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Hot as Blood, Cold as Steel

Chapter Text

The man from the helicarrier is healing.

The asset sits and watches.

He can see it happening: bullets emerge from the skin and lay on the surface of his back as he breathes, in and out, until they tumble aside still bloody and warm. The asset picks one of these up. It slicks his fingers with red, and the metal is heated through at the temperature of the subject’s skin.

He runs hot. Hard to tell if this is normal. The asset lays two fingers along the subject’s throat, his cheek, over his heart. All of his skin is warm.

All three bullets emerge; the bullets that the asset put into him. The asset sets them aside in a neat little row; three spots of red on the floor. It only takes minutes before they’re cold as the concrete, but the subject’s body remains warm. He continues breathing.

The asset grows hungry. There are no longer handlers to feed him in assigned portions. He sits with the hunger for hours before he decides how to handle it.

Ensuring the subject’s chains are secure and that his comatose state remains, the asset leaves the bunker. It’s an old army base, abandoned for years and surrounded by mountains. It’s remote enough that no one will stumble across them, and the asset doesn’t think that this, among all the boltholes and back-up plans programmed into his head, will be one of the first hundred that Hydra will check. Dark, gaping windows with jagged glass teeth grin at him as he goes by. The car he stole is waiting at the edge of the base. It’s old beater of a car, something old enough to be hotwired and unlikely to be tracked.

He breaks into an office building after dark in the nearest moderately-sized town and uses the computers. His organization gave him the skills to acquire money. Now he turns those skills against them. It takes him mere minutes to hack in and drain a set of Hydra accounts, routing the money through a computer maze until it can’t be found or accessed by anyone but him.

He has bitten the hand of his masters, and he does not care. If he lets them find him, they will take the man from the helicarrier away from him. That is not acceptable.

Once he has money, both in accounts and in hand—from a series of hacks run through ATMs—he acquires food in bags from a sleepy little supermarket in a town that’s nearer to his base. Bread, apples, meat and cheese will suffice for them. The woman at the counter looks warily friendly as she takes his money. “Just about hunting season, eh?”

He keeps his eyes lowered, avoiding conversation, and she doesn’t try again, just hands over his change with a “there you are, dear.”

The subject is still unconscious when he returns.

He has removed the subject’s clothing—the blue armored uniform with the star—in order to better observe him. The bruising is gone now, and the cuts on his face are merely fading scars. The room and the cement floor are cold, but it does not seem to be a problem. The subject is healing and continuing to produce heat.

The asset kneels beside him, running fingertips over strong calves and up smooth thighs. Much of his body is covered in a thin layer of fine golden hair. It rises in response to the asset’s touch, prickling along his skin.

The subject smells of salt and sunshine under the fishy, metallic tang of the river water. His long lashes fan across his cheek, surprisingly light and soft in contrast to his powerful body. Careful, the asset touches them with a fingertip. They tickle the pad of his fingertip, incredibly fine and light. The man from the helicarrier does not wake.

Hard muscles shape his arms and legs. He’s very skilled with those muscles—the asset knows this from personal experience. This man could have won against the asset. It would have been so easy to leave him to die, trapped under that beam.

Instead, the man from the helicarrier had saved him, regardless of the bullets still inside his body. The asset needs to know why. He needs answers, and the man from the helicarrier is going to answer them.

When he wakes up.

Flattening his palm over the subject’s chest, the asset feels the heat of the subject’s heart. It pumps steadily within his ribs, filling the body with heat.

Down the expanse of a broad, firm belly, the asset’s hand touches the pale, limp phallus between the subject’s legs. It’s as warm as the rest of the body. When it’s touched, it heats further and fills with blood.

The body stirs: lungs fill deeply, fingers twitch. The asset scrambles back out of reach.

After a few minutes, the subject’s autonomic responses return to normal. The chains around his wrists and ankles are still secure.

The asset sleeps; eats; observes. The man from the helicarrier sleeps.

On the second day after the helicarrier, his eyes begin tracking behind his eyelids. Dreaming.

The asset touches his soft yellow hair. It tickles his fingertips and palm.

While the subject still sleeps, the asset leans down and licks his tongue over the subject’s closed lips, and then within. He tastes wet and warm. The asset doesn’t have words to assign to it.

The bunker is cold. The asset presses up against the subject’s side for warmth. He closes his eyes, listening to the gentle rustle of breath and the reliable muffled thuds of heartbeat. When the asset blinks, he finds that he has lost time.

The warmth made him sleep. But the subject did not awaken, so the lapse can be disregarded. It will not happen again.

On the third day, the man from the helicarrier awakes. He comes to himself with a gasp of air and a twitch, yanking once at the chains on his hands.

Then he stills—it’s a wary stillness. His eyes scan, his head turns. When he sees the asset—sitting with his back against the far wall—his eyes go wide. “Bucky?”

That name. It seems to be valuable to the man from the helicarrier.

It means nothing to him. It’s a word, as empty as the other words that this man says.

Your name is James Buchanan Barnes.

You’ve known me your whole life.

You’re my friend.

I’m with you ’til the end of the line.

The man himself, however, he’s valuable somehow. Important. The asset feels this like an ache in his bones. It’s threaded through skin and muscle, vibrating through his tendons and aching like ice in his teeth.

“Bucky, what—“ The man takes a ragged breath, giving his chains a tug and looking around again.

The asset stays where he is, silent.

The man from the helicarrier sits up dazedly, looking over at him. “Are you hurt?”

Puzzled by the unexpected question, the asset pulls his brows together distrustfully.

“Your shoulder. I dislocated it.”

Lifting his right arm, the asset moves it, showing that he’s already taken care of relocating the joint. The way that the subject scans the room speaks to the a soldier who has old habits of counting exits and calculating his odds. He sits up more fully, starting to get his feet under him.

“Stay down.”

The subject stops, and lowers himself back down so that he’s only propped up on his elbow. “Okay, Buck.” His blue eyes are intense, and now they’re focused entirely on the asset. Evidently he’s completed his visual assessment of the room. “Are we alone?”

Obedience seems like a good sign. It compounds with the knowledge that the subject saved him from under a fallen beam and that the subject would have let the asset kill him rather than fight back. The asset considers whether to answer that question. It’s a tactical request to know whether or not the asset is acting alone or with Hydra’s support. The answer is almost irrelevant—the asset could certainly lie either way.

“Yes.”

Whether or not the subject believes he’s been told the truth, it should make him more likely to answer questions.

“Okay.” The subject looks down at the chains around his wrists. Splays his fingers briefly. “I take it that you’re mad at me.”

Confused again, the asset blinks at him. The statement doesn’t make any sense, nor does the light, unthreatening tone in which it is said.

He needs to take control of this conversation. It is not a conversation. It is an interrogation. “Who are you?”

“Steve Rogers. I’m your friend. We’ve known each other since we were kids. When we grew up, we became lovers.”

Lovers. The word echoes hollowly in the asset’s mind, full of vast expanses of context which are missing and empty. It means that the man from the helicarrier belonged to him. Intimately. Emotionally. If he’s telling the truth.

The asset’s eyes scan down the length of that long, golden body. There’s a constant roil somewhere in his gut that becomes hyperactive every time he looks at the subject. It’s full of needs—need to touch, need to protect, need to keep. He’s telling the truth.

“You belonged to me?”

The expression that crosses the subject’s face isn’t one that the asset can read. There’s uncertainty, among other things which are subtler and more obscure.

“Yeah, Buck. I still do.”

Staying on the floor, far across the room, the asset finds that his thumb has begun drawing circles along the side of his kneecap. He makes a conscious effort to cease the motion.

The subject lies back down, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. “My head’s pounding.” He lifts his hands, presses them to the bridge of his nose and sighs before placing them back over his belly. “So, what now?”

“Now I keep you,” the asset responds, the words escaping him involuntarily, just like the motion of his thumb.

There’s a line between the subject’s brows as he looks over. “What’s that mean to you, Buck?”

“It means you belong to me.”

The subject takes a deep, slow breath. “Okay, Buck. We do this your way. Anything that makes you feel safe is okay with me.”

His thumb is fidgeting again. The asset’s shoulders stiffen when he realizes it, and he tenses his whole body, not permitting any muscle to move without his active decision.

“Have you got anything to drink? Or food?”

The asset will need to feed the subject if he wants to keep him. He knows that. He’s aware that he must have known that when he acquired the bags of food that are sitting in the corner. It’s enough for both of them.

Crossing the room, the asset’s metal arm grasps the chains around his wrists and hauls him up by them. The subject gapes but does not fight. Propelling him toward the wall, the asset backs him against it and hooks his arms above his head to a ring set into the concrete. This room is secure. This room is designed for interrogations. It is suitable for their needs.

Unresisting, the man from the helicarrier allows himself to be secured in place. His blue eyes remain open, focused on the asset with an opaque expression.

When he is satisfied with the restraints, the asset fetches a bottle of water and an apple and brings them over. He opens the bottle of water and holds it to the subject’s mouth, tilting it for him to drink. Some of it spills out, but most of it goes in and he swallows greedily. When the bottle is empty, the asset tosses it aside and offers the apple.

The man from the helicarrier opens his mouth, teeth sinking into the red skin of apple. His eyes are unwavering. The asset turns the apple slowly as the subject takes bites and chews them.

Reactions fire wildly in the asset’s body. He keeps his face impassive and eyes cold, but his veins are all burning hot and his nerves are tingling. His penis feels achy and restrained, which is an entirely new sensation.

The subject tilts his head as if to take another bite, but his nose brushes against the asset’s fingers, rubbing very softly.

The asset drops the apple and steps back. His heart rate has spiked and his breath is coming quickly. His eyes are wide and spooked. He tries to control these reactions, but he is frozen by those steady blue eyes.

“It’s okay, Buck,” the subject says, soothing.

Taking another few steps back, the asset leaves the half-eaten apple where it is and retreats to his spot at the far side of the room.

The subject’s eyes grow sad, and then they droop closed. The subject tilts his head against his own arm and returns to his healing slumber.

Chapter Text

The asset feels tired and cold. Some illogical part of him wants to return to sleeping at his captive’s side, the way he had when he lost time. Instead, he sleeps sitting against the wall, and his captive sleeps standing against the wall, arms bound above his head.

When he wakes, everything is the same. The room is still lit by dim, mostly-dead halogens running off of a dusty sub-basement generator which will eventually run out of fuel. His captive is still asleep against the wall.

Rising silently, the asset walks across the room toward him. He stands a breath away, head tilted up to look into his captive’s face. There is only an inch of height difference between them. His captive looks like he’s been sculpted in marble, especially with his skin bleached by the sickly light of the flickering halogens.

The asset reaches out. His palm clasps around his captive’s hip, stepping close enough so that he can feel the heat radiating off of his captive’s naked body.

Waking with a gasp, his captive twitches. The asset backs off quickly, spooked again.

“Bucky,” his captive says, taking a deep breath to steady himself as he remembers where he is. “It’s okay. You can touch me.”

The asset hesitates, confused by the permission. His teeth find the inside of his cheek and he bites down, grounding himself with the pain. He wants to touch. He’s allowed to touch.

Releasing his teeth from his cheek while he still only tastes a little bit of blood, the asset steps forward. His hand re-asserts its place on his captive’s hip, and he presses close enough into his captive’s space that his armor-clad chest presses against his captive’s bare skin. His head tucks against the side of his captive’s neck, breathing in the scent on his skin. Warm.

He allows his hand to slid up the sides of those ribs, and then back down, over his hip and thigh, and around. It skims up between his captive’s legs and clasps around his limp cock.

His captive shudders. “Bucky.”

The asset draws back enough so that he can see those blue eyes. His thumb rubs an idle little circle against the skin in his hand. “You said I can touch you.”

“Yeah,” his captive agrees, holding his gaze.

“You said you belong to me.”

“I do. And I trust you. If this is what you need, Bucky, I’m okay with it.”

The asset considers for a moment before his hand begins to move, almost of its own volition. It slides up and down the quickly-heating length of the cock. This feels familiar. His hand knows what to do, even though the asset has no memory of ever having done this before.

