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Hiraeth

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Kindergarten is an important age and Steve knows that. And his friends with more corporate jobs tend to look down on his position. They hide it well, but he knows. But they don’t understand what children are like when they’re at this age. When they’re young and open-minded and blank canvases. Human beings are at their most explorative point when they’re this young. So many things to learn and so many hopes and dreams. And the wrong word can crush that. But the right words can encourage them for the rest of their lives.

Steve’s favourite part of the day has to be arts and crafts. Immediately after arts and crafts… well, that’s a completely different story. But he loves watching his kids dunk their entire hands in paint and glitter and smack paper to create art. So long as they don’t start putting art supplies in orifices, he gives the kids free reign. Steve watches fondly as one student turns over a small jar of glitter onto a page completely covered in glue. Steve, on principle, hates glitter. He finds it in his car and in his clothes and in his apartment. But the children love it and that’s enough for him.

There’s one little girl, Freddie Barnes, who uses only crayons to draw pictures. She never looks at the paint or the glitter or even the markers. Steve’s noticed this since school began a month ago. At first, he had chalked it up to shyness of her artwork, but she’s always proud to show up everything she does. It isn’t necessarily a problem, but he would like to see her branch out and explore new things. Preferably before adults start telling her she can’t.

Steve wanders around the room, complimenting the childrens’ art and they beam at him with their paint covered faces. He gives each student the appropriate amount of praise as he makes his way over to Freddie. She looks up at him when he arrives and she smiles brightly.

“Hi, Mr. Rogers.” She sets down her crayon and folds her hands on the desk. Steve wants to laugh because it is so clearly a learned behaviour from home, but it looks so weird on such a small person. He crouches down next to her.

“Hey, Freddie. What’re you drawing?”

She purses her lips as she looks over her drawing. “Well, you know, I’m not really sure. But it just came out.” She shrugs and looks at him expectantly.

“I like it. It’s very pretty.” Steve says and she beams at him. “Have you thought about using other art supplies?”

The sudden look of disgust she gets on her face is completely unexpected. Freddie shakes her head fervently. “No. I don’t wike it.” She says as though that’s the end all of the conversation and Steve figures he’ll let it go for now.

“Alright, you’re the boss.” She nods firmly at that as he raises himself back up to full height.

Steve scratches at his beard a little and heads back to his desk to start writing a note for Freddie’s parents. He keeps a close eye on the kids, writing out words he hopes will make sense when come back to them later.

It's almost noon, which means it's time to clean up and send the kids home for the day. It's kind of nice having every day be a half day; it gives Steve a whole extra three hours to get stuff done that the other teachers don't have.

“Alright, kiddos. Time for cleaning.” He says as cheerfully as possible.

“Wait, Mr. Steve! Is not dry yet!” Brandon is waving his arms frantically, a pout on his face.

“That's okay. How about I put all your lovely drawings next to the window and they'll be dry tomorrow?” Brandon looks dubious for a moment, but huffs and brings his painting to the window.

He looks up at Steve. “Don't lose it.” Steve almost laughs. But he reassures the young boy that, no, of course he won't lose it.

Clean up takes a good ten minutes and about one million rounds of the clean up song. Steve loves kids. He loves them. But he could do without the clean up song. Probably for the rest of his life. Right at 12:15, the bell rings and the kids grab their coats and backpacks and line up at the door. Steve does a head count and make sure all the kids are there and starts to lead them down the hall towards the buses.

As they go to their respective buses, he gives them each a high five and some hit harder than others and he definitely has glitter and paint and glue all over his hand. Definitely worth it.

&&&

Steve is about an hour into alternating between cleaning and writing notes to parents when Peggy walks in. She beams brightly at him and start to pick up loose papers and craft supplies.

“You really ought to control them more, darling.” She's kind and Steve loves her to hell and back.

“I don't want to stifle them.”

“There's a difference between stifling and teaching organisation.” She's right and Steve is a lax teacher, but that doesn't mean that he can immediately change. She sighs when he doesn't answer. “We'll get there, I'm sure.”

Steve leaves his desk and helps her finish cleaning up the room. “I want to be a good teacher.”

Peggy laughs like it's the funniest thing she's ever heard. “Steve. You've been teaching for eight years and all your students love you. You've been to some of their elementary school graduations. Don't be ridiculous.”

He frowns. “No need to be rude.”

She laughs again and sits on one of the kids’ desk. It looks ridiculous. She's so prim and proper sitting on top of a miniature human's desk.

“Anything interesting today?”

Steve thinks for a moment. “Well, a student refuses to use anything that isn't a crayon. I emailed her parents about it already. I'm sure I'll get an earful later.”

“You don't trust parents at all.” Peggy leans back so that she stretch across three desks and Steve smile at her. Her skirt rides up just a little and the next time he passes her, he pulls it back down. “Such a gentleman.”

“That's how my ma raised me.”

“Will you let me help you find a boyfriend?”

Steve sputters in indignity and throws markers into a box a little too hard. “I don't need help finding a boyfriend. I can boyfriend on my own, thank you.”

She sighs like she's dying and sits up. “You're just so…good. What if the wrong person snatches you away?” Steve raises an eyebrow. “Okay. But like, what if someone hurts you?”

Steve does laugh at that. “I'm thirty. I'm pretty sure I'm capable of taking care of myself.”

“Yeah… I guess. And you have all those muscles to protect you from harm.” Steve rolls his eyes and does a once over of the room once he thinks it's clean enough. He sits next to Peggy and it creaks a bit as it takes his weight. They both pause and watch the desk a little dubiously until it seems like it’ll take his weight. “If only you were still small. You wouldn’t have this problem.”

With a small laugh, Steve runs a hand down his face. No, he doesn’t feel bits of glitter and paint in his beard. “I think I’m sexier like this. Nothing i can do about the colourblindness though.”

“You’re like a colourblind bear.” Peggy laughs at Steve’s expense and falls back onto the desks again. “Well, just because you don’t want my help, doesn’t mean you won’t hear me cheering from the sidelines.”

In a different life, a different time, Steve would have been in love with Peggy. If she were a man, he definitely would be. But, oh, how cruel the fates. “Thanks, Peg.”

They sit in companionable silence, listening to yelling down the hall from the other small children in the school. They have so much energy. Every so often a teacher down the hall will need help with his class and Steve or Peggy will step in to help. And that’s more than Steve will ever need to experience. Kindergarten is a good age to teach. Probably even the best age to teach in his opinion. Tiny children and college students and nothing in between.

“Oh, and Steve, darling.” Peggy breaks the silence as she stands up and smooths her skirt. “You were rather dashing even before you got all those muscles.” Steve smiles and she leaves. Her classroom is right across the hall. It’s nice having his childhood best friend so nearby.

Chapter Text

It’s a full week before Steve receives a response about his concerns for Freddie. And no, it does not happen in a way that he would have expected. Or preferred, really.

It’s clean up time and the kids are pretty happy, singing their little tune and putting away their items. Steve’s wandering around, making sure that they’re all doing their part and singing with them. When the door bangs open. Steve immediately starts pushing kids behind him protectively and making his way towards the door.. He doesn’t really know how to fight, but he is big and that’s usually enough for people to back off.

There’s a man, red in the face and out of breath, looking around the room frantically. “Freddie?” He calls. Thankfully he’s still in the doorway and hasn’t made an attempt to get any closer to the children.

“Who the heck are you?” Steve says as he continues moving kids behind him and curses himself when he realises his phone is on his desk across the room.

“Look, pal,” The man says and Steve immediately bristles. “I don’t who the hell you think you are telling my niece that she should make her art different just ‘cause you don’t like the way she does things.”

“Watch your mouth.”

“Steve? Is everything alright?” Peggy is standing the doorway, she must have heard the commotion. Steve tries to peak over her shoulder and look into her classroom. “Mr. Jarvis is taking care of my kids right now.” She turns to the intruder and holds her phone up, ready to call the police. “Would you mind taking this into hallway, please?” Her tone leaves no room for argument and she all but pushes the man out of the room. “Let’s keep cleaning, my darlings.” She distracts the kids as Steve and the mystery man go into the hallway.

“Who are you? And why are you busting into a kindergarten? What the heck’s the matter with you?” Steve chastises now that his kids are thoroughly distracted.

The man throws his head back in annoyance. “I’m Freddie’s uncle. And from what I hear, you don’t like that she only likes crayons. What the hell’s your problem? If she likes crayons, let her use crayons.”

Steve blinks. This is Freddie’s uncle? He only met Freddie’s mother, Rebecca, once on the first day of school. And she had seemed fairly put together. The man in front of him clearly isn’t put together. “First of all, Freddie is out sick today, so you have no business being in my classroom during class hours. Second of all, I was only voicing my concern that she doesn’t branch out. Kindergarten is the best time to try new things before people start telling them that they can’t.”

The man runs a hand through his hair. “Fine, alright. Freddie has tactile sensitivity. She doesn’t like touching certain things and she doesn’t like how some things sound. Says it hurts her teeth.”

Steve nods. “Alright. I didn’t know she had that and I won’t push it anymore, but I’ll try to work with her on it.” He clears his throat. “So why are you here?”

“Today is Uncle Day and I usually pick her up at home, but I thought I’d surprise her at school.” The man looks a little sheepish.

“So Fridays are Uncle Day?” Steve makes a mental note. “For future reference, school lets out at 12:15.”

“Ah, fuck.” Steve is absolutely scandalised and shushes him immediately. “I thought it was noon. Sorry, uh…”

“Steve Rogers.”

“Bucky Barnes.” They shake hands. “I didn’t mean to barge into your classroom like that. I was just thinking that you’d be some stifling old dude or something. Your notes are so formal.”

Steve blushes. “I’m a teacher. I’m supposed to be professional.”

“You could stand to be a little more nice in your letters.”

And that stings. Just a little bit. No one has ever said that Steve isn't a nice guy. He lives in New York City, the meanest city in the US, and he still endeavours to be a kind person. But he nods once in response. “And Bucky, the next time you decide to burst into a kindergarten, you gotta prove your identity or something. We can’t be too careful these days.” His tone is as far from nice as he can get it and Bucky pales.

“Oh, shit. No, I--I wouldn’t. I just thought I’d--”

“Yeah, well. Next time, wait outside like everyone else. And stars above, watch your mouth. Goodbye.” Steve dismisses him and gives him an expectant look until he turns down the hall and leaves. He makes a note to ask the administration to run a drill for intruders and to also ask if Ms. Lewis in the front office is checking identification.

He enters his classroom again once he’s sure that Bucky has left the building. Peggy and the kids have finished cleaning up and they’re getting their things ready to go. Steve heads over to Peggy. She smiles at him.

“I’m gonna have a heart attack.” He says and she laughs.

“Not today, darling. These kids still need you.”

“In June then, when school lets out.” She rolls her eyes and squeezes his shoulder. “I’ll talk to you after class.” He nods and she heads back to her classroom just as the bell rings.

&&&

Bucky is fuming. Who the hell does that guy think he is? Like he's fucking Gandhi just because he teaches kids or some nonsense? He walks to Becca’s house instead of taking the subway to clear his head. It’s kind of a long walk, but it definitely gives him time to think. Sure, he maybe shouldn’t have just barged into a kindergarten classroom, but who gave that guy a superiority complex. Honestly, he isn’t better than Bucky just because he’s a teacher. Bucky probably makes more money than him anyways.

And it can’t be because of those pecs either. Just because he’s built like a goddamn god doesn’t mean that he’s better than Bucky either. Muscles can only get people so far. Even if they are pretty. And Steve is pretty. Like a classic man from the 50s with his button up shirts and loose khakis and dumb face. Whatever, fuck this guy. But also fuck this guy, he’s such a …

Bucky stops short in the middle of sidewalk, and in the back of his mind he’s glad there’s no one behind him, but god, he doesn’t actually think that tool bag is attractive, does he?

Of course not.

Bucky chuckles to himself and continues down the road.

When he gets to Becca’s house, he isn’t sure what he’s expecting, but this ain’t it. Freddie is definitely not sick, from what Bucky can tell. She’s up and about, running around the house with a canister of silly string. As soon as she spots Bucky, she tosses him her can and pulls another out from under the sofa. He just barely manages to catch it and he stares at her dumbly.

“We have to hide! Or we die.” She says, plastering herself to the side of the sofa facing away from the rest of the house. Bucky crouches down next to her and notices that she’s absolutely pristine, despite the copious amounts of silly string around the living room.

Rebecca’s husband, Sam, dives into the living room and Bucky’s eyes go wide. “Nice to see you joining the fight, Barnes.”

“What the hell, man?”

Freddie turns to him and smiles wickedly and Bucky is super confused when she points her can of silly string at him and pulls the trigger. In an instant, he’s covered from head to toe in bright blue silly string. Bucky blinks and she’s gone, a giggling mess of child running up the stairs.

“Don’t trust her. It’s every person for themselves in here.”

Bucky has forgotten the smell of silly string. It reminds him strongly of when he was a child. He shakes himself. “She said that we needed to--”

“Nah, man. She’s a top tier liar. Don’t believe a word she says.”

Bucky hums and fits his back against the side of the sofa. “I guess I can’t trust either of you then.” He dive rolls into the middle of the living room, nearly smashing his head into the coffee table, and attacking Sam with silly string.

Sam looks absolutely done with the world and he drops his arms, tossing his can off to the side somewhere. “I’m surrounded by children. Fine. Go get her yourself, I can guarantee that she’ll get you first though.”

But Bucky doesn’t hear him; he’s sneaking up the stairs and keeping a close eye out for Freddie, hoping that she won’t get the jump on him. Of course, she does, because she knows the house better than him.

She slips out from behind Bucky from god knows where and sprays him head to toe with silly string. Freddie laughs so hard she drops her can and covers her mouth with both hands.

“Alright, you little rascal!” Bucky picks her up and spins her around. She laughs harder in that cute, addictive way that only kids can laugh. “You won! You’ve defeated us all!”

“That’s right. I’m better van everyone.” Bucky knows she’s trying to say ‘than’, but ‘th’ words are hard for her and she pronounces everything with a light ‘v’ sound.

“You’re lucky you’re cute. Otherwise, we’d have a serious problem.” She looks at Bucky puzzled. “There would have been no Uncle Day today.” She clasps both hands over her mouth in shock as they start to make their way downstairs. “It seems like you wouldn’t like that very much.”

“No! I love Uncle Day!” She exclaims and wiggles in his arms until he puts her down. She runs over to Sam and tugs on his hand. “I want Uncle Day.”

Sam blinks and looks at Bucky like he’s the devil. “I guess you were good for the dentist, so I guess you can go have fun with your Uncle Bucky.”

“That’s why she wasn’t in school today…” Bucky says. He starts pulling off bits of drying silly string and tosses it carelessly to the floor. There's a bunch there anyways.

Sam furrows his eyebrows and barely glances at the mess Bucky's making. “You went to her school?” Bucky shrugs and explains what happened and Sam only laughs at him. “Oh, Mr. Rogers does not play around.”

“I like him.” Freddie says, curling into Bucky’s lap. “He has pretty eyes.”

Bucky almost chokes on air and he closes his eyes for a brief moment. “Yeah, I guess he does.”

“Ms. Peggy says he likes boys.”

Sam is silently laughing on the opposite side of the sofa. Bucky swallows hard. “I think we shouldn’t talk about him anymore. I don’t think he likes me very much.”

“Why?” Freddie says, all childish honesty.

“I made him angry when I went to your school today.”

“Why?”

“Because I just showed up.”

“Why?”

“Because I wanted to surprise you for Uncle Day?”

“Why?” Freddie asks again and she smiles up at Bucky so sweetly and she’s so cute.

“We were gonna go for ice cream.”

Behind Freddie, Sam has stopped laughing and is shaking his head no. But Bucky’s the fun uncle which means that he can load up a child with sugar and pretty much anything that’ll set her off and make her hyper and give her back to her parents to deal with the disaster that comes afterwards. It certainly isn’t responsible, but Bucky’s never claimed to be responsible, so, more fun for them.

“Let’s go!” Freddie bounces off of Bucky’s lap and goes upstairs to grab her jacket.

Sam shakes his head slowly at Bucky and mouths I will kill you.

“Not if you love my sister, you won’t.” But after the day they’re going to have, Bucky isn’t sure that Becca wouldn’t help in the disposal of his body.

Freddie runs back down the stairs in a series of loud stomps that get Bucky wondering how someone so small can create noises so big. She tugs on his hand until he’s standing and runs to the door. She stops before putting her shoes on and runs back to Sam. “I love you, papa.” She kisses his cheek and hugs him tight.

All the fight goes out of Sam’s shoulders and he sighs. “Love you too, bug.”

Freddie pulls her shoes on a waves brightly at Sam and runs out the door. Bucky manages a small farewell as he follows her.

Chapter Text

Steve plans to spend his weekend at home. Of course he does. A teacher’s work is never finished. He hasn’t been a teacher for long, but in his experiences in the past few years, Steve has learned that the best way to lose students to boredom is routine. Keeping them actively interested in everything that they do is crucial to childhood development and naturally, he's integrated it into his teaching method. Besides, they’ll get more than enough routine once they hit middle school, maybe even sooner.

Steve works in a small nest of pillows and blankets on the rug in the middle of his living room right in a sunspot. Honestly, his home is more fancy than any teacher should be able to afford, but considering that he had gotten it as a foreclosure, that had made it worth it. He maybe shouldn’t have bought a house two years out of college, but rent in New York is atrocious and he figured that Brooklyn is his home and he’ll never leave.

The only downside about living in a converted warehouse is that the floors are all concrete. Oh, and heating is almost more expensive than his mortgage. But maybe after Steve gets tenure, he’ll install carpeting and that might help with both problems. But for now, he as a ridiculous amount of rugs purchased from flea markets and thrift stores. His best friend Natasha has asked to buy his home for five times more than what he’s paying for it, but his answer has been and always will be no. He may be in Red Hook, but his view is of the Hudson and he'll never find a better deal. So Natasha had sighed heavily and helped him install track lights and show him how to get the best out of exposed brick.

And he’s living the dream.

Except for Bucky. Steve isn’t sure what his problem is with Bucky. Just that he doesn’t like him. On principle maybe. It takes a special kind of person to just burst into a kindergarten classroom thinking he’s the boss of everything. Steve adjusts the pillows behind his back and sighs. That’s pretty much all the entitled parents who walk through his doors. Usually the parents who have had nannies in the past and expect him to be as accommodating. Though Freddie doesn’t seem like the nanny type of kid. Not that there’s anything wrong with nannies, just that Steve wouldn’t personally employ their services. The parents of these children are a special type of person. They usually think they're better than Steve. It's probably the reason they send their kids to a private elementary school.

Bucky’s probably just over protective as an uncle. Steve groans and runs a hand through his hair and tries to concentrate on his work in front of him. He isn’t sure why he keeps thinking about Bucky, just that it’s been so long since someone’s pissed him off. Or could it be that he finds Bucky attractive?

And that means it’s time for a break.

Steve climbs from his nest of pillows and blankets and walks into his kitchen. Also fancier than he deserves. But if he didn’t know how to cook it would have felt like a waste. He grabs a beer from his fridge and a clementine. He finishes them both while leaning back against his sink. When he’s done he decides to check his phone and he’s only mildly surprised to see several texts from Peggy, Natasha, and his friend Scott. All of them are asking him to grab a drink that night. He responds to Natasha with a yes, he’ll see them tonight and heads back into his nest.

He’s surrounded by neat stacks of math, art, and spelling. He’s been identifying what each student is most confident at and what they are least confident in. His mind drifts back to Freddie and her aversion to certain textures. Her handwriting is always light on the paper, but he crayon strokes are sure and heavy. He’s appalled with himself that he’s never noticed it before. On Monday, he’d bring her erasable pens. That should help with the scratchy noises that number two pencils make. He knows he can’t be too hard on himself; he isn’t Sherlock Holmes, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have picked up on certain cues sooner.

Steve sighs and starts to go through the spelling tests from Thursday. It’s always kind of cute and funny to see kids put their folders up on the desks to hide their papers during tests. Though he thinks that comes as a double edged sword. Sure, it teaches them that cheating is wrong, but it also teaches them to not trust their fellow students. But he hasn’t figured out a good solution yet, so he’ll leave it as it is for now.

He's been working a few hours when the sun starts to go down which means his little sunspot is starting to move across the floor and up the walls. Steve sighs and starts to pick up the papers and set them on his dining table. It’ll be nice to go out and socialise with friends tonight.

He shows up at the bar an hour later than the rest of his friends, but that doesn’t make them any less happy to see him.

Natasha stands up first and gives Steve a hug. He gets hugs from all of them and none of them say anything when he holds them a beat too long. Scott claps Steve on the shoulder when they part and gives him a small smile. Steve orders a beer once he’s sat down and comfortable.

“So, you know Cassie is going into kindergarten next year.” Scott says, waggling his eyebrows. “Is there a chance that you’ll be her teacher?”

Steve laughs. “I mean, I don’t get to choose my students, but you could get her enrolled and I'll see her around the halls.”

Natasha side eyes Steve. “Are you sure you want him as your kid’s teacher? I think Peggy over here would do a much better job.”

Peggy laughs. “Actually, Mr. Jarvis will be taking my place next year. I’ll be the new school counselor.” Steve’s eyes widen as he takes a swig of his beer. “I’ve been talking to Principal Victoria Hand about it and she thinks it’s time for a change in direction for Mr. Fury. He said that the lack of eye only distracts children, so he’s moving into the main office.”

“That’s great, Peg!” Steve is legitimately happy for her. It’ll be weird having just Edwin across the hall, but she deserves a bigger role in the school. “I guess that means we should start inviting Edwin out to things, huh?”

“Yeah,” Natasha says. “I hear about this guy all the time and I’ve never even met him. I think it’s time.”

“You also aren’t a teacher…” Scott says, gently peeling the label from his beer. “It would be weirder if you worked there and had never met him.” Natasha gives him an unimpressed look. “I’m right.” He protests and she turns away from him.

Peggy clears her throat and pushes her whiskey away from her conspiratorially. “Also, a handsome young suitor has caught Mr. Rogers’ eye.” Steve can feel his face heat up as Scott and Natasha beg for details. “He’s a young ruffian who defies rules and has managed to poke at Steve’s soft spots. Figuratively, of course.” She smiles at Steve, all bright eyed and sweet. “For now.”

“He isn’t anybody. He’s a pain in my ass.” Steve mumbles behind his beer. Natasha narrows his eyes at him, but doesn’t say a word and that makes him even more nervous. If there’s anyone in the world who can see right through him, it’s her and she probably won’t even bring it up for several weeks once Steve’s forgotten about this interaction.

