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It's Just Temporary

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Bucky was in bed long before Sam came home. He left him a note saying that he'd most likely see him on Sunday and not to worry about him; he was looking at this situation in a whole new way.

He was up stupidly early the next morning, his stomach in knots. He put on a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved shirt over a t-shirt and found his old hiking boots at the back of his closet. Bucky opted for his black pea-coat and a scarf and grabbed a banana to eat on his way out of the door. He stopped to get two coffees before heading to the subway to meet Steve. Although Steve lived a few stops on from Bucky, he had insisted they meet before heading to Jamaica and getting on the Long Island Rail Road. Bucky watched his breath plume as he walked; it was cold and still dark but the sky was clear and he hoped it was going to be a nice day. He hadn't been to the beach since he was thirteen and he felt like a little kid again, excited and energetic.

Steve was waiting on the platform for him wearing a grey duffel coat, jeans and walking boots. His cheeks were pink from the cold and he smiled when he saw Bucky. That was all Bucky needed to resolve himself to the fact that he would tell Steve how he felt today.

"Oh, please say that one of those is for me." He indicated gratefully to the coffee in Bucky's hand.

"No, I like to buy two for myself just in case one gets cold."

Steve rolled his eyes. "Jerk."

Bucky laughed and handed Steve his coffee. "There's vanilla in it."

Steve hummed out a pleased noise as he took a sip. "I made us sandwiches." He pointed to the backpack he was wearing.

"Shit, I didn't think to do anything like that," Bucky said. "I have money - "

Steve shook his head. "I always bring food. It was no trouble."

Bucky grinned. "I bet you were a boy scout when you were a kid."

Steve laughed as the train approached. "Yeah, but not a very good one. I couldn't build a campfire for shit."

The four hour journey to Montauk flew by; Steve seemed to be less nervous than he usually was as they sat facing each other on a table seat talking the whole way, telling each other stories from their childhoods. They talked about movies and music and Bucky was more comfortable than he'd ever been with anyone in his life; he didn't know if it was because he'd made up his mind to admit his feelings to Steve or because this trip seemed to symbolise something for him - some kind of transition in his life, maybe - but he let himself just enjoy being on a journey to somewhere he'd never been with someone he liked a lot.

The conversation somehow led to relationships and Bucky told Steve about his slightly volatile one with Bruce; how they had never agreed on anything, argued about everything and eventually parted ways, angry and frustrated. Steve had hesitated before telling Bucky about the one major relationship he'd had, not mentioning the guy by name but implying that the whole thing had been pretty one-sided on Steve's part. Given how he generally felt about himself, it had seemed to devastate him when the guy had just upped and walked out on him and he hadn't been with anyone since. Bucky had watched as Steve then tried to joke about something after telling him all that but he saw the hurt and couldn't quite believe how anyone wouldn't want this sweet, amazing guy. He thought about the new list he had made the night before and the first thing he had written down without any hesitation at all.

They had fallen into a comfortable silence at one point, both looking out of the window at the gorgeous morning sky and Bucky had started to hum. He hadn't even been aware he was doing it until Steve started to sing along softly. Bucky looked up with a smile. He had been humming Now I'm A Fool. He started to sing too and they both grinned and sang and everything was perfect.

***

Steve became an entirely different person when they got to Montauk; as soon as he stepped off of the train he was confident and lively, displaying a boyishness Bucky had never seen before.

"I thought we could head straight to the beach and eat if that's okay with you?" he asked.

"Sounds great," Bucky said and followed Steve as he led them through the Village, pointing out things of interest as they walked. Bucky nodded with enthusiasm and asked questions but his attention was all on Steve. He seemed comfortable in his own skin when he was here and it saddened Bucky to think of how little confidence he had back in New York. They reached the beach and Bucky could see why Steve loved it here so much; the sand stretched on for miles and the sea was wide and blue, catching glints from the late morning sun. They sat on the sand, not caring about the cold and ate pastrami and mustard sandwiches, laughing as a dog ran circles around it's owner, jumping into the surf to chase a Frisbee over and over. Steve handed Bucky an apple and he sat back and enjoyed how different the noises were here compared to the city; the crashing of the waves, the seagulls pin-wheeling and calling out above them and then landing to hop along the beach in search of food. He felt a strange sense of calm take him over. He was aware of eyes on him and turned to see Steve watching him with a little smile.

"We can walk along this beach to the dock," Steve said.

"Is it okay if we sit here a little while longer?" Bucky asked. "It's so nice."

Steve's smile widened. "Sure."

They sat for thirty minutes and Bucky just listened in contentment as Steve pointed out various plants, what kind of seaweed was common to the area, what species of fish you could expect to find, impressed by how much Steve knew. He talked about how as a kid - when his aunt had lived here before she died - he and his mom would come up every summer. One time he had tried to keep a few Hermit Crabs as pets and had cried his eyes out when they had all died.

"I think that's when I started to respect nature a lot more; I felt so bad that I'd unintentionally killed those poor crabs that I never took anything off of the beach again, except for a few shells or nice pebbles." Steve gave Bucky a questioning glance when he saw how Bucky was looking at him, a little smile quirking up the corner of his mouth. "What?"

Bucky shook his head and grinned. "Nothing. It's just...pretty cute. How bad you felt over a bunch of crabs."

Steve's face went red immediately and he smiled and drew circles in the sand with a finger. "Hermit Crabs are awesome. You'd feel bad too if you killed one and then found out just how amazing they are."

Bucky rested his arms on his knees. "I'm sure I would now."

Steve stood up and dusted the sand off of his jeans. He held out a hand and pulled Bucky to his feet when he took it. They walked down the beach, daring each other to get as close to the sea as they could without getting wet from the crashing surf. The waves weren't actually that big but the fear of getting their feet wet made them act like kids, shrieking and clutching at each other as the sea rolled in. Bucky was laughing harder than he had for a long time and he ran and shoved Steve playfully, shouting and sprinting off when Steve chased him, their laughter carrying along the shoreline. He wondered what anyone watching would think of two guys in their late twenties racing along the beach and trying to push each other into the sea.

Steve led them, both pink and out of breath at this point, off of the beach and they headed towards the docks where several charters and fishing boats were moored. Bucky couldn't stop smiling and nudged Steve as they walked, rewarded with a huge smile and a nudge back.

When they got to the dock, Steve rummaged in his bag and pulled out two boat tickets. Bucky immediately reached for his wallet to give Steve some money but Steve shook his head.

"No, this is on me."

"Oh hey, no. Come on. Let me pay you for my ticket," Bucky protested.

Steve just shook his head firmly. "Nope. Seeing the look on your face if we come across any whales will be payment enough."

Bucky rested his hands on his hips. "You're unbelievable."

Steve went to say something but just bit his bottom lip and indicated to a boat at the end of the dock where a few families and other couples were milling about waiting to board. "Come on."

As they stepped down the gangplank, the woman collecting the tickets greeted Steve by name and gave Bucky a pleased little smile. The boat was slightly smaller than Bucky had thought it would be but still large enough for a decent sized cabin with seats inside and a TV playing a looped DVD about whales. There was a drinks machine and Bucky grabbed them two coffees and they found a spot on the port side away from everyone else and he couldn't help but feel the exhilaration rise inside of him as they set out to sea. It would take an hour to get to the best spot, the guide's voice over the speaker system told them.

"Want to hear something dumb?" Bucky asked, one hand on the rail in front of them as the boat jostled on the waves.

Steve took a sip of his coffee, his hands wrapped around the small paper cup, managing somehow to keep his balance despite the movement of the boat. "What?"

