Steve took a deep breath when he got off the plane. The flight hadn’t been so bad, but so many different people and smells had made him feel really claustrophobic. Sam, that total asshole, had been a ridiculously cheerful passenger.
“Steve, come on, the last time I was on a plane I was getting shot at. This is great, look – there’s even a movie.” He’d grinned, plugging in his headphones. “This is great. Best vacation ever.”
They hit an air pocket an hour and a half in that made Steve’s heart skip violently, but that had been all, and although he had been hyper aware of every little rumble of the engines it hadn’t been so bad – he was still happy to get his feet on solid ground.
“Smells like vacation.” Sam said, throwing an arm around Steve’s skinny shoulders and taking a deep lungful of air. He wasn’t wrong – there was something different about the air, it was sweeter, cleaner, than New York could ever be. “Smells like sun, sea and sand.” Sam grinned, pulling Steve towards the terminal. “Smells like relaxation and nothing at all like work.”
Steve nodded, feet tripping up over themselves as he half jogged to keep up with Sam. They’d been best friends for years, met through a penpal programme as kids at school (Steve in New York, a foster care kid – and Sam in DC, with his perfect nuclear family) Steve sending care packages to Sam when he was deployed and Steve was at college, and then they’d become roommates when Sam was discharged. It had been a great couple of years, and resulted in FalCap – their brainchild after Steve told Sam he was pretty sure that he’d worked out how to rob the bank they lived across the street from after being bored witless with another bout of flu.
Sam had laughed, and then got serious. “You’re kidding, right?”
“No, I think I could do it. I mean, I wouldn’t do it… but I think I could, you know?”
They’d written it down, planned it out, and then a month later, asked to talk to the manager.
FalCap made their name breaking and entering secure locations, and then helping the businesses block those weak points – Sam liked to tell dates he was a professional criminal, which always got the reaction he was looking for. He got a lot of dates. “Everyone loves a bad boy.” He’d wink.
It had been wildly successful, and Steve was proud to say they hired 15 people from their New York base. They had just finished working with Pepper Potts, the CEO of Stark Industries on a massive project that took up almost 6 months of constant work. When Sam had joking told Mz Potts that they’d need a vacation after it was over, she insisted on offering them a two week ‘loan’ of the private villa on the exclusive resort her partner Tony owned.
“No, I insist.” She’d told them, when they’d refused. “It’s sitting empty right now, with Tony working in the R&D labs constantly. It’ll be good to get it aired out. Just let me know when you plan on going, I’ll call ahead.”
Three months later, they were waiting on their bags on the conveyer belt with a plane full of other passengers. “I’m so ready for this, man, I tell ya.” Sam said on a stretch. “I already feel relaxed.”
Steve rolled his eyes. They’d both worked so hard in the last 6 months, but it felt like taking a holiday was… irresponsible. They were leaving the company in the hands of their staff – who were obviously very good at their jobs – but Steve didn’t like to think that he wasn’t doing his part. Mz Potts seemed to understand, she’d told Steve when Sam had left that the villa had wifi and an office he could use. Steve may have neglected to tell Sam about that.
Their bags were one of the last on the belt, which Steve thought was pretty typical of his luck, but Sam’s buoyant good mood was contagious. The airport was open and airy, with the large glass windows letting in the bright summer sun. Steve could see the glint of the ocean in the distance, with no massive hotels in the way. It was a popular destination, but the major draw was how the resorts were mainly villas and smaller, more personal (Steve understood that to mean more expensive) hotels run by locals.
Sam took both of their bags. Sam kept his burlap from the Air Force, which he threw over his shoulder with ease despite the weight, and Steve’s larger suitcase rolled along beside him, clipping his ankle or threatening to tip over occasionally. Steve carried their hand luggage, which had his laptop and medication, as well as a couple half empty bottles of water and snacks. The backpack was nowhere near as heavy as the cases, but Sam had insisted he was fine. “Come on, man, I carry twice this for work.” He paused, something having caught his eye in the arrivals lounge. “Look, that’s us!”
The driver, who had been holding up a poster that said ‘FalCap’, took their bags and led them to a large, air-conditioned jeep that seemed out of place among the busses and taxis. Their villa was on the other side of the island, and the driver pointed out several interesting things as he drove. “I’m Clint,” He told them as he lifted their bags easily into the back. “Kinda the general dogsbody around the resort – fixing the plumbing, driving, that kind of thing. You need anything, you just ask, k?”
Sam grinned, and started up an easy conversation about the kinds of things he should check out. He’d never been abroad unless it was for the Air Force, and he wanted to make the most of it. “Well, Bruce does this yoga thing most mornings. He picks out a new spot every day. ‘Tash is pretty sure it’s all got some deep meaning, but man, I’m useless without coffee. Uh, ‘Tash – I mean, Natasha – she does all the high adrenaline stuff, bungee-jumping, water skiing, paragliding. She’s fearless.” He paused, looking over his shoulder rather than at the road, causing Steve’s heart to lurch. “She won’t take any shit, so this is like your official warning not to piss her off.” He grinned, wide and open, before turning back to the road. “Bucky’s the fitness dude, one-on-one or groups. He’s got the boat out this morning, so probably got some nice fresh fish for lunch.”
“Sounds awesome.” Sam said, leaning back. “I’m so ready for this.”
Steve nodded, and looked out of the window at the passing scenery. He wondered how Sharon and Maria were doing, if any issues had cropped up during the flight. Outside, the world was moving past him, bright greens and vivid splashes of colour.
The villa was huge – not that Steve expected anything less from Mz Potts, or her partner, but the fact that his bedroom had large French windows that opened up onto a private pool – a separate private pool from the one Sam’s room lead to – was something else entirely. The doors were open, letting in the cool air and the subtle scent of jasmine from the trailing plants around the sun loungers that seemed to be for his personal use. Large and airy, he felt like he was standing on the set of some movie, that any moment a Bond Girl might lift herself out of the pool and walk towards him, white bikini and gold jewellery.
He shook his head to get rid of the image, and started to unpack. Clint had brought the cases in while Sam and Steve were looking around. There was a welcome pack on the bed, and Steve waited until he’d packed away is things before looking at it.
Welcome, it read, to Villa Maria, an all-inclusive resort catered to your rest and relaxation. Out in house staff are on call day and night to cater to your every need.
Private tours of the Island are available, ask Clint for a sedate drive through the local towns and countryside, where you can get a feel of island life – or Natasha for a thrilling trip on the Villa’s light aircraft, get to see the island from the skies!
Bruce and Bucky have one-on-one sessions where you can relax with yoga and meditate your cares away, or keep in shape with mixed martial arts and ironman challenges.
A selection of freshly prepared food is available in the dining room throughout the day, and breakfast, lunch and dinner are provided by our in-house Chef, the award winning Rhodey Rhodes.
Please do not hesitate to ask our staff for anything that would make your stay more comfortable, remember: Your pleasure is our priority.
There was a map of the island, and a list of the kind of things he could do, which was extensive. Steve had zero desire to zip line through the tropical jungle or swim with sharks, but he might like to get a massage, or see some traditional local festivals.
He’d just finished reading when Sam gave a knock against the open door. “Steve, this place is awesome. I might never leave. I’ve already talked to the chef – he’s former Air Force too, nice guy – about your shellfish allergy, and he’s personally guaranteed that anything with a shell won’t even get into his kitchen.” He said, walking in. “I think your pool is bigger than mine, but I’ve got a fire pit, so I don’t even care.”
“I can’t swim.” Steve shrugged, looking out over the shimmering water. “But I like the breeze.”
Sam grinned. “We’re here for two weeks, man, maybe you can learn?”
Steve was exhausted from the early flight and the stress of being in the air – which he still maintained was not where man was supposed to be, despite Sam’s laughter – so Sam left him to grab a nap while he went off to explore what the villa had to offer.
The sound of unfamiliar birds and the gentle breeze lulled him to sleep quickly – when he woke up the sun was casting inviting shadows around the pool, and Steve wondered if maybe he could sit out on the lounger without getting burnt to a crisp. He got to his feet, feeling more refreshed than he was expecting – maybe Sam was right, that the air was better when you were on vacation.
The dining room faced out on to the private beach, and Steve wasn’t surprised that Sam was already dressed for the weather, in a pair of silver and dark red board shorts and tank. He was sitting outside on the decking, with a plate stacked high with food, chatting away to Clint, who seemed to be eating a pizza, and feeding sneaky pieces of it to the golden Labrador sitting at his feet.
“Ah, he’s awake!” Clint called, waving. “Grubs up. Grab a plate if you like.”
It was obvious that the food was recently prepared, and cooked to a high standard – Steve hadn’t thought he was hungry until he saw the veritable feast lain out. He picked up a plate and loaded it with a little of everything, remembering that Sam had already told the chief that shellfish was the fastest way to kill him.
“This looks great,” He managed, when he sat on the other side of Sam, as far from the dog as possible. He was pretty sure that it wasn’t a bad dog, but he wasn’t going to take the chance of being wrong. He never really got along with dogs, one of his foster parents had a spaniel and it terrorised Steve, knocking him over and growling.
“Yeah. Rhodey can make anything, it’s great.” Clint said, slipping another piece of pizza to the dog, now hidden by the table.
“After dinner I was gonna have a drive around with Clint.” Sam said, after swallowing his mouthful. “You wanna come? Get a little early sightseeing?”
Steve shook his head. “I’m still a little sleepy.” He lied. “We’ve got time.”
“Yeah, we do,” Sam grinned. “Two whole weeks.”
The office was easy to find, and Steve was pleased to see it even had a set up for video conferencing. Logging on to his computer remotely was quick and without lag, which he appreciated. He should have guessed that the connection would be good – the whole place was designed to be perfect, after all.
