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(You'll Be) the Death of Me

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(I hate everything about you)

I hate everything about you.

Bucky read the words once, twice, then crossed them out until they were unrecognizable under the black scrawl. He couldn’t write that. He didn’t hate everything about Steve. Not all the time.

He studied the page, then scribbled down another sentence.

I think we need some space.

There. That was true. They needed space. Or if Steve didn’t, Bucky did. He was starting to suffocate. Needed room to breathe. The way they’d been lately… It was too much. It had Bucky swinging up through the highest highs and back down through the lowest lows. Still, it was one thing to write it and another thing to say it out loud. Bucky knew how Steve would react. Steve would get angry. Explosive. Probably violent. There was no version of this where Steve didn’t lose his mind and do something stupid or dangerous, and it wasn’t worth the fallout. Things with Steve could’ve been worse. They weren’t exactly good, but they could’ve been worse.

He and Steve hadn’t started out this way. Their relationship had always been a little hot and heavy, but they had both been… Happy. When had everything started going downhill so fast? The first time Steve had called him useless? The first time Steve had hit him? The first time Steve had grabbed him so hard it bruised? Threatened Bucky with promises of self-inflicted harm? Slammed Bucky’s head against the wall and held a forearm into his throat until he could barely breathe? Fuck, it was all so screwed up, and Bucky was completely tangled in it. The worst part was, it didn’t matter what Steve said or did - Bucky kept all of it to himself. To protect them. To protect Steve. That domestic shit wasn’t anyone else’s business. It was messy as hell, and it made it damn hard for Bucky to function most of the time, but it wasn’t for anyone else to deal with. Those fights were between him and Steve.

When they weren’t fighting, they were fucking, and damn, Steve knew how to fuck. It was the best and worst part of their relationship, and it was only bad because it was so damn good. Bucky covered his eyes and took a deep breath. Just thinking about it made him feel as needy as he ever did, ready to beg Steve to take him wherever and however Steve wanted. It hadn’t started as an addiction, but Bucky couldn’t deny that it had become one. Bucky needed Steve. Needed Steve to want him. And nowadays, sex with Steve was the only thing that made Bucky feel worth anything at all.

The sound of the garage door opening had Bucky up and off his bed before he quite knew what he was doing, tucking the notebook under the mattress as he went. Even writing that they needed a break had him feeling guilty, somehow, like he was betraying Steve. Bucky wanted to make up for it. Wanted to prove his loyalty. Wanted to make it clear to Steve that he was in this for the long haul; till the end of the line, like they’d always promised. It had felt like a promise back then. Now, it felt more like a trap.

Bucky made it to the kitchen just as the door opened and Steve stepped inside.

“Hey, Buck,” Steve said, hanging up his keys and pulling the door closed behind him.

“Hey, Stevie.” Bucky smiled, thinking that Steve was a sight for sore eyes. He hated the way Steve’s fucking beautiful face made him feel better and worse all at the same time. “How was your day?”

“Long,” Steve replied, dropping his bag by the door and dragging a hand through his hair. Steve didn’t have to use product - those blonde locks just fell perfectly into place all on their own. “Yours?”

“Fine. Better now that you’re home.” Christ, he couldn’t even control the shit that came out of his own mouth.

“Did you make dinner?”

“No. I was thinkin’ we could go out.”

“I’d rather stay in.” Steve’s eyes grew dark, and they raked over Bucky’s body in a way that had saliva pooling in Bucky’s mouth.

“Yeah?” Bucky licked his lips. “We could order.”

Steve nodded in agreement, taking a step closer, looking every inch a predator stalking its prey. “Yeah. We could order.”

Bucky didn’t realize he was moving backward until he bumped up against the kitchen island.

Steve leaned forward, bracketing Bucky’s body with his arms. “Somethin’ else I’d like to do first.”

Bucky swallowed. “What-”

He barely got to finish the word before Steve’s lips met his, forcing his head back. It only lasted a second, but Christ, it made Bucky burn.

“Steve,” he started, not sure what the hell he wanted to say.

Steve rested one hand on Bucky’s chest, sliding it slowly upward over Bucky’s throat to tilt Bucky’s chin up. “Don’t,” he said, his voice low.

Steve leaned in to kiss him again, and this time Bucky opened his mouth and surrendered.

~

(Kiss with a Fist)

Steve kissed Bucky hard enough to bruise. There was nothing sweet or sexy about it. It was punishment, retribution for Bucky’s disobedience, although Bucky didn’t quite know what he’d done. Steve claimed Bucky’s mouth with deep strokes of his tongue, his hands gripping the back of Bucky’s shirt to pull it up and off. Bucky groaned, the top of the kitchen island digging into his bare back, the lip of the granite cold against his skin. He didn’t care; Steve was already working his jeans open, sliding them off with rough hands. The boxers went next, Steve’s palms grazing over Bucky’s ass as the fabric slid to the floor.

“Counter,” Steve instructed, and Bucky obeyed. He turned and stretched out, chest resting on the countertop. Bucky heard the sounds of fabric rustling and clothes hitting the tile, and then Steve was right behind him, hard cock pressing up against his ass.

“Fuck.” Bucky’s fingers reached and flexed, looking for something to grab onto as Steve breached his hole, a single digit going in dry. “Lube under the sink, Steve.”

