Agent James “Bucky” Barnes sprints through the halls of the Triskelion, red lights illuminating his way in flashes and bursts. Bodies sprawl across his path, becoming hurdles he has to leap over in his rush. There’s gunfire coming from elsewhere in the building, echoing through the corridors. It means people heard his message, that they’re fighting back. It means that not everyone in S.H.I.E.L.D. is compromised.
It means people are dying.
Bucky’s hard-soled combat boots pound the tile as he pushes his muscles as hard as he can. If he doesn’t get to the control room, the Triskelion won’t be the last place to fall. It will be the first, with the rest of the world to follow. He has to get there before anyone else, and he’s racing against a supersoldier with super speed.
Bucky knows he’ll fail, but he doesn’t slow down. He lifts his rifle to his shoulder and fires single-shot bursts at everyone that moves once he hits the door. The traitors fire back, but it’s automatic fire and they don’t have time to aim. Bullets rain around him, but he doesn’t feel any strike his body armor. With the adrenaline pumping through his veins, he might not. He hardly feels the recoil against his shoulder as he puts down agent after agent, their bodies flopping backwards onto the cold marble. He doesn’t stop to see if they’re down for good; there’s no time. His head start means little against a supersoldier.
The blow comes from his blind spot, and Bucky is on the ground before he realizes he’s falling. Even with his ears ringing and vision turning and twisting, he tries to get back on his feet. He’s close now. The control console is just a room away. All he has to do is shoot it to pieces.
That’s it. That’s all.
A kick sends Bucky flying several feet to land on his back. The air rushes from his lungs, and his gun slips from his fingers. He wants to shout a protest. He wants to get up and run, finish this mission. All he can do is lie there as red-booted feet walk calmly toward him.
Steve Rogers smiles down at Bucky and it’s all wrong.
Rogers orders someone to, “Get him up,” and two S.T.R.I.K.E. agents appear above Bucky, grab his elbows, and force him to his knees. The sound of zip ties alert Bucky he’s being bound, but his gloves prevent him from actually feeling the bindings.
“You thought you could defeat me?” Rogers asks Bucky, that twisted smile growing because he enjoys having Bucky on his knees. “Stop what we’re doing here? No, no one can stop this. Today we begin a new era! An era of peace, something S.H.I.E.L.D. could never do.”
Bucky jerks at the arms holding him on his knees, but the S.T.R.I.K.E. agents are too strong for it to do any good.
“This isn’t peace,” Bucky argues. “This is fear.”
Shaking his head, Rogers laughs.
“Only idiots and idealists think you can have peace by being nice; by being kind. Fear is the only motivation humanity understands.”
There’s no point in responding, not when he can see the light of insanity in Rogers’ eyes. How had they missed it? Despite all their training, no one had seen how crazy Rogers was; not Fury, not Carter, not even himself. That failure is going to cost the whole world. Steve Rogers isn’t the saint who died saving America. He’s a narcissistic, egomaniacal, psychopath bent on world domination. Like everyone else, Bucky believed in the legend of Captain America. He’d followed Rogers into fight after fight, believing they were keeping the world safe.
In reality, Bucky had been building Rogers an empire.
Fury had been the one to notice, of course. While the man could be ambiguously moral, he wasn’t evil. He wanted what was best for everyone - unlike Rogers who only wanted what was best for the people who agreed with him - and had taken steps to stop this madness. Those steps included showing Bucky and other, select agents the truth. They’d worked from the inside ever since, trying to stop Rogers, trying to get proof to show the public that Captain America wasn’t what they’d believed.
“Bring him with us,” Rogers says to one of the S.T.R.I.K.E. agents. “Agent Barnes can witness our victory first hand.”
Bucky is hauled to his feet and dragged from the room to his original destination, the control room. The S.T.R.I.K.E. agents don’t let Bucky go no matter how he fights. The chairs in the control room are empty, stations abandoned with half-finished drinks left to cool. Most of the monitors are black, computers having gone to sleep when Bucky broadcast his message earlier telling everyone in the building what Rogers was planning. He’d begged them to fight and they had, it just hadn’t done any good.
