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step out (into the sun)

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Steve catches him, barely, but he catches him, his gloved fingers grasping onto the edge of Bucky's sleeve, the weight so much that Steve's shoulder nearly rips out of place. It's the split second they need to get their hands around the other's wrist, and Steve is pulling them both back to the relative safety of the train car, one on top of the other like a deck of poorly shuffled cards.

"Fuck," Bucky wheezes, dropping his forehead on Steve's shoulder for a second before rolling off him so they're both on their backs, even though they're alone. "Thanks."

"Nah," Steve says, afraid that if he says anything else he'll fall off the tightrope labeled emotional stability, tasting blood on the inside of his cheek and sitting up, wincing as he rolls his shoulders back. "You owe me two, now." He says, grinning over at Bucky, who has his eyes closed. He laughs, and reaches a hand out so it sits on Steve's thigh.

 

That night Bucky finds him in his tent and kisses him so hard Steve thinks he might wake up bruised; he doesn't care.

-

Steve didn't even know Bucky made it onto the plane with him, hadn't even seen him since they entered the base. But he spots him out of the corner of his eye, somehow climbing up a beam to get a good vantage point, so Steve does everything he can to distract Schmidt, even though the plane's autopilot is wobbly at best, and there's a hole blown into the hull of the damn thing threatening to suck them all out. 

He's monologuing, and Steve steps to the side, slightly, and then there's a bullet through his skull. Steve winces as blood hits his cheek.

"Sorry," Bucky says when he's back down, and Steve shrugs. There's a cut on his cheek.

"You'll make it up to me." He says, and slides into the pilot's seat, Bucky in tow behind him.

"If we make it out," Bucky adds, looking over their shoulders at the power surge going on behind them. And just like that, the bubble is popped, and the sense of dread closes it's fist around Steve's heart again.

Steve nods grimly, and puts his compass on the dash. It has a picture of Peggy in it, and Bucky smiles at it. "Sure was nice of Agent Carter," He says, and Steve frowns.

"Shut up." Steve says, swallowing past the knot in his throat. (They talked about it ad nauseam, Bucky laughing a little when Steve's cheeks had gone pink after debrief, him saying you can kiss her if you want, I don't mind. Steve saying, yeah, but I do.) "You know--"

"I know," He says, resolutely, looking at Steve with unwavering blue eyes. "What're we gonna do about this box?" He asks, sliding out of the chair to stand next to Steve so he can put a hand to Steve's neck, turning on his comms again.

There's talking, and then there's yelling, the Colonel, and Agent Carter, and Bucky, all arguing about what the best plan of attack is, but as they glide over the clouds, Steve knows what has to happen. Bucky's hand is on his shoulder, fingers tucked into the collar of his suit as if to keep him there. Another power surge, Bucky's fingers pressing into his collarbone, the cloud cover clearing.

"We have to put it in the water." Steve says, interrupting everyone, and Bucky looks at him like he's grown another head. "It's the only way."

"Absolutely not." Agent Carter--Peggy--says, and Steve just swallows. Bucky's grip on him has gotten tighter, and Steve looks up at him.

"What are you, stupid?" He blurts out, but he can see the sense of recognition power through him. "We could try to land it," He says absently, but it's filler talk, at this point.

"I'm sure there's a 'chute, somewhere, you can still--" He starts, and Bucky glowers at him, letting go albeit reluctantly, and stubbornly strapping himself into the copilot seat.

"I'm with you 'til the end of the line. How many times I gotta tell you that?" He says, looking at him and managing a smile.

Steve would be lying if he didn't feel like a weight had been taken off his shoulders. "I'm sorry," He says, to all of them, and Peggy starts to say something before the comms cut out. He looks at Bucky again, and holds his gaze as he tips the control down. Electricity surges around them as the ice careens towards the cockpit.

"I love you," Steve says, suddenly overcome with the urge to touch him. "Always have."

"You're so stupid," Bucky says, almost laughing while taking a deep breath, not once breaking eye contact. "I have loved you forever," He reaches out a hand, straining the belts across his chest, and Steve does the same, their fingertips close to brushing before the impact hits them. Glass shatters, and so does reality.

 

-

 

 

Here’s the pitch. Swung on. A line to the right. And it gets past Rizzo. Three runs will score. Reiser heads to third. Durocher’s going to wave him in. Here comes the relay, but they won’t get him.

 

The radio is fuzzy when Steve wakes up, the too bright lights above him making him squint and rub his eyes. There's a knock on the door, and a nurse walks in, holding a tray of syringes. Steve sits up, only half hearing her through the sudden ringing in his head.

