Steve sat, watching his best friend smile lopsidedly at a pretty blonde he’d met earlier in the day. His hand made sweeping gestures at the surrounding area, probably promising her the world if she’d maybe go on a date or two more with him.
Steve’s pencil wandered over a loose napkin nearby, and before he knew it there was a facsimile of Bucky smiling up at him. This Bucky was looking at him how he looked at all the dames he’d seduced over the years. Wide, open eyes that shimmered in the light. A dazzling smile that rivaled the stars. It was wrong, but Steve couldn’t help himself.
His best friend wouldn’t ever look at him in this particular manner, so Steve had to settle for mediocre sketches and watching him from afar. They had such a good friendship, and Steve didn’t want to mess it up-he had no idea how Bucky might react to such a confession.
He could leave. He might want to, and if he did, then Steve would have to let him. Or, Bucky didn’t deserve to have to uproot himself, Steve decided. If it came to it Steve would leave. He would do just about anything for that situation to never happen, though, including keeping such a massive secret from his best friend. Life without Bucky wouldn’t really be worth living.
Bucky smiled at the newest dame he had taken out for a date, but he couldn’t put his heart into it. He had a type, these days, and that type was anything he could convince himself was Steve if he squinted hard enough. They were all tall with intelligent blue eyes, and Bucky hated himself for it. The more he thought about Steve, the more girls he’d go on dates with, trying to erase the way his brain worked.
Recently he’d been going on dates every other night, but he still couldn’t clear his mind of his best friend. He’d always glance at Steve awkwardly smiling at whatever girl Bucky found for him on their double dates and feel a pit of guilt in his stomach. He always talked Steve up to these girls and they would always be disappointed, ask him silent questions when they saw his small shoulders and measly stature.
They didn’t know Steve the way Bucky did, though. They only saw his physique, or rather the lack thereof. They didn’t get to see Steve’s eyes light up when he found something to sketch. They weren’t privy to the late nights when Steve was nearly delusional, the faint grin that always lived on his lips peeking out. They couldn’t see his grim determination to correct all that was wrong with society-they couldn’t see past his hunched shoulders, his initial shyness. Steve deserved the entire world, and Bucky wouldn’t stop until he found Steve a perfect… girl for him.
Bucky knew Steve’s birthday was coming up, and he wanted to be able to set him up with a girl that he could spend the rest of his life with if he wanted to. Steve needed someone to be close to. Someone to laugh with and hug. Someone to kiss sleepily late at night. Someone who could do all the things Bucky would only ever dream of.
Bucky got up at dawn on July 4, quietly padding into the kitchen. He was as careful as he could not to make any noise that might wake Steve. He grabbed Steve’s ma’s recipe box and picked out the card labeled ‘Pancakes.’ Bucky smiled at the loose handwriting; Steve’s ma used to treat the two of them with a pancake each on Steve’s birthday and Bucky fully intended to do just that. He mixed up all the ingredients, and soon enough, the smell of pancakes wafted through the small two-room apartment. Bucky didn’t hear Steve enter the kitchen, in fact, he didn’t notice Steve was there until they were nearly touching.
“Thanks, Buck.” Steve breathed quietly. The city hadn’t quite begun its day yet; there was almost no outside sounds filtering through the windows.
“Oh, uh no problem. Wanted to do something nice for your birthday. Happy birthday.” Bucky stuttered, Steve’s soft gratitude making his gut tingle. Their closeness didn’t help, Bucky had no time to mentally prepare himself for a situation like this.
“Here, let me help.” Steve offered, grabbing the bowl of batter to pour onto the skillet, inadvertently wrapping Bucky in something of a hug. Bucky jumped at the contact, his back straightening. His breathing was shallow, coming in bursts. He hated this. He hated that he couldn't just enjoy their innocent contact anymore, ever since they were in high school their contact felt dirty. Like Bucky was taking advantage of Steve, stealing touches and turning them into things they didn't mean. But he also loved it. He loved Steve. He loved how Steve was comfortable enough with him to do such things, even if it would never be in the context Bucky truly desired.
Bucky grinned, but turned him down. “It’s your birthday, punk, and this is my treat, let me do it.” It’s the least he could do, given they both were still going to have to work all day and Bucky couldn’t find a dame for Steve. Although to be fair, his heart wasn’t really in it.
