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Wakanda You Be My Valentine?

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Wakanda You Be My Valentine?

When it was first suggested, Steve had fought the prospect of Bucky moving out to the Wakandan countryside by himself. After so long apart, after all the horrors and sacrifices they’d endured over seventy terrible years of isolation, Steve hadn’t wanted Bucky to leave the damn room without him, much less the city.

Steve had assumed, once the mind control trigger was neutralized, that he and Bucky would pick up where they’d left off: bosom buddies, best friends, brothers-in-arms. Inseparable. There had been no question in his mind that they'd go back to living in each other’s pockets, together all the time, in that perfect yet not-enough-not-quite-ever-enough way it’d been before .

(Before the ice, before the war, before the serum .)

It hadn't occurred to him that it could go any other way. Then the moment had arrived, the words rendered useless, and Bucky had wanted—needed, he'd said—something else. 

T’Challa had put a quick stop to Steve’s attempts to persuade him otherwise. Over the months he and Steve had shared, staring into Bucky's cryo-chamber, searching for a means to restore him, T'Challa had appointed himself the champion of Bucky’s healing and happiness. He'd taken his partial responsibility for Bucky's continued global persecution and the real chance that he might have murdered him, an innocent man, a victim , and woven them into a mantle of guardianship that Steve is both grateful for and irritated by. 

What Bucky wants, T'Challa provides. He's a King, not a criminal. He can afford the luxury of such generosity. And that's good. It's good that T'Challa has become as protective of Bucky as Steve—moreso, perhaps, because he wants nothing from Bucky except that he be safe and content. When Steve’s being honest with himself, he can’t say the same. 

Of course he wants Bucky to be safe. Content. Wants him to be so damn happy he breaks into song and dances with a broom. But he also wants much more: to see Bucky's every smile, hear his every laugh, wake up every day to his stale morning breath and the freedom to touch him, to make sure he's not a dream. To be the one Bucky dances with. He wants all of Bucky. 

So he can admit that, in a way, T’Challa was and still is protecting Bucky from Steve.

Which is why he stopped struggling against the arrangements Bucky prefers. It wasn't graceful, or easy, but Steve's come to accept that the choice isn't his to make, no matter how it might affect him. Bucky had worked so hard to reclaim his free will—now he’s trying to reclaim his identity. If the only way he feels he can do that is alone, Steve can respect that. And seize any opportunity he can to see Bucky. Those aren't so few and far between, though they're little consolation.

When Bucky had moved out into the wilds, he'd asked to be notified a day in advance of any visits. He never wanted to be surprised; unable to guarantee he wouldn't react poorly. He'd also said Steve should check in after any operation that took him outside Wakandan borders. Well, Steve and the team had returned to Wakanda from one such mission last night, so the first thing he'd done upon landing was let Bucky (and thus, T'Challa) know he hoped to make the trip. 

Check in—a vague phrase. Steve could send a text or call, even use the video messaging app Wanda favors, but as far as he's concerned, 'check in' means making sure Bucky can see in person that Steve is all right. And the approval came, like it always does, which means Bucky agrees. Probably. At best, he genuinely wants to see Steve too. At worst, he doesn't want to hurt Steve's feelings. 

Anticipation bounces in Steve's belly like a rubber ball. All that's left is the worst part, the waiting. Sixteen more hours until he can jump on his bike and speed the long drive to Bucky’s farm. Sixteen more hours for Bucky to brace himself. Used to be that Steve could climb through Bucky’s bedroom window without so much as a tap to let him know he was coming.

Fucking Red Room. Fucking Hydra

Holding back is difficult. But Steve’s starting, not without some bitterness, to acknowledge that whatever Bucky is doing out there on his own is helping. He can see the difference it’s making. A little bit at a time, Bucky is growing more confident and comfortable, each time steadier in himself—the person he is without pressure or interference from other people.

Without the pressure or interference of Steve.

So Steve waits, because he has to and because it's the right thing to do. He waits, in his own small apartment in Birnin Zana, where he sort of lives during the rare spans that he’s not off training or running operations with the team. He putters around in restless frustration, tries to sleep, works out instead. He packs a bag, because sometimes Bucky lets him stay over for a night or two. He dusts and eats and masturbates, trying not to think about what or who he always ends up thinking about. He waters the dry and drooping collection of houseplants Sam keeps buying him to brighten up the space.

He stares at the clock until it finally shows mercy, and then he’s off.

*

As usual, Bucky is leaning on the fence around his goat pen when Steve pulls up, tires spraying golden dust into the early afternoon sunlight. He can hear the bike from miles off, or so he says. Super soldier hearing. And while that may be true, Steve knows his timing is altogether predictable. He’s going to arrive precisely twenty-four hours after he gets the go ahead to visit, no matter if that’s at five in the morning or eleven at night, and Bucky doesn’t bother pretending not to have noticed—assuming he didn't expect it from the start. 

Steve has made it clear that he’d foreseen a different arrangement for them once Bucky was free of the Winter Soldier. Though Bucky is, thankfully, unaware of the true depth and nature of Steve’s feelings, he understands how much Steve dislikes the choice he’s made: the separation and the distance and the protocols. He just doesn’t care.

That’s not fair. He does care. But it won’t change his mind. ( Nor should it , pipes an internal voice annoyingly reminiscent of Tony.)

Never mind the circumstances—everything else fades away at the sight of him. Steve's hands tremble as he parks and takes off his helmet. Oh, that smile. That face, those eyes, glinting with amusement already. For a moment Steve just gazes, taking Bucky in again. God, how he misses him when they're apart. Like a missing tooth, Bucky's absence is a hole to be worried at, an empty spot where something should be. 

And damn, he looks amazing. Nothing like he did when Steve found him or when he emerged from his last deep freeze. Different even from the last time Steve was here. He's clean, fit, well-fed and well-slept—the best he’s seemed since...well, since ever. Instead of his typical faded and frayed work clothes, he's chosen a dark blue shuka that drapes a couple inches past his knees, bound around his waist with a thin rope belt. A green scarf covers the metal cuff on his left shoulder and the scruffy beard he couldn’t be bothered about before has been shaved off. He’s barefoot and tanned and has his long, dark hair tied away from his handsome face. In the sunshine and those colors, he glows. 

Most importantly, there’s an eagerness in his expression, a lightness that Steve thought lost forever in the aftermath of Azzano. Despite the Wakandan-style robe and missing arm, he’s more the insouciant youth of the Stark Expo than the weary soul Steve found in that first torture chamber. He looks happy. And beautiful with it.

“Well, either I’m lookin’ incredible or I’ve got some kind of scary rash on my face,” Bucky says, interrupting Steve’s reverie with a playful chuckle. “Which is it, Stevie? Should I call a doctor? Or am I just prettier than usual today?”

“You shaved,” Steve says, knocked into idiocy by the force of his own stupid heart.

“Did I?” Bucky’s eyebrows go up and he rubs at his chin. “Well, golly gee, I guess I did. Couldn’t get that past you, could I? You still got that artist’s eye for detail. You plannin’ on drawing a picture or can I move?”

Steve would like to draw him (has drawn him), over and over and over, but hell if he’s gonna let that kind of sass go unanswered. “Sorry, I forgot what your face looked like under those unsanctioned bristles. Was under the impression you were tryin’ to grow a pet on it to keep you company out here, maybe help with the goats.” He climbs off his bike and hangs his helmet on one of the handlebars before taking the first step toward Bucky. 

One step at a time, the space between them shrinks.  

