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Movie Barnes

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movie barnes_1

The building definitely doesn't say Blockbuster, but it advertises movies for rent and matches the address on his phone. Through the front window he sees it’s completely empty save for one man working on something behind the register.

Steve feels surprised, given he thought— especially on a Friday night— renting a movie would be a popular activity, and this was the only rental store in at least a twenty mile radius.

He opens the door, a little bell chiming above his head.

"Shit!" the guy swears, with an accompanying clang. "Fuck!" He ducks down under the register out of Steve's sight while Steve stands blinking, only half in the building.

"Fuck!" the guy says again, popping his head up from behind the counter. "Sorry!"

"Uhhh," Steve's brain freezes at the sight of the guy's face. There are a lot of beautiful people in 21st Century New York, but this guy. This guy, damn. Steve doesn't think he's been so spontaneously attracted to anyone since... Well, since Peggy Carter.

"You surprised me," the guy says apologetically, "m'not used to getting customers."

"Oh," Steve says, praying his brain will kick in before the next seventy years pass him by, "sorry?"

"Nah, don't apologize, I run a business, customers come with the... Business..." the guy trails off awkwardly, and they stare at each other. For multiple seconds. Steve feels like his face is on literal fire.

"Right, soooo... Anything I can help you find?" the guy asks finally.

"I'm Steve," Steve says out loud because that makes sense.

"'I'm Steve'," the guy mutters to himself. "I actually haven't heard of that one. Sorry man, I know my entire inventory, I don't have it."

"What?"

"What?"

Back to the awkward staring, oh my God Steve you are Captain America you faced down Nazis and Brooklyn bullies and Hydra and the Red Skull and Colonel goddamn Phillips without flinching, what the fuck is wrong with you? Steve thinks to himself.

"Wait, you're Steve?" the guy asks, looking taken aback. "Steve Rogers Steve?"

"Did I say that out loud? Goddammit!”

"I don't know if that was supposed to answer my question or if you didn't mean to say that either."

"Fuck! Right, sorry, yeah, I'm Steve, Steve is my name, yeah. Which... Doesn't answer your original question either," Steve says, finally stepping fully into the store and letting the door close behind him.

"Rogers, yeah," he adds, praying the really really hot guy didn't fixate on that. Natasha wants him to date but as soon as people knows he’s Captain America that's all he is, and this guy...

"Right, Steve Rogers," the guy huffs and shakes his head, gorgeous black hair falling over his face.

"I imagine you really don't know what you're looking for, huh? D'you want some recommendations?" The guy stands up and Steve's eyes immediately shoot to his left side, where he has what looks like a very complicated prosthesis that... Isn't quite like an arm?

The guy notices, of course, and immediately turns his left side away from Steve. "Or not, y'know, whatever."

"Shit, I'm sorry, you just surprised me..." Steve trails off.

"Yeah, guy missing an arm is always surprising," the guy says, voice rough and a little mean.

"I don't mean that," Steve protests, taking a step forward. "Fuck knows it's not the first prosthesis I've seen, and a helluva lot better than the ones we used to have."

The guy turns his face back towards Steve at that.

"I mean, are those... Is that a screwdriver?"

The guy snorts. "Most people don't notice that much detail."

"Most people don't notice any detail after Captain America," and wow that was actually approaching the realm of smooth for once in his life, good job Steve.

"And I'm guessing most people miss the detail where Captain America apparently says everything he's thinking out loud?"

Goddammit.

"Sorry, sorry, I just— can I try this again? Yes, I don't know what I'm looking for, I mean you could help me find something, some recommendations, my phone said this was Blockbuster?"

The guy raises an elegant arching eyebrow higher and higher with each clumsy word Steve speaks.

"There hasn't been a Blockbuster in years, pal, everyone knows tha—" the guy cuts himself off with a frown. "But I guess you wouldn't. Although, how would you even know the name ‘Blockbuster’?"

"Overheard some guys at SHIEL— uh, work, saying something about Blockbuster being the best place to find movies, and I thought I might as well try since I'm, y'know, a bit behind on movies..." It was Steve's turn to cut himself off and frown. "This is a movie rental place right?"

The guy looks at him, then around the rest of the store. "Yes."

"Yeah, of course, obvious, I'm sorry I— "

"But all I got are VHS."

“—am terrible at— VHS?"

"You don't know what VHS— of course you don't know what VHS are, Jesus, I'm sorry, I keep missing the obvious too!"

"Okay?" Steve says when the guy doesn't continue. Why can they not avoid awkward prolonged silence and eye contact? Why?

"Sorry, yeah, you're right this is... Probably one of the most awkward encounters of my life, start over?"

"Please!"

"I'm Bucky," Bucky says. "Barnes."

"Movie Barnes!"

"Yup, that's this place. My place. Used to be Blockbuster back when Blockbuster still existed. I got it just before they cleared out, kept their VHS stock, and opened it up for business again. Not that I get any business, you're the first customer I've had all week, but there's a reason Blockbuster is dead I guess."

"All week? But it's Friday!"

"Yeah pal, I know. Why d'you think you showing up scared me so damn bad?"

Steve isn't sure if he’s meant to laugh at that, and thankfully Bucky doesn't let this pause draw out into another awkward moment.

"Since you don't know what VHS are, I'm guessing you don't have a VCR, which makes sense— why would you need one in today's age? So I don't know that you'll actually find anything here."

"Oh," Steve says. He tries to hide it but he can feel his shoulders slumping like a deflating balloon as disappointment washes over him.

"Or," Bucky says, blue eyes widening in alarm at Steve's reaction, "I could give you some recommendations anyway? You can find some of these on Netflix I'm sure."

"Netflix?"

Bucky stares.

Steve also stares.

"You look like a kicked puppy, anyone ever tell you that?" Bucky says.

"What?" Steve demands, taken aback.

"Fine, okay, I literally have nothing better to do, what genre are you in the mood for? I'll pick something out and we can go upstairs and watch, what the hell."

"What?" Steve repeats.

"I mean— " Bucky suddenly looks extremely unsure of himself. "I live upstairs, and y'know, I'm not getting anyone else in tonight, no harm in closing shop early, and uh... You look like you could use the company? And you obviously have no idea about movies, and that's my literal job so I just thought..."

"I know Snow White, and Wizard of Oz!" Steve protests, because his brain to mouth filter is still frozen in an iceberg, apparently.

Bucky just looks at him.

"I don't want to be too much trouble," Steve says meekly, and Bucky rolls his eyes.

"Like I said, nothing better to do. So what, you like... Fantasy adventure, technically kid friendly but arguably terrifying?"

"Uh."

"I got a few ideas," Bucky continues, coming out from behind the register and walking toward the clearly labeled kid's section. He’s wearing black jeans that... Wow, point for the 21st Century.

"If that's okay?" Bucky asks, stopping in front of a shelf and looking over his shoulder at Steve.

Steve jumped into enemy territory with no backup and a wooden shield, once. Somehow, he thought his heart was beating slower back then, but he jumps again anyway.

"Sounds great!"

Bucky grins at him, and—

"So what did the 21st Century do exactly to earn a point just then?"

Steve maybe wants to die a little, but for some reason he doesn't mind.

******************************

"The Dark Crystal?" Steve reads off the box Bucky hands to him.

"Yeah." Bucky says. "I watched it a lot as a kid, Jim Henson was fucking genius."

"Jim Henson?"

"Muppets?"

Steve shrugs helplessly.

"Dude, has anyone been trying to catch you up?"

"Some people have given me some recommendations, I have a list." Steve reaches into his jacket pocket for his notebook, handing it to Bucky.

Bucky looks it over, humming under his breath.

"Yeah, okay these are good and it's good you've seen Star Wars— not the prequels I hope?"

"The prequels?" Steve asks, getting his pen out.

"Nope! Never mind, you don't know and believe me, you don't need to know."

"Okay?"

"Anyway, The Dark Crystal isn't the most well known of Henson's stuff, and it's not the Muppets, but I think you'll like it. I just gotta close up real quick." Bucky moves toward the door.

"Are you sure?" Steve asks, insecurity rearing its head again.

"Yeah, don't worry about it. Like I said, I don't get many if any customers anyway and I don't technically need to. I own the building, my bills are always paid every month."

Steve frowns at him, and Bucky looks at him as he swings the closed sign around.

"Back-pay and disability pay," Bucky mumbles.

"Oh!" Steve says. "Yeah I got a lot of back-pay myself."

"Did they pay you for all seventy years you spent on ice?" Bucky teases.

"Yes."

"Holy shit!" Bucky says, spinning around to face Steve. "Really?"

"Yeah," Steve says, blushing again and looking down. "It's an obscene amount of money, I have no idea what to do with it."

"Well, I bought an old video store so I'm sure you can think of something."

Steve looks up at him. Bucky is grinning at him again, not as wide and a little sheepish, but still trying to lighten the mood.

"Yeah," Steve repeats, "I'm sure I can." He smiles.

Bucky turns back and locks the door.

"We gotta go through the back to get upstairs," he says once he’s done, gesturing for Steve to follow him as he heads toward a room, cut off from the rest of the store by some kind of beaded curtain Steve’s never seen before.

Bucky fumbles with another set of keys in front of a door at the back of the room, while Steve looks around at the videos lining the shelves.

They all had very... Interesting covers, a lot of very naked people (mostly women) with stars and words artfully placed over nipples and crotches.

"Is this all porn?" Steve blurts out, eyes wide.

Bucky glances up from where unlocking the door with a NO ACCESS sign across it. "Uh, yeah?"

"This is legal??" Steve asks, picking up a box with two very voluptuous women making out on the cover. Girls Gone Wild!!! XXX!!! it declares.

Bucky bites his lip, trying to stifle a laugh. "Yeah, uh most video stores have— had — an adult section. Even less business back here now than the rest of the store, too much free porn on the internet."

"There's free porn on the internet???"

Bucky stares and Steve stares back.

"Seriously, did no one even attempt to integrate you back into society?" Bucky demands after yet another awkward silence.

"Well, I mean," but as Steve thinks back to his experience with SHIELD after waking up, it was really only Fury telling him in Times Square that he'd been asleep for seventy years, and seeing the proof of it in billboards and giant TV screens and modern cars and the variety of people around him.

Then, an apartment in Brooklyn, "here's your bank account with all your back-pay," numbers that made Steve feel as if he was having an impossible asthma attack. A couple weeks later, "aliens" and "Tesseract" and the helicarrier and Tony Stark offering him a floor in Avengers Tower, but Steve feeling so out of his depth, not comfortable with Stark besides, that he chose to return to his lonely apartment...

"No, I guess not," he says, and Bucky frowns hard.

"That's fucked up," Bucky tells him. "Seriously, I was... Away... For a few years and it was hard for me to adjust when they finally f— when I came back. They just dropped you right in and left you to fend for yourself?"

Steve feels himself growing defensive. "I think I'm doing okay," he says, "I found out about Blockbuster, didn't I?"

"Blockbuster died years ago," Bucky says bluntly and Steve does a double take. "It died while I was, well when I got back it was in its final death throes and it was sheer luck I was able to get this place and keep it going. The franchise owner couldn't afford to keep it, but he didn't want all the videos to be destroyed. Jesus, no one even makes VHS tapes anymore or owns a VCR."

Steve frowns at him. "Then why do you stay?"

Bucky is silent for a moment, turning back to finish unlocking the door and push it open. "Just wanted something familiar I guess," he says. Then he turns back to Steve. "You don't have anything familiar though, do you?"

Bucky's eyes seem to bore into Steve's, seeing the heart of him.

"The Tesseract," Steve says without thinking, and Bucky narrows his eyes. "That's familiar."

"Not in a good way," Bucky says, and Steve snorts a little at that.

"Not even remotely."

They stare at each other again, but this time it doesn't feel quite as awkward. More like they’re reaching an understanding.

"Well," Bucky says eventually, "you've seen movies before so at least that's sort of familiar. And this is one of my personal favorites so c'mon." Bucky motions at Steve to follow him, heading up the stairs revealed by the door.

"My place is up here," Bucky says over his shoulder. "Have you had dinner? D'you want me to order a pizza or something? You know pizza, right?"

"Of course I know pizza," Steve scoffs, failing to mention he doesn't actually know it from his time before the ice. Bucky looks down at him from a few steps above and seems to know anyway, but doesn't comment on it.

"Pizza it is," he says instead, pulling a cell phone from his back pocket. "Too bad I don't have a flip phone to show you anymore, those were great."

"A what phone?"

"Pal, I hate to tell you this, but you really did miss a lot of the best stuff."

Steve can't help himself— he laughs.

******************************

"What do you want?" Bucky asks Steve as they reach the entrance to his apartment, waving his phone.

"You have to let me pay," Steve says instead of answering. Bucky raises an eyebrow.

"Uh, no? I offered, this is on me."

"Seriously," Steve insists. "I just showed up and made you close down your store, I'm taking money from you as we speak, you gotta let me buy you dinner."

"I told you, I never get customers anyway, I'm not losin' anything by doing this," Bucky reminds him.

"Nope, still gotta let me pay."

"No," Bucky repeats, "just tell me what you want."

"Look, I appreciate it, I really do, I just have all this money now and— "

"So do I pal," Bucky interrupts. "Don't give me that bullshit. Why won't you let me buy you a pizza?" To Bucky's surprise, Steve blushes again.

"Just, I eat a lot, cuz the serum and all, so it's really not fair— or right!— for me to let you pay," he tries to explain.

"What, you want a whole pizza to yourself? That's fine, I get that. On a good day when I've forgotten to eat— "

"Good day?"

"Bad day, whatever! Point is I can put away a whole extra large sometimes myself. It's no big deal, alright? So we'll get two pizzas, fine, what'd you want on yours?"

"Two extra large supremes, and one extra large pepperoni and sausage," Steve says.

Bucky stares.

"For yourself?" he asks slowly.

"Look, I'm not kidding, I need to eat a lot— you gotta let me pay for it!"

"Three extra large pizzas? In one sitting?"

Steve continues to blush, and Bucky continues to stare at him.

"And you look like that??" Bucky demands, making Steve blush harder.

"Please tell me you at least have to spend eight hours a day every single day working out to maintain that!" Bucky says, gesturing at Steve's body.

Steve huffs a laugh. "Well, I feel jumpy if I don't run or work out for a few days, but I can still get away with being a couch potato when I don't have anything else to do." Steve doesn't mention he's usually a couch potato because— except for SHIELD missions— he never has anything else to do.

"Oh my God, that is so not fair. I kind of hate you a little bit," Bucky says, grinning so Steve knows he's not serious. "We can split it?"

"Fifty-fifty?" Steve asks, and Bucky nods.

"No! That's still not fair, because I'll eat more than half of what we get!"

"Jesus Christ, fifty-fifty or I'm just putting it all on my card, your choice," Bucky says, rolling his eyes. "Again, I offered pal. Let me pay for at least some of your meal."

Steve opens his mouth, then closes it, looking distressed. "I can pay!"

"I want to pay!"

"I'll leave!"

"No you won't!"

And Steve— yeah, Bucky's right, he's not going anywhere. "Fine," he concedes, and Bucky pumps his fist in triumph, pressing call on his phone.

"This is the best pizza place in the whole borough," he tells Steve as the phone rings.

"I believe you," Steve says, smiling despite himself.

"Living room's in there, make yourself at home," Bucky says, waving and Steve goes.

Bucky has an old, squashy looking couch in ugly brown fabric, and what Steve assumes is a TV, hooked up to a device that Steve's never seen before.

"Retro," Bucky says from behind him, "I restored that TV, I think it's from the 70s. And of course, my faithful VCR, can't find them anymore. Had to restore that too."

"You like working with electronics?" Steve asks, turning.

Bucky shrugs. "Yeah, I was always good at it growing up. Then I got this place, and— hey, hello, yeah I'd like to order delivery, please," he breaks off to talk into his phone, putting in their massive pizza order.

"No, no party, just uh... My friend here has a big appetite. Seriously. Okay, cool." Bucky hangs up and picks up the VHS he set on the counter.

"About thirty minutes. Wanna start the movie now?"

"Go for it," Steve agrees, and Bucky opens the box, going over to his TV.

"What were you saying about electronics?" Steve prompts as Bucky kneels down.

"Oh! Yeah, well since I bought a video store— with VHS instead of DVDs— and no one else has a VCR anymore, I repair and restore old VCRs and TVs for people too. Not many customers in that either, but I can charge more." Bucky pushes the VHS in the player, and starts fiddling with a dial on the TV.

"Did that make any sense to you?" he asks.

"Some." Steve shrugs. "I know what DVDs are."

"Well VHS came before DVDs, and— okay they're more work, more easily damaged, have to rewind them manually and all, but..." Bucky trails off.

"What?"

"Just seemed a shame to let them die completely, y'know? The past shouldn't be forgotten."

Steve hums at that, unsure what to say. He definitely understands the sentiment, however. The past— it's all he can think about, and no one seems to remember it now. And here's a guy who's set on preserving the past— maybe a different one than Steve's, but history all the same. Steve can get behind that.

Oh my God, Steve, that's terrible.

"You're doin' it again," Bucky says, standing up, and Steve startles. "What's so terrible, Stevie?"

"Nothing!"

Bucky grins at him. "You sure you aren't talkin' about my couch? I know she ain't pretty, but she's the most comfortable thing your ass has ever been on."

Steve uses all of his super serum enhanced will not to think about what else he may or may not want his ass on, and sits.

"Oh my God," he says again. "This is amazing, I didn't think they'd invented anything this comfortable yet!"

"What, future disappointing you?" Bucky asks, flopping down on the opposite end of the couch and stretching his legs out.

"Yeah, you could say that," Steve says, and Bucky looks at him, frowning slightly.

Steve makes himself smile again. "So we gonna watch this or what, huh?"

Bucky laughs, picking up a remote. "Gotta fast forward through the commercials first!"

"Movies have commercials?"

******************************

As soon as the movie actually starts, Steve is entranced. The puppets, the detail, is like nothing he's ever seen before.

He ends up sitting hunched forward over his knees, staring at the TV with his mouth hanging open slightly when he isn't muttering to himself.

"Wow!" and "Oh my God!" and "How did they do that?"

“Jen, watch out!” and “Kira, behind you!”

Bucky, as much as he loves the movie, can't take his eyes off Steve. The way he’s so involved with what’s on the screen, the clear wonder in his eyes as the light from the movie dances across his face...

It makes Bucky feel young again, like a child watching for the first time. The awe, the wonder, the imagination.

Steve doesn't register their pizza arriving, so Bucky’s able to go downstairs, pay for it all himself, and bring it back up. Steve doesn't even twitch.

Bucky grabs one of his cheap TV trays and a roll of paper towels, setting it up next to Steve and stacking all three of Steve's pizza boxes one on top of the other. After a moment of consideration, he goes back into his kitchen to grab a couple beer bottles, popping their caps off and adding them to the tray.

In the few minutes he's been out of the room, Steve’s reached over, opened the first box, and is already on his second slice, all without removing his eyes from the screen.

Bucky laughs under his breath, wondering if Steve even knows how the pizza tastes as he chows down. He sets himself up with his one pizza— pepperoni, mushrooms, and olives thank you very much— and sits back on his insanely comfortable couch.

He eats much slower than Steve, barely halfway through his pizza when Steve opens his final box, and still finds himself far more involved in watching Steve than the actual movie.

******************************

Steve turns to face Bucky with wide eyes as the credits roll.

"What?" he says quietly, awe clear in his voice. Bucky laughs.

"Liked it, huh?"

"Bucky! I loved it! It was amazing, how did they— and the story, Jen, all of it— I don't know what to say, I didn't know they could do this!"

"You wanna watch another one?"

"There's more? I mean, I know you said Jim Henson created the... Muppets or whatever, but you said this was separate from that?"

"Yeah it is, and Henson did other movies that aren't Muppets oriented. Some of them even have actual human actors."

"How?" Steve demands, and Bucky shrugs.

"I don't know, but it's great isn't it?"

"Yes!"

"Y'know, you're famous, you could probably get on Sesame Street if you wanted," Bucky says offhandedly as he stands up, stretching. Steve doesn't know what Bucky’s talking about, and gets quickly distracted by the way Bucky's shirt rides up to reveal a strip of skin at his waist, the hem of his underwear reading Calvin Klein.

"Huh?" he asks dumbly, forcing himself to look away.

"Sesame Street," Bucky repeats, lowering his arms. "It's a kid's show, been on for decades, with Muppets. Not the same ones that're usually featured in Muppets movies, but the same technology. You could see how it's done."

Steve looks up at Bucky's face. "Really?"

"Oh yeah, and they have celebrities on all the time," Bucky says, walking to a cabinet next to his TV and opening the glass doors. "I'm sure you have a PR team who could set it up for you."

"I'll have to look into that," Steve says, taking out his pen and notebook to write it down. “‘Sesame Street’... Thanks Buck.”