Steve took a seat on his stool facing Bucky, watching him work.
Bucky made the last pancake and turned to Steve, finding him hunched over his journal. Bucky placed a plate with three small pancakes in front of Steve, and one in front of himself with two. He made an effort to glance in Steve’s sketchbook and find what exactly he was drawing with his wide strokes, but Steve held the book to his chest and gave Bucky a playful grin.
“It’s not done.” Steve said by way of explanation, but Bucky took it to mean he would at least be able to see it when it was finished properly. Bucky knew Steve took pride in his art, but even more than that it was incredibly personal to him, so he didn’t share it with too many people. Not that they really had any other people in their lives that were very close to them - they were pretty much on their own. Still, Bucky was glad that Steve trusted him enough to share his sketches.
“Okay, okay,” Bucky sat down next to Steve and they ate breakfast in silence. In the time they took to eat, sounds of the city began to echo, reminding Bucky that while he might want to spend the whole day next to Steve, they both had to get to work.
“Also, Stevie, this isn’t over yet. Come straight home after you’re done at the studio.” Bucky winked at Steve, then turned to grab his bag before heading out the door.
He didn’t see Steve’s back stiffen at his wink, nor did Bucky see the blush sneaking onto his best friend’s face. All he saw was the long work day ahead of him before he would be able to hang out with Steve again.
Bucky managed to push through his work day keeping his evening plans in mind regardless of the heat and never-ending lifting he was assigned. Just because he wished that his day would end didn’t mean it automatically would.
Finally, he had carried his last load and checked out for the day, and nearly ran back to his and Steve’s apartment, even though he was exhausted. He changed clothes, into a plain white shirt and some jeans and awaited Steve’s arrival home.
Keys scratched into the lock, and the door opened to reveal Steve, battered and bloody. Thick trails of blood streamed down his face, dripping from his chin and leaving dark splotches on the landing.
Bucky saw red. The one time he had plans for them, the one time he needed Steve to come straight home without any righteous detours, he went out and got himself beat up. Bucky started to tell Steve exactly that, but Steve’s weak whimper melted Bucky’s rage.
“Oh, come here, Stevie.” Bucky helped his friend onto the couch and fetched a wet cloth to clean his wounds.
Pressing the cloth to Steve’s head, Bucky frowned down at his friend.
“What did I do to deserve an idiot like this one?” He mumbled, but Steve’s small smile in response told Bucky that he was at least still conscious. That was better than some of the previous times.
Bucky helped Steve sit up to have some water, but Steve winced and grabbed his shoulder. While Steve insisted it was nothing, Bucky had every reason to take a look. He worked Steve’s shirt off, and looked at his scraped and red skin.
Bucky cleaned that up as well, letting his fingers linger on Steve’s soft skin. He promised himself that this was normal, that wanting to feel his best pal’s skin for as long as possible was a casual thing all friends felt. He let Steve put his shirt back on after slowly dressing the wound, and helped Steve lay back down as the first of the Fourth of July fireworks started booming outside.
“‘M sorry, Buck. I couldn’t do nothing… I had to… ‘M sorry,” Steve muttered, curling up in a ball on the couch.
“No, there’s nothing wrong with you, Stevie. You’re perfect how you are.” Bucky cringed inwardly at his words. He needed to carefully tread here, especially as he was noticing his and Steve’s closeness in the semi-darkness of the flashing fireworks.
“Thanks, Buck.” Steve’s lips turned into a smile, his eyes slowly drifting shut.
Bucky watched peace take over Steve’s face, and knew that if a dame ever saw him in a state like this, he would lose his best friend to a life with two and a half kids in the suburbs with a white picket fence.
He sat for a moment, and was suddenly overwhelmed with the urge to press his lips against Steve’s, to make sure he knew that Bucky would never leave, to be sure Steve knew he was loved. And for a brief, tantalizing second, Bucky thought he would do it, too.
He leaned in until his lips hovered less than an inch from Steve’s. Bucky was about to give in to his want, to his need, but Steve shifted and Bucky jerked back as if he’d been electrocuted.
He sat, paralyzed for over a minute, saying nothing. Not even blinking, not even breathing.
“You’re such a great pal, Buck. The best I could ever want.” Steve breathed softly, his eyes cracked open just the slightest.
