Peter gets underestimated. Everyone calls him “kid,” as if he’s not part of the Avengers. Well anyway, contrary to what the others may think, he does notice things. Being in high school is good for something. Noticing when people have crushes, for one.
Nobody else seems to notice the way Captain America looks at the Winter Soldier. Peter is still not sure how to act around Cap. He’s a little intimidating, not a very approachable guy. He always looks very severe and serious and to be honest, Peter’s arms still hurt when he thinks about the fight at the airport. But when Steve’s looking at the Winter Soldier, he looks a lot more approachable. Softer, somehow. Peter likes him better that way. Not that he’d ever dare say that to Captain America’s face. He’s not in any hurry to die again. Anyway, the point is, Cap clearly has it bad for his best friend.
Meanwhile, the Winter Soldier should be scarier to Peter, but he isn’t. Peter desperately wants to have a look at the guy’s arm, but the murder glare does do a pretty good job of keeping Peter from asking about it. Most Avengers keep their distance from the Soldier, with the exception of Cap and the Falcon. Peter thinks he’s probably not as scary as he wants people to think, but he hasn’t had a chance to test that theory yet.
It’s not until Peter goes out on one of his night missions and nearly gets himself killed (listen, it’s not his fault that his suit malfunctioned for a second, throwing him off balance, and anyway, he can’t ask Tony to fix it, can he?) that he gets a proper introduction to the Winter Soldier.
By the time he enters the common room, it seems everyone has already heard about it. He is greeted with a mixture of pitying looks and sighs. But it’s the Winter Soldier who rolls his eyes and drags Peter out of the room.
“Wait, Mr. Barnes, what’s happening, where are we going?” Peter asks, his voice coming out a lot squeakier than he’d have liked.
“It’s Bucky,” Mr. Barnes, Bucky, corrects him. “And we’re going to the gym. You’re gonna learn how to fight. Properly. You need to know how to defend yourself.”
“Oh.” Peter is excited at the prospect - he’d fought Bucky, and though Peter won that time, Bucky isn’t wrong about Peter’s lack of training - but he’s also a little scared. The bruises from last night haven’t quite healed yet.
“Don’t worry, kid. I won’t rip your head off.” Bucky actually smiles at him.
“I’m not a kid,” Peter protests.
“Yeah, yeah,” Bucky waves his words away as they walk onto the sparring space designed especially for occasions like these. “Just show me what you got.”
Peter gets knocked on his ass the first few times. Turns out it’s a lot harder to fight the Winter Soldier when he’s not wearing his suit. Bucky shows him how to use his smaller build against his opponent and by the fourth try, Peter’s actually got Bucky pinned to the floor, wrists linked together with his webbing.
Bucky grins when Peter releases him. “Not bad, kid.”
They continue for another hour, Bucky showing Peter different techniques and strategies, and though Bucky is a tough opponent, Peter manages to hold his own against him.
“I can’t believe nobody thought to give you basic training,” Bucky says, shaking his head. “Steve all over again,” he mutters under his breath.
“What do you mean?”
Bucky sighs. “Well, for one, Steve used to be a scrawny little shit like you -”
“Hey!” Peter protests.
“I said what I said.” He’s laughing now, the corners of his eyes crinkling. “Anyway, he used to get into scrapes about every other day and the idiot didn’t know the first thing about fighting. So I had to teach him how to block a punch, not that it did him a lot of good. And then he joins the army and they’re dumb enough to give this big buffoon his own unit without ever properly training him.”
“So you trained him?” Peter asks. His history books never mentioned that.
Bucky laughs. “Steve is the most stubborn son of a bitch you’ll ever meet. ‘s not easy to get him to listen, but I did my best. Me and Peggy.” He’s shaking his head again, but he looks fond.
And that’s when Peter realizes. Oh my God, he thinks. “Oh my God,” he says.
Bucky looks at him, confused. “What?”
“No, nothing, just, nothing. Gotta go. Thanks, Mr. Barnes. Bucky. Bye!”
“Okay, so you know how Cap and the Winter Soldier are, like, BFFs, right?” Peter begins.
“Yeah?” Ned replies.
“But what if they’re like, more than friends?” Peter suggests.
“What, like they’re gay?” Ned asks.
“But what about Peggy Carter?” Ned asks, frowning.
“People are bi, Ned,” MJ retorts.
“Yeah, Ned. People are bi,” Peter agrees, as if that thought had occurred to him before MJ brought it up. “Anyway, they get all sappy when they’re talking about each other or when they’re looking at the other. But here’s the thing: they only do that shit when the other isn’t looking.”
“So?” Ned asks.
“So, what if they’re like, gay or bi or whatever, but they never told each other? Because you know, the 1940s weren’t a cool time to be gay, and maybe they’ve been keeping this secret all this time and now they’re back together but not back together, you know?”
MJ looks thoughtful. “Yeah, maybe, but what do you wanna do about that? They’re gonna have to figure this stuff out on their own.”
“Yeah, alright, but I can let them know it’s okay to be gay!” Peter says excitedly. “I can be all supportive and stuff!”
“Like an ally?” Ned asks.
“Exactly!” Peter exclaims. See, Ned gets it. He’ll be the perfect ally.
Peter starts hanging out at the compound more. Turns out, Bucky is way more chill than Peter ever thought. They don’t just spar together, they also hang out in Bucky’s apartment. Peter introduces Bucky to Star Wars (Bucky loves Chewie), Alien (Bucky actively roots for the cat) and Back to the Future (“Please tell me he’s not gonna fuck his mom”).
“Stevie and I used to go to the movies a lot, you know,” Bucky says one evening, after they’ve finished The Lion King. “We saw Snow White in theaters.”
“No way!” Peter says. “Sometimes I forget how old you are.”
Bucky narrows his eyes in a look that’s probably supposed to intimidate Peter, but it doesn’t work now that he knows Bucky is a big softie underneath it all. “Watch it.”