"I've never been on a boat before."

Steve laughed. "That's not dumb. I've never been on a plane before."

Bucky leaned over the side and watched the spray below as they sped across the surface of the water. It was freezing out here on the deck but he didn't care. "I guess that means I'll have to take you somewhere on a plane for our next date." He glanced up to see Steve's reaction; they hadn't actually agreed that this was a date but it was clear that it was.

Steve looked down at his hands for a second and then met Bucky's eyes. "Sounds like a fair trade."

They both smiled shyly at each other and stood side-by-side watching the water.

***

The boat started to slow when they were completely surrounded by the ocean - the land having faded away to nothing a while back - and the guide told everyone to keep an eye out; another boat had radioed them to let them know that a whale had been spotted in the area. Bucky buzzed with anticipation; he might actually get to see a real whale right now. Steve was scanning the surface of the water, obviously knowing what he was looking for and Bucky waited patiently. The guide on the loudspeaker started to speak just as Steve pointed excitedly to a spot of water about twenty metres from the boat.

"There!" He stood close to Bucky and they caught sight of a spray of water and a large dark shape disappearing under the surface.

"Keep watching," Steve said, his hand gripping Bucky's arm. "Hopefully whoever it is will breach."

They both watched and Bucky ignored the guide's voice, too distracted by Steve pressed close to his side and the anticipation of seeing the whale break the surface. There was a collective gasp on the boat from the other passengers as a huge tail appeared and slowly disappeared again beneath the waves. Bucky's breath caught in his throat.

"That's Paikea!" Steve exclaimed excitedly and turned to Bucky, watching his face to see what he thought.

Bucky blinked, unable to believe what he'd just seen. "H-holy shit." He swallowed and glanced at Steve. "She's your favorite, right?"

Steve was beaming. "Yeah, she is."

They watched as Paikea's tail appeared a couple more times and each time Bucky couldn't help the small gasp that escaped him; it was unreal to think that an animal that big was just below them. Then there was nothing for ten minutes. The guide insisted they stay for a while, that Paikea was probably diving for food and would appear again soon to breathe.

Bucky was about to ask Steve something about what whales ate when Paikea broke the surface in a huge breach, her entire body leaping above the surface. Bucky froze and watched as she crashed down, her fins slapping the water. He was speechless; he had no fucking idea how beautiful and huge and spectacular whales really were. He didn't know what to do with himself. Steve turned to look at him.

"Oh my god," Bucky whispered.

Steve leant on the boat rail and gazed dreamily out at the water. "I know, right?" he said softly.

Bucky could feel his throat go tight and hot and suddenly everything was too much: Being out here with Steve and sharing with him the most amazing thing he'd ever seen in his life, losing his job, trying to become a better person. He thought about his family and how, even though they had known him his whole life, they had given up on him, unwilling to forgive him his past. How he was here in the middle of the ocean with a guy who had known him less than three months and who believed in him and wanted him to succeed. Who cared about him. Paikea broke the surface again and Bucky couldn't stop the tears that came - year's worth of self-loathing finally overwhelming him.

Steve turned immediately when he heard Bucky's sobs and stepped closer to him, putting an arm around his shoulder, his face soft and concerned. "Buck? It's alright."

Bucky shook his head, trying to mumble out an apology between his tears. Steve just pulled him in and held him and Bucky cried into Steve's shoulder, letting out the hurt he had kept bottled inside for so long. He could feel Steve rest a hand lightly on the back of his head, stroking his hair gently, not saying anything and just letting Bucky cry. He gripped Steve tighter.

He eventually pulled away, his sobs now just hitching breaths and was going to apologise again but Steve just shook his head, his eyes sad with understanding. He kept an arm around Bucky's shoulder as Bucky wiped his face with one hand and looped his other arm around Steve's waist. They stood together and watched as Paikea leapt from the water, while Steve rubbed his hand gently up and down Bucky's arm.

There was an enormous sense of relief in him then, like something festering and unbearable had been removed from his body. Bucky finally felt like he could leave the thing that had made him feel so bad for so long out here at sea, where it could sink to the bottom as he started a new life on the surface.

***

The boat stayed in that spot for another forty minutes and Paikea eventually started to head away, her breaching petering out to soft puffs of spray as she broke the water less and less. The boat chugged to life again and started to head back to Montauk. Bucky took a deep shuddery breath and turned to Steve.

"Thank you," he croaked out, his voice still wet with emotion. He cleared his throat. "You have no idea what..." He couldn't get the words out.

Steve gave a tiny shake of his head and put a hand on Bucky's shoulder. "I think I do."

Bucky frowned and nodded. He indicated to the cabin of the boat. "I just need to clean up."

Steve smiled and squeezed Bucky's shoulder before he let go and turned away, gazing back to the spot in the ocean where Paikea had been.

Bucky locked the door of the tiny bathroom in the boat's cabin and splashed his face with water. He looked at himself in the mirror; his eyes were red and his hair was a mess from the wind and he smoothed it down as best he could even though it would be all over the place again as soon as he stepped back onto the deck. He took a few deep breaths, steeling himself for what he had set out today to do.

Steve was still in the same spot when Bucky joined him again; a lot of the other passengers were huddled in the boat's cabin, away from the biting wind. Steve turned to him as he approached.

"Everything okay?" he asked gently. Bucky let himself look at Steve for a moment; he was crazy about the man he had met and got to know from New York but seeing how he was out here, on the ocean surrounded by the things he cherished the most, Bucky may have fallen a little bit in love with him.

Bucky nodded and smiled. "Yeah. Yeah, I think it is."

Steve smiled and Bucky stepped towards him and raised his hand, brushing it through Steve's hair which was dishevelled and stuck up every which way from the wind too. He heard Steve's breath hitch and he stiffened slightly at Bucky's touch.

"Your hair's a mess," Bucky said, trying to keep his voice even and light as Steve watched him, his blue eyes wide and nervous as they flitted between Bucky's own eyes and his lips. Bucky stilled his hand on the back of Steve's neck, his finger's trembling slightly and pulled him in. It was like that was all Steve had been waiting for and he immediately leaned in to Bucky and they kissed. Steve's lips were dry from the wind and Bucky could taste salt on them from the sea spray but he didn't care; it was the best kiss he'd ever had because he knew that Steve wanted him. Steve was gentle and hesitant at first but then he rested his hands on Bucky's waist and pulled him in closer, kissing him more insistently but with such tenderness that it made Bucky's heart feel too big. The boat hit a large swell and they jostled into each other at the wrong angle and their teeth clashed together but they just both laughed and pulled away, still holding each other, their faces close.

Steve looked happy. "I thought we would never do that."

Bucky smiled and bit his lip. "I wish I'd kissed you the other night after karaoke."

"I was hoping you would; I was too scared to make a move myself." He looked at Bucky and smiled wider. "But I'm glad we didn't because this is just...perfect." He kissed Bucky softly again. Everything about Steve just felt right and Bucky didn't care if he got everything else wrong in his life from this point on; this moment was his.

"Steve," Bucky said quietly when they pulled apart again. "I...you're amazing. You really are. I've never met anyone like you."

Steve started to shake his head in disagreement but Bucky just brushed his hand through Steve's hair again. "No, you are. You're so kind and honest and...I'm so scared that I'll disappoint you just like I've disappointed everyone else."

Steve's brow furrowed. "How could you ever disappoint me? You've been nothing but honest with me since the day we met. That's what I liked about you, from that first day you came to work in the office. Bucky, you're so much more than you think you are. I don't care what you did in the past; I wish you could forgive yourself because the person stood in front of me is genuine and talented and brave. Before I met you, I was sad and lost and too scared to make myself happy. But now, I feel like I could do anything. I want you, Bucky."

