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Wanna Take You Home And Show You I’m the Best

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Steve is pretty sure Bucky didn't start out doing it on purpose. Knowing that just doesn't help much.

The first time, Bucky is sitting on the couch with Clint in Avengers Tower, open beer bottle on the coffee table in front of him. He's not buying Barton's arguments that a bow is a perfectly practical choice for a primary weapon.

"It's got too slow of a firing rate. You get off, what? four or five arrows a minute if you're lucky."

Barton shakes his head. "One shot's all I need, Barnes."

"Yeah, if you've only got one enemy. When was the last time we didn't get swarmed by whole masses of some kind of monster? That's the point. The world's got a bunch of mad scientists out there who make Stark look stupid, and you're gonna go up against them with something from the Stone Age?"

Steve's pretty sure both Clint's smile and his answer are deliberately patronizing. "Well hey, I got you—when I need back-up."

"Back-up?" Bucky bristles. "Who took out five alien snakehead guys last time while you were still reloading?"

They go on like this all the time, competing, one-upping each other with their shooting. It carries over to the sparring mat too, where Clint insists having a cybernetic arm is cheating and Bucky offers to take it off and take him on one-armed. Steve might be biased, but his money is on Bucky winning even then. People know him as a sniper, but his real strength lies in fighting hand-to-hand. Steve just doesn't know what to make of the amount of energy Bucky and Clint put into their rivalry.

Tony looks up from a financial report Pepper sent him. His mind only goes to one place, when he's not in the lab.

"Get a room you guys. "There's dozens to choose from." He makes a vague gesture to the tower at large.

Clint ignores that. "Why don't you pick on Cap's choice of a weapon? There's nothing more Stone Agey than a fucking shield."

Bucky laughs. He knows damn well he did enough griping about the shield during the war, mostly that it's too shiny and hasn't Steve ever heard of stealth? But he's a loyal enough friend to shake his head. "Can't complain about the shield too much. For one thing, you don't have to worry about it running out of ammo."

Barton's not stupid. "You're just saying that because he's your best friend. You're a spy and a man of the shadows, Barnes. No way you think a bright painted hubcap is practical."

A smile comes over Bucky's face. Steve may have trouble understanding how Bucky can feel the same about him considering where following him led, but he can see the naked affection in that smile. Open emotion doesn't come often from Bucky's these days.

"Steve's not meant for that kind of stuff though," Bucky says. "He's a charge through the front door and crash your evil party kinda guy. The shield goes with him. When he was small and getting into fights all the time he used to try and block punches with garbage can lids."

Steve smiles on the other end of the room. He remembers how lonely it was, being the only one carrying around these memories. Now he's got Bucky sharing stories about the old him as though he enjoys having a whole audience of people who adore Steve.

Steve's supposed to be making headway into a small mountain of paperwork, but he's lost interest. It's been happening a lot ever since he got Bucky back.

He tells himself it's because half the time he still can't believe Bucky's alive. The fluttery, uncertain feeling in the pit of Steve's stomach doesn't feel like disbelief though.

Bucky picks up his beer for a sip. It must be good beer, the way he tips his head back for a deeper drink, lips opening to let more of the bottle's neck slide between them. The cold glass is green, his mouth redder by contrast, wet with condensation when he lets the bottle slip free.

Steve doesn't mean to stare. He tells himself it's the artist in him, that it's fascinating the way Bucky's mouth is almost too pretty for a man's, pouty and curving like something you would draw. Bucky's too well-trained now not to feel Steve's eyes. He meets them from across the room and slowly brings the bottle to his mouth again for another drink. His lips wrap greedy and tight around the glass as his throat works to swallow.

Steve's face goes hot, mortified that he immediately thinks of Bucky's lips somewhere else.

Clint lays a hand on Bucky's arm and whispers something in his ear. Whatever it is, Bucky sets the beer down, elbows him, and mouths, "Shut up, Barton."

He glances back at Steve though, doubtful and then considering. He looks away and Steve can see something's put him off balance.

**

For weeks before this, they've been spending a lot of time wandering through the neighborhood where they grew up. investigating what had changed and mourning all the old familiar landmarks the generations after them had unceremoniously torn down. Apart from grumbling that they can't understand how the modern world could fail to appreciate Woolworth's, he and Bucky have two favorite things to do on these nostalgic tours—play "remember when...?" whenever they come upon a street corner or an alley or park where Steve got beat up or something else happened they could laugh at now, and choose one of the old restaurants or diners still standing to have dinner. They take turns paying and picking out the place as a surprise for the other. The more of an unbelievable luxury eating there had seemed back when they were starving, the better—especially if it has a significant memory attached to it.

They've generated a lot of local publicity, doing this. It's turned into quite a claim to fame, being able to say Captain America and Bucky Barnes ate at your establishment as kids. They get fawned over by the owners and staff every time. Steve does his best to smile through it in hopes the ingratiating will end soon so he and Bucky can eat and talk in peace, but when there's women doing the fawning, Bucky makes their day by flirting just to live up to his reputation in the stories. Crack shot, shameless flirt, and loyal friend, that was how America immortalized Bucky Barnes.

Last Sunday, Bucky took Steve to a pizza place they had only eaten at once back in '38. Mostly because they got themselves kicked out. Steve had taken issue to a big dumb guy groping the waitress as she walked past and Bucky had taken issue to the guy slamming Steve's face into their pizza on their table. The manager yelled at them to leave, and Bucky had hustled Steve into a nearby alley, scared because he didn't know what was blood and what was sauce—and maybe a little mad because they had scraped together a whole four dollars to try that pizza.

Seventy-five years later, neither has to ask the other what's so funny when the waiter sets their pizza in front of them. Steve gets tomato sauce on his chin and Bucky has trouble swallowing his own pizza he's so busy trying not to laugh on account of the people staring in awe that Captain America and Bucky Barnes breathe and eat like regular mortals. By the time they walk out of there, Bucky's given up holding in his laughter and it's beautiful because Bucky doesn't laugh enough these days.

"You know what though," Bucky turns serious after a few minutes. "First time I saw combat, I remember this kid got hit by a mortar. I looked down at what was left of his face and all I could think about was you wearing that pizza. I remember trying not to laugh, even though I thought I was gonna throw up." His eyes stray to the sidewalk and he sighs. "I was dumb."

"Nah." Steve puts a hand on his back. "I think sometimes we need to be less afraid of being honest with ourselves about our feelings. Sometimes they just crop up on you, even when we think they're not right."

He smiles, hoping he's being halfway reassuring. Bucky looks up and his eyes are on him, clear grey-blue. Steve has the fleeting thought that he never wants to look away.

He tells himself it's because he can't believe the two of them are here, in this garish and amazing future with seventy-five years between that four dollar pizza and now, barely aged. Together.

They walk toward the old theatre where they show second-run movies he and Bucky have been too busy to see the first time around. The streets are crowded, but Steve's attention fixes on two guys holding hands half a block ahead of them. One sports a buzz cut and keeps glancing up at the rooftops and between the buildings around him, obviously a vet scanning his surroundings for the enemy by habit. His partner notices and tugs him by the hand under the awning of a coffee shop with outdoor seating. He tells him something, maybe that he's home now and it's all over, and draws him into a kiss on a whim.

Steve glances at Bucky, He watches too and then glances back at Steve.

"I wanna tell them to cut that out before the cops see. Then I remember."

A police car drives by, but of course neither of the guys gets beaten or dragged off. It's a different world now.

"Looks like someone's happy to have the other guy back," Steve smiles at the couple, and then he's smiling at Bucky. "I know the feeling."

The two guys keep on kissing. Steve's reasonably sure there's tongue involved by now.

Bucky smirks at him.

"This your way of telling me you wanna make out right here?"

Steve feels his face reddening. "I meant..." he falters and can't finish.