“You know what I mean! That movie came out forever ago.”
“Yeah, it did,” Bucky agrees.
“A lot must have changed since then,” Peter says quietly.
“Yeah, it has.”
“You know people think differently about things nowadays, right?” Peter ventures carefully.
Bucky quirks an eyebrow at him. “Like what things?”
“You know, stuff,” Peter says. He can feel his cheeks turning the approximate color of a tomato. It’s a lot harder to have this talk in reality than it was in his head.
“Hmhmm, stuff,” Bucky says, nodding as if he knows what Peter is talking about.
Okay, so maybe Peter isn’t great with words. But he’s always been a master at showing, rather than telling. So for his next movie night with Bucky, he brings Moonlight. It might not be subtle, but it will get the point across. And anyway, it’s a good movie.
Usually, their movie nights are a lot more boisterous, but tonight they sit mostly in silence. Peter feels like he could hear a pin drop - and not just because of his enhanced senses - during that scene where Little asks Juan about being gay. He also catches Bucky’s furtive glances at Peter throughout the movie.
They sit quietly through the credits; Peter afraid to break their silence for a long while.
“What did you think?” he finally asks.
“It was good,” Bucky says. “Didn’t make movies like that in my day,” he adds.
“No, I guess they didn’t.”
They don’t say anything else about it, but Peter thinks it’s a good start anyway. He’ll bring it up properly next time.
Bucky had nearly blown a fuse when he first found out that Peter was a Shield employee.
“He’s a child!” he’d said. “What the fuck is Fury thinking?”
Steve had shrugged. “Who knows what Fury is thinking. And anyway, he wants to be part of the Avengers. Better he do it under supervision than all by himself.”
Bucky had shaken his head. “Fuck that. Just because the kid is enhanced doesn’t mean he should be sent to do Fury’s dirty business. If he wants to martyr himself that badly, he can look after old ladies and small children. Not become part of an international spy network. What the fuck, Steve?”
The whole Shield business didn’t sit well with Bucky, not after everything that had happened. If Nazis can invade your organization all the way to the top and you don’t even notice the difference, there’s something wrong with the organization to begin with. Bucky only stayed at the compound because of Steve. Where else was he gonna go? His whole life was here.
Steve had managed to look a little contrite at least. He’d held up his hands in a conciliatory gesture. “You’re right.”
He’d walked into Fury’s office the next day and yelled at him for a good twenty minutes. Fury had sat there, stone-faced, but by the end he agreed to not send Peter on missions outside of New York. It was something, at least.
So when Peter walked in, black eye and bruised ego, Bucky had to step in. Bucky just couldn’t stand by and watch that kid throw himself headlong into an early grave. He didn’t let Steve get away with that shit, he wasn’t going to let Peter do it either. And apparently nobody else seemed to feel a calling to take him under their wing. Maybe it was Bucky’s destiny to look after self-sacrificing idiots.
Looking after Peter isn’t so bad, anyway. He’s eager and quick to learn and he’s got good taste in movies. Besides, Bucky gets the sense he’s in desperate need of some kind of father figure in his life, especially with Tony gone. Not that Bucky thinks of himself as a role model of any kind, let alone a father figure, but he can at least keep an eye out for the kid.
Steve keeps telling him he’s doing a great job, with that stupid fond look in his eyes. He never knows if he wants to punch him or kiss him when he says that. Either way, it would mess up the delicate balance they’ve finally found.
They’ve been through so much together and in an ideal world, they would leap into each other’s arms at the end of the world and share a passionate kiss. But this is reality. And reality sucks, most of the time. Before the war, they were together, in every sense of the word, and then they were torn apart again and again and again. Years of separation with a nice dose of PTSD and here they are, two old geezers in young men’s bodies, unsure of their place in the world and unsure of how they’re supposed to fit together after all that.
Bucky’s head wasn’t in a good space for a long time, and though he would never admit it to the outside world, neither was Steve’s. It took Bucky long enough to convince Steve to go to therapy, and in the end, he suspects it was mostly Sam who convinced Steve. Bucky couldn’t bear the thought of hurting Steve again, so he hasn’t initiated anything. And neither has Steve.
Doesn’t mean Bucky doesn’t want to kiss Steve, though. His memory may be messed up, he remembers enough to know what that feels like.
They talk a lot. Evenings spent on either Steve’s or Bucky’s couch, but they always go back to their separate apartments at the end of the night.
It’s nice to get to know Steve again. To fill in the blanks in his memory, or to fill in those spots for which Bucky wasn’t present. Steve was always a serious sort of person, but he’s become even more severe these past few years. Sometimes Bucky reaches out and smoothes the lines on Steve’s forehead, which always turns into a tiny smile, the one he only shows when he’s sad. It always broke Bucky’s heart. Still does.
Peter is a very tactile kid. The first time he hugs Bucky after a sparring session, it startles Bucky. He’d been avoiding touch for years, except during sparring. It’s not a bad feeling, though. He returns the hug, feels Peter’s shoulders sagging against him a little.
“You okay, kid?” Bucky asks.
“Not a kid,” Peter retorts, voice a little muffled. “I’m okay,” he adds after a few seconds.
Peter’s eyes are a little red around the edges, but Bucky decides not to comment on it.
From then on, Peter greets Bucky with a hug more often than not. He puts on such a brave face that even Bucky forgets sometimes how much Peter has gone through. He must miss Tony a lot. Bucky doesn’t feel qualified to bring that up though, not least because of his own complicated relationship with Tony. They never spoke again after that fight in Siberia. He’s gathered from Steve that they talked things over before Tony died, that they were on good terms, but Bucky’s not sure that would extend to him. It doesn’t feel right to talk to Peter about Tony when Tony might have died hating Bucky.
Peter doesn’t bring it up either. He seems content to spar with Bucky or hang out in his apartment and give him a crash course in movies.
