Actions

Work Header

Traces of Gold

Work Text:

August, 1931

 

Steve stuck his feet into the warm, summer sand, enjoying the way the salty breeze ruffled his hair and how the popsicles Bucky had bought them had completely melted, leaving sticky stains of green and blue ice cream along the corners of their lips.

Visiting the beach had never been one of Steve’s favorite things to do in the summer. He’d much rather sit at home with his sketchbook on the cold hardwood floor, thank you very much.

But school was starting back up again in a couple weeks and he won’t be able to visit the Coney Island beaches for much longer. Bucky begged him to go this one last time, so he figured there wasn’t much harm in taking a trip today.

Steve can’t help but huff a laugh as he turns to see Bucky sprawled out over his beach towel, one of his arms thrown across his face. Steve has no idea how easy it is for his best friend to completely fall asleep in any situation, but it never fails to make him roll his eyes. It’s not even like the beach is quiet. If anything, it’s the complete opposite.

Groups of rowdy teenagers are playing a game of volleyball not too far away from where the two of them are laying in the sand. Large families run past them and towards the crashing waves of the ocean, desperate to cool off from their days spent on the boardwalk. Flocks of seagulls fly overhead, calling out to each other over the sounds of the wind and surf. How Bucky is passed out right about now is a million-dollar question.

Steve’s gentle smile turns into a frown when he notices how pink and flushed Bucky’s skin is as he lays underneath the heat of the sun. His ma made sure he brought extra large tubes of sunblock to the beach with them and God help them if they came back sunburnt.

“Steven Grant Rogers, I will not have you returning to this household looking like a boiled lobster,” she had demanded, shoving the bottles into his backpack, leaving no room for questions.

And Steve was pretty sure Winifred Barnes had felt the same way considering the obvious umbrella, pair sunglasses, and tubes of sunblock Bucky was forced to carry around until they got to their spot on the beach. 

Steve sighs, rummaging around in his backpack to find one of the bottles of sunblock to rub into Bucky’s skin. It was probably already too late -- he’s probably going to get a little bit of sunburn regardless -- but he’d feel bad if he just watched his friend take a nap and did nothing to help.

The more he thought about it though, it would actually be pretty funny seeing Bucky, who's usually charming and strikingly handsome for a boy his age, with his face looking like an over-ripened tomato after spending the day at the beach. That's what he gets for making Steve ride the Cyclone three times right after stopping for a bite to eat.

With a mischievous grin, Steve picks up a handful of sand, watching it strain through his thin fingers as he places it on a part of Bucky’s leg that was hanging off the side of the towel.

He keeps adding more piles of sand to the parts of Bucky’s body that were laying on the golden beach. Steve carefully pats each section down, trapping his feet and arms under an abundant layer of sand. He slowly rubs his thumb over where he figured Bucky’s wrist was, feeling the contrast between Bucky’s smooth skin and the rough sand.

Steve smiles, adding the last few handfuls of sand to completely cover the length of his arms and legs.

Maybe that would protect Bucky a little more from the heat of the sun. If not, it would be pretty funny watching his reaction when he found out he was covered in grains of sand.

***

In the end, it only took another half hour before Bucky startles awake, letting out an undignified yelp as he tore his arms and legs out of the sand.

“Steve, you shit,” Bucky swore, his hands flailing as he shook all the sand off his skin. “I fall asleep for a few minutes and this is what I get?”

Steve throws his head back in laughter, clutching his chest to keep from falling to the ground. Bucky pouts, pointedly ignoring Steve and rubbing the last of the sand off his arms.

It didn’t take long for Bucky to notice the spotty bright red sunburn along his bare torso. He let out another mortified scream, his face flushing even more pink with embarrassment.

Bucky glares over at where Steve is sitting, his knobby legs neatly folded on his dry clean blanket. Giving him a devilish, toothy grin, Bucky pounces on the smaller boy, wrestling him onto the sand.

Steve squeals in laughter, lightly punching Bucky’s sides and tangling their arms together. He pushes into Bucky’s firm chest, getting him to roll over so he can mess up his hair.

“You’re such a punk,” Bucky says with a softness in his voice, looking up at Steve with pieces of his dark hair covering the grey-blue of his eyes.