Scott giggles. “He might be.” He starts folding his beer label into a crane.

“Oh, darling…” Peggy says sadly. “Does Steve look like the type to bottom?”

“And we are officially done talking about this.” Steve says.

Peggy leans across the table and stage whispers. “He’s quite dominant.”

“Thank you, Peggy.” Steve sighs and pushes her whiskey back towards her. He isn't entirely sure how she knows that, considering they have never been intimate in any way. Maybe he got drunk once and told her. Or Natasha found out and told her. That's probably the most likely scenario.

She hums quietly to herself and tilts back the rest of her drink. Natasha orders her another one before Peggy finishes drinking as the waiter walks by. Steve wants to know what she’s doing, but without asking her. Peggy almost never drinks to get drunk and it’s weird that she openly welcomes her next drink without hesitation. “It’s been quite a long week. This is when boys start bullying girls on the playground.” She mumbles under her breath.

“Better bite that right in the ass.” Scott says. “If some shitty little kid thinks he can pull my little girls hair…”

“You know,” Steve interjects. “They’re taught from a young age to not express their feelings properly, so they automatically turn to violence. I’ve learned that chastising the parents often works quite well.”

Peggy raises her eyebrows and tips her drink towards Steve. “Thank you, Mr. Rogers. We have parent teacher conferences next month, if you haven’t forgotten.”

Steve hasn’t forgotten, he just hates them. Progress reports giving by paper aren’t nearly as effective as progress reports given in person, but at least he doesn’t have to actually interact with parents who don’t value him as a teacher or even as a person. Even though many of his students who have grown up often come back and say hi to him on occasion. Especially if they’re still in the elementary school.

“It’ll be Sam and Rebecca Barnes. I can handle them. As long as her brother isn’t there, we won’t have much of a problem.” Steve tosses back the rest of his beer and squints and Natasha as she orders him another one.

“Something the matter?” She has the audacity to ask.

“Are you trying to get us drunk?”

She laughs, full-bodied and throws her head back. When she looks at Steve again, there’s no trace of mirth. “You teachers have a lot of stress. You just need to drink it off.”

“Here here.” Peggy says as she starts on her next drink.

Steve won’t be fooled by her however, and makes sure to not finish his next beer. Natasha, of course, notices, but doesn’t say a word. Scott calls it a night around nine saying he has to go relieve his babysitter of Cassie. Natasha and Peggy boo at him and boo even louder when Steve also calls it a night. The early autumn air is crisp, but not cold, so Steve walks home. Scott insists on giving him a ride, but Steve tells him to go home to his daughter. He likes the time to think to himself anyways.

&&&

“And then! He basically insinuates that I’m like a terrorist or something!” Bucky waves his arms frantically. Rebecca just kind of hums between every couple of sentences. “And get this! He thinks he’s hot shit, doesn’t he? Just because he looks like that.”

At that, Becca raises her eyes and looks at her brother carefully. “Looks like what, Bucky?”

And because Bucky is out of his mind with anger still, he doesn’t catch her look. “You know. Ethereal or some shit. And shredded or whatever. That type.” Freddie’s gone to bed for the night and Bucky has his sister cornered on the couch retelling his tale of woe about that asshole of a kindergarten teacher.

“Uh huh.” She goes back to the game on her phone. It looks like she’s organising colours, so Bucky doesn’t get the appeal. “Sounds like you have a real problem.” She deadpans.

Bucky makes a sound of frustration. “Forget it. I’m leaving.” He gets off the sofa and hears Becca say No. Please. Don’t go. in the most insincere voice he’s ever heard from her as he leaves. It’s Friday night! He should be going out and finding some hot thing to bring home and ravage. But the very thought makes his feel dirty, even though he’s usually so suave.

He isn’t sure where he’s walking to, but he’ll know when he sees it. Until then, he wanders around Brooklyn aimlessly, looking out for anything that looks interesting. Becca hadn’t been any help with her demon spawn of a kindergarten teacher. That’s a little too mean, Steve’s just trying to do right by his students. But what a prick.

Bucky sees a bar and heads into it. It’s quiet enough and all he wants is a scotch to settle his nerves. It’s pretty empty for a Friday night, but to be fair it’s also in a quieter neighbourhood. It’s also getting pretty late and bar like this probably wouldn’t be open for much longer, maybe an hour or so more. He settles into a seat at the bar and a person sidles in next to him a few moments later. Maybe he would be getting lucky that night. He doesn’t so much as glance at the other person, but he does order a scotch when the bartender comes by and asks both of them what they want.

The woman who’s joined him asks for a Shirley Temple and Bucky almost turns to look at her. Because what the fuck. She certainly sounds like a grown adult. But doesn’t usually mean anything. There are teenagers that can act like full adults and still have no idea what they’re getting themselves into. Bucky’s ready with a hard no when he turns to look at her. It’s the teacher from that morning who kicked him out of Steve’s room. Another person sits on his other side and he suddenly feels surrounded.

“Hello, Mr. Barnes.” She’s British and he glances to his right and sees she’s a redhead.

“Hello?” He says uncertainly. He’s very clearly outnumbered here.

“I think you and I may have gotten off on the wrong foot. Just because Steve hates you, doesn’t mean I have to.” The British woman holds Bucky’s attention, but he’s more wary of the woman behind him who isn’t saying a word.

“He hates me?” That hurts Bucky more than he’d ever be willing to admit. “Well fuck that guy.”

She glances at the woman behind her with an unreadable expression before turning her gaze back to Bucky. “Peggy Carter and the woman next to you is Natasha Romanoff.”

“Bucky Barnes.”

“Truly a pleasure, Mr. Barnes.” Peggy is probably the most beautiful woman Bucky has ever laid eyes on and she’s mildly intimidating. Natasha is terrifying. He hums at her. “Well, know that you always have a friend in the school should Steve ever say something to you that bothers you. He’s a man of few words, but I would be more than willing to translate for you.”

“I think today was pretty straightforward.”

Natasha chuckles behind him and he turns to look at her. “I’m sure it was. From what I heard, you deserved it.”

“Of course you would say that, you’re on his side.”

“I’m not on anybody’s side. I just wanna see how this plays out.” Natasha smirks at him.

“We’re trying to make him feel welcome, not scare him off, darling.” Peggy admonishes. “It is getting late, however, and I still have things to do for the night before the weekend starts and I decide I don’t want to do anything.” She slides of a piece of paper. “My number, should you ever need a friend.”

“I’m not looking for a relationship.” Bucky says and Natasha snorts loudly behind him.

Peggy narrows her eyes at him. “I have more important things to do than find a mate, Mr. Barnes.” She slides from the bar and puts a hand on his shoulder. “Consider me a lifeline, if you will.” And then she leaves.

Bucky stares at her number for a beat before shoving it into his pocket. He turns to Natasha who’s still sitting there. “Are you gonna give me your number too?”

She gives him a look and shakes her head. “Only in your dreams, Barnes.” She gets up and leaves, presumably to catch up with Peggy.

After they leave, Bucky settles more into his seat and takes a look around the bar to make sure no one else is paying any attention to him. Just in case there are more people ready to accost him. There isn't a single person in the room that seems like they're paying any attention to him, so he sighs and relaxes. It's been a long day and the last thing he needs is more surprises. He had a nice time with Freddie that afternoon. She's the best kid in the world, which makes sense because she has the best parents in the world. Steve seems like he really cares about children, Bucky would have to be an idiot to have not noticed that. But geez, Steve has some weird as fuck friends.

Chapter Text

The next couple of weeks pass without incident. Steve does cringe a little bit the next two consecutive Fridays, expecting Bucky to burst through the door again, but it hasn’t happened again and Steve is grateful. Only a couple of the kids have asked him what happened and he of course responded with oh, that was just an old friend of mine to not raise panic. As it happens, Ms. Lewis did check Bucky's ID when he showed up at the school, but forgot to give him a visitor's pass. So Steve can't really be too upset with Bucky. But he isn't exactly the most rational person.

Freddie has had marked improvement on her writing skills since switching away from pencils. Her handwriting is clearer and darker and she's been writing more than one sentence for the journaling session. Her creative writing skills are impressive for someone her age. She likes to draw and he's caught her on more than one occasion, doodling in her notebooks and on the sides of her papers while Steve is talking. He's careful not to chastise her, but he does ask that she doesn't draw in library books anymore. And Steve has been including her improvements in his daily note to her parents, along with the suggestion to buy her a drawing book.

But when Bucky shows up for the Parent Teacher Conference, Steve feels like he's been thrown through a loop. But he schools his expression and shakes Bucky's hand as he nears his desk.

“Mr. Barnes, it's good to see you again.” Steve is proud of himself that he doesn't seem rude or unwelcoming. Or not nice.Still, Bucky looks like he's going to burst at the seams.

“Yeah…” Bucky sits across from Steve and shifts in his seat uncomfortably. “Becca and Sam are sorry they can't make it, they have a thing so they sent me since I'm family.”

“It's alright. A little unorthodox, but as long as you pass along information it should be okay.”

Bucky looks annoyed and he shifts in his seat again. “It's not like I was gonna keep it to myself.”

Steve grits his teeth, but looks down as he does so and prays it isn't noticeable. “I didn't say you would. Just that it's the responsible thing to do.”

Bucky barks out a sharp laugh. “There's that fucking superiority complex. You must think I'm so irresponsible just from that one fucking meeting, don't you, Stevie?” Bucky stands from his seat and places hands on Steve's desk.

“You need to watch your language.” Steve stands too and he grabs Bucky's wrist when it looks like he'll make a swipe at the items on Steve's desk. Bucky glances down at his wrist and back up to Steve's face. There's an insane moment in Steve's head where he sees himself kissing Bucky and it makes his chest flare up. And even more insane, Bucky's eyes look a touch too dark.

Steve swallows hard and he watches in dark fascination as Bucky's eyes trace the movement. They're both breathing a tad heavily. Bucky snatches his arm back and plops back in his seat.

“Fine. Just watch your attitude.”

Steve nods and sits back down. "Only if you watch our mouth."

Somehow, against all odds, the rest of their meeting goes without a hitch. Bucky says that he’ll pass the information along to his sister and her husband and Steve nods his approval. Thankfully, Bucky is his last parent meeting for the evening and he can take the time he needs to breathe and wonder what the fuck that was all about.

Except Peggy comes in a few minutes after Bucky leaves and breaks his concentration. She closes Steve’s door and crosses to his desk with a concerned expression.

“Steve…” It’s probably one of the few times Steve has ever heard her sound unsure of herself. “What happened?”

“What?”

“Bucky texted me a jumble of letters and your name. So naturally, I took that as a sign that I should check on you.”

“When the hell did you get his number?” That’s the only piece of information that Steve had latched onto.

Peggy sighs and sits down. “The day you met him, we went out for drinks and after you left, he showed up. And before you get defensive and angry with me, know that I only approached him with your best interest in mind. I recognised him and I figured I’d give you both a helping hand.”

“He broke into the school, Peg!” She shrugs and that makes Steve angrier than it should. “And you just thought you’d talk to him like it’s nothing? Trade phone numbers and talk about how unreasonable I am? I’ve known you since elementary school and it took you this long to tell me?”

“To be fair, this is the first time he’s contacted me.” Peggy steeples her fingers on the edge of his desk and regards him carefully. “I think...Steve, please don’t take this wrong way, that it’s time to find you a special somebody.” And even though she’s clearly chosen her words very carefully, Steve can’t help the feeling of betrayal well up in him. “I know you said you didn’t need help finding someone. But you haven’t had any emotions about a man in years and I want you to be happy.”

He shakes his head, unsure of what to say. He wants to tell her to leave, to leave him alone, to never interfere with his life again. But he knows that he’s crossed from being touch-deprived to be straight up touch-starved. Sometimes he’ll catch himself leaning against strangers on the subway, seeking warmth. Or holding on a bit too long while shaking hands with someone. Or hanging on to a hug far longer than what’s considered appropriate. But that doesn’t give Peggy the right to his life.

“We didn’t plan it, I swear. He walked in and I saw him and we approached him.”

“We?” Steve asks, snapping from his train of thought.

Peggy presses her lips together and nods. “Natasha.”

Steve groans. Of course. He’ll probably never bring this up with her. Sure, they’re friends, but Natasha is a very special kind of person and if he does talk with her about, he would have to be very careful. Or very brash. Depending on her mood.

“She mostly just sat there. You know how she is.” Observant.

“I’d like to be on my own now, please.”

Peggy stands a little stiffly and smooths her skirt. “I do hope you’ll consider him a fine suitor, Steve.”

She leaves and Steve drops his head into his hands. With friends like these… He packs up for the night, unplugs his fairy lights from around the window and begins his walk home.

&&&

Me:
Steves a rwapbpiexe of tarbqyr

Peggy Carter:
I’m sure the sentiment is well reciprocated. I’ll talk to him.

Bucky sighs. He really should have been looking at his phone while he was texting, but it’s too late now. Auto-correct can usually work wonders with his key smashing, but not tonight. Steve is a special kind of human being. Seeing him sets Bucky’s blood on fire because he’s pretty and he’s an asshole. And he’s strong. Those muscles are just for show, it seems. Briefly, Bucky wonders what it would feel like to be pinned down by Steve and his dick gives a little interested twitch.

He swallows thickly and continues wandering around the city. Somehow, he’s ended up in Manhattan. It isn’t exactly warm outside, being October and all, but it still isn’t cold. New York gets to be a interesting kind of cold. It isn’t bone chilling, but it is fucking freezing. But there’s still a couple of months before it gets to that point.

It’s starting to get pretty late and Bucky has to get up early for work in the morning. But he can probably survive off of a few hours of sleep. It’s hard to want to get Steve off of his mind. So what if he’s an asshole, Bucky’s had hate sex before--

This keeps popping up. Even in the weeks that he hasn’t seen Steve, he still had these thoughts of letting the man tear him apart. And though the practical application of that is almost impossible, it still hasn’t stopped him from having his dirty little fantasies. He circles the block and starts to head back towards Brooklyn Bridge to get home. Somewhere between Manhattan and home, Bucky texts his sister to tell her about what Steve said about Freddie and how great she’s doing.

Fuck Steve.

&&&

The next day at work, Bucky spends a good deal of time zoning out. Sure, he’s already expressed to himself exactly how much he doesn’t want Steve. He doesn’t. There are so many other things that he should be working on that don’t involve Steve, or people at all.

Bucky’s office is quiet and secluded, just the way he likes it. Hardly anyone ever comes to bother him, unless there’s something wrong with the business’ finances, but they’re in good shape because Bucky keeps them that way. Doing the bookkeeping for a small business is amazing. No one’s corrupt yet, no one hates anybody, and the numbers are easy enough to deal with. Every so often, he’ll call someone up to his office (usually a woman) and tell them that they should ask for a raise because their counterparts are making more than them.

But for the most part, he’s left alone to do the finances. October isn’t exactly a busy time for a small real estate company, but they have contracts nonetheless and Tony Stark has a lot of properties that he owns. Bucky doesn’t understand that man, but he comes through Bucky’s office more than anyone. And Bucky is pretty sure that Tony doesn’t go to anyone else’s office as often as his. At first, he thought it was because he was a suspect in disappearing money, but after everything evened out after the acquisition of a new building, Bucky dropped that idea and figured that Tony’s just lonely and latched on to him for love and support or whatever.

It would be okay, but Tony can talk. And more than that, he's more invested in Bucky's emotions than Bucky is. But he knows if he makes it clear that he wants to be alone, Tony will leave. Right now it's really nice having company. Bucky barely slept last night and what sleep he did have was infected with thoughts of Steve. That asshole.

Tony pushes a paper bag from Five Guys across Bucky's desk when he comes in. “You do know it's almost time for you to go home, right? And I know for a fact that you haven't eaten yet. So, please, feed yourself.”

Bucky blinks at the bag. It's been a long time since he's needed a person to take care of him, but with a cursory glance at the time, he sees that, yes, it's just about five o'clock and he still hasn't fed himself. His stomach makes a horrible noise and Tony gestures for him to start eating. The instant Bucky sinks his teeth into the burger, he can't stop. And in less than two minutes, the burger is gone.

“Wow.” Tony sits in the chair across from Bucky's desk and raises his eyebrows, impressed. “Should I bring you food more often?”

Bucky shakes his head and starts reaching for his wallet. “No, I'm usually better than this.” He holds money out for Tony to take.

Tony narrows his eyes at the proffered bills. “I don't want that. If I wanted you to pay me back, I would have started with that.” Bucky blinks. “You keep this company afloat, without you, we probably would have been audited a million times by now.”

“We both know that isn't true.”

“So, what's her name? Or his name?” Tony leans back and looks way too pleased with himself. “You're unlucky in love.”

Bucky remains carefully quiet. There are a lot of words he wants to say, but all of them would be too rude to say to his boss. Instead, he busies himself with his work, trying to make it seem like he has things to do.

“You don't have to tell me anything, but I remember when I met someone who threw me through a loop. Pepper is the only woman I have ever cared about. You've met her.” Bucky has. She's a short, yet confident woman with kind eyes and a gentle demeanour. Never in a million years would Bucky have pictures Pepper and Tony together. He lovingly calls them Pepperony in his head.

Tony raps his knuckles once on the edge of Bucky’s desk as he stands up. “I’ll see you around, Buckaroo.”

Internally, Bucky flinches at the name, but he nods politely as he leaves.

Maybe he has been a little hard on Steve. Bucky quashes that thought as it arises and rolls his eyes heavily. No way. Steve should be the one apologising to him. That ass of a man. Bucky starts and stares at his door. He could always...hate fuck Steve. There’s a thought. Maybe if he does, he’ll finally get him off of his mind. It always worth a shot.

Chapter Text

Steve must have an innate desire to prove Peggy wrong at every turn. Even when Bucky starts turning up every day to pick Freddie up from school. The first time, Steve had sighed and let Freddie leave with her uncle. Her uncle who didn’t so much as glance at him. Not that that bothered Steve at all. The first week, found Bucky leaning against the wall of school next to the exit, bundled in too many layers to look comfortable.

Steve had asked him if he had a job on the first day of the second week and all he got in response was I have lunch breaks. On Tuesday of the second week, Bucky didn’t say a word to Steve, only winked at him as he and Freddie left. And that wink did not leave Steve weak in the knees, because what the hell.

It would be ridiculous not to, so Steve starts holding small conversations with Bucky about the weather and Harry Potter. Steve learns that Bucky is a financial manager and that he has a soft spot for Lena Horne. In return, Steve says that he likes cupcakes and blankets. Steve still doesn’t like Bucky much, but he’s reached a point where he likes Bucky as much as he likes most parents.

Freddie is over the moon. She’s thrilled for the end of school everyday, because, yay, Uncle Bucky is coming. Steve asks her if she likes her uncle coming to get her (which in hindsight was a stupid question) and she nodded and gave Steve a scrutinising look. Uncle Bucky likes boys. And that did leave Steve weak in the knees.

By the fourth week of winks and a few polite words, Steve is starting to hit his limit. No other parent or guardian picks their kid up from school everyday and if they do, they pick them up at the front office like a normal adult. Bucky purposefully waits right outside where he knows Steve is going to be. The weather is starting to get colder and no, Steve does not worry about Bucky’s well being.

It’s mid-December and Steve comes out one day, fully expecting to see Bucky. But he doesn’t. Disappointment floods Freddie’s face and she stands on the sidewalk crying big crocodile tears. Steve doesn’t have much of a choice but to send her on a bus home, but he does take as much time as he can wiping her tears and trying to convince her that Bucky hasn’t abandoned her, just that he probably got caught up with work.

Freddie wipes at her eyes, but the tears keep coming and Steve hugs her to help her feel better. Snow is coming down and it’s cold outside, but she’s so warm. He always forgets how much heat children put off until he interacts with one of them. She hugs back until the busses start honking and he guides her to the bus. She climbs on, still wiping at her eyes and the bus leaves. She’s usually such a strong kid for her age. And it’s heartbreaking to see her so sad. A small part of him hates Bucky again for letting her down. But he knows that as an adult, Bucky probably has a million reasons for not showing up.

Or…

Someone’s running towards Steve likes his life depends on it and as he gets closer, Steve can see that it’s Bucky.

Bucky stops a few paces away and looks around the empty lot. “Fuck fuck shit fuck shit shit shit.”

Language. Christ.” Steve throws his arms up in irritation.

“Where’s Fred?” Bucky peaks behind Steve and into the school as though hoping Steve kept her from going home.

“On a bus. She was real sad when you didn’t show up.”

Bucky runs his gloved hands through his hair, tugging uselessly at the short locks. He looks at Steve desperately and any rage that Steve had been feeling earlier dissipates in an instant. “No…” He falls back against the side of the building and swears under his breath again.

Steve shuffles on his feet. “Do you wanna come inside? Warm up a little?”

Bucky gives Steve a dubious look, eyes running over his face, looking for any hint of deception. But he nods and Steve brings them in. It’s freezing outside and Steve hadn’t worn a coat to bring the kids out, which had been stupid, but it’s usually a minute long trip and not five minutes. He ears are so cold they hurt, so as soon as they get back to his classroom, he sits on the heater next to the window. Bucky joins him and they sit in awkward silence.

“I’m sorry for being late today.” Bucky says after a tense ten minutes. “I usually take a bus here, but the snow is bad and I didn’t think about the subway until it was too late.”

Steve sighs. “It’s fine by me. You didn’t promise me you’d be here. But you have been coming by for weeks now. You were bound to have a slip up.” And Steve has no idea why he said that. He hadn’t meant to say anything confrontational, especially when he knows Bucky is already beating himself up about it.

“Fuck you, Steve.” Bucky turns so he’s face him head on and Steve’s ready with an apology. “And don’t tell me to watch my language. There’s no one here, who’s gonna hear it, huh? Who’s gonna fuckin’ hear it?” There’s a pull in Steve’s chest that he ignores. “I’ve been trying to do right by her, trying to make her happy, but you’re such a dick.”

“I didn’t--”

“You think just because I’m an uncle, I don’t get a say about what happens to her? Like it don’t matter?” Bucky hops off the radiator and stalks closer to Steve until they’re almost touching. “Fuck you. You don’t get to determine someone’s worth based off of one bad incident. You’ve hated me baselessly for months. You fucking--”

Bucky pushes a finger at Steve’s chest and Steve stands up from the radiator and grabs Bucky’s wrist. He crowds his, pushing him back until the back of his knees his a kid’s desk. They’re too close and Steve can feel Bucky’s breath across his face. “I told you to watch your goddamn language.” Steve speaks lowly, looking down at Bucky. “You need to calm the hell down. First of all, I don’t hate you. I think you’re brash and irresponsible and you have some things to work through.”

