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Schrödinger's Romance

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Who the hell invented mornings? Whoever it was should be shot. No, that would be too quick a death. They should have their arms and legs torn off first, along with whoever invented fucking alarm clocks.
Bucky reached his hand out to the right, slamming it down on what he expected to be the alarm clock that was currently making his ears bleed with its incessant beeping.

"Ow! Jesus Christ, what the fuck?" His eyes shot open and he found himself looking at a mousy haired man, who he appeared to have just slapped in the face.

"Oh, um... sorry? Thought you were my clock."

"Haven't heard that one before." The man grinned at him, reaching over Bucky and finally putting an end to the ringing noise. He leant down and kissed Bucky's forehead gently, brushing some of the hair out of his face. Bucky wasn't paying much attention to him, he was focusing on trying to piece back his memory of last night.
He could remember arriving at the party, and he could remember Clint foolishly challenging him to a drinking game. The pounding in his head told him that he must have gotten through a fair few shots during that. Vaguely he could remember attempting to leave the bar and walking straight into the man who was currently trailing kisses down his neck. He couldn't remember a name though. Erin? Evan? Something like that.
He was terrible. He was a terrible human being and he should be ashamed of himself. Right now though he was too tired and hung-over to feel anything other than pain and misery.

"Guess you have to get to class, huh?" The man purred in his ear and, shit, yes he did.

"Yeah, yeah I should probably-" He stopped as the man leant down, just managing to turn his head in time to avoid the kiss.

"Best put your clothes on then." Oh Jesus Christ.

"I think that's probably a good idea." Bucky squeaked and the man, whose name he still couldn't remember, rolled off him, leaving Bucky free to sit up and grab a pair of jeans that were lying on the floor. Were they his? He wasn't sure, it didn't matter. He tugged them on, relieved to find that they were his, and pushed himself out of the bed.
Everything was on the wrong side of the room. Why was everything back to front? It took Bucky a good few minutes to work out that he'd been in the wrong bed, and that Clint was going to kill him where he stood for letting some guy fuck him in his bed. He'd have to make sure not to mention that.
Tugging the door open, he unhooked the 'do not disturb' sign that he and Clint had decided to invest in after both walking in on each other in various compromising positions one too many times, and headed down the hall to the sitting room.
He could hear Clint snoring before he even entered the room, and found him sprawled out, face-down, on the couch.

"Wake up, lazy ass." He said as he grabbed a magazine from the coffee table and whacked Clint over the head with it.

"Fuck off." Clint grunted, pulling a cushion over his head and groaning. "I feel like someone dropped an anchor on my head."

"You're the one who insisted on going out when we both had class the next day. C'mon, I need your help." Bucky held his hand out and yanked Clint upright, laughing when he wrinkled his nose up at him.

"You stink of sex, Buck."

"I can wash that off. You, tragically, will always smell like an asshole." Clint punched him in the shoulder and Bucky threw his head back laughing. "I'm gonna take a shower, and I need you to-"

"You need me to get rid of him, right?"

"He was very touchy feely just now."

"You're a rat Bucky, a real rat."

"Do I need to bring up the time I caught you sleeping with the quarterback's girlfriend again?"

"Look, she came on to me. Can't you let it go?"

"You're lucky to be alive, they don't call him Thor for nothing." The look he was getting from Clint told him to drop the subject and he shrugged, turning on his heel and heading back to the bathroom. He glanced in the mirror and cringed. His hair looked like hell, but there was no way he had time to wash it, he barely even had time to shower at all.
He didn't even give the water time to warm up before getting in the shower, regretting that decision as soon as the freezing water hit him. Deciding that his hair was more important than his education, he grabbed for the shampoo bottle, knocking everything else off the shelf in the process, and washed his hair as fast as was humanly possible. He got out just as the water was starting to heat up, which was fucking typical.
He had about ten minutes left to get ready so he decided to try multitasking, which was never going to end well, and he ended up almost breaking his leg trying to dry himself off and brush his teeth at the same time. Wrapping the towel around his waist, he headed back out of the bathroom and found himself immediately being pressed up against the wall and kissed by the mystery man from last night.

"I'll see you later." He whispered into Bucky's ear, before turning around and heading out the front door. Bucky whipped his head around to where Clint was standing and narrowed his eyes at him.

"Nice job of getting rid of him, asshole."

"He insisted on saying goodbye, I couldn't just shove him down the stairs could I?" He shrugged, handing him a slip of paper. "He left his number."

"How thoughtful of him, maybe you should call him sometime?"

"Bucky..."

"No." Bucky pushed past him and into their room, closing the door in Clint's face. It didn't stop Clint from talking to him from outside as he got dressed, pulling on the same jeans he'd worn last night like the slob he was, along with a plain grey shirt.

"You know, Eric's a nice guy." Eric, that was his name. "You should give him a chance, it might do you some good."

"I really don't think I should be taking relationship advice from someone who's been crushing on the same girl for almost a year now, yet still refuses to make a move on her."

"Fuck you. Can I come in yet? I have to get ready too, you know." Clint didn't wait for an answer and pushed the door open, standing in the doorway for a few seconds. "Dude, did you fuck in my bed?"

"I was drunk, don't dwell on it."

"I hate you so much, I should just kick you out right now. Your daddy would probably just buy you a mansion anyway, right?"

"More like he'd leave me to beg on the streets and insist it was 'character building'." Bucky muttered. "And he'd also stop paying your rent, so don't try it."

"I thought we were paying the rent."

"We are, but I'm pretty sure that one time the landlord decided to just 'let us off' when we were short was no coincidence. No matter how much he actively tries to deny it." Clint shrugged, grabbing his and Bucky's bags from the corner and bringing them over to where Bucky was standing, desperately trying to make his hair look somewhat presentable and failing horribly. As they made their way out the door and down the stairs, a thought crossed Bucky's mind. "Wait, how do you know Eric's a nice guy?"

"Bucky, it was his party."

"Is that a joke? Tell me that's a joke."

"How can you have possibly not have known that? We sang happy birthday to him. How fucking drunk were you?"

"Wait, wait. So I was birthday sex?"

"You sound awfully offended by that given ten minutes ago you were hiding in the bathroom waiting for him to leave." Bucky elbowed Clint in the ribs but he just laughed. "You're a big, gay slut, you know that? Maybe you should consider making it a profession. With you working as a rent boy we might actually be able to afford some decent food."

"Keep it up and I'll lock the car doors before you can get in."

"I ever tell you how much I treasure our friendship?" Bucky laughed and shook his head, unlocking the door of his shitty excuse for a car and climbing in. Clint was taking his sweet time getting into the passenger seat and he started drumming his fingers on the steering wheel impatiently, pretty sure Clint was just doing this to annoy him.
Finally they were able to leave, making the usual 7 minute drive to campus in just under 5.

"You're speeding." Clint had muttered and Bucky rolled his eyes.

"You want me to get you to class on time?"

"I'm just saying I'm not sure it's even legal for you to be driving, what with the amount of alcohol that must still be in your system from yesterday."

"What are you gonna do? Arrest me?"

Despite Clint's obvious doubts, they made it to campus alive. Clint yelled a brief "see you later" before taking off down the path to his political science class, while Bucky set off at a fairly leisurely pace over to the psychology block, thankful it was just a short distance from the parking lot.
The classroom was nearly packed, which was normal for the first month of the year, by around the middle of October it had usually thinned out as people gradually lost interest again. He spotted Darcy sitting near the back of the room with her feet up on the chair next to her and made his way over to her, pushing her feet away and catching her off guard.

"My god, you're actually alive."

"Barely."

"Dude, you were so wasted last night. Do you remember anything?"

"I remember arriving." Darcy cracked up, and reached over to squeeze his shoulder.

"I got some great photos, would you like to see?" Bucky glared at her and she shrugged. "Suit yourself. They're all over facebook though so have fun with that." She smirked, looking down at her hand and examining her nails.
Their friendship was a strange one. For their first year and a half they'd loathed one another and refused to spend any time in each other's company, and it was only when they were forced to do a presentation together that they realised they both shared an equal level of disdain for the human race.
Bucky was starting to regret not grabbing some painkillers before he left, his head was pounding and making it hard for him to think straight. He was probably gonna end up having to borrow Darcy's notes later, hell she used his often enough, because there was no way he was going to get anything done today. Never again would he let Clint rope him into drinking the night before college.

Bucky ended up sleeping through 99% of the class, waking up for about five minutes to hear Banner droning on about some Schrödinger guy and then passing out again. He had no doubts at all that this would probably be the most important class of his entire course, but he'd have to deal with that later because at the moment he just physically couldn't stay awake. Darcy had taken it upon herself to dump her bag on his desk, so as far as most of the people in the class were concerned, he wasn't there at all.

"Jesus, you snore so loudly. Do you even realise how many coughing fits I had to fake to cover for you? You're buying me a coffee." Darcy exclaimed as she shoved her notebook back into her bag. "It's a wonder Eric could bear to spend the night with you."

"How the fuck do you know about that!?"

"See, this is why you should have twitter. He's been on about you all morning."

"I thought I was just his birthday present to himself?"

"Doesn't sound that way."

"Jesus Christ. I'm gonna have to actually talk to the guy."

"Or you could ask him out?"

"Yeah, I don't think so." Bucky pushed himself out of his chair and started heading towards the door, optimistically hoping Darcy was going to drop the subject. Most people would brush it off by now, but she was horribly persistent.

"I don't understand you, Buck." She said, catching up to him faster than he'd wanted. "I mean you practically have a line of guys who want to date you."

"Can we drop this?"

"No, I demand an explanation."

"There isn't one. I'm just not interested in a relationship, now do you want that coffee or not?"

"Okay, you have distracted my interests, for now." Darcy nudged at his shoulder and grinned at him as they walked out of the classroom and down the corridor. They made their way outside and to the closest coffee stand, despite Darcy's protests that they should take the 20 minute walk to Starbucks. "I'm almost ashamed to instagram it." She muttered as they sat down at a bench, staring forlornly at the cup in front of her.

"You know society won't actually collapse if it doesn't know exactly what you're doing at every given moment?" Darcy glanced up from her phone briefly and then went back to furiously typing something on it. Bucky rolled his eyes and took a sip of his coffee, ignoring the fact that it was making his stomach turn and trying to focus on not falling asleep again.

"One day, when I reach the height of internet stardom, then you'll be sorry. Ooh your boyfriend's here." For a brief second Bucky's heart stopped, and he let out a sigh of relief when he turned around and saw it was Clint walking over, with Natasha close behind him.

"Please tell me you slept through your entire class too." He said as he shoved Bucky along the seat and squeezed next to him.

"You mean you couldn't hear him snoring from where you were?" Darcy muttered, not looking up from her phone.

"I do not snore that badly."

"Buck, I have to sleep in the same room as you most nights, there is a reason I'm always so sleep deprived."

"The reason you're always so sleep deprived is because you insist on going out drinking despite having class the next day, which we are never doing again, by the way." Natasha said. She also looked a little worse for wear, although nowhere near as bad as he or Clint did, she'd always been able to hold her drink a lot better than they could.

"It was the guy's birthday, Nat, how could I refuse him?"

"It was a Wednesday, I'm sure he would have understood if you'd said you couldn't go."

"But then Bucky wouldn't have gotten laid, what about his needs?" Bucky put his head in his hands and sighed, making the other three crack up laughing. He felt Clint put his arm around him and shot him a warning glare. "I still have his number, maybe you should call him."

"I'm not gonna-"

"I mean to let him down gently, rather than leave him chasing after you for the next few weeks." Bucky scowled at him, but he could feel everyone else's eyes burning into him so he sighed in defeat, holding out his hand and letting Clint drop the slip of paper into it.

"Fine." He grumbled, getting up and walking off to nowhere in particular, trying to find somewhere nobody would be able to hear him. As he rounded the corner of a building he smacked straight into a short, brunette man, making him drop the books he was carrying. "Shit, sorry." He stammered, bending down to help him pick his things up. The man looked familiar, but as per usual, he couldn't think of a name.

"No worries, I should really invest in a new bag. It's Bucky, right?" Dammit, he did know him. What the fuck was his name? As if the guy could read his mind he grinned and said. "Charles. We're in a few of the same classes."

"Right, sorry, I'm terrible at names. You'd think 3 years of psychology would improve my memory." Charles laughed and shook his head.

"Honestly, I think half the college knows your name this morning. Anybody within a five foot radius of yesterday's birthday boy has heard you mentioned." Bucky was about to go on a long rant about how much regret he had when he noticed the slight hint of sadness on Charles' eyes, and got an idea.

"You know him?"

"We went to school together. Although I'm not sure he's actually aware of my existence." Bingo.

"Are you free this evening?"

"Um... I think so."

"Wait right here, give me five minutes." Charles stared at him in bemusement as Bucky headed around the corner and punched Eric's number into his phone. Tapping his foot impatiently as it rang.

"Hello?"

"Eric! It's Bucky." He could hear a gasp down the line and cringed, hoping this wasn't going to be too difficult.

"You know, I almost didn't think you were going to call at all."

"Look, I'm gonna be honest with you here-"

"You're not interested, right? I get it."

"You're a very understanding man, Eric."

"Right, I'll see you-"

"No, no wait! I have an apology gift for you, in the form of a cute brunette who seems pretty interested in you."

"I'm listening."

"His name's Charles, I think you know each other, real pretty eyes. I'll have him meet you at the Howling Commando bar around 8?"

"Fine, but he better buy me a drink." Eric hung up at that and Bucky grinned, damn he was good, he deserved a high five. He headed to where Charles was waiting and clapped him on the back.

"8 o'clock, Howling Commando."

"What?"

"Your date with Eric." Charles stared at him for a minute, his mouth hanging open.

"I... are you serious?"

"No need to thank me, I'll see you around." He grinned, leaving Charles to stammer a thank you and heading off back to where he'd left Clint, Nat, and Darcy.

"How'd it go?" Nat asked as he sat back down on the bench.

"You know, forget criminal psychology, I really think there's a career for me in matchmaking."

"How can you possibly have found him another date that fast?"

"Happened to bump into some guy who's had a crush on him since school, if all goes to plan he won't be able to feel his legs by tomorrow morning."

He actually managed to make it through the rest of the day without falling asleep or throwing up, which was an achievement in itself. Darcy refused to lend him her notes despite him bringing up all the times she'd borrowed his, insisting that she'd paid her debts by not letting him get caught sleeping, and complaining she hadn't understood anything she'd written down and needed to look at them later. This would mean he was actually going to have to study. Ew.
The only person kind hearted enough to stay in the library with him was Natasha, although she wasn't being much help, sitting with her feet in his lap and painting her nails.

"Fuck." He heard her mutter to herself, and was suddenly aware of the bottle of nail polish that she was thrusting in his face. "Quick, paint my right hand for me."

"Just because I'm your gay friend doesn't mean I'm gonna paint your nails and braid your hair. I do try to avoid becoming a walking stereotype."

"I'm asking you to paint my nails, not join me in a ten man orgy."

"Fine." He muttered, snatching the bottle from her hand and starting to coat her nails in the deep red polish, trying not to show his excitement when it came out perfectly.

"I should get you to do this more often, you're doing a better job than me."

"I have my mother's sewing hands, what can I say?" Nat giggled at him and started shaking her hand dry, giving Bucky a precious few minutes to try and make some semi-legible notes.

"So, how you feeling?" He glanced back up to see her looking at him with a hint of concern on her face.

"I won't be running any marathons any time soon, but otherwise-"

"I don't mean that. You've been on edge all day since your hook-up gone wrong."

"I'm fine, Nat." He said, more sharply than he intended to, and Nat sighed. "Honestly, I'm okay. I just have a headache."

"Maybe you should head home, you have all day tomorrow to catch up on this crap."

"Yeah, but I have a whole stack of other crap that I was planning to do tomorrow, do you even realise how far behind I am on history assignments? Why do we even have to take history? Who needs history?." She frowned at him and got up, moving behind his chair so she could wrap her arms around him and kiss his head.

"You are going home and that's an order. We've been in here for 3 hours, c'mon." Bucky struggled in protest as she hooked her hands under his arms and pulled him up, but she was stronger than she looked and eventually managed to wrestle him to his feet. He shoved all his crap into his bag, not bothering to zip it up, and followed her through the automatic doors.
He'd been too focused on trying to absorb knowledge for the past few hours that he hadn't even noticed that it had started raining, and now he was really regretting not putting a jacket on. Nat was clearly thinking the same thing, holding her bag up over her head in an attempt to stop her hair getting too wet.

"I'll see you later." She called, heading off in the opposite direction towards her dorm. It was times like these that Bucky regretted getting a shitty apartment with Clint rather than staying on campus, trying to walk as quickly as he could back to where he'd parked his car.
This time it took him 20 minutes to get home, mainly due to some asshole in front of him who was doing 10 under the speed limit. When he finally did get back he pulled his bag off the passenger seat and ran into the building. He heard the noise of a few things falling out of his bag as he ran but it was raining too hard for him to care, it couldn't be anything too important, right?
Clint was stretched out on the couch when he got in, mindlessly flipping through the TV channels. He looked around as the door opened and laughed at the soggy mess Bucky had become.

"Enjoy the rain?"

"Fuck you." Bucky muttered, tugging off his soaking wet shirt and throwing it at Clint's face.

"Rude."

"You want my jeans too?" Clint responded by throwing the shirt back and flipping him off as he turned back to the TV. Bucky smirked, heading into the bedroom to find some dry clothes. He grabbed some grey sweatpants and white cotton shirt, unable to get out of his gross, wet jeans quick enough.

"I made pasta, there's some in the fridge." Clint called as Bucky came out of the bedroom.

"Aw, you're cooking for me now? That's sweet, Barton."

"It tastes like shit so don't get excited." Bucky chuckled and padded over to the fridge, grabbing what he assumed was Clint's pasta, although it was barely recognisable as such, and a fork before heading back over and curling up on the armchair in front of the TV.
It did actually taste vaguely of food, which was more than could be said for most of the stuff they ate when they were in the apartment, and Bucky had hardly eaten all day, so he didn't have much trouble finishing it.

"You want me to get you a bucket?"

"It wasn't that bad, give yourself some credit."

"You flatter me."

"You know, if either of us were sensible, we would have chosen a roommate who could actually cook."

"Maybe I should just get Nat over to cook for us from now on?"

"Yeah that's a great idea, if you want her to rip your head off." Clint shrugged and Bucky grinned at him. "You're just desperate for an excuse to get her to lodge with us, right?"

"Fuck off."

"You know I've already potentially created one happy couple today, maybe I should talk to her about-"

"No."

"Aw, are you nervous? Because given what I've heard about her bedroom escapades I think you have every right to be."

"What the actual fuck, Bucky?"

"Yeah I hear she likes it rough."

"Please stop."

"Did you know she keeps handcuffs in her nightstand?"

"You have made your point."

"And they're not for her wrists if you catch my drift."

"Oh Jesus."

"Yeah, that girl's into some kinky shit."

"How do you know these things?"

"Hey, you take a little dick up the ass and suddenly girls don't mind sharing this stuff with you, you should try it." Clint gagged and Bucky threw his head back laughing, ducking as a cushion came flying at his head. "C'mon, at some point you must have been tempted."

"Have you ever been tempted to sleep with a woman?"

"Touché." Bucky shrugged, rolling onto his back and leaning his head back on one arm, with his legs hooking over the other.

"I mean, as a man, I have seen what we have to offer, and it's not pretty."

"Maybe you have a disease?"

"I'm not gonna dignify that with a response."

"Anyway, you say that as if vaginas are anything more than gross flaps."

"They are so much more, my friend, so, so much more." Bucky grimaced as Clint started gazing off into the distance, grinning to himself.

"If you're gonna start fantasizing about fucking Natasha, can you at least give me the remote?"

"Why, so you can start watching your gay porn again?"

"That was one time."

"You destroyed my innocent soul."

"That was destroyed way before you met me." Another cushion came hurtling towards him, landing on his stomach. "Did you even try?"

"I'll start throwing knives next." Clint muttered, chuckling as Bucky grabbed the fork he'd been using and held it up threateningly.

"Just try me."

"Bring it on, Barnes, bring it on." They both stared at each other with serious expressions on their faces for a few seconds before dissolving into fits of giggles.

After watching the first half of an old Indiana Jones movie that was on, Bucky found himself unable to keep his eyes open anymore and pushed himself out of the armchair, leaving Clint to watch the rest of the movie on his own. He brushed his teeth and headed back into their bedroom, this time checking which bed was actually his before collapsing on to it with more force than was sensible for such a cheap frame. The bed creaked underneath him as he pulled the duvet up to his chin and pressed his face into the pillow, curling up and falling asleep almost instantly.

It was a rough night. Bucky had spent the entire day pushing all his anxieties to the side, so he ended up waking up almost every hour, tossing and turning and thinking about what a shitty excuse for a human being he was. Clint's horrendous snoring didn't help much either, and by the time 8 o'clock rolled around he felt like he'd hardly slept more than five minutes. The alarm clock on the other side of the room was blaring and Clint still hadn't woken up, Christ he was a deep sleeper. Bucky grabbed the tissue box on his nightstand and chucked it at his head, making him yelp and sit bolt upright.

"What the fuck, man?"

"Your alarm has been beeping for ten minutes, asshole." He pulled the duvet up over his head, thankful he at least didn't have any classes today. The sound of Clint loudly getting ready kept him from getting back to sleep, and once he heard the sound of the front door opening and closing, he decided he may as well just get up.
On the bright side, he did at least have the luxury of letting the water in the shower heat up this morning, and he spent at least half an hour just standing under the faucet, letting the water soothe the ache in his back from his shitty mattress. Eventually, after about 45 minutes, he convinced himself to actually get out of the shower, drying himself off and changing into the jeans and blue t-shirt he'd taken into the bathroom with him.
There was just enough cereal left for one bowl, and he grabbed the pad of post-it notes that they kept by the sink, taking it over to the table and scribbling 'need more fucking cornflakes' onto one as he ate. He stuck the note on the cabinet door, dumping the bowl into the sink to wash later. Remarkably, he felt even worse today than he had yesterday. His head was pounding and pretty much every bone in his body ached, but he was behind on his history notes and he needed to get that shit done before he focused on anything else, so he padded back into the bedroom and dumped the contents of his bag out onto his bed, grabbing his notebook and then sifting through the remaining pile to try and find the textbook. Why did he have to keep all his stuff in his bag at the same time? He needed a system.
Where the fuck was it? Fuck. He thought back to yesterday when he'd been too rushed to bother getting the stuff that had fallen out of his bag and smacked himself in the face. Bucky you fucking idiot.
Grabbing his keys he threw the door open, not bothering to put any shoes on. He took the stairs two at a time, all the while muttering positive thoughts to himself.

"It probably fell out in the car, it'll be in the car, Jesus Christ please be in the car."

The book was not in the car. He threw open the front door of the building and immediately spotted it in the middle of a puddle, looking very worse for wear. Grimacing as he picked up the soggy mess, he flipped to a few of the pages and, with a sigh and a few loud "Fuck!"s, accepted that it was beyond repair. He dumped it in the trashcan by the door and rested his head against the wall for a few minutes, taking some deep breaths and trying to avoid punching a window in frustration. He could already hear his dad's sighs of despair, but he needed to call him. This was not going to be fun.
Heading back up the stairs and into his apartment, he grabbed his phone and curled up in the corner of the couch, dialling his dad's number and listening to the monotonous ringing. He was just starting to wonder if maybe he should just text him when his dad finally answered.

"What have you done this time?"

"Dad, I fucked up."

"That should be the title of your autobiography."

"Can you be serious for ten seconds please?"

"What have you done?"

"Okay, so you remember they brought out new history textbooks this year and it was really expensive, and that I promised you and ma I wouldn't lose?" And there was that sigh of despair that he remembered so well. "Technically I kept my promise because I still know exactly where it is, the problem is it's soaking wet and I can't read it and I need you to buy me a new one right now because I need it." He said the last bit as quickly as he possibly could, hoping his dad wouldn't fully register it and just agree, unfortunately, this was his dad.

"Bucky, that was $400."

"You have a 6 figure salary, dad, what's 400 bucks?"

"400 bucks is a ridiculously expensive textbook that you're gonna have to buy a replacement for yourself."

"Where the hell am I gonna get that kind of money? What do you want me to do? Sell my body?"

"Ever hear of a library?"

"But that's a 10 minute drive away!"

"Then you should have looked after the one I got you. How did it end up soaking wet anyway?"

"It was raining and it fell out of my bag and I kind of... left it outside over night." He heard a slapping sound and it took him a few minutes to process what the noise was.

"Dad... did you just actually facepalm at me?"

"I don't even have words, Bucky. I have no words, none at all, to express what an idiot you can be sometimes."

"It was raining."

"You're unbelievable."

"I was hung-over."

"Why were you hung-over on a Thursday?"

"It was Eric's birthday."

"Who the hell is Eric?"

"I don't even know!" He rolled onto his side, shoving a cushion under his head and huffing in frustration. "Dad, c'mon, just do this one thing for me."

"This one thing?"

"Dad-"

"Need I remind you who it is that is paying your tuition?"

"I contributed."

"Not enough to warrant me spending an extra $800 on you."

"Why do you have to be such an asshole?"

"Excuse me?" Bucky sighed, pressing his face into the cushion for a few seconds until the throbbing in his head dulled again. His dad was silent on the other end and it was only when he heard some faint background noise that he realised he hadn't hung up.

"I'm sorry, dad, I'm just... I'm really tired. You're right I'll go to the library." It was quiet for a little longer and Bucky started getting nervous. When his dad finally spoke his voice was a lot softer.

"Is everything okay?"

"Did you miss that whole part about me just destroying the book that held the key to my future?"

"No, I mean are you okay?"

"You know it is perfectly normal for humans to have a bad night's sleep right? Missing an hours sleep does not equal a full mental breakdown."

"You're being defensive."

"Am not."

"Bucky-"

"Dad, I'm okay. I promise. I have to go to the library before they lend out my future. Tell ma I said hi." He heard shuffling as his dad moved away from the phone.

"Hey Freddie! The disaster says hi!"

"Tell the disaster I said hi back!" His mom's voice called faintly in the distance. Bucky groaned and ran his hand down his face.

"Really? I'm just 'the disaster' now?"

"You don't exactly do yourself any favours, Bucky."

"Hey, I've survived this far haven't I? I'll talk to you later."

"Love you." His dad hung up before he had a chance to respond and he sighed, tossing his phone across the couch and leaning back for a few minutes before forcing himself onto his feet.
He walked back into the kitchen and opened one of the drawers, pulling out the pack of painkillers so he could try and get his monstrous headache under some control. Pouring out a glass of water he downed two of the tablets, headed over to the door and pulled his boots on, before heading out and down the stairs.
Despite his aching muscles and the fact that it would take him at least half an hour, he decided to walk over to the college library, telling himself the fresh air would do him some good. His phone buzzed in his pocket and he unlocked it, rolling his eyes at the text from his mom.

How in the hell do you lose a textbook in three weeks??

He couldn't trust his dad with anything.
It ended up taking him just over 40 minutes to make it to the library, he was even more unfit than he'd anticipated. Maybe next time Clint dragged him to the gym he should actually do more than just hurl food and insults at him. He walked through the automatic doors and straight up the stairs to where all the official college books were kept.
Remarkably they actually had the book he needed, although he'd been kind of wishing they didn't just so his dad would have no choice but to buy him a new one. He pulled the textbook from the shelf and headed over to the desk. Phil was re-rearranging his display board and Bucky had to clear his throat a few times before he got his attention.

"Sorry, didn't see you there." He said, smiling as he swiped Bucky's student card and scanned the book in. "We have a policy about official college textbooks, by the way. They can only be checked out one week at a time so everyone gets a chance to use them."

"Guess I'll be making notes all weekend then."

"No offence, but you look like you could use a couple of quiet nights." Bucky nodded, chuckling at him and picking up the book off the desk. He spun on his heel and made his way back down the stairs, already regretting deciding to walk rather than drive.
He spent the whole of that day trying to write down as much information from the book as he could, and when Clint came home that evening he laughed for a solid 20 minutes about Bucky's predicament, only shutting up when Bucky threw the book straight at his head.

He was done. He was so, so done. He had one more evening before he had to take the textbook back for a week, and he still didn't feel like he'd gotten enough information into his head. Maybe it was the fact that he had a deep hatred of history in general, maybe it was the fact that it was currently 1:30 in the morning, but it just wasn't going in.

History can suck my dick

He scrawled absentmindedly onto the notes he'd been making in the book. Wait, what? Shit. He stared down at the page in the textbook and realised for the past hour or so he'd been writing his notes on the page of the book. Christ he was a mess. Taking that as a hint that he was too tired to carry on, he slammed the book shut and went to bed.

It was a torturous class next week, having nothing but the crappy notes he'd managed to write to get him through, although after explaining his issue to Hill, he did at least get to take some photos of her lesson notes at the end of class.

"James-"

"Bucky."

"Bucky, you know there are bursaries available for students who can't afford all their college supplies?"

"Somehow I doubt they'll consider any descendent of Stark Industries' management team to be in particular need of financial aid." Hill's eyes went wide for a minute and Bucky remembered most people weren't aware of where his dad worked. "It's not as glamorous as it sounds."

"So if there's no money trouble then what is it?" Bucky shrugged, shoving his phone back into his pocket.

"My parents want me to be able to support myself, which means learning the hard way to take more care of expensive school supplies and generally not being a reckless ass." He grinned and Hill nodded, shuffling her papers together and waving as Bucky turned and headed over to where Clint was waiting, leant against the door frame and tapping his foot.

"Can you please inform your father that he's inconveniencing both of us by doing this? I now have to wait an extra ten minutes before getting out of this hell hole."

"If you hate it so much why do you bother showing up?"

"Because I know you crave my company, and I'm kind enough to grant you that pleasure."

"I'm honoured. Anyway we'll both get a break for another week now, I need to get to the library before someone else checks it out." Clint sighed, following him across campus and into the library.
For a brief moment Bucky thought that somebody else had already taken it when he saw the empty space on the shelf.

"Looking for this, I presume?" Phil's voice made him jump and he turned around to see him standing behind him, holding the textbook out. "Someone just brought it back, your timing is impeccable." He followed Phil back over to the desk to scan it in and then sat down at a nearby table with Clint, flipping the book open.
His eyes were drawn immediately to the bright orange post-it note that was stuck directly under the notes he'd made last week. It had something written on it and Bucky peeled it off to look at.

Dude, you're a lifesaver. Been trying to work this stuff out since forever.

He grinned to himself, and then noticed the arrow drawn under the writing that was pointing for him to flip the page. He did so almost cautiously, although he wasn't sure what exactly he was worried about finding. On the next page, directly under his history directed profanities, where three more post-it notes were stuck, all with notes on the paragraph he'd lost his patience with.
Maybe borrowing from the library wouldn't be so bad after all?

Chapter Text

"Huh."

"Huh?" Clint looked up from his book and Bucky peeled one of the notes off, holding it up for Clint to see. "What is it?"

"A godsend, that's what." He said, re-reading the notes the mystery stranger had written for him. It made sense, they all made perfect sense, it was so beautiful. "Clint, I'm gonna cry."

"I'm not gonna hug you if that's what you're thinking."

"I might actually be able to write a decent history essay."

"Hill's gonna think she's died and gone to heaven."

"Fuck off, she loves me." Clint raised an eyebrow at him and he grinned. "Just you wait, she'll make a historian of me yet."

"Bucky, I would be less shocked to find you in bed with a woman."

"I resent that." Bucky retorted, rifling through his bag to find his notebook. He had a new found motivation now that he actually sort of knew what he was doing and he was not about to let it go to waste. He was so focused on what he was writing it took him 5 minutes to realise Clint was talking to him.

"Dude."

"What?"

"I said, who do you think wrote them?"

"There are thousands of people at this college, how the fuck should I know?"

"Could've been someone we know."

"The only person I know who would do something this weird is you."

"What makes you think it wasn't me?"

"I know your handwriting."

"That's a little creepy, Buck."

"I'm obsessed with you, Clint, I can't help it." Clint pulled a face and Bucky cracked up laughing, making a few people look over at them. "You're all I want, Clinton."

"I can't believe you."

"Won't you give me a chance to prove undying devotion for you?"

"Prove it by shutting the fuck up."

"Anything for you, my love."

"Remind me why we're friends?" Bucky smirked at him and Clint just shook his head in despair, looking back down at the book in front of him and ignoring Bucky's sniggering.

It was late in the afternoon and Bucky was this close to just dropping out of college and forgetting the whole thing. Why in the hell did he think it was a good idea to study criminal psychology? Christ, if anything it was him who needed to go through some psychological tests. He slammed his laptop shut, calling it quits for the day, and started sifting through the piles of books and paper on the desk. His eyes fell on the tatty library textbook and he decided he should pass on the random act of kindness from earlier that day, rather than doing any actual work. Grabbing the history notes he'd made in the library, he started copying out some of it out onto the pink post-it notes that Clint insisted he use. Sometimes Clint's determination not to associate himself with anything remotely feminine baffled him, but he hadn't been in the mood to argue against him.
After half an hour his hand started to cramp up so he stuck down everything he'd written next to the corresponding paragraphs and leant back in his chair, glancing at his watch. 6 o'clock. Clint had already told him earlier that he and Natasha were having a study evening, which would probably mostly consist of them watching movies rather than actually studying, and avoiding the obvious sexual tension between them. Of course having the apartment empty all evening opened up the perfect opportunity, and he'd be stupid to waste it, so he got up and walked over to the wardrobe to find something nicer to wear.
After about ten minutes of trying out different outfits he eventually settled on a pair of dark skinny jeans, a loose grey shirt, and his black leather jacket that didn't see the light of day as often as it should. He made a mental note to wear it more often as he pulled on he pulled on his boots and grabbed his keys, heading out and getting into his car.
The bar was fairly empty considering it was Friday evening, which was both good and bad news. Good news because Bucky didn't handle crowds well on his own, but bad because it made the chances of him finding a good, non-creepy hook-up a lot slimmer. Fortunately while standing in the doorway trying to decide whether or not to sit down somewhere, he noticed a guy over at the bar blatantly staring at him so he made his way over and sat down next to him, not saying anything for a few minutes.

"Can I get you a drink?" Bucky looked over at the man and smirked.

"I'm counting on it, didn't bring any money out."

"Now that's optimism." The man grinned and Bucky shrugged.

"It worked didn't it?"

"Touché." He waved the bartender over and ordered them both a shot of tequila while Bucky used the time to get a proper look at him. He was far from Bucky's usual type, although he wasn't even really sure what that was anymore, with wavy tawny hair and green eyes, and just a hint of stubble. But Bucky was far from fussy, and the guy was cute, so he'd do. Christ he was shallow, and a whore, and a disgrace to humanity. "I'm Peter, by the way. Just so you know what name to scream later." That sent a jolt of electricity down his spine and he smirked, chewing on his lip as Peter grinned at him.
They didn't stay in the bar for long. After downing the shots they both headed out and Bucky drove them back to his apartment, only just getting through the door before being pinned up against the wall and assaulted with kisses. Peter was a little rougher than he was used to, biting down on his lip and pushing his shoulders against the wall so Bucky could barely move. He pulled away for a moment and stared down at him with blown pupils. It had been hard to tell in the bar, but now that they were standing in front of each other Bucky could see Peter was a good few inches taller than him.

"Never asked your name."

"Bucky." He murmured, moving his head down to kiss at Peter's neck.

"That's a dumb-" Bucky nipped at a spot on his neck before he could finish insulting his nickname. "Not that I'm really one to comment. Most of my friends call me Star Lord."

"The hell do they call you that for?"

"Because I can take them to another dimension." Peter smirked and Bucky blinked at him absently, he was gonna have to figure out what the fuck this guy was talking about later because right now Peter was pulling his jacket off and trailing his hands down to Bucky's hips, pulling him closer and grinding against him. Bucky moaned into his neck and moved his head back up to face him.

"Don't think my roommate would be too pleased if he found us fucking in the hall."

"Right. Where's your bedroom?" He gestured at the door and Peter dragged him backwards into the bedroom, sitting him down on, fortunately, the right bed and tugging Bucky's shirt over his head before removing his own. Bucky hadn't expected him to be so ripped and he found himself staring for a few moments, running his hands up Peter's chest before gripping onto his shoulders and pulling him down to kiss him. "You have lube and shit, right?"

"Don't ask stupid questions." He smirked, moving to get up and go over to the nightstand when he felt a hand on his chest pushing him down onto the bed.

"I'll get it." Peter murmured, tracing a finger down Bucky's chest before getting up. "You keep your pretty little ass in this bed."

Bucky froze when he heard that. His chest started tightening and suddenly he was in a different room, in a different bed, and Brock was on top of him, holding his wrists almost painfully tight and forcing him into the mattress.

"Quit trying to move."

"You're holding my wrists too tight, you dick." Brock let go of one of his wrists to slap Bucky across the face, before pinning his wrist back down.

"You know I hate hurting you. Now keep your pretty little ass in this bed."

"Bucky! Hey!" Bucky hadn't realised he'd sat up. He blinked his eyes a couple of times and saw Peter sitting in front of him, squeezing his shoulder gently. "You alright?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine I just... sorry."

"We don't have to do this if you-"

"No!" Bucky grabbed Peter's shoulders and pushed him back onto the bed, climbing on top of him and kissing his neck. He needed this even more now, needed to get something back.

"You know, I thought you'd be the submissive type." Peter smirked, moving his hands behind Bucky's head and tangling them in his hair.

"Not tonight."

He must have dozed off for a few minutes after they'd finished, and he woke up to the sound of Peter pulling his jeans back on.

"I have to get going, I'll see you probably never again." Peter grinned and Bucky smiled, preferring it when his hook-ups left willingly rather than trying to stick around and rope him into letting them take him out. "Oh, before I go, you seemed really on edge earlier so maybe some of this will help. I'll even give you them at a discount." He fished into his pocket and pulled out a couple of plastic packets. It only took Bucky a few seconds to work out what was in them. Suddenly that whole 'take them to another dimension' thing made sense, he'd just let a freaking drug dealer fuck him, this was a whole new low.

"Um... I think I'll pass." He mumbled, shaking his head and trying to force another smile.

"Suit yourself." Peter shrugged, disappearing through the bedroom door. Bucky pulled the duvet over himself and rolled onto his side, listening to Peter walk back down the hall and open the front door. "Oh, hi."

"Um... hello?" He heard Clint's voice say from outside. A few moments later the bedroom door opened and Clint came in, gesturing behind him and frowning. "Was that... Peter Quill?"

"Um, possibly."

"You know he's a-"

"Yeah, yeah it has been brought to my attention."

"You're a train wreck, Bucky."

"What else is new? Hey does being offered discount drugs after sex count as prostitution?"

"Christ." Clint muttered, kicking off his shoes and lying back on his bed across the room from Bucky. "Is this how you always spend your time when I go out for a few hours? Exchanging your body for cheap drugs?"

"I thought you knew that already? My entire life revolves around sex, drugs, and mental breakdowns."

"Just do me a favour and don't combine the three." Bucky didn't say anything and rolled onto his back, staring up at the ceiling while trying to ignore Clint's eyes burning into him. "Bucky, I swear to god if it's started happening during fucking sex I will-"

"It was nothing."

"That is not an okay thing, Bucky."

"It's fine. I mean if anything it'll put me off sleeping around so much. How was your date with Natasha?"

"Don't change the subje- it was not a date!" Bucky started sniggering at him and yelped when Clint's alarm clock hit him on the shoulder. "Toss that back, I need it."

"Shouldn't have thrown it."

"Don't be a child."

"I'm not the one throwing clocks at people." He pointed out, throwing the clock back and hitting Clint in the head. "Learn to catch."

"Asshole."

"You never answered my question."

"I refuse to acknowledge your question. My study evening, however, went very well."

"Right. I'm sure you got loads of studying done."

"For your information I did."

"I believe you. Because I know you don't have the balls to actually make a move on her."

"Goodnight."

"No, I haven't finished interfering."

"You want to discuss your mid-sex breakdown?"

"Goodnight." He could almost hear Clint smiling smugly to himself as he rolled over to face the wall.

"Turn the light off, you dick."

"You threw a clock at me, I owe you nothing."

"You hit me in the head!"

"I can sleep with the light on."

"I feel so much regret about agreeing to share a room with you."

"Clint, I am perfectly willing to turn the light off. But under this duvet I am completely-."

"Alright I got it!" Bucky grinned as he listened to Clint mutter under his breath to himself while walking across the room to switch the light off, laughing as the boxer briefs Peter had pulled off him earlier hit him in the back of the head, and reaching under the duvet to pull them on. "Do you enjoy making me uncomfortable?"

"Immensely." He yawned, pulling the duvet up to his nose and curling his legs up, suddenly aware of how tired he was. The light clicked off and he listened sound of Clint stumbling around the room before falling asleep.

The next couple of weeks passed relatively smoothly. He found out through Natasha that her and Clint's study evening really had involved nothing but studying, and Bucky had to fight not to laugh at the look of annoyance on her face while she told him about it. When he then brought this up to Clint, he got his revenge by telling both Nat and Darcy that he'd slept with the college drug dealer.

"You're out of control, Bucky." Clint said as they walked over to the library with Darcy to get his history book back again. "I mean how many guys have you slept with just this month? Three?"

"Four."

"I only know of three."

"I gave Hank from English a lift home a few weeks back and we ended up-"

"Wait. I thought he was straight?" Darcy cut in, who was practically having to jog to keep up with their pace.

"So did he." Bucky grinned, ignoring Clint's frustrated sigh. It wasn't the first time someone had used him to experiment, and probably wouldn't be the last, he considered himself to be providing a public service to all the confused guys in college.
They walked into the library and Bucky grabbed the book, heading over to a nearby table with the others. For some unknown reason, he felt a little nervous opening the book to where he'd left the notes before, as if he thought something was going to leap out and scream at him for defacing library property. The post-it notes he'd left were gone, and for a minute he assumed Phil must have taken them out after he'd returned it. But then when he turned over the page, he found some more of the bright orange notes stuck down, with the same handwriting as before.

Oh my god. OH MY GOD! I could kiss you right now. Well, I mean I couldn't, obviously, unless I kissed the book which might be a bit weird and god knows what people have put on this thing. But OH MY GOD IT MAKES SO MUCH SENSE I LOVE YOU.

"What are you smiling at?" Bucky looked up and saw Darcy staring at him with raised eyebrows.

"History fills me with joy, what can I say?"

"Show me the page." Darcy reached out and Bucky snapped the book shut, holding it away from her. "What are you doing, you freak? It's a book." What was he doing? Getting emotionally attached to a post-it note? Was this what he had become; the boy who had attachment issues over stationary? Jesus Christ.
Both Clint and Darcy were staring at him with looks of confusion and a hint of concern for his sanity so he shrugged nonchalantly, opening the book again and holding it up.

"I just have more notes."

"And that caused you to blush like a schoolgirl?"

"First of all I was not blushing. Second, they're cute okay? Can a man not enjoy the simple pleasure of someone leaving him a cute note?"

"Let me see."

"He did not write it for you, Clint."

"What makes you think it's a guy?"

"Wishful thinking?"

"I'm sorry did I miss something here?" Darcy interrupted, snatching the book away from Bucky and scanning her eyes over it. "Isn't this cheating?"

"Says the girl who borrows my notes after pretty much every class."

"Who are they from?"

"Why does everyone ask me that? I don't fucking know." Bucky snapped, taking the book back and ignoring the look Clint and Darcy exchanged.

For the next few weeks Bucky and the mystery student exchanged notes through the book, and when he handed in his history assignment, the look on Hill's face was truly priceless. It wasn't until mid-October that he saw him.
Clint and Nat both had their political science class, and Darcy had insisted on walking all the way to Starbucks for her coffee, so he'd ended up walking over to the library on his own to pick up the textbook. It was a little earlier than when he usually went, so the library was fairly empty as he made his way up the stairs and over to the same corner of the building. He spotted the cute blond making his way over to the shelf and ended up checking him out. He looked tall, although it was hard to tell from where Bucky was standing, and was wearing a blue plaid shirt and jeans, with a pair of glasses on the top of his head. It wasn't until Bucky spotted exactly what book he was holding that his heart stopped. It was the history textbook. That was the note man. No, it might not be, somebody else could have taken the book out, why was he freaking out? God, he was cute. Fuck.

"I should go talk to him. No I shouldn't. Should I?"

"Dude, just go talk to him." He spun around, not realising he'd been talking to himself while some first year kid had been putting books away next to him. The guy was still there, why was he still freaking out? He could talk to guys, he did it all the time, hell, he was the town slut.
The man was still there so he ran a hand through his hair and headed over, making a point of waiting for him to put the book back on the shelf before taking it off again immediately, turning around and smirking at the blond.

"Oh... hi." The man pulled a huge grin at him and Bucky chewed on his lip, scratching the back of his neck awkwardly.

"So you're the guy who's been getting me through my classes, huh?"

"Barely. History doesn't really agree with me."

"Learning in general doesn't agree with me." Bucky shrugged and blondie chuckled. Fuck, he was really cute, so now he was torn between wanting to keep him around so he might have a chance of passing his class, and wanting him to pin him against a wall. Education or sex? Future or sex? Honour to the family name... or sex? Dammit.

"So, uh... Maybe we'd make some faster progress if we actually studied together?" Well, that made his decision easier.

"Yeah, if you want."

"Awesome. There's this diner just outside campus I usually go to, so I can meet you up there and get some food-"

"Whoa, whoa, are we studying or going out for dinner?" Bucky tried to say it as a joke but he couldn't hide the nervous crack in his voice that always came out when dating was mentioned. Blondie just laughed and leant against the bookshelf, shaking his head.

"Not sure how my girlfriend would feel if I started taking strangers out on dinner dates." Fuck. Thank god he hadn't tried to hit on him, of course he was straight, the cutest ones always were.

"Not into polyamory then?" He grinned, trying to brush the awkwardness off. "But yeah, I think I know the place you mean. I can meet you up there tomorrow?"

"1 o'clock okay?"

"We have a date. Or not, as the case may be. It's Bucky, by the way."

"Steve."

"Well, Steve, I'll see you tomorrow." Bucky smiled, giving Steve a pathetic wave before turning on his heel and heading back around the corner, very nearly forgetting to actually check the textbook out.
Clint would be excited. He was always going on about how Bucky should expand his friendship circle to more than just him, Darcy, and Natasha. It wasn't that he was unpopular, he just knew from experience that having a large group of friends could easily go wrong, so nowadays he made an effort to avoid it.

Bucky found it difficult to concentrate for the rest of the day, despite having the notes Steve had left for him in the book. When Clint came through the door late that afternoon he'd barely even gotten a page of work done.

"You're back late."

"What are you, my mother? Nat was feeling sick so I walked her back to her dorm."

"That is adorable."

"Fuck off."

"It wasn't sarcasm! Why do you always assume I'm making fun of you?" Clint flopped down onto the couch and Bucky spun around on his chair to face him. "I saw post-it note guy."

"What? What was he like?"

"He was nice. I'm meeting him at that artsy diner tomorrow."

"Who are you and what have you done with my best friend?"

"It's not like that." Bucky mumbled, narrowing his eyes as Clint gave him a shit eating grin. "What?"

"So he was cute?"

"I didn't say that."

"You didn't need to."

"Fuck you. He was alright, I guess."

"Uh huh."

"I know exactly what you're thinking and you can forget it. He-"

"C'mon, Bucky, ask the guy out."

"As I was saying, he has a girlfriend."

"Fuck."

"Yeah, so quit it." Bucky spun back around on his chair and went back to not doing any work, staring at his laptop screen and waiting for words to happen.

"Would you, though?"

"What?"

"If he was single, would you ask him out?"

"No."

"Bucky-"

"Look, I've potentially made a friend, can you be happy with that?"

"It's a start, I guess" Clint muttered, flicking the TV on and forcing Bucky to give up on getting any work done that day. So he went over and spent the rest of the evening curled up in the armchair, watching reruns of cartoons and trying to get Steve's stupid smile out of his head.

Chapter Text

"Clint, you piece of shit, get up." Bucky whacked him on the head with a pillow and Clint grunted, thrashing his arms out at him.

"Fuck off."

"Clinton, this is a life or death situation."

"Fine." He groaned and sat up in the bed, rubbing his eyes and looking over at Bucky impatiently. "What is it?"

"Do you think the jacket's too much? I'm not sure I can pull off the double denim look."

"I'm gonna fucking kill you." Bucky grinned at him, ducking out of the way of the book that came flying at his head.

"C'mon, this is important."

"You're trying to impress him."

"No I'm not."

"Then why does it matter?"

"I could meet the love of my life in that diner." Clint actually laughed at that, lying back on the bed and clutching at his stomach while Bucky frowned at him. He couldn't deny that he'd spent a lot longer than usual getting ready, in fact he'd accidently spent almost half an hour on his hair, but that was just because he had a shred of self respect and wanted to look nice for the world. Clint was still laughing and Bucky threw a shoe at him, just narrowly missing a crotch shot. "I have to leave in 10 minutes, can you focus?"

"Okay, okay, I'm sorry. It looks fine, rock the double denim."

"Awesome. I'll see you later."

"Hey, if he turns out to be an asshole, text me and I'll come up with some crazy reason that you have to leave."

"I'm not a damsel in distress."

"I'm just saying." Bucky rolled his eyes and grabbed his bag, walking out before Clint could say anything else.
The diner he was meeting Steve at was way over on the other side of campus. He'd only been to this area once or twice in the three years he'd been at college, it was where all the art and music type buildings were, so he'd never had a reason to come over. He pulled up outside, glancing up at the massively over the top sign that spelled out Zola's Diner in giant neon letters, before pushing through the door and glancing around to see if Steve was already there.
The whole place was practically empty, and there was no sign of Steve, so he chose a booth in the far corner and pulled out his psychology book to pass some time. He'd just found the right page when he heard a familiar voice.

"Hey." Bucky looked up and saw Steve grinning down at him with that same stupid, and ridiculously cute, smile. He was wearing another flannel shirt, with a white t-shirt underneath and light skinny jeans. It took Bucky a few seconds to remember he was meant to speak, rather than just stare at the man in front of him.

"Oh... hi." He stammered, trying and failing to sound casual. Steve just smirked at him and sat on the opposite seat, pulling a sickeningly pristine notebook out of his bag and putting his glasses on, which somehow made him even cuter. Bucky dug into his bag to find the history textbook and hand it over.

"Thanks. So I take it you don't come in here too often?"

"How can you have possibly worked that out from the way I said hello?"

"I'm a registered psychic."

"Right, naturally." Bucky muttered and Steve pulled another of those damn grins, shaking his head.

"I'm in here most days, so the fact that I've never seen you in my life kind of gave it away."

"Fair enough. All my classes are on the other side of campus, so I never really come over here."

"What are you studying?"

"Criminal psychology. God knows why, 18 year old me thought it was a good idea. You?"

"Art." Bucky hadn't really needed to ask, the guy practically screamed art student.
Despite all the business events and office parties his dad had dragged him to, he was still useless at small talk, and they both fell quiet for a few minutes while he got out the rest of his stuff, dumping his history notes in a messy pile on the table next to Steve's beautifully organised ones.

"So where are you from? You don't seem like the Chicago type."

"The hell is the 'Chicago type'?" Steve shrugged and, Christ, did this guy ever stop smiling? "I came down from New York."

"Pretty far."

"Hardly. I wanted to go further but my parents drew the line. They didn't want me more than a day's drive away." He looked up and saw Steve raising his eyebrows at him expectantly and Bucky knew what he wanted to ask. "I needed a fresh start, it's a really long story."

"Long story or a story you don't wanna talk about?"

"Both."

"Fair enough." This was usually where his attempts at socialising fell flat. They'd ask about his past and he'd back out, and then the conversation would have nowhere to go. He dropped his head back down and tried to focus on getting some work done rather than killing the conversation further, but Steve, miraculously, carried on talking.

"I'm from New York too, technically, I didn't live there long. Me and my aunt moved around a lot, but I was born in Brooklyn." That made Bucky look up again.

"No way?"

"You too?"

"Yeah. I mean, I didn't live there for more than a year. My dad landed a job in management a few months after I was born so we moved pretty much straight after that."

"So you're living the easy life then?"

"Not really, my parents leave me to my own devices as much as possible. But I guess there's never really the fear that I'm gonna end up starving to death or get kicked out of my apartment, which takes the pressure off a bit. So you live with your aunt?" The second he said it he realised he could be intruding too much. He hated people asking too much about his life, so he was never really sure how other people felt about it, but Steve seemed fairly relaxed as he shook his head.

"I used to. I lost both my parents when I was little and she took me in then, but she died last year so I don't really have much in the way of family any more."

"Oh... sorry." Steve shrugged and waved him off, going back to whatever he was writing and leaving Bucky to wonder what the hell just happened. He wasn't really sure what he could say after something like that, but he made a mental note not to talk about his parents too much if they ever met up again.
The awkward silence was broken by a waitress coming over and asking if they wanted to order anything. Steve insisted that he try their burgers so he ordered one with a coffee, hoping Steve didn't notice quite how much sugar he mixed into it before he could bear to drink it. Eating anything that hadn't been cooked by Clint or himself was always a religious experience, so he had to take a few minutes off from writing notes so he could fully appreciate how beautiful food could be.

"I told you they were good."

"I'm a poor college student. The way I see it, if I can digest it, then it's good." Steve grinned at him and Bucky opened his mouth to say something when he saw a familiar face coming through the doors of the diner. "Shit."

"What?"

"Quick, shift over." Bucky said as he got up, squeezing in next to Steve and ducking down so the man couldn't see him. "Please tell me he's leaving?" He heard Steve laughing at him and glanced up, frowning.

"Ex?"

"More like one night stand who left me his number and then never heard from me again."

"Cold."

"Shut up. Is he gone?"

"Bucky, I don't even know who you're talking about."

"Kinda light brown hair, my height, far back."

"Wait, you mean Bobby Drake?"

"Is that his name?" Steve looked down at him for a few seconds, not saying anything. "Look it was over a year ago, don't judge me."

"He probably doesn't even remember you. That guy's heart is made of ice." Despite him saying this, Bucky stayed where he was for the next ten minutes, using the time to look at Steve's history notes and complain about how good they were. This prompted Steve to grab Bucky's notes and proceed to say the exact same about his, so they swapped over and started copying things out.
They spent another two hours in the diner, managing to put their somewhat questionable knowledge of history together to form something that made sense, and complaining about all the other classes they had to take. He found out that Steve had been living in co-op housing on campus since his aunt died, had a job in Hollister that he hated, and was dating Peggy Carter, an exchange student from England. He also seemed to somewhat enjoy Bucky's company, which was unusual.

"So, uh... did you want to make this a regular thing?" He asked as they walked out, and Bucky looked over at him to check he wasn't just making some kind of joke about how horrifically awkward and socially inept he was. That same smile was on his face and Bucky realised he was actually serious.

"Yeah, if you want. It'll bring my chances of failing down from 100% to a comfortable 90." Steve grinned at him and pulled his phone out of his pocket.

"Let me give you my number. I'm pretty much free whenever so call me and we can sort something out." They swapped numbers and Steve gave him a cheerful "See you later" before disappearing around the corner, leaving Bucky to get in his car and drive back to his apartment.

Clint was asleep on the couch when he got in so Bucky dropped his bag onto his chest to wake him up.

"Jesus Christ! What the hell, man?"

"You didn't get up until 12:30, and now you're napping?"

"I went to the gym!" He exclaimed, shoving the bag onto the floor and sitting up to give Bucky room to sit down. "How did your lunch date go?"

"It wasn't a date!"

"Oh how the tables have turned. Maybe now you'll stop poking fun every time I hang out with Nat now?"

"That's different. You and Nat should be dating, you're both interested in each other but are too stubborn to make the first move. Steve is seeing someone else and even if he weren't-"

"You'd only be willing to sleep with him and then pretend you'd never met?" Bucky didn't dignify that with a response, grabbing the remote off the coffee table and finding a shitty sitcom to watch. "Seriously though, how was it?"

"He didn't seem particularly put off by my inability to hold a conversation, and, unlike somebody, he didn't pry when I avoided telling him why I moved so far for college."

"I don't know what you mean, I didn't make that much effort to find out."

"Pretty much every conversation we had for the first three months somehow led back to it."

"Lies."

"You were a nosy fucker and you know it."

"Look I expected it to be something stupid like an old crush coming here. If I'd known how bad it was I wouldn't have asked so much." Clint was giving him that sympathetic 'I'm sorry for all you've been through' look that he and Nat did all the time and that Bucky hated more than anything.

"I got his number." He said, changing the subject back.

"Awesome, we should prank call him."

"You're an idiot."

He saw Steve twice more that week, and they started swapping notes for more than just history, working together on an English assignment that they were both failing at horrifically. Steve was even able to help Bucky out with some of his psychology stuff.

"How can you not know who Schrödinger is? You know, crazy cat guy?"

"I slept through the class, okay?"

"Wow."

Steve could play guitar too, and sometimes went out into the city with a few people to perform on the streets and earn some extra money. Bucky had only found this out after bumping into him doing just that outside the diner before they were supposed to be meeting, and it had taken all of his strength to fight away his intense weakness for musicians.
His art was fantastic. Bucky had found the sketchbook in his bag and after 10 minutes of arguing, Steve had begrudgingly agreed to let him look at it. He hated pretentious hipster types, but was also a self-confessed hipster type, and once he finished college he wanted to move back to Brooklyn and work as an illustrator. All in all, he was great, and Bucky regretted not spending more time on this side of campus so he could have met him sooner.

Natasha's roommate, Kate, was away visiting her parents that weekend, which meant that Bucky spent Saturday night with her, watching Disney movies and drinking vodka mixed with just about anything they could find in the kitchen. Usually these movie nights would involve Nat telling him stories about all the embarrassing things Clint had done in class, in return for embarrassing stories about things Clint had done at home, but today she seemed to have a different plan.

"So, Steve seems nice." She said as she set down the bottles of vodka and orange juice down on her nightstand, handing a plastic cup over to Bucky before sitting down on the opposite end of the bed. Her usually dead straight hair had been left in its natural curly state, and she was wearing an oversized green t-shirt, which must have been stolen from an old boyfriend, and grey pyjama shorts. The only thing tying her to her usual punk appearance were the spider-bite piercings below her lip that she never took out.

"Nat, you've never met him."

"You sound pretty sure about that, Barnes." There was a mischievous look in her eye and Bucky suddenly realised what she was implying.

"Oh god, you've been doing that thing again haven't you?"

"What thing?"

"That thing where you track somebody down and find out everything about them and essentially stalk the shit out of them. You did it with Darcy and now you're doing it again." She smirked at him and he put his head in his hands, ignoring her giggling.

"I do it for your benefit."

"It's creepy, Nat. What if he knows you're doing it, and then he sees you with me, he's gonna think I'm sending out scouts."

"You know full well I'm too good to be caught." Bucky frowned at her and she grinned. "Have you met his girlfriend? She's super nice."

"You've been talking to his girlfriend too!?"

"She's in my English class, Bucky, calm down. You know she's going back to England at the end of the semester?"

"So?"

"So he'll be single again."

"Ever hear of a long distance relationship?"

"I have, but she didn't seem too keen about it." He glanced up at that, trying not to be too obvious, but nothing escaped Natasha's notice and she giggled again. She leant back on the bed, pulling his feet onto her lap. "Look, I'm not trying to say you should date him-"

"Really? Because that's what I'm hearing."

"I just want you to admit that you like him."

"I've only known him for a week."

"Bucky."

"He's kinda cute, I guess."

"Good, this is a start. Now I just need to get a few more vodkas down your neck and you'll be confessing your undying love."

"Right. Just play the damn movie."

"Okay. Should we watch Mulan first? Or the Lion King?"

"Lion King."

"You're not gonna cry again, are you?"

"I wasn't crying, I had something in my eye."

"Whatever helps you sleep at night." Nat smirked and Bucky scowled at her, moving his feet away and letting her get up to put the movie on.
He did not do a good job of not crying. Why did Mufasa have to die? Why was that necessary? This was supposed to be a kids film for crying out loud!

"Scar, you motherfucker." He muttered, making Nat look over and crack up laughing.

"Do you need a hug?"

"I just watched a lion get murdered in cold blood by his own brother, yes I need a hug." She smiled and shuffled over, wrapping her arms around him and resting her head on his shoulder so he could lean against her. After a few minutes he managed to stop snivelling, and he put his arm around her waist, letting her cuddle up against him instead.

After they had finished their loud duet of Hakuna Matata, which had mostly been compromised of them laughing at each other's really bad singing, or at the angry shouts from people along the hall, she leant against him and sighed. "See, this is what's supposed to happen when you spend a night in with someone, right?"

"Right."

"So why am I having such difficulty?"

"Because you're scary." Bucky smirked and she slapped his arm lightly.

"You've been telling him the handcuff story again, haven't you?"

"I really wish you could see his face when I tell him the handcuff story. It's like a combination of terror and confused arousal." She slapped him again, a little less gently this time, and laughed when he flinched away.

"Sometimes I think you try to keep me single."

"Are you kidding? I've spent the last year and a half doing nothing but try and convince Clint to grow some balls."

"By telling him I like to tie people up during sex?"

"Do you deny it?"

"Dammit, Bucky, it was one time! One time!"

"Yeah, and you wouldn't stop talking about it for two weeks." Nat responded by grabbing her pillow and whacking him over the head with it several times until he was lying on his back.

"You could at least put up a fight, Barnes."

"Last time I tried that, you almost gave me a concussion."

"Damn right." She smirked, dropping the pillow on his face.
As they gradually got more and more drunk they moved on from watching movies to giving each other stupid dares to do, which included Bucky going across the hall to another girl's room, inviting himself inside, and seeing how many objects he could turn upside down in her room before she noticed, and Natasha going down to the floor below and trying to convince everyone she'd been living on that floor for the last three years and just never left her room.

When he woke up the next morning they were both on the floor, and Nat was still fast asleep with her head resting on his chest. She didn't even stir when he hooked his arm under her legs, carrying her over to the bed and tucking her in. He picked his bag up from where he'd left it in the corner and headed out the door, trying to close it as gently as possible.
It was raining outside and he regretted deciding to walk over to Natasha's dorm, pulling up his hood and trying to walk down the road as quickly as possible. He made it back to the apartment block in record time of just over half an hour and headed through the doors so quickly he almost smacked straight into May, the elderly woman who lived on the bottom floor.

"Oh! Sorry, honey, I didn't see you."

"No worries, you want your mail, right?" She nodded and he headed back out into the rain, grabbing the letters from the mailbox for her apartment and bringing them back over to her. "Don't want you messing up your hairdo. I take it you're going out someplace today?"

"Ben's taking me out to lunch. In fact, we need someone to look after Peter while we're gone. I can pay you, of course, and if you're too busy that's-"

"Hey, it's no problem. What time do you need me over?"

"We should be leaving at 12:30."

"Awesome. See you in a few!" He grinned, waving and heading up the stairs. Although none of them were aware of it, babysitting the kids of some of the families that lived in the apartment block was his primary source of income, he always worried that if they knew that they'd start overpaying him, as it was they usually gave him way more than he really deserved for just sitting on their couch watching cartoons for a couple of hours.
He pushed open the door of his apartment and kicked off his shoes, looking around for any sign of Clint. It didn't take long for him to find him, he could already hear his snoring before he'd even opened the bedroom door, and sure enough, he found him sprawled out face-down on his bed. Ignoring him, he grabbed some clean clothes and headed back out to the bathroom to shower.

"So, did you have fun gossiping about me?" Clint mumbled when Bucky came back into the bedroom.

"Now why would we do that?"

"Please, I'm about 90% sure all you two do is talk about all the dumb shit you've seen me doing."

"You flatter yourself too much, that's not all we talk about." Clint narrowed his eyes and Bucky grinned. "I'm gonna be watching the Parkers' nephew in a couple of hours, wanna come?"

"I would rather gouge my eyes out with a spoon. That kid is the devil."

"He's cute."

"You think he's cute because he likes you, he's always nice when you're there."

"I am the child whisperer."

"Verging on sounding paedophilic there, my friend." Bucky grimaced at him, throwing yesterdays t-shirt in his face and going out into the kitchen to make himself a coffee, leaving Clint yelling behind him that he was an asshole.

At 12:15, Bucky grabbed his college bag, although he rarely got any work done while he was babysitting, and headed back down to the ground floor, not bothering to put any shoes on. He knocked a couple of times on the Parkers' door and was let in by May, becoming a climbing frame almost immediately for the brown haired four year old, who started scrambling up his leg and grabbing at his shirt until he picked him up.

"What are you, a monkey?"

"I'm a spider!"

"Gross." Bucky pulled a face and Peter started giggling at him, wrapping his arms around his neck and swinging around wildly. He could understand why Clint hated babysitting him, the kid had limitless energy. "Hey, can you at least behave yourself while your aunt and uncle are still here, so they think I have some kind of control over you?" The words were lost on Peter, but May and her husband, Ben, both smiled at him, grabbing their coats and heading over to the door.

"We'll only be a couple of hours, you know where everything is."

"Have fun." Bucky called after them as they left, before turning back to Peter and grinning. "Okay, so I vote we invite some girls over and trash the house, whaddaya say?"

"I wanna watch SpongeBob."

"You're a real party pooper, you know that?"

"No, you're a party pooper."

"Am not."

"Are too!" Peter sniggered at him, kicking his legs around until Bucky set him back on the ground and let him run over to the couch. He sat down on the other side, throwing a cushion at Peter's head before he grabbed the remote. "Hey!"

"What?"

"You threw the cushion!"

"Didn't do anything, you must be going crazy. What channel do you want?"

"SpongeBob."

"SpongeBob isn't a channel."

For the next hour they both sat in front of the TV watching cartoons, although Bucky seemed to be paying way more attention to them. Peter had just gone off to get his colouring book when Bucky's phone rang, with Steve's name flashing up on the screen.

"Steve?"

"Hey, is it a bad time?"

"No I'm just-"

"Who are you talking to?" Peter asked loudly, coming back into the room and clambering onto the couch.

"Is that a kid?"

"Yeah, I'm a single father, did I forget to tell you?"

"Must've slipped your mind." He heard Steve chuckling on the end of the line and smirked.

"I'm just babysitting."

"I'm not a baby!"

"Yeah and I ain't sitting on you either! It's not literal."

"What does that mean?"

"It... I don't know hang on. Steve, how do I explain 'literal' to a four year old?"

"Who's Steve?"

"Can you be quiet for a couple of minutes?"

"Is he your boyfriend?" All Bucky could hear down the phone was Steve's hysteric laughter and he sighed.

"I can call you back later if you want?"

"No it's fine. Just give me five minutes to bind and gag this child." He put the phone down on the arm of the couch and turned back to Peter, who was looking up at him expectantly. "If I put on a movie for you will you promise to be quiet for a few minutes?"

"I wanna watch the spotty dog one."

"101 Dalmatians?" Peter nodded excitedly and ran over to the shelf, grabbing the DVD and bringing it back over for Bucky to put on.

"Are you and Steve gonna get married?"

"What? No, he's not my boyfriend." Bucky regretted ever explaining to Peter that he wasn't going to marry any of the girls he texted because he preferred boys, he'd only just managed to convince the kid that he and Clint weren't actually a married couple.

"I wanna sit on your lap." Peter announced, not asking for permission and just climbing straight onto him. Bucky wrapped one arm around him to stop him fidgeting too much, and picked the phone back up with his free hand.

"So did you want a chapel wedding or something a bit more low key?" Steve teased as soon as he picked the phone up.

"Shut up."

"I can't wait to tell Peggy I'm getting married."

"If you wanna marry me you gotta meet my parents first. That'll be enough to send anyone running." He heard Steve laugh again and chewed on his lip, trying not to think about how cute he sounded. "So did you call me to make wedding plans or was there something you wanted?"

"You are getting married!"

"No, Peter, that was a joke. Grownups joke sometimes."

"You're not a grownup."

"How dare you."

"Smack down." Steve exclaimed. "Give that kid a high-five from me."

"Shut up."

"So anyway, this is a little weird, especially now, but basically I wanted to see if you were free this week to just... chill. Like, rather than studying."

"Anything that doesn't involve crying over my education is good with me."

"Oh, awesome. That went a lot better than it did in my head."

"Have you been planning this?"

"No! I mean, I was gonna ask on Thursday but I've been kinda worried you were only talking to me to get through your classes."

"Really? I thought that's what you were doing." Steve laughed again and Bucky couldn't stop himself from smiling.

"So I'll see you this week?"

"Yeah, see you." He hung up and put his phone back down on the arm of the couch. When he looked down he saw Peter giving him the sassiest face he had ever seen a four year old pull.

"I wanna go to your wedding." Goddamit.

Chapter Text

The Red Skull bar that Steve frequented was nothing like The Howling Commando. It was more open, and quieter, which gave Bucky the impression that Steve had the same aversion to big crowds that he did. Despite its menacing name, it had a softer atmosphere and didn't blare pop music loudly over the speakers, why the hell did he never come over to this side of town?

"So you're into your sports, huh?" He asked when he saw Steve's eyes glued to a TV screen in the corner, watching the football game it was showing intently.

"Are you not?" Bucky shook his head.

"My roommate gave up trying to spark my interest many months ago, I'll watch it if it's on but I don't really get some people's dedication to it."

"Huh. Thor and I have been friends since high school, so he kinda dragged me into it."

"Do people really call him that?"

"He's Norwegian, his real name's practically impossible to pronounce. It's kind of caught on with most of his friends now and they all go by crazy Norse names, his girlfriend insists we call her Sif now." Just the mention of her name brought back horrible memories of walking in on her and Clint together, and he couldn't hold back the shudder. "What?"

"Nothing." Bucky mumbled and Steve shrugged, carrying on from where he was interrupted.

"I don't know why she bothers with the nickname, their relationship's been on the rocks for a while. He's completely convinced she cheated on him before summer."

"That, uh... must be tough." Steve raised an eyebrow at him and he tried his best to keep a straight face, failing horribly.

"Did you sleep with her?"

"What? No, no I'm strictly into dick." He ignored Steve's unconvinced look and took a swig of his beer, hoping he'd let the subject drop. Instead Steve just moved on to a new, equally awkward subject.

"So what's the tattoo of?" Bucky glanced at his arm, where the tattoo was just about visible underneath the sleeve of his t-shirt. He pushed the sleeve up briefly so Steve could see his whole shoulder and get a better look at the tattoo, a red star with metal-like lines across it, before pushing it back down and shrugging.

"It's a really stupid story. When I first left for college mom had this horrible fear that I was gonna become some punk druggie, so I kind of made it my mission to find new ways of horrifying her whenever I came home. She wouldn't speak to me for two days when I got my tongue pierced." Steve made a face and he smirked, sticking his tongue out so he could see the piercing was no more. "Eating was becoming an effort. Anyways, Clint was going out to get some more crazy shit added to his sleeve and I got this brilliant idea to get a tattoo to freak her out, this was just the first thing that popped into my head."

"How long did she ignore you for after that?"

"She just calmly informed me that if I ever did anything like that again, she would no longer welcome me into the household." Steve cracked up laughing, having to grab onto Bucky's arm to keep from falling off the stool.

"She sounds great."

"You don't know her like I do. I mean, don't get me wrong, she looks after you when you need her to, but set a toe out of line and not even god himself can save you." Steve grinned at him and they both fell silent for a few minutes. "Okay, so do you wanna get some food? I'm starved."

"I'm literally on the edge of broke. I keep taking Peggy places and forgetting that these things cost actual money, and that I need money to live."

"Damn."

"We can go back to mine and I can cook something if you want?"

"Aw that's sweet of you, Stevie." Bucky teased, nudging at Steve's arm and smirking. They both headed out of the bar and into Bucky's car, arguing for the entire drive about whether or not Bucky should cook for him in return at some point. Bucky eventually won the argument, although he made sure to let Steve know he wasn't that great at cooking, but Steve insisted he wasn't either and they both left it at that.
There was someone sat at a table in the kitchen when they got in, grumbling and complaining about one of his college assignments. He looked up as they came over, his eyes darting from Steve to Bucky and back again.

"The fuck is this dude?"

"Bucky."

"That's a stupid ass name. Wait... you're crazy library guy, right?"

"Is that my reputation here?" Bucky looked back over at Steve, who looked like he was trying to stifle a laugh.

"This is Sam, who I have the joy of sharing a room with." Sam collected his stuff together and stood up.

"Yeah, a room that is off limits until I get this damn work done, seeing as you so rudely intruded on me here."

"It's a kitchen, Sam."

"I like to be surrounded by food, it helps me think." He shrugged, pushing past them and heading down the hall.

"Really? Am I really just the crazy library guy around here?"

"I did meet you in a library, and you are slightly nuts, so I think it fits."

"Yeah I can't really argue with that."

Steve was a dirty, filthy, rotten liar. He was not a terrible cook, hell, Bucky had eaten in five star restaurants where the food wasn't as good as this. Where the fuck had he been eating to think he was a bad cook, because, god damn, Bucky needed to go there. He'd actually had to take a few minutes to recollect himself after the first mouthful because, oh my god, it tasted of food! The chicken actually tasted of chicken. Bucky had forgotten such a thing existed.

"Are you okay?" He looked up and saw Steve staring at him with concern written all over his face. "You look like you're gonna cry."

"These are happy tears."

"It's sautéed chicken, not liquid gold."

"No, but... but you said you were a bad cook."

"My aunt made it better."

"Steve, we gotta bring her back." Steve chuckled and Bucky went back to cramming as much food into his fat face as possible.
He was just about ready to call it quits when he felt eyes burning into the back of his head and turned around to see a brunet in sunglasses staring at him, it only took him a few minutes to recognise him.

"Scott."

"Bucky."

"It's uh... nice to see you."

"Yeah."

"Yeah, we had some good times."

"I fucked you in a bathroom and you told me never to speak to you again."

"Yeah, good times." Scott shook his head and walked back out of the room, muttering to himself. When Bucky turned back around he saw Steve looking at him. "What?"

"Is that how you treat all your hook-ups?"

"He wears sunglasses inside and yet you're siding with him?" They both stared at each other for a few minutes before dissolving into laughter, which was actually pretty painful after the amount of food Bucky had consumed.

He ended up having to stay another hour purely because he'd eaten so much it hurt to move. Despite this, he managed to convince Steve to let him take some leftovers home just so he could see Clint's expression when he tried some.
The force with which he threw the apartment door open when he got back was enough to make Clint jump out of his skin and fall out of his chair.

"What are you so excited about?"

"Eat this food right now."

"What's in it?"

"Joy."

"Have you poisoned it?"

"Clint Barton, put this in your mouth right now or you will regret it for as long as you live."

"That is something I never expected you to say to me."

"Don't lie, I know you dream about it." Clint gagged and Bucky cracked up laughing, shoving the box in his face. "Now c'mon, taste it." Cautiously, Clint took the box out of his hands and Bucky went to sit down on the couch.

"Oh my god. Bucky, oh my god."

"Right?"

"Where did you get this?"

"Steve made it."

"I'm evicting you. He's my new roommate."

"You've never even met him."

"I don't need to, this is all I need." Bucky grinned and stretched out, trying to get comfortable, while Clint continued to construct an elaborate plan about how they should kidnap Steve and force him to cook for them for the next year.

Bucky hated Halloween. He had no problem with people throwing huge parties, and he had no problem with his friends going to those parties. What he did have a problem with, was his friends insisting he come with them.
Clint had managed to get out of it this year by putting off his English essay until the very last minute, and was getting great entertainment out of talking about it for the entire day.

"You could at least dress up."

"I'm going dressed as an unenthusiastic party-goer."

"It's very convincing."

He had the exact same conversation with Natasha when she turned up at the apartment, dressed in the skimpiest nurse outfit he'd ever seen.

"Nat, was it even worth putting on clothes at all?"

"Halloween is the one time of year I can dress like a cheap whore and get away with it."

"What was that about cheap whores?" Clint asked, coming round the corner, making a weird squeaky noise, and walking away again. Bucky rolled his eyes and headed out with Nat, driving them both over to the co-op house that was throwing the party.
He could hear the music blaring before they even went inside and it was making his heart pound. The most people he could handle at a party was about 100, and he already knew there were more than that just living in the house. What was it about Halloween that made people throw such crazy parties? It wasn't even a proper holiday.

"Sometimes I think you like making me uncomfortable."

"This is therapy. We are tackling your fear of crowds head on."

"I don't have a fear of crowds, I have a fear of hundreds of crazy drunk people in stupid costumes being around me all night. How many people are there?"

"500 I think, my friend said they bought like 15 kegs."

"Oh holy hell."

"It'll be fun, you can find a cute guy for the night."

"I don't want a cute guy for the night."

"Bucky, you always want a cute guy for the night."

He shot her a look and she giggled, putting her arm around his waist as they walked through the door. Fuck, there were a lot of people.
Surprisingly, he managed to calm himself down and talk to people for a while, giving and receiving serious bedroom eyes from a blond guy who kept walking past him. It wasn't until an hour later that his worst nightmare was realised; he lost Nat. She told him she was going to get them both another drink and disappeared into a crowd, and after five minutes, when she still hadn't reappeared, he started panicking. He scanned the crowd around him a few times but couldn't see any sign of her, so he made the dumb decision to go looking for her.
There were too many people and it was almost impossible to move, he was starting to find it more and more difficult to breathe and started looking around for some kind of exit point, giving up on the hope of finding Natasha. At this point he was hardly paying any attention to where he was walking, and ended up smacking straight into someone.

"Bucky?" The familiar voice instantly relaxed the tightness in his chest and he looked up, breathing a sigh of relief.

"Steve." He breathed, fighting the urge to lean against him. Steve smirked.

"That's Captain to you." It took Bucky a few seconds to realise he was referring to the army uniform he was dressed in and he grinned, giving him a mock salute. He felt Steve put a hand on his shoulder, which helped bring his heartbeat back down to a somewhat normal pace. "You okay? You look a little dazed."

"Yeah, I'm fine... just not really a party person. You haven't seen a semi-naked nurse around anywhere have you? I seem to have misplaced her." Steve laughed and shook his head.

"What happened to being strictly into dick?"

"What? No, I don't mean like that! She's my friend, she was supposed to be getting me a drink but clearly she meant from a bar in another dimension because I can't find her anywhere." He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. "She's probably gotten herself into a fight with someone, she's good at that."

"You think she needs some help?"

"Natasha? Please, the only person who'd need help is the one who got on the wrong side of her." He smirked but Steve didn't seem to be looking at him anymore.

"Do you know that guy?" Bucky glanced over his shoulder and saw the blond from earlier staring at him. Once they locked eyes the man started walking over, snaking his arm around Bucky's waist and pulling him away from Steve.

"Hey, pretty boy."

"Uh... hi." What was he doing? Why was he being awkward? This guy was hot, and clearly interested, what the hell was making him so hesitant? He glanced back at Steve, who was giving him a concerned look, and smirked. "I'll see you later."
The minute the words had left his mouth he found himself being yanked forcefully through the crowds and shoved into a bathroom. The blond let go of him briefly to snap the lock shut, before grabbing his hips and slamming him against the wall.

"You know, having my bones broken isn't on my list of kinks." He grunted, certain he was going to have bruises on his back the next day.

"You think I give a shit?" The man hissed, crashing their lips together and stopping Bucky from being able to protest any more. The blond bit down hard on his lip, forcing his mouth open, and he could taste the alcohol on the other guy's breath. Usually that wouldn't bother him, but everything about this guy was starting to turn Bucky's stomach. He pushed his face away to try and get his breath back but the other man had other ideas, and grabbed at his hair, trying to force him down. When Bucky resisted he growled. "It ain't gonna suck itself."
That did it. Bucky slammed his foot down on top of the other man's, shoving him away and unlocking the door. The crowds made it impossible to get out and he only made it a few metres before a hand was grabbing his shoulder and spinning him back around.

"Get the fuck away from me, you creep!" He yelled, shoving the man's hands off him. He went to move away but the blond was too quick for him, and the next thing he knew the back of his hand was smashing him across the face, dazing him for a few seconds. He barely registered the hand that appeared from behind him and hit the other man, or the arms that wrapped around his waist and pulled him back. It was only when he got outside and the cold air hit him that he came back to reality and realised Natasha was talking to him.

"Hey, hey, you're okay. Jesus, Bucky, I'm so sorry." She guided him over to the wall so he could lean against it and stroked his cheek where the man had hit him. He leant his head back against the wall and took a few deep breaths, his head was spinning and he wasn't sure if he was about to throw up or pass out. He only had to take another breath to know he was gonna throw up, and he just managed to push Nat out of the way so he didn't puke on her.
They both ended up sat on the pavement, with Natasha rubbing Bucky's back while he questioned whether there was anything left in his stomach to throw up.

"I bumped into my old high school friend and she wanted to catch up on everything I'd been doing. I should've come back and found you first."

"It's not your fault, Nat." He murmured, leaning his head on her shoulder.

"You didn't even want to come tonight."

" It's nothing to do with you, I just attract trouble."

"That I can agree with." She said softly, kissing the top of his head and squeezing his shoulder. "We should go back to my dorm, I can put on a movie and we can-"

"Nat, I just wanna go home."

"Let me drive you."

"You've been drinking all night."

"I'll call us a cab then."

"Nat-"

"I'm not letting you go home on your own, okay?" He nodded and she pulled her phone out of her bag, phoning for a taxi and then wrapping both her arms around him. "You're gonna be okay."
They sat in silence for the journey home, and when the taxi pulled up outside the apartment block Nat kissed his cheek and told him to look after himself. Forcing a smile, Bucky got out of the car and headed up the stairs slowly, trying to come up with a plausible story to tell Clint when he inevitably asked about the mark on his face.

"You're back early." He heard Clint call as he came through the door, tugging his jacket off and walking down the hall to the sitting room. Clint was sat at the desk with his head in his hands, staring at his laptop screen and, fortunately, not looking up when Bucky came in and sat in the armchair. "Tell me how shit it was so I feel better about missing it."

"So shit that even Nat left."

"Wow. And you're okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine."
He wasn't fine. His face was stinging and he could already feel his chest tightening again, he really didn't want this to happen. Pulling his knees up to his chest he desperately tried to think of something that could distract him, but everything led back to the same place.
He tried thinking of something normal, imagining sitting in the library with Natasha and Clint, and for a few minutes that was okay. But then his friends weren't his friends anymore, and the library wasn't the library, and he was back in the school locker room, being thrown onto the floor and punched and kicked until he was choking on blood.
So he changed tactics and started thinking about being at home with his parents, which settled his heart rate a little until his parents left, and suddenly Brock was there, shoving him into his bedroom and hissing into his ear that he should be grateful because he didn't deserve any of this, was too disgusting for anyone to love him.
He tried everything, went through every good memory he had, but all of them ended up warped and twisted and all he could think about was the man who'd hit him, and whether he could have followed him back, or if he'd followed Nat and now she was going to get hurt because of him. Because that was what always happened.
Everything was too hot... or too cold? He wasn't sure, but he could feel someone grabbing his shoulders and he pushed them back, realising too late that it was Clint he'd just shoved onto the floor. Bucky stared, horrified, as Clint picked himself back up and came over, putting his hands back on his shoulders.

"I... I didn't-"

"It's okay, Bucky, just breathe. You're okay." He tried to take a deep breath and realised he couldn't, his lungs were refusing to function and it felt his whole chest was about to collapse. He shook his head frantically at Clint, trying to tell him he couldn't breathe but not managing to get any words out. It felt like he was drowning, like something was stuck in his throat and cutting off his air, making him go dizzy. He could just about make out Clint's voice, but the sound was warped and sounded like he was underwater. "Bucky, it's me, you're okay just relax. You need to relax, nobody's gonna hurt you." Clint was rubbing his shoulders and he managed to take a few shaky breaths, leaning forward and letting Clint wrap his arms around him.
They sat like that for ten minutes while Bucky gradually got his breath back and stopped crying, although he didn't remember ever starting to. Eventually he got enough strength back to speak.

"Nat..."

"Nat?"

"She... she might be..."

"You want me to call her?" Bucky nodded and Clint let go of him, walking over to the desk and grabbing his phone before sitting back down on the floor in front of the armchair. He put Nat on speakerphone so Bucky could hear her, relaxing a lot more once he'd heard her voice and knew she was alright.

"Okay, so she told me to give you a kiss from her, but I'm not gonna do that. Don't take it personally." Clint smirked after he'd hung up, perching himself on the arm of the chair and putting an arm around Bucky's shoulder. "You okay now?"

"I think so."

"If I find the guy that hit you he's gonna wish he'd never been born."

"I didn't say anyone hit me."

"You have a giant bruise on your face and just had a full on panic attack, don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to put two and two together."

"I'm fine."

"I know you are, but he won't be. You want some coffee?" He nodded and Clint got up again, tossing him a blanket from under the couch before heading into the kitchen to start the coffee machine.
Bucky wrapped himself up in the blanket and curled up, leaning his head against the back of the armchair and trying to focus on keeping his breathing steady. He still felt shaky, and he was pretty sure if he tried to stand up anytime soon his legs would just give out underneath him, but he could breathe again, and he could hear Clint whistling to himself in the kitchen. Thankfully Clint knew how to react to his panic attacks now. The first couple of times they'd happened he was pretty sure Clint had ended up freaking out more than he was, but he was used to them now, although whether or not that was a good thing was another question.

"I don't understand how you can put so much sugar in your coffee and not puke." He said as he handed Bucky a mug, giving him an uncertain glance when he saw how much his hands were still shaking.

"It tastes like bitter disgustingness without it."

"That's how coffee is supposed to taste."

"It tastes like shit."

"Then why do you even bother drinking it?"

"You gonna question my coffee habits all night?" Clint smirked at him and walked over to the dishevelled pile of movies to find something to watch.

"Dude."

"What?"

"Have you been tainting my movies with your gay again?"

"I don't know what you're talking about." He looked up and saw Clint staring at him with a copy of Grease in his hand. "I don't know how that could have got there."

"Sure you don't, I'm putting it on."

"So you complain about it and now you want to watch it?"

"What could cheer you up more than the gayest film to ever gay?" Bucky shrugged and didn't argue when he put it on.
Clint spent the first half of the movie criticising it and laughing at the stupid phrases they used, and the second half loudly singing along to all the songs with Bucky joining in for duets after he had finished laughing at the fact that Clint somehow knew all the words. By the time it was finished Bucky was so tired he could hardly keep his eyes open, and he could only just make out the sound of Clint still humming songs to himself before he blacked out completely.

When he woke up he was still in the armchair and could hear the sound of movement behind him.

"I have to go to work, you want me to bring your car back afterwards?" He looked up and saw Clint standing front of him, wearing the ridiculous purple shirt he had for his job at the department store, with a huge bird printed on the back.

"Yeah, keys are in my jacket. Have fun, budgie boy."

"It's a hawk, asshole." He muttered, fishing the keys out of the jacket that Bucky had left on the back of the couch and heading out the door, leaving Bucky to wriggle around on the armchair and work out if it was worth trying to get more sleep. His phone buzzed on his stomach and he took that as a sign he should just accept that he was awake, unlocking his phone and smiling when he saw the message was from Steve, although he wasn't sure why.

Hey, tried to find you again last night after what happened. You okay?

Fuck. He'd seen it happen. So much for his badass reputation... although that had been trashed pretty much from the moment they'd met.

Yeah I'm fine, now you see why I'm not a party person.

His phone buzzed again almost instantly and he glanced down at it.

That happen a lot?

Just thinking about last night made him aware that his face was still stinging and he pushed himself out of the armchair, heading into the bathroom to see how bad it looked, although he was almost scared to look.
It felt worse than it looked, and all that was really visible was a faint purple bruise, but it was still enough to hit him with memories of the party and, shit, this could not happen again. He could already feel his chest tightening and he stumbled back over to where he'd left his phone, grabbing it and dialling his mom's number. She picked up almost instantly and he opened his mouth to speak but she got in too fast.

"James, it has been weeks since you've called and yet you manage to chose the exact moment I'm about to start cooking. How do you do it? Do you have cameras? Do you have a-"

"Ma, I can't breathe." There was a pause as she seemed to take in what he was saying, and then when she spoke again her voice was softer.

"Just take a deep breath, sweetheart. You're okay." He focused on her voice and took a few short breaths, smiling when he heard her tut at him. "That is not a deep breath, James."

"I'm sorry my breathing doesn't meet your approval."

"You okay now?"

"Yeah, I think so. I'll see you late-"

"Ooooooooh no you don't. Tell me what happened."

"Ma-"

"Jamie, tell me."

"How many times I gotta tell you to stop calling me that? It makes me sound like a 5 year old."

"Mmhmm, and Bucky makes you sound like a porn star."

"Jesus, ma."

"Now tell me what's wrong."

"Nothing, just some drunk guy at a party-"

"Did he hurt you?" Bucky didn't say anything, curling back up on the armchair and waiting for her inevitable sigh. "James-"

"I'm fine."

"A minute ago you couldn't breathe."

"Yeah that was... it's nothing. You should get back to.. whatever you were doing."

"I'm going nowhere, mister."

For almost 2 hours he listened to his mom chatter away about her day, which then turned into her talking about her week, which then turned into her talking about her entire month. Usually he'd interrupt at some point, but he was just glad she was distracting herself from the original subject, plus it really had been weeks since he'd spoken to her. At one point she tried to bring the conversation back around to his love life, which she seemed to be able to work into every conversation he had with her, but after ten minutes insisting he didn't have time to date anybody, he managed to distract her by telling her about Steve, which seemed to grab her interest despite her frustrated huff when he told her he wasn't going to ask him out any time soon. After expressing how much she loved him multiple times, and getting him to promise not to leave it a month before calling again, she eventually hung up. Leaving him lying across the armchair and wondering what the hell to do with himself for the rest of the day.

Chapter Text

It wasn't until Monday that he found out the name of his mystery attacker. He and Darcy had just left the psychology block and were arguing over what to do for lunch, when he heard a voice behind them.

"Hey." They both spun around and saw the blond standing there, although he was barely recognisable behind the bruises that were covering his face. The guy looked like he'd been thrown off a cliff, his nose had obviously been broken and his arm was in a sling. "I... wanted to find you sooner, but I was in the hospital over the weekend, I uh... fell down the stairs."

"Must've been a lot of stairs." Darcy mumbled. Bucky hadn't told her much about what happened on Friday, but she seemed able to work out who this guy was, and had edged forward slightly so Bucky was behind her.

"Yeah, it was. Anyway... I just wanted to say sorry for being a dick last week. I'll uh... see you." The man took off before Bucky could say anything, and when he looked down Darcy was staring at him.

"You didn't tell me it was John Allerdyce that hit you."

"Is that supposed to mean something to me?"

"God don't you ever check facebo- oh wait, you don't. Well he's an asshole, you were playing with fire the minute you got his attention. What do you think happened to him?"

"I know exactly what happened to him." Bucky muttered. He was gonna kill Clint when he got home.

"What did you do to him?" Bucky asked as soon as he got in. Clint looked up from the magazine he was reading and raised an eyebrow at him.

"What did I do to who?"

"John."

"Who?"

"Quit trying to play dumb."

"Bucky I have no idea what you're going on about. Who the hell is John?" Clint put the magazine down and Bucky paused, frowning at him. The only person he knew who was dumb enough to go out and beat someone up for him was Clint, but he seemed genuinely confused by the whole thing.

"He was... the guy at the party. He came over to me today and-"

"I swear to god if he started threatening you I will-"

"No! He was a mess and he looked terrified of me."

"So someone beat him up?"

"And it wasn't you?"

"Why would I do that?"

"You've done stupider things." Clint nodded in agreement and leant back on the couch, looking thoughtful.

"Maybe it was Nat?"

"She's not that stupid."

"Well, there were a lot of people at the party. Someone there was probably just itching for a fight and seized the opportunity when they saw him lash out." Bucky shrugged and sat on the other side of the couch, trying to put off studying for as long as possible, despite having a psychology paper that he really needed to finish.
His phone started buzzing in his pocket and pulled it out, smiling at Steve's name flashing up on the screen.

"Hey."

"He- oh you're on the phone." Clint frowned and picked his magazine back up, trying to avoid Bucky's eyes.

"Who was that?"

"My idiot roommate, ignore him. What's up?"

"Just wondered if I could come over tomorrow so we can get some studying done? Sam's gonna have a load of people over so I need an escape."

"Yeah sure."

"Awesome. You still gonna hold up your agreement to cook for me?" He could almost hear the smirk Steve was pulling, it was as if he knew how much of a lousy cook he was.

"Uh yeah, no problem. I'll text you my address."

"Cool, see you tomorrow then." Bucky put the phone back down and stared at Clint in horror.

"We have an emergency situation."

"What?"

"So last week when Steve cooked I promised I'd cook for him in return but that was before I'd tasted his food and neither of us can cook, this is going to be a complete shambles."

"Bucky calm down."

"But I can't cook!"

"Just get takeout."

"But-"

"You are massively overreacting."

"Fine."

"Good."

Bucky spent way longer than was really necessary deciding what food he should get. He'd walked around the street multiple times and was still arguing with himself over whether it would be better to get pizza or Chinese, even though he knew either way Steve was going to give him a look and laugh at him for being such a lousy human being. It was only on his third time walking back down the street that he heard the rattling noise, and noticed the man sitting at the side of the road with a cup in his hand and old, tattered clothing. He couldn't have been more than 30, but the clothes and the beard made him look a lot older.
He knew he only had $20 in his wallet, and that without it he'd have no way of getting any food tonight, but he couldn't do it. He walked over to where the man was sat and held his hand out, smiling when he looked up at him.

"What are you doing?"

"Buying you dinner, c'mon."

It took a few seconds for the man to realise he was serious, and reach up his hand so Bucky could help him up. He then threw his arm around his shoulder and guided him down the street to buy the biggest pizza he could get.
They both sat down inside for a little bit while the man ate, and Bucky found out he used to work in marketing before he lost his job, which gave him an idea. Scribbling his dad's mobile number down on a napkin, he slid it over the table, along with the change from the pizza.

"You can use the change for a payphone. Call this number and tell him Bucky told you to phone. He should be able to help you out." The man beamed at him and he smiled, getting up and patting him on the shoulder. "Enjoy the pizza."

"I don't know what to say."

"Don't say anything, just make sure you call my dad. See you around!" He grinned, spinning around and heading back outside. He felt good for all of ten seconds before he suddenly realised Steve was going to be at his house in an hour, and he now had no way of getting any food for him. Natasha. Natasha could save him.
He got back in his car and drove over to her dorm, knocking frantically on the door.

"What are you doing here?"

"Nat, I need you to cook for me."

"You're cruising for a bruising."

"No, listen. Steve's coming over in like, 45 minutes, and I said I'd cook for him but I can't cook."

"So why don't you just buy some food?"

"I just spend my last 20 buying a homeless guy dinner."

She stared at him for a few minutes before sighing and dragging her hand down her face. "Bucky, how am I meant to argue with you when you do stuff like that. Why can't you just be an asshole?" She shook her head and pushed past him, letting him follow her into the kitchen. "Hope he likes carbonara."

"Have I ever told you how much I love you?"

"Not as often as you should."

He grinned and perched himself on one of the counters, trying to keep out of her way while she hurried around the kitchen. "You need to start giving Clint and I cooking lessons."

"You are beyond all help, Buck."

"My cooking isn't that bad."

"Mmhmm. I still remember the story of you and Clint essentially poisoning one another."

"One time."

Half an hour later he was speeding back down the road with a box full of pasta, praying Steve wasn't the type to show up to people's houses 10 minutes earlier than they were expected.

"Clint!" He yelled, bursting through the door. "Operation: we totally cooked this stuff is a go."

"Where'd you get that?"

"Nat."

"You convinced Nat to cook for you?"

"I do not have time to explain myself to you, grab a pot so it looks like I just slaved over a stove."

"You're a complete idiot, Bucky. You know he probably wouldn't have cared if we'd just ordered pizza, right?"

"This isn't about him, this is about my pride."

Clint rolled his eyes and opened one of the kitchen cabinets, pulling out a pot for Bucky to dump the pasta in. "You know, I'd forgotten we owned plates." He smirked as Bucky got some out of the cupboard, setting them down on the counter just as the buzzer went. Bucky tried to scramble over to buzz him in but Clint beat him to it, which was never going to go well. "Who dis!?" He yelled down the speaker.

"Clint I swear to god you are the reason I have no friends."

 Clint just smirked at him and a couple of minutes later he could hear a knock on the door. "Hey, that'll be your lover."

"First of all, fuck you. Second, if you breathe a word about this food scandal, I will kill you while you sleep."

"As if I would ever do anything like that."

"Just please behave yourself."

"Hey, I got some decent food out of this. So the way I see it, I am already a winner."  

Bucky narrowed his eyes at him before turning around and heading back down the hall to open the door. He was so emotionally drained from the events of the past hour that Steve's golden smile almost knocked him to the ground and he had to take a few seconds before he remembered how to function like a normal human being. It seemed like Steve had intentionally made himself look extra gorgeous, just so Bucky would look like an idiot drooling over him in front of Clint. He was wearing dark jeans and a light blue shirt with a sweater over the top, which was tighter than the flannel shirts he was usually wearing and made Bucky spend longer than was necessary staring at how muscular his arms were.

"Steve!" Clint yelled when they came back through the hall, leaping up and wrapping his arms around him. "It's so great to meet you. Bucky has told me all about you, in fact, he doesn't shut up abo-" Bucky whacked him in the arm and cut him off mid-sentence.

"Ignore him, he's very disturbed."

Clint pulled a smug grin at him and Steve shook his head, looking like he was trying to stifle a laugh. "So you actually cooked?"

"Jeeze, you don't have to sound so shocked."

"The way you've acted every time I've seen you eat kind of gave off the impression you don't eat nice food that often."

"I just like to appreciate my food, I'm sorry if that offends you." He could see Clint fighting to keep a straight face and gave him a warning glare before heading back over to the kitchen and dished up the pasta, making sure to give Clint a substantially smaller portion.
Damn Natasha's food was good, and Bucky found it incredibly difficult to get much work done while he was eating it.

"So, I thought you said you were a bad cook?"

"That's also what you said to me before delivering heaven on a plate."

"Touché. Still, you should give yourself some credit."

"Yeah, Buck. Give yourself some credit for your exemplary cooking skills." Clint sniggered, cracking up at the look Bucky gave him. Steve raised an eyebrow and Bucky waved him off.

"He's just jealous."

"He cooked it, didn't he?" That made Bucky snort and caused Clint to laugh even harder.

"Christ no, he can't even make toast right."

"I like it burnt."

"You're insane then."

