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“It’s a prime assignment.”

Bucky gives Amber, one of the other SHIELD agents on his STRIKE team a look. “Right. Babysitting a ninety-something year old man. Instead of, you know, actually working.”

“Well, that’s pretty much one-hundred percent your fault. Fury told you not to go in.”

“There were kids trapped in there,” Bucky snaps.

“And you like to be the hero.” She holds her hand up to stop him from saying something else as she leans back on the couch and kicks her feet up on the coffee table. “To be honest, I’m kind of surprised he put you on this, given Rogers’s reputation. Instead of one impulsive, near-suicidal idiot with a hero complex, we’ll have two.”

“I’m not--”

“It sort of sounds like an international incident waiting to happen. Or maybe Fury just wants him to feel like there’s someone around in this day and age that he has something in common with.”

Bucky slumps in the chair across from her. “I’m going to be playing Sesame Street of the past seventy years to a grown man.”

“You just have to get him acclimated. It probably won’t take very long. History says he’s smart, has a photographic memory, and doesn’t give up. A guy like that’ll have the 21st Century mastered in a week.”

“If it sounds so easy, then you do it.”

“I have to meet an extraction team in Bangladesh, so it’s all on you. Sorry.” The door to the break room opens and they both look up. Fury’s standing there with his eyebrow raised. Neither of them stand, but Amber does take her boots off the table. “Hey, Nick.”

“Harrington. Barnes. I’m glad you’re here.” He comes inside, but he doesn’t shut the door behind him. Instead it stays open and he’s followed by a guy nearly as tall as him, but built like he could bench press Fury easily. Or lift him with one hand with just a little more effort. “Want you both to meet someone.”

Amber stands, slow and sinuous. “Amber Harrington. You must be Steve Rogers.”

He nods and relaxes, blushing slightly. Bucky hadn’t even realized that Rogers was holding himself tightly, waiting to be called Captain America. “Ma’am.”

“Agent. Or Amber.” She holds Steve’s gaze, almost daring him to comment. “Not ma’am.”

“Sorry. I meant no disrespect. The opposite actually.” His blush deepens and Bucky can tell Amber’s amused. “Between my ma and the Army, I’m afraid it’s pretty much all I know what to call a young woman.”

“Well. Now you know something else to call a young woman.” She holds out her hand and Steve takes it easily. Bucky reminds himself that Steve worked with Peggy Carter, so he’s used to strong women. Amber being an agent isn’t going to phase him, and he’s not about to pull some macho bullshit to test her grip. “Nice to meet you.”

“Thanks.” He ducks his head and his shoulders hunch slightly for a moment before he smiles at her again. “Likewise.”

“Must be a little much, hm? Trying to find the same in all the different?” She purses her mouth as Steve nods, obviously surprised.

“Things change,” Steve says softly.

“They do.” There’s something in her eyes that Bucky doesn’t think he’s ever seen. Sympathy, maybe? Or understanding. Understanding that’s not a superior kind of knowledge, but a kindred spirit. “Sometimes for the better.”

“Harrington.” Nick nods toward the door. “You’ve got places to be.”

“Sorry. That’s my cue.” She smiles at Steve again, and there’s something wolfish in it. “Don’t let Barnes get you in too much trouble.”

“Barnes?” Steve looks up and seems to realize Bucky’s standing there. Bucky’s not sure he believes it. Something tells him that Rogers’s situational awareness is far too good for that. “Right. My nanny.”

Bucky snorts. “Is that what they told you?”

“That’s what you are, right? Make sure I behave properly, don’t insult anyone, and toe the line. I’ve had my share of commanding officers.”

“Yeah, well, history says you weren’t great at listening to them, so I’m not sure that’s comforting.” Bucky walks over to Steve and holds out his hand. “James Barnes.”

“Still Steve Rogers.”

“Besides, I only made sergeant. Pretty sure I don’t rank high enough to be your commanding officer. Especially since I’m not an officer.” He leans in to Steve, dropping his voice. “I worked for a living.”

Steve smiles, and Bucky very carefully forces himself not to think about how good of a look it is. “So did I. Though I’m pretty sure if they could have, they’d have kept me as Private Rogers.”

“From what I’ve read, you earned your rank.”

“Given the way everyone I’ve met has acted around me, I’m pretty sure what you read was a very edited version of the truth.” Steve leans in as well, and they’re suddenly far closer than Bucky expects. He can feel Fury’s eyes on them. “I’m kind of an asshole.”

“So am I. Maybe Fury’s right to put us together.”

Steve looks over his shoulder to the man in question. “I think Fury’s regretting his decision.”

Bucky laughs. “I think you might be right.”

**

Bucky sets his last box down, then tries not to watch as Steve puts down the three he was carrying. “Okay. I think that’s all your stuff.”

“What about yours?”

“I’ve got my go-bag from SHIELD, and my buddy, Clint, is going to bring over some clothes.”

“You don’t want any of your other stuff?”

Bucky shoves his hands in his pockets. “I don’t imagine this assignment’s going to last all that long. Something tells me you’re going to catch on really quick.”

“And you can get back to work.” Steve nods. It’s the truth, and it bothers Bucky a little how easy it was for Steve to guess that was what he’s been thinking. “I imagine you’re not happy about having to do this. But you can just show me the basics and I can take it from there.”

“Pretty sure Director Fury wouldn’t agree with that.”

“You think he’d quiz me?”

Bucky laughs. “I wouldn’t put it past him. Why don’t you unpack and I’ll go to the grocery store then pick up some take-out and bring it here.”

“Grocery stores are probably a lot different these days.” Steve laughs softly. “But then, I imagine most everything is. Even toilet paper’s different. Softer.”

“I’m going to assume that’s one of the good changes.” Bucky watches Steve bend down to open up one of the boxes. “You want to go to the grocery store?”

“I don’t want to be in the way.”

“You being in the way is sort of my job.” Bucky winces as Steve tenses. “That came out wrong. Grocery store’s probably a good place to start. Let’s go.”

“It’s okay. It’s late. I’ll stay and unpack and we can start tomorrow.” It doesn’t sound like Steve’s being a martyr, and he doesn’t sound like he’s upset. He sounds like it’s nothing new to him, and that pisses Bucky off.

“No. You’re coming with me.” Bucky crosses his arms and looks at Steve, daring him to argue. Steve lifts his gaze to Bucky and it looks like he’s fighting a smile. “I’m going to teach you about reusable bags, self-checkout, and bulk bins.”

“Aren’t all bags reusable?”

Bucky starts to say something and then closes his mouth because, technically, Steve’s right. Finally he huffs a breath. “Don’t sass me.”

“It’s an honest question! Maybe bags disintegrate after one use or something these days. I don’t know what you’ve done in the future. You made weird things happen. You carry everything around in your pocket on a machine the size of your hand. We had actual maps and books and things.”

“Just put your jacket on,” Bucky tells him, smiling at Steve’s teasing tone. “I promise there aren’t any disintegrating bags. Well, not without help.”

**

Steve stops just inside the doors. The automatic doors don’t seem to shock him, but he looks around the store in wonder, the fluorescent lights painting stripes of white through the blue of his eyes. “Holy cow.”

“That’s one way to put it. C’mon.” Bucky takes his arm and tugs him over to the shopping carts, grabbing one and pulling it free. He places it in front of Steve who looks at it and looks at Bucky.

“I”m not going to need this. I don’t need to buy much.”

“You’re funny. Push the cart.”

They start in the produce and Steve frowns at the apples. “How many kinds of apples are there?”

“I don’t actually know. A lot?”

“We had three. If we were lucky.” He picks one up and sniffs then does the same to another of a different kind. “Do they all taste the same?”

“No? Look, let’s get one of each and you can decide which ones you like. The little stickers on them tell you what type they are, so you’ll know which ones to get next.”

Steve shrugs and does before moving on to the grapes and frowning at the sign. “Seedless? That doesn't make any sense.”

“They’re good. Easier to eat too. You want some?”

“I used to believe if I ate a grape seed, I’d start growing grapes inside me. Same thing with apples. I tried to plant some once, just to see if I could grow something, food for us.” Steve shakes his head. “There’s so much here.”

“There’s a lot of everything here. Grocery stores are all about choices. Except for you. Today the grocery store is about experiences. Want to try something? We’ll get it. There’s ethnic food and spices, there’s about eighty types of cereal. Anything someone could want.”

Steve just shakes his head. “Okay. I guess let’s just… Look?”

They make it through about half the store before Steve asks where the bathroom is. Bucky walks him over there and leans against the wall outside. It’s next to the seafood counter, so that’s all Bucky can smell. He closes his eyes and tries to identify what’s probably in the case. There’s no noise from the bathroom, and Bucky glances at his watch.

Walking over to the door, Bucky taps on it lightly. “Steve?”

“Be right out.”

Bucky steps back and waits. He’s about to knock again when Steve comes out. He looks pale and his t-shirt is stretched out like he’d pulled it up over his face. “Oh shit. Why didn’t you tell me you were having a panic attack?”

“I wasn’t. I was just… Overwhelmed, I guess.”

“We need to head back?”

“No. No. Of course not. I’m fine. Let’s finish up.”

They get through the rest of the store, but Bucky’s fairly sure that Steve’s about to need another trip to hide in the bathroom by the time they make it through the dairy section. Bucky heads for the cash registers, tossing two Cokes and two candy bars in at the last minute. He tells the cashier to use reusable bags and to charge however many they need at the end.

“You have to buy bags now?”

“No. You don’t have to. But it’s a recycling thing.”

“A what?”

“It’s environmental. Making paper bags requires cutting down trees. Making plastic bags requires a lot of bad things. These last longer than both of those, so you just bring them with you when you go shopping.”

“Right. I get that. Why are we buying them? Why don’t we just make them? That’s what we used to do.”

“I…” Bucky hums. “Sewing your own shopping bags kind of went out of style when paper and then plastic became a thing. Convenience.”

“So buying ones that someone else made is more convenient. But aren’t these made of plastic?”