Bucky’s breathing is getting deeper and his pupils are dilating and contracting as though he’s trying and failing to focus on Steve’s face. He pulls to get his arm back, but Steve tightens his grip around his wrist.

“Secondly, name calling gets exactly nothing done, so in the future you should refrain, lest you look foolish. And lastly, calling a slip up wasn’t an insult, it was an observation. To err is human, Buck.” Steve finally lets Bucky’s hand go, but doesn’t move back at all. There’s something about being this close to a person, and it helps that Bucky is easy on the eyes.

Bucky swallows thickly and Steve traces the motion of his bobbing adam’s apple and for a crazy second wonders what his skin would taste like. Bucky lowers his arm and the back of his hand brushes against Steve’s chest and Steve’s breath catches in his throat.

He takes a step back from Bucky and goes to sit at his desk and stubbornly ignores the twitch his cock makes in his pants when he notices the blush going down Bucky’s chest. “Yes, sir.” Bucky says. Steve’s dick twitches again and he tries not to groan, biting his lip and staring dazedly at the other man.

“I trust you can find your way out of my school.” Steve motions to his door and Bucky stumbles out.

As soon as his door closes, Steve leans back in his chair and presses his hands against his eyes, willing his dick to calm down. He feels icky on the inside being aroused in an elementary school and it takes a series of gross images in his head to get his anatomy back to its usual levels. He takes an hour to write notes to parents and another hour to clean his room before going home. He needs to rest.

&&&

Bucky takes the rest of the day off from work and heads to his apartment. Tony had been understanding and said he’d see him tomorrow. The train ride back home is long and his blood is thrumming the entire time. And he’s relieved he’s wearing a long coat, or else people would know.

It takes about an eternity for him to finally get into his apartment. The heat’s on and it’s warm, so he strips off his outer layers and collapses onto his couch.

What the hell had happened? One moment he was pissed at Steve, the next he wanted him to fuck his brains out. And what the hell was that ‘yes, sir’ nonsense? Where had that come from?

In the back of his mind, he knows he should call his sister and tell her that Freddie will be upset when she gets home, but he figures, she’ll see her daughter soon and she’ll just deal with it. Bucky’s head is spinning and he feels like he’s losing control. Hate fucking Steve has been his intention for weeks and today would have been perfect and it seemed like Steve wanted it too…

Or maybe, he doesn’t want a hate fuck. Maybe he wants Steve to strip him down to his basest levels and ruin him.

Bucky’s still hard from Steve’s classroom and he stares down at his clothed dick like it’s betrayed him. Nothing is stopping him, so Bucky pulls his cock out and strokes it a few times. He hasn’t slept with anyone since meeting Steve which is fucking ridiculous considering he’s pretty sure Steve hates him, despite his words.

He pushes his pants farther down his legs until they’re down at his feet. Bucky’s the first person to admit that it doesn’t take much to get him going. He thinks of how cold Steve’s hand were and if that was from being outside of if he’s just a cold guy. Bucky presses the back of his head into his sofa cushions and squeezes the base of his cock.

It’s midday, so there’s no way anyone is home right now, but he still tries to keep quiet. He moans quietly as he strokes the length of his cock. His hips thrust into his hand and he spreads his legs farther apart. Steve has strong hands. He squeezes himself again, harder, and he keens. Steve would probably open Bucky up roughly and tease his prostate until he’s a sweaty, gasping mess.

HIs dick leaks precome and he spreads it along his length. He strokes himself firmly, faster than he probably should and a slick squelching noise fills the room. Steve probably has the most perfect cock and Bucky hopes that Steve would pin him down and fuck him. He thinks of Steve angling Bucky’s hips just so that he could hit his sweet spot with every wild thrust. Bucky thrust his hips in time with his thrusts and feels that familiar coil in his lower stomach. The world goes silent for a moment and he comes, gasping through it. HIs dick twitches as he spends himself on his shirt and hand. He gives his cock on last squeezes and his body spasms just a bit as he milks himself dry. He’ll clean up in a second. But, fuck, he just jacked off to a kindergarten teacher.

&&&

Steve does not expect Bucky to show up the next day at the end of the school day, but he does. Colour Steve surprised. He high fives all the kids goodbye and he deliberately doesn’t look in the other man’s direction. Yesterday had been enough of the man for a lifetime. He high fives Freddie and she beams at him and says goodbye. Steve starts to head back inside.

“Hey, Mr. Rogers.” Bucky says and Steve gathers himself and turns back to him. “I got you something.” Steve narrows his eyes and takes the bag Bucky offers. It’s a plain paper bag and when he opens it, there’s a small confection box. “I’ll see you around.” Bucky takes Freddie by the hand and walks out of the parking lot with her.

Steve heads back inside and heads straight into Peggy’s classroom. She and Edwin blink up at him. He ignores their stares and sits on the heater in front of the window. Inside of the box Bucky gave him is a chocolate cupcake with pink vanilla frosting with the words I’m Sorry swirled in blue.

Peggy sits next to him. “Your favourite.”

“Yeah…” He isn’t sure how to react to it. Other than thinking that he should return the gesture. He had been pretty rude to Bucky.

Edwin sits on his other side. “It seems you have a suitor.”

Steve turns to Peggy and looks utterly betrayed. “You need to stop calling him that.” He looks at Edwin. “She hasn’t told you anything, has she?”

“I haven’t said a word to Mr. Jarvis about how Bucky has showed up everyday for the past month and a half seeking your attention. Or how you’ll randomly bring Bucky up in conversation when we’re talking about something else. Or how you definitely want to get know him. Biblically.”

“Right. You didn’t tell him any of that.” Steve sighs and rolls his eyes. “So what do I do now?”

Edwin gives Steve a side eyed look. “I’d recommend that you return the gesture. With something of an apology of your own.”

Steve groans. He knows pretty much nothing about Bucky and what he does know, he doesn’t exactly like. Except for his affinity towards jazz. His eyes widen.

“Oh, look. He has an idea.” Peggy says and resumes cleaning her room. “Don’t forget to eat your cupcake, darling. Little Cupcake Bakeshop is quite a ways away. He definitely thought about this gift for you.” Her voice is pointed, but she doesn’t make any eye contact with Steve as she speaks. Mr. Jarvis hums and also starts cleaning up the room. It’s nice that they both care so much, but it would be even nicer if they didn’t butt into his life so much.

“Alright, fine. I’m leaving. Thanks.” Steve takes a bite of his apology-cupcake and it’s delicious. He stops in the middle of the hallway and savours it for a moment. Little Cupcake Bakeshop is in southern Brooklyn, far from everything. It’s a good hour away from the kindergarten by transit, so Bucky had definitely thought this through. It’s kind of a lot for just an apology.

Steve resumes cleaning his classroom. He should return the sentiment. He hadn’t been great yesterday. A pang of guilt strikes through Steve when he remembers his arousal and he swallows thickly. Bucky definitely deserves a gift. An olive branch. Two months is too long and too unprofessional to hold a grudge. Hopefully that'll keep any iniquitous thoughts from coming back around Bucky, But Steve won't hold his breath.

Chapter Text

Steve feels ridiculous. He would never consider himself a hipster or even remotely hip, so this place doesn't feel right to be in. He's surrounded by hip youths who eat avocado toast and have tattoos and wear clothes with purposefully placed holes. Steve's pants are always slightly too baggy and he wears shirts that come straight out of a 1930s men's catalogue.

The record store smells dusty, despite its pristine appearance. It’s bright and laid out well enough that it isn’t constricting. There are a few other patrons in the store. A couple who look super fashionable for their twenties and a couple of other people who look like they know their records. One person is on the phone, talking quietly to their sister and complaining about work. Steve can appreciate conversations like that. No one's approached him and he's spent his time perusing the shelves looking for jazz. Bucky likes Lena Horne so maybe he also like Edith Piaf and Ella Fitzgerald.

Steve pulls out a Frank Sinatra vinyl and inspects it. With a good clean, it'll play just fine. He ends up buying a Lena Horne album and record cleaner as well as the Frank Sinatra album. The girl behind the counter has tattoos and piercings and she's nice enough. She thanks Steve and wishes him a good day.

He decides to not walk home. It's still snowing and Red Hook is a good mile or so away. The train is full of slightly damp, tired looking people. Steve holds the vinyls close to him. They're expensive and easy to break and he'd like to avoid that happening. He stands for the four stops back home and shuffles out the way when more people crowd the car.

Getting off the train means he can breathe again. And getting home means loneliness. There's an animal shelter he passes on his way home and he imagines stopping in and bringing home a new addition to his life. Maybe during winter break. Only a week left.

He turns the heat on in his house when he walks in and kicks his boots off to the side in his foyer. He hangs his coat over one of his counter stools to dry and sets Bucky's gift down on his dining table. What if Bucky doesn't even knows a record player? Steve falls back onto his sofa and sighs. Tonnes of hipsters buy records that they can't even listen to. Though “hipster” doesn't seem to describe Bucky very well.

He starts on grading papers, separating subjects into neat little piles on his coffee table. Steve is many things, but disorganised definitely isn't one of them. He prefers things functional rather than aesthetic. With the exception of his house. It's aesthetically pleasing and functional, but he still hates getting his heating bill every other month. Still worth it though.

Steve grades papers until it's too late to order dinner and whatever's left, he leaves for tomorrow to grade. In the kitchen, he glances at Bucky's gift and sighs. Might as well clean them now. Before dinner.

He goes over each record carefully, making sure there isn't a single speck of dust caught in the grooves. They must be pretty new records; they gleam when Steve is done with them and he's quietly proud of himself.

Dinner time.

There's leftover chicken parmesan that he made a couple nights before and he puts it in the oven to warm. Natasha had laughed at him when he expressed his dislike of microwaves. They suck the taste out of his meals. Rebaking it isn't great either, but it's better than a cold dinner during the cold season.

While he eats, Steve burrows himself into his sofa and surrounds himself with pillows and blankets. This habit formed during college and the heater broke in his dorm at Cornell his first year. He and his then-roommate bundled themselves in blankets. The heater broke a lot for whatever reason, so they ended up bundled in their blankets a lot. This is the time before space heaters were affordable, so they had to make do. Before a while, blankets make a good substitute for another human being. They're warm and heavy. But they can't talk or scratch his head.

Five years.

And Bucky is not the answer. Or even the question. Which is why he bought him a present, right? Steve looks down at his Lonely Man’s Dinner for One and sighs. Bucky may or may not be an answer, but Steve definitely knows it’s been too long.

&&&

Steve is fidgety all day during school. For the first time in his career, he’s thankful for nap time. He hasn't been the most attentive to his kids' needs and that's the absolute worst thing he could do as a teacher. He turns off the overhead lights and plugs in his fairy lights. The kids love them and parents have donated boxes of them to him, just in case his blow out. These ones are multi-coloured and cast the room in an almost animated glow.

He sits behind his desk and twiddles his thumbs. He should be writing notes about his students, but he can’t concentrate on anything. His school day is only four hours long and he’s only halfway through. It isn’t too late for him to just keep the records and Bucky doesn’t even have to know that he bought them. There’s a good idea.

But no. Bucky got him a present and now it’s Steve’s turn to accept that apology. It doesn’t mean that he’s signing his life away to this man. That gets him to relax a little. Knowing that this doesn’t have to be the start of a relationship.

The kids wake up one-by-one and grab their snacks, sitting quietly in their napping spot and munching. They smile sleepily up at Steve and he smiles back. There are still a few more minutes of nap time and he isn’t quite sure where the time went. But he hopes that the rest of the day will go by just as quick.

It does and before he knows it, he’s lining the kids up at the door with Bucky’s present in his hand. There’s a brief moment of dread when he thinks that Bucky isn’t going to show up, but it’s been weeks, there’s no way he won’t show up. The walk down the hallway to the busses has never felt longer than it feels right now. The linoleum seems to stretch out for miles instead of its usual fifty feet. Through the window, he can see Bucky’s profile and his breath catches. He shouldn’t be nervous, it’s just an apology. He gets outside and high fives each kid goodbye and he can feel Bucky’s eyes on him.

“What’s that you got there, Stevie?” Bucky asks as soon as all the kids have run off to their busses. Steve turns and Bucky’s eyes move up to meet his immediately. Freddie latches onto Bucky’s leg and she smiles at him like he’s the best person in the world.

“It’s uh...well, it’s for you.” Steve stammers out and Bucky’s eyebrows raise in surprise. He holds out the flat bag and Bucky takes it, eyeing Steve suspiciously.

“I hope this isn’t a notice that i’ve been banned from school property.” Bucky tries to joke, but it falls flat. He's nervous and that kind of helps Steve feel a bit better. Bucky peers inside the bag and freezes. “Uhm…”

“If you don’t like them, I have a receipt and you can return them.” Steve feels monumentally stupid.

“No!” Bucky says, maybe a little too firmly. Freddie jumps a little and he places a hand on her head in apology. “No, sorry. I love them. Thanks, Steve.”

Steve shuffles on his feet. “Do you have a record player?”

“Yeah, man. I don’t have these ones. I’m real excited.” He gives Steve the most beautiful smile he’s ever seen in his life and he thinks that all of his awkwardness in the past twenty-four hours was definitely worth this one moment. “Really, thank you.”

“I’m sorry for my behaviour the last few months.” Steve says, because it needs to be said.

Bucky nods. “Me too.” He holds out his hand and Steve shakes it. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Yeah, tomorrow.” Steve waves a little and heads back inside. As soon as he’s back in his own room, he smiles. He feels lighter somehow.

&&&

Freddie is thrilled, to say the least. “Does this mean that Mr. Steve is going to be my new uncle?”

“What?” Bucky is so thrown off, he almost trips over the sidewalk. “Where’d you get that idea from?”

“Ms. Peggy said that when an uncle marries another uncle--” She stops speaking and furrows her eyebrows in a way that makes her look adorably frustrated. “I want two uncles.”

“Ms. Peggy tells you these things?” Bucky asks dubiously and she nods. What the hell is that lady telling those kids? He’ll be texting her later. Also, is Freddie playing matchmaker? Her smiles is way too omniscient for a little kid and it makes him a little uneasy.

“When you marry Mr. Steve, I wanna be flower girl.” Bucky wants to say that it'll never happen, but he doesn't want to crush her tiny soul. So he sighs and nods.

“We'll get you the prettiest dress.” She seems appropriately happy with that response.

Bucky gets her home and says a brief hello to Sam. Sam who snorts and calls him an idiot. Sam who rolls his eyes every time Bucky says he has no interest in dating Steve. Sam who laughs at Bucky's expense at any given time. Rebecca is pretty much the same way. But she works during the day, so he doesn’t have to hear it. Sam, on the other hand, never wastes any time telling Bucky what an idiot he is.

“Did he get you a present?” Sam laughs. “Why don’t you just tell him what you want? Or ask him on a date? Jesus, man. It might be mutual.” Sam hugs his daughter hello and kisses her on the head even while he’s emotionally destroying Bucky. “Don’t you want another uncle?” Freddie nods quicky at Sam and whispers something in his ears. Sam laughs, too hard, and Bucky bristles. “The prettiest dress, huh? Already planning your wedding, Barnes?”

“Oh like you didn’t know you wanted to marry Becka when you first met her.” Bucky knows instantly that that was the wrong thing to say and Sam laughs again. “Shut up! I didn’t mean it like that!” His face turns red and he groans. “Whatever, I gotta get back to work!” He kisses Freddie on the head and storms out of the house.

It’s freezing outside. He should maybe stop picking Freddie up from school. But that would mean not seeing Steve. But is he worth pneumonia? Probably. Bucky groans and shoves his hands in his pocket. He could take the subway, but then he’d have to think while not moving and thinking while actually moving is a lot harder because multi-tasking isn't a thing that everyone can do, okay? He opts for walking and passes by the station with little regret. Snow starts coming down and he thinks of Steve with snowflakes in his hair. Something clenches painfully in Bucky’s chest and he blinks. Oh, no. Oh no oh no. He has actual feelings for Steve. Like, real, adult feeling for Steve. Bucky has of course experienced adult feelings, but not in a long while. Fuck this man.

&&&

So reasonably, on Friday, when he picks up Freddie again, Bucky brings Steve another cupcake. Ordering it had been awkward and the woman on the phone had definitely laughed at him. But he really couldn’t blame her. How often does someone order a proposition cupcake. Bucky feels ridiculous carrying the cupcake all throughout work and his face does not flush with embarrassment when Tony asks him what’s in the bag. Tony seems to be all knowing when it comes to emotions. But Bucky knows for a fact that that isn’t true. Tony is oblivious as fuck, but more in tune with Bucky than he needs to be.

The train ride to the school is long and there are butterflies in his stomach. He’s early, which happens sometimes when he’s nervous about something. So he stops by a coffeeshop and orders a large drip coffee with room for cream just in case Steve likes creamy coffee.

Bucky leans against the wall of the school where he usually does a couple of minutes before class lets out. The bell rings and Bucky can hear the pitter patter of little feet and hushed giggles from inside. Steve opens the door and gives Bucky a small smile and fuck he's beautiful. The thought stabs through Bucky and he offers Steve a weak smile back. Now he feels silly with his cupcake. He already got Steve a cupcake. This week. Stars above.

Steve high fives each kid like he always does and Freddie runs up to Bucky and hugs his leg tightly. “Hi Uncle Buck!” He bends and kisses her on the head.

“Hey, bug. You ready to go home?” Bucky asks and she nods up at him. “Alright, gimme a sec."

Steve cheeks are flushed from the cold once all the kids are on their busses and he's starting to head back in. Bucky catches the door before he can think better of his actions and calls out to Steve. Steve turns, a confused look on his face and Bucky holds out the bag and the coffee.

“I'll see you around, Stevie.” Bucky manages to croak out after Steve takes the stuff. He's well aware that this is one of the riskiest things he's ever done and it could cause irrevocable damage to his relationship with his niece's teacher. But what's done is done.

Bucky takes Freddie’s hand and leads her back home. She makes tiny quips at him and he doens't even try to stop her

&&&

Steve stares at the box. A phone number, presumably Bucky's, is on the lid of the box. Steve pulls out his phone and programmes it in. Like a habit or something. Maybe he’ll text Bucky a thank you for another cupcake (another indulgence he doesn’t really allow himself). Or maybe he’ll send a selfie of himself with the cupcake. That’s weird. He's not going to do that. A simple thank you will suffice.

He takes a small sip of his coffee and it's quietly thankful when Bucky hasn't added any cream or sugar. And all thoughts fly right out the window when Steve opens the box. It’s a red velvet cupcake with white cream cheese frosting (yum) and in red swirly writing it says Fuck Me?

Steve’s throat dries up.

He rereads the cupcake several times before he actually believes that it says what it says. Bucky wants him. Sexually. It was fine to just think about it as a non-possibility, but now he’s being propositioned and Steve isn’t entirely sure how to react. Positively? Negatively? In abject horror? He doesn’t know. What he does know is that it is unprofessional to sleep with his student’s family member.

He also knows that no one has to find out about this.

Steve eats the evidence.

Chapter Text

Bucky only hopes that he'll hear back from Steve. But he's got a small feeling that he won't. Okay. Fine. A big feeling. He's never really out himself out there before. And although a sex cupcake hardly makes him vulnerable, his stomach is still in knots and twists. Steve is hot. And Bucky wants him.

It's the weekend and Bucky has nothing to distract him from Steve. He could go hang out with his sister and annoy her with his emotional suffering. Rebecca is dispassionate and would probably completely ignore him the whole time. And Sam would be there. And Sam would laugh. And Bucky doesn't want his feelings to get hurt.

Bucky stands in the middle of his kitchen. He calls Peggy.

She answers on the second ring. “What do you need, Mr. Barnes?”

Bucky almost regrets calling her. “Do you wanna grab a bite to eat?”

“I'm married to my job.” She says deadpan and ice floods Bucky's stomach. And then she laughs. “Yes. I'll meet you at Pok Pok Ny in a half hour.” She hangs up.

Bucky blinks at his phone. What a woman. Pok Pok Ny happens to be a few blocks south of Bucky and he can take his time getting there. And it's Thai food. Bucky's stomach rumbles. Thirty minutes can't come soon enough.

He takes his time straightening up his living room and after about ten minutes, he rationalises that ‘maybe it's busy’ and ‘he should get there early to get them a table’.

And Peggy’s already there when he strolls through the door. She waves to him as he brushes the snowflakes from his hair. Peggy greets him like an old friend, standing from the table and giving him a hug he doesn't expect.

“I like a man who's early.” She jokes as she looks through the menu. “I imagine this is about Steven. What did he do?”

Bucky had kind of wanted this to be a nice quiet late lunch that had nothing to do with Steve. But since she brought him up. “I gave him a cupcake.” He starts off.

“I know. He showed me.” Peggy sets down her menu and looks at him with an amused expression. “It's a good way to apologise.”

Bucky blushes. “I gave him a second one.”

She blinks. And oh, Steve is keeping this to himself. Maybe he shouldn't tell her. But he's already come this far. “I propositioned him.”

Peggy keeps his expression cool and level. For about a second. “You want to take a tumble in the sheets with ole Steve?” Bucky hates her. “What's that American phrase? You want to see his disco stick?” Bucky's face is as red as sriracha.

Thankfully someone comes by and takes their orders before she can continue. Peggy levels him with a look after their server leaves. “In French, the euphemism for sex is cartwheels.”

Bucky can't help it, he laughs. Helplessly. And he presses his face into his hands. “You and Steve are very different.” He mumbles.

Peggy shrugs when he looks up again. “You'd be surprised. Steve Rogers is sassy. I adore that man.” She sombers a little. “Speaking of, there's the whole conversation that if you hurt him, no one will find the body. And know that if you hurt him, Natasha will make sure you suffer first.”

That sends a chill down Bucky's spine.

She brightens up again. “Well, you'll have to get together first. And that's all up to Steve now, isn't it?” Bucky nods. “Great that you put the ball in his goal.”

“That isn't the phrase.”

She waves him off flippantly. “You aren't British.”

“I'm sure it's the same over there.”

“Give him time.” Peggy continues, ignoring him. “I'd give him until the new year.” Bucky wants to protest because that's three weeks from now. “He's a patient man. And he knows what he likes. You could bring him a cupcake everyday.” She leans forward, smirking at him. “When he feels like he's let himself go, he starts running home. It's the only time I see him in tight clothes.”

Bucky's mouth goes dry. He's felt Steve's muscles exactly once and he'd straight up do anything to feel them again. But… “I don't think I want to be the cause of his weight gain though.” Peggy laughs, absolutely delighted.

