As Steve heard Bucky walk in, he quickly hid the box of old photos under the bed. (Bucky sometimes reminisced too, but he thought Steve spent far too much time staring at the images of dead friends.)
“Hey, how was it?” Steve asked, lounging back on the bed.
“Good. It would have been more fun if you came,” Bucky said, sitting on the bed next to him. He had gone out with Clint and Tony, probably to some club.
Steve shrugged. “Hit the punching bag, pushed a tractor around. Gotta stay in shape.”
“You don’t, actually.”
“Can’t hurt,” Steve said quickly. He sounded defensive, he knew.
Bucky just smiled and patted Steve’s thigh. “Next time?”
“Sure, Buck. I’ll go with you guys next time.”
Bucky nodded, skeptical.
“Let me help,” Steve said.
“Tony showed me how,” Bucky answered, adjusting the joints in his arm so they didn’t jam up. It hurt his shoulder and collarbone, Steve could see.
“Don’t,” Bucky said then.
“Don’t act like anything that happened to me was your fault.”
“I can see it in your eyes, Steve. You’re a shit liar.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, dummy.”
Bucky frowned as he moved his elbow in circles, testing it out. “I joined the army to fight a war. The war sucked me down into a hole, just like it did a lot a guys. Only difference, it spit me back out.”
“Guess the devil thought you were too annoying to keep around,” Steve said.
Bucky grinned, genuinely. “Then I can only imagine what he’d think of you. Point is, stop looking at me like every papercut I get is your fault. Because every time someone reminds me of my past, you spend half a day ripping gym equipment to shreds. So… just don’t worry about me.”
“Why do I get the feeling we’re going to have this same conversation every time I break a fingernail?”
Bucky just sighed and went back to tinkering with his arm.
“How come you only draw things from back then?” Bucky asked one day over breakfast.
“I drew you in bed yesterday,” Steve pointed out with a smirk.
“Yes, pictures of me sleeping naked. Totally undignified.”
“There’s nothing undignified about the human form. I’m surprised you’re so closed-minded. Considering how many human forms you’ve seen.”
“Ha ha. You know what I mean. I’m like all sprawled out, and I’m all flaccid and stuff. My mouth is open, it looks like I’m drooling or something.”
“You were drooling. You’re just lucky I didn’t draw the drool into the sketch. I sacrificed realism to protect your delicate pride, Buck.”
“Great. But seriously, why don’t you draw anything from the modern day. You drew Sam and Natasha a couple of times, but most of the people in your sketchbook are people we knew back then. And all the places, landscapes, buildings and stuff are from back then too.”
“I don’t want to forget.”
“…Okay.” Bucky looked like he wanted to say more. “I mean, it’s just, you never leave the apartment unless there’s someone to fight. You haven’t gone to Sam’s meetings in years.”
“I don’t need them.”
“I don’t. I mean, I’m glad you go. But I’m fine.”
"I'm pretty much done talking about this, Bucky," Steve said then, staring down at the newspaper without reading it.
Bucky grabbed the newspaper away. “You know what? Maybe no one else will say it, but you know I will. You’re pissed off ALL the time, Steve. You’re probably more pissed off now than when you were the kid with the biggest chip on your shoulder in all of Brooklyn.”
“I have a lot more to be pissed off about than I did then,” Steve muttered, focusing on his eggs.
“Yeah, tell me about it,” Bucky said, eyes dark.
“Sorry,” Steve said immediately. “I’m sorry, Buck. I know that what you went through--”
“Dammit, Steve! It’s not a competition for who HYDRA fucked over more!”
“…You kind of just said it was,” Steve said, lips tight.
Bucky’s jaw clenched, and it looked like he was going to yell again. But eventually he just sat back in his chair. “You know what? Forget I said anything.”
“Fine by me,” Steve said and dunked his toast in his coffee. He let it sit there until it was too soft and fell apart.
“Hey, I just realized what today is,” Bucky said, glancing at the calendar.
Steve nodded and looked down at his dinner plate, taking another bite of the baked potato. Bucky insisted on hot meals for dinner whenever both of them were home.
“You already knew,” Bucky surmised.
“It’s been five years exactly since you – um, you know…”
“Since I stopped being a mindless killer and surrendered myself to SHIELD custody.”
“Yeah.” Steve looked uncomfortable (still).
“In other words, five years since I took the first steps to coming home,” Bucky added, moving closer to Steve’s chair.
“Yeah,” Steve smiled.
Bucky hesitated, then said, “I remember what it was like, when I first came back. For months, I couldn’t stand to be in a room with anyone but you. It was so hard to think of people as anything other than commanders, weapons, or targets. It was hard to think of anything other than how to kill them.”
“That wasn’t your fault,” Steve said quickly.
“I know,” Bucky said, reaching out to weave his fingers with Steve’s. “I just mean… it was a tough transition. But once I realized that I should trust you, that I should let you in… that I could tell you every horrible fucked up thing that popped up in my head and that you would be okay, you wouldn’t break if I told you things that were hard to hear… I think that’s what helped me… well, not get back to 'normal.' But get back to someone I don’t mind being.”
Steve smiled and moved his hand up Bucky’s arm. “You know how grateful I am to you, too, right? I wouldn’t have anything without you.”
