The man got out of the taxi and Sam froze. Maybe it was his build, maybe it was the color of his hair, maybe it was the way he laughed into his phone with his full body, it could have been any of those things, or all of those things. Sam froze…and suddenly couldn’t breathe. It’s been a long time since this has happened and considering the five missing years, even longer.
Sam’s the guy that everyone turns to when they have this happens. He’s the guy that carries the weight of everyone else’s problems. He’s the guy that smiles about everything, keeps going, even on bad days because everyone depends on him. Not today, just not today.
Shaky hands pull a phone from his pocket. Someone bumps into him, causing the phone to drop to the ground. His vision blurs and he can’t make his feet move to retrieve the phone. Just as he’s about to go to his knees, an arm goes around his waist, holding him up. Whoever it is, barks at a man on the street, telling him to ‘pick up the fucking phone and hand it back.’ The man does, with a terrified look on his face.
Sam can only relax into the side of whoever this is that’s recognized the signs and is helping him. “I’ve got ya, buddy.” He knows that voice and knows he’s safe. “What was it?”
Sam can’t answer, he can only lean in and hope that the tightness in his chest eases soon. Black spots are forming, telling him that he’s not taking in enough air. Then, he’s being seated on the steps of the building to his left. He can’t even remember where he was going, but he can feel the concrete under him and a warmth at his side.
Time passes in a vacuum for him, but finally he’s able to look over at his friend. “Sorry about that.”
“What sorry, we all need help sometimes.” The smirk Sam gets he wants to smack off the assassin’s face.
“Don’t quote my words back to me, man. That’s bullshit.” The man next to him cackles then turns serious eyes on him. His eyes are always serious now. Even when they pick on each other, it never gets as far as his eyes. “I thought I saw Riley.”
There’s silence for a minute then a barely there nod. “Still happens to me too.”
That gives Sam something to cling to, something to focus on. “You still see him around.”
There’s a lackluster chuckle. “Worst part is, it can be someone big or small and I see him.”
“You should have told him.” Sam stares at the traffic and passing people. No one gives them a second look. Once Sam’s in his new uniform that will change. He’ll have to get used to being the icon and not the man.
“We’re not having this conversation again. What good would it have done? He made his choice.” Sam hasn’t known him long, but he can hear the longing, the heartbreak, the disorientation.
“But he didn’t know he had an option.” This has been Sam’s argument the whole time. Maybe if there had been an option, everything would have been different…better. For everyone.
“Doesn’t matter.” There’s a sigh and Sam knows what’s coming; he’s heard it before. “I wasn’t worth it and he just proved that.” He pulls Sam to his feet to stop whatever might be about to come out of his mouth and they head down the street and into the VA.
Sam can’t let go of Riley all day. It isn’t a surprise. He’s a VA counselor, so he knows that those ghosts haunt for as long as the soldier lets them. In this case, between his own PTSD and that of his friend, it’s going to take some time. Listening to his third group of the day, he starts to feel better for himself, but less so for Barnes.
It’s been the same thing since that day, screaming at Bruce to get him back, but nothing happened. It’s like Steve Rogers just disappeared from the face of the planet. No contact, no letter from the past to explain, just Barnes with that resigned look on his face, like he knew. And he did and just let it happen.
That’s not fair. Blaming Barnes for something he really had no control over. This was Steve being a selfish asshole and Sam can’t forgive him for that. The only indication that Steve still cared about any of them was a SHIELD agent that delivered a box with a note not long after Tony’s funeral. Barnes watched him open it, waiting to see if there was anything for him: a note, anything to have closure.
There’s a part of Sam that will never, ever forgive Steve for not including a note to Barnes. When there hadn’t been one, Bucky had half shrugged and disappeared for the night. It was definitely from Steve. The shield was slightly different. Sam wondered for a little while where he’d gotten it, but after a time it didn’t matter anymore. There was a note taped to it that only said, ‘for Sam.’ Again, Sam was frustrated enough to shake physically, because Steve didn’t even think to offer it to Bucky.
Barnes has worked with him until Sam felt ready to go out into the field, but their next mission he would be in the new suit and wings. He would be Captain America. Sam had tried, repeatedly, to get Barnes to pick up the suit that Bruce had designed for him, but the man refused. He said his time was over and the Winter Soldier needs to die.
He didn’t know what the man was doing with his time, but he did know two really important things: Barnes was splitting his time between New York and Washington and he had nothing that made him happy. Steve had taken the happiness with him. It’s not that Barnes couldn’t fake it, he was really good at faking it, but if someone trained for that deception really watched, they could pick out his tells.
Steve Rogers is a bastard and nothing could change Sam’s mind about that.
It has only been 14 months when the call comes to Sam at the VA. He’s just returned from a mission and the quickest way to get back into a normal routine was to return to his groups. They need him in a way separate from Cap. The call comes during the last session of the day, checking the screen, he sees Clare’s name. Sending it to voicemail he concentrates on the conversation in the group. His phone goes off again. Again, it’s Clare. “Guys, I’m sorry, but it’s a friend of mine at the hospital.” The group nods and Sam steps away. “Clare?”
“You better get down here.” There’s only one person Clare would call about.
“How bad?” Sam’s head bows.
He turns the group over to Terry and heads out at a dead run. Clare meets him at the ER entrance. “What happened?”