For a moment, Bucky takes in his awkwardness, then tugs Steve's sleeve. "Come on. Movie starts in 20 minutes. I don't wanna hurt my neck having to sit in front because we got there late."

**

The second time might have been on purpose.

Doctor Doom lays siege to Avengers Tower. The revenge he intends for past defeats is both more simple and more personal than merely trying to destroy the building with everyone in it. He has a new breed of Doombots circling the perimeter, ready to take out any Avenger who steps outside—or anyone who comes to aid them—with a deadly, slowly-paralyzing toxin.

The team starts out making a decent collaborative effort of showing Doom he's only got another failure to look forward to. Bucky and Clint find vantage points and take out what robots they can with explosive rounds and explosive arrows. They've destroyed six by the time Bruce and Tony figure out that the robots aren't just packed in tight together, but linked so that if one goes offline the toxin it carries flows into the others, leaving it more concentrated among the robots left standing.

Tony works on a way to remotely break the link from within the tower. Steve ponders their best plan of attack when the time comes. Thor and Bruce insist they should go out now, that Doom's toxin can't affect them, but Steve argues that if they can't take out the machines fast enough, there's too much chance a highly concentrated dose of the stuff could overtake Hulk or Thor temporarily and neither the team nor the city could afford that should Doom have something else up his sleeve.
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Reluctantly, Bruce and Thor see the sense of this, and decide they can help by setting Tony's small army of chefs to making lunch and keeping everyone's strength up. Clint goes off for some target practice with his bow and—restless there's nothing they can do but wait—Natasha and Bucky go off together to spar.

By the time lunch is ready, Steve is tired of the sun gleaming on the dark steel of Doom's monsters through the window. He volunteers to take a walk down to the gym instead of leaving it to JARVIS to tell the others to come and eat.

Bucky and Natasha gleam with sweat, breathing hard as if their intent has been to exhaust themselves. They circle each other on the mat, eyes locked. Bucky's not wearing a shirt and she's stripped down to her sports bra.

They do this all the time, go at each other hard until they wear themselves out. They're both obsessed with keeping their deadly skills honed and there's too much respect between them to go easy on the other.

They do this all the time, yet Steve hangs back a moment to watch.

Natasha spins toward Bucky to deliver a kick aimed at his chest. He's quick with his metal arm, and grabs her wrist the second she gets close enough, yet instead of using her own momentum to force her to the mat, Bucky gets hold of her hand with his human one and twirls her outward and then back against his body the way he used to do with countless girls on the dance floor all those years ago.

He's smirking above her head. She turns in his arms and lays a hand on his bare chest, slowly lifting her head to look at him. Steve's pretty sure she has some deadly move in store for him for thinking he can manhandle her, but he's surprised when she laughs.

"Didn't know you liked to dance, James. We should go sometime. You can show me all your moves."

Her voice is all the seductive spy the other agents say she is and she's pressed close against him. One side of Bucky's mouth curves up in something like his old suggestive smile.

"Think you've seen the best ones."

Bucky spins her away from him, pulls her hand above her head, and gives her another twirl. She laughs some more, as if she enjoys being treated like a girl for a change, or maybe she just enjoys him. It's no secret they were lovers in the Red Room; Steve's just not sure what kind of feelings they have for each other now or if they haven't slept together at some point during Bucky's long journey back to sanity. Steve explains away the pang of jealousy by telling himself it's only because it's not as easy to ask these questions when they're connected to something painful.

He clears his throat and they both turn. Bucky's eyes flick to him instantly and Steve knows he reads more than Steve means him to. Bucky glances at Natasha as if to ask if she read the same thing, but she just pats his bare shoulder and looks amused.

"Food's ready upstairs," is all Steve says. He leaves them and goes to get Clint.

Everyone but Tony gathers around the table. He can't be coaxed out of the lab. Bucky has his shirt back on by the time he slides in between Clint and Natasha, across from Steve. Bruce cuts him a big piece of the lasagna Tony's staff whipped up and Steve passes him the salad bowl.

"The pomegranate dressing is wondrous," Thor pipes up. "I never tire of the fascinating fruits of Midgarde."

"In some cultures the pomegranate is the fruit of temptation," Bruce remarks.

Natasha's lips quirk up and she says dryly, "I think for that to happen James would have to swallow some of Cap's seeds."

Bruce cracks a smile and Steve tries very hard to pretend he's too naive and wholesome for the double entendre to register. Natasha passes Bucky the basket of breadsticks.

"So what's the plan, Cap?" Clint asks. "How close is Stark to breaking their circle? And which of us gets the first crack at those things when he does?"

"It's not that simple, Barton," Bruce says. "We're still figuring out what sort of firepower those things have so we can gauge over what radius they can spread their poison. There's also the question of whether it's absorbed on contact or airborne. If it's the latter the city's in trouble."

"Can't we wear chemical suits? I have a whole quiver of arrows I'd like to unleash in those things."

"Metal Man promises that if we are besieged into the night, we will pass the time with the Midgardian game known as 'Truth or Dare'," Thor chimes in, excited about it.

Bucky picks up his breadstick. Steve didn't know he liked them so much. A look of pleasure comes over his face as he takes it between his lips. His tongue flicks out to lick the melted butter tricking down the length of it, and then he takes as much of it into his mouth as he can, closing his eyes and savoring the taste, head falling sideways.

Steve wishes there weren't so many people at the table. The room is too hot and his pants are suddenly tight. It's embarrassing, the way his cock's throbbing. Bucky opens his eyes. He's swallowed half the breadstick and his lips glisten with melted butter. Steve swears Bucky winks at him as his tongue darts out and licks it off.

"Cap...?" Steve hadn't realized Clint asked him another question. He blinks and tells himself to stop focusing on what Bucky's mouth is doing and the fact that he's half hard under the table and to focus on the fact that his team is counting on him.

**

There's no turning in early that night. Steve can't stop looking out the window at Doom's toxic robots with their sinister metallic gleam under the tower's outdoor lighting. He hates feeling helpless as much as he hates seeing others threatened. He's also sure this isn't the time for the other thing keeping him awake.

Steve tells himself there's nothing wrong with being restless for company though and goes down the hall to see if Bucky's awake too. He's caught him training in the gym enough times in the middle of the night to know he doesn't sleep much.

He runs into Natasha coming out of Bucky's room, closing the door behind her. Steve doesn't know whether the late night visit surprises him, but she's smiling. He nods to her, and for some reason that sets her on the verge of laughter. She's the last person Steve would expect giddiness from, but he doesn't ask.

Bucky's fully clothed at least when he answers the door, but he makes a point of wiping red lipstick off his cheek. Steve tells himself it's childish to be happy it's not smeared on Bucky's mouth instead and sits on the couch.

"Natasha's coming by awful late."

"What?" Bucky says a little too defensively. "We were just talking."

"About the past?" Steve shouldn't be so nosy, especially when he knows the past isn't something Bucky likes to talk about. To him at least.

Bucky shakes his head. "Nope."

He's hiding something, and being a little too clumsy about it for a master spy.

"About what, then?"

"Just... stuff. I can't tell you. You want a beer?"

He's trying to distract him and nervously at that. Steve accepts the beer anyway. He can't get drunk, but he's tired of the strain on him and maybe half the comfort of alcohol is psychological.

Bucky brings two for himself and sits next to him. He at least can get a buzz if he drinks enough.

"Can't sleep." Steve takes a long sip from the bottle. "I just wanna tell this Doctor Doom guy to stop hiding behind his toys and fight me."

Bucky grins at him. "Must be compensating for something."

Steve laughs, then sighs. "I didn't ask for this, being a symbol. It gets tiring, having people look to me."

Bucky doesn't say 'I told you so' or that Steve should have been happy the way he was instead of volunteering for the serum. He just looks disappointed this is what Steve came to talk about, but says gently, "Only you can say when you've had enough, Steve."

"Same goes for you."

