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How Buzzfeed Helped Bucky Barnes Get A Boyfriend

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Bucky wasn’t even sure he was going to play any Overwatch that night, but when he opened the Blizzard app and saw a few of his friends in a custom game, his curiosity was piqued. He launched the game and sent a private message to one of his friends, a fellow army veteran named Laura that he really liked playing with.

TO [Quueenie]: got space?
[Quueenie]: yeah perfect, we need one more
[Quueenie]: hang on

The invite popped up a second later and Bucky hit accept.

TO [Quueenie]: why a custom game
[Quueenie]: falcon’s friend is new, he wanted us to play custom so he could get the hang of it

Bucky joined match chat.

“Yo yo yo,” Laura said. “Welcome to the game.”

“Hey everyone,” Bucky greeted, watching as the game’s moderator, FalconKnight reset the match and the twelve players were slotted onto different teams. Bucky didn’t know everyone in the game, but it was easy to tell that the new person was THECapRogers, because the guy was level 3.

“Yo, Prez, good to see you, man. Thanks for filling out our 12,” Falcon said. Bucky didn’t know Falcon personally, but Laura did. They were friends from the VA. Between Bucky’s friends, Laura’s friends, and Falcon’s friends, they had a pool of ten or so regulars, plus a few other people who came and went. They’d fill up a team to six most nights, first-come-first-serve. “You're not streaming tonight?”

“Nah, just playing for fun,” Bucky said, answering to his in-game nickname. His screen name was President15, so everyone called him Prez. First names weren't uncommon among this group, but since not everyone knew each other, using screen names kept things simpler— especially during the fast paced matches, when it would have been chaos trying to clarify who was meant by an IRL name call. “What’re we doing?”

“Just running some basic gameplay so Cap gets a feel for the game,” a new voice chimed in, someone Bucky had only played with once before called BigMoodMan. Bucky remembered him because, who wouldn’t remember such a great name? Speaking of screen names….

“Cap Rogers,” Bucky mused. “You a big fan of the man himself, huh?”

There was a pause while everyone waited for Cap to answer, and then Bucky heard Falcon’s voice quietly, from Cap’s mic, “—off push to talk, nobody wants that. Try that.”

“Hello?” a new voice said, deep and uncertain. “Can you hear me now?”

Everyone started laughing and quoting Sprint commercials, which Bucky could hear Falcon explaining to Cap in the background. He quirked an eyebrow as he locked in on his favorite hero to play when his team was just messing around or warming up, the sniper Widowmaker. Laura and her husband Dave picked tanks, their friends BoopGalore and BetsyHI ended up on healers, and the last person on the team was someone Bucky didn’t know, GandalfAF, who picked the fast-moving, high-damage hero Tracer. Not too bad.

“So, you’re a Captain America fan, huh, Cap?” Bucky repeated his question now that the jokes had stopped.

“Maybe my name really is Rogers,” Cap pointed out, voice amused.

“Sure,” Bucky said easily. “And I’m really James Buchanan.” Not really a lie, but that was part of the joke. Though Cap wasn’t in on it.

Laura and his other real-world friends were, and snickered.

“President fifteen, James Buchanan,” Cap said dryly. “Not the most frequently picked president to— what’s the word? Fanboy over?”

Cackling was had all around. “Fanboy,” Dave repeated gleefully. “It’s official, you can stay in our group.”

“Besides, I didn’t make my account, Sam did,” Cap said. “He picked this name.”

“Well, we all know Sam’s a Cap fanboy,” Laura said, making Falcon squawk indignantly.

Then the match started. Bucky found his way into a nice sniper perch and pulled up his scope, mouthing the words “I see you” along with Widow’s taunting voiceline. He got an early pick on one of their healers, and quickly tabbed to make sure it wasn’t Cap. He didn’t really want to snipe the guy too much during his first time playing. The point was for Cap to learn how to play, not to take advantage of the fact that new players always ended up standing stock still for way to long.

But no, Cap was on the classic shooter character Soldier76, the stoic, seasoned super soldier who wielded a big, rapid fire rifle.

“You a Call of Duty man, Cap?” Bucky asked, missing a shot on Falcon, who was playing his usual Pharah, the flying rocket-launching queen. He took another shot, hit Falcon’s body—not enough to kill him, but enough that he dropped out of the sky for healing.

“What? What’s Call of Duty?”

Falcon snickered. “He picked 76 because he saw a kindred spirit. Old.

“Hey!” Cap said. “He runs fast, too. Know who else runs fast, Sam?”

“Shut up,” Falcon shot back.

Bucky got a sweet headshot on Falcon and grinned with satisfaction at Falcon’s quick, angry curse.

Then one of the guys on the other team landed a headshot on him with Hanzo, and his laugh cut off with a disappointed “Fuck!”

Falcon laughed as Bucky watched his team lose the fight on point A from the view of death spectating, the worst feeling.

“Regroup, we got this,” BetsyHI said calmly.

“High ground shield?” Bucky requested.

“You got it,” Laura agreed easily. “Meet you up there.”

Cap surprised them all with a triple kill ult, but it wasn’t enough to make up for Bucky taking out both enemy healers at the beginning of the push, and Bucky’s team rallied thanks to the defense respawn advantage, and they won the next two fights handily.

“Watch Zarya, she’s gotta be sitting on grav,” Laura called right before Falcon’s friend who was playing Zarya used her ultimate and caught three including Bucky, who had been out of position thanks to Falcon harassing him on the high ground. Then came the telltale shouting in Japanese and twin red dragons destroyed him and the other two stuck in the gravity orb of Zarya’s ultimate.

Falcon’s team cleaned up quickly after that and then it was a series of frustrating dive-and-dies until finally they lost and it was done.

Bucky’s team steamrolled Falcon’s when they switched sides, then they switched up teams and Bucky found himself on the same team as the new guy.

“What’s your poison this time, Cap?” Bucky asked. “Sticking with Soldier?”

“Nah, who’s this?” he asked, picking Mei.

“Oh god,” Laura, who was still on Bucky’s team, groaned. “Falcon, you didn’t tell us the new guy is a satan-lover!”

“What!” Cap yelped while everyone else immediately started laughing or harassing him for liking Mei.

Eventually the game started up and things went okay until Cap mistakenly ice-walled Bucky, who was solo-healing, away from everyone else.

“No, the wall!” Bucky groaned, pulling out his sad little pistol and taking a few shots at the enemies closing in on him, before promptly dying.

“Oh no!” Cap said, realizing what had happened. “Oh god! I’m so sorry, I didn’t—sorry!”

“It’s alright, man,” Bucky said, letting it go. “You’re still learning. But next time, you can push the wall button again and it’ll go away.”

“Oh,” Cap said. “Sorry.”

A few games later and Cap was getting the hang of a few characters, and finally a few people started to bow out. Falcon invited the remaining people to stick around to show Cap some cool tricky things, like deflecting and teleporting ults or different ways to get environmental kills. Things devolved from there when Bucky discovered how much Cap was entertained by some of the emotes, and it became Bucky’s goal to show him all of the silliest things.

Ana’s beach ball emote was a favorite, and Bucky was delighted when Cap joined him in bullying Falcon into abandoning any semblance of serious play to orchestrate a beach party on Gibraltar, which involved a lot of dying by accidentally falling off the cliff as everyone crowded around to get closer to the beach ball that Bucky would throw out until someone was nudged over the edge to their death.

Finally it was late enough that Bucky sighed and excused himself, knowing he had to be up for work in the morning. Before signing off, he sent Cap a friend request, then hit up Twitter to confirm he’d be streaming in the evening the next day.


Chapter Text

Bucky wasn’t even sure he was going to play any Overwatch that night, but when he opened the Blizzard app and saw a few of his friends in a custom game, his curiosity was piqued. He launched the game and sent a private message to one of his friends, a fellow army veteran named Laura that he really liked playing with.

TO [Quueenie]: got space?
[Quueenie]: yeah perfect, we need one more
[Quueenie]: hang on

The invite to the private match popped up a second later and Bucky hit accept.

TO [Quueenie]: why a custom game
[Quueenie]: falcon’s friend is new, he wanted us to play custom so he could get the hang of it

Bucky joined the match chat so he could talk to everyone via microphone while the game started.

“Yo yo yo,” Laura said. “Welcome to the game.”

“Hey everyone,” Bucky greeted, watching as the game’s moderator, FalconKnight reset the match and the twelve players were slotted onto different teams. Bucky didn’t know everyone in the game, but it was easy to tell that the new person was THECapRogers, because the guy was level 3.

“Yo, Prez, good to see you, man. Thanks for filling out our 12,” Falcon said. Bucky didn’t know Falcon personally, but Laura did. They were friends from the VA. Between Bucky’s friends, Laura’s friends, and Falcon’s friends, they had a pool of ten or so regulars, plus a few other people who came and went. They’d fill up a team to six most nights, first-come-first-serve. “You're not streaming tonight?”

“Nah, just playing for fun,” Bucky said, answering to his in-game nickname. His screen name was President15, so everyone called him Prez. First names weren't uncommon among this group, but since not everyone knew each other, using screen names kept things simpler— especially during the fast paced matches, when it would have been chaos trying to clarify who was meant by a real name call. “What’re we doing?”

“Just running some basic gameplay so Cap gets a feel for the game,” a new voice chimed in, someone Bucky had only played with once before called BigMoodMan. Bucky remembered him because, who wouldn’t remember such a great name? Speaking of screen names….

“Cap Rogers,” Bucky mused. “You a big fan of the man himself, huh?”

There was a pause while everyone waited for Cap to answer, and then Bucky heard Falcon’s voice quietly, from Cap’s mic, “—off push to talk, nobody wants that. Try that.”

“Hello?” a new voice said, deep and uncertain. “Can you hear me now?”

Everyone started laughing and quoting Sprint commercials, which Bucky could hear Falcon explaining to Cap in the background. He quirked an eyebrow as he locked in on his favorite hero to play when his team was just messing around or warming up, the sniper Widowmaker. Laura and her husband Dave picked tank heroes, their friends BoopGalore and BetsyHI ended up on healers, and the last person on the team was someone Bucky didn’t know, GandalfAF, who picked the fast-moving, high-damage hero Tracer. Not too bad—two tanks to absorb damage and make space, two healers to keep everyone alive, and two damage-dealers to take out the enemy team.

“So, you’re a Captain America fan, huh, Cap?” Bucky repeated his question now that the jokes had stopped.

“Maybe my name really is Rogers,” Cap pointed out, voice amused.

“Sure,” Bucky said easily. “And I’m really James Buchanan.” Not really a lie, but that was part of the joke. Though Cap wasn’t in on it.

Laura and his other real-world friends were, and snickered.

“President fifteen, James Buchanan,” Cap said dryly. “Not the most frequently picked president to— what’s the word? Fanboy over?”

Cackling was had all around. “Fanboy,” Dave repeated gleefully. “It’s official, you can stay in our group.”

“Besides, I didn’t make my account, Sam did,” Cap said. “He picked this name.”

“Well, we all know Sam’s a Cap fanboy,” Laura said, making Falcon squawk indignantly.

Then the match started. Bucky found his way into a nice sniper perch and pulled up his scope, mouthing the words “I see you” along with Widow’s taunting voiceline. He took out the enemy’s main healer early, and quickly checked to make sure it wasn’t Cap. He didn’t really want to snipe the guy too much during his first time playing. The point was for Cap to learn how to play, not to take advantage of the fact that new players always ended up standing stock still for way to long.

But no, Cap had chosen the classic shooter character Soldier76, the stoic, seasoned super soldier who wielded a big, rapid fire rifle.

“You a Call of Duty man, Cap?” Bucky asked, missing a shot on Falcon, who was playing his favorite hero, the flying rocket-launching soldier known as Pharah. He took another shot and hit, but it was a low-damage shot, not enough to kill him. He was forced to drop out of the sky for healing, though, giving Bucky’s team a break from dodging rocket grenades.

“What? What’s Call of Duty?”

Falcon snickered. “He picked 76 because he saw a kindred spirit. Old.

“Hey!” Cap said. “He runs fast, too. Know who else runs fast, Sam?”

“Shut up,” Falcon shot back.

Bucky got a sweet headshot on Falcon and grinned with satisfaction at Falcon’s quick, angry curse.

Then one of the guys on the other team landed a headshot on him with the other sniper hero, the archer Hanzo, and his laugh cut off with a disappointed “Fuck!” as he watched the elimination animation and waited the short penalty before he could rejoin the team.

Falcon laughed as Bucky watched his team lose the first big fight while death spectating, the worst feeling.

“Regroup, we got this,” BetsyHI said calmly.

“High ground shield?” Bucky requested of Laura, whose character could place a barrier for him to stand behind while taking shots.

“You got it,” Laura agreed easily. “Meet you up there.”

Cap surprised them all by getting three kills in rapid succession with his hero’s ultimate ability, but it wasn’t enough to make up for Bucky taking out both enemy healers at the beginning of their attack. Bucky’s team rallied, and they won the next two fights handily.

“Watch Zarya, she’s gotta be sitting on grav,” Laura called, alerting her teammates that the enemy Zarya, a tank whose ultimate ability was a gravity ball that pulled her nearby enemies together and held them immobile and therefore vulnerable to attacks, was acting suspiciously. Sure enough, the gravity ball was fired out a moment later, catching Bucky and two others. They died quickly. Falcon’s team cleaned up quickly after that.

Happilu, Bucky’s team steamrolled Falcon’s when they switched sides, so it was a tie when the match was over. Instead of going for a tie-breaker, they switched up teams for the next match, and Bucky found himself on the same team as the new guy.

“What’s your poison this time, Cap?” Bucky asked. “Sticking with Soldier?”

“Nah, who’s this?” he asked, picking Mei, the Chinese scientist who used a freeze-gun to slow and halt her enemies.

“Oh god,” Laura, who was still on Bucky’s team, groaned. “Falcon, you didn’t tell us the new guy is a satan-lover!”

“What!” Cap yelped while everyone else immediately started laughing or harassing him for liking Mei, one of the most despised (though useful) characters in the game.

Eventually the game started up and things went okay until Cap mistakenly put up an ice wall that separated Bucky, who was the team’s only healer, away from everyone else.

“No, the wall!” Bucky groaned, pulling out his sad little pistol and taking a few shots at the enemies closing in on him, before promptly dying.

“Oh no!” Cap said, realizing what had happened. “Oh god! I’m so sorry, I didn’t—sorry!”

“It’s alright, man,” Bucky said, letting it go. “You’re still learning. But next time, you can push the wall button again and it’ll go away.”

“Oh,” Cap said. “Sorry.”

A few games later and Cap was getting the hang of a few characters, and finally a few people started to bow out. Falcon invited the remaining people to stick around to show Cap some cool tricky things, like deflecting and teleporting ultimate abilities, or different ways to get environmental kills like knocking an enemy off of a cliff. Things devolved from there when Bucky discovered how much Cap was entertained by some of the animations unique to each character called emotes, and it became Bucky’s goal to show him all of the silliest things.

The hero Ana’s beach ball emote was a favorite, in which the elderly healer produced a beach ball and hit it up into the air. Bucky was delighted when Cap joined him in bullying Falcon into abandoning any semblance of serious play to orchestrate a beach party on the map called Gibraltar, which involved a lot of dying by accidentally falling off the cliff as everyone crowded around to get closer to the beach ball that Bucky would throw out until someone was nudged over the edge to their death.

Finally it was late enough that Bucky sighed and excused himself, knowing he had to be up for work in the morning. Before signing off, he sent Cap a friend request, then hit up Twitter to confirm he’d be streaming in the evening the next day.

Chapter Text

Before streaming, Bucky put his channel live and put up a “the stream will start” countdown on it, then took a shower and heated up some leftover spaghetti while the timer ticked away. He didn’t have a huge following; he didn’t stream often enough or for long enough chunks of time to really be serious about it. But most days he drew in a couple hundred viewers and some of them even tipped him, so it was worth it.

Done with his spaghetti, he checked himself in the mirror for any wayward marinara before settling in to watch the timer count down the last twenty seconds before he had promised to go live. Already about two hundred in the stream, nice. It’d be a good night.

He switched the stream view over to his webcam and mic right when the timer hit 0:00 and greeted his chat while he fired up Overwatch. Most of his regulars were there, people he had gotten to know a little bit over the seven months or so since he started streaming.

Bucky warmed up on stream, so he fired up Deathmatch and picked Widow, watching his chat celebrate. They loved watching him snipe, and Petra was a great map for it. He came in second on his first match, so he tried again as McCree. He grinned as he noticed his sister Becca say hello in the stream. The others in chat knew they were siblings and always had fun talking to her and trying to wheedle her for embarrassing stories about Bucky.

As his match was finishing up, he saw Cap get online out of the corner of his eye. Distracted, he missed an easy kill and his chat spammed his PrezFail emote, but he easily recovered and still took first.

[THECapRogers]: Do you want to play?
TO [THECapRogers]: later?
TO [THECapRogers]: streaming tonight until 10
[THECapRogers]: Streaming?

God, was he actually a grandpa?

TO [THECapRogers]: yeah check it out, twitch.tv/President15

Cap didn’t respond, so either he found his own games to play or he really was heading over to Twitch to see the stream.

“Alright citizens,” Bucky said to his chat, “let’s get this going.”

He put himself into the competitive queue and sat back to talk shit with his chat friends while he waited. “Hey, Thriller44, what’s up, good to see you,” Bucky greeted one of his most generous viewers. He read another viewer’s question out loud to answer it. “Am I streaming until 10? Yes, I just said that. Yep, til 10. Got off work at 5, streaming until 10, living the dream.”

Becca sent a question, and Bucky read it aloud.

“Who’s CapRogers? Who do you think? My new best friend, Captain America. You’re fired, Becks.”

He grinned while his chat reacted to this, mostly with his PrezSure emote, which they used when they were humoring something ridiculous he said, and PrezNo, mad he was teasing his sister. A minute later a new person in chat popped up, and Bucky was delighted to see the name THECapRogers.

THECapRogers: Hello?

Chat immediately started spamming him with CAPTAIN AMERICA and a variety of emotes while Bucky laughed. “Hey Cap, welcome to the stream. I thought you said Falcon picked that name for you. Did he make your Twitch account, too?”

A minute later, Cap wrote back, No, I figured I should be consistent.

“Sure man. So you liked Overwatch enough to come back, eh?” he asked as the matchmaking finally finished and he was put into a game. He looked over his teammates and opponents, not recognizing anyone immediately. After some greetings and initial picks, they settled on a team composition that Bucky could tolerate, and he even got to play sniper since it was a good map for it.

He glanced back at his chat and saw Cap had answered, I liked the part with the beachball.

Bucky laughed and switched to Ana, assuring his team he’d switch back to Widow before the match started, and hit the beachball emote a few times. As the countdown to the match reached 5 seconds, he toggled back to Widowmaker and joined his team at the spawn doors.

The game was tough but they took the first map in Overtime. Bucky checked in that his team still wanted him on Widow, then turned his attention back to chat while the second map countdown began.

THECapRogers: Is this how the game is supposed to be played?

He laughed. “I dunno about that, Cap, but it’s closer than what we played yesterday.”

THECapRogers: I have no idea what I’m doing, do I?

“Nah, but it was your first game,” Bucky reassured him. Then the second map was starting and he focused on the game. The enemy team took the point first, but a great combo ult from his teammates got them back onto it. Bucky managed to keep the enemy’s main healer from rejoining her team for three pushes, which was enough to get them almost to 100%. Overtime started and a few key picks made things scary for a minute, but they pulled it off.

“Good fight,” Bucky said to his team with relief, watching his team’s Reinhardt get play of the game for his clutch ultimate.

He turned his attention back to chat and picked up a question about baseball. Baseball was a chat favorite topic because they liked how riled up Bucky got about it, and he was delighted to see Cap joining the fray just as passionately.

Becca signed off around 9:15, but Cap watched him stream all the way until 10:00. Once Bucky had signed off, he got a private message in the game from Cap.

[THECapRogers]: You probably don’t want to play anymore, huh?
TO [THECapRogers]: i could do some arcades, but let me switch accounts
TO [THECapRogers]: add buchanan#12214

He signed off and switched to his alt, waited until he got a friend request from Cap and then invited him to a group.

“I had to ask Sam how to add a friend,” Cap said, voice wry.

“Oh, sorry. Forgot how new you were to this.”

“So you have two accounts?”

“Four,” Bucky admitted with a laugh. “I stream on President15 and one other, and have two more alts for more casual play.”

“Why were you on President15 last night then? Were you streaming that, too?”

“No! No, I just didn’t think to switch. It was a custom game so it didn’t seem to really matter,” he said as he put them in a mystery heroes queue.

“Oh. So, what’s mystery heroes?”

Bucky explained arcade mode. Every time Cap died and came back as someone new, he had to give him a rundown of what that hero did. After a catastrophic loss, Bucky put them into Total Mayhem instead. “This way you get the hang of one person first,” Bucky explained.

“Sounds good,” Cap laughed. “Sorry I’m so bad.”

“You’re just new, it’s all good,” Bucky said easily. “So what’d you think of the stream?”

“It was cool! I learned a lot about the game just from watching,” he said. “And got to see your face!”

Bucky laughed. “You have me at a disadvantage, then.”

A pause from Cap, then, “I guess.”

What did that mean?

Total mayhem went better because Bucky told Cap to take Winston and to put his bubble down all the time to shield the payload, and Cap took to this role like a fish in water. He cackled with delight as he used Winston’s ultimate for the first time, enjoying leaping around and knocking people back. As the games continued, Bucky noticed how quickly Cap took lessons on strategy to heart, getting increasingly better at positioning himself well and responding cleverly to enemy attacks. When they had won four arcades, they finally signed off.


Chapter Text

Cap became a regular in Bucky's stream and among his group of friends and friends-of-friends who played together. He improved quickly, becoming a solid tank player and getting the hang of positioning and strategy easily. He even began calling shots way sooner than most people, and although Bucky ordinarily hated when new players tried to be shot callers, he was impressed by how good Cap was at understanding strategy, placement, and prioritizing targets and objectives. The man had a talent for military command, that much was clear. In fact, Bucky suspected Cap must have been an officer in the military, given his connection to Sam and his natural ease at stepping into shot calling.

Bucky did notice that while Cap called Falcon “Sam” with some frequency, clearly not used to calling his real-life friends by their screen names, at no point did Falcon call Cap anything but Cap. Nobody did. He supposed it wasn’t so strange. Laura and Dave never called him “Bucky” in-game, either.

A few weeks after Cap first started playing, they had enough for a custom game again. Cap and Bucky ended up on the same team, along with Dave, Falcon, and two of Dave’s work friends that Bucky knew tangentially. Laura and the others were on the opposing team.

“So, Prez, can I come by the shop tomorrow and drop off my bike? Needs a tune up,” Dave said.

“Sure thing,” Bucky agreed. “I’ll be in at 7.”

“Bike? You’re a mechanic?” Cap asked.

“Nope,” Bucky said. “He means bicycle, not motorcycle.”

“James is a bike whisperer. You take him a Walmart bike and pay him a couple hundred, and you have a street-ready racer.”

Bucky laughed. “Maybe not a Walmart bike.”


Bucky worked on Dave’s bike first thing, getting it into top shape. He’d brought Laura’s, too, so he had plenty to keep him busy until lunch. He turned on the news as he ate his lunch in the back room. Apparently the Avengers were out in Eastern Europe again, as of this morning. He watched for a minute, forgetting to eat, as the camera crew caught a particularly shocking angle of Captain America launching Black Widow into the air off of his shield.

For a minute, Bucky entertained the idea that Cap from his Overwatch friends was really the same guy. It was laughable, really, to imagine the man he was watching on TV sitting around at night watching Bucky stream and joking about baseball in his Twitch chat.

Still, he didn’t blame Overwatch-Cap for being a fan of the real Cap. The man was impressive to watch as he boomeranged his shield around at the robot alien things that were trying to destroy Kiev today. It didn’t look like the fight was too much for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, so Bucky switched off the TV and got back to fixing bikes.

Cap didn’t show up at all to his stream that night for the first time since he had started watching.


In fact, Cap didn’t get online or show up to his stream for a solid eight days after that. Not that Bucky was counting. Falcon wasn’t online much, either, so Bucky figured Cap probably just preferred to play with the friend who had gotten him into the game. Still, he had been watching Bucky stream so consistently regardless of Falcon being on or not, so it was a little strange.

Bucky took a few days off from streaming at that point. Four days later he finally dredged up the will to get back on, so he tweeted, “Going live in 1 hour, hope to catch you.”

An hour into the stream and Bucky had lost three matches in a row. He sighed and looked at his chat. People were asking if he was okay. “Yeah, guys, thanks. I’m fine. It’s just been a long week, don’t worry.”

THECapRogers donated $20! “Beach ball party?”

Bucky stared at the notification for a second, then burst out laughing. “Hell yeah, man, get on and we’ll show these people in chat what a good beach ball party is like.”

A minute later THECapRogers signed on and Bucky invited him to a custom game.

“Hey Cap,” Bucky said. “Where you been?”