His own cock is full and hard within his pants. The asset ignores it.

Resting his head on his captive’s upraised arm, the asset studies his expressions as his hand continues to move. The expressions start with sadness and longing, and then shift into need and pleasure. Occasionally there are glimpses of trust, and also glimpses of fear.

His captive cries out the name when he achieves orgasm. “Bucky.”

The asset supposes that is as it should be. The man from the helicarrier belongs to him. So does the name. Bucky.

“Mine,” the asset says, weighting the word heavily with expectation.

“Yours,” his captive replies, eyes closed and breath heavy as he recovers.

Drawing away, the asset looks at the sticky white goo on his fingertips. He blinks once, mind calm and blank as he lifts the hand to his mouth and sucks the goo off of one of his fingers.

His captive inhales sharply.

The taste is salty and electric on his tongue. He cleans all of it off his hand with slow, careful licks.

They’re both in need of a shower, but they don’t have the facilities for that. All of the faucets in the base are dead.

As a reward, the asset goes to the bag of food and constructs a sandwich from slices of bread, cheese, and meat. He brings it over to his captive, holding it to his mouth.

“Thanks,” his captive murmurs, taking a bite and chewing. He watches the asset as he eats.

Somehow, impossibly, his captive is calm about this. He doesn’t seem to mind being chained up and hand-fed. Because he knows that he belongs to … Bucky?

He doesn’t try another of his little nuzzles. When the sandwich is gone, the asset’s hand lingers, brushing over his captive’s jawline and his nose. He’d touched his captive freely in his sleep, when there was no way he could object. Now he’s awake, but still not objecting.

“You should be afraid,” the asset informs him. There must be some explanation for his captive’s calm demeanor. Captives are supposed to be afraid.

His captive’s head tilts very slightly. The side of his mouth curves in something like a smile. “Of you?”

“I could kill you.”

“You didn’t.”

“I could torture you.”

His captive’s head tips in an approximation of a shrug. “Okay.”

“That should frighten you.”

“If it was anyone else, Buck, it would. Anyone else, I’d be angry and fighting. But it’s you. I trust you. I don’t think you’ll hurt me.” That little smile returns, eyes sparkling with humor. “Besides, we’ve never tried it like this before.”

The asset’s hand skims down his chest and belly, and the asset presses close again. His captive’s body is warm. He feels… safe. “Tried it like what?”

“With me tied up.”

Pulling away, the asset frowns at him, trying to make sense of that. “What?”

“You used to let me tie you up when we had sex.” The captive’s cheeks redden with a blush, and he fidgets in his chains.

“But never you?”

“Never me. I meant to suggest it. We just… never had the chance.”

The asset returns to the bag of food, getting a bottle of water and bringing it back to him. “Why not?”

“There was a war on. And then you fell.” His captive drinks the entire bottle of water, panting gratefully when he’s done.

Returning to the far side of the room, the asset combs through his mind for scraps of memories, anything that would verify his captive’s claims. He finds nothing other than what he already has: a formless sense of need and lust directed at his captive.

“Bucky,” his captive says after some time, voice sounding a little strained. “I really need to pee.”

The asset tenses his jaw, but he gets up. Checking his gun, he crosses the room, unfastening the chains from around his captive’s feet and then unclasping the hook that secures him in place.

Sighing gratefully, his captive rolls his shoulders and flexes his arms, trying to get circulation back into his hands after having them so long above his head.

“Walk,” the asset says, nodding toward the door. They go outside, to a corner of the camp that’s adequately far from their bunker, and then stop. “Here.”

He watches as his captive pisses and then squats to shit. When these tasks are completed, they walk back toward the bunker.

His captive pauses at the door, looking over at the little mountain stream that runs within a hundred feet of the bunker. “Can I … wash?”

Wary, the asset keeps his gun in front of him, but aimed at the ground. Maybe he’ll see about getting some soap, when he replenishes their supply of food. “Okay.”

He’s limited as to what he can do with his hands bound, but his captive seems fairly determined on the topic of washing in the frigid water of the stream. Splashing straight in, he rinses his body all over, washing off the worst of the grime and contorting himself as much as he can in order to scrub his fingers over his skin. He comes out shivering and dripping, but he gives the asset a big, grateful grin as he heads back inside.

“You want me back up against the wall?” his captive asks, already moving toward his place there. He’s so cooperative. It’s puzzling.

“Yes,” the asset decides, hooking the chains on his wrists back into the loop.

He draws away once his captive is secure, hesitating in the center of the room. This is … acceptable. They can maintain this. But something about it bothers him, and the asset doesn’t understand that.

“Are you still hungry?” the asset asks, glancing back at him.

His captive immediately looks hopeful. “I’m almost always hungry. It’s okay if you can’t spare—“

“We have food,” the asset interrupts him. “We have money.”

We? The word startles him almost as soon as it’s out of his mouth. We.

“Then yes. Please. I’m hungry.”

The asset hand-feeds him another sandwich, and then an apple, and an orange. He watches the pleasure and satisfaction on his captive’s face when he’s fed.

“Damage report,” the asset orders.

Briefly puzzled, his captive licks his lips and swallows before answering. “I’m okay. My head isn’t pounding anymore, if that’s what you’re asking. Nothing feels broken. What about you?”

Recoiling a step in surprise, the asset glares at him for presuming to ask about his status in return. A moment later, he relents. He no longer has handlers to report to. All that the asset has is his captive. Perhaps it makes sense that they report to each other. “Status: functional.”

“Okay. Is there a status that is better than functional?”

Confused by the very nature of the question, the asset shakes his head.

“What if we make one?”

The asset strains his mind to comprehend. “How can there be a status better than functional?”

“Let’s try: functional, comfortable, content, happy. Okay? Do you need me to explain any of those?”

They’re discussing hypotheticals that are completely irrelevant to any possible mission. The asset scowls at him, but he returns to his spot across the room and sits. “Explain all of them.”

“Functional will be your status if you’re not hurt and you don’t actively need food, medical assistance, or any other aid,” his captive clarifies, completely calm and straightforward about his bizarre categories. “Comfortable means that all of your functional needs are met, and you’re operating on enough rest and food so as to be not in any kind of discomfort. Content means that all your comfortable needs are met, and your immediate emotional needs are either satisfied or not actively unpleasant. Happy means that all of your immediate physical and emotional desires are satisfied and you have an overall feeling of pleasure. How’s that?”

“Improbable.”

His captive gives him a tired smile, like they’re sharing a secret. “Maybe it’ll be less improbable if we work toward it.”

They are, in a way, sharing a secret. The asset has abandoned his organization and stolen his captive away from his own. Every word they exchange is a secret, because it won’t be reported to anyone.

When the asset makes no response, his captive eventually continues pressing the issue. “What would you need in order to be comfortable?”

The asset looks away, but he is considering it. He feels discomfort from exhaustion, cold, and hunger. The hunger can be resolved easily. As he told his captive, they have food. They can afford to acquire more. He moves to the bag of food and eats a sandwich and two oranges, enough that there’s no longer an ache of hunger in his belly.

This feels like a disobedience. He has eaten by his own will, more than the quantity necessary to remain functional. Disobedience is necessary to his goals. It strengthens his resolve. They will not have his captive. Which means they will not have the asset. He must learn to disobey.

When he is sated, he returns to his safe spot to observe his captive. “You said we were lovers. What does that mean?”

“It means a lot of things. And I’ll take as much time you want to tell you about every single one of them. It means that I trust you, unconditionally, with my life. My heart. My body. Even now, when you barely know who you are. I know my Bucky. And I trust you.”

“They separated us?” Someone must have separated them. The asset wouldn’t let go of his captive willingly, and he doubted that his lover would have let him go willingly.

“You fell. I thought you were dead.”

“They took you out of my head. But I knew you.” That part still doesn’t make sense. The asset doesn’t understand how or why he recognizes this stranger. Or why he feels that he needs him.

“If you want, I can make some cheesy joke about the power of love.”

Bucky doesn’t know what he means, but he tips his head curiously. “Okay.”

His captive just smiles. “I’m with you until the end of the line, Buck. It just turns out this line goes a lot farther than either of us anticipated.”

“Tell me more about us being lovers.”

“I was always in love with you,” his captive says, voice wistful. “I always knew it, too. Even when I was a little kid, when I’d see a movie or hear people talking about love, I knew that was what I felt for you. I remember asking my mom and my teachers about it—never naming you, but asking about what love was and how you knew for sure.”

“What did they tell you?” the asset interrupts. He doesn’t know what love is. But he has a lover, someone who belongs to him. It’s important that he know what this means.

“They said that love is when someone else is more important to you than yourself. When you’re with someone and they make you smile, they give you hope, they make you want to be a better person. When you’d do anything to protect them and keep them happy, even at the cost of yourself. Love is giving someone your life—in shared moments, in energy and effort. It means learning to compromise so that you’re both satisfied, and making space for them in your life and your heart.”

His captive sighs, eyes unfocused in memory. “Some of that I screwed up pretty bad when we were first getting started. I let the war come between us, and we never really had a chance to define ourselves and our relationship outside of the war. I’m hoping that now, maybe, I can have another chance.”

“That’s enough talk,” the asset says. His tone isn’t harsh, but he wants his captive to … stop. He has more information than he can process, for the time being, and his heart is beating in achy thuds that are unfamiliar to him. “You can tell me more later.”

“Okay, Buck,” his captive says. Sighing, he rests his head back against his arm, and watches the asset for some time before he drifts back to sleep.

Once he’s solidly asleep, the asset creeps close again to watch his face. He isn’t sure if the definition of love was the truth or if his captive was merely trying to manipulate him.

His captive is more important to him than himself. He feels certain of that. The asset would protect him at the cost of his own life, without hesitation. Sharing time and spending energy and effort on his captive is what he’s doing now. Compromise is a foreign concept, as is making space for a person. But it’s making his captive happy that makes the asset hesitate.

He can’t afford to make his captive happy. If released, his captive might attack him, or—worse—run away. It’s unacceptable. The asset has no purpose, no function, outside of his captive. And his captive can’t be trusted not to lie or attempt escape.

Somewhere in the world are his captive’s handlers, and they’ll be looking for him. His captive also had a mission to complete, and he refused to abandon that mission for the sake of the asset. His captive’s mission was a success. The asset’s mission was a failure. This alone is enough to prevent trust: it is probable that his captive is merely manipulating the situation in order to escape and return to his handlers and his mission.

Miserable at the thought, the asset rests his head onto his captive’s shoulder. The chest against his own stutters with waking breath, and then eases. “Buck.”

“Why do you say it wrong sometimes?” the asset asks.

“What? Oh. You mean why sometimes Bucky and sometimes Buck?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t know. I suppose I always have. I call you Bucky when I’m trying to get your attention or when I’m talking to other people about you, and I call you Buck more often when we’re alone. You did the same thing, you know. You used to call me Stevie.”

“Stevie.”

His captive makes a contented sound. “Yeah. Like that.”

The asset grunts, rubbing his face against his captive’s shoulder. His gut aches with a need to be closer, even though he’s already pressed up against his captive’s warmth.

Pushing back as that ache peaks sharply into frustration, the asset tears at his armor, pulling off the straps and throwing each item to the floor in anger. He strips swiftly, although not with his usual efficiency. He’s too impatient for that.

As soon as he’s naked, he steps back into his captive’s space, pressing their skin together and tucking his face against his captive’s throat. The ache eases immediately, and he can feel the warmth of his captive’s body seeping into his own.

“Missed you, too, Buck,” his captive whispers. His head presses against the asset’s and he moves it slightly, nuzzling him. “I barely knew how to function without you. So many times I wished that they’d just left me in the ice, so that I wouldn’t have to live in a world that didn’t have you.”

The asset has no words to reply. Even if he knew what to say, he doesn’t think he could manage it. His heart flutters, breath coming in shaky little gasps. His captive feels like shelter, and the asset wants to hide against him forever.

