I wanna be your last, first kiss
That you'll ever have
I wanna be your last, first kiss.
When Steve woke, James was sitting up. His hair was ruffled and spiked in various directions, his face splotchy from what looked like crying, and he was obsessively wringing his fingers. Steve sat up, looking out at the ocean’s darkness before back to his husband’s face.
“Hey,” he said, voice scratchy and unused from sleep. “What’s wrong, love?”
James flinched, swallowing. He turned to Steve, a strained smile on his face.
“C’mere.” Steve pulled James into him, wrapping his arms around his lover. He ran his fingers up and down James’ skin, feeling the brand on his upper arm. He traced it idly, humming. “You don’t sleep so good anymore.”
“I didn’t mean to wake you,” James said. He shifted against Steve, reaching up to cup Steve’s head, and stroked his fingers through his hair. Steve was turning into warm butter from the delightful sensation.
“You know you can tell me anything.” Steve dropped his chin atop James’ head, staring out into the black ocean waters.
Steve closed his eyes, waiting. James spent a lot of his time living in fear. Perhaps it was the war, maybe it was their brief time as supersoldiers on the run for their lives. Either way, he’d never stopped being afraid. It had become a challenge to know what exactly was concerning him at the moment. It always changed day by day.
Steve let James continue caressing the back of his head for just a minute longer before reaching up and bringing James into his lap. “Why?” He pressed kiss after kiss to his husband’s temple.
“The serum didn’t make me as strong as you. The way people look at you and the way people look at me are two different things.”
Steve squeezed James, holding his husband’s warmth in his lap. He never wanted to let go. He wouldn’t if he had a choice. Ever since they’d received the serum, they’d been fighting. Steve sometimes thought what it’d be like to retire somewhere in the back hills of the world. They could hunt for their own food, plant a little garden and just exist together. He scoffed at himself. James would never let Steve leave BLADE. There was a dark smile on those red lips whenever Steve had to show he was stronger. James was proud of him, and he liked watching Steve effortlessly take out people who challenged him, or people he challenged. Sometimes James even went out of his way to challenge people for Steve to take down.
“Whaddya mean?” Steve asked.
“I mean I’m always gonna have to cling to you. I’m never gonna feel safe.”
“James.” Steve sighed, turning the man around in his lap. He wrapped James’ legs around his torso, getting their bodies as close as he could. He loved James’ legs. He’d spend hours kissing them if he could, just taking the time to admire the power that rested beneath the skin. James spent his entire post-serum existence comparing himself to everyone else. He never saw how strong he was. “You don’t have to cling. You know I’d rip everyone’s heads off for you. Someone looks at you the wrong way, you just gotta tell me.”
“But that’s the problem Steve!” James bit his lip, tracing his fingers along Steve’s sternum. “I’m always gonna have to come to you. I don’t get it. You were a tiny thing when I first met you.”
Steve smiled, recalling the first time he’d met James. He’d introduced himself and James had simply sneered at him before turning to someone else. He’d made up his mind he’d win this guy over that day and he’d done it. It had been the proudest moment in Steve’s life when James had smiled at him. The first night they’d danced… The first night they’d kissed.
“I don’t get why it made you stronger than me. Shouldn’t we be equal?”
“We are equal, love.” Steve cupped James’ face, peering into those dark eyes so full of confusion and fear. Steve hated how James was always so afraid. It was a very specific kind of torture watching the one you loved the most and knowing you couldn’t cure their fears. “I love you more than anything else in the world. You know that right?”
James nodded, pressing his lips to one of Steve’s palms. The act got Steve’s heart fluttering. James’ lips were softer than silk, warm and designed for kisses. Steve had to bite his lips to keep from pulling James down into the bed to kiss those pretty lips.
“And you know that I’m always gonna do everything I can for you, right?” Steve traced his fingers over James’ lips, still letting the man hold them against his face. James playfully bit at Steve’s palm, a smile curving his lips.
Steve laughed, rocking up into James. Who needed sleep when he could just make love to his husband all night? And they did usually. Night after night they’d crawl between the sheets and Steve would give everything to James. If James wanted it rough, it got rough. If he wanted it soft and slow, that’s what Steve would give. Steve didn’t have much in life, but he had a body that loved another and he’d spend every moment he could giving himself to James.
“You okay now?”
James sighed, looking over at a picture in the corner of the dark room. Their wedding picture. James stared at it for so long that Steve thought he’d not heard the question. “Yeah.” James leaned in, pressing a feather-light kiss to Steve’s mouth. “Yeah I’m good.”
“Love me,” Steve said, pressing kisses to James’ bare shoulder. “All I wanna do is love you.”
James answered by gripping Steve’s shoulder blades and scratching down his back. His grin was sly as his pupils expanded.
Steve didn’t know it would be the last night he’d ever make love to his husband. Had he known, he would’ve gone at it gentler. He would’ve taken his time and made sure James really knew just how much love Steve had to give. If only he’d known what would happen the next day.
Maybe he could’ve stopped it.
Steve walked into the mess hall. James had been suspiciously absent when he’d woken and he’d been suspiciously absent throughout morning rounds and a mission debriefing. He found Natasha, sitting with Clint and Maria. “Hey, have you seen James?”
Natasha shook her head, shrugging. “He missed our weekly training session.”
Natasha smiled like a shark. “He’s been asking me to train him. So I’ve shown him a few tricks.”
“We think he’s getting ready to challenge someone,” Maria said, leaning forward. “Careful, your little husband may outrank you.”
It amazed Steve that Maria said it like he’d care. James could be an admiral and Steve wouldn’t care who ranked above whom. Though, he wouldn’t deny the warmth of pride that blossomed in his veins and floated through his body. James had been nervous last night. Maybe he just needed a pep talk before he went to his challenge. Steve then jarred straight up, his eyes round. If James had gone to challenge someone, he could be on the floor hurt right now.
“I’ve gotta go,” Steve said, turning around and running for the mess hall doors. He smacked right into his husband. They both shared a moment of surprise.
Steve smiled, relief filling his heart. “You’re okay!”
James pulled out a knife.
“Heard Natasha’s been helpin’ train you?” Steve disregarded the knife in James’ hands or the way he was looking at Steve, defiant and afraid. “If you wanted to challenge someone, you shoulda told me. We could’ve trained together.”
“I didn’t want you to train me.” James’ voice was strained. He sounded like he’d been crying.
“You okay, love?” Steve reached out, but James took a step back. Steve’s skin chilled.
“I want to challenge you.”
Steve laughed. He laughed because this was his husband and the love of his life wouldn’t ask him to fight till one of them was left standing and the other was a bloody mess on the floor. They’d fought in the war together. They’d gone on the run for their lives together. They’d willingly allowed themselves to be taken in by BLADE and frozen for years before being brought out on top-secret missions. They’d gotten married. In what world would the love of Steve Rogers’ life fight him to the death? So he laughed.
“You sonuvabitch,” James said through gritted teeth. “You’re so smug ain’t ya? Thinkin’ I’m second best.”
James pushed him into the mess hall.
“I challenge you,” James said again, louder so everyone in the room heard.
Steve didn’t hear it. He only heard the sounds of his heart shattering. Piece by piece, every memory he’d shared with James fell to the floor. Every smile and every soft gasp or giggle– it was stained and twisted. His love was blackened and forever cursed because in what world would James do this? He had nothing to gain from Steve except–
“Baby,” Steve whispered. “I don’t want this.” He swallowed roughly, trying to choke back tears. They’d been planning to get some time off. They were supposed to go to Africa together. This couldn’t be happening because in what world would James hurt Steve so much?
They were supposed to live together, in love, till their hearts were old and their hair gray. This couldn’t happen…
“I don’t care. Get a weapon.”
Steve stood there, looking around at the expressions people wore. Brock Rumlow covered his mouth, Natasha just smiled like the lying snake she was, and even Fury was standing in a corner with an amused expression. He couldn’t undo this. Everyone would know. This couldn’t be warped into some lovers’ sparring session or even a bad fight. This was real.
And it was happening.
“Why?” Steve asked as tears blurred his vision.
James didn’t answer. “Grab a weapon.”
Steve balled up his fists, staring at them but seeing right through. This was the one person that meant anything to him. All he wanted was for this to end and for them to go back to their room and talk. “I love you. Why’re you doing this to us?!”
“Are you forfeiting your right to a weapon?” James asked. He was nervous. His body shifted back and forth and Steve could see his hand tremble around the knife.
“Yes.” Steve sobbed, tears staining his face. “I’m forfeiting my right to a weapon.” Was this the sound of the world ending? It wasn’t explosive or rumbling. There was no thunderous boom or a sheet of rain to wash them all away. It was cold silence, shifting feet and the whispers of the people around them. Had they all known? Had Steve been so oblivious that he’d missed all the warnings?
He just wanted to love James. Had that been wrong? What could Steve have done to change this? How could he have been so blind? He never wished for God to be real more than in that moment. He prayed and he prayed that this would end with them smiling through bloody teeth and kissing.
In the bottom of his heart, he knew it wouldn’t. God didn’t play favorites.
Steve nodded, signaling for the fight to officially begin. James rushed at him with a battle cry and the knife poised in his hand. Steve deflected. He didn’t feel the punches or the kicks that James tried to throw his way. He blocked them all with effortless precision. He was making a fool of James on accident. James wasn’t the best fighter, but my God, could he shoot a gun. His talent had always been guns. Steve’s had always been his fists. And Steve was using those fists to block every move that James tried.
With every counter, James grew angrier and angrier. He backhanded Steve, and Steve let him. It sent him flying across the room and he skid on the floor. He contemplated just lying here and allowing James to take his life. That’s what James wanted.
How had it become like this? How’d Steve let it get here? Every night they went to sleep holding each other. Every day they woke up and their first taste was each other’s morning breath. Every shower was filled with giggles, jokes and embraces. How had this happened? When had it all become a lie?
Steve rolled as the knife came down. James meant this. He really wanted to kill Steve. Steve lurched up, getting back onto his feet. He circled James as tears clouded his vision. James knew he cried easily, which only made Steve prepared for the full-frontal attack that came at him. It was the obvious choice when his opponent thought he couldn’t see. Steve didn’t need to see to know how to fight.
Left hook, uppercut, knee to the groin. Steve took it all. He let his blood spill in the room because he felt that somehow he deserved this. James’ attacks were powerful. He wasn’t weak. Physically, he could beat almost everyone in this room, give or take a few like Natasha or Fury. He was jacked up on supersoldier serum and everyone knew it. He’d won all his challenges and boy did people ever come for him.
And maybe that was the problem. James lived in fear of the next challenge. People saw him in Steve’s shadow and they hated him for it. Envy, disrespect, the need for Steve’s approval. There were many reasons why people would challenge James and not Steve. James was– beatable. He messed up on missions or during sparring Steve would pin him over and over to the mat. People saw it. They filed it away and used it later. James always barely made it out of his challenges alive. Steve had spent countless nights stitching him up and kissing the anger off his love’s face. And now here they were…
Steve was sent fumbling when James performed a flawless roundhouse kick, slamming down his foot on Steve’s face. He felt his nose burst with blood as he found himself acquainted with the floor again.
James was breathing heavily, watching Steve for any sign of a counterattack.
Steve wanted to just lie there. Maybe death wouldn’t be so bad. He’d killed so many, what was wrong with joining them?
When James came again with a killing blow, Steve’s survival instincts kicked in. He wasn’t weaker than James. He was stronger, faster, smarter and he needed to live to help these people survive. James wouldn’t do that. He was selfish and out for himself. Steve believed in BLADE and he wouldn’t let this world fall to more war, even if the way he achieved it was with more killing and fear.
So Steve twisted his body and grabbed at James’ arms. Steve saw the moment flash through James’ eyes when he realized he’d lost. Those big, beautiful eyes stared back at Steve, showing his own reflection in them. He twisted James’ wrist, gritting his teeth as the knife slowly went closer and closer to James’ body.
“Why?” Steve sobbed, tears streaming.
James just clenched his jaw and released his grip. The knife plummeted into his chest. He gasped once, twice…and then fell to the floor.
Steve scrambled to scoop him into his arms. He cradled his dying lover, watching olive skin turn ghostly pale faster than Steve had ever known. He heard the whispers around them and even the clapping. This was supposed to be a joyous occasion for the victor, but not to Steve. He watched his heart, his light slowly get snuffed out. James reached out, grabbing Steve’s hand. Steve squeezed back. This was his husband. This was the reason he fought and now Steve watched with horror-filled eyes as the life slowly left James’ body.
James felt so solid in Steve’s arms. He was alive, gasping but alive. His eyes were scared and full of tears. This was the body Steve worshipped. This was the man he’d vowed to protect. He’d failed.
Even in the moment of winning, Steve lost.
“E-end of the...” James offered a weak crooked smile. He closed his eyes and shortly after, his breathing stopped.
Steve stared at his lover’s lifeless body. A body that used to dance with his at midnight, that used to hum when James was happy or seek comfort in Steve’s arms when he was sad. There was no soul anymore, no life or energy.
“No no no no no,” Steve whispered, caressing James’ face. “Baby, baby, no. Please…”
Steve felt warm wetness soak into his lap. Everyone leaves out what happens to a body after death. It urinates on itself. Steve was soaked in James’ blood and urine but he still wouldn’t move. He expected to wake up from this nightmare and then he could bury himself in James’ arms and press his nose against that beautiful chest. Nothing happened. James was still. Steve was itchy and sticky. Shock subsided, leaving his nerves tender and exposed to the cruelties that engulfed them.
He screamed. He screamed so violently that it was as if someone was digging their nails into the back of his throat and just ripping down. He rocked back and forth, agony pushing needles into his skin. James was dead.
He’d killed James. He’d killed his husband.
Someone put their hand on his shoulder. Steve moved to immediately bring his hand down against the weak spot in the bone. He heard the crack and the shriek as he’d broken the person’s arm.
“Don’t. Touch. Me.”
Someone must’ve ushered the broken-armed person out because the room fell silent again. Steve just stroked James’ face, feeling silent tears fall from his eyes. “We were supposed to get away for a bit.” He swallowed. “You was gonna pick the place. Said Africa was nice.” He saw his tears fall against James’ skin, like James was suddenly crying and not Steve. “This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.”
They let him stay there until he was shivering from the wetness in his lap and the itch was unbearable. People moved around him. Dinner was served, the mess was cleaned– except where he sat with James in his arms. Heartbreak didn’t cover it. His world didn’t feel shattered. It was obliterated. He’d been ripped from reality and dropped into a living hell. His worst nightmare played out before him.
He laughed softly, tracing a finger over James’ face. It amazed Steve how the body could go from such life to death so quickly. It was so fragile. Bodies were so strong and yet they could be reduced to nothing in mere seconds. He could chop up a man and a body wouldn’t even be recognizable. He could drown someone, set them aflame. Bodies were so weak.
He was weak.
He’d lost the love of his life to fear and jealousy because he was too weak to do anything about it. Perhaps he even ignored it. After all, in what world would two people who loved each other come to end like this? Steve had done something to make James need this.
Steve finally stood up, James’ body was already starting to undergo rigor mortis. He had to force the stiffening muscles to bend in his arms. The room fell silent around him, watching. He made his way to the door before turning to his commanding officer. “Tomorrow. I challenge you.” It didn’t matter that Schmidt was a good man who had noble goals.
Never again would Steve be weak. He’d be strong for both himself and James.
BLADE didn’t have funerals. Steve had to fight until he was blue in the face for James’ body not to be thrown to the sharks. Shark fodder. That’s all anyone was. Natasha even had the audacity to ask if she could watch…
It was that day he knew she planned to challenge him one day. He’d welcome it. Part of him wondered if she hadn’t set James up in the first place. He would reach for any theory that didn’t point to the obvious.
This was James’ decision and he’d done it on his own.
Steve stood there among the gray trees. They weren’t naturally this color. But the ash from the decimated surroundings collected here and painted the whole area gray. He’d laid out James body on a pier of plywood that he’d collected. He held the lighter, but he couldn’t do it. He’d already stabbed James. Hadn’t he suffered enough? He wondered if James would be upset that his body would be burned. He wondered if James was even out there somewhere. Was Hell real? Was James there? He said he was always meant for it. They all were.
“A burial ceremony and you didn’t invite me?”
Steve stiffened when he heard Tony’s voice. He’d looked over at the man– looking at the healing wounds on his face, courtesy of James. “Didn’t think you’d care.”
“I always care when someone gets special treatment.” He walked around the plywood. “They think you’re special.”
Steve didn’t answer.
“I think you’re special too. We could be friends. Now that he’s gone.”
Steve sneered. He wanted to throw the lighter at Tony’s stupid ugly face.
“Cap– Can I call you Cap? I mean, you’re a captain now. Heard you turned Schmidt’s face into a puree. That sounds uglier than mine. Nice little gift your late husband gave me.”
Steve licked at his lips. He’d been unnecessarily violent with Schmidt. But to get his private funeral, he had to end Schmidt’s life. Those were Fury’s orders, and Steve knew James deserved better than shark fodder. It was the least Steve could do for the man he’d failed.
“Look. You’re a powerful person and I’m a powerful person. We don’t have to be friends if you don’t want. We can just– ya know– help each other out.”
