This week had been absolutely awful. And that was still putting it mildly.
Steve felt like his left leg would fall off any moment now. He had been around too long not to know that part of his foot might be broken. Which would be the last thing to stop him tonight.
He had a date with Bucky.
Maybe not a date-date. But they would be meeting in two hours. And he would snap if he did not make it to a lush plush armchair shortly after, listening to music Bucky liked and just generally unwinding.
Nat had asked him three times if he really wanted to go. So Steve suspected that he looked even worse then he felt. Or Nat had just been particularly perceptive. She usually was.
The question should probably have been if he was willing to leave her alone for the night, seeing that a stupid rookie had tried to relocate her wind pipe using a crowbar. The chain of events had also led to the foot thing, cracked ribs and some other injuries Steve had sustained while trying to save said idiot and the other band of useless §$%&###!!!!
Steve tried to calm himself.
He and Bucky would be meeting.
One of the best things Steve could do for his body was to rest anyway.
And Steve was hell bend to do that in a plush armchair beside Bucky.
Steve was not even sure just what he would be seeing tonight.
As far as he was aware it was some Rockabilly band on some kind of jubilee. It was not the music of the 40s but probably in some way comparable. At least Bucky had been enthusiastic. Which was the important part.
Steve would sit through paint drying if it got Bucky to smile like that.
So he had agreed to buy tickets.
Three months in advance.
Which had been a bit of a gamble, seeing that with Steve's schedule there was always something that could come up at the very last minute.
But for once he would really make it.
And may god have mercy on who ever came between him and his well deserved evening off.
Okay, maybe he did move kind of gingerly while he was trying to put on a tailored suit - something he hoped would be suitably old fashioned - and put on his tie.
And the shoes were just another torture device.
But Steve knew he looked good, even if he felt his age for the first time in forever.
This would be good.
Steve was counting on it.
If nothing else Bucky would distract him.
Buck usually did, whether he intended to or not.
Now all Steve had to do was suppress his limp for half an hour and appear bright and shiny. He could do that. He was Captain America. He had braved a fucking flame thrower this week. He could do this.
One of the first things Steve did when he arrived was to put away his tie.
He had arrived quiet a bit in advance. Which was a good thing. The less he had to walk beside Bucky, the better the chances for his limp to remain undetected. If he really had to own up to it - he probably would have to - it would be by the end of the concert at the very earliest.
Half of the audience was running around in normal day to day clothes. Steve was still trying to get used to that. Even if he could tell that some of them had come straight from work.
The rest was... interesting.
Some of the men were wearing hair wax, beard wax and a number of other things Steve had not seen in a really long time. Part of him wondered if maybe he should have put in more effort, but then again... him and hair wax just did not go together. They never had.
The women were a different matter though.
It had taken him a few moments to catch on, but a quiet sizable portion of them came in their day to day clothes, made a bee line for the toilet and emerged in billowing skirts or entire dresses. Some had ribbons in their hair. Some where displaying tattoos, some of these even of female pin-ups.
And the dots. All the dots. He was not sure when he had last seen that many women in that many dotted things. It was quiet a sight to behold.
Steve really had not been aware that this was something he might have had to dress differently for, though with a bit more time he might have been able to read up on it beforehand.
He had to smile for a moment.
It would be just like the old days.
He would stick out. And Bucky would likely appear as neat as a pin. Steve could already tell who people would likely gravitate too, though he would be lying if he said he minded. Partly because it did wonders for Bucky's ego. And partly because it meant that people still had a reason to leave Captain America well enough alone.
The likelihood of people whispering and pointing his way would diminish once Bucky...
Well, Steve had been right about Bucky. The man looked good, in a casual way that went a lot better with the atmosphere.
Beige cloth pants, a white shirt with rolled up sleeves, something that might have tried to become a vest at some point and a proper dark blue vest right above it. Plus the sturdiest dance shoes anyone could have wanted back in the day.
Steve even spotted a pocket watch.
If anyone could pull it of it was Bucky. And yes, Steve did notice that Bucky was turning heads.
Which might be in part to the eerily natural way Bucky had a girl on each of his arms and both of them were currently giggling about something he had said just now.
Steve tried not to be uncourtly, so he really made an effort not to think that those two were practically drowning in their dresses and Peggy would never have been caught out and about with something that badly fitting.
At least Steve tried. Not to much avail.
