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between dream and daylight

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Bucky's sitting in the window of the darkened hotel room when Steve gets home. He's smoking, which he only ever does when he's waiting for Steve at wherever it is Steve calls home this week. Steve thinks it's because Bucky thinks he'll smell the smoke—always the same tobacco, no matter the continent—and not feel threatened about sensing someone in his home. 

Home, this week, is a hotel in Paris on SHIELD business, but Steve knows that sooner or later he'll run out of legitimate work he can do in Europe be ordered back to America. Then he'll have to decide where his allegiances lie. (He doesn't want to make that choice yet, he knows SHIELD will be greatly disappointed.)

Bucky doesn't say anything as Steve drops his briefcase and loosens his tie, just takes another drag of the cigarette that'll give him no buzz, no nicotine hit. The end glows in the darkness. 

"Hey," Steve says and he leans down and kisses Bucky. His mouth is cool under Steve's and he tastes like cigarette smoke. Steve plucks the cigarette from Bucky's fingers and drops it into the empty beer bottle he'd left on the window sill the night before in hopes of this.

"I've missed you," Steve says, cupping Bucky's face in his hands. It's been a week since Steve last saw him, on the balcony of a hotel in Geneva, and it's been a week too long. 

Bucky smiles. "I came as soon as I could."

"C'mon," Steve says. He takes Bucky's hand and tugs him off the window sill, wraps his arms around him and kisses him again, more thoroughly. 

"Missed you too," Bucky says, sounding a little dazed, when Steve pulls back for breath. He sits down on the bed as Steve strips out of his jacket and hangs it over the back of a chair, flops back with a groan as Steve tugs his tie off over his head. He's a darker shadow in a dark room but Steve knows Bucky's vision is better than Steve's could ever be, even with the super serum. He sits on the edge of the bed and Bucky rolls on his side to face him.

It's been a long time since Steve's seen him like this. Bucky's tired and it's dark out, and that's not right. He reaches out, running his fingers through Bucky's hair and Bucky sighs, nuzzling against Steve's hand. It's easy to forget Bucky's a vicious killing machine when he's gentle and pliable.

He leans over and put the lamp on and Bucky flinches away even from that light. "Sorry," Steve says. "God, you look tired. You need to eat." 

"Not yet," Bucky says, closing his eyes. He shifts so his head is pillowed on Steve's thigh. 

"Any luck tracking down Karpov?"

Bucky's eyes open. Steve doesn't think he'll ever get used to how bright Bucky's eyes are now, how blue. Even if the rest of him still looks the same, the eyes will always be the giveaway to Steve. "Some," Bucky says. "I found where he was keeping Arkady."

"Where is he?"

Bucky sighs. "You know I'm not gonna tell you that, Steve. You'll get it into your fool head to come busting on in."

"Buck—"

"No, don't you 'Buck' me." He pushes away from Steve and sits up. It's alarming the way he sways a moment, but Steve knows better than to reach out. "I ain't gonna let you throw yourself away on this. I mightn't be able to turn you," his mouth twists bitterly (and Steve knows it's not because he wants to, but because he'd been so out of his mind when Steve first found him he'd nearly killed Steve trying to fulfill that imperative), "but that doesn't mean that Karpov can't, and I don't want him to have a chance to try. Or worse, keep you chained up and half-drained 'cause of your blood." He can't hide the flash of fear in his eyes.

"I could track you down." While Steve understands Bucky's fear, he can't help but think that surely the two of them together could—

"You do that and you'll never see me again, Steve, I swear to god. Then where'd I be when I do find Karpov and I've got none of your super soldier blood making me strong enough to kill him?"

"God, I hate you sometimes," Steve says, frustrated, because Bucky's got him between a rock and a hard place. He rubs his hands over his face.

"I know." Bucky reaches out and cups Steve's chin for a moment, touching Steve's mouth with his thumb. "But only sometimes."

"Only sometimes," Steve agrees. "So, do you think this Arkady will be able to point you in the right direction?" 

Bucky gives him a suspicious look and Steve spreads his hands innocently. It's a genuine enquiry, he swears. "If he's still alive and sane I think he'll be... helpful, if I ask the right questions." 

Steve knows that's all he's going to get out of Bucky so he instead says, "Let me just refill this jug of water and then we can think about ordering dinner." He squeezes Bucky's shoulder as he moves past him.

When he comes back from the bathroom, Bucky's sprawled out on the bed again, idly leafing through the room service menu. "I'd kill for a steak right now," he says wistfully.

"Anything on there I can eat without you complaining it smells like it's rotten?" Steve asks, amused. They'd tried sharing a steak once, but Bucky had ended up in the bathroom heaving into the toilet—wasting his own meal—over a bite he said tasted like the smell of decomposing flesh.

"Mm," Bucky says, he flips the menu around so it's the right way up and points to the salad section. "That. Or spaghetti. I don't miss spaghetti." He shrugs. "But you probably ain't gonna get a half decent spag bol in this country."