She grabs his arm to stop his forward movement and he sees the look on her face. This is worse than he thought. “According to witnesses, he stepped in front of the bus. He wasn’t pushed, he wasn’t caught off guard,” like the Winter Soldier could ever be caught off guard. “He was trying to get killed. Why didn’t you tell me he was this bad?”
Sam hangs his head. Being Captain America has been eating up his time and in the last months; he’s only seen Bucky twice. He realizes now, that the upbeat attitude has been for show. “Honestly, I didn’t know. He’s been faking it well enough to fool me.”
“When they brought him in he kept fighting the staff saying he’s not worth it. What does that mean?”
Sam’s breath hitches because he knows exactly what those words mean and who put them in Bucky’s head. “I can’t talk about it.” She doesn’t push because she knows that certain things are over her pay grade.
The ICU is quiet except for the beeping of the machines. Barnes lays motionless in the bed with tubes of every kind coming out of him. He’s battered and bruised in a way that Sam has never seen. “He tried to kill himself Sam. When he comes out of this, the hospital is going to want to put him on the 6th floor.”
Sam shakes his head. “They can try, but he won’t stay.” Sam’s breath hitches again and unwanted tears ripple from his eyes. “He’ll succeed next time.” Sam really thought that as time passed Bucky would get better, but he seems the opposite is true.
Sam turns, marching from the room, pulling his phone from his pocket. “Wilson, what are you doing?”
Sam’s angry now. He’s been upset, frustrated, annoyed even, but now he’s full on pissed off. “I’m going to find the asshole that put him here.”
“When will you be back? I want him to have someone here when he wakes.”
“Trust me, there will be!” He calls the Compound, still under construction, but functional and tells the agent on duty that he needs a lift. Minutes later a jet lands in the street outside the hospital. T’Challa had been in DC for a meeting and took the call. He is headed to the Compound himself for a meeting with Bruce and Scott.
Sam straps himself in, seething with boiling anger. “Samuel, what troubles you?”
“Barnes tried to kill himself and almost succeeded.” T’Challa sucks in a breath, losing some of his natural calm. Barnes lived in his country for a few years and he came to know the man behind the torture. He’s respectable and honorable and T’Challa needs to call Shuri.
“What are you going to do?” Sam gives him his best Captain America face.
“I’m going to time travel so I can drag Steve’s sorry ass back here and fix this mess.” T’Challa doesn’t say anything else, but knows that look. It’s one developed over time and determination.
Peggy Carter comes out of the kitchen when a knock on her door interrupts her afternoon tea. She isn’t expecting a handsome black man, but smiles kindly. “Can I help you?”
Sam doesn’t know anything about this woman other than what he knows from history books, but she’s as beautiful as Steve made her sound. He can see the intellect shining behind her sparkling eyes. He gets it, he understands why Steve loves her, but this wasn’t his time, it wasn’t his place to come back and upend her future.
Sam removes his hat. His mama taught him manners. “Ma’am, I’m Sam Wilson and I’m looking for…your husband.” If the ring on her finger is right, then Steve and this lovely woman are married already. That complicates things.
She steps aside. “Please come in.” Sam’s a little surprised because of the time period and what he knows of race issues, but Peggy doesn’t give any indication that his race matters to her. Shutting the door as he steps in, she walks toward he kitchen. “Would you like some tea? We were just sitting down.”
Again, Mama Wilson taught him manners and you don’t refuse tea when offered. “Yes ma’am that would be lovely.” She beams at him. In the kitchen a man about Sam’s age is pouring a third cup having heard Peggy’s offer. Sam stops in the doorway, confused.
Peggy sits, quirking an eyebrow. She knows Sam is surprised, meaning she knows who Sam is. Sam grins at her. He likes her a lot and he’s just met her. “Daniel, this man says that he needs to talk to you.”
Daniel has the same smirk as his wife meaning he knows who Sam is as well. “You two were expecting this.”
Daniel chuckles and Peggy looks adoringly at him. “Well no, we weren’t exactly expecting it, but thought it might happen.” Daniel motions to a chair. “Sugar?” Sam nods.
“Sit won’t you Mr. Wilson and tell us what this is all about. You’ve come a long way to see your friend.” Sam has all the time he needs and sits to drink his tea. He explains everything to them because if they know who he is, then they can know everything else. Peggy looks at Sam fuming, he’s struck by how powerful this woman is. Hell, he might be little in love with her now too. She stands.
Daniel sits back in his chair grinning. “I love it when she gets like this.” Peggy shoots him a glare and he shrugs at her.
“I’M GOING TO KILL HIM!” Peggy storms out of the house.
Sam looks confused after her. “Oh, he lives a few doors down and she’s about to ruin his day off.” Daniel gets up and for the first time, Sam sees the crutches. He doesn’t know if he should help. “Oh don’t mind this. Injured in the war.”
Sam has all kinds of respect for these two and wishes he had more time to know them better. “Should we follow?”
Daniel laughs. “Of course, unless you want to take a corpse home.”
They get to the end of the sidewalk outside Steve’s door when they hear her yelling inside. “STEVEN GRANT ROGERS…YOU COMPLETE AND TOTAL IMBESILE!”
Sam hears a voice he hasn’t heard in 14 months. “What did I do now Peg?” Steve sounds resigned to whatever fate Peggy is ready to rain down on him. Daniel points to the porch with one of the crutches. Sam makes his way up.