 

The Dodgers take the lead, 8-4. Oh, Dodgers! Everyone is on their feet. What a game we have here today, folks. What a game indeed.

 

Steve whips his head to look at the radio, eyes wide and feral, chest heaving suddenly. He stands, ripping all the IVs out of his arms and walking towards the door. "Where am I?" He asks, grabbing the nurse by the shoulders, not taking even a second to realize that she looks like Peggy, except her hair is down around her shoulders instead of pinned up like it should be.

"You're in a recovery room in New York--" She stutters, looking at him like he's a monster.

""That game is from 1941, I know, because I was there, so I'm going to ask you again. Where am I?" He asks again, hearing his voice get louder. She balks, stumbling over her words, trying to explain. He says, pushing her out of his way and all but kicking the door down. He hears her say something Captain Rogers, wait! All Agents, Code 13! I repeat--

He doesn't know how many people he fights his way through, but suddenly he's out of the building, and onto the street, where it's much too bright and much too loud. He runs until his brain feels like it's going into override, with all the colors and the people. He stops and puts his hands on his knees, breathing heavy.

Black cars pull up around him, screeching to a stop, and he instinctively grabs for his shield before realizing he doesn't have it, and cautiously puts his fists up.

"At ease, soldier!" A man with a eyepatch says, approaching him with his hands up, submissively. Steve doesn't let up.

"What," He says, "the fuck."

The man laughs a little and looks around them. "We thought it best to break this to you slowly," He says, and Steve feels like he's going to faint again.

"Break what," Steve asks, finally dropping his fists uselessly to his sides.

"You've been asleep, for a long time." He says, and Steve feels like the air has been punched out of him again. He doubles over and tries miserably not to throw up at the sudden influx of memories. "You alright?"

"Yeah," He pants, standing up and looking at the buildings towering over him. "I just--Where's Bucky?"

 

 

He's still asleep, or, in a coma, technically. The cut on his cheek is still there. Per Steve's insistence (he put his fist into a metal table, dented it and scared the holy hell out of an intern), they had him moved to a secure wing of an actual hospital. He's been pacing outside the glass for what feels like days now, while an agent assigned to him gives him a recap of the last seventy years. He has to take plenty of breaks to sit down and process. She's kind enough to let him.

"Stop," He says suddenly, and she breaks off in the middle of her sentence. "Say that again."

"New York legalized same sex marriage earlier this year, July to be exact." She repeats, and Steve sits down in the middle of the hallway, putting his head between his knees and focusing on taking deep breaths. "Captain?" She asks quietly, and he raises a few fingers, meaning, give me a second.

"Say it again." He asks, quietly.

"New York legalized same sex marriage on July 24th of 2011." She says, and the wind gets knocked out of him, so he falls onto his back to level out the pressure in his body, like he used to when he'd get lightheaded from just being alive, and stares at the lights in the ceiling until he can't see anymore.

"Sir," She says after a few nurses have passed by, looking at him worriedly. "If this upsets you--" She says, and he can tell she's struggling with how to write Captain America--homophobe, on her reports. He laughs.

"I'm not upset," He starts, taking a deep breath and leaning forwards into his knees, trying not to think about their neighbors that got their front porch burnt down because they weren't afraid to tell people they were in love. "I'm...glad." He manages finally, his voice very noticeably cracking as he hides his face in the bend of his elbow, and cries.

 

 

"You have to go outside eventually." Fury says, looking at him disapprovingly. He's sitting in the chair next to Bucky's bed, being allowed in now that he's been moved out of the ICU, leg bouncing erratically. (he overheard a nurse saying do you think he has ADD, or is he just a worrier? Steve doesn't know what ADD means.) Bucky's also been taken off the ventilator, which means Steve can obsessively stare at his chest rise and fall just to make sure he's still breathing.

"Says who," Steve mumbles, crossing his arms, not looking away from the heart monitor. It's been holding steady at 60 for days now, but he figures that that's better than having it flatline.

"Says me," Fury snaps back, and Steve rolls his eyes, and almost retaliates by saying that he has no authority over him. He's acting like a child, he knows. "Go out, immerse yourself into the twenty-first century. Barnes will be here when you get back."

He sighs and looks over at where the agent, his agent, Alyssa, is sitting. She gives him a thumbs up. "Fine. But I'm taking Aly with me." He says, decisively, and Alyssa gapes at him, before nodding and all but saluting. Fury sighs and looks up as if he's asking for divine guidance, and them shoos them out, but not before Steve can lean over and kiss Bucky's forehead.