Clint didn't have any response to that and fell silent, leaving Steve and Bucky to actually get some work done. Bucky found it a lot more difficult to talk to him when he knew Clint was going to comment on every single thing he said after he'd left, so they ended up mostly talking about college things. At one point Steve mentioned that Thor and his girlfriend had finally broken up, causing Clint to whoop loudly and Steve to raise an eyebrow at him, which then led on to them talking about Peggy.

"You should bring her out sometime, I promise not to let my friend sleep with her."
Steve just shook his head and looked back down at the paper he was writing, making Bucky frown. He nudged at Steve's foot under the table but didn't get a reaction.

"You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. She's going back to England at the end of the month."

"Ah."

"Aaaaawkwaaard."

Bucky threw a pen at Clint's head to shut him up, which seemed to get the message across, before turning back to Steve and shrugging. "This is beyond my level of expertise as a relationship counsellor."

Steve chuckled and shrugged it off, leaving Bucky to finish up his essay and send it to Banner, without checking if he'd changed the dumb title he'd given it.

"Shit."

"What?"

"I just sent Banner an essay titled 'Schrödinger can suck my dick'." He put his head in his hands for a minute and Clint and Steve completely lost it, laughing until they couldn't breathe while Bucky hurriedly typed up another email.

 

Dear Dr. Banner

Due to a freak accident, a file titled 'Schrödinger can suck my dick' was somehow sent to your email via mine. I have no idea how this happened, but please pay no mind to it.
Here is my essay file which, as you will notice, has an appropriate and professional title, because I am an appropriate and professional person.

Schrödinger's Theory in Modern Psychology.docx

He could just picture Banner completely losing his shit once he got the email, he was about 95% sure all his teachers spent most of their time swapping stories about all the ridiculous things he did in their classes, and he didn't exactly do himself any favours with this kind of thing.
Clint and Steve were still struggling to get their breath back from laughing, and he ignored them, although he did seem to have unintentionally cheered Steve up again which made him feel a little less bitter.

Thanksgiving rolled around fast, and Bucky's parents left it pretty late to announce that they would be going to his aunt's, whose husband was unlikely to even let him into their house, so his plans quickly changed from visiting home for a few days, to having lunch with Clint and then drinking all the beer they could find around the house.

"I thought you were spending Thanksgiving with Nat's family?"

"I was, but I bailed."

"That's sweet, Barton. I'll try to remember that when you're throwing up on me like the lightweight you are."

"I've only done that two, maybe three times."

Clint elbowed Bucky in the ribs and he rolled his eyes, although he couldn't deny that he did feel genuinely flattered that Clint would give up a chance to get in with Nat's family just so he didn't have to sit on his own for a few days.
He tried to invite Steve, but it was the last time opportunity he had to take Peggy out before she left for England the next morning, so instead they arranged a night in for the week after where Steve could mope around and complain about how unfair life was.

"Why'd you even try to invite him?" Clint asked after Bucky hung up. "What happened to bros before hoes?"

"What you have failed to grasp, is that he also comes under the 'bro' category."

"Whatever you say, Barnes." He smirked, ducking out of the way as Bucky's phone came flying at his head and landed on the couch behind him. "One day you're gonna throw something really valuable at me, and it will go straight out of the window. I will never let you forget it when it happens."

"You don't let me forget anything, you're like a god damn elephant."

Clint grinned and tapped the side of his head. "Never forget."

"Well clearly you forgot you were cooking, because I can smell it burning."

"Shit." He got up and ran over to the oven to try and rescue the burnt pizza while Bucky dragged a hand down his face.

"Hope you weren't planning on cooking tomorrow, we'll have to get some fast food or something."

"Fine by me."

"Subway is festive right?"

"Definitely, we can just get turkey."

"Fuck that, I'm getting chicken."

"Where is your holiday spirit, Barton?"

Clint ignored him and proceeded to get his disgraceful, un-festive sandwich. In fact, he spent most of the day ignoring him. He paid no attention to Bucky's complaints that they should put a movie on rather than watching football, and everything Bucky said about Clint having work the next day so he shouldn't drink too much fell on deaf ears. And the next morning, Bucky would not accept any of his apologies and just sat laughing at him as he struggled to walk straight on his way out.
For a little while Bucky lay in bed drifting between sleep and consciousness, until he heard the door buzzer and forced himself out of bed.

"What did you forget this time, dumbass?" He grumbled into the speaker, expecting Clint to throw some sarcastic remark back at him.

"What?" The voice wasn't Clint's and he paused for a second.

"Steve?"

"Is it a bad time?"

"No, no it's fine, hang on." He held his finger down on the buzzer for longer than was probably necessary, and then tried to decide whether he had time to style his hair before Steve got up the stairs. No, wait. He should put some pants on. Yeah, that would probably be best.
He tugged on the first pair of jeans he could find and managed to gargle some mouthwash before he heard knocking on the door. He knew he looked like trash, but he didn't feel so bad about it once he saw that Steve didn't look a whole lot better.

"Wild night?" Steve asked, smirking slightly as he looked Bucky up and down.

"Ain't no Thanksgiving like a bachelor Thanksgiving. You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine." Bucky leant against the door frame and gave him an unconvinced look until Steve sighed. "Are you busy?"

"Stevie, two minutes ago I wasn't wearing pants, does that sound like the behaviour of someone with plans for the day?" He grinned and Steve managed a smile, letting Bucky throw an arm around his shoulder and lead him into the sitting room to sit on the couch. "So are you the type who likes to talk about a breakup, or the type who wants to talk about anything but?"

"Is this a regular thing for you?"

"Clint has terrible taste in women." Bucky shrugged, curling his legs up and resting his chin on his knees. "Do you need a hug?"

"No."

"Bullshit. You're just in denial."

"Buck, I just... Bucky no-" Steve was cut off by Bucky bundling onto him and wrapping his arms around him, laughing into his shoulder. For a few moments Steve struggled against him, but eventually he let out a defeated huff and leant his head against Bucky's.

"Feel better yet?"

"I am cured."

"Could do without the sarcasm." He felt Steve's shoulder shake as he chuckled and sat up again, grinning at him. "See, you're laughing."

"You're an idiot."

"An idiot who made you laugh."

"I'm laughing at you, not with you."

"That still counts." Steve smirked and Bucky let go of him, leaning back on the couch. "I'm starving, we should get some food. We should get Chinese."

"Bucky it's ten o'clock in the morning."

"Have you never had Chinese for breakfast before?"

"No, funnily enough I haven't."

"Well then it's time you start living." He grinned, getting up to grab his phone and tossing a menu at Steve on his way back. "Whaddaya want?"

"I'm not hungry."

"When did you last eat?" Steve didn't respond and Bucky narrowed his eyes at him, nudging his leg with his foot.

"Yesterday morning."

"Steve-"

"I just haven't been hungry."

"I'll just order what me and Clint usually get. We always end up with enough food to feed five people so I'm sure there'll be something that tempts you."

"I doubt it."

Bucky ignored him and ordered the food, distracting him by letting him talk about the football game that had been on yesterday. Despite the fact that he'd watched it with Clint he still didn't really have a clue what he was talking about, and he was pretty sure Steve knew that too, but he continued to go on about it for twenty minutes until the food arrived.
Steve was stubborn, and didn't touch anything while Bucky stuffed himself with enough Chinese food for two people.  

"C'mon, Stevie. You gotta eat something." He said after a few minutes. Steve didn't respond and Bucky decided it was time for extreme measures, scooting over to him and holding some food in front of his mouth. "Come on. Food train's comin'. You're gonna miss it, Stevie. Open your mouth! C'mon!"

"I'm not up to eating right now, Buck."

"No but that's exactly why you should eat. Food always makes me feel better." He could see Steve was fighting not to smile, and eventually he gave in, opening his mouth and letting Bucky literally spoon feed him.

"Okay so it does make me feel a little better." Steve mumbled after Bucky had managed to get him to eat a plate of food.

"Told you."

"Shut up."

Bucky grinned and got up, putting the leftovers in the fridge to excite Clint later and flopping back down on the couch next to Steve. They ended up watching a movie, and Bucky may or may not have ended up falling asleep, and woke up curled up against Steve, who was almost crying from trying not to laugh.

"So what are your Christmas plans?"

Bucky looked up at Steve, who hadn't turned his attention away from tuning his guitar. They had long since given up on trying to get some last minute work done, and for the last twenty minutes Bucky had been sitting on the floor of Steve and Sam's shared room, flipping through some of Steve's old sketchbooks and trying not to cry at how untalented he was in comparison to what was in front of him.

"I'm going back to New York for a couple weeks, leave on Saturday." He shrugged, frowning at Steve's slow nod. "What about you?"

"Nothing, I'm staying here."

"Here?" Steve nodded again and Bucky felt a wave of guilt when he remembered Steve didn't have anywhere else to go, and that he probably shouldn't have asked. "You can't just stay here."

"What else am I supposed to do?"

"Well, I mean you could... if you wanted... you could come with me?" Steve looked up at him and he immediately regretted saying it. Jesus he was an idiot.

"Your parents would be okay with that?" It was a more positive reaction than he'd expected, although he wasn't entirely sure if he'd wanted a positive reaction at all.

"They're always trying to get more people involved in the Barnes' family Christmas, so I'm sure they wouldn't mind." The smile Steve pulled when he said that could probably light up the whole town and he had to chew on his lip to stop himself from grinning like an idiot at him.

"You sure you don't mind?"

"Hey, if anything you'll be doing me a favour. Having you there might be just the distraction I need to stop my parents fussing over me and pestering me about how college is going and whether or not I've finally got a boyfriend. You would not believe how often that subject comes up. I am a grown man and yet they still keep asking."

"So why don't you just lie?"

"You don't know my mother. If I told her I was dating someone she'd demand to see 50 photos of us together and have a phone conversation with him before she believed me."

"What about Clint? You could just say you were dating him."

"Gross." Bucky grimaced, pretending to gag. "Besides, my parents have met him, they know he's straight."

"So you're saying you need someone your parents have never met before?"

"Yeah exac- Steve, no."

"Why not?"

"Trust me, you don't even realise what you are trying to sign up for."

"What? Holding hands and calling you honey?" Steve smirked and Bucky narrowed his eyes at him.

"Call me honey and I'll break your legs." He muttered, ignoring Steve's sniggering. "Look, my mom has absolutely no concept of what is and isn't socially acceptable. She'll be constantly trying to get us to kiss because she's weird. I mean maybe we could work around it, the key to resisting her is to-"

"That's fine."

"What's fine?"

"I can kiss you if that'll convince her."

"Yeah, I'm sure that'd be all good, but once will never be enough for her and I don't think you need to be scarred for life by kissing me twenty times a day."

"Bucky, it's kissing, not hardcore sex. It's fine."

"But you can only kiss someone for so long-"

"Is this just your way of telling me you're a terrible kisser?"

"No! I just don't want you to feel uncomfortable wit-" Steve's lips were on his before he could finish his sentence and he froze in place, unsure of whether or not he was meant to be kissing back. After a couple of seconds Steve pulled away again and smirked at him.

"See? No big deal."

"Uh... okay."

Steve turned his attention back to his guitar and they both sat in silence for a few moments while Bucky tried to wrap his head around what had just happened. "So, can I ask a personal question?"

"I guess now would be a good time."

"When's the last time you were actually in a relationship with someone?"

Bucky frowned and glanced over at Steve, praying this wouldn't turn into a conversation about what his last relationship had been like. "...Define relationship."

"More than just sleeping with someone and then kicking them out the morning after."

"In that case it's been four years."

"Jeeze."

He shrugged and went back to flipping through Steve's book, leaving him to carry on with what he was doing. Thankfully Steve seemed okay with leaving it at that, and after a few minutes he sighed and sat up, pulling his phone out of his pocket. "Guess I should let mom know I'm bringing my boyfriend back for Christmas then."

Chapter Text

"So let me get this straight."

Bucky groaned and leant his head on his hand, glancing over at Clint on the couch. He'd been pestering him all evening about why he looked so dazed, and now that Bucky had told him he was refusing to let it drop.

"You're just going to pretend to be dating for three weeks?"

"What's wrong with that?"

"Bucky, I've sat through enough chick-flicks in my time to know exactly where this is going."

"That is not how it's gonna go. This is just a mutual agreement that provides me with a stress free holiday and him with a proper family Christmas."

"I'll remind you of that at your weddi- ow!" Clint had been too distracted by his own smug remarks and Bucky had seized the opportunity, throwing the TV remote and hitting him on the side of the head. It soon came flying back, hitting Bucky hard on the shoulder.

"I don't feel I deserved that."

"You threw it at me!"

"You were being a dick!"

"I'm not being a dick, I'm being the voice of reason."

"Of course."

They both smirked at each other and went back to watching the TV, while Bucky tried desperately not to think about Steve kissing him.

Packing was hard. Trying to pack while Clint was sitting on the opposite bed listing everything that Steve would have to put up with for the next few weeks was downright impossible.

"Oh, and don't even get me started on car journeys."

"I've been in the car with him before."

"Not for more than thirty minutes you haven't. Whatever you do, do not let him put his music on. Trust me, Steve, it's not worth it."

Bucky looked up and saw them both staring at him, Steve with raised eyebrows and Clint with a smug smirk on his face.

"My music isn't that bad."

"No, but it would be a whole lot better if you didn't add to it."

"Shut up, you enjoy my singing."

"For the first hour or so. But you are about to take this poor, unsuspecting man on a thirteen hour car journey with nothing but your singing to entertain him."

"It can't be that bad." Steve said, laughing at the pained look Clint gave him. "Why are you packing so much stuff? I thought we were only going for two weeks."

"That's the plan, but you should assume we're staying for three."

"Why? Are we gonna get snowed in?"

"No, my parents are just soppy. They have these sad puppy faces that they do whenever I'm about to leave, so I always end up staying an extra week."

"Yeah, it must be such a hardship having to stay in a big, beautiful house in New York for an extra week. Jeeze, Bucky, Christmas for you is such a trial." Bucky reached into the pile of stuff he'd created and threw the first thing he found at Clint, hitting him in the stomach. "Dude, did you just throw your lube at me?"

"Quite possibly."

"I'm not sure how I feel about that."

"Why are you even packing that?"

The look on Steve's face was priceless and Bucky couldn't help laughing, lying back on the bed and giggling while Steve stared at him with a mixture of confusion and fear. "Better safe than sorry." He managed to say, sitting back up and shrugging. "If you think fake dating is gonna stop me from picking up cute guys in bars you are very wrong."

"Such a man-slut." Clint muttered, earning himself a hit to the head with a shampoo bottle. "You gonna pack or just throw all your stuff at me?"

"You gonna shut up?"

Clint shrugged and tossed the bottles back over onto Bucky's bed and turning back to Steve, leaving him to carry on packing while they discussed his terrible snoring.

"Ugh, why does 5am exist?" Bucky heard Clint grumble as he pushed himself out of bed, switching on the lamp next to his bed and squinting at the sudden light.

"You don't need to be awake right now, why are you complaining?"

"Because your piece of shit alarm clock woke me up when I could happily sleep for at least another four hours."

"So go back to sleep and quit complaining." He mumbled, pulling on the clothes he'd left in a heap at the end of his bed last night and grabbing his bag. "See you in three weeks, miss you already."

"Please, please, give me updates on how your fake dating goes so I have something to laugh at while I'm stuck with my family."

"Sure thing. Say hi to your brother for me."

"He is married and expecting a child."

"He's still hot."

"You're still gross."

Bucky smirked and walked out into the hall, pushing past the piles of bags into the bathroom to brush his teeth before heading into the sitting room where Steve was sprawled out on the couch with his face in a cushion.

"Rise and shine, Stevie." He sang, patting Steve on the shoulder and padding back over to the kitchen to make some coffee while ignoring the groans and grumbles coming from the couch.

"What time is it?" Steve mumbled, sitting up and dragging a hand down his face.

"5:15."

"Why?"

"Quit complaining. You want some coffee?"

"I want all the coffee."

Bucky laughed, dumping more sugar into his coffee than usual and bringing the mugs back over to the couch. "So, it's been 15 minutes and you already seem to regret agreeing to this."

"I'm not a morning person. You should know that, we've been dating for two months."

"What?" Steve raised an eyebrow at him and it took him a few seconds to catch up. "Oh, right. It's too early for this shit." He sighed, downing the coffee way to quickly and leaning back on the couch.
After ten minutes of grumbling and complaining Steve got up and disappeared into the bathroom, leaving Bucky to dump the mugs in the sink for Clint to deal with when he got up, and turn his attention to loading his car up with all their bags.

"Why the hell do you need to bring your guitar?" He complained once Steve had returned, helping him to carry more bags down the stairs. "Why don't you just leave it here?"

"Bucky, that's like asking me to leave my newborn child behind."

"Wow."

Steve grinned and shoved the last of the bags into the car, patting the top of it and frowning at him. "So are you sure this piece of crap will be able to withstand a journey to New York?"

"It will if I dump your ass in the road halfway along, so you best start showing it some respect." Bucky warned, narrowing his eyes before climbing into the car. "You know, it's been so many months since I've gotten to use my driving playlist."

"Clint warned me not to let you-"

"My car, my rules. You should be used to this, we've been dating for two months."

"Shut up."

45 minutes in and Steve looked like he was ready to shoot himself in the face, groaning every time a new song came on while Bucky ignored him and sang along ridiculously loudly.

"How can you possibly have this much energy at 6:30 in the morning?"

"Beyoncé's energy is my energy."

"Which leads me on to my next question. Why do you have so much Beyoncé in this playlist?"

"Do not question the queen, Steve."

"But-"

"IF YOU LIKED IT THEN YOU SHOULD'A PUT A RING ON IT!"

"Jesus Christ."

"Chin up, Stevie, only 12 hours of driving to go. Wanna get some breakfast?"

"If it means you'll stop singing for a few minutes, yes."

Bucky smirked at him and after a few more minutes they pulled up outside a McDonalds, where Bucky consumed enough food to feed an entire family and Steve downed more coffee than could possibly be healthy, although he still looked like he could sleep for 70 years if he wanted to.

"So is there anything I need to remember when I meet your folks?"

Bucky thought for a minute, taking a sip of his coffee and trying not to grimace at how bitter it was. "Don't swear in front of mom, she will beat your ass. And I mean that literally, she will not hesitate to hit you with a rolling pin or whatever object is nearest to her at the time. My dad's pretty much cool with anything, if you ever want anything go to him, he's a complete sap. All you gotta do is smile, bat your eyes a few times and he's a gonner. The only times he's been able to say no to me is over the phone. Other than that there's not much, they're just super embarrassing and weird and I swear I'm not as bad as them. I am not like them."

"You know most people who say that are actually exactly like their parents?"

"No you don't understand, it's like I'm not even related to them. For starters they're both graceful as fuck and then I can't even walk 5 feet without tripping over something. I swear they always expect me to come home missing a limb or two and with no memory of who I am, their coordination genes clearly passed me by." Steve smirked and downed the rest of his third cup of coffee, gesturing at the door. Bucky nodded and they both got up and headed back to the car, with Steve letting out a huff of frustration the minute Bucky put his music back on. "C'mon, in a couple of hours, once you've woken up properly, you'll be loving it."

"I'm gonna need more coffee for that."

"Dude, you've had 4 cups of coffee in 2 hours."

"I woke up at 5am, give me a break." Steve smirked, leaning his head against the window.

"Well there's a Starbucks about an hour and a half away that I usually stop at, can you hold out 'til then?"

"I might be able to manage if you cut out the singing."

"Sorry, can't hear you ove- I CHIME IN WITH A 'HAVEN'T YOU PEOPLE EVER HEARD OF CLOSING THE GOD DAMN DOOR'!"

"I should've brought ear plugs."

"Clint's tried that already."

After 2 hours, 2 more Beyoncé songs, several rap and dubstep songs, and the entire soundtrack to the Princess and the Frog, they made it to the Starbucks that Bucky promised.

"Shouldn't we just go through the drive thru? It'll be quicker." Steve pointed out before Bucky could start looking for a parking space.

"Uuh.. okay." He said hesitantly, pulling up next to the speaker and looking back at him. "Don't laugh."

"Why would I laugh?"

"Just promise you won't."

"I won't, okay?"

"Good. What do you want?"

"Just a large black coffee."

"Got it." He turned back around again and rolled down the window. "Can I get a large black coffee... and a white chocolate mocha? YOU PIECE OF SHIT YOU SAID YOU WOULDN'T LAUGH I HAVE A SWEET TOOTH OKAY?" He yelled, whipping his head back around to glare at Steve, who was completely losing it in the seat next to him.

"Oh man, that was worth the singing."

"Do you even realise how hard it is to not be a walking gay stereotype when you enjoy listening to Beyoncé and can only drink sickeningly sweet Starbucks drinks? You don't know my struggle, you don't know what I go through." Steve tried to respond but just collapsed in a fit of giggles and Bucky glared at him, driving forward to collect their drinks and thrusting Steve's at him grumpily.

"Alright, I'm sorry. That was just... oh man, that was great."

"You're just upset because you're too full of masculine pride to order delicious drinks."

"Fine, let me taste it."

"Oh, so you laugh at it but now you want me to give you some? Just how well do you think that's gonna go for ya?"

"I'm giving you the opportunity to make me look like an idiot and you're denying it?"

"I don't need to make you look like an idiot, you do it yourself."

Steve chuckled and Bucky begrudgingly handed his drink over to him, having to fight not to look over at him to see his reaction. A few seconds later Steve passed it back and shrugged. "Okay, fair enough."

"I would like a formal apology, if you don't mind."

"I am incredibly sorry for laughing at your Starbucks order, can you ever forgive me?" He said in a monotone voice, making Bucky laugh and shake his head.

"I think I can find it in my heart."

"You're too kind."

Steve soon learned that Bucky was completely incapable of driving past a diner without stopping for food, and by 1 o'clock they'd gone to no less than 3 places to eat.

"How can you possibly be able to eat this much food?" Steve asked, staring at him in amazement as he finished his third burger of the day.

"Driving makes me hungry. Plus I can smell the food when we drive past it, so then I have to eat it."

"Can you even afford all this?"

"My parents are covering the cost of the trip, they don't need to know that I ate enough food for a small country on the way." Bucky shrugged. "Hey, wanna stop at a casino and gamble away my dad's money?"

"I think I'll pass. At this rate we're not gonna get to your parents house 'til midnight."

"Your loss." He smirked as he pushed the plate away, sitting upright and groaning. "Okay, if I eat any more food for the rest of the day I'm gonna throw up and die. You're gonna have to drive for a bit."

"Does that mean I can put some decent music on?"

"Um, no."

Steve narrowed his eyes at him and he grinned, tossing the keys across the table and struggling to stand up. Groaning and complaining all the way to the car about how full he was.

"Ugghh, why would food hurt me like this?"

"Probably because you've eaten 5 times your own body weight in it."

"But I was hungry."

Despite Steve's protests that he should at least get one hour of his own music, Bucky plugged his IPod back in, although he couldn't sing with quite as much enthusiasm now that he felt like he was on the edge of throwing up from how much food he'd eaten.

"So, if I'm being accepted into the family for a few weeks. Does that mean I should get your parents a Christmas present?"

"I'm gonna change you like a remix, then I'll raise you like a PHOEEENIIIX!"

"Bucky!"

"Huh? Nah, I wouldn't worry about it. I'll just tell 'em you helped me pick out whatever I get for them."

Steve shrugged and Bucky went back to his singing for another half an hour until Call Me Maybe came on and Steve cracked up laughing.

"Why do you have this on your IPod?"

"It's a guilty pleasure okay? Don't pretend you didn't love it."

"No, no I really didn't." Regardless of all Steve claimed, within seconds he was singing even louder than Bucky had been, causing Bucky to grin smugly at him."We are not going to speak of this after today."

"It's okay to love my trashy pop music, Stevie. Embrace it."

Carly Rae Jepson turned out to be just the saviour Bucky had needed, and for the rest of the journey Steve didn't complain once about his music, and joined in with him for his duets of Disney soundtracks. Turns out he was a closet Frozen fan.

"I MEAN IT'S CRAZY, WE FINISH EACHOTHER'S-"

"SANDWICHES!"

"THAT'S WHAT I WAS GONNA SAY!"

"More like love is a closet door amiright?" Bucky smirked, leaning his head against the window and listening to the sound of Steve laughing next to him. At some point he must have fallen asleep because the next thing he knew Steve was yelling at him and whacking his shoulder.

"Buck!"

"What?"

"This is not a good time to take a nap, I have no idea where you live."

Bucky glanced out the window and saw it had gone dark. Groaning, he sat up and tried to get his bearings so he could tell Steve where to go. "Maybe I should drive?"

"Do you not know where you live?"

"I do, I'm just bad at directions."

"The minute you get behind this wheel you're gonna take us to another restaurant."

"That is not... fine. Take the next left."

"'Kay. What should I do at the lights?"

"Well, Steve. If it's red, you stop, and if it's green, you go."

"I mean which direction do I go, you ass."

40 minutes, several wrong turns, and lots of angry rants about the New York traffic later, they somehow made it to the right street, and Bucky couldn't help but grin at the expression on Steve's face.

"That's your parents' house?" He asked, staring up at it as they pulled into the drive.

"Yup."

"It's beautiful."

Bucky glanced at the house, with its exposed brick and the garden that his mom managed to make look good even in the dead of winter and shrugged. He opened his mouth to say something when his eyes fell on what was in the drive in front of them and he squealed.

"What?"

"My baby!" Bucky didn't listen to what else Steve had to say as he pushed the door open, running forward and throwing himself onto the hood of his Porsche, his actual car. "Oh man I missed you."

"Well I'm glad you're reunited." He looked up and saw his mom standing next to him with her arms folded, looking at him impatiently.

"How long have you been out here?"

"Since you pulled up in the drive."

"Oh... I didn't see you."

"Yes, I noticed." She muttered, rolling her eyes as he picked himself up. "Do I get a formal apology?"

"I'm sorry I hugged my car instead of you."

"Thank you. Now come here."

Bucky grinned and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her over and burying his face in her dark brown hair. He only stood a couple of inches higher than her, but it was still enough for her to grumble about how tall he was, cupping his face in her hands and kissing his cheeks and forehead repeatedly until he started protesting.

"Ma-"

"I missed you so much, sweetheart."

"Yeah, ma, I missed you too, but you're being weird now."

"Well, I'm sorry for being a loving mother."

"You'll have two whole weeks to be a loving mother. Now can we go inside? It's cold."

"You're cold because you're just wearing a t-shirt."

"I've been in the car all day! Did you expect me to travel for 15 hours in a fur coat?"

She smirked at him and squeezed his shoulders, pulling a huge grin as she looked over behind him. Bucky had temporarily forgotten Steve was here too, and hadn't noticed him get out of the car and come up behind him

"Is this him?" His mom asked excitedly and he rolled his eyes.

"No, mom. This is just my chauffeur."

She tutted at him and pushed him out of the way, wrapping her arms around Steve and almost squeezing the life out of him. "It's so good to meet you, Steve. You know I could tell my Jamie liked you, what with the way he talked about you on the phone a few months ago."

Bucky's mouth fell open and he looked up at Steve, who was looking at him with a smug grin on his face. "Oh really?"

"She says that about everyone!"

"No I don't."

"Yes you do, mom. Now c'mon, leave the guy alone."

"Ooh, sweetheart he's handsome."

"Jesus, ma."

He could see Steve was having a hard time not laughing and he groaned, grabbing his mom's shoulder's and trying to move her away from him. "It's great to meet you Mrs. Barnes."

"Freddie." She corrected him, trying to push Bucky's hands off her shoulders.

"C'mon, I'm freezing. Where's dad?"

"In his office."

"Was the return of his son not enough to tempt him outside?" He mumbled, guiding her away from Steve and over to the house, letting Steve follow behind them.

"He said, and I quote this, 'I don't want to be there while you embarrass yourself in front of the poor kid's boyfriend'."

"He knows you well, mom." Bucky grinned as they walked up the steps and through the open front door. He heard Steve audibly gasp as they went in, which was understandable, just the sitting room was almost as big as his entire apartment in Chicago. Leaving them behind, he walked around the corner and leant against the frame of the archway to his dad's office, clearing his throat to get his attention.

"I'm so sorry my arrival has been such an inconvenience to you, dad."

His dad spun around on his chair and smirked at him. "I wasn't gonna go outside just to wave at you, it's fucking cold."

"Yeah, I know. I've just spent the last ten minutes out there trying to pry my mother away from unsuspecting men."

"That bad, huh?"

"You have no idea." Bucky muttered, taking a few steps forward as his dad got up, and wrapping his arms around him.

"I tried to tell her not to be too embarrassing." His dad grinned, patting him on the back and pulling away to look him up and down. "You're doing okay, yeah? You're eating? You found that book you needed?"

"Dad I'm ok-"

"I should have bought that for you, it wasn't fair to just-"

"Dad! I'm fine. I'm glad you didn't buy it."

"What?"

"I... met Steve by sharing notes in that book."

"Like a romantic comedy?"

"...Yeah."

"You amaze me, Bucky. Truly."

"Shut up. Do you wanna meet him or what?"

"Damn right I do."

Bucky chuckled and led his dad back out into the sitting room, where his mom and Steve were dumping the bags from his car. Before he could say anything his dad had rushed over and grabbed Steve's hand, shaking it enthusiastically and beaming at him.

"You must be Steve! George Barnes. Great to meet you!" He said, before looking back over at Bucky and smirking. "Was that embarrassing enough for you?"

Bucky sighed and dragged a hand down his face, ignoring his parents' laughter. "At least you didn't call him handsome."

Chapter Text

"So you never mentioned that your name was Jamie." Steve said, glancing over at him as they carried the last of their bags through the front door.

"It's James. Ma's the only one who calls me Jamie. In fact, she's the only one who doesn't call me Bucky."

"James is the name I gave you." His mom said stubbornly from where she was sitting on the couch, folding her arms and looking up at them.

"Yeah and you also gave me Buchanan for a middle name so I think that tells us all we need about your judgement. Like, what even is a buchanan? It's not a name. It's not even a word."

"It was your grandpa's name. And your father chose it, not me."

"Don't bring me into this!"

"Anyway, I don't see what you have against James."

"What I have against it, is that there were no less than 3 other kids in my class with the same name. I needed to stand out."

Both his parents simultaneously raised an eyebrow at him and he frowned, turning back to Steve who was staring at the pile of bags they'd created with despair.

"Are we gonna have to carry all of this up the stairs now?" He sighed, glancing at the staircase. Bucky just laughed and shook his head, pointing over at the door by the stairs.

"Nah, you probably won't need to go up there at all. Unless you want to sleep in the spare room?"

"He is most definitely not sleeping in the spare room, young man."

"I was giving him the freedom of choice, mom. Maybe he doesn't want to sleep on the couch?"

"He's damn well not going on the couch. He can sleep in your bed."

"Then where am I gonna sleep?"

"Jesus, Bucky, how long is it since you dated again?"

"Shut up, dad."

His dad cracked up laughing and almost fell off the couch while Bucky picked up a couple of bags and pulled Steve by the arm into his bedroom. "See what I have to deal with?" He grumbled after shutting the door, leaning against it and taking in the momentary lack of talking.

"I think they're great." Steve sniggered, glancing around the bedroom. "This is your room?"

"Yeah."

"Nice decor."

"Shut up."

"No really, the pirate cushions are a lovely touch. Certainly ties the room together."

"I'll smother you with one in a minute." He warned as he dumped the bags on the floor, walking over to the bed and collapsing onto it. "Oh man, there's so much room. Steve look, I can lie sideways. Lie with me."

Steve shrugged and flopped down next to him, leaning his head back and closing his eyes. "Fuck, it's so comfortable."

"Right?"

"I'll never sleep at college again."

"We should just bring the mattress back with us."

"Agreed."

Bucky rolled onto his stomach and pressed his face into the duvet, lying there for a few seconds before looking back up at Steve. "So you think you can handle staying here for three weeks?"

"You know, I think I'll manage. What's through the door?"

"Ensuite."

"Yeah I'm definitely okay staying here." Steve chuckled and Bucky grinned, rolling over again and finding himself face to face with Steve just an inch or so away.

"Shit, sorry."

"You know, considering the amount of guys you've supposedly fucked at college, you act like such an awkward virgin."

"Shut up! I'm just not used to this."

"Uh huh." Steve murmured, flicking a strand of hair away from Bucky's face with his thumb and tracing it down his jaw. Bucky swallowed and tried to avoid Steve's eyes. He was an idiot for agreeing to this. There was no way he could ever convince his parents he was dating this guy if he couldn't even look at him. Maybe it wouldn't be quite so difficult if Steve wasn't so damn gorgeous, smirking at him with those ridiculous lips and some stupid stubble on his face where he hadn't shaved that morning, and those gross, beautiful, blue eyes that right now seemed to be staring right into his soul. This could only ever lead to him making an idiot of himself, but he didn't have time to think about that right now because Steve's nose was brushing against his, and he could feel his breath on his lips. He wasn't sure if he was more afraid of Steve kissing him, or of Steve not kissing him, but there were lips on his before he had time to figure it out and he sighed into them, letting Steve weave a hand into his hair to hold him still.
This was nothing like how Steve had kissed him before, that had just been to prove a point. This was... different. He flicked his tongue across Bucky's bottom lip and nibbled at it gently, prompting him to open his mouth and let Steve run his tongue along his teeth. He still tasted faintly of coffee, which was unsurprising considering how much of it he'd drunk on their journey, and Bucky didn't even want to think about what kind of gross taste all the food he'd been eating had turned into, but Steve clearly didn't mind too much.

"Can you promise me something?" He whispered, pulling away from Bucky for a second and looking at him seriously. "Tell me if you start getting genuinely uncomfortable."

Words weren't happening for Bucky right now, so he just nodded breathlessly and leant his head back on the mattress, trying to get his brain functioning again. Steve propped himself up on his elbow and leant over him a little, grinning down at him.

"Need more practice?"

"I... I think I'm good... thanks."

"Why are you thanking me?"

"I... don't know."

Steve sniggered, leaning down and kissing the corner of his mouth before pushing himself up off the bed and heading out the door to grab some more bags. Bucky lay there for a few more seconds so his heart rate could settle. It had been years since someone had kissed him like that, he was used to rushed, sloppy kisses against a door or a bathroom wall, and he had to fight to remind himself that it wasn't real. It wasn't real. Dammit, Clint had been right, there was no way he'd be able to pull this off.
The door opened again and Steve came back before he'd even sat back up. Smirking at him he reached a hand down for Bucky to grab, and helped pull him to his feet.

"So do you have a cat, or just a weird kink?"

"Huh?"

Steve gestured to the cat toys scattered on top of his drawers and he paused. He did have a cat. Where was his cat? Letting go of the hand he didn't realise he was still holding, he walked back out into the sitting room.

"Ma, where's- Meg!" The brown, tortoiseshell cat hopped awkwardly off the arm of the couch and hobbled over to him as quickly as his 3 legs could go, nuzzling against Bucky's leg until he picked him up. Meg was missing one of his front legs and half of his tail, and there was a tear in his right ear, but he was still a beautiful cat and he purred as soon as Bucky picked him up, letting him bury his face in the soft fur on his neck. "Did you miss me, Meggy? Have they been looking after you?"

"So I'll take that as a yes?"

"Steve! Say hi to the prettiest kitty in the world! Meg, say hi." He lifted Meg's front paw up and waved it at Steve, beaming at him.

"She's certainly unique."

"He's a boy."

"You just said his name was Meg."

"Yeah..." Bucky did not like where this conversation was going, and he could already feel his parents psyching up to embarrass him again.

"Why would you name a boy cat Meg?"

"It's a free countr-"

"He named the cat Megatron."

"Dad!" He whipped his head around and glared at his dad, who just shrugged and smirked at him. Steve was leaning against the door frame laughing into his arm and Bucky huffed.

"I was a kid."

"You were 17, James."

"You are not helping me!"

"Oh my god that's brilliant." Steve managed to say, wiping a tear from his eye.

"I hate each and every one of you. At least Meg doesn't laugh at my mistakes." Bucky mumbled, slinging the last bag on the floor over his shoulder and marching back into his room with the cat in his arms. "Meg, how you put up with these people is beyond me." He said, setting him down on the bed and debating whether or not to unpack, or just get things out as he needed them. Meg mewed at him in reply and he grinned, scratching between the cats ears and tossing one of the toys from on top of the drawers at him and laughing as he tried to catch it with his one paw.

"So what happened to his leg?"

Bucky almost jumped out of his skin at the sound of Steve's voice and he spun back around to where he was standing. "He got it caught up in some wire. That's how I first found him, he was stuck in it. Then when we took him to the vet they said it was infected and had to be amputated."

"He was a stray?" Bucky nodded and Steve smirked, stretching his arms above his head. "Well, I'm just about ready to pass out." He said as he walked around to the other side of the bed, collapsing onto it and making Meg jump.

"Don't crush my cat."

"'M not gonna crush your cat." He grumbled into a pillow, rolling over and stroking the top of Meg's head until he purred and rubbed against him. "I think Megatron likes me."

"He likes anyone who touches him, he's a big slut. Ain'tcha, Megs?" Bucky grinned, laying down on the other side of the bed and letting Meg scramble onto his chest.
The cat curled up on top of him and mewed, looking over at Steve and then back to him. "That's Steve. He's gonna be staying here for a few weeks, so you're gonna have to get used to him." Meg mewed again and he smirked. "Yeah he's an even bigger asshole than he looks."

"You gonna talk to your cat all night?"

"Steve, I talk to my cat more than I talk to people." Steve rolled his eyes and sighed, burying his face back in the pillow. "I can lock him out if you want. But he'll probably scratch at the door for a few hours before he accepts rejection."

"No it's fine. As long as I don't wake up with his ass in my face."

"I cannot guarantee that this slut won't do that."

"Right. G'night."

Clearly Steve hadn't been lying about being ready to pass out, and after a couple of minutes Bucky could hear him snoring softly into the pillow. Meg mewed at him and cocked his head to the side, staring at him with big green eyes. "Don't look at me like that, you jerk. It's not like that and- no, it's not. But you gotta help me pretend it is, 'kay?"
The cat blinked at him and laid his head down, closing his eyes and purring against Bucky's chest while he scratched between his ears. He hadn't realised how tired he was until the room fell completely silent, and he leant back into the pillow, wrapping his arms loosely around Meg, and fell asleep almost instantly.

The next thing Bucky knew there was a beam of light shining into his face, and somebody was yelling at him.

"James!"

"Mm?" He grumbled, opening his eyes a fraction to see his mom standing at the end of the bed with her arms folded.

"Why is your boyfriend on the couch?"

"Boyfriend?"

"Steve."

"Ooooooooh, right. I'm with ya. What about him?"

"He's on the couch."

"Why?"

"That's what I'm asking you!"

"Am I interrupting a family moment?" Steve asked, appearing through the door and walking over to sit on the bed. He pulled Bucky's head into his lap and started stroking his hair, making him sigh and close his eyes again. "Buck, your snoring is the worst."

"It is not that bad."

"It is that bad."

"That's terrible, James."

"It is not that bad!"

"I'm getting you tablets."

"Jesus Christ, ma I don't need any-"

"Please get him some."

"Steve you stay out of this!"

"It's me who has to share a bed with you."

Bucky huffed and folded his arms, ignoring his mom's smug laughter as she turned and started walking back out the door. "I'm gonna start making breakfast, so you better get out of bed."

"I'm not hungry anymore."

"Sure you're not. I'll see you at the table in ten minutes." She said, disappearing out the door and leaving Bucky to hit Steve lightly on the chest for laughing at him.

"I like your mom, she's nice."

"She's a pain in the ass."

"JAMES BUCHANAN BARNES YOU ARE NOT TOO OLD TO GO OVER MY KNEE!"

"MOM!"

Steve cracked up laughing and Bucky whacked him again, trying to wriggle away, but Steve wrapped his arms around him tightly and leant his head on Bucky's, laughing into his hair. "This is the best decision I have ever made."

"Shut up."

"Can I stay forever?"

"You're a jerk."

"You love it." Steve murmured, kissing the top of his head and getting back off the bed. Bucky just narrowed his eyes at him and waited until he'd left to get up and grab some clean clothes from one of the many bags scattered on the floor, heading into his bathroom to get dressed.
The whole house smelt of eggs and bacon when he came out of his room, almost tripping over Meg as he hobbled through his legs and disappeared through the cat flap on the backdoor. Steve ducked under the arch leading to the kitchen and came over, handing him a mug and giving him a smile that made Bucky's knees go weak for a second.
Not real.
He took the mug and glanced at the coffee suspiciously, looking back up at Steve and frowning.

"Did you poison it?"

"No. I was gonna give it to you without any sugar just to see your reaction, but your mom hit me with a wooden spoon."

Bucky smirked and went to say something else but was cut off by Steve pressing a chaste kiss to his lips, making him lose his train of thought.
Not. Real.
As Steve pulled away again and turned to go back into the kitchen, Bucky saw his mom leaning against the frame of the archway, beaming at them. He just rolled his eyes and sat down at the dining table at the back of the open plan sitting room and pulled his phone out of his pocket, checking the text he had from Clint.

So I told my brother my gay friend said hi and he goes 'is he the cute one?'. You are tearing my family apart, Barnes.

Don't pretend you don't want me as a brother in law ;)

No.

Rude

So have you fucked Stevie yet?

I will fly over there and murder you

Is that a yes?

I have not, and nor do I intend to.

Sure, sure

Fuck you.

He heard the sound of grumbling and looked around to see his dad walking over with his eyes almost closed, sitting down next to him and dropping his head onto the table.

"Morn-"

"Don't even bother attempting conversation with me yet." His dad grumbled, not moving his face off the table. Bucky smirked and tapped at the edge of his coffee mug.

"You want my coffee?"

"Bucky, the shit you drink doesn't even qualify as coffee."

"You're just upset that I have a more refined taste than you."

"Drinking a cupful of sugar is not my idea of refined taste."

"Jerk."

"Asshole."

Bucky chuckled and took a sip of his coffee. He'd expected it to be either too bitter or sickeningly sweet even to his taste, but somehow Steve had managed to get it right, making him almost suspicious.
A few minutes later his mom appeared from the kitchen balancing several plates of food on her arms, shortly followed by Steve with even more.

"I like him, he helps me cook."

"I would happily help you cook, I just don't think anybody here would appreciate it."

"Hmm. I never realised it was possibly to mess up scrambled eggs until you came along."

"What?"

Bucky snapped his head up when he remembered Steve was also sitting at the table, and was looking at him with raised eyebrows. "Uuh."

"You've never tried Bucky's cooking, have you?" His dad smirked, gulping down the coffee Bucky's mom handed him.

"I... thought I did?"

All the eyes in the room turned back to Bucky and he frowned, looking down at the table. "Nat cooked." He mumbled, not looking up.

"I'm sorry you're gonna have to speak up, I didn't quite catch that."

"Don't be a jerk. I got Nat to cook and then brought the food back to my place."

"Amazing."

"Shut up."

"No really. I'm flattered you'd go to such great lengths to impress me, that's sweet."

"Shut up!" Bucky yelled, ignoring his dad who was rocking back on his chair laughing next to him. "This is your fault. If I had more money for food I could have just gotten pizza."

"Uh huh. And what happened to the money you already had?"

"I... gave it to a homeless guy."

His dad paused for a minute, sitting back up and rolling his eyes. "You know, there's a difference between being kind hearted and giving away the last of your food money."

"Right, because I would have been completely helpless without it."

"Mm. Is this the same guy who called me up at almost 11 o'clock at night to inform me that my son had been giving out my number again?"

"...Possibly."

"You know I'd appreciate some warning before the homeless start calling me." He said, smirking when Bucky looked at him expectantly. "I got him a receptionist job. Tony's paying for his hotel room at the moment."

Bucky couldn't fight the smile that crept onto his face when his dad said that, chuckling when he squeezed his shoulder and glancing over at Steve, who was giving him that smile that made him forget how to talk. So instead of saying anything else he just focused on shovelling as much of his mom's food into his face as was possible, ignoring her comments on how anyone would think he hadn't eaten in days, and pretending not to notice Steve almost choking laughing when she said that.

"Does that happen often?" Steve asked as Bucky scrubbed at a plate. Apparently his mom's way of welcoming him home was putting him on dish duty for the next few days, not that he had a problem with that. What he did have a problem with, was Steve's method of 'helping' him, which seemed to only involve sitting on the counter next to him and pointing out any microscopic bit of food that he'd missed, pulling a smug grin every time he did so.

"Does what happen often?"

"Finding jobs for Chicago's homeless people."

"Oh, yeah it's happened a few times. It's nothing."

"It's sweet."

"Fuck off."

"JAMES!" His mom's voice bellowed from the sitting room and he looked around in amazement.

"How did you even hear that?!"

He didn't get any response other than Steve's sniggering and he turned back around, throwing a damp dishcloth in his face.

"What was that for?"

"Making fun of me."

"I wasn't! I'm serious, it's really sweet. Most people I've met with this kind of money are just assholes and- you missed a spot."

"Are you kidding me? I've been scrubbing it for five minutes."

"Here, let me."

Before Bucky could protest Steve had hopped down from the counter and was standing behind him, reaching his arms around him to grab the plate out of his hands.

"I'm not five years old, you know. I can wash a plate."

Steve ignored him and started scrubbing it himself, keeping his arms around Bucky and resting his chin on his shoulder. Bucky couldn't help but wonder if Steve acted like this around everyone, and was just generally oblivious to the entire concept of personal space, or if he was just dedicated to their whole charade. Or maybe... No. His parents thought they were dating and that meant acting like it even if they weren't necessarily in the same room, which also meant Bucky was totally justified in giving in to the ridiculous urge to lean his head against Steve's. Because they were acting, and Steve knew they were acting too. The minute he did it he heard Steve chuckle.

"So you're finally getting the idea, huh?"

"Shut up."

Steve shook his head and looked back at the plate. "You're right, this is a bitch to get off."

"I HEARD THAT!"

"Seriously, does your mom have supersonic hearing or something?"

"It wouldn't surprise me."

Steve smirked and glanced behind them briefly. "Hey, c'mere." He whispered, wiping a wet hand on Bucky's shirt before moving it up to the back of his head and pulling him closer until their lips met. That caught Bucky off guard and he didn't even notice anyone else coming into the room until he heard his dad's voice behind them.

"Okay so I was gonna ask how long it takes to wash some dishes but clearly you had other plans."

"Shut up." Bucky muttered, pulling away from Steve and narrowing his eyes at his dad, who was smirking in the archway.

"I was never here." He said, raising his hands defensively and backing back out of the kitchen.

"You're cute when you're blushing."

"I'll kill you while you sleep." Bucky said as he elbowed Steve in the ribs, glaring at him as he laughed.

"You know, I've never known somebody's parents to actually want to walk in on their kid making out with someone."

"I haven't had a stable relationship since I was 17, Steve. They're getting desperate."

"I have so many questions about what the hell happened."

"Yeah and I'm answering none of them."

"Was it a bad breakup?"

"Steve-"

"Did he cheat?"

"Can you just leave it alone? It didn't work out so I broke it off, that's all."

Steve shrugged and didn't mention it again, helping Bucky to finish the rest of the dishes and telling him stories about some of his weirder relationships until he managed to crack a smile again.

This was the final straw, Steve had finally crossed the line. He could come into his home, sleep in his bed, charm his parents, but take away his right of choosing the first movie of the Christmas holiday? That was a step too far.

"But it's not fair."

"James honestly, you are 21 years old. Stop being such a child."

"But I'm supposed to chose a movie."

"Steve's a guest, and that means he gets to chose."

"But mooooooooooom-"

"James!"

Bucky huffed and begrudgingly handed Steve the remote, folding his arms grumpily and ignoring Steve's sniggering. "What kind of movie do you want?"

"Just don't put on anything that'll make you cry."

"Bucky, everything makes you cry."

He shot his dad a look, making him crack up and lean back in his armchair. His mom was also sniggering next to him and he huffed again, trying to block them out.

"So you don't like sad movies?"

"Or movies that are happy to the point where I cry."

"Ever seen Marley & Me? It has puppies."

"I like puppies."

"Then you will love this."

Bucky shrugged, pulling Meg onto his lap and letting Steve put his arm around his shoulder.

"WHAT THE FUCK?!"

"JAMES!"

"But why? Why did that happen? Steve what the hell?"

Bucky had long since given up trying to hide the fact that he had been very heavily emotionally compromised. Even Meg had run off after getting fed up of him crying into his fur. Steve was killing himself laughing next to him and he whacked him hard in the chest.

"Are you okay?" He sniggered, squeezing Bucky's shoulder.

"Oh yeah, I'm great. I'm peachy."

"C'mere."

"Get your sick, puppy murdering hands away from me." Bucky protested, although he didn't put up much of a fight as Steve wrapped his arms around him and pulled him over, letting him bury his head in his chest. He felt Steve kiss the top of his head and he opened his mouth to tell him to get off, but all that came out was a ridiculously embarrassing whimpering sound.

"I'm sorry, I just needed to see how you'd react."

"You're such an asshole." He choked out, ignoring Steve's chest shaking as he laughed again.

"Yeah but you still invited me here for Christmas, so I can't be that bad."

"I put up with you."

Steve just hummed and started running his fingers through Bucky's hair which, although he didn't want to admit it, helped calm him down again pretty quickly, and he nuzzled against him, closing his eyes while Steve carried on stroking his hair.

"Does this mean you forgive me?"

"No."

"Guess I'll have to make it up to you, huh?" Steve murmured, nuzzling at Bucky's ear and smirking.

"Please don't talk like that in front of my mother."

"You two are adorable."

"Don't encourage him, ma." He grumbled, sitting back up a little so he could see his mom as she yawned and shrugged.

"Your father and I are gonna hit the hay and-"

"We are?"

"Yes. And I swear if I find Steve on the couch again I am taking you to the doctors."

Bucky shrugged and leant back against Steve while his mom and dad disappeared up the stairs. "Maybe I should sleep on the couch instead." He said, looking up. Steve smirked at him and shook his head, yawning as he pushed himself to his feet.

"I think I can handle it." He smiled and held out a hand to help Bucky up, following him into his bedroom. Bucky wasn't sure if it would be weird to take his jeans off when he was sharing the bed, but when Steve stripped his off, along with yet another plaid shirt that he'd been wearing, he took that as a sign that it was okay. Steve was sickeningly comfortable with this whole thing, and it made Bucky feel like the weird one for being slightly uncomfortable getting into bed with him, but he tried to ignore him and found a position where he might not snore quite so much.

Chapter Text

It was unusually warm when Bucky woke up, and it wasn't until he opened his eyes that he realised his face was pressed into Steve's chest. Their legs were tangled together and Steve's arms were wrapped loosely around Bucky's waist, holding him in place. Usually when Bucky woke up like this he made an effort to get away as soon as possible, but something about how warm he felt having Steve's arms around him made him stay where he was, nuzzling against his chest and closing his eyes again, just listening to his heartbeat for a few minutes until Steve started stirring.

"Morning." He heard Steve murmur, and, god why did he sound so hot? One of the hands left his waist and Bucky looked up to see Steve running the hand through his hair and smiling down at him sleepily. "This is cosy."

"Should I move?"

"If you want to."

Damn him. Bucky huffed and stayed where he was, ignoring Steve's smug laughter. "That was easy."

"Shut up."

"You know, if you want hugs you can just ask."

"I said shut up, you jerk." Bucky mumbled, thumping Steve's shoulder with his fist and narrowing his eyes at him.

"Your one night hook-ups not get this cuddly then?"

"Are you judging me?"

"No!"

"Well I usually kick them out before they get the chance to- don't look at me like that!" He snapped, narrowing his eyes at Steve who raised his hands defensively.

"Like what?"

"Like I'm the biggest slut to ever grace the planet."

"It's not that."

"Then what?"

"I just..." Steve trailed off, shrugging, and Bucky had to prod him in the shoulder a couple of times before he carried on. "Don't you think you deserve a little more than that?"

Bucky hadn't expected that and he paused, blinking up at him with a dumb expression on his face. "I... I don't..." He couldn't think of any way to respond that didn't make him sound like an idiot, so he gave up and dropped his head back onto Steve's chest, sighing when he felt Steve's fingers weave their way into his hair. Neither of them said anything for the next ten minutes and Bucky was close to falling asleep again when his bedroom door flew open, making Meg, who he hadn't even realised was in the room, yelp and leap onto the bed.

"Morning!"

"Ma, there's this crazy concept called knocking. Perhaps you've heard of it?"

"Shush." His mom said, walking around the room and throwing the curtains open. "You need to get up."

"Yeah, figured that." Bucky grumbled, wriggling out of Steve's arms and sitting up. "You know what would be great after months of getting up for college? A lie in."

"You can have that tomorrow."

"What's wrong with now?"

"Your aunt Ida's coming over in an hour." That made him pause, and he narrowed his eyes at her. "She's bringing her baby."

"Yay!"

"And her husband."

"Ugh."

"What did you expect? Did you think she was just going to leave him at home?"

"Yes."

"James-"

"He's a homophobic douchebag."

"He just thinks you're childish, which you can be."

"He called me a faggotty piece of shit and threatened to beat me with a club?"

"Well he comes anywhere near you and I'll beat him myself. I just thought you'd want to see Becky, otherwise I would have had them round before you got back."

Bucky frowned at her and she shrugged, turning on her heel and walking back out. He felt Steve's arms wrap back around his waist, pulling him back down against his chest.

"So we should totally be extra gay today."

"Steve no."

"Steve yes."

"Steve-"

"Oh we are gonna blow this guy's mind with how fucking gay we are."

"I don't think that's a good idea he might-"

"I can't wait, let's go! I call first dibs on the shower."

Steve rolled Bucky off him and practically jumped to his feet. "It's my shower, you can't call dibs on it."

"I just did." He grinned, grabbing some clothes from his bag and disappearing into the bathroom. Within a few minutes he could hear Steve loudly singing Lady Gaga to himself and he smirked, propping himself up on a pillow and waiting until Steve came back out wearing the tightest pair of jeans he'd ever seen and a loose blue shirt. Steve's eyes widened for a second when he saw Bucky grinning smugly at him and he narrowed his eyes. "What?"

"So you hate my pop music, huh?"

"Shut up."

"You hate it so muchthat you sing it in the shower."

"We don't speak of this."

"Whatever, Gaga."

"Oh you asshole."

Bucky chewed on his bottom lip to try and stop himself from laughing too hard, instead just dissolving into a fit of giggles while Steve grabbed a pillow and thumped him over the head with it. "Hey, I'm not judging." He smirked, holding his hands up defensively. Steve didn't look convinced and gave him another whack with the pillow before dropping back onto the bed next to him.

"You gonna get up or do I have to push you out of bed?"

"Can a man not enjoy a few minutes of peace before he gets up?"

"Nope."

Before Bucky could stop him, Steve was forcibly rolling him towards the end of the bed. "Hey! You can't push me out of my own bed!"

"You could at least put up a fight, Buck."

"Oh that's how it's gonna be?" Bucky smirked, shoving Steve's shoulders and wrestling him onto his back. "Don't underestimate me, Rogers."

"Who says I'm underestimating you, Barnes?" Steve grinned as he hooked his fingers into the collar of Bucky's shirt and tugged him down on top of him, not even giving him enough time to gasp before crashing their lips together. There were hands running across his chest to wrap around his arms and he sighed, relaxing the grip he had on Steve's shoulders. The minute he did that Steve locked his hands onto his shoulders, and the next thing Bucky knew he was dropping onto the floor with a thud, with Steve smirking at him from up on the bed.

"You cheated."

"You have morning breath."

"Jerk." Bucky grumbled, pushing himself to his feet and grabbing some clothes before pushing open the bathroom door. He spent longer than he needed to brushing his teeth, and even longer doing nothing other than try not cry at how good the water pressure in his shower was.
When he eventually came back out of the bathroom Steve was rooting through all the bags on the floor with a frustrated look on his face.

"Lose something?"

"Guitar pick. This is like, the 100th one I've bought. I can't hold on to them for more than two weeks before they disappear off the face of the planet."

"I can get you a new one."

"I can get myself one."

"Or you could not be an ungrateful jerk and let me get it."

"If you dare I will shove it up your ass."

"What makes you think I wouldn't enjoy that?" Bucky retorted before even thinking about what was coming out of his mouth. Steve just raised an eyebrow at him, smirking and going back to looking through the bag he was holding. "I don't enjoy having guitar picks up my ass... just for the record."

"And you know that from experience?"

"No!"

Steve cracked up laughing, giving up and dumping the bag back on the floor and heading out into the sitting room, letting Bucky follow behind him.
They were just finishing their breakfast when the doorbell rung and Bucky's aunt, who looked just like a younger version of his mom, bounded through the door and ran over to hug him.

"Buckyyyyy!" She squealed as she wrapped her arms around him and kissed the top of his head. "Sweetie it's been months since I've seen you, you've gotten so handsome!"

"'M pretty sure I look the same as the last time you saw me." Bucky managed to say through the mouthful of toast he was eating. Ida just tutted at him and ruffled his hair, turning and skipping back over to Bucky's mom, who was stood holding the door open.

"So that's aunt Ida?" Steve asked, smirking at him when he nodded. "She's very.. eccentric."

"You get used to her."

"Huh. And is that King Asshole?"

Bucky looked over where Steve was gesturing and saw Ida's husband Bill talking to his dad, who looked laughably unhappy about having to talk to him. "Yeah that's him."

"Great, let's go offend him with our intimacy." Steve grinned and started to get up but Bucky grabbed his arm, holding him back down. "What?"

"You are massively underestimating how he could react."

"And you are massively underestimating what I'll do to him if he lays a finger on you."

The way Steve looked at him when he said that made the breath catch in Bucky's throat, and it took him a few seconds before he managed to get any words out at all. "I... okay then." He stammered, trying not to look to stupid when Steve grabbed his hand and pulled him up off the chair.
Ida was sitting on the couch with her daughter, Rebecca, who Bucky desperately wanted to go and play with, but that would mean letting go of Steve's hand, which he kind of, sort of, didn't want to do. She looked up when they started coming over and glanced at Steve.

"Who's this?"

"Steve. I'm Bucky's-"

"Friend."

"Boyfriend."

Bucky shot him a look and he shrugged, squeezing his hand. Ida beamed a them and went back to trying to get Becky to drink from her bottle without throwing it on the floor. Next to them he heard Bill muttering under his breath and he tried to tug Steve away from him, but he stayed rooted where he was, giving Bill a hard stare before smiling cheerfully and holding his hand out.

"Great to meet you." He grinned. Begrudgingly Bill shook his hand, and Bucky could see Steve's knuckles going white with how tight he was gripping the hand. "You know, last guy who tried to hurt him wound up in hospital." He said nonchalantly, his face staying fixed in that cheery smile. Bill's eyes widened a little when he said it, and when Steve finally let go of his hand he turned and walked to the other side of the room without saying anything.
Bucky couldn't think of a single word to say. He was so focused on what Steve had just said that he barely noticed his mom was talking to them until he heard her snap. "James!"

"What?"

"You boys are still on dish duty."

"There's like, two plates."

"Two plates that need to be washed."

Bucky sighed and dragged Steve back over to the table, grabbing everything they'd used and pulling him into the kitchen. "So where the hell did that come from?"

"Where did what come from?"

"That whole hospital spiel."

"Did you think John Allerdyce threw himself down a flight of stairs?"

"I... what?" Bucky paused, thinking back to Halloween and the state John had been in a few days later when he came to apologise. "That was you?"

"Who did you think it was?"

"I didn't... why would you do that?"

Steve shrugged and started scrubbing one of the plates, leaving Bucky to stand next to him awkwardly. "Because he was an asshole. I don't like bullies, 'specially if they're hurting my friends."

"Huh. Thanks."

He shrugged again and Bucky pulled himself up onto the counter, leaving Steve to wash up on his own. They both fell silent for a few minutes before Steve spoke again. "Are all the guys you sleep with like that?"

"What? No, not all of them."

"But some of them?"

"Does it matter?"

"Yes, Bucky, it matters." Steve sighed, stacking the plates up and turning to look at him. Bucky looked down at his hands and tried to ignore the way Steve was looking at him, and the way it was making his stomach tie itself in a knot.

"We should get back." He mumbled, hopping down from the counter and heading back into the sitting room before Steve could reply.
Becky was walking around when he came out, toddling after Meg who couldn't walk much faster than she could. "She's walking?!"

"James, she's a year old."

"WHAT?!"

"You were here for her birthday."

"I'm having a midlife crisis."

"You are 21 years old, James." His mom muttered, shaking her head at him from where she was sitting on the couch. Bucky ignored her and sat down on the floor, holding his arms out and trying to coax Becky over.

"Bex. C'mon, I'm way more interesting than my cat. Meg help me out here."

Meg glanced around when he heard his name, and started hobbling over to where Bucky was sitting, leading Becky along behind him.

"You know it's kinda creepy that he seems to understand you." Steve said, sitting down on the floor next to him despite the amount of empty space on the couch.

"'Course he understands me, don'tcha Megs?"

Meg mewed at him and he mewed back, scratching the cat between his ears until he purred and curled up by his knee. Becky waddled over and dropped down by his feet. "Kiy?"

"Key?"

Becky stuck out her bottom lip in frustration. "Ki'y."

"Oh, kitty? Kitty's here." He grinned, pointing to where Meg was lying and grabbing Becky's hands to pull her onto his lap. "Kitty's sleeping. You wore him out, Bex."

"Kiy?"

"His name's Meg."

"Eg."

"Close enough."

"Maybe she'd find Megatron easier to pronounce."

"Steve I will throw this child at you."

Steve sniggered at him, shaking his head and leaning back on his hands. "Still not over Megatron."

"You're a jerk." Bucky muttered, turning back to Becky. He hooked his hands under her arms and turned her around so she was facing him, looking up at him with big blue eyes. "Hey gorgeous, did you miss me? Do you even remember me?"

"Aga."

"'Scuse me?"

She responded by wriggling forward and hooking her hands into the collar of his shirt, trying to scramble up him until he put his hand underneath her to hold her up. "Bex what are you even doing?"

"Agaa."

"Yeah, you said that already." He said, trying to unhook her hands from his shirt. She put up quite a fight for a toddler, and it took him a while to get her to let go, ignoring Steve's sniggering from next to him. "Okay so if you're talking a little now can you say 'Bucky'?"

"Bug."

"Did you even try?"

"I think Bug suits you better."

"I swear to god, Rogers, I will rip your still beating heart from your chest and-"

"Buck, can you not talk about cold blooded murder with a toddler in your lap?" His dad said from in front of him, looking at him with his eyebrow raised. Bucky grinned up at him and he rolled his eyes, holding up a DVD. "You wanna watch The Little Mermaid?"

"YES!"

"I was talking to the baby, Bucky."

"Oh."

Steve cracked up next to him, lying on his back and shaking with laughter until Bucky hit him. His dad just stared at him in disbelief for a few seconds before scooping Becky up from his lap and carrying her over to the TV.

"Bucky you are the greatest person I've ever met."

"I'd be flattered if you weren't rolling around on the floor laughing as you said that."

"C'mon, princess, let's go watch your movie."

"I wasn't kidding about ripping your heart out." Bucky grumbled, begrudgingly taking the hand Steve offered to help him to his feet. There was only one seat left on the couch and Bucky tried to shove him out of the way to get to it. "Looks like you're on the floor, jerk."

"Over my dead body."

"Excu- hey get off me!" Bucky protested as Steve grabbed his hips, sitting down on the couch and pulling him onto his lap. "I'm not a lap dog."

"Uh huh."

"Steve, I am a grown ass man. Let go of me."

"No." Steve sniggered, wrapping his arms tightly around Bucky's waist and holding him in place. Bucky kicked his legs out in protest but eventually accepted defeat and sat still, trying not to sigh too audibly when Steve kissed up his neck to his ear. "Your uncle looks like his head's about to explode." He whispered, nodding over to where Bill was sitting, glaring at them from the other end of the couch.

"You always this suicidal?"

"I'm not suicidal, just a reckless adrenaline junkie."

"What you are is insane." Bucky muttered, leaning back against Steve's chest and wriggling around to try and get comfortable on his lap, which turned out to be easier than he'd expected.
Steve was clearly determined to grind Bill's gears as much as possible, and every time they saw him glance over at them he would go back to kissing and nuzzling Bucky's neck, making him cringe and look away again. Then Steve would giggle into his shoulder and Bucky would try not to seem too disappointed that he'd stopped kissing him again.

After a few more hours and several more Disney movies that Bucky had to pretend not to know all the words to, his aunt insisted they had to go home, although she had to physically pull Rebecca out of Bucky's arms before she could.

"Mom, I wanna have a baby."

"You're gonna have to grow a uterus for that, sweetheart."

"Dammit."

The next couple of days passed relatively smoothly, and Bucky managed to avoid freaking out too much every time Steve kissed him, except for the one time he'd pressed him against the kitchen wall and dug his fingers into his arms, and Bucky had shoved him away without thinking, almost knocking him off his feet. But rather than freak out like Bucky had expected him to, Steve had just apologised and come back over, wrapping his arms around him loosely and kissing his forehead until he got his breath back, and was a lot more gentle after that.
But Bucky wasn't worried about that, because he had much more important things to be concerned about, and by Friday he knew he couldn't put it off anymore.

"Mom! We are not shopping for dresses, c'mon."

"Hang on, I need to try it on."

"Jesus, Ma, you are so easily distract- oh my god this jacket."

Shopping with his mom was never easy, they'd already been out for an hour and had bought a grand total of nothing so far. It didn't help that his dad was an absolute nightmare to buy for, and that they both had the attention span of a goldfish.

"So what are you gonna get for Steve?"

"Huh? I don't know."

"What do you mean you don't know? You must have thought about it. What does he like? And will you put that jacket down!"

"But look at it."

"You have a leather jacket."

"I knoooow, but mine's all scuffed and-."

"Put. It. Down."

Bucky stuck out his bottom lip at her and she frowned, folding her arms and tapping her foot until he reluctantly hung the jacket back up on the rack. "You're the worst."

"Maybe I'll just get you nothing at all for Christmas then?"

"Love you."

"That's what I thought." His mom said, smirking and dragging him out of the clothes shop that he wasn't entirely sure why they entered in the first place.
The mall wasn't as crowded as he'd expected, considering it was the last Friday before Christmas, but there were still a lot of people swarming around them and Bucky had to focus on the conversation to stop himself from panicking. "So what are you gonna get him?"

"I don't know. What do guys like?"

She stared at him for a few seconds in disbelief before shaking her head and sighing. "Surely you must have some idea of what he might want. What's he studying?"

"Art."

"What kind of art?"

"There's more than one kind?"

"James, you've been dating him for two months, just what exactly do you know about him?"

"I know his name."

"Do you know what music he likes?"

"Rubbish music, probably."

"Do you know his birthday?"

"...No."

"How can you not know his birthday!? What the hell do you two talk about!?"

"Well I know it's not in October, November, or December."

"Lord have mercy."

Bucky couldn't stop himself from giggling at him mom's despairing face and she hit him lightly with her purse, pulling him back so she could stare in the window of a jewellers. "Ma we are not-"

"I'm just giving you present ideas."

"I don't need present ideas for you, you're happy with anything that sparkles or smells good."

His mom frowned at him but didn't bother trying to argue, leaving Bucky to ponder present ideas. He knew his dad would probably be satisfied with anything that could get him drunk, but Steve was driving him crazy, and his mom wanted him to think of something that she could get him too. Considering Steve was meant to be here to reduce his holiday stress, he was certainly stressing Bucky out.

"Mom I have literally no idea what to get him. I'm gonna throw myself off a cliff."

"You'll think of something."

"I have less than a week." He sighed and pulled his phone out of his pocket and she glared at him.

"Are you cheating?"

"No! I'm texting Clint."

She narrowed his eyes at him but he ignored her and typed out a text.

Clint, you are a straight male aged 18-25, what kind of stuff do people buy you?

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

This is not funny I'm getting a fucking aneurysm I didn't sign up for this

You kind of did sign of for this..

Shut up and help me you asshole

Aw he's stressing you out :)

CLINT I SWEAR TO GOD I WILL FUCKING END YOU IF YOU DO NOT HELP ME THINK OF PRESENT IDEAS GODAMMIT

Dude I don't fucking know get him some artsy shit or something

Okay okay that's a start

And stop freaking out

I'M NOT FREAKING OUT

YOU ARE FREAKING OUT

BUT WHAT IF I GET HIM SOMETHING BAD AND HE HATES ME FOREVER

JESUS FUCKING CHRIST BUCKY HE IS NOT GOING TO GIVE A SHIT JUST GET HIM SOME ART STUFF

OKAY I'M GONNA GET ART STUFF

OKAY

OKAY

Bucky shoved his phone back into his pocket and looked around for an art shop, dragging his mom over to the first one he spotted. Once inside he realised he had absolutely no idea what he was doing and turned around to her with a confused look on his face.

"I have no idea."

"What sort of stuff have you seen him do?"

"I've only seen his sketches."

"That's a start. I'm gonna go look for something for your father so I'll see you in half an hour."

"Ma I can't do this alone."

"Have fun!" She smirked, waving and disappearing back out the door. Bucky sighed and turned back to the rack of art supplies, racking his brain for anything Steve might have mentioned he needed.

"James, how much stuff did you buy?"

His mom had been lying about finding something for his dad, and Bucky had eventually managed to find her in a nearby shoe shop surrounded by open boxes. He looked down at the bags in his hand and scratched the back of his neck, shrugging. "I panicked and bought like, $100 worth of art supplies."

"And yet you still wonder why we don't trust you with large amounts of money."

"No but I think I got some good stuff, plus I found this." He sat down next to her and rifled through the bags until he found the guitar pick he'd spotted in a shop window on his way over. "'Cause he lost his the other day and he said he kept losing all the ones he buys but this one has a strap so he can keep it round his neck and then he won't lose it do you think he'll like it?"

"I'm sure he will."

"I think I did okay?"

"You're so cute, Jamie."

"I am not cute. I am manly and intimidating."

"Whatever you say, sweetheart."

Bucky narrowed his eyes at her and she smirked, pulling off the shoes she'd been trying on and looking for the box they came from. "We're not meant to be shoe shopping, ma."

"I need some for Tony's party tomorrow."

"You have like 20 pairs of shoes."

"But none that match the dress I bought."

"Why did you even need to buy a new dress?"

"Says the boy who has about 30 pairs of identical skinny jeans."

"They aren't identical, they're similar."

"Well I'm getting these, so suck it up." She stated, standing up with the box in her hand and marching over to the counter, leaving Bucky to try and work out where all the other boxes were meant to go.

"So did you actually get anything for dad?" He asked after she came back over, trying to glance into her bags as he picked them up.

"Overpriced liquor."

"Perfect."

She smirked at him and he followed her out. "Do we need anything else."

"I need food."

"You always need food, James."

"I can't help it, I'm hungry. Can't we get cake?"

"No."

"But I want caaaaaaaake."

"There will be cake at the party tomorrow."

"Moooooooooooooom."

"James Buchanan Barnes will you grow up!"

Bucky huffed and continued to grumble as his mom dragged him around a few more shops, trying to convince her to get him some food in almost every place they went.

"Mom look, they sell chocolate."

"You are 21 years old and you still want me to buy you checkout sweets?"

"Yes."

"Fine, if you shut up."

"Yessssss." He grinned, pumping the air as he grabbed a handful of chocolate bars and handed them to her, ignoring the stern look on her face.

"You know you'll get fat if you keep eating this many sweets."

"I think I'm good."

Bucky lifted up his shirt a little and gestured to his abs, sniggering when his mom hit his arm. "We are in public, James."

"People would pay money to see this, quit trying to censor my body."

His mom hit his arm again and frowned, pulling him over to the checkout while he tried to stop giggling. Bucky leant back against the counter, barely noticing the girl behind it until she started talking to him.

"Bucky?"

He turned around and glanced at the short, freckled girl behind the checkout. "Do I know you?"

"We went to high school together."

"Is that supposed to make me want to talk to you?"

"Hey, I never did anything to you. I was Jasper Sitwell's girlfriend."

"Oh that asshole."

"James." His mom said sternly, not looking up. The girl narrowed her eyes at him and he shrugged.

"Why are you talking shit about my fiancé?"

"You're marrying him? Wow. Have fun with that one. Try to keep him away from the kitchen knives."

"Excuse me?"

Bucky shrugged again and rolled the sleeve of his shirt up, lifting his left arm up so she could see the scarring on the inside of it. "Congrats on your engagement, even if he is a fucking psycho." He said, putting his arm back down and faking a grin before turning to leave, walking for about five minutes before his mom managed to catch up.

"Sweetheart-"

"Do you need to get anything else?"

"No but-"

"Good, then we can go home?" It was more of a statement than a question, and he marched ahead of her before she could answer, heading out into the parking lot to find his car.

"Did you want to get some dinner?"

"'M not hungry."

"Ten minutes ago you wouldn't stop complaining that you were starving."

"Yeah but I'm not now."

"Jamie-"

"So how do you think I should wrap up the thousands of things I bought for Steve, and by I, I mean you, because I can't wrap to save my life." He said loudly, determined to change the subject. His mom opened her mouth to say something and then paused, sighing.

"Maybe we should get a basket or something to put it in."

"It's not Easter."

"Baskets are not a seasonal thing." She murmured and Bucky shrugged, neither of them saying anything else for the rest of the drive back.
They got back in the middle of an intense game of cards between Steve and Bucky's dad, although they seemed to be spending more time staring suspiciously at one another than actually playing. Steve looked up when they came in and beamed at him, although his smile soon faded after he locked eyes with Bucky and he got up, walking over to where he was standing.

"You alright?"

Clearly what Bucky had thought was a pretty good poker face, was in fact quite the opposite. "Yeah I'm fine, just tired. You're really difficult to shop for." Despite what he said, he didn't stop himself from leaning forward and pressing his forehead against Steve's chest, letting him wrap his arms around him and kiss the top of his head.

"You know you didn't have to get me something."

"Yeah I did."

"You sure you're okay?" He asked, running a hand through Bucky's hair. Bucky just hummed and nuzzled against him, soaking up the attention for a few minutes. "You know I actually find it more worrying when you willingly snuggle up to me?"

"I'm okay, Steve."

"Maybe you should get some sleep."

Bucky nodded and tore himself away from Steve, heading into his bedroom. He didn't even bother to get changed before climbing into the bed and curling up tightly under the covers, trying to ignore the dull ache he could feel in the scar on his arm.

 

 

Chapter Text

There were too many people in the school corridor and Bucky could already feel his heart rate rising. He pressed himself back into a corner and pulled the hood of his jacket up in an effort to look less noticeable, counting in his head all the threats he'd gotten throughout the day.
Most of them were empty, he knew that, despite what a small part of his brain was telling him, and he'd already seen most of the people who were supposedly going to beat him into the ground grab their bags and disappear. He wanted to go home but there were still too many people, if he moved now he risked bumping into somebody. So he waited, for what felt like hours. Letting people push and shove past him and praying they didn't focus on his face.
Eventually the corridor emptied out a bit and nobody had given him so much as a second glance, plus there had been no sign of Rumlow all afternoon which was a victory in itself. He swung his bag over his shoulder and headed down the corridor, looking down at the ground every time he walked past someone. For a few brief seconds it looked like he was going to make it out of the building without any trouble, but moments later he felt a hand on his shoulder, gripping onto him when he tried to flinch away.

"Did you think I was joking earlier, Barnesy?" A voice hissed in his ear and he froze, swallowing hard. He couldn't remember which threat had been Jasper's, there were too many. Was it him who'd threatened to break his legs? Or blind him? Jesus he needed to sort his life out.
He was so used to it by now that he barely even noticed Jasper slamming him back against the lockers, holding him by the collar of his shirt. Bucky just sighed and didn't bother to struggle.

"Don't you get bored?"

"You just tire of everything that doesn't involve having a dick up your ass, right?"

"I'm gay, not desperate." He muttered, trying not to react too much as Jasper drove a fist into his stomach.

"What you are is disgusting."

After a few more punches Jasper stepped away from him a bit and Bucky took that as a sign he'd lost interest in punching him in the face, pushing himself away from the locker and turning to walk away from him as he wiped the blood away from his mouth. But the break was short-lived and he was soon aware of Jasper looming behind him, ducking out of the way just in time to avoid the hand that was swiping out at him.
Jasper growled in frustration and shoved him back into the wall, sending a jolt of pain through his shoulders as they smashed against the brick. His vision blurred for a second and he grunted in pain, just barely aware of the light reflecting off something in Jasper's hand. It took a few seconds for him to focus and realise there was a knife being held inches away from him, making his breath catch in his throat.

"What the fuck are you doing?!"

"Teaching you a lesson, faggot."

"You're insane."

Jasper slapped him hard across the face with his empty hand and Bucky barely had time to recover before the knife was coming straight at his face. Oh, it had been Jasper who'd threatened to blind him. Instinctively his threw his arm up in front of his face to block the knife and suddenly there was a fierce, sharp pain, and he couldn't stop himself from screaming out.

Everything was dark and he whipped his head from side to side, unable to get any air into his lungs. His throat was burning and the pain in his arm was bringing tears to his eyes, making him whimper and tremble uncontrollable. A hand grabbed his shoulder and he shrieked, slapping it away from him.

"Whoa, whoa. Bucky it's me, I'm not gonna hurt you."

He knew the voice but he couldn't place it. His chest was impossibly tight and he was going lightheaded as he tried desperately to suck a few breaths in. The hand was on his shoulder again, but just barely.

"Bucky, hey. You're okay." The voice came again and he heard shuffling. Now there were hands on both his shoulders, and he could just make out the shape of somebody sitting in front of him in the moonlight coming through his window and could see familiar blue eyes looking into his.

"S... Ste..." He tried to get the name out but every syllable scraped painfully against his throat. The hands squeezed his shoulders gently and nudged him forward, coaxing him to shuffle over a little.

"Yeah it's me, Buck. I'm here." Steve said softly, taking a hand off his shoulder and using it to brush some of the hair out of Bucky's face. Bucky tried to respond again but the burning in his lungs was almost excruciating now and the only noises that came out of his mouth were chokes and gasps. "You need to breathe, Bucky. Just relax."

"C... can't."

"Yeah you can, just copy what I do."

Bucky could hear Steve loudly taking deep breaths and he tried to match him, gradually persuading his lungs to let in a few small, shaky breaths, dulling the burning pain in his chest.

"You want me to put the light on?" Steve whispered after Bucky's breathing was somewhat normal and he nodded, shivering when the warm hands left his shoulders so Steve could shuffle back around and turn one of the bedside lamps on.
The minute Bucky could see he lifted his arm up to examine his scar, unable to believe the intense pain he could feel was just in his head. "You hurt your arm?"

He snapped his head back up and saw Steve facing him again, his eyes flicking from him to his arm. "No, I... ages ago it..." His head was still struggling to form legible sentences and he sighed, looking down at the bed. Steve came back over to him and wrapped a hand gently around his wrist, stretching his arm out so the scar was visible. "It hurts." He said quietly, sighing when Steve started gently running his hand over the scarring.

"That helping?"

Bucky just nodded, closing his eyes as the pain gradually faded. "Sorry." He mumbled after a few minutes.

"For what?"

"Waking you up."

"You're ridiculous, you know that? C'mere." Steve hooked his hands under Bucky's arms and practically lifted him over, although he didn't protest because he was still too shaky to move much on his own. As soon as he was close enough he leant his head against Steve's chest, letting out a content noise when his arms wrapped around him and held him just tightly enough. As Steve started rubbing small circles against his back something inside him caved, and he just barely managed to bite back a whimper before breaking down and sobbing uncontrollably into Steve's shirt. "Hey, you're okay. I've got you."

Bucky trembled against him, reaching a hand up to cling onto Steve's shirt and letting out a muffled whine when he started stroking his hair. Steve kept his other arm wrapped tightly around him, rubbing his back gently and whispering softly into his ear. It took a few minutes for Bucky to calm down again enough to get any words out, and what he did manage to say mostly came out as chokes and sobs. "I p-probably should've w-warned you about this shit."

"Don't worry about it, Buck." Steve murmured, pressing a kiss to his forehead. "This happen a lot?"

"Not as often as it used to." He looked up to see Steve frowning at him and sighed, nuzzling against him. "My last year of high school was pretty shitty. This was from some jackass coming at me with a knife and-"

"What!?"

"It was three years ago, Steve-"

"And he just got away with it!?"

"It doesn't matter."

"Of course it matters!"

"I got transferred after that. I'd been doing a pretty good job of keeping the whole thing under wraps from my parents but... a stab wound kinda gives you away."

"Jesus, Bucky." Steve sighed, squeezing Bucky a little tighter and kissing his head again. He didn't say anything and tried to snuggle closer to him, although that was practically impossible as he was already pressed tightly against his chest. For a while it was quiet as Bucky closed his eyes and tried to stop himself having another mini breakdown. Steve seemed to notice and started rubbing his back again, pressing his face into Bucky's hair, and soon Bucky could hear him singing softly which seemed to relax him more than he ever thought possible.

"But I don't know how to leave you, and I'll never let you fall."

Bucky wriggled around a little bit so he could hear him better, trying to work out what he was singing.

"And I don't know how you do it, making love out of nothing at all."

"Dude, are you singing Air Supply?"

Steve shrugged, sniggering when Bucky raised an eyebrow at him. "It was the first thing that came into my head, I don't fucking know."

"Of course you would immediately think of the gayest band of the 80s."

"I think Queen were arguably the gayest band of the 80s."

"Whoa there, Stevie. Don't you go criticising-"

"I mean Freddie Mercury was unbelievably gay. I'm not using it as an insult."

"For your information he was bi. But I take your point." Bucky smirked and Steve shook his head, going back to stroking his hair.

"You feeling okay yet?"

"If I say yes will you stop touching my hair? Because if so then no I still feel terrible."

"Wow, did you just actually admit to enjoying this?"

"Shut up. I just like having my hair messed around with."

"Whatever you say." Steve murmured, shifting them around so he could lie back on the pillows but not taking his fingers out of Bucky's hair.

"You know, you handled this a lot better than most people do. When I first started at college I got through 3 roommates who all ended up switching because they couldn't put up with me waking up in the middle of the night screaming about one thing or another. It was happening pretty much every night back then. Then Clint got put in with me and I damn near gave him a panic attack the first night, but once he'd stopped swearing he came down, sat on the end of my bed, and told me stories about all the pranks his older brother had managed to play on him during the Summer."

"That's adorable."

"He'd punch you straight in the face if you said that to him." Bucky mumbled, smirking and shuffling up so he could nestle his face in the crook of Steve's neck. He could feel Steve shaking as he laughed and he draped an arm sleepily over his chest, snuggling back up to him. His eyes desperately wanted to close and he knew if he let them he'd probably fall asleep straight away, but he also knew if he let himself fall asleep he'd just go through the exact same thing again so he tried to think of something to distract him. "So, uh, my mom was yelling at me earlier because I've supposedly been dating you for two months and I don't know your birthday."

"You're gonna think I'm joking if I tell you."

"Why? Is it April Fools or something?"

"No, it's-"

"Oh god please tell me it's not Christmas Day."

"No! Jesus do you really think I'd be that cruel? It's the 4th of July."

"Wow."

"Told you."

"That's... very patriotic."

"Oh yeah. I'm America's golden boy." Steve said in a deadpan voice, making Bucky dissolve into giggles. "So when's yours?"

"March 10th.. it sounds really boring now." He murmured, glancing up to see Steve grin sleepily at him before closing his eyes and nuzzling at his neck.

"You should get some sleep, Bucky."

"I still have knife wielding assholes in the back of my mind."

Steve shrugged and carried on as if the conversation had never been interrupted. "It was pretty convenient for my aunt. 'Cause she didn't really have the money to throw me birthday parties and stuff, but the whole town would be throwing one anyway so we'd just pretend it was for me."

"'M gonna throw you a fucking awesome party this year."

"I'm not a charity, Buck."

"I know. But I just kinda feel like I should throw money at you or something."

"Why don't I get out my stripper pole and we'll make an evening of it."

Bucky started giggling again and for a few minutes he struggled to get any words out, only able to cling onto Steve's shirt and snigger into his neck. Eventually he managed to compose himself again, sighing and curling up into a ball against Steve's chest. "'M gonna need you to keep talking so I don't fall asleep."

"What do you want me to talk about?"

"I don't know. What was your aunt's name?"

"Liz." Steve mumbled quietly, waiting until Bucky nudged him gently with his foot to carry on talking. "My parents died in a car crash when I was three. I was gonna be stuck in an orphanage, but she put up a fight and eventually managed to keep me with her. She barely made enough money to support us both but I think I still preferred that over being taken into a family of complete strangers, you know?"

Bucky just hummed and stayed quiet. He was too tired to form any legible sentences anymore, and he barely noticed when Steve pulled the duvet up over them and switched the lamp off before he went on talking.
For hours he listened to Steve telling him stories about his aunt while he drifted in and out of consciousness. He was just telling how his guitar had been hers originally, and that it was her who'd taught him to play when Bucky shifted so he could look up at him.

"Steve?"

"Jesus, I thought you were asleep?"

"Naw, I was listenin' t'ya." He mumbled through a yawn, rubbing his eyes. "When'd she die?"

"Last October. She went out to get groceries and then the next thing I know there's cops at the door telling me she's been shot..." Steve trailed off and Bucky sat up a little so he could see him chewing his lip and glancing around.

"Steve-"

"Should'a been there."

"It's not your fault."

"No, but I could've stopped it if I was with her."

Bucky huffed and wrapped his arms around Steve's neck, pulling him down so he could kiss his forehead. "You're so- oh shit is that the sun?"

"What?" Steve frowned, looking over at the window where a slither of sunlight was shining through. "Shit."

"We fucked up. Tonight is not gonna be fun."

"Tonight?"

"Oh yeah, we're going to a party."

"Great, thanks for telling me that after I stayed up for almost 24 hours."

"Nah it'll be fine. It's kinda hard to fall asleep at a Stark party."

"Stark?"

"Tony Stark. You may have-"

"Whoa, whoa. Tony Stark? Like, the Tony Stark?"

"Did I never tell you who my dad works for?"

Steve just stared at him for a few seconds in disbelief and Bucky sniggered, nuzzling at his nose subconsciously until he managed to speak. "Buck, I can't go to something like that."

"Why not?"

"For starters I haven't been invited."

"Sure you have. He specifically stated that my dad was to come 'with his family', which, for the time being, includes you. It'll be great, you'll love it."

"But-"

Bucky shushed him before he could keep talking, laying his head back down on Steve's should and closing his eyes. "Reckon we have about 3 hours before my mom comes in and insists we get up."

Steve responded by kissing the top of his head and stroking his hair again, and it didn't take more than a minute for Bucky to black out completely.

It could have been that his parents had heard him wake up last night, or maybe they had just forgotten he existed, but somehow Bucky managed to sleep until noon without anyone coming to wake him up.
When he did wake up Steve was waving a sandwich in front of his face and smiling down at him.

"You want some lunch?"

"Gimme." He mumbled, sitting upright and devouring the sandwich with inhuman speed. "What time is it?" He said in between mouthfuls.

"12:15."

"Fuck."

"I know. You slept for like-"

"No, fuck. I had plans, we need to go out."

"We?"

"Yeah, you need a suit. Can't show up at Stark's place with you looking like a filthy peasant."

"You talk a lot of shit for someone who slept in the same pair of jeans he's been wearing for the past three days."

"Fuck you, they're comfortable."

"Face it, Buck. You're a college bum."

"Excuse you?"

"I'm gonna pick something at random from your wardrobe and I will bet you any amount of money it's something trashy."

"Do it, Rogers." Bucky said stubbornly, leaning back against the headboard and folding his arms. He watched as Steve got up, swung open the door to his wardrobe and stuck his hand in, not looking inside as he grabbed a hanger and pulled it out.

"Amazing."

"What? What did you find."

Steve just sighed and turned around, holding up the grey shirt with 'Free Licks' printed on the front. "Why do you even own this? You don't play guitar."

"I bought it purely for the pornographic undertones." Bucky muttered, looking down at his hands and ignoring Steve's laughter. "That's not a fair representation of my fashion choices."

"I think it's a perfect representation. Looks like I found my outfit for the day."

"You can't wear it! I will refuse to be seen in public with you."

"I am a filthy peasant after all."

"Don't be an asshole."

"I'm putting the shirt on."

Bucky opened his mouth to protest again but stopped when Steve tugged off the shirt he was wearing and put on Bucky's instead. It was just slightly too small for him, making his muscles look ridiculously defined, and Bucky didn't realise he was staring until Steve cleared his throat.

"My eyes are up here."

"Shut up."

"Not so against the shirt now, huh?"

"I am a gay man, Steve. You can't just... display yourself like that."

Steve cracked up laughing and winked at him. "So we going out or do you need to take a cold shower first?"

"No I need to shower." Bucky said, getting up off the bed. "And I mean a normal shower not- I don't need to-"

"I know what you mean." Steve chuckled, flopping down on the bed while Bucky grabbed some clothes and headed into the bathroom as quickly as he could to try and get away from Steve's smug face.
He wanted to shower quickly too, but Tony's party meant he couldn't so he ended up spending almost half an hour in there, already aware of all the snide remarks he'd get from Steve when he came out of the bathroom.

"Enjoy your shower?" Steve grinned, just as expected, when he came back into the bedroom after shaving and putting on some of his less trashy clothes.

"You know what, you are a complete asshole and I hate you."

"Excuse me?"

He spun around and saw his mom standing in the doorway with her arms folded, narrowing her eyes at him. "Uh.. nothing."

"That's what I thought. Going somewhere?"

"Steve and I need tuxes."

"Steve I can understand. You have plenty, why can't you just wear an old one?"

"Why couldn't you just wear an old dress?"

"Fair enough."

"Besides, I need to look good so I can find a rich sugar daddy."

His mom tutted and hit his arm, turning and walking out. Behind him he could hear Steve sniggering to himself on the bed and he spun around, glaring at him. "You're still an asshole. Are you really gonna wear that in public?"

"Yup."

"I hate you so much."

Steve just grinned at him and followed him outside to Bucky's car. "So how come you chose to drive that other piece of shit around at college when you have this?"

"I can't take my baby to Chicago, she'd be wrecked within a week."

"Then what's the point in having it?"

"Because she's pretty and reminds people that I am above them." Bucky shrugged, hopping into the car and smirking at him. "Let's see how much of my parents' money we can throw away on clothes."

"If you're gonna insist on getting me a suit then just get a cheap one."

"Hell no, if you're showing up to this thing as my boyfriend then you're damn well gonna look good."

"Oh so I'm a trophy wife now?"

"Yes."

It turned out that clothes shopping for Steve was like shopping with a five year old. He found something to complain about with just about every suit that Bucky picked out for him, more often than not it would be that it was 'way too expensive'.

"Steve what are you even talking about? This one's cheap."

"You and I have very different ideas of cheap."

"Will you please just try it on, you're giving me a headache. This was meant to be a half hour trip and we've been out for two hours already."

The only thing holding Bucky's sanity together was the brief respite of seeing Steve in a suit every now and again. Regardless of what he said, he looked damn good in them.

"Ooh that one's good."

"You've said that about all of them."

"No but this one's really good."

"Isn't the bow tie a bit much?"

"Bow ties are cool.. or at least they would be if you tied them right."

"Whatever."

Bucky smirked at him and glanced at his watch for the hundredth time. "So you getting that one or what?"

"I guess."

"Good because I need a fucking nap."

Steve rolled his eyes at him and disappeared back into the changing room, coming back out a few minutes later and begrudgingly letting Bucky drag him around so he could finally pay for everything and get the hell out of there.

When they eventually got back his dad raised an eyebrow at them, glancing down at the bags in Bucky's hands. "How long does it take to find one suit?"

Bucky just pointed grumpily over at Steve before dumping the bags in a corner and dropping down onto the couch, curling up into a ball with his head on a cushion. He felt the couch dip next to him and soon Steve's arms were around him, shifting him round so his head was in his lap.

"You okay?"

"You're hard work you know that, Stevie?"

"It's been said." Steve said as he started running his fingers through Bucky's hair, making him sigh and lean into his hand. "You still got a headache?"

"I was joking about that."

"Suit yourself."

"No, wait. What did I just miss out on?"

"Well I was gonna offer you a head rub but-"

"You know, I do feel a headache coming on now that you mention it." Bucky murmured, closing his eyes and nudging at Steve's leg until he started massaging his scalp with his fingers. "This doesn't mean I forgive you for being a whiny ass by the way."

"My heart is breaking."

"I'm gonna ignore that. Anyway, I might forgive you if you agree to be designated driver tonight so I can get wasted on rich people drinks."

"Does that mean I'll get to drive your fancy car?"

"Yes."

"I think I can agree to that."

"If you scratch my car I will cut you and then- Hey Meggy where ya been?"Meg hopped up onto the couch and Bucky snuggled him up in his arms before he could escape, kissing the top of his head until he hit him with his front paw. "How does it feel to no longer be the most pampered creature in the household? Don't give me that sad look I still love you. I am not a sap!"

"Are you done being a crazy cat lady?"

"Excuse me I am having an intelligent conversation with my cat."

"Uh huh."

"Don't listen to him, Megs. He loves you."

Meg mewed at him and rolled around in his arms so Bucky could bury his face in the fur on the back of his neck, closing his eyes again and letting Steve carry on with his head rub.

He didn't remember falling asleep again, but the next thing he knew Steve was squeezing his shoulder and telling him they had an hour to get ready.

"What? It's like 4 o'clock."

"Bucky, it's 6:30."

"Fuck."

"Yeah, you were completely out. I had a one sided conversation with you for about half an hour before I realised you were asleep."

Bucky grumbled as he stretched out on the couch, cracking almost every joint in his body in the process and making Steve wince. "Where is everyone?"

"Your parents went upstairs after giving me orders to wake you up and your cat ran off after you started drooling on him." Steve shrugged, running a hand through Bucky's hair and then shoving at his shoulder. "C'mon, my legs went to sleep almost an hour ago. You fidget like crazy in your sleep."

Begrudgingly Bucky pushed himself up off the couch and scratched the back of his neck, sniggering as Steve tried to move his legs from the position he was in. He grabbed the bags that he'd left in the corner of the room and tossed one over to him before heading through his bedroom door and into the bathroom to get dressed.

"Okay be honest." He said once he came back out into the bedroom. "Is it obvious I've only been conscious for three and a half hours today?"

Steve looked him up and down and shrugged. "I think you could pull off five hours."

"You flatter me. And you still haven't done your damn tie right. Didn't you ever go to prom?" Bucky sighed, walking over to where he was standing and undoing Steve's tie, trying to do it up despite his frustrated fidgeting.

"My aunt did it when I went to prom."

"Wow. It's time you became a man, Stevie. And would ya stay still?" Bucky muttered, looking up at Steve and pausing when their eyes met. He could have sworn Steve's eyes flicked down to his lips for a second, but he told himself he'd imagined it and tore his eyes away, going back to doing up Steve's tie. "There! Now you're perfect." He grinned, patting Steve's shoulders before turning on his heel and pulling him out into the sitting room where his parents were stood waiting for them.

"You took your time." His mom commented, raising an eyebrow at him accusingly.

"It's not my fault if blondie over here doesn't know how to dress himself."

"Of course. Well we'll see you there then."

Bucky narrowed his eyes at her as she and his dad disappeared through the front door.

"Okay, I'm confused. Why aren't we just driving there with them?"

"Because ma thinks her shitty car can beat my baby, and I need to prove her wrong."

"You race your parents?"

"Yes."

"How many times have you beaten her?"

"So far... never. But one day I will." He smirked, leading Steve back out to his car and ignoring his mom impatiently revving her engine in the car behind his.

His parents ended up beating him by about 5 minutes, but that was only because he got stuck behind a red light and dammit it was not his fault. Despite this, his mom still gave him a smug grin when he pulled up outside Stark tower, and Steve did his best not to laugh at him.

"Ma you cheated."

"I didn't cheat, you just can't keep up with me."

"You two are unbelievable." His dad muttered, leading the way inside.

"So is there like, etiquette that I need to follow here?" Steve asked as they got in the elevator. Bucky just snorted and rolled his eyes.

"Yeah, don't be lame."

"Great, thanks."

"You are massively overreacting to this entire situation."

"I am about to casually show up at some billionaires house, I think I'm justified in freaking out a tiny bit. I thought you weren't a party person anyway?"

"Yeah but family parties aren't exactly the same thing are they?"

"What?"

Before Bucky could answer the elevator doors opened and they were greeted by a crowd of people in tuxes and dresses. Bucky recognised most of them from other parties he'd been to, but there were some new faces too.

"They all look way too rich for me to be in their presence."

"Honestly, Stevie, you're probably more mature than half the people here."

As if to prove a point, almost ten seconds later he heard a familiar voice behind them yelling, "GEORGIE!"

"TONAAAY" His dad yelled back. Bucky turned around just in time to see Tony wrap his dad up in a tight bear hug and winking at his mom.

"Dude, why is your dad on first name basis with Tony Stark?"

Bucky wasn't really paying Steve much attention and he cleared his throat loudly, making Tony look up and beam at him.

"How dare you not tell me you were home!"

"Surpriiiiise." He grinned, letting Tony throw his arms around him and almost squeeze the life out of him.

"This is great. How are you? Still hittin' and quittin' it?"

"No, he's monogamous right now." His mom said from behind them. Tony stared at him for a few moments in disbelief.

"No way? Who with?"

"The cute blonde looking like a rabbit in headlights." Bucky smirked, gesturing behind him at Steve and trying not to laugh at his facial expression when Tony grabbed his hand, shaking it enthusiastically.

"You must be a hell of a guy to keep this one still for more than one night."

"He certainly doesn't stay still, that's for sure."

"Sexual innuendos around a Fortune 500 CEO?"

"If you wanna take it that way."

"I don't, but I'm sure Bucky does."

"Ew, please stop." Bucky said, grimacing. Tony just grinned at him and squeezed his shoulder.

"You're such a prude, Buck. I'll be back in a few, I have about 100 other people to engage in one minute conversations with so they know I appreciate their working for me. And- shit I hired someone to play piano. This is why you should tell me when you're coming. I can get rid of him."

Tony seemed to mostly be mumbling to himself now as he waved and disappeared back into the crowd, leaving Bucky to turn back to Steve and snigger. "You're making sex jokes in front of rich people, I'm so proud."

"I only meant you're a fidget, and then it kinda got away from me. This is your fault."

"Stevie-"

"Why is he giving you hugs anyway, I thought you said he was your dad's boss?"

"Steve-"

"People don't just hug their parents' bosses, especially when said boss is Tony Stark."

"Steve!"