“Not now. You loved him. I hated him, but you loved him. Send ‘im off and then we’ll talk. There’s an actual restaurant about 300 miles out. Wanna go? I’ve got a jet.”
“Stop talking.” Steve moved up to the pier, biting the inside of his cheek. He didn’t want someone here on this final send off. “I’ll meet you in the jet.”
“Sure,” Tony said. “And ya’know. I may have hated him, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel bad for what happened. So– for what it’s worth– I’m sorry for your loss.”
Steve didn’t expect the warm that filled his heart. He turned to Tony, looking at the weeping scars on his face. His other side though, that side showed sympathy and Steve appreciated that. He nodded before turning back to James’ body.
“Bye baby. I’ll always love you.” He laughed, holding out the lighter. “Maybe next time I’ll do better.”
He tossed the lighter, watching it engulf James’ body. In the heat of the flames, Steve’s soul died. His nerves froze over, his mind calmed and his body just began. A life without a soul was a harrowing experience.
But Steve would endure– because that’s what he’d always done. He’d always simply just–
Steve sat back, sucking air into his bruised lungs. He looked around the room at the soldiers– he assumed they were soldiers– around them. Most were dead, some were knocked out. He looked up at the machine they’d come through. Pym and HYDRA had to get to work with fixing it now. He hoped this side didn’t fry each time.
Scott went to the controls, pulling out his little notebook that Pym gave him. They were certain communications would be severed (they were) and that meant they were on their own on this side. So Scott had instructions to go through and he and Nat were now reading through them.
“You good?” Sam asked.
Steve looked around the room again, still gasping back air. He wasn’t tired physically. There was an emotional exhaustion that was permanent in his bones. He smiled sadly at Sam. From Sam’s sympathetic expression, Steve knew he understood the true answer. Steve was never good. Not without Bucky.
“Everything’s in working condition,” Scott said as he and Nat came over. “We grab Bucky and we pray that Pym and our new biffles got the other side repaired.”
“Check to see if there’s any radio communication,” Steve instructed. “We need to find where they’ve got Bucky.”
After almost an hour of searching this base, they’d found the communication satellite and Scott was able to pretend he was one of the BLADE soldiers informing someone tried to come over and they were promptly defeated. Whoever was on the receiving end seemed to buy it but then the conversation was over before Scott could even ask where Bucky was.
“I’m sorry!” Scott said, eyebrows raised. “It’d be weird! I mean– that’s exactly what they probably think we’d say! We can’t say what they think we’re gonna say!”
“Tic Tac,” Sam said. “Stop talkin’ man.”
Scott promptly shut up.
“Okay.” Steve heaved a sigh. “We get the quinjet to full size, look over this base for any information– computers and all. We’ve got one goal here.”
“Or,” Natasha said as she walked up to one of the soldiers on the ground. “We could just wait till this guy wakes up and see if he knows something?” She shrugged, like the magnitude of her intelligence wasn’t impressive. Steve was impressed by it at least.
“Natasha,” Steve said. “Have I ever told you how amazing you are?”
An underwater base wasn’t exactly a surprise to Steve. The largest issue was that the ocean was large and the soldier refused to tell them what kind of defenses it had. The only thing they could do is all dress in BLADE uniforms and hope that their counterparts weren’t obviously hanging around.
“Can we shrink the quinjet again?” Sam asked as they soared over the ocean.
“Yeah, the issue is how do we get down under the water? This thing wasn’t designed for that.” Scott leaned back in his chair, idly playing with one of his shrinking disks. “More importantly, how do we get them to open up?”
“They use sub transport.” Sam was hunched over a laptop they’d taken from the other base. “We could find one of their ports and take a sub in?”
Steve sighed. His impatience was weighing against him. He didn’t know if Bucky was safe or if he was being held against his will. He only had the hopes that Bucky was still alive because of the other Steve. Anger swelled up in his stomach. The thought of that other guy made Steve’s skin burn. He was a pathetic imposter and Steve couldn’t imagine the disappointment Bucky must be feeling. There had to have been hope once when Bucky saw that guy. Steve wonders how upset Bucky was when he found out he was in another world.
“Might be easier,” Nat said. “We can’t take the quinjet underwater. It’s not like a helicarrier.” She looked to Steve for approval.
“How long’ll it take though?”
“There’s a port fifteen minutes out,” Sam said, pointing to something on the map. “Also, I’ve got direct coordinates to their main base now. We’re about three hours out.”
“Okay,” Steve said. “Let’s get a submarine.”
“I feel so Russian right now,” Natasha said. “It’s like the Cold War all over again.”
Steve rolled his eyes. “You weren’t there for that.”
“Neither were you,” she said back, smirking.
“Man, a sub sounds good right now,” Scott said, rubbing his stomach. “I’m starvin’.”
“We’ll get Subway after this is all done. My treat even.” Steve clasped Scott on the shoulder.
“I’m holdin’ you to that, Cap.”
They’d maneuvered the sub into the docks relatively easily. There’d been no passwords or special instructions. Steve was nervous about getting off though. Once the people in the base saw their faces, they’d either figure they were from another world or they’d be asking questions that Steve didn’t have answers to.
Natasha was on board for pretending to be her other self. She claimed she knew exactly how to behave– which downright terrified Steve.
“Okay, we infiltrate under the pretense that we’re our other selves,” Steve said. “Don’t attack anyone unless your cover’s blown. We keep in radio contact if we have to split up. Ideally, I don’t think that’s the best idea for this mission. This place is big.” Steve looked to the schematics on Sam’s hijacked laptop. “We’ll search the brig first and then make our way to the barracks.”
“What if we do get split up?” Sam asked.
“Stay in radio contact and meet back here. Everyone ready?” Steve scanned over his friends’ faces as they nodded.
They exited the submarine, ducking their heads and trying to blend in as much as they could. There weren’t many down here, so they headed to the elevators without issue.
The brig was guarded and Steve saw no other way in than through the guards. He clenched his jaw, walking forward.
“Captain, you shaved?” one of the guards asked.
Steve’s eyes widened before he reached up and caressed his chin. “It was hot.”
The guard shrugged, relaxing. “Bucky ain’t down here no more,” the guard said. “But you know that.”
Steve swallowed, showing no sign that his heart was on the verge of giving out. “I know. I came down for uh– I needed to see–”
“Wait,” the guard said. “Who’s this guy?” He pointed to Scott.
“Oh.” Steve blinked. “That’s Scott. He’s our new–”
Natasha was already on the guard and pulling out her steel wire to strangle the other one. Once they both dropped, she shrugged, looking at Steve, Sam and Scott’s startled expressions.
“Scott doesn’t have a double here. They’ll figure it out eventually.” She shrugged.
“So barracks?” Sam asked as they about faced toward the elevators.
“Bucky was in the brig.” Steve pressed the up button. He didn’t like knowing there was endless ocean above and around them. This whole place had a dark, dingy look to it and it was cold. “I dunno if they’d just put him in the barracks.”
“Then where else? Unless he’s gettin’ executed?” Scott said lackadaisically.
Steve rounded on him, nostrils flaring.
“I mean!” Scott recoiled. “That’s just a guess! I don’t think that other Steve-guy would let that happen!”
The elevator dinged and they got on. Steve sighed, holding the door open button. They needed to devise a plan. This place was too big to just walk into and expect to find Bucky with ease. “We need to split up.”
“What? You said that wasn’t a good idea,” Sam said.
“I know, but this place is huge. Scott, you and Nat take the two floors above here. I’ll go with Sam to the barracks. If anyone figures it out, fight. Try to avoid it at all costs though.”
Natasha nodded. Scott looked like he was going to vomit.
“We need to find Bucky,” Steve reminded them. “Once we have him, I don’t care if we blow this place up to escape. Once he’s safe, we leave.”
Bucky sat across from Brock Rumlow. He’d apparently gone off hiding in Tony Stark’s lab in an incubation tube. Tony, naturally, had found him and told him Steve wasn’t out to kill him. After Jack talked to him, Brock finally came out of hiding and agreed to look after Bucky while Steve was away.
Bucky hadn’t been out of this room for three days. He wondered where Steve went and if he needed to be worried about it. He’d tried to kill Bucky’s Steve once. Was that still on his radar? At this point, it wouldn’t surprise Bucky. Steve would do anything to keep him. He clearly wasn’t above cold-blooded murder.
Bucky nibbled on an apricot, watching Brock shuffle a deck of cards. They played more cards than Bucky thought he’d ever done in his life– World War II and all.
“Is there a Peggy Carter in this world?”
Bucky sighed, dropping the apricot pit. “Nevermind I guess. She was a girlfriend of Steve’s.”
Brock laughed. Bucky cocked a brow in response.
“I guess it makes sense that your Steve’s straight and ours ain’t.”
Bucky’s heart squeezed. He knew that, but hearing it made his love for the man he left behind hurt more. It wasn’t like he could change Steve. People love who they love. Bucky didn’t even know he could fall for a man until this world’s Steve came around. He’d been in love with his Steve all these years though. He just hadn’t known it.
“Has this world ever cared? About being gay and shit?”
Brock dealt out the cards. “Not really. It’s been too focused on other shit to care about love.”
“But love’s important here too, right?” Bucky leaned forward. He knew some basics about this world, but not everything. Women were equal, gays were clearly just fine, private militaries commanded countries. He’d never understand how a world obsessed with power saw two men together as being okay. Maybe that was just his own conditioning. There’d always be a shame in him for loving his Steve the way he did, if he ever got back home.
From the looks of it, he’d probably never get that chance.
“It’s very important,” Brock said. “S’why we don’t got any anti-fraternization laws or shit.” He looked at his hand, probably weighing how he’d beat Bucky again.
A few soldiers marched down the hall. Bucky could hear their feet echoing. He furrowed his brow, staring at the heavy door. There had to be a lot of them if Bucky could hear them.
“You hear that?”
Brock shrugged. “Probably drills.”
Bucky scratched his nose, settling back. “When’s Steve supposed to get back? Where’d he go?”
“A mission. And he’ll be back today.”
Brock put his cards down. He squeezed the bridge of his nose. “You gotta understand something, Bucky.” He looked up, his brown eyes focused. “You n’ Jack’re the only people who’ve ever treated me like a person.”
“That’s important to me. I ain’t gonna forget it. But I can’t—I can’t betray Steve either. He’s my commanding officer. So I can’t tell you where he went, even if I wanna. And I do wanna.”
Bucky pushed his tongue into his teeth. He understood the spot Brock was in. He had to balance his personal life with his professional life. Bucky was a friend and Bucky wasn’t part of BLADE. Bucky was personal. Professional was BLADE and all it did. His relationship with Steve wasn’t because they were friends.
“I hate that everyone thinks so little of you,” Bucky whispered.
Brock shrugged. He looked over his shoulder at the door when someone started shouting. Bucky listened too. He couldn’t make the words out but they sounded frantic.
“Yeah well—I got you n’ Jack. I don’t need anyone else.”
Bucky smiled, nodding. The silver lining of staying in this world was that Brock was easily the nicest person he’d ever met. At least he’d have a friend to share his misery of this world with.
“Nat!” Steve said into the com. “Nat! Scott! Where are you guys?!”
Sam clicked his tongue, waiting. They’d managed to stay relatively unnoticed as they searched, but somewhere along the lines, more activity started happening and now they were pressed up together in a utilities closet. A gasket pressed into Steve’s back and he was pretty sure there was something wedged between Sam’s legs that was making the man shift awkwardly as he teetered over it.
“Something’s wrong,” Sam said.
“We got this.” The little room had a red glow. Steve could see the intensity of Sam’s gaze.
“If we go out there,” Steve said, “we’re gonna have to face them.”
Sam shrugged. “You’d risk anything for Bucky, right?”
“Not your life,” Steve replied quickly. “That’s not right of me.”
Sam nodded. He teetered over the piping again. “I wasn’t a big fan at first. You put the old best friend with the new best friend and of course there’s tension.”
Steve snorted out a laugh.
Sam smiled. “But he’s not bad. He’s loyal and he’s been tryin’ to be a better person. And you love him. So I’m here to get your boy back.”
Steve’s heart squeezed. He stared at Sam. His words weren’t profound or life-altering, but that wasn’t what mattered. Sam was offering his life willingly. It was his choice and Steve had no right to try to convince him otherwise.
“You know I love him?” Steve tilted his head to the side.
“Well if I didn’t, I do now,” Sam said, teasingly. “I think we all know how you feel about him. We were just waitin’ for you to catch up.”
Sam shrugged. “Always, man.”
Steve leaned against the wall, gritting his teeth as the gasket pressed into him again. It was now or never. They were too deep behind enemy lines. Nat and Scott had gone unresponsive and now the only thing Steve could do was fight his way through this base. If he died, at least Bucky would know he came for him. That had to count for something.
“Let’s do this,” he said.
Together, they came out of the utilities closet, prepared to punch and kick anything that moved. What they were met with startled them. A ring of men and women with their weapons pointed at them. Steve found himself putting his hands up. He hadn’t expected this.
“I believe this is yours,” Natasha said as she shoved…Natasha to her knees.
Nat growled, but she hung her head, breathing heavily. Steve was surprised to see there was really no difference in hair style between the two Natashas.
“Sorry, Steve,” Scott said. “Turns out this Natasha is just as smart as ours.”
“Obviously smarter,” the Natasha of this world said. “My my. If it isn’t another Steve Rogers.” Her grin left ice in the pit of Steve’s stomach. “You wanna fight your way out of this one, Steve?”
The words were oddly familiar. Steve looked to his Nat. She cursed in Russian under her breath. Steve’s eyes widened as he remembered she’d said something similar to him once. They really were parallel worlds.
“It’s unfortunate you’re not half the woman I am, Natalia.” The other Natasha kicked Nat into the ground and pressed her boot down on the skull. Nat cried out, anger burning behind her pupils. She wiggled frantically but the other Natasha just laughed. There didn’t seem to be any kind of escape from her bonds. “You’ve got two choices Steve Rogers. Come with us peacefully, watch your friends die and then die yourself—quick. Or we can do this the hard way.”
Steve raised his fists, jerking his head to the side. “I can do this all day.”
Natasha smirked. She was nothing like his Nat. Her smile was wicked and cruel. There was too much death surrounding her. They may have shared faces, but they didn’t share souls. Just like Steve didn’t share the other Steve’s soul. They were different people who wore each other’s face.
“Glad you seem to think so.” She lifted her hand. “I challenge you, Steve Rogers to a fight to the death. You win, you and your friends can keep looking for your precious little Bucky.”
Steve’s heart churned. Bucky was alive. He was so close. Steve’s muscles tensed as he prepared for probably the hardest fight in his life. She didn’t need to be a supersoldier to kill him. She was fast, wicked smart and if his Nat was anything to go by, she was pinpoint deadly.
“You may have one weapon.” She stepped into the circle her soldiers had formed. They still had their guns raised.
Steve took his shield off his back. He longed for his regular uniform but it was back in the submarine. “This is the only thing I need.”
Natasha hummed in affirmation before getting into a fighting stance. Steve did the same, taking in a deep breath. He didn’t like the idea of killing her. His Nat was on the ground with a gun to her head. Her lip was busted open, but her eyes were defiant. Sam allowed himself to be cuffed and he was also held at gunpoint. Steve’s gaze found Scott again and he smirked as he saw a flash of something red in Scott’s hand.
Maybe this was all part of Nat and Scott’s plan… Nat wasn’t easily defeated and Scott even seemed too calm. If there was a distraction, then someone…small…could keep searching. They just had to figure out where Bucky was. Which meant Steve had to keep talking…
“Where is he?” Steve asked as he and Natasha charged into each other. She used her gauntlets to deflect his shield bash. He was holding back. He needed the information first.
“Your boyfriend?” Natasha hissed. She spun around and tried to kick him, but he deflected and sent her twisting in the air.
She sneered, standing up. “He’s in his room, locked up tight for his new Steve.” She grunted, cracking her neck. “He must have a tight ass for you both to be so interested.”
Anger burned in Steve’s eyes as he snarled. He wanted to rip into this woman for even speaking about Bucky like that. Steve looked to Scott who visibly relaxed. Steve knew it. It had been a trick! There was no way Nat would let herself get caught otherwise. The anger subsided. He wouldn’t break this woman—not now at least.
Steve just had to keep this battle drawn out enough to let Scott escape and find Bucky.
Right on cue, Scott disappeared. The soldiers momentarily panicked, breaking their circle and some shouting orders at each other. A few immediately scrambled. Natasha ran at Steve, jumping atop him and squeezing her thighs around his throat. She was screaming something but he couldn’t hear. Scott was off to find Bucky.
Everything was still okay.
“What did I tell you, Captain,” Fury said. His back was turned to Steve. “I knew bringing Barnes here was trouble.”
Steve’s jaw was clenched. His whole body was vibrating with a need to destroy the other Steve and his friends. They were an interesting bunch. As far as Steve knew, he’d never seen a Scott before in this world. Their Natasha was a disappointment. She had been so easily taken in. The guy with the wings was also an unknown to Steve.
“We kill them and move on.”
“Romanov has your doppelganger detained right now in a Challenge. I wonder if she’s training for the real you?”
Steve scoffed. It was entirely likely that that’s what she was doing. He wouldn’t let it phase him. Bucky had made it clear that he didn’t want this fight. Once Steve challenged Fury, maybe Natasha would think twice before challenging him. He just had to kill Fury first.