“Jerk.”

Steve rolls off Bucky with a huff, falling down to lay in the sand right next to him. As their feet tangle together underneath the sweltering summer sun, Steve realizes there’s no other place he’d rather be.

 

October, 1944

 

They had been walking for what felt like hours, wandering the dark, empty roads of occupied France, lit up by streaks of pale moonlight shining through the towering oak trees. 

Finally, they stumble across what looked to be an abandoned cottage on the outskirts of Lorraine, or wherever the hell they were at this point.

Bucky sighs with obvious relief, letting Steve kick open the front door and scope out the place before they decided to stay for the night.

“All clear, Buck,” Steve calls from the far back of the cottage, making his way over to where Bucky is slouched over the arm of a distressed rustic couch.

Bucky groans with his face pressed into the fabric. “There’s no way I’m gonna be able to get any sleep tonight. Feel like every part of my body has been lit on fire and then immediately got beaten to a pulp.”

Steve chuckles, running his fingers through Bucky’s still-soft messy brown hair. “Well, the Germans really took a toll on us today,” he mumbles. “Lucky we got out ahead of them when we did, is all.”

Steve looks down at his closest friend. The person he’s been with before he even knew how to walk. The guy who pulled him out of too many fights to remember. The man who put the people of his country before himself the moment he joined Steve’s team.

His hand stills as his gaze focuses on the dark bruises littering Bucky’s collarbone. Steve didn’t even realize the extent to which his best friend was hurt from their last mission. Bucky always waved Steve off with an “I’m fine, stop mother henning me, Stevie. Jesus Christ, I’m starting to feel like you nowadays.”

Bucky puts his own hand on top of Steve’s, urging him to keep twisting his fingers through his hair. And Steve tries to ignore the heavy feeling in his chest when he continues threading his fingers in the long locks framing Bucky’s face.

“Hey, Buck,” Steve whispers, breaking the calm silence hanging over the cabin. “I’ll be right back.”

Steve scrambles out of his position on the couch, heading to the kitchen to find anything -- something -- to eat or keep their minds busy off the voices in the back of their heads telling them that they have to jump right back into the war first thing tomorrow. He starts rummaging through the cabinets, pushing aside expired cans of food and packages of stale bread.

Sitting next to the stove, Steve finds a container of unopened olive oil. And it’s almost pathetic how his heart soars and his eyes darken at the thought of what he could do with it.

He doesn’t even stop to think about if it’s a good idea before he’s walking back with the bottle of olive oil over to where Bucky’s curled up in the couch.

“Do you want me to give you a massage?” Steve asks, surprisingly keeping his voice level and unwavering despite his heart hammering in his chest. “You know to, uh, help your muscles or something.” God, he really needed to stop talking.

It’s not like Steve and Bucky are afraid to touch each other. If anything, they have practically no personal boundaries when it comes to snuggling up on their sofa to keep warm in the frigid Brooklyn winters or slinging their arms over each others shoulders on walks back from the bar.

It’s just that Steve’s certain that what he wants probably crosses every line of friendship that Bucky has when it comes to him.

He’s tried to ignore the pangs of jealousy and anger he got whenever he saw Bucky stumble through the door of their apartment after his dates, bright red lipstick smeared on his cheek and buttons torn off the front of his shirt.

But Steve is tired of having to hide his feelings. They’re in the middle of a godforsaken war and Steve knows he’s probably not going to make it out alive, so what’s the harm in opening up to his best friend just a smidge?

Bucky eyes the bottle of olive oil curiously before he looks up at him with an emotion written across his face that has never been directed towards Steve before. “I thought… you and Peggy?” His voice cracks and trembles.

Steve feels like he’s losing his mind, this conversation can’t be happening already. It’s ridiculous how easily Bucky can read him like an open book.

“I think I could love her. She’s a wonderful friend and I look up to her, I really do,” Steve murmurs, aimlessly running his thumb across the ridge the container. “But I’ve got my eyes on somebody else.”

Bucky smiles sadly and stares at him. “You wanna tell me who it is, pal?”

And the thing is, he  does  want to. But he can’t say the words he wants to say, the truth constricting him, leaving him feeling like he needs to gasp for air, the wind knocked right out of his chest. It feels as if the serum is gone and he’s back in his frail, sickly body.