Because he already knew where this was leading, even before Bucky made a move to introduce the two ladies to Steve.
God, how Steve had hated them.
Most of them had turned into a complete disaster anyway.
And Steve still knew that it was impolite to run, so he said a curt hello to Michelle and Maria before he practically fled the scene, promising to get them all drinks.
And he was Captain America.
He could do this.
But he could tolerate Bucky turning his radiating smile elsewhere. He would have to.
It did not matter that they had not had time for each other for the better part of three months. There had always been something up and even if they had met, the others had always been close by.
But he could deal with this.
If it made Bucky happy, Steve would grudgingly share.
At least he thought so until he tried to follow them with two overpriced sparkling wines in one hand and two beers in the other.
He could spot Bucky well enough.
But there were no seats.
A double date. And a dance.
He more heard then felt that he must have dropped one of the glasses.
Bucky even had the nerves to look right at Steve and... grin... and...
Steve had to get out of there.
He had not survived this week for this.
He simply could not.
Not even for Bucky.
Who would... Steve tried to push the thought away that Bucky had never had problems entertaining two ladies at the same time.
Steve turned around and ran as fast as his foot would allow.
Bucky had to admit that he found Michelle and Maria... to be quiet something.
He had met them while he was grocery shopping. It had been more of a coincidence to hear them gush about the concert he and Steve would be going to.
One thing had led to another. And it had been more of a joking remark that the girls - decidedly in their 40s - probably only wanted some good looking men from way back.
To which Michelle had informed him that this was a bit unlikely, seeing that the two women were happily dating since 20 years and happily married since close to three.
Bucky knew when he had put his own foot in his mouth. And answered with the first thing he could think of: "Well, then at least I can introduce you to Steve, since neither one of you is likely to run away with him."
For a moment he could not believe his own mouth. But the two girls seemed to like that as an answer. And Bucky had promised to introduce them to each other anyway.
Bucky knew that Steve could be unintentionally charming without even making an effort. Seeing how fast he had high tailed away after he had spotted Bucky... well, Bucky was sure he could smooth that one over, if only the idiot made it back in a timely fashion.
The orchestra was already taking their places and Steve had yet to reappear.
Bucky had seen the klutz dropping some whine a few minutes back, but...
Any other time Bucky might have ignored his phone. But he was half expecting Steve to come up with some paper thin reason why he absolutely had to leave.
Bucky already had a few choice words ready if Steve did. Namely that Peggy had not been the only one whom he had promised a dance to...
He had not counted on hearing Nat, even if he needed a moment to place her voice. "Tell your idiot to call me or I will send Coulson AND a Swat Team to pick him up."
"Steve's not here." Bucky could hear the petulance in his own voice. And he knew that he would get into serious trouble if he continued phoning much longer. "I think he ran out on me."
Nat sounded cold. "Barnes, I am not joking. Where is he?"
"JARVIS! Location on Captain Rogers. Now!"
"Where is he?" Bucky could tell that people were already trying to glare him into shutting up. But this was important. This was Steve. If anything happened...
Bucky realized with a sinking feeling that this was Steve. The man could be attacked just crossing the street. It had happened before.
He tried to fight his own welling panic. "What happened?"
Bucky had enough good sense to gesture between himself the phone and the door before he left those two girls standing. They would he having a perfect evening without him. Now he only needed to fight his way back towards the street.
And Bucky would use another time to contemplate whether or not he parted the crowd like the red sea because the Soldier might be shining through.
He had to find Steve. And apparently he also had to repeat himself. "Nat, what happened?"
"The wrist watch Tony gave him monitors his vitals. According to those readings he is going to pass out within the next two minutes. Seriously Barnes, it's bad enough he went out in that condition. That man would do everything you ask of him. Couldn't you have tied him to a chair or something?"
"Condition." Her tone was implied in a surprising economic way all the reproaches Bucky was already lining against himself. "He is running around with three cracked ribs, a cracked or broken foot and according to these readings his blood pressure will give at any moment."
Bucky was already out on the street, frantically looking left and right. There would be time for a lecture later. They did not have time for cursing either, which is why Bucky only used three very well chosen words before he was back to business. If Steve's blood pressure was acting up it usually meant the serum was working overtime. Steve could push through that. With enough adrenaline. Which was not necessarily a given in a civilian setting. "Where is he? What happened? NAT!" He could feel himself panicking. Which would do nothing to safe Steve.
