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The gala was already in full swing by the time Bucky made it inside. The soldier would have preferred to crash one of the more low-key and intimate parties that were frequently held at the tower, but had yet to figure out how to get past security. A charity event to fund the unfinished veterans’ center being held in said unfinished building in the middle of fucking December? Ridiculously impractical and freezing cold, but far easier to slip in unnoticed.

Sliding between New York’s upper crust decked out in their diamonds and cashmere coats, Bucky was pleased at the admiring glances he was getting from crowds. He had taken great care in selecting the black leather suit jacket lined and hemmed with thick faux wolf’s fur and cream colored sweater,partially because it was fucking snowing and partially because this was a very important day. Which is also why he had put up with the trimming, styling and gossiping in Mandarin with his hairdresser. They had tamed his ‘on the run’ beard into something more dashing and cut his long unkempt locks of brown hair short and carefully styled for the evening.

The whole look was more Russian mob boss than Bucky had intended, but the ladies at the salon had insisted that he would knock out his date. Unfortunately, that was a very real possibility for the Winter Soldier to worry over as he slipped through the crowd and finally made it to the bar.

“Whiskey, neat,” he muttered, taking one of the abandoned stools and the glass of amber liquid the bartender poured for him with his metal hand. Bucky had managed to avoid the Widow and Archer chatting with the Winged One downstairs and quickly turned his head as the Scientist retrieved two drinks from the bartender before heading back into the crowd.

Turning to lean his back against the bar and take another drag from his tumbler, Bucky tracked the black haired man’s progress towards a very loud and very drunk Stark. Howard’s son, the soldier reminded himself with a slight shake of his head, they looked far too similar in his opinion.

The billionaire accepted his drink and made a comment that had the rich bitches wrapped around his fingers laugh before allowing himself to be guided away from the group by the Scientist. The pair weaved about, picking up a black man that Bucky didn't recognize on Stark’s other arm to keep the man upright, before finally entering a large circle of extremely attractive women surrounding a tall figure.

As the three men joined the group, the woman quickly dissipated, giving Bucky an unobstructed view of the man they had been surrounding.

It was Steve. His Stevie, looking drop dead gorgeous in a dark blue pea coat and cream colored scarf, healthy and smiling just a few yards away

Bucky waved his hand at the bartender. “Another,” he muttered, eyes never straying from the broad shoulders of the blond. Every movement, every smile, every flicker of the eyes, Bucky could read. Steve was tired, exhausted even, with that tight smile that told his old friend that he was fighting the urge to punch someone and scream at the top of his lungs. Bucky’s heart ached for the man he feared he would never be able to reach. Stark was laughing, slapping Steve’s arm. Was he really that blind, couldn't he see the pain Steve was in? The crippling boredom and desire to be anywhere else? Bucky let out a shaky breath and took another long drink. When he looked back Stark had pulled Steve down, waving an arm at the crowd around them. The half smile around Steve's lips told Bucky that he was more humoring the drunk man than he was amused by whatever he was saying. Then the smile vanished. Steve pulled away, staring intently at….. “Oh,” Bucky thought, “he's staring at me.”

-

Steve laughed on cue to whatever the ladies around him were talking about. He had stopped listening the moment he realized that they were only talking to him in attempts to get him in bed. Steve didn't begrudge them for it, but he was utterly and completely uninterested.

Dating had never been a priority for Steve. Back before the serum, being attracted to both men and women had been enough to keep him away from the dating scenes even if anyone had been interested in him, which they hadn't. Bucky had laughed at him for saying that, laughed and kissed him on the spot. It was in that moment that Steve had seen it. It was all that he had been able to see, stuck in a blown up bar, unable to drink away the pain of watching the man he loved fall from the train. Steve saw it in every damn memory he had of Bucky, and in every one it was the same look, the same smile. From the first day they met to their last moments together, Bucky looked at Steve like he had hung the stars in the sky just for him.

The war went on and put Steve in the driver's seat of a massive bomb. Somewhere in his heart, the blond had known there was a way to make it out alive, but just a few days without Bucky had left him without a doubt that it wasn't a life he had wanted to live. Steve crashed the plane and then he woke up, years later with the same pain and now completely alone in a world at war again.

Steve was of the opinion that saving the world from an alien invaion had been dumb luck. Finding a family in the Avengers had been the real miracle.

Life went on, mission by mission to separate the days until Steve's world changed again with the clatter of a steel mask hitting the pavement and those five little words that had torn his heart open.

“Who the hell is Bucky?”

Every word the Winter Soldier said, every movement, was burned into Steve’s brain playing back every time he closed his eyes. The what ifs and desperate questions had left him tossing and turning each night that followed being left alive on that bank.

Tony's hand slapping across his shoulders brought Steve back to the present.

“You ladies keeping my friend here happy?” Tony slurred, waggling his eyebrows. The women giggled but quickly dispersed leaving Tony, Rhodey, Bruce and Steve alone. “Oh forgot them! There are plenty of hot asses to pick from here tonight!” Tony laughed, pulling Steve to face the rest of the room. “How about her!” he asked, pointing to a tall blonde woman.