“I expect if their Rogers is anything like you, it’ll be a long fight and she may not be the one standing.”
Steve crossed his arms.
“You have to kill them all. Get down there and make sure they all die. I don’t care how. Just make sure they’re ended.”
Fury turned to Steve. His eyes were as blank and unreadable as ever. His body posture was relaxed, like he was chatting with an old friend about the weather. The other-worlders terrified Fury. The only reason Steve knew that was because of how fixated he was on them. The amount of secondary precautions inside the base was hard evidence too. Once Fury started up his tricks, Steve was pretty sure Bucky’s friends didn’t stand a chance in hell.
“I said all of them, didn’t I?”
Anger filled Steve’s lungs. He shifted, shaking his head. “You think I’d kill him? After all that’s happened?”
“You don’t have a choice!” Fury moved, lightning fast, to stand before Steve. “They’ll keep comin’ back and I won’t stand for that! They all die or you die with them. Take your pick, Captain.”
Steve stepped back, smirking. He’d secure Bucky’s safety and then he’d challenge Fury. It was now or never. He just had to kill the rest first.
“Sir yes sir,” Steve bitterly spat back.
Fury watched Steve leave. From his posture, it was clear he was calculating the probability of Steve actually listening. If Fury was as smart as Steve knew he was, then he’d know that Steve wouldn’t harm Bucky. There were cogs grinding in Fury’s mind and Steve prayed he’d stay ahead of them. He had to find Brock and tell him to get Bucky somewhere safe.
Along the way, his thoughts were focused on the other Steve. It had been a fool’s error to leave without killing him when Steve had the chance. Captain America was so utterly in love with Bucky. Steve saw it the moment they first met. Of course a Steve Rogers loved a Bucky Barnes. It seemed to be written in the fabric of reality. Steve had to make sure that Bucky never found out that Captain America was here for him. He had to get him to safety, kill the Captain, kill Fury and then Steve could worry about the fallout. He just needed Bucky safe.
Once he reached their room, he pried the door open, startling both Bucky and Brock. “We have to move.”
“What?” Brock asked.
“What the fuck did I just say, Rumlow?! We have to move!” Steve grabbed Bucky’s arm but Bucky pulled back. Steve couldn’t hide the whimper that left him. How was Bucky so blind? How could he not see the love that Steve had for him? Steve was doing everything possible to secure Bucky’s happiness and safety. There was so much Steve was sacrificing for him. He’d watch BLADE burn before he let Bucky go.
“Why?” Bucky asked, his brow furrowed.
Steve sighed, reaching or Bucky’s hands. Bucky stepped back again. “Bucky—baby, please. It’s not safe.”
“What’s happening? We heard shouting.”
“There’s another faction.” Lies. More lies. Steve would hate himself tomorrow. Right now, he needed Bucky to believe him. It hurt Steve so much to see Bucky look at him with anger and apprehension. If only he could sit the man down and really explain his love. They’d have time. They’d take over BLADE and then there’d be time to maybe just let someone else take over. Bucky seemed so tired of fighting. Steve would give it all up for him. “They’re slaughtering everyone and it’s not safe. We’ve gotta move.”
“Which faction?” Brock stood up, reaching for his boots and tossing a pair at Bucky.
“I dunno,” Steve lied. “They’re wearing BLADE uniforms.” He looked to Bucky, his eyes pleading. “Please, Bucky. I need you safe. We’ll talk after, I swear.”
Bucky stood there, staring at the boots. His nostrils flared and tightened every so often. His gaze was locked on those boots. “You should know, I’ll do everything I can to escape you.” He stared defiantly at Steve.
Steve’s heart screamed inside him, but it was a sound only he could hear. There was too much tension to cry, so Steve just nodded. “I love you.”
Bucky started to put his boots on.
“Get him to Tony. He’s got a panic room. Stay there and I’ll come find you.” Steve was about to leave when Brock grabbed his wrist. He turned to Brock, teeth bared and snarling.
“Jack,” Brock said quickly. “Where’s Jack?”
Steve shrugged. “How should I know?” His anger dissipated.
“He needs to be safe too.” Brock shrunk in on himself. Steve whined. In moments like this, he hated himself. Brock was nothing but a sniveling welp, but he meant well. If Bucky hadn’t been there to teach Steve, maybe Steve would have never noticed. But now Steve couldn’t just disregard Brock anymore. He was a person, and for that he deserved respect.
“I’ll find him,” Steve promised.
“You will?” Bucky asked, awe shimmering in his eyes.
Steve nodded. He wanted to reach out and tuck those beautiful brown strands behind Bucky’s ear, but he didn’t want to upset Bucky anymore.
Bucky swallowed loudly, shifting uncomfortably. “We’ll talk.”
Steve smiled. “Yeah.” Hearing those words, it was enough to make Steve feel like everything he was doing was going to be worth it.
Brock and Bucky made their way from the room and Steve went to go find Natasha and make sure Captain America finally breathed his last breath.
Steve was on his knees, panting. Natasha was much more brutal here than the Nat he was used to. He looked to his Nat, wiping blood from his lip. She winked. Steve wasn’t sure if he needed to get up again or not, but for some reason, he found himself hanging his head when the other Natasha charged again with a dagger at the ready. He was expecting something to happen. Nat had winked. Something was going to happen.
A metal clang echoed into the air. Steve looked up to see his Nat and the other Natasha standing before each other. There was surprise on Natasha’s face and a gleeful smirk on his Nat’s face.
“I’m not smart, huh?” She kicked Natasha square in the chest and sent her flying back.
The soldiers were rustling, their guns waving around menacingly. Steve grabbed his shield and threw it at them, aiming for the guns. Sam also sprung to action, his large wings deflecting gunfire as it hailed around them. He launched Red Wing and it promptly got him out of his cuffs before shooting at the guards.
Nat was fighting Natasha in hand-to-hand and Steve and Sam worked to disarm the soldiers that now completely fell apart from their circle.
“You bitch!” Natasha snarled as she leapt for Nat.
“Takes one to know one!”
Steve grabbed his shield, bringing it in front of him as a soldier rained fire on him. He peeked out to see Red Wing hovering over him. The guy was now dead on the floor.
“Nat had a plan?” Sam asked.
“Nat had a plan.” Together they joined their devious companion.
Natasha laughed, taking something out of her utility belt and smashing it on the floor. It was a smoke grenade. Steve, Sam and Nat all ran from the smoke, covering their faces. When it dissipated, Natasha was gone.
“You were never gonna tell me gettin’ my ass kicked was part of the plan, were you?” Steve asked as they started opening the barrack doors one by one.
“Nope!” Natasha said when she opened her door. “Scott, have you found anything yet?” she asked into the comms.
“I’ve got visual on Barnes! He’s being transported by Brock Rumlow. And you’ve got company!”
“Who?” Steve asked.
“Your evil twin!”
Steve balled his hands into fists. “So that’s how it’s gonna be.”
“Nat, get to Scott’s location. Sam, get into a room and use Red Wing to monitor her.”
“But what about–”
“I’ll be fine.” Steve said as Nat used one of Scott’s anti-shrink rounds and tossed Steve’s uniform at him. “This is personal.”
Steve ran into a room and quickly changed while Sam and Nat went as ordered. He felt a lot better in his uniform, with its armor and padding. The BLADE uniforms were little more than a shirt and a pair of slacks. He heard Red Wing soar down the long hall and then all was quiet again. When he came out, he saw his counterpart walking calmly. He was entirely alone.
“I guess it’s just you n’ me,” he said.
Steve nodded. “Guess it is.” He pressed his shoulders back, feeling the lip of his shield. He was comforted by its presence, considering the other Steve had a longsword with him that was casually draped over a shoulder.
“I won’t let you take him away from me. You didn’t hafta die, Cap. But you just couldn’t let it go, could you?”
Steve grinned, shrugging. “He’s my friend.”
The other Steve sneered. “You have no idea do you?”
He raised his sword, staring at his own reflection. “He’s in love with you. So much so that he won’t love me—no matter how hard I try.” His voice wavered, like a man in mourning.
Steve suddenly lost the ability to formulate words. Bucky loved him? He loved him…back? All those years of hidden feelings when they were growing up, all those stolen looks or the nights Bucky slept over and Steve felt guilty as he huddled in the corner. Bucky had loved him too?
The train… Steve’s heart coiled inward. He gasped, steadying himself. He couldn’t lose focus. He needed to stay alert for Bucky’s sake. They had a conversation that was over 70 years past due. Steve needed to make sure he’d be there to have that conversation.
The other Steve pointed his sword at Steve, his eyes deadly. “I’m going to remove you so he won’t have a choice but to stay with me.”
Steve threw his shield, watching the other Steve deflect with the sword and it came back to Steve. “You done talking yet?”
They charged at each other, sword extended, shield at the ready. The clash of metal on metal was loud and rang in Steve’s ear. His whole body vibrated at the intensity of power behind the other Steve’s swings. His hand was still trembling when he pulled back.
“Sure, I’m done talkin’.”
They charged again.
Bucky sat on the floor in Tony’s panic room. It was inside one of his cylinders and the smell of electricity hung in the air like baked sugar. He watched Brock pace the room, clearly worried about Jack. Bucky understood that fear. He felt it every time Steve left his sight when they were growing up, felt it again when Steve was on missions even with Bucky. He spent more of his life worrying about Steve than he spent appreciating Steve being there. If he ever got back to him, he’d make a point of changing that. He’d appreciate every minute he got with his Steve.
“Don’t freak out,” a voice said into Bucky’s ear. He snapped his head up, looking around. “Yo! I said don’t freak out! It’s me! It’s Scott!”
Bucky’s mouth dropped open. Scott Lang? He looked at his shoulder and almost coughed he was so surprised. There he was, Ant-Man in all his tiny splendor. He waved at Bucky. Bucky looked up at Brock before casually waving back.
“Steve’s here. We’re gonna get you outta this.”
Bucky mouthed the name. Steve. His heart erupted into joyous celebration. His whole body felt like warm wax was caressing it. Steve was here. He’d never abandoned Bucky. He’d never given up. They found a way. Bucky was foolish to think that his Steve would just give up. They spent their lives saving each other, losing each other and saving each other again. Bucky prayed the cycle would end with this. All he wanted to do was confess how he felt and be let down. He needed to know his place, hear it from Steve himself and that’d be it. Bucky could move on, always content to watch the love of his life’s back.
“Nat and Red Wing were following us here. We’re gonna getcha out.”
“Wait,” Bucky whispered, his gaze flicking to Brock every so often. “Brock’s good.”
“I’m sorry– what?”
Bucky waited for Brock to turn around before he whispered again, “He’s a good guy. Don’t hurt him.”
“Hey Nat, I think Bucky’s lost his mind. He says Brock’s a good dude.” Bucky assumed Scott was speaking into his comms. Bucky just deadpanned at Scott.
“What’re you doin’?” Brock asked.
Before Bucky could answer, Jack and Tony came into the panic room, both out of breath.
“Jesus!” Tony exclaimed, “Mary and Joseph. You’d think we were really under attack.”
Bucky’s brow furrowed. “We’re not?” He shifted his shoulder back to hide Scott in a corner of the room.
“Oh oops.” Tony reached up to cover his mouth.
Brock flung himself into Jack’s arms. Jack cradled him, and for a moment, Bucky forgot about Tony’s words or Scott on his shoulder. Watching Jack and Brock, two people from this brutal world who loved each other so much. It brought a smile to his face. He hoped that no matter what happened, that these two would make it through everything. He wanted to them to live long lives, get married and maybe have kids or whatever the people of this world did. He wanted them to keep going.
“You okay?” Jack asked, cupping Brock’s face.
Brock nodded, leaning forward. Jack kissed his forehead.
“Bucky,” Scott whispered. “We’ve gotta get you out and that’s a lot of people.”
Bucky leaned his head back, looking around. Tony and Jack were clearly the bigger threats, but Brock was still a muscular guy. If Scott and Bucky worked together, they could probably get out, but Bucky didn’t want to hurt Jack and Brock. He liked them. He didn’t really care one way or the other about Tony. He didn’t care much for the Tony of his world either.
“Ya got a plan?” Scott asked.
Bucky stood up, carefully plucking up Scott and holding him in his metal hand. “Steve’s here,” Bucky said.
Jack, Brock and Tony all looked at him quizzically.
“I mean—my Steve. My Steve’s here.” He searched their faces. Jack and Tony didn’t look surprised, but Brock did.
“Yeah,” Tony finally said, “we know.”
“What?” Brock exclaimed. “Why ain’t we lettin’ Bucky go?”
“Fury.” Tony leaned against the wall, resting a foot against it. “Fury hates other-worlders.”
Bucky swallowed, anticipation tingling his fingers. If he could convince Brock, maybe Jack would let him go too. Jack seemed to follow whatever Brock wanted. Tony was the wildcard.
“Brock,” Bucky said, “you gotta let me go.”
Brock shifted, fidgeting with his fingers. Jack wrapped an arm around him.
“This’ll be over if you just let me go.” Bucky’s heartbeat spiked. He didn’t want to hurt them. They’d done nothing wrong to him. Jack and Brock had been the best things he had here. If it hadn’t been for them, Bucky wasn’t sure he’d have been so complacent while he figured everything out.
“We can’t,” Jack said. “He’ll kill Brock.”
Tony remained silent, watching with his gruesome face.
“But my Steve is here. What if they kill him?” Bucky’s voice cracked. He crossed his arms, still holding Scott in his hand. “Please, let me go.”
“Listen, that’s not gonna–”
Brock opened the door, stepping back.
“Brock!” Jack exclaimed.
“It ain’t right!” Brock said, panic clear in his features. He was sweating lightly, his chest heaving. “That’s Bucky’s home. The captain stole him from it. It ain’t right we get to keep him. He’s not a prisoner.” He swallowed, looking at Bucky. “He’s my friend.”
Bucky’s face drowned with bittersweet emotions. He was sad that this Brock hadn’t lived in his world. He’d have probably never met him, or maybe somehow the world would’ve shaped him just like the asswhipe Brock Rumlow became there. He nodded, clasping Brock on the shoulder.
“Cap’s gonna kill you,” Tony sang. “Better get your last kisses in, Jack-o.”
“Will you be okay?” Bucky asked, hovering in front of the door. He was so close. He was so close to finally going home. He wasn’t sure what would happen when he saw his Steve, but he was pretty sure there was a long hug due somewhere. He could get that at least– before telling Steve how he really felt. Before the rejection.
“We’ll be good,” Brock said, shrugging.
“I meant you.”
Brock looked momentarily startled. He looked at Jack and Tony and then back to Bucky. Offering a smile, he nodded. It was uncertain, the kind laced with too much fear than happiness, but it was a smile. Bucky knew that if all else failed, at least Brock had Jack to protect him.
“You’re a good friend, Brock.” Bucky turned to leave, jogging away.
“You too!” Brock called after.
So close… Bucky thought as he jabbed his finger again and again at the elevator button. He was so damn close.
He almost forgot about Scott when a man emerged next to him. Scott pulled off his helmet and waved. “Nat and Red Wing are on the third floor waiting for us.”
“Operating Red Wing somewhere. I don’t really ask questions.”
Bucky narrowed his gaze. “Steve’s fighting Steve, isn’t he?”
Scott couldn’t hide the surprise and guilt even if he tried. He cleared his throat awkwardly, looking around. “You know, I’m surprised this place isn’t crawling with soldiers.”
“This is Tony’s floor. They’re above.” Bucky looked ahead. “Where’s Steve?”
“Fifth floor. He wanted to fight the other guy alone.”
Bucky closed his eyes. Either way, Bucky would lose someone he loved deeply. If Steve from this world died, he’d lose the first man he ever kissed and meant it. If he lost Steve—his Steve, he’d lose his soulmate. Either way, he was going to lose someone.
The door opened, but instead of an empty cabin, Natasha and Clint had who Bucky assumed was his Natasha in a death grip with a gun pointed to her head and Red Wing was an obliterated mess in the corner, still sparking.
“Get on,” she said. “This’ll all be over once we murder you.” She was staring directly at Bucky.
Bucky glared at them, challenging whatever putrid malice he had left to spare from his hatred of HYDRA. His fists balled up. He was planning to fight. His shoulders barely moved when he heard a thwick behind him, followed by another.
He turned to see Jack behind him, holding a tranquilizer gun. “They won’t be a problem anymore.” Clint and Natasha both dropped.
Bucky blinked. Scott rushed to their Natasha, working fast to untie her. “Was that part of your plan too?” he asked.
Natasha winced, wiping the blood from her face. “Not exactly. Their Clint’s a lot smarter than ours.”
Bucky turned back to Jack with a raised eyebrow.
Jack shrugged, cocking the tranquilizer again. “Brock thinks you’re worth saving. Tony’s hacking the computer systems. He’ll seal some of the doors to prevent BLADE from catching you all. He’ll also help get you to Steve faster.”
“Uh, I hate to be a bearer of bad news,” Tony’s disembodied voice came. Bucky assumed there was a speaker embedded into the wall somewhere. “But someone else is also trying to hack the doors to funnel BLADE to where the captains are fighting. I’ll do my best to work against them.”
