Bucky is fuming furiously from the moment they board the quinjet to the moment they land back at base. He spends the whole trip with his arms crossed, brows hanging low over his eyes that are narrowed into a glare, and his expression storming. From the moment they board, his jaw is clenched and his nostrils flare with each heavy breath that comes out angrily.
All of it is directed at Steve, like he's got tunnel vision and the end of it is Steve and Steve only despite the people sitting around them. A very angry version of tunnel vision, that is.
It makes Steve feel like he's 5'4'' again and coming home with a split lip, a black eye, and knuckles bruised and bloody for the billionth time. Which isn't exactly too far from their current scenario, actually.
He's still bloody and bruised and injured. It's just a whole lot more than it ever was back in the day. If he had ever gotten this beat up back then, he would have died. No doubt, no question.
Oh, and his uniform is torn to bits and he's full of soot and ash and dirt and probably some blood that isn't his. Probably. Maybe. Or maybe it is, Steve isn't quite sure nor does it really matter whose blood is caked on his uniform and other places.
Steve is exhausted. He feels sore in every part of his body, his limbs feel like they weigh a ton more than he can lift. He's in a pain that feels more dull than anything, it's that bad. His bones shift as they heal, which isn't exactly pleasant, and he feels numb and tired and exhausted.
But most of all, he feels nervous. Maybe a bit scared too but definitely nervous as all hell.
The way Bucky is looking at him– glaring at him, like he's trying to drill a hole straight through Steve's skull, is making him forget about the pain of his injured body, makes him focus on the nerves making his heart gallop in his chest instead.
He almost feels like he's five again, getting caught doing something he isn't allowed to do. He feels like he's seconds away from getting the biggest earful of his fucking life.
And, knowing Bucky, that is probably exactly what's going to happen the second they're alone.
Bucky spends the whole trip back fuming, and Steve spends the whole trip trying to ignore it.
He looks anywhere but at Bucky, avoiding his gaze. He looks to where Clint is sound asleep on the floor, broken hearing aids in his palm. He looks to where Thor is picking dirt out of his hair and where Sam is dozing off but doing his best to stay awake which he only just barely succeeds to.
He looks to where Natasha is looking back at him, a grin on her lips as she mouths, “Someone's in trouble.”
He does not look at Natasha. Natasha can go sit on a fucking cactus.
It's a terribly slow and long trip back to base, it almost feels like torture. Usually, Steve would spend post-mission trips dozing off like Sam is doing now or straight up sleeping like Clint is, although he likes to think he snores a lot less than Clint. Mostly he just spends post-mission trips spacing out, brain shutting down.
Not this time, though. No, because he can't with Bucky furiously glaring at him the whole fucking way and not sitting right next to him, a hand in his in a comforting and reassuring way, like they usually do.
There's none of that, this time.
Steve looks down at his shield that's propped up against his knees and squirms in his seat. Silently, he wishes for the quinjet's seats to come alive and eat him so he doesn't have to deal with the inevitable earful that Bucky is going to give him. Judging by the intensity of the glare that Steve is pointedly not meeting, he knows it's going to be a rough one.
Finally, they land. None of them do much more than raise a hand in a silent goodbye as they part ways, all of them way too tired to bother with anything more than that and a grunted goodnight. Steve wants to give at least Sam a hug but he doesn't get a chance to before there's a metal hand wrapping around his elbow and he's suddenly being dragged away without getting the chance to say a single goodnight.
Steve doesn't protest, doesn't struggle, and just lets Bucky drag him into the elevator that leads to their floor.
They don't live at the base. Steve never did, not even before Bucky turned up alive and joined the Avengers after breaking out of HYDRA's chains. He never did for a number of reasons and they're about the same reasons Bucky hadn't wanted to live there either. They have their own place in Brooklyn but they still have a place to stay at base that they use after missions to recover enough to actually get home.
And it does feel like home again. Brooklyn, that is. Because now Steve has Bucky there again and Bucky can make any place feel like home for Steve. Even the fucking obnoxious looking tower that SHIELD operates in.
On the upside, staying at the base for a night or two while they recover means they get to eat as much as they want to and not worry about the price. That's always nice because Steve can eat a lot and if he occasionally steals a bit of food before they leave, then that's for him and Bucky to know.
The ride to their floor is spend in tense and uncomfortable silence. Steve can feel Bucky's hand tightening its hold on his elbow little by little and, for the first time in hours, Bucky isn't glaring at him but rather at the elevator doors. But Steve knows that the glare is still very much for and because of him, so it doesn't feel better.
The elevator doors open and Bucky's hand finally leaves his elbow after one last, hard squeeze.
Steve steps in first, listens to the deliberately heavy footsteps behind him, and swallows thickly. All he wants to do is get out of this ruined uniform, shower, and sleep for as long as his body requires him to. He knows that won't happen but, well, he can at least try.
“I don't know about you but I really need a show–”
“You are un-fucking-believable,” Bucky cuts him off harshly.
Steve sighs and bows his head. He squares his shoulders and, with a deep intake of breath to prepare himself for the inevitable fight, he turns around.
“Don't you fucking Buck me,” Bucky says sharply. He's standing with his hands on his hips and a furious look on his face. Steve has never seen him this angry before, and that's saying something. “Do you have any idea how fucking stupid you are?”
Steve sighs and deadpans, “Well, considering the million times you've reminded me, yeah.”
Bucky glares at him. “This is so not the time to be a smartass, Steve,” he says and takes a step closer. “I'm fucking pissed at you and you're only making it worse with that.”
“Bucky,” Steve says. “I get why you're upset but I'm fine.”
“You are not fucking fine,” Bucky spits and points at him. “Look at you, Steve! You're bleeding, you're bruised to hell, and you can barely fucking stand up. That is not fucking fine, you dumb fuck. It's the opposite! And I'm not upset, I'm furious and I don't think you even know why!”
Steve opens his mouth to answer but no answer comes. He stands there, gaping like a fish, for a good ten seconds, before he lets out a heavy sigh and shuts his mouth again. He crosses his arms and shamefully lowers his gaze, frowning down at his ruined boots while he lets Bucky blow up.
“You never fucking change!” Bucky yells and steps closer. The poke to his shoulder feels more like a punch, when it happens. “Never! You're still the same reckless idiot who doesn't give two shits about anything but fucking justice or whatever your excuse is for that dumbass move you pulled!”
