Actions

Work Header

A Game Show Love Connection

Chapter Text

Bucky’s been a producer for Jeopardy for going on five years now, an executive producer for the last two, and he’s had some very strange days in his tenure at the game show. But today? Today takes the fucking cake.

Bucky’s sitting at his desk going over some numbers when his phone begins to ring. He sighs heavily before taking the call on his ever-present headset, pinching the bridge of his nose at the sound of his nervous intern.

“Uh, Mr. Barnes?” the voice asks, hesitant as always. Bucky rolls his eyes. He doesn’t have the time or the patience to babysit today.

“Kid, I don’t know how many times I’ve told you that you can just call me Bucky,” Bucky says, unable to completely mask his irritation. “What kind of non-crisis you got for me this time?”

“Well, um,” Peter’s voice is uncertain, and Bucky leans back in his chair as he listens, praying that the kid will just tell him about whatever molehill he’s making into a mountain today and get it over with already. “I’ve got this potential contestant on the phone for the initial vetting process and it’s, um. It’s weird.”

“What’s weird?” Bucky snaps, pushing an errant lock of hair that’s fallen from his sloppy bun behind his ear. “Look, Peter, I’ve told you this a million times: If they sound too strange, you can just go through the standard questions and then email them that the producers haven’t selected them for the next stage in the process. It’s no big deal.”

“It’s not that,” Peter replies, his voice even and confident for the first time in the month or so that he’s been reporting to Bucky. “The guy seems fine. Pleasant, even. See, I thought he made a mistake typing out the date when he registered to take the test because there’s no way the guy’s almost a hundred. He sounds too young. But he keeps insisting that his birthday is July 4, 1918.”

Bucky exhales through his nose, annoyance shifting from his intern to the idiot on the phone wasting the kid’s time. “Did you happen to catch this practical joker’s name, Peter?”

“Of course,” Peter chirps. “He says his name is Steven Grant Rogers.”

Bucky’s trying to process the level of gall it would take for someone to impersonate Captain America when Peter asks, “What should I do?”

“Transfer the call,” Bucky replies, his voice taking on an edge that the majority of his coworkers know better than to argue with. “I’ll deal with it.”

Bucky pauses, waiting for the click that signifies the transfer before speaking in his most professional voice.

“Bucky Barnes, ABC Network’s Jeopardy,” he says. “To whom am I speaking?”

“Afternoon, Bucky Barnes,” a deep, amused voice answers him, and Bucky has to admit that Peter was right. The guy does sound pleasant. Sexy, even. Bucky shakes his head, willing the thought away. The guy’s impersonating a war hero and an Avenger for Christ’s sake.

The man on the line continues, “I’m Steve Rogers. Pleasure to be talking with you.”

“You as well, Mr. Rogers,” Bucky says, rolling his eyes to keep the sarcasm bubbling just below the surface out of his tone.

“Please, call me Steve,” the man replies, and Bucky laughs politely, trying not to grind his teeth.

Because as pleasant as this guy sounds, he’s still wasting Bucky’s time.

“All right, Steve,” Bucky says, “I’m an executive producer here at Jeopardy, and one of my interns called me because it seems we’ve got a bit of an issue. See, it looks like you might have made a mistake with your birth year when you were filling out the information for the selection test. Maybe flipped a couple of the digits?”

“Oh, no,” Steve says, and Bucky swears he can hear the grin in this asshole’s voice. “It’s correct.”

“Really?” Bucky asks, trying to keep any bite out of his voice just yet. “You didn’t mean to type in 1981?”

“Nope,” Steve chirps, and Bucky kind of wishes the guy was standing here in his office so that he could take a swing. “My birthday’s July 4, 1918. I’m that Steve Rogers.”

Bucky sighs, slumping over his desk. The idiot’s committed to the prank, Bucky’ll give him that much.

“You know what, pal?” Bucky exhales, massaging his temples. “I really don’t have time for this shit, but my Skype username is jbbarnes0310. You wanna be on the show? You give me a call there and prove you’re that Steve Rogers.”

Bucky ends the call, then lets out a groan and allows his head to rest against the cool, dark wood of his desk. He starts when he hears a tentative knock on his door.

“Come in,” Bucky calls, lifting his head slightly to see who’s walking through the threshold.

“H-hey, Mr. Barn- Bucky,” Peter stammers with a small smile. “Take care of that problem?”