Bucky looked to Scott. They shared an understanding nod and then Natasha hit the elevator button. Bucky hopped into the elevator, shouting a thank you to Jack as the doors closed. This wasn’t his fight. Bucky wanted Jack to stay with Brock in case anything went badly. Bucky wouldn’t hold it past BLADE to turn on their own during such a moment of chaos and confusion.
“You Avengers really know how to startle a bunch of soldiers.” Bucky leaned against the elevator door, feeling the vibrations as it went up.
“You’re an Avenger too, Bucky,” Natasha said, offering a soft smile.
Bucky scrunched up his nose. He’d never considered himself an Avenger. He merely tagged along with Steve. His presence had fractured the Avengers. Tony and Steve had fought—over Bucky of all people. The world didn’t trust him. He wasn’t good enough to be an Avenger. He was just Captain America’s dark past.
They filtered into the hallway, Bucky tensing when he saw a group of soldiers running their way. The doors slammed on them. He looked up in the room, mouthing a thank you. The Tony Stark of this world wasn’t that bad, he guessed.
“This way!” Natasha shouted as she grabbed Bucky’s arm and the three took off running. “We need to find Sam!”
“Sam, where are you, man?” Scott said over the comms.
“Uh, guys?” Bucky said as they all stumbled to a stop. They’d filtered themselves into a hallway full of BLADE soldiers.
“Damn it,” Natasha cursed. As the soldiers started their way, she shoved Bucky back through one of the ducts. “Tony! Seal him in!”
The duct shut. Bucky banged on the door, frantic to help his companions. He heard the sounds of guns, groans and the distinct snap of flesh and bone.
“Head northwest, Barnes! I can’t keep that door locked forever! Remember I’m also dealing with shit!”
Bucky growled, turning in the direction Tony instructed. He crawled through the air ducts, feeling clammy as the heat pumped around him. All this heat and yet the base still always felt cold.
“At the intersection, go straight.”
“How far away am I?” He had been so caught up in what was happening that he really hadn’t stopped to think what he’d do once he saw Steve. The Steve he’d fallen in love with was fighting the Steve he always loved. How was he supposed to act with that? They were trying to kill each other and Bucky had to make a choice…
“Turn left and then exit the ducts. I’ve sealed the doors so no one should get to you. Head straight down the hallway and turn right when you see a green flashing light. You’ll hear them from there.”
Bucky scrambled out of the ducts, popping his shoulders and neck as he crawled on the floor. He stood up, startled to see a man with brown eyes and disheveled black hair.
“Oh yeah, I brought backup.”
“Brock, this isn’t your fight.”
Brock shrugged. “Jack’s helpin’ Tony find the other guy messin’ with the doors and shit. I said I wanted to help you.”
Bucky’s face softened, a smile tickling the corner of his lips.
“C’mon,” Brock said, grabbing Bucky’s wrist. They heard the sounds, turning the corner at the green flashing light. Bucky’s heart lurched into his throat when he saw them. His Steve, clean-shaven and bruised. His other Steve, furious and sweaty. His body tingled anxiously. He wanted to scream for them to stop. They were fighting because of him. Every cut that they suffered, every bone that was breaking—it was because of Bucky.
And Bucky thought he couldn’t hate himself any more. He’d been wrong.
“STOP!” Bucky screamed, his voice cracking.
They flinched, his Steve stepping back. The other Steve used that to his advantage and drilled his sword forward. Bucky watched in horror as his Steve, his Captain and his best friend—spun sideways, grabbing the sword with his fingers and yanked. Bucky screamed as he saw blood. He didn’t want this. They were fighting over someone not worth this. He wasn’t worth it! He was a murderer, a liar and a user. In his selfish confusion, he’d allowed the Steve of this world to love him and he fell in love too. But he never thought he’d stay, did he? He always thought he’d go back? It wasn’t fair to them. They were both beautiful, both so worthy of the respect and admiration of the world and Bucky was the shadow that stained both of them. He couldn’t let them beat each other over him anymore.
His Steve slid through into another hallway and the doors slammed shut, blocking him.
“Steve!” Bucky shouted, his eyes round.
The Steve of this world, turned then. He blinked a few times, looking between Brock and Bucky. His beard was stained with streaks of blood, his shirt was torn and Bucky could see wounds sparkling with fresh blood. His eyes made Bucky weak. There was so much love there. He didn’t look menacing—only desperate. He was a lion backed into a corner and this is how he reacted when provoked.
“I thought I told you to keep him in the panic room, Brock.” Steve spoke with meticulous indifference, but there was anger brewing there.
Brock shifted. He bounced on the balls of his feet. “I’m done takin’ orders from you. Bucky doesn’t belong to you!”
Steve’s eyes widened. “You challenging me?”
“Steve—no!” Bucky exclaimed, stepping in front of Brock.
“Out of my way, Bucky,” Steve growled, picking up his sword and walking toward them.
Bucky planted himself in front of Brock, his jaw clenched tight. He wouldn’t let this man die. This world would fall to ruin if Brock wasn’t there to give it soft color.
Steve stood in front of Bucky, his eyes searching for something. He bit his lip, eyes welling up with tears. “Why’re you doing this?” His voice was innocent, wavering. His emotions slipped into each syllable and Bucky found his heart yearning to fold into him.
“He came for me,” Bucky said. “I’ll always follow him.”
Steve bit his lip again, this time breaking the skin. Blood pooled around his teeth until he finally let his mouth drop into a quiet gasp. “I loved you.”
Bucky nodded, feeling his heart slice into ribbons that spilled to the blackened pits of his soul. “I know.”
Steve moved quickly. Bucky hadn’t been expecting it. Some part of him thought that through all of this, that he could reach Steve and pull out that little boy who saved dogs from cruel children, or helped old ladies with their groceries. Bucky looked up, anger burning in his eyes. He’d been wrong. That boy had died long ago. He’d died, strung up on a lamp post as he listened to the screams of a woman raped. He’d died long before James did. Maybe that’s why James turned on him. Steve hadn’t been a good person in a long time.
Bucky heard a gurgled choke behind him. He stared at Steve’s impassive face, so close to his own. He turned and saw the sword in Brock’s belly. He was trembling, coughing back air. Steve pulled the sword back, blood dripping. Brock fell to the floor.
“You’re a monster,” Bucky hissed.
Steve tilted his head. There was no remorse on that face. It was almost unreadable except for the screaming heartbreak that was suffering in those eyes. “I never said I wasn’t.” He took a step back, swinging his sword onto his shoulder.
Bucky turned as Brock’s gurgles got louder. He heard the hisses of doors opening and closing. He scooped Brock into his arms, searching that paling face for any sign that he’d pull through this. Guilt ravaged Bucky’s skin, making him clammy and dense. This was his fault. He’d made excuses for Steve. He rationalized that there was goodness when there was clearly none. Steve was hardened by this world and the monster lived where the boy died.
“H-hold on,” Bucky said, grabbing Brock’s hand. He tore at his shirt, using it to put pressure on the wound. “Hold on, okay? Brock! Brock, hold on!”
Brock’s eyes were fluttering open and closed. He was mumbling but the words made no sense. Panic filled Bucky. Another life on his list. Stolen and ripped from existence because Bucky was too selfish to die. He could have spared this. He knew he could have—somehow. He should’ve been paying attention to the man he was protecting over the man that he couldn’t figure out why he still loved so much.
Steve was gone, most likely in search of Bucky’s Steve. Would this be his life if his Steve died? Would he be a caged bird in a world full of monsters? It was a living hell. Bucky didn’t think he deserved much better. Retribution was a far off notion. Punishment was his only reward.
“Jack’s incoming.” Tony’s voice again. “I’m working on getting the doors open but this other guy’s damn good.”
Bucky just stroked Brock’s hair, tears warming his face. Brock was so pale, mumbling strings of syllables like they meant something. He held his blood-soaked shirt to Brock’s body, sucking back air. He couldn’t save Brock. There was one person left alive on this godforsaken base that he could save. As Jack ran into the hall, Bucky grit his teeth. He’d kill the Steve of this world.
He’d kill him before he watched his lifelong best friend die.
Running hurt when every gasp of air was a negotiation. Bucky’s body wanted to die. It deserved as much. He’d poisoned this world and his own. He willed his legs to keep running as Tony led him to his Steve. Natasha and Scott were searching for the other soldier hacking into the systems and Sam was still MIA as far as Bucky knew. Bucky kept running. He kept running until he saw a flash of blond hair and a body running for his own.
They crashed into each other, Bucky’s legs swinging up and wrapping around Steve. His Steve. Tears drowned his eyes, sobs echoing in his ears. His Steve, his Steve, his Steve, his Steve.
Bucky squeezed harder, choking on the sobs that were wrecking his rib cage. He squeezed Steve, cupping his head, burying his face against Steve’s neck. He kept squeezing. Steve’s arms were laced tight around him, his face pressed into Bucky’s neck, and his breath was hot. He was warm, he was alive and he was here.
“Steve.” Bucky’s voice was wrecked. His heart had never beat so hard against his chest. It hurt. Everything hurt so much because this was exactly where he wanted to be. This was the man he was meant to love. It didn’t matter how Steve felt toward him, Bucky would always love him, protect him and be there for him. That was Bucky’s promise.
Steve’s limbs started shaking, sniffing and shaky breaths coming from him. He squeezed Bucky harder, tears wetting Bucky’s face. “I never stopped looking.”
Bucky smiled into Steve’s neck. It would be so easy to kiss him. His lips were already there, they already touched the pulse point of Steve’s throat. It could even be seen as an accident or a friend just kissing a friend. It wasn’t like they hadn’t kissed each other’s cheeks growing up.
“God—Bucky,” Steve choked out.
Bucky squeezed his legs tighter around Steve, clinging to him like the universe would swallow him up otherwise. He stroked his fingers through Steve’s hair. This was the right man. It didn’t matter if it was the wrong love. This was the right man.
“Uh—guys, we figured out who the hacker was!" Tony’s voice.
Bucky leaned back, looking around the hallway.
“Fury. He’s coming! He’s incapacitated your friend with the wings and he’s coming!”
Bucky slid from Steve’s body, whining. “We have to run.”
Steve grabbed Bucky’s forearm. His face was pinched, just like it always got when he was determined. “He’ll just keep coming for you.”
Bucky nodded. “I can take it.” Bucky tried to move away.
“Bucky! We can’t let this world keep that link to ours. We have to destroy it for good.”
Bucky wasn’t expecting the pain that pressed into his body like needles. Without that link, he’d never see the Steve of this world again. That rugged beard, those intense eyes—it’d all be lost to him. He hadn’t been prepared to feel the anguish that crushed the air from his lungs. Steve was a monster—but so was Bucky.
But if the link was destroyed, then Bucky didn’t have to resolve himself to murdering a man he loved. Steve had killed an innocent man for helping Bucky. He’d killed Jack’s lover. Would Bucky be a monster for killing an equally terrifying force?
“Well, well,” Fury’s voice echoed into the room. “This is what I meant.”
Steve stood in front of Bucky, his fists at the ready.
Fury walked into the room like a bird of prey. No one got to be a leader in a world this brutal without exceptional ferocity.
“You other-worlders come here, poison my people’s minds and suddenly they’re turning against us. Stark. Rollins. Rumlow. That’s how it started back before the war. My grandfather watched it all happen.”
Steve pressed himself back into Bucky. Bucky reached out, linking his hand with Steve’s. Steve squeezed their hands together. Bucky was momentarily dazed at how intimate this was between them. Did Steve? Did he perhaps…
Fury dropped his overcoat, exposing a solid body, guns and knives on a utility belt and held up his arm. “You’ve got three seconds to surrender. We’ll kill you quickly if you do.”
Steve shook his head. “We just want to leave and sever the connections of our worlds. We’ll be no threat to you anymore.”
“Three,” Fury began counting.
“We’re not a threat!” Steve exclaimed.
Steve took his shield off, throwing it at Fury who promptly caught it and cast it aside. He charged at Steve, hitting a button on his wrist and the wall suddenly moved out toward Bucky and wrapped around him. It hissed and groaned as the bolts and cogs moved to wrap him in a cocoon. He was flailing wildly, blinded by the darkness. Fury was obsessed with his fears, of course he’d implement traps into the base itself. Bucky threw himself into the wall, using his metal arm to bang and bang. He couldn’t hear Steve or Fury outside. It was too dark to even see his nose.
The walls started squeezing, and Bucky found himself on the defensive instead of offensive. He pushed his feet and arms into the walls, groaning as he worked to keep them from squeezing in any more.
The plating slid back and he could see the hallway again. His body was locked inside the restraining wall. Steve was in one of the same holdings as Bucky. His shield was embedded into another part of the wall. Horror filled Bucky’s body, chilling his blood to ice when he saw the other Steve. He was standing next to Fury, an unreadable expression on his face.
“Kill them,” Fury said. “I’m going to deal with Stark.”
Bucky’s Steve was released from the restraints and rolled to get his shield. The other Steve charged with his sword. His punches were harder than Bucky had ever witnessed. His kicks more deadly and that sword—it was more powerful than Bucky had given it credit for.
Steve fell beneath the sword, using his shield to protect himself. A crack echoed into the air and absolute shock filled his features.
“STEVE!” Bucky screamed. His shield… it cracked. Bucky started to fight wildly against his restraints. His arm whirred loudly. He could feel it heating up as he struggled. Anger boiled inside, watching the Steve of this world beat down on the man he grew up with. Steve—who didn’t like bullies, Steve—who was so little and yet came to the aid of anyone in need. He was being bullied, being picked on by a version of himself that could have been him. Bucky had never let it happen. Bucky saw the goodness in Steve. He uplifted it, praised it, and worshipped it. He reminded Steve of all the good he was, of all the goodness he had to offer, and that he should never stop offering. He was meant for greater things. Bucky never stopped reminding his Steve that. Then it came true and Bucky wasn’t needed anymore. And that was okay. Steve didn’t need Bucky anymore, but Bucky needed Steve to remind him that Bucky was meant for greater things. He had a debt he owed his world and he needed Steve to guide him to repay it.
It didn’t matter that Bucky was marred with evils. It didn’t matter that his past was murky with murder and atrocity. He got to protect the light of his world. He’d protect that light with everything he had—Winter Soldier and all.
Bucky burst from his restraints, heaving.
The other Steve was standing above Bucky’s Steve, beating down with half of the shield against Steve’s face. In that moment, Bucky’s anger changed from boiled malice to chilled fear.
Killing the other Steve was the only answer, but Bucky couldn’t bring himself to fight him. He hailed down on Bucky’s Steve with a ferocity that gods dreamed of. It was the brutality of a monster forged in hell and Bucky couldn’t fight that—especially if his Steve was losing.
“I’ll stay!” Bucky wailed. “Please just stop hurting him! I’ll stay!”
Steve froze, turning. His face was drained of the animalistic hatred he’d had moments before. Relief flooded those features, softening him. He stepped back, letting the other man drop to the floor and cough up blood.
“You will?” His voice was husky and it made Bucky shiver. He could remember that voice, pressed against his ear as they made love. This wasn’t kind—this lie. Natasha would be proud, but Bucky wasn’t. He continued to find levels of hatred for himself that he previously thought didn’t exist.
“Yes. Just let him go. We can destroy the transporters and I’ll stay.” He moved hesitantly toward Steve, his hands out in an attempt to show he wasn’t a threat.
Steve nodded, looking down at Bucky’s Steve. He crossed the hall to Bucky, coiling his arms around the man for a tight hug. “All I ever wanted was you.”
Bucky delicately snaked a throwing knife out of Steve’s belt. “I know, baby. I’m so sorry.”
Steve hugged him tighter. “I love you. I love you so much it makes me crazy.”
Bucky looked to his Steve. At first, he was horrified—betrayal and agony painted into his straining features. Then he saw the knife. His bloodied mouth dropped open. He said nothing.
Bucky swallowed, holding this Steve close to him. Liar. Murderer. Manipulator. Brutal. Unashamed. Strong. Loving. Loyal. Understanding. This man was a man Bucky loved, but he wasn’t the man Bucky could be with.
The doors hissed as Bucky lined up the knife. Sam, Nat, Scott, and Jack came in, hauling a living and upright Brock Rumlow. Sam was leaning against Nat, his face swollen. Scott and Jack had Brock.
Bucky dropped the knife. It clattered loudly on the floor and his body reacted violently, snapping pin straight. Steve turned, seeing the knife and then turned back, realization surprisingly void from his face. Bucky covered his mouth, tears streaming. “I can’t do it.”
“Why not?” Steve asked, quietly.
Bucky stared at him, his jaw quivering. “Y-you knew?”
Steve nodded, offering a tentative smile.
“You were—you were gonna let me?”
Steve nodded again, tears slipping from his eyes. “I can’t live without you. I’ve done unforgivable things, Bucky. I don’t deserve you. I don’t even deserve this place anymore. I made sure I wouldn’t kill Brock—but I wanted to make you—make you angry.”
Bucky was trembling. He clenched his hands against his chest. “Why?”
“I killed him. Isn’t it only right that he kills me?”