Bucky could feel himself start to choke up again and Steve just pulled him in, pressing his cheek to Bucky's and holding him tight. Bucky let himself sink into Steve's warmth and they stood together like that for a long time. Bucky thought he too might never feel lost again.

***

They were holding hands as they got off of the boat and Steve said goodbye to the woman on the dock who had taken their tickets; she had a big smile on her face as she watched them walk away. It was almost four-thirty - later than Bucky had thought - but he didn't want the day to end. He wasn't ready for the day to end.

Steve turned to him. "Do you want to get an early dinner? We'll be back in New York pretty late anyway so we might as well make the most of it."

Bucky nodded and smiled, unable to take his eyes off of Steve. He looked amazing; there was a new air of certainty about him now and Bucky was thrilled (and kind of terrified) that he had something to do with that.

"That sounds great," he said and pulled Steve to the side of the dock; the sky looked incredible - the sun was low on the horizon, a warm slash against the deepening blue of the water. They watched for a few moments and then Bucky wrapped his arms around Steve's neck and pressed their foreheads together. Steve held him back and let out a content sigh.

"I wish we could stay longer," Bucky said and brushed his lips against Steve's again. "I love it here."

Steve pulled back and took one of Bucky's hands, kissing it softly. "Maybe next time we could come up for a weekend."

Bucky grinned and they headed off towards the Village.

***

They found a small restaurant and ordered pasta, both hungrier than they had realized.

"It's the sea air," Steve said with a smile as he watched Bucky from across the small table.

Bucky smirked. "The sea air seems to do a lot of things. Got me brave enough to actually make a move on you."

They ate and talked and even though Bucky had no job to go back to on Monday and Steve faced uncertainty and upheaval in his own job, they finally had each other and Bucky didn't care about anything else. He would find another job somehow and he would work on his writing but knowing that Steve would be there this time made it all seem less daunting than it had been before.

They finished eating and paid the check and headed back towards the station. When they got on the train, they found two seats near the back of the carriage and huddled together; Bucky rested his head against Steve and watched as he took Bucky's hand and ran his finger gently over his palm in little swirls, the touch slightly ticklish but also relaxing and strangely intimate.

"Montauk's always been a special place for me," Steve said quietly. "Ever since I was a kid. No matter how bad I felt about myself I always felt like the person I wanted to be whenever I was there. My mom stopped going when my aunt died - there are too many memories for her there and she never quite figured out how to make them into happy ones. But I kept going back. I've never shared it with anyone until now." He closed his hand over Bucky's and they laced their finger's together.

Bucky swallowed hard. "I'm glad you thought I was worth sharing it with."

Steve shifted in his seat so that he was facing Bucky. "You have no idea what you're worth to me. You really don't."

Bucky had to look away from Steve's eyes for a moment; they were so honest and full of hope for him that he almost couldn't take it. As starved as he had been for someone to feel this way about him, to believe in him and think he was worth something, it scared him to want to take it all and use it to try and overwrite the years of damage just in case it wasn't enough. Bucky let Steve turn his head back to face him, his hand gentle on Bucky's jaw.

"I just...I just want you to know that you never have to hide who you are with me. You can be James or you can be Bucky or whoever you choose to be but...I just want you to be happy. You deserve to be happy."

Bucky blinked back more tears and chuffed out a little laugh. "God, I haven't cried this much since I was fifteen." He wiped his eyes. "You make me happy, Steve."

Steve had to wipe away a few tears of his own and they both laughed together.

***

They drew closer to New York and Bucky hadn't even realized that he'd fallen asleep until Steve was waking him, saying his name, his breath soft and sweet against his ear.

"Are we nearly back?" Bucky sat up and rubbed his neck.

"Yeah," Steve sounded a little wistful. "Can we see each other tomorrow?"

Bucky grinned. "You're going to have a hard time keeping me away. Now that I've got you, I'm not letting you go."

Steve's face broke into a huge smile. "Lunch at mine? I make a mean moussaka."

Bucky leaned across and kissed him, smiling when Steve let out a small happy sigh against Bucky's mouth. "Today was incredible, Steve. Thank you so much."

Steve rested his head on the back of the seat with a content smile. "Oh," he said and leaned forward to reach into his coat pocket. "I have something for you." He pulled out a spiralled seashell; it was a rich cream color that glinted with flecks of purple when it caught the light. Bucky held out his hand and took it.

Steve looked at the shell in Bucky's palm, an uncertain frown settling on his face. "This might sound a little silly but I'm pretty sure a Hermit Crab used this shell and left it behind when it found a better one. I guess...even though you lost your job, you don't have to worry because I know that something better will come along for you. I thought this could be a...I don't know...a symbol of that or something?" He huffed out an embarrassed breath. "This sounded so much better when it was in my head."

Bucky laughed and took Steve's hand. "No, I get it. That's so sweet; no-one's ever compared me to a Hermit Crab before."  

Steve groaned. "No, I didn't mean it to sound like - "

Bucky shut Steve up with a kiss. "I like it. And I totally get what you wanted to say with this. Thank you."

Steve smiled shyly and let out another small sigh. "I guess I'm a little out of practice with this kind of thing."

They finally arrived back in New York and got on the subway train heading back to Brooklyn. For the most part they stood close together holding hands. Every so often Bucky would feel Steve squeeze his hand gently. He squeezed back, the small reassuring gesture reminding him that this was really happening. He felt a small sense of loss as his stop approached.

"This is me," he said.

Steve leaned in and kissed Bucky again; he was so damn gentle. "See you tomorrow. I'll text you my address."

Bucky nodded. Part of him wanted more right now but he knew it was better to take it slow; they had time. There was no need to rush everything. He started to head to the door as the train slowed and Steve quickly grabbed his hand and yanked him back in for another kiss, slightly less gentle this time. Bucky giggled and pulled back, worried that he would get carried away and miss his stop. Steve grinned at him and leant against the handrail nearest the door.

Bucky stepped off onto the platform and looked back. Steve still had that big goofy smile on his face and he just held up a hand as the door closed. Bucky watched until the train was out of sight and he was alone on the platform. He opened his hand and looked at the shell Steve had given him. He clutched it tightly as he walked home.

***

"Well, I was going to ask how the big date went but it's pretty fucking obvious from that stupid look on your face," Sam said with a huge grin late the next morning. He was eating cereal and watching TV when Bucky walked into the living room.

He laughed softly and sat down next to him. "Um, yeah. It went really well."

"I'm guessing in a Steve's-now-my-hot-boyfriend kind of way."

"Yes. It went that kind of well."

Sam laughed and punched Bucky in the shoulder. "I'm happy for you, man! He seems like a great guy."

Bucky sighed and slouched back into the couch. "He really is, Sam. Part of me is still worried that I'm not good enough for him but...he makes me want to be good enough."

Sam put his bowl down on the table. "Buck, you've always been good enough. The only person who doesn't believe it is you. I've always believed it and Steve sure as hell does. Just let yourself accept that something good has come along and you can have it."

Bucky nodded. "I-I think I'm ready to let myself have this. As for jobs, I'll worry about all of that shit tomorrow. For now, I'm off to have lunch with my boyfriend."

Sam just grinned again. "Congrats, man. Say hi to Steve for me."