He enjoys Peter’s company. He feels more like his old self, like he can let his guard down. Despite their many differences, the one thing Bucky and Tony had in common was the way they kept people at arm’s length. But Peter steamrolls right over that. It’s impossible not to grow fond of him.
Spending time with Peter reminds him he’s human. It also reminds him how much he misses being touched. He misses being with Steve.
Steve comes over unannounced when Peter is just about to leave.
“Oh, hey Mr. Captain America, sir,” Peter says. Bucky suppresses a snort.
“Hey, Queens,” Steve says, like the little shit he is.
“Please, for the love of Jesus, tell that kid he can call you Steve next time you see him,” Bucky says once Peter is out the door, laughing. “I’ve told him a million times, but he won’t accept it until he hears it from you.”
“This is more fun though,” Steve says.
“I don’t know why he’s more intimidated by you than he is by me. I have a metal arm. You wear an American flag to work.”
Steve snorts. “It’s because you have a soft spot for strays and I’m a real asshole. He can obviously read people pretty well.”
Bucky rolls his eyes. “I don’t know why I put up with you,” he says, though he’s laughing.
Steve settles on the couch next to Bucky. “Been asking myself that same question since 1936.” He’s got that serious look again, his playfulness gone like the flick of a switch. He’s sitting close to Bucky, but not close enough to touch.
They sit in silence for a while, the tension palpable. Bucky’s arms feel heavy, the need to embrace Steve presenting as a physical ache.
“Hold me,” Bucky says quietly. Before he can change his mind, Steve is right there, in his space, his arms coming up on either side of Bucky, reeling him in. He feels a sob trying to claw its way out of his throat, but he pushes it down. He holds Steve more tightly than he would ever dare with Peter. He doesn’t have to worry about hurting Steve.
He needs more.
He pushes Steve down, not letting go of him for a second, until he can settle on top of him, every part of them touching, even through their clothes. Bucky’s legs are nestled between Steve’s and he feels safer than he has in a long time.
Steve cradles his head, touches the nape of his neck, rubs his back, his flank, like he doesn’t know which part of Bucky he wants to touch most, and God, Bucky has missed this. Bucky lets his hands travel under Steve’s shirt, just to feel skin on skin. Steve hisses when the cold metal touches his skin, but when Bucky tries to pull his left hand back, Steve says, “No, leave it there.” Steve’s own hands crawl under Bucky’s shirt, rubbing his back.
Bucky can feel Steve’s steady heartbeat against his ear, its soothing rhythm lulling him to sleep. He drifts off and when he comes to, it might have been five minutes or an hour. Steve is still holding him tightly.
“Can I kiss you?” Steve asks, quietly, devastatingly, nothing like their first kiss all those years ago, when Steve approached him with a fight in his eyes, like he was ready to get punched in the jaw if only he could steal a kiss from Bucky.
Bucky lifts his head, looks Steve in the eyes, and closes the distance between them. It’s been so long, and yet it’s the familiarity that knocks the breath out of Bucky. To know exactly what makes Steve’s breath hitch, what makes him dig his nails into Bucky’s skin, leaving little crescents that will fade far too soon.
“Hey Steve,” Bucky calls out, walking into Steve’s apartment after one of his movie nights with Peter. “When the fuck were you gonna tell me you did a puberty PSA for high school students?”
Steve groans. “Oh no. You saw that?”
Bucky laughs. “No, but I wish I did. How much did they pay you?”
Steve sags on his couch and hides his face in his hands, mumbling something.
“Excuse me?” Bucky says, standing over Steve and pulling his hands away from his face. “I didn’t quite catch that.”
Steve looks up at Bucky. “Nothing.”
“It was a favor,” Steve says, laughing.
“A favor? They better have sucked your dick to earn a favor like that, Rogers,” Bucky says, laughing too now, letting himself fall on the couch next to Steve.
Steve shoves him, but he’s laughing. “Don’t be vulgar.”
“What?” Bucky replies innocently. “It’s a hell of a chore. I should know.”
“Oh, fuck you. Like you didn’t love it.” Steve shoves him again, but this time, Bucky grabs Steve’s shirt, pulling him closer.
“Yeah?” Bucky says, voice low. “Guess I did.” He can feel Steve’s breath on his face. Steve isn’t pulling away, but Bucky waits a little longer. He likes this; the coiling tension in his belly, Steve’s breaths coming a little faster in anticipation, the mere fact of their closeness. He wants to savor this moment.
Finally, he closes the distance, a hand on the back of Steve’s neck, Steve’s hands on Bucky’s thighs.
He shows Steve just how much he still loves it that night.
Bucky has noticed Peter sometimes has trouble articulating his ideas. So when Peter broaches the subject of societal changes, Bucky isn’t sure at first what Peter is referencing. A million things have changed, and it could be any one of those things. But he goes beet red when he brings it up, so Bucky figures it must be pretty personal. He has a hunch, but he’s going to let it play out first. It’s not like he’s an expert on modern social cues.
But then Peter brings Moonlight for movie night and keeps looking at Bucky to check his responses, as if he wants to test Bucky. As if he’s afraid Bucky might be angry or upset or disgusted.
And well, Bucky isn’t so good with words himself anymore. The clues Peter is throwing aren’t that hard to decipher, but he’s not sure how to bring this up in an actual conversation. He doesn’t want Peter to think he would judge him for being gay though, so he should have this conversation sooner rather than later.
Steve comes over later that night. They’re spending most evenings together now, though they still haven’t slept over. Bucky doesn’t like the idea of waking Steve up with one of his nightmares, or, god forbid, hurting him in his sleep. Steve probably has similar hang-ups.
“I think Peter might be gay,” Bucky says, without much preamble.
“What makes you think that?” Steve asks.
“Well, he asked me if I knew society has changed and then he showed me this gay movie tonight and kept checking to see my reactions. I think it’s his way of testing whether I’ll be okay with it.”
“So, talk to him,” Steve says gently.
“Ugh. I’m no good at that,” Bucky complains.
