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Slow and Steady

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Steve wasn’t shy by any means. He was actually opinionated and extroverted. That didn’t always mean that people wanted to hear his opinion or a lot of people wanted to hang out with him, but he was who he was. He was usually pretty good at making conversation, even with strangers. James wasn’t exactly a stranger. They had a mutual friend, Natasha. They all rarely hung out at the same time, but Steve had met James more than once and spoken to him quite a few times. He had still been reluctant to approach James. There were several factors affecting his usually forward approach to things.

The first thing was that Steve only saw James every once in awhile. They had completely different schedules. James also didn't live on campus, so there was also that. Steve had no idea when he would be around and it wasn't likely that he'd be free when he was around.

Another factor was the things that everyone always said about James. Steve didn’t mean to listen to gossip, but it was a small campus, and everyone knew that James was unstable. Everyone knew that he served in the army and come back to school after being in Iraq, where he had lost most of his troop, his left arm, and some of his mental stability. Steve wasn’t a stranger to people who were affected by war. His father had served in the Vietnam War and wasn’t the most stable person. Not everyone was able to go back to a normal life as soon as they got back home, or even after years of being home. According to Natasha, what James had been through was pretty recent and the things that people said weren't too far off. She had seen him flip shit for minor reasons, told Steve that he talked to himself a lot, and was generally pretty reclusive.

Though he couldn’t be sure that whatever James had gone through made him into a generally unapproachable and angry person, it could be assumed. He might have always been this way, but James had a pinched brow, rolled his eyes a lot, and Steve wasn’t sure if he’d ever seen James smile. While James’ general attitude was intimidating, another part of the reason that Steve was reluctant was because James’ attitude made him that much more attractive. He already had the jawline of model, dusted in stubble or scruff. Steve had noticed his grey colored eyes. James’ dark hair was just long enough that he pulled it back into a little bun on the crown of his head some days, and piece of it would fall out of the front. The fact that he was almost always wearing a leather jacket topped it off.

Anyway – James was attractive and interesting. So when Steve finally found the right time to ask, he did.

“Would you be willing to let me draw you?”

James’s face screwed up in confusion. He looked pretty put-off by the idea. “What?”

“I’m just trying to find people to use as references.” Steve explained. That wasn’t exactly the case. He had used James as a reference quite a few times. He wanted to use James on a big project, and he didn’t want to have to do it in secret.

“You would want to use me as a model?” James asked, something close to a smirk coming over his features as he spoke.

“I would like to. I’m pretty good with portraits. I won’t make you look bad.” Steve said.

“Well you couldn’t do me any worse than I already am, considering I’m missing an arm.” James said.

He meant it as a joke, Steve could tell by his hint-of-a-smile. It took Steve a second to get that he was kidding around, so Steve gave a little snort. “Alright, so is that permission or what?”

“Yeah, yeah. What do I have to do though?”

X

Steve got to know James better after spending some hours with him, doing lots of sketches of James to get one final good one down. He let James sit around and listen to music in the studio. Everyone had always made it sound like you had to be on edge to be around James, who actually preferred the name Bucky. Steve found it to be quite the opposite. Bucky made him feel comfortable for an acquaintance. Bucky was a good listener, because Steve could talk for hours once he got going and Bucky really didn’t seem to mind it. Steve figured he would have told him if he did, or he would’ve made up some excuse not to come back and model for him anymore.

It didn’t take long for the two of them to get used to one another. They both liked to joke around, they liked the same football team, and they liked the same kind of music.

“I expected you to be into some heavy metal or some shit that I couldn’t stand listening to.” Steve commented.

“Why? Because I’ve got long hair?” Bucky asked, leaning back in the seat and propping his booted feet on the table in front of him.

“Cause you’ve got long hair, you’re always scowling, you wear a leather jacket, and you just put your feet up on the table. You’re a punk.” Steve said with a hint of teasing in his voice.

“Yeah, well, I expected you to have a high pitched voice.” Bucky grumbled.

Steve just smirked behind his drawing pad.

“How do you know I’m not into heavy metal and you’ve just really offended me? What if it’s my favorite music and I was just trying to appease you?” Bucky asked.

“Well, sorry then.” Steve commented, still wearing a smirk.

“It’s not really. I just wanted to see if I could wipe that smug expression off your face.” Bucky said with a tiny chuckle.

“Why would this kind of music appease me?” Steve asked. They had been listening to indie music, the really calm stuff too. It was entirely the opposite of what he imagined Bucky would pick to listen to.

“Because you’re a total hipster art major.” Bucky said.

“Oh am I?”

“Have you looked in the mirror? You’ve got fringe, thick glasses, and an oversized sweater.”

“I can still fit into clothes from the little boy’s section. Everything I own is oversized.” Steve said. “And I like all kinds of music, thanks.”

Bucky all-out laughed this time. It was the first time that Steve had actually heard him laugh. “I finally got you to stop being smug.” Bucky said.

“Shut up.”

Spending so much time together over the following weeks, they eventually really got to know each other. They didn't just talk about general things like music, sports, and classes. After Steve had an asthma attack and Bucky froze up and didn’t know what to do, Steve explained that it wasn’t that big of a deal once he dug out his inhaler to use. Bucky asked him all about his asthma. That was when Steve got into all of his medical history. It was a long list.

“I had heart surgery when I was thirteen too.” Steve was saying next.

“Really?” Bucky asked.

“Got a big scar to prove it. I had a bad heard valve. They fixed it, but like I have irregular heartbeats sometimes.”  Steve said.

“Jesus, Steve.” Bucky said.

“There’s the small stuff, like anemia and mild scoliosis. Oh yeah, and being blind as a goddamn bat.” Steve said with a scoff. “I know you didn’t ask for my full medical history. Sorry.”

“It’s a wonder you’re even alive at this point.” Bucky said.

“Yeah, it really is. Especially when you add in the fact that I can’t keep my mouth shut and I’m at least half queer. Those are contributing factors to getting into a lot of fights.” Steve said with a laugh.

“Not gonna lie, I definitely had heard that you run your mouth a lot.” Bucky commented with a chuckle.

“I’m not letting people walk all over me just because I’m small and sick.” Steve said, the most serious he’d been through the whole conversation.

“No, of course not. That’s good.” Bucky said. “And I sorta did ask about your health. Don’t feel like you’re saying anything I don’t wanna hear.” Bucky added.

“Okay.” Steve said with a little smile.

“Besides, now I get to complain to you about my problems.” Bucky said.

“It’s only fair.” Steve said.

“Well, first of all I’ll address the most obvious thing. You know how useless a prosthetic arm is? I can’t afford that battery-powered shit. They give me a lot of befits at the VA, but let me tell ya, prosthetics ain’t one of ‘em. Kinda sad, innit? Well – I have an arm. I just refuse to wear it. It just kinda hangs there, and it’s weird. People might not look at me as funny if I wore it every once in a while, but I can’t stand it.” Bucky said.

“That’s too bad, Bucky. You seem to do alright without it though. As far as I can tell, anyway. I’m sure it’s frustrating at times.” Steve said.

“Oh yeah. I can remember what it’s like to have the other arm and that’s the worst part of it. That and when it aches when the weather gets bad. It’s really weird.” Bucky explained. “It got blown off, in case you didn’t know. I know people talk about me. I don’t really care. I just wish I was still normal, I guess.”

“I’m sorry, Bucky.” Steve said. “I have a lot of respect for you for being in the army and going to active duty like that. Thank you for your service. Really. And you’re just as normal as the next person. No one’s perfect.”

Bucky gave a nod. He was very quiet after that.

X

“So you and Bucky have gotten pretty close.” Natasha commented.

“Yeah, he’s a really interesting guy. I’m glad that I asked him to be my subject matter.” Steve said.

“Your subject matter.” Natasha said, a smirk coming over her features.

“Yeah, he’s nice to look at. Give me a break. I know he’s not queer.” Steve said.

Natasha shrugged.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Steve asked.

“Nothing.” Natasha replied. “He said that you were at his apartment watching the game the other night. You know he usually invites that guy from Denmark over for football games.”

“Okay?” Steve said.

“I’m just saying, he invited you instead. He doesn’t have a lot of friends. He wouldn’t ditch his only friend for just anyone.” Natasha explained.

“Well if he is queer, then he’s probably a lot more attracted to that guy from Denmark then me.” Steve murmured.

Natasha rolled her eyes.

“Don’t roll your eyes. You know it’s true. Thor literally looks like a god, like the god he was named after. He’s super buff and tall. Not to mention he’s really nice.” Steve groaned. “And I just listed off every medical problem that I have to Bucky last week.”

“Calm down. Give yourself some credit. You’re really nice and you’ve got killer blue eyes.” Natasha said. “Besides, you’re so sure that he isn’t queer.”

“Thanks. I guess.” Steve mumbled.

“If I weren’t with Clint, you know I’d be all over you.” Natasha said, holding back a snicker.

“Okay, that’s actually enough. I don’t need you to make fun of me.” Steve said, glaring at her.

“I’m not. I think anyone would be lucky to have you, Steve. Seriously.”

“Sure.”

“Don’t make me tell Tony that you’re having self-esteem issues.” Natasha threatened.

“No – please don’t. He nearly embarrassed me to death the last time that he heard me say that I was too skinny.” Steve said.

“Next time you see Bucky, make sure you tell him I said hi. You see him more than I do these days.” Natasha continued her teasing.

Steve really wasn’t amused with the way the conversation had gone. He was doing his best not to look that hard into the time that he and Bucky had been spending together. He didn’t appreciate Natasha trying to turn it into more, and he really hoped that she wouldn’t mention any of this to Bucky.

x

Steve and Bucky were hanging out a lot after the drawing was long finished. Natasha apparently hadn’t mentioned anything about Steve finding Bucky to be attractive, which was nice. Steve was only mildly disappointed when Thor was invited over to watch football with them once or twice.

They didn’t just watch football and do homework together. Sometimes they would have lunch together too. It wasn’t until one day that Bucky was real tense that Steve even saw the side of him that everyone always whispered about. Bucky snapped at him a lot more than usual. He went into a full on panic over a car door slamming nearby. Steve would have been lying if he said he knew what to do. He had no idea.

“Hey, Bucky. It’s alright. You’re alright.” Steve had said a few times.

“Take me back to my apartment please.”

Steve didn’t see Bucky the following day.

X

Incidents like the car door only happened every once in a while. Despite the fact that Steve had gotten closer to Bucky, he still wasn’t completely in. He had never heard Bucky talk about his time in the military, nor about anything but the present, really. He didn’t want to pressure Bucky into talking about his problems, but he did ask one day if Bucky was okay. They were at his apartment and Bucky was pacing the floor, taking to himself a bit.