***

Bucky's stomach fluttered with nerves the closer he got to Steve's apartment and he chided himself for getting so worked up; they had spent all day yesterday together and had texted each other most of last night. But he knew it was because this was special; he had never felt this way about someone before. It wasn't like Steve would have suddenly changed his mind about him overnight but that side of Bucky, the side that thought he should never have anything good, was still there and would take a long time to eradicate. I deserve him, he thought to himself over and over.

He found Steve's building - an old brownstone - and headed in. Steve's apartment was on the third floor and he swallowed hard and knocked on the front door. When Steve answered, any trepidation he had been feeling melted away. Steve looked like he hadn't seen Bucky for a week and ushered him in. As soon as the front door was closed, Steve's arms were around him, strong and warm and he kissed Bucky like he'd been thinking of nothing else since they had parted ways at the station last night. Bucky was more than happy with that and kissed him back eagerly; Steve's lips were softer and less chapped than they had been yesterday and he tasted like blueberries and Bucky thought that he could do this forever. They finally stopped, both flushed and smiling.

"Hi," Steve said, slightly out of breath.

Bucky laughed. "Hi yourself."

"I didn't think I could miss someone so much in just over twelve hours."

"Yeah, me too." Bucky had been so distracted that he hadn't noticed the amazing aroma in the apartment. "Wow, that smells great."

Steve grinned. "I may be lacking in the self-confidence department but I can happily admit that I'm a really good cook." He stepped back and took Bucky's hand. "Come on, I'll give you the grand tour of all three rooms and then we'll eat."

Steve's apartment was small and neat; he had lots of pictures in the living room of sea-life on the walls, gorgeous canvas prints and framed photos of whales, close-ups of tide-pools and, to Bucky's amusement, a Hermit Crab in mid-scuttle. There was a framed picture of Steve and a small slender woman, arms around each other, both laughing at the camera. His mom, Bucky guessed.

Bucky looked at another photo of a whale breaching the surface; it was a gorgeous professional picture, almost every drop of water surrounding the whale defined and glistening. He recognised the markings on the fins. "Wow, who took this? It's Paikea, right?"

Steve nodded. "I took it."

"Holy shit, you're a photographer too? You've been holding out on me, Rogers."

Steve laughed. "That was a lucky shot. I have a digital SLR but I don't use it that often. That's probably the best picture I've ever managed to take."

"So modest," Bucky said as Steve led him down the hall, dodging as Steve swatted at him.

"Um, this is my room." Steve suddenly looked awkward.

Bucky peered in at the impeccably made bed, the books piled on both nightstands. "Nice," he said with a little grin and flicked Steve a sly wink.

Steve immediately blushed and Bucky laughed, taking his hand again. "Let's see how good a cook you are. Feed me."

Steve chuckled and they headed back to the living room; Steve insisted that Bucky go and sit on the couch while he got everything ready. Bucky watched him as he bustled in the small kitchen, eventually joining him with two plates of moussaka and a couple of sodas.

Steve looked on a little anxiously as Bucky took a mouthful. "Okay," he said when he swallowed. "This is amazing. I'll let you cook for me forever."

Steve laughed and they ate in silence, comfortable together, their legs touching. When they were finished, Steve put the dishes in the dishwasher and then joined Bucky back on the couch, sitting close to him and gently ran his fingers across Bucky's shoulder and up his neck, then back again.

"It's going to be weird not seeing you at work tomorrow."

Bucky hummed in agreement. "How do you feel? You're going to be on a completely different floor away from everyone."

Steve sighed. "I don't have a choice. But I'll be okay. How about you?"

Bucky shrugged and rested his head on Steve's shoulder. "I guess I'll call my agency. Hopefully something will come up."

Steve kissed the top of Bucky's head. "Just let me know if I can do anything to help."

"You're already helping." He took Steve's hand and clasped it, thinking about the seashell in his jacket pocket.

"So, do you want to watch a movie or something?" Steve asked.

Bucky pretended to think. "Nope."

"We could go out?"

"Nah," Bucky said and faced Steve, moving in to kiss him softly on his neck. God, he smelled so good.

Steve chuckled. "Um, we could stay right here and make out on my couch?"

Bucky nodded as he gently nipped Steve's skin. "I like that plan."

Steve made a small pleased noise and then said, "Wait a sec..." Bucky pulled away, worried that he'd done something wrong.

"What?"

Steve grinned. "You said you'd take me somewhere on a plane for our next date."

Bucky huffed out a relieved breath and punched Steve lightly on the arm. "We might have to reschedule that one."

Steve pulled Bucky into another infuriatingly gentle kiss. "I can wait. I'd much rather be doing this right now."

***

They spent the better part of the day on Steve's couch, kissing and getting to know each other by touch; it had been almost a year for Bucky now since he had been with anyone and he wanted to take things slow and he got the feeling that Steve did too. The kissing was good though, very good and they ran fingers through hair and discovered ticklish spots; Steve's was his sides and he squirmed and yelped out a surprised laugh when Bucky ran his hands softly over his ribs. Bucky's was his lower back and he shrieked at Steve to stop when he pinned Bucky to him with one big arm and strummed his fingertips like spiders under Bucky's shirt, laughing wickedly the whole time, the little (big) shit. They held each other close and Bucky saw the light smattering of freckles across Steve's nose and cheeks that he'd never noticed before, how long his eyelashes were.

"You have the most amazing eyes," Steve said as he traced a finger across Bucky's eyebrow and down the side of his face.

Bucky was feeling almost drunk from kissing Steve for so long and how warm he was, his heat enveloping Bucky like a blanket. "Your eyes are amazing too," he mumbled, as Steve ran his fingers gently across his neck. "They look like the sea." He winced at how dumb that sounded, the words out before he could think better of them but Steve just smiled like Bucky had read him the world's most romantic poem.

They finished off the rest of the moussaka for dinner and then kissed some more, so wrapped up in each other they didn't notice the time getting later and later. Bucky had his head buried in the crook of Steve's neck, both of them all kissed out and sleepy, pressed against each other on the couch. He reached over to the coffee table to look at his phone.

"Shit," he muttered, not wanting to move. "It's ten-thirty. How the fuck did it get so late?"

Steve's arms tightened around him. "Don't want you to leave."

Bucky huffed out a groan of agreement and raised his head, propping himself up on Steve's chest. "I don't want to either but we're grown-ups and we have work and stupid responsibilities and shit to get back to tomorrow."

Steve laughed softly. "Being a grown-up sucks." He hesitated and then looked up at Bucky, slightly nervous. "Um, you could stay over if you wanted. I mean, not to, y' know...just to...sleep..."

Bucky raised an eyebrow. "Well, I am really tired...would I have to sleep out here?"

Steve somehow managed to blush, even though they'd spent the better part of the day fumbling with each other. "We're grown-ups; I think we can sleep in the same bed."

Bucky scrambled up and dragged Steve with him. "Okay, bedtime."

Steve laughed and turned off the living room light and they headed down the hall to Steve's room. He rooted around in a drawer to find Bucky something to wear while Bucky looked at the stacks of books on Steve's nightstand. Nearly all of them were about the sea or sea-life. He looked up on the wall and there was a framed photo of Steve on a boat with four other guys, all of them holding the biggest fish Bucky had ever seen, laughing together. It must have been from when Steve worked on the fishing trawler in Montauk. He looked slightly younger and happy, truly happy. There was that light in his eyes that Bucky had seen yesterday and something twinged inside of him as he looked at the picture. Why was Steve here when he was obviously happiest out on the ocean doing what he loved? Bucky wanted to ask him but he was afraid of the answer; afraid that he wouldn't be enough to keep Steve here if he asked. He turned away from the picture quickly.