His breath evens, his eyes close, and then the asset jolts awake, heart rate rocketing up as he realizes he lost time again. Only a few seconds this time. Maybe minutes. He’s not sure.

Bucky.

His captive sounds concerned. That’s logical—the asset’s functionality is visibly impaired. He needs to recover his functionality, and he wants—he wants…

Reaching up, he unhooks the chains so that his captive can lower his arms. “Lie down.”

“Okay.” Keeping his movements slow and visible, his captive carefully lays himself down on the ground.

The asset needs this. It feels like a need as strong if not stronger than the need for food, and it’s—at least temporarily—entwined with the need for rest. He isn’t sure what will happen if he allows himself to sate this need. He has no data on it. But he does at least understand the need for warmth and rest, and he can get that now.

If he trusts his captive. His lover.

Curling up beside him, the asset nestles against the warmth of his lover’s body, and sinks immediately into sleep.

Chapter Text

The asset wakes warm and groggy from a dreamless sleep, blinking awake and staring in confusion at the pale skin pressed against his face.

Memory clicks in and he scrambles backward, getting out of reach before he re-assesses the situation.

His lover—already awake—sits up and watches him calmly. The restraints look secure, wrists still chained in front of him. Time has passed. Some unknown quantity of hours. Time in which the asset was asleep, naked and vulnerable, and his lover made no attempt to overpower him or escape.

Breathing in, the asset relaxes. His lover waits. Warily, the asset crawls back over to him and sits so that his thigh is pressed against his lover’s. The asset feels warm, for the first time in memory. His whole body is filled with warmth from sleeping against his lover’s reservoir of heat.

Tilting his head, the asset shuts his eyes and leans in, pressing his mouth against his lover’s. He isn’t sure why this feels like a need, but it is.

When he tasted his lover’s lips previously, they were still and unresponding. Now they move against his own, welcoming him. There’s muscle memory in this. His body recognizes the kiss, though his mind does not, and he gives himself over to it.

Heat rushes through him, stirring his cock and making his skin tingle. His hands reach up, clasping around the back of his lover’s head to hold him close.

Mine. My lover. My mission. I need you.

He’s breathless when the kiss breaks, aching with arousal and stunned that such sensations exist in the world. His lover looks almost as stunned, blue eyes wide and pupils dilated.

The asset kisses him one last time, soft and brief, before he moves away.

He wants more, but he also feels other physical needs pressing at him. His lover will be hungry again, and the asset feels the need to relieve himself.

Getting to his feet, he holds out his hand toward his lover, who reaches up in return. The asset clasps his hand around the chains on his wrists and hauls him to his feet. He doesn’t bother with armor, but he does take his gun with him.

It’s sunny outside when they emerge, warmer than in the bunker, and his lover looks around with interest. Their location is remote—nothing but mountains on all sides, thickly-forested. There is only one road, long disused. Three miles down it, around the curve of the mountain, it meets up with a narrow tar road that by the little town where the asset has purchased food. The asset sees nothing out of place, no signs of incursion upon their sanctuary. No recent disturbance at all but the tire tracks from their stolen vehicle. They’re safe, and alone.

“It’s beautiful here,” his lover says. “How did you find it?”

The asset doesn’t find it tactically advantageous to answer that question.

“Is there a plan, or are we just hiding and recovering?”

The asset glances over. “I’m interrogating you.”

His lover looks genuinely amused. “How’s that working out for you?”

Dropping his eyes, the asset feels his cheeks flush. His interrogative questions keep being waylaid by his own body’s needs and reactions to his lover. “Complicated.”

“Yeah. I can see that.” Striding forward with confidence that the asset won’t shoot him, his lover goes and relieves himself, and then returns.

“Stay,” the asset orders him.

He should take his lover back into the bunker and chain him again before the asset sees to his own bodily functions. He feels exposed by defecating within his lover’s view. It makes him human and flawed, something other than the asset or a lover. Human. Messy. Containing filth.

He does it anyway, with some stubborn sense of pride burning in his chest. His lover stays, keeping his eyes averted.

When the necessities are completed, the asset takes him back inside. “Up against the wall.”

He sees his lover’s face crumple with disappointment and hurt, but his voice comes out calm. “Okay.”

The asset secures his chains above his head again. He wants to remain pressed against his lover’s warmth, but it feels wrong to do so while his lover is disappointed and hurt with him.

“I’ll be back soon,” he says, as he steps away.

His lover’s head comes up quick. “You’re going somewhere?”

The asset begins dressing and equipping himself again. “Food. Soap.”

“Oh.” His lover sounds surprised. “Soap would be nice.”

Securing the straps on his armor, the asset glances over. “You want me to get you anything?”

He’s surprised at the words out of his own mouth. They sound casual, obliging. Words that belong to someone else. Someone who isn’t an asset.

His lover smiles hopefully. “I love chocolate. And a toothbrush and toothpaste in addition to the soap?”

“Okay,” the asset agrees. Because his lover is smiling, he decides that it’s safe to approach and kiss him one last time before leaving for town.

Their noses brush as he draws away, and his lover holds his gaze with a warm smile.

~

Being away from him this time is worse. The asset lives with the persistent weight of fear in his belly that his handlers will come and find them. He dreads returning to the bunker and finding it empty. His lover, stolen.

His lover is the only thing in the world that matters. The asset needs him.

This weakness is strange and unfamiliar. It has been identified for him as love.

His lover will be uncomfortable, and now there’s a new sense of dread attached to that. It’s duller than the fear of losing him entirely, but it gnaws at the edges of the asset’s perception. His lover is uncomfortable. This is unacceptable.

When he returns to the base, it is untouched. He is not followed. Everything is as he left it and safe. His traps and alerts are all still in place.

And yet his footsteps are quickened as he crosses the base, and he takes the stairs down into the bunker with far more rapidity than necessary.

His lover is waiting. Unharmed. Still here.

The asset drops the bag of food and crosses to his side, fumbling in his pocket for the little silver key. A swift twist in the lock drops the chains on his lover’s wrists away, freeing him completely. The asset hugs his arms tight around his lover’s back, clinging to him.

“Buck.” His lover exhales the name, only pausing for a moment in surprise before his arms come up around the asset in return, pulling him close. “You okay?”

“Status…” The asset takes a breath and then lets it out again, confirming. “Comfortable.”

His lover huffs out a quiet laugh, nuzzling his face against the asset’s shoulder. “Yeah. Me too.”

The sensation of arms around him like this is very new, and very … good. It feels warm and safe, as if his lover will protect him from anything. It’s illogical and self-deceptive, but it pours over him in waves of trust and need.

“Don’t leave,” the asset says. It comes out sounding like a plea.

“I won’t. I’m right here with you. As long as you need.”

“You’ll obey me?” The question is stupid. His lover can easily lie to him. Past behavior has suggested that his lover wants to reduce conflict and challenges between him, and will gladly cooperate in order to do so. This information is more valuable than his question, but he still needs to hear the answer.

“I’ll obey you. I trust you.”

Pulling back a little, the asset studies his face. His lover smiles at him.

“I got you chocolate,” the asset says.

His lover grins. “Thank you. And soap?”

“In the bags,” the asset nods towards them, letting go of his lover and stepping away. He keeps an eye on him, beginning to undress slowly. There’s no longer a need for armor around his lover, and the asset craves the feeling of his lover against his own bare skin.

His lover digs through the bags, coming up with the soap and then standing. “Are you coming with me?”

The asset narrows his eyes at that, because the question contains an option that shouldn’t even be a consideration. “You’re not allowed out of my sight,” he specifies, making that an order that he expects to be obeyed. “If I have to leave again, you’re going back in the chains.”

“Okay.” His lover nods calm acceptance.

Relaxing again at his ready obedience, the asset finishes undressing and steps close to him.

His lover turns, tilting his head and leaning in for a kiss. He’s so warm, and the asset needs this so much. Reaching for him in return, the asset pulls him close, sliding his arms up around his lover’s back to press their bodies together, and his lover returns it with arms around the asset’s waist. It deepens of its own accord—his lover parts his lips, tongue flicking out, and the asset counters with his own. He feels his cock harden as their tongues clash, tasting each other.

“C’mon,” his lover says, drawing away with a smile. His hand clasps the asset’s, weaving their fingers together as they emerge into the late-afternoon sun. The asset pauses him, eyes flicking over the valley and checking that all his warning signs are unchanged. When he’s satisfied, he nods, and they resume their course to the stream.

“When we were kids, we would have given anything for a day like this,” his lover says, settling onto the ground by the stream and leaning over to start washing his arms. “We were always such city kids. When we got to the war, we’d been out of the city so little that we barely knew what to do with ourselves in open country. But still, a day like this—no war, no parents, no commanding officers, with the sunlight warm and a big forest around us… it’s a treat.”

“It’s tactically advantageous,” the asset corrects him, settling down at his lover’s side. He takes the soap from him, lathering it between his hands and then reaching out, starting to massage it over his lover’s shoulders.

“That, too,” his lover agrees, allowing the asset to wash him. “I have friends who will be worrying about me, but I don’t report to anyone anymore. And neither do you. Our friends will understand.”

“Our friends?”

His lover looks over with a lopsided grin. “I mean, I guess you haven’t met them yet. Except Natasha, somehow. I don’t know the details. But everyone else, you’ll meet them. You’ll like them.”

“No. Other people are … not safe.”

Once his chest and back are soaped, they rinse him off in the stream, and then the asset begins working on his calves. His lover takes the soap from him, handing it off back and forth as they lather their hands and scrub down each other’s bodies.

“Do you remember what it’s like to have friends, Buck?”

The asset grunts. They’re still on that same topic. “No. Did I?”

“Yeah. You did. Do you want me to tell you about them?”

Taking a heavy, wary breath, the asset decides that he doesn’t object to this information, although he has no reason to trust its accuracy. “If you must.”

His lover begins talking about a group of people called the Howling Commandos. He says that these people were their friends. They’re dead now. There was also someone named Peggy—dying—and someone named Howard—dead.

When his torso is all soaped up, his lover splashes him with water from the stream. Instinctively, the asset splashes back, which earns a laugh. They splash back and forth for a few seconds, and then his lover pounces him, pushing him on his back in the shallow water and kissing him.

The asset’s hands lock around his throat by instinct, but they don’t squeeze.

Kissing. Kissing is good.

He returns it eagerly, clasping his fingers around the back of his lover’s head and holding him there as they kiss in the cold water, until his lover breaks away with a laugh and pulls him out.

“Gosh, that’s cold,” his lover says, grinning at him. They settle back onto the bank in the warm sunlight. The sun will set soon, and then it will begin to grow colder, but they still have time.

Taking the soap again, the asset begins lathering it up his lover’s thighs. His lover inhales sharply, eyes widening, but he shifts his stance so that he’s kneeling in the long grasses on the bank, legs spread wide to offer access.

The asset soaps up the insides of his thighs, massaging at the warm skin under his hand and feeling the muscles shift at his touch. He’s allowed to touch.

His hand slides higher, tracing the crease where his lovers thighs connect to his hips. His testes hang between his legs, along with his half-hard cock, and the asset reaches for them, soaping the skin and the fine golden hairs.

His lover’s breath has become uneven. When the asset glances up, he finds his lover’s eyes fixed on him, pupils dilated again. “Buck,” his lover says.

The asset kisses him, brief but sincere, and lets his hand slide back between his lover’s legs. There’s a whimper as soapy fingertips press into the cleft of his ass, but it seems to be a pleasurable sound.

Taking this as permission to continue, the asset soaps up the length of the cleft, watching his lover’s face with interest. His eyes shut, brows flickering through little micro-expressions of pleasure and desire, and his lips press together and then release. The asset kisses those lips again, licking his tongue over them, and earning a surprised little smile from his lover.

“Bucky.”

The asset’s fingers linger over the ring of clenched muscle hidden within that cleft, and each time he pauses there he hears a hitch in his lover’s breath. Tempted, the asset pushes one soapy finger shallowly within him. His lover moans, hips rolling into it as if asking for more.