They stand at the door now and Daniel holds him back. “He’ll be more willing to admit it to her without an audience.” Sam nods. Not sure what it might be, but willing to find out.
“You left Bucky behind? How could you do that to him? He followed you even when we all knew he should have gone home. He followed you because he was in love with you and you left him.” She’s pleading now.
Sam waits. “You can’t know that Peg.”
“Like hell I can’t. Men are the stupid ones. I could see it like a beacon shining out of his face.” Yeah, Sam’s definitely in love with this woman. If he could meet someone like her in his time, he’d marry her in a heartbeat.
“I knew him longer and better than anyone and if he’d loved me, I woulda stayed. Hell, Peg, you know how much I love him.” Daniel looks at Sam, smugly. Sam understands what they wanted him to hear. This must have come up in conversation before. Again, Sam is struck by how accepting these two are. They step through the open door.
Sam is dumbstruck by what he sees because it’s not the Steve he knows, but the little guy. It’s the Steve from before the serum and this is all too confusing for the man that just traveled through time. And yes, he does see the irony in that. “Why are you bringing this up now?”
She turns to the doorway where Sam is standing. “Because you have a mess to fix.”
Steve looks over. “Sam?” Steve’s knees nearly give out because if Sam is here, then something is wrong. “What happened?” Sam considers being gentle about it, but his annoyance flares again.
“He stepped in front of a bus trying to kill himself.” Steve finally collapses to the floor and Peggy goes down with him, Daniel goes over, sitting in a chair next to them, taking Steve’s hand. Whatever this weird relationship is, it’s all three of them in it. Family takes shape in weird ways sometimes and this one is confusing to Sam.
Peggy gets Steve up and into the kitchen. Standing patiently in the doorway, Sam waits for the explanation, because there better be one for all this shit. Peggy hands Steve a glass of water, he cradles it shaking and sipping. “You gonna explain all this or just let me draw my own conclusions because if you let me make my own assessment, you are not going to come off well.”
Steve snorts, taking another sip. “By creating this split timeline, I really fucked myself over. Something about doing it, caused the serum to sorta reverse.” He looks up at Sam.
“What do you mean, sorta?” Daniel heats up some water on the stove for tea.
“I don’t have all the health issues from before, but a few.” Daniel brings the steeping tea over to the table, adding sugar and cream.
Peggy chuckles. “Well yes, your susceptibility to sickness is one.” Steve shoots her a glare. “Don’t look at me like that, you just got over being ill and now this.”
Sam finally can’t take it anymore. “Okay, someone needs to start from the beginning and tell me what the hell is happening here.”
Daniel looks up at Peggy. “He made it longer than I thought before losing it.”
Peggy snorts and Steve can’t help the chuckle. Sam throws himself into a chair. “Sam I should have mentioned that we were thrown for a loop when Steve showed up and had to become assholes to keep up with him. I assume you know how much of a pain in the ass he it.” Sam can’t help the laugh that bubbles out. That sounds about right.
“Can you please explain?” Peggy nods while Steve drinks his tea and Daniel holds her hand.
Daniel and I arrived home from a mission and found Steve on the front steps. He looked just the way I remembered him before, but something in his eyes was wrong. I knew it wasn’t my Steve. I think he over-shot when he wanted to arrive.
She looks over and Steve nods. Daniel rubs his back when he swallows wrong.
He was surprised that I already had a husband, but wasn’t as devastated as you’d think for someone that walked away from the life he had and into the life he thought he wanted. He stayed with us for a time, but then Howard stepped in. You know who Howard is?
Sam nods and wonders about the man that raised Tony Stark and wishes that he could tell the man what kind of hero his son turned out to be.
Howard set Steve up here and makes sure that he gets the medication he needs and in return, Steve agreed to help us on strategy to set SHIELD up.
Sam wonders just how much they know and looks at Steve, who is cutting his eyes over. Sam knows that look and his friend, so Steve’s kept everything close to the vest.
He couldn’t return to you because he used all of the particles traveling here. Once he’d been here a few months, he realizes that he’d made a mistake. Unfortunately, nothing can be done until future events unfold themselves.
“Well, now you have a way home and someone that needs you.” Peggy pats his arm.
Daniel gets up to put the cup in the sink. “Steve, you need to go home. It’s been an honor getting to know you and you are family to me now, but you can’t pass up the opportunity to have what you really want.”
Steve looks up at him. “Yeah?”
The whole kitchen speaks at once. “Yes!”
They step off the platform and Bruce whistles when he sees Steve. “Welcome back…Steve.”
Next to Dr. Banner, Steve looks like a child, but he smiles at his friend. “Thanks Bruce.”
Sam steers him to the hanger, leaving his bags for someone else to move. “We are going straight to the hospital. By my watch, I’ve only been gone a couple of minutes.” Steve nods and they board a jet.
The smell of hospitals never changes, but the beeps of the machines hooked up to his friend are new. Clare comes in, carrying medications. “That didn’t take long.” She gives a cursory look to Steve, then back to Sam, then her eyes snap back to Steve. “Holy shit!”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m small again.” He goes to the bed. “What can you tell me?”
Sam nods at Clare and she starts going over all the injuries. “He’s healing quicker than we thought he would, but I can’t say when he might come out of it.”
Steve nods, but doesn’t take his eyes off the bed. “I’ll be staying here until he’s awake.”
“I don’t…” That’s not hospital policy.