“Are you sure everything is okay?” Steve asked.

“Just fucking peachy, Steve.” Bucky replied in the least ‘peachy’ voice Steve had ever heard.

“If you want to talk about anything, I’m good at listening. I know you’re still really affected by what you went through when you were in the army –“

“You don’t know shit about me, Rogers.” Bucky replied.

“Buck – I’m just trying to help you.”

“I don’t need to be babied or looked after.”

“I wasn’t saying that. I was just suggesting that you tell me what’s on your mind.”

“I been to therapy, Steve. It doesn’t help.”

“I know that it can be hard to ask for help, but Bucky, you aren’t okay. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just the facts. My dad came back from war messed up. It’s not uncommon, and it’s not something to be ashamed of.”

“I ain’t your daddy, Stevie.”

Steve sighed, “No, you’re not. You don’t use what you’ve been through as an excuse to be an asshole. You stand up with dignity and you try to bear it, and its okay that you can’t always.”

“Like I said, you don’t know shit about me, Rogers.”

“Look, I’ll leave you alone if you want. I just wanted to try and help. I get it, you don’t want me to.”

“Let’s just watch the game.”

X

Steve didn't mention anything about whether or not Bucky was okay again for awhile. If Bucky was having a bad day, Steve would either leave him be or let him know that he was perfectly safe. Sometimes when Bucky was having a bad day, he would ask Steve to stay with him. Maybe it helped that Steve was someone completely new to him and it reminded him that he was safe. Steve only knew what he had learned in psychology classes in high school about PTSD, but he was pretty sure that Bucky had it.

There was only one day that was notably bad over the course of three weeks. Bucky hadn't left his apartment for a few days, but he called Steve to come over. Steve knew that it was a bad day just due to the fact that Bucky had stayed secluded. When he arrived, Bucky had asked him if they could watch a movie and after they put it in, he stayed completely silent and he held Steve's hand the entire time.

Bucky went a long time after that without having a bad day. Two more weeks. He was fine for quite a while and there was no more hand holding.

Steve and Bucky would have a beer during games every once in awhile. Steve noticed that Bucky started drinking more on game days and then it evolved into him drinking more often than just game days. Bucky never got too drunk and he was in a good mood more than not while he was drinking. Steve was probably encouraging the drinking more than he should have. He was selfish when it came to that. Bucky would get drunk and touch him a lot more and Steve liked it. Steve felt more confident when he was drunk himself. He would stay the night on Bucky’s couch those nights and he liked that too.  He didn’t know if he was taking advantage of the situation and he was starting to feel bad about it.

One day Bucky told Steve that he had started drinking after he left the hospital and stopped going to therapy. That really didn’t comfort Steve any more. He tried to discourage it more often. 'Ah, Buck, don't you feel like shit goin' to class after you've been drinkin' the night before.' They finally settled that Friday nights were completely acceptable to drink on. Once a week wasn’t that bad.

“You’re such a fucking good friend, Stevie.” Bucky was slurring his words. Steve knew that meant that he should convince Bucky to go to bed. There had only been a few instances where Bucky had gotten too drunk and been negative - once where had been really angry and the others where he had cried. Steve tried to avoid that. He was pretty good at talking Bucky into going to bed and stop drinking though. Especially now that they said it was a celebration of making it through the week and always did it together.

“Yeah, you’re a good friend too.” Steve said.

“Not as good as you.” Bucky insisted.

“I dunno. You put up with me runnin’ my mouth a lot more than most people will.” Steve said.

“I like hearin’ you talk.” Bucky said.

“Oh.” Steve didn’t know what else to say. “It’s gettin’ late, Bucky.”

“I know it is. I’m sleepy.” He admitted.

“Want me to make sure you get into bed, clumsy?” Steve asked. He always asked, even though if Bucky wasn’t able to walk, Steve sure the hell couldn’t help him up. Bucky could knock him over in a second. He always pretended that he could help and watched Bucky tuck himself into the bed.

“Yeah.” Bucky said. He got up and only stumbled a little getting to the bathroom.

Steve stood in the doorway of Bucky’s bedroom, waiting for him to make sure he got into bed. When Bucky came back from the bathroom, he was in his boxers and socks. He passed Steve to go crawl into his bed. When Steve was sure that Bucky was going to go to sleep, he turned to go.

“Stay.” Bucky said.

Steve stopped where he was. He took a deep breath. “Buck –“

“Really. I want you to.” Bucky said.

Steve did not want to take advantage of Bucky being drunk. He didn’t want to do anything that would make anyone uncomfortable when they were sober.

“Please.”

Steve turned back toward the door and went into Bucky’s bedroom. He had only been inside a few times, but it was too dark to take in anything new about it except that it smelled like so much Bucky. He got into the bed next to Bucky, not under the covers.

“You’re gonna sleep in jeans and without blankets?” Bucky asked.

Steve sat back up and took off is pants. He was left in his boxers and a t-shirt. He got under the blankets with Bucky, but still didn’t get too close to him. He felt Bucky’s arm brush against his, but that was it.

“I just know that couch can’t be all that comfortable to sleep on. I mean, I nap on it sometimes, but ya know.” Bucky said. He talked a lot more when he had been drinking.

“I don’t mind it. This is nice too though.” Steve said.

“Thanks for stayin’ with me, Steve. It is nice. It don’t feel so lonely in my apartment when you're here... And you make me feel safe.” Bucky said quietly.

“Oh.” It was the second time Steve was at a loss for words. Maybe in his life.

“Goodnight, Stevie.”

“Goodnight, Bucky.”

Chapter Text

Christmas came and went soon enough. Steve and Bucky had both gone to see their families for the holidays. It wasn’t until they got back that Bucky told Steve that he grew up in New York City and the reason he ended up at this college in New Jersey was because they’re a high ranking school for veterans. Steve was surprised to hear that Bucky was from New York, because he was too.

Steve also found out that Bucky had a father and younger sister. It was sort of strange to be around someone for such a long time and then learn about their families. Steve was interested to hear more though, so he asked things like how old his sister was and what his father did for a living. Steve got a lot more info on Bucky’s sister than his father. In fact, Bucky explained that he had stayed with his sister over the holidays. She was still living in New York City and going to college there. She was twenty-one and worked two jobs in order to go to school there.

Bucky went on to talk about his father after that, which he didn’t seem very fond of.

"My dad was in the marines." Bucky commented. “He thinks that he did a big service to the country by going to boot camp and living on base for a few years. He left our family after my sister was born without a word. My mom tried really hard, but after she died, me and Rebecca were stuck with him. I was old enough to take care of myself, but Rebecca wasn’t and we ended up in foster care. Pretty fucking miserable. After I turned eighteen, I immediately joined the army because I had no idea what else to do. Apparently Rebecca ended up with a family that was pretty good to her and helped her out a little getting to where she is now. I would’ve killed someone if I found out something bad happened to her.”

Steve quickly figured out why Bucky had never talked about his family before.

“It’s good that you and your sister are close.” Steve said.

“Yeah.” Bucky replied, “We used to talk on the phone every day, but we both got busier. Plus, I don’t wanna be a big burden on her. She felt obligated to take care of me after I came back from Iraq and well, I felt like shit for holding her back. She took of a semester of school and everything.”

“That was really good of her to do.” Steve commented.

“She’s great. If I woulda known we were both in New York, you coulda came and met her.” Bucky said.

“I would have really liked that. Maybe sometime we can work it out.”

“Yeah, we should.” Bucky said. “Alright, so I’ve told you all about my sob story of a family. You gotta tell me something aside from your dad being in the army. Unless you got a perfect family where your parents are still married and it’s just the American dream with a picket fence.”

Steve felt a blush come over his cheeks. “Uh  -  well, my parents are still married. It’s not really perfect, but it’s okay.”

“I didn’t think people’s parents were still married anymore.” Bucky replied.

“My mom threatens to leave dad all the time, but it’ll never happen.” Steve said.

“Why? I mean, if you don’t mind –“

“No, it’s fine. My dad’s just not really a nice guy and he’s half-crazy on top of it.” Steve said. “Like I said before, he never really regained stability after having gone to war. He yells a lot. Sometimes, I don’t even think he knows what he’s yelling about, because he gets so angry. He’s needed help for a long time, but he refuses. He’s settled down a little in his old age though. He hasn’t thrown anything in a few years.”  Steve finished, half trying to act like that was normal.

“Well at least I don’t throw shit.” Bucky said.

“You don’t do half the crazy shit that he does.”

"I do act crazy though."

“Who cares, Buck. No one’s normal.” Steve said.

“Well I want to hear about your mom now.” Bucky said, veering from the subject. Steve had no problem with that.

“She’s great. She works a lot though. She’s a nurse.” Steve said. “She’s always taken good care of me. If dad would have let her, she really woulda turned me into a spoiled brat.” He smiled a little at that.

“I knew one of your parents had to be pretty awesome.” Bucky said.

“Oh yeah, she is. She treats me like I’m gonna break half the time though. She wasn’t fond of me moving out here. She nearly killed me when I tried to join the army. I wanted to join. Real bad. Of course, I was rejected. They didn’t want me anywhere near the military.”

“You tried signing up?” Bucky asked.

“Oh yeah. It was pretty stupid for me to think that I would be accepted, but I did it anyway.” Steve said. “Once me and my dad got past that fantasy, I decided to go on to college.”

“Your dad wanted you to join? Even after all he went through at war?” Bucky asked.

“I guess so. Maybe he thought it would finally toughen me up.”

“What does that mean?” Bucky asked.

“I dunno, I guess that I’m not really the ideal son to him.” Steve said. “He really loves it that I’m art major instead of joining the army.” Steve snorted. “It’s real funny until I go home and have to hear his shit. Mom’s so proud of me and he’s just pissed off about it.”

“At least you got her on your side.” Bucky pointed out.

“Just causes a fight.” Steve mumbled.

“Your parents fight a lot?” Bucky asked.

“Oh yeah. It’s … bad.” Steve murmured.

“Sorry. God, I asked too many questions. Tell me to shut the hell up next time.” Bucky said.

“It’s fine.” Steve replied. It was fine, because Steve had still managed to avoid telling Bucky about how his father was actually abusive. Verbally, for sure, but sometimes physically. It was implied a little with the comment about his dad throwing things, but he didn’t mention that the things were usually aimed at Steve or his mom. His dad was basically drunk at a constant. He really had calmed down in his old age, but it used to be so bad. When Steve was really young, he was pretty scared of his dad. As he got older, he started to understand what was going on. It didn’t make it much better, but at least there was some kind of excuse for him acting like a maniac. Steve’s mom said that his father wakes up with nightmares and has flashbacks all the time, and instead of getting scared or something, he goes into defense mode and that’s where a lot of his aggression stems from. Steve stayed passive when his dad wanted to take stuff out on him.