The best pal he could have. The thought shamed Bucky, brought him damn near tears. No way was him thinking about his friend like this good. Steve deserved better, and if Bucky was even honest about it there was no way Steve would want to be his friend anymore. But a life without Steve was not one worth living. Bucky bottled it up and took one last look at his admittedly beautiful sleeping friend before retreating into his own bedroom. Alone.
Bucky watched from the shadows as Steve gave his soft smile to Peggy Carter. A pang of jealousy stabbed his chest; he remembered the times when only he was privy to those moments, but now Steve looked the part to match his personality, and everyone wanted to know him. Especially the women. He could feel Steve slipping away from him, he was trying to hold on, but Steve fell right through his fingers.
Peggy Carter wasn’t a bad choice; Bucky could see her appeal. She was fantastic, and that was part of the problem. There was nothing not to love. She was righteous and took no shit from anyone. She was perfect for Steve, the one he deserved.
It was almost dark, the orange glow to the woods heightened by the flickering fire in front of Steve and Peggy. He put his hand on her knee as he laughed, and Bucky turned away.
He shouldn’t have expected anything more. Steve was never messed up like he was. Steve liked girls, and Bucky needed to try harder to do the same. It would do no good, pining over his best pal and spiral into a worse headspace than he was already living in.
Bucky wandered back to his tent, shared with the other Howlies. He sat on his bunk, head in his hands, and wallowed in his pain. The first step to getting over Steve had to be accepting that he could never reciprocate Bucky’s feelings, but Bucky had spent upwards of five years grappling with that fact and had yet gotten nowhere.
“Buck? You okay?”
Bucky felt the stiff mattress dip next to him and Steve’s hand press against his back. Bucky’s back stiffened, and he looked up to see Steve concerned.
“What is it? Is it Peggy? I’m sorry pal, maybe she’s got some friend you could see...”
“It’s nothing.” It couldn’t be anything. Steve was happy without him, and that’s how it had to be.
“I know that’s not true, Buck. Something’s up. You know you can tell me, right? I’m your best pal.” Steve looked at Bucky earnestly.
In a second, Bucky was taken back into their shared apartment back in Brooklyn. Back before the war, before Steve’s serum. Bucky had seen this look so many times, from Steve all the way back since they were kids. Nothing had really changed, Bucky had always thought this way, and Steve had always been the truest person Bucky knew.
“That’s the problem.” Bucky felt himself breaking. HYDRA had gotten close, but of course it was only Steve that could finish him off.
“What? What am I doing wrong?” Steve’s voice was thick with worry.
“Nothing. You’re perfect, Stevie. I’m the one that’s broken.” Bucky’s voice cracked. He stood, his fists clenched. He stormed outside, the snow crunching beneath his feet as he strode into the trees.
His fingers cracked as he punched a tree, but Bucky didn’t feel any pain. He was too far gone. He hit the tree again. Again. Again and again. Again and again and again and again.
Bucky’s punches stopped landing and his arms were held behind him. He opened his eyes, turned, and saw Steve.
Steve had followed him, all the way out here. His eyes spoke for him, his face expressive as ever.
“Buck. Please, I can help. Whatever it is. ‘Til the end of the line, remember?” Steve promised. “What could possibly be so bad?”
“Me.” Bucky choked out, his eyes falling to the ground. “I… I’m queer. I'm a fairy.” He spat the words like venom. “I tr-I tried to fix myself for years, but I can’t do anything about it. I’m just broken.”
Steve stepped back, and raised Bucky’s head so their eyes were level. “Bucky. I’m with you ‘til the end of the line. Regardless. I don’t care who you like, you’re my best pal.”
Bucky turned away.
Steve grabbed Bucky’s shoulders and turned him back.
His eyes were wide, and Bucky knew he'd put two and two together. All of the times he'd slipped up, gotten too close and lingered, it all fit together.
“Stevie…” Bucky swallowed thickly. “It’s always been you. I love-I love you.” The last word was little more than a whisper, but there was no doubt that Steve heard it.
Steve stepped back. He stood frozen.
Bucky’s heart swelled with hope. Maybe he won’t hate me. Maybe he won’t avoid me. Maybe he’ll like me. Maybe…
Steve nodded. Closed his mouth. Bit his lip.