Steve looks up, giving her the stare. “I don’t really care what hospital policy is. I’ll be staying until he wakes up. If he wants to send me away, then I’ll leave, but not until then.”
Sam pulls Clare aside. “I’ll call Pepper. She’ll know what to do.” He looks back at Steve. “I’m going for food. I’ll be back.” Steve stares at Bucky, but nods.
For three days, Steve sits next to the bed, talking to Bucky. He tells him about Peggy and Daniel, about not having the serum anymore, the fact that he doesn’t have all the illnesses, but still gets sick pretty easy, and he tells him about being a damn fool for leaving. The night of the third day, Sam leaves for a group session. Steve’s telling Bucky about actually missing the technology. “I was thinking about getting a new radio and said something to Daniel about checking Amazon. He looked at me like I was crazy and for a minute I thought I was. For a minute I thought I had dreamed all that future stuff.” He’s tired, so very tired, but he can’t let Bucky wake up alone.
The night nurse comes in, smiling softly at him. “All of his injuries are nearly healed. The scans we did today only show a few minor hairline fractures. Hopefully that means he’ll be awake soon.”
Steve likes Cheryl, she’s soft spoken and gentle when she does anything to Bucky. “Thanks. I hope he does.” She leaves the room and Steve pulls off his shoes. He must doze off because he doesn’t remember anything after that.
He wakes cocooned in warmth. There’s a warmth at his back and an arm keeping him in place. Someone’s face is buried in his hair. He’s in that rare floaty place between sleep and wake, inching back into the warmth. The hand resting on his stomach, rubs up and down. He’s not sure where he is, but he likes it and doesn’t want to move.
“Stevie, gotta get up. Gonna be late.” The voice is sleep rough and Steve hums.
“Late for what, Buck.” This dream is nice, better than what he has most nights.
“Doolan gave me an extra shift at the docks today. Gotta get up.” Bucky snuggles in closer. “Don’t wanna though.”
Steve gives a chuckle. “Don’t then. Stay here.”
It’s Bucky turn to hum. “Maybe I will.”
Steve’s eyes fly open because if he’s not dreaming, Bucky’s awake and thinks it’s 1939. Sitting up he tries to remember crawling in bed, but after dozing off, he doesn’t remember anything. He must have done it in his sleep. Bucky’s eyes blink open, he sees Steve and smiles in a way that Steve’s never seen before. “Bucky?” Steve reaches over, pressing the call button on the side of the bed.
Bucky looks at him confused then around the room. “Where…what…” The door opens and Clare comes in.
Looking at Sam’s friend, Bucky starts to put two and two together. Steve sees the panic rising and does the only thing he can think of; he leans in, kissing Bucky gently on the lips. “It’s okay. Everything’s okay. I’m here.”
Bucky’s eyes close. “No, you aren’t. I don’t know what this is, but it can’t be real.”
Clare looks concerned. “What’s the last thing you remember?”
There’s no sound for a minute then he squints. “I remember eating dinner and feeding a stray cat on the balcony.”
“Do you remember what day that was?” She’s checking his cognitive ability.
“Uhhhh…Tuesday maybe.” Steve can see that Bucky’s trying not to look at him. He knows the man wants to ask, but also knows that Clare doesn’t need to be present for that.
“It’s Sunday.” Bucky looks at her incredulously. “Do you remember what brought you here?”
He shakes his head. “What did I do?” Steve can’t take it anymore and lays back down with his head on Bucky’s chest.
“You tried to hurt yourself because I’m a dumb fuck.” Clare snorts and leaves the room. “I’m sorry.”
“You’re going to have to explain this if you’re actually here and I’m not dreaming or dead.”
“You’re not either.” Steve sits up, looking down at the beautiful face that he doesn’t believe he deserves, but maybe they need each other. He tells Bucky about traveling back to ’48 and coming out as his smaller self. “I still get sick and I’m cold a lot of the time, but the other things aren’t there. I guess when you go into the quantum realm too much it bites back. Anyway, Peg was already married to Daniel and I should have been heartbroken that I missed my chance again, but I was kinda relieved.” Bucky looks concerned. “No, I really didn’t mind and at first Daniel didn’t want me there, but when he saw that Peg and I didn’t seem to have those feelings, he became a really good friend.”
A doctor comes in and Steve has to get off the bed so they can check Buck over. They try to talk him into a stay on a different floor, but Bucky insists that he will break out if they make him. The doctor gives up and leaves after a few minutes. Bucky turns back to Steve.
“Where do they want to put you?” Steve reaches over, brushing hair away from Bucky’s face.
“The psych ward. I’m suicidal, didn’t ya know?” There’s no humor in Bucky’s eyes and Steve sees the pain.
“I’m not a good person, Buck. I don’t deserve to come back into your life like this and expect anything.” He gets up and goes to the window.
“I get to decide who is in my life. That choice is mine.” There’s no arguing with the tone that he uses. “Now finish telling me what happened.”
Steve’s shoulders slump. “I couldn’t get back here because I used all the particles, so I was stuck in a world that wasn’t mine anymore.” His voice dips. “I woulda given anything to get back.” He turns and looks at Bucky square in the eye. “I woulda done anything to get back to you. I didn’t know until I was there how much I needed to be here. Buck, I need you to forgive me for abandoning you. I don’t expect it right now, but if you give me a chance, I’ll prove to you that I can be better.”