 

"Maybe we go back now." Steve says, after he had to hide in a public bathroom because suddenly everything is just so bright, and Alyssa laughs at him, shaking her head and dragging him into what his brain perceives as a deathtrap. "I cannot go in there."

"Exposure therapy is very effective." She deadpans, and manages to drag all two hundred pounds of him through something called a shopping mall, mall for short.

He buys a shirt with a rainbow on it that says have a nice day, because he thinks it'll make Bucky smile.

 

(There are reporters outside once they leave, but he just puts his head down and walks through the crowd without saying a word; not that he has much to say, anyways.)

 

 

They're pushing a week and a half when someone bursts into the hospital room. Steve stands up, immediately putting himself between the door and the bed, fists clenching instinctively. The man takes off his sunglasses, and Steve blinks.

"Howard?" Steve asks, eyebrows furrowed in confusion, and the man makes a face.

"No," He sighs, and takes a lollipop out of his mouth. Steve flinches. "Do I really look that much like my old man?"

 

Tony sets them up in one of his labs now that Bucky doesn't technically have to have any medical procedures done to him, I promise it's faster this way, Steven, alright, unclench. Steve still paces.

They're not immune to fighting, but at least Tony was kind enough to let them stay. Listen I feel like I owe it to him, alright? All he ever did was talk about you so, whatever. Cosmic karma, or something. Make yourselves at home but please don't touch my robots. // What the fuck do you mean, robots? Steve had asked, confused, but Tony just emphatically repeated no touching, and left.

(Steve learns exactly what robots means when what looks like a tiny crane beeps at him when he walks into the makeshift hospital room and offers him a tray with a pitiful cup of coffee on it. Steve likes it.)

 

Two and a half weeks out of the ice, Bucky wakes up. Steve barely catches it, but sure enough there's an increase in beats per minute, and the next thing he knows, Bucky's raising a hand to rub at his eyes, saying, where the fuck am I?

Steve's up out of his chair now, sitting on the edge of the bed, both hands on Bucky's face. "Hi," He breathes, feeling the tears prick at the back of his eyes. "Hi," He says again, and Bucky smiles blearily at him, eyes falling shut happily as Steve runs his thumbs over cheekbones. He puts his hands on Steve's wrists.

"Did we win?" He asks, and Steve laughs, sniffling.

"Yeah, we won." Steve smiles again.

"Where are we?" He asks again, using his elbows to prop himself up, wincing a little. He looks around, and his eyes go wide. "Are we-- Steve--what the fuck," His heart rate spikes, and two nurses rush in.

Steve puts a hand out to stop them, and they eye him warily, but don't make a move to come any closer. "We, uh, you remember Howard?" Bucky frowns, and nods. "Well, his son uh, put us up in his building."

"He has a son? I didn't know he was married, plus, how old is this kid anyways?" Bucky's looking at the nurses with all the energy of a cornered cat, his nails digging into Steve's skin. "Did he ever get that flying car thing to work?"

"He uh, he's like thirty-sum?" Steve ignores his second question, and watches the waves of emotions parade themselves across his face.

"How," Is what he settles on.

"It's--it's 2011, Buck." Steve says finally, letting his shoulders drop, and Bucky's eyes narrow before snapping at a nurse to get him a newspaper, tone uncharacteristic. She flinches, but goes to find one anyways, coming back in record time, holding a copy of the Times. Bucky takes it from her and reads the front, zeroing in on the date.

"You're not fucking with me," He says it like a realization, and laughs pitifully before falling back on the bed, running his hands over his face. "You sure stayed pretty." He says, and Steve laughs, and steals one of his hands back, slotting their fingers together. Bucky nearly yanks it away, out of habit, but finally lets him hold it.

"I'm sorry, Captain, we really do need to run some tests, just to make sure Sergeant Barnes is in tip top shape before we can let you leave, officially." One of the nurses says, and Steve nods, standing up. Bucky grabs his wrist urgently, looking at him with wide eyes.

"I'll just be sitting here, Buck." Steve says, dragging the chair closer to the bed with one foot, so he can sit in it and still hold his hand.

"It's just," Bucky starts, swallowing audibly and looking at the nurse unwrapping a needle. "Last time I got stuck with things it was--"

"I know," Steve doesn't let him finish, and Bucky looks at him gratefully. "Nurse, uh" He squints to read the name on her badge. "Jackie, will be very gentle." He says, and implied or else unsaid. She nods at him, and starts up some small talk as she draws an infinite number of vials of blood. She flashes a light in his eyes, asks him to sit up, listens to his breathing, and tests his reflexes, all while talking about some football game or other. Steve never had a knack for those things, but Bucky seems at least half preoccupied, asking her to update him on all of his teams.