"Work week. New recruits. Their Daddy's thought it would look good in their vita. Memory of a goldfish. Can't triangulate to safe their life. You can guess how thrilled Steve was to have them. Turn left, one signal was from an ally about three hundred meters on. Steve still had to pretend they were doing well. You can guess the rest. 'Send them out on a mission.' 'It will do them good.' Nothing fancy, just getting a drug lord from A to B. Things went downhill from there. There is a junction about 200 meters on. If he made it there you can hopefully still see him, otherwise we have a problem."
"I see him. He's here." Already at least half a mile on, half leaning against a wall, half already lying on the concrete. Bucky stumbled forward, frantically checking all the basics. Steve was breathing. He was so pale it definitely counted as unhealthy. And he was only barely reacting. "What did they do to him?"
"The other side had a guy with a flame thrower. I think that one cracked Steves ribs. We had an idiot that attacked Steve's leg with a crowbar and tried to relocate my windpipe in one single move."
"I'll take care of that on Monday. Can you get your idiot home or do you need me to send someone?"
"Steve? Can you hear me?" Steve at least turned his head in a timely fashion. His answer was mightily slurred. But Bucky knew that it was mainly the serum working overtime. Steve would be okay if he got rest.
He would be okayer if he had not even gone out in the first place.
They would be having this conversation another time.
"Nat? Which place is closer? Mine or his?" Right now it seemed like a toss-up.
There was something warningly annoyed in Nats answer. "2,3 miles to you, 2,6 miles to his place."
"I take him to my place. He can't throw me out of there."
Bucky knew that he would regret hanging up on her. But taking Steve towards a comfy horizontal surface was more important right now.
He was a little surprised how easy it was to pull Steve's arm over his own shoulder and convince the other one of the concept of piggyback riding.
It had been ages since they had last done that.
Another day he might even find it funny. Because Steve was most definitely smelling Buckys neck and mumbling nonsense things.
Steve was also burning up. Bucky could feel that even through all the layers of clothing.
And Bucky was mostly willing to ignore the fact that Steve was trying to nibble on his ear, probably as a way to stay attached. It would be a lot funnier if Bucky had not had the sudden realization that he was actually ticklish there. This would be two long miles.
"I didn't know you still remembered." Steve sounded rather clear but a little sleepy all of a sudden.
It was a good sign. At least that was what Bucky hoped. "Remembered what, Stevie?"
"Carrying me." And it did feel as if Steve was actually trying to snuggle into him. Something Bucky would be a lot more on board with if they were not still out in the open... and at a time when Steve was awake enough to know what he was doing.
Okay, it was relatively quiet. They did not draw too much attention. And Bucky actually had to admit that he saw some humor in this. "Should have known it would end like this. Half of our evenings out did."
"Didn't beat up anyone this time."
"Yeah, but I heard someone beat you up. Not really new either, hm?"
There was most definitely grumbling on Buckys back. And for a moment Steve even seemed to make an effort to be put back down. "Stevie, if you hold still and I go a little faster, you can be on a couch in three minutes. I promise. So hold on, will you?"
The answer was too low to catch properly, but it sounded somewhat like a question for Bucky to stay.
When Steve comes to it things are warm and quiet and kinda cozy. There is something soft under his head, both of his arms, both of his knees and his left leg.
And if he had a few fucked up memories less, he would probably just go back to sleep. Instead he twitches one of his fingers, trying to gain information without being to obvious about it.
"If you try to jump at anyone in your condition I will strangle you."
"Bucky?" Steve squints his eyes open. This most definitely is not his flat. "Where am I?"
"My place was closer."
Steve enjoys the hint of orange on the ceiling for a moment before he tries to tell his body to get up. It takes a split second to remind Steve why this is a stupid idea.
His side is screaming and his foot joins as a chorus. And just how long was he out? Because this is not supposed to hurt that badly anymore.
"Just where do you think you are going?"
Steve manages to grit out a 'bath' even if he himself hears just how strained his voice sounds.
Being picked up bridal style has not been part of the plan.
And before Steve can even try to voice a protest, Bucky informs him in the most matter of fact voice: "I know you, Stevie. You ever so accidentally find the front door and I can spend the better part of the next hour finding you again. Don't even think about it."
Which is true. It is. But Bucky is not exactly to supposed to call Steve out on his more outlandish behavior.
