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Close Your Eyes and Dream

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“So what do you do?”

“I'm a superhero, actually.”

Bucky snickered. “Right, man. What do you do?”

No, I'm serious! I'm, uh, Captain America.”

Bucky squinted at him. “If you told me you played Captain America in a porno, I'd believe you. You're way too hot.”

I am definitely Captain America,” Steve sputtered.

All right, Cap,” Bucky said soothingly. “Whatever you say.”

Please call me Steve?”

Okay Steve.” Bucky grinned and stuck his tongue out a little between his teeth. It made him look playful and cute, after all.

What do you do, then?” Steve asked. Bucky was pretty sure he was trying to be smooth. It was amazing.

Oh, this and that. Mostly logistics stuff.” He took another sip of his drink, feeling the alcohol burn through his system, faster than it would for any human. What the hell, if he got beat up, at least he'd go down trying to score. “Oh, and I'm a merman.”

Bullshit.”

I am!”

Steve looked affronted. “Seriously, dude, you're not.”

Oh, and why not?” Bucky carefully chose to find this funny, not bristle at it. Steve was a total dumb frat boy – he could spot the type a mile away. He existed to be hot and to suck Bucky's dick. He did not exist to have an awareness of speciesism and how offensive he was being, trying to tell Bucky that he wasn't mer enough.

You don't have a tail,” Steve said. “I've met merfolk. They...have tails.” He frowned. “And scales. I mean, usually. Right?

Well, no, I don't have a tail or scales at the moment.”

Why not?”

Oh God in heaven, he'd found the most innocent baby porn star in the whole world. Bucky was going to take him home and feed him milk and cookies. Off his dick .

It's safer to look human sometimes. This is one of those times.”

And then Steve –

Steve got angry .

It is? That's bullshit. Look, anybody ever messes with you for being mer, you tell me and I'll come deck 'em.” Steve paused. “You can deck 'em first, if you wanna.”

That's the nicest thing anybody's ever said to me,” Bucky cooed, and put his arm around Steve's waist. “You're a good guy, even if you're a liar.”

And you're really hot, even though I'm pretty sure you're fucking with me,” Steve said, and Bucky laughed and pulled him in for a kiss. Sweet Jesus, the man had muscles.

 

The next morning, Bucky came out of the shower still damp, drying his hair. He was...well, he should not have been so hungover. Teach him to drink human alcohol. None of the drunk (tipsy, yeah, but not drunk, and more's the pity ), all of the hangover. He winced against the sunlight, his eyes slitting until the second lens dropped over them and silver-blue became milky, cateract-like. It meant he could finally, clearly see the man in his bed.

Oh, fuck,” he said, when Steve Rogers blinked and sat up and he got his first good look at the man in anything like decent lighting. “You really are Captain America.”

Steve rubbed his eyes, and rubbed his eyes again, and gaped a little. “Oh fuck,” he said. “You really are a merman.”

Bucky looked down – stupid fucking hangover, he never had any control at these times. There was webbing between his toes, and silver-blue scales covered his feet and calves, and trailed up his thighs. His hand and forearm were covered in the same silver-blue, though the scales were smaller and more delicate, and the webbing between his fingers gossamer-thin. The scales continued up his sides, covering his shoulders and throat, and his gills were out. “Um. Yes?” he offered. Steve Rogers definitely wouldn't hate him for being mer, right?

Steve Rogers' eyes were lit up like Bucky was Christmas and a day at the beach made into a person. “Oh,” he breathed. “You're beautiful .”

Okay, yeah. Steve Rogers did not hate him for being mer. So that was good.

The fact that Bucky had just grown instantly addicted to this man and the look on his face and the gentle way he held out his hand? That was so, so bad .

 

Bucky did the only sensible thing. He left Steve to man the coffeemaker, and ran out to get them bagels. Without lox, thank you, last guy he slept with.

So. Uh.” Steve flushed and sipped at his coffee. “Was I dick to you last night?”

Huh?” Steve had been a generous lover, funny and hot and really, really good at going down.

(Bucky had exchanged blow jobs with Captain America. Was that an arrest a ble offense? Was he going to actually die later once he had the chance to process this? Probably, and yes.)

Last night. When I didn't believe you.” Steve looked incredibly pained, like he should care about the problems of a literal nobody like Bucky. “That was really...oh God. I was so rude, wasn't I? I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. There weren't really merfolk around when I was growing up not that that excuses me, but I just, I forget sometimes and I'm so, so sorry, I was incredibly disrespectful to you.”

Bucky let him finish, kind of fascinated.

He should probably say something, going by the look of complete terror on Steve's face.

It's okay,” he said, and did not fall for the guy a little more at the look of relief he got. “I mean, yeah. Maybe...don't say that to the next merperson you meet, it's technically kinda offensive. Like saying I wasn't really mer enough, when that's who I am. But you didn't mean to hurt me, you know?”

No! God, no. Never.” Steve dropped his eyes and rubbed the back of his neck. “I'm sorry,” he said, with more sincerity than Bucky had ever heard from anyone before.

It's okay.” Bucky smiled and ducked his head to meet Steve's eyes, flicking his second eyelid to make Steve jump, and then smile. His neighborhood was pretty safe, so he'd stayed in the hybrid form that fell most naturally to him. It was nice – relaxing, even, to be able to keep his scales. “I also did not believe you, and called you a porn star. Sorry about that.”

Steve shrugged. “Hey, I making a living off my body. No offense taken.”

I am sorry I didn't believe you.” Bucky smiled at him. “Didn't really expect Captain America to be at a dive bar, y'know?”

Steve snorted. “What, I'm supposed to live in a tux, and only go to parties with other rich bastards and generally live the life of a Tony Stark?”

Bucky tilted his head to one side. “Yeah, if you could live up to my preconceptions of you, that'd be great,” he offered, and smiled when Steve started laughing. “Seriously, you could, uh, do better than Royale.”

Seriously? I think I did just fine,” Steve said with a smile, and Bucky ate faster so he could get back into bed with the hottest fucking dude in New York City.

They didn't fall asleep afterwards, this time, but cuddled in Bucky's bed, both of them feeling lazy (and Bucky still feeling hungover). Steve stroked his hand down Bucky's back, fingertip tracing the line between where scales ended and skin began. “Tell me about you, beautiful.”

Bucky giggled when Steve tickled a little. “Not much to tell. Grew up off the coast just north of here. Didn't want to stay in the sea, not full-time, so I went to Columbia. Army wouldn't take me for obvious reasons – the arm, not the fish thing, I applied after they repealed Article 48 – but I went into econ, then development, then logistical stuff.”

Steve nodded. “Are you a consultant?”

Of a sort.” Bucky smiled at him, and kissed him. “Sorry, honey. Even you don't have enough security clearance to understand entirely when I do at SHIELD.”

Steve brightened considerably. “How have I never run into you there?”

I live in a windowless basement room,” Bucky admitted. “My life is literally the opposite of yours, glamour boy.”

So, useful?”

Hey.” Bucky frowned and pushed up on his elbow, wishing he had his full complement of arms. Steve needed petting, the poor thing was so touch-starved it hurt. “Stop that. You've saved so many peoples' lives. You're unbelievably useful, Steve. You're valuable.”

Steve dropped his eyes, and shrugged, and Bucky curled up in his arms again.

Can I ask what happened to your arm?” Steve said, after a moment of hesitation. He rested his hand over the smooth scale of Bucky's shoulder. No scarring, no sign of amputation – pretty easy to guess.

Of course, honey.” He kissed Steve, and rubbed their noses together. “I was born like this. It's gotten better in the generations after me, but there was still a lot of pollution where my parents lived, you know?”

I'm so sorry,” Steve said, and pulled him into a tight hug. “I'm so, so sorry.”

Hey, not your fault. You were under an iceberg,” Bucky told him. “I do okay. Don't pity me, please.”

No!” Steve said, sounding shocked. “Just. I'm sorry our pollution fucked you over.”

Thanks. Me too.” Bucky kissed him again, and Steve smiled into it, and they both shut up for a little while after that. Steve kissed with his whole body, and Bucky shifted them so he could get his arm free and stroke Steve's hair and pet him until he was smiling, his head resting on Bucky's chest the next time they took a break.

How do you like this world? The future, I guess?” Bucky asked. Steve was wrapped around him, heavy and warm, and they'd have to get up and get something eat soon, and he supposed Steve might want to go home and get on with his life at some point, but for now, he never ever wanted to move.

It's good,” Steve said, then was quiet for awhile. “I wish I fit in it somewhere.”

Oh, Steve.” Bucky bent his head and kissed Steve's forehead, and the corner of his eye. “You'll get there. If it helps, I don't think anyone feels like they fit, really.”

Yeah, but not the way I do.”

That's true,” Bucky agreed, and gave Steve a little squeeze. “What do you do for fun?”

Steve shrugged. “I read. I found this old boxing gym, that's pretty nice, 'specially when I can't sleep. I just...y'know. Do my thing. Until the next alien invasion or whatever.”

Bucky's gills flared, and he hoped Steve hadn't felt it – although he might not know what it meant. There weren't that many mer around, if he didn't spend a lot of time with them , he might not know what to pick up on...

Bucky was furious . SHIELD had a clearly depressed, probably PTSD-riddled super-soldier on their hands and they were doing jack shit for him, and Bucky was infuriated. Steve was gentle and funny and had a biting sense of humor, and he deserved better.

So, you busy next Friday? Assuming no alien invasions, I mean,” he asked.

Steve smiled at him. “Buck, I'm never busy. Why?”

D'you know about merfolk and the full moon?”

Steve shook his head and frowned. “What happens? Are you okay? Do you need me for something?”

Bucky tapped his lips with a silvered fingertip, and smiled when Steve kissed it – then, gentle as could be, laid another kiss on the webbing between his fingers. “Cutie. And no, I don't need you, but I'd like your company. Merfolk...get kinda weird, on the full moon,” he explained. “Especially those of us inland. Not anything bad but it's like I get itchy in my skin, you know? Need to change, need to rest someplace quiet. Um. I get really...emotional? Not depressed exactly , but like whatever emotion I'm feeling, I am really feeling it , if that makes sense.”