God, Bucky’s eyes flitted to his lip, maybe I could kiss him. Maybe he wouldn’t hate it. Maybe he’d like it. Maybe…
Bucky pressed his lips against his friend’s, relishing the soft skin he had wanted to taste for years. His breath hitched when Steve's mouth opened and Bucky took the invitation. He let his hands wrap around the small of Steve’s back, the resting place felt natural for him, like they belonged right there for the rest of their lives. He pressed his body into Steve’s and it even felt like Steve was pushing back into him just like Bucky had dreamed of.
Steve pulled away much sooner that Bucky wanted, but as soon as Bucky saw his expression, his stomach dropped. His hope was replaced by humiliation.
Steve stood awkwardly, his fingers laced.
“No. No, it’s fine. It’s…” Bucky faltered, feeling his eyes well up. He never should’ve been so hopeful, so stupid.
He left Steve standing alone to avoid facing his full rejection. What he said, or rather, didn’t say, was enough. Bucky didn’t need to be told to leave; he got the message.
Bucky wandered through the trees, wondering what he could’ve possibly done to deserve to live such a life. To know Steve was the greatest gift he could’ve had, and he went and blew it.
The later it got, the more painful the cold got. Bucky’s breaths came out as cloud-like bursts in front of him. The trails down his face left by his tears froze solid, only to melt again when more traveled the same path.
Steve’s words played repeatedly in his head, the collapse of his facial expression.
Nothing could be the same.
That was the first thing Steve could process after Bucky’s confession.
Bucky kissed him. Steve kissed him back.
There’s no way that happened.
His heart fell to the ground.
His mind immediately went to all the times he thought he heard his best friend say things, things that no ‘best friend’ would ever say, but that Steve couldn’t help but hope that he heard.
And all this time spent trying to convince himself to like girls, was just wasted. Not only was someone like him, it was his best friend. And not only was it Bucky, but Bucky liked, no, loved him.
Steve was torn apart. He spent all of this time telling himself that guys were off-limits, and thinking that way was weird, and even fell for a woman, just like he was supposed to. But Bucky threw everything on its head. He didn’t know what to do anymore.
For the first time, Captain America didn’t know which was the right path.
Mission day. Steve couldn’t focus. He wanted to tell Bucky everything, but Bucky wouldn’t talk to him. He couldn’t get Bucky alone or even have a full conversation with him.
“Could you hand me that backpack, Buck?” Steve tried to start another conversation with Bucky, but with no success. Bucky just handed Steve the bag, barely keeping from just throwing it at him.
It was like any accidental touch between them burned him to his core.
Steve couldn’t figure out what to do about his situation, but knew for certain that doing nothing was not the solution.
“Hey, uh, Buck?”
Bucky grunted in Steve’s general direction, and Steve took that as an acknowledgement of his presence.
“Can we talk, after this mission? It’s kind of important.” Steve tried to smile, but knew it looked more like a grimace. He was pushing it, but Bucky deserved to know the whole story.
Bucky just sort of shrugged and slung his gun over his shoulder, heading out of the tent.
Peggy entered, her lips bright red, as always, and a small smirk dancing on them.
“Hey, soldier. You guys ready for this one?” Peggy held a small sheet of paper and unfolded it to reveal a copy of the mission plans. “I took the liberty of scrounging up some information for you from the Commander.”
She handed it to Steve, who read it over.
“Zola’s the one who messed with Bucky, right?” Steve was concerned; he wasn’t sure he could be confident in what Bucky would do if he was aware of this detail.
Peggy nodded. “I haven’t told the others, but it would be nice if we could apprehend him in addition to grabbing the train’s other cargo.” She suggested, placing a hand lightly on Steve’s forearm.
“It shouldn’t be that hard to incorporate, don’t worry.” Steve assured her.
“I wasn’t worried.” Peggy winked and left the tent, and Steve was fairly sure she swung her hips a touch more than usual as she walked, not that he was mad about it.
Everything had gone wrong. Every single thing that could’ve gone worse did. And all of a sudden, Bucky found himself holding onto a piece of metal for his life, flapping in the wind like a rag doll.
Steve appeared, running toward him.
The metal bends, begins to snap.
Steve bent down, extending a hand.
The metal breaks, and there’s nothing left to hold.