Bucky grins over his shoulder before turning back to the cabinet full of VHS. "So you do wanna watch another one, right? I mean, I know it's kind of late, if you don't have time I get it— "

"Yes please!" Steve says, head jerking up from his notebook. He seems to finally come back to himself, looking to the empty pizza boxes at his side. "Oh fuck!"

"What?" Bucky asks, turning around in alarm.

"I didn't pay for the pizza!"

"Well I wasn't gonna interrupt the movie to make you give me money," Bucky reasons, shrugging. "Besides, I wanted to get it for you in the first place. Worked out nice for me." He grins, sharp and wicked, and Steve has to use all his self control not to shiver at Bucky’s expression.

"Still, let me clean up," he insists, standing as well.

"Fine by me," Bucky say, turning back to the cabinet and pulling another movie out. "You clean up, I'll get this ready to go— gotta rewind Dark Crystal anyway. Bathroom's first door on the right if you need to take a piss."

"I'm good, thanks," Steve says as he gathers up all four empty pizza boxes. "Where's your trash?"

"Oh, uh, there's a dumpster out back, it'll be easier to just take those down and toss 'em in," Bucky says "Don't worry about that, I'll do it later. You can just leave those in the kitchen."

"Nope, I'm taking them out," Steve says, making Bucky roll his eyes.

"If you insist. Wanna take all the trash from my apartment while you're at it?"

"Sure," Steve says and Bucky stares.

"No. I’m joking."

"I'm not."

They stare at each other.

"You can take the bag from the kitchen," Bucky concedes, "but I'm not letting Captain America dig through my bathroom trash." Or his bedroom trash Bucky doesn't add, thinking of the lube bottle he finished off the night before.

Steve narrows his eyes, but finally nods. "Deal." He marches into Bucky's kitchen, man on a mission.

"Christ, you're a handful, anybody ever tell you that?" Bucky calls as he rewinds the VHS in the machine.

"Every day of my life!" Steve yells back. Bucky smiles, fond despite himself.

"And when you get back from taking my trash out, I'll introduce you to the movie that was my sexual awakening," Bucky declares, standing up.

There’s a clatter as Steve drops one of the empty beer bottles.

"What? Shit! What?"

"Hurry up and you'll see," Bucky says, "and in the meantime, I'm gonna take a piss break." He locks himself in the bathroom to hide his grin over Steve's spluttering and fumbling.

"Jerk!" Steve yells.

"Punk!" Bucky cals back, pretending the back and forth with Steve— whom he's never met before in his life, he reminds himself— doesn't feel as natural as breathing. More natural, in fact, than anything since before—

"Be back in a minute!" Steve hollers.

"I'll be timing you!" Bucky shouts back, and Steve laughs.

******************************

Eventually they find themselves back on Bucky's couch, stretching out and groaning in comfort as Bucky fast forwards through yet another round of VHS commercials.

"So," Steve says slowly, trying not to blush. "Sexual awakening, huh?"

"Oh yeah," Bucky says in a low voice that makes Steve shiver. "It's technically a kid's movie, but oh yeah. Mine and hundreds of other teenagers, you'll see."

He hits play on the video, and Steve forces his focus to the screen instead of Bucky's profile.

That focus only lasts until the moment Sarah, obviously a young teenager, comes on, and Steve whips his head around to face Bucky in horror.

Bucky jumps slightly at the movement, turning to face Steve, frowning in confusion and worry at the look on Steve's face.

"Sexual awakening?" Steve chokes out, and Bucky frowns harder. Then he glances toward the movie, with Sarah reading to Merlin, and realizes—

"Oh my God, noooo!" he bursts out laughing at the affronted look on Steve's face. "No! I mean, I'm sure for some kids yeah, but no! At least not that I'd still be into now, what the hell man?" Bucky can't stop laughing, doubling over and clutching his stomach.

Steve just stares at him, trying not to start laughing too. He doesn't know what’s so funny yet, but Bucky's deep belly laughs are contagious, the lines on his face completely disappearing, making him look younger.

Not that Steve doesn't think he’s beautiful anyway, because he is— the lines on his face speak of things Steve doesn't know, hint at whatever happened to his arm. They’re the wisdom of age, but young and carefree like this, Bucky is an entirely different kind of beautiful.

"What's beautiful?" Bucky asks as his laughter tapers off.

"Uh," Steve quickly faces the TV again. "The scenery," he says, and Bucky looks up.

Sarah is back home, arguing with her father and stepmother about having to babysit Toby. The scenery is the inside of the house.

"Old fashioned suburbia have a special appeal for you?" Bucky asks, eyebrows going up.

Steve refuses to admit he meant Bucky when he said "beautiful" out loud to himself, and while he doesn't have anything against suburbia per se, he isn't especially into it either but...

"Yep," Steve says with a decisive nod. Bucky snorts, clearly not believing him.

"Okay then, pal, whatever you say. Give it a few more minutes and you'll see the part of this movie that really appeals to me."

******************************

"Holy shit," Steve says when Jareth appears. "Holy shit."

"Get it now?" Bucky asks, grinning.

"What— he's— who is— what— " Steve stutters. So many questions!

"Jareth, Goblin King. The lore for the movie is he's a fae king. Played by David Bowie, rock star. And no, I don't know what the hell they were thinking with that bulge but I'm not complaining," Bucky explains, smirking.

"Me neither," Steve says, staring at the screen as Jareth transports Sarah to the beginning of the Labyrinth.

Bucky looks at him, but doesn't say anything. He thinks that Captain America, Steve Rogers maybe just came out to him as not straight? Of course, he just came out to Steve Rogers, who may or may not've actually realized it— that bulge is very distracting, Bucky understands.

Steve Rogers, gay. Or at least, not 100% straight. Hmm.

Bucky rolls his eyes at himself. Assuming things, like everyone else, about the man next to him. Even over the course of a few hours, Steve already proved he’s nothing like the history books. Awkward, shy, swearing, totally into Jim Henson at least, maybe a little in love with Jim Henson at this point... And a fan of David Bowie's crotch. To be fair, who isn't?

Bucky makes himself refocus on the movie— he really does love it, even if as an adult he realizes now it's more ridiculous than he thought as a teenager. And a little creepy— Sarah's fifteen, and unlike modern day media so is the actress.

He mostly watches it for The Bulge now.

And he told himself when he recognized Steve that he wouldn't make assumptions about the man. He'd been immediately sure Steve got far too much of that, and Steve pretty much confirmed the theory.

So what if he's less than straight? Like Bucky, who is very decidedly completely gay?

No big deal, they can still watch a couple movies together.

Besides, Bucky argues to himself, even if he's full on glitter rainbow gay Steve won't be interested in him. He's a mess, with his obvious over-attachment to the past, his freak fake arm, his... Everything, really.

Steve Rogers might be more human than the legend of Captain America would have people believe, but he's still Captain America.

Bucky? Bucky's nothing.

******************************

"So," Steve says awkwardly when the credits finish rolling.

"So," Bucky agrees, standing to stretch and once again completely distracting Steve. "That was my sexual awakening movie. Like it?"

Steve blinks a couple times and forces himself to look up at Bucky's face. He smiles. "Loved it. And— completely agree. That bulge."

"That bulge," Bucky agrees with a husky sigh that abruptly turns into a yawn.

"I should go," Steve says, standing as well.

"What?"

"It's getting late and..."

"Oh," Bucky says. "Yeah. I gotta be up early, open the store to make up for closing early, y'know."

Steve stares at him in horror, and Bucky holds his gaze as long as he can before his lips quirk up.

"You're lying."

"Totally. I am probably gonna pass out pretty soon though," Bucky admits. "But um..."

"Yeah?" Steve says hopefully.

"Maybe you could stop by again sometime? There are a lot more movies you missed," Bucky says, feigning nonchalance.

"Yeah," Steve says softly, almost too quiet for Bucky to hear. Then, louder, "yeah, that'd be great. I'd like that. If it's— " Steve cuts himself off.

"What?" Bucky asks.

"Well, I really don't wanna take away any business from you," Steve says and Bucky rolls his eyes.

"Jesus Steve, I'm serious. I get maybe three customers a week, because no one rents VHS anymore, and maybe I sometimes get a couple more people in to have their TVs or whatever repaired. I have one regular who comes in Sunday midday, after church I think, and rents porn. Last week, I had a hipster couple come in Saturday afternoon to take selfies with the Blockbuster video cases, but they didn't rent a movie— they didn't even buy candy!"

Steve stares at him. "Then... How? Why? I mean, why stay open?"

"I bought the building outright, like I said. I get enough in my benefits check every month to pay all my bills, since I don't have rent because I own the building. I like watching movies and working on things, and I didn't want everything to be torn down. It's fine, it's more a hobby than an actual business, and I like it that way," Bucky explains, perhaps a bit defensively given how Steve frowns at him.

"So," Bucky continues, forcefully making himself speak in a gentler tone, "I don't mind. I really don't. Please, whenever you want, come over and we can watch a few more movies, okay?"

"If you're sure," Steve starts, but Bucky quickly interrupts him.

"You ask me again if I'm sure I'll punch you in your face."

"You'll break your hand," Steve says, grinning.

"Yeah? We'll see about that— I throw a mean punch. Bet I could take out a super soldier if I really wanted to."

"If you're sure," Steve says again, still grinning, obviously mocking Bucky now. Bucky tries and fails not to grin back.

"Get outta here punk, so I can get some sleep. And don't do anything stupid," Bucky says, giving Steve a light shove toward the door.

"How can I?" Steve asks, "I'm leaving all the stupid with you!"

"Out!" Bucky repeats, shoving a bit harder, and Steve goes willingly, letting Bucky push him out the door and laughing when Bucky over-dramatically shuts it in his face.

"Thanks Buck! This was great! And thanks for dinner!" Steve calls.

"It was my pleasure! G'night Stevie!" Bucky yells back, and finally lets the dopey smile he's been smothering overtake his face as he listens to Steve walk away.

Chapter Text

Steve desperately wants to return to Movie Barnes— he wants to see Bucky again, watch more movies, connect with someone in this century again. But it only takes him 24 hours to convince himself Bucky was just being kind, indulging him, and insincere with his offer for Steve to come back.

So it's almost two weeks before he finds himself outside the old video rental store again, hovering awkwardly across the street.

It's late, the sun just setting, Wednesday instead of Friday. Steve hasn't had a mission since before the last time he was here, and he is bored out of his mind.

"I'll just rent a movie from him this time," he says to himself, "ask him for a recommendation and go home and watch it myself." He takes a deep breath and makes himself cross the street.

Bucky's not at the counter, but Steve can hear him among the shelves. When the bell rings announcing Steve's presence, he sees Bucky's face pop up a few aisles over.

"Steve! You came back!" Bucky says, sounding delighted. Steve blushes. "Perfect! I know exactly what we should watch this time!"

Bucky's coming toward him, already preparing to close his store for Steve and Steve can't let that stand.

"Really, I appreciate it, but you don't have to interrupt your day just for me," Steve says, stuffing his suddenly sweaty hands in his pockets.

Bucky frowns, a flash of hurt crossing his face.

"Oh," he says, "yeah, I mean, if you don't wanna watch with me that's fine. I can just... Well I'm guessing you don't have a VCR, I have a few you could rent or buy and— "

"No!" Steve interrupts. "It's not that I don't wanna watch with you!" The relief in Bucky's face feels like a punch to Steve's gut.

"Then get outta my way so I can lock up, huh?" Bucky says, grinning and shoving Steve playfully. Steve doesn't know what to do, so he listens to Bucky and steps aside, watches him flip the sign to CLOSED and lock the door.

"You were an artist, right?" Bucky asks. "Before the war?"

"Um," Steve says, caught off guard. "Yeah, I was. Went to the Art Student’s League for a little while, but I couldn't afford it for long. How did you know?"

Bucky blushes this time, and with the lights of his store on it's very visible.

"I maybe googled you," he admits, "after you were here last time."

"You googled me?" Steve asks, raising an eyebrow.

"I wanted to get some ideas for when you came back." Bucky grins sheepishly.

Steve stares at the floor, feeling a sudden rush of shame for not coming back sooner. He should've, he's Captain America, he's supposed to be brave. Instead he kept Bucky waiting.

"Sorry," he says, running a nervous hand through his hair.

"For what?" Bucky asks as he starts leading Steve toward the back again.

"For not comin' back sooner," Steve admits, and Bucky shrugs.

"You're Captain America, it's okay. I figured you were just busy."

Steve doesn't respond to that, because he knows just how not busy he really was.

"Unlike me of course," Bucky continues, and he's doing his best to keep his tone upbeat but Steve can hear a hint of resentment in his words. "Anyway, so art, right? I figure an animated classic, ala best of Don Bluth, is in order."

"Don who?" Steve asks, and Bucky winks at him over his shoulder.

"You'll see!"

******************************

Steve soon learns the movie Bucky picked out for them— him— and removed from his stock so in the unlikely event of any customers, they couldn't rent it and he would definitely have it ready for Steve's return.

"Land Before Time?" he reads off the cover.

"Yup!" Bucky says. "I know it's another kids movie, but seriously the kids movies are the best when it comes to artistry and animation, I swear. Grown ups never get anything fun." He makes a jokingly disgusted face at the thought and Steve laughs.

"You're still a kid compared to me, y'know," Steve tells him and Bucky rolls his eyes.

"Years in the ice don't count, Stevie. You're technically younger than me."

"Oh am I?" Steve asks, surprised Bucky recognizes he's not, in fact, an old man— at least not in experience, heart, or soul— whatever his birth certificate says.

Bucky grimaces slightly. "Yup—" then before Steve can ask— "and I'm not telling you by how much. It's not polite to ask someone's age." Bucky grins again, and Steve laughs, holding up his hands.

"Good to see kids these days haven't all forgotten old fashioned values," he says, and Bucky cackles.

"Okay okay, wise guy, make yourself comfortable and I'll start the movie. You want me to order pizza again?"

Steve glares. "If you let me pay for all of it this time."

Bucky just shrugs, crouching down in front of his VCR. "Fair's fair." Steve's eyebrows hit his hairline in surprise over Bucky's easy acquiescence.

Bucky glances over his shoulder with a smirk. "If I keep payin' for you I'll have to actually start getting customers, Stevie." Steve groans at the teasing, then sinks into The Most Comfortable Couch In The World and groans for a different reason.

"Sorry," he says, covering his face. Bucky just laughs, and Steve doesn't look up again until he feels the shift in weight on the couch, Bucky now sitting next to him with his phone out and the remote on the armrest.

"Yeah, two extra large supremes, one extra large— " he looks at Steve questioningly.

"Pepperoni and sausage," Steve mumbles.

"Pepperoni and sausage, and one extra large pepperoni, mushroom, olive. Great, thanks. Cash or credit?"

Steve, blushing, digs his wallet out of his back pocket and hands Bucky his credit card. Bucky's eyes go wide at the black platinum.

"Damn," he mouths before he says into the phone, "credit. Yup," and starts reading the numbers off the card.

In another minute, Bucky's hung up and handed Steve's card back over.

"You ready for this?" he asks, putting his phone away and picking up the remote.

"I'm ready if you are," Steve says, just as Bucky presses play.

There are no commercials this time— "fast forwarded the tape earlier," Bucky says to Steve's questioning look, and the movie gets right to it.

Bucky's right— Steve's immediately entranced again by the style of animation. But the story... The story...

Steve can't help remembering, sitting at his mother's side as she coughed and coughed and blood stained her handkerchief. He remembers running, out of breath so bad he could barely get words out... Begging the doctor to come, begging on his knees— out of desperation and because he couldn't get up until he caught his breath, if he caught his breath—

The doctor came, told him to stay outside, and Steve did, pacing and tapping his foot impatiently.

Then the doctor's face when he came out, pale and sad. His hand on Steve's shoulder. "I'm sorry son. She has the TB."

And the doctor sending a telegram, men coming and his mother coughing, but they wouldn't let Steve get to her— "she has to be quarantined!"— and "Steve, darling, it's okay, they're right you know. Wouldn't want to get you sick," in between violent heaving coughs as the men with masks escorted her away, into an ambulance, her once vibrant frame gone pale and thin and frail.

Steve being held back by the doctor, yelling for her, trying to get to her, but they wouldn't let him go, wouldn't let him say good-bye

"I'll be fine, dear. Back soon, you'll see," but Steve wasn't a child, he was seventeen, almost an adult and he knew better, he saw in his ma's eyes she did too—

The telegram came less than a week later.

Steve sniffles, faking a cough to cover it up. He keeps his face turned away from where he can feel Bucky's curious eyes on him, trying to reorient himself to the present, refocus on the movie.

When the pizza arrives Bucky goes to get it, setting up Steve's tray with a couple beers like last time.

Steve is aware of him moving around but doesn't say anything, lets Bucky think he’s just as enchanted with this movie as he'd been with the Dark Crystal, not thinking about events from over seventy fucking years ago.

And the movie is good, once Steve gets involved. Definitely a kid's movie, but Littlefoot and his friends making their way to the Great Valley, having people, having family waiting for them after such a great tragedy— after the loss of his mother it’s a happy ending, a happy story despite how it began.

Steve takes a long drink of his beer to cover up the tight feeling in his throat, trying not to think about how he didn't really have anyone after his mother died. Then, when he did make friends, the Howlies and Peggy, they survived so many adventures together— until he woke up in the future, with all of them dead except for Peggy, who always forgets him in between visits—

"You didn't like it," Bucky says, frowning at Steve as the credits begin to roll.

"What? No, it was good, I loved it, the art you were right— " Steve protests, straightening in alarm.

"Nope," Bucky says, hitting rewind on the remote. "Maybe you liked the art, but you didn't like the movie. I could tell. You could've said something if you wanted to watch something else, I just thought..." and he sounds so dejected, Steve can't help telling him the truth.

"It's not," Steve pauses to take in a breath. "It's not that I didn't like it, just... The story. It reminded me of... Well, especially in the beginning..." and Bucky's eyes widen in sudden understanding.

"Oh fuck," he says, low and sharp and emphatic. "I'm an asshole, I didn't even think of that. I'm so sorry Steve, I'm so sorry—"

"No, it's okay," Steve says, but he feels his eyes welling up again, tears threatening to spill over. "My ma, she died when I was seventeen, I had time to grieve. And it was a good movie, with how Littlefoot found so many friends, and sure I didn't have anyone after she died— " Steve hiccups on a sob.

"Stevie," Bucky says, twisting on the couch and leaning across it. "You don't owe me an explanation. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have pushed— or I should've thought, maybe, Jesus Christ I googled you— "

"No," Steve says, shaking his head. "It is a good movie, and I did like it. I did make friends eventually it's just..." Steve trails off, breathing in deep gasps. Bucky meets his eyes, biting his lower lip, and he's not judging Steve, it's clear, he seems to maybe even understand

"I had friends, and then... I died, and I woke up here and I didn't have— " Steve chokes, trying to hold back his tears. He's not going to cry, he's Captain America, Captain America doesn't cry over a children's movie—

Bucky shifts across the couch and wraps his right arm tight around Steve's shoulders, pulling Steve into his chest.

It's the first time someone's hugged Steve in seventy years.

"You do now," Bucky says, firm and confident. "You have someone now." Steve falls apart all over his shirt, and Bucky just... Holds him, lets him cry, and it's... It's good, it's exactly what Steve needs.

Nevertheless, Steve makes himself stop crying in a few minutes, pulling back. Bucky lets him go, but his narrowed eyes say he knows Steve is still holding back, and he doesn't approve.

"I'll give you my number before you go. I realized I shoulda done that last time but I didn't even think about it and I'm sorry. You call me, okay? Any time, if you wanna talk or just come over and watch movies. Whatever you need Stevie, yeah? I'm here, I'm your friend now."

Steve sniffles, wiping at his eyes with his hands.

"Bathroom's first door on the right," Bucky reminds him. "If you wanna wash your face, clean up a bit."

"Thanks," Steve mumbles, standing quickly.

******************************

He spends perhaps too long in the bathroom, after scrubbing his face and blowing his nose, with his hands braced on the sink, just breathing.

But when he comes back out, Bucky doesn't seem to've noticed. The pizza boxes are gone, probably outside to the dumpster, and there's another beer waiting for Steve. The TV is off, Land Before Time sitting back in its case on Bucky's counter to be returned to Movie Barnes stock later.

Bucky's sitting on the couch again, beer sitting on his tray, scrolling through his phone. He looks up as soon as Steve reappears.

"Feeling better?"

"Yeah," Steve says, smiling shyly. "Thanks."

"What're friends for?" Bucky asks him, grinning, followed by, "what's your number?"

Steve tells him, and in a few seconds his own phone buzzes in his pocket.

"That's me," Bucky says. "Remember, you can call me any time okay?"

"Yeah," Steve repeats, programming the new number into his Stark phone.

Now it's awkward again, and Steve shifts.

"So," he starts at the same time Bucky says, "I'm sure you're wondering about my arm."

"What?" Steve asks, taken aback. Bucky gives him A Look.