“I had plenty of time to get out,” Steve argues and looks up. He shrinks a little under Bucky's glare. “I knew what I was doing, Buck, and I got out fine.”
“Got out fine, my bare fucking ass!” Bucky gestures to him before he slaps at his chest with his metal hand. “You're barely in one piece, punk! Did you not fucking hear Natasha's one minute warning?”
“I did but–”
“Then why did you not get out? You had one minute– One minute, Steve! The only thing you should've thought about was getting out of that fucking building before that damn minute was up, so you didn't get blown up along with it! But did you? No! You just had to go fist fight a fucking Nazi because you're the most reckless idiot I've ever met!”
Steve is tired, exhausted, and not in a particularly good head space. It's doing horrible things to his already short temper and having Bucky yell at him is only making him want to yell back, even though he knows he deserves it. All of it.
He takes in a deep breath, clenches his fists, and tries not to escalate the situation.
“I wasn't just gonna let him escape,” he says.
“He was going to die in the explosion, you idiot!”
Bucky shoves at him, just a little, and takes a step back. He still looks furious and pissed, but his eyes are shiny and there's a slight tremble in his chin, a slight wobble in his voice, when he speaks again.
“He was going to die,” he says, “and you were ready to go down with him because you're so fucking stupid!”
Whatever anger and urge to yell back that was boiling in Steve's blood washes away in an instant the second Bucky lets out an unsteady breath.
“Bucky,” he says and reaches out toward him.
“Don't touch me,” Bucky snaps and steps away. His eyes are no longer only bright with fiery anger. Now, they're bright with unshed tears as well.
Steve didn't think anything could hurt quite as much as a building exploding an inch behind him but he was wrong. He was so fucking wrong. Seeing Bucky like this is an infinite amount of times worse and he suddenly hates himself for being the reason for it.
“Bucky,” Steve tries again but doesn't reach out for him this time. “Hey, look at me.”
Bucky huffs and doesn't.
“Look at me, Buck.”
Another huff, then the glare is directed at him again.
“I'm okay,” Steve says firmly. “I got out. Okay? I'm sorry for scaring you but I got out in time. I'm fine, I promise. These injuries? They'll be gone in a couple of hours. I heal fast, you know that.”
“I know that because it's not the first time you've been a reckless idiot,” Bucky says between clenched teeth. “I know that because you keep being a dumb fucking idiot and not thinking once before throwing yourself into the dumbest fights.”
Steve rolls his eyes before he can stop himself.
“Don't fucking roll your eyes at me!” Bucky yells.
“Then stop yelling at me!” Steve yells back.
“I'll stop yelling once you stop being a reckless idiot! But guess what, Steve?”
“Guess fucking what!”
“You never fucking change!” Bucky shouts and then, without another word or warning, he turns and storms out.
Silence follows Bucky's rushed and abrupt exit. In the distance, there's the sound of a door slamming closed and heavy, rushed footsteps but other than that, it's dead silent.
Steve blinks, then blinks again.
There's a heavy feeling weighing down in his chest and it isn't the exhaustion from the battle nor is it the pain coursing through his entire body finally catching up to him. Whatever it is, it's definitely not good.
Bucky has yelled at him before, of course he has. He's been pissed and furious and angry with him a million times but it has never gotten to this, has never been quite like this. He has stormed out before, has needed to take a walk around the block to cool off, sure, but he's never stormed off like that before.
They've fought before, God have they had fights. Their fights always blow up in their faces because they're both stubborn. Steve is hotheaded and angry and has a short temper, while Bucky gets easily annoyed and doesn't always know how to word why. Their fights have been bad and horrible and have lasted hours and, once, even days.
But Steve has never felt like this for a second, not since the fight that nearly ended their relationship. Which is the terrifying thing about it. This feeling in his chest? It's telling him that letting Bucky leave was the biggest mistake he's made since not catching him.
Steve stands there and waits for Bucky to come storming back in. He stands there for several minutes before he switches to autopilot and heads to the bathroom. He gets out of his ruined uniform, throws it carelessly in the corner, and steps into the shower to wash off the dirt and blood and soot and whatever else is stuck to him.
Maybe Bucky just needs to walk it off, he tries to rationalize with himself when the heavy feeling gets worse and his eyes start to sting.
“He'll come back,” he whispers to himself as he steps out of the shower to get into a pair of sweats and one of Bucky's spare shirts.
“He'll come back,” he repeats to himself and sits down on the couch, settling in to wait for Bucky's return.
He'll come back, Steve thinks right before he falls asleep after waiting hours for Bucky to come back.
Bucky doesn't come back, and Steve sleeps restlessly.
When Steve wakes up, it is to a crick in his neck and a quiet floor.
He groans as he sits up and stretches, his body not quite as sore as it was yesterday but it's still pretty damn sore. His body is still healing and sleeping on the couch definitely didn't do the soreness any good whatsoever.
He looks around and sees nothing different from before he fell asleep. There's no extra pair of boots by the front door when he goes to check, the bed is still made from having not been used, and there's no evidence that Bucky came back for even a single second.
Steve sits down heavily onto the edge of the bed and frowns at his hands.
Bucky didn't come back. He stayed away for the whole night. Or, at least, that's what Steve thinks because he didn't hear anything and he's pretty sure he would have woken up if Bucky had come back. As exhausted as he was, he would have woken up.
It's Bucky, of course he would have.
But Bucky didn't come back.
Steve lets out a heavy sigh and lowers his head to his hands. He stays there for a few minutes, calming himself, before he stands up and rushes over to his phone that he put on the coffee table in the living room yesterday. He shoots a text off to Bucky but, as expected, he gets no response.
When he calls him, he gets the automated voicemail after one ring which, Steve has learned over the years, means that Bucky's phone is off.
“Great,” Steve sighs to himself and tosses the phone aside. “Fucking perfect.”
He scrubs his hands over his face and groans into his palms. Soon enough, his stomach reminds him that he needs to eat and needs to eat soon. Breakfast should be ready by now, it always is at the base, and he knows at least half the team will be there. Hell, maybe Clint has even slept there.
“The team,” Steve mutters quietly to himself, pausing mid thought.
He shoots up from the couch and rushes to the door.
If there's anywhere he can find Bucky, breakfast will be that. And Steve is determined to make things right. He shouldn't have let him leave yesterday, should've made him stay so they could have finished their fight and made up, but he didn't and Steve hates himself for that.