Rogers planned to hijack the Insight project. Captain America planned to kill everyone who disagreed with him, or could be a threat to the fist he planned to wrap around the world. Millions dead with the push of a button, and as the world scrambled to figure out what had happened, Rogers would tighten that fist.
Obey or die, that was the message. Bucky, Fury, and his friends had different plans. They were going to fight. They didn’t know how deep Rogers’ corruption had penetrated S.H.I.E.L.D., but Bucky had hoped not everyone could be in on it, or if they were wouldn’t stand for genocide. So when they’d breached the Triskelion to stop Rogers, Bucky had broadcast a message asking everyone to stand up with him, to fight, and die if necessary.
If there had been another way, Bucky would have taken it, but Rogers hadn’t left them any. Someone had told Rogers about Fury’s resistance because Rogers had started picking them off one by one. It had seemed like accidents at first. Then Rogers had come for Fury. The Director had barely escaped with his life, and they were left in a scramble to uncover Rogers’ endgame. Finally they had, but it had come at a cost, and there was just Agent Hawkeye and him.
None of it did any good.
Rogers croons, “The whole world at my fingertips,” as he runs his fingers over a keyboard. His smile grows so it takes up his whole face. The glow from the computer he stands before lights him so his eyes vanish, hidden by the cowl covering half his head. It’s the first time he’s looked like the monster that’s hiding in his heart. If only Bucky had seen it sooner.
They’re ignoring Bucky now, setting up the control room and a camera, because Rogers wants to address the world before he destroys it. He wants them to see the fist before it chokes them. Bucky has never hated him more, but he’s helpless to do anything. The pit of horror grows in his stomach, and all he can do is watch.
A S.T.R.I.K.E. agent calls, “It’s ready,” when they’re done. Bucky is being held off to the side, out of sight, and they’ve gagged him now for good measure. They don’t want him to ruin Rogers’ moment by making another speech.
“Citizens of America!” Rogers says to the camera. “Today is a historic day! Today marks the moment when the world turned, when peace is finally brought to the world. I stand before you and promise you peace! I promise you freedom from fear, from the terrors that stalk the night. After today, there will be no more war, no more crime; all you have to do is sit back and watch.”
Bucky wants to throw up. He wants to punch Rogers in the face. He struggles against his captors, and someone cracks him upside the head, right where Rogers had hit him. The world goes black around the edges and he sags, his captors all that hold him up.
Rogers goes on with his speech, but Bucky only hears snatches of it as he fades in and out of consciousness. “America is vulnerable, her military might overextended…” and “...assurance that no alien or super villain will ever crash into your homes or businesses again…”
Bucky hates him, hates everything he stands for, and struggles to get back on his feet. If he could stand, maybe he’ll find an opening. It’s not over yet. Not until Rogers presses that damned button.
“To prove how serious I am about global peace, I will now remove every man who would instill conflict in this world. Conflict prevents peace. Good citizens have nothing to fear, they only want to live their lives and do not create conflict. If you have done no wrong, if you listen and obey, you will have everything you have ever dreamed of.”
When the red, white, and blue spinning disk smashes into Rogers’ hand, Bucky thinks he’s hallucinating. It rebounds off the computer console, smashing it to pieces, before hitting the ceiling and spinning back to the doorway where a carbon copy of Rogers catches it with the soft hum of electromagnets. Same height, same blue eyes, same clenched jaw; the newcomer is identical to Rogers in all ways except he isn’t wearing the cowl. His hair is ruffled, slicked into a Rorschach blot from sweat and blood.
Bucky blinks hard, but the man doesn’t disappear.
“Who the fuck are you?” Rogers snarls, lifting his own Vibranium shield defensively while shaking the hand that has to have been broken but will be mending already.
“Captain America, and I’m here to stop you.”
The shield flies through the air again, rebounding off the skull of the guy to Bucky’s left, and into the one on his right. As it flies back to… to Captain America… Bucky realizes he’s free. His wrists are still bound, but he’s still deadly, and he acts before his concussed brain can suggest it’s a bad idea.