Bucky doesn’t say anything because he’s not sure what to say. He wants to say, I forgive you, but he’s not sure that he does. He wants to say, I love you, please don’t ever leave me again, but he doesn’t know if he can say that right now. He wants to say, I trust you, but he’s absolutely sure he doesn’t complete trust Steve right now. So what he does say is, “I’ll give you a chance.”
You would think that he’d just offered Steve the world for the beaming smile he gets in return. “I’ll take it.”
They return to Brooklyn and Steve’s apartment. Bucky agrees to stay only until he’s completely healed, then he’s returning to his own place. It isn’t nice like Steve’s, but it’s his and that’s what he thinks he needs right now. Steve’s place is one that Sam helped him find after seeing the dismal place that SHIELD had given him. Sam talked Steve into something bigger with more natural light. Bucky stands at the balcony windows looking out at the city.
Steve looks at everything knowing that someone had to have been looking out for the place. “Sam checked in on the place.”
Steve hums, looking through the kitchen at the stocked cabinets and icebox. “I guess he had food brought in.” Bucky leans against the door frame watching his friend. Steve stops what he’s doing and looks up. “What?”
Bucky shakes his head. “I’m still tryin to get used to this you. Didn’t think I’d see the little guy from Brooklyn again.”
Steve huffs a laugh. “Yeah well, this is me now, pal.” Steve opens the bag he sat on the counter. “I’m going to need to see a doctor pretty soon. I’m almost out of meds.”
Bucky comes over, looking over the bottles. “What is all this?”
Steve shrugs. “Like I said, not everything is as bad as it was, but my lungs aren’t the best again, so I gotta take something for that.”
Bucky goes over to the landline because of course Steve has one. Picking up, he hears that it still works and starts dialing. The voice on the other end picks up. “Hey doc, you got a minute.” Dr. Cho is better than anyone he knows and if anyone can help Steve, it’s her.
Bucky sleeps in the guest room, but can’t stop himself from looking in on Steve at night. He listens to the slight wheeze that he remembers from so very long ago. He watches the smaller man toss and turn and wonders what is torturing him. At breakfast the first morning, he decides not to wonder and to ask. “Steve?” The blond looks over from where he’s mixing pancakes. “What do you have nightmares about?”
There’s part of Bucky that expects Steve to either brush it off or lie. Instead, Steve looks and gives a mirthless smile. “You.” Bucky sits heavy in the kitchen chair. “I dream about every time I failed you.” He can see that Bucky wants to interject, so he keeps talking. “It should have been me that went off that train. It should have been me that disappeared when Thanos snapped. I should have let someone else take those stones back and stayed here with you like I really wanted.”
“Why didn’t you?” If Steve’s going to be this honest, Bucky wants to hear all of it.
Steve scoops the first batch of batter into the heated skillet. “Because I have always known how I felt about you, but knew, really deep down that you’d never feel that way about me. I figured I take my chances in the quantum realm. Dumb, but then again, what’s new.” He gives a small huff of a laugh. If he can keep Steve being this honest, maybe there’s a chance they can find their friendship again.
Two days later, at the urging of Bucky, Steve lets Dr. Cho run tests. After an entire morning of that, she comes to sit with them. “It would seem that the serum isn’t completely gone. There’s just enough of it left to keep certain things at bay.”
“Like?” Steve’s curious because Howard hadn’t given any indication that there was any left, although it was 1948 so he probably didn’t have the technology to find out.
“The scoliosis is not there, the anemia is gone, and you have your hearing and you aren’t color blind anymore. Your lungs are not nearly as bad as they could be and I can help with that. There are preventative medications that you would need to take every day, but I don’t think you’ll have a problem with asthma. Just in case though, I’m giving you an inhaler.” Steve nods. It’s better than he thought. “As for you getting sick as often as you were…where you were, I think that had to do with your mental state.”
Bucky looks up from where he’s been staring at the floor. “What do you mean?”
She looks to Steve who nods. “When a person is depressed the body can have a physical reaction to that. Steve didn’t want to be where he was, so his mental state caused his body to get sick.”
Bucky looks upset by that. Steve gets up, going as close as he dares. “They didn’t talk about things like that back then. You know that Buck. There was nowhere for me to go to talk to anyone.”
Something in Bucky’s face changes, becomes more open. They return to Steve’s with medications that Steve’s never heard of and instructions on how to take each one. He lines them up on the counter and smiles. “This feels familiar.”
Bucky watches him from the sink where he’s getting water. “Might as well start now. What do you need to take?"
Steve picks up one of the bottles. “At least this time we can afford everything.” He pops the lid and pours out one of the pills. “I need to take this one every day and…” He picks up another bottle. “And this one,” He picks up another. “And this.” He checks the other three bottles. “And everything else I take as needed.” He opens the last box and pulls out the inhaler. “Guess I’m going to have to remember to take this with me everywhere.”
“I’ll remind you, just like I used to.” They both freeze because the statement implies that Bucky will be around to remind him. “Sorry, that’s overstepping my boundaries.”
“You don’t have any boundaries with me, Buck.” Bucky looks up, seeing that Steve’s being as honest as he ever has. “I don’t want to cross any of yours though, so you do what you’re comfortable with.”
Bucky leans back on the counter. Steve takes the glass and takes the pills. “What do you want from me, Steve?”
“I want whatever you’re okay with me having.” He’s staring at the floor and refuses to look up.