Steve smiles. “You talk to me.”
“Yeah, but you’re you. I’ve been talking to you so long it’s like talking to myself.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
Steve pulls Bucky towards him, pillows Bucky’s head on his shoulder. “Just talk to the kid. God knows we could’ve used someone in our corner when we were his age.”
They’ve been sparring for what feels like hours. Peter has been improving though; he manages to pin Bucky about half the time. By the time they call it quits, Peter’s muscles are pleasantly aching. He lets himself fall on the floor and lies there, spread-eagled. Bucky laughs at him while retying his hair.
Bucky’s back is turned and they’re both quiet for a moment. Peter feels tension in the air, although he might be imagining it. He should say something now.
Before he can open his mouth, Bucky turns around to face Peter. He looks serious, more serious than Peter has seen him since they started sparring together. “Peter, you know you can tell me anything, right?” Bucky asks.
Peter frowns. “Uhh...yeah.” Does this mean Bucky was on to him this whole time?
Bucky sits down opposite Peter. “Is there something you wanna share?” he asks gently.
Peter takes a deep breath. “You know it’s okay to be gay, right?”
Bucky looks surprised, but collects himself quickly and his serious face returns. “Yeah, Peter, I know.” He reaches out to put a hand on Peter’s shoulder. “You don’t have to worry about my response.”
Now it’s Peter’s turn to be confused. “Your response to what?”
“To...you being gay?” Bucky says questioningly, releasing Peter’s shoulder to scratch the back of his neck.
“Wait, what?” This conversation got away from him very quickly. “You’re gay!”
“Well, yeah kid, I’ve been sucking dick since before your grandpa was born, but that’s not what we were talking about.”
Peter’s mind whites out for a minute at Bucky’s words, but he forces himself back to the present. “It is what I was talking about! Well, not the, you know, sucking...not that part, but about you being gay. I’m not gay. I mean, I wouldn’t say no to Thor, but who would? That’s not the point! The point is, you’re gay and things have changed.”
Bucky laughs. “Alright, kid.” He pulls Peter into a hug. “You don’t have to worry about me.”
“But like, you know gay people can get married now, right? And you don’t have to hide,” Peter says. This conversation may have given him whiplash - and one very vivid mental image - but he needs Bucky to understand exactly how times have changed.
“Who says I’m hiding?” Bucky asks. “Really, Peter, I’m fine.”
The biggest hurdle has been taken, but they’ve only had half the conversation Peter wanted to have. “Does Cap know?”
Bucky laughs, a genuine belly laugh that almost makes him double over. “Whose dick you think I been sucking?”
“WHAT?” Peter yells. “You…he...you can’t just say…” he stammers, trying to collect his thoughts. “So, so you guys are together, but nobody knows? Why doesn’t anybody know? Don’t you want people to know?”
“Alright kid, slow down. It’s more complicated than that. Steve and I know what we are to each other, but it’s not always easy to be together when you’ve gone through what we’ve gone through. We’re just taking it slow, which is why we haven’t told anyone. We’re not hiding, we’re just protecting ourselves from prying eyes,” he says, ruffling Peter’s hair.
“I’m sorry,” Peter says.
Bucky shakes his head. “No, no, it’s fine. Just don’t go telling everyone you know, alright? There’s not much in Steve’s life that’s private anymore.”
Peter nods solemnly. “I promise.”
Okay, so Peter does tell MJ and Ned, but that barely counts. He tells them everything, and besides, he’s bad at keeping secrets. He has to tell someone or he’ll tell everyone. MJ is not that impressed by the news, she says something about how it’s indicative of our heteronormative society that we should even be surprised by their queerness, or something. He nods along because he knows better than to argue with her. At least Ned is excited.
“Maybe they can go to Pride,” Ned suggests.
“What part about them not wanting to go public did you not hear?” MJ says.
Peter frowns. “Yeah, but it would be cool, wouldn’t it?”
“I’m not saying it wouldn’t be cool, I’m saying that Captain America can’t really take his boyfriend to Pride and not be publicly out.”
She’s right, of course, but Peter might just bring up Pride to them anyway. Maybe they’ll want to go after all.
Peter decides that Steve and Bucky should get a crash course in 21st century queer pop culture. He tells Bucky that Steve should join their movie nights from now on. Bucky doesn’t say anything; just ruffles his hair in response. But the next time they hang out, Steve is already waiting on Bucky’s couch.
He looks very different in a worn t-shirt and sweats. Peter realizes he’s only ever interacted with Steve when he was being an Avenger. He doesn’t even really know what Steve is like, other than what he inferred from Bucky’s stories.
“It’s a good thing you asked Steve to join us, he was getting tired of all my references he didn’t get,” Bucky says, smiling. Steve grumbles in response and Bucky kisses his cheek. It’s the cutest goddamn shit Peter has seen in his life. “What are we watching tonight?”
Peter grins. “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
Steve raises an eyebrow. “I’m intrigued.”
They start with season 6 because it’s objectively the best season. To his relief, Steve and Bucky get into it immediately. They start reminiscing about the queer bars they used to visit and Peter listens in awe.
“I didn’t even know stuff like this existed back then,” Peter admits.
“Oh yeah, you just had to know where to look,” Steve explains. “Our whole neighborhood was pretty queer, though, so there were plenty of places to go.”
Bucky nods. “Still had to be careful, though. The staff had to have plausible deniability, so we couldn’t do whatever we wanted. But it was enough.”
“Have you gone to a gay bar yet? Like in this century, I mean?” Peter asks.
Steve shakes his head. “I’m too recognizable.”
Peter pauses for a second, thinking over his next words. “Would it be so bad if someone recognized you?”
Bucky turns his head to look at Steve, awaiting his answer like he doesn’t know what Steve will say to that either.
“Yeah, maybe not,” he concedes.
Peter decides to leave it at that.