Vaguely, Bucky is aware of the two star-spangled men destroying the room around them as they fight. His own focus is on his own opponents, though. He throws himself at a S.T.R.I.K.E. agent, kneeing him in the face and using his momentum to send them both to the ground, Bucky on the agent’s chest. There’s a momentary scramble as the S.T.R.I.K.E. agent attempts a grapple, but Bucky is better. His knees squeeze the bastard’s neck and, with a wrench, he breaks it.
Then he’s on to the next, flipping over a desk so both his steel-toed boots connect with the agent’s head. Bucky kicks him twice more to make sure he doesn’t get up again, then steals his knife. Now that his hands are free and the gag hangs about his neck, he scoops up the agent’s dropped weapon. Now he’s really in the fight, firing at the agents trying to stop the clash of titans that may, somehow, stop this madness.
Only, it’s not really a clash. Now that it’s just him, Rogers, and the Captain America without a helmet, he can see that the newcomer has the upper hand. He’s not stronger or faster so Rogers is holding his own, but he’s better. Every punch Rogers throws is blocked or dodged, then followed up with vicious counterattacks that break through Rogers’ defenses. His healing factor has to be working on overdrive to keep up with the beating he’s taking, but that doesn’t stop him. His fists crash into the new Captain America’s shield again and again, the violent booming reverberating through the little room.
Bucky hurries to secure the door, keeping anyone else out, and turns back to the fight, rifle up, hoping this stranger wins. Hoping he really is different. Hoping that maybe, somehow, the world doesn’t end today.
After a vicious uppercut, Rogers stumbles backwards spitting blood. The other Captain America doesn’t charge in, but gives him space. It’s honorable, but it’s stupid.
Bucky says, “Put him down,” but the stranger shakes his head.
“Take the shot if he tries to run.” Then he smiles, a flash of white teeth and confidence. “Don’t worry. I’ve got this.”
It’s the kind of thing Bucky always expected Captain America to say before he actually met the man.
“Who are you?” Rogers demands again.
Bucky knows Rogers is just buying time for his healing factor to kick in. Once it does, the other guy will still be winded and won’t stand a chance. Bucky’s finger twitches on the trigger, but he doesn’t take the shot. For some reason, he believed the guy when he said he had this.
Rogers’ double wipes his mouth on the back of his hand.
“I’m ashamed to say I’m you.”
“Ashamed?” Rogers laughs. “I’m about to bring everlasting peace to humanity. What’s to be ashamed of?”
Captain America, as Bucky is thinking of Rogers’ double, shakes his head.
“Peace cannot be forced. If it is, it isn’t peace.”
Rogers’ lip curls in disgust.
“You’re not me. I’d never be so weak as to say something so naive and idealistic. I bet you think we should just all sit down and talk. That if we just listen to each other we can all get along.”
Captain America nods.
“I do, but you don’t want to listen. You just want people to agree with you.”
“Because I’m right!”
“No,” Captain America shakes his head. “You’re not.”
“I’m better than you!” Rogers roars as he launches himself at Captain America again. “I will not be stopped!”
Bucky expects another drawn-out fight where Rogers throws himself at Captain America over and over, wearing him down through sheer attrition. But Captain America side-steps the oncoming rush, turns, and kicks Rogers in the ass. It sends Rogers sprawling, his momentum unable to handle the blow, and he rolls to get back to his feet. Only, Captain America seems to predict exactly where he’ll stand as his shield is in the air to slam into Rogers’ face before he even puts his fists back up.
Bucky has to look away from the result. He’s a hardened, experienced S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, but little prepares you for watching someone have their head taken off. Despite his nausea, Bucky is sure this result is for the best. Rogers had too many followers, too many people who listened to the symbol he’d long ago stopped becoming, and no prison would hold him. He would have escaped, or been broken out, and continued trying to take over the world. Continued killing people just to get what he wanted.
Looking up, Bucky stares into blue eyes and tries to see a difference between this man and the dead body on the floor. He can’t see a single thing.
“Who are you?” he asks.
The man smiles at him again.
