s eyes go a little wild and he lets out this little whimper that gives Bucky chills. Bucky barely registers what’s happening before Steve’s lips are on his, his free arm coming around to pull Bucky in close. Bucky gasps and Steve slips his tongue into his mouth, kissing him hard and desperate. It takes him a minute, but he responds with the same urgency sliding his hand up from Steve’s jaw to the back of his head, threading his fingers in his hair and keeping him in the kiss. Steve drops Bucky’s hand so he can slide it down to his hip, gripping hard and holding him still so Steve can rock against him.
His brain feels fuzzy and he can’t quite – this is…he‘s never wanted anything as much as he wants this, as much as he wants Steve. His body moves on autopilot, shoving them back towards the bedroom, stripping off clothes as they go. Steve has enough sense to shut the door in Satchmo’s face before pushing him down onto the bed. He struggles to strip the rest of his clothes off but has to stop somewhere between his slacks and his underwear to stare at Steve. He’s broad and well-muscled, every inch of him the picture of perfection. He shoves his sweats and underwear down to the floor, steps out of them, and Bucky’s eyes go straight to his cock half hard and rising from a patch of thick, dark blond curls. He licks his lips and looks back up to Steve’s face, his eyes are wide, his mouth is tight and he looks nervous, like he’s afraid of what Bucky might think of him.
Like it would ever be possible for Steve to take off his clothes and Bucky not like what’s underneath, now or back when he was ninety pounds soaking wet. It never mattered to Bucky.
Bucky groans and finishes getting his clothes off, reaching down to stroke himself loosely. Steve makes that desperate little noise again and crawls onto the bed. Bucky sits up, hooks a hand around Steve’s neck and pulls him into a kiss. Steve hums against his lips and fits their bodies together, rocking against him and Bucky feels like there are fireworks going off under his skin and he can’t get enough of Steve. He hooks a leg around Steve and rolls them over, props himself up with a hand on either side of his shoulders and dips his head down to kiss him, lining their cocks up and rocking, a slow, steady stimulation to keep them interested without getting them off.
Steve tilts his head back and Bucky ducks down to kiss his throat and to his collar bone, biting down gently.
“What do you want?” He mumbles against Steve’s skin. “Anything. I’ll give you anything.”
Steve pulls back and looks at him like he’s the best thing he’s ever seen, lifts his head up and presses a sweet kiss to his lips. He lifts his knees and lets his thighs fall open and whispers, “Please” against Bucky’s lips.
“Yeah, of course,” Bucky says, reaching over to his nightstand and pulling out the lube. It takes him a second but he retrieves a condom as well, setting them both on the bed beside Steve’s hip. He reluctantly pulls away from Steve and sits back on his heels, taking a moment to look Steve over. He’s flushed from his chest all the way up to his forehead and he’s breathing like he’s just run a mile. He smiles, reaches out to brush his fingers along the inside of his knee.
Bucky reaches for the lube, squirts some onto his fingers and leans between Steve’s spread knees, rubbing gentle fingers over him before pressing one inside. He looks up to see Steve watching him intently, and he smiles before sliding a second finger in with the first. Bucky reaches out and wraps his other hand around his dick, stroking him lightly to keep him hard. Steve moans a little and pushes back against his fingers, so Bucky spreads his two fingers so he can slide in a third. Steve lets out a sigh that’s somehow both needy and satisfied, closes his eyes and restlessly starts rocking his hips between Bucky’s fist and his fingers.
“That’s…please, Buck. Please.”
Bucky nods and reaches for the condom, tearing the packaging open and tossing it aside, gripping his cock with a too-firm hand so he can slide the condom over it. Bucky adds another generous drop of lube to his dick, spreads it around and wipes his hand on the duvet. He braces himself with a hand on Steve’s hip and lines himself up. He closes his eyes against the sensation of the head of his cock pushing into the tight heat of Steve’s body, groans and drops down over him as he pushes all the way in, not stopping until his balls brush against Steve’s ass. He holds still for a moment, giving Steve a minute to adjust and himself a minute to calm down. He turns his face, presses his lips to Steve’s cheek, down his jaw and up to his mouth. Steve kisses him, bringing his hand up and tangling it in Bucky’s hair. Steve’s tongue is a hot, slick slide against his own and he moans, pulling back and giving a shallow thrust back in.
