Bucky doesn't mean to keep Steve waiting. It's just that at the beginning, he isn't even Bucky, and by the time he is ready to call himself that almost a year has gone by – a year he spent in hiding, well-aware that he was being chased but he was too good at staying under the radar, didn't even have to consciously make an effort most of the time. He knows why now too, he knows a lot of things about himself by that point and that's why he doesn't immediately go to Steve then. He might have regained his memory and, to a point, himself, but that doesn't mean squat if he can't live with himself.
He does, though, he does live with himself because no matter how much he sometimes doesn't want to, he knows that one, he deserves no easy exit like that and two, Steve certainly doesn't deserve Bucky doing that to him. So he doesn't. But he still doesn't go to Steve until he has sorted himself out enough to not feel like he's dropping all his baggage at Steve's door, expecting him to deal with all the shit.
By the time he considers himself ready, sixteen months have passed since the Potomac – since the collapse of HYDRA and SHIELD, rather, but to Bucky, what will always stick out in his memory is Steve looking at him and giving up. Even to his empty, messed up mind that had seemed wrong and months after the fact he had shook with belated nausea at the memory. But Steve was fine, was with the Avengers, and he was safe there so Bucky had felt that it was okay for him to take his time.
Except he's done with that now, and Steve lives in one of the top floors of the safest building on the planet, so sneaking in through his bedroom window is sadly out of the picture. Fun as it might have been.
No. Truthfully, Bucky knows that this is no laughing matter, but he figures if he can't treat the things that aren't dead serious as fun he can't treat anything as fun, and he prefers to take things easy where he can. There aren't many easy things in his life left, but Steve might be – hopefully – one of them. Unless he's making assumptions here, but he hopes he isn't.
There is no point in sneaking, so Bucky doesn't bother. He saunters through the front entrance up to the receptionist's desk, smiles at her and says, "James Buchanan Barnes here to see Steve Rogers."
She raises one eyebrow at him and looks him coolly up and down; either she's questioning his choice of attire – he's wearing jeans and a dark blue shirt, hair done up in a somewhat messy bun, nothing bad – or she's criticizing his choice of pranking her. Probably both, come to think. She opens her mouth, one eyebrow already quirking up in derision, when she suddenly goes still, gaze turning unfocused. "Yes, sir," she says after a moment, speaking into her headset, and when she next looks at Bucky she's all professional politeness, if a little more pale and a little more startled curiosity underneath. "The most left elevator is ready for you, sir," she tells him, gesturing towards the elevators.
Bucky winks at her, or maybe at whatever security camera is aimed at him. "Thanks." Then he turns around and saunters over to the elevators. It's the one whose doors never open, at least not to the common folk, but when Bucky steps up to it it dings and opens like the other elevators. A few people send first it, then Bucky a startled glance but before they can do much more than that he's already stepped inside and the doors are closing again. Without Bucky's doing anything, the elevator goes up.
Hands in his pockets, he leans against the back wall and looks around curiously. There are no buttons, he notes, but there is a keypad and scanner, so probably-
"Good afternoon, Sergeant Barnes," a male voice floats from speakers in the ceiling. This must be JARVIS; he's read about it when he researched the tower and Tony Stark individually, as he did all Avengers.
"It's just Mister, I think," he replies. "Been a while since I was military."
"Indeed," presumed JARVIS says. "If you could submit to a scan, please."
They keypad glows to life. Bucky isn't really surprised that they have his fingerprints and doesn't hesitate pressing his right hand to the scanner's surface. His retina scan they can't have, but he still doesn't protest and just lets them take it. It's not unreasonable to take precautions and if it makes them feel safer, all the better.
"Thank you for your cooperation," presumed JARVIS says once the scans are complete.
"Hey, I came here, can't get more cooperative than that, can you?" Bucky replies with a shrug, settling back against the wall with his hands in his pockets. The elevator ride, for all that it spans several dozen floors, doesn't last for much longer; all too soon there is a soft ding and the doors slide open.
Bucky isn't ready. The realization is sudden but no less true for it and he hesitates for a second, but not for longer than that. What, he came all this way, exposed himself like this only to chicken out now? Fuck that.