Steve handed him a black t-shirt and a pair of flannel pyjama bottoms. "I'll get you a spare toothbrush. I'll probably have to leave at around seven forty-five in the morning but don't feel like you have to rush off."

Bucky put the clothes on the bed and held Steve again. "I'm not exaggerating when I say that the last couple of days have been two of the best of my life."

Steve let out a small shuddery breath. "Mine too. I...I like you a lot, Bucky."

"I like you a lot, too." Bucky kissed Steve on the tip of his nose and Steve smiled.

"I'll get you that toothbrush."

When they finally crawled into bed, shuffling close together, Bucky could already feel himself drifting to sleep, the heat from Steve's body making him drowsy again. He nuzzled into Steve's chest.

"You're so warm," he mumbled.

He felt a rumble as Steve gave a sleepy chuckle and curled an arm around Bucky's waist. "I could get used to this."

Bucky nodded against him and was feeling the pull of unconsciousness when Steve stirred slightly.

"Buck?"

"Hmmm?"

"It's...it's been a while since I've been with anyone. Intimately, I mean."

Bucky raised his head, unable to see him in the dark. "That doesn't matter. It's been a while for me too. We can take this as slow as you want."

He could feel Steve relax against him. "Thank you."

Bucky nestled into him again. "I want to get this right. You're special, Steve."

Steve didn't say anything but his hold on Bucky tightened slightly. Bucky fell asleep feeling wanted and safe and...happy.

***

When Bucky blinked awake the next morning, Steve's side of the bed was empty. Bucky couldn't help but feel disappointed; he must have already left for work. He wished that Steve had woken him up. He rolled onto his back and was deciding what he should do today when he heard footsteps in the hall. Steve appeared in the doorway, still in his t-shirt and flannel pants with two cups of coffee. His face lit up when he saw that Bucky was awake.

"Good morning." He put the two cups down on his dresser and crawled back into bed. He kissed Bucky on the cheek.

"What time is it?" Bucky asked him.

"Nine forty-five."

Bucky frowned. "Aren't you super late for work?"

Steve was trying to hold back a smile. "I may have called in sick..."

Bucky laughed and rolled over, sliding his hand around Steve's back. "Not that I'm complaining because I think I want to wake up to you as often as I can but we're going to have to get back into real life at some point."

Steve sighed and snuggled closer. "I know. I'm just...should a grown man really be scared about starting a job in a different department?"

Bucky chuckled softly and stroked Steve's cheek. "It's okay to be scared. I know how things like this are for you."

"Are you scared? About looking for a new job?"

"Not as much as I would have been three months ago."

"How come?" Steve asked, running his hand lazily up and down Bucky's side.

Bucky stilled his hand on Steve's neck. "Because I have you now."

Steve immediately surged into Bucky for a kiss; they were both a little sour in the breath department but Bucky didn't care. He made a noise of disapproval into Steve's mouth when his phone started to ring.

"You don't have to answer it," Steve breathed between kisses.

Bucky sighed and reached across to the nightstand for it. "I should; it might be my agency." He giggled and shoved Steve away when he tried to chase Bucky's mouth with his own. He didn't recognise the number that flashed on his phone's screen.

"Hello?" Bucky said, grinning as Steve rested his head on Bucky's stomach and gazed up at him with huge puppy dog eyes and a pout.

"Hello James, it's Natasha."

Bucky raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Oh, hi Natasha." Steve cocked his head, curious.

"I'm sorry to call you out of the blue like this but I've just heard that Shield Securities have an opening they're looking to fill. Data entry, much like what you were doing here at Stark Industries. If you're interested, they can see you tomorrow morning for an interview. I hope you don't mind but I put your name forward with a personal recommendation."

Bucky quirked a smile at Steve. "Wow, yes. That would be...fantastic. Thank you." A job interview! He felt that immense sense of gratitude towards Natasha again. She was still giving him chances.

Steve smiled, picking up on the good news and climbed off of the bed. As he made his way to grab the two cups of coffee he had carried in earlier, he stubbed his toe on the corner of his dresser and let out a groan of pain. Bucky tried not to laugh as Steve made a face and clutched at his foot.

"Great," Natasha said. "They can see you at eleven. The interview is with Nick Fury. Give his name at the front desk."

"Thank you, Natasha. You...you didn't have to do this." He knew that she had maybe pulled some strings for him.

"I didn't do anything. They have a position, you need a job."

"Of course. Thanks for letting me know." He grinned again.

"You're welcome." She paused for a beat. "Tell Steve I hope he feels better soon." He could hear the smirk in her voice. Then she hung up.

Bucky fell back onto the pillow and laughed as Steve looked at him expectantly. "Natasha said she hopes you feel better soon. Oh, and I have a job interview tomorrow morning."

Steve jumped back on the bed, almost crushing Bucky beneath him. "You have an interview?" He looked ecstatic before he registered the other thing Bucky had said and his face turned from happy to horrified. "She heard me?"

Bucky giggled and wrestled Steve beneath him. "Shield Securities tomorrow morning for a data entry position and yeah, she probably guessed why you called in sick."

Steve let out a moan of embarrassment and wrapped his arms around Bucky. "Great, everyone in the old office will know in the next five minutes that we're a thing now; I think even Natasha won't be able to keep that one quiet. They can all still hound me with emails..."

"They'll only do it because they like you. Anyway, come on and congratulate me some more on my job interview." Bucky bit his lip.

Steve grinned up at him and pulled Bucky down until their mouths were barely touching. "Congratulations," he said softly and brushed their lips together.

With nothing to do for the rest of the day, they stayed in bed for a while kissing and talking and Bucky felt a weight lift from him. While he wasn't getting his hopes up, he had a feeling that the job was his; Natasha had definitely talked someone into something. When they finally crawled out of bed, Steve made them both strawberry pancakes and they watched Blue Planet. Bucky stretched out against Steve on the couch and Steve ran his finger in spirals again and again over Bucky's palm.

Steve nudged him when a Hermit Crab appeared on screen. "That's you."

Bucky poked Steve in the side but he smiled. There were worse things in life to be than a Hermit Crab.

***

DARCY: Soooooooooo, you and Steve are FINALLY an item! Took you long enough, Bucky Bear!

BUCKY: Don't call me that

DARCY: You love it. Anyway, you and Steve...

BUCKY: Yes, we're an item :)

DARCY: I'm happy for the two of you. Seriously

BUCKY: Thanks Darcy

DARCY: Speaking of couples, tell Steve that Natasha and Clint have a little thing of their own going on too even though they think that no-one knows about it

BUCKY: You live for this shit don't you?

***

Bucky got the job at Shield Securities; it was pretty much the same thing he had been doing at Stark Industries - processing invoices - but the people were nice and it was a secure position. He was relieved that he finally had a stable job and he was working harder on his writing now, showing Steve everything he produced. He was a great critic - he didn't hold back or pander to Bucky's ego but he was positive and encouraging and Bucky's confidence in his writing grew day by day. Steve himself was doing okay in his new job; he didn't love it but he complained very little, enjoying his time with Bucky almost every other waking moment. They hung out a lot with Sam, played raquetball with the others and Steve even started to come to Logan's on a Friday. Pete and Brock got him hammered on Tequila shots one night and Bucky cursed them for a week - carrying home a 6'2'' guy who weighed nearly 240 pounds had been one of the least fun things he'd ever had to do, especially when Steve had puked over his feet on the subway. Steve had apologised to him every day after that but Bucky couldn't stay mad; one look into Steve's soulful blue eyes had him laughing about the whole thing and he promised Steve that he wouldn't let him drink Tequila ever again.