He checked through his emails, replying and messaging Sharon if there was something she needed to keep an eye on. Two weeks felt like a really long time as he saw the amount of work that had piled up after only a day. Sam was logged out of the internal messenger – he’d wanted a real vacation, he only wanted to be notified if the building burnt down – but Steve couldn’t imagine –
The sound of the messenger made him jump a little, the speakers set louder than he expected.
SCarter: Are you freaking kidding me, Steve?!
The words flashed up in a little dialog box at the bottom left of the screen.
SCarter: Do you know what a vacation is? It means NO WORK
SRogers: I was just checking my mails.
SCarter: I’m gonna tell Sam. I’m texting him.
Steve groaned, fingers hovering over the keys. Although Sharon did work for him, she was also his friend, and she and Sam were very close. He didn’t doubt that she would be texting him.
SRogers: I’m logging off now.
SCarter: Good. Go enjoy sunning yourself on a beach. Stare at hot guys. Get loud drunk.
SRogers: Let me know if anything comes up.
SCarter: Sure thing
The beach was deserted. He guessed that it was a private stretch just for the villa, which was quite nice. There was a cabana with a day bed made up, white curtains billowing in the later afternoon air. He could see that it also had a small bar, unmanned, beside it. Steve sat on the sand and untied his shoes, tucking his socks inside when he was done. His trousers were probably not really appropriate for the beach, but he rolled up the hems and grimaced as the sun bounced off the pale skin of his feet and ankles. Maybe he could get a tan.
The sand was hot on his feet, hotter than he was expecting, and he half skipped to the waterline, where the sand turned from a golden yellow to a darker colour. The coolness was a relief, and he couldn’t help the smile that crept up on his face when the cool water lapped against his toes. The water was lovely, nothing at all like the frigid, foamy water he was used to in New York. This was crystal clear, even the bubbles on the surface popped easily as he watched. He walked slowly along the waterline, enjoying the feel of the shifting sand between his toes, not really thinking of anything. He could see a small fishing boat in the distance, remembered reading that the waters surrounding the island were protected from overfishing in order to preserve the fragile ecosystem of the reefs. Although many industries complained, the locals learned that the money from tourists paying to dive and visit more than made up for the money lost from fishing. Steve liked that. He’d have loved to see them for himself, but he knew that trying to dive would be foolish with his lungs, and without being able to swim it was just a pipe dream. He stood and watched the boat for a while, letting the water lap around his feet, when he heard someone call out.
Jogging along the beach, wearing nothing but a pair of black board shorts and waving at Steve, a man came into focus. He was tall and muscular, with a golden tan that seemed to disappear under those shorts uninterrupted. Steve tore his eyes away from the expanse of tanned skin to look up at his face, and wondered if the island was made up of ridiculously good looking people.
“Hi,” The guy said, when he was a few feet from Steve, and Steve was able to see how he’d obviously been swimming, with the wet cling of his shorts hugging… well… everything. “This is a private beach, sorry man.”
Steve nodded. “Um, I’m staying at the villa.” He said, pleased to find that his throat worked and he wasn’t a stammering mess. It happened more than he would have liked, and was one of the reasons that Sam dealt with the people side of the business.
“Ah, sorry!” The guy said, all smiles. He had a great smile; it transformed his features from devilish bad-boy to adorable sex-bomb in seconds. Steve’s heart wasn’t made for the stress. “You must be Sam, or Steve?”
“Steve.” He managed, holding out his hand. “Steve Rogers.”
The other man shook his hand in a firm, warm grip. “Bucky.” He said, grinning. “I work up at the villa, obviously.” He said, giving a half laugh. “Sometimes people wander over here from the main beach.” He ran a hand through his hair, which was long enough to make him look like the model on the cover of a romance novel. Not that Steve had ever… he had a foster mom who read them… Steve hadn’t…
He blinked, and tried to think like an actual adult. “I read the welcome,” don’t say package! “Letter,” He said, “You’re a personal trainer?”
Bucky nodded, grinning some more. “Tony mostly just lets us do our own thing, really. Bit of a pet project for him, I think. I got all my qualifications when I left the army, so if you’re looking to get fit, I’m your man.”
Steve laughed. “Well, I don’t think you can work miracles,” He smiled, “I think I’m going to be mostly lounging by the pool, trying not to burn to a crisp.”
“No offence, Stevie, but I think you might already be a little late there – you’re already a little pink around the ears.”
Steve blinked, and then looked up at the cloudless sky. The sun didn’t feel so strong, not with the breeze. His confusion made Bucky grin.
“Don’t be fooled by how cool it feels.” He said, in a warm, friendly tone. “The sea makes the sun seem less strong, but you’ll still get burnt. Come on, get some after sun on and you might not peel so bad.”
Steve followed Bucky like a there was a magnetic current pulling him along. “You’re lucky you’re wearing a lot of clothes.” Bucky was saying, “If you’d been in your shorts you might be looking at a lot worse that some pink ears.”
Steve agreed. “I wasn’t really expecting to be on the beach today, to be honest.” He admitted.
“Yeah?” A smile thrown over a tanned, muscular shoulder. “The water’s got a way of calling you, huh? Most people just run right in, pants and all.”
Steve smiled, and dusted some stray grains for sand from his pants. “Well, not me. I can’t swim, so I’ll just stick to the shore.”
It took him a few moments to realise that Bucky had stopped walking, and unfortunately that was all it took for Steve to walk right into his back with a muffled ‘oof’. A few things he noticed right away – Bucky was sun warm and smelt of the ocean and coconut, and he was a solid wall of muscle. He didn’t as much as shift when Steve bounced off him.
“You can’t swim?” He asked, sounding shocked.
“Nope.” Steve said, trying to cover up how flustered he was about walking into Bucky. “Never learned how, just one of those things, like learning how to play canasta.”
Bucky turned. “No one knows how to play canasta. It’s a made up game by old people so they can gossip to one another.” He was teasing, Steve knew, the summer sun sparkling in his eyes as he looked down at Steve. “I can teach you.”
Steve blinked. “What? Canasta?”
“No, you punk, I can teach you how to swim.” He said, giving Steve a playful little shove. “It’ll be cool.” He said, grinning. “I got my divers certificates last year, and I’m a stand-in lifeguard too, so you know you’ll be in safe hands.” He held up his hands and winked. “I can start tomorrow, if you like.”
Steve would very much like to have an excuse to see Bucky wet and shirtless, but he was also very aware that he would also be wet and shirtless – which would not be a welcome sight for anyone. “I wouldn’t want to put you out.” Is what he said, because people understood that normally meant ‘thanks but no thanks’. Everyone but Bucky, it seemed.
“Oh, man, it’s no trouble for me. I haven’t had a chance to try out my training, you know. You’ll be doing me a favour.”
They’d gotten to the point where Steve had left his shoes. The sand wasn’t so hot anymore, with the sun past its highest point, and Bucky bent over to pick them up. Steve bit the inside of his cheek to stop from whimpering.
“So, aside from learning how to swim,” Bucky grinned, like he hadn’t just given Steve a heart attack with his perfect ass being right there, “What other stuff do you wanna do while you’re here?”
“I, uh,” Steve said, seriously, that ass was perfect, “I um, hadn’t really thought about it.”
“You should talk to Bruce.” Bucky suggested. “He’s some kind of Zen master. When I first got here, I was a mess. He taught me how to meditate and yoga and all that good stuff.”
Oh god, he did yoga. Steve’s brain was starting to melt in the face of so much hotness. Any idea that he’d managed not to make a fool of himself was swiftly evaporating, along with his sense of pride. If Bucky so much as flexed, Steve might cry. “Oh,” Steve managed, hoping he sounded interested and not like he was trying to pick his jaw up off the floor like a Tex Avery cartoon.
“Yeah, he’s kinda quiet, but maybe that’s cause he spends a lot of time thinking about… I dunno… enlightenment or something.” Bucky grinned, still walking towards the villa. “But he’s a really great guy. I assume you’ve met everyone else?”
“Sam might have,” Steve admitted, “he’s a lot more sociable than me.”
“Partner.” Steve said, tearing his eyes away from the way grains of sand had stuck to Bucky’s calves, highlighting the well-defined muscles there. “He’s been looking forward to this holiday for a while.”
“I’ll bet,” Bucky said, sounding a little strained. “He not joining you on your stroll?”
“Oh, he went off sightseeing with Clint.” Steve supplied, as they climbed the three stairs that lead into the enclosed decking for the dining room. “I’m pretty sure he’s going to try to cram absolutely everything into this vacation.”
“Well, he’ll be kept busy then.” Bucky said with a tight smile, leaning down to brush the sand off his legs and feet, and Steve quickly looked away to do the same. “Tash’ll kill us if we drag this through the house.” He explained, before walking over to the bar and pulling out two plastic bottles of lotion. “Here. Before and after – apply the sunscreen every four hours and the lotion every three once you’re out of the sun.” He ran his eyes over Steve’s body and laughed. “Maybe tomorrow, use the sunscreen every hour, just till you get some colour.”
Steve glared at the veiled insult before he realised what he was doing, and Bucky laughed. “I’m just trying to save you from getting fried.” He said, tone friendly. Steve nodded, trying to calm down. His emotions were all over the place with this guy.
“So there are a few things Clint was telling me about – there’s a BBQ place by the main strip, it’s all open up, and you can see them make your food right in front of you – right there on the beach.” Sam was saying as they sat beside the firepit outside of his room. He’d invited Steve through when he’d come back from the tour of the Island, and had been telling Steve everything he’d seen over a few beers. It was a lot like when they lived together, when Sam was discharged, and Steve realised just how much he missed having company. Sam had a few beers while Steve drank his sodas and picked at the small table of snacks that had been sitting when they’d arrived. It seemed a waste to Steve, but Sam was over the moon with the service. “I met Natasha,” He was saying, “I’m pretty sure that she’s married to Clint, they’ve got that freaking communicating-with-their-eyes thing that my mom and dad have.” He leaned back. “And obviously I met Bruce, so the only one I’ve not seen is the personal trainer.”
