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you swallow me whole

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Thor is not afraid to touch him.

He doesn’t think to give a guy a goddamn warning, either.

The first time Bucky feels an arm slide around his shoulders, his brain blanks in confusion for two whole seconds, because Steve is not next to him. Steve is directly opposite him, sitting on the couch with Sam and Natasha, and he’s suddenly looking very tense as he focuses his gaze on whoever is next to Bucky. Bucky himself finally manages to react and turn to the person, too, and sees Thor there, cheerful as he always is, talking loudly and gesturing with his free hand and swaying Bucky a little with the motions of his own body.

Bucky tells himself he’s only tolerating it in order to seem more amiable but it’s. Not terrible. As long as he doesn’t get used to it, he should be fine.

“Isn’t that right, friend Barnes?” Thor asks, finally looking down at him, his face split in two by his grin.

Bucky hasn’t been listening. He finds it hard to focus now, all that joyfulness radiating from Thor beaming right into his face. He wants to shrug, but that might be taken to mean that he wants to end the contact.

He. Does not want that.

So he nods.

He has no idea what he has just agreed to, but Thor laughs in triumph and shakes him a little, inadvertently pulling Bucky’s body closer to his own.

It’s a lot. It’s not bad.

Bucky wants more.

He doesn’t ask.

*

He doesn’t have to ask. Every time he finds himself around Thor, he finds himself being touched.

He thinks it’s not unusual. Thor is very tactile with everyone, and some of them are tactile with each other. Just not with him. Which is understandable. He has Steve to pat his back and hug him once in a while. He doesn’t ask for more, even though his skin does.

Thor is there to provide. A hand on his back. On his lower back. On his arm, on his shoulder. Once they’re sitting next to each other and Thor’s hand falls to Bucky’s knee to squeeze it as he tells a particularly exciting story. It moves off soon after, waving around as he gestures wildly, but Bucky’s skin burns under his jeans. It’s only his years of training that allow his face to remain impassive.

All those little touches. They make him want more.

*

He finds himself gravitating towards Thor, standing close to him at the kitchen island, sitting down next to him whenever he can. Every time he does it he feels his heart want to flutter, but he’s too well-trained to give anything away.

Or so he thinks.

When Thor casually throws his arm over the back of the couch, behind Bucky, without even looking at him, without flinching as his arm becomes Bucky’s pillow for the night, Natasha looks at him. A little volcano had started to erupt inside of Bucky at Thor’s proximity, but Natasha’s attention quells it at once. Bucky gets up to get a drink, and the lava spills through his chest, hot and slow.

Shame.

He stops seeking out Thor’s closeness.

*

Thor starts seeking him out, instead. Whenever they sit down to eat or just talk and Bucky is not next to him, he frowns and looks for him, patting the space next to himself expectantly when he finally catches his eye. Bucky goes, every time. It’s okay if it’s Thor wants him there, he thinks, even if he can’t fathom why he would. It’s only shameful if it’s Bucky who wants.

He tells himself he doesn’t want it, but then his skin sings whenever it feels Thor’s fingertips upon itself.

It’s so much. It’s not enough.

He doesn’t touch back. He can’t touch back. He can’t tell when it would be wanted. If ever. What he can do is accept.

And then one evening, when everyone is gathered around the table, there are two empty seats where Thor and Bucky usually sit. Bucky looks around, and it’s not hard to find Thor, hulking mass of a man that he is, standing outside on the balcony. He’s leaning on the railing, body still, his head hanging.

No one else is paying attention to Thor. They’re ignoring him – but that doesn’t seem right. They must be giving him space. Is that what he’s supposed to do? He doesn’t want to ask.

If he goes out and it’s unwelcome, there’s a good chance that Thor will stop wanting to be his friend. That he will stop touching him. It wouldn’t be all bad, Bucky reasons. Thor has spoiled him with all the touches, all the sustenance for his hungry skin. He can’t depend on him for that. He’ll probably stop soon, anyway.

But if he’s welcome. If he can make Thor feel better.

He doesn’t want to believe that he can. But that would feel good. It would be good.

He slides the door open and walks out quietly – but not too quiet. Thor’s a big man, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be startled. He goes to stand by him, a respectful distance away, and something in his chest clenches at the sullen look in Thor’s eyes.

“My friend,” Thor says, managing a little smile.

“Hi,” Bucky says. His voice is very small. “You okay?”

Thor nods. Shakes his head. “Yes.”

Bucky is quiet for a minute. “Wanna talk about it?”

“I’ve done enough talking already.”

Bucky doubts that, but he knows a dismissal when he sees one. Thor has better people to talk to. He doesn’t need him.