“You’d really just be a friend if I said that’s all I could do?” He’s looking critically, watching Steve’s body language.
“You can’t be friends or anything else with someone you don’t trust, Bucky.” Steve looks up and Bucky sees tears he’s not expecting. “I know you don’t trust me and you can’t let yourself forgive me.” Bucky flushes. “I’ll take whatever’s left over.”
Bucky throws the hand towel he’s been holding on the counter. “God fucking damnit!” He storms across the kitchen, cupping Steve’s cheek and drawing him in. When their lips meet, Steve gives a startled gasps, then melts against Bucky. It’s slow until it’s not. When Bucky realizes that Steve isn’t pulling away, but trying to get closer, he goes all in, pulling the smaller man against him, cradling him like he’s always wanted. His lips leave Steve’s, but before the blond can say anything, Bucky attacks his throat, kissing and nipping from ear to shoulder.
Steve whimpers and would be embarrassed by the sound, but Bucky hums in contentment and comes back to his mouth. Hovering millimeters away, he smiles. “Tell me you want this.”
Steve bottom lip quivers. “so much.” The breath of a whisper dances across Bucky’s lips and he’s kissing Steve again. Scooping the smaller man up, he carries him to the bedroom. Laying him gently on the bed, he looks down.
“Always thought you were beautiful, like an angel, but with a devil’s attitude. Could never love anyone like I loved you and still love you.” He strips Steve bare and sees that he has muscle definition he didn’t have before. He’s still small, he still looks delicate, which Bucky would never say out loud, and he’s still the most beautiful thing that Bucky’s ever had the pleasure to admire. He strips out of his own clothes and lays down next to Steve. “Anything I do that you don’t like, you tell me.” He nods and Bucky pulls Steve against him. “Jesus.” Is all Bucky can manage to say and Steve just moans. The feel of skin to skin is more overwhelming than either are prepared for. “Are you sure?”
Steve stops kissing Bucky’s chest, which he’s been doing for several minutes. It’s one thing to know Bucky is bigger and more muscular, but having it under his hand is almost too much. “Never been more sure about anything in my life.” Bucky starts kissing him again and rolls on top. Steve clings to him like a life line and everything Bucky’s been holding back comes roaring to the surface. “I’m gonna to fuck you now, Steve. I’m stakin my claim and after this, it’s me and you.”
“It was always me and you. I was just a coward and couldn’t say it.” He looks up at Bucky, grinning that shit eating grin. “Now get your dick in me Barnes. Time to mark your territory.”
The following morning Steve wakes to an empty bed, but can smell coffee and bacon, so he knows that Bucky is still in the apartment. He sits up and groans. His body aches all over, but then he grins because these are aches that he wouldn’t trade for anything. Looking down, he sees bruises and bites littering his body. Bruises on his hips in the shape of Bucky’s fingers make him giggle. That’s when the bedroom door cracks open and Bucky peeks around to see if he’s still sleeping, catching him mid-giggle.
The look on Bucky’s face is so soft and Steve can honestly say he’s never seen that look before. “What’s got you so happy this morning?”
Steve blushes biting his lip. “I said mark your territory and you did.”
Bucky plops onto the bed, tracing one of the bruises. “I guess I went overboard, but I’ve wanted it so long, I guess I wasn’t thinking clearly.”
Steve brings the finger, tracing the bruise on his hip to his lips, and sucks it into his mouth. Releasing it with a wet pop, he arches an eyebrow. “I’m not complainin.
“You keep that up and you won’t be leaving this bed at all today.” It’s a low growl of a thing and makes Steve shiver with the possibility.
Steve goes to stand and feels lightheaded. Bucky eases him back down to the bed. “I’m pretty hungry, maybe some food first, then I’ll race you back here.”
“Food, then pills, then bed.” Steve gets up and without any shame walks out of the room with nothing on. “You are going to kill me, Stevie.” He doesn’t say it loud enough for the other man to hear, but quickly follows with a grin on his face. He can definitely get behind today’s plan.
Steve straddles Bucky’s lap, staring at the ex-assassin like he’s lost his mind. “Let me see if I got this.” Bucky nods, grinning. “You think I should teach art at the community center?”
Bucky’s hands are resting on Steve’s waist and start moving up and down his hips and thighs. He looks down, watching his hands moving across thin, delicate, hips. “That’s what I’m sayin. You have the talent and the desire to help people that don’t have these things available to them.” His eyes haven’t stopped watching his hands.
“I think desire is the operative word. You know I have a face and eyes, right Barnes?” Bucky’s eyes shoot up and he sees mischief staring back at him.
He smirks. “Can’t help it, Stevie. You’re just so…” His eyes drift back down.
“Jesus Christ, Buck. Have you always been this horny?” Steve laughs as he says it.
Bucky half shrugs. “It was easier to ignore when you were bigger. I don’t know Steve, it’s just somethin about…”
“You like that I’m little again.” Steve starts to get up, but Bucky won’t let him. “Holy shit, Barnes! You have a kink, don’t ya? You like’em little and…and…”
“No! Now stop, I like you just the way you are!” Steve’s still grinning and Bucky can’t help but join in. “Do I like the fact that I can put you right where I want you…yes. Do I like the fact that I’m bigger than you…yes. Does that mean I have a kink…yes, but that kink is one just for you, not anyone else.”