Maybe Steve had volunteered for the serum, but Bucky sure as hell hadn't asked to be what he is now, or what he was.

He shrugs and gestures with his metal hand at the tower around them. "Yeah? What else is there for me to do? Write one of those tell-all books and make millions?"

"We could always open up a bar someplace. Fight crime whenever we hear about it."

"You and me?" Bucky sounds doubtful.

"Kinda figured that's how we'd end up after the war."

Bucky allows himself a faint smile, but shakes his head. "Yeah, but you actually have friends now."

Did Bucky think he mattered less because Steve had the Avengers? Did he forget the part where Steve wanted him as his partner during the war, after the serum? But he had the feeling Bucky was testing him.

"They can visit."

Bucky lets out a short, quiet laugh, looks at the clock, and flicks on the TV.

"What the hell is this?" All Steve's sees are a bunch of muscular men in loin cloths going at each other with wooden swords.

"Some show Fury likes about Spartacus. They're airing a marathon. This guy reminds me of you way too much." It's fond, and put-upon.

They show clips from previous episodes. There's a lot of blood and nudity and sex and beautiful women, which Steve suspects is the reason Bucky watches, but in one of the clips the main character has apparently had someone he loved taken from him by the Romans and vows to kill them all.

Steve frowns. "I guess you're right. That was me after you died."

Bucky gives him a long, careful look. "He's talking about his wife, Steve."

Steve figured that. "Does he get her back?"

Bucky shakes his head. "That guy does." Another shirtless, muscular gladiator is talking. "His girl got sold into slavery pretty much for being in love with him. For a while they just passed her around as a thing to use, and everyone told the guy she was dead, but he never gave up on her."

The girl in question—Steve assumes it's her by the way she's kissing the gladiator in question—is fighting back, swinging a sword, and vowing to kill her share of Romans. Steve smiles at Bucky and leans close enough to brush Bucky's shoulder with his.

"Sometimes you just can't lose someone, no matter what people try and tell you."

Bucky turns. He's close enough that Steve can feel the warmth of his hip and his thigh pressed to his. He's used to it, but all of a sudden he's not and it's all he can focus on with those two falling on a bed together, kissing passionately on screen.

"That's the reason I'm right here," Bucky answers quietly,

It's a headrush, racing through the number of things he could mean by that. The moment feels fragile and dangerous, approached on tiptoe. It's too fragile though and falls apart the instant JARVIS' voice fills the room.

"Your pardon, Sergeant Barnes, but your presence is required downstairs. I am to inform you it is now Truth or Dare time, and to bring Captain Rogers if you can locate him."

**

The others are waiting, sitting on the floor in a circle in the living room—one of the living rooms. Tony has even come out of the lab.

Thor beams at the two of them, hugging a couch cushion. "Doctor Banner tells me this game is very ancient."

Bruce nods. "It's been traced back to Ancient Greece and a game called Basilinda."

Steve takes a place beside Thor while Bucky sprawls against one of the couches between Tony and Natasha. She passes him a glass and pours it full of vodka—expensive stuff by the fancy bottle Tony must have brought out for the occasion. Bucky takes the vodka and tops off Tony's glass on the other side of him. Apparently everyone but Steve and Thor will be getting drunk—or trying to, in the case of Bucky.

"Who's going to start?" Clint asks.

Tony holds up his glass. His face is flushed and Steve suspects he's half drunk already. "Last one to join us bows to the privilege of the provider of the booze." He turns to Bucky. "Truth or dare, Barnes?"

Bucky rolls his eyes and takes a sip of his vodka. He's not keen on playing. "Fine. Truth."

"Have you ever eaten any of your victims."

Steve glares at him. Bucky was brainwashed, not a serial killer, and just once couldn't Tony resist picking at a wound?

Bucky must be getting used to him though. He winks at him and says with a straight face, "In what way?"

Clint whistles and Natasha's smirk is so knowing Steve averts his eyes out of decency.

"Your turn," Tony prompts Bucky.

Bucky takes another drink. "Since it's Thor's fault we're playing this, truth or dare, big guy?"

Thor smiles eagerly. "I shall choose truth. Have at it Soldier of Winter."

Bucky thinks a minute, pursing his lips that the vodka has made redder. He cocks his head. "Does 'polishing the hammer' always mean polishing the hammer?"

Everyone laughs. Thor is confused for a moment, then his laughter is loudest of all. "Ah ha! We of Asgard have no need to be delicate about such things. The next time I am compelled to do as you imply, I shall not hide it from you, friend."

The look on Bucky's face is priceless. Tony pats him on the back, then admits, "My mind wants to go to the same place every time you say you're 'working the arm'. Kinda humanizes the legend."

Bucky doesn't bother asking which legend—the murderous one or Cap and the Commandoes. He shakes his head and pours Stark more booze. "It's Thor's turn."

Thor has caught on that the questions are supposed to be overly personal and embarrassing. Clint picks truth and Thor asks, "With which do you please the fairer sex more, your abilities as a lover or your aim?"

The question is so earnest Clint laughs in embarrassment. "I try not to ask. Better that way, right?" He holds up his cup.

The game goes around to Tony. Clint wants to know whether he's ever gone into battle with nothing under the armor.

"Commando once," Tony answers, "but not totally free spirit free. My turn." He swallows down half his vodka and singles out Steve a little too gleefully. "You're up, Cap. Truth or dare. Pressing questions over here."

Before Steve knows it, he's squared his shoulders. The game hardly feels fair when alcohol doesn't work on him to mitigate the humiliation or the prying.

"Truth," he chooses warily.

"Super Soldier Serum... standard refractory period?"

Weak laughter erupts around the circle. Steve marvels yet again at how sex-obsessed the modern world is. He refuses to blush and stammer the way Tony expects him to though.

"There's really not much of one." Steve shrugs.

Natasha eyes Bucky and gives his glass a congratulatory topping off of more vodka. Steve's unsure what to make of that. Maybe his mind's in the gutter as much as anyone else's, because he can't help but wonder with a prickle of guilty heat in the pit of his stomach if it's the same for Bucky now. She would know.

Steve decides on a serious question and asks Bruce what he's angry about now.

Bruce's smile is wolfish, "Right now I'm angry there's things I should be angry about and I'm not."

It's a good answer, and Steve has to smile at the task Bruce sets Natasha when she decides to be different and picks dare. "After the things these guys are asking, I dare you to find us another woman for the team."

She laughs. "I'm not sure these boys can handle another grown-up around."

"Hey," Bucky says, but that only reminds her that it's her turn and she chooses him.

He picks truth again, which she seemed to expect. Natasha smiles at him and asks too sweetly, "How many people in this room do you want to sleep with, James?"

"Ohh!" Clint laughs. "Show the man some mercy, Nat."

"Right to the point." Bruce raises his glass, impressed.

Bucky scowls. She's thoroughly pleased with herself and he knows it. Steve has no idea what that's about, but Bucky takes a long drink, tilts his head, and meets her eyes. She winks at him and he winks back. "Just one," he admits, and there's a little more to the way he looks at her then the charm and the promise of a good time that got so many girls into bed, but there's still a promise in it—a promise that she's got something coming from him later.

If Steve is a little jealous, he tells himself not even a national icon likes the feeling his best friend is sharing something secret with someon else.

The questions continue around the room and they don't get any more mature. Steve chooses truth again when Clint chooses him and apparently what he's been dying to know is "did the serum make it bigger?"

Steve is pretty sure that isn't what he'd ask someone he calls his childhood hero if he ever got the chance, and he answers dryly, "I doubt it, but I don't think anyone took the time to measure."

Bucky's lips quirk up in a half smile that could mean anything and on his next turn he chooses truth again.

Bruce shakes his head. "You can't choose 'truth' more than twice in a row. That's how the game works."