This suits the asset’s desire to explore, and he wiggles the finger deeper. Everything feels hot and tight around his finger, even hotter than his lover’s skin temperature, and the sensation of heat draws an answering throb from the asset’s cock. He feels an urge to bury his cock inside that warmth, which seems filthy and yet somehow intensely appealing.

His lover hooks a gentle arm around the asset’s shoulders, fingers clutching at his skin in furtive, distracted little movements. The sensation is pleasant, creating the illusion that his lover … wants to have him close, wants him to continue, wants him to be here so that the two of them can be together.

“More,” his lover whispers, eyes shut and cheeks flushed with pleasure.

Fascinated, the asset pushes in a second finger, filling him with them until they won’t go any deeper and then gently exploring within. His body feels slick and tight, but the asset estimates that his cock would fit. Maybe. He wonders if that was something they used to do.

“St-status report,” the asset orders. Those aren’t the right words. He doesn’t know the right words.

“Good,” his lover pants, arm tightening slightly.

That isn’t one of the determined status levels. The asset stills his fingers, confused.

“Buck?” His lover blinks at him, but seems to understand his mistake a moment later. “Content. Status content, bordering on happy. The sensation is pleasant, and I would very much like you to continue, if you want.”

“Did we… used to… do this?”

“Yes. We’ve both always loved penetration.”

The asset swallows. “Penetration.” His lover’s use of that word means something different than the meanings the asset knows.

“Your fingers inside me, like this. Your cock inside me.”

Breath quickening, the asset keeps his fingers still but doesn’t withdraw them. “My cock. You’d… you used to let me do that?

“Let you,” his lover repeats, with a little bit of a smile. He leans forward, kissing the asset’s cheek and murmuring into his ear. “I used to ask you for it. Or sometimes I’d just push you down on your back, straddle your waist, and sink down on your cock.”

The asset stares at him, mouth open and eyes wide. He can barely imagine that, but the rush of heat that fills him says that his body remembers.

Swallowing, the asset nods warily to indicate that he wants that to happen. “How?”

His lover’s hands settle on his shoulders, starting to gently push him down on his back. The asset immediately panics and scrambles backward. “No, don’t—don’t touch me.”

Letting go quickly, his lover frowns at him, then seems to come to some sort of understanding. It’s more understanding than the asset has about his own situation: he liked being touched a few moments before, but the pushing was bad. He doesn’t know why. Pushing felt like… felt like… trappedrestrainedpaincoldpain—

His breath is coming quickly, panic flooding through him in waves. The asset tenses his jaw, reasserting control over himself.

His lover shifts forward, settling onto his elbows in the soft grass with his side turned toward the asset. “Is this okay?”

It leaves him exposed and open, completely at the asset’s mercy. Tempted by that, the asset moves close to him, sitting in the grass by his side. He slips his two fingers back inside his lover, enjoying the little moan that results.

“You’ll have to use soap, since I doubt you’ve got lube. It’s not the best option, but it’ll work. And I’d appreciate you being gentle with me. The last time I did this was with you, so it’s been a few years.”

“Will it hurt you?” the asset asks, continuing to idly massage within him. His fingers seem to find this familiar, and his lover keeps making beautiful little noises of pleasure as he does so.

“It might ache a little. Ideally this would be the sort of thing we’d work up to.” He laughs softly, shaking his head and dropping it down between his arms. “You know, I don’t know if I ever told you—the very first time we did this, I dropped right down on your cock, and you never knew to ask. I’d been fingering myself in the shower for years and thinking of you. Lately I haven’t been. Not when I thought I’d never have you again.”

The asset wonders if he should finger himself. Or perhaps he can even let his lover do it. He’s not sure if that’s okay, but he wants to try.

“Add a third finger, Buck, please? Try to get them as deep as you can. There’s a spot—you were always so good at finding it.”

Fascinated, the asset pushes a third finger inside, twisting and wiggling them to get them as deep as his fingers will go and then rubbing at the walls inside to try to find a spot that’s different from the others.

“Good, now up a bit, on the inner wall—wait, other way—“ His lover laughs, his hips wiggling in a way which is probably supposed to be helpful but doesn’t actually help the asset locate what he’s looking for. “There, Buck, press in a bit—no, down slightly and press in—“

Suddenly his lover makes a sound like he’s in pain and the asset pulls his fingers back quickly.

“That’s the spot,” his lover says, arching his back and wiggling his hips. “Please, Buck?”

Pleasure, not pain. The asset is going to have to learn to tell the difference. He wonders if he’ll have time to learn all of his lover’s sounds and reactions. Every spot that makes him feel good. The asset—Bucky?—thinks that he’d like that.

Carefully, the asset lathers more soap and pushes his fingers back in, finding the spot again and rubbing against it. His lover moans in response, rutting his hips back into the asset’s hand.

“Were you always like this?” the asset asks, starting to explore how his lover likes that spot to be touched. He finds out quickly that scissoring his fingers against the spot results in happy cursing.

“What, desperate for you? Yes. Bent over and begging for it? Not usually. You used to love having me in control. You called me Captain when you really got into it. Or when you wanted to be punished for sass.”

The asset stops. “You punished me?”

His lover also goes still. “No. No, not like—“ His lover takes a breath, hesitating. “No. Everything we did together was consensual. You were willing and eager. What we called punishment was actually you wanting to feel that I was in control, and that you could be vulnerable and still know that you were safe.”

Relaxing again, the asset resumes his fingering. He doesn’t think he will be okay with feeling vulnerable or under anyone else’s control for a long time. “Did I … punish you?”

“We never tried it that way. If you wanted to, I’d be more than willing. I think that could feel really good. But we’d need to be careful, and we’d need to discuss it.”

The asset isn’t very good at discussing things. He’s grateful that his lover leaves that unstated.

Bucky would have discussed things. They would sit down across a table—no, a couch—and talk through what they want. Polite and sensible.

Instead, he has his lover captive and only a few minutes out of chains.

They’re both naked and unarmed now, except for the metal arm that rests, inactive, on the asset’s thigh. His lover could have used this moment—one of the various unguarded moments the asset has allowed—to attack and escape.

Instead, he’s on all fours with his ass in the air. Vulnerable. Trusting. It could be a ruse. But the asset knows both logically and in his gut that it isn’t a ruse.

Hesitantly, he leans over, kissing his lover’s hip. There’s a sigh in return as his lover relaxes again, and the momentary spike of distrust between them fades.

The asset resumes playing with that spot, finding how to make his lover rock his hips into the touch with desperate little keening noises that are so unlike the strong soldier he’s capable of being that it makes the sides of the asset’s mouth ache. He understands why the ache is there—it fills a space where there’s supposed to be a smile.

Tensing the muscles, he pulls the points of his mouth into his cheeks, which firms the line of his mouth. An attempt at a smile. His lover can’t see it, still has his head dropped against his arms. It feels uncomfortable. False. He isn’t Bucky. He can’t even pretend to be Bucky.

Hurt and frustrated but still wanting, he adds his pinky finger to the others inside his lover and thrusts them into him. His lover’s sounds turn sharper, still needy but a little bit hurt.

“Bucky—“

He stops.

“It’s okay.” His lover rolls his hips back again, pressing onto the invading fingers. “Did you want to…?”

He wants to. He doesn’t deserve to. It’s a lie, a theft: he’s taking what belongs to a man named Bucky, and the man named Steve is allowing him to do it because this loaded weapon is all that’s left.

That angers him, because this is his, but he might not be able or allowed to have it because he’s not worthy.

He understands—from what his lover told him about love and his own dim, buried comprehension of the topic—that he should let him go. Love means protecting his lover and keeping him happy. The asset is doing the opposite of that. He’s selfish and he’s wrong, but he doesn’t care. His lover is the only thing in the world that belongs to him. The only thing in the world that matters.

The asset settles onto his knees behind him, swipes his soap-slick hand over his length, and pushes his cock inside.

His lover gasps, fingers clenching in the dead, brittle winter grasses and the newly-started spring growth. They bruise and snap in his hands. “Bucky,” he says, voice weighted with emotion.

The asset leans forward in order to prevent further commentary. He can’t deal with his lover’s words right now. They’re sharp-edged as the porcelain bowl of his grandmother’s that Bucky broke when he was eight, and Steve eternally had a crescent scar on his heel from stepping on one of them.

Going still, the asset takes shaky, heaving breaths, and then resumes pushing forward. This belongs to him. He is going to take what is his, and no one is allowed to take it away from him. Not even Bucky.

His lover is hot and tight and perfect inside, muscles fluttering around his cock as they try to cope with the penetration. He needs this. It’s his, and he can’t let it go, if he lets it go he’ll break apart, fall into shards and brittle broken parts, a weapon that no longer fires, just a rusted thing that should have died

When the asset blinks, he finds that he’s arched forward, pressing his forehead against his lover’s spine, hands tight on his lover’s hips. He lost time, but not in orgasm. It feels like his brain skipped a track. He’s holding them pinned together, buried completely within his lover, and he doesn’t remember that happening.

The back beneath his head is heaving with quick, shaky breaths. He has hurt his lover, because he is that badly flawed.

“Still with me, Buck?” his lover asks, after about a minute. The voice has a forced lightness to it. Hurting. Worried. Trying to reassure.

“I’m not him,” the asset says, because allowing his lover to believe that is a lie.

His lover is quiet. The asset doesn’t move. So, now he knows. Now is when he stops giving the asset all the things he wants to give to Bucky.

“No,” his lover says at last. “You’re not. You’re not the same man you were in the war, and you’re not the Bucky that you were before it. But you are mine, and I love you.”

Lifting his head, the asset stares at his lover’s shoulders in shock. It … isn’t possible that this man would still love the ruins that the asset has become. But the lie is so incredibly alluring.

The urge to possess at any cost has faded, leaving the asset with a sense of sickness for hurting his lover. He pulls out quickly, sitting back on his heels and watching his partner with fear and guilt.

Taking a shaky breath, his lover sits up, looking over at the asset for a moment before he reaches out and pulls him into a hug.

Chapter Text

The asset stays close to him as they go back inside. He feels different. Foolish. Ready to trust this man even though he knows it is a lie.

“Can we sleep?” the asset asks.

“Sure, Buck,” his partner says. He lies down on the floor, arms behind his head, making his warmth available.

The asset settles at his side, nestling close. As soon as he’s pressed against that warmth, he sighs and relaxes. His partner’s arm shifts, providing a pillow for him, and the asset takes it. Their heads are close, and his partner looks over with a smile before closing his eyes to sleep.

He’s safe. At least for the time being. The asset knows they can’t stay here forever. They should move soon, and that will be easier if he can trust his partner. He’s proven himself trustworthy within moderation.

It seems the asset has been forgiven for what happened by the stream. His partner is already relaxed and sleepy, not in any kind of pain. “Steve,” he says, because he knows it’s what his partner wants to hear. That’s what he calls himself.

His partner’s head lifts instantly, eyes wide and locked on the asset, interested. “Bucky?”

The asset hugs him, hiding his face against his partner’s shoulder. His partner immediately reciprocates, hugging his arms tightly around the asset’s waist and brushing soft kisses over his cheek.

“In the morning, we need to move,” the asset informs him.

“Okay. Any idea where we’re going?”

“Safer if we stay on the move. We’ll find a new motel every night. Keep driving.”

“Are you going to allow me clothes?” his partner asks. His voice sounds teasing.

The asset’s mouth aches like it wants to smile. “Depending on good behavior.”

His partner laughs, sitting up enough so that he can study the asset’s face. “Did you just make a joke?”

There’s no easy way to respond to that. The asset kisses him instead, because it will save him from trying to answer. His partner returns it instantly, parting the asset’s lips with his tongue and deepening the kiss.

This is addictive. These touches and kisses, this intimacy. It’s hampering his judgement, making him illogical and trusting. If his partner betrays him, the asset will be helpless. He’ll end up turned over to his partner’s handlers, for whatever they intend to do to him.

