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time is irrelevant when i've not been seeing you

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“I understand,” Bucky said and smiled tightly. “I have a lot of baggage and not normal stuff. What happened to me, it really fucked me up. The first three or so months after the helicarriers, I couldn’t eat anything, I had a panic attack anytime I was around more than three people at once, I wouldn’t let myself speak. I had to get over a fear of the shower. I’m a lot of work and I don’t expect you to just accept it right off the bat. Just…text or call me when you’re ready to talk?”

Steve nodded and closed his eyes for a moment as Bucky kissed his head. He watched as Bucky walked out, shutting the door behind with an audible click in the otherwise silent apartment. He took a deep breath and fell back onto the couch, thinking over everything Bucky had told him until it finally hit him – he would need to do some research. While he did not disbelieve what Bucky told him, it was a bit farfetched, even in a world of superheroes and aliens, and he wanted to see if it was true so the next morning he headed to the library as soon as it opened. With the help of a librarian, he was soon looking through a register of World War II soldiers from New York. Soon he found Bucky’s name, James Buchanan Barnes, with the address listed in Brooklyn. With that, he took the train over to the county clerks office there and asked to see any information on a George, Winifred, or James Barnes. Sure enough, there was an address listed, a building that had long been torn down and was replaced with something new. He thanked the officer and then went to the nearest library, knowing they would have newspapers, hopefully dating back far enough.

Thankfully, the elderly librarian was kind enough to help him out and soon he found a birth announcement for one James Buchanan Barnes to George and Winifred Barnes, their first child, on March 10 of the year 1917. He was also able to find a small mention of his death in a newspaper from 1943 in a list with other soldiers names that had been killed overseas. He thanked the librarian and left with all this new information before heading back to his apartment to try and see what he could find online.

He hunkered down on his bed with a large bottle of water, a bag of chips, and his laptop plugged into the charger. He started simple, just googling the name James Buchanan Barnes which only turned up a few Facebook profiles. After a bit more digging he found a few released army documents that included his name in a list of MIA soldiers. After a few hours, he eventually found a very specific document about the regiment Bucky said he was in, the 107th. It was a letter from a Colonel Phillips about the missing soldiers being held at a Hydra weapons base and asking for extra forces to try and rescue them. Steve assumed they had been denied, or at least had been too late.

After a few more hours, Steve found the last thing he would need to seal the deal – a photograph. It was of Bucky in his dress uniform, before he was shipped to the front, Steve thought. Though he was different from the Bucky Steve knew, with short hair and a bit more baby fat to his face, an innocence in the eye, it was unmistakably his Bucky.

He sat back against the wall, just staring at the picture. Now that he knew it was true, that Bucky really was James Barnes, born almost one hundred years ago. And now that he knew that, he wasn’t sure what to do. He truly did love Bucky, like he’s never loved anyone before. He wanted to be with Bucky, romantically and now he knew Bucky was interested in him too, in love with him, even. But he wasn’t sure if he would able to be in a relationship with as much baggage as Bucky described. Seven decades of torture and brainwashing and killing. The man he was in love with was the world’s deadliest assassin but with Steve, Bucky was the sweetest guy. He always made sure Steve was comfortable with anything they were doing, even if it was just watching Netflix on his couch. He knew almost everything there was to know about him, his dropping out of college to take care of his mother, how he felt about her passing and his struggles with depression on top of all the medical related problems he has, and the countless more he had during childhood. And in return, he knew almost everything there was to know about Bucky, minus his past with that Hydra organization. He knew the foods and shows and books that Bucky preferred, he knew the nervous ticks Bucky had when they were out in public, and he knew that Bucky always lit up when he saw any kind of animal, be it a dog, cat, squirrel, or even raccoon in a garbage can.

He loved Bucky and Bucky loved him – but was that enough?

***
A few days later, Steve had the afternoon off, no commissions he needed to work on, nothing, so he sat down in bed and pulled up the picture he had found of Bucky from the ‘40’s. He grabbed one of his many notebooks and opened it to a blank page. He began writing down all the questions he had that he wanted to ask Bucky if they saw each other again – something he still wasn’t sure would be happening. He filled an entire page with questions easily; how much Bucky remembered from before the war and being the Winter Soldier, how long has he been away from Hydra, did he draft or enlist in the war, did he know he was gay before the war or was that something he discovered after, did he have a hand in any of the most prominent assassinations over the past few decades, like JFK?