Bucky takes another drink of vodka. He's lying on his side and has become so entertained by this point he doesn't mind his turn anymore. Tony has already hacked into SHIELD and dared him to enter into the old Winter Soldier files the fakest and most ridiculous mission he can come up with, and Bucky has already dared Clint to dance like "that Miley Cyrus dame."

"All right," Bucky says. "Dare. Let's go."

A devilish grin spreads over Clint's face, well aware Bucky couldn't pick truth again. How many slumber parties has he been to?

He gets up, grabs Bucky by the arm, and hauls him into the kitchen.

They're conferring, or rather Clint is laying out his demands in a hushed voice and Bucky is glaring at him. Whatever it is, Bucky shakes his head and shoves Clint backward against the refrigerator with his metal hand.

"You know what this game should really be called, don't you, guys?" Tony starts to say. "Awkward Sexu-" Bucky walks back into the room holding a banana and Tony throws his hands up in a 'what I'd tell you' gesture. "Yep. Sooner or later it always turns into what it should definitely be called."

At a loss, Steve glances at Thor, but Natasha nods knowingly. "You like bananas, James?" She's on the verge of laughter again.

Bucky's face is unreadable and his tone is flat when he answers, "In some places, people who grew up with communism during the Cold War didn't even know what they were."

That gets him strange looks around the room from everyone save Clint. "Quit stalling and do it, Barnes."

Bucky drapes himself sideways on the couch. Steve doesn't know what he expects—a banana doesn't seem like an ideal choice for some ridiculous test of marksmanship—but Bucky's eyes settle on his and he carefully pops the stem.

He doesn't look away and neither does Steve as Bucky's long fingers slowly work to not so much unpeel the thing as to tenderly expose it. Bucky's gaze slides over the fruit beneath, metal fingers closing tight around the base of it. Steve can't help it; his cock starts to tingle thinking about how those cold fingers would feel on throbbing skin.

Bucky wets his lips. They look soft, always have even in the alpine cold during the war, the perfect bow of his upper lip outlined by the shadow of stubble. His eyes return to Steve's and his lips part. He lets the curving length of the banana slide between them, gently, as if afraid to bruise it. His head tips back and inch by inch he takes it deeper into his mouth.

The room goes quiet. Steve feels like his eyes are burning, he's too transfixed to blink. His cock's pounding and all he can think about is how hot Bucky's mouth would be taking all of him in like that.

He has it so far in his mouth his lips almost brush his metal hand curled around the bottom. Steve is so flushed all over he wishes JARVIS would turn the cold air on.

The next minute, Bucky is swallowing, and the silence in the room stretches until Tony breaks it, putting on a female voice. "The Russian for banana is..." Natasha glares. "What? Haven't you ever seen Dangerous Beauty? Catherine McCormack? No?"

Bucky throws the empty peeling over Clint's head. It lands squarely in the trash and he goes back to his vodka. His eyes stray to Steve's over the rim of the glass. Steve immediately pulls his gaze away. He can't look at Bucky right now, though he's pretty sure he catches Bucky smirking out of the corner of his eye.

After a long day in the lab, Bruce and Tony fall asleep in the middle of the next round and Clint ends up picking Steve again.

"Truth or dare?"

"Truth," Steve says with resignation.

Clint glances at Bucky. "Do you have a hard-on right now?"

The heat of arousal gives way to the awful heat of mortification. It can't be that obvious...

Steve couldn't love Thor more at that moment for speaking up, "He cannot choose 'truth' more than twice in a row. These are the rules."

"Fine," Clint says. "We lost track. All right then, Cap, go moon the robots."

**

Kill them all.

It's Bucky's gladiator show that gives Steve his plan. He ended up watching the marathon all night to keep his mind off bananas.

He gathers the team at first light, suited up with the shield on his back.

"We're not gonna wait for Tony to break the link. I have another idea. Bucky. Clint. I want you two to take out all the robots but one. The toxin will be concentrated in the one left standing, but on the other hand, there's only a single to fight. That's where Thor and Hulk come in—they won't be affected. Tony can make sure the dead robots stay down and that Doom doesn't try anything remotely. Natasha? We need you to get to SHIELD once the other robots are down and help clear the area within a five mile radius to keep any civilians from becoming exposed."

"What about you?" Bucky's all professional now in his dark blue combat suit, armed to the teeth and black paint around his eyes like a domino mask. He has no trouble meeting Steve's eyes, but Steve doesn't let his gaze linger. He can't start blushing thinking about Bucky's mouth and breadsticks and bananas while he's trying to lead his team.

"I've got anyone's back who needs it."

All agreed, Bucky and Clint head up to the third floor. Each takes a half of the building. Explosive arrows and explosive rounds are fired, destroying the power source of robot after robot. They compete over kill counts on the comms and get JARVIS involved to keep score. It seems to be a game, who can take out the most robots the fastest.

Steve smiles. It's good to hear Bucky having fun.

Before long, there's only the one robot left. Thor and Hulk leap down on it from a balcony and Natasha slips away. The rest of them get clear, from the windows should the toxin spray, and Steve finds himself hunkered down between Bucky and Clint outside Tony's lab where he's tracing an energy signature he claims will help them locate Doctor Doom himself.

Steve can't see anything of the fight. He only hears the sound of Thor's hammer banging on metal. He turns to Bucky. He's on edge, fingers resting on the larger of his three guns. It's not a time for Steve to follow the curve of his lips with his eyes and wonder if the way Bucky kept his eyes on him last night meant anything or if it was only part of the dare. He's thought about it too much already during those restless hours trying to sleep, thought about soft lips and cold metal fingers on the length of his cock as he stroked himself in frustration beneath the blankets.

"Uh, problem, guys," Tony's voice comes over the tower's intercom. "Hulk's down for the count and so is Venombot, but Doom's decided to send more friends to the party. No way to tell if they're full of toxin or not."

"A two-pronged attack." Steve pulls the cowl over his head. "I was afraid of that."

He can hear them outside now, the stomp and clang of metal and Thor fighting alone.

Bucky gets to his feet. "We can't just stay here."

Clint nods. "I'm with Barnes."

"You wish," Bucky snorts.

Steve ignores that. "No. Bucky and I have the serum. We can afford to take a chance out there if need be to help the others. Clint, you stay here and keep picking them off."

Clint reluctantly agrees, and the first thing Bucky and Steve do is help Thor get the unconscious Hulk inside. It feels callous, but Steve hopes he recovers in time to get back into the fight.

The robots are huge, two dozen against the three of them. They could have used Iron Man, but if Tony can locate Doom to put a stop to him once and for all or take out the robots remotely it would make up for the loss of manpower.

Thor smashes at them with his hammer and Bucky doesn't bother drawing a gun. He rips robots apart with his metal arm, pulling out wires like brains. He and Steve haul the electronic parts of one of them inside for Tony to examine.

The fight creeps toward the city. The shield isn't an ideal weapon for destroying robots, unlike a mythical hammer or an explosive arrow, but it helps Steve keep the things off the civilians that can't seem to clear out fast enough, and that's what matters most.

He's not Thor though; fatigue creeps up on him. A lucky swing from a dark steely fist about five times as strong as Bucky's arm swipes the shield out of his hand. It bounces and rolls on its edge across the street, out of Steve's reach. The robot swings again and Steve's on the ground. The machine looms over him, red eyes that must be heat sensors scanning his body. It's hand swipes a third time, too quick for Steve to recover from the last blow, grabbing Steve's head like it means to crush it.

The pressure is agony, his skull in piercing pain, but it's the sting to his exposed cheek that starts Steve panicking, the fact that one side of his face is going numb.

The robot has injected him with the toxin.

"Steve!"

Bucky is across the street. Thor has toppled another robot with his hammer and Bucky has his metal arm buried in its smashed skull, pulling out more wires and computerized innards with the ruthlessness that's part of him now.

Steve's lips won't move to answer. The toxin is spreading through his system.