“As long as you keep your kinks with me, I’ll give ya this one.” Steve snorts and Bucky can’t stop the sappy smile at how fucking cute Steve Rogers is when he snorts.
A week later Sam comes by not expecting to find Bucky still at Steve’s. He lets himself in with the spare key and finds the two making out on the sofa. “Well, this is a turn I didn’t see this quick.”
Steve slides out of Bucky’s lap and blushes. Bucky doesn’t seem fazed at all. “Might want to knock next time, Cap. Never know where we might be…”
Before he can finish, Sam is holding up his hands. “I love you both, but I do not finish that sentence.”
Steve snickers laying his head in Bucky’s lap. “So this is a thing now.”
Bucky runs his fingers through Steve’s hair. “It is.”
“And everyone is happy?” They both nod. “Well alright then, take me to lunch and tell me what your next move is going to be.”
They end up at a café not far from Steve’s apartment. Steve sits snuggled into Bucky’s side, eating fries from their shared plate. Sam has groaned more than once, but that happy gleam in his eyes doesn’t go away. “I take it you two have talked through everything.”
Steve takes a bite of the fry that Bucky offers and hums. Bucky looks at Sam seriously. “It’s an ongoing conversation. It’s not a talk once and it’s fixed kind of thing.”
That makes Sam beam at him. “I’m glad you realize that.” He looks at Steve. “And you, what does all this mean for you?”
Steve sits up, looking confused. “What do you mean?”
“Just because you’re back doesn’t mean you’re getting the shield back. I like my job and plan on keeping it.” He’s only half serious.
Steve snorts. “I don’t want that job, Sam. I want a chance to have a life and that shield doesn’t allow for that, not for me anyway.” Then he laughs and it’s a sound that Sam has never heard before. “Besides, not like I could lift the thing anyway.”
Bucky kisses his temple. “You could do anything you want, you always have.”
Sam doesn’t know what’s going to happen with these two, but he’s sure that they need each other in a way that most people wouldn’t understand. They are two halves of the same whole and it’s only now that Sam can see just how true it is. He caught a lot of hell for making that jump back to the 40’s, but if they could see what he sees now, they would understand. He hasn’t talked about it with anyone and he definitely didn’t fill out a report about it. But maybe the rest of the team, such as it is, could use a little bit of this. “Hey, why don’t you two come to the Compound this weekend for a cook-out?”
Steve looks lost for a split second. “You sure they want to see me?” Bucky’s arm tightens around his shoulder protectively.
“I think they need to see you.” Steve sees whatever he needs to in Sam’s eyes and nods.
They lay in bed that night, Bucky’s hand running up and down Steve’s back. The smaller man hums in contentment, burying his face further in Bucky’s neck. “I love you.”
He can hear the smile in Bucky’s voice when he replies. “I love you too.” Steve looks up nipping at Bucky’s chin. “What’s gotten into you?”
Steve pulls back, propping his chin on Bucky’s chest. “Whataya mean?”
Bucky grins at the accent that seems to come out more when Steve’s sleepy. “I mean, you’re letting me take care of you in a way that you never did before. I’ve been wonderin, but was afraid to ask.”
Steve hums again, leaning in, kissing Bucky’s chest. “Seems like I spent so much time fightin what I really wanted. Guess I just figure it’s time to stop bein so ornery and let myself have it.”
“You’re tellin me that all those years I tried to take care of you and you fought me, deep down that’s what you really wanted?” Bucky can’t believe he’s hearing this out of his Steve.
Steve sighs, but then smiles. “Men had to be men, Buck, you know that. I couldn’t seem weaker, even though I was. I had to be tougher than everyone else because I looked like this.” He kisses Bucky’s chest again, cutting his eyes up. He sees the effect that it has on the bigger man, who nearly whimpers. “Now, I don’t gotta be anything but me. Meanin, you can be big and muscle-y and I’ll be your little twink.”
The laughter that bubbles out of Bucky makes Steve’s heart sore. “Can I call you a twink or will ya slug me for it?”
Steve sits up, straddling Bucky’s waist. “You can call me anything ya want.” Leaning down, he takes Bucky’s lips in the filthiest kiss possible.
Steve finds himself on his back with Bucky hovering over him. “Fuckin hell Stevie. I don’t feel like I know ya anymore. I hope your sayin these things because ya mean’em and not cause ya think it’s what I want.”
Steve spreads his legs, pulling his knees up on either side of Bucky’s body. “Take care of me, Buck.” Just like always these days, Bucky can see that not only is Steve being honest, he’s really enjoying the attention.
Bucky’s forehead meets Steve’s shoulder. “Jesus…Steve…”
Their relationship doesn’t really change Steve from being Steve. Thursday afternoon, they stop in at the corner bodega and when Steve hears a man yelling at a woman that had been speaking Spanish to her daughter, that she should speak English or go back to her own country, Steve steps in. By the time he’s done dressing the man down, he leaves grumbling, but the woman hugs Steve and thanks him.
Steve blushes and simply tells her, “It doesn’t take anything special to be a decent human being.”
Bucky just beams because he needed to see this part of Steve again. He needed to know that this guy was still under everything else. And he needed to know that what happens in their home doesn’t change who Steve is.
Saturday morning they head to the compound. Steve seems anxious and Bucky keeps an eye on him. When they reach the gait, Steve puts a hand on Bucky’s leg. “Not sure I can do this.”