Bucky snorts, letting his head fall back to his desk as Peter drops into one of the chairs before him.

“Yeah, I took care of it, Parker,” Bucky replies. “Honestly, pretending to be Captain fucking America. Some people, huh?”

“It is pretty ridiculous,” Peter replies with a soft chuckle. “I mean, the real Steve Rogers has to have better things to do than audition to be on Jeopardy, right?”

Bucky barks out a laugh as he looks up at his intern, shaking his head.

“You’d think so,” Bucky says. “The man’s out saving the world every other week for god’s sake. Anyway, I doubt we’ll have any more trouble with our practical joker. I told him he’d have to call me through Skype if he really wanted to-”

Bucky’d be amused at the way Peter’s eyes widen as the Skype tone indicating he has a video call begins to play if he weren’t so fucking surprised himself. Bucky looks up at the screen, stunned by the caller’s username - StarSpangledMan. The avatar’s a photo of Steve Rogers, and it looks casual enough to be an actual candid.

Jesus Christ, Bucky knows people less committed to careers and significant others than this guy is to his asinine joke.

“Peter,” Bucky’s voice is low and controlled, but he can feel his left eye twitching as he addresses the intern. “If you could please excuse me while I take this call?”

Peter nods solemnly before booking it out of the office. Bucky can’t say as he blames him.

“All right, pal,” Bucky begins after clicking to answer the call, dragging his eyes up to glare at the dick who’s making this day much more annoying than it needs to be. “I have had just about enough of your bullsh-”

Bucky’s voice dies in his throat because holy shit, it is that Steve Rogers.

Bucky’s breath catches a little at the sight before him, partly because he’s surprised, but also because Steve Rogers is maybe the most stunning man he’s ever seen.

“Hey, Bucky,” Steve waves at him, blue eyes bright as he smiles, and Jesus Christ this is the weirdest fucking day of Bucky’s life.

“Well,” Bucky croaks as he runs a hand across his face, not bothering to hide his bewilderment as he gazes at the Adonis on his computer screen. “I suppose I owe you an apology, Captain.”


 

Steve’s in the middle of briefing the team on an upcoming mission when his cell begins to vibrate against the table. His brow furrows as he looks down at the screen. It’s a number he doesn’t recognize from Culver City, California.

Natasha’s sitting beside him, craning her neck to get a better glimpse of Steve’s phone, and she glances up at him with a grin once she gets a look at the location from which the call is coming.

“Better answer that, Steve,” Nat says. “I think Culver City is where they film Jeopardy.”

Steve’s eyes widen as he picks up the phone, just staring at it for a moment before sliding his thumb across the screen to answer the call.

“Wait a minute,” Tony hisses, careful to keep his voice low so that Steve can carry on a conversation.

“Hello, this is Steve,” Steve answers, listening to a young man introduce himself as Peter Parker, an intern at the studio where they film Jeopardy, while trying not to laugh at Tony’s shocked expression.

“You actually took the test?” Tony continues in a fierce whisper, huffing as Steve nods. “Why didn’t you tell all of us?”

Steve just shrugs, his grin wide as Peter congratulates him on being selected as a potential contestant and asks him if he has a few minutes to go over his information and answer a couple of quick questions so that Peter can get the approval process started.

“Sure, I have a few minutes, Peter,”  Steve replies, biting down on his lip to keep a chuckle at bay as Tony drops his head to the table with an indignant, “Are you fucking kidding me right now?”

Steve glances around at the rest of the team as Peter rattles off Steve’s full name and date of birth. Natasha and Sam are all smiles, which is no surprise since they were the ones who got him into Jeopardy in the first place. Clint is shaking with silent laughter as he watches Tony bang his head lightly against the table.

“Mr. Rogers, is this birth date correct?” Peter asks, and Steve shakes his head, resolving to pay closer attention to Peter for the duration of their conversation. “Because you, uh, you don’t really sound that old, sir.”

Steve huffs out a soft laugh. “Yes, Peter, that’s when I was born. And you can call me Steve.”

“Sure, Steve,” Peter says, sounding a little unsure. “And it’s really 1918? You didn’t make a mistake typing it in?”

“Nope,” Steve replies. “1918 is the correct year.”

“So, um,” Peter continues, voice climbing in pitch with each word spoken. “Steven Grant Rogers, born July 4, 1918? That would make you, um, that would make you-”

“Captain America,” Steve finishes the sentence for the kid since he doesn’t seem to be able to believe who he’s talking to. Steve guesses he’d probably feel the same if he were in Peter’s position right now.