“Mr. President,” Cap greeted him, a smile in his voice. “Sorry. Been busy. Had to travel for work.”

“Well, if you give me $20 every time you’re gone for a week, you won’t hear me complaining.” He turned back to stream. “Alright, citizens, who wants to come to the beach with me and Cap? First four to give me their battle tags get to come to the party.”

He brought in four viewers and they all grouped up near the beach, and thus began the silliness of everyone gently jockeying for position as Bucky threw out beach balls, getting closer and closer to the edge, until people started falling off.

Then Bucky booted everyone but Cap and set it to one-versus-one duel mode with just snipers. “Not fair,” Cap complained after dying for the fifth time to Bucky’s superior sniping. “Your best hero against one I never play!”

“Who do you want to duel with, then?”

Chat voted for Genji the cyborg ninja, so Bucky set it to Genji only, and Cap actually managed to get a kill on him with a well-timed dash.

“Oh,” Cap crowed. “The great President15 falling to a—what’s the word? Total noob?”

Chat went wild.

“Please,” Bucky said, rolling his eyes at the camera. “You’re going down this time, Rogers.”

“Oh, using my last name, am I in trouble, Mr. President sir?”

Bucky’s brain errored and Cap managed a headshot/dash combo and killed him again.

Chat was having a field day.

BonesBonesBones: DID YOU SEE PREZ’S FACE WHEN CAP CALLED HIM SIR
FartsGalore411: prez what the fuck man
GandyCal: holy shit are they flirting
poboy420: is this now the prez and cap show
Becksterrrr: BRO I SAW THAT YOU CREEP
pelicanhats: @BonesBonesBones i ship it
FartsGalore411:
minimisi: prez can we keep him
PrezBot1: No links in chat, this is a warning @FartsGalore411
BonesBonesBones: @Becksterrrr haha
JessicaYES: back to Widow, your genji is just embarrassing, Prez
billyboiii: @THECapRogers you can call me sir anytime you want

“Okay, this is my come back,” Bucky said, ignoring the inevitable “come” jokes in chat and switching them to McCree, the cowboy sharpshooter. He sneaked around the map using flanking routes until he found Cap, then crouched to hide the sound of his footsteps and followed him as he searched for Bucky.

“Where are you?” Cap demanded. “Come out and play. You a coward, James?”

“James?” Bucky echoed, trying to remember when Cap might have learned his name.

“The fifteenth president, James Buchanan. Given your alt’s name, I’m catching the theme.”

Someone donated $3.50 with the question, “Does Cap know every president’s name?”

Bucky asked, and when Cap started rattling off the presidents in order, he burst out laughing. “No, stop,” he gasped, when Cap got to James Polk. “You can’t possibly know every single president in order.”

“I didn’t even get to you!” Cap complained. “Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan.”

“Abraham Lincoln,” Bucky continued, because he did at least know that.

“Nice,” Cap said. “Where are you hiding on this map!”

Bucky stunned him and unloaded a full round into his head. “Right behind you,” he gloated.

After a few more matches, Bucky told Cap to hang on, and then said his goodnight to chat. He exited out of the stream, made sure everything was closed down, and came back to the voice chat in Overwatch.

“Thanks for coming on and playing with me tonight,” Bucky said to Cap, not bothering to put them into a queue.

“Thanks for inviting me,” Cap said easily. “Cheered me up.”

“Me, too.” A pause. “Work travel, huh?”

Cap sighed. “Yeah, it was… stressful. I’m glad to be back.”

“I’m glad you’re back,” Bucky said without thinking.

There was a little pause, then Cap said, “Yeah?” The way Bucky could hear a smile in his voice warmed his stomach. “You miss me, James?”

“Now you know what I look like and my name,” Bucky complained, avoiding the question and the extra heat from hearing his name said in that low voice. “No fair.”

“You know my name,” Cap said dryly.

“Let me guess,” Bucky drawled. “Steve? Steve Rogers?”

“That’s the one,” Cap answered with a laugh.

“Sure, sure,” Bucky grumbled. “One day I’ll squeeze it out of you.”

“You’ll be disappointed,” came the reply.

“Yeah, nobody can measure up to the man himself,” Bucky agreed. “But you chose to pretend to be Captain fucking America, so it’s your own fault.”

“Ha. Hey, I might be in the market for a bike. Got recommendations?”

“Yeah,” Bucky said, excited. “Come by my shop, I’ll hook you up.”

“Are you in New York?” Cap asked.

“Yep. Brooklyn,” Bucky said. “Get a pen, I’ll give you the address.”

After Cap took the address, he said, “Thanks. I’ll be by soon, tomorrow if I can.”

“Cool. Looking forward to meeting you.”

“You say that now,” Cap sighed.

Bucky laughed. “Come on man, I’m not gonna be disappointed that you’re not the actual Captain America. You’ll still be the best Steve Rogers in my book.”

Cap just chuckled a little nervously. “I should try to get some sleep. See you.”


Chapter Text

“Holy shit,” Bucky said, staring slack-jawed at none other than Captain fucking America, who was standing in his bike shop, looking decidedly uncomfortable. “No fucking way.”

“I tried to warn you,” Steve said miserably.

“Holy shit,” Bucky repeated.

Steve looked like he was trying to hide his face in his own shoulders, the way he hunched up with embarrassment.

“How the— what is— Falcon just… knows you?”

“Uh, yeah, well, Falcon is… you know, like, Falcon.”

Bucky stared, uncomprehending for a minute, until his brain caught up. “So I just… casually play Overwatch with two of the Avengers.”

“Sam isn’t— well, basically, yeah.”

“But you donated $20 to me.”

Steve gave him a bewildered look. “Yeah?”

“You’re… you can’t give me money. You're like a national treasure or something, isn’t that like… stealing tax money?”

Now Steve looked pained. “Please, don’t—James, I’m not… Maybe this was a bad idea.”

It hit Bucky, then, just how rude that had been. Sure, Cap was actually Cap, but Bucky had gotten to know him a little over the last month and it wasn’t like that all just went away. “No, no, wait. Oh my god, I’m so sorry. Here, can we start over? I swear this time I won’t suggest you aren’t a real person with your own money that you’re allowed to spend however you want.”

Steve cracked a little smile, his shoulders relaxing an inch. “Okay.”

“Okay, cool. Hey, man, good to meet you. I’m James,” he offered, extending his hand.

Steve accepted and shook his hand, and Bucky carefully schooled his expression to not let the whole extent of his awestruck inner monologue (HOLY SHIT HE WAS SHAKING CAPTAIN AMERICA’S HAND) show. “Hi James, I’m Steve.”

“You looking for a bike?”

They spent the next half hour talking bikes, Bucky showing Steve different options and what was available for different price ranges. After a while Steve settled on a mid-range commuter bike, one that could get some decent speeds and was good for roads in the city, but was also comfortable and reasonably safe.

Business done, Steve said, “I’m starved. You got a lunch break around now?”

“Did you time your visit so you could ask me to lunch?” Bucky asked, leaning his arms on the counter and smiling.

Steve gave him a calculating look. “Maybe,” he said, a sly smirk tugging at the corners of his mouth.

“Maybe?” Bucky repeated. “Seems like it’s a yes or no kind of question, Cap.”

“Well, the answer depends.”

“On what?”

“On whether you’re the kind of guy who’d be flattered if I said that yes, I did plan it that way.”

Bucky’s inner monologue was now screaming something like CAPTAIN AMERICA IS FLIRTING WITH YOU AND WANTS TO KNOW IF YOU’RE INTO DUDES, SAY SOMETHING. He said, “Um.”

Steve’s face started to fall and thankfully that’s when Bucky’s brain and mouth started to reconnect. He shook his head. “No no no, wait—I mean. Yes. Yes I am that kind of guy.”

It was unfair, really, how the grin that lit Steve’s face was brighter than the sun. What was a guy to do? Except fall hard on his ass right then and there.

Shit.

As they walked to a nearby sub shop, Bucky remembered something. “You said I’d be disappointed,” he said abruptly.

“What?”

“You said I’d be disappointed when I met you, but you actually are Captain America.”

Steve grimaced. “I didn’t mean you’d be disappointed that I’m him. I meant… you’d be disappointed that he’s me.”

Now it was Bucky’s turn to say, “What?”

“You know,” Steve said uncomfortably. “Isn’t it a little… underwhelming for Captain America to be the dorky guy in your chat bickering with Yankees fans? Or falling off the side of the map because I can’t figure out how to conserve fuel when I’m Pharah?”

Bucky blinked at him incredulously. “Are you kidding? Underwhelming? It’s amazing.” He shook his head. “Those are the things I liked about you in the first place. Why would I like them less just because you’re also actually Cap?”

Steve looked at him a little sideways, smiling a bit. “Most people don’t want me to be so human, I guess.”

Bucky rolled his eyes. “But you are human.”

With a laugh, Steve shoved his shoulder very gently. Any harder and Bucky probably would have staggered under the push. “I guess so. Come on, I’ve heard this place is pretty good. You been here before?”

“A sandwich shop this close to my bike shop? All the damn time. Try the number 3, you won’t be disappointed.”


Bucky immediately called his sister as soon as he was off his bike from his commute home, still fishing apartment keys out of his backpack and climbing his steps.

“Beck,” he said as soon as she answered, pushing through the front door with the phone squeezed between his ear and shoulder. “Guess what.”

“What, what’s wrong, are you okay?”

He kicked off his shoes and hung his backpack up on the coat pegs near the front door. “I’m fine, why do you think something is wrong?”

“You sound weird.”

He rolled his eye, snatching up his coffee mug from the morning as he passed the kitchen counter and lowering it into the sink as he passed. “Becca. This is what I sound like when I’m excited.”

“You sound constipated when you’re excited?” she said distractedly.

“Oh my god, I was going to tell you about how I met that guy I play with in person—”

“Wait, you mean the ‘THECapRogers’ guy? Holy shit! How did you meet him?”

He grinned. “He came by to buy a bike.”

“That’s an expensive excuse for meeting you.”

“It wasn’t an excuse! He really wanted a bike!”

Bucky could practically hear the eyeroll in Becca’s voice as she responded, “Sure he did. Well, is he hot?”

He hesitated. He hadn’t confirmed with Steve that he could tell anyone about his identity but… it was his sister and honestly, how was he supposed to keep this to himself? “He’s so hot, Beck.”

“Yes! I knew it. Even his voice is sexy. Well? Tell me about him! Was he like… into you?”

“I dunno, it kinda seemed like it,” he said doubtfully. How self-absorbed did he have to be to actually entertain the thought that Captain America might be into him? And yet…. He told the story of Steve coming by the shop, and the request to have lunch together.

“Wait,” Becca interrupted. “He said that? Just like that? The ‘are you the kind of guy’ line?”

“Yep,” Bucky confirmed, finally flopping onto his couch and laying back, a grin splitting his face as Becca crooned with laughter.

“No! That’s so cute! He’s definitely into you, Bear.”

“But, Becks, he’s… he’s out of my league,” Bucky said, trying to figure out how to tell her.

“Whatever, that’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever said. Nobody is out of anybody’s league if you like each other. Besides, you’re hot.”

“Ew,” he said, but it was just a joke. Only a year apart in age, he and Becca had always been close, and upon growing into their mutual interest in men, they had grown comfortable talking to each other about all sorts of topics. She snorted a laugh and waited for him to actually respond. “It’s just… what if… okay, I’m gonna say something and it’s gonna sound crazy, but I swear to dog that I’m not kidding.”

‘Swear to dog’ had been an agreed upon term among the Barnes children for signalling that they were 100% serious, ever since they had been little. Given the shared family penchant for pranking, it had been an almost sacred phrase. Nobody had ever broken the pact to only invoke the words in seriousness, at least to Bucky’s knowledge.

“Okay?” she prompted, voice growing curious and slightly concerned.

Bucky took a deep breath. “He’s… actually… Captain America.” Silence. “Like the real deal. I swear, Becca, I swear I’m not making this up.”

“Bucky,” she said, tone cautionary. “If you’re pulling something—”

“I swear, I’m not breaking the pact. He’s actually… THE Cap Rogers. Like… the name is not a joke.”

“Holy shit, you’re not kidding.”

“I’m really not.”

“Holy shit.”

“Yeah.”

“Oh my god, Bucky. Oh my god.”

A few minutes went by like this, ending with both of them cracking up at the sheer absurdity of the idea of the actual superhero sitting on his computer watching Bucky stream on Twitch.

“Are you seeing him again?” Becca asked finally as their laughter settled.

“I don’t know, we didn’t really make a plan but it was… really fun, you know? It felt right,” Bucky said, feeling that glowing nervous energy in his stomach as he said the words. “It would be weird, though, right? Dating Steve Rogers?”

“I dunno, he’s just another guy looking for someone to love, right? Like, his day job is a little intense, but you’ve been to war. You know what it’s like to be around soldiers. It’s not so different.”

“Aliens and gods are a little different than insurgents,” Bucky drawled.

She scoffed. “You know what I mean. So he’s a little different than your average guy, but not in ways that count. He’s probably lonely, Buck, god. Can you even imagine? He must feel like everyone in the world who understands him is gone, everything he knew is changed. All his war buddies, his old flames… gone, you know? Just like that, a blink of an eye for him, more than seventy years for America.”

“Yeah,” Bucky breathed, really thinking about it for the first time. When Steve had shown up to his shop, it had been a whirlwind, no time to think about the actual situation. But now that Becca was mentioning it…. “God. Poor guy.”

She sighed. “Be careful, Bear. If he’s serious, you better be, too. That man deserves something good. If he’s not toying with you, don’t toy with him.”

“I wouldn’t, Becks. You know I wouldn’t.”

“I know,” she agreed. “Now get on Overwatch and I’ll play with you so maybe he’ll log on and I can talk to him.”

Bucky didn’t need to be told twice. He loved playing with Becca but she didn’t play much, busy as she was. She had never been as into video games as him, but she was mechanically skillful, so it was always fun to play together.

He got onto the alt account that Steve knew and waited for a minute until Becksterrrr came online, then they grouped up and joined a quickplay queue to warm up. A few minutes later, Laura came online and joined the group, excited to see Becca online for the first time in months. They played two matches, and then Bucky’s stomach did a little flip as he saw THECapRogers come online.

[THECapRogers]: Can I join?
THECapRogers was invited to the group.
THECapRogers joined the group.
THECapRogers joined the voice channel (4/4 players).

“Evening, all,” Steve said.

A chorus of hellos, Becca’s a little breathless.

“Cap, meet Beckster. Beckster, Cap,” Bucky said.

“Ah, the infamous sister, right?” Steve said, smile in his voice.

“That’s me,” Becca quipped. “Nice to meet you, kind of.”

Steve laughed and Bucky’s stomach did that flip again at the sound. “You too, kind of.”

“So, Cap,” Becca began slyly as they played around in a skirmish, waiting for a new match. Bucky groaned, knowing that tone of voice. “Bucky tells me you came by for a bike today.”

“Bucky?” Steve repeated, confused.

“Oh, did he introduce himself as James?” Becca said as Laura laughed. “Well, he must have really wanted to make a good impression.”

“Rebecca,” Bucky said pleadingly. “Bucky is a kid’s name.”

“It’s cute!” she protested. “Besides, only people who don’t really know you call you James.”

“That’s not true,” he insisted.

“Who calls you James?” she demanded as Steve and Laura laughed.

“Steve, for one,” he shot back, and then there was a long pause as everyone processed his use of Cap’s first name.

“Your name is actually Steve?” Laura asked.

“Yep,” Cap confirmed, a little wary.

“Nice,” she said, and then moved on. “But really, nobody calls him James. His army buds call him Barnes or Sarge, streamers and the gaming community call him Prez, and family and close friends call him Bucky.”

“People could call me James,” Bucky complained as they finally were matched with a few random people for an actual game. “People at the store call me James.”

“Because they don’t know you,” Becca countered.

“No self-respecting 28-year-old calls himself Bucky,” Bucky whined, sounding a little too petulant even to his own ears. “Did you really want me to introduce myself to Cap as Bucky?”

“I like it,” Steve said loyally. “It’s got personality.”

Becca cackled. “I like you,” she declared as she locked in on her favorite Overwatch hero, Reaper. “You sticking around?”

“I hope so,” Steve said happily. “As long as you guys want me to.”

“Bucky, I’m giving him your phone number,” Becca said, and Laura lost it laughing as Bucky sputtered and groaned about his sister’s meddling.

[Becksterrrr]: but seriously i am
[Becksterrrr]: he’s a gem, pls keep him
To [Becksterrrr]: y did i agree to this
Quueenie switched to Zenyatta (was Ana).
Madimicki (Roadhog): Hello!
[THECapRogers]: Did she really just give me your phone number?
To [THECapRogers]: probably
[THECapRogers]: If you don’t want me to have it, I won’t save it.
To [THECapRogers]: u can save it
To [Becksterrrr]: ...thanks, i think


Chapter Text

Two days later, Bucky was rushing to get out the door for work when his phone dinged.

Unknown number (7:13 AM): Hey. It’s Steve. Is it okay if I text you?

Bucky grinned at the message. Yeah, of course, he sent back, grabbing a granola bar and his keys before hauling his bike into the hall and locking up after himself. He put the phone away reluctantly and started his ride to work, desperate to see if Steve had replied the whole way.

When he got to the shop, he checked his messages while unlocking the front door and letting himself in, only a minute or two late. Didn’t really matter. That was the best part about working for himself: nobody cared if the shop opened precisely at 7:30.

Unknown number (7:21 AM): Great. Would you like a coffee? I’m in the area near your shop and could come by.
you buying?
Actually Captain America (7:33 AM): Yes.
then sure, big and black, like my soul
Actually Captain America (7:33 AM): You got it.

He thumbed over to his text conversation with Becca. I’m not promising anything but it would be a really good morning to come visit your dear old brother at work.

Beckster (7:34 AM): IF YOU’RE SAYING WHAT I THINK YOU’RE SAYING YOU BETTER BE SERIOUS
Beckster (7:39 AM): ON MY WAY, YOU BETTER BE SERIOUS
act casual, I swear to god becks

At 7:45, Steve walked through the front door, two coffees in hand. “Morning,” he called.

“Hey,” Bucky greeted him with a grin. He could tell the smile was too big and too sincere, but he couldn’t help it. Steve was a beautiful man, and he had just casually “been in the area” to bring him coffee for his early morning shift at the shop.

Steve handed off the coffee, which was indeed big and black, and Bucky gratefully accepted it, taking a big slurp. He’d made a cup at home, but he had slept in later than intended and hadn’t had time to finish it.

“You want to stick around for a while? I’m just doing some basic repairs this morning.”

“I wouldn’t be in your way?” Steve asked, brightening at the offer.

“Nah, but sometimes I get early morning commuter traffic, people bringing their bikes by before their workday starts, so I might have to deal with them and you’ll have to wait. My assistant doesn’t come in until the afternoon.”

“That’s fine,” Steve said, shrugging. “I don’t always have much to do during the day when there isn’t, you know,” he trailed off, waving vaguely toward the city.

“A world-ending disaster in progress?” Bucky supplied with a grin.

Steve rolled his eyes, smiling. “Yeah, that.”

Bucky gestured to indicate Steve should follow him, then made his way to the workroom in the back and pointed to a chair. “You can sit there, if you want,” he said, then grabbed the bike he was working on and settled down next to it, beginning to pull the flat tires off the rims and take the inner tubing out of each for inspection.

“How’d you get into fixing bikes?” Steve asked, watching Bucky closely as he ran his hands over the inner tubes carefully, relying as much on his hands as his eyes.

“After I came back from Iraq, cycling was one of the things that helped me get through my depression,” he said, mostly focused on what he was doing. He’d told this story enough times that it flowed out of him pretty easily without having to think too hard. “When I was a kid, my bike was one of the only things that I had all to myself, and it got me out of the house when things were hard. So when I had just come home, and things were hard, it felt kind of natural to go back to it. And I always fixed up mine and my sisters’ bikes since we never had any money as kids, so I already had most of the know-how. Anyway, I like using my hands and brain to build and fix things, and there are always bikes that need fixing.”

He bit his tongue before he could keep rambling, shooting a nervous glance at Steve over the tube he was now reattaching to the rim. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “Didn't mean to blather on and bore you.”

“I'm not bored,” Steve said simply, eyes fixed on Bucky. “I'm glad you told me.”

Before Bucky could reply, the front door bell tinkled. “Be right there!” he yelled, then set his current project down and said to Steve, “Hang here? I'll be back in a minute.” Steve nodded.

In the front, he found his sister curiously peering about the shop.

“Hey, Becks,” he said, coming around the counter to give her a hug. “Fancy seeing you here.”

“I was in the mood to see you,” she said with a wink.

“Aww,” he said, and they shared a conspiratorial grin. Then he saw Becca’s eyes fixate on a point behind him and go wide as saucers.

“Oh my god,” she said.

Steve must have heard Bucky’s greeting and recognized Becca’s name, so he had emerged from the workroom. He chuckled awkwardly and waved a hand in greeting. “I think that's what James said, too.”

“Bucky,” Becca corrected automatically, still staring.

“He introduced himself as James, ma'am, so I'll call him James unless he says otherwise.”

Becca mouthed “ma'am” in horror while Bucky laughed. “Man, you brought me coffee and listened while I droned on about bikes. You can call me Bucky.” He gestured at Becca. “Steve, meet my little sister Becca. Becks, this is Steve. Uh. Steve Rogers. He's, you know. THECapRogers.”

Becca performed ‘surprised’ admirably, probably because it was shocking to meet someone so famous whether or not you knew it was going to happen. Not that much acting to it, Bucky figured.

“So, Captain America,” Becca said, visibly gathering herself.

Steve smiled and spread his hands helplessly. “So they say.”

“You just casually bring my brother coffee now?”

He shrugged. “Well, today I did.”

“Mhm,” she said suspiciously.

Steve smiled disarmingly. “What can I say, I like your brother’s shop. It’s relaxing to be here.”

Becca smiled back. “Can’t argue there,” she said, to Bucky’s surprise. “It’s like the crazy bustle of the city out there—” she gestured behind her toward the shop’s entry— “just kind of stops existing for a while when you’re in here.”

Steve nodded. “Exactly.”

Bucky looked between them with some surprise while herding them all to the backroom again where his coffee was still sitting. “Really?” he asked. “I mean, I kind of feel that way but I also spend my time here zoned out fixing bikes all day.”

His sister looked around the repair room fondly. “It’s like being kids again, a little. Like you’ve recreated our little safe havens from childhood.” She and Bucky shared a pained, nostalgic look, and then she added, “Except better than that.”

“Yeah,” Bucky agreed, at once pleased with Becca’s assessment and unsettled by it. Between that and what he’d just said to Steve, maybe he needed to own up to the fact that he was trying to reclaim his childhood or something. That sounded like something he’d need to talk out with a therapist, if he ever actually saw one. He shook his head to clear it. “Did you need something, Becca?”

“What? Oh, yeah. Just wanted to let you know that Jillian’s going out of town in a week and needs a house sitter. I told her you’d do it.”

Bucky gave his sister a flat stare. He hadn’t really expected her to have news for him, since he’d been the one to invite her out to the shop to meet Steve in the first place. “You what?”

“Come on, you like house sitting for Jill, and none of the rest of us can get off work so easy.”

“You don’t know that I can get off work that easily!” Bucky protested.

Becca rolled her eyes, reaching over and taking a swig of Bucky’s coffee. “Please. You can stream from Jill’s and just have your regulars here at the shop make appointments with your assistant, whatshisname, if they need you. It’s only an hour or two away, you can still come in and work if you need to.”

Bucky sighed. “Tell Jill to text me the dates,” he said, snatching his coffee back. “And go buy your own coffee.”

She laughed and gathered her things, already heading back toward the door. “Thanks, Buck! See you later! Nice to meet you, Steve.”

“You, too!”

And she was gone.

Bucky sighed. “My little sister, everyone,” he said, as if inviting a round of applause for a performer.

Steve laughed. “I like her!”

Bucky smiled and shook his head. “I do too. She’s a handful though.”

“Does she always just volunteer you for things?” Steve asked.

Before he could help it, Bucky felt his face twist up a little at the question. He knew Steve noticed by the way he immediately looked apologetic, recognizing that he had somehow stepped into something more serious than just a meddling sister. “You don’t have to answer, sorry. I didn’t mean to be nosy,” he said quickly.

Sighing, Bucky turned his attention back to the bike he had been working on before Becca arrived. “No, it’s… it’s fine. I just—it’s something she started doing after I came back.”

He chanced an almost shy glance at Steve, relieved to find only grim understanding. He didn’t need clarification.

“She thinks I need to be more social or something, I dunno. It’s fine. Usually. I know she’s just doing it because she cares, but…” he trailed off.

“But she doesn’t really get it?” Steve supplied.

“Yeah,” Bucky agreed. “She means well and more often than not, her help is actually useful. She actually did some research and stuff, you know? Learned about—” he cut off, looked away.

They sat in silence for a minute while Bucky fished around in his disorganized pile of supplies, looking for the right size chain to replace the one that was damaged on one of the bikes he had in his backlog. As he pulled the broken one off, the oil got all over his hands and he paused, looking for a rag to wipe them with before starting on the next task.