Bucky half expected Steve to ignore him - they’d done it without lube plenty of times, especially before they’d started keeping lube in the glove compartment of Steve’s car. But Steve pulled away, and Bucky heard him rustling in the cabinet below the sink, then popping a cap open and snapping it shut. Bucky shifted the rest of his weight to his toes, biting his lip in anticipation. A few seconds later, Steve’s hand was back, and this time two slick fingers breached him easily, stretching and twisting and reaching until Bucky shuddered, his teeth digging further into his lip. Steve knew his body so well, it was unfair.

“Yeah?” Steve asked, adding a third finger. Two years ago, that would’ve been too much too fast. Now, Bucky was used to Steve’s size, even if Steve was fucking huge.

“Yeah,” Bucky agreed, pressing back into Steve’s fingers. Steve took another minute to work him open, sliding torturously over Bucky’s prostate just often enough to set his teeth on edge.

Steve didn’t ask if Bucky was ready. He slid his fingers out in one swift motion, lining his cock up with Bucky’s entrance. Bucky pressed back again, urging Steve to move. Normally, Steve would’ve given Bucky a hard time for being needy; Steve must’ve really needed it too, if he was too focused to poke fun.

Steve’s cock pushed past that tight ring of muscle, and then Steve slid home, filling Bucky completely. Shit. That stretch was perfect. When Steve didn’t move right away, Bucky tried to encourage him, tilting his hips. “C’mon, Stevie. Need you.”

Steve growled under his breath. He set up a slow rhythm, just fast enough to keep Bucky from whining for more. Fingers dug into Bucky’s sides, hard enough to leave marks, and damn it, it felt good. Bucky loved Steve hanging onto him and holding him in place, loved Steve’s cock moving in and out of him, splitting him open. Nothing else compared to this. Fuck, it was so good, Bucky would’ve done anything for it.

“Beautiful.” Steve hummed, then tugged at Bucky’s hair. “So tight for me, so perfect.”

“Ah,” Bucky groaned. Fuck fuck fuck. Bucky loved being told how good he was, and Steve knew it. Exploited it.

The rest was a blur of movement and pain crossed with pleasure. First Bucky was face down on the counter; then he was seated on the counter, legs around Steve’s waist; then Steve was hauling him into the living room and easing them both down to the floor until Bucky ended up with his arms braced on the carpet, ass in the air. It was one of Steve’s favorite positions, and Bucky understood why. He practically yowled when Steve thrust into him this time. That angle was incredible. It sent sparks all the way to Bucky’s toes, and he groaned, nails digging into the carpet to brace himself against the force of Steve’s thrusts.

Steve crowded closer, curling himself over Bucky, his chest against Bucky’s back. One big hand held Bucky’s hip in place; the other wrapped around his cock. Bucky fucked into that tight grip, desperate for more friction, aching to move faster to match Steve’s pace. Shit. Bucky wasn’t going to last. And if Steve didn’t get something to put under him, he was going to come all over the carpet.

“Stevie. Gonna make a mess.”

“Don’t care,” Steve growled in his ear. “Just wait for me.”

“Ah,” Bucky gasped, because damn it, he was so close, he didn’t know if he could wait; but if he didn’t, Steve would probably punish him for it later. “Steve, ’m so close-”

“I know,” Steve said, pumping in and out with brutal efficiency, dragging over Bucky’s prostate with every stroke. “I’m almost there.”

Bucky screwed his eyes shut and breathed through his nose, his teeth clenched, every muscle screaming for release.

“Oh - Bucky, yes, oh, shit.” Steve’s hips jerked once, then twice, and then Steve was coming, pulsing hot into Bucky and pressing him down into the carpet.

Bucky finally let go, tumbling straight over the edge. “F-fuck,” he gasped, coming so hard he saw stars. He dropped his head down, forehead pressed against the carpet, trying to adjust to Steve’s weight on top of him. “Fuck,” he said again, trying to catch his breath. Damn it. Why did the sex have to be so good?

Steve nodded in agreement, hiding his face in Bucky’s shoulder, then kissing along Bucky’s neck. Bucky moved his head to give Steve better access, shivering when Steve dropped soft kisses behind his ear.

“Love you,” Steve said against Bucky’s skin.

Bucky couldn’t tell if he wanted to laugh or cry. He took a few deep breaths. “Yeah, Stevie. Love you too.”

~

(Love the way you Lie)

It happened every time Bucky tried to start the conversation. Steve would make things physical. Sexual. He’d crowd close and palm Bucky’s cock, or drop kisses along Bucky’s throat until Bucky was aching and begging for it. Steve had even sucked Bucky off under the kitchen table just to get Bucky to shut up. It had been a week, and Bucky hadn’t gained any ground. And he knew Steve didn’t like being interrupted while he was getting ready, but maybe distracted, Steve would actually listen. Anyway, it was worth a shot.

“Hey, Steve.”

Steve was looking in the mirror, adjusting his hair and alternating between spray and gel.

Bucky swallowed down his nerves, trying to sound casual. “Steve. Can we talk?”

There. You’ve asked the question. It was more than Bucky had done in a long time. Steve was too stubborn to talk to, most of the time. But this time, what Bucky had to say was too important to leave off the table.

Steve kept his eyes trained on his own reflection in the mirror, hands focused on shaping his hair. “Bucky, I don’t have time right now. I have to get ready.”

Of course. Bucky had worked up the courage to start the damn conversation, had picked the right moment specifically to get Steve to answer, and Steve was blowing him off.