Steve giggled, and nodded. He touched Bucky's cheek, then brushed a lock of hair behind his ear. “What can I do, sweetheart?”

There are a couple huge salt-water pools in the city. I know a really, really nice one – come swimming with me? It's deep, but 'cause of the salt, you'll float without even having to try.” Bucky grinned, and threw in his last bargaining chip. “And you'll get to see me with my tail.”

Steve laughed, and kissed him. “I would love to swim with you, honey. Is there anything else I should do? Or know?”

No, baby. We can eat at the pool, they always have really nice spreads on full moon nights. Oh – it's a communal pool, but there's not much, uh, communing. We'll mostly keep to ourselves, unless I run into some friends.” He gave Steve a little tickle. “And you should know – this is me asking you on a date.”

I dunno, I've been doing pretty good with drunken hookups, don't really wanna diverge from what works for me, y'know?” Steve mused aloud, and laughed when Bucky shoved him, so he shoved back, and they wrestled on Bucky's bed for a little while.

You cheated,” Bucky said, when Steve had pinned him, using his legs to lock Bucky's in place.

I did not!” Steve said, genuinely put out.

Did. You're a super-soldier, I'm just some dweeb with multiple breathing options.”

Steve laughed out loud, and kissed Bucky's neck. “You're an awesome dweeb.” He slipped his hand up Bucky's t-shirt, and rested it on his stomach. “Is it okay to touch your gills?” he asked shyly. “I'm just curious.”

Steve, of course,” Bucky said, utterly entranced by the guy currently holding him down. “Just be gentle if you reach into them, okay? It hurts if they get stretched.”

If I hurt you, you tell me right away,” Steve ordered, and traced his fingertip along the topmost gill on Bucky's right side. Good – his left side was a little wonky, more of the mutation that had meant his arm never developed.

Steve's smile grew as he traced the delicate seam, and Bucky giggled when he tickled a little, by accident, and sighed when he finally got up the courage to slip a fingertip into the slit in his skin.

Steve gasped a little, feeling the wet mucous membrane there. “Oh! It feels like. Um.”

I know what I feels like, I'm bi,” Bucky said, unbelievably amused. “Sadly, doesn't feel the same on my end.”

But you're okay? I didn't hurt you?” Steve asked anxiously.

No, not at all. You have nice hands.” Bucky pulled him down for another lazy, lazy kiss. “Hey you. You can ask me anything at all, but there's lots to read about merfolk and culture and things, if you want to.”

I really, really do,” Steve said. “I can't hurt you, Buck, and I wanna be good for you. 's good as you are to me.”

Bucky melted at that, and gathered Steve close. “I'll send you a little reading list. But really, we're not so different, honey. Honest.”

Well, I figured that out about the time I was sucking your second orgasm out of you.”

Steve looked like the cat who'd got the cream after coming up with that one , and Bucky told him so, and they necked a little more until a late lunch became a necessity.

Steve breathed in deeply, but didn't comment, when Bucky changed from his hybrid form, the silver scales vanishing. He got enough looks with the one arm, and there was no need to borrow trouble. And he was a reasonably handsome human guy, anyway.

They walked out of the apartment hand-in-hand, and hangover headache aside, Bucky was more than pleased with himself.

Chapter Text

Slightly less than one week later, and Bucky Barnes was like 90% certain that he was in love with Steve Rogers. Maybe 95% certain. And that was not the full moon talking, Becca . It was the text message from Steve after he'd gone home, telling Bucky he'd had a really nice time. And the text message the next morning, checking if Bucky's headache was better. And Bucky sending Steve a few book titles, and getting a long e-mail back two hours later. It was Steve clarifying something that Bucky knew for a fact was covered in the middle of the first book on the list.

And it was the occasional emojis they sent back and forth, and it was the occasional dick pics they sent back and forth too. And it was Friday morning and Bucky was already feeling jumpy and off and grumpy about everything, and came into work to find that Steve had actually figured out how to get fancy coffee delivered to his tiny sub-sub-sub-basement office, and it was sweet and hot, and his boyfriend was sweet and hot too.

BuckyB: Hey cutie! Still on for tonight?

Steve [eggplant emoji]: Hell yes! How you feeling?

BuckyB: Eh, just itchy and impatient and wiggly. How about you? Sleep okay?

Steve [eggplant emoji]: Okay covers it. Four hours, but I feel good. Can't wait to see you tonight. I missed you :)

BuckyB: I missed you too :)

BuckyB: I sent you the address, right? Sorry, I'm all scattered :/

Steve [eggplant emoji]: You did, honey. I'll meet you there at six. I snooped about the place online, it looks stunning!

BuckyB: It is, I really hope you like it.

Steve [eggplant emoji]: With the company I'll be keeping? Ain't gonna notice anything else.

BuckyB: Oh my God, is this 30's flirting? Did that work??

Steve [eggplant emoji]: Nope.

BuckyB: well it's workin' now.

Steve [eggplant emoji]: ugh, go drink your coffee.

BuckyB: you're the best xxoo

 

He was only running five minutes late when he ran up to the entrance of the pool, Steve of course already standing there, looking sort of awkward. Bucky hadn't even bothered to shift to fully human-looking; there was no keeping it on days like this. “Sorry! Sorry! Missed my first train!”

Steve smiled and pulled him into a hug and a kiss. “S'okay, I just got here myself. Hi, by the way.”

Hi,” Bucky said, and tried to catch his breath. Big warm arms around him, the way Steve looked at him, the end of the awful day at work...it was like he could take a deep breath, finally.

C'mon, lets get you into the pool,” Steve said, and gently steered Bucky in the front door.

Bucky got them signed in – he'd reserved spots for both of them – and they went into the big main room. It was dim, with recessed lighting, and the floor was marble that had been roughened just enough to walk on easily. A vast, deep, salt-water pool took up most of the space, and the room was warm and humid. The walls and ceiling were a mosaic; mostly deep blue, but with gold tesserae scattered here and there, catching the low light and sparkling in it.

Oh,” Steve gasped. “Oh, Bucky...”

Yeah.” He couldn't afford this every month, but Steve deserved a treat. Hell, he deserved a treat. Bucky led him over to a little partitioned area where they could get undressed, keep their things, and eat when they pleased. Steve kept a pair of swim trunks on to be polite, but Bucky stripped down to his skin, the scales on his legs already thickening, and he all but ran for the water, sliding in and diving deep, deep, drinking in the warm salt-water and letting his body change.

He wriggled a little in the water, loving the way he moved, and let himself get lost in the feel of the water, in having a tail, in feeling calm and right, before he swam back to the surface, popping up and grinning at his boyfriend.

Steve was perched on the side of the marble pool, knees tucked under his chin, and he smiled at Bucky when he reappeared. “Wow, you look...wow.”

Bucky giggled and held out his hand. “C'mon in with me!”

Steve smiled and slipped in, treading water easily. “Oh my God. You have a tail.” He laughed and reached out, running his hand along the thick, rough silver scales on Bucky's side, following them down to caress the curve of Bucky's tail. “Oh, honey. You're so gorgeous.”

I'm all right,” Bucky said, suddenly bashful. “Silver's nothing special. You seen pictures of the merfolk with blue and green scales? Or black?” He sighed. “Gorgeous.”

Yeah, they are,” Steve agreed, and leaned in for a kiss. “But they're not my Bucky.”

You're incorrigible,” Bucky informed him, but he also made sure to give Steve another kiss or six. “How long can you hold your breath, sweetheart.”

Steve bit his lip. “I don't know. Couple minutes?”

What is it?” Bucky asked, frowning. And then remembered – oh, he was a fucking moron. He was the worst. “Oh, shit, shit, love, no. You don't have to get under the water, or anything like that.”

I should be able to, though,” Steve argued, and set his jaw. “It's nothin' like...like when the plane went down.”

That doesn't mean you have to, though,” Bucky argued back. Oh, his man, his poor sweetheart, who had drowned in the icy cold and the dark, his Steve. He flipped onto his back and pulled Steve into his arms, making sure his face was well out of the water, his tail doing all the work to keep them afloat.

I got no real excuse.” Steve set his jaw. But his hands were tight around Bucky's arm.

You sorta do, but let's work up to that,” Bucky soothed, tail swishing. “Hold onto me, baby, I'll give you a ride.”

Oh will you?” Steve joked weakly, but he held on tight, and even laughed when Bucky sped them through the water, around the pool. It was early enough that there weren't too many other mers around – Steve was the only human – and they could play expansively.

A few rounds later, Bucky settled Steve on a low, wide ledge near what he'd staked out as their area and kissed him.

The water feels really nice,” Steve admitted, and ran his hands down Bucky's sides, fingertips skittering over his gills. He frowned a little. “Why don't you match?”

Same reason I really don't match, arms-wise,” Bucky told him.

Oh, babe.” Steve pulled him in for a little kiss. “Does it make breathing underwater harder for you?”

Bucky shrugged. “A little, sometimes.”

I know how that goes,” Steve observed wryly. “Bucky, you can go swim, y'know? Do whatever you want to do, I just wanna watch you.”

Okay. But I'll be back to check on you.” Bucky reached for another kiss. “And for more of those.”

Steve laughed and tugged on his hair, long and wet and plastered to his head. “I got a million of 'em, all for you.”

Bucky shook his head and dived, making sure his tail flicked up the smack Steve in the shoulder.

He dove deep, and swam helixes and infinity signs, letting the salt water soothe...everything, really. A friend of his showed up, and he hugged Toro hello, the two of them chatting underwater as they swam together for a few minutes, twin silver tails in perfect symmetry. Bucky hoped Steve could see, and that he liked the show, the two broad backs and slender builds cutting through the water. And, in the deep part of him that didn't ever quite go away, he hoped that Steve still thought him beautiful, one arm and all, compared to Toro's graceful figure.