“I met Bucky.” Steve said, taking a sip of his soda to cover the warble in his voice.
“Yeah?” Sam said, looking over at him. “When? After you snuck into the office to get some work done, or before?” His tone clearly said ‘busted’ and Steve winced.
“Um, between.” He admitted. Sharon probably did text Sam to tell him about Steve logging on to check things while he was supposed to be on vacation. After Bucky had left him to get something to eat, Steve retreated to the office and stayed there for the rest of the day. He’d told himself he wasn’t hiding, but… yeah, he’d been hiding. He’d hoped that Sam might not have noticed. “Coulson had been sending me emails; you know he’s a priority.” Steve said, picking at a minute piece of fluff on his pants leg.
“Coulson emails you because he’s not stupid and knows you always put him first.” Sam said, “And because he’s got a total crush on you.”
“Don’t start that again.” Steve groaned. Phil was a great guy, and Steve liked him a lot, but Sam was convinced that his interest in FalCap was more to do with Steve’s big blue eyes rather than his work acumen.
“So, in between your clandestine work sessions, you met Bucky, huh?”
Grateful that he’d managed to escape a lecture, Steve nodded. “Yup.”
“And?” Sam prompted. “What’s he like?”
Hot. Steve’s brain supplied. Hot and fit and tanned and really hot. “He seemed nice enough. Everyone is friendly here.” Is what he actually said. “He wants to teach me how to swim.” His traitorous mouth said.
Sam grinned, like Steve had told him that he’d also found a bag of money. “Yeah? That’s so cool! I told you that you should learn, didn’t I?” He added. “If you learn, we’re so going out on the boat. Sharks, man, we could swim with sharks!”
“I can’t dive.” Steve pointed out. “It’s a really bad idea with my asthma.” And Steve wasn’t about to swim with sharks. Ever.
“Let me get one lesson first, okay?” Steve said, shaking his head. “I might drown in the pool tomorrow and ruin all your plans.”
“I’m sure you’ll be a natural.” Sam grinned. “Little guy like you, you could probably walk along the surface.”
At 9am, Steve was pacing. He’d skipped breakfast because the internet told him it was a bad idea to swim on a full stomach, and he was wearing a pair of shorts that he never thought he’d actually wear when Sam forced him to buy them. A dark blue, with a silver star on the leg – he’d liked them in the store. Now he was wearing them, though, he didn’t like them quite as much. They made his skin look too pale, and the morning sun made him look like he was glowing. He’d pulled on a t-shirt, hoping to cover up as much as he could, but there was no way to disguise his skinny, neon white legs. His ankles were a little pink from his walk the day before, and he’d been heavy handed with the sun screen, so he felt greasy too.
Right on time, there was a knock at the door. “It’s open,” Steve called from the poolside, where he was warily looking at the water. Bucky walked in, wearing shorts in a blue a few shades lighter than Steve’s. There was a red star on the pocket, and when he saw Steve, he grinned.
“Aw, man, one of us gonna change, huh?” He laughed, waving a hand over his crotch. His pants. Shorts. Not his crotch. Steve’s shorts didn’t look anywhere near as good on him as Bucky’s did, but then Steve wasn’t tanned, muscular or devastatingly gorgeous.
“So, um,” He managed, tearing his eyes away from Bucky’s chest. He had a little chest hair, short, like he’d waxed it at some point and it was growing back. Steve wondered if he was normally smooth. Steve really needed to keep his thoughts away from that, if he was going to be wearing a pair of shorts. “How?”
Bucky grinned, like Steve was fun and not a giant loser. “Well, how much time have you spent in water, in the past?” Bucky said, walking towards the pool and sitting on the edge, feet in the water. He waved at Steve to do the same.
“Um, I haven’t. I went to the pool once when I was a kid, but….” Steve sat down, leaving an acceptable distance between them – twice what he would have given Sam, or anyone else he thought of as a friend. “It wasn’t fun.”
What he didn’t bother to mention was that his foster parents at the time had three other boys his age, all big, healthy kids who made his life hell – they’d pulled him into the deep end and kept dunking him under. Because it looked like they were just boys horsing around, no one stopped it. Steve ended up breathing in too much water, and spent the next week in hospital. He got a new placement after that.
“Okay, so we’ll just start off getting you used to the water.” Bucky said, easy as anything. “It’s not that deep, so you should be able to touch the bottom okay. There aint a deep end here like you’d find in a regular pool, so you won’t have to worry about it dropping off.”
Bucky smiled and then just slipped off the edge of the pool and into the water, in one smooth motion. “You’ll need to lose the shirt; it’ll weigh you down and make it harder to move your arms.” He added, nodding towards the ladders. “And use those.” When he moved the water rippled, and Steve could have quite happily watched him for hours. However, the idea that he’d have to take off his shirt was… it was…
“Can I leave it on?” He said, “It’s just… um… I burn really easily.”
“You should be okay with the morning sun,” Bucky said, looking up at the sky. “And it’ll be a lot heavier when it’s wet. No offence, dude, but you might not have a lot of upper body strength, and I don’t want to risk it covering your face if you go under.”
Steve nodded, and grimaced. The idea of being smothered by his own t-shirt was enough to have him reaching for the hem. “Okay. Um.” He said, and took a breath.
The scars were… well, they had faded, some of them. He’d gone through open heart surgery when he was 16 to fix a faulty valve – the scar for that was surgical and neat, running down the centre of his ribcage. The others were not so clean.
Steve threw his shirt on the lounger and immediately walked over to the ladders. He didn’t look at Bucky.
Half an hour later, Steve was walking back and forth through the water, arms working like pistons. It was harder than he remembered; the resistance making him sweat a little even though the water was keeping him cool. Bucky, who had said absolutely nothing about the marks on Steve’s upper body, didn’t seem to be struggling at all. “You’re doing really well.” He was saying, as Steve huffed through the laps. “Two more and we’ll chill out for a bit, maybe try going under for a couple of seconds.”
“Well, I’ll be dammed.” Sam’s voice said, from the doorway. “You actually got him in the water.”
Steve looked up, aware how stupid he probably looked, and glared. “I told you I was gonna learn.” He said, glaring as Sam laughed.
“Yeah, but look at that. You were actually serious. I thought you were blowing smoke up my ass so you could sneak off to the office.” He leaned forward, holding out his hand to Bucky. “Sam Wilson, pleased to meet the man who actually got Steve to do something other than work this vacation.”
“I’m not that bad!” Steve insisted, refusing to stop his walking. Bucky had told him he needed to do two more laps and he’d rather do that than be teased by Sam.
Bucky though, was laughing, lifting himself out of the water with one heave. His shorts, heavy with water, pulled down, exposing the dimples at the base of his spine and – Steve turned sharply, walking faster. “Bucky Barnes.” He said, “You joining us today?”
“Hells no.” Sam said, and even without looking, Steve knew the other man was grinning from ear to ear. “I’ve got a date with a light aircraft.”
“Tasha taking you up?”
“Nope. Rhodey. Us Air Force boys are tight.”
Steve had hit the edge of the pool. Turning around for his final lap, he saw that Bucky was standing beside Sam, dripping wet. Oh dear god. “Ah,” Bucky said, grinning. “Well, I’ll take good care of your boy while you’re gone.” Bucky said, looking at Steve, who was still trying to power walk through the water.
“You do that.” Sam grinned, and when Bucky turned to get back into the water, Sam gave Steve the most obvious ‘go get him tiger’ look he could. When Bucky looked up he caught Sam winking at Steve lecherously, and looked away, a slight frown playing over his features.
An hour later, after carefully holding his breath and going under the water for a few seconds, and learning how to breathe so that he don’t end up with lungs full of water instead of air, Bucky called it a day. “You’ve done really well.” He said, as he lifted himself out of the water. Steve had to use the ladders, because he was certain he didn’t have the strength to follow Bucky’s lead. As soon as he was out of the water, he grabbed his shirt. It stuck to his wet skin, but he felt much more comfortable when he faced Bucky. The other man wasn’t looking though, and Steve was grateful. “I don’t want to push you too much, after a while it stops being fun and just gets frustrating.” He smiled, grabbing a towel from the stack by the pool and tossing one over to Steve. “I’m gonna suggest keeping out of the water for the rest of the day.” He added. “Same reason.”
Steve nodded, roughly drying his hair. He’d managed not to look like a total idiot, he thought, and Bucky didn’t seem too bothered by the scars – he hadn’t mentioned them, or asked any questions, which was nice. “I was going to get something to eat and then maybe catc- I mean – relax a little.”
Bucky looked up from where he was drying his hair. “Sam’ll be pissed if he finds you in the office when he gets back.” Bucky pointed out, and Steve flushed at being so transparent. “Anyway, Rhodey’s gone; food’ll be weird after sitting. Fancy a walk instead?”
Bucky didn’t even give him time to change, just headed through the house and out along the beach – their clothes and skin drying in the bright sunshine. “I got this job about 5 years ago.” Bucky said, as they walked. The sand was warm, almost but not quite too hot to walk on, and Steve loved the feel of it. “Tony’s got this island of misfit toys thing going on,” He was saying. “He really helped me out, and I wanted to pay him back somehow. I got my qualifications and stuff, and started working at the resort.”
“How big is the resort?” Steve asked. “Is it just the villa?”
Bucky grinned. “Nah, the villa is the private residence – Tony and Pep stay there when they show up. The main resort is where we’re headed. It’s a selection of smaller villas – it’s full right now, the summer is our peak season – but not a lot of people come here looking for a personal trainer. Mostly they want the spa treatments and the open bar.” He didn’t sound too cut up about it. “What about you? How’d you know Tony?”