After all Bucky has his own life. And Steve still feels like he might be intruding. They both have few enough spare time as it is...
Which, just for the records, is NOT a good enough reason to lock Steve into the bathroom.
All the more since someone rings the doorbell and Bucky has obviously been expecting...
Just for the records, Steve would also never try to open a locked door with a tooth brush.
The broken handle is an accident.
And he really could do without being carried back to the living room, too.
Or a delivery guy setting up... breakfast?
Or Bucky chiding Steve in front of the delivery guy, just to get free guacamole along with the breakfast...
They are both usually willing to overlook these kinds of indiscretions, as long as they work out in their favor, but...
Okay, maybe Steve does allow himself to be pacified by the sheer volume of pillows Bucky drapes around him.
But that is not the point either.
Apparently Bucky ordered in. And not just the breakfast. But an entire 12 course meal from various sources.
It is practical. And food is the next best thing after sleep that allows Steve's body to heal.
It takes close to an hour, but Steve finally allows that this is nice when his favorite curry joint - one of those delivery services that eventually had stopped asking suspicious question despite the sheer amount they ordered regularly - tops of their delivery with an entire liter of Steve's favorite mango sorbet.
By the time the pulled pork pizza arrives Steve feels like a stuffed turkey.
And a very happy one at that.
Few people understand as well as Bucky that Steve can be a very sociable, talkative butterfly... once he has been given enough time to decompress and settle back into his own skin.
It's not that Bucky minds when Steve curses hard enough to make a sailor blush. But Steve knows that he will spend the better part of the upcoming Monday to convince Nat not to kill anyone. There is no need to make this any more complicated then things already are.
Steve is 92% sure that Bucky already heard from Nat what happened.
But Bucky will also want to hear it from Steve, just to gauge how much damage they have gotten in this time.
"So..." Humor usually helps. "Are we still doing that absurdity bingo? Because I got kinda... inflated by a flame thrower. Does that count?"
Bucky looks decidedly unimpressed. "A flame thrower throws flames, Steve. It's in the name. And for all the things one can say about your condition: you are not scorched."
"Well, that idiot was too stupid to use a match. Or a lighter. Or possibly his brain." Which is still a whole lot more friendly then the things Steve would have voiced not even half an hour ago. "And by the time he figured that things would be going nowhere he tried to ram that thing between my ribs, probably hoping to gas me from the inside or something."
There is a pause in which Bucky gives this due consideration. He still settles remarkable quickly on a resounding "No."
Steve can't suppress a smile at the other mans vehemence, which only serves to make Bucky elaborate further.
"No fire, no flamethrower. If I let this one slide you are only one invasion from Mars or a serial killing cheerleader away from an actual bingo. I am not taking any chances with you."
Well, phrased like this it is probably for the better anyway.
And Bucky patience only goes that far. He does inquire about Steve's leg. It's the obvious thing to do.
Steve is half tempted to get his phone. Nat would probably love to supply him with grainy footage of what happened. But not only are those things not exactly up to Buckys security level - something Steve started to ignore quiet some time ago - Steve also doubts that a short clip on a tiny screen will give the full impression.
So Steve does place himself in a more upward position, grateful to notice that his side protests less.
And he does describe what happens, with gestures, sound effects and a dry voice that only barely conceals his own displeasure.
Bucky blinks like an owl before he tries to paraphrase. "Just so I get this right: your target was picked up by three guys in a clown costume, a construction worker with a dysfunctional flame thrower and a guy who was wearing the face of our current president. And one of ours charged. With a crowbar. And a battle cry. And closed eyes. And instead of shooting the whole freak show and claiming that they were probably all Hydra anyway, you stopped the flamethrower, the crowbar and two sets of kitchen knives with your own body."
Steve nods. It does kinda sum up that day.
Bucky is still blinking. "You do recognize, that I let you run around with Nat, because I assume that you guys would keep each other safe."
Steve doesn't really feel like pointing out that they survived. And it's bad form to shoot ones own recruits. Even if they were pushed at you by some narcissistic general.
The problem is that Steve usually does his best thinking while walking around. Which is kinda out of question right now. But at least he dares to brave the way to the toilet on his own now.
And Steve is still Steve. He really wants to protest that he does not need a human crutch for the way back. But when did that ever stop Bucky?