Even though Steve really did feel bad for his dad, he had finally gotten to the point that he wasn’t scared or even passive. He got tired of the bullshit and stood up for himself, which Steve thought that his dad partly respected that. Despite the fact that he had really yelled and came at Steve when he started standing up for himself, he eventually stopped yelling so much and just tried to say one really hurtful thing and after that, they would both give up.

Steve didn’t like to talk in too much detail about his parents. He felt bad for moving out and leaving his mom there, but she had told him as much as she was worried about his health that he was better off.

“God, enough of that nostalgic shit, right?” Bucky asked.

“Yeah. I miss my mom too much for all that, even though I just saw her.” Steve said.

“Close with her?”

“Yeah.”

X

Steve and Bucky had become pretty much inseparable. Aside from class and Bucky having a bad day here or there, they were pretty much together. Even if neither of them had anything to say, the presence of the other had become so natural. Steve was a comfort to Bucky, and Bucky was everything to Steve.

Okay, so becoming friends with Bucky really hadn’t stifled Steve’s crush on him. It only made him sure that he was in love with Bucky. He never crossed a line though. No matter how many times they slept in the same bed or Bucky held his hand when he was nervous or upset. Steve knew that he was lucky that Bucky had opened up to him at all, much less let him in. He didn’t want to ruin their friendship by turning it into something else.

Sometimes he couldn’t help but wonder. He would catch Bucky looking at him and Steve couldn’t figure out what the look on his face exactly was. Fondness was definitely there and Steve could live with that. There was that and the hand holding. Even if the hand holding only came on bad days, it was a little bit more than what friends would do, Steve thought.

Bucky was starting to become more comfortable with larger groups of people, which was a good thing. They were able to hang out with Natasha and Clint, and sometimes Thor would come too. They had even introduced him to Tony, Steve’s roommate, who could be really overbearing more often than not, and Bucky didn’t seem to mind him too much. They even all went out to dinner once. Bucky admitted to Steve that a year ago he would have panicked if he went to a dinner and sat with a tableful of people.

Steve could tell that Bucky almost regretted going when Tony started off the night by blowing the paper from his straw across the table at Bucky. Then Tony deemed Bucky ‘no fun’ because he had just glared at Tony for it.

“Tony’s a lot smarter than he acts.” Steve tried to defend his roommate later when Bucky had said he was an idiot, but other than that he had fun.

There weren’t many times that Tony and Bucky had to interact, so that was okay.

X

Apparently the feeling had been a little mutual. Tony complained eventually about Bucky being too serious. He also voiced his opinion that Steve was spending too much time with Bucky and it was weird.

“What do you mean? I thought you’d be glad to get rid of me.” Steve replied.

“Well I never wanted rid of you. I just wanted you to leave the room more often.” Tony said.

“Got your wish. Leave me alone about it.” Steve said grumpily.

“If I would have known you were going to hang out with some crazy old man I wouldn’t have wished that you weren’t here as often.” Tony said.

“Can you shut your mouth for once before I get shitty with you about this?” Steve asked.

 “He’s like thirty years old.” Tony said.

“He’s not thirty.”

“How old is he?” Tony asked.

“Not thirty.”

“He looks thirty.”

“He’s been to war, give him a break. Why does it matter anyway?” Steve asked. “You’re older than me and I live with you.”

“I’m not thirty. I’m twenty-one.” Tony said.

“Older than me.” Steve said.

“Yeah, but I’m not a creep about it.” Tony said.

“Wouldn’t be so sure about that. You don’t know how to compliment someone without making them feel uncomfortable.” Steve said.

“That’s because I’m very nice.” Tony said.

Steve snorted. “Okay, sure. Whatever.”

Tony crossed his arms. “If you’re going to date a dude, can you at least make it someone normal?”

“Number one, Bucky and I aren’t dating.” Steve said. “Number two, it’s none of your business if we were. And three, I don’t comment on the women that you bring into the room.”

“That’s because they’re normal.” Tony said.

“Wouldn’t call them all that. They’re foolin’ around with you.” Steve said.

“Fair enough.” Tony decided. “And you do too comment on Pepper.”

“The only comments I make about Pepper are how much I like her more than the rest of the girls I’ve had the unfortunate experience of meeting.” Steve said the last bit sourly. There had been quite a few times that Tony had just ignored the fact that Steve was in the room and fooled around with girls while he was there. Usually asleep, but still there. Steve had brought it up and Tony had apparently not cared at all about how inconsiderate it was.

“Alright, alright.” Tony said. “If you want to date, no wait, be friends with some weird old guy who’s no fun, go right ahead. I won’t say anything else about it.”

“Once again, he’s been to war. Give him a break.” Steve said. “You’ve barely gotten to know him. He takes a while to open up to people.”

“Fine. Maybe I’ll like him better if he manages to smile next time I’m around him.” Tony said.

X

 “How old is Bucky?” Steve asked.

“Like twenty-five or something.” Natasha said. “Why?”

“Because Tony’s full of shit, that’s why.” Steve grumbled angrily.

“He talking shit about Bucky?” Natasha asked, looking a bit annoyed by the notion.

“A little. I shut him down though.” Steve said.

“Good.” Natasha said.

“They don’t really like each other very much.” Steve explained.

“I figured. Tony’s basically the opposite of Bucky.” Natasha said.

“They’ve both got a smart mouth.” Steve pointed out.

“True.”

X

Despite concerns, Steve was a big boy and could take care of himself. In fact, the dynamic between him and Bucky continued to be perfectly fine. Most of the time. They fought occasionally over Bucky drinking. It was getting harder and harder for Steve to convince Bucky that it was time to stop drinking. Steve knew that part of what Bucky was starting to do was self-medicate. Steve knew there was a real problem when Bucky started drinking straight from the bottle on a Monday afternoon. Every time Steve tried to say something, Bucky would tell Steve to “mind your own goddamn business.”

Steve did not want to compare the situation with his father, but that was what came to mind.

It was a Friday night when they fought pretty badly over it. It was close to two in the morning, and Bucky had been drinking since before Steve had come over. He was being pretty belligerent. He was just getting on Steve’s nerves if he was honest about it.

“Bucky, it’s late.” Steve started.

“You’re not the boss of me, you know. I told ya before I don’t need to be babied or taken care of.” Bucky grumbled.

“Well you’re acting like a baby. A big fucking baby.” Steve said, unable to hold back. He’d been on the verge of snapping at Bucky over this all night.

“I got a right to act however the fuck I want to act. You know the bullshit that life has thrown at me, and you still don’t even know the half of it!” Bucky exclaimed.

Steve sighed heavily. “You know, yeah, you got it shitty. You really do, Buck. It doesn’t give you a right to be an ass to me when I’m the one here making sure you don’t drink yourself to death.”

“Go to hell.” Bucky said.

“Listen to yourself.” Steve said, “Just listen to yourself.”

“I don’t have to take shit from you.” Bucky spat.

“And I don’t have to take shit from you either. If you’re gonna talk to me like this, I’m going back to my dorm and I’ll just talk to you when you’re not acting like a complete piece of shit.” Steve said.

“I don’t give a fuck.” Bucky said.

“Good then.” Steve said getting up and going to gather his coat.

“You’re just gonna leave me?” Bucky asked. “You’re gonna leave a guy with one arm stumbling drunk?”

“Yep. You don’t need to be babied or taken care of, remember?” Steve asked, pulling on his coat and bending to put on his shoes.

“Fuck you.”

“Fuck you too.” Steve spat, going out the door. He slammed it behind him. He stood outside of Bucky’s apartment door for a few minutes, at first just to take a breath from his inhaler and then because he was starting to feel bad. He turned back to the door, but then hesitated. Bucky was acting really shitty and there was no reason for it. Steve wasn’t going to put himself in a bad situation.

He turned away and walked back to campus.

Steve got a call from Bucky the next day apologizing for the previous night. Bucky laid off the drinking after that for about a week.

X

When Steve got paired with a man named Sam on a group project in his History class, Steve didn’t expect to actually make as good of friends as they did. They really hit it off. Sam was older than Steve, like Bucky. Steve didn’t think too much about it until they had met a few times in the library and he saw an air force logo on some of Sam’s things.

 “You in the military?”

“I was, yes.”

“Thank you for your service.”

Sam gave him an appreciative smile and nod.

“I wanted to join, but look at me.” Steve said, with a sheepish smile. “I’m a toothpick. Plus I got asthma and about twenty other things goin’ on health-wise.”  Steve went on. “But yeah, tried to join cause of my dad being military. I guess it wasn’t meant to be. I’ve got a lot of respect for you guys though.”

Sam gave him a warm smile. “You’re really nice to say so, Steve. It’s something that takes a lot out of you sometimes.” He finished, not smiling as bright.

“I’ve seen it. My dad, like I said, and then I’ve got a buddy of mine who was in the army.”

They didn’t talk much more about it. Not until Sam mentioned that he was majoring in Psychology because he wanted to work with people like him who had PTSD or just had a hard time adjusting after being on active duty.

 “I don’t want to get to personal with you, Sam. If it’s too much, tell me, but I’ve got a question. Do you know about any type of therapy groups or anything that deal with that sort of thing?”

Sam gave Steve information about the PTSD group therapy that he was a part of for him to pass on to Bucky. Steve was reluctant to bring it up to Bucky, and thought maybe if the right time arose he would.

X

It took a while for Steve to bring it up, but eventually he did. When Bucky flat-out said no, Steve asked Bucky if he would at least meet Sam. They wouldn’t even have to talk anything about the army or war if Bucky didn’t want them to. It would just be nice for Bucky to have someone that he could relate to more if he did want to talk about it. Of course, when they met, Sam didn’t force Bucky to talk about anything. They only both mentioned they had been in the military, Bucky had been in Iraq and Sam had been in Afghanistan. Other than that, it didn’t come up. They all talked about sports and classes more than anything. It was nothing big, but it was a step in Bucky opening up to more people and having more friends.

Steve brought it up, in the nicest way that he could, that it was nice that Bucky made friends with Sam.

“Yeah, I don’t have many of those.” Bucky admitted. “Natasha and Clint are about it. Them and Thor. I gotta admit, having Thor as a friend is nice because you never have to get to deep. It’s always more of explaining things to him. Especially football. He never remembers the rules, like you might’ve noticed when he came over a few times. I thought he annoyed you. That’s why I didn’t invite him anymore.”

“I like Thor. He’s nice.” Steve said and didn’t explain that he had only been annoyed because of the conversation that he and Natasha had about Thor.

“I appreciate you introducing me to your friends.” Bucky said.

“Except Tony, right?” Steve asked.