They parted ways soon enough, and Bucky took his time getting back to his little area, rising and falling, stretching his body out in the way he only could like this, and finally surfacing, feeling a little guilty. His time-sense wasn't great on full moon nights, but he was pretty sure he'd been gone a long time – a pretty shitty way to treat his date, and he made sure to surface right next to Steve, kissing him before he'd even retracted the nictating membrane over his eyes, before he'd even cleared his gills and switched to lungs.

My gorgeous guy,” Steve murmured into his mouth, his arms loose around Bucky's waist, then tightening as he took over holding Bucky up. “Thank you, thank you, thank you for letting me see you like that.” He smiled, and pulled Bucky in for another kiss. “You're so amazing. Thank you.”

Bucky laughed. “I'm nothing special, Steve, really.”

Yeah, you really are.” Another kiss. “You're funny and generous. You're so kind.” Steve nipped at his lip. “I'm gonna have to pull out all the stops, when I take you out, Bucky.”

Aw, Steve...”

Don't aw me.” Another kiss. “They're setting out food for us. You hungry?”

Bucky nodded, and pulled himself up on the ledge beside Steve, snuggling close while he changed back to hybrid form, the tail disappearing – for the moment, at least.

Steve kissed him again and helped him stand up and climb out of the pool, a little wobbly for a moment. He kept his arm around Bucky's waist, though loosely, and they dried off before curling up together on a simple bench. Finger-foods were laid out on a small table, and they picked them over, nibbling, and then eating more as they both realized how hungry they were.

Gradually they moved from savories to sweets, and Steve fed Bucky a single raspberry dipped in cream, then kissed him. “You said you really feel emotions on full moons. What're you feeling now, sweetheart?”

Happy,” Bucky said, and all but squirmed into Steve's lap. “I'm so, so happy.”

Steve laughed and hugged him, and fed him another sweet. “Good. How late can we stay?”

Late as we want. It's open until dawn, tonight.” Bucky kissed Steve's cheek. “There's a deck on the roof, if you want to get some air.”

Maybe in a bit, when you're all swum out.”

Bucky grinned. “Nah, that'll never happen. But we'll go up later. Wanna make out under the stars with you.”

Steve laughed out loud. “Never known anyone as romantic as you,” he said, all admiration in his tone.

Get used to it, baby,” Bucky said, and rested his head on Steve's shoulder for a moment. “I like you a lot. In case that hadn't been made clear.”

I'm not that dumb,” Steve informed him, and tipped his chin up for a little kiss. “I like you a lot too, by the way.”

Bucky giggled and reached for his glass, sipping the champagne-like drink. “Wanna try some? It probably won't have an effect on you, but it tastes nice.”

Okay.” Steve took the glass and mirrored Bucky's sip.

His eyes crossed, and he went 'glurrr'.

Bucky was still laughing when Steve figured out he'd been punked.

 

They ate until they were full, then went back to the pool. Steve settled on the ledge in the water, and Bucky changed back into full mer-form and settled against him, his back to Steve's chest, his tail flicking lazily to keep him steady.

Another human-mer couple had arrived, settling not far away from them; a human man and a mer-woman. Steve and the man exchanged nods, but otherwise left each other alone. Bucky noticed (through his post-prandial doze) that the woman, in hybrid form, had a malformed foot and walked with a crutch. It wasn't so unusual, for mer of his generation especially, and he spared a moment to be obscenely grateful that his tiny niece was healthy as could be.

Steve kissed his cheek, and nuzzled a little at his neck, but mostly they rested together in the warm, salty water. “Thank you,” he said quietly in Bucky's ear. “This is so peaceful. It's wonderful. Thank you so much.”

Bucky turned around and looped his arm around Steve's neck, pulling him in for a little kiss. “You're so welcome. I love it here.” He smiled and bumped their noses together. “We should do this whenever we can. Specially on the full moon.”

Next one's during the spring tide,” Steve observed. “That's gonna mess with you extra, right?”

Yeah,” Bucky admitted, and laughed when Steve hugged him tightly. “Hey, hey. Happy, remember? Really happy. Like the best high you've ever had, but mellow. And no munchies.”

Steve giggled, and kissed his cheek. “Good. We'll keep that up next month, baby.”

Bucky just smiled and relaxed into Steve's arms. They swam a little together, cuddled more, and Bucky went for one last long swim on his own before returning for more kisses, and Steve smoothing an admiring hand over his tail. His touch was feather-soft and gentle on the glittering scales, and the thin tissue of Bucky's tailfin.

You're so amazing,” he murmured, and Bucky glowed under the praise.

They finally left after midnight, when Bucky kept yawning, and even Steve was starting to droop a little. They kissed goodbye outside of Steve's subway stop, and kissed goodbye again just because.

Text me when you get home?” Steve asked. “Just so I know you made it.”

Promise.” Bucky wrapped his arm around Steve, and hugged as tightly as he could. “Thank you. I had so much fun with you tonight.”

Oh my God, thank you,” Steve said, a little flustered. “This was just...incredible. You're gonna be so disappointed when it's my turn.”

I highly doubt it,” Bucky said, and moved to cup Steve's face in his hand. “It'll be you. I can't be disappointed.”

Steve blushed impressively, and kissed Bucky one more time. “Safe journey.”

You too, baby. Text me when you get home, okay?”

Steve giggled, and promised he would. One more kiss, one more long hug, and they parted ways for the night.

BuckyB: Home! Thanks again for coming with me. Full moons are a little hard sometimes, and you made it really special.

Then, just as Bucky was dropping off to sleep, a text from Steve came through.

Steve [eggplant emoji]: I'm home too. You make everything special, Buck. Sweet dreams, and call me if you need anything. xoxoxoxo

Ooh yeah, he was definitely at least 95% in love with Steve Rogers already.

Chapter Text

Bucky looked up at the knock on his door and grinned, seeing Steve standing there, his head poking around the doorframe. “Hey you! How on earth did you find me?”

I'm Captain America, people usually answer my questions. Also, I checked the intracompany phone book?” he offered, and Bucky laughed out loud, getting up from his desk and going over to give Steve a hug.

Okay, fine, be sensible. Ooooh, thanks,” Bucky sighed, when Steve's hug cracked his back. “Oh, that feels good.”

You need to take more breaks,” Steve chided gently, and kissed him. “Like having lunch with me.”

Bucky did some quick mental calculations – and yeah, he could take the time. “Love to,” he said, although the fact that he was snuggled up to Steve's chest probably gave that away. “Anywhere in particular you wanna go?”

Steve shrugged. “You know stuff around here better than I do.”

I know just the place.” Another soft kiss, and Bucky locked his computer, and headed out. “How's your day been?”

Okay,” Steve said as they got into the elevator. “They're designing a new suit for me. It's not as, um, garish. For stealth, or something.”

And?”

And usability and non-ridiculous boots,” Steve added, grinning, and Bucky gave a little whoop. Steve had bitched mightily about his new uniform, and Bucky had, frankly, helped.

(He'd also fucked Steve while Steve was wearing the boots, on his special request. A man had his feelings, and all.)

You're training with your new STRIKE team, right?”

Mmmm. They're okay guys.” Steve shrugged. “Good at what they do.”

The best at what they do,” Bucky corrected, the two of them crossing through the lobby.

Steve paused. “Did you...?”

Not single-handedly,” Bucky admitted, and grinned. “But I might have had some input. On the STRIKE team, I mean. Sadly, not on your uniform.”

Steve laughed out loud. “Yeah, I'm not sorry about that, I know your kinks,” he teased. “But seriously? You picked the guys?”

A lot of them. Or, rather, I made recommendations, and there was a lot of overlap with everyone else's,” Bucky explained. “And, for the record, I was looking for a group of people who would be quickly compatible, form strong bonds with their team, and believe in looking out for their leader.”

That's...an interesting mix,” Steve said tactfully, and Bucky paused and looked at him.

It isn't. But hon, this is mixing work and personal stuff for you. Should I back off?”

No,” Steve said. “If it wasn't a big enough deal for you to recuse yourself, it's okay.”

Uh, yeah.” Bucky rubbed the back of his head. “I kinda submitted those proposals before I picked you up at a dive bar.”

Steve laughed out loud at that. “Seriously?”

Seriously. I was going off of your psych eval and a book I read last summer about the Howling Commandos.” Bucky grinned at him. “I'd still pick the same team, but honestly, I'd have to recuse myself now.”

Hey, is this gonna cause trouble for you?” Steve asked, dodging a particularly slow-moving tourist. “Dating me, I mean. I don't want to mess up your job or anything like that.” Familiar frown lines – usually absent when he was with Bucky – appeared between his eyes. “Shit, honey, I really don't want to be trouble for you.”

Good thing you're not, then.” Bucky gently took Steve's elbow and steered him around the corner, heading for a little deli he'd heard good things about. “You are – and I mean this as kindly as possible – not really part of my job.”

Steve laughed suddenly, and Bucky squeezed his elbow. “Uh, good. I think. Just...yeah. I don't want to make things harder for you.

Bucky just smiled at him, and they went into the little deli and were – miracle indeed – seated quickly. They both placed their orders and Bucky turned back to Steve, kicking him lightly under the table. “You don't make things harder for me at all,” he said quietly. “You make things better. Happier.”

Steve had taken off his ballcap and sunglasses once they were inside, the better to show off his deep blush. “Good. You...you do too. For me.”

Bucky ducked his head a little to smile at Steve, and laughed when his boyfriend made a face. “ Fine . At least I got you a good team.”

Yeah, they're great,” Steve said, clearly automatically.

Didn't you used to perform on stage? Did no one give you acting lessons?” Bucky asked.

Steve glared at him. “No, actually. And Jesus, Buck, they're fine. We work great together. Why d'you keep bringing it up?”

I brought it up once, and you said you were okay with talking about it,” Bucky argued. “Which you aren't. Apparently.”

What's with the fascination with forming a team? I had a team. And I don't need protecting,” Steve snapped. The mood change wasn't surprising – Steve was always ready for a fight, Bucky had quickly learned. In both constructive ways, and not.

Yes, you did. And you were an amazing team.” Bucky tilted his head to one side and regarded Steve. “No, you don't need protecting. I am well aware that you could jump out of a plane without a parachute and be just fine. I know how hard it is to kill you, Steve, I've seen the test results and I've read about some of your missions. But you seem to be under the impression that jumping out of a plane is always the best solution, when it very rarely is.”