“Stevie. I just… It’s important.” When Steve didn’t answer, Bucky took a step forward, resting a hand on Steve’s arm. Steve jerked away, and Bucky froze, nearly biting off his own tongue.

“I said no, Buck.”

“I… I don’t understand.”

“Are you stupid?” Shit, that stung. It wasn’t anything new, but it still hurt whenever Steve did it. “What part of it don’t you understand? I’m getting ready. I’m busy. I can’t talk now.”

“But Steve, I-”

“Bucky.” Steve shot him a warning look. “Don’t push it. Okay?”

“Ain’t tryin’ to push.” Bucky crossed his arms, staring at the ground. “Just… Want you to listen t’me, is all.”

Steve turned over his shoulder. “Are you honestly saying I don’t listen to you?” Steve set the can of hairspray down hard on the dresser. “What about all the times I let you complain to me about work, huh? And what about the times I’ve listened to you talk about your shitty family situation and your terrible past relationships?” Steve scoffed, returning his attention to the mirror. “Don’t try to tell me I don’t listen.”

“You ain’t listenin’ now.”

Steve turned again, and Bucky was convinced Steve was about to hit him. He shrank back, regretting asking the question in the first place, wishing he could take it back.

“I am listening. And you know what I’m hearing? I’m hearing you try to interrupt my prep for an evening I’ve been planning for months.”

Bucky swallowed down guilt, glancing up at Steve in apology before looking away. “Not tryin’ to-”

“Doesn’t matter if you’re trying, Buck, you’re still doing it. You have no idea how important this is to me.”

That wasn’t fair. “Yes I do.” Bucky wanted to sound angrier than he did. His felt furious, but his voice was weak.

“Then you’ll understand why I think you shouldn’t come.”

Bucky took a step back, stunned. “What?”

Steve’s expression hardened. “The people at this dinner? I need to impress them. I can’t afford anything like this. I can’t have you embarrassing me.”

Fuck. Bucky hated how that knocked the breath out of him. Embarrass? Steve was full of shit. Bucky would never make Steve look bad, not in a thousand years. Steve should’ve known that. Bucky wanted to grab Steve by the shoulders and shake him. In the end, all he managed was, “Fine. Go without me, then.” Bucky unbuttoned his own suit jacket and let it drop to the floor, then yanked his tie loose and tossed it aside. “You’re obviously better off without me, right?”

“If you keep acting like this, maybe.”

Bucky wanted to scream. He settled for clenching his fists, nails digging into his palms. He didn’t know whether Steve beating him up was actually any worse than this. Steve made him feel like less than nothing. And Bucky let Steve do it. All this power Steve had over him, Bucky handed it over without a fight.

“I have to finish getting ready,” Steve continued. “Can you stay out of my way for ten minutes?”

Bucky swallowed against the hot sting of tears. Crying in front of Steve didn’t do a damn bit of good anyway. “Yeah. Sure.”

When Steve emerged from the bedroom in his suit and bowtie, Bucky barely glanced in his direction.

“Alright,” Steve said straightening his jacket. “I’ll see you later.”

Steve disappeared into the kitchen. Footsteps, then the sound of the door closing loudly behind him. Bucky heard the garage door open and the engine start, then saw the headlights as Steve pulled out of the garage and drove off.

Motherfucker.

 

Chapter Text

 

(Numb)

Twenty minutes later, Bucky was still turning Steve’s words over and over in his head. I can’t have you embarrassing me. Was that all he was to Steve? A goddamn embarrassment? A dirty secret to hide from polite company? What had happened to the Steve who wanted - no, needed - Bucky’s support? Without Bucky, Steve would’ve been a goddamn mess. Steve might not have been willing to admit it, but Bucky knew it was true.

An hour into his sulking, Bucky decided he was hungry. He called in an order for Chinese food and sat on the living room couch, putting on some mind-numbing restaurant competition show just to pass the time. He barely watched; he stared into the takeout box, chewing his fried rice in irritable silence.

When Steve wasn’t back by ten, Bucky hauled himself into bed, trading his suit pants for sweats and crawling under the covers. The smell of their detergent reminded him of Steve, and Bucky wasn’t sure if that made him feel better or worse. He stared at the ceiling and crossed his arms, his jaw set, determined to force himself to sleep and forget about Steve entirely.

He stayed that way, stretched out on the bed, not sleeping, not thinking, until he saw two a.m. flash on the clock on the dresser. Of course. Steve was going to stay out all night just to punish him. Bucky wanted to feel hurt by that, but he couldn’t. He didn’t feel anything but numb. It didn’t matter. Steve, their relationship, this fight and every fight before. None of it mattered. Bucky was drained. Empty.

He sat up, running his hands through his hair and dragging his nails painfully over his scalp. There. He wasn’t completely empty. He could feel pain. That was something.

Hell. If Steve was going to stay out all night, then so was Bucky. He hauled himself out of bed and changed into sweats and his jean jacket, putting on his maroon baseball cap and heading stubbornly out the door.

Bucky’s friend Natasha worked at a bar on the southwest side of town. Since Steve didn’t like going to bars on principle, Bucky didn’t get to see Natasha much anymore. It was as good a place as any to spend the small hours of the morning. Plus, he knew once her shift was over, he’d be able to bum a smoke.