He turned around and saw Steve holding a towel out.

“Thanks,” he muttered, taking it and wiping his hands.

“Sure. You have some on your face, too.”

Bucky scrubbed at his face a bit, then turned his attention back to the bike.

“When I woke up,” Steve said, a few minutes later, “they tried to pretend like I wasn’t in the future. You know, a whole fake hospital setup that was supposed to look like it was from the 40s.” Bucky looked up from where he was tightening a bolt, wiping at his face with his shoulder. Steve was leaning forward in his chair with his elbows braced on his knees, hands clasped. His eyes were trained on the wrench in Bucky’s hand, so Bucky turned his own attention back to his work and waited for Steve to continue. He didn't need to wait long.

“I just about killed the poor girl they’d brought in to act like the nurse. You know, for as much information as you have at your fingertips these days, they did a piss poor job of imitating the look of the 40s. Maybe to someone who had lived through the intervening years, it would’ve looked right, but….” From the corner of his eye, Bucky saw Steve shake his head, rueful expression on his face. “Her makeup, her hair… even the fabric of her uniform. It was all just a little off. Didn’t help that they had a Dodgers game on from ‘41 and I crashed the plane in ‘45.”

“Must have been quite a shock,” Bucky said after a moment.

“I can’t really describe it,” Steve agreed, glancing up for a second. When their eyes met, Steve forced a smile, the kind that didn’t reach his eyes but was clearly meant to convey that he was fine.

Bucky found himself hating that smile, when he had previously thought it impossible to hate anything about Steve’s face.

“Don’t,” Bucky said. “You don’t have to do that.”

“Do what?”

“The thing where you act like it doesn’t matter,” Bucky said, gesturing at Steve’s face with the wrench. “It does matter. That shit is fucked up, and you don’t have to pretend like it isn’t.”

Steve arched an eyebrow, then dropped his gaze and huffed a laugh. “Most of the time,” he said quietly, flicking his eyes back up to Bucky’s, “I do.”

Bucky felt it for real then, the pressure put on this man’s shoulders. It was one thing to watch him on TV destroying world-ending threats. From that kind of distance, it seemed like there couldn’t be anyone more in control of his own life. To be that powerful, well… Bucky could see the appeal. But up close, he was seeing a different story unfolding.

“Well,” he said, tossing his head a little to get his hair out of his eyes, “you said the shop feels like a little… oasis, from all that, right? So you can just knock that shit off while you’re here, okay?”

Steve smiled again, and it was real, made his already handsome face almost blinding to look at. “Yeah, okay. Thanks, Bucky.”

Bucky’s heart warmed at hearing Steve say his name, and the smile that spread on his own face was completely involuntary. “Cool,” he muttered, ducking his head and going back to his work.


Steve came by just about every day after that, until Bucky joked about just offering him a job. When he looked like he was actually considering it, Bucky laughed so hard he couldn’t breathe. “No way, can you even imagine? We’d never have a minute’s peace.”

Usually he arrived with coffee first thing and left before lunchtime, off to do whatever it was Avengers did during the day when the world wasn’t ending. Two days before his house sitting gig, Bucky waited for his coffee delivery, but instead got a chime on his phone.

Actually Captain America (7:52 AM): Not going to be by today. Avengers stuff came up.
should i find a bomb shelter?
Actually Captain America (7:55 AM): Ha. No need. This is more along the lines of ‘political nightmare’ than ‘aliens trying to kill us all.’
good luck
Actually Captain America (7:57 AM): Thanks.


how’s the political nightmare stuff going?
Actually Captain America (9:32 PM): Sorry, haven’t been paying attention to my phone. It’s… nightmarish.
no worries. That sucks, you hanging in okay?
Actually Captain America (9:33 PM): For now. Starting to get that restless feeling, though, you know? I’m no good at sitting through meetings but everyone thinks I am for some reason.
it’s your boyish charm. Your fault for being so handsome.
Actually Captain America (9:36 PM): I’ll work on that.
so can i expect coffee from an ugly Steve tomorrow?
Actually Captain America (9:37 PM): Sadly, no. I’m stuck in DC for at least another day, probably two.

Bucky frowned. With him leaving after work tomorrow to go to Jillian’s, that meant he wouldn’t see Steve until after returning from his house sitting stint in the suburbs. Which was… fine. Totally fine.

Oh god.

He covered his face with a hand and groaned. No, this was fine. This wasn’t anything. This was like… a friend crush. A bromance. Nothing more. He was just starstruck at having a famous friend. Who was really hot. And muscly. And funny. And thoughtful. And…

Nope.

Definitely not anything.


Chapter Text

Bucky made it to Jillian’s by 8:00 the following night and let himself in. He had a key to her place, so she had actually left hours ago and the house was empty, waiting for him.

He found the customary note from his aunt sitting on the counter.


Bucky,

Thanks for agreeing to look after the house. Your room is all set up, as usual. Will you send me a text when you get in so I know everything is okay? Food and drinks in the fridge are for you, got all your favorites. Feel free to have friends out to the house if you want!

Love, J

He sent a quick text to let Jill know he was at the house, then took his bag upstairs to the room his aunt had set aside for him. When he had started streaming, she had immediately asked him about the equipment he used and what his ideal streaming setup would be, then bought him a full rig for her house so that he could easily stream while house sitting. It was generous, as Jillian always was. She always enthusiastically supported the things he and his sisters liked, sometimes with little regard to how important the interest actually was.

It did make house sitting more viable for him, though, since he could stream full-time during his time away from work and that always brought in more subscriptions and more donations. His assistant at the shop would keep things running enough to not lose any major business there, so all told, his aunt’s enthusiasm for his streaming side-job and her frequent travel meant Bucky had a chance every now and again to really focus on growing the stream.

He booted up the computer and initiated the patching process for Overwatch, since the game hadn’t been touched on this PC since the last time he’d been out to house sit some four months ago.

While the game updated, he checked his phone.

Jillian (8:06 PM): Glad to hear you made it safe, kiddo. Waiting for the connecting flight in London. I’ll check in with you tomorrow!
thanks aunt j, hope you have a good flight

He then sent a tweet announcing he’d be on to stream in half an hour, giving him plenty of time to make sure the broadcasting software and everything else was up-to-date. His followers knew he’d be streaming late tonight, so he was pleased to see some quick replies and retweets among his more loyal fans.

When his thirty minutes were up, he was still waiting on one last update, so he started the stream and greeted everyone first, explaining that his computer was still finalizing patches.

“Hey, minimisi, welcome to the chat. ...am I streaming tomorrow? Yes, I should be streaming daily for longer hours for the next week or so. Yo, Thriller, good to see you back. … Thanks man, yeah, it’s gonna be a good night.”

The software finally finished restarting, so Bucky launched the game on his primary streaming account and fired up his usual arcade warmup.

The stream went well, but there was no sign of Steve or Becca throughout the evening. Nevertheless, his chat was keeping him laughing throughout the games and even through a few hard losses, Bucky kept his spirits up. By 10:45, he was exhausted and signed off, promising to be back on around noon the next day.

He double checked his phone, but nothing from Steve. He ignored his disappointment and went to bed.


Bucky came back from a snack and bathroom break the next day around 6:00 pm, ready for a few more hours of streaming. Full-time streamers did this all the time, and honestly, he didn’t think he could do it long-term. Sure, he was pulling in way more viewers from streaming during the day hours and for longer chunks at a time, but sitting and only playing Overwatch all day? He’d done full time streaming before while house-sitting, and every time he would forget how grueling it could be. Maybe he’d introduce a few other games to his stream, just for variety’s sake….

But not today. He started up the camera again and made sure the mic was picking up his voice, then put himself back in queue for a competitive match. He answered questions during the wait time, arguing with chat about some sports-related stuff, and, quietly, to himself, wishing Steve were there to back him up. Steve had solid sports opinions.

He checked the time. 6:25 pm. He checked his phone. No word from his secretly famous new friend.

Should Bucky text him? Would that be okay? He’d seemed willing enough to chat via text the other day… but how much was too much? Was it weird? They’d seen each other so many days in a row at the shop and then he was just whisked away to DC for something….

Shit, the match was starting, and he’d just been spaced out daydreaming about a man who was far too busy and important for him to be obsessing over. Chat was spamming emotes and jokes about him losing focus. He good-naturedly defended himself, accepting the shaming and deflecting the teasing questions about who had him so forlorn.

gigiohare: it’s THECapRogers, isn’t it
beaverdamN: prezWAT prezWAT prezWAT
huhu33huhu: what about Cap, @gigiohare
freeJosh: prez wake up! prezLOL
gigiohare: well he hasn’t been in the stream lately, has he?
gigiohare: prez is pining
hindsight2020: yeah where has Cap been
huhu33huhu: prez isn’t gay, don’t be gross

“Huhu,” Bucky cut in, turning his attention from chat back to the match as the countdown to attack started, “don’t bring that shit in here and don't make claims about me when you don't know me. I dunno where Cap’s been, chat. Chill.”

Of course, in the minds of his viewers, this only confirmed that he was in fact pining for his mysterious viewer/friend, but Bucky tuned out their speculation to focus on the game instead. … Except he couldn’t, quite, ignore it… His comment to huhu was generating a lot of speculation, but he’d always had rules against homophobia and such for his chat. Some of his long-time viewers were already pointing this out.

He got sniped from walking carelessly into an obvious sightline. His team took two more casualties and had to fall back to regroup.

“You with us, Prez?” one of his teammates asked, annoyed. It was a guy Bucky had encountered before in matches, and didn’t especially like to play with.

“Yeah, sorry. I’ll be careful,” he promised.

The match was tough and ended with a messy and barely-earned victory. A few key mistakes from the enemy sealed the deal more than any clutch plays from Bucky or his team.

An in-game private message popped up on his screen.

[THECapRogers]: Streaming?

Bucky felt his heart flutter as he blinked at the whispered message on his screen. He froze, debating what to respond, and only then did it occur to him that his viewers were watching him react. The message was private, sure… except that it was also being broadcast on his stream since all in-game chat was equally displayed by his broadcast software, which either showed his whole screen or none of it.

Shit. No doubt this would be clipped and he could see in real time just how fucked he was, which his chat was surely already blowing up about.

He dared a glance at chat. Oh yes. Cap/Prez shippers were out in force. The memes were unstoppable. The copypasta, spammed.

He sighed and responded, not wanting to make Steve wait.

To [THECapRogers]: aren’t u out of town?
[THECapRogers]: Got back in an hour ago.
To [THECapRogers]: and u got on ow right away?
[THECapRogers]: You’ve made me an addict.

Bucky knew what he meant, but damn, it would be nice to read more into that than there was. He hazarded another peak at chat and wished desperately that they would stop reading the signs so well. Why couldn’t they be clueless? Why couldn’t he be less obvious? Which reminded him….

To [THECapRogers]: yeah, i am streaming btw. check ur phone

He grabbed his cell and sent a text.

streaming for another hour or two, probably won’t play after that. Been on all day.
Actually Captain America (7:01 PM): Too bad. Maybe a game tomorrow, then?
i’ll be streaming tomorrow too, kinda what i do while at Jillian’s
Actually Captain America (7:02 PM): Oh, that’s right. I forgot you were gone.
Actually Captain America (7:02 PM): So I guess I can’t come by the shop with coffee tomorrow, huh?
i mean you can if you want, but i won’t be there
Actually Captain America (7:03 PM): Hilarious. That’s too bad, I was looking forward to it.
brb match starting
Actually Captain America (7:04 PM): I know, I’m watching you.
Actually Captain America (7:04 PM): Your stream, I mean.

Bucky laughed and shook his head. “Creeper,” he said to the camera, knowing Steve would understand the joke.

As he selected his hero and checked in with his teammates about team comp, he glanced back at chat and saw Steve had said something. Now chat was filled with prezLove emotes and people cheering for Cap’s presence. Bucky shook his head. Steve really did inspire people to look up to him everywhere he went.

When the match was over, he focused on being a good streamer and responding to his chat for a while before playing the rest of his matches, even though he was dying to text Steve again. Finally he logged off and shut everything down, and just minutes after signing off of Twitch, his phone dinged.

The butterflies in his stomach were absolutely just hunger because he hadn’t had dinner yet.

Actually Captain America (8:37 PM): How long are you gone?
8 more days

Bucky hesitated, then wrote in a rush, you could come out and hang with me here if you want.

Actually Captain America (8:40 PM): Really?
Actually Captain America (8:40 PM): Wouldn’t your friend be mad if you had guests?
my aunt, and nah, she doesn’t care. She encourages me to have people over
kinda like Becca. Pushier since I came home
Actually Captain America (8:41 PM): Oh. Are you sure though?
are you kidding? Of course. Who would pass up the chance to see Captain America trying to survive the suburbs?
Actually Captain America (8:42 PM): I’ve heard only horror stories of these fabled suburbs.
Actually Captain America (8:42 PM): Are you safe out there, James?
come rescue me
Actually Captain America (8:43 PM): I doubt you need my help.
Actually Captain America (8:43 PM): Okay in seriousness though, I could use a little break. So if you’re sure?
dude, yes. I’ll send you the address and you can come whenever and for as long as you want
Actually Captain America (8:45 PM): Would it be weird if I came over right now?

Bucky tried to think of a response, wanting to express how much that would be fine while also not sounding desperate. Before he could manage, though, Steve had sent another text.

Actually Captain America (8:46 PM): I just need a friend right now.

His heart in his throat, Bucky sent back, me too. See you in a few hours?


Steve had less traffic to deal with and a Tony-Stark-improved motorcycle to ride, so it took him less time than it had taken Bucky to drive out to Jillian’s. The time still dragged for Bucky, who, despite being very tired, now felt nervously energetic.

His phone rang. He snatched it up, butterflies swarming as he saw “Actually Captain America” across the screen.

“Hello?”

“Okay I’m outside the address you sent me but are you sure this is right?” Steve said in a rush. “I mean, it’s the biggest house I’ve ever seen.”

“You live in Stark Tower, Steve,” Bucky said, rolling his eyes as he made his way to the door.

“Yes, and that’s a tower,” Steve drawled.

Bucky opened the front door and for a second they stood, Bucky in the doorframe, Steve by his parked bike, phones pressed to ears and staring at each other. Then Steve waved his free hand and said, into the phone, “Hey.”

Bucky laughed. “You coming in?”

“Guess so,” Steve said, then he opened the back compartment of the motorcycle and took out a little bag. When he slung it over his broad shoulder, it looked ridiculously small.

Bucky hung up his phone as Steve approached, stepping back from the doorway to let him enter.

“So your aunt lives in a mansion, huh?”

Bucky laughed. “I dunno if I’d say mansion,” he said, closing and locking the door, “but yeah. She’s the vice president of acquisition for this big import furniture company, so she has money to spare. And she travels a lot.”

“So you house sit for her while she’s out of the country?” Steve surmised, looking around the foyer and taking in the well furnished, richly decorated interior.

“Pretty much. Sometimes one of my sisters does, but Becca was right. It’s easiest for me, of all of us.”

“But you have to leave your job for a week or more at a time,” Steve pointed out.

“Yeah, but I can because I work for myself. The girls all have more traditional jobs. Plus I make more money streaming while I’m out here than I do at the shop in the city.”

Bucky led Steve into the house, giving him a quick tour of the downstairs.

“And your aunt has all of this to herself?” Steve asked as they walked through a “formal” dining room (as opposed to the casual one two rooms over).

“Yeah. I think she secretly hoped some of us would come live with her,” Bucky admitted, “but none of us wanted to leave the city.”

“How many of you are there?”

“Four: me and then the three girls.” He gestured for Steve to follow him upstairs. “Jillian is my mom’s little sister, but she’s a lot younger than my mom. She was 13 when I was born, and she lived with us until she was 18. My mom pretty much raised her. She was more like a big sister to us than an aunt, I guess. But once she made it big with the company and all, she really stepped into the doting aunt role. Paid for Becca and Hannah to go to college, helped all of us get set up with our careers. She's definitely the reason I landed on my feet when I got back from Iraq.” He shook his head. “She’s really been our family’s rock for years now.”

Steve was watching Bucky as he spoke, smiling lightly. “She sounds amazing.”

“She is,” Bucky agreed with a grin. “Anyway, here’s my room.” He showed Steve the bedroom that Jillian had dedicated to him, complete with a king bed and top-of-the-line streaming rig. Steve whistled his appreciation.

“You can sleep in Becca’s room,” Bucky continued, “if you were planning to stay overnight? I mean, it’s kinda late and it would be a long drive back to—”

“Yeah, Becca’s room sounds fine,” Steve cut in. “If she won’t care.”

“Are you kidding? It’s all I’ll hear about for weeks. ‘Captain America slept in my bed!’” Bucky exclaimed, pitching his voice high to mock his sister’s. Steve laughed.

Finally the tour was done, Steve’s things deposited in Becca’s room. He’d also taken a moment to change out of his road gear into more comfortable lounging clothes, then met up with Bucky down in the living room.

“So,” Bucky said as Steve dropped onto the other end of the couch. “What brings you to my aunt’s humble abode at this hour?”

Steve groaned. “I just… ugh, what an awful trip it was, going to DC. Normally I like being in Washington, but….” He shook his head. “And then we got back to New York and I was really looking forward to coming by your shop tomorrow… my little oasis,” he said, smiling. “But then you reminded me you’d be gone and I just….” His smile fell, eyes dropping to his hands.

Bucky got it, though. “Needed somewhere to be Steve and not the Star-Spangled Man With A Plan?”

Their eyes met again, and Steve nodded. “Hope that’s okay,” he said uncertainly.

“Honestly, it makes me really happy,” Bucky said. “I mean, I think of my shop that way, but it’s nice to know you and Becca do, too.”

“We’re not at your shop right now,” Steve pointed out.

Bucky didn’t know how to respond to that. “Do you still feel like you’re Steve?”

Steve smiled. “Yeah,” he said. “I think that’s more attached to you than to the shop.”

“Oh,” Bucky said, heart pounding loud enough that Steve could probably hear it, even if his hearing wasn’t enhanced. Which it probably was. “Do you,” he squeaked, then stopped, cleared his throat, and tried again, “Uh. Do you want to talk about it? The trip to DC, I mean.”

“Actually? I’m starving,” Steve said a little sheepishly. “I know it’s late for dinner, but my metabolism is kinda crazy, and—”

“Say no more,” Bucky interrupted, getting to his feet and beckoning Steve to follow him to the kitchen. “Jillian always leaves me well-stocked. What sounds good?”

“Is that a pizza oven?” Steve asked.

Bucky grinned. “Sure is,” he confirmed, then shook his head apologetically. “But it takes forever to make pizza, because the oven has to heat and I make the dough and sauce from scratch. Tomorrow?”

Steve looked over at him, eyes holding his gaze with a serious look for a long minute before a smile spread slowly on his lips and he nodded. “Tomorrow. What’s on the menu tonight?”

“You,” Bucky didn’t say.

“Leftover spaghetti and meatballs?” Bucky said.

“Sounds good.”

As the pasta was heating, a thought came to Bucky. “Tomorrow!” he yelped. Steve raised an eyebrow, waiting. “I’m supposed to stream tomorrow. Are you going to stay?”

“Stay?”

“I mean, if we’re going to have pizza, you’ll have to stay all day,” Bucky explained. “Because I won’t have time to make it for lunch. It’ll have to be after the stream.”

“Oh,” Steve said, scratching at his neck. “I mean, I can stay all day, if you want me to.”

“Of course I do,” Bucky said distractedly, mind racing. “But I’ll be streaming.” He looked back at Steve with a calculating look. “Do you… want to stream with me?”

“What?”

Bucky started to get excited at the idea as he thought it through, pulling the plate of spaghetti from the microwave and handing it to Steve. “We can make sure your face isn’t on camera, but people in my chat love you. They think you’re funny and they go crazy speculating about our friendship every time I talk to you on stream. It’d be great.”

“I don’t have a computer here to play Overwatch with you, though,” Steve pointed out.

Bucky shook his head. “Not Overwatch. We can play all sorts of things. Jillian has all of our old consoles and I could set them up tonight—there’s racing games, fighting games…. Oh my god Steve, have you ever played Mario Kart? Or even just Mario? Like the classic Super Mario Bros? Or Duck Hunt? Holy shit, I wonder if our duck hunt guns are still here somewhere….”

“Guns?”

Bucky spent the rest of Steve’s meal explaining some classic games and trying to convince him to agree to stream classic co-op games.

“I’ll make you pizza,” he bargained.

“You were going to do that anyway!”

“I’ll make you… ice cream?”

Steve eyed him suspiciously. “Homemade ice cream?”

Bucky felt the thrill of triumph begin to spread in his chest. “Old school, classic vanilla? Like, the good kind of vanilla, not the bland stuff they sell these days.”

Steve sighed. “Fine.” Bucky hooted with victory, pumping his fist. “But it better be good pizza and ice cream.”

“You’re so easy to bribe,” Bucky cackled. “I’ve been trying to convince Becca to duo stream with me for months and she’s still holding out.”

“You mean I could have gotten fresh baked cookies out of you, too?” Steve asked, grinning.

“Man, I’ll still make you cookies,” Bucky answered, still laughing. He got out his phone and beckoned Steve in close.

“What?” Steve asked warily.

“I have to tweet my followers and let everyone know you’re going to join me tomorrow! Come on, a pic?”

Steve stepped away. “No way,” he said. “People get weird about me, Buck.”

Bucky rolled his eyes. “I’m not gonna put your face in it. We’ll make it something funny, like you just put a thumbs up in the frame. Or I’ll stand in front of you and we’ll get your chest and shoulder so you look stupidly tall or something.”

With another sigh, Steve nodded his consent. Bucky came in closer and stood with his back to Steve’s chest. Steve was tall, but not so tall that Bucky’s vision for the picture could be pulled off naturally, so Bucky crouched a little, then snapped a few shots in a row. Eventually he had one that looked like they were both standing straight despite the manipulation of heights. Bucky was grinning excitedly at the camera and pointing at Steve’s out-of-frame face, against the backdrop of Steve’s chest, left shoulder, and just a bit of his neck.

When Steve had approved the photo, he tweeted it with the message, “Guess who’s visiting and agreed to join the stream tomorrow? Hint, it isn’t @Becksterrrr. Join us at 12:00 ET to see this camera-shy guy learn classic games.”


Chapter Text

Streaming with Steve was every bit as entertaining as Bucky expected it to be. They spent time in the morning carefully setting up the room so that they could sit side-by-side to play games, but without Steve’s face ever ending up on camera. To accomplish this, they decided to haul one of Jillian’s two-seater couches up the stairs, a feat which Bucky was dreading until Steve single-handedly hoisted the couch into the air and jogged up the stairs with it as if it were made of foam.

“Show-off,” Bucky muttered, watching this with equal parts horror and arousal from the bottom of the stairs.

“Don’t act like you aren’t glad we didn’t have to spend twenty minutes laboring over that,” Steve yelled from where he had already disappeared into Bucky’s room upstairs, a laugh in his voice.

They used masking tape to carefully mark the boundaries of the webcam’s view, painstakingly positioning everything so that the viewers could see all of Bucky but only a bit of Steve, mostly for the humor of having 1.5 people in the cam feed.

Then, just to be sure, they also made a quick run to the local Target and got Steve a set of those silly disguise glasses that had the big nose, mustache, and bushy eyebrows attached. With a baseball cap and wearing an oversized hoodie that masked his body shape a bit, Steve was unrecognizable in the webcam view as they tested out the feed.

As a final precaution, Steve asked Tony if he could fake some “live” footage of Steve walking around Avengers Tower today and leak it to the press in an hour or two, nothing fancy, just enough that someone running a gossip rag or having to fill a slow newsday might say something like “Captain America back from D.C., already back to work at Avengers Tower.” Anyone suspicious about THECapRogers’ identity would likely be thrown off his scent easily enough by the much more likely, mundane scenario of Captain America hanging around his place of work rather than with a random video game player in the suburbs.

Satisfied that Captain America would not be discovered on a small-potatoes streamer’s feed today, they tweeted a picture with Bucky grinning as Steve held the Duck Hunt gun and made a very serious face that was almost completely hidden behind the silly face of the glasses disguise. They also cropped it so that only about half of Steve’s disguised face was visible.

Having decided to take a “hiding in plain sight” approach, Steve suggested the caption, “Is @THECapRogers really THE Cap Rogers? You’ll never know,” to which Bucky added, “See you in 30 minutes when we begin this deprived soul’s classic games education.” The tweet from the night before had garnered a lot of attention, so he wasn’t surprised when this one immediately prompted a rapid influx of notifications. As with almost all of his twitter notifications, he ignored them.

With his last few minutes of free time before the stream, Bucky hurriedly prepped the pizza ingredients as much as possible to speed the process along later. It was a relief to have something to take his attention, or he thought he might have gone crazy with anticipation.

Finally, it was time to go live, and Bucky pulled the trigger on the webcam and microphone. His channel had over 500 people tuned in before he had even gone live, which was more than he had expected by a longshot.

“Citizens,” Bucky greeted the chat as usual, “another fine day in America.”