“I’m Captain America.”
“But,” Bucky’s brain can’t process how this is possible. “How?”
Captain America points at him and smiles again, this time an easy, pleased turn of his lips that Bucky’s seen again and again. And yet, this time, it feels real.
“That’s the right question. The short version is dimensional travel. The long version I don’t want to repeat too many times, so, since you’re not an evil douchebag,” Bucky snorts and Captain America’s eyes sparkle, “why don’t you tell me who’s in charge here?”
There’s something comforting about falling back on protocol. They get in contact with Fury, who had been too injured to join in the assault, and soon the building is full of people they don’t know if they can trust, but don’t know if the can’t either. That’s a question for the future. The agents who fought back and are still alive are put in charge, answering to Bucky and Clint Barton, who both answer to Fury himself. It’s temporary; they don’t even know if S.H.I.E.L.D. is going to be standing tomorrow.
For now, they have protocol. Clean up, detention of enemy agents, briefings; so, so many briefings. By the end of it all, Bucky is dead on his feet. After thirty-six hours without sleep fighting Rogers’ merry band of assholes while on the run, and storming a government building, he’s amazed he hasn’t simply passed out. Bucky’s pretty sure he won’t be allowed to sleep for another twenty-four hours, until they can clear other agents to take his place.
Then Captain America walks up to him with that smile.
“Hey there, soldier,” he says and Bucky likes the way it sounds coming off his lips. “How’re you holding up?”
Bucky shrugs a shoulder and flashes his best smile.
“With duct tape and coffee. Today’s going to be a long time recovering from. I mean,” he gestures to Captain America, “it’s not every day you get confirmation of alternate universes.”
With his hands wrapped around his belt buckle, Captain America looks at once relaxed and completely alert. Bucky is jealous, but also turned-on. He’s drawn to the man’s confidence, which isn’t a surprise. What’s surprising is that he doesn’t look at this man and see Rogers’ smug, arrogant face. He doesn’t distrust this man, like he never learned this lesson, and yet this Captain America has the kind of aura Bucky always expected the fake to have.
“Tell me about it,” Captain America says. “I’ve been traveling the multiverse for a little while now, and I still can’t quite get used to it.”
Bucky shakes his head.
“Sorry, but no matter how you try to explain it, my brain is always going to have a disconnect when reality is that the legend of Captain America showed up to defeat his evil counterpart, saving the world from authoritarian domination.”
Captain America shrugs, smiling in amusement.
“Nothing surprises me anymore.”
“Whatever you say, Cap.”
“Call me Steve.”
Bucky blinks, but lets himself smile slowly at Steve. Everything about the man is different than Rogers. Rogers insisted on being called ‘Captain’, his rank and power thrust before him like a weapon. He didn’t get friendly, he didn’t banter, not unless he wanted something from you.
“So, I have a big ask.” Steve pushes a hand awkwardly through his hair. “I don’t exactly have a place to stay in this world, and I don’t know many people I can trust. I can trust you, so would you mind if I crashed on your couch?”
“For tonight?” Bucky asks, startled by the request.
“I just need a soft spot and a shower. Tomorrow I can figure out the rest.”
For a moment, Bucky hesitates, recalling his own thoughts on Rogers who only was kind when he wanted something. He dismisses the notion, though. Maybe it is naive, but he trusts this man. He’d believed in Rogers, and that had blinded him to his nature, but he doesn’t have the same past with this Captain America.
Or he’s making a mistake, but Bucky doesn’t hold himself to perfection.
“Sure. I’m probably going to be here for a while, though.”
Steve shakes his head.
“I already talked to Fury and he said you could go if you agreed.” Bucky frowns and Steve adds quickly. “Come on, you look like you’re going to fall over. Someone else can take over until tomorrow. Let’s head to your place and I’ll pick us up a few pizzas for dinner on the way.”
While that sounds amazing, Bucky has to wonder, “How are you going to pay for the pizzas?”
“Fury gave me a credit card,” Steve says with a shrug that says it’s no big deal, but also means Steve could grab a hotel if he wanted. “So we get some food, watch some T.V., and when you’re ready to sleep I’ll be on the couch. We can both rest without worrying about what will happen if anyone busting the door down.”