Their food arrives and Bucky wastes exactly no time diving in. He's half starved. Peggy eats daintily. Of course she does. Bucky tends to talk with his mouth full and he's sure Peggy would not find that appealing. And he wants to impress her. Maybe she'll say good things about him to Steve. That's rude. Peggy seems cool and it would nice to have her as a friend.

After they've eaten a decent amount of food and Bucky doesn't feel like he needs to keep gorging himself, Peggy leans back a little, stabbing gently at her noodles with her chopsticks. “So, do you have feelings for Steve with your heart or your penis?” Bucky's rice goes down the wrong pipe.

“Both?” I want him to punish me and give me kisses after. “He cares about children. He cares about my niece. He does things for his students that other teachers wouldn't care to do.”

There's a small smile on Peggy’s face and she seems like she understands. “You want a daddy.” No. “Having a man who cares definitely seems to fit the role, but Steve does not make a tonne of money, darling.”

Bucky shakes his head. “No. I'm looking for something.” He scours his head for the right word. “Something good. And balanced. I dunno, I want something that gives me that warm feeling on the inside or some shit.”

Peggy’s face softens and she reaches across the table to take his hand. “You're looking for love, Mr. Barnes.”

Oh, god. That's what it is, isn't it? Bucky wants Steve to love him. And he wants to love Steve back. His mind is swimming and it feels like such an impossibility.

“You maybe went about this the wrong way then.” Peggy says and Bucky just barely manages to hear her over the roaring in his brain. “Steve likes monogamy and feelings. He might not respond the way you want him to.” She clears her throat and pulls her hand away. “I really shouldn't be disclosing this much information about him.”

“How long have you known him?” Bucky asks just to change the subject a little.

Peggy hums, a distant smile on her face. “We met in middle school. My parents moved stateside and I decided that I actually like New York. And Steve was kind to me even when the world wasn't kind to him.” She loves Steve and it's so painfully clear.

“What if he wasn't gay?” Peggy fixes Bucky with an intense stare and he regrets his question.

“I don't think about impossibilities.” She says shortly and finishes eating her food.

Bucky eats too, worried he'll say something stupid. The cheque comes and Peggy reaches for her wallet and Bucky waves her away and pays for it.

“You don't have to pay for me just because you feel bad.”

“I paid for you because I invited you out and I've been asking invasive questions about your best friend.” She has nothing to say to that. Because he's right.

They head outside and she turns to him. “Steve Rogers is a great man and you would be good to never forget that about him.” She gives him a tight, but brief hug and a small kiss on the cheek. “Good luck.” And she strolls down the street.

Bucky heads to home to ponder.

&&&

Steve is a reasonable man. Who does reasonable things. And has reasonable habits. Like stress relieving habits. He buys books. And as far as he's concerned, his vice could be a whole lot worse. Though, his bank account does weep every time he buys books. Books are knowledge. That's his justification.

Scott has been watching The Good Place which leads to discussions of ethics and since Steve hardly knows anything about moral philosophy, he's buying books on the subject. So he can decimate Scott in later conversation. Which rarely happens. A kindergarten teacher and a mechanical engineer tend to have really good arguments about everything, but Scott values logic over feelings. And Steve has a lot of feelings.

So he grabs Beauvoir and Rousseau and with a shrug, he also grabs Spinoza. He’s already read a tonne of Voltaire, who advocated for reasoning. Clearly, that’s helped with his arguments with Scott. It’s helped so much. (It hasn’t.) The man behind the counter looks like the classic version of a hipster. He’s young and attractive with unruly dark hair and thick rimmed glasses. He gives Steve a once over when he approaches, and Steve almost wants to reciprocate the attraction and thoughts of Bucky slam into him, so he doesn’t. He smiles politely and thanks him, trying not to look at him too much. Which kind of makes him a butt, but it’s better than leading the guy on. Steve leaves and the cold wind hits him.

Bucky.

Steve wants him. In a relationship kind of way. But Bucky only wants to know him in the biblical sense. Steve doesn’t really know how to do relations without feelings. Not that he’s even tried in the past five years. Steve decides in that moment, that no, he won’t be pursuing Bucky.

That makes him feel better. Until he realises that he’ll actually have to talk to Bucky about it. His heart burns just a bit for an instant and then it’s gone. He should call Peggy. She’ll know what to do. But it’s snowing and he doesn’t want to walk home.

Steve Rogers: Can I ask you a question?

He’s ready to put his phone back in his pocket and concentrate on not slipping on the pavement when he receives a response from Peggy almost immediately.

Peggy Carter: I feel rather popular today. Is this man-related?

Steve Rogers:Popular?

Steve Rogers: Yes? It’s Bucky related

Steve heads down into the tunnels, where reception is spotty. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes not. Today, it isn’t. While he rides back home, he thinks about how he wants to word his inquiry to Peggy. She’s always so helpful and full of advice. Peggy is one of the greatest people he’s ever met. Natasha is great too, but her advice on the subject would be to move across the country and avoid him forever and he has a house, so if he could avoid selling his home, that would be great.

He gets to his stop and climbs out from the tunnels and back into the snow. He has a long text message from Peggy when he looks at his phone.

Peggy Carter: Steve, I love you and you're my best friend so please understand that I mean you no harm when I tell you this. You need to get figure out what you want from him and if it's nothing, then tell him that. And if it's something, then get it. Because that boy likes you and he's practically throwing himself at you. That's my advice. Take it or leave it.

Steve stares at his phone until his fingers get too cold. This doesn't help him at all. And he didn't even get to ask his question. He sighs and shoves his phone into his pocket. When he looks up again, he's passing by the animal shelter. Without a second thought, he walks in.

It's surprisingly quiet. There are larger rooms with dogs closest to him and smaller rooms with cats across the room. The woman behind the counter smiles sweetly up at him.

“Looking for a companion?”

And that is just the perfect phrasing for that question. Steve nods. “Yeah, I like dogs and cats pretty equally. But I'm a school teacher and I'm gone most of the day.”

She hums and cocks her head towards the cats. “You'll need a friend who's a little more independent and who you don't have to worry about making messes while you're away.” She says as explanation. Her name tag says Sharon.

“Makes sense.” He walks into the first room and there are two cats. The smaller grey one is a kitten and hides from him. The other one is fat and doesn't move from the window seat. Steve looks at Sharon and she laughs a little.

“Someone more lively?” She leads him into the next room and Steve falls in love. A literal ball of fluff starts climbing his pant leg, screeching gently. Steve's smitten and it must show on his face. “Her name is Private Inspector Snowball.” She's a black cat. “She's six months old. And she will be getting bigger. She's a Norwegian Forest Cat. They're enormous, independent, loving cats.”

Private Inspector Snowball has climbed up to Steve's chest and it trying to bump her heads against his chin. His heart melts and he pulls her into his arms. “Hey, PI Snowball. You wanna come home with me?” He looks at Sharon hopefully.

“You can do the paperwork today and come and get her tomorrow?” Steve nods. “Adoption fee for kittens is $175, we take all forms of payment and we take care of all vaccinations.”

Steve holds his breath a bit. That's a steep price, but it's worth not being alone anymore. And it says something that he still hasn't let her go yet or even thought about it. “I'll write a check. Can I also buy cat things here?”

“We've got all you need.” Sharon says and Steve gets a cat.

Steve spends the rest of his day cat proofing his home. He sets up the litter box next to the water heater. The cat house is right next to where his nest usually is so she can sleep while he works. There are cat toys everywhere. And he is so okay with that.

Chapter Text

It must have been time for a reminder that Bucky is not a perfect uncle and that Freddie is not a perfect kid. Though, Bucky can fault no person other than himself. After his lunch with Peggy and his epiphany that he wants Steve to love him, Bucky had been on edge and not in a good way. Freddie means no harm. She's a child. And Bucky is only human, but it really doesn't work as an excuse.

“When you and Mr. Steve get married, I gonna be the prettiest girl there.” Freddie is talking rapid fire and Bucky can barely keep up. She's jumping on the couch cushion next to Bucky and clapping her hands. “When is the wedding? I hafta plan! Are you gonna wear a dress? Can we have matching dresses? Uncle Bucky!” She screams. And Bucky loses it.

He stands from the couch too last and Freddie startles and lands on the couch cushion with an ‘oof. “Steve and I aren't getting married! So leave it alone!” He yells too loud and instantly regrets it.

Freddie’s eyes fill with tears and she starts wailing. Sam runs into the living room and picks her up, bouncing her gently. “What's the matter with you? She's five!” Sam chastises him.

Bucky wants to take it all back and he teachers for Freddie, an apology on his lips, but she starts crying harder and pulls away from him. And that hurts. But he kind of deserves it.

“Hey, c’mon bud. I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to snap at you.” He tries, he really does, but Freddie keeps crying and yelling that he's mean. Bucky's heart breaks.

Sam sighs. “Sorry, man. I think you should just wait it out. Maybe a couple days or something.” Bucky knows he's trying to be nice, but it still stings. He's gotten used to seeing his niece and it's been the highlight of his day. But he nods slowly.

“I'm sorry, Freddie. I hope you can forgive me.”

“No!” She yells and Sam looks scandalised.

“Don't be mean to your uncle.”

“No, it's fine. I'll just go.” Bucky says and before Sam can say anything else, he ducks out.

Freddie is his life and his reason. And he loves her. He definitely shouldn't have snapped at her. Bucky shouldn't ever try to be a parent.

&&&

Freddie is quiet and distant in class on Monday. And that's weird. She usually has so much to say and so much to contribute. Steve keeps a close eye on her during the day and completely forgets about the conversation he wants to have with Bucky that afternoon.

He does ask her what's wrong at some point and her only answer is ‘Men'. Which is cryptic for a child. And he wonders where she picked that up from. Probably Bucky. That is some nonsense Bucky would say.

Steve tries not to bother her about it for the rest of class. She appears to cheer up during art time, crayons in hand, eyes squinting at the page. She seems very determined, so while Steve makes his rounds, he stops by her and asks her what she’s drawing.

To his surprise, Freddie blushes and laughs a little. “When Uncle Bucky gets married, he’s gonna wear a dress.”

“Who’s your uncle Bucky marrying?” A strange lump forms in Steve’s chest. Because isn’t Bucky single? Hasn’t he been this whole time?

Freddie scoffs. “No one. Ever.” She enters her bad mood again and shoves her drawing away. She crosses her arms and looks like she’s gonna cry.

“Hey, what happened?” Steve places a hand on her shoulder and it makes her look too small. But she looks up at him like that helps and her bottom lip quivers.

“He’s mean.” She says. “You’re s’possed to get married but you’re not gonna.” She says by way of explanation and Steve blushes. He can’t help it. Everyone seems to be holding out hope for him and Bucky and he isn’t sure how to respond to this problem. If it were a different problem, sure, he’d know what to do.

“Well, your uncle Bucky and I don’t really know each other all that well.” That makes her look even sadder. “But maybe, one day…” He trails off. He really needs to talk to Bucky. “Did he say something to you?”

Freddie shakes her head vehemently. Then nods slowly. “I don’ wanna talk about it.” She says lowly and Steve takes his hand from her shoulder. It’s almost time for school to let out and that means Bucky will be here soon to pick her up. He’ll talk to him about what’s gotten her in such a fix.

“Well, if you ever do want to talk about it, you can always come to me.”

Freddie turns her brown eyes up at him and attempts to smile. It looks more like a grimace, but Steve’ll take it. He’ll just talk to Bucky when he shows up later. Because he will show up. Like he has been everyday for almost two months now.

Steve wanders around the classroom. Only four more days and then it’s winter break. Steve has zero sense of self-preservation so it’s taken him to exactly this moment to realise how tired he is. Not that children are exhausting and have tonnes of energy and he’s old or anything like that. That would be ridiculous. But it could be nice to move up to an older grade. Maybe fifth grade. Then he’d have Freddie as a student again. She’d be older and she’d say more weird things about his relationship with Bucky.

Christ.

Steve isn’t even in a relationship with Bucky and he’s already thinking ahead five years.

To clear his head, he gets the kids cleaning up and singing that song he just loves. And right at 12:15, he lines them up at the door. He expects to see Bucky leaning against the wall as always, but he isn’t there. Freddie doesn’t even look in the general direction of where Bucky comes from and heads straight to her bus. She does give Steve a high five though, and it would have killed him if she hadn’t. Her family business isn’t his business until it starts affecting her during class hours. But he will make a small mention about it in his note to her parents.

Steve finishes cleaning up and writing notes by four and heads home. Private Inspector Snowball has been spending the last twenty-four hours in his home lurking and hiding behind exposed piping. Every so often, Steve would catch her eyes in the right light from the darkness of his radiators or closets. She did cuddle with him during the night though and that was nice.

When he gets home, she’s perched on top of his cabinets in his kitchen and he has no idea how she got up there. Cats are weird. She crouches down low as he walks through his kitchen in search of food and watches him carefully. There’s leftover steak from the other night and he warms it up. PI Snowball moves the cabinets closer to the stove and meows down at him. He tries hard not to acknowledge her, but she just starts meowing louder until she’s making a steady stream of gently screaming noises.

Once his steak is warmed up, he piles on cold mashed potatoes and moves over to his couch. It takes less than a minute and PI Snowball is jumping onto the sofa next to him, pawing at his hand gently and screaming quietly.

“I know. I see and I hear you.” She turns her green eyes up at him and blinks slowly. Which means ‘I love you’ in cat. “Yeah, alright. I love you too.” He cuts off a small piece of his dinner and holds it out to her. She takes it and leaves a small patch of saliva on his fingers. “I thought cats weren’t drooly.” Great. Drooly children at work. Drooly cat at home. She finishes it and nudges his hand with her nose. And she’s so cute he just can’t say no. So he doesn’t.

Like any sane human being, Steve does not eat his steaks well done or even medium well. He eats them rare, because that’s how they’re supposed to be eaten. And PI Snowball loves it. But she doesn’t like mashed potatoes he learns.

“I just don’t know what I should do about Bucky.” He says to his cat after they’ve finished off his after school snack. She crawls into his lap and curls up comfortably. He lies back, feet on his coffee table and she moves with him, settling wherever she can. “I don’t know if this is a thing I should pursue or not.” She purrs contentedly and doesn’t answer. Of course she doesn’t answer, she’s a cat, Steve.

They lay like that for too long and Steve realises rather suddenly that the only reason he hasn’t moved is because he hasn’t wanted to disturb her. Which is a preposterous. He should be allowed to come and go as he pleases. But she’s really cute. But he’s getting hungry again. Steve pulls out his phone without disturbing her and checks the time. A few hours have passed and he barely realised it. Maybe he napped and didn’t notice. Regardless of what happened, tonight will be a late night. So he order fried rice and gently moves PI Snowball off of chest. She makes an offended noise, but follows him around as he gets ready to work.

&&&

Bucky doesn’t show up again on Tuesday or Wednesday either. Freddie’s temperament has evened back out and she’s the sweet kid she usually is. She doesn’t say anything more about him and Bucky getting married and he’s silently thankful, but he doesn’t want to know where she got that idea from.

“It was me.” Peggy says after Steve tells her what Freddie said. “Not about you specifically.” She amends before Steve can have a stroke. “Just that men can marry men and women.”

 

“When did you tell her this?” Does Peggy even have time alone with his students? They don’t really go anywhere without him.

Peggy waves a hand flippantly. “Oh, September maybe?She had been dropped off early and you weren’t here yet. And we started talking girl things.”

“Right, like marriage and gay people.”

Peggy furrows her eyebrows and fixes him with her ‘time out’ glare. “If she already knows about straight people, she’s old enough to know about gay people, Steven.” She goes around her room, collecting papers and drawings and hanging a few up on her bulletin board. “You know, I won’t stand for you having any internalised homophobia.”

“I don’t have any of that!” Steve sputters. He crosses his arms and leans against her radiator, finding a sudden interest in his shoes. “Whatever, I just don’t need a kid telling me to get married.”

“You are getting to that age. When are you going to settle down with someone in that big house of yours?” Steve knows she’s only teasing.

“I did get a cat.” He mumbles and she hears him. Peggy stops what she’s doing and looks at him in shock.

“I’m sorry, did you say you got a cat?”

Steve suddenly feels very small. “Yes.”

“And your cats name?”

“Private Inspector Snowball.”

Peggy nods to herself and clears her throat. And then clears it again. “I pegged you for more of a dog person.”

“I like ‘em both.”

She nods again. “Right.”

Peggy doesn’t say anything else to him. And every time Steve tries to speak after that, she just shakes her head and says no, quietly. He tries a few more times, but her response is the same every time and she hasn’t looked at him again. Though when he leaves, he swears he hears her say “cat people”.

Steve goes back to his room. It hasn’t felt the same without Bucky the last couple of days. But he would deny it if anyone said that he missed him. Nope. He doesn’t. Not at all. Steve’s heart pounds a tad too fast. He swallows his pride down and makes a decision.

&&&

Bucky has spent the last several days anxious and moody. And it’s starting to affect his work. Putting decimal points in the correct places is important, kids. Especially when it comes to bookkeeping. It was bad. Pepper had come in, quietly and politely, and gently informed him of his error and he’d almost died on the spot. Of course, he had corrected his error of a $60,000 mistake immediately, but it’s still hanging over him. Between Freddie being mad at him and Steve not responding to him, he’s been on edge.

So, no, he isn’t expecting a phone call on Wednesday afternoon from an unknown number. He doesn’t even think about it. Just slides the little green phone. “Barnes.”

“Uhm…” The voice sends a shock through Bucky’s body and he sits upright. “It’s, uh, it’s Steve…”

“Forget about the cupcake!” Bucky blurts out. There’s a silence on the phone for so long that Bucky pulls his phone back to see if they’ve lost connection, but no, Steve is still there. And Bucky wants to kick himself. “I didn’t know what I wanted, I just… I--”

“It’s fine.” Steve says and it might just be Bucky’s imagination that Steve sounds a little distant. Steve swallows and Bucky can hear it. “No, sorry. I shouldn’t have called.”

And before Bucky can say another word, Steve hangs up. Bucky stands up from his desk so quickly the chair tips over. But he’s grabbing his coat and running out of his office without even taking the time to think about it. He passes by Tony on his way downstairs and he doesn’t say anything, just smiles.

It’s only one o’clock and Steve should still be at work. Bucky runs down the street. It’ll take him longer to run there, but it’s better than being antsy on the subway or sitting in a cab in traffic. It’s a mile. It’s far. And it’s snowing and the streets are slick and he could slip and hurt himself, but fuck, he doesn’t care.

He bumps into people and apologises, but it’s New York and there are worse things than some guy bumping into someone. That’s commonplace. What’s less commonplace is that his coat is only on one arm and he’s in a suit and tie. Probably looks like a Wall Street guy, but on the wrong side of the river. But he keeps running, totally ignoring red lights and cars and maybe he almost gets hit, but he isn’t really paying attention. He does manage to get his coat on both arms though at some point before he runs into the school.

The woman behind the desk is on her feet instantly and looks defensive. He remembers her from the first time he broke into the school. Darcy Lewis. She looks like she vaguely recognises him.

“My name is James Barnes.” He pats himself for his wallet, but realises he’s left it at work. “Peggy knows me. She can vouch for me.”

“I think you should leave.”

“I need to talk to Steve.”

“I don’t know who you think you are, but I have friends who have taught me self defence and I can kill you, mister.” Bucky looks at her and rolls his eyes.

“I don’t want to fight you. I just have to talk to Steve Rogers? He’s a kindergarten teacher.”

She’s ready to call someone. So Bucky turns tail and runs down the hall towards Steve’s room. The door is locked and the lights are off. Bucky knocks anyways, but there’s no one in there. Peggy comes out from her room when she hears the commotion. Darcy is running down the hall to and teachers and students are sticking their heads out to see what’s happening.

“Darcy, it’s okay.” Peggy says and Darcy shakes her head. “I promise, this man is a friend.”

“Ugh. Made me run for nothing.” Darcy mumbles and starts to head back to the office. “Mind your own business.” She says to the teachers peeking in on the action.

Peggy looks at Bucky with a calculating look. Without a word, she goes back into her room for a moment and then comes back out with a piece of paper. “Do not make me regret this.” It’s an address. And Bucky could kiss her, but he doesn’t. He takes it from her hand and runs back into the snow.

Chapter Text

Bucky looks at Steve's front door. His home is not at all what he had been expecting. Maybe a brownstone or an apartment or a condo. But no, Steve's home is a beautiful converted warehouse and fuck if Bucky isn't jealous. He stands outside, trying to catch his breath. Running around Brooklyn is hard. Brooklyn is big.

He knocks. And waits. And waits. And waits.

Maybe Steve isn't home yet. It also seems like a pretty big place and the front door of his home is steel. Bucky bangs both his fists on the door and yells for Steve. Nothing.

Bucky leans back against Steve's door and slides down until he's seated. He shoots a quick text to Tony telling him he'll be back into work tomorrow. Until then, he makes himself comfortable and is silently thankful that Steve have a covered entrance. No snow. No wind. It's perfect. It's still cold outside, but he'll wait as long as he needs to.

Turns out, it's not that long. Steve steps up a few minutes later, holding a bag of groceries. His face is pink from the cold and Bucky has never seen anyone so beautiful. Five days without seeing Steve and Bucky is feeling like a lovesick child. He scrambles to his feet.

Steve's eyes widen when he sees Bucky and he stops a few feet away from him. Bucky can see the gears turning in his head and without a word, Steve passes by him and opens his door, but he leaves it open after he's kicked off his shoes. Steve hangs his coat on a rack and turns the heat on.

Bucky follows him in and also removes his shoes. It isn’t until that moment that he realises how much he feet hurt from running in oxfords. Steve's home is cold, but still warmer than outside. But it feels weird to keep his coat on, so he takes it off and holds it in his arms. Because who knows how long he’s going to be here. He hopes a while, but judging by Steve's body language, it could only be a few minutes.

Steve has a beautiful home and Bucky tries not to look around too much like he's inspecting it. So he moves to stand awkwardly in area between Steve's kitchen and dining area while he puts away groceries. Bucky watches the strong lines of Steve’s back as he moves around his kitchen. He’s closing things a little too hard, or maybe that’s just how he closes cabinets. When he closes the refrigerator, bottles inside rattle.

There's a weird scratching noise and Bucky looks and there's a cute kitten coming towards him. He tries not to interact. But it starts climbing up his pant leg while meowing and his resistance cracks. He pets it quietly and it perches on his shoulder, purring happily. He moves to drape his coat over a dining chair.

“Her name is Private Inspector Snowball.” Steve says and he's done putting away his food. He turns to Bucky and spreads his hands out. “I assume Peggy gave you my address.” Steve is stony and and stiff and looking at Bucky with a glare that could level buildings.