The most he can do is shake his head in a silent no, hoping that Bucky’ll let the subject drop. But Bucky keeps staring, waiting and not backing down. Steve sits across from him, equally motionless and frightened half out of his wits.

Finally, Bucky lets out a breath he was holding in and moves to unzip his jacket, unceremoniously throwing it onto the hardwood floor.

Steve’s mouth opens in shock before he remembers -- right, he asked Bucky if he wanted a massage. God, he really needs to get himself together.

Bucky hesitates before pulling off his long sleeve shirt which is mostly torn, every other patch of fabric soaked in blood and sweat.

Steve helps to lift Bucky’s shirt up, pausing to look at the bruising which is even more prominent across his chest. He lifts his hand to gently touch it and Bucky lets out a hiss of pain or discomfort or something else entirely. Steve quickly pulls back, letting his hands intertwine in his lap as Bucky gets rid of the last of his clothing.

He averts his eyes when Bucky yanks his pants off, leaving him only in his undergarments. Steve grabs a knit blanket from the other side of the room and places it on the floor nearest the fireplace that Bucky had insisted on starting.

Bucky lays with his stomach pressed on the blanket and his back facing Steve, stretching his arms out over his head. Even in the soft warm light of the fireplace, his body laid out under a colorful plush blanket, Bucky has never looked more vulnerable and bare. And he’s trusting Steve to see him this way.

With a lump in his throat, Steve uncaps the bottle of olive oil and starts to spread it over Bucky’s body. He traces his fingers over the dips and curves of Bucky’s back, kneading his sore muscles and feeling the other man begin to relax underneath him. Steve feels a strong pool of arousal hit him, and it feels like coming home.

Steve sits on the curve of Bucky’s back to give himself a better angle as he digs his fingers into his collarbones and down alongside his arms. The shine of the glossy olive oil looks absolutely breathtaking as Steve massages it into Bucky’s tan skin. He itches for his sketchbook to draw Bucky laid out like this, relaxed and picturesque.

He slides his hand down Bucky’s back and towards his legs to work out the knots there, Bucky melting into the touch. Steve only hears Bucky’s breath hitch a few more times as his fingers tease his flesh before he’s snoring softly into the blanket.

Steve smiles and carefully rolls himself off Bucky. Realizing he’ll probably get a crick in his neck from falling asleep like this, Steve waits a few minutes before he tenderly carries Bucky back to the couch.

He carefully folds the blanket on top of Bucky’s sleeping form and presses a lingering kiss onto his forehead.

Steve looks back at him, savoring the way his thumb would smooth back Bucky’s locks of hair and how they would bounce right back to their original spot. How Bucky’s mouth was slightly parted, his full pink lips hardly chapped even with the cold, harsh winds hitting their faces everyday. How Bucky would sniffle and make little sounds in his sleep until Steve reached down and folded their fingers together, fitting like perfect puzzle pieces.

Steve smiles sadly as he grabs a pillow from the other side of the couch to get some rest next to the fireplace. Closing his eyes and finally getting a couple hours of much-needed rest, Steve only dreams of Bucky.

 

September, 2014

 

They finally found him. After months of following faint trails that led to dead-ends, Steve and Sam left the D.C. area, figuring that if he wanted to be found, he would come to them first. So they rented out a small, cobblestone apartment in Brooklyn, right near where Steve had grown up. They spent days going in and out of the apartment, mindlessly watching Netflix, and acting as normal as possible.

And Bucky found them.

He only stays for a couple hours at a time and only visits the apartment whenever Sam isn’t around.

“I’m sure it’s nothing personal, Sam.”

“Bite my ass, Rogers.”

He stays and listens to the sound of Steve talking about his day, or other things Bucky would find interesting, before he disappears through the window whenever Steve turns his back for a minute. It’s usually complete radio silence for weeks before Steve comes home from grocery shopping or eating at the diner from across the street to find Bucky silently inside waiting for him.

Steve has no idea how he does that.