"What?"

"He's my godfather."

"WHAT!?"

"My dad's known him since school, he's practically my second father. I was gonna tell you before but just telling you we were going to his party seemed to blow your mind so I figured I'd wait."

"I... I have nothing to say."

Bucky grinned and elbowed him gently in the ribs, giggling when Steve narrowed his eyes at him. "C'mon, I need a drink."

His body hadn't registered quite how hungry he was until he was faced with two buffet tables, and he and Steve ended up spending a good hour just loitering around them so that Bucky could cram as much food into his mouth as possible and watch Steve get excited about the 'rich people snacks'. Every now and again Tony or his dad would appear with some person or another that they apparently felt it necessary for Bucky to meet.

"Chris! This is my godson, James."

"Bucky. I'm only James when he's trying to impress someone." Bucky smirked, trying not to laugh when Tony narrowed his eyes at him. The man in front of him grinned and glanced around at the crowd briefly.

"You know, James-"

"Bucky."

"Bucky. You should really meet my daughter, she's somewhere around."

"Uuh."

"Oh! And this is his boyfriend... sorry I didn't get your name earlier."

"Steve."

"Steve!" Tony grinned, yanking Steve by the arm so he was standing next to Bucky. The man's eyes widened for a second but then he smiled and patted Bucky's arm.

"You wouldn't believe how many times this has happened."

"Sorry."

"Don't be, you two seem happy. See you around." He grinned, following Tony back into the crowd.

"That happen a lot?" Steve asked once they'd gone.

"More often than you'd think. They all seem to think I'm just gonna take over from my dad in a few years. If I told them I was actually a poor college student who was sharing a one bedroom apartment with his best friend, I'd probably get it less."

"Then why don't you tell them?"

"Because it's funny." Bucky grinned. Steve just rolled his eyes and glanced down at the vodka martini in Bucky's hand. "What?"

"How many of those have you had already?"

"I can't remember."

"Thought Stark wanted you to play piano for him?"

"You think this is gonna stop me?" He smirked, downing the drink in his hand to prove a point.

"Since when do you play, anyway?"

"My parents forced me into lessons when I was 6, so now it's become a kind of tradition that I play on Tony's fancy piano whenever he has a party. I haven't practiced at all since Summer though so god knows how this is gonna go. Ooh you should sing!"

"No."

"Why not? You go out into the city in Chicago to play, right? This is no different."

"It's very different. These are fancy rich people."

"Technically I'm also a fancy rich person."

"You're more the trailer trash of fancy rich people."

"Excuse me?"

Steve sniggered at him and Bucky slapped his arm lightly, sticking his bottom lip out at him. "Seriously though, singing in front of you is kind of different from singing in front of them."

"It'll be fun."

"No, it will be embarrassing."

"No they'll love you, c'mon."

"Bucky-"

"But you're so gooooood."

"Are you sure you're not drunk?"

"Maybe a little, but that's not the point." Bucky grinned. Admittedly he did feel a little off balance, but he put that down to lack of food and excess sleep. Steve still didn't look convinced and he rolled his eyes, draping his arms around Steve's neck and smiling up at him. "C'mon. You can just pretend you're singing to me."

"Buck-"

"C'mooooooon."

"Fine." Steve sighed, letting Bucky drag him backwards through the crowd to Tony's piano in the corner of the room. It still took a bit of convincing to get him to sit down, but eventually they were both squashed onto the seat and Bucky was trying to remember what Christmas songs he could play while Steve grumbled and complained next to him.

"Stevie, you're never gonna see most of these people again."

"What if I suddenly become rich and famous and all these people remember this one moment in my life?"

"So you're an adrenaline junkie who gets stage fright?"

Steve narrowed his eyes at him and folded his arms when Bucky leant his head on him, giggling into his shoulder. "Shut up."

"You're real cute, Rogers."

"You're a jerk." Steve muttered, glancing around at the crowd of people around them, some of which were starting to look over at them in anticipation. Bucky hummed and nuzzled at his shoulder, giggling again when Steve sighed.

Miraculously, Bucky's somewhat intoxicated brain managed to remember how to decently play several old Christmas songs, and Steve's singing was practically drowned out by everyone else joining in which seemed to relax him a little. After half an hour his fingers were cramping and he threw his arms around Steve's neck, burying his face in the crook of his neck and sighing. He smelt really good... had he always smelt this good?

"That was great, Buck." Steve said, making him lose his train of thought and bringing him back into the real world again.

"You don't have to sound so shocked."

"You spend most of your time tripping over your own feet, I didn't expect you to be particularly coordinated."

"Mm, I guess." He mumbled against Steve's neck. "You smell nice today."

"Yeah I.. wait what?"

"You smell good."

"Um.. thanks?"

"Do you always smell like this?"

"Just how much have you had to drink since we got here?"

Bucky sat up a little and shrugged, grinning a stupid grin at him while trying not to giggle. Something about the lighting was making Steve look downright gorgeous. Or maybe it was the suit... or maybe he always looked like that? No, it was definitely the light making those bright blue eyes stand out even more than usual and... since when did those lips look so damn kissable. Steve must have been a mind reader because seconds later he was cupping Bucky's face with his hands and leaning down to kiss him.
Still not real. He told himself as he moved his mouth into the kiss. His parents must be around somewhere and Steve had spotted them. Why else would he kiss him? Steve's hands were still holding his face, gently stroking his cheeks with his thumbs, and it was making Bucky go lightheaded.
Not real.
Steve pulled away from him a fraction and looked at him. He couldn't read Steve's face at all, but he looked confused. Maybe Bucky was getting too into it and it was obvious.. or maybe Steve was thinking the same thing he was.. no. He glanced around to see if there was anyone obvious that could have prompted Steve to kiss him, but he couldn't pick anyone out.
Not real?
Before he was fully aware what he was doing he had weaved his fingers up into Steve's hair, and was pulling him back down to kiss him again. He didn't mean to do it so forcefully, but suddenly he was biting on Steve's lip and licking into his mouth and tugging on his hair, only realising what he'd done when he pulled away to get his breath back.
He tried to brace himself for the inevitable slap that was coming for taking control like that, but nothing happened. Instead Steve just smirked at him and scratched the back of his neck, seeming just out of breath as he was.

"You should kiss back more often."

Real?

"I... You don't mind that?"

"Why would I mind?"

Steve was smiling at him but his eyes still looked confused. He seemed to be leaning back in to kiss him again when a voice behind them made Bucky almost fall of the seat, and he spun around to see his mom standing there and his dad practically hanging off her where he was trying to stay upright.

"I think we're heading back. Somebody left your father unsupervised and surrounded by free alcohol. You coming?"

Bucky glanced back at Steve, who shrugged, before turning back and nodding. He couldn't tell if it was the drink or the kissing that had made his legs so shaky, but he found he couldn't walk very quickly without Steve putting an arm around him and helping him along.
He didn't mean to spend the entire drive home watching Steve, but that was how it went. Although he told himself the reason he was doing it was because he looked ridiculously excited and out of place driving his car, and not because he just wanted to get back to kissing him again. His head was still spinning when they pulled up in the drive, and Steve came around to help him out of the car so he didn't fall on his face. He could see his mom struggling through the door with his dad thrown fire-fighter style over her shoulder, and by the time they got into the house she was already carrying him up the stairs.

"I can see where you get it from." Steve sniggered as he led Bucky into the bedroom.

"I'm not that drunk."

"Bucky you can barely stand up."

"That's just 'cause you're holding me weird."

"So you're saying if I let go of you you'll be able to make it over to the bed on your own?" Bucky narrowed his eyes at him and wrapped both his arms around Steve's neck, pressing himself against his chest for a few minutes. "So should I take that as a no?"

"You talk too much."

"I get that a lot."

"Stop talking."

Steve raised an eyebrow at him and opened his mouth to say something again, but Bucky cut him off as he leant up and pressed their lips together, moaning softly against him. That seemed to catch Steve by surprise and he gasped, giving Bucky the opportunity to use what remained of his strength to push him back onto the bed, only breaking the kiss for a few seconds to climb on top of him.
Real.

"Buck-"

"Bucky, you don't want this."

Real?
He sat up and looked down at Steve, who was frowning at him and gently trying to move Bucky's hands away from the shirt button he hadn't realised he was trying to undo.
Not real?

"I... what?"

"You're drunk, Buck. It's okay."

Not real.

Bucky sat bolt upright and stared down at Steve in horror, practically throwing himself off him and almost falling off the end of the bed in the process. Steve managed to get his arms around him before he fell onto the floor and he held him up.

"Hey, it's okay."

"I'm sorry."

"Bucky it's fine." Steve whispered, pulling him back into the middle of the bed and stroking his hair. Bucky just shook his head and wriggled away from him. He curled up tightly in a ball on the edge of the bed and buried his head in a pillow, trying to fall asleep as quickly as possible.
For a few minutes it was so quiet that Bucky started to think Steve had left, but then he felt an arm wrapping around him, moving him away from the edge and pulling the duvet over him. Just that was making his heart rate pick up again and he sighed, letting Steve leave an arm around him. He was so screwed.

Chapter Text

Bucky knew it was early when he opened his eyes, but there was no way he was getting back to sleep again. His head was pounding and he groaned, sitting up and rubbing his eyes.

"Morning."

He whipped his head around, which he immediately regretted when it caused the ache in his head to intensify, and saw Steve sitting propped up against the headboard with his phone in his hand.
Bucky really, really wished that Steve had been right, and that last night had just been the drink, but when he saw him with his messy bed hair and sleepy smile he wanted nothing more than to curl up next to him and kiss his neck... or his cheek... or anything.. shit.

"You okay?"

"Huh? Yeah."

"Hangover?" Steve smirked and Bucky nodded, rubbing the front of his head and groaning. "On a scale of one to 'I can't move', how bad is it?"

"A solid 8."

"This is why you should count your drinks."

"Shut your mouth, Rogers."

Steve smiled at him and stretched an arm out for a hug. Bucky knew he should say no, that he should get up and get a drink or something, but he looked so warm and.. fuck it. He shuffled over and lay back, nestling his head against Steve's shoulder and letting him wrap his arm around him. It made him feel a little better and a little worse at the same time, and he wasn't entirely sure how that was possible.

"Steve?"

"Mm?"

"I'm really sorry about last night."

"Bucky-"

"I always get like that when I'm drunk. I apparently tried to get Nat into bed once, and I'm about as straight as a roundabout."

"Yeah, I get it."

"I just don't want you to think it was 'cause I-"

"I know, Bucky." Steve snapped, more harshly than Bucky had expected. He looked up and saw Steve frowning at him, but his gaze seemed to soften a little after he looked at him and he sighed. "It's fine, Buck. Don't worry about it."

"Okay." Bucky said, his voice coming out as barely more than a whisper. He nuzzled against his shoulder and sighed when long fingers started stroking through his hair.

"It was my fault anyway. Shouldn't of kissed you like that when you'd had that much to drink."

"I'm just irresistible when I play piano."

He heard Steve snigger and looked up to see him shaking his head. "You were good. We should play together some time when we get back.. I mean, if you want. It could be fun."

"Or disastrous."

"Worth a shot though. How's your head?"

"Ugh."

"You should have some water. Hang on, I'll get some." Steve said, taking his hand out of Bucky's hair and pushing himself off the bed. Once he'd disappeared through the bedroom door Bucky grabbed his phone from on top of the nightstand and frantically typed out a message to Clint.

CODE RED I'M PHONING YOU AS SOON AS I HAVE A CHANCE

He heard his phone buzz on the nightstand a few minutes later, but by then Steve was coming back into the room with a glass of water. Bucky hadn't realised how thirsty he was, and he downed the glass before Steve had even sat back down on the bed. Once Steve had sat down he snuggled back up to him and closed his eyes, trying to will his headache away.

"So your mom wants me to go out shopping with her today."

"Mom's awake?"

"Yeah. I'm not surprised, I could hear your dad snoring from the kitchen."

"Mm. She probably just wants an excuse to tell you tons of stupid stories about me."

"Brilliant."

"You're going?"

"Yeah, I need to get you a present."

Bucky opened his mouth to protest but Steve just threw him a look so he lay back down, trying to prompt him to start stroking his hair again and failing horribly. After another few minutes Steve got back up and disappeared into the bathroom, leaving Bucky to roll onto his stomach and bury his face in the pillow, trying to convince his brain to go back to sleep. He was interrupted by the sound of his bedroom door opening and his mom tutting at him.

"You are definitely your father's son, James."

"You talk loud."

"Hm. Where's Steve?"

"Bathroom. Just don't be embarrassing while you're out."

"Why would I do that?"

"Because you're my mother."

He didn't even have to look up to know his mom was smirking at him and rolling her eyes. "You better be up when we get back because I'm putting the decorations up and you're taller than I am."

"Dad's taller than me."

"He's comatose upstairs."

"Steve's taller than me."

"James Buchanan Barnes do not give me that-"

"I'll get up just give me like twenty minutes." Bucky grumbled, rolling onto his back and looking over at where she was standing with her hands on her hips.

"How much did you drink last night?"

"I don't know."

"What do you mean you don't know?"

"I mean I don't know. People handed me drinks and I drank 'em."

"James that is not a good attitude to-"

"Should I retreat back into the bathroom?"

They both turned around at Steve's voice and saw him standing in the doorway to the bathroom, glancing awkwardly at them both. Bucky shook his head and leant back against the pillow, groaning when his head throbbed again. He barely registered Steve coming up to the side of the bed until he was leaning over him, running a hand through his hair and pressing a soft kiss to his forehead.

"See you later." He whispered, and Bucky couldn't help but grin stupidly up at him, rolling onto his side so he didn't have to look at him anymore. He closed his eyes again and waited until he heard the sound of a car pulling out of the driveway outside to sit up slightly and grab his phone, not bothering to read what Clint had texted him and slamming the call button straight away.

"Congrats on the sex." Clint said as soon as he picked up, and Bucky could almost hear his smirk.

"That is not what code red means, you asshole."

"I can dream."

"You dream about me and Steve having sex?"

"Every night."

"Wow, you're messed up."

"I know. So what does code red mean?"

"Right, so I was at Tony's party last night and-"

"You upper class motherfucker."

"Clint."

"I'm sorry, go on."

"And I got kinda drunk. Like, Nat level drunk."

"Fuck."

"Yeah. And me and Steve were doing our fake relationship thing, you know, and-"

"Ooooooooh I see what's going on."

"Shut up."

"You kissed a guy and you liked it."

"This is not a joke this is serious. I have no idea what to do. I'm here for two more weeks and now I've got to convince my parents that I'm into him while also trying to convince him that I'm not."

"You make it sound so complicated."

"It is complicated!"

"Okay, Bucky, I am about to give you some genuine advice so sit your ass down because it's about to get real."

"You make me uncomfortable when you act serious."

"Shut your mouth and listen to uncle Clint. Now, have you considered that maybe the reason you're enjoying this is because you've just missed relationships in general?"

"No."

"Bucky-"

"No."

"Barnes I swear to god if you interrupt again I will punch you through this phone. So, this whole thing is gonna make you more used to that whole relationship thing, and then when you get back next year you can get back out there. Then wham bam you're married with kids!"

"Maybe you're right."

"Wow, really?"

"No."

"Why did you even call me if you weren't going to listen to anything I said?"

"Sometimes, when everything is going to shit, it's nice to be reminded that although my life may suck, at least I'm not you."

"I'm glad I am able to brighten your life in some way, you complete dickhead."

"Love you, baby."

"Don't try and sweet talk me, Barnes."

"I know how you love it when I do."

"Oh yeah totally. Anyway I have to go. My sister in law is literally birthing my nibling right now."

"I have no clue how to respond to that. Just remember to let your brother know that if the relationship goes to shit I'll be happy to help him raise that child."

"You are so weird."

"It's not my fault he's hot."

"No but you don't have to keep reminding me of how willing you are to let him fuck you."

"I'm just saying if he's ever looking for a bit on the side-"

"Stop."

"Fine. See you later."

"You gonna be okay?"

"Sure, what could go wrong?"

"Just don't do anything dumb. Don't do anything I wouldn't do."

"I'm pretty sure those two things are mutually exclusive."

"Asshole."

"Jerk."

Bucky hung up and tossed his phone onto the pillow next to him, closing his eyes for a few seconds before forcing himself to get out of bed and take a shower.
The shower didn't do much for his hang over, but slipping on the mat afterwards and almost cracking his head on the sink did at least wake him up a little. And after he'd got dressed and his life had stopped flashing before his eyes, he did at least have a bit more of a spring in his step as he headed up the stairs to see if his dad was still alive.
His mom's comment about him being his father's son suddenly made a lot more sense when he flung open the bedroom door and saw him lying face down on the bed and groaning.

"You are the picture of health, dad."

"Fuck off."

"Ma's gonna be pissed if you're not up when she gets back."

"She doesn't have total control of my life, you know."

"I don't think she got that memo."

"Give me five minutes." His dad grumbled, rolling around on the bed and opening his eyes a fraction to look over where Bucky was standing. "Where'd she go?"

"Shopping with Steve."

"You let him go out with your mother alone? Are you just asking to be embarrassed?"

"What's the worst she can do?"

"She can show him the haircut you gave yourself when you were four."

"We don't talk about that." Bucky mumbled, narrowing his eyes when his dad chuckled at him. "Besides if she's gonna tell him anything, she'd obviously go for graduation. That's still fresh in her mind."

"You know Tony still has that video? He plays it at meetings and office parties sometimes."

"Tony is going to die."

"Ten bucks says she'll show him the haircut before she tells him about your graduation."

"Bring it on, old man."

"Jackass."

Bucky grinned at him and turned on his heel, going back down the stairs and trying to decide if his stomach could handle food yet. After standing in the kitchen staring at cereal boxes for ten minutes he eventually decided it wasn't worth the risk and grabbed a glass from the cabinet, turning to go to the sink when he felt something touch his foot. He glanced down just in time to see the spider run over his foot and shrieked as he hurled the glass in his hand at it, smashing it on the floor and making the hellbeast scurry across the floor and disappear under a cabinet on the other side of the kitchen.

"DAD!"

"What did you break?"

Bucky couldn't take his eyes off the cabinet the monster had run under but he could hear his dad's voice from the archway, and didn't need to look at him to know he was raising his eyebrow at him.

"There was a spider and I panicked."

"Jesus, Buck."

"It was huge!"

"You are 21 years old."

"But it touched my foot!"

"So you threw a glass at it!?"

"It physically attacked me."

He heard his dad sigh and could feel him rolling his eyes at him. "Will you just get something to sweep the glass up?"

"I can't."

"Bucky, it's gone."

"It's not gone, it's just waiting."

"I'm not carrying you out of the kitchen."

"But dad-"

"No."

"Daaaaaaaad."

"You are a grown man I am not-"

"Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad."

"Jesus Christ. Where did it go?" Bucky pointed over to the cabinet and his dad sighed again, walking over and standing in front of it. "It comes out and it's gonna die, now get your dumb ass out of this kitchen."

He didn't waste any time in running out into the sitting room and his dad soon reappeared in the archway, leaning against it and shaking his head at him.

"What do you have to say for yourself?"

"I don't regret my actions."

"I can't believe I made you."

"Shut up."

"How much time would you say we have to get a new glass?"

"Not enough."

"Then, my son, you are a dead man."

"No, we can overcome this."

"You'll be missed. I'll be sure to use the refund money I get from your Christmas presents to pay for a nice funeral."

"I will fix this!"

His dad didn't look convinced as he turned around again to go and clean up the glass while Bucky headed back into his bedroom to get his phone, dialling Steve's number and tapping his foot impatiently as it rang.

"Just couldn't survive an hour without me, huh?"

"Shut up, you ass. I need you to stall my mom for half an hour."

"Do I even want to ask?"

"I broke a glass and I need to get a new one before she notices and kicks my sorry ass halfway across the country."

"Right.. I think I can manage that. Love you!"

"Yeah, love you too." Bucky said automatically, hanging up and shoving his phone into his pocket. Wait, what had he just said? Jesus Christ. Steve wasn't going to let that one go easily. Sighing, he grabbed his car keys and walked back into the sitting room, trying and failing to get his shoes on quickly.

"I will fix this!" He yelled at his dad again before heading out the door and into his car.

He managed to buy a new glass and make it home just minutes before his mom got back, and he and his dad hurriedly put it back in the cabinet and sat on the couch, trying to look as innocent as possible. His mom looked at them both suspiciously as soon as she came in, narrowing her eyes and frowning.

"What did you do?"

"What?"

"Nothing."

"We've been sat here since we got up, engaging in some good old father-son bonding."

"I feel so bonded to you right now, dad."

"That's creepy."

"You started it." Bucky shrugged, leaning back on the couch and giving his mom his best innocent smile. She stared at him for a few more seconds before sighing and disappearing into the kitchen.
As soon as she was gone Bucky heard Steve start sniggering and looked over at him, giving him a warning glare and shuffling over to let him sit next to him.

"So, Stevie, what horrific story did Freddie tell you?"

"What?"

"C'mon she must have told you something stupid about me. Me and dad were betting on what she'd tell you."

"Oh right, yeah she uh.. said you tripped during your graduation and they had to call an ambulance 'cause you gave yourself a concussion?"

"Fuck." His dad muttered to himself. Bucky didn't say anything other than hold his hand out and wait for his dad to drop the money into it.

"I knew one day that would pay off."

"Wait so that actually happened?"

"Oh yeah."

"Tony has it on video."

"Dad don't tell him that."

"Bucky you may as well prepare yourself. I guarantee you the minute he found out you were seeing someone he made a mental note to get him to see that video."

Steve pulled a stupidly smug grin at him and Bucky smacked him in the chest, struggling in protest when he wrapped an arm around his waist and pulled him closer to him. "You're such an idiot."

"If you didn't already know that by now, then your relationship is a sham." Bucky's dad mumbled and Steve and Bucky glanced at each other, trying to keep straight faces.

"BOYS!"

All three of them whipped their heads around in unison to where Bucky's mom was standing, holding up a glass and pointing to the price label on it.

"Anybody care to explain?"

"IT WAS HIM!"

"DAD!"

"What? It was!"

"You can't just rat me out like that, you're supposed to protect me!" Bucky protested, ducking down in front of the couch cushions to avoid his mom's stare.

"Have fun, kid."

"GEORGE! You let him get away with it."

"He gave me the puppy eyes!"

His mom narrowed her eyes and his dad sighed, hanging his head and making Bucky snigger. "Don't you start thinking you're off the hook, James."

"Sorry ma."

"You should be ashamed of yourself, Buck." Steve smirked, leaning back on the couch.

"And you, young man, have a lot of nerve considering you helped them get away with it."

"I-"

"Mm?"

"..Sorry."

Bucky couldn't help laughing at the shocked and terrified look on Steve's face and he collapsed in a fit of giggles, leaning against his arm while Steve looked too scared to move yet.

"Mom's not gonna eat ya, Stevie."

"Don't be so sure."

"In my defence, I did buy a new glass so technically it's like nothing ever happened right?"

He didn't get a reply from his mom, which he took as her forgiveness, and she headed back into the kitchen muttering to herself about how it was a miracle he hadn't killed himself living on his own. Bucky just giggled and snuggled up against Steve, who still looked slightly shell-shocked from being told off.

His mom had not forgiven, and she found a suitable way to make Bucky suffer for all the wrong he had ever done in his life. She was leaving him and Steve in charge of the Christmas tree.

"You can't do this, ma."

"Of course I can. This is the year you become a man."

"I don't want to become a man, I want to live a stress free life."

"Well that's just too bad." She shrugged, dumping a box of decorations on the floor and giving him a sly smile. "We'll be outside."

"Fine. Have fun being cold."

"Have fun yelling at branches, honey."

Bucky narrowed his eyes at her and she grinned, turning on her heel and walking out into the garden, with his dad following behind and struggling under the weight of several boxes of lights. He turned around to Steve, who was glancing inside some of the boxes and looked way more excited than any sane human being would about the task they had.

"I'm just gonna apologise in advance for anything I will inevitably yell at you while trying to assemble this piece of shit tree."

"How hard can it possibly be?"

"Oh you have no idea."

"Uh huh. Where do you want to put it."

"Somewhere that will make my mom regret leaving me in charge."

"Oh no, I am not conspiring against her with you again."

"You're such a suck up." Bucky said, smirking and sitting down cross-legged next to him. Steve gave him a sideways glance and said nothing as he opened the box for the tree and took everything out, ignoring Bucky's little yelps of protest when he dumped most of the branches in his lap. "Was that necessary?"

"No, but it was pretty satisfying."

"Jerk."

Steve pulled a smug grin at him and pulled out the instructions. "You know, I'd have thought your family would get a real tree rather than a shitty fake one."

"Nah, they mess with my allergies."

"Wow."

"Shut up." Bucky snapped, hitting him with one of the branches and folding his arms grumpily. Steve just sniggered, and nudged his arm.

"Okay I'm sorry. Now let's assemble this bitch."

"Your optimism will be short-lived."

"Just because you're an idiot who can't put a tree together, doesn't mean I won't be able to."

"We'll see."

For once, Bucky was actually right, and within ten minutes they had both yelled at at least one branch. Although admittedly Steve seemed to be keeping his cool better than Bucky was.

"FUCK CHRISTMAS!"

"Bucky it's just a tree, calm down."

"No, it's mocking me."

"Buck-"

"WHY WILL IT NOT GO ON!?"

"It doesn't go there."

"Yes it does!"

"No, it goes-"

"IT GOES HERE!"

"BUCKY I AM HOLDING THE INSTRUCTIONS IT DOES NOT GO THERE!" Steve yelled, grabbing Bucky by the shoulders and shaking him. "Pull yourself together, man!"

"I hate this tree, and I hate Christmas, and I hate you."

"That's not what you said on the phone earlier."

"For fucks sake I knew you would bring that up." Bucky said as he hit Steve over the head with the branch in his hand and just narrowly avoiding the one that Steve swung at him. "You're an asshole and a jerk."

"Why do you have to fight our love?" Steve teased, smirking at him and hitting him in the arm lightly with the branch. Bucky growled and threw himself forward, pinning Steve down on his back and glaring down at him. "Are you really this upset about a tree?"

"It's not a tree, it is the devil."

"You could've just let me do it."

"You were doing it wrong."

"I was using the instructions."

"They are also wrong. You can't use predictable methods, you have to use the element of surprise if you want to make this tree your bitch."

"My god, you've been driven insane by plastic shrubbery."

That broke Bucky's poker face and he giggled, leaning his head down onto Steve's shoulder and laughing against him. He felt arms wrap around him and ended up lying on top of him, still giggling like an idiot.
For a few minutes they lay like that until he heard Steve whisper something that Bucky couldn't make out and felt him tugging on his shirt until he sat up and they were face to face. Steve moved his hand up behind Bucky's neck and pulled him down so their lips met, cutting off Bucky's train of thought before he could ask him what he'd said. He gasped slightly when Steve started kissing him, too taken aback to put up a fight when he felt his tongue flick against his bottom lip and opening his mouth so Steve could deepen the kiss. He tasted sweet and Bucky pulled away again, frowning.

"What's wrong?"

"Why do you taste of cake?"

"Sorry?"

"Did you get cake with my mother!?"

"You told me to stall her!"

"But not with cake! She never lets me get food when I'm out with her, why did she get cake with you? What the fuck."

Steve smirked up at him and shrugged. "Maybe she likes me."

"You've crossed the line, Rogers." Bucky muttered, kicking at Steve's leg and sticking his bottom lip out at him in a grumpy pout.

"You get mad at the weirdest things, Buck."

"I do not."

"You really do. Anyway your parents have stopped snooping through the window so we can get back to yelling at a tree."

"What?"

Bucky glanced over his shoulder at the window and could just about see his parents hanging up lights outside it. He shouldn't feel disappointed, because he knew Steve only kissed him when his parents were around to keep up their pretence, but he still couldn't deny that his heart sank a little. Apparently the disappointment was written all over his face because Steve smirked at him and ran a hand through Bucky's hair.

"Dude your face fell the minute I mentioned that fucking tree."

"Hate the tree." He mumbled, trying his best to avoid Steve's eyes.

"You want me to finish it?"

"If you think you can take the pain."

Steve rolled his eyes and moved Bucky off him, sitting up and shuffling back over to the abandoned tree while Bucky stayed lying on his back in the middle of the floor.
After a few minutes he got bored and pulled a box of tree decorations over, seeing how many he could hang off the back of Steve's shirt before he noticed.

"What are you doing?" He asked as Bucky hung the fifth decoration from his shoulder.

"Decorating you."

"Okay then."

Bucky grinned at him and carried on, although it got more difficult once Steve was standing up so instead he just sat behind him and tried to catch the decorations as they gradually fell off his shirt again for the twenty minutes it took Steve to finish the tree. He didn't yell at it once in this time and Bucky wasn't sure whether to be angry or impressed.
Decorating it was less stressful, although they somehow managed to end up with more decorations on themselves than on the tree, and naturally Bucky's dad had come back into the house to get more things just after Steve had draped a load of tinsel around Bucky's neck.

"Unbelievable." He said as he came in, looking Bucky up and down.

"Don't hate me 'cause you ain't me."

"You know, Buck. As far as gay stereotypes go, you really take the cake."

"Excuse me? I am not the one wearing earrings." He said, pointing at the glittery stars he'd hooked over Steve's ears. His dad just shook his head and headed back out through the door, leaving them both giggling and leaning against each other.
After Steve's artistic brain was satisfied that it was perfectly decorated, Bucky started trying to climb up his back.

"What the fuck are you doing, Bucky?"

"I'm not tall enough to reach the top and we need to put the star up there."

"Why don't you just let me do it?"

"How dare you. After all I have been through today you want me to let you-"

"Okay fine." Steve said, sighing and crouching down a little so Bucky could climb onto his shoulders. "Jesus you're heavy."

"You're just weak. Now c'mon, don't make me kick you."

"Is this how you treat all your boyfriends?"

"Steve, if I had asked my ex to lift me onto his shoulders, I would not be here to talk to you right now."

"What?"

"I just doubt he would have taken it to well."

Steve glanced at him and Bucky gave him a gentle warning kick in the chest to get him to stand upright, finally managing to reach the top of the tree and attach the star in his hand to it.

"I don't have super strength you know, Buck."

"You kinda look like you should though." He shrugged, dropping down onto the floor and grinning at him. "We did it, Stevie. We conquered the tree."

"And you only had one mental breakdown."

"You shut your mouth."

Buying presents for his mom was, in theory, the easiest thing in the world, because she just liked anything that sparkled. The difficulty lay in deciding which shiny, sparkly object she would like the most. Steve, as per usual, was being no help whatsoever, and Bucky was starting to get bored of staring in the window of the jewellers.

"Maybe we should get food and then come back."

"Bucky you just have to chose one thing, why is it taking you so long?"

"Because I want to get her the nicest thing in here but I don't know what she thinks is nicest because she's not here. You're taking art, you must have some basic knowledge of what jewellery is most aesthetically pleasing."

Steve raised an eyebrow at him and sighed, pressing his face against the window next to where Bucky was. "Does she have a favourite gemstone?"

"I don't know, she's got some of everything."

"What's her birthstone?"

"I don't fucking know."

He heard Steve sigh again and glanced over at him. "When's her birthday?"

"October."

"Tourmaline."

"How did you just know that off the top of your head?"

"Because I'm a huge fucking nerd."

"You can say that aga-"

"There's a list of them right here in the window, you idiot."

"Oh."

Bucky looked down at his feet while Steve cracked up laughing and wrapped his arms around him, burying his face in his hair and giggling into it. "You're so cute, Buck."

"I am not cute, I'm manly and intimidating."

"Sure you are."

"You're a jerk."

"I know, you tell me that at least twice a day." Steve chuckled, squeezing Bucky tightly and then letting go of him so he could look back in the window. "Does your mom like pink?"

"I think so."

"Then I would go with tourmaline." He said, gesturing at a few pieces with the bright pink stone set in them.

"That was... strangely helpful of you."

"I help you a lot, you're just stubborn."

"I'm not- look just shut up and come on." Bucky grumbled, pulling Steve into the shop by the sleeve of his shirt.
After spending another twenty minutes in there bickering over which exact thing he should get, he ended up buying a necklace and some earrings, insisting that the earrings would be from Steve and ignoring his protests that he should at least pay a little bit towards them. It wasn't until Bucky physically threw the money he tried to give him back in his face that Steve gave up and just let Bucky pay for them. Then they headed back out to his car and Bucky insisted he needed a drink because shopping with Steve wore him out both physically and emotionally.

The Winter Soldier was the only bar within walking distance of his house that was quiet enough for Bucky to feel comfortable going to during the day, even with Steve he still wasn't in the mood for bumping into people from school. So after they drove back and found somewhere to stash his mom's presents, they walked over there and found a table that was fairly out of view.

"Just to warn you, my mom's probably gonna suffocate you with hugs when she finds out you got her a present." He said after a few minutes of silence.

"Technically I didn't get her a present."

"No but it'll have your name on it. Besides, they've probably got you something crazy and unnecessary. They've been waiting four years to have somebody new to spend money on. If I get less cool stuff because of this, I am never inviting you over again." Bucky smirked, leaning back in his seat and taking a swig of his beer.

"Were you planning to?"

"Planning to what?"

"Invite me over again?"

"Yeah.. I mean if you wanted. Obviously we couldn't do it like this again, otherwise my parents would get carried away and start planning our wedding or something. But it's more fun having someone else here."

"What do you usually do then?"

"Do a circuit of all the clubs in town and fuck whoever's willing."

"How festive." Steve deadpanned. Bucky just shrugged and glanced at the empty bottle in his hand and nodding at Steve's, silently asking if he wanted another. When he nodded Bucky pushed himself up, heading over to the bar and ordering them another two beers, leaning forward on his elbows while he waited. He didn't notice anybody else at the bar, so when he felt a hand on his hip he automatically assumed it was Steve and was about to turn around to ask what he wanted when he heard a horribly familiar voice in his ear.

"I thought I heard your voice earlier, baby."

Bucky froze in place for a few seconds, hoping and praying that this was some kind of elaborate dream. After a few seconds the hand on his hip started to slide up the inside of his shirt and he finally managed to persuade his brain to start functioning again, slapping the hand away and turning around to where Brock was standing, just a few inches away.

"Don't touch me."

His voice came out more confidently than he'd expected, even if he had barely said it loud enough for anyone other than the two of them to hear. Brock seemed pretty amused by what he'd said, smirking crookedly at him and putting his hand straight back on Bucky's hip, digging his fingers into him painfully to try and remind him who was in charge. But this time Bucky was having none of it and he slapped him away again, harder this time, glaring at him.

"What are you doing here? Thought you got shipped off to Iraq."

"It's called leave."

"That's a shame. Would've been a nice surprise to find out you got blown up."

"You're so cute when you're upset." Brock said patronisingly, smiling at him and tilting Bucky's chin up with his hand. His other hand was back on his hip for a third time and Bucky was about to try running off when he heard Steve's voice next to them.

"How long does it take to- oh."

Bucky tried to turn his head to look at him, but Brock had a firm grip on his chin and stopped him from moving, looking over at Steve and smirking.

"Who's this?"

"None of your goddamn business."

"Oh I get it. You're someone else's plaything now, right?" Brock laughed. He was leaning in so close now that Bucky could smell the alcohol on his breath and it was turning his stomach. "Did you forget who you belong to?" He hissed, pushing him back against the bar roughly. Bucky tried to speak but all that came out was a pathetic whimper while he tried to struggle out of the vice-like grip Brock now had on either side of his waist.
Before he could do anything else Brock had let go of him, and when he looked up Steve was holding him by the collar of his shirt, glaring at him.

"Don't you dare talk to him like that." He said through gritted teeth. Brock just laughed and looked back over at Bucky.

"Aw, he's protective. Is this how you get about nowadays? With some big, strong fella to look after you because you can't defend yourse-"

Even though Bucky knew what Steve was capable of, and had seen the state John had been in after he'd finished with him, it still caught him by surprise to see him actually throw a punch straight at Brock's face, almost knocking him off his feet. He wanted to go over and pull Steve back so they could get out, but his legs were so shaky he was having to cling on to the bar just to keep himself upright. So he just had to watch, helplessly, while the pair of them tackled each other onto a nearby table, knocking glasses everywhere.
It wasn't until Steve was standing upright again and Brock was lying back and groaning that Bucky finally prompted his legs to move, staggering over and wrapping his arms around Steve's waist to pull him back.

"You should get outta here, Buck."

"So should you."

"I'm not finished-"

"Steve, just leave it. Leave him alone."

"Leave him alone!? Are you kidding me? Bucky he just-"

"He's just gonna get more pissed off if you stay here."

"So you're defending him?"

"I'm not defending him I just wanna go home!" He yelled, trying to fight off the tears that were gathering in the corners of his eyes. Dammit. He hated when this happened. Why did he cry when he was angry? Who the hell cries when they're angry? He wasn't even sure who he was angry at anymore. He hated Steve for being a stubborn jerk who wouldn't just walk away from a fight, and he hated Brock for.. just about everything, and he hated himself for not even being able to say a damn word to defend himself.

"Aw you made him cry." Brock mocked from behind them, sitting up on the table and smirking that stupid smirk of his.

"Fuck off, Rumlow, you asshole." Bucky snapped as he gave up and wiped his hand across his face.

"Not my fault if you always get yourself worked up over nothing."

That seemed to make Steve snap again and he spun back around, driving his fist into Rumlow's gut and making him choke.

"Steve for fucks sake." Bucky groaned, grabbing at his shirt and trying to pull him back again. He was about to resort to more extreme measures to stop him from throwing more punches at Rumlow's face when a hand on his shoulder almost made him jump out of his skin and he spun around, coming face to face with a tall man in police uniform. "Officer." He mumbled cautiously, the word making Steve stop what he was doing and turn around.

"Arrest them, officer. They're homos." Rumlow grinned, pointing at both him and Steve. The cop gave him a stern look before muttering for them all to follow him back to the car, putting extra emphasis on the all and ignoring Rumlow's protests.
Despite Steve's best efforts, Bucky ended up wedged between him and Rumlow in the back of the police car, although he was just glad there was no risk of Steve deciding to start off another fight right there. For a little while he didn't say anything, until Rumlow started up again. "See, you fags just cause trouble wherever you go."

"You're a fucking hypocrite, Rumlow."

"Right, just 'cause you're desperate for my cock in your mouth again?"

"Desperate? It was you who went ballistic just at the idea that I was seeing someone else. You're just a jealous, needy asshole. You always have been."

Brock looked slightly taken aback that Bucky had actually insulted him and he sat there staring at him for a few seconds before he recomposed himself and growled at him. "You wanna watch your mouth, Barnes."

"Why? In case people find out what a complete dick you are?"

"I didn't do anything to you."

"Except for be an abusive, manipulative douchebag who made my last year and a half of high school a living hell because you couldn't cope with somebody actually standing up to you."

"Buck."

Bucky turned around to Steve and suddenly realised the car had stopped and that the cop in the front had turned to look at them before getting out and opening the door so Rumlow could get out with him, leaving Steve and Bucky sitting in the car in awkward silence for a few moments.

"So, uh.. I'm gonna go out on a whim here and say he's the asshole ex of four years ago?"

"What gave it away?" Bucky mumbled, looking down at his hands. Now that Rumlow was gone he could feel the panic coming back and tried to focus on stopping his hands from shaking. A voice from outside distracted him and he looked around to see the cop leaning in through the open door.

"Hey, we're gonna put that guy up in the drunk tank because he's way over the legal limit, but you two are free to go. Seems like you've already been through enough today."

The relief that he wasn't going to have to call his dad to come and bail them out was enough to put the oncoming panic attack at bay for a little while longer and he sighed, leaning back against the seat for a few seconds before letting the man help him out of the car and sending them on their way.
As soon as they were away from the station Bucky stopped and grabbed Steve's wrist, making him turn to face him.

"Steve, you can't.. my parents are gonna know something's wrong, so if they ask just say it was someone from my old school. You can't tell 'em it was him."

Steve frowned at him for a moment but then nodded, wrapping his arms loosely around Bucky's waist and sighing. "You're white as a sheet, Buck."

"'M fine." Bucky mumbled, wriggling but not really trying to get out of Steve's arms. He wasn't fine. His legs felt like jelly and he could tell from the way his stomach was churning that he was going to throw up, it was just a question of when. Steve didn't look convinced and pulled Bucky forward gently, moving one hand up to stroke his hair and pressing a kiss to his forehead. Bucky closed his eyes for a few minutes and leant forward, wrapping his arms around Steve's neck so he didn't move away. "Kinda hoped I'd never see that asshole again."

"He's gone now. He comes near you again and I'll skin him alive."

"That's.. graphic."

He felt Steve laughing against him and looked up at him, trying to pull the corner of his mouth into some kind of smile but not really succeeding.

"We should get going. Can you walk okay?"

"I'm fine, Steve."

"You gotta stop saying that." Steve said quietly, leaving his arm around Bucky's waist and helping him down the street.
He was never going to admit to it, but he did need Steve to hold him up. Every time he stopped talking Bucky's head would start spinning again, unable to stop thinking about what could have happened, and no matter how much he tried to convince himself otherwise he knew that if Steve hadn't been out with him he probably would have ended up going back with Rumlow.
A pair of hands cupping his face brought him back into reality slightly and he realised they'd got back home without him even realising.

"Sweetheart what happened?" His mom asked him, stroking his cheeks with her thumb and looking up at him. He couldn't speak but he needed to get away, so he pushed her hands away and staggered into his room as fast as his stupid shaky legs could go, managing to get into the bathroom just in time to not throw up everywhere.
Steve showed up a few seconds later, sitting down behind him and rubbing his back until there was nothing left in his stomach. For a moment he stayed slumped over the toilet trying to get his breath back, before sitting up and turning around to Steve, not sure of what to say.

"You want me to get you a drink?"

"I.. yeah just.. just not water. My mouth tastes gross."

Steve gave him a small smile and left, coming back a few minutes later with a can of flat coke that Bucky was pretty sure his parents must have been waiting outside to give him. He gulped it down quicker than was sensible, but thankfully his stomach had settled again and it stayed down.
It took him a few more minutes to get enough strength back to stand up, and even then he still needed Steve to give him a hand, pulling him to his feet and keeping his arms around him for a few seconds.

"You should get some sleep, Buck." He said softly, running his fingers through Bucky's hair. Bucky just shook his head and pushed him back a little.

"I need some air."

He didn't say out loud that he wanted to be on his own, but Steve seemed to get the message and nodded, letting Bucky go out in front of him.
Meg was waiting expectantly outside the bathroom, flicking his half-tail from side to side patiently and hobbling over when Bucky came out, letting him scoop him up with one arm.

"You comin' outside with me, Megsy?" He asked, nuzzling at the cat's face and smiling when he hit his nose lightly with his paw. Meg mewed at him and he rolled his eyes, grabbing a blanket from one of his drawers and holding it up in his free hand. "It's not even that cold out, Meg. Plus, you are covered in fur, so I don't see what you could have against the cold." Meg just purred contently once he saw the blanket, and nuzzled his face into the crook of Bucky's neck, staying in that position while he carried him out of the bedroom and through the door to the back garden. In Meg's defence, it was getting cold, and as soon as he got outside he wrapped the cat up in the blanket to keep him warm.
The garden wasn't huge, and most of it was taken up by the patio. But there was a patch of grass just around the corner and Bucky knew from experience that if you sat against the wall around there nobody could see you through any of the windows, so he carried Meg over there and sat with his knees drawn up to his chest, stroking the fur on the back of the cat's neck.
Despite being wrapped up like a burrito in the blanket, Meg managed to wriggle up and nuzzle his chin, licking at him and mewing until Bucky finally sighed and scratched his ears.

"Nothing's wrong, quit bothering me and- don't look at me like that. I'm fine."

If Meg was able to roll his eyes, Bucky was pretty sure he would do it right now. He had a hell of an attitude for a cat.

"I saw Rumlow at a bar, okay? Now will you sit still? You're my heat source."

At the mention of his name Meg hopped out of the blanket and climbed onto Bucky's shoulder, rubbing his face against his cheek to try and dry tears that weren't there. He wasn't sure what to think about the fact that his cat had essentially been conditioned to stop him crying whenever he heard Rumlow's name, but he just leant against him and let him carry on.
Once he was satisfied that Bucky wasn't actually crying, Meg jumped back down onto his knees, letting Bucky wrap the blanket around him again because he was a huge wuss who couldn't take the cold, and curling up to go to sleep while Bucky carried on stroking the top of his head.

Bucky had no idea how long he'd been sitting there, but it was dark and he was shivering from the cold when he heard footsteps approaching and saw Steve come around the corner with another blanket in one hand and a mug in the other. He didn't say anything when he sat down next to him, letting him wrap the blanket around him and taking the mug when it was handed to him.

"Hot chocolate." Steve said before he could ask, putting an arm around him and letting him shift over so he could lean his head against him. He tried to drink it slowly, but Steve seemed to have a gift at making anything taste a hundred times better than it normally would, plus he was freezing and this was warming him up. "Buck-"

"I'm fi-"

"Don't. You're not fine."

Bucky sighed and moved Meg off his lap so he could shuffle closer, pressing against his chest so Steve could wrap both his arms around him tightly. Up until that point he'd been doing a pretty good job of holding it together, but it was all for nothing now and once the tears started he couldn't get them to stop again. So he just sat for half an hour clinging tightly onto Steve and sobbing into his chest while he stroked his hair and whispering into his ear that it's okay and I've got you.
Eventually Bucky managed to calm down, and he sat, snivelling and choking out apologies for getting Steve's shirt wet. Then they sat in silence for another few minutes before Steve finally spoke.

"You know this would be a lot easier if I knew what was going on."

"I know."

"Still not talking?"

Bucky was about to try and come up with an excuse when he paused, looking up at Steve's concerned face and sighing. "I... it's a really long story. It took hours to tell Clint and Nat everything.. although I was also completely wasted and couldn't really talk properly but-"

"I don't exactly have anywhere to be, Buck."

"Right.." Bucky said quietly, nodding slowly and racking his brain to try and decide on the best place to start.

Chapter Text

To say Brock Rumlow was gorgeous was an understatement. He was arguably the hottest guy in the entire school.. and the most popular.. and the funniest.. and the best at.. wait, what was he doing? Bucky blinked a few times and realised he'd been absent-mindedly staring at Brock's face for the past ten minutes. Thankfully he didn't seem to have noticed so he looked back down at his paper, trying to get his brain to do math while simultaneously trying to ignore the beautiful creature next to him.
Most of the time Bucky wasn't entirely sure whether he wanted to be him or be on him, but given that the former was by all accounts impossible, he was damn well happy to settle for the latter. Of course he knew that was almost as impossible as physically swapping bodies with him, but that didn't put out that faint glimmer of hope he got every time Brock willingly sat next to him in class, and it certainly did nothing to help the back flips his stomach did every time he saw those brown eyes flick over to look at him briefly.
There was only one recurring statement about Brock that Bucky fiercely disagreed with, and that was that he was easy to talk to. Maybe he just wasn't worthy of speaking to him, but it seemed like every time he tried to start up a conversation his voice box would shrivel up and die, and suddenly he would lose all power of speech. It might be easier if Brock started the conversation, but he definitely wasn't worthy of-

"Hey." Holy shit.

"Huh? Um.. Hey.. Hi." Jesus Christ, Bucky get a grip. He tried to pull his best casual face, although he wasn't sure it was enough to hide his ridiculous grin. Sometimes he wondered how the hell he'd managed to keep his sexuality a secret for so long, considering he turned into a flustered mess every time a remotely cute guy spoke to him, but thankfully everyone just put it down to him being a social disaster rather than a flaming homosexual.
Brock was looking at him expectantly and he realised he hadn't paid any attention to what he'd been saying. "I... what?" He said blankly, damn near passing out when the brunet gave him the sexiest crooked smirk he had ever seen in his life.

"I mean, I said 'has math burnt your brain out too' but I think you just answered that for me." He chuckled, making Bucky smile and scratch the back of his neck awkwardly.

"Yeah." He mumbled, looking down at the desk to try and get his heart rate down. "I've kinda lost track of what I'm supposed to be doing."

"You and me both."

Bucky looked up again and saw Brock had gone back to staring at the book in front of him, accidently staring at him for longer than was necessary. Surely it was impossible for a 16 year old to have a jaw line like that.

"So you get invited to Jasper's party tonight?" He said without looking up and Bucky started to nod before he realised he couldn't see him.

"He's my best friend, it'd be a bit of a dick move if he didn't invite me."

Brock laughed at that and Bucky felt a weird sense of pride at having made him laugh without embarrassing himself in the process. Grinning, he tapped his pen against the table and tried to work out if that was the end of the conversation.

"You just don't seem like the type who'd be friends with him.. you're quiet."

"I'm not usually!" Bucky blurted out before he could stop himself, looking down when Brock raised an eyebrow at him. "I just.. math wears me down."

He heard Brock chuckle again which suggested he'd gotten away with it, rather than suddenly revealing that he lost the ability to speak when there was a hot guy next to him.

"It's not like you need to worry about this stuff though, huh?" Brock said suddenly, making him look up again. "Not with a pretty face like that."

Before he could even process what had just unfolded the bell was ringing and Brock was getting to his feet, gathering up his stuff before turning back and grinning at him.

"So I'll see you tonight, yeah?"

Bucky just about managed to smile and nod back at him before he turned and headed out of the classroom, leaving him to question whether or not it was normal to call somebody pretty or if he'd actually just flirted with him.

Jasper and Skye were waiting for him in the corridor when he eventually composed himself enough to get up, drumming their fingers and giving him matching questioning glances when he finally approached them.

"What?"

"You look like you just got a group hug from Fall Out Boy." Skye said, leaning back against the wall and raising an eyebrow at him.

"Do not mention their name in my presence."

"Bucky you need to accept the fact that they've spli-."

"No." He mumbled as he turned and headed down the corridor, letting them follow behind him.

"Seriously though, why the dazed expression?" Jasper asked once he'd caught up, nudging Bucky with his elbow and smirking.

"I just spent an hour trying to do algebra, how'd you expect me to look."

"Are cute chicks flirting with you again?"

"What the fuck, Jas?"

"Is that a yes?"

"In what possible universe could that qualify as a yes?"

"My universe."

Bucky blinked at him a few times and Jasper sniggered, wrapping his arm around Bucky's shoulder and grinning at him.

"You should bring her tonight."

"You think I waited for your permission?" He smirked, trying his best to play along.
For some bizarre reason Jasper maintained the belief that Bucky was a player, apparently for no reason other than the fact that he couldn't help being nice to people. He'd lost count how many times he'd accidently told a girl she looked pretty without stopping to consider how other people would take it.

"You're a disgrace, Buck."

"Says the guy who can't stay in a relationship longer than a week."

"Hey, I need to keep myself available so I can console all the poor, heartbroken ladies you leave behind."

It was fortunate that his best friend was, in fact, a complete idiot, else his cover would have been blown years ago.

Originally, planning an outfit for Jasper's party had been a simple task that would have required five, maybe ten minutes. But now things had changed. Now Brock was going to be there and had specifically said he wanted to see him there, which meant that even though Bucky was 99.9% sure it meant nothing, he had to look good.
He'd been staring into his closet for the past twenty minutes, trying to decide if he should make an effort to look cool, or if it was uncool to make an effort to look cool.

"Buck what the hell is taking you so long?" His dad said suddenly, making him jump and spin around to where he was standing in the doorway.

"I'm thinking."

"It's a miracle."

"Jerk." Bucky mumbled, fighting not to laugh when his dad smirked at him. "Why does it matter how long I take?"

"Because I have other stuff to do besides wait around for you all evening."

"Dad you are not dropping me off I'm 16 years old."

"So?"

"So I can drive myself."

"Then how are you gonna get back?"

"You're definitely not picking me up! I can just walk back."

"Suit yourself. I will await your call telling me you can't walk down the street because there's a group of youths blocking the way."

Bucky narrowed his eyes at him and turned back to his closet, pulling out a pair of black jeans, a green v-neck, and the leather jacket that he probably wore far too often.

"You're gonna start sleeping in that thing soon."

"You gonna stand there and watch me get changed?"

"Okay I'm gone." His dad said, turning abruptly and pulling the bedroom door shut, leaving Bucky to change into the outfit he'd picked out and wonder whether he should redo his hair or if the rugged look worked for him. After all it had been with this hairstyle that Brock had been nice to him, so if he changed it there was the risk that he wouldn't like him anymore. No, he doesn't like me anyway. Get a grip.
His phone buzzing on his bedside table distracted him from his inner debate and he picked it up, checking the message from Skye.

So guess who'd dad is being a total A-hole and not giving me a lift to Jasper's. Spoiler: it's mine.

Is that a subtle hint that you want me to pick you up?

How nice of you to offer! Thank you baby, love you. xxx

Bitch

;)

Bucky smirked, shoving his phone into his pocket and grabbing his car keys. He had hoped he'd be able to get out to his car without being confronted by his parents, but it wasn't to be, and as soon as he opened his bedroom door he came face to face with his mom.

"What?"

"I want you back by ten."

"WHAT!"

"No later."

"Ma it's 7 o'clock already!"

"I don't care."

"But-"

"Don't get drunk."

"I am going to get drunk."

"No talking to boys you don't know."

"That's what parties are for."

"James-"

He shoved past her before she could nag at him anymore, making a point of stomping over to the front door and slamming it behind him as loudly as he possibly could. It wasn't until he'd unlocked his car that he realised he'd forgotten to put his shoes on and that he was either going to have to show up to Jasper's party barefoot, or swallow his pride and go back inside.
He was still trying to make up his mind when he heard footsteps approaching, and he looked up to see his dad standing in front of him holding out a pair of converse.

"Maybe next time you should pre-plan your temper tantrums?"

"It wasn't a tantrum." He grumbled, snatching the shoes and sitting sideways in the driver's seat of his car to put them on.

"You're welcome."

"Thanks."

"I think we got that in the wrong order." His dad smirked as he leant against the car and ruffled Bucky's hair, making him duck away and swat at his hand.

"You're gonna mess my hair up."

"It already looks messed up."

"Yeah but it's messed up a specific way, you're gonna upset the balance."

"You're insane."

"You're just upset 'cause your hair looks like shit 95%  of the time."

"I resent that, my hair looks good in a hot dad kind of way."

"Ew, no." Bucky grimaced and went back to tying his shoe while his dad cracked up laughing.

"Okay, so I've formulated a plan."

"Does your plan involve me listening to my overbearing mother?"

"Fuck no."

"Then you have my attention."

"Okay. So, you go out, do whatever it is you were planning to do, while I lull your mom into going to bed early with food and foot rubs. Then I stay up and watch football, you get home by two, and the official story to your mom the next morning is that you came home at ten like a good little angel. Worst case scenario is she finds out, in which case I tell her I said you could come back later and end up sleeping on the couch."

His dad stood there for a few moments looking incredibly proud of himself and Bucky smirked. "It's better than ma's plan."

"Just don't do anything stupid like take drinks from creepy guys."

"You realise everyone there thinks I'm straight, right?"

"Doesn't mean somebody won't try their luck."

"I'm not an idiot, dad."

"You said that with such confidence I almost believed you."

"Asshole."

"Jerk. See you later." His dad smiled, squeezing his shoulder and then heading back into the house. Bucky just rolled his eyes and closed the car door, trying to remember the way to Skye's house.

She was waiting outside when he pulled up, wearing a pink and white floral dress and heels, and giving him a stormy look that he guessed was because he took so long to get to her.

"You should wear dresses more often, it looks pretty." He said as she got in, trying to earn her forgiveness before she could yell at him.

"Flattery will get you nowhere, Barnes. I mean really how long does it take to drive up the road?"

"I was still getting ready!"

"You're such a diva. You don't even need to make an effort, you have girls throwing themselves at you anyway."

"Yeah and you think they'd still do that if I stopped shaving and wore sweatpants everywhere?"

Skye considered it for a minute before mumbling "Probably." and giggling at him. "But don't do that, you'd look awful and then I could no longer be seen with you."

"Please. The only reason you even talk to me is 'cause I can drive you places."

"I don't deny that." She shrugged, glancing down at her nails to feign disinterest in him while he sniggered and pulled back out of her driveway.

Jasper's house was slightly bigger than Bucky's, which was convenient because there's no way him mom would let him throw a party like this at their house, and there were already dozens of people crowded around both outside and inside. It took a while for Bucky and Skye to find him amongst the crowd in the open-plan sitting room, but they eventually spotted him lingering in the kitchen area with Leo and Jemma.

"You're late." He said loudly when they got over to him, grinning and handing them both a cup of what Bucky assumed was vodka.

"His fault." Skye insisted. She punched him lightly in the shoulder when he frowned at her and yelped when he elbowed her back, laughing when she spilled some of her drink because of it. "You dick."

"You started it."

"Remind me again why you're not dating?" Jemma interrupted, smirking at both of them. Bucky and looked down at Skye and shuddered dramatically while she pretended to gag.

"I can't date him, he's like my baby brother."

"I'm older than you."

"Maybe physically, but certainly not mentally."

Bucky opened his mouth to say something when a flash of dark hair behind Jasper and Leo caught his eye and stopped him in his tracks, unable to tear his eyes away for a few seconds as he took in the unbelievably tight black t-shirt Brock was wearing. Their eyes met for a moment and Brock gave him another crooked smirk, making Bucky's heart flutter for a second. He chewed on his lip and looked down at his feet, assuming that was all the interaction he was going to get, but when he looked back up Brock was still looking at him and gesturing towards the garden door behind them.
For a moment Bucky thought he might have just imagined it, but then the brunet winked at him before walking around them and disappearing through the door, glancing back at Bucky briefly just before he left. His heart was hammering in his chest and it took him a few minutes to realise that Jasper was talking to him again.

"Bucky!"

"Huh?"

"I said 'are you gonna find your new lady friend?'"

Bucky could have kissed Jasper at that point for giving him the perfect excuse to leave them, but he figured that probably wouldn't be the best move so instead he nodded. "Don't wait up." He smirked, deciding to walk back through the crowd first. He downed his drink as he weaved around groups of people and waited until he was sure none of them were watching him anymore to go out through the door into the garden.
He hadn't realised how hot it had been inside until the cool evening air hit him. There were only five or six people out in the back garden, sitting around a table smoking and talking amongst themselves, but he still didn't notice Brock until he felt someone grab his arm and pull him back around the corner of the house so they were out of sight from anybody.

"You know for a minute there I thought you weren't coming."

"I... no I was just-" Brock shushed him by pressing a thumb to Bucky's lips, making his heart stop for a second and then kick-starting it again when he started gently swiping it along his bottom lip.

"Don't talk too much. People'll hear you." He said softly, leaning closer so Bucky could hear him, although he was having a hard time hearing anything when their faces where only a couple of inches apart.

"Oh.. okay." Bucky stammered, cursing his stupid brain for not being able to talk properly. He could feel Brock's eyes trailing over him and, fuck, he was already practically panting and they hadn't even done anything. He was still trying to wrap his head around what was even happening. It was a well known fact that Brock got around more than anybody in the whole school, and there were very few girls that he hadn't slept with. Last time Bucky checked he wasn't a girl, so he couldn't quite work out why Brock seemed to suddenly be taking such an interest in him. Maybe this had all been an elaborate set up by Jasper to get him to come out. "Bro-"

"Rumlow. I hate my first name."

"Oh.."

"You were gonna ask why I'm doing this, right?" Rumlow smirked, trailing his thumb away from Bucky's lip and beginning to lightly stroke along his jaw. Bucky just about managed to nod, making Rumlow's smile grow even wider. "'Cause I like your pretty face."

"You do?" Bucky practically squeaked, blushing when Rumlow let out a husky chuckle and nodded.

"Have for a while, but since you were supposedly such a hit with the ladies I figured I didn't really have much of a chance." He paused for a moment, looking him in the eye sadly and Bucky wanted to grab him by the shoulders and assure him that he absolutely most definitely had a chance. Unfortunately neither his arms or his mouth seemed to be functioning anymore, so he just looked up at him helplessly, wishing he'd do something other than just talking to him. Rumlow seemed to get the message that Bucky wasn't going to say anything, so he went back to stroking his jaw and smiled. "'Course, after I talked to you earlier you made it seem a little less unlikely."

That made Bucky blush again and he looked down at the ground. At least now he knew he really had been as obvious as he felt. Rumlow's hand moved away from his jaw and gripped his chin gently, and Bucky felt the breath rush out of his body when he tilted his head back up and saw how close Rumlow was now. Their noses were brushing together lightly and Bucky could feel the other boy's breath on his face as they looked at each other. He was glad he was leant up against the wall because his legs felt like jelly beneath him, and he was pretty sure if he tried to walk anywhere he'd just collapse on the floor. Rumlow hadn't moved at all and Bucky chewed his lip, letting out the tiniest whine because dammit he needed those lips on his, but there was still a thought in the back of his mind that said maybe it was still all a joke, so he waited for what seemed like hours for Rumlow to move close enough.
The first kiss was barely there; just a feather light brush of lips. But it was enough to make Bucky crumble, moaning softly and draping his arms around Rumlow's neck, mainly to keep himself from just dropping to the ground. That seemed to be all the encouragement Rumlow needed, and suddenly Bucky found himself being pressed harder against the wall while one hand tangled in his hair and the other trailed down his side to his hip, making him gasp and jerk his hips forward involuntarily.
Rumlow was kissing him harder now, moving their lips together so fast Bucky could just about keep up. He'd kissed a few guys before, but it had never gone too far. Except for the time last year when Harry Osborn had shoved his tongue in his mouth just as his dad had decided to come into his room unannounced. The only silver lining of that whole ordeal was that his dad at least knocked before coming into his bedroom now. As if he were reading Bucky's thoughts, Rumlow swiped his tongue across his bottom lip, prompting him to open his mouth and let him take control. He couldn't work out if the excitement was more from Brock kissing him, or the rush he was getting knowing that at any second somebody could walk around the corner of the house and see them because yeah, he'd kissed a few people, but never like this, and never in public.
Inevitably something had to kill the moment and it ended up being Rumlow pulling away slightly, laughing and nuzzling at Bucky's nose before mumbling "I forgot to ask your name."

Bucky narrowed his eyes at him for a second and he laughed again, putting his head in his hands and sighing when Bucky giggled. He was more frustrated at the loss of contact than at being nameless, so he moved one of Brock's hands away and started kissing along his jaw to his ear. "It's Bucky." He whispered, nipping at his earlobe. Rumlow's hands started running down his back, grabbing his ass suddenly and pulling him forward so he was pressed up against him. Bucky gasped when Rumlow ground his hips against him and he felt how hard he was already. It made his mouth water and his pulse sky-rocket, and when he looked up again he saw Rumlow was looking down at him with dark eyes and that wicked smirk.

"Think you can get to the bathroom without being seen?"

"The bathroom?" It wasn't exactly the romantic encounter he'd originally envisioned when Brock had told him he was going to be here, but right now he'd be happy to drop to his knees right in the middle of the damn garden, so he nodded and Rumlow's smile widened.

"Wait here for five minutes, not a second less, then meet me in there."

"Okay." He breathed, leaning back against the wall when Rumlow let go of him, and watching him disappear around the corner before pulling his phone out of his back pocket and staring fixatedly at the clock.

It was the longest five minutes of his entire life, but it at least gave him a chance to calm down enough for his legs to stop shaking, so when the clock finally ticked over he was steady enough to be able to walk back around the corner and through the door into the house. He couldn't tell if there were more people now, or if everyone was now drunk and were talking louder as a result. Rumlow has specifically said he wasn't to be seen so he glanced around the room, checking there was no sign of any of his friends before weaving through the crowds and making his way up the stairs to the bathroom.
He still couldn't fight the feeling that something about this was wrong. Maybe he was going to walk through the door and come face to face with Jasper asking why he was about to get up close and personal with some dude in a bathroom. But when he knocked on the door it flung open immediately, and he found himself being pulled in by the collar of his shirt and slammed back against the door.

"Would've been reeeal awkward if that was somebody else." Rumlow smirked, reaching up behind Bucky's head and snapping the lock shut before leaning down and kissing at his neck. Bucky could feel him sucking bruises onto his neck and his legs were already starting to go weak again, but luckily he didn't plan on staying upright for too long. He pushed Rumlow back until he was pressed against the wall and slowly started sinking down to his knees, dragging his nails down Brock's sides and kissing down his chest over his t-shirt until he was mouthing at the bulge in his jeans.
His hands were shaking as he frantically tried to get the belt undone, and he couldn't help wondering if Rumlow was aware that he had absolutely no fucking clue what he was doing. If he was he wasn't saying anything, so Bucky carried on and finally managed to unbuckle the damn belt and pull down Brock's jeans and boxers so that he was left staring at the hard dick in front of him.
He licked his lips and swallowed the lump in his throat, unsure of where to start. Rumlow chuckled and, fuck, now he definitely knew. He carded his fingers through Bucky's hair as some sort of encouragement and whispered "You're fucking gorgeous, you know that?"

Bucky glanced up at him and a jolt of electricity ran through him when he saw Brock staring down at him hungrily, biting his lip and tugging Bucky's hair gently. Fuelled on by the endearment, he moved one of his hands away from Rumlow's hip and wrapping it around the base of his dick, holding it in place as he slowly took the head into his mouth and sucked lightly. He could feel Rumlow's eyes on him and the constant tugging on his hair was all he needed to tell him to continue, so he hollowed his cheeks out and bobbed his head down, trying to take as much into his mouth as possible. His gag reflex was still too sensitive for him to get far and he had to start using his hand to stroke what he couldn't fit in his mouth, glancing back up again just in time to see Rumlow throwing his head back and moaning.

"Fu-"


 "Bucky." Steve said flatly, shifting uncomfortably on the grass and making Bucky look up. "When I said 'tell me everything', I didn't mean everything."

Bucky blushed and cleared his throat awkwardly, looking down at his hands for a second. Even Meg was giving him a slightly dirty look from where he was laying, curled up underneath the plaid shirt Steve had been wearing over a t-shirt. He'd been forced to give it up when he realised it was the only way to get the blankets away from the cat, so now they were both sat together underneath one, with the other spread over their legs and Meg lying on top of them. "Sorry.. it kinda got away from me. I got distracted thinking about dicks."

"Can we just skip over those parts from now on? It's kinda weird listening to you talking about all the sex you had with your psycho ex."

"Yeah that's.. that's probably a good idea. You should have heard the version I gave Clint and Nat whilst blindingly drunk. It was not PG." He mumbled. "Breakfast the next day was pretty awkward."

Steve chuckled and wrapped his arm around Bucky's waist, leaning against him and sighing. "Okay, so let's skip forward ten minutes."

"You give him way too much credit, Steve."

"Or I don't give you enough."

"I'm flattered that you look at it that way." Bucky said, shrugging. "So anyways, after that he started acting a little weird for a few minutes."


 Rumlow was staring off into space as Bucky picked himself back up again, wiping the back of his hand across his mouth gracelessly and smiling at him.

"You ok-" Before he could finish his sentence Brock had grabbed the collar of his shirt and was staring down at him.

"Bucky, you tell anybody about this and I'll-"

"Do you think I'm just gonna go downstairs and announce to everyone that I just had some dude's dick in my mouth? Because I don't think that'll work out too well for me." He said calmly, raising an eyebrow and smirking at him. For a second Rumlow just stared at him before sighing and letting go of his shirt, moving his hands to squeeze his shoulders and kissing the top of his head lightly. Bucky just smiled again, leaning up to press a chaste kiss to his lips and wrapping his arms around Brock's neck. He pressed his face into the crook of his neck and felt his whole body warm up when Brock's arms wrapped around his waist and held him tightly.

"You're so cute, baby." He said softly, lips grazing against Bucky's ear and making him hum contently.

"Hmm, we should probably get back. You want me to check the coast is clear?"

"No!." Bucky looked up at him and he frowned, softening his voice. "No, I.. I'll go first. Don't want you getting hurt." That made Bucky's heart flutter and he couldn't hide the stupid grin on his face as he nodded, dropping his arms down to his sides and watching as Rumlow walked over to the door. "I'll knock if it's all clear."

"What if it isn't?"

".. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it." Brock said flatly, shrugging and disappearing through the door. Fortunately it didn't come to that, and after a couple of seconds Bucky could hear him knocking on the door and walked back out into the hall, which was thankfully completely now, although from the sounds of things a couple of the bedrooms were being occupied.

"Guess I'll see you later then?" Bucky said hesitantly, trying to work out if he was a one night stand or not. Rumlow smiled at him and nodded, looking thoughtful for a moment before touching his arm lightly.

"How you getting home tonight?"

"I.. was gonna walk?"

Brock shook his head as if that was a ridiculous thing to say. "Buck, you can't just go around at night on your own with a pretty face like that, something'll happen to you."

"I think I'll manage."

"Let me drive you." He said insistently, squeezing Bucky's arm and looking at him seriously. "You can wait for me at the end of the street and I'll pick you up at thre-"

"I need to be back by two."

"1:30 then." Rumlow smirked before letting go of his arm and heading quickly down the stairs, leaving Bucky to try and process what had happened. If he'd learned anything in the past hour, it was that Brock was super protective. Shrugging to himself he followed back down the stairs, preparing himself for all the ridiculous questions Jasper was going to ask him once he found him.

It was cold for a June night and Bucky was shivering, wrapping his arms around himself and glancing up road for any sign of headlights. There was still the very real possibility that Rumlow had just been using him before and actually had no intention of picking him up, or he could have just gotten blackout drunk after they parted ways and now he was passed out on the floor somewhere in Jasper's house. He pulled his phone out of his pocket again and checked the time, he had to be back home in 20 minutes and there was no way he could walk the distance in that time. He was just starting to consider swallowing his pride and phoning his dad when a car finally appeared at the end of the road, and when it pulled up next to him he could just about make out Brock's face smiling at him through the window.
Wasting no time he pulled the door open and climbed into the passenger seat, pulling his knees up to his chest and trying to warm up.

"So I don't actually know your address and.. you cold?" He asked, looking him up and down. Bucky just nodded and tried to curl up tighter until he felt Rumlow slide an arm around him. "C'mere, baby."

Rumlow hooked his hands under Bucky's arms and helped him move over into his lap, wrapping his arms around him while Bucky pressed against him, desperately trying to get as close to the warm body as possibly. "W..What t..took you s..so long?"

"Bucky, it's not my fault if you got here so early."

"You s..said you'd be here t..ten minutes ago!" Bucky protested. Rumlow just sighed and ran a hand through Bucky's hair before moving his hand down to tilt his chin up and kiss him gently, sending a wave of warmth through Bucky's body and making him relax against him.

"You're tetchy when you're cold." He smirked after he pulled away and Bucky nodded, yawning and nuzzling at his chin.

"'M just tired."

"You warmed up yet?"

Bucky hummed a confirmation and scrambled back over to the passenger seat, leaning his head against the window and trying to fight off the sleep that was suddenly threatening to take him over.
He managed to stay alert enough to give directions back to his house, and when he got out Brock walked up to his door with him, spinning him around and cupping his face in his hands to kiss him again. Despite how tired he was, Bucky would have been perfectly happy to stand there for the rest of the night, but eventually Brock pulled away again and he sighed.

"Thanks." He breathed quietly. "For driving me, I mean."

Rumlow nodded and scratched the back of his neck, waiting a few seconds before speaking again. "So uh.. I know this was kinda rushed. I mean we only really started talking today but.. do you wanna.. maybe we could-"

Bucky shut him up with a chaste kiss and grinned at him, mustering up what little courage he had before saying "We could go see a movie?"

"Yeah.. yeah that works. I'll.. let me get your number and I'll call you."

He was so dazed that it took him a few seconds to remember what his phone number was, but eventually he managed to get it out of his brain. Rumlow gave him one last kiss goodnight before heading back to his car, leaving Bucky to fumble around trying to get his key into the door and get inside.

His dad groaned and sat up on the couch when he heard the door shut, glancing at his watch and then over at Bucky.

"You are one minute late."

"Sorry, I can't control my rebellious nature."

"You're tearing this family apart, Buck." He smirked, stretching his arms up over his head before looking Bucky up and down. "See you had a fun evening."

"What?"

His dad pointed at his neck and Bucky rubbed at it, suddenly remembering the collection of bruises Brock had left there and chewing his lip nervously.

"I.. I didn't.. it wasn't.." He struggled trying to form an excuse but his dad just waved him off and walked over, putting his hands on Bucky's shoulders.

"Buck, as long as he wasn't an asshole I don't care what you did."

"Why would he be an asshole?"

"Because you can be unbelievably naive."

Bucky blushed and looked at his feet. "He wasn't an asshole."

"Then I will refrain from hunting him down."

"Dad."

"I'm kidding, carry on."

"Carry on with what?"

"With telling me about him."

"Dad I'm not just gonna-" He paused and sighed when his dad gave him a frown and a raised eyebrow. "He said he was gonna call. Think we're gonna go see a movie or something."

"That's cute."

"Shut up."

"Not everything I say is sarcastic you know."

"You can still shut up."

"Fine." His dad shrugged, ruffling Bucky's hair and smirking when he swatted his hand away. "I'll see you in the morning.. or afternoon as the case may be."

Bucky bit back a laugh, worried that he'd wake his mom up if he made too much noise, and padded into his bedroom. He was too tired to even get changed so he just collapsed down onto the bed fully dressed, curling up on top of the duvet and falling asleep thinking about dark brown eyes and crooked smiles.

When he woke up he had 3 missed calls and 4 texts. One of the messages was from Skye telling him she and Jemma were already planning a party for next weekend to celebrate finishing school for the year, but the rest were Brock.

Hey it's Rumlow, call me when you get this x

Gonna assume you're still sleeping and not ignoring me ;) x

Jeeze you sleep in late, fucking hell.

Yawning, he stretched out until his back made an ungodly cracking noise and rolled onto his front, propping himself up on his elbows to type out a response to Skye. For a few minutes he debated whether he should call Rumlow or just text him, but when he heard footsteps approaching the door he decided to just type out a quick Hey, sorry I'm lazy trash :P  before tossing his phone onto the pillow next to him and burying his face into the other.

"Afternoon." He heard his mom's stern voice from the doorway but didn't move, waiting for her to come around and sit next to him on the bed before looking up at her and grinning. She frowned at him and opened her mouth to say something but he beat her to it.

"Ma, if you were genuinely angry about me still being in bed, you would've come to wake me up ages ago." He mumbled, yawning and closing his eyes again when she started stroking his hair. "What time is it anyway?"

"1:30." No wonder Brock was so pissed. "I figured since you came home on time last night I could let you lay in for a bit."

Bucky felt a little guilty for lying to his mom, but he would probably be feeling a whole lot worse if he told her what time he actually came home so he just nodded, curling up next to her and letting her carry on running her fingers through his hair. His phone buzzed next to his head and he tried to grab it but she got there first, picking it up and glancing at the screen.

"That's an invasion of my privacy." He protested, trying to reach the phone and silently praying that it had been Skye responding.

"Who's Brock?" Fuck.

"He's nobody."

"He's asking when you're free today."

"Mom gimme the phone." Bucky whined, waving his hands at her until she finally handed it over.

"So he's nobody, huh?"

"Yup."

"Then why are you smiling?"

His mouth fell open for a second and he groaned, hiding his face in his pillow while his mom giggled. "Is he nice?"

"Why have you both asked me that? Why would I give him my number if he wasn't nice?"

"I don't know I just like to check."

"So you're not gonna get mad that I went against your 'no talking to boys' rule?"

"I'll decide on that when I meet him."

"Ma I only started talking to him yesterday, it's not that serious."

"No, but he is the first boy you've "talked" to that's asked to see you again."

"Salt in the wounds, mom."

"I'm just saying he seems really interested in you." She said, stroking his hair again and smiling. "Anyway, you need to get up, young man."

"Yes ma'am." Bucky mumbled, rolling back onto his stomach and pretending to snore loudly.

"James."

"Yeah, gimme a minute."

He waited until she left to roll back over and actually read the text Rumlow had sent him.

You can say that again :| So what time are you free today, cos I can come pick you up whenever and we can go out x

Why would you need to pick me up? The movie theatre's like 10 minutes from my house

Yeah but I know one just outside the city that does better deals. There's fuck all on right now though x

We can just pick something random and pretend to watch it ;)

I like that plan better ;);) I'll come get you in 10? x

Give me 20, I need to shower :) xx

His phone buzzed again a few seconds after but he didn't bother checking it and just rolled along his bed until he fell onto the floor with a thud.

"James what the hell are you doing!?" His mom yelled from the next room.

"Getting up!"

"Can you do so without causing a minor earthquake?"

Bucky ignored her and pushed himself to his feet, padding into his bathroom and managing to shower in under five minutes. He frantically tried to towel dry his hair at the same time as he changed into his jeans, which resulted in the tragic death of a bottle of soap that cracked when he knocked it on the floor. He knew one day his parents were going to find him dead in this bathroom, it seemed he managed to destroy something or come close to killing himself just about every day. Sighing and kicking the bottle out of the way, he pulled a dark blue shirt over his head and tried to do something with his still damp hair.

"In a hurry?" His dad asked when he came out of the bedroom.

"What makes you say that?"

"Your shirt's on backwards."

".. Touché." Bucky mumbled, changing the shirt around with lightning speed while his dad laughed at him.

"So why the hurry?"

"Rumlow's coming over in like, 2 minutes."

"The fuck kind of name is Rumlow?"

"It's his last name, that's just what people call him."

"Like a serial killer?"

"Dad, seriously."

"I'm just saying it's suspicious."

"No it's not he just-"

He was cut off by the sound of knocking at the door and his stomach tied itself in a knot as he headed over to the door, this time remembering to actually put some shoes on before throwing himself through the door as fast as he possibly could and almost colliding with Rumlow in the process.

"You trying to hide me from your folks or..?"

"What? Yeah.. no! I mean.. they're just really embarrassing. It's probably best they don't come into direct contact with you."

Rumlow chuckled and slid his arm around Bucky's waist, making him jump and look down at the ground as he tried to ignore the butterflies he was getting. He let him lead him over to the car and timidly got into the passenger seat, looking down at his hands and trying to think of something smart to say.

"So do they know?"

"Know what?"

He looked up and saw Rumlow raising an eyebrow at him, but it still took a couple more seconds for his brain to buffer. "Oh! Yeah! Yeah I came out to them when I was like 14."

"But nobody else knows?"

Bucky started to smile until he saw the serious look in his eyes, and then he shook his head, looking back down at his hands. "Just my godparents.. and you, obviously. But that's it." They both fell silent for a few minutes while Rumlow started the car and pulled back out of Bucky's drive. "What about you? Does anybody else-"

"No, just you."

"Oh."

"Changing the subject completely, did you wanna grab dinner after the movie? 'Cause there's this awesome Italian nearby."

"Technically that wasn't a complete subject change."

"Doesn't answer the question, Buck."

"Yeah I know I was just.. no that sounds good."

One would have thought, given all that took place the night before, that Bucky would be slightly more comfortable in Rumlow's presence. But instead he seemed to be getting even more flustered than usual. Maybe it was just the fact that nobody had ever really taken him on a proper date before. Or the fact that this godlike creature next to him was actually, genuinely interested in him, and put kisses at the end of his texts to him, and got paranoid when he took too long to respond, and called him pretty and baby, and he had probably never felt this excited in his life, and god he needed to calm down.
They drove for almost an hour before finally getting to the theatre which seemed a bit extreme for the sake of saving a couple of dollars on a ticket, but Bucky wasn't about to complain about having to spend an hour in a car with Brock. He did find out that Rumlow's parents were in the middle of divorcing, he couldn't stand his mom but was staying with her just so he didn't have to move out of the state, and that he thought Bucky's eyes were pretty. After they'd bought tickets to the next movie that was showing and Bucky bought more popcorn than he was ever going to eat, they went in and found some seats near the back of the almost empty screen room.
He had absolutely no idea what movie they'd been watching.. something about robots.. because he'd been too busy trying not to make any noise when Brock pulled him onto his lap almost instantly and started kissing down his neck, only stopping a couple of times to come up and kiss him properly, tugging on his hair and biting on his lip until Bucky shivered and he pulled away again. As far as he was concerned, it was the best damn movie he'd ever gone to see.

"Thought you didn't want people to know about this?" He said as they walked out, blushing ridiculously when Brock took one of his hands and locked their fingers together.

"Yeah, but nobody up here knows us."

Bucky stopped and pulled him back, grabbing his other hand so he turned to face him and smirking up at him. "That why you drove us all the way out here?" He asked, giggling when Rumlow frowned and looked at his feet. Sighing, he stretched up and kissed his cheek, wrapping his arms around his neck and smiling at him. "I don't mind."

"You don't think it's a little weird?"

"I think it's sweet."

Rumlow smiled the biggest smile he'd ever seen and cupped Bucky's face in his hands, kissing him gently and sighing when Bucky opened his eyes again. "Anyone ever tell you how beautiful you are?"

"Mm, it's been said." Bucky hummed, rocking back and forth on his heels lazily. "So you said something about Italian?"

"If you're still interested."

"I'm very interested."

"Then Italian it is." Rumlow smirked, taking Bucky's hand again and leading him down the street until they got to a secluded little restaurant tucked out of sight of the road.
They ended up ordering way too much food, although the fact that Bucky had skipped both breakfast and lunch did help him to eat a decent amount of it, and Brock insisted on paying despite Bucky pointing out that he could probably afford to buy everyone in the building a three course meal.

"Why do you have to pay?"

"Because I'm taking you out."

"You are both crushing, and promoting the patriarchy. So good job but also shame on you."

Rumlow just chuckled at him and slapped his hand away gently when he still tried to grab the bill, paying for them both and then leading him back out, this time with his arm around Bucky's waist. The air was mild but Bucky felt even warmer than he had done inside with Rumlow's thumb rubbing circles on his hip as they walked back to his car and he could barely hide the smile on his face, although he couldn't help regretting not waking up earlier so they could have spent more time out. Some of the disappointment must have been showing because after they were in the car he felt Rumlow's hand on his shoulder, squeezing it gently and smiling when he looked up. "You okay, baby?"

"Yeah, I just.. kinda don't want to go home yet." He shrugged, looking down at his hands. He heard Rumlow chuckle and when he looked up again he was starting the car up, not saying anything as he drove them down the street.
For a few minutes Bucky thought he'd said something wrong, and that it was the end of the conversation. But after ten minutes of driving they pulled up on the side of a deserted road and the next thing he knew his seatbelt was off and he was being pulled into Brock's lap so that he was staring down at him. Slowly Rumlow's hands moved up his back until they were behind his neck, pulling him down and pressing their lips together softly. Bucky moaned and shifted on his lap, wrapping his arms around Rumlow's neck and leant down further to deepen the kiss. He felt Brock part his lips slightly and seized the opportunity, licking into his mouth slowly and smirking when Rumlow gasped at him taking control. It didn't last long and soon he was flicking his tongue back and forcing Bucky to let him take over again. After a few minutes he pulled away again and grinned up at him.

"We don't have to go home yet."

"What?" Bucky asked, pausing and looking at him blankly. Brock's grin turned into a crooked smirk and his eyes flashed mischievously as he gestured towards the backseat, making Bucky's breath catch in his throat. He felt Rumlow lift his hips up as if to make his point clearer and Bucky licked his suddenly dry lips. "I.. won't we need-"

"I'm way ahead of you." Rumlow smirked, reaching into the glove box and pulling out lube and a roll of condoms.

".. Why do you have those in there?"

"I keep 'em there all the time." He chuckled, running his free hand up and down Bucky's arm and kissing at his neck.

"You know I haven't.. done this before?"

"But you want to, right?"

Bucky thought about that for a second, letting Rumlow carry on kissing and nibbling at his neck until he nipped at one spot that made him moan and grab fistfuls of Brock's hair.

"That a yes?"

"Uh huh."

"Good boy." Rumlow praised, lifting his head back up and kissing Bucky's chin. "I'll take it slow for you, baby."


 Bucky was brought out of his train of thought again by the sound of Steve loudly clearing his throat.

"I did it again didn't I?"

"Yeah. It's nothing personal, I just really don't need to hear an in depth description of you losing your virginity."

"Understandable. But let me just say he did not take it slow."

"Please don't."

"Sorry. You know it's been over two months since I last got laid? I'm just sexually frustrated, my mind is going to these places of its own accord." He shrugged, scratching between Meg's ears and giggling when he heard Steve sigh.

"Seriously though? First date?"

"Shut up he was hot."

"He started speaking to you the day before."

"At least I let him buy me dinner first."

"Amazing."

"Jerk."

Steve chuckled and leant back against the wall, folding his arms and grinning. "So how far do we need to flash forward this time? 2 minutes?"

"Listen here you little shit." Bucky said, whipping his head around and narrowing his eyes while Steve threw his head back laughing. It was a few minutes before he composed himself and Bucky was able to get a word in. "Are you done?"

"I'm done."

"You're an asshole."

"I'm just trying to lighten the mood a little." He shrugged. Meg meowed and Steve gestured towards him. "See, Megatron appreciates my humour."

"No, Meg just thinks your an asshole too."

"Don't put words in the kitty's mouth."

"Steve, I am fluent in kitty speak."

"Oh really?"

"Do you want me to continue or no?"

"Right, sorry."


 The drive back to Bucky's was slightly awkward, although he was too dazed to pay much mind to it. He sat, curled up in the passenger seat and smiling to himself, trying to work out whether it was the car that smelt of sex or him, and whether his parents would be able to tell when he got home. His dad probably would, because Bucky was still pretty certain that he possessed psychic abilities.

After they'd pulled up in Bucky's drive they both sat in silence for a moment while Bucky questioned whether he should just say goodbye, but before he could make up his mind Rumlow finally spoke.

"So is this gonna be like.. a seriously thing?"

"That's what I was gonna ask you."

"Do you want it to be?"

Bucky looked over to see Rumlow leaning against the seat and smiling warmly at him, making his heart skip a beat. "I.. yeah."

Rumlow smirked at him and reached a hand over to stroke Bucky's cheek. "Hmm. I'll see you tomorrow then?"

"Tomorrow?"

"Yeah. Why, are you busy?"

"No I just.. I do have homework and stuff to do and I haven't really had a chance yet."

"That's not my fault."

"I didn't say it was but I still have to do it."

"It's not that important."

"It kinda is."

"So you'd rather do that than see me?"

"No! I just need to get it done. I mean.. maybe I'd be able to come out for lunch or something but-"

"Great! Then I'll see you tomorrow."

Bucky wasn't sure quite how they'd gotten to that agreement, but he smiled and nodded anyway, nuzzling at Brock's hand before opening the car door and getting out. He'd planned on waving before going into the house but Rumlow pulled out of the drive again before he had the chance, so he shrugged and pushed the door open, coming face to face with his mom.

"Honey why didn't you invite him in?"

"It's 9:30 and.. were you watching me outside?"

"Yes."

"I appreciate your honesty, ma, but don't you think that's slightly creepy?"

"I had to form judgment on him based off what car he drives."

"Okay.. did you get anything conclusive?"

"He seems nice."

"Wow, thank you for that groundbreaking piece of information on my boyfriend. What would I do without you?"

"Did you just use the B-word?"

Bucky paused for a minute and raised his eyebrow at her. "I don't think.. Oh wait you mean that B-word! I thought you meant.. it doesn't matter."

"So he's your boyfriend?"

"I don't know."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"He asked me if I wanted to be serious and I said yes and he said okay, so I guess so?"

His mom made a weird squealing noise and wrapped her arms around him, almost squeezing the life out of him and leaving him unable to get away.

"Sweetheart this is wonderful, I need to meet him, when can I meet him? Invite him over tomorrow so I can see him."

"Mom.. we've been on.. one date.. calm down.." Bucky managed to say, the death grip his mom had on him making it hard for him to speak. "Ma I can't actually breathe."

"Freddie why are you murdering our kid?"

The sound of his dad's voice made his mom spin around, thankfully letting go of Bucky in the process and returning his breathing privileges.

"James has a boyfriend."

"Possibly!"

"Aaaaaaaay."

"You're both idiots." Bucky mumbled, looking at the ground and huffing. He didn't look up again until his mom had wandered off into the kitchen and he was about to head to his bedroom when his dad grabbed his shoulder and smirked at him.

"Your shirt's on backwards again." He said quietly before cracking up laughing and walking off, leaving Bucky frozen in a state of horror for a few moments. Eventually after the mortification worse off and the relief that it at least hadn't been his mom who noticed, he managed to get his legs to move again and went into his bedroom, this time actually changing before climbing into bed and curling himself up in the duvet.
He spent a good ten minutes wondering why his copy of Pride and Prejudice wasn't on the bedside table until he remembered he'd tossed it under the bed the last time Jasper was round so he wouldn't make some comment on it. Groaning he sat back up and shoved his hand under the bed, praying there weren't any spiders waiting for him as he felt around until he found it.

He didn't realise it had gone midnight until his phone buzzed loudly next to him and snapped him back into reality. Yawning, he put the book back in its rightful place on his table before grabbing his phone and trying to work out why Rumlow was texting him at 12:30. For a second he considered just ignoring it and going to sleep, but his curiosity was too great and when he unlocked his phone he felt his whole body warm up.

I forgot to say goodnight before I left so.. goodnight! I also forgot to kiss you.. I forgot to do a lot of stuff, your pretty little face is very distracting ;) Sweet dreams baby ♥ xx

Bucky lay there staring at the text for a few minutes, beaming uncontrollably and kicking his feet around like a five year old. Once he'd eventually managed to calm himself down he took a few seconds to add a heart onto the end of Brock's contact name, before putting the phone down next to his pillow and closing his eyes, still smiling as he fell asleep.


 "Honestly, he sounds like the creepiest motherfucker on the planet."

"He was. I just thought it was cute at the time, you know? I ended up not going out with him the next day 'cause I had too much to do, which annoyed him a little, but I promised I'd spend the next weekend with him instead of going to Skye and Jemma's end of school party."

Bucky sighed and looked down at his hands, feeling a little better when Steve shuffled closer to him and leant his head on him. "He didn't speak to me at all when we were at school. Didn't even acknowledge my presence. He didn't want to risk anybody finding out anything about us being together, so he just avoided me completely whenever anybody else was around.
"Then once the week was out he was all over me again. I mean, I'm pretty sure you don't want to hear the details, but he was definitely affectionate. I spent practically the whole Summer with him. Barely saw any of my friends, save for a few parties, 'cause Rumlow would always find some way to put me off. He didn't mind so much if it was someone like Skye, but if it was a guy he'd get real possessive and think of something the two of us could do instead, telling me he loved me and that if I really loved him I'd stay with him. So I ended up spending most of my time at his apartment doing stuff with him or hiding from his mom if she came back from work early and listening to her and Brock arguing about something for half an hour until she stormed out again.
"See, I kinda told myself that his parents splitting up, and his shitty relationship with his mom explained the way he acted. And that it made it okay for him to be like that. I mean during Summer he never really acted that bad, he'd just lose his temper a few times and yell at me, and if I ever did go out to see other friends he'd start acting really shitty the next time I saw him, insulting practically everything I did and putting down anything I did, but I still just put that down to him going through a tough time and told myself he'd grow out of it in a month or two."

Steve had sat up again and was running his fingers through Bucky's hair. He hadn't even realised he was starting to shake a little until Meg hobbled along his legs and nuzzled at his chin.

"You know you can stop if you want."

Bucky shook his head and forced a smile. "It'd be a bit stupid going that far and then not telling you the good bit."

"Yeah but I get the feeling the "good bit" ain't gonna be that good."

"Depends whose side you're on."

Steve sighed and frowned at him. "So what happened when you went back to school."

"The first couple of weeks were weird. He didn't talk to me at all. Like, I don't mean just at school, he just completely stopped talking to me. He wouldn't reply to my messages, wouldn't answer his phone, nothing. Then on the Friday of the second week he just showed up at the door at 8:30 and took me back to his place so we could.. you know what we did. Anyways I fell asleep for like 20 minutes after that and when I woke up he wasn't in the room."


 Bucky groaned and stretched out in the bed. It wasn't as big as his one, but it sufficed, and had the added bonus of being in a different building to his parents. He pushed himself up and glanced around the room, which was only dimly lit by the lamp next to him, and tried to work out whether Rumlow was just in the bathroom or if he'd gone downstairs. Usually he'd stay in bed during Bucky's post-sex naps, which he seemed to take more often than not, so it was strange waking up in a completely empty room.

Grabbing the pair of boxer briefs on the floor that he was fairly sure were his, he pulled them on along with his dark grey t-shirt that he found hanging off the end of the bed, and headed down the stairs cautiously, worried he would come face to face with Brock's mom and have to explain why a partially clothed boy had been sleeping in her son's bed. Fortunately that wasn't the case, and once he was halfway down the stairs he could see Brock sitting on the couch in just his jeans, watching an episode of Breaking Bad. He looked up when he heard Bucky on the stairs and smiled.

"What are you doing up?"

"I woke up." Bucky shrugged, hopping down the remaining couple of steps and snuggling up on the couch next to the brunet. "Where'd you go?"

"Thought you were gonna sleep the rest of the night. Did you think I was just gonna sit there for hours doing nothing while you snored on my lap?"

Bucky's face fell and he sat back up again, looking over at Rumlow timidly and deciding to drop the subject rather than lead him into an argument. "What're you watching?" He asked quietly, despite already knowing the answer. He'd found that regressing back to an absent-minded pretty face tended to make Rumlow treat him better if he started getting tetchy. As he predicted, Brock chuckled and reached out to stroke Bucky's cheek.

"You wouldn't like it, sweetheart. It's too complicated."

For a minute Bucky considered announcing that he'd actually been watching it at home, but he decided against it. That was apparently the only answer that he was going to get so he shrugged, smiling innocently at him and leaning against his shoulder as he tried to work out if he'd already watched this episode or not.
After a few minutes his stomach started growling and he shifted uncomfortably.

"We should order pizza."

"It's almost 10 o'clock, Buck."

"I know but I'm starving." He whined, nuzzling at Brock's shoulder and huffing. "Unless you were gonna cook for me?"

"Fine, you can order pizza."

Bucky pumped the air victoriously, making Rumlow chuckle, and hopped up off the couch to find his phone.

There was something about being initially denied pizza that made it taste better, and Bucky had never been more thankful that Rumlow hadn't been hungry so he'd been able to eat practically the entire pizza on his own.

"How can you possibly eat that much?" Rumlow asked in amazement, watching as Bucky sat nibbling on the last bit of crust.

"I'm a growing boy."

"Yeah, you're gonna end up growing outwards rather than upwards at that rate."

"Hey!" Bucky exclaimed, hitting Rumlow's arm gently and pouting at him. "Jerk."

Rumlow just laughed and grabbed Bucky's hips, moving him onto his lap so he was straddling him. "You're too sensitive, baby. I was just kidding." He said softly, brushing a piece of hair away from Bucky's forehead and sighing. "You pissed at me now?"

He was fairly certain that Brock would be able to get away with actual murder just by looking up at everyone with those sad brown eyes, and making himself look like a lost little puppy. Shaking his head, Bucky leant down to kiss him, unable to stop himself from smiling against his lips because, although he'd probably never admit it to him, he kind of preferred this to sleeping with him. Just clumsy kisses and giggling and Rumlow getting pushy every time Bucky got the upper hand for a second.
After a few minutes he had to break off again to get his breath back. He looked down and beamed, trying to work out how the hell he'd gotten this guy to ever fall in love with him. It took a while for his brain to start functioning properly again, and for him to remember the question that had been bugging him all night.

"So... how come you weren't answering your phone before?"

"When?"

"All last week.. and the week before. I was trying to call you but you didn't pick up."

"Oh, my phone's practically useless right now. Need to get it replaced."

"Oh. You could have said something." Bucky said quietly, scratching the back of his neck awkwardly.

"Baby, you know why I can't talk to you at school."

"I don't think one conversation would really-"

"I can't risk you getting hurt, sweetheart. You know what it'd do to me if I lost you?" He said firmly, cupping Bucky's face in his hands a little more forcefully than he must have intended to. "Besides, I thought you'd wanna spend some time with your friends. Seeing as how you were constantly going on about them all Summer."

"I wasn't going on about them. I just didn't see them as much 'cause I was with you."

"So all this is my fault?"

"Wha- no! I just-"

"You're very difficult to please, Buck. First you complain that you can't see your friends, then you moan at me when I give you a chance to see them."

".. Sorry, I just.. you're right.. sorry." He mumbled, leaning down and nuzzling his face into Rumlow's neck.

"It's okay, baby. You're just tired." Brock said softly, stroking his hair and shushing him when he opened his mouth to speak. Just the mere mention of it made Bucky realise how tired he was and he nodded, leaning more heavily on him and closing his eyes. "If you fall asleep down here I ain't carrying you to bed."

"'M not that heavy."

"I'm kinda doubting that having just watched you eat an entire pizza by yourself."

"Shut up." Bucky murmured, still not getting up but instead trying to encourage Rumlow to lay down on the couch. "We can just stay here. You said your mom was doing the night shift so she won't be back 'til morning, right?"

He didn't say anything, so Bucky took that for an agreement and yawned, wrapping his arms loosely around Brock's back and mumbling a drowsy "love you" before drifting to sleep.

After that things gradually began to build into a routine. Rumlow wouldn't speak to him at all during the week, refusing to do anything other than text him in the evenings, and then they'd spend the whole weekend together. Only very rarely would Bucky make plans with somebody else on the weekend, and Brock would almost always talk him out of it if he did. He seemed incredibly reluctant to let him spend any time with Jasper, even though Bucky told him time and time again that he was just his best friend, and that if he had heard the kind of shitty homophobic jokes and comments he made almost every day he'd realise he had nothing to worry about, but it didn't seem to make a difference.
He also learnt to stop asking about the rumours that would start circulating every now and then about Rumlow sleeping with one girl or another at some of the parties he went to.

"They're just rumours, baby. People spread shit like that all the time."

"Yeah I know it just.. it just happens a lot."

"So you trust them more than me? I've heard dozens of stories about all girls you've slept with, and they're all bullshit."

"I know but-"

"Leave it!" Brock snapped, raising his hand up as if to slap Bucky across the face. That made him flinch and he stood frozen in place, staring at him until Brock eventually sighed and dropped his hand again. "Why'd you have to keep pushing me like that, Buck? You know I don't wanna hurt you."

"Sorry." Bucky said quietly, scuffing his shoe against the floor and fighting back the tears that were suddenly stinging his eyes.

"Come on, baby. You knew I wasn't actually gonna hurt you, right?" Rumlow sighed, wrapping his arms around him and leaning against his head. Bucky just nodded and pressed his face against Brock's chest. "It's okay, baby. I'm here.