Bucky fell, at the whim of the howling wind, Steve’s face getting farther and farther off. The last sight in his mind--it’s rather fitting, actually--is Steve. Steve, emotion written on his face clear as day.
The snow, once soft and tranquil, now pelted his face so hard it stung. A thought nestled in the back of Bucky's mind as his world faded out.
What if Steve couldn’t bring himself to take my hand anymore?
That’s all Steve could think of whenever Sharon held his gaze for more than a couple seconds. She positively glowed, and it gave a much-needed light to Steve’s otherwise gloomy life. For all she tried, though, Steve never really brightened up himself.
He wanted his friend back. Bucky’s absence gnawed at him, eating a hole in his heart that would soon consume him if he wasn’t careful. Life without Bucky really wasn’t worth living.
Bucky blinked. The fluorescent lights were too sharp. He squinted, trying to analyze his situation. He moved each limb, testing his functionality. When he was satisfied with his physical state, he mentally ran through a checklist. He still had the snippets of memories he’d always held, but he no longer remembered anything after falling from the train.
It was the kiss that haunted him nearly as long as he’d been held by HYDRA, holding onto the bar, seeing Steve’s face, knowing Steve couldn’t hold his hand, then… Blackness.
“Barnes?” A short, casually dressed man entered the operation room. “You in there?”
Bucky said nothing for a moment, only calculated the man’s weaknesses as he kept talking.
“...your boyfriend, Steve, has been waiting for this for days, so I’m gonna let him see you, if you’re in the state to do so. Or if you’re not, I don’t particularly have a preference. It’ll be plenty entertaining either way.” The rest of the man’s lengthy spiel got tuned out as Bucky latched onto one phrase.
Your boyfriend Steve.
Bucky racked his mind, but the only things that came to mind when thinking about the idea of Steve being his boyfriend were childhood fantasies and pain, the former entirely imagined, and the latter all too real.
Was there something that he’d missed, that had been blocked out with whatever ‘procedure’ this man kept referring to?
The man stopped talking, having finally noticed that Bucky was no longer paying attention.
“Busy daydreaming, huh? Well, you’re welcome for everything. Tony Stark.” He held out a hand, but Bucky was not listening yet again.
A figure appeared in the doorway, and Bucky recognized it immediately.
It was his Steve, granted he was still all bulked up from that serum, but it was his Steve nonetheless. Bucky didn’t see Tony’s look of indignation as Bucky passed him by to wrap his arms around Steve, but quite frankly, he didn’t care.
Bucky breathed out, a breath he didn’t know he was holding in anticipation. Hearing Steve’s voice again was music to his ears.
“I missed you, jerk.” Bucky mumbled, and his heart soared when he felt warm vibrations from Steve’s chest as he laughed. If hearing Steve speak was melodious, then his laugh was an entire symphony.
Bucky buried his face in Steve’s neck for what would’ve been far too long in any other situation, in any other place.
He tentatively pulled away, and only then did Bucky notice the woman with him.
She was pretty, blonde, and had a face that reminded him of the last woman he saw Steve with.
Steve saw Bucky’s questioning glance and introduced them. “This is Sharon, she’s my girlfriend.”
Bucky saw the way Steve looked at her. There was no doubt that she had him about as good as Peggy had back in the day. With that, there was no doubt that Steve had no interest in Bucky, just like before the war.
Thankfully, though, Bucky now had years of practice concealing his feelings for his friend, not acting on his thoughts. Granted, he’d been frozen a lot of the time and couldn’t do anything about it if he’d tried, but staving off his feelings was something he had gotten quite good at and Bucky saw no reason to stop now, as it seemed he’d have to carry on living just like he had before.
Bucky realized that Sharon was probably expecting him to respond in some manner, not disappear into his mind and never come out.
“Sorry, uh, hi. I’m Bucky. Steve’s… friend.” He said, and Sharon smiled.
“I know, I’ve heard quite a lot about you.” Sharon held out a hand, which Bucky found himself mechanically shaking.
“You have a floor to yourself where you’ll be monitored, of course, as you recover.” Tony butted back into the conversation. “It’s the floor above Steve’s and below Nat’s--the twenty-fifth. Enjoy, and please feel free to complain to anyone but me if you have any problems.” He walked off with the posture of a ballet dancer, head held high and nearly floating along the floor.