Steve stays long after Peter has left. He’s quiet, his arm draped around Bucky, who is slumped against his side. His fingers are tracing circles on Bucky’s arm, which means he’s thinking. Bucky waits for him to speak. He’s got the patience for it.
“What do you think?” Steve asks.
Bucky sits up. “You’re gonna have to tell me what you’re talking about, big guy.”
Steve smiles ruefully. “Sorry. About what Peter said. About being recognized.”
“Ah,” Bucky says. “I don’t mind, but it’s not my image on the line. Don’t think it can get worse than Soviet assassin.”
“You think this is about protecting my image?” Steve asks. “I don’t give a shit about my image.”
Bucky’s hand covers Steve’s. “I know.”
“It’s about protecting our privacy,” Steve continues, fired up. “I don’t need the kind of attention this will bring.”
“Okay,” Bucky says.
“What?” Steve asks.
“Nothing,” Bucky shrugs. “Just sounds like you’ve made up your mind.” He kisses Steve briefly. “I don’t mind, either way.”
Steve stays over for the first time that night. Bucky doesn’t have a nightmare.
Steve begins to join in on their sparring sessions. Steve’s a tough opponent for Peter, but he manages. Bucky likes watching them fight. They’re so alike. Mostly because they’re both incredible dumbasses. And yet, Bucky wouldn’t trade either of them for the world.
Things between him and Steve are finally starting to go back to normal. They spend most nights together, relearning each other’s bodies. Bucky still has nightmares, but he hasn’t tried to strangle Steve in his sleep. He’ll take that as a win.
Peter finally started calling Steve by his first name, after Bucky badgered Steve about it for weeks. Watching the kid walk on eggshells around Steve was unbearable, and Bucky is glad to see Peter becoming more comfortable around Steve.
Still, he’s a lot more comfortable asking Bucky about their life together and these conversations are reserved for when it’s just the two of them.
“Did people know back then?” Peter asks one day, as Bucky’s preparing dinner, slicing vegetables at the kitchen counter. Peter is sitting at the kitchen island, peeling potatoes.
“Some people knew, yeah. I’m pretty sure Philips figured it out after a while, but he kept his mouth shut to the other higher ups. The Howlies knew. No keeping secrets from each other when you’re in a war zone together. Gabe and Dum Dum caught us one time, I’d never seen Steve so scared. He always charged headfirst into everything, as long as I’d known him, but I think he knew in that moment everything could’ve been taken away from him. All he wanted was to serve, to make a difference, and if they reported him, well, it would be over.” By that point, Bucky couldn’t have cared less if they’d kicked him out of the army. He wasn’t in it for glory or the pride of the nation. He was in it for Steve. If Steve got booted, he would have followed him, same as he’d followed him into battle.
“We all just waited for someone to speak,” Bucky continues. “Dum Dum finally opened his mouth. ‘I don’t give a rat’s ass what you two get up to, just don’t get distracted and get us all killed. And if you hurt him, I’m coming for you,’ he said to Steve.” Bucky snorts at the memory. “Steve was gaping at him like a fish. We figured we owed it to the others to let them know, too. We didn’t want to get caught with our pants down a second time, and they were bound to find out eventually anyway.”
“And they were cool with it?” Peter asks, eyes wide.
Bucky shrugs. “You got other things to worry about in a war zone, kid. Besides, it wasn’t that unheard of. People find comfort where they can. They could understand that, at least.”
“What about Agent Carter?” Peter asks, the words coming out carefully.
Bucky stops slicing for half a second. “I thought Steve should go for it. We fought about it a few times. More than a few times, I guess.” Bucky can see the question starting to form in Peter’s eyes, but he continues before Peter can ask. “She was great and he liked her, that much was clear. And he could have a future with her, after the war was over.” The truth is, Bucky had figured, even then, that he wouldn’t survive the war. He could feel something crawling in his veins and every day, he’d felt closer to destruction. Still, he hadn’t been able to bring himself to break things off with Steve. He was greedy, selfish with his love. “I think she probably suspected something. She was smart enough.”
Peter was silent for a little while, the only sounds in the kitchen their slicing and peeling. “But now you have a future with Steve. Right?”
Bucky smiled. “Yeah, guess I do. Who’d’ve thought, huh?”
“Do you ever think about, like, making it official? Like, getting married?” Peter asks.
“Never really thought that was in the cards for us.” He would’ve taken Steve down to the courthouse back in 1938, if only they’d been allowed. But they weren’t, so he didn’t. That was never an option for them.
“But it could be, now,” Peter presses.
“What, you wanna become a wedding planner now?” Bucky teases.
Peter turns beet red. “No, just thought it’d be nice, is all.”
His conversation with Peter lingers in his mind. He and Steve have decided to rent a place in the city and they split their time between their place in Brooklyn and the compound. It feels good to be back in the city and have a place they can truly call their own.
He supposes it would be nice, to pick out a couple of rings, clean up nice, go down to the courthouse and let the whole world know that this is the man he loves, who loves him back just the same.
So maybe he walks past a jeweller’s one day and looks at their selection of men’s rings, just to see what they’ve got nowadays. Some of the rings are ostentatious, but he’s glad to see simple wedding bands never go out of fashion.
“Anything I can help you with, sir?” the girl behind the counter asks.
Bucky looks at her, ridiculously feels color flooding his face, as if he’s been caught out. “Just browsing for now,” he says.
“Alright,” she says pleasantly. “What kind of ring would suit you, do you think?”
“Uh, something traditional. Nothing too fancy,” he says.
“Okay, and your budget?”
Bucky blanks. He hadn’t thought about it, but he and Steve are both well off now. His Depression-era brain yells at him, but he tells the girl, “That’s not really a concern.”
She pulls out a tray for Bucky to inspect more closely. He picks up a few of them, tests their weight, holds them up to the light. He lingers on a ring that looks simple, but Bucky likes the way it gleams in his hand, pretty without being ostentatious.