"Okay, yeah, I've never seen a prosthetic like that but... I mean, I wasn't gonna ask! It's none of my business what happened or— " Steve breaks off when Bucky laughs at him.

"I meant about the prosthetic," Bucky says. "Cuz yeah, there's not many like this— you wanna know why?"

"Sure," Steve says slowly, still off guard. Bucky nods at the couch, and Steve takes the hint, sitting back down.

"Well, I like messing with things right? Electronics, and mechanics and stuff like that," Bucky begins, and Steve nods to show he's following.

"So the army they uh... They gave me a standard prosthetic, but those are pretty useless honestly. Or at least the ones they give you if you don't wanna spend the rest of your life going through a bunch of tests as an experiment." A shadow passes over Bucky's face as he says 'experiment', like it's a dirty word, and Steve frowns.

"Anyway, so I didn't wanna spend the rest of my life as a test subject," Bucky sneers, "but I thought, y'know what? If they're not gonna give me a useful hand, I can make something better. So I did."

Here he leans over toward Steve again, offering his prosthetic. It's really like nothing else Steve's ever seen or heard of, more like a Swiss Army knife than an actual substitute for a human limb.

"I bought Movie Barnes, got set up, started working on VCRs and stuff, and realized how useful this stuff could be," Bucky says, showing Steve how he built a bunch of tools into what passes for his arm. Different sized screwdrivers, pliers, even a bottle opener.

"I took the base of the prosthetic they gave me, so I could wear it, and just... Did away with the whole 'useless hand part' and made something better. It's not the same as having an actual hand, of course, but I figure if I can't have that I might as well have this, y'know?"

Steve is staring with eyes wide in wonder.

"Buck," he breathes, "that's amazing!"

"Here," Bucky says, shaking the arm at him, "you can touch if you want."

Steve reaches out reverently, looking through the different tools, flipping open different functions.

"What the hell made you think of this?" he asks, looking up at Bucky. To his surprise, Bucky ducks his head.

"Uh," Bucky says, fidgeting. "One of my favorite movies when I was a kid was Inspector Gadget. I thought it was genius— about this guy who gets into an accident, and his whole body's fucked up, y'know? But he kind of turns himself into a robot, has all these different things he can do with his body now, like a lighter in his finger and extending arms. I was obsessed with it when I was younger, cuz I was already really interested in technology like that."

"Can we watch it?" Steve asks, straightening up in excitement. Because he's half convinced Bucky is the most brilliant person he's met in this century (yes, including Tony Stark), and he wants to see what inspired him.

Bucky blushes.

"I actually rewatched it when I started working on my arm," he says, pulling said arm back from Steve. "And I kind of realized, as an adult, it's actually not a very good movie?" Bucky pauses, then corrects himself. "It's a terrible movie," he affirms. "Absolutely terrible."

"Aw c'mon Buck, it can't be that bad! It inspired this!" Steve wheedles, gesturing at Bucky's arm. "Please?" He knows he's whining but he can't help himself.

Bucky glares at him, and Steve pouts.

"Fine," Bucky gives in at last. "But!"

"What? I'll do anything!" Steve says.

"You have to come back tomorrow— or if you can't tomorrow, the next chance you get— so I can show you the actual good scifi tech movies of my childhood, the real classics. Inspector Gadget cannot be your only experience with the genre for long."

"Deal!" Steve agrees quickly, not even bothering to hide how his grin only becomes bigger when Bucky demanded he return as soon as possible for another movie marathon. "But we're watching Inspector Gadget tonight?"

"Yes, you punk," Bucky says, huffing exaggeratedly as he stands up. "I have to go get it from downstairs, but we'll watch it tonight. Since you insist."

"Damn right I do!" Steve says. Bucky turns away, trying to hide his own smile.

******************************

Bucky's right about Inspector Gadget, Steve quickly realizes. It is a terrible movie, but he can see what inspired a young, carefree child-Bucky about it. And they have fun making fun of it the entire time.

Steve's back perhaps a bit too early— noon— the next day, but Bucky doesn't seem to mind, waving Ghostbusters and Back to the Future at him as soon as he walks in.

They order Chinese instead of pizza for lunch instead of dinner, and they end up watching both movies plus sequels until they have to order more food. With how happy Bucky looks all day, Steve doesn't even feel a little bit guilty making him close up Movie Barnes early the second day in a row.

Chapter Text

Natasha unbuckles from the pilot seat of the quinjet after putting it on autopilot and sidles over to Steve's side in the back, where he's reviewing their briefing.

"So," she begins, sitting down next to him. "I know this woman, Sharon, she's an agent. I think you'd like her."

"Not interested," Steve says, not even looking up from the briefing packet.

"Hear me out," Natasha starts, but Steve interrupts.

"Seriously Nat, I'm not interested," he says tersely, hands clenching on the papers.

Natasha hums, staring at him. He refuses to look up.

Finally, she continues. "You need to get out more Steve. Meet some people outside of work, make some friends."

"How would an agent be meeting someone outside of work?" Steve asks, purposely missing her point.

"Because you don't work with her," Natasha says. "But if that's a deal breaker, I know someone else too. Lily. She works as a stylist, I met her when I was working for Stark on assignment. You'd like her— she's into art."

"No thanks."

"Steve," Natasha says and he finally looks up to meet her gaze.

"Not. Interested," he says slowly, trying to stare her down. But she's calm and cool and collected in a way Steve could never hope to be. He looks away first, back to the briefing packet.

I know people outside of work, he thinks to himself.

"Oh really? Who?" Natasha asks, and he winces. Dammit, he's gotta work on that.

"Please don't," Natasha says. "It's very useful to me. And amusing." Steve glares.

"Now tell me about these 'people outside of work'."

"Just one," Steve mumbles.

"What's her name?"

"Bucky Barnes, and no Natasha, it's not like that!"

"Not like what?"

"Like... Whatever it is you're thinking, we're just friends! He runs a video store, we watch movies together. He's getting me caught up on pop culture, since no one else bothered." Steve looks up again to glare at her, but she just quirks her lips and ignores the jab.

"Interesting," she says simply.

"What?"

She shrugs. "Didn't know you swung that way is all."

"You don't know everything about me," he snaps, "and besides, it's not like that!"

"But you want it to be," she says.

"I didn't say that!"

Natasha doesn't answer, just keeps staring at him.

"Okay, so I like him maybe a little more than just friends," Steve admits under her unwavering scrutiny. "But it wouldn't work anyway."

"Why not? He straight?"

"No, actually."

"Then why wouldn't it work?"

"Because, Natasha! I'm just not— I don't want— "

"If he's not straight, and you're interested in him, why don't you just ask him out?"

"Because!" Steve snaps. Natasha raises her eyebrows.

"Fuck," Steve swears. "It just wouldn't work, alright?"

"Why not?"

"Because!"

"Because why?"

"Dammit Natasha!"

"I'm just asking," she says.

"You're pushing," Steve corrects.

She shrugs again. "Maybe I am. But only because you're lonely, and I'm worried about you."

"I'm not lonely!" Steve protests, then wilts under her piercing stare.

"Okay, maybe I'm a little lonely, but it's just... It's hard to find someone with shared life experience, okay? I'm... You know what I am— who I am. I don't, it's... It just wouldn't work, okay? Will you leave it alone?"

Natasha stares at him for another minute, before abruptly standing up.

"Fine," she says as she heads back to the front of the quinjet. "You're an idiot, Steve Rogers. But I'll leave it alone."

Steve groans, rolling his eyes. "Thank you," he says dryly, and she shoots him another glare over her shoulder.

"Sorry. I know you care, just... Don't. Okay? Please?"

"I already said I'd leave it alone, Rogers," she says, buckling herself back into the pilot seat. "We're an hour out from landing."

"Yay," Steve mutters under his breath.

******************************

Steve collapses backwards onto his too big hotel bed, adrenaline still coursing through his veins.

The mission went even better than they expected, and they're not due back for another day, so SHIELD agreed to splurge and get the entire team hotel rooms for the night instead of making them fly back immediately. Steve appreciates the thought, knows the rest of the team appreciates it even more, but he has trouble sleeping on his own California king mattress at home.

And he just wants to be home.

He's already taken a too long scalding shower, his uniform's put away, the shield is clean.

But he knows he's not going to be falling asleep any time soon, and all he wants to do— especially since Natasha mentioned it earlier— is collapse on Bucky's Most Comfortable Couch In The World and watch a movie.

The only problem with that plan is Steve's thousands of miles away, on the other side of the world.

It's late in Japan, so midday in Brooklyn. Bucky will be awake. Bucky did give him his phone number.

Steve rolls over and grabs his phone off the bedside table. Bucky insisted Steve call whenever he wants, that he wouldn't be interrupting.

Before Steve can talk himself out of it, he pulls up Bucky's contact page and presses the call button.

The phone rings once, then Bucky picks up.

"Steve?"

"Hey Buck," Steve says, then flounders. He doesn't know what to say now that he's got Bucky on the phone.

"Everything okay?"

"Yeah, just... Can't sleep," Steve admits, and he can picture it perfectly. The arch of Bucky's eyebrow, the way he's probably glancing out the window at the sunshine pointedly even though Steve's not there to see him.

"Ya don't say?"

"No, I mean, I just finished a mission. I'm not in Brooklyn, I'm in Japan."

"Oh," Bucky says, and Steve tells himself he's imagining the hint of disappointment. "That makes sense then. Well, not really, because shouldn't you be exhausted?"

"Adrenaline still hasn't worn off," Steve tells him. "The mission was a lot easier than we expected— which isn't a bad thing! Just, I was all amped up for more, y'know?"

"Yeah," Bucky says softly, and Steve can hear the smile in his voice.

"So... I dunno," Steve says.

"So you called me?" Bucky prompts, and Steve blushes.

"Yeah."

Bucky chuckles on the other end of the line. "Well I did tell you you could, and I meant it, so."

"I'm not interrupting am I?" Steve asks hesitantly.

"Interrupting what? My bustling store? Yeah I have fifty people in here, clamoring for my attention," Bucky says dryly, and Steve snorts. The silent background on Bucky's end is obvious.

"Okay, point," Steve admits.

"You got a TV over there? Or a laptop with you?" Bucky asks after a moment.

"I have my tablet," Steve says, frowning in confusion.

"You get Netflix on that thing?"

"You know what Netflix is?" Steve asks in mock surprise, then laughs at Bucky's faux-offended exclamation.

"Hey! Just cuz I prefer to keep my movie watching experience old fashioned doesn't mean I don't know what the kids are up to these days!"

"Yeah I got Netflix on it, why?"

"Tell you what, you boot up Netflix and read off the movies to me. I'll tell you which one to watch, and I'll watch it with you. We can do this long distance."

"Oh?"

"Yeah, no problem. Not like I'm doing anything anyway," Bucky says cheerfully, and Steve can hear him start to move around.

"I don't wanna make you close your store again," Steve says. "Are you sure?"

"What did I tell you about askin' me if I'm sure?" Bucky asks.

"That you'd punch me in the face," Steve says, grinning to himself.

"Yup."

"Hate to break it to ya Buck, but I don't think you can reach me over here."

"Nah, you'll be back," Bucky says and the surety makes Steve's heart skip a beat.

"Yeah, I will," he agrees, voice breathier than he intended.

There's a brief pause, then— "You booting up that fancy 21st Century tablet of yours?"

"Right," Steve says, getting up. "I'm working on it!" Bucky laughs at him over the line.

******************************

It takes him a while to get Netflix open— he had to call the front desk for the wifi password. But it's okay, because it takes Bucky a little while to close up shop and head upstairs.

"So," Steve says, "I should just what, start listing movies? From what category?"

"I dunno," Bucky tells him. "I don't have Netflix."

"And here I thought you were an expert," Steve teases, delighted by the way that makes Bucky snort. "New releases?" he suggests.

"Punk!" Bucky says, laughing out loud. "No, I don't know, look for older ones, eighties or nineties."

Steve searches, and starts reading. Bucky hums a negative at most, until—

"Princess Bride," Steve reads, then startles at Bucky's very loud "YES!" in his ear.

"Seriously?" Steve asks skeptically, reading the description. It sounds... Incredibly corny, and not actually like something either he or Bucky would enjoy.

"Stevie," Bucky says seriously, "trust me. Princess Bride. Whatever you're thinkin', don't. You're wrong. You'll love it."

"Okay," Steve says, doubt still in his voice.

"Give me a few minutes to find it and get it started over here before you press play, okay?" Bucky says and Steve hums his acknowledgment.

Bucky laughs. "You know how everyone makes references you don't get?"

"How'd you know that?" Steve asks.

"Easy enough assumption to make," Bucky says dismissively. "Anyway, I know that movie isn't 21st Century or anything, but I promise you— everyone references it all the time. Even now. It's a classic, and it's a classic for a reason."

Steve laughs at his enthusiasm.

"You trust me, right Stevie?"

"Always," Steve says easily.

"Then trust me on this. I know what I'm talking about," Bucky declares.

"Yes you do," Steve agrees.

"Alright, you ready?" Bucky asks. "I'm fast forwarding now."

"Ready," Steve says, poised to click play.

"Three... Two..." Bucky counts down, and they say "one!" together, both starting the film.

Almost immediately, Steve fixates on something.

"Is that..." he begins slowly, eyes wide.

"What?" Bucky asks, frown clear in his voice.

"An action figure? Of me?"

"What!?" Bucky says again, louder. Then, "oh my God, it is! The kid has a Captain America action figure! I can't believe I never noticed that before!" Bucky cackles.

"What? Why? How? Wasn't this made in the eighties?" Steve demands. "I know I have action figures now, but the eighties??"

Bucky, still laughing, attempts to explain. "There was probably a reboot of your comics back then."

"My comics?"

"Yes, your comics! What, no one ever told you about those? I think the first ones came out when you were still..." Bucky trails off.

"Alive, yeah, I know about those, but they continued? Into the eighties?" Steve says, completely ignoring the potential for awkwardness for once in his life. Bucky laughs again.

"You were always a legend, Stevie," he says. "You can't be that surprised people were obsessed with you even before you came back."

"Why— " Steve tries to protest, but Bucky cuts him off.

"Besides, since they never found your body— for seventy years at least— you kind of reached urban mystery status. If you google yourself, which I am not recommending by the way, I'm sure you'll find a whole bunch of conspiracy theories about what happened to you."

"But everyone knows what happened to me!"

"Now, yeah," Bucky says, "but people didn't for a long time, and humans love a good conspiracy theory. And a good tragedy, for that matter. You were a living legend, then you disappeared in this big elaborate way. People've been obsessed with you ever since."

"Yeah," Steve agrees, trying not to sound sad. "I've noticed."

"Hey, it's okay," Bucky tries to reassure him. "You're back now, you have the opportunity to correct history. That's pretty cool, right?"

"I guess," Steve agrees.

"C'mon," Bucky wheedles. "Don't tell me there wasn't some big thing people obsessed over back when you were growing up. You gotta know what I mean, and you gotta know it's actually not that unusual."

"The Titanic, I guess," Steve says slowly. "My ma told me about that, and I know she saved all the newspaper articles. This big ship, supposed to be unsinkable, then sinks on its maiden voyage— made it more of a sensation than if it'd actually made it, I always thought."

"Exactly!" Bucky agrees, then snorts. "Remind me to show you Titanic sometime."

"They made a movie about it?" Steve asks, surprised.

"Sure did. Made a movie of you too, but uh... I'm not gonna subject you to that."

"Oh God," Steve says in horror, "please don't."

"I won't, but I'm sure someone will eventually," Bucky warns him.

"No," Steve says, "no that's too much. A movie about me?"

"The worst part is, it's objectively terrible. One of the worst movies ever made. I think it might've been made a little before Princess Bride actually, so it could be why they rebooted your comics and stuck that action figure in there."

"That's...." Steve doesn't have a word to describe what that is.

"Sure is!" Bucky agrees, laughing again. "Now shut up, this is about to get really good."

He's right, of course. Steve wasn't sure in the beginning, but as the movie progresses he finds himself really enjoying it. And—

"I get that reference!" A short time later—

"I recognize that!"

"See? Told you people quote it all the time, even now!" Bucky says in delight.

"Seriously, is 100% of modern vernacular from this movie?" Steve asks.

"Might as well be," Bucky laughs, then sobers. "Although, I'm kinda pissed no one ever told you about it. Especially since you're obviously familiar with the lines from it."

"You're kinda pissed at everyone who's been around me since I came out of the ice except yourself," Steve points out.

"Damn right I am," Bucky agrees. "No attempt at integrating you. That's bullshit, Steve."

Steve chuckles, trying to laugh it off, but Bucky doesn't let him. "No, I'm serious. It's bullshit. Doesn't matter that you're Captain America. Wouldn't matter if you were some soldier no one'd ever heard of. Coming out of a traumatic experience like that into the 21st goddamn Century? Someone should've tried to help you through the culture shock, should've been there, should've understood."

"Someone did," Steve says softly, and Bucky snorts derisively.

"Oh, really? Who?"

"You."

Bucky doesn't seem to have anything to say to that and they continue watching the movie. It's a little awkward, but Princess Bride is more than engaging enough to make up for it.

"Okay, I know I'll find out soon, but Inigo Montoya does get his revenge right?" Steve asks, not necessarily because he's surprisingly invested in that happening (even though he totally is), but in an attempt to make Bucky laugh again. It works.

"It's a fairy tale, Stevie! Everyone gets a happy ending!" Bucky says, and Steve grins, although something about Bucky's words hit his heart at an odd angle. Yeah, the movie is a fairy tale and everyone gets their happy ending... But life isn't, and...

"Just enjoy the movie, stop thinking so hard!" Bucky says in his ear, and for once in his life Steve listens without complaint.

Chapter Text

Steve learns about Disney— or rather, the multitude of films they made during his time in the ice.

He finds himself back at Bucky's without planning to, eyes bright with excitement, and says "Disney?" in a hopeful voice.

Bucky laughs as he drags Steve inside and upstairs.

"I think you'll relate to this one," Bucky says, winking playfully.

He didn't have it ready to go like Land Before Time, but he must've been expecting Steve to ask about Disney sooner rather than later because he pulls the VHS from the top of a stack of other Disney movies on his kitchen counter, where he must've compiled them from Movie Barnes to ensure Steve could see them whenever he wanted.

Steve grins at him, "I trust you pal," and settles in.

The movie opens with a song, and Steve asks, "are most of these musicals?"

"Yup," Bucky says, popping the 'p'. Disney movies and music go hand in hand now," he explains. "Hell, some of 'em have been turned into full on Broadway musical productions."

"Wow," Steve breathes, "this one?"

"Nope, at least not that I know of. But one of 'em is one of the longest running Broadway shows ever."

"Really? Can we watch that next?" Steve demands, and to his surprise Bucky frowns at him.

"Sure," Bucky says eventually, shrugging before turning back to the movie.

The young woman is cutting off her hair, then asking her ancestors for help so she can go to war in place of her aging father.

Steve can relate. He glares at Bucky, who smirks at him.

"Told ya so," he says, and Steve huffs in mock anger.

"Jerk."

"Punk," Bucky says happily, and to Steve's surprise swings his legs around up on Steve's lap, twisting onto his side so he's still facing the TV.

Steve stares at the feet in his lap, dumbfounded and unsure what he's supposed to do now. Bucky's shoes are off, feet bare, and he wiggles his toes, watching Steve watch out of the corner of his eye.

Steve rolls his eyes, slouching back into the couch, and places his hands on Bucky's ankles. Fine, if Bucky's gonna be like that Steve doesn't mind. (He doesn't allow himself to think about exactly how much he doesn't mind.)

"So you don't mind my feet?" Bucky asks, grinning and kicking at Steve's lap gently with one foot.

Steve blushes hard. "Shut up, I'm missing the movie," and pretends he isn't grinning over making Bucky laugh like that.

******************************

Steve is the one who's laughing as I'll Make a Man Out Of You comes on.

"That is exactly how bad my time at basic went, I can't even tell you!" he says, sitting forward and holding Bucky's ankles so his feet don't slip off Steve's lap.

"Oh?" Bucky asks, shifting and rolling over onto his back, head propped on the armrest to look at Steve.

"Oh yeah," Steve says emphatically. "I was this asthmatic twig who couldn't even do one push up, it was awful."

"Tell me," Bucky says, decidedly watching Steve now instead of the movie.

And Steve does. He's off like a shot, telling Bucky about running the track and being so far behind everyone else. About— "oh my God, I did the flag thing too!" as Ping climbs the pole and succeeds where the rest of her unit failed.

"You managed to climb the pole??" Bucky demands, holding his stomach as he belly laughs at Steve's excitement.

"Nope!" Steve says happily. "I took the pin out and knocked the pole over."

"What the fuck, that's terrible Stevie! Brilliant but terrible!" Bucky says, sitting up to double over. He reaches out and puts his flesh hand on Steve's where Steve is holding his legs for balance.

"That is the most ridiculous story I've ever heard from basic training," Bucky declares. "Mine wasn't anywhere near as fun!"