 

"So, everything is looking good, Sergeant Barnes." Jackie says, writing some things down on the chart and giving them both a smile. "I'll notify Director Fury that you're awake, now."

"Shouldn't you be notifying me first, Jackie dear, since this is my building?" Tony says, materializing out of nowhere, holding two cups of something very very dark green. Bucky jumps at the sound of his voice. She mumbles an apology, but she smiles good naturedly at him, and he winks and waves her out of the room.

"Christ, he looks just like him." Bucky mumbles, and Steve tilts his head as if to say I told you so.

"Oh not you too," Tony says, rolling his eyes. There's something shining through his shirt, Bucky eyes it nervously. "Here," He hands each of them one of the cups. "It's chlorophyll."

"What," Both of them say, uselessly, and he sighs.

"Just drink it, it's good for you." Bucky hands it back to him, saying you first. "What are you, seven?"--no, just a POW (pronounced Pee-Oh-Doubleya)--"God, fine," He takes a drink of it and hands it back. It stains his teeth green. "Happy now?"

Bucky looks at Steve, and Steve nods. They both down the contents of the glass. It's disgusting. Steve catches Bucky wince and spit it back into the cup.

"Do you know why you're still alive?" Tony asks suddenly, looking at some scans of Bucky's brain that are up on a screen. Steve almost snorts the green stuff back out of his nose.

"Ex-cuse me?" Bucky asks, all incredulous; God, Steve loves him. 

Tony just shrugs as if to validate his own question. "For Capsicle over there, it's because of the serum, clearly. But for you, well, the scientists were real stumped for a while," He rambles, Steve sits back down on the bed next to Bucky's legs, holding his hands in his lap. "Turns out, whatever Hydra put in you was something like the serum, therefore, you aren't dead."

"Guess it must've been a slower formula, kind of sad that you're not all beefy like your boyfriend, huh." Tony adds, turning back to face them. None of this is news to Steve, as he was debriefed within a few days of waking up, but Bucky looks mighty confused. "Did I say something?"

And of all the things Bucky could say, he chooses: "Boyfriend?"

Tony blinks, looks at Steve, then at Bucky, then at Steve again. He gestures at their hands.

"Um," Bucky stalls and looks up at Steve.

He smiles. "It's okay." He says quietly, running a thumb over the back of Bucky's knuckles. "It's okay," He repeats, feeling his throat get tight.

"Oh,"

"I'm gonna, uh, go." Tony says, but Steve barely hears him.

"Really?" Bucky asks, taking his hands out of Steve's to put them on his shoulders instead, gripping the fabric of his shirt tight. He nods, suddenly unable to speak, and touches their foreheads together. "Oh," He repeats, putting his hands on Steve's neck. They're cold; he doesn't flinch. "So, you mean to tell me, I can go outside and kiss you on the mouth and we won't get arrested." His voice is shaking, Steve understands the feeling.

He nods, smiling a bit. "Maybe the future ain't all bad." Bucky says, before closing the distance and kissing him. Steve feels like he's defrosting all over again.

"Guess not." He says, and pulls Bucky closer, kissing him like he's the air he needs to breathe.

(The first time they use a toaster, it startles Bucky so much that he breaks the glass he was holding, promptly saying fuck the future.)

 

"Let's get married," Steve says, rolling over to nose up under Bucky's jaw. He groans a little and puts his hands on Steve's back.

"This what you think about at the ass crack of dawn?"

Steve laughs and gets his arms around him. "Haven't stopped thinking it since I was sixteen." He says, and Bucky snorts. "So will you marry me?." He repeats.

Steve expects another joke, Steve expects him to dig fingers into his hips to make him squirm. Steve does not expect the very soft, very wet, "Of course I will."

It's quiet for a little, and then; "Do you think," Bucky starts, his fingers trailing up Steve's back lazily.

"On occasion." Steve interrupts, it earns him a pinch and a no you don't, shut your mouth and listen to me.

"Do you think we could get married in a church?" Bucky asks quietly, and Steve feels his chest constrict. Steve almost asks why, because he very clearly remembers the talk they had almost seventy years ago, post HYDRA base, where Bucky admitted he wasn't quite sure he believed in anything anymore.

