Bucky had shaken his head and shyly glanced over at Steve when Tony asked if Bucky wanted his own floor at the Tower, or his own apartment, anything. “Oh,” Tony had said, and then “ ohh ,” and a funny look had crossed his face before he’d smiled and reached out like he was going to clap Bucky on the shoulder before he thought better of it and pulled his arm back. He’d rubbed his hands together instead, looking delighted, and said, “I’ll make sure you have a key and access codes and will update JARVIS so you have full access to Steve’s floor.”
Warmth had bloomed in Steve’s stomach, a bubble of hope rising up into his chest as he’d chanced a glance over at Bucky. They’d lived together and loved each other before the war, but that was before, and so much had happened since, and they hadn’t really talked about it because Steve didn’t know what Bucky remembered, and he didn’t want to pressure him, but God, what if he still...what if he…
Steve looked back at Bucky, whose face was unreadable, and Steve realized he’d been silent too long, so he smiled and said, “I’d like that, Buck.” Bucky had nodded and relaxed his shoulders, and he’d moved in later that day.
Not that he had much more than a small box, but still. He was there, in Steve’s floor, taking up space and making noise and being closer than he had in decades. Steve felt something unclench in his chest and hoped Bucky would decide to stick around.
“Hey,” he’d said the next morning at the kitchen table, both of them sipping coffee and eating copious amounts of cereal. “I want you to do whatever you want with your room, okay? Decorate it how you want. We can get whatever furniture you like, have someone paint it or do it ourselves. In fact, same goes with the whole floor, okay?”
Bucky put his spoon down into his Frosted Flakes and looked up at Steve. “Okay. Thanks.” Steve nodded and picked up his own spoon and smiled down into his Froot Loops.
Steve sighed happily as he stepped off the Quinjet. The mission had been a success, but it had still taken over a week, and Steve was beyond ready to crash on the couch, watch some bad TV, and eat his weight in junk food.
Natasha bumped him playfully as she walked next to him, and he shortened his strides to make it easier for her to keep up. “Glad to be back?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Steve replied, bumping her back. “Ready to be home.”
“Oh,” Natasha breathed, giving Steve a look before quickly facing forward again.
Steve frowned at the side of her face. “What was that look for?”
“Nat, come on. That wasn’t a ‘nothing’ look.”
She huffed and shook her head at herself a little, unwilling to meet Steve’s eyes as she said, “that’s the first time you’ve called your floor ‘home.’”
Steve stumbled as the implication of what Natasha had just said sunk in. “No. No, that can’t be right. I’ve…” he trailed off as he tried to think about what he usually called his residence.
“Usually you say ‘my floor’ or ‘my apartment,’ but you’ve never said ‘home,’ Steve. It’s nice. I’m glad you feel that way.” She patted him on the shoulder and gave a little smile before walking into the Tower, graciously not mentioning the fact that Steve was freaking out a little bit.
Which he was. And he continued to all the way to the Tower, into the elevator, and up to his floor. But he couldn’t figure out why he was. So his place felt like home now. So what? It was good. It did feel nice, knowing he was coming back to a warm, comforting place instead of the cold, impersonal space his floor used to be.
So what had changed?
Steve thought about it as he set his shield down on the plush armchair that had appeared in his room one day, peeling out of his uniform and putting it in the special laundry bag so Tony’s people could get it ready to go again.
He thought about it as he toweled off in the bathroom after his shower and noticed the cute, little succulent on his counter could use some water.
He thought about it as he pulled on the softest pair of sweats and a novelty Captain America hoodie that he didn’t remember buying but was incredibly comfortable and fit him really well.
He thought about it as he walked into the living area and admired the heavily stylized painting of the Brooklyn Bridge Bucky had found somewhere and hung on the wall; as he smiled at the worn paperbacks with cracked spines that sat alongside the fancy books Tony had populated the bookshelves with when Steve had moved in; as he trailed his fingers over the lush, burgundy throw that lived on the couch now.
He thought about it as went into the kitchen for some food and caught sight of the truly hideous hand towels hanging from the oven, covered with smiling sloths in the most lurid shades of green and purple and pink.
He thought about it as he rummaged through the fridge and pantry, finding both stocked with calorie-dense foods he’d need after a long mission.
He thought about it as he went searching for Bucky, to see how his week went while Steve was away.
He figured it out when he found Bucky in the den, curled up on the window seat, tucked under a thick, green blanket, a pulpy paperback in his hands. Steve must have made a noise because Bucky frowned at his book and looked over, his lips tilting up into a little smile when he saw it was Steve.
“I’m —” Steve started, his voice cracking, thick with emotion. Bucky lowered his paperback and tilted his head a little but didn’t say anything. “I’m home,” Steve worked out through his tightening throat.
“Yeah, Jarvis said. I figured you’d want a shower and stuff first. How did it go?” Bucky asked softly.
Steve shook his head and moved toward Bucky. “I’m home .”
“Yeah. Steve, what —”
“This place, it was just an apartment. Before. It was just a place that I lived. I didn’t —” Steve stopped and swallowed, and Bucky pushed the blanket off his legs so he could stand in front of Steve.
“But it’s home now,” Steve continued, “it feels like home. Because you’re here. There are blankets and books and plants and you. It’s our home. I didn’t realize how badly I missed it until you did that for me, Bucky, for us, I hope, and I —”
Bucky closed the distance between them and kissed Steve on the lips, gently and slowly, cutting him off mid-sentence, before he pulled back and leaned his forehead against Steve’s.
“Me too,” Bucky said, and Steve knew exactly what he meant.