Bad habit. Shouldn’t do it. ’Sides, Steve doesn’t like it. Maybe that was why Bucky wanted to do it. Besides needing some kind of outlet, Bucky was in a serious mood to piss Steve off.

“Hey there, Soldier,” Natasha said as Bucky sat down at the bar. She was the only one who called him that. Most people didn’t know about his stint in the army, and Natasha was the only one who’d made a nickname out of it. She tucked a lock of red hair behind her ear and fixed him with a curious, flirtatious smile. “What’re you having?”

Bucky thought about it, then shrugged. “Dealer’s choice.”

Once upon a time, Bucky had been interested in Natasha. They’d gone on a few dates. But Steve - well, Steve commanded attention like no one else, and when Bucky had fallen into things with Steve, he’d lost track of Natasha for a while. Bucky wondered how different his life would have been if he’d pursued her instead of letting Steve sweep him away.

Natasha returned with a Moscow mule, and Bucky took a big enough sip that she raised her eyebrows at him. “Everything okay?” she asked.

Bucky answered by taking another drink. “Ain’t goin’ home till morning.”

“Alright. I’m off at four. Think you can hold out till then?”

“Long as you keep these comin’,” Bucky replied.

As soon as Natasha’s shift was over, Bucky drove them back to her apartment. They sat on the futon on her back patio, like they always did when Bucky came over, smoking and drinking to absolute excess. Natasha told him about the idiots who’d come into the bar that week, and Bucky laughed, really laughed, finally feeling himself relax.

They must’ve fallen asleep, because Bucky woke to the sun bright in his eyes. He blinked, shifting, and Natasha drew her feet out of his lap and sat up.

“Shit. Sorry,” she said. “The bed would’ve been more comfortable.”

Bucky shrugged. “S’okay.” It had been a hell of a lot better than falling asleep in his bed on his own. He stretched, then rubbed a hand over his face.

Time to go home, he thought. He wasn’t too hungover. A few ibuprofen would handle the headache just fine.

“You sure you don’t want to stay for breakfast?” Natasha asked.

Bucky got the feeling that was her way of being protective, offering him more time to put off the inevitable. “Nah,” Bucky said. “Oughta go face my demons.”

Natasha sent him off with a bottle of water and a few painkillers. She walked him to his car, and when he hugged her goodbye, she held on tight. “Take care of yourself,” she said.

He nodded. I’m tryin’, Tash. Promise, I’m tryin’.

~

(In between)

Bucky didn’t get home until after seven, sober enough but reeking of smoke. That stuff seeped into a person’s clothes and didn’t come out. Steve would probably be mad, and just then, Bucky didn’t give a flying fuck.

When Bucky opened the door, he was met with the sound of bacon sizzling in a pan. Steve stood over the stove, adding cheese to an omelette.

“Morning,” Steve said cheerily over his shoulder.

Bucky leaned against the door frame, blinking in confusion. “Mornin’.” There was a strange roughness in his voice that didn’t belong there. It almost sounded like he’d been screaming.

“You went out. Did you have a good time?”

Bucky nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, it was fine.” He ran a hand through his hair, frowning. He didn’t understand why Steve wasn’t mad. “How’d the dinner go?” he asked, still trying to find his footing.

Steve grinned. “They want to bring me on as a teaching artist and feature my work in the collection.”

“That’s…” Bucky trailed off. Maybe that explained the bacon and eggs and strangely sunny attitude. Steve had gotten exactly what he’d wanted. Big surprise. “Great. Congrats, Stevie.”

“Thank you.” Steve pulled two mugs down from above the sink. “You want some coffee?”

“Uh.” Bucky didn’t know how to respond to that. He didn’t know how to respond to any of this. Had Steve forgotten their fight? Did he expect Bucky to forget, too? “Sure,” Bucky said lamely.

“Come on, Buck. You’re not still upset about last night, are you?”

Bucky’s mouth pressed into a thin line. He was still upset. Steve had crossed a line, and nothing would make him forget about it, not alcohol or cigarettes or good company or Steve suddenly acting like the person Bucky had fallen in love with in the first place. Bucky couldn’t let himself be fooled by that. Right?

“Hey.” Steve set the mugs down, then took Bucky’s face in his hands, pressing a kiss to the corner of Bucky’s mouth. “I love you.”

Bucky let the words fall out of his mouth, rote and rehearsed. “I love you too.”

Steve seemed to take that as an invitation, and he kissed Bucky again, harder this time, one hand moving to cup Bucky’s ass. Bucky reacted to that before he had time to think, pushing Steve with both hands, shaking his head and stepping back.

“Bucky, what-”

“You can’t keep doin’ this, Steve.”

“Doing what?”

Bucky looked at the ground. “Tryin’ to fuck me just so I’ll forget everything bad.” Saying it out loud made it so much worse. He felt stupid and used, even more so because he almost always fell for it.

“I don’t - that’s not what I do.”

“Yes, it is.” Bucky had the fleeting thought that he might be crazy for saying what he was about to say. “I don’t know if I wanna be part of this any more.”

“Part of what?”

Bucky took a deep breath. “This relationship.”

~

(The Kill)

“Stevie,” Bucky said. “It ain’t workin’.” He held his breath, waiting for a reply.

Steve stared, not comprehending. “What do you mean?”

Shit. Steve wasn’t going to make this easy. Bucky tried again. “I mean… I think we should see other people.”