“You’re not wrong. But then the itchy thing started to actually talk back and I decided it had to go.” Bucky steps away from the fence, meets Steve on the packed dirt path still sporting that crooked, carefree smile, and Steve can’t help but pull him close. Bucky doesn’t seem to mind. Never does, never has.

“Hey, jerk.” Steve mutters into Bucky’s shoulder. He smells as good as he looks, like he showered recently, a soap and salt skin scent that Steve inhales gladly.

“Hey, punk,” says Bucky, hugging back. “Missed ya.”

The last time Steve visited was a mere two weeks ago, but it makes no difference. Away is away, apart is apart.

“Missed you too.” Steve holds on longer than he should, and tighter, though the day is hot and he's sweating. Sighing, Bucky leans in and allows the embrace to go on until Steve can no longer endure the vicinity of their bodies. He lets Steve be the one who ends it.

"Mission go well?” Bucky asks after Steve releases him.

Steve shrugs. “The bad guys are in jail and everyone came back in one piece, can’t ask for more.”

Bucky makes a dubious sound. This is another bone of contention between them: he doesn’t want to fight anymore and he thinks Steve shouldn't either. He doesn’t think any of the team should risk getting caught outside Wakandan boundaries when the whole world is gunning for them. 

But fight is all Steve can do, all he’s ever been good at, and the governments of the world may want him imprisoned but its people still need his help. He won’t deny it just because he laid down the shield.

Neither one of them has made choices the other would prefer. Did they ever?

Grabbing his pack, Steve waves a hand toward Bucky’s home. “Gonna offer a man some basic hospitality or what, Buck? I’ve been on the road for three hours. I could use a glass of water.”

“Lead the way,” Bucky replies. “ Mi casa es tu casa , mi querido .”

*

From the outside, Bucky’s home looks like a traditional mud and thatch rondavel . Large, certainly, but lacking modern amenities. The inside is a different story. When Bucky described the kind of life he had in mind, T’Challa had had the place custom-built, making certain it looked unassuming but was equipped with some of Wakanda’s finest technology, not to mention electricity, plumbing, and high speed Internet.

Instead of raw earth, as a stranger might expect given the walk-up, the floor is a cool, dark tile that Bucky has scattered with textured rugs. There’s a step down from the threshold, which, combined with the high domed ceiling, makes the interior feel more spacious than it really is. A single, large lamp hangs from the center of the roof, illuminating everything with a soft, natural light. 

Except for a narrow toilet closet just inside of the arched entrance, no walls divide the space. Areas are designated to particular activities through furniture allocation: there’s an open shower on one side, all the way across from a king-sized futon mattress set right on the floor and piled with pillows and untidy blankets. Bucky's laptop is plugged in next to it. Along another section of wall curves a lovingly-battered wooden countertop, inset with a sink and cooktop, a small refrigerator and storage cabinetry tucked underneath. Shelves have been built everywhere for Bucky’s books and knick knacks. 

In the very middle of the space, Bucky has placed a table. He made it himself—it was one of the first things he did after he moved in. Just went out and cut a damn tree down and built himself a table. Steve still can’t wrap his mind around it, though he helped Bucky pick out the chairs online afterwards. Bucky keeps a bowl of fresh fruit on it, usually exotic. Mangoes are his latest favorite.

It’s nothing at all like Steve’s apartment. It’s a home . Cluttered and cozy, and Steve would give almost anything to live there.

“Water, tea, or bourbon?” Bucky asks after Steve’s dumped his pack, washed his hands, and taken a seat at the table.

He raises an eyebrow. “Bourbon?”

“Asked Clint to bring some along the last time he came by. We gave it a real try, but it turns out you were right. I can’t get drunk. A true tragedy. Can't complain about the taste, at least. It's good stuff.”

Steve frowns, disconcerted. No one had informed him of any plan to see if Bucky could get drunk. That would've been fun. He and Clint could've come out together, made a night of it around a fire under the wide sky, the three of them trading war stories along with the bottle. 

In fact, Clint had been sitting next to him during the plane ride home from their latest mission, he'd been right there when Steve had called Bucky up to arrange this trip, yet he'd said nothing about the exploit—a visit more recent than Steve's last one, given the bourbon is new to him. And Bucky hadn't said anything either, despite the fact that an email was mere moments in the sending and he must have realized that Steve would jump at the chance to tag along.

Steve's jaw clenches as the implications become clear: Bucky had asked Clint for the bourbon. He'd wanted Clint to be the one to join him in drinking it. Just Clint. He could've asked Steve, but he didn't—he chose someone else to have that experience with and he chose to leave Steve out of it. 

With a sharp pang, Steve's reminded of how little of Bucky's life he's allowed into anymore and that, well...that they want very different things from each other. That's always been true. Now it's just more obvious than ever before. And it doesn't matter what Steve wants or feels or remembers, he has no right to any of Bucky. Their history doesn't entitle him to anything more than what Bucky is willing to give—less, always, than Steve would like. 

The burn of alcohol, useless as it may be for intoxication, abruptly sounds appealing. Maybe it will drown the fresh pain of that decades-old truth. “Bourbon,” Steve says woodenly. “Why not?”

“That’s my boy.” Bucky brings out two clay cups and pours a generous serving into each, then plops down beside Steve at the table.

Aiming for an air of mild interest, Steve sips his drink and looks anywhere but at Bucky as he asks, “So when did this great drinking experiment with Clint happen?"

“About a week ago. It’s Tuesday, yeah? He came by last Monday, right before you lot took off on your most recent misadventure.” Bucky laughs. “That man cannot hold his liquor for shit, Steve. He got so drunk. It was hilarious. He passed out on the floor of the damn shower. I almost didn’t let him drive out the next morning, I thought he might still be drunk. I’m surprised you didn’t notice, he must have been hungover when he got to the hangar.”

Clint had seemed rough that morning. Steve hadn’t thought anything of it at the time; they all had bad nights. He tries—fails—to smile. "I didn’t know he’d come out to visit you.”

Why hadn’t he at least mentioned it? Why hadn’t Bucky? The question drips acid into Steve's gut: suspicion claws into his head, baseless and ugly. How utterly foolish, Clint is married, he has kids , but that doesn’t prevent the surge of jealousy, oh-so-familiar. An old friend of his, jealousy. Almost as old a friend as Bucky.

“Huh. Yeah, he’s out here pretty often when you aren’t away doing your hero thing. Almost as often as you.” Bucky gives Steve a teasing look. “I moved out here for the solitude, but sometimes I get visitors for days in a row. Jesus, a fella can’t get any peace, even in the African bush.”

When Steve forces that smile, finally, it feels like a grimace. “You always were a popular guy.”

Bucky's eyes narrow. He tilts his head, peering at Steve. “Whew, that didn’t sound happy. You look like you got a taste of toe rot instead of this fantastic liquor. What’s wrong? You swallow the wrong way or somethin'?” Then realization floods his expression and it transforms into a smile. Bucky bites his lower lip, just a little, before he says, “Oh, you're mad . You don't like Clint coming out here, do you? Want me all to yourself, eh, Stevie?”

“No! What?? No, that’s—no. Of course not, Jesus, Buck. Nothing’s wrong. I’m fine.” Steve swallows a large portion of his drink, trying to hide his dismay, and ends up spluttering from the uncomfortable sting down his throat. 

Damn Bucky for being able to read him so well, yet never see the biggest piece of all. Damn him for looking like seduction hand-delivered with his slouch and his mouth and his piercing gaze. And damn Steve for being pathetic and badly out of practice at burying his own stupid, relentless desire.

