"Stop hovering, Steve. I know you're out there."
At the sound of Bucky's voice, Steve snaps to attention like a four-star general just walked by, then slips sheepishly into the room. Bucky's lounging on a cot in his undershirt, hands folded behind his head, his hair still wet from the shower. He's got an unlit cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth.
"I'm not hovering."
Bucky's mouth does that thing where he's laughing but doesn't want to let it show. Steve hadn't thought he'd ever see it again and the sight of it now makes his stomach squirm in familiar, uncomfortable ways.
"I know you, and you're hovering." Bucky lets the laugh out now.
Steve closes his eyes briefly and lets it wash over him. "Hmph. Next time, I'll just let you rescue yourself, huh?"
Bucky nods at the edge of the cot. "Take a load off."
Steve sits, holding himself rigid. He takes up a lot more space then he used to, and he'd thought he'd gotten used to it, but now he can feel the heat of Bucky's shin pressing against his hip and it makes his skin feel like it's pulled too tight over his bones. He takes in a short, shallow breath and tries to will his heart to slow down.
"I had 'em on the ropes," Bucky says, and it's Steve's turn to laugh; it feels weird in his chest, like loose change rattling around in an old tin can, but he thinks it sounds normal. Or maybe not, because something in Bucky's face changes, softens somehow. "Hey," he says. "I'm all right. Thanks to you."
Steve smiles back. "All in a day's work."
"And twice on Sundays." Bucky grins. "At that rate, you'll be punching Hitler for real in a couple of weeks."
Steve laughs again and it sounds more natural this time. "It really is good to see you." He doesn't think the words are sufficient to convey how glad he really is, but he doesn't think the right words exist for that.
Bucky waves a hand before putting it back behind his head. "Right back atcha, brother, even if there's suddenly a lot more of you to see."
Steve thinks about taking his shirt off, offering to show Bucky just how different he is now, but that would be weird and wrong, and it's not like Bucky doesn't already know him, regardless of the extra hundred pounds of muscle he's acquired since the last time they saw each other. On the other hand, he hopes Bucky doesn't know him as well as all that, or he'd know what Steve was thinking, the way he wants to take his shirt off and preen like a peacock, like maybe Bucky would look at him the way he looks at girls.
Steve knows it's wrong, having these feelings about Bucky. He'd thought it was just because Bucky was his best friend--his only friend, really--the one who'd stood up for him when everybody else laughed. Because no girl had ever looked twice at a skinnymalink like him, but Bucky always had. He'd thought it was just one more defect, one he'd never tell another living soul about, and that becoming Captain America had cured it.
He feels a sudden tightness in his chest that reminds him of the early stages of an asthma attack and he swallows hard against it, thinking, I guess not.
"You all right?" Bucky sits up and puts a hand on Steve's shoulder. "You need something?"
"I'm fine," Steve insists. He's always been a lousy liar. Bucky knows him better than anyone, but Steve's pretty sure he doesn't know about this. Steve hopes he never finds out.
"Really? 'Cause you're stiff as a board." The hand on Steve's shoulder tightens, and Steve leans into the touch before he can stop himself.
He sighs, releasing some of the tension he's been holding onto since Phillips first told him that Bucky was gone. "When I thought you were dead--"
Bucky nods. "But I'm not." He moves his hand to the nape of Steve's neck and squeezes gently. His fingers are warm and rough, the touch both comforting and frightening. "So no more of that, okay?" He pulls Steve into a one armed hug and Steve lets him. He settles one hand on Bucky's hip and the other on his back, a loose hug no one would question. He presses his face to Bucky's shoulder and breathes in the achingly familiar smell of him.
Steve wants--he wants--He doesn't know what he wants. It doesn't matter. Bucky's alive. Steve can feel his chest rise and fall with each breath he takes. It should be enough. It has to be.
"Okay," he says, turning his head, his voice barely a whisper. He can feel the smooth skin of Bucky's collarbone against his lips.
Bucky goes stiff and Steve jerks back. "Steve?"
"Must be more tired than I thought," he says with a weak smile. "Rescuing bums like you is hard work."
Bucky shakes his head and Steve thinks he's going to let him get away with it, going to write it off as just another of his eccentricities, and then Bucky takes the cigarette out of his mouth, leans forward and kisses him.
Steve lets it go on long enough for the soft warmth of Bucky's lips against his to register, to revel in the electric thrill the touch sends through him, and then he pulls back again, all the way back to the door, leaving Bucky sitting on the cot with a wry expression on his face.
"And you said I got all the stupid in this relationship."
"Bucky." He presses his back to the closed door, as if someone might burst in now and bust them. "You're not--We can't--" He glances away from Bucky's steady gaze. "It's wrong."
"I like girls. You like girls."
Bucky shrugs. "Maybe I like you."
Steve touches his chest. "You like this, not--not me."
"You're an idiot." Bucky unfolds himself from the cot, takes two steps, and grabs Steve's shoulders. Steve has a second to think about how weird it still is to be taller than Bucky, and then Bucky is kissing him again. This time, it's no chaste press of closed lips; Bucky's tongue pushes into his mouth, sliding against his palate, and Steve gasps in shock at the feel of it, at the feel of Bucky's solid weight against his body. It's better than his furtive midnight fantasies were, could ever have been, because it's real, and it's Bucky.
Bucky's hands are curled in Steve's shirt, knuckles pressing hard into Steve's chest in a way that should hurt but just feels bracing right now. He wonders what to do with his hands before settling them on Bucky's hips, wonders what to do with his tongue until Bucky slides his against it. He wonders if he's ever going to be able to do anything again that isn't this.
And then Bucky lets him go.
Steve licks his lips, imagining he can still taste Bucky on them, and says, "What was that?" His voice sounds rough, like it used to when he'd had to run and couldn't get enough air in his lungs.
"Something for you to think about. When you come to a conclusion, let me know." He reaches behind Steve and opens the door. "Now get out of here. Reveille comes early."
Steve stumbles back to his bunk, lips tingling and mind racing. Despite having to get up early, he doesn't get much sleep, and he doesn't come to any conclusions.
At breakfast, he sits down next to Bucky, who gives him the old familiar grin, though there's a knowing glint in his eye. Steve kicks him gently in the ankle. Bucky nudges him back, and they scuffle silently while they eat. No matter what happens, Steve thinks they're going to be okay.