Steve breaks the kiss to turn his head and gasp into the crook of Bucky’s neck. He lifts himself up, pulls back and fucks into Steve deeper, dragging his teeth along his chest and shoulders, rolling their hips together to keep his dick hard and ready between them. Steve’s hands reach down and grip Bucky’s ass, short nails digging into hot skin and Bucky nearly growls with it, loses himself to the feel of Steve against him, below him, tight and hot around him. His arms are shaking, he can barely hold himself up because it feels so good and Steve is making the sweetest sounds, moaning Bucky’s name and what little control he has is slipping away from him.
Steve reaches between them, grabs his own dick and starts jerking himself off, rough and fast and Bucky wishes he could see, wishes he could watch Steve get himself off. Steve cries out, rolls his hips and comes hard between them, the hot splash of fluid slick and wet against Bucky’s stomach and he can’t – it’s too much. He’s wanted this too long and it’s just…he can’t hold it back. Can’t keep it in because this is Steve who just came while Bucky was fucking him and he’s never needed anything, not really, nothing except Steve and he loses his hold on the thing he’s been keeping in for the better part of a decade, since he really knew what it meant. He buries it against the sweat-slick skin of Steve’s shoulder and prays he doesn’t hear it: “I love you.”
Steve’s hand comes up, clutches Bucky’s good shoulder and whispers Bucky’s name. Bucky comes, fucking Steve through it, and it feels better than anything he could have hoped for. His arms go weak and he lowers himself down onto Steve who curls around him, presses kisses to his temple and his forehead and whispers nonsense to him. It’s so good he’s trembling, he can feel it, but Steve’s hands are shaking against his sweat-cooled skin so he doesn’t need to explain that he’s okay, he’s better than okay because Steve knows. He’s right there with him.
They lie together for a few minutes and Steve is polite enough not to mention that Bucky is still inside him and there is come drying between them, just curls his hand into Bucky’s hair and holds on. Finally Bucky levers himself up, pulls out and rolls to Steve’s side. He pulls the condom off with a slick snap and turns to look at Steve.
Steve grins and Bucky smiles back, lifting his arm and bumping it into Steve’s elbow.
Steve looks at him for a moment, opens his mouth then shrugs, “I think I could use one.”
Steve gets up and Bucky watches him walk to the door before he turns around and looks at him expectantly.
Bucky follows him down the hall and to the bathroom. It isn’t awkward, not when Steve climbs in beside him, pins him to the wall and kisses him under the hot spray of water. Not when they dry off or brush their teeth and slip on clean underwear. Not when Steve crawls into bed beside him, lets Satchmo curl up by their feet and slings an arm around him, rests his head on Bucky’s chest and closes his eyes. It doesn’t feel awkward, but it does feel like a conclusion.
“You could run,” Bucky whispers against Steve’s hair.
Bucky closes his eyes and forces the words out, “If you left in the middle of the night, I wouldn’t know. You could leave and never come back. Never tell me where you’re going. Never call me again.”
Steve tilts his head up, “Is that what you want?”
Bucky shakes his head, “No. The only thing I want less is to see you in jail.”
Steve sighs, presses a kiss to the underside of Bucky’s jaw and rests his head back on his chest. Bucky feels it when he falls asleep and Bucky tightens his hold on him, savors what he has left because Steve will be gone in the morning.