“Bucky, here, we’ll show you to your room.” Steve took Bucky’s arm and led him to the elevator.
Bucky’s arm tingled where Steve made contact with him, getting him more worried that he would be unable to conceal his feelings for much longer as it seemed his little crush had snowballed in the time he’d spent apart from Steve.
Steve smiled, seeing Bucky seated on the couch on his floor more often than not. It was nice to know that he wasn’t the only one that wanted to be as close to his best friend as possible, that Bucky felt the same way about that.
Their kiss haunted him. It didn’t seem as much of a big deal when Steve thought he would never see Bucky again, but now that they shared a space, it was one of the only things he could think about.
It was something he’d only dreamed of, so when Bucky was the one to close the gap between them, Steve didn’t know what to do. He was so torn between Peggy and Bucky, and now found himself floundering around again, not knowing whether Sharon or Bucky was the right choice. And that was assuming Bucky still cared at all.
He had gotten so close to Sharon; he didn’t want to throw away what they had, but Bucky deserved so much more than Steve had given him. In the months Bucky had been back at the Tower, he’d slowly warmed back up to modern life, and had also found tentative friends in some of the other Avengers.
Nat had reacted to him the best, and the two often had conversations in Russian together, Bucky’s voice sounding soft and vulnerable with her. Steve wished that Bucky was comfortable enough with him to speak like that with him, but he hoped it would come with time.
It seemed like time was always the caveat in his life.
Bucky walked with Natasha around the Tower. They had grown close, bonded in Russian and similar experiences. It didn’t hurt that Nat was able to relate to his struggles with Steve, as she had her fair share of women that would never love her back.
“I don’t know what to do,” Bucky’s Russian had always been sharp, reminiscent of the times when he had to use it.
“Do something nice for him; I’ve seen how he looks at you. He doesn’t know what to think.” Nat’s Russian, however, was elegant and polished. “Give him something to think.”
“Well, any ideas? I’ve got nothing. Also, he has a girlfriend.” Bucky flopped onto a couch, and Nat perched herself next to him.
“Please, you’d beat her out any day. Every day. You don’t see it. Your gay-dar is a little rusty. Trust me, you have a chance. But you have no chance if you don’t do anything.”
Nat reassured him, aware of Steve’s presence a little farther down the hall. He was definitely watching them subtly, and it was almost certain that Steve was jealous of the pair, discussing their feelings together when he couldn’t get much more than a grunt or small smile at best from Bucky these days.
“What should I do, though? I don’t want to make it weird-” Bucky started in a small voice, but Nat interrupted.
“You idiot. You two are in the oddest situation imaginable, and yet, I don’t think you could make it weird if you tried.” She laughed, and Bucky jumped at the sound.
Nat was so hard to get to, but once her outer defenses were broken, she was really a beautiful person. Bucky took note, maybe he should try to be more vulnerable and open around Steve.
Then again, that was a sure path to disaster. If Bucky let down his walls, who knew what he would let slip?
“Thanks, Nat.” Bucky really didn’t know what he’d do without her.
She put a hand on his shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “You got it.”
Bucky took a deep breath. He had awoken before Steve, as he always had, but this time, he was going to spend the time being productive. He opened Steve’s fridge and pulled out all of the ingredients needed to make pancakes. He remembered a time, long ago, when he made the very same recipe for his friend on his birthday, and hoped Steve still liked pancakes.
He had made nearly the whole batch and grabbed some whipped cream and maple syrup to put on the counter. When he turned to flip the last pancakes, he felt a presence behind him and turned around briskly to see Steve, standing less than a few inches away.
Bucky instantly shrank away from his friend, before cursing himself for doing so. That’s no way to show interest!
“Uh, hope you still like pancakes.” Bucky offered, gesturing to the two plates he’d set up, each with a small mountain of pancakes.
“Oh yeah, of course, pal!” Steve’s features lit up just like when they were kids, and Bucky felt that touch of butterflies in his stomach. He couldn’t help but love that Steve would still look at him that way, even if they couldn’t be romantic.
Bucky felt himself begin to flush at the thought of Steve looking at him with such joy on a regular basis, but managed to shake it off. Blushing was not a thing Bucky did. Ever.
The pair sat down for breakfast together, and the domesticity struck Bucky. The idea that this could be their forever, a regular thing, was quite nice. Something that Bucky would’ve been happy to indulge in, had he been lucky enough to come along before Sharon pranced into Steve’s life.