He needs to make it right with Bucky because without Bucky, he's lost.
He loves Bucky with all of his heart, always has, and there is no way in hell he is going to just let him go that easy. They're going to finish the fight, even if the outcome is the worst of them all.
The journey up to the communal kitchen takes an eternity. Steve would have taken the stairs because the elevator means having to stand still which he doesn't seem to be able to do, but his body protests on the first step and prevents him from doing it. He's still too sore from healing and he may be an idiot but he isn't that much of an idiot.
… Most of the time.
Steve can hear voices around the corner the moment he steps out of the elevator once the doors ping open. Familiar voices, he realizes two steps later. He quickly places one of them as Natasha and the other–
Steve speeds up because the other is a voice he can recognize anywhere and in any language.
He turns the corner and there he is; Bucky. He's sitting next to Natasha by the kitchen island, slumping a little with his head resting against his metal fist. He looks exhausted, dark circles under his eyes, and his hair is pulled back into a messy ponytail, held up by a red hair tie with a bow that Steve knows isn't his.
Bucky looks like a mess but at least he's showered and at least he doesn't look as angry as he did last night.
Maybe he really did just need to walk it off.
Taking in a deep breath, Steve continues forward and keeps his eyes locked onto his boyfriend. A smile hesitantly and nervously pulls at his lips when Bucky's eyes shift from Natasha to him but it fades away immediately, because Bucky's face falls into the exact same stormy expression from last night.
Steve stops dead in his tracks and swallows thickly, ignoring Sam and Natasha turning to look at him. Clint, thankfully, doesn't turn to look but that's more because he's fast asleep hunched over a bowl of cereal than because he's uninterested.
Bucky stands abruptly, almost knocking his chair over with the movement, not that he seems to care, and stalks toward him. Very briefly, Steve flashes back to the Winter Soldier coming at him with a knife but he isn't afraid. He wasn't afraid then and he isn't now because it's Bucky and he knows Bucky would never intentionally hurt him.
Bucky doesn't slow down but he does take his eyes off of Steve eventually. He glares over his shoulder as he heads past him without a single touch or look or word spoken.
“Bucky,” Steve tries desperately and turns to reach out for him.
“Shut up,” Bucky bites out at him and promptly leaves the place in the same fashion he left their floor the night before.
Steve looks after him for a stunned moment before he takes a step forward to follow him. He doesn't make it further than that.
“And don't even think about following me!” Bucky shouts from outside the kitchen, a door slamming shut following his words.
Clint's head thunks against the island at the noise and he snorts loudly before sitting up abruptly. “Wha's'at?”
Natasha reaches over to pat his head, and Sam snorts into his coffee.
Steve sighs in defeat and slumps down by the island, burying his face in his crossed arms and groaning loudly and miserably.
“Well,” he hears Natasha say. “That went well.”
“Fuck off,” Steve mumbles into the crook of his elbow.
Bucky didn't even want to talk to him, would barely even look at him. This is a lot worse than Steve thought and he hates that. He hates this terrible, dreading, nauseating feeling that is making his heart hurt more than his healing injuries. He hates that it feels like the end of the line, a place he never thought he would ever reach with Bucky.
He hates that his throat is closing up and his eyes are stinging when the thought hits him; what if Bucky is done with him?
Steve has always been afraid that Bucky is gonna be fed up with him one day and leave him. He has been afraid of that since the first time Steve fell too sick to leave the bed and Bucky spend the day reading to him by his bedside.
That fear only got worse when Steve kissed him on a cold winter night in '35 when they were huddled together for warmth and Bucky's lips were just right there, so tempting. Bucky kissed him back, of course, and they've been together ever since. Officially and publicly and loudly since reconnecting after Bucky's return in the future.
Steve has been afraid of Bucky leaving him one day for so long and now the day might finally be coming. It feels colder than the ice that stabbed at him when he crashed the Valkyrie and it feels almost as bad as seeing Bucky being controlled and abused and used.
It isn't as bad, of course, because Bucky is himself now. And maybe that makes it all that much worse, Steve doesn't know. Not that it matters anyway because Steve is reaching for the love of his life and Bucky is pushing him away, and it hurts.
A hand touches his shoulder and rubs in comforting circles. The movement makes him realize that he's shaking. Not much but enough to be obvious to the three people in the room.
“You okay, man?” Sam asks somewhere to his right.
Steve lets out a breath and slowly sits up a little. “He won't even talk to me,” he says and rests his chin in his hand. “He ran out in the middle of our fight last night and he didn't come back. And now he runs away again?”
He glances over at the bowl full of cereal sitting next to Natasha and frowns.
“He didn't even finish his breakfast,” he mumbles and slumps further over the table. “I've never seen him this... upset before.”
“If you tell me Barnes has never been mad at you before,” Sam says, “I won't believe you.”
Natasha hums in agreement.
“Oh no, Bucky has been mad at me a thousand times before,” Steve says with a huff. “But usually, he just walks it off, comes back, finishes yelling at me, and then we have make up sex.”
“Nice,” Clint says around a mouthful of cereal and waggles his brows.
Sam flicks his ear, Steve ignores him.
“But it's different this time,” he says and sighs. “I don't know why. He's just extra pissed at me, doesn't even wanna be near me. I think– I don't know, I think he might be done with me.”
“Now, that's stupid,” Sam says.
Steve falls forward and buries his face in his arms again with a groan.
“You've been together way too long for it to end just like that,” Natasha says. “Give him some space to be angry, he'll come around.”
“You don't know Bucky like I do,” Steve says, voice muffled by his arm. “Bucky– When he feels something, it's intense. When he's angry, it's intense and it can last for days. We once got in a fight that lasted almost a week, he was so pissed off.”
Natasha pats his back and asks, “What was that fight about?”
“I broke my wrist,” Steve says with a huff. “Punched an asshole who called Bucky a fairy.”
“And...” Steve hesitates, squirming in his seat. “I might've suggested he started taking girls out dancing for a while. Alone.”
Both Sam and Natasha groan at him, Clint following suit a beat too late, and Steve lifts his head.
“I was trying to keep him alive!” he argues loudly. “It wasn't safe to be queer back then, alright! He could've been killing if that rumor started to spread.”
“And you couldn't?” Natasha asks and raises a pointed brow.
“Why does that matter?” Steve asks with a shrug.
Natasha looks at Sam. Sam looks back. Simultaneously, they turn and look at Steve.