“Seriously, this is good stuff,” Steve rasps once the coughing subsides. “What kind is it? Did you pick it out or did Clint?”

As far as deflections go, it's weak, and doesn't distract Bucky at all. He casts his eyes heavenward, as if begging patience from God above—presses his lips together the way he always did when Steve was frustrating him. (The way he still does, apparently, though Steve had forgotten that exact expression until right now.) Shaking his head, Bucky lowers his chin and levels another painfully familiar look at Steve from beneath his brow.

“I know you better than my own damn self, buddy, no matter what’s happened between now and 1945,” Bucky says. “I know there’s something you’re holdin' back. There’s always been something. I know it, you know it, fucking Clint knows it. And right now you’re doing your bullshit self-denial thing. You could just say it, you know. Have some goddamn courage and tell me. See what happens.”

“Say what? What do you…? I don’t—What thing?” Steve fumbles out. He fights back the sudden urge to lean away, curl up, protect his center. Bucky’s staring at Steve with an intensity that sucks the moisture from his mouth. In his eyes—challenge? Expectation? Impatience? Hope? Whatever it is, it sends a ripple of genuine alarm into every corner of Steve's being.

He can’t...he can’t know . He can’t know that .

“That ‘I’m too noble to tell anyone how I really fucking feel so I’m going to repress it until I can punch a bad guy in the face’ thing.” Bucky pokes Steve in the chest. Hard. “Quit it.”

Steve rubs the spot, focusing on the sensation as he attempts to calm the hammering of his pulse. “I don’t do that.”

“The fuck you don’t,” Bucky scoffs. “ Tell me, Steve.

“I don’t know what you want me to say here!” Steve insists, hanging on desperately to the denial: This isn't happening . “I’m not hiding anything. Clint visiting doesn’t bother me. That's ridiculous. Nothing's bothering me. If something was, I’d tell you, I swear.”

Bucky rolls his eyes. “You’re the lyingest liar who ever lied to another bald-faced liar, my friend. I’m onto you. I’ve figured you out . Finally. Only took me half a fucking century.”

Steve stares at him, struck dumb as an animal caught on a traffic-jammed overpass, frozen in sheer panic.

“All right, I had a little help,” Bucky admits with a half-shrug. “But don’t tell Clint I told you that. Look, would it help if I told you that I—”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Steve interrupts. A lie he’s trying to tell himself as much as he is Bucky.

Bucky huffs and collapses against the back of his chair in disgust. “You just gotta make everything ten times harder than it has to be, donchya? Fuck ." Picking up his drink, he tips his head back and slugs all of it down in two swallows.

Helplessly, Steve tracks the movement of Bucky's bared throat, right up until he realizes Bucky is watching him do it, eyes dark slits underneath his lowered lashes—then he jerks his gaze away. But it's too late. The swirling fear has a shape now, fully-formed.

Bucky knows.

Bourbon gone, Bucky sets his glass down with a pointed thunk."You’re a god-damned coward, Steve. Who’d’ve thought?”

Steve refuses to raise his eyes and meet the glower he can sense, a near-physical pressure, demanding he acknowledge that this is happening.

But this can't be happening.

It’s not fair. This is not fucking fair . All Steve really wants is to have some time—a visit, a day. To be allowed into Bucky’s new life, to be a part of Bucky’s life, even if it's a small part, and to have Bucky in his own life too. He was never gonna ask for more. Never violate that invisible boundary of friendship. 

Maybe they can go on as before. Leave this unrequited love in the dark of Steve’s dreams...But no, Bucky’s not going to do that; he’s not the kind of person to ignore something that he thinks needs to be dealt with. He doesn't turn away from the hard paths. It’s part of what made him such an excellent soldier. And friend. 

Steve closes his eyes—what comes next will be unbearable.

“Fine. Fine .” Suddenly, Bucky stands. “I have to do everything , Jesus fucking Christ. I was gonna do this part after you got the ball rolling, but whatever, here we are. Hold on a second, I’ve got something for you.”

Steve looks up, surprised, and watches as Bucky walks to one of his shelves. He pulls something from inside a book there. For a moment, he gazes down at the item in his hands. His broad back keeps it concealed and Steve can’t tell what it is. He can’t even begin to guess. Then Bucky spins on his heel, he strides back, he tosses the item onto the table in front of Steve, and Steve can very much tell what it is.

It’s a Valentine's Day Card.

A pink card, specifically, with gold hearts around the edges that reflect the light, and a lacy cut-out heart in the center. A shiny sticker on the heart reads 'You and Me.' Written underneath that, in Bucky's blocky all capitals print, is one word: FOREVER.

Steve blinks at it.

Bucky drapes himself back into his chair, and starts talking, casual as can be, as if they weren't in the middle of the worst conversation of Steve's life. “Do you remember, Stevie? It started in Junior High. We were all in the worst part of puberty, everyone in the damn school losing their damn fools minds over romance . For the first time, it mattered who got a card and from who and who didn’t . All the gals going ‘round like it was the end of the world and most fellas the same way, just pretending otherwise. You remember that?”

Memory jerks Steve through time like a fish on a hook, away from his sinking despair. Those words, and he's back to that Valentine’s Day when he was fourteen and still hadn’t hit his first meager growth spurt. “You got six cards and a box of chocolates,” he murmurs. “I got nothing.”

“Nothing. Nada. Zilch . You were a scrawny, wheezy, self-righteous little asshole. But it still hurt your feelings. Jesus wept, what a pain you were on the walk home, moping, ranting all up and down about how stupid the holiday was. I thought I might strangle you myself to save your poor Ma the trouble of it.”

“Says the selfish, vain little asshole gloating about how good-looking and charming he was on the same walk,” says Steve. He might’ve been a pill as a teen, but Bucky was no better, just a different kind of awful. “You went on and on about how you were gonna lift Kathy Dawson’s skirt before summer hit. Yeah, I remember.”

“Selfish? I gave you half that chocolate, ya lousy punk.” Bucky kicks Steve’s shin under the table. “My first ever Valentine for you. Neither of us had ever had chocolate like that before. And then the year after—”

Steve interrupts him because oh , he recalls all too well the year after, so clearly it coerces a weak smile out of him. “You saved up from hawking the paper and got me the biggest box of chocolates of anyone in my grade. And a card and bunch of sad-looking carnations. Wrote a stupid love poem, too. Everyone was so impressed. And then you caused a stir pretendin' to try and figure out who my secret admirer was.”

“Had to give it that special mystique,” Bucky says, not without some pride. “Also, it was the 1930s. No way, no how, was I gettin’ away with putting my name on something like that without a back-alley beating. But you knew. You knew it was me that time, and every single Valentine’s Day after, every damn year until...” he trails off.

Neither of them like to talk about the last mission—the cold valley, the fall that catapulted them both into the future. Mere weeks had separated that tragedy from the next Valentine’s Day, the first Steve had spent in nearly a decade without his secret admirer. Without his love, his Bucky.

“Of course I knew,” Steve sighs. He’d never said anything. Not one thank you for the anticipation, the delight, the warmth of those treasured cards. Not a single whisper in the half-asleep quiet of couch sleepovers or the dismal privation of war front tents. And Bucky had never needed his gratitude. It had been one of those unspoken gifts between them; Bucky, the best of best friends, making sure Steve didn’t feel left out even on a ridiculous holiday. Making sure he felt damn special, actually.

Steve risks a glance at Bucky, who arches his eyebrows in encouragement, as if Steve should already understand what Bucky is getting at.