“I was wanderin when you were going to speak up and tell me what’s going on.” Bucky lays a hand over Steve’s.
“I’m not who they remember. I’m not him anymore.”
“No baby, you aren’t Captain America anymore, but you’re still Steve. You still fight for what’s right and good, you just do it in a different way now.” He leans over, kissing Steve’s cheek. “And everything else is just a part of who you’ve always been.”
Steve looks up with sparkling blue eyes, smiling. “I didn’t know that once I could say I love you that I’d become some submissive twink.”
Bucky barks a laugh that brings tears to his eyes. “Yeah, it’s okay when you say it, but if I were to say that, you’d punch me in the dick.”
Steve reaches over, caressing the inside of Bucky’s thigh making the brunette suck in a breath. “No, I wouldn’t punch you there.” His voice is low and thick. Then he smirks. “Somewhere else maybe, but never there.”
They’re still laughing when they pull around the drive next to the building. Sam sees the merriment in the car and grins. “I was getting worried about you two. Saw you on the camera at the gate.”
Climbing out of the car, Steve hugs Sam. “How ya doin, Sam?”
There are handshakes and smiles, but Sam watches Bucky, hoping that he won’t see any of the darkness from before. During the cookout and chatter, Bucky makes his way around to Sam again. “You’ve been keeping an eye on me.”
Sam sighs, but keeps on smiling. “Yeah, but you have to understand why.”
Bucky nods, taking a drag of his beer and bumping Sam’s shoulder. “I didn’t stop going to therapy. It’s not easy, but I know there’s more to work through. Steve goes to his own therapist at the same time I do.”
Sam looks over, watching Steve laugh with Bruce and Pepper. “Do you ever think about it?”
Bucky looks to Sam, pulling his eyes away from Steve. “Yeah, I do. There are days when…” He doesn’t know how to finish the sentence at first. He turns his full attention to Sam. “Do you remember that day you thought you saw Riley?” Sam nods, but doesn’t make eye contact. “I still have days when I think that I did this to him.” He looks back at Steve, who is still talking, but seems to know that he and Sam are having a serious conversation. “I think that if I’d been stronger or more vocal that he would still be Steve, only bigger. That he wouldn’t have thought he needed to go somewhere else for the love that he wanted.”
Sam pulls Bucky back around. “Would you change anything about the life you have with him now?”
Bucky’s eyes get wide. “NO! I wouldn’t trade anything I have now for…” Bucky smiles. “I get it.”
“That’s all I’m saying. What you have with him now, is worth any sacrifice you two had to make.” He looks over, waving at Steve. “Just remember that if you feel that again, talk to him, talk to me, talk to your therapist, but don’t,” Sam pokes him in the chest, “and I can’t emphasize this enough, don’t step in front of a bus.”
Bucky cringes. “Got it.”
When they reach home, later that night, Steve pulls Bucky into the apartment, smiling mischievously. “What were you and Sam talking about so seriously?”
Bucky knows that look and doesn’t want to ruin what’s about to happen, but they’d made a silent promise. His shoulders sag. “We were talking about the bus stuff.”
Steve squares his shoulders. “Bucky?”
“He just wanted to make sure that I wasn’t still in that place.” Bucky pulls Steve against him and the smaller man melts into him.
“Are you?” Steve looks up, fear evident on his face.
“No, I’m not. I know it’s not fixed and I talk to my therapist about it. It’s just something that I…” He pulls Steve into the living room, sitting him on the sofa. “Steve, I didn’t think I deserved you. No matter what my feelings were, I would never be good enough for you. I still feel that way sometimes. Not all the time, but sometimes.”
Steve gets up and goes into the kitchen. When he comes back, he throws all of the pill bottles on the sofa next to Bucky. “Which one of those do I need to take right now?”
Bucky looks down at the bottles, picking up the one with the orange label and holds it up. “This one.”
“And which ones do I need to take in the morning with breakfast?” Steve’s arms are folded over his chest.
Bucky picks up two other bottles. “These. Steve?”
Steve sits back down, putting the pill bottles on the coffee table. “You spend so much time caring about other people, me more than anyone else. You know everything I need, and don’t know I need, before I do. You’ve been walking around all day with my inhaler in your pocket, just in case. You know what I need to eat and when I need to eat it, so that I don’t get worse. Bucky, if anyone isn’t good enough for the other, it’s me.”
Bucky gets up, taking all the pills back to the kitchen and coming back with a glass of water and the pill from the orange bottle. “I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. Now take this.” Steve snorts causing Bucky to laugh. Steve takes the pill, sitting the glass on the table. Bucky grabs his hand. “Let’s go to bed.”
The following morning, Steve wakes to Bucky sitting up in bed, reading from his tablet. The sun, coming through the window gives the man an unearthly glow. Steve traces the lines of his jaw with his eyes, up to his cheekbones, to the crinkles around his eyes. He looks at how Bucky’s hair gives off a auburn hue in the morning light and how his lips turn up, ever so slightly, at whatever he’s reading. The light stubble on his face looks rougher than it actually is and in that moment, Steve knows. “I’m going to marry you.”
Bucky jumps just a fraction, looking down at Steve’s smiling face. “Oh really?”
Steve pulls and Bucky slides back down in bed, wrapping the smaller man into his arms. “Really. Just say the word and it’s a done deal.”
Bucky caresses up and down Steve’s arm for a few minutes. “Consider the word given.”