Steve’s eyes narrowed a fraction. “What?”

“This - we’re - I don’t know how else to say it. I don’t - I don’t wanna be with you any more.” Bucky didn’t know why, but he suddenly felt terrified and panicked, his lips chapped, his mouth dry.

Steve stared at him for what felt like forever, then shook his head. “No.”

“No?” Bucky swallowed down fear, his stomach churning.

“No,” Steve said again. “You can’t break up with me. I won’t let you.”

Bucky choked on a laugh. “You won’t let me?” Like hell he wouldn’t.

“That’s what I said.”

Bucky had played out plenty of scenarios in his head, but this wasn’t one of them. “I know you’re upset. But I think - I think I oughta find my own place. Give us a break, you know?”

Steve didn’t respond. His expression was completely unreadable, and Bucky wondered what exactly was brewing just below the surface. Probably something bad. The only question was how long it would take before it boiled over.

“So, uh. I’m gonna go pack for a few nights and… And I’ll come back for the rest of my stuff later.” Bucky maneuvered around Steve and made his way toward the bedroom, treading lightly, waiting for the pin to drop.

“Hey.” Shit. Steve followed Bucky, grabbing the back of his shirt and pulling him to a stop. “We’re not over until I say we’re over.”

Bucky yanked himself free and turned around. “That ain’t how it works.”

“That is how it works,” Steve growled, pinning Bucky back against the wall with a forearm to his chest. “You can’t just end things, Buck, not after everything we’ve been through.”

Bucky breathed deeply, trying to stay calm. “All we ever do is fight.”

“That’s not true.”

“It is true! Steve, the only other thing we do is fuck.” Bucky didn’t say out loud that Steve made him feel terrible about himself, that Steve insulted him and treated him like shit most of the time. “This ain’t a real relationship, it ain’t healthy.” Steve pressed harder on Bucky’s chest, and Bucky let out a small sound of dismay. “Steve-”

Smack!

Steve’s elbow came up from the left, jamming hard into Bucky’s jaw. Bucky’s hand flew up to cover the spot, and he stared at Steve, dumbfounded.

On impulse, Bucky tried to get away. That only made Steve hit him again, an open palm slapping him across his other cheek. That slap loosened Steve’s grip just enough to let Bucky dart toward the door, but Steve reached out as he went, grabbing at his hair and tugging hard. Bucky’s feet went one way and his head went the other, and then he lost his balance, coming down hard on his elbows.

“Shit,” he breathed, pain blossoming all over. It had been so long since Steve had hit him, he’d forgotten how much it hurt. He got quickly to his feet, not waiting to see if Steve was still right behind him. He raced across the dining room and down the hall before making it to the bedroom, then turned just in time to see Steve on his heels before slamming the bedroom door and locking it behind him.

 

Chapter Text

 

(Time is running out)

Of all the times Bucky had threatened to leave, he’d never actually packed.

The duffel was small, but it could accommodate everything Bucky needed. A few changes of clothes. Deodorant. Toothbrush and toothpaste. Hair ties, loose at the bottom of the bag. The picture of Bucky’s college graduation. A wad of cash Bucky kept hidden under the floorboards so Steve never found it to ask what it was for. Steve’s gun, just to be sure Steve wouldn’t try to use it on him. Bucky filled the bag in a hurry, zipping it and throwing it over his shoulder. His car was parked on the street, so he’d have to get past Steve to get to it. Easier said than done. Steve had stopped pounding on the door, but that didn’t mean he’d left.

In the end, Bucky opened the window as quietly as he could and climbed out, dropping the bag ahead of him. It thudded softly on the deck, and he turned his head, already paranoid that Steve would hear him.

Calm the hell down, he chided himself.

Closing the window was easy enough, and Bucky crept around the side of the house, through the rhododendron bush toward the street. He squinted, peering into the front window. There was Steve, sitting with his back to the window. Bucky took his opportunity. He walked briskly toward his car, not looking backward, then yanked the door open and slid into the driver’s seat. He dropped the bag onto the floor on the passenger’s side, then closed the door behind him. He buckled his seatbelt, checked his mirrors, grabbed the key-

And there was Steve, standing in front of the goddamn car.

Bucky nearly had a heart attack. He stared, frozen, as Steve stepped slowly around to tap on Bucky’s window. Bucky didn’t know what was wrong with him, but for some reason, he rolled the window down. Just a crack; just enough for him to hear Steve talk.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

“Out,” Bucky replied, his voice sounding embarrassingly thin. Away from you.

“I don’t think you are.”

Christ. Did Steve think he could just give orders and Bucky would obey like some kind of trained dog?

You ain’t exactly given him reason not to think that.

Bucky shook his head. Things were different now. He wasn’t the Bucky who rolled over and played dead, not any more. He was the Bucky who ran. He waited a beat, then turned the key in the ignition.

“Bucky-”

Bucky didn’t wait to hear the rest. He gunned the engine, speeding down the block and leaving Steve in the dust.

~

(One Step Closer)

Bucky couldn’t believe he’d done that. He couldn’t believe he’d just driven off. Steve was going to kill him.

The scary thing was, that wasn’t outside the realm of possibility. Steve was unpredictable. Unstable. Fucking dangerous. Bucky wasn’t going to take any chances. He drove for two hours, until the sun set, before taking an exit toward lodging along the highway. He pulled into the parking lot of a Holiday Inn, then turned off the car and leaned back in his seat.