“Okay,” he says, and shame fills his chest again at the little crack in his voice. He can handle rejection. Why are his eyes prickling? This is stupid. “Do you. Um. Want me to go?”

Thor frowns at him. “Why would I ever want you to leave?”

There are so many answers to this question. Bucky couldn’t possibly choose one.

And yet, he does. “I’m not exactly helpful,” he says with a shrug.

“Being close to you most definitely helps,” Thor says, and Bucky seriously doubts that, but he doesn’t argue.

He steps closer. His hand lifts.

It shouldn’t take him this long to make himself squeeze someone’s shoulder.

It takes him a while to get there, but once he touches Thor, he doesn’t know how to stop. His hand rubs over the man’s shoulder slowly, and Bucky feels fucking stupid, like he’s petting him, but Thor doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, he turns to him, wonder in his eyes, and Bucky wants to curl in on himself, because these eyes know. Thor has noticed that Bucky never touches him back. Thor knows that this is a big deal for him when it’s not for anyone else. He knows he’s messed up, even more than the company they keep.

But Thor doesn’t look at him like he’s messed up. He turns to him more fully, speechless, straightening up, and God, it never fails to fuck Bucky up how big he is. Every time he has an arm around Bucky’s shoulder, Bucky’s brain screams with the desire to be enveloped in the man’s embrace, to be held tight against him.

Bucky’s mouth goes dry because Thor is looking at him like he wants to do exactly that. His hands reach for Bucky but hover inches from his waist, unwilling, afraid to do something unwanted.

Bucky can relate.

He grabs Thor’s wrist before he can talk himself out of it, guides it to his hip. He steps closer and lets his other hand slide up Thor’s shoulders, and he has to rise to his toes to make this slightly less awkward. Thor, frozen until a second ago, makes a small noise at the back of his throat, and then moves and his arms are on Bucky, they’re around him, they’re pulling him close, so close. He can barely breathe with how much they’re touching, and he feels dizzy almost, but that’s okay because Thor is more than strong enough to hold him up and oh, isn’t that a thought.

Bucky squeezes him tight and Thor squeezes back, and they’re alone, and this is Bucky’s, and no one can take it from him.

He finds himself relaxing into Thor’s embrace, less desperate now, and he closes his eyes as he breathes Thor in. Thor sways him a little and Bucky smiles at that, though he loses his balance soon, standing on his toes as he is, and it startles a laugh out of him when he almost falls and Thor has to hold him up.

“You’re tall,” Bucky says dumbly, but it makes Thor grin. His hands slide down and Bucky doesn’t have time to panic before Thor has lifted him up to sit him on the railing. It’s not too thin, but it’s far from a safe seat, so Bucky clings to Thor’s shoulders to keep himself on the right side of the balcony.

He wonders if that was why Thor did it, to have Bucky hold him close, but he dismisses the thought. Of course he didn’t. There is nothing mischievous in his eyes when he looks at Bucky, only softness.

“Hey,” Bucky says, and that’s dumb too, but Thor still doesn’t seem to mind how stupid he makes him.

“Hello,” he replies, and steps even closer so that he can wrap his arms around Bucky’s waist. He’s so big, it feels obscene to accommodate him between his legs. Bucky hopes he’s not blushing, but if the heat he feels on his face is anything to go by...

“Feeling better?”

“Much,” Thor says. “Thank you.”

“Are you gonna tell me what upset you in the first place?” he asks, tucking a loose strand of hair behind Thor’s ear.

Thor shakes his head. “It matters not,” he says. “Not anymore.”

“If you’re sure,” Bucky says, and Thor nods. “Wanna go inside? It’s getting cold.”

Thor frowns and pulls slightly away immediately. “You’re cold?” he asks, rubbing his hands up and down Bucky’s arms to warm them up.

Bucky gives him an unimpressed look. “Yes, my toes are frozen, I don’t think I can even walk,” he says, tone even.

Thor hums. “Only one way to get you inside, then,” he says, and pulls Bucky forward.

Bucky does not squeak. He makes a very dignified noise as he wraps around Thor on instinct – arms at his neck, legs at his waist – and Thor carries him inside as if he weighs nothing. Conversation ceases almost as soon as they walk in, and Bucky schools his face in a carefully neutral expression as Thor shifts so that Bucky is able to turn his face to the others.

The look on Steve’s face is hilarious.

“I was too cold to walk,” he explains calmly.

Steve lets out a surprised laugh. “Sure thing, Buck,” he says, grinning at him. “It’s better inside, should let you warm up real quick.”

Bucky makes a skeptical noise. “Might need some more huddling first,” he says before he can stop himself.