“I’m a professional criminal.” Steve said, hoping that Sam’s smooth line (everyone loves a bad boy, Steve!) made him seem cool and not awkward. Going on the way Bucky tripped over his feet and looked slightly shocked, maybe it just made him sound like an actual deviant. “In a way.” He tagged on, in what he hoped was a calm tone.
“Okay, you’ve got to explain that a little better, Stevie,” Bucky said, looking… maybe a little impressed? “Cause I’m having a hard time pegging you as a mobster.”
Steve grinned. “FalCap is an in-the-field security firm.” Steve explained. “We basically break into places for a living, and then tell companies how they can fix those problems.” He said. “It’s all perfectly legal, and we have security clearances, but the goal is to make it into the target area without being caught by the in-house security. If we manage that, then we can see weaknesses and try to fix them so no one else can exploit it.”
Bucky gave a low whistle. “Okay, that just sounds pretty badass.” He said, and Steve felt himself flush a little. He hoped he’d be able to pass it off as a reaction to the sun. “So, you can rob a bank?”
“Uh, yeah.” Steve said. “If I have enough time.” He shrugged. “I mean, a lot of it’s about planning and checking out places without actually breaking in, but sometimes… yeah, we rob places.”
“I can’t even imagine how you got into that kind of thing without being arrested.” Bucky said, looking at him. “I mean, come on, you’ve got to have run into trouble.”
“Well, yeah.” Steve admitted. “When we first started out… um, Sam got arrested. Turns out cops aren’t quite ready to believe a black guy breaking into a building isn’t actually a security risk.” Steve grimaced. “But we learned from that, and now we tell the police in advance. It saves a lot of paperwork. And Sam getting beat up.”
Bucky nodded. “So, it’s just you and Sam?”
“Oh, not for a while.” Steve said, warming to the topic. He loved his job. “I mean, when we started out, it was pretty unusual, but after the first couple of successful jobs we started to hire more people. We’ve got 15 people working in our New York Office.” Steve said, proudly. “I mean, we’ve only got the New York office, but it sounds pretty impressive.”
“Damn right it does.” Bucky grinned. “A professional criminal. Huh.” He laughed. “I can just see you climbing through air vents and stuff.”
“Oh, god, no!” Steve said, “I’m the one who makes the plans and checks out the systems. I think I’d probably kill myself trying to do anything else.”
They have reached the end of the cove, and Bucky grinned. “Okay, almost there.” It took them a few minutes to climb the sand dune, and Steve was a little out of breath when they reached the top. “See?”
The other side of the dune was obviously the beach for the main resort. The beach wasn’t crowded, but compared to the empty stretch they’d just walked, it looked bustling. “Come on,” Bucky said, grinning over his shoulder at Steve. “You’re gonna love this, Willie Sutton.”
Steve snorted. “Not quite.”
“Dillinger?” Bucky laughed, before wrapping his arm around Steve’s’ much thinner shoulders and pulling him down the slope. “A real outlaw. I’m honoured.”
Bucky took him out to lunch. Steve was desperately trying not to read too much into that, clinging to the fact that Bucky was obviously just a nice, personable guy. He was friendly to everyone, chatting to the server who took their order and the chief who came out to make sure that everything was okay. Steve was obviously getting the one-on-one treatment that VIP guests staying at Tony’s villa were bound to get, but as the meal went on, and Bucky became more and more relaxed and loose limbed, it got harder for Steve to remember. “Hey, do you wanna check out the marina?” He asked when Steve pushed his plate away. The food had been amazing, and the server had already been aware of Steve’s dietary restrictions when they arrived. “It’s about a mile that way,” He said, waving a hand in the general direction, “It’s pretty cool.”
It was dark when Steve got back to the villa. Bucky had taken him on a slow wander around the Marina, and then the old town, where everyone seemed to know him. He introduced Steve to everyone they met as “My Buddy Steve” and Steve had been hugged and kissed by more people in the space of a few hours than he had in his whole life, which Bucky found hilarious. He was overly protective of Steve’s pale skin, grabbing a bottle of sunscreen at the beach bar and making sure Steve applied it even after the sun had passed its high point.
It was very likely that Steve would always feel Bucky’s fingers on the back of his neck as he teased him for missing a spot.
Sam was eating when they walked into the dining room, chatting away to Clint and a man Steve hadn’t met. “Oh, he’s alive!” Sam laughed, holding up a bottle of beer as a welcome. “Come on, meet Rhodey.”
Bucky had a beer while Steve sipped a soda. He hadn’t been aware of how hungry he was – but all the walking had taken its toll, he cleared his plate with ease – and polished off two servings of desert. Sam, still high on adrenaline from his flight with Rhodey was expansive and happy – telling stories about his Air Force days and making Steve blush with stories from when they’d moved in together. “Man, this little guy – it was so weird. When he wrote to me, I had this idea what he’d be like, and he talked about getting into fights and sticking up for people – I thought he’d be huge! Then I meet him for the first time, and he’s five foot nothing!”
“How long have you guys known one another?” Clint asked, leaning back in his chair. He’d eaten more food than Steve thought was possible, and looked about ready to fall asleep as he nursed his beer.
“Oh, I started writing to Steve when we were kids. One of those penpal programmes? He was in Brooklyn and I was in DC and… we just hit it off. Got a big harder to keep in touch with him moving so often, until we got email.”
“Hey, Bucky’s from Brooklyn too!” Clint said, “Small world.”
Steve’s head jerked around. They’d been talking all day and Bucky hadn’t actually mentioned anything personal.
“Long time ago.” Bucky shrugged, looking bored with the conversation. “So, when did you guys move in together?”
“Well, Steve went to college and I went into the Air Force,” Sam said, fist bumping with Rhodey, “And when I got discharged, I went to New York and this guy was struggling to pay the rent. I had to help him out, you know?” He winked at Steve, who threw a balled up napkin at his head.
“You showed up at my door with a bag and a case of beer and asked to crash on my couch for a couple of days.” Steve corrected. “Then he never left.”
“Cause you were talking about robbing a bank!”
“It was hypothetical!”
“You had a map and everything!”
“It was a doodle.”
“It was gonna get you arrested, is what it was.” Sam shot back, but he was laughing, and so was everyone else. Sam was always good at making friends.
The next week felt like Steve had been pulled out of his life and into someone else’s. His mornings were spent in the pool with Bucky, learning to hold his breath, float on his back and, after a bit of a rocky start – actual swimming. Then after his lesson, Bucky would take him for something to eat somewhere on the island and the rest of the day would be spent exploring. Steve had seen the botanical gardens, a hidden waterfall that Bucky threatened to throw him over, before pulling him back from the edge, no less than four secret caves at the coast and parts of the old town that Steve would never have guessed existed.
He’d then spend the night on the deck outside the dining room with Sam, Clint and Rhodey. Bucky never stayed after the first night, and Steve was trying not to let his disappointment be too obvious. He guessed a holiday romance might have been nice, but holiday pining was just depressing.
“I can’t do it anymore.” Steve heard, as he walked through the villa. Bucky would be arriving soon, and Steve always picked up a couple of bottles of water and some fruit to keep by the pool for them to snack on through the breaks Bucky insisted on so Steve didn’t get too fatigued. He instantly recognised the voice as being Bucky and paused. He didn’t want to interrupt a private conversation – he took two steps back.
“It’s the worst. He’s constantly there, you know? How can I get my head screwed on right if he’s always around?”
“Try telling him.” A woman’s voice said, which Steve knew must be Natasha. She was always busy with the main resort and Steve hadn’t spent much time with her at all, aside from a quick chat as she waited for Sam to get ready for whatever high risk trip he’d planned. “Tell him how you feel.”
“Oh yeah, I can see that going down well.” Bucky snapped. “He’s here for another week. It’s gonna be awkward as hell if I say anything.”
Steve blinked, blood turning cold as he realised that Bucky was talking about him.
“I’m just gonna have to suck it up till he goes.” Bucky said, letting out a frustrated growl. “And try not to get knocked out or fired. Jesus, Pep would kill me if I did something. I’m not that guy!”
Steve didn’t listen to what Natasha said after that. He took one more step backwards before turning around and walking into his room. Obviously his friendship with Bucky wasn’t… He sat on the edge of his bed and looked at his hands.
They had always been too large for his body. He could remember his mom telling him that one day he’d grow into them; he’d be big and strong, big and strong for her.
Maybe he would have, if she hadn’t died – if his dad’s brother hadn’t been the one to take him in. If the years of abuse and neglect hadn’t left him scarred and weak. When Bucky had looked at him, Steve had managed to convince himself that he’d seen past the skinny Steve Rogers, the scars and the nerves.
He’d forgotten that Bucky got paid to make sure Steve had a good time. He got paid to pretend.
Three firm knocks on his door had him jumping with shock. Bucky didn’t even bother to wait for him to call out, just pushed the door open with a bright, warm smile. “Morning Stevie!” He said, nothing in his tone to suggest that Steve’s clinging was ‘the worst’. If Steve hadn’t heard it with his own ears, he would never have believed it. “Ready to get started?” He said, grin sliding off his face when he looked at Steve. “Hey, you okay? You look a little green around the edges.”
Steve blinked. “Yeah, I um, I don’t feel so great.” He said. It wasn’t really a lie. He felt like he’d been punched in the gut, and he’d been punched in the gut enough to know what it felt like. “I think I’ll skip the lesson today, if that’s okay?”
Bucky was instantly agreeing. Of course he would – any excuse not to have Steve hanging around him for hours. “Yeah, totally, of course.” He said, “It’s not a big deal. You want me to get you a doctor? We’ve got one on call?”
“No,” Steve said, firmly. He wasn’t going to waste anyone else’s time. “I just don’t think swimming would help.”