"I don't know." He says, honestly, and Steve hears him sigh, and promptly puts his face back in his neck for fear that he'll start crying.

"Maybe someday." Bucky says, and Steve hums; maybe someday.

 

He half asks if Tony can find them someone to officiate the wedding on the down low, and his face lights up, and he disappears for all of twenty minutes before saying, fear not, for I will marry you. Bucky gives him a long look before just laughing and rubbing at his eyes, and says why not, the future is weird enough. 

And it's not like they had any friends, or whatever, but Steve does write out a letter and sends it to the home Peggy's in, just so she knows, and a week after the very impromptu ceremony in Stark's living room, because they shared the sense of urgency--how he got a notary to sign an NDA and the marriage paperwork there so fast is beyond him, really--they get a letter addressed to just Steve, though in the heading it says Mr and Mr Barnes-Rogers, because Peggy thinks it should be hyphenated and alphabetical, congratulating them, and demanding that they come visit soon. Bucky frames it. 

He figures they'll get rings soon enough. 

 

Those plans get stalled when both Fury and Stark had showed up at their door saying they got some angry god on a space ship and to please help rightnowimmediately, Bucky had stood up with him. Steve thinks he would'e come with even if he hadn't been enhanced. 

Fury tried to argue. "Listen, Director, I've been a soldier since before you were born, alright? Plus, I'm not letting Steve out of my sight again because last time I did that, he got himself guinea pigged. So, let's go." There wasn't much room for debate after that. 

So they fight the aliens, and once Stark is deemed alive and kind of well, Bucky grabs Steve and kisses him so hard it makes his already busted lip bleed. "Hi," Steve giggles, and Bucky just says we're not fighting aliens ever again. (Thor says REJOICE so loudly that Bucky nearly shoots him in the leg.)

 

(Someone somehow gets a grainy picture of the kiss on their phone and for the next few days, the newspapers are littered with pictures of it, questioning if it's actually them, or if it's photoshop. Steve doesn't care, but he particularly likes the online articles titled Steve Rogers: the Bisexual America Deserves. Bucky has clipped out all the articles and put them on the fridge. They categorically ignore all of the reporters, and invitations to talk shows.)

 

Steve does agree to talk to a journalism student at NYU after a background check courtesy of JARVIS showed that they were part of the LGBT club there--he also had to ask what LGBT meant, but--

(My doctor told me to smoke cigarettes//Forgive me, Captain, didn't you have asthma?//Yeah, what of it?--the face the student gave him led to a very frantic google search titled DO CIGARETTES CAUSE CANCER?)

(What do you think about vaccines?//I think they're great. // So you're against the anti-vaxx movement?//The--what? There are people that don't vaccinate their kids? Are you fucking kidding me?)

(If you don't mind me asking, what was it like?//What was what like? The war? The Depression? Or do you mean being queer--I can say that, right?--in the forties?)

When he gets home he tells Bucky about it, how she smiled at his wedding ring but didn't ask any questions, and that next time (there's a next time?) he should come with him.

 

 

The hammer budges slightly under Steve's grip, and Bucky erupts into a fit of laughter saying you're out of a job, Sparkles. Much to the god's chagrin, he doesn't end up being able to lift it--not that they have much time to cajole, the hardwiring of a robot ruining their plans.

 

They're all breathing heavy once the fight wears thin, but Bucky marches right up to Tony, grabs his shirt in his fists and shoves him up against a wall. "You haven't got a lick of sense in you, you thick motherfucker." He hisses, and Tony just takes it, his lip quivering a bit, but the fire not going out behind his eyes. His feet aren't touching the floor. "You're nothing like Howard, what a disgrace."

"James Buchanan Barnes," Steve says sharply, and the gasp passes it's way around the room, and Bucky drops Tony back on the ground, hands still wrapped up in his shirt. The string seems to snap then, and Tony puts a hand on Bucky's chest and pushes him, hard, the fabric of his shirt almost ripping under the strain. Steve scrambles up to stand between them, hand on Tony's chest.

"I am so fucking glad I'm nothing like that man." Tony says, but thankfully doesn't try anything else.

(They're sitting on the jet when Bucky finally gravels over an apology, tells him he didn't know about--Tony cuts him off with a nod and says something about them being even for Tony's everything special about you came out of a bottle comment. Steve thinks that Tony's reaction was much less dramatic than Bucky's, which was to try and throw and entire conference table at him for saying something mean about his man.)