He thinks he does. ...would it help if I told you

Bucky hasn’t punched him. Hasn’t yelled or worse, gone cold and awkward. He hasn’t told Steve to get out, fuck off and never come back. On the contrary, he’s found Steve a safe path out of trouble, like he always did.

Steve can practically hear it: Hey, sorry if my Valentine's gave you the wrong impression and you blew it way out of proportion. Let me let you down easy, buddy, so easy because it’s just a childhood crush, yeah?

A few laughs about puppy love and how Steve always takes things too seriously, and—done. Back to normal. 

Yet now that they’ve arrived at this crossroads, Steve doesn't want to walk the easy path. Sure, he’s terrified, but there will never be another chance at honesty if he doesn't speak up now. And right next to the terror, hope is fluttering, wiggling tentative fingers into the sick knot of dread sitting on Steve’s guts.

How could he have forgotten that Bucky loves him, too? After decades of torture and brainwashing, he'd remembered Steve, saved him from the river. He's not gonna jump ship because Steve’s love is of a different kind.

They’ll be fine. Eventually. Not the same, of course, but they will find a way through, friendship intact. Then again, why not? Why not the same? It’s not as if Steve has changed all of a sudden. There must be a way to make Bucky understand that. Same old Steve, in love with him as usual, only difference being that Bucky finally knows it. 

“It’s not—” Steve starts, then pauses to scrub a hand over his face. This is going to be difficult. “I didn’t get the wrong idea about us from the Valentines, if that’s what you think. It didn’t put the idea in my head that you, that we...I don’t think that you...I mean, I know you never—urgh.” He gives up on that line of explanation and goes for broke instead. “Bucky, I love you. I guess that’s obvious by now, uh, but…it’s not the kind of love you probably think it is. Or maybe it is, considering, well...but it’s not just that I care about you and that I’m also attracted to you, either. Though I am. Obviously.” 

Blushing, Steve grits his teeth and glares at his knuckles. Fuck, finding coherent words is torture, never mind finding the best ones: concise, composed, clear. He’s already screwing up and, abruptly, he's not so sure this was a good idea. Too late for that, for doubt—kind of like the VitaRay Chamber. Steve's made up his mind and the only way out is through.

Steve plows on. “I wish it were as simple as just...loving you and wanting you. But I don’t just...love you and want you. I don't just . I love you and I want you, and I want you forever , and I have l oved you and wanted you for forever. And I’m not suddenly thinking about you like this because we’re the only ones left of the past,” he hurries to add. “It’s not an infatuation. It’s not new . I’m in love with you. I’m in love with you now the same way I was in love with you in Brooklyn. In Germany and France and England, in 1939 and 1945 and 2014 and all the other places and years in between. I tried to get over you, once, I did. With Peggy. You know...anyway, it didn't work. I’m not going to get over you. Ever. But—”

Bucky tries to interrupt, sounding a bit breathless. “Steve, wait a sec. I don’t think you've been hearing me—”

But ,” Steve stresses the word and sucks down a deep breath, ignoring him in order to finish. Don't look at Bucky. Don't stop. Finish it. “I know you don’t feel the same way. I know that, trust me. I never thought you did. Or would. It’s okay. I don’t expect you to. I don’t expect...anything. Anything more than what we’ve always had. All I want is for us to keep being friends. Nothing has to change. I’m the same as I’ve ever been, you just...know more about me, I suppose. Nothing has to change . Please. Please ,” he implores, and that’s all he has.

That’s everything.

Steve hunches over, around, against the onslaught inside him, the empty chaos his outpouring left behind. The fear that he’s made a terrible mistake rises like a black storm. It looks like a hand falling, falling away and the white-out blindness of winter.  Some things can’t be undone.

His heart has climbed into his throat and his eyes are burning, unblinking, unseeing. If he still had asthma, this would be an attack, his lungs tight, laboring for the smallest scrap of oxygen. He almost wishes it was an attack—to justify feeling like oblivion is a moment away. It would be something important to focus on while he waits and waits and waits for Bucky to respond.

Bucky is silent for a long time, or so it seems in the moorless haze of Steve’s misery. He begins to think he should get up and leave, spare them both further embarrassment. A brief stop to throw up in the compost pile, then he can get on his bike and go. He crashed a plane over the loss of Bucky once. It wouldn’t be so hard to do it again.

Fortunately, that’s a kind of lunacy he’s outgrown. There are no bombs here, no life or death for millions, only him and his exhausted heart. So instead, he fights back nausea by sheer force of will and waits. Steve's become good at waiting, though his hands hurt from clenching together in a painful mockery of prayer.

“Steve,” Bucky finally says, in a voice bewildered and almost impressed—appalled, but impressed. “You are so fucking stupid. I literally cannot believe how stupid you are. You are the stupidest fucking asshole to ever live.”

Steve manages a strangled chuckle. He can't help but agree with that assessment. 

“For fuck’s sake, look at me,” Bucky demands.

Vision blurring, Steve obeys. When Bucky's form comes into focus, he absorbs every detail he can: the lines and shapes, lights and shadows, the angles and colors and curves of Bucky, in case it’s the last time. Bucky, Bucky, Bucky, gorgeous even with a deep line between his brows and anger on his mouth. 

"How is it possible for such a smart fella to be so oblivious?" Bucky wonders, more to himself than to Steve at first. "What an utter bozo . I swear you used to be smarter. Maybe you had one too many concussions and the serum couldn't keep up? Seriously, Steve, you really haven't listened to a word outta my mouth. Or, for fuck's sake, paid attention to the tiniest iota of body language . Chrissake, look at me all dressed up. I shaved ." 

“I’m sorry, I—”

“No.” Bucky says sharply and holds up his hand. “No. You got your turn, I get my say now. I mean it, Steve, shut up until I’m done. I’ll try to keep this short and simple so that your broken brain can comprehend.”

He picks up the Valentine’s card that Steve hasn’t touched and opens it. Inside, he’s written something more, which he reads aloud:

"You’re as wonderful as they come,
as noble as you are dumb.
I love you from my toes to my thumb,
through war and ice and Nazi scum.

You make the whole world shine,
in every place and every time,
and even though I can’t rhyme,
Wakaaaanda you be my Valentine?
"

Finished, Bucky shoves the card into Steve’s sternum.

Steve barely catches it, hands fumbling to keep it against his chest. Cardstock edges dig into his palms. He swallows, swallows again, stuck and stalling like a gas-less engine. “I don’t—”

Bucky makes a warning sound that shuts Steve up again. “ My turn ,” he insists. “Fun story, buddy. I meant every single Valentine I ever got you. If you think that I think they gave you the idea of...us...well, then good. They were supposed to. I said what I felt the only way I could back then. And I made a promise to myself, when I was six-fucking-teen, that if you ever gave me one back, ever, I’d kiss you and let the chips fall where they may. One Valentine. One horny look. Anything . I swore if I ever got one damn indication that it wasn’t just me, I’d be on you so fast you’d sprain something, blue discharge be damned. Because I was in love with you too. I am. I am in love with you.”

There’s a moment when Bucky’s jaw works, as if around further words, but whatever he considered adding gets dropped. He snatches up Steve’s unfinished glass of bourbon and downs it before slumping heavily backwards.

And Steve—Steve can’t process. He’s overloaded, his thoughts are noise. Static. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make any sense . He needs to hit things until they make sense again.