Bucky swallows. “I messed up…”

Steve narrows his eyes and doesn’t look angry, just confused. “I know.”

Bucky shakes his head. “No, no you don't know.” He takes the kitten off his shoulder and puts her on the floor. He feels ridiculous trying to have this conversation with a kitten loving on his hair. “I went about this the wrong way.” His head feels heavy and his ears are roaring.

Steve stays carefully quiet, but his jaw clenches and it makes Bucky feel hot as over his body. Steve crosses his arms and it makes the muscles in his forearms bulge.

“I'm attracted to you.” Bucky tries, but his mouth feels like he's shoved a ball of cotton into it. “To all of you. Brain and all. Somewhere between parent-teacher conferences and cupcakes, I caught feelings for you.”

Steve runs a hand through his hair. He peeks up at Bucky through his lashes and fuck Bucky is done for.

“You haven't been very clear.” Steve says in that low voice of his.

Bucky throws his arms up. “And you haven't given me shit, Rogers. I don’t know if you hate me or want to fuck me.”

“Language.”

Bucky levels him with a glare. “Really? Now? Who’s it gonna bother? The cat?”

“It’s still my home.” Steve says and he goes back to being stony and stiff.

“Yeah, sure. Alright.” Bucky's trying really hard to get into Steve's good graces and keeps quiet. But Steve looks unconvinced. “I shouldn't have gotten you that cupcake. The second one.” He clarifies.

“No?”

“I should have have just said that want to take you out.” Steve raises his eyebrows at that. “But I'm like 95% sure you either want nothing to do with me or you want to fuck my brains out.”

There's about ten feet between them and Steve crosses that distance in about three strides. Bucky sucks in a breath and takes a startled step back. Aaaand there's a table there and he finds himself cornered by Steve.

“Watch. Your. Mouth.” They're almost touching and it's driving Bucky wild. It wouldn't take much to close the distance. Steve's eyes are dark and Bucky takes the moment to look over Steve's entire face. There's a chance he won't be allowed this close to him again.

“Fuck, you're beautiful.”

Steve looks stunned for a moment. And he pulls away which is the opposite of what Bucky wants. Steve runs his hands through his hair. “What were you trying to accomplish by coming here? That I’d sweep you up and take you to bed? Or that I’d shut you down once and for all?”

“No! I--I don’t know.” Bucky admits and eases himself away from the table. “I don’t. But you called me and I wasn’t thinking clearly and I fucked up. What do you want me to say? I’m sorry? Our entire relationship has been a series of I’m sorrys and one of us fucking something up again.” Steve rolls his eyes. “Let’s start with why you called me.”

“What?”

“You called. What were you going to say?”

Steve hesitates and, to Bucky’s absolute pleasure, he blushes. “I was going to ask you on a date.”

“Let’s start there, then.”

“But your cupcake--”

Bucky blushes. “Forget about the cupcake. I was weird and desperate. Let’s never mention that cupcake again.”

“So you don’t want me to fuck you?” Steve says, his voice low.

Bucky’s mouth dries up. This entire conversation is a fucking roller coaster. “I mean...I do…fuck…” His heart is pounding and his breath is coming stuttered pants and suddenly the room feels a whole lot warmer.

“I mean for future reference…” Steve clarifies and Bucky stares at him and drinks in his blush and how awkward he looks. Without a second thought, Bucky walks over to Steve and kisses him.

It’s by no means a ‘perfect first kiss’. Steve’s mouth had been forming a word and Bucky went in with little finesse. But it is…perfect. Steve molds against him and slides his hands into his hair and tugs. Bucky’s lips part with a gasp of surprise and Steve’s tongue slides into mouth and oh that’s good.

Bucky’s hands slide down to grasp uselessly at the back of Steve’s shirt and pushes as close to him as he can possibly get. Steve pulls away from his lips and kisses down his jaw and neck. And the scrape of Steve’s beard against his neck is a lot and he moans quietly and a shiver runs through his entire body. Steve is perfectly rough and clutches desperately at all parts of Bucky’s body that he can get to.

“I said for future reference.” Steve breaths against Bucky’s ear and Bucky keens, pressing his hips against Steve’s. Steve groans and hauls him in by ass. Bucky tips his head back like he can’t help it and Steve runs his lips down his throat, not kissing, but it’s so good. And Bucky’s hard in his slacks. “I have no self-control around you.”

“I don’t want you to.” Bucky mutters.

“Fuck.” Steve moans. “Fuck.” He says again. And Bucky can definitely get used to hearing him swear.

“Now who needs to watch his mouth?” Bucky teases and Steve slaps him on the ass. “Ah, fuck fuck fuck.”

“You do.”

“You’re a little shit, Steve.” But Bucky doesn’t mean it. He paws at Steve’s clothes. “God, what are you hiding under here? You dress like my grandpa.”

Steve laughs and starts guiding them through his house. Oh, wow, is this really happening? Bucky pulls away and just holds Steve at arms length for a moment and drinks him in. Steve looks confused and ready to ask if something’s wrong, but Bucky just shakes his head. They had been going hot and heavy a moment ago, and he wants that, he does, but first he just needs to accept that this is actually happening. He touches Steve’s cheek and loves when Steve pushes into it and closes his eyes.

“It’s been kind of a long time for me.” Steve says.

“Same, almost a year.”

Steve laughs, helplessly and opens his eyes. “No, I mean…” He ducks his head. “It’s been five years.”

“I don’t believe that for a second. Lookin’ at you, I’m sure someone’s said something about taking you out.” Bucky’s mind has been blown.

Steve shakes his head. “I don’t get out much. I see my friends from college once a month and that’s pretty much it. Parents of kindergarteners in a private school don’t tend to be single. It’s also super unprofessional to date your students’ parents.”

“But not their uncles?”

Steve blushes and Bucky wants to figure out how far down it goes. “Well, this is bound to cause some problems. Freddie did tell me that we’re supposed to get married.”

Bucky laughs. “Damn, that kid has been playing matchmaker for weeks now.”

“She’s gonna be so happy.” Steve says and continues pulling at Bucky.

They pass by the living room in the corner of house and they turn a corner and… Steve has a huge fucking bed. He’s a big guy and Bucky gets that, but does he really need a bed that big? The second thing he notices is that there are books everywhere. His bookshelves are stuffed to the brim and there are neat stacks of books around his bookcases and in his windows. And plants. Bucky stops and just admires it.

“Steve, I…” He trails off and looks at Steve a little desperately.

Steve sits on the edge of his bed and pats the spot next to him. Bucky sits down and makes sure that they’re pressed against each other from shoulder to foot. “I know. We can slow down.”

Bucky nods. “I really don’t want to mess things up between us. I was ready to have you fuck me a minute ago.” Steve clears his throat and shifts a little. Oh. Right. Steve had been too. “And I want that. Just...I definitely thought you hated me until a minute ago.”

“So much happened in that minute.” Steve says deadpan and Bucky laughs. “We could just lie here.”

“Beds aren’t for pants, Steve.” Bucky says seriously. “If we’re gonna lie down, we’re gonna take our pants.”

“Okay?” Steve sets to taking his pants off, so Bucky does too and he also tugs off his tie. They lie down in Steve’s bed and it’s big and comfortable. Firm, but yielding. It takes a weird amount of shuffling, but they manage to get under one blanket.

“How many blankets are on your bed?”

Steve hums. “Six or seven. It’s expensive to keep my house warm.”

“Have you considered electric blankets?”

“They might catch on fire.”

Bucky shakes his head and curls into Steve, pressing his face into Steve’s neck. Steve pulls him in closer and kisses the top of his head. It feels surreal being here, but Bucky wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

“I ran like four miles to talk to you today.”

“Is that why your shirt is kinda damp?”

Bucky blushes and is silently thankful that Steve can’t see his face. “Yeah…”

“Gross.” Steve laughs. “If you’d let me get through my question, you wouldn’t’ve had to run that far.” Bucky groans. “I’m not saying I’m not happy, Buck.”

“Yeah, I would’ve be a lot grosser if it were summer too.” Steve laughs again and Bucky falls in love with that sound. “I promise I won’t dirty up your bed again.”

Steve snorts. An attractive sound. “Yeah, alright.”

Bucky gets it, but he’s starting to drift off. PI Snowball jumps onto the bed and curls up on Bucky’s hip, making loud happy noises. Bucky closes his eyes and falls asleep to Steve’s hand in his hair.

Chapter Text

Steve can't sleep. Not that he doesn't want to and not that he couldn't, but he can't. He has too much to do and not enough time to do it. But Bucky has already drifted off and he's clinging to Steve and now Steve can't move. Not that he really wants to.

He can allow himself a few minutes of joy, he thinks.

Four hours ago, he had been ready to ask Bucky on a date. Or something. The exact nature of his would been question is still unsure. And now Bucky is pantsless and curled up against his side. The sun is still high in the sky and and Steve can make out every detail on Bucky's face. And he's beautiful.

Steve is still a little hard and only through the power of will and self-discipline does he go flaccid again. After that he feels a little better. Private Inspector Snowball is wide awake and sitting on Bucky's hip like she belongs there. She doesn't. But cats are fickle and can pretty much do whatever they want without consequence. Or so Steve is learning.

She blinks down at him slowly and he blinks back before gently untangling himself from Bucky, who makes a sad noise in the back of his throat. It's cute, but it sounds so sad… so he bends down and gives him gentle kisses down his face and neck. And, oh god, he can't stop. Bucky squirms a little in his sleep and his breath gets a little heavy.

Steve pulls away. They haven't talked about this and they still have so much more talking to do.

Steve gets up and quietly heads into the living room to get work done. He turns on jazz, nice and quiet, and makes this nest as usual.

It's a couple hours before Bucky wakes up. And it's good timing too, because Steve is just finishing up.

Bucky pads into the living room, no pants, shirt askew, hair a mess. And Steve's heart clenches. Bucky is squinting around at his surroundings and running a hand through his hair. His eyes land on Steve and he still looks confused.

“Thought it was a dream.” Bucky says.

Steve chuckles, dimly aware that he's never felt this happy before. “Nope. It really happened.”

Bucky stands awkwardly at the ends of Steve's work nest, staring at Steve in abject shock. Steve smiles and wordlessly moves his stuff onto his couch in a less than organised pile behind him. Bucky toes carefully into Steve's fort and makes himself comfortable too far away from Steve. Well, it’s not that big, but six inches is far.

“I'm not gonna bite you.” Steve says because it seems like Bucky needs to hear it.

Bucky nods and nudges a little bit closer. “What time is it?”

“Half past four. You didn't sleep all that long.” Bucky still isn't getting as close as Steve wants and it's cute, but Steve wants to feel him.

Steve reaches out and gently manhandles Bucky until he's curled up against his chest in his lap.

Bucky blinks slowly and looks at Steve. “Yeah, alright. I guess I can sit here.”

Steve is starting to suspect that this is just how Bucky is when he first wakes up. Soft and sweet and a little out of it. Bucky snuggles up to Steve and seems to drift off a bit. It’s adorable and Steve can’t imagine ever getting used to this.

Bucky mumbles something and Steve ducks his head closer and asks him to repeat it. Bucky huffs irritably. “You’re comfy.”

“Thanks.” Steve draws out the word, unsure of how to take that compliment. Bucky seems to turn into jelly and mold his entire body against Steve’s. His eyes are closed and he seems to be dozing again. Steve is more than alright with that, but dinner seems like it should be an option at some point and they also need to keep talking.

About ten minutes later, Bucky’s entire body stiffens and he slowly moves away from Steve. Steve, who doesn’t frown and furrow his eyebrows because that would be ridiculous. Bucky slinks away and sits across from Steve in his original spot.

“So, I’m a man and I like to cuddle.” Bucky says and Steve narrows his eyes.

“Okay?”

Bucky huffs irritably. “And we haven’t established anything yet. What we are, if we’re okay together, if we just wanna fuck and forget about feelings.”

“What?” Steve squeezes his eyes shut and shakes his head. “I have feelings for you and you have feelings for me, so you said. And I thought we’d give the dating thing a try...Right?”

Bucky looks confused as he sighs. “Yeah.”

“That’s enthusiastic.” Steve deadpans.

“No! I want that. I do. But I don’t think I’ve ever been in a committed relationship before and your last relationship was half a decade ago.” Steve flinches, but Bucky is too preoccupied running his hands through his hair to notice. “And how do relationships even work? What if we aren’t even in the same age group? Would that be weird? I’m thirty-two and you could be like nineteen or something.”

Steve chuckles. “Well, first of all, I’m thirty, so we’re okay there. Second of all, no one really knows how relationships work, people just do what feels right.” Steve is probably talking out of his ass.

But Bucky nods like that makes sense. “Sure, cool. What feels right to you then?”

“Making you dinner and romancing you.” Steve says without hesitation.

“Gross. I love it.” Bucky nods and looks down at himself. “I don’t have pants on.”

“Home is not for pants.” That’s Steve’s philosophy at least.

Private Inspector Snowball climbs onto Bucky’s thigh and starts screaming. “Oh, god. Why?” But Bucky just laughs and picks her up. She purrs loudly and kneads the air contentedly. “Wow, you’re cute.” He looks up at Steve. “You too. Don’t worry.”

“Right. So I’ll start on dinner. Any restrictions or anything like that?”

“No. I wasn’t raised by hippies.”

Steve is halfway through standing up and he gives Bucky a shocked look. “What?”

“All these hippie millennial parents are giving their kids allergies by not exposing them to shitty foods.”

Steve walks into the kitchen and tries to ignore whatever Bucky is talking about.

But he just can’t.

He turns around. “What?”

“I’m telling you. People started worrying about organic-this and organic-that and suddenly kids are born with a million allergies. Don’t blame me, it’s science.” Bucky seems totally unfazed by Steve’s confusion. “Whatever. Gay men don’t hold babies. In their bodies. Well...trans men can…” He trails off and his eyes fix on something distant.

“Right. Well, I was thinking fried rice. Because It’s good and easy.” And because Steve has rice from three days ago that he needs to do something with.

When Bucky isn’t yelling, Steve finds him cute and kind of spacey. When Steve pulls his head from out of the refrigerator, Bucky is right there, leaning against the counter. Steve almost jumps. Almost.

“You’re sneaky.” Bucky nods. “Umm…”

“Do you want help with dinner?”

“No, I’ll be alright.” Bucky sighs and sits on the other side of the counter and plops down on a stool. He spins around a few times. “Guests don’t cook.”

“Oh?” Bucky stops spinning and raises an eyebrow at Steve. “Is that what I am? A guest? I think you said something about wanting to fuck me earlier.” Steve’s throat dries up and his face feels hot. Bucky’s voice drops. “You know, we could always kick it off that way. With a bang? What d’you say, Stevie?”

Steve’s breathing a little too hard and he can tell. But he clears his throat and remains amicably stoic. In spite of his blush. “Maybe later. After dinner.”

Bucky makes a noise in the back of his throat. “Or we can count this as date number one and we can do the good thing and wait three dates like everyone else.”

Steve wants to roll his eyes because he was basically fucking Bucky through his clothes earlier. But going slow is never a bad idea. Never a bad idea.

Bucky is leaning his forearms against the counter and smirking and Steve wants to kiss it right off his face. And it must show because Bucky’s face starts to turn red and his pupils start to dilate.

“Three dates.” Steve breathes. And he tries to say it with conviction. Tries and fails.

“Yeah, okay.” Bucky laughs, like it isn’t a challenge to get into Steve’s pants sooner. It probably isn’t.

Steve busies himself slicing meat and vegetables and frying them up. He adds the sauce the rice and bam, he’s done. Well, it took like thirty minutes. But it was a good thirty minutes. Bucky is watching him as he moves through his kitchen and it makes him self-conscious but Bucky seems to be...appreciating the view, so Steve makes sure to stretch when he can.

He pushes a bowl over to Bucky who stands up and goes back to Steve’s nest, totally ignoring his dining table. Steve follows and they get comfortable.

“Thank you for dinner, Steve.” Bucky says before he takes a bite. And he moans. And Steve Stops mid bite because he knows that sound now. Blood rushes south and he’s only slightly miffed that he never put pants back on. Bucky notices and his eyes go dark again. The next bite he takes, he keeps eye contact with Steve and licks the fork unnecessarily. And it’s obscene. Fifteen years ago, Steve’s heart would have given out. But instead, he can’t take his eyes off of Bucky and his sexy eating.

Bucky moans again with his next bite and Steve drops his fork and it snaps him out of his trance. “If you keep that up, I’ll tie you down and fuck you so hard you’ll feel me all week.” Bucky’s mouth falls open and he moans again, desperately. “But you’ll have to wait until the new year.”

Bucky’s lips part and he nods once slowly. He eats, back straight, eyes straight ahead. Steve feels a little thrill of pleasure and he smiles to himself. “You must like hearing me tell you what to do. Like me being in charge of you?” With a controlled swallow, Bucky nods. “I can’t hear you.”

“Yes, sir.”

Ah, fuck. Steve is like ninety per cent aroused up until that exact moment. His legs are crossed and there’s nothing obstructing Bucky’s view. And boy, does he look. Bucky licks his lips and Steve traces the movement. This needs to stop now or it won’t stop. And Steve’s concerned.

“Where do you wanna go for our next date?” Steve asks as his head spins.

“Uhm.” Bucky blinks and his eyes flicker between Steve’s dick and his face. “I like...stuff?”

Steve laughs awkwardly. “Ice skating?”

“Yeah.” Bucky says. “I’m into that.” He considers it for a moment. “Or the sex museum?”

“We can save that for the third date.” Steve smiles.

Bucky nods slowly. They finish eating and Steve leans back against his sofa. Bucky moves and leans back next to him.

“So...if we’re dating now, does that mean I can ask that we not see other people?” Bucky’s voice is small and Steve draws him closer.

“I don’t want anyone else.”

“Cool.” Bucky smiles and relaxes against Steve. “Cool.”

“You wanna stay the night?” Steve asks, because he really wants him to.

Bucky chuckles. “I will jump you in the middle of the night.” And Steve tries to think of the downsides to that. “You’re fucking impossible.”

“I don’t...know the meaning of the word.” Steve stands to put their dishes away. Still wildly aware of his penis. Bucky presses up against his back and Steve stiffens. “Is that a phone in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”

“I am literally not wearing any pants.” Bucky counters, placing kisses on Steve’s shoulder and neck. Steve sighs and leans back into it. “I should head home at some point though. I have...plants to water.”

Steve rolls his eyes and hums. “Wouldn’t want you to commit phytocide.” Bucky bites his shoulder and Steve moans. “What?”

“I’m amazed and irritated by you.” Bucky turns Steve around and kisses him lightly. “Phytocide.” He scoffs. “You know, if you count all those days that I showed up to pick up Freddie, we’ve been on a whole lot of dates. Like fifty dates.”

Steve laughs and kisses Bucky just because he can. “That doesn’t count. We hated each other.”

“We can count tomorrow?” Bucky brushes his lips up Steve’s jaw to his ear and gives it a gentle nibble. “But I kind of like the idea of going ice skating.”

Steve hums. Bucky is handsy. Steve feels like he should have been able to figure that out from all of his previous interactions, but now he really knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Bucky has real nice hands. He touches Steve everywhere and anywhere he can get his hands.

“We’ll go ice skating. This weekend?” Steve asks. Bucky nods and pulls away from Steve.

“Until then, I’m gonna head home. And think of you. Maybe masturbate. Who knows.” Bucky shrugs. “I’m gonna masturbate. That’s--I have to.” Steve laughs. “You don’t wanna say something like…’No, Bucky, no orgasms until I get my hands on you’? Nothing like that?”

Steve narrows his eyes. “That’s usually a negotiation type thing. But we can work up to that.”

Bucky nods, satisfied with that. He retrieves his pants and fixes himself up in the kitchen. “Well, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow?” Steve nods and pulls Bucky in by his belt loops and kisses him. It’s deep and desperate like he thinks Bucky will change his mind about them seeing each other. He pulls back and Bucky looks at him with stars in his eyes. “Wow.”

Steve blushes and rubs the back of his neck. “Yeah, tomorrow. Freddie will be happy to see you again.”

Bucky doesn’t really seem like he wants to go. In fact, it takes him half an hour to leave. He dawdles, checking for his stuff a million times. And then he remembers that he left his wallet at work, so then he has to wait for a Lyft to come and get him. Steve happily holds his hands and kisses him the entire time and when his car pulls up, Bucky whines and kisses Steve harder.

“Tomorrow.” Steve says.

“Tomorrow.” Bucky confirms and heads out the door.

Chapter Text

Steve gets to work early the next morning feeling like a million bucks. He has a date that weekend and he gets to see Bucky today. He unlocks his door and turns on his lights and a whole second after he’s in his room, Peggy walks in.

“Well?” She demands, hands on her hips.

Steve stares at her for a moment and then remembers that it’s all because of her that Bucky came over to his home in the first place. He steps back around his desk and sweeps her into his arms, her feet off the floor.

“I guess it went terribly then. My Steve isn’t a hugger.” She hugs him back of course. “I’m happy for you, darling.” Even though he hasn’t said a word, she knows exactly what he means. “Well, I’m glad that child got himself in order, at least. And you took a leap.” She kicks her legs gently and Steve sets her back down. Peggy is looking at him with all the love in the world and he smiles at her.

“Yeah, we talked for hours.”

“Gross.” She says.

“Just talking. We didn’t…” Steve clears his throat and looks away. When he glances at Peggy, her face is a little red and she’s staring at him in horror. “Anyways, we have a date this Saturday.”

“Good.” Peggy clears her throat also. “You should have seen him yesterday. Very romantic. He ran in here and almost had the police called on him.” That sounds familiar. “Darcy may or may not be upset with you.”

“I’ll order her that little cheese danishes she loves so much.” Steve is unconcerned. Darcy is good people, if not a little dry humoured.

“Careful you don’t make Bucky jealous.”

Steve rolls his eyes and starts to set up his room for the day. Only two more days until Winter Break and then he’s free. He loves his students, but even he needs a break every so often. There’s glitter matted to the colourful rug he’s put in the middle of his floor. Putty coloured carpeting is so sad.

“He won’t.”

“About your cat…” Peggy says and Steve’s eyebrows shoot up in shock.

“What about her?”

“Why is...that her name?” Steve laughs and completely ignores the question. And he starts to regroup the desks. Lines are nice and all, but he’d rather have his students in little groups so they can interact with each other better. Of course, maybe they’ll completely ignore him in exchange for social interactions, but he can’t really be too upset about children getting a grasp on societal norms.

“Steve. I need to know.” Peggy says again when he doesn’t answer. “Did you pick it? I at least need to know that.”

“No. Peg. I didn’t pick it.”