“Are you just looking for wedding bands or also for an engagement ring?” she asks. Bucky hadn’t thought about that at all. It might be nice to be able to go down on one knee and actually offer him a ring right then and there. He’s still old-fashioned like that.
“Do you have engagement rings for men?” he asks, lamely, but the girl just smiles.
“Looking for something traditional for him, too?” She switches gears so casually, and even though Bucky knows it’s been legal for a while now, it’s still a shock to his system. He doesn’t get out of his own bubble that much, he realizes, the outside world still somewhat distant to him. He just nods his head.
She walks over to a different part of the store and returns with a new selection of rings. A bunch of them are black, for some reason. Why anyone would want to wear an engagement ring like that is beyond Bucky. His eye is drawn to a gold ring, with a twist in front. It’s simple and elegant, but not plain.
“Oh yes, the mobius band is beautiful,” the girl says. “We can also have the rings engraved, if you like.”
Bucky holds the ring in his hands, and suddenly he’s sure this is what he wants. He wants the world to know they belong to each other. He walks out of the store with the ring burning a hole in his pocket. He’ll wait to buy the wedding bands until Steve can come with him, but he’s definitely keeping that ring he saw in mind. He has a feeling Steve would like it, too.
“Hey, kid,” Bucky calls Peter over. He’s just finished sparring with Steve, who’s headed for the showers now. Peter would also like to take a long, hot shower. He can feel a few bruises forming already.
“Not a kid,” Peter answers automatically, before noticing that Bucky looks nervous. “What’s up?”
“Can you keep a secret?” Bucky asks, whispering now.
Absolutely not, a voice in his mind says. “Yes,” he says.
Bucky pulls something out of his pocket. It’s a small case, like maybe it has a ring in it, and oh my God. “Oh my God,” he says, loudly.
“Shhh,” Bucky hisses. “Steve’s got super-hearing, remember?”
“Right,” Peter whispers theatrically. “Oh my God,” he mouths this time. “When are you going to ask him? Can I photograph your wedding?”
“Calm down. Jesus. I’m gonna ask him tonight, so don’t come over tonight, alright?” Bucky says. He’s actually blushing now. The Winter Soldier is blushing. Holy shit.
He salutes Bucky. “You got it.”
He takes the quickest shower of his life. He texts MJ and Ned immediately afterwards. I need to talk to you guys. Now.
He races back home and by the time he gets there, MJ and Ned are already hanging out in the living room with aunt May. He shouts a hasty greeting to her before making for his bedroom, though his friends are still on the couch, talking to his aunt.
“Guys!” he hisses at them.
Aunt May laughs. “Alright, got it, you’ve got some super important teenage stuff to talk about.”
“Sorry, Ms. Parker,” Ned says, apologetically.
MJ mutters something that sounds suspiciously like, “raised by wolves.”
When Ned finally closes the door, Peter can barely contain himself anymore. “You guys know how I asked Bucky if he thought about marrying Steve, right?”
“Yeah, I remember how you stuck your nose in other people’s business, again,” MJ says.
“It’s still weird that you call Captain America Steve. He’s Captain America, man,” Ned says.
“Oh my God,” Peter groans. “Bucky bought an engagement ring. He’s proposing tonight!”
“It’s honestly a little concerning how invested you are in their relationship,” MJ says.
“What are you talking about? They have an epic love story! This is the kind of shit they make movies about! Romance novelists would die for a romance like this! How are you not invested?” Peter argues. “Aren’t you happy for them?”
“Sure I am. You texted us like the world was ending, though. Again.”
Peter waves her away and turns to Ned instead. “You’re excited, right?”
“Yeah!” Ned says. “What are the odds you could get us an invite?”
“You just want Cap to sign your stupid trading cards,” MJ says.
“Oh, come on, like you wouldn’t want to be at that wedding,” Ned retorts.
MJ shrugs. “Guess it would be cool to see the Falcon there.”
“Guys, guys,” Peter says. “I don’t even know if I’m invited. Bucky never said anything.” He sits down on his bed, deflated.
MJ sits next to him, pats him on the shoulder awkwardly. “I’m sure it’ll be fine, buddy. They’re basically your gay dads now,” she says, which makes Peter smile.
This shouldn’t be as nerve-wracking as it is. They’ve been together since 1934. There’s no reason Steve would say no, and even if he did, it wouldn’t be a rejection of their relationship. Maybe he should have brought up the possibility of marriage before doing this. They never really talked about it. What if that means Steve is opposed to it?
He shakes his head. Snap out of it, Barnes, he tells himself.
He’s cooking dinner for Steve tonight. He’s usually the one to cook because Steve can do many things, but cooking is not one of them. This time, he’s using a recipe Steve’s mother left him, though Steve has never prepared it himself. Bucky isn’t sure he can do Sarah’s skills justice, but he’s trying his best.
He makes sure to wear his best pair of jeans and his best sweater, which he painstakingly picked out that morning. He makes sure the candles are lit and the lights are dimmed low. He puts on a playlist of music from their youth.
Steve enters the apartment, yelling out, “Hey Buck, I’m home,” followed by a softer, “oh,” when he sees the dinner table and takes everything in.
“Hi,” Bucky says.
“Wow. You look amazing,” Steve says appraising him and pulling him in for a kiss. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
Bucky shrugs and gestures for Steve to sit down. He brings the roast to the table and serves them both.
Steve’s eyes widen. “Is that my mom’s recipe?”
Bucky nods. “Yeah. I just hope I did it justice.” He rubs the back of his neck self-consciously.
Steve takes a bite and closes his eyes. “This takes me back.”
Bucky smiles. “Yeah, me too.”
They eat while Steve tells him about his day. A meeting at the VA with Sam, another meeting with Fury about some new threat that’s emerging on the West Coast, though Steve doesn’t seem to be too worried. “What did you do all day?” Steve asks.
Bucky gestures at the dinner table. “This.” He swallows thickly a few times. “Steve?”