I just – let me fucking make my own team, you know? And let me make my own decisions.”

Okay,” Bucky said quietly. “That's a good point, actually. But remember that part where I said I don't have any say over you? Yell at someone else.”

Steve rubbed his face. “I'm not yelling at you.”

Yeah, you are,” Bucky said, still calm as their food arrived. Maybe even a little tired-sounding. “Look, you wanna throw yourself at everything, go ahead. But I think you're smarter than that.”

I don't get hurt,” Steve said, still peevish. “Or not for long. So you don't have to worry about that.”

I know that someday I'm gonna get the call that you're in medical, and it's serious,” Bucky said quietly. “And it's going to hurt so much, to see you like that. I know that this will happen, and I'll be so proud of you, because you'll have saved a city with your body, or something crazy like that. That's not what worries me, Steve.”

Steve examined his sandwich closely. “You know all that and you still wanna date me?”

Yup. I do.” Bucky reached over and touched Steve's hand, putting his food aside for a moment. “I also want you to talk to someone about your depression.”

Steve sighed. “Bucky, I've told you, I'm not depressed. I got no reason in the world to be sad. I'm alive, and the future's pretty cool.”

Boom-de-yada, boom-de-yada,” Bucky sang softly, just to watch Steve smile. “I know. But you got a lot of reasons to be sad, from where I'm sittin'. And depression isn't just being sad. It doesn't need a reason, it just needs the way your brain is wired.”

My brain's just fine,” Steve protested. “There's about a million scientists who've said so.”

Mmmm.” A million scientists, not one of whom woke up in the night when Steve had nightmares, or woke in the morning to find that Steve hadn't been able to sleep. Or woke up, but couldn't coax Steve out of bed, or watched him do everything to express a deep sadness short of actively try to kill himself. “Just think about it, please? Even if you aren't depressed, it can be nice to have someone to talk to.”

I talk to you,” Steve protested. “And Nat.”

Someone not your boyfriend, and not your co-worker,” Bucky chided, and smiled. “Look, I'll drop it for now. And the asking about your STRIKE team.”

Sorry I was a dick,” Steve admitted, and rubbed the back of his neck. “Hey, you free tomorrow night?”

I'm not, sorry,” Bucky said, and sounded it. “Daisy's having a rough week and I'm gonna go over so we can eat cupcakes and play violent video games.”

Steve smiled a little. “Sounds...fun?”

It's fun! Also her dog is awesome.” Bucky smiled and nudged Steve's ankle with his toe under the table. “What're you doing Saturday night?”

Nothing.”

Come over for dinner?”

Yeah! Thanks.” Steve's smile was a little dizzying. “I gotta go to DC next week, so it'll be nice to get some time in with you before that.”

It really will.” Food nearly finished, Bucky set his sandwich down again to reach over and squeeze Steve's arm. His boyfriend was a self-destructive irritating prick who didn't listen and didn't believe his own obvious mental health problems, and Bucky was wild about him, dammit.

Can we go swimming?” Steve asked slyly, and Bucky laughed at him.

Christ, you want to spend more time in the pool than any mer I've ever met,” he teased. “Yes, of course we can, love. We'll go after dinner.”

It's just really fun! And it feels so nice, especially when we can just float together and you hold onto me,” Steve protested, but he was smiling, just a little.

It is really nice,” Bucky said. “We gotta get to the ocean before the summer's over. There's a great little cove out where my parents live, and a sweet beach. Very private,” he said pointedly.

Now who's incorrigible?” Steve grumbled, although the effect was sort of lost when he was the initiator at least, and usually more than, half the time. He did, in fact, proceed to ruin the effect in that moment. “How soon do you have to go back to work?”

I can take another half hour or so. Quickie in my office?” Bucky proposed.

Ew, you have meetings in there,” Steve said, making a face. “One of the crash rooms at least, please.”

You spent ten minutes snapping and being cranky at me, and now you're gonna be picky and ask for a real bed?” Well, bed might be generous. But it was a relatively comfortable flat surface.

Fighting turns you on,” Steve said dismissively. “And besides, I gotta make it up to you, don't I?” His grin was the next thing to obscene.

Ugh,” Bucky said, but signaled for the check just the same.

The grabbed the nearest crash room as soon as they got back to the SHIELD building – little more than a closet with a skinny bed, but it was warm and comfortable, and they could make out as soon as the door was closed, and suck each other off as soon as they'd made it to the bed. Bucky had thought he would be very generous and introduce Steve to sixty-nining, only to be tartly reminded that sex hadn't been invented in 1969, and get a good smack on his ass.

Just for revenge, he had changed into his hybrid form, as he and Steve clearly raced to see who could get the other off first.

Afterwards (Steve won, but barely), Bucky was collapsed facedown on his boyfriend, who gently prodded him into turning around with a groan, the two of them now face-to-face on the narrow bed.

Ngl,” Bucky informed him, and Steve laughed and kissed him soundly.

You're the best,” Steve sighed happily. “Gonna miss you, next week.”

Gonna miss you too,” Bucky murmured, snuggling close and draping his arm over Steve's side. “We gotta have a lot of sex this weekend. Make up for it in advance.”

Definitely.” Steve nuzzled Bucky's cheek, and kissed it. “Hey. Don't worry about me, okay honey?”

Don't tell me what to do,” Bucky said, though kindly. “I care about you. What if I told you not to worry about me?”

Bucky,” Steve said gently. “I do what I do so I don't have to worry about you being safe.”

Why did his boyfriend have to be such a good man? Motherfucker, it was enough to make you cry, but instead of crying, Bucky just barely managed to kiss Steve, hard. Then again.

You asshole, you were supposed to be a one-night stand.”

Sucks to be you,” Steve whispered, and kissed him again. Bucky was going to fuck him so hard on Saturday night. Just for revenge.

Chapter Text

Steve laughed, and splashed a little at Bucky, then turned and dove to try and get away, just barely not yelping when he felt Bucky grab his legs and yank him back. He surfaced and wriggled, trying to get free, and just barely managed to slip out of Bucky's grip, turning and swimming as fast as he could. No match for the strong tail, pure muscle, and he was caught quickly.

God, and you're supposed to be a super-soldier? Weak,” Bucky declared while Steve laughed harder.

I can barely swim you asshole! It's a miracle you haven't drowned me yet!”

Bucky pushed himself up and blew out his gills, the spray hitting Steve.

That is foul.”

How dare you call my natural instincts foul,” Bucky teased, and he wrapped around Steve, ducking them both and kissing him underwater. Steve breathed into the kiss, the two of them sharing oxygen, and his hand came up to cup the back of Bucky's head, fingers weaving into the thick strands that floated around his lover's face.

(Bucky's hair fascinated him endlessly. It was straight when he was in fully human form, and gained a gorgeous little wave to it when he slipped into hybrid. When he was in full mer body, though – well, it was usually wet and plastered against his skull, but if he let it dry, the halo of loose curls was an actual perfect delight.)

They came up, still holding each other, and Steve kissed him again, since he could. “Hey you,” he murmured.

Hi,” Bucky whispered, and rubbed their noses together. “How you doing?”

Fine, love. I'm fine.” It had been a month since Steve had taken a deep breath and ducked under the surface of the water, Bucky holding his hand tightly. He had come back up almost immediately but – with Bucky always touching him – had gradually gotten used to having his head underwater. The fact that the pool was always warm, and there were people around, there was light and always his lover right there, ready to kiss and hold and strong enough to haul Steve up to the air if needed; all these things meant that icy Arctic water and the feel of drowning were far away, and then nonexistent.

I'm so proud of you,” Bucky said, for about the six millionth time since Steve had gotten over himself, so it was time for more play.

It wasn't the full moon or anything; just a Thursday afternoon they'd both decided to play hooky before a long weekend, and they had the pool to themselves, chasing each other the length and breadth of it. It wasn't the really nice one – Steve had reserved that for them for every full moon for the next six months, after Bucky had admitted that he couldn't afford it every month – but everything here was blue and white and pretty, with a big mural of a kelp forest on one wall.

Hey, Toro's here!” Bucky brightened up, seeing his friend, and swam over to meet the other merman, Steve only just behind him. The two of them hugged hello, and Steve nodded hi as well – he'd met Toro before, going out for drinks and such.

Lucky bastards, getting off early,” he teased, and Bucky flicked water at him.

Ask me how lucky I am next time I have to figure out how to get electricity to a site while saving the world,” he said.

Uh huh. What's your excuse, Cap?” Toro asked, flipping onto his back and floating lazily.

Suit's gotta get dry-cleaned sometime,” Steve said, perfectly straight-faced.

Toro gave a noisy sigh, and Bucky gave his tail a shove, and they were all off, chasing each other around the pool, playing a kind of anarchic game of tag and hide-and-seek and generally trying to duck each other. Steve got the least ducking, but definitely the most chasing; he got faster every time he did this, he was pretty sure.

He paddled carefully around near the surface, watching Bucky and Toro stalk each other far below him, their tails flicking, sending them gliding through he water. Steve indulged in watching his lover, the easy way Bucky moved in the buoyant salt water, how graceful he was. His missing arm didn't hold him back in the least, especially not here – he'd caught Toro, and held him, at least as many times as he'd been caught himself. His hair floated around his head, a soft cloud of dark, and Steve looked forward to wrapping his hand around it later that night, buried deep in Bucky, his lover wailing his name, his cock gorgeous, curved against his belly –

Steve pulled himself upright and took a deep breath. He had taken to wearing very loose swim trunks, but still. He was in public.

He noticed that the two mermen, in addition to totally forgetting about him, had come a little closer to the surface. Bucky, in particular, seemed to be drawing the chase up, and Steve grinned to himself. A little closer, a little higher – there!

He kicked off from the wall and shot through the water, aiming perfectly for Bucky, arms already outstretched. Bucky must have noticed him at the last moment, though, because he rolled aside and Steve missed – mostly. His hand caught Bucky's lowest gill, too fast to do anything about it, and he felt the flap of skin bend back, his fingers going into the delicate membranes there, crushing them.