No, Bucky wanted to shout. It wasn’t right. Steve had injured someone, he used Brock to once again manipulate Bucky, but it wasn’t the kind of manipulation that pulled anger. It pulled understanding. Bucky knew the pain Steve faced. He felt that guilt clench at his throat every night and sometimes he just wished it’d rip his throat out. Steve felt the same. They were kindred spirits in their brutality—their operations on the outskirts of morality. Steve was so similar to Bucky. It wasn’t right that Bucky got to take his life when he got to live. It wasn’t right that Steve—a man who clearly sought redemption—didn’t get it. Bucky wanted redemption. It was right to allow Steve that chance too. Bucky knew the man he could become. Bucky grew up with that man. This Steve had that goodness in him too. Bucky wouldn’t be the one to snuff that out.
Steve, the one on the floor, hauled himself up. He wiped blood on his uniform, walking unsteadily to the other Steve and Bucky. “We don’t have to kill you.”
Bucky watched as his beautiful monster recoiled, conflict waging war on his face. “I can’t lose him.” His tone pulled tears from Bucky’s eyes. “I can’t lose him again.”
“M-maybe,” Bucky ventured, looking at his Steve. “Maybe you don’t have to.” Steve’s brow furrowed. It was enough to make Bucky proceed with caution. “We can’t stay here, but maybe—maybe he could come with us?”
Both Steves’ eyes widened.
“No,” his Steve said. “We close the link and that’s it. It’s not safe—”
“I love him,” Bucky admitted, still trembling. He grabbed the other Steve’s hand, pulling it to hold against his chest. “I love him.”
His Steve, stared in a way that Bucky hadn’t expected. It was as if someone pulled Steve’s soul out and inverted it. His skin didn’t sit right on his skin, his face was slack as surprise and horror battled beneath the surface. “In love? You’re—you’re in love?”
Steve opened his mouth again, but promptly closed it. He looked between the other Steve and Bucky, then nodded. “Fine. If that’s who you want.” Then he moved to rejoin the others.
Bucky stared off after him, his mouth hanging open. Steve’s words had been strange. Who you want. It was like a slap to the face. Maybe Steve was disgusted with him. Bucky couldn’t blame him, really. This man wore his face. Steve probably thought it sick—that Bucky was sick.
Bucky sucked back a sharp gasp, dropping his face against his other Steve’s body. Maybe he’d gotten it all wrong. This had been his Steve all along. Thick arms wrapped around him. Swollen lips pressed to his temple. He cried. No one had to die. Brock was alive.
Why was Bucky so sad?
They left the base knowing that Jack Rollins had knocked out Nick Fury. He, like Bucky, didn’t believe in killing people during challenges. Bucky once mistook his silence about it for complacency, but Jack had never been complacent. He’d been quietly waiting for a chance to seize power and reform BLADE. They’d given him that opportunity. They left them, Brock and Jack, knowing that BLADE would be a force of change in their dark world. It probably wouldn’t stop the way things were, but Bucky had hope that it would set the stones in motion.
The quinjet ride was quiet. Sam was on a bed, asleep. Scott and Natasha were playing cards, every so often watching Steve brood in the pilot seat.
Bucky was curled up with a blanket around both him and…his Steve. He needed to find a way to differentiate their names. He didn’t dare resort to calling his childhood best friend Stevie again. There was too much anger in his face to use such beloved nicknames. Maybe he could start calling…his Steve… that. His beautiful monster.
Bucky hadn’t killed anyone. He saved both of their lives but Bucky still felt like he’d lost. He was in the arms of a man he wanted, but not the one he needed. He kept stealing looks at the other Steve—clean shaven, clenched jawed. He was so lost in thought that Bucky wasn’t sure anyone could reach him.
“You’re upset.” It was the softest whisper, but Bucky startled all the same. He turned in Steve’s arms, looking at that slightly auburn beard. He’d gotten what he wanted– both of them. But it didn’t feel right. “I love you, you know.”
Bucky couldn’t find the words. They felt like cheating. He looked back over to Steve in the pilot’s chair. He was still looking out the window like someone had died. It was obvious disappointment, Bucky knew. Steve was disappointed in him. Bucky always found a way to let Steve down.
Steve wrapped his arms tighter around Bucky. He buried his face into Bucky’s neck and breathed deep. Bucky found his fingers running through Steve’s hair, but his thoughts weren’t here. They were adrift with the man in the pilot’s chair—with that disappointed face.
“When’re the machines gonna work?” Scott asked, poking one. “Like—do we call them or…?”
Bucky looked to his captain (he wasn’t his lover, so maybe calling him Cap or captain was good, he wasn’t sure yet). He was staring at the machines, then looked to Bucky. Bucky’s heart stopped. He wanted to dump every confession out—spill his heart and damn the consequences. His hand was warm, however, and it was because another man held it.
“We hole up and wait. Keep trying every fifteen minutes.” Steve sat down at one of the control panels. “S’not like there’s anything else we can do.”
“What about that deal we made,” Sam said with his arms crossed.
“Deal? What deal?” Steve, Bucky’s Steve, squeezed his hand tighter.
Cap (no, Bucky hated calling him that), Steve stared at Sam for a long while, then finally looked over to Bucky and Steve. He stared at their locked hands. “I made a promise to leave them open.”
“That’s okay, right? I mean, Jack and Brock’re in charge now. It’d be nice to know they can reach us for help.” Bucky shrugged..
“No,” his lover said. His brow furrowed, he stared at the other Steve, anger dancing behind bright blue eyes. “Fury was obsessed with these machines. They’re a last resort in case this world needs to start poachin’ someone else. You can’t leave them open.”
“But he’s not in charge anymore.” Scott sat next to Sam, putting his hands on his hips. “I mean, Brock n’ Jack are supposed to be good guys, right?”
“But Fury ain’t dead,” he responded with a shrug. “He was terrified of someone comin’ over and changin’ shit. But he needed them open in case we ran out of food or other supplies. A necessary evil, he called it.”
Scott snorted. “He wasn’t technically wrong. We did fuck up shit.”
Bucky shot Scott a deadly glare. “Why do you want them closed?” He looked at his beautiful monster, scanning his gaze over that soft auburn beard, those tired eyes. He looked so tired. Moreso than the man sitting by the controls who looked just like him.
“Because.” He swallowed. “If this world can’t survive without poaching others, then maybe it don’t deserve to live.”
Steve, the one sitting at the controls, snorted. Bucky also picked up on the irony. He held the hand of a man from this world, a man who was, in a sense, poaching Bucky. From the way he was staring at Bucky and gripping tightly around Bucky’s hand, the irony wasn’t lost on him either. He made it clear that he needed Bucky to survive. He’d lost James already. Bucky wasn’t from his world. It was poaching. But God, it was the kind of poaching that Bucky needed like water on dry, salty lips.
“I’m game with double crossing our necessary evil,” Sam said. “I don’t think a single person here would be offended.”
Natasha nodded, her hands casually behind her back.
Steve sighed, running his fingers over the control panel. He looked up, flicking his gaze between Bucky and his doppelganger, eyes heavy with fatigue, confusion and something darker; something Bucky couldn’t quite figure out. “Then let’s destroy them. I don’t really give a shit.”
Bucky bit his lip, watching as Steve turned into himself, coiling up the way he used to before the war. Anger radiated off those shoulders, like heat from a fire and Bucky stood too close. He wanted to ask who Steve made a deal with, but with the way everyone was dancing around the name, Bucky had an inkling of who they were. He didn’t want to hear that answer. He had enough of them. Though, if he was right, then either Steve was just that desperate or maybe his Steves weren’t really all that different. Both made extreme decisions when it came to Bucky. He wasn’t sure if he was flattered or downright terrified.
Sam shrugged. “Good. I didn’t like that deal anyway.” Sam pulled out a tiny item. Bucky was pretty sure it was a bomb. They’d set it to blow after going through.
Natasha sighed, staring at her feet. “Anyone up for cards?” She looked to Bucky’s Steve, smirking. “How ‘bout you, soldier? What’s your poker game like?”
Steve looked to Bucky, almost asking permission. It was so strange, watching him be uncertain—timid. He licked his lips, shrugging. “Pretty good.”
“Oh yeah? Wanna bet?” She took a step forward, trailing her fingers up his chest. “I wanna see how monsters play.”
Bucky cringed. It was one thing when he called Steve his monster—it was another when someone else did. Kind of like when people called Steve a punk when they were kids. It was only okay when Bucky did it.
“I’m in.” Steve watched Natasha like a tiger stalking prey. He followed her over to where Scott and Sam were and it was like Bucky didn’t even exist anymore. Steve had always been independent, leaving Bucky with Brock and Jack. Maybe it was just part of his nature.
It took Bucky only a few beats to realize what just happened. Natasha was smart enough to know that Bucky needed to talk to the Steve brooding alone, and Steve was smart enough to know why he was being pulled away. He’d allowed it. There was some kind of comfort there. He was a jealous man, but he was allowing Bucky to speak alone with his captain.
Bucky cringed. Calling Steve that in his head wasn’t even working. It was too formal. He sighed, walking over to Steve. Steve seemed to be busy looking over the buttons to notice Bucky.
“You came all this way for me—and you look like you always did when your ma forced you to Sunday church.”
Steve sighed, flicking up his brow briefly. “Just wanna get us all back home.”
There was an echo of laughter. They both looked to the other group, playing cards, smiling–—even talking to Steve. Bucky felt proud. They would finally see what he saw. A good man with a troubled history. At least he hadn’t tried to openly kill any of them. He’d been too focused on killing his doppelgänger.
“Steve.” Bucky found his throat swelling. He cleared it, trying to push away the pain. He was terrified. After all this time longing for the man, he was here—but it was nothing like it should’ve been. But that hug. That hug. It meant something to both of them. Steve still cared. “I’m—it’s strange, isn’t it?” It wouldn’t be irrational for a straight man to be disturbed by his best friend suddenly being in a sexual relationship with a man identical to him. Steve maybe just needed time to understand it, or listen to Bucky about it.
Steve looked over to the other him, a slight twitch of his brow indicated that he knew what Bucky was talking about.
“There wasn’t any time to tell you.” Bucky sat beside Steve. “I’m sorry.”
“You love him, huh?”
Bucky’s feet tingled from how uncomfortable he felt. He looked back over at the group playing poker, and then to Steve. “I didn’t mean to.”
“It’s just—” Bucky swallowed. He wasn’t sure if the room was warm or if it was him. “He already loved me. He–—um—he was married to m—I mean James. He was married to James.”
Steve was staring at his boots.
“I’m sorry.” Bucky hung his head. “I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. I should’ve known you’d feel strange about it—since he looks like you.”
“Uncomfortable? About you two?”
Bucky blinked. His eyes searched Steve’s face, hungry for any answer he could find to the confusion he felt.
“You think I’m uncomfortable about you with someone who looks like me? Bucky—that’s—Bucky that’s not it at all.” He ran his fingers through his hair, and then trailed them along his face. “I don’t care that you like men. I mean—I—I don’t care.”
Bucky furrowed his brow. Steve was getting red. He was doing that thing where he wanted to say something else but something was holding him back. Bucky had known this man his whole life. He knew when Steve was struggling with telling the full truth or holding back. He didn’t want to let Steve hold back.
“Does he take good care of you? I mean—were you happy there?” The wrecked way that Steve spoke made Bucky suck back a sharp breath. He stared, watching the sadness drown Steve’s blue eyes.
“No,” Bucky answered truthfully. “He was never you.”
Steve looked up, shock in his features. He leaned forward, licking the side of his mouth. “What?”
Bucky smiled warmly, relaxing into his chair. “I love you, Steve. I’ve always loved you.”
“I love him too.”
Steve looked over at the poker group, his eyes round and his mouth open.
“He’s not a bad person. He’s you—just different. His world was cruel and it shaped him. His Bucky didn’t even love him till he was big. Imagine—me ignoring you because you were small.”
“I loved how big you already were inside, Steve. I saw the man you’ve always been long before the body matched the mind.”
“If you don’t feel the same, it’s okay,” Bucky said. “I just needed to be honest with you. I wasn’t happy there because I didn’t have you—but that doesn’t mean he’s some kind of replacement or Band-Aid. I love him too. He’s not a bad person—he just lived through a bad circumstance.” Bucky hid away that Steve had locked him up in their room. He understood the desperation. He’d forgiven it. There wasn’t much Steve Rogers could do that Bucky wouldn’t forgive. If the tables had been turned, Bucky wasn’t sure he wouldn’t have done the same.
“I,” Steve crossed his legs and his arms, “I do feel the same. Love you—I mean.” He wouldn’t look up at Bucky. “And I can’t fault him for trying to keep you. Because—I’d do it too.”
“I don’t forgive him though. I don’t fault him, but I don’t forgive him—if that makes any sense.”
“He took you from me.” Tears welled up in Steve’s eyes. Bucky didn’t realize the magnitude of it for a moment. Then he remembered this wasn’t the mirrorverse Steve. This was his Steve—Captain America, his punk, his first love. And this Steve didn’t cry easily. Steve took a sharp breath, still all coiled up.
Bucky reached out, grabbing Steve’s knee. He nodded. They didn’t have to keep talking. Words didn’t need to convey what the soul already knew. Their souls weren’t just mates—they were each other. Bucky’s soul was Steve’s soul. In any universe— in any world—
Bucky would always love Steve, and Steve would always love Bucky.
Epilogue – One year later
Having two boyfriends wasn’t easy when they’re basically the same person. Steve Rogers was a stubborn man. Which meant Bucky had to diffuse countless heated arguments when Steve fought with Steve. It meant having to suffer through nights—even weeks of them giving each other the cold shoulder. Passive aggressive statements, uneaten dinners, and it was musical chairs for who was sleeping on the couch. Steve and Stevie (yeah, Bucky eventually caved and started calling his Steve his childhood nickname) never touched. Bucky would kiss one, and then he’d turn to kiss the other. They didn’t so much as even brush fingers.
Like tonight. Steve sat at the kitchen table. He was tapping his knife on his plate, staring inconsequently at something.
Eventually, Stevie reached his hand out and smacked the knife out of Steve’s hand. Steve’s face contorted into shock, his mouth dropping open.
“Stop it,” Stevie growled.
Bucky bit his bottom lip. “H-hey, c’mon.”
“No!” Stevie pushed his seat back. It scratched on the tile floor angrily. “He’s drivin’ me fucking nuts, Bucky!”
Steve looked away, pulling his hands into his lap. To say Steve’s transition was smooth would be the worst lie in the history of Bucky’s life. And Bucky told a lot of lies. Instead of his burning confidence he exuded in his world, he’d crumbled into an insecure shell. He was nervous most of the time, seeking affirmation in Bucky. It wasn’t all bad, aside from the fear of a lost purpose. He’d found food. His world was starving, and this one was bountiful. He’d put on some weight, but it wasn’t terribly noticeable. His six-pack softened up to smooth skin and his arms weren’t as defined, but that was mostly it. Bucky encouraged that though, all the cooking and food network watching. Steve got to explore foods that went extinct in his world. He even got to eat bacon. He loved bacon.
“Steven,” Bucky snapped, staring straight at his childhood best friend. He didn’t use the full name unless he was more than pissed. “You could've just asked?”
Stevie looked between Steve’s ashen face and Bucky’s furrowed brow. “Fine.” He promptly left the room.
Bucky hunched over, sighing. “I’m sorry.”
“S’okay.” Steve shrugged. “He hates me. I know.”
“He shouldn’t. We all agreed—”
Bucky looked up, cocking a brow.
Steve stood up, picking up Bucky’s plate, his and Stevie’s. “He didn’t think he had a choice. That wasn’t really an agreement.”
“I didn’t force him!”
“But you did.” Steve started to rinse off the dishes. “I’d have died without you.” He cringed, pausing. “I don’t think we really gave him any choice at all.”
Bucky sat at the table, tapping his metal fingers on it. When they’d left that world, they’d left with the hope that it’d finally find some form of peace. Jack and Brock would change things—or at least BLADE. The world was still starving, people were still divided. Bucky knew that if they’d left Steve—the first thing he’d have done would be to kill himself. He hadn’t really left much of a choice for his Stevie. And there’d never been a discussion of their feelings for each other until after Bucky had made the decision to bring Steve back. But what was he supposed to do? Leave a man to die? That death would be on him. Bucky couldn’t stand the idea of Steve Rogers ending himself because of Bucky.
Steve put the dishes in the dishwasher, then turned to lean on it. He ran his fingers through his hair. “I’m not gonna give up. I know him better than he thinks I do. We’re the same, right?”
Bucky nodded. “At the core—definitely.”
Steve’s smile was timid. It pained Bucky to see those unabashed emotions filter away and become more and more confined. What was it about this world that made Steve Rogers hide his feelings?
Steve walked behind Bucky’s chair, leaning down to press a lingering kiss to his cheek. “Love you.”
Stevie hid away in the basement most of the time. They’d bought a house in Upstate New York. It was a stupid neighborhood with fences and children and Bucky was sure his Stevie secretly loved it. After the whole fallout with Tony, Stevie really didn’t see much reason to be Captain America anymore. In shedding his superhero identity, he’d found art again.
Bucky trudged down the steps, hoping a bagel and cream cheese would calm him from the previous night’s mood. He’d refrain from letting him know that Steve actually handmade the bagels—boiled method, apparently.
“Hey,” Bucky said.
Steve didn’t look up from his charcoal drawing. It was a scene from an old picture. A depiction of a war Bucky was absolutely sure they’d fought.
“What’s that for?”