Steve’s brain ran wild with all the possibilities, all the questions he wanted to ask. He knew he wouldn’t ask all of them right away, if he spoke to Bucky again, but there was so much he wanted to know, a whole new facet of Bucky he knew nothing about and he wanted to explore it, get to know Bucky that much better.

He needed advice, from one person very specifically. He grabbed his phone and texted them, asking if they were available for a Skype call and about ten minutes later, his laptop sounded with the incoming call. He accepted it and smiled in relief at the sight of his best friend – one Peggy Carter.

“Hello love,” she greeted him, smiling widely at him. Her lipstick and eyeliner were perfect – as always – and just hearing her voice was comforting. Peggy had moved back to England a few years after college with her girlfriend Angie to take a fantastic job opportunity and while Steve knew that she would one day change the world, he still missed her. And because her job was so important, in addition to the time difference, they didn’t get to talk as much as Steve would like.

“Hey Pegs,” he said. “What’s up?”

“Not today, mister,” Peggy said. “You texted me ‘sos I need your help, skype please?’ so we’re talking about you. What’s the problem?” Steve sighed.

“You know that guy I’ve been talking about? Bucky?” she nodded. “Well, he just told me about his past and he was…into some really dangerous and shady stuff. Very dangerous and shady. And while he’s not a part of it anymore, he’s still very in the shadows. Like I don’t think the government knows he even exists.”

“That is quite a lot, isn’t it?” Peggy said, eyebrows raised. “But why is this a problem?”

“Right after he told me that he told me he was in love with me and wanted to be together if it was what I wanted,” Steve bit his lip. “And god, Peggy, I’m in love with him too. So fucking much.”

“Then what’s the problem, darling?” Peggy asked. “Be with him.”

“Peggy, this stuff, his past…it’s heavy stuff. Stuff he’s not over and probably never will be. Stuff that could affect me. And I just don’t know if I can handle that kind of thing,” Steve explained.

“So you don’t know if it’s worth it, if he’s worth it,” Peggy furrowed her brows. “Darling if you have to ask that, you might already know the answer.”

“But Peggy, he’s the best person I’ve ever met. He’s so kind, and even though he’s got a lot of strange quirks from what happened him, he still helps people whenever he can. Small things, you know? That most people won’t notice. And he’s so smart but he doesn’t think so because he never finished high school, but he reads all the time and watches as many documentaries as he can when he’s here. And he’s selfless, he always makes sure I’m comfortable and he feeds me, he’ll pay for things without being asked, and sometimes when I’m low on groceries, more will just show up,” Steve said, sighing softly. Peggy narrowed her eyes.

“Whenever I tried to do similar things in university, you told me you didn’t need charity,” she said accusingly.

“I know, I know…but it’s different with Buck. I wouldn’t ever tell him that but, when he does things like that for me I just feel loved. Taken care of. And I haven’t like that since before my mom died,” Steve looked down at his lap.

“Then I think you definitely know the answer to your question, Steven,” Peggy said fondly. “The only time I’ve heard talk about someone like that was your mother and I know how much you love her. If what you feel for this Bucky is anything akin to that, then any baggage he has is worth it. I know I can be a bit cynical, but love is always worth it Steve.”

“You really think so?” He asked hesitantly.

“I really do. This job is amazing, and I am so grateful for all the opportunities it has afforded me, but it would mean nothing without Angie by my side,” Peggy smiled. “It sounds like Bucky is your person, darling.”

“I think he could be,” Steve laughed breathlessly. “God, Pegs, Bucky just feels like coming home.”

“If this man can make you feel like that? He is worth everything,” Peggy said. “When did you last talk to him?”

“Almost a week ago. After he told me everything, I told him I needed some time to process everything and he said to just text him when I was ready,” Steve played with the edge of his comforter. “I need to tell him to come over. I’ve missed him so much, picked up my phone to text him so many times, just to tell him some minute little thing that happened to me.”

“Oh, Steve,” Peggy dropped her shoulders and grinned. “I’m so glad you found love and I can’t wait to meet him.”

“You really think I should go for it?” Steve asked.

“I absolutely do, Steven. Whatever past he has, whatever he needs to go through, you two can get through it,” Peggy said. “Now hang up and text him to come talk so you can work this all out.”

“Of course,” Steve laughed. “I love you Pegs.”

“I love you too Steven, now go get your man,” Peggy waved before hanging up. Steve shut the laptop lid and fell back against his pillows, breathing heavily. He really did love Bucky, more than he could even describe. He looked over at his phone and sighed, reaching over and picking it up. He opened his and Bucky’s text conversation and typed out the three words and hit send.