Steve sits on the bed at Bucky’s side, feels a little like a creep and a lot like a douchebag but this is what he has to do. For him, but mostly for Bucky. He closes his eyes, presses his hand to Bucky’s cheek and his lips to his forehead. He lets them linger for a moment before pulling back, unsurprised when Bucky doesn’t even stir. It would take a herd of elephants to wake Bucky before he was ready.
He presses one more kiss to the top of his head before standing up and leaving the room. Satchmo follows him through the living room and he crouches down in the front hall to scratch him behind the ears, but Satchmo is less than enthusiastic like he knows Steve won’t be coming back anytime soon. He whimpers when Steve stands, but Steve doesn’t look back, just slips out the front door and closes it behind him.
He takes a cab into midtown, hands the driver all of the cash he has in his wallet and slams the door shut behind him. He walks up the stairs and is met by a stunning redhead and a man who is the very definition of tall, dark and handsome. Neither smile at him, but whether that’s because it isn’t yet seven in the morning or their faces don’t make that shape, Steve can’t be sure. Sam takes his hand when Steve offers it but Natasha crosses her arms over her chest and looks at him like he’s something she scraped off the bottom of her shoe. Naturally, he likes her instantly.
“Sam, can you please go get interview room three ready and call Coulson down here,” Natasha says, turning towards Sam. Sam looks between them and nods once before disappearing into the building. She turns back to Steve, “He doesn’t know you’re here, does he?”
“No,” Steve says with a frown.
“He didn’t ask you to turn yourself in?”
Steve takes a long blink, remembers the words breathed against his skin like it broke him to say them, remembers Bucky’s arms around him, Bucky suggesting he disappear. It could have cost Bucky his job if anyone had found out. Natasha certainly would have known.
Steve smirks, “Several times, actually.”
Steve sighs, “Bucky says you have something that makes you sure it’s me, but that you won’t tell him what it is. You have the Degas, don’t you?”
She smirks and Steve tucks it away that she is, in fact, capable of smiling. “You signed it.”
Steve nods, “Which means you know there is only one other piece that has that mark.”
“The one in Bucky’s bedroom.”
“You didn’t know until you saw that painting and never told him in case he tried to warn me.”
She looks away from him for a moment and then back, holding his gaze. “I’m not sure that he would have warned you, but I’m certain he would have wanted to and I didn’t want him to have to make that choice. He loves you. I didn’t want him to choose between you and the job and you being here tells me that you didn’t want him to have to make that choice, either.”
Steve swallows around the lump in his throat. “If I confess, you’ll keep him out of it?”
“You have to promise me.”
“I told you I would,” she says. “Now let’s get upstairs before Sam sends out a response team. They’ll think I’ve killed you. I don’t need to cuff you, do I?”
“That’s at least third date stuff.”
“Shut up, Rogers.”
Natasha takes him into the building and up to the fifteenth floor. He’s led through a dark office and Steve almost grins when he sees the glass door with Bucky’s name on it. Feels a little spark of pride when he thinks about the scrappy little back alley fighter he used to be and how much he’s grown up. Natasha takes him into a room, offers him a seat and points up to the camera.
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you do say can be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you at no cost. Do you understand these rights as I have read them to you?”
“I do and I waive them.”
Natasha nods. “All right. Whenever you’re ready.”
Steve nods and takes a deep breath and tries to figure where to start. He tells her about being a broke art student with tens of thousands of dollars in loans to repay. He tells her about a friend tearing his arm up playing baseball, about his going to Russia to have an incredibly risky procedure done and that friend couldn’t carry him through this so he had to learn to be on his own. Then there was a girl who found him a job, said there’d be more if Steve was good and could keep his mouth shut. Steve was very good and knew when to keep his head down. He hadn’t known, not in the beginning, but when they handed him ten thousand dollars in crisp hundred dollar bills while offering him another job, he didn’t much care. He worked as part of a four-person crew backed by a team of handlers and middle men – there was the forger, the fence, the thief and the front man. Steve rarely had to do more than create art, or bonds, or sculptures. Sometimes old books, whatever the job called for.
