“Oh Steve,” Bucky said, trying and failing to cover his concern with amusement. "Journey again?"
“Fuck off,” Steve sniffed, mopping at his eyes with his shirt sleeve. “It’s a good song,” he insisted as Journey’s “Separate Ways” transitioned into the admittedly heartfelt chorus.
“It was a good song the first couple’a times,” Bucky agreed. “So were ‘Sherry’ and ‘You’ll Be In My Heart’.” Steve sniffed again, pulling the hotel pillow to his chest. His eyes were misting over again, his eyebrows drawing together dangerously as if a stiff wind could set off another wave of his silent brand of tortured regret.
It might have seemed like Bucky caught him in the middle of his mourning playlist by accident but he’d had to orchestrate a fake trip to the store and do some very uncomfortable surveillance on the rooftop of a nearby building in order to time his entrance just right. He’d tried three times before and even with all his considerable skill Steve had still heard him coming and turned off the music before Bucky could get in the door. He refused to let anyone see him in pain if he could help it- even Bucky. But it had been two weeks since they came up to DC for the funeral and Steve showed no signs of wanting to leave the hotel room, nonetheless the state. So Bucky had to get creative.
The fact that Steve hadn’t bothered to hide his melancholy tunes that today was either a really good sign or a really bad one.
“You’re a fucking asshole,” Steve informed his lover. “You never had any taste in music.”
“Baby you lie like a cheap rug,” Bucky said, crawling on the bed and wrapping himself around Steve. He kissed Steve’s temple gently above his right ear. “Back when you were half deaf and meaner’n a fuckin' snake I had amazing musical taste and you could barely tell a trumpet from a pianoforte. But now you’ve had more time to catch up than me and all you do is sit here listening to ‘80’s power ballads.”
“So what?” Steve said, pretending to be ornery. “Lots’a people like these songs. And I was never mean. I just didn't put up with any guff, that's all.”
“Lots of people like chocolate truffles too but they don’t eat them every day for two straight weeks,” Bucky mumbled against Steve’s neck as he tightened his arms. "Besides, you were the meanest kid I ever met. Bareknuckle back alley champion, that's my guy. Not afraid of nothin', even those refrigerators that called themselves the Murphy brothers. Even Carter woulda been impressed if she'd seen you calling Tommy Murphy a brick faced pile of horse shit to his face." Steve's lower lip wobbled dangerously so he sucked it into his mouth and clamped his teeth down on it hard.
"Yeah well she, she, you know she's, she was one of a kind," Steve said, picking at the little stems of the down feathers that were trying to escape the pillow case.
“She’s gone Bucky,” Steve whispered hoarsely, as though saying the words too loud might be the only thing that could make them true. “She’s gone and I know you're worried but I’m not gonna sit there and smile like a dope and pretend that don’t affect me. You can’t make me. I don’t wanna.” Steve curled in tighter around his pillow, taking Bucky’s body with him by necessity.
“I know you loved her,” Bucky whispered, in the voice he reserved for tending the most serious of Steve’s wounds. “You still do. You always will, just like you’ll always love your ma and I'll always love Becca. But at some point, you need to let that sadness go. Take a deep breath. Go outside. Get a beer with Sam. Go shopping with Nat. Drag me around the fuckin’ Met so I can pretend to like your shitty taste in art.” Bucky nipped at Steve's ear playfully, the closest he could get to punching his bicep as he usually would have done.
“You only like art where the girls aren’t wearing clothes,” Steve accused with a sniffle.
“Damn straight,” Bucky said. “I know what I like and I stick to it.” Bucky kissed the nape of Steve’s neck where the knobs of his spine had once been so prominent Bucky’s every kiss there felt something like planting a flag.
“I only ever loved two people,” Steve said haltingly like it was being ripped out of him with a winch. “Just you and her, that’s it. You gotta understand it don’t mean I don’t… I still love you the same.'ll always make me happy, just being there. But she’s gone Buck. And I’ll never hear her voice, or smell her perfume, or touch her skin again. I’m just… I’m just emptier knowing all the things I never got with her. All the things I wanted once. A family. A dance in a real hall with a real band and a wedding and a dog,” Steve was sobbing for real now, the way Bucky had only seen him a handful of times.
He was sure there was no one else in the world who had ever had the honor and the pain of knowing what Steve Rogers really sounded like when he wailed in absolute pain.
“I know,” Bucky murmured, rocking them back and forth. “I know, I know. It’s gonna be okay. It’ll be alright. I got you, sweet baby, it's alright mo gra. We’ll get through it together.” Steve sobbed louder at the Irish endearment that had once been his mother's favorite name for him.
“You don’t have to stay if you don’t want,” Steve hiccoughed. “You can go back home.”
“Never. Not without you,” Bucky insisted immediately, forcefully. Even if Bucky had some insane and inexplicable desire to sleep alone he’d rather swan dive off another train than leave Steve alone when he was hurting. “We can stay in DC as long as you want,” Bucky promised. “We can go visit her tomorrow.” The trip wouldn’t exactly cheer Steve up but at least it would get him out of the house and confronting the source of the pain. That had to help, right?
“There’ll be reporters. Photographers.”
“I’ll kill them,” Bucky promised offhandedly, rubbing at Steve’s arms and feeling the goosebumps raised by the overenthusiastic hotel aircon.
“Bucky,” Steve said, trying to sound condemning but only managing to sound a little delighted. “We aren’t killing any reporters.”
“Whatever you say gorgeous,” Bucky hummed. He didn’t mention that there were nonlethal methods of ensuring compliance and he’d be putting every one of them to use on the vultures who reported on death in this city just as soon as his lover was asleep. He’d been watching a lot of Batman cartoons. He had ideas. “You still wanna go?”
“Yeah,” Steve sighed, rubbing a hand over his face. “Yeah, I wanna go.”