Bucky moves fast, grabbing for the shield a few feet away. The image of Bucky rising with it from his knees to protect him on that train flashes back, but he's not in danger now.

"Steve!" Bucky yells again. He motions sideways with his right hand and wrenches back his metal arm to throw.

Steve jerks out of the way while he can still move. There's the flash of sunlight on bright vibranium and then, lightning quick, the clang of it on dark steel. It cuts through the robot's arm with so much force the shield ends up embedded next to Steve's head in the side of the building at his back.

The grip on Steve's skull falls away and the dizzying pain is gone, but Steve feels like there's a phantom fist around his throat and he knows it's only a matter of time before the toxin spreads to his lungs. His heart races with the memory of being small and sick, the buried panic of airways seizing and the fight to breathe on cold nights. Just like he did back then, Bucky hurries to him.

He half screams into the comms, "Cap needs help over here!" and drops to Steve's side while Thor finishes off the robot.

Steve's pounding heartbeat speeds the spread of the toxin through his body. Breathing becomes a struggle. His lungs don't want to expand and the fear of being weak again is mounting. He's lightheaded and finds himself staring at the shield and at Bucky. The throw was impressive, the power behind it. He used to think that about the punches Bucky threw.

Bucky's arm wraps around him, pulling him protectively against his body. His sidearm is in the way, but it doesn't matter. "Help's coming, Steve. Whatever that stuff is, you know you'll heal. Just hang on."

Steve can't answer him. All he can do is lean on him. All he can think is that he was an idiot for the part of him that used to resent having to. Bucky never looked down on him for being weak. He just cares.

Breathing gets harder and the asthmatic weakling that's still inside him is scared he won't heal and that he'll suffocate and die. His eyes seek Bucky's face, the black paint around his eyes, and the handsome lines of his features. Steve thinks about that stupid banana and the shine of melted butter on his lips and what if he never gets the chance to know whether the way Bucky has been looking at him lately means anything or not.

**

The serum amplifies Steve's healing, but the SHIELD docs say it will take him days to recover from what would have killed an ordinary man.

Steve lies in the infirmary for half a day, drifting in and out of sleep. He's half aware of Bucky—black paint around his eyes half scrubbed off and smeared—sitting in a chair beside him for the first couple hours, hovering and snapping at everyone else to get out and let him sleep.

Steve's lived too many years being sick and weak to stand being bedridden for long. By the afternoon he's taking slow walks around SHIELD headquarters. He sees Bucky in the outdoor shooting range through the window. A pretty junior agent slides up close where she's lying beside him, all smiles as Bucky guides her hands to show her how to hold her sniper rifle. The way she runs her fingers along the length of the barrel and makes eyes at him, Steve doubts she has the finer points of marksmanship on her mind. Bucky gives her a wink and Steve can only imagine the lines he's getting away with.

He tells himself he should be happy to see Bucky back to his old ways. That was what he wanted, right? Bucky to feel like himself again.

The doctors let Steve go home in the evening, saying there's nothing he can do but rest and take it easy. The first thing Steve does is visit Bucky down the hall.

Months ago, he had offered to let Bucky stay with him, told him he shouldn't be alone after what he had gone through, but Bucky wanted his own place, claiming that Steve had important things to do and didn't deserve to be kept up all night with his problems. Part of Steve worries this is Bucky's way of distancing himself. The rest of him know Bucky's hiding how bad things get for him at times.

It's a shock when he answers the door and the left sleeve of his shirt is hanging empty, metal arm gone. Steve swallows. He's never seen... he forgets... He doesn't want to stare, but the sight of Bucky with one arm is too painful a reminder of what following Steve Rogers has cost him.

"What happened?'

Bucky glances at the empty left side of his body and shrugs. "Nothing. " It's a 'nothing" that means he doesn't think it's important. "Feeling better?" He changes the subject. "Or did you need help or something?"

Was he going to try and take care of him with one arm missing? Steve smiles that Bucky hasn't changed as much as he likes to think."I just wanted to see you."

Bucky doesn't seem to know what to make of that and fixes Steve with another searching look before leading him inside. He's in the middle of making dinner, browning meat on the stove and boiling water for spaghetti.

"Surprised SHIELD let you go so quickly." He goes back to the kitchen to stir the meat around. "Never knew a shady government organization to resist turning a guy into a lab rat."

Steve doesn't know what to do with this flash of cynicism. "Guess I've gotten boring. I wanted to say thanks."

Bucky looks up from the stove, searching Steve's face again. Steve sometimes forgets he's dealing with a world class spy with long practice at reading people on top of a man with longer practice at reading him. "Didn't know we had to," It's uncertain and careful.

He drains the meat and picks up the jar of pasta sauce, bangs the lid on the counter, and braces it against his chest while he tries to twist the lid free. Without his other arm to hold it with, he doesn’t have the right leverage. He swears and yanks open a drawer to dig for a jar opener.

Steve steps around the counter and comes up behind him. "Here. Let me help you."

"I can-" Bucky starts to protest, He turns and steps back before Steve can move. His back brushes Steve's chest and it's embarrassing, how quickly Steve flushes with heat when he should be used to touching him. But it's different now. There's the rush of excitement that something more could happen if he'd just dare to go a little further.

Swallowing it down, Steve reaches around him and pops the lid off the jar with his enhanced strength. His arm brushes Bucky's hip without his metal arm in the way and his pajama pants are so thin Steve can feel he's not wearing anything underneath. He tells himself it's not a thought he should be dwelling on, but he's seen Bucky without his pants plenty of times and his photographic memory won't let him get the image out of his head now.

He pours the sauce in the pan and Bucky adds back the meat. He puts the lid on and they let it simmer while they wait for the pasta to cook.

Bucky pulls a couple of beers from the fridge and they sit on the couch.

"You gonna tell me what happened to the arm?" Steve asks before Bucky can turn on the TV.

"The arm's fine. It's right there." He gestures behind the oversized armchair where it's propped against the wall, almost hidden.

Steve frowns. Bucky doesn't seem down, but Steve knows he's had moments where he's hated the arm for being something they gave him to turn him into that much more lethal of a weapon. Bucky reads what he's thinking and sighs. He can dish out the worrying, but doesn't like it in return.

"It hurts sometimes, all right? That thing's heavy and I needed a break. Kinda wrenched something in my neck throwing the shield so hard yesterday, I was so desperate to-"

He cuts off and looks away. Steve's not sure why a sore neck is so hard to admit to, but for all Bucky loves charming the girls, he's never been comfortable with certain kinds of attention.

Steve edges closer. "Where's it hurt?"

Bucky starts to say that he's fine, but Steve puts his hands on his shoulders.

He tenses on instinct. He's still not used to being touched, not outside of a fight. Steve wasn't expecting that. It's only for a moment though. Steve's hands knead into muscle and Bucky must really hurt, the way he cries out when Steve rubs a spot above his good shoulder. Steve keeps it up and the sounds Bucky makes become moans of relief.

Bucky relaxes into him. It's not like it's the first time Steve has rubbed his shoulders. Bucky used to take on extra work at the docks and come home sore and tired. Steve had to do something for him, especially when the money was for heat they both knew he needed more than Bucky.

The soft, appreciative groans Bucky lets out as Steve finds more sore spots shouldn't be so arousing. Nerves flutter in Steve's stomach, and just like that he makes peace with the fact that he wants to put his hands all over him.

After a few minutes, Bucky slowly turns to him, the warmth of his body half resting against Steve's chest and his grey-blue eyes on Steve's face. Steve's hands fall away. Bucky's waiting for him to say something.

Steve's tongue fails him and the moment stretches. Bucky hides the flash of disappointment in his face by glancing toward the stove.

"Think that's done. You staying?"

Steve nods, but before Bucky can get up, he has a thought and closes a hand over his good shoulder.

"I had an idea for tomorrow night. I was thinking we've pretty much gone through all the places where we used to eat. We should start on the fancy ones where we used to say we'd go if we ever got rich. I'll pick out somewhere nice."