“He’s okay.” Bucky said.

Eventually, Sam and Bucky got close enough that Sam brought up the group therapy thing to him. Bucky reluctantly agreed to go. There were a few times that Bucky went and apparently, didn’t say much at all. It took him awhile to open up though, so Steve was just pleased to know that he was trying.

Bucky started to invite Sam over sometimes, which Steve was really glad about. Sometimes Bucky would even go as far as inviting all their friends over. It was nice. That was until one night Tony and Clint thought that it was great idea to do shots, which enticed Bucky. Steve supposed that drinking in a social setting was at least healthier.

Whether it was just Bucky and Steve, or Bucky, Steve, Sam, Thor, Clint, Natasha, and Tony on Friday nights it ended with Steve following Bucky into his bedroom. Bucky had once used to excuse that it left the couch open for guests, but Sam never drank so he was always able to give everyone a ride home if that was the worry.

X

It was a Saturday morning. Steve felt Bucky stirring next to him and blinked his eyes open.

“I feel like shit.” Bucky murmured.

“You insisted on drinking more last night.” Steve murmured back, and then yawned.

“I gotta stop drinking so much.” Bucky said.

“Why?” Steve asked.

“It ain’t good for me.” Bucky admitted. “And I mean, a few beers with everyone is one thing. Me alone on a Monday after class is just… it ain’t good. And me gettin’ shitty with you isn’t good either.”

“Don’t much care for that last part either.” Steve said.

“I’m sorry.” Bucky said sincerely.

“You’re gonna work on it.” Steve said. “I’m glad you’re realizing that it isn’t good for you. I mean, Bucky, I wouldn’t say anything to you about this shit if I didn’t honestly care about your wellbeing. You’re my best friend.”

 “I know. I know you just want what’s best for me, which is more than any other person, maybe aside from my sister, has ever done for me.” Bucky said.

“I care about you a lot.” Steve said.

“It means a lot, Steve.” Bucky said sincerely. He was sitting up a little, looking over at Steve with something in his expression that Steve couldn’t quite read again.

“Good.” Steve said quietly. He rubbed a hand over his face and turned more to face Bucky. “I’m glad you’re going to therapy, even if you don’t like it very much.”

“I think it’s already starting to help a little.” Bucky admitted.

Steve smiled.

“Hey Steve…” Bucky started, breaking off a little at the end.

 “What?”

“I really want to kiss you.” Bucky said.

Steve leaned up a little on his arm, catching Bucky’s gaze. He had wanted to kiss Bucky so many times, but there was never a time when he was sure that it was okay. If Bucky was feeling the same way and he was ready though… well, Steve couldn’t find a reason to stop him.

“Then do it.”

Bucky leaned over and pressed a gentle kiss to Steve’s lips. It was long, but too soft. It was like Bucky was hesitating. Steve didn’t want to push anything. For once in his life, he was being patient and calm. Steve’s lips lifted off for only a second before he opened his mouth, allowing their lips to slot together. Bucky tilted his head more so that they could deepen the kiss. Steve brought his hand up to cup Bucky’s cheek, to let him know that everything was completely fine. Bucky moved his upper arm to touch Steve’s, even though he couldn’t grip his arm or any part of him the way that he wanted to. He was balancing himself on his good arm. The kiss was still just so damn soft. Steve was more than glad that they were kissing, but he wanted more.

They pulled back to take a breath. He pressed soft, short kisses against Bucky’s mouth, alternating between his upper and lower lip. He stopped and kept Bucky close, stroking against his cheek with his thumb. Their noses were pressed together.

After a moment, Steve sat up more and Bucky followed. Steve leaned in and kissed Bucky this time, wrapping his arms around Bucky’s shoulders and kissing him hard. Bucky wasn’t responding with as much enthusiasm as Steve had hoped for. He pulled back, “I ain’t gonna break.”

“I know.” Bucky said quietly.

“Are you gonna break?” Steve asked, pulling back more.

“No.” Bucky said, scowling at Steve.

“What’s the problem, then?” Steve asked quietly, a little smile on his features. His neck felt hot and his ears were red with embarrassment.

“I’m fucking nervous.” Bucky said. He realized then that Bucky wasn’t too far off from where Steve was.

“Why?” Steve asked, bringing his hand up to Bucky’s cheek again.

“It’s been a long time since I kissed anyone.” Bucky said quietly.

Steve shrugged. “You were doin’ a fine job.”

Bucky chuckled, ducking his head a little. Steve ran a hand down Bucky’s back.

“Relax.” Steve whispered.

Bucky looked back at Steve and smiled before he leaned in to kiss him again. Bucky really kissed him this time. He felt Bucky’s tongue coaxing his lips apart and Steve nearly melted into the bed sheets. His breathing hitched, which gave Bucky the incentive to press his tongue into Steve’s mouth. Steve groaned in the back of his throat and pressed closer to Bucky, one hand gently threading through the back of Bucky’s hair and the other gripping Bucky’s shoulder. Bucky had his good arm wrapped firmly around Steve’s midsection. Bucky let a quiet noise come from his throat when Steve rubbed his tongue against Bucky’s.

“Jesus.” Bucky breathed, pulling back a little.

They started kissing again. Steve felt Bucky’s arm back around his midsection urging him forward. He hadn’t realized that he was up on his knees, but that made it that much easier for him to slip into Bucky’s lap. Bucky held him tight as they kissed, and Steve tried not to rock his hips against Bucky’s too much.

“Steve.” Bucky said, soft and breathy. Steve became addicted to the sound in one easy breath.

Steve leaned up closer again, pressing a little peck against Bucky’s lower lip. He gave it a nip after that and swiped against it with his tongue.  Bucky let out something that was close to a growl and kissed Steve hard again. The kiss was hot and wet and new, but familiar. Bucky sucked lightly at Steve’s tongue, making Steve press in closer and moan into Bucky’s mouth. This seemed to egg Bucky on, and he ran his tongue against Steve’s and sucked at it, then sucked at his bottom lip. Steve felt light headed and too hot. Bucky must have felt that way too because he pulled back with a quiet gasp.

“Alright?” Bucky asked.

“Yeah.” Steve said, taking in a deep breath through his nose.

Bucky was closing in the space between them again. This time kissed the corner of Steve’s mouth and along his jawline. The gentle scrape of Bucky’s stubble against his skin was making him shiver. He felt Bucky’s hand against the other side of his face. Steve tilted his cheek into Bucky’s hand and tried to keep his breathing steady.

Their lips came together again, kissing deeply and getting lost in it. Steve’s hands were running all over Bucky, along his back and shoulders. Steve’s hand traced along Bucky’s bad arm, down to where it ended where his elbow should have been and the rest of his arm should have been. Bucky pulled back from the kiss and tilted his left side away from Steve’s touch. Steve caught Bucky’s gaze.

“Just – don’t. I know it’s not attractive.” Bucky murmured.

“Everything about you is attractive.” Steve said back.

Bucky gave a breathy sigh, leaning completely back in toward Steve.

Steve kissed him more, memorizing every little thing that made Bucky groan low in his throat. Bucky easily got Steve onto his back and hovered over him. He leaned in to keep kissing and touching. Steve felt like he was on fire every time that Bucky’s chest bumped against him.

Bucky mumbled. “Jesus Christ.” He pulled away when Steve stopped to smirk.

Bucky had rolled onto his back, probably trying to cool down, but Steve was having none of it. He crawled on top of Bucky, planting his knees on either side of Bucky. Steve started kissing Bucky’s neck and collarbone. He scraped his teeth and licked over the spots after. He kissed a particularly sensitive area. “Steve.” Bucky said in that same voice that was already starting to drive Steve crazy.

“What Bucky?” Steve asked.

“You’re drivin’ me crazy.” Bucky replied.

Steve smirked a little.

“Don’t be so goddamn smug.” Bucky said.

Steve just chuckled. He instead of moving off of Bucky, he ended up settling with laying on Bucky. His head rested on Bucky’s chest and Bucky must not have minded because he was stroking Steve’s hair.

Chapter Text

Steve thought that Bucky was getting better. Sam had mentioned to Steve that Bucky had started to talk during group therapy. That had been something that he refused to do for six weeks. Bucky had even admitted that therapy was helping. Bucky also told Steve that he was not only going to group therapy, but he had gone to a one on one session and would continue doing that once a month or if he felt that he needed it more often. He told Steve that his therapist wanted to put him on medication and he wasn’t so sure that he wanted to do that. Steve didn’t want to sway Bucky’s thoughts on that, because as much as Bucky had let Steve in, he still didn’t know exactly what Bucky was going through and he definitely wasn’t a doctor.

Even though Steve hadn’t known Bucky very well before, he could tell a difference in when he first got to know Bucky and only seven months had passed. Then again, Bucky was apparently opening up to Steve more than he had any person in a long time. Natasha admitted that even she had never gotten that close to Bucky. And of course Steve hoped she hadn’t gotten as close to Bucky as he had, considering Steve and Bucky were making out. A lot.

They didn’t talk about it. They never talked about it. It was just an extension of their already close relationship. The only thing that had changed was when they were alone and quiet, they made out.

Bucky had started putting his arm around Steve sometimes when they were out. Usually he would put his bad arm around Steve the best that he could so that he could still use his hand if he needed to. There was a lot of new touching, whether it was just the two of them watching TV or if they were with their friends. Bucky had started it, but it gave Steve the permission that he needed to place a hand on Bucky’s shoulder, link their arms, hold Bucky’s hand, play with his hair, or anything. He didn’t do it too often, but when either of them did it, it felt natural to Steve.

They acted like a couple. A couple that wasn’t labeled, but a couple nonetheless. If anyone else noticed a difference, they hadn’t said anything so far.

X

“I want to get another tattoo.”

Steve was half asleep in a nest of Bucky’s blankets.  He opened his eyes, looking over at Bucky. “Well get one. I didn’t even know you had the first one.” Steve mumbled.

“Yeah, it’s on my thigh. Wouldn’t expect you to have seen it. Got it when I was seventeen and thought I was really cool cause I could hide it from my foster family.” Bucky said.

“Didn’t know you could have tattoos in the military.” Steve said. His eyes went to down to where Bucky’s thighs were out from under the covers. “What is it? Can I see?” Steve asked.

“It’s the Rolling Stone tongue logo.” Bucky said.

Steve laughed. “No way. No fucking way. Let me see.” He said, sitting up a little.

“Told ya I thought I was really cool.” Bucky said, pulling the leg of his shorts up and bunching up the material so Steve could see the tattoo.