“Could you, um,” Peter stammers, and Steve can hear the kid shuffling papers over the line. “C-could you please hold for a moment, Mr. Rog- Steve?”

“Sure thing, Peter,” Steve replies, unable to keep a grin from his face. The Jeopardy theme begins to play and Steve figures he has a second to address his team while he’s on hold, setting the phone to speaker as he waits.

“So, it looks like I might be a contestant on Jeopardy,” Steve says, laughing as Sam and Nat whoop loudly and Clint applauds. “Although, that’s assuming they don’t think this is some kind of elaborate prank. Kid on the phone’s having trouble believing it’s actually me.”

“I can’t believe you didn’t tell us all that you were taking the test, Rogers,” Tony grumbles, but he’s smiling now. “The whole point of this Jeopardy thing was for us to help with your transition into this century and you didn’t even let us offer you some moral support?”

Steve shakes his head with a smirk, and then asks, “Would you believe I was nervous about it and didn’t want everyone to know if I failed?”

Tony runs his hands through his thick, dark hair, tugging gently on the strands. “Steve, you’re a super soldier and a war hero who survived 70 years on ice and who helps this team literally save the world on a regular basis, and you thought somebody in this room would think less of you if you didn’t make it onto Jeopardy?”

“Well, it sounds silly when you put it that way, doesn’t it?”  Steve says, pausing as the music stops. “Hang on a sec, I think I’m about to be off hold.”

“Bucky Barnes, ABC Network’s Jeopardy,” a deeper voice comes through Steve’s speaker, and Steve guesses Peter must have gotten a supervisor involved. “To whom am I speaking?”

Steve wonders if this guy looks as good as he sounds because his slightly raspy voice has Steve fighting off a shudder. He hopes that if he manages to get onto the game show that he’ll get to meet this man in person to find out.

“Afternoon, Bucky Barnes,” Steve answers. “I’m Steve Rogers. Pleasure to be talking with you.”

“You as well, Mr. Rogers,” Bucky says, and Steve grins at the forced politeness he hears in Bucky’s tone. Clearly he thinks Steve’s some asshole pretending to be Captain America for a laugh.

“Please, call me Steve,” he tells Bucky, pressing a finger to his lips as Sam snickers off to his left. If anybody breaks into full-on laughter, Steve will switch the call off speaker, but he figures his team’ll get a kick out of this.

Bucky proceeds to tell Steve that he’s an excutive producer at Jeopardy and that it looks like Steve might have made a mistake and switched a couple of digits around in his birth year. Steve smiles as he assures the man that no mistake was made.

“Really?” Bucky asks, and Steve can tell the other man is equal parts surprised and annoyed, but he’s doing a damn good job of trying to keep it in check. “You didn’t mean to type in 1981?”

“Nope,” Steve replies. “My birthday’s July 4, 1918. I’m that Steve Rogers.”

There’s a pause, and Steve has a feeling that Bucky’s patience must have run out. Hell, Steve gets it. If he were on the other end of this phone call, he’d probably think this was some sort of stupid joke too.

“You know what, pal?” Bucky sighs. “I really don’t have time for this shit, but my Skype username is jbbarnes0310. You wanna be on the show? You give me a call there and prove you’re that Steve Rogers.”

Steve barks out a laugh once he realizes the call’s ended, then looks up at his friends.

“So which one of you wants to teach me how to use Skype?” he asks, and Tony snorts.

“I started setting up an account for you as soon as he mentioned it,” Tony says, tapping away at his laptop for a moment before sliding it toward Steve. “I took the liberty of coming up with a really great username for you and everything.”

Steve looks down to see his photo beside the moniker StarSpangledMan and chuckles as he runs a hand through his hair. “You’re a shit, Tony.”

“Back atcha, Rogers,” Tony replies with a smirk. “Now call the producer back and get your ass on that show so we can all tell Fury we need to take a couple days off to support our fearless leader.”

Steve shakes his head and types in the username Bucky gave him, tapping his fingers impatiently against the table as he waits.

“All right, pal,” Bucky answers the call a few moments later, and Steve’s heart begins to beat a little faster as big, blue-gray eyes snap up to meet his. “I have had just about enough of your bullsh-”

And Steve is absolutely floored by this gorgeous man who’s staring at him as though he’s got six heads. The last time he felt this blindsided, it was because of another beautiful person with dark hair, a sharp, direct gaze, and a no-nonsense attitude.