For a moment, Bucky looks at him, then breaks into a real smile.

"Sure. They can't arrest us anymore, right?"

He gets up to finish dinner and Steve's glad no one's there to know Captain America doesn't quite have the courage to ask his own best friend what he meant by that.

**

The fourth time, Bucky has no shame.

They didn't talk about dressing up for dinner, but Bucky answers the door the next night wearing black pants instead of jeans, a black button-up shirt, and a black leather jacket. He smells faintly of cologne and looks stunningly modern, slipping his cell phone into his back pocket, hair fashionably spiked. It's a far cry from the old dress uniform.

Steve never admits it, but he gets tired of wearing blue. Bucky smiles at his earthy green shirt and the pleated khaki pants everyone else makes fun of.

They take the subway. Steve takes him to a seafood restaurant along the Hudson that's been there since the 1890s.

"We always dreamed about trying lobster," He says as he opens the door and gives Bucky the 'after you' motion.

They get a table by the window overlooking the water. Steve put the reservation under 'James' and with a glove on Bucky's left hand they don't have to be Captain America and Bucky Barnes tonight, but while they can take out a HYDRA base and scores of alien creatures with the help of the team, they're a little daunted by fine dining.

Bucky scowls at the wine list. "How am I supposed to know what kind of wine goes with lobster? I can't remember the last time I had wine."

Steve can't either. During the war they mostly had spirits—the way men dealt with the shock and trauma of combat back then.

Their stuffy waiter steps in to helpfully suggest a white German-sounding something or other that gets a steely glare from Bucky. There's no way he'd drink anything German. He ends up with something called Pinot Grigio and makes a show of elegantly raising his glass to Steve the way they did in the old movies. Steve watches as Bucky brings it to his lips, watches him swallow, and when their food arrives he watches how easily Bucky masters the nutcracker and tiny fork to get the meat out.

A couple tables away, two men are sharing dessert. One feeds the other a spoonful of fancy chocolate tart and they look at each other with unabashed love in their eyes.

Steve smiles wistfully and Bucky glances over his shoulder to see what's stolen his attention. Something passes over his face and, hoping he's not reading him all wrong, Steve pushes nervously, "You want dessert?"

They agree on apple caramel crepes, but when the waiter comes, he brings two separate servings. Steve's a little disappointed at the assumption they wouldn't want to share, but he doesn't correct him despite the fact that Bucky looks annoyed.

A couple hours and a hundred and fifty dollars plus tip later, they walk out of there and both of them look at each other a little sheepishly.

"So what'd you think?" Steve asks.

Bucky looks about to say something polite on account of how much Steve paid, but changes his mind. "Honestly? I'm still hungry. I feel like I mostly ate lemon and butter."

Steve laughs. Maybe fine dining just isn't them. There's too much poor kid from Brooklyn and too much soldier in them both. "What about that diner across from the old orphanage? That might be the one place we've skipped. You know, the one where I had an asthma attack in the middle of eating my grilled cheese and you ended up sleeping with the girl who brought me a warm compress—and her friend—that same night."

Bucky eyes him. "Little bitter, Steve?" He glances across the street. "You ever try Russian food?"

He hasn't, but... "I'm the one trying to show you a good time here."

Bucky winks at him. "Gotta tell you what I like for that to happen."

"I thought you'd..." Steve stops. He doesn't want to ruin the night by bringing up something painful.

Bucky reads the thought. "I can talk about it, Steve. I don't hate everything Russian. Come on."

Turns out the place is fairly authentic from what Steve can tell. Little English is spoken and Bucky speaks for both of them in his fluent Russian. He explains the dishes on the menu to Steve and orders the food too. All of it's heavy and filling, and Steve leaves there stuffed and having eaten the best apple pie of his life. He feels a little guilty it's not American.

Walking home helps work off the bloated feeling. "Feels like there's bricks in my stomach," Steve tells Bucky beside him. "Which is saying something." With his metabolism it's hard to keep a super soldier full.

Bucky nods. "Sometimes I would get so involved in tracking my target, I wouldn't eat much for days at a time. I couldn't wait, those few times I got to stop at a restaurant in Moscow, to just go to town. I think that was one thing I remembered from before, that I hated being hungry."

They spent a lot of years being hungry, but Steve smiles because it's just like Bucky to share one of the few comforts he had during such an awful time in his life. Steve puts an arm around him.

"God, what the hell is that?" Bucky laughs five minutes later.

There's an ice cream and frozen yogurt place two blocks from their apartment building and Steve doesn't know what to think that they now have Avengers popsicles in a lit-up display in the window. They only have Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man for now, but Steve is pretty sure the rest will come in good time.

Bucky doesn't seem offended at being left out. He grins at Steve with a spark of mischief in his eyes and then he's taking off into the shop, pulling his wallet out of his back pocket.

"Gotta try Captain America," he tells the girl at the counter.

She giggles. "He's pretty popular, but I'm waiting for Black Widow."

Bucky grins some more at that, pays for the popsicle, and waits until they're out of the place to open it.

"That big enough for you?" is all Steve can say. It's thick around and red at the top, then white and blue.

Bucky's eyes go to his, warm and teasing. "Think I can't handle it?"

He pushes the wrapper down and his lips close around the popsicle's red tip. There's the wet sound of him sucking up the juice as his mouth pulls off it.

Heat stabs right through Steve's groin. Bucky's lips open and now he's taking in more of it, down to the white then all the way to the edge of the blue. His eyes never leave Steve's as his lips slide off it with another wet slurping sound. He swirls his tongue around the tip, licking up the juice.

Steve's cock throbs and he's too warm all over to feel the chill of the night anymore.

They reach their building and it's far too nerve-wracking when they get inside the elevator, closed-in together and alone. Bucky's leans against the side, eyes half closed, lips stained red, casually running his tongue up and down the popsicle's length, licking the juice melting down the sides.

Steve knows Bucky's doing it on purpose, knows the flush to his own cheeks is obvious. He swallows in a dry throat and says, "What does Captain America taste like?"

Bucky grins around the popsicle in his mouth and makes a point of circling his tongue around the tip in another thoughtful lick.

"Kinda sweet." He cocks his head and his blue eyes meet Steve's through his dark lashes. "You taste sweet, Steve?"

That look could melt him—it's melted plenty of girls in the past. Steve's cock pounds so hard it hurts and excitement races through him. It's a little terrifying, but enough is enough and he takes a step forward.

"Why don't you quit playing around and find out?"

Slowly, Bucky lowers the popsicle from his mouth, eyes on Steve's face gauging whether he's serious. His lips are parted, as red as the tip of the popsicle, and wet.

Steve takes another step to show him he means it.

The elevator doors open. Bucky turns. In one motion he's walking out backward and pulling Steve toward him with his metal fingers curled in the front of his shirt. Steve gets an arm around his waist and then Bucky's mouth meets his.

His lips are cold and as wet as they look. They taste like cherry and maybe Steve hasn't kissed nearly as many people as he's fought, not by a longshot, but he knows he's starved all over again tonight and hunger is hunger. Bucky's arm slides around his neck while cold fingers dip into the gap of Steve's shirt as he pulls them toward his apartment.

He has to let go to get his key in the door, but once they're inside Bucky's kissing him again, his tongue just as cold when he slides it into Steve's mouth. He presses Steve against the wall beside the door, presses his hips into him, hard and feeling every inch of how hard Steve is for him.

"You want to?" Bucky kisses along his jaw to the sensitive skin behind Steve's ear, his voice a raspy whisper.

Steve swallows again. It feels surreal, that everything between them has come to this, but if he's being honest with himself he knows he shouldn't be surprised. "Yeah..." Steve breathes out quietly. "But I've never..."

Bucky pulls away to look at him. "At all?"