Suddenly, Steve’s mouth was dry. He had seen Bucky in his boxers before, but he had never seen this newly revealed block of skin that was incredibly close to Bucky’s groin. The tattoo made it worse. He wanted to put his mouth right where that stupid mouth was tattooed. It made it even worse, and maybe a little wrong, that he was imagining seventeen-year-old Bucky lying about his age to get the tattoo. He imagined the girls that Bucky hooked up with in high school seeing the tattoo and getting riled like Steve was. He had to stop looking.

“That’s actually not as bad as I thought.” Steve said.

“No?” Bucky asked with a chuckle.

“Nah.” Steve said. To stop himself from looking at Bucky’s thigh and to reign in the thoughts he was having about the parts of Bucky’s body that he hadn’t seen yet, Steve started to ask about the new tattoo that Bucky apparently wanted.

“You could help me design it.” Bucky said.

“Hm, I dunno, Buck. I’ve never designed a tattoo before. And do you really wanna be stuck with somethin’ that I designed on your body forever?” Steve asked.

“Yeah, why not?” Bucky asked. “You might not think so, but you’ve had a big fucking impact on my life. I’d get your named tattooed on me if I didn’t think it was tacky.”

“Shut up. You would not.” Steve said, blushing brightly and laughing.

“Yeah, sure I would. On my neck too cause I love it when you kiss my neck.” Bucky said leaning in closer to Steve.

“Oh yeah? Guess you haven’t had me kiss you everywhere yet. Once you get a little more of me, you’ll be wanting to get my name tattooed right above that Stones mouth.” Steve said. He was even a little surprised at himself.

Steve. You can’t say shit like that.” Bucky half-groaned.

“What?” Steve asked, leaning in even closer. “You don’t want me to talk about kissing up your thighs?” Steve took a deep breath through his nose and put his hands on Bucky’s mid-thighs. “Or would you just rather me be doin’ it?”

Bucky didn’t respond, he just kissed Steve hard.

Steve pulled back after a long moment. He kissed against Bucky’s jawline and neck. “Wanna kiss you everywhere.” Steve murmured into Bucky’s ear.

“Do it.” Bucky mumbled.

( an external link in case you didn’t want this to fade to black )

X

“Alright so, I haven’t mentioned anything about it, because Bucky and I haven’t really talked about it, but I think we’re dating…?” Steve said, trailing off at the end.

“You think you’re dating?” Natasha asked.

“I don’t know. Maybe.” Steve said. “What defines dating?”

“Um, going out together to like dinner or movies? Spending lots of time together? Holding hands? Kissing? Blushing? I don’t know.”

“You and Clint are dating!” Steve exclaimed. “You’d know better than me.”

“It just sort of happened.” Natasha said. “Have you never dated anyone before?”

“I guess it’s just sort of happening then – and of course I’ve dated someone before. Just not exactly in college. I mean I’ve fooled around here. Remember the guy last semester from –“

“Oh yeah, the tinder disaster.”

“Shut up. And the girl Tony tried to force on me.”

“You guys fooled around?”

“Yes.”

“Steve!”

“Anyway – we’re talking about Bucky right now, remember?”

“Right.” Natasha said, shaking her head. “You’re keeping secrets.”

“I didn’t want to mention the Bucky thing yet, because honestly, wasn’t sure and still not sure he’s queer.” Steve said.

“If you guys are boyfriends, then he has to be –“

“I didn’t say a word about us being boyfriends. I just said we might be dating. Or talking.” Steve said. “Well we’ve been doing a lot more than talking.” He added as an afterthought.

“What does that mean?” Natasha asked.

“It means that we’re doing all of the things you listed when you consider two people to be dating.” Steve said.

Kissing?” Natasha asked.

“And oral sex.” Steve said.

That wasn’t on the list.” Natasha said.

“Well it’s on my list. I guess.” Steve said, cheeks tinged slightly pink.

“I have to say I’m proud.” Natasha said with a little smirk. “How long have you guys been doing that?”

“Um – didn’t exactly write down the date, but it’s been a few weeks, I guess.” Steve said.

“So what makes you think he’s not queer if he’s doing all this?” Natasha asked. “Has he not been, you know, giving you a blow job too?”

“No – no. The opposite actually. I can’t keep his mouth off me. Once we crossed that line, it was pretty much all or nothing for him.” Steve said.

“Then what’s the problem?” Natasha asked.

“I’m talking about feelings.” Steve said desperately.

“Oh.” Natasha said. “You’re asking the wrong person. Me and Clint still haven’t said the ‘l’ word.”

What?”

“He said it, I just didn’t say it back.” Natasha said with a little shrug.

“Why not? Do you not – “

“I do. It’s just, that’s a line I’m not sure I’m ready to cross.” Natasha said. “Not everyone can wear their heart on their sleeve.”

X

Steve wasn’t ready to jump the gun and say the ‘l’ word out loud by any means. Steve was just sure that Bucky was his person, and he didn’t know if Bucky felt the same way. He wanted to talk about it, but he didn’t want to bring it up. So they continued on with their making out and fooling around.

Apparently, even if you weren’t dating it was entirely okay to get tattoos together, tattoos with hints of the other person within them. Bucky had Steve design him a bunch of flowers to go on his bad arm, nine to be exact. Bucky had shared with him that it was for the members of his troop that had died when Bucky had only lost his arm. Steve was honored that Bucky had allowed him to design it, and though he was still a little skeptical about being the person to design it, it ended up looking really beautiful.

From then on Bucky was obsessed with the idea of getting more tattoos. He immediately had Steve help him design a sail boat for a chest piece, which was just absolutely irrelevant to anything. Bucky just thought it was cool.

Steve had decided that he wanted a tattoo. He’d always considered getting one, but since he had gone with Bucky to get some of the color done on his flowers, he thought that it didn’t seem so bad. He had decided on a watercolor deer.

Bucky called him out on it really quickly once Steve told him what he was getting.  “You’re getting a tattoo of a buck.”

Steve explained, “I picked a deer because deer were associated with vigilance and grace or something, plus I like Bambi, alright. Give me a break. Besides, believe it or not you’re a big influence on my life. Like even if I have a tattoo associated with you and we never speak again I’m okay with that.”

“And you bitched several times about how you thought you shouldn’t design my tattoos.” Bucky reminded him.

“Okay, but you’re getting a sail boat which is stupid and has nothing to do with anything so don’t talk shit, Barnes.” Steve said.

Bucky just laughed at him.

 So there he was with Bucky, while Bucky got his sail boat, Steve was getting a tattoo of a buck on his shoulder. At least they had someone to help the other tend to their tattoos. And they weren’t dating.

X

Bucky practically asked Steve out on a date. He suggested that they go to the shore and have dinner and make a night out of it. Steve was practically ready to go that second. They made the plans for that Saturday. It was getting warmer out, which meant that the more people would be there, but Bucky was all for it.

“As much as I want to, I’m not so sure if we should ride any of the rides on the boardwalk.” Bucky said.

“Why? Cause despite the fact that millions of people use them each year, they’re sketchy as hell?” Steve asked.

Bucky chuckled. “Aside from that.” He looked down, sighing softly. “I’m afraid I’ll have a meltdown or something because of the unexpectedness of it all. I just wanted to bring it up before we got there, that way you didn’t make the suggestion or something.”

“It’s fine, Buck. I get sick on rides anyway. Imagine that.” Steve said.

The walked the boardwalk and found somewhere to eat. The food was good, though it wasn’t anything too romantic. Steve got to tease Bucky for getting marinara all over his chin from the meatball sub he was eating. 

“Okay Steve, you try eating this damn thing with one hand.”

So Steve tried to eat his hot dog with one hand and only spilled half the toppings, which they both laughed about.

It was getting dark, and the boardwalk was all lit up. Steve didn’t know how Bucky was feeling, but he felt like it was awfully fucking romantic, especially when they stopped at the end of the boardwalk and Bucky put his arm around Steve.

“Thanks for bringing me out here.” Bucky said.

“It was your idea.” Steve reminded him.

“You think I’m getting reckless?” Bucky asked.

“What?” Steve asked.

“My therapist said I was being reckless because I got tattoos.” Bucky laughed.

“That’s funny. Did you show her the thigh tattoo and tell her the story?” Steve asked.

“Nah, I didn’t want her to come on to me.” Bucky joked.

“Shut up.” Steve said, blushing bright and ducking his head despite his grin.

“You’re so cute.” Bucky said.

Steve made a disgruntled noise, jabbing Bucky in the side with his elbow. “I told you to shut up, Barnes.”

Bucky just snickered in reply.

They were quiet for a while, watching the water and the boats. Steve’s stomach was in knots, and it wasn’t because of the greasy food he’d eaten. He leaned more into Bucky and he couldn’t stop smiling. He wanted things to stay normal. “Did you want to come here because you have a deep connection to boats?” Steve asked.

Bucky laughed, turning more toward Steve. “Uh huh, my new found love for boats.”

“Makes sense now.” Steve said, looking away from the view and up at Bucky. He could have sworn that he saw Bucky look at his lips. They had never kissed in front of their friends, or in front of anyone. That was something that couples did. Steve swallowed hard and tried not to think about kissing.

Bucky leaned in and pressed a kiss to Steve’s lips. It was a peck, of course. Steve wasn’t much for public displays of affection, couple or not. It was just one of those moments that it felt right. So right.

Until the moment that directly followed and Steve heard someone make a comment, breaking him out of his happy bubble with Bucky. He shot a glare over his shoulder at the man who made a comment.

“Wanna mind your own business?” Steve said. It came out right as Bucky said, “Steve – don’t.”

“Wanna keep it family friendly around here? I got a daughter.”

“It was a peck. We weren’t playing tonsil hockey or nothin’. You might not have even seen it if you were mindin’ your own business.” Steve said. He could hear Bucky take in a deep breath.

“You tryin’ to start somethin’ kid?”

“You’re the one who started it!” Steve exclaimed, feeling himself getting hot all over. He was fully facing the man and feeling much taller than he was.

“I just don’t think it’s appropriate –“

“I don’t want to hear it. If it bothers you, walk away. All there is to it.” Steve said.

“Don’t interrupt me when I’m talkin’ kid.”

“Can’t help it, just like you can’t help being an ignorant piece of shit, I guess.”

That was when Steve got punched in the face, into a full on fist fight, and security had to remove both Steve and the man from the board walk.

Steve and Bucky were sitting in Steve’s car after. Bucky was wiping off Steve’s bloodied lip.

“You gotta learn to let shit go, Steve.” Bucky said.

“No, that guy had no right to make any comment about anything.” Steve replied, getting riled up about it again just thinking about it. Bucky got Steve’s inhaler out of his jacket pocket for him and Steve took a few puffs.

“You’re gonna get yourself killed actin’ like that.” Bucky murmured.

“It’s 2015, that guy needs to get a grip.” Steve grumbled in reply.