 "You know, Buck. The more you talk, the more I start to regret not breaking that fucker's legs."

"What? He hasn't even done anything yet."

"He just threatened to hit you."

"But he didn't and-"

"Bucky that's not the point. He shouldn't have even thought about it." Steve muttered, looking over at him. His face was hard and Bucky could tell he was frustrated, but those bright blue eyes were still warm and friendly, and he couldn't quite work out how that could be. "Did he ever actually hit you?"

He was almost scared to respond at first, worried that the answer would send Steve into a mad frenzy, but eventually he sighed and mumbled, "Do you really need to ask?"

"Yeah I'm gonna break his legs."


 Rumlow threatened to hit him several more times after that, but never anything more, and gradually Bucky stopped flinching when he saw him raise his hand up. That was, until the start of December when Bucky was trying to convince him that he didn't need to come with him to Tony's annual Christmas party, which in hindsight was never going to go well.

They'd been walking back to his house when Rumlow had mentioned some movie that was showing in the evening.

"I.. I already told you I have to go to Tony's tonight."

"Oh, well we can do that instead."

"Um.. I don't really think you'd like it that much. It's just a load of rich people in suits talking about business stuff." He said hesitantly, wishing Rumlow would show some kind of expression so he could tell what he was thinking, rather than just maintaining his flat poker face.

"If it's so boring then why are you going?"

"I have to, it's a family thing. Plus you.. you haven't been invited."

"So you don't want me there?"

"Look if I could stay here and go somewhere with you instead I would, but I'm obligated to go and you'll hate it there."

"You'd rather spend time with someone who isn't even related to you, than me?"

"No but.. this is just one of those situations where family comes fir-"

Brock's hand hit the side of his face so hard his vision clouded for a second and he almost lost his balance. It took a second for him to even register the sharp stinging in his left cheek, and he lifted a shaky hand up to cover it in case Rumlow tried to hit him again.

"You're a selfish piece of shit, Bucky." Rumlow spat, before turning on his heel and marching back up the street, leaving Bucky frozen in place, trembling and trying to get his breathing back to normal before he walked the rest of the way home.
He pulled his phone out of his pocket and glanced at his reflection, frowning at the bruise that was already starting to form on his cheek. Thinking up a quick lie, he made his way down the rest of the street to his house, hoping he'd be able to get to his bedroom without any obstacles. Naturally though, it wasn't to be, and the minute he got through the door both his mom and his dad had crowded around him and were looking him up and down.

"Sweetie what happened to your face?" His mom asked lifting a hand up stroke his cheek gently. Even the faint touch made him wince, but he leant back into her hand anyway, shrugging.

"Wasn't looking where I was going. Ended up walking straight into a wall."

She tutted him and smiled, running a hand through his hair before turning and heading upstairs. For a few seconds he thought he was in the clear, but his dad was still frowning at him.

"What?"

"You walked into a wall?"

"Yeah.."

"Buck you're clumsy but you're not that clumsy."

"Maybe you just underestimate how much of a human disaster I am."

"Uh huh." His dad said sceptically, coming over and putting his hands on either side of Bucky's shoulders. "Where's what's-his-face?"

"I've been dating him for almost six months and you still can't remember his name?"

"Where is he?"

"He went home after he'd walked me over."

"And he didn't notice you "walking into a wall"?"

"I did it after he left."

"In the distance it takes to get from the top of the drive to the house, you managed to walk into a solid brick wall, and still had enough time for a bruise to develop on your face?"

"Yes."

"Buck-"

"So when are we leaving tonight 'cause I need to take a nap before we go."

"Not for a couple of hours but-"

"Can you let go of me then?"

His dad looked at him for a moment and sighed, squeezing his shoulders before letting go. "Yeah just.. you sure you're okay?"

Bucky nodded and pushed past him, ignoring his dad trying to call him back and heading into his room. As soon as the door was closed behind him the tears that he'd desperately been trying to hold back came out, and he had to throw himself onto the bed and smother a pillow over his face to stop anyone from being able to hear him sobbing frantically. His face was still stinging and it seemed like he'd just completely ruined his whole relationship by being his usual selfish, stubborn self. And after all the fuss he'd made about convincing Rumlow to let him go to the party, it was the last thing on earth that he wanted to do.

He did go to the party, and he drank more than he had probably ever drunk in his life put together, and when he woke up in the morning with the most agonising headache he had ever experienced, he regretted ever being born at all.
His pillow still felt damp where he'd spent another couple of hours crying into it before he fell asleep in the early hours of the morning, and when he sat up the whole room span, making him feel sick. Lying back against the pillow he closed his eyes, hoping he could just sleep through the rest of the day and wake up feeling great, but the sound of his phone buzzing loudly on his bedside table and making the whole house shake ruined that, and made his head throb mercilessly.
It took him a few minutes to gather up the strength to reach out and grab his phone, although it did wake him up a bit more when he tapped the screen and 30 unread messages flashed up in front of him. Frowning, he unlocked the phone and spent the next ten minutes scrolling through the messages Rumlow had left him.

Baby I really didn't mean to hurt you earlier

It just happened you know I hate it when you get hurt

You just upset me baby it wasn't anything serious

I love you more than anything, I couldn't live without you

Please baby I didn't mean it

I love you

The messages went on and on, all saying pretty much the same thing. Once he'd finished reading them he felt so guilty he was surprised he didn't start crying again, and his heart was beating frantically as he typed out a reply.

It's okay. I was a jerk, I'm sorry. I love you too. ♥

Chapter Text

Bucky had to stop for a few moments after Steve actually ripped a handful of grass out of the ground and sat there for a few moments staring fixatedly into the distance. Meg wriggled out of Bucky's arms and tried to hop elegantly onto Steve's lap, although his lack of a front leg made it hard for him to keep his balance and he ended up falling onto the grass. That did at least make Steve smile though, and once Meg had picked himself back up he purred and rubbed against his leg.

"You should get him a kitty sized peg-leg." He said quietly, making Bucky giggle.

"That'd probably just make him even more clumsy." Bucky smirked, shuffling over and leaning against Steve's arm. "He doesn't usually like new people. He won't even go near Clint. Although Clint also hates cats so I think he can just tell when he's not wanted."

Steve chuckled and scratched the back of Meg's neck, making him purr even louder, and wrapped his other arm around Bucky's shoulder. "Maybe he's trying to make a good impression so I don't run off?"

"What? Oh no I already told him the dating thing's fake."

"You're a complete crazy cat lady, you know that?" Steve grinned, pulling Bucky closer and leaning their heads together. "Did your parents ever find out it was Rumlow that hit you?"

Bucky shook his head and sighed. "Nah. I mean, my dad was never entirely convinced, but ma just never questioned it. Which was kind of a blessing and a curse 'cause it meant she kept constantly insisting that he come over, she even managed to rope him into staying for Christmas that year and- you're not gonna destroy more grass are you? 'Cause mom won't be happy if you tear up her entire garden."

"No I'm good, I'll just do angry sketches tomorrow. Carry on."

"O..kay. So anyways, he was always like a completely different person when he was around my parents. He'd basically act like he had when we first got together. All sweet and cuddly and polite, but then once we were away from them he'd change back."


Out of all the things that Rumlow ever expected him to do, the worst by far was having to sit, snuggled up next to him, while his parents sat next to them and his mom made occasional comments about how cute they were. Rumlow would smile and run a hand through Bucky's hair, and then Bucky would have to smile too. Maybe throw back a comment about how embarrassing she was, or just laugh and hide his face behind his hands, when all he really wanted to do was slap his hand away and sit on his own somewhere. 

Of course it would be a lot easier if his dad wasn't so damn suspicious of them all the time, and despite Rumlow constantly telling him to, he just couldn't seem to convince him that there was nothing wrong and that he was happy.

Today he had at least managed to get away with sitting about as far away from Rumlow as humanly possible, and was sat at the table staring intently at his science textbook with his headphones in to avoid focusing on his boyfriend joking with his mom on the couch. He was so zoned out that it wasn't until his mom tapped him on the shoulder that he realised she was now standing next to him, and had apparently been trying to talk to him.

"Huh?" He said, taking one of his headphones out and looking up at her blankly.

"Honestly, James, how loud do you have those things?"

"Loud enough to block out my responsibilities."

His mom tutted at him and he smirked, tapping his pen against the table impatiently. "What I was trying to tell you." She sighed. "Was that I'm going out to get groceries."

"'Kay."

She sighed again and squeezed his shoulder, and he had to fight to keep a straight face when she unintentionally pressed into the bruise that had formed from where Rumlow had shoved him back against the bed frame the night before. He shoved his headphone back into his ear as a not-so-subtle encouragement for her to leave, waiting until she'd turned her back to roll his shoulder and try and get the ache to subside again.
He pulled his textbook back over and flipped the page, although he was much more focused on loudly singing all the words to Hot 'N Cold than he was actually doing science. It wasn't until Rumlow's fist slammed down onto the table in front of him that he remembered he was even there and he immediately pursed his lips together, looking up at him cautiously.

"Will you shut the fuck up!?"

"S..sorry."

"I can't even hear myself think with your shitty singing driving me crazy."

"I didn't.. I forgot you were-"

"It's not important, baby. C'mon."

"What?"

"I said, come on." Rumlow said sternly, grabbing Bucky's arm and forcibly pulling him of his chair towards the bedroom. Bucky took a deep breath and dug his heels into the carpet, stopping Rumlow in his tracks and making him turn around to face him. "What is it?"

"I need to finish this first."

"You can finish it when your mom's back."

"Yeah but I don't want to-"

"I don't give a shit what you want to do. That's not important anyway."

"It is important! If I fail my science classes I'm not gonna get into college and-"

"Right. As if you would get into college anyway, Buck." Rumlow laughed, using his free hand to stroke Bucky's cheek. "What're you gonna do at college? Hair and beauty?"

"No." Bucky mumbled, looking at his feet. "Criminal psychology.. so I can be a detective and-"

He was cut off by Rumlow throwing his head back laughing, taking a few minutes to compose himself before putting his hands on Bucky's shoulders and smiling at him. "Don't you think that's a little intense for you, sweetheart?"

"Not really. I mean-"

"I think you'd be suited to something a bit less complicated."

"I don't want to do something less complicated."

"Baby, you don't know what you want. Listen to me."

"But-"

"Now are you gonna come with me or are you just gonna be selfish like always?" Rumlow muttered, tightening his grip on Bucky's shoulders to remind him he didn't really have a choice. Bucky shook his head and leant up to kiss him, giving him a sultry smile and chewing his lip.

"What do you want me to do?"

He'd never really been much of a birthday party person, much to the disgust of Tony who was constantly insisting he should utilise Stark Tower's full party potential. But Bucky would always turn him down and promise him that he was just waiting for his 18th to do that.
This year, however, his parents had insisted he do something. His mom had conveniently arranged for her and his dad to go up and spend the following weekend with his aunt, so Bucky was left with the choice of either inviting his friends over, or spending a Saturday alone in the house. So he'd caved and roped Jasper into helping him organise something, which had then led to them both being completely distracted and spending all of Friday night eating Mexican and playing the new copy of Bioshock 2 that Jasper had got for him. It wasn't until gone midnight that Jasper finally scratched his head and looked over at him, shrugging.

"Why don't you just invite the guys over here tomorrow?"

"It took you seven hours just to come up with that?"

"You overestimate my organisation skills, Buck. If you wanted to do something cool you should've asked Jemma or someone. House parties are my only forte."

"Well you could've mentioned that seven hours ago."

"If I'd done that you wouldn't have bought me food." He smirked, nudging Bucky in the arm and laughing.

"Fine." Bucky yawned. "I'll call everyone in the morning."

"You gonna kick me out?"

"Nah, you can stay.. if you provide the alcohol for tomorrow."

"You're a very high maintenance friend."

"Jas, you just came into my house demanding food and shelter." Bucky reminded him, elbowing him in the ribs and getting up. He got up and headed over to his bedroom, only stopping when he heard the sound of shuffling behind him and turned to see Jasper dismantling the couch. "..What are you doing?"

"You think I'm just gonna lie on the cold hard floor?"

"I have a double bed, you complete moron."

"Buck that's super gay I'm not sharing a bed with you."

"Please, you're so not my type."

"What?"

"Nothing."

Jasper raised an eyebrow at him and shrugged. "Whatever. It's still gross, why would you even suggest it?"

"Skye's never had a problem with it."

"That's because she's a girl. That's normal."

"Yeah but-"

"You're way too comfortable with people, Bucky." Jasper chuckled, dropping the couch cushions at the foot of Bucky's bed and collapsing onto them. "It's kinda weird."

"Thought you'd be used to that by now." Bucky said quietly, curling up on the bed and wrapping the duvet around him.
He was close to falling asleep when his phone buzzed loudly and woke him back up.

"Fucking hell." He heard Jasper mumble on the floor. "Who the fuck's texting you at one in the morning?"

Bucky didn't even need to look at the screen to know who the text was from. Rumlow hadn't been happy about him spending the night with Jasper, and Bucky would definitely have to make sure he didn't find out about him staying the night. Rubbing his eyes he unlocked the phone, having to reread the message five times before it sunk in.

Hope you had a fun night, baby. See you in the morning. x

At first glance it seemed innocent enough, but he could read the bitterness behind it and could already tell he was in for a rough morning.

Rumlow was surprisingly calm when Bucky showed up at his apartment, smiling at him sweetly and putting his arm around him when they sat on the couch. For a moment he thought this might be one of those rare days where everything stayed relatively normal, but after a few minutes Rumlow looked down at him and sighed.

"You have a good night?"

"Yeah.. it was alright."

"How come you didn't reply to my message?" He said flatly, running a hand through Bucky's hair. For a second Bucky forgot how to speak. He'd intended to send some reply back when he woke up, but he'd been so focused on bundling Jasper out of the house before Rumlow found out he was still there that he'd totally forgotten about it.

"I.. I was asleep."

"No you weren't. I saw the light on in your bedroom."

"That was just 'cause- were you outside my house?!" Bucky struggled not to yell as he said it, which worked against him and caused his voice to come out in a high pitched squeak. Rumlow just nodded casually and continued carding his fingers through Bucky's hair, and he had to fight to resist the urge to slap his hand away.

"I came to check up on you-"

"At one o'clock in the morning?"

"Shush, baby, you're overreacting. I came to check on you and then I saw your friend's car in the drive, so I sent you the message to check you were okay. I get worried when you don't reply to me."

Bucky froze completely and stared at him, unsure now of whether Rumlow wanted him to explain why he hadn't responded to him, or why Jasper had been at his house so late. "I.. I.." He stammered, shuffling ever so slightly away from him. Rumlow noticed and grabbed hold of his wrist sharply.

"You know I don't like you having people over that late."

"I know b..but -"

"What was he doing there?"

"S..sleeping on the couch."

Rumlow let go of his wrist and slapped the back of his hand across Bucky's face, knocking him onto the floor. "Don't lie to me."

It took Bucky a few seconds to get his breath back enough to choke out a response. "He was on the floor.. in my bedroom he didn't.. I didn't.. I wouldn't-" He broke off when he felt Rumlow hook his hands under his arms, lifting him back up onto the couch and stroking his hair softly.

"That's better, sweetheart." He whispered, kissing the top of his head gently and using his other hand to wipe away the tears that were starting to run down Bucky's cheeks. Bucky just whimpered and leant into the touch, closing his eyes while Rumlow continued stroking his hair. "Why do you have to lie to me all the time, baby? You know how much I hate hurting you. I love you so much."

"I love you too." Bucky said quietly.

"Really? 'Cause you don't act like it a lot of the time."

"No I do! I do, I love you more than anything!" He insisted, wrapping his arms around Rumlow's neck and burying his face in his chest. Rumlow sighed and kissed the top of his head again.

"So you'll stay here for the night?"

It was one of those moments where Bucky really just wished a black hole would open up right next to him and swallow him up, so he could just disappear and not have to face replying to the question. Unfortunately, physics was didn't work in his favour, so he drew a shaky breath and looked up again. "I.. I can't."

Rumlow's face hardened again and he looked ready to give Bucky another slap. "What do you mean you can't?"

"I.. I'm having a party tonight for my birthday and-"

"So you want to spend another night away from me?"

"Well I was gonna see if you wanted to come too?"

"Right. After everything I've done to protect you, you want me to just show up in front of all your friends and ruin it all?" Rumlow laughed, shaking his head in amazement.

"B..but they're not gonna know we're dating. You could bring some of your friends and pretend to crash it or something and then-"

"Then what's the point of me coming at all?"

"You just said you didn't want to spend another night without me!"

"And you think having you right there in front of me and not being able to do anything to you is gonna make me feel better?"

"Well then what do you want me to do?"

"Cancel it! Jesus, Buck you really are all looks and no brains."

"I can't just cancel it, everyone's already said they'll come."

"How many people are going?"

"Nine. It's not that many-"

"That's too many."

"Your idea of too many is any number that doesn't include you."

He could feel the second slap before it even happened. Rumlow shoved Bucky away from him and smashed him hard across the other side of his face with even more force than before, making him yelp. He could taste blood in his mouth and didn't even dare to look up as Rumlow stormed upstairs, just quietly gathered up his jacket and headed out the door before Rumlow decided that hadn't been enough punishment for talking to him like that.

It was lucky his parents were away because he didn't even manage to make it all the way home before he started crying again, and he wasn't sure he would have been able to explain why he'd just come back from his boyfriend's apartment sobbing uncontrollably. Once he did get back he took an hour and a half long shower with the water scalding hot, before curling up on his bed and trying to focus his mind on how much pizza would be enough for ten people, rather than on the dull ache in his jaw where Rumlow had hit him.

After another couple of hours just pottering around the house and trying to keep himself occupied, people finally started showing up. Skye arrived half an hour before the rest, and spent that time asking him why he looked so tired, and if he was okay. But then once everyone else arrived she let it drop, and focused instead on bringing him multiple cups of vodka and coke, which he downed a lot faster than he should have.
It was lucky that Rumlow had turned down his invitation, because Jasper had taken it upon himself to invite at least another 30 people along, which meant Bucky had to slightly alter his pizza calculations. When he confronted Jasper about this he'd just laughed and slung an arm around his shoulder, shouting "It's not a party without people, birthday boy!". So Bucky had just shrugged and downed the rest of something Melinda had just handed him. 

For another few hours everything seemed okay again, and Bucky managed to drink enough that he could barely remember why he'd been so upset earlier. Unfortunately though, he was soon reminded.
It was just gone 2 o'clock when there was suddenly a loud knock on the door, making everyone fall silent and glance at one another.

"Think someone called the cops?" Leo whispered, leaning in towards Bucky and looking at him with wide eyes. Bucky just shook his head. There were only two other houses down the street, and neither of them were close enough to be able to hear any of the noise they were making. After a long silence Grant finally raised his hands and announced in a loud, slurred voice that he'd answer the door. Most of the other people went back to their conversations while Bucky nudged Jasper's arm.

"You invite anybody else?"

"Can't remember who I fucking invited, to be honest."

"Jas, why do I trust you with this shit?"

"I'unno." Jasper grinned, giving Bucky an exaggerated shrug.

"Hey guys, check this out!"

They all turned around to the door and Bucky's blood ran cold when he saw Grant standing there with one arm around a very drunk looking Rumlow. Jasper started giggling next to Bucky and soon everyone in the room was laughing. Everyone except for Bucky, who grabbed Jasper by the arm and whispered, "Did you invite him?"

"Why would I invite him? Never even spoken to the guy."

"He crashed the party all on his own!" Grant said in a mocking voice, ruffling Rumlow's hair. Bucky wanted to yell at him to stop, but knew he couldn't, so instead he had to watch as Rumlow cursed loudly at him and swung around, punching Grant in the face and knocking him to the ground. Skye gasped and went to run over but Bucky managed to grab her, pulling her back so she didn't get hurt.

"Jas get everyone to go home."

"What? We can just throw him out."

"Do you want to try throwing him out?"

"What're you gonna do? Just let him rage around your house until he passes out?"

"'M just gonna talk to him, will you get on with it?"

"You're so soft, Buck." Jasper scoffed, but nonetheless he started loudly yelling to everyone that the party was over, patting Bucky on the shoulder before he started following the crowd through the door. "Don't get killed."

Bucky wasn't entirely convinced he'd be able to do that, but he just rolled his eyes and smirked before closing the front door and sighing. He could hear Rumlow coming up behind him and turned around, trying to keep his face expressionless but failing when he saw the look in his eyes.

"Nine people, huh?" He said slowly.

"I d..didn't know there'd be s..so many.. Jasper invited a bunch of-"

Rumlow smacked him across the face before he could finish his sentence, grabbing him by the shirt collar and shoving him back against the door. "I hate that fucking scumbag. You can't see him anymore."

"What? You can't just.. Brock he's my best friend, I've known him since we were kids you can't-"

"Don't call me that." Rumlow spat, grabbing a fistful of Bucky's hair and tugging on it sharply, forcing him to keep looking up. Bucky held his breath, although his chest felt so tight he wasn't sure he'd be able to breathe even if he'd wanted to. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest as he watched Rumlow's face, waiting for him to decide what he was going to do to him. Rumlow leant in closer to him and Bucky almost choked at the overwhelming smell of alcohol on his breath. "You have to choose. Me or them. I can't stand all those other people being around you." He said through gritted teeth, giving Bucky's hair another sharp tug and making him cry out at the pain.

After taking a few shaky breaths Bucky slowly reached his arms up, draping them over Rumlow's shoulders and leaning forward to kiss him. He had to pull back again after a few seconds before the taste of whiskey on Rumlow's lips could make him sick. "Y..you're drunk, baby. You don't know what you're saying." He tried to say softly, stroking the back of Rumlow's neck gently and trying to calm him down. For a moment it seemed to work and Rumlow sighed, pressing their foreheads together and letting go of Bucky's hair. But then Bucky ruined it again by nuzzling at his neck and whispering, "I love you."

Rumlow turned again, gripping the front of Bucky's shirt and screaming at him. "DON'T LIE TO ME!"

"I..I-" Bucky stammered, stumbling backwards when Rumlow let go of him and failed to keep his balance this time when Rumlow hit him sharply with the back of his hand and sending him tumbling to the floor. He lay there dazed for a few seconds, waiting for his head to stop spinning. "I'm sorry I-"

Rumlow cut him off by driving his foot into his stomach, making him gasp and choke. "You don't love me." He spat, kicking Bucky again and again as he continued talking. "You're a liar. You're always lying to me. You've never loved me. You're just a nasty, filthy slut."

When Rumlow finally stopped Bucky could hardly move, just about managing to roll over onto his front so Rumlow wouldn't be able to kick his stomach anymore. He wasn't sure how long he lay there, choking out sobs between shaky breaths and coughing blood onto the floor, but he could feel Rumlow watching him the whole time.
After almost twenty minutes he felt a hand on his back, running up and down his spine soothingly, and he turned his head to look up. Rumlow was crouched down next to him, looking at him sadly.

"Why'd you have to make me hurt you like this, sweetheart?"

"I didn't mean t.. I'm sorry."

"'S okay, baby. C'mon, let me make you feel better." He said softly. For a second Bucky relaxed and closed his eyes, letting Rumlow continue rubbing along his back, but when his hand trailed down further and suddenly grabbed his ass his eyes snapped back open, and he started shaking his head frantically and trying to crawl away from him. Rumlow held him still but putting his other hand firmly on Bucky's shoulder. "This'll make it better, sweetheart."

"No I.. I can't."

"'Course you can, Buck. This is what you want."

"No-"

"Bucky-"

"Please!"

"After everything you've done to me today, you're not going to do this one thing for me?" Rumlow said coldly, tightening the grip he had on Bucky's shoulder.

"Brock I really can't-"

Rumlow let go of his shoulder and hit him hard in the back of the head, knocking his forehead against the floor and making Bucky come close to blacking out. "How many times I gotta tell you not to call me that?" He muttered, standing back up again. Bucky thought Rumlow was leaving as he listened to the sound of him walking around behind him, but then he felt hands roughly grabbing his ankles and yelped helplessly when Rumlow started dragging him along the floor towards the bedroom. He tried desperately to claw at the floor and away from him, but the smooth wooden floor was impossible to grip, and struggling only made Rumlow tighten the hold he had on him.
When Rumlow eventually managed to drag him onto the bed he slammed the door shut and walked over to the side of the bed, grabbing Bucky's chin and forcing him to look over at him.

"You gonna force me to tie you up too?" He threatened. Bucky's eyes widened and he shook his head, swallowing the lump in his throat.

"No just.. just get on with it."

Rumlow smirked and leant over to kiss his forehead. "That's my good boy."


Meg was quite the trooper, sitting calmly in Steve's lap while he aggressively stroked the fur on his back. He was using his other hand to hold Bucky close to his side, leaning their heads together and pulling the blanket over him some more, despite Bucky never saying anything about being cold.

"Okay so once I've broken his legs, I'm gonna tie him down and start ripping his teeth out. Then I'll-"

"Steve, sometimes you scare me a little. Have you considered pacifism?"

"I'll consider pacifism when shitbags like him stop hurting people I care about."

Bucky sighed and leant his head against Steve's shoulder, closing his eyes when Steve started running his fingers through his hair. "Maybe you should stop caring about people who just generally attract shitbags?"

For a minute Steve didn't say anything, and Bucky started to wish he hadn't said anything, nuzzling at his neck until he eventually mumbled, "Not an option."

Bucky paused and looked up at him, his heart rate going into overdrive when Steve looked back and smiled at him, leaning forward to press a kiss to Bucky's forehead that made him go lightheaded for a second. He must have looked as dazed as he felt because after a few seconds Steve frowned and stroked his cheek.

"You okay?" He said softly, smiling again when Bucky nodded.

"Yeah." Bucky managed to say, licking his suddenly dry lips and nodding. "'M fine."

"Okay, you can carry on. I promise not to interrupt anymore."

Bucky wanted to point out that Steve hadn't actually interrupted him, he'd just trailed off when he realised that he looked dangerously close to going off on a murderous rampage across the city, but frankly he was just thankful for anything that could distract him from thinking about how the Christmas lights behind them were making Steve's eyes look like a damn galaxy, so he nodded and cleared his throat. "Okay so that was kinda the point where I realised I really needed to get away from him. So the next day I sorta.. tried to break up with him."

"Tried?"

"I said I didn't wanna see him again, and he said that if I left him he was gonna kill himself.. 'cause he supposedly couldn't live without me."

"And you listened to him?"

Bucky looked at the ground and sighed, nodding slowly. "There was still part of me that hoped it was just some crazy phase, and that maybe the threat of me leaving would make him treat me better. Instead he got more jealous than ever, the only person he let me spend time with outside of school was Skye, the rest of the time I was with him. He usually made me stay at his apartment all weekend too, so I ended up seeing more of him than of my own fucking parents."

"How could he make you stay there all weekend? Thought he didn't want his mom knowing about you."

"I spent a lot of time in his closet. Which was.. ironic to say the least." Bucky smirked. Steve chuckled but didn't smile, staring fixatedly at the ground and frowning. "Obviously I broke up with him eventually, but that wasn't until mid May."


Bucky's body ached all over and he was starting to slip in and out of consciousness by the time Rumlow had finally got bored of him and headed into the bathroom, leaving him face down on the bed. Exhausted, he buried his face further into the soaking wet pillow he'd been holding and closed his eyes, although he knew there was no way he'd be able to fall asleep while Rumlow was still around. 

He'd told himself for the past two weekends now that he had finally had enough, and that he wasn't even going to let Rumlow touch him again, but once again he'd ended up chickening out and letting him do what he wanted. Now though, his courage was starting to return again. He lifted his head back up and listened to the faint sound of the shower running in the bathroom, never losing focus of the sound as he sat up and pulled his jeans back on. His legs felt like jelly, making the walk over to the bedroom door a lot more difficult. He had to focus so much on not falling over that he stopped listening to the shower, and as he turned out into the hallway he almost smacked straight into Rumlow, who stood just outside the bathroom with a towel around his waist. He smirked when he saw Bucky standing there and took a step forward, stroking Bucky's cheek gently.

"You come back for more, baby?" He purred, tilting Bucky's chin up to look at him. A voice in Bucky's head screamed at him to do what he said, to nod innocently and follow him back into the bedroom, but he ignored it. Summoning up every ounce of courage he had, he slapped Rumlow's hand away from his face.

"I'm going home." He stated, as calmly as he could manage, looking Rumlow dead in the eye. Rumlow just laughed and leant against the wall next to him.

"You are home, sweetheart."

"No I'm not. I don't live with you and I never will."

"Oh really?"

"Really."

"So you're gonna try and leave me again? After everything I've done for you. If you go, what'll you do if you wake up tomorrow and find out I shot myself because of you?"

Bucky's gaze didn't falter, and he straightened himself up before responding. "Then it'd be the best day of my fucking life."

Rumlow stood back up again and slapped him across the face, grabbing his shoulders and pinning him against the wall. "Then what if I shot you instead? What would happen then? Your dear little mommy would go crazy. And daddy too, and all your precious little friends that you care so much about."

"And then you won't h..have me either." Bucky said, cursing his voice for stammering. He knew he was right, and that Rumlow was never going to do it, but that didn't stop his heart from beating frantically in his chest until all he could hear was the sound of it drumming in his ears. For a second Rumlow's fierce expression turned into one of annoyance, but then he snarled and slammed Bucky harder against the wall, digging his nails into his shoulders until Bucky whimpered. "You ungrateful little pig. Do you have any idea how miserable you'd be without me? Do you even realise how much I've done for you? I. Am. Protecting you."

"Bullshit!"

"Fine. You can tell yourself that you've left me. But you can't stop me keeping you here for as long as I fucking want to."

In a blind panic, Bucky brought his knee up sharply between Rumlow's legs, making him let go of his shoulders instantly and stumble backwards in shock. Before Bucky could even process what he'd just done Rumlow started to recover himself, and he realised the only way he could go was either back into the bedroom or across to the bathroom.
He knew if he went into the bedroom there would be no way for him to get away again, so he bolted into the bathroom, slamming the lock shut just before Rumlow could catch up to him and sinking to the ground as he tried to get his breath back. The door started shaking behind him as Rumlow pounded on it with his fist continuously and screaming at him. "BARNES! YOU OPEN THIS DOOR RIGHT NOW OR I'LL FUCKING BREAK IT DOWN!" He yelled, pounding and kicking at the door.
Bucky pressed his hands over his ears and tried to block out the noise, shaking and whimpering as he started coming to terms with what he'd done. He had absolutely no idea what Rumlow would do to him if he opened that door. He'd argued with him a few times in the past, even yelled at him, but Bucky had never, ever, attacked him before. Just thinking about how Rumlow might punish him for it made his stomach turn and he had to scramble over to the toilet to throw up, despite having not eaten at all since yesterday afternoon.
The pounding on the door stopped as he sat back up, and for a second he thought Rumlow was giving up. But then a few moments later he heard him laughing outside, and he almost threw up again when he heard him say, "Fine, have it your way. But you can't stay in there forever."

Bucky didn't say anything back, curling up into a ball in the corner of the room and listening to the sound of Rumlow's footsteps as he walked back into his bedroom. He knew Rumlow was faster than him, and there was no way he could make it down the stairs and out the door before he caught up, so he sat, trapped, wondering how long it would be before Rumlow's mom came home and wanted to use the bathroom.

After an hour of sobbing hysterically and almost passing out from how short of breath he was, he eventually managed to calm himself down enough to get to his feet. He desperately wished he had his phone, but Rumlow always kept it with him whenever he came over. If it wasn't their only form of communication whenever Bucky was at home or at school, he was fairly sure Rumlow would have taken it away from him permanently to stop him being able to talk to anybody other than him.
He paced around the bathroom frantically for a few minutes, before glancing over at the window and peering out of it. Rumlow's apartment was at the very top of the building, and there was no way Bucky would be able to survive the fall if he climbed through the bathroom window. He definitely didn't rule it out as an option though.
Eventually, with nothing better to do, he decided to take a shower in the hopes that it might help him to calm down. Stripping down, he turned the temperature up as far as it would go before sitting directly under the faucet, curling his knees up to his chin and closing his eyes.
His plan worked to an extent, and by the time the water had gone cold he had at least managed to get his breathing back to normal, and his heart rate had settled to a normal pace. It wasn't until he started shivering that he finally got back out, drying himself off, pulling his clothes back on, and sitting with his head leant back against the door. His eyelids felt heavy but he refused to let himself fall asleep, just in case he missed a vital opportunity to get out.
Sure enough, ten minutes later he heard the sound of footsteps going past the bathroom and down the stairs, shortly followed by the sound of the front door opening and closing again. Pressing his ear up against the door, he listened intently for any noise. He knew Rumlow was trying to trick him, of course he was trying to trick him, but the apartment sounded so silent, and the thought of being stuck in this tiny room any longer was making Bucky feel dizzy, so he pushed himself to his feet and cautiously pulled back the lock on the door.
Outside in the hall everything was silent, so Bucky made his way slowly over to the top of the stairs. He'd thought it most likely that Rumlow would have been waiting for him just outside the front door, so it caught him by surprise when he felt a pair of hands shove him roughly down the stairs, making him hit his head and black out completely.

When he woke up he couldn't move. His legs were aching and the stabbing pain in his stomach was bringing tears to his eyes. He tried to move again and realised his wrists had been tied behind his head, keeping him secured down to the bed and unable to get away. Suddenly he couldn't breathe at all, and his vision started to cloud again while he desperately tried to force his lungs to work. His heart was beating so fast he thought he was having a heart attack, and he started screaming urgently for someone to help him. He even called for Rumlow out of sheer desperation as the drumming in his ears got louder and the tightness in his chest grew impossibly tighter. He couldn't see clearly enough to tell who it was, but suddenly he felt a hand start running through his hair, and heard a voice shush him.
Gradually, the screams dissolved into choked sobs, and tears started streaming down his cheeks as he slowly started getting his breath back, the burning in his chest dying down until it was just a faint ache.

"Shush, baby. Look how worked up you've gotten yourself."

Bucky so desperately wished it had been someone else's voice. Even though he knew Rumlow was the only person in the apartment, just the sound of him speaking made him want to start screaming again. He forced himself to look up into those cold eyes and grimaced when he pulled that sinister crooked smile.

"What the f..fuck is wrong with you?" He stammered, completely unable to mask how terrified he was. Rumlow had never tied him up before, and it made him feel more vulnerable than he ever had in his life.

"There's nothing wrong with me."

"N..normal people don't tie p..people up." Bucky pointed out, unsure of why the hell he was provoking him even more. At this point maybe he just wanted him to kill him.

"Well normal people don't have to put up with the likes of you do they? You know this would be a lot easier for you if you just did what I want."

"But I don't want what you want! I want you to leave me alone and I want to go home." He said desperately, hoping and praying there was still some fragment of sanity left inside the brunet that was leaning over him, and that maybe he'd just let him go. Of course it was stupid of him to even consider it, and Rumlow just hit him sharply across the face.

"Well then it's too fucking bad you can't go anywhere ain't it?" He growled, before turning and walking back out of the room.
Bucky was surprised that Rumlow didn't even try to get any sex out of him, but given how much he was aching all over, he couldn't have been all that pretty to look at. He glanced over at the window and saw that it was dark out, which filled him with an odd sense of relief as he told himself he only had to endure this for one more day.

He got no sleep that night, and it also turned out that Rumlow wasn't quite as repulsed by all his bruises as he'd first thought, but Bucky was so weak and exhausted that he was barely even aware of anything Rumlow did to him. Eventually Rumlow went to sleep next to him, but even then Bucky stayed awake, staring up at the ceiling and focusing on keeping his breathing steady as he patiently waited for the morning.

It seemed like the sun was never going to come up, and even when it did Rumlow kept on snoring for another three hours. When he finally opened his eyes he sat up, stroking Bucky's cheek and smiling. Bucky didn't smile back, just turned to face him and calmly said, "You have to let me go home."

Rumlow snorted and shook his head. "And why would I do that?"

"Because I have to go to school tomorrow." Bucky replied, finally saying the words he'd been going over and over in his head all night.

"Maybe I'm not gonna let you go to school. Maybe I'll leave you tied up here while I'm gone. And then, when I come back, I'll fuck that pretty little ass of yours 'til you're screaming for me to stop."

Bucky didn't even flinch at the words, just shrugging and looking him dead in the eye. "If you leave me here, the school's gonna call my parents. And this is the first place they'll come to look for me."

Rumlow's face hardened and he stared at him silently for almost ten minutes. For a horrible moment Bucky thought his whole plan had failed, and that Rumlow was going to keep him here no matter what he said, but then suddenly he reached up and freed Bucky's wrists from the rope they'd been tied with. "You'll come back."

"I doubt that." Bucky said, surprised now at his own confidence. He sat up and pulled open the drawer of Rumlow's bedside table, grabbing his phone and getting to his feet. His legs were still shaky and he was incredibly lightheaded from the lack of food and sleep, but he managed to keep his balance as he walked to the door.

"You don't realise how much I protect you. Without me, there'll be nobody to help you."

"The only help I've ever needed is help getting away from you."

"You'll see. In a week or so you'll be begging for me to take you back."

Bucky had heard enough and he slammed the bedroom door behind him. Taking the stairs slowly and grabbing his shoes and hoodie before heading out of the front door. He opted to take the elevator rather than trying to tackle all the flights of stairs, and once he was inside he let himself sink to the floor again while he pulled his shoes on.
It wasn't until he'd walked for ten minutes that he realised Rumlow really wasn't following him, and that he'd really just gotten away from him. If he didn't feel so close to passing out he might have started skipping down the street, but instead he just opted to pull his phone out and start playing some of the music he hadn't listened to in months, singing it as loudly as he possibly could in the hopes that maybe Rumlow would hear him and get even more annoyed.

His mom looked a little confused when he came through the door, going over and hugging her before she could say anything.

"You're home early."

"I missed you."

"James you saw me two days ago."

"Wow, mom. Next time I'll stay away for longer."

"That's not what I meant, honey." She muttered, finally wrapping her arms around him and sighing. "What happened to you? You look like you've been through a war."

"I... fell down the stairs." Bucky said quickly, wincing when his mom touched the bruising on his face. "Mom, can you not.. I'm really tired."

His mom smiled at him and ruffled his hair. "Go lie down then, sweetheart. I'll wake you up in a couple of hours."

Bucky grinned at her and headed into his bedroom, collapsing down onto the bed and hugging one of his pillows tightly. He couldn't sleep unless he was curled up, but he still spent a few minutes stretching out as much as possible on the mattress, revelling in not having to worry about anyone yelling at him for taking up too much space. After a few minutes he grinned to himself and curled up under the duvet, falling asleep almost instantly.

Maybe his mom had tried to wake him up and he just hadn't responded, or maybe she'd forgotten he was in the house, but the next thing he was aware of was the sound of his alarm clock blaring next to him. Groaning, he rubbed his eyes and sat up, feeling completely disorientated. He had no idea how he'd managed to sleep for almost 18 hours, but he did know that school was going to be absolute hell unless his brain miraculously switched on within ten minutes.
He persuaded his legs to move and somehow managed to stand up, staggering over to the bathroom and cringing when he looked in the mirror and saw how awful he looked. His hair was a mess, the circles under his eyes were almost black, and he could see faint bruises poking out from under his shirt. Sighing, he went back out to get some clothes to change into, and made a slight effort to fix his hair up. Clearly that didn't do much to improve his appearance because when he walked out into the sitting room his mom actually stopped and asked if he was feeling okay, which she only did if he looked like death itself. He just nodded, turning down breakfast and heading outside in the hope the fresh air might wake him up.

It seemed that everyone at school was feeling just as tired and miserable as he was,
because every time he tried smiling at anybody, they just frowned and turned away from him. He didn't think anything of it until he found his cluster of friends standing by the lockers, and saw them all give him a mixture of sad and angry looks. It was Jasper who eventually broke the silence.

"What the fuck do you want?"

"Um.. some positive vibes would be nice?" Bucky said, trying to work out what he could have done to piss Jasper off so much. He hadn't been able to speak to him that much for the past month or so, but he couldn't work out why he'd be so upset all of a sudden.
Jasper took a few steps forward until he was standing a foot in front of him, giving him a cold stare.

"You think you're funny?"

"Jas what is the matter with you?" Bucky asked, reaching out a hand to grab his shoulder and taking a shocked step back when Jasper slapped it away.

"Don't you dare try and touch me, you fucking fag." Jasper spat, looking at him in complete disgust. For a second Bucky's heart stopped, and he stared at Jasper open mouthed for a moment. "I can't fucking believe you've been trying to hide this from me, just so you could take advantage of me."

"I.. what?"

"Don't try and act all innocent. It's obvious why you were always trying to hang around with me. I can't believe you actually fucking manipulated me into sharing a room with you."

"Jas we've shared bedrooms since we were six so-"

"You even tried to get me into your bed!" Jasper interrupted, apparently not listening to anything Bucky was saying. "Were you just that desperate to get that repulsive mouth of yours 'round my cock?"

"What the fuck!?"

"And then, when you couldn't get what you wanted from me, you moved onto Rumlow. Is that it?"

That made Bucky's blood run cold. If Jasper knew anything about Rumlow, he was dead. Cautiously, he said, "I.. I have no clue what you're going on about, Jas."

"There's no point trying to hide it, Barnes. Rumlow already told us everything."

"He told you?"

"It's fucking disgusting what you tried to do to him, and now everybody knows about it. So quit lying." Jasper said coldly, narrowing his eyes and frowning. Bucky was completely lost now and didn't even know how to respond, so he just stood there staring at him, trying to work out what Rumlow could possibly have said. Before he could Bucky could think of something to say, Jasper turned on his heel and headed back over to the others, looking over his shoulder to mutter, "Just stay the fuck away from us, you creep."

Once Jasper got back over to the others they all walked away together, giving him varying looks as they left. Grant's face was just as cold as Jasper's, Melinda didn't look at him at all, and Leo and Jemma gave him matching sad looks. It was only Skye who smiled, although it was a sad smile, and waved goodbye, mouthing "I'll see you later" before turning and following after the others, leaving Bucky on his own in the corridor wondering who he was supposed to sit with when he went to class.
The answer turned out to be nobody. As he walked through the classroom anybody with an empty seat next to them would hastily shove a bag onto it and give him a dirty look, until he eventually gave up and sat by himself at a desk at the far back of the room. However that didn't stop people from occasionally turning around to look at him, or to throw something at him, or just mutter something under their breath before shaking their head and turning back around. It was the same for every class, and when lunch rolled around he also discovered that he was even less welcome in cafeteria, so instead he opted to just sit out on the stairs and wait for time to pass.
After a few minutes he heard someone approach, and was about to leave until Skye sat down next to him and sighed.

"What're you doing here?" He asked, not looking up at her.

"Looking for you. How you feelin'?"

"Peachy."

"Bucky everyone's just overreacting. Give it a couple of days and they'll have forgotten about it."

"Somehow I doubt that."

Skye sighed and leant her head on his shoulder. "Is any of it true though? 'Cause I mean the whole gay thing I can understand.. actually it seems kind of obvious now, but you really don't seem like the type to go stalking people when they don't-"

"What!?"

"Well that's what Rumlow's been saying. He said you tried to ask him out and when he said no you kept following him around and basically trying to harass him into agreeing."

"And people believe him?"

"Bucky, that guy could say the grass was purple and people would probably believe him."

Bucky nodded slowly, chewing on his lip and trying desperately to fight off the tears that were pricking the corners of his eyes. He couldn't believe he'd actually convinced himself that Rumlow was just going to let him get away from him without a fight. "He's an asshole."

"I don't get why he's suddenly started all this. I mean, I've never even seen you two talk to each other. Didn't even realise he knew you existed." Skye mumbled, nuzzling his shoulder before sitting back up to look at him. "How did he even know you were.. oh. Oh."

"What?"

"You slept with him right?"

"Skye, I didn't-"

"Is there really any point trying to hide it at this point, Buck?" She said, frowning at him. Bucky didn't say anything, glancing up at her briefly when she sighed. "Why would you even sleep with that guy, he's a grade A douchebag."

"Yeah but he's a hot douchebag."

"So what, he's an asshole but also your type?"

"Actually I usually prefer blonds."

Skye looked at him for a second and they both giggled, and for a minute everything felt okay again, until she sighed and pushed herself to her feet. "I have to go, Jas technically doesn't know I came to find you. Text me later?"

Bucky just nodded and forced a smile, watching her disappear down the corridor before pulling his knees up to his chin and sighing, wondering how long it would be before Jasper managed to turn her against him too.

The rest of the day was more of the same. The only time anybody acknowledged his existence was to throw something at him, or mutter some stupid insult at him. A few people had also decided to make a habit of knocking all the stuff off his desk whenever they walked past. The most attention he got during any class was when somebody tried to trip him over, and Bucky almost lost his temper until the teacher loudly cleared their throat at him until he skulked back to his desk. But there hadn't been anything Bucky couldn't handle. It wasn't until the end of the day that things took a different turn.

The corridor was always packed at the end of the school day, but Bucky thought no more of it that day than he did any other day. And when he felt somebody brush against his shoulder it bothered him no less than it usually would until he felt a hand grab him roughly and spin him around, bringing him face to face with Jasper.

"The fuck do you think you're doing?"

"...Walking?"

Apparently that was the wrong answer and Jasper snarled as he gripped him by the shoulders and pushed him back until he slammed against the wall, knocking the air out of his lungs. "I told you not to fucking touch me."

"Right, I'm sorry my shoulders cause you so much discomfort."

"Think you're funny, Barnes?"

"I think you're being a complete idio-"

Jasper cut him off by smashing his fist into Bucky's jaw, before grabbing the collar of his shirt and smirking at him. "You gonna fight back, faggot?"

Bucky glanced around and saw a few people were starting to notice and gather around them. Swallowing the blood in his mouth he shook his head and tried to push Jasper away from him. "Jas will you stop being a moron?"

"Why? 'Cause you're too much of a pussy to punch me back?"

"You're my best friend, 'm not gonna punch you."

"You are not my friend." Jasper spat, throwing Bucky onto the floor and driving his foot into his side. "You're a filthy, lying, faggotty piece of shit. Don't you dare think that we're friends."

Bucky yelped when Jasper kicked him again, this time getting him directly in the stomach and making him choke. He curled up to stop him from hitting him there again, letting Jasper kick at his legs instead, and for a moment he adjusted to the pain until another kick into his back caught him by surprise. Looking up for a second, he realised a few other people had decided to join in.
He'd been able to cope with just Jasper, he was strong but he couldn't kick as hard as Rumlow used to, but now there were three people kicking him from different angles, and a fourth person whacking the back of his head with his schoolbag, and it was taking everything he had to stop himself from crying at the pain.
For another ten minutes they carried on, until finally they got bored and started to leave along with the rest of the crowd that had gathered around him, laughing and chatting to one another as they walked off, as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Jasper was the last to leave, spitting at him and muttering "Fag", before turning and walking off.
He lay there for a few more minutes, trying to get his strength back before daring to move, and when he heard footsteps approaching he thought for one horrible minute that they'd decided to come back. A wave of relief flooded over him when he saw heavy boots walking towards him instead of Jasper's converse, but that relief was soon replaced by a horrified, nauseated feeling when he looked up and saw Rumlow standing over him.

"Good day?" He smirked, holding a hand out to help him up. Bucky ignored it and pushed himself to his feet, ignoring Rumlow's snorts when he almost lost his balance several times. "You're a mess, baby."

"Don't fucking call me that." Bucky muttered, wrapping his arms around himself and trying to keep his expression neutral.

"So do you believe me about how I was protecting you yet?"

"The only reason they attacked me is because of you!"

"And the only reason they'll stop is if I tell them to." Rumlow shrugged, leaning against the wall. "You want them to stop, baby?"

Bucky didn't even dignify him with a response, slinging his bag over his shoulder and pushing past him before he could say another word.

The pain in his legs made his walk home a lot slower, and when he finally fell through the door his mom almost had a fit.

"For god's sake, James, you look even worse than you did this morning."

"Thanks, ma."

"What did you fall down another flight of stairs?" She tutted, padding over and cupping his face in her hands.

"No.. I just tripped."

"You're a danger to yourself and others, sweetheart."

"Yeah I know, can we do this later? I'm really tired."

"You spent all of yesterday asleep, how can you be tired?"

"I don't know I just.. I don't feel that great." Bucky mumbled, leaning into the touch as his mom stroked her thumbs across his cheeks.

"You sure everything's okay, honey?"

"What? Yeah, 'm fine."

"You don't look fine."

"I told you I don't feel good."

His mom frowned at him for a second and sighed, running a hand through his hair. "Why don't you lie on the couch for a bit?"

"That's what I planned to do." He mumbled, leaning his head against her shoulder and letting out a series of exaggerated groans until she lead him over to the couch, laying him down and kissing his forehead.

"Does this mean you don't want dinner?"

"'M not that sick."


"Okay so just to emphasise how rough I must have looked at this point, I once had the stomach flu and ma was totally happy to pack me off to school until my dad stepped in."

"Jeeze."

"Her logic was that I only threw up when I ate, so I should just not eat anything 'til I got home. So yeah, when she says I look sick, I definitely look sick."

At some point while he was talking, Bucky had managed to subconsciously shuffle onto Steve's lap.. or maybe Steve had moved him there.. he hadn't been paying enough attention. So now Steve was able to completely wrap his arms around him, resting his chin on Bucky's shoulder and keeping his eyes fixed on him.

"So mom kept me at home the day after, and I thought maybe everything would kinda just blow over when I went back but.. clearly Jasper held a grudge. When he first saw me he said he'd hoped I'd killed myself the day before, then proceeded to kick the shit out of me again." He mumbled, chewing on his lip and leaning his head against Steve's.

"If I ever find this guy-"

"You gonna rip his teeth out too?"

"Nah. That's too obvious. Maybe dunk him in boiling oil?"

Bucky chuckled and shook his head. "You need intense therapy, Stevie."

"What I need, is to kick the crap out of everyone you went to school with."

"Hey they didn't all directly attack me, most of them just kinda stood by and ignored it."

"That still makes me wanna kick 'em."

"Yeah well you're just violent." He shrugged, smiling slightly when Steve hummed and squeezed him tighter.

"What about Skye? She turn on you too?"

Just thinking about her made Bucky's heart sink and he sighed. "Yeah.. well no.. it wasn't her fault. If she was ever around when some of the guys tried to start something, she'd always run over and try to stop them, so after a while they started turning on her too and.. I couldn't just let them.." He trailed off and buried his face in the crook of Steve's neck, snivelling but still managing to carry on talking. "I tried telling her that she should stop sticking up for me but she ignored it, and people were starting to talk shit to her even when she wasn't with me. So the next time I saw her and there were loads of people around, I started yelling all this shit at her to try and keep her away. I said some really stupid shit about how I hated her and didn't need her to help me until she left, and then I never really spoke to her again after that."

"She must've known why you did it though?"

"I thought she would. But when I tried to find her afterwards she just ignored me and went back to hanging out with Jasper and the others again. Things started to get worse after that too. Before they'd mostly save the rough stuff for after school, but now they were doing it at lunch too, or in the locker rooms after gym."

"And nobody tried to help?"

"Not then. We broke up for summer and I had to pretend to my parents that I was going out with people, when mostly I was just driving around the city for a couple hours on my own. I didn't see anybody that often but if I bumped into them they'd make me pay for it. Wasn't till we came back the next year that anything really improved much."


He'd never been a fan of gym, and even prior to the entire school turning against him he'd gone to great lengths to avoid having to actually take part. Now though, it was even worse, and if anybody was going to get hit in the head with a soccer ball during class you could bet it would be Bucky. What Bucky hated more than gym, however, was getting changed afterwards. Because as soon as everyone was away from coach Fury's piercing gaze, they would waste no time in pinning Bucky to the ground and taking turns to kick him or smack him with their belts. 

Today Grant was leading, due to Jasper's most unfortunate absence, and he was currently knelt over him trying to see how long he could keep slapping Bucky across the face before he got a reaction. But Bucky's focus was locked solely on the boy next to him who looked like he was preparing to stomp down on his hand, which from the looks of the shoes he was wearing, would probably result in several broken fingers. He tried desperately to get his arm out of the grip of the other guys pinning him down, but before he could make any progress the boot slammed down on his fingers, making him scream and thrash his legs out.
He hadn't actually intended to hit anybody at that point, but somehow he ended up kicking one of the boys in the stomach and make him stumble backwards. The others didn't take that well and looked ready to throw themselves at him when a booming voice made them all freeze.

"The hell is goin' on in here?"

Everybody stood upright and spun around, except for Bucky who could just about manage to lift his head up enough to see Fury standing in the doorway, glaring at them. He was a tall, dark, menacing man, with an eye patch over one eye and a face that made you think twice about causing trouble in front of him. There were rumours floating around that he'd been an army officer before coming to work at the school, which to Bucky at least seemed an odd career change.
None of them spoke for a few minutes as Fury scanned the room, his gaze lingering on Bucky for slightly longer.

"It was Barnes, sir!" Somebody finally shouted, pointing down at Bucky. "He attacked us and was tryin'a feel us up.. and he kicked me in the stomach!"

The rest of the group murmured in agreement and Fury looked down at Bucky again, raising his eyebrow and looking somewhat doubtful of their story. Despite that he sighed and said, "Well don't you all have class to get to?" Sending everyone scurrying around to grab their bags and the rest of their stuff. Bucky started pushing himself to his feet with his one good hand as Fury turned to leave, but as he walked back through the doorway he glanced over his shoulder. "Barnes. I'll see you in my office in five minutes."

Before Bucky could respond he had disappeared through the door, so all he could do was sit on the floor, cradling his bruised and throbbing hand while everyone sniggered at him.

"You're in for it now, Barnesy." Grant laughed as everyone started heading out through the door. "Maybe they're finally gonna kick you out. There should be a law against fags like you comin' in here with us."

Bucky didn't say anything and waited until they had all left before he finally got to his feet, picking his bag up and pushing the door open with his shoulder before heading up the stairs to Fury's office. As he walked his head started filling up with thoughts of what Fury might have planned. So far he'd managed to keep his parents completely oblivious to what was going on, although they did seem slightly suspicious at the fact that he came home almost every night with new bruises. Even Tony had asked him if everything was okay when he'd started sneaking into his lab after school to finish his work rather than going home straight away, and Bucky had almost told him. But just the thought of any of them finding out made him feel sick, especially now that he'd lied to them about it for over a month.
It was quiet at the top of the stairs, but Bucky could see there was a light on under the office door, so he knocked lightly against it with his good hand.

"Door's open." Fury's voice called from inside. Swallowing hard and taking a deep breath, he pushed the door open and took one cautious step inside, glancing over at where Fury was sitting behind his desk. "Sit down, Barnes."

Without saying a word Bucky hurried over to the chair in front of the desk, sitting and looking down at his hands nervously. For a moment it was silent and all Bucky could hear was his heart hammering in his ears, until Fury finally spoke again.

"You break your tongue as well as your hand?"

"No sir."

"Then you gonna tell me what the hell's goin' on?"

Bucky looked up and saw Fury leaning back in his chair with his arms folded, his gaze seemed a lot warmed than it had done when he first came in, and now he looked almost concerned.

"I.. they were just.."

"See, I've had you in my class for over three years now, and you don't exactly seem the type to just lash out at people."

"I didn't.. I did kick that guy but-"

"That before or after they broke your fingers?"

"They didn't-"

"You think I'm an idiot, Barnes?" Fury asked, his voice still not threatening. Bucky shook his head and looked back down, examining his bruised hand again and wincing when he tried bending his fingers. "Look, it's no secret that you and the rest of the class aren't exactly the best of friends anymore, which makes it a lot harder for me to do anything about it. If I try and report them they're just gonna end up dragging you into trouble as well."

"You.. were gonna report them?"

"You think I'm gonna stick you in detention for getting your ass kicked?"

Bucky stared at him in shock for a minute. Of all the teachers he'd ever expected to take his side, it definitely wasn't Fury. It took him a moment to remember how to form words again, and even then he wasn't sure what he was supposed to say.

"I took the liberty of sending a note over to your next class, telling 'em I was gonna keep you here for the rest of the day. Although you might wanna see the nurse about that hand."

"Yes sir."

"And you don't have to call me 'sir' every five seconds."

"Sorry sir."

He wasn't sure he'd ever actually seen Fury smile before; generally he maintained his stony faced expression no matter what circumstance he was in. But he chuckled when Bucky spoke, shaking his head and sitting upright. "You're a good kid, Barnes. You don't just have to suffer through this."

"It's nothing I can't handle, sir."


"So all in all the silver lining to this story is that I didn't have to go to gym class for a few months." Bucky mumbled, leaning back against Steve's shoulder and giving him a faint smile. "Right up until I left Fury was letting me come into his office. I'd just sit in the corner finishing school work and stuff and most of the time he'd act like I wasn't even there, except the odd occasion where he offered me coffee. It was nice. It was like the one place I could go that nobody cared. Outside at school everybody wanted me dead, and at home everybody fussed over making sure I was okay, but there I could kinda forget about it for a while."

"Well at least there's one guy I won't have to brutally murder at your high school reunion."

"I'm gonna ignore that. But yeah, he was pretty great. He helped me out a lot with all my online crap as well so-"

"What?"

"Well after a couple months people got bored of just threatening me in person, so I started getting death threats on facebook and everything. Most of it was just stupid stuff, telling me I should go kill myself and all that."

"Buck that's not stupid stuff."

"Yeah I know but I.. kinda started considering it after a while."

"Buck-"

"It was ages ago."

"I know just look at me for a sec." Steve said quietly, turning Bucky around so they were facing each other and pressing their foreheads together. "Just promise me you're never gonna think like that again."

"I won't but-"

"You're so important to so many people, Bucky. Your parents love you, your godparents love you, your friends love you, and I.. I really care about you too, Buck."

Bucky smirked and nuzzled at Steve's nose. "Thanks for the pep talk." He grinned, sniggering when Steve looked genuinely embarrassed.

"Sorry. I've lost a lot of people.. think I get a little paranoid sometimes." He shrugged, scratching the back of his neck, making Bucky suddenly feel guilty for laughing at him. Steve smiled at him but he still had a sad look in his eye, and before Bucky could think of a better way to comfort him he was leaning forward, pressing their lips together gently.
Steve blinked at him in surprise when he broke away, and it wasn't until he mumbled a hurried "That was platonic, by the way" that he seemed to relax again.

"Yeah I know it was."

"So we're good?"

"We're good. Guess what though?"

"What?"

"These are platonic too." Steve grinned, grabbing Bucky's face and kissing all over his cheeks and his nose and his forehead until Bucky was laughing and trying to push him away.

"Stop it, you asshole." He giggled, although a part of his brain definitely never wanted him to stop. Every time Steve kissed him he warmed up a little more, until all he wanted to do was bury his face in his neck, and push him back against the grass, and keep kissing him until the sun came up.
He had to blink a few times to clear his head of his stupid thoughts, telling himself it was just because he felt miserable from everything he was talking about and going back to shoving at Steve's forehead.

"I was holding these back 'cause I thought it'd be weird."

"Well it is weird now!"

Steve giggled and kissed his nose again before finally leaning back and grinning at him. "Okay, so what were you saying about Fury?"

"I can't remember now, you dick." Bucky huffed, praying that the dark was making it harder for Steve to see how much he was blushing. It took a few more seconds before he finally got back on the right train of thought, which was not helped by the way Steve was looking at him with those big, beautiful eyes, and breathing heavily from laughing. "Oh wait I remember. Okay so Fury eventually found out about the messages, 'cause I forgot my phone in his office one day and I couple more flashed up while it was sitting on his desk. So then when I came back to get it he asked me about it and then helped me basically disappear online. We spent hours clearing every account I ever made until there was nothing left, and now I'm kinda scared to get back on there in case it all just starts up again, you know? Don't wanna risk someone like Jas finding out where I'm living now just in case he decides to go crazy again."

Steve nodded slowly, running a hand through Bucky's hair gently. "How long did all this go on for?"

"Jas tried to stab me the week after my birthday, so about nine months? My 18th was wild. Just me, Meg, and a box of-"

"You had Meg?"

"Yeah, found him in January." He nodded. Meg sensed the mention of his name and looked up from where he'd been napping in the grass, mewing inquisitively until Bucky scratched his head. "He looked about as pathetic as me when I found him, think that's why I was so attached to him."


It was cold in the shade of the back roads that Bucky was now forced to walk down to get home. He pulled his jacket tighter around him and tried to walk faster, but the throbbing pain in his leg was making it difficult to walk at all, let alone at a fast pace. 

After another ten minutes of walking the pain was starting to make him go dizzy and he leant against a wall by a dumpster, letting himself slide down until he was sitting on the ground, and praying that nobody would be able to spot him easily if they came up the alley. He needed to start wearing shin pads to school, otherwise he was going to run out of excuses when his mom asked why he was limping again, or why he couldn't move his arm, or why he just generally looked like hell. As it was he had no idea what he was going to tell her when he got home. He already "fell down the stairs" last week, and the week before it was a "soccer accident". It was a miracle she even let him out of the house considering how accident prone he pretended to be.
Rolling up the leg of his jeans, he tried to examine the damage to his shin, although it was hard to distinguish between what was new and what had already been there, but he was pretty sure the dried blood might have something to do with the problem. The pain seemed to be getting worse rather than better, and he was starting to wonder if he was even going to be able to walk home at all. He was just about to swallow his pride and call his mom when he heard a rustle next to him and whipped his head around.
There were two green eyes watching him from under the dumpster, and it was only when he scooted back slightly that the cat poked it's head out, looking up at him and mewling.

"You can come out, I ain't gonna hurt you." He mumbled, looking back over at his leg and sighing. The cat didn't move, mewling again and looking up at him. The noise it made this time sounded a lot more painful, and when he leant down he could see the cat's leg was caught up in a coil of wire, trapping it. He tried to reach his hand under but the cat hissed at him, trying to scurry back and making another noise when it tugged on it's caught arm. "Hey. Tryin'a help you here." Bucky said, reaching back under again. This time the cat didn't move, but watched him closely as he fumbled with the wire, cutting his hand multiple times before finally managing to get the cat's leg free.
Rather than running away like he'd expected, the cat nuzzled against his arm, letting him scratch it's head without complaint. It still seemed to struggle to stand on it's sore leg, so Bucky helped pull the cat out from under the dumpster and set it down on his lap, now able to get a good view of the deep gashes the wire had cut into the cat's leg.

"We match." He smirked, stroking the matted brown fur on the cat's back. It was hard to tell if that was the furs colour, or if it was just filthy, but running his fingers through it was making him feel a little better so he carried on regardless, smiling when the cat purred and nuzzled at his hand. There was no collar around it's neck, and no sign of anybody nearby who might be looking for him, so when the pain in his leg subsided enough for him to stand up, he scooped the cat up with him and whispered, "I'm gonna look after you, 'kay?"


"My parents were more than a little sceptical about me bringing this ratty old fleabag into the house." Bucky grinned, giggling when Meg hit at him with his paw. "But I convinced them. I think they could kinda tell that I was feeling pretty shitty, even though they had no clue why, so it made them more open to my crazy ideas. Although my dad nearly died laughing at the name."

"That's understandable."

"Shut up, Megatron is an awesome name for a cat."

"Yeah, if you're five years old it is."

"Shut up! He helped me through a lot, quit making fun of his name. I'd tell him about everything, and he'd come and curl up next to me in bed whenever I was having a really shitty night. For my birthday me and him took my new car out through the city and then ate pizza."

"Sounds like a wild party."

"Yeah, Tony was pretty upset that I rejected his offer of using his tower yet again. But I didn't exactly have anybody to invite, and I couldn't let them know that so I just told them I was going out with everybody instead. It was.. I mean it wasn't a bad night, I enjoy eating pizza and talking to my cat.. it was just pretty depressing. But then like I said, all the shit with Jas happened next week and I couldn't hide it anymore. Ended up spending half an hour in the hospital getting my arm stitched up, and then another two hours crying with my mom and telling her what had been going on at school. I didn't tell her about Rumlow though, I knew she'd feel guilty for inviting him over all the time .Her and dad got me transferred to a school about an hour away from here and then I spent the next few months desperately trying to get my grades back up enough to get into college."

Steve frowned at him for a second, stroking his hair again. "So nobody at the new school did anything to you?"

"Steve, they all tried to keep as far away from me as possible. I was having panic attacks every hour. I'd start screaming if somebody slammed a locked shut near me. They all thought I was fucking insane. I thought I was insane. I was having nightmares literally every night, to the point where my dad started sleeping on the couch so he could get to me quicker. I couldn't go outside on my own.. I was a complete mess. For a while I thought I was gonna have to give up on college and just stay at home for another year, and I'm pretty sure my parents wanted me to do that but I.. I had to get out of here." Bucky sighed, collapsing against Steve's chest and nuzzling at him, suddenly feeling completely drained from talking for so long.
For a few minutes it was silent, and Bucky closed his eyes for a moment while Steve ran his fingers through his hair, taking a few deep breaths to try and stop himself from suddenly freaking out again. After a while he finally worked up the strength to speak again. "..Steve?"

"Yeah?"

"I.. when we get back.. I understand if you don't really wanna be around me anymore. I know I'm kind of a burden."

"Bucky don't be ridiculous. I'm not going anywhere."

"Then you have more patience than I first thought." Bucky mumbled, wrapping his arms around Steve's neck and holding onto him tightly. He was overcome with the need to feel as close to Steve as possible, sitting up more so he could press his face into the crook of his neck and whimpering at the smallest touches Steve gave him.

"Hey, it's okay. I've got you." He whispered, wrapping his arms tightly around Bucky's waist and holding him as close as possible. "Thanks for telling me all that."

"Feel a little better now."

Steve chuckled and kissed the top of his head gently. "You okay?"

"Tired."

"Let's get you to bed then."

Bucky nodded sleepily and let Steve help him to his feet, hooking one arm around his waist and using the other to scoop up the pile of blankets off the ground. Meg trotted behind them as they walked slowly back up the steps and into the house, the sudden warmth making Bucky feel even more tired. Steve practically had to drag him into the bedroom as Bucky's legs gradually stopped working, just managing to make it to the bed before collapsing down onto it and letting Steve pull the duvet over him.
The minute Steve lay down next to him Bucky wriggled over, curling up against his side and wrapping an arm around his chest to keep him close. Within seconds Steve had also put one of his arms around him, using the other to find Bucky's hand and lock their fingers together. Bucky had expected to fall asleep fairly quickly, but he found himself lying awake for a little longer, moving his head onto Steve's chest and listening to his heartbeat for a few minutes.

"Steve?"

"Mm?"

"You still awake?"

"No, this is your subconscious speaking."

"Fuck you."

Steve giggled to himself until Bucky slapped his chest playfully. "Sorry, you okay?"

"You know earlier you said you cared about me?"

"Yeah?"

"Did you mean it?"

There was a pause and for a moment Bucky regretting asking, until he heard Steve sigh and say softly, "'Course I meant it, Buck."

"Oh."

"That what you wanted to ask?"

"Well no I was gonna say I care about you too, I kinda forgot to mention it earlier."

"I think you had slightly more important things on your mind."

"I know but I still wanted to say it. Don't want you to think I'm an asshole."

"I'll think that no matter what you say to me."

"Jerk." Bucky muttered, closing his eyes and finally falling asleep to the sound of Steve laughing.

Chapter Text

When Bucky woke up he thought for one brief moment that he was actually dying, and it was a good five minutes before he realised that the crippling pain in his stomach was hunger and not some horrible disease. He wriggled his way out of Steve's arms and shifted up the bed, just barely able to make out his face in the dark. For a few minutes he waited, expecting Steve to wake up on his own, but when there was no sign of that happening he started prodding him in the arm until he stirred.

"Steve. Steeeeeeeve." Bucky whined, poking his cheek. Steve rolled over to face him and opened his eyes a fraction, frowning at him.

"Go to sleep, Buck." He mumbled, closing his eyes again and ignoring when Bucky prodded him.

"Schteeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeve."

"Jesus Christ what is it?"

"I'm really hungry, I need you to make me food."

"Bucky it's 2AM."

"Pleeeeeeaase. I can't sleep when I'm hungry. I skipped dinner and now I need foooood." Bucky complained, rolling around in the duvet and clutching at his stomach dramatically. "I'm gonna diiiiiiiieeeee."

"Oh my god fine. If it'll get you back to sleep."

"Great! I want pasta and cake."

"Are you fucking kidding me?"

"You already agreed to cook for me, you can't back out now."

Steve gave him a long, hard stare before sitting up and groaning. "We're gonna wake your parents up."

"Nah, we just gotta be quiet."

"Are you capable of doing that?"

"Sure I am. I'm part-time student, part-time assassin."

"Uh huh."

"You're so grumpy when you're tired." Bucky teased, nudging him in the arm and sniggering when Steve narrowed his eyes at him. After a few more minutes of groaning and complaining they both got out of bed and headed over to the door, peering out before walking slowly over to the kitchen. Steve did seem genuinely concerned about waking everyone up, while Bucky on the other hand started holding an imaginary gun up and humming the James Bond theme song to himself, doing a clumsy forward roll into the kitchen and almost tripping Steve up in the process. "You'd make a terrible spy, Stevie."

"You know most spies don't actually sing their own theme song?"

"Shut up yeah they do." Bucky giggled, laying on the floor and watching Steve walk across the kitchen. When he flicked the light on Bucky yelped and threw his hands over his eyes. "It buuuuuuuurns!"

"Will you be quiet!?"

"You could have warned me you were gonna do that."

"You gonna stay on the floor?"

"I can't get up."

That at least made Steve chuckle and he walked back over, reaching his hands down and helping pull Bucky to his feet. Once he was upright they both stood facing each other for a few minutes. Steve didn't seem completely stable on his feet and ended up leaning his head on Bucky's shoulder, groaning and nuzzling at his neck sleepily. "Why are you doing this to me?"

"It's not my fault I didn't get dinner."

"But why can't you just make food?"

"I'm too tired."

"Fucking excuse me?"

"Plus you can actually make nice food."

"Flattery will earn you nothing right now, Barnes."

"Oh is that how it is?"

"That's how it is." Steve mumbled, his voice was still grumpy but Bucky could feel him smiling against his neck. "Okay what pasta do you want?"

"I don't know. Nice pasta."

"Can you be a little more specific?"

"No."

"Alrighty then."

Bucky giggled and Steve stood back upright again, padding over to the cabinet to examine what ingredients they had while Bucky pottered around mindlessly. For a few minutes it was quiet until Bucky spotted something moving in the corner of the room and squealed, practically jumping onto Steve's back and wrapping his legs around him while Steve struggled to get his balance back.

"Bucky what the fuck!?"

"KILL IT!"

"You want me to kill the spaghetti?"

Whimpering, Bucky buried his face in Steve's shoulder and clung on tighter to him, pointing a finger over to the corner where the spider was waiting with death in its eyes. "Kill. It."

"I can't do anything while you're on my back, you're fucking heavy."

"KILL IT!"

"Stop yelling! You're gonna wake the whole house up if you-"

"KILL!"

"I will kill it can you just stop freaking out?"

Bucky shook his head and whined, maintaining a vice-like grip when Steve tried to prise him off. Eventually Steve gave in, and staggered over to the corner with Bucky clinging desperately onto his back. "Is it dead yet?"

"Gimme a chance, Buck."

"Has it moved?"

"No. I think it's accepted its fate."

"Make sure it dies."

"Yeah I'm gonna, will you shut up?" Steve muttered and Bucky huffed, tightening his grip on Steve's shirt and squeezing his eyes shut. After a few seconds he heard Steve stomp down on the ground before mumbling, "Okay it's dead, can you get off now?"

"Are you sure it's dead?"

"Its body's in separate pieces. If it can survive that it damn well deserves life."

Bucky didn't say anything, opening one eye slightly and peering down at the splattered remains of the demon-spawn before looking back over at Steve uncertainly. Sighing, Steve reached a hand around and ran it through Bucky's hair.

"It's dead, Bucky. I promise."

"There could be others."

"Well then this'll serve as a warning to them to keep away from us. You want me to mount its head on a stick?"

"You're gross."

"And you're a big baby. C'mon, you're killing my back."

"I can't help that I'm curvy."

"Those aren't curves, Buck. They're called muscles."

Snorting, Bucky shook his his head in disbelief, pinching his stomach as he mumbled, "The last time I went to the gym, it was because the vending machine in the library broke down. You could do a full scan of my body and not find any muscle."

"Well I already found some in your thighs. They're crushing the life out of me." 

"These are dick riding thighs, Stevie."

"I'm glad you've found a work-out routine that works for you." Steve smirked, turning his head and laughing when Bucky winked at him. "You gonna get off me or do I have to cook with you hanging off my back?"

Bucky huffed and dropped himself back onto the floor, making sure to avoid the squished-spider corner at all costs, and leaving Steve to head back over to oven and get a pan out to start cooking.

"I want cake too." Bucky piped up, pulling himself up onto the counter on the other side of the room and swinging his legs about impatiently.

"Yeah and I ain't an octopus."

"I was just reminding you."

Steve looked over his shoulder at him briefly and rolled his eyes. "Why don't you just make mug cake?"

"Are you referring to cupcakes?"

"No. Cake in a mug."

"That is the dumbest idea I have ever heard."

"Bucky what the hell kind of a student are you?"

"An intelligent one."

"I can't believe you could be so blind. C'mere."

"I don't want your mutated cakes."

"Get your dumb ass over here right now or I'm gonna drag you." Steve said sternly, spinning around and folding his arms. Giggling uncontrollably, Bucky hopped back down and sauntering over to him.

"You gonna try and teach me to cook? 'Cause I promise that won't go too well for ya."

"You can't possibly fuck this up."

"Is that a challenge?"

"If you intentionally fuck something up I'm gonna intentionally fuck you up."

"Okay okay, jeeze." Bucky said, holding his hands up defensively when Steve narrowed his eyes. After a ten second stare-off, Steve finally turned around and started collecting together some items out of different cabinets. "I'm uncomfortable with how well you know your way around my kitchen."

"It's not your kitchen."

"It is my kitchen!"

"Do you even know where anything is in here?"

"Sure I do. For example I know that right here is where the cups are." He insisted, pulling the door open confidently and coming face to face with the biscuits. Steve snorted behind him and Bucky folded his arms grumpily. "It's like 3 in the morning you can't expect me to think straight."

"Amazing."

"Mom must've just rearranged stuff since I was last here."

"Or you're just an idiot."

"Say that to my face, bitch." Bucky challenged, spinning around to face him. Steve looked at him for a moment before walking over and putting his hands on Bucky's hips gently and pulling him closer. For a second Bucky forgot how to breathe, and having Steve leaning in close enough that their noses brushed was not helping things.

"You're an idiot." He said quietly, nuzzling at his nose and smirking.

"You're pretty confrontational, you know that?"

"For a second there I thought you were just gonna call me pretty."

"Now why would I lie to you like that?"

"Okay, I see how it is. And it just so happens I forgot how to cook."

"What? No! You're pretty!"

"The prettiest?"

"Fuck off."

"That's a shame I was kinda looking forward to cooking for-"

"You're the fucking fairest of them all, Steve. Jesus Christ just make me food."

Steve grinned at him and kissed his nose lightly, chuckling when Bucky blushed. "Hey my memory returned!"

"You're an ass."

" I just wanna go to bed." He mumbled, leaning over until his head was against Bucky's chest and huffing miserably. "And I want you to be shorter 'cause this hurts my neck."

"Stop doing it then."

"But I want a hug."

"You're so needy when you're tired."

"I'm sorry, you woke me up at fuck o'clock in the morning demanding food and you're calling me needy?"

"I'm not the one demanding hugs."

"You demand hugs like 90% of the time."

"No I don't."

"Not verbally but you do this face that says "hug me or I'm gonna be grumpy for the rest of the day" all the time."

"That's just my face. I can't help it if my face makes you want to hug me."

"Maybe it's just 'cause you're cute then."

"Did you just willingly admit I'm cute?"

"So do you want to make this cake or not?" Steve said abruptly, standing back up and spinning around to grab a mug. For a while Bucky watched him as he made his way around the kitchen, occasionally pausing to lean his head against a cabinet and whine some more before finally coming back over and dumping an armful of ingredients down on the counter.

"Teach me, sensei."

"I can't believe you've been a student for 3 years and never made this. You need to get your ass on Pinterest."

"What the fuck does that mean?"

"Oh my god."

"I'm sorry I don't follow your hipster ways, Stevie."

"I'm not a hipster I'm just socially aware."

"Yeah yeah whatever, make with the cake." Bucky ordered, snapping his fingers in Steve's face and sniggering when he slapped his hand away.

"Don't push me, Barnes."

"I'm huuuungry."

"Yeah you mentioned that like 50 times."

"Oh right like you haven't complained you're tired like 300 times in the last 5 minutes."

"I am justified!"

"And I am hungry!"

Steve narrowed his eyes at him and huffed, sticking his bottom lip out in a grumpy pout. "Never got my hug."

"I never promised hugs."

"You ain't getting shit 'til I get hugs." He insisted, folding his arms stubbornly. Sighing, Bucky stretched his arms out, letting out a high pitched squeak when Steve wrapped his arms around him and lifted him off the ground. He struggled against him for all of five seconds before giving up and pressing his face into Steve's shoulder, wrapping his arms around his neck and trying not to think about how warm he felt.

"'M sorry I woke you up."

"I'm not really mad, Buck."

"I know but I'm sorry."

Steve chuckled and nuzzled Bucky's ear, making him giggle. "What kinda cake do you want?"

"The chocolatiest chocolate cake in the universe."

"That's a lot for me to live up to. Can't we start small?"

"Chocolatiest chocolate cake in the city?"

"Comin' right up."

Bucky grinned and let Steve drop him back onto the ground, keeping his arms around his neck for a few seconds longer than necessary before finally letting go. For the next few minutes Bucky stayed quiet and let Steve tell him what to do, ignoring his frustrated sighs every time he spilt flour everywhere.

"Okay now what?"

"Microwave it."

"This lack of sleep has really gone to your head."

"Do it or I'll hit you with the saucepan." Steve threatened, pointing over at the pan he'd started cooking pasta in. "I know what I'm talking about, just give it like three minutes."

Shrugging, Bucky did as he was told before pulling himself up onto the counter and swinging his legs out, kicking Steve's hip in the process and earning himself a cold stare.

"You watching the microwave?"

"Yes I'm watching the microwave."

"I swear to god if you don't open it before it starts beeping I will kill you."

"Chill."

"I mean it I am so close to murder right now."

"You want me to make you some coffee?"

"If you do that I won't fall asleep 'til like 6 o'clock."

"Fine. You want more hugs?"

"..Yes." Steve mumbled, hanging his head and sighing. Bucky rolled his eyes and hopped off the counter, coming up behind him and wrapping his arms around his waist. He'd only intended for the hug to last a couple of seconds, but somehow he ended up burying his face between Steve's shoulder blades and smiling when he felt him hum contentedly. "You're supposed to be watching the cake."

"You said you wanted hugs."

"I also don't wanna wake your parents up."

"It's cool if they hear us they'll just think we're fucking and leave us alone."

"I don't know about you, but I generally don't make loud beeping noises during sex."

"Well maybe one of us got hungry halfway through and decided to pause for snacks."

"Honestly, I can believe that you'd do that."

"I would not.. okay I considered it one time but-"

"Amazing."

"No but I was really hungry to the point where it was distracting. Like me and Clint had gone out to get food and then I kinda got distracted 'cause this guy was super hot but then once we actually got into it I couldn't really concentrate 'cause I was thinking about burgers."

"You are so ridiculous that it physically hurts me."

"I think snack breaks during sex should be a thing." Bucky shrugged, shifting around so he could rest his chin on Steve's shoulder and glance over at him. "Don't you think snack breaks should be a thing?"

"I feel like if you're more interested in getting snacks then maybe one of you is doing something wrong."

"Are you implying that I'm bad in bed?"

"No, I'm implying that he was."

"I didn't realise you were such an expert on gay sex." He smirked. Steve frowned at him and opened his mouth to speak when the apocalyptic sound of the microwave going off made them both jump and spin around.

"Oh you are going down, you fucker."

"I didn't mean to you distracted me!"

"You're the one who came over here!"

"You asked for hugs!"

"No, you offered hugs!"

"An offer which you then accepted!"

"Just turn it off!"

Bucky let out a long, exasperated sigh before trudging across the room and pulling the microwave door open and examining the mug, which was now overflowing with cake mix.

"Steve I fucked up the unfuckupable." He announced, grabbing the mug and holding it up proudly.

"You didn't fuck up, the mug's just too small. The mug fucked up."

"Don't take away my glory, Stevie."

"Why are you so proud?"

"Because you said I couldn't fuck this up but I did, which means you were wrong and I was right." Bucky grinned, giggling when Steve dragged his hand down his face. "Can I eat it yet?"

"Sure if you wanna burn your taste buds off."

"It's not gonna be that hot."

"Then go right ahead, Mr know-it-all."

Bucky rolled his eyes and started looking for a spoon while muttering to himself, doing his best to impersonate Steve's voice. "Don't eat the cake Bucky. I don't care if you're starving because I know everything and I'm bossy when I'm tired so you should listen to me and not eat the- JESUS FUCK THAT IS HOT."

Before he had a chance to recover Bucky heard a loud bang, and looked over to see Steve collapsed against the counter with his face buried in his arms and his shoulders shaking. He didn't make a lot of noise until he glanced up and saw Bucky glaring at him with his tongue hanging out, and then cracked up completely.

"Ith not funny."

"It's hilarious."

"I thought you didn't wanna make noith, you're making the building thake."

"Are you kidding me?"

"Juth thayin'."

Steve did look like he was trying to stop laughing, but was failing horribly, and Bucky huffed, folding his arms and looking at the ground. After a few seconds he felt arms wrapping around him, and Steve pressing a kiss to his forehead. "Sorry, beautiful." He whispered, running a hand through Bucky's hair and making him sigh. It wasn't until the numbness in his tongue started to fade that his brain started processing again, and he looked back up.

"Did you just call me-"

"Your pasta's done."

"Yay!"

"Now can I go to sleep?"

"But if you go to sleep who's gonna talk to me while I eat?"

"Uuuuuuuuuuugh." Steve groaned, hanging his head miserably as he turned back around to plate up the pasta. "I'm gonna make you pay for this when you least expect it. You'll think you're safe but in like three months time I'm gonna set an alarm on your phone to wake you up at 2 in the morning."

"I'll make it up to you. We'll go somewhere fancy for food tomorrow."

"You can't buy my love, Barnes."

"That's what they all say." Bucky smirked, winking at him and grinning with satisfaction when Steve chuckled. "Gimme the food."

"You get nothing until I have a pillow under my face."

"But Steeeeeeeeeeeeeeeve." He whined as he tried to grab the plate of food out of Steve's hands, narrowing his eyes and pouting when he held it just out of his reach. "You're an asshole."

"You're so tiny."

"I'm like an inch shorter than you, you dick. Now give."

"Bed. Now." Steve said sternly, rolling his eyes when Bucky sniggered.

"Whoa there, feisty-pants."

"That is not what I-"

"Save it for the bedroom, Stevie." Bucky grinned as he turned and headed back into the bedroom, cradling his cake. He barely had a chance to sit down before a plate was being thrust in his face, and the second he took it Steve collapsed down next to him with a thump, exhaling heavily and not even reacting when Bucky elbowed him. "Hey."

"Mm?"

"You gotta entertain me."

"Nnnggggghhhhhhh." Steve grumbled into the bed, rolling over and thumping his head down in Bucky's lap. "'M never staying with you again." He muttered as he wriggled around and got comfortable.
Bucky opened his mouth to make a snarky response but found his breath got caught in his throat when he looked down and saw Steve staring up at him with his eyes half closed and a sleepy smile on his face. "You should know before you eat that, that I have no clue what the fuck it is. I literally just dumped in everything that felt right and hoped for the best. So I cannot guarantee that it won't kill you or something."

"Why do I feel like you've poisoned it on purpose just to get me back for waking you up?"

Steve let out the cutest giggle Bucky had ever heard in his life and shook his head. "I'm not annoyed to the point where I want you dead, Buck."

"Really? Because you sure seemed pretty pissed like 20 seconds ago."

"Yeah but I'd miss you if you died." He said matter-of-factly. "Plus I don't think that would be a great impression to leave your parents with."

"Well I'm gonna eat it either way so if I die it's all on you. Tell Meg I love him."

It offended Bucky deep down to his soul that despite being on the very edge of consciousness, Steve could still cook better food than him. Clearly his anger was showing on his face because after a few minutes Steve poked his arm and mumbled, "Is it really bad?"

"No it's amazing."

"Then why do you look so angry at the world?"

"Because it shouldn't be good. You're a mess and yet you can still make me good food."

"That's the opposite of a problem."

"I'm still upset."

"I'm sorry. Next time I'll make an effort to make your food taste awful."

"Will you? Will you really?"

"...No probably not." Steve said with a yawn, rolling onto his side and wrapping his arms around Bucky's waist so he could snuggle closer. "Not hurting you am I?"

"My legs are capable of supporting the weight of your head."

"Just checking. Can I go to sleep yet?"

"No."

"But Buuuuckyyyyyyyyyyyy-"

"Shush." Bucky ordered, flicking Steve's ear and making him giggle. "Ugh I'm full but cake."

"You don't have to eat the cake."

"Steve, I'm all for freedom of speech but that was just an awful thing to say."

"We can make some more tomorro -"

"No. This cake is my baby. I gave it life which means I have to eat it."

"I... I'm not sure you're ready for fatherhood."

Bucky ignored him and grabbed the very questionable looking mug of cake from the nightstand, rejecting the spoon in favour of just picking pieces off with his fingers. For a moment it was quite until Bucky actually tasted some of it and let out a ridiculously whorish moan, making Steve snap his head up and stare at him for a minute.

"...You okay?"

"I am ready to take this relationship to the next level. Let's get fake married and then we can live together and you can make me these every day for the rest of my life."

"Sounds good."

"Five minutes ago you said you never wanted to stay with me again."

Steve just hummed and closed his eyes again, leaving Bucky to shovel the rest of the cake into his mouth at inhuman speed and then complain at how sick he felt.

"Steve you've killed me. Fuck my stomach hurts I can't- are you sleeping?"

"I'm resting my eyes."

"Uh huh."

"It is almost 3AM I can sleep if I want. You don't control me."

"If that were true you would've gone to sleep like 20 minutes ago." Bucky pointed out, sniggering when Steve cracked one eye open and stared at him for a few seconds.

"You suck. I'm gonna be so grouchy tomorrow and it'll be your fault."

Rolling his eyes, Bucky leant back against the headboard and started absent-mindedly carding his fingers through Steve's hair, not anticipating the moan it earned him. He paused for a second, worried that had been a grumpy noise rather than a happy one, but when Steve hugged him tighter and mumbled, "Stop and I will destroy everything you care about." he went back to it, secretly hoping he'd make that noise again.
For a few minutes it was quiet except for the occasional happy whining noises that Steve kept making. Eventually though even those died down, much to Bucky's disappointment, and he was forced to start talking again when the silence became too much.

"See, in my opinion cake should be a daily part of life. I should make cake all the time. I'm gonna make it every day when we get back. Or maybe I should make it every day until we have to go back. Are you even listening to me? I feel like you're not. Hey, what do you wanna do tomorrow anyway?"

"We have to win the war."

"I... what?"

"The Italians have us surrounded.. the spaghetti is too much."

"Steve literally what the fuck are you- oh." Bucky trailed off when he looked down and realised Steve had obviously fallen asleep a while ago and was now curled up against him, drooling on his leg and mumbling to himself.

" They'll never win against our fried, sugary hell."

"Are you seriously dreaming about a food fight war?"

"Sergeant Barnes has the elephant ears."

"Bitch why the fuck am I only a sergeant? I should be running this operation." Bucky exclaimed, waiting for Steve to explain himself and pouting grumpily when he was met with silence. "Oh I see. Conveniently stop talking when I start asking the real questions." He grumbled, shuffling down the bed until he was on his back and failing to ignore the flutter in his stomach when Steve moved up and leant against his chest while mumbling something about needing spoons.
It didn't take long for Bucky to fall asleep after that, hoping for a dream of food and instead getting one filled with blue eyes and sleepy smiles.

The next thing Bucky was aware of was a heavy weight on his chest and hands gripping his shoulders.

"Bucky wake up it's an emergency."

Cracking one eye open, he looked up and straight into Steve's wide, half-crazed eyes. "Did we win the war?"

"No we- wait what?"

"The food war, did we win?"

"Yeah, the French came with baguettes to defend us. How did you know about that?"

"You sleep talk. Now can you please explain why I wasn't your superior? If I'm gonna lead anything in life, it's gonna be a food battle."

"Bucky, you'd just woken me up and forced me to make food for you. You can't expect to be high up the military rankings in Steve-land after that. But this is not a good time to discuss the funnel cake revolution, you have to get up right now."

"Why?"

"Because you are out of coffee and if I don't get some soon I'm gonna go into a coma and die."

"I think you are exaggerating."

"Get up right now."

Bucky looked up at him and frowned. Steve looked like a complete mess with his hair sticking out in all directions, and Bucky couldn't resist ruffling it up even more until it became a fluffy mop.

"Quit it."

"You look ridiculous." He giggled, wrapping his arms around Steve's neck and grinning up at him. "Can't you take a shower first? I can't be seen with you like that."

"If I do that I'll fall asleep. It's happened before."

"You have an addiction, Stevie."

"I need coffee."

"Alright, jeeze just gimme five minutes."

Just the mere prospect of acquiring caffeine seemed to cheer Steve up a bit and he smiled, rolling over and flopping down next to him. Grumbling, Bucky pushed himself to his feet and walked across the room to find some clothes, dragging his feet as he moved.
Usually he would refuse to be seen dead walking around the city in just one of his old band t-shirts and a hoodie, but compared to Steve he still looked remarkably well dressed so he didn't dwell on it.

"Are you really going out like that?" He asked, looking back around at Steve who was sitting in yesterdays jeans, a wrinkled grey t-shirt, and dark blue flannel shirt. If Bucky had seen him on the street at this point he would have assumed he was homeless, but Steve didn't seem too concerned.

"Yeah, I just need something so.. aha!"

Bucky watched him as he leapt off the bed and dove into one of his bags, eventually pulling out an old beanie and tugging it over his head before spinning around to give Bucky a thumbs up.

"Hair issue solved."

"Unbelievable."

"What?"

"I can't believe you even attempt to deny what a hipster you are."

"I am not a hipster! I just look good in beanies and flannel and have bad eyesight!"

"Uh huh."

"You're just upset because I can look like shit and get away with it."

"Are you trying to suggest that I cannot get away with looking shit?"

"I don't know I haven't seen you on a bad day yet."

"Steve every day is my bad day."

"Then you set an impossibly high standard and frankly you should be ashamed of yourself. Now take me for coffee."

"A simple 'please' would be nice."

"You woke me up at 2AM yesterday and forced me to make you pasta and cake, then refused to let me go to sleep until you'd eaten it all, so you can shove your 'please' right up your ass."

"Hey, nobody forced you to cook."

"You did. That is literally exactly what you did."

"No, I just batted my eyelashes at you and hoped for the best."

"You're an insufferable jerk."

"You love me. Now let's roll out, loser." Bucky grinned, spinning on his heel and letting Steve shuffle behind him.

"Where are you going?" His mom asked as they headed over to the door, looking more than a little surprised that Bucky was awake and active at a reasonable time in the morning.

"Taking out the trash." Steve muttered, putting his hand on Bucky's shoulder to make him move faster.

"You shouldn't put yourself down like that, Stevie."

"You're on thin ice, Barnes."

"I promise I'll buy you the biggest, strongest, most wonderful cup of coffee they have when we get there."

"Do they offer planet sized cups?"

"No but I can get you multiple asteroid ones."

Bucky heard Steve let out the shortest, most resentful laugh he had ever heard in his life, but it was enough to satisfy him and he stayed quiet until they were in the car. He reached out to turn his radio on but Steve glared daggers at him and he backed off again.

"You're shutting off a part of my soul, Steve. I need my music."

"If I hear a single noise louder than your voice I'm going to cry and throw myself into the road. Do you want to deal with that?"

"Fair enough. So what happens if you run out of coffee at your place? Do you really show up to classes like this?"

"There is never no coffee."

"But what if-"

"Never."

"Have you considered rehab?"

"Can you just drive?"

"I feel like that only increased the seriousness of my question."

"Bucky I swear to god-"

"Okay okay take a chill pill.. or maybe a nap."

He hadn't meant it as a genuine suggestion, but in the time it took for him to pull out of the drive Steve managed to doze off again and Bucky was forced to listen to his snoring rather than the radio. Fortunately it took under five minutes to get to the coffee shop, and as soon as they were parked Steve seemed to sense the caffeine and woke up again.

"This place looks expensive."

"Everywhere I go is expensive, haven't you realised that yet?"

"Why would you take me to a posh people place when I look like a wreck?"

"Thought you said you could 'look like shit and get away with it'?"

"I only said that to provoke you."

"Well karma's a bitch."

Steve glared at him for a long moment before getting out of the car and following Bucky through the door, muttering under his breath about how everyone looked so pretentious and that Bucky was the worst human being to ever exist. Despite this Bucky did keep his word, and Steve at least smiled when he was handed a cup of coffee almost the size of his head.

"Are you happy now, you big baby?"

"I won't be happy 'til it's in my body."

"You wouldn't believe how many times I've thought the same thing."

"Didn't need to know that." Steve mumbled, making Bucky giggle as they sat down in a quiet corner. From the way he'd been talking Bucky had expected him to down the coffee in one giant gulp, but instead he sat cuddled up next to him, leaning his head on Bucky's shoulder and taking tiny sips in between the contended sounds he kept making. For a few minutes neither of them spoke, until Bucky finally got fed up of Steve's whining noises.

"Stevie, I'm glad you're happy now and all, but do you have to keep making the puppy noises?"

Steve nodded and nuzzled his shoulder. "Whoever created coffee deserves a hug from god."

"Uh huh."

"No seriously. It is literally the best thing ever. Can you imagine if it didn't exist? I would be like that all the time. I'd have no friends because they'd all think I'm a jerk."

"You are a jerk."

"I like to think I'm slightly less of one after I've woken up properly though. How are you anyway? I haven't even asked. Oh my god I haven't even talked to you this morning except to complain. Did you sleep okay? Did you-"

"Steve I'm fine, jeeze."

"I'm a horrible human."

"I've put up with worse." Bucky shrugged, looking down at the empty cup in front of him and realising he'd been just as in need of coffee as Steve was.

"But you shouldn't have to."

"It's kinda late for that."

"No I just mean you don't have to put up with me being a dick, you should just punch me in the face next time."

"There's a difference between being a horrible person, and being grumpy in the morning."

"No I know, I just...forget it. We should come here more, it's nice." Steve said, changing the subject and sitting up a little.

"Ten minutes ago you said it was an overpriced shithole full of pretentious asses."

"That was not me, that was grumpy morning Steve."

"So you're saying you like my pretentious overpriced coffee offering?"

"I'm saying I want more."

"I cannot believe you drank all that and you still want more."

"You underestimate my power. Plus it's Christmas and that means gingerbread lattes exist."

"I cannot believe you had the audacity to laugh at my sickly sweet drinks before."

"This is different."

"It is in no way different."

Steve narrowed his eyes at him and got up, reverting back to his earlier temperament for a brief moment before grabbing Bucky's hand excitedly and exclaiming, "Not only do they do them, but the cups have tiny snowmen on! Now we have to get them."

"What do you mean we?"

"Bucky where is your holiday spirit?"

"I left it in the car."

"Now who's grouchy?"

"Hey, I'm tired too you know." Bucky said with a yawn, pushing himself to his feet and following Steve back over to the counter. "And coffee doesn't do much to wake me up."

"That's because what you're drinking isn't coffee, it's just sugar and cream."

"You say that like it's a bad thing."

"It's not a bad thing, I just don't understand how you can drink so much of it without throwing up."

Shrugging, Bucky pushed past him and ordered their drinks before Steve could complain about him paying for everything. He wasn't able to stop him from poking his head around and insisting they got snowman cups, but the stupid smile that spread across his face when they got them made it almost worth the look they got from the barista.
Despite Steve's drastically improved mood, he still sat as close to Bucky as was physically possible, nudging their feet together occasionally and talking away about how wonderful Christmas coffee cups were.

"I'm glad you're fully of Christmas spirit today because I need you to wrap ma's presents for me."

"What? Why can't you do it."

"I suck at wrapping, it always comes out like a 5 year old did it."

"You're asking the wrong guy to help you here."

"But you have artist hands, you'll make it look beautiful."

"Bucky I have never wrapped a present in my life, you need to lower your expectations."

"No you'll do it perfectly. I have yet to see you fuck up anything ever."

Steve looked at him for a minute and then smiled, leaning over and nuzzling Bucky's cheek, which he took as an agreement. "Okay but you have to do something for me first."

"I already bought you coffee."

"Just humour me here."

"Fine, what?" Bucky huffed, raising an eyebrow and protesting loudly when Steve dropped his beanie on his head. "No!"

"Yes."

"Steve."

"You look so cute oh my god."

"You have ruined my punk aesthetic."

"Bucky you cried at the little mermaid and scream when you see a spider, I really don't think you need to worry about a hat."

"Fuck you."

Steve chuckled and wrapped his arms around Bucky's shoulders, pressing his face into his arm. "You do look really cute though, I can't look at you anymore."

"Shut up."

"I'm gonna buy you a beanie."

"I'll burn it." Bucky mumbled, not paying a lot of attention to him. He was more focused on the sideways glances they'd getting from some of the other people around them ever since they'd sat back down.

"But you look so cuuuuuuute." Steve whined, looking up and frowning at him. "What's wrong?"

"People are staring."

Glancing around the room, Steve sat up again and gave him an apologetic look before smirking and saying, "You sure they're not just wondering why a homeless man is giving you his clothes?"

Bucky bit back a laugh and rolled his eyes. "You don't look that bad."

"That's not what you said before we came out."

"You'd just woken me up and yelled at me, how flattering did you expect me to be?"

Steve shrugged, smirking and gesturing towards the door. "Wanna get outta here?"

"I give you one compliment and now you're flirting with me?"

"No! I just mean-"

"I know what you meant, Stevie. Let's go." Bucky grinned, standing up and tugging the sleeve of Steve's shirt until he got up. "Are you.. bringing those with us?" He asked, eyeing the cups in Steve's hands and raising an eyebrow at him.

"Yeah."

"What could you possibly do with two snowmen printed coffee cups?"

"Bucky, I'm an art student. The possibilities are endless."

"Riiiiiight."