Bucky doubled over in pain, even as Steve was pulling his hand away, reaching for his boyfriend to get him to the surface, get him able to use his lungs at least, all while cursing himself, afraid to touch and afraid not to touch. He'd felt Bucky's gills rip, and he was the worst, he was a weapon, he should never have played this, should have stayed where he was and kept his man safe.

Toro surfaced with both of them, Bucky bent over and holding a hand to his side, making soft gasping, keening sounds. Steve hovered uselessly (his specialty), but Toro took over, looping his arm around Bucky's side and towing him to the side of the pool, hoisting him out of the water.

Okay, honey, let me see,” he soothed. “No, Steve, go sit on the other side, give him a hug, there you go. This is really scary if you don't understand what you're seeing. He's fine, I promise.”

Steve pulled himself up and wrapped his arm around Bucky's shoulders, pressing kisses to the top of his head while Toro gently pulled his gill open and checked.

I'm sorry,” Steve whispered. “I'm so, so sorry, love, I'm so sorry.”

Bucky coughed and nodded, and wiped his eyes. “S'okay. 's not bad.”

You're right, it's not,” Toro reported. “It's a little nasty looking, but there's no lasting damage done.” He smiled up at Steve. “It's okay, honestly. This is like the mer equivalent to getting the wind knocked out of you and skinning your knee at the same time. Painful and scary, but not dangerous.”

What did I do?” Steve asked, dreading the answer. “I felt things...rip.” He shivered, and pressed another kiss to Bucky's hair.

You just caught the membranes in a bad way. Here, come back in beside me – Bucky, turn a little to your right. See?”

Steve stifled a gasp, but couldn't hide the wince. Bucky's lowest gill – and on his left side, his weak side, God, Steve was an asshole – was a half-moon flap of skin, with feathery little membranes that created delicate frills when the gill was open. The membranes should have been a soft pink, but were dark and angry-looking, and more than few were crushed. The bruise coming up on Bucky's skin was purple now, the silver scales stained dark with it.

Oh my God.” Steve touched Bucky's side, just barely. “Oh, honey. What do you need? Ice?”

A kiss, a few minutes to catch my breath, another kiss, and then back into the water,” Bucky told him, and smiled. “Get up here, asshole, Toro's an awful kisser.”

I am not, you just don't appreciate me,” Toro said with a sniff, while Steve hauled himself out of the water and delivered the first requested kiss. “Seriously, Steve, I know this is scary, but Bucky's fine, or will be.” He smiled at them both. “Maybe wrap it up when you get home and plan to have slightly less acrobatic sex than usual, but the membranes are so thin, they honestly heal up really fast. You'll be amazed.”

Steve rested his hand on the side of Bucky's tail, petting the smooth scales there. “I really am sorry, though.”

I know.” Bucky snuggled close to him, and flicked a little splash at Toro. “Stop talking about our sex life, by the way.”

Why? You don't.”

Bucky stuck his tongue out. “Smartass. I survived the start of you and Greta, you can survive me.”

Toro laughed at that, and covered his face. “Greta was this merwoman I dated, God, four years ago now? We were. Um.”

Unbearable,” Bucky offered, and splashed his friend again. “Hey, how's the ol' dating life going, anyway.”

Toro shrugged. “Okay. I'm meeting a friend of a friend for drinks tonight, we'll see how that goes.”

Good luck,” Steve offered, and spared a moment to be insanely glad that he and Bucky had found each other. He had actually come to prefer one-night stands to dating – thus picking up the random guy in a bar and going home with him.

He gave Bucky the second requested kiss and helped him into the water. Bucky winced and touched his side, but he swam easily, if slowly.

Seriously, he's okay?” Steve asked Toro quietly.

Seriously. The salt water'll help kickstart the healing. See how it looks when you get home, he might want to wrap it up for a day or two, but it's really not as bad as it looks, I promise.” Toro gave him a friendly smile. “It's scary, I know. But I promise, this is something that happens all the time when you're kids, and it's no worse than if he'd twisted his ankle or something. You didn't do anything wrong, Steve.”

Steve smiled weakly at him, and slid back into the pool. The three friends swam together, lazily now, and Steve was quietly pleased to see that Toro was gentle with Bucky too, the two of them more likely to make patterns in the water or just dive together than to chase.

They stayed until Toro had to leave to get ready for his date, and Steve and Bucky headed out at the same time.

 

Steve lasted until they were out in the street before he put a protective arm around Bucky. They had taken to walking with Steve on Bucky's left, so that they could cuddle together when space allowed and Bucky could keep his hand free.

You wanna order in?” Steve asked, and Bucky gave him a grateful smile.

God yeah, I'm starved. Pizza good?”

Pizza's good,” Steve promised, and kissed his nose. “You take first shower when we get in, I'll order.”

I knew I liked you,” Bucky said with a happy sigh.

Steve laughed, and held Bucky a little tighter. He'd help him bandage his side when they got home, keep him lying on the sofa and resting, do his best to make up for hurting him, however accidentally.

He took a deep breath, and realized it would be okay. They'd cuddle and probably have sex (non-acrobatically, thanks Toro) and Steve would kiss Bucky to sleep and – he guessed this was what normal was now. Kissing his boyfriend, ordering pizza for them both, taking care of each other and long, dreamless nights in Bucky's bed together, soft hair under his cheek half the time and his head on Bucky's chest the other half.

Chapter Text

Bucky woke up to his phone insistently buzzing. Fuck, fuck, what the hell was wrong at three in the morning? He rolled over and woke up fast , especially when he saw three texts from Steve. Avengers business? SHIELD?

Steve [eggplant emoji]: Bucky, I just found a mer fetish website. it consists entirely of everything i've ever said to you, and I am so so so sorry.

Steve [eggplant emoji]: please forgive me, I never meant to fetishize you. I think you're gorgeous, but it's YOU I want, you know that right? I only got eyes for you. please tell me if I was creepy at you, i'm so sorry.

Steve [eggplant emoji]: I want to make this okay. I'm sorry. are you grossed out by me? you should have told me I was being horrible to you! I never meant to exoticize you, i'm no better than these people and i'm so sorry.

Bucky closed his eyes, lay back on his pillow, and daydreamed about the quiet of the grave. Someday it would be his.

He called Steve before another text message could come through.

I fucked up so bad,” Steve answered the phone, and okay, Bucky had to laugh. Only his insomniac boyfriend could have a come-to-Jesus moment at three in the fucking morning, and need to share this with Bucky.

Steven, what time is it?”

It's 3:15. Hey, what're you doing up?”

Bucky contemplated smothering himself with a pillow. “Well, my phone decided to put on a sound and light show of text messages so, you know.”

A long pause.

You keep your phone in your room?”

Um, yes? Most people do? It's my alarm clock, after all.” And would be going off very soon. Far too soon.

Another long pause.

So, this isn't like e-mail where you can just pick it up in the morning.”

Steve had been born in 1918, Bucky reminded himself. Hell, the guy had been unfrozen for less than six months, and his best friends were the Avengers. It wasn't his fault that his socialization wasn't 100% yet.

I mean, I can, kind of. But I usually keep my phone on at night in case there's an emergency at work or something like that, y'know?”

Oh. Shit. Bucky, I'm sorry,” he said, and sounded it.

Hey, you didn't know. It's okay, Steve.” Bucky rolled over and smiled in the dark. “Congratulations on finding dark underbelly number four million and seventy-eight of the internet, by the way. Sorry you had to see that.”

See it! Baby, you have to live it! From me!”

Bucky laughed again. “Not from you, honey, really. Hey, you wanna come over after work tomorrow – well, later today? We can talk about it, and then go swimming if you want.” And he could hold his man and kiss him and be amused forever and ever at the things Steve came up with. And probably have a load of sex, too.

Yeah. Please? I'd really, really like that.”

I would too,” Bucky said, feeling warm and sleepy again, the latest panic over. “Want cuddles from you. Also an orgasm.”

Steve chuckled softly. “If you want 'em, you'll get 'em. I'll meet you at your office, and we can go to your place together?”

I'd love that.” Bucky let his eyes slip closed. “Go read a real book, honey, and get off the internet. Try not to worry about all this. You okay, by the way?”

Eh. Guess so – no nightmares, I just couldn't sleep.”

I'm sorry, Steve,” Bucky said gently. “We'll try to fix that tomorrow night.”

Sounds good. Hey, go back to bed. I'm sorry I woke you.”

S'okay. I'm here for you, honey-pie.” Bucky yawned. “G'night, Stevie.”

Honey-pie? Never mind. Night, Buck. Sweet dreams.”

Bucky hung up and fell asleep like that, hand still curled around his phone.

 

The next day dragged because he was doing boring admin work, and not at all because he had a date with his boyfriend. Definitely not.

He tried, and failed, to lose himself in scheduling. Then tried, and failed, to lose himself in making a paper-clip chain. He finally got a little real work done by the time Steve showed up at his door, smiling shyly and holding a little bouquet of luminous orange roses.

Steve!” Bucky all but bounced up from his chair and kissed his boyfriend hello. “Are those for me?”

Nah, just thought I'd carry 'em around for no reason.” Steve laughed and ducked his head. He must have been working out that day – his hair was still damp, and Bucky could smell his shampoo and soap.

Bucky's brain went sort of fuzzy and useless, thinking of Steve working out hard, his body shining with sweat, then Steve in the shower and – right. His boyfriend was apologizing to him, he should probably pay attention.

They're beautiful,” Bucky said, and they were, and he cradled the bouquet for a moment, then kissed Steve again. He set them down briefly to grab his messenger bag – already packed, obviously, and picked them up again, not willing to give his present up until he absolutely needed his hand back. “Steve, thank you so much.”

Thanks for being nice when I woke you up last night.” Steve rubbed the back of his neck. “I'm really sorry, if I'd known you slept with your phone right there, I would never, ever have bothered you.”