Fuck, Steve thinks. I am in big trouble here.

Somehow, Steve manages to keep his head, smiling and waving at the other man, though he’s unable to hold back a chuckle as Bucky begins to apologize.


 

Steve laughs at what must be an absolutely thunderstruck look on Bucky’s face, and Bucky wonders how much nicer it would sound in person as it floats through his laptop’s speakers.

“No need for an apology,” Steve smiles, batting his long, dark eyelashes in a way that seems almost flirtatious. But that can’t be, Bucky thinks.

“This is nothin’, really,” Steve continues. “You shoulda seen what I had to go through in terms of paperwork when they first pulled me outta the ice.”

“I, uh,” Bucky says with a grin, surprised by the Steve’s easy-going nature. “I cannot even begin to imagine. The DMV’s bad enough under normal circumstances.”

There’s a brief pause, and then Bucky clears his throat and says, “Well, uh, since you called me, I guess you and I better go through the preliminary vetting phase. Although, I gotta be honest, Rogers, if you really want to be on the show, I doubt a single person involved with it will even attempt to stop you.”

“Oh?” Steve asks, tilting his head to the side in a way that reminds Bucky of a golden retriever puppy. “And why is that?”

It’s unfair, Bucky muses, for a grown-ass man to be so goddamn cute.

“Well,” Bucky pauses for a moment to give himself a fighting chance of recovering from this adorable display of curiosity, “You’re kind of a big deal, you know? I can’t begin to imagine the kind of ratings we might expect if you agreed to participate.”

Bucky’s pretty sure he hears soft snickers in the background at that and wonders who else is in the room with Steve.

“Using me for my fame,” Steve sighs, throwing his hands into the air, but Bucky sees nothing except amusement when Steve’s beautiful eyes meet his again.

Bucky has to bite his lip to keep his laughter from bubbling up and out of him, and is it just his imagination or are Steve’s eyes now trained squarely on his mouth?

Definitely just your imagination, Bucky thinks as Steve’s gaze drifts back up to his own. And even if it isn’t, do not be an idiot about this, Barnes. He’s Captain fucking America and you’re an overworked slob of a producer who hasn’t eaten a vegetable in three days. Just because he came out as bi on Ellen last year doesn’t mean he’s flirting with you.

“Can you blame me, Captain?” Bucky teases, leaning back in his chair with a smirk. “Part of my job is to make sure people are watching the show. Now, you ready to finish going over the information you provided us and answer a couple of questions, or have you decided to take your notoriety over to the clowns at Wheel of Fortune?”

“And sully my reputation?” Steve mock-gasps, a hand clutching at his impressive chest. “How dare you, sir.”

Bucky laughs as Steve continues, “But would it be all right if I took a rain check? I’m briefing my team at the moment.”

Bucky jerks back in his chair because apparently the hushed giggles he’d heard earlier were the other fucking Avengers.

“Uh,” Bucky nods as he speaks. “Yeah, Steve, that’s fine. You can just, um, call me back on this if you want. Or I could give you my cell. You know, in case I’m not in my office for whatever reason.”

“Sam, can I borrow your pen and your notebook real quick,” Steve asks as he glances away from the screen, turning his attention back to Bucky a moment later. “Ok, go ahead and give me your cell.”

Bucky recites his number and hangs up after a quick goodbye, a hysterical bray of laughter leaving him as he drops his head into his hands.

“Bucky?”

Bucky looks up and sees Peter peering sheepishly through his door. He motions the kid into the room, then pulls open the bottom left drawer of his desk and removes a bottle of Glenfiddich.

“I need a drink,” Bucky says with a tired smile as he sets the booze down. “You wanna join me so I don’t feel like a fuckin’ degenerate knockin’ one back at two in the afternoon?”


 

“All right,” Steve says about an hour after the Skype call, his gaze sweeping the other Avengers. “Now that we’ve got that squared away, I’ve got a phone call to make.”

Tony snickers as Clint smirks and asks, “What, no speakerphone or Skype with the team so we can listen to you try to flirt?”

Steve can feel a flush rise to his cheeks as he huffs out a laugh.

“I have no idea what you’re talkin’ about, Barton,” Steve says.