“You’re trying to protect me,” Bucky blurts out as it occurs to him. Steve blushes, confirming his suspicion, and he’s at once flattered and annoyed. Steve had wanted something after all, to guard Bucky and get him to rest. It’s a long way from Rogers’ manipulation, but Bucky is feeling a bit raw. “You could have said so.”
Steve rolls his eyes, but the effect is lost with how red he’s turning.
“So you could say you can take care of yourself? Look, Bucky,” he holds out a hand placatingly, “I really don’t trust anyone else, and I won’t sleep in a hotel knowing you’ve got no one to watch your back. Let’s do pizza, T.V., and get some rest. Okay?”
Bucky says, “Okay,” because it’s hard to get angry when he’s so tired and Steve is right. He won’t sleep without someone watching his back, and he never would have admitted that aloud.
Steve smiles and gestures toward the door.
“Then let’s go.”
They proceed to the parking garage in silence. Bucky is starting to feel the exhaustion now that rest is on the horizon, and can’t think of anything to say. For his part, Steve seems completely comfortable in silence. He’s smiling slightly, swaying in place like he’s got a tune stuck in his head. Not for the first time, Bucky is jealous of that serum that keeps him going.
Bucky’s mouth asks, “So why aren’t you evil?” before he can stop it.
Steve just snorts.
“Because in this universe I’m not evil.”
The doors ding open and Bucky scowls at the parking level.
“That is a bullshit answer that completely ignores the question.”
With a shrug, Steve steps out with him and looks around curiously.
“That’s how the multiverse works. We’re taking a car?”
Bucky gives him a look.
“How else do you get places?”
“Subway,” Steve answers instantly. “Bus. It’s better for the environment.”
Bucky opens his mouth, but closes it on the comments that want to come out. That is what he would expect Captain America to say; something stupid and cheesey, and for the betterment of all mankind. Something that also does not take into account how on a subway or a bus you are a great target, or how easy it is to assassinate someone in a big crowd. Instead of saying either thing, Bucky fishes out his car keys and uses the beep to find his car.
Though he hasn’t said anything, Steve is smiling at him like he thinks his thoughts are amusing. It’s creepy.
“What?” Bucky snaps, and Steve’s amused smile gets bigger.
“Black, nondescript, later model SUV. So shocking.”
The dry delivery makes Bucky’s scowl deepen, ensuring his wrinkles will be canyons one day.
As they get in, Bucky says, “You act like you know me.” It’s a demand, not a question, but he doesn’t get the answer he expects.
Steve’s smile loses none of its laughter, and he asks, “Bucky. If there’s another me here, don’t you think there’s other yous too?”
Bucky’s brain doesn’t quite know what to do with that information. He squints at Steve as he tries to parse it. Other hims. People who are as different from him as Rogers is from Steve. They look just like him, talk like him, but could be evil as hell.
Him is not supposed to be plural.
The scowl is a perpetual feature now as he turns sharply away from Steve and backs out of his parking space. There’s something unsettling about this revelation. He likes to think he is who he is because of the choices he’s made; playing the cards he was dealt in the best possible way. Thinking of other hims makes him wonder if his life could have been different, better, and it’s shaking his confidence.
“I’m not evil,” Bucky says when they’re practically on top of his favorite pizza joint.
Steve easily agrees.
“I’m not usually evil myself.”
“How many,” Bucky waves a hand like it can encompass the multiverse, “universes have you been to?”
Steve waggles a hand.
“I’ve made thirty jumps, give or take.”
“And met thirty yous and thirty mes.”
“No, sometimes I’m dead.”
Bucky takes the turn too fast, but slides the car into a parking space before slamming on his breaks. The smile on Steve’s face hardly waivers, like he’s expecting this reaction from Bucky. Like he’s done this before.
“I do not like being this… this… predictable,” Bucky snarls even as he realizes he’s gripping the steering wheel too tightly.