He wasn’t ready to get a room, not yet. He wasn’t even tired. Exhausted, yes; tired, no. His nerves were frayed and his blood was still rushing too quickly through his veins. He wasn’t surprised, glancing up at his reflection in the rear view mirror, to discover his eyes were bloodshot. He rubbed at them with both hands, then covered his face. What the fuck was he doing? This was crazy. Even crazier than staying with Steve. He was running with no idea where he was running to, and with no endgame other than to get away.

He drew his hands away and blinked, trying to collect whatever pieces of his wits were left. No. This wasn’t crazy. This was a long time coming. Steve had manipulated him. Abused him. This twisted relationship - it needed to end. Bucky was only doing what he had to do.

He sat in the parking lot for another few minutes, then pulled his phone out of his pocket, searching the map for the nearest bar. Maybe a drink would calm him down enough to sleep through the night.

The bar was about a mile away, and Bucky pulled into a parking space, anxiety and paranoia forcing him to choose the spot closest to the exit. He thought about taking the bag in with him, then decided against it; instead, he reached inside and grabbed the gun, stowing it in his back pocket. It was just for safety, he convinced himself. He didn’t plan to use it. He looked back a few times as he crossed the pavement, locking his car and pushing the door to the bar open as soon as he heard the familiar honk.

It was loud and crowded, which suited Bucky just fine. The music blared, and Bucky counted about a dozen people on the dance floor. He made his way to the bar and sat down in the darkest corner he could find, then ordered a scotch, laying cash down on the table and leaning forward. He stared at the glass a long time before taking a sip. Bucky could barely taste anything, and he had a feeling it wasn’t the alcohol. It was him. He was stressed. Nervous. Worried Steve was going to appear out of nowhere any second.

Don’t be stupid. No way he could know where you are.

Bucky took another drink, then breathed out on a sigh. He sensed movement behind him, and then a familiar voice said, “Did you really think I wouldn’t find you?”

Every one of Bucky’s hairs stood on end. How the hell had he not seen Steve come in? And how the hell had Steve found him? He tried to stand, but Steve’s hand on his shoulder kept him seated. Adrenaline spiked, and Bucky stared down at his drink, his heart racing. “How’d you know where I was?”

“Tracked your phone,” Steve replied.

Damn. Bucky hadn’t thought of that. “Can’t do anythin’ to me here,” Bucky said, just loudly enough to be heard.

“I can keep you from getting away.” Steve moved closer, chest pressed against Bucky’s back. “Come on. Dance with me.”

“Don’t wanna dance.”

“Well, how about something else?” Steve slid his hands up Bucky’s shoulders, then over Bucky’s chest, grazing Bucky’s nipples on his way down. He let his palms ghost over Bucky’s abdomen, and Bucky sucked in a breath when Steve’s left hand moved even lower, covering his crotch. It wasn’t that anyone else could see - the bar was high enough to hide Steve’s hand from view - it was that Steve was exploiting Bucky’s biggest weakness. Damn him.

“Steve. We’re in public,” Bucky said, even as he shifted to give Steve more room. Steve cupped Bucky’s cock through his jeans, and even through the fabric, Bucky felt the warmth of Steve’s palm. His cock twitched with interest, enough that he was sure Steve could feel him getting hard. Fuck.

“Come on, Buck,” Steve said, pressing down with the heel of his hand until Bucky hissed. That felt good, but Bucky needed more. More friction. More Steve.

Steve nuzzled Bucky’s cheek, and Bucky turned his head. That was a mistake. Steve captured Bucky’s lips in a kiss, and all of Bucky’s resolve disappeared. He moaned into Steve’s mouth and arched into Steve’s hand, and when Steve pulled away, Bucky tried to follow, desperate for more.

“Come to the bathroom with me,” Steve murmured, soft and rough and sexy. Bucky licked his lips and nodded, hopping off the barstool and following Steve down the hall.

~

(Animals)

Steve didn’t wait for them to reach the bathroom. He caught Bucky’s arm halfway down the dark hall and pinned Bucky up against the wall, bringing their mouths together in a kiss that would leave Bucky’s lips bruised. Steve’s hands slid into Bucky’s hair, gentle at first, then grabbing and pulling hard before dipping his tongue into Bucky’s mouth. Bucky couldn’t tell the difference between the pleasure and the pain, couldn’t understand why he wanted more of both. He grabbed the front of Steve’s shirt, dragging Steve closer, then broke the kiss and walked them both the rest of the way to the bathroom.

Bucky gasped as Steve hoisted him up onto the sink, his legs straddling Steve’s waist. Bucky had barely taken two sips of his drink, but he still couldn’t think straight, not with Steve’s tongue in his mouth and Steve’s hands on his hips, his chest, his ass. If this was Steve’s argument, it was a damn good one. It almost made Bucky forget why he’d cut and run in the first place.

“Mmh. Bucky,” Steve breathed in his ear.

Bucky dropped his head back against the mirror, closing his eyes as Steve moved to suck at the hollow spot at the base of his neck. Shit. Steve knew every trigger to pull, every button to push. Nails dragged down Bucky’s sides, making him arch up and suck in a breath. “Stevie…”

Steve’s hands fumbling with the button of Bucky’s jeans brought him crashing back to reality. No. He didn’t want this.

Don’t lie. You know you do.