"Jumped on a grenade too," Steve says, and Bucky's laugh abruptly breaks off.

"You did not, you punk!" Bucky says, glaring at Steve, who grins impishly.

"Sure did!" he confirms, and proceeds to tell Bucky the story of Phillips tossing the dummy grenade at the troops to see how they'd react, and how everyone else ducked for cover— "like you're supposed to!" Bucky says— while skinny little Steve Rogers jumped on it to protect everyone else, even though they were all assholes who made his life even more difficult than it already was.

"What the fuck?" Bucky says angrily, and Steve revels in his rage. "Steve, seriously, what the fuck were you thinking??"

"I dunno, maybe I could save a few of them?"

"You were ninety pounds soaking wet!"

"One hundred," Steve interjects. Bucky ignores him.

"You were not gonna reduce the blast radius of a grenade by that much!"

Bucky's panting with anger, glaring at Steve, still sitting up half in Steve's lap, and Steve's just smirking at him.

"Impressed Dr. Erksine," Steve says. "Peggy Carter too."

"How did you make it through basic long enough to become Captain America?" Bucky demands. "You were insane and so was everyone else!"

Steve cackles, and Bucky finally gives in, collapsing back to the armrest and laughing with Steve.

"Seriously, pal, I have no idea how you made it this long. Jumping on a grenade, what the hell kinda bright idea is that, huh?"

"Yeah, well, you should see me now," Steve says and Bucky groans.

"What, you go jumping out of planes without parachutes or something?" Bucky asks sarcastically.

Steve goes silent.

"Oh my God, you do don't you?" Bucky asks, and Steve nods sheepishly, grinning at Bucky.

"What the hell, who lets you go outside by yourself? You need a constant babysitter!"

"Do not!" Steve says petulantly, as Bucky goes on.

"Y'know, I might as well be your babysitter— all we do is watch kids movies all day, so this is the only place you're allowed to go from now on!"

"What, you gonna keep me trapped in your apartment watching movies forever, Barnes?"

"I have enough movies to keep you occupied the rest of your damn life, Steve! Or haven't you noticed, I own a movie store?"

"As it happens, I did notice. I even noticed you named it after yourself," Steve says and Bucky groans again, loud and melodramatic.

"Yeah, sue me, I'm not very creative, but I thought it worked. Y'know, cuz like a barn full of movies? Also I'm the Barnes who loves movies? So double meaning."

"Works for me," Steve says, shrugging. "Because I think your name deserves to be up in lights."

"Oh my God, Stevie, that wasn't very good either, you can't complain about my terrible naming abilities when you're makin' jokes like that!"

They meet each other's eyes and burst out laughing all over again.

******************************

"Still wanna watch Lion King?" Bucky asks as he rewinds Mulan.

"Is that the Broadway one?" Steve asks and Bucky nods.

"Yup, it's a whole phenomenon now."

"We should go sometime," Steve says without thinking, and Bucky looks at him in surprise.

"Y'know," Steve splutters, tripping over his words as he realizes how that might sound. He's not asking Bucky out on a date— even if he might want to ask Bucky out on a date, but he's not—

"Nah," Bucky says, "Broadway is way too expensive. I'm boycotting it to protest theatrical elitism or whatever."

Steve chokes on a laugh.

"Y'know what we could do though, since Halloween is coming up next week?" Bucky says, slowly grinning. Steve is immediately on guard.

"I haven't gone in forever," Bucky continues, "but there's this movie that has... Very special midnight showings. It's not a kids movie for once, but it's definitely something you need to see if you ever wanna fit into this century properly."

Steve narrows his eyes. Bucky's eyes are sparking with too much mischief for him to fully trust what Bucky's telling him.

"What's the catch?"

"Oh, y'know," Bucky says, "it's Halloween, so you should probably dress up. But I can take care of your costume for ya, just come over here around... I dunno, eight or so? We can have dinner first. My treat this time, since you're paying today."

"Dress up?" Steve says warily.

"No one will recognize you as Captain America, and it'll be fun, I promise. I'll be in costume too," Bucky promises. Steve looks at him, trying to gauge how serious Bucky is and how much he might be making fun of Steve.

"I used to go all the time," Bucky says wistfully. "I haven't been in years. I haven't even watched the movie since then, back before I joined the army, I don't even know if I have it."

"You have it," Steve says immediately. "I don't believe for one second, if you actually like it that much, that you don't have it downstairs at the very least, and know exactly where it is."

"Okay yeah, I totally have it, and I've totally watched it since I got outta the army, but Stevie, trust me. It's not something we can just watch here, it's still being shown in theaters for a reason, it's a whole experience, and you gotta have it, okay?"

"Fine," Steve says, "as if you didn't know I was gonna say yes anyway. What's it called?"

"I'll tell you only if you promise me not to google it— no spoilers! Promise?"

"Promise," Steve agrees, and they grin at each other for a minute before Bucky tells him, standing to switch Mulan out with The Lion King.

******************************

When Bucky comes out of his kitchen, VHS in hand, he's frowning again.

"What is it?" Steve asks. "Do you not like this one?"

Bucky looks up from where he's frowning at the box.

"What? Oh no, it's not that I don't like it it's just...." he sighs, and seems to be considering something. Steve waits patiently.

"There's another parent death in this one," Bucky admits finally. "Dad this time."

"Oh," Steve says, chewing on his lower lip. "If you're worried I'll— well, since I know about it before, and besides I never actually met my father, so I won't get... Upset again, if that's what you're worried about?"

Bucky hums. "Yeah, and I don't always like watching stuff where parents die either," he admits.

"Oh?" Steve says, confused.

"Yeah. My uh... I probably coulda mentioned it with Land Before Time, but. I didn't. Anyway, my parents are dead too," Bucky says flatly, and Steve gapes at him for a few seconds.

"Oh Buck," he says when he makes himself get over the shock. "I'm sorry, I had no idea..."

"No shit Sherlock," Bucky says, rolling his eyes and going over to stick the tape in. "It's okay, I like this movie a lot too. I just... Liked it more before, y'know?"

"Can I ask what happened?" Steve says softly.

"Car crash. Drunk driver hit them when I was eighteen. Kinda... Changed all my plans for my life," Bucky says, focusing on the VCR and TV he's still crouched in front of. Steve knows he could be back on the couch by now, but doesn't say anything, choosing instead to allow Bucky his moment.

"Yeah," Steve agrees. "I know how that feels."

"Mmhm," Bucky agrees, still not getting up. "My sister, Becca, she was only twelve at the time. I couldn't really provide for her, I knew I didn't have enough skills or anything, so I joined the army. She went with our grandma, and I figured I could send all my army pay to her, like a big brother should, y'know?"

"That's real impressive of you, Buck," Steve says quietly. "Doing that for your sister."

Bucky doesn't say anything, and Steve lets the silence lie.

Finally, Bucky stands up and turns around, grin on his face only a little forced. "Ready for The Lion King?"

"Bring it on," Steve says.

Chapter Text

"Steeeeeeeve," Stark whines, "Cap, Capcapcapcap Cap!"

"No Tony," Steve says firmly. "I'm sorry, I appreciate the invitation, I really do, but I'm not going to your Halloween party."

"Why noooooot?" Tony whines louder. "I even got you a special present so you'll enjoy it as much as everyone else! Well, when I say I got you I mean I made you— but that makes it even more special!"

"Sorry," Steve says again, softer this time. He doesn't want to hurt Tony's feelings, he really doesn't, but he has plans with Bucky that evening. He's not skipping out on him for a Stark party, which while sure to be epic is also sure to be everything Steve hates about high society. It's not Tony's fault of course, he's just the definition of ‘high society’.

"What can possibly be better than one of my custom-made parties?" Tony demands.

"I have plans, I told you."

"I think you're lying because you won't tell me what those plan are!" Tony says.

"I don't have to tell you everything, jeez Tony! You're not my father," Steve says.

"No, but you knew my father!" Tony protests and Steve gives him a look.

"So doesn't that mean you should be listening to me?"

"Okay, bad example," Tony waves it off. "But you should still tell me!"

"If you promise— and I mean promise me Tony, I will be furious if you go back on it—"

"Anything for you Capsicle, you know that, now just tell meeee!"

"So a... Friend— " He made a mistake hesitating before ‘friend’.

"A friend?" Tony interrupts, delighted. "Like a friend friend or a frieeend?" He draws the last word out obnoxiously, even putting air quotes around it.

"Just a friend," Steve says, glaring.

"That's not me? Or anyone I know? Or anyone from SHIELD? You mean you've actually met people outside of work?"

Steve doesn't answer, choosing instead to just keep glaring.

"I'm so proud of you Cap! You're growing up!"

Steve groans. "You want me to tell you what I'm doing or not, Stark?"

"Ooooh, yes please, tell me what adventure you and this 'friend — " again with the air quotes— "are going on tonight, on this most magical of all nights, All Hallow's Eve, Samhain— "

"I can't tell you if you don't stop talking," Steve points out and Tony immediately shuts up, miming zipping his lips together.

Steve sighs. "Fine, okay, so he's been— "

"He?" Tony practically squeals, then quails under Steve's gaze.

"My friend has been showing me movies, helping me get caught up on pop culture, he owns a movie rental place so— "

"Wait, ‘movie rental place’? Like a Blockbuster?"

Steve narrows his eyes at Tony who holds up his hands in surrender. "Just askin' is all, Cap. Cuz, y'know, those places don't exist anymore."

"Movie Barnes," Steve says, feeling defensive on Bucky's behalf. "It used to be a Blockbuster."

"Movie Barns? Plural as in more than one?" Tony frowns.

"No, just one— his name is Barnes, his last name. Bucky Barnes," Steve says, inwardly wincing. Great, now Tony has Bucky's name— he was hoping to avoid sharing that. If he thinks Natasha is bad...

Tony hums thoughtfully, looking at Steve expectantly. He mimes zipping his lips again, as if trying to communicate "see? I'm being good!"

"So he said there's this big movie showing on Halloween, it apparently happens every year, or more often than that? I guess it's something of a cult classic? He wants us to go, says I have to see it."

Tony's eyes widen with unholy glee, and suddenly Steve is feeling very concerned about where his night is heading.

"It's not, by chance, this Halloween special, 'cult classic' as you said, that's shown in theaters that you absolutely must attend in person, Rocky Horror Picture Show?"

Steve nods slowly, feeling oddly afraid. The sensation only worsens as Tony laughs so hard he almost falls out of his chair.

"Yes, okay, I don't know this guy, Bucky Barnes, but whoever he is I completely approve! Good man, good choice, good for you!" Tony gasps out, and Steve goes to protest the insinuation but Tony continues before he gets the chance. "I'll even give you my little Halloween gift I wasn't gonna give you if you didn't come to my party!"

"What is it?" Steve asks slowly, and Tony grins at him, showing all his teeth. Steve is even more afraid.

Tony spins in his chair, reaching under the workbench in front of him to pull out a large plastic two liter soda bottle. It doesn't have soda in it— it's obviously been cleaned and repurposed, the label removed and replaced with a taped on piece of paper reading in big, blocky black letters:

SUPER BOOZE

"Oh my God," Steve says when he sees it.

"Yup," Tony says happily, thrusting the bottle at Steve, who takes it before Tony drops it. "Specially formulated just for you! Should be strong enough to get you drunk, and it'll even be easy enough to sneak in— just ask Bucky Boy to put it in one of the water pistols, he'll know what I mean!"

"Okay?" Steve says slowly, torn between staring in horror at the bottle and a mix of horror and confusion at Tony's instructions.

"Trust me buddy," Tony says, reaching over and putting a hand on Steve's shoulder. Steve meets his alarmingly serious gaze, trying to keep the panic out of his expression. He's not sure he manages it.

"You're gonna need that."

******************************

Steve shows up at Movie Barnes with his Super Booze shoved into a backpack for lack of better options (he didn’t want to go on the subway with a bottle labeled ‘Super Booze’).

Much to Steve’s surprise, Bucky is delighted at the sight of the backpack before he even knows what’s inside.

“Great! I forgot to tell you to bring one, did you google it?”

“No...” Steve says slowly, setting the backpack down on the counter. He unzips it and pulls the bottle out. “Tony gave me a present and I didn’t wanna carry it?”

Bucky reads the label and cackles. “I see why they call him a genius!”

Steve is becoming more and more concerned about where his night is going. Tony’s enthusiasm was worrisome enough— Bucky’s enthusiasm for Tony’s enthusiasm is just… double worrisome.

“He said something about water pistols?” Steve adds, and instead of answering, Bucky ducks down to pull something out of a cabinet.

“Great minds think alike,” Bucky says, grinning wide as he pops back up with a pint of vodka.

Steve really really wants to protest that assertion, but before he gets a chance Bucky’s hand is on his arm, dragging him with a surprising amount of strength toward his hallway, the— his bedroom?

Steve makes some kind of sound of confusion, digging in his heels. What??

“Oh c’mon Stevie, I gotta show you your costume!”

“You were serious about that?” Steve chokes.

“Completely,” Bucky confirms. “We’re going to a special Halloween event, you can’t be that surprised about dressing up. Can you?”

Suddenly Bucky isn’t looking so sure of himself, and Steve… Yeah, now that he thinks about it, of course Buck had been serious. It’s not Bucky’s fault he’s an idiot, and anyway, even if it wasn’t missing the obvious, Bucky’s so excited for this movie…

Steve’ll do whatever he asks.

“I wear an American Flag costume for work,” Steve says, “whatever you got can’t be worse than that.”

Bucky’s grin is back and Steve pretends it doesn’t make his chest feel weird to see it.

Bucky drags him through the door, where his bed is covered in an alarming mix of what appear to Steve to be completely random, unrelated items including but not limited to newspapers, noisemakers, and the much talked about water pistols.

“Here,” Bucky says, shoving something into Steve’s arms, “your costume!”

Steve’s first thought is there’s no way whatever thing he’s now holding is a costume— it’s way too small for one thing. Then he actually looks at it, and—

“Steve?” Bucky asks, poking him with a screwdriver bit from his prosthetic.

Steve’s brain isn’t processing. This is… Maybe part of a costume, God knows what he wore on those damn USO tours included shorts similar to these, but…

He looks up at Bucky, frowning. “Where’s the rest of it?”

Bucky’s grin suddenly seems a little wicked.

“No,” Steve says.

Yes Stevie!” Bucky says back, shoving at him again.

“How is this it??”

“You’ll see!” Bucky insists. “Don’t worry, it’ll all make sense soon enough!”

“You want me to go out in public in this? Just this?” Steve’s voice keeps getting higher and higher with every word.

“Why do you think Stark gave you the booze?” Bucky asks and Steve blanches.

“Did you coordinate with him?? How—”

“No, no no no!” Bucky laughs. “Nah, but there’s no way he doesn’t know Rocky Horror, and it’s not that hard to figure out if you know it.”

“I don’t know it!” Steve reminds him desperately.

“But you will,” Bucky repeats, “and hell, it’s cold, you can put your clothes on over it til we get to the theater.”

“What if someone recognizes me?” Steve demands in a last ditch effort to avoid having to put on the metallic gold short shorts in his arms.

“Steve,” Bucky says seriously, grabbing his shoulder and looking him dead in the eyes. “You put these on? No one will recognize you. They will love you and adore you, but they will not recognize you.”

Steve stares back, eyes wide with mounting horror.

“I need a drink,” he mumbles finally, and Bucky drops the serious act.

“That’s why Stark is a smart, smart man. Go, get your drink, then bring that and my vodka back here. I ordered Chinese, it should be here soon, and I have to finish getting ready. Oh, and start making toast will ya?”

Steve has so many questions. Why do they both need backpacks full of… All that stuff on Bucky’s bed? Why does Bucky want toast when Chinese is on the way?

What’s Bucky’s costume? Surely Bucky isn’t going to humiliate himself by going out in public wearing what is essentially underwear and nothing else?

Why does Steve have to humiliate himself that way?

“Go,” Bucky says, “just trust me pal, all will be revealed. All your questions will be answered by the end of the night, but only if you can make it that long ,and step one? Pre-gaming with that special booze.”

“Super booze,” Steve corrects under his breath. Bucky rolls his eyes.

“Whatever, it’s booze that’ll affect you, and you’re gonna need it so go get it!”

For lack of better options, Steve goes and gets.

******************************

Once their dinner is done and put away, it takes Steve downing a full mug of Super Booze to put on the shorts in Bucky’s bathroom. He stares down at his crotch in horror, the outline of his junk far too visible for his liking, until Bucky banging on the door snaps him out of what’s essentially a trance.

“Makeup, Rogers!” Bucky calls.

“Uh,” Steve says, then scrambles for his clothes.

“How long does it take to change your underwear?” Bucky demands, jostling the doorknob. “I have more makeup than you to put on!”

Steve buttons up his jeans and unlocks the door.

Bucky’s wearing a turquoise doctor’s gown down to his ankles. He even has it fully tied in the back. He’s not revealing anything.

Bucky winks at him when Steve drags his eyes back up Bucky’s body. Steve opens his mouth to protest the differences in their costumes, but Bucky beats him to it.

“You have no idea what I have on under here, pal,” Bucky says. “You don’t want me to spoil it for ya, right?”

Steve shuts his mouth, and Bucky nods at him.

“That’s what I thought. Now let me do your makeup, won’t take me long, just some eyeshadow—” Bucky waves a makeup bag at him— “then I gotta do mine and we can go!”

“I can do my own if you tell me what I’m doing,” Steve says, and Bucky stumbles. Which seems like an overreaction to Steve, who abruptly realizes he can’t see Bucky’s shoes and he seems… multiple inches taller?

“You can do makeup?”

“Are you wearing heels?”

“Part of the costume!”

“USO shows, don’t we have to walk?”

“Not that far, didn’t they have makeup artists?”

“You learn a lot on the road with showgirls! You can walk outside to the subway, on the sidewalk in heels?”

“You learn a lot in high school drama club. You don’t know what you’re supposed to look like!”

“Just eyeshadow right? I can figure it out.”

But Bucky shakes his head in refusal and makes Steve sit on the closed toilet lid. He leans over Steve, bottom lip between his teeth, squinting close.

Steve can’t help noticing his posture is different, that he’s sticking his ass out a lot. Steve blushes deep red, and Bucky snorts.

“Gotta get into character,” Bucky mutters, grabbing a brush. “Now close your eyes.”

******************************

As soon as they’re let into the theater— apparently Bucky already bought their tickets on his phone— Bucky shoves him into the men’s room.

“Strip,” he orders. Steve drops his backpack and has his shirt half over his head before his brain catches up with what he’s doing. He was in the army, he knows that kind of voice, his reaction is automatic, it's not his fault.

“That’s not fair,” he says, muffled through his shirt.

“Hurry up Rogers,” Bucky says, and Steve pulls the shirt the rest of the way off to see Bucky crouching at his feet. He chokes and drops the shirt on the floor.

Bucky, halfway through opening Steve’s backpack stares at the shirt. So does Steve.

It’s not the worst public restroom either of them have ever been in before, but—

“I wouldn’t wanna put that back on if I were you,” Bucky admits.

“Yeah, I never liked that one anyway,” Steve says. It isn’t a completely nonsensical thing to say.

Bucky blinks up at him through extra long eyelashes courtesy of the modern miracle that is mascara. He carefully picks Steve’s shirt up off the floor and balls it up.

Then, with perfect aim, he tosses it into the trashcan.

“Hey!” Steve snaps, taking a step forward and almost tripping over Bucky. “That’s not what I meant!”

“Too late,” Bucky says unapologetically, leaning his shoulder into Steve’s legs to let Steve catch his balance. “Here, open your mouth.”

Steve looks down again, mouth open to protest the loss of his shirt, but before he can speak Bucky sprays a stream of Super Booze directly down his throat.

Steve coughs and splutters, stumbling backward to lean against the wall before jerking forward again when the cold tile meets his bare back.

“What,” he coughs more, “what the fuck??”

Bucky grins at him. “You gotta take your pants off now.”

Steve stares at him, panting slightly to catch his breath. He sighs, straightens up, and opens his mouth again.

Bucky whoops, standing in one fluid motion— how does he move like that in heels that high??— and gives Steve another shot via water pistol. Steve gulps it down, and unzips his fly.

They both realize, as Steve’s shoving his too-tight-courtesy-of-Natasha jeans down past his thighs, that he’ll have to take off his shoes to remove his pants.

Without even talking about it, Bucky moves to let Steve lean on him, crouching down again to untie Steve’s work boots and slide them off then back on one at a time so Steve never has to let the bottom of his sock hit the floor.

The jeans come off clean too, and Bucky stuffs them into the bottom of Steve’s backpack, giving Steve another Super Booze spray before zipping it up.

“Ready?”

Steve shivers and forcefully refuses to cross his arms in front of himself.

“I look ridiculous Buck!”

“No one will know it’s you,” Bucky reassures him. “I promise.”

Steve wants to protest more but the words get caught in his throat as he watches Bucky look him slowly up and down.