Steve’s voice is gentle when he says, “You don’t know me, and I know you. That’s not fair and it’s making you uncomfortable because I’m a stranger. Thing is…” Something about Steve’s voice has Bucky turning his head, and what he sees makes his breath catch. Steve is looking at him like he’s hung the moon and stars in the sky. “...in my world, you’re dead. You died some eighty-odd years ago, but we were close before that. Grew up together, lived together, and I miss you like hell, which means I’m super, super glad that you’re not evil.”
The snort Bucky makes is involuntary, but makes Steve smile.
“I’ll tell you anything you want to know about me,” Steve says. “Just ask.”
“Hmm,” Bucky hums and uses getting out of the car to sort his thoughts. Yet, as they walk into the pizza joint and place their order for three large pizzas, stand in line, and pay, he can’t wrap his mind around it. Another him, who is nothing like him if he’d grown up with Captain America, and yet is enough like him that Steve can interpret Bucky’s reactions. No, it doesn’t make sense. What makes less sense was that he’d accepted the alternate version of Captain America so readily, but can’t imagine a version of himself. Maybe many versions of himself, if Steve is acting like he’s already had this conversation.
The only way to get answers is to ask Steve, but they can’t exactly have a discussion on inter-dimensional travel in a pizza place. As soon as the car doors shut Bucky asked, “How many times have you met me? Versions of me?”
“At least a dozen,” Steve says, balancing the pizza boxes on his lap. “I like this version of you best.”
“Because I’m like your Bucky?”
“Because you have the same personality. I can’t say you’re like him when your lives aren’t the same.”
“What?” Bucky interrupts, glancing at Steve even as he pulls into the busy D.C. traffic. Steve smiles at him when their eyes meet and Bucky has to look away.
“My Bucky was born in 1918. You were born in…?”
Bucky sees Steve nod in his periphery.
“He fought in my universe’s Second World War; died before it ended. I’m pretty sure you didn’t.” Bucky shakes his head. “He had three sisters and you…?”
“Only child,” Bucky says thoughtfully.
Steve nods again.
“So you aren’t alike, you just have the same personality. This time.”
“That sounds annoying.”
Shrugging, Steve says, “You get used to it.”
“And… and I’m your favorite… version of me?”
Bucky has to smile at that.
“You’re my favorite version of Captain America.”
Head falling back, Steve laughs long and hard. It’s a beautiful sound, and Steve has a beautiful throat at which Bucky has to force himself not to stare. Rogers had never laughed like that, carefree, or even real. He would just chuckle, so Bucky had suspected he’d never got the joke. Listening to Steve, he now suspects the guy had been a sociopath. Steve is so much better.
Once he’s calmed enough to speak, Steve says, “Considering the comparison, the bar isn’t high.”
“When you put it like that, it isn’t the compliment I’d meant it to be.”
Steve smirks at him.
Yeah, Steve is so much better.
“You have a great laugh.”
Steve’s lips part in a new smile that makes it difficult for Bucky to keep his eyes on the road, as something hot sparks between his legs. Thoughts of Fury naked, baseball statistics, and the smell of his gym shoes keep him from embarrassing himself. He’s fairly sure that Steve is flirting with him, and he already knows Steve finds him attractive. The combination is leaving him squirming in his seat.
“I was hoping you’d say something like that,” Steve says, his eyes trained on the side of Bucky’s head.
“Pizza,” Bucky makes himself say. “We should eat. And sleep. I’m not a supersoldier.” He hates himself for saying it, but sleeping with the otherworld version of Steve Rogers seems stupid.
Or maybe he’s being stupid.
If Steve’s disappointed in Bucky’s response, he doesn’t show it.
“Pizza it is.”
“Thanks,” Bucky mumbles.
“I’m fine on the couch, Bucky, honestly. Flirting is just flirting, if that’s what you want, but I would like to get to know you better. You’re an only child?”
Bucky nods, and tries to decide if he’s relieved or disappointed. All he can really tell is that he’s starving, the pizza smells amazing, and his eyes are getting heavy. Thankfully they’re almost home.
“How did you join S.H.I.E.L.D.?”
