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I'll Be Here, Baby (Whenever You Need Me)

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Bucky is, for not the first time in his life, incredibly anxious. He steps up to the door of the apartment he shares with Steve (he can hardly believe it himself) and fishes around in the pocket of his jeans to find the key, fingers trembling so badly he nearly drops the key. He nearly falls through the doorframe, tripping on the rug and righting himself to pull the door closed and lean back against it, closing his eyes and letting out a shaky breath and slumping to the ground. 

“Buck?” Steve slips out from around the stairwell, blue eyes round and bewildered. “Thought you’d still be out. Is everything okay?” 

At his words, Bucky breaks. “N-no I’m-” Bucky takes a shuddering breath, and tries failingly to stop the flood of tears that threatens to spill. “F-fine, I’m fine. Sorry, Stevie.” 

Steve’s expression goes from confused to concerned in a heartbeat, and he moves forward to pull Bucky gently up away from the door and into his arms. Bucky swallows in another wobbly lungful of air and sighs against Steve’s neck. He smells like home, like something warm Bucky can’t put a name to. Like everything he can’t remember about Before. Like all the things he thought he’d lost forever. Before he can even hope to stop them, tears slide past his nose, leaving damp circles on Steve’s neck, and Bucky hates himself for being so vulnerable, so weak. He wishes that he were better. That Steve had someone stronger. 

Steve shifts, pulls Bucky away from him enough to maneuver him sideways and wrap his arm around Bucky’s waist. 

“C’mon, let’s go to the couch, okay? I made tea a couple minutes ago, do you want any?” Steve’s voice is soft, tender and soothing in a way that makes the knot in Bucky’s chest loosen just a little. He lets Steve guide him to the couch and pull off his jacket, big warm hands sweeping gently over his shoulders and through his hair as he passes. Fuck, that feels good. Bucky resists the urge to push up into Steve’s hand to chase after the pleasant tingle of warmth that buzzes across his scalp and down the length of his spine. 

He closes his eyes, trying to quiet his overactive brain by listening to the sounds of Steve shuffling around in the kitchen, the sounds of mugs clinking and the telltale “oof” that heralds Steve bumping into the edge of the counter as he has every day since they moved into the place providing a meager bit of comfort. 

Steve shuffles over to him just as he opens his eyes and hands him a steaming mug of something faintly gingery, sitting down next to him and tucking Bucky into his side. Steve sighs and Bucky feels it in the rise and fall of his shoulders. 

“Wanna tell me about it?” Steve asks. Bucky takes a deep, shuddering breath. 

“Okay. I, um. I went out like usual and. Uh. There were just too many people and-” he breathes out, deliberately. “I got overwhelmed. I panicked. Um. I dunno why. I’m sorry, I-” Steve cuts him off, gently. 

“You don’t have to apologize. It’s okay. It’s a part of healing, Buck.” Steve says softly. “You’re okay, I promise.” 

Bucky smiles, a wry, desolate thing. “I feel stupid. Weak. Like I’m-” he stops, worried, and then remembers Steve’s reassurance from earlier. It’s okay. “Like I’m not good enough for you. Like you deserve someone better than- well, me, I guess.” 

Steve tucks Bucky a little closer to him and exhales heavily. “ Bucky. Sweetheart. You’re enough as you are. I love you, okay? Just for being you.” 

Bucky sniffs, suddenly tearful. “Okay.” and then, believing it a little more; “Okay. Thank you. I’m s-” he stops, recognizing the mistake. “Okay.”

“Buck?” Steve sounds hesitant. 

“Yeah, Stevie?”

“Can I, uh-” he pauses. “Two things, actually; would you maybe consider trying therapy?” Bucky hunches at his words, posture closing down, automatically shying away. Steve laughs, ruefully. “I know, I know. But maybe think about it? I could ask Sam for recommendations?” Bucky nods, slowly. It’s okay. Steve smiles. “Could I hold you?” He asks, hesitant. 

Bucky goes pink at his question. “Y-yeah. ‘Course, Stevie. Anytime.” he says, voice shy and quiet. Steve straightens, rises from the couch and kneels at Bucky’s feet to pull off his shoes before Bucky can do it himself. Steve grins up at him and Bucky snorts. “Sap,” he says, teasing. 

“Only for you, Buck.” Steve bites back. He pulls Bucky to his feet and then sinks back onto the couch, positions himself carefully, and opens his arms. Bucky settles into them and tucks his head under Steve’s chin. Steve exhales softly, breath ruffling Bucky’s hair. 

After a few minutes of quiet, the incessant cacophony of Bucky’s brain has settled to a placid, somewhat peaceful hum. Steve’s steady breathing gusts through his hair again, a reminder of his hand earlier. 

“Steve?” Bucky says, hesitant. 

“Yes?” 

“I. Um. Could you do the thing that you did earlier? You know, with your hand?” 

Steve huffs, confused. “What do you mean?” 

“When you took my coat off earlier. You, um. Touched my hair. It felt nice.” Bucky trails off, hesitant. 

“Oh!” Steve sounds surprised, but pleased. “Yeah, sure.” 

He settles his hands into Bucky’s hair and cards his fingers gently through the brown strands, the tips of his fingers pressing gently into Bucky’s scalp and instead of holding back like before, Bucky lets himself push into Steve’s palms. Goosebumps prickle across the back of his neck, so unfamiliar is the sensation. Bucky thinks he could fall asleep like this. He sighs contentedly, smiling as he hears Steve’s satisfied whisper of “You’re such a cat, Buck.” from above his head. He could get used to this. 

“Love you, Stevie,” he says, because he can. Steve’s hands in his hair still briefly in surprise, and then resume their steady motion, gentle reminders of Steve’s steady presence. “Love you too, Buck.”