“Kind of. But not thin plastic like the regular bags where they break easily, so they can’t be used very often or for heavy foods. And these have cloth in them to reinforce them.” He grabs the candy bars and sodas as the cashier rings in the last of the bags. Bucky’s busy digging out his wallet when she tells them the final cost, but he looks up sharply when Steve chokes. “What? Shit, are you okay? Fury’s going to kill me if you die.”

“Do I even have that much money?”

Bucky glances up. “What? Yeah. Why?”

“It’s so much.”

“You have seventy years of back pay. You’re good.”

“It’s so much.”

Steve looks a little bewildered, so Bucky shoves one of the candy bars at him. “Eat that.” He looks at Steve until Steve rips the wrapper open and starts eating. His eyes roll back a little, so Bucky keeps watching him out of the corner of his eye as he runs Steve’s card through the machine. “You okay?”

“Taste this.” Steve holds the candy bar out to Bucky. Bucky’s brow furrows, but he eventually leans in and takes a small bite.

“Okay?”

“Did you taste it? Holy cow. It’s sweeter than MacDonald’s sundaes.”

“You’ve been to McDonalds?”

“Yeah? They were just a couple blocks down from my house. On my birthday. We’d save up and I’d get one.”

“Ah. Different McDonalds. Gotcha.” Bucky thanks the bagger gathers up most of the bags and holds them by the handles. “Arms out.”

Steve does as he’s told, holding his arms out in front of him. Bucky drapes half the bag handles over Steve’s arm, then takes his candy bar. Steve opens his mouth to protest, but Bucky shoves the candy bar in it and hangs the rest of the bags from Steve’s other arm. He grabs two bags that he couldn’t actually fit on Steve’s arms. “C’mon.”

Halfway back, Bucky heads into a restaurant and orders food in Thai. He makes sure to get a variety as well as a wide range of spice levels. He comes out with four bags in his hand and starts walking, Steve following him silently. It doesn’t make sense that a man that big can move like he does, but it doesn’t make sense that Bucky can either. Except Bucky’s had years of training and Steve’s just had--

Bucky’s not sure. Twenty-some years of being in fistfights and near-death, Give or take two years of an enhanced body and war, and seventy years of ice. Everything Steve knows he’s learned from trial and error and reading.

Bucky shakes his head and stops thinking as they get to the apartment building. He gets the elevator open and they ride up to the top floor. The smell of the food fills the elevator, and Bucky’s not sure whose stomach growls first or loudest. He laughs along with Steve, neither of them looking at one another.

“You put the groceries away and I’ll get the food ready.” Bucky grabs plates and forks as Steve puts milk and eggs and bread and cans and bottles and frozen vegetables and ice cream away. Bucky takes the two Cokes they’d bought and the remaining candy bar and sets them on the kitchen island by the plates. “Hungry?”

Steve finishes folding up the last reusable bag and tucks it inside another one, setting the whole collection next to the refrigerator. “The growling stomach didn’t give it away?”

‘Well, this is as close as I get to serving dinner. You probably didn’t eat a lot of spicy stuff in your day, huh?”

“Most everything was boiled, or we didn’t have money for more than staples. I had some stuff-- gingerbread and things like that from the other immigrants in our neighborhood. Why?”

“Asian food has a tendency to be spicy, so I got a range.” He points to the left-most box. “This one’s mild. This one’s as hot as they go.” He taps the last one on the right with his fork.

Steve nods and takes the hottest box, pulling some of it out with his fork. Bucky just raises his eyes as Steve stabs a bite off his plate with the fork and puts it in his mouth. Bucky presses his lips together and watches as Steve chews and then swallows. He stares a little long at Steve’s throat, but forces his eyes up to Steve's face.

“Well?”

“Not bad.”

“Your face is red.”

“Yeah. Well.” Steve grabs the Coke and pops it open, drinking it down quickly. Bucky laughs and pushes fried roti bread toward him. “Hot.”

“Yeah. I told you that. Remember?” Bucky uses his fork and pulls a bite out and eats it. Steve watches him, eyes wide, and Bucky swallows and licks his lip. Steve watches him, and Bucky smiles. “Not that hot.”

“You’re not human, are you?” Steve sounds suspicious, and Bucky just laughs. “This is one of Fury’s tests.”

“Promise. I’m about seven-eighths human.” He rolls up his left sleeve and touches the plate with two fingers and deactivates the skin Stark had made, sliding it off his wrist and hand. He sets it on the counter and waves four metal fingers at Steve.

“Oh. Wow. I was just kidding.”

“It’s a prosthetic. I lost an arm in the war, and Stark decided I needed something cool.”

“Stark?” Steve looks up from Bucky’s arm sharply and then shakes his head. “Sorry. I just… I knew a Stark. Howard Stark.”

“Yeah, Tony’s his kid. Had him kind of late in life. Apparently founding SHIELD with Carter--” Bucky curses mentally at himself as Steve flinches. “And searching for you every year kept him occupied until his fifties. I mean, he still kept looking for you after that, but… Anyway, Tony’s his kid. Reports say he’s off-the-charts brilliant, even more so than his dad.”

“Is he as much of an asshole, do you think?”

“He’s as much of a ladies’ man as Howard was rumored to be.”

“Howard wasn’t just a ladies’ man,” Steve mutters and then blushes. Bucky’s eyebrows go up, but he doesn’t say anything. Steve clears his throat and reaches out, hand hovering over Bucky’s. “May I?”

“Sure.” Bucky holds his hand out further, watching Steve’s fingers as they run over the metal, tracing the lines where the plates meet. Bucky moves his arm and Steve gasps as they shift. Bucky manages not to laugh, but he nearly chokes on the sound when Steve turns his hand over and trails his fingers along the inside of Bucky’s palm.

“Can you feel that?”

Goosebumps are dimpling Bucky’s skin from the gentle contact. “Y-yeah. Pressure. Heat. Movement. I can’t necessarily feel it the way skin does, but the sensations are there.”

“Amazing.” Steve pulls his hand back and goes back to the food, scooping a variety onto his plate.

Bucky opens his own Coke and takes a drink before filling his plate. They both eat, not talking. Bucky hums mid-bite and goes over to his bag, getting out his tablet. He comes back and sits, pulling up a program. “We should plan this out. What do you want to know about?”

“I don’t even know what’s out there. It’s just all so much. Noise and lights and things. Everyone’s always talking, talking louder to be heard over other people. Time travelers always came from the future in the magazines I read when I was a kid. Never from the past. Everything seemed slow and backwards to them. I’m the slow and backwards one.”

“Okay, well. Let’s start with the war. We can narrow that down to the basics. You took out Schmidt, Hitler killed himself in his bunker, the Allies won. The Germans had the brilliant strategy of invading Russia during the winter and a whole lot of them died, not used to or expecting the conditions. After the war, for the most part, the concentration camps were found and liberated. The world started hearing about the horrors that happened there.”

“We heard rumors of them. No one wanted to believe it. No one wanted to believe anyone--any human--could be that horrific, could believe that people bought into all the things Hitler said. But he wasn’t the first. He won’t be the last. Unfortunately.”

They keep eating and Bucky keeps talking, giving Steve a bare-bones sketch of the history of the past seventy years. Steve doesn’t look at him most of the time, but Bucky can see the shifting expressions on his face; can see pain and sadness, but the pure excitement on his face when Bucky tells him about landing on the moon makes it all seem worth it.

Steve finishes his drink and then gets up, getting a glass of water out of the tap and coming back over to sit across from Bucky again. “Do you think history moves that fast when you’re living it? I mean, do you see the innovations and steps that keep propelling you forward? Do they seem like they’ve come out of nowhere or does it feel like it was inevitable?”

“I’m not sure. Sometimes I look back at what’s happened in just my lifetime and it seems insane. A fever dream. It seems almost like we took millions of years to get to a starting point, and then everything else happened in the blink of an eye.”

Steve nods. “I think that’s the strangest part. I mean, I see all these new and different things, and I can understand the need for them. But without the context, the progression of steps, it’s like they came out of science fiction. Where I grew up, there weren’t phones in the buildings. Businesses, yeah, but not the tenements and flop houses. Or if there were, there was only one. Now everyone carries their phone with them everywhere. But as far as I can tell, most of the time they don’t use it to talk to other people.”

“It’s evolution. The evolution of things instead of people.”

Steve sighs. “Maybe that’s how we do it then. I find something and you take me through its evolution as I learn how to use it.”

“Sure. But not tonight, huh? SHIELD made the beds when they set the apartment up with furniture and dishes, so I say we crash.”

“Maybe don’t use that particular phrase, hm?”

Bucky blinks and then winces as he realizes what he said. “Sorry.”

Steve shakes his head. “It’s fine.”

“No. It’s not. If I’m not careful, Fury’s going to send me to sensitivity training.”

“He keeps telling me he’s going to send me to de-sensitivity training.” Steve laughs. “Apparently ‘ma’am’ is sort of taboo these days.”

“Women’s lib. We’ll go over that too.” Bucky yawns. “But for now, I saw we hit the sack and start fresh tomorrow.”

“Okay.” Steve gets up and rolls his shoulders forward, and Bucky can hear the pop of his joints. “Thanks, Bucky. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry you got stuck with me instead of being able to do your job.”

“I’m not.” He’s kind of surprised that’s the truth. “This should be fun.”

**

He’s not wrong.

Steve absorbs information like a sponge, and he asks questions that send both of them into wikipedia spirals. Steve also has a full set of encyclopedias, and Bucky has to wonder what library Fury must have stolen them from. Steve loves Wikipedia and Google, and Bucky maybe accidentally gets him addicted to Cracked.com. Steve spends days reading and telling Bucky tidbits of information he finds fascinating.

It’s interesting seeing the things that Steve’s interested in--history, obviously--but he latches on to women’s lib and the civil rights movement. He has opinions, and doesn’t hesitate to share them, and Bucky has to admit to being intrigued by the context Steve adds with his perspective from the thirties and forties. He also likes that Steve’s version of Captain America is a hell of a lot less a tool of the conservatives that he’d become when everyone assumed he was dead.

Bucky has to do a lot not to laugh when he thinks about it.