 

Steve finds Bucky in the jet sitting with his knees clutched to his chest, looking at the floor hard enough to bore a hole into it. Steve feels the same way, images of Bucky falling off the train still dancing behind his eyes, and just falls to his knees next to him, pulling an arm into his chest, his forehead on his shoulder. "You okay?" He asks, shaky. 

Bucky hums, and Steve feels him lean his cheek against his head. "You got me." He mumbles, finally. Steve doesn't ask what he means.  

 

They're holed up at Clint's secret house, or whatever, and Steve's put several trees to shame in the front yard, the line finally snapping when Tony comes out to try and make things better, tough he knows in his heart that he's just directing his anger at him because his name was on it. He'll apologize later. He splinters both a log and his fingertips, and goes back inside. He feels like there's steam coming off of him, a coil wound too tight, but then he sees Bucky sitting on the floor, knees brought up to his chest to make himself small as possible, coloring with one of Clint's kids, humming softly, and he feels like he can breathe again.

 

Everyone's safe, but Steve can't find Bucky, and the time is running out. There's smoke, and crumbling buildings, and people screaming through the ringing in his ears as he tries to think of the last place he saw him. He rounds a broken house, the panic rising like a fire alarm in his chest, his hands going shaky as he hears Natasha urgently telling him to get off the rock, now.

"Buck?" Steve calls out, his voice feeling like sandpaper in his throat. If he wasn't conditioned to it, Steve probably wouldn't have heard him, the small, tired, groan coming under a pile of rubble. "Oh god," Steve nearly throws up, and pulls the slabs of concrete aside like they're nothing, finally seeing Bucky's face and grabbing it in his hands. He tries not to focus on the fact that there's blood creeping down Bucky's vest from his shoulder. "Oh God," He repeats again, with intention of it actually reaching the guy, and he gets and arm under Bucky's back and another under his knees, lifting him up and starting back to the ships.

"I got him," Steve breathes into his comms, and the skyline comes into view. Bucky groans a little against his neck, and Steve feels his right hand tighten across the strap on his chest.

"Fuckin' robots." He mumbles, and Steve's just glad to hear his voice.

They get on the carriers fast enough, pulling abruptly away from the edge of the city before it blows, not getting far enough to escape the aftershock that came with it. One of Stark's first aid robots, or whatever, comes to look at Bucky's arm, and Steve swears it gives him a sympathetic look.

 

And then he's back in the hospital, pacing around the front of Bucky's room like a caged lion. He had vehemently argued against the permanent prosthetic, knowing how much Bucky would hate not having a choice. One doctor tried to give him lip about how he's not really fit to make any of his medical decisions even though he's listed as next of kin and power of attorney on everything he can be; Steve breaks a clipboard, saying He's my husband, fuck off. (He doesn't apologize.)

 

Steve lets the doctors handle it this time when Bucky wakes up, though it kills him to stand outside the room. He's chewed the skin around his thumb nearly bloody when Sam comes up the hallway, handing him a cup of coffee. Steve shakes his head, and Sam shrugs, downing it himself. "They done yet?"

Steve shakes his head again. He thinks if he starts to talk he might throw up. "It'll be alright." Sam says, putting his hand on Steve's shoulder. He doesn't say anything else, but he's still grateful. Steve thinks back to Sam telling him about his Air Force buddies, and how they meet up at the VA for group therapy every so often, and he realizes now that it was a subtle way of inviting them to go. He thinks they might, now.

Finally, the doctors walk out of Bucky's room, and his surgeon gives him a quick smile as he walks up to them. Steve feels like a cold piece of metal being bent too far back. "And?" Steve blurts out, knowing it might be a bit rude, but not really caring.

"He's doing alright. He said he wants to wait before deciding whether to use a prosthetic or not, good choice, Sir. He does want to see you, though." The surgeon finishes, and Steve sighs in relief, thanking him before ducking into the room, closing the door behind him.

"You weren't here, when I woke up--I thought--" Bucky says, his eyes rimmed red, and Steve abruptly feels terrible and can't stop himself from crying, too.

"I'm sorry," He says, sitting on the edge of the bed and putting his hands on Buck's face. It feels like deja vu. "I thought it would be better, if you talked to a doctor first." He says, quietly, and Bucky sniffles. "Are you in any pain? I can call a nurse, if you--"

"No," He says, shaking his head and sniffling again. "I don't want--I'm okay." He settles on that, and Steve worries.

"I'm sorry." Steve says again, leaning forwards to touch their foreheads together. Bucky just hooks his arm around Steve's neck and pulls him in for a hug. At least I don't have to get the tattoo again.