Sam leans back in his chair, arms crossed as he glances over at Natasha. The two of them smile knowingly, and Steve would kind of like to smack them both upside the head.

“You were,” Sam begins.

“Definitely flirting with him before,” Natasha finishes with that sly smirk of hers, and Steve curses his fair skin for betraying his embarrassment.

It’s not like the team isn’t aware that Steve’s bisexual– hell, they’ve been nothing but supportive–  but he’s always been a little shy when it comes to romance.

“Do you think he noticed?” Steve asks, rubbing the back of his neck. “God, I didn’t make a total fool of myself, did I?”

“Rogers,” Tony rolls his eyes. “Even if the guy is straight– unlikely, since he was definitely flirting too– I doubt he’d be anything but flattered considering you’re Captain America.”

Steve barks out a laugh as he heads for the door of the conference room where they hold their meetings.

“Just because your ego is roughly the size of Australia doesn’t mean everybody’s is, Stark.”

“You wound me, Captain,” Tony sighs, pretending to swoon.

Steve shakes his head as he exits the room, the sound of his team’s laughter following him.

Steve fidgets as he rides the elevator up to his apartment in Avengers Tower, his mind focused on the cell in his back pocket. He breathes deeply, reminding himself that he’s just calling Bucky back to go over some information. No big deal.

Still, his heart is in his throat as he dials and waits. Bucky picks up after the first ring, which makes Steve absurdly happy. He does his best to tamp his excitement down, but there’s nothing for it.

“Bucky Barnes,” Bucky answers, and for a moment, Steve considers just hanging up the phone and giving up on the whole Jeopardy thing. What if his audition is terrible and the producers don’t think he’s good enough to be on the show?  What if he bombs during the actual competition? It wouldn’t have been a big deal if he was just Steve Rogers, but he hasn’t been just Steve Rogers since 1943.

“Hello?” Bucky asks. “Anybody there? Can you hear me?”

Ah, fuck it, Steve thinks. He’s got a life outside the ice now; he might as well live it.

“Hey, Bucky,” Steve says. “It’s Steve Rogers again. Now an okay time to go over my information?”

“Steve, hey!” Bucky exclaims, his voice so warm that Steve feels a bit light-headed. “Glad you called. Yeah, let’s do this so we can schedule an actual audition for you. I mentioned you passing the test to a couple of the higher-ups, and they’re dying to get you on the show.”

Steve chuckles, running a hand through his hair. “And you?”

Steve winces a little at his overtly playful tone, but he’s rewarded with a laugh from Bucky.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to meeting Captain America and getting him on the show,” Bucky replies. “And not just because it’ll be a fucking bonanza for ratings.”

Steve heads to the kitchen to grab a beer and asks, “That so, Barnes? Not just after me for my notoriety, then?”

“Well, as I mentioned earlier, it certainly doesn’t hurt,” Bucky teases, and Steve snorts a little at that as he twists the cap off a bottle and leans against his kitchen counter. “But I can’t deny that meeting a living legend is a cool prospect. Now, why don’t we go over your information quick so I can let you get back to protecting the world?”

Steve agrees and Bucky reads off all of the information Steve had provided when he’d signed up to take the test. It doesn’t take long, and Steve’s almost wishing there was more so that the two of them could continue talking.

“All right, that wraps that up,” Bucky says, and Steve can hear the faint clicking of a keyboard on Bucky’s end. “Now, I’m going to send you a form where you provide five anecdotes that we can use during filming. You know, the bit after the first commercial break where Trebek asks everybody about some goofy story they have?”

“I’m familiar, yeah,” Steve replies. “You need an email address?”

“Please,” Bucky replies, then, much to Steve’s amusement, stammers out, “Unless, uh, unless you don’t have an email? I mean, I can- I can fax it. Or mail it. Whatever’s easiest for you.”

“Bucky,” Steve laughs. “I’ve been living in the twenty-first century for a while now. Adapting’s been the name of the game.”

“God, I’m such an idiot,” Bucky huffs. “I’m so sorry; of course you've had to adjust to all the new shit. I didn’t mean to insult you or anything, Steve.”

“No need to apologize, Bucky,” Steve says as moves away from the counter and heads toward his living room. “It was actually very thoughtful of you not to assume I had an email address given my situation.”

Steve settles onto his couch and puts his feet up on the coffee table, crossing his legs as Bucky’s nervous chuckle floats through his phone.