Peggy makes a pleased humming noise and goes to sit on his radiator. They have a full hour before kids start showing up. It isn’t necessary to show up this early, but the teacher’s lounge has coffee and it’s only good when it’s first made. Speaking of…

Edwin Jarvis walks in carrying three coffee mugs. He eyes Steve carefully and then smiles. “I see a congratulations is in order.” Steve throws up his arms. It can’t really be all that obvious. “For Peggy, two creams no sugar. And for Steve, four creams and two sugars.” Peggy wrinkles her nose at the way Steve drinks his coffee. He grew up poor, okay. Small pleasures.

“Thank you, Edwin.” Steve says even though he’s still a wee bit miffed that his joy is written all over his body for anyone to notice. What will the children think?

Honestly, probably nothing. They aren’t super perceptive of micro expressions, but they can pick out body clues like no one’s business. And then announce them to the class. So Steve needs to be careful today.

Peggy sidles up to him and looks up with a coy smile. Steve looks at her. “Can I help you?”

“No. I’m just thinking about how nice it is to see you happy.”

Steve wants to roll his eyes, but it’s a nice sentiment, so he lets it lie. He bumps her playfully with his hip and sips at his coffee. The desks are coming along nicely, but now he realises that he’ll have to put name cards up so the kids know where their desks are. If they didn’t keep their supplies in their desks, he probably would have just let them sit anywhere, but whatever, it’s already happening and he doesn’t know how to quit on things. So here he is.

Edwin watches and Steve drags desks with his cup of coffee in his hand and cocks his head to the side. “Wouldn’t it be easier if you set your coffee down?” He asks and Peggy laughs.

“Steve doesn’t do anything the easy way. Have you seen his love life?” Peggy says at Steve’s expense and it’s clear she doesn’t care.

Steve does roll his eyes this time. “I can hear both of you.”

“We know, darling.”

“I suggest that you put your coffee down.” Edwin says and Steve should listen, he really should. But it’s already in his hand.

“I need the caffeine.”

“I don’t think that’s a good excuse.” Edwin says. “What if you spill?”

“We have janitors.” Steve says and instantly feels bad. He sighs and balances his cup of coffee on the whiteboard tray for markers. It looks like of he bumps the wall, it'll fall off, but he's careful and mildly aware of his body… He resumes moving the desks and it's quieter this time now that he isn't dragging them across the room.

Peggy and Edwin sit on his radiator and talk amongst themselves. Steve tries not listen. But he catches his name a couple of times and Natasha's name. Edwin laughs and says he's married. Steve blocks them out and concentrates on setting the desks up right. When he’s done, he takes a look at his handiwork. Some kids will have to turn a little to see the front, but that’s not much of a problem; Steve tries to walk around the room to teach. It help kids with ADD pay attention to see movement and it keeps him from falling asleep at the board. Multi-faceted teaching approach.

“Why are you doing this?” Edwin asks.

Steve smiles. “Well, tomorrow, we’ll be making gingerbread houses and I figured it’d be easier if the kids could make them together and get inspiration from each other.”

“Will they be edible?” Peggy chimes in.

Narrowing his eyes at her, Steve (with his coffee) sits at his desk. “Uhm, probably? Are you asking for a gingerbread house?”

“I’m thinking you should make one for Bucky.” She shrugs and hops off of the radiator. “Well, we must be going. Things to do and children to prepare for and all.” She strides out with purpose and Edwin follows, but not without a kind goodbye and a small wave.

Steve mentally scoffs to himself. No, he won’t be making a gingerbread house for Bucky. Besides, Freddie will probably gives hers to him. Well, she does really like glitter…

No. That’s ridiculous. Steve is a grown man who doesn’t make children’s food for a potential partner.

And with that thinking does he feel better.

&&&

Bucky shows up at the end of the school day, leaning against his place by the back door. He’s all smiles and grins and he’s beautiful. And that kind of makes Steve angry because he’s sure he has glitter in his hair and paint on parts of his body that he’d rather not think about. But Bucky is immaculate and his hair is windswept and his cheeks are glowing from the cold. Steve sucks in a breath when he sees him.

“Uncle Buck!” Freddie charges out of the doors and hugs her uncle. Good to see that whatever turmoil they had has been forgotten. “I’m sorry I made you feel bad.”

“Nah, don’t worry about. I should have been nicer to you, bug.” Bucky bends down and kisses the top of her head.

Steve tries to focus on high fiving all the kids, but he’s distracted. Because Bucky. He knows what those lips feel like and that’s hard to forget about.

There are only about twenty students in Steve’s class, but it feel like this line will never end. Until finally, it does. He waves to them as they run to their busses as loud, joyous students usually do.

He turns to Bucky who’s smiling at him with a cheeky grin. Before he can even say a word, Bucky is leaning forward and kissing him on the cheek, chaste and fast. Freddie screams. Both men jump and look at her. She’s clapping her hands and jumping. Steve doesn’t think he’s ever seen her quite so delighted.

“I’mma have two uncles!” She screams and Bucky’s jaw drops. Steve’s face turns red. But neither of them can tell her to chill, because how the hell do you break a kid’s heart like that?

Steve starts laughing, hopefully no one notices how helpless he sounds. “Not right this minute.” That seems to be the right answer.

“Steve and Bucky sittin in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G.” Freddie sings. She claps again delightedly.

“Don’t call your teacher by his first name.” Bucky scolds, his face bright red. “Or me by my first name.”

Freddie rolls her eyes. “The song issn as good.” She protests and crosses her arms, eyeing Steve carefully. “Steve.”

Steve blinks and shakes himself. But Bucky immediately comes to his rescue. “Alright, we’re going home now. You’re gonna get a talking to, missy.”

“Worth it.” She says.

Steve rubs the back of his neck. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Only if this one learns how to behave herself.” Bucky threatens, but throws Steve a sly wink while Freddie stares at the pavement. Steve smiles and gives Bucky a quick kiss on the cheek.

Freddie sees and points at them in absolute delight. “Ahh! Uncles!”

“We’ll see you tomorrow, Steve.” Bucky rolls his eyes and pulls Freddie down the street. Steve can still hear her yelling excitedly at Bucky even as they round the corner.

Steve slips back inside to warm up. Things are good. Things are great.

&&&

Steve ultimately decides to not make Bucky a gingerbread house in class that Friday with the rest of the kids, but he does bake up brownies and cupcakes for the kids and yes, Bucky does get a brownie when he picks Freddie up that afternoon. And yes, he does get a kiss also. And Freddie freaks out accordingly. Steve thinks she’s more excited about his relationship development than he is. Freddie spent the day making eyes at Steve and kissy faces. He sent a text to Bucky during naptime to tell him and received in return a string of laughing face emojis closely followed by a text of sobbing face emojis and then another text of boxes with x’s in them. Steve hoped that one wasn’t important, so he doesn’t ask.

At some point on Saturday, the day before his Date with Bucky, he receives an email from Sam and Rebecca Barnes that consists only of “Congratulations on getting your shit together.” Steve does not blush. It seems like Bucky’s entire family had been rooting for them. Which means it won’t be so awkward when he sees Rebecca and Sam again and say, “I’m dating your daughter’s uncle.”

Steve is thrilled, truly. But there has to be some law about this. He spends almost the entirety of Saturday making sure that they won’t receive any push back on their relationship. He mostly just finds things about not dating students. Which, no, not a problem. At all. There’s some weird thing about dating parents, but that doesn’t fit to him either. He thinks they’re okay. Before he gets too attached. Well, more attached.

Their date is on Sunday evening and Steve is early. And he isn’t all that surprised when he sees Bucky loitering awkwardly near the lockers of the ice rink. He has a weird shaped bag slung over his shoulder. He grins brightly when he sees Steve and waves him over. Steve is suddenly nervous, but he masks it easily, ignoring his stomach completely. Bucky looks beautiful. The indoor rink may have fluorescent lighting, which usually doesn’t make anyone look particularly flattering, but Steve is sure he’s never seen anyone look so beautiful.

Remember two seconds ago when he thought he could ignore his nerves? Fat fucking chance.

As soon as he’s close enough, Bucky slips a gloved hand into Steve’s and pulls him in for chaste kiss. Steve wants more. But this is a family establishment. Pack it in, Steven.

Steve squeezes Bucky hands. “Hey, Buck.”

“Hey, yourself. You got dolled up.” Hardly. Bucky eyes Steve appreciatively. It’s probably because he’s wearing a sweater that actually touches his skin. It was a request of Natasha and seconded by Scott an instant later by text message. Apparently, Peggy got the word around. She had been kind enough to not tease him mercilessly, but she did send him non discrete glances during the school day on Friday. “I didn’t realise you had clothes that fit you properly.”

“Ha ha.” Steve says and rolls his eyes.

“Go get your skates old man.” Bucky teases.

“What about you?”

Bucky blushes and looks down. “I brought my own.” He indicates to his bag.

And, oh no, Steve is not that good at ice skating. He had suggested it as a cute date idea, no wonder Bucky latched onto the idea. Steve hasn’t skated in years, who knows what’s going to happen.

“I’ll meet you on the ice. I have to warm up or die.” Bucky laughs and goes to put on his skates.

Steve meanders up to the line to rent his skates and is only briefly confused when the girl behind the counter tells him that his skates have already been paid for. Bucky.

Bucky who, once Steve gets his skates on and hobbles to the rink, is turning around the rink in graceful movements. He doesn’t even look like he’s trying to show off. Steve can’t tear his eyes away. But he steps onto the ice and latches onto the edges immediately. He’ll get his feet in a second. Bucky slides up to him and turns to he’s skating backwards in front of Steve.

“Take my hand.” Bucky offers his hand with a kind smile. “I can show you the world.”

Steve laughs and rolls his eyes. He takes Bucky’s hand and lets go of the siding. “I’ll be okay in a second.”

“Oh, you don’t wanna hold hands with me, Stevie? I’m hurt. I’ll let go right now.” Bucky teases, but pulls them closer to the inside of the rink. He skates backwards effortlessly, a smile bright on his face. Steve starts to get his feet, but stumbles a bit. Bucky is there instantly to keep him upright, a steady presence.

“Please don’t.” Bucky laughs and turns again so he’s skating next to Steve. “Show off.”

“Yeah.” Bucky shrugs, but doesn’t try to deny it. “You get to save the world by raising the newest generation and I’m a showoff for knowing how to skate.”

Steve furrows his eyebrows and wants to look at Bucky, but he’s just going to keep staring at the ice so he’ll know when it’s coming closer. “Is that how you view my job?” Bucky shrugs again, a little more shy this time. “Bucky, almost nobody cares about kindergarten teachers. Kids probably won’t remember me when they’re older. Teachers don’t really start making an impact in children’s lives until they’re in middle school and high school.”

“Okay, no, not true. I remember the hell out of my kindergarten teacher.” Bucky squeezes Steve’s hand. “And if that’s how you feel, why don’t you teach an older grade?”

Steve blushes and wants to blame it on the exertion of skating (which is an all body sport, by the way). “Because this is when kids start to have habits settle in. And there are some that are worse than others like pulling on girls’ hair to show affection. I’m trying to smash the patriarchy.”

Bucky laughs and Steve is almost offended, but Bucky makes them stop skating so he can kiss Steve. “You’re a good man, Steve.”

“Thanks.” Steve doesn’t understand why that concept is so applaudable; it should be commonplace in all kindergartens.

“Boys will be held accountable for their actions.” Bucky says and they resume skating.

There isn’t anyone really at this rink. Most people tend to go to Rockefeller because it’s outside and it’s more romantic than an indoor skating rink, but Steve likes that it isn’t super crowded. Less casualties.

“So glad you understand that.” Steve clutches harder on to Bucky’s hand when he stumbles a bit. “You wouldn’t believe how many parents have come at me with some nonsense.” He’s also had a lot reasonable and kind parents in his time, but the few older parents who think they know what’s best when they clearly don’t tend to get under his skin.

Bucky shrugs and keeps them moving. “You must have thought all sorts of bad things about me.”

Steve smiles fondly at the memory. “I mostly thought you were trying to harm the children.” Bucky turns to look at Steve absolutely mortified and Steve laughs. “I know you weren’t. And that you wouldn’t. But imagine you’re a teacher in the twenty-first century where things like that happen all the time and some madman rushes into your classsroom.” Bucky grumbles. “And then you kept showing up.”

“I had the insane idea to hate-fuck you.” Bucky says quietly enough that Steve almost doesn’t catch it. But he laughs and Bucky rolls his eyes. Laughing is hard on skates and Steve slows them to a stop so he doesn’t slip and die.

“You could have started with that.” Steve says between laughs. “Imagine what our dynamic would be like now.”

“Har har, Steve.” Bucky lets go of Steve’s hand and turns so he’s skating backwards again.

Steve is getting warm. It isn’t exactly cold in the rink, and he’s wearing a peacoat and a sweater and another sweater because it gets cold in New York in December. So he manages to skate slowly over to the side where hockey benches are and toss his coat. Bucky slides up and does the same, but keeps his gloves on.

Bucky hums and skates a little distance from Steve and eyes him appreciatively. “You look real good, Stevie.” Steve almost says that Natasha helped him, but keeps his mouth shut. He smiles instead and looks down at the ice. “No, I mean it. You should wear clothes that fit you more often.”

Steve rolls his eyes and tries to skate away from Bucky. It’s getting easier to move on the ice, but Bucky’s better and catches up with him easily. “I’d have to go shopping. And clothes cost money.”

Bucky laughs. “Yeah, okay, Steve.”

They skate for about an hour more. At one point, Steve tries to stop and instead turns in a full circle involuntarily, but miraculously doesn’t fall. Bucky laughs at Steve’s distress unhelpfully, but Steve loves the sound, so he only pretends to be upset. Bucky’s a talented skater without being to showy. But he does show off. Just a little bit. But Steve can appreciate his body blatantly while he skates.

Steve starts to get tired. Because as leisurely as it seems, skating is actually really strenuous. And Steve, for all his muscles and what have you, does actually get tired sometimes. Bucky picks up on it with scary perception and Steve lets him pull them off the ice. Bucky’s cheeks are flushed and he looks happy. Steve cannot stop staring. He can’t. There’s something about the expression on Bucky’s face and Steve wants nothing more than to see Bucky look this happy all the time.

Bucky sits on one of the benches outside of the rink and starts pulling his skates off. He glances at Steve shyly when he notices that he’s being stared at, but keeps taking off his skates. Without thinking, Steve steps up to Bucky with slightly wobbly steps and cups his face. Bucky blinks at stares up at Steve with the same look in his eyes that he had while he was skating. Steve bends and kisses Bucky gently, just once. When Steve pulls away, Bucky still has his eyes closed and a small smile on his face.

“You’re beautiful.” Steve says and a blush travels down Bucky’s neck as he opens his eyes.

“Sap.” Bucky ducks his head, but Steve can tell he’s pleased.

And skates are really hard to stand in, so Steven gets with the programme and takes them off. His ankle is feels a little tender, but it isn’t too bad. He’s happy to be back in normal shoes. Bucky swings his bag over his shoulder and takes Steve by the hand.

“So, Mister Rogers. The night is still young…” Bucky smiles as they walk out into the snow. It’s only seven. “Would you fancy grabbing a bite to eat with me?”

Steve laughs. “Yes, I’d fancy some food.”

“Cool.” Bucky steers them away from the pier and seems to know exactly where he’s going. They pass several restaurants that all look good, but Bucky ignores all of them and Steve doesn’t want to ask. Just in case.

They arrive at a innocuous little place between brownstones on a corner called Jack the Horse Tavern. Bucky strides in a walks up to the counter. The host greets him. “Hello. Reservations for two under Barnes.” Steve feels a weird tightness in his chest.

The host smiles and leads them to a table towards the back of the room. It’s cozy and romantically lit and Bucky pulls out Steve’s chair when they reach their table. Steve is absolutely sure he’s blushing. But he sits down and tries not to fidget. But Bucky slides into the chair across from him with easy comfort and takes Steve’s hand.

“You made reservations?” Steve asks and Bucky shrugs.

“I figured we’d get hungry at some point and this place is nearby and good, so…” Bucky doesn’t necessarily look nervous, but there’s something just a little bit off about it tone, like he’s trying to hard to be casual. Steve squeezes his hand and it feels nice, it feels natural. “Was it presumptuous of me?”

Steve laughs and shakes his head. “Bringing an overnight bag on this date would be presumptuous.” It has the desired effect and Bucky laughs. “You didn’t bring one did you?” Bucky laughs a little more helplessly and shakes his head.”I would have been okay with it.”

“Three dates, Steve. That’s what we agreed on.” Bucky says it like he’s trying to convince himself more than he’s trying to convince Steve. “Besides, I didn’t bring one, so what? I’d borrow your clothes?” And there’s a thought that really gets Steve’s blood pumping. Steve doesn’t consider himself a particularly possessive person, but thinking of Bucky walking around his home in his clothes sends a weird litany of thoughts through his head, the summary of which is Mine

Bucky is staring at him in abject shock, because maybe he said that last word out loud and Steve should be horrified, but Bucky is squeezing his hand to the point of being painful and he licks his lips.

They’re a fucking disaster.

Steve has the sudden urge to pull Bucky out of the restaurant and back to his bed and keep him there. Steve has two weeks off from work, no places to be, and he’d selfishly keep Bucky in his home the entire time if he thought he could get away with it.

Their waiter walks up and they break eye contact. Bucky orders a whiskey, neat. And Steve goes for a double scotch. Steve stares at the menu now that he can actually think about anything that isn’t fucking Bucky. And whoa, the prices. Steve is a teacher. In Brooklyn. And he’s tense. Bucky rubs soothing circles against the back of Steve’s hand with his thumb. Steve looks up and Bucky is smiling kindly at him.

“I picked the place and invited you to dinner.” Steve doesn’t understand. Bucky rolls his eyes. “Let me take care of you.”

Steve swallows. He wants to fight Bucky on it. But he knows he shouldn’t because that would be rude. And as though to prove his point, Bucky decides to get them polenta as a starter and also he wants to order a steak, which is the most expensive item on the menu. Steve decides on the cod. He can’t cook fish to save his life and always craves it.

Bucky predicts that their food will take a little while and they speak idly about life and how Bucky is planning on visiting his parents in Vermont next week. And Steve tries really hard to be a good listener, but Bucky is so pretty and has the prettiest face and eyes and Steve is so fucked. And it’s a relief when their appetizer comes out so Steve can take a sliver of his attention away from how badly he wants to ruin Bucky. And not holding hands anymore helps ground him, but he feels the loss viscerally.

The polenta is good. Steve says as much with food still in his mouth and Bucky’s eyes soften into fondness. Steve isn’t sure what he did to warrant that look, but he’ll take it. And in that instant, he realises that he’ll take anything that Bucky has to offer. And he needs to take a mental moment because he isn’t sure when he became so attached, but there isn’t anything he would change. Not even their beginnings.

Their food arrives and Steve makes the conscious effort to not to shovel food into his mouth. Bucky eats at a comfortable pace, not self-conscious or anything. Steve envies that, if only a little. If he could calm his nerves, he’d be able to eat like a normal-functioning human being. But as it stands, he can’t even get a potato wedge in his mouth. Bucky notices, of course he does, but instead of laughing or teasing, he just smiles and quietly averts his eyes back to his plate, for which Steve is silently grateful.

“I used to be half my current size.” Steve blurts out.

Bucky raises his eyes to look at Steve curiously. “Like...as a child?”

Steve laughs and shakes his head. “No, post-puberty. I was about a hundred pounds and asthmatic and close to death every winter.” Bucky sets his utensils down and gives Steve his full attention, which is almost too much. But Steve continues. “It wasn’t until college when I started bulking up and people started paying attention to me.”

Bucky nods slowly. “You know, you can gain muscle and weight and all that nonsense. But that sense of righteousness that you have, it didn’t come from muscle.”

Steve’s adam’s apple bobs. Steve isn’t insecure, per se, but there is a part of him that believes that anyone who has ever been attracted to him has been because of his physical appearance alone. He grew up poor, scrappy, and hungry and got beaten up and bullied more than he’d ever care to admit. People wouldn’t give him a second glance, even while he stumbled out of alleys bloody. And now, he catches people staring. Parents, fellow teachers, passengers on transit…

“Steve.” Bucky says and snaps Steve from his stupor. “I couldn’t fucking stand you when we first met. That didn’t change because you’re pretty, it changed because I got to know you. Millions of people are pretty and attractive to me, but if they’re shit people, I don’t put any effort into getting to know them.”

Steve nods, slowly. “You’re right. Bringing it up was silly.”

“It definitely wasn’t.” Bucky presses. “It’s important to you, so it’s important to me. You can tell me things and you don’t have to pretend like you’re okay. Even though we’re still in our trial period, I still want to know if you’re alright and if you aren’t. Capiche?” Steve swallows thickly and manages a small nod. “Cool. How’s your fish?”

Though Steve is grateful for the change in topic, there’s the thought in the back of his head throughout that Bucky managed to say the words that he’d been dying to hear for his entire life. They’re such simple words, but they carry the entire weight of Steve’s discomfort. And any suspicion that Bucky doesn’t actually like him.

When the check comes when they’re done eating, Steve has to hold his hands together to remind himself not to reach for his wallet. Bucky smiles when Steve thanks him.

“Okay, there’s one last thing that I’ve planned for.” Bucky says and Steve’s mind treacherously betrays him by thinking sex instantly. He blushes and Bucky laughs. “Three dates, Steve. C’mon.” He stands and helps Steve into his coat like a real gentleman. It makes Steve feel a little ridiculous, but Bucky loves it, going by the grin on his face. After getting his own coat on, he takes Steve by the hand and leads them back towards the pier.

“I know it’s winter and it’s cold outside, but it’s only a twenty minute ride. I figured we can survive that long.” Steve eyebrows furrow in confusion. “The ferry, Steve.”

Steve loves the ferry. It never comes up in conversation, but Steve loves riding the ferry and if he could get away with riding the ferry more often, he definitely would. Especially at night time.

Steve pulls out his wallet to pay at the terminal, but Bucky gets ahead of him and orders two one-way tickets. Steve huffs and Bucky nudges him playfully. “C’mon, just for tonight. It’s my last financial favour, if it makes you feel any better.” Steve rolls his eyes. “It doesn’t. Think of me as your sugar daddy.”

“You are two years older than me.”

“Ooh, you’re so young.” Bucky laughs and intertwines his fingers with Steve.

It’s freezing outside, but they opt for standing out on the deck facing Manhattan. Steve tends to run hot, so he doesn’t feel too cold and Bucky doesn’t make much of an indication that he’s cold either. They lean against the railing and Steve stares at the lights from buildings reflected on the East River.