Steve ignored him and wrapped his arm around Bucky's shoulder, leading him out through the door. It wasn't until they were outside that he seemed to realise what he was doing and dropped his arm back down, mumbling a hurried apology before Bucky could tell him it was okay.
The drive home was quiet except for Steve occasionally coming up with things he could do in an attempt to prove that coffee cups were useful, and how it was absolutely necessary for each of these things to have snowmen on, instead of just being made from regular cups.

When they walked through the door they almost slammed straight into his mom and dad, who were apparently getting ready to go out.

"We're doing last minute shopping, is there anything you need?" His mom asked hurriedly, already looking stressed out from trying to plan everything.

"Cake and a rich husband."

"Honey, I think it's time you accepted that you are the rich husband."

"That's not gonna stop me from hoping."

Steve cleared his throat loudly next to him and Bucky giggled, leaning his head against his shoulder. "You still have time to get rich, Stevie."

His mom rolled her eyes at him before patting him on the arm and heading out the door with his dad close at her heels, turning back briefly and looking Bucky up and down.

"Nice hat." He smirked before disappearing through the door, leaving Bucky to grab the beanie he'd forgotten was on his head and throw it on the floor in disgust.

"Bucky all it wanted was to warm your head, why did you have to treat it that way?"

"Don't you dare make me pity a hat." Bucky mumbled. "Can you remember where I put mom's stuff? I put it somewhere I wouldn't forget but I've forgotten where that was."

"Why couldn't you just put it in the closet like most people?"

"Because my mother has no concept of privacy and will just go through my stuff as she pleases."

"Please tell me we're not gonna have to search your entire bedroom."

"We're gonna have to search my entire bedroom."

Steve hung his head and sighed dramatically while Bucky headed over to the bedroom and started going through his drawers. Meg, who had been lying on the bed, looked up at the noise and mewed at him, cocking his head curiously.

"Meg, you're an animal. Can you sniff out mommy's presents?" He asked hopefully, walking over to scratch the cat's head. Meg just looked at him before hopping off the bed and trotting into the bathroom. "Useless cat." Bucky muttered to himself.

"Has your memory returned?" Steve asked, finally appearing in the doorway.

"I'm absolutely 100% positive you were with me when I hid them so don't put all the blame on me."

"How come you can remember I was there but you can't remember what we were doing?"

Bucky blushed and looked at the ground for a second before shrugging and muttering, "I don't know, just shut up and help me look."

"Fine. But next time, I'm choosing the hiding place."

For twenty minutes they searched Bucky's room until the whole place looked like a bombsite and still there was no sign of the presents. Huffing in frustration, Bucky threw himself down onto the bed and groaned loudly.

"WHYYYYYYYY?"

"They've gotta be somewhere, Buck."

"Uugh." He grumbled, looking up as Steve lay down next to him. "Maybe we should just give mom a card that says 'your present is somewhere in the house, happy hunting'."

Steve chuckled and ran a hand through Bucky's hair. "You need to stop thinking about it."

"I can't."

"Think about kittens."

"I'm always thinking about kittens, Steve."

"Well clearly you aren't thinking about them enough." Steve sighed, keeping his hand behind Bucky's head and smirking.

"We're never gonna find it. I have officially ruined Christmas."

"I think you're overreacting."

"Christmas is over."

"Buck," Steve said, catching Bucky by surprise as he pulled him over so he was laying on top of him. "Stop being so dramatic."

Bucky wanted to respond, but having Steve's face less than an inch away from his still seemed to have an effect on his ability to form legible sentences. It wasn't until Steve raised an eyebrow at him that he realised he'd been staring at him with his mouth hanging open, and even then he struggled to tear his eyes away. All he could think about was Steve's eyes.. and the sound of him laughing.. and the bathroom sink.. wait what?

"Steve!" He yelled suddenly, making Steve jump and throw his arms up defensively.

"What's wrong?"

Bucky didn't answer, hopping off the bed and practically skipping as he headed into the bathroom. Meg mewed at him from where he was sat in the sink and Bucky grinned, scratching between his ears before opening the cabinet above the sink and punching the air when he saw the plastic bag sitting there.

"You're so smart, Megsy."

Meg just blinked at him and attempted to stand up, unable to get enough grip with his one paw and slipping several times before Bucky lifted him out and carried him back into the bedroom with the jewellery in his other hand.

"Meg found mom's stuff." Bucky announced to Steve, holding the cat in the air proudly and giggling when Steve sat up and bowed.

"All hail Megatron."

"Why do you insist on calling him that?"

"It's his name."

"I just can't help but feel like you're mocking me."

"Now why would I do that?"

Bucky narrowed his eyes at him and turned on his heel, throwing the door open and dropping Meg down on the couch. "C'mon, it's time to test your wrapping skills."

"But I caaaaaaan't."

"How can you know that if you've never done it before?"

"I just know." Steve muttered, following him out and sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of the couch. "Why do you have to overcomplicate it? Just put it in a bag."

"But it's for my mama."

"Put it in a pretty bag."

Bucky ignored him, grabbing some wrapping paper from the corner of the room and dropping it into Steve's lap with the presents. "Wrap." He said, laying down on the couch and pulling Meg onto his chest, ignoring Steve's frustrated huff.

As it turned out Steve's protests had been totally justified, and he truly was appalling at wrapping presents.

"Steve what the fuck is that?"

"I told you."

"But you do art stuff."

"Believe it or not, art courses do not cover Christmas Wrapping 101."

"Well clearly they should. Meg could probably wrap it better, and he's lacking opposable thumbs and an arm."

"You forced me to do this so don't complain."

"I guess at least I finally have proof that I'm not the worst wrapper in the world."

Christmas Eve for Bucky generally consisted of his parents rushing around the house like headless chickens all day while he tried his best to stay out of the way and avoid being given jobs to do. However, this year Steve insisted that the only way to spend the day was watching as many Christmas movies as they possibly could.

"I hope you realise that literally all of these movies make me cry, and you're gonna have to be the one who deals with that."

"I can handle that."

"I don't think you understand what you just agreed to, Stevie."

Steve rolled his eyes and wrapped his arms around Bucky's waist, pulling him backwards onto the couch and holding him tightly against his chest while Bucky tried to focus on turning the TV on.
The downside of his parents running around the house all day was that they insisted on keeping the backdoor open, which meant that they were only able to make it through the first ten minutes of Home Alone before Bucky was shivering and complaining.

"Do you want a blanket?" Steve smirked, rubbing his hand along Bucky's arm in a feeble attempt to warm him up.

"Yes I want a blanket. I want 50 blankets."

"Do you have 50 blankets?"

"We do have a lot."

"I have a beautiful, ridiculous idea."

"What are you.. Steve no."

"Come oooooooon." He grinned, getting up and tugging at Bucky's hand until he stood up. "We're gonna have the coolest fort ever, take me to the blankets."

"You are a grown man."

"No I'm not, I just pretend to be when it's convenient for me."

Despite all Bucky's eye rolling and despairing sighs, it didn't take long for him to get into the spirit of things, and after countless pillow fights that Steve always seemed to win and strange looks from his parents as they gathered up all chairs from around the dining room table, they managed to put together a fairly impressive blanket fort, complete with extra Christmas lights that Bucky found.

"I can't believe you thought this was a bad idea." Steve said, shaking his head as they restarted the movie and curled up under yet more blankets.

"I'm sorry I doubted you."

"I still don't see why Megatron got the best seat."

Bucky glanced over at Meg, who was asleep on a throne of cushions and shrugged. "Because this is Fort Megatron, didn't you read the sign?"

"I read the sign. But from what I'm aware he contributed nothing towards this fort."

"Steve, would you ask a king to build his own castle?"

"Your respect for that cat is almost concerning."

"Shut up."

Steve chuckled and wrapped his arms around Bucky's waist, leaning his head against his shoulder and whispering, "You warm enough now?"

"Mm hmm." Bucky hummed, closing his eyes when Steve nuzzled at his neck. If anything, he was too warm now. Not only did they have multiple blankets around them, but Steve had insisted on making hot chocolate just so he could get some use out of the Christmas coffee cups he had acquired, and having Steve this close to him certainly wasn't helping things.. but he wasn't about to complain about that.

As predicted, by the time the first movie was over Bucky was a sobbing, quivering mess, and it took a few minutes for Steve to calm him down enough to form legible words.

"I d..did w..warn you."

"Maybe we should have kept more tissues in here."

Bucky nodded and buried his face in Steve's chest. "I fucking hate Christmas movies."

"We don't have to watch anymore if you don't-"

"Don't you dare talk like that, we have at least 5 more to get through."

Rolling his eyes, Steve started the next movie while Bucky continued to snivel and cling to his shirt. Miraculously he managed to get through the next few hours without having another emotional breakdown, but somewhere along the line he must have fallen asleep because the next thing he knew it was quiet and dark except for the faint glimmer of the Christmas lights Bucky had draped around them.

"You awake?"

"I think so."

"Your parents insisted we have to dismantle the fort before we go to sleep. Your mom's exact words were 'Santa doesn't visit blanket forts'."

"Then you know what must be done."

"But I put so much effort into this."

"But the risks are too great, Stevie."

Sighing, Steve sat up and crawled out under the blankets with Bucky following behind him. It took them considerably less time to dismantle the fort, although Steve didn't do much to help other than whine and complain about how it was too young to die, not accepting defeat until all that was left were a few cushions and blankets on the floor.

"C'mon you big baby." Bucky grinned, shoving Steve towards the bedroom.

"Says the guy who just frantically cleared up the entire sitting room out of fear that Santa wouldn't come."

"Steve, I am a grown ass man. I know full well that Santa will come regardless of the amount of blankets there are in one room. I just didn't want to face my mother's wrath if she came down and found it was still there." Bucky said as they walked into the bedroom, collapsing down on the bed and curling up in a ball, listening to the sound of Steve shuffling around the room and knowing full well there was no way he would be able to sleep tonight because, grown ass man or not, Christmas was still exciting.

Chapter Text

"Hey Stevie." Bucky whispered, rolling onto his side and nudging Steve with his foot. He could barely see him in the dark, but he was able to hear the frustrated groan and the sound of Steve burying his face further into a pillow.

"Bucky please go to sleep."

"I can't. It's Christmas Eve which means it's gonna take me forever to fall asleep."

"Pretty sure it's actually Christmas by now."

"Uh no. For your information it is 11:30. Now listen this is really, really important." He insisted, waiting until the noise of Steve rolling over had stopped before carrying on. "So you know how in those Christmas movies where Santa exists-"

"Bucky-"

"He always leaves presents for the kids, but like, the parents never question it?"

"They're just movies, Buck."

"But does that mean he puts some kind of spell over the parents to make them think that they bought the presents? And then if that is the case, surely there is every possibility that Santa does exist."

"I thought you said this was important."

"I just potentially proved the existence of Santa and you don't think that's important?"

"Will you please just go to sleep?"

"I'm tryiiiiiiiiing." Bucky whined, kicking his legs out and huffing.

"You're not trying at all."

"Am too."

"Bucky, you haven't stopped talking for the past hour."

"You talk a lot of shit for somebody who is also awake."

"I'm awake because you won't shut up!"

Giggling, Bucky rolled onto his stomach and looked over at where Steve was, wishing he could see his face so he could tell if he was genuinely annoyed with him or not. "I can't help it, my brain won't shut up."

"I'll shut it up for you in a minute."

"No but seriously how cool would it be if he actually existed."

"Not really."

"Steve how can you say that do you have no soul? Why would you not want a dude who just gives free presents to everyone?"

"Not everyone."

"...Okay I'm gonna try sleeping again."

"Thank you."

They both fell silent as Bucky squeezed his eyes shut and curled up in the duvet, trying desperately to shut his brain up. It felt like he'd been lying there for hours before he rolled over again and poked Steve's arm. "You still awake?"

"Oh my god."

"I tried!"

"Bucky you were quiet for about two minutes."

"Uuuuuuuuuugggggggggghhhhhhhhh." He groaned, pressing his face into the pillow and sighing loudly.

"Are you trying to suffocate yourself now?"

"Yes."

"Buck-"

"I'm tiiiiiired."

Bucky heard Steve sigh next to him and the next thing he knew there were arms wrapping around him, pulling him over so his head was on Steve's chest. He was about to protest when Steve started dragging his fingers through his hair, and what would have been words turned into more of a broken whine as he leant into the touch.

"Do you really think it'll be that easy to get me to sleep?"

"Literally every time I have done this before you have fallen asleep."

"That's not..." Bucky trailed off, yawning and nuzzling against his chest. "That isn't true."

"It is, I just have to touch your hair and you're comatose within five minutes."

"How long have you been using that against me?"

"I haven't- what situation could I possibly be in where I wanted you to be asleep?"

"Isn't that what you want right now?"

He heard Steve sigh and grinned to himself, closing his eyes and letting the sound of Steve's heartbeat block out the Christmas thoughts.


The sudden force of a pillow on his face brought him out of a dream predominantly featuring blond hair and blue eyes. He barely had time to open his eyes before the pillow hit him again, making him yelp and causing Steve to jolt awake next to him.

"WHAT THE HELL!?"

Bucky heard the sound of his dad laughing and opened his eyes, looking up at where he was standing with a pillow in his hand and looking very proud of himself. His mom was behind him trying and failing to stifle her laughter while he blinked at them.

"Dad literally what the hell?"

"Remember that one time when you were 6 and you woke us up at 3am demanding presents?"

"No."

"Well welcome to revenge."

"Did you purposely wait until I had somebody round just so you could do this?"

"Yes."

"I hate you so much."

"That's not very festive of you, Buck."

"Neither is hitting your child with a pillow and yet here we are."

His dad chuckled and headed back out, leaving his mom who opened her mouth to say something when the sound of the oven pinging made her dash out with a hurried, "Happy Christmas, boys!"

"Is your mom cooking already?" He heard Steve mumble. "It's like 6:30."

"She takes Christmas dinner very seriously."

"Jeeze."

Bucky rolled over and hummed in response, glancing over at Steve who seemed to be having great difficulty keeping his eyes open. "For the record, my dad doesn't usually attack guests with pillows."

"Mm."

"You want some coffee?"

Instead of getting a response, Bucky found himself being pulled against Steve's chest and hugged so tightly he could barely breathe.

"That's the most beautiful thing you've ever said to me. This is the best Christmas ever."

"Steve you have coffee every morning."

"But usually I have to make it."

"Well if you want me to make it you'll have to let go of me."

"Yeah.. just give me a minute."

Bucky was in no mood to argue so he snuggled up against Steve's chest and closed his eyes for a few moments, letting Steve run his hand through his hair. It took all of his strength to tear himself away from him again, especially when Steve tightened his arms around him.

"I gotta get up."

"You're warm."

"And you're gonna be grumpy all day if you don't let me get up."

After several groans and whined Steve finally loosened his grip enough for Bucky to get up and head out into the kitchen, wrapping his arms around his mom and making her jump.

"Don't do that, James."

"Mom it's not even 7am yet, what are you doing?"

"Cooking."

"Are we gonna be having lunch at 10?"

"Of course not don't be so-"

"Then you don't need to cook yet."

Sighing, she turned around and hugged him. "What are you doing in here?"

"There's an oversized baby in my bed demanding caffeine."

"And you're making it?"

"Why is that such a shock to you?"

"Usually it's him who waits on you hand and foot."

Bucky clutched his chest in mock offense and strode off to the other side of the kitchen, switching on the coffee maker and slumping against the counter impatiently. He could hear his mom going back to her rushing behind him, muttering to herself about all the things she needed to do.

"What's for breakfast?"

"James really, I'm trying to sort out lunch."

"But breakfast comes before lunch."

He assumed she was ignoring him and started mixing a disgusting amount of sugar into his coffee when she shoved a plate in front of him and muttered, "Toast is for breakfast."

"I could've done that myself."

"You were busy."

"I was only-"

"Now shoo, you're in the way." She said, waving her hands at him as he tried to figure out how he was going to transport two pieces of toast and two mugs into the bedroom. Eventually he just shoved the bread into his mouth and hurried out, miraculously not spilling anything on the way.
Steve was asleep again when he got back into the bedroom, snoring loudly with his arms wrapped around a pillow. It wasn't until Bucky had set the mugs down on the nightstand and sat down on the bed that Steve opened his eyes and glanced up at him.

"What took you so long?"

"Mmff mmmfff mffmffmmff."

"..What?"

Bucky took the toast out of his mouth and sighed. "I said, 'you're so ungrateful'."

"You brought breakfast too?"

"Yeah. I kinda chewed on it though so you probably won't want it now."

"Bucky, I've had my tongue in your mouth." Steve murmured sleepily, sitting up and taking a slice of toast from Bucky's hand and grinning. "You brought me breakfast in bed, that's cute."

"It's just some bread."

"Still counts."

Bucky shrugged and stretched his arms up over his head, grimacing at the ungodly noise his back made. When he looked back he saw Steve staring down at where his shirt had ridden up over his stomach, and it wasn't until Bucky tugged it back down that he caught his eye.

"Enjoying yourself?"

"..So did you get coffee?" Steve mumbled, looking down at his hands avoiding Bucky's eyes when he handed him the mug.
For a few moments they were silent. Bucky sipped at his sickly sweet coffee slowly while he watched Steve chug his, sighing happily and leaning his head against Bucky's shoulder.

"You make good coffee."

"You mean my machine makes good coffee."

"Mm." He hummed, nuzzling at Bucky's neck and sighing again. "Don't wanna get up."

"If you don't get up you don't get presents."

"That changes things."

Bucky tried to ignore the pang of disappointment when Steve sat upright again and hopped off the bed, spinning around and beaming at him. "C'mon."

"Gimme a sec, jeeze."

"Buckyyyyyyyyyyy, come ooooooooooon." Steve whined, hopping up and down while Bucky drank the rest of his coffee.
Eventually, after Steve had worn himself and flopped back down onto the bed impatiently, Bucky put the mug down and pushed himself to his feet, causing Steve to spring back onto his feet almost instantly. They both headed back into the sitting room where his dad was sprawled out across the couch, clearly regretting waking them all up so early. Bucky grabbed a cushion and threw it at his head before sitting down on the floor.  

"Rise and shine."

"Fuck you."

"Nobody would be up this early if it weren't for you, quit complaining."

His dad groaned and sat up, reaching down to ruffle Bucky's hair and chuckling when Bucky swatted at his hand. "You haven't done your hair yet, are you okay?"

Bucky ignored him and grabbed Steve's arm, pulling on it until he sat down next to him. "Stevie wants presents."

"I do no- that is not why I got up."

"Uh huh."

"It's only you who got me anything anyway so-"

"Steve, do you really think my parents would pass up the opportunity to spoil more people?"

"We don't spoil you."

"Yes you do, you're terrible parents who feed my superficial needs." Bucky grinned, hugging his dad's leg and tapping his feet impatiently. "Where's ma?"

"Cooking."

"MOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!"

"WHAT?"

"We have presents for you."

That apparently grabbed her attention and she pottered out of the kitchen, still wearing her apron and holding a rolling pin in her hand. Bucky didn't even wait until she'd sat down before crawling over to the Christmas tree and sifting through the various boxes.

"James." His mom said sternly and he turned around, blinking innocently at her. "You should find one for Steve first."

"But-"

"James."

Bucky pouted at her and turned back towards the stack of presents that he couldn't open. He managed to find his present for Steve that his mom had wrapped in a basket despite his protests and dragged it back over to where they were sitting, suddenly realising that there were a thousand better things that he could have bought as a present instead of going crazy over art supplies.

"Maybe you should just not open this." He mumbled, clinging onto the basket when Steve tried to grab it.

"Buck-"

"No it's terrible and I'm terrible."

Steve smirked at him and Bucky sighed, setting it down in front of him and curling up so he could rest his chin on his knees. "It's so terrible."

"Yeah you mentioned that." Steve chuckled, nudging Bucky with his foot before carefully starting to unwrap it. After 30 seconds Bucky's patience was wearing thin and he tapped his feet against the floor, whining as Steve took his sweet time opening the present.

"Steeeeeeeeve hurry uuuuup. You're killing meeee." He complained. Steve gave him a sideways glance before finally tearing the rest of the paper off and staring wide-eyed at the basket crammed with art supplies.

"Oh my god."

"I told you." He mumbled, hanging his head and sighing.

"Bucky you're amazing."

"I know I'm so sorry.. wait what?"

Before Bucky could look back up he found himself being tackled to the ground. The pain in his shoulders from being smacked against the wooden floor disappeared as soon as he opened his eyes and saw Steve smiling above him, leaning down and attacking his face with kisses. It took a few seconds for Bucky to remember how to move his limbs, and he somehow managed to pry Steve's face away from his long enough for them to both get their breath back.

"Okay.. so that was a better response than I expected."

"I love you so much right now." Steve said softly, nestling his head against Bucky's neck and hugging him tighter. For a moment Bucky forgot how to speak and he lay with his mouth hanging open and his heart beating impossibly fast. He really wished it would stop doing that because there was no way Steve wouldn't be able to feel it from where he was laying, but if he could, he hadn't mentioned it.

"It's just art stuff..." He managed to say after a few seconds.

"Do you realise how much it costs to get decent art stuff?"

"Not really no."

"Well it costs a lot. I've been barely scraping by the last couple of months."

"Guess I'm just awesome then."

"Yeah." Steve sighed as he nuzzled at Bucky's neck, and he could feel his face flushing as his whole body warmed up. "How much stuff is even in here?"

It was impossible to ignore the immediate emptiness when Steve sat back up again, and it took all of his willpower not to grab him and pull him back down again. Sighing, Bucky pushed himself back up and watched as Steve took everything out of the basket and laid it out on the floor in front of him, still grinning from ear to ear.

"There should be something else too." Bucky piped up, suddenly remembering the guitar pick he'd bought. He shuffled over and started rifling through everything until he found the box.

"I was organising those."

"Well you're a huge nerd. But look." He insisted, shoving the box into Steve's hands excitedly, and snatching it back as soon as it was open. "Look see you won't lose this one 'cause it's on a necklace so you can just keep it on all the time." He continued, fumbling with the string for a few seconds before dropping it over Steve's head and looking at him expectantly. ".. Do you like it?"

Steve didn't say anything and instead wrapped his arms back around him, crushing him against his chest and kissing the top of his head. "I'm really conflicted right now." He whispered and Bucky looked up, raising an eyebrow at him. "I love you because you're amazing and these are the best presents ever, but I hate you because now I'm painfully aware of how shitty my present is."

"I'll be the judge of that." Bucky smirked, leaning up to nuzzle his chin playfully.

"We are still here you know."

They both turned around at the sound of his dad's voice to where both he and his mom were watching them from the couch. Bucky groaned and hid his face in Steve's shoulder, who just laughed and ran a hand through his hair.

"Sorry, did I ruin the moment?"

"Yes, George. You did."

Bucky sighed and nuzzled at Steve's shoulder. "Can I open your present now?"

"No."

"Why not?" He squeaked, sounding far more disappointed than he intended. Steve frowned at him when he looked up and chewed on his lip.

"It sucks, you can never see it."

"I'm gonna open it."

"Nooooo."

Bucky ignored him and started crawling back towards the stack of presents, only making it a quarter of the way before he felt Steve grabbing onto his legs and trying to stop him.

"Buckyyyyyy. Dooooon't." He heard him whine. The grip Steve had on him was nowhere near tight enough to stop him from actually going anywhere, and soon enough Bucky managed to wriggle away from him and make it to the tree.
It was easy enough to spot Steve's present amongst all of the perfectly wrapped parcels, somehow it looked even worse than the ones he'd wrapped for his mom.

"Stevie, did you even try?"

"I didn't have a chance to wrap it properly. You were always with me!."

"And you couldn't have just forced me to wait in my room for 20 minutes?"

Steve looked at the ground and shrugged, scratching the back of his neck while Bucky giggled excitedly and shuffled back over to where he was sitting. The second he was close enough Steve wrapped his arms around him and tried to wrestle the present away from him, whining loudly as Bucky fought back.

"Buckyyyyy."

"Why are you so upset?"

"You don't understand it's so bad I fucked up so bad."

"Steve."

It took another ten minutes for Bucky to finally get the present back and start unwrapping it, while Steve collapsed in defeat and lay face down next to him. Despite his awful wrapping skills, the ridiculous amount of tape Steve had used to keep it together made it almost impossible to actually open but finally he managed to get through, tearing the rest of the paper off in seconds and collapsing with laughter as soon as he saw what it was.

"You got me a cookbook?" He giggled, running a hand through Steve's hair and laughing harder when he groaned.

"When everyone said you were a terrible cook I just thought.. I had no idea what to get you okay?" Steve grumbled, his voice muffled. Bucky just grinned and dropped himself down on top of him, giggling at the pained noise Steve made before leaning down to kiss his cheek.

"You're adorable, you know that?" He whispered. "I'm gonna blow Clint's mind when I get back and cook him some human food."

Steve turned to look at him and Bucky was suddenly aware of how close their faces were. He could feel Steve's breath against his lips and the surprised smile on his face was making his heart race. Before he could stop himself he had closed the distance between them, pressing their lips together gently and making Steve gasp. His initial surprise faded within seconds and soon Steve was kissing him back, but it didn't take long for Bucky to realise his parents were still in the room and he pulled away quickly, glancing over at them.
His mom was beaming at them while his dad looked like he wanted to run out of the room, but neither of them said anything when he looked over.

"There's stuff inside it too."

Bucky looked back down at the sound of Steve's voice and frowned at him. "Excuse me?"

"In the book." Steve explained, rolling onto his back and causing Bucky to thump onto the floor. "I felt bad about just getting you this so I made.. these." He said, holding up some slips of paper excitedly.

"You made me some paper rectangles?"

Sighing, Steve shuffled closer and shoved them in his face. "They're coupons. You know like people sometimes give out 'free blowjob coupons' and stuff, except obviously I didn't do that because it'd be a little weird."

"Steve my parents are right behind you."

"No but these are different, they're food based."

"Okay you have my attention."

"So basically, if you get fed up of trying to cook you can use one of these and I'll come over and cook dinner for you. There's five so that means you get 5 meals from me."

"So what you're saying is, you literally got me food for Christmas?"

"Technically I guess."

"Did I ever tell you how awesome you are?"

Steve smirked and dropped the coupons onto Bucky's face, chuckling when he yelped and sat upright.

"I hate to ruin the moment again but it's been 20 minutes and we've opened two presents." His dad mumbled, shrugging at the look his mom shot him.

They managed to get through the remaining presents in another 30 minutes. Bucky was sat surrounded by a pile of clothes, lovingly caressing his new PlayStation with one hand. He kept the other hand resting on the back of Steve's head, who had been lying face down on the floor since discovering that his parents had bought him a new laptop.

"You still breathing, Stevie?" He chuckled, ruffling his hair and smirking when Steve turned his head a fraction to look up at him.

"Barely."

Bucky opened his mouth to speak when his phone buzzed next to him with a message from Clint.

Merry Christmas, fucker.

And my day was going so well... :/

Don't pretend you haven't spent the whole morning just waiting to hear from me

Keep telling yourself that.. I have a surprise for you

As soon as he'd sent the message he leant back and tried to get a good picture of the PlayStation box, sending it to Clint and grinning when a reply came back almost instantly.

HOLY SHIT

Right?

HOLY SHIT

Chill

You're bringing that back with you right?

No Clinton, I'm going to leave it to gather dust at my parents house while we both sit on the couch with nothing to do.

:| I have to go, say hi to your boyfriend for me :)

HE IS NOT MY BOYFRIEND

;)

Bucky huffed and dropped his phone into his lap, glancing down to see Steve staring back up at him.

"You okay?"

"Can I talk to you for a sec?" Steve asked quietly, sitting up and chewing his lip nervously.

"Yeah. I have to get changed anyway, c'mon." Bucky responded as he stood up, holding a hand out to pull Steve up and leading him into his bedroom. Thoughts of what he could have done wrong in that short space of time to make Steve upset were whirling through his head, and by the time he'd shut the door behind them he almost felt like crying.

"What's wrong?" He asked, turning to face him. Steve took a step towards him and put his hands on Bucky's shoulders gently.

"Buck you can't let them spend that much money on me."

Relief washed over him and he rolled his eyes, wrapping his arms around Steve's neck. "That's what you're upset about?" He giggled.

"It's not funny."

"You're being ridiculous." Bucky mumbled, bring a hand up to stroke Steve's hair. "I have a tiny family. My parents need people to throw their money at and now they have you."

"But I'm not part of the family."

"Sure you are. This is the Barnes family Christmas. You're here, and that makes you unofficially part of the Barnes household for the time being."

Steve was quiet for a long while and when Bucky looked up and saw the tears in his eyes, his heart sunk. "Hey." He said softly, cupping Steve's face in his hands and bumping their noses together. "What did I say?"

"Nothing, I'm not-"

"I must've said something wrong or you wouldn't be upset."

"Buck I'm not upset I just-"

"You obviously are upse-"

Bucky was cut off mid-sentence when Steve grabbed the back of his neck and crashed their lips together forcefully. Despite only lasting a few seconds it was enough to leave Bucky panting for breath when he pulled away, and it took a moment for him to regain his speech.

"W.. what was that for?"

"To shut you up." Steve smirked, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand.

"Oh.."

"Can I talk now?"

"I.. sure." Bucky stammered, his head spinning slightly as he tried to process what had just happened.

"Good.. I've kinda forgotten what I was actually gonna say. Something along the lines of 'I'm not upset, and you're an idiot'."

"Great, thanks."

"Oh and for the record, your family's not tiny. To me this is huge."

Bucky smiled and patted Steve's back before stepping away and looking him up and down. "You need to get dressed." He insisted, grimacing at the sight of him in his crumpled t-shirt and sweatpants.

"Right, because you look sooo presentable right now."

Admittedly, Bucky did look a mess in yesterdays jeans and the worst bed head of his life, but he still clutched his hand to his chest and gasped. "If you recall, I already said I was gonna get changed."

"Whatever, I call first dibs on the shower."

"But it's my shower." Bucky protested hopelessly as Steve whisked past him and shut the bathroom door in his face before he could stop him. "Asshole."

"I heard that."

"I know, that's why I said it loudly."

He could hear Steve chuckling to himself on the other side of the door and stuck his tongue out before trudging over to his closet to find something to wear.
He must have been staring at his clothes for longer than he thought because soon enough he heard the bathroom door opening again.

"Would it be unfestive to wear all black on Christmas d..." He trailed off when he spun around and saw Steve standing across the room with just a towel wrapped around his waist. Steve raised an eyebrow at him expectantly, smirking as he grabbed his bag and started rifling through it.

"Were you saying something?"

"Um.. yeah. Can I get away with all black on Christmas day or is that too depressing?"

"It'll match your depressing personality."

"Serious answers please."

"You look good in black, so go for it."

Bucky paused for a moment before shrugging and grabbing a black shirt and skinny jeans from his closet, heading into the bathroom while definitely not sneaking a few extra glances back at Steve's chest.
He managed to brush his teeth while in the shower without seriously injuring himself, although he did get a slightly dead arm from knocking his elbow against the wall several times, and he was out and dressed in record time. Pushing the door open, he only caught a glimpse of Steve sitting on the bed with his guitar before he turned towards his mirror to sort his hair out.

"Your guitar pick works."

"What do you mean it works? They don't work they just.. are."

"Yeah but I tested it and it worked, see?" Steve strummed the guitar a couple of times as if to prove a point and Bucky sighed, turning around to face him.

"You're ridiculous you know th- what the fuck are you wearing?"

Steve blinked at him innocently as Bucky looked him up and down, trying to process the sight. "It's just a sweater."

It was not 'just a sweater'. It was bright red and fuzzy with a giant reindeer face on the front, and it was hideous.

"I can't be seen with you like that."

"Bucky the only people here are your parents."

Bucky narrowed his eyes as Steve got off the bed and walked over to him, holding his arms out and grinning. "Sounds like you need a festive hug."

"Keep that thing away from me."

"Come into my arms."

"No. Nooooooo." He protested as Steve wrapped his arms around him and pulled him against his chest. For a few moments he wriggled and tried to get away before finally surrendering and hugging him back. Although he wouldn't admit it out loud, the sweater was incredibly warm and soft, and he felt a little disappointed when Steve let go of him.

"Do you think your mom needs any help cooking?"

"If she did she'd never admit to it."

Steve smirked and grabbed Bucky's hand, dragging him across the room to the door. "We're gonna help your mom."

"Whoa whoa whoa, I can't do that."

"What? Why?"

"I was officially banned from being in the kitchen on Christmas 2 years ago."

".. Do I even want to ask why?"

"Let's just say we had to make do without any turkey that year." Bucky shrugged, making to head back into the sitting room when Steve stopped him.

"Bucky, tell me you didn't single-handedly eat an entire turkey."

"It wasn't my fault!"

"Oh my god."

"No! Usually my dad carves it at the table but that year my mom had apparently decided he was unworthy and then she handed me this plate of turkey and I was like 'oh this must be the extra' and kept eating it while we were doing everything else and I ended up eating all of it and turns out that was literally all of the turkey and I just fucked up really bad okay shut up."

Steve stared at him in disbelief as Bucky got his breath back. "Right.. well I'm gonna go help your mom." He said slowly, backing out through the door. Bucky just shrugged and followed him out, heading over to the couch where his dad was assembling the collection of drinks he'd acquired.

"So.. sharing is caring, right?" He smirked, sitting on the couch and reaching for one of the glasses his mom had bought.

"It would be bad parenting if I let you drink half of this stuff."

"When has that ever stopped you?"

"Touché." His dad shrugged. "Which one do you want?"

"You mean which one do I want first?" Bucky smirked, ignoring his dad's stern look and randomly grabbing a bottle from the line up. "This'll do."

His dad rolled his eyes and grabbed a glass for himself, narrowing his eyes as Bucky filled it up almost to the brim. "If either of us are drunk before lunch your mother will make us suffer you know."

Bucky just shrugged and knocked the drink back in one.

For a while it was quiet except for the quiet sound of his mom and Steve talking in the kitchen. Bucky was close to falling asleep again when the sound of the doorbell made him jolt awake and look over at his dad.

"Tony?"

"He's coming tomorrow." His dad said, shaking his head and getting to his feet. "That'll be grandma."

"Thought she was on vacation." Bucky mumbled as he sat up, the sudden light-headedness reminding him that he maybe shouldn't have started drinking so early. He'd just managed to get to his feet when he heard his grandma's voice across the room.

"Georgie! How are you, pumpkin?"

"Mom can you not call me that? I'm not ten."

He turned around and saw the tiny, grey haired woman push his dad out of the way, scanning the room before locking eyes with him and beaming. "There's my babydoll!." She exclaimed, tottering over and wrapping her arms around him tightly. "You're so tall now!"

"I'm the same height as when I last saw you." Bucky sighed, rolling his eyes and giggling when she tutted at him.

"Well you're still tall."

"I'm not even-"

"Now. Where is he?" She said, cutting him off and putting her hands firmly on his shoulders.

"Where is.. who?"

"Where's Steve?"

Bucky paused and glanced over at his dad, who looked down at the ground awkwardly. "How did you know about-"

"What?"

They both spun around at Steve's voice and saw him leaning against the kitchen archway with a mixing bowl in his arm and one of his mom's aprons tied around his waist. Bucky wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry at the sight but was quickly brought back into the real world when he felt his grandma smack his arm lightly.

"Is that him?"

"I.. yeah?"

"You didn't tell me he was sexy!"

"Oh Jesus."

Steve locked eyes with Bucky for a second before smirking and puffing his chest out proudly. "Can't believe you didn't tell her that, Buck."

Bucky shot him a warning glare before turning back around and frowning when he saw his grandma looking Steve up and down.

"Grandma can you stop ogling my... boyfriend?"

"I'm allowed to look, babydoll."

"Babydoll?" Steve teased, sniggering when Bucky pouted grumpily.

"You shut up. Grandma you're like 4 times his age, you're not allowed to look anymore." He muttered, trying to ignore the sound of Steve chuckling to himself.

"Will you please get back in the kitchen?"

"Sure thing, babydoll." Steve said sweetly, winking at him before turning and heading back through the archway.

"You did good, sweetie."

"He's a dick." Bucky muttered as he dropped back down onto the couch.

"But you seem to like him anyway." His grandma smirked, sitting next to him and elbowing him in the arm.

"I literally just said he's a dick."

"Mm. But you still smiled when you saw him."

 Bucky looked down at his hands and tried to ignore the burning in his cheeks. "No I didn't." He muttered quietly.

"You did. And now you're blushing just because we're talking about him."

"'M not."

He could hear her tutting at him but refused to look up, folding his arms stubbornly and huffing. Why was he even blushing? His entire plan had been to convince everyone that he liked Steve, and now he was getting uncomfortable at the suggestion. Shaking his head, he looked back up and shrugged absently, making his grandma roll her eyes.

"Well anyway, I have something for you."

"Yay!"

"But it's not really for you." She said, pulling a small package out of her bag and handing it to him. Bucky didn't really need to ask what she meant by it, she'd gotten him the same present for the past 3 years, but he still tore into it enthusiastically.
Sure enough when he got the paper off he was left with a tiny, cat-sized, red sweater, with only one sleeve.

"Oh my god, I need to find Meg." He said, jumping up and heading straight over to the kitchen where he knew the cat would be.
His mom whipped around as soon as he set foot into the kitchen, narrowing her eyes at him and raising the spoon in her hand as a warning.

"I'm not gonna touch anything." He promised, raising his hands innocently. "I'm collecting my cat."

"I'll allow that."

"You know grandma's here right? Because you haven't even acknowledged her presence yet."

"Oh my god." She said, dropping the spoon onto the counter and all but running out of the kitchen. Bucky just rolled his eyes and looked around the room for Meg, who was sitting on the windowsill watching Steve intently as he peeled potatoes.

"He's been staring at me for about ten minutes now, it's starting to get creepy."

"He just thinks he can get food off you." Bucky smirked, reaching over and scooping Meg up in his arms. "I have a present for ya, Megsy."

Meg looked up at him like he knew what was coming and batted his paw at Bucky's face when he lifted the sweater up, mewing in protest but not putting up much of a fight when Bucky placed him down on the counter and pulled the sweater over his head.

"You torture that animal."

"I do not! He loves his sweaters. Right, Megs?" Bucky insisted as he struggled to get Meg's paw through the sleeve without making him fall off the counter. "Do me a favour and hold Meg's ass."

"Excuse me?" Steve exclaimed, turning around and staring at him in bewilderment.

"He can't stand up on his back legs and he's too dumb to realise he needs to sit down, so I need you to hold him up."

Steve shook his head in disbelief and put his hands around Meg, keeping him upright while Bucky got the sweater on. "Ain't he the cutest?" He grinned, giggling at the sight of Meg with tufts of fur poking out from the collar of the sweater.

"That is pretty cute."

"He matches you now." Bucky smirked, prodding Steve in the arm and grimacing slightly at the sweater he was wearing.

"You need to wear something red."

"I don't look good in red."

"Seriously?" Steve said, leaning back against the counter and scratching Meg's ears.

"Why is that so shocking to you?"

"At this point I was ready to believe you just looked good in everything."

Bucky chuckled awkwardly and ran a hand through his hair. "I.. I don't.. I just.. I don't know." He mumbled, looking down at his feet and shrugging. Meg mewed and hopped off the counter, losing his balance and falling on his face before circling Bucky's legs.
When he looked back up he jumped with surprise at how close Steve had suddenly gotten. He was barely an inch in front of him, chewing his lip and staring at him with a ridiculous amount of intensity.

"Can I kiss you?"

Fuck yeah you can. "Yeah.. uh.. what?" Bucky stammered.

"Your mom's gonna come back in a sec."

"Oh.. right."

"Did you think I-"

"You just don't usually need permission! When did you become Mr. Chivalry?"

"I just didn't want to violate you in front of your cat."

"You're an idiot."

Steve smirked and brought his hand up to Bucky's cheek, running his thumb along his jaw for a second before leaning forward and pressing their lips together softly. Despite knowing it was coming, Bucky still inhaled slightly in surprise before reaching up and wrapping his arms around Steve's neck. It took all of his strength not to give in to the urge to press himself as close to Steve as he possibly could, and when Steve started nipping at his bottom lip he almost caved. He was about to give in and part his lips when the sound of a loud bang next to them made them both jump and spin around.

"Sorry, sweethearts." His mom apologised as she carried on rifling through one of the cabinets to get a pan out.

"Mom do you think maybe you could announce your arrival next time?"

"I didn't want to interrupt."

Bucky groaned and leant his forehead on Steve's shoulder, instantly regretting it when he felt how warm he was.

"Steve you're supposed to be helping me cook." His mom said sternly, making Steve stand upright again.

"Sorry."

"Yeah, Stevie. How could you let me distract you like that?" Bucky smirked, glad to finally be able to lose some of the tension. Steve started to say something but Bucky found himself being shooed out of the room by his mom before he could hear him.

"Is this necessary, ma?"

"Yes, I need to cook. You and Steve can distract each other later."

Bucky huffed and slunk back over to the couch, curling up between his dad and grandma and shoving his feet onto his dad's lap, ignoring the uncomfortable grunt he made. He was already starting to suffer the consequences of being woken up so early and he yawned loudly, pillowing his head on his arm and closing his eyes. He felt Meg hop up onto the couch and wrapped his other arm around him.


He hadn't intended to fall asleep, but when he opened his eyes again his mom and dad were setting the table with Steve and there was somebody stroking his hair, which turned out to be his grandma when he eventually rolled over and looked up.

"Up late last night, babydoll?"

"No... I mean, kinda but that's just because-"

"It's okay, a little Christmas eve sex never hurt anybody."

"JESUS CHRIST." Bucky yelled, making Meg yelp and jump onto his chest. His grandma just shrugged and went back to running her fingers through his hair. "Nooo, my hair looked good this morning." He complained as he reached up to push her arm away.

"Your hair always looks good, doll."

"Do you not remember 2 years ago when I decided growing it out would be an okay thing to do? I looked like a homeless person." Bucky mumbled, grimacing at the memory.

"Mm and I'm sure the boys were still fighting to get a piece of you."

"Hardly."

"Well you hardly need them to now, do you?"

Bucky chewed on his lip for a moment and shook his head slowly. For some reason lying to her felt more difficult than when it was his parents. "Guess not."

"What's wrong?"

"What? Nothing."

"Well you didn't sound very convinced."

"No I just-"

"Is he hurting you?"

"No!"

His grandma paused for a moment and narrowed her eyes at him. "Is he not satisfying you?"

"Jesus, grandma can you stop bringing my sex life into conversation!?"

"It's an important part of a relationship."

"Stop!"

"I'm just saying that-"

"If the thing that you are about to say involves sex in any way, do not say it."

He wasn't sure how to feel about the fact that she fell silent at that, but he just sighed and sat upright, leaning over the couch and watching his mom arranging and rearranging cutlery on the table.

"Mom, you know nobody's gonna judge you on your exact placement of a fork, right?"

"I just want it to look nice."

"Riiiiiiiiight. Want me to help get everything out?"

"No!" they all yelled in unison, whipping around to face him. Bucky frowned and folded his arms grumpily while his mom shrugged at him. "You've broken too many of my expensive plates, sweetheart."

"None of those incidents were entirely my fault."

"Well we're almost finished now anyway."

"Good because I'm starving."

"Aren't you always?" She sighed, heading back into the kitchen and leaving Bucky to sulk on the couch. He could see Steve fighting not to laugh from the other side of the room and glared at him, although when he noticed it only made him laugh even harder.

"Asshole." He muttered, turning back around and almost jumping out of his skin when Steve suddenly appeared behind him and whispered, "You say something?"

"I said, you're an asshole."

"Aw don't be like that, babydoll."

Bucky narrowed his eyes at him while Steve giggled and pressed his face into his shoulder. "Will you stop that?"

"Stop what?"

"Stop calling me that."

"Calling you what?" Steve asked innocently, batting his eyes and grinning at him. Bucky just sighed and shook his head.

"I hate you so much."

"Love you too." Steve grinned and Bucky huffed, doing his best not to respond when Steve leant over and kissed his cheek quickly. "Why are you grumpy?"

"I'm hungry."

"Want me to sneak you some food out?"

"I'm gonna eat an entire dinner in like 5 minutes."

"That doesn't answer my question."

Bucky paused and chewed on his lip for a moment before sighing and nodding. "Yes, I want you to sneak me some food."

"Back in a sec." Steve said quietly, disappearing off into the kitchen.

His mom chose not to comment when, a few minutes later, she caught Bucky shoving a slice of bread into his mouth after announcing that lunch was ready. She just rolled her eyes and guided him over to a seat next to Steve, barely even having time to sit down before Bucky started piling food onto his plate. Despite this, it ended up being him forcing everyone to wait a little longer by insisting that Meg had to be served before they ate, and so they all sat and waited as he dished up some turkey and gravy onto a plate for his cat.
None of the food lasted long, and Bucky was fairly convinced he'd eaten most of it himself, although Steve had also eaten a fair amount while whispering to himself that "Christmas is a cheat day" and "calories don't count on Christmas". Steve also seemed to find it endlessly hilarious how much Bucky laughed at Christmas cracker jokes, and continued to come up with more just to watch him choke on his food as he tried not to laugh.

"Okay, Buck-"

"Please don't."

"What do you call a blind dinosaur?"

"No." Bucky protested, already biting back a laugh before Steve had even finished.

"A dyouthinkhesaurus."

No matter how much Bucky tried to mentally prepare himself for it, he was still in stitches for a good five minutes, with Steve laughing just as hard at his reaction.

"Stop it, I've eaten too much. You're gonna make me throw up."

"But it's so cuuuuute."

"I won't be cute when I'm puking on you."

Steve huffed and pouted grumpily. "Fine."

"Thank you. Now when's dessert?"

"But you just said-"

"What do we even have for dessert? There better be cake. Mom is there cake?"

He leant forward across the table and smiled sweetly at his mom, who just rolled her eyes and nodded. "Yes there's cake, sweetheart. But-"

"Is it chocolate?"

"Honey why would I bother getting you cake if it wasn't chocolate?"

"I need it."

"Can't you wait a few minutes first? You just ate your own body weight in food."

Bucky narrowed his eyes at her and huffed, slumping back against his chair again. He kicked his feet out and nudged his mom in the leg a few times until she sighed and looked back up at him. "James are you even hungry?"

"...Yeah.. a little."

"Really?"

"..No." He mumbled, looking down at his hands grumpily. "What are you laughing at? Jerk." He asked when he saw Steve looking down and smirking.

"What? Your cat keeps rubbing against my leg."

"I can't believe he'd betray me like this."

"You just need to accept that Megatron loves me." Steve shrugged, reaching down and scooping the cat up into his lap.

"Whatever. Can we have cake yet?"

Eventually his mom gave in and let him get the cake, eating so much that Steve was forced to carry him over to the couch because he physically couldn't move. But that still didn't stop him from pottering back into the kitchen every half hour or so in search of more snacks. In an effort to stop this, his parents decided to hang some mistletoe above the archway, insisting that every time Bucky walked under it he had to kiss Steve in front of everyone.
For a while it worked, and Bucky's kitchen trips became less frequent, choosing instead to just drink more whenever he felt hungry again. Gradually, the more he drank, the less of a problem their threat seemed to be, and by the evening Bucky was dragging Steve over to the kitchen with him almost every ten minutes.

"I'm hungry again." He whined, shifting uncomfortably where he lay with his head in Steve's lap. Steve stopped running his fingers through Bucky's hair for a second and frowned at him.

"2 minutes ago you said you were gonna throw up."

"But I didn't." Bucky giggled as he pushed himself up, straddling Steve's legs and wrapping his arms around his neck clumsily. "Don't you want  to come get food with me?"

"It's not that..." Steve mumbled, the corner of his mouth turning up slightly when Bucky cocked his head at him. "You're drunk." He explained.

"So?"

"You don't know what you're doing."

"..So?"

"And I feel like you're probably gonna regret most of this when you wake up."

Bucky sniggered and leant forward, pressing their foreheads together lightly. "Don't care."

"Well I do."

"You're boring."

Steve shrugged and grabbed Bucky's waist, making him squeak in surprise and then huff grumpily when he realised Steve was just moving him off his lap. "Nooooo. Wanna sit in your laaaap." He whined, clutching at Steve's sweater in an effort to stay where he was.

"Well can you not when your parents are a few metres away?" Steve said, nodding over to the table where the rest of his family were playing a board game.

"They're not even lookin' at us."

"It's still weird."

"I don't think you're drunk enough, Stevie."

"I'm not drunk, period."

"Have you considered changing that?" Bucky asked, smirking and grabbing his glass from the coffee table.

"Not really."

"When was the last time you even got drunk?"

"Maybe some time in a past life?"

Bucky almost choked on his drink and he whipped his head back around to face Steve, who just blinked at him innocently.

"Steve how can you have never been drunk?"

"Pretty easily."

"But.. but.. it's so great." Bucky said, stumbling over his words as he tried to register what Steve was saying. "Seriously? Never?"

Steve shook his head and Bucky furrowed his brow, knocking back the rest of his drink and instantly regretting it when his impossibly full stomach turned. "Ugh I'm gonna puke."

"You've said that 50 times today."

"No but this time I really am."

"You've also said that 50 times."

Bucky groaned and slumped against Steve, waiting for his head to stop spinning. "Feel sick." He mumbled into his shoulder, groaning again when Steve moved slightly.

"Maybe you need some fresh air?" Steve suggested, stroking his hair gently. Bucky nodded and draped his arm around Steve's neck, forcing him to support almost all of his weight as they staggered over to the backdoor.
The cold air hitting him was an instant relief and he took a few deep breaths while Steve squeezed his shoulder. After a couple of minutes he took a few steps forward so he could sit on the edge of the porch, swinging his legs out and leaning his head on Steve's shoulder when he sat next to him.

"Better?"

"A little."

"Didn't realise it was snowing."

Bucky looked up at the garden and, damn, how had he missed that. It couldn't have been snowing long, but a thin layer was already starting to build up on the grass.

"Ugh." He grumbled, grimacing and shuffling closer to Steve.

"What?"

"I hate snow."

"What!? What's not to like?"

"It's cold and it's wet, what is there to like?"

Steve frowned at him and wrapped an arm around his shoulders. "It's pretty though."

"Only when I'm inside and far away from it."

They couldn't have been outside more than 5 minutes but already the cold was getting to him and he shivered, trying in vain to press himself closer to Steve and absorb some of the heat that was practically radiating off him.

"You okay?"

"It's freezing."

Bucky whined when Steve shifted and moved his arm from where it had been wrapped around him, only stopping when he looked up and saw Steve tugging his sweater off over his head and handing it to him.

"I don't want your gross sweater."

"It'll warm you up." Steve insisted, dropping it into Bucky's lap. Bucky glanced at the thin t-shirt he was wearing and frowned.

"Won't you get cold?"

"Buck, just put it on."

Shrugging, he pulled it over his head and was amazed by how quickly it warmed him up. He snuggled back up against Steve's side, pulling the sleeves over his hands and sighing when he felt Steve's arm wind around his waist and pull him closer.

"I need to get one of these."

"Still think it's the worst thing you've ever seen in your life?"

"I didn't say that."

"No but I could see in your eyes that you were thinking it." Steve smirked, making Bucky giggle and look up at him. He instantly regretted the decision when he saw how brightly Steve's eyes were shining in the dark. They were practically glowing blue and his eyelashes were.. fuck.
He took a deep breath and tried to think of something to change the subject, leaning against Steve's shoulder and avoiding looking at his face again.

"Meant to ask earlier.."

"Mm?"

"How come you don't like drinking?"

It was silent for a moment and Bucky started to regret asking when finally Steve finally spoke.

"Two reasons." He said quietly, pausing again until Bucky nuzzled his shoulder. "Mostly I just don't like the idea of not being myself, and not being able to keep track of everyone."

"You know the whole world isn't your responsibility right?"

"I know but.. like if I was out with you like this, and I was drunk too, it'd be easier for someone to hurt you."

Bucky dared one look back up at Steve just to smile at him, pressing his face against his shoulder and sighing. "You're too nice to be real, Stevie."

"Yeah, I get that a lot." Steve smirked and Bucky hummed.

"What's the second reason?"

"Drunk driver killed my parents."

The silence was deafening as Bucky racked his intoxicated brain for something appropriate to say, eventually giving up and throwing his arms around Steve's neck and knocking him backwards.

"Buck you really don't need to-"

"I'm sorry." He whispered, pressing his face into the crook of Steve's neck and bringing a hand up to stroke his hair.

"Bucky it's fine." Steve sighed, moving Bucky back slightly so he was forced to look into his eyes. They were still sparkling, and now that he was on his back the Christmas lights above their heads were making them shine even brighter. Who even gave him the right. They both stared at each other for a few moments, and when Steve's flicked to his lips briefly Bucky felt his chest tightening.
Maybe if he was sober he'd think his choices through a little more, but when noticed the slightly muffled sound of Christmas music playing inside the house he grinned and sat up slightly, poking Steve in the chest.

"What?"

"Dance with me."

"...Sorry?" Steve stammered and Bucky giggled, jumping to his feet and tugging at Steve's hands.

"Dance. With. Me." He said slowly, pulling Steve up. Steve just stared at him, not moving, until Bucky tugged him forward. "Come oooooon."

"Buck I can't.. I don't.. I haven't-"

"Are you honestly trying to tell me that you have never danced with someone before?" Bucky said in disbelief, draping his arms around Steve's neck and nuzzling his shoulder. Steve didn't say anything, but didn't protest when Bucky guided him to start moving in time to the music. "Ain't much to it, Stevie."

"Why are you such an expert on this?"

Bucky shrugged and grinned at him. "I'm part of Tony's business strategy. You'd be amazed how many people are willing to sign a deal if Stark's dashingly handsome godson dances with their daughter."

"So he forces you to dance with them?"

"He doesn't force me. And you're supposed to be holding me too." He smirked, taking hold of Steve's hands and wrapping them around his waist. "Better. Anyway, he doesn't need to force me, I don't mind dancing with girls. Me and Nat dance all the time, which really gives Clint a thrill."

Steve sniggered and leant his head forward, resting it on Bucky's. "I'll bet he loves when you do that."

"You've noticed too right?"

"Noticed what?"

"How crazy they are about each other."

"I mean, I've only seen them together once."

"Doesn't take long to notice though."

"Is this going anywhere or are you just-"

"No, I just need to know somebody agrees with me." Bucky mumbled, unable to stop himself from smiling when Steve giggled and nodded.

"Yeah it's pretty obvious."

"Yeah." He sighed and they both fell silent again, swaying in time to the music. Steve started tracing his hands up and down Bucky's back, sending sparks up his spine and making him gasp.

"This is the first time I've danced with a guy though." Bucky said softly, nestling his face in the crook of Steve's neck and letting his eyes flutter shut for a moment. "You're taller than the girls."

"Oh yeah?"

"Mm, and warmer."

He felt Steve's chest rumble as he hummed and it made Bucky's knees go weak, forcing him to cling tighter to him to keep himself upright. Steve seemed to notice and tightened his grip on Bucky's waist.

"Always used to try and get Rumlow to dance with me."

"Mm?"

"He never would though. Said it was dumb."

"Asshole."

"Yeah." Bucky sighed, nuzzling at Steve's neck and moaning softly when Steve kissed the top of his head. They were barely even moving anymore, just pressing against each other and swaying every so often.

"Buck?"

"Mmhmm?"

"You're beautiful, you know that?"

Bucky froze for a moment and looked up at him, his eyes wide and confused when they met Steve's. The sound of the music playing was completely drowned out by the sound of his heart pounding in his ears and for a moment he forgot how to breathe.

"I.. I am?" He stammered, gripping onto the collar of Steve's shirt to keep his legs from giving out. He felt dizzy. Why was he dizzy? Shit he was in way to deep.

"Yeah. Been meaning to say it for a while. Thought it might be weird though."

Bucky shook his head frantically and Steve grinned, cupping Bucky's face in his hands and smashing their lips together before Bucky had time to think.
He tensed up as Steve started kissing him, trying to sort out the muddle of thoughts in his head. Steve was kissing him. There was nobody around and Steve was kissing him. And he'd said.. no.. yes? Maybe? He fucked up. He'd fucked up so bad. This wasn't supposed to happen. But now it was happening. Maybe. All he knew was whatever the hell was happening, he didn't want it to stop, and when Steve sensed his uncertainty and started to pull back, Bucky immediately tangled his hand in his hair to keep him right where he was.
Steve moaned when Bucky tugged on his hair lightly and the sound made Bucky shudder, pressing himself close enough that he could feel Steve's heart hammering in time with his. They stayed pressed against each other, Steve's hands trailing down Bucky's sides and running over his ass, pulling their hips together and making Bucky gasp. He responded by sucking Steve's bottom lip between his teeth and nipping at it gently, licking into his mouth and tugging on his hair lightly.
His head was a mess of thoughts as Steve let him take control, moaning into his mouth when Bucky moved one hand down to grab hold of his shirt. Steve's hands were still roaming all over him and leaving a trail of fire everywhere they touched, forcing Bucky to pull back for a second to get his breath back. They both stared into each other's eyes for a moment, panting heavily. Steve's pupils were blown and his hair was a mess, but he still had a stupid smile on his face and when Bucky smiled back he brought a hand up to cup Bucky's cheek. Bucky sighed at the touch and leant into Steve's hand, smiling and letting his eyes close for a moment. His heart slowed again as he relaxed and everything was perfect. Steve was here, and he was holding him, and everything was-

"Get it, babydoll!"

Bucky froze at the sound of his grandma's voice coming from inside the house and he turned his head slowly, praying he'd just imagined it.
They were watching. They were all sat at the table watching them through the door. Of course they were watching. He was a stupid, stupid idiot. Bucky wanted to smash his head against the wall for being so ridiculous. Of course they were watching, why else would this ever happen? Christ he was an idiot. And he hated himself for it. And he hated Steve for it too, except he couldn't hate Steve because.. fuck. This had gone way too far. He'd let it go way too far. And now he couldn't even look at Steve without feeling like he'd taken a punch to the guy.. but he never wanted to stop looking at him.

"You okay, Buck?"

Just the sound of his voice made his heart stop and he looked up slowly, forcing himself to smile and nod. "Yeah I.. that was.. intense." He chuckled, running a hand through his hair and shrugging. Steve's face changed for a moment and he looked down at the ground, nodding and turning the corner of his mouth up in some kind of a smile.

"Yeah." He agreed, scratching the back of his neck. Bucky forced himself to keep smiling and rocked back on his heels as casually as he could manage.

"I'm kinda tired."

Bucky had hoped to get maybe a half hour respite from being around Steve, but it wasn't to be and Steve nodded again. "Yeah.. yeah bed sounds like a pretty good idea." He mumbled. Bucky jumped at the opportunity to relieve some of the tension and cocked his eyebrow, smirking.

"Oh really?"

"Not like that, you asshole" Steve sighed, dragging his hand down his face and chuckling. Bucky giggled too and pulling the door open, almost tripping over Meg who was sitting right by the entrance.

"Where are you two going?" His mom asked when they got back inside.

"Bed."

"Be safe."

"MOM OH MY GOD I'M JUST TIRED." Bucky yelled, grimacing and all but running into his room to get away from her doubtful stare.
He waited until Steve was in the bathroom before peeling of the sweater and unbuttoning his shirt, he searched through one of his bags for the loosest t-shirt he could find before peeling off his jeans and tossing them into a corner. For a few moments he sat on the edge of the bed before shaking his head to himself and rooting around for some sweatpants to put on. Meg curled up next to him when he climbed back onto the bed and he yawned, rolling onto his stomach and burying his face in the pillow in the hopes Steve would think he was asleep when he came out.
He seemed to buy it, Bucky heard the bathroom door open and tried to slow down his breathing, which was made a lot harder when he felt Steve run a hand through his hair.

"You asleep, Buck?"

When he didn't respond Steve sighed, and Bucky felt him pull the duvet over them both. The emptiness he felt when Steve didn't put an arm around him was torture to endure, and Bucky slowly reached out to hold Meg's paw to relieve it.
After what felt like an eternity, Steve's breathing finally evened out and Bucky could hear him snoring quietly. Slowly, he rolled over, curling up against Steve's side and guiding one of his arms around him. He wished it didn't feel so warm, but as soon as Steve stirred and wrapped both his arms around Bucky tightly, he knew he could never move away again.
Bucky whimpered quietly, squeezing his eyes shut. And if he spent most of the night crying into Steve's side, nobody but Meg had to know.

Chapter Text

When Steve woke up there was a cat on his face. Not even looking at him, just laying right on his face.

"Personal space?" He mumbled sleepily, nudging Megatron's body and prompting the cat to hop onto the pillow next to him. Yawning, he tried to sit up and found himself being weighed down by another body on top of him. Apparently he'd missed the memo for 'national lie on top of Steve night'.
Bucky was heavy, but it was impossible to be mad at him when he was asleep. It was impossible to be mad at him when he was awake, but there was a weird sort of innocence about him when he was asleep, and Steve wished he could be like that all the time. He hooked his hands under Bucky's arms and shifted him over slightly so less of his weight was boring down on his chest, trying and failing not to smile at the cat-like noise Bucky made as he nestled himself in the crook of Steve's arm.
How Bucky had even gotten there was another mystery in itself. Steve was pretty sure he'd wanted to be as far away from him as possible after making a total ass of himself the night before. "You're beautiful"? Really, Steve? He groaned and dragged a hand down his face. Christ he was an idiot.
Megatron distracted him from his thoughts buy jumping onto his chest and mewing, bumping his chin with his nose lightly.

"Are you mad at me for creeping your person out?"

The cat just mewed again and rubbed against his cheek, purring loudly before turning and sprawling himself across Bucky. Steve watched them for a few minutes, reluctant to move in case he woke Bucky up, but the need for caffeine was too strong and eventually he had to give in. Carefully he moved his arm away and shuffled off the bed, letting out the breath he didn't know he was holding when Bucky rolled onto his side and carried on snoring quietly.
At this point Steve was staring to question whether Freddie just genuinely had the same body clock as him, or if she had a tracker on him and didn't like him roaming her house unsupervised, but as soon as he walked through the door he heard the sound of her footsteps above him. She waved at him as she came down the stairs, and he ended up having to awkwardly follow her into the kitchen.

"You're up early." She said cheerfully, switching the coffee machine on before he could ask. Steve just shrugged and leant back against the counter, trying to think of something to say. This was the hardest part of the entire charade. It was fine when Bucky was there, and he could just hug him and bounce off whatever he did. But when it was just him and one of Bucky's parents he had to try and act like he wasn't just a random stranger who happened to be sharing a bed with their son every night, and it was harder than it seemed. Especially when, at least according to Sam, he was the worst liar on the planet. So far, though, Freddie at least seemed to remain convinced.

"I take it James is still comatose?"

"Yeah.." He said quietly, trying and failing to sound as casual as possible. She didn't buy it and walked over to him, putting her hand on his arm and smiling.

"Everything okay, sweetheart?"

"Yeah, yeah I just.. he was pretty off last night."

Freddie rolled her eyes and reached up to stroke his cheek. He towered over her and yet he always felt slightly intimidated by her, like he knew she could break him in half if he got on her bad side.

"He has this thing about PDA. Always has done." She said gently. "Even when him and his ex had been together almost a year he still shied away from it."

Steve forced a smile, trying not to think about what Bucky must have gone through for that. He wanted to grab her by the shoulders and tell her not to mention that guy unless she wanted him to break some of her furniture, but that would probably just lead to him getting kicked out of the house, so he tried to focus on Bucky instead. Not that it takes much. Shut up and focus Steve.

"Think I pushed him a little too far out of his comfort zone. His comfort zone doesn't even exist anymore. I annihilated his comfort zone."

"Steve, honey, if he was that upset he would have said something."

"I doubt it." He muttered, looking down at the ground and sighing.

"Sweetie, look at me." She said softly as she tilted Steve's chin back up. "I know you haven't known him long, honey, but he's been a completely different person these last few weeks. This is the happiest I've seen him in years, and it'll take more than one bad night to change that."

She smiled at him and ruffled his hair before turning and walking back to the other side of room, leaving him staring dumbly into space. He quickly thought of a way to change the subject before she could give him more mother talk.

"Right.. so.. what are the plans for today?"

"Well Tony and Pepper said they'd be coming over at around 9:30. But in Stark time that means sometime after 11."

"Cool." He mumbled quietly, trying to process the fact that he was going to be in the same room as Tony Stark again. Freddie just smiled and handed him a cup of coffee. "Guess I should wake Bucky up at some point then."

"Just make sure he has clothes on before they get here."

Steve choked on his drink and nodded. "Yeah I.. think I can manage that." He said as he spun around, avoiding her eyes by rummaging through the cabinet for a glass to get Bucky some water.

"Steve?"

"Mm?"

"What happened to your shirt?"

He looked over at her and she gestured down to his stomach, where he saw a damp patch on his t-shirt.

"Huh." He murmured, examining his shirt and glancing over his shoulder at the door of Bucky's bedroom. There was only one logical explanation coming to mind, and the thought of it made his stomach drop.

"James has probably been drooling on you. He's disgusting."

That was a nicer explanation. Steve nodded slowly, filling the glass up and throwing Freddie a quick smile before heading back into Bucky's room.
Bucky was curled up around his cat when Steve came back, murmuring incoherently to himself and groaning when Steve sat back on the bed. He could see him open his eyes a fraction and frowned when he saw how exhausted he looked.

"Morning." He said quietly and Bucky groaned, rubbing his eyes with the palms of his hands.

"I feel dead."

"I got you some water if you want?"

Bucky shook his head and groaned again. "If I drink anything I'm gonna throw up." He grumbled, and Steve watched as he made some attempt to sit up before collapsing against the pillow again. "What time is it?"

"8:30."

"The fuck are you awake at 8:30 for? The fuck am I awake at 8:30 for?"

Steve shrugged and ran a hand through Bucky's hair, hoping to get him back to sleep. For a moment it seemed to work and Bucky's eye's fluttered shut again, but then he frowned and nudged Steve's hand away, pillowing his head on his arm and sighing. Steve sighed and drew his hand back, tapping the side of his coffee mug and trying to ignore the sick feeling in his stomach.
He fucked up. He'd fucked up so badly and now Bucky didn't want to be anywhere near him. This is exactly what Sam had said would happen when he'd texted a few days ago.

Can you just do me a favour and admit you're crazy for this dude?

It's not like that.

Steve I can't even see you and I know that's bullshit

Your face is bullshit.

-_-

¯\_( )_/¯

 Don't change the subject

I didn't.

Dude, you can't just pretend to make out with this guy forever. You're gonna get carried away

What's your point?

SAY SOMETHING

Okay but consider this counter offer: how about I don't do that.

You're a stubborn idiot and I deserve an award for dealing with you

:* xoxoxoxo

Groaning, Steve leant back against the headboard and downed the rest of his coffee. Part of him wanted to text Sam now, but if he did that he'd just get another lecture about how he was an idiot and should have listened.

"You okay, Stevie?"

He turned at the sound of Bucky's croaky voice and saw him lying on his back, stroking the fur on Megatron's stomach.

"Yeah.. fine." He mumbled, looking down at his hands. "How you feeling?"

"Like total shit. Can I get that water now?"

"Thought you said it'd make you throw up?"

"Yeah. Think I'd be doing myself a favour if I did."

Steve frowned but handed him the glass, watching as Bucky drank a few mouthfuls before gagging and shoving the glass back into his hands so he could run to the bathroom. Despite his heart screaming at him to go and help, Steve stayed put, scratching Megatron's ears until the sound of retching was replaced with a long, continuous groan.

"Steeeeeeeeeeeeeeve." Bucky groaned when he got to the bathroom, looking up at him from where he was slumped over the toilet. "Why do bad things happen?"

"Because you pay no attention whatsoever to how much liquor you're drinking?"

"Ugh."

Rolling his eyes, Steve sat down next to him and started running a hand up and down Bucky's back, making him close his eyes and hum softly.

"It's not good for you, Buck."

"I know."

"Bucky-"

"What do you want me to do? Swear sobriety for the rest of my life?" Bucky grumbled, looking over at him and raising an eyebrow. Even in this state his grey eyes still sparkled when he looked at Steve, and it wasn't fair. It was stupidly unfair how beautiful he was. He was a complete mess and Steve was still crazy for it.
It took a moment for Steve to realise Bucky had asked him a question, and that he was supposed to be answering it.

"No, I just.." He trailed off and shook his head slowly, sighing. "When I agreed to this I didn't exactly plan on seeing you puke your guts up every 5 minutes."

"Okay first of all, I've thrown up twice in the last two weeks."

"That's a lot."

"No it's not."

"Buck, people aren't supposed to throw up every week."

Bucky narrowed his eyes at him and fell silent, pillowing his head on his arm and closing his eyes again. "I wanna sleep forever." He mumbled.

"Your mom said Tony's coming over at 11."

"Fuuuuck. Does she expect me to do things?"

"She just told me to 'make sure you had clothes on'." Steve said, inwardly cringing. Bucky just snorted and prodded Steve's arm, smirking at him.

"What'd you do?"

"Ran away."

Bucky giggled again and shook his head. "I don't know how to feel about my entire family thinking we're fucking."

"Maybe I should pretend to be abstinent."

"Would that really be so far from the truth?"

"Excuse me?" Steve exclaimed. Bucky just shrugged and smirked at him. "I just don't drink a lot, Buck. I'm not a fucking nun."

That made Bucky throw his head back laughing, falling backwards and clutching his stomach. "Gonna make me throw up again, Stevie."

"It wasn't even funny."

"No but I just pictured you dressed as a nun and.. it was weird." He sniggered, sitting up and nudging Steve with his foot. "I just meant you don't really talk about that stuff."

"Why would I? I'm spending Christmas with your parents, I'm not exactly gonna start a conversation about my sexcapades over dinner am I?"

"That would be amazing."

"No."

Bucky shrugged and shuffled over. "Just feels weird that you know all about me but I know practically nothing about you."

"I didn't ask for graphic details of your sex life, Buck."

"No, but-"

"What are you trying to get out of this?"

"A distraction from my stomach cramps and headache."

Steve frowned and stretched his arms out for a hug, forgetting they were still in an awkward place from yesterday. For a moment Bucky just looked at him, chewing on his lip and shuffling where he sat before finally crawling over and leaning his head on Steve's shoulder.
Despite telling himself to keep his distance as much as possible, as soon as Bucky was close enough he couldn't stop himself from wrapping his arms around him and pulling him closer. Bucky whimpered at the contact and pressed closer to him, but Steve could still feel how tense he was. He squeezed his shoulder and stayed quiet for a few moments, until finally Bucky said something.

"'M really sorry about yesterday."

"What're you talking about?" Steve asked, frowning and racking his brain to try and work out what Bucky could possibly have to apologise for. The only person to screw things up yesterday was him.

Bucky shifted on the floor and shook his head, sighing. "I was being an idiot. A drunk idiot."

"Bucky-"

"And that shit with the mistletoe.. Jesus Christ I'm so sorry."

"Bucky it's fine."

"How am I supposed to look my mom in the eye? I practically dry humped you while they were in the same fucking room. How am I supposed to look you in the eye? Why are you even talking to me right now?"

It was hard for Steve to get a word in edgeways as Bucky carried on talking about what an idiot he was, so he just sat, running his hand up and down Bucky's back until he eventually talked himself out and slumped against Steve's chest with a groan.

"Are you done?"

"I'm done. Sorry."

"Stop apologising for everything."

"Sorry."

Steve chuckled and ran a hand through Bucky's hair, trying to think of a way to reassure him without openly admitting that he would have had no problem with Bucky grinding against him all night.

"Are you mad at me?" Bucky asked quietly, and Steve could feel those big grey puppy eyes staring at him before he even looked down.

"Why would I be mad at you?"

"You're not talking much."

"Yeah.. I'm just tired." Steve sighed, stroking Bucky's hair and sighing.

"So you're not mad?"

"You'd know about it if I was." He insisted, adding a quick "you haven't done anything wrong, Buck." when Bucky opened his mouth to protest again. It didn't stop him from giving Steve that sad puppy look again, and honestly it was beyond him how his ex pulled any of that shit when Bucky was capable of making that face. Even if Steve was mad at him, he could never stay angry with those big wide eyes looking up at him. The sun was shining into the room now, bringing out more of the blue in his eyes and making them sparkle.

"I wanna go to bed." Bucky mumbled, closing his eyes and humming as Steve continued to run his fingers through his hair. "Can we cancel today?"

"It's still early, get some more sleep."

Bucky took that way more literally than he'd intended, sliding out of his arms and curling up on the bathroom floor. Steve waited a few moments for him to laugh and go to bed, but when his breathing started to even out it became apparent that Bucky really planned to sleep there. He nudged him with his foot but Bucky just grunted and rolled over.

"Bucky? Buck I'm not just gonna leave you on the floor."

When he still didn't respond Steve sighed and pushed himself to his feet, rolling Bucky onto his back so he could pick him up and attempt to carry him out of the bathroom. It took some expert manoeuvring but he managed to get through the door without breaking Bucky's legs or skull, although he did start to stir once they were back in his bedroom, groaning and grabbing hold of Steve's shirt when he laid him down on the bed.

"Stay."

Steve frowned, but it was impossible to leave when Bucky looked up at him through half-lidded eyes, yawning and rubbing his eyes before curling up in the middle of the bed. The sight made his heart melt a little and he sighed, letting himself fall back down and wrapping his arm around Bucky's waist.
Bucky snuggled closer to him and hummed contentedly, and Steve waited until he was snoring quietly to kiss the top of his head, leaning back against the pillow and closing his eyes contentedly.


 

Falling asleep hadn't been his intention, but when he opened his neck was stiff and he had somehow been transported an hour into the future. Yawning, he rubbed his eyes and glanced over to where Bucky was lying face down on the pillow. He couldn't see his face, but he could see one outstretched hand slowly stroking along Meg's back, who was curled up on the pillow next to him.

"You awake?" Steve asked, despite already knowing the answer, reaching out to tentatively run his hand through Bucky's hair. He hummed in response and moved his head in what Steve assumed was a nod.

"mmff immff ivv immf?"

Maybe one day, in the foreseeable future, there would come a time where Bucky would realise that Steve couldn't understand him when he had something over his mouth. Or maybe if they spent enough time together he would be able to understand him, and they could have whole conversation without Bucky ever having to move his face off the pillow and.. Steve stop.
Snapping himself back into reality, he sat up and sighed.

"Buck, I have no idea what you just said."

He watched Bucky's shoulders shake as he giggled into the pillow, before rolling over and looking up at him with a sleepy smile. "I asked what time it is. Gotta learn to listen, Stevie."

Rolling his eyes, Steve glanced over at the clock on the nightstand. "Almost 10 o'clock."

"Shit."

"S'okay, you still have another hour to wallow in self pity."

"No but I had plans." Bucky grumbled, sitting up next to him. Doubtfully, Steve raised an eyebrow at him and chuckled.

"Really? Because an hour ago your plans for the day seemed to consist of lying on your back making dying whale noises."

"Fuck you, Steve."

Steve snickered and gave Bucky an apologetic look. "Sorry." He said, trying to compose himself. "How are you feeling?"

"My head feels like its trapped in a vice and I can't tell if I'm hungry or about to throw up again.. but I feel better than I did earlier." Bucky mumbled, leaning against Steve's shoulder and closing his eyes again. "Was gonna try and cook lunch today. You know, 'cause you got me that book and everything. But ma's probably cooked a ten course meal or something by now."

"Guess you'll just have to cook for me when we get back instead."

"In your dreams."

You have no idea.. Steve thought to himself. He really needed to do something about these invasive thoughts, because sooner or later he'd end up saying something out loud. Bucky didn't seem to notice his mind drifting, and continued talking away.

"Besides, you already owe me food. Don't think those coupons are gonna go unused. I'm gonna have you slaving away in my kitchen constantly."

"I only promised five meals."

"Then I'll just have to ask nicely after that." Bucky said quietly, looking up at him and smirking. It was another one of those moments where Steve couldn't tell if Bucky was flirting, or just being Bucky, or if this was just his brain desperately searching for any hint of affection.. it certainly wouldn't be the first time.
It was only 10am and already Steve had found himself drifting off into Bucky-land at least 10 times. He really needed to work on that. Usually it wasn't so bad, but now any time he dwelled on a thought about Bucky, it was shortly followed by him reliving the disaster of last night. God, did that really happen. After everything he'd done to try and show Bucky that he didn't have to be scared of relationships anymore, he just went and terrified him. And now he'd be lucky if Bucky wanted to try dating anybody in the near future, and he could kiss goodbye to any hope that maybe he'd consider dating him.
He'd fucked everything up. Just like always.

"You okay, Stevie?"

Bucky's voice snapped him out of his train of thought and he looked over, instantly locking eyes with him and nodding slowly. "Yeah.. why?"

"You've been real quiet all morning. Do you have post-Christmas depression?"

Steve couldn't fight the smile that crept onto his face and he nodded, looking down at his hands. "I guess. It's an improvement on last year though. I haven't cried once!" He announced proudly, waving his arms in a half-hearted victory dance.

Bucky frowned at him, pressing himself against him. "Stevie?"

"Mm?"

"Promise you'll come back here again next year.. if no one else invites you. Shouldn't be on your own for Christmas." He said quietly, nuzzling Steve's shoulder and making it difficult for him to concentrate.

"Won't that be a little weird? Your parents are gonna think we broke up."

"Yeah but it's not like we're gonna make up this whole story and paint you as the biggest scumbag of the century, right? We'll still be friends so why would they have a problem with it?"

"Your mom thinks you're pretty happy right now though. I just don't want her to think I ruined that." Steve murmured as he reached up to stroke Bucky's hair.

"She said that?"

"Yeah.. she thinks we're going through a rough patch right now though."

Bucky looked up, resting his chin on Steve's shoulder and frowning at him. "Because of last night?"

Nodding, Steve scratched his neck nervously. Seeing Bucky's face when he mentioned it only made him feel worse, and reminded him that he was supposed to be keeping his distance today.
Moving his hand back down and away from Bucky's hair, he sighed sadly. "Look, I'm really sorry about last night-"

"S'not your fault." Bucky said, cutting him off. "You didn't do anything wrong.. I just freaked out. I just thought.. it wasn't your fault."

He wanted to grab Bucky by the shoulders and scream in his face that it was his fault. But given the situation, it probably wasn't the best idea. Before he could think of anything appropriate to say, Bucky carried on speaking.

"I wanted to talk to you about that actually."

Fuck. Steve prepared himself for the million things that Bucky could have to say about yesterday. What he didn't expect was for Bucky to look down timidly hunch his shoulders defensively, as if he was the one in the wrong.

"Do you think.. maybe we could hold back on the kissing and stuff today? I just don't wanna freak out on you again and make things worse." He said quietly, looking up at him cautiously. "It's not that I don't want to I just.. especially if ma thinks there's something going on I don't want her to-"

"You don't have to justify it."

"I know but-"

"Bucky, I told you from day one that if you weren't comfortable with anything, we wouldn't do it."

The genuine surprise in Bucky's eyes at how agreeable he was broke Steve's heart a little more, and only made him regret even more not getting a few good punches to Rumlow's face when he had the chance. He was lucky that, at the time, Steve didn't know about all the shit he'd put Bucky through. Otherwise there would have been a much lower chance of him leaving that bar alive.
Bucky was still looking at him expectantly so Steve smiled at him, squeezing his shoulder gently.

"So no kissing today, yeah?" He asked, sighing with relief when Bucky finally smiled back and nodded. "Cool. Dibs on the shower."

"You don't need to call dibs on it anymore, Steve. I just assume you're gonna shower before me."

Steve shrugged and grinned at him, hopping off the bed to grab some clean clothes before locking himself in the bathroom.
For a while it was quiet, right until he was halfway through shaving when Bucky decided to bang loudly on the door, making him jump out of his skin.

"Steve? You in there?"

"Fuck. No, Buck, I climbed out the window and ran off to join the fucking circus. Where else would I be?"

"Alright, jeeze. Are you busy?"

"Just gimme a sec." He yelled at the door, splashing some water on his face and cringing when it stung his cheek. He was a grown man. A grown fucking man who cut himself shaving.
Tugging on a blue henley and jeans, he swung the door open and came face to face with Bucky, who had apparently already decided to get dressed.

"What happened to your face?" Bucky asked as soon as he saw him reaching up to run his thumb over his cheek.

"You happened."

"Oh. Shit, sorry. Does it hurt? You're bleeding. Hang on I'll get some tissue."

"Bucky it's fine." Steve protested, watching as Bucky pottered across the room and started going through the drawer of his nightstand.

"Oh, grandma said it was nice meeting you by the way. You missed her leaving." He said as he tossed several books and bottles out of the drawer and onto the bed. "I have aloe vera, will that help?"

"Why do you have that in your nightstand?"

Bucky glanced at him over his shoulder, raising an eyebrow at him and making Steve regret asking. "Okay never mind."  

Giggling to himself, Bucky walked back over. "Hold still."

"What are you doing?"

"Just hold still."

Reluctantly, Steve stood in place and watched Bucky cautiously as he tossed a box onto the bed and stretched up to press something onto his face. As soon as he was finished he collapsed into a fit of giggles, falling back on the bed and clutching his stomach. Steve frowned at him and headed back into the bathroom, glancing in the mirror and groaning when he saw the hello kitty band-aid Bucky had stuck on his cheek.

"Fuck you, Barnes." He muttered, walking back out and grabbing the box of band-aids from the bed while Bucky looked up at him, sniggering to himself.

"You look real pretty, Stevie. Does your booboo feel better now?"

"You know what? You can make fun of me all you want. But you're the one who had these in your nightstand in the first place."

"Touché."

Steve chuckled and shook his head, looking down at where Bucky was lying, still grinning like an idiot. "What was so important that you had to tell me anyway?"

"Huh? Oh right. Well you know I said that I wanted to try and cook today but it was too late? Turns out ma hasn't actually started making anything so she reluctantly agreed to let me, as long as you supervise and don't let me start any fires or poison anybody."

"Sounds like she's full of confidence."

"Yeah. I mean I was gonna ask you to help anyway. You up for it?"

Despite the fact that his last cooking experience with Bucky nearly ended with a murder, he found himself nodding and rising to his feet again. "What were you thinking of making?"

"Jesus, Steve. Isn't it enough that I even made the decision to cook? Let me take this a step at a time."

"Have you actually looked in the recipe book?"

"Of course.."

Steve sighed and grabbed the cookbook from where Bucky had left it on top of the drawers, flicking through a couple of pages. "How about lasagne? Think you can manage that?"

"Do you think I can manage it?"

"There's not much to it. Think it was one of the first things Liz let me cook on my own."

"Cool, let's do that then." Bucky grinned, spinning on his heel and heading out through the door, leaving Steve to follow behind him.
There was a lot to take in when he got into the sitting room. George was lying face down on the couch with Meg curled up on his back, while Tony Stark sat on the armchair a few feet away flicking rubber bands at his face to wake him up.

"Don't hit Meg." He heard Bucky say, walking over to Tony and grabbing a few of the rubber bands to join in flicking them at his dad.

"I have a masters degree in physics. I know exactly what I'm doing." Tony insisted, just seconds before his rubber band hit Meg in the back and sent him darting across the room.

"And clearly you also have a PhD in idiocy, Dr. Jackass." Bucky muttered.

"You must be Steve!"

Steve spun around and came face to face with a slim woman in a navy dress. Literally face to face. In the heels she was wearing she was only an inch or so shorter than him. She beamed at him, holding out a hand for him to shake before tutting herself and wrapping her arms around him tightly.

"I'm Pepper." She said cheerfully, squeezing his shoulders. Of course this was Pepper. Steve felt like an idiot for not recognising the woman he'd basically worshipped since she'd been thrust into Tony's spotlight a few years back.

"Oh my god. Yeah.. hi!" He stammered, trying to think of something interesting to say rather than staring at her like an idiot.

"What happened to your face?"

For fucks sake. Pepper Potts was standing in front of him, and he had a hello kitty band-aid on his face.
He wasn't aware of Bucky coming up behind him until he felt his arms wrap around him.

"Yeah, Stevie, what happened to your face?" He smirked, looking up at him with a shit eating grin on his face. Steve narrowed his eyes at him and Bucky giggled. "You're supposed to be helping me cook."

Rolling his eyes, Steve let Bucky take his hand and drag him into the kitchen away from everybody.

"You want me to splash some water on your face? You were looking a little hot under the collar over there."

"That's Pepper Potts."

"Yes."

"No you don't understand. It's Pepper Potts. 16 year old me would be crying right now."

"Steve are you trying to tell me that Pepper was your schoolboy crush, because honestly that's the best thing I've heard all week." Bucky grinned, prodding him in the arm and giggling.

"She wasn't.. kinda okay. Shut up."

"That's amazing."

"Stop."

"So you're saying that while I was busy selling my soul to Pete Wentz, you were gazing dreamily at posters of my godmother?"

"If you ever mention this-"

"I mean of all the people to have a crush on. Shouldn't you have been jacking off to a playboy mag or something?"

"Bucky, I lived in a one bedroom house with my aunt. Do you really think that was a regular hobby of mine? Now are we cooking lunch or what?" Steve snapped, flinging a cabinet open and searching for a pan while trying to block out the sound of Bucky laughing next to him.
Cooking with Bucky was less stressful than he'd anticipated. Mainly because Bucky was so terrified of messing up that he didn't try to argue with anything Steve told him to do, and somehow they managed to end up with something that resembled a decent meal.

"Are you sure it's not gonna kill anybody?" Bucky asked suspiciously as he cut the lasagne up, looking over at Steve uncertainly.

"Do you want me to test it?"

"But what if you die?"

"They don't give it to anybody else." Steve shrugged, smirking when Bucky narrowed his eyes at him and handed him a fork. "I don't know why you're worried, Buck. I watched you make the whole thing."

"Yeah but it's me. I probably accidently knocked some iodine in there without anybody noticing."

Steve ignored him and grabbed one of the plates Bucky had just piled some food onto, taking a bite before he could protest. For a few seconds Bucky stared at him with a look of fear and concern frozen on his face, before Steve dramatically clutched his neck, falling to his knees and choking out, "What have you done to me!? It's poisoned! You absolute monster!"

"Okay you know what, Steve? Fuck you."

Steve threw his head back laughing, pushing himself to his feet and giggling uncontrollably while Bucky stared at him coldly. "You kinda set me up for that."

"You're an asshole. For like half a second I thought you were actually choking. I have a nervous disposition, you can't do that to me."

"Sorry." He grinned, still struggling to stop himself from laughing. Bucky huffed grumpily and he sighed, leaning forward to kiss his forehead. "It's really good, Buck."

As soon as they locked eyes Steve remembered he wasn't supposed to be kissing Bucky today. Do forehead kisses even count? They probably count. Oops. Bucky looked distant as he stared at him, chewing on his bottom lip like he was trying to make this harder for him. Why was he even looking at his lips? Oh right, because he had absolutely zero self control. Jesus Christ, Steve get a grip.
Bucky inhaled sharply, drawing Steve back into reality, and quickly spun back around and carried on dishing up the food, not so much as acknowledging that Steve was still in the room. It wasn't until he started trying to lift the plates up to take them to the table that Steve noticed how badly his hands were shaking.

"Hey." He said softly, walking over and taking the plate from Bucky's hand. "You okay?"

Bucky nodded frantically, jerking away from him. "I'm fine. I just.. I've got it. You can go sit with the others."

"Buck you're shaking."

"I'm fine."

"Bucky-"

"Are you boys almost done? Tony's started rambling about his college days and I need an excuse to shut him up." Freddie said, appearing in the archway and making them both spin round. "You okay, honey?" She asked, looking Bucky up and down.

Immediately Bucky threw on a winning smile and nodded cheerfully, gesturing at the plates behind him. It was easy to see how he'd managed to go so long at school without his parents suspecting that anything was wrong, his sudden change in body language made Steve question if he'd just imagined the last five minutes.

"Yeah, we're good. I made food!"

"Edible food." Steve added, chuckling when Bucky elbowed him in the ribs. He wished Freddie would leave for a second so he could check that Bucky was actually okay, but instead she rushed over to help carry the plates out.

"Is it true? Did Bucky actually cook something that won't poison me?" Tony smirked as they came out of the kitchen. Steve nodded and Tony threw his arms up in the air excitedly, just narrowly missing the plate in his hand. "Pepper call the press!"

"Fuck you, Stark."

"James."

"Oops."

"Go wake your father up."

Steve watched as Bucky skulked over to the couch where George was still collapsed, leaning over him and screaming in his ear, "DAD!"

"Jesus fuck, Bucky what the fuck!?" George yelled, sitting bolt upright while Bucky giggled.

Steve felt somebody tap on his shoulder and spun around to where Freddie was standing. "You're supposed to be helping me set the table up, young man."

It was strange, how much she talked to him like she was his mother, and despite the amount of times he'd complained when Liz had done it, he couldn't deny that it was somewhat comforting now. Who'd have thought he'd miss being told to set a table.

The majority of lunch was spent listening to Bucky and George arguing, and George flat out refusing to accept that Bucky had actually cooked.

"Dad, seriously. Admit that you're enjoying my food."

"I'll admit it once you tell me who actually made it."

"I made it, dad."

"By which you mean Steve made it and you turned the oven on?"

"Oh my god."

Somehow Bucky managed to avoid even looking at Steve the entire time, which meant he was forced to acknowledge with the fact that Pepper was also sitting next to him. She was far less intimidating than he'd anticipated, and as soon as he mentioned that he was an art major he could barely get her to stop talking.

"Really? I'm obsessed with art collecting. I've never had anybody to appreciate it before, you'll have to come over some time and I can show you. You'd love it." She insisted, smiling brightly as she spoke.

"Tony not much of an art fan?"

"Not unless you count Bucky's paintings from when he was three that he keeps hanging in his workshop."

"Why do you always have to bring that up?" Tony cut in, staring indignantly across the table at her. Pepper just shrugged and next to him he heard Bucky giggling.

"Do you stare at them every night before you go to bed, Tony?"

"Cry a little because your baby boy's all grown up?" George joined in, smirking.

"See, I show the tiniest bit of compassion and you just throw it back in my face." Tony muttered. "And don't say that like you don't still have his picture on your desk, Barnes."

"Awe, dad."

"Fuck you, Stark."

"Don't talk like that in front of the baby."

"Does this happen a lot?" Steve asked quietly, glancing over at Pepper who nodded and rolled her eyes.

"They used to be worse. When he was a toddler George would bring him to work from time to time, and they'd argue for ages about who should get to watch over him. They're basically a married couple."

Steve chuckled and fell silent as they continued to throw petty insults at each other across the table. Freddie eventually interrupted them by getting to her feet and heading over to the kitchen, turning around and asking, "Who's gonna help me with the dishes?"

Before he could even open his mouth to volunteer, Bucky was on his feet and stacking plates up, snatching Steve's from in front of him without making eye contact. Yep, he was definitely avoiding him. Everyone watched Bucky in silent confusion for a moment as he cleared the table before he finally said anything.

"I already cooked today, I don't know why you're all so shocked that anything else I do is out of character."

"Jamie, sweetheart, go sit down."

"Noooooo. I wanna help." Bucky whined as Freddie took the plates out of his hands and shooed him away. "You're the worst."

"I'm the worst for not letting you do chores?"

"Yes."

Bucky slumped back down next to Steve, muttering something unintelligible when Pepper got up and disappeared into the kitchen. Steve was just starting to wonder whether he should say something to him when Tony clapped his hands together and spread his arms dramatically. "Present tiiiiiiiiiime." He sung, jumping up and walking over to pull Bucky from his chair.

"You need to move, because yours is too heavy to carry over here."

"What do you mean it's too heavy? Did you finally get me a sugar daddy like I've been asking for the last 5 years?"

"Is that not what I am?"

"Oh my god, Tony."

He had to bite back a laugh as Bucky stared at Tony in horror. Tony just ignored him and turned to Steve instead. "I had no idea what to get you, so do me a favour just pretend to be excited by generic presents."

"I.. you didn't have to.. get me anything?" Steve stammered, glancing over at Bucky for help. Miraculously, Bucky was actually looking at him, smirking and looking back down at the table once they locked eyes.

"Of course I did. I had to make these losers look bad." Tony insisted, gesturing towards George and smirking.

"You're too late, Stark. He's already devoted to us."

"It's amazing how a little money can affect somebody's loyalty."

"Who's been feeding him for the past two weeks? Everyone knows the way to a man's heart is through his stomach."

"Okay at this point I can't tell if this is like a parental thing or if you're trying to steal my boyfriend." Bucky interrupted, making Steve choke. "Now are we opening presents or not?"

Tony shrugged and pointed across the room to a huge box by the doorway. "Go wild."

"Wow how did I miss that?" He heard Bucky mumble to himself, and watched as he walked over to it.

"Steve."

He spun around and was met with a box being thrust in his face. Cautiously he took it out of Tony's hand, glancing up at him uncertainly. "...Thanks."

"Make sure you pretend to be excited."

Steve's mind was a blur as he questioned what Tony could possibly consider a 'generic present'. What he wasn't prepared for was the brand new iphone box he was met with when he finally peeled the paper off. His mouth fell open for a moment as he stared at it, and next to him he could hear George and Tony chuckling.

"Ooh he's a good actor."

"Ten out of ten, Stevie."

"This is generic!?" Steve exclaimed, looking up at them both in disbelief. "You know usually when somebody gets a generic present they mean, like, socks or something? Not a $500 phone!?"

"Tony how the fuck am I supposed to get this in my car?"

They all turned and saw Bucky staring at a giant TV box with his hands on his hips. "You've seen my car right? Am I supposed to just strap Steve to the roof so I can fit this inside?"

"Why do you have to strap me to the roof and not the TV?"

"Priorities, Stevie." Bucky shrugged, turning to Tony and raising an eyebrow expectantly.

"Okay first of all, you're welcome."

"Right. Thanks, this is awesome. Clint's probably gonna cry a little. But seriously Tony."

"I'm gonna have it sent up to your place later. I just figured you'd wanna open it now."

"Awesoooome." Bucky sang, skipping back over and leaning over Steve's shoulder. Apparently all it took to cheer him up was a giant flat screen TV. "Want me to help set it up?"

Nodding, Steve followed him across the room and they both sat, propped against the wall, while they waited for the phone to charge. Neither of them spoke for a few minutes, and he was starting to wonder if Bucky was going back to the silent treatment when he sighed and looked over at him.

"Okay so I was kinda being a jerk at lunch."

"No you weren't."

"No shut up, I was. 'M sorry." Bucky mumbled, leaning against his shoulder. "I just kinda needed to block you out for a while and.. wait that sounds even worse forget I said that. I just.. I don't know."

"Bucky it's fine." Steve chuckled. He heard Bucky sigh again and wrapped his arm around him, squeezing his shoulder gently and resting his head against him. "You asked me not to kiss you and I ignored you, it's me who should be sorry."

"Wasn't even a kiss."

"Technically it was."

"I still overreacted though. Don't know what's wrong with me."

"There's nothing-"

"Maybe I'm just sexually frustrated. I mean it's been like 3 months since I got laid. We should go out tomorrow, I know this club about 30 minutes away."

It shouldn't matter. It really shouldn't matter. But the thought of Bucky with anybody else made his skin crawl and, even though it wasn't happening yet, he already knew he wanted to punch that guy in the face. Bucky was still talking about it so he grabbed the phone off the ground.

"I think it's charged."

"Oh, cool." Bucky said, snatching it from his hands and going through the settings for him. He wanted to point out that he wasn't actually a technologically impaired 90 year old and could probably figure it out for himself, but he preferred this over listening to Bucky talk about the possibility of finding some slimy guy at a bar to fuck.

"Okay you can go ahead and put your contacts and stuff in."

Steve took the phone back, holding it like it was a newborn as he tried to work out what everything was. It took about fifteen minutes, but he managed to get his contacts into his phone, and figure out how to send a message to Sam.

SOMETHING CRAZY HAPPENED \('0')/

He typed frantically. It only took a few seconds before the phone buzzed in his hand and a reply popped up.

You know Steve, it helps to tell somebody who you are if you're gonna text them from a different phone

How did you know it was me then?

You're the only person who would send me something like that. So what happened?

You know how I mingled with Tony Stark?

Steve what happened

He kinda bought me an iphone?

OH MY GOD

OH MY GOD


.. How did you do that?

Do what?

Those faces.

Omg I need to educate you.

It took another couple of minutes for Sam to explain to him how to get the emojis up, but it was a magical experience and Steve immediately withdrew all his past criticisms of iphone users.

"Oh my god." He whispered to himself, staring fixatedly at the puppy emoji for a few seconds.

"Huh?"

He'd almost forgotten that Bucky was still next to him, but as soon as he spoke he excitedly turned and thrust the phone into his face. "This is the best thing ever."

"Oh right. Yeah they're pretty cool have you seen the-"

"This is the best thing ever."

"Steve have you never experienced emojis before?"

"Nope. I mean, I'd seen them in people's instagram captions and stuff but this is amazing."

"They're just pictures, Stevie."

"Bucky listen to me. This is the best thing ever."

Bucky rolled his eyes and looked back down at his own phone, frowning at he typed out a message to somebody. Immediately Steve pulled up Bucky's contact, smirking as he sent him a text.

"Steve I'm right next to you."

Ignoring him, he looked him dead in the eye as he sent another.

Bucky sighed next to him and Steve chuckled. "I'm not gonna stop."

"If it's a war you want, it's a war you'll get, Rogers."

Bucky was finally smiling when Steve looked up, sniggering and pushing him away when he nudged his arm. "You're such an idiot." He giggled, pressing his face into Steve's arm and sending his heart into overdrive. Fuck he was beautiful. Steve no.
His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Tony loudly banging his fist on the table, making them both look up.

"Steve!"

"..Yeah?"

"Totally forgot. I went through your records to check you weren't a serial killer, and I took the liberty of paying your loans off. Happy Christmas."

He said it so casually that it took a moment for Steve to register what he'd actually said, and when he eventually opened his mouth to speak all that came out was a weird croaking noise, making Bucky giggle next to him.

"You're welcome." Tony smirked, turning back to George and grinning smugly.

"Way to one up us, asshole."

"Wouldn't be a holiday if I didn't."

"You okay, Stevie?" Bucky asked quietly, nudging him and smiling.

"How am I supposed to be okay? Do you realise how many student loans I have?"

"How many student loans you had."

Steve narrowed his eyes at him and sighed, shaking his head. "Buck you can't just let him-"

"Tony has more money than he knows what to do with. Last year he bought mom and dad an island. A fucking island, Steve. He's a crazy person, just let him do what he wants."

"But I'm not even.. that's different. You're all basically his family. I'm not even.. we're not together."