X

Steve tried not to act like he was concerned about the status of he and Bucky’s relationship in front of anyone but Natasha. When Tony straight-out asked him about it, it was hard for Steve not to sound a little bit strange when talking about the whole thing.

“I mean – I don’t really know what we are. I guess we do act like a couple in a lot of ways, but he’s never said anything about it and I just don’t want to be the one to bring it up.” Steve said frantically, but he was trying to sound nonchalant.

“I understand.” Tony said.

“Oh.” Steve said, relieved that Tony wasn’t going to tease him or be rude about Bucky anymore. Steve supposed that Tony had finally gotten to know that Bucky wasn’t some crazy old man, as he’d first referred to him as.

“It’s kinda like me and Pepper, except a lot less complicated because you aren’t sleeping with anyone else and neither is Bucky.” Tony explained.

“I can’t believe you two honestly. You should just have an open relationship and call it a day.” Steve said.

“That would imply that I had feelings, which I try to avoid letting anyone know I have.” Tony said.

“Why is everyone so opposed to having feelings?” Steve wondered out loud.

Chapter Text

Steve knew that he had been having a much too normal time with his life lately. He had been too well. None of his old ailments had flared up. He wasn’t feeling dizzy or cold all the time anymore from his anemia and he had even stopped taking his iron pills (okay, he maybe shouldn’t have done that without the doctor’s opinion, but he would get it straightened out when he went next time he was at home). His chest hardly ever hurt anymore and as far as he could tell, his heart beat wasn’t irregular. He had his asthma under control with medicine. He finally had the right prescription for his glasses.

Instead of worrying about his health, he had normal people problems, like getting homework finished on time and figuring out his relationship status. Of course, the normalcy couldn’t last for too long. He had been feeling sick to his stomach, which wasn’t a symptom of any of his usual problems. Instead it seemed like something new all-together. Steve knew that he was underweight, so it was necessary for him to not miss a meal (and to eat something high in iron at least once a day). The problem was that his stomach had been bothering him so badly that he didn’t want to eat. He knew that it had gotten severe when he did eat, he got sick and had to throw up shortly after.

He didn’t want to mention it to anyone. He really didn’t want to call his mom, who would insist on him coming home, he was sure. After the second time he vomited not long after a meal, Bucky heard him and asked him what was going on.

“I honestly don’t know.” Steve said. “My stomach has been killing me. I haven’t been wanting to eat, and now when I do, it either hurts worse or I actually vomit.”

Bucky rolled his eyes. “Honestly, Steve? And you haven’t mentioned this to anyone?”

“You now.” Steve said, sitting cross-legged in Bucky’s bathroom floor.

“You should go to the doctor.” Bucky said.

“No, I don’t want to.” Steve said, putting his face in his hands.

“Don’t be stubborn about this.”

“What if I call the clinic down the street in the morning and get a quick checkup tomorrow?” Steve asked.

“You promise?” Bucky asked.

“Yes.”

X

Steve wasn’t one to break promises, but he didn’t go to the doctor. He didn’t lie, he just never told Bucky whether or not he went to the doctor, and Bucky never asked. He was feeling a little better. The following weekend when he stayed with Bucky, it was a coincidence that it happened when it did. He and Bucky were having a serious make-out session. Bucky was on his knees, straddling Steve and grinding on him pretty hard. He leaned and gripped Steve’s shoulder really tight with his hand. Steve was obviously a little bit fragile, but he didn’t mind Bucky being a little rough with him – a tight grip, a bite, some hair pulling. Never bothered him.

The more that Bucky gripped his shoulder, Steve started feeling nauseous. He leaned up some, and Bucky let go. They went back to making out, and Steve was feeling okay. After a little while, Bucky got a little rough again and pushed Steve hard against the mattress and put pressure on his chest with his hand. He’d done it before, but Steve had never been in serious pain because of it.

He cried out in pain, teeth gritted and his own hand coming up to pry Bucky’s hand off of him. Bucky jerked his hand back and panicked.

“Are you okay?” Bucky asked, eyes wide.

“Oh god, my chest hurts so bad.” Steve said. He hadn’t been in this much pain in a long time. He wondered if it was his breathing or his heart. “Will you hand me over the inhaler?”

Bucky did. Steve took some puffs off of it and tried to calm down. It didn’t help. His chest was hurting so badly that he had to vocalize about it. “Fuck. That didn’t help.”

“Is it your heart?” Bucky asked.

“I – I don’t know. Maybe.” Steve said.

“I can’t drive you to the hospital.” Bucky said, looking panicked by the notion. He had told Steve a long time ago that he hadn’t bothered with looking into getting a driver’s license with his disability yet, and didn’t know if he ever would. He lived where there was a lot of public transport, he was in walking distance of the campus. What was the point?

“I don’t need the hospital.” Steve said.

“Yes you do.” Bucky replied quickly.

“Buck –“

Bucky interrupted him by getting out of the bed and grabbing his phone to call Natasha.

It wasn’t long after that and they were on the way to the hospital, with Natasha as their driver. Steve had insisted that it wasn’t necessary, but they eventually talked him into it. Bucky also convinced Steve to call his mom once they were at the hospital.

“Mom, I just wanted to let you know that I’m at the hospital.” Steve said, trying to make sure his voice sounded normal.

“What? Why? Steve, what happened?”

She wasn’t buying the normal voice. Steve decided to be honest, but leave out the details. “My chest is hurting.”

“Did you drive yourself?” She asked, sounding panicked.

“No, Natasha drove me. She and Bucky are here with me now.”

“Well do you have your insurance card with you?”

“Yep.”

“Your medical booklet.”

“Yeah.” Steve said, feeling his cheeks burn hot. He kept the damn thing with him at all times, since he’d been so sick over his lifetime.

“Okay. Have someone contact me if something happens and I’ll be there in a second. “

“I will, mom.”

“I love you, Steve.”

“I love you too.”

After an hour in the ER, Steve was taken into a room. Bucky and Natasha waited outside. They checked his vitals and everything was normal. He explained his whole medical history, along with the booklet in case he’d forgotten something (it had happened before). He felt sick as soon as she asked him to lay back on the examining station. After a lot of questions, it was determined that Steve was probably facing some serve stomach ulcers that were likely caused by all the medicine he’d been taking for his heart and asthma. Steve was highly annoyed by this.

Steve was prescribed a bunch of anti-biotics so the ulcers would be able to heal. They wanted to make sure it wasn’t something to do with his heart. They hooked him up to a monitor and kept him overnight. Natasha left, but Bucky stayed in the chair with him that night. After Steve fell asleep, Bucky called Steve’s mom to tell her that he was okay.

X

Bucky treated Steve like he was a china doll for the next week. Steve was highly annoyed by that too.

“I’ve got stomach ulcers, Buck. I’m not gonna collapse if you touch me.” Steve said.

“But I’m afraid that it was my fault that your chest started hurtin’ the way that it did.” Bucky said.

“Are you outta your mind? I’d been in bad shape for a couple weeks before that.” Steve said. “Besides, stress causes these things. I need to relieve some stress.”

Bucky shook his head. “You need to rest for a little while. Your doctor said so. And you don’t need me getting you all wound up so you have to use your inhaler if that’s what’s causing your stomach ulcers.”

Steve rolled his eyes. He settled for cuddling up to Bucky’s side while they watched TV. He didn’t mind that so much.

X

It had taken nearly two weeks for Bucky to believe that Steve wasn’t completely fragile anymore. A lot of ‘Bucky I was sick before I even met you’, ‘Bucky it wasn’t your fault I got stomach ulcers’, ‘Buck I’m not gonna have an asthma attack if you kiss me harder’, ‘My heart feels fine’, ‘Bucky just kiss me like you mean it’, ‘I’m not gonna break’, ‘I’m not gonna die’.  Enough of Steve scolding him must have gotten through. They were back to their regular kissing and blow jobs.

Bucky was kissing Steve hard and desperate. His hand was tugging at Steve’s shirt, trying to pull it over his head. Steve put his hands over Bucky’s trying to push it away.

“What are you doing?” Bucky asked.

“I just – you never try and take my shirt off.” Steve replied.

Bucky shrugged. “I guess I’d like to see all of you for once.”

Steve hummed, shaking his head. “I dunno, Buck.  It’s nothing you wanna see. I’m too thin –“

Bucky put his hand on the edge of Steve’s shirt again, tugging at it gently again.

Steve took a deep breath. He pulled his shirt over his head, showing Bucky his thin little frame. He tried to smile, but he knew that he was nothing impressive. He had that ugly scar that started at his collarbone and extended straight down the middle of his chest almost ten inches. Bucky’s hand spread out over his chest and nearly covered it all the way. Bucky ran his hand down Steve’s body over him, down to his concaved stomach. Bucky cupped a bad set of lungs over his ribcage, practically in one hand. He traced along each rib that was showing, down to Steve’s narrow hips. Steve didn’t like feeling small, but he didn’t mind it with Bucky as much.

“You’re perfect.” Bucky said softly.

Steve rolled his eyes. “Perfect?”

Bucky chuckled. “To me.”

Steve leaned up and kissed Bucky gently. “It’s only fair that we both get to be shirtless.” He said after.

It was Bucky’s turn to roll his eyes. “Any chance you get to see my abs...” Bucky teased.

“That and the Stones tattoo.” Steve grinned.

Bucky was chuckling as he pulled his shirt off. Steve watched the way that he shrugged his arm out of the right sleeve hole and then used his right arm to pull it the rest of the way off.  His eyes darted down to watch the way his skin stretched against his muscles.

“Eyes up here, Rogers.” Bucky teased.

Steve looked at Bucky and gave him a smirk. He shuffled forward on his knees and put his hands on Bucky’s shoulders. Bucky ducked a little to meet him half way for the kiss. He kissed Steve deeply, slotting their lips together and alternating between sucking on his upper lip and lower.

Steve pushed himself up on his elbow, brought his other hand up to push Bucky up a little. Their lips were still connected as they adjusted to sitting up.

Pretty soon, things were getting heated and Steve decided that he wanted to have sex. He thought that maybe Bucky was thinking the same thing, but was too scared to say anything so he brought it up.

Bucky’s eyes widened, going darker. “Jesus, Steve.  Are you serious?”

Steve nodded. “I know you’re too worried to say anything. I swear if you fuck me, I’m not gonna have an asthma attack.” He said.

“Are you sure?” Bucky asked.

“Yeah.” Steve said.

.

 “You ever done this before?” Bucky asked.

“It isn’t very sexy to talk about previous partners in bed.” Steve said. “But no, not with a guy.”

“Huh.” Bucky said, tracing his hand along Steve’s lower back.

“What?” Steve asked, sitting back a little to look at Bucky.