“Dum Dum’s birthday. He should be dead—the shit’s still hangin’ on. Figured I’d make ‘im something.”
Bucky looked closer, realizing the war wasn’t just one he’d been in, those were the faces of the Commandos. How could he have forgotten some of them? They were so young once. Pain etched into his heart. That should’ve been his whole life, the war and then coming home to Steve. Except, he’d never have come home if Stevie hadn’t become Captain America. He’d have died on an experimentation table… The thought chilled Bucky through.
“S’nice of you. Looks good.” Bucky set the plate down. He stared at the bagel, wondering if Stevie would realize it was homemade.
“Thanks,” Stevie said. “Starved.”
“Yeah, you forget to eat a lot.” It was a pointed statement. Steve was in the kitchen a lot. Stevie, very much avoided the kitchen because of that.
“I know you’re upset,” Stevie said. “But it’s just—” He stared for a long time at his charcoal piece. Bucky wasn’t even sure he’d keep talking. “—it’s—it’s so—hard.”
Bucky watched the way Stevie’s jaw clenched. He was tensing up fast. His fight or flight instincts were kicking in and Bucky wasn’t sure they’d even get to have this conversation. Stevie had a way with shutting down conversations that introduced feelings. That’s just who he was. He’d always been that way.
“I mean—he gets,” Steve chewed on his lip, “he gets to—kiss and—and do—everything’s just—so hard.”
Bucky leaned against the wall, careful to avoid any of Steve’s other canvases. He knew if he talked, then Steve would completely board himself up like a condemned house.
“I knew I loved you. I’ve known for—so long.” He dropped his charcoal and rubbed his face. Bucky stifled the laugh when he saw black streaks left in his fingers’ wake. “I got charcoal all over my face, didn’t I?”
Bucky nodded, smirking.
“Shit.” Steve slipped off his stool, going over to the bathroom. Luckily the house already had the basement all finished when they moved in. Bucky trailed after Steve, knowing if he didn’t keep the conversation alive, that Steve would let it die.
“So it bothers you that I have sex with him?”
Steve snorted. “That’s one way to put it.”
“I mean—shit.” Bucky pinched the bridge of his nose. “I didn’t know, Steve. I fell in love with him. I didn’t exactly plan to. And you have sex with me too!”
Steve wiped his face on the towel. He snorted derisively.
Bucky flailed his hands in the air. “Oh c’mon, Stevie! That ain’t fair! I didn’t know! I didn’t know I’d be transported to some other world and I didn’t know I’d fall in love!”
“That’s not the problem,” Steve said, his eyes tearing up. “The problem is that—I’ve loved you for so long. You didn’t fall in love with me, Bucky. You fell in love with him.” Steve pointed upstairs. “And I’ve gotta live with that.” He brushed Bucky aside, running up the steps.
Bucky flinched when the door slammed. He stared at the gray tiled floor, wondering what he could’ve done to change this. Stevie wasn’t right. Bucky had fallen in love with him, he’d been in love for so long. He’d just not known it. In falling for Steve, Bucky had realized he’d loved Stevie all along. He closed his eyes, taking deep breaths. He didn’t know how to change this.
So he climbed back up the stairs, thoughts focused on how to make their lives easier. They were at each other’s throats. Bucky never felt happy. He’d found love in two men, but maybe that wasn’t how life was supposed to go.
What if he had to pick just one?
Steve was in the shower. Sometimes he took long showers when he felt he had nowhere else to go. He sat on the floor, staring at the swirling water as it gurgled down the drain. The water cascaded over his face, warm but not warm enough. He was still cold. It was so quiet here—living and sleeping above the water. He missed the groaning of the ocean and the BLADE base. He missed the early drills or the sharks. God, he missed Moose. He’d never realized how much he loved those sharks until he wasn’t with them anymore. Did they miss him? Did Foxy remember him? Did any of them?
The thought of Steve’s meaningless existence plagued him. He had no purpose here. He had no sharks to feed, no people to command and no life to really—lead. He was just here because Bucky wanted him, because he was too afraid of living without Bucky. Sighing, he scrubbed at his face, feeling water slosh up his nose.
He was about to get out when a knock came at the door. “I’ll be out soon!”
The door opened. He listened to someone strip out of their clothes and then he felt dry, warm legs by his sides. Hands splayed across his chest and he found himself being pulled back. Only one person would do this.
“Hey. You’ve been in here for awhile. Thought I’d come see what you were doin’.”
Bucky trailed his fingers idly on Steve’s chest. “Don’t be sorry. Wanna tell me about it?”
Steve snorted. “No—not really.”
Bucky pressed his chin into Steve’s shoulder. The stubble stung but the warmth that blossomed behind Steve made it all worth it. It’s not like Steve was a stranger to pain anyway. He looked at the brand on his arm.
“Cap in a one of his moods?” He’d never felt right calling the other man by his own name. It didn’t separate them enough, and Steve needed his own identity—now more than ever.
“Unfortunately,” Bucky answered. “I’m sorry.”
“You’re always apologizing for him. S’not gonna change it. But it’s fine. I get it.”
“I want you two to be friends so badly.” Bucky squeezed his arms around Steve. “I think you’d really like each other.”
“I mean, you’re each other. I thought—God, I’m so selfish.”
Steve flicked up his brow. Bucky wasn’t entirely wrong. It’d been selfish, but Steve had also been selfish. He couldn’t take another heartbreak. After what had happened with James, he needed Bucky more than ever. Perhaps there was another Bucky out in the multiverse that needed a Steve, but Steve couldn’t find that man—all he had was this one—and Steve loved him all the same.
“I’m sorry—for bringin’ you here. I should’ve thought more—”
Steve grabbed Bucky’s wrist, squeezing it tight. “Don’t be sorry, please. Never be sorry. This has been—well—this is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I love—I love so much about this world. I just feel lost here. All I’ve got is you. No one’s my friend or my family. They all belong to Cap.”
“You’ve got me.” Bucky kissed Steve’s shoulderblade. Then he kissed it again, and again…and again.
“I love you so much,” Steve said, feeling tears warm his eyes. “You’re the only thing I’ve got.”
“Sleep with me tonight? Stevie’s not gonna be home.”
Steve bit back the insult. What, I’m not good enough when he’s around? He understood what Bucky meant, but it still hurt. “I don’t wanna fuck tonight.”
“We don’t have to.” Bucky traced his nose along the nape of Steve’s neck. “We can cuddle and watch Roxanne reruns. Oh! Or Gilmore Girls.”
Steve rolled his eyes. “I hate that shit. All of that is shit.”
“You’re so emotionally invested in Rory’s struggle as an intelligent teen trying to find her identity and juggle boyfriends. Don’t even lie.” Bucky playfully bit Steve’s shoulder, and the dam finally broke. Steve barked out a laugh, reaching back to cup Bucky’s head.
“Fine! Fine ya got me! That sounds nice, Buck.” Steve really did enjoy TV. He didn’t have it back in his world.
Bucky hummed, dropping his head against Steve’s shoulder. He was still tracing his fingers over Steve’s chest. Steve wouldn’t lie, he’d like Bucky to flick over a nipple, maybe pull at one—but he didn’t want to fuck tonight. It didn’t feel right sneaking around behind Cap’s back. It never felt right, honestly. Steve’s whole world was turned upside down. Before, he wouldn’t have cared. He’d have made sure he was extra loud just to piss Cap off. But now? After a year he’d learned a few things about the man.
Cap was deeply internal, and overly sensitive. He preferred quiet reflection and valued his space. He also valued honestly. They hated each other, but that didn’t mean they didn’t respect each other. Steve respected Cap enough to not hide anything from him, and Cap respected Steve enough to let him still love Bucky. That had to stand for something.
“Wanna get out yet?” Bucky asked.
They dried off, both stealing glances at each other. Steve’s body wasn’t as defined as it used to be, but he was pretty sure Bucky actually preferred him this way. He was always grabbing at Steve’s hips and kneading into the skin. He’d called Steve soft once. It’d hurt Steve, until Bucky explained that it made him happy. I don’t want you to ever starve again.
Steve had known starvation.
Once in bed, Bucky turned on the TV and flipped over to Netflix. Netflix. It was such a foreign concept to Steve—movies and television. His world had stopped producing anything like that so long ago. Movie stars all died out. They were worthless. They couldn’t fight. Only the strong survived. Yet they were worshiped here. It was preposterous, but Steve found himself deeply addicted to the characters on the screen, so he snuggled up to Bucky, wrapping an arm around his lover and sighed when Bucky plopped his head against Steve’s chest. Bucky curled into him and began tracing insignificant little pictures over Steve’s ribs. It tickled, but not enough to make him stop. Steve soaked up every little flick of Bucky’s finger or flourish. It was the food that soothed his soul—Bucky’s love.
“You okay?” Bucky mumbled. “Really?”
Steve watched the girls on the screen, they shot witty line after witty line. It was painfully scripted, and Steve ate it up. “I dunno.”
“Talk to me? Please? You used to talk to me.”
“I do talk to you.”
“I mean like—you never hid how you felt, back in your world. Now I think you’re gettin’ to be like Stevie more and more each day.”
Steve snorted. If only… Then he wouldn’t feel like such a backup.
“I’m just—still figuring this whole thing out. I know it’s been a year. You’d think I’d have—figured somethin’ out. But—I dunno. I just feel lost. Nothin’ is mine here. I’m gettin’ repetitive.”
“No, no it’s okay.” Bucky scooted up, brushing his lips over Steve’s. “I’m yours. When you feel lost, just remember I’m yours.”
Steve hummed, curling his fingers around Bucky’s. “I’m yours too, you know.”
Bucky smiled. “You were mine the second you saw me.”
Steve laughed. “Ain’t that the truth.”
Bucky leaned forward, swinging a leg over Steve. Their lips crashed together, and all thoughts of Gilmore Girls faded away into wandering fingers and rocking hips. Steve arched his hips off the bed, feeling the outline of Bucky’s cock.
“Jesus,” Steve gasped. “I thought we weren’t gonna fuck?”
Bucky bit down on Steve’s bottom lip, earning a growl. “We’re not.” He slipped his hand down Steve’s body, cupping Steve’s dick. “But I wanna play with it.”
Heat dumped into Steve, so violently that he broke out sweating. “Play?”
Bucky nodded, his eyes round and almost child-like. “Yeah. Lemme play with it. It’s so pretty.”
“Oh fuck,” Steve sighed. “Yeah—yeah baby—whatever you want.”
Bucky smiled, clearly proud of himself. He slipped his hand into Steve’s pants, wrapping chilled metal fingers around Steve’s dick. Steve hissed, jerking his hips back, but Bucky’s fingers lingered. Cool metal secured itself around him.
“You ever wonder what it’s like to be the bottom?” Bucky asked, pumping his hand.
Steve hissed again, pushing his head into the pillow when Bucky’s fingers went over his tip. The icy bite of the metal seeped into the thin sensitive skin, but Steve loved it. His cock pulsed harder, jerking in Bucky’s hand.
“Uh—ah shit—uh…I don’t wanna talk right now.” Steve stared at Bucky’s hand, watching it move back and forth over his cock.
“Why not?” Bucky slipped between Steve’s thighs. He gingerly lapped his tongue out, and Steve slammed his head back into the headrest. “You don’t wanna talk about how good it’d feel with my fingers in your ass?”
Bucky lips wrapped around Steve’s cock, sucking gently. His tongue flicked the underside, warm, slick and hot.
Steve was a goner before this even began. Bucky knew how to manipulate the situation. He’d been more reserved in Steve’s world, but with the comforts of his own world around him, Steve watched him blossom into a man with a confident nature..
And Steve found himself not minding one bit.
Bucky pulled back, teasing his tongue around the tip of Steve’s cock before kissing it with wet, open-mouth kisses. “You don’t—” more kisses, “—wanna know—” even more kisses, “—how good it feels?” He took all of Steve into his mouth, tongue swirling around Steve’s girth. He sucked so hard that sinful sounds escaped around them, caressing Steve’s ears and lighting a fire inside him.
“Oh fuck me,” Steve whispered. “Yes—God, yes fuck me, Bucky.” He rocked up into Steve’s mouth, pumping his hips up and down. “Yes, fuck, yes fuck me—fuck me.” He lasted for a few more thrusts of Bucky’s mouth before he was coming down Bucky’s throat.
Bucky, like the beautiful devil that he was, swallowed it all down. He popped off Steve’s wet dick, lips red and shimmering. “Yeah?”
Steve gasped. “Yeah what?”
“You’d let me fuck you?”
Steve felt his face go red. He tucked himself back in his pants and curled up to the side, uncertain with himself. In the heat of the moment, it was a lot easier to babble out. Now though, he had to face how he’d felt. It was a vulnerability that frightened him. James said it’d never hurt—at least—not when Steve went slow. Bucky would be slow. Steve trusted him enough for that. They’d make sure Steve was worked open and Bucky would be so good to him. But that vulnerability? It was a tough pill to swallow.
“Hey,” Bucky cooed. He wrapped his arms around Steve, pulling him into Bucky’s lap. Bucky stroked his fingers through Steve’s hair, making sure to scratch along the hairline on his neck. It felt so good that Steve was already relaxing into him. “Don’t ever think you need to do somethin’ with me just because I ask, okay?”
“I know that. And it’s not that I don’t wanna try.” Steve swallowed, taking a deep breath. “It’s just—in my culture our roles I guess were more defined than here. I mean—you’ve got gender inequality and racism and all kinds of shit. But we had—I dunno. Alphas and betas? Dominants and submissives?”
“Superiors and respondents?”
“Yeah! Yeah that.”
Bucky kept stroking Steve’s hair.
“I’m just fighting—cause my position’s changed. I’m not a leader anymore.”
“You don’t have to be a leader to be a top or a bottom. In fact—none of that is required to be a top or bottom. It’s just a sexual preference. It has nothing to do with your personality or identity. I mean—I guess you can amp it up and let it become part of your identity, but it’s not really required.”
Steve stayed silent. He liked listening to Bucky’s voice. And the words weren’t half bad either. Steve wrapped an arm around Bucky, nuzzling into the crook of his knee. “Okay.”
“I’ll try it. But—not right now. Later—sometime.”
Bucky leaned down and kissed Steve. “I’ll go slow. And if you don’t like it, that’s nothin’ to be ashamed of either.”
Steve was about to reach up and pull Bucky into a deeper kiss when the bedroom door opened. Cap stood there, his eyes round—face horrified.
“Oh. I’ll just—I’m sorry. Couch.”
Steve didn’t know why, but he jumped up, chasing after Cap as he scrambled down the stairs. Cap was already flinging himself onto the couch and grabbing a blanket when Steve dropped down the steps.
“Hey—that—we didn’t know—”
“He’s your boyfriend too,” Cap said bitterly. “Not like it’s cheating or anything.”
Steve winced. He knew that tone all-too-well. Reading Cap was often like reading a book. Bucky pined over the complexities of Cap’s mind, when Steve read it all too clearly. “Look, I know we’re not friends—”
“Please, just—just hear me out?”
Cap stayed silent. Steve took that as he’d listen.
“I stole him, I know.” Steve walked around the couch to sit on the coffee table. Cap just stared blankly. “He found out he loved you by me loving him.”
Cap’s eyes widened. Realization. Steve didn’t want to lose his gumption, so he kept going.
“I was never the real thing to him. I’m still not.” His throat swelled, but he kept speaking, “You’re his Steve—okay? You’re the one who gets the petname and you’re the one he’s trying so damn hard to accommodate. D’you really think he’d leave you for me?”
Cap averted his gaze.
“I’m a backup. I’m what he seeks out because you’re not giving yourself to him. You love him. He loves you. So love him. And fuck what I think, okay? Because at the end of the day,” tears welled up in his eyes, “I don’t really matter.”
Cap sucked in his lips, pensive. They sat there in the darkness of the living room long enough for the tears to slip from Steve’s eyes. Every word tasted like ash, and he clung to the idea that perhaps it wasn’t true—but the more he talked, the more he realized that without Cap in this relationship, Bucky would never be happy. Steve wasn’t enough. Bucky needed more than he could give. It hurt, it hurt so much that Steve was openly crying in front of Cap, but it was okay. Bucky had a big heart. He needed to love more than one Steve.
“Okay,” Cap said. “I see it now.”
“See what?” Steve wiped at his tears.
“Me.” Cap sat up, leaning forward. “You’re as self-sacrificing as I am.”
Steve laughed. “That a good thing?”
Cap flicked up his brows briefly. “No—actually—God no.”
They laughed. At first, it was uneasy, both chuckling and watching the other. But then it became louder, their faces filling with humor until they were both full on belly-laughing. It wasn’t even that funny, but it was like all the tension finally got too tight to withstand and they just crumbled into each other. It was a good thing though. Steve felt good about it.
“D-don’t say that about yourself,” Cap said, wiping a tear from his eye. He chuckled again. “About being second-best. That’s not how he sees you.”
“He never wanted to stay. If I could give him everything he wanted, wouldn’t he want to stay?”
Cap smiled sadly, nodding. “It’s not so simple. Me ‘n Buck—there’s too much history. He’d never give that up. Not even for the love of his life.”
“But the love of his life is you.”
Cap shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not. Point is, he loves us both. And I’ve been such a jackass to you.”
It was Steve’s turn to shrug. “It was understandable.”