He pushes himself off the wall and saunters out of the elevator, all cocky, false bravado that he's so good at. He's on the top or nearly top floor of the tower, a large living room and all the Avengers are there, arranged faux-casually around the room. Well, all of them except for Steve, who can only fake casual tolerably well if somebody else's life depends on it; he's standing in the middle of the room halfway to the elevator, tension written into his features. He looks like somebody forbade him to approach Bucky and Bucky almost frowns, but then Steve says, "Bucky?" like he's scared, like he doesn't dare to believe it, and oh no, that won't do.
Bucky smiles at him, and nothing about that is false. "Hey Stevie."
The smile that blooms in answer on Steve's face is almost painful in its hopefulness and finally, Steve takes a step towards Bucky.
Only to be stopped by Stark, standing by the bar, loudly clearing his throat. "Not so fast, grandpa," he says. "Remember what we talked about?"
Smile dimming, Steve looks at the ground for a second. When he looks up at Bucky again, his expression is apologetic. "I'm sorry, Buck, I have to ask you a couple of questions."
It's not like Bucky didn't expect it and to be honest he's a little relieved that they're cautious; they ought to be. He smiles easily and shrugs a little. "Go ahead."
"So, uh." Steve ducks his head a little, stares hard at the floor. "Do you feel an overwhelming urge to kill me?"
One of Bucky's eyebrows ticks up. Really, this is how Steve is testing him? Is he even taking this serious? Even the Asset would have replied with "no" because of the word "feel". "Not yet. Ask me again after you've stolen my crackers."
It's an old, recurring argument slash joke that came up again every time Bucky opened a B-unit*, but instead of reacting as expected – with indignation, and the protest that Bucky gave his crackers to Steve, which is true, but he didn't give them to Steve all the time and still somehow Steve was the one to eat them every time – Steve looks up at him and smiles with a distinctly watery edge. They stare at each other for a moment, but that can't have been all, so Bucky tilts his head, one corner of his mouth curling up. "Come on, Steve, next question?"
Still smiling, Steve takes a step closer to him. "What was the last thing you said to me before you shipped out?"
Oh come on, really? That's an easy one. "I called you a punk, you called me a jerk. Before that I told you not to do anything stupid until I get back, and you said how can you if I'm taking all the stupid with me. And then you told me not to win the war until you got there which, for the record, I didn't."
Steve is openly grinning at him now and comes another two steps closer, and okay, maybe Bucky is grinning back. But really, it's been ages since he last saw Steve; reading updates on him on the internet and watching him alive and well in videos was barely enough to stave off the memories of shooting him, punching him in the face repeatedly. And now Steve smiles at him like he's the best thing that ever happened to him when it's the other way around.
"I didn't sign up for this," somebody mutters. Bucky ignores them – it's Barton, he thinks, but he doesn't want to take his eyes off Steve long enough to check. He's ninety percent sure anyway, he noted each of their locations earlier and none of them have moved.
"How am I doing?" he instead asks Steve, unable to banish the smile stretching his lips. He probably looks a little ridiculous but he's way past the point of caring about things like that.
Besides, Steve is smiling back at him just as widely. "Great." He's within touching range now, and there is no way Bucky can resist reaching out to him, catching hold of his shirt with his right hand and pressing the backs of his fingers into Steve's belly. "Now ask me something neither of us would ever have told anybody else," he tells Steve. He knows he's not dangerous but they don't, they shouldn't let him this close to Steve and he's going to have a talk about this, but not right now. Right now he's too giddy to feel Steve's warmth against his fingers, his body so close he can feel his presence.
Steve raises an eyebrow at him and oh, Bucky knows that expression. It fills him with sheer, surprised delight and that's before Steve leans in and whispers his question in his ear. One of his hands settles as if instinctive on Bucky's waist, warm and possessive, and that in combination with Steve's low voice and moist breath in his ear makes Bucky lick his lips, peer up at Steve from under his eyelashes for a moment before he leans in to murmur the reply into Steve's ear, one hand coming rest on his chest as if for balance.
He leans back and Steve looks at him for a moment, eyes dark. Then he says, loud and clear, "He's good," and steers him with two hands on his hips backwards into the elevator. Bucky holds his gaze for a moment, but he can't resist it; just before they enter the elevator he peers around Steve to look at the Avengers, wearing mixed expressions ranging from amusement to resignation to stunned surprise. "I'm good," he repeats to them with mock seriousness, and Steve huffs and pulls him close with one broad hand in the small of his back. With one last grin aimed at sour-faced Stark, Bucky wraps one arm around Steve's shoulders and pulls him close, joins their mouths for their first kiss in almost to the day seventy years.