Bucky asks him questions that keep Steve talking, and he learns more about the Depression than was ever in his history books. He also learns a shitload more about Steve Rogers than was in the history books. Like the fact that when he wakes up he looks like a bear coming out of hibernation, except when he wakes up with a nightmare. Then he wakes up with wild eyes, sweat-soaked, and gasping for air. He learns Steve has a biting, wicked, and dirty sense of humor, but he’s the most respectful guy Bucky’s ever seen.

He also hates potatoes.

“How do you hate potatoes? You’re Irish.”

“Have you ever eaten potato and cabbage soup every day for twenty-two days in a row?”

“...No.”

“Well, when you do, you can give me shit about not wanting potatoes.”

“But french fries.”

“I appreciate--”

“Hash browns.”

“Bucky--”

“Baked potatoes with cheese and sour cream and bacon. These are things you can’t live without, Steve. Oh, hell. Latkes. You haven’t lived until you’ve tasted my bubbe’s latkes. I’m making a phone call. You… You study something.”

“You’re the worst person in the world. I told you I don’t like potatoes and you’re going to make me eat them?”

 

“Yes. Shut up. Read about… I don’t know. Presidents.”

“Read about presidents,” Steve repeats, sounding like a petulant teenager. Bucky ignores him except to smile. He grabs his phone, going into the kitchen to call his grandmother. He writes the recipe down and ignores her telling him that if he has a nice girl, he should bring her home to eat the real thing, not to try to impress her with his version. Bucky’s heard the speech too many times to comment anymore, and he’s tired of telling his grandmother that if he’s bringing anyone home, it’s not going to be a girl.

He sets to work making the latkes, occasionally peeking out of the kitchen to check on Steve. He’s at the computer, frowning at the screen. Bucky’s seen the furrow between his brows before, but never so deep, never so angry.

“Everything okay?”

“What?” Steve looks up, startled, flushing when he meets Bucky’s eyes. “Yeah. Fine.”

“Because I’m pretty sure you were trying to set the computer on fire with your mind.”

“The serum didn’t give me the power to do that.” Steve blinks at Bucky for a minute before he cracks a smile.

“You’re such a shit. What are you reading? Nixon? Reagan? Bush? The other Bush?”

“It’s nothing.” Steve clicks out of whatever he’s reading then turns the computer off. He walks over to the media wall instead, running his fingers across the spines of the books. “Nothing really changes, does it?”

“What do you mean?” Bucky sits carefully on the arm of one of the chairs and watches Steve. He’s not a psychologist, but he knows PTSD, and no one’s going to convince him that Steve Rogers doesn’t have a case of it. This doesn’t seem to be that, though. This seems introspective almost. Sad.

“When the market collapsed, we didn’t lose things like the rich did. We didn’t really have a lot to lose. I mean, yeah, it hit us, but we weren’t the kind of people who had money in the bank. We worked for them, and the work dried up when the rich stopped being rich. But they had things. Food and things they’d already had. We didn’t even have that.”

“I wish I could say it’s changed.”

“The rich are richer and the poor don’t matter. It was that way even after the market failed. It was just the rich were now poor, and the poor got poorer. And nobody really gave a shit.” Steve picks out a book, his finger on top of the spine and tilting it like he’s going to pull it out, then he pushes it back in. “What do you know about where I grew up?”

“You mean Brooklyn?”

“The part of Brooklyn. It was an… Alternative area. Lots of queer clubs, dance halls, fairies.”

“Okay, you can’t say that.”

Steve pushes the book in, turns to Bucky and frowns. “What?”

“Fairies. You can’t call people that. It’s a slur. An insult.”

Steve blinks and then laughs. “I’m sorry. It’s not funny. It’s just… That’s what they were. What they called themselves. It wasn’t… It was… Guys dressed as dames, makeup and dresses, acting like dames for some of the other guys.” He shrugs. “Most people thought I was.”

“A fai-”

“A queer. And a fairy. Because I was so thin and small. Like a dame.” Steve’s laugh is softer this time, sadder. “Where I lived though, it wasn’t so bad. After a while they started busting the clubs and the YMCAs and the automats, so it wasn’t as safe anymore. People disappeared. Some into the woodwork and others… Well, pretending to be what they weren’t, in prison or dead, beaten to death, sometimes by the cops. Or left to die.”

“Did you? Get beaten up for that?”

“Barnes.” Steve actually laughs this time. “I got beaten up for pretty much any- and everything. Those fights, the ones because of that... I didn’t start those though.”

“I wish I could say more has changed on that front, but the U.S. is still pretty intolerant. But some of the states have made marriage legal for two guys or two girls. But there’s still a long way to go. And it’s not just about gay couples. There are lots of different sexuality definitions now.”

”I was reading about Stonewall.” Steve glances in Bucky’s direction, but doesn’t meet his eyes. “I want to go there. If we can.”

“You want me to take you to a gay bar.” Bucky knows he sounds incredulous, but he’s not completely sure how to wrap his mind their conversation. Because he knows what it sounds like Steve is telling him, but he’s having a hard time believing he’s actually hearing what he thinks he is. “Why?”

“It’s history, isn’t it? Just like women’s lib and the civil rights movement?”

“Yeah. It’s those things, but Cap…” Bucky stops at the hard look Steve gives him. “Steve. Sorry. Steve. Those aren’t the kind of hot-button issues like the things that Stonewall stands for are. I’m pretty sure Fury would kill me if I got you into a situation like that.”

“A situation?” Steve’s voice is soft, sad, like he knows what Bucky’s going to say. “Like that.”

“Once you’re up to speed, they’re probably going to expect you to be Captain America again. And if you are, well…” Bucky stops. “Suppose. Let’s just suppose I take you there. You, looking like you do, walk in. What do you think’s gonna happen?”

“I’m old enough to drink.”

“I’m sure you are. I’ve heard all about how you can’t get drunk. But you look something like a Greek god, so every guy in the place who’s into that type of guy is going to be all over you. Literally, in some cases.”

“And that’s bad.”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because.” Bucky blows out a slow breath. “Because Captain America can’t be seen at a gay bar. Because of what you stand for.”

“What I… I’m sorry? What the fuck do you know about what he stands for?”

Bucky blinks, because Steve hasn't ever said ‘fuck’ in front of him, and because Steve looks pissed. “Everybody learns about you in school.”

“Yeah, well, I wasn’t around to make sure they were telling the truth, was I? And maybe that wouldn’t matter if I’d stayed dead. People could make me whoever and whatever they wanted me to be. But I didn’t. And I’m going to guess that, if what you’re telling me is any indication of how it is, then everyone’s going to be really fucking shocked when they find out what Steve Rogers stands for.”

“They don’t care about Steve Rogers. They care about Captain America.”

Steve’s expression goes flat. “Captain America was propaganda. A shill. He was just a name they made up to sell bonds. But when I went to Azzano, Steve Rogers was who they got. Not their little science experiment. Not someone who would kowtow to what they wanted. I had a mission, and that was to stop Schmidt. Steve Rogers did that. Captain America was just the uniform he was wearing.” Steve turns on his heel and leaves the room, slamming his bedroom door behind him.

Bucky stands there staring until he smells something burning. “Shit.” He races into the kitchen and ends up throwing the latkes away. Not that it matters. They wouldn’t have been as good as his grandmother’s anyway.

**

Steve’s gone in the morning when Bucky wakes up. He’s not exactly panicking, though his mind keeps suggesting things Nick Fury is going to do to him because he goddamn lost Captain America. He’s pacing the living room, trying to figure out if he should just go straight to Fury or if he should look for Steve, when the front door opens and the guy himself walks in.

“Where the fuck have you been?”

“At the gym?” Steve’s answer is just as much a question as Bucky’s, though his is likely more him wondering what’s wrong with Bucky.

“I thought you’d left.”

“I did. I went down to the gym.” Steve goes to the kitchen and pulls a water bottle out of the fridge. “I left a note on the coffee maker.”

Bucky had been too preoccupied for coffee, not needing the caffeine jolt when he had a missing superhero to worry about. “Oh.”

“Do you want some?”

“Coffee? Yes.” Bucky walks over to the kitchen island and sits on the dining room side, leaning his elbows on the counter and watching Steve. He’s wearing a pair of sweats, a t-shirt that’s clinging to his lower back, and his sweat-damp hair is mussed. “So, what should we do today now that I’ve had a heart attack?”

“Can we just walk around the city?”

“That covers a lot of ground.”

“Brooklyn, then.”

“Sure.”

Steve pours two cups of coffee and brings them both over to the counter, sliding one across to Bucky. “I’m sorry if I scared you.”

“I’m pretty sure Fury would serve me my balls on a platter if you disappeared on my watch.” He takes a sip of the coffee and sighs. “And, no offense, but I like my balls exactly where they are.”

“I can imagine,” Steve says flatly, though his eyes have a hint of a laugh, the skin at the corners crinkling. Steve drinks his coffee, blowing across the surface between sips. “I’m sorry about last night.”

“You woke up seventy years in the future, and who you were and who everyone thinks you are aren’t the same. And the jerk you’re stuck with just assumed he knew what he was talking about. You’ve got a right to be pissed.”

“I was stupid back then.” Steve draws on the counter with his finger. “I told Dr. Erskine that I didn’t want to kill anyone. I just didn’t like bullies. I’m not sure if believed it or if I was just fooling myself. War is about killing people when you’re a soldier. The politicians and the people with power say it’s all for some noble cause, but really, for the men on the ground it’s just about shooting before you get shot.”

“And not wanting to,” Bucky says softly. “But by the time you’re there it’s kill or be killed.”

Steve nods. “Which war?”

“Iraq and Afghanistan both. After I left the Army I still had that streak in me. Self-destructive. Or just destructive, I guess. That’s when I met my friend Nat and got in at SHIELD.”

“You were a lot smarter than I was going in, I’m sure. I was all bright-eyed idealism until I found out a bunch of soldiers had been captured and no one was going to do anything about it. Wanted to do the right thing. Do something. I was just damn lucky it worked out.”

“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

Steve laughs. “I don’t know that there were any angels around, but there were plenty of fools. Me especially.”

“So, what does Captain America stand for? Your Captain America.”