It’s another couple weeks of not catching a glimpse of Bucky when Steve and Sam part ways after leaving the gym, Steve intently returning back to the apartment to take the longest nap of his life (if you exclude the whole frozen in ice for 70 years thing). He jiggles the key in his door and is surprised when he finds that the door isn’t locked.

But he always locks his door before he leaves.

A surge of panic rushes over Steve. Hydra found him. Or worse, they found Bucky.

He gasps, pulling his hand off the door handle, and before he can turn on his heel to run and find Sam, someone who was standing behind him shoves him towards an alleyway a few feet away.

He tries to fight back, but the person has Steve’s arms completely restrained within seconds. And he’s strong, almost stronger than him.

Suddenly, when they turn the corner into the alleyway, the person kicks Steve’s legs out from under him making him pathetically fall to his knees onto the rough pavement.

But at least now he can finally see who it was that pulled him out here and--

It’s Bucky.

There are dark, heavy bags around his eyes, cuts and bruises littered across every edge of his face, and his hair looks almost matted from the lack of hygiene.

“Bucky, what--,” Steve stammers, meeting Bucky’s gaze.

“Hydra followed you here but they didn’t know I was following them first. I’m taking you to where I live now. You’ll be safe there,” Bucky says without missing a beat. “We can talk more when we get there.”

Steve climbs back up on his feet, dusting the gravel off his pants, motioning for Bucky to lead the way like it’s the most normal thing in the world.

***

The apartment Bucky’s staying in is ridiculously well-kept. It’s not far from where Steve’s is, but it’s distant enough so that Hydra won’t be an immediate threat. Steve uses one of Bucky’s many burner phones to dial Sam and explain the whole situation to him.

It’s easy to say that Sam wasn’t too happy.

“So you mean we can never go back there?” Sam nearly cries out.

Steve rolls his eyes. “Well they’re probably gonna be monitoring whatever goes on in that general area for God knows how long so, yeah.”

For the rest of the day, Steve wanders around the apartment, which became more and more clear to him that it wasn’t owned by Bucky. With a sigh, Steve walks over to one of the obscenely large windows covering the side of the house, looking out towards the Brooklyn bridge.

Bucky coughs from behind where Steve is standing and hands him a lumpy brown backpack.

“I tried to grab as many of your things as I could before Hydra got to the apartment. I hope it was enough,” Bucky shrugs his shoulders.

Steve’s face lights up, digging through the backpack and pulling out a few of his sweaters, his favorite Bing Crosby record, and his sketchbook.

And it’s a miracle that Steve doesn’t break down into tears right in the middle of this unfamiliar apartment standing in front of his broken, damaged best friend.

He can’t resist the temptation of touching Bucky again so Steve grabs the other man’s shoulders, bringing him in for a gentle, compassionate hug. Without so much as a flinch, Bucky wraps his arms around Steve’s waist, holding him tighter.

“I got some of my memories back,” Bucky whispers into Steve’s ear, his lips lightly brushing the lobe, sending shivers down his spine. “It’s mostly just feelings but I know now, Stevie.”

Bucky brings both of his hands up to Steve’s face, leans in and kisses him. Steve twists his hands into Bucky’s shirt, letting out a surprised inhale before he’s parting his lips to match Bucky’s heated pace.

It takes a moment for it to hit him. The fact that he’s kissing Bucky. For real. For the first time.

Wait a minute -- why is Bucky kissing him?

Steve lets his fingers still in Bucky’s shirt and pulls back. Does Bucky really want this?

“Bucky, what was that for?” Steve questions, his voice soft and slow.

“I… didn’t we ever? We were together before, I thought.”

Steve shakes his head and reaches out to tuck a lock of hair behind Bucky’s ear. “I wanted us to be. But we were never together like that, no,” he swallows, his throat gone dry suddenly.

A light shade of pink tints Bucky’s cheeks as he turns his head away. “But Stevie, the things he -- I mean, I -- felt for you back then. You had to have known.”

Steve doesn’t even bother responding, instead rushing up to crash his lips into Bucky’s. They spend the rest of the entangled with each other, promises and revelations of passion spoken through swapped kisses and warm embraces.

***

Steve wakes up with a smile, feeling the warm press of Bucky’s back alongside his front. He carefully untangles himself and does his best not to wake the other man up.