He waited through the storm of hellos and greetings, answering his regulars and making a point to greet newcomers as much as he could, wanting to encourage them to stick around. Questions were flooding in about his guest, so he began his intro for the stream as he fired up the NES and made sure the stream was capturing properly.

“So you probably already know that I’m not playing Overwatch today, at least not for now,” Bucky said, watching the chat flood with sarcastic PrezWAT and PrezNo emotes. “My friend Cap here didn’t play video games growing up,” he explained, watching out of the corner of his eye as Steve leaned in with his disguise on for a second to wave at the camera shyly before quickly leaning back out of the frame. “I thought we’d all be in for a treat watching him struggle through some classics, what do you say?”

There were plenty of demands for Steve to show his face and lots of jokes about him being the real Steve Rogers. Just as many were demanding Bucky report on whether or not Cap was as hot as he seemed to them after their brief glimpse of his mustachioed face.

Ignoring chat was secondhand to Bucky, though not to Steve, who seemed ruffled by the attention. Recognizing this, Bucky started light-heartedly teasing his friend about the upcoming competition, getting Steve on more familiar ground with easy banter and shit-talking.

Then it was time for Duck Hunt, and after only one frustrated warm-up round of adjusting to the terribly calibrated “rifles,” Steve was stupidly good at it. Of course he was; Bucky shouldn’t have been surprised, but he couldn’t help it. Steve’s reaction time was… well, inhuman. He could snap the rifle back and forth faster than Bucky saw the birds, sometimes.

“Holy shit, Cap,” Bucky breathed as Steve managed to wield the Duck Hunt gun to a flawless victory. Getting every duck in the game wasn’t that impressive—the tech of the old systems wasn’t good enough for the game to present much of a challenge to people with both a reasonably good reaction time and good aim. What was impressive was that the later levels didn’t seem to pose any challenge to him, and Bucky was pretty sure if they timed it, Steve could set a new world record despite everyone having thought the game had been as played as rapidly as was humanly possible for years now.

“That was cute,” Steve said, and chat roared. “I like the dog.”

“I hated that dog as a kid,” Bucky admitted with a laugh. “I always thought he was mocking me.”

“He probably was,” Steve said smugly, “but I wouldn’t know.”

“Wow, asshole,” Bucky said dryly, taking the gun and resetting the game to play it himself.

He missed one duck.

Steve said, “I see what you mean about the dog mocking you.”

Bucky groaned. Chat was never going to let this one go. It would be clipped and sent to him for eternity. His career was over.

Except when he checked his stream numbers again, he had over 1,000 viewers, which was easily more than he had ever drawn by himself.

“Holy shit,” he breathed. “Wow, thanks so much everyone. I know Cap is very entertaining but this seems like a lot.”

One message stood out in chat.

Gabbyrella: buzzfeed featured your tweet this morning, did you not see it?

“What?” Bucky said. “Gabbyrella, what did you say? Buzzfeed featured my tweet? Why?”

Chat flooded with explanations and links, so Bucky pulled the article up on his phone and Steve leaned in to see what the fuss was about. Together they read:

“8 LGBTQ+ Video Game Streamers You Should Be Watching!”

And sure enough, there underneath number 6 was Bucky’s pseudonym, President15.

“Although Prez, a top 500 ranked Overwatch player, has never labeled his sexuality on stream, there are plenty of clips of him shutting down homophobic haters and implying he himself isn’t (only) into women. Here’s our favorite selection:” which was followed by a series of gifs of Bucky responding to viewers who had taken the time in chat to say something ignorant.

The article continued: “Lately, Prez has been caught on camera flirting with a newcomer to his circle of fellow Overwatch players, THECapRogers.”

This was followed by some more gifs, including one of that first fateful streamed game when Steve had jokingly called Bucky “sir,” and Bucky had to sit there and watch his reaction on loop, the kind of slack-jawed, blank second where his desire was printed plain across his features.

“Just last night,” the article continued, “Prez tweeted this adorable pic announcing that Cap would be joining him on his stream today. We certainly hope they get enough sleep before going live! Catch Prez and his hot man of mystery at 12pm ET today.”

“Oh my god,” Bucky groaned. Steve was laughing. “They all think we slept together,” Bucky said, wondering if Steve didn’t get it.

“So what?” Steve said, still giggling. “Besides, can you really blame them?” he pointed out, nodding at the picture of the two of them, Bucky’s face still smiling up at them from his phone.

Bucky begrudgingly saw Steve’s point. The picture had seemed harmless the night before, but Bucky was basically pillowing his head on Steve’s muscly pecs, and after more sleep, Bucky was horrified to realize that the intentional lack of Steve’s face in the picture made it seem a little illicit. Plus, the tweet definitely suggested that Steve had come over to spend the night with Bucky.

Bucky looked back to chat and read through the comments, which were a lot of reactions and jokes about his own reaction to reading the article’s segment on him. But he was surprised and touched to see how many of the posts were statements from self-identified younger queer people who were genuinely happy to have another presumably gay streamer to watch.

After a minute or two of reading these comments, Bucky said, “Well, I’m sorry to disappoint, but Cap and I aren’t boyfriends.”

“Aww,” Steve said with exaggerated disappointment from the couch. Bucky looked back at him in surprise only to see his shit-eating grin.

“You,” Bucky began, but had to stop for a minute to laugh. “You’re not helping, here,” he said accusingly when he’d caught his breath.

Steve beckoned Bucky back, the gesture easily within the camera’s view, and said, “Come on, you promised to give me an education today.”

“Oh my god, Cap,” Bucky groaned, laughing helplessly as he returned to his position on the couch. “You’re making this so much worse. You’re such a shit.”

“Aww, come on, we’re inspiring the youths,” he said, mock serious. “What does Sam call them? The gaybies. The gaybies need us, Prez.”

Bucky wished in that moment so desperately that Steve wasn’t hiding his identity because the fact that Captain America had just said “the gaybies” made his heart do all kinds of weird flips and stunts. He wanted to drag Steve out into the world and yell at people to stop and look at how brightly he burned, how incredible he was, how much he carried on his shoulders and how strong he was to resist becoming bitter about it. He’d seen so much war and silently endured so much ill treatment at the hands of the press and the government and everyone, and he still took the time to learn things like the word “gaybies” and use it right and fuck Bucky liked him a lot.

“Buck?” Steve said quietly, forgetting to call him Prez in his concern over the way Bucky had frozen. “Was… should I not have said that?”

“No it’s… it was perfect,” Bucky said, shaking himself and smiling. “C’mon, let’s play some Mario.”

Well, at least Buzzfeed would have some new gifs to put in their follow-up article. Whatever. He didn’t mind. The gaybies needed him, after all.


After a few more hours of showing Steve old classics, Steve was restless and bowed out for a while, offering to go make them food while Bucky got a few Overwatch rounds in. Bucky put up his “Be Right Back” screen while he changed the camera setup back to normal. The stream did lose some viewers, but not as many as Bucky would have thought, and it gained some back once he switched the game to Overwatch.

Steve came back and settled on the couch behind Bucky, content to eat and make comments while Bucky played.

Around 6:30, Bucky heard his phone buzz repeatedly, text messages coming in rapid succession. “Cap, will you check that for me?” he asked, not taking his eyes off of his intense match.

“Sure,” Steve agreed, reaching around Bucky to grab his phone. A minute later, Steve said, “Who’s Ellie?”

Bucky frowned, glancing away from the screen for a second to say, “My sister. What did she say?”

“Uh,” Steve said as he fumbled with the lockscreen and opened the message app. Bucky was a little concerned, but tried to keep his focus on the match while Steve read the text silently first. Ellie was his youngest sister, and she almost never reached out to him unless there was trouble.

“Bu—uh, Prez, you probably need to read this yourself,” Steve said quietly.

Bucky tried not to groan, aware that he was still on camera. He said to his stream, “Hang on a sec,” then switched his camera and microphone off, still trying to half-focus on the match so as to not screw his teammates over. The game punished people who left matches pretty heavily, so he didn’t want to lose reputation with the people he was playing with by doing that unless he absolutely had to.

“Play for me,” he told Steve, standing up and yanking his headset off, handing it to Steve, who looked flummoxed. “Just click heads,” Bucky said, snatching his phone, “and leave the queue when it’s over. The match is almost done anyway.” Steve didn’t look happy about being thrown into a match so far above his own skill level with the game, but he sat down and started to play.

Bucky turned his attention to the text messages.

Ellie (6:33 PM): need ur help
Ellie (6:33 PM): brad got out last week, he’s been around a bunch
Ellie (6:34 PM): but today he got real drunk
Ellie (6:34 PM): im fine but i dont want elena around him rn
Ellie (6:34 PM): i kno what ur gonna say but spare me the lecture today and take len? just for tonite
Ellie (6:35 PM): i can handle the rest

i’m at jillian’s, Bucky sent back right away, uneasiness in his gut.

Ellie (6:38 PM): i kno becca told me
Ellie (6:38 PM): already omw 2 u
Ellie (6:39 PM): be there in 15, gotta go drive

Bucky rubbed at his face, equal parts irritated and worried. If Ellie was only fifteen minutes from Jillian’s house, she’d already been on her way before she had bothered to ask Bucky if she could leave Elena with him. He hoped she had been pulled over for gas or something and was not actually texting him while she drove, regardless of that last text.

He looked up and saw Steve watching him, the game back on the main menu. “Everything okay?” he asked.

Bucky shook his head and shrugged. “I’ll explain in a minute. Let me close up the stream.”

Steve nodded and stood up, giving Bucky back his chair. He turned the camera and microphone on again and took a minute to apologize to chat and sign off. Once everything was done, he leaned back in his chair and glanced at his phone. Ten more minutes before Ellie showed up.

He turned to face Steve, trying to force a smile.

Steve scrunched up his face in distaste immediately. “Don’t do that,” he said. “You said I don’t have to pretend everything is fine when it’s not. Same goes for you.”

Bucky sighed. “Fair enough. So. Ellie is my youngest sister. She’s… twenty-two, now. Elena is her daughter. She’s about fifteen months.” Bucky watched as Steve did the mental math. “Brad is her lousy piece-of-shit ex-boyfriend and baby daddy,” he said, spitting the words bitterly. “He’s older than her… twenty-seven, I think? They’ve been off-and-on for years, since she was seventeen.”

He shook his head, ashamed to have to admit to Steve his own failure as a brother. He hadn’t protected Ellie. He’d been gone, serving his last tour in the military, when she and Brad had met, and by the time he had come back she was already defiantly refusing anyone’s advice or help. From the very first time he had confronted her about Brad, she had screamed and cried and accused him of sabotaging her happiness just like everyone else, and that had marked the beginning of a new and awful period in their relationship where she had cut off contact with him for almost a year.

“He’s been in and out of prison for the last few years. After they had Elena, I thought Ellie would actually be done with him…. She reconnected with all of us, got a better job, moved into her own place, but... every time he fucks up she says it’s over, and then she just takes him back anyway.”

Steve frowned. “Why?”

Bucky sighed unhappily. “I wish I knew. But if I try to ask or bring it up, she just gets mad at me and gives me the silent treatment until he fucks up again. Then she comes crawling back all apologetic and ‘you were right, Bucky, I’m so dumb, I’m sorry.’” He broke off, shaking his head. “I wish I knew how to help her.”

They sat together for a few minutes in comfortable, albeit unhappy, silence, and waited.

His phone buzzed.

Ellie (6:55 PM): just parked, come help with len?

Bucky showed Steve the text. “You should probably stay hidden,” he said uncertainly. “It was cool for you to meet Becca, but Ellie is…. Well. Ellie is Ellie.”

Steve nodded, trailing behind him as they headed to the stairs. “If you don’t want me to meet her, I understand.”

“Want you to?” Bucky repeated as he descended the steps. “It's not about what I want; I'm not trying to hide you, Steve. But I figure the whole ‘media circus that follows Captain America around’ thing has to get kinda old for you, and Ellie is definitely the type to post your face all over her Instagram to brag about meeting Captain America.”

Steve hesitated at that, hanging back a bit. “I see,” he said, still unsure.

“Really, it’s fine. I’ll be right back.”

Bucky waited for his nod, then nodded back, and jogged out the door and down the walk to where Ellie was gathering things from her car in the driveway.

“Whose bike?” she said as Bucky approached, jutting her chin towards Steve’s motorcycle since her hands were too full with baby things to point.

“Friend of mine is hanging out,” Bucky said vaguely. “He’s inside.”

Of course, Bucky wasn’t surprised that Ellie didn’t stop and check in with him to make sure it was okay that she dropped her kid off with Bucky while he had a friend visiting, assessing neither the comfort nor the safety of his guest. He wasn’t surprised, but he was disappointed. He tried not to let it show, and hoped that Ellie was more discriminating about strangers she left her child around when it wasn’t a friend of her big brother’s.

“Carry this?” she asked, handing him a diaper bag stuffed full. He accepted it, then waited while she unbuckled Elena from her carseat and hoisted her over to Bucky as well. He took the baby into his arms without complaint, cooing at his niece as she sleepily grumped and whimpered. She seemed content enough to settle into her uncle’s arms, though, and no further fuss happened as she leaned her head on Bucky’s shoulder and watched her mother through worried, tired eyes.

Ellie, meanwhile, was undoing all of the straps and buckles that held the carseat in place so that she could leave it with Bucky. She loaded it with the other baby things still in the car: some shoes, a stuffed toy, a picture book, a sippy cup, and a hat. Finally, she stepped away from the car and started up the walk to Jillian’s house, Bucky following with Elena in his arms.

Once inside, Ellie took Elena’s things straight upstairs to the nursery that Jillian had delightedly set up the minute Ellie had announced her pregnancy. Bucky had secretly hoped that Ellie would move in with Jillian for a while when she was pregnant and after the baby was born, but Ellie was nothing if not stubborn and proud. Sure that Jillian was trying to control her life, she had instead separated herself more from her aunt. For a while. Until Brad had needed money.

God did Bucky hate Brad.

“Okay,” Ellie said with a relieved sigh as all of the baby items were deposited. She turned to Bucky and forced a tired smile. “Got everything you need in the bag, food and diapers and all. She already had dinner tonight, and Jill keeps baby shampoo and such in the bathroom down the hall. What else?”

A word of thanks? Bucky thought. An apology? An explanation?

“I think that’s it, El,” he said quietly. She nodded and made for the nursery door to head out. He stopped her with a gentle hand on her arm as she passed. “You okay?”

She scrubbed a hand at her eyes. “I dunno,” she said, exhaustion plain in her voice. “I’m so tired, Bucky.”

He pulled her into his side and hugged her with one arm. “I’m sorry, kiddo. Can’t you stay here and rest tonight, too? I’ll watch Lennie and you get some sleep?”

She shook her head, her face darkening. “Can’t leave Brad to himself when he’s like this, he’ll get in trouble or break shit at the apartment.”

“Let him,” Bucky said, voice betraying more of his disgust than he had intended. “You don’t need to manage his drunken rages. That’s how Dad was, too, and Mom always had to—”

“I’m not Mom,” she snapped, shoving away from him and storming out the door. “And he’s not Dad.”

“Ellie, that’s not what I—”

“Just one more person telling me I have daddy issues,” she continued, stomping her way downstairs.

“I did not say that!” he called after her, moving more slowly and trying not to disturb Elena too much.

“Whatever, James, I know the drill. You don’t get it, and you never will.” She stopped in the foyer as he caught up to her, turning back to him and taking a second to smooth Elena’s hair and press a kiss to her forehead. “Be good for your uncle, baby girl. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“El,” Bucky tried again, desperate. “Are you at least safe?”

She bristled and didn’t answer, yanking the door open.

“I’m worried, Ellie,” he pleaded, unable to grab the door and keep her from slamming it in his face since Elena could have gotten hurt had he tried. She was gone.

Elena started to cry.


Chapter Text

Bucky stood there in foyer as the door slammed, his kid sister storming away toward danger and his sister’s kid sobbing for her mother in his arms.

“Fuck,” he muttered, turning his attention to Elena and trying to soothe her.

Steve emerged from Bucky’s room. “Hey,” he said from the top of the stairs.

“Hey,” Bucky said miserably. “Sorry about all this. If you want to take off, don’t worry about it. I won’t take it personal. You didn't sign up for this.”

“And miss out on pizza and ice cream?” Steve said jokingly as he came down the stairs. Bucky turned big, sad eyes on him, and his comforting smile slipped. “I’m not leaving,” he said, brushing Bucky’s arm gently with the back of his hand, a strange, half-aborted gesture that even still did make Bucky feel a little better. “Unless you want me to.”

Bucky shook his head, afraid his voice would be tellingly strained if he spoke.

Steve smiled softly and turned his attention to Elena. “Hello, little lady,” he said. Elena hid her face in Bucky’s shoulder and Steve laughed a little. “I’m not so bad,” he promised, “but I don’t blame you for preferring Bucky. He’s a pretty swell guy.”

Bucky huffed a laugh and carried her into the living room, Steve following.

“Let’s make pizza,” he said, pitching his voice to sound excited and bouncing Elena a little. “Want some pizza?” After a pause, she nodded sleepily against his side. The truth was, Elena was going to bed before the pizza would be done, having already had her dinner that night. But she didn’t need to know that.

“Tell you what,” he bargained with her. “I have to have my hands free to make the pizza, so you get to play with Steve,” he said, giving a little excited gasp at the revelation. “You want to draw pictures with Stevie?”

“Mama,” Elena whined.

“Mama will be back tomorrow, baby,” Bucky said soothingly. “But Steve is great at cuddling and coloring, right Steve?”

Steve looked like a deer trapped in headlights but managed to say, “Uh, yeah. I can do those things.”

Bucky handed him the baby and watched as he awkwardly tried to figure out how to hold her. Bucky couldn’t help but laugh a little at Steve’s fumbling. “Seriously? You’re the world’s best soldier and have saved us from annihilation multiple times, but a baby freaks you out?”

“She’s so little,” Steve said almost reverently, staring wide-eyed at Elena, who stared wide-eyed back at him. “I haven’t held a baby in forever.”

“Really?”

“Wasn’t much demand for baby-holding on the warfront,” he said dryly, eyes flicking up to Bucky. “And then I defrosted and… well, whose kid am I gonna spend time with? None of the other Avengers have kids, Fury and Hill sure as hell don’t….”

Elena started to fuss and squirm and Steve looked desperately between her and Bucky.

Bucky laughed. “Let me get some paper and crayons,” he said, hurrying to Elena’s nursery to get just those things. On impulse, he grabbed some other toys and books, too, then returned to Steve and the now fully-distraught Elena.

“Here, here,” he shushed as he set everything down and took his niece back. She continued to wail while he held her close and hushed her. Poor kid. She was young, sure, but inconsistent parenting had already left its mark, and he had to stifle a surge of anger at Ellie and Brad for letting their shit overflow onto their daughter.

“Here, baby, look, you want to color?” he said, first setting her on the floor then kneeling down and dumping paper and crayons in front of them. “Here, we can do it together.”

Steve laid down on his stomach and grabbed a sheet of paper and some of the crayons, starting to sketch. Elena’s attention was immediately drawn to the emerging image on Steve’s paper, and her cries settled into deep little breaths and the occasional token noise of discontent, which eventually faded away altogether as she grabbed a crayon and started to color right on top of Steve’s surprisingly good sketch of her face. Orange scribbles all over a Captain America original.

“Good color choice,” Steve complimented her with a serious nod, and she started to chatter with entirely unintelligible words. “Really?” Steve asked, watching her apply more orange across the page, head tilted with curiosity as she babbled. “Boldness has always been a driving force of art,” he said as if agreeing with her words.

Bucky slowly moved away and left them to it, neither Steve nor Elena noticing, and began to get the ingredients for pizza ready. Luckily, he had had the presence of mind to do some prep in the morning so that the process would go faster now. The tomatoes had been stewed and blended into a sauce, fresh basil leaves cut and added along with spices so flavors would blend throughout the day. All of the ingredients for the dough had also been measured and set out, ready to be combined and worked to readiness.

He started the fire in the pizza oven, taking care to set it just right so that it would slowly warm the bricks without overheating and resulting in scorched crust. Next he made the dough, eventually covering it and leaving it near the oven to rise. Finally, he set the sauce to simmering, leaving it covered on low heat so the flavors would be fully blended and ready to go once the dough and oven were.

Now he just had to wait while the oven and dough readied themselves, so he walked around the cooking counter to find Steve and Elena in the serious business of stacking and unstacking rainbow-colored cups. The red cup was the biggest, then the orange, etc., until the littlest purple one nested into the blue one. Elena was handing one cup to Steve at a time and he was balancing them on top of each other in the random order decided by the little girl, making a haphazard tower.

A stray arm swing from the baby resulted in the tower toppling and shrieks of laughter from child and superhero alike.

Steve looked up at Bucky and his smile was so stupidly bright and pure and perfect and Bucky felt like he’d been hit by a truck.

Elena turned to see what Steve was looking at and immediately broke into excited babbling at the sight of her uncle, pushing herself up to her feet and toddling over to him. He laughed and scooped her up, planting a kiss on her cheek as she shrieked her delight. She started to lean out of his arms right away, though, clearly wanting to go back to her toys, so Bucky set her down and sat next to her.

She started to hand him things right away, then paused and took back a few of the cups and gave them to Steve instead.

“That is so fucking precious,” Steve said, then looked up guiltily. “Oops.”

Bucky shrugged. “She can say, like, ten words max. I don’t think it matters if we curse around her right now.”

“Still,” Steve said. “Sorry.”

“Yes,” Elena agreed, paying absolutely no attention to them at all as she redistributed the cups between the three of them again.

Bucky checked the time. “It’s pretty much her bedtime,” he murmured. “I’m going to bathe her and then do you want to read to her while I finish the pizza?”

“Sure,” Steve agreed, starting to gather crayons from where they had scattered.

Bucky invited Elena to help him clean up the toys, mostly to encourage her to learn the habit since her version of “cleaning up” was to create more chaos. He left Steve to finish putting the crayons back in their box and carried his niece up to the bathroom. Bathtime was pretty easy with Elena, thankfully, and soon enough she was clean, dry, and in a fresh diaper and pajamas. Steve met them in the nursery and Bucky waited until they were settled, the baby snuggled up to Steve’s chest as he started the first book. He pried himself away, reminding himself that he’d already told Steve twice to put her in the crib before the second book and he did not need to hover.

The temptation to take a picture was stronger than Bucky’s willpower, however. Steve looked up at the sound of his smartphone’s shutter noise, and Bucky grinned at him guiltily.

“No,” Elena whined, squirming. Steve hastily turned his attention back to the book, and Bucky took the opportunity to sneak away.

The pizza was just going into the oven when he heard Steve clear his throat behind him, announcing his presence.

“Hey,” Bucky said, carefully pulling the pizza paddle out from under the dough and setting it down before turning to face Steve, starting the timer on his phone. “Is she asleep?”

Steve nodded. “Yep, she didn’t fuss at all when I put her down.”

Bucky smiled, shaking his head with wonder as he peered at Steve. “You know, Rogers, you pick up new things so easily. The games earlier today, handling Elena… I just threw it all at you and you rolled with it and came out the other side like a damn hero.”

Steve raised an eyebrow, smirking.

“Okay,” Bucky said, laughing, “I see your point. But just because they pumped you full of chemicals and made you near-indestructible doesn’t mean you’re necessarily good at figuring out how to interact with your friend’s fifteen-month-old niece.”

Leaning against the wall, Steve crossed his arms and said, “I did good, huh?”

“Yep,” Bucky said, unable to look away from Steve’s assessing smirk.

“What’s my reward?”

His stomach tying itself in knots, Bucky said, “Uh, pizza?”

Steve shook his head. “No way, that was my reward for agreeing to stream with you.”

“Ice cream?” Bucky suggested.

“You can’t trick me, James,” Steve said with a chuckle. “Pizza, ice cream, and cookies were already promised.”

“Well, what did you have in mind then?”

Steve pushed up from the wall and moved a little closer, and Bucky took a nervous step back, feeling his butt bump into the kitchen counter where he’d been working.

“Maybe something a little more adult than pizza and sweets,” Steve said, eyeing Bucky with a look that was probably melting him on the spot. He’d know for sure except that he couldn’t think about literally anything other than his rapidly beating heart.

“Wine?” Bucky suggested, just to be a shit.

Steve laughed and stepped in again, and Bucky had no room to back up anymore. Not that he really wanted to. “Am I reading this wrong?” Steve asked quietly even as his hand came up to cup Bucky’s face.

“No,” Bucky breathed.

“Thank god,” Steve sighed, and tilted Bucky’s head to the side with a finger before closing the distance between them for a lingering, slow kiss.

They broke apart a moment later, Steve’s hand still gently on Bucky’s face, eyes meeting for a beat before Bucky leaned in for seconds. When they parted again, Bucky leaned back a little to look at Steve’s face, his hand resting lightly on his chest.

“What?” Steve said, cocking his head curiously.

“Really?” Bucky said after a minute. “But why?”

“Why what?”