They were criminals, sure, but small-time and not at all violent. Years later and the Feds had caught on, Bucky being the youngest and the brightest and the best and on the hunt for Steve and his team, whether he knew it at the time or not. Then, as is always the case, someone got caught reselling one of Steve’s pieces, one of the early ones when he was stupid and left a signature on it and the guy who got caught started naming names. Couldn’t pin anyone but Steve. All they would have had was a name, an alias at that, if he hadn’t been so foolish.
Then things started getting ugly, the people who employed Steve’s team were being controlled by some people who did some pretty awful things. So Steve figured he would give the Feds everything but himself, hoping that if they took down the top of the food chain, everyone else would just split up and disappear. Then it turned into some not so great people wanting Steve found and definitely killed for selling them out to the Feds and Steve didn’t have anywhere to hide anymore. He gave the FBI the rest of the information and hid out with a friend until everyone was arrested. He felt like it was finally safe to turn himself in.
Natasha nods at him, “Well, Steve, the FBI would like to offer you clemency in exchange for all of the help you have given us. Unfortunately, due to the nature of your crimes –”
“– We cannot offer you immunity. What we have here – drawn up by Agent Wilson, Federal Prosecutor Coulson and myself – is a sort of work release program. We think your skills could be useful to our division.”
“Work release. You want me to work for the Feds?” Steve asks both incredulous and hopeful.
“Five years on a really, really short leash under the supervision of Special Agent Wilson. You put one toe out of line and we send you in for ten years, you understand that?” She asks, leaning forward on the table.
“Yeah. So what…how does this work?”
“You sign your confession, you sign the deal and we take you to see a judge.”
“On a Sunday?”
She raises her eyebrow, “You’re very good at what you do, Rogers. There are a lot of people who want to see you turned from the dark side. You’ll be released on your own recognizance so you can go home to…wherever it is you’ve been sleeping at night. Tomorrow morning you’ll come here, you’ll be fitted with a tracking anklet – I hear we have a sleek, new model in – and that’s it. You can go anywhere or do anything you want as long as it’s within two miles of this building. Which is pretty generous considering this is a very small island.”
“Well, we won’t pay you or probably treat you fairly, but it isn’t jail.”
“I’ll take it,” Steve says without hesitation. Because he did the right thing and can still go home to Bucky at night. Yeah, he’ll take it.
“Thought you might.”
She leaves the room and returns with Agent Wilson and a short, balding man in a polo shirt who introduces himself as Coulson. They drive out to Queens and meet with Judge Hill who is target shooting in her back yard and Steve likes her immediately. He might still like her even if she hadn’t signed his release papers. It’s just after two in the afternoon when they finish up and Natasha offers to give him a ride back home. They’re silent until they start crossing the Brooklyn Bridge and Natasha doesn’t even look over at him when she speaks.
“If you hurt him, Rogers, if you don’t play by our rules, if you fuck this up, you better pray that I’m not the first one to find you. I don’t trust you, but James is my friend so if you say you’ll give it all up for him, I’ll take you at your word. Ruin this, and I’ll destroy you.”
Steve turns to her and smiles, “I like you, Nat. Can I call you Nat?”
Bucky wakes late in the morning to find Satchmo asleep on the couch, curled up on Steve’s blankets. The apartment is quiet, the atmosphere a little down and Bucky isn’t sure how much longer he can be there before suffocating. He puts fresh sheets on the bed, puts a load in the wash, cleans up the dishes and sets about cleaning out the refrigerator. He opens it to find a plate of frittatas and a note:
Don’t pick the vegetables out.
Reheat this in the TOASTER OVEN.
DO NOT USE THE MICROWAVE.
Bucky eats his breakfast sitting on the kitchen counter. He only picks out half the vegetables and thinks Steve would consider that a compromise.
“Wanna go out?” He asks Satchmo who only bothers to be half interested in the question.