Hey, no. You didn't bother me,” Bucky said firmly as they headed up to the ground floor. “Steve, we'll talk about, uh, what you found when we get home, but baby, it's okay. I'm not upset at you at all.”

Good.” Steve smiled shyly. “I seriously did not even think anyone would charge their phone in their bedroom overnight.”

Where's yours, then?” Bucky asked, as they walked out into the sunlight. He blinked, and made a face. “Also, could you grab my sunglasses please? Outer pocket.”

Steve found them quickly, and gently slid them onto Bucky's face so he wouldn't have to let go of his flowers. “Um, I keep it in the living room. Is that...weird?”

Not really? It's not really...a thing. That says anything about you,” Bucky tried to explain, failing miserably of course.

Oh. Um, good.” Steve sighed. “Insert grandpa joke here.”

Huh? Why the fuck would I do that, you're younger than me, going by years lived,” Bucky said, leading the way down to the subway. “Ugh, here, hold my flowers?”

Steve took them back while they swiped through the turnstiles and headed for their platform.

I am?” he asked, handing the flowers back.

Uh huh. You were twenty-six in 1944, right? So you effectively had your twenty-seventh birthday in July.”

Ye-es,” Steve said slowly.

Okay. So, uh, setting aside the fact that you're a war veteran and I am your standard spoiled asshole millennial, I had my twenty-ninth birthday this past March. Therefore, I am older than you, therefore Grandpa jokes are dumb.”

You're not a spoiled asshole,” was all Steve could manage, and Bucky sighed and head-butted him gently.

Shut up and take my point, okay? You've seen things I can't even imagine. You've lived through some of the hardest times this world has seen. But we're still really young, you know? We both are. There's only so much either of us could ever have seen, or done.” Bucky smiled at him, sweet and lovely. “We have so much future. It's gonna be so amazing, Steve, just think what the world'll be like when we're in our nineties for real.”

Steve just smiled back, looking dumbstruck in love, which was just fine with Bucky, because a) he felt a little the same way and b) it shut Steve up for ten whole minutes until they got to Bucky's stop.

Bucky surrendered his flowers once more to let them in, then set Steve to putting them in water while he got them both a beer. And shifted back to his hybrid form with a happy sigh.

Steve smiled shyly at him, seeing the scales come up on his hand and forearm, the way his hair went a little bit wilder.

Oh, for God's sake. Come give me a kiss,” Bucky ordered, and laughed when Steve swept him up, holding him tightly before tilting his head to give Bucky a soft, openmouthed kiss. Bucky sighed happily into it, his hand cradling the back of Steve's head, and kissed him again, tongue licking into his mouth. Oh, his baby tasted good.

I love you,” Steve said quietly, uncertainly. Like it was something that would be rebuffed, like it wasn't obvious.

I love you too,” Bucky said softly, and kissed him again, the truth comfortable between them. “C'mon, baby. We can cuddle on the sofa and talk.”

Steve nodded, flushing, and Bucky hugged him again.

Hey. I'm not upset at you, remember?”

Steve smiled and nodded, and they kissed again before walking into the living room and curling up on Bucky's big sofa. Bucky had kicked his shoes off at the entrance, and he rested his legs on Steve's lap, wiggling his toes happily.

So. You got to see a load of gross stuff, I'm guessing?”

Steve was beet red. “The way they talked about merfolk wasn't fucking right. Like you're not people, like you're just things to be acquired. But they way these people wrote about scales, and the way merfolk move in the water – fuck, it was like an exact quote of everything I've ever told you. I love you because you're you , I swear. But I also think your scales, and your gills, and the way you change and the way you swim is beautiful,” he finished, looking pained.

Bucky was genuinely afraid Steve was going to pop a vein or something, he was so red.

Okay. Thank you, by the way.” He touched Steve's cheek. “I think you're gorgeous too.”

Yeah, but I just wanna talk about you.” Steve gave him that funny half-smile he did too much, and curled up with his head on Bucky's shoulder. “I don't want to make you feel exoticized, or anything like that, ever. But this is how I feel. Every part of you fascinates me.”

I'm pretty sure that's called being in love.”

Steve sighed. “And I love you. But I want to love you the best way possible. I want to be good to you, and I'm not right now. Every time I tell you your tail is beautiful or I kiss your scales or touch your gills, I'm no better than people who won't look beyond that. I don't want to be them, but I'm afraid I am.”

D'you know I feel when you do that?” Bucky asked.

Steve bit his lip.

I feel loved,” Bucky said softly. “I feel happy, 'cause my guy thinks I'm good-looking. I'm a little scared, because someday you're gonna look up and see everything wrong with me. When you tell me my tail is beautiful, I forget about the boyfriend who never wanted to see it. When you kiss my scales, I think about how when I was little, other little kids would poke at them, and scream.” He stroked Steve's hair, and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “Yeah, I'm something new and exotic, but I think that's gonna wear off soon, if it hasn't already. Intent matters a lot. You don't look twice at the other merfolk when we're swimming, hell, you barely look twice at anyone else. If I were a human, you'd be just as crazy about me, I'm absolutely sure of it.”

But I'm fascinated by how we're different,” Steve argued. “That's totally exoticizing you!”

Bucky huffed out a breath. “Steve, I have one fucking arm. I'm nothing special. Maybe I want someone to look at me the way you do.”

That shut him up for a minute, at least. Well, until Steve pinned him with a look.

He sat up, and cupped Bucky's face in his hands. “Let's get one thing straight,” he said, and it was a voice Bucky hadn't heard before, not even when Steve was being Captain America. “You are so special. You are brilliant , and you're brave and wonderful. How many arms you have, what species you are – that has nothing to do with what makes you the most wonderful man I've met since I woke up seventy years out of time. You are my Bucky, and you are worthy of all my love and so much more.”

Bucky blinked hard, and nodded, because it would make Steve content.

No, you are,” he said quietly. “I'll show you how much you are.” He sighed, and kissed Bucky softly. “I'm so worried I'm not going to be right for you. I do other you, even if only in my own mind.” He smiled wryly. “Although I guess I other most people. Everyone's so strange now.”

Oh, honey.” Bucky pulled him into a hug. “We're more alike than we are different, but it must be so hard on you.”

I got nothin' to complain about,” Steve murmured, but he hugged Bucky back tightly. “And, okay. Seriously. You're never bothered by how I talk about you, talk to you?”

Not...really?” Bucky gave a funny little smile. “Sometimes you do exoticize me a little bit, and I do notice. But mostly I'm eating up the fact that someone thinks I'm the cats' pajamas. Maybe you are fetishizing me, and we can work on that together. But...honey. I am a mer-person with a disability who's chosen to live on land. You treat me a lot less weird than a lot of people I've met, even dated.”

Steve frowned. “Yeah, you said there was a guy who never wanted to see your tail?”

Bucky shrugged and nodded. “He didn't even like my hybrid form. It didn't last long.”

Steve visibly bristled. “Well, I'd hope not.”

Bucky laughed, and nudged Steve's shoulder with his. “He was a douchebag.” He sighed. “I've dated an amputee fetishist. That was...weird.”

How so?” Steve asked, and Bucky could feel him fixing to be annoyed.

Because he wasn't in it for me? He wasn't a bad guy and, you know, what turns you on turns you on, but...the fact that you like me? That sets you apart from him completely.”

Yeah. I like you a lot. Bad taste in TV and great taste in dates and everything,” Steve said, smiling now.

Bite me,” Bucky informed him, and yelped and laughed when Steve did, going for his left shoulder. “You dork!”

You're the one sitting practically in my lap, you're a dork,” Steve pointed out, and pouted when Bucky wriggled away.

Fuck off,” Bucky said cheerfully. “You want another beer?”

Please?”

Bucky came back with Steve's drink, and a glass of water for himself, and situated himself right back in Steve's lap. “Right. You don't want to fetishize me, but we both like it when you feel me up. How do we get around this?”

Steve groaned and rested his head on Bucky's shoulder. “I don't know . I just wanna be the best guy I can for you.”

Okay. Let's start with that.” Bucky wriggled himself more comfortable. “So, some fetish-y stuff I know I hate, that'll be easy.”

Oh, God yeah,” Steve breathed. “Fuck, is it anything I've done?”

Bucky blew out a breath, and reminded himself to be patient. Steve was just nervous. “No, love. But the big one is, never pick me up and carry me when I'm in full mer form with the tail and all, please? Something about it drives me crazy, and I really hate it.”

Promise,” Steve said quickly.

And I'm not a big fan of mer-related dirty talk, you know? Like calling me a fish, talking about wanting to fuck my gills, or whatever.”

That's a thing?” Steve asked, dumbfounded. “But your gills are so delicate, love, that would hurt you.”

Yeah. But, you know, different people like different things.” Bucky shrugged. “I hate it, though, to be honest. The dirty talk, and having anything pushing inside my gills too hard.”

I'm pretty bad at dirty talk anyway,” Steve said, and kissed his neck, probably just to make Bucky smile. It worked.

Also, honestly, it's kinda dumb,” Bucky continued. “I mean, I'm a mammal, why is calling me a fish a thing?

Steve blinked and turned to look at him. “An issue of classification is what you've chosen to argue with here?”

Well, it's stupid, I'm not a fish, I regulate my body temperature and mer-women give birth to live babies. What the fuck do people think breasts are for?”

Steve blinked again, clearly at a complete loss.

I am definitely fixating on the wrong thing here, aren't I?” Bucky said thoughtfully.

Yeah, but...charming doesn't cover it,” Steve managed, and kissed him hard.

Bucky laughed, and they necked for a good long while, finally ending up stretched out on the sofa, Bucky happily lying atop his big, dumb, wonderful boyfriend.

Hey, topic change,” he said, when he'd come up for air and was happily snuggled in Steve's arms. “We've only talked about me. But I wanna be good for you, too, baby.”

You are,” Steve said, sounding surprised.

Yeah, but, like, really good. I don't wanna hurt you or anything if I can help it, y'know?” He rubbed Steve's arm. “I gotta take care of my Stevie.”

Steve made a face at him. “I dunno. I mean...I haven't really thought about it.”

What turns you off, then?” Bucky asked.