The ferry starts moving not long after and the outside deck is deserted except for them. “Steve.” Bucky says softly and Steve turns to look at him.

Bucky smiles softly and gently cups Steve’s cheek. There’s not much of a distance between them and it closes easily. Bucky kisses sweetly, like it’s their first kiss. And what a great kiss it is. Steve slides his hands through Bucky’s hair and tugs at the locks towards the base of his neck. He makes a halted movement to get closer. Bucky’s free hand slides down to Steve’s hip and hauls him in closer. Bucky leans back against the railing, pulling Steve with him.

Steve breaks the kiss and Bucky stares at him like he’s the moon. The expression is probably reflected on Steve’s face. Bucky looks beautiful the moonlight and the lights from the city. Steve pulls him into his arms and presses his face into his neck. Bucky sighs and runs his fingers through Steve’s hair.

“This was a really good first date, Buck.”

“I was definitely expecting it to be more awkward.” Steve laughs.

They hold each other for the remainder of the ride and Bucky walks Steve to his front door. Steve gets another kiss, chaster and Bucky flutters his eyelashes in a demure fashion before giving Steve one last good night kiss.

Chapter Text

Bucky works and eats and sleeps and dreams of Steve. Steve who disappears for a week during the winter holidays to go visit his mom in Vermont. Steve had apologised a million times, telling Bucky that he doesn’t get to see his mom as often as he’d like. Bucky had waved him off, promising that it was fine. It was, truly. Bucky doesn’t lie about things like that.

It’s been awhile since he’s spent time with his sister anyways and it’ll be good to see her without being in a Mood™. And no, he does not wax poetic about how beautiful Steve Rogers is. Well, maybe just a little. Okay, a lot.

Rebecca leans back against one side of the couch and raises her eyebrows at him. “You know, I’m really happy for you. And you may think that I’m being sarcastic, but no, I actually really mean it. I mean,” She rolls her eyes. “You’re disgusting, but I’m happy. Because you’re happy. Even if you are sinning.”

Bucky laughs and curls around a pillow. “We’re barely Jewish and since do you care about sinning? You married a black man.”

Sam pokes his head into the room. “I heard black man. Are you talking about me?” Rebecca smiles up at him sweetly. “I thought so. You don’t know any other black people.”

Bucky sits up a little and blinks. “You don’t make up the entire black population of New York.”

Freddie is upstairs coloring and Bucky had wanted to interrupt her, but they’ve been seeing a lot of each other. He’s barely a novelty anymore. Before meeting Steve, Bucky had seen Fredding maybe once a week for Uncle Day. And Uncle Day came about because he never saw anyone. Ever. Bucky had spent 95% of his time either alone or working. The other 5% was spent between family and banging random strangers. Or, rather, getting banged by random strangers. But semantics is hardly important.

Sam makes a mumbling noise and goes back into the kitchen to keep cooking. Rebecca coos after him. “You two should hang out one-on-one more.” Bucky stares at her. “I’m serious, we’re only married because you two were friends first. I’ll never forget that you introduced me to my soulmate.”

“Gross.” Bucky makes a gagging noise.

“Ugh! Like you’re better. ‘Oh, lemme tell you about Steve’s hair’ and ‘Steve is such a hunk’ and ‘Steve’s beard makes me weak’. Shit like that.” Rebecca smirks triumphantly as Bucky blushes helplessly. Because Steve’s beard does make him weak. And it’s Wednesday and Steve will be back on Saturday. Just in time for the New Year. “When y’all get married, Sam is going to be really upset if he isn’t your Best Man since you were his.”

Bucky shakes his head at her. “You say this like it’s already been decided. Steve and I aren’t even official yet.” But, wowza, does he want them to be. It kind of bothers him how much he likes Steve, but he can keep that to himself. But he’s fairly certain that Steve also really likes him, so that’s good. Reciprocated feelings are so important.

“This is the first time you’ve had adult feelings for someone.”

“That is not true.” Bucky says defensively. It is true. He sucks in a breath. “I don’t want to fuck it up.”

Rebecca’s eyes soften and she scoots across the sofa to lean her head against his shoulder. “I love you, my dear brother. And if you start over-thinking your feelings, you’re either going to fall too hard too fast or you’re going to push him away. Just communicate with him and tell him your feelings and don’t be afraid of telling him what’s up.”

“That’s...pretty solid advice.”

Rebecca scoffs. “I’ve been married for a decade, big brother. I just want you to be happy. Which means I’ll have to meet him before you get too close to him. Because if I hate him, you can’t get married. Or even see him again.”

“He is literally your daughter’s teacher. And you haven’t met him yet?”

Rebecca waves him off. “It’ll be a different setting. He should be nervous to meet me. I’m terrifying.”

Bucky laughs and leans back against the couch. “I really hope you like him”

He does want to get Freddie the prettiest dress.

&&&

Meanwhile, Peggy meets a man named Daniel Souza.

Peggy Carter wears heels, no matter what the weather is like. Peggy Carter also boxes with Steve twice weekly. Peggy Carter also carries around a telescopic baton everywhere she goes. But most people don't know that. Most people should think twice about approaching her in a way she didn't like. But they don't.

Peggy leaves her apartment with the intention of going to buy a gift. It's about five in the evening, so it's already dark and the snow has been plowed during the day.

A man whistles and shouts something lewd at her and Peggy grits her teeth and stops walking. “I beg your pardon?”

“I said,” The man says, blissfully unaware. “Nice ass.” He pushes away from the wall and takes steps closer to Peggy. She narrows her eyes and opens her mouth to rebute him.

“Hey, asshole. Leave her the hell alone.” Peggy almost resists the urge to look at the man who stands up for her, but she can’t help it. He’s leaning heavily against a cane. A veteran probably.

The accoster scoffs and turns back to Peggy. “Why don’t I take you back to my place?”

Peggy narrows her eyes and pulls her telescopic baton from her pocket and with a sharp move, she extends it and points it at the man. “Take one step closer and I’ll break your knee, your wrist, and your jaw. And not necessarily in that order.”

“Calm down, bitch. It was just a compliment.”

“Ain’t like any compliment I’ve ever heard. Get the hell outta here.” The man with cane says.

The accoster leaves and Peggy turns to the man with the cane. “Buy you a drink?” She asks.

He blushes. “Uh, sure, I mean, yes. Why?”

Peggy shrugs. “You’re the first man who’s ever stood up for me on the street.”

“You handled yourself just fine.”

Peggy smiles and sticks out a hand. “Peggy Carter.”

“Daniel Sousa.” He shakes her hand. “You shouldn’t have to deal with assholes like that.”

Peggy looks down at her shoes for a second. “I know a great bar around the corner. We should get out of the snow.”

The walk isn’t long and soon enough, they’re tucked into a cozy booth in bar/restaurant. She orders her whiskey and is only a little surprised when he orders the same thing.

Daniel looks a like he wants to say something, but whatever it is makes him look uncomfortable. Peggy raises an eyebrow and he sucks in a breath. “Why did you ask me here?”

Peggy furrows her eyebrows and looks him over. “Mostly as a thank you. And before you ask, yes, if it had been someone else, I also would have offered them a drink. But I’m glad it was you.” It’s fairly obvious that he wants clarification, but she isn’t going to offer it and even if he asks, she probably wouldn’t tell him anyways.

He leans forward and gives her a curious look. “What do you do for a living?”

“I'm a school teacher. And you?”

Daniel looks surprised, but Peggy doesn't let that bother her. Lots of people tend to think lowly of teachers. For whatever reason.

“I work in the CIA.” Daniel responds and before she can stop herself, Peggy's eyes dart to his cane. She doesn't love herself for that, but it's been done. Daniel shrugs. “This happened while I still worked in the field. They recruited me during college.”

“Intelligence gathering?” She asks.

“Not on American soil.” Daniel looks down at the table. “I don’t...sp-watch citizens.” He catches his slip up just barely. “It was a mission gone wrong.”

“Classified?” She asks, an understanding smile on her lips.

Daniel smiles back. “Very.”

She leans forward and they’re close. “You must be very good at reading a room.”

“I can tell you that there are eight people wearing hats in this room. And that the bartender keeps at least two towels on his belt.” Peggy does a quick glance around the room. He’s right. “And I can tell that you have taken more than just self defence classes.”

“I spar with a dear friend periodically. He’s large and strong.”

“Good practice.” Daniel praises without coming off as condescending. “I can still hold my own even without a leg.”

Peggy blinks. “Of course you can. I never doubted you for a moment.” He smiles and it’s blinding and Peggy’s life changes.

Daniel Sousa is every bit intelligent as he is handsome. He’s witty and caring with a strong moral compass and Peggy is lost. She does well to hide it as she does with all of her feelings. She may have slipped up with Bucky and he now knows about her feelings for Steve. But you don’t throw twenty years of friendship away because your friend loves you.

They spend a few hours in the bar together and Peggy isn’t sure where time went. “I was supposed to buy a gift, but I suppose I’ll have to do it tomorrow…” She laughs breathlessly. After three whiskeys and one cocktail that was much too sweet for her taste, she’s feeling a little happy.

“I can walk you home.” Daniel offers as Peggy wrestles the check away from him. He gives her a look when she gets it away from him and pays.

“You don’t have to do that. I don’t live far.” Peggy had gotten exactly two blocks away from home before that man had harassed her.

“All the more reason.” Daniel smiles and Peggy rolls her eyes.

“Fine. You may walk me home.” She smiles. Daniel stands and offers her his arm. She takes it and they walk out into the cold. She shudders a little and totally doesn’t move closer to Daniel.

The walk is a quick one and she turns to him at the door and opens her mouth to say something, anything. But when it seems like she won’t say anything, Danie smiles. “This was a nice evening. Happy holidays, Ms. Carter.” He turns to leave.

“Nothing else?” Peggy calls before he can get too far. He turns back to her and raises his eyebrows. “You’re not going to ask for my number? Or will you find it using nefarious methods?’

Daniel huffs out a laugh. “Yeah, I mean, I could definitely do that. But I didn’t want to come off as creepy.”

Peggy holds out her hand and Daniel gives her his phone. “Give me a call some time. Or text first. We millenials don’t answer our phones.” There’s a weird fluttering in her chest she hasn’t felt in a long while. Like she may be having heart palpitations. Call a doctor. She gives him back his phone and he beams up at her.

“I’ll talk to you soon.” He walks down the street in the direction they came from. Peggy stands outside a beat too long watching him walk before she remembers herself and heads back into her apartment.

&&&

Steve had a really lovely time with his mother, but she could tell that he was anxious to get home to “A Very Special Young Suitor”.

Steve had told Bucky that he didn’t need to be picked up from Grand Central Station, but he’s desperate to see him again, so after a brief “disagreement”, Steve had given him his itinerary with the promise to spend time together after his ride home. A flight would have been faster, but trains are cheaper and better. Trains are easily the best mode of transportation.

He watches the snow covered landscape pass by and tries to take his mind off of seeing Bucky. They’ve been texting. A lot. Which is great. But Steve doesn’t want a relationship built on texting. Which is not at all what they’re doing.

He stops thinking for a moment and takes a deep breath. As Bucky said in the past, their relationship is built on apologies and fucking up again. Which is worse. That is worse. Steve presses his head into the headrest and is silently grateful that there are only a few people on this train car.

He really likes Bucky. A lot. Maybe he has since the first moment they met. Well, maybe the second moment they met.

His phone pops at him and he looks down. Speaking of…

Bucky Barnes: I figured you might be tired from your trip so we can just stay at your place and netflix and chill?

Steve Rogers: You’re so subtle. I’m not sure if anyones ever told you that

Bucky Barnes: Its our third date

Steve blinks at his phone in shock.

: Are you counting that time you napped in my bed

Bucky Barnes: Yes

Now there’s another reason for butterflies to create a hurricane in his stomach. Not that he doesn’t want sex with Bucky, but he’d been expecting to wait a little longer.

Bucky Barnes: We don’t actually have to do the do. I just want to see you

That quells the hurricane a bit and Steve feels like he can breathe again. Just a little bit.

He types I’ve missed you.

He doesn’t quite hit send. It seems too forward. He erases it.

Steve Rogers: I want to see you too

After a moment of deliberation he does end up sending

Steve Rogers: I’ve missed you

Because it’s important to him that Bucky knows that.

Steve Rogers: I’m only an hour out. I’ll see you soon

Bucky Barnes: I miss you too Stevie. I’ll see you soon

Steve sighs and smiles to himself. After a week of living with his mom, it’ll be nice to be back in his own space in his own home in his own bed. With Bucky…

Steve bites his bottom lip and distracts himself by playing sudoku on his phone.

&&&

No, Bucky did not arrive an hour early to Grand Central Station. He knew that Steve’s train is arriving at noon, so there’s no logical reason that he’s been here since 11. Other than nerves. Which is absolutely ridiculous because he’s seen Steve before. Basically stalked the man at his place of work. But picking him up from the train is what gets Bucky’s blood pumping. Silly.

Bucky is on his third cup of coffee. He doesn’t even really like coffee, but it’s been keeping him occupied. And it kind of helps that he’s had to pee like three times. Somehow, he’s forgotten that caffeine is a diuretic. But peeing passes the time. So does the daily crossword. Puzzle Master Will Shortz is a force to be reckoned with.

Soon enough, Steve’s train is pulling into the station and Bucky tries hard to look casual, shifting his position a few times, so that when he sees Steve, he can just nod and say “Sup?”

That’s a terrible idea.

Steve is shouldering his bag and glancing around the main concourse and Bucky’s breath catches. He’s on his feet before he realises it and he’s crossing the room. Steve sees him and smiles brightly, but Bucky keeps walking with single-minded purpose. Steve drops his bag and opens his arms to him. Bucky steps right into his space and kisses him.

Casual greetings be damned. Bucky wants to fall for this man and that thought should be terrifying, but it isn’t. There isn’t a single thing in the world that he wants more in that moment that to have a proper relationship with Steve Rogers.

Steve drags his fingers through Bucky’s hair and gently pulls him away. “I have missed you.”

“I missed you too.” Bucky says weakly. Steve’s eyes are so blue and he’s so beautiful.

“Are we taking the 4 home?”

Home.

“Don’t be weird. You were just on a train for like ten hours.”

Steve smiles. “Traffic is bad in New York, sweetheart.”

Bucky’s mouth goes dry and his face heats up and he stares at Steve. “Please.” He whimpers and Steve’s face also flushes red.

“We’re gonna take the train…” Steve says faintly. He stoops to pick up his bag, but Bucky gets there faster and pulls it onto his shoulder. Steve blinks at him in shock and Bucky opens his mouth to say something, but Steve kisses him instead. “C’mon, baby.”

Bucky’s knees might give out, but he gets his feet underneath him and starts walking towards the subway. Steve takes him by the hand and kisses him on the knuckles.

“I’ll make you dinner when we get back.” Steve says.

Bucky gawks at him. “The hell you will, Rogers. I’m gonna treat you so well tonight. You won’t even want to move.”

Steve lifts his eyebrows at him in amusement. “Sure, alright, Buck.”

Chapter Text

If there’s one thing Steve could say about Bucky and mean it every time, it would be that Bucky always makes good on his promises. Steve most certainly does not want to move and Bucky probably wouldn't let him if he tried.

Bucky gets dinner ordered. Something about “burning water” which Steve instantly doesn't believe, but he's never been known to turn down fried rice. Which he's realising he orders a lot. A lot. It's good and it's cheap and Steve Rogers knows no shame.

As soon as they had arrived home, Bucky all but shoved Steve towards the bathroom to shower and started building his nest. It isn't the perfect nest, but it certainly is a good one. Just because Bucky made it. When he comes out of the shower, Bucky has no pants on and wraps Steve in blankets and covers him with pillows and doesn't make one comment about why Steve has two linen closets and a chest full of blankets. It's New York, okay? It gets cold.

Bucky presses into Steve's side as they await the arrival of their dinner. “Tell me about your trip.”

Steve smiles and tries to cuddle into Bucky but is hindered by the layers of blankets. “It was nice. My ma's doing great. Says that the fresh air is good for her. New York is dirty.”

Bucky pretends to be scandalised. “New York is the cleanest place in the world. All the urine in the streets? Works as a sterilisation agent.”

Steve rolls his eyes affectionately. “Yeah, sure.” He smiles and rests his head back onto the sofa behind them. “She’s been slipping a little. Forgetting small things, nothing major yet. Still remembers my childhood and all that. I asked her if she wanted to move back to the city with me and she said no. A little meaner than she could have.”

Bucky hums. “New York is kinda gross, Stevie…”

 

“I should visit her more. I feel like I’d regret it otherwise.”

Bucky clears his throat and sits up and Steve looks at him. “Honestly, Steve. You’ll have regrets anyways. No matter how great a son you are, you’ll still think about what more you could have done for her and if there was something else that could have made her more comfortable.” Steve is sure Bucky is speaking from experience, but he won’t ask. But he certainly will listen if Bucky offers to tell him in the future. “But if she likes Vermont, then she likes Vermont. There’s good ice cream out there. And clean air.”

“And family.” Steve nods to himself. “Not much, but she has a sister out there who’s sharp as a tack, like ma was. But you’re right. I’m not sure about the ice cream though, Buck. We’ve got that black ice cream stuff downtown.”

Bucky narrows his eyes at Steve and takes the change in conversation in stride. “What is this hipster nonsense and how did you hear about it?”

“Natasha.” Of course “They put charcoal in their ice cream, turns it black.”

“Will it also turn your teeth black?” Bucky settles back into Steve’s side and pulls a large blanket over himself.

“Let’s go tomorrow and find out.”

“It is literally winter, Steve.”

“Yeah…” Steve frees an arm and wraps it around Bucky’s shoulder. “We can eat it inside. Or bring it into a cute little bookstore. Just a thought.”

“Or the Natural History Museum?”

Steve smiles. “We can walk there from the Lower East Side.”

Bucky scoffs and shifts uncomfortably unders Steve’s arm. “Okay, no. Because I love myself and you should also love yourself. Or something like that. Maybe never say ridiculous things like that again. Rad. Thanks.”

Steve laughs and kisses Bucky on the head. “We’ll take the subway, weirdo.”

“Ugh. With food?”

“You are a difficult person to please.” Steve says fondly.

Bucky smiles. “Not really. You just have to say things that make sense.”

“Like...after we eat dinner, I’ll fuck you into my mattress?”

Bucky’s head whips around and he’s staring at Steve with wide eyes. “Christ, Steve. You can’t just say things like that! You’re just supposed to do it.”

Steve would be offended, if it weren’t for the fact that Bucky’s eyes are wild and dark. Steve manages to free a hand from his blankets and wraps his fingers around the base of Bucky’s neck. “Kiss me.” He whispers.

Bucky swallows and Steve can feel it against the base of his thumb. Bucky leans closer and Steve tightens his grip a bit. When their lips touch, it’s soft and gentle. Bucky’s eyes are squeezed shut and his cheeks are flushed and Steve thinks he’s absolutely beautiful. He tugs Bucky in closer and bites at his lower lip.

Bucky lets out a soft moan and Steve shimmies out of this blankets and pushes Bucky onto his back. It’s no surprise when Bucky goes pliant and willing and Steve moans quietly. He always knew Bucky would be good for him, but fuck.

Bucky's hands clench and unclench on Steve's shoulders as he tries to drag him closer. Steve gives in after a few moments and presses his chest and hips against Bucky's. Bucky releases a desperate noise and presses his hips up harder against Steve's.

Steve pulls back and holds Bucky's hips still against the blankets. “Be good.” He orders quietly. Bucky nods silently and Steve smiles and runs his hands down to Bucky's knees to push them apart. “Do you want to know all the things I want to do to you tonight? Do you want me to tell you?” Bucky nods helplessly and Steve gives him a quick swat on the thigh. “Use your words.”

Fuck. Yes sir. Please sir.”

Steve hums appreciatively and settles himself between Bucky's legs. “Nothing super heavy today.” Bucky whines and Steve bites his collarbone. “I want to get to know your limits. What's your safeword?”

Bucky swallows. This all feels very real. Steve is a solid, warm presence, heavy and comfortable and there isn't anywhere Bucky would rather be. “Philly.”

Steve pulls back from Bucky's neck and gives him a look. “Why Philly?”

“Somewhere I don't wanna go. Everyone says Jersey, but Jersey ain't so bad.”

Steve screws up his nose. “Not so bad.” He mutters under his breath and Bucky laughs. “You laughin’ at me, punk?”

“Yes. Absolutely. We should go sometime.” That only makes Steve look horrified and Bucky laughs harder, tilting his head back against the pillows and blankets.

Steve bites at his collarbone. “Absolutely not.” Bucky moans and squirms restlessly. Steve presses his entire body to Bucky’s and that sufficiently makes him stop moving.

“Christ you’re heavy.”

“You talk too much.”

“Shut me up, sir.” Bucky challenges with a laugh.

“Petulant ass…” Steve wraps his hand underneath Bucky’s ass and drags his blunt nails down his thigh. Bucky lets out a weak noise and he cants his hips up.

The doorbell rings and the sound Bucky makes is absolutely devastated. “We have to eat food.” He says like it’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to him.

Steve sighs and climbs off from Bucky and the floor. He isn’t wearing pants and he’s semi erect, so on his way to the door, he wraps a blanket around his waist. Bucky’s laughter follows him down the hall.

The delivery guy looks cold, but he’s nice enough and Steve tips higher than he usually does. Because it’s snowing again and the guy is on a bike.

Bucky is staring at the ceiling, one arm under his head, the other across his stomach and he’s hard. And Steve almost wants to say fuck it to food, but damn, food sounds good right now and he hasn’t eaten since he was in Vermont, so…

Steve straddles Bucky’s waist and settles himself comfortably. Bucky looks at him curiously. “It’s gonna awfully hard for me to eat like this.”

“I’ll just pour it in your mouth and hope that it doesn’t get too messy.”

“It’s gonna get really fucking messy.”

“Then i’ll eat it off you.” Steve sets the plastic bag on Bucky’s chest and Bucky hisses. “Oh, I’m sorry, is that too hot for you?”

“Fuck you, Steve.”

Steve smirks. “Me?”

“Fuck.” Bucky remains perfectly still as Steve starts setting containers out around them.

“How much food did you order?”

“I dunno. You kind of eat like a horse. I don’t know if anyone’s told you this.” Steve frowns and looks down at his body. He thinks it’s a pretty good body. Bucky sighs and Steve look back at him. “First of all body positivity. Second of all, even if you don’t eat all of it, you’ll have leftovers for later or something.”

“We’ll have leftovers. It’s Friday. You’ll be staying here all weekend.”

Bucky swallows audibly. “Will I now?”