“No, there’s no excuse. I was jealous. I’ve spent this whole year hating you instead of being your friend. I mean, we’re pretty much twins. Most kids dream of finding some long-lost twin. Here you are.”
Steve smiled. “I did try to kill you. Twice.”
“Yeah—you did. But I understand why. Bucky’s made me do some pretty crazy things too.”
Cap laughed. “Yeah. Love, man.”
“You two gonna kiss yet or am I gonna be disappointed?” Bucky called from the base of the steps.
Cap rolled his eyes. Steve considered it though. Could he? Kiss Cap? They were the same person. Wasn’t that somehow wrong? Some kind of incest? They weren’t related—technically. But they were the same person. Just from different worlds. Maybe the cheek. He could kiss Steve’s cheek.
“We’re talkin’,” Cap said. “You should be happy.”
“I’m fuckin’ thrilled.” Bucky walked into the room, turning on a light. “Is it too soon to ask that we all share the bed? I mean—it’s a king.”
Cap and Steve looked at each other, Steve shrugged. “Why not?”
Cap sighed, nodding. “Yeah—why not.”
“Listen,” Bucky said. “Not to push this envelope but you two gettin’ cuddly has been a dirty little fantasy of mine for far too long.”
“Yeah-yeah,” Cap said, standing up and folding the blanket. “Keep dreamin’.”
Slipping into a bed with three bodies felt pretty good. Bucky was secure in the middle, turning his head to press kisses to each man before settling in on his back. He reached down for Steve’s hand, lacing their fingers. Steve smiled, watching him do the same with Cap.
Maybe Steve wasn’t a backup, or some kind of appendage that Bucky felt guilty cutting off. Steve had made mistakes, and some of those mistakes would stay with him forever. But Bucky seemed okay with what happened, with what was happening. And if Bucky was okay? Well, then Steve was too. He wasn’t a replacement and he wasn’t a backup. Bucky loved him just as much as he loved Cap. It was a good feeling, one that warmed his toes and made his heart beat just a tiny bit faster.
“Love you both,” Bucky whispered.
“You too,” Cap said sleepily.
Steve just pressed a kiss to Bucky’s shoulder. Falling asleep had never been so easy.
Waking up was difficult. Steve felt impossibly hot. There was a limb jammed up in his crotch and someone’s rough hand on his face. He opened one eye, looking at Cap’s hand right in his face. He scooted from the tangled mess of limbs and made his way into the bathroom to relieve himself. He was sore from holding Bucky all night, but it was a good sore—the kind that left him reassured that he’d never have to be alone again.
Looking in the mirror, Steve traced the outline of his chest, down to his navel. He didn’t have the musculature that Cap had anymore. He didn’t like exercising and food was too good here. Bacon, steak, rotisserie chicken and whatever else Steve could find at the grocery. That was unheard of back in his world. His world. Was that even what it was anymore?
They’d destroyed the machines with no intention of fixing them. Steve could never go back. He looked over his shoulder at the other sleeping men. They were his world now. Bucky—a man he loved more than life itself and Cap—a man he didn’t really like, but a man he knew all-too-well. Could they ever be friends? Steve understood better than anyone the protective nature of Cap. Bucky belonged to him, and yet here Steve was—a man with a similar face claiming to love Bucky just as much as Cap did.
Steve leaned over the sink, grabbing his toothbrush and angrily brushing at his teeth. He didn’t want to think about this anymore. All it did was make him realize he’d left behind the ashes, the soul of the man he loved in a universe that he could never go back to.
For some reason, that hurt Steve more than he liked to think about.
Once finished, he padded back into the room, slipping back beneath the covers. Bucky turned toward him and wrapped his metal arm over Steve’s chest. It was warm—thank God. His little sighs made Steve smile and forget about the ache he’d felt in the bathroom. This was his lover now. Cap was or would be—one day—his friend. They’d be family. Steve just needed to figure out where he fit into all this in the meantime.
Steve hummed a tune to a song he’d heard on the radio as he flipped the omelette he was making. Bacon sizzled in the frying pan and the hash browns were about finished. He loved cooking breakfast.
Bucky came into the kitchen, his face brightening as he saw the food. “You made coffee!”
“I know you too well.” Steve scooped an omelet out of the pan. “How many pieces of bacon?”
“Hmm.” Bucky sipped on his mug. The steam acted as some kind of hazy guide that directed Steve to focus on those gray eyes. The sunlight was soaking in, showing off the curves and shadows of Bucky’s eyes. Steve could stare all day and never get bored of looking at those eyes.
Steve turned back to the omelets, shaking out some cheese to garnish the two in the pan. “Bacon, baby?”
“I was just wonderin’,” Bucky said as he crossed the room, “if instead of bacon I could have somethin’ else this mornin’.” He grabbed Steve’s drawstrings, smiling salaciously.
“Oh?” He leaned forward, biting Steve’s neck.
“Oh!” Steve leaned against the counter. His body melted like the cheese in the frying pan. He always got the most delightful little swirl of excitement in his stomach when Bucky took charge. If this had been James—if this had been another world—Steve wasn’t sure how he’d react. But he was allowed to let someone else hold him, dictate how rough he wanted to be with him, and it didn’t frighten Steve. He invited it into his heart.
“You’re so pretty when you’re confused,” Bucky whispered. He sucked harder on Steve’s neck. His metal hand snaked into Steve’s pants and just as Steve was relaxing into the touch, Cap walked in.
“Oh—shi— I’m sorry!”
Bucky pulled back, his face red. Cap scampered off and Bucky followed. Steve blinked into the kitchen, listening to the crackling of the bacon and smelling the burning omelette. Cap moved and Bucky always followed. Always.
He turned, sullen and now more than aware of a throbbing erection in his sweatpants. He scooped the omelette onto a serving plate. They weren’t badly burned, just charred around the edges. The bacon was crispy, but that’s how Bucky liked it anyway. He went through the motions of serving breakfast, but his heart wasn’t here anymore. It was yearning for a world that wanted him. This one already had a Steve Rogers. What good was another one?
Steve was just about finished cleaning when Cap and Bucky came back inside. They were laughing. The sound of Cap’s laughter did more to make Steve feel like a knife was being pressed into his lungs than inspire any happiness of his own.
“Did you already eat?” Bucky asked.
“Yup.” Steve put one pan out to dry. “I put yours in the microwave.” Microwave. A year later and Steve still wasn’t used to the damn thing. There were so many rules about what he could put in it or what would make it melt or explode. He’d read that microwaves destroyed all the nutrients anyway, so what good were they for?
“Thanks.” Bucky moved awkwardly over to the microwave, peeking into it. “You saved Stevie some.”
Steve blinked. “You thought I wouldn’t?”
Cap cleared his throat.
Steve stared at the man, looking over that jaw, that blond brow ridge. Everything was so similar and yet completely different. “I don’t hate you. You hate me.” He bit his lip. “Made that pretty clear.”
Steve didn’t wait for a reaction. He retreated to the only place that he could call his own. It was the atrium of the house. He’d planted all the vegetables and replaced the broken window panes. He came out here to read, or be alone. Sometimes he even spoke to the carrots. He’d come a long way from being a ruthless captain with BLADE to a gardener who spoke to his plants.
He brushed his hand over the parsley, feeling the velvet leaves. Dejected, he sat next to them, huffing hard enough that the tiny green plant swayed along. Self-pity had always been something he was really good at. He blamed himself for James, he blamed himself for Brock’s suffering and he blamed himself for pushing Bucky away. Bucky confused Steve. There’d been a moment back on BLADE’s base that Steve thought Bucky would kill him. The knife never came. Steve found himself on his way here and then he was seeing a world he’d never dreamed of. A world that functioned. He saw Captain America give up his shield, leave active duty and become just a guy. He saw Bucky be exonerated for crimes he’d committed with HYDRA. He saw the awkward attempts of Tony Stark to try to reach out to Steve, or Steve to Tony—it never really worked though. Nothing short of a new war would bring them fully together again.
He’d seen so much and yet he understood so little. People still killed each other, they took up banners in the name of God or politics and hated each other. There was so much this world had to offer and yet no one took the time to really appreciate it. Steve would’ve killed for his Ma to see this world. James too…
His gut churned. James would’ve been so much happier here.
“Hey.” Uneasy words.
Steve looked up. Cap was standing by the door with his arms crossed. “Hey.”
Steve blinked, reaching up to feel wet tears. Stunned, he stared at the shiny tips of his fingers. He hadn’t even realized.
Steve huffed. “No. No I’m not okay.” He picked a browning leaf of the parsley. “I look around at everything—your world—and it just reminds me of everything I lost. James, my ma—my dog.”
Cap didn’t reply. Unlike Steve, Cap used silences to move conversations more than he used words. It drove Bucky crazy. It was one of the differences in them. Cap valued silence and internalizing where Steve valued talking and harnessing emotion. It was harder though. Steve didn’t really have anyone but Bucky to talk to about his feelings. He’d found himself slowly closing up, too afraid to burden Bucky anymore with the intensity that he used to show.
“Tell me about him?”
Cap laughed softly. “James. Was he like Bucky?” He stepped into the atrium, still smiling.
“No—not really. James seemed to be the complete opposite really. They’re both stubborn, so maybe there’s that. James was softer than Bucky. He needed me.” Steve sighed. “He needed me to survive.”
“Mm. I know how that is.”
Steve cocked a brow.
“I needed Bucky to survive. He got me out of the fights I started—and I started plenty. Gave me money when I didn’t have any. Listened to me vent or shut me down when I got too self-loathing.”
“I didn’t meet James when you met Bucky. We lived full lives before meeting.”
“You were alone.”
Steve fiddled with his fingers. “Yeah.” The word was hard to admit. It weighed against his tongue and Steve felt like he had to shove it out of his mouth. “But when I found him,” tears filled his eyes, “it was perfect. We fell in love and it felt so good to be looked at like that. I got to hold him and comfort him—it was—everything to me. I thought protecting him was the most important goal in my life.” Steve paused, feeling the tears slip from his eyes. “And then I failed.”
“You didn’t fail. He chose that.”
“No,” Steve answered quickly. “No I failed. It was my job to show him how strong he was, and I was too busy showing him how weak he was.”
Cap swallowed, looking away.
“I’ve done a lot of bad things, Cap. A lot of bad things.” A bitter laugh escaped his throat. “But the worst thing I ever did was make James feel like he wasn’t good enough. I know what that’s like now. I’d eat my fucking feet if I could go back and change it.”
“You don’t feel good enough?” Cap flipped an empty pot over and sat down on it. Their knees barely brushed together. Steve stared at them, transfixed on how abrupt the outlines of the joints were. Knees were ugly things.
“I’m not you.”
“Actually,” Cap bit his lip to suppress a laugh, “that’s pretty much the definition of me. Wasn’t good enough to be in the army, wasn’t good enough for Peggy, wasn’t good enough to save Bucky, wasn’t good enough to defeat Loki on my own. All those things were me internalizing my anger at myself for not being good enough.” He tilted his head, smirking. “So we’re obviously not good enough to be each other—which means we probably are good enough.”
A smile twitched at Steve’s lips. It was hesitant at first, scared its presence would shatter the truce between them, but then it spread across his face, alive and as vivid as the sun in the sky. “Yeah?”
Cap nodded. “Yeah. You were good enough for James. But life has a way of—changing things. You’re here now, with us—and we want you here.”
“You want me here?” A crocodile’s smile appeared on Steve’s face. He was sure the last thing Cap wanted was Steve, but life did have—as Cap said—a way of changing things.
“Yes,” Cap answered. “Yes, I do.”
Cap leaned back, furrowing his brow. He looked away, staring at the row of parsley, cilantro and ginger. “Because—because despite everything you did—I can’t really fault you. Believe me. I wanted—I wanted to hate you.”
“But I know you. That desperation to keep Bucky? That love?” He nodded. “I know that. I have that. So I don’t hate you, because I know you’d put Bucky before me or you—or anything, really. And that’s how I feel too. So, if we put Bucky before us we—”
“Let each other love him,” Steve finished.
Cap nodded, a tiny smile on his lips. “Yeah. Because he needs both of us. And we need each other.”
Cap smiled. “We do.”
Steve stared at his hands, contemplating Cap’s words. They offered solace where Steve had felt like he’d been on icy ground before. The world wasn’t going to swallow him up and he wouldn’t die below the waters. Cap was lifting him up with a promise that he belonged.
“I really—I really want to be—um—I really want us to be friends,” Steve said.
“Yeah? Me too.” Cap clapped his hands together, nodding. “There’s a football game on? We could—we could watch it together?”
Steve nodded eagerly. “I’d like that.”
“Okay. Great. Yeah. Uh—I’ll head to the store real fast to get us some beer?”
“I’ll make us somethin’ to eat.”
Cap laughed, standing. “I’ll be back soon.”
Steve almost ran into the kitchen. He couldn’t hide the smile on his face even if he tried. He didn’t want to though. Cap wanted them to be friends. Cap understood him in the same way that Steve felt he knew Cap. This could be okay. Maybe. Steve was hopeful. The idea of a family excited Steve more than he wanted to admit. Cap, Bucky and Steve—a family. Kids or a dog one day.
Steve wanted that. He wanted it more than anything.
Two months after the football game, things started to really click together for Steve. He’d found himself going down into the basement with Cap a lot—reading or just watching Cap draw. They often didn’t speak, but it was the company that was important.
They slept in the same bed with Bucky between them every night. Like some ritual, Bucky kissed their faces and declared his love, and then they’d all settle into bed. Intimacy was still off the table. It was like Bucky was some kind of teenage girl with an overprotective father. He had to sneak around when he wanted to make love with Steve or Cap. To be honest, Steve really didn’t mind it when Cap got to be with Bucky. He’d curl up on the sofa and turn on the TV a little louder than normal and that’d be it. Cap had a bit of a harder time when Bucky snuck off with Steve. He was like some lost puppy who couldn’t settle down until he knew where Bucky was or what he was doing.
Steve was absolutely sure that was the price of losing someone and finding them again. He had some personal experience in the area.
They were in the kitchen, Steve assembling a nice salad and getting ready to slice the hard boiled eggs for it. Bucky was at the table, looking over an estimate for getting their roof fixed. Money wasn’t terribly easy to come by. Cap worked as an artist now. He was pretty restricted by the Accords on taking up the Avengers mantle again. Since he and Tony didn’t really talk anymore, that didn’t seem to be something that bothered him. Having Bucky back seemed to make him enjoy a more domestic life, or so he claimed.
Bucky was still trying to get his collision autoshop off the ground, but he needed some kind of certification thing. Steve wasn’t really too sure what all that meant.
But it wasn’t the bills or the jobs that changed everything for Steve. When Cap came into the room, he didn’t bend down to kiss Bucky. He stood behind Steve, wrapping his arms around Steve and pressed a kiss to the back of his neck.
“Hey,” he said.
“H-hey.” Steve was tingling all over. He wasn’t sure if his tongue was swelling or if his body was shrinking in on itself.
“This okay?” Cap asked.
“Oh please don’t stop,” Bucky said. He scooted back in his chair, his mouth hanging open. “You’ve no idea how badly I’ve wanted to see you two like this.”
Steve blushed, staring down at his salad. “I—I can’t turn around.” He pushed back into Cap’s chest. There wasn’t much room to move.
“Huh?” Cap loosened his grip.
Steve spun around, cupping Cap’s face and pulling their lips together. The kiss was awkward, more lip than tongue and Steve was sure Cap could hear his hammering heart. But despite the reservations and the surprise, it was an okay kiss. There was no revolting feeling when Steve thought that he was kissing another form of himself and there was no God opening the skies to punish them.
“Oh.” Cap’s breath was warm against Steve’s face— warm and smelled of one of those Tic-Tac’s he liked eating so much.
“Good oh.” Cap ventured forward, letting his body weight lean into Steve. “Different oh, but good oh.”
Steve grabbed Cap’s hips, slipping his fingers beneath the hem of his shirt. Smooth skin met rough fingers and it made Steve’s throat ache. He wanted to kiss Cap again. He laughed, surprised at the intensity of how badly he wanted to kiss Cap again.
Cap whined, biting his bottom lip.
Steve pushed Cap’s neck forward, guiding them together again. They kissed heavier, Cap’s hips rocking into Steve. He whined when their lips ebbed together, pushing his body firmer into Steve. Tongues sloshed out, unabashed and relentless as they explored each other. Steve found himself comfortably in control of the kiss, guiding Cap’s following tongue and mint-flavored lips.
“Bed,” Bucky said, breaking all their focuses. “Bed now.”
Cap pulled Steve by the wrist, laughing. “Are we? Are we really gonna?” He flushed red.
“Do you want to?” Steve asked as they rounded the corner to go up the stairs. “We don’t—if you’re not—”
“No I want to,” Cap rushed out. “That’s the scary part.”
Steve smirked. He pushed Cap against the wall again, grabbing Bucky by the wrist and yanked him into the kiss. Three mouths didn’t slot together like two, but they found a balance. Steve kissed down Cap’s neck, sucking at the skin and rocking into the man as Cap whined. Those whines. They were delicious little angels that whispered in Steve’s ear and all he wanted was more of them.
His fingers crawled up Cap’s stomach, caressing over defined abs and cupping at a heaving chest.
“Oh shit,” Cap breathed out.