It seems almost too good to be true. Bucky stayed here with him. Not leaving or as easily spooked as he usually is.

He shuffles over to the corner where he had hastily shoved the backpack the night before, opening it to grab one of the sweaters and his sketchbook.

Steve pulls the mahogany sweater over his bare torso and sits in a small desk chair opposite the bed where Bucky is still snoring softly. He picks up the sketchbook and begins to draw, his oil pastels immediately shaping the familiar jawline he’s drawn so many, too many, times.

Bucky’s absolutely gorgeous like this, his long hair covering half his face and the soft blue comforter pooling at the edge of his hips. His lips are bright red and kiss-bruised from making up for lost time. Scars and bruises are scattered across his body like a canvas, evidence of his strength and bravery. The metal arm glistens as sunlight slowly trickles through the bedroom window.

He traces his pastel over Bucky’s features one last time as the brunette stirs from his place in the bed. Steve runs his fingers over the sketchbook, making certain that the rays of light perfectly highlight Bucky’s features and ignite the shadowy colors of his arm back to vivid reds and oranges.

He blinks his eyes, recognizing the burning feeling in his chest, welcoming and embracing it until it’s almost overwhelming. Steve realizes that he’s in love with Bucky Barnes. Or, maybe he has been for as long as he could remember.

 

December, 2015

 

It’s only a day before it’ll be Steve and Bucky’s second Christmas spent in the Avengers Tower and Steve couldn’t be more excited if he tried. A variety of Christmas trees, shiny ornaments, shimmering tinsel, and bundles of mistletoe decorate every inch their floor. He plays Christmas albums off his vintage record player, making Bucky dance along with him every chance he gets. He’s baked more Christmas cookies than he can count, all of which are usually inhaled by Bucky the moment he sets them out of the oven.

Steve wakes up before dawn, takes a quick shower and heads into the kitchen to prepare all the ingredients for the dish he’s planning on making today. On Christmas day, it’s already become tradition for the Avengers to have a holiday party together, complete with Clint’s cheesy Hallmark movie marathons, Thor’s Asgardian liquor, and Steve’s homemade cooking.

He smiles to himself as he hears Bucky softly pad his feet out of their bedroom and down the hallway.

“Hey, Stevie,” Bucky says softly, burrowing his head into the crook of Steve’s neck, pressing a kiss along his collarbone. “What’s on the menu, Chef Rogers?”

Steve chuckles, rubbing his hands up the length of Bucky’s back. “Think I’m gonna make Ma’s beef and cheese casserole. Do you remember when she used to make that?”

He can feel Bucky smile, still with his head tucked into Steve, leaving a trail of kisses up to his mouth and lightly nipping on the skin.

“Remember when she almost had to force the whole plate of it down your throat the time you got in a fight with Rich Monaghan ‘cus your face swelled up like a balloon?”

Steve throws his head back in laughter, pushing Bucky away. “You’re such a jerk, don’t know why I spend time around you.”

Since Bucky had came back into Steve’s life, it has been nothing but perfect.

Although not all of Bucky’s memories are back, Steve spends almost all his time telling Bucky how it doesn’t matter and how they can just create new memories in their new life together. And if Bucky can’t remember something, Steve’s always by his side to remind him.

Not only is it surprisingly easy to live with Bucky like they’re in back in their scrappy Brooklyn apartment again, Steve also finds it effortless to be able to call Bucky his boyfriend.

When they told the rest of the Avengers that they were together like that, Steve had expected some of them to be disgusted or repulsed, but everyone accepted them with open arms. A few had even placed bets on how long it would take for them to get together. Natasha won by a landslide.

Bucky untangles himself from Steve’s arms and rubs his eyes. “What do you need help with to make the casserole?”

Steve’s eyebrows shoot up, turning to get a better look at Bucky. “Sweetheart, you don’t have to help if you don’t want to.”

“But I want to.”

Steve’s face softened into a warm smile. “Okay then, you can grab the cheddar cheese powder,” he replied, knocking his shoulder into Bucky’s. “I think it’s in the cabinet on top of the fridge, just grab a stool or something to reach it.”