He hated saying that. Even though it was true, he hated reminding himself. Bucky's face fell for a second before he rolled his eyes and shrugged. "He also paid Clint's if that makes you feel better. I'm not dating him either. Seriously, Stevie, this is nothing to him."

Begrudgingly, Steve fell silent, having run out of arguments to use against him. Bucky giggled again and leant against his shoulder, wrapping an arm around him in some kind of attempt at a hug.

"Who's up for monopoly?"

"Tony last time we played that you cried for 30 minutes."

"Alright let's do it!" Bucky yelled excitedly, grabbing Steve's arm and pulling him to his feet. "Time to tear this family apart."


 

Tragically, Bucky never got witness his family's slow descent into madness. An hour into playing he passed out on Steve's shoulder and ended up sleeping on the couch for the rest of the afternoon. Pepper was ruthless and wiped them all out within 3 hours, although Tony continued to insist that he'd let her win, politely declining when she proposed a rematch.

Today, despite spending the entire morning and afternoon trying to convince Bucky that it was a bad idea, they were going to a club. Which was bad for three reasons. For one, Steve hated clubs anyway. They were noisy, crowded, and full of sweaty douchebags who couldn't tell the difference between yes and no. Secondly, Bucky was probably going to spend most of the night being hounded by those sweaty douchebags, and Steve would have to resist the urge to pull him away. And finally, he'd then have to drive them home again while trying to ignore the fact that one of those sweaty douchebags had probably fucked Bucky in a bathroom cubicle. All in all, not a fun time.
Bucky had been in the bathroom for at least an hour, and at this point Steve had run out of ideas for what he could possibly be doing. Sighing, he tapped his foot impatiently and drummed his fingers against the mattress. Megatron mewed next to him and nuzzled his hand. He'd been grumpy all day and seemed to disapprove of Bucky's decision just as much as he did, but Bucky was too stubborn to pay attention to him or the cat.

"Why is it when I actually need my hair to look good, it doesn't cooperate?"

Steve looked up at the sound of Bucky's voice and almost choked when he saw him. He was wearing a loose grey t-shirt and the tightest leather pants he'd ever seen in his life. Just looking at his legs gave Steve the sudden urge to get his ass back to church, and Bucky was worried about how his hair looked, as if anybody would be looking at that.

"My eyes are up here, Stevie." Bucky giggled, dropping down onto the bed next to him and running a hand through his hair. "Seriously does it look okay? Because I kinda gave up."

"I really doubt that's gonna be much of a turn-off for anyone."

Smirking, Bucky elbowed him in the ribs and jumped back onto his feet. "Whatever, let's just go."

Steve reluctantly followed him out through the sitting room and through the door to Bucky's car, unable to fight the uneasy feeling in his gut about this whole thing.

"Are you sure about this, Buck?" He asked as soon as they were in the car, ignoring Bucky's impatient groan.

"Steeeeeeeeve, will you relax?"

"I just feel like there's better places to pick up guys than some seedy nightclub."

"Hydra's not a seedy club, it's the most popular place around." Bucky insisted, rolling his eyes when Steve frowned at him. "Look, the guy who owns the place, Pierce, I think? He used to work with Tony and my dad for a while. It's fine, Steve."

He still wasn't convinced, but it at least made him feel a little better, so he sighed and leant back against the seat, willing the evening to go quickly.
The sound of blaring music filled the air as soon as they pulled up in the parking lot and Steve once again regretted every decision that lead to this moment, but Bucky seemed fairly cheerful, swinging his arms about as they walked through the door and into Hell itself.
Taking a seat at the bar, he tried to block out the fact that several sketchy looking guys were already looking Bucky up and down. Ugh. Within ten minutes a guy with shaggy blond hair and a goatee was leaning between the two of them, talking to Bucky like he was some kind of fair maiden. Sure he was cute, but he was also making Steve's blood boil just by existing. This was gonna be harder than he'd expected. It would be easier to ignore them if Bucky didn't look so uncomfortable listening to him talk, and before the guy could buy him his second drink, Steve snapped. Grabbing his shoulder and looking him dead in the eye he muttered, "Back off, pal."

Fortunately he didn't put up much of a fight, throwing his hands up defensively and disappearing off into the crowd.

"Steve what the fuck?"

He turned back around and saw Bucky staring at him with an incredulous look on his face. "He was hitting on me."

"He was talking to you like a medieval knight."

"But he was still hitting on me, medieval knight style."

"Yeah, and you looked like you wanted to jump off a bridge every time he opened his mouth."

"Steve, he could have been speaking Russian to me and I wouldn't have cared if it ended with his dick in my mouth."

Steve stared at him for a moment, trying to get that mental image out of his brain. Bucky truly mystified him sometimes. Shaking his head, he turned away from him and Steve watched as he immediately started talking to a brunet who looked twice his age. This time he did a pretty good job of ignoring it.. right up until he saw the guy make a grab for Bucky's ass, which triggered something in his moron brain and made him grab the brunet's wrist, pulling him away from Bucky and sending him stumbling backwards.

"Oh my god."

"I can't help it okay?"

"You can't help almost tearing a man's arm off?"

"He was trying to-"

"Trying to what? Grab my ass like I fucking wanted him to? You know I'm not here to make new friends right?" Bucky snapped, getting up from his seat and grabbing his drink. "Christ, Steve, I only made you come so my parents didn't suspect anything, not so you could act like some fucking white knight saving me from every guy that brushes shoulders with me. I'm gonna go dance so just fucking stay here okay?"

He watched Bucky storm off without saying anything, turning back around before he could get caught up in watching him dance. All he could think about was how much he sounded like over a dozen of his exes all at once. Which was stupid, because Steve wasn't dating him. But it didn't stop him from being reminded of the ridiculous amount of people who'd dumped him for being 'overbearing'. You'd think a guy would learn.
It was much easier to block everything out when he couldn't actually see what Bucky, or any of the guys he was undoubtedly dancing with, were doing. He must have been sat there for at least an hour, playing candy crush on his phone and shaking his head every time someone draped their arm around him to try persuade him to dance. He'd almost forgotten why he was even there when Bucky suddenly reappeared, grabbing his shoulder and swaying slightly.

"Stevie.." He giggled, leaning against him. "Stevie I'm.. I'm so fucking drunk right now oh my god.. you're so warm, Stevie."

"Where've you been getting drinks from? I've been sat at the bar all night."

"I dunno!" Bucky laughed, throwing his arms in the air wildly and almost falling backwards in the process. "Guys just keep givin' me their drinks."

"Bucky that's not-"

"Who's this, darling?"

Steve hadn't even noticed the guy standing next to them with an arm wrapped around Bucky's waist who had apparently  been ordering him another drink. He was a tall, dark man who towered several inches over Bucky, with long jet black hair and green eyes that seemed to flash when he looked over. Bucky giggled again and leant against the stranger, humming contentedly.

"Just a friend, he's cool."

The man smiled thinly at him before turning his attention back to Bucky, handing him a cocktail glass of bright blue liquid.

"Shiiiiiiiit." Bucky exclaimed, staring at the drink intently for a few seconds before taking a sip. "Fuck me. Stevie you gotta try this."

"No!" The stranger yelled, making them both jump and look back over at him. Steve stared at him suspiciously. This guy was bad news, there was no way he had any kind of good intentions for Bucky and just looking at him was sending shivers down his spine. He wanted to say something. Well no, he wanted to drag that guy as far away from Bucky as possible, but if he did that Bucky would just get mad again. Clenching his fists, he watched as Bucky downed the drink and draped his arms around the stranger's neck and grinned at him.

"Come dance with me again." He slurred, slowly dragging the man back over to the dance floor. This time Steve couldn't stop himself from watching as the pair headed back across the room, but it was only so he could keep an eye on this guy. Yes. That was exactly the reason why he was watching Bucky's hips swaying slowly in time to the music, and pressing himself against the dark haired man. He wasn't jealous. He definitely was not jealous. That guy better appreciate what he's got.
Despite the fact that watching them together was making his stomach turn, he couldn't tear his eyes away. Even when the stranger leant down to catch Bucky's lips, Steve continued to watch Bucky go pliant against him.
He couldn't tell if it was the drink, or just Bucky's general mood, but gradually Steve could see him becoming slower and slower, and when he pulled away from the other man Steve could see he looked half asleep. He was watching him so closely it took a moment for him to notice the stranger making his way back over, leaving Bucky alone on the dance floor. Busying himself with his phone, Steve tried to stay hidden behind the small crowd of people that had gathered around the bar, whilst keeping a close eye on what the stranger was doing. At first everything seemed normal enough. The guy ordered another of those crazy blue drinks and proceeded to strike up a conversation with the bartender for a minute, and Steve was starting to think he was worrying for nothing when he saw one of his hands slowly dip into his pocket. He watched, frozen in place for a moment, as the man dropped a tiny tablet into the drink, swirling it around and letting it dissolve. Bucky.
Steve jumped up, grabbing the guy by the collar and pulling him away from the bar. He ignored the yelling from various people around them and dragged him across the room, pushing him against the wall and glaring at him.

"How much have you given him?"

"What are you talking about?" The stranger asked, grinning at him like it was some kind of joke.

"You know damn well what."

Before the man could say anything Steve felt a tap on his shoulder, and turned around to find Bucky staring up at him through glazed eyes. "Whaddaya doin', Stevie?"

His speech was so slurred it was hard for Steve to understand him properly, and he was swaying so much he looked like he could collapse at any second. He reached out and grabbed his shoulders to steady him, crouching to try and meet Bucky's eyes.

"Buck? Hey, it's okay."

"'M real tired."

"Yeah, I know. I'm gonna get you out of here okay? I just gotta deal with this guy first."

"W- what.. what guy?"

Steve turned back around and- fuck. The stranger had disappeared. Smacking himself in the forehead in frustration, Steve sighed and took hold of Bucky's arm, hooking it around his neck so he could guide him outside to the car.

"Where we goin', Stevie?"

"I'm taking you home, okay?"

"Oh.. okay. What happened to.. said he was gonna get me a drink." Bucky mumbled, barely coherently as Steve fished the car keys out of his pocket and unlocked the door, trying to help Bucky clamber into the passenger seat.

"That guy was an asshole, Buck. Forget about it."

"Mm'kay."

The drive seemed to last for hours. Despite Steve's efforts to keep him talking, Bucky couldn't keep himself conscious for long, and soon the only noise was the sound of his breathing. Steve was thankful for that, at least he knew Bucky was breathing, but without anybody to distract him he was forced to dwell on how this could have been avoided. He'd just watched. He'd watched Bucky take that drink, watched the drug start to kick in, and he hadn't done anything. And he'd just let that guy get away. He was officially done with clubs for the rest of his life.
Bucky stirred a little as they pulled up in the drive, and Steve was able to persuade him onto his feet so he could get him into the house.

"How you feeling, Buck?"

"I wan.. I wanna go t'sleep. I wanna..." Bucky trailed off as his legs buckled, and Steve was only just able to stop him collapsing completely. "I can't."

Sighing, Steve hooked his arm under Bucky's legs and scooped him up, carrying him through the door and into the bedroom. As he laid him down on the bed, Bucky smiled up at him and hummed sleepily. "You're real strong, Stevie."

"Yeah. Do you wanna take your jacket off or are you gonna sleep in it?"

"Tryin'a undress me?"

"No, Buck." Steve mumbled, giving up and helping him out the jacket anyway. Bucky giggled and leant against him once the jacket was off. "You can go to sleep now, it's okay."

"'Kay." Bucky yawned, leaning back into the pillow and curling up tightly, he reached out to grab hold of Steve's wrist and hold him in place. "Don't go."

"Buck I can't stay here with you like this. I'll sleep on the couch."

Bucky whined loudly, and tightened his grip. "Nooo. I sleep better with you here."

He could easily have forced Bucky to let go, but he was so terrified of doing anything else to hurt him that he gave up, lying back and running his free hand through Bucky's hair. "Okay. I'll stay here. Now go to sleep, 'kay?"

Bucky didn't respond, shuffling closer to him and smiling dozily. Steve continued stroking his hair for a few minutes while Bucky's breathing gradually evened out, waiting until he was snoring softly to lean forward and press a kiss to his forehead.

"I love you."

Chapter Text

It was dark when Bucky opened his eyes, and he looked around frantically, trying to work out where the hell he was. He could remember being at Hydra.. and the tall British guy with his crazy drinks.. and Steve.. maybe?
A hand on his shoulder made him jolt upright, his heart racing as his eyes finally started adjusting to the dark.

"Hey, Buck. It's okay."

The sound of Steve's voice calmed him slightly, and when he turned around he could just make out the shape of his face a few inches away from him.

"St.. Stevie?" He croaked, suddenly aware of how dry his throat was.

"Yeah, it's me, Buck. I'm here."

"Where are we? I.. what?"

"Shh. 'S okay." Steve said softly, reaching out to stroke his cheek. "We're in your bedroom, Buck. We're at home."

Home. How did they get home? He held on to Steve's wrist with a trembling hand, closing his eyes for a second and desperately trying to think.

"What's the last thing you remember?"

"Um.." He trailed off as visions of dark hair and flashing green eyes came back to him, which was soon followed by Steve.. attacking him? No.. yes? Maybe? Bucky huffed in frustration and dragged a hand down his face. "I don't know. I remember dancing with somebody."

"Can you remember his name?"

"How is that relevant?"

Steve didn't answer him, instead he slipped his hand out of Bucky's grasp and turned around to switch the light on, making him wince.

"Sorry." He whispered, shuffling back over and squeezing his hand. "Couldn't see your face properly."

"Given how I feel right now that was probably a blessing for you." Bucky mumbled, slumping forward with his head on Steve's shoulder. "I'm never gonna drink again."

"You said that two nights ago."

"This time I mean it."

"You said that too."

Bucky sat up and narrowed his eyes at him but Steve just frowned, reaching up to stroke his cheek. "How you feeling?"

"Fine.. I mean, I feel like shit.. but no more than usual."

"You're sure?"

He hated when people pulled this shit, because now he was doubting himself. Was he okay? Was he dying? Was he asleep in a coma and this was Steve trying to reach through and wake him up? Was he going to look down and realise his arm was missing?

"Buck?"

"I.. I think I'm okay? I don't.. I can't remember what happened." He sighed, looking up at him desperately. "Tell me what happened."

Steve scratched the back of his neck and looked down at the bed, avoiding Bucky's eyes for a moment. "Do you remember anything about that guy?"

"Steve-"

"It's important. And it'll be harder for you to remember anything if you're.. freaking out."

"Right now you're freaking me out."

Sighing, Steve chewed on his lip and mumbled quietly. "He was spiking your drinks."

He wanted to believe that he hadn't heard him properly, but the look on Steve's face told him otherwise. Immediately he felt his chest tighten and the room started to spin around him. He threw his hand forward, trying to find where Steve was. Instead, he felt somebody grab his arm and looked up to find himself face to face with the dark haired man from last night.

"Easy, darling." He said in a honeyed voice, smirking and steadying Bucky on his feet. "I haven't even bought you a drink yet."

Bucky giggled, reaching up to wrap his arms around the man's neck and chewing on his lip. He'd never understood people's love of English accents, but he was pretty sure this guy could describe puppies dying to him and he'd still be totally willing to suck his dick while he spoke.

"I've had soooooome drinks already."

"Clearly." The man replied, raising an eyebrow at him. "But I have something special for you."

"Oh yeah? Can this special something wait 'til we find a bathroom?" Bucky grinned, trying to slide his hand down the man's chest and huffing when he grabbed his wrist to stop him.

"That's not what I mean. I have a special drink for you to try."

"Mm 'kay.. but then bathroom right?"

The man laughed and stroked his cheek. "My darling, you won't have a choice after this. You'll be mine for the whole night."

"Buck? Talk to me."

The sound of Steve's voice filtered through, and when he looked up again he was met with wide blue eyes staring back at him. He could see Steve's lips moving, but his heart was hammering so loudly in his ears he could barely make out what he was saying.

"Bucky... it's... you're... safe... sorry..."

He shook his head rapidly, throwing his hand over Steve's mouth to try and stop him. Fortunately he got the message, taking Bucky's hand in his own and squeezing it gently, not taking his eyes off him.
Bucky took a deep breath and tried to speak, but all that came out of his mouth was a choked sob. Once the barrier was broken he found himself incapable of holding anything back, collapsing onto Steve's chest and clinging to his shirt as tears ran down his face uncontrollably.

"St.. Ste.. St.. Stev.. vie..." He spluttered, whining when Steve wrapped his arms around him and nuzzled the top of his head. "I'm.. I.. I.."

"Shh. You're okay." Steve whispered and Bucky whimpered again when he ran his fingers through his hair. He could feel a wet patch spreading on Steve's shirt where his head was resting, but when he tried to wriggle away Steve tightened his arm around him. "What's wrong?"

"Y.. your.. shirt.." He said between sobs. Steve just shook his head and started rubbing circles on his back, shushing him and holding him tighter.

"S'not important."

Bucky just sniffled and buried his face in Steve's chest again, whimpering and trying desperately to calm himself down again.
An hour passed before he finally ran out of tears to cry, and was left slumped against Steve, snivelling and trying to get his breath back. Steve had been quiet the whole time, running his hand up and down Bucky's back and resting his chin on the top of his head. Taking a deep breath, he looked up and finally mustered up the energy to speak.

"Stevie?"

"Hmm?"

"'M sorry.. I know you didn't wanna come out tonight."

Steve nodded slowly to himself, sighing and smiling sadly at him. "Yeah.. I guess if I hadn't been there at least maybe you'd have stuck with one of those guys I chased off."

"They were probably assholes too.." Bucky mumbled, looking down and fighting back the fresh wave of tears the fresh wave of tears that suddenly rose up. "Seems to be the only type of people interested in me."

"That's not true."

"It is true!" He snapped. "I attract assholes. I'm an asshole magnet. And I just make it worse because I have no fucking clue how to look after myself!"

"Buck-"

"What if you hadn't been there? Fuck knows what that guy was gonna do, and I was completely fucking clueless. I just need constant 24/7 supervision because I'm such a fucking idiot."

He couldn't stop the tears now, and they spilled out, running down his cheeks as he continued. "I don't wanna keep waking up with another guy and no fucking clue who he is or what I was doing with him. I'm so fucking sick of it and I keep throwing myself into those situations and I'm just so fucking sick-"

"Wanna hear how I almost lost my virginity?"

Bucky blinked at him incredulously, frozen halfway through speaking as he tried to process what Steve had said.

"It's the most embarrassing thing ever. So you'll probably love it."

"You're tryin'a distract me.."

"And it's working so far." Steve shrugged, smirking at him and squeezing his shoulder gently. "Seriously though it's the dumbest story."

Sighing, Bucky nodded and leant against Steve's shoulder, relaxing a little. "Okay, tell me."

"Right, so for some context, when I was little I was like the tiniest, skinniest, most pathetic kid ever."

Bucky snorted and Steve narrowed his eyes at him. "Seriously, I was."

"Sure, Stevie."

"I have pictures. When we get back I'm gonna show you kid-me and then you'll see." He insisted, ignoring Bucky's giggle. "Anyway, so I wasn't exactly the most popular kid at school, and I was the biggest virgin on the planet. Then when I was 14 puberty hit me like a truck and I grew about a foot taller and discovered that my body actually had some muscle tissue somewhere. So people kinda started throwing themselves at me, and this one girl, Bobbi, who I'd been pining after for months suddenlyrealised I actually existed."

"So you fucked her?"

"I'm getting to that. She realised I existed and 14 year old me thought I'd hit the fucking jackpot because she was cute and also beat people up a lot which is apparently a turn on. This one time some guy tried to steal her phone so she kicked him in the dick and he cried, it was hot. That's not relevant. So the only girls I'd ever spoken to in my life were my mom, Liz, and my friend Sharon, so when she started hitting on me I was kinda clueless. One of our conversations consisted of me listing places I'd been beaten up."

"Oh my god." Bucky giggled and sat up, raising an eyebrow at him. "And she still spoke to you after that?"

"Amazingly, yes."

"You must have been a really hot 14 year old."

Steve nodded to himself. "Apparently. We started dating and-"

"Wow, surely she could do better."

"And after a couple of weeks I ended up at her place." Steve continued, ignoring him. "Things were going pretty well, and then it happened."

"What happened?"

"She started taking her clothes off, Bucky. I was unprepared. I lived with my aunt in a one bedroom house. I had not seen a naked girl until this point in my life."

"Oh my god, Steve."

"Yeah. I kinda freaked out a bit and.. basically I jumped off the bed and screamed at her that I had homework to do.. like literally screamed. I didn't just calmly turn her down, I fucking screeched at her that 'I HAVE MATH HOMEWORK DUE TOMORROW'. Then I ran home and hid in the bathroom for an hour until Liz came home and I had to explain to her why I was talking to myself about boobs."

Bucky cracked up and fell onto his back, clutching his stomach and laughing until there were tears in his eyes. "Oh my god."

"Be quiet, it's like 5am."

"Math homework.. oh my god."

"Okay in my defence, I did have homework."

"Stevie."

"Shut up." Steve muttered, which only made Bucky laugh even harder.

It was at least ten minutes before his laughter turned into pained wheezing as he ran out of breath. He reached out and grabbed on to Steve's arm, pulling himself back up and giggling at him. "I'm so glad you told me that."

"I regret it."

"Think I have abs now."

"It wasn't even that funny."

"Everything's funnier at 5am."

"It was a traumatic experience. I don't know what I expected girls to look like but that wasn't it."

"Eh I can relate. Clint once made me watch straight porn during our first year of college. I was in no way prepared for what vaginas look like." Bucky shrugged, giggling when Steve nodded solemnly.

"Underwear should come with a warning label."

Giggling, Bucky yawned and leant forward against Steve's shoulder, humming sleepily. "Hmm. Did you hear from Bobbi after that?"

"Got a text from her saying if I ever spoke to her again she'd rip my dick off."

"Subtle."

"Mm."

Bucky yawned again and they both fell silent, leaning against each other in the middle of the bed. He was fighting to stay awake, but Steve wasn't making it easy as he rubbed up and down Bucky's back gently. Eventually his eyelids fluttered shut of their own accord, and he was just vaguely aware of Steve laying him down on the bed before he blacked out completely


"Buuuuuuuuuuckkyyyyyyy."

Groaning, Bucky opened his eyes and glanced around the room. "Huh? Wha..?"

"Oh my god finally. You need to move." Steve insisted, nudging him and prompting him to roll over. "Thank you, Jesus."

Bucky watched as Steve jumped to his feet and darted into the bathroom, slamming the door behind him. He rubbed his eyes sleepily and considered going back to sleep when he heard a faint scratching at the door.

"Megsy, baby. Have you been shut out all night?" He asked, rushing over to open the bedroom door and giggling when the cat immediately ran in and circled his legs. Meg mewed at him and purred when Bucky bent down to pick him up. "'M sorry, Meggy. Blame Steve."

"Huh?"

He spun around and saw Steve coming back out of the bathroom, raising an eyebrow at him.

"You locked Meg out."

Meg mewed indignantly, twitching one of his ears but still purring when Steve reached out to scratch his head. "Sorry, Megatron."

"You okay? Never seen you move that fast."

"I really had to pee okay? You were lying on top of me and I couldn't move you."

Bucky giggled and Steve narrowed his eyes at him, elbowing him in the arm. Before he could say anything else, his mom poked her head around the door and smiled at them.

"I have a job for you boys."

"Oh jeeze." Bucky mumbled, smiling sweetly when she frowned at him.

"Ida and Bill are going out for the afternoon, they need somebody to watch Becky."

"YES!" He yelled, almost dropping Meg in his excitement, who yelped and gripped on to his shirt with his one paw. "Sorry, Megs."

"Good. You'll need to be there in an hour so get.. those things off." His mom muttered, glancing down at the leather pants he'd been wearing since last night and disappearing back through the door.

"How are you still wearing those? They look like the least comfortable things ever."

"Yeah but they make my ass look good." Bucky smirked, shifting on the spot. They were uncomfortable, and he was pretty sure he'd been sweating in them overnight. "But yeah.. not that fun to wear."

"Why didn't you take 'em off in bed?"

"'M not wearing any underwear." He shrugged, giggling when Steve blushed and looked down at his feet. "I'm gonna go shower. Take Meg."

"O..kay." Steve stuttered as Bucky thrust the cat into his arms. "Buck, about this babysitting thing.."

"Yeah, it'll be fun." Bucky smiled as he turned and headed into the bathroom, shutting the door before Steve could reply.
Peeling the tight leather off his legs felt like heaven, and when he got into the shower he never wanted to leave. He must have lost track of time because after a while he heard Steve banging on the door and yelling, "Buck! Your mom says we have to go soon."

"Fiiiiiiiiine." He groaned, hopping out of the shower and grabbing a towel to dry off. He'd forgotten to get any clothes before he came in, which meant Steve was going to have to witness the horror that was his body. Wrapping the towel around his waist he sighed and pushed the door open, almost walking straight into Steve, who was standing right outside the door waiting for him.

"What were you nap... ping?" Steve trailed off, eyes flicking down to Bucky's chest briefly.

"No, I wasn't. And my eyes are up here, perv."

Steve cleared his throat and looked away as Bucky walked across the room to find some clothes. He could hear Steve drop down onto the bed behind him, followed by the sound of Meg yelping.

"Shit."

"Did you just murder my cat?"

"He was under the duvet and I didn't.. he's alive it's fine."

Bucky giggled, grabbing a dark blue shirt and light jeans before spinning around to face him. "Do you mind?" He asked, lifting up the clothes in his hand.

"I literally just sat down."

"So turn around.. unless you want to watch me get dressed."

There was an awkward silence for a couple of seconds until Steve finally sighed and rolled onto his stomach, hiding his face in the pillow while Bucky hurried to get the clothes on as quickly as possible.

"So are you sure you want me to come with you today?"

Steve's muffled voice was barely audible through the pillow on his face, and Bucky could just about make out what he was saying. Frowning, he sat down on the edge of the bed, tapping Steve's shoulder. "You can sit up now."

"Thank god. That was hard to breathe."

"Why wouldn't I want you to come? You've met Becky, she's cool."

"Yeah but.. that's literally the first time I've been around a kid that age. I could kill her."

"She's one. One year olds are easy, it's the older kids that are a nightmare." Bucky smirked, nudging him lightly.

"You got older cousins too?"

"Nah. But I watch some of the neighbours kids back at college. You'll be fine, it'll be fun."

Steve didn't look convinced, but he still followed him across the room and through the door.
While Steve put his shoes on Bucky headed over to the table where his dad was sitting, grabbing the plate of sandwiches from in front of him and smirking.

"What the fuck?"

"I'm hungry."

"So get your own food, you shit."

"Can't. I have adult responsibilities." Bucky grinned, cramming one of the sandwiches into his mouth. His dad narrowed his eyes at him and pursed his lips while Bucky finished the food, handing the plate back to him and smiling.

"You're welcome." He muttered and Bucky giggled, spinning on his heel and sauntering over to the door where Steve was waiting. Grabbing some boots, he attempted to put them on while simultaneously following him out the door and down the drive.

"Is it far?"

"Huh?"

"Your aunt's house. How far is it?"

"30 minute drive?" Bucky shrugged, frowning when Steve beat him to the car and climbed into the driver's seat. "Steve you don't know the way."

"I just don't know if you should drive yet."

"Sure I can."

"10 hours ago you were drugged into unconsciousness." Steve said bluntly and Bucky huffed, folding his arms and dragging his feet as he walked around to the other side of the car.
Neither of them spoke for a while, aside from Bucky giving directions every so often. But ten minutes in Steve suddenly made a weird choking noise and made Bucky jump.

"Are we gonna have to change diapers?"

"Are you.. yes? Obviously? She's a year old, Steve."

"Gross."

Bucky stared at him for a moment, unsure whether to laugh or cry. He didn't know what it was that had lead him to assume Steve liked kids, but the look of terror that was now frozen on his face certainly disproved that theory.

"You must have encountered a toddler at some point in your life, Stevie."

"The only time I've been around babies is at day care, when I was a baby."

"Wow. This is gonna be hilarious." Bucky sniggered, failing to hold in his laughter when Steve gave him a dark look.

"I could kill your cousin, Buck."

"She's not made of glass."

"I could drop her, or step on her while she's on the floor, or feed her something bad, or..."

Steve continued listing ways he could accidently kill an infant, and eventually Bucky just blocked him out and turned to look out the window instead. Ida's apartment was right in the heart of the city, and soon the sound of car horns and bustling crowds was all Bucky could hear. The traffic in front of them was solidly packed and he heard Steve groan.

"Are we gonna have to sit in this? Because I get really bad road rage."

"You gonna start swearing at people for cutting you off? Because I kinda want to see that."

"It's not even a joke. I almost flipped off a little girl once because her dad was taking too long to turn."

"You're a menace to society, Stevie." Bucky smirked, shaking his head in disbelief and pointing to the turning a few feet ahead of them. "It's down there anyway, so we don't need to go through the traffic."

Steve let out a relieved sigh as they turned the corner and the noise died down slightly, pulling up outside the apartment building and looking over at Bucky uncertainly.

"Maybe I should just wait here."

"I've never met anybody with a genuine fear of children before." Bucky giggled, nudging Steve's arm and opening the car door. "C'mon it's fine, the real obstacle is convincing her asshole dad that two boys aren't gonna infect his daughter with the gay." He shrugged and headed over to the door, trying to remember which floor Ida lived on.
He managed to call every apartment besides Ida's before finally he heard her voice on the intercom.

"Hello?"

"Nanny service."

"Buckyyy!" Ida squealed, hanging up before he could respond. After a couple of seconds he heard footsteps on the stairs inside the building and soon Ida was bursting out of the door, throwing her arms around him like it had been years since she'd seen him. "How are you, sweetie? Did you have a good Christmas? Was there- oh you brought Steve! Hi, honey!"

Steve waved awkwardly at her and Bucky smirked, elbowing him in the ribs. "I needed reinforcement to deal with Becks."

"It'll be good practice for when you have your own kids."

Next to him Steve broke down in a coughing fit, while Bucky felt his face heat up and looked down at his feet.

"I'm.. okay." Steve choked out and Ida giggled.

"Nothing wrong with being prepared."

"We've been together 3 months. I don't think that's really.. something to worry about."

"No, but you two have something special." She smiled, winking at him and turning on her heel before Bucky could respond. "Come in anyway, Bill and I will be off in a few minutes."

Thankful for the change of subject, Bucky followed her inside and up the stairs, with Steve following closely behind him. Ida's apartment was bigger than it appeared from the outside, with an open plan sitting room filled with modern furniture. In the middle of the room Becky was sitting playing in a cardboard box surrounded by scattered toys.

"Hey, Becks!" Bucky called, crouching by the box and ruffling her hair.

"Bug-a!"

"Stevie! She kind of sorta remembered my name!" He yelled excitedly, scooping Becky up in his arms and skipping over to Steve with her. "Say it again, Becca. Show Stevie."

"Steeeebie."

"Wrong name, hon. Say 'Bucky' again."

"Steeb."

Bucky narrowed his eyes at her and she giggled, reaching up to tug on a lock of his hair. "Traitor." He muttered.

"She just respects my obvious authority."

"Shut up, Steeb."

"Sorry, Bug."

They both stood face to face in an unofficial staring contest for a few seconds before Ida cleared her throat, making them both turn to face her. She rolled her eyes and tutted them both, opening her mouth to speak when something else caught her attention and she turned away from them.

"Bill, honey, are you ready yet?"

Bucky grimaced just at the mention of his name, but forced himself to turn around and force his best smile as he came out of the bedroom. They locked eyes for a moment and Bill frowned, his eyes flicking between him and Steve for a few seconds.

"What are they doing here?"

"They're just watching Becky while we're gone." Ida explained, painfully oblivious to the dirty looks Bill kept giving them.

"You sure she'll be okay with them?"

"He's a babysitter actually." Steve stated matter-of-factly, shrugging and raising an eyebrow when Bill looked over at him. Bucky chewed on his lip and looked down at his feet, instinctively hugging Becky closer to his chest.
A tense silence hung in the air for a moment before Bill finally walked over, grabbing his shoes and sighing.

"Fine."

"Okay! We'll be back in a few hours. All Becky's stuff is in her room. Bye sweetheart!" Ida smiled, ruffling Bucky's hair and leaning over to kiss Becky's forehead before they both left through the door.

"What an asshole." Steve muttered and Bucky gasped, spinning around and covering Becky's ear with his hand.

"Steve! Baby!"

"Oh my god it's been ten seconds and I've already screwed up. I told you I shouldn't have come. I've ruined her life."

Bucky giggled at him and rolled his eyes. "I don't think she heard you."

"I'm a monster."

"Bugah?" Becky asked, tugging on Bucky's shirt and stretching her arm out at the door. "Mama go?"

"Mommy'll be back soon." He promised, bouncing her in his arms when she started pouting at him.

"Okay is she gonna cry because I'm not physically or mentally equipped to deal with that."

"Nah she's fine, ain'tcha, Becks? You're gonna be a brave girl for us, huh?"

Becky clutched onto his shirt and nodded, sucking on her thumb and babbling incoherently.

"Okay good. Glad we settled that." Bucky grinned, turning to Steve smugly. "Just gotta learn to reason with 'em, Stevie."

"Right. I'll leave that to you."

"You wanna hold her?"

"No I do not. I'll probably trip and launch her outta the window or something."

"Steve the windows aren't even open."

"That won't stop me." Steve insisted, backing away when Bucky held her out to him. "Bucky no."

"She's not gonna bite."

"You don't know that."

"Steve just take her, I'm gonna go see what toys she's got. Need to keep her entertained for the next few hours."

Becky stretched her arms out and he reluctantly took her out of Bucky's hands, holding her like she was a china doll with a look of pure horror on his face, making Bucky crack up. He stood watching for a moment as Becky played with the string around his neck and Steve tried to detach her hand, flinching every time he actually made contact with her.

"Careful, Stevie." Bucky warned, smirking when Steve snapped his head up to look at him. "She can smell fear."

"Thought you were gonna look for toys." Steve muttered and Bucky giggled, turning and heading across the room to Becky's nursery.
It was obvious Becky had a short attention span from the number of toys that had been taken out and then left around the room, and it took a lot of concentration for Bucky to make his way across the floor without stepping on anything. He dug through her toy box to try and find something that might occupy her for more than ten minutes, but it was mainly filled with dolls and toy horses. Sighing, he looked around the room in desperation and spotted an art set tucked away on one of the top shelves.

"Hey, Stevie! I need a boost."

"The hell are you trying to do?" Steve called, appearing in the doorway with Becky and raising an eyebrow at him.

"I need to get up there." He explained as he pointed to the shelf. "Then we can do some painting with her."

"Bucky, there are a million and one toys in this room and you chose the one thing that will make a mess."

"Yup. It'll be fun. Help her develop her motor skills."

Bucky wiggled his fingers at Steve, who just stared at him for a moment before sighing and putting Becky down by her toy box. He walked back over to Bucky and crouched in front of the shelf, glancing over his shoulder at him and narrowing his eyes.

"Just get it quickly, I'm done having to support your weight."

"It's just my curves."

"Well your curves are heavy."

Without giving it much thought, Bucky backhanded Steve's ass lightly, purely because it was within reaching distance and definitely not because it looked good in the jeans he was wearing.

"Not in front of the kid, Buck."

"Shut your mouth and hold still."

"Bucky the children."

"I didn't- you know what I mean, you jerk."

Steve chuckled to himself and winked at him. "Where do you want me, sir?"

"Now who's being inappropriate?" Bucky muttered, ignoring the sound of his heart suddenly drumming in his ears and climbing onto Steve's back while taking extra care to hit him in the face with his knee.

"You did that on purpose."

"How clumsy of me."

"Can you just get the paints please? Otherwise Becky is gonna be scarred forever by the image of her cousin crushing his friend to death."

"'M not that heavy." He mumbled as he grabbed the art set from the shelf, hopping back down and rolling his eyes at Steve's exaggerated sigh of relief. "You wanna do some painting, Becky boo?"

"How many nicknames are you gonna give her?"

"As many as I can think of in 3 hours." Bucky shrugged. "What sort of painting should we do? You're the art guy."

"I don't know. What does she wanna paint?"

"Steve she's a year old. When I say 'painting' I mean chewing brushes and splatting paint on stuff."

"Oh.."

Bucky giggled, punching Steve in the arm gently. "But you can paint some pretty pictures if you want, kiddo!" He teased, throwing his head back laughing when Steve scowled at him.

"Jerk." He muttered, pacing across the room and scooping Becky up from where she was sitting. "C'mon, Becca. I know when I'm not wanted." He said as he marched out of the room with her, throwing Bucky a dirty look and leaving him to follow behind.
They were both sitting by the box Becky had been playing in when Bucky caught up, and Steve seemed to be conducting a full inspection of it.

"We could make a doll's house." He said when Bucky sat next to them, looking up and raising his eyebrows at him. "Cut out a door and stuff, then she can help paint it. If we put the door here then the windows can go up here.."

Steve trailed off as he turned the box upside down and trailed his eyes over it. It was clear he'd switched into full artist mode and Bucky would be lying if he said it wasn't the cutest thing he'd seen. He watched as Steve mapped out a window with his finger, seemingly oblivious to Becky trying to scramble up his back.

"Are you.. do you want me to get her?" Bucky asked, watching as she clambered up and hooked her arms around Steve's neck.

"Huh? Oh. Hey, Becks." Steve said, glancing up at her and then turning his attention back to the box in his hands. "Buck you got a pencil?"

Raising an eyebrow at him, Bucky shook his head in disbelief and rifled through the pack of art supplies, handing him the first pencil he found.

"I need two."

"What?"

Steve tucked the first pencil behind his ear and stretched his hand out again, waiting for Bucky to hand him a second. "Helps me think."

"You're insane."

"It's a creative process okay?"

"Steve you're taking this way too seriously." Bucky giggled, reaching up and lifting Becky off him. "C'mon, she just wants to throw paint at it. You cut out the windows and I'll find some newspapers or something to put down."

"I'll need a knife."

"Kitchens over there."

Steve narrowed his eyes at him and got to his feet, heading over to the kitchen while Bucky circled the sitting room with Becky. There was nothing obvious around the room that could be used to protect the carpet from Becky's acrylic wrath. He let out a sigh and walked back across the room to find Steve, swinging the toddler in his arms and making her squeal excitedly.

"Up! Up!" She yelled, kicking her legs out while Bucky giggled.

"You wanna go up?"

"Up!"

"Alright you asked for it." Bucky grinned, wrapping his hands around her and tossing her a couple of feet into the air and catching her.

"Okay so I found some- OH MY GOD WHAT ARE YOU DOING BUCKY SHE'S JUST A TINY BABY SHE'S FRAGILE OH MY GOD IS SHE OKAY OH MY GOD BUCKY."

He looked up and saw Steve clinging to the door frame, his other hand clutching his chest as he recovered from his brief mental breakdown.

"Steve she's fine."

"She's just.. so tiny.. you can't just.. oh my god.." Steve gasped between breaths, standing back upright and coming over to them. "Don't do that to me. Jesus Christ."

"Do you need a hug?"

"I need a stiff drink."

"Becks, uncle Steeb needs a hug."

"Steeb-ah!" Becky babbled, reaching out towards Steve and giggling when he wrapped his arms around her. "Stebah."

"Yeah it's me."

"She likes you."

"Of course she does. I'm a likable person." Steve smirked, bouncing her in his arms. "I found some old magazines and stuff in the trash that we could use for a tarp."

"Steve why were you going through my aunt's trash?"

"I wasn- I just saw them on the top as I walked past, you idiot."

"Idee-od." Becky copied, pointing her hand at Bucky and grinning at him. Steve threw his head back laughing and had to sit back against the couch to avoid dropping her, which only made her squeal with laughter. "Idiod. Idiod!"

"I love this kid, Buck." He chuckled as he sat Becky up on his knee, wheezing when Bucky narrowed his eyes at him.

"We making this dolls house or not." He muttered, walking past them to find the magazines Steve had mentioned. "You're supposed to be making windows."

"Idiod."

"Thank you, Becks." Bucky sighed as he scooped them up from where Steve had left them on the counter.
The pair were sitting on the floor when he came back in. Steve was drawing something on the side of the box while Becky watched, reaching out to try and grab on to the pencil every time he moved it. He looked up when Bucky dumped the magazines next to him and smirked.

"Thanks, grumpy."

"Shut up and get on with it."

Steve sniggered and Bucky narrowed his eyes at him, sitting next to him and spreading the magazines out on the floor before moving Becky into his lap. "Ready to do some painting, Becks?"

"Pa-gaaaaaah."

"Okay.. gonna take that as a yes." He grinned, ruffling her hair and making her giggle. There were several different coloured paints in the set he'd found and he immediately grabbed the red one, twisting it open and setting it down next to him. "If I let her paint this side, you can paint the other end."

"Why do you get to paint with her?"

"Because you're taking this really seriously, and I don't want you to have a mental breakdown when you see her completely destroy this side." Bucky explained, smirking at him.

"Fair enough."

"What happened to you wanting to stay as far away from the 'breakable infant' as possible?"

"She's grown on me." Steve shrugged as he moved the box over, shuffling around to the other side and staring thoughtfully at it for a moment. "Pass some paints over."

"Good luck creating a masterpiece out of these." Bucky joked, tossing him a few pots of paint and a brush.

"That sounds like a challenge."

"It was."

Steve narrowed his eyes at him and Bucky smirked, turning his attention back to Becky, who was chewing impatiently on his shirt. He dipped one of the brushes in the paint and cautiously handed it to her, hoping and praying she didn't immediately stick it in her mouth and sighing with relief when she flicked it at the box.
Painting with Becky was an adventure. Generally she seemed more interested in painting Bucky than the box, and he had to frantically grab her wrist a few times to stop her from trying to taste the paint. Steve was completely silent opposite them, aside from one minor coughing fit after accidently drinking some of his paint water, and every time Bucky looked up he was either staring at the box intently or chewing on the pencil he'd kept behind his ear.

"Okay I'm done." Steve suddenly announced, startling Becky and almost making her stab Bucky in the eye with her paintbrush.

"Lemme see. C'mon, Becks."

Becky loudly protested when Bucky took the paintbrush out of her hand, sticking her bottom lip out at him and whining.

"Don't look at me like that. We're gonna see Steeb's painting."

"Steeb-ah?"

"Yeah. C'mon, sweetie." He grinned, lifting her up and crawling over to Steve on his knees. "I expect nothing short of Picasso quality you kno- Steve what the hell?" He exclaimed as he stared in shock at the photorealistic flowers Steve had managed to paint.

"What?"

"How the f- I gave you 3 pots of paint."

"Yeah."

"I just.. how did you do that?"

"I mixed some of the paint."

He said it as if it were the simplest thing, gesturing to the magazines in front of them where he'd managed to mix a hundred different shades of yellow and green. Bucky stared at him for a moment in disbelief and tried to comprehend what he was seeing.

"So did you paint anything?"

"What? Uh.. no.. I mean.. I painted a cat but.." Bucky stammered, trying to think of a way to stop Steve from ever laying eyes on his side of the box. Unfortunately he was already on his feet and walking around to look at it, so Bucky just sighed and followed him back round. "Before you say anything I'd just like to make it clear that there's a reason I'm not studying art."

"It's.. I mean it's not bad."

"There is hope for me yet."

"If you were five years old it would be really impressive."

"Screw you, Rogers." Bucky muttered, scowling when Steve chuckled. "I tried okay?"

"You did a great job."

"Do you think that just because Becky's here that I won't fight you? Because you're wrong."

Steve giggled at him and cocked his eyebrow before turning back to the box in front of him. "We both kinda failed at making this look like a doll's house."

"She's a year old, she's not gonna judge our paint job. Just cut some holes in it."

Shrugging, Steve got up and disappeared into the kitchen again. Bucky looked down at Becky and sighed at the amount of paint she'd manage to smear all over her clothes.

"We should probably find you some clean clothes, huh?"

"No."

"N- what do you mean no? Yes we should."

"No!"

"You don't even have any power here. What's the point in arguing? There is literally nothing you can do to stop me from getting you some clean clothes."

Becky stuck her tongue out at him but, as predicted, did nothing to actually stop him from picking her up and carrying her into her room. He spent a good ten minutes rifling through the clothes in her drawer trying to pick the cutest outfit for her, eventually settling on a bunny onsie he found.

"You're gonna look so cute oh my god." He said excitedly. "I guess I should change you too."

"No."

"Gettin' real tired of you saying that."

It was a struggle to get Becky changed. She screamed when he took the clothes off, and then screamed even louder when he tried to put some clothes back on. Eventually he managed to wrestle her into the onsie and, despite her sniffling, snot covered face, she still looked adorable.

"That wasn't so bad, was it?"

Becky just sniffled at him and carried on crying, whining when he picked her up and carried her into the sitting room where Steve was busy cutting up their doll's house.

"The hell was that all about? Were you slaughtering her?" He asked when he saw them, getting up and walking over.

"She didn't wanna be changed."

Steve smirked and crouched down to look at her. "Drama queen, huh?"

"Steebah." Becky whimpered, stretching her arms out to him and cuddling up against his chest when he took her.

"Oh sure. No thanks for the guy that just had to touch your pee soaked diaper. I see how it is." Bucky muttered, pacing across the room and flopping down onto the couch grumpily. "No gratitude in this house."

Steve chuckled as he followed him over, putting Becky down by the doll's house and leaving her to play by herself. "I can't help it if babies love me."

"Two hours ago you didn't want to be anywhere near a baby."

"Yeah." Steve sighed, sitting next to him on the couch and putting his arm around Bucky's shoulder. "She's cute though."

Bucky leant his head against Steve instinctively and nodded in agreement. "Seriously though, did you plan to just avoid babies for your entire life?"

"Not really, I'd just.. never really thought about it before. Liz probably would've wanted me to have kids but.. I just don't know if.." He trailed off and Bucky nudged his shoulder, looking up at him expectantly. "I've lost so many people already, and somehow pulled through. Right now I don't really have anyone else to lose. Don't know if I could handle it again.." Steve sighed, looking down at his lap and tightening the arm he had around him. "I just made that really depressing, huh?"

"Little bit." Bucky smirked, nuzzling his shoulder.

"Sorry. What about you?"

"Huh?"

"You plan on having kids?"

Bucky actually laughed at that. "Think that dream kinda died with Rumlow." He mumbled, looking over at Steve for a second and then back down at his hands. "I used to have all my old toys and stuff from when I was little saved in this box, always said I was keeping them for my kids. Then after I left school and couldn't even face the idea of letting myself get that close to anybody again, I got rid of them. Last time I checked they don't let single guys adopt."

"You'll get there, Buck."

"'M not so sure about that."

"Course you will. You've been doing pretty good with me so far. Only had one minor breakdown."

"Shut up, you jerk." Bucky sniggered, elbowing Steve in the ribs when he smirked at him. They both laughed for a moment before falling silent again, and Bucky chewed on his lip, looking down solemnly. "That's different anyway. It's not.. we're not.. it's different."

He couldn't quite bring himself to say that they weren't actually together. Which was ridiculous, because it was a fact. But just the thought of it these days made his heart hurt a little. He was such an idiot.

"It's still progress though." Steve said, bringing Bucky out of his train of thought. "And someday you'll find somebody who makes you forget all the crap that's happened."

"Language."

"That's totally not a swear."

"Is too." Bucky smirked and Steve narrowed his eyes at him.

"Anyway, the point is that there's gonna be someone out there for you."

"Someone who can fix me?"

"No." Steve said bluntly and Bucky frowned at him, furrowing his brow in confusion.

"But you just said-"

"Didn't say anything about fixing you." Steve mumbled, wrapping his other arm around Bucky's waist and pulling him onto his lap so he could face him. "You don't need somebody who can fix you, because you don't need to be fixed. There's nothing about you that needs changing. And if whoever you end up with can't see that, then you need to get the hell away from them, because they should be able to appreciate every part of you just the way you are. Just.. just promise you won't ever settle for anything less than that."

Bucky stared at him for a moment, looking straight into Steve's eyes and searching for any sign that maybe he'd meant that to be anything more than just a confidence booster. Why would it mean anything else? Steve was his friend, so he was giving him friendly advice. Because that's what friends do. It's not like he had any reason to want anything more from Bucky. He'd seen more sides to him than most people, which was usually enough to put anyone off.
Sighing, Bucky finally managed to coax himself to speak, managing a weak smile and mumbling, "You're a real sap, you know that?"

The corner of Steve's mouth turned up into a smile and he titled his head down, looking up at him from under his lashes. Was it even legal for eyelashes to look like that? Did the guy use mascara? They both stared at each other for so long that Bucky started to forget what they'd even been talking about. In that time they had somehow moved closer together, and now Steve's face was so close that Bucky could feel his breath against his lips. He was just about ready to go against his better judgement and just close the distance when Steve suddenly gasped, practically throwing Bucky to the other side of the couch and jumping across the room.
It took a moment or two for Bucky to recover from the shock, sitting up and looking over just as Steve pulled Becky away from the cable she was about to start chewing on.

"Please don't cry please don't cry please don't cry." Steve repeated to himself as he grabbed her and lifted her up. His chanting had no effect on her and she immediately started screaming, thrashing her arms and legs about wildly as she tried to wriggle out of Steve's hands. "Aw come on."

"Bu.. Buggyyyyyyy." She wailed and Bucky immediately let out a victory cry, hopping up and taking her from Steve. "Buggy." She said quietly, clutching his shirt and hiding her face in his chest.

"I gotcha, Becks. Big bad Steeb ain't gonna hurt ya."

"Steebah bad."

"You got that right." Bucky smirked, giggling when Steve narrowed his eyes at him. "Steebah is bad. Steebah thinks it's cool to throw people."

"Sorry." Steve mumbled. "You okay?"

"Becky loves me again, so yeah, I'm great."

"Think she's tired."

"Don't search for excuses, Steve. You betrayed her and now-"

"No, seriously."

Bucky looked down and saw Becky's eyelids fluttering as she struggled to stay awake, yawning and snuggling closer to him. "Yeah.. she's not the only one. Babies are exhausting."

"Group nap?"

"Group nap."

They both nodded to each other and headed back over to the couch, snuggling up together with Becky still curled up in Bucky's arms. He wasn't entirely sure if he'd actually dozed off or just closed his eyes for a while, but no more than ten minutes later the door opened and Ida came bustling in, loaded down with shopping bags.

"Hi boys! How's- oh look at you. That is so cute! You look like a little family." She said excitedly, walking over and clutching her heart.

Bucky blushed and he was pretty sure he heard Steve clear his throat next to him, glancing over at him and laughing nervously.

"Mamma!" Becky squealed, opening her eyes and trying to scramble out of Bucky's arms to get to Ida. He almost didn't want to let her go, reluctantly lifting her up so Ida could take her. Sighing, he nudged Steve and they both got the their feet.

"Thanks boys." Ida smiled as she reached out her free arm and wrapped it around Bucky, kissing his cheek and then moving on to Steve, who looked incredibly confused about the entire exchange. "I owe you one."

"Can we just keep Becky as payment?" Bucky joked and Ida giggled.

"I don't think your mom would be too happy about that. She'll miss you though. Say 'bye bye', Becks."

"Buh-bye."

Bucky beamed at her, ruffling her hair and waving before turning with Steve and heading back out through the front door. He was on sigh a high from how cute Becky was that he didn't even notice the dirty look Bill gave them as he passed them on the stairs, and spent the entire journey home telling Steve about all the other kids he looked after back in Chicago.

"Mom!" He yelled as soon as he got back. "I'm gonna have a baby!"

"Still no uterus, sweetheart."

"Why do you crush my dreams?"


New years eve rolled around quickly, and Steve seemed incredibly excited about the whole thing. He'd been buzzing with excitement all day, rushing around the house and busying himself with odd little tasks while Bucky sat on the couch watching a movie he'd found on TV. He wasn't really watching it, just vaguely aware of it playing in the background. All he'd really picked up was that it involved weird demon people, everybody cast in it was hot, and it was just about the worst movie he had ever seen in his life, although Steve kept insisted the villain looked like him every time he walked past.

"I don't see it."

"He does! You know, aside from the whole demon eyes." Steve said stubbornly, leaning over the back of the couch to look at the screen.

"Have you finished filing Meg's claws?"

"Yeah. Can't believe he sat still for that long."

"He only really moves if it means being rewarded with food." Bucky shrugged.

"Just like his owner then?"

"Fuck you."

Steve chuckled at him and vaulted over onto the couch next to him. "What time is it?"

"You've already asked me that twenty times today, Steve. There's a clock on the fucking wall."

"I know but time is going so sloooooowlyyyyyyy." He whined, collapsing dramatically across Bucky's lap and huffing impatiently. It took a moment for Bucky to regain his composure after having Steve's face rub against his thigh, and he had to take a few deep breaths before actually thinking of a response.

"What're you so excited about anyway?" He asked eventually, running a hand through Steve's hair absentmindedly.

"I just wanna see the fireworks. We are going right? I've never seen them here before. Not since I was like two anyway. And I didn't go out to see them last year so-"

"Steve, chill." Bucky giggled as Steve rambled, glancing over at the clock. "We'll be going up to Tony's in like an hour."

"That's too looooooong." Steve whined and Bucky rolled his eyes, grunting when Steve rolled over onto his back to look up at him. "Aren't you excited? Why aren't you excited?"

"Crowds and loud noises. Not the best combination for me." He shrugged, stroking Steve's hair again. Steve nodded thoughtfully and closed his eyes, humming happily.
Bucky decided not to mention was that he hadn't actually gone into the city for new years since he was 16, Steve looked so excited about the whole thing that he couldn't bring himself to. The two of them lay there for a while watching the end of the movie and laughing until they cried at the visual effects, which turned out to be the most entertaining part of the whole thing.
They must have lost track of time, because before Bucky knew it his dad was coming downstairs and asking them why they weren't ready yet.

"I am ready."

"Bucky you're wearing pyjamas."

"These are not pyjamas."

His dad raised an eyebrow at him and Bucky smirked, looking down at the grumpy cat t-shirt and galaxy sweatpants he'd thrown on earlier. Admittedly not the kind of thing he wanted to be seen wearing in the middle of New York City.

"Fine. I'll spare you the embarrassment of being completely overshadowed by how cool I look." He shrugged, trying to encourage Steve to move off his lap and instead pushing him full force onto the floor. "Oops."

"You could've just asked me to move." Steve groaned, picking himself up and scowling at him.

"It was an accident."

"Right, sure."

Bucky smiled innocently at him and got up, pushing past him to get to his bedroom. He hadn't really thought about what he was actually going to wear, and he spent at least ten minutes staring into his closet blankly.

"Steeeve." He whined when he heard the door open. "What should I wear?"

"Why're you asking me?" Steve asked and Bucky turned around, watching him start going through his bag.

"I mean, you're gonna be seen in public with me."

"So?"

"So I just thought you might have an issue being associated with a piece of emo trash, which is the general look I go for."

Steve stared at him like it was the most ridiculous thing ever while Bucky waited for some sort of answer.

"Bucky I've been out with you a bunch of times."

"I know but my parents are gonna be there so we're gonna have to do couple's stuff and- stop looking at me like that." Bucky complained while Steve continued to look at him in confusion.

"I just don't even.. why does that make a difference? Just.. wear what you want?"

Bucky narrowed his eyes at him and shrugged. "Fine. Then I'm keeping this shirt on." He said, turning and grabbing some black jeans from the closet. Steve didn't say anything else, but when Bucky turned back around he was standing right behind him. "Christ, Stevie. Can you not?"

"Sorry, I just.. how are we gonna do this?"

"Do what?"

"Tonight. You said we're gonna have to do couple stuff but.. what kind of stuff? I mean do you wanna do the whole new year's kiss thing or..?"

He knew what Steve was thinking, even though he wasn't saying it. They hadn't actually kissed since Christmas, and Bucky wasn't entirely sure how he'd react to it now.
It wasn't that he didn't want to kiss Steve. The problem was that he did. Badly. And if Steve kissed him now, he didn't know if he'd be able to let him go again.

"Buck?"

"Huh? Uh, yeah.. yeah we can do that." Shit.

"You sure? We don't have to if-"

"No it's fine." Oh my god. He was an idiot. He was the biggest idiot on the planet. No. It would be fine. If anything, this would help get it out of his system, and he could go back to normal. Or at least go back to not wanting to make out with his friend at every given opportunity.
Steve nodded, looking distant for a moment and then smiling at him.

"Okay cool. I'll go get changed then."

Bucky watched as he grabbed a bundle of clothes from the bed and disappeared into the bathroom before collapsing down on the bed with a groan. He felt a sudden weight on top of his back and sighed.

"Meg what do I do?"

Meg mewed at him and hopped down onto the bed, allowing Bucky to roll over and face him. He lay there for a moment stroking Meg's back until the cat moved away, batting his paw at the jeans he was holding and reminding him that he had responsibilities.
Sighing, he sat up, kicking off the sweatpants and tossing them into the corner of the room before working on getting his legs into the tight jeans, just getting them done up as Steve came out of the bathroom.
He looked Bucky up and down for a second, raising an eyebrow and smirking at him.

"You okay?" He asked, looking at Bucky hanging halfway off the bed, one leg balanced on top of his drawers.

"Yeah.. jeans didn't wanna go on my legs." Bucky explained, sitting upright and glancing at what Steve was wearing. "I think maybe you need some more layers, Stevie."

From what he could see, he was wearing a t-shirt, and a flannel shirt, and a jacket, and a coat, and was now in the process of wrapping a scarf around his neck. He paused for a moment and narrowed his eyes at Bucky, before grabbing a beanie from his bag.

"I have a low body fat percentage okay? I get cold."

"Clearly."

"Is that all your wearing?"

Bucky got up and grabbed his hoodie. "No. This is all I'm wearing." He said as he pulled it on.

"Bucky you'll freeze."

"My chub will keep me warm."

"You don't- where did you get the idea that you have any fat on your body whatsoever? Because I really don't see it."

"It's right here." Bucky said, slapping his thighs and watching them jiggle for a second. "Now c'mon. My parents are probably waiting." He grinned, grabbing Steve's hand and dragging him out into the sitting room where his mom and dad were standing.

"Jamie, sweetheart, are you not gonna put something warmer on?"

"No. This is my aesthetic."

His parents clearly knew better than to try and argue with him, sighing and leading them outside. It was colder out than he'd expected. But now he'd made a point of not putting anything else on, so he had to see it through. Wrapping his arms around himself, he walked over to his car and got in.

"Again, why are we taking two separate cars to Tony's?" Steve asked as he got into the passenger seat next to him.

"My car has better heating."

"What?"

"Nothing."

Steve narrowed his eyes at him, choosing not to comment when Bucky cranked the heating up to the max and staying quiet for most of the drive until Bucky started talking.

"So did you want to go right into the city for the fireworks?"

"Yeah. I mean, that's what you usually do right?"

"Uh.. yeah." He lied, falling silent again. The sooner this night was over, the better.

Tony and Pepper were waiting outside when they arrived, and Pepper immediately gave Bucky a stern look when she saw him.

"Aren't you cold?"

"How many people are gonna ask me that today?" Bucky grumbled, trying to pretend his teeth weren't chattering.

"Okay then." Tony said, grabbing everyone's attention. "Are we gonna stand here or night are we gonna head over to-"

"Times Square." Bucky butted in. Everyone turned to stare at him for a moment with mixed looks of shock and confusion and Bucky forced a smile, linking arms with Steve.

"I mean.. we can do that if you want." Tony shrugged and Bucky nodded, leading Steve down the road before anybody could say any more.
It was a 30 minute walk to get into the centre of the city, and Bucky ignored Tony and his dad's constant complaining that they should have just driven there. He needed all the fresh air he could get. Already just the thought of being packed in with hundreds of people was making it harder for him to breathe, and the feeling only worsened as they got closer and the sound of bustling crowds grew louder.
They turned a corner and were suddenly surrounded by people, swarming around them and seeming to have no concept of spatial awareness whatsoever. Bucky took a few deep breaths, his heart racing as he tightened his grip on Steve's hand and tried to block the noise out. They'd kept their arms linked together for the entire walk. He wasn't entirely sure why, but damn he was thankful for it now.
It felt like an eternity before they finally reached a point where they couldn't walk any further, and when Bucky looked around he saw that they were now completely packed in. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. Okay, chill.
Bucky took a deep breath. Or at least he tried to, but it was more just a desperate gasp for air. Fuck fuck fuck. He could do this. It was just people. Just thousands of people. All around him. All talking really loudly. The only thing really stopping him from just screaming was the feeling of Steve next to him, warm and solid, reminding him why they were even here. Steve wants to see the fireworks. Steve wants to see the fireworks. He repeated it to himself over and over, pressing himself closer and feeling Steve squeeze his hand reassuringly.
For a while that kept him going, and he was able to block out the noise and the claustrophobia, but gradually the little space they'd found for themselves got smaller as more and more people filled the streets. Steve wants to see the fireworks. They were getting closer, he could see them. The people in front of him gradually inching backwards, getting closer and closer to him. Steve wants to see the fireworks. Steve wants to see the fireworks. He could feel how close the people behind him were. Could hear them laughing in his ear. Steve wants to see the fireworks. Why were they laughing? What was he doing? Was it Steve? They could see he was holding Steve's hand. Everyone could see it. Steve wants to see.. They were laughing at him. They had to be laughing at him. He was right in front of them. Steve wants to.. The people in front were closer. He could smell the mix of beer and perfume on their skin. Steve wants.. Somebody brushed against his shoulder and he whipped his head round to see the people packing in next to him. The man beside him was laughing too. Why were they all laughing? Was everybody laughing? It was all he could hear. The sound filled his ears and echoed around his head. They're laughing at you. All of them. Steve wants.. Steve.. Steve.

"Bucky!"

Steve was grabbing him, holding his shoulders and looking into his eyes. "Buck? Hey. It's me. It's okay."

"St.. Stevie?" He stammered, looking around. He was on the floor. How did he get there? "What.. w.. what?"

"You just collapsed, Buck."

His dad's voice made him look up again, and he saw everyone else looking down at him. Steve was crouched next to him, holding him up and rubbing his shoulder while Tony yelled at everybody around them to back up.

"We need to get you out of here, sweetheart." His mom said, crouching down and taking his hand.

"No!"

They all looked at him, confused, as he forced himself to sit upright. "Steve wants to see the fireworks." He choked out, looking over at Steve apologetically. For a moment Steve just stared at him, before hooking his hands under his arms and lifting him to his feet.

"Let's get you outta here, Buck."

"But I thought you wanted-"

"It's not important. Can you walk?"

"I.. I think so." Bucky stammered, leaning against Steve for support. His legs felt shaky, but somehow they managed to get him away from the crowds to a quieter area and found him a bench to sit on.

"You're gonna miss your fireworks, Stevie." He said quietly after a while, cuddling closer to Steve and shivering. Despite sitting on his lap, he was still far colder now that they were away from the packed crowds, and he was really starting to regret his stubbornness earlier.

"We'll be able to see it from here." Steve shrugged and wrapped his arms tighter around Bucky's waist. "Didn't like it that much down there anyway. Couldn't hear myself think."

Even though he knew Steve was only saying it to make him feel better, it eased up at least some of the guilt, and he relaxed a little against Steve's shoulder.

"You're freezing, Buck."

"I'm f..f..fine."

Bucky shivered again and Steve narrowed his eyes at him. "C'mere." He sighed as he let go of Bucky for a second, shrugging out of his coat and wrapping it around him. "Better?"

It was better. It was so much better. Bucky nodded, sighing and closing his eyes as his body warmed up. He felt Steve move and looked up again to see him taking the beanie off, squashing it onto Bucky's head before he could say anything.

"You'll get cold."

"I'll be fine. How you feeling?" Steve asked as he wrapped his arms back around him.

"Okay I guess. I'm not in a swirling vortex of anxiety and self-loathing anymore, so that's an improvement."

He still felt a little shaky and dizzy, but it was hard to tell if that was from the crowds, or just the fact that Steve looked really good in the dim street light. Every so often the lights in the distance would change, making the colour of his eyes shift just slightly, and Bucky was a little bit hypnotised by it.

"The countdown's started." Steve said quietly, nudging him and nodding towards the crowds of people starting to chant. "You don't have to worry about the kiss."

"Think my parents would question it if we didn't do it."

"Bucky, you just passed out. I really don't think they'll be too suspicious now."

Steve was right, obviously. He had the perfect excuse to avoid kissing him now.

FIVE

But Steve was right there. He was so close. There was nothing stopping Bucky from just reaching up and-

FOUR

No. He'd already told him that they didn't need to kiss. Steve doesn't want to kiss him.

THREE

Or maybe he just meant he didn't want Bucky to stress himself out again. Maybe he does want to kiss him?

TWO

Are you even listening to yourself? Steve said no. No kiss. They can just relax and watch the fireworks together. After all, that was what he'd wanted in the first place.

ONE

Fuck it.

He reached up to grab Steve's scarf, pulling him down until their lips met. It was only intended to be a quick kiss. Just for the sentiment, and to prove a point to himself. But Steve was intoxicating, and his hands were moving up from his waist to his neck, holding him in place and sending shivers up his spine. Sighing, Bucky let go of Steve's scarf, reaching up to cup his face as he parted his lips.
Steve deepened the kiss, flicking his tongue along Bucky's bottom lip. He kept leaning further forward to kiss him harder, and it was getting more and more difficult for Bucky to keep his balance on Steve's lap. Right now though, the laws of gravity were the last thing on his mind. Because Steve was there, and his breath on Bucky's lips was making his head spin. e knew as soon as this was over he was going to regret it, because the more Steve kissed him the more he realised he never wanted to stop.
Steve leant a little further forward and Bucky yelped against his lips, losing his balance and frantically grabbing onto Steve's shoulders to keep from falling over completely. Laughing, Steve pulled away from him, wrapping his arms around him and pulling him back up. They both stared at each other for a moment, their noses still bumping together as Bucky giggled.

"Happy new year."

"Happy new year." Steve breathed, kissing Bucky's nose before leaning back in his seat.

"Get a room, you two."

They both looked over and saw his dad leaning against the streetlamp next to them, smirking. Tony, Pepper, and his mom were also looking over at them and Bucky groaned, pulling Steve's coat up over his head and leaning against him. He was never gonna get used to this.

"Buck. Get your head out of my clothes and take a selfie with me."

"What?"

Bucky looked up and Steve gestured to his phone. "I have to post this on instagram."

"You are such a hipster."

"Lots of people use instagram."

"Lots of hipsters you mean. Why do I have to be in the picture?"

"Because I want you to be." Steve insisted and Bucky sighed, sitting upright and glaring into the camera. "Don't be a jerk. At least pretend to be happy."

"That would ruin my punk illusion."

Steve narrowed his eyes at him and paused for a moment. "What do you call a cow with no legs?"

"What? What does that have to do with anythi-"

"Ground beef."

He realised too late what Steve was trying to do, and despite his best efforts, he couldn't fight the grin that spread across his face as he tried not to laugh. "That's the worst."

"Got me a good picture though."

"Fuck you, lemme see."

Steve showed him the phone screen and Bucky blushed. They looked like a couple. Pressed together and smiling at each other, and it made Bucky's heart ache as he thought about it. He wanted it. God he wanted it. No.
Snapping himself out of it, he looked back up at Steve and saw he was looking off into the distance, and it wasn't until he heard the noise behind him that he realised the fireworks were going off. He wriggled round and leant against Steve's shoulder, watching as the sky lit up with different colours.
At least that's what he intended to watch. Really he just watched Steve.

Chapter Text

"Buck? Bucky wake up. Bucky it's important. FUCKING WAKE UP!"

Bucky groaned as Steve shook his shoulders, finally forcing his eyes open and looking up at him grumpily. Propping himself up on his shoulders, he watched as Steve looked around the room frantically. "Bucky the ceiling said good morning to me."

"What are you talking about?"

"It fucking spoke, Bucky."

It took a few moments for him to remember where they were. They'd gone back to Tony's once the fireworks were over, and after listening to his parents argue for ten minutes over who was allowed to get blackout drunk, Tony had insisted they all just stay the night.
Bucky giggled, rolling back over in the bed and closing his eyes again.

"Right. I'm going back to sleep." He mumbled.

"Shall I dim the lights again, sir?"

"BUCKY IT FUCKING DID IT AGAIN! TELL ME YOU HEARD THAT! I'M NOT CRAZY!" Steve yelled, grabbing Bucky's shoulder and rolling him onto his back. "Look me in the eye and tell me you heard it, Barnes."

"Steve oh my god. It's Jarvis."

"The fuck is a Jarvis?"

Giggling again, Bucky sat back up and pushed Steve away from him. "Kinda like Tony's butler I guess? Just more high tech and way cooler."

"Thank you, sir." Jarvis said and Steve flinched again, narrowing his eyes at thin air.

"And he calls me 'sir', which is cool."

"He called me 'Mr. Rogers'. How can it know that?"

"That's Tony being creepy. I guess he officially considers you a member of the family. You should be thankful though, last time Clint was over I convinced Jarvis to address him as 'sugar tits'."

Steve chuckled, laying down on the bed next to him and sighing. "Okay, just warn me in advance next time we share a room with an AI."

"Just how many times do you think we're gonna be in that situation?"

"Can't rule these things out." He shrugged, reaching up and running his fingers through Bucky's hair. "You sleep okay?"

Bucky nodded and leant against Steve's chest, closing his eyes as he continued stroking his hair. He wasn't sure what could be qualified as normal friendly behaviour anymore. Maybe they were just too comfortable with each other.. or maybe-

NEEAAAR, FAAAR, WHEEREEEEEEVER YOU AAARE

Bucky had been close to dozing off when the music started blaring through the speakers at full volume, and he sat bolt upright, groaning to himself.

"TONY YOU DICKHEAD!"

I BELIIIEEVE THAT THE HEART DOES GO OOOON

Outside the door he could hear Tony cackling.

"Get in here and face me, Stark." He challenged, narrowing his eyes at the doorway. "Jarvis turn this shit off."

The music stopped and he sighed, glancing over at Steve, who looked somewhat traumatised by the whole thing. Slowly the door cracked open and Tony appeared with a shit eating grin on his face.

"Did I spoil your moment?"

"Fuck all the way off, Tony." Bucky muttered, narrowing his eyes at him when he giggled. "I'm gonna tell Pepper."

"Okay I'm leaving."

He rolled his eyes as Tony darted back through the door and disappeared, turning back to Steve and sighing. "Are your eardrums okay?"

"They're recovering." Steve groaned, sitting upright and pressing his face into Bucky's shoulder. "I'm definitely awake now though."

Bucky giggled and leant against Steve's head, closing his eyes as he yawned.

"Okay I have something to ask you."

A billion and one possible questions ran through Bucky's head and he chewed on his lip nervously. "O.. kay?"

"Do we have any plans today?"

"I.. what? No I don't think so. Why?"

"You remember I said I used to live in Brooklyn?"

"Uh huh?"

Steve turned his head and looked up at him for a second, chewing his bottom lip for a moment before he spoke again. "My parents are buried up there and.." He trailed off again and sighed, nuzzling against Bucky's neck. "Forget it."

Bucky's heart melted and he reached his hand around to stroke  his hair. "You wanna go see 'em? S'not that far."

"I.. I don't know.. haven't been there since I was five." Steve mumbled into his shoulder, his voice muffled. "I want to go, but.. I don't know."

Bucky didn't say anything and continued stroking his hair, trying to figure out if that meant they were going or not. After a minute or so he felt Steve move and saw him look up again.

"You don't mind going?" He asked quietly.

"Why would I mind?"

"It's not exactly gonna be the cheeriest road trip ever."

"Stevie, if you wanna go, then let's go." Bucky giggled, pushing himself to his feet and smiling at him. "I have no clue how to get there though. Hope you know your way around a map."

"..Not really."

"You'll figure it out."

Bucky smirked, turning on his heel and heading into the ensuite bathroom to get changed. He still wasn't sure if it was normal that he kept some clothes permanently at Tony's, but he'd been doing it since he was 13. He'd spent half his time here after arguing with his parents and "running away forever", and now Tony  just kept his room made up throughout the year.
After changing into some clean clothes and brushing his teeth he pushed the door back open, looking over at Steve on the bed, who was staring intently at his phone.

"Okay I found the place on Google maps. Should take us about 50 minutes."

"Cool. Let's do it." He grinned, leading Steve out through the bedroom door. His parents were sitting in the kitchen with Tony and Pepper, looking up as they walked past.

"Where are you rushing off to?" His mom asked, passing Bucky some toast without him having to ask.

"Brooklyn."

"Of course. You just decided to drive to Brooklyn?"

"Yes." Bucky smirked, cramming the toast into his mouth and heading over to the elevator where Steve was waiting. "Mm ummf mmmf umf?"

"What?"

Rolling his eyes, Bucky took the toast from between his teeth and repeated, "You want some toast?"

"I'm good."

"You sure? We can split it." He said, tearing the slice in two and handing him a piece. Steve looked at him uncertainly as he took it.

"Did you.. just share your food with me?"

Bucky stared in horror as Steve ate his toast. It was a few moments before he could even form any words to express how utterly disgusted and insulted he was. "I.. that was mine."

"No take backs."

"How could you just.. that was my food." He whined, stomping his foot in a desperate attempt to reverse the past. Steve just chuckled and leant forward to kiss the top of his head, grinning at him and opening the elevator door.

"You comin'?"

"'M comin'." Bucky mumbled as he dragged his feet into the elevator, chewing on what was left of his toast. One day he would have his revenge. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But one day.

Generally, Bucky didn't consider driving to be a particularly stressful experience. Trying to drive with Steve giving directions however..

"Okay we take a left here."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes." Steve insisted and Bucky nodded, beginning to turn the corner. "NO NO WAIT RIGHT! RIGHT! WE NEED TO TAKE A RIGHT!"

"I AM GOING TO KILL SOMEBODY, STEVEN!" Bucky yelled, swerving the car around to take the turn. "DO YOU NOT KNOW YOUR LEFT FROM RIGHT!?"

"I MISSED A LOT OF SCHOOL WHEN I WAS A KID!"

"FUCKING CHRIST WE ARE GOING TO DIE! I AM GOING TO DIE NEXT TO AN IDIOT! THIS ISN'T HOW I WANTED TO GO!"

"STOP YELLING! WE'RE HERE!"

Bucky pulled up at the side of the road, leaning his head against the steering wheel for a moment and closing his eyes. "We're alive. We made it." He sighed, his heart rate gradually returning to normal as he took some deep breaths. "Stevie, if we ever do this again, you're driving."

Steve chuckled and nodded when Bucky looked up. "That's fair."

"Damn right. First my toast and now this."

"Buck it was half a slice of bread. Let it go."

"Half a slice of my bread." He muttered, sitting upright and looking around the street. The cemetery loomed at the end of the road slightly ominously, and he kind of felt like he was trapped in the first ten minutes of a horror movie.

"Can we go explore first?" Steve asked quietly next to him and Bucky nodded, unable to argue with those wide, scared eyes.

"Yeah. We can go find food."

"Is that all you ever think about?"

"You want my honest answer?"

Chuckling, Steve shook his head and got out of the car, shortly followed by Bucky. He looked around for a moment and tried to decide which direction would be more likely to lead them to food.

"I think we should go that way." He said, pointing down the street.

"Why that way?"

"People are coming back from there, and since it's almost 11, that means they went that way to get breakfast and are now coming back."

"Oh my god."

"It's logic, Stevie. Now let's go, I'm starved." Bucky grinned, tugging on Steve's arm and leading him down the street. As he suspected, within a few minutes they found a tiny cafe tucked away. Steve got excited because "it looks like the kind of place hipsters on instagram would take pictures of", and immediately proceeded to take a picture of it before they went in.

"I'm gonna order as much food as they can possibly fit on one table."

"The table's are pretty big."

"Good, all I've eaten today is half a piece of toast."

"You're really not gonna forget about that are you?" Steve mumbled and Bucky smirked at him, trying to ignore Steve's embarrassed sigh when he asked the barista how much food they were permitted to serve him in one sitting.
Turns out they could serve a lot of food, and Bucky was on his fourth plate of eggs and bacon before he even considered stopping to make conversation.

"Must be kinda weird being back here, huh?" He asked between mouthfuls, looking up at Steve, who had been absent-mindedly twirling a coffee stirrer around in his cup.

"Hmm? Yeah, I guess. I mean, I don't really remember much about this place." Steve shrugged. "When's the last time you came up here?"

Bucky chewed thoughtfully on some bread and tried to do the math in his head. "Probably.. five.. no, six.. no, yeah five years ago. Ida still lived here 'til she met Bill so we'd come down from time to time and see her. Are you gonna eat something?"

"I thought this was your food?"

"Well yeah, but I'm not realistically gonna eat 7 plates of food. I'm just a man, Stevie."

Steve chuckled and looked down at his hands, shaking his head. "'M not hungry."

"You know, normally people eat more when they're upset."

"I'm not upset."

"Riiiiiiiight. So why've been stirring an empty cup of coffee for the past ten minutes?" Bucky asked, raising an eyebrow at him and smirking at him.

"I'm just distracted okay?"

"You need another refill?"

They both looked over and saw one of the baristas hovering by their table. This was the 3rd time she'd come over to them, and she wasn't exactly being subtle about her crush on Steve. So far she'd managed to trip and grab onto his shoulder, bent over right next to him to pick up a napkin, and spilt coffee in front of him, forcing her to lean across the table to wipe it up. The best part though, was that Steve seemed completely oblivious to the entire thing. And now she was back again, leaning against the table with her boobs pushed out as far as she could physically manage. She was pretty. With dark skin and thick, jet black hair that fell in ringlets down her shoulders, it was a wonder Steve wasn't taking notice of her advances.

"Uh, yeah sure." He heard Steve say, and he looked back as she leant over to pour him more coffee. It was hard to maintain his composure as he watched her lean further and further forward, much closer and Steve would wind up with his head wedged in her cleavage.
Even though Steve hadn't shown any sign of being remotely interested, Bucky felt weirdly jealous. Every advance she made got him a little more riled up.

"So are you new in town?" Um, excuse me? I'm here too. There are two people at this table.

"Kinda, I guess. We're only here for the day." Yeah that's right. WE. Did you get that?

"Shame. I could get used to seeing your face in here." Oh I'll bet you could. CAN YOU NOT SEE THAT HE IS HERE WITH SOMEBODY ELSE? HE IS CLEARLY NOT INTERESTED IN YOU. JEEZE.
Bucky had to take a moment to remind himself that they weren't here on a date, and that Steve was in fact single. He looked back up in time to see her scribbling her number down on a napkin and sliding it over to Steve, who was too busy looking at his phone to notice, and winking at him.

"Let me know if you need anything else."

"Yeah. Thanks." Steve mumbled, looking up at Bucky after she'd left. "She was subtle."

"She's cute." Bucky muttered, and shit he sounded bitter about it.

"Yeah. But I don't really do the whole long distance thing."

"You don't need to remind me. Am I gonna have to start feeding you Chinese food again?"

Steve chuckled and took a sip of his coffee, shaking his head.

"Speaking of feeding you. Do I have to shove some bacon down your throat? 'Cause I feel like I'm about to explode and you still haven't eaten anything."

"I told you 'm not hungry."

"I'm not accepting that as an answer." Bucky said stubbornly, shoving a plate in front of Steve and folding his arms. "Eat."

"Buck-"

"I will feed you. In front of people."

Steve narrowed his eyes at him and picked up some toast, looking Bucky dead in the eye as he took a bite. "Can we go now?"

"You still have coffee."

"Fine." Steve sighed, downing the rest and cocking his eyebrow. "Now can we go?"

"Promise me you'll eat lunch."

"How are you already thinking about lunch? You just ate four plates of food."

"I like lunch." Bucky grinned. "Can you get that girl back over so I can pay."

"Why do I have to call her."

"'M not convinced she's even realised I'm here yet."

Rolling his eyes, Steve called her over, and then argued with Bucky for five minutes over why is was necessary for them to split the bill despite him only eating one bite of toast.
Bucky won the argument, but Steve continued to grumble about it as they walked back down the street.

"You've paid for everything while we've been away and I feel bad. Like you should at least let me buy you coffee or something. I know I don't have that much money but I feel like I owe you at this point and.."

Eventually he just started blocking him out, turning his attention to the buildings around them, and reminding himself that he absolutely did not need to go into that shoe store they just passed. His eyes fell onto a flower stand at the side of the road and he grabbed Steve's hand.

"What?"

"Wanna get some flowers for your folks?" Bucky asked and Steve paused, looking at him blankly for a second before he seemed to process what he'd said.

"Oh.. yeah okay." He nodded, letting Bucky lead him over to the stand. "But I'm paying for this" He muttered.

Bucky giggled and rolled his eyes as Steve stared intently at each of the flower displays, biting his tongue to avoid hurrying him up. He ended up debating between two bunches of what looked like the same yellow flowers, but according to Steve they were different.

"They're literally the same colour."

"No. These ones are lemon yellow. These are more of a canary yellow."

"Art school has scrambled your brain, Stevie. They're yellow."

Steve narrowed his eyes at him and sighed. "I'll just get both."

He paid for the flowers and they both continued up the street to the cemetery. They paused at the gates, and Bucky felt Steve link their fingers together. Smiling up at him, Bucky squeezed his hand gently and pushed the gate open.
It was a bigger place than he'd anticipated, with headstones stretching in every direction.

"Okay.. don't suppose you know whereabouts they are?" He asked, looking up at Steve and smirking.

"I haven't been here in 16 years."

"So you're saying we have to check every headstone in this cemetery?"

Steve frowned and looked around for a second before tugging on Bucky's hand. "I think.. I think it's this way?" He said uncertainly, leading Bucky across the grass. They zigzagged around for a while, with Steve backtracking every so often and pulling Bucky in a different direction.
Finally Steve stopped and Bucky looked down at the two headstones in front of them. Joseph Harvey Rogers and Sarah Alicia Rogers. The headstones were worn, and it was clear nobody had been here for a while, judging from the grass and weeds which were overgrown around them.

"Nobody's come to see them." Steve said quietly, staring ahead and sighing. Bucky squeezed his hand and nudged him with his shoulder.

"We can tidy it up." He suggested and Steve nodded, crouching down and clearing some of the weeds away from his mom's headstone. Bucky joined him and started to clear his dad's grave. It took almost 30 minutes for them to get the graves looking presentable again, and Bucky's shoulders were aching by the time they'd finished. But it hurt less than listening to Steve whispering "I'm sorry, mom. I'm so sorry." over and over to himself as they worked.

"How you holdin' up, Stevie?" Bucky asked, looking over at him and smiling. Steve was so focused on perfectly aligning his flowers with his mom's headstone that he didn't seem to notice him at first, not looking up for another few minutes. He smiled up at him when he realised Bucky was watching him, but it was a sad smile and Bucky could tell he was struggling to hold it together.

"I should've come here sooner." He said sadly, running his finger over the writing engraved on the stone. "I kinda wanted to get Liz buried up here.. she would've wanted to be with her brother, but.. I didn't want her that far away. So now she's on her own."

Bucky reached out and took his hand again, running his thumb over Steve's reassuringly. "Think she'd have preferred that to leaving you on your own."

"Yeah.." Steve sighed, looking down at his lap. "I feel like I should say something to 'em."

"You want me to fuck off for a while? I can go explore."

".. Explore the cemetery?"

"I'm a morbid person." Bucky shrugged, smirking when Steve chuckled. "Seriously though if you want me to go I can-"

"No. No, I.. I need you here."

It was neither the time or place for Bucky's heart to be doing somersaults, but he felt his face heat up as soon as Steve said it, and he looked down at the ground, blushing. Christ he was fucked up. He was blushing at the fact that Steve didn't want to be on his own to talk to his dead parents. This was a new low.

"Okay.." He said eventually, pulling himself together and smiling at him. "I'll be over here."

Steve smiled weakly back and Bucky picked himself up, finding an empty patch of grass a few feet away from the headstones to sit. He tried to keep himself busy by picking at the grass by his feet and flicking frost off some nearby weeds. The whole time he could hear Steve talking quietly about what he was doing at college, and everything he'd done before that.
It was at least an hour before it finally went quiet, and Bucky turned his attention away from the beetle on his leg that he'd befriended, looking over at Steve. He was sitting cross-legged between the two headstones, with one arm draped over his mom's and the other stretched out towards his dad's. His eyes were closed and his head was nestled in the crook of his arm.

"You okay, Stevie?"

"Huh?" Steve mumbled, looking up at Bucky and nodding slowly. "Yeah.. yeah I'm fine."

Bucky wasn't convinced and he shuffled over to him. "Need a hug?"

"I'm okay, I just.. yeah I need a hug."

He stretched his arms out and Steve immediately flung himself forward, burying his face in Bucky's chest and clinging to his shirt. Bucky wrapped his arms around him tightly, rubbing circles on his back as Steve took a few shaky breaths. "I just.. forgot how much I missed 'em. I kinda blocked it out."

Bucky nodded, nuzzling the top of Steve's head and hugging him tighter. He had no idea what he was supposed to say to him. All he wanted was to make it okay, and make Steve feel better, but he couldn't.

"Just wish I could've known 'em better." Steve sighed, pressing closer to him.

"Do you remember much about them?"

"Not really. Everything I know about them is just from what Liz told me."

Steve paused and looked up at him, his eyes wide and sad. It was obvious he was trying his best not to cry. The tears were shining in his eyes and every so often his lop would quiver. Bucky knew ow that felt. He also knew from experience that bottling it up just hurt more. He was going to have to coax it out of him somehow, which felt cruel, but somehow he could tell Steve had been doing a lot of bottling up.
Sighing, he ran his fingers through Steve's hair and said quietly, "Tell me about them."

It was silent for a few seconds and Bucky started to think maybe that was a bad decision, but then Steve whimpered softly and snuggled back up against him.

"I know Liz always said I look like dad. After puberty sometimes I'd come into the room and she'd stare at me like she'd seen a ghost. It was kinda weird because she looked pretty similar to him too. They were twins. If you saw us together you'd think I was her kid."

Steve chuckled sadly to himself and Bucky squeezed his shoulder, encouraging him to carry on. "I think that's pretty much where the similarities ended with dad though. She always said I was more like mom. Which basically meant, in her words, that I was a stubborn little shit."

"That sounds accurate."

"Jerk." Steve muttered and Bucky smiled, nuzzling the top of his head. "Mom was a nurse." He continued. "Didn't take any shit from anybody though. Liz always said she was ruthless with parents when they tried to argue with her about their kids. One time, before I was born, she chased this woman up the street because she was refusing to give her kid a measles vaccine."

Bucky giggled at the thought, chewing on his lip to stop himself laughing too hard. "That definitely sounds like you."

"But why would you even avoid vaccinations? It's the most selfish, cruel-"

"Focus, Stevie."

"Right, sorry. That's all I really know, though." Steve said quietly, tightening his grip on Bucky's shirt. "And now Liz is gone that's all I'm ever gonna know."

They were both silent for a few minutes as Bucky tried to find something to say. It was difficult to think when all he really wanted to do was wrap Steve in as many blankets as was physically possible and cry with him for an hour. Eventually it was Steve who broke the silence, speaking so quietly it was barely a whisper.

"She would've loved you."

"Huh?"

"Liz. You're like a combination of everything she loved about people I brought home." He explained, sitting up a little and leaning his head on Bucky's shoulder. "Especially your eating habits. She ran a bakery, and she always complained to me because I didn't eat all the spare cakes and bread she brought back."

"Why would you waste that opportunity, Stevie? Free cakes."

"See. You'd get on great" Steve sighed. "I mean, she'd get on with anybody as long as they liked dogs and weren't an asshole."

"I am kind of an asshole though." Bucky shrugged and Steve chuckled into his neck, nodding in agreement.

"Yeah, but-"

"What do you mean 'yeah'? You weren't supposed to agree with that." He protested, thumping Steve on the back grumpily. Steve just chuckled again and looked up at him.

"Sorry." He giggled, nuzzling at his jaw. "But she'd still love you. You're an asshole in a good way."

"Right. Thanks."

"You kinda remind me of her, actually." Steve continued, ignoring him. "Think that's why I got so attached to you."

Bucky had no idea what to say to that. He didn't even know what to focus on. He reminded Steve of his aunt? Was he Steve's aunt now? Had he just unofficially adopted a 21 year old man? And Steve said he was attached to him. What the hell did that even mean?
He sat, mulling all this over and stroking Steve's hair, as Steve carried on talking.

"I was in a really shitty place after she died. Didn't really talk to anyone for months, which really pissed Sam off, he ended up having to phone me every day to check I was alive, which was kinda overdramatic. I mean I was low, but I wasn't that low."

Just the thought of it made Bucky shudder and he wrapped his arms tightly around Steve's shoulders, pressing his face into Steve's hair and kissing him. Steve didn't put up much of a fight and cuddled closer to him before continuing.

"I did talk to Thor a lot. He lost his mom and brother a couple years ago so he understood I guess. But I was still.. I don't know.. I just didn't really know what to do with myself. It just felt wrong not having her there.." Steve trailed off and buried his face in Bucky's shirt, clinging on to him. It wasn't until his shoulders started shaking that Bucky realised he was crying.

"Stevie?" He said quietly, running his fingers through Steve's hair and squeezing his shoulder.

"'M sorry."

"You don't have to apologise, Steve."

Steve just whimpered in response and clung onto him tighter. Usually this situation was in reverse. Bucky didn't have a whole lot of experience in comforting other people, besides from the one time Clint's football team lost in a final and he cried for 3 hours.
It was a long while before Steve stopped shaking in his arms, and the sound of muffled sobbing died down, replaced with just the occasional whimper. He could feel a damp patch on his shirt, but it didn't stop him from pulling Steve's head closer to him to kiss the top of his head.

"Most of my day involved her in some way" Steve said eventually, turning his head so his voice was less muffled. "Like.. I'd go out with my friends and stuff but.. she was my best friend. Which is kinda lame I guess."

"Steve for almost a year my only friend was a cat. By comparison an aunt isn't so bad."

Bucky wasn't completely sure whether the noise Steve made was a laugh or just a whine, but he didn't break down crying again which he took as a good thing.

"I guess. It went both ways though. I was her best friend too. She didn't go out that much 'cause she was always working so.. she didn't really see much of anyone 'cept for me and her work colleagues." Steve sighed, closing his eyes and leaning into Bucky's hand when he stroked his hair. "That night.. after she died. It was the first night I spent on my own."

Bucky squeezed him tightly, trying to stop his mind from wandering too much. He was home alone a lot as a teenager, but usually he ended up inviting Jas or Skye over. And now he had Meg, the worst guard-cat in the universe. He heard Steve make a noise that somewhat resembled a dog that had just had its tail stepped on and he looked down again.
Steve had curled up now, resting his chin on his knees and leaning against him. It was strange seeing him like this. Usually it was Bucky who was the tiny one, who could snuggle up next to Steve and feel safe for a few hours, but right now Steve looked so small and scared and Bucky never wanted to let him go. His bottom lip was quivering as he chewed on it and Bucky moved one of his hands to stroke his cheek.

"You okay?"

"When I was 7 I got pneumonia." Steve said quietly, which didn't exactly answer Bucky's question, but he kept quiet and started stroking his hair. "It was really hard for Liz to scrape the money together for the antibiotics, 'specially when she was already having to fork out for my inhalers. It ended up getting pretty bad.. Liz never said it but I knew there was a pretty big risk every night that I wasn't gonna wake up in the morning."

"Jesus." Bucky whispered to himself, gripping onto Steve as if there was suddenly a risk of him disappearing.

"Yeah.. it was pretty scary. But I still wasn't as scared as I was that night on my own."

Steve took a few deep breaths to calm himself down before adding, "I've never told anyone that before."

For a while Bucky sat there, trying to take that in. It was so unfair that he couldn't just flick a switch and stop Steve from hurting, or at least make him smile again. Instead he opted to hug him impossibly tighter, nuzzling the top of his head. He opened his mouth to try and change the subject, but Steve seemed determined to dig himself deeper.

"I should've been with her."

"Don't."

"But it's true." Steve sniffed. "She'd still be here if I was with her."

"Sure. And if I hadn't given Rumlow a shitty blowjob in my best friends bathroom I'd probably still be mentally stable. You can't keep beating yourself up about it, Stevie."

"You're such a hypocrite."

"Like you wouldn't be saying the same thing if it was the other way 'round." Bucky pointed out and Steve nodded, looking up at him and making some attempt at a smile. His eyes were a piercing blue where he'd been crying, and Bucky was somewhat hypnotised by them for a few seconds before he was able to get back to the subject.

"Besides," He said once he'd cleared his head of all things related to Steve's pretty eyes. "I doubt Liz would want you blaming yourself for what happened."

"Yeah. She used to get so annoyed with me for that. I'd keep going on about how it was my fault my parents died and she'd just sit there looking like she wanted to strangle me or something."

"Thought you said it was a drunk driver that killed 'em?"

"It was."

"So how can you think that was your fault?"

Steve shrugged and looked down at the ground, sniffling and whining when Bucky nudged him.

"C'mon. You gotta tell me so I can tell you how stupid it is." Bucky insisted as he nuzzled Steve's forehead, making him giggle despite how gloomy he looked.

"Okay. Well my parents were out for the night and Liz was babysitting me. And I was like the worst child ever right-"

"Steve let me stop you there because that's such bullshit." Bucky smirked and Steve shook his head, looking him in the eye.

"No, seriously. If Liz were here right now she would tell you how awful I was. I'm pretty sure she and my parents spent most of their time just convincing themselves not to throw me out the window."

"Wow."

"Literally, if you told me not to do something that was basically a guarantee that I would do it."

"Steve you still do that." Bucky pointed out, smirking when Steve nodded.

"Yeah, but it was more annoying when I was three." He mumbled. "Anyway, Liz was babysitting me and for some unknown reason I was massively against this. I spent the entire night screaming because I wanted my mom to come back, so eventually Liz gives up and phones them."

"Steve I swear to god if you're about to tell me you blame yourself for this because of a toddler tantrum-"

"They wouldn't even have been driving if it wasn't for me though."

"Steve oh my god you were a baby."

"I know but-"

"Even if you weren't a baby that's just.. how can you even.. your guilt complex is amazing."

"I don't have a guilt complex." Steve muttered, looking at him stubbornly.

"If I phoned my parents right now to come pick us up, and they got hit by a car, would you blame me?"

"Obviously not, that's ridicu- oh."

"Yeah."

"Maybe I have a guilt complex."

"Yes, you do."

Steve looked down and sighed, not saying anything when Bucky pulled him closer again and leant his head against Steve's. "It's not a bad thing. Better than being a psychopath."

"Mm. Just wish I could've.. not been a shitty kid. Then they might still be here."

"Do I have to give you another blowjob speech?"

"No." He said quickly and Bucky giggled into his hair. "It's just weird. I have no idea what they were like, you know? I mean.. I don't even know if they'd like me."

"'Course they'd like you." Bucky sighed, squeezing Steve's shoulder.

"You don't know that."

"No.. but I think you're pretty great. And I mostly hate people."

"Thanks, Buck." Steve said quietly, hugging him tightly before leaning back and propping his arms up behind him. "Seriously.. I needed this."

Bucky smiled at him and looked around for a moment. He had no idea how long they'd been sitting there, but the sun was already low in the sky and there was a cold wind blowing through the cemetery. Neither of them had dressed for sitting outside this long, and he could see Steve shivering next to him.

"You ready to get goin', Stevie?" He asked, nudging his shoulder gently. Steve looked over at the headstones behind them for a moment and nodded slowly.

"Yeah.. I think so."

"Cool. But we have to get food first. I'm not leaving this city until you've eaten."

Steve nodded again and chuckled. "'M starving."

"Good. C'mon." Bucky grinned, pushing himself to his feet and holding a hand out to help Steve up. "You did say you were gonna buy me coffee."

"You heard that part, huh?"

"I have very selective hearing."

Giggling, he led Steve across the grass, not letting go of his hand until they were out of the cemetery. He needed to stop doing that. They only had another 3 days until they'd have to go back to college, so he was really gonna have to work on kicking some of these weird habits he'd apparently picked up. Number 1 being to stop fucking holding Steve's hand in public.
There was a food truck pulled up a few blocks down, and Bucky somehow managed to convince Steve that "Truck food totally counts as a balanced meal", so they both ended up sat on a bench with enough food to feed four people. Okay, habit number 2: stop sitting so close to him.
Bucky slowly edged across the bench a little, trying to put the tiniest bit of distance between them. Fortunately Steve didn't seem to notice and continued shovelling fries into his mouth, oblivious to the conflict going on in Bucky's head. He wasn't even sure what to think about. There were too many thoughts buzzing around in his head for him to focus on anything.

"I've never told anyone that before."  

That kept coming back to him. Sure, he and Steve had gotten pretty close over the past few weeks, but Steve opening up to him like that had caught him off guard. It was always tough for him to talk to people about anything, especially all the shit from his past, but it felt a little better knowing Steve was at least returning the gesture.
Except he hadn't just returned it. He'd told him something nobody else knew about. Everything Bucky had told him was already old news to Clint and Nat, and there wasn't much left for him to tell anymore.

"You okay, Buck?"

"Huh?"

Bucky looked up and saw Steve looking at him, gesturing down at his lap. "You haven't finished your food."

"What? Oh.. right." He mumbled, looking down and poking at his leftover fries. "You want some?"

"Wow. Seriously are you okay?" Steve smirked and Bucky nodded, giggling at the concerned look on Steve's face.

"'M fine. You're the one who needs food right now."

"Are you kidding? Do you realise how much more I've been eating since hanging out with you? I must have put on like 10lbs since I came here."

"You say that like it's a bad thing."

"It's not. I'm just saying, you need to stop worrying about me under eating."

Bucky rolled his eyes and picked up one of the fries, rubbing it against Steve's lips until he ate it. "Seeeeeee, you're hungry." He giggled, continuing to feed him until the last of his food was gone. Okay, this was definitely habit number 3.

"Fine. You wanna get going then?"

"'Kay." Bucky nodded, standing up and following Steve back down the street to the car. "But you're still driving. I'm not going through that amount of stress twice in one day."

Steve chuckled and elbowed Bucky in the arm as they walked. "Jerk."

The quiet of the road gave Bucky a chance to get lost in his thoughts again. He leant his head against the window and watched the streetlights as they blurred past. Steve was quiet next to him, only speaking to ask which direction they were meant to be going. At least he was able to get his directions right, and they managed to make it back just over 30 minutes.
It wasn't until they pulled up in the drive that Bucky realised how exhausted he was. Just sitting up and opening the car door seemed like a huge amount of effort. Yawning, he looked over and saw that Steve looked just as tired as he felt, and it was a few more minutes before they both mustered up the energy to get out of the car. As soon as they came in through the front door they were ambushed by his mom, who ran up to them and wrapped her arms around them both.