Two sets of brows raise. Steve rolls his eyes and slumps back over the table.
“I think I get why Barnes is so pissed now,” Sam says.
Natasha hums and says, “Me too.”
Steve resists the urge to flip them both off and curls further in on himself. He doesn't want to talk about this. He wants to run after Bucky and hold onto him for the next couple of days. But since Bucky told him not to follow him, going after him will only piss him off even more.
At least at the moment, Steve is stuck here. Away from Bucky and being tormented by his so called friends.
“Steve,” Sam says and Steve lifts his head to look at him. “You wanna fix this, right?”
“Of course I do,” Steve says. “He's... He's Bucky.”
Sam squeezes his shoulder and says, “Then make him talk to you.”
“I don't know,” Sam says with a shrug and steps back. “He's your boyfriend, you know him best. Figure it out.”
Steve makes a face at him and lays back over the table.
“Now, I've got my own life to deal with,” Sam says and grabs his jacket that's thrown onto the island, shrugging it on, “so I'm gonna go home.”
“Don't you love us?” Clint asks but his mouth is full of cereal so it comes out muffled.
“Can't stand you,” Sam says and bumps his fist to Clint's. He does the same to Steve with an added hair ruffle and Natasha gets a half hug before he gives all three of them a two fingered salute and walks out.
There's a long silence after the door closes behind Sam, a silence that is interrupted when Clint pushes his bowl across the island toward Steve.
“Cereal?” he offers, holding out his used spoon.
Steve sits up a little, looks at the bowl and then at the offered spoon. He barely thinks about it before he grabs the spoon and starts shoveling cereal into his mouth, ignoring Natasha's noise of disgust.
He's too hungry and upset to care that Clint used the spoon before him.
Bucky comes back to their floor later in the day but he doesn't even so much as glance at Steve nor does he say a singe word despite Steve trying to get him to for the whole three minutes and eleven seconds he's there. All he does is stalk into their bedroom, grab his own duffel bag, and stalk right back out with a brief pit stop to the kitchen for some of the food stocked in the fridge.
And then he's gone with a single, furious glare send in Steve's direction, like a warning to not follow him.
Bucky doesn't want to talk? Fine.
He isn't the only one who can be a stubborn asshole.
The first punch that lands on the bag is solid and only hurts a little bit, despite his bones still settling back into place. The second one is better. The tenth is thrown much harder and the following countless others are harder and harder and harder and–
Steve punches the bag off its hook and sends it flying into the wall. The chain clatters loudly against the wall and, when the sand bag lands heavily onto the floor, it's with a dull thud.
Steve lets out a heavy sigh and stares at it, brushing the bangs off of his sweaty forehead.
He's angry. No, maybe not angry although when isn't he? But he feels more frustrated than angry right now, frustrated that Bucky won't talk to him and frustrated that Bucky, his boyfriend and the love of his life, won't even look at him, frustrated that Steve can't seem to figure out why even though it's apparently so obvious to everyone else.
He's frustrated and angry and upset, and he misses Bucky more than anything. They've only been apart for a day but any time spend apart from Bucky is time Steve hates.
He knows it sounds pathetic and maybe a little unhealthy, but he honestly doesn't give two shits about that. He loves Bucky, wants to spend the rest of his life with him, and he's not afraid to admit that. Not anymore and never again.
This is just a bump they have to get over. Right?
Bucky's furious, teary eyes flash in his mind and that heavy feeling of nearing the finish line looms over him again.
“Right,” Steve mumbles to himself, shoulders slumping.
Scrubbing a hand over his face and willing away the breakdown that's been threatening to crush him for hours, Steve goes over to grab a new punching bag and hooks it up with ease. He's only just managed to get it up when he hears a voice to his left.
“Trouble sleeping?” it asks in a teasing tone.
Steve looks over to where Natasha is leaning against a pillar, arms crossed and a small, crooked grin on her lips. She's in her workout clothes too, her wrists and hands wrapped, so she's apparently had the same idea as him.
“Not funny, Nat,” he tells her and gives her a look.
“It's a little funny,” Natasha says and walks over to him.
“No,” Steve says and throws a punch at the bag.
Natasha silently walks over to sit on the wooden bench nearby, crossing one leg over the other, and starts to absently pick at the bandage wrapped around her left hand, watching him. Steve doesn't look at her, not more than out of the corner of his eyes, and focuses on throwing punch after punch at the bag.
“I take it it's going well with your boyfriend,” Natasha says after the fifteenth punch.
Steve clenches his jaw, takes in a breath. “He still won't talk to me,” he says and continues punching. “Won't even look at me. He came by our floor a few hours ago. Got his bag and left without even looking at me for a single second.”
“And now you're taking your frustrations out on a poor punching bag,” Natasha says. “Smart.”
“He left, Nat,” Steve says, throat tight. He stops punching and turns to her, a hand on the bag to hold it still. “He left and I'm terrified that he won't come back this time. I don't even know what he's so upset about, I didn't do anything I haven't done a million times before.”
Natasha gives him a pointed look. “Maybe that's exactly what he's upset about,” she says.
“Yeah, he finally got fed up with me,” Steve says and turns back to the bag. “Only took him about a hundred years.”
“Have you tried cornering him?” Natasha asks after a minute.
“I'd have to know where he is to do that,” Steve says.
“So you're not even looking for him.”
“I have been looking for him but every time I get anywhere near him, he runs away. He can't even stand to be in the same room as me anymore, Nat.”
“Right now,” Natasha corrects. “Not anymore, it's only right now.”
“Or maybe it isn't.” Steve throws a punch. “Maybe he's done with me and I'll never see him again.”
The next punch he throws is sloppy and uncoordinated, his mind stuck on never seeing Bucky again rather than the action. It sends pain shooting up through his still bruised and injured arm and he hisses, taking a step back and shaking his throbbing hand.
“Go sit down,” Natasha says. She's suddenly right next to him, grabbing his shoulders and pushing him away. “You had a building dropped on you less than two days ago. You shouldn't even be out of bed, let alone punch anything.”
Steve sighs but he doesn't argue or protest when she pushes him to the bench. Instead, he sits down heavily and curls and uncurls his hand a couple of times. He briefly watches Natasha as she punches the bag but he gets distracted, his eyes moving over to his bag where his phone is poking out of one of the front pockets.
He doesn't hesitate before he reaches over and pulls it out, immediately dialing Bucky's number and pressing the phone to his ear. It rings once, then goes straight to voicemail again. Steve clenches his jaw, tosses his phone away, and buries his head in his hands.