“I just thought that maybe you’d have done it before.” Bucky said with a shrug. “It kinda hurts.”

“Your dick isn’t gonna kill me, Bucky. Not like it’s huge or anything.” Steve said, pausing. “Wait – have you done this before?”

“Yeah, I have.” Bucky admitted.

What?” Steve asked.

“What?”

“I didn’t even think that you liked dudes.” Steve said.

“What do you mean you didn’t think that I liked dudes? If I didn’t like dudes, I’m pretty sure me fucking you wouldn’t even be up for discussion.” Bucky said. His eyebrows were furrowed in confusion.

“Well yeah, but I thought maybe you were just experimenting or something.” Steve said.

Bucky laughed, all-out laughed.

“What?” Steve asked.

“Steve, I’m gay.” Bucky said.

What?” Steve didn’t mean to sound so shocked, but he’d spent all this time convinced that the reason they weren’t actually dating was because Bucky was straight and just experimenting with him.

“Jesus Christ. I just had a handful of your ass, while you were giving me a handjob, talking about how I wanted to fuck you and you’re that surprised to find out that I’m gay.” Bucky said.

“Uh – well, I just – assumed.” Steve said. “You acted like you’d never given a blow job before!”

“I hadn’t in a long time. I haven’t done anything with anyone since I lost my arm. Seems like a lifetime ago when I had both arms.” Bucky said.

Steve was sure he looked just as dumb as he felt.

Bucky chuckled, pressing a kiss to the corner of Steve’s mouth. “Don’t look so shocked.”

“Well at least one of us knows what they’re doing.” Steve said.

“It’s okay, Steve. I’m sure I’ll be figuring some stuff out too.” Bucky said.

“We’ll make it work.” Steve said.

“We don’t have to do this.” Bucky said softly.

“I want to. I really do, I guess I’m just surprised is all.” Steve said.

“Why would you honestly be that surprised to find out that I’m gay?” Bucky asked.

Steve shrugged, giving a little smile. “I guess I just get surprised that you want me.”

Bucky sighed softly. He brought his hand up to Steve’s cheek. “Stop being so hard on yourself. Of course I want you. I told you, you’re perfect to me. You might be small, but at least you’re not missing an arm.” Bucky said, his voice teasing.

“Yeah well, you can still manage to be perfect without an arm.” Steve said.

Bucky smiled. He leaned up to press his forehead against Steve’s. They stayed like that for a few minutes.

.

Steve slumped back against the mattress, taking in a deep, deep breath and letting it go just as slowly. He was honestly shocked he didn’t have an asthma attack while they were going at it or something, but he’d took the precautionary puffs off of his inhaler beforehand.

He shifted toward Bucky, who was spread out beside him. The pain of it all hit him and he winced a little.

Bucky glanced over at him. “You okay?” He asked.

“Yeah – a little sore. Nothing I can’t handle.” Steve said.

Bucky chuckled. “Good.”

Despite the fact that they hadn’t cleaned up, Steve moved closer to Bucky, half laying on him. He felt Bucky’s hand on his arm, tracing along his skin.

“Well I guess I did okay with one arm.” Bucky said.

“Yes, you did great. I don’t think your lack of arm really altered your performance.” Steve said.

They laughed.

X

Steve lost his virginity his senior year of high school to someone that he cared about, a sweet girl that he was still friends with on facebook and things between them hadn’t ended badly. Everything aside from the times with her had been pretty meaningless.

There had been a few boys and girls he fooled around with in high school that were just that, fooling around. When he’d got to college, Tony talked him into keeping a girl occupied that he didn’t want bothering him. She wasn’t all-that interested in Steve anyway, so he didn’t feel bad that they had meaningless sex. Then there was the tinder date disaster where he gave the guy a blowjob and he prematurely ejaculated in Steve’s mouth. And then there was a date with someone he met on his own that just didn’t work out after they fooled around.

Steve knew what it was like when things were meaningless. What he and Bucky had been doing wasn’t meaningless. There was something that felt distinctly different. They both genuinely cared about each other, for one. It was never awkward between them, even when it was.

Steve was tracing his hand over Bucky’s back while he thought. He wasn’t an expert in reading people, and Bucky was hard to read as it was, but something told him that Bucky felt the same way for Steve that Steve did for him.

Bucky turned over onto his side to face Steve. He brought his hand up to brush Steve’s hair away from his forehead. Just friends didn’t act the way that they acted. It was driving Steve crazy.

He didn’t want to ruin their night. And then he kept not wanting to ruin their night for weeks. Eventually, it reached the point where he had to say something. He didn’t want to push anything and he didn’t want to change what they were, but he had to say something.

“Bucky. What’s going on between us?” Steve asked.

“What do you mean?” Bucky asked.

“I don’t want to push anything, I just want to know what you’re feeling.” Steve said.

“What would you be pushing?” Bucky asked.

His responses were driving Steve crazier. “Us – this. Whatever’s going on between us.” Steve said, feeling his cheeks burning. He had been so sure that Bucky was feeling the same way that he was, but maybe he wasn’t.

“There isn’t anything going on between us.” Bucky said.

“Uh – yeah, there’s something. We might not be dating officially, but we’re – it’s something. We’re friends with benefits.” Steve said, cringing at that notion. “But I feel a deeper connection than that, and I just want to make sure that I’m not making it up.”

“You’re looking too far into this.” Bucky said.

Steve’s throat got thick with emotion. He stayed quiet for a moment, wondering how Bucky could be so insensitive about the whole thing. “I’ve been thinking for a long time that our relationship was a lot closer than just friends. And ever since I met you, I thought you were so attractive. The more I got to know you, I – I really liked you. I thought that you were feeling the same way. We’ve been really intimate. We’ve gone on dates, Bucky. What else is it when you’re havin’ dinner on the boardwalk and kissing by the sunset?” Steve couldn’t read Bucky’s expression. He stood up from where they were sitting on the couch. “Say something.” Steve said, becoming angry very quickly.

“I don’t know – I just thought we were hanging out –“

“Just hanging out? Hanging out? Do you hold hands with all your bros, Bucky? Do you kiss the people you hang out with? Do you ask ‘em all out on dates? Do you fuck all your friends?” Steve asked, feeling himself turning bright red.

“No – No I don’t do all those things with anyone else.” Bucky said, sounding irritated himself.

“How can you expect me not to get the wrong idea, then?” Steve asked.

“ - Look, I’m just not ready to date anyone.” Bucky said, looking blatantly away from Steve.

Steve was so angry, his heart was beating too fast and he was seeing red. “Then what the fuck are we doing, Bucky? You shoulda said something before.”

“You should have said something before!” Bucky exclaimed.

Maybe Bucky was right. He should have told him when he started feeling something this deeply. “Bucky, I want to be with you. I do. Nothing’s gonna change if we’re boyfriends.”

“I don’t want to date you.” Bucky said.

“Why not?” Steve asked, tears in his eyes.

“I feel  – I feel unattractive and unstable. I’m not good for you. I’m not. I don’t know when I’m gonna panic. I don’t know when it’s gonna go from me being this to turning into something like your dad – I’m a fucking mess. I don’t want to drag you down. It’s better this way.”

“No it isn’t, Buck. I – I know all those things about you. I’ve been here while you’ve been bad. I’ve seen how you get. You’re getting help you need. You’re not like my dad.” Steve said.

“Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t change the way that I feel.” Bucky said.

“The time that you first looked at me with the look in your eyes was when we were watching the Patriots game, they were playing the Steelers.”

“Stop it, Steve.”

“You asked me to sleep in your bed with you. You asked to kiss me first.” Steve said. “I don’t give a shit if you have problems. We all have problems. You’re trying to control and maintain yours.”

“I don’t – I can’t.” Bucky said.

Steve wanted to keep on. He wanted to plead his case, would have done anything to make Bucky change his mind. He wasn’t going to beg him. If Bucky wasn’t ready for a relationship, there was nothing that Steve could do to change it. Though it didn’t stop him from being upset.

“Fine. Fuck off then. Don’t come crying to me next time you want your dick sucked.” Steve said dramatically, knowing he was being dramatic, but not caring. He had meant to move from the spot he was stuck standing at.

“Steve, this isn’t about us having sex or anything. It’s not about you, okay?” Bucky said.

“Don’t – I don’t want to hear any more of your excuses. You’re scared to do this.” Steve said. “It is what it is. Fine.”

“I’m not scared.” Bucky said.

“Prove it.” Steve dared him.

“Steve, stop it!” Bucky exclaimed. “Just fucking stop it.”

“If you’re not scared and you really don’t want to be with me, just tell me you’ve been using me.” Steve said. “Go on.”

“Steve, I’m not – I told you it’s not about you.”

“Tell me there isn’t something more between us.” Steve said.

Bucky took a deep breath. “There’s nothing.”

“You’re just saying that!” Steve exclaimed.

“No, I’m not – just leave me alone, Steve.”

“This is it then? This is how you want to end things?” Steve felt tears welling up in his eyes again.

“There’s nothing to end.” Bucky said looking away from Steve again.

“Fuck you.” Steve was finally able to move from the spot. He grabbed up his coat and backpack before storming out the door.

X

“I get it, okay? I really do. This is exactly why I didn’t make any kind of move on him from the beginning, ya know?” Steve was saying to Natasha. “I didn’t want to fuck up what we had, but oops. I know he really might not be ready, but I just don’t get how putting a label on it would change anything. We would still be the same way around each other, it would just be that we were boyfriends.”

“I think he’s just scared.” Natasha said with a shrug.

“I think it’s bullshit.” Steve grumbled.

“Give him time. He might come around.” Natasha said.

“Okay, I will. You’re right.” Steve said. He huffed out a breath. “I’m just – it’s just annoying. I mean I – he – we had sex. I never had sex with a boy before.”

“I thought you had that thing before with –“ Clint started.

“Yeah. But I mean touching dicks and having sex is two totally different things. You gotta be brave to let someone put their dick in your ass.” Steve said.

“Got ya. You could have just said the first bit, but got ya.” Clint said.

“I gave him my boy virginity.” Steve said.

“You were half a virgin when you met him.” Natasha said with a smirk.

“Are you referencing Mean Girls while your friend is having a half-way serious conversation?” Clint asked.

“I think this conversation stopped being serious when I used the phrase ‘touching dicks’.”  Steve said. “Seriously though, let’s go do something. I don’t want to sit around worrying about it all night.”

Chapter Text

Since he and Bucky had fought, Steve first started to try to ignore his feelings by going out and having the “college experience”. He went to Clint’s fraternity house, drank too much, got sick and threw up. After he figured out that college frat parties weren’t as fun as they were made out to be, Steve decided to take up Tony’s offers of going out. He’d been to parties with Tony before, but usually ended up not getting too drunk and going back to his dorm before it was all over. This time he was setting out to get really wasted again, and it ended with Steve getting into a fist fight and Tony dragging him back to their dorm.