“Why… I mean, look at you. Look at me. What… I get why I’m into you, but….” He trailed off and shrugged. “I fix bikes up and play video games and have a mess of a family. You save the world on a weekly basis.”

Steve frowned, looked down. “But you’ve always seen more than that,” he pointed out.

“Well, yeah, I didn’t mean… I just meant….”

“I know what you meant,” Steve jumped in. “But I guess, you see more than Captain America. I see more than a guy who fixes bikes and plays video games.”

“But—”

“But nothing,” Steve interrupted, frowning deeper. “Bucky, I liked you as soon as you started teasing me about my battletag in Overwatch. And then I bought a bike from you and thought you were the hottest thing I’d seen since I woke up in the 21st century.”

Bucky smiled a little despite himself. “Really?”

Steve laughed. “So flattery works best, huh?” He brushed his thumb along Bucky’s lower lip. “And then you scolded me for trying to pretend that I was fine when I wasn’t, and I thought, god I hope he lets me stay with him forever.”

Bucky opened his mouth to reply, but before he managed words, his phone started to beep.

He licked his lips. “That’s the pizza,” he said, and Steve took a step back to let him squeeze by him and back to the oven.

Once Bucky had the pizza on the stone to cool a bit and be cut, Steve slid his arms around him from behind and rested his chin on his shoulder to look at the cheesy pie. “Smells so good,” he said.

“Don’t drool on me, Rogers. Elena already has that job covered.”

Steve chuckled, tilting his face into Bucky’s neck. “Wouldn’t want to be redundant,” he agreed, pressing little kisses into his skin instead.

“Okay, that is very nice but if you keep it up you won’t get any pizza while it’s hot,” Bucky warned even as he craned his neck to give Steve more space to work. Steve huffed a little laugh, his warm breath on Bucky’s exposed skin making a shiver run down his back.

But then he drew back, leaving one hand on Bucky’s side but otherwise not touching or interfering with his work. When Bucky gave him a curious look, he shrugged. “I’m really hungry, so if it was that or pizza….”

Bucky laughed so hard he couldn’t breathe. He kept trying to get control of himself and would start to say, “Glad I—” and then dissolve into helpless laughter again. Steve couldn’t help but laugh along, and when Bucky finally managed to gasp out “Glad I know where I stand,” the two of them ended up having to sit on the floor to wait out the laughing fit.

Finally, pizza was served. It was every bit as good as it had smelled, the extra time spent on preparing his own dough and sauce making all the difference. Well, that and Jillian’s brick pizza oven.

Then they made the ice cream and cookies at the same time, Steve having had the brilliant thought of homemade ice cream sandwiches, but the cookies were ready long before the ice cream had fully set, so they also put on a movie and settled into the couch together. After a moment of awkward uncertainty, Bucky rolled his eyes and did what he had been longing to do for a while: wrapped his arms around that beautiful torso and pillowed his head on Steve’s glorious pecs. Cuddles achieved.

The pizza had been perfect. The cuddles, phenomenal. The ice cream sandwiches were heavenly.

And when they finally called it a night, Bucky pulled Steve into his bedroom with him and they laid down together. They were too comfortable and sleepy, and just the feeling of settling into bed in each others’ arms was so new, that neither really gave much thought to doing anything more. They talked, and touched, and kissed, and soon enough, slept.


Chapter Text

Bucky woke up to Steve shaking him just a few hours later, however. He was upright and alert immediately, as Steve first put a finger over his own lips, then tapped his ear, mouthing, listen.

Someone was trying to open the front door downstairs. Bucky was on his feet in an instant, as was Steve. Both moved silently, the kind of deadly grace that came with years of practicing stealth in circumstances where failure meant death.

There were no guns in Jillian’s house, nor did Bucky have one of his own. Gun? he mouthed to Steve, gesturing at the little pack Steve had brought with him. Steve shook his head.

Bucky nodded, then crept forward more, until he was at the door. They had left the door to the bedroom open so that they could hear Elena better if she woke up, which distantly registered as fortunate since he didn't have to risk the hinges creaking by opening it now. He made it to the staircase, creeping along the wall, gesturing for Steve to hang back and stay closer to Elena’s room in case something went wrong.

Steve did not look thrilled at being told to hang back, but nodded reluctantly and stayed pressed against the wall opposite Bucky, waiting in place.

The door downstairs opened at last, and Bucky was confused to note that whoever it was had used a key to get in. But the only people who had keys to the house were Jillian, Bucky, and the girls, as far as he knew….

“I’m going!” his sister’s voice whispered urgently. Ellie. He saw her come through the door and started to relax, until he saw her distraught, fearful face… and the gun pointed at her, attached to a hand that was followed by the body of the asshole himself, Brad.

Brad’s other hand pushed Ellie forward again until they were both in the foyer. He shut the door behind him, gun still trained on Ellie.

Bucky fought back the impulse to shout and barrel down the stairs, his years of combat experience and training kicking in. Even as skilled as he was, Bucky would be an easy target on the stairs to someone with a gun, no matter how bad a shot they were. Not much cover or room to maneuver on a staircase.

“Where’s my little girl, bitch,” Brad spat. “You said she’d be here.”

“She’s upstairs, Brad,” Ellie said soothingly, and Bucky quickly ducked back, guessing Brad would look up the stairs at Ellie’s words.

“Well, let’s go get her, then,” Brad said, and Bucky could picture him pushing Ellie forward toward the first stair.

He looked to Steve, whose face was grim and focused. Steve put his fingers to his lips again and gestured for Bucky to move back so he would stay out of line of sight, then used efficient hand signals to mime his plan—let Ellie pass, then he’d grab Brad. This would put Ellie in position for Bucky to grab her and move her behind him so that he could protect her in case something went wrong.

Bucky shifted back, pointing at the stairs and miming a gun with his hand while mouthing Brad. Steve raised an eyebrow, but nodded with grim understanding.

The footsteps coming up the stairs were nearing the top.

Ellie appeared first, tear-streaked face and wildly fearful eyes taking in Steve first with uncomprehending terror, but then her eyes flicked to Bucky and relief spread over her features even as Bucky gestured her forward urgently, finger to his lips.

Brad’s gun hand appeared, and then his shoulder, and then everything was a blur as Bucky yanked Ellie back at the same moment Steve batted the gun downward and easily wrested it from Brad’s booze-loose grasp. Brad yelled, which scared Ellie into a scream, but the fight was over as quickly as it had begun. Brad was unconscious before he’d even had a chance to register Steve’s presence.

Elena, awoken by her parents’ yells, began to cry. Ellie collapsed in Bucky’s arms, her legs no longer supporting her weight, as she sobbed and clutched at his arms, begging him to take her to her baby.

Bucky held onto her and helped her walk to Elena’s crib, where she immediately clutched the child to her and sank to the floor, sobbing into the baby’s nightclothes even as Elena wailed in her arms.

“I’m going to kill him,” Bucky said to the room, and turned around to do exactly that, only to be met by the brick wall that was Steve Rogers. “Move, Steve.”

“No, Bucky. You need to calm down.”

“I’m gonna fucking kill that piece of shit!” Bucky shouted, trying and failing to push past the other man. “Fuck! Move!”

“Bucky! Stop it, you’re scaring the girls, look,” Steve said, physically forcing Bucky to turn and look at his sister and niece, both of whom were watching with wide, frightened eyes, their crying temporarily on hold as the threat of more violence scared them into instinctive silence. “Brad is unconscious. I’ll call the cops and they’ll handle the rest. Go sit with Ellie. Go hold onto those girls while I get the police on the line.”

And Bucky did, kneeling down next to his sister and wrapping her up in his arms, child and all, pulling the both of them close. The crash of the adrenaline leaving his system and the shock of really processing that his sister had been at gunpoint not two minutes ago left him in tears, as well, even as he shushed the cries of Ellie and Elena and repeated, “It’s okay, you’re safe, I’ve got you. You’re safe.”

The police showed up a few minutes later, and stood in shocked disbelief as a pajama-clad Captain America handed them an unconscious perp and debriefed them. Bucky held onto Elena as Ellie sniffled through her account of the evening and Brad was handcuffed and carried from the house. His gun was confiscated and one of the officers grimly informed them that due to his record and the evidence on hand, he’d be going away for a long time.

One of the officers thought to ask Steve why he was there, which made Ellie really look at him for the first time. Her jaw dropped as finally everything clicked. Bucky squeezed her shoulder, silently begging her not to make a scene while the police were still at the house. Steve deflected, gesturing to Bucky and saying he’d been visiting a friend, and kindly but firmly insisting they should not tell anyone about his presence. He had no problem being on the police report, of course. He just didn’t want poor Ellie and Elena to suffer through the media shitstorm that would happen if the fact of his part in this dispute became known.

Bucky thought the officers seemed sincere in their promise not to tell anyone, one of them even offering to try to get a pseudonym on the police report so that if it entered public record when Brad was charged, it wouldn’t show Steve’s name. Steve turned the charm up to 110% and escorted them out, thanking them for their service and complimenting them on their professionalism.

At long last, he returned to the house. Brad was gone. The cops were gone. Bucky sank bonelessly onto the bottom stair, still holding Elena tightly.

“What the hell,” he said.

Ellie shook her head and sat down next to him, taking her daughter back and leaning into her brother’s side. He wrapped an arm around her and kissed her forehead.

“You okay?” he asked, knowing it was a stupid question.

“He had a gun, Buck,” she said, using the back of her hand to wipe her nose as she sniffled and fought back more tears. “He’s never had a gun before. Where did he even get it?”

A pause, and then she sat up a little and gently whacked him with the back of her hand. “And wait a minute, are we not going to talk about the fact that Captain America is here?”

She looked up at Steve with wide eyes. “I mean, thank you, obviously,” she said. “I really can’t thank you enough. You saved us.” Bucky rolled his eyes, because even if Steve hadn’t been there, he could have handled Brad alone. But he didn’t say anything. “I’m just… shocked.”

Steve sat on the floor next to the stairs, leaning back so he was resting against the wall. “I’m glad I was here to help,” he said, “but I know Bucky would have managed on his own.” Bucky smiled at the echo of his own thoughts.

Ellie nodded her agreement, rocking Elena a little. “I know. But I mean, you’re just… staying over at Jillian’s?”

“Steve is my friend, El,” Bucky said. Ellie gave him an incredulous look.

“Since when are you just… friends with Captain America?”

“A few months now, I guess,” Bucky said, not really caring to count back the weeks since he had first started playing Overwatch with Steve. “We have a mutual friend who introduced us, from the VA.”

“Seriously?” she said, looking at Steve.

“Seriously,” he said, a tired smile on his lips. “And then Bucky sold me a bike, I bought him coffee, Buzzfeed thinks we’re in love even though they don’t know it’s me, and now we’ve averted a family crisis together.”

Bucky gave a strained laugh. “Is this how all of your relationships start?”

“Dramatically? Yes,” Steve said.

“Relationships?” Ellie squeaked.

Bucky shook his head. “Please don’t, Ellie, don’t tell anyone. It’s so new, we literally just managed to poop out our constipated feelings earlier today.”

“Okay, ew, and I’m not gonna tell anyone, you jerk,” she said indignantly, as if she weren’t a terrible gossip and Instagram-like-mongerer. “But like, feelings… like you’re… dating Captain America?”

“The gaybies need us,” Bucky said weakly, and grinned as Steve barked a laugh.

“You’re gay?” Ellie blurted out, staring at Steve. She immediately blushed and covered her mouth in horror at her own lack of tact, which was kind of impressive to Bucky, who seldom saw her be so self-aware. “Sorry, that was so rude.”

“It’s okay,” Steve said. “Not many people ever entertain the idea that Captain America could be into guys, but, here I am. Actually a person with my own tastes and preferences and everything. And it wasn’t a thing back when I was figuring out my sexuality, to have a label like everyone does today. Gay, bi, pan….” He shook his head. “I like who I like, and right now the only person in that column is your brother.”

“Damn, Buck,” Ellie said breathlessly. “You fuckin’ scored.”

Bucky groaned as Steve chuckled a little.

“Hey, Steve,” Ellie said abruptly, and Bucky groaned again. He knew that tone of voice, knew that he was going to hate whatever came out of her mouth next. “That friend of yours, Falcon? He single?”

“Okay, that’s enough,” Bucky said. “Let’s see if we can get Lennie back to sleep, huh? And maybe you could try to rest a little, too?”

They gathered themselves and turned off the lights, heading upstairs. Steve carried Elena’s crib to Ellie’s bedroom at her request, the mother unwilling to be out of eyesight of her daughter.

In bed again, Bucky clung to Steve and wept quietly, letting the other man stroke his hair and kiss his face gently. “He could have killed her,” Bucky whispered between sobs. “We could have woken up to a phone call from the police and a baby without her parent.”

“He didn't, though,” Steve said. “She's safe.”

Bucky shuddered and clung more tightly to Steve, but after a moment Steve shifted, moving away a little. “Bucky,” he murmured. “I can hear her crying.”

“Ellie?” Bucky asked, then felt silly. If it had been Elena, he surely would have heard it too.

“Yeah. She's being quiet but….”

Bucky captured Steve's hand and kissed it. “Thank you, Steve. Really. For everything you did tonight. I'll go check on her.”

“I'll stay here,” Steve said with a little smile.

Bucky leaned in and pressed a slow, sweet kiss to his mouth. “Please do.”

Then he padded down the hall to Ellie’s room and knocked quietly. “El? Can I come in?”

A sniffle and then, “Yeah, okay.”

He opened the door and made his way to the bed, where Ellie was sitting hunched over, facing Elena and watching her sleep, crying into her pillow to keep from waking the child. He sat down next to her and pulled her to him, wrapping her up in a soft hug.

“You're safe now, Ellie. It's okay.”

She let out a ragged sob. “I thought I could handle it on my own,” she choked out, burying her head in his shoulder. “What if he had shot me, Bucky? What if you and, and, and Steve hadn't been here, or if I hadn't brought her to you earlier?”

“But you did,” Bucky said. “You're a good mom, Ellie. You did the right thing.”

“No,” she wailed, and Bucky had to shush her with a worried glance at Elena. Unlike her mother, the child seemed to be out cold, exhausted from the events of the night. “No I'm awful, she deserves better than me. I brought him right to her, Bucky. He had a, a, a, a gun! What kind of mother am I? I brought him righ- righ- right to her.”

“You saved yourself, Ellie. You're the kind of mother who lives to care for her daughter another day. We were trained in the army for situations like this, you know that? And they say if you can't overpower or disarm someone who has a gun on you, the best thing you can do is keep them happy long enough for help to come. And that's what you did. You knew I was here and wouldn't just let him hurt you or take her. You did the right thing.”

“I couldn't stop him,” she sobbed. “I thought he would listen to me.”

“Ellie, you did your best,” he insisted, stroking his hand through her hair comfortingly. “He should never have put you in that position. You couldn’t have known.”

She let him hold her in silence a little longer, then pushed back a bit and rubbed at her red, puffy eyes. “I am never going to be that helpless again,” she vowed, words tinged with anger. “Nobody is ever going to do that to me or my little girl again.”

“Atta girl,” Bucky said, nodding firmly.

“Will you teach me how to fight?” she asked him, eyes blazing.

“I could,” he said slowly, “but I bet I can find you someone even better than me to show you the ropes. You serious about learning?”

She nodded. He nodded in return.

“I'll get back to you about it tomorrow, then. Think you can sleep a little now?”

She sniffed one more time, then threw her arms around him. “I'm so sorry,” she whispered. “Thanks for being here.”

“I love you, kiddo,” he whispered back. “I’ll always be here.” When she let go of him, he waited until she was nestled into her bed with some music softly playing from her phone, then bade her goodnight and returned to his own bed.

Steve drowsily pulled him close, and they slept.


Chapter Text

Bucky woke up to an empty bed. As the events of the night caught up to him, he groaned and turned his face into his pillow, wishing to go back to sleep. Had Steve left in the night? He had seemed sincere when he said he was staying even when Bucky tried to give him a graceful out. Where was he?

But before this line of thought could build any momentum, he heard Elena shriek from downstairs. On his feet in an instant, he flew down the stairs and had to catch himself as his socked feet skidded on the tile at the bottom landing. He bolted to the kitchen, where he found—

—Steve and Elena covered from head to toe in flour, at least one broken egg on the ground, and Ellie watching from the other side of the counter in horrified delight.

“What on god’s green earth,” Bucky said, taking in the sight with wide eyes, “is going on in here?”

“We’re making pancakes!” Steve said cheerfully.

Bucky fought the smile spreading on his lips and tried to look stern, hands going to his hips. “Pancakes,” he said.

“Yes, James. Hotcakes. Flapjacks,” Steve answered, adopting the tone one would use with a child. “Griddle cakes. Crepes.”

“Oh my god,” Bucky groaned. “Steve, have you ever made a pancake in your life?”

“Not until today,” Steve said, grinning.

Bucky arched an eyebrow. “By the looks of it, you still haven’t,” he said, and Ellie howled with laughter.

Steve set Elena down as he came around the counter. “Sergeant Barnes,” he said, crowding up into Bucky’s space, “I’m just shocked that you would talk to your superior that way.”

Bucky stood his ground, knowing Steve wanted him to back away to avoid getting flour on his clean clothes. Hands still on his hips, shit-eating grin on his lips, he let Steve get close enough that their chests touched and said, “Captain Rogers, sir. Reprimand me.”

Ellie said something like, “No, Bucky, oh my god, I’m your sister, please.” But he wasn’t listening because Steve was in his face, grinning back, hand coming up to catch his chin.

“Would you like that, James?” he asked, carefully and intentionally smearing some flour across Bucky’s shirt, silently challenging him to do something about it.

“I’d like some actual pancakes,” Bucky said, the quiver in his voice betraying his bluff.

Steve leaned in but stopped just before kissing him, dusted some flour into his hair, and said, “Guess we’ll just have to clean you up after breakfast, then,” and turned to collect his toddling sous chef before returning to the kitchen.

Bucky stood there in stunned silence for a minute before glancing at Ellie, who was staring wide-eyed and mouthed HOLY SHIT at him, fanning herself. Bucky felt his cheeks flush, and turned away, only to catch Steve’s eyes. This turned out to be a mistake, since the satisfied cat-with-the-canary look on his face made Bucky sure that he had seen the exchange between the siblings.

“Coffee?” Bucky requested weakly, his voice cracking on the word.

Ellie and Steve roared with laughter as Elena screeched her delight at the general levity around her, flailing her sticky hands around happily as Steve set her back onto the counter so they could continue assembling the… “pancakes.”

Eventually, something edible and more-or-less pancake-flavored was set before Bucky and Ellie, both of whom indulgently exclaimed their praise for the food. Steve was just as proudly duped as Elena by this display.

When the kitchen was back in order and Steve and Elena were mostly clean again (no small feats), Ellie thanked them again and started the process of gathering everything so that she could head back to the city.

“Can’t you stay for a while?” Bucky asked, holding Elena while Ellie folded her daughter’s pajamas and returned them to the diaper bag. “Take it easy with me and Steve for a few days?”

She shook her head. “Thanks, Bear, but I already took today off work. I can’t take tomorrow, too. Almost out of sick days, and I need to conserve them in case I need them later. Besides, Becca and Hannah are beside themselves, I called them this morning. We’re all going to stay together for a couple days at Hannah’s place while this blows over.”

“Okay,” Bucky agreed, relieved his other two sisters were already lined up to take care of Ellie. “But, El, just… you know if you ever need me, I’ll always be there for you, okay?”

His sister nodded, smiling at him. “I know. I wasn’t kidding about fighting lessons. Let’s start there and… I dunno, Bucky. I feel different today, you know? Things are still effed, but, I just.” She shook her head. “I want to do better than all this. I never want Lennie to know that kind of fear again.”

Bucky promised to see about finding her a teacher for self defense classes, then helped her carry everything to the car and get settled in for the drive back to the city. Steve joined them at the curb and said goodbye, standing next to Bucky and waving Ellie off as she pulled away to head home.

Bucky turned and slumped forward onto Steve’s shoulder once Ellie was gone. “Oof,” he said.

Steve chuckled and rubbed his back a little. “You alright there, James?”

“I just want her to be okay,” he replied quietly. Steve hummed his understanding, settling his chin over the top of Bucky’s head. “She’s been struggling for so long, you know? Maybe this will be what turns things around for her finally. I just….”

“Wish it hadn’t come to this?” Steve filled in.

“Yeah,” Bucky agreed. Then he straightened up, nose scrunched as he fought off a sneeze from inhaling flour still on Steve’s shirt. “Come on, let’s go in. You promised to clean me up after breakfast.”

“Whatever you say, Mr. President,” Steve said, letting Bucky tug him along by the hand back into the house.

Once they were up the stairs, Bucky slipped into the bathroom to get the shower running. When he turned back to the door to see about collecting clean clothes and an extra towel while the water heated, he found Steve blocking his path.

“Um,” Bucky said, looking around Steve toward the hallway.

Steve paused, turning a little to make space so Bucky could get by if he wanted. “Oh did… did you not actually want—you know what, I’ll just go—”

Bucky grabbed his arm and stopped him, pulling him back. “I definitely do want,” he said, grinning. “But if you want a towel…?”

Steve chuckled sheepishly, hand rubbing the back of his head as he let Bucky by to get the promised towel. When he returned, Bucky found Steve stripped to his boxers and waiting for him.

“Damn,” Bucky said, stopping short at the sight. “Did they chisel you out of stone, too?”

Steve snorted with amusement, glancing down at his own abs and shaking his head. “It’s cheating, I’ve never had to work for these a day in my life.”

Bucky rolled his eyes, stepping in and setting the towels down, then putting both hands on Steve’s stomach and caressing up and down. “Maybe you got them without lifting weights,” he said, “but I’d say that pretty much every day since you joined the army, you’ve been working for these.”

Steve caught Bucky’s left hand, pulling it up to his lips and kissing the palm.

“Ha,” Bucky said uncomfortably, “here, do this one.” He offered his right hand to Steve, who took it with a curious look. Bucky opened his mouth to answer but had to stop while a ripple of pleasure ran down his spine as Steve unfurled his curled fingers and press another kiss into his right palm, then onto his wrist. “It’s, uh,” he tried, eyes closing at the heady feeling of the tiniest nip of teeth on the sensitive skin. “My left hand doesn’t have much feeling in it, is all.”

Steve paused, waiting until Bucky opened his eyes again to say, “Oh?”

Clearing his throat, Bucky pulled his hands away and then tugged his shirt up and over his head, revealing his arms and torso for the first time since they had met. Bucky didn’t always cover up his scars, but when the weather was cool enough, well. Long-sleeved shirts looked good on him, anyway. And he definitely covered them intentionally for the stream, not wanting to attract attention or get weird questions.

Steve’s eyes took in the shrapnel scars all along Bucky’s arm and side.

“I don’t really care about them, much,” Bucky said. “The look of the scars, I mean. They don’t bother me.”

“What happened?” Steve asked, slowly reaching out and hesitating, looking up questioningly at Bucky, who nodded. His long fingers were gentle as they traced the evidence of the injury, but it didn't really matter. Bucky barely felt the touch.

“IED. Thought I was gonna lose the arm for a while, it was pretty touch-and-go. I made it almost six years and four combat tours without major injury, and in the last months of my last deployment, one of my buddies got blown to pieces not ten feet away from me, and the blast did this to me. I was in the hospital for a long time, don't remember most of it. First few days they weren’t even sure I’d survive. I did, and they saved the arm, obviously, but I’ve lost most of the feeling in everything below my shoulder.”

Steve nodded his understanding. “That’s awful.”

Bucky shrugged. “Actually, my physical therapist was the one who suggested I get into video games when I was recovering. Said it would help with regaining fine motor skills.”

Steve leaned forward and kissed the side of Bucky’s mouth, slow and warm. “Did it?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Bucky said, clearing his throat. “So did other things.”

Chuckling, Steve let his hands slide down Bucky’s back and rest on his ass, pulling him closer. “Like what?” he prompted.

“We’re wasting hot water,” Bucky growled, shoving Steve back a little, enjoying the surprised noise he made and the flush that spread across his entire face and neck at the sudden rough treatment. He fought down the surge of awkward embarrassment that inevitably came with someone seeing him naked for the first time and stripped off his sweats and boxers, then smirked at Steve’s stunned face and slipped past him behind the fogged glass of the shower door and into the hot stream of water. “C’mon, pretty boy,” he called to Steve, relishing the feel of the heat on his shoulder, “let me show you all the things this arm can still do.”


Steve had to go back to DC that night, to both his and Bucky’s dismay.

They were lying in bed when Steve got the text informing him his presence was needed for an early morning meeting first thing the next day. Bucky wrapped his arms around him, stretching his legs out and burying his face into Steve’s chest. “No,” he whined. “Stay forever.”

“I wish,” Steve sighed. “I better go or I’ll miss the flight.”

“But they just told you!”

“Yeah, and they think I’m about a thirty second elevator ride away from Tony’s helipad,” Steve said, “so giving me two hours’ notice is plenty of time, normally.”

Bucky huffed. “‘Plenty of time’ only by fucked up standards,” he muttered. “It’s like you don’t have a say in your own life.”