Bucky, in love with him? It's not possible

“Don’t do that,” Bucky snaps. “I can see you deciding not to believe me, Steve. Stop it. I get it, yeah? It’s ludicrous. Impossible. How could we have...have missed it? Missed each other so fucking bad? Like goddamn ships in the night, every night. We were so far hunkered down in our pathetic little pits of shame and self-pity not even a Hydra bomb could have blown us out. Dammit, that’s what...what fellas like us did back then, if we wanted any kind of normal life. And I thought you wanted that: the fight, the girl, the white picket fence and kids and a dog. You thought I did too. How could we have known we’d give up that normal life for each other, until we went and fucking did ?”

It’s too much. Steve stands, shoving his chair back so hard it falls with a thud. All he’s got are fumes to run on, but they’re enough. He takes one step.

“Steve?” Bucky’s face crinkles in confusion. “What’re you—?”

Steve steps again, forcing himself to move past Bucky. And once Bucky is out of his eyesight, he finds the power to move faster. He doesn’t quite run, doesn’t quite walk, to the curtain door of Bucky's home.

“Steve!” Bucky shouts. But by then Steve is out and gone, racing into the wild.

*

There's no foreign version of New York City to greet him this time. Times Square is a continent away and, while it isn't preposterous to think that Colonel Phillips or Nick Fury could suddenly appear in the uncharted savannah, no one comes along to tell Steve what he needs to do. Go figure—that's a first. 

It takes three hours, lots of hollering and punching, and about a gallon of sweat for Steve to come to grips with his new situation. 

He sits. He thinks. And his mind is clear—really, truly clear, fizzy and funny and full of the brightness that only comes by way of great revelation—his mind is a glass of carbonated water. His heart is a balloon full of joy floating in the air ten feet above his head.

Bucky is in love with him.

Everything is perfect. Sure, he doesn’t know where he is or how to get back to Bucky, which is not good. And sure, he’s made a hash of what might be the best thing to ever happen to him—that’s a problem (Bucky didn’t call him ‘the stupidest fucking asshole to ever live’ without good reason). Certainly he has a lot of work to do to make up for his idiocy, assuming Bucky hasn’t decided he’s not worth it after all.

But he won’t. Because he’s in love with Steve.

So everything is perfect.

Steve laughs out loud, alone in the African wilderness.

*

One portion of the farm that Bucky’s settled on is a flower garden, though it didn’t start out that way. Originally every square foot of viable land had been dedicated to food production or animal upkeep, and that had been just enough to maintain a small family—or one super soldier with an accelerated metabolism. However, Bucky wasn’t embarrassed to both run a self-sustaining property and order deliveries from the Wakandan version of Amazon (meaning the few people allowed access to his location) and he’d wanted color, scent. Beauty. Gradually he’d converted a good-sized plot over to growing all kinds of flowers, discovering through trial and error what could thrive in Sub-Saharan East Africa.

There are no roses, so Steve can’t name a single variety.

He picks the ones he likes best. With his artist’s eye, he combines the shades and styles available into a bouquet befitting any American grocery store. Step One : Check . Breathing in the slow fall of dusk at the horizon, holding the floral bundle in his hands, Steve feels ready to face Bucky again.

Bucky is sitting in the same place he was when Steve bolted. Dangerous and lovely, scarred and perfect, ancient and careless as lust. Exquisite jawline and lean, tanned shins and sooty eyelashes a showgirl would shoot someone for, to name the least of his qualities. Steve's dream come true. His beloved.

He must have risen at some point—the chair Steve overturned is upright and the bottle of bourbon is back out, now half-empty—but he didn’t leave. Bucky didn’t grab his own bike and head for the horizon. He waited. Of course he did.

He’s been waiting for Steve a long damn time.

In spite of Steve's entrance, Bucky is silent. He tilts his head, sips from his near-empty glass, and patiently watches while Steve wriggles in inarticulate shame.

“Hey,” Steve eventually croaks.

Bucky snorts. “Hey.”

“Sorry I was gone so long. And that I left like that, after—what you said. What I said. That was lousy.” Steve proffers the flowers, hoping they’ll do better than his words as an apology: Bucky ignores them.

“Not just lousy. Stupid,” he says. “You didn’t take your bike. It's not safe out there, you moron. Thought I was gonna hafta track your lost ass down and drag you out of the maw of a damn cheetah." Bucky sighs, shaking his head as some tension melts away from his posture, though he presses his lips together and twists them to one side, a contorted parody of his smile. "Hell, Steve...I'm just glad you made it back in one piece.” 

Bucky should never have to look like that. Not ever, least of all because of Steve . And Steve may have caused that tired unhappiness but somehow, against all odds, he may also possess the power to smooth it away. 

So much time wasted. Steve refuses to waste any more. Bucky, more than anyone Steve’s ever known, deserves to be happy. 

In a few strides, he closes the distance to Bucky. Grabbing the back of his chair with one hand, Steve drags it (with a startled Bucky along for the ride) away from the table. The force of the movement tips the chair onto its back two legs and it wavers, on the verge of tipping, until Bucky grounds it with an elegant shift in weight.

“What the fuck, Steve?” Bucky yells, flinching and furious and not at all elegant with his language. He's obviously built up a full-on rant during Steve’s fit of pique (which, Steve has to admit, is fair) and surprise has broken the dam keeping him restrained. “You asshole! You crotch-rotting piece of shit ! How dare you? You put me through this fucking wringer and then slink back in like a kicked puppy as if I should feel bad for you, with your sorry blue eyes, and then think you can manhandle me—what the hell? What are— whoa , what—?”

Bucky cuts off with a choked noise, staring in astonishment as Steve drops to his knees in the newly-clear space in front of him. The tile floor is unforgiving but Steve could endure anything to make his actions up to Bucky—including profound humiliation. After all, he's an artist, not a poet. 

Clearing his throat, Steve holds up the flowers between them, then recites the verse he composed on his return jog across the sparse, dusty savannah:

"Blood is red, bruises are blue,
I’m incredibly stupid, but so are you.
Somehow I’m not dead, and you aren’t too.
Will you forever be my Valentine? Because I love you.
"

Bucky’s jaw drops. His eyes leap between Steve and the flowers, incredulity writ plain on his features. Then, with a disbelieving shake of his head, he manages to regain his composure. He reaches out, snatches the bouquet from Steve’s hands and, scowling, turns it this way and that so as to examine it. “These are from my garden,” he concludes darkly.

“Uh. Yes.”

“You...tore up flowers that I grew—through painstaking effort—and you’re...giving them to me?” Bucky asks, as if it can't possibly be true. “Like...what? You think I should swoon or something? Put them in a vase on a crochet doily?”

Steve winces. He hadn’t thought of it that way.

“That poem was awful,” Bucky goes on, picking up steam again. “Fuck, Steve. ‘I’m not dead’ is the most romantic thing you could come up with? Mine at least had pizzazz . It was humorous but thoughtful, silly but heartwarming. Not that trite ‘roses are red’ crap. ‘Blood is red’….Just, never write another poem ever again, I'm beggin' you.”

This reunion is not going the way Steve had planned at all. And he has more plans, oh, all sorts of plans for he and Bucky. A lifetime of fantasy to fulfill. Time for a change in tactic—it may be trite, but the best defense really is a good offense.

“I believe you said something about a promise?” he asks slyly. 

"Oh, you fucker," Bucky utters. "You complete ass."

Steve grins, placing a hand on each of Bucky’s knees. His fingertips reach the hem of the shuka and he can’t withstand the temptation to slide them under a bit, testing that he's, maybe, allowed to. He strokes his thumbs over the soft inner arch where Bucky’s calf muscle dips inwards, a spot he’s never touched before. With luck, the first of many. Anticipation and desire coil hot in his belly.