“I uh,” he begins, and goddammit, he had a whole speech prepared, but it’s gone. “I love you so much,” he says, because it seems like a good start, even though it wasn’t what he’d planned to start with.
Steve leans over, rubs his thigh. “Sweetheart, you know I’m a sure thing, right? No need to sweet-talk me into bed.” He’s looking at Bucky like he’s this close to dragging him away from the table and into the bedroom.
“Goddammit, you asshole, I’m trying to propose to you,” Bucky blurts out.
Steve’s eyes go comically wide. “Oh.”
He buries his face in his hands, groaning. Steve pries his hands away. “Well, go on,” he says, gently, not teasing now.
Bucky takes a few deep breaths. It’s stupid to be nervous. Steve is right here, reassuring presence as always. He pulls the little box out of his pocket, opens it. “I would have done this back in the day if I could have. I am who I am because of you. You’ve always been it for me. I think a part of me knew that, even when we were just a coupla kids. Let’s make it official, huh? Now that we can. Make honest men out of each other.”
Steve pulls him closer, kisses him fiercely. “I’ll be the luckiest man alive,” Steve says.
And Steve has it all wrong, it’s Bucky who’s the lucky one, but he forgoes correcting him in favor of kissing him back with all he’s got.
They’re not gonna make much of a fuss. They’ve picked a date, a month from now. No point in waiting when they’ve been together this long and neither of them want to throw a huge party. Peter is probably more excited than the two of them are, but it warms Bucky’s heart to see it. “I want you to be my best man,” he’d said to Peter. Peter’s eyes had almost bugged out of his skull, before he hugged Bucky tighter than he ever had before.
Bucky takes Steve to the jeweler’s to show him the wedding bands he saw when he picked out the engagement ring. The same girl is behind the counter.
“Ah, he said yes!” she exclaims when they enter the store.
“He sure did,” Bucky says, aware that he’s beaming. The girl takes Steve in, a flicker of recognition crossing her face. She doesn’t say anything though, for which Bucky is grateful.
“They’re perfect,” Steve says when Bucky shows him the rings. Maybe he didn’t notice the girl recognizing him, or maybe all three of them are pretending, but either way, Bucky is content to be just a regular guy come to pick out rings with his fella.
“Would you like them to be engraved?” the girl asks.
Steve nods. He hands her a piece of paper on which Steve has written, Till the end of the line. 8-15-2024. “This, please, if that’s possible.”
She reads the inscription. “Not a problem at all, sir.” She writes down their measurements and tells them they can pick up the rings in a week.
It’s going to be a quiet affair, with just the people they care about most. Sam will be there as Steve’s best man. Wanda and Bruce are invited, and Bucky knows Steve wishes more than anything that Natasha could be there, too. They would’ve liked to invite Thor and T’Challa and Shuri, but they know how busy they are. They can’t be expected to show. Bucky’s sure he’ll see them sometime soon and they’ll talk all about the wedding then.
And then, before Bucky knows it, the big day is upon them.
He nearly vibrates out of his skin when Bucky asks him to be his best man. Bucky didn’t even call him a kid when he asked!
He takes this extremely seriously. He’s gotta prepare a speech. Should he organize a bachelor party? He briefly envisions trying to take Bucky by surprise, blindfold him and take him somewhere, but then he realizes there’s a very real chance someone’s going to get stabbed in the process. So maybe not, then.
He approaches Sam in the hallways of the compound one day. They should probably coordinate their efforts.
“We should throw them a party, right?” Peter asks, when he’s sure neither Steve nor Bucky are around.
Sam shrugs his shoulders. “I don’t know man, I think they wanna keep everything pretty low-key.”
“Okay, yes, we don’t have to invite the whole city or whatever, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t help them celebrate. It doesn’t have to be big, but there should be something. And if we leave it up to them they’re just gonna go to the courthouse, say ‘I do’ and go home. There should be cake and music and dancing!” Peter has thought about this long and hard. These two have known each other for a hundred years! They’ve been together for almost ninety. They can’t not celebrate that.
Sam considers for a moment. “Alright, tell you what. They don’t expect T’Challa, Shuri and Thor to show up. So I think we should try to make that happen but keep it a surprise. And we can organize a little celebration afterwards, here at the compound. But don’t go crazy with it.”
It’s all Peter needs to hear. He immediately starts putting together a playlist. He researches music from the 1930s and 40s that Steve and Bucky must have known. He snoops through their record collection, under the pretense of judging Bucky for his bad music taste. He also mixes in more contemporary music because really, they can’t listen to 1930s music the whole evening. He sends the playlist to Sam, who has a few more suggestions to add, but otherwise approves of his list.
Sam is in charge of contacting the Wakandans and Thor, who are more than happy to clear their schedule for the occasion. Sam is also in charge of the food, while Peter goes out in search of decorations. He picks all the cheesiest wedding decorations, just because he can.
Bucky corners him in the hallway, a week before the wedding. “I know you’re up to something,” he says. “You’re not organizing some bachelor party, are you?” he asks, his eyes narrowing.
Peter shakes his head. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”
“Okay, good. I might have broken someone’s arm or something.”
“Yeah, I figured,” Peter mutters.
Bucky pokes him in the chest. “Still, you’re up to something. You and Wilson.”
Peter makes his most innocent face. “Where do you even get such an idea?”
“Don’t try to bullshit me, kid. I was a Soviet assassin spy for seventy years, remember?”
“Sounds like you’ve got some paranoia to work through,” Peter says, grinning.
Bucky narrows his eyes again. “Fine. Keep your secrets.” He sighs dramatically and walks away.
The morning of August 15th, Bucky is jittery. Peter is helping him - and failing- to fix his tie (and really, why did Bucky think he would know how to tie a tie?) Finally, three youtube tutorials later, they’ve got the exact knot that Bucky wanted.
“Are you nervous?” Peter asks. He’s never seen Bucky like this. He didn’t even know Bucky could get nervous. He’s always perfectly calm, cool, and collected.