“You were in the army,” Steve said, frowning. “You know what that’s like.”

“But you’re not in the army anymore,” Bucky protested, shoving himself up onto his elbows and looking down at Steve seriously. “I’d say the seventy-plus years between your enlistment and now was enough to satisfy your contract. They shouldn’t jerk you around like you’re property.”

Steve slung a leg over Bucky’s hip and rolled him over so he was propped up over him, their bodies pressed close to each other. “You gonna come defend my honor for me?” he asked, pinning Bucky’s wrists above his head with one hand and sucking at a spot where he’d already left a mark on his collarbone.

“Not your honor,” Bucky grumped, trying to stay mad but losing the battle as his stomach churned with arousal. He squirmed a bit, but Steve kept an easy grip on his wrists. “Your autonomy.”

Steve kissed him, sighing against his mouth and tangling the fingers of his free hand into Bucky’s hair. “Your protest has been noted,” Steve murmured, taking a minute to nibble at Bucky’s earlobe, trailing gentle fingers down Bucky’s neck and side. Bucky pressed up into him, drawing a low chuckle from Steve. He kissed him again, hard and serious, then drew back and placed a little peck of a kiss on his nose. “But I still have to go.”

He got up and started to collect his clothing. “Steve,” Bucky groaned, rolling over and smashing his face into a pillow. “That was not fair. You just gonna leave me like this?”

“Don’t worry, Bucky,” Steve said brightly, “I know for a fact that your left hand is a very satisfactory option.”


Actually Captain America (8:49 PM): Definitely have to stay another day or two.
:(
Actually Captain America (8:54 PM): My feelings exactly.
Actually Captain America (8:54 PM): What are you doing?
thinking about you
Actually Captain America (8:55 PM): Oh yeah?
thinking about how your fingers felt tangled in my hair
Actually Captain America (8:55 PM): Well, now I am too. Thanks.
how you looked propped up over me…
your lips all swollen
Actually Captain America (8:56 PM): Oh my god, Bucky.
how it felt when you dragged your fingers over my neck
Actually Captain America (8:56 PM): God how are you so hot and I can’t even see you?
you feeling it, baby?
Actually Captain America (8:57 PM): Yeah, Buck, tell me more.
just thinking about you being all over me yesterday
how much i like the way the bruises you left on me look…
how good it felt to be trapped under you…
thinking about how you got me all hot and bothered…
Actually Captain America (8:59 PM): Yeah?
and then left and said i could jerk myself off, you asshole

Bucky grinned as his phone rang within a few seconds of sending the last text.

“Hey Steve, what’s up,” he said, completely casual.

“What the hell, Bucky,” Steve said, voice a little breathless.

“‘What the hell, Bucky,’ what?” Bucky said, pretending to be confused.

“You know what!”

“Gee, Stevie, I wish you’d be more specific,” he said innocently.

“Bucky, I swear….”

Dropping the act, Bucky leaned back in his chair and looked at the ceiling. “If you say it, I’ll keep going,” he said.

“Bucky,” Steve pleaded, the hitch in his voice doing wonderful things for Bucky’s confidence, “please, just….”

“Tell me what I did, Steve, and I’ll help you out,” he insisted. “I can wait all night.”

“Are you serious right now?” Steve moaned.

“Yep,” he answered, popping the p with satisfaction. “What’s got you all hot and bothered, Stevie? What did I do?”

Steve huffed. “...got… got me excited and then stopped,” he mumbled.

“That wasn’t very nice, was it?” Bucky said, mock stern as he relished in the indignant sounds Steve was making. “Was it, Steve?”

“No,” he choked out.

“That wasn’t so hard, was it Steve? Now, tell me what you want.”


Chapter Text

Actually Captain America (4:11 PM): Just landed at AT. ETA 6:30
so long?
Actually Captain America (4:22 PM): Traffic. Leaving in 2 mins.
the door is unlocked, i’ll prob be in a match
Actually Captain America (4:23 PM): Can’t wait to see you. This trip to DC was way too long.
agreed

Bucky put his phone down and joined team chat, greeting the other players. He recognized a few of them, including another streamer he liked pretty well, alias Greenwich. He was a chill guy, and an excellent healer.

“Where’s Cap, Prez?” Greenwich asked.

Bucky chuckled. “You too, huh?” he said, then picked a tank to fill out the team’s composition.

“After that BuzzFeed article, how could I not?” Greenwich replied. “Bet your chat is eating this up, huh?”

Bucky rolled his eyes. “You have no idea.”

With a laugh, Greenwich said, “Oh I do. I hang out over in your stream sometimes when I’m not playing.”

Bucky was surprised by this. “You do?”

“Sure, gotta scope the competition. Plus we’re a small community, gotta stick together.”

“We are?” Bucky said, unsure what Greenwich meant.

“Well, yeah. Not many streamers are openly gay,” he said, locking his hero pick on Ana.

Oh. Well, Bucky wasn’t opposed to gaining a reputation as a gay streamer, although it had never been the plan. He only had another day of house-sitting anyway, so it wouldn’t be long until his irregular streaming hours relegated him back to nobody status. “Yeah,” he agreed. “Guess so.” He honestly hadn’t known Greenwich was gay. That was cool. “Say hi next time you’re in chat.”

“Alright boys,” another player interrupted. “Let’s go high ground left for the first push. They’ve got a Widow watching the right door.”

At 5:30, Bucky took his usual break, using the bathroom before heading downstairs for some snacks. He took a few minutes to stretch and check his social media, too. His Twitter notifications had blown up. Great. What now?

He pulled them up and found a bunch of mentions with a new clip linked, as well as some gifs from the clip. Someone had taken the time to piece together bits from the clip from Greenwich’s stream with the clip from Bucky’s.

“Not many streamers are openly gay,” Greenwich said as he clicked back and forth between Brigitte and Ana before settling on the latter.

“Yeah, guess so,” Bucky said, his face a little bewildered.

The general gist of the tweets were things like “PRESIDENT15 CONFIRMS SEXUALITY” and “Prez is gay! Prez is gay!”

Welp. Bucky supposed this was his own fault. The good thing was he didn’t care even a little about people knowing he was into guys. He’d never “come out” on stream because well, how many straight streamers had to come out on stream? None. And neither did any gay streamers, by Bucky’s reckoning. But it still made his stomach churn a little, a seed of fear settling there. He’d seen the gaming community harass people for their gender, sexuality, race…. He just hoped this didn’t result in any harassment for him… or for Steve.

At 6:00, he turned the cam back on and greeted everyone as usual, reading through some comments and responding to people as he got back into a queue. There were some people being assholes, but the rest of the chat participants shut them down pretty hard.

“Hey,” Bucky said when things started getting nasty. “Don’t, please. Listen, bigbikeenergy, glhfezpz,” he named two of the most vocally homophobic people, “you can just leave, you know? You don’t have to be here harassing me or anyone. Citizens, don’t react. Just ignore the idiots, and they’ll leave. They don’t actually have conviction, they just want to see us get upset.”

The match started. They got steamrolled on defense, but then also steamrolled the enemy on offense, so it went to round 2 at a pretty even tie. Their second attack went okay, and for their second defense they switched up roles and managed to hold for a while, but ultimately lost after a great flank from the enemy Genji took out both of Bucky’s team’s healers and one of their damage-dealers in one swift attack.

The next match was only about a minute or two in when movement in the webcam feed display on his second monitor drew his attention. Steve was in the doorway.

“Camera’s on, Cap,” he called, unable to stop the huge grin that spread on his face. His stomach was doing acrobatics as he saw that strong, lean figure lounge against the doorframe in silhouette, his face obscured. He could tell Steve was still in his motorcycle leathers, too, and damn did he wish he could just turn around and get an eyeful of that.

When the first map finally capped (enemy team took it), Bucky had a brief pause while the next map’s hero select countdown started. He turned in his chair, checking to make sure that the back of the chair was now obscuring the camera’s view of the room. It was, except for a few feet to the left and right, but the center of the view was blocked.

He grinned as his eyes met Steve’s. “Camera and mic are still on, but they can’t see you if you stay in the middle,” he said.

Steve stayed leaning on the door for a second longer, arms crossed, then pushed off and came closer. He strayed to the side as he got closer, and Bucky knew that some of his torso and legs would be on camera now. With a grin, Steve hid the side of his face with a still-gloved hand, turned the chair to the side and leaned down. With his other hand, he put one finger on Bucky’s chin and tilted it up for a gentle but prolonged kiss.

Then he stood straight, letting his hand drop now that he was out of view of the camera. “Your match is starting,” he said with a smirk.

Bucky blinked. “Match,” he said, a little dazed. “Match! Oh my god, you total ass, that was on camera!”

“Shy, Mr. President?”

“Go take a shower, you smell like the road,” Bucky snapped, face bright red as he hurriedly selected his hero and joined his team. Steve chuckled and sauntered out of the room. A minute later, he heard the shower turn on.

His phone started buzzing about thirty seconds later as the delay on his video feed caught up to the live stream. When the match ended, he left the queue, covering his face with his hands and ignoring everything for a brief minute, then he took a deep breath and braved a glance at chat.

Well. At least he had over 1,000 viewers again?

Twitter was already covered in gifs of Steve kissing him. Thankfully about half of his face was still obscured in the camera’s view by the chair, and Steve’s hand covering his own face meant their lips were more or less invisible to the viewers. But still. (Begrudgingly, Bucky had to admit it was pretty hot.)

His phone had about a thousand other notifications, including a deluge of text messages from Becca and, to Bucky’s surprise, Laura, who had apparently seen the clip on Twitter already. His private discord server for friends and loyal viewers was hundreds of messages deep about it, so he just ignored the older messages. With a sigh, he turned all notifications on his phone off, not wanting to deal with the aftermath just yet.

“Well, Citizens, go big or go home, I guess,” he said as he looked up to his webcam again. Despite wanting to be mad about it all, he couldn’t stop himself from smiling like an idiot as people text-screamed and spammed emotes and clips. “As much as I’d love to sit here and respond to all of you individually, I’ve got a man waiting for me in the next room. Fellow Americans, honored international guests, this is your president, signing off.”

He turned off his feed, triple checked that his camera and mic were fully disconnected, then yelled, “Steve Rogers, you little shit! Get your ass back here!”

“You told me to take a shower!” Steve hollered back through laughter from the bathroom.

“And now I’m telling you to come here!”

So Steve did, completely naked and dripping water on the carpet, towel in hand and grin on his face.

Bucky rolled his eyes. “Are you going to dry off?”

“Make up your mind, jeez,” Steve complained jokingly, running the towel over his arms and torso as he approached Bucky. Deeming himself dry enough, he walked straight into Bucky and kept going, forcing Bucky to back up until the back of his knees bumped into the bed and he fell backward onto it. Steve followed, crawling on top of Bucky, wet hair dripping onto his chest and neck.

“Miss me?” Bucky breathed as Steve mouthed at his neck.

“Missed you so much,” Steve murmured, hands tugging at the waistband of Bucky’s sweats.

“Eager?” Bucky prompted again, and again Steve agreed, pliant as could be.

“You trying to get me kicked off Twitch for violating terms of service?” Bucky asked next.

Steve froze. “What? Seriously?” He pulled back, looking worried. “You could get in trouble because I kissed you on stream?”

Bucky smiled reassuringly and stroked his hand down Steve’s chest, enjoying the ripple of the shiver his touch sent through his muscles. “Probably not,” he admitted. “But there are rules against any kind of sexual acts. I don’t think they care about a stray kiss here and there from streamers’ partners and such, though.”

“Sorry,” Steve said guiltily.

Bucky laughed. “It was hot as fuck, Rogers. You don’t need to be a kicked puppy about it. Now, I rather liked where we were headed, can we get back to that?”


Beckster (6:42 PM): HOLY SHIT BEAR
Beckster (6:42 PM): what the fuuuuuck that was so stupidly hot
Beckster (6:43 PM): not you because youre my brother and that would be weird
Beckster (6:43 PM): but steve, dear GOD
Beckster (6:43 PM): BUCKY ANSWER ME I NEED TO KNOW ALL ABOUT THIS DEVELOPMENT
Beckster (6:44 PM): bucky
Beckster (6:44 PM): bucky
Beckster (6:44 PM): bucky
Beckster (6:44 PM): bucky
Beckster (6:44 PM): bucky
Beckster (6:45 PM): bucky
Beckster (6:45 PM): bucky
Beckster (6:45 PM): bucky
Beckster (6:45 PM): bucky
Beckster (6:49 PM): UGH FINE YOU BETTER CALL ME TOMORROW ASSHAT

.

Laura (6:43 PM): uh, wow
Laura (6:43 PM): you got news, eh?
Laura (6:45 PM): nice, he looks hot
Laura (6:48 PM): oh yeah, met ellie today. sweet kid, i think she’ll do well with muay thai

.

Ellie (7:10 PM): met laura today for my first defense class
Ellie (7:10 PM): she’s fuckin awesome bear
Ellie (7:11 PM): thanks for introducing me 2 her

.

Jillian (8:14 PM): Hey kiddo, you there?
Jillian (8:19 PM): Business wrapped up early here and my friend Mark who works for the airline got my ticket switched to a day earlier, isn’t that sweet? I’m already back in London, just waiting to board for the flight to New York now.
Jillian (8:32 PM): You must be busy streaming but I just wanted to let you know I’ll be in tomorrow morning.
Jillian (8:33 PM): You can still stay the extra day, though! It’d be nice to see you.
Jillian (8:41 PM): Boarding now, see you in a few hours!


Chapter Text

Steve got up for a run at 5:45 AM and Bucky just groaned and rolled over to go back to sleep.

He woke up again at 6:28 and figured he might as well get up and wait for Steve to get back. He was used to early mornings, and besides, sleeping in too much while at Jillian’s just meant a harder time getting back to his normal schedule at the bike shop.

He pulled on Steve’s pajama shirt, which was just a lightweight white tank top, over his boxers and wandered down to the kitchen to put on coffee.

At 6:37 he was pouring himself a mug of coffee when he heard the garage door open and froze in his tracks. Jillian? But she wasn’t due until tomorrow around this time. He set the coffee mug down and looked at his phone to see if he had missed something, only to realize he had never turned notifications back on the night before. He turned them on, then manually checked his messages while the notifications loaded. He was still reading through everything Jill had sent him when the door to the garage in the kitchen opened and Jillian came in, her face lighting up when she caught sight of him.

“Hi Bear!” she exclaimed enthusiastically. “You didn’t have to get up to greet me!” Bleary from sleep and still trying to process everything, he missed the way her eyes flicked to his neck curiously.

“Uh,” Bucky managed, uncaffeinated brain woefully unprepared for this.

And then the front door opened, and Steve called, “Is that coffee I smell? You didn’t have to get up, Bucky!”

Jillian’s eyes widened. Bucky stared helplessly at his aunt, then turned the helpless stare onto Steve as he turned the corner into the kitchen, sweaty and smiling.

“What,” Jillian said, taking in Steve with shock, who stopped in his tracks.

“Oh,” Steve said, caught off guard and looking between Bucky and his aunt with confusion.

“Uh,” Bucky repeated, then started to laugh. It was only slightly hysterical, to his credit.

Steve raised an eyebrow at him, then rolled his eyes and turned to Jillian. “Hello, you must be Jillian. Nice to meet you, ma’am. I’d offer you a handshake but I’m afraid I’m not very presentable at the moment.”

“Are you—” Jillian squeaked.

“Steve Rogers,” Steve said. “Yeah.”

“O-oh,” she said, sounding a little faint.

Bucky slumped against the kitchen counter, still laughing uncontrollably. He waved his phone at Steve and managed to say, “I missed her texts,” before giving up on talking.

Steve came closer and looked at the phone, then snorted. “You missed a lot more than her texts,” he pointed out, taking in the little army of notification pop-ups on the home display. “Becca is probably beside herself.”

Bucky managed to collect himself enough to take the phone back, watching Jill stare disbelievingly from the corner of his eye. “She’ll live.”

“But will you?” Steve asked jokingly.

“Whatever, you smell, Rogers, go take a shower,” Bucky shot back.

“Oh, that’s starting to be a familiar line,” Steve teased, snatching the mug of coffee that Bucky had poured for himself and planting a kiss on his cheek. “Got something on your neck there, Buck,” he whispered through a grin before nodding to Jillian and absconding with the coffee to, presumably, take a shower.

Bucky remembered just what he and Steve had been up to last night and, mortified, clapped a hand over the very obvious series of hickeys trailing down his neck and disappearing under the collar of Steve’s tank top. The man was a vampire. (Bucky, his desperately willing victim.)

“Bucky?” Jillian asked hesitantly, staring after Steve in disbelief.

Wresting his thoughts away from vampiric metaphors but leaving his hand firmly covering the inspiration, he mumbled, “Uh, yeah. I’m… I’m dating Captain America, I guess? And I turned off my phone notifications yesterday because of this thing that happened on stream blowing up my notifications, so we didn’t realize you’d be back today. Sorry.”

“James Barnes, don’t you apologize,” Jillian said, shaking her head. “And stop hiding your hickeys, neither of us is a child. It’s not a problem in the slightest.” Bucky flushed red with embarrassment and dropped his hand from his neck. Jillian quirked a smile at him. “But you’re… you’re dating Captain America? Since when? How…?”

Bucky cleared his throat, trying to forget his embarrassment as he poured a new mug of coffee and offered it to Jillian. “Long story. Want coffee while I tell it to you?” She accepted and he looked down at himself with a sigh after pouring a third mug for himself. “Just let me go put on some actual clothing.”


Although Jillian was more than absorbed and awestruck by the story of Bucky meeting Steve, the far more potent reaction from his aunt came when Bucky told her what had happened with Ellie.

“A gun?” she gasped, white as a sheet. “Here? Oh Ellie, that poor baby, how is she holding up? Oh my god, Bucky, that’s…. And he’s in jail now? She’s safe?”

Bucky nodded. “She’s safe. My friend Laura is teaching her self defense, too. Seems to be going okay so far.”

Jillian shook her head, hand pressed to her heart. “Ellie,” she sighed. “I wish she’d let us help her.”

“Me, too. Maybe this time she will.”

“She should move out here,” Jillian said. “It’d be so much easier for her. I could help look after Elena and she wouldn’t have to worry about rent and bills.”

“I’ll mention it to her again, J,” Bucky promised, then looked over her shoulder to see Steve approaching, clean and with his overnight bag in one hand, motorcycle helmet in the other. He gave Bucky an apologetic look as he set the bag and helmet down, then came over to join them.

“Sorry about earlier,” he said, reaching a hand out to Jillian to shake before sitting down next to Bucky. “I hope I didn’t frighten you.”

“No, not at all, dear,” Jillian said, doing a pretty good job at faking normal except that her eyes were round. “I’m just so happy that my Bucky Bear has found someone.”

“Bucky Bear,” Steve crooned, grinning at Bucky.

“Whatever,” Bucky muttered as he felt his face flush.

“Oh, you have to let me dote a little,” Jillian said with a laugh, relaxing. “Bucky hasn’t been serious about anyone in years. He was just 18 when he left for his first deployment, has he told you? And then by the time he came home for good, well. Everything was so different.” She shook her head.

Steve raised an eyebrow. “What was so different?” he prompted.

“Well, it had been six years,” Jillian said. “The girls were all grown, even Ellie. Bucky almost lost his arm, and then the accident.” She gestured helplessly. “It was a lot at once.”

Steve turned a questioning look to Bucky, who was staring at the mug in his hands.

“Oh,” Jillian said, mortified, “Bucky, haven’t you told him?”

“No,” Bucky said. “I mean, the arm, yes. But not… not the accident.”

“Oh, no,” she groaned. “I’m so sorry, it must be the jetlag. I’m just not thinking straight. I’ll give you boys a minute—I’ve got to unpack anyway. I didn’t mean—sorry.”

“It’s okay, J,” Bucky said with a tight smile as she excused herself.

Steve tilted his head, blue eyes concerned. “You don’t have to tell me anything if you don’t want to,” he said.

“It’s not—I’m not hiding anything,” Bucky said. “It just hasn’t come up, really. And well, it’s kind of… a lot.”

They sat for a minute in silence, then Steve said, “So, an accident?”

“Yeah. My parents… well, it was a drunk driving thing. Both of my parents died in the same crash the day after I was taken out by the IED in Iraq.”

“Oh,” Steve said, face clouding.

“Yeah, my mom was killed right away and my dad died eight hours later in the hospital. I was still unconscious and unstable from the explosion, so I didn’t find out for a while afterwards.”

“And the drunk driver?” Steve asked.

Bucky snorted, an ironic twist to his mouth as he dropped his gaze back to his coffee mug. “Well, that was my dad, so.”

Steve inhaled sharply. “Shit,” he said quietly.

“Yeah. I guess… from what Becca told me, my mom took the news about my injury pretty hard. She was distraught. Can’t blame her, you know… only son in the hospital overseas, might die any minute as far as she knew. And my dad, he didn’t care one whit about me, but I guess he was drinking more than usual because he was mad at my mom for being so emotional.”

Bucky set the coffee mug down and leaned back into the couch cushion, looking up at the high ceiling and studying the arches of the exposed wood beams above. “Dad was always a drunk. He would’ve been drunk either way, to be honest. But Becca said that he was just so mad that Mom wouldn’t stop crying about me, so he made her get in the car and was going to drive her out to the military cemetery or something, make her look at all the graves of the ones who didn’t survive.”

“What?” Steve asked, brows scrunching in horrified confusion. “Why would he do that?”

“I dunno,” Bucky said. “Becca was there, but.... Best I can tell his logic was that he wanted to show her that she wasn’t the only mother to lose a son to the military. Or maybe that she should have felt blessed that I hadn’t actually died yet.” He looked to Steve, raised his eyebrows, looked back to the ceiling. “He was a great guy.”

“Wow,” Steve breathed.

“Yeah. So I guess Becca tried to stop them but Mom kept telling her it would be okay, and… y’know. Mom always handled Dad when he was in a state, right? And it had always been okay in the past. And Becca wasn’t thinking straight either—she was scared about me to begin with, and then my dad was scaring her, so she believed Mom, I guess. That it would be okay.”

“It wasn’t her fault,” Steve said.

“I know. And I think she does, too. Anyway, they got all the way out of the city and onto the highway before Dad lost control of the car. Wrapped it around a utility pole. Killed Mom in an instant, and Dad died in the hospital a while later. I only regret he never woke up before he died so that he would have had to face what he had done, but I guess maybe it wouldn’t have mattered to him anyway.”

They sat in silence for a minute, then Bucky sat up a little, leaned in so his shoulder bumped Steve’s. “Look, I never meant to saddle you with all of this so fast. What with Ellie and Brad, and now this… you’ve dealt with so much family drama in the last few days already. I mean, I don’t know how I’d feel about all this in your shoes. It’s not exactly normal family bullshit we’re talking about here.”

Steve scoffed. “Nothing about my life is normal,” he said. “I was such a sick kid, always on the verge of death because of pneumonia or the flu. And then they shot me up with chemicals and BAM.” He gestured at himself. “Then Hydra, and Schmidt, and the ice, and aliens…. What I’m saying is, you’re not exactly signing up for drama-free with me, either. I’m not asking you to hide your drama, Buck, and I’m not asking you to share it if you don’t want to. But… unless you’re about to rip your skin off of your face and reveal that you’ve been a secret skull monster all along, you can’t do much to scare me off, either.”

His heart almost bursting from his chest, Bucky leaned forward and gave Steve a kiss, prolonging the contact for a minute. “Thanks,” he whispered.

“For what?” Steve said, smiling.

Bucky leaned back and reached up to his neck. “For giving me the chance to do this!” he exclaimed, miming the action of pulling his own skin off of his face. “Fooled you again, Captain!”

Steve rolled his eyes and shoved him away. “Oh my god, Bucky, seriously?”

Bucky laughed as he sat back up and shifted, pulling his knees up onto the couch so he could shuffle forward until he was practically straddling Steve. “Sorry,” he whispered, tangling his fingers into Steve’s hair, “couldn’t resist.”

“The Red Skull joke, or me?” Steve asked, bringing his hands up to Bucky’s waist.

“Both,” Bucky confirmed, and kissed him again, this time with a little more heat.

Steve pushed him off after a minute, though. “You gotta stop,” he panted, “or I won’t be able to leave on time.”

Bucky glanced to where Steve had set his bag and motorcycle gear, then looked back to Steve with a pout. “You have to go already?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Steve said, looking a little annoyed. “Nat texted me. Some kind of weird abandoned research facility found out in Canada. Shouldn’t be anything serious but I guess there’s some evidence it’s related to Hydra, so they want me on the team that investigates.”

Bucky slid off of Steve and stood up, then offered a hand to pull him up after him. “Damn,” he said as Steve adjusted his shirt. “I think I forgot for a minute that you do that kind of stuff.”

Jillian reappeared as Steve was pulling on his jacket and gloves. “Oh, leaving already?” she said, disappointment clear in her voice.

“Sorry, ma’am,” Steve said, smiling at her. “Duty calls.”

“Well, I wouldn’t want you to shirk your duties,” she said, giving him a pat on the shoulder. “It was nice to meet you, Steve. Can you come for dinner tonight?”