Bucky goes into his bedroom, changes into his running shorts and a clean tee shirt, grabbing the leash and some doggie bags, which seems to perk him up a bit. He loops the bag to the leash, clips it on his collar and they head out for a really long run.
They spend most of the day in Prospect Park playing catch and eating pizza and Satchmo seems to be in better spirits which almost makes Bucky forget the gaping chasm in his chest. There’s a pretty blonde with a slobbery young Boxer who tries to talk to him. He flirts back only enough to keep her from feeling stupid and says he’s married, but thanks anyway. She’s pretty and he should have asked her out because it’s like ripping off a band aid, but… It’s early evening Bucky decides they should start heading back. They walk some and run some and take the long way around but they have to go home, eventually. When he lets them in, Satchmo tugs the leash out of his hand and goes charging into the living room. There’s laughter and a soft sound of talking and Satchmo’s tags jingling around his collar.
“No,” Bucky says, walking into the living room to find Steve sitting on the couch, TV on mute and Bucky’s laptop perched precariously on the coffee table. Satchmo is the happiest Bucky has ever seen him, lying belly up on the couch, tail wagging so hard his whole lower half swings from side to side. Steve is smiling when he looks up from scratching Satchmo’s chin and Bucky’s heart feels like it’s beating out of his chest. “No.”
Steve tilts his head to the side, “No what?”
“You. You left. I’m hallucinating you,” Bucky says, taking slow steps towards where Steve is sitting on the couch. Steve reaches out a hand and Bucky can only stare at him. “No.”
“Come here,” Steve says, patting Satchmo on the side and gently pushing him off the couch. Bucky walks over to him and leans in, taking Steve’s face in his hands. Steve wraps a hand around the back of Bucky’s neck and pulls him in for a kiss. Bucky makes a helpless little noise and kisses Steve hard, closing his eyes and savoring the taste of him.
“This is,” Bucky begins as he pulls away. He leans down and kisses Steve one more time, “No.”
“You keep saying no like that and I’m going to start thinking you don’t want me here,” Steve says, smiling but looking a little unsure.
Bucky leans down and presses a kiss to Steve’s forehead, “I’ve never wanted anything but you.”
“Oh good,” he says looking a mix of smug and relieved. “Come down here, then.”
“For how long?”
Steve cocks his head to the side, “I don’t know. I think we can get each other worked up pretty quickly, so twenty minutes from foreplay to post-orgasmic glow cuddling? Twenty-five if we try to take our time. Thirty if we succeed. Fifteen is probably more realistic, though because I might go off the second you put your hands on me.”
“That’s not…” But Bucky has to laugh a little, reaching down and wrapping his hand around Steve’s wrist. “I don’t mean that and you know it. How long can I have you? If you’re not running now, then you will later and I won’t be able to take that, Steve. It can never work between us because you do what you do and I do what I do and I would never want you to change, but –”
“I gave your scary partners a full confession, this morning. I turned myself in.”
Bucky gapes at him. “You did what.”
“I met them down at the bureau this morning and told them everything. Well. Not everything. I left out a few things. A lot of things. Actually, I left out almost everything.”
“Don’t worry! I didn’t escape or anything.”
Bucky laughs, “From Natasha? No, of course you didn’t. She would have shot you and taken immense pleasure in it.”
“Definitely. Your people worked out a whole thing. I belong to the FBI for five years.”
He sighs, “Why? You could have walked away.”
Steve shakes his head, looks at him like he doesn’t even have half a brain. “Because I love you and I wanted to stay here with you, even if I had to go to jail to do it. They’re locking me in tomorrow morning and Agent Wilson is going to be my handler.”
Bucky laughs, comes around the couch and straddles Steve, letting out a pleased little hum when Steve’s hands come around to rest on his ass. He leans down and kisses him. “Sam, huh? She let you off easy. She would have made you wish you’d picked prison.”