 

He waits about a month before deciding that a prosthetic wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. There's a learning curve that feels like it's ramped inside Steve's chest, the phantom limb coming with a lot of frustrated tears on both ends, before Steve brings up what Sam told him, and Bucky very quietly agrees.

So they sit inside the auditorium with their hands clasped together, seats pushed closer in the circle than any one else's, and mostly they just listen. They do get recognized, but thankfully it's nothing more than a slight nod. Sam's there too, but he sits across the circle, saying I didn't want anyone to feel like we were ganging up on them.

 

They're clustered around the little table with the portable coffee thermos once the session ends when someone (Chris, ex-Army) asks; "When's the last time you two had sex?"

Bucky snorts coffee out of his nose and crushes the cup in his hand, and Steve physically feels all of the air get sucked out of his lungs. Sam snickers, because of course he does, and Chris just shrugs and continues to say, "I'm just saying, it took a while for me and my wife, after the leg." He gestures down at his prosthetic and just shrugs. "It fucks with your head a little, so don't be too worried if you can't just yet."

"We need to go." Bucky says, through gritted teeth, and pulls on Steve's belt loop as he laughs and says goodbye to Sam and Chris, telling them they'd see them next week.

 

"I was enjoying myself," Steve says, laughing a little as he opens the passenger side door for Bucky--old habits die hard, it seems.

"Strangers don't need to know about our sex life, Steven." Bucky grumbles angrily once Steve has settled into the driver's seat.

"They're hardly strangers," Steve says quietly and starts the car. "I'm just messing with you, Buck." He says after five prolonged minutes of silence, not taking his eyes off the road but putting his hand on Bucky's thigh anyways.

"I know." Comes the response, small in a way characteristic only to the last month. Steve wishes he could pull it back from under the surface. He laces their fingers together anyways.

"Wanna go to the beach?" Steve asks, merging onto the highway, and Bucky lets out a startled laugh.

"It's cold." He says, though its inconsequential now, and Steve shrugs.

"We got blankets in the trunk, don't we?" And Bucky can't argue with that, so they take the drive.

It's nearly sunset when they get there, but they don't mind, sitting wrapped up in each other and the blanket Pepper got them as a housewarming gift when they officially moved out of the Tower, listening to the waves crash. It is cold, but both of them run hot now anyways.

"I love you," Steve says quietly, and Bucky leans back against his chest.

"I know." He says, and that's the answer Steve was hoping for.

 

The arm Stark makes is fine, logistically, but it has a few kinks, most notably when Bucky tries to do anything too fast, or tries to grab anything with the appropriate amount of pressure; if not for the serum, Steve thinks he could've broken his wrist a few times over now, just from trying to get his attention. He's too proud to complain, though, but Steve catches him looking down at the metal palm dejectedly, flexing the fingers with a scowl.

"It's not like I was expecting it to be perfect, but I can't move any faster than three miles an hour with this thing." He grumbles, detaching the arm with an ease that he only knows, letting it drop onto the counter with a sad thunk, and Steve just frowns. "Don't give me that look." Bucky says, meeting his eyes through the mirror.

"What look? I don't have a look. Get your eyes checked, Barnes." Steve says, pulling his shirt off and throwing it at him.

"You absolutely have a look." Bucky says, batting the shirt onto the floor and turning around to walk over to Steve and pinch his side. "Don't meddle. You can't fix everything, you know. It's fine."

Steve sighs, resigned, and rolls his eyes. "Doesn't mean I can't try."

Bucky scoffs and pinches him again for good measure. "Leave it, Steve, I'm serious." He says, and turns away to start the shower. "Get in, you stink."

 

Turns out, Steve doesn't have to meddle, at all, really. A knock comes to their front door that startles them both, and Bucky gives him a wide eyed glance. Steve swallows a little heavy and gets up to look through the peep hole, perplexed when he sees a teenager with a fancy looking duffel bag. "Uh," He says, and looks back at Bucky, who has a hand under the couch cushion that Steve knows hides a gun. "I don't think you need that."

He opens the door with the chain still on and gives the girl a wary glance. He then notices the two other women standing next to her, fixing him with a glare fit to turn him to stone. "Hello?"

She smiles at him and introduces herself as Shuri. That doesn't serve to clear up very much for Steve. "I'm going to fix your boyfriend's arm."

His first instinct is to say that there's nothing that needs fixing, the second is to correct her to husband, but Bucky must've overheard, because he pops his head over Steve's shoulder. "You serious?"

Shuri nods, smiling wider, all but bouncing on her toes. "Wait, uh, I'm sorry, miss, I just really don't know who you are." Steve says once Bucky pokes him in the side and says let her in.