“Freedom. Equal rights. The right to have a voice. The right to demand that the government do its job for the people. The belief that we’re all more alike than we are different. Trying to do the right thing.”

“What if there is no right thing?”

Steve looks up and meets Bucky’s eyes. “Do the best you can, and do what you can to keep people from getting hurt--physically or emotionally. Getting beat up all the time hurt like a son-of-a-bitch, but it went away. The words and the way people barely saw me lasted a long time.”

“Okay.” Bucky frowns and takes another drink of his coffee. “So the Stonewall thing.” Steve raises an eyebrow that Bucky sees in his peripheral vision. “We can go by there today. Or on a different day if we’re just touring Brooklyn today. If you want. It’s a lot different than it was back during the riot, but…”

“They used to raid the dance halls and clubs all the time. Sometimes the cops would come out of it looking a lot worse for wear than anyone. They always expected not to have a fight, that they’d just all surrender. But they’d fight back. And win. High heels and punches and once I saw one cop get sprayed with a faceful of perfume.”

“You were there?”

“I was watching.” He smiles and ducks his head. “You can just ask, you know.”

“You’re gay?”

“No. Not… I like men. And women. I pretty much struck out with both, but not as much with the guys, because most of them were just looking for something quick. The ones that were interested in me weren’t… I don't know. They wanted to treat me like a woman, like their dame. And I didn’t want that.”

“It’s called bisexual.”

“What is?”

“Being interested in men and women.”

“Huh.” Steve frowns. “I suppose Captain America’s not supposed to be that either, huh?”

“Probably not.”

Sighing, Steve moves to the sink and rinses out his coffee cup. “I’m going to shower.”

Bucky nods and watches him go. Well. He’s probably the only person living who knows that Captain America swings both ways. One of which Bucky has a vested interest in. Except Steve hasn’t shown any kind of interest in Bucky. Which is for the best. Because this is just a job.

**

Watching Steve is mesmerizing. Even though he carries a sense of melancholy about him, given that pretty much everyone he knew is dead and he lost out in both life and death, he still has this strange, quiet sense of joy. He takes notes and sketches things, pointing out what’s the same now as they’d been in his day.

Bucky lets Steve lead the way, following him across the Brooklyn Bridge and then back into the borough, letting him wind them through the city toward where he used to live. Something changes in his face, and Bucky wonders if Steve’s looking for ghosts of his past, and if he sees them.

Steve walks into a candy shop and stands by the wall, looking up at the picture hanging there. He points to the young man in the photo. “That’s Mr. Cavendish. He opened the place after the first war. Penny candy and tonics. Every once in awhile I’d come in and fork over a penny like I owned the world. I’d buy one of the biggest candies they had no matter what flavor, just so it would last me.”

“You lived around here then?”

“A ways. When my ma died, I went to the orphanage. That’s about a mile away.” Steve shoves his hands in his pockets and goes over to look at the display of candies. There’s an assortment of flavors of candy sticks, and Steve reads through all of them, frowning at some of the flavors and smiling at others.

“Which ones do you want?”

“Hm?” Steve looks up. “What?”

“Which ones. We should get some.”

Steve chews his lower lip and Bucky watches, trying not to smile. “I could try the rootbeer?”

Bucky laughs and reaches over, taking one of each stick and setting them on the counter. He puts two rootbeer up last and nods at the girl behind the counter. “We’ll take those. And a half pound of chocolate peanut butter fudge.”

“Bucky…”

Bucky ignores him and pays for the candy, flirting just enough to make the sales clerk smile. The tips of Steve’s ears are pink and Bucky has to bite back his grin. He digs around in the bag as they walk out and hands Steve the root beer candy stick.

He watches Steve unwrap it and slide it past his lips before pulling it out. He swallows hard because Steve Rogers has a sinful mouth. Bucky’s done his level best to not notice how incredibly gorgeous Steve is, because he has a job to do, but right now his lips are curved around a long stick of candy, and his lower lip glistens with spit and sugar and Bucky’s only human. Mostly human. Human in all the ways that can appreciate Steve Rogers.

Steve pulls the candy out of his mouth and smiles at Bucky, bumping their shoulders together. Bucky laughs and pulls out a stick of his own, focusing on the sweet-sharp taste of watermelon as they walk down the street on a nostalgia tour of Steve’s old neighborhood.

By the time they get home, they’re both sick of candy, the fudge is slightly melted at the bottom of the bag, and Bucky keeps yawning despite his best efforts. Steve keeps teasing him, asking Bucky if he’s worn him out, if he can’t keep up with a ninety-three year old man. They’d just spent the day in Brooklyn, not gone beyond that, because there’d been plenty in Steve’s face that let Bucky know he was overwhelmed in ways that had nothing to do with the future, and everything to do with the past.

“Okay, old-timer.” Steve jabs Bucky in the ribs. “What’s next?”

“Old-timer? You’re the geezer in this situation.”

“Geezer?” Steve starts laughing, smile wide and bright. “Really?”

“Shut up.” Bucky goes into the kitchen, trying to keep from smiling. He opens the refrigerator door and squats down. “You want a beer?”

“Sure.”

Bucky turns and looks up, and Steve’s just a couple of feet behind him. A rash of things he could do to Steve just from this position race through Bucky’s head. He clears his throat. He hands a bottle up to Steve then stands quickly. “Movie? Pizza? Internet? Cosmopolitan quizzes?”

“Those things are ridiculous. Why would women care about what drives their man wild in bed? I mean, if they want to know, just ask, right? Do you like this? Do you like that? Never do that again? Okay.” Steve shrugs. “They just seem to want women to change who they are, what they are.”

“Magazines like that make a shit-ton of money off women’s insecurities. The ‘ideal’ of a woman is a lot different than when you were my age.”

“Curves.” Steve makes an hourglass shape with his hands. “Curves are nice.”

“Buddy, I ain’t arguing with you.” Bucky lifts his bottle in a toast. “I mean, aesthetically, I can totally get behind curves.”

“Aesthetically?”

“Well, ‘get behind’ is more of the key phrase in what kind of curves I like.”

Steve’s eyebrows go up. “Oh.”

“Don’t worry. I’m not going to hit on you.”

“I wasn’t. You don’t seem the type to mix business with that.” Steve takes a drink of his beer. His brow is furrowed. He stares down at the bottle for a long moment before looking up at Bucky again. “Why not?”

“Why do I not mix business with pleasure?”

“Why wouldn’t you hit on me?”

Bucky opens his mouth to respond then blows out a breath instead. He takes a few swallows of his beer and rubs the back of his neck. “For starters? You’re in a new world for you, and probably the last thing you need is someone trying to get you in bed. There’s also the fact that you’re sort of my responsibility. And then there’s the whole fact that you’re perfect.”

“Perfect?” Steve’s voice drips with disbelief. “I’m nowhere near perfect.”

“You’re the perfect specimen of a man.”

“You’re looking at Captain America again. But then, I guess that’s what it would be, wouldn’t it? No matter who I end up with. They’re going to be attracted to this.” He waves his hand at his body. “Captain America. Nobody knew me before I was this. All those people are dead except for Peggy.”

“I know this isn’t all that you are.”

“What if I just want to fuck?”

“I...what?”

“I’ve been frozen for nearly seventy years. The last time I got laid was about sixty-seven years ago. What if I just want to fuck someone?”

“I… Um… Okay. I’m… What?”

“Nothing.” Steve sighs. “I’m a eunuch, you know? To people. Like a doll. Neutered. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be taking this all out on you. You haven’t done anything except get stuck on babysitting duty.”

“Hey. I told you. I’m having a nice time. Seeing the world through your eyes. Teaching you things.”

“That doesn’t mean you signed up to be my psychiatrist.” Steve sighs again, and it sounds like he’s carrying the weight of the world. “I think I’m going to crash early.” He drains his beer and tosses the bottle in the recycling bin. “Long day.”

“I’m sorry if I said something wrong.”

“You didn’t. Honest.” Steve smiles and claps a hand on Bucky’s shoulder. “Night, Buck.”

**

Bucky can’t sleep. He stayed up watching movies, and he texted with Natasha and he tried to read, and finally he’d given up and forced himself to lie down on the bed and close his eyes. He’s counted enough sheep to knit a sweater for the entire planet, and he still can’t stop seeing the look on Steve’s face.

In a lot of ways, Steve reminds him of a wounded animal. He’s calm and quiet and licking his wounds, and then suddenly he lashes out. He’s angry, which Bucky understands, even if he can’t actually grasp the scope of what Steve’s gone through.

But Bucky does understand that Steve propositioned him. Or, at least, that’s very much what it sounded like to Bucky. Steve could have been talking in generalizations, but the way his eyes had darkened, the way he’d looked at Bucky when Bucky had made it clear where his interest lay, had seemed like an invitation.

But Bucky is a professional. And, beyond that, Steve doesn’t really know anyone else in this current world, so anything he feels for Bucky is just like an animal imprinting on its mother. He tries to keep that thought in his head, to focus on it. Because if he doesn’t, the rest of his mind conjures up too many images of Steve; too many possibilities.

And then, a couple nights later, the noises start.

It shouldn’t surprise him, because Steve’s basically a twenty-seven year old guy. And Bucky knows from the reports he was given before starting this that not all of Steve’s bodily functions were working when he came out of the ice. Bucky remembers wincing when he’d read that Steve hadn’t shown any sign of sexual arousal, even upon first waking in the morning. Of course, if he knew a bunch of scientists, doctors, and Nick Fury were watching him, Bucky thinks he wouldn’t have to deal with morning wood either.

But he’s not expecting the noises so, when he hears something from Steve’s room, he expects it to be a nightmare. Instead, Bucky stops outside the door, frozen by a soft gasp and a shuddering breath.

All the thoughts Bucky’s been keeping at bay flood his through his head - images of what Steve might want, what he might like, what Bucky could do to him at the symphony of gorgeous noises Steve’s making. Bucky’s already wound tighter than a drum from his own desires and being confronted with Steve’s is almost too much.