“Is there a reason for this? Not that I’m not enjoying it.” Steve added, the second part rather rushed. “Do you have bad news? Is something wrong?”
“Can’t a fella do something nice for his best pal?” Bucky asked, hoping Steve wouldn’t read too far into it and make it weird.
“Well I’m flattered.” Steve looked pleased with himself, and Bucky took that as an opening.
He remembered Nat’s coaching, he just had to go for it, just had to offer, it was okay if Steve turned him down, at least he’d be able to say he had the courage.
“Hey, Steve, would you--”
“Is it a bad time?” Sharon poked her head into the room.
“What’s up?” Steve got up and joined Sharon in the hall.
Guess it wasn’t meant to be. Bucky’s heart fell again, for what felt like the hundredth time in his life. He just needed to stop hoping at this point, it was never gonna pay off.
It took all of Bucky’s strength to not watch their exchange through the glass, and he almost managed it. When he turned, he instantly regretted it.
Steve was pressing Sharon into his body, their lips pressed together. His hands were running through her hair, his eyes closed softly. They were moving together, as one, and Bucky knew in that moment in his whole being that there was no chance.
Bucky didn’t hear Steve return. He was already standing up, tossing his remaining pancakes in the garbage and leaving. Bucky figured he was unwanted and would relocate so he could be unwanted but also undisturbed.
“What’s wrong?” Steve, ever the observer, noticed Bucky’s change in demeanor.
“Nothing. Nothing at all.” Bucky brushed past him and got in the elevator, pressing buttons and watched Steve approach him as the doors slid shut. He was fully intending to go to his room, but he went on autopilot and entered Natasha’s place.
“How’d it go?” Nat asked him in Russian as soon as she heard the elevator ding. Then she turned and saw Bucky, and her face fell.
“He wants nothing to do with me. Probably only entertained my pancakes out of pity. I am, after all, the poor man who couldn’t tame his own mind. The lonely friend from a lifetime ago.” Bucky collapsed on Nat’s couch.
She consoled him, and in under five minutes got the full story of what happened.
“You might’ve not gotten everything. You don’t know what they were talking about.” Nat offered, but Bucky shot that idea down.
“They were making out in the hall, Nat, I think that’s a pretty clear message.” Bucky rolled his eyes.
“So, what are you going to do about it? Stay in your pj’s all day and never talk to Steve again?” Nat suggested sarcastically, but Bucky thought it sounded pretty good.
Nat rolled her eyes so hard Bucky swore he could hear it.
“Look. He’s here to make amends. He wouldn’t do that if he didn’t care.” Nat pointed out as Steve emerged from the elevator and strode toward them.
Bucky stood and walked right past Steve, ignoring what he started to say without acknowledgment. It hurt Bucky to do that, he knew Steve cared about him, but Bucky couldn’t trust himself to not be a blubbering mess around Steve.
He got on the elevator and closed the doors before Steve could say anything to stop him. Bucky punched in his floor, and locked himself away in his bedroom, dead set on not emerging for days.
Steve didn’t know what to do.
It seemed he had done a lot of that lately, not knowing what to do, not knowing which path was the right one to follow.
At this point, Steve was certain that he needed to make amends with Bucky, but had no idea what had caused the rift in their friendship in the first place. He knew that they were a bit rocky from trying to accustom to modern times and Steve’s life with Sharon these days, but Steve didn’t think it was such a significant thing that it would tear apart their friendship.
Maybe it was. Unfortunately, Nat was not willing to tell Steve anything, saying just that he should figure it out and solve his own problems.
Having stood outside of Bucky’s door and knocking on it for nearly an hour, Steve finally gave up and returned to his own floor.
He sat and, for the first time in seventy years, started to draw. Steve had stopped sketching after being brought back from the ice when he realized there was no point. He didn’t know anyone who could appreciate sketches of life from the 40’s, but now someone could.
The pencil danced across the page, each swipe adding a layer of life to his work, softening all of the lines and working together to become probably the best portrait of Bucky he’d ever done.