Silence rings after that statement, and his chest is just about to contract with embarrassment again, but Thor moves just in time. He walks to the nearest armchair and lets Bucky down for only a few seconds before he plops down and pulls him into his lap. It’s much easier to go with it than Bucky expected, and he’s rewarded with feeling Thor, warm and muscular but soft, under him and around him as his arms come up to embrace him again.

“So you assholes aren’t gonna help with dinner?” Romanoff asks.

“This is an emergency, Natasha,” Bucky says, and it makes him feel even warmer to have everyone laugh at that.

He turns away after that, leaning back into Thor carefully. Thor’s arms hold him tight, and Bucky feels like dying. He doesn’t want to ever get up.

“Why didn’t we do this sooner,” he mumbles, and he turns his face into Thor’s chest to hide it.

“I did not think you would want to,” he says.

“Did you want to?” Thor doesn’t reply at first. “Be honest.”

“Yes.”

Bucky cuddles up to him more and raises his head so that it’s leaning on Thor’s shoulder. His eyes focus on his beard and his fingers squeeze at Thor’s other shoulder as the desire for him to rub his face over the beard runs through him.

He’s struck with the realization that Thor would probably let him.

Unwilling to go as far as face rubbing in front of everyone else, he settles for moving his hand from Thor’s shoulder to his jaw. He lets the backs of his fingers caress the coarse hair there, and the look in Thor’s eyes gets impossibly softer. He lets Bucky explore for a little while before he gently grasps Bucky’s hand and presses a kiss to the knuckles.

Bucky’s head just about explodes.

He knows he’s blushing and he hates it, but he doesn’t want to stop Thor. He doesn’t do much else, holding his hand and pressing the occasional kiss to it as he speaks to him softly. He’s talking about Asgard, describing some place that he would like Bucky to see, and to say that Bucky is overwhelmed would be an understatement. Just the idea of someone like Thor wanting him so close – wanting him at all – is enough to make him want to curl up and hide from the intensity of the feeling.

*

Thor keeps doing it, afterwards. He doesn’t pull Bucky into his lap at dinner or other situations it would be considered inappropriate, but whenever they all have a movie night or are just hanging out, Bucky usually finds himself on top of Thor.

One night Thor goes as far as claiming one of the couches for them, leaning on the armrest and inviting Bucky to sit in the space between his legs and lean back onto his chest. Bucky’s face burns as he does sit down, but embarrassment is soon forgotten because of how good it fucking feels. At one point they move to lie on their sides, Thor’s arm around Bucky’s chest to hold him close, and it’s so good that Bucky actually falls asleep like this.

Thor wakes him up when the night is over by caressing his face gently, and when Bucky inadvertently lets out a quiet sleepy noise, Thor beams at him like he’s the cutest thing he’s ever seen. It’s embarrassing, and it makes him ache, and it makes him bury his face in Thor’s neck and press even closer to him in an attempt to hide from the world.

“I should take you to bed,” Thor says quietly, rubbing a hand over Bucky’s back.

“Don’t wanna move,” Bucky replies, voice muffled into Thor’s neck. His lips actually touch the skin there and he shifts back slightly, something in his stomach fluttering.

“You don’t have to,” Thor says and pulls away too. Bucky is not proud to have another whine escape him as Thor carefully moves over him and off the couch. Bucky is about to ask where he’s going when Thor’s hands slide beneath him and suddenly Bucky’s in his arms, held close and lifted off the couch. “Lead the way,” Thor says, and Bucky looks to the side to see Steve standing close, a warm look in his eye as he watches the two of them.

“Come on,” he says and waves goodbye to whoever’s left in the common living room.

Bucky closes his eyes, out of embarrassment mostly, but also because he’s still very sleepy. He lets Thor carry him all the way to his and Steve’s floor and into Bucky’s room, and makes an unhappy noise when Thor deposits him onto his bed. Thor answers with a quiet chuckle.

“You need to rest,” he says and pushes the hair out of Bucky’s face.

He makes to get up, but Bucky grabs his wrist. They look at each other for a long moment before Bucky makes himself speak. “I need to tell you something.”

“Yes?”

He’ll regret this in the morning, but he can’t bring himself to care. “It’s a secret,” he says with a small smile, beckoning Thor closer.

Thor indulgently leans to him, hair falling over his face to tickle Bucky’s chin. Bucky reaches up and cups his cheek, then presses a kiss to the other, then another one. Thor pulls back to look at him, eyes unbearably fond.

“Thank you for listening,” Bucky whispers. “It was very important to me that you heard this.”

“I hear you loud and clear,” Thor says, tone serious though there’s mirth in his eyes. “I am very fortunate that you decided to share this with me.”