“Probably not.” Bucky nodded. “How about a walk? You might feel better for some air. Or we could take the car inland and see the wildlife centre I told you about? They’ve got baby sloths.”
Steve shook his head. “No, I think… I think I’ll just get some sleep.” He lied. “I’ll feel better after a rest.”
“If you’re sure,” Bucky said, not looking at all convinced. “I could call Sam?”
Steve shook his head firmly. “No, I’ll be fine. Just need to rest.”
He had almost 2 hundred emails waiting for him when he logged on – a week of not checking would have that effect, he guessed – and almost as soon as he logged on, both Sharon and Maria were on the internal messenger. They weren’t worried about work – Sam had been posting pictures on Facebook and they wanted to see what Steve had been up to. It was easy to send through the photos he’d taken, his phone had a good camera app and he’d taken to carrying it with him when he’d left the villa.
MHill : I’m so jealous! It looks amazing
MHill : Who is the guy?
SCarter : OMG, who is the hottie, Steve?
SCarter : Are you having a torrid romance with a lifeguard?
Steve blinked. He’d logged on to get away from Bucky, not talk more about him.
SRogers: He’s the guide. He typed. It’s his job to show me around.
MHill : Yeah, looks like he’s really suffering through it.
Steve glared at the picture she’s sent back, cropped and zoomed on Bucky’s face. He was looking off camera, features soft and warm, smiling at whatever he was looking at. Probably some girl he’d be able to flirt with if Steve hadn’t been around, cramping his style.
SRogers : Has there been an issue with Coulson? He’s sent me about 40 emails.
MHill : Can you VC? I think we’ll need to chat about that.
Coulson’s company had been hit by a cyber-attack – something that FalCap was not equipped to handle. They had lost business in the past because people were looking to keep their digital information safe as well as their hard assets. Steve had been looking into hiring a specific group of people for the job, but it was hard to find someone when the hacking community was so close-knit. It didn’t help that Steve wasn’t really an expert with computers. Coulson knew that FalCap wasn’t able to cover cyber-attacks, but that hadn’t stopped him from reaching out to them for help.
There was a knock at the door a couple of hours into the brainstorming session Steve was having with Maria. It was the part of his job that he really loved, where he felt confident – planning and strategizing.
Bucky’s voice cut through his line of thought like a hot knife through butter. Maria, easily seen at her desk in New York, picked up on Bucky talking. The mic was obviously very good. “Sharon?” She called; holding up a piece of paper that Steve just knew was blank. “Can you come over here and check this out. I think we’re almost done here.”
Steve glared at the screen as Sharon rolled her chair over to look at the ‘document’ Maria was holding, before turning around to look at Bucky. He was wearing a shirt, which was new. Steve wasn’t sure if he’d ever seen him in so many clothes. Which was not a thought he wanted to be having. Ever. Especially not when Steve was apparently an ordeal to be suffered through. “Bucky.” Steve managed, managed with a smile even. He was proud of that.
“Feeling better?” He asked, looking between Steve and the screen he knew would have Maria and Sharon studiously pouring over a black sheet of paper as they listened and watched everything that was going on. He’d turn off the conference if he thought it wouldn’t look suspicious.
“Yeah, lots.” He said, nodding. It was true – the whole time he’d been working he hadn’t thought about Bucky and his hurtful words.
Bucky nodded, grinning. “You look good. Better, I mean. Less like your gonna ralph.”
Steve nodded. Bucky really hadn’t needed to clarify that he hadn’t meant Steve looked good. Steve was already fully aware of his shortcomings. “Feeling up for a drive? The reserve is still open.”
“Oh!” Sharon cut over. “There’s a reserve? Sam didn’t mention that.”
“It’s got baby sloths.” Bucky said, grinning at the screen, which got join ‘awws’ from the ladies in New York.
“Steve, take pictures!”
Steve shook his head. “Maybe tomorrow. I want to get this finished.” He turned back to the screen so he wouldn’t have to look at Bucky.
“We can finish up.” Sharon said, grinning. “You’ve been here all day. It’s supposed to be a vacation.”
“Have you eaten?” Maria added, looking concerned. Steve wanted to punch her.
“We can catch something after.” Bucky suggested, and Steve didn’t need to turn around to know that he was smiling that stupid gut churning smile that made Steve feel warm and special. “There’s a local restaurant I think you’ll really like, they serve traditional dishes.”
“Ohh,” The ladies cooed. “That sounds lovely.” Sharon added.
“Maybe tomorrow.” Steve repeated, not turning around. “I’m a little busy right now.”
His flat tone must have hit a nerve; both Sharon and Maria sat back from the screen. He couldn’t see Bucky, but the warmth left the room.
“Well, okay.” Bucky said, sounding resigned. “Are you still okay for the swimming lesson tomorrow?”
“I might take a break.” Steve said, not lifting his head. “I’ll let you know if I change my mind.”
“Cool.” Bucky said, “Ladies, nice to meet you.”
“Bye.” They waved.
It took all for five seconds for the door to click before Sharon snapped. “What the hell, Steve!” She fumed. “He’s totally hot and totally in to you.”
“Do you have the contact information for Skye?” He said, completely ignoring her comment.
“Sharon,” He snapped. “My personal life is personal. Do you have the contact information for Skye or not?”
“Yes, sir.” She said, just as waspishly as him. “If that’s everything? We’ve already worked two hours overtime for this.”
She didn’t wait for a response, just ended the video call with a vicious stab of her pen against the remote. A few seconds later, he got an email address for Skye and an out of office notification.
Sam wasn’t happy. When Steve finally left the office to get something to eat, Sam was sitting in his usual place, with his usual beer. Clint and Rhodey were there too, and (unusually) Natasha.
Sam was always the most laid back person Steve knew. From the very start of their friendship, Sam had been the happy-go-lucky guy that liked everyone and laughed often. He was a ray of sunshine no matter what, keeping things cheerful and relaxed despite the situation.
That didn’t mean he didn’t get angry. Steve knew as soon as he saw the tight line of his shoulders as he sat, the way he’d picked off the label of his beer.
“Sharon called me.” He said, as Steve filled his plate. He hadn’t much of an appetite, but he knew he had to eat something.
“Oh?” Steve replied, wondering if he should have the chicken or pulled pork.
“Sharon?” Clint asked, because it seemed only Steve knew Sam well enough to tell he was a few seconds away from snapping.
“Yeah, she’s great.” Sam said, his easy tone not betraying the fact that he was pissed. “We left her and Maria in charge of things while we came here. I wasn’t really expecting her to call me.” Steve put a little pile of pulled pork on his plate and moved to the veg. “Certainly wasn’t expecting her to call me and ream me over Steve’s fucking piss-poor attitude problem.”
“She was out of line.” Steve said, not even looking at what he was putting on his plate. Sam wasn’t his boss, he was his partner, and he should know that Steve wouldn’t have snapped unless he had a reason.
“Maybe we should go,” Natasha suggested, but Steve waved a hand.
“It’s fine. I’m taking this back to my room anyway.” He said, grabbing a soda can and heading for the door again. “I’m not gonna stick around to be lectured because your girlfriend can’t keep her nose out of other people’s lives.”
He didn’t slam the door, because he wasn’t a fucking child, but it was a near thing. Sam and Sharon had been very quietly dating for about four months, and Steve knew that bringing it up was a low blow – they thought Steve didn’t know and had been trying to work out a way to tell him and (he guessed) everyone else. Steve was a lot of things, but he wasn’t stupid, and he knew that Sam wasn’t going to treat her any different – and she wasn’t going to use her relationship to get further ahead. He knew that, so bringing it up was petty and pointless. It was a cheap way to win an argument and Steve was equal parts pissed at himself and the whole situation in general.
He felt guilty for snapping at Sharon and Maria, sick at how he’d convinced himself that Bucky had been his friend, and now he felt terrible for bringing up Sam’s personal life – especially since that was what he’d snapped at Sharon for. He put his untouched plate on the dresser and took his soda out to the poolside. Sometimes he wondered if a drink would be better, but the thought of ending up like his uncle was enough to stop him from reaching over to the bar.
He was staring out over the water of the pool, glittering and dark, when his room door opened. He knew Sam wasn’t going to let him stew for long, but he’d hoped that he’d be able to work up a bit of righteous indignation before it happened – it would have helped him stick to his guns – rather than the unpleasant sickness he felt in his gut.
“We didn’t tell you because I thought it might make you feel awkward.” Sam said, standing at the door. He sounded less pissed, but still tightly wound. Steve just sipped his soda. “I didn’t think you’d be an asshole about it, especially not to Sharon.”
“I don’t care who you date.” Steve bit out. It was true, Steve actually thought Sharon and Sam were great people and the idea of them dating was a good one. They had a lot in common. “It sucks you didn’t tell me, but I understand why.”
Because Steve was always single, and Steve was always the one needing Sam – not the other way around. “I shouldn’t have lost my temper at Sharon, but she was insinuating something and it wasn’t… I didn’t… I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Is this about Bucky?” Sam asked, still leaning against the door.
“No.” Steve snapped. Which he instantly regretted because how obvious could he be. “Can we not talk about it?”
“Please? Okay? I can’t… I don’t want to talk about it.” He said, not even looking at Sam. “I’ll apologise to Sharon and Maria tomorrow and I can just go back to… I can just… Vacation’s nearly over anyway.” He said. “I miss New York.”
“Okay.” Sam said from behind him, and Steve could tell that the matter was closed. Sam knew that the apology would be sincere and difficult for Steve, but he would do it if he said he was going to – and Sam was a good enough friend not to hold a grudge for long. “When we got back Sharon and I were going to tell you.” He added. “Although I’m pretty sure your dramatic exit caused some raised eyebrows.” He said, “Natasha thought we were married.”