"There you boys are. I was getting worried." She said, squeezing them tightly and giving Bucky a stern look. "You could have called me once you got there or something."

"I did tell you what we were doing."

"No. You just said 'we're going to Brooklyn' and then ran off. You didn't tell me where in Brooklyn you were going, or why, or how long for, or anything."

Bucky looked down at his feet ashamedly, kicking at the floor and mumbling, "'M sorry."

"It's okay, sweetheart." She sighed, reaching up to stroke his cheek. "Did you have fun anyway?"

"I mean.. fun isn't really the best word. Steve wanted to go see his parents so-"

"Oh, Stevie, sweetheart. Are you okay, honey?" His mom fussed, turning away from him and pulling Steve into her arms. Steve looked somewhat confused by the sudden attention and stood frozen for a few seconds as she hugged him, and it was a while before he actually started hugging her back. Bucky felt like he was interrupting a bonding session so he headed over to the couch where Meg was sleeping, making the cat jump when he flopped down next to him.

"Did ya miss me, Megsy?" He grinned, giggling when Meg leapt onto him and started nuzzling and licking at his face in response. "Yeah, I missed you too, bud."

Meg mewed at him and curled up on his lap, purring when Bucky scratched between his ears. Any time Bucky shifted even slightly Meg would yowl in protest and bat his paw at him, eventually rolling onto his back to soak up the attention he'd missed out on for most of the day. "I was only gone for a day, Megs. You big baby." Bucky teased as he stroked the fur on the cat's belly.
When Bucky looked round over the back of the couch, his mom was still holding Steve tightly. Steve had his head pressed against her shoulder, which must have been uncomfortable for him because he was at least 5 inches taller than her. He could hear his mom talking to him, but she was speaking too quietly for Bucky to work out what she was saying.
He felt Meg climb up onto his shoulder, and before he could do anything the cat had hopped down onto the floor, stumbling and falling on his face before hobbling over to Steve and rubbing against his legs.

"Hey, Megatron." Steve smirked, reaching down to pick Meg up. "What's up, kitty?"

"He's being an attention whore tonight."

"James." His mom scolded, walking over specifically to swat at his head lightly. "He's missed you. He's been whining and scratching at your door all day."

"Aw, Meg, you loser." Bucky giggled, leaning against the back of the couch and yawning. He felt his mom run her fingers through his hair and he leant into her hand, closing his eyes.

"You look tired, sweetheart."

"Uh huh."

"You should get some sleep."

"Uh huh."

"Are you gonna go to bed?"

"Uh huh."

He opened his eyes in time to see her roll her eyes and smiled sleepily up at her, rubbing his eyes and forcing himself to his feet. "C'mon, Meggy. Bed time." He yawned, taking Meg from Steve's arms and bundling him up in his arms. "You comin'?" He asked Steve, who nodded and yawned simultaneously, rubbing his eyes and following Bucky into his bedroom.

He'd forgotten just how great bed felt, and as soon as he'd collapsed down onto the mattress he decided he never wanted to move ever again. Curling up in the duvet, he snuggled up against the pillow and closed his eyes, smiling when he felt Steve lay down next to him.

"Hey." Steve whispered, and when Bucky opened his eyes a fraction all he could see was bright blue eyes in front of his face.

"Mm.. hey." He murmured sleepily. "You okay?"

"Yeah. I just.. thanks.. for today. It was really great of you."

"S'okay." Bucky smiled, bumping their noses together and shuffling over so he could nestle his head into the crook of Steve's neck.

"And I promise next time we go on a road trip it'll be less depressing."

"Mm'kay."  

"You can go to sleep now." Steve chuckled, running his hands through Bucky's hair softly. Bucky just hummed in response and closed his eyes again. Habit number 4 should probably be to stop cuddling up to Steve in bed.. but he could work on that one tomorrow.


A cold wind woke Bucky up and he opened one eye, looking around for any sign of Steve. Where the hell is he? Groaning, he sat up and shivered.

"Stevie?" He mumbled sleepily. "What's goin' on?"

"Oh shit, sorry."

Steve's voice came from the other side of the room, and when Bucky rolled over he saw him standing by the open window, resting on his elbows against the windowsill.

"You okay?"

"Yeah." Steve said quietly, his voice cracking as he looked back out the window. "Just needed some air. Sorry I woke you up."

"You didn't."

The whole room was freezing, but Bucky forced himself to leave the warmth of the bed, wrapping his arms around himself as he walked over to where Steve was standing. He didn't respond when Bucky leant against his shoulder and rubbed his back.

"Nightmare, right?" He whispered, sliding his hand up to squeeze Steve's shoulder when he nodded. "Should'a woke me up."

"You were asleep."

"Yeah, Stevie. That's kinda the criteria for needing to be woken up." Bucky smirked, nuzzling Steve's cheek and prompting the smallest of smiles from him.

"I know but.. you were really tired earlier. Didn't wanna disturb you."

Bucky rolled his eyes and wrapped his arms around him. "Well I'm awake now."

"Yeah.. sorry. I had to open the window."

"S'okay. You wanna sit outside for a bit?"

"It's freezing out, Buck."

"We can take a blanket. It'll be fine."

Steve frowned at him uncertainly, but eventually nodded and followed Bucky across the room to get some blankets. He'd massively underestimated just how cold it was gonna be outside, and as soon as he set one foot onto the ice cold porch he realised that maybe socks would have been a good idea.
They both huddled up under the blanket with their backs pressed against the back wall of the house, and Bucky watched as Steve closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths. Meg had been following them, but he only stayed outside for a fraction of a second before deciding the cold wasn't worth it and darting back inside, watching them through the glass in the door instead.

"What was the dream about?" Bucky asked after a few minutes, reaching down to squeeze Steve's hand.

He was quiet for a moment, looking down at his lap and sighing before finally whispering, "I get it a lot. Or I used to. It's been a couple of years now but.. think seeing my parents kinda triggered it again."

"Was it about them?"

Steve nodded, sniffling and leaning against Bucky's shoulder. "The start always changes. I'll just be hanging out with them or something. But then we always end up having to drive somewhere, with me in the back of the car. And then we always crash.. and I always wake up again, still in the car. Not for long, just.. just long enough to know that I'm still alive when they're not."

Bucky wrapped his arms around him and buried his face in Steve's hair. "Promise you'll wake me up next time?" He said softly, squeezing Steve's shoulders.

"Yeah. I'm okay.. it just kinda shook me up." Steve mumbled, leaning his head against him and sighing. "Don't usually talk to people about this stuff.. it's nice."

"As the world's leading authority on bottling stuff up.. don't."

"Sure, like you don't still do that."

He didn't have a good response to that, so he kept quiet and nuzzled at Steve's hair instead. Obviously there were still things he hadn't told anybody. Not even Clint knew the whole story. There was nothing bad. No major event, or anything of real value. Just tiny details that he was too scared- no, too ashamed to talk about. But Steve had shared so much with him now, he felt like he owed him something in return.
Almost ten minutes passed in silence before Bucky finally sat up, forcing the words out of his mouth.

"I still loved him."

"Huh?" Steve murmured looking up at him, his brow furrowing in confusion.

"I think that's why I never told my parents about it. I didn't want anything bad happening to him 'cause some sick part of me still cared about him."

"Buck-"

"For months. Months! How could I even.. after everything he did, I still.. I still just wanted him back. He was always reminding me how if I just went back to him, he could stop everyone from beating me up. And I wanted to go back. I wanted it so badly. But I couldn't.. 'cause I knew.. I knew it was never gonna be the way it was. It's not even like he used to be nice. He was always an asshole." He muttered, cursing the tears that were already threatening to spill out. This really wasn't the time for that.

Steve reached up, trying to wipe away one tear that had managed to escape and run down his cheek, but Bucky pushed him away, chewing on his lip as he tried to focus on holding the rest back.

"'S okay to be upset about it, Buck."

"I'm not upset. I'm just-"

"Angry at yourself. I get it." He said softly, running his hand through Bucky's hair as he nodded. "It's okay."

"It's stupid." Bucky mumbled, leaning into Steve's hand. "There was this one time.. a few guys were beating me up just outside the school, and I saw him coming over. And for a moment my idiot brain thought he was gonna help me, 'cause he always used to say he could keep me safe. I thought.. hoped.. that maybe now that he'd seen them hurting me, he'd do something to help."

"What'd he do?"

"He joined in."

He rubbed his eyes furiously, somehow managing to just barely hold himself together. Steve squeezed his shoulder gently and he forced a smile, leaning forward and pressing their foreheads together.

"I've never told anyone that before. So now we're even."

Steve looked up at him and smiled, bumping their noses together gently. Despite the cold Bucky felt his face heat up. Apparently Steve didn't even have to say anything to him anymore to make him blush. Great. That was yet another habit he'd have to kick. He'd lost count of how many that was now.
His train of thought was interrupted by the sound of the back door swinging open, making him jump and spin around.

"The hell are you two doing out here?" His dad asked, staring at them both from the doorway.

"What are you doing out here?" Bucky challenged.

"Your mom said she could hear something outside so- I don't need to fucking explain myself. You're the one sitting on the porch in your fucking underwear at 2:30 in the morning."

Bucky pulled the blanket around himself and frowned. He really wasn't in the mood to explain to him that they were sitting outside to talk about their feelings, but fortunately it seemed like his dad had just woken up, which meant he could easily be pushed away.

"You're not gay, so you wouldn't understand." He smirked, trying not to laugh when his dad stared at him in bewilderment.

"What does that even mean!?"

"Just let us be gay in peace."

"What? What the fuck were you doing?"

"Dad, we're just doing gay things okay?"

"Are you having sex on the porch!?"

"Dad."

"Jesus Christ, I'm leaving." His dad muttered, turning and heading back inside while Bucky giggled.

"What the fuck was that?" Steve asked once he was gone and Bucky shrugged, turning back towards him.

"Would you have preferred to tell him why we were actually outside?"

"Fair enough."

"Mm." Bucky hummed, snuggling back up against Steve and closing his eyes. The distraction had pulled him back into the real world, and he was once again reminded of how cold it was outside. He could feel Steve shivering next to him and wrapped the blanket around him. "You wanna go back inside?"

"Yeh." Steve yawned as he leant against Bucky's shoulder. "You should.. get some sleep." He mumbled between yawns.

"Think you're the one who needs some sleep, Stevie."

Other than making a quiet whining noise, Steve didn't respond, allowing Bucky to pull him to his feet and guide them both back inside. As soon as they were back in the bedroom Steve flung himself onto the bed, snuggling up to Bucky as soon as he was close enough and closing his eyes.

"How much sleep did you get before you woke up earlier?" Bucky asked him, wrapping his arms around him and stroking his hair.

"Not much.." He mumbled sleepily, humming as Bucky started massaging his head with one hand.
Despite a thousand voices in his head screaming at him to go to sleep, Bucky forced himself to keep his eyes open until he was certain Steve was asleep. He watching him breathing for a few minutes, and was just starting to think he'd drifted off when he cracked one eye open again, looking up at him and whispering, "Hey, Buck?"

"Yeah?"

"You're my best friend."

It was barely another minute before he started snoring softly, with his head against Bucky's chest, and Bucky lay awake for a little longer thinking about that. But it wasn't too long before his eyelids won the battle against him, and he finally allowed them to close again.


For the first time in the entire history of all things, Bucky managed to wake up before Steve. It took a few minutes for him to even register this phenomenon at first, sparing him a quick glance before stretching his arms over his head, and then realising that Steve was asleep. Why he was so excited about this was a mystery, but he felt a strange sense of accomplishment at this. Plus it meant he could watch Steve sleep for a little while which was.. really fucking creepy. Jesus, Buck.

They were still in the same position Bucky remembered falling asleep in, although Steve now had one of his legs hooked over Bucky's, and his arms wrapped tightly around Bucky's torso, breathing heavily and drooling all over Bucky's shirt. Which he shouldn't find cute. But it was so cute.

"Stevie?" He whispered, running his fingers through Steve's hair. When Steve didn't respond he giggled, pushing himself upright a little. He still felt tired, and his head was aching slightly from the lack of sleep last night, he wasn't sure he wanted to find out how tired and grumpy Steve would be when he eventually woke up. "I'm gonna go get us some coffee, kay?"

The moment he tried to move Steve protested, whining in his sleep and wrapping his arms and legs tighter around him.

"C'mon, Stevie."

"Nngghh." Steve grumbled, keeping a tight hold on him. Bucky wasn't entirely sure if he was still asleep or just keeping his eyes closed, but as soon as he stopped moving he went straight back to snoring.

He waited a few more minutes before trying again, slowly peeling Steve's arms away from him. Steve still grunted and grumbled occasionally, but Bucky was eventually able to shuffle away from him and slide off the bed.
His mom was standing with her back to him when he came into the kitchen, not turning round when he started the coffee machine.

"You're up late, Stevi- oh." She said when she finally turned around, looking Bucky up and down with a look of shock frozen on her face.

"Hi?"

"What are you doing up?"

"I woke up." Bucky shrugged. "And Steve gets grumpy before he's had coffee so I figured I should.. stop looking at me like that." He grumbled, narrowing his eyes as his mom continued to give him a smug look.

"You're so cute, Jamie."

"I am not cute."

"You're making him coffee before he wakes up."

"Yeah, to save my own ass. Cuteness isn't involved." He grumbled, turning his back to her when she chuckled at him. "Stop laughing."

"I'm not."

"Mom, I can literally hear you laughing."

His mom was giggling too hard behind him to respond and he groaned, turning back around and folding his arms grumpily. "Lots of people make coffee for people." He muttered under his breath.

"You don't have to get so defensive about being nice to your boyfriend, James."

"He's not-"

Bucky froze, resisting the urge to throw his hand over his mouth as she raised her eyebrow at him. "I mean.. it's not like.. that serious I guess." He stammered awkwardly, breathing a sigh of relief when she rolled her eyes.

"Of course it's serious."

"It's been a few months, ma. That's not serious."

"It is!" She exclaimed, putting her hands on her hips stubbornly. "Time has nothing to do with it anyway. You two are completely besotted."

"MOOooooooOOOOooooom." He groaned, dragging his hand down his face in a failed attempt to hide the blush creeping up his face. "'S not that serious."

"It's okay to be in love with hi-"

"Oh hey, the coffee's done!" Bucky interrupted, spinning back to the coffee machine and mixing an unholy amount of sugar into his.

"James." She sighed, coming up behind him and almost making him drop the coffee when he turned back around. He avoided her eyes as she reached up to stroke his cheek. "He loves you, you know. I've seen the way he looks at you."

"Bye!" Bucky squeaked as he turned and headed out of the kitchen as quickly as he dared with two cups of coffee in his hands, ignoring the sound of his mom tutting behind him.

Steve was still sleeping when Bucky came back into the room, his legs curled up and his head pillowed on his arm. He stirred a little when Bucky sat on the bed, rolling onto his back and snuggling closer of him. It wasn't until Bucky started running his fingers through the blond mop of hair that Steve's eyes finally fluttered open and he looked up at him, smiling sleepily.

"Mornin' sleepyhead."

"Mm." He hummed, nuzzling at Bucky's hand and closing his eyes again.

"You sleep okay?"

"Mm hmm."

Bucky giggled and pushed some of the hair away from Steve's face. "I got you coffee."

That got Steve's attention and he looked up at him, propping his head up on his elbow. "You did?"

"I did." He grinned, turning towards the nightstand and frowning at the two mugs. "I mean, I can't remember which is yours. But it's the thought that counts right?"

Behind him Steve collapsed in a fit of giggles, making the bed shake. Bucky picked up one of the mugs and took a tentative sip, his face screwing up in disgust as he almost choked on the horrifically bitter drink.

"Yep, that one tastes like Satan's asshole. It's yours."

"Thanks, Buck." Steve chuckled, taking the cup out of Bucky's hands. "You're so dramatic."

"Steve I've literally tasted assholes, and they taste better than what you're drinking right now."

"It's not supposed to taste good. It's supposed to wake me up."

"You realise that has exactly the same amount of caffeine as mine, right? It would wake you up just as much, without tasting like hell."

"No 'cause yours has cream in it."

"..Yeah?"

"So it's watered down."

"Steve.. that's not how it works."

"Yeah it is."

"Are you.. have you been putting yourself through coffee hell for all these years because you honestly believe cream dilutes the caffeine?"

Steve stared at him for a moment and nodded slowly, looking at him like a lost puppy. "It.. it does though."

"Oh my god, Steve."

"But.. I told Sam the same thing and he didn't say anything."

"I hate to break this to you, but Sam's been laughing behind your back for a long time."

"That fucker." Steve muttered, staring down at his cup bitterly.

"Do you want mine instead?"

"You know what? I do. I've suffered enough."

Bucky giggled as Steve took the mug out of his hands and gulped the drink down.

"Yours is still too sweet though."

"I'm glad you decided that after you drank it all."

"I just.. wanted to make a statement."

"Uh huh." Bucky smirked, leaning against Steve's shoulder and closing his eyes. "If it's okay with you, my plans for today involve moving from here to the couch, and I'm not gonna leave that couch for any reason that doesn't involve food."

"That's cool. I wanted to try out some of the art stuff you got me. I was supposed to be adding some stuff to my portfolio over the holidays and so far I've done a total of zero work."

"Can you draw Meg?"

"If you want, yeah."

"Cool. But can you draw him with like a robot leg where his missing one is. You know, 'cause he's Megatron."

Steve chuckled and nodded, opening his mouth to say something when Bucky piped up, "Oh! And give him like a cyborg eye. So it looks like he's really a cyber-cat with fur on top.. like the terminator!"

"Anything else?"

"And on his robot arm you should but a star like my one. So we can match." Bucky explained, pointing to the tattoo on his shoulder. "Can you do all that?"

"I can try."

"Awesome." He grinned, sitting up and swinging his legs over the edge of the bed. "Now if you'll excuse me I'm gonna put my plans into action, and go lay on the couch."

"Are you gonna put on pants first?"

"Eeeeeeehhhhhhhhhh."

Steve cocked an eyebrow at him and he giggled, turning and heading out of the bedroom. He made it about 5 steps before his mom yelled at him to put some pants on, and he turned back again, grabbing some sweatpants to put on and ignoring Steve's laughter.

Bucky had intended to just watch TV all day, but it turned out that Steve drawing was far more interesting, and he ended up spending the whole day alternating between napping and laying on his stomach on the couch watching what Steve was doing.
It was safe to say Steve was a pretty chaotic artist. He was sitting cross legged on the floor surrounded by paper and various art materials, with one pencil behind his ear, another in his mouth, another in his left hand, and one that he was actually using. Every ten minutes or so Bucky would hear him mutter a string of curses under his breath as he moved his glasses, and subsequently knocked the pencil off his ear repeatedly. Bucky mostly enjoyed the look of complete terror in Steve's eyes every time he called Meg over to check the patterns of his fur, and watched as the cat weaved in and out of the art materials, miraculously not stepping on anything so far. Meg, on the other hand, seemed oblivious to the panic he was causing, and just continued to enjoy the attention he was getting from Steve, mewing and hopping up excitedly every time he was needed.
He was woken up from his fourth nap of the day by Steve poking his shoulder and holding a sketchbook in front of his face.

"Hmm?"

"I finished the rough sketch. Thought you'd wanna see it before I colour it."

"You've only just finished the sketch? You've been drawing for like 5 hours."

"I'm gonna pretend you didn't say that." Steve muttered, narrowing his eyes at him. "Anyway, what do you think? Want me to add anything."

Bucky sat up and rubbed his eyes sleepily, stretching his arms over his head before finally looking at the sketchbook Steve was waving at him. He stared for a moment in disbelief at how detailed his robo-cat drawing was. Even though it was only a pencil drawing the metal looked real, and Bucky wasn't entirely convinced he wouldn't be able to feel real fur if he reached out and touched it.

"How did you do that?"

"I mean, I don't usually draw stuff like this so it's not my best-"

"Fuck right off, Steve."

"James." His mom warned, glancing up from the jigsaw she'd been doing at the table and frowning at him.

Bucky folded his arms grumpily and mumbled, "It's great."

"Thanks." Steve chuckled. "How do you want me to colour it? I can just use pencils again or.." He said, shuffling back over to his scattered art supplies and holding a box up. "There are these reallynice looking paints you got me. Look at them. They're beautiful. If these paints were people I would marry them."

"Do you wanna use the paints, Stevie?"

"I really wanna use the paints." He confessed, looking down at the floor when Bucky giggled at him. "Tell me you want me to paint this."

"Go crazy."

Steve got a somewhat manic look in his eye when Bucky said that, looking back up at him with a huge grin on his face and giggling excitedly to himself as he took the paints out of their box.
It turns out his painting methods were even more hectic than his drawing, and by the time an hour had passed he'd managed to smear paint over his clothes, face, and hair, had chewed on the wrong end of his paintbrush twice, and tried to drink paint water 5 times. How he had gotten this far in life without poisoning himself was a mystery.
Meg had now taken up a permanent spot curled up on Steve's lap, sniffing at the spare brush in Steve's hand and purring every time he started absentmindedly stroking his fur.

"I need to see your eyes, Megs." Steve said after a while, tilting Meg's head up to look at him. "They're so pretty! You're such a pretty kitty! Yeah you are!" He cooed.

"Those paint fumes are going to your head, Stevie."

"Shut up, I'm bonding with my muse."

"Sure."

Steve narrowed his eyes at him and went back to mixing some paint together, mumbling to himself about "creative process".

Another hour passed and Bucky made the decision to re-watch some episodes of RuPaul on his laptop after Steve made an offhand comment that he hadn't watched it, and made a point to commentate the entire thing.

"Honey those shoes?."

"Can you stop?"

"Okay but seriously this bitch has no clue how to contour. Like what the fuck is that? Looks like she's wearing tribal war paint."

" I'm tryin'a concentrate."

"Work it gurl."

"Bucky how did nobody at your high school know you were gay? Seriously."

Bucky narrowed his eyes at him at him, slowly closing his laptop and shrugging. "I just talked about boobs from time to time and everyone was convinced."

Steve chuckled and looked back down at his sketchbook. "Thor and I dressed in drag for this party a couple years ago."

"Seriously?"

"Yeah? I mean he still had a full beard so it was pretty obvious he was in drag. But I had like 3 drunk guys hit on me." Steve smirked. "I think this is finished. Wanna see?"

"Whoa whoa, you can't just change the subject like that. I need pictures of you in a wig."

Sighing, Steve pulled his phone out of his pocket and started scrolling through it for a couple of minutes before holding it out for Bucky. He slid down off the couch and shuffled over, being careful to avoid the maze of pencils and paints on the floor, and took the phone, giggling as soon as he saw the picture.
It was obvious who had made more effort out of the two. Thor had a lopsided wig pulled on his head that looked like it had been bought from a dollar store, with bright blue eye shadow and smudged pink lipstick. Steve on the other hand.. if Bucky didn't know him he'd think it was a girl at first glance.

"Aw, Stevie, you're so pretty." He giggled and Steve blushed, looking down at the floor. "Did you flirt back with the confused heteros?"

"As if I was gonna waste that opportunity."

Smirking, Bucky nudged his arm. "Okay, show me my Megsy." He said, leaning over Steve's shoulder to look at the painting.
He should have expected it by now, but he still couldn't quite believe the picture he was looking at wasn't a photograph.

"I think it came out okay."

"Okay!?" He exclaimed, staring at Steve in disbelief. "Steve that's amazing. I want it framed. Clint's gonna be so pissed when I put that in our bedroom."

"Oh. Okay, I'll have to take a photo of it before you keep it though."

"That's cool. Hey is there any other stuff in here?" Bucky asked, reaching for the sketchbook.

"No!" Steve yelled as he slapped Bucky's hand away. "There's uh.. it's just rough stuff in this one.. nothing interesting."

"Oh.. kay?"

Bucky withdrew his hand and raised his eyebrow at him. "What, have you got porn in there or something?"

"No!"

"Uh huh. Sure, Stevie."

"I'm gonna clear my stuff up." Steve muttered, grabbing his sketchbook and some of the paints and marching into Bucky's bedroom, leaving Bucky giggling to himself on the floor.


His mom had been crying for about twenty minutes now, clinging onto him and snivelling into his shoulder as he packed up the last of his stuff. He'd been so busy all week he'd totally forgotten to pull his usual "I'm leaving early" routine, so he could give her the satisfaction of convincing him to stay for a few more days. But now he'd left it too late, and he and Steve had to leave.

"Mom, I'll be back again in a few months."

"I know, sweetheart, but it's so quiet around here without you."

"You should foster a kid."

"You'd hate that."

"I wouldn't hate it. I'd just spend every waking moment fighting them for your attention." Bucky smirked, cramming the last unfolded shirt into his suitcase while his mom giggled. "Megs, you need to move."

Meg had made himself comfortable curled up on top of the clothes, and gave him a grumpy look when he heard Bucky talking to him.

"He wants to go with you."

"I want you to come with me too, Megsy." Bucky whined, scooping the cat up in his arms and burying his face in the fur on Meg's neck to whisper, "You're coming with me, right, Megs?"

"I heard that."

"Heard what?"

"James, every holiday you smuggle him into the car with you. I'm not driving all the way to Chicago again to pick him up."

"Mom, I'm a responsible adult. I know Meg has to stay here."

"Mm." His mom said sternly, giving him an unconvinced look and heading back out into the sitting room.

"Okay, Megsy. I'm gonna put this bag in the car, and I'm gonna leave the door slightly open, you got that? Then we put on a big show of me saying goodbye to you, and when the coast is clear you hop in the car.

Meg blinked at him and licked his nose, which Bucky took as an agreement. "Clint's gonna be so excited to see you." He smirked, giggling when Meg mewed at him.

"Buck, you ready to go?" Steve asked, poking his head around the door.

"Huh? Yeah, hang on. C'mon, Megs." He grinned, cradling the cat in one arm and dragging his bag off the bed with the other. Steve didn't respond, following him across the room.
He'd been quiet all morning, which Bucky assumed was down to tiredness. For some reason Steve had insisted on staying up the night before until all his stuff was packed instead of finishing in the morning, despite Bucky reminding him 20 times that they'd have to get up at 5am. And now he'd spent the whole morning moping around the house while Bucky packed.
It was still dark outside, and his dad was busy loading up Bucky's tiny, shitty little car. He wanted to cry a little as he ran his hand over the hood of his Porsche.

"I'll come back for you, baby." He whispered, patting it lovingly. Meg wriggled in his arm and he set him down on the ground so he could follow him down the drive. He forcefully shoved his suitcase into the backseat, leaving the door open a fraction for Meg.

"Have you woken up yet?" His dad asked, ruffling his hair as he walked behind him.

"It's 5:30am. I'm not gonna be awake for a good few hours."

"You could at least lie to give me some sort of confidence in your driving, Buck."

Bucky just giggled, yawning dramatically and scooping Meg back up. "'M really gonna miss you, Meggy."

"You're not taking the cat with you."

"That's why I'm saying goodbye."

"Uh huh. I'm not taking my eyes off that cat." His dad warned, staring down at Meg. Bucky narrowed his eyes at him and turned on his heel, walking over to his mom, who threw her arms around him as soon as he was close enough.

"I'm gonna miss you so much, baby." She sniffled, pulling him close and stroking his hair. "You drive safe, okay? And call me when you get back. Make sure you get enough to eat. And keep up with your studies. You're doing so well, sweetheart. I'm so proud of you."

"Ma-"

"Say hi to Clint and Nat for me. And don't forget to call me. If you need anything you call me okay? Look after yourself."

"Mom I have to-"

"And make sure you.. no, Jamie, this is important." She said as she grabbed his chin, turning his head back to face her. "You make sure you hold onto Steve okay?"

"Mom."

"I know you get scared about this sort of thing. But you deserve to be happy, okay?"

Bucky chewed on his lip and avoided her eyes as she stroked his cheek.

"Promise me."

"Mom I don't-"

"Promise me."

Sighing, he nodded and looked up at her. "I promise."

"Good boy." She smiled, pulling him down to kiss the top of his head. "I love you so much, sweetheart."

"Love you too."

"Okay. I'll see you soon."

Bucky smiled at her, dropping Meg onto the floor so he could hug her tightly. He pressed his face into her shoulder for a few seconds before letting go and watching her immediately run over to Steve with her arms stretched out. His dad came up behind him and squeezed his shoulder, stumbling back when Bucky spun around to hug him.

"Still not taking my eyes of the cat."

"Daaaaaaad." He groaned.

"I know you've told him to get in that car, he's staring at me, waiting to make his move."

"He's just a cat. He can't plot against you."

"Every year, Buck. Every year that cat outsmarts me. But not this time."

Bucky giggled, snuggling closer to him. "'M gonna miss you, dad."

"I'm gonna miss you too, but you'll have to do better than that to distract me." His dad chuckled, ruffling his hair. "Seriously though. You take care of yourself, okay?"

"How many people are gonna say that to me today?"

"As many as it takes for you to listen."

Rolling his eyes, Bucky let go of him and turned back around. Meg was still sitting by the car, flicking his tail patiently while his dad stared him down. He needed a new plan of action.
Picking the cat up, he grabbed Steve and turned him around to face him.

"I need your help distracting my dad." He whispered, tugging at the collar of shirt.

"Wha- mmff!" Steve gasped as Bucky crushed their lips together. For a moment he froze against him, and Bucky started to think maybe he should have given him more warning than that, but then he felt Steve moan softly against his mouth and start kissing him back, reaching a hand up to hold his face.
Bucky didn't even need to look to know his dad was making every effort to avoid looking at them, and he dropped Meg back down, listening to him scurrying across the drive to the car. Okay, you can stop kissing him now.
But this was also their last kiss ever, and Bucky couldn't stop himself from wrapping his arms around Steve's neck to hold him there just a little longer. He flicked his tongue out against Steve's bottom lip, just barely, just to try and savour the taste of toast and coffee on his lips. And as they parted again, breathing heavily and staring at each other, he decided that no matter what happened, he was never going to let himself forget how that tasted.

Chapter Text

"MUMMIFIED MY TEENAGE DREAMS!"

"Bucky can you please-"

"NO IT'S NOTHING WRONG WITH ME!"

"Buck-"

"THE KIDS ARE ALL WRONG! THE STORY'S ALL OFF! HEAVY METAL BROKE MY HEART!"

Bucky slammed his fists against the steering wheel in time to the music and Steve let out a deep sigh next to him, leaning his head back against the seat.

"Buck, you're driving. Can you not do that?"

"Sorry. Got carried away." He giggled, turning his attention back to the road. "Do you wanna stop for coffee soon, grumpypants?"  

"Yes." Steve muttered as he closed his eyes, groaning when Bucky picked up his singing. It was a few more minutes before Bucky saw him out of the corner of his eye, turning in his seat to try and look over his shoulder. "Did you hear that?"

"Hear what?"

"Think something just fell over on the seat."

"Oh that's probably just Meg."

"Oh, oka- what?"

"He'll probably be comfier if you let him sit on your lap. C'mon, Megsy."

Steve yelped as the cat jumped up onto his leg, curling up and mewing cheerfully.

"Bucky, why is your cat in the car?"

"Because he's my baby, and I can't leave my baby behind." Bucky shrugged, reaching a hand out to scratch Meg's ears quickly.

"Do your parents know you took him?"

"What time is it?"

"6am."

"They know."

Steve groaned and hung his head in despair, glancing out of the window. "We just stole a cat."

"We didn't steal him. He's my cat." Bucky chuckled. "I take him back with me all the time. It's getting harder to sneak him past my parents though. Hence the, uh.. spontaneous make out thing earlier."

"Oh.. that's what that was about."

"Yeah. Thanks for not freaking out by the way."

"'M just used to it I guess." Steve said quietly as he stroked Meg's fur, turning to look out of the window and not saying anything until they pulled up at a Dunkin' Donuts for coffee.

They got a few raised eyebrows walking in with a cat following them, but when Bucky pointed out to the barista that technically there was no sign stating they couldn't have a cat, they just shrugged and let them be. It wasn't until Steve had finished his third coffee and Bucky had finished his seventh donut that they actually started to acknowledge each other's presence again.

"Okay." Steve said, pushing his empty coffee cup away from him. "Didn't you say before that Meg hates Clint?"

Bucky shrugged, giggling to himself and looking down at Meg, who was curled up on his lap nibbling on a piece of donut. "Weeeeeelllll.. it's more the other way around. Clint hates cats, and Meg knows that so he makes it his sole mission in life to bother him as much as possible."

"And he still lets you bring him back?"

"It's not that he lets me, Steve. I just turn up with Meg and he's forced to accept it."

Steve raised an eyebrow at him and chuckled. "That's cruel."

"He's used to it. I should probably call him actually, he's probably already back at the apartment."

"I can drive for a while if you want? But we should probably get going."

"But I still have donuts."

"And if we go now, you'll still have donuts in a couple of hours when you're actually hungry."

"You sound like my mom." Bucky smirked, tucking the donut box under one arm and Meg under the other before following Steve back out to the car.

It took some expert manoeuvring for Bucky to be able to cradle both the donuts and Meg in his arms, while also keeping one hand free to call Clint. The phone rang for less than a second before Bucky's eardrum was burst by Clint screaming down the phone at him.

"HEARING AIDS! ONE SECOND!"

"Fucking Christ. I'm gonna need hearing aids after that." He muttered, listening to the sound of Clint searching around the room before he finally came back.

"Okay. Hi."

"You wanna speak a little louder? You just fucking deafened me."

"Wow. That would be such a hardship. I can't even imagine what that would be like."

"Fuck off. I thought you decided to just keep your hearing aids in all the time?"

"Yeah, but you remember that girl who moved in above us a few months ago? And we never saw her because she was always at her friend's?"

"Yeah?"

"Well her friend has moved in."

"Oh."

"And they have really loud sex."

"Yikes."

"That's a thing you're gonna experience when you get back."

"How bad can it possibly be?"

"So bad that I, a straight male, chose to deafen myself in order to avoid listening to two women orgasm." Clint mumbled in a deadpan voice. "They're still doing it now. Lesbians have a lot of stamina. This is really off topic, what do you want anyway?"

"Well I was gonna ask if you were back at college yet, but you kinda answered that for me."

"Yeah I'm back, and I'm lonely. Nat doesn't get back 'til tomorrow night."

"If I had a tiny violin, I would play it."

"Fuck off. When are you coming baaaaack?"

 "I'm literally driving back right now."

There was a long pause down the phone before he finally heard Clint say, "You're.. driving.. right now?"

"I'm not driving. Steve's driving."

"Oh! Jesus Christ, don't do that to me."

"How dumb do you think I am?"

"Buck, I've had to tell you on more than one occasion not to put metal in the microwave."

"Foil isn't even really metal."

"It is metal! It is literally 100% metal!"

"Shut up. I'll be up there by like 8pm, okay?"

"Fine. See you later, asshole."

Bucky giggled as he hung up the phone, shoving it into his pocket and wrangling Meg, who was busy attempting to scramble onto the dash, back into his lap. The cat wriggled and protested until Bucky offered him another piece of donut.

"Steve you want a donut?"

"Didn't you stop eating those two minutes ago?"

"Yeeeeaaaaaaaah. But they're on my lap." Bucky shrugged, cramming one into his mouth. "Whaff elfff mm I suffoseff choo do wiff 'em?"

"I'm concerned that I understood that." Steve mumbled to himself.

The more Bucky woke up, the more he became aware that this was probably going to be the last time he actually saw Steve for a few days. He'd probably want to catch up with all his other friends now.. and he already said he had to get some more of his art work done.. and he had a job to get back to. He'd never have any time for him.
He found he wasn't really in the mood to sing along to his music anymore, and the rest of the journey was filled with awkward silence and minimal conversation. Steve eventually started thinking out loud rather than talking, and Bucky listened to him planning out his next art project for college, finding it impossible not to smile at how excited he was getting.

"Shit, I don't have student loans anymore. I can buy stuff. They have these huuuuge canvases at this store in town. Like, huge. And I keep going in there to just kinda staring lovingly at them but now I can buy one. Oh my god. What would I even paint on it? They're fucking huge. I could paint anything on it. Could paint the fucking universe on those things. I could paint the universe. Space is cool. I could paint space. Shit is this the turning?" Steve said suddenly, looking up and managing to swerve the car just in time to make the turning.

"Steve, there is a baby on board. Drive safe."

"We don't have a baby."

"Meg is my baby." Bucky proudly stated, stroking Meg's chin. "You have a responsibility to our child."

"I'm pretty sure having a cat loose in the car is already unsafe."

"Meg knows road safety okay, he's in the car a lot."

Steve looked over at him and frowned, glancing down at Meg before turning back to the road. "We're almost back."

"Shit, seriously?"

"Buck it's 7:30."

"I know.. it just didn't feel like we'd been driving that long."

"Well I feel like I've been driving for 2 days."

Bucky narrowed his eyes at him and looked out the window. It was dark outside, but he could just make out a few familiar sights as they got closer to the college campus.

"You gonna be okay driving back on your own?" Steve asked, looking over at him.

"Why am I driving back on my own?"

"I mean.. it's cool if you're planning to move in with me. Sam might be pissed though."

"Oh.. right. We don't live together." Bucky mumbled, looking down at his hands and chewing on his lip. He needed to pull himself together.

They pulled up outside Steve's dorms and sat in the car for a few minutes, avoiding each other's eyes and staying quiet. Eventually Steve broke the silence by drumming his fingers against the steering wheel and reaching down to undo his seatbelt.

"Okay.. I guess I should-"

"I'll help you get your bags inside." Bucky cut in, frantically getting his seatbelt off and startling Meg awake in the process. Steve just shrugged, nodding slowly and getting out of the car.

"Doesn't seem like there's many people back yet." He said as they walked through the front door. The whole building was quiet and it felt almost eerie as they headed up the stairs to Steve's room.

"Is Sam back?"

"Nah, he's back tomorrow morning." Steve mumbled, pushing the door open with his shoulder and flicking the light on. "Which means I can watch YouTube without headphones. Simple pleasures."

Bucky frowned at him and he shrugged, dumping his bags onto the bed and flopping down next to them. "I have a lot of subscriptions I'm behind on."

"Right.."

"And I should probably unpack too."

"Stevie?"

Steve looked up from the bag he was rifling through and raised an eyebrow at him expectantly. "Yeah?"

"Do you.. I mean.. if you want I could.. stay for a while? It seems kinda lonely here at the moment." Bucky offered, rocking back on his heels awkwardly as he waited for Steve to make some kind of response. Please say yes. Please say yes. Shit, get a grip. Please say no. Please say something.

"I.. I thought Clint was whining at you to get back?"

"Well yeah but.." Shut up. "I just thought I'd offer."

"It's fine." Steve smiled, shaking his head. "'M used to the quiet. Plus you're not allowed animals in here."

"Technically we're not allowed them in the apartment either." Bucky mumbled, forcing himself to smile back. He wants you to leave. "I should get going then, I guess." He said quietly, gesturing to the door and taking a few steps backwards.

"Hey, c'mere."

Bucky froze on the spot and waited for Steve to come over. He wasn't sure exactly when he'd lost his ability to function as a human being, but he was apparently now incapable of movement or speech. He only regained some control over his body when Steve came over and wrapped his arms around him, pulling him close and leaning their heads together. Bucky sighed and moved his arms to hug Steve back, gripping onto his shirt as he breathed him in.

"It's gonna be weird.. not having you around all the time." Steve whispered after a while, pulling back slightly to look at him but not taking his hands off him. "I'm gonna miss you.. in a weird way."

"Yeah." Bucky sighed, looking down at his feet. This wasn't supposed to hurt. "I'll miss you too. Also in a weird way."

Steve chuckled and squeezed his shoulders before letting go of him to scratch the back of his neck. "I mean.. I'm gonna be super busy tomorrow.. But I'll text you. I think I'm free on Wednesday so we could-"

"It's Clint's birthday on Wednesday."

"Fuck.. we'll figure something out. I'll see you in a couple days probably?"

"Yeah." Bucky said again, smiling and pulling his keys out of his pocket. "See ya, I guess."

"Right.. see ya."

Bucky waved awkwardly and spun on his heel, heading back downstairs and out the front door. He couldn't tell if he was just more aware of the weather now, or if it had actually gotten colder since he'd been inside, but he was shivering by the time he got back to the car.
Meg hopped onto his lap as soon as he sat down, climbing up him and nuzzling at his face to warm him up.

"Meg.. Megs I can't drive with you on my lap." Bucky mumbled, scooping the cat up and dumping him onto the passenger seat. Meg mewed indignantly but accepted his fate, curling up and watching him as he started the car.

He'd thought the quiet drive home with Steve had been uncomfortable enough, but now it was silent. Already he missed listening to Steve talking to himself, or just being able to hear him breathe. Just knowing that there was nobody in the seat next to him was making his heart ache.
Steve did say he would text him, just not until tomorrow, which already felt like too long to wait. How soon was too soon to send him a message? Maybe he could just go over tomorrow? He couldn't be busy all day. Or maybe he should just turn the car around. Maybe he should have actually fucking said something instead of just standing there like a moron. Fuck.
Bucky pulled the car to the side of the road and thumped his head against the steering wheel, groaning to himself.

"I'm a fucking idiot."

Meg mewed and hopped back over, batting his paw at Bucky's arm and blinking up at him.

"I don't even know what I want to say to him." Bucky sighed, picking Meg up and stroking his fur. "I just.. I don't know what's goin' on with me, Megs. This wasn't supposed to happen."

The cat purred and rubbed his face against Bucky's cheek as he sniffled, chewing on his lip and squeezing his eyes shut. He took a few deep breaths and forced himself to calm down again, clinging tightly to Meg who just continued purring softly.
After a few minutes he sighed, moving Meg back onto the passenger seat and reaching out to turn the radio on, desperate for something to block out the silence. He regretted it instantly when Sam Smith started blasting through the speakers.

Oh won't you staaaaay with me?

"Oh fuck off!" He yelled, smashing his hand against the radio until it stopped. Silence would have to do. Groaning, he dragged his hand down his face and started the car back up, making an effort to get back home as quickly as possible.

He could see the light was on in the apartment window when he pulled up, which made him feel a little better, and when he came through the door he was immediately jump tackled by Clint, who leapt onto him and wrapped his legs around him, forcing Bucky to hold him upright.

"Buuuuuuck. My bro. My man. My main guy. My buddy."

"Yeah, hi. Clint can I-"

"Shh, just let me hug you."

"You're not really giving me much of a choice here." Bucky grunted, his arms straining as he tried to hold Clint up. "I'm gonna drop you. That was your 3 second warning."

"My 3 second wha- FUCK!" Clint yelped as he fell to the floor with a thud, groaning and scowling up at him. "You ass."

"What did you honestly expect from me?"

Clint narrowed his eyes at him as he picked himself up of the ground. "Dick." He muttered, pushing past Bucky to get to the door. "C'mon, where's our PS4."

"My PS4."

"Oooooouuuuuuuuurs." He repeated, patting Bucky's shoulder and hopping down a couple of the stairs. "C'mon, I wanna see our new baby."

Rolling his eyes, Bucky followed him back out to the car, giggling when he saw Clint recoil in horror at the sight of Meg looking through the window.

"What is that doing here?"

"Shut up, you love him." Bucky smirked, opening the door to scoop the cat up. "Meggy, say hi!"

Meg mewed as Bucky moved his paw to wave at Clint, grinning at him.

"There is evil in that cat's eyes."

"Don't be mean to my Megsy." He said as Clint turned his back on them to grab some of Bucky's bags. "He makes me feel better."

"Right. How're you feelin' anyway? Did you and Steve have a romantic parting moment where you both gazed into each other's eyes and-"

"Fuck off." Bucky muttered, dropping Meg down by his feet to pick up the rest of his bags and skulking back inside before Clint could say anything else.

He pushed open the bedroom door, letting Meg trot in front of him before flicking the light on and dumping his bags onto the floor. It was obvious Clint hadn't been back for that long, as half the room was filled with bags that still hadn't been unpacked. The only things that seemed to have been unpacked was Clint's laptop, a crate of beer, and a handful of underwear that had been unceremoniously left in a pile by the side of the bed.

"How long did you say you'd been back?" He asked, turning around when he heard Clint closing the front door.

"Since Friday."

"You've been here for three days and all you've unpacked is some underwear?"

"I'm a bachelor, Buck."

Bucky raised an eyebrow at him and shook his head. "At least you unpacked beer."

"Obviously."

"Is there more? I need to get drunk as fuck."

It was Clint's turn to give him a questioning look, and he leant against the doorframe, frowning at him and folding his arms. "Missing Steve already huh?"

"Can't I just get wasted without being questioned about it?"

"You just got back from spending 3 weeks with him, and are now being grumpy as fuck. Obviously I'm questioning it."

"'M not being grumpy." Bucky mumbled, hanging his head and kicking at the floor.

"Yeah you are. And usually I'd put it down to being forced into my company again, but considering Meg's been glued to you since he got out the car I'm gonna guess you've been miserable for a while."

"It's painful when you try to use your brain."

"See! This is what I'm talking about."

Bucky narrowed his eyes at him, picking Meg back up and pushing past Clint into the front room. He flopped down onto the couch and curled up with Meg in his arms, stroking his fur and huffing to himself.

"How long are you planning on keeping this up?" Clint asked, sitting across from him and looking him up and down. "Because this is already painful to watch."

"Are we getting drunk or what?"

"You're not drinking my beer 'til you admit you're miserable."

"You think I don't have my own?"

"Buck-"

"I'm obviously in a shitty mood. Why do you need me to say it out loud?" Bucky snapped, immediately burying his face in Meg's fur and groaning. "I wanna take a nap but also get drunk but I also need a hug and it's really cold in here and I just want a blanket and some pizza."

Clint didn't say anything until Bucky looked back up, shrugging and leaning back against the couch as he mumbled, "Wanna order pizza?"

"Do you need to ask that?" Bucky asked, smirking and snuggling back up with Meg as Clint got up to get his laptop. "I also want chicken strips, and garlic bread, and cheese sticks, and ice cream."

"Buck you literally sound like you've just gone through a break up."

"Technically I have. Now order my food."

Clint raised an eyebrow at him and Bucky huffed impatiently, narrowing his eyes at him until he turned back to his laptop. He ignored Clint's grumbling about how he wasn't "maaaade of money, like some people."

Sure, Bucky had asked for a lot of food. But he wasn't prepared for three delivery guys showing up at the door with armfuls of food.

"You spoil me, Clinty." Bucky grinned, cramming another slice of pizza into his mouth and nuzzling Clint's shoulder affectionately.

"Never ever call me that again."

"I wuuuuuv you, Clinty."

Clint groaned as Bucky flung his arms around him and pushed him back against the couch, snuggling up against his chest and humming.

"Is there any ice cream left?"

"You ate it all in five minutes, Buck."

"No fair."

"I mean seriously, who eats ice cream first? You've done a lot of shit in the time I've known you but that just.. really offended me. Like, there was so much pizza and chicken and you.. you ate the ice cream. Who fucking does that?"

Bucky shrugged and snuggled closer to him. "I just wanted ice cream."

"Can you stop hugging me?"

"No."

"You're invading my personal bubble."

"Don't care."

Letting out a deep sigh, Clint patted his shoulder awkwardly and tried to move to a more comfortable position. They both lay there for a while and Bucky closed his eyes, trying to stop himself from pretending the heartbeat in his ear was Steve's.

"I want you to know this is the least hetero moment of my life." Clint said after a few minutes, finishing the beer in his hand and trying to stretch across Bucky's body to reach for more. "You want another one?"

"Yeah.. what do you mean this is the least hetero moment of your life? We've shared a bed."

"Fine, then this is the second least hetero-"

"Clint you made out with me at a party last year."

"You swore you'd never bring that up again."

Bucky cracked up laughing, rolling onto his back and clutching his stomach as he giggled uncontrollably.

"Stop it." Clint mumbled, handing him another beer as he shrugged.

"It's okay to experiment from time to time."

"Shut up."

"I just wasn't expecting tongues."

"Shut up!" Clint yelled, his voice coming out several octaves higher than usual. "I was drunk. You were drunk. It was weird."

"I'll say. I've never been kissed that passionately before."

"Fuck right off, Buck."

Bucky giggled again and took a swig from the bottle in his hand while Clint actively avoided looking at him. "See, my question is-"

"If you keep talking about this I swear to god-"

"-how come you can do that to me but you can't make a move on Nat?"

Clint narrowed his eyes at him and Bucky shrugged as he sat up, bringing his knees up to his chin and looking over at him expectantly.

"Why did you have to bring that up?"

"Because she's coming back tomorrow which means I have to watch you two dance around admitting anything to each other again. It's painful to watch."

"Oh really? As painful as it is for me to watch you acting as if you haven't fallen for Steve?"

"Don't change the subject!"

"You started it! I'm not talking about Nat if you're not talking about Steve."

Folding his arms, Bucky chewed on his lips thoughtfully for a moment. Clint clearly thought he'd successfully avoided the subject and leant back against the couch, smirking smugly to himself while Bucky sat quietly.

"You know what? Fine." He said eventually, making Clint look up again.

"What?"

"You tell me why you're not asking Nat out, and I'll let you ask me about Steve."

"Seriously? You sound 12."

"Fine." Bucky shrugged. "If you don't want me to talk about-"

"Whoa, hey. I never said that." Clint butted in quickly, knocking back the last of his beer. "I just don't feel like I'm drunk enough to talk about my feelings."

"My dad got me expensive tequila for Christmas."

"Barney got me rainbow shot glasses."

"First of all that's a shitty present-"

"No fuck off they're awesome."

"-Second of all, you know what this means, right?"

They both stared at each other for a second with matching excited grins on their face before yelling, "BATTLESHOTS!" in unison and scrambling towards the bedroom to get their stuff.
Neither Clint or Bucky believed in the idea of complex drinking games, and since becoming aware of the fact that they could combine battleships with alcohol, it was rare for them to do anything else. Bucky sat cross legged on the floor arranging the shots while Clint examined the bottle.

"This is some strong shit, Buck."

"Mmhmm. Outta loosen you up a bit."

"I.. I don't know how to feel about that."

Clint frowned at him and Bucky giggled to himself, lining the glasses up in rainbow order. "I changed my mind about these. They're really gay. I love them."

"Can you just hurry up?"

"Alright, jeeze. Okay so this time the twist is: get hit, you have to answer a question. Deal?"

"Okay but you can't make every question about Nat."

"After 4 or 5 of these babies, I won't know who the fuck Nat is." Bucky smirked, sliding the board over. "Let's do it."

Clint had a pretty big reputation for being awful at battleships. No matter how many times they played, he always lined all of the ships up next to each other, insisting it was tactical. Despite this, he somehow managed to get a hit first, cackling when Bucky drank the first shot.

"Okay, my first question.."

"Can't you just give me a dare instead?"

"Sure. I dare you to answer my first question."

"Fuck off." Bucky mumbled, running his finger around the rim of his glass while Clint sniggered to himself. "Fine, just get it over with."

"Do you miss Steve right now?"

"I literally saw him an hour ago why would I-"

"Answer the question, Barnes."

Bucky folded his arms defensively and chewed on his bottom lip, looking down at the floor as he mumbled, "A little."

"I'll accept that. Okay it's your turn, chose wisely."

"You know as soon as I find one of your ships you're completely fucked, right?"

"Just take your turn."

He felt more pressure now, and spent at least five minutes staring intently at the board and chewing on his lip thoughtfully. "J... 2?"

"You bastard."

"You've got them around the edge of the board haven't you, you fucking moron."

Clint didn't say anything, giving him a dirty look as Bucky handed him a shot.

"Drink up, buttercup."

"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?"

"I don't know I just.. liked that it rhymed." Bucky shrugged as Clint knocked the shot back. "Ready to talk about your feelings?"

"Do I have a choice?"

"Absolutely not."

"Alright go for it."

"Okay.. how long have you been crushing on Nat?"

"I haven't even said that I am crushing on her yet."

"Are you really gonna bother denying it?" He asked, smirking when Clint frowned at him.

"You remember when we were 19-"

"Fucking hell."

"-and we went out to that club downtown for her birthday? Can't remember what it was called.. The Red Room?"

"Yeah I think so."

"Yeah, and then you remember that guy kept trying to hit on you and Nat was like really drunk and basically kicked his ass in the middle of the dance floor?"

"Yeah."

"Yeah."

"I feel like I just discovered one of your kinks and it's kinda making me uncomfortable."

"Fuck off." Clint laughed, chucking the empty glass at Bucky's head and leaning back on his hands. "That was when I kinda.. fell for her I guess."

"That was like.. three years ago."

"Two and a half."

"You honestly amaze me."

"Shut up, it's my turn."

"Go ahead, captain blue-balls."

"You fucking- I've still been dating people!" Clint protested, looking back down at the board and avoiding Bucky's judgemental gaze.

"Sure, bud. Dating people while suppressing your feelings for someone else. Real healthy."

"D4."

"Don't ignore me."

"D4."

Sighing, Bucky locked eyes with him as he downed his second shot, cringing as it started burning his throat. "Okay, hit me."

"If Steve texted you right now and said he wanted to take you out what would you say?"

"Now who sounds 12?"

"I'm drinking tequila, cut me some slack."

"Clint you've had one shot."

"Just answer it."

"I don't know! I can't.. I'd probably just spend an hour trying to talk him out of it." Bucky mumbled, shrugging and scratching the back of his neck while Clint frowned at him.

"That's a shitty answer. Would you go out with him, yes or no?"

"You can't ask two questions."

"Stop giving crappy answers then."

"Stop asking crappy questions."

Clint narrowed his eyes at him, muttering a string of curses under his breath as he reached over to grab another shot.

"I haven't said anything yet."

"We both know you don't need to."

Bucky giggled and thought for a moment. "Why haven't you asked Nat out yet?"

"Because I like her.. like as a person. And she's one of the best friends I've ever had."

"Besides me."

"Yeah. So I don't wanna make things weird. Plus, no offense, but we're also pretty much your only friends so I didn't want you to feel.. left out?"

"Are you fucking kidding me!?" Bucky exclaimed, slamming his hand down on the board. "I have been begging you to ask her out!"

"Well it's different now, 'cause you have Steve."

"So you're saying you might actually ask her out now?"

"I didn't say that."

"You kinda implied it." Bucky smirked, stretching his leg out to nudge Clint with his foot. "Do it."

"Fuck off."

"Doooooo iiiiiiit."

Clint ignored him and pushed a shot towards him. "Your turn."

"You haven't made your move yet."

"Buck I know where your ship is, just drink it."

"No you have to say it first."

"F4."

"FUCKING MISS, MOTHERFUCKER!"

"You ass."

Bucky giggled and Clint threw another empty shot glass at him, missing by several feet and cursing. While Clint was grumbling to himself Bucky got to his feet, grabbing one of the boxes of pizza and dropping it back down on the floor between him and Clint.

"There's no way you're hungry."

"Don't underestimate me." Bucky smirked, taking the biggest bite he could from a slice of pizza. "Okay I'm taking a shot anyway because I don't wanna be less drunk than you, you're just not allowed to ask me anything."

Clint frowned at him as Bucky drank the third shot, grinning at him before gesturing towards him. "Drink up."

"No way, if I have to carry on playing normally then so do you."

"Clint I'm guaranteed to hit one of yours."

"Make. Your. Move."

"D10"

"Fuck."

Bucky folded his arms smugly and opened his mouth to speak when Clint cut him off.

"You promised not all the questions would be about Nat."

"There's nothing else I want to ask you about, though."

"Well you better think of something fast." Clint shrugged before drinking the tequila in his hand.

"Fine.." Bucky mumbled, pondering on it for a few moments and smirking. "Okay. I have a question for you, Barton."

"I'm suddenly nervous."

"Do you think I'm a good kisser?"

"I really hate you, you know that?" Clint groaned, dragging his hand down his face. "I'm gonna remind you again that you promised not to bring that up."

"I'm not hearing an answer."

He watched, giggling, as Clint hid his face in his hands and mumbled, "You're a good kisser."

"Thanks, babe."

"I fucking hate you."

"Sure you do."

"You're gonna regret that as soon as I get a hit, which I'm about to because I can't fail this time. You're going down."

"Get on with it then."

"B4."

Bucky sighed, picking the plastic ship off the board and throwing it at Clint's face. "Satisfied?"

"Very."

Clint had sunk one of his ships, which meant Bucky had to drink two shots instead of one. He downed them both as quickly as possible, taking another bite of pizza to try and wipe out some of the taste, which seemed to be getting stronger the more he drank.

"Are you ready?"

"Ready for what?"

"I sunk your battleship, so I'm gonna celebrate by asking the million dollar question." Clint grinned, leaning towards him with evil in his eyes. "Do you love him?"

"I'm gonna need you to be more specific."

"Like hell you do."

"It's true, I am in love with Meg." Bucky sighed, glancing over at the cat, who was curled up asleep on the couch. "It feels good to admit it."

"You're hilarious." Clint said flatly. "Okay, fine. I'll be specific. Are you, Bucky Barnes, in love with Steve Rogers?"

"Technically Bucky Barnes isn't my full name so-"

"Buck I will punch you."

Bucky groaned and lay back onto the floor, covering his face with his hands and sighing. "I don't know."

"That's not an answer."

"I don't! I don't know what's going on with me and it's pissing me off."

"Would you like a hint?"

"Fuck off. I just.. uugh I don't know. I don't even know what love feels like." He sighed, chewing on the crust of his pizza. "It's not like it was with Rumlow. I really liked Rumlow.. and I really like Steve.. but it doesn't feel the same. And I don't think I can date him 'cause.. I don't think I can lose him."

It was quiet for a moment, and when Bucky looked up Clint was staring down solemnly at the glass in his hand. Eventually he looked up, leaning back on his hands and downing another shot for no apparent reason.

"Okay, I'm about to be really sentimental and gross but it's only because I love you.. and also because there's a lot of alcohol in my system right now."

"I'll take that."

"Okay here goes. You're great, okay? Like really great. And you deserve to be happy."

"You're freaking me out, how much have you had to drink?" Bucky asked, glancing over at the small collection of shot glasses by Clint's leg.

"I'm not finished. What was I saying?"

"You said I deserve to be happy."

"Right. You do. And Steve? He makes you happy. So you deserve to be with him."

They both stared at each other for a while until Clint started chuckling to himself, shaking his head. "That was weird. Sorry."

"Not as weird as you making out with me."

"If you mention that one more time tonight I swear to god."

Bucky winked at him and Clint narrowed his eyes. "Wanna call it quits on the truth thing and just finish the game?"

"Sounds like a plan." Bucky said, nodding and looking back down at the board.

The more drunk they both got, the less attention they paid to the fact that they were actually supposed to be playing a game, and soon enough they were both knocking back shots with no real memory of why.

"Okay, but Buck.. Buck listen.." Clint slurred after a while, making several attempts to grab Bucky's shoulder before he finally coordinated himself enough. "Buck.. there are billions.. like.. like a dozen guys who wanted to date you after you fucked 'em."

"Your voice sounds funny." Bucky giggled, nibbling on another slice of pizza.

"No, listen. Listen, I.. I forgot what I was saying."

"I should just.. date everyone."

"Yeah!"

"Not everyone can be a fucked up sack of shit!"

"Fuck yeah!" Clint yelled, lifting his glass up in the air enthusiastically and spilling tequila on both of them.

"You got my pizza wet."

"Is it still good?"

Bucky took a cautious bite while Clint watched him nervously, sighing with relief when he nodded.

"Yeah it's good."

"Man.. Man that fucked me up for a second." Clint murmured, leaning his head on Bucky's shoulder. "Pizza is so great."

"Pizza makes me feel better than any man ever could."

"Bucky.. Buck listen to me." He said as he sat up again, grabbing Bucky's chin and turning it towards him. "Listen, men.. men are kinda alright.. sometimes they're alright.. but pizza.. Buck pizza will always make you happy."

"What are you saying?"

".. We should order more pizza." Clint said quietly, nodding to himself and trying to lean back against the coffee table. He missed horribly and ended up lying on the floor instead, giggling to himself. "But first.. I'm gonna take a nap."

Bucky watched as Clint passed out within seconds, sprawled out on the floor surrounded by empty shot glasses and pizza crusts. Shrugging to himself, he crawled across the floor and curled up next to him, just managing to finish the rest of his pizza before passing out too.


His dream was filled with flashes of Rumlow and Jasper, and when he woke up it was a few minutes before he was able to stop himself from shaking. One of his arms had gone completely numb from lying on the floor and he groaned, trying to roll over and finding himself trapped by two arms wrapped around his waist.

"St.. Stevie?" He mumbled sleepily, feeling instantly better and closing his eyes again as he pressed himself back against the body behind him. "Stevie.. I need to move."

"What?" A voice that was definitely not Steve asked.

"Huh?"

"Did you just fucking call me Steve?"

Bucky rolled over and almost screamed when he came face to face with a very hungover looking Clint.

"What the fuck!?"

"You just fucking called me Steve you absolute moron."

"Why were you spooning me!?"

"I was asleep! Why did you come and sleep next to me!?"

"I was drunk!"

Clint sat up and groaned, dragging his hand down his face. "I feel like I'm gonna die."

"I feel violated." Bucky mumbled, rubbing his arm. "Pervert."

"You wouldn't be saying that if I had been Steve."

"Fuck off."

He sat up and rolled his shoulder, wincing as the feeling slowly returned to it and looking around the room for his phone. It took a moment for him to spot it, 3 billion miles away from him on the couch across the room. He could feel God laughing at him as he crawled across the floor, his head pounding every time he moved any party of his body, finally managing to reach far enough to grab his phone before collapsing back onto the floor.
Meg hopped off the couch and nuzzled his face when he heard the noise, mewing at him and licking his face.

"Morning, Megsy." He mumbled, yawning and scratching the cat's ears.

The only reason he'd even wanted his phone was to see what time it was, but in the back of his mind a little voice was reminding him that Steve had promised to text him. Part of him didn't even want to turn the phone on, just to save himself the disappointment.
Sighing, he switched it on anyway, and his heart almost burst right out of his chest when a text actually flashed up on the screen.

Moooorning!

Bucky couldn't stop the stupid smile that spread across his face and he blushed, curling up on the floor as he tried to think of a good reply. The message had been sent a couple of hours ago, and when Bucky looked back at his phone he realised it was actually 2pm. He was still smiling to himself as he finally typed out a reply.

Afternoon ;)

Every second that passed after he pressed send felt like an hour, and he was just considering taking a shower when his phone finally buzzed in his hand again.

How hungover are you right now? 

First of all I'm frankly appalled that you'd think so lowly of me to assume I got drunk on my first night back at college. Second of all.. every time I breathe I question if it will be the last breath I ever take and I think I need medical attention

He was about to start typing a reply when his phone buzzed again with another message.

I found a cat picture last night that made me think of you. Will that help? 

Why were you looking for cat pictures?

Don't question my 1am habits.

Why were you looking for cat pictures at 1am???

Like you were doing anything more productive.

Touché.

Do you want to see the cat or not?

Obviously I want to see the cat

Behold. 

The message was followed by a photo of a cat getting hit in the face with a snowball, which had Bucky giggling for at least ten minutes before he could even think of a way to reply. He hadn't been paying any attention to what Clint had been doing on the other side of the room, but he suddenly realised he was walking over and looked up as he sat down on the couch behind him, tilting his phone screen to show him the picture.

"Why are you looking at memes?"

"Steve sent me it." Bucky shrugged as he typed a reply.

Idk how to feel about that reminding you of me ;)

Because you're cute obviously  I have to go, Sam's dragging me out. I'll talk to you later  x

 Bucky smiled to himself and shoved his phone into his pocket, leaning his head back on the couch. He felt Clint kick his shoulder lightly and yelped.

"What?"

"What did he say?" Clint asked, smirking at him and nudging him with his foot again.

"None of your business."

"You're blushing."

"I am n- fuck off okay?" Bucky grumbled, slapping Clint's leg away from him when he laughed to himself. "He said I'm cute. What does that mean? Does he mean cute in an 'awe a puppy' kind of way or an 'I want to shove my entire fist up your ass' kind of way?"

"I think your spectrum of cuteness might be slightly different to other people's, Buck." Clint said, raising an eyebrow at him as Bucky shrugged. "I'm pretty sure he means that-"

Clint was interrupted by a piercing scream coming from above them, making them both jump and Bucky cling onto Clint's leg in shock.

"Is somebody being murdered?"

"No. That would be the lesbians." Clint sighed, hiding his face in his hands and groaning as another drawn out moan echoed around the room.

"I thought you were exaggerating."

"I'm pretty sure they're in their honeymoon period."

"Clearly.. wanna go shopping?"

"I'm tired and hungover."

"I can't spend the few hours listening to women having sex okay? I'm too gay for this." Bucky insisted, getting to his feet and trying to ignore the noise from upstairs. "I'm gonna go take a shower. Find out when Nat's coming back."

Clint nodded and Bucky headed into the bathroom, relieved to discover the sound of sex fuelled women was significantly quieter. Turning on the shower, he quickly got undressed and stepped under the water, yelping at how cold the water was. It served as a grim reminder that he was now back in college living conditions, and could no longer rely on his showers burning a layer of his skin off.
With all the enjoyment now gone from his shower, he turned around, only to be further reminded that he hadn't actually unpacked any of his stuff yet. Fortunately, Clint had left his body wash in there, so Bucky was forced to use that to wash the scent of alcohol and disappointment from his skin. It smelt like liquid testosterone and when he checked the bottle he wasn't surprised to see the word "masculine" mentioned four times, but it did succeed in making him smell and feel slightly less hungover. Shaking his head at Clint's fragile masculinity, he turned the water off and dried himself off, wrapping the towel around his waist before going back out into the front room.

"Clint?" He asked as he came out. "Why is your shower gel called 'gravity'? What the fuck is that supposed to smell like?"

"I don't know, it just smells of.. gravity." Clint shrugged, looking up from his phone and raising an eyebrow at him. "Why were you analysing my bathroom products?"

"I forgot to unpack mine so I had to use yours."

"That's a violation of my privacy."

"We live together."

"Still."

"You can borrow mine next time."

"I'll pass on that. Believe it or not I'd prefer not to smell like a 'lavender sunset'."

"It smells fucking good okay?" Bucky said defensively, throwing his old shirt at Clint's face and narrowing his eyes at him. "It's not my fault your hyper masculinity gets in the way of you loving yourself."

"There's a difference between loving myself, and washing myself with glitter."

"It doesn't have glitter in! It gives me a healthy glow."

"Sure, Buck. A healthy, sparkly glow."

Bucky narrowed his eyes, trying to make a dramatic exit through the bedroom door and instead walking straight into the wall. "Fuck.. I'm just.. gonna go get dressed." He mumbled as he pushed the door open, ignoring the sound of Clint laughing behind him.
Dumping the rest of his old clothes on the bed, he rifled through one of the bags on the floor to find some clothes, eventually settling on a red henley and a slightly looser pair of jeans. He threw them on as quickly as he could manage without injuring himself further, choosing not to check his hair in the mirror. Sometimes ignorance was bliss.

"Nat got back an hour ago." Clint said when he came back out. "She said she can meet us in town, on the condition that we get a burger somewhere."

"Awesome, let's go."

"Whoa, I haven't showered yet. I should probably sort out my hair and-"

"Clint, she's has seen you in way worse conditions than this." Bucky smirked. "Plus, if she only just got back, she probably doesn't look much better."

"Yeah.. okay let's go."

Bucky wasn't about to mention it, but he knew with absolute certainty that Nat wouldn't look worse. She was the only person he knew who could throw up gracefully. He was pretty sure Natasha was physically immune to imperfections.

As predicted, Nat did indeed look perfect, despite wearing sweatpants and a baggy shirt that Bucky was fairly sure she'd stolen from him. She ran over when she saw them, beaming and throwing her arms around them both.

"Buck why do you smell like a man?"

"This is the first time we've spoken this year and you chose that as your opening line?"

"I'm intrigued. Usually you only smell like that if you've had sex, but since you're in love with Steve now the only plausible explanation I can see is-"

"I BORROWED CLINT'S BODY WASH."

"Okay then." Nat said, smirking as she took a step back. "But we're discussing that later."

"No we're not."

"Yeah, you talked about it enough yesterday." Clint mumbled under his breath, chuckling to himself when Bucky whipped around and glared at him.

"Sure did. And you sure spent a lot of time talking about-"

"So are we getting food?" He butted in before Bucky could finish, striding purposefully down the street and leaving them to follow behind.

It didn't take long for them to find somewhere to eat, and Bucky ended up sat picking at some fries, trying to ignore Clint and Nat gazing into each other's eyes on the opposite side of the table. Eventually he resorted to pulling his phone out of his pocket, smirking to himself when he saw 2 missed calls from his dad and one text angrily informing him that they'd be coming up in a week to collect Meg. There were no messages from Steve, and he couldn't help feeling somewhat disappointed, even if he hadn't really expected any different. It didn't stop him from sending one, in the hopes that maybe he'd have a free moment.

I'm third wheeling what is essentially a dinner date.. send help 

Unsurprisingly, Steve didn't respond, and Bucky sighed to himself, chewing on his lip and tapping the side of his phone impatiently. When he looked up again he saw Clint and Nat staring at him with matching smug grins on their faces.

"What? Are you done flirting?"

"We weren't-"

"Who are you texting?" Nat cut in, giving Clint a side glance as he trailed off.

"Nat, I have ten contacts in my phone. Six of them are my relatives and two of them are sitting in front of me. Do you really need to ask me who I'm texting?"

Nat smirked at him and leant forward, resting her chin on her hands and cocking her head curiously. "So how is Steve?"

"He's fine." Bucky said bluntly, narrowing his eyes at her.

"And when are you planning on admitting your feelings for him?"

"Oh he already admitted that." Clint chimed in, throwing his hands up defensively when Bucky glared at him. "What!? Were you really gonna attempt to deny it?"

Bucky groaned and dropped his head down on the table, creating a loud thudding noise that made several other people in the diner turn around to look at them. "Can we talk about this somewhere else?"

"No. You can't run away from us here." Nat explained, getting up from her seat and moving around the table to sit next to him. She squeezed his shoulder gently and Bucky sighed, turning his head to look up at her. "I don't know what you're so miserable about, Buck. Now that we know, we can help you hook up with him."

"But I don't want to hook up with him."

"Why are you denying i-"

"You know what happened the last time I dated someone I actually cared about? It fucking destroyed my life." Bucky grumbled. "And I know Steve isn't the same, so you don't have to say it." He added when he saw Nat open her mouth. "But when I first started dating Rumlow he seemed pretty great too. So I just.. I can't trust my own judgement."

"Buck-"

"No."

Nat let out a frustrated sigh and slumped back in her seat, chewing on her lip thoughtfully. They were all silent for a few minutes, aside from the sound of Clint munching on the remnants of his burger.

"Okay." He said suddenly through a mouthful of food, making them both look up with a start. "I have a really terrible idea that you're both gonna hate but I'm gonna say it anyway."

Bucky and Nat watched him as he swallowed the food in his mouth and leant forward. "Okay. Buck, you like Steve, right?"

"I guess."

"But you don't want to date him because you had a shitty experience and you don't want things to go to shit with him, right?"

"Where are you going with this, Barton?" Bucky sighed, leaning on his hand impatiently.

"Hear me out. So what if you go on a few dates with some other guys on campus? Like, the way I see it, best case scenario the dates are really fun and make you more optimistic about dating properly again, worst case scenario they're really awful and make Steve seem even better."

Bucky stared at him in disbelief for a few minutes, questioning whether those words had actually left his best friend's mouth.

"That is the worst idea I've ever-"

"That's a great idea! Nat interrupted, getting shocked looks from both of them. "That way you can get used to the dating scene again."

"Nat, no."

"What's the worst that could happen?"

"I accidentally date a mass murderer? And he decides to lock me in his basement and slowly chop me into pieces? That is the worst that could happen."

Nat frowned at him and rolled her eyes. "I doubt there's many mass murderers on campus, Buck."

"Chicago does have a high murder rate so-"

"Bucky."

"Fine. But I still think it's a shitty idea. Where am I supposed to find someone anyway? Guys aren't exactly lining up to date me."

"Are you kidding? Practically every guy you've slept with has tried to ask you out. We can just find some of those guys." Nat shrugged, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

"We still have some of their numbers." Clint added. "Not because I'm weird stalker! I just shoved them in our jar of prank call numbers." He hurriedly explained when they both looked at him.

Clint and Nat then simultaneously turned to look at Bucky, who was still trying to get over the fact that they were actually trying to convince him to do this. The worst part was he was considering it. Sighing, he shrugged and said slowly, "I'll think about it."


Clint's birthday parties were never much of a glamorous affair, and aside from Bucky waking him up by blasting 22 in his ear at 6am and giving him what was essentially a lap dance while Clint lay in bed screaming at him, it had been a fairly normal day. Despite Bucky's protesting, Clint had insisted that Steve was banned from his birthday party, claiming he didn't want to be overshadowed on his own birthday by somebody with better arms than him, which meant Bucky had to go another day without seeing him. He hadn't even heard from him since Monday, aside from one message the next day apologising for not replying to him. 

Nat had come over in the afternoon, and the three of them had spent the rest of the day getting progressively more drunk and playing dares. The majority of the dares had been stupid things, aside from one dare from Clint which involved Bucky going upstairs and asking if the two girls were interested in a threesome. It had ended up backfiring and Bucky instead spent another 10 minutes dissuading two equally drunk bisexual women from having sex with him.
Unfortunately they were now drunk enough that "dares" had turned into a game of "who can perform the most sexual act", and so far Bucky had received an incredibly enthusiastic lap dance from Natasha, made out with Clint twice, and at some point apparently gotten a hickie, although he still wasn't entirely sure who that had come from. For Bucky it was harder to come up with effective dares, because there wasn't a whole lot Clint and Nat weren't already enthusiastic about doing together, but it had been a pretty uncomfortable experience watching Clint motorboat her.

"Bucky come on, it's been five minutes." Nat said impatiently, tapping her feet against the floor. "I need a dare."

"I'm thinking, okay?"

"Well think faster, I already have one for you."

"Let me guess, you want me to make out with Clint again?"

"I enjoy watching it." She shrugged, leaning back against the wall and taking a sip of the vodka in her hand.

Bucky rolled his eyes and chewed on his lip, finally shrugging and saying, "I don't fucking know. Just.. stare into each other's eyes for a minute. It has to be a whole minute though, and you have to sit in his lap."

"That's a stupid dare."

"Do it then."

Nat narrowed her eyes at him and shuffled across the floor towards a very nervous looking Clint. Bucky giggled to himself when she climbed into Clint's lap, watching him turn a deep shade of red.

"I don't bite." Nat smirked, draping her arms around his neck and pressing their foreheads together. Clint just managed a croaky squeaking noise in response and Nat chuckled. "Okay start timing me."

Smirking to himself, Bucky grabbed his phone and started the timer, knocking back the rest of the vodka in his glass and blinking a few times as his head spun. It turned out to be incredibly uncomfortable watching them stare at each other, and Bucky had to restart the timer several times because Nat kept giggling and breaking eye contact. Eventually, she managed it, and Bucky instantly jumped to his feet.

"Okay, I'm gonna go to the bathroom and escape the sexual tension for a few minutes."

"Fuck off, Barnes." Clint muttered, although Bucky noted that he made no effort to move his hands away from Nat's hips again.

Sniggering to himself, he pushed the bathroom door open and locked it behind him, unsure of why he'd even gone in there in the first place. Standing up had made him a lot more aware of how drunk he was, and already his legs were struggling to support his weight. He slowly sunk to the floor and leant his head against the door, listening to the sound of Clint and Nat whispering to each other and trying to work out what they were saying. Before he could make anything out he was distracted by his phone vibrating in his hand, and when he saw Steve's name flash up his whole body warmed up.

It's 11:30pm and I finally have nothing to do. Can I take a 3 day nap now?

wtf haev you been doing?

It was hard for Bucky to completely focus on what he was typing when the whole room was spinning slightly, and he was too excited about actually talking to Steve to stop himself from frantically typing out another message.

I havn't even hear d from u in ages are u okay?? I've missed you :(:(

Haha hi drunk Bucky 

hiiiiiiiiii :))

I forgot, it's Clint's birthday right? I should've said hi.

yeaaahh but he banned me from invitng you becus ur too hot :(

Were those his exact words?

neh but I knw what he means :)

Bucky giggled to himself and stared intently at the phone in his hands with a huge grin on his face. His heart was hammering in his chest, and every time a new message popped up he wriggled excitedly where he was sitting. When a couple of minutes passed with no response he chewed on his lip, typing several more messages in quick succession.

Steeeeeeeeeeve?

I didn't mean ur hot

Uare hot

but not in liek a weird way

like ur my friend and I like u but I laso like you face

dont be madat mee :(

I'm not mad at you I had to charge my phone 

Oh :)

So you were saying you like my face? 

ssh that's a secret :):) we can't talk about tht

Okay, what do you want to talk about then? 

It occurred to him that he didn't actually have anything interesting to talk about and he frowned to himself, tapping the side of his phone as he tried to persuade his jumbled up brain to think of something cool.

ehhh idk :P I just wantt o talk to you

Nailed it. He was a modern day Romeo.

Okay then How's Clint's party going?

pretyy good i'm hidign in the bathroom rn

What? Are you okay?

yeeaaaaah nat and clint are being rlly lovey n stuff it kinda mad me wanna puke

:') What are they doing?

idk, lemme check

He tried for several minutes to get to his feet before giving up and unlocking the door from where he was sitting. Slowly he pushed the door open and poked his head out, almost screaming when he saw Nat and Clint tangled up on the floor together, apparently trying to eat each other's faces. Shuddering, he pulled the door shut again and turned back to his phone.

theyre kissing :(

I thought you wanted them together?

yea but not IN FROTN ON ME STEBE

this is why i want ed you to come oveer too :(

That reminds me, I'm free tomorrow. We can hang out then? 

:D:D:D:D

I'll take that as a yes?

yeyeye I'v e missed you soo mcuh :(:( I wanna see yo now

You'll see me tomorrow 

nooooo now :( I can come over? :D

Bucky almost jumped out of his skin when his phone started madly buzzing in his hand. Steve's name was flashing up on the screen and Bucky giggled as he pressed the answer button.

"Hi"

"Tell me you're still in the bathroom." Steve said frantically.

Bucky frowned, cradling the phone against his ear. "Yeah.. where else would I be?"

"I thought you were gonna try and drive so I kinda panicked and.. so you're okay?"

"I'm fine. I just wanted to see you."

"I wanna see you too, I just don't want you to drive when you can barely type coherently." Steve chuckled and Bucky blushed. "I'd come over but Sam's gone out so I can't steal his car. And I don't really wanna ruin Clint's moment."

"You can borrow my car."

Steve laughed down the phone, and Bucky could hear the faint sound of his bed creaking as he moved. "Sure, Buck. I'll come right over so I can borrow your car, and use it to drive to your apartment."

"Okay so.. maybe that won't work." He mumbled, smiling at the sound of Steve laughing. "S'not fair. I miss your cuddles."

"I'll come over first thing tomorrow."

"For cuddles?"

"Yeah."

"You promise?"

"I promise." Steve chuckled. "I actually wanted to talk-"

"Great! Hey you can help me out with something tomorrow too." Bucky said excitedly, unable to stop himself from talking. "See, Clint and Nat think I should start dating again, and I kinda think they're right because I need cuddles all the time since I got back.. which is your fault because you give good cuddles. You have really nice arms you know? Good for cuddling."

"Where are you going with this, Buck?"

"Oh right. Well you know more people around campus than me, right? So I thought you could help me find some nice guys?"

Steve was silent for a few seconds and Bucky frowned, shuffling nervously where he sat. "Stevie?"

"Huh? Uh, yeah.. yeah I can do that." Steve said slowly. "Look I uh.. have to go. You should probably get some sleep."

"You okay?"

"I'm fine. I'll see you tomorrow, yeah?"

Before Bucky could respond Steve had hung up, leaving him sat in the bathroom in silence. There was a scratching noise at the door, and when he cracked it open he saw one of Meg's green eyes staring at him curiously.

"Megsy, I locked you out." He said, gasped the door the rest of the way and scooping the cat up. "Wh.. where did they go?"

He looked around at the suspiciously empty room, frowning to himself. Meg mewed and wriggled out of his arms, rubbing up against the bedroom door and blinking at him.

"..Oh. Guess we're sleeping on the couch then, buddy." He sighed, picking Meg up and staggering over to the couch. It was surprisingly easy to get comfortable. Since coming back to college his bed had felt strangely empty, and it had been almost impossible for him to get to sleep every night. But in his drunken state, he could have just as easily fallen asleep on the bathroom floor. Yawning, he wrapped his arms around Meg and curled up, burying his face in the soft fur and closing his eyes.


"Good moooooorning!"

Bucky groaned and rolled over, opening one eye to see Clint standing over him with a plate of toast in his hand.

"I made you breakfast."

"Are you feeling okay?"

"I'm feeling great, actually. I don't think I've ever felt better in my life. It's a beautiful morning, the birds are singing, the sun is shining, I'm-"

"Did you sleep with Nat?"

Clint paused and narrowed his eyes at him as he put the plate down on the coffee table in front of Bucky's face. "Before I answer that I'm just gonna point out that I have been nice to you on other occasions, and that not all of them have been related to sex."

"So that's a yes then." Bucky smirked, sitting upright and wincing as his head throbbed. "If I'd known I was gonna get free breakfast I'd have made more of an effort to get you two together sooner."

"Shut up." Clint said as he sat down at the other end of the couch. "Where'd you disappear to last night anyway?"

"I was in the bathroom texting Steve." He shrugged, taking a bite of toast and frowning, the realisation of what he'd said suddenly sinking in. "Oh shit.. I was texting Steve."

Bucky searched frantically for his phone in his pocket, cautiously unlocking it and cringing when he saw what he'd been texting the night before. "Oh my god." He whispered, scrolling up through the conversation. "I said I like his face."

"Hey, at least you didn't ask him whether he thought you were cute in a 'shove my fist up your ass' kind of way."

"That doesn't really make me feel better, Clint."

"I'm just tryin'a look at the positives."

"Yeah. It makes me uncomfortable when you do that." Bucky mumbled. "He said he was gonna come over this morning, but he hasn't said anything yet."

"Maybe he's asleep? It's only 9."

"Clinton, why the fuck did you wake me up at 9am when I have a hangover? I should strangle you."

"Nat wakes up early!" Clint explained, throwing his hands up innocently. "At least I offered you food."

Bucky nodded thoughtfully, chewing on the last of the toast. "Where is Nat anyway?"

"In the shower. I said I'd take her out for the day."

"I'm pretty sure you're supposed to do that before fucking her." Bucky smirked, giggling when Clint tossed a cushion at his head. "How did that even happen? When I left you looked like a rabbit in headlights."

"Yeah, but I figured I'd been putting it off for too long, you know? It was real romantic and-"

"I pinned him to the floor and told him if he didn't fuck me there were plenty of other guys who would." Nat said, coming out of the bathroom and making them both turn around. It was obvious she'd planned this in advance and packed another outfit in her purse, as she was now dressed in a red crop top and black skirt, rather than the leggings and t-shirt she'd arrived in the day before. Clint stared in awe at her as she went back to towel drying her hair. "So when are we going out?"

"Um.. whenever you want? Bucky has Steve coming over so-"

"Oh really?" Nat smirked, looking over at Bucky and grinning.

"Not like that. He's gonna help me find someone to date that might not be an asshole."

"You mean someone like Steve?"

"No."

Nat giggled, tossing her towel back into the bathroom and putting her hands on her hips. "Well I'm ready to go, c'mon, Barton."

Shrugging, Clint got up off the couch, and Bucky turned his attention back to his phone as they headed out. He typed out a quick message to Steve in the hopes that he was already awake.

Would you believe me if I said I was awake right now?

Within seconds his phone buzzed again, and Bucky was reminded that Steve was actually a functioning human being, who usually woke up at a normal time.

Holy shit really? You want me to come over?

If you're still willing after my disastrous texting last night :P

You saw those then 

I am so sorry.

Haha it's fine. I'll be over in a few  x

Smiling to himself, Bucky tossed his phone to the side and ran a hand through his hair. Shit. Steve was coming over and he was still wearing the same clothes he'd passed out in yesterday. He needed to change. He needed to shower. He needed to somehow shed his skin and emerge as an entirely new, more functioning member of society. He quickly jumped to his feet, startling Meg and sending him scurrying across the floor as he headed into the bedroom to find some clothes.
Why did he have to own so many clothes? He needed something casual. Something that said 'I've made an effort, but only because I care about my appearance and definitely not because I'm trying to impress you'. But he was also hungover, so he needed something he could nap in once Steve had left. But also.. Bucky you're over thinking this. Sweatpants. You want sweatpants.
Sighing, he grabbed some of his slightly more stylish black sweatpants and a loose white t-shirt before heading into the bathroom to take the quickest shower of his life.

Steve arrived twenty minutes later, and in that time Bucky had somehow managed to shower, shave, and fix his hair. He actually looked somewhat presentable when the buzzer rang, and he found himself counting down the seconds before the knock came at the door. It was likely that Steve looked a lot better than he did, but Bucky only spared one quick glance to check it was him before flinging his arms around his neck and burying his face in his shoulder.

"I missed you too." Steve chuckled, wrapping his arms around Bucky's waist and pulling him closer.

He felt so warm, and he smelt of coffee and fresh laundry, and it was bittersweet, finally getting to be this close to him again, because Bucky was also reminded of how empty he'd felt before, and how empty he was going to feel as soon as Steve left again. The hug lasted several minutes longer than it should have, but Bucky couldn't bring himself to let go. It wasn't until Steve moved his hands, squeezing his shoulders before finally taking a step back and smiling at him.

"So, uh.. should I come in?" He asked, leaning against the door frame and smirking at him.

"Oh.. right. Yeah."

Steve chuckled as Bucky stepped to the side and let him come inside, closing the door behind them. They both headed into the middle of the front room and Steve sat on the floor while Bucky grabbed Clint's "prank calling jar" from next to the TV, dumping the collection of crumpled phone numbers into Steve's lap.

"What's this?"

"Phone numbers. Clint says he's hoarded a few from guys I've been with." Bucky explained, sitting down in front of him and grabbing a handful of the scraps of paper. "I just have to figure out which ones are worth calling."

"That's your plan? Calling some of the jerks who were willing to fuck you one time?"

"They're not all jerks!" Bucky protested. "Some of them were nice.. kinda."

"Kinda?"

"Well shit, Steve, it's not like a give a full personality check before sucking dick. That's why I asked for your help. You probably know some of these guys, right?"

Shrugging, Steve started sifting through the paper with Bucky, sorting them into different piles. They sat quietly for almost half an hour before Steve suddenly started giggling to himself.

"Dude.. you slept with Victor Creed?"

"Apparently?

"Wow. I'm so sorry. That's gotta be the worst sex ever."

"I.. excuse me?" Bucky stammered, furrowing his brow in confusion. "Why would you know that?"

"I dated him for like.. 2 months? Not a good experience. He can go in the reject pile." Steve shrugged, tossing the slip of paper behind him and going back to searching through the pile as if he hadn't said anything of particular interest.

Bucky stared at him for a moment, questioning whether he'd actually heard him correctly. He leant forward, pushing the paper to the side and regaining Steve's attention. "You.. you dated a guy?"

"..Yes?" Steve said slowly, cocking his eyebrow at him. "Does that matter?"

"You had sex with a man?"

"Gee whiz, Buck! I'm not actually the virgin Mary!"

"No no but.. you've actually slept with a guy?"

"What part of this are you struggling with?" Steve asked, leaning back on his hands.

"Why would you sleep with him?"

"Because he was cute and I loved him?"

"But what about Peggy?"

"You know, Buck. Just because you've only been in love once in your entire life doesn't mean that-"

"But she's a girl!"

"I am aware of that!"

"But I thought you were straight!"

"What!?"

Steve stared at him in disbelief and Bucky threw his hands up defensively, curling up and trying to process this. "So.. you're not then?"

"Bucky, I spent 3 weeks making out with you and you thought I was straight?"

"But that was just for my parents!"

"Have you ever met a straight guy!? They'll start screaming about how straight they are as soon as you make physical contact with them!"

"That.. that's a good point." Bucky said slowly, chewing on his lip. For a brief moment, a flicker of hope lit up inside him at the realisation that Steve could actually be willing to date him. Steve could actually.. no. He'd dated guys, which meant there was nothing stopping Steve from just asking him on a date, but instead, he was trying to find him someone else. Steve didn't want him.

"Buck?"

Bucky blinked, suddenly realising he'd been biting down on his lip hard enough to draw blood. "H.. huh?"

"You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm.. I'm fine." Bucky nodded, absently sliding a slip of paper at his feet across the floor. Looking back up at Steve, he smirked and mumbled, "So Victor's out then?"

Steve chuckled, nodding insistently. "Definitely. He's a piece of shit."

"Yeah I think I remember that guy. What'd he do to ya?"

"Cheated. Came over to his apartment and spent ten minutes listening to him fucking someone else. Then he tried to hide the guy in his closet when I came in."

Bucky paused, frowning at him as he tried to jog his own memory. "Hid him in a closet?"

"Yeah."

"Right.. when did you say you dated him?"

"Couple of years ago." Steve shrugged.

"No, when specifically?"

"I don't know. April I think?"

"Uh.. huh. That's a.. remarkable coincidence."

"You're kidding me right? That was you?"

He wasn't sure what reaction he'd expected from Steve, but he was a little surprised when he threw his head back laughing, rolling back onto the floor and clutching his stomach.

"Steve I kinda.. tore your relationship apart." He said slowly, watching as Steve rolled around on the floor.

"Yeah.. that's amazing. Imagine if I'd actually decided to open the closet. We could have been friends for years."

"More like I could have been murdered by you." Bucky giggled, nudging Steve with his foot. "You really tore into that guy."

Steve shrugged, chuckling as he sat back up. "Guys suck." He sighed, scooping up the pile of numbers he'd been collecting by his feet. "And on that note, I found some potential dates for you. These are all the ones I've either heard of, or at least haven't heard about for the wrong reasons."

"Cool." Bucky smirked, trying to fake some enthusiasm. It was hard to be excited about a date when Steve was in front of him being his annoyingly perfect self, but he tried to tell himself it would help. "Now what?"

"Up to you, I guess. Probably best to send some of them a message to check it's still the same number, then you could just see who responds first?"

Nodding, Bucky started adding some of the numbers to his phone, sending the same text to each of them as he did so.

Hey, it's Bucky. Just found your number from a while ago. Is this still Will? :)

Hey, it's Bucky. Just found your number from a while ago. Is this still Logan? :)

Hey, it's Bucky. Just found your number from a while ago. Is this still Pete? :)

He kept going until there were no numbers left, while Steve scooped the rest of the numbers back into the jar. They both sat in silence for a few minutes, staring at Bucky's phone expectantly. After five minutes passed with no responses, Bucky shrugged, looking back over at Steve.

"Wanna watch a movie?" He asked, crawling over to the stack of DVDs by the TV before Steve could respond. "I'm feeling Jurassic Park."

When he turned back around, Steve had already made himself comfortable on the couch, leaning back against the cushions with Meg curled up beside him, so he put the movie in and climbed up onto the couch next to him. It felt so natural to snuggle up against Steve's chest that it took him a moment to realise there was anything wrong with it, but Steve just wrapped an arm around him and leant his head against Bucky's, making him feel more at home than he had for a few days.

As some point he must have fallen asleep, because the next thing he knew Steve was shaking him awake and dinosaurs were eating people on his TV.

"Hmm?" He mumbled sleepily, looking up into Steve's eyes and smiling dreamily. "What's up?"

"You're phone just went off."

"Oh.. whe.. where is i-"

Steve thrust the phone into his hand before he could finish the sentence, watching as Bucky unlocked it to check the message. It was from Pietro Maximoff, a physics major he'd met almost a year ago.

Omg hi! You know I kinda figured after a year maybe you weren't gonna call me xD what's up?

"What should I say?" Bucky asked, looking up at Steve uncertainly.

"Just ask if he wants to meet up I guess."

Nodding, Bucky did just that, and they both waited with bated breath for his reply. It took a few minutes, and Bucky was starting to lose hope in the idea, when suddenly his phone buzzed again with another message. He read it a few times, chewing on his lip and snuggling back against Steve's chest nervously.

"What's it say?"

Bucky looked up at him and smirked, waving the phone in front of his face.

"I have a date."

Chapter Text

Considering he'd spent the majority of the day arguing that he was indifferent to the fact he had a date, he'd put a remarkable amount of effort into looking good. Clint had actually caught him asking Meg's opinion on whether he could still pull off eyeliner, and while Clint thought he could make it work, Meg had responded by licking his own asshole, so Bucky tossed it aside.

"Why do you even have that?" Clint asked, flopping down on the bed while Bucky continued trying to get one particular strand of hair to stay in the right place.

"In case I ever have another emo phase."

"I'm pretty sure you're still coming out of the first emo phase."

"Yeah but I'm more low key now. You've seen the photos of me when I was 13." Bucky mumbled, glancing up at Clint's reflection in the mirror as he nodded.

"I'm still not sure if you were wearing eyeliner or war paint." He said quietly and Bucky giggled, shrugging as he spun around.

"I thought it looked cool. Do I look okay?"

"I said you looked okay an hour ago."

"I know but then I decided I didn't like my outfit so I changed three times." Bucky explained, gesturing to the pile of discarded clothes on his bed. "See, at first I thought I should wear a shirt because it looks like I've made an effort, right? But then I thought that would be too formal so I changed into a t-shirt, but then that felt too casual so-"

"You're taking this too seriously, Buck."

"I'm not taking it too seriously. It's my first date."

Clint sighed and rolled his eyes, looking Bucky up and down. "So this is what you're going in?"

"Should I change it?"

"What? No I was just asking. I don't want to put effort into giving an opinion if you're gonna change again in five minutes."

"Oh.. no I think I'm keeping this." He said slowly, looking down at himself. After spending almost an hour struggling with the shirt vs. t-shirt crisis, he'd opted for both, and was now wearing a dark red button down shirt on top of a white t-shirt, with some dark grey jeans. "Unless you think I should change it?"

"It looks fine, Buck. Since when were you into plaid?"

Bucky shrugged, tugging at the shirt he was wearing. "I found it in the closet." He mumbled, rocking back on his heels and shoving his hands in his pockets. "Don't even remember buying it."

They were both distracted by the sound of the door buzzer and Bucky frowned, glancing at his phone screen. Pietro wasn't supposed to be picking him for another half hour, but when he switched on the intercom the somewhat familiar voice greeted him.

"Hey, Buck! You ready to go?"

Pietro's Russian accent had faded considerably in the last year, and Bucky would be lying if he said he wasn't a little disappointed. Hell, it was the main thing that had attracted him to Pietro in the first place. That, and the fact that he'd bought him a hot dog at the football game where they'd originally met.

"Uh.. yeah." Bucky said, giggling nervously. "I'll be down in a sec."

Turning, he grabbed his shoes and started frantically pulling them on, ignoring Clint who laughed at him as he came out of the bedroom.

"If he turns out to be a dick, text me and I'll bail you out."

"You know I've already had that offer from both Nat and Steve. I don't know why you're all so convinced this is gonna be a disaster."

"Just a precaution." Clint shrugged, leaning against the doorframe and smirking at him. "Try and have fun though. Be back by 9."

"Fuck off." Bucky sniggered, tossing one of Clint's shoes at his head before pulling the front door open and throwing Clint a quick wave.

He hopped down the stairs two at a time, throwing the door open and immediately getting pulled into a hug by Pietro, who seemed to appear out of nowhere.

"It's so good to see you!" He said excitedly, squeezing Bucky tightly before pulling away and grinning at him. He'd dyed his hair since Bucky had last seen him, from a dark brunet to platinum blond, and he wasn't sure how he felt about it. Chewing on his lip, he scratched the back of his neck and nodded.

"Yeah.. I like your hair."

"Thanks. It started as a dare from my sister and then just kind of.. stuck." Pietro smirked, running his hand through it and gesturing to his car. "Wanna get going?"

Bucky nodded. Apparently what little knowledge he had of how to interact with another human had now left his brain, and he followed Pietro down to the car without saying anything else.
When Pietro had said they were going out for dinner he'd expected to go to a restaurant, but the reality turned out to be a small roadside cafe. A sad reminder that they were in fact poor college students, and that five star dining was out of the question for a while. They both sat at a table by the window, and Bucky spent almost ten minutes sipping at a cola and trying to think of something interesting to say before Pietro finally spoke.

"So what brought this on?"

"Huh?" He asked, looking up and shuffling back in his seat when he saw Pietro leaning across the table towards him.

"The dating thing. Last time we spoke you pretty much gave the impression that you never wanted to date anybody ever."

Bucky sniggered, chewing on his lip and shrugging. "I don't know.. it just.. felt like the right time? Figured I couldn't keep pushing people away for the rest of my life."

"Hey, good for you." Pietro smiled as he took a sip of his drink, leaning back again and making Bucky feel a little more relaxed. "It's nice that you chose me though."

He decided it was best not to mention that the only reason he'd chosen him was because he was the first to respond to his message, so instead he just smiled. "Plus my two best friends just started dating each other, so I kinda needed to meet new people."

Pietro snorted and nodded, putting his glass back down on the table. "Yeah I know the feeling. My sister just got a new boyfriend too. I'm used to being around her all the time, but now she's always hanging out with him instead. Kinda makes me feel on edge, you know? I mean, I just want what's best for her, but I don't like the look of this guy. And I keep trying to get her away from him but she doesn't listen to me."

Bucky had no idea how this had turned into a conversation about Pietro's sister. He vaguely remembered seeing her at the game too, but he definitely remembered having to spend 20 minutes convincing Pietro that it wasn't necessary for her to come back to his apartment with them. It was a little creepy how protective he was of her.
He realised Pietro was still talking and looked back up, trying to act like he'd been paying attention the whole time.

"And this guy's completely covered in tattoos. Like, that's never a good sign, right? Nobody with face tattoos is ever good news. And I said that to Wanda but she just tells me I'm being over-protective. Can you believe that? I'm just trying to look out for her. She's my sister, and I'd take a bullet for her. Is that a bad thing? I just want her to be safe."

"Uh huh." Bucky mumbled when he finally paused for breath, pulling his phone out under the table and trying to subtly type out a message to Steve while Pietro went back to talking.

This guy is obsessed with his sister. It's creepy.

I can come get you if he's getting too weird? 

Nah it's fine, he's just talking me to death.

"Are you texting someone!?" Pietro snapped, leaning across the table again and making Bucky flinch.