“You’re so cute, Stevie,” Bucky huffs a laugh as he walks over to the cabinet. He wraps his legs around the side of the fridge, climbing it like he’s on some kind of mission. “I’ve been conditioned to scale government facilities with my hands tied I don’t need a goddamn stool to help me--”

With a loud crash and a blur of limbs and cheddar cheese containers, Steve watches helplessly as Bucky loses balance and gracelessly falls to the ground.

And to make matters worse, Bucky’s sprawled out on the kitchen tile completely covered in cheddar cheese. It looks like some weird type of crime scene.

“I take it all back,” Bucky groans and it takes every bit of willpower Steve has to bite back a fit of laughter.

He doesn’t even know how the cheese managed to find itself on almost every possible surface of Bucky’s body like a Jackson Pollock painting. He swears he closed the container last time he used it. Clearly not. Steve hides back a smile when Bucky starts pouting, completely opposite the bright, vibrant orange-yellow colors coating his entire upper body.

He treads over to Bucky, watching as rolls his left side out of an especially massive pile of the cheese powder. Bucky grumbles even louder when he notices that a lot of cheese got stuck in the plates of his metal arm. He tries to move it to shake the powder out of the wires and gears, but the arm only stops its insistent whirring and falls limp to Bucky’s side.

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Bucky lets his head drop in defeat on the now-yellow-stained tile. Steve laughs softly, bending down to rub his thumb soothingly into Bucky’s wrist.

“Are we gonna have to call Tony?”

“We’re gonna have to call Tony.”

 

May, 2016

 

Steve feels like he can barely breathe.

The only thing he can focus on his Bucky laying in the motionless in gurney and the doctors, nurses, and everything else around him is white noise at this point.

Steve trails close behind as they wheel Bucky onto the quinjet, his fingers interlaced so tightly with Bucky’s that Steve’s hand turns nearly white with pressure.

He’s not even completely sure what happened if he’s being completely honest.

Fury sent them on a mission regarding a HYDRA base that popped up on the map in Arizona. Steve, Bucky, Sam, and Natasha were only supposed to scope the place out for the time being, but HYDRA was one step ahead of them.

When they arrived at the facility, it was abandoned, and the HYDRA agents had them trapped exactly where they wanted them to be. Everyone made it out relatively unscathed except for Bucky, who was too busy watching Steve’s six.

With only a few steps left before they reached the outside of the facility, a lone HYDRA operative began to follow them, shouting out a litany of Russian phrases which echoed throughout the empty corridor. Bucky let out an anguished cry and took off running towards the agent. By the time Steve reached him and the now-dead HYDRA operative, Bucky was dripping blood and sweat, with multiple bullet holes covering his lower body.

Once the quinjet takes off towards the Avengers Tower, the doctor asks Steve to sit down and begins cutting Bucky’s pant leg open. A few nurses start to tape an IV drip to his flesh arm and clean out his wounds.

They give him a dose of strong painkillers, and Bucky drifts in and out of consciousness on the 4-hour plane ride. He wakes up intermittently, groggy and with his brows knit together in confusion.

After a couple hours, he starts to regain most of his consciousness and looks over to see Steve wide awake in the seat next to his gurney.

“How ya feelin’ Buck?” Steve reaches over to lace their fingers together, stroking his thumb in circles over his pulse point.

“Steeb…,” Bucky mumbles, his voice thick with sleep. “Steve, Love you.”

Steve laughs, smiling at Bucky like he just hung the moon. “You gave me one hell of a scare when you took off like that.”

“Sorry darlin’,”  Bucky drawls, bringing up his hand to cup Steve’s face. “You look awfully pretty right now Stevie. You know that?”

Steve rolls his eyes affectionately. “Get some sleep, Bucky.”

“Mmm. Okay.”

In the blink of an eye, Bucky falls back asleep, his features going soft and relaxed. Steve sighs, rubbing the exhaustion out of his eyes.

“Hey, man,” Sam says as he walks over to where Steve’s sitting. Natasha follows closely behind him, holding a few art supplies which she shoves into Steve’s arms.

“We figured this would help keep you busy for the rest of the ride,” Natasha explains. “It’s the only artsy things we could find on this piece of junk.”

Steve looks down at the materials in his hands, pulling out a box a few dry erase markers. “Thank you guys for this. And, uh, thanks for everything else you did back there,” Steve looks over to where Bucky’s sleeping peacefully. “We really appreciate it.”