“You’re gonna fit right in.” Bucky grins, holding Steve’s backpack out to him. “You with me?”

“To the end of the line,” Steve says, taking the bag and swinging it around his bare shoulders.

Bucky heads for the bathroom door, and looks back at Steve one last time. Steve nods, and Bucky shakes his head.

“Can’t believe I’m taking Captain America’s virginity,” he says softly, still staring at Steve.

Steve—

What? You’re not— I’m not a virgin— I thought this was a movie???” he splutters and Bucky blinks twice before cracking up and doubling over.

Oh my God, Stevie,” he gasps out and Steve isn’t sure if he’s more frustrated by Bucky’s laughing, humiliated by… everything, or just desperate for more Super Booze.

Bucky, still laughing more than Steve appreciates, finally straightens and grabs Steve’s arm then backs through the swinging bathroom door into the theater lobby.

The very crowded theater lobby. Steve hadn’t registered quite how many people there were before, but…

He sees a couple people in a gown like Bucky’s, far more in corsets and heels, and a couple guys in shorts like his.

“We got a virgin here!” Bucky yells at the top of his lungs as he drags Steve over to the group.

Steve’s face positively burns, he thinks he wants to die, this is worse than being on stage with people throwing tomatoes

All eyes on them, a person steps away from the crowd and walks up to Steve. He’s dressed in a corset, with heels very similar to what Steve’s seen of Bucky’s, and bright red lipstick just like Bucky’s.

“Virgin huh? Always good… To have… Fresh… Meat,” he says, voice low and words punctuated with each step he takes closer to Steve’s side.

He meets Bucky’s eyes, and they have some kind of silent conversation in a split second.

Before Steve can run away like he so desperately wants, both the stranger and Bucky lean in and kiss him on both cheeks.

A cheer goes up from the crowd, and Steve can feel the tacky residue of two lipstick prints on his face.

“Ready for this, Stevie?” Bucky whispers in his ear, slinging his prosthetic— covered by the gown and a pink rubber glove— around Steve’s shoulders.

Steve meets his eyes.

“I could do this all day.”

******************************

“That was— I have never seen anything— that’s legal??” Steve demands, laughing and leaning heavily against Bucky as they stumble their way upstairs.

“Who cares if it’s legal, Stevie?” Bucky says, then pauses in their journey to drain the last of his vodka water pistol. “It’s the best isn’t it?”

“Oh my God,” Steve says and sits down abruptly on the stairs, laughing so hard he’s no longer making any noise. Bucky totters in his heels, drops his now empty water pistol, and grabs for the railing.

Steve reaches out and wraps his hands around Bucky’s hips, pulling him forward roughly and leaning his head against Bucky’s thigh, still laughing madly.

“I haven’t had this much fun this century,” Steve confides into Bucky’s gown once he can speak again. Bucky laughs and leans over, hugging the top of Steve’s head awkwardly.

“Worth it?”

Steve nods vigorously, head still smushed into Bucky. He stops pretty quick because he’s a little too drunk for motions like that, but also because he’s suddenly distracted by Bucky’s heels.

“The fuckin’… Corset,” Steve says suddenly, sitting up. Bucky wavers again, thrown off balance, and ends up going to one knee on Steve’s side, hard.

“Ow,” he says, frowning. Steve’s hands dig into his hips harder. “Stevie, we gotta get up off these stairs.”

Steve frowns back at him, then shrugs. “Okay.” He levers Bucky up over his shoulder and stands.

“What the fuck? What the fuck Steve, put me down oh my God you asshole! You’re too drunk, you’re gonna kill me!” Bucky yells as Steve sways.

“Nope,” Steve says, carefully turning around to face the correct way. “’M a super soldier, Buck. I got you.”

“Put me down!!”

“Nuh-uh,” Steve mumbles, and carefully begins making his way up the rest of the stairs to Bucky’s apartment. Bucky writhes, then realizes how far down he can see over Steve’s back, and freezes.

“I will kill the fuck out of you if you drop me,” he threatens, squeezing his eyes closed and tensing every muscle in his body.

“M’fine,” Steve insists, slowly putting one foot on the next step. “I trusted you, you gotta trust me now.”

“That’s cheating,” Bucky says weakly.

“Just hold on,” Steve says, taking another step. And Bucky, well… It’s right there.

Steve squeaks as Bucky grabs his ass with his flesh hand.

“Told me to hold on!” Bucky says triumphantly, squeezing hard over the metallic shorts. They got a lot of appreciative stares on the way home from the theater. Just like predicted, no one recognized Steve as Captain America. “Now you gonna move or not?”

“Jesus Christ, Buck,” Steve says, “fine.” And Bucky knows he should let go, one or two squeezes is okay but this is probably a little ridiculous. Except he can feel the way Steve’s ass flexes as he walks upstairs, and he’s trying so hard to ignore how Steve isn’t completely steady because he’s wasted, and Bucky’s wasted too so the shift in gravity of being carried and facing down the stairs as they go up means he really needs something else to concentrate on, and Steve’s ass is right there

“Gotta unlock the door, Buck,” Steve says, going to put Bucky down.

“No!” Bucky says, squeezing tighter and making Steve yelp. “Sorry, sorry, just— turn around, I can do it from here.”

Steve doesn’t move and Bucky would bet he’s squinting and blinking at the door, trying to figure that out. Bucky is too, if he’s honest with himself. And he’s gotta let go of Steve’s ass either way.

“Never mind, put me down, it’ll be faster,” Bucky says.

“Okay?” Steve asks, and sets Bucky carefully down on the landing.

“Keys,” Bucky mumbles, “backpack.”

They both look down the stairs, where they left their backpacks when Bucky went to finish off his vodka pistol.

“Fuck!”

******************************

Eventually they get inside, and Bucky asks Steve if he wants some of the leftover Chinese.

“Wanna see you in the corset,” Steve says and Bucky drops the carton of fried rice he grabbed from the fridge.

“You are wearin’ it, right Buck? You got the heels on, you can’t tell me you didn’t go all out,” Steve continues as Bucky turns around. Steve’s not fast enough to move his eyes from where they must’ve been locked on Bucky’s ass, but he is drunk enough not to even blush at being caught.

Bucky stares at him as he slowly drags his gaze up.

Bucky, for lack of better options, winks.

“Bucky!” Steve says, lunging forward. “Please, c’mon, I’m wearing these dumb shorts for ya, you gotta show me!”

Bucky sidesteps him and heads toward the hallway.

“Maybe I am, maybe I’m not,” he says, sending Steve his best bedroom eyes over his shoulder.

Steve stares after him, pouting.

Bucky goes into his bedroom, then hesitates. He is wearing the full outfit under the gown, and he was gonna take it off, he really was… Except all the scars around his arm are visible. He couldn’t do it.

But it’s just Steve here, and he owes him.

He strips off his pink rubber gloves and reaches behind himself to rip open the velcro he used to make this gown, then lets it fall to the floor.

He takes off his arm and sets it down, because he’s sore from wearing it all day and with its mods it’s completely useless to him now.

He looks down at himself, and figures fuck it, he’s still pretty hot and this outfit makes anyone look good, scarred up stump or not.

He’s also really drunk, and maybe wants Steve to see him and think he’s hot, so…

He takes a deep breath, counts to five, then opens the door and sticks his head back out.

“Comin’?”

Steve, in the middle of finishing off his own water pistol, drops it and trips over himself to follow.

******************************

“Holy shit,” Steve says, standing in Bucky’s bedroom doorway with his mouth open.

Bucky blushes a little, but strikes a pose anyway.

“Whaddaya think, pal?” He flutters his eyelashes and purses his lips. “Worth the antici…”

The awkward silence is what he was going for, the long pause in the middle of the word, but he lets it go on too long from watching Steve stare at him.

“Bucky,” Steve says, and Bucky abruptly realizes Steve’s eyes are nearly black.

“Pation,” he mumbles, almost silently as a rush of lust sweeps over him. Steve can’t miss the way his underwear are suddenly getting tighter, even as drunk as he is, as they both are, just like Bucky can’t miss how the bulge of Steve’s crotch suddenly seems a lot bigger than it was and—

Before Bucky can process anything else, Steve collides with him so they fall backwards onto the bed.

Steve’s lips meet his, open and wet, and Bucky gasps and arches under him, wrapping his arm around Steve’s back.

“Fuck yes, Stevie, fuck,” he moans as Steve pulls back a little to look down at him. Bucky chases him, licking insistently into his mouth. It’s gross, Steve tastes like rubbing alcohol from the Super Booze, but Bucky figures he’s not much better and doesn’t care anyway.

Steve’s on top of him, kissing him, fuck fuck he wants this, he wants Steve so bad, and Steve wants him too.

He must, the way he’s grinding down into Bucky, their cocks both hard and straining the boundaries of their skimpy costumes.

“Buck,” Steve says, dragging away from Bucky’s lips to mouth along the curve of his jaw. “Fuck!”

“Stevie,” Bucky says, tilting his head back, hips moving with Steve’s.

“M’world is spinnin’ cuz a’you,” Steve says into his ear, and that’s… Sweet? Isn’t it?

“Wait, Stevie, wait,” Bucky says and pushes back as best he can, makes Steve roll off of him. “You mean literally? Like everything is spinning?”

Steve stares at him with a dopey grin, lips red and wet, and nods. But nodding makes him frown, and he stops pretty quick.

“Buck, wassit? Everythin’s so…” Steve waves a hand in the air, and Bucky winces.

“You gonna be sick, Stevie?”

“Nah, don’t think so, just… Tired, gotta… Close… My eyes,” Steve trails off as he does just that.

“Yeah, good idea pal, here, get up on the bed proper,” Bucky says, nudging Steve. Steve isn’t quite dead weight, but it’s still difficult for Bucky to swing his legs up on the bed, get his head on a pillow.

“Bucky?” Steve says, reaching out when Bucky stands up. His eyes open a little. “Bucky, no Buuucky, don’t go, stay here Bucky, Bucky Bucky!” he whines.

Bucky can’t help smiling sappily at him. “I’ll be right back Stevie,” he says, but Steve doesn’t like that answer, struggling to sit up and grabbing for Bucky.

“No!” he says petulantly, and Bucky rolls his eyes, laying down next to Steve who immediately engulfs him with super serum octopus limbs. “Good!”

Bucky figures Steve’ll be completely out in a few minutes so he can get up, get some water for himself and put a bottle next to Steve, maybe a trash can. Then he can go crash on the couch himself, no big deal.

He’s just gotta wait for Steve to fall asleep first, won’t be long, he’ll just close his eyes himself in the meantime.

******************************

Steve is pretty sure he’s dead.

Or at least that death would be better than whatever he is.

His head is pounding, stomach roiling, his entire body feels gross and sticky and sweaty and achy.

He tries to open his eyes, and thankfully there’s not a lot of light, barely enough to see by, but even that hurts.

He groans loudly, the noise feeling like being punched in the face and gut simultaneously.

Wrapping his arms around his middle he rolls onto his back, and abruptly realizes he’s going to throw up.

“Fuuu— ” he moans, rolling further to the edge of the bed where there’s an empty trash can waiting for him, thank God

“Damn, Stevie,” Bucky’s voice says softly behind him. “You’re a mess.”

Steve groans piteously in between retches. He can hear Bucky moving around the room behind him, and as his stomach finally stops trying to claw its way up his throat, a water bottle and wet rag is shoved in his face.

“Thanks,” he mutters, slowly sitting up and taking both.

“You should take a shower,” Bucky says. “There’s a towel on the sink for you. It’ll help.”

Steve squints at him, sees his wet hair dripping in his face, and thinks he’s missing something important.

“C’mon Stevie, you think you can stand?”

“Why aren’t you this bad?” Steve asks, then winces at how his voice sounds like he’s been chewing gravel.

“Practice,” Bucky says, grabbing the trash can from Steve. “Take your time getting up, then get in the shower.”

“No,” Steve protests, face burning. “Let me get that!”

“You’re gonna have enough trouble cleaning yourself up, pal. I got this,” and Bucky leaves the room before Steve can stop him.

“Ugh,” Steve moans and falls back to the bed. He squeezes his eyes shut as his head pounds in double time, then realizes.

Bed. He’s in a bed. Bucky’s bed.

“Fuck,” he tells the ceiling. He can hear the toilet flush and water running in the bathroom as Bucky cleans up after him. “Fuuuuuuck.”

“Drink your water!” Bucky calls out, and Steve twists the cap off the bottle, taking a sip. It’s gross, he needs to rinse out his mouth, but it’s cool and soothing and he can feel his stomach settle as the water hits.

“There are clothes in the bathroom for you too,” Bucky says from the bedroom doorway. “You want me to turn on a light?”

“Noooo,” Steve says immediately. The sun coming around the edges of Bucky’s blackout curtains and from the hallway is too much, he’s certain an actual light will kill him.

Bucky snorts. “There’s a nightlight in the bathroom, so if you close your eyes from here to there you should be fine.”

Steve makes a wordless noise of despair.

“C’mon Stevie, sooner you shower sooner you’ll feel better.”

Steve moans again, but forces himself to sit up slowly even as his head spins with the movement.

“’M I still drunk?” he asks.

“Maybe,” Bucky says, biting his lip to keep from laughing. “Shower’ll help if you are. And if you aren’t. How long’s it been since you’ve been that drunk?”

“Never been that drunk,” Steve mumbles. “Couldn’t drink that much before, with my ulcers. Could drink as much as I wanted after, just never did anything til that damn Super Booze.”

Bucky does laugh at that.

“Gonna kill Tony,” Steve continues.

“Nah, you had fun right?”

Steve sighs, and nods once before remembering why he shouldn’t be moving his head at all.

“The price of fun, Stevie, is hangovers. Shower, and I’ll make breakfast, then we can watch a movie and you’ll be feeling completely better in a few hours.”

“Promise?” Steve asks, voice small. His head hurts so bad he wants to cry, and he’s not entirely sure the water is gonna stay down.

“Promise,” Bucky says gently, walking over to help Steve up. “Close your eyes.”

Steve does, leaning heavily on Bucky, and lets himself be guided into the bathroom.

The nightlight is just enough to see by without feeling like spikes in Steve’s eyes, and Bucky already has the shower running for him, with towel, sweats, and t-shirt waiting.

Steve catches sight of himself in the mirror and wants to die even more. His makeup is smeared all over his face, making him look like a racoon on drugs, and the metallic gold booty shorts are pinching in uncomfortable places.

He peels the shorts off and steps into the shower, the hot water making him let out an almost pornagraphic sound.

He ends up sitting down in the water for way too long, just taking slow, deep breaths.

But Bucky’s right, and he is starting to feel better, so he makes himself stand. Bucky has Old Spice Wolfthorn 2-in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner, and it’s not as offensive smelling as a lot of what Steve’s found in this century.

He washes his hair slowly and thoroughly, then uses more to scrub under his pits and his crotch and ass instead of the single bar of soap he can find.

Steve stands for what must be another five minutes in the water once he’s clean, not wanting to turn the shower off. But he can’t use all of Bucky’s hot water, even though he assumes Bucky already showered based on his wet hair.

Moving to get dressed— dammit, these are Bucky’s clothes, of course they are, Steve didn’t bring any extra, fuck he owes Bucky so much, he thought he was done with people taking care of him like he’s an invalid!— doesn’t hurt his head anymore, even though it’s still achy.

When he opens the door a crack, the light in the hallway doesn’t hurt either and he can smell—

“Bacon?”

“So much bacon, if you’ll hurry up and get your ass out here!”

Steve does, finding a veritable feast of bacon, eggs, and pancakes waiting for him.

“Plate up,” Bucky orders, dropping a pan into the sink. “We have one more movie to watch.”

“What movie?” Steve asks as he starts loading up.

“Another Halloween classic!” Bucky says, grinning and knocking his shoulder into Steve’s as he gets his own breakfast. “Just waiting for us to hit play.”

“Halloween was yesterday,” Steve points out, frowning at Bucky but not pausing in obtaining food.

“S’also a Christmas classic,” Bucky says, and pops a piece of bacon in his mouth as he heads toward The Most Comfortable Couch In The World.

Steve frowns after him in confusion.

“Hurry up!”

******************************

“Ready?” Bucky asks as they make themselves comfortable.

“Yeah, just, thank you,” Steve says. “You didn’t have to, you should’ve made me sleep out here.”

“Well I didn’t actually mind—” Bucky starts, smiling, but Steve talks over him.

“I can’t believe you let me have your bed.”

Bucky frowns at him, and abruptly realizes— Steve thinks he slept out here. Steve doesn’t remember the way they curled around each other last night, even passed out drunk as they were. Bucky is the one who woke up entangled with Steve, while Steve woke up alone.

Steve has no idea.

“What’re friends for, right?” Bucky says and hits play before the conversation can continue.

If Steve doesn’t remember… It was just a drunken mistake, shit happens. Not worth mentioning. Even though it’s the closest Bucky’s been to anyone since before he went to war, even though Bucky’s never wanted someone as much as he wanted Steve last night— as much as he still wants him this morning—

Steve doesn’t remember, so it doesn’t matter.

******************************

Steve knows if he felt better he’d enjoy the movie more, which isn’t to say he’s not enjoying it. It’s just, there’s something niggling in the back of his mind, like he forgot something important.

He can’t focus on the movie, sending Bucky furtive glances from the corner of his eye as they eat, but Bucky’s completely engrossed.

“The Nightmare Before Christmas," he reads off the screen. "Another childhood favorite?” Bucky just hums in agreement.

Steve tries to refocus, to enjoy the movie.

But it’s awkward in a way even the first night with The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth wasn’t.

Bucky invites him to stay longer, but he gathers up his stuff after the movie ends and the dishes are clean.

He knows he’s forgetting something.

“Thanks for last night, Buck, and this morning. It really was the most fun I’ve had this century— last night, not this morning,” Steve says, smiling shyly at Bucky from the doorway.

“What’re friends for, Stevie?” Bucky repeats, smiling back, but it doesn’t meet his eyes.

It’s not until Steve gets home that he remembers— begging Bucky to take the doctor gown off, falling onto the bed, kissing him

Steve freezes with one foot in his apartment.

He doesn’t know what to do. Does Bucky remember? Fuck, was that why it was so awkward?

But wouldn’t Bucky say something if he remembered? They were both really drunk, not just Steve.

Bucky didn’t say anything. It was just a drunken mistake, just one of those things.

They’re just friends, like Bucky said.

“What’re friends for?”

Not for making out with.

Definitely not for falling in love with.

Steve squeezes his eyes shut, wishing he could forget again.

Chapter Text

Eventually the awkwardness from the morning after Halloween dissipates between them, and Bucky invites Steve over for Christmas Eve.

Tony's throwing another holiday party at the tower, of course, but Steve doesn't hesitate. He texts Tony that he has other plans, receiving an eggplant emoji in reply for some reason— Steve will never understand him.

He shows up at Movie Barnes around six pm on Christmas Eve, gift in hand.

Bucky's waiting for him, grinning at him from behind the counter and waving him in.

"Now I hope you're not expecting some big home cooked meal or anything, Stevie," Bucky says as Steve enters, shaking snow flurries from his shoulders.

"Nah, I figure we can order in right? This is New York," Steve replies, and Bucky laughs.

"Sure thing, pal, and I'll even let you pay. Merry Christmas!"

Steve laughs, shrugging off his coat and laying it on the counter.

"I take it you have a movie or two lined up?"

"I have a few," Bucky admits. "First one is Muppets."

"Oooh, Jim Henson?" Steve asks excitedly.

"Yup, only actual Muppets Muppets this time," Bucky confirms. He waves the VHS case at Steve. "Muppets Christmas Carol!"

"Christmas Carol like Dickens? Charles Dickens?" Steve asks.

"Yup. You know it?"

Steve snorts. "You know he was already dead before I was born right?" he asks rhetorically. "It was a holiday reading assignment one year."

"Did you like the story?" Bucky asks and Steve shrugs.

"Seemed a pretty decent condemnation of capitalism if you ask me," Steve admits. "I wrote my paper on that. How capitalists are so greedy it takes four ghosts to convince them of the error of their ways."

Bucky stops in the middle of the staircase on the way up to his apartment, squinting at Steve over his shoulder.

"Don't tell me, you were a communist or something?"

"Registered socialist actually," Steve says, and Bucky gapes a little before bursting into laughter.

"No way! That's great!" he says, bracing himself against the wall for balance. "Captain America, socialist! I love it, d'you know how many people would hate you if you told them that?"

"Steve Rogers socialist, actually," Steve corrects, "and I think if I told people a whole lot about Steve Rogers they'd hate him."

"Which is exactly why I love you," Bucky says, shaking his head and continuing up the stairs while Steve feels his heart skip a beat and almost trips. Did Bucky just...?

No, he just said that but he didn't mean it like... Not like that, of course not. Don't be stupid Steve.

"You're always stupid, now're you coming or not?" Bucky hollers down and Steve groans.

"Yeah I'm comin', jeez, don't need to insult a fella."