If the sigh that escaped him is a little unsteady, he doesn't acknowledge it. Natasha doesn't say anything about it, either.
Steve spends the night not sleeping, curled up around the pillow Bucky would've used. It doesn't smell like him, the pillow has been washed since the last time they were here, but Steve is wearing his shirt again so that helps.
He lays there, waiting for Bucky to show up, but the floor continues to be silent and that heavy feeling in Steve's chest continues to grow. The more time away from Bucky, the more Steve starts to worry that they're never going to get over this. It's making him want to never leave this bed ever again, which his healing injuries appreciate but his mind certainly doesn't and continues to spiral into a dark abyss.
Morning arrives and Steve has yet to leave the bed. He doesn't want to either, burying his face further into Bucky's shirt and curling into himself. He has half a mind to pull the blanket over his head too, shut the world out completely, but he doesn't.
He lays there for only a few more minutes before there's a sudden noise.
The elevator doors ding open and Steve shoots up in the bed, straining his ears to listen to the footsteps approaching.
“Bucky?” he calls out desperately. He makes a move to get out of bed but stops the moment the visitor comes into view in the opened bedroom door.
“Sorry, man,” Sam says. “Not Bucky.”
Steve blinks at him, then whines pathetically and falls face first back into bed.
Sam scoffs and asks, “Is that a way to greet your best friend?”
“I want Bucky,” Steve complains into the pillow.
“Jesus, you'd think you actually got dumped,” he hears Sam mumble.
Steve lifts his head and sends him a warning glare.
Sam stares right back, brows raising.
“He won't talk to me,” Steve says and rolls onto his back to stare at the ceiling. “He's not coming home, he's actively avoiding me, he won't pick up my calls or answer my texts. Tell me how that's not getting dumped.”
“You're missing the part where he said 'Steve, I'm breaking up with you',” Sam says, then snaps his fingers. “Oh wait, that never happened which means you didn't get dumped and you're just in a giant fight that will eventually blow up all the way, you'll make up, and then you'll go right back to being in love and grossing all of us out.”
With a whine, Steve grabs the collar of Bucky's shirt and pulls it over his face.
Sam sighs heavily. “I don't know who's worse; you or him.”
Steve peeks out from behind the shirt and asks, “Did you talk to him?”
“Hell no,” Sam says. “I'm not going anywhere near that until he stops murder strutting all over the place. He punched a hole through the wall in the communal area, Steve. He's miserable.”
“He's pissed,” Steve corrects and frowns up at the ceiling.
“Yes, and it's your fault. Fix it.”
“How? He won't even talk to me.”
“I don't know, man. You know him better than I do, figure it out. Now–” Sam reaches out and tugs the blanket off of Steve's body. “Get your ass out of bed and come run with me.”
“No,” Steve whines and struggles when Sam starts tugging at his arm.
“Steve, I will drag your stubborn, super soldier ass out of bed if you don't come willingly,” Sam threatens.
“Fuck you,” Steve grumbles and throws himself over on his side, back turned to Sam.
There's a beat of silence, then Sam pounces on him. And that's how Steve finds himself jogging alongside him on the trail they met at all those years ago, Sam already sweating a little and Steve having barely broken a sweat since he's more jogging than he is running.
Neither of them say anything. Neither of them have said a word since they finished stretching and Sam, giving Steve a warning look, told him, “If you even think about being an asshole today, I'm done running with you.”
Steve smiled at him and took off, lapping him only once before slowing down. He's been jogging alongside him ever since and Sam has looked increasingly more annoyed at the small sighs of boredom that Steve lets out every once in a while.
It's not his fault. There's nothing for him to focus on when he's running so slowly and his mind keeps circling back to Bucky. He doesn't want to be running, he wants to hide from the world in his bed until Bucky is ready to talk to him again.
If that's ever going to happen. Steve is genuinely terrified that it won't, even though everyone keeps telling him it will, which is actually getting really annoying now.
Legs moving on their own, he thinks of Bucky; his smile, his laugh, his long rants about whatever book his nose is buried in that week. He thinks of him and he aches with how much he misses him. It has only been a couple of days but it feels like an eternity, and Steve can't help but relive the two years (to him, at least) between Bucky falling and Bucky coming back. Those horrible, terrible two years where Steve felt alienated and off and not like himself because he wasn't. Not really.
He thinks of Bucky and he hates that he hasn't heard his voice in so long, hates that the last time he heard it was when he was being yelled at, hates that the last time it cracked.
He thinks of Bucky and he hates that they're fighting. He hates it so much, and he's done with it.
Bucky wants to fight? Fine. Steve will give him a fight, no backing down. He can fight for Bucky all damn day.
Jaw set in determination, Steve speeds up until he's running and then sprinting, feet carrying him faster and faster, until sweat starts beading on his forehead and until his heart starts hammering in his chest.
“Asshole!” Sam yells after him, no heat behind it, but Steve ignores him.
He runs and runs and runs after his better half.
Bucky isn't on their floor; not the bedroom, not the bathroom, not the living room. (Not surprising.)
He's not in the communal area, spread out on the couch with his nose buries in a book. (A little surprising.)
He's not at the gun range, taking his anger out via bullets. (Not that surprising.)
He's not in the kitchen, drinking juice straight from the bottle or eating anything in the fridge. (Okay... very surprising.)
But the person that is in the kitchen is, unsurprisingly, Clint. He's sitting with his back turned to him when Steve steps inside, coffee pot half empty to his right and a plate with a mountain of toasts with jam to his left. He's hunched over something. Knowing him, he's probably tinkering with a new kind of arrow.
Steve really hopes it won't be as bad as the last one. The floor is still sticky in some places.
“Clint,” Steve says as he steps closer, wiping a hand over his sweaty forehead.
Clint doesn't turn around, only reaches out for the toast on top and takes a giant bite before setting it back.
Right. His hearing aids got busted up during their mission and of course he hasn't gotten around to getting new ones. Or, if he has, he might've just not wanted to wear them.
“Clint,” Steve repeats and taps his shoulder.
Clint doesn't startle. He turns around and looks at him, chewing slowly.
“Hey, Cap,” he says around his mouthful and puts down the arrow in his hands. “What's up?”
“Do you know where Bucky is?” Steve asks.