Steve snorted. “I’m flattered that she thought I was anywhere near your league.” He said, and help up his hand when he could actually hear the intake of Sam’s breath to tell him the usual platitudes of how Steve was a great guy, and people were idiots for not seeing how hot he was, and the right person was out there he just had to look. “I don’t want to talk about it.” He repeated.
Steve ordered two large arrangements of flowers and booked a lunch at Maria’s favourite restaurant before he called the office. His apology was halting and awkward, but he got through it, and he hoped that he’d never have occasion to do it again. Sharon was more ready to forgive him than he deserved, but Steve was aware that might have had more to with her ‘secret’ relationship with Sam. They were pleased with the flowers and lunch and when he hung up, he did feel like he’d mended that bridge before it got worse.
However, the rest of his day loomed forward. He’d promised to ‘enjoy’ the rest of his vacation without logging into the office, leaving both Maria and Sharon in charge like he was supposed to do, but without Bucky, he hadn’t really anything to do.
He walked back and forth in the pool, just like Bucky had shown him on the first day, and focused on remembering what he’d learned. He was pretty sure that he could swim a little without Bucky there to stop him from drowning; he just had to suck it up and be a man. He would spend an hour in the pool and then he’d go for a walk – he didn’t need Bucky there to hold his hand. He wasn’t a child who needed supervision for a walk .
It was harder to swim when he knew no one was there to grab him if he went under, but he persevered. He managed one very slow lap before his arms felt like they were made of jelly. Bucky had been trying to get him to move his legs more, but Steve hadn’t figured out how to do it without splashing like a drowning rat.
Steve pulled himself up the ladder with wobbly arms and roughly dried himself off. He grabbed the bottle of sunscreen and applied it liberally. Bucky had really hammered home the point that Steve really would burn to a crisp if he wasn’t looking after himself well enough and Steve didn’t want to get sunburn the first day he didn’t have Bucky around.
The beach was deserted as Steve slowly walked along the waterline. He remembered how, on the first day, how he’d found it relaxing and calming – but now he found it boring. He was used to Bucky there, telling him some story or throwing an arm around his shoulders as he pulled Steve along to see something he thought Steve might like. As the water lapped over his toes, he found himself sighing like he was in some depressing movie montage. “Pathetic.” He muttered, before turning back.
Bucky was standing at the beach cabana, watching Steve as he walked towards the house. He could do one of two things – he could be spectacularly rude and walk past him, or say hi.
As much as he wanted to do the former, he set his jaw and smiled. “Morning.”
Bucky nodded. He looked… well… gorgeous, which was how he looked normally, but also a little worried. “Sorry about interrupting your work yesterday.” He said, “I shouldn’t have disturbed you.”
Steve managed a smile. “It’s okay. I was… I should have,” He took a deep breath. “I mean, I shouldn’t have been working anyway, but I felt guilty.” That sounded good. That sounded like something even Sam would believe. It certainly didn’t sound like Steve was nursing a wounded ego over Bucky thinking Steve was… whatever. Steve was over it. He really was.
“Uh, do you wanna go for a walk, or… um, are you spending time with Sam?” Bucky asked, rubbing the back of his neck, like he wasn’t sure if he should even be asking. Steve knew that Bucky didn’t want to hang out with him, so he smiled and shook his head.
“Sam’s going bungee jumping today.” Steve supplied. “It’s not really my thing.”
Bucky looked like he’d been punched. “What?” He asked, sounding horrified. “He’s just…” He blinked. “I thought he’d want to spend some time with you.”
Steve shook his head. “We’ve got different interests.” He said, wondering how he could end the conversation without being spectacularly rude. “I was just going to relax today.”
Bucky nodded. “Of course, yeah, totally.” He said, sounding a little like he was rambling. “Sure.” He paused. “Do you want some company? I mean…” He swallowed. “I aint got plans. If you want someone to… someone to talk to.”
Steve smiled. He knew Bucky was just trying to be a nice guy – Bucky was a nice guy – but Steve knew how Bucky felt about spending time with him. How Steve’s obvious clinging was something to suffer through.
“Oh, no, it’s okay.” He said, pleased that he sounded even, and not at all like he wanted to yell out ‘I know you hate me really, stop pretending, it hurts my feelings’. “I couldn’t ask you do to that.”
“It’s fine.” Bucky said, instantly. “Or the sloths. They’re still at the reserve.”
Steve wasn’t sure how he ended up at the reserve, but he was pretty sure it had something to do with not knowing how to say ‘no’ without sounding like an asshole – especially to Bucky.
“Hi Peter!” Bucky was saying, as they entered the reserve. It was actually pretty busy, with people milling around the gift shop and buying tickets for entry. “This is Steve I was telling you about, we’ve come to see the babies.”
Peter was a lanky teenager who was wearing a red polo shirt and a badge that said ‘ask me about our native spiders’ in black. Steve was pretty sure that the very last thing he wanted to do was ask anyone about spiders.
Peter nodded and pointed to a door that said ‘Staff Only’. “You know the way.”
Steve told himself that the looks they got were because they were obviously jumping the queue, and not because Bucky had thrown an arm around his shoulders to pull him towards the door. He imagined the whispers – questioning why Bucky was with him, wondering what charity case Steve was.
“Okay, so through the off-peak season I help out here.” Bucky was saying as he swaggered along, Steve tucked under his arm. “Peter’s a cool kid – Natasha’s lil bro. He works here through his summer break, but he goes to school on the mainland. He wants to be a vet.”
A couple of non-descript corridors later, and Bucky stopped at a door that had a handwritten warning sign. “Cuteness Overload: Punch a wall if required”. Steve read, looking up at Bucky.
“Oh yeah, Janet has a theory on fragile masculinity.” He grinned, rolling his eyes. “Did you bring your phone?”
Steve blinked. “Uh, yeah?”
“Good, you’ll want to take pictures of this.” Bucky said, turning the handle.
“He’s so cute I want to throw up.” Steve overheard, as he sat in the middle of a pen. On his thin arm, holding on with long, blunt claws, was the cutest thing he had ever seen. Baby sloths. Steve wanted a hundred of them. Janet wasn’t the quietest whisperer in the world, and Steve grinned as he looked up.
“He totally is.” He agreed, grinning. “What’s his name?”
“We call him Bumble.” Janet said, after throwing a meaningful look at Bucky. “We’ve been hand rearing him and his sister, Wasp, for a couple of weeks.”
Bucky held out his hand, “Gimme your phone.” He said, making a grabby hand. “Come on, I bet I can get your new profile picture for Facebook.” He grinned.
Steve nodded, carefully shifting so he could pull his phone out of his pocket and holding it out, desperate not to shake too much so Bumble wouldn’t fall. He’d noticed Bucky taking pictures, but hadn’t thought much about it. “That would be so cool.” Steve agreed. He was pretty sure that baby sloth trumped the ‘just about to jump’ Sam was currently using from his trip to the waterfalls. Bucky was snapping quickly. He had mastered Steve’s camera app faster than Steve, and knew how to use all the filters. Some of the pictures on his phone actually made Steve look good.
“Anything’d be better than the one he’s got up,” Bucky was saying to Janet. “Who the hell uses their high school yearbook photo?”
Steve blinked. How the hell did Bucky know what his Facebook profile picture was?
“Do you want Wasp too?” Janet asked, pointing at where Wasp was hugging her stuffed teddy and completely derailing his train of thought. “Bucky could hold her so you could get a nice one of the both of you.” She smiled. “I mean, them, of course.”
“That’s a great idea!” Bucky said, before Steve could even respond, climbing into the pen. “Could you get one of me too? I never get my picture taken with the cute ones – last time I was here,” He told Steve, settling down beside him, knee leaning against Steve’s back, “I had to hold the snakes. I fucking hate snakes. All my pictures were like this.” He pulled a face which easily telegraphed his revulsion. “S’not my best look.”
“Okay, just hold out your arm,” Janet was saying, and Bucky soon had Wasp hanging from his arm. “You’ll need to move a little, Steve, just bring your arm slowly across your body – gently so you don’t scare Bumble - then we can get all of you in the picture.”
“Okay, you can tell me how awesome I am.” Bucky was saying, as he pulled Steve through the Old Town, grinning wide. Steve had bought a stuffed baby sloth at the gift shop, and Bucky had stolen it, walking around with it perched on his shoulder like a pirate’s parrot. “I bet you’re glad I made you come now, huh? I bet this was the best day.” He was grinning from ear to ear, swaggering widely as they walked. “Come on, me an baby Bumble are starving.” He laughed, tugging on Steve’s arm, pulling him into a bar. “You’ll like it here.” He said pushing Steve into a booth. The bar seemed to be full of mostly locals, although Steve could spot a few tourists dressed like him. Bucky stood out just because he was so vibrant – he didn’t need floral shorts or a fanny pack to get noticed. “It’s not fancy, but they do the best burger on the island.” He paused. “You like burgers, yeah?”
Bucky beamed. “Hold on to your hat then, Stevie, this’ll blow your mind.”
Bucky had a single beer with his burger, and Steve realised that it was the first time he’d seen Bucky drink. Maybe he had a rule about drinking while working – and obviously taking Steve around was part of his job.
Baby Bumble, the toy sloth, was sitting on the table, facing them, and Bucky had made Steve take a picture of the stuffed animal gripping his beer bottle, and another posed with a burger. “It’s so cute.” He’d said, grinning over at Steve like Steve was the best thing he’d ever seen. Steve wished Bucky wasn’t quite so good at pretending, because it hurt a little more every time.
“Best burger you’ve ever eaten?” Bucky asked, leaning back so his leg was almost completely under Steve’s. Steve wanted to pull away, because he knew Bucky didn’t mean for it to be so intimate. He was probably a very tactile person with his real friends, and Steve needed to stop reading so much into it.