"Don't need to be insulting yourself either, pal," Bucky says pointedly as he opens the door into his apartment. "Now, I see your point about the story— and I gotta admit, I never thought of it that way. Anyway, there's probably hundreds of adaptations of it, movies, TV miniseries, plays, you name it. But this one? Is the best."

"If you say so," Steve says. Bucky shoots him a look.

"I say so," Bucky confirms, and they settle in.

******************************

About ninety minutes later, Steve has to agree. He can't stop grinning, it was just... Such a wonderfully happy movie, despite the story and the sadness. A perfectly happy ending, with wonderful actors and characters, and he thinks it might be his favorite movie so far.

He turns to Bucky to say so, and abruptly realizes Bucky doesn't look so happy himself, despite declaring it his favorite holiday movie multiple times.

"Buck?" Steve asks, frowning. Bucky's curled in on himself on his side of the couch, chewing on his lip. His eyes look... Wet? "You okay?"

"Yeah," Bucky says, blinking and sniffing hard. "Just. This was my sister's favorite Christmas movie too, growing up. Becca was four when it came out, but every year she made us all watch it on Christmas Eve, and usually half a dozen or so times during the rest of December."

"Becca?" Steve asks, suddenly feeling... Not quite awkward, but confused. Bucky mentioned his sister before, but Steve didn't even think. Why isn't Bucky spending Christmas with her?

"Yeah."

"Um," Steve says, "can I ask, is there any particular reason you're spending Christmas with me instead of her?"

Bucky sniffs harder, and Steve realizes he's not going to like the answer.

"You remember how I said she went to live with our grandma after our parents died?"

"Yeah," Steve says slowly.

"Well, when I was in the army, I was on my third tour. I was captured. They had me for a few years. Not sure who exactly, I don't remember much," Bucky glances at Steve then quickly looks away. Steve feels his heart crack a little.

"Something happened, I'm not sure what, but I ended up on a train at some point. I fell off— that's how I lost my arm— when it was... Well, it was a long fall. I was found— recovered," Bucky sneers the word, "by the US Army. It was November 2011 when I woke up in the hospital, back in friendly territory, sans arm."

Steve takes a deep breath. He doesn't want to ask, but he has to. "When were you captured?"

"2006," Bucky tells him. "Becca turned sixteen while I was on my last tour, before I got captured. I found out later, in the hospital— they kept me there, then sent me to a long term rehab center for the first year— that our grandma died in 2007. Becca would've been seventeen."

"Would've?" Steve asked, heart in his throat.

"Yeah. Since I was... Gone, she was put into a group home. Got lost in the system or something. They didn't know where she was, what happened to her. I asked, but... No one had any answers. I know kids get lost in the system all the time, and y'know. She thought I was dead, she didn't have a reason to keep in touch with anyone— or anyone she could keep in touch with that I knew when I came out." Bucky huffs, trying to feign anger but Steve can hear the heartbreak.

"Then I figured, well. She's moved on with her life y'know? At least I hope she has, and I don't wanna interrupt that. Shake everything up. She had enough of that."

"Oh no, Bucky," Steve says, reaching out without thinking to stretch across the couch and guide Bucky into a tight hug. "She'd want to know you're alive."

Bucky snuffles into Steve's shoulder, hiding his face. "I can't find her to tell her, so it doesn't matter."

Steve holds him silently for a few minutes. Then, "you know, I could ask around..."

"No," Bucky says, pulling away from Steve to sit up. "No Steve. It's been too long. She's moved on. She's living her life, wherever she is. I'm not gonna barge in on her like that. Don't push this."

Steve opens his mouth to say something, then remembers how Natasha— exactly who he was thinking of asking— likes to push him. He shuts his mouth, nodding instead, and Bucky sags with relief.

"Thank you," he says, and tilts toward Steve again. "I actually asked to watch this, that first Christmas I was back. They got me a portable DVD player, and someone found the DVD for me."

Steve waits for Bucky to continue, just holding out his arms again as Bucky leans back into him.

"Y'know that song with Belle and Scrooge? When Love Is Gone?"

"Yeah," Steve whispers into Bucky's hair.

"They fuckin' took it out on all the DVD releases. And the Netflix one. The only version of the movie that includes it, without it being an extra feature, is on VHS."

Steve doesn't know what to say to that, except maybe it explains more of why Bucky bought Movie Barnes in the first place.

"I threw the DVD player at the wall, knocked a hole into the next room over," Bucky tells him, and Steve can't help snorting in laughter.

"Sounds like something I'd do," Steve confesses, and feels Bucky laugh against his chest.

"Sure does, pal." Then Bucky seems to tense, and Steve freezes. Bucky squirms away, not all the way back to the other side of the couch but enough to face Steve.

"Y'know what else sounds like you that I didn't even think of?" Bucky asks softly.

"What?" Steve asks, trying to focus on Bucky's eyes and not let his gaze fall to Bucky's mouth, red lips plump and inviting—

"Waking up alone in a hospital, no one familiar around," Bucky says, and Steve forgets about his lips (mostly).

He nods, eyes wide. "Yeah, actually…" What does he say to that.

Bucky snorts again, grimacing. "Talk about some shared life experience, huh pal?"

Steve flashes back to his conversation with Natasha, and realizes—

Is Bucky looking at his lips too?

"Nope," Steve says out loud without meaning to, and Bucky frowns.

"Nope what?"

"Nope to this much sadness on Christmas Eve," Steve says, feeling proud of himself for the save. "Here, let me up, I have a present for you in my coat downstairs."

"What?" Bucky demands. "You got me a present?"

"Of course I did," Steve says, "you're my friend." Just his friend. That's it.

"Dammit, and here I am with nothing for you!"

Steve shrugs. "That's fine Buck, I don't need anything. Didn't expect anything anyway."

Bucky glares at Steve as Steve stands up.

"Of course I got you a present too, you punk," he says grumpily and Steve blinks.

"Wha... Really?"

"Yes! Jesus, you're my friend too, idiot," Bucky says, rolling his eyes. "It’s in my bedroom. You wanna run down and grab mine while I get yours?"

Steve chokes and Bucky gives him a weird look.

"Sounds good," Steve manages, coughing.

"Punk," Bucky says, standing as well and heading toward his bedroom. The fondness is clear in his voice, and Steve says "jerk!" automatically, turning toward the stairs.

********************

"No way," Bucky says, staring down at the book in his hands. He looks up at Steve and repeats, "no way."

Steve ducks his head, grinning. "You like it?"

"I fuckin' love it, are you kidding me? But that's not— just hurry up and open yours!" Bucky says, shaking his head and running his hands over the cover.

It's The Labyrinth, a novelization based on the movie, complete with original illustrations and sketches. It's beautiful, he does love it, but that's not what he keeps saying "no way" to—

"No way!" Steve says, finally unwrapping his own present. He bursts out laughing, Bucky joining him.

"Listen, pal," Bucky says, putting his hand on Steve's shoulder. "We gotta switch later, okay? When we're both done, we gotta switch!"

"Deal!" Steve says, leaning into Bucky's touch and cradling his own new book in his hands.

The Dark Crystal, a novelization based on the movie by Jim Henson.

******************************

"So, Steve," Natasha says after their last minute New Years mission, before the mandatory debrief when Steve can't escape.

"I really hate when you do that, y'know," Steve tells her flatly.

"What?" she asks innocently.

"Walk up to me and say my name like that. I never like what follows."

Natasha shrugs as if to say not my problem and Steve sighs.

"What now?"

"I did some digging on your boy," she begins.

"Not my boy," Steve points out.

"Bucky Barnes. James Buchanan Barnes," she corrects herself and Steve groans.

"Look, Natasha, I appreciate that you worry, and I understand what you're trying to do, but please don't."

"Worried? Me?" she asks rhetorically before continuing on. "Anyway, I found his army file. It's kind of weird though. Says he joined straight out of high school, par for the course for a lot of people. Served two and a half tours, final tour interrupted by— "

"If I didn't already know he was a POW I would be very angry if you were about to tell me," Steve says. Natasha ignores him.

"—being captured, found and rescued a few years later. Not exactly a happy story, but nor is it an uncommon one. The thing that's weird about it, though, is how empty the file is."

"Empty?" Steve asks sarcastically. "From what you just told me about it, it doesn't sound that empty."

"Doesn't even include the rank he made it to before being captured."

"Sergeant," Steve says, because Bucky told him. "And I don't see what the big deal is, Natasha. So what if Bucky's file doesn't include his entire life story? It must be nice not to have all your personal information available for whoever wants it." He gives her a look that she returns, unperturbed.

"Steve, I know being in history books makes you uncomfortable but you literally signed up for it. And I know you're still getting used to this century, but with the internet, most people's entire life story is available to anyone who cares enough to look and has some extra cash. It's weird if someone can't find out where you were born and get a picture of where you live for shits and giggles. Weirder when I, an actual spy for whom finding this kind of information on people is my actual job, that I have literally been trained in since I was a child, can't even find someone's military rank."

Steve just crosses his arms and sets his jaw. "Your point being?"

Natasha sighs gustily in frustration, and Steve recognizes it as a willingly shown tell. "My point is there's something he's not telling you. I don't know if it's about what he did in his time in the army or when he was captured, but there's something he's hiding— or that was hidden for him, by his superiors. And that's dangerous, especially for you."

"Or he was graphically tortured and his superiors decided not to include that part in his file?" Steve suggests, still not unfolding his arms. He's maintaining a stubborn facade, but Natasha's words are getting to him. He won't admit that he does see her point.

"Then his superiors are idiots!" Natasha snaps.

Steve speaks over her, not allowing her to continue. "He's my friend, and I trust him. I know about his past—" (but does he?) "—because he's told me—" (not everything though, nothing about his time as a prisoner of war beyond that it sucked, just how he lost his arm at the end—) "—and I would appreciate it if you dropped this. As my other friend, please, I'm asking you. Let this go. He's not dangerous, and even if he was, I can take care of myself."

Natasha frowns at him, crossing her arms in turn, but he knows he got through by calling her his friend. She knows it too.

"It's because I'm your friend that I worry," Natasha points out, but Steve shakes his head.

Natasha presses her lips together hard, and stares at him. He meets her gaze without flinching.

"Fine," she concedes at last. "If you say you trust him I'll let it go."

"I do," Steve says, and he's almost surprised to realize how much he means it. He does trust Bucky, regardless of whatever questions he still has about Bucky's past. He trusts Bucky completely.

Natasha sees the surprise in his face at the truth of his declaration, and smiles grimly. "Good," she says, choosing only to acknowledge what Steve said out loud.

"Thank you," Steve tells her earnestly. It's annoying, her nosiness, but he knows why she does it, and he does appreciate it. He also appreciates her backing off when he tells her to.

"You're welcome," she says, smile becoming genuine. She stretches up on her toes suddenly, striking out like a cobra to kiss him on the cheek. "Shall we?" She gestures toward the conference room where they're due for debrief.

"After you," Steve says, as she struts past him.

Chapter Text

“You ready for more Disney?” Bucky asks as Steve collapses on The Most Comfortable Couch In The World.

“Always,” Steve confirms, grinning. “Whatcha got for me today, Barnes?”

“This one is closer to your time than mine,” Bucky admits, nodding toward the open VHS case on the coffee table as he puts in the tape.

“Sleeping Beauty?” Steve reads.

“Yup. You familiar with the story?”

Steve frowns, trying to remember. “Maybe?”

“I guess we’ll find out, huh?” Bucky says, hitting play and flopping back next to Steve. “You should google behind the scenes stuff from this one.”

“Why?”

“They fuckin’ drew all of it by hand,” Bucky tells Steve. “Frame by frame, second by second, and spliced it all together.”

Steve gapes at him.

“Right? And it’s all so good, too!”

“Damn,” Steve whispers to himself. He can’t help but wonder, if not for the war (and if his body made it that long), maybe that’s what he would’ve done with his life.

It’s certainly something he wanted to do with his life.

“You still can, y’know,” Bucky says, voice purposely casual. Steve whips his head around to look at him.

Bucky turns slower to face Steve.

“You think?” Steve asks, instead of what he meant to say. Which was some kind of protest, of no things are too different now, he can’t give up being Captain America, he has a responsibility, he has—

“Yeah,” Bucky says, “you might have to get familiar with graphic design, but the animation field is huge. And I know there’s ways you can do a lot of art by hand, drawing and painting, and software that’ll let you upload that and animate it. But you’re smart, you’re good with technology, you could figure it out.”

Steve doesn’t know what to say to that. Getting out… It’d be getting out.

“It’s something to think about, Stevie,” Bucky says softly, as if reading Steve’s mind and Steve knows he didn’t say anything out loud accidentally this time.

“I…” he starts, but now that Bucky’s put the idea into his head he can’t help imagining it.

Hanging up the uniform, putting down the shield. Maybe he could go to school... He has the money for it now. Get the art degree he always wanted, add in graphic design.

He could make stories, make art, create instead of destroy. He could maybe even be happy…

“Maybe one day,” Steve says, because as much as he might want it, he can’t walk away from being Captain America. He has a duty, to his country, to the world. He has skills no one else does, and the responsibility to use them.

His happiness isn’t a factor.

Bucky frowns at him, and looks back to the movie where the villain is casting a spell on the infant.

Neither of them say anything for a while.

Then—

“Y’know, Movie Barnes, this whole thing? I know it’s kinda dumb, it isn’t useful to the world or anything,” Bucky starts slowly, choosing his words carefully. “But it matters to me. It makes me happy. I’ve fought my war, I’m home now. And I’m done fighting. This? My life? It might not be helping anyone now, or fighting for anything, but I’m tired of fighting anyway.

“This is just for me, Steve. No one else. And I have no illusions about that. But it’s mine, and…” Bucky trails off a little, then shakes his head and continues.

“It was kind of lonely, for a while, but even then. This? Doing nothing except tinkering with old junk and watching movies? It makes me happy, and that’s… What’s the point of fighting a war if we don’t get a happy ending?”

“This makes me happy too, Buck,” Steve says. “What you do here? It means something to me. It helps me too.”

Bucky smiles at him. “Thanks Stevie, but you know that wasn’t my point.”

“My war isn’t over yet,” Steve says, but even as he says it he doubts it. He doesn’t know who he’s fighting anymore. Everything is in shades of gray, no more uniforms to differentiate between good guys and bad.

“Isn’t it?” Bucky asks, but turns back to the movie, showing his willingness to let the subject drop.

Steve doesn’t answer, because he knows Bucky has a point. But he knows better, for himself. He’s just a soldier now. Captain America. He doesn’t get that kind of happy ending.

He watches Bucky watch the movie in silence for a while longer.

“Y’know how I said to look up the behind the scenes stuff? I know this scene, they had the actress dancing and a whole bunch of artists sitting around sketching her, it’s great!” Bucky says, breaking the silence.

Steve turns back to the screen, the music picking up as Aurora and Phillip meet.

He grins. “That’s awesome, Buck,” he says.

The music swells, talking about how familiar the two characters are to each other despite never having met. How well they know each other, how connected they are.

Steve can’t help stealing glances at Bucky, who’s doing the same, until they catch each other’s eyes and can’t look away.

Steve remembers finding Bucky, someone who understood him in a way no one else in this century has. In a way no one else even tried to understand him..

“That look in your eyes is so familiar a gleam,” sings the princess.

Bucky’s leaning toward him, they’re staring into each other’s eyes, and Steve…

He wants his happy ending.

“But if I know you, I know what you’ll do.”

He meets Bucky halfway, their lips coming together in the middle.

“Steve,” Bucky whispers. “I—”

“You’ll love me at once.”

“Bucky,” Steve interrupts, and kisses him again. He knows what Bucky’s going to say, he feels it too, he wants to say it back, but…

“The way you did once—”

He’s still Captain America.

“—upon a dream.”

His phone rings.

“Fuck,” Steve says, pulling away and fumbling in his pockets. It’s SHIELD.

“I’m sorry— I have to get this.”

Bucky nods, pausing the movie. “No problem, Stevie. I understand.”

Steve doesn’t look up from where he’s sliding to answer.

******************************

Bucky waits for Steve to finish his phone call, sitting hunched forward on his couch, hand and modified prosthetic in his lap.

He tries to ignore what Steve’s saying as he paces in Bucky’s kitchen, tries to calm the beat of his heart. He knows Steve’s going to have to leave, that they won’t be able to talk about… Them, for lack of a better phrase, until Steve gets back.

They’re not gonna finish Sleeping Beauty for a while either.

“Okay, I’ll be at headquarters in an hour,” Steve says into his phone, coming out of the kitchen. “Bye, Rumlow.”

Bucky doesn’t consciously understand, at first, why Steve’s words make his blood run cold. His chest tightens alarmingly, like he’s in a vice. His vision blurs as a rush of something— memory— overtakes him.

“Brock?” Bucky whispers before he knows he’s going to speak.

“Huh?” Steve says, slipping his phone back into his pocket.

Bucky looks up at him, and Steve freezes, every muscle going tense and alert at the sheer terror in Bucky’s eyes.

“Brock Rumlow?” Bucky clarifies, and Steve’s wary nod is enough to make his world fall out from under him.

Brock Rumlow, Steve? That’s who you’re working with?” he demands, jumping to his feet even as the ground tilts beneath him.

“How do you know that?” Steve asks, voice steady. Bucky can tell by the way Steve’s holding himself that he’s on guard, but for what?

“Brock Rumlow lead my missions,” Bucky says, staring at Steve, trying to tamp down his panic.

“When you were in the army?” Steve asks slowly.

“When I was captured, Steve! He was one of them!”

“One of who?”

“The people who had me, I don’t know, I forgot— I can’t fucking remember, they fucked with my head, I don’t know—”

“Bucky, calm down,” Steve says, reaching toward him but Bucky flinches away.

“Don’t tell me to calm down!” he yells, then winces. He tries to take a deep breath, only mostly successful. “Brock Rumlow was one of my handlers. Not my main handler, but when they sent me out to— they sent me on missions, Steve, and Rumlow lead most of them.”

“What are you talking about, Bucky?”

“When I was a prisoner, they brainwashed me, they experimented on me, they made me—” Bucky cuts himself off. He doesn’t want to say it.

“They made you what?”

“They made me kill for them, Steve. I was their pet assassin,” Bucky says, so quietly Steve only hears him thanks to the serum in his veins.

Bucky can’t look at Steve.

“Who had you, Bucky?” Steve says after the silence drags on too long.

“I don’t know,” Bucky repeats.

“SHIELD?”

“No!”

“Because Rumlow’s worked for SHIELD for over a decade. If SHIELD didn’t have you, he wasn’t there.”

“Bullshit!” Bucky snaps, and faces Steve again. “I know they fucked with my memory, fuck knows I can’t remember much more than the fucking torture and the fucking chair and the fucking targets, but—”

“Bucky, you need to calm down,” Steve says, and Bucky realizes he’s advancing on Steve like Steve is the enemy.

“How would I know his fucking name!”

“I don’t know. Maybe you heard of him somewhere else.”

That doesn’t make sense!

“Unless SHIELD had you, he wasn’t there,” Steve repeats, and Bucky can tell Steve doesn’t believe him. Thinks he’s crazy, but he’s not— he remembers, this at least, Steve saying Rumlow’s name triggered the memory, he’s not fucking crazy

“I’m not fucking crazy!”

“I’m not saying you are, Buck,” Steve says, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t thinking it.

“I don’t fucking know what organization had me, all I fucking remember is they had some kind of fucking mythological symbol on everything, like I dunno, a fuckin’ kraken or something!”

Steve’s eyebrows shoot up and he frowns hard, breaking the non-expression he’s been maintaining.

“A kraken?”

“Yeah, like a fuckin’… Skull octopus or something, I don’t know if it’s actually a kraken—”

“A hydra?” Steve says quietly, and that triggers another wash of memories for Bucky, of men saluting, of men marching in formation, the same two words over and over—

“Heil Hydra,” he says to himself, and suddenly he’s slammed into the wall, Steve’s arm at his throat.

“What did you say?” Steve demands, eyes furious, teeth bared, and Bucky realizes this, this is the soldier, the captain that no one except his enemies ever see, the man who can’t walk away from his war—

“Hydra,” Bucky chokes out. “That’s who they were. That’s who had me.”

“That’s impossible!” Steve roars, but he drops Bucky, backing off, leaving Bucky coughing long and loud as he sinks to the floor.

“How fucking dare you?” Steve screams at him. Bucky looks up, still coughing.

“Steve, I’m not lying, why would I—”

“I burned Hydra to the ground!” And Bucky suddenly realizes what he’s missing, remembers what he read about in every history class he ever took, how did he forget?.

Captain America versus The Red Skull. Steve Rogers, versus all of Hydra.

“I don’t think you did,” Bucky says, voice rough.

“I died to bring them down!” Steve yells again. “They’re gone! I made sure of it when I pointed that plane for the water!”

Bucky flinches again, full body.

“I don’t think you did,” he repeats, quieter.