Clint looks at him for a moment. His eyes narrow slightly, almost like he's giving him a calculating look. Steve looks right back, pleading because he has a feeling Clint probably knows. After all, Clint is the one person on the team that Bucky can tolerate the most, Steve knows that much.
“No idea, bro,” Clint says finally and lifts a hand to sign Gym.
Steve smiles at him, signs thank you, and grabs his shoulder in a quick squeeze before he steps back. His gaze strays to the arrow laying in Clint's other hand, staying for a moment.
“That's upside down,” he says after a beat and points down at the head.
“What?” Clint looks down at the arrow and sighs. “Aww, arrow.”
Steve pats his arm and turns to walk back out of the kitchen.
“Thanks!” Clint calls after him. “Good luck! Don't break up!”
“We won't,” Steve mumbles to himself and almost runs to the elevator. “Over my dead body.”
The hallway that leads to the gym once you step out of the elevator is dark when he makes it to the right floor. There's light streaming out from a room at the far end and dull thuds echoing down the hall.
Steve is two steps out when he hears a grunt that is so familiar, his heart leaps and his steps quicken.
When he turns the corner and steps into the lit up gym room, the back of Bucky's head is the first thing he sees. Bucky's hair is up in a bun, he's wearing a gray tank top with a wet spot traveling down his back and a pair of sweatpants that hang low on his hips. He's lifting weights, side turned to the mirror and eyes locked onto the painting on the wall in front of him.
Normally, Steve would have stopped and taken a moment to admire him. But he came here for a reason and he isn't going to back down.
He doesn't stop walking once he's inside. He takes in a deep, calming breath and continues forward, deliberately making his footsteps heavy so Bucky will know he's coming. If Bucky tries to run away again, he'll just follow him. This time, he will follow him to the end of the Earth if he has to. He's not giving up without a fight.
Steve is maybe ten steps away when Bucky turns slightly and glances his way. In an instant, that glare is back.
“I don't wanna talk to you,” Bucky says and turns his back to him.
Steve huffs and steps closer. “You're gonna have to,” he says.
“I really don't.”
“Unless you plan on breaking up with me,” Steve says, maybe a little harshly, “yeah, you really do.”
Bucky stops lifting and clenches his jaw. He swallows audibly and stands still for a handful of seconds, then he turns and meets Steve's eyes. His gaze is hard and furious, his expression storming.
“You really wanna do this?” he asks sharply. “Right now?”
“I do, yeah,” Steve says and crosses his arms. “You ran out on me in the middle of our fucking fight and you've been avoiding me ever since. If this is your way of saying we're done, it's a real shitty way, Buck.”
“Oh, for fuck's–” Bucky groans and puts down the weights. “I'm not breaking up with you, dumbass. Did you really think that after everything we've been through, that was gonna be the end for us?”
“I don't know!” Steve exclaims and laughs humorlessly. “I don't even know what that is.”
“That,” Bucky says and takes a step forward, pointing a finger at him, “is you not getting out of the building before it started to blow up.”
“I was fine,” Steve says and swats Bucky's hand away before the pointed finger can touch him.
“I don't care that you were fine,” Bucky says, letting his hand drop. “I care that you didn't even consider running out of there. I care that you care more about punching a fucking Nazi in the face than getting your own stupid, reckless ass to safety. I care that you don't know when to stop!”
“I've always been so fucking scared of losing you, Steve!” Bucky yells.
Steve promptly shuts up the second he notices the way Bucky is looking at him. It's like he wants to glare and be angry but it comes off more caring and scared than anything. It shatters Steve's heart a little, or a lot.
“I didn't forget,” Bucky continues, loudly, “how fucking terrified I was when I didn't have my eyes on you back in the day! I was always worried to death that someone would beat you up too much and you'd be dying in an alley somewhere and I wouldn't be able to get to you in time!”
Steve frowns, heart clenching.
“I was worried you'd get sick and suffer in silence and drop dead somewhere,” Bucky yells and shoves at him, “and I wouldn't be able to help you because you decided to be stupid and push yourself! I've always been terrified of it and I thought I didn't have to be anymore, because I thought you would have at least picked up some common sense by now!”
Bucky pauses to let out a heavy, unsteady breath. “But I guess I was wrong,” he says, “because you're still the same, reckless, stupid, self sacrificing idiot that I for some reason love!”
“Bucky,” Steve says softly, voice barely above a whisper.
“You're gonna be the fucking death of me, Steve Rogers,” Bucky continues, ignoring him. “If you get yourself killed because you didn't know when to stop and run away from a fight... I'm not gonna survive that.”
Steve doesn't let him say another word, not after he hears Bucky's voice crack. He surges forward and wraps his arms tightly around him, hugging him close and tight and not letting go even when Bucky struggles in his grip.
“I'm sorry,” Steve says, throat tight. “I'm sorry.”
“Let me go,” Bucky bites out and continues to struggle in Steve's arms. It he really wanted to, getting out would be no problem.
“No,” Steve says firmly and hugs his tighter. “I'm never letting you go, Buck. Never.”
Eventually, Bucky stops struggling in his arms. He shakes and trembles, and Steve clings to him tighter, whispering an apology in his ear on repeat and ignoring the way his own voice breaks a little when he feels something damp and wet start to fall against his neck.
Slowly and with a sniffle, Bucky's arms move around Steve and hugs him back. His grip is tight and if Steve wasn't a super soldier, he would probably have broken a rib or two.
But he is, so he hugs him back, cradles the back of Bucky's head, and kisses the side of it softly, whispering another apology into his hair. Bucky buries his face in his neck and grasps onto the back of Steve's shirt, neither of them caring that they're both a little sweaty and a lot gross.
“I was so scared, Steve,” Bucky admits in a rough whisper several minutes later.
Steve swallows and moves to press their forehead together without moving an inch apart.
“I'm sorry,” he whispers. “I didn't mean to scare you.”
Bucky scoffs wetly and says, “You always fucking scare me, you stupid punk. There hasn't been a single day since I met you that I haven't been terrified. It just... Fuck, I don't know. Guess it just go too much this time. I really didn't think you were gonna make it out of there in time and I can't–”
Steve shushes him gently and takes his head in his hands. “I know,” he says and sighs. “I know. I didn't think, I'm sorry.”
“You never fucking think, dumbass,” Bucky snaps but he doesn't pull away. “You're the worst piece of shit I've ever had to deal with and I can't believe I'm gonna deal with you for the rest of my miserable life. Fuck, you're gonna give me a heart attack one day, I swear.”