He drew Bucky standing at the window, looking out into the night, as Steve had often seen him recently. He had a longing look in his eye, longing for what, Steve didn’t know. But he continued to capture the Bucky he saw, with a few strands of hair always out of place. Even his metal arm looked soft and pliable, nothing like the killing machine others assumed it to be. His lips were plump and kissable, the way Steve always thought they were. Stars twinkled outside the window, the one thing that always would calm Bucky down, even after all those years of pain.
It was the way Steve really saw Bucky, and Steve scrawled a note that said just that and slid it under Bucky’s door and returned to his own place to wait. That was all he could do, since he couldn’t talk to his friend.
Bucky wandered into his living room to watch some TV, when he noticed something that wasn’t previously there.
He stooped down to pick it up and instantly recognized his best friend’s handwriting.
It’s kinda hard to make amends for something I don’t know I did, but it’s hard having you not talking to me. But if you won’t talk, maybe you’ll read this, and know that this is always what I see when I see you.
Bucky unfolded the paper and saw himself, standing by the window in Steve’s living room, as he had spent a few days doing more recently after his surgery, but there was just an air about him that seemed warm, and affectionate. Bucky had trouble believing that was what Steve saw when he looked at him, but it was flattering if it was.
Bucky was suddenly overwhelmed with a wish to be remotely as good at art as Steve so he could return the favor. Unfortunately, Bucky would never have that talent, but all of a sudden he was certain that he would go and he would tell Steve everything in the best way he could.
Steve paced in his room, had been for hours, wondering whether or not Bucky had read his note, and what if he’d misjudged his friend’s signs and Bucky didn't actually like him in that way? Obviously, he did back in the day but things change over time. Steve definitely had. When he first found out that Bucky was alive, he was the only thing Steve could think of. Maybe adding the 'love' was too much, he had debated whether or not to just go with 'sincerely,' but he took a leap of faith and put what he wanted to say.
To be completely honest with himself, seeing Bucky again, as the kid he was best friends with in Brooklyn, was the first time he began to distance himself from Sharon and gravitate towards Bucky again. Sharon was great, but Bucky just… was Bucky.
Sharon noticed it, too, there’s a reason she had a good job at SHIELD. She tried her best to be more appealing to Steve, even going as far as to give him spontaneous kisses, something Steve always said he loved, but even all the things he used to want from Sharon he really just wanted from Bucky.
They wanted to keep it together for awhile longer, to see if Bucky’s novelty would wear off and Steve would warm back up to Sharon. Steve, however, was fairly confident that Bucky was going to be the center of his life from then on out, assuming Bucky wasn’t disgusted by him.
Steve froze at a crisp knock on his door.
He opened it, and was greeted by Bucky, standing kind of awkwardly, but with determination written clearly in his icy eyes.
“Hey. Can I…” Bucky gestured toward the room in a request to be invited in.
Steve nodded, worried he was letting Bucky in just to have him stomp all over Steve’s feelings.
“Uh, I read your note. I had no idea, Steve.” Bucky began.
Steve saw where this was going. Bucky was done.
“I’m sorry, was it too forward? I just didn’t want you to not talk to me, I don’t think I could live like that, and I kind of got ahead of myself assuming you would like something like that, was it weird?” Steve started rambling excuses, trying to soften the fall, looking anywhere but at the man standing across from him.
“No, no, I loved it, Stevie.” Bucky said, his voice oddly full of emotion, something Steve hadn’t heard from him in a long time.
It had been so long since that name slipped out of Bucky’s mouth and Steve got to hear it.
He looked back up and Bucky’s lips pressed against his.
Steve’s body tensed in surprise, but melted into Bucky’s less than a second later. He let his hands wander, finding them on the back of Bucky’s neck, holding him in close, while Bucky laced his fingers behind Steve’s lower back.
Bucky’s lips were just as soft as they looked, if not more, and Steve hummed in pleasure when Bucky’s tongue lightly tapped against his lower lip, and Steve let his lips part for his friend.
Well, more-than-friend now, hopefully.
Bucky lifted away from Steve, their foreheads still pressed together, breathing heavily, his cheeks flushed.
“So I take it you don’t hate me for that?” He asked, looking at Steve through his lashes.
“I could never hate you. I’ve spent all my life in love with you.” Steve spoke softly, he voice barely above a whisper.
Bucky wrapped his arms tightly around Steve’s torso, so Steve could feel his chest vibrate as he spoke.
"You have no idea."