“It was okay.” Steve said, shrugging. “I mean, it’s not a Brooklyn burger.”
“Oh!” Bucky said, holding a hand over his heart, looking scandalised. “Oh, that’s how it is, huh? I take you out for a nice meal and you gotta wound me like that?” He grinned, holding out a hand to cover the stuffed toys face. “Don’t listen to the bad man, Bumble!”
Steve laughed, unable to stop himself, and Bucky grinned from ear to ear – Steve’s heart really couldn’t take the way Bucky looked at him.
It was just getting dark when they walked back to the villa, Steve full from the extra portion of fries Bucky ordered, and the dessert that was so huge Bucky had to split it with him with a rueful smile and an almost shy, ‘you don’t mind, do you?’ that had Steve’s toes curling up in his shoes.
“Are you gonna go to the dining room?” Bucky asked, when they reached the villa.
“I don’t think I could eat another thing.” Steve said, sighing. “Seriously, you should have stopped me from eating so much, I could burst.”
“You criticised my burgers!” Bucky smirked. “You deserve it.”
Steve threw him a dark look, which just resulted in Bucky grinning more. “And no, I’m going to sit by the pool.”
“You want company?” Bucky asked, holding out the stuffed toy.
“Yeah,” Steve laughed. “Obviously.”
He’d thought Bucky was talking about the stupid soft toy. That’s where he’d gone wrong. He’d thought Bucky was teasing him about the baby sloth, and Bucky had been talking about him. By the time Steve realised that Bucky was going to be sitting by the pool with Steve it was too late to do anything else but a few calming breaths and try to relax. Sam hung out with Steve all the time, and Steve knew Sam was a good looking guy. He just had to… he had to…
“Man, this is nice.” Bucky was saying, stretched out on a lounger. “We had a good day, yeah?”
“Yeah,” Steve said, trying to keep his eyes on the stars. They were a lot brighter than they were in Brooklyn, that was for sure. “I think I might have developed a burning need for a thousand baby sloths though. I need em, I just don’t know if I’d be allowed.”
Bucky’s snorted a little self depreciatingly. “Yeah, I know how you feel.” He said, looking over at Steve. “I always seem to want things I can’t have too.”
Sam arrived an hour later, when Bucky and Steve were trading a lazy, half asleep conversation about why a baby slot might be the best anger management tool. “I mean, seriously,” Steve was saying, “Who could be mad if you show em a baby sloth?”
“Exactly.” Bucky had nodded, yawning. “Just get crawled over. Bad mood gone.”
Steve had been mid yawn when Sam’s voice drifted over them. “This looks cosy.” He teased, and Steve’s spine stiffened. He knew what it might look like, Steve laying on the lounger only a foot away from where Bucky was propped up, leaning on one arm to talk to Steve.
“It was.” Bucky said, coolly, getting to his feet. “I gotta get back to mine.” He looked down at Steve. “I’ll see you tomorrow, yeah?” he asked, with a smile.
“Uh, yeah?” Steve nodded.
“Cool.” Another grin before turning to look at Sam with a sharp nod. “Sam.”
When he left, Sam looked at Steve with a confused look. “Did I piss in his cornflakes or something?” He asked, looking between the door and Steve.
“I have no idea.”
“You’re doing really well.” Bucky was saying as Steve swam another lap. Between them he had a stop for a few minutes, where Bucky would give him a bit of advice, encouragement or ask if he needed a drink. “Think you could come out on the boat tomorrow?”
“Probably not.” Steve admitted. “I’ll be getting packed up; the flight leaves so early in the morning on Tuesday I don’t think we’ll be able to get much done on Monday.” The silence from Bucky made him turn. “What?”
“Nothing.” The other man said, ruefully. “I just forgot you were leaving so soon.”
Steve smiled. “Yeah, it’s… um… I’ve had a really good time.”
“So you guys are treating this like your last day, huh?”
Steve shrugged. “I’m not sure about Sam. He’s one of those guys that does everything last minute – he’ll probably have a list of things he’ll want to do tomorrow.”
“How many of them are gonna include you, though?” Bucky said, sounding a little sharp.
Steve blinked. He wasn’t sure what Sam had done to piss Bucky off, but whatever it was, it must have been a big deal. He looked ready to fight.
“It just seems like he’s had no time at all for you, you know?” Bucky said, “It’s not right. He’s spent the whole vacation practically avoiding you – he’s…” Bucky trailed off, looking at Steve’s confused face. “Never mind. Whatever. Fuck him.” He pulled himself out of the water. “Come on, if this is your last day we’ll do something cool.” He said, holding out his hand, “You’re phone’s one of those waterproof ones, right?”
“No, really, I can’t.”
“Steve, it’s just the same as in the pool.”
“There isn’t a shallow end!”
“You’ve been treading water all morning; your feet haven’t touched the bottom of the pool for days.”
Bucky was bobbing along to the gentle motion of the waves, as Steve clutched at the snorkel in his hands. The boat (The Pepper Pot) was anchored off the shore, almost on top of a reef Bucky promised Steve would love to see. He would. He really would. But he was pretty sure that he was going to drown if he slid off the tailgate. Was it called a tailgate if it was on a boat? Steve didn’t care. He was going to drown.
“What if I breathe in water?”
“I’m right here.” Bucky pointed out. “Lifeguard. All round hero!” He swam over to the boat and put Steve’s phone on the metal shelf Steve was sitting on, before moving so that Steve’s legs were between his arms. The level of the boat and the water meant that Bucky was bobbing along at the same height as Steve’s crotch. It was a mental image he’d never forget, especially when Bucky smirked up at him like he could read his thoughts. Which he couldn’t, thank god, because Steve was pretty sure the revulsion he’d see there would kill him. “Steeeevie,” Bucky whined. “Steeevie buddy.”
“I’ll protect you.”
“Come on, I’ll even hold your hand.”
Steve glared, which seemed to have the exact opposite effect he’d wanted – Bucky grinned wider. “Unless you’re too chicken?”
“Jerk!” Steve complained, pushing at Bucky’s shoulders to get him to move back. “I only just learned to swim!”
“I know, I was there.” Bucky winked. “Come on. Just hold on to the bar and tread the water. It’s easier to float in the sea than a pool.”
“Science.” Bucky said, wrapping a hand around Steve’s ankle. Although the water was cool, the tough of Bucky’s hand was like a brand, hot and exciting and too much for Steve to take – especially when Bucky was still at eye level with his crotch.
“Fine.” He snapped, hoping that his anger would hide just how flustered he was. “If I die, I’m gonna haunt you forever.”
Unlike Bucky’s graceful dive off the side of the boat, Steve gingerly lifted himself off the shelf, gasping a little when he slipped into the water. Bucky still hadn’t moved, meaning Steve had pretty much slid down the length of his body – something he was pretty sure would forever be a fantasy he’d replay over and over again when he went home. Bucky was grinning though, with Steve trapped between his arms. “See? That wasn’t so hard, was it?” He said, legs moving as he treaded the water, their knees and calves rubbing together. Steve was going to die, he was sure, but he was no longer worried about drowning. The cause of death would just say ‘Bucky Barnes’ damn smirk’ and that was all.
“Okay, just slowly follow me.” Bucky said, grabbing Steve’s phone and pushing away. “Remember your snorkel.”
It was both harder and easier to move in the ocean. Steve felt as though he was much more vulnerable in the open, but Bucky was right about it being easier to stay afloat. Before they even tried to dive, Bucky showed Steve how to breathe with the snorkel on, how to float on his back, and a few hand gestures that would be easy to understand when they would be unable to talk. While he was teaching, he took pictures with Steve’s phone – laughing at a few before announcing they were ready to dive.
Steve had never seen anything like it.
The reef was brightly coloured and vibrant in a way he wasn’t expecting, with different corals and hundreds of fish. Bucky was there the whole time, making sure that Steve was going up for air at the correct times and keeping him from drifting too far away from the boat. Steve wasn’t even sure how long they had been swimming when Bucky signalled him to stop, to stay still. He took a few pictures quickly, grinning tightly before swimming over to Steve and gently turning him around.
The shark was a few foot from them, drifting along the reef. Bucky was holding on to Steve with one hand and taking pictures with the other – but Steve had stopped breathing. It was huge – he didn’t know a lot about sharks other than what he’d seen on the discovery channel, but he was pretty sure the great white was one of those animals the brain was hardwired to know on sight.
It passed them with only a few feet between them, completely unconcerned with the minor heart attack Steve was having. Bucky stopped taking pictures once it had passed them and gave Steve the signal to move back to the surface.
“That was, by far, the coolest shit I have ever seen.” Bucky was saying, after pulling Steve up onto the boat. “Did you see how cool he was? Totally ignored us, Stevie, that’s how low we are on the food chain to him.” He grinned, tugging Steve hard against him, “Look at these!”
The photographs were amazing. The fact that Bucky had pulled Steve into his lap to show them to him was equally awesome. “Dude, look at that one!”
The picture was of Steve and his snorkel mask, looking at the camera, unaware that only a few feet behind him, a shark was edging closer. It looked fake. In fact, if Steve’s heart wasn’t still beating out of his chest, he’d have called it fake. It was a one in a million shot. “Holy crap, man.” Bucky was still saying. “Feel my heart.”
Bucky grabbed Steve’s hand and pulled it against his pec. Steve was pretty sure that Bucky had a heart, and he didn’t doubt that it was beating hard and fast, but he was completely distracted by the feel of firm muscle under his palm. Bucky was tanned and muscular and Steve was in his lap, hand pushed up against his chest – his brain misfired.