Bucky kept his smile tight on his face. “You would have a lot, Steve. And what I mean is… I just think if we really let each other in, that’s gonna keep helping us.”
“Yeah, Buck. Anything you want to say, I’m here.”
Bucky nodded. He recognized when Steve was pretending to not get the point, and there was no way to win a stubbornness contest with Steve Rogers.
“Okay, you want to order some dessert to celebrate? Sharon told me about this place that'll deliver hot fresh doughnuts,” Bucky said, smiling a little less brightly.
It wasn’t their first fight about Steve jumping into the path of danger a little too eagerly. But it was one of their worst.
After the battle, Bucky had had some choice words for Steve. When Tony came to Steve’s defense, Bucky had some choice words for him too. Finally, Natasha told them all to shut up and calm down or Clint would shoot them, and since Clint seemed amused by the idea, Steve and Tony stopped yelling.
Bucky just told Natasha, “If you really wanted to threaten us, you’d say that you’d shoot us, not Clint,” to which Clint replied, “Hey! That was harsh!”, thus inciting a new and more complex round of Avenger arguments.
Eventually, they all settled down, though Bucky managed to sneak the last word in, addressing all of the Avengers: “You guys know I’m right about Steve, though,” to which no one said anything in response.
After the debrief, when they were all in a better state of mind, they all apologized, or rather, they apologized in Avenger fashion, which included no words generally associated with apologies but instead small gestures indicating a lack of hostility: a compliment on one’s battle skills shown earlier in the day, an invitation to go out for Cuban sandwiches, a return of an arrow, or, in Tony’s case, a slap on the ass (to everyone but Natasha).
Steve and Bucky didn’t say much to each other as the team had sandwiches outside the food truck, instead mostly socializing with the rest of the team; Steve of course hadn’t hung out with the others in a while, so there was catching up to do.
At home, Bucky headed straight for the shower to clean off the day, without so much as a word. Steve waited until he was finished, then took one too.
After, he walked to the bedroom and put on boxers and a T-shirt. Bucky was in bed, reading.
Steve took a deep breath and said, “I’m too tired to fight.” He knew it sounded like pleading, but he didn’t care.
Bucky sighed and nodded, apparently taking pity on him. “We can talk tomorrow,” he said, and shoved the blanket aside, clearly welcoming Steve into bed.
Steve smiled in relief and slid in next to Bucky. He kissed Bucky, soft, then harder, let his lips open up for Bucky’s tongue to press into him.
“Tell me what you want,” Bucky said.
“But tonight, I want to give you what you want,” Bucky said pointedly, a smile on his face.
“Um, that thing where you start at my neck?”
“That thing where I kiss you up and down and then give you an amazing blowjob?” Bucky said. He occasionally liked to tease Steve for being shy about talking about sex (he luckily wasn’t shy about the sex itself).
“Yeah,” Steve said with a smile.
“That definitely sounds like a plan,” Bucky said, eyeing Steve’s body up and down with a leer.
Steve lay flat on his back and removed his shirt, and Bucky moved over him, kissing his neck, gently, then down to the shoulders, sucking hard bruises. He moved down Steve’s chest and stomach, savoring the whimpers as Steve tensed up in anticipation.
Bucky moved lower then, pulling Steve’s boxers down. He didn’t start right away (he never did). He caressed Steve’s balls first, eliciting a low moan. Then he kissed Steve’s right hip, then his left, teasing Steve with the proximity. Steve closed his eyes and waited for what Bucky was about to do.
“Steve?” Bucky said, sounding suddenly tense.
Steve opened his eyes. “Yeah?”
“...This is what we used to do back in Brooklyn. First I did you, then you did me.”
“Yeah, I remember,” Steve said with a wide smile.
Bucky hesitated. “When you closed your eyes just now… were you imagining it was back then?”
Steve stared at him.
“Holy shit,” Bucky said, and pulled away, standing up.
Steve got up and grabbed his arm. “It’s just a little fantasy, Buck.” His voiced cracked; he must have sounded desperate.
Bucky broke away and covered his own face with his hands. “It's not just one little fantasy. And it is not just this.” He turned away.
Steve moved to speak to him. “Bucky, it just helps sometimes… to remember.”
Bucky moved his hands from his face, and Steve could see the tears.
He hadn’t seen Bucky cry since that first hard year, when Bucky wasn’t even convinced that he was still human.
Bucky grabbed his shoulder, then cupped Steve’s face with the other hand. His fingers were soft on Steve’s cheek.
“Steve. Baby. I love you. But you have to come out of that ice. You are still in that ice,” Bucky said. He sounded angry, he sounded terrified, he sounded like he was about to give up on Steve.
“You don’t have to worry about me,” Steve said, willing Bucky with his eyes to accept it.
Bucky gripped his shoulder tighter. “Baby, please come out of that ice for me. Do it for me,” he said, voice dripping with desperation.
“Okay,” Steve said. He didn’t have any idea what Bucky meant, but he’d say anything, he’d do anything, for Bucky to stop looking at him like that.
Bucky pulled him in close and hugged him, pressure tight on Steve’s ribs, and Steve hugged him back, grateful.
“I know you’re lying,” Bucky whispered, breath hot against Steve’s ear, “But I’m with you ‘til the end of the line.”
Steve just hugged tighter.