Uh.” Steve was quiet for a long time. “I don't know,” he finally said softly. “I haven't really done this before.”

Hmm?” Bucky was feeling very mellow, warmed by the necking, the conversation, and a sip of Steve's beer. “What d'you mean?”

I mean. I'm not a virgin,” Steve hastened to say. “Peggy and I...uh. You know. But I haven't really...dated? Done enough to know what I like?” He shrugged and looked away. “I'm sorry. I'm really dumb about this.”

Hey, no.” Bucky pushed himself up. “Look at me, love. You're not dumb at all. Everybody's gotta start somewhere, you know? We'll work out together what makes you happy.” He smiled softly, and settled down again, worming his arm around Steve's torso. “It'll be fun.”

Has been so far.” Steve said, and Bucky felt the little kisses pressed into his hair. “Can we go swimming after dinner? Please?”

Mmmhmm. We'll go to the really close by pool, so we can just fall into bed here afterwards.”

That definitely makes me happy,” Steve offered, and Bucky giggled, and pressed a kiss to his chest, right over his heart.

“Can't wait to find out what else does,” he said, and kissed Steve again. “I'm gonna have so much fun getting creative.”

“Eep,” said Steve, and Bucky almost fell off of him, he was laughing so hard.

Chapter Text

Right let's start at the top of the list and go down,” Bucky said, and uncapped a pen. He was balancing the printed-out pages (there were a lot of them, Steve noticed, and wondered what he'd been missing out on all his life) on a clipboard braced against his knees, and Steve sat at the other end of the sofa, their feet touching in the middle.

Bucky was in hybrid form, and the scales on his feet were cool and smooth against Steve's bare calves. He indulged himself by reaching over and stroking Bucky's instep, fingertip tracing down to the webbing between his toes.

Bucky looked up and smiled at him the way that made his eyes crinkle.

Do we have to?” Steve asked wistfully.

Yes. I wanna start finding out what makes you happy and what doesn't. Oh, calm down, there'll be a practical component too, you big horndog.”

It's not my fault you're super-hot,” Steve whined.

You were literally designed by science to be super-hot, and yet I can concentrate around you,” Bucky pointed out.

That's not what you said yester--” Steve shut up when Bucky gave him a little kick, and they grinned at each other.

Now shut up. Okay, First thing. Hugs.”

That's the first thing?”

Uh huh. Good, bad, or indifferent?”

Steve gave him a dry look. “I should never have dated a pedant. Good.”

That's one down!” Bucky went to the next one. “Good for me too. Hand-holding in private, and in public?”

Well, I don't wanna take your only hand away in public, so not so much then. But when we're just hanging out...yeah?”

Bucky smiled at him and reached over to rub his hand along Steve's calf. “Me too, on both counts. And thank you. Not everyone picks up on the hand-holding thing, and it means a lot that you do.”

Steve blushed, and Bucky giggled happily to see it. “All right, kissing is next.”

As much as possible,” Steve said promptly.

Mmm, I dunno,” Bucky teased. “Gimme a kiss, I want some recent research.”

Jesus Lord.” But Steve moved onto his knees and leaned over and kissed Bucky sweetly. “Acceptable?”

For the moment. I'd like to schedule further research later tonight.”

Steve smacked his calf, and settled back down.

I am a very thorough man,” Bucky informed him primly, and made a few check marks. “Cuddling...oh God, I can't even joke about it,” he admitted. “I'm gonna put a yes from both of us.”

In reply, Steve wrapped his arms around Bucky's calves and rested his head on Bucky's knees, nuzzling the line where scales faded into skin.

Oh, honey.” Bucky scritched Steve's head, then petted gently. “I love you.”

Love you too,” Steve murmured, snuggling a little closer to Bucky's legs. “What's next on the list?”

Massage,” Bucky read. “Giving and getting. I'm fine with giving, Stevie, anytime you want.” He hesitated. “Uh. Getting is...complicated.”

I know it changes, depending on your form,” Steve assured him. “Does this affect things?” he asked, cupping Bucky's empty shoulder, his thumb rubbing the shining scales there.

It does,” Bucky admitted. “Everything's kind of fucked up around there, you can see it with my gills.”

Why do you talk about yourself like that?” Steve asked quietly. “You...no part of you is fucked up, Bucky. You have a birth defect, and it doesn't make you any less perfect.”

Steve, love, you mean well,” Bucky said kindly. “But I have a disability. It screws with my life regularly. I'm not perfect, and don't try to tell me I am.”

But you are to me,” Steve said, clearly frustrated.

Stop. Don't put me on that pedestal. I'm serious, Steve, this is talk-to-your-therapist stuff,” Bucky said, and set the clipboard aside, opening his legs so that Steve could lie between them. “I love how much you adore me, don't get me wrong. But don't go around pretending I don't have flaws; that's not fair to either of us.” He kissed Steve to take a little of the sting out. “Please.”

Sorry,” Steve said quietly, but he smiled when Bucky hugged him, and kissed his cheek. “I'll do a deal with you.”

What's the deal?” Bucky asked suspiciously, and Steve laughed.

I'll talk to my therapist about being in love and being realistic about you, and you talk to your doctor and find out what I need to do to learn how to give you a good back massage that'll be safe and help you feel good. We can start in your hybrid form.”

Bucky giggled. “Deal. So, can you see the paper from here? What's next?”

Steve craned his neck. “Heavy bondage play. Ooooh.”

Bucky smacked his ass. “That's the next page, asshole!”

You don't want me to cuff you to a St. Andrew's cross?” Steve asked innocently. He started to kiss down Bucky's face, nuzzling his temple. “Spread you out just for me, chain your hand and your ankles in place, see how your scales look against black leather. Make it so you can't see me, only hear, only feel where I choose to touch you.” He kissed lower, wet and lush, now nibbling at Bucky's throat. “Maybe whip you first, or do you like paddles better? Make your ass red, make you ultra-sensitive before I fuck you senseless.”

Bucky's brain had turned to static at about the word 'cuff', and didn't much stop until Steve trailed off and he utterly shamed himself by moaning.

So that's a yes?”

Bucky moaned again, and Steve laughed, because he was a giant fucking dickwad.

How.” Bucky swallowed and licked his lips. “How, exactly, do you know about all of that stuff?”

As you've pointed out many, many times, I'm really just a young guy in his mid-twenties who got on the internet for the first time less than a year ago,” Steve pointed out. “What the fuck d'you think I looked up?”

Bucky turned white.

Yeah, that's actually appropriate,” Steve said dryly. “There's a lot I can't un-see.” He smiled and nipped at Bucky's throat. “I'm a quick learner, though. There's a lot I don't want to un-see.”

Glurb,” Bucky managed, and then shook his head. “Oh my God. So. Uh. Bondage is a yes for us, then.” He grinned shyly. “I'll tie you up if you want, but I like it better the way you described it.”

Steve laughed, and kissed his cheek. “Me too, love.”

You're a delight, you know that?” Bucky said suddenly. “You're completely...a delight. You make me so happy, Steve. I haven't had you in my life for very long, but you make it so much better.”

Good.” Steve rested his head on Bucky's shoulder and snuggled close. “What's next on the list?”

If I didn't have two hundred pounds of pure American beef on me, I'd be able to find out,” Bucky said, and kissed Steve right between the eyes when he started to laugh.

 

Chapter Text

Steve [peach emoji]: OH MY GOD THIS SUCKS SO BAD

Buckyball [heart emoji: ?

Steve [peach emoji]: I'm not allowed to go swimming until my ankles are healed :( :( :(

Buckyball [heart emoji: What? What happened to you?

Steve [peach emoji]: Oh. Ooops. Shit. You didn't hear already.

Buckyball [heart emoji: STEVE. THIS ISN'T FUNNY.

Steve [peach emoji]: I'm sorry, I know! I just...thought it would get to you over the grapevine.

Buckyball [heart emoji: Steve, this is still not funny, please, please, tell me what happened?

Steve [peach emoji]: I just got hurt in that Harlem mission. It's nothing; broken bones heal in like three days. Week at the outside.

Buckyball [heart emoji: Where are you?

Steve [peach emoji]: The Tower, why?

Buckyball [heart emoji: I need to kill you.

Steve [peach emoji]: Can I get a smooch first? [winking smiley, kissy smiley]

Steve [peach emoji]: Bucky?

Steve [peach emoji]: Shit.

 

What the fuck happened to you?” Bucky demanded, all but slamming Steve's bedroom door behind him. Steve was in bed, and at least had the good sense to look properly guilty.

Nothing! I just landed badly. I'll be fine, baby,” he said, and held out his arms. “Minor fractures. That's all.”

Seriously?” Bucky asked, and he swiped his hand across his eyes. “That's all?”

And some scrapes, some bruises. Nothing more serious, I promise.”

Bucky sniffled, and wiped his eyes again. “When were you gonna tell me?”

Definitely before I saw you again?” Steve tried.

Bucky covered his face with his hand. “Steve,” he started, and stopped, and breathed deeply.

I'm sorry,” Steve said quietly. “Bucky, I'm so sorry. I never thought...I never thought. Come here, love, please.”

Bucky made a hard coughing sound and wiped his eyes again, but he came over to sit on the very edge of the bed. “I'm so furious at you. I love you. You scared the hell out of me.”

I'm so sorry,” Steve repeated and scooted across the bed, reaching for Bucky's hand.

Bucky shook his head. “Gimme a minute.”

Okay.” Steve held his hands up. “Anything you need, Buck, I swear.”

A two-by-four and your head, and twenty minutes,” Bucky said, and smiled.

Better make it forty, just to be sure.”

You motherfucker,” Bucky swore, and then he laughed and leaned across the bed, hugging Steve tightly. “I should have kicked you out after sex. Never seen you in the light of day.”

Probably,” Steve agreed. “See what you get for being nice? That should teach you a lesson.”

Bucky giggled brokenly. “Steve, stop it . I'm bein' angry at you. Stop being...sweet.”

Steve pinched his ass.

That wasn't what I meant and you goddamn know it.” Bucky turned his face, hiding his eyes in Steve's shoulder. “Don't let go of me for a little bit.”