Steve stares at him, towering over him, and Bucky starts shaking, adrenaline and fear response. He remembers this too, his captors standing over him, being helpless at their feet.

“Please move, Steve,” he whispers hoarsely, “you’re scarin’ me.”

Steve’s eyes widen, finally registering Bucky’s reactions to him, his own actions. He stands back. But he still doesn’t, he can’t believe him, Bucky has to be lying.

“I don’t know what the hell is wrong with you,” Steve says, trying to keep his voice steady. “Hydra is gone. I don’t know why the fuck you would tell me they fucking captured you. Fuck you, Barnes, I thought you were my friend.”

Before Bucky can react, can try to stand or figure out what the hell he’s supposed to say to that, Steve’s out the door, slamming it behind him.

Bucky sinks in on himself, shivering as memory after memory keeps hitting him. Rumlow, with a Hydra on his vest. “Heil Hydra.” Faceless, nameless men.

“Hydra will save the world, we just need your help,” another man, older than Rumlow, less wild violence and more controlled cruelty, standing over him when he’s strapped into the chair.

“Wipe him.”

Bucky screams into his arm, then sobs and sobs and sobs.

Chapter Text

BANG!

BANG!

BANG!

Sam shoots upright in bed, lunging to grab his revolver from where it's taped against the side of his nightstand.

"WILSON! OPEN! YOUR! FUCKING! DOOR!" someone yells, each word punctuated with further bangs.

"Who the fuck is it!" Sam says, on his feet, locked and loaded, peering calmly around the edge of his bedroom door.

"Barnes! Sergeant James Buchanan Barnes!"

"Bucky? What the fuck?" Sam hollers, lowering his gun carefully to his side as he rushes forward to unlock the door.

Bucky is standing in front of him, eyes wild, hair a mess, looking right in the middle of a psychotic episode. Flashback? Sam thinks.

"I need to remember, Sam. I need to remember everything right now!" Bucky says, shoving past Sam into his house.

"What the fuck are you talking about, Barnes?" Sam says, making sure to triple check his locks even as he tries to keep Bucky in his sights. Luckily, Bucky is just pacing in his living room, flesh hand ripping at his hair.

"My captivity! What they did to me— what they made me do— who they are!"

"And what brought this on?" Sam asks, carefully keeping his voice neutral. Barnes already knows about the revolver, and he's not gonna put it down yet.

"Steve— "

"Steve who? Your movie buddy?" Sam would usually say something more like "butt buddy", except this is clearly not the time.

"Yeah, Steve, my...." Bucky trails off. To Sam's alarm Bucky's eyes well up, and he scrunches up his face as if he's trying not to cry.

"Deep breath," Bucky mumbles to himself. "Deep breath. Okay. Not important."

"What is important?"

"Steve Rogers."

Sam almost drops his gun.

"Your butt buddy is Steve Rogers? You're fucking Captain America??"

"No! I mean, I thought maybe we would— whatever! Doesn't matter! Not important!"

"What is important???" Sam insists.

"I remembered something. A name. One of my handlers. When I was there."

"Okay, so you had a flashback— "

"Not really a flashback, no, just shut up and let me explain!"

Sam raises a placating hand and gestures for Bucky to continue.

"Steve said a name— he got a call from work, from one of his team members, calling him out on a mission. Said the guy's name. Rumlow. Brock Rumlow."

"And you recognized the name ‘Brock Rumlow’?"

"Yes!" Bucky says, shoulders abruptly sagging with relief when he realizes Sam is getting it.

"Where did you recognize the name from?"

"He was one of my handlers, one of my mission leaders, responsible for taking me out and making sure I was brought back in."

"Y'know, this might be above my security grade," Sam ventures, but when Bucky's eyes flash he quickly continues, "never mind, unimportant, go on?"

"Yeah, so Steve said he was going to be working with Brock Rumlow and then— and then I did have a bit of a flashback, uniforms, almost like SHIELD uniforms, but there was a different symbol. A mythological creature. A skull with many arms, tentacles, a— "

"Hydra." Sam catches it quick. "So. The people that had you, they were Hydra. And Brock Rumlow was—"

"Is!"

"We don't know that for sure, Bucky. But okay, so say he still is—"

"Steve's going on a mission with him right now, I don't know what about, what for, but it can't be good, Sam! It can't be good, he's in danger, I know he is, I can feel it."

The two soldiers, veterans, share a deep look in silence. They know, when one of them has A Feeling, a gut instinct, a spark of intuition— no matter how damaged they are, those should be trusted, or at the very least given due consideration.

"And what do you want to do about it? What can you do about it, Bucky?"

"I can remember! If I can remember more, if I can remember everything, then maybe I'll have enough information to help, maybe I can save him, I have to save him Sam, I lov—" Bucky cuts himself off too late.

"Fucking Christ, Barnes, of course you do."

"I have to try."

"You know there's really no guarantee it's even possible, right? For you to recover more memories? I know they ran you through the therapeutic wringer when they got you back, and flashbacks and random triggers that cause sudden spots of memory are likely to happen— have been happening, obviously, but Bucky.... Those might not all be reliable, not after so much time has passed, and—"

"Sam," Bucky interrupts. He's calmer now, standing at parade rest. "I have to try. And I need your help. I have to save Steve. I know you don't wanna get back in all this—"

"Nah," it's Sam's turn to interject, "if Captain America needs my help, no better reason to jump back in, right?"

"Thank you," Bucky breathes, physically deflating with overwhelming relief.

"This isn't gonna be pretty or particularly safe, you know that? And I'm just a counselor, working on my degree, I don't have any special training in hypnotism or anything like that."

"But you'll try?"

"I will. Now, first, I want you to strip down— absolutely no weapons, just keep your panties on, and help me clear all my furniture out of the way. I'm keeping this one on me," Sam gestures to his revolver.

"That's fine, yeah Sam, thank you so much I— "

"Shut up and start moving, soldier!" Sam commands, and Bucky hops to. He clears out a huge space in the center of Sam's living room while Sam bustles around elsewhere in his house.

"Couch cushions on the floor! Make yourself comfortable, you'll be sitting on them for a long time hopefully," Sam yells from his office, where he's digging out a voice recorder, and two pens and legal pads. They're both gonna need to be taking notes, he thinks.

He stops in his kitchen to grab four bottles of water, tossing two to Bucky, all weapons and his arm clearly set aside on the kitchen counter and out of his reach from where he's sitting in just his boxers on the couch cushions. Even one handed, Bucky catches the bottles.

Sam hands him the pen and notebook, then steps back and settles himself in a comfy recliner now pushed six feet from its original position in front of the nice new big screen TV into a corner. (The TV, too, has moved, been picked up and delicately placed behind the glass entertainment center it was on.)

"You ready?" Sam asks, and pretends he can’t see the fear in Bucky's eyes as he confirms.

"Okay." Sam takes a deep breath of his own. "I'm gonna be recording this. You talk, say whatever comes to mind. Write down whatever you can write. I'll be making notes too. We'll have to go through all this after, to make sense of it, but this is just about getting your memories out right now, understand?"

"Yeah."

"Okay, would any background noise help? Audio? Song?" Bucky frowns, thinking seriously about the question. He sticks his hand under his cushion and pulls out his phone, fiddling with it awkwardly to open it and find the song he wants.

The music starts, strong, welling up. Sam frowns. "What is this?"

"Stampede," Bucky says, and Sam doesn't get the reference, but the energy of it, of rushing forward, of desperation— yeah, he gets why Bucky picked this one.

"One more time Barnes," Sam says, "you ready?"

This time the fear is gone from Bucky's eyes. "I'm ready."

"Then let's do this. Brock Rumlow, description?"

"Just under six foot tall, older, late 40s. Lean, but strong. Very strong. Commander. Commander. He's the commander. Dark hair, short, brutal. Not afraid of dealing out punishment," and Bucky's entire body jerks with a flinch.

"Punishment, no, please sir— "

"Bucky!"

"Sorry sir, sorry I won't fail again you don't have to— "

"Soldier! Finish report!" Sam snaps in his most authoritative voice.

Bucky takes in a quick, shocked breath but then comes back to himself.

"Rest of the unit?"

"Rollins. Right hand man, Rollins. Rumlow's right hand. Taller, six feet and change, bald."

"And who gave the orders?"

"Hydra."

Sam inhales sharply at the way Bucky answers that without hesitation. If he’d doubted before, he doesn’t now.

"Who gave the orders to you from Hydra? Chain of command?"

"Don't understand the question."

"Was there anyone who commanded Rumlow?"

"No, I...." here Bucky's words trail off and he begins scribbling something on the page. Sam leans his head forward, trying to see, a list of names maybe?

But no, it's a sketch. A rough sketch, very rough, but Bucky once told him that while he'd always aced his classes in high school, he enjoyed his electives more. Shop of course, but art too. And he's not bad at it...

It's certainly no professional police sketch, but it's familiar enough to ping something in Sam's mind.

"Pierce?"

"Pierce?" Bucky asks, looking up. "Is that his name? I never knew his name, just that he would come in sometimes, at the very beginning of every mission, and brief Rumlow who would then brief me. I could see him— them— but couldn't hear them. I only ever heard him say two words—" he breaks off, shuddering, but Sam doesn't notice.

"Secretary of Defense Alexander Pierce? Head of the World Security Counsel Alexander Pierce? Nobel Peace Prize winner Alexander fucking Pierce is Hydra?" It's Sam’s turn to stand, pacing wildly.

"That's insane! Bucky, that's insane, he liaisons with SHIELD and the DOD and all the other intelligence agencies we have, he's…”

Sam's phone starts going off. Ringing, followed by beeps and vibrations of texts and other messages.

"What the fuck?" he runs back into his bedroom to grab it.

"SHIT!"

"Sam?" By this point, Bucky's back on his feet too, preparing to start loading up his weapons, reattaching his arm. "What is it?"

"Put my TV back! RIGHT FUCKIN' NOW!" Sam yells, running out of the bedroom toward the TV, Bucky hot on his heels. It's a matter of seconds to get CNN on.

"Reports coming in now from Washington D.C.. Nicolas J. Fury, Director of SHIELD, was murdered late last night in his apartment by none other than Captain America. Hold— Secretary Pierce is on the line, connecting now, hello there Secretary, what can you tell us about this ongoing situation?"

Bucky's knees buckle and he hits the ground hard. "That's him," he whispers.

Sam sets a hand on Bucky's right shoulder, slowly while projecting the movement. "Yeah man. That's him."

"Director Fury was pronounced dead at 1:11 this morning. He was last seen alone with Captain Rogers in Captain Rogers’ D.C. safehouse after Captain Rogers invaded the Lemurian Star, a SHIELD satellite ship, stealing confidential files. Multiple gunshots were fired in the safehouse. We had an agent stationed nearby, luckily, who got to the scene in time to see Captain Rogers escaping through a window. Our agent focused on saving our Director's life— sadly, that could not be done. Now Captain Rogers is on the run. We advise all citizens to stay inside until he has been captured, from whence he will be brought to justice."

"LIES!" Bucky roars. "He's lying! That's not— that didn't really fucking happen— not like— Steve didn't— "

"I believe you buddy," Sam says, trying to keep his tone neutral. "And hey, he's Captain America. He'll figure it out."

"We have to help him!" Bucky swats Sam's hand away, scrambling to his feet, to his weapons.

"Wait!" Sam snaps. "We can't just go jumping into the middle of all of that. Your boy is probably on the run, we won't be able to find him. What we can do, is what you came here to do— remember. Remember everything you can, Barnes. Bucky. And we might be able to clear his name once he makes it out of all of that."

"What if he doesn't?" Oh fuck no, Sam thinks, he recognizes that kind of terror, he knows it— intimately, Riley, but—

"He's Captain goddamn America. And Hydra's a bunch of Nazis. I think he'll be fine, don't you?"

Bucky scoffs. "Nah, he's Steve Rogers. And these guys? Are all just a buncha fuckin' bullies."

Sam doesn't know what to say to that, can't tell what direction Bucky's mind is going in.

"He'll kick their asses because that's what he does, and when he comes back, when I remember everything, I can help make sure he gets them all this time. Fuck cutting off one head, we've gotta take 'em out at the root."

Sam notices the "we" but decides some battles are more important.

"Breaking news! Captain America and Black Widow sighted! We have eyes on the scene! Oh— oh my God!" and right there, on live TV, someone fires a grenade launcher into a public bus, spinning it up and over an overpass.

"Stevie!" Bucky shouts, making an aborted lunge toward the television.

"Maybe, we wait to see how this plays out first," Sam suggests, knowing Bucky is definitely too distracted to focus on any sort of memory recovery.

"See that he gets through, then we can extract all the knowledge out of your brain. Shouldn't take more than five minutes." Bucky flips him off without taking his eyes away from the television. Steve, Romanoff, is that... "Rumlow," Bucky growls.

"And we could just pop a handful of my anti-psychotic meds each while we watch?" Sam offers. "Since you and I both know it's pointless to try while this is actively happening, but y'know, we also need to survive until after it's happened and we can actually get to work? Put my living room back together, soldier."

Bucky does, and Sam pretends not to feel guilty about giving him an order like that, knows that was the tone and language of most of the orders he received in captivity that he's very literally hard wired to accept, but holy shit this is a mess. He's gotta do whatever he's gotta do to get them through this. Through whatever happens, as televised by the nation's major news channels, and keep Bucky here, keep him from freaking out and losing it no matter what happens on Sam's brand new TV screen.

Sam is big enough to admit he is also very invested in that screen surviving to show another day, so he ignores everything he knows and believes about ethics to take a couple too many of his prescription pills and hands Barnes an even bigger handful. Madman takes them dry, all at once, doesn't even flinch as he finishes fluffing up the last of Sam's couch cushions.

Bucky's gonna be glued there for the rest of the day, so it's up to Sam to provide whatever he needs. Water, check. Food, thank fuck he just did his weekly grocery run yesterday. He'll probably have to repeat the same trip tomorrow, but they'll have enough to eat without Sam having to leave the house or invite someone else over, even for delivery.

Just the two of them, Bucky and Sam, watching the fall of SHIELD play out in real time.

"The fall of Hydra," Bucky corrects.

"May we live in interesting times," Sam begins and Bucky finishes, "fuck you too, buddy.”

******************************

When Sam and Bucky realize all of SHIELD's— and thus Hydra's— files are actively available on the internet, they share a look. Then Sam leaps up for his laptop.

"This," he tells Bucky, and Bucky's right there with him.

"Right, I can go through the files, I can remember—"

"Exactly!" Sam turns his laptop on and retrieves the dropped notebooks from earlier. They set up at his kitchen table, side by side.

Bucky stares at the computer, face pale.

"You okay, Barnes?" Sam asks, and Bucky shakes himself.

"Yeah," he whispers, then louder, "yes. I'm good. Let's do this."

"Thatta boy," Sam says, tugging the laptop closer.

******************************

They've been working diligently for a few hours, digging through the files available, trying to find any and every mention of Hydra. Every single file that looks likely is downloaded on a flash drive Sam dug out of the desk in his study.

"There are so many," Bucky whispers, and Sam can hear the despair coloring his voice.

"It'll be fine," Sam tells him. "We can do this." But he's starting to doubt as well.

There are so many files. It seems like most of SHIELD was Hydra, and they have hundreds of thousands of files to go.

There's a knock on Sam's front door and they both freeze.

Silence, then the doorbell rings and another two knocks sound.

"Do you think?" Bucky asks quietly, eyes wide in panic.

"Nah, it's probably the mailman or something," Sam says, trying to be reassuring. Nevertheless, he picks up his revolver when he goes to answer the door.

"Holy shit!" Sam says. Bucky bolts from the kitchen to the front room.

"No need for theatrics, now are you gonna let me in or are we gonna do this in full sight of your wonderful neighbors?" Tony Stark himself asks from Sam's doorstep, before pushing past.

"What the fuck?" Bucky says.

"You! You're Cap's guy?" Tony says, pointing at Bucky.

"No— " Bucky starts but Tony talks over him.

"Bucky Barnes? Right, yeah of course you are, I've seen your picture. The one on your ID and the one in your high school yearbook, and let me just say, by the way, blond is not your color," Stark says as he brushes past Sam and Bucky into the kitchen.

"What the fuck, how do you know about that?" Bucky demands after a moment of shocked silence, then runs after Tony, already at the table in front of Sam's laptop and typing away.

"I know everything," Tony says, not looking up, "or at least I thought I did, until this whole clusterfuck— and what the hell, Steve didn't even call me in for backup? Seriously? Whatever, I get it, I had open heart surgery like a week ago—"

"Wait, what?" Sam demands, standing at Bucky's side. "You should still be on bed rest!"

"Bed rest schmedrest," Tony says. "Anyway, so Romanoff blew the whole thing wide open didn't she? Put everything online for any average Joe Schmoe to see—" Tony finally looks at Sam and Bucky— "but you two aren't just any average Joes, are you?"

"What?" Sam repeats faintly.

"Yeah, so anyway there's a lot of confidential information now available to everyone with decent wifi, and by a lot I mean all the confidential information. So of course, I set up a program to track everyone digging through these files. Most people are just bored, curious, harmless, whatever. Or journalists.” Tony shudders at the thought while Sam and Bucky share a wide-eyed look of confusion.

“Cross-referencing, of course, with anyone that might have a connection to Cap— or SHIELD or Romanoff or Barton or me, anyone who might possibly be important," Tony concludes.

"Shit," Bucky says, understanding. "We didn't even think of that."

"Obviously," Tony scoffs. "But even if you did, I can get past any VPN you can buy, I'm just that good. Might've taken me a few more hours, but I would've ended up here eventually."

"Wait, slow down, explain to me again why you're here?" Sam demands.

"Right, so your name got flagged when you started digging through these. Sam Wilson, former pararescue, part of the op that retrieved the good Sergeant Bucky Bear over there. Bucky Bear, beau of Captain America, who jumped on a train in the middle of the night from New York to Washington D.C., where you— Sam Wilson— happen to live. Bucky skedaddled around the same time all the shit started going down, so forgive me for finding that a little suspicious and wanting to check it out. Especially," Tony pauses for breath and— Bucky's pretty sure— dramatic effect.

"Especially since Bucky Bear has his name in quite a few Hydra files, as their favorite assassin." Tony shrugs. "Thought it best to check it out. Introduce myself. Maybe have you arrested for treason, at the very least, if not more. Maybe not."

Bucky glares. "If you've seen whatever files Hydra kept on me, I'm sure you've also seen that I was their prisoner — and everything else that happened, besides me killing for them."

Tony's face darkens. "Yeah, Bucky Bear, I sure did see all that. That's why I came here just lil old me, instead of with an elite task force— or at least in my suit, even though I'm under doctor's orders not to wear it for another couple months at least." Tony scrunches up his face at the thought of not putting on the Iron Man suit for so long, like it puts a bad taste in his mouth. Which, to be fair, it probably does.

"And I gotta ask," Tony continues, suddenly slamming Sam's laptop shut. "Why exactly are you digging through these files?"

Bucky is caught off guard. "Uh," he manages.

"Cuz if you just wanna remember what happened to you, that's fair and I'll leave you to it. However," Tony stands, "if there's another reason, like a tall blond super reason, I might have an offer for you."

Bucky takes a deep breath, feels the hurt of how Steve didn't believe him, his cruel words as he walked out on Bucky, the sweetness of his lips. He lets it wash over him, closing his eyes.

He opens his eyes and meets the sparkling ones of Tony Freakin' Stark.

"I want to help Steve. If I can remember… Anything, really, that might help him, I want to do it. I have to do it."

Tony stares at him, silent and calculating, expressionless. Bucky starts to sweat.

"Good man," Tony says at last, breaking out into a grin, as abrupt as everything else he's done. "So, for the purposes of helping Red White and Arctic Blue, why don't you come back to my tower? Sorry, our tower, it's Avengers Tower now, I keep forgetting that."

"What?" Bucky says dumbly.

"I have much more sophisticated technology than a three year old Toshiba," Tony says, ignoring Sam's offended "hey!"

"I have the most sophisticated AI on the planet, and he can run all kinds of different searching algorithms in milliseconds. It'll be a helluva lot easier to sort through these files— and your memories— there than it will be here. Here, you won't get through anything quick enough to be of any use to Steve. And besides, how would you even pass information to him? He's gone dark, with Romanoff and Barton, and I'm the only point of contact, their only source of information. You're useless without me— but, to be fair, most people are useless without me."

Bucky wants to be offended, he really does, but... Stark has a point. What was he thinking, that he'd just be able to call Steve's cell like usual? If Steve's smart— and okay, Steve might not be but the Black Widow definitely is— he's smashed his phone, or at the very least let it drown in the Potomac. And there are millions of files. Manually searching them all would take more lifetimes than Bucky has.

"Yeah, okay," he agrees, a little numbly.

"Great! Let's go, I got a private jet waiting at the airport. You can come too if you want, Falcon," Tony says as he again shoves past Sam and Bucky.

Sam grabs his shoulder. "What did you call me?"