Sam walks forward and pulls Steve into a crushing hug. “We’re always here for you two. No matter the circumstances.”

Steve hides a sad smile into Sam’s shoulder, letting out a deep breathe when they break away from each other. Natasha surges up her tiptoes and places a quick kiss to Steve’s cheek, smugly wiping away a smudge of lipstick.

With an assuring wave, they make their way back to the cockpit, leaving Steve alone with Bucky and the continuous hums and tones of the machines keeping him stable.

Steve sifts through the markers and picks out a bright yellow one that reminds him of their time spent on the Coney Island beaches. Of the stolen container of olive oil in occupied France. Of the rays of sunlight filtering through Bucky’s apartment. Of their clumsy cooking encounters.

He keeps a hold on the marker and drags his chair closer to where Bucky lays curled up and sound asleep. Steve runs his fingers over the plates and screws of his metal arm, touching some of the sensitive inner workings and leaving behind soft kisses.

The steady beeps of Bucky’s heart monitor lull him into a state of calmness as Steve uncaps the marker and wanders it towards the metal arm. He begins to trace at the seams of Bucky’s arm, starting from the tips of his fingers and working up to where metal meets the scarred flesh of his shoulder.

Steve’s lips twitch in amusement, doodling in symbols and pictures on each of the plates. It isn’t long until Bucky’s entire arm is concealed in little golden hearts and smiley faces. He even draws a band across his ring finger in hopes to inspire Bucky to pop the question one of these days. He’s waited long enough, dammit.

Picking up the small block eraser from the pile of art supplies Nat gave him, Steve places it on the corner of Bucky’s bed.

He smiles warmly at the man in front of him. Bucky’s safe. Bucky’s alive. Bucky’s here with him. Everything’ll be okay with Bucky by his side.

 

February, 2018

 

Bucky wakes up with a gasp, a flood of cold air filling his lungs. He blinks his eyes groggily, adjusting to the light and desperately tries to get ahold of his surroundings.

Oh, right.

Cryostasis.

“James, can you hear me?” A blurry figure calls out, gently holding his shoulders as Bucky takes his first steps out of the chamber. Bucky nods and attempts to place the voice of the man in front of him.

Finally, his vision clears and Bucky’s left staring at his hand. Not plural. And that still takes a little getting used to.

“You need to sit down for a minute, I’ll get you some water.”

Bucky looks up again towards the booming voice. It’s T’Challa -- of course. T’Challa quickly turns on his heel and heads down one of the hallways connecting the room they’re in.

He’s shocked the guy wants anything to do with him, let alone have a group of his most esteemed doctors work for months on getting rid of the triggers in Bucky’s head.

The moment T’Challa walks back into the room with a glass of water in his hand, Bucky blurts out probably the most unsurprising question he could ask.

“Where’s Steve?”

He just cares and worries about his boyfriend a hell of a lot, sue him.

T’Challa gives him a kind smile and ushers Bucky to sit down on one of the metallic stools surrounding the medical bay.

“Steve’s fine. He’s not aware that you’ve been woken up just yet,” T’Challa explains, clearing his throat. “I’ll let him know in a few hours. We figured it’d be best for you to adjust without him literally all over you.”

Bucky laughs and scrubs a hand down his face, ignoring the flush he can feel starting in the very tips of his ears. “That’s uh-- understandable.”

T’Challa underlines the basics of what’s happened since Bucky went to cryo again and tells him, with pride in his voice, that a group of medical professionals have found a way to disable the triggers. It’ll be a long, but effective, process with multiple sessions but T’Challa assures Bucky that Steve will be allowed to attend if need be.

“Before you start the sessions though, we figured you might want to help design a new prosthetic arm for yourself if that’s something you’re interested in.” He reaches in his pocket and pulls out a device that projects a magnified model of his old metal arm in front of where they’re sitting.

A wide grin spreads across Bucky’s face as he’s reminded of a series of new and old memories shared with Steve.

“I know exactly what I want it to look like.”

***

Bucky looked down at his new arm, his chest already feeling lighter than it had in the months leading up to cryo.