Being with Steve was like nothing else; he was the kindest, most genuine person Bucky had ever known. They kept things slow, both still finding their feet but Bucky was certain that Steve was it for him. He didn't tell Steve that, he was too scared, but he knew. It was nearly two and a half months into their relationship before they slept together; they were in Montauk for a weekend, both happy and excited to be away from the city and together somewhere as a couple. It had become a special place for Bucky too: It was the place where he had first seen a whale and the place where he and Steve had admitted their feelings for each other. They spent the day at the Point and walked to the lighthouse and Bucky laughed at the stories Steve told him from the summers he had spent up here. He wished he had known Steve when he was younger; maybe his own life wouldn't have taken such a wrong turn if he had met the skinny shy boy Steve used to be. Maybe they both would have lived different lives had they grown up together.

They stumbled back to the hotel, tired but happy, intending to rest for a little while then go out and get dinner. Bucky flopped on the bed and went to turn on the TV but Steve dropped down next to him, almost bouncing Bucky onto the floor in the process and they laughed and started to fool around. But then their kissing became more frantic, their hands everywhere, suddenly unable to touch each other enough, needing more. Bucky wrestled Steve out of his shirt and Steve all but ripped Bucky out of his, both of them gasping into each other's mouths. Bucky pulled back slightly and smiled at Steve, taking in how beautiful he looked in this moment, flushed and bright eyed. Steve smiled back and kissed Bucky softly, his hands sliding down Bucky's chest to the waistband of his jeans.

Afterwards, as they lay pressed together with Steve's head buried in Bucky's neck, still breathing heavily, Bucky wanted more than anything to tell Steve that he loved him. He knew that he loved him, he had known for a while now but he was still too scared to say the words; the fear that he could still somehow screw this all up hadn't been eradicated. Instead, he kissed the top of Steve's head, brushing a hand through his damp blond hair.

"There's that sea air again," he mumbled, exhausted.

He felt the comforting rumble of Steve's laughter against him and for now, that was enough.

***

As good as things had been, Bucky wasn't surprised when disillusionment started to slip through again.

He let out a sigh as he got off of the subway and started to walk home. It hadn't been a great couple of weeks. His job at Shield Securities had settled into a mundane routine that wasn't the same as it had been at Stark Industries; Steve wasn't there for a start and although the people were nice, Bucky had no real friends in the office. While his writing was gaining momentum, the workload at Shield was so demanding that he was too beat to do anything when he got home and he just wanted to spend time with Steve. It had been four months since they had started their relationship and things were good between them, really good, but Bucky knew that Steve wasn't happy in his job either. Moving departments hadn't been good for him - there were fewer people where he was now and he was completely isolated at his workstation; he practically shut himself off whenever he was at work and barely spoke to anybody. He tried to hide how down it was making him but Bucky knew him well enough by now and he hated seeing Steve take such a step backwards with his confidence but he didn't know what to do about it; they were both in a rut at the moment.

His relationship with his family was still fractured; he hadn't thought that all the areas of his life were suddenly going to be perfect and amazing but he had wanted to try harder with his parents. Offers of meeting for dinner were met with excuse after excuse until he stopped bothering, trying not to let Steve see just how much it hurt him and how embarrassed he was that his own parents couldn't even make the effort to meet his boyfriend. Steve's mom was incredible; she took to Bucky instantly and having dinner with her for the first time, the three of them laughing and chatting animatedly over the best lasagne Bucky had ever tasted, had almost been a little too much for him. It had made him realize what he would never have with his own parents. Steve had squeezed his hand reassuringly under the table when his mom had gone to grab dessert and Bucky had looked at him wistfully; he understood.

"Your mom is amazing," he had said on the way back to Steve's.

Steve had put an arm across Bucky's shoulder and pulled him close. "She really likes you."

"I'm sorry that my parents don't want to meet you," Bucky had said quietly.

Steve had kissed him on the temple. "Don't be sorry."

The worst news had come last night: Sam was moving to Washington.

"It's a great job," Sam told him. "The kind I've been working towards since I graduated."

Bucky had smiled and hugged him, hiding the hurt as best he could. He didn't want to lose Sam. "Dude, that's awesome. I'll...I'll miss you a lot."

Sam had smiled sadly. "Same here, Buck." He took a breath and put his hands on his hips. "I won't be able to keep this house."

Bucky had known this was coming too. He nodded. "I'll figure something out."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be," Bucky had said with a smile. "If this had happened about eight months ago, I probably would have had a total meltdown. I'm in a better place now. You've had a lot to do with that." He had rummaged through the papers next to his laptop on the dining table and pulled out a sheet of yellow legal paper. "Remember when you made me write that stupid list about what I wanted to get out of my life? I made a new one just after I lost my job at Stark Industries."

Sam had smiled as he read the new list. "Have A Relationship With Steve Rogers, Write A Novel, Get Published, Be Happy With Who I Am." He looked up at Bucky then. "Well, I know that you've made one of these happen so far..."

"Maybe two," Bucky had shrugged. "Still working on the others."

"And you'll make them happen one day. It was only ever you holding you back."

Bucky had nodded and looked down at the carpet, blinking away tears. "I'll miss you, Sam."

They had hugged tightly again. "Next time I see you it had better be at a book signing. Anyway, I've got a couple of weeks left yet."

That had hit Bucky harder than he thought it would, knowing that Sam would be leaving. He shoved his hand into his jacket pocket and clutched the seashell Steve had given him tightly as he walked. Things had changed for him in a lot of good ways these last few months but now...now things seemed to be on the downturn again. He was more worried about Steve than anything; he had seemed so miserable the last few weeks with his career, or lack there-of, he'd joked bitterly the other evening. Bucky didn't know what to do about it; he hated that Steve was so unhappy. He walked a little faster, eager to get home and think and try to get some writing done. Sam was working late tonight and he could just zone out at his laptop.

He saw Steve sitting on the front steps of Sam's house as he approached and he couldn't help but feel slightly panicked; they weren't meeting up tonight and Steve would have called to say if he was coming over. He was looking down at his hands and picking at the quicks of his fingers, the way he did when he was particularly anxious.

"Hey," Bucky called out, trying to sound cheery.

Steve looked up and smiled, but there was something about it that made Bucky nervous. "Hey Buck."

They kissed and Bucky ushered Steve up the front steps. "To what do I owe this pleasure?" His hand was shaking slightly as he unlocked the front door.

Steve was quiet until they were inside. He leaned against the living room door, watching as Bucky took off his jacket and loosened his tie. "I need to talk to you about something."

Bucky suddenly couldn't breathe. Was Steve about to break up with him? He managed to force out an "Oh?"

"I got a call this morning from Abe, my old boss."

Bucky started to tidy the couch cushions, anything to keep his hands busy. "From when you worked on the fishing trawler?" Steve had told him a lot about Abe. His chest was feeling tighter and tighter.

Steve nodded. "One of his guys is getting married and moving to Chicago. He...he offered me a spot on the crew. In Montauk."

Bucky stopped and turned, facing Steve. His face fell. "Oh."

Steve was watching him closely, his eyes full of concern. "Bucky?"

Bucky sat down heavily, unable to believe that this was actually happening. Steve wanted to accept the job offer, he could tell. He thought of the photo in Steve's room and how happy he looked on the boat, at how unhappy he was now and he knew he had to let him go; it would be selfish of him not to. He wanted more than anything to say no, to tell Steve that he wanted him to stay here but he couldn't do that to him. Steve had a chance to be happy. "You should take it."