"Falcon," Tony says, raising an eyebrow at Sam. "I looked at all your files too. And I know the government won't let you have your wings, but I bet I could build a better pair in my sleep. If you want."

Sam stares at him, still holding onto his shoulder.

"Speaking of bodily extensions," Tony adds, twisting to look back at Bucky. "What the hell did you do to your prosthetic and can I play with it? Also, if you want an arm that functions like an arm— or an arm that functions like a gun or an arm that functions like a sex toy... Basically any kind of anything you want to do with your arm, I can build you a whole wardrobe to choose from. I'll even let you help, since you Macgyvered the fuck out of that one so successfully."

Bucky stares. Sam stares.

Tony winks.

"Now are you coming or not?"

Chapter Text

~a few months later~

Another Hydra base down, another hotel room, another long night on this seemingly never-ending mission. Steve falls back on the bed with a groan.

He's sore, exhausted, just so, so tired. This bed isn't very nice, the sheets scratchy under his back, the pillows stiff. Natasha and Clint are in the adjoining room, likely already asleep.

They're on hold, waiting for Stark to feed them info for the next base. They might be stuck there for a couple days— and that's how Steve knows they're making progress. Each new base takes Stark and Hill longer to pinpoint, longer to prepare an accurate briefing for them.

It's a good sign, it is, it means they might be almost done— finally, seventy years longer than Steve expected. He winces at the thought.

He rolls onto his side, sighing loud and dramatic. As exhausted as he is, he can't sleep.

A memory comes to him then, of the last time he was in a hotel room and unable to sleep. Of calling Bucky, watching Princess Bride together over the phone.

Steve smiles before he remembers how he left Bucky— angry, disbelieving, slamming the door behind him. He thinks of the moment before it all went wrong, before Rumlow called to tell him about the Lemurian Star. How Bucky paled at the name, how Steve— he didn't believe him, only to be proven wrong mere hours later, to see proof in Natasha's hands, in Pierce, of how right Bucky was, and how Bucky was tortured at their hands—

Fuck.

He fucked up so bad.

He doesn't know what to do, but... Dwelling on it won't help, he tells himself firmly. It's over, he fucked up, and he can only hope Bucky's okay, back in Movie Barnes, still... Just hanging around without any customers—

"Nope, not going there," Steve says out loud. He sits up and picks up the remote to the hotel room TV, clicking the power button. He needs something, anything to distract him.

He channel surfs for a while, nothing catching his interest until—

Titanic.

He remembers Bucky telling him they made a movie about it, promising they'd watch it together, but they never got around to it before—

Fuck it, he's gonna watch. He clicks on the channel, grimly satisfied that the movie is just beginning. He can take care of himself, he can catch up on pop culture by himself, he doesn't need a guide, doesn't need Bucky.

Steve loses himself in the movie.

******************************

Much later, in the small hours of the morning, Steve barges into Clint and Natasha's room, barely managing to duck Natasha's knife.

"What is it?" she demands, bolt upright in bed and completely alert. Clint groans next to her.

"Jack and Rose," Steve says breathlessly, eyes wide. "Jack and Rose!"

"What?" Natasha says, frowning hard at him. Clint sits up next to her, switching on the light.

"She let him go! There was room, but she didn't make the effort!"

"What the fuck are you talking about?" Natasha demands, voice low and dangerous. Clint is squinting at Steve's lips.

"Jack and Rose!" Steve repeats.

"Dude... Have you been up all night watching Titanic?" Clint asks. Natasha darts a look at him before turning back to Steve.

"Yes!" Steve says, still completely manic.

"And you felt the need to wake us up at three am to tell us about it?" Clint asks. Natasha looks murderous.

"Yes!"

"Explain," Natasha demands.

"Rose— at the end, there was enough room on the door, but Rose, she didn't— she should've helped him on, let him get up with her. She let him go, you understand? He stuck by her side no matter what, but she didn't even try to do the same!"

"What the fuck kind of sleep deprived, super cheesy sad movie high are you having?" Clint asks conversationally.

"Bucky!" Steve says, waving his arms, and Natasha groans, collapsing back onto her pillow. "I didn't let him get up! He stuck by me but I didn't let help him get on the door!"

"That makes absolutely no sense, Rogers," Natasha says, hiding her face under her forearms. "Just shut the fuck up and go to bed. Stark should call tomorrow."

"No!" Steve says. Natasha uncovers her eyes. "I have to go back, I have to get Bucky!"

She stares at him, and he stares back. Clint rolls his eyes, then rolls over and pulls the terrible sheet up over his head. He's snoring again in less than a minute.

"Natasha," Steve says, softer and less wild.

"We're almost out of bases— or at least the easy ones," Natasha acknowledges Steve's point before he can make it. "We've been at this non-stop for three months. I think we can afford a break."

"Thank you," Steve breathes out, sagging in relief.

"We'll leave in the morning for New York— after I get all my beauty sleep," Natasha says, leaning over Clint to turn off the light.

"That works," Steve agrees, forcefully tamping down on his urge to leave right that second immediately .

"And Rogers?" Natasha says as Steve turns around to return to his room.

"Yeah?"

"You wake me up like this again— for a reason this fucking stupid— and I will disembowel you."

Steve freezes, unsure what to say, the reality of his actions of the last few minutes— barging in on his exhausted friends because a movie triggered some great nonsensical revelation, and demanding they change their plans— finally settling in.

"Sorry?" he whispers.

"Get out of my room," Natasha orders.

Steve, proving he does in fact possess a modicum of self preservation, gets.

******************************

"So your boy is on his way."

"He's not my boy, Stark," Bucky growls under his breath, response automatic after a couple months living in Avengers Tower and working with the man himself. He barely even registers what else Tony said, completely engrossed in combing through more Hydra files.

"Yeah yeah, whatever, he's gonna be here in like... Five? Ten minutes?" Tony continues.

"Wait, what?" Bucky says, waving his hand— new, like a real hand only made of metal, courtesy of Stark Industries and Tony's mad genius— to turn off the holographic display in front of him.

"Capsicle? The good Captain Bombpop? Rogers?"

"Steve?"

"Yeah, him and the Red Menace and I think Bird Boy Numero Uno? I'm not sure on that, wasn't very clear, just a single text, ‘our eta is 30 minutes’ from Rogers, so I assume 'our' includes Romanoff and probably Barton too, those two definitely have something more going on—"

"They're coming here? Now?" Bucky interrupts.

Tony blinks at him. "Yes," he says slowly, "that's what I just told you."

"I'm gonna kill him," Bucky declares, standing up so abruptly his chair falls over. He doesn't even pause to pick it up, just leaves the room. Tony glances at the fallen chair, frowns, then at the door sliding shut behind Bucky.

"Wait, are you serious? Are you seriously gonna kill him? I thought you didn't want him to know you were here!" Tony calls, hurrying after Bucky.

"I wanted the element of surprise," Bucky growls, slamming the elevator's down button repeatedly.

"You don't need to do that, y'know," Tony points out.

Bucky glares over his shoulder. "He just up and left, Stark. Yelled at me, called me a liar, and left. Yes I do."

"No, I meant with the button. You only gotta press it once," Tony says. Bucky snarls wordlessly as the elevator doors open. He holds them, waiting for Tony to join him, but Tony doesn't move.

"You coming?"

"I don't know if I want to be in an enclosed space with you right now," Tony says.

"Fine!" Bucky snaps, and starts slamming the close door button.

"Wait! I'm lying — well, I'm not lying, but not missing the show this is sure to be is worth risking my life with you—" Tony says, jumping forward and sticking an arm in between the doors before they can shut.

"Then get in!"

"Fine, I'm coming, Christ now I'm starting to rethink my decision," Tony says as he steps in next to Bucky, who's back to slamming the close door button.

"Too fuckin' late," Bucky says as the doors finally shut and the elevator starts moving. "When did you say they'd be here?"

"Any minute now, and also wow, you've met Bruce right? Dr. Banner? Our lovable, huggable Hulk? Huggable Hulk— JARVIS, make a note, that could be a line of plushies—"

"I've met him," Bucky interrupts.

"Yeah, okay good, so see he has this teeny tiny anger problem, he's really done a lot of work on managing it, y'know, anger management?"

"I know," Bucky growls.

"Yeah, so anyway, I was thinking— you know who should really talk to him? About anger management? Get some tips? Advice? Suggestions? You."

Bucky doesn't say anything, just staring Tony down with his best murder face.

"Actually, never mind, go back to bitching at me, this is so much worse."

The elevator dings as it hits the lobby level, and Bucky's lips twitch toward a smile.

Which instantly dies as the doors open to reveal none other than the good captain himself, Steve Rogers.

"Bucky?" Steve gasps, eyes wide.

"Oh hey! You're here! Wait, are you actually— don't kill him!" Tony shrieks as Bucky shoves him out of the way to stride out of the elevator, directly up to Steve.

"You left!"

"Bucky, I'm so sorry, I—"

Bucky doesn't let him finish, instead pulling back his brand new gold titanium alloy arm, and punching Steve directly in the face.

There's a beat of silence, only interrupted by the thump of 250 pounds of genetically enhanced super soldier hitting the floor, completely out.

Then— chaos.

Natasha points a pistol directly between Bucky's eyes while Tony splutters and tries to catch his breath, having pulled himself out of the elevator— "I told you to be careful with that!"

There are people in the lobby gasping and screaming, security guards rushing forward, with Bucky frozen solid in the middle, eyes wide with panic, standing over Steve's prone body.

"Ughhh," Steve groans.

"Oh my God, oh my God Stevie, baby, I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to, I thought you could take it, dammit don't try to get up!" Bucky drops to his knees next to Steve's head, gently cradling his face between his hands. Natasha's aim follows him but she doesn't pull the trigger, one eyebrow raised.

"I'm so sorry, I'm— this is a new arm, I'm not used to it yet, a lot stronger than I expect it to be, I'm so sorry—"

"Bucky," Steve says again, opening his eyes— one of which is already swelling and purpling— and looking up at Bucky.

"Yeah Stevie, it's me."

"Bucky!" Steve says again, smiling and tilting his head into the warmth of Bucky's hand.

He closes his eyes again and seems to pass out.

"Holy shit I killed him!"

"No— oh my God, everyone calm the fuck down! No security, no, everything is okay, just sometimes American icons do stupid shit and need to get punched in the face, I'm 100% on the murderbot's side here, really—" Tony calls out, shoeing away the gathering crowd as best he can.

"M'fine," Steve mumbles, not opening his eyes. "Bucky's here, m'fine now."

"Hey, JARVIS hold the elevator, Cyborg Boy, use your fancy super strength arm that's super strong enough to take out a super soldier to get him up, I have a medical floor, c'mon," Tony directs as Natasha finally holsters her gun.

"No, don't wanna move, Bucky's here," Steve says, hands flapping and grabbing onto Bucky as Bucky tries to stand and pick him up.

"C'mon Stevie, we gotta go okay? I'm not goin' anywhere, I'm right here, you just gotta come with me."

"Okay," Steve agrees, and sits up. "Owww, my head!" He goes to lay back down.

"Okay, Tony, after this you're recalibrating my arm, this is ridiculous, no Stevie you still gotta get up for me pal, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry."

"No!" Steve protests, finally opening his eyes again and sitting up. "I'm the one who should be sorry Buck— and I am, I'm so sorry, I didn't believe you, I should've believed you I—" To Bucky's alarm, his eyes are starting to well up.

"Nope, not doing this here," he says and just... Scoops Steve up in his arms bridal style to march him into the elevator.

Everyone stares after him.

"You shouldn't be able to do that, even with your arm," Tony points out. Bucky shifts Steve so he can start jamming the close door button.

"Wait!" But JARVIS takes Bucky's side this time, and firmly shuts the doors before Tony can stop them.

"We'll have to wait for the next one," Natasha says casually from behind Tony. "In the meantime, care to explain?"

"Uhhhhhhh."

******************************

Steve wakes up slowly, head pounding. The light is too bright and he twitches away from it, but the second the side of his face hits the pillow he gasps in pain.

The light dims past his closed eyelids, and he dares to open them a little.

Bucky’s face hovers over him.

Steve can’t prevent his smile— Bucky’s here!

“Bucky,” Steve rasps, reaching for him, but Bucky pulls away. His expression is dark, angry, even as he picks up a cup full of ice chips and fishes one out to feed Steve.

“I’m sorry I punched you,” Bucky says flatly as Steve takes the ice. “Well, no I’m not, but I’m sorry I punched you so hard.” He shrugs his left shoulder, and Steve’s eyes go wide.

Well, his right eye does. His left is still too swollen to open that much.

“Wha?”

“Stark,” Bucky says shortly, and Steve frowns. Right, he’s at Stark’s tower. Bucky was… Bucky was waiting for him there?

His brain turns back on.

“Bucky,” he says again, plaintively. “I am so sorry.”

Bucky stares at him, unflinching.

“Sorry isn’t enough, I know sorry isn’t enough, I was—”

“You didn’t believe me. You just… Screamed at me and walked out. You didn’t believe me, you didn’t even pause to consider—” Bucky cuts himself off, takes a breath as his voice begins to rise.

“I was having fucking flashbacks on the fucking floor, and you almost choked me the fuck out. I had a bruise on my neck for a week. You didn’t fucking take two seconds to consider hey, there’s no way I should’ve known Rumlow’s name unless I was fucking right.”

Steve tries, he does, but he can’t stop tearing up.

“I’m so sorry, I’ll never be able to say it enough, Bucky I—”

“No Steve,” Bucky interrupts, standing abruptly. “Don’t fucking say it. Not after that. You’re right, you’ll never be able to say sorry enough. That was fucking bullshit. That was fucking unacceptable.”

Steve’s bottom lip quivers.

“Is there anything I can do?”

Bucky turns away from him, and Steve sobs once before he can stop himself.

“Your war isn’t over Steve. I see that now. Hydra’s still out there. I’ve been helping Tony dig through the files, seeing what I can remember for you.”

Steve sobs again at the realization that even after how he treated Bucky, how he walked out on Bucky, how much he hurt him, Bucky’s still doing everything he can to be there for Steve.

“But it will end, Steve,” Bucky barrels on. “One day, it will be over. Soon. You’re back here because it’s almost over. I’ll help you finish it, but after that I’m done. For real.”

“Bucky,” Steve says. “There will be others, after. I can’t just—”

“Like hell you can’t!” Bucky snaps, whirling back around. “You’re not the only enhanced person anymore Steve! You’ve fought enough, you need to come home eventually!”

“I can’t—” Steve insists while Bucky huffs and throws up his hands, one flesh, one glinting metal.

“You remember Lion King?” Bucky asks, apropos of nothing.

“Yes?” Steve says slowly.

“The whole ‘remember who you are’ scene?” Bucky presses.

“Yeah,” Steve confirms.

“What did you think of when you watched that?” Bucky asks.

“Uhh,” Steve says, not sure what Bucky means.

“Oh c’mon, I know it made you think, I was there, I saw you relating to it! What, you thought ‘remember who you are’ as applied to you means being Captain America didn’t you?

“Uhh,” Steve says again, thinking back. That is… Exactly what he thought, if he’s honest, but he has a feeling Bucky doesn’t think that’s right. “Yeah?”

“I knew it,” Bucky says, “because you’re a fucking idiot!”

“What?”

“Steve Rogers!” Bucky says.

What?” Steve asks again.

“Not Captain America, you haven’t forgotten Captain America one fucking second since the first time you picked up that fucking shield, have you?”

Steve opens his mouth to answer, but Bucky doesn’t give him a chance.

“You’re not Captain America— you’re Steve Rogers, and that’s who you need to remember!”

“Bucky…” Steve says softly. “I can’t stop being Captain America.”

“Captain America is a fucking stage name! It’s a comic book character! Captain America was not having Disney movie marathons with me, Captain America didn’t go to Rocky Horror Picture Show on Halloween and get shitfaced! Captain America doesn’t want to draw, he isn’t a fucking artist, Captain fucking America didn’t kiss me during Sleeping Beauty!”

Steve stares at him.

“Steven goddamn Rogers did all those things, because that’s who you are! And Steven Grant Rogers would never fucking walk out on me like you did! So I understand you have to finish your war, but when it's over… If you want anything to actually happen with us…” Bucky trails off, finally running out of steam.

“I love you, Steve Rogers. I don’t love Captain America, and I don’t think you do either. But I understand. You need to finish this war, and if you can’t stay out of the next one I’ll understand that too. But fuck, Steve, I came home. I need to be home. And I can’t be with you if you won’t come home too.”

“You are my home,” Steve says, and he knows it doesn’t make that much sense in context, except it does. It’s the truest thing he’s ever said. “Bucky, you are my home, more than anywhere in this century or the last. I love you.”

But Bucky’s shaking his head.

“No Steve, that’s not enough. I love you too, and I’ll help you finish your war, but then I need you to be done. Or I can’t have you. I don’t want Captain America.”

“Bucky,” Steve says, reaching for him again. “I can’t— I’ve been Captain America for years, I don’t know how to be anything else, how can I put down the shield? After Hydra there’ll be others, you know that as well as I do, how can I— what would I do with myself if I stop?”

“Remember who you are,” Bucky says, shrugging. “Steve Rogers.”

Bucky turns and starts toward the door.

“Wait!” Steve calls.

“Who’s askin’?” Bucky says, pausing but not turning around. “Steve Rogers or Captain America?”

“I’ll try,” Steve says. “I… I want to come home, Bucky. I’m so tired of fighting.” Before he can stop it, his voice breaks and he’s crying. It makes his head pound worse and his eye hurts so fucking bad, what is up with Bucky’s arm?

But it’s true, he wants to go home, he’s just been fighting so long he doesn’t know how to do anything else. He never wanted war to be his entire life, but now it is and he doesn’t know how to be live any other way.

“You can learn,” Bucky says, and Bucky’s arms wrap around Steve, pulling him close. “You won’t be alone. I’ll be right there with you the whole way.”

“Promise?” Steve says, sniffling into Bucky’s shoulder, soaking his shirt with tears.

“Promise Stevie,” Bucky says into the top of Steve’s head. “I love you. I’m with you to the end of the line, if you’ll have me.”

Steve just cries harder and clings tighter.

******************************
Epilogue
******************************

Stark’s doctors let Steve go a few hours later, by which time his eye is mostly healed. Go super serum.

He and Bucky make their way to the common room at JARVIS’s direction.

“So,” Bucky says in the elevator. “I guess Tony made everyone their own floor, but he kinda gave me yours. There’s an extra bedroom or… Y’know, you can stay with me? If you want? Just sleeping, like we did before.”

“Before? Wait, after Rocky Horror? I know we uh… Kissed, but I thought you slept on the couch?”

Bucky stares at him. “You remember that?”

“I remember us kissing…” Steve says, unable to meet his eyes, face burning.

“Stevie, we definitely kissed, and then you didn’t want me to leave. So. I didn’t.”

“Really?” Steve finally looks at him.

“Really,” Bucky confirms. “So… You good to stay with me? Tonight, then as long as you want?”

Forever, Steve thinks. I want to stay with you forever.

“One day at a time, Stevie,” Bucky says, grinning and slinging an arm around Steve’s shoulders as the elevator comes to a stop.

“Murderbot! Capsicle! Made out— I mean made up yet?” Stark asks, clearly waiting for them. Everyone else is lounging around, Clint and Natasha and Sam and Bruce.

“Are we late?” Bucky asks, as Steve hides his face against Bucky's neck in embarrassment.

“Nah, just in time! I’m thinking, movie night?”

“Sounds good to me,” Bucky confirms, nudging Steve. “You?”

“S’fine Buck,” Steve mumbles, then looks up. “Hey, wait, what happened to Movie Barnes?”

Bucky shrugs. “Tony helped me find this girl to take over. She’s running the store as rent, training to be an Olympic archer I think? Her and this one-eyed dog who’ll only eat pizza—”

“Lucky??” Clint demands, rolling off the sofa he’s sprawling over. “And Katie Kate?”

“Uh,” Bucky says, taken aback. “Yes? Who’re you?”

“Clint Barton, Hawkeye!”

“Do all archers know each other?” Bucky asks, still confused.

“God, don’t ask,” Natasha groans. “Sorry not sorry for pulling a gun on you.”

“Uh,” Bucky says again, and feels Steve try not to laugh next to him. “Honestly? Sorry not sorry for punching Steve.”

“No one blames you,” Natasha says, ignoring Steve’s indignant “hey!” “You’re the only one who wouldn’t break your hand, and he deserved it.”

Bucky laughs at that, dragging Steve over to another couch. “What’re we watching, Stark?”

“Well, Wonder Woman just came out on Netflix,” Tony says. “But I’ll understand if that’s too modern for you, VHS Barnes.”

“Nah,” Bucky says, tugging Steve down on top of him. “’Bout time we started living in the future, huh Stevie?”

Steve grins, snuggling into Bucky’s chest, and leans up for a kiss which Bucky eagerly returns.

“Yeah,” he agrees against Bucky’s lips. “Sure is.”