The asset breaks the kiss, but he can’t convince himself to pull away. He nestles close, instead, resting his head alongside his partner’s and closing his eyes to sleep. Even if it means he’ll wake up in his own chains.

~

He wakes up trapped.

Panic spikes through him, and he struggles against the weight pinning him, blindly trying to scramble backward away from it. The weight stirs and shifts, lifting away enough that the asset can shove it the rest of the way off and get free. He scuttles backward—naked, unarmed—and then his eyes settle on his partner’s confused face and his mind clears.

His partner had been sleeping on him.

“Bucky?”

He takes a breath, relaxing, and looks around tactically. Their gear is all untouched. Both of them are unrestrained and unhurt.

“We need to move.”

“Okay,” his partner says, carefully sitting up. He’s still moving slowly and keeping his hands visible. He expects to be mistrusted. Good. The asset finds he appreciates his partner’s care on the subject. “Can I get dressed?”

The asset looks across the room to the little pile of muddy blue cloth that he stripped off of his partner when he brought him here. “We can stop in town to get us both something less conspicuous.”

“I’d appreciate that.”

His partner reaches for him as he gets up, drawing the asset into a gentle kiss and giving him a smile. “You okay?”

The asset nods, nudging his nose briefly against his partner’s jaw in a gesture of affection. “Status comfortable. Get dressed.”

They dress quickly. The asset knows that he has no logical reason for his jitters. Just that they’ve stayed here too long, and eventually Hydra will think to check every last one of the boltholes that they programmed into his head. It’s mostly luck that they haven’t already.

But as long as the asset and his partner don’t need chains between them, they can go anywhere.

His partner leaves off the upper part of his armor, so that he’s wearing just the trousers and a white undershirt. It helps make him less identifiable, and the asset understands that’s important. They’re both very recognizable right now, and Hydra will be looking. As will whoever his partner belongs to.

Taking stock of his weapons, the asset choses one of his guns and runs his thumb over the grip, hesitating before he holds it out, offering it to his partner.

Surprised, his partner looks at the gun, then meets his eyes. He visibly considers it, then shakes his head. “Thanks, but I’m okay. You’ve always been the better shot.”

Trust. His partner is choosing not to be armed around him, even when he has the option. The asset holsters the gun, and kisses him quickly. “Let’s go.”

It’s dawn as they emerge. Everything looks as clear and undisturbed as ever, but the asset still wants to bolt. He clasps his partner’s hand as they cross the base.

The car he stole to get his partner here is a worn old beater, something old enough to be hotwired and nondescript enough to be forgotten. It’s parked at the end of the overgrown dirt road that leads here, well out of sight of civilization.

His adrenaline levels only return to normal when they’re twenty miles away, and unpursued. He drives west, because there’s more of it, and he has no clear plan. Just a need to stay out of cities and stay hidden.

When they find a little town with a second-hand shop, they climb out and buy spare clothing. His partner makes most of the decisions—he has better knowledge of civilian life, and the asset accepts that.

He remains jittery, until it’s been a hundred miles and everything is still safe.

They buy hot food from a drive-through for lunch, and his partner groans with pleasure as he bites into the burger. The asset pulls off on the side of a little country road a few miles from town so he can dig into his own food. From this position, they have a clear view both ways down the empty road. As they eat, they both steal fries from each other even though they each have plenty of their own.

One side of the asset’s mouth tucks itself into his cheek, and his partner grins wide at the sight of the lopsided smile. “Status?”

“Content,” the asset reports. He’s becoming more comfortable with the system of measurement that his partner made up for them.

“Can we go somewhere with a shower?” his partner asks, turning big, hopeful eyes on the asset.

“Tell me if you see a place,” the asset agrees.

They choose a little motel a few towns down the lonely state highway that they’ve been on for most of the afternoon. The asset keeps his hands in the pockets of his tattered hoodie and keeps his mouth shut while his partner negotiates for their room.

It’s decrepit and damp, but that makes the asset feel safer than he would somewhere new. They’ve spent the last week sleeping on the concrete floor of a bunker. A little mold in the carpet is downright homey.

There are two beds, although the man at the desk hadn’t asked if they had a preference. The asset cases the room quickly, wishing there was more than one exit. He stands by the window once he’s done, watching cars drive by on the main road. “Do you think it’s safe?”

“As safe as anything can be,” his partner says, coming to stand by him. “We’re pretty recognizable even in our current unshaven and unwashed state, and … Hydra’s probably looking for us. I don’t know about SHIELD.”

The asset glances over. “Is that yours?”

“Yes. Sort of.” His partner sighs, gaze focused on the horizon. “It was, at one point. Peggy started it, and that made me stay, even when I no longer believed in what I was fighting for. And then we found out that it had been infiltrated on every level by Hydra. It was supposed to be dismantled, after we took down the helicarriers. I don’t know if it was. Someone’s probably looking for me, at least, although I’m not sure I could make any specific guesses as to who would and who wouldn’t bother.”

“What do you recommend?” the asset asks, curious as to what he’ll say even though he doesn’t intend to follow his advice.

His partner is startled. “I hadn’t given it much thought. I didn’t think you were going to give me a choice.”

The asset watches him, waiting for him to process it and respond.

“I’d like to be able to reassure my friends that I’m not dead, but… I… don’t know who I would call. Natasha, maybe, if I had a number for her. In the wake of everything that’s happened, I never set up a back-up line of contact with her, and anyone else—calling Stark would be pulling a thread in a tapestry that I’m not yet ready to deal with. Sam would appreciate knowing I’m not dead, but calling him would just pull him into dealing with my mess while I’m not around to do it myself. Maria Hill is a reliable point of contact, but we were never close.”

His partner falls quiet, gaze lowering to the windowsill. “I guess my point is that we stick with your plan, until you feel more stable inside your own head. We keep moving, keep a low profile. Heal. Shower.”

That last part seems like a non-sequitur, tacked on as it is to the rest. “Shower?”

“And shave. Want to join me?”

The asset feels the sense of trust settle more securely into his chest. His partner had the option to advise him into anything, and requested that they do as he’d planned. Keep moving. Stay together. He smiles, content. Maybe even happy. “Yes. Please.”

His partner takes his hand, pulling him close for a warm kiss and then leading him toward the bathroom.

Bucky leans against the bathroom counter while his partner fiddles with the faucet. Everything in the room feels unfamiliar and strange. The stripped, non-functional bunker had been easier to deal with.

He remembers a bathroom in the Hydra base—within a bank vault?—where he had been cleaned before his most recent, failed, mission on the helicarrier. It had been cold and metal, and he’d been herded into it and washed as if he had no hands of his own. Just enough to keep his smell neutral, that was the only priority. The sickly green light had pulled into horizontal green bars across the dark metal and glass, the same color as the ringing in his head that drowned out his urge to resist.

This one is different. The overhead bulb exposes the white and tan tile of the room in stark, honest light. Unflattering, but honest.

Once his partner has the shower running, he begins to strip. The asset stays put, tilting his head as he watches. Their clothes are dirty now just from touching their bodies, but they have spares. Clean, fresh clothing whenever he wants it, and it’s amazing what a luxury that is.

His partner’s hoodie hits the bathroom floor, followed quickly by his shirt, and then his partner pauses with a smile as he reaches for his belt. “Thought you were joining me.”

“I’m enjoying the show,” Bucky says, crossing his arms over his chest. Another joke. He recognizes it that time. Or, not a joke, but at least some glimpse of a sense of humor.

“Have you considered enjoying it from over here?” his partner grins at him, returning the humor. “Maybe hands-on?”

He’s full of sass, and for the first time Bucky feels a surge of appreciation for it. This is his smart-mouthed idiot. He likes it when his partner sasses him. “You are such a little punk.”

His partner’s mouth drops open in surprise and joy. “Jerk,” he manages. It comes out wobbly, but it still makes Bucky smile.

Stripping off his own clothing, quick and efficient, Bucky steps close and crowds him back against the wall. “You’re my little punk,” Bucky tells him, trying to pretend that he’s not seeking confirmation that his partner belongs to him.

“Not so little anymore.”

“But always such a punk.” Bucky kisses him, and this time his partner fights him for it. Their tongue clash heatedly, both of them struggling to invade and deny access.

His partner wins by playing dirty. Fingertips skim up Bucky’s sides, pattering like raindrops over his skin, and it sends a cascade of shivers through his body.

The sound that emerges from his throat is part yelp and part laugh, and he pulls away, startled. “What was that?”

“That was me tickling you.”

Bucky shivers. He can still feel the ghost tracks of light fingers on his skin. “What is the purpose? I feel… wacky.”

“Pleasure. Laughter. Playfulness and teasing.” Nude and exposed but relaxed about it, his partner leans back against the wall and lets Bucky have his space.

“Am I allowed to retaliate?”

His partner’s grin returns. “You can try.”

A challenge. That feels… natural. They’ve done this before.

Bucky steps close, watching his partner’s eyes. Taking his hands, Bucky weaves their fingers together. His metal hand reports pressure. His flesh hand reports warmth.

Pushing them up, Bucky pins both of those hands against the wall near his partner’s head. This time, his partner lets him have dominance of the kiss. His tongue is welcoming, and Bucky takes everything, laying claim to his mouth and all the sounds of pleasure he makes.

“Get in the shower,” Bucky orders.

His partner keeps hold of Bucky’s hand, stepping into the spray and adjusting the temperature before he steps back and puts Bucky under the warm water. Letting this happen, Bucky reaches for the soap and keeps his partner close as he begins washing his chest and shoulders.

“The water pressure’s better than what we had in Brooklyn,” Bucky says.

Steve’s breath stutters in surprise. “Yeah. It is. You remember?”

“Remember seems like too strong a term.”

“It’s something, though,” Steve says, rewarding him with a loyal smile.

They take their time, exchanging places under the water to rinse off. His partner soaps Bucky’s thighs attentively, but hesitates as he nears the top of his legs.

“Go on,” Bucky says. “Please touch me?”

Smiling at him, his partner clasps a hand around his half-erect cock and soaps it, reaching under to massage at his balls. When his hand starts to draw away, Bucky catches his wrist and pulls it back. “Please?”

Nodding, his partner hugs an arm around Bucky’s waist as his hand slips into the crease of his ass.

Bucky relaxes into the touch, letting his hands rest on his partner’s hips. It feels good to be touched, and the skin at the center is sensitive. He feels vulnerable. His partner is touching him in an intimate, delicate place, and he’s allowing it. The weight of trust in this presses on him.

Bucky wants to push his tolerance of that weight. He trusts his partner enough to be unarmed and asleep around him, so it’s illogical that these light touches would make him feel vulnerable.

“Do you want—“

“Yes.” He doesn’t need to consider the question. He wants the information and comprehension of knowing what his partner felt when Bucky did this to him.

He knows that his partner would stop in an instant if he was uncomfortable. Bucky hadn’t.

He shudders with guilt, closing his eyes. His partner’s soapy finger slips inside him to the first knuckle, holding in place there.

Bucky takes a deep breath. His partner said he used to enjoy this. He can feel his pulse beating in his ears, and his eyes wince more tightly shut. He feels helpless.

Focusing on keeping his breathing steady, Bucky feels his partner’s finger slide another inch inside.

The asset’s metal hand pins that wrist to the shower wall so hard that his fingers dent the tile.

His partner’s eyes are wide, instantly removing his other hand from the asset’s skin. He doesn’t look frightened, despite the savagery with which the asset had pinned his wrist, only startled and concerned.

Delicately releasing his grip, the asset pulls his hands back and keeps them to himself.

“Did I hurt you?” His partner whispers the question, as if anything louder will make the asset bolt. It might.

“No.” Bucky sighs and leans back against the cold shower wall. “You wouldn’t hurt me.”

“Oh.” His partner doesn’t understand. His need to comfort is almost tangible.

“You make me feel weak.” That isn’t the right word. He corrects. “Vulnerable.”

“Oh.” His partner fidgets. “How can I—do you want me to do something differently?

“It isn’t you.” The asset glares at him. The water beating on his shoulders is warm, but he feels cold. “The asset does not feel.”