Which somehow ends with Steve allowing Bucky to talk them into dancing. Well, it feels more like vertical hugging and swaying, but he knows better then to protest. All the more since Bucky practically ordered Steve to place his good leg right on one of Buckys feet. Which means Steve doesn't get a chance to fret about the fact that he never really caught on where dancing is concerned.
Steve didn't know that Bucky had three CDs of the band they had planned to see. Though Steve probably should have guessed.
This leads to them listening to all of them from the couch. Which leads to retelling of stories even Steve had not thought about for decades.
And he does allow Bucky to talk Steve into staying the night.
Steve already knows that come Monday, Bucky will rain hell and destruction on everyone who ever laid a hand on Steve or Nat.
But right now they are just lounging around, eating and talking the night away like teenagers.
It is everything that Steve had hoped the night before to be.
Bucky does not even feel like he was particularly crafty.
The concept is simple.
Steve is a grown person, who will get his own revenge, if he wants it.
The same goes for Nat.
But if you ask them just who had hurt someone they care for…
The answers are pretty straight forward.
Which was what Bucky did.
Not that there were that many options in a group of four recruits.
And to be honest, the following was a joint venture.
Of course Bucky had manners. He found something for Steve to put his leg up. And he got Tasha some healthy tea.
That had not been the problematic part.
You see, missions cause paperwork.
Tasha was the kind of person who would place 30 folders on her desk and work through them.
Steve was the kind of person who came with a carrier bag and pulled out one folder after the other.
He was the replacement drill Sergeant to keep the greenhorns busy.
And it is one thing to scream at recruits and tell them to push through a long list of exercises.
It is another thing to do all of these at a break neck speed and shout at them for not keeping up…
And Bucky did that pretty much four hours straight.
Yes, these kids wore some unhealthy shades by the end of this.
But Bucky had tortured them without ever touching even one of them.
Mostly because he was sure that these kids really were that stupid. Or in other words: too stupid to actually be H.Y.D.R.A. agents. Or more like: even too stupid for that.
One of the more unforeseen side effects:
Steve was absolutely smitten.
Well, probably not more so then usual.
But he and Natasha had handed a piece of paper back and forth for the entire duration.
And she did hand it to Bucky.
On it were - most of them in Steve’s handwriting:
Please, tell me someone is recording this.
Can I get this as my ring tone? - His shouting or their crying? - Both.
Gosh, this is beautiful.
Can we keep him?
Please, can we keep him?
I am serious. I’ll keep him in food and clothing. And he can keep the rookies of our back.
And I am willing to negotiate bonuses if he actually does manage to get the blond one to put his own back out.
And one in Nat’s handwriting:
Enjoying the view, Rogers?
And while Steve had - especially during the push ups - there really was no need to go into too much detail.
A concept that was - of course - entirely foreign to Natasha.
So when the rookies had been allowed to leave and did so decidedly fast, she did hand the paper to Bucky, while asking in the sweetest voice possible: “When are you finally going to take your boy on a real date? Just you and him and a coffee. Or probably a steak.”
Steve did manage a halfway straight sentence that they had spend the last day mostly eating…
Which was the the wrong and the right answer at the same time.
Because while Steve did turn all shades of crimson, Bucky did take the initiative and suggested the next weekend right away.
And that weekend… went even better then the last.
Eventually Bucky did insist that they went to see this band again.
For real this time.
This time Steve even tried to be charming.
And he insisted on improving Michelle’s and Maria’s wardrobe.
Somehow this meant three bottles of champaign and two hours, in which Steve sat down and actually stitched those dresses into shape with the girls already in them.
“James. Buchanan! BARNES! You are going to put this woman down, right this very instance.”
Steve did use his best Captain America voice.
Which only barely made its way through a head filled with Asgardian mead and worries.
And for all of Bucky’s normal rakish behavior, it was kinda hard to miss just how much Bucky fretted…
Steve was not even sure why.
By now they were together since almost nine months.
Everyone who mattered had eventually caught on.
And people at a concert usually had other worries.
So there was absolutely no need to frighten the current Miss Lindi.
Normal humans weren’t meant to be thrown near a three meter high ceiling…
Which was one of the reasons why Steve took great care to keep Bucky at his side for the rest of the evening.
Especially after Bucky finally came forward with the thing that worried him… and… would Steve marry him?
Complete with going down on one knee and turning all kinds of green.
The answer should have been all kind of obvious. - As anyone at the wedding could attest.