It’s sleek and shiny, the material looking reflective up-close. It looks mostly metallic except for the bright gold lining separating each of the plates, looking similar to the countless times where Steve drew shimmering golden streaks onto his arm or when he would rub sand or oil over his body almost like Bucky was worth something precious. And now, Bucky understands that he was. Just like Steve was, and still is, to him.

The arm itself is made of vibranium, the same kind as Steve’s shield. Bucky’ll deny it because of how sappy it sounds, but now he feels as if he’ll always have a piece of Steve wherever he goes.

And as if all these new designs weren’t enough, Bucky asked one of the technicians if they would paint a gold wedding band around his ring finger. The stupid little punk had been giving Bucky hints for practically two years now, and today was as good as any to propose.

With a blinding smile, Bucky saunters out of the tech room towards the room where Steve had been living in for the past few months. He gently knocks on the door, not prepared at all for Steve to open to door and look like… that .

His hair is a dirtier blonde than it normally is, combed back with long locks curling underneath his ears.

Steve’s beard… God, his beard. Growing up, Steve had always tried to grow in a beard like he’d seen the other boys around the dock do. He only managed to get little pale patches of facial hair in spotty areas along his chin, never being able to achieve a full beard like Bucky and his friends sometimes had. Now, his beard is dark and coarse, framing the lines of his face like it has meant to always have been there.

“Bucky,” Steve breathes out, his eyes wide with surprise.

He holds the back of Bucky’s neck and presses a deep kiss to Bucky’s lips. Bucky moves his hands to card into Steve’s hair, lightly tugging and twisting the long pieces around his fingers. Steve parts his mouth slowly, nibbling on Bucky’s lower lip and letting their tongues slide together -- something familiar and grounding.

Steve’s hands slide down Bucky’s arms to his wrists, gliding along his palms and off his fingertips. He freezes, coming to a screeching halt, pulling back and holding up Bucky’s new metal arm.

Looking from the arm back up to Bucky, Steve’s eyes are filled with unshed tears and complete understanding. He brings the arm up to his lips, leaving a trail of kisses along the lines of gold tracing the metal.

“Well, I’m guessing someone likes it,” Bucky smirks, somehow hiding the shakiness in his voice.

“It’s beautiful. You’re beautiful. I love--”

The rest of Steve’s sentence is lost when Bucky kisses him with a deep, blinding passion burning deep in his chest. Steve pulls him into the apartment, wrapping his arms around Bucky’s shoulders not long before he’s shoving him against the wall.

Steve traps Bucky’s legs between his own and pulls both of their shirts off, moving his mouth to lick and bite at Bucky’s neck. A long, desperate moan of Steve’s name is ripped from his throat as Bucky feels the slick slide of teeth and scruff tickling his neck.

Impatient, Bucky rips off his own pants, shoving them to the hardwood floor. Bucky doesn’t even have time to think before he feels Steve’s hand dance down to his cock. He palms over it, thumb swiping alongside the thick vein visible through Bucky’s boxer briefs.

Steve goes to his knees, mouthing at the head of his cock and wetting the fabric. Bucky sighs, his head falling back and hitting the wall.

Looking up at him with hungry eyes, Steve devours every last inch of Bucky, working his tongue over his cock until it’s spent and leaking in his mouth. Steve grins and runs his hands over Bucky’s arm, making Bucky’s heart swell.

Now, if every greeting Steve gave him went this way, Bucky would never complain about a damn thing in his life ever again.

***

They spend the rest of their day entangled in each other, their warm bodies pressed tight together on Steve’s bed. They exchange lazy kisses and warm declarations of love, smiling at each other like nothing horrible had ever happened to the two of them. Because, when they’re together like this, they feel complete and whole again.

Steve shifts over where Bucky’s head is tucked into a pile of pillows and blankets. He runs his hand down Bucky’s spine with so much care that his heart could almost burst.

Bucky turns and meets Steve’s gaze. It’s been a normal day for the two of them, nothing really special or out of the ordinary. But it’s so perfect. He brings his metal hand over Steve’s, fitting together perfectly -- like they were meant to always be intertwined.

Bucky’s so in love he can hardly think straight.

“Hey, Stevie… I have a real important question for ya.”