His partner looks clueless, and then it clicks. “The asset. Is that what they called you?”

The sound of the water is almost deafening, roaring around his ears. The asset does not respond, keeping his eyes on the steamed glass wall.

“Bucky.”

He glances over.

“That’s your name. Bucky. You’re my best friend. And you do feel things. Quite passionately, in fact.”

The asset’s eyes linger on his partner’s face. His mind is blank.

“You’re allowed to feel things.”

“Because you say so?”

“If it helps, then yes. Because I say so.”

Bucky frowns miserably at him.

Whatever Steve sees in his expression makes him relax. “Come on.” He reaches over and shuts off the water. “Are you willing to come cuddle with me?”

Bucky nods, quiet and obedient. Steve puts a gentle hand on his shoulder and guides him out of the shower, drying both of them. Bucky pliantly allows himself to be handled, and they settle into bed together, cozy and safe.

Chapter Text

The asset wakes with his hands around Steve’s throat.

Steve, who isn’t fighting him, whose strength can’t match that metal arm, whose hands are gently, urgently petting at the asset in an attempt to soothe and wake him.

Bucky releases his grip with a horrified sob.

Steve gasps in air, backing against the headboard. “Bucky.”

Staring at him, Bucky rests his killer’s hands in his lap, open and as harmless as they get. “Why didn’t you fight me?” He’s shaking with the knowledge that he could have come back to awareness only to find Steve dead beneath him. “I could have killed you.”

“I can’t fight you, Buck.”

Try. I’m not losing you.” Bucky turns away, shaking. When he closes his eyes he sees Steve’s face: worried and urgent as it turned purple with trapped blood. He hadn’t been scared, the stupid idiot. He should have been scared, so that he’d be less inclined to trust trained killers. “I should have brought the chains. You’re going to have to start restraining me at night.”

Steve looks startled. “What? No.”

“We’re not letting that happen again.”

“Bucky, you panic if I so much as hug you too tight. You’re not going to be okay with being restrained.”

Bucky pinions him with a glare. “I have to be. I am not going to wake up to find you dead at my hands.”

Steve doesn’t have an answer to that.

Getting up, Bucky dresses himself. “We need to head out. We’re still too close to the regions they’ll be looking for us. And I want to switch out the car.”

Steve doesn’t look happy, but he gets dressed and shaves without comment, handing over the razor once he’s done.

The silence continues, and Bucky only lets it go until they’re ready to leave before wheeling on him. “What?”

Steve’s brows lift, and he takes a breath before answering. “I don’t like operating like this, that’s all. Stealing cars and staying on the run. But I think you’re right, and it’s your call. I trust you. I’ll follow you anywhere.”

His eyes are full of devotion. He means it. Bucky’s irritation fades, but he doesn’t respond as he turns away and walks out of the motel room.

~

They drive a few towns over before they settle on a diner for breakfast. They both wear baseball caps pulled low, out of their little shared collection of clothing, and Bucky’s got a hoodie and a glove to conceal his arm.

Afterward, they find a large enough mall parking lot where Bucky can pick a different car without them being noticed too quickly, and they move on.

“It used to take you twice as long to hotwire a car.”

Bucky’s startled at a comment like that from moral, law-abiding Steve. “What?”

“In the war you did it plenty of times. Better than anyone. You taught me.”

Bucky mulls over this information. It tells him what kind of man he was, and who he was to Steve during the war: a swift hand with the dirty work. Same as now, but his hands are far, far dirtier.

Steve keeps talking, filling the silence as they drive. “The first time you taught me, we were twelve. You took me for a joyride in Mr. McMurtry’s Model A. You could hardly reach the pedals. We both got grounded for a month.”

Bucky smiles at the thought of that.

After lunch, Steve talks him into stopping at a laundromat in some run-down suburban strip mall to wash their things. Bucky sits lazily on one of the dryers while Steve puts their things into the washer, after which they settle onto a bench to wait.

The people around them keep to their own business, only a few of them glancing over at the pair of young men on the bench. No one’s gaze lingers, and Bucky thinks that must be some sort of unspoken etiquette of laudromats. Everyone minds their own and politely tries to pretend they don’t see the intimate details of lives revealed in the soggy piles of garments. It makes him feel oddly at ease.

Bucky’s head sinks onto Steve’s lap, and Steve’s hands comb through his hair. Lazy and content, he dozes.

Steve wakes him when it’s time to move things into the dryer. Grumbling, Bucky sits up, but stays sprawled on the bench while he watches Steve work.

“Is it okay if I go to the shop next door for a snack?” Steve asks, leaning down to kiss him.

This will be the first time he’s let Steve out of his sight since they left the bunker. He nods, trying to ignore the flutter of terror in his chest.

Steve will call his people and turn them in.

Bucky closes his eyes, trying to fight the waves of panic. So what if he does? It doesn’t matter. All that matters if we’re still together.

When he returns, Steve hands over a shiny plastic package. “Licorice. You used to love licorice.”

Curious, Bucky sits up. Steve sits back down in his earlier place and Bucky resumes using his thigh as a pillow. The black candies inside the bag are chewy. He finds the flavor weird, but good, and distantly familiar. Tipping the bag toward Steve, he offers to share.

“God, no. Thank you, but licorice is awful. I hate the stuff.”

Bucky considers this. Eats another. “What if you’re trying to poison me?”

Steve’s brow furrows skeptically. “You’re not going to make me eat licorice because you think I’m trying to poison you.”

“I’m just saying it’s very convenient that you’ve brought me a bag of something you’re not willing to eat.”

Bucky shakes the bag at him. Grimacing, Steve takes one.

“Ugh, that’s awful.” Steve makes faces as he chews. “Tastes like betrayal.”

Bucky laughs, real laughter that bubbles up through his gut and shakes his body. Steve starts laughing as well.

“I hate you so much,” Steve says, fond, and Bucky smiles.

His laughter fades into a feeling of empty nausea, but he feels better, lighter, and he finishes off the rest of the candy.

~

Bucky insists on picking up rope at an army surplus store, even though Steve frowns about it.

When they find a cheap hotel for the night, Bucky only just finishes checking the defenses and strips off his shirt before holding out the rope and his wrists. “Do it.”

“Buck, this isn’t necessary.”

“It is. I almost killed you this morning.”

“You didn’t.”

“Please.”

That word makes Steve’s mouth shut. He takes Bucky’s wrists, slowly starting to tie the rope around him.

“Make it secure.”

“I will.”

Bucky watches Steve’s face as he’s bound. The panic hasn’t surfaced yet, but that’s the reason they’re starting this early. Bucky needs to know that he can handle this before they try sleeping.

“Okay?” Steve asks.

“Okay.” Bucky holds his gaze, certain. “Can we cuddle?”

Smiling at that, Steve nods. “Of course.”

They curl up on the bed with Bucky leaning back against Steve’s chest. He’s restrained, but he feels … safe.

Steve’s hands clasp his shoulders, starting to gently massage at them. It feels incredible. Bucky moans shamelessly, relaxing into the touch.

Within minutes, he’s completely melted in Steve’s arms, but Steve keeps going. Shifting Bucky’s position in order to get better access, Steve’s strong, warm hands continue kneading at his muscles, relaxing all the tension that he’s been storing up.

Eventually, Steve strips off the rest of their clothing and gets Bucky to lay down on his belly, bound hands brushing the headboard and head resting on his right arm, while Steve spends over an hour massaging every last one of Bucky’s muscles. When he finally rolls Bucky onto his back and kisses him, Bucky’s eyes are low-lidded and he’s sleepy. He doesn’t want to let himself sleep because he doesn’t want to miss any second of this. All of his hesitation about being restrained has disappeared. As long as he’s with Steve, he’s safe. Physically and emotionally.

“Doing okay?” Steve asks.

Bucky just answers him with a content grin, which earns another kiss.

“It’s such a treat to see you like this,” Steve murmurs, his hand clasping around Bucky’s half-hard cock.

Surprised, Bucky gives an approving little whine, lifting his hips into the touch. “More. Please.”

Steve complies gladly. His hand knows exactly how to move. He knows Bucky’s body better than Bucky knows himself. All he has to do is trust. Steve knows how to handle him. Steve will take care of everything.

“Did it used to be like this?” Bucky asks.

“Sometimes. Usually you liked to sass me. Often you’d ‘ask’ to be tied up by riling my temper or making me jealous. You didn’t often just ask and then relax into my control like this.”

“Would’ve thought Bucky would be better at communicating than me.”

Steve laughs. “Bucky? Good at communicating? God, we were awful. Once, the two of us didn’t talk for a month after a fight. At one point, we had a quarrel that lasted for years.” He nudges his nose alongside Bucky’s, never ceasing the motion of his hand. “You’re doing just fine. I see how hard you’re trying, and it means the world to me.”

Bucky is startled by the comment. It never occurred to him that Steve would be aware of Bucky’s struggling sense of identity. “What?”

“I know how to read you, Buck.” Steve smiles at him, loyal and encouraging. “You’re more suspicious of me on a tactical level, but you’ve never been so trusting emotionally. I see that. I appreciate that. And I’m not going to let you down.”

Lips parted in amazed shock, Bucky blinks at him. It makes him feel more like Bucky than anything, that Steve knows all the things that he hasn’t said. “I’m… am I… doing okay?”

“Yeah.” Steve kisses him warmly, tucking his free hand under Bucky’s head and then pulling back to study his face. Bucky can’t look away from those faithful blue eyes. “You’re doing so good, Buck. I’m proud of you.”

Bucky whimpers with gratitude, heart flooded with emotion. Steve’s proud of him. Steve can handle every part of him. Steve has subdued the asset before, and they can keep Bucky restrained at night when Steve might be vulnerable. Everything will be okay, because he has Steve.

Safe and relaxed, Bucky moans and whines as Steve strokes him. It feels so good, like he’s floating in warm, safe pleasure.

When he comes, his mind goes blank and he cries out, sharp little noises of pleasure that he’s never heard himself make. He’s whimpering as it passes, and Steve curls around him, kissing at his neck and shoulder and murmuring in his ear.

“It’s okay. I’ve got you. You’re okay,” Steve is saying. “I love you. You’re safe. You’re home. Everything’s going to be okay.”

Over the course of several minutes, his whimpers fade into gasps, and those fade into soft, panted breaths that finally subside into relaxed breathing. Bucky keeps his eyes closed, listening to the rapid flutter of his heartbeat. He notices that one of Steve’s hands has settled just over his heart, palm pressed flat against his skin.

Bucky sleeps like that, curled up in his precious Steve’s arms and feeling like all is right with the world.

~

This time, when Bucky blinks awake, he knows who he is.

Steve is still sealed against his back, protecting him from everything, and Bucky smiles, enjoying the feeling for a few minutes before he squirms in Steve’s arms to wake him up.

Waking with sleepy grumbles, Steve nuzzles at him, and Bucky laughs. He likes seeing Steve content and lazy.

“Steve. Steve.”

More grumbling. Bucky wiggles around in Steve’s arms, and gets a kiss for his troubles, but Steve’s eyes remain closed.

“Untie me, you little twit.”

Steve’s eyes snap open, grinning wide at the insult and pushing Bucky down on his back to kiss him properly.

Oh. Wow.

Bucky moans into it, even though Steve tastes stale from the night’s sleep. He wonders if Steve often handled him like this, pushing him down and stealing kisses.

“Feeling okay?” Steve asks, once he’s satisfied with having kissed Bucky breathless. He sits up, carefully untying the knots around Bucky’s wrists.

“Status: happy,” Bucky reports. When his wrists are free, Steve automatically starts massaging at his flesh hand, helping return circulation to the fingers. It’s so strange to be cared for like this, and it makes his heart pound. He needs this. Now he understands why he couldn’t kill Steve when they met before, why every cell in his body ordered him to protect when his mission was to kill. Some part of him remembered this connection, and how deeply he needs Steve in his life.