Steve presses a hand to base of Bucky’s thoat applies just a bit of pressure. “Please.” He says softly.

Bucky has to take a moment to gather himself or something, because god damn. “Okay. But only if you have more than one shower head.” Steve rolls his eyes. “Does that mean you have more than one shower head?”

Steve takes his hand from Bucky’s throat and climbs from his lap. “Eat your food.”

“Steve. I need to know.”

“And I’m sure you’ll find out. But not right now.”

Bucky painstakingly sits up and leans up against Steve and starts stabbing at a container of fried rice. “If you have more than one shower head, think of how amazing the shower sex would be.”

Steve blinks at Bucky. “It would be hot and wet just like you probably like it. But also impractical as all shower sex is.”

“God you’re no fun.” Bucky complains around a mouthful of rice.

“You won’t be saying that when I’m fucking you later.”

Bucky goes silent for a few minutes and Steve enjoys the quiet submission. He can see Bucky’s cock straining against his briefs, a small damp spot forming. They eat quietly. “I’m gonna be really upset if you suck at sex.” Bucky says out of nowhere.

Steve closes his eyes for a brief moment and sets his food on the floor next to the nest and takes Bucky’s and does the same. Bucky opens his mouth to protest, but Steve crashes their lips together and holds Bucky still by the back of his neck.

Bucky makes a broken noise and starts to climb into Steve's lap. And Steve lets him do what he likes for now. Bucky’s enthusiasm is cute and just erring on desperate. Steve moans quietly when Bucky grinds their hips together.

Bucky pulls away suddenly and makes worried eye contact with Steve.

“Where's Snowball?”

Steve laughs breathlessly and presses his face into Bucky's shoulder. “With Natasha.”

Bucky hums and kisses Steve again. But it doesn't last long. He pulls back. “I could have watched her.”

“Oh my god. Do you ever shut up?”

“Work harder, Stevie.”

Steve holds Bucky still by the hips and presses up hard against him. Bucky moans and tilts his head back and Steve drags his beard down his neck.

“You're a fucking brat, you know that?” Bucky opens his mouth to say something, but Steve presses two fingers into his mouth. “You just don’t know how to shut your damn mouth.” Bucky sucks hard and drags his tongue against the pads of Steve’s fingers and Steve moans quietly. “Good boy.”

Bucky keens and shivers desperately in Steve’s lap. Steve pulls his fingers from Bucky’s mouth and hold him firmly by the ass and stands. Obediently, Bucky wraps his limbs around him and presses his face into Steve’s neck. “Christ, you’re strong. Carry me to Valhalla, Stevie.”

Steve has nothing to say to that and walks them to his bed. Unceremoniously, Steve tosses Bucky onto his bed and Bucky hums quietly. “God, you’ve got a big bed. What else of yours is big?”

Steve sighs and pulls his shirt off. He watches darkly as Bucky clamps his mouth shut and swallows thickly. “Nothing to say?” Bucky shakes his head.

“You’re beautiful.”

Steve smiles and climbs into Bucky’s waiting arms. “Thank you.” He kisses down Bucky’s neck and pulls his shirt off and tosses it off to the side. He leans back and looks up and down Bucky’s body. “You look like you run.”

“Just that one time. Can’t be bothered to work out.”

Steve laughs and drags a hand down Bucky’s chest and revels in his shiver. “You ran four miles and didn’t die? Wonder what that says about your stamina.”

“Why don’t you find out? Instead of talking about it.” Bucky mutters and Steve gives him a sharp smack to his thigh.

“It’s been a while.” Steve reminds him quietly. “You have to tell me if you hate something.”

“High chance I’m not gonna hate anything you do to me.” Bucky says as he palms his cock. “C’mon, we’ve waited months for this moment.”

“I’m serious, Buck. Ya gotta tell me if you hate something.” Steve takes Bucky’s hand and holds it still against the mattress.

“I will.” Bucky says and tries to pull his hand away. Steve holds fast and Bucky moans. “Ah, fuck. Please, Steve. I’ve wanted you for so long. Even when I couldn’t stand your fucking guts, i wanted you to fuck me over that desk of your in your classroom. Wanted you to furcking wreck me. Lemme see that cock of yours. Please, I need you.”

Steve bites his lip and stands back up from the bed. Bucky’s cock twitches in his briefs and Steve pulls them right off. Bare, Bucky is beautiful. Well, let’s be honest. Clothed, Bucky is beautiful. But now, he’s flushed and panting lightly and spread out across Steve’s grey sheets. “You’re ethereal.” Bucky blinks and takes in a sharp breath. “Put your hands next to your head and don’t move.” Bucky hurries to obey and watches Steve down his nose. “Move and I stop.”

“Yes sir.”

“Good.”

Steve kneels over his and licks from base to tip on Bucky’s cock. It twitches and leaks a drop of precum and Steve hums. Bucky makes a noise in the back of his throat when Steve sucks at this head of his dick, pressing his tongue against the slit. Steve looks up at him through his lashes and is delighted to see Bucky staring right back, the bright flush on his cheeks making his eyes even brighter.

Steve grabs a bottle of lube from beneath his sheets and ignores Bucky’s delighted laughter.

“I can’t fucking believe you just have lube in your sheets.” Bucky keeps laughing and in gentle retaliation, Steve gives the tip of his dick a small bite and Bucky stops laughing. Steve is silently satisfied.

Steve pulls back for a moment and makes a show of lubing up his fingers. Bucky watches, eyes dazed, cheeks flushed, cock leaking. Steve’s cock twitches as a not so subtle reminder of how much he wants this. It hits him how long it’s been and he bites his lower lip and drops his eyes to the sheets next to Bucky’s legs. Five years and he’ll finally be with someone. And not just any someone.

Bucky sits up and gently takes Steve’s face in his hands. “It’s okay. I’ve got you.” Steve looks into those beautiful grey eyes and nods. “I’m sorry I moved, but it seemed like you were going to start spiralling and I want your dick inside of me. Even if you’re bad at sex.” Steve rolls his eyes and laughs. Bucky kisses him gently and lays back down, hands next to his head. “C’mon Stevie, let’s consummate our relationship.”

“Yeah? Person who’s courting me? You wanna consummate? Like we’re married?”

“I know one specific toddler who’d be thrilled if that happened.”

Steve laughs again and he feels the knot in his stomach start to loosen. He presses a finger against Bucky’s opening and gently circles it. Bucky whimpers, but stays still. Steve slowly pushes in and Bucky sucks in a heavy breath. Steve hums approvingly as he feels Bucky’s walls clench around him. Steve bends over him and kisses and bites down his neck. “Do you like this?”

“Oh my fuck, Steve.” Bucky rolls his eyes. “No, I hate it. Of course I like this. Wish you’d hurry the fuck up though.”

Steve sighs and shakes his head. “You said it’s been a while, we gotta take it slow.”

“I fuck other things, Steve.”

Steve freezes and a short shock of jealousy shoots through him. “Tell me.”

Bucky’s face turns red and he stares at the ceiling like it’s interesting. “Like fake penises, Steve.” He says exasperated.

“Keep going.” Steve encourages and presses a second finger into Bucky, moving them both slowly in and out of him.

Bucky sucks in a harsh breath. “Ah, fuck. I don’t know. I like dicks, Steve, and I like them inside of me. And when I wasn’t getting any, I bought some fake ones and put them in my butthole.”

“That is the least sexy thing I have ever heard.”

“I don’t talk dirty about masturbation.” Bucky defends.

“Did you ever think of me?”

“All the time.”

“Tell me about that.” Steve speeds up a little as encouragement.

“Well, when I thought of you, you weren’t such an ass about it.” Steve gives him a sharp nip on the shoulder. “Ah, but you fucked me so good, Stevie. You’d start off nice and slow, but hard. And whisper filthy things in my ear. Telling me how good I feel, how greedy you are for my orgasms, how hot I feel around your cock.”

Steve moans quietly and starts fingering Bucky in earnest, fucking into him. “You feel so tight around my fingers. Can’t want to get my cock inside of you. Wanna feel you clench around me when you cum.” Bucky keens and his hands are clenched tight. “Touch me.”

Bucky wastes no time and digs his nails into Steve’s back desperately. “Please, sir. I want more of you.” Steve presses in a third finger and Bucky groans brokenly. “Ah yes, fuck.”

“There’s a condom under my pillow. Grab it for me.” Bucky stretches back one hand to grab it, and the other hand yanks mercilessly on Steve’s hair. “Christ, you’re grabby.”

“You said I can touch you.” Bucky whines and throws the foil packet at Steve’s chest when he finally finds what pillow it’s under.

“I know, sweetheart. I’m into it, I just wasn’t expecting it.”

“That’s because I’m a fucking enigma.”

Even with three fingers buried in his ass, Bucky still manages to get a laugh out of Steve. “Yeah, okay. You wanna put this on me, or do you trust me to put it on myself?”

“What like you don’t know how to put on condoms?” Steve gives Bucky a look. “Oh, right. Nah, I’ll just watch you put your hands on that massive dick of yours that I haven’t even fucking seen yet.”

Steve pulls his fingers slowly out of Bucky and stands from the bed and pushes his briefs down to the floor. Bucky moans and spreads his legs. Steve isn’t so much big as he is enormous. His cock is pretty and red and flushed and leaking and Bucky wants it.

“C’mon, sir. Please, I want this. Please, Steve, fuck, please.”

“You’re so good.” Steve murmurs and rips the condom packet open and rolls it on. “Good boys get rewards.”

Bucky wraps his arms around Steve’s neck and kisses him as Steve presses his cock into him. Bucky tilts his head out of the kiss and moans loudly. Steve groans slowly continues pressing in. Bucky gasps and presses a hand desperately to Steve’s chest and Steve stops. Bucky looks up at him with wild eyes. “Don’t stop. Fuck, don’t ever stop. Your cock feels better than I ever imagined, Stevie. Christ, you’re huge and--uhh--” Bucky breaks off when Steve slams home and his lips part in a silent scream.

Steve presses his nose into the side of Bucky’s face. He rocks his hips slowly and carefully and Bucky clutches his hair in both hands and pulls. Steve moans and fucks harder into him. “Oh, baby. Fuck, you feel so good. So tight.”

Bucky whimpers and cants his hips up as best he can. “C’mon, I take it. You don’t have to be gentle with me.”

Steve kisses his gently on the cheek and sits back on his haunches. Bucky wraps his legs around Steve’s waist and Steve holds him tight around the back of his thighs. Bucky braces himself, because that seems like the right thing to do and Steve starts fucking him in earnest, hitting him right on the prostate with each wild thrust.

Bucky presses his fists into his eyes and lets out a hoarse sob. He’s saying words and he isn’t entirely sure what he’s saying, but Steve growls and pushes his legs apart and into the mattress.

“Ah, Bucky, I could fuck you for days. I wanna fuck you all weekend.” Bucky moans and Steve smacks him on the thigh. He reaches blindly for Steve’s hand and presses it against his throat. “Yeah? Like it when I choke you?” Bucky nods. “Words.” He demands and Bucky comes.

It’s a blinding feeling and he hadn’t been expecting it. He feels his cum hit his chest and he’s sure he’d feel it on his neck if Steve’s hand weren’t there. Steve slows for a moment as he milks Bucky’s orgasm and all Bucky can do is shudder his way through it.

He’s trembling, but still hard and Steve hums thoughtfully. “How many times can I make you cum? Or should that be an experiment for later this weekend?” Weekend, Bucky thinks distantly and he moans. “At least one more this round, I think.”

Steve still sounds unbelievably coherent and that almost bothers Bucky until he opens his eyes and wow, Steve is a mess. And he looks so good. His cheeks are red and his hair is all over the place, sticking up where Bucky was tugging on it. And the thin sheen of sweat on his chest makes his look so fucking beautiful.

“Please sir. I love your cock.”

“Yeah, you’re a real slut for it, aren’t you?” Steve says and Bucky nods desperately. Steve rolls them over so Bucky’s on top. “Show me.” Bucky watches and Steve sucks his cum from his finger and starts riding dick like he’s made for it. “You look good like this, so fucking perfect, Buck. Can’t believe you’re mine.”

“I’m all yours, Stevie.” Bucky means it; he doesn’t want anyone else. “You’re everything I’ve ever wanted.”

Steve gently strokes his face, a small smile on his lips, and he presses his thumb into Bucky’s mouth. “Suck, sweetheart.” Bucky does and Steve meets his thrusts, each one harder than the last.

Bucky feels like he’s coming undone again and his breaths start coming faster and Steve picks up on it and pounds into Bucky as hard as he can. When Bucky comes again, it almost hurts, but it’s satisfying. But not nearly as satisfying as hearing Steve moan when he comes. Steve’s thrust finally slow and he’s gasping quietly for breath. Bucky slumps on top of him and definitely ignores the feelings of cum between their bodies.

They lay in silence for a long time. Bucky dozes for a bit and he isn’t sure how long it takes before Steve gently shakes him and then slides out of him. Bucky shudders in surprise and hums contentedly when Steve hugs him tightly.

Steve kisses his head when he can’t stand how cold it’s starting to get in his apartment or the feeling of drying cum. “You wanna find out how many shower heads i have?”

Chapter Text

As it happens, Steve does actually have more than one shower head. And Bucky finds it absolutely delightful. Granted, it did take them quite a while to get to the shower, if you get what he means. Steve finds it adorable how excited Bucky is to see his multiple shower heads and though he isn’t super important, Steve only uses one at a time. But he lets Bucky turn all of them to full power.

Steve doesn’t know much about love, but he does know that it can strike at any time.

That’s preposterous.

But something stirs in the centre of his chest when he watches Bucky spike his hair into a mohawk with shampoo. Bucky giggles like a dork and does the same to Steve’s hair. Steve resists the urge to roll his eyes, but smiles all the same and rinses his hair out. As soon as the soap is clear from his eyes, Bucky kisses Steve senseless in the shower and it leads to them being in the shower for even longer.

With one demure look through his lashes, Bucky bites his lip and sinks to his knees. Steve's eyes widen and he has to brace himself against the concrete wall of his shower. Even though he's already on his knees, Bucky takes his sweet fucking time getting his mouth around Steve's cock. But he looks so happy, so Steve doesn't push him.

Bucky drags his hands around Steve's thighs to grip at his ass. Steve sucks in a breath when nails dig in and he runs a hand through his wet hair to see better. Steve turns off all the shower heads but one and lowers its power because it doesn't look comfortable for Bucky and breathing is important.

Bucky looks up at him with those beautiful grey eyes. “Thank you.”

“You're welcome, sweetheart.” Steve smiles and gently strokes Bucky’s cheek. “You okay down there?”

Bucky rolls his eyes. “Obviously not. It’s so awful down here.”

“I was trying to be nice.” Steve says a little petulantly.

Bucky smiles sweetly. “I know, pal. You’re just such a standup guy.”

Steve wants to say something back, but Bucky (of course) chooses that moment to take his cock into his mouth. Steve moans and rests the back of his head against the wall of his shower. Bucky’s lips are soft and wet, but it’s his tongue that really gets Steve’s legs shaking.

There are few things better than Bucky, and one of those things is Bucky mid-coitus. Steve mumbles something incoherently as Bucky hums around his cock. And oh boy, that feels something good. Bucky can do this thing with his tongue that gets Steve’s internal gyroscope muddled. Without warning, Bucky pulls back and bites at the tip of Steve’s cock, but licks around head as if in apology.

Bucky gives head like he loves the taste and as though his knees aren’t in pain. Steve makes a halted movement when Bucky scratches his nails down his ass and thighs and makes a noise he didn't know he was capable of making. And once Bucky slips warm, wet hand around Steve's ass and pressed a finger in, Steve is done for. He pulls mercilessly at Bucky's hair and holds him in place when he comes. Bucky moans and whimpers and it only makes Steve's orgasm that much better. He pants as he comes down and pulls Bucky up to his feet.

“You alright?”

Bucky nods. And he's beautiful. His cheeks are red from exertion and the heat of the shower and his lips are red and there's cum on the corner of his mouth. Steve drags him in for a deep kiss, thrilled to taste himself on Bucky’s tongue.

“You were so good, you know that? Not petulant at all.”

Bucky chuckles and shakes his head. “Don’t test me. I can be a real pain in the ass when I want to.” Steve smiles sweetly, a response that Bucky hadn’t been expecting. “What?”

“Nothing.” Steve replies. Bucky lets it go. For now.

He takes a half step back from Steve and places his hands on his hips. His hard cock juts out at the head of it brushes against Steve’s hip. With a waggle of his brow, Bucky says, “So…you gonna put your hands on my penis?” He gives his hips a little shake and Steve laughs.

“My goodness, how can I not want to now? You’re just so sexy.” The sarcasm is heavy with this one.

But Bucky seems not to notice and starts rotating his hips in very unsexy movements.

Steve grabs him by the waist and flips the positions, pushing Bucky hard up against the concrete of the shower. “Stop that.” He chides quietly, rubbing his beard against the soft skin of Bucky’s neck. “You’ll make me laugh and forget what sex is.” He strokes Bucky slow, but hard, hoping he doesn’t forget what sex is.

“Steve.” Bucky says a little too seriously and it gives him pause. “If you can’t laugh during sex, you can’t laugh ever. Not ever. There’s no point to sex if you can’t laugh your way through it sometimes.” Bucky gives him a little tickle on the ribs and Steve squirms and laughs. “Now pleasure me, Mister.”

Steve chuckles and decides to Bucky a little taste of his own advice and tickles him. The response is immediate. Bucky laughs and squirms and his dick twitches and Steve watches in dark fascination as he does it again. Bucky knocks his head back against the wall and moans, his dick leaking fresh precum.

“Oh, wow…” Steve breathes. He bites his way down Bucky’s neck and shoulder, giving him a small tickle here and there.

“Ah, fuck, Steeeeeve.” Bucky whines and hauls Steve in as close as he can get him.

The angle is more less comfortable, but Bucky is sweet and desperate and Steve can’t get enough of him. “Are you into that? Tickling?”

Bucky huffs defiantly. “It’s gets me goin’ is all.”

Steve will leave it at that for now. He gives the tip of Bucky’s dick a small twist and that earns him a loud cry that echoes off the walls of the shower. It doesn’t take much, Bucky comes a few strokes later, breathing heavily into Steve’s neck.

The water washes them off as they stand panting together. Bucky eventually leans back and smiles.

“I am curious…” Steve says quietly and gives Bucky a kiss on his cheek. “I should get you a toothbrush.”

Whatever comment Bucky had been wanting to say before dies on his tongue and his face falls. “Oh, no. My mouth smells that bad?” He presses his whole face into the side of Steve’s neck.

“No. What? I meant for washing up in general. Although…” Steve pulls back to give Bucky a kiss on the lips. “There is something appealing about semen mouth.”

Bucky blushes, still mortified. “You get out of here! Don’t be gross!” He laughs and turns off the last shower head. “Look at you, saying gross things. Ugh, I’m leaving!”

There’s only one towel hanging up in the bathroom, of course, because Steve lives alone, and Bucky takes it. Steve narrows his eyes at the towel in Bucky’s hands. “You gonna grab me another one?”

Bucky considers for a beat too long. “Mm…No.” He laughs. He slips out of the bathroom and comes back a moment later with another towel in his hands. “I’d love to watch you drip dry, but I don’t think you’d enjoy that very much. Since it’s winter and all.”

“How considerate of you.” Steve rolls his eyes and goes to take the towel from Bucky who pulls it out of hands reach. “Please.”

Bucky blushes. “I like that. I like when you’re polite to me.”

Steve considers and takes a step closer. “Could you please hand me that towel, sweetheart?”

Bucky stares at Steve, lips parted and lets him take his towel. “Do I get a towel included with my toothbrush?”

To hide his blush, Steve dries his hair a bit ferociously. “Only if you want one, Buck.”

If Bucky notices that Steve’s blushing, he makes no indication. “I’ll take that deluxe package.” A wink. “All deluxe packages.”

Steve laughs and rolls his eyes. “Yeah, alright, Buck. C’mon, it’s bedtime.”

Bucky smiles and finishes drying himself off. Bedtime does sound really nice. It's been a long day and Steve had travelled from a different state. Steve is dried off a moment later and takes Bucky by the hand and leads him to his enormous bed. They dress in socks and briefs and climb into bed.

Steve opens his arms and Bucky happily curls into them. And for a moment, everything feels perfect.

&&&

Early Saturday morning, Natasha shows up with Private Inspector Snowball and a bag full of toys that Steve is certain he never purchased. “I’m leaving a spare litter box at my place should you choose to leave the city again.” She glances at Bucky with a cursory stare and takes Snowball out of her carrier.

“Did she treat you okay?”

“I’ve never met a better cat.” She says.

“So she’s as good as any other cat you’ve ever met.”

“You know, I don't think that's true.” She smiles when PI Snowball starts climbing her pant leg and that can't feel good, but Natasha lets it happen. “She's a remarkable little kitten. Weird, but perfect.” Natasha’s arms have scratches on them, thin and scabbed, but she doesn’t seem to notice or mind when PI Snowball tries to add to them. Natasha smiles and kisses the little black cat. “I’m gonna miss this little weirdo.”

“Are you...moving away?” Bucky asks.

Natasha fixes him with a stare and lifts her chin. “Do you want me to?”

“What? No?” He presses his lips together. “It just sounded like you’d never get the chance to see her again…”

She smiles and hands Bucky PI Snowball. “Oh, it seems like Steve won’t be keeping polite company anymore.” Bucky blushes. “I should go. Let you two enjoy the holidays together or something. I have a date.”

Steve starts. “Tell me.”

“No.” Natasha winks and leaves and cold air rushes through the house as the door closes.

Bucky shivers. “Do you...wanna cuddle?”

“Cuddle?” Steve asks, eyebrows furrowed. But there’s a twinkle in his eyes.

“And you thought I was bad.” Steve shrugs. “Yes, Steve. Cuddle. It’s cold and we can make hot cocoa and watch Disney movies and order in ramen.”

Steve’s heart clenches. It sounds like the most perfect day. “Sex too?”

“Oh my god.” Bucky deadpans and laughs helplessly. “No, we had sex once and now we can never have sex again.” He shakes his head in mock disapproval. “Yes, Steve, we can bang.”

“Sleeping next to you was an absolute dream last night.” Steve says as he crowds up against Bucky. “Love having you in my bed. Wish I could always have you there.” Bucky swallows thickly and reaches for Steve’s belt loops. “Tu veux mon bite?”

Bucky blinks. “I don’t...I…”

Steve smiles and pushes Bucky against the wall roughly. “It means do you want my cock?”

Bucky’s mouth dries up. “Yes, sir.”

Steve pulls away. “Breakfast first, love.”