Bucky rests his head on the door and listens. He can picture Steve, like he has too many times now: naked and fucking into his hand, his body glistening with sweat and his gorgeous lips parted, his head thrown back, eyelashes sooty against his cheeks. Bucky can imagine Steve’s back arched off the bed, curved like a bow as he comes.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

Bucky presses his fist against his dick and tries to take a deep breath. His chest is tight and he’s light-headed. He forces himself away from Steve’s door, away from the slowly escalating gasps, and hurries to his bedroom. Bucky shuts the door and sinks to his knees, working his jeans out of the way so he can fist his cock. He’s so hard he aches, and even though the bed would be more comfortable, he doesn’t think he can wait, knowing Steve’s doing the same thing right down the hall.

Bucky bites his lower lip hard, curving his shoulders in and hunching over himself. It’s an embarrassingly short time before he comes, and he drops one hand to the floor to support himself as he breathes hard and heavy, panting and shaking.

He is in so much trouble.

He forces himself back to his feet, grabbing some Kleenex to take care of himself and the floor, shucking his clothes into the hamper and tugging on a pair of sweats and a t-shirt. He crawls on his bed with his laptop and opens the file Fury sent him. He adds his notes, answering questions about how Steve has progressed. It almost feels like a betrayal to outline some of the things he and Steve have discussed, even though Bucky doesn’t include anything about Steve’s sexuality. He does mention that anyone assuming they know what and who Steve is will definitely get a lecture from the man himself.

Bucky looks over the list of things that Fury wants to make sure Bucky covers, which seems to get longer every day. Still, he and Steve are making progress, and if he’s honest, he thinks they only probably have another week of this before Steve’s ready to go out on his own. If he’s honest, he thinks Steve doesn’t need a handler now, but telling Fury that means he’ll give Bucky a new assignment.

Which is what Bucky wants.

Really.

Fuck.

He closes the laptop and puts it aside, snapping off his light. He shucks his sweats and crawls into bed, closing his eyes and controlling his breathing, willing himself to drop off to sleep. He’s about to drop off when he hears Steve’s door open and then the sound of him padding quietly down the hall.

Bucky tenses, because he knows if Steve leaves the apartment he’ll have to follow him. Instead he hears the couch shift and then the low murmur of the TV. He considers getting up but stays in bed, listening to the distant rumble until he hears it shut off an hour or so later followed by the sound of Steve’s footsteps leading back to his bedroom.

After that he falls asleep.

**

“Pop quiz.”

“Oh goody.” Steve gaze moves up from the newspaper to Bucky. He looks absolutely unimpressed. He also looks rumpled and soft with sleep. He sets the paper down next to his plate of scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast. “Go ahead.”

“Who do you absolutely not want to see today?”

“I’d be pretty pissed if I saw Red Skull.”

Bucky blinks a couple of times. “Okay, let’s say people don’t come back from the dead. Who do you absolutely not want to see today?”

“I think I prove that they do.” Steve sighs, drops his head, and rubs his forehead. “But, to answer your question. Fury.”

“Ding, ding, ding. Congratulations. You’re right, and therefore, you lose. But, if you’re nice to the scary man, I’ll take you out for burgers, fries, and milkshakes.”

“You’re bribing me with food?” Steve looks distinctly unimpressed.

“Hey, I’ve seen how much you can eat. I’m offering to break my bank account to feed you a meal.” Bucky grins and pours himself some coffee, bringing the pot over to refill Steve’s mug. Steve smiles up at him, completely self-deprecating

“Yeah, all right. But Fury first. Do we have any idea why he’s coming?”

“He seems to think you’re an angry old man, so he wants to see how you function in society. And probably interrogate you.”

“Let me guess, he’s got an assignment for you and he wants to see if you can be done babysitting me.” Steve sips his coffee and looks at Bucky, eyebrows raised. “I’m tying up valuable assets by needing you to hold my hand.” He laughs. “You know what happened when I stepped out of the Vita-Ray chamber? Someone assassinated Dr. Erskine, and I chased a Hydra operative even before I knew how to use the extra hundred plus pounds, five inches, and a whole lot of muscle. I ran into a lot of things. Pretty sure, now that I’ve got a handle on all that, I can make it without destroying the city of New York.”

“Aww, Steve. I’m beginning to think you don’t want me around.”

Steve looks at him, and Bucky can feel something rising in his chest as Steve’s gaze sweeps over him. “That’s not true.”

“Well.” Bucky swallows hard then clears his throat. “We’ll have to see what Fury says.” He knows that look, and after nights of listening to Steve jerk off, usually three times in fairly rapid succession, Bucky’s heart kicks up a notch.

Bucky drinks his coffee, keeping his eyes averted. Eventually Steve goes back to his paper and something relaxes in Bucky’s chest. He’s torn between how much he’s enjoying this--not that he’d ever tell Fury, but he’s probably figured it out--and the very distinct and very wrong possibility of Bucky doing something stupid like making a move.

There’s a sharp knock at the door and Bucky sighs. “Brace yourself.”

“I think I can handle him.”

“Lesser men have tried.”

“Good thing I’m not them.”

It goes about as well as Bucky expects, and it’s impressive as hell to watch Steve refuse to back down. It’s a struggle of wills, since Fury doesn’t back down either, so nothing actually gets resolved. When Fury leaves, he’s wearing a smirk, and Bucky figures he actually got whatever it was he wanted. He seems to have that talent. He’s almost out the door when he turns to look at Bucky.

“Barnes. There’s a new dossier in your file. Read up on it. You’ll fly out in three days. Michaelson and Harris are already in place.”

Bucky nods, trying to hide his sigh. Exactly what he was afraid of. Even though it should be what he wants. “I’ll get started on it tonight.”

“Good.” Fury looks back where Steve’s standing in entry to the dining room, arms crossed over his chest. “Captain.”

Steve smirks. “Nick.”

Bucky’s eyes widen as Fury sweeps out of the front door, coat swinging behind him. “Did you just call him Nick?”

“I’m older than him,” Steve says with a shrug. “So, three days. What’s on our agenda then?”

“Well, we could go over the last of the cold war.”

“Or, alternately,” Steve’s voice is like maple syrup pouring over Bucky. He walks forward and stops directly in front of him. Bucky looks up slightly to meet Steve’s eyes. “We could go back to bed.”

“Bed,” Bucky says, pretty sure he sounds like an idiot. “It’s ten in the morni-” He shuts up instantly when Steve’s mouth closes over his, tongue sliding past Bucky’s parted lips. He kisses slow and warm, licking into Bucky’s mouth before breaking the kiss, doing it again and again until Bucky’s leaning in to chase him every time he pulls away.

“Been thinking about this,” Steve murmurs against Bucky’s mouth, still teasing with his kisses. “Jerking off to the thought of touching you. Not gonna let you slip through my fingers.”

Bucky’s breath shudders and he puts his hands against Steve’s chest, fully intending to stop this, to push him away. Instead, he grabs fistfuls of his t-shirt and pulls him closer. Steve groans and shifts, slotting his thigh between Bucky’s legs. Bucky makes a low noise against Steve’s mouth, finally shoving him away. Steve huffs, but Bucky follows him, pushing him against the wall. He knows he’s only moving Steve because he’s allowing it, but it’s insanely hot how powerful it feels when he hears two-hundred plus pounds of muscle hitting the plaster.

Steve jerks Bucky against him, colliding chest to chest. He bites Bucky’s lower lip and sucks it into his mouth. Groaning again, Bucky grabs Steve’s hips, pressing his thigh between Steve’s this time, grinding against him.

Steve fists his hand in Bucky’s hair, controlling the kiss. He fucks into Bucky’s mouth like he owns it, like he’s staking a claim. Bucky’s had a lot of partners, but no one else has ever kissed him like this; taken him over.

He moans into Steve’s mouth, grinding against him. Steve breaks the kiss and then kisses him again, slow and deep as he releases Bucky’s hair. He slides both hands down to Bucky’s ass, lifting him up and turning them around so that Bucky is pinned against the wall. Bucky wraps both legs around Steve and Steve growls, his hips rolling up, cock thick and hard against Bucky’s ass.

“O-oh.” He wraps his arms over Steve’s shoulders, one hand on the back of his neck and one in his hair. He digs his heels into Steve’s legs, using them as leverage to ride down against him.

Steve hasn’t stopped kissing him, doesn’t stop. His tongue slides against Bucky’s, teases the roof of his mouth, licks at his teeth. Finally, Bucky pulls away, completely breathless.

“Jesus. Jesus.” He kisses Steve this time, whining low in his throat. Steve squeezes Bucky’s ass and the sound dies, choked off. Steve shifts his grip, working one of his hands up between Bucky’s back and the wall. He pulls Bucky against him and steps back.

“Bed?”

“Yes. Please.”

“It’s not too early?”

Bed.” Bucky gives Steve another biting kiss.

“Whose?”

“I’ve got lube in my room.”

Steve carries Bucky like he weighs nothing. He sets him down at the foot of the bed, hands on Bucky’s ass again. Another kiss and it feels like it burns, seared into Bucky’s skin. When Steve pulls back, Bucky’s lightheaded and glad Steve’s helping to support him.

Steve’s lips are red and wet, swollen from the pressure of their kisses. He ducks his head in to bite Bucky’s lower lip again, then he murmurs into his mouth. “How?”

Bucky half-groans and half-laughs. “Fuck. Please tell me you know how to do this.”

Steve laughs, deep and throaty. “Do you want to fuck me or get fucked?”

“Oh. Oh. That.” Bucky nods, breathless again. Still breathless.. “Both. Either.”

 

Steve rubs a thumb over Bucky’s lower lip. “It’s been almost seventy years for me.” He licks his lips, looking at Bucky through lowered lashes. “Probably tight.”

“Oh, you’re evil.” Moving out of Steve’s grip, Bucky grabs his shirt by the back of his collar and tugs it over his head. He tosses it to the side and turns back to Steve. Heat rushes through him at the intensity of Steve’s gaze, the way it pins Bucky in place. Bucky keeps watching him, not looking away as he undoes his belt and fly.

“Wait.” Steve walks over and puts his hands on Bucky’s hips, then teases his fingers under his waistband. He looks at Bucky, and his blue eyes are almost black, pupils dilated. “I’m an old man. Better take it slow.”