“Me too.” Steve lets him go, and the two of them shower and shave, taking turns and moving in and out of each other’s space as they brush their teeth and dress. They function as a unit now, a functional partnership.

Bucky interrupts Steve’s dressing by tickling him, and is rewarded by the way Steve drops into helpless laughter, leaning on Bucky and twitching and shuddering, sometimes pulling him closer but never struggling or pushing him away. Bucky feels a sense of victory every time Steve squeaks while he’s being tickled, and he’s fascinated by the way that Steve loves it.

They end up in a long, lingering kiss, just standing in the center of the room and holding tight to each other. Bucky has a sense of comfortable intimacy, and it’s so incredibly precious to him.

Steve’s smiling when he pulls away. Bucky returns it, and they move apart to finish their preparations.

There’s a red-haired woman waiting for them outside.

She’s sitting perched on the balcony rail outside their little second-floor motel room, sipping at a cup of coffee and looking vastly unconcerned about the gun Bucky has in her face.

“Bucky, no,” Steve yelps, pushing Bucky’s arm to lower the gun.

Confused but ready to trust Steve’s judgement, Bucky puts the gun away.

“I see the two of you are getting along,” the red-haired woman says. She looks familiar. Bucky frowns at her.

“We’re doing okay. Is it just you or should we be worried about a SHIELD squad on the roof?”

“Just me. SHIELD’s still dismantled. Tony’s trying to formalize the Avengers as a thing, and there are a lot of people who have been concerned about your status, but I’m alone. Tracked you down on my own time, with Stark Industries offering resources as necessary.” She shrugs, then turns her gaze from Steve onto Bucky. “Меня зовут Наталия Романова.”

He blinks at her. Somehow, this seems even more familiar. “Oчень приятно,” he says, with stiff, shy formality.

Her smile gets friendlier, head tilting as she considers him. “You always called me Natasha, though. I’d like you to continue.”

“I’m Bucky.”

“So I hear. That, I didn’t know.” She returns her attention to Steve. “What are the two of you doing?”

“Recovering. If you’re really here alone, then why don’t we discuss it over breakfast?”

“Sure.” She hops down, walking with them to the car and getting in the back seat. Bucky feels twitchy, but he keeps his eyes on Steve, trusting his judgement. “You coming home at some point?”

“When Bucky’s ready. Buck?”

“Brooklyn?” Bucky asks. He thinks about it. “Your organization, it’s really… dismantled?”

“Really,” Steve promises. His eyes flick to the mirror, checking for confirmation from Natasha.

“Really. There’s a group of supers, loosely a team, under Steve’s leadership. Once linked to SHIELD, but now we’d be operating independently, with backing from Stark Industries.”

Bucky blinks, surprised that the name means something to him. “Stark?”

“Tony Stark,” Steve says. “Howard’s son.”

Natasha nudges Bucky’s shoulder. “Want to join the Avengers?”

“What about…” Bucky doesn’t know what to call them anymore. “My handlers.”

Steve’s hands go white-knuckled on the steering wheel. “They’re never gonna touch you again, Buck. You’re free. You can do whatever you want, be whoever you want.”

The concept of the freedom rattles in his head like a a steel marble without a track. “I want to be with you.”

Glancing over, Steve gives him a huge grin. “Don’t worry, Buck. I’m always gonna be by your side. So what do you think? Want to go home to New York?”

Bucky sits in silence, thinking about it. He doesn’t want to give up this time with Steve, where it’s just the two of them and their stolen car. But that means it’s just the two of them against Hydra, and he knows it’s when, not if they find him. Or, he goes to New York and the team of people under Steve’s command.

The road is just a holding pattern. He’s running. Eventually he has to stop running and start building a new life.

That’s what Steve wants.

“Okay,” he says at last. “Let’s go…” to New York. “Home.”

Chapter Text

Bucky sits on the balcony, dozens of floors above the streets of New York, and listens to the echoing music and laughter from the open windows and balconies of the penthouse. The concrete he’s sitting on and the metal balcony rail he’s leaning against are both cold, but he doesn’t want to move.

The laughter he recognizes, knowing all the Avengers and their most frequent guests by now. They’re his friends and teammates. He trusts them, still largely because Steve trusts them. What’s stranger is that they trust him.

The music is unfamiliar. Not that he can really tell which songs he does recognize, but there’s a certain itch in his fingertips and toes when an old song hits on some long-forgotten nerve receptors, and it turns out that he remembers how to dance.

Steve never learned how, but Natasha did. She’s the one who reveals it, when she sees Bucky’s leg bouncing and she reaches out for him. It’s all muscle memory, of course, and somewhere in it is a movement—a person—that’s so different from the heavy, intent stance of the Winter Soldier. The asset carries his movement in his thighs. He is predatory and unmovable.

But the man who dances with Natasha leads his movements from his shoulders. He’s light and playful. He cants his head to the left, chin up. When he pauses, he stands with his left shoulder and hip tilted upward and his shoulders back.

Sometimes Bucky finds himself in that stance, but he never knows where to go with it next. It is like finding himself standing in a stranger’s home, where all of the clothing fits but he doesn’t know where he keeps the key to the front door and keeps sneaking in through the second-floor window. He is a thief in his own body.

The elevator is almost silent, but Bucky has learned the sounds it makes. He’s learned, too, that it is louder arriving at their floor than at any other. Bucky suspects that Jarvis does this on purpose because it unnerves Bucky not to hear the elevator.

It’s not a surprise when Steve steps out of the elevator and makes his way over to the balcony. Bucky didn’t mean to drag him away from the party, and he feels guilty for it, but he understands that it’s inevitable. The longest Steve’s ever waited was almost a half hour. Usually, like tonight, it’s under twenty. Neither of them like being out of line of sight and shouting distance.

“You used to do this all the time,” Steve says, as he sits down next to Bucky on the cool concrete of the balcony.

“Sit on the sixteenth floor of Avengers Tower waiting for my boyfriend?”

“Sneak out of parties.”

That’s not what Bucky expects to hear. He looks over, brow clenching in confusion. “What?”

“You never liked crowds. Most people never knew. Charming, outgoing Bucky Barnes always left parties early.” Steve leans back on his hands as he talks, looking out across the New York skyline. “You always had an excuse and a joke ready. Everyone thought that you just went to five parties a night, and that was why you would sneak out so early. Dance halls kept you a little longer, when you were dancing, but as soon as you were stuck mingling, I’d watch you start to fidget.”

“I didn’t…” It still feels wrong, claiming that past, those memories. “I didn’t like parties?”

“No, you didn’t. I always left with you, and as soon as we were out and round the corner, you’d take this deep breath of relief. Sometimes it got bad, if you were stuck in some conversation you couldn’t politely escape, and you’d shift back and forth on your feet, outwardly cocky as ever, then you’d start shaking as soon as we were out.”

Bucky always sounds so competent and perfect in Steve’s stories and the news reels. Handsome, clever, athletically and academically talented, flawlessly charismatic. It continues to surprise him whenever Steve tells him something about his past self that is more like he is now than like the man from the history books. “Why?”

“You’re an introvert, Buck. Always have been. You did just fine in small groups, but five or more usually brought out these strained, false smiles from you.”

“Huh.” Bucky had social anxieties. It’s strange to learn something like that. Suddenly his leaving the party early is no longer one more thing in the long list of reasons that the asset will never match up to Bucky Barnes. It’s exactly what Bucky would have done. “Did you want to stay?”

“God, no. I always had it worse than you. I couldn’t even fake having fun at parties, back then. Lately I’ve gotten better at it. It helps that the people up there are genuinely my friends, so it’s not the same as a crowd full of strangers and acquaintances. But it’s still a lot of drinking and loud noises, and I’d rather spend a few quiet hours with the man I love.”

“You’re such a sap,” Bucky grumbles, shifting to lean against Steve’s shoulder.

Steve’s arm curls immediately around his waist. “Your sap?”

“My sap.” Bucky sighs, turning his head and kissing Steve’s throat.

Steve makes a pleased noise, hugging him a little closer.

He seems content to just sit like this, enjoying the warm evening and the distant sounds of their friends having fun, but Bucky wants more. Nuzzling at Steve’s cheek, Bucky nips softly at his earlobe before whispering. “May I ask for something?”

“Anything.”

“You told me about how, before, I used to call you Captain. You’d boss me around and tie me up.”

“Yeah.” Steve’s lips curve into a grin. “I did.”

“Can we… I want to try that.”

“Okay,” Steve agrees. “I’d like that.” He rubs his arm up Bucky’s spine, reassuring him. “I’ve done some more research now. I know more than I did back then. I guess everyone does. People are freer about sexuality these days.”

“Yeah? You gonna tie me up with some newfangled knots, Rogers?”

That makes Steve laugh, and he pulls Bucky into a kiss as reward for his sass. When the kiss breaks, Steve hauls him to his feet. Steve’s eyes linger on his face, hand still clasping Bucky’s as they stand in silence on the balcony. There’s … love in Steve’s eyes. Bucky knows how to recognize it now.

“Actually, if it’s okay, I don’t want to tie you up at all tonight.” Steve’s hand brushes over Bucky’s cheek, clasping his face before kissing him again, just a slow brush of his lips over Bucky’s mouth. “I would very much just like to try having you obey me.”

“Obey you?”

Steve holds his gaze, steady and reassuring. “Ropes or not, Buck, it’s about trust, and willing surrender. Is that what you wanted to try, or did you have something else in mind?”

He has the sense that no matter what answer he gives, it will be okay with Steve. Everything that he is and isn’t, every broken fragment of who he once was and who he’s become—it’s all okay with Steve.

“Said I wanted you to boss me around, right?” Bucky says, trying to hide his emotional vulnerability with sass. “Let’s do it your way.”

“Okay. Good.” Steve smiles warmly at him, settling a hand around the back of Bucky’s neck to gently guide him inside.

He’s being steered. Like a pet. Like a—

Pierce, angry, fisting his hand in the long tangles of hair at the back of the asset’s neck, steering him forward toward the chair

Bucky stops, gasping for air. His hand flies out, latching into the front of Steve’s shirt and stopping both of them.

Steve lets go quickly, but he doesn’t pull away. “Buck?”

“I’m here,” Bucky answers, because he knows that’s the real question. “Still me.”

“You okay?”

Bucky laughs at that, his eyes flicking over toward Steve and his mouth twisting to the side. “Nope.”

He’s not okay, and some days he’s not sure he’s ever going to be okay. But he’s learned—mostly from Sam—that he’s allowed to not be okay, and that accepting it is good and important.

Steve smiles back at him. Steve’s concerned—as usual—but also warm and trusting. He sets his hand on Bucky’s waist instead, and leans in for a light kiss. “Do you want to stop?”

“No,” Bucky says, watching his Steve’s blue eyes until the anxiety fades. “I want to keep going.”

“Is this okay?” Steve asks, sliding his hand around to Bucky’s lower back.

It feels okay. He’s warm and safe. He’s with Steve.

“Yeah. I think so.” Bucky takes a breath, and Steve guides him gently forward, keeping his hand around Bucky’s waist as they resume their journey to the bathroom. It’s as oversized and luxurious as everything in this damn tower, which fortunately means that it actually fits both of them.

Steve lets go of his waist and kisses Bucky again. It’s a chaste kiss, and Steve smiles at him afterward. “Undress,” he orders, very gently. “Fold your things and set them on the counter.”

Bucky obeys, beginning to strip down and set his clothing in a neat little pile to the side. While he does so, Steve sits on the edge of the tub and turns on the faucet, adding bubble bath and stirring the water with his hand.

Naked and vulnerable, Bucky stands and waits for further instructions. Steve smiles at him, letting him know that he’s doing well, and finally nods at the water when it’s almost full. “Get in,” he says, more like permission than an order.

The water’s heat embraces him as he slides in. Sighing with pleasure and comfort, Bucky looks up at Steve for approval of his obedience. His lover smiles down at him, tilting Bucky’s chin up for a gentle kiss.