He shook his head. “I’ll be out of the country, I’m afraid. Next time,” he promised. Jillian nodded, then let Bucky walk Steve out to the curb. He packed his bag into the travel compartment on the back of the bike, then turned to Bucky, arm hooked around his helmet still.

“See you soon?” he said regretfully.

“Yeah. Text me when you can,” Bucky said.

“I will,” Steve promised, then pulled Bucky close for a kiss.

When he had settled his helmet onto his head and straddled his bike, he gave Bucky a little salute, started the engine, and drove away.

Jillian was waiting when he came inside, so excited she could barely contain herself. He laughed a little at her squirming and let her throw her arms around him.

“I’m so happy for you, Bear,” she said. “It’s just so exciting!”

“Thanks, J. Let’s get some breakfast, huh?”


Chapter Text

Our Top 10 Favorite Cap/Prez Moments

10. That time Cap made a Prez mask and pretended to be him while Prez was taking a break.

[gif image 1: Cap sitting in the camera view of Prez’s stream window, wearing a mask made from a printed image of Prez’s face. Cap flexes his arms after a few seconds. Caption: “Welcome, Citizens. I’ve been working out.”]

(bonus: That time Prez caught Cap pretending to be him five minutes later.)

[gif image 2: Cap wearing the Prez mask, looking over his shoulder in surprise as Prez comes running into the room and tackles him out of the chair. Caption: “NOOOO!”]

9. That time Cap moonwalked behind Prez’s camera in a gorilla mask for a solid minute before Prez noticed.

[gif image: Cap moonwalking back and forth behind Prez. Prez finally notices, jumps in surprise, then turns around and playfully swats at Cap, who jumps out of the way.]

8. That time Prez caught Cap before he could sneak up on him.

[gif image: Cap appears in the bottom left of the camera feed, stalking forward in a crouch. Prez turns abruptly and shouts “boo” before Cap can surprise him. Cap falls over, socked feet briefly appearing in the camera view.]

7. That time Prez forgot to turn the mic off.

[gif image: Prez shouting off-screen, grinning. Caption: “Yeah, eat my ass, Cap. Yeah, you would like that, wouldn’t you?”]

6. That time Cap got two headshots in a row and out-sniped one of Overwatch’s best snipers.

[gif image 1: Starts with the whole stream window. Prez is playing the sniper Widowmaker and has her sniping scope up, before receiving a headshot and being eliminated by THECapRogers. Camera zooms in on Prez’s face, which is surprised and irritated. Caption: “Prez: Lucky shot, asshole.”]

[gif image 2: Starts with the whole stream window. Prez respawns as Widowmaker and as soon as he leaves the safety of the spawn room, is eliminated by a headshot from Cap again. Camera zooms in on Prez’s face, which is absolutely stunned. Caption: “Cap (offscreen): I’m sorry, I didn’t catch--what were you saying about luck?”]

5. That time Cap played Taylor Swift loudly while Prez was trying to concentrate.

[gif image: Prez looking annoyed as he tries to focus on the game. Cap is in the background jamming to music, wearing a scarf over his face and hood up. Ends with Prez cracking a smile and hanging his head in defeat. Caption: “It’s a love story, baby just say yes!”]

4. That time Prez remembered to turn the mic off.

[gif image: Prez sitting at his computer yelling over his shoulder. Caption: “Come back here, you shit, and I’ll show you just what I meant when I said I’d [audio cuts off].”]

3. That time Prez clearly wasn’t expecting Cap but was so happy to see him.

[gif image 1: Cap appears in silhouette behind Prez, who does a double take.]

[gif image 2: Prez jumps out of his chair and runs to hug Cap. Caption: “I thought you weren’t home until tomorrow!”]

2. That time Cap threatened to do a strip-tease on camera to get Prez’s attention.

[gif image: Cap, standing too close for his face to be on camera, starts pulling up his shirt slowly while rocking his hips next to Prez’s face. Prez looks horrified.]

1. That classic first kiss on camera.

[gif image: Cap in motorcycle gear approaches Prez in his chair, covers his own face with a hand, tilts Prez’s head up, and kisses Prez. Caption: “Cap: Your match is starting. Prez: Match?”]


For five months, it was a dream.

First, that fateful kiss from Steve went viral and garnered millions of views. Besides the usual idiocy from the homophobic minority, people loved it. Buzzfeed wrote up another article about Cap and Prez’s love story, featuring gifs from when Steve first appeared in Bucky’s stream as a voiceless newcomer, up to the streamed kiss. His stream multiplied in size, with literally thousands of new subscribers. The money just from those monthly subscriptions was staggering. Bucky had never imagined that his stream could be so profitable.

He lost a lot of those subscribers by the second month, though, since he was still working at the bike shop and didn’t stream often enough to keep the viewers’ attention. Still, he now had a solid base of about 1,000 people who had stayed subscribed, and whenever he streamed he usually drew an audience between 800 and 2,000, double to quadruple the size of his streams before Buzzfeed had featured him.

Steve spent most of his free time hanging around Bucky. Since Steve lived in Tony Stark’s tower and Bucky couldn’t exactly start waltzing past security there whenever he wanted, this meant they spent most of their time at Bucky’s apartment. There were two toothbrushes in the bathroom, two coffee mugs in the sink in the morning, and two pairs of shoes kicked off in the doorway at night now. His neighbors started to notice and asked about his mysterious new boyfriend whose face they never quite seemed to catch, and Bucky just smiled.

At one point, Bucky was watching a press conference with the Avengers after they had a high-profile mission in South America. He mostly tuned in because he knew as soon as Steve was done with the PR stuff, he would be coming home to Bucky, and he wanted to know when to expect him.

“Captain Rogers,” a journalist asked. “Are you aware of the internet persona THECapRogers, a gay man who has been using your name while having a love affair with a video game streamer?”

Steve’s face went blank. “What?” he said.

Bucky, watching with horrified dread, noticed the sideways glance Black Widow sent in Steve’s direction as the journalist continued.

“Yes, a man whose identity is unknown has been going by the internet alias THECapRogers and has appeared in multiple videos and viral gifs with his boyfriend, the streamer President15. Does it bother you that this gay man has been using your name for attention?”

“I’m sure—” Sam started to cut in, and Bucky remembered suddenly that Sam knew, of course he knew, he had been the one to introduce them—

Steve interrupted, waving Sam down. “Last I checked, ma’am, it’s a free country. I don’t own the name Rogers, or the title Captain. Besides, there’s no harm in it.”

“No harm?” she poked. “What about the potential besmirching of your name if someone were to assume—”

“Assume what, exactly?” Steve cut in, and Bucky recognized that look. It was the look that came right before Steve either found a punching bag to destroy or started yelling at someone for being an idiot. “That I’m gay? So what? Maybe I am—not a single one of you has ever thought to ask. Regardless of my sexuality or anyone else's, I’d be honored to be associated with someone who is, I hope, demonstrating a healthy and loving relationship to the rest of the world.”

Black Widow jumped in quickly, never breaking eye contact with the pushy reporter. “Next question, preferably about Caracas,” she said in that flat, dead tone, and nobody dared ask anything further about THECapRogers or Steve’s little speech.

Tony fielded a question about something to do with tech used in the fight while Sam leaned over, whispering to Steve, who looked at the table frowning, then nodded. When the press conference ended and before the camera could even cut to the anchor desk, Steve was out of his chair and stalking away from the table.

A few weeks after that, Bucky met Sam in person for the first time.

Sam had known since the beginning, which made the total number of people who knew about them four: Sam, Becca, Ellie, and Jillian. Soon enough it was five, when Bucky’s other sister Hannah learned from Ellie and demanded to meet Steve, furious she was the last of the Barnes sisters to find out. They had a family dinner and Bucky watched, mortified, as Jillian and the girls had the best time finding new ways to make Steve blush.

Family dinners became more frequent, and the circle of people who knew about Steve expanded when Ellie showed up one day with a date in tow—Laura's little brother Liam, who had apparently met Ellie after Laura asked him to come in and help her train in Muay Thai a few times for the sake of having a variety of training partners. Bucky had known Liam, whose day job was a children’s counselor but moonlighted as a mixed martial arts instructor, for years, and was thrilled by this development.

Thankfully, beyond leaking to Hannah and Liam, they all managed to keep the information on lock-down, perhaps seeing just how much Steve and Bucky meant to each other and unwilling to do something to disrupt that.

Except maybe others did know. To Bucky’s chagrin, at least one other person seemed to have figured it out. A stream viewer and Twitter user named IBelieveCP15 had it all laid out. They mapped dates of Captain America sightings against dates of THECapRogers sightings, collected every image they could find of THECapRogers and compared them meticulously to images of Captain America. They found samples of Steve’s voice from press conferences and compared them to samples of his voice from Bucky’s stream.

Whoever the person was, they were thorough, and they were right, and Bucky felt like a bit of a jerk for having to tell them they were wrong.

But he didn’t really have to say so, because everyone else on the internet was right there in the frontlines insisting there was no way Cap could be Cap. The most cited example was the fake footage Tony had doctored for the first time Steve had appeared on the stream, the most uncontradictable evidence there was that Steve and Cap were not the same person. A few months into IBelieve’s campaign to get others to believe, too, Bucky and Steve decided it was time for some additional proof, and Steve called Tony for help arranging fake footage again.

Tony figured it out at that point, and Steve figured that Natasha had known ever since the press conference, but had never said anything.

So yeah, the circle of people who knew was growing.

Once Tony knew, he began a tireless campaign to get Steve to bring Bucky to Avengers Tower and introduce him to everyone.

“He watches your stream now,” Steve said one night as they were eating pizza and talking about Tony’s continued attempts to learn more about Bucky.

“He what?” Bucky sputtered.

“I mean, I’m sure he knows all about you. The man has never met a boundary he hasn’t crossed. I’m honestly just surprised he hasn’t come by the shop to meet you yet. I really thought it would have happened by now. Just a few days before I lose the bet to Sam on when he shows up to the store.”

Two days later, Tony Stark wandered into Bucky’s bike shop.

“My favorite Overwatch streamer!” Tony exclaimed.

“Hi, Tony,” Bucky said, trying not to seem nervous. Steve said Tony could smell fear. “Did you know that by waiting until today, you helped Sam win the bet?”

“What bet? Nice shop you’ve got here, mind if I take a look? You know, I bet we could make some cool stuff together. Rocket bikes. That could be your schtick.”

“I don’t need a schtick,” Bucky said, watching the billionaire inspect the bikes and parts in the shop.

“Sam has his little flappy wings,” Tony kept going as if Bucky hadn’t spoken, picking up a gel bike seat from a shelf and flipping it idly in his hands before setting it down in a different spot. “Clint has his bow. You can have a rocket bike.”

“I’m not going to try to be an Avenger,” Bucky said, confused.

“You sure about that, Sarge?” Tony said, finally looking Bucky straight in the eye.

Bucky tilted his head and squinted at Tony a bit. “So that’s it—you’re here to protect Steve? You think I’m using him trying to get into your little vigilante team?”

“What, six years in the army not enough action for you?” Tony said.

Bucky raised an eyebrow. “Most people thank injured vets for their service,” he said dryly.

“Yeah, well, not most people,” Tony answered, pointing to himself. “So, is that it? Wanna be the next Wilson—”

“No, I really, really don’t,” Bucky said, getting a little angry. “I want to fix people’s bikes, play video games, and spend time with my boyfriend in peace. Are we done yet? Do you want to buy a bike or something?”

“I’ll decide when we’re done,” Tony said simply.

Bucky snorted. “Nah. My shop, my rules. You can leave, or I call the cops and explain how a hostile trespasser is refusing to leave private property.”

Tony grinned and opened his mouth to reply when Bucky’s phone rang. Bucky checked the number and didn’t recognize it, so he picked up in case it was someone calling about an order, giving Tony a “wait” finger.

“Hi, James? James Barnes?” a woman’s voice said.

“Yes?” Bucky said.

“Hi, James. This is Pepper Potts. Will you tell Tony it’s me? You’ll have to put the phone on the counter for him, he doesn’t like to be handed things.”

“Uh,” Bucky said, then looked at Tony. “It’s… Pepper? She said to put the phone on the counter.”

He clicked speakerphone and set the phone down.

“Tony?” Pepper said.

“Pepper, what are you—”

“Tony Stark, you leave that poor man alone and come back to the tower! I can’t believe you, Steve told you to leave him alone. Why can’t you just leave things alone?”

“Pepper—”

“Do not ‘Pepper’ me, Tony. I’ll see you in fifteen minutes or I’m sending Natasha after you.”

She hung up.

Tony looked at the phone, then pointed at Bucky. “We’re done here,” he said. “Nice meeting you, Bucky. You should come to dinner soon. Cap never shuts up about you.”

For five months, it was a dream.


Chapter Text

Five months and it was heaven, until it wasn't.

“Bucky,” Becca cried into the phone when he finally picked up, “did you see?”

“See what?” Bucky asked, immediately on edge. Becca didn’t cry often.

“Turn on—turn on the news, Buck,” she said quietly.

Dread settling into his stomach, he clicked on the little TV at his shop that was almost always off. The news footage was alarming, a city in Thailand with explosions and collapsing buildings. He knew Steve had left in the middle of the night for a crisis in Asia, but last they had spoken it hadn't been so dire. Apparently the situation had changed.

Becca was saying something, but he didn’t hear her, phone dropped and forgotten as he searched the footage for any flash of blue and red, any sign of Steve.

He saw Tony zip by, blasting falling debris out of the way as Widow and Hawkeye ran underneath to reach a new vantage point. He saw Sam swoop in and snatch Hawkeye up, lifting him to the top of a tall building that was still standing. He saw Natasha land an impressive twisting backflip up onto the back of some kind of mechanical device.

He still didn’t see Steve.

A blast of lightning—Thor entered the battlefield to the visible relief of Black Widow, who waved him over to her, then gestured to some point behind her. Thor was gone in an instant, and Bucky watched with terror as the fight raged on, still no sign of Steve.

Thor reappeared, a limp shape in blue so dark it was almost black draped over his shoulder, a shining metal shield strapped to his arm.

Bucky made a noise that he didn’t recognize as coming from his own body for a few seconds.

But nothing was going to take his attention off that body dangling over Thor’s shoulder, even as the god of thunder flattened five of the attacking mechanism-things without breaking his stride. Steve was deposited somewhere that Bucky couldn’t see, Iron Man flying over to guard him while Thor joined Hawkeye up high, blasting more of the things out of the sky as he went.

Someone came into the shop. Bucky didn’t even turn to see who it was, just kept his eyes locked onto the shiny red and gold figure of Iron Man as he blasted anything that got too close.

“—sit down, please, Bucky,” Ellie was saying, “he’s going to be fine, he can survive anything. He survived seventy years on ice, Bucky, come on, please sit down.”

He finally blinked down and saw his sister, noticed that his phone had gone dead on the floor by his feet. Becca must have called Ellie and sent her to the shop, knowing she worked and lived the closest to him of all the sisters. He was vaguely aware that his breathing was too rapid and irregular to be healthy.

Ellie was clutching Elena’s hand, and it was his niece’s worried little look that got him to take a deep, ragged breath.

“He went down, Ellie,” he said, his voice raw.

“I saw, Buck, I saw. Look, Iron Man’s got him, he’s going to be fine. Sit down, Bear, we’ll keep the TV on and see what happens, okay? But you have to try to calm down.”

He vaguely became aware that his knees had been locked so long that he was swaying in place and Ellie was desperately trying to steady him with one hand to keep him upright. He sat heavily.

“Bee,” Elena said, toddling over and grabbing at his leg. “Bee.”

“Hi baby,” he said, lifting Elena up into his lap and wrapping his arms around her as he watched the TV.

Ellie rubbed his back, and together, the three of them waited.

Finally, after what seemed like a month to Bucky, a jet arrived and Iron Man lifted the still limp form of Steve onto it.

“Oh god,” Bucky choked out, tears stinging his eyes. “Oh my god. He’s not moving, Ellie.” Iron Man reemerged and sped off toward the fight, catching a mechanism-thing as it tried to drop out of the air onto Hawkeye’s position.

“That doesn’t mean—he’s just unconscious, Bucky. Can you try calling him? Maybe someone has his phone and can give you more information.”

He nodded, forcing his breaths to slow down a little. He set Elena down on her feet and found his phone, dialed Steve.

It went straight to voicemail.

“It’s,” he started, then stopped as a sob choked him. In his mind’s eye, he saw the IED that took out Jimenez and Morris explode. The phone dropped from his quivering fingers as his left arm seized. He’d lived through this before, fallen comrades and collapsed buildings and—

“Bee,” Elena whined—

—and this was his niece and New York and years had passed since then. He took a few rapid breaths, gently stroking his right hand down Elena’s silken hair, focused on slowing his breathing down again and the sound of Elena’s confused babbling and the feel of her hair. New York.

“It’s not ringing,” he told Ellie, gesturing at his dropped phone with a shaking hand.

She grabbed it and hit call again, waited while it went to voicemail.

“You have someone else’s number, don’t you?” she said. “Sam? Iron Man?”

“Laura,” Bucky said. “Call Laura, see if she has Sam’s number.”

Ellie nodded, scrolling through Bucky’s contacts. Elena grabbed a stuffed elephant toy that was sticking out of her mother’s purse nearby and brought it to Bucky. He scooped her up again and turned his attention back to the TV while Ellie talked to Laura, wrote something down. Then she was pulling a protesting Elena away from him so she could hand him the phone, a number already punched in.

He hit call.

“Wilson!” Sam barked.

“Sam? It’s Bucky.”

“Bucky? Man, I’m kinda in the middle of things here,” Sam yelled over the ambient noise.

“I know, I—Steve?”

A pause. “I dunno, Prez. Thor said he was alive when he got him out of the rubble, but he was pretty beat up. Got a pen?”

“Uh, yeah,” he said, gesturing urgently at Ellie and making a grabby-hand at the pen and paper she had used to write down Sam’s number.

“Call Pepper, she’ll know more,” Sam said, and rattled off a number.

“Thanks, Sam. Be safe.”

“Trying to!” Sam said, and the call disconnected.

The number to reach Pepper was not the one that had been displayed on his phone when he had met Tony.

“Hello? Who is this?”

“Pepper? It’s Bucky. Steve’s, uh—”

“Bucky,” she said, sounding relieved. “Can you come to the tower?”

“Uh, yeah, I’m in Brooklyn at the bike—”

“Stay there, I’ll send a car. I’ll call you right back.”

Twenty minutes later Bucky, Ellie, and Elena were being escorted into Avengers Tower and up to the penthouse. Pepper met them at the elevator. Bucky had seen Pepper Potts on TV, but this was the first time they had met. Still, she threw her arms around him and brought him into her home, greeting Ellie and Elena in stride, agreeing easily when Ellie asked if Liam could join them.

The news footage was playing on multiple screens from multiple sources. It had been on in the car, too.

“Welcome to the wives’ club,” Pepper said with a weak smile.

“Have you—”

“No news yet,” she said apologetically. “But I kind of hold down the communications side of things for all of the non-battlefront stuff, so I’ll get a call as soon as there’s any new information. Bucky… Steve has pulled through a lot.”

Bucky shook his head and turned his attention back to the TV screens, watching as Thor, Iron Man, and Black Widow started sweeping the city for more of the mechanism-things, which had apparently started hiding as they realized they were losing the battle.

Hawkeye was being removed after taking a nasty blow to his gut.

Pepper’s phone rang for about half a second before she had answered.

“Clint? Are you okay? … Okay. Yes, I understand. Where? … Got it. … Okay. … Yes. Okay. Clint, you let them stitch you up, okay? Don’t be difficult. … Okay. Bye.”

She turned to Bucky. “They have Steve at the Wakandan Humanitarian Hospital in Bangkok,” she said. “They’re taking Clint there, too. The Wakandans are the best at this, Bucky. He’s in good hands.”

“But… is he okay?”

She bit her lip. “I don’t know. Clint didn’t have much information, just what they told him when they evaced him. He’s on his way there, said he’d call when he got there.”

Bucky nodded, a jerking motion, and let Ellie wrap her arms around his waist. Pepper brought him a cup of tea. They waited. Liam arrived to Ellie’s relief, wrapping her and Elena in a tight hug and whispering reassurance as Ellie finally gave into a shuddering sob.

The fight on the TV wound down and the reporters started to replay footage. Bucky watched in horror as a whole building fell on Steve in slow motion, over and over, his small blue-black figure crouching under the shield as rubble pummeled him, covering him in what would have been the blink of an eye had it been played at normal speed. This must have been what Becca had seen that had scared her so bad right when she had called him.

A normal person would have been crushed to pulp.

As they started replaying Thor appearing with Steve’s unmoving form, Bucky turned away, hand shaking so badly his tea spilled. Not pulp. That was a body. If he wasn’t pulp, there was no reason he couldn’t also be alive.

He’s alive, he’s alive, he’s alive, they would have told Clint if he was dead, he’s alive he’s alive hesalivehesalivehesalive—

Ellie squeezed his shoulder and Bucky realized he’d been whispering his mantra aloud. “He’s alive,” Ellie agreed just as quietly, and it was a prayer.

Pepper’s phone rang again, and she answered within a second again. “Tony?” she said immediately, collapsing on the couch with relief. “Are you okay? Oh my god. … Yeah. I hear you. Yeah. … Steve? … Okay. Okay. … Bucky’s here. Yeah. … Okay, I will. Call me from the hospital. Okay. Love you.”

She hung up. “Tony’s on his way now, I guess they put Clint under before they even got to the hospital so they could start emergency surgery right away, which is why he didn’t call.”

Bucky gave a hysterical little laugh. “Oh, god,” he gasped. “How do you do this?”

She gave a twisted little smile. “Not much choice.” She looked down at her hands for a second, then shook herself and looked up again. “Tony said last he heard, Steve was still unconscious—” for a second Bucky’s heart fluttered with hope, unconscious meant alive— “blow to the head is the most troubling part. They’re having some trouble removing shrapnel and bone fragments long enough to make progress because his accelerated healing keeps interfering with—”

A high ringing sound in his ears overrode whatever Pepper was saying. Bucky clenched and unclenched his left hand compulsively. He knew logically that he didn’t remember the way it felt to have shrapnel embedded in his flesh, but his body didn’t care about logic one bit as the vivid feeling of sharp foreign objects in his arm made bile rise in his throat.

Bone fragments. In his head? Is that what had Pepper said? Had his skull been crushed? Unconscious meant alive it meant alive it meant—

He felt dizzy. He thought he might throw up. He leaned forward, settling his head onto his knees as he tried to make himself breathe normally again. Vaguely, he heard Ellie explaining about the IED to Pepper, who sounded horrified and apologetic, but he was still just trying to choke down the burning sour taste in his mouth.

“Bee,” Elena whined, tugging on Bucky’s arm. “Okay Bee. Okay.” Bucky didn't know how to respond, just looked past his niece blankly, his whole body shaking.

Liam scooped Elena up and hugged her close while Ellie rubbed comforting circles on Bucky's back and encouraged him to breathe.

Finally, Tony called back, and after a moment, Pepper handed the phone to Bucky, who had barely registered any of her conversation up to that point, still trying to get his shit under wraps. He met Pepper’s serious, sad eyes, and steeled himself.

“Rocket Bike?” Tony said.

“Tony,” he croaked. “Tell me.”


Chapter Text

The Stark Industries employee who had escorted him into the hospital took him straight to where the Avengers had assembled to wait on word from the various doctors attending to their injured colleagues.

He’d barely slept on the jet over, one of Tony’s fastest, onto which he had been ushered by Pepper only moments after his conversation with her husband.

“Rocket Bike?” Tony said.

“Tony,” he croaked. “Tell me.”

“Cap’s okay. I mean, ‘okay’ is relative here, obviously. He’s not okay by normal standards but by Cap standards this is probably like a four out ten if one is ‘dead’ and ten is— you know what? Let me start over. He’s still in surgery but all the internal organs are fine and the broken bones are already halfway reset. Still some complications with the shrapnel but they’ve figured out how to delay the rapid healing in localized areas while they extract it. Estimating another hour of surgery, and then it’s just letting his weird chemical-riddled biology do its thing.”

“Oh,” Bucky said, trembling. He was holding the phone in his right hand and staring at his left one, wondering if it was really his. “Pepper, um.” He tried desperately to collect his thoughts, squeezing his eyes tight and rubbing at the spot between his eyes. “Pepper said something about his head… and bone fragments?”

“Separate issues, Sarge,” Tony said, his clipped and distracted tone surprisingly comforting. He sounded too much like himself to be lying or hiding something. “Bone fragments from his ribs were threatening to stay lodged in his lungs, but they got that sorted. Head was a concern because any head injury is a concern but looks like between the helmet and the shield, most of the force was absorbed by things other than his admittedly thick and damage-resistant skull.”

“Oh,” repeated Bucky, barely louder than a whisper.

“Your boy gave us all a fright,” Tony said, a little quieter. “Now, do you have a passport? Doesn’t matter, don’t answer that. Pepper is going to get you on a jet. See you in a few hours.”