Bucky laughs softly. “I’ve heard you, you know. Counted five times one night. You thinking of me every time?”

Steve tugs his shirt over his head. His skin is golden despite being frozen in the ice. His chest is all smooth muscle. “What do you think?”

“I think maybe I should help you take the edge off.” Bucky pushes Steve’s sweats down, over his ass and cock, and lets them fall to the floor. Steve’s naked beneath them, and Bucky’s knees feel weak. Fortunately, he has every intention of sinking down onto them, so they don’t have to hold him upright for long.

Bucky rubs his hands up and down Steve’s thighs, nuzzling at the triangle of hair leading from his navel to the dark curls that surround his cock. Steve gasps roughly as Bucky grasps him at the base, taking him easily into his mouth. Bucky groans, sucking Steve down as deep as he can. He’s thick and hard, heavy on Bucky’s tongue.

Steve hums softly. When Bucky looks up at him, Steve’s watching him with his eyes shaded under his lashes. Bucky sucks and swallows and he feels the goosebumps rise on Steve’s skin. Bucky takes him deeper, mouth tighter around him. Steve moans softly and Bucky realizes that this is the first time this century that Steve’s had a blowjob, had sex.

With that thought, Bucky brings both hands to Steve’s hips and holds tight, fingers digging in. Steve makes another noise and Bucky pulls back before taking him deep again, establishing a steady rhythm that’s not too slow, but not fast enough to take Steve to the edge. Bucky’s going to make this last, make it wet and sloppy, get his spit in Steve’s pubic hair and suck him down until Bucky gags.

Steve’s cock pulses on his tongue, and Bucky’s eyes close as he revels in the feel and taste. He hears the sounds falling from between Steve’s lips, smells the heady scent of arousal and musk, the unshowered smell of Steve’s skin.

Bucky can’t help the sound he makes, muffled by Steve’s cock. Steve curses like it’s a prayer, then curses for real as Bucky pulls off. When Bucky raises his eyes, Steve’s mouth is bitten red, his lips wet. Steve’s eyes are dilated and Bucky swallows hard. He rubs his hands on Steve’s thighs again, watching him as he licks the head of his cock, flicking his tongue over the leaking slit.

“Christ,” Steve breathes, drawing in a sharp breath when Bucky takes him in his mouth again. He wraps his hand around the base of Steve’s cock, pressing his hand against the spit-wet pubic hair. He takes Steve deep a few more times, sucking him down until he can feel Steve at the back of his throat.

Steve whines when Bucky pulls back, but instead of pulling off, he uses his tongue to hold Steve’s cock against the roof of his mouth. He sucks hard, barely remembering to swallow as Steve’s whole body shudders and he he gasps Bucky’s name as he comes. It’s hot and thick in his mouth. Bucky swallows around Steve until he can feel Steve trembling, then he pulls back and looks up at Steve again.

Steve sinks down to his knees, wrapping his hand around the back of Bucky’s neck. He pulls Bucky in to kiss him. It’s hard and deep like the blow job Bucky had just given him. Steve’s other hand presses against the small of Bucky’s back, pulling him closer. Bucky’s hands settle on Steve’s ass, squeezing firmly.

They’re both panting when they pull apart. Bucky can only imagine he looks as wrecked as Steve does. “Get on the bed.” His voice is hoarse and the sound of it makes Steve shiver as he stands and crawls onto the bed. Bucky barely manages to bite back a groan at the sight. He definitely has to hold onto the mattress to get to his feet.

Steve’s at the head of the bed on his elbows and knees, ass tilted upward and back bowed. Bucky practically breaks the nightstand drawer when he jerks it out with his metal hand. As it is it falls on the floor, scattering everything in it. Bucky leans over and grabs the lube and a couple of condoms, setting them on the bed before he settles on his knees between Steve’s spread legs. He grabs Steve’s ass again, pulling the cheeks apart and placing a barely-there kiss against his tailbone before breathing against his hole.

Steve shivers some more, and Bucky follows the breath with a kiss. Steve gasps. He seems torn between pulling away and pushing back. Steve’s reaction makes Bucky decide to flick his tongue along Steve’s perineum. Steve’s head drops and he’s breathing hard just from those few light touches.

“Wh-what are you doing?” he chokes out. “You can’t--”

Bucky presses the flat of his tongue against the perineum this time, licking a firm stripe up, then tracing the puckered skin of Steve’s opening. Steve whines, and it’s the hottest thing Bucky’s ever heard. He licks again, flicking his tongue against Steve’s hole, the tip pushing in just enough to catch on the rim.

“Je-Jesus. Oh…” Steve’s body is heaving with every breath. Bucky closes his mouth over the opening, sucking and licking at it. Steve writhes and Bucky uses his metal hand to hold him still, fingers digging into Steve’s ass to keep him from squirming away.

Because Steve likes it. Bucky can hear his pleasure in every breath, feel the tremors that run through Steve’s body. Bucky slides his hands over Steve’s ass again and pulls his cheeks apart wider, catching the tip of his thumb on the rim of his hole and opening him up, so Bucky can thrust his tongue all the way inside.

Steve starts rambling, moaning and begging. Bucky tries to get deeper. He licks and sucks and thrusts until he can feel Steve’s body tighten. Bucky reaches between Steve’s legs and wraps his hand around Steve’s cock, stroking him through his seconds orgasm.

“Fuck,” Bucky groans before sinking a sharp bite into Steve’s ass. Steve’s hips jerk, then his whole body seems to sag. Bucky reaches for the lube and slicks up two fingers, rubbing them against the wet skin of Steve’s hole before slowly pushing one inside him. Steve’s body takes him deep. It’s like he’s hungry for it; like he needs it. Bucky fucks him slowly, working up to two fingers. Steve is tight. Even post-orgasm he closes around Bucky, every thrust a slight effort.

It takes more lube and at least ten minutes to work Steve up to three fingers, until Bucky can finger-fuck him more-or-less easily. Bucky’s hand and Steve’s ass are slick with lube. He’s been teasing Steve’s prostate, wringing rough noises out of him for several minutes now. He presses firmly against it as he gets a fourth finger in.

Steve sucks in a sharp breath and his body constricts around Bucky as he comes again. Steve’s hands are fisted in the sheets and his whole body is flushed. Bucky’s cock is throbbing, leaking against his stomach, and he can’t wait anymore.

He tears the condom package open with his teeth and rolls it on quickly, squeezing the base of his cock tightly to keep himself from coming. He pours a healthy dollop of lube on his palm and slathers his cock before resting the head against Steve’s hole and pushing in.

He feels more than hears Steve’s moan. His body is like a vice around Bucky, and it takes several small, desperate strokes to work his way deeper, to bury himself balls-deep in Steve. It’s hot, and when Bucky starts moving, the friction makes it almost too much

“B-b-buck. C-c’mon.” Steve’s back arches and he presses against Bucky.

Bucky lays over Steve’s back and presses a kiss between his shoulder blades. Straightening, he grabs Steve’s hips and pulls back slowly. He thrusts, and it’s overwhelming. He’s not sure if he or Steve makes the louder noise.

Bucky moves in earnest, unable and unwilling to stop now that he’s started. He needs to last, needs this to last, needs everything, and Steve gives it so willingly, desperately. He’s just as needy as Bucky, thrusting back just as hard as Bucky pushes in. They breathe in rhythm, matching their thrusts.

Bucky runs his palms up Steve’s back, then pulls his fingers back to his ass, leaving trails in the sweat on his skin. Steve shivers and lifts his head. Bucky puts his arms on either side of Steve’s, bracing himself over him, only able to jerk his hips to move inside him.

He bites Steve’s earlobe, sucking it into his mouth before scraping his teeth over it as he lets it go. He pumps his hips faster, knowing he’s close. Steve’s mouth falls open on a soundless breath. Bucky presses his face against Steve’s neck, his breath shuddering out of him as he finally comes, a high whine in the back of his throat.

Steve tightens around him more and Bucky’s breath catches as Steve clenches until Bucky whimpers and slumps against him. Steve’s head is back on the bed, with Bucky’s forehead resting against the top of Steve’s spine.

He can’t help the tiny shiver as the sweat on his body cools. He pulls back finally, slowly, catching the condom and easing it off. He ties it off and tosses it into the trash can beside the bed, then falls back on the mattress next to Steve.

Steve turns on his side and lifts up on one elbow, looking at Bucky. His eyes are half closed and still dark, his mouth swollen. He leans in and kisses Bucky softly, pulling back to lightly brush his thumb over Bucky’s lower lip.

Bucky laughs softly. “Welcome to the 21st century.”

“Best welcome I’ve had so far.” Steve uses his thumb to pull Bucky’s lower lip down and kisses him again, tongue just brushing against Bucky’s before he pulls away. “So. Tired, huh?”

Bucky turns his head and looks Steve in the eye, then drops his gaze down, skimming it along Steve’s chest and abs to his very erect cock. “Not that tired. Especially since you’re going to be doing all the work.”

Steve kisses Bucky softly again, and Bucky tries not to think about how that’s affecting him just as much as being inside Steve had. Steve gets up onto his knees and finds the condoms. He rips off a package and opens it, then slides it on his cock. Bucky can’t help but watch as Steve strokes lube on until the whole shaft is shiny and slick. Steve grabs Bucky by the thighs and pulls him close, hooking Bucky’s legs over his own. Bucky sucks in a breath as Steve smiles down at him.

“Let me know if I do anything wrong. Hurt you.”

“You’re not going to hurt me,” Bucky assures him, completely convinced of it. Steve’s smiling again, like Bucky’s reassurance was all he needed. Bucky can’t help but smile back as he reaches up and runs his hands over Steve’s shoulders.

Steve’s thumb pushes at Bucky’s hole and Bucky gasps in surprise. He hadn’t noticed Steve moving. Steve’s hands are big, so his thumb feels like too much against Bucky, but he doesn’t push it in, just rubs, smearing lube on Bucky’s skin. “God, you’re gorgeous.”