Bucky’s pupils dilate at the contact. Still, he glares, twice-offended now that he's been backed into a proverbial corner. Discarding the flowers on the table, he spreads his strong hand across Steve's jaw, cupping it while he tilts his head in irate consideration. 

Steve sways into the hold, uncaring that Bucky looks more like he might kick Steve than kiss him. He's hanging onto his self-control with the barest willpower. Bucky, blazing with anger, is still the most irresistible person he's ever laid eyes on. Still, always, and Steve'’s never been so close to actually having him. 

And he’s going have him, fuck yes, he’s going to have him, finally.

Slow and deliberate, Bucky leans down. In. Steve's eyelids droop as suspense tugs his restraint taut as fishing line after the bait is taken. 

Bucky's kiss, when it arrives at last, is ghostly. A brush of lips against Steve's own that nevertheless punches the breath out of Steve. He shivers violently and feels the shape of Bucky's smile form against his own mouth.

“Promise kept, punk,” Bucky murmurs, then releases Steve with a light shove and sits back.

Steve’s eyes fly open. Bucky, the incredible jerk, smirks.

The line snaps. No more waiting .

Surging up, Steve grasps the back of Bucky’s neck with one hand, his hip with the other, and drags him off the chair. They both know very well that Bucky could fight him off if he wanted to, so it’s all the sweeter that he simply laughs and lets Steve haul him down. Thighs opening, shuka riding up, he lands lightly on his knees, straddling Steve with such eager grace that Steve’s cock fills with a dizzying descent of blood.

“About time,” Bucky purrs, wrapping his arm around Steve’s shoulders. He's pressing in even as Steve is clutching him close: closer, perfectly impossibly closer.

“Bucky, Bucky,” Steve breathes into his neck. “Love you. Want you , wanted you for so long….”

Bucky nods. “Me too, Stevie.”

They hold each other hard, cheek to cheek, chest to belly to thigh, and it’s not their first embrace, no, only hours ago they hugged long and tight, yet this is new . Despite the many intimacies they’ve shared, all the overlapping spaces, from beds to tents to motorcycle seats—despite the total lack of privacy which characterized so much of their interwoven lives, Bucky’s never been spread on and over Steve’s lap before, positioned in a way that men just don't do unless— 

He’s never rocked down, slid his undeniable erection along Steve's own full hardness, or released a shuddery exhale against Steve’s temple. Never trailed his lips to Steve’s ear and said: “Fuck, the size of you...” in the reverent way he does now.

Steve twists his head and catches Bucky’s mouth. Though it's only their second kiss, it turns fierce immediately, a fervent convergence of lips kept apart by time and distance and sheer foolishness. They cling together and kiss . Bucky, licking the soft underside of Steve’s upper lip, coaxes him open in seconds, then sinks his tongue into Steve’s mouth. Steve groans at the first real taste of him, another shock of lust hitting as Bucky strokes their tongues together. Shameless, Bucky laps Steve’s tongue between his own lips, rolling their cocks together at the same time, making more promises with mouth and hips that Steve will demand he keep. 

Possibilities are going off, fireworks in Steve's brain—he ruts up like a virgin schoolboy, overwhelmed by the reality of Bucky: scent, temperature, pressure, motion, all of him in Steve's reach. Steve's hands seem to have a mind of their own; one stays tender on the back of Bucky’s neck but the other is everywhere else, grabbing and groping. He discovers the firm length of Bucky's thigh, the keyboard bones of his ribs, the wings of his shoulder blades. 

Cloth rumples and gets in the way of his quest to feel out the trim contours of Bucky's body, memorized by sight, finally available for touch. He pushes at it, wants it gone so he can map every inch of Bucky's skin. And Bucky, too, seems frustrated by what little still separates them. Tugging on the tight fabric of Steve's shirt, he commands, "Off, off," as he draws his mouth back for a heavy rush of breath. It's the only reason Steve could ever take his hands off Bucky, and he does, yanking his shirt over his head as fast as he can. 

Leaning back, Bucky sweeps his gaze down the length of Steve's upper body. Goosebumps follow in its wake. "Jesus, Steve," he huffs. "It's not fucking fair."

Steve laughs and strokes a thumb across Bucky's sinful mouth. "You're one to talk."

Bucky bites it, hard and quick, then ducks down to do the same to the raised inner curve of Steve's pectoral. Steve lets his head tip back in pleasure. More bites follow, Bucky describing the outlines of Steve's muscles with nipping teeth. His hand glides down as well, squeezes one side of Steve's chest as he paints his tongue over the other nipple. 

Helplessly, Steve grinds his cock into the glorious wideness of Bucky's thighs, seeing stars. He slides one hand back into Bucky's hair, wrecking the dark ponytail as he holds Bucky's mouth against his skin. Bucky moans and scrapes his teeth across every bit of Steve his mouth can reach, gropes the rest, trailing his fingertips through every delineated edge of Steve's physique worshipfully. He licks Steve's nipples into sensitive peaks before he curls over further, knees sliding even further apart so he can move lower. 

Realization cascades into Steve: suddenly he knows what Bucky is aiming for and his cock throbs, aching for that slick suction, for the hot sink into Bucky's mouth—it's torture to wrest Bucky back up instead, using his grip on his hair, but Steve manages. 

Stricken, Bucky apologizes. "Sorry. Sorry, I—Too fast?" 

Steve shakes his head. "Got something else in mind," he growls as he wrenches Bucky's head back. It's his turn for sucking, and for teeth. He bites down, not kindly, assailing the vulnerable column of Bucky's neck.

If it weren't for the serum, Steve could leave a real mark. He could compose a masterpiece of art in possessive bruises on the beautiful expanse of Bucky's throat. Flowers here, hearts there, a purple-blue Valentine of his adoration. He hopes Bucky understands that there's no going back from this: he's Steve's now, finally and forever.   

"Yes, always, fuck," Bucky gasps. His nails dig into Steve's shoulder and scratch a stinging line down his back, Bucky's own brand of ownership, however quickly it will heal, and Steve smiles. It's good to be on the same page. 

He noses down the length of Bucky's neck, to the layers of blue and green that hide his shoulder. A twist of Steve's wrist tilts Bucky's head to the side as he pushes the cloth away with his other hand. It drops easily, exposing the old, terrible wound of his lost arm. Steve, wrapping his arm behind Bucky's back, pulls at the other side of the top of Bucky's shuka and it slips off as well—looping into the bend of Bucky's elbow but otherwise pooling around his narrow waist, revealing his chest. And part of Steve wants to roll his eyes, because Bucky, of course, is equally as defined as he is, hairless and cut. 

"Don't say it, Steve," Bucky threatens. "Don't ruin the mood."

Chuckling, Steve bites him hard again, causing Bucky to twitch in his embrace. Then, where Bucky's scarred flesh meets the metal cuff, Steve gentles himself. With soft, slow kisses, he tells Bucky everything he wants to say about how lovely he is. Gorgeous. Exquisite.

"Stevie," sighs Bucky, sagging a little, allowing Steve's strength to support him. 

"I love you," Steve tells him. "God, I love you. You can't imagine how much."

"No?" Bucky asks. "You don't think so? You don't think I love you the same?"

"Bucky." Steve noses up to the tender spot under Bucky's chin. "It's not possible. It's unfathomable. Unbearable. I'd do anything for you."

Bucky wrestles against Steve's hold on his hair until he can give Steve a sharp, dangerous look. "Let's compare notes on love later. Right now," he rolls his hips against Steve's with obvious intention, "why dontcha show me, instead?"