“Flatterer,” Bucky says and caresses his cheek with his thumb one last time before he lets his hand fall away. “Be gone, now. A true gentleman does not disrobe in front of company.”

“Are you saying you’ll actually change into sleep clothes and you won’t just fall asleep as you are?”

Bucky gives him a blank look. “I have the right to remain silent.”

Thor laughs way louder than the joke merits. He leans in even closer and kisses Bucky’s forehead gently. “However you sleep, I hope you sleep well.”

“Thank you,” Bucky whispers. “You too.”

Thor gives him a last brilliant smile before he leaves him. Steve appears on Bucky’s door a minute later. He leans on the frame, arms crossed, eyebrows raised.

“Fuck off, Rogers,” Bucky answers his silent question. He throws an arm over his eyes as he says it, but he can’t hide his grin.

Steve laughs. “Good night, Buck,” he says, sounding happier than he’s been in a long time.

Bucky falls asleep wearing his day clothes and a smile on his face.

*

He doesn’t see Thor for two weeks after that.

He knows it’s because Thor has some crisis or other to deal with, he knows. But it doesn’t make it better. It doesn’t stop the treacherous feeling of worthlessness from crawling under his skin at the thought that Bucky kissed him and Thor disappeared.

It’s stupid. Completely ridiculous.

It doesn’t go away.

He’s sitting at the kitchen island, miserably picking at his breakfast, when Natasha settles opposite him.

“Good morning,” she says, voice even.

He doesn’t want to talk to her. He doesn’t wanna talk to anyone, which is why he’s at the island while everyone else is sat around the table.

“Mornin’,” he says back, because the memories might be a little hazy, but he still knows his mother raised him to be polite.

“You doing okay?”

“Mm.”

Maybe not too polite.

Natasha huffs a quiet laugh. “Miss him that much, huh?”

“Miss who?”

She rolls her eyes. “Knock it off, Barnes. You know exactly what I’m talking about.”

He takes a big breath and holds it in. She’s trying to be kind to him, not to tease him.

He chances a glance at her and sees the sympathy in her eyes.

He swallows, then nods. “I do.” I know. I miss him. “I miss him,” he hears himself say out loud.

“Good,” she says. “He missed you too.”

He frowns. She said it like—

Arms wrap around him and he stills. Just for a second. Then his brain restarts and reminds him whose arms feel like this; reminds him of the only person who would dare—who would want—to hug him like this.

His eyes widen and Natasha grins before she gets up, and Bucky turns his head back to look at Thor. He’s smiling down at him, warm and happy. Bucky didn’t even hear him over the others’ conversation, and he wants to be alarmed at the fact that someone managed to sneak up on him, but that someone is—

“Thor,” he says, and it comes out breathless. He spins in his seat quickly, almost climbing Thor in his effort to hug him. He hears Thor’s booming laughter, feels it in his chest when they press together. He doesn’t even care that everyone is watching when Thor lifts him up; it’s nothing they haven’t seen before. He just wraps his legs around Thor’s waist and pushes the hair out of Thor’s face. “You’re back.”

“So I am,” Thor says, and Bucky smiles. Thor shifts to adjust his grip on Bucky and something digs into Bucky’s back, making him grunt. “I’m sorry, I’ll—”

Bucky cranes his neck to see Thor’s hand still holding his hammer. He grabs it and tugs on it until Thor lets go. “We can just leave it here,” he says, and turns back to Thor with a smile. It disappears when he sees the stunned look on Thor’s face. “What?” he asks.

Everyone is quiet suddenly, looking at him.

“What?” he asks again, more insistent.

Thor shakes his head. “I missed you,” he says simply, earnestly. He’s looking at him like he’s precious, and Bucky can’t take much more of it.

He kisses Thor, on the lips this time, and the silence in the room suddenly breaks with groans and hoots. They break apart only for a second, long enough to share a fond look and a smile, and Bucky dives right back in.

He finds out the significance of what he did later, when Steve tells him about it in their living room, quiet and proud and almost teary. The story of Mjolnir makes Bucky a bit dizzy, the fact that he lifted it with ease. The fact that people saw.

He doesn’t know what to say, so he just pulls Steve into a hug. Steve squeezes him tight.

“I’m so happy for you, Buck,” he says quietly, and Bucky knows he doesn’t just mean the fact that something in the universe deemed him worthy.

“I think… I’m happy for me, too,” Bucky says quietly, and Steve lets out a small laugh and holds him even closer.

They stay like that a while, and when they pull apart they smile at each other. That is, before Bucky fixes Steve with a searching look.

“Can you lift the hammer?”

Steve just ducks his head and laughs.

Bucky laughs with him.