Bucky felt immensely small and out-of-place when he entered the hospital waiting room and the eyes of Black Widow, Thor, Iron Man, and Falcon turned onto him.

Sam smiled after a second, eyes a bit dull and glazed as he got to his feet and came over to embrace Bucky. “Hey man,” he said, and Bucky distantly noticed that he hadn’t showered yet. “Glad you’re here.”

“Thanks,” Bucky said, and when the smell of dust and gunpowder from Sam's clothes hit his nose, he suddenly had the nauseating feeling of being right at home. He’d done this before. He’d sat in hospital waiting rooms with filthy, battle-weary soldiers and waited for news about injured friends. “How’s, um. How’s Clint?”

“Out of surgery,” Natasha said. “Still under.”

Bucky nodded. “And Steve?”

“Stable, lover boy,” Tony said. “But still unconscious.”

Thor squinted at Bucky. “Lover boy,” he said, and Bucky could have sworn his voice echoed a little in the room. “So you are the man Captain Rogers has been talking about! It is good to meet you, James Barnes.”

“Uh… yeah, you, uh. You too, Thor,” Bucky said.

Natasha wiggled her fingers. “We’ve met,” she said.

“We have?” Bucky said, furrowing his brows in confusion.

She smiled a very small smile. “I stopped by your store days before Steve did. Just making sure you were cool.”

“Oh,” Bucky said as Sam started to scold her for being so nosy. “So you’ve known…?”

“Longer than Steve,” Natasha said, smug.

“Oh,” Bucky said again.

“You get used to it,” Sam said. “I don’t know who’s worse about respecting privacy, Tony or Nat.”

“Hey,” Tony said indignantly. “I'm a saint. Privacy is very important to me.”

“It is definitely Tony who is worse!” Thor proclaimed. Natasha spread her arms in a “see? Told you so” gesture at Tony.

The door opened behind them again and Bruce Banner walked in. “Hi everyone,” he said, doing a double take when he saw Bucky. “Sorry I’m late—who’s this?”

“James Barnes,” Bucky said, extending his hand and shaking Bruce’s. “I’m….”

“Steve’s boy toy,” Tony said. “He goes by Rocket Bike.”

“Steve’s boyfriend,” Sam corrected, rolling his eyes. “And he goes by Bucky.”

“Right,” Bruce said doubtfully, turning his attention to Nat. “Clint?”

“Recovering,” she said. “So is Steve.”

“I’m sorry,” Bruce started, but Sam waved him to silence.

“We get it Bruce. We had it handled without you.”

Bucky caught himself right before he said something he’d regret. He sure wouldn’t have minded seeing the Hulk in the fight. Maybe they would have ‘had it handled’ enough that Steve would not be recovering from surgery right now after a building fell on him.

“Still,” Bruce said helplessly, glancing up through his overgrown hair at the look on Bucky's face.

Nick Fury walked in next. “Why haven’t any of you showered?” he demanded, then gave Bucky an appraising look. When Bucky opened his mouth to introduce himself, he held up a hand. “I know who you are.”

Bucky snorted. “This feels like one of those dreams where you’re on stage and look down and see you’re only in your underwear,” he grumbled.

Thor apparently found this comment hilarious, his laugh deep and contagious as a few other grins and chuckles spread through the room. Sam gave Bucky a sympathetic clap on the shoulder.

“Well,” Fury said, neither smiling nor laughing. “All of you sitting here stinking the place up isn’t going to get Clint or Steve on their feet any sooner.”

Bruce smiled gently at Natasha before she could say something. “It’s okay, Nat. I’ll stay. I’ll call you as soon as we hear anything.”

She frowned at him for a second before nodding curtly and leaving, pushing Tony ahead of her. Thor clapped Bucky on the shoulder so hard that Bucky’s knees shook. “James, keep us informed of friend Steven’s recovery,” he said.

“Okay, you got a phone so I can text you or something?” Bucky said weakly, head swimming as he tried to process the hilariously improbable circumstance of asking a Norse god for his number.

“Indeed!” He took Bucky’s proffered phone in giant hands and typed in a phone number, then gestured to Sam. “Falcon Man,” he said. “Shall we?”

“It’s just Falcon,” Sam muttered, giving Bucky one last sympathetic look before following Thor.

Fury, Bruce, and Bucky settled into uncomfortable silence.

News about Clint came first, just an hour later. Bruce immediately called Natasha, who was back within twenty minutes and joined Fury and Bruce at Clint’s bedside. Bucky waited, nodding to Bruce who emerged from Clint’s room to take up the vigil with Bucky again.

Finally another doctor came into the room, looking around a little confusedly. “Um, who is waiting for news about Rogers? Captain Steven Rogers?”

Bucky stood up immediately. “Me,” he said.

The doctor nodded. “And you are—?”

“James Barnes,” Bucky said. “I’m Steve’s boyfriend.”

“I see.” For a minute Bucky was afraid that the doctor was going to tell him he couldn’t see Steve since he was neither family nor his spouse, but she just continued calmly after consulting her charts. “Captain Rogers is awake, but still very weak and currently immobile. Many of his bones were broken in the incident, and although he heals at an alarmingly fast rate, the bones will be fusing for another six hours, we estimate. Until then, you cannot touch him, or you could interrupt the process.”

“Okay,” Bucky said weakly. “Can I go in now?”

“Yes. Mr. Barnes, please be calm and gentle. Captain Rogers is in a lot of pain.”

“I understand,” he said. The doctor nodded and gestured for him to follow her back to Steve’s room.

As soon as he was within Steve’s view, Steve looked up at him and winced. “Hey, Buck,” he whispered.

Bucky forced a watery smile. “Hi Stevie,” he said, voice cracking. He couldn’t help the tears that spilled over.

“Glad you’re here,” Steve said, eyes following Bucky as he came closer to the bed. “Sorry you have to see me like this, though.”

“I’m just glad you survived,” he said, wishing he could hold Steve’s hand, or touch his face, or anything. Instead he settled helplessly into the chair next to his bed. “The doctor said six more hours until your bones set.”

“Great,” Steve said sarcastically. It was the first little sign of personality, of Steve, and Bucky felt his stomach unclench, relief from worry he hadn’t realized he’d been carrying that the blow to the head had done more damage than the doctors could tell.

“Can’t they give you pain meds?” Bucky asked.

“Serum burns right through ‘em,” Steve answered. “Same as alcohol.”

“Even higher doses?”

“The dose they think I’d need for it to be effective is pretty lethal,” Steve said wryly, wincing and stiffening as something pained him. “Not worth the risk,” he added through gritted teeth.

They were quiet for a minute, but the sight of Steve encased in protective casts to keep his body still while it healed and the image of the building collapsing on him that was seared to the back of Bucky’s eyelids eventually caught up, and Bucky sniffled.

“Hey, Buck, it’s okay, I’m okay,” Steve said.

“It’s not okay,” Bucky snapped, wiping at tears with the back of his hand. “What if you had died?”

Steve was quiet for a minute. “This was always a possibility, Bucky. You have to know that.”

“I do know! I do, it’s just… it’s different to know it could happen than for it to actually happen,” he said. “I’m just… I was so scared, Steve.”

“I’m sorry,” Steve whispered, sounding scared himself. Bucky dried his eyes again and looked at Steve, whose face was pinched not with pain, but dread. “You’re not… you’re not going to leave me, are you?” His voice sounded so small, so desperate.

“What are you talking about?”

Steve grimaced. “This is always going to be my life,” he said. “I’m not giving it up, Bucky. I’m in it until my body can’t handle it anymore, or it kills me. You shouldn’t have to have that burden on your shoulders. I’ve seen what it’s done to Pepper.”

“Now, wait just a minute,” Bucky said, standing up. “That’s not what I—”

“I just thought maybe—because you’re a soldier—but this was obviously different—”

“Would you quit being a fucking martyr for a minute and listen to me?” Bucky interrupted, exasperated. “I’m not leaving. You can’t make me. I’m in this to the end of the line, pal, and you better get that through your thick skull now. I thought they said there wasn’t any brain damage.”

Steve looked at him incredulously, then cracked a little smile. “No more than usual,” he joked weakly.

Bucky rolled his eyes. “You’re not getting any more sympathy from me after that little display of doom and gloom,” he muttered, sitting back down. “Steve Rogers, I have lost people I love to war before. I have lost them to bad decisions, to abuse, and to sheer bad luck. If I lose you to a fight against aliens or whatever, it’s going to suck. Really bad. But so help me, up until such a time as aliens vaporize your body, nothing is going to keep me away from you, you understand? You do your best to save yourself every time you’re out there saving the world, and I’ll do my best to trust that you’ll come home to me at night. At least Pepper has someone to be company for her misery now. Deal?”

Steve’s smile grew. “Deal,” he whispered. “Damn, Buck, did you plan that speech, or—”

“Shut up and finish healing so I can kiss your ugly mug,” Bucky grumbled, resting his forehead gently on the side of Steve’s mattress.

“Yessir,” Steve said, and they fell silent for a few minutes.

“Did you seriously think that I flew across the fucking world to break up with you while your bones were still sawdust?” Bucky muttered as he sat up straight again.

Steve huffed a little laugh, then groaned in pain. “Ow,” he said weakly. “This fucking sucks.”

“It does,” Bucky agreed sympathetically. He bit his lip, debating—the doctor had been very clear about no touching but he couldn’t help it, not when Steve was in pain and needed comfort. With the gentlest, softest touch he could manage, he ever so lightly brushed his fingers into Steve’s hair.

“Ow!” Steve yelped, and Bucky pulled his hand away as though burned. Steve started to laugh. “Gotcha,” he said, then winced in actual pain, cringing and squeezing his eyes shut as the laugh jostled injuries.

“Serves you right, you ass,” Bucky grumped, but his heart wasn’t in it. He wished desperately for something that could take Steve’s pain away. “Just a few more hours, love,” he said, feather-light fingers brushing Steve’s hair again. “The worst will be over.”

Steve closed his eyes at the touch, no jokes this time. “Thank you,” he whispered, looking up at Bucky again with serious eyes. “For being here. For seeing this through.”

“Might as well call me Barnacle Barnes,” he said, grinning, “‘cuz you’re stuck with me, babe.”

Steve groaned and Bucky let other jokes and puns die on his lips, not wanting to cause more pain by making him laugh. Instead he pulled up the e-book reader on his phone and offered to read Steve something.

“Can you get the Wonderful Wizard of Oz on there?” Steve asked. “My mom used to read it to me when I was sick.”

Bucky smiled at the thought as he searched for it. “Yep, and it’s free,” he said brightly. Having his phone in his hand, though, reminded him that he was supposed to let others know about Steve’s condition. “Uh, but before we do that, let me just tell the team you’re okay.”

“The team,” Steve whispered, grimacing. “The doctors told me about Clint and the fight before you came in. I wish I’d been faster, maybe I could have kept Clint safe if—”

“Nope, gonna stop you there,” Bucky interrupted. “There will be no self-blame happening on my watch. Just gonna pop out and let Bruce know you’re okay.”

“What about your shop? And the stream? God, this is a drag,” Steve rambled.

“Stevie. You worry about your crushed spine and I’ll worry about tweeting everyone to say that I’m sick and can’t stream today, alright? Priorities, my love.” With that, he stepped out of the room and found Bruce, then sent a text to Thor, Sam, and his sisters as he waited while Bruce and Nick went in to say hi to Steve. He poked his head into Clint’s room to tell Natasha, but found her asleep in her chair, bent at the waist with her cheek smashed into the side of Clint’s bed. Clint, also sleeping, was bandaged and hooked up to an oxygen tank. He looked worse than Steve did, and Bucky told himself that if he had to fall for an Avenger, at least he had fallen for one who healed at an obnoxiously fast rate.

Finally back in Steve’s room, he settled into the chair again, kicked off his shoes, and propped his feet carefully on the bed, then pulled up his phone and read until Steve fell asleep. He watched his lover’s sleeping form for a minute, then brushed his lips across his forehead so gently that he barely even felt the touch. “I’ll be here every time,” he promised, whisper so soft that he wasn’t sure he had actually vocalized the words.


Chapter Text

One year and six months after their first kiss on stream, Bucky looked up from his phone, finger hovering over the “send” button in the Twitter app. Biting his lip, he met Steve’s eyes and searched his face for any sign of misgivings.

“You sure?” he asked quietly.

Steve nodded. “Are you?”

“Yeah,” Bucky said. He took a deep breath and sent the tweet. It had a picture of a backlit Steve in a tight blue shirt, standing with his head bowed, halfway through the process of removing a plastic Captain America mask from his face, his features obscured between the orange sunset silhouetting him and his hand and mask. Bucky thought it might be the most artistic photo he had ever taken, though not the most beautiful. That honor went to another one he had of Steve, who had just woken up, the morning light playing on his face, eyelashes casting long shadows down his cheeks, blue eyes just barely visible.

That photo was private, and treasured.

But this one… this one was going to be tomorrow’s most viral image, he had no doubt. Not tonight, not when its significance wasn’t clear. But in 24 hours, when it was trending on Twitter and causing commotion on televised news, he would be on a plane to a beach somewhere far, far away, to let the fallout happen in his wake.

The text of the tweet said, “Tune in at 7pm ET tomorrow for a special announcement.”


“Hey, everyone,” Bucky said nervously as his webcam feed went live. There were over 3,000 people already watching his stream, the numbers ticking up every second. “Um, thanks… thanks for showing up. We made the decision a while ago to go public but… we wanted to share with you all, first, since you’ve been with us since the beginning. You’re the ones who clipped all those first times that Cap took my breath away, who made endless gifs of me blanking when he’d flirt with me.” He chuckled. “It’s really been a lot of fun, getting to share a little bit of our lives with you, because we haven’t been able to do that much anywhere else.”

He paused, looking off screen to where Steve was waiting, smiling.

“Yeah,” he breathed, looking back to the camera. He cleared his throat. “Um, yeah. We couldn’t really share a lot of our relationship in a public way because, well. You’ll see. But, anyway, it was really special to us that we got to be silly and real with you all on camera, even if we always hid Cap’s face, because we got to feel a little bit… normal, I guess? I mean, it wasn’t normal, but it was closer than what it would have been if we had gone public right away, or hadn’t had the stream to share those little moments with people who were like friends to us.”

He shook his head. “Okay, enough rambling, I guess.”

He looked to Steve. “Ready?”

Steve nodded.

Bucky zoomed the webcam feed out so it was capturing both of them.

“Uh, hi everyone,” Steve said, waving. “Wow, this is actually really weird to just sit in front of the camera without a mask on or anything,” he confessed, looking sideways at Bucky. “I’ve gotten so used to hiding my face.”

Bucky smiled encouragingly.

“Anyway, I never dreamed that when Sam made me the Overwatch battletag ‘THECapRogers’ that it would end up being more than an account I used for a day or two to humor my buddy. But that plan kinda went to shit the minute Prez joined that first game I ever played.” He grinned at Bucky, who rolled his eyes.

“Couldn’t say no to my Grandma beachball wiles,” Bucky teased.

“Couldn’t then, still can’t,” Steve confirmed.

The stream had over 9,000 viewers now.

“Anyway, yeah, it’s really me, Steve Rogers. And it always has been. Those times when I was on stream with Prez and also at the Avengers Tower were all faked to try to cover our tracks. Sorry about that. For what it’s worth, we struggled with the moral quandary that one posed a lot. We didn't want to lie, but we also wanted to protect what was developing between us as much as we could. We hope you understand why.”

12,000 viewers.

Bucky picked up the thread when Steve fell silent. “We decided now was a good time to tell you because we’re leaving for a while. We’re headed out on, uh, on our honeymoon.” He grinned sheepishly and held up his left hand so the camera could see the new marriage band there. “We didn’t really plan to get married but with Steve in and out of the hospital all the time—”

“Sorry for saving the world, honey,” Steve interjected sarcastically.

Bucky rolled his eyes and kept going. “—and American laws still being shit about same-sex partners and all, we figured this was the best way to make sure I could get to him when I need to. And we’re not fooling ourselves into thinking we could keep the marriage thing a secret, even if we wanted to.”

“Which we don’t,” Steve added.

19,000 viewers.

“Wow, um. Thanks everyone, but we’re not really going to take any questions right now or say much more. I’m sure this will be clipped and all over everything soon enough, so if you’re just tuning in, you can go back to the beginning. It’ll be a vod—a video of the day as soon as we cut the feed, so you can go back and watch it from the beginning. I know it was kind of a short announcement but, that’s all we wanted to say.”

Steve grinned and turned to face Bucky, reaching out with one hand to tilt his chin up and to the side, then leaned forward and pressed a kiss to his lips. The gesture mirrored the one from 18 months ago so perfectly, except Steve wasn’t hiding his face, and the thrill it sent through Bucky was even more intense now.

Turning back to the camera, Steve smirked as Bucky just sat there for a second, staring at him in a daze. “Citizens, this is your president’s husband, signing off for the both of us while he’s otherwise occupied with gazing at me in adoration,” he said, and cut the feed.


Prez and Cap Retrospective: One Year Since the Marriage Bomb Dropped

Today marks the first anniversary of one of the biggest celeb reveals of the 21st century: Steve “Captain America” Rogers and James “President15” Barnes announced their marriage on this day a year ago before a live internet audience that peaked at more than 20,000 viewers. The video went viral immediately, garnering millions of views within hours, but by then, the newlyweds had already boarded their escape jet (courtesy of their friend Tony Stark) and disappeared to a still-unknown location for their honeymoon.

Buzzfeed journalist Bethany Truong sat down with Mr. Barnes for his first ever interview since he and Cap went public with their relationship.

BT: First of all, thank you so much for agreeing to meet for this interview.

JB: (laughs) Well, Steve and I like to joke that Buzzfeed is the reason we got together, so I figured it was the most appropriate venue for an interview.

BT: Really? Why do you joke about that?

JB: Oh you know (waves his hand vaguely), that time you featured my tweet about him joining the stream. We were on our way to getting together anyway, but that’s the moment that stands out to both of us as the first time we really had to look at each other and think, yeah okay, this is happening.

BT: I’ve never been so proud to work for Buzzfeed. (Both laugh.) Well, James. Can you start us off with telling us a little about how your life has changed since the big reveal?

JB: Jeez, it’s really easier to list the ways my life hasn’t changed. Let’s see… everyone probably knows I sold the bike shop.

BT: Yeah, that was a big deal when it happened. Why did you?

JB: Well, a couple of reasons, and they’re nothing I haven’t said before on stream or whatever. But the big one was that what I had always loved about the shop was that it was, well, we called it our little oasis. You know, a place we could hide from the city and the internet and just be ourselves. And of course that didn’t last once my identity became known. It’s okay, though, we knew it was a likely possibility.

BT: So do you have a new little oasis?

JB: If I told you, that would spoil it.

BT: (laughs) True enough. What else has changed?

JB: I started going to college?

BT: What? That’s great!

JB: Yeah, thanks. I mean, Tony [Stark] wanted to hire me as an engineer, so I told him I didn’t have a degree and he didn’t even blink, just said, ‘consider yourself the first recipient of the Tony Pays for Cap’s Hubby’s College scholarship.’ (laughs) So now instead of going to the bike shop and then coming home to stream, I go to class and then come home to stream.

BT: You kept the stream but not the shop. Why?

JB: I can stream from home, or anywhere if I have an internet connection and the right equipment. Way easier to have some kind of privacy like that. Plus, Steve and I both loved the stream and what it enabled for us during that first year and a half.

BT: Hard to believe that back then, everyone thought you were the more famous of the pair.

JB: Steve and I laugh about that all the time.

BT: Sorry, I hope that didn’t sound rude, I just meant—

JB: (laughs) No, please, don’t. I understand. We really do get a kick out of remembering how a year ago, there were maybe 500 to a thousand people who sort of cared about our relationship and mostly because of my internet fame, small though it was. Probably under a hundred who felt any kind of real investment. And now, every stream pulls in hundreds of thousands, most of whom probably are hoping for a glimpse of Steve more than they care about whatever game I’m playing.

BT: Don’t sell yourself short, I watch your channel. You’re a lot of fun to watch!

JB: Thanks.

BT: So if Tony Stark is paying for your college degree, what are you doing with the money you’re making from the stream?

JB: We debated about that for a long time, actually. We didn’t want to keep it, not when we already have more than enough and so many people who subscribe and donate are really aiming for more access to Steve anyway…. For now we’re splitting the money two ways. Half of it goes to helping pay for veterans’ health care, including funding research into advanced limb prostheses, but mostly footing the bill for whatever health care we can afford. We donate the other half to public school districts to fund their arts and music programs.

BT: Wow. That sounds like a lot of money.

JB: The stream does pull in a surprising amount, but it’s supplemented by other things. We sell Cap/Prez merch and all of the proceeds of that are donated, and we held our first ever charity 48-hour stream just last month, which raised about one million dollars.

BT: I caught some of that! Tell us more about your friends who helped out.

JB: Well, of course Steve was a big part of it. He got the other Avengers on board, so everyone got to see Barton and Romanoff duke it out in Soul Calibur II thanks to him.

BT: We all owe him a debt of thanks.

JB: (laughs) Yeah, that was a sight to see, wasn’t it. The Avengers agreeing to stream for charity was a big draw, I know, but I had some other friends from my streaming community who joined to help. Greenwich—that’s his Twitch handle, his real name is Jarrell Martin, he’s a great guy—he was another big help. He streamed with us during the event but also helped recruit a few of the others, Marnie and Budd and the rest.

BT: I love what you’re doing, James, so this is not meant as reproach or criticism. I just have to ask because a lot of people are wondering and this is the first chance anyone has had to ask you some of these questions. Why aren’t your charitable endeavors focused on LGBT causes?

JB: (smiles) We’re only getting started, Bethany. I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone that Steve has about a thousand causes he wants to champion right now, but there’s only so much time in a day and so many days in a year. We’ve got some cool ideas developing already for the next project we want to kick off, and all I’ll say for now is, those people you mentioned, wondering about that? They won’t be disappointed.

BT: That sounds exciting! You know, I was just twenty-one when you came out on stream with Cap. It helped me find the courage to tell my mom about my sexuality.

JB: (visibly taken aback) Really?

BT: Yeah. I didn’t want to hide that I was bi from her anymore but it seemed so hard to tell people. And then you just let Cap kiss you on stream and you looked so happy, and you were so calm about the idiots saying mean things, and I thought, maybe I can do this.

JB: You mean… it wasn’t when Steve came out?

BT: Nope! I’d been out to my whole family for months before Cap was revealed to be Captain Rogers.

JB: Oh. Uh, wow. Cool. That’s really… that’s really nice of you to tell me.

BT: Well, speaking of Cap being revealed as Cap, here’s the million dollar question: How did you two manage to keep it secret for a year and a half?

JB: (laughs) It was surprisingly easy. Sometimes it felt like we were barely trying at all. It started that way with me and him, too, did you know that? I don’t know if I’ve ever told this story to the public, but I had no idea who Steve was until he showed up at my bike shop one day.

BT: Really?

JB: Yep. One of my army buddies, Laura, knew Sam [Wilson] from the VA, and they started playing Overwatch together first. When I found out she played, I joined the two of them and then a while later, Sam brought Steve in under the name THECapRogers. We all laughed because we just thought “Cap” was a big fan of Captain America.

BT: How did you react when you met him in person?

JB: Oh, man, it was bad. I made a total ass of myself, to be honest. I was so shocked and I said something about him being government property or something because I wasn’t thinking straight, I don’t really remember except that he almost walked out right then and there. Luckily I realized how stupid whatever I’d said was and apologized, and we never looked back. Anyway I guess what I’m saying is, there are tons of Cap fans out there. It wasn’t that hard to pretend Steve was one of them because it was the far, far more likely scenario. People don’t think of Steve as a person who plays video games and does silly dance moves on his boyfriend’s stream, so even when there was so much evidence available, not many people put it together.

BT: I think more people think of him as a person now than before.

JB: Yeah, me too. I always think about that time that I was trying to focus on my game and he was feeling neglected so he was trying to get my attention and kept doing more and more ridiculous things to make me look away from the game. And he started lifting up his shirt like he was gonna strip, which he knew perfectly well at the time is against the Twitch code of conduct, so I had to stop him or he’d have gotten me banned or whatever. Anyway I think about that moment and I think, this is why nobody believed that he was actually Captain America. Because nobody expected Captain America to be threatening to do a strip tease on camera because he was jealous his boyfriend wasn’t paying attention to him.

BT: I… see your point. I guess even now, I sometimes forget that he did that. Or really, it’s like there are two of him in my mind. The serious one who saves the world, and the guy who goofs off in your stream.

JB: Exactly. Even when people know it’s him, they still think of him as kinda… separate, I guess, from Captain America. So when they didn’t have any real reason to think it was him? Of course they thought we were kidding every time we suggested he was really Cap.

BT: Captain America is a symbol.

JB: (excitedly) Yes! Yes. Exactly. And symbols don’t play Duck Hunt on a friend’s stream or moonwalk for attention. Cap is a symbol. Steve is a person.

You can catch James’s stream at twitch.tv/President15 and follow him on Twitter @President15Gaming.