“I won't,” Steve says and it's a promise. “I'm– I'm gonna stop being reckless.”
“Ha!” Bucky leans back and looks at him, eyes wet. “In my fucking dreams, maybe.”
Steve rolls his eyes and says, “Fine, I'll try to stop being so reckless.”
“Can I get that on paper?” Bucky asks and raises a hand to put it on Steve's cheek.
“You can get it on a thousand papers,” Steve swears and leans into the touch.
“Careful, Steve,” Bucky says, stroking a thumb over Steve's cheek. “That's a binding contract.”
“So is marriage.”
Bucky narrows his eyes at him. “Do not propose to me right now. I'm still pissed at you.”
“Okay,” Steve says and lets himself laugh in relief when Bucky smiles for the first time in what feels like an eternity.
The laughter dies quickly, however, and his frown returns.
“Can you stop avoiding me now?” he asks quietly. “Please.”
Bucky looks at him for a long moment before he sighs. “Fine,” he says. “But I'm still gonna be mad at you and you're gonna have to work your ass off to get me to forgive you.”
“Okay,” Steve says and pulls Bucky close again. “I'll give you a back rub and a foot rub and I'll make you whatever you–”
“You burned a frozen pizza last time you made anything, I'm not eating any of your food.”
Steve rolls his eyes. “Fine,” he says. “I'll order whatever you want and treat you like a fucking king.”
“One question, though,” Steve says. “Why did you avoid me for so long? I mean, usually when we fight, you just gotta take a walk 'round the block and then come back and finish yelling at me. Why not this time?”
“It was different,” Bucky says with a shrug. “I couldn't look at you without getting so fucking angry and I was scared that I'd end up doing something I was gonna regret.”
“Like what?” Steve asks nervously.
“I don't know,” Bucky sighs. “Either punch you or break up with you. Yeah, I really did consider it for a minute there.”
Steve's face falls and he looks down at their shoes. He hadn't been completely wrong, after all. The end of the line really had been in view, just like his gut had told him.
“Hey,” Bucky says and grabs his chin to make him look at him. “I wasn't gonna. That's why I had to stay away. I needed to not be around you for a while.”
“You scared me,” Steve whispers.
“Well, pay back's a bitch.”
Steve laughs, wet and rough and startled. He is so fucking relieved that he has Bucky right in front of him and in his arms again. Bucky smiles at him, and Steve laughs even more and pulls him closer.
“Can we please just kiss and make up?” he asks, bumping their foreheads together. “I miss you.”
Bucky doesn't answer. Instead, he cups Steve's jaw, lifts his head, and kisses him. And Steve kisses him back, pouring every bit of love he feels for this man into it and clinging onto him for dear life.
“Oh fuck, that feels nice.”
“Little to the left– Yesss, that's the spot.”
Steve grins and digs his fingers firmly into Bucky's shoulder blades. He's sitting in the bathtub of their own apartment, legs spread with Bucky in between them and hands busy massaging Bucky's bare and wet back.
The tub is filled with warm water and fluffy bubbles, both of them naked and clean. Bucky is completely relaxed and he's losing more and more of the tension in his shoulders the more Steve digs his fingers into his back.
“Fuck, Stevie,” Bucky moans and dips his head forward. “Your fingers are magical.”
“Thank the serum for that,” Steve says and kneads down Bucky's back.
“Serum didn't do shit to your fingers,” Bucky says and moans when Steve's fingers dips into the water and digs into his lower back. “They're still the same, artsy fingers you had before– Ah, yes, right there.”
“You know,” Steve says and grins. “This is starting to sound kinda pornographic.”
“I don't give a fuck,” Bucky says and sighs contently while Steve works his fingers upward. “It feels so good, our neighbors can think you're finger banging the shit out of me or whatever the hell they want. I do not care, just keep doing that.”
“Yes, sir,” Steve says and lifts a hand off of Bucky's back briefly to salute. He quickly dives back in and returns to the massage, however, when Bucky grunts impatiently at him.
“And then you can finger bang me for real later,” Bucky says and groans. “When – fuck, that feels good – when I'm less mad at you.”
“Would a good blow job help me get your forgiveness?”
Bucky hums and turns his head, grinning at Steve over his shoulder. “I could be convinced.”
With a smile on his lips, Steve shifts closer and wraps his arms around Bucky. He presses himself flush to Bucky's backside, puts his hands flat on his chest, and kisses his right shoulder softly. Bucky leans back into him, his head falling back onto Steve's shoulder.
“I love you,” Steve says and kisses the corner of Bucky's lips.
“I love you too,” Bucky says and kisses him fully on the lips. “Even when you're being a fucking moron.”
“Which I will try not to be.”
Bucky hums and says, “I'll believe it when I see it.”
“Hey, I put it on paper.”
“Yeah, and while that's a binding contract, I'll still only believe it when I see it.”
“How 'bout I put it in my vows too? Double binding.”
“Stop making it sound like we're getting married.”
Steve hums and kisses his shoulder again. “Are you really that against us getting married?”
“I never said that,” Bucky says, then pauses for a moment. He narrows his eyes at Steve, a flush rising to his cheeks. “You're not– You're not proposing right now, are you?”
“Would you say yes if I was?” Steve asks, lips brushing against the bare and wet skin of Bucky's shoulder.
“Steve,” Bucky warns.
Steve still has his hands placed on Bucky's chest, so he feels the moment his heart jumps. He smiles a little, turns his head, and kisses the side of Bucky's neck while caressing his chest gently. He politely ignores the way Bucky's heart is beating rapidly.
“I'm not proposing,” Steve promises with a kiss to his cheek. “It's not the right time.”
Bucky lets out a breath and says, “Good, 'cause I would not have said yes.”
Steve looks at him, offended. “Seriously? We've been together for this long and you wouldn't say yes if I asked you to marry me?”
“Are you forgetting that I'm still mad at you? You can't fix that with a ring, Stevie, get over it.”
Steve pouts and hooks his chin over Bucky's shoulder. “But would you say yes if I asked when you're less mad at me?” he asks after a beat.
Bucky groans at him and swats at the hand now cupping his pectoral. “Shut up about marriage already,” he says. “You're not done with my back rub.”
Steve rolls his eyes, kisses Bucky's nape, and squeezes his pectoral once before he leans back again. “Yes, sir,” he says and gets his hands back on Bucky's back.