At the reminder, Steve's cock spasms, uncomfortably trapped in his pants. He shoves at the lower portion of Bucky's shuka until it bunches up with the rest of the fabric, a puddle across his thighs. The leaking tip of Bucky's cock peeks out the folds—he's wearing nothing else underneath—and the sight floods Steve's mouth with saliva. Sliding a hand underneath, he grasps Bucky's ass and jerks their bodies together again, just so, just to feel the wet smear of Bucky's precome on his abs. 

Steve hauls Bucky into a kiss that proves to be another kind of filthy smear, their open mouths careless as their tongues intertwine. Bucky rocks in his lap, unabashedly seeking friction, and giving it too. Each undulation of his hips rubs his cock against Steve's belly, each back and forth drives his ass into Steve's palm, each thrust digs Steve's fingers deeper toward the tantalizing, hot place where he can be fucked —and each brush of them there elicits a muffled, wanting sound from Bucky. 

And when Steve rubs purposefully at that spot for the first time, Bucky's whole body jolts. He tears his mouth away, head falling back with a broken noise of desire, and Steve releases Bucky's messy hair so he can grab his ass with both hands. Groping both of Bucky's buttocks, pulling them apart, he tugs at the sensitive pucker in between. 

"Have you ever..." Steve pants, dropping his sweaty forehead onto Bucky's collarbone. "God, I wanna fuck you."

"Yeah. Yeah, I—Jesus. Have you?" Bucky asks as he writhes back into Steve's touch. 

Steve nods, and wants to leave it at that, but he just—can't. "When? Anyone I know? Knew?"

"Steve…"

"Sorry. Sorry, dammit. Nevermind." Another time, perhaps, they can talk about it. Share the stories of their firsts. There's time in abundance now. Then a dark thought crosses Steve's mind, and he wonders if, maybe, that's something he doesn't want to know about after all.

So good , he thinks— gonna make this so good you forget whoever or whatever came before .

"Lube's by, by my bed. The chest there," says Bucky. He tries to gesture at the correct location, but finds his arm caught by the disordered drape of his shuka . He shakes it until he's disentangled and makes an aborted attempt to climb off of Steve and get the lube himself. 

Aborted, because Steve tightens his grip before Bucky can succeed, picks him up, and sets him back on the seat he originally pulled him from. He strips the crumpled vestige of Bucky's outfit down his legs as he rises to his own feet, then tosses the heavy cloth aside. 

"Holy shit," Bucky blinks at the pile of clothing, then at Steve, dazed. "You just...wow. That was the sexiest thing that's ever happened to me. So far, anyway." 

A pointed glance toward the bed more than conveys his meaning. 

Swift as he can, Steve crosses to the chest that Bucky indicated and hunts out what he assumes is the lube. It looks homemade, a clear swirl of thick fluid in a mason jar. He wonders if there is a limit to what Bucky will ask T'Challa to provide for, and if he's just found it. 

All that matters is that it works—gets Bucky slick, ready—Steve's cock throbs urgently and he spins around again, poised to jump the distance back to Bucky to get there faster. 

The vision he finds stupefies him to a standstill. 

Bucky's taking advantage of his new position to—to put on a show . Sprawled naked in the chair, he's already the very picture of wicked doings: knees wide, cock jutting upward, lips red. But then he tongues his upper lip, brings two fingers to his mouth and, closing his eyes, sucks them all the way in...only to draw them out and do it again .

Steve is frozen, mesmerized by the sheer erotic display. The skillful way Bucky moves his head, meeting the slow thrust of his own hand, the way his cheeks hollow—abruptly Steve regrets redirecting them earlier. Lust snakes from his short-circuiting brain to his toes, electric. Yeah , he wouldn't mind that mouth on him. 

With a soft pop, Bucky releases his fingers, spit-soaked. He drags them down his chiseled torso and circles them at the shiny head of his cock for a moment, collects more fluid there. Closing his hand around his shaft, he bites his bottom lip and gives it a slow pump. The hum of enjoyment he makes is only barely audible to Steve, but it's there, a vibration that makes his balls tighten.

After two more of those sensual strokes that Steve can practically feel squeezing his own cock, Bucky's eyes slit open. He stares at Steve: half invitation, half challenge, all mischief. 

There's a blur, then Steve's knees slam into the floor in front of Bucky for the second time that day. Maybe it hurts, but Steve doesn't feel it. And maybe it's night now, Steve isn't sure, isn't sure of anything other than how much he wants to get his mouth on Bucky. He shoves between Bucky's legs, forcing them farther apart for the breadth of his shoulders, and licks a stripe from the root of his cock, up over Bucky's knuckles and further. 

Salt and bitter tang burst on his taste buds. Sinking onto Bucky's cock is so good : Steve moans, muffled and needy, at the sheer, delicious thrill of it.

Hips hitching up, up, Bucky moans in reply. He lets go of his shaft, and Steve swallows it down until sparse, wiry hair scratches his nose, shuddering when he bottoms out and feels his throat spasm. His cock spasms in sympathy. 

Bucky traces Steve's stretched lips with trembling fingertips. The whipcord muscles of his thighs tremble too, gripped in Steve's hands. "Ohhhh, fuck. Steve," he huffs, winded. 

Steve slides back off, enjoying every inch of it. Bucky doesn't look so self-satisfied and in command now, no. Steve doesn't even try to hide his smirk, though he loses it quickly in favor of laving the head of Bucky's cock with his tongue. 

Bucky watches Steve lap at him, open-mouthed, his hand in a death-grip on Steve's shoulder. When Steve swallows him down again, not before some deserved teasing, their eyes are locked, dark and hot with promises and Bucky seems—overcome. He arches, gasps. His heel skids across the floor and he knocks over the jar of lube (momentarily forgotten). It bangs against Steve's shin as he lets Bucky's cock slip against the inside of his cheek during his slow, sucking pull off. A cool reminder of how he really wants to take Bucky apart, as diverting and amazing as taking him apart just like this is. 

Steve switches his grasp to under Bucky's knees, hoists both of his legs up and heaves him forward. One goes over his shoulder. The other Steve holds in the air at an angle, but Bucky kicks around until he finds some support—braces his foot against the edge of the table behind Steve. Perfect. Now Steve can put both his hands to better use, though better uses than spreading Bucky's thighs are few and far between. The long-denied, constricted length of his cock agrees, eking more precome into the sopping wet spot in Steve's underpants. 

A little, just a little longer.

The shift has forced Bucky to the very brink of his seat and he has to fumble behind his head, reach and grab onto the back of the chair to keep himself balanced in place.  "Jesus, Steve!" He gripes. "You always this bossy? At least w—warn a guy once in a while!"

Just for that, Steve palms Bucky's ass, nudges both thumbs at the rim of his hole, and snaps his teeth into Bucky's tender inner thigh. Says, "Fair warning, then. I'm about to put my fingers in you. Yeah, Buck, you like the sound of that?" Because Bucky's chest is flushing, a lovely pink that starts high on his neck and melts downward. "Gonna lube 'em up and slide 'em inside, one at a time, get you open, slick, ready for me. Gonna fuck you with them while I suck your cock. Three, maybe four if you can handle it. Then, once I think you can take me, I'm going to carry you to your bed and fill you with my cock. I'm pretty big, you know. You know . Can you imagine, Bucky, what I'm gonna feel like inside you, hitting that sweet spot hard and fast, never lettin' up 'til you scream?"

S hit , Steve hadn't known he had that in him. He's never talked dirty before, would never have guessed such filth could pour from his mouth. Not that he hasn't thought all that and worse, many times, but to voice it outloud? 