Bucky tasted like saltwater and the sprite he’d been drinking between their trips to the reef, and Steve was sure he’d never kissed anyone so perfect in his entire life. When he was with Bucky he forgot that he was a mess, both physically and emotionally – and when Bucky parted his lips to allow Steve to deepen the kiss, Steve couldn’t help the sigh he let out. He leaned closer, feeling bold, and aware that Bucky was pulling him closer. A hand on his lower back, pressure that made him arch a little, the feel of Bucky moaning into his mouth.
Steve wanted to kiss Bucky forever, he wanted to feel warm and safe and utterly surrounded by the other man. Which was of, course, when Bucky pulled back. “Steve,” He said, sounding a little wrecked. “Steve, this is a bad idea.”
“This is a great idea.” Steve managed, heart thumping hard and past in his throat. “It is.”
“It’s just adrenaline.” Bucky said, pulling back when Steve tried to kiss him some more. “It’s not… it’s… this is a mistake, Steve, you’ll regret this for a long time.”
The bags were packed and he was ready to go, but he didn’t feel a lot like singing. His head was still aching – he knew why people drank to forget, and mostly he just wished he could drink to forget drinking.
When Bucky had pushed Steve to his feet, Steve had felt completely mortified, and it didn’t help how the other man insisted on apologising – from the moment they got off the boat to when he dropped Steve off at the villa. If Steve never heard the words ‘I’m so sorry Steve,’ again it would be too fucking soon. He’d gone back to his room and worked his way through the bottle of champagne that had been chilling at the not-so-mini-minibar. It hadn’t taken more than a couple of glasses for him to feel drunk, and after that he didn’t remember much. Sam had found him half passed out on the lounger, drunk and loud and horribly emotional.
But in a few hours, his hangover would be flying back to New York, where he’d never have to look at Bucky’s sympathetically understanding face ever again.
Sam was being the best – he’d taken one last tour of the island with Clint, leaving Steve with his aspirin and water, and then had helped pack the bags up.
“Did you have a good holiday, Steve?” He’d asked when they got in the car.
“Yeah.” Steve mumbled. “Let’s do it again sometime never.”
Sam patted him on the shoulder and winced. “Man, I can see why you don’t drink.”
But that had been an hour ago, and Steve was standing at the check-in desk, loading up his bags when he heard someone call out his name. He turned, confused, to see Bucky making his way towards him through the crowd.
“Steve, listen.” He was saying, and Steve nodded dumbly, because… what? “Steve, I’m really sorry, okay? I promised I wasn’t gonna do this, I swear to fucking god, I promise I wasn’t gonna be that guy.” Steve watched as Bucky pushed his hair back out of his eyes, looking too much like the romantic hero everyone wanted and no one ever got. “But you gotta, Steve, you gotta listen to me, okay?”
“Okay?” Steve agreed, although he wasn’t exactly sure what he was agreeing to. The woman at the desk was obviously loving the show, but Steve was aware that the boarding had already started and he would miss the flight if he stayed any longer. “Steve, you’re amazing and funny and cute as hell,” Bucky was saying, looking tortured. “And I wanna fucking kiss you all the time – but I can’t be that guy, you know?” He ran a hand over his face. “This has been the best and worst two weeks of my whole fucking life, okay? You… you’re just so fucking perfect and I thought I’d be okay, but it’s been the fucking worst… Jesus, you’re everything I ever wanted. I just wanted you to know that. You’re prefect. And if he can’t fucking see that, it’s his problem, okay?” Bucky said, “Don’t fucking let that asshole cheat on you. Don’t fucking think that he can just fucking forget about you.”
“Sir, the final boarding call…” The woman at the desk was saying, “Unless you want to stay?”
“I don’t…” Steve blinked, hung-over, probably still drunk – he had no clue what Bucky was talking about. “What?”
“Anyone that loves you would want to be with you all the time.”
“Okay,” Steve nodded.
“And you deserve better than Sam, okay? You do. Don’t fucking let him treat you like this.” Bucky said, before leaning forward and kissing him firmly. “Please.”
Steve sat on the flight and looked at his hands. He was pretty sure he’d made the biggest mistake of his life getting on the plane.
Sharon and Sam told everyone about them dating the day after they’d landed, at a nice meal. Steve took a picture of the three of them. “Can’t wait to be the best man!” he’d captioned it, when he’d put it on Facebook, tagging Sam and Sharon.
The next morning, he saw a private message from someone not on his friends list. His heart skipped a beat when he saw who it was.
James Barnes: Did you and Sam break up?
James Barnes: It’s Bucky.
James Barnes: Did you break up?
James Barnes: Are you okay?
Steve looked at the messages and blinked. He had no idea what was going on.
Steven G Rogers: Sam and I aren’t dating.
James Barnes: He’s your partner. You said he was your partner.
The reply was almost instant. And when Steve looked at it, he wanted to die. Bucky had thought Steve was cheating on Sam. That Sam had been cheating on Steve.
Steven G Rogers: He is. We started the company together. He’s not my boyfriend. He’s my partner, my BUSINESS PARTNET
Steven G Rogers: Partner**
James Barnes: Are you fucknig kdding me?! STEVE!!!!
Steve tried to send another message, but it failed to send. So did the next. And the four after that.
Shit. Steve might have fucked up more than he thought.
Two days later, Steve was still trying to send increasingly desperate messages to Bucky. They were sending, although he could see from the little chat bubble that Bucky hadn’t actually seen anything he’d been typing. Some of the more desperate ones he’d deleted – because he was desperate but trying to look cool. It was a fine line.
His work suffered. He was waspish and grumpy – Sam had made it his personal mission to make sure Steve wasn’t dealing with their clients, and Maria and Sharon were trying to make sure he didn’t piss off everyone else.
He wondered if getting on a flight back to the island was too much. Maybe Bucky hadn’t… maybe it had just been a joke, and Steve would end up looking like an idiot, showing up with his heart on his sleeve.
“Steve?” Sam said, popping his head through the office door. “Someone here to see you.” He sounded pleased, happy. Steve wanted to stab him in the eye with whatever office supplies were in range.
“Tell them to make an appointment like everyone else.” He snapped, checking his phone again, in case Bucky had messaged him back.
“You’ll wanna take this one.” Sam grinned. Since he’d opened up about his relationship with Sharon, he’d been in an obnoxiously good mood. It was grating on Steve’s nerves like sandpaper.
“I really don’t give a fuck right now.” Steve pointed out, not bothering to even look up.
“I can come back later if it’s going to be an issue,” A voice that Steve was not expecting to hear ever again said. His head shot up so fast that something cracked alarmingly loud, but Steve didn’t care. Bucky was there. Bucky was standing beside Sam looking… looking just as perfectly devastating as he had four days ago. Behind him, people were practically climbing on their desks to get a better look at what was going down. “I mean, if you’re busy.”
“NO!” Steve shouted, and felt the blush instantly stain his cheeks. “I mean, no, that’s okay. It’s fine. Bucky.”
“It’s break anyway.” Sam was saying. “Steve was gonna go out for lunch, weren’t you?”
“Yes.” Steve lied. “I was. You should come. To lunch, I mean. You should come to lunch with me.”
Bucky nodded, before turning to Sam, “Sorry I was a total asshole to you, dude, I was out of line.”
Sam grinned, wide and toothy and Steve just knew that already Bucky was forgiven. Probably Steve and his shitty mood was forgiven too. Sam was good like that.
“Don’t even mention it,” Sam said, slapping Bucky on the back. “Just keep him occupied; he’s been a total nightmare since we got back.”
“You might not get him back.” Bucky warned.
“Noted, dude.” Sam grinned, winking over at Sharon who was making a fanning motion over her face behind Bucky’s back. “Just get out of here before the ladies of the office barricade you in.”
Bucky grinned and winked at Steve. “I hear there’s a joint near here that serves pretty passable burgers.”
“So you flew over here?” Steve asked, flattered and overjoyed, but confused. “Why?”
“Because,” Bucky said, leaning back with a soda and a ketchup stain down his shirt. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, and I’m not gonna make another one.” He shrugged. “And I knew the moment I saw you on the beach that you were something good.”
“Bullshit.” Steve snorted.
“I did!” Bucky laughed. “I was totally flirting right away, and then you told me Sam was your partner and I tried to be cool about it. Man, you should have heard me whining to Nat. I was pretty sure it was the worst thing ever, I swear. She had to listen to me whine over and over about how I was a terrible person – I wanted to spend all my time with you, but then I didn’t want to be the reason you and Sam broke up...” He shook his head. “And I stalked you on Facebook, and when I heard that Sam was dating someone else... I thought...” He rubbed a hand over his face. “And then we kissed and I thought you were just trying to get back at him.” He looked over at Steve and shook his head. “We totally could have been making out from day one, you know that right?”
Steve blushed. Bucky hadn’t felt sorry for him, Bucky had actually liked him. Liked him enough to get on a plane and fly to see him – on the off chance that Steve felt the same. “I see that now.” Steve nodded.
“Good. So... I might be needing a place to crash for a while...” Bucky said, smirking. “And I don’t even mind sharing a bed, if space is tight.”
Sam moved out of Steve’s apartment a year and a half before, so he had more than enough room for Bucky, but he nodded. “I’m sure we can work something out.” He agreed. “Just till you know what you wanna do.”
Everyone was laughing as Steve wrapped up his best man speech. “And it turned out, showing up at my apartment door and not leaving is a fairly common thing.” He said lifting a glass to Bucky, who stood and bowed as people cheered. “But in all honesty, Sam, you are my best friend and one of the best men I know. Sharon,” Steve said, holding up his glass to the happy couple. “He’s your problem now. No take-backsies.”
Bucky was grinning, holding up his glass to the couple, and winking at Steve, just to watch him blush. It worked every time, and Steve knew that his pink cheeks were the source of much office amusement, but then he didn’t really care because he also knew that Bucky had won ‘best ass’ at the Christmas party three years in a row.
So really, it all worked out in the end.