Steve mentally rolled his eyes. “Not my type,” he said for the millionth time.

Bruce mouthed an apology at Steve as Rhodey tried to pulled Tony away. “Ooo! How about metal hand over there, giving you the bedroom eyes.”

Steve's heart stopped. His head snapped around following Tony's waving hand.

Bucky.

Bucky was here.

Hair cut short, silver fur framing his impossibly handsome face, just sitting at the bar with his steel fingers glinting off the glass he held to his lips.

Bucky was finally here.

-

No going back now.

Bucky set his glass on the bar, keeping his eyes locked with Steve as he called over his shoulder. “Another, and give me an Irish.” Slipping a fifty he had pick-pocketed to the bartender, Bucky took both glasses, making sure Steve could see them both, and headed for the deserted balcony.

Setting the second glass on one of the high tables set up against the overlook, Bucky rested his left arm against the railing and waited.

“This isn't the last place I ever expected to see you, but it's pretty damn close,” Steve said as he cautiously walked up to his old friend.

Bucky lifted his glass, metal fingers flashing in the lights of the party behind him, and took a slow sip before responding. “Why not, I've been pardoned now. I can go wherever I want.”

“And you chose here?” Steve asked, slipping his hands into his pockets and trying to catch Bucky’s eye.

Glancing sideways at the blond, the soldier gave a slight shrug. “Figured I owed you a drink for taking on Congress on my behalf. Even if I don't deserve it.”

Steve’s face darkened in an instant, eyes flashing in anger. “It wasn't you who did those things! It was-”

“I'm an assassin, Steve,” Bucky interrupted, looking away and back into the darkness of the night. “I can think of 57 different ways to kill you and get away before anyone even notices I was here, and I'm not even trying.”

Staring at the stone faced brunet for a moment, Steve’s eyes slowly slid down to the glass of whiskey sitting on the table. He had lost Bucky in the crowd three times as they made their way to the balcony. It was laughable now easy it would have been for the Winter Soldier to poison it.

“A fish may want wings, but that doesn't stop it from having fins,” Bucky muttered, voice tight with bitterness as he watched his Stevie stare at the drink.

“Well,” Steve murmured, picking the glass up. “Here's to flying fish.”

Toasting his lover and the life they used to have, Steve threw his head back and downed the entire glass in three short swallows.

Bucky was staring at him in disbelief, eyes bright. “You're an idiot,” he whispered, voice cracking.

“Yeah,” the blond murmured, setting the glass upside down and sliding between Bucky and the table to loop his arms around his lover’s waist. “The best kind of idiot. The kind that's in love.”

Steve took it slow, signaling his intentions with a hand at the back of the brunet’s head as he brought their lips together with the utmost care and was rewarded with Bucky’s hands coming up to tug at his scarf to pull them even closer. It wasn't the self assured grip of the boy he had grown up with in Brooklyn, nor was it the desperate clutching of a man who had seen hell and somehow made it back alive. This is was the caress of a man who was relearning what it meant to touch and be touched.

Bright flashes and loud voices pulled them apart as several news reporters continued to take photos and shout questions at Captain Rogers.

“So much for your reputation,” Bucky said with a weak attempt at a laugh as he flinched away from the growing throng.

Snorting, Steve angled himself more in front of his lover. “Stick around and we’ll see how me being on my knees for you affects my fucking reputation.”

Pushing away slightly, the soldier turned to grip the railing of the balcony and brace himself. “As much fun as that sounds, I owe you a trip.” Throwing his body forward, Bucky flipped up over the balcony and fell out of sight.

Giving the spot where Bucky had been a fond smile, Steve shook his head and hopped up on the railing. “Show off.”

Flipping his legs over the edge, the captain paused to give the shocked reporters a cocky two fingered salute before pushing off.

Bucky caught his lover with barely a grunt, letting the blond slide down and his hands slide up under his pea coat. He grinned at the soft moaning gasp the cold metal of his hand caused as Steve’s feet found the concrete steps.

“Grand Canyon?” Steve whispered, looping his arms around Bucky’s neck.

“Grand Canyon,” Bucky murmured against his Stevie’s lips.

The side doors of the building burst open and even more reporters came rushing out, shouting and taking photos.

Rolling his eyes and grabbing Bucky’s left hand, Steve flipped the reporters off and ran towards the front of the building. Even more shouts and flashbulbs went off as they rounded the corner to the street that was lined with people who hadn’t gotten an invitation. Pushing through the crowd, Steve let go of Bucky for a moment to duck under one of the barricades and onto the red carpet. Reaching over he lifted his lover up and over as the brunet laughed at him.

Sam shook his head at the pair from where he was leaning against the valet’s box next to Steve’s rumbling motorcycle. “Try and stay out of trouble, you two,” he called as the super soldiers ran up and leapt aboard the bike, Bucky mouthing a thank you and he held tight to the blond in front of him.

With the roar of the motor, they left the lights and shouts behind, weaving between the lines of cars on the streets of New York City. Closing his eyes, Bucky pressed his forehead against Steve’s back and listened to their hearts beating in time. They rode on into the first night of their second chance.