Steve can feel himself flushing. Everyone thinks that because he's Captain America and has girls after him now he should take what they'll give him because he can, but the modern world isn't half as tolerant of other people's sexuality as they think they are. "Gonna laugh at me?"

"No," Bucky's voice is soft and his eyes are too. "I know what it's like to want things to mean something now." He goes back to kissing him, though he slows down a little. "But you want to, right?" he asks again a second later.

Steve takes his arm from around him. "You gonna ask me twenty times?"

Bucky mutters something muffled against Steve's mouth that might have been "that's not good enough." Steve's got his hands on the collar of Bucky's leather jacket though, pushing it off Bucky's shoulders in case he wasn't clear. Bucky lets it fall behind him and one hand makes quick work of the buttons on Steve's shirt. It's a bit of a relief he's undressing him the old fashioned way, because Steve likes the shirt and they're right next to the knives on the kitchen counter and Steve knews that if Bucky got impatient enough he wouldn't think twice about cutting his clothes off him.

Cold air prickles bare skin as Steve's shirt falls away and then Bucky's turning him around and walking him toward the bedroom with his body pressed against him. He's awful bossy about it and for a moment Steve feels half his size again.

He shoves Steve onto his unmade bed, still holding the popsicle. Bucky crawls on top of him, gently traces the cold tip of it over Steve's lips only to pull it away to kiss the cherry taste off his mouth. Bucky kisses his neck and his throat. Steve groans, closing his eyes. He jerks and throws his head back at the icy shock of the popsicle tracing his nipple. Laughing, Bucky slides down and laps the juice with little flicks of his tongue. He drags the popsicle across his chest and does the same to the other nipple until Steve is arching up from the bed and biting back moans.

Bucky gets his pants open with one hand. Before Steve knows it, he's wriggling on the bed helping Bucky get his jeans and his underware past his hips, freeing his aching cock from the confining fabric. The popsicle slides in a painfully slow trail down his stomach. Bucky's mouth and his tongue follow. Steve's body tightens and in the next moment his head is trashing to one side and his hips raise up off the bed, cold popsicle sliding along the underside of his cock.

It's not right, but Steve wracks his mind for whether any of the old files mentioned the Winter Soldier being skilled in torture. This sure feels like the best kind of torture.

Bucky's mouth scorches in contrast to the cold, closing around him. His lips wrap tight, just as soft on Steve's throbbing cock as he imagined. He sucks up juice along the length of him and licks it over and over from the tip until Steve is clawing the sheets with one hand and Bucky's hair with the other.

It's embarrassing, and he wants to blame the toxin that's still tiring him, but Steve doesn't last long. Bucky's metal hand curls around his cock and strokes him while he sucks him and before Steve knows it he's seeing white behind his eyes and shuddering.

For a long time, he just lies there catching his breath, pants halfway to his knees and melted popsicle all over him. In those euphoric moments the things that weigh him down from day to day stop mattering so much.

Bucky stretches out beside him, popsicle carelessly shoved into an empty coffee mug by the bed. He's still fully dressed, if not wrinkled, and tracing the curves of that warm soft mouth that was just around his cock with his eyes makes Steve want to do things to him he doesn't even know how to do.

Steve edges closer and reaches for the top button on Bucky's shirt. "What about you?" His fingers move uncertainly. He hasn't thought about it until now, but he's not sure how comfortable Bucky is being touched.

Bucky gives him that crooked grin though. "How far you gonna let me go?"

Excitement stirs Steve's cock all over again that there's no limits here. He works open another button and then another, looking into his eyes.

"As far as you want."

Bucky's smile is everything Steve was afraid he'd never see again when things were bad months ago, and then some. His human hand comes up to cup Steve's jaw and he kisses him, slow and with soft sounds while Steve opens his shirt the rest of the way and peels it off him.

Steve runs a hand along Bucky's bare side and around to his chest, lightly circling a nipple with his fingertip to see if Bucky likes that. He lets out a muffled groan against Steve's lips and shudders when Steve rolls it between his thumb and forefinger. Steve's hands wander to Bucky's belt to unfasten his pants, but just as Bucky shifts to get on top of him, Steve pushes him back and sits up.

"On second thought, before I find out how far that is, I think I should clean some of this off me. I wouldn't wanna get your bed sticky with popsicle juice."

He smiles as sweetly and helpfully as he can manage and climbs out of bed. Bucky's long, frustrated intake of breath couldn't have been more satisfying. Steve grins at the thought of how uncomfortable he must be, lying there rock hard. Just like Steve for a whole night after the banana.

Some payback is in order.

He takes his time removing his shoes and socks, stuffing the socks neatly inside the shoes, and tucking them under the bed. He smiles at Bucky over his shoulder.

"Wouldn't want either of us to trip on them."

Bucky just glares.

"You want your shoes off too? Maybe I should go hang your jacket..."

"Steve..." Bucky is losing his patience, which is what he deserves.

Steve carefully removes his belt and makes a point of having to lay it just so on the dresser. His pants are next. Facing away from Bucky, he pulls them off one leg at a time, holds them up, shakes out the wrinkles... All the while, he can feel Bucky's eyes on him, moving over his body. Steve turns his head to grin at him.

"Enjoying the view, Buck?" He bends over on purpose and steps out of his underwear. Bucky mutters something and Steve keeps on grinning, walking naked out of the room. "It's all you're going to get until I'm done," he calls from the hall. "And I really feel like I should take my time cleaning up this sticky mess. You can't say you don't have it coming—you know, for the popsicle, and the banana."

"The banana was Clint!" Bucky yells after him.

Pretending not to hear, Steve peeks back into the room. "Do you have any bubble bath? I might want to relax a little while too."

With a very loud sigh, Bucky yanks himself out of bed and storms toward him. He slams open a closet door in the hall and shoves a box of wet wipes into Steve's arms, but not before he tears one out with his metal hand and advances on Steve with it. He looks so menacing and determined, it's on the tip of Steve's tongue to sarcastically ask how many people Bucky's killed with one of those, but he would never...

Bucky puts the box back on the shelf and pretty much attacks him with the thing, wiping Steve's chest and stomach and even his cock. Steve grabs the wipe from him. He doesn't need Bucky to do it for him.

Bucky shakes his head.

"I wouldn't have to clean you up like a baby if you'd get back in that bed like a grown-up."

It's the ghost of so many fights they've had in the past when Steve didn't listen about getting into fights alone or not getting out of bed when he was supposed to rest that emotion swells in Steve's chest and he has a sudden desire to clutch Bucky as hard as he can without crushing him. He throws the wet wipe to the floor and his hands go to Bucky's waist.

Bucky runs a hand along the back of Steve's neck and slides it in his hair, pulling him into a kiss. "Come on," he says against his mouth. "I'm just gonna get you all sticky again anyway."

"I'm a little nervous," Steve admits a few moments and some rough hauling back into the bedroom later, sprawled naked on his back with Bucky on top of him.

Bucky looks up from sucking the side of his neck where it meets his shoulder. "Just gotta trust me," he murmurs and then his soft mouth is on Steve's again. "And we're gonna use a lot of this." Opening the nightstand drawer, he pulls out a bottle of something called "Silk Glide."

Steve's already hard again, but now he's gone from basking in the warmth of Bucky's mouth on his skin to wanting to fast-forward to the part where Bucky's gliding slick inside him. His brain isn't working well enough to think about when he started wanting that.

"Have you done this before?" Steve doesn't know why he keeps talking.

"Not with a guy," Bucky mouths along his collarbone while Steve runs a hand through his hair. "But... I always wanted to try it."

He does a little more than try it. Bucky kisses down his body and his stubble tickles the inside of Steve's thigh. His legs fall open for him and Bucky's tongue is torture on his balls and lower, circling his asshole like there's no part of him that could possibly be dirty. It's strange, lying back loving the feeling of Bucky taking care of him again without the anger at his weakling self for being less. Steve thinks it's what they both need.