Steve quickly gave up on the party lifestyle. It wasn’t really him anyway. Besides, the end of the year was creeping up on him and he needed to focus. He put his feelings into his art and into watching Funny Girl and The Wizard of Oz several times. He was upset about the way that things had ended with he and Bucky, but accepted the fact that Bucky had his own things to deal with. The space would hopefully do them some good.

But the next thing that Steve heard about Bucky wasn’t good. “Bucky hasn’t been to therapy in a couple of weeks.” Sam told Steve. Steve tried to pretend that Bucky wasn’t his problem anymore, but he still cared about him. It didn’t matter what they were. Steve wanted him to be well.

“He was doing really well with that too, wasn’t he?” Steve asked.

“Yeah, he really was.” Sam said, looking concerned himself.

“I haven’t seen him around lately, but he might be avoiding me. I’ll ask Natasha if she’s talked to him. Someone’s gotta check up on him.” Steve decided.

When Steve spoke to Natasha the next day, she said that she hadn’t spoken to Bucky either. She hadn’t seen him on campus in a few days. She texted Bucky, then told Steve that if she heard from him she would let Steve know.  Steve even went as far as asking Thor if he had heard anything from Bucky. Thor expressed that he was a little concerned about Bucky, explaining that he had been really drunk the last time that Thor was over at his apartment. Natasha told Steve that Bucky texted her back vague responses and said he wasn’t able to hang out with her.

Steve told Sam what he had heard from everyone else a few days later.

“If he’s drinking heavily again, I think that we should go check on him.” Sam said.

Steve sighed, “I don’t know, Sam. I don’t think it’s a great idea if I go. We got in a really embarrassing fight last month and I haven’t been speaking with him.”

“Really?” Sam asked. “I had no idea. I did think it was strange that he wasn’t there the last time we all went out.”

“Yeah – it’s complicated.” Steve said.

“Gotcha.” Sam said. “I still think you should come. He likes me alright, but you’re his best friend. He needs to know that you care about him. In a time like this, he needs support from his friends.”

Steve shook his head. “I can’t.”

“Okay then.” Sam said, obviously not impressed with Steve’s decision.

“The last time we spoke, he basically told me that he didn’t care about me at all.” Steve said.

“What the hell prompted that?” Sam asked.

“He freaked out because I asked him if we were dating.” Steve half-grumbled.

“What?”

“You heard me.” Steve said. “We had feelings for each other, but he wasn’t ready for a relationship, so he said a bunch of shit he didn’t mean to hurt my feelings and make me go away. I don’t want to go over there until he apologizes. Maybe I should apologize though. I was being a little ridiculous when we argued too. I feel bad now, because he’s apparently bad again and I feel like it’s my fault.”

“Steve, it’s not your fault that Bucky has PTSD.” Sam said rationally.

“I know that. But it’s my fault he’s in a bad state of mind.” Steve said.

“That’s not your fault either.” Sam said.

“You just said that he needs support right now and I need to be there for him. That’s got something to do with me.” Steve said.

“I just meant that if he’s been pushing everyone away, he needs to know there are people who care for him.” Sam explained. “But I didn’t exactly realize how complicated you and Bucky’s relationship was.”

“I didn’t either, not until he said he didn’t want to date me.” Steve said. “But I’ve accepted that he isn’t ready to be in a relationship. I haven’t accepted that he talked shit to me to get me to leave him alone about it.”

X

After Sam went to see Bucky, he gave Steve the report. Bucky was obviously in a bad place. He had been drinking a lot, his apartment was a mess (he and Sam ended up cleaning it up a bit), he cried while Sam was there, he hadn’t showered in a few days (Sam convinced him to take a shower), and he wasn’t going to his classes (Sam convinced him to email his professors and say that he had been sick with the stomach flu).

“Goddamn it.” Steve said, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I’ll go with you next time.”

The next time was pretty bad. Bucky was drunk as hell in the middle of the day. It looked like he’d fallen down and been unable to get himself back up. Balance wasn’t the greatest thing when you were missing a limb, or at least that was what Bucky had told Steve once upon a time.

“Stevie, I haven’t seen you in weeks.” Bucky said from his place on the floor.

“Yeah.” Steve replied, unhelpfully.

“We just wanted to let you know that we were here for you, Bucky.” Sam said.

“Mm, Stevie hasn’t been.” Bucky replied.

Steve looked at his feet.

“Want me to help you up?” Sam asked.

“I – I can get up.” Bucky said. He tried, but unsuccessfully plopped back down. “Fuck – “

Sam helped Bucky get to his feet and convinced Bucky to take a seat on the couch. Steve felt uncomfortable, unhelpful, and like a piece of shit.

 “You need anything, Bucky?” Sam asked.

“Nah, I’m good.” Bucky said, slumping back into the couch. “I’d ask for you to bring me the liquor bottle, but first off, I know you’d say no and second, I think I spilled most of it when I fell.”

Steve busied himself by picking up the bottle and cleaning up where the liquor had spilled.

“Bucky, you know drinking isn’t always the best solution to your problems.” Sam said, “You ought to drink some water and sleep it off.”

“Water actually doesn’t sound too bad.” Bucky said, being surprisingly cooperative.

Steve got him a glass out of the kitchen and filled it. He brought it over to hand to Bucky.

“Stevie.” Bucky said, smiling and ignoring the water. He grabbed Steve by the wrist, tried to tug him forward, but ended up making Steve spill the water.

“Goddammit.” Steve murmured.

“I miss you, Steve.” Bucky said.

“Let go.” Steve said.

“Steve –“

“Buck, let go.” Steve said firmly.

Bucky jerked his hand back. “Sorry. Okay, sorry – l know you hate me right now.”

Steve sighed. “I don’t hate you.”

“You sure? You sound like someone who’s mad at me and hates me.” Bucky said.

“I am mad at you.” Steve said. “Doesn’t mean I hate you or I’ve stopped caring about your well-being. Sam’s right. You need to get your shit together.”

Bucky frowned, sitting back again. “I don’t want to get my shit together.”

“Oh that’s real mature.” Steve grumbled. He slammed the glass of water down. “I can’t believe you’re letting yourself get like this. You don’t need me in your life to be stable. You don’t need Sam coming in here telling you what to do. You’re an adult.”

Bucky looked taken aback, despite his drunken state. “You don’t know what I’ve been through –“

“Please, Bucky, don’t use your service to the country as an excuse.” Steve said.

“What happened to us, Stevie? You were my best friend and you just abandoned me.” Bucky started.

Steve interrupted him again. “Look, I don’t know what you’ve been through. You haven’t talked to me about what you’ve been through, which is understandable. That’s what you have support groups and therapy for. Sam has been out there too, he’s been trying to help you. Nat has been trying to reach out to you. Thor’s your friend. There’s other people you talk to. You have friends other than me.” Steve said. “And you know good and well what happened to us.”

“Steve – I miss you.” Bucky said. “I love you.”

It was Steve’s turn to look shocked. Steve had seen Bucky drunk, but Bucky had never said anything like that. He swallowed hard, looking from Bucky to his feet, over to Sam – he’d nearly forgotten Sam was there. Steve cleared his throat. “We should talk when you’re sober.” He said toward Bucky. He went for the door.

X

Steve tried not to think about what Bucky had said to him. He tried not to think about Bucky period. When Sam brought Bucky up, Steve politely said that he didn’t want to hear the details. Apparently, Bucky was getting better though. It was nearing finals week. Steve had enough to worry about on his own, but he was glad to hear good news about Bucky.

The worst of Steve’s finals week was at the beginning of the week. The worst of Tony’s was at the end. Despite their occasional differences, they had ended up understanding and appreciating each other. Tony admitted that he needed to slow down on his party lifestyle, even though he could handle it pretty well along with all his studies. Tony even admitted to joining a professional fraternity for engineering, with a lot of convincing from Dr. Banner, one of Tony’s favorite professors. Steve agreed to live with Tony again the following year.

Thor was going back to Denmark for the summer. Natasha said that she was glad to be spending the summer away from Clint because he was smothering her, but Steve figured she was just saying that. Sam was going to be working and volunteering as much as he could. Steve hadn’t heard anything about Bucky, but was hoping he would stay in New Jersey so Sam could keep an eye on him.

Steve wasn’t sure what he was going to do the whole summer. Look for a summer job, hopefully. He wasn’t sure he could stand two and a half months in the house with his father. At least there was plenty to do in the city.

X

The first week of June, Steve got a text from Bucky.  It had been nearly two months since Steve had seen Bucky.

It took nearly the whole day for Steve to decide whether or not he should reply and what he should say.  He decided that he missed Bucky way too much to let this continue.  If Bucky was the first one to say he missed Steve, then well, he supposed he could give the whole thing a chance.

 

 

 

Aside from the fact that he wanted to forget the whole fight, Steve was feeling lonely. It was amazing to be in one of the biggest cities in the whole entire world and still manage to feel alone. He lived in one of the most forgotten neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Steve had friends in High School, but they had either moved on with their lives or forgot about him. To be fair, he’d mostly forgotten about them too.

Meeting Bucky was the highlight of his summer so far, or at least the idea of it was. He changed his shirt twice and his shoes once. He was sure that Bucky didn’t care what he was wearing, but still. He walked to the train and had to wait on it for fifteen minutes, which made him antsy. He didn’t know what he was going to say to Bucky, but he thought it over as he stood and waited, then during the train ride.

At around 12:38, Steve was outside of the station looking for Bucky. After being bumped into twice, Steve finally saw Bucky. He was standing across the street, leaning against the building with his foot on the brick. Steve felt like he had been missing something for way too long and suddenly he had it back.

“Just about thought you weren’t coming.” Bucky said.

“I was only ten minutes late.” Steve replied.

Bucky pulled Steve into a hug. Steve had no problem with that, exactly. They still had some things to talk about. Maybe they would save that for later.

“Wanna get a wrap?” Bucky asked.

“Sounds good.” Steve said, a faint smile still on his lips from the embrace.

They ate at some high-end wrap place. They each ordered a wrap, of course, and shared a huge order of tater tots. Mostly it was small talk, about what they’d been doing over the summer. It turned out that Bucky had spent the first bit in New Jersey, close to “the therapist that he trusts”. Steve was glad to hear that Bucky had been taking care of himself better. Neither of them had been doing anything overly exciting. Steve told Bucky about how he had been working at one of the touristy shops near the Brooklyn Bridge, but his mom made him quit after he got sick and went to the hospital. Bucky made a big deal out of it, but Steve assured him that he was fine. They both seemed to be doing pretty well.