It didn’t matter that Bucky wanted it. His traitorous body would follow Steve to the ends of the earth if Bucky let it. What he needed was to get away from Steve. Steve had come after him, tracked him through his phone and stalked him to avoid a breakup, to keep Bucky trapped. Bucky couldn’t let sex confuse him. Not this time.

“Steve.” Bucky pushed Steve’s hands away. “Steve, stop.”

“Bucky, what-”

“This ain’t what I want.” Bucky lowered himself off of the sink and headed toward the door. Steve just stood there, obviously too surprised to stop him. Had Bucky ever said no to Steve before? He couldn’t remember. Evidently, neither could Steve.

Bucky made his way back into the bar, adjusting his shirt and his pants as he went. Steve wouldn’t be stunned for long. Bucky had a limited window; he had to get away now, before he lost his opportunity. Running would draw the wrong kind of attention, so Bucky moved fast, a quick walk across the bar to the door, then a light jog to his car. He didn’t start to panic until he saw Steve in the rear view, too close for comfort. Steve would be mad. Furious. Willing to do whatever it took. Bucky didn’t want to find out how far Steve was willing to go. He threw the car into reverse and pulled out of his parking space, then gunned into the street with barely a half glance to check for traffic.

It didn’t take long for Bucky to see headlights in the rearview, another car tailing him too close. Bucky cursed. Steve was following him. Of course Steve was following him. And Steve would keep following him. This wasn’t going to end until Bucky ended it, one way or another.

 

Chapter Text

 

(Love Crime)

Bucky didn’t know why he decided on the nature preserve. Maybe because it was secluded; maybe because he thought he could lose Steve in the trees, if he moved fast enough. He pulled over and jumped out of the car, leaving it running, the lights still on. He heard Steve’s door open and close, but he didn’t look back. He didn’t have time to check how close Steve was. He just had to run. Over the bridge. Onto the path. Down the trail, taking the winding turns until his legs ached and his lungs burned, and the whole time Steve was right behind him. He heard Steve’s breathing, heard his footsteps crunching on the leaves and in the brush. Bucky couldn’t outrun Steve. He knew it. That didn’t mean he was going to stop. He got to the end of the path and sprinted forward into the trees. He hadn’t made it ten feet before Steve got hold of him, yanking at the collar of his shirt and pulling Bucky back.

Shit. Bucky darted sideways, trying to break Steve’s grip, but Steve held fast, keeping Bucky from running.

Bucky turned around, out of breath, desperate and terrified. “Steve.”

That split second was all it took for Steve to press his advantage. He got one big hand around Bucky’s neck, pushing Bucky backward until he slammed into the tree, his head cracking against the wood. Bucky struggled, whimpering when Steve’s other hand closed around his throat. “Stevie, stop it.”

The pressure was impossible, and Steve didn’t let up.  “If you won’t be with me, you can’t be with anyone.”

There was a look of terrible determination in Steve’s eyes, and Bucky tried in vain to swallow, to breathe. The world tilted dizzyingly. This was it. Steve was going to kill him.

“Okay,” Bucky conceded, his voice thin, darkness creeping in at the corners of his eyes. He tilted his head up, trying to create some space for air. “Okay, ’m sorry. I’ll be with you.”

“You mean it?”

Hell, Bucky was going to pass out before he could say the words. “Yes,” he said on a whisper.

All at once, the pressure eased. Bucky gasped, then coughed uncontrollably, spots coloring his vision as the blood rushed back to his head. Without the tree for support, he would’ve fallen flat on the ground; as it was, he struggled to stay standing, hands flying back to steady himself. He only had a few seconds to recover before Steve was on him, hands now framing his face, lips crushing his with that familiar bruising force, stealing his hard-won oxygen.

It would’ve been easy to let that be the end of it. To give up. To let Steve win. It felt good, kissing Steve, even if he was still floating in a haze, his brain deprived of oxygen. Maybe he could live like this. Maybe-

Steve bit down hard on Bucky’s lip, and Bucky yelped. Sanity returned to him in a rush, every good feeling running out of him like water down a drain, replaced with cold, solid certainty. Bucky couldn’t be with Steve. He couldn’t agree. This was too dangerous. They were wrong, and Bucky would never be happy, never be safe. There was nothing to say Steve wouldn’t do this again. Bucky had to make it all stop now, before it was too late.

Bucky surged forward, feigning interest in the kiss, then brought his knee up to kick Steve hard in the groin.

Steve gasped and doubled over, stumbling back. “What the fuck?”

With Steve distracted, Bucky pulled the gun out of his back pocket. He held it with a trembling hand and thumbed the safety off, pointing it at Steve’s chest.

“You just tried to kill me,” Bucky said, his throat raw. Was he crying? He had no fucking idea. He couldn’t feel his face - all he could feel was the blood pounding past the blossoming bruises on his neck.

Steve dropped to his knees, one hand still covering his crotch, the other raised in what was a good semblance of surrender. “You’re not going to shoot me.”

“Don’t,” Bucky growled, trembling with the control it took not to pull the trigger. “You don’t know a fuckin’ thing about me, Steve. Don’t tell me what I will or won’t do.”

They stood there like that for minutes, the rustle of the wind in the trees the only sound. Slowly, carefully, Steve stood up. Bucky tightened his grip on the gun, adjusting his aim in threat.

“Buck.” Steve took one step toward him.