"Buck, I - "

Bucky clasped his hands tightly. "I don't want to be the reason that you're unhappy by making you stay here. I know how much you love Montauk and how good this job would be for you. I don't want to hold you back." God, he never thought anything could hurt so badly.

Steve's brow knitted with worry. "Buck, what are you talking about? You're not holding me back. You could never hold me back. This isn't...shit, I've screwed this up."

He strode across the living room and sat down next to Bucky, grabbing his hand and holding it tightly. "Buck, look at me. I want to take the job. But I want you more. I would never say yes to something as big as this if it meant there was a chance that you wouldn't be part of it. I...I love you."

Bucky met Steve's eyes and he was so fucking happy and relieved and...Steve loved him. "I love you too, Steve."

Steve's face broke into a huge smile. "I was hoping you'd say that."

"I've been wanting to say it for a while."

"Me too," Steve said and his smile wavered. "I want the job. I really do. I've...I've been thinking about this all day." He took a breath and looked up at Bucky, his eyes full of trepidation and hope. "Would you consider moving to Montauk with me? If I took the job?"

Bucky could only gawp at him for a moment. This isn't what he had been expecting at all. "Move to Montauk with you?"

Steve nodded, not taking his eyes off of Bucky's. "Abe has a small apartment that we could rent really cheap; he's kind of insisting on that if I said yes. You could write full-time for a few months maybe and see what happens. The pay on the trawler is pretty good, not amazing, but I have savings and I...I think we could make it work. I know we've only been seeing each other for just over four months, but..." He looked down. "I don't want to pressure you; if you say no, I'll turn down the job because there's no competition - I'll choose you every time. I just wanted to see what you thought about..." He trailed off and glanced up at Bucky again.

Bucky stood up and hurried over to where he'd put his jacket, fumbling in the pocket for his seashell. He found it and went to sit back next to Steve who was watching him, his face a jumble of anticipation and confusion. Bucky held the shell in his palm.

"When you gave this to me, you told me that I wouldn't have to worry about what would happen with my job because something better would come along for me. Something better did come along but it wasn't my job: It was you. You're the something better in my life, Steve. I don't want you to have to choose me over this job because I'll happily follow you there. I'll follow you anywhere."

Steve looked as though Bucky had just offered to live on the bottom of the ocean with him. "You'd really come with me?"

Bucky smiled and slid his arms around Steve's neck. "I want to live in Montauk with you."

Steve laughed and kissed Bucky hard. "We're really going to do this?"

"New York isn't going anywhere; if it doesn't work out we can always come back. I think...I think I want to try the writing thing. I have savings too and fuck it - we should both take a shot at doing what makes us happy, right? So let's do it." Bucky grinned.

He had to apologise to Sam the next day for the mess of clothes on the living room floor and the noise from his room that had carried on for most of the night but he figured he had a good enough reason for it.

***

Epilogue - 18 Months Later

Bucky sat on the dock and lit a cigarette; it was a bad habit that he'd picked up since moving out here but whenever Steve was out at sea for more than a week, he got anxious and smoking had become his only way to relax. Steve hated him doing it but he knew it was because Bucky worried about him; it could get dangerous out on the water and as glad as Bucky was that Steve was happy and finally doing what he loved, he still worried. He only lit up when Steve was away though. He squinted out across the sea; he could see the Erskine making it's way in and smiled to himself. He picked his notebook back up and started to write again, the seashell Steve had given him all that time ago still in his pocket.

Moving out here had been the best decision they'd ever made. The apartment they rented from Abe was a tiny one bed garage conversion but it was enough for them; Bucky had a space in the living room where he worked and they spent a lot of time out of the apartment when Steve wasn't working - jogging together on the beach, hiking and whale watching. Bucky still couldn't get over the transformation in Steve since they had left New York; he was a new man. He was confident and happy. And Bucky was happy too. The happiest he'd ever been in his life.

He had just finished the manuscript for his first book. It had been hard, really hard but he'd worked his ass off and now Faded Copy was a novel. Getting an agent interested and actually trying to see if he could get it published was another matter entirely but he had done it. He had a book. Whatever happened next, he had proved to himself that he could do it. It had taken three drafts and a lot of meltdowns but Steve had been there the whole time, pushing him through it, reading every new word Bucky had written and telling him exactly what he thought about it, even if it wasn't what Bucky had wanted to hear. He couldn't have done it without Steve. He knew that for a fact.

The novel hadn't been the only thing that Bucky had been working on; he wrote for several literary blogs that paid (not a lot but that wasn't the point) and people seemed to genuinely enjoy his views and writing style. He had written a piece on Haruki Murakami that still got hits and positive reviews which had been a huge boost for him.

The best thing that had happened though was getting one of his short stories published in a quarterly fiction journal; Steve had been away when Bucky had got the email telling him they wanted to print his story and the cigarette he'd been smoking had fallen from his mouth and almost set the carpet on fire. Steve had insisted they leave the burn mark as a reminder of Bucky's first published work. He had smacked Bucky upside the head for almost burning the damn place down though and he was forbidden from smoking in the apartment.

His family had been nonplussed about the move, resigned to the fact that he would never stick out a "real job" and was now, as his mother had wailed at him down the phone when he had told her, "shacked up with some fisherman." Given that they had never bothered to meet Steve when they lived in New York, Bucky could only imagine what kind of mental image they had of his situation. He didn't care though; he was in love and he felt like he was finally where he belonged.

Steve's mom came to visit them often; the first time she had come to Montauk had been hard for her and it hadn't been a great weekend. Steve said it had been over twelve years since his aunt had died and his mom had even set foot here and it had all been too much for her. But she loved her son and gradually, with each new visit, the pain had lessened and they had even walked to his aunts old place, now a bed and breakfast run by a family. Steve's mom - Sarah, she insisted - loved Bucky and treated him like he was family.

"You're the best thing that's ever happened to him," she had told him one day on the beach. Steve had run off to get them all a drink and Sarah and Bucky had walked slowly along the shore, arm in arm. "I haven't seen him like this since we used to come here every summer."

Bucky had looked down at the sea skimming over his bare feet. "He's always loved it here."

Sarah had squeezed his arm tightly. "Believe me, it's not the place. It's you, Bucky."

He quickly stubbed out his cigarette and threw two pieces of gum into his mouth. Steve would know he had been smoking, Bucky didn't hide it, but he didn't want to taste like an ashtray. His heart fluttered the way it always did when Steve's boat approached land and he watched with eagerness as the Erskine came into dock. Abe waved at Bucky from the stern and cocked a thumb behind him to indicate that Steve was probably just checking the lines and would be off soon. Bucky just smiled and nodded back. Abe was great; they couldn't have even done this without his kindness but he'd always liked Steve and had apparently been bugging him for a few years to come back and work for him. Much like Bucky, Steve had been the only one holding himself back.

Gabe saw Bucky and shouted hello then turned to yell behind him. "Yo, Steve! Your boy's here waiting for you!"

Bucky smiled as Steve appeared and gave him a huge grin. "I'll just be a sec."

He sat and waited and they finally all finished up. Gabe and Jim said hi to him as they headed to the diner and Jaques, Tim and Monty catcalled him from the nets, laughing as he gave them a finger each. Steve appeared on the gangplank with his duffel bag over one shoulder and headed along the dock towards him, a big smile on his face. He looked the way he always did after a long trip, with a week-old beard and looking tired as hell but content. This lifestyle suited him and Bucky found it hard now to match this Steve with the Steve from New York. His hair was even blonder these days, bleached from the sun. Bucky wasn't going to lie: Steve looked fucking hot as a fisherman.