His mouth went dry and his heart hammered in his chest as he chewed on his lip nervously, eventually managing to stammer, "N.. no?"

"Oh, okay. So anyways.."

Bucky smiled and leant on his hand as Pietro continued talking, typing blindly underneath the table.

Get me the fuck out of here.

He felt the phone buzz in his hand again but didn't dare look back down, shoving his phone back into his pocket and praying that Steve was coming. Despite the offers from Clint and Nat to come and pick him up, Steve was the only one he could trust not to make a scene. He knew Clint would make up some kind of ridiculous story as to why he had to leave, and Natasha would probably run in and attempt to start a fight with Pietro, but he was fairly sure Steve would be more low key.

He could not have been more wrong. Pietro continued chattering away about his sister for another ten minutes before the door suddenly flew open, making them and everyone else in the cafe turn around to see what was going on. Bucky tried not to groan out loud when Steve came running over, slamming his hands down on the table and breathing heavily as he locked eyes with him.

"Buck.. you have to.. it's grandpa.. he's sick." Steve panted, grabbing Bucky's arm and pulling him to his feet. "He's in the hospital and we don't know how much longer he's got."

"Oh my god." Bucky said, attempting to play along. He turned back to Pietro and made a few random gestures with his hands. "I.. uh.. I have to go."

"Oh, shit. I hope your grandpa's okay."

Bucky felt a little guilty at how concerned Pietro genuinely looked. "Yeah, me too. This was fun!" He smiled, letting Steve drag him away and through the door.

As soon as they were outside Bucky burst out laughing, shoving Steve away from him as they walked across the parking lot. "What the fuck was that, Steve?"

"Too dramatic?"

"Ya think!?"

Steve chuckled, wrapping his arm around Bucky's shoulder and leading him to what he assumed was Sam's car. They were only driving for a couple of minutes before Bucky suddenly sat up, making Steve jump and look over.

"You okay?"

"I didn't get to eat my food."

"You can eat when you get home."

"But I built myself up for nice food." Bucky grumbled, sighing disappointedly and staring out of the window.

"I think there's a pizza place down here."

"Huh?"

"We can get pizza if you want? I haven't eaten yet."

"Oh.. okay." He nodded, chewing on his lip as Steve turned the corner and pulled up outside a local pizza parlour.

They walked towards the entrance together, and Bucky had to fight the urge to hold Steve's hand like he was so used to doing. He could see Steve staring at him out of the corner of his eye and turned to look at him, giggling when he looked down at the ground.

"What are you staring at?"

"Nothing, you just look.." Steve trailed off and scratched the back of his neck, chuckling to himself. "Where did you get that shirt?"

"I have no idea, I just found it in my closet. Why?"

"I lost one that looks exactly like that. I was gonna ask you about it 'cause I thought I'd left it at your parents' house."

"You.. oh."

Bucky blushed and Steve threw his head back laughing, wrapping his arm around him and squeezing his shoulder. "It looks better on you anyway." He smirked, leading Bucky into the restaurant and sitting him down at a secluded table near the back.

"It's my shirt now." Bucky mumbled, leaning on his hands and looking down at the table. Steve just chuckled and slid him a menu.

"How hungry are you?"

"I just want the biggest, most calorific pizza I can get my hands on."

"I've seen the biggest, most calorific pizza they do here, and I think even you'd struggle with it."

He considered taking that as a challenge, but when he saw the seriousness in Steve's eyes he shrugged, leaning back in his seat. "We can just share it then."

Laughing, Steve nodded, giving Bucky free reign over what pizza they got and waiting until all the food had been ordered before leaning forward on his hands and eying Bucky up curiously.

"So.." He said slowly, smirking when Bucky raised his eyebrow at him. "How was your first official date since 2009?"

"Steve, you had to bail me out after twenty minutes. Just how well do you think it went?"

"I know that. But was it okay enough for you to keep trying?"

Bucky chewed on his lip thoughtfully and nodded. "Yeah, it wasn't that bad. He was just weird." He shrugged, smirking when Steve chuckled. "I did get a few messages from some of the other guys I texted though. So I have options now."

"Yeah.. you'll find someone. Believe it or not there are some decent guys in this city."

"Mm." Bucky mumbled, looking down at his hands and sighing. He felt Steve nudge him with his foot under the table and giggled, kicking him back harder and making him yelp.

They both carried on kicking each other underneath the table until the sound of the waitress clearing her throat beside them made them both look up. She smiled awkwardly at them and placed a pizza the size of the table down in front of them.

"Uh.. thanks." Steve mumbled, tapping the edge of the table with his fingers while Bucky tried to stop himself from giggling.

The waitress giggled at them, smiling again. "No problem. Enjoy your date."

"It's not a.. aaand she's gone." Steve sighed, dragging his hand down his face while Bucky giggled. They both stared at each other for a moment with matching flushed cheeks before Bucky looked down at the pizza, licking his lips.

"I can't believe I've lived here for 3 years without eating here." He said, staring at it in awe. "It's so beautiful I.. I could cry."

"Please don't, you'll get the pizza wet."

Bucky giggled and grabbed a slice, biting into it and moaning to himself as he chewed.

"Ooooooooh fuck, that's good."

"Buck, we're in public. Can you keep the sex noises to a minimum?"

"But it's so gooooooood." He moaned, leaning back in his seat and sighing. "I never wanna eat anything else ever again."

Steve rolled his eyes and watched him as he lost himself in pizza euphoria, leaving him to have his moment rather than trying to have a conversation with him. Despite the immense size of the pizza, it didn't take too long for the pair of them to work their way through it, and half an hour later it was almost completely gone.
Bucky picked absently at some leftover crusts, looking up at Steve who was staring at something on his phone.

"I think 'm gonna try Logan next."

"Hmm?" Steve hummed, putting his phone down on the table and shrugging. "Sure, go for it."

"I don't remember much about him though."

"I've seen him in a few of my classes. He's nice enough.. just really grumpy most of the time. Doesn't really talk to anyone."

"So like me then?"

Steve chuckled and shook his head. "You're a little more fun to be with."

"That's just your opinion." Bucky smirked and Steve shrugged, leaning back against his chair.

"I guess. He's nice though.. once you get to know him."

"Mm. I'll text him in the morning." Bucky decided, yawning and stretching his arms above his head. "Right now I just wanna fall into a coma for a few days."

"You want me to drive you home?"

"Yeah, thanks- hey. I can pay for this." He said when he saw Steve pulling his wallet out, trying to reach across the table to push Steve's arm down.

"No fuck off."

"I have more money than you."

"Buck, I don't have student loans to pay off anymore. Let me live a little."

Bucky sighed, rolling his eyes and shrugging. "Fiiiiiiiiiine." He huffed, watching as Steve paid for the pizza and getting to his feet to follow him back outside.

It was freezing when they walked back outside, and Bucky tried his best to be subtle as he walked as close to Steve as he possibly could. It was purely for survival purposes. He needed to be warm, and Steve was the closest heat source. Yeah, that was absolutely why he was walking with his arm pressed up against Steve's. Shivering, he tried to snuggle closer, and almost jumped out of his skin when Steve suddenly moved next to him.

"Here." He chuckled, pulling his hoodie off and wrapping it around Bucky's shoulders. Bucky blushed and looked down at the ground, running his hand through his hair.

"We're about to get in the car."

"Yeah, but it has crappy heating anyway." Steve shrugged, unlocking the car and holding the door open while Bucky got in.

"Did you just hold the door open for me?" Bucky asked as Steve climbed into the driver's seat. "I'm not a princess, Stevie."

"No, I was just.. I was on that side of the car to unlock anyway and.. you were.. holding my jacket so I just thought I'd.. I don't know, shut up."

Bucky smirked and pulled the hoodie tighter around himself, snuggling back against the seat while Steve started the car. It was only a short drive back to Bucky's apartment, and he was a little disappointed when they pulled up outside. They both got out of the car together and Steve followed him to the door, rocking back on his heels and smiling at him.

"So, uh.. do you wanna come inside for a bit?" Bucky asked, chewing on his lip and looking up at him. Steve just chuckled and shook his head slowly.

"Nah, I should get going. Got a meeting with my tutor tomorrow and.. a billion other things to do."

"Oh.. okay. Well thanks for the pizza."

"No problem." Steve smirked, wrapping his arms around him and pulling him into a hug. He squeezed him tightly and Bucky sighed, closing his eyes and nuzzling Steve's shoulder. "Let me know if you sort anything out with Logan." He whispered, letting go when Bucky nodded.

"Yeah.. you want your jacket back?"

"You already stole my shirt, why stop there?"

Bucky blushed, looking down at the shirt and shrugging. "Soon I'll look like a full blown hipster."

"I'm not a- forget it. I'll see you later, okay?" Steve chuckled and Bucky nodded, watching him walk back to the car before turning on his heel and heading inside.


The first day of class after the holidays always sucked, and it didn't help that Bucky's first class was at fucking 8am. It was like the Gods just wanted him to fail college and end up in a dead end job for the rest of his life. They were mocking him. He must have done something awful in a past life and this was his punishment.

"Bucky!"

He sat up and rubbed his eyes, glancing over at Clint who, fortunately for him, also had an early class. "Huh?" He mumbled sleepily, stretching his arms above his head and hitting his hands on the roof of the car. "Shit."

"You were drifting again." Clint sighed, nodding at the car window. "We're here."

"I want to go home." Bucky grumbled as he opened the door. "It's dark and it's cold and it's fucking ass o'clock. I want my bed and my cat."

"Too bad for you."

Bucky narrowed his eyes at him and frowned, dragging his hand down his face as they walked towards the dull grey college blocks. "Do we have time to get coffee?"

"We have ten minutes." Clint mumbled, glancing at his watch.

"That's totally enough time."

"Bucky no."

"I want coffeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee." He whined dragging his feet and hanging his head dramatically. "I'm gonna die. This is the end. I had a good life."

"You just have to stay awake for 50 minutes, then you can go to bed."

"I can't though, my parents are coming to take my Megsy away, and then I have to meet Logan at this bar later. I just want a nap."

Clint rolled his eyes and Bucky huffed, waving to him before they turned down different paths to get to their classrooms. Bucky was paying so little attention to his surroundings he didn't even notice Darcy until she was assaulting him, flinging her arms around his neck and squeezing the air out of his lungs.

"I missed you too, Darc." He choked, prying her arms off of him and trying to get his breath back.

"Yeah yeah, whatever." She said impatiently. "Why didn't you tell me you were dating again?"

"How did you find out about that so quickly?"

"I'm a social media whore, Buck. Did you think I was gonna miss your boyfriend's endless instagram posts?"

"My.. what?"

Darcy looked at him like he was the idiot, sighing dramatically and pulling her phone out. "He was posting these adorable pictures all over Christmas, and at first I thought it must just be some guy who looked like you because you were never fully in the picture, but then he posted this on new years.." She said, holding the phone up in his face and showing him a photo. It was the picture Steve had taken of them during the fireworks. Frowning, he took the phone out of her hands and read the caption.

Guess who finally took a selfie with me! :D #fakebaes #bitchstolemycoat

"How did you find this?"

She shrugged, snatching the phone back. "I told you, he's been posting on instagram all month."

"But how did you find him?"

"I was already following him, he makes funny posts. But you still haven't answered me. Why did you never tell me you were dating?"

"We're not dating." Bucky explained as they started walking down the corridor toward the classroom. "He was just pretending to be my boyfriend to get my parents off my case."

"Bucky, I've read enough erotic fanfiction to know how that's gonna end."

"I'm not even gonna ask you what that means." He mumbled, pushing open the door and following her into the room. "Anyway, it's over now. I do have a date tonight though."

"With Steve?"

"No."

"Shame. You two looked adorable together." Darcy sighed, nudging Bucky's arm and giggling when he shoved her away. "What? You looked really happy with him."

"I wasn't with him. We were just hanging out."

Darcy gave him an unconvinced look, frowning and chewing on her lip as they sat down. They both pulled their books out simultaneously and Bucky yawned, slumping onto the desk and trying to force his eyes to stay open. He felt Darcy prod his arm and looked up as she slid a piece of paper onto his desk.

"What's this?"

"Steve's instagram handle. You can go stalk him."

"I'm not gonna stalk him, Darc." Bucky mumbled, shoving the paper into his pocket. Obviously he wasn't going to look for Steve's instagram account. What use could he possibly have for an entire account.. full of photos of Steve... Maybe he'd give it a quick look when he got back.


"Natasha." Bucky said as soon as he got in, throwing his bag onto the couch where Clint and Nat were sitting and standing over her. "I need to borrow your phone."

"Fuck off."

"Naaaaaat it's impoortaaaaaaant." He whined, stomping his foot impatiently.

"What do you need it for?"

"You have an instagram right?"

"Yeah, why? Do you wanna stalk Steve." Nat smirked as she pulled her phone out, taunting him with it by flipping it in her hand.

"I can't believe you.. why would you immediately assume that?"

"Because I'm not following anybody else you know."

"You're following him?"

"Obviously I'm following him. You know his posts of you are super cute, he had this fake bae hashtag for you it was adorable."

"I don't understand half the words you just said. Now can I borrow the phone or not?"

Nat sniggered and handed him the phone, smirking as he flopped down in the armchair and tried to find the instagram app. He pulled the slip of paper Darcy had given him out of his pocket and read it, rolling his eyes at Steve's username; starspangledsteve. Really, Stevie?
Smiling to himself, he searched for the name and quickly managed to find Steve's profile. 719 photos. Steve had 719 photos on instagram. And Bucky wasn't going to rest until he'd looked at every single one. Oh my god, I'm fucked.
The five most recent ones were just pictures of his room as he unpacked his stuff, and one picture of Sam at some diner, but after that there were dozens of photos that Bucky recognised as places they'd visited together. How Steve had managed to take so many pictures without him noticing was a mystery, but he could pinpoint most of them and sat, scrolling through all the photos with a dumb smile on his face. Everything was going well, until he scrolled down further. That was when he found them. The gym pictures.

"Oh my god." He whispered to himself as he scrolled through them, lingering on each one for about three times as long than was necessary. It pained him that he'd lived for almost 22 years without seeing 50 photos of Steve in a tight fitting shirt, flexing in front of a mirror. He was never going to reach this level of pure happiness ever again.

"Buck." Nat said after a while, pulling his attention away from a photo of Steve sitting on Thor's shoulders. "Are you liking all his photos?"

".. A couple. Why?"

"You just got a text from him asking why I'm liking all his pictures from last year."

"How do you.. How did you get my phone!?"

Nat sniggered and flipped his phone in her hand, cocking her eyebrow at him while Bucky checked all his pockets. "How?"

"You took my phone, so I took this as compensation."

"But.. how did you.. when.."

"You were so lost in Steve-land that you didn't even notice me."

Bucky blushed while Clint and Nat cracked up laughing at him. He could see her typing something and whined in protest, kicking his legs out in a futile attempt to  reach her. "Naaaaat. You can't tell him it's me."

"I'm pretty sure he already knows. Why else would he text you about it?" She smirked. "It's too late anyway, I already sent it."

"What did you send him?"

"A photo of you being mesmerised by his pictures."

"NAT!"

"What? Ooh he replied."

"Gimme my phone back!" He yelled as he jumped up, throwing himself onto Nat's lap and trying to wrestle the phone out of her hands while she batted him away with her free hand. "You're the worst kind of person, Natasha."

Eventually she relented, letting him take the phone back and giggling as he stalked back over to the armchair and threw her phone back to her. He groaned when he saw the photo Nat had sent to Steve and blushed furiously when he saw his reply.

Glad he's enjoying himself  He certainly likes my gym progress pics

It's Bucky again, and fuck you.

Did Nat get her phone back?

Yeah

That's a shame, you didn't get to see the pool party pics

... what are the pool party pics?

( ͡ ° ͜ ʖ ͡ °)

What is that supposed to mean?

(   ͡ °   ͜ ʖ   ͡ ° ) hang on I'll find some for you 

Bucky frowned, chewing on his lip and waiting for whatever the hell Steve was about to send him, and when his phone buzzed again he almost choked on his saliva. The photo looked straight out of a cheesy teenage sitcom.. or maybe some kind of renaissance painting of a god. He tried his best to ignore the fact that Steve was only wearing a pair of swimming trunks, but it was impossible not to look at his abs when they were practically the centre of the photo, jumping out at him in all their golden glory, with droplets of water glistening off them and.. he was gonna need a cold shower after this. His phone buzzed again and distracted him.

You alive? 

If I didn't know better, I'd say you were trying to show off

And why would I do that? 

Because you're an asshole and have a better body than I ever will

Sshhh you're perf 

Rolling his eyes, he giggled to himself and went back to looking at the photo, and his eyes fell on a weird orange blotch on Steve's hip. The bottom of the picture was out of focus, so it was difficult for him to work out what it was.

Hey Steve, am I going crazy or do you have a tattoo in that photo?

Yeah, I got it after Liz died

What is it?

A tigerlily. She used to love them. Always had them around the house and stuff

Idk why I never noticed it. You took your shirt off enough at my parents' house ;)

What's that supposed to mean?? It's orange anyway, doesn't really stand out much unless you stare directly at my hip ( ͡ ° ͜ ʖ ͡ °)

Stop using that face

( ͡ ° ͜ ʖ ͡ °)

He was about to type something out when the sound of the door buzzer made him jump out of his skin.

"Shit." He mumbled, tossing his phone to the side and looking over at Nat and Clint. "What time is it?"

"4:30."

"Shit. That's probably my parents. Shit, I have a date in like, an hour. Fuck." He said frantically as he jumped up and started looking around for Meg.

The cat was sat by the door, flicking his tail patiently and blinking up at him as if he knew exactly what was going on. Sighing, Bucky scooped him up in his arms, leaning against the wall by the intercom.

"Barton-Barnes residence." He said gloomily, listening to the sound of his dad laughing on the other end. "Is my depression a joke to you, dad?"

"Quit being dramatic, I fucking told you not to take the cat."

In the background he could hear his mom yelling at him to stop swearing and giggled, buzzing them in and listening to the sound of footsteps outside getting louder. As soon as he opened the door he was ambushed by his mom, who wrapped her arms around him and squeezed him tightly.

"Oh, sweetheart, I missed you so much. It's been so quiet. You should come visit soon. How are you? Have you been sleeping okay? I brought some leftovers up for you in case you need some food."

"Thanks, ma."

"Did you bring money?" Clint piped up from across the room. "Because we could use some of that."

"Do you need money, sweetie? Because-"

"Mom ignore him." Bucky sighed, throwing Clint a dirty look and holding Meg out towards her. "Here are your stolen goods."

"It's a shame you can't keep him here. He gets so grumpy when you're gone."

"You mean he scratches up our door when he's gone?" Bucky's dad said breathlessly as he made it up the stairs, hauling a massive box behind him. "Tony asked us to bring your TV up." He explained and Clint squealed behind them.

"We have a new TV!?" He said excitedly, running over to the door. "Oh my god it's huge. Did I ever tell you how much I love living with you? Oh my god let me touch it."

While Clint was busy caressing the TV box, Bucky's mom turned back towards him, smiling as she stroked Meg's fur.

"So how have you been, sweetheart? Are your classes going okay?"

"Yeah, yeah. Look I have to start getting ready soon, I have a date later."

Her brow furrowed in confusion and she frowned at him. "You have a date?"

"Yeah in about an ho.. oh.." Bucky trailed off, suddenly realising what he'd said. He tried frantically to think of some kind of cover up story, but his mom was already talking again.

"Who are you going on a date with? What happened to Steve? Did you break up?"

"Mom-"

"Sweetheart you've only been back for a week! What happened? Did he break up with you? Where is he? I can give him a piece of my mind if he-"

"He didn't break up with me, ma.."

"You broke up with him? Why?"

"No, I.. it's complicated? We just.. kinda.. we were sort of.."

"Never actually dating?" His dad interrupted, leaning against the doorframe and raising an eyebrow at him.

"Did you just guess that?"

"I suspected."

"What!? I spent three weeks making out with somebody for nothing!?"

"What are you talking about!?" His mom asked, grabbing Bucky's shoulder and spinning him back around to face her. Bucky chewed on his lip and rocked back on his heels nervously, looking down at the floor.

"I kinda just pretended to be dating Steve so you'd stop bugging me about getting a boyfriend." He mumbled quietly.

"What?" She asked, cupping his face in her hands and tilting his head up. "Sweetheart why would you do that?"

"I just.. I know you keep worrying about me and.. I just wanted you to think I was okay."

He chewed on his lip and his mom sighed, running her fingers through his hair. "Honestly, James. You've done some ridiculous things before, but this-"

"But I do have a date." He interrupted, forcing a smile at her. "An actual date, with an actual person. So it was kind of a good thing?"

"Mm. But you'd be better with Steve."

"Mom he was acting. He doesn't actually.. that's not gonna happen."

"I saw how he looked at you. You can't fake something like that."

Bucky frowned and rocked back on his heels, shoving his hands in his pockets as he mumbled, "I have to get ready."

"Promise you'll call me at the weekend?"

"Why? I'm not gonna do anything."

"I just worry about you when you don't call." She sighed, pulling him down to kiss his forehead. "I'll see you later, sweetheart. Meg, say goodbye."

Meg mewed and stretched his paw out towards Bucky, looking up at him curiously as he waved. "'M gonna miss you, Megsy."

The cat purred and curled up in his mom's arms as she carried him back out through the door, shuffling past his dad and Clint as they began shifting the TV box inside.

"Try not to set anything on fire when you set it up." His dad warned, ruffling Bucky's hair as he walked back out. "And if your date's an asshole, kick him in the dick."

"I'm not gonna kick him."

"Yeah, but don't put up with it, 'kay?"

"Dad I'm a grown man."

His dad actually laughed at that, patting him on the shoulder and shaking his head. "Just take care of yourself, Buck." He said despairingly as he headed through the door.

Rolling his eyes, Bucky closed the door and looked around at the sad, cat-less room. Clint and Nat were both gazing lovingly at the TV box and he sighed, pushing the bedroom door open and pottering over to the closet to find something to wear.
Halfway through pulling some jeans on he heard a knock on the door, and the sound of Clint calling him.

"Hey, Buck. Me and Nat are going out."

"I'm aware of that."

"No, I.. that's not what I mean, you moron. We're going to get dinner."

"I knew what you meant, Clint." Bucky sighed, rolling his eyes to nobody in particular and grabbing the black t-shirt he'd laid out on the bed.

"Oh, right. You gonna be okay?"

"I'm going to a bar. If things go to shit I can just drink to forget."

Clint pushed the door open purely so he could give Bucky a dirty look, narrowing his eyes at him and frowning. "If it goes to shit, you call me."

"I'll be fine."

"Buck-"

"Just go, will you?" Bucky smirked, throwing his old shirt at Clint's head before changing into the clean one. "I can handle it."

"Fine, see you later."

"Call me if you need me to punch him!" Nat called from behind him, before they both headed out and left him alone in the quiet apartment.

It only took him a few more minutes to finish getting ready, putting considerably less effort into his appearance than he had for his date with Pietro. Grabbing his keys and a jacket, he pushed the door open and hopped down the stairs to get to his car.

The Apocalypse bar was a fairly modern building, and had shown up on the outskirts of the campus last summer. Bucky had never been there before, but Logan had insisted on the phone that the drinks were cheap and they played good music, so he'd agreed to meet him there. The unfamiliar area, paired with the vast amount of cars already parked outside when he got there was enough to set him on edge before he'd even gone inside, and he had to spend a few minutes in his car trying to remember how to breathe before he could actually bring himself to go in.
Thankfully, it wasn't as crowded inside as he'd expected, and he was able to make his way over to the bar without getting in anyone's way. He sat for a few minutes wondering when Logan was going to show up, when he heard somebody calling him from across the room.

"Hey, Bucky!"

He spun around in his seat and saw Logan, sitting with a group of people at a table and beckoning him over. Frowning to himself, he walked over, yelping when Logan immediately grabbed his arm and pulled him into the seat next to him.

"I was wondering when you were gonna show up." He smirked, draping his arm around Bucky's shoulder and looking him up and down. "You look gorgeous."

"Uh.. thanks." Bucky stammered, glancing around the table at the rest of the group. None of them seemed to have even noticed his arrival and were still talking amongst themselves, and he didn't recognise any of them. Shuffling nervously, he turned back to Logan, trying to keep his voice low as he whispered, "I thought it was gonna be just us?"

"Yeah, but then I saw my friends sitting over here so I figured we could just all hang out together."

"I'd kinda prefer if we went somewhere else."

"I can't just leave my friends now, babe." Logan said loudly, prompting a chorus of protests from the rest of the group. "See, we can stay. You want a drink?"

"No, I'm fine." Bucky grumbled, looking down at the table while Logan started talking to the guy next to him.

 He had hoped that Logan's friends would leave after a while, but it was becoming increasingly obvious that wasn't going to happen. Two hours in, and nobody had so much as acknowledged his presence. Occassionally Logan would run his hand down Bucky's side, or turn around and try to kiss his neck while Bucky tried to squirm away from him, but that was the only proof he got that Logan even remembered he was there.
Another half hour passed, and he decided enough was enough. He was starving, and tired, and bored to tears from listening to everyone else talk about a sports game he hadn't watched, so he pulled his jacket back on and tried to slowly shuffle off the seat, jumping when Logan grabbed his arm.

"Where you goin', babe?"

Panic set in and Bucky froze, not moving when Logan squeezed his arm and tried to pull him back down into the seat. "I.. just have to go to the bathroom.." He stammed, scanning the building and spotting the bathrooms at the far end of the room. Smiling, he pulled his arm out of Logan's grasp and gestured over to them. "I'll be back in a sec."

"Oh, okay." Logan nodded and Bucky spun on his heel, gritting his teeth and trying not to respond when Logan slapped his ass as he walked off.

Fortunately, the bathroom was empty when he went in, and he leant back against the door for a few minutes taking a few deep breaths before chewing on his lip and trying to figure out how he was going to escape. There was a tiny window above the sinks which he was fairly sure he could fit through, the only problem was he had no idea how he was going to get up there without killing himself.

"Okay, Barnes." He muttered to himself, eying up the sinks intensely. "Time to prove your third grade gymnastics teacher was wrong about you."

In his defense, he only slipped three times while trying to climb onto the sink, and he only kicked the mirror once. The real difficulty came when he had managed to squeeze himself halfway through the window, and realised he had no way of getting onto the ground without giving himself over to gravity. He was considering just phoning Clint for help when he heard the sound of the door opening behind him. Shit. Shit shit shit. Without really thinking it through, he forced himself the rest of the way through the window, dropping to the floor and groaning as he landed on his ankle.

"FUUuuuUUUUuuuuuk." He whined, picking himself up and trying to walk around to his car. Pain shot up his leg every time he put his foot down, and he ended up having to drag his leg along the ground as he walked, grunting to himself every time his ankle twisted.

After completing what felt like a 50 mile trek, he made it to his car, throwing himself into the driver's seat and trying to start the car as quickly as he physically could. It was a struggle driving home when every movement of his foot sent a stabbing pain through his ankle, and even more of a struggle to make it up the 3 flights of stairs to his apartment. As soon as he was inside he collapsed onto the couch, curling up in a ball and whining to himself.
It was completely silent apart from the sound of passing cars outside, and Bucky realised it was the first time he'd actually been on his own now that Meg was gone. Wrapping his arms around himself, he limped over to the bedroom to find something warmer to wear. He pulled on some old sweatpants and a baggy t-shirt, pausing by the coat rack on his way out when he saw Steve's hoodie hanging up. It looked warm.. and big.. and it kinda smelled like Steve.. and he was not going to put the hoodie on... He was going to put the hoodie on.
It was stupid, how nice it felt just having the warm jacket wrapped around him, but he at least felt a little better as he hobbled back over to the couch, tapping his phone with his thumb for a few minutes before finally dialing Steve's number. The phone only rang for a few seconds before Steve picked up, and Bucky could hear the sound of music and laughing in the background.

"Hey!" Steve said loudly down the phone, making Bucky wince. "How'd your date go?"

"Are you at a party?"

"S'not really a party. Sam said he was inviting a few guys over, and now there's like 50 people here. You can come over if you want?"

"Not really." Bucky mumbled, playing with a toggle on the hoodie and looking down at his feet.

"Hey, you okay?"

"Yeah, I just.. it's fine. You're busy I can just-"

"Hey, hey. Hold on." Steve interrupted, and Bucky could hear the background noise gradually die down as Steve moved to a quieter spot. "What's wrong? You want me to come over?"

"What about your party?"

"I told you it's not a party. That's not important anyway. If you want me to come over I will."

Bucky smiled weakly, chewing on his lip as he nodded to nobody. "Can you bring some food?"

"How about I cook for you? You still have 5 meals to redeem."

"Okay." He giggled, listening to the sound of Steve chuckling down the phone.

"Okay. I'll be there in a few."

Smiling to himself, Bucky hung up the phone and curled up in a ball, closing eyes for a while as he waited for Steve to arrive. Twenty minutes passed and he was starting to worry that he wasn't going to show up, when finally he heard the door buzzer and limped slowly over to it, unlocking the door without even bothering to check who it was. If it was Steve, he was in a hurry. Bucky could hear him running up the stairs and opened the door before he could knock, sighing with relief when he saw that it was Steve panting in the doorway.

"Hey." He breathed, hunching over as he got his breath back and gesturing behind him. "You have a lot of stairs."

"You didn't have to run up 'em."

"I know but.. you sounded like.. you needed me to.. hurry." Steve said between breaths. "I need to start working out again. Are you okay?"

Bucky nodded but Steve didn't look convinced, closing the door behind him and stepping forward to wrap his arm around Bucky's waist and pull him closer. "'M okay Stevie." He mumbled, leaning against Steve's chest and closing his eyes. "Just didn't wanna be on my own. My parents took Meg back and I'm tired and I had a shitty night and.. I just wanna cry and eat food."

"Okay. How about I put this food away," He said, lifting up the bag in his other hand. "And then I'll make dinner after you tell me what happened."

He nodded and Steve smiled, kissing the top of his head before letting go of him to walk over to the fridge. Bucky only made it halfway back to the couch before he felt Steve's hand on his shoulder again.

"What happened to your leg?"

"Huh?" He mumbled, looking down at his sore ankle and shrugging. "It's nothing. I was just-"

"Did he hurt you?"

"What? No!"

"Buck I swear to god if he laid a finger on you-"

"That's not what happened! I've just twisted my ankle."

"The hell were you doing to twist your ankle?"

Bucky shrugged again and chewed on his lip. "I was.. climbing out the bathroom window." He mumbled, smirking when Steve started laughing.

"This date really must've been bad."

"You have no idea."

Steve chuckled and walked back over to the fridge while Bucky hopped onto the couch, listening to the sound of Steve rearranging food.

"Bucky, all that's in your fridge is 10 bottles of beer and some cheese." He said as he sat on the couch next to him, wrapping his arm around Bucky's shoulder when he snuggled closer.

"Yeah. We bought like a billion chicken nuggets a couple days ago so we're just living off those."

"You stress me out sometimes, you know that?" Steve sighed, squeezing his shoulder. "Are you wearing my jacket?"

"It's comfy." He mumbled. "And I can hide my hands in the sleeves.. You gave it to me anyway, what did you expect me to do with it?"

"I don't know.. this is completely off topic. Tell me about your date."

Bucky let out a deep breath and wriggled onto Steve's lap, nestling his head against his chest. "Wasn't even a date. He had like, 5 of his friends there, and they all just sat and talked the whole time and totally ignored me. Kinda felt like I was just something for him to show off."

"Asshole." Steve muttered, wrapping his arms around him and nuzzling the top of his head. "How long were you there for?"

"Three hours I think."

"Why didn't you just leave?"

"Have you seen him? He's fucking huge. Even when I did try to leave he grabbed me and tried to stop me. That's why I climbed out the window."

Steve frowned and leant his head against Bucky's. "I have a strong urge to fight him."

"Steve no."

"Just get a few punches to his face."

"Steve he will kill you."

"Have a little faith, Buck. I've taken on guys bigger than him."

"Do not."

"But Buckyyyyyyyyyyy." Steve whined, kicking his legs out dramatically. "I wanna punch him."

"He could have been worse."

"Whatever." He grumbled, sitting up and running his hand through Bucky's hair. "I'm gonna aggressively cook instead. Fajitas okay?"

"Anything that isn't chicken nuggets is a godsend at this point." Bucky smirked, nuzzling Steve's chest before shuffling over so he could get up.

He hadn't realised how much he'd missed Steve's cooking, and he spent more time telling Steve how great his food was than he did eating it. It took a lot of strength not to kiss him when he revealed that he'd also bought some chocolate cake on his way over.

"Stevie, why am I wasting my time on dates when you exist?"

"What?"

"Who needs a boyfriend when I have you bringing me cake?" He giggled, snuggling closer to Steve on the couch and shovelling another spoonful of cake into his mouth.

"Oh.. right. You just sounded like you needed cake."

"I always need cake."

"Are you gonna eat that whole thing?"

"I'm not eating the whole thing. We're sharing it."

"Bucky I ate like, two spoonfuls."

"Which means that even if I finish this entire cake, I didn't eat the whole thing."

Steve chuckled and leant his head against him, humming as he ran his hand up and down Bucky's arm. "Mm.. whatever helps you sleep at night. You feeling better? How's your ankle?"

"Huh? It's okay, I think." Bucky mumbled, wiggling his foot and wincing as pain shot through it again. "I think I just landed on it at a bad angle."

"You want me to take a look at it?"

"No, you'll make it hurt."

"Buck you might need to go to the hospital."

"I managed to drive home on it and walk up three flights of stairs. I think I'll live."

"Bucky."

"Fiiiiiiiine." He groaned as he shuffled to the other side of the couch, swinging his legs over and resting his feet on Steve's lap. "But if you make it hurt I'll cry, and then we'll both be sorry."

Steve rolled his eyes at him as he pulled Bucky's sock off, pushing up the leg of his sweatpants and turning his foot to look at his ankle, making him yelp.

"Ow!"

"Sorry! It looks pretty bruised. You probably won't be able to walk on it much for a couple days."

"Gee, thanks for that groundbreaking information, doc." Bucky muttered, wincing when Steve moved his foot again. "You're making it worse."

"I'm not doing anything."

"You keep moving it!"

"I had to move it so I could see it, Buck." Steve said sternly, rubbing his foot soothingly. "'M sorry. It should feel better in the morning."

"Mm, that's helping though." Bucky sighed as Steve massaged the ball of his foot, leaning back against the cushions and stretching his arms out. "Pass me the cake."

"You know, I came here to cheer you up, not to become your servant."

"What's the difference?" He giggled, grabbing the cake when Steve passed it to him. "I'll make it up to you at some point."

"What? You're gonna cook me dinner? 'Cause last time you said that you ended up serving me Natasha's food."

"Shut up. One day I'll cook you dinner and you'll actually enjoy it."

"Sure, and one day Hell is gonna freeze over."


As it turned out, Hell froze over on Valentine's day. Over the month Bucky managed to get a few more dates, each of them as bad as the last, and he was getting pretty close to giving up. Against his own better judgement and after a lot of persuading from Clint, he did eventually agree to a dinner date with Sean Cassidy,  even though he was fairly certain he had just been Sean's last resort for Valentines. 

Clint and Nat had gone out for the whole day, leaving Bucky on his own for most of the afternoon, sitting on the floor surrounded by lecture notes and trying to get at least one psychology theory to stay in his brain. By 3pm he hated every psychologist who ever lived, and he was getting close to just throwing his textbook out the window when his phone started buzzing next to him, interrupting his mini fall out boy kareoke session. Frowning, he unplugged his headphones and picking the phone up, staring at Steve's name on the screen for a few seconds before answering it.

"Stevie?"

"Hey.. are you busy?"

"No, I was just-"

"I'm outside."

Bucky frowned, getting to his feet and walking over to the door. "Steve why didn't you just ring the doorbell?"

"It's a long story. Can you just come down here?"

"Are you okay?"

"Buck."

"Okay okay, I'm coming." He said, shoving his phone into his pocket and hopping down the stairs.

He wasn't sure what he'd expected to find when he opened the front door, but having Steve practically collapse onto him wasn't it. It took him a moment to get his balance back after being hit with the full force of Steve's body weight, but somehow he managed to stay upright, wrapping his arms around Steve's shoulders and trying to hold him up.

"Stevie what's going o- what the hell happened to you!?" He exclaimed, choking when Steve looked up at him and he saw how beat up his face was. His right eye was swollen and bruised, dried blood around his nose, and it looked like his lip was still bleeding where it had split.

"You should see the other guy." Steve chuckled, leaning his head on Bucky's shoulder and groaning. "I need your help with something gross, and I need you to not freak out."

"O..kay?"

"Right, so this guy smashed a bottle over me and-"

"Steve what the fu-"

"Don't freak out! But there's a piece of glass stuck right here.." He said, trying to point to his back and wincing. "I can't reach it to get it out, and it hurts like a fucking bitch."

"Uh, okay.. you should probably.. come upstairs then." Bucky said slowly, trying to process what he'd just said as he led Steve up the stairs.

He sat Steve down at the table and started rifling through the kitchen cabinets for the first aid box. When they first moved into the apartment Clint had insisted they didn't need a first aid kit and that they could get by without one, that was until a week later when Bucky chopped part of his finger off trying to peel a carrot, so now Clint made a point of keeping it regularly stocked up. He found it after a few minutes of searching, dumping it down on the table along with a handful of tissues.  

"Okay." He said as he rolled his sleeves up, looking Steve up and down and chewing on his lip. "This'll.. probably be easier if you take your shirt off."

"Right." Steve nodded, tugging the shirt over his head and groaning. "Fuuuuuck."

"You okay?"

"Peachy." He said through gritted teeth, clenching his fists and staring at Bucky expecantly.

"You know, Stevie. I'm basically saving your life right now. The least you could do is not give me attitude."

"Fuck off."

Bucky smirked and dragged another chair over, sitting behind Steve and trying to ignore how beautiful his back muscles were as he examined the shard of glass poking out between his shoulders. It wasn't a huge piece, but big enough for Bucky to get a good grip on. He could here Steve's pained noises every time he touched it and used his free hand to rub his back reassuringly.

"I'm gonna yank it out on three, 'kay?"

"Just get on with it."

"Okay. 1.. 2-"

"FUCK!" Steve yelled when Bucky pulled it out, slamming his fist on the table while Bucky grabbed some of the tissues to wipe up the blood. "You're an asshole."

"And you're a big baby. Look at this, it's tiny." Bucky giggled, holding the glass shard in Steve's face. "Should probably put some antiseptic on it."

"Fuck off, that'll hurt."

"You're fine with somebody smashing a bottle over your head, but this is too much for you?"

Steve didn't answer and Bucky rolled his eyes, cleaning up the wound while Steve did his best not to make any more noise. He didn't do a particularly good job, and Bucky had to stop several times to apologise and rub circles on his back while he recovered. Finally, when he was sure he'd inflicted enough pain on Steve's back, he put a bandaid over the wound, wrapping his arms around Steve's neck and nuzzling his shoulder.

"Okay, I'm finished." He said softly, squeezing his shoulder. "You can stop whining now."

"I wasn't whining." Steve grumbled and Bucky rolled his eyes, frowning at the blood all over his face.

"Lemme go get something to clean your face. You look disgusting."

"Thanks, Buck."

Bucky giggled at him as he stood up, heading back over to the sink and grabbing a bowl to fill with water. He found a clean dishcloth in one of the drawers and brought everything back over to Steve, setting the bowl down on the table before sitting back down.

"Okay, c'mere." He said as he sat down, nudging Steve's shoulder and prompting him to spin around on the chair.

Steve turned around and Bucky was faced with the instant reminder that he hadn't put his shirt back on yet. It was impossible for him to tear his gaze away from the rock hard abs that were now only a few inches away from him, so he stared, open mouthed, until Steve cleared his throat and brought him back to the real world.

"I thought you were gonna clean my face." He chuckled and Bucky nodded, still not looking up.

"Yeah.. I was just.. looking.."

"I can see that."

"No I mean.. I like your tattoo?" Bucky stammered as his eyes fell onto the flower on Steve's hip, finally looking back up at Steve and chewing on his lip. "It's pretty."

Steve smirked at him and Bucky looked back down at the red and orange flower on his hip bone, reaching out to run his fingers over it absentmindedly. "Aren't hip tattoos really painful?"

"It wasn't that bad."

"Did you cry?"

"Fuck off." Steve mumbled and Bucky giggled, letting his fingers linger on Steve's skin for longer than was necessary before sitting back and grabbing the cloth from the table.

"Right, anyways.. face. C'mere." He said, wetting the cloth and tilting Steve's chin down so he could wipe away the blood on his lip. "You still haven't told me what happened, anyway. Who the hell was dumb enough to start a fight with you?"

"Nobody. I started the fight."

"Steve for fucks sake."

"What!?"

"The hell are you starting fights with people for!?"

"They were assholes! I was walking past this bar and there was a group of guys hanging around outside just trying to grab at all the girls who walked past, so I respectfully told them to stop. Then they started spewing some bullshit about how the girls were asking for it so I punched one of them in the face."

Bucky sighed, frowning at him as he wiped Steve's forehead. "How many guys were there?"

"Four, but one of them left."

"You took on four guys? By yourself?"

"I told you, they were being assholes."

"The whole world's not your responsibility, Stevie." He frowned, running his free hand through Steve's hair.

"You sound like my aunt."

"That's not a bad thing." Bucky shrugged as he dropped the blood stained cloth into the bowl of water, turning back towards him and chewing on his lip. "But you did destroy those guys, right?"

"Now you really sound like my aunt." Steve sighed, leaning forward against Bucky's shoulder. "They came out worse than I did."

"Damn right." Bucky mumbled, lifting Steve's head up and examining the bruising around his eye. "Does this hurt? I can get some ice for it if you want?"

"It's fine."

"It looks gross."

Steve chuckled and sat back up, running a hand through his hair. "Good thing I don't have a date tonight, huh?"

"I doubt that'd put many people off. Just show up without your shirt on and they won't even realise you have a face."  Bucky smirked, grabbing Steve's shirt from the table and handing it to him. "And why the hell do you not have a date?"

"Dunno." Steve shrugged as he pulled the shirt over his head. "I got a couple of offers but.. I wasn't really feeling it. Think this is the first time in about 5 years that I haven't had a valentine's date."

"Ironically, this is the first time in 5 years that I have." Bucky mumbled, sighing and looking down at his hands. Just the thought of going out again filled him with dread, and the later it got the more he wished he could just stay at home. He looked back up and saw Steve chewing on his lip, nodding slowly before suddenly slamming the table with his fist.

"That reminds me!" He said excitedly, grabbing his backpack from under the table. "I got something for you. That's why I was coming over."

Bucky frowned and watched as he rifled through his bag. "What do you mean you got me something?"

"I mean, I got something for you." Steve said, raising his eyebrow at him. He pulled something out of his bag and tossed it to him, smiling at him nervously. "It's kinda dumb." He mumbled as Bucky looked down at the tiny cuddly cat. It's fur was a smiliar colour to Meg's, and one of it's eyes had fallen off. "But I thought it was cute and I had nobody to buy it for, and you were the only person I could think of that would appreciate it because it's kinda like Meg and I know you've missed him since he went back home so I just.. I just thought you'd like it."

Bucky giggled, blushing as he cradled the cat in his hands. "It's cute."

"You like it?"

"'Course I like it, you idiot." He giggled, wrapping his arm around Steve's neck and kissing his cheek. "Thanks."

Steve didn't say anything for a moment and Bucky pulled away from him again, tilting his head while Steve stared blankly at him.

"You okay, Stevie?"

"Yeah.. yeah I just.. you're welcome." He stammered, looking up at him and smirking. "So when's your date?"

Bucky shrugged and looked over at the clock. "Not for another hour."

"Shouldn't you be getting ready?"

"Yeah.. I guess."

"You could at least try to sound excited." Steve chuckled and Bucky sighed, chewing on his lip.

"Steve, I would rather gouge my eyes out with a spoon than go on this date."

"Okay that's a little dramatic."

"Uuuughh." Bucky groaned, falling forward and burying his face in Steve's shoulder. "Can I just hang out with you instead?"

Steve paused for a moment before shrugging and stroking Bucky's hair. "I mean.. sure, if you want?"

"I do want." He mumbled, turning his head to the side and looking up at him. "We can watch crappy romantic movies and cry over how alone we are."

"Is that what you usually do?"

"No, it's what Clint usually does." Bucky smirked. "I usually get fucked in a nightclub bathroom and drink to forget my problems."

"Fun."

"Mm. Guess I should tell Sean I'm blowing him out." He sighed, sitting up and pulling his phone out of his pocket. "What should I tell him?"

"You have a headache? You broke your leg? Your father died?"

"Steve I'm not telling him my dad died."

"I'm just making suggestions." Steve shrugged, sniggering when Bucky frowned at him. "Just tell him something else came up, you don't have to be specific."

"'Kay." Bucky mumbled as he typed out the message, trying to put him down as gently as possible.

Hey :) Really sorry but something's come up and I won't be able to make it tonight :( Maybe we can do something next week?

He sent the message and shoved the phone back into his pocket, sighing as he leant back in his chair.

"Feel better?" Steve smirked, watching as Bucky took a few deep breaths and nodded.

"You have no idea. He's gonna be pissed though. I'm pretty sure I was his last ditch attempt at getting some valentine's sex."

"Then.. wouldn't he have been disappointed anyway?"

"That depends."

"On what?"

"Whether he was gonna buy me chocolates." Bucky shrugged, giggling when Steve dragged his hand down his face. "What? I'm easy okay?"

"You're a lot of things, Buck. Easy isn't one of them."

"Well yeah I guess now I'm not. You know it's been.. four months since I got any dick? That smashes my previous record of two weeks."

Steve chuckled and shook his head. "That must have been a tough two weeks for you."

"My asshole literally throbbed every time I laid eyes on a man."

"I.. really don't know what to say to that." Steve mumbled, raising his eyebrows and sitting up. "Maybe we should get started on the crappy romantic movies."

"Okay." Bucky giggled, getting up and wandering over to his stack of DVDs. "I have about fifty. What ones do you wanna watch?"

Steve followed him over and sat down on the floor next to him. "Why do you have so many?"

"Because I'm sad and lonely, and lots of them have cute guys in." Bucky shrugged. "Ooh what about this one." He said as he pulled his copy of What's Your Number and tossing it over to Steve.

"I haven't seen it."

"It's pretty funny. Plus hot guy who gets naked a lot. Like, a lot. Full ass."

"Okay you've convinced me."

Bucky giggled as he snatched the DVD back, setting it up and following Steve over to the couch. He had intended to just sit next to him, but somehow within ten minutes Bucky ended up on top of him, with his head on his chest and Steve's arms wrapped around him.

"Is that really a thing?" Steve asked after a while as he ran his hand through Bucky's hair.

"Huh?"

"Sleeping with 20 people. Because I'm pretty sure I passed that in my freshman year."

"Steve you absolute slut."

"No but seriously, are there actually people out there who think that's the limit?"

"I don't know, probably."

"That's.. so depressing." Steve mumbled and Bucky giggled, nuzzling at Steve's chest.

"Mm, I think it's kinda late for me to limit myself to 20. Maybe 200. Ooh ooh the cute guy's coming." He said exitedly, slapping Steve's arm. "Loooook at hiiiiiim."

"He's okay."

"Okay? Okay!? I would eat that ass like it was the last meal I was ever gonna receive." Bucky sighed dreamily, chewing on his lip and staring intently at the screen for a moment before adding, "He kinda looks like you."

Steve cracked up laughing and Bucky blushed when he realised what he'd said, hiding his face in Steve's chest.

"I don't mean like.. I don't wanna.. you just have the same face." He tried to explain, narrowing his eyes when Steve sniggered at him. "Shut up."

"I didn't say anything."

"You're being a jerk." Bucky grumbled, turning back to the TV and ignoring Steve's giggling.

They both stayed quiet for most of the movie, aside from one argument over why the hell Steve thought Disgusting Donald was cuter than Colin. After that Bucky was too horrified to speak to him for almost an hour.

"You know what I hate about movies like this?" He finally said, looking up at Steve and frowning. "They're always so fucking oblivious. Like, you're obviously in love with that guy, why are you dancing with this asshole? It's unrealistic. Nobody's gonna be that dumb in real life."

"Yeah, I guess."

"And how has she not realised that he loves her? He's literally the only person who's been treating her nicely! Like, wake up! There is this perfect guy right in front of you and uuugh. It's so frustrating and I fucking love it."

Steve hummed and ran his fingers through Bucky's hair. "This is only the first movie, Buck."

"I know. I just get really invested okay? You're lucky this one doesn't make me cry anymore."

Bucky was wrong. He did cry. A lot. Hell, he must have sat through this movie 50 times just for the sake of seeing some ass. He was supposed to be completely desensitised. And now he was crying like a fucking baby again and ruining Steve's shirt with his dumb baby tears. Steve seemed to find it endlessly hilarious how much he was crying, and laughed hysterically as Bucky sat up and wiped his eyes with his sleeve.

"Stop laughing at me."

"Buck that was so cheesy. I can't believe this is affecting you so much."

"I've had a stressful few weeks okay? I've been on shitty dates and I have a fuck load of revision to do and I just have a lot of feelings."

"Do you need a hug?"

"Obviously I need a hug." Bucky mumbled, giggling when Steve pulled him back down and wrapped his arms tightly around him.

"Why are you studying already?"

"Because I have exams in three months and I kinda don't want to fail. My entire future depends on this. If I fail I'll have to move to the country and marry a farmer and milk cows for the rest of my life and that's not a life I want to live."

"Bucky.. your parents are rich."

"But I'll disgrace that family name! They won't support me after that! Cows, Steve. My future is cows."

Steve chuckled and kissed the top of his head, squeezing him tightly. "I think you're overreacting."

"Obviously I am. That's kinda my thing." Bucky mumbled, nuzzling at Steve's chest and sighing. "I cried out all my energy. You want food?"

"Sure. If I'd known I would've brought some stuff to cook dinner."

"It's fine, I have special valentine's nuggets. They're heart shaped."

"I'm swooning."

Bucky giggled and sat back up. "I've also become an expert at making mashed potatos."

"Okay.. why?"

"That's the first thing in the book you gave me. So it's all I've been making for the past 3 weeks." He shrugged. "You wouldn't believe how much mashed potato I've forced Clint to eat."

He pushed himself to his feet and headed over to the kitchen, pulling the heart nuggets out of the freezer and shoving them in Steve's face. "See! Do you feel the love yet?"

"I'm feeling it." Steve sniggered, leaning against the counter next to him and watching as Bucky started searching the cabinet for a tray. "You know I think this is the first time I've seen you use your kitchen."

"Fuck off, I defrosted a pizza for us last week."

"Forgive me. This is the second time, in the four months I've known you, that I've seen you use your kitchen."

Bucky narrowed his eyes at him, whacking him in the head with a saucepan and giggling when Steve backed away a few steps. "Don't sass me when I'm holding kitchenware."

"You're a lot like your mom, you know that?"

"Did she hit you with a pan too?"

"Several times." Steve mumbled as he rubbed his head. "She hit harder than you though."

"Ma's ruthless." Bucky nodded, setting the saucepan down and ignoring Steve's sarcastic remark about how he did in fact know how to turn the oven on.

Despite the added pressure of having Steve watch him, he did manage to cook a meal without fucking anything up, if putting some chicken nuggets in the oven and mashing some potatos could be considered cooking. Steve seemed incapable of not making constant sarcastic comments about his "romantic meal". Especially when Bucky dug out a bottle of wine he and Clint had been saving.

"Oh I'm sorry. If I'd known this was going to be such a fancy evening I'd have bought you some flowers."

"You know what, Rogers? I worked hard on these nuggets, and you're gonna fucking enjoy them with or without my expensive wine."

"Fine, we'll have the wine." Steve smirked and Bucky nodded in approval, turning back to find some glasses. "And maybe you should light some candles while you're at it."

"FUCK OFF!"

Steve threw his head back laughing, clutching his chest and tilting back in his chair when Bucky slammed the wine bottle down on the table. "I am trying to have a relaxing, classy evening, Steven."

"'Classy' being a relative term?"

"Keep this up and you'll be leaving here in a worse state than you arrived." He muttered, sitting down at the other end of the table and pouring as much wine as he could fit into his glass.

Eventually Steve's sarcastic comments stopped, once he realised Bucky had in fact mastered the art of potato mashing, and that his food was actually edible. He ended up feeling so guilty that he insisted on washing all the dishes while Bucky sat on the couch with his cat, picking out some more movies for them to watch.

"I'm naming the cat Optimus." He announced when Steve sat back down, cradelling the cat in his arms as he snuggled back up to him. "And also we're watching The Notebook next."

Steve rolled his eyes and wrapped his arm around Bucky's waist. "Haven't you cried enough already?"

"We're watching crappy romance movies, Stevie. It's impossible to pick one that won't make me cry. My goal here is to find one that makes you cry."

"Good luck with that."

"I'll break you." Bucky insisted as he played the movie.

Steve was resilliant. He made it through The Notebook and Love Actually without so much as shedding a tear. Bucky, on the other hand, made it through two boxes of tissues and half a tub of ice cream.

"Fuck this." He sniffed, wiping his eyes on his sleeve. "My eyes hurt."

"You want more ice cream?"

"I want to stop crying." Bucky mumbled, sifting through the pile of DVDs next to him. "Have you seen this?" He asked as he held up a copy of Moulin Rouge. "I bought it ages ago but I haven't watched it."

"I don't think so." Steve said, shaking his head.

"It says it's a musical. That should be safe, right?"  

It was not safe. Oh god it was not safe. Bucky did at least get the satisfaction of finally getting Steve to cry, but he was too busy sobbing into his ice cream to really notice.

"It said.. it was a musical.. I thought it would be happy." He choked, spooning melted ice cream into his mouth. "I've forgotten what happiness feels like."

Steve didn't say anything, wrapping his arms around him and burying his face in Bucky's hair. They both stayed like that for a few minutes, sniffling and clinging on to each other. Eventually Bucky ran out of tears to cry and collapsed against him completely, too exhausted to move.

"I think maybe that's enough movies for tonight?" Steve said, rubbing his eyes and squeezing Bucky's shoulder gently. "You okay?"

"Mm. What time is it?" Bucky mumbled, closing his eyes and nuzzling Steve's chest.

"Almost 2am."

"Shit."

"Yeah.. I have work tomorrow. I'm gonna hate everyone even more than usual."

Bucky giggled, yawning and rubbing his eye sleepily while Steve stroked his hair.

"You should go to bed." Steve said softly and Bucky nodded, making no effort to actually move.

"'M comfy here."

"C'mon."

"Nooooooo." He whined as Steve sat up, yelping and throwing his arms around his neck when Steve hooked his arms under his legs and lifted him off the couch. "Put me down!" He giggled, slapping Steve's back and kicking his legs out.

Steve ignored him, carrying him through the bedroom door and dropping him down on the bed. "Bed."

"I could've walked myself." He smirked, snuggling back against the pillows and yawning. They both stared at each other for a moment until Bucky stretched his arms out. "Are you gonna cuddle me?"

"I was gonna sleep on the couch."

"But I just watched a sad movie." Bucky whined, smiling sleepily at him. "I won't be able to sleep on my own."

Steve didn't look convinced, but it didn't stop him from sitting down on the edge of the bed and nudging Bucky's shoulder. "Move over then."

Bucky wriggled over, waiting for Steve to lie down before throwing his arm over him and resting his head against Steve's chest. He'd never admit it to anyone, but even after a month he'd still been struggling to get to sleep on his own, he was too used to having Steve next to him in the bed. So when Steve pulled the duvet over them and wrapped his arms around Bucky's shoulders, he found himself unable to keep his eyes open for long.

"I've missed this." He said softly, sighing when Steve ran his fingers through his hair.

"Really?"

"Mm. When do you have to go to work?"

"5 hours." Steve sighed. "If you hear about a murder in Hollister tomorrow, I'm guilty."

"I'll pack my bags. We can move to Europe and flee from the law."

Steve chuckled, nuzzling Bucky's hair and humming. They both giggled and snuggled closer together, yawning simultaniously. Soon all Bucky could hear was the sound of Steve's heart, which seemed to be beating faster than usual, but he was too tired to pay any mind to it, and it was only a few minutes before he fell asleep completely.


Bucky was in no way prepared for Steve's phone alarm going off at 7am, and it took him a few minutes to work out what was happening.

"Steeeeevie?" Bucky groaned, peering up at him sleepily. "What's goin' on? Where am I? Happy Easter?"

Steve chuckled, and ran his fingers through Bucky's hair. "Go back to sleep, Buck."

"Nngghh?"

"Can I use your shower?"

"Mmhmm."

"'Kay. Go to sleep, I'll see you later."

"Mmkay." Bucky mumbled, yawning and closing his eyes again. He just barely registered Steve kissing his forehead before he blacked out again.


He didn't see Steve again for a couple of days, but he found it hard to stop thinking about that night. He'd spent the whole of Sunday and Monday waiting for Steve to say something about it, but he hadn't heard anything from him, and he was starting to think he could be trying to read too much into it.

"Please go and talk to him." Darcy groaned, slumping against her desk despairingly. "I can't spend another minute listening to you talk about him."

"I mentioned him once."

"Bucky, you've literally been talking about your little palentine's date for the past 30 minutes."

"I'm just trying to get your advice here."

"Yeah, my advice is to go talk to him."

Bucky narrowed his eyes at her and folded his arms grumpily. "You're not helping."

"I am helping! You're just stubborn. This entire problem would be solved if you two just used your words." She mumbled, propping herself up on her elbows and frowning at him. "You're both the biggest idiots on the planet. Just talk to each other and.. uugh."

"Maybe.. I should go talk to him."

"OH MY GOD!"

"Darcy, I know how exciting the attribution theory is, but try to contain yourself." Banner sighed, looking over at them from the front of the classroom.

Darcy nodded and looked down at the desk while Bucky stifled a laugh, chewing on his lip and sniggering to himself. Neither of them spoke again until class was over, aside from Darcy slipping him occassional notes with "TALK. TO. HIM." written in black marker.

"Okay." She said once they were out of the classroom. "Are you gonna talk to your idiot boyfriend?"

"He's not my boyfriend."

"Not yet."

Bucky frowned at her and she giggled, nudging him with her elbow. "Okay.. I guess I could go see him."

"Thank you." She smiled, patting his head. "I'm gonna go watch cute guys in the library while pretending to study. Text me when you've made out."

He watched as she headed down the path before turning in walking in the opposite direction, trying to figure out what he was even going to talk to Steve about. He was so  caught up in his conversation planning that he managed to walk straight into somebody, stumbling back a few steps and rubbing his shoulder.

"Hey what the f.. oh.. hi." The man said, smiling at him and running his hand through his hair. Bucky looked him up and down, trying to work out why he recognised him. "It's Bucky right?"

"Uh.. yeah?"

"It's John." He chuckled and Bucky frowned, thinking back to the Halloween party last year and nodding slowly.

"Right.. John. You fall down any more stairs recently?"

John laughed and rocked back on his heels. "Not recently, no."

"Well.. good for you. I uh.. I have to be somewhere." Bucky mumbled, pushing past him and yelping when John stepped back out in front of him.

"Woah, what's the rush?" He smirked, nudging Bucky's arm playfully. "How've you been?"

"Okay, I guess."

"Heard you were back in the dating game."

"You.. what? Who told you that!?" Bucky demanded, staring at him in shock while John chuckled.

"I've just heard a few people mention it. You know you do have a reputation around here and.. look that's not the point. I just wanted to say I still feel really bad about what happened at that party so-"

"Congratulations."

"- so let me buy you dinner tonight. You know, to make it up to you." John continued, ignoring the interruption.

"You want me to go out to dinner with you?"

"Yeah."

"Why would I do that?"

"I told you, this is just a peace offering. It doesn't have to lead to anything."

Bucky frowned at him, chewing on his lip as he weighed up his options. On the one hand, he knew John was an ass.. but he'd only ever encountered him when they were both drunk. He did like free dinner. The only thing stopping him was Steve but.. he didn't even know what was going on with him.. and he could always cancel the date..

Sighing, he nodded. "Okay.. I'll come out with you."

John's face lit up and he beamed at him. "Great! Let me give you my number and I'll pick you up later!"

The rest of the walk to Steve's seemed to take forever, and when he eventually arrived it was Sam who opened the door.

"Hey, man. Steve's in his room." He said, waving Bucky in and heading back into the kitchen while Bucky headed upstairs.

He could hear laughter coming from Steve's room as he walked down the hallway and he paused, knocking on the door and frowning when the laughing suddenly died down. The door swung open and Steve stared at him in surprise for a few moments before grinning.

"Hi!"

"Hi.." Bucky mumbled, glancing over Steve's shoulder at the brown haired girl sitting on his bed. "Am I.. interrupting?"

"Uh.. I mean, we were kind of in the middle of-"

"I have to get going, actually." The girl said, jumping up and grabbing her bag. "I'll see you later, Steve." She smiled as she hugged his back, pushing past them and disappearing down the hallway.

"Who was that?" Bucky asked once he was sure she was out of hearing distance, glancing up at Steve who just shrugged.

"It's just Jane. We've been helping each other with studying and stuff. I suck at math and she doesn't, so we make a good match."

"Right.." He mumbled, looking down on his feet. He was an idiot. He was the biggest idiot on the planet.

"What are you doing here anyway? I thought you had classes all day?"

Bucky shook his head, chewing on his lip and focusing all his energy on not crying. He wanted to be as far away from Steve as possible, and Steve probably wanted him gone so he could go back to hanging out with Jane.

"Buck what's going on?"

"Nothing."

"Well you look pretty miserable so-"

"I'm fine." He muttered, shoving his hands in his pockets and looking back up at him. "I have another date tonight so I figured you'd wanna know."

"Oh.. cool. Who with?"

" John Allerdyce."

Steve stared at him in disbelief for a second, leaning against the doorframe and folding his arms.

"What?"

"You're letting him take you out?"

"Yeah. I bumped into him just now and he asked if I wanted to get dinner with him so I figured why not."

"Why not? I can give you 50 reasons why not."

"It's the first time somebody's asked me on a date so-"

"Are you kidding!? Bucky he's a complete dick! He literally attacked you at that party." Steve exclaimed, dragging his hand down his face. "I can't believe you're actually considering this."

"He was drunk at that party."

"That's not an excuse for hurting you."

"And he apologised."

"Because I threw him down the fucking stairs! That's not a genuine apology, Bucky, that's called being threatened."

"But he said he wanted to take me out as a real apology! It's not even a real date. He just wants to make amends and-"

"Buck that is such bullshit. He's just trying to fuck you. Just like he was last time."

Bucky nodded, chewing on his lip angrily. "Right, because that's all anyone wants from me."

"That's not what I said."

"Well you implied it."

"No I didn't! It's just so obvious what he's trying to do here."

"You weren't even there! You didn't see him!"

"I didn't need to see him, Bucky." Steve sighed. "How can you have been through all this and still just blindly fall into the arms of anyone who smiles at you because they 'seem nice'?"

"Why are you being such a dick about this?"

"Because you're so naive! You keep getting yourself into all these fucking stupid situations because you just don't think about things! And there's not always gonna be someone around to save your ass!"

"I don't- I'm not just some helpless damsel!" Bucky protested. He could feel the tears welling up in his eyes and cursed himself.

Not now. Do not fucking cry right now. "I can take care of myself."

"Well you've done a great job of that so far." Steve muttered and Bucky stared at him, his mouth hanging open as he tried to think of a counter argument. He couldn't hold back the tears anymore and he felt them running down his cheeks as he stammered helplessly. He could see Steve's face start to soften, but that only made him angrier and he flinched away when Steve tried to reach out to him. "Buck.. I didn't mean.. that didn't come out right."

"Fuck off."

"Bucky-"

"I have to go get ready." He muttered, wiping his eyes on his sleeve and turning on his heel. "I'll see you later."

"If he starts being an asshole.. you can still call me and I'll-"

"You'll what? Come and save my ass again? Because I'm so fucking helpless that I can't drive myself home? Obviously I'll need some fucking knight in shining armour to come and rescue me again."

"Buck that's not-"

"I'll see you later." Bucky mumbled, storming down the stairs and making a point of slamming the front door hard enough that Steve would be able to hear it.

He'd hoped to come home and get ready without Clint questioning him, and in hindsight slamming the door on his way in, stomping into the bedroom and throwing himself down onto the bed hadn't been the most inconspicuous of entrances, but it did make him feel slightly better when Clint came in and dropped some chocolate onto the pillow next to him.

"Thanks." He mumbled, curling up nibbling on the chocolate.

"You okay?"

"Do I look okay?"

"That was less of a question and more of a prompt for you to tell me what's up." Clint chuckled, squeezing Bucky's shoulder. "What happened?"

"Steve."

"Can you be more specific?"

"Steve being an asshole."

"Why's he being an asshole? He's like, the opposite of an asshole."

"So a dick then?"

"Fuck off."

"That is technically the opposite of a-"

"Don't change the subject. Why's he being an asshole?"

Bucky shrugged, curling up tighter and sighing. "I told him I had another date tonight and he started getting mad at me and yelling all this shit."

"Well.. maybe he's jealous?"

"Doubt it. He's been hanging out with this girl. Says they're a 'great match'."

Clint fell silent and went back to rubbing Bucky's shoulder, while Bucky whined and pressed his face into the pillow. "I just.. I thought that he.. I'm an idiot."

"You're not an idiot."

Bucky gave him an unconvinced look and bit off some more chocolate. "'M gonna have the fucking best night of my life tonight."

"That's the spirit!"

"I get free food."

"Now we're talking!"

"And I'm gonna order extra dessert."

"Fuck yeah. Get that cake!"

"I'm gonna get the cake!"


He spent the next 2 hours making himself look as stunningly attractive as he could manage. He even showered, despite already taking one in the morning, and was now dressed in black skinny jeans and a dark blue, practically transparent shirt, with a black blazer. A blazer. He was wearing a fucking blazer . He'd be damned if he was going to have a bad time while wearing a blazer. 

He'd just finished getting the last lock of his hair in place when he heard the sound of the door buzzer. Pulling his shoes on, he grabbed his keys and threw the door open, hopping down the stairs and flinging his arms around John's neck when he saw him.

"Whoa, hi!" John chuckled, wrapping his arms around Bucky's waist and grinning at him. "You look amazing."

Bucky blushed, giggling and chewing on his lip. "Thanks."

He followed John over to his car, getting into the passenger seat and watching through the window as they drove across the campus to the restaurant. It wasn't the fanciest of places but Bucky had skipped lunch, and as soon as he caught the scent of food he wanted nothing more than to run into the building at full speed.

"You seem eager." John smirked as Bucky practically dragged him inside.

"If I don't get some food soon I'm gonna die."

"You're in the right place then."

Bucky giggled, staring longingly at other people's food as they walked past to get to their table and trying not to drool when John handed him a menu. They chatted idly about college while they waited for their food, and Bucky was shocked by how comfortable he felt. It had been a full twenty minutes and nothing had gone horribly wrong. It was the first time he'd been on a date and actually eaten some food, and when they got to dessert John even offered him his leftovers. He wasn't sure if he was happy because he was enjoying himself, or just because he'd proven Steve wrong.

"So," John said as he counted out his money to pay for the food. "What now?"

"Huh?"

"I mean.. do you wanna come back to mine for a little while? We could watch a movie or something?"

Bucky chewed on his lip, narrowing his eyes at him. "Just a movie?"

"Yeah." John smirked, leaning back in his seat and watching as Bucky nodded.

"Okay.. just for a couple hours. I have class tomorrow."

"Sure, baby." John nodded, getting to his feet and holding his hand out to help Bucky up.

Bucky hadn't realised that John actually lived at the co-op that had thrown the party last year, and he struggled to push the memories out of his head when they pulled up outside. He followed John down the hall to his room and sat awkwardly on the edge of the bed while he waited for him to set his laptop up.

"What movie do you wanna watch?" He asked, sitting back against the pillows and beckoning for Bucky to sit next to him.

He shrugged as he shuffled along the bed, letting John wrap his arm around his waist and leaning his head against his shoulder. "Whatever you want."

"Well we don't have to watch a movie if you don't want."

"Huh?"

Bucky looked over at him, frowning when John ran his thumb over his cheek and leant forward to bump their noses together. "You literally invited me over to watch a movie."

"Shh." John whispered, tilting his head and pressing his lips against Bucky's.

His eyelids fluttered shut and he sighed, leaning back against the bed as John kissed him. It didn't feel bad.. he just didn't feel anything. No matter how hard he tried to enjoy it, he just couldn't. All he could think about was the way Steve used to kiss him. It was never even supposed to mean anything, but it was slowly becoming obvious he was never going to find anyone who kissed him like that.
The sudden feel of John's hand sliding up his shirt brought him back into reality and he whined in protest, reaching down to try and push his hand away. John pulled back and frowned at him, keeping his hand firmly in place.

"What's wrong."

"I don't.. wanna do anything like that." Bucky mumbled, trying to wriggle away from him. "Not tonight."

"What're you talking about?"

"Just get your hand off me."

He tried again to push John's hand away, but instead John just laughed, running his hand down Bucky's stomach and teasing his fingers over the waistband of his jeans.

"You tryin'a play hard to get, huh, baby?"

"I'm tryin'a get you the hell off me."

"Buck, we both know what you're here for."

"Clearly we don't! I just wanted to get dinner."

"Uh huh, sure." John chuckled as he slid his hand into Bucky's jeans.

"Get off!" Bucky yelled, shoving him away and shuffling back, curling his legs up.

"Are you serious? You've been leading me on this whole time?"

"I haven't been leading you on! You offered to buy me dinner!"

"Bucky everyone on this campus knows all you want is sex. Did you think I was taking you out because I wanted a committed relationship? Last I checked that wasn't your style." John smirked, shifting up the bed and running his fingers through Bucky's hair.

"I don't want that anymore." Bucky mumbled, looking down at his feet.

"Well good luck convincing everyone else of that."

"I don't need to convince anyone!" He protested, slapping John's hand away. "It's not my fault you can't accept that someone doesn't want to fuck you."

John chuckled and ran his hand down Bucky's arm, ignoring when he flinched away from him. "You know you should be thankful. At least I took you out. Most people wouldn't treat you this nicely." He shrugged. "Everyone wants you for sex, Buck. You can't expect to sleep around so much and not build up a reputation."

"I don't have a reputation."

"Do you think it's a coincidence that the only people who hit on you want to sleep with you? People come to you for easy sex."

"That's not-"

"Has anyone ever actually asked you on a date before?"

"Well.. yeah.. I think.." Bucky said slowly, trying to rack his brain.

After a few minutes he realised John was right. The only time anybody had tried to ask him out had been after he'd slept with them.. in fact the only time anybody every really talked to him was to hit on him. He sat, stammering as he tried to think of something to say. "I.. I don't.."

"Hey, it's okay." John said softly, stroking his cheek. "This is what you're good for."

"But I don't want that." Bucky whimpered, choking back tears and hiding his face in his knees. He didn't react when John started pulling his blazer off, sobbing quietly and going pliant as John moved his arms. "I don't want to."

"Shh, just relax, baby." John whispered as he ran his hand down Bucky's chest, just starting to tease his fingers along the hem of his shirt when a loud knock at the door made them both jump. "For fucks sake." He muttered, shoving Bucky away as he stood up. "I'm in the middle of something here!"

The knocking came again and he groaned, marching over to the door and throwing it open. "What do you want?"

"Where is he?"

Bucky looked up at the familiar voice, shuffling across the bed as he craned his neck to see around the door.

"St.. Stevie?"

The door flew open and Steve shoved John out of the way, running over to him and throwing his arms around him while Bucky sobbed into his shoulder. "Stevie?"

"I'm here. I gotcha, it's okay."

"I'm sorry." Bucky whimpered, clinging on to his shirt.

"Hey, I'm sorry too." Steve said softly, kissing Bucky's shoulder and pulling away from him. "Am I justified in punching this guy in the face?"

"Yeah."

Steve nodded, squeezing Bucky's shoulders. "I'll be right back." He said, turning back towards John. "Stay here."

Bucky watched as Steve marched across the room, grabbing John by the collar of his shirt and dragging him out into the hallway. He heard a loud bang outside and tried to block out what sounded like one of them beating the other to a pulp. After a few minutes Steve reappeared in the doorway and Bucky breathed a sigh of relief when he saw he looked relatively unharmed.

"Are you okay?" He asked, clinging onto his arm as he helped him up and stumbling across the room.

"I'm fine. I think he might need medical attention." Steve shrugged as they stepped over the unconscious body in the hallway. "I got.. carried away."

Bucky forced a smile and leant his head against Steve's arm as they walked outside.

"Okay, I have two things to say." Steve said once they got to Sam's car, putting his hands on Bucky's shoulders as he turned to face him. "First of all, I told you so."

"I know you did."

"Second, I'm sorry I was such a dick. I overreacted and.. I didn't mean any of that stuff I said. I just didn't want you to get hurt again." He sighed, stroking Bucky's cheek. "I'm really sorry, Buck. Are you okay?"

Bucky nodded, wrapping his arms around Steve's neck and burying his face in his shoulder. "How did you know where I was?"

"I was trying to call you. You left your phone at home so Clint ended up answering it and telling me where you'd gone for the date. And I kinda panicked when he said you weren't home yet so I went up to the restaurant, but you weren't there so I came here."

"So you just ran around the entire city looking for me?"

"When you put it that way it sounds kinda creepy."

"It's not creepy." Bucky giggled, nuzzling his shoulder. "'M glad you did it. Guess I am a damsel in distress after all."

Steve hummed and kissed the side of his head, running his fingers through Bucky's hair. "You want me to drive you home?"

"Yeah."

"Are you sure you're okay?" He asked, tilting Bucky's head and frowning at him. "What did he do to you?"

"Nothing I'm just.. tired. Can we go?"

Steve nodded and held the car door open for him, waiting until Bucky was curled up in the seat before getting into the driver's seat and starting the car. They were both silent for a while, and Bucky couldn't stop thinking about what John had said to him. He was right. Nobody ever wanted him for anything other than sex. That was all he was ever going to be to people. He didn't even know how to love somebody.
It took him a couple of minutes to realise that the car had stopped moving, and another few minutes to realise that he was crying again. Rubbing his eyes, he looked over and saw Steve watching him.

"I'm fine."

"Buck-"

"I just wanna go home."

"Buck, c'mere." Steve sighed, stretching his arm out and waiting for Bucky to scramble over into his lap. "What's goin' on?"

Bucky sniffed, curling up into a ball and nestling his head against Steve's chest. "Had you ever heard of me? Before we met, I mean."

"No.. why?"

"John said I have a reputation.. that people come to me for easy sex."

"Buck that's bullshit. He just told you that so you'd sleep with him."

"It's true though! That's all anybody's ever wanted from me. Nobody's ever approached me because they want to know me.. they always just want to sleep with me and I don't want that anymore! But that's all I'm gonna get."

"You're worth more than that, Buck."

"I'm not." He mumbled, sitting up and chewing on his lip as tears started rolling down his cheeks again. "I'm broken. I don't know how to love somebody because I don't know what it feels like. Nobody's ever.. How's anyone gonna love me if I can't love them back?" He choked, flinging his arms around Steve's neck and sobbing into his shoulder. "I'm messed up and I'm hopeless and nobody's ever gonna love someone like me."

"I do." Steve said softly and Bucky frowned, looking up at him in confusion.

"You.. what?"

"I love you."

Bucky stared at him for a moment, blinking absently up at him as he tried to process what he'd said. "You.. you love me?"

"More than anything." Steve nodded, cupping Bucky's face in his hands and running his thumb over his cheek. "Don't you ever think nobody could love you, because I've never loved anyone more than you."

"Why?"

"What do you mean 'why'?"

"Why would you.. I'm not.. and you're so.. why would you ever-"

"Buck," Steve chuckled, leaning forward and bumping their noses together. "You wanna know why I love you?"

"Uh huh."

"Because you've been through more shit than I can imagine, and you've seen the absolute worst of what people have to offer, but you're still the sweetest, most caring person I've ever met. You always find the good in people somehow and it's just.. you're just beautiful, Buck. Being with you is the closest I've gotten to feeling at home in a long time."

Bucky chewed on his lip, trying to stop himself from smiling like an idiot. "I.. I don't have a good response to that." He giggled, nuzzling at Steve's nose. "Why didn't you say that before I went on fifty rotten dates?"

"I was going to say something, and then you announced that you wanted to start dating other people."

"Oh.."

"Yeah. So then I figured.. maybe you could find someone better." Steve shrugged, stroking Bucky's cheek and chuckling when Bucky nuzzled him again.

"'M not sure better exists." He said softly.

Steve blushed and Bucky chewed on his lip, staring into Steve's eyes. They both fell silent for a moment, and all Bucky could hear was the sound of his heart hammering in his chest.

"Buck?"

"Mm?"

"Can I kiss you?"

Bucky breathed heavily, nodding slowly and moaning when Steve pressed their lips together. It was nothing like how Steve had kissed him before. It was nothing like how anyone had kissed him before. This was real, and Bucky had never felt anything like it. Steve ran his hands down to Bucky's waist, pulling him closer as he moved their lips together. He flicked his tongue out against Bucky's bottom lip and he sighed, parting his lips and tangling his fingers in Steve's hair to hold him in place.
His heart was racing and he felt like he was burning up, and all he wanted was to be as close to Steve as possible. He flicked their tongues together and sighed, moving to straddle him and rocking their hips together.

"Buck.." Steve sighed, tightening his grip on Bucky's waist. He took that as encouragement and rolled his hips again, but this time Steve pulled away from him, nuzzling his nose and moving his hand back up to his cheek.

Panic set in as Bucky tried to work out what he'd done, chewing on his lip and shuffling nervously. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing." Steve smiled, kissing the corner of his mouth. "I just don't wanna rush this."

"It's been three months. That's hardly rushing." Bucky frowned, leaning down to nuzzle Steve's neck. "I thought this was what you wanted?"

"Yeah, but not in my best friend's car. Somehow I don't think he'd forgive me for that."

"We can go back to my place."

Steve chuckled and shook his head, stroking Bucky's hair. "Not tonight, Buck." He smirked. "I haven't even taken you out yet."

Bucky frowned at him, sitting upright. "You don't need to take me out."

"'Course I do."

"What for?"

"What do you mean 'what for'? I love you and I want to take you on a date."

"Yeah, but I thought the whole point of a date was to get to know somebody. You already know me."

Steve rolled his eyes at him, tilting his chin down to kiss him again. "First of all that's not what they're for." He said, kissing him between sentences. "They're for spending time with somebody.. that you care about.. so you can show them.. how much they mean to you."

"Mm." Bucky hummed, unable to form any words. He kept his eyes closed and leant forward, pressing their foreheads together while Steve kept talking.

"Second, I don't know everything about you. I don't know your favourite colour, or where you went on vacation last year, or what your family does for Easter. I hardly know you at all."

Bucky hummed again and Steve chuckled, cupping his face in his hands to kiss him again. He was too dazed to react for a while, staying in place while Steve moved his lips against his. It was a few minutes before he regained his ability to speak, pulling away from him and bumping their noses together.

"Red." He whispered, looking into Steve's eyes and giggling when he frowned at him.

"What?"

"My favourite colour. It's red."

"Mm." Steve hummed, nuzzling him gently. "I thought it was. All your bed sheets are red and it drives me crazy because they don't match the walls in your apartment."

"I like them, okay?" Bucky said stubbornly, blushing when Steve leaned up to kiss his nose. "What's yours?"

"Green."

"Wow. We can never decorate a room together."

Steve threw his head back laughing, wrapping his arms around Bucky's shoulders and hugging him tightly. His laughter was contagious, and they both ended up in a fit of giggles, clinging onto each other and trying to calm down. Eventually Steve managed to calm down, kissing Bucky's forehead and stroking his hair while he chewed on his lip to try and stop himself from laughing any more.

"They're complimentary colours you know." Steve said softly once Bucky had quietened down.

"Huh?"

"Red and green. They're opposite each other on the colour wheel."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"I don't know." Steve shrugged. "It just means they contrast each other, so they're a good combination for painting and-"

"Steve can you stop thinking about art for five minutes?"

"You started it!" Steve protested and Bucky giggled again, leaning against his shoulder and smiling sleepily up at him.

"So you're taking me out then?"

"Yeah, tomorrow. Cancel your plans."

"I don't have any plans."

"Even better."

Bucky giggled and started running his fingers up and down Steve's chest absentmindedly. "Where are we going?"

"I don't know.. I'll think of something." Steve said quietly, looking into the distance and stroking Bucky's hair. "I should probably get you home, huh?"

"Mm.. can we stay here a little longer?"

"You just wanna sit here?"

"Mmhmm."

Steve chuckled and wrapped his arms around him, kissing the top of his head while Bucky got comfy. Everything was quiet save for the sound of Steve's heartbeat, and for the first time in almost five years, Bucky felt like everything was really going to be okay.

Chapter Text

The look on Clint's face when he told him what had happened was priceless. At first he refused to accept that Bucky was serious, then when he finally convinced him, he spent almost ten minutes staring at him with his mouth hanging open.

"I thought Steve was a dick now?"

"That was ages ago."

"Five hours."

"Ages ago." Bucky insisted, folding his arms and kicking at the floor. "Plus I was kinda.. also a dick. I just didn't tell you that part so you'd side with me."

Clint rolled his eyes at him and chuckled. "So what happened?" He asked, sitting down and patting the couch. "I want details."

"You sound like a 12 year old."

"You're the one who swooped in here looking like some love stricken teenager."

"No I didn't."

"You spent ten minutes leaning against the door blushing." Clint pointed out, raising his eyebrow at him while Bucky blushed. "So what are you doing tomorrow?"

"I don't know, he said it's a surprise. But I'm pretty sure he just said that because he hasn't actually thought of anything yet. How am I supposed to pick something to wear if I don't know what we're doing? Am I supposed to just show up in sweatpants and hope for the best? What if we go to this really fancy restaurant and I'm just there in sweatpants? What then, Clint?"

Clint raised an eyebrow at him, smirking as Bucky panicked. "You've got all of tomorrow to figure it out."

"I know but what if-"

"Buck it's like, midnight. I need sleep and you need to lie down."

"Why are you even awake?"

"Because I didn't know where you were and I was freaking out. Take your phone with you next time, asshole."

"Awe, you were worried about me. That's so sweet." Bucky smirked, blowing Clint a kiss and giggling when he narrowed his eyes.

Yawning, he stretched his arms above his head and pushed the bedroom door open, kicking his shoes off and collapsing onto the bed. He wasn't sure how it had gotten so late. He must have spent almost an hour just sitting with Steve in the car. Just the thought of it made him blush again and he smiled to himself, curling up on the bed and closing his eyes. There were too many thoughts running through his mind for him to possibly get any sleep, but for once he didn't mind.


It wasn't until he was halfway through class that Steve texted him the next day. Darcy had spent almost an hour squealing and nudging him excitedly after he'd told her what had happened, and when she saw him pull his phone out she grinned knowingly at him and watched as he read the message.

Good news!! I thought of the perfect place for us to go tonight  You don't have class tomorrow right?

I don't.. what are we doing?

It's a surprise 

You'll find out soon okay? I'll pick you up at 5  xx

Bucky narrowed his eyes at his phone and shoved it back into his pocket, nestling his head in his arms and looking over at Darcy.

"What did he say?"

"He won't tell me where we're going."

"Ooh this is exciting. Maybe you're going somewhere really fancy?" She suggested, leaning on her hand and chewing on her lip thoughtfully.

"That doesn't seem like his thing. He also wanted to check I didn't have class tomorrow."

"So you'll be out late."

"I guess.. we could just have another movie night?"

"That's boring. You did that already." Darcy mumbled as she chewed on the end of her pen. "Then again, there's not much you two haven't already done."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Come on. You've basically been dating him for like, 2 months now."

Bucky frowned at her and she shrugged, flipping to the back of her notebook and pointing at the page. "See, I made a list of all your dates. So far you've been out for dinner twice, he's cooked for you more times than I could even write down, and don't even get me started on-"

"Darc, why were you writing this down?"

"So I could prove my point when this moment came." She smirked, patting the notebook proudly. "So will you admit that you're already boyfriends or do I have to keep going?"

"I think you've made your point." Bucky grumbled and she nodded, flipping back to her notes and staring down at them. "But still. I have no idea where we're going to night and I don't know what I'm supposed to wear."

"The leather pants always do wonders for you."

"I can't wear those on a first date."

"It's not your first-"

"Shut up. That would just make it look like I want his dick."

Darcy nodded thoughtfully and shrugged. "Is that really far from the truth though?"

"No but I'm not.. I mean.. obviously I wouldn't turn down the opportunity.. but this is supposed to be different."

"Okay. Well you can't wear anything too fancy in case you go somewhere casual and look overdressed, but you also can't wear anything too casual in case you go somewhere fancy and look underdressed."

"Thanks, Darc. That really narrows it down." Bucky mumbled, sighing and burying his face in his arms. "This wasn't supposed to be complicated."

"Why don't you just ask him what you should wear?"

"I can't show weakness."

"Just text him, you moron."

He narrowed his eyes at her and sighed, pulling his phone back out and sending another message to Steve.

Okay if you're not gonna tell me where we're going that's fine, but can you at least tell me what to wear?

I don't know, wear whatever you want?

Steve that doesn't help me 

Well just make sure you wear something warm

If you keep being this vague I'm gonna show up in sweatpants, you understand that right?

Sweatpants are fine 

That was a joke.

Actually that's probably a good idea, wear sweatpants

I am not wearing sweatpants on a date

OR FOOTIE PYJAMAS

I AM NOT WEARING FOOTIE PYJAMAS ON A DATE STEVEN

FOOTIE PYJAMA DATE

I don't even own any footie pyjamas

WHAT!?!!?!? Buck of all the people I know you're the person I thought most likely to have some. I'm gonna get you some pyjamas

How romantic.

 I have to go. Wear sweatpants xx

Sighing, Bucky dropped his phone down onto the desk and dragged his hand down his face. "He wants me to wear sweatpants."

"Wow. He really does love you."

"Fuck off, I can make sweatpants look good."

"You can try. The hell does he want you to wear sweatpants for anyway? Is he taking you jogging?"

"He can fuck right off if that's his plan." Bucky mumbled. "He said I needed to keep warm."

"I've got it! Scuba diving!"

"Darc, why would he take me scuba diving at night, in sweatpants?"

"Okay.. maybe not." She said quietly, looking down at her hands and chewing on her lip. "I'm out of ideas, okay?"

"Maybe he's gonna take me out into the woods.."

"Right.."

"Tie me up.."

"I like where this is going."

"And murder me."

"Bucky no."

"Then I'm also out of ideas." Bucky shrugged. "Maybe we're gonna have an outdoor orgy in a field. I'd be down for sucking multiple dicks tonight."

"Aaand here's today's notes."

Bucky jumped and turned around, looking up at Banner as he slid a sheet of paper onto his desk and walked back across the classroom as quickly as possible. "I'm not actually gonna suck any dicks, doctor!" He called after him, giggling when Banner nodded uncomfortably.

"How come you can say that to him, but he yells at me if I sneeze too loud?"

"Well you do sneeze really loudly."

Darcy threw a pen at his head and he giggled to himself as she turned away from him and started scribbling furiously in her notebook.


How do you make sweatpants sexy? By wearing them with the tightest black t-shirt you can find. It was the only solution Bucky could come up with, but when he looked in the mirror he did at least look somewhat presentable. At least if Steve complained about the outfit, he'd only have himself to blame.

"You know, when you said you were going out in sweatpants, I thought it was a joke." Clint said, looking Bucky up and down when he came out of the bedroom.

Bucky shrugged and looked down at himself. Out of his extensive collection of sweatpants, he'd decided his galaxy ones at least looked the prettiest. So now he was dressed in those, the black shirt, and Steve's hoodie. Shrugging, he looked back up at Clint and wrapped his arms around himself. "I am really comfy though."

Clint chuckled and rolled his eyes at him. "So when are you going?"

"He's supposed to be picking me up like.. now." Bucky said slowly as he glanced at his phone screen, almost jumping out of his skin when the door buzzed a fraction of a second later.

He was in such a hurry to get his shoes on he almost tripped over his own feet and Clint sniggered at him from across the room. "I haven't seen you this excited since that time Dominos fucked up and sent us a free pizza."

"Shut up, that was the best day of my life." Bucky giggled, flinging the door open and swinging on the door frame excitedly. "I'll see you later."

"Be home by ten."

"Fuck off." He muttered, sliding out of the room and hopping down the stairs as quickly as he could manage.

It was a relief when he saw that Steve was also wearing sweatpants and a loose fitting blue sweater. He wrapped his arms around Bucky's waist once he was close enough, pulling him into a hug and kissing his cheek.

"Hi." He said softly, burying his face in Bucky's shoulder and squeezing him tightly.

"You have no idea how glad I am that you're not dressed in a fucking suit or something."

Steve chuckled, standing upright and grinning at him. "I still would have preferred pyjamas. Why the hell don't you own any onsies?"

"Because I'm an adult."

"An adult who still has pirate cushions in his bedroom?"

"They're decorative." Bucky muttered, trying his best not to laugh when Steve raised his eyebrow at him.

"We should get going."

"You gonna tell me where we're going yet?"

"Nope." Steve smirked and Bucky pouted grumpily at him, folding his arms impatiently. "What? You're gonna find out soon anyway."

"I wanna know noooooow." He whined, huffing when Steve started walking towards the car and following begrudgingly behind. It took him an embarrassingly long amount of time to notice that it was a different car and he frowned, staring at the red pickup truck for a few seconds. "That's.. not Sam's car."

"It's Thor's."

"Right. Did you chose this specifically so I couldn't persuade you to have sex in the backseat?"

Steve chuckled, leaning against the car and smirking at him. "No, but that could be why Sam was so relieved when I told him I didn't need his car."

Bucky chewed on his lip and giggled to himself, getting into the car and staring out of the window as he tried to figure out where they were going. The further they drove out of the city centre, the more confused he got, until eventually he gave up and turned back to Steve.

"Okay we've been driving for an hour. Where the hell are we going?"

"What part of 'it's a surprise' are you not getting?"

"Uuugh but we've been driving for aaaagesssss." He whined, slumping back in his seat and sighing. "Are we almost there?"

"We've got another thirty minutes."

"Steeeeeeeeve where are we goooooiiiiiiing?"

Steve sniggered to himself and shook his head. "You'll see."

"Is it somewhere fancy?"

"Bucky we're both in sweatpants."

"Okay.. are we gonna get dinner though?"

"Stop asking questions."

"Start answering some then!" Bucky protested. "It better involve food in some way because I'm starving."

"It involves food."

Bucky narrowed his eyes at him and Steve chuckled, ignoring him as he punched him lightly in the shoulder. "Are we there yet?"

"I literally just told you it was thirty minutes away."

"Uuuuuugh." Bucky sighed as he leant his head against the window, huffing and watching the streetlights as they drove along the highway.

Finally, after what felt like forever, the car stopped and Bucky looked up excitedly, scanning their surroundings and frowning over at Steve.

"You drove for two hours to take me to a field?"

"Technically, yeah."

"Steve there's a park like, 5 minutes away from my apartment." He mumbled, staring out at the wide expanse of grass around them.

"We're not here for the park. C'mon." Steve chuckled, smiling at him as he got out of the car. In the time it took for Bucky to take his seatbelt off, Steve had managed to get to the other side of the truck, opening the door for him and holding his hand out to help him out.

"The hell are we here for then?"

"There's no light pollution out here, see?" He said as he tilted Bucky's chin up, watching him intently for a reaction.

Bucky's face lit up when he saw the sky. He always forgot how much pollution there was in the city, but here the sky was almost completely clear and full of stars.

"I'm sorry I moaned at you earlier." Bucky whispered, not taking his eyes off the sky.

"You like it then?"

"It beats cheap restaurants." He giggled, leaning forward and pressing his face into Steve's shoulder. "We're staying here, right?"

"Yeah. C'mon, I've got blankets and stuff." Steve grinned, taking his hand and leading him around to the back of the truck.

There were a few bags piled up and Bucky watched as Steve climbed up and started spreading blankets and pillows out in the truck bed. He giggled again when Steve reached out to pull him up.

"You know, Stevie, I think I could've managed by myself."

Steve blushed and let go of his hand again, sitting back against the pillows and pulling another bag into his lap. "You want food?"

"Do you need to ask?" Bucky smirked, snuggling up next to him and leaning his head against Steve's. "What food is there?"

"I made pie."

"Did I ever tell you how awesome you are?"

He blushed again and chuckled, going back to rummaging through the bag while Bucky nuzzled his shoulder. "I drove you two hours to see some stars, I think I'm in the running for biggest loser on the planet right now."

"Okay, but I'm glad we drove two hours to see stars, so does that make me a bigger loser?" He smirked, nudging Steve's arm. "This is perfect. I haven't been stargazing since I was little."

"Liz used to take me here a lot." Steve said quietly as he handed him a plate and Bucky nodded, snuggling up closer to him. Somehow he'd known that was why Steve had taken him here.

"So this is where you take all the girls?"

Steve chuckled and shook his head. "No.. you're the first."

Bucky blinked at him for a second, blushing and curling his legs up as he giggled awkwardly. "Why'd you bring me here then?"

"Do you want the romantic reason or the honest reason?"

"Honest reason."

"I'm broke and I don't get paid 'til next weekend." He shrugged. "Stars are free."

Bucky slid down against the pillows as he collapsed in a fit of giggles, trying to reply and instead just laughing harder. "Okay.." He said after a while, looking up at him and sniggering. "Maybe try the romantic reason."

Steve took Bucky's hand, placing his other hand over his heart dramatically as he whispered, "Because you mean more to me than anyone in the world, so I wanted to take you somewhere special to me."

"I prefer that one." Bucky smiled, staring up at him dreamily and blushing again when Steve kissed his hand. "Are you trying to make a point of holding my hand as often as possible tonight?"

Steve ignored him and pulled a box of pie out of the bag in his lap, distracting him for a moment. "How much do you want?"

"You and I both know I could happily eat that entire thing, Stevie. Maybe you should just decide how much you want." He smirked and Steve rolled his eyes, cutting himself a slice before handing the rest of the box to him. "Thanks." He giggled, taking a bite and sighing happily. "You know this doesn't really feel like a date."

"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?"

"I don't know. It just.. I'm used to hanging out with you anyway." He shrugged. "So this just feels normal."

"I mean, we have kinda been unofficially dating for a few weeks now."

"You're probably the third person to tell me that."

Chuckling, Steve wrapped his arm around his waist and Bucky sighed as he leant against his shoulder. "It's nice though. Better than an awkward night with somebody I met once."

"Mm." Steve hummed, leaning his head against Bucky's.

They carried on eating in silence. A good silence. The kind of silence that Bucky didn't feel any pressure to break. He could feel Steve breathing next to him and hear the grass rustling every time the wind blew, and even though he was aware of the chill in the air, he still felt warm. For a while he was lost in a daze, staring up at the stars and trying to remember some of the constellations Tony had shown him when he was younger, when he suddenly felt Steve move next to him. He looked over and saw him rifling through another bag, pulling another box out and looking up when he realised Bucky was watching him.

"Okay so I also made cupcakes and-"

"Stevie, have you just spent all day baking?"

"Yeah. I do that a lot." Steve smirked, patting the box proudly. "Anyway before you see them I just want to say that I didn't go out of my way to choose the decorations, they were just leftover from some stuff the girls bought for Valentine's day, okay?"

Bucky raised an eyebrow at him and giggled. "Why, are they covered in hearts?"

"In hindsight I should have just put frosting on them and left it at that." He mumbled, blushing and opening the box. He thrust one of the cupcakes into Bucky's hand and he bit back a laugh. Steve hadn't just lightly decorated the cupcakes, they were completely coated in the tiny pink candy hearts.

"So these are just leftover decorations, huh?"

"They bought a lot."

"Sure, Stevie."

Steve narrowed his eyes at him and turned his attention back to the cupcake in his hand, taking a huge bite out of it while Bucky sniggered at him.

"Okay." He said through a mouthful of food, looking back over at Bucky seriously. "I have a question for you."

"Okay.." Bucky said hesitantly, frowning as he picked the candy hearts off his cupcake and ate them individually.

"If you were so interested in dating me before, why did you start dating assholes?"

Bucky blushed and looked down at his hands, shrugging. "I mean.. I did literally think you were straight until you explicitly told me."

"Right.. and then you dated the assholes anyway."

"Yeah but I thought I was like.. your gay thing. But then it turned out you had multiple gay things and I wasn't one of them so-"

"We spent three weeks making out in your bed."

"That doesn't count."

"What the hell counts as a 'gay thing' then!?"

"Shut up." Bucky giggled, shoving Steve's arm and resting his chin on his knees. He chewed on his lip for a few moments before sighing and looking down at his feet. "Honestly? I just.. really don't wanna fuck things up with you. Going on all those dates with strangers.. it didn't really matter what happened. If one of them started being an asshole I could just leave and never speak to them again, but I can't do that with you because you actually mean something to me so I just didn't want to.. get too invested. I don't know. Sometimes it's easier dating assholes. At least then you know what to expect from 'em."

It was quiet for a moment and Bucky looked up. Steve was staring at him, like he wasn't sure exactly what to say. Eventually in an attempt to change the subject, Bucky took a bite of the cupcake he was holding, nodding at him and mumbling, "These are really good, Stevie."

"Thanks.."

"You okay?"

"Yeah, no I just.. it kinda sounded like you meant if I started being an asshole you'd just put up with it instead of leaving."

Bucky frowned, chewing on his lip and shrugging. "It would just be a lot harder to cut you out."

Sighing, Steve wrapped his arms around Bucky's shoulders and pulled him over, holding him against his chest as he stroked his hair. "You know I wouldn't hurt you, right? Not intentionally." He said softly, kissing the top of Bucky's head.

"I know." Bucky whispered as he snuggled up against Steve's chest. "You know.. I was actually on my way to talk to you about it when I bumped into John."

"I'm gonna try not to be insulted that you chose him instead."

"It's not that! He was like.. my backup plan for if you laughed in my face."

"Right.. except you never said anything anyway."

"I know but that's because you were with Jane and I thought you had like a thing so I didn't want to-"

He was interrupted by Steve sniggering and looked up at him grumpily. "It's not funny."

"It's kinda funny."

"You literally called her your perfect match, what the hell was I supposed to assume there?"

"I didn't mean like.. Buck she's dating Thor." Steve giggled, leaning back against the pillows and shaking his head. "That'