“Well, I’m glad you see it that way,” Bucky says, and Steve wonders if maybe he’s biting his lip the way he’d done on their Skype call earlier. Just thinking about Bucky’s teeth sinking into that plump bottom lip of his has Steve a little hot under the collar.

“Steve?”

“Yeah?” Steve shakes himself a little to refocus on Bucky.

“Could you, uh, give me your email address, then?” Bucky asks, and Steve’s glad Bucky’s 3,000 miles or so away and that he can’t see the blush blooming on Steve’s cheeks.

“Oh, yeah, sorry,” Steve says, reciting his email and listening to Bucky type it out. It hits Steve again that he’s really doing this. He’s really going to fly out to California and audition for a game show and put himself out there for the world to see in a non-life-threatening situation.

It’s both terrifying and exhilarating, and it’s been a while since Steve’s felt this alive without staring down some sort of imminent threat.

That, Steve thinks, is probably something that should concern him more than it does.


 

“Well, Steve,” Bucky begins, leaning back in his chair, his eyes flicking over the information on his computer screen. “I’m glad we took care of that, and I’d like to apologize again for my rudeness earlier this afternoon.”

There’s a beat before Steve replies, and Bucky hears a soft swallow on the other end. Bucky grins as he pictures Steve sprawled out on a couch just relaxing at home.

“Thank you, Bucky, but really, I get it,” Steve replies. “I’d’ve probably reacted the same way if I were in your shoes.”

There’s another moment of silence as Bucky contemplates what he’s about to say next. He doesn’t want to pry, but he’s so curious…

“Can I, uh,” Bucky hesitates for a second, and then presses on. “Can I ask you somethin’, Steve?”

“Shoot,” Steve answers.

“How the hell did a guy like you get so into Jeopardy that you actually took the test to be on the show?”

Steve laughs at that, and Bucky can hardly blame him.

“Well, my friends Sam and Natasha got me into watching the show,” Steve explains. “They thought it would be kind of a fun way for me to start catching up on some of the stuff I’ve missed. More engaging than just scrolling through endless news stories and Wikipedia articles.”

“Yeah, I guess I could see that,” Bucky replies. “Uh, when you say Sam and Natasha, do you mean, uh, Falcon and Black Widow?”

“Yup, that’s them,” Steve replies, matter-of-fact as can be.

Bucky lets that sink in, trying to wrap his head around the fact that there are apparently superheroes who watch Jeopardy in their downtime as Steve continues.

“Well, after a couple of weeks of watching, Tony-”

“Tony Stark?” Bucky bleats.

“The one and only,” Steve replies and Bucky can practically hear the other man’s eye roll. “Tony told me that you guys had a website with practice tests, so I started doing those from time to time just to see how much I was picking up from the show and my own research. And after a couple of months, I was doing a pretty solid job of remembering a lot of the stuff I’d learned. So, when the real selection tests were announced, I figured what the hell?”

“Well, I’m glad you figured that way,” Bucky says. “And I’m glad the show was able to help you get your bearings and learn about some of the things you’d missed. You know, I love this job, but sometimes it feels like sort of a silly way to earn a living. It’s good to know that the show actually matters to somebody.”

“Yeah, it’s been a really big help,” Steve says, and Bucky can hear something of a catch in the other man’s voice. This is clearly a sensitive subject for Steve, so Bucky decides it’s probably best to let him get back to his evening.

“Well, Mr. Rogers, I won’t keep you any longer,” Bucky says. “Thank you again for your time and your patience. We look forward to receiving your anecdotes and scheduling a time for you to come out to the studio. Have a nice night.”

“You as well, Mr. Barnes,” Steve teases, and Bucky can’t stop the snicker that slips from his mouth. He pauses for a moment, debating what he’s about to say, and then decides to just go for it.

“And Steve?” Bucky says. “If, uh, if you ever need anybody to talk to, you know, just a friend or whatever, feel free to call this number any time. I obviously can’t really understand what you’ve been through, but I’ve been told I’m a pretty good listener.”

“Thank you, Bucky,” Steve answers, his voice warm and a little bit choked. “I’ll keep that in mind. Good night, and I’ll talk to you soon.”

“Good night, Steve,” Bucky answers, then disconnects the call.

Bucky lets his head drop back against his chair, inhales deeply, and prays he won’t make a complete and utter fool of himself when he meets Steve Rogers in person.