While Steve calls down for his meal in passable French, he watches Bucky unlace his boots and kick them off, before shrugging out of his leather jacket. Everything he's wearing is muted, bland colours or faded black, and none too clean to boot. As Steve requests the order be delivered in an hour, he wonders where Bucky's been spending the daylight hours.

He hangs up the phone and throws the menu aside. Bucky's complaint about how food smells to him now or not, Steve's ordered steak because he knows he'll need it. 

"And now you're going to eat," Steve says firmly. "You look like death."

"Ha ha." Bucky rolls eyes. "You're a funny man, Steve. Funny man."

Steve grins as he removes his cufflinks and rolls his sleeve up to bare his wrist. He knows it'd be easier for both of them if Bucky fed from his throat, but given how starved Bucky is, he's not prepared to play with that fire right now. 

"C'mon," he says, plumping up the pillows so he can lean back against the bed head, and drags the remote close. He pats the bed between his legs and Bucky settles against him, back pressed to Steve's chest, head against his shoulder. Steve'll never admit to Bucky how much he enjoys this... not, of course, the fact that Bucky has drink his blood like this to live, but the intimacy of what really has become a domestic moment for them.

He wraps his arm around Bucky and Bucky, like always, hesitates a moment before he takes hold of Steve's arm, his flesh and bone hand barely warmer than his metal one. "Sorry," he murmurs and Steve says, "Don't be."

These days Steve doesn't do anything more than wince when Bucky's sharp teeth part his flesh. The almost pained moan Bucky lets out when the blood hits his tongue is the only sign how desperately hungry he must be and Steve bites back a scold at Bucky for letting himself get like this, stroking Bucky's hair gently. "Take as much as you need," he says instead and Bucky shudders against him. "It's okay."

He reaches for the remote and puts the television on. It's still on the news channel from earlier in the day, so instead he flicks through to a French-language soap. It's not for him, it's for Bucky, something to keep him grounded, and Steve had learned the painful way that anything that might get Bucky stirred up—like news, game shows or sport—was best avoided.

He closes his eyes and tips his head back against the wall, letting the sound from the television wash over him. He doesn't hate the feel of Bucky feeding from him anymore; Bucky's careful to make it as painless as possible for Steve and even hungry, he's a clean feeder now, re-nicking the vein as needed when Steve's serum-enhanced body heals up on him. 

Eventually he feels Bucky's tension ease and he's warm against Steve, both indicators that his hunger has eased and he's flushed with the warmth of Steve's blood inside him. His grip on Steve's arm loosens and he pulls away from Steve's wrist to let the wound air, licking up the last of the blood that oozes out as the veins close back up (and Steve would be a liar if he said he didn't enjoy this part just a little).

"D'you—" Bucky starts, but Steve's already passing him the bandage. "'Course you do, Boy Scout." The affection in his tone and in his touch as he carefully wraps Steve's wrist is palpable.

"Toujours Prêt?" Steve says with a grin because they're in France, flipping the Boy Scouts salute. 

Bucky clips the bandage into place and then twists around in Steve's arms, clearly fighting back a fond smile. "You're an idiot." He reaches for the glass Steve poured earlier, swishing a mouthful around and swallowing with a distasteful expression. Steve takes it from his hand and drains it. 

"But you love me for it anyway, right?" he says, wiping the back of his hand over his mouth.

Bucky snorts and leans forward to kiss Steve. His mouth is slick against Steve's and hot now, like it would be were he still alive, and he tastes fresh, like the water, not like blood. He feels alive in Steve's arms, even if Steve knows it's only an illusion. Steve slides his hands down and squeezes Bucky's ass, pulling him close as he pushes his hips up against him. Steve's body's still too busy adjusting to the blood loss for him to get hard, but sometimes Bucky's in the mood after feeding and he knows it won't take long for his body to get with the program.

Bucky's not in the mood this time though, and eventually he breaks the kiss, nosing against Steve cheek, pressing his mouth to the corner of his jaw. 

"Better?" Steve asks when Bucky pulls back.

Bucky grunts and extricates himself from Steve's arms. "I need a shower," he says, climbing off the bed. "I stink." He unceremoniously strips down to bare skin, heading for the bathroom. Steve's used to this kind of behaviour by now; he'd rather have Bucky like this even with all his brusque moments, than not at all.

Steve cleans out the pockets of Bucky's jeans—his money clip, some loose coins, a grubby printout from Google Maps where Bucky's manually inked in the location of Steve's hotel and a clean, unsealed envelope which Steve heroically manages not to snoop through—and is picking the rest of Bucky's clothes up from where Bucky dropped them when there's a knock at the door. "Un moment, s'il vous plaît!" he calls.