"Hey sailor," Bucky said and grinned as Steve laughed and pulled him into a scratchy kiss.

"God, I missed you," Steve said and held Bucky tight.

Bucky nuzzled into Steve's shoulder. "Missed you too. Whoa, you smell funky."

"Yeah well, I've been on a boat for a week with six guys and a broken shower. And fish. A fuck-ton of fish."

Bucky laughed as Steve threw an arm across his shoulder and they headed off down the dock, waving good-bye to Abe.

Steve let out a relieved sigh. "Oh man, that was a hard haul. I'm so glad I have two weeks off. I feel like I could sleep for most of it."

Bucky made a disapproving noise. "Hey, I've got a long list of things I want to do to you; don't plan on getting too much sleep."

Steve sniggered and threw him a look. "Yeah, now that you mention it, being out at sea for so long sure gets a boy all hot and bothered. There's only so much I can do to myself."

Bucky couldn't help but laugh; Steve had definitely gotten a lot dirtier since moving out here. Not that he was complaining.

"How's the book?" Steve asked.

"Well, I think it's finished."

Steve looked at him, his eyes bright and excited. "For real? Last draft?"

Bucky grinned. "It's printing off as we speak. Will you read it later?"

Steve kissed him on the temple, something he did a lot that Bucky loved. "Of course I will. I'm so proud of you."

"Well, whether anyone will want to actually publish the fucking thing is another matter."

Steve stopped and put his hands on Bucky's shoulders. "Buck, you've written a book. You came here to try and make a go at writing and you're doing it. I've watched how hard you've worked. Don't take that away from yourself."

Bucky didn't think he could possibly love this guy any more but somehow he always managed to find a little bit more room inside himself. He kissed Steve softly. "I love you so much. You know that right?"

Steve smiled. "Of course I know it. I love you too, Hermit Crab." He giggled and ducked to the side when Bucky punched him on the shoulder.

"You need a shave," Bucky said, rubbing Steve's face with one hand when they started walking again.

"You need a haircut." Bucky's hair had grown out since moving here and was constantly annoying him, flopping into his eyes every two seconds when he tried to work but he knew Steve loved it like this despite his teasing and Bucky didn't rush to cut it.

They reached Bucky's crappy Toyota and he popped the trunk to let Steve throw his bag in.

"Oh, Sam says hi. We Skyped yesterday."

Steve smiled. "Awesome. How is he?"

"Really good. The job's going great. I think he misses seeing me sat on his couch in my skivvies, though."

Steve laughed and closed the trunk. They still spoke to the others; Pete and Brock had come up to visit one weekend which had been fun and Bucky had somehow become good friends with Darcy, the two of them calling each other at least once a week and texting insults the rest of the time. She was one of the only other people Bucky had shown his writing to and he had been surprised at how helpful and honest she was in her feedback. He liked her a lot and she still worked at Stark Industries, keeping him and Steve up to date with all the office gossip. Bucky didn't want to admit it but he was totally into all the drama now.

"I've got a couple of bass for dinner," Steve said as they got in the car. Steve was always bringing something back for them and Bucky was now able to gut and clean a fish in record time, even though the first time Steve had shown him how he had almost puked in his own mouth.

"Cool," Bucky started the engine and they headed off back to their apartment. It was early afternoon and the day was clear and warm. Steve chuckled at the 80s mix CD that played as they drove. Bucky grinned and cranked up the volume when Rain In The Summertime by The Alarm came on, singing to Steve loudly. Steve laughed but joined in with Bucky on the chorus. These were the moments that Bucky lived for now.

***

When they got home, the printer was still churning out pages and Bucky sat down at his desk to check his emails.

Steve took his boots off and left them outside. "I'm going to have a shave and a shower," he said and kissed Bucky on top of the head as he walked through the living room to the small hallway that led to their bedroom and bathroom.

Bucky pulled up the list of agents and publishers he had been collating for the last few months, the ones more likely to accept unsolicited manuscripts and submissions from unknown authors at the top and chewed on his thumbnail. He didn't notice Steve standing naked in the doorway until he cleared his throat loudly. He was clean shaven and had that look on his face which meant that Bucky could expect to not get anything done for the next few hours.

"When I said I was going to have a shower, that was a very subtle hint for you to get naked and come and join me."

Bucky didn't need telling twice and stood up. "Aye aye, Captain."

They showered, kissing lazily under the warm spray and eventually moved to the bedroom where they stayed for the next couple of hours, taking each other apart.

It was late afternoon when they finally stopped; Steve had his head in Bucky's lap with his eyes closed as Bucky gently raked his fingers through his hair.

"Are you glad that we did this?" Bucky asked him quietly.

Steve opened his eyes and looked up at him. "Moved here? Yeah, I am. Why? Aren't you?"

Bucky gazed down at him. "I think it was the best thing both of us ever decided to do. I'm...I'm really happy. I guess I just get...scared every once in a while, that's all. That I'm not enough for you."

Steve frowned and sat up, taking Bucky's face in his hands. "Don't ever think that. Buck, I would rather be anywhere else with you than here without you. Remember that."

Bucky nodded. As happy as he was, he still had moments of self-doubt and needed reassuring. He leaned in and kissed Steve, reminding himself that he was allowed to be happy, that they both deserved it.

Steve stretched. "How about you make us dinner and I'll start reading your book?"

Bucky nodded and smiled. "Okay."

They threw on some clothes and Bucky gathered up the huge wad of pages from the printer. It looked like so much as he held it in his hands. Steve smiled and thumbed through the pages when Bucky handed them to him.

"Wow. I kind of forget this is how it all looks when it's not on the computer."

Bucky kissed him on the cheek and headed over to the small kitchen. "Less talking, more reading."

He cooked them the sea bass Steve had bought home and didn't say another word as Steve made his way through the manuscript, reading long after it had gotten dark. He disappeared into the bedroom with it at one point and Bucky headed outside and sat on the steps leading down to the garage, smoking anxiously, breaking his own rule about only doing it when Steve was away, and looked up at the night sky. He rolled his pack of cigarettes around in his hand and decided that it was time to quit. He'd talk to Steve about it tomorrow.

It was two in the morning when Steve finally emerged from the bedroom, the book in his hands. Bucky had been playing Katamari Forever and dropped the PS3 controller as soon as he saw him. Steve didn't say a word but stepped over to Bucky's laptop and flipped it open.

"What are you doing?" Bucky asked.

Steve ushered him over and sat Bucky down in his chair. "You're going to send this to an agent right now."

"Steve, it's the middle of the night. I have a whole list of agents and publishers that I need to send it to - "

Steve just hushed him. "Buck, this book is amazing. You've worked so hard and while I know it could take a while before anything happens with it - "

"If anything happens at all..." Bucky cut in.

"When anything happens with it," Steve corrected him, "but I believe that this is what will change everything for you." He kissed Bucky softly on the mouth and Bucky suddenly believed it. Because Steve believed it.

"Just...send it to one agent right now," Steve said again with a pleading little smile. "For me."

Bucky finally laughed and pulled up the covering letter he had spent a day agonising over. "Alright, alright. I'll do it for you. Because you're so cute. And hot."

Steve rested his head on Bucky's shoulder and watched as he attached the first few chapters of the book to the email. He hesitated.

"You do it," he said to Steve. He fumbled around in his jeans pocket until he found his seashell, holding it tightly.

Steve leaned in and kissed Bucky softly again. "Here we go," he said with a smile and hit send.