“No,” Bucky says immediately. “Yes. Maybe. A little.” He sighs. “It’s dumb. I’m not worried about him, or about us. It’s just that this is the first time we’re declaring we love each other like this, for the whole world to see.”
Peter refrains from mentioning there are only about a dozen people in attendance. He thinks he gets what Bucky means. It must be weird, after keeping their relationship to themselves for so long, to have it recorded in public records.
Bucky’s nervousness seems to be entirely forgotten when he meets Steve at the front of the room. Steve’s shoulders relax a little at the sight of Bucky, too.
Peter notices the exact moment Steve and Bucky spot the Wakandans and Thor, who deliberately enter a little late, for maximum effect. Steve’s jaw drops and Bucky punches Peter in the shoulder, saying, “I knew you were up to something!”
“Hey! Sam did that part!” Peter says, rubbing his shoulder.
Bucky immediately turns to face Sam, then whips his face back around. “You mean to tell me there’s other parts?”
Peter wants to punch himself. “No?” he says, but then he’s rescued from further interrogation by their new guests.
Steve wraps Thor in what can only be described as a bear hug. “I can’t believe you’re here!” Steve says.
“You should know I always make time for weddings,” Thor’s loud voice booms through the room.
Bucky hugs Shuri, actually lifts her off her feet for a few seconds. “Long time no see,” he says, grinning from ear to ear.
Peter can see Steve and Bucky hesitate to greet T’Challa the same way - it does feel a little weird to give a bear hug to a king, especially one as poised as T’Challa - but T’Challa hugs Steve warmly before either of them make a move.
“It’s good to see you, friends,” he tells Steve, before embracing Bucky.
“It’s good you finally got your heads out of your asses,” Shuri chimes in. T’Challa throws her a sharp look, but she ignores it.
Bucky laughs. “I’ve missed you, kid,” he tells Shuri.
Everybody takes their seat and the ceremony begins. They’ve prepared their own vows, because of course that’s what these romantic fuckers did. Peter is going to die.
Steve goes first. “You were my first friend. My first kiss. My first broken heart. My first love. I can’t remember ever not loving you. You are my moral compass, my reality check, and my sounding board. I wouldn’t be half the man I am today without you. You’ve supported me through so many difficult years and all my bullheaded decisions, and you never once wavered. Sometimes I think I couldn’t possibly love you more, but every day I find another reason to love you a little more and I want to keep finding those reasons every day for the rest of my life.”
Peter can clearly see the emotion on Steve’s face, who is completely focused on Bucky. He’s never seen Steve so open, so vulnerable. A part of Peter still thought of Steve as this indestructible icon, but right now, he’s incredibly human.
Bucky swallows thickly, visibly squeezes Steve’s hands a few times before he starts talking. “We’ve already been through better and worse, through richer and poorer, through sickness and health. We’ve seen each other through everything and I would gladly do it again if it means I get to stand here with you and promise you I’d do it a thousand more times, as long as we get to do it together. You brought me back to myself, when there was no reason to love me at all. I love you doesn’t begin to cover what you mean to me, but I’ll tell you every day anyway.”
They exchange rings and say “I do” and they kiss and it’s all so disgustingly romantic, Peter thinks his heart might just burst.
They drive back to the compound, where Peter has done his best to deck out the common room in the most garish decorations he could find. He may have strategically placed a few small pride flags as well. Sam has put his baking skills to good use and baked several cakes. They’re having more food delivered later tonight.
They lead Steve and Bucky to the common room and the music starts the second the pair enters, thanks to Friday. It’s a sweet tune from the 1940s.
“You little shit,” Bucky tells Peter, though he’s smiling.
“Did you bake all this?” Steve asks Sam, awed.
Sam nods. “We couldn’t have a wedding without cake, could we?” Steve hugs Sam, emerges from their embrace a little red around the eyes.
“Time for your first dance as a married couple!” Shuri announces when they’ve all had cake.
Steve groans and buries his face in his hands, but Bucky gets up, pulls Steve up by his hands. Peter takes this as his cue to start playing It’s Been a Long Long Time, and yeah, Steve’s eyes are definitely watery now.
Halfway through the song, Bucky frames Steve’s face, strokes his cheekbone with his thumb, and kisses him. Thor cheers loudly, and they break apart, laughing.
At some point during the night, Thor produces Asgardian liquor. “Can I have some?” Peter asks.
“Absolutely not. Your aunt would skin me alive,” Bucky says.
“But I’m enhanced!”
“You’re an enhanced teenager,” Bucky retorts. Peter pouts. “You can have one beer. One!”
The night doesn’t unwind until Sam and Wanda have passed out on the couch. Steve and Bucky thank everyone profusely before making their exit to their own floor.
Peter goes to bed that night, happy to know that his friends are happy.
Captain America weds Winter Soldier in private ceremony
18 August 2024
Public records show that Captain Steve Rogers, best known as Captain America, married Sergeant James Buchanan Barnes, also known as the Winter Soldier, on 15 August. They have kept their relationship hidden from the public, until now.
The pair have known each other since childhood and famously fought alongside one another in the Second World War in the special unit known as The Howling Commandos. It was during one of their missions that Barnes was thought to have died, until it was revealed in 2014 that he had survived his fall. Barnes was captured by members of Hydra in 1945 and became their most deadly assassin. In 2016, Rogers brought him in and successfully argued before Congress that Barnes should be viewed as a prisoner of war and should not be tried for crimes committed during his captivity.
We reached out to Barnes and Rogers who released the following joint statement: “As young men in Brooklyn, we could not have dreamed we would one day be able to get married. Had we been able to, we would have done so much sooner. We have been fortunate enough to find each other again and now we are fortunate enough to spend the rest of our lives together.” The couple has requested privacy to enjoy their honeymoon.
We congratulate Captain Rogers and Sergeant Barnes on their wedding and wish them many happy years together.