Bucky's cock feels even better than his tongue once he finally gets inside him. He starts out slow, in a rolling rhythm, letting Steve get used to him. His hips speed up and Steve throws his head back as the bed creaks softly beneath them. It feels so good Steve's afraid he'll burst too soon, but Bucky slows down to careful, deep strokes, dragging him back from the edge, drawing it out. When that's too good to stand he speeds up again, thrusting fast and steady until Steve's crying out like he's going crazy.

Before long Bucky's on his knees, holding one of Steve's legs bent in the air. Steve's fingers dig into his hip, his other hand around his own cock and they're panting together, Bucky staring down at him, supporting his weight on his metal arm, giving it to Steve good and hard.

They lie there grinning at each other afterward, like they've really gotten away with something and maybe Bucky's a little smug at how brainless and boneless he's left Steve in the wake of it. Steve will have to do something about that some other time. With the toxin still in him, he's worn out for now.

Bucky cleans himself up with one of the wet wipes he brought in the bedroom. Steve does the same as best he can between the lube and popsicle juice. When they're done, Bucky pulls the comforter over them both and says, "Was it that hard? Telling me this was what you wanted? Thought we were best friends."

Steve frowns down at the covers, feeling a little like a coward because he knows he's had plenty of opportunities lately. But it wasn't just because he was afraid to. "I just thought after everything you've been through maybe you wanted to have some fun, like you used to."

Natasha, maybe Clint, and what's-her-name the junior SHIELD agent weren't the whole of it though. No matter what people tell him, Steve will never stop blaming himself for everything that's happened to Bucky and it's hard to get past the feeling that he doesn't have the right to ask for any more from him.

Even after coming his brains out, Bucky's not stupid. He reads the thought and slides closer.

"I'm having fun right now," he says gently. He lays his head on Steve's shoulder and drapes an arm across him, curling warm and close.

Steve smiles down at him, tentatively wrapping an arm around him and bringing a hand up to stroke Bucky's dark hair. "You like to cuddle?"

He's teasing—Bucky could be cold for all he knows—but Bucky grins and his hair tickles Steve's jaw when he nods.

"It's the best part."

Steve settles both arms around him. Now that's one thing he never knew about his best friend.

**

The fifth time is the last straw.

Steve wakes striped in sunlight from the window above the bed, hot under the comforter with Bucky sprawled against his chest. He barely turns his head to check the clock on the nightstand, but the movement is enough to startle Bucky awake. His eyes jerk open and in a flash he's on all fours, metal hand darting for whatever weapon he's stashed under the pillows. He blinks though, sees Steve, and lies back down again, letting out a sound halfway between relief and an embarrassed laugh.

"I wasn't gonna kill you."

It's a weak joke, but that's them. Steve smiles. He's not proud of himself for being happy about it, but it's obvious that since getting his mind back Bucky hasn't woken with someone in his bed very often.

Bucky stretches and then he's shifting on top of him, pressing a slow kiss to the hollow of Steve's throat.

"You're an idiot."

It's Steve's turn to blink. "I just woke up."

Bucky continues kissing a line up his throat, all the way to his jaw. He's draped on top of Steve, heat pressing everywhere. "We coulda been doing this years ago."

He sounds genuinely miffed about it, even as his mouth settles on the side of Steve's neck and he rubs his entire body against him. Steve's cock stiffens instantly to attention and his hands go to Bucky's hips, encouraging him to keep the friction up.

"Well why didn't you think of it? You were the one with all the 'needs'."

Bucky snorts, a tickle on the delicate skin of Steve's neck. He nuzzles and kisses behind Steve's ear. "Never said I was the smart one, just that you were dumb."

Steve closes his arms around him and flips them over so he's looking down at Bucky against the pillows. His dark hair is a mess and his eyes glitter, the mouth that's been causing Steve so much trouble lately slightly open and pink. Steve doesn't try and hide the fact that he's admiring him.

"Right now I'm kind of thinking you're the pretty one."

He leans down and takes advantage of the fact that he's free to kiss that mouth with all its perfect curves now. He's getting pretty confident about the kissing part.

Bucky's fingers tangle in Steve's hair, eager and hungry—feelings that can't be held back now that they've finally been let free. He grinds up against Steve, his cock hard and the tip wet against the inside of Steve's thigh. It only makes Steve harder. He can feel Bucky inside him from last night and though what they're doing isn't a risk anymore, Steve feels like being daring.

He's still slick with lubricant, but he grabs the bottle from the nightstand anyway, pours the stuff on his hand, and slides his fist up and down Bucky's cock. It's thick and hard in his grip like when he touches himself, but then Bucky lets out a sharp groan that shivers over Steve's body, and it's nothing like touching himself at all.

Bucky's eyes burn hot with anticipation, fixed on him. He tries to slide out from under Steve so he can take over doing all the work, but Steve pins him flat with a hand on his chest. He straddles Bucky's hips and takes his cock in one hand, easing himself onto it.

Bucky lips open with a helpless sound. His hands clutch at Steve's ass, urging him to move. Steve holds his shoulders and rolls his hips. He's not sure whether this is still revenge for everything from the breadstick to the popsicle or him trying to prove he can hold his own after last night, but before long Bucky's head is tipped back and he's calling Steve's name, metal fingers clenching and bruising.

He clutches Steve to his chest when it's over, both of them sweaty and panting.

"Always liked it when they got on top," Bucky grins at him as soon as he catches his breath.

Steve laughs, then angles his head to kiss Bucky on the mouth. It's lazy and goes on for a while. "This feels right," Steve says when they break apart.

Bucky gives Steve's ass a squeeze with his metal hand where he's still inside him. "Damn right it does."

"I meant you and me."

That shuts Bucky up and all he can do is smile stupidly and nod. Steve kisses him again until Bucky pushes him back.

"Get off me. I want breakfast now. Sex makes me hungry."

By habit, Steve almost says he didn't need to know that, but he supposes now he does.

Bucky grabs his pants and his keys to go down to the bakery on the corner. Steve takes the opportunity to treat himself to a nice, long shower. When he comes out of the bathroom, it's to the smell of cinnamon and something sweet.

Bucky's standing in the kitchen with a churro in hand, a bag of them on the counter beside two coffees in white styrofoam cups. Bucky's taken the lid off his and it's close to overflowing, topped with a huge puff of whipped cream. He grins at Steve and dips the tip of the churro into the cup.

He slides it slowly between his lips while Steve watches, smearing whipped cream on his mouth.

Steve clears his throat. He's already warm from the shower and doesn't need the room getting any hotter.

"I thought we were past this."

Bucky tilts his head and makes a point of licking whipped cream from the tip of the churro before putting it in his mouth again.

Steve's cock starts to throb now that he knows how good Bucky's tongue and the heat of his mouth feel. He wants more than that now though. If he keeps letting Bucky get away with doing this to him who knows where it will stop—team meetings, the middle of a battle...? Some Captain America he would be if he didn't stand up and fight back.

He doesn't give Bucky the chance to do any more suggestive licking. In a blink, Steve is on him, lifting him off the ground and swinging him around in his arms for good measure.

"Look what I can do, Buck." He grins with his chin on Bucky's shoulder. They both know the metal arm makes Bucky a good fifty pounds heavier.

Bucky's predictable. He struggles and grumbles and falls right into the plan. "Hey, put me down."

Steve sets him on the counter, pressing in between his thighs and ducking his head to capture his mouth. His lips taste like cinnamon and sugar and sweetened coffee and his tongue does too when Steve's tongue pushes between his lips. His hands sneak down to open Bucky's pants and get his cock out.

Bucky knows what he wants and pushes him back with both hands on his shoulders.

"Given where my dick's just been, I'd better shower first."

He has a point and Steve lets him go. "You've got five minutes."

Bucky huffs a laugh, but Steve's a little proud he doesn't ask "or what?" He salutes and hurries into the bathroom.