"Oh! Yes, well, I foresaw this. I spoke to Tony Stark about this first, actually, because I saw a video of Sergeant Barnes and the mechanics were appalling--no offense." She says, giving him a look. None taken. "So I offered to help, and Tony gladly let me. I have clearance, if you're worried about that. I also head the technological advances for Wakanda, and we're trying out some stuff for the VA, you know, collectively, and I--."

Steve holds up a finger. That was a lot of information to process, but he does remember something about Wakanda in the news recently, that they were opening their borders and doing international outreach--He supposes Bucky qualifies. "Let me just call Tony." He decides, finally, and both Shuri and Bucky half roll their eyes at him while he steps away from the door, letting Bucky slide in his place. He can hear them chattering in the background as the phone rings.

"So she's not going to try and kill us, right?" Steve says, after Tony's gone on his spiel (She's so smart, Steve, I want her to teach me everything about everything. Steve never really thought he'd ever hear Stark be awed, but here he is.)

Tony laughs a little. "No, she just honestly wants to help."

Steve sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose. "Alright. Thanks, Tony." Once he hangs up he gives Bucky a look that makes him near squeal with excitement and all but rip the chain off the door, letting Shuri and her small entourage in.

"This really would be easier in my lab," She says, setting up shop on their kitchen table. "But we will make do in this kitchen."

(Steve offers her and the Dora some water; they all decline. So he sits there idly while Bucky and Shuri talk up a storm as she tinkers with the arm.)

It takes less time than Steve expected, but by the time she's done, Bucky can flip a knife with his left hand with the same ease as his right. He almost cries.

 

-

 

"We're not getting a dog." Bucky says resolutely as they walk into the animal shelter, and Steve agrees, opening the door for him. He's not wearing a glove today; Steve counts it as a personal victory.

There's an overwhelming sense of guilt that washes over Steve as he walks into the kennel area, so he finds an employee, and ten minutes later, he has three pamphlets and a business card, and a promise to organize some sort of event with a capital E, featuring the Avengers tucked into his back pocket. She thanks him about a thousand times, and Steve just shrugs, saying it's the least he can do. "Better go find my husband," He says, and gives her a smile as he walks out of the tiny office.

It takes him a minute, but he finds Bucky sitting on the floor with his arms through the fence of a kennel. The links look suspiciously wide, as he he forced them open to fit his hands through. "Buck," Steve says quietly, and he looks up at him with wet eyes. Steve panics, and drops into a crouch next to him, perfunctory hand on his shoulder. "You alright?"

He sniffles, but nods anyways, and Steve turns to look at the kennel, where he's petting a blue pitbull, her tail wagging a mile a minute, eyes closed happily as Bucky scratches behind her ears. He looks down and sees she's missing a foreleg, and he gets it, suddenly. "Her name's Stitch. She's only two." Bucky says quietly, and Steve feels his throat close right up. "People fucking suck." Bucky says emphatically, and Steve wholeheartedly agrees, dropping to his knees and wrapping Bucky in a hug.

He figures they look a bit funny--two super-soldiers huddled on the floor close to tears--when the same employee he talked to earlier (Jess) finds them.

"How do we adopt her?" Bucky asks immediately, and she gives them a wide smile before talking them through it.

"I can see you guys make a perfect pair." Jess says once they've been taken to the interview room and Stitch does her best to get up into Bucky's lap, sniffing at the vibranium arm with curiosity, giving Steve's forearm a consolation lick as if to say hey, I see you, too.

Once Bucky signs the forms and clips her tag with a burner number onto her collar, they're free to go. She sticks her head out the back window as they drive home, stopping by a pet store to buy everything they couldn't get at the shelter.

Steve can't even be upset when Bucky whistles for her that night, and she curls up onto the bed in between them. "Can't believe I've lost spooning rights to our dog." Steve mumbles, turning off the lamp light. Bucky laughs and reaches over to put his hand on Steve's cheek; it accompanies an I love you.

(Bucky might be her favorite during the day, but Steve wakes up to Stitch stretched out along his side, looking up at him with happy yellow eyes, tail thumping excitedly against the mattress once she realizes he's awake. She stretches her neck out farther to lick Steve's chin; Bucky takes a picture.)

"This is good," Bucky says, smiling and putting the phone back, sitting back on his ankles. He tilts his head to the side and gives them a smile that could start a fire.

"Yeah," Steve agrees, stretching and half dodging another lick to the face. "This is good."