All movements slow and patient, Steve picks up the loofah sponge on the side of the tub and puts body wash on it before starting to gently scrub at Bucky’s chest and shoulders. He takes his time, sitting on the edge of the tub behind Bucky and brushing gentle kisses over the side of his face every minute or so.

At first it feels strange, giving Steve such total control over him. As Steve keeps going, taking such gentle care of him, Bucky relaxes into it and closes his eyes. This feels good. He trusts Steve.

They no longer tie Bucky’s hands at night, even though he still sometimes wakes up more asset than Bucky. When he’s tied, he has no choice but to trust Steve with control. But now, he isn’t tied. Obedience becomes more of an active choice, and it nudges closer to the surface of when Hydra had him—he wasn’t always tied, but obedience was never a choice.

“Wet your hair?” Steve suggests.

Bucky glances up at him. Steve’s still smiling, and Bucky gives him a shy little smile in return before sinking down to get his hair under the water. When he comes back up, Steve’s hands settle into his hair, massaging his scalp for a minute before adding shampoo. Steve’s so careful with him. Not like he’s fragile, but like he’s valuable. Bucky’s not sure that’s true, on any level other than his usefulness as an asset, but it seems to make Steve happy to believe it and Bucky likes being treated like he’s important. At least until Steve recognizes his mistake.

“There, rinse,” Steve tells him.

Bucky tips his head back into the water, and Steve’s fingers work through the strands, helping to rinse the soap from them. He takes just as much time with the conditioner, massaging continually at Bucky’s head and neck to drain out the tension locked in the muscles.

“Relax,” Steve says, when he finishes rinsing the conditioner and draws his hands away.

Bucky settles back against the edge of the tub, turning his head to watch Steve.

Smiling at Bucky’s scrutiny, Steve undresses. Bucky is allowed to watch. Steve doesn’t make a show of it, but he’s free with his smiles, keeping his eyes on Bucky as much as he can.

Naked and confident, Steve steps into the tub with him and sinks down to straddle Bucky’s thighs.

Bucky’s head tilts back, smiling up at his lover and enjoying the sight of those blue eyes so close to his own. He doesn’t lean up for the kiss, even though Steve’s right there, because Steve hasn’t given permission. That’s the game, and Bucky thinks he likes this game.

“How are you doing?” Steve asks.

“I think I’m in love,” Bucky says.

It’s the first time he’s said it. Or, at least, the first time he remembers saying it. He doesn’t know if the Bucky before the Winter Soldier ever told Steve that he loved him, or how he said it.

Steve lights up with joy and kisses him. Fingers thread through Bucky’s hair, cradling his head as Steve ravishes his mouth. The kiss is sweet but very deep, as Steve stretches his tongue within Bucky’s mouth to flick it against the roof of his mouth.

Clasping his hands on Steve’s hips to pull him closer, Bucky moans into Steve’s mouth. He loves it when Steve kisses him like this, and neither of them care how much noise they make. One of the first nights that they spent together, Bucky found out that Steve gets loud when Bucky goes down on him. In the morning, Jarvis had made a polite comment that it might interest them to know that the soundproofing between the floors is very thorough.

Steve turned bright red, thanked Jarvis, and spent the rest of the morning befuddling the rest of the Avengers by giggling over it at random intervals.

“Love you, too, Buck,” Steve says against his mouth, brushing their noses together.

His hips slide forward against Bucky’s, trapping their erections between their bellies, and Bucky whines with need, wanting more.

Grinning wickedly, Steve’s teeth catch Bucky’s lower lip, tugging gently at it before his hand reaches down between them and wraps around their cocks, stroking them together. Bucky moans gratefully, interspersing his moans with pleading little whimpers in hopes that Steve will kiss him again.

“Say what you want,” Steve orders.

“Kiss me,” Bucky asks. “Please. Captain.”

“Good,” Steve praises, tightening his hand in Bucky’s hair to tilt his head back so that Steve can kiss him again, possessive and heated. His hand keeps stroking at their lengths while Steve kisses him, again and again, until Bucky’s lips are tingling. Even then, Steve only pauses so that he can tilt his head and kiss along the side of Bucky’s throat instead, sucking at the skin because it makes Bucky gasp and arch beneath him.

It leaves marks whenever he does that, and in the morning Bucky will consider the marks on his throat in the mirror, comparing them in his mind to the patterns of bruising that he had the first time he looked in a mirror. The first time he remembers looking in a mirror.

Sometimes he hates the bruises that Steve leaves on his throat, because they are bruises and he doesn’t like the memories or lack of memories that connect to the specific color of bruises on his skin. He puts scarves on them and skittishly avoids Steve for a day. Other times, he wears them around proudly, and grins when the Avengers tease him about getting in a fight with a vacuum cleaner hose. Because of Steve, he is learning that there are such things as good bruises, that felt good to receive. He likes knowing this.

Steve strokes them in unison until Bucky comes, whimpering once and pressing his face against Steve’s throat as he spills himself into the water. Dazed and happy with pleasure, Bucky drops his head back against the edge of the tub and watches Steve’s face as he gets himself off. Bucky loves watching that. It’s different when Steve gets himself off than when he lets Bucky get him off. It’s more restrained and efficient, and Steve bites his lip hard when he comes.

Grinning at the noise Steve makes, choked out around his bitten lip, Bucky leans up to kiss the front of his lover’s throat.

“Bed?” Steve suggests, running gentle hands through Bucky’s hair.

Lazy and content, Bucky nods. He feels both vulnerable and safe, which he still doesn’t understand but he’s learning to like.

Steve gets out first, drying himself quickly and then tying the towel around his waist. He takes more time with Bucky, pulling him in and starting to rub the towel over him. Each time Bucky reaches to help, Steve brushes his hands away and kisses him playfully in reprimand.

They tumble into their shared bed in a pile of damp, warm limbs, tangling up in each other and kissing lazily for an hour. It’s all Bucky needs, that kiss, but he knows Steve has more in mind, and Bucky can’t help grinning into the kiss with anticipation for all the things Steve might have planned.

“Gonna want you to fuck me,” Steve says.

Bucky grins. “Yeah?”

“If you’re up for it.” Steve grins right back at him. “Let me go make sure I’m cleaned up. You, stay.”

Excited, Bucky nods and stays put, watching Steve’s ass as he disappears into the bathroom. He grabs the lube while he’s waiting, playing impatiently with the cap while he obediently stays put. He has learned that he loves lube. It’s a product that exists solely to make sex easier and more enjoyable, and he has enough muscle memory to know that he much prefers it to the oil and vaseline they used before.

When Steve returns, he climbs onto the bed and lays back, spreading his legs and pulling his thighs up to expose himself with a wide grin. It still amazes Bucky how few body insecurities Steve has when they’re alone together. Steve still sometimes gets blushy and shy if he has to change his shirt around the rest of the team, but around Bucky he’ll strip and spread his legs at the slightest suggestion, encouraging all touches and exploration. “Finger me.”

“I like the view,” Bucky comments, slicking his fingers and dipping one of them into Steve’s hole. Settling comfortably between Steve’s legs, he fucks just the one finger in and out slowly, watching it disappear inside Steve’s body. He never gets tired of the sight of his fingers or cock disappearing within Steve’s body, completely enveloped by him.

“Don’t sass me, soldier.”

Bucky grins. “Or what?”

“Or I’ll go get a bucket of ice.”

Bucky laughs, breathless and surprised. “I remember that.”

The grin that spreads over Steve’s face is warm and proud. “Best night I ever spent with you.”

“Sometime I want you tell me about it. All the details. I only remember cursing and you and laughing and something about you fucking me with an ice cock.”

“It was an icicle,” Steve says, laughing at Bucky’s version. “And I had you fellate it to polish off the rough edges before I dared fuck you with it. I’ll tell you the whole thing sometime. Good bedtime story.”

Grinning and shaking his head fondly, Bucky adds more lube and then wiggles a second finger inside him.

“Faster,” Steve requests, and Bucky complies, thrusting the two fingers into him at a slightly quicker rhythm. Steve moans, rutting his hips up. “Three fingers.”

“Greedy,” Bucky scolds.

Steve growls at him, low and predatory. “What was that?”

Bucky freezes, eyebrows lifting in surprise. Steve has never growled at him like that before, not within memory. There’s a reprimand in the tone, but it’s not harsh. It feels the same as when Steve gets physically pushy with him—there’s a tingle in his chest, and an inclination to beg for more of the same. He understands that he can either sass Steve in return in order to lure out a display of dominance, or he can submit.

“I said it would be my pleasure, Captain,” Bucky replies, settling somewhere in between the two extremes of sass and submission and leaning down to kiss the underside of Steve’s cock. He wiggles in a third finger and twists them inside of his partner, watching with a grin as Steve shudders and groans beneath him.

“Good man,” Steve praises him, moaning louder as Bucky’s pace speeds up. “Stop now.”

Instantly going still, Bucky watches Steve’s face to find out if he’s done something wrong.

“Good. Now I want your cock inside me.” Steve’s voice is deep and commanding, watching Bucky’s eyes with steady authority, and it makes Bucky shiver.

“Yes, Captain,” Bucky murmurs, not a drop of sass left in his tone. Steve is his Captain. Also his best friend, his lover, the center of his world, but right now, with Steve comfortably sprawled on the bed and Bucky’s fingers still inside him, Bucky thinks that Captain is his favorite term in the entire world.

Withdrawing his fingers, Bucky pours lube into his hand, and spreads it over the length of his cock before he lines up and pushes forward. Steve groans beneath him, lashes fluttering from pleasure, and the sight makes Bucky’s heart swell with love.

“All the way in,” Steve orders, when Bucky takes too long being careful as he pushes inside.

Thrusting in to the hilt at once, Bucky whines and shudders at how perfect all that tight heat feels around his cock. Steve groans, clasping one hand around the back of Bucky’s neck and the other into his hair. “Feel good, Buck?”

“Yes, Captain.” Bucky shivers, nuzzling his head against Steve’s fingers. “Please, please may I move?”

“Go on,” Steve says, voice a low, lusty rumble. “Fuck me hard.”

Bucky keens at that, hips snapping forward as he sinks himself again and again into Steve’s body. It feels amazing, especially with Steve below him murmuring filth and encouragement.

“Just like that,” Steve says. “Love the way you look right now. So gorgeous and needy, and you feel so big and hot inside me.”

Steve writhes beneath him as they fuck, hips lifting into each of Bucky’s thrusts, both of them driven to get him as deep as possible. Bucky’s overwhelmed with need, especially with the way that Steve’s fingers hold him, massaging gently at his scalp. Steve treats him like he’s something precious and rare, even while they’re rutting this hard.

“My Captain,” Bucky gasps, thrusting harder and faster as he can feel himself nearing the edge. “Please, may I—please—need to come.”

“Go on,” Steve orders. “Come inside me.”

Moaning, Bucky slips over the edge and comes hard, body shaking as he thrusts a last few times into Steve and then sinks down on top of him, panting.

“That felt so perfect,” Steve murmurs, catching Bucky’s lips for a soft kiss. He gently rolls them over, pinning Bucky’s wrists together with one hand as he claims Bucky’s lips and mouth, resuming their earlier slow kisses while Steve’s free hand moves between his legs, seeking his own climax.

Dazed with afterglow, Bucky returns the kisses, making a happy sound as he feels Steve’s come spatter his chest and belly.

Drawing away at last, Steve watches Bucky’s eyes with a smile. “How do you feel?”

“Blissful,” Bucky mumbles, more relaxed than he can ever remember being.

“I’m gonna go get a cloth to clean us up,” Steve says, nuzzling Bucky’s nose with his own. “Stay.”

“Yes, Captain,” Bucky murmurs, grinning just a little as his sass returns to him. He stays put, feeling comfortable and obedient.

Steve cleans them both up and then sets the damp cloth aside so that he can draw Bucky into his arms to cuddle.

“You’re all mine, Buck,” Steve whispers. “I’m always gonna be at your side. Always gonna be your Stevie.”

“Yeah,” Bucky agrees, yawning sleepily around a wide, content grin. “I know. I love you, too.”