Steve grabs the laundry bag from the closet and stuffs Bucky's clothes into it, plus a few of his own items, and takes them with him to the door. It's his dinner, and he passes over the laundry in exchange for a fabulous smelling steak. Turns out Bucky wasn't the only hungry one, because he manages to polish it off before Bucky's even finished in the shower—in his own defence, it takes him ten minutes to eat, because a hot shower is one of Bucky's few indulgences—leaning back in his seat with a glass of red wine as he hears the shower shut off.

After a moment the bathroom door opens. Bucky frowns when he realises his clothes are not where he left them. 

"I sent them for cleaning," Steve offers and the look of dismay on Bucky's face as he stands there in the doorway, one hand holding the skimpy towel in place around his hips, is priceless. Steve props up his chin on his hand and lets his gaze linger. "Thought I'd just let you wander around like eye candy for the rest of the night."

He expects Bucky to laugh, to look entertained or aroused or something that's not a continuing look of dismay. "I had plans," Bucky says, disappointed.

"Now your plans involve being naked with me...?" From Bucky's reaction Steve's starting to think this wasn't such a great idea.

"My plans involved being naked with you later." Bucky's eyes light on his small pile of belongings on the table and he comes forward, picking up the envelope. Steve's sure Bucky'll excuse him for being distracted by the droplet of water running down his chest, and for grabbing him by the wrist and tugging him close to chase it with his tongue. "Steve..." Bucky's voice catches and he slides into Steve's lap, towel coming loose from his hips.

Hooking an arm around Bucky's neck, Steve drags his mouth down. It's easy to lose himself in the taste of Bucky's mouth, running his tongue over the keen points of Bucky's canines, catching Bucky's bottom lip between his teeth. One of Bucky's hands catches in the front of Steve's shirt and he groans against Steve's mouth, fingers of his other hand tangling in Steve's hair. 

Steve's not surprised when Bucky roughly jerks his head back, feeling Bucky's hot, damp breath and the scrape of sharp teeth against his throat. "You can do it," Steve says. "I want you to." 

"No," Bucky says eventually, leaning back. He lets go of Steve hair, closing his eyes and taking a moment to breathe. "No, Steve, c'mon, I can't—"

"I want you to," Steve repeats. 

"I know you do, but you don't get it." Bucky presses the envelope against Steve's chest and Steve takes it from him, confused. "I got us tickets," Bucky says eventually, "to the Louvre. It's open late tonight and I thought—I thought you might wanna go along. Thought you could tell me all about the art and I could pretend to listen."

"Oh." Steve doesn't even know what to say.

Bucky scrubs his hand through his damp hair, frustrated. "I just... I guess I wanted to spend some time with you. Outside. Like we're just a couple of normal guys and I'm not... what I am. It was gonna be a surprise and now it's—now we can't—"

"Hey, come on, we still can."

"Yeah, except thanks to someone's bright idea I've got nothing to wear. And I'm gonna look stupid as all get out in your clothes."

But Steve grins, tugging Bucky forward for a quick kiss. "I've got this," he says, aiming for his best tone of reassurance, "I'm Captain America, I'm prepared for all contingencies. Up you get." Bucky slips from his lap, picking up the towel, as Steve rummages through his suitcase. "Here." He presses some clean jeans, a sweater and a shirt into Bucky's hands. 

"They're my size?" Bucky tosses the sweater and shirt onto the table and shakes out the jeans, holding them against himself. It's his turn to look confused.

Steve laughs. When he says, "Like I'm not going to pack something for you in case you need it," Bucky's expression brightens. Inadvertent date night wasn't the contingency Steve meant, but it's better than everything else he'd planned Bucky needing fresh clothing for.

"No underwear?" Bucky asks slyly as he shimmies into the jeans which okay, might be a little on the new side and a little more on the tight side and Steve's not even going to try and defend that. Not when Bucky's ass looks that amazing once he's managed to wrangle the fly closed. Bucky tugs on the shirt and the sweater and looks at himself critically in the mirror as he fixes his hair.

"You look great."

Bucky somehow manages to wedge his wallet into his pocket. "I look like a hipster."

"You look great," Steve repeats firmly. And he does. With the flush in his cheeks, his bright eyes and dishevelled hair, Bucky looks like he could be any handsome guy on the street. It's stupid how much Steve likes that.

"You gonna wear that out?" Bucky says, jerking his chin towards Steve's rumpled shirt and trousers. 

Steve had been too busy ogling Bucky getting dressed to remember to change himself. It doesn't take him long to strip out of his own clothes and into something casual. He's fixing his hair—and fending off Bucky's helpful mussing—when he realises this'll be the first date they've ever been on. Bucky coming back from the dead as a half-mad vampire and illicit meetings after he'd escaped SHIELD's custody to hunt down Vasily Karpov hadn't exactly left them a lot of time for dinner and catching a show.

That Bucky thought of doing this when Steve had thought him utterly focussed on hunting his maker is nearly overwhelming. That he wants to take this from just feeding and fucking to—

"Hey, Steve," Bucky says as he shrugs into his jacket and holds out his hand. "You coming?"