Bucky sighs happily as Steve starts to massage again and Steve smiles at him, happy that they're maybe not okay at the moment but that they're certainly getting there and getting stronger.
A week and a hundred (exaggeration but close enough) back rubs later, the Avengers are called to action when alien robots start to pour into the city.
That's right. Alien robots because apparently that's a thing. And here Steve thought the Chitauri was weird enough. Alien robots, however? That is so much weirder, but thankfully there aren't quite as many and they aren't being controlled by some alien technology on the other side of space or pouring into Manhattan through some space portal or whatever.
To be honest, Steve may have tuned out a little during the explanation of the Chitauri. Bucky was always the one who was into sci-fi after all and Steve... well, he's not.
Besides, how was he supposed to be able to comprehend fighting aliens when, two weeks prior, he was fighting Red Skull in the war? Two weeks for him, that was. For everyone else, it was closer to seventy years. Back then – back when the Chitauri and Loki attacked – Steve was a little more preoccupied with wrapping his head around being in the future than he was worried about the technicalities of an alien invasion.
Alien robots, however – now that's something.
And yet Steve is still distracted while he fight and blocks and punches the heads off of the robots. He's distracted because it has been a week and he still hasn't been able to let go of one thing relating to Bucky. Longer than a week, actually, but especially this past week.
“Hey, Buck,” he says into their comms as he ducks a hit and punches a robot between the legs.
There's a beat, a bullet sips through the air and into a robot's cranium, and then Bucky flatly asks, “What?”
He's up high somewhere with Clint, taking out the robots that have managed to climb the buildings. Steve can't see him from where he's standing on the ground but he knows Bucky can see him, knows that Bucky has his six like he always does.
“Marry me,” Steve says with a smile and holds up his shield to block a shot.
“Seriously?” Sam's voice asks in his ear. There's laughter in it. “You're doing this right now?”
“Don't interrupt me, Sam,” Steve says. “Keep flying and shut up.”
“Aye aye, Cap.”
“So, Buck.” Steve dodges and throws a nearby debris at a cluster of robots. “What do you say?”
The silence on Bucky's end stretches out but Steve isn't nervous.
Well, okay, truth to be told, he is really nervous but he's more focused on the alien robots attacking him than he is on the nerves making it hard to keep his breakfast in his stomach because Bucky hasn't answered yet.
“Are you seriously proposing to me while you're punching alien robots in the face?” Bucky finally asks.
“Is that a yes?” Steve asks back.
“God fucking damn it, I hate you,” Bucky grumbles in his ear. “Behind you, asshole.”
Steve swirls around, dodges the sword-like object one of the robots swings at him, and throws his shield at it. It slices through its middle and gets stuck in a nearby, blown up car. He runs over to it, grabs the shield, and punches another alien when it aims at Natasha who's fighting off a whole group by herself further down the street.
“Is that a yes?” Steve asks, panting a little.
“It's a fucking yes if you can get through this fight without being a reckless idiot,” Bucky tells him. “I'm not saying yes to a walking dead man.”
Steve grins widely and says, “Deal.”
Somehow, Steve makes it through the battle without being reckless or stupid. He gets close a few times but, remembering his promise to Bucky, he manages to stop himself and think before acting.
The alien robots are defeated and while the others stick around to help clean up and get anyone injured to the medical care arriving at the scene, Steve has other business to attend to. He'll come back and help later but first, he has a question that needs to get an answer.
He finds Bucky sitting on the ramp to their quinjet. Most of his gear has been taken off, his hair redone in a ponytail, and his head is leaned back against the wall, his eyes closed and forearms resting on his bend knees.
Clint is standing nearby, counting the handful of arrows he has left. His back is turned so he doesn't see him when Steve steps up to the ramp.
Bucky, however, does see him when Steve is a mere few steps away, his eyes now open again. Steve smiles brightly at him, crouches down in front of him, and grabs his face between his hands.
“Hi,” he says and leans in to give him a quick kiss. “Marry me?”
Bucky huffs and rolls his eyes, but there's a hint of a smile on his lips, the corners tugging up a little. There is also a pretty pink flush coloring his cheeks, Steve notices when he leans back slightly and takes a proper look at him. It makes his own smile widen immediately.
“Well,” Bucky says and reaches up to pat Steve's cheek. “Someone's gotta keep an eye on you.”
Steve's face falls into a deadpan expression. “Why can't you just give me a yes?”
Bucky snorts and brings both of his hands up to cup Steve's face, while Steve's hands settle on his shoulders. Bucky pulls him in, kissing him so softly that Steve momentarily forgets about whatever they were talking about. But then Bucky speaks again and he gets pulled right back in.
“Yes,” Bucky whispers against his lips.
Steve smiles widely and brightly, heart swelling with happiness. He doesn't hesitate to lean in and kiss Bucky, this kiss firmer and more passionate than the previous one. Bucky huffs into it but Steve can feel his smile against his own lips and soon, both of them are smiling too big to keep kissing.
Not that that stops them from trying to do it anyway, switching between kissing and smiling at each other.
“Congratulations!” Clint exclaims somewhere behind them.
Steve pulls away from Bucky to look over his shoulder in time to see Clint throwing a handful of colorful confetti in the air.
Glittery and colorful pieces of paper flutter down to the ground.
“Were you carrying confetti in your pocket?” Bucky asks after a beat.
“Ammo for the confetti arrows,” Clint says with a shrug.
“Confetti arrows,” Steve repeats, deadpan.
He shifts, moving to settle himself between Bucky's legs with his back pressed against Bucky's front. Bucky's arms move around him and Steve grabs his left hand, linking their fingers together.
“Yup,” Clint says. “Post-battle celebration. Or, in this case, engagement celebration.”
“Thanks, pal,” Buck says. Steve can feel his smile against his neck.
“Was that the arrow you were working on last week?” Steve asks and settles back against his boyfriend– fiance.
“No,” Clint says and makes a face at him. “That was a bomb arrow. C'mon, Cap.”
“Yeah, Cap,” Bucky says and grins into his neck. “C'mon.”
Steve elbows Bucky and says, “Hey, be nice to your fiance.”
“Fiance.” Bucky hums and kisses his neck. “I like the sound of that.”
“Me too,” Steve says and twists around to kiss him properly, squeezing the hand in his.
“Mm, remember when you mentioned that double binding contract about your recklessness?”
“Already in my vows, Buck.”