Neither did Bucky, from the way he's gaping at Steve, gobsmacked, pupils so big his eyes look black. And the sight of him—contorted, pliant, nearly vibrating with arousal—of what Steve's done to him already, is a livewire in his gut, a want so intense it almost hurts. 

He scrambles for the lube, twisting the top off clumsily. Dipping a finger in, Steve discovers the texture is excellent, silky and clinging, not too wet, nor thick and difficult to spread. It even smells nice. Leave it to Bucky to figure out the recipe for perfect DIY lubricant. Steve nuzzles at Bucky's shaft, but his attention isn't really there. It's lower, where he's gazing, rapt, as he massages Bucky's opening. The lube makes it glossy as well as dark, dark pink, and Steve—he sinks one finger into Bucky all at once, all the way.

He and Bucky both groan at the same time. And that's almost the end of the first round. Because this is Bucky , letting, wanting Steve Bucky , eager and shameless and utterly goddamn magnificent— Bucky —and Steve, gritting his teeth, has to paw at his pants with his other hand, jerk open the button and zip, get a fist on himself and strangle his looming orgasm before it hits. 

Bucky, meanwhile, begs for more, making it that much worse. 

"Yeah, that, oh, fuck, yes, Stevie," he whines, grinding onto Steve's hand. "Give me another, I want it, feels so good, you gotta get me ready, so you can fuck me—"

So Steve, shaking, pours lube onto Bucky's tight sac. It trickles downward, more than enough for Steve to slick up and screw two fingers into Bucky's tight heat, scissor and stretch and plunge them in, out, in and out, while he drops reverent kisses all over Bucky's cock. He feels feverish. High. The sweet clutch of Bucky's body is narcotic , and the sounds he makes: a defenseless, indecent groan for every thrust Steve gives him.

Fuck —Steve wanted this to go on for so much longer , but he's not sure he can make it last. This time. Next time... 

Keeping one hand circled at the root of his cock, choking it, Steve mouths a sloppy path to the swollen crown of Bucky's cock and sucks him down again. No finesse now, just greed. Bucky curves like a bow, crying out, trying to simultaneously slam into Steve's palate and ride the rhythm of Steve's fingers. The only thing keeping him from toppling out of the chair is his white-knuckled grip on the carved back.   

"More, more, more," Bucky chants, and yes, more . More. More of everything . Steve releases his cock for the time it takes to upend the jar—and it's a sad waste, all that lube dumped and dripping, onto wood, onto the floor. Still, Steve can scoop three fingers through the mess. He drives them into Bucky's ass. 

And that's all it takes. Bucky loses it, shooting against the roof of Steve's mouth. Steve, caught off guard, jerks his head away before he can resist the compulsion, and Bucky's cock smacks against his belly. He yelps but orgasm isn't done with him—he keeps coming, milky on his own skin. And when he finally starts to subside, sated, depleted, Steve twists his wrist, wrings one last spurt and another yelp from him.

Then Bucky sags, his entire frame lolling loose and easy. But Steve's fingers are still inside him, and he's not finished yet. Not by a long shot. 

*

As promised, Steve carries Bucky to the bed, but it's not romantic (perhaps romance isn't one of their strengths). No—it's frantic. Bucky wraps his legs around Steve's waist; Steve stumbles across the room. His pants have slid to his knees, but what truly makes it a challenge is the slippery vee between Bucky's thighs. Steve is more than half-crazed by the smear of his cock there, in lube and come and spit. And then there's Bucky, of course, mostly limp and laughing—the opposite of helpful.  

The mattress is on the floor, thankfully, because Steve trips. He lands gracelessly on top of Bucky, and the weight forces the breath right out of him, cutting that laughter off nicely. Beyond control, Steve thrusts against Bucky, and Bucky squirms delightfully, pinned but not seeming the least bit upset about it. Everywhere their skin comes together, Steve burns. His whole body feels explosive. 

Rising to his knees, Steve grabs Bucky by the hips and yanks his ass up onto his lap. Bucky arches, exposed for him, decadently splayed, his dark hair a bedraggled fan around his head. He's half-hard again, or still. 

"Come on, Stevie," he says, reaching for Steve's cock, stroking it. "I'm ready. Fuck, I hope so. Jesus."

Steve bites his lip hard, a jab of pain so he can hang on for the last, short bit until he can—he knocks Bucky's hand out of the way and lines himself up, stares down for a fraught moment as the fat crown of his cock strains against Bucky's hole, slit spitting precome—can push inside.

Bucky is slick but snug, the perfect hot clench—

Bucky is moaning and tangling his hand in the bedsheets, opening inexorably around Steve's cock—

Bucky is visibly quivering, spine a taut bow of endurance and exultation—

And Steve, he desperately wants to watch the way his cock is pressing deeper, deeper, but his eyelids keep fluttering shut because it feels...it feels like heaven is eight inches deep inside Bucky's body. 

Then their hips meet and there's no deeper he can get. Steve's buried to the root. His vision whites out at the edges. His jaw drops. Overwhelming satisfaction surges through him, and he loses track of reality until Bucky beats a heel against his back, shouting at him to: "Move, Steve, do it, Christ, oh god, god, oh fuck, Steve, move, move , fuck me—"

"Bucky," Steve growls. "Yeah, I'm gonna—" Which is all he can manage before the sublime vise of Bucky's body, clinging to his cock as he pulls back, renders him voiceless. He clamps his hands on Bucky's hips, hefts him just a little higher, a little more onto Steve's thighs, then shoves into him again. 

The long, drawn-out sound that Bucky makes could be yeaaaah but has far too many vowels to be a real word. And Steve's powerless to hold back after that and, and the sensation , oh, fuck, Bucky —he picks up speed, chasing elation. He slams his cock into Bucky, over and over, and Bucky arches to meet each thrust just as powerfully. Over and over and over and over they collide, until Steve can hear his heartbeat in his ears, pounding in time. 

Both of them are panting. Sweat creeps between Steve's shoulder blades, but he doesn't relent, no, can't stop—he can't stop. He tightens his grip and Bucky, braced on the bed by just his shoulders now, keens as Steve's pace becomes more than he can match. 

Steve lets go then. He lets himself fuck Bucky rapid-fire and savage, the way he's never allowed himself to fuck anyone before. Because he can: Bucky can take it. And Bucky does, he takes it with beautiful abandon, thrashing wildly, glassy-eyed. His luscious mouth hangs open, his hard cock bounces against his belly—little, punch-grunt noises signal his every breath. Neither of them can form words anymore. 

Orgasm conquers Bucky again with a suddenness that nearly jolts them apart. And this time when he goes under, so does Steve, following him down the long fall to bliss. Bucky sobs through the weak twitching of his spent cock and Steve seizes, hips faltering as he pumps streams of pent-up come into Bucky's hole. 

Release erases every other sensation. Meaning and existence are distilled to one point, that eternal core of the universe that is just love. 

Love. 

Together, they collapse. Or rather, Steve collapses on top of Bucky and Bucky goes boneless as a ragdoll. They're an afterglow disaster: at least three kinds of bodily fluid, exhausted muscles, and somehow Steve still has his damn shoes on. 

Steve starts to giggle. And then so does Bucky, and they're off, cackling like witches as they roll into a cuddle-jumble of limbs. 

"Love you, love you, love you, love..." Steve babbles, happy beyond description.

Bucky grins against Steve's mouth and says, of all the unexpected things, "Happy Valentine's Day."

"Wait...it's really Valentine's Day?"

END


 

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