Bucky just shakes his head in response. Steve keeps looking at him, doesn’t look away, and Bucky gets lost in the blue of his eyes. Steve works him open with deft fingers, so slow it makes every muscle in Bucky’s body feel like it’s drawn taut as a wire. He finds Bucky’s prostate with each added finger. By the time he has four fingers inside him Bucky’s panting, the edge of pain right below the pleasure.

“Steve. Fuck, Steve.”

Steve keeps fucking his fingers inside Bucky, pouring more lube onto his cock and slicking it up. There’s only a moment between Steve’s fingers leaving and his cock sliding in, but it stretches out like an eternity until his shaft is pushing in deep.

Steve’s hands settle on the pillow on either side of Bucky’s head and he keeps staring at him, looking down as he fucks him. It’s hard and steady and perfect, filling Bucky up. Bucky pulls his knees up and wraps his legs around Steve’s back, digging his heels in. Steve kisses him without breaking stride, licking and biting and sucking at Bucky’s lips.

Steve’s thrusts are powerful, hard and deep. Bucky clasps Steve to him tightly, and Steve groans in response. He slides his hands under Bucky’s back, lifting him up so he’s sitting astride Steve’s thighs. Bucky gasps and starts riding down on him as the strong muscles of Steve’s legs drive his thrusts up deeper.

Steve presses his mouth to Bucky’s throat, breathing heavily, then moves to the skin just above Bucky’s collar bone, teeth and tongue teasing over it. Bucky grips Steve’s torso, arching into Steve with every roll of his hips. Steve hums against Bucky’s skin and Bucky can’t concentrate on anything but the feel of Steve’s mouth, Steve’s cock. He’s surrounded and filled and it’s beyond anything he could imagine.

Steve guides Bucky back down on the bed. His legs are cramped from being clenched around Steve’s back and they ache when he eases them down. Steve's still thick inside him, and Bucky acts on instinct, body clenching around his cock.

Steve’s hips roll again and Bucky groans, bending his legs and placing his heels on the bed. He pushes up as Steve thrusts down, their bodies moving together like they’ve been doing it all their lives. Steve keeps moving inside him, relentless, pushing deep.

Bucky can’t help the high-pitched noises he’s making with every thrust of Steve’s hips, but they get louder and squeakier and half of them are inaudible as Steve supports himself with one hand and drops the other down to Bucky’s aching cock. Steve strokes up on every thrust in, down each time he pulls back. Bucky’s head is swimming, and he can’t look away from Steve’s face.

He doesn’t know how long they fuck this time, because it feels like forever before they both come, their bodies jerking through it together. Steve settles over him, resting on his elbows and keeping the majority of his weight off of Bucky. Their foreheads press together and their breathing slows, settles in tandem.

“If you wanna go six, you’re gonna have to do it by yourself,” Bucky slurs, tired and satisfied. Steve huffs a laugh.

“C’mon. My bed doesn’t have a wet spot.” Bucky doesn’t remember Steve pulling out, but he must have because he’s on his feet beside the bed and tugging Bucky up with him. Bucky sways slightly and Steve’s body shakes with a silent laugh as he puts his hands back beneath Bucky’s ass and hefts him up. Bucky crosses his legs loosely behind Steve’s and lays his head on Steve’s shoulder.

He doesn’t remember closing his eyes, but he opens them when Steve puts him on the bed. He definitely doesn’t remember the trip there, everything hazy and awash with drowsiness. He feels Steve’s kiss and the warmth of Steve’s body next to his and as easy as that, everything fades away.

**

Bucky wakes up with Steve’s mouth closing around his cock and he moans, low and rough. He reaches down and threads his fingers in Steve’s hair, then spreads his legs wider for Steve’s body. Steve’s arms are under Bucky’s thighs and his hands are curved around his lower torso, thumbs rubbing slow arcs on his skin.

Steve’s mouth surrounds him, wet heat that sings along Bucky’s nerves, up his spine. He’s teasing. Not sucking hard, just sliding Bucky’s cock in his mouth, running his tongue over it, feeling it. It’s lazy and perfect, and Bucky’s pretty sure at some point he’s going to be desperate to come, but right now he thinks he could live with Steve doing this forever.

Until he stops and sucks Bucky in earnest, pulling his dick deep as he swallows, cheeks hollowing as he works Bucky with his tongue. Bucky arches as he feels his cock hit the back of Steve’s throat, the wet slide of spit trailing down to his balls.

“Fuck, Steve,” he moans softly as everything builds up inside him like a wave. He opens his eyes and watches Steve’s face. His breath fans over Bucky’s pubic hair, his red, swollen lips slide up and down the length of his cock. “Fuck. Fu-”

Bucky’s cut off by a shrill, piercing sound and, without thinking, he gets one foot on Steve’s shoulder and shoves him away. He’s off the bed and on his feet, crossing the room in a few long strides. He’s in his room and tugging his tac gear out of the closet as he answers, far too aware of Steve standing in the doorway.

“Barnes.” He listens and nods, dropping the phone and gathering his weapons from their hiding places. When he turns, Steve’s gone from the doorway. Bucky’s got four minutes to get to the roof, so heads for the door. He’s not sure if he’s upset or glad Steve’s at the kitchen counter. “I have to go.”

“Of course.” He smiles, and there’s something tight in it. “Trust me, no one knows better than me that you go when duty calls.”

“Steve…”

“Bye, Bucky.”

Bucky nods sharply and heads out the door, taking the steps to the roof, refusing to think about what he might be leaving behind.

**

They end up in a Central America, dealing with a bloody mess. It doesn’t get any cleaner once they get there, but at least the blood is from far fewer innocent people. They've been there two days when the news of the alien invasion in New York reaches them, and they manage to get a fuzzy feed of the newly-dubbed Avengers fighting.

Bucky has to catch his breath when he sees Steve in his uniform, wielding his shield like the weapon it is. When Steve was just Steve it was easy to overlook the raw power that exudes from him, but as Captain America it shines from him like a blinding light.

“C’mon, ladies.” Their commanding officer is a dick, but that seems to be par for the course. “We’ve got our own job to take care of. Let’s leave the bullshit for the superheroes.”

By the time he gets home, a month has passed. All of his things that had been in Steve’s guest room are piled inside Bucky’s apartment. He’s too tired to unpack, so he just strips off on his way to the bedroom and falls face first onto the bed.

It’s a shitty night’s sleep and an even shittier morning when he gets a call from Fury before he’s even had his coffee. “What?”

“I have a job for you.”

“I’m on mandatory post-mission leave.”

“It’s in Russia.”

Bucky’s worked in Russia. He likes Russia. “When?”

“I’ll send you the dossier.”

“How long?”

“Hard to say.”

“There a reason for this?” He has a feeling he knows the reason. All six foot two of it. “Because if it’s a bullshit assignment because of some idea you’ve got in your head, I can assure you that you’re wrong.”

“I need an operative for a job in Russia. You speak Russian like a native. Ergo, you go to Russia.”

“Right. I’m going to have my coffee now.”

“You do that.”

He opens his computer after the first sip and reads through the dossier Nick sent. It reads like a bogey man story for spies. A master assassin with a string of kills going back over fifty years. He’s heard of the Winter Soldier. Everyone in the business has. No one in the business believes it. There is no one man of legend. It’s a series of assassins all trained by Hydra before Steve destroyed them, and then trained by the Red Room after, one after the other like an assembly line of killing machines.

Fury gives him a strike team and they infiltrate old barracks, dig through reports to find underground bases. Most of them are abandoned, scattered records not giving them much. They run into a group of fighters, but between cyanide capsules and gunshot wounds, none of them live long enough to tell them who they’re affiliated with.

They chase leads all over Russia, then into Czech and Slovakia Republics and Estonia. They go through Poland and Romania, Belarus and the Ukraine. They pick their way through Germany, Bucky spending just as much time dressed in suits and playing the political game as he does in tac gear, hunting down scientists and rumors.

They raid a warehouse in Croatia and finally find what Nick’s been looking for. There’s a quinjet on the ground within four hours, and they load every file they find, as well as a few machines that Bucky can only guess the function of. The problem is that Bucky’s smart, and he’s pretty sure those educated guesses are right.

He manages not to throw up in the bathroom, but it’s a near thing.

Fury meets them at the Triskelion in one of the sub-basements where a crew is wheeling in the boxes and boxes of files, using forklifts to haul in the machines. Fury looks them over, and his face changes, something subtle and disgusted. “Barnes. My office.”

Bucky rides the thirty floors in silence, following Fury to his office when they arrive. Fury gestures to a chair and Bucky sinks into it, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees. “There’s some fucked up shit in there.”

“It’s the Red Room. I’d be more surprised if it wasn’t fucked up.” Nick leans back in his chair and just looks at Bucky, expression assessing. “There are rumors.”

Bucky raises an eyebrow, but doesn’t speak. Nick gets up and walks to the windows, his hands behind his back, one hand loose around the other wrist. Bucky smirks at the thought of Fury ruling all he surveys, but that’s not the kind of power he likes to yield.

“I’m embedding you with one of the strike teams here in the Triskelion. I want eyes on the inside.” He turns and looks at Bucky. “Big things are happening, Barnes. And I’m not sure how I feel about it.”

**

Bucky runs into Steve three days later.

Well, he arrests Steve three days later. Rollins and Rumlow look ready to shoot, and Bucky looks at Steve’s friends--Natasha and someone he doesn’t know--and knows there’s something more. Something bigger than this. He falls back and ends up behind Natasha, his gun centered in the small of her back. “Talk to me.”

“Winter Soldier,” she says, just loud enough for him to hear.

That’s all Bucky has to hear. The rumors Nick has been hearing and Rumlow’s orders have every one of Bucky’s nerves on edge. He pushes past Rumlow and Rollins, keeping close to Natasha. He’s the last one in the van, settling across from Natasha so he can keep an eye on her bleeding shoulder. One of the operatives suddenly takes out the other and lunges for Bucky, but Steve shifts his bulk in the way. “No.”

Bucky swallows and the operative sinks back in her seat, tugging her helmet off. Bucky knows Maria Hill, trusts her. Which means, whatever’s happening, it’s some seriously deep shit. Steve moves back to his seat and Bucky immediately moves to Natasha, putting pressure on her wound. “Really? You let yourself get shot?”