Yawning, Bucky tells him about Clint Barton, the agent that single-handedly recruited the most agents after Fury himself. Steve keeps asking questions as they park and head inside Bucky’s apartment. Talking with Steve is easy. He’s funny and smart, interested in everything Bucky has to say about pop-culture and politics. Before he knows it, they’ve eaten all three pizzas (Well, Steve ate most of it. Bucky had three slices) and the sun is coming up.
The first rays creep over his feet and Bucky blinks, then looks up at Steve. The light glints off his hair, somehow brightening Bucky’s entire apartment. It’s the look in Steve’s eyes that really gets to him, though. It’s contented, like he would be happy to talk forever. Bucky thinks he’d enjoy that, too.
“We weren’t just close friends in your world, were we?”
Steve slowly shakes his head.
“No, we weren’t.”
Bucky sighs, because that complicates everything. Why can’t anything just be easy in his life?
Something of what he’s feeling must show on his face, because Steve takes his hand and gives him another amused look.
“Bucky, he’s dead.” The blunt words delivered while Steve is touching him so gently takes Bucky by surprise, and Steve has his entire attention. “He died a long time ago. I don’t mistake you for someone else.”
“But I look like him,” Bucky argues.
Steve nods while shrugging a shoulder as if it doesn’t matter.
“Same eyes, same smile, same laugh. So it’s impossible for me to find you unattractive because I know what you look like naked.”
If Bucky had been drinking something, he would have spit it out.
“No you’re not.”
“That is entirely unfair.”
“We could fix that.”
Bucky chokes on nothing at all.
“We could,” he manages to say, while wondering when he stopped being charming and smooth. He’s not sure, but he thinks he can safely blame the problem on Steve’s many perfect muscles. Steve just raises a challenging eyebrow, and Bucky blurts, “Screw the couch.”
Both of Steve’s eyebrows attempt to shoot into his hair. Bucky laughs, tightening his grip on Steve’s hand and starts pulling him into the bedroom. Halfway there they crash against a wall, lips pressed together as they kiss around their laughter. Hands pull at clothes, shedding them along the way to the bedroom. Bucky has never fallen into bed this fast, but no one has ever known him like Steve. The intimacy between them has existed since the moment they met, and that’s what’s made Bucky trust Steve; Steve already trusts him.
Sex is just as easy. They fall together like they’ve been together for years, and it’s not just Steve’s knowledge of Bucky’s body that makes it effortless. Being with Steve is easier than breathing. They whisper their needs as their bodies move as one, Bucky’s legs wrapped around Steve’s waist, and Steve filling him completely. Bucky’s pleasure overwhelms him, like it had his first time, and he’s left boneless and limp on the sheets when it’s over.
“You should stay,” Bucky finds himself saying. He’s on his back, propped up on pillows as he stares out the open window. Steve’s head is on his shoulder, his arm across Bucky’s waist.
Steve’s sleepy answer is, “What?”
“Stay,” Bucky says again. “Stay here, in this dimension, with me. You don’t have to go, right?”
“No,” Steve shakes his head and looks up at Bucky. “That’s… pretty fast, you know. Moving in with you?”
Bucky shrugs a shoulder.
“I never do anything by half.”
Steve snorts, “That’s true,” and curls forward to kiss his belly.
He goes silent and Bucky lets him work it out on his own. It’s the best choice, for both of them. Steve gets a home, and Bucky gets a partner, someone he can actually trust, and a warm bed to look forward to. He’s not sure what else he really needs in life. When Steve slips his fingers through Bucky’s and presses another kiss to his stomach, he knows Steve agrees.
“I do like punching Nazis.”
Bursting with laughter, Bucky smacks Steve’s thick shoulder.
“You ass!” he cries as Steve starts laughing too. Before they can get into a wrestling match, Steve sits up and kisses him. It’s hard at first, getting Bucky to sit still, but softens quickly into a sweet expression of affection.
Without pulling his lips from Bucky’s, he murmurs, “I would love to stay with you.”
Bucky kisses him again and settles back into the pillows with a wide smile.
“That’s more like it.”