Bucky didn’t know why the hell he hadn’t fired, except that maybe he did love Steve, despite all the shit, despite the fact that his boyfriend had just tried to choke him to death. He didn’t want Steve’s blood on his hands. He had every right to want it, but he didn’t.

C’mon, Stevie. Don’t make me do this.

Steve took another step forward. Then another. Too close. But Bucky still didn’t fire, his finger poised motionless on the trigger.

“Please,” Steve said. It sounded like a damn apology, even though Bucky knew it was a lie. Steve’s hand rose slowly, past the gun, to cup Bucky’s cheek.

“Don’t.” It was the only word Bucky could say, the only one he could think of. He didn’t want Steve touching him, not with those hands, the ones that had tried to end his life just for wanting something better.

Don’t touch me. Get off me. Don’t pretend you fuckin’ love me when all you love is yourself.

Steve didn’t listen. He took one final step, closing the distance between them, his other hand sliding around Bucky’s waist. Bucky pulled the trigger and shot him.

Crack!

The sound echoed through the trees, a ripple that repeated over and over and over again until it finally faded away. Steve didn’t move at first. He stared, wide eyed, open mouthed, so close that Bucky could still feel his breath as he exhaled in disbelief.

The shot had gone straight through Steve’s abdomen. Blood was already seeping through the front of his shirt, and he covered it with one hand, stumbling backward. “What…” He dropped to his knees for the second time since he’d chased Bucky out into the woods, the dry leaves crackling beneath him, his face turning pale.

Shit. Bucky hadn’t meant for that to happen. He lowered the gun, blinking. He was crying now; he could tell by the way Steve’s form blurred in front of him. It didn’t matter that Steve had made him do it. He’d still pulled the damn trigger. “I’m sorry,” he said, not knowing whether he meant it or not, not knowing what the hell he was supposed to do. Shit. Shit shit shit.

Steve was pressing both hands against his abdomen now, looking like he might fall over. Bucky was frozen, legs rooted into the ground. The gun slipped out of his hand.

“Buck.”

Bucky choked on a sob. He didn’t know how he did it, the way he was shaking, but he somehow got his phone out of his pocket. Hell, it took him a minute to remember the number, and when he held the phone up to his ear, he almost dropped it.

“Nine-one-one, what is your emergency?”

“Uh,” Bucky said, struggling to breathe. “My, um. My friend just got shot.”

“Where are you?”

“I - I don’t know. Um. White Rocks Trail, somewhere off the hiking path.”

The operator said something else, but Bucky wasn’t listening, because Steve had doubled over and fallen forward. He let the phone fall to the ground, but he couldn’t decide whether to rush forward or to run away.

“Stevie…”

Bucky knelt down next to Steve, rolling Steve over enough that he could press down hard on the wound. Steve groaned.

“I’m sorry,” Bucky managed. “Steve, I’m so s-sorry.”

Steve didn’t say anything, just breathed shallowly, his eyes fixed on Bucky until they closed, his face contorted in pain. Fuck. Bucky’s hands were covered in blood. He stared down at Steve, wondering what would’ve happened if he hadn’t pulled the trigger.

You’d be dead. You would’ve tried to get away, and Steve would’ve killed you.

Shit. Gunshot wound or not, Steve had come here with the intention of ending Bucky’s life. That was - hell. That wasn’t something Bucky could forget. He swallowed hard. This was his opportunity. If he didn’t leave now, he might not ever get away.

“Steve.” Bucky moved a bloody hand to cup Steve’s face, and Steve blinked his eyes open. “You’re gonna be okay. You got help comin’. You’re gonna be fine.”

Steve looked like he didn’t understand. Bucky couldn’t explain it. Didn’t know how to say it out loud. He was leaving. He was going to leave Steve here, bleeding out on the forest floor.

“Love you,” Bucky said, dropping a last kiss on Steve’s lips and standing up. He turned around, forcing himself not to look back. If he did, he wouldn’t leave.

“Bucky.”

Bucky’s shoulders tensed, but he didn’t respond. He picked up the gun, his hand finally steady, and walked slowly back the way they’d come.

“Buck, please.”

Bucky froze, just for a second. No. He wasn’t turning around. He wasn’t going back. Not this time.

Sorry, Stevie. This is the way it’s gotta be.

Bucky drove with the gun in the passenger seat, his hands still covered in blood. The route to the coast - which he had only chosen because it was in the opposite direction of the forest preserve - would put him onto the highway only after he’d passed through town. Halfway there, he turned on the wipers against the misting rain, driving the familiar road that would inevitably take him past Steve’s house. It didn’t look ominous anymore. It looked sad. Empty.

Bucky stared through the front window into the darkened living room. The easel sat in its usual corner, the charcoal forgotten on the floor. Bucky swallowed, remembering when he and Steve had first met, remembering the charcoal on Steve’s hands, Steve’s careful, scrutinizing attention to detail. Had things been better then? Bucky couldn’t remember. He wasn’t sure he trusted his memory anyway. He’d already started to see Steve with some kind of rose-colored, nostalgic lens. The marks on Bucky’s neck told him that was the wrong thing to do. Anyway, it didn’t matter now. Bucky had his hard-won freedom. Steve would come back to the house once he was released from the hospital. By then, Bucky would be long gone.

Bucky revved the engine and drove the rest of the way down the block, glancing backward just once in the rearview before making the left turn and heading toward the highway.

~

fin