Steve nuzzled into Bucky’s chest, squeezing his eyes tight against the morning light.
“Mmmm, not fair,” he mumbled as Bucky tickled his arm. “I wanna sleep, ‘s too early.”
Bucky laughed, the sound rang clear and strong in the morning silence, and he gripped his broad arms tighter around Steve. “You can keep sleeping, but I gotta get up, darlin’. I have work. Gotta provide for you, after all.”
Steve shifted his weight, what little there was, so that he was half on top of Bucky, effectively pinning him to the bed. “No,” he murmured, the words getting half-lost into Bucky’s chest. “You have to stay home and cuddle with me. That’s your new job, congrats, you’re hired.”
Bucky ran his fingers through Steve’s short blonde hair, delighting in the silky way it brushed against them. He was grateful to still have his right arm. It was bad enough losing the left, he didn’t want to think about never being able to feel Steve’s soft pink skin against his fingertips again.
Though he had to admit, the metal hand he’d been fitted with had its perks. Steve made the most delicious mewling noises when the cool fingers caressed his delicate skin. Bucky was pretty pleased with how unravelled the slight man would become.
He laid there another moment, wished his job really could just be loving Steve. It would come easily, and be a lot more rewarding than the real thing. Eventually, he sighed and gently lifted Steve off his torso. Steve struggled for a moment, but he was no match for Bucky’s strength. Bucky set him down on the bed next to him, kissing his forehead before finally getting up.
Steve settled back into the covers, and mumbled nonsense into his pillow.
Bucky loved Steve most like this. Drowsy and cuddly, it was easy to pretend Steve was healthy and whole. It was easy to believe he was as well.
In reality, Steve had spent his childhood with a host of health problems, everything from a bad heart to weak lungs and chronic headaches. Hell, Bucky was pretty sure he didn’t even see colors right, though Steve would get defensive and deny it whenever Bucky broached the subject. In spite of all that, or rather because of it, Steve was scrappy as hell, ready to throw a feeble punch at the drop of a hat.
Bucky admired that about Steve. Bucky was all muscle and strength, but he didn’t want to use an ounce of it. Steve had spent his whole life fighting, he was the one who deserved the athletic physique, not Bucky.
And a lot of good his muscles had done him. It was part of the reason he was in this particular situation. Steve had been so damned relieved to get him back after months of believing him dead, that he hadn’t questioned Bucky too much about what happened in the missing time. It made Bucky’s stomach drop when he thought about it. There was a lot Steve didn’t know about the man he’d come back as.
But for now it was easier to pretend. To pretend that Steve was as hale and hearty as the man he wanted to be. To pretend that he was going to work on the docks like Steve believed him to be. To pretend that he hadn’t made a deal with the devil to get home to Steve. He wouldn’t take it back, he would make the same decision time and time again if it meant he got to see the love of his life in the soft glow of the morning, sunshine streaming through the thin curtains of their shabby bedroom.
But God, he felt like he’d traded his soul away. Sometimes he wondered if he really had. It felt like that when he had to smile at Steve and lie about his day. Lie about the cargo he’d never unloaded. Lie about the people he killed.
Because it meant he could steal another soft kiss from his boy, meant he could provide for him when no one else would. Meant he could love him for another day.
Bucky hated himself for the work they made him do. Hated being a pawn in the vicious, cruel game that was HYDRA, but it meant he got to be with Steve. At least for now. At least for these quiet moments. He could come home after a long day of doing the devil’s bidding, and hold Steve.
And he knew this couldn’t last. Knew that at some point Steve would find out. Knew that HYDRA might change their minds. They wouldn’t hesitate to use Steve as a bargaining tool to force Bucky to do anything they ordered.
He knew that one day he’d have to disappear. He didn’t want to, knew it would break Steve’s heart. Knew he’d regret it til the day he died. But it was better to break his heart than let HYDRA get him. So when the day came, he was prepared to bolt, leaving everything behind. It was his only hope of protecting Steve.
Steve, who had only ever given. Who was grateful for whatever small pieces of himself Bucky could share. For now, he would savor the feeling of waking up next to him. Would memorize every freckle and scar and dimple. Would commit his easy grin and his snorting laughter to memory. Would savor whatever parts of himself Steve offered up. Because one day that’s all he’d have. A ghost of a memory of the man he’d loved. A fading recollection of what should have been.
Bucky took one last glance at the sleeping man, before quietly closing the bedroom door and padding into the hall, ready to receive orders from the devil himself.