“Too bad I couldn’t work under you. I’d let you handle the hell out of me,” Steve says, smiling into another kiss. He squeezes Bucky’s ass again. “Come on. It’s my last official night as a mostly free man. You’re going to take me more than two miles away from Federal Plaza. You’re going to wear something nice, you’re going to take me to dinner uptown and then you’re going to take me to the Met and let me feel you up in the Greek and Roman Art Gallery.”
“It is kind of homoerotic,” Bucky agrees. He never much cared for art, but he could never grow tired of listening to Steve talk about it.
“Yeah, I’d like to show you homoerotic,” Steve says, leaning in and kissing Bucky’s neck. “You taste like sweat and not in a good way.”
Bucky pulls away and slides off Steve’s lap. “Fine. Shower, then museum. You have to promise not to steal anything.”
“I resent that, I never stole anything,” Steve says, standing and following Bucky down the hall.
“Right. Just forged it.”
Bucky turns around and Steve is there with him, pulling his shirt off and looking at Bucky like he’d swallow him whole if he could. Bucky pulls him into a kiss and Steve leans into him, closing the bathroom door with his foot.
“It is not just a painting, Bucky. It’s a piece of the revolution, a political uprising depicting liberty as a woman and they were overthrowing –” Steve stops, turns to Bucky and shoves him a little as they walk up the front steps of their apartment. “You’re doing this just to get me riled up.”
“You’re hot when you’re riled up,” Bucky says, slipping an arm around Steve’s waist and sliding it down to his ass.
“And you’re hot when you close a big case, Special Agent Barnes,” Steve says, leaning in and kissing his neck.
“Remember this feeling, Steve. When you’re thinking of going back. Remember how good this feels,” Bucky reminds him. Steve smiles, pulls him in and kisses him again.
“A little worked up, a little high on adrenaline, a little aroused and really happy? Yeah, this feels pretty good,” Steve says.
“I meant about the…” Bucky stops just in front of the door and looks down at the box on the door step. “Mysterious boxes on the stoop. Must be for you.”
Steve bends over and picks it up when Bucky opens the door, carrying it over to the dining room table and setting it on top. “Let Satch out.”
“No, Steve, I was going to let him look longingly at the back door for another ten minutes for my own amusement,” Bucky says, opening the back door and letting the dog out. Steve hears his footsteps come up behind him and there’s a gentle touch on his back, “I hope it’s not anything illegal.”
“No,” Steve says with a shake of his head. “We keep a separate place for that and the rest of our ill-gotten gains.”
“You say that like you’re joking,” Bucky says, leaning over and picking up a hula girl doll from out of the box. “But I don’t think you are.”
Steve smiles, “Nope. This is just the odds and ends from the last safe house we had in Paramus. Since I’m a felon and have tracking anklet and can’t cross state lines, I had to wait around for Peggy to do all of the work for me. I guess this was all that was worth keeping. That was legal.”
Bucky goes still beside him then turns Steve to face him. “Your last safe house?”
“Yeah…she had most of them cleaned out within that first month. Except for the one near Port Authority. For reasons. But that was cleared out by the end of the year.” Bucky’s smile is slow and a little dirty, but Steve still has the sense to ask, “Why?”
“You don’t have anywhere to go,” Bucky says, pulling Steve in and kissing at his neck. Bucky pulls him backwards and Steve follows because why wouldn’t he?
“Now? Nowhere except to bed with you, apparently,” Steve says, slipping out of his suit jacket and letting Bucky loosen his tie. Bucky pulls Steve’s belt free and opens his slacks, shoving his hand down the front of them and taking Steve in hand.
Steve groans and reaches out, untucking Bucky’s shirt and unzipping his pants. Steve gets Bucky’s jacket half off and it hangs from his elbow where his hand is still in Steve’s pants, stroking him slowly. Steve tips his head and kisses Bucky soundly, sliding his tongue into Bucky’s mouth and moaning when Bucky sucks on it. He pulls back and smiles against Bucky’s lips when Bucky pulls away and sits down on the couch. Steve crawls over him, lining their bodies up and rocks against him, pressing him into the cushions and turning his head to catch his quiet little moan.