“Really?” she manages weakly. “You let yourself get on a Strike team of Hydra assholes?”

“Fury asked me to, but I don’t think he knew they were Hydra.”

“That’s because we all thought Hydra was dead.” Steve’s face is like granite, his eyes flat. Steve sacrificed himself to bring Hydra down, and instead he ended up inadvertently working for them. “This time I burn them to the ground.”

**

The plan is absolutely shit, but Steve single handedly saved over one hundred men from a secure Hydra facility with nothing but a prop shield and a USO costume, so none of them are about to argue with him. Bucky ends up leading the loyal SHIELD agents on the ground from the outside while Sharon Carter gets people out of the Triskelion, taking charge and helping from the inside.

They provide what covering fire they can, but too many of them fall to the Winter Soldier, her body sleek in her black tac gear and metal enhancements to her uniform. She goes immediately for Steve, taking Sam out along the way. Bucky’s comm is buzzing with Maria’s increasingly urgent updates as Steve makes his way onto Charlie.

Everyone hears the fight, hears Steve trying to reason with the Soldier. Bucky flinches at the sound of gunfire, because Steve’s grunts of pain come through the comm, right in Bucky’s ear. He wants to tell Maria not to listen to Steve when he orders her to turn the carriers on each other, even when he calls out the Charlie lock.

“Fuck.” Bucky shoves one of the pilots away from his copter and climbs inside, directing it toward the third ship as it starts to drop. He sees Steve’s shield fall, but whatever Steve is saying to the Soldier is nothing but a hum in the comms, impossible to hear and parse over the cannons and whir of the rotors.

Bucky lands the copter and runs toward the Potomac, eyes locked on the helicarrier. There’s another explosion and a shower of metal beams rains down. The sky lights up with fire and Bucky can see the dark shadow, bent against the sky, plummeting down. The body hits the water hard amidst the knife-like slices of the metal around it. Bucky doesn’t think twice before diving in, ignoring the flames dancing on the slick surface of the water. He doesn’t know who he’s saving, but the rough pounding of his heart matches the mantra in his head. It has to be Steve. He won’t accept it not being Steve.

The water is murky and his eyes burn, but he sees the white of Steve’s star and he grabs him, glad of his metal arm as he fights to pull over two hundred unconscious and waterlogged pounds of super soldier to the surface. He wraps his arm around Steve’s chest and drags him to shore, pulling him up on the bank and slumping beside him. He’s about to start mouth-to-mouth when Steve coughs, water spilling from his mouth. It burbles against his lips then slips down the sides of his face.

He coughs again and fresh blood trickles out of his uniform. Both of their comms are shot from the water, but Bucky can hear the distant sound of sirens heading their direction. Another cough, more blood, and Steve turns his head to the side, choking up water. Bucky rubs his back lightly and Steve flinches away.

“Hey. Just me.”

“Th-the soldier?”

“Don’t talk. You got her. They still have to sift through everything, but you took care of her.” He has to believe he’s not lying to Steve, because any other answer would have Steve back on his feet and searching the Potomac for the Winter Soldier. The sirens get closer, and Bucky hopes the helicopter’s tracking device will lead them to where he and Steve are. “I’m almost positive I told you not to get shot.”

“Yeah, well, you’re not my mother.”

“Thankfully. If I were, I’d have a hell of a lot more gray hairs.” He’s still rubbing Steve’s back and Steve doesn’t move away. “So, hey. I’m unemployed.”

“Yeah.” Steve exhales and tries to sit up, but Bucky forces him back down. Just the fact that Bucky can seems to make Steve stop trying. “Me too.” Steve coughs again and this time the blood leaking from his abdomen is more than a trickle. “‘Least that probably narrows down the amount I’m going to get gut-shot.”

“Knowing you? Probably not, actually.” Bucky stands up as the paramedics rush through the trees. “Three GSW, and it looks like he got the shit beat out of him.”

“I’ll heal,” Steve says weakly.

“Yeah. In a hospital.” Bucky gestures to the paramedics. “Ignore the superhero complex and get him in the ambulance.”

“It’s not a complex if you actually are a superhero,” Steve manages, before his eyes roll back and he passes out.

The paramedics are still hanging back so Bucky growls at them. “Get him in the ambulance before I get angry enough to shoot one of you.” He follows them into the ambulance, sitting in the front so he won’t distract the people actually working on Steve. He doesn’t imagine that it helps the driver, but he’s pretty sure it does make him go faster. That’s enough for Bucky.

Sam’s at the hospital when they show up, and he grabs Bucky by the arm and jerks him to the side. Bucky shrugs him off, but Sam’s stronger than he looks. “Let them work on him, okay? And tell me what the fuck happened.”

He tells Sam and repeats it for Natasha when she shows up. She walks off and talks in her comm, mostly likely to Hill to get someone to the copter and take it back to… wherever everything is going to now. And to get a team looking for the Shield, along with the Winter Soldier.

After that it’s waiting and, as Natasha explains, a race against the clock to get the bullets out before Steve’s healing factor kicks in. Not that his body can’t handle the metal, just that it’ll take a long time for his body to force the bullets out, and it’ll be painful. Hill shows up and makes eye contact with Natasha and then pulls Bucky aside.

“We’ve got intel on some Hydra outlets. We need someone to go in with Barton to take them down.” She doesn’t say anything as Bucky glances back toward the surgery suite. “Someone we trust.”

Bucky rubs his face and groans. “Can I wait until I can see him?”

She does pause for a second, but Bucky already knows her answer. “No. I need you with Barton gathering intel. Romanoff will bring you a report on his status.”

Bucky tilts back his head and exhales slowly. “Yeah. All right. Just tell him I was here, okay?”

Hill doesn’t respond to that, but then, Bucky didn’t expect her to.

**

He really hates robots. Though they do make it easy to stay away from Steve and the rest of the Avengers, though he does see Clint and Natasha. He’s dressed in his tac gear, but he’s pretty sure the three of them would recognize each other anywhere. He doesn’t see Steve so much as the shield whipping through the air like a knife, slicing the robot army to pieces.

A blast hits close to him and he gets his head back in the game; letting his competency kink get him killed would be the ultimate irony. Another robot goes down and suddenly Bucky’s a good foot off the ground, a hand curved around the back of his neck. “Get on the ship.”

“Kinda busy here, Captain.”

“Yeah, well, I’d really rather not see you after a fall from this height.” He sets Bucky down. “Ship. Now.” Bucky’s about to reply when Steve pushes him to the ground, covering them both with the shield. Bucky ducks his head on instinct and slams Steve in the chin with his forehead.

“Shit. Sorry.” Bucky looks up and Steve’s looking at him with a stupid smile on his face. “Don’t get distracted.”

“Who just saved your ass?”

Bucky shoves Steve off and fires at the advancing robot, sending it crashing to the ground. “The guy whose ass I just saved.”

“Just get on the fucking ship, Barnes. That’s an order.”

“Aye, aye, Captain America.”

“I wasn’t in the fucking Navy.” Steve gets to his feet and pulls Bucky up. “I’ll see you later.”

“Yeah, not if anyone in SHIELD has anything to say about it.” Bucky starts to say something else, but Steve shoves him toward the helicarrier and he goes. He gets buried in the mass of people as Novi Grad suddenly plunges to the ground. He tries to shove his way closer to the edge, but everyone is screaming.

“Barnes!” He hears his name and turns toward the sound, another SHIELD agent standing there. “We're needed. Come on.”

**

Natasha’s disappeared. Barton’s declared himself retired. And Steve… Bucky tries not to think about Steve, because if he does, he might go a little crazy. Crazier. He keeps telling himself that Steve is just lying now, waiting for Stark’s PR department to placate the press about Ultron until the next big story comes along.

Except the next story did already. And the next. And the next.

He sits in the corner of the coffee shop, regretting every second that he said yes to this date, that he let Sharon set him up. But, like she said, he needs to move on with his life. What happened with him and Steve was simply proximity. Proximity, and the false personal closeness that stemmed from being roommates, from learning together, from seeing the world come into focus in a new century. Of course, there’s no way in hell anyone is going to live up to Captain America. Especially in bed.

“Hi. James, right?” Bucky looks up and Steve’s standing there with a shit-eating grin on his face. “I’m Sharon’s friend.”

“You’re an asshole. I’m killing both of you.”

“Throw Natasha in there too, in that case.” He sits down opposite Bucky and smiles. “Hi.”

“Hi.” Bucky wants to say so much more, but he has no idea what he could say. “You look much less beat up than the past couple of times I saw you.”

“You too.”

“I wanted to stay. At the hospital.”

“Hill told me.”

Bucky’s eyebrows go up. “She did?”

“Grudgingly. And only after I told her I knew you’d been there, and I wanted to see you. And wouldn’t take ‘he’s on assignment’ for an answer.” He looks down at his coffee, spinning the paper cup around. “I’m sorry. About disappearing. Things kind of… fell apart.”

“Yeah.”

“And I didn’t actually know your phone number.”

Bucky laughs. “So, how are you assimilating back into the world?”

“Still loud. Still… A lot.” He takes a sip of his coffee then looks at Bucky over the lid, his lashes long and dark over the bright blue of his eyes. “Could use help.”

“That’s what you’re looking for?”

Steve shakes his head slightly. “No. Not really. I mean, side benefit, right?”

Bucky leans forward, eyes locked on Steve’s. “Tell me what you want.”

Steve licks his lips. “Same thing I’ve wanted since the day we met. You. If… Well, if you’ll have me. Being around me in the public eye isn’t easy. People assume things. And a lot of them won’t be happy to find out their assumptions are wrong.”

“I haven’t been on a date in years. Not since that call came mid-blow job.” He laughs as Steve goes red. “I don’t give a shit about people’s assumptions. I give a shit about you.”

“If I promise that we’ll talk and work things out and make decisions really soon, do you think I could finish what I started?”

“I don't know. You think you could go for six this time?”

Steve stands up from his seat and leans over, brushing his lips against Bucky’s, not even looking to see if anyone’s watching them. “Dunno. Think you can keep up?”

Bucky bites Steve’s lower lip and then kisses him. “Try me.”