Steve opened his eyes, smiling approvingly. Bucky was behind Steve, nibbling and lapping at his neck and ear. His hands were down in Cap’s pants, pumping at his cock. Steve groaned, watching how Bucky rocked into Cap, claiming him. He wanted to see that. He wanted Bucky to pull all those whines and little cries out of Cap’s pretty lips. Steve wasn’t sure if it was narcissistic suddenly to find Cap’s lips pretty...
Steve circled his fingers around Cap’s nipples, pinching and flicking over the skin. Cap gasped and whined with each motion. Could Steve make those same sounds? He wanted to…
Bucky grabbed one of Steve’s hands, pulling it down to Cap’s cock. “Touch him.”
Cap opened his eyes—black pupils and a dazed expression. He stared hungrily at Steve, nodding.
“It’s okay?” Steve asked.
Cap nodded again. “Touch me.”
So Steve did. He wrapped his fingers around Cap’s cock, pumping back and forth while Bucky played with Cap’s balls. Those pretty little whines escaped into the air like a beating heart, getting faster and faster.
Cap was trembling, leaning back into Bucky but still arching into Steve’s where he bent to claim a nipple with his mouth. He flicked his tongue out, sucking and swirling.
“Ah…f-fuck…please…please…” Cap trembled in their hands, thrusting into Bucky’s hands and arching into Steve’s fingers. “I’m gonna…please I’m gonna…oh shit! Oh fuck me, fuck, fuck me!”
Steve looked down, licking his lips. Cap’s pants had a tiny wet spot., and the warmth he felt in his hand slid into his palm. Cap was so sensitive—a tiny difference between them. Sensitivity had been burned out of Steve with his branding.
“That okay?” Steve asked. Fear clung to the back of his mind. He was terrified Cap would look around and find he hated this.
“More,” Cap said, softly—unsure of himself. “Please?”
Steve looked at Bucky, waiting for him to take some kind of control of the situation. Steve didn’t mind commanding legions of people. He minded breaking the little treaty he and Cap formed.
Bucky walked into the bedroom, and sure as day follows night, Cap followed. Steve watched from the doorway as Bucky stripped naked and slipped onto the bed. Cap started shedding his clothes off too and joined him.
Their bodies slotted together, Cap’s legs around Bucky, Bucky slipping between as they rolled into each other. The fire in Steve’s belly flicked at his insides. He’d never known how badly he wanted Bucky between his thighs till he saw how beautiful Cap looked splayed out and needy.
“Steve,” Bucky said between a kiss. “Join us.”
Steve shed his clothes, hovering at his briefs for just a moment when he saw Cap was watching him. Cap blushed, looking away. That red flowed from his cheeks all the way down his belly.
He got behind Bucky, digging his fingers into the man’s shoulders and sliding them down to that perfect ass he loved so much.
Bucky arched back, groaning and rocking into Cap. “Fuckin’ please, fuckin’ lick me.”
“Yeah?” Steve asked, nibbling Bucky’s shoulder. “Want me to play with your hole while you play with his?”
Cap shivered. A string of incoherent words escaped his mouth.
“Wanna see it,” Steve continued, regaining a confidence he was more than familiar with. “Wanna see your shiny silver fingers slip in and out of him. Can you do that baby?” He kissed down Bucky’s spine. “I’ll eat you out so good, I swear. Just lemme see that first.”
“Oh fuck,” Bucky moaned. “Yeah, baby, yeah I can do that.” He kissed desperately at Cap’s lips, rocking forward. “That okay, Stevie?”
Cap nodded, his mouth hanging open.
Steve watched as Bucky slicked up his metal fingers with the lube from the nightstand. He brought his fingers to Cap’s hole, circling a few times slowly.
Cap howled out a heady whine, pushing his head back into the pillows. “More…more please more, more, more.”
“Shh, baby boy,” Bucky whispered, kissing Steve’s knee. “Wanna put on a show for Steve, yeah?”
Cap nodded, whimpering.
Steve’s heart momentarily forgot how to beat. It wasn’t just the confidence in Bucky’s voice, but the absolute trust Cap gave him. He was vulnerable and receptive to everything Bucky asked of him. It was a trust that Steve found himself struggling with, but one he wanted to try—one day.
“God you’re both so beautiful.” Steve stroked his fingers down Bucky’s spine, smirking when Bucky arched into the touch, shaking his ass a bit. “You want my tongue, baby?”
“Mmmm, please, Steve?” Bucky slipped another finger into Cap, curling them each time he pumped in. Cap sobbed, biting his fingers. “Don’t want Stevie havin’ all the fun.”
Steve kissed along Bucky’s back, licking at the dimples above his ass and down his crack. He parted Bucky’s cheeks, licking a single stripe up the middle.
Bucky shivered, moaning.
Steve pushed his face into Bucky, licking and swirling his tongue around that quivering hole. It opened easily, letting his tongue slip inside. He focused on flattening out his tongue, slipping it in and out of Bucky’s body. His hands held onto Bucky’s hips, pushing them down when he tried to push back.
Cap’s whimpers mixed with Bucky’s. Steve found himself measuring them together and found Cap’s to be prettier. Bucky put more throat into his where Cap was all nasal. Steve’s cock twitched each time Bucky or Stevie moaned.
He curled his tongue inside Bucky’s ass, lapping hungrily. Bucky rocked back, pumping his fingers into Cap with the rhythm of Steve’s tongue. Sticky, slick sounds echoed around Steve. Those groans and whines wafted to his ears.
“Fuck me,” Bucky said. “Oh fuck, Steve, fuck me, fuck me.” Bucky pushed back, shoving his ass into Steve’s face.
Steve bit one of Bucky’s ass cheeks, smacking the other in response.
Bucky yelped, jerking forward. The motion slipped his fingers further into Cap.
“You wanna get fucked too, Stevie?” Steve asked, moving up the bed to put Cap’s face on his thigh.
Cap reached up, pulling Steve into a sloppy, loud kiss. “Mmm, yeah I want it.”
Bucky trailed his flesh hand down Steve’s ass, pushing at his hole. Steve clamped down, jerking his body upright.
“Relax!” Bucky laughed. “I was just teasin’ you. Cause you said that you’d maybe wanna try one day.” He moved closer, slotting his body with Steve’s. Their cocks brushed together. The feeling made Steve relax, desperate for more. He wanted to bend Bucky over and fuck into him like he’d never done before. But he also knew he needed to be gentler. Cap brought a whole other dynamic to the three of them. They could be dirty, loud and messy when it was just two of them. Bring in a third, and things got tender. Steve liked that.
“I-it’s not like I won’t try—one day.”
“Yeah?” Bucky asked, stroking himself. “You really mean it?”
Steve nodded. “S’not like it matters, right? Like you said,” he leaned forward to kiss Bucky softly, “it’s just a preference.”
Steve gasped when a warmth enveloped his cock. A perfectly trained and eager tongue played with his tip, circling it. He looked down, breathing fast. Cap was sucking his dick, looking up at him with those black eyes that wanted to be told what a good job he was doing. The yearning there in that face was so painfully evident that Steve found himself whimpering now.
Bucky moved behind Cap, pushing that pretty ass apart as he lubed himself up. “He’s a slut, yeah?”
“J-Jesus,” Steve gasped. “I mean—I expect that with me but not—”
Bucky laughed, pushing into Cap slowly. Cap moaned around Steve’s cock, sucking harder. “You really think Stevie ain’t into hard shit? He likes gettin’ fucked rough.”
Steve gasped when Cap started kissing his tip, over and over again with wet, teasing kisses and a flicking tongue. “Thought m-maybe we could—oh fuck—go slower tonight?”
Bucky rocked into Cap, long rolling thrusts that punctuated that whole body—every shadow flickered along his toned stomach as he moved, like a dance. “You want that, Stevie? Slow?”
Cap whined around Steve’s cock, pulling it down deep into his mouth. Tears were in his eyes now, slipping soundlessly down his cheeks. Steve knew those tears. They were the tears of a man in pure heaven.
Steve almost doubled over. He grit his teeth, hating everything about what he was about to do. He pulled back, pulling himself out of Cap’s perfect mouth. Cap whined, reaching back to grab Bucky’s hand.
“You’re too good,” Steve said, cupping Cap’s face. “M’gonna come too fast if you do that.”
Cap leaned up on his knees. Bucky’s arms held him back against his body. Together they rocked into each other, Bucky’s metal hand around Cap’s cock, and his dick deep in that pretty ass. They were more than gorgeous. Steve had a hard time looking away to walk around the bed. He grabbed the lube, applying a generous amount before flicking his fingers down along Bucky’s hole to get it ready. Bucky didn’t like getting worked open too much. He liked the pain of Steve forcing himself inside.
Bucky extended out a leg to give Steve easier access. He turned, kissing Steve’s beard. “You know what I love about your beard?”
“It leaves the best sensations—like you’re still down there eatin’ me out.”
“B-Bucky, oh fuck,” Cap moaned.
“We pretty?” Bucky asked, squeezing Cap’s ass.
“Gonna ever let me fuck you like this?”
Steve rolled his eyes. “I said one day.” He lined his cock up to Bucky’s ass, pushing in a little faster than Bucky’s body really wanted.
Bucky yelped, biting down on Cap’s shoulder. He rocked down into Cap with fiercer snaps of the hips.
“Too much?” Steve asked, worried.
“N-not enough,” Bucky gritted out.
Steve melted into Bucky’s body, letting his cock slip all the way inside. They moved in a slower rhythm, letting Cap’s whines and gasps fill the room. Bucky’s ass squeezed and pulled Steve deeper in. He cupped Bucky’s pecs, squeezing and rolling his fingers over the nipples.
Bucky snapped his hips back, swiveling them.
“Oh, fuck, Bucky.” Steve jerked his hips forward, burying himself as deep as he could inside his lover. “You’re so good, baby—so fuckin’ good.”
Bucky craned his neck, and Steve met him with a kiss. Cap’s face was fully pushed into the bed, his whines muffled as he clawed at the bedsheets. The way he arched his back was sin and Steve wanted to know what it felt like to smack that man’s ass redder than a fucking cherry—one day.
Right now, they were all making love. It wasn’t perfect. Their rhythm felt off-balance sometimes, Steve’s cock slipped out of Bucky and he’d have to push it back in, but despite the imperfection, it was perfect. They were all three together. And that’s the thought that made Steve’s balls clench up as his orgasm pushed through him. He bit down on Bucky’s shoulder, groaning as he fucked faster into his lover.
Bucky folded forward, collapsing onto Cap’s back. “T-turn around baby.”
Steve breathed heavily, watching as Cap did as Bucky asked. He wrapped his lips around Bucky’s cock, letting Bucky fuck almost violently into his mouth. Bucky grabbed Steve’s hair, brushing his thumb over his cheekbone. He had enough time to crawl over to grab a blue undershirt before Bucky was crying out, coming down Cap’s throat.
They folded into each other, kissing and lapping at each other’s faces, noses, necks. Cap straddled Bucky, pushing him down into the bed. He looked up, biting his lip at a deceptive feign of innocence. “Steve, c’mere.”
Steve sighed, nodding. “This is payback for tryin’ to kill you, yeah?”
Cap nodded, rocking his cock up and down Bucky’s abdomen. “I think you owe me something.”
“Oh yeah? What’s that?” Steve leaned forward, swooping in for a kiss. Cap kissed back eagerly, any reservation or fear completely gone from their minds. It didn’t matter that they shared the same face, or were somehow identical counterparts made in different worlds. They were unique in their own ways. They had much to learn from each other.
Cap kissed Steve one last time, still rocking back and forth on top of Bucky. “You should suck me off.”
Steve barked out a laugh. “You’re a devious little shit.”
Cap nodded. “I’ve got the perfect position too.”
Steve just cocked a brow.
“You should get on your hands and knees. Bucky could suck you off again.” He shifted, his mouth dropping open. “And I’ve got him nice inside me, so he’s gonna feel good too.”
“I think this is the part where I tell you I told you so, Steve. Stevie’s a damn slut.”
Cap shrugged. “I like sex! Fuck off.”
Bucky rocked his hips up, causing Cap to gasp, his eyes fluttering closed.
Steve looked to Bucky, shrugging. “Is it okay?”
“Get your cock in my mouth right now, Steve Rogers”
Steve crawled over Bucky, letting his half-mast cock fall before his lover’s face. He leaned down over Bucky’s body, licking at Cap’s cock. He laughed when the man shivered in front of him, rocking up and down on Bucky’s cock.
He took Cap’s tip into his mouth, stifling a moan when Bucky did the same to his. He didn’t care if he came again or not. He liked the intimacy of them all locked together like this—in some strange circle.
He sucked at Cap’s cock, tracing his tongue along the veins that pulsed with every heartbeat. He bobbed up and down, his hands slipping under Cap to finger alongside Bucky’s cock each time Cap rose upward.
“Oh, fuck, Steve!” Bucky moaned, pulling Steve’s dick back into his mouth. He muffled another moan, rocking up harder into Cap.
Cap bobbed his head, making those addictive whines that Steve wished he could make one day. The complete loss of control was hypnotic. Steve wanted to give Bucky that. He wanted to give both of them that complete trust, but wasn’t sure even where to begin.
Baby steps. Right now, he had a beautiful cock in his mouth and a gorgeous pair of lips wrapped around his dick.
Cap came in short bursts down Steve’s throat. He cried out a slew of fuck me’s and Steve was all-too-ready to say when. There was a forbidden attraction developing between them. One of taboo that both seemed more than eager to explore.
Steve didn’t think he’d come again, but he found himself groaning into Cap’s thigh and fucking into Bucky’s mouth minutes later. Bucky eagerly swept his tongue over it, pulling the come down into his throat.
Steve rolled off them, chest heaving and sweat making him sticky. He listened to their sounds as they kissed and rocked into each other. He didn’t care that they kept going. If he was buried inside Bucky, he’d probably keep going too.
Bucky whined, pulling Cap’s lips to his as he came again.
Exhaustion overtook Steve in a way it hadn’t in a long time. He slid from the bed, using shaky legs to guide him into the bathroom to clean off. He should’ve showered, but the effort was far too much for him.
When he came back, Bucky was already curled up in Cap’s arms, smiling in that beautiful fucked-out way he did.
“Come snuggle with us,” Cap said, reaching out. “We’ll change the sheets tomorrow.”
Steve crawled back into bed, getting under the rusty red sheets. Bucky folded into him, putting his head on his shoulder. “I love you,” he said.
“I love you too.” Steve kissed Bucky’s sweaty forehead. He tensed up when he felt Cap move closer, reaching over Bucky to grab Steve’s arm. They looked at each other, smiling.
Cap’s face was dusted red. “Night, Steve.”
Cap was in the living room, wearing a pair of jogging shorts with a bowl of cereal on his chest when Steve came into the room.
“Did you already go for a run?” he asked.
“Yeah. I tried to wake you but you n’ Buck were pretty folded into each other, so I just left. That’s okay—right?”
Steve sat on the coffee table, smiling. “That’s fine. I’m not really one for jogging anyway.”
“We should lift weights together then? It’s good for you.” Cap leaned forward to put the empty cereal bowl on the coffee table.
“That your subtle way of asking me on a date?” Steve teased.
Cap’s ears went red. He averted his gaze, staring at his gym shoes. “I uh—I feel like I need to explain somethin’ to you.”
Steve’s heart started to collapse inward.
“No! I mean,” Cap sat forward, his eyes understanding the pain that Steve’s face showed. “I liked it. It was great! I just mean that when I get like that—I get like that. I mean, all—uh—all submissive or whatever.”
“I just—I didn’t know if that’d make you think differently of me.” He bit his lip, staring at the cereal bowl. He jerked his leg awkwardly, clearly guarded. Things had progressed, but things weren’t perfect. It was going in the right direction, but it wasn’t quite there yet.
“What?” Steve sat forward. “Why would that make me think differently?”
Cap shrugged. “I mean, the way I get. I trust Bucky to make me feel that way. I wanna trust you like that too. I’m just—I dunno. I’m a lot to deal with. I get—needy.”
Steve smiled. “And you think you’ve gotta apologize for expressing that side of yourself?”
Cap shrugged again.
“It’s just a preference,” Steve said. “Doesn’t change who you are.”
Cap smiled, relaxing. He laced his fingers with Steve’s, caressing his thumb over a knuckle. “So, could we really go on a date and lift weights?” He still looked tense.
“You’re such a bro.”
Cap smiled that dorky smile of his, nodding. “So it’s a date then?”
Steve rolled his eyes. “Sure, it’s a damn date.” He stood up, looking into the kitchen. “I’m gonna make coffee for Bucky. You want anything else?”
“Football game later? You could make those uh—the bacon wrapped water chestnut things like you said you wanted?”
Steve nodded. “Sounds good, Stevie. You don’t—you don’t mind me callin’ you that, right?”
Cap smiled. “I like it. S’kinda my name now anyway.”
Steve went into the kitchen to start Bucky’s coffee. He’d never thought he’d find someone after James. He reached up to his chest, tracing the tattoo he’d gotten after James died. Bucky was his world now. But Cap—Stevie? He was part of that world now. Steve wanted to love him too. Maybe one day they could. Steve found himself holding onto something he hadn’t felt in a long time.
He had hope. And for now? That’s all he needed.