Steve holds himself up and manages to get their pants around their knees (with quite a bit of difficulty considering Bucky won’t stop kissing him) and their shirts bunched up to their chests. Bucky laughs light and happy when their cocks line up and Steve rocks against him. Steve laughs too, burying his smile in the crook of Bucky’s neck.
“You know,” Steve says, swallowing Bucky’s moan with a kiss. “It’s not polite to laugh at a man when you’re trying to have sex with him.”
Bucky laughs again and slides his hands up the back of Steve’s shirt, digging his fingers into the skin of his shoulders. Steve smiles, kisses Bucky with too much tongue and not enough finesse but it doesn’t matter because Bucky is moving against him, slow and sure and so good. Bucky laughs again and Steve turns his head and kisses the curve of his jaw, behind his ear which he nips at because he can.
“Consider it payback,” Bucky says leading into a moan as he thrusts up against him.
Bucky’s fingers dig into his back and Steve sighs, lifting up to kiss Bucky’s mouth. Bucky smiles and Steve’s mind is hazy but he remembers that Bucky said something. It takes him a minute to come back to it.
“Payback for what?”
“You laughing through that blowjob I gave you last week.” Steve laughs and Bucky moans. “Bruised my ego.”
“Not possible,” Steve says, laughing a little again. “Your ego is as unsinkable as the Titanic wanted to be.”
At this Bucky laughs long and hard and Steve laughs with him, pressing his smile to Bucky’s lips. Bucky kisses him, wet and sloppy and groans as Steve rocks against him in earnest. He grunts when Bucky’s nails bite into his skin and drag down. Steve’s orgasm is sudden and surprising and he sighs into the wrinkled collar of Bucky’s shirt as he comes, rolling his hips down against Bucky hard. Bucky stills, moans Steve’s name into his ear as he comes, digging a hand into Steve’s hair and dragging him into another wet kiss.
After a few moments, Steve peels himself off Bucky and sits up, pulling his shirt over his head and wiping himself off with it. He tosses it to Bucky who frowns but cleans himself off with it anyway. Steve shoves his pants down and onto the floor and pulls his underwear up, turning to look over at Bucky who is still lying on the couch looking wrecked. Steve groans and leans up and over Bucky, dropping a kiss on his lips and laughing a little when Bucky mumbles incoherently and pulls his pants back up, struggling around where Steve has positioned himself between Bucky’s legs. He smiles and Bucky threads his fingers into his hair as Steve folds his hands across Bucky’s stomach and looks up at him.
“Were you worried about that?” Steve asks, tilting his head at an awkward angle to meet Bucky’s eyes.
“Me having somewhere else to go.”
Bucky shrugs and Steve is kind enough not to make him say it. He’d been working really hard to make Bucky feel secure in this, but Steve’s past transgressions were varied and numerous. Two years and he was still trying to make Bucky believe he’s in this for good. He hums and closes his eyes at the feel of Bucky’s fingers against his scalp, soft and soothing.
“In three years,” Steve says turning his head back up to look at Bucky. “I’m going to take you to Paris.”
“With what money? We don’t pay you.”
“Shhhh. You were doing so well with the not asking,” Steve says. He rubs his tracking anklet against Bucky’s foot, “The day they take this off, I’m going to take you to the Louvre and make you spend all day appreciating art.”
“You’re planning a vacation three years from now?”
“You’re stuck with me,” Steve beams up at him, “And you’re coming with me to love some art. So much art. And I even promise to be on my best behavior for you.”
Bucky smiles and tips his chin, kissing Steve on the forehead. “And after that?”
Steve shrugs, “When I thought about you and me, I always hoped our ending would be a happy one. Of course, if you want a happy ending –”
“It depends on where you stop the story.”