I won't, I promise,” Steve said, and kissed his ear. “I love you, baby.”

Steve.” Bucky took a deep breath, and squirmed further onto the bed, deeper into Steve's arms. “We need to talk about this.”

I'm so, so sorry,” Steve murmured. “I never thought it would hurt you like this.”

Bucky nodded, and rested his hand on Steve's thigh. “We need to talk about this not this instant” he clarified. “Sorry. I'm all...full of feelings.”

Steve rested his hand over Bucky's. “What can I do?” he asked, other arm tight around Bucky's shoulders. He'd reverted to his hybrid form as he usually did when they were alone together; Steve opted to take it as a sign of lingering trust.

Don't let go of me just yet.”

Not a chance.” Steve kissed the side of Bucky's head. “I've got you, baby. Just hold onto me, and remember that everything's going to be okay.”

Bucky shook his head, though, and crawled onto the bed, shoes and all, so he could curl up in Steve's arms, face still buried in his shoulder.

Shh, love. I've got you,” Steve murmured, ignoring how his stomach dropped at that little head-shake.

Stupid full moon,” Bucky said, and sniffled again.

Blaming it on that, huh?” Steve teased him, starting to stroke his wavy hair – he swore it grew curlier around the full moon, and he twined a little corkscrew curl around one fingertip. “Oh my God, Bucky, have a good cry. Even I know it'll do you good.”

You're the worst example of midcentury manhood. You should be telling me to buck up already, and maybe acquire a drinking problem.”

You've already got a boyfriend problem, I'm not gonna load more stuff onto you,” Steve told him, heartened when Bucky giggled.

I don't.” He was crying now, tears making tracks on his face. (Or at least the small part of his face Steve could see.) “Have a boyfriend problem, I mean.”

Is that...because you don't have a boyfriend?” Steve asked. When he'd actually been freezing to death, his heart hadn't felt this cold.

Bucky shot bolt upright. “ No it is not ,” he said firmly, and kissed Steve, hard. “I have a boyfriend and I want to keep him, got it?”

Got it,” Steve said, and smiled when Bucky settled down again, this time his head on Steve's chest. “Sorry.”

Better be,” Bucky said, resting his hand on Steve's side now, his thumb rubbing the ridge of Steve's lowest rib. He cried a little longer, silently, the tears dripping onto Steve's shirt. Steve for once in his life held himself back, just petting Bucky's hair, playing with the multiplying curls, and occasionally kissing the top of his head.

Love you,” he whispered, and Bucky tightened his arm for a moment.

Love you too,” he whispered back, and Steve hugged him hard.

For some reason this made Bucky giggle, and he tucked himself a little closer. “When you picked me up in that bar, did you ever think it'd come to this?”

No,” Steve said honestly. “I really didn't. You were hot, and nice, but mostly hot. And you were funny, how you didn't believe me about who I was.”

I didn't expect Captain fucking America to be cruising a dive! And you didn't believe me either.”

I didn't expect one of the merfolk to be cruising a dive either!” Steve said, and smiled when Bucky laughed. “And you were in your fully human form.” He stroked Bucky's hair softly. “You numbnuts. If it wasn't safe for you, you shouldn't have gone.”

Don't tell me how to live my life,” Bucky mumbled. “I was fine.”

Yeah yeah, look at the tough guy over here,” Steve teased. “Buck, I'm so happy it turned out like this, okay?”

I know. Me too. Even if you did take ten years off my life today.”

Eh, you're a pretty long-lived species, you won't miss it.”

Bucky laughed out loud at that, pushing himself up to meet Steve's eyes and smile at him. “You asshole .”

What! It's true! Mer average lifespan is like three hundred years or some shit!”

Ugh.” Bucky flopped back down. “I'm gonna need a century holiday away from you, just so you know.”

Whatever, babe. Give it a decade and you'll be whining about how you missed getting foot-rubs and you need help moving something heavy.”

I loathe you,” Bucky mumbled.

I think you're pretty damn cute too,” Steve said, and grinned when Bucky started laughing again.

It took another round of insults, and another quiet cry on Bucky's part (and a gentle request that Steve give the kissing a rest, and just hold him), but Bucky did finally sit up and smile down at Steve, in the way that made Steve feel like a sunrise was happening in his chest.

I know you're gonna be okay,” Bucky said. “But I also know you feel pain – feel it worse, because of the serum. And that hurts my heart.”

I didn't know you would care,” Steve said. “And that's not anything against you, Bucky. It's...a fact. Of my life. Why should anyone waste time and energy caring, when I'll be as good as new in a few days?”

It's a fact of SHIELD, and may I just say I have a lot of thoughts about that. It's apparently a fact of your CO and the American government during the Second World War, and I have a lot of thoughts about that too, but they're different thoughts.” Bucky smiled. “It's not a fact about your boyfriend who loves you with all of his heart.”

I'm sorry,” Steve said, and paused, and swallowed visibly. “I don't...I forgot...what it was like...”

Bucky was patient, and didn't touch Steve, and gave him time to say it all.

Very few people in my life have loved me that much,” Steve finally came up with. “I think very few people have cared about me. I never learned to be gentle with them; there wasn't time. You'll have to teach me what you need. Please forgive me, for any hurt I caused you.”

Oh my God, honey, of course.” Bucky reached out and gently took Steve's hand. “Forgiven, wholly. And I'll teach you what it is to be loved.” He smiled softly, and rubbed his thumb over Steve's knuckles. “It's not just me, you know. You have friends in the Avengers, and they care about you, honestly.”

We're getting there,” was all Steve said, and Bucky leaned over and kissed him, then kissed him again.

First rule of being loved,” he said, hand resting right over Steve's heart. “Are you in pain?”

No,” Steve said promptly. “My ankles hurt if I move them too much, or walk more than a few yards, but not when I'm in bed like this.”

Good,” Bucky said, and gave him a kiss, because if positive reinforcement worked with most animals, it would probably work on Steve. Maybe. He turned his attention to Steve's legs, running his hand lightly over them. Both ankles were in thick medical boots that covered Steve's feet and went most of the way up his calves. “Minor fractures?”

Um.” Steve looked pained. “Minor fracture on my right ankle. Less so on my left.”

Okay.” Another kiss, and Steve looked surprised.

I'm vaguely aware of your line of work,” Bucky teased. “I know this is part of the job, darling. I'm not upset you got hurt – I mean, I am, but not because I thought you weren't being careful enough or anything like that. This isn't your fault, beloved.”

I don't think you got enough pet-names in there,” Steve managed.

Sweetheart,” Bucky said, and kissed him. “My fella. My love, my Stevie, accushla, dear heart, precious.” He grinned, and winked. “Sugar tits.”

Oh my God.” Steve laughed out loud, and there was a moment for hugging, Bucky's head resting on Steve's shoulder so nicely.

He sat up again and rubbed Steve's leg just above the brace. “No swimming, huh?” he said, and Steve made a face.

No. I'm sorry, love, I hate missing the full moon.”

Me too.” Bucky kissed him lightly. “Will you be hurt if I go to swim without you? Just for an hour or two?”

I'll be furious at you if you don't go for several hours. Take Toro, he can use my pass,” Steve said firmly. “Baby, you're already itchy in your skin, and it's not even til tomorrow night. If I gotta learn what it is to be loved, you gotta promise me you'll keep taking care of yourself.” He rubbed Bucky's shoulder, thumb massaging where an arm wasn't. “I wanna hear all about how you stayed underwater for most of the night.”

I don't like you,” Bucky informed him.

What's good for the...gander, is good for the other gander,” Steve said smugly.

I really don't like you.” Bucky leaned over and kissed Steve's knee. “I'm sorry you got hurt, by the way.”

Thank you. It pretty much sucks on my end, too.” Steve smiled down at Bucky, curled over and with his head resting on Steve's leg now. “Oh, ew, you're gross. Precious.

Bucky giggled, the edges of his eyes crinkling as he grinned up at Steve. “How long you gotta take it easy?”

A few days?” Steve shrugged. “Not long.”

Good.” Bucky sat up again and started to untie his shoes, taking them off so he could more easily cuddle up with Steve. “How was the mission, by the way?”

Steve shrugged. “Pretty straightforward, to be honest. Good. The Avengers aren't a bad team, for all that we can barely be in a room together.”

It's not that bad, you big drama queen,” Bucky teased. “You're all just...really strong personalities.”

Comes with the territory, I guess.” Steve took Bucky's hand once it was free and started playing a little with his fingers, stroking the silver scales and tracing the edges of the webbing. He smiled when Bucky pushed a little closer to Mer form, the scales thickening and the webbing extending to his fingertips. “Are you one of the ones who can shift to full Mer on land, love?”

Technically, yes, but it's pretty painful, so I don't.”

Steve frowned. “Is this painful? I mean, what you're doing right now?”

Not at all,” Bucky assured him, and turned his hand in Steve's, making the scales gleam in the light.

You're so beautiful.” Steve bent his head to kiss the inside of Bucky's wrist.

Thank you.” Bucky smiled up at him. “Second rule of being loved, by the way. I'm here to help, Steve. With dinner, with keeping you from getting bored, anything you want, or need.”

Minus tomorrow night, when you're going swimming.”

Bucky sighed noisily. “ Fine . But only because I know I'd be useless if I didn't get in the pool, not because you're telling me to.”

I take my victories where I can get them,” Steve said with a shrug.

No you don't, you fighty little bastard.”

Steve cracked up at that and hauled Bucky up the bed and into his arms, the two of them kissing sweetly.

Third rule of being loved,” Bucky said. “I care about you. Please tell me when you get hurt, as soon as you can, or make sure someone on the team knows to let me know. I want to know, so I can be with you as soon as possible.”

Okay,” Steve said shyly. “I don't want to bother you, though --”

You're not. Actually – let me know when you're home safe too, please? I don't know every time you go out, but I worry, you know?”

I know,” Steve admitted. “I worry about you, too.”

Bucky made a face. “I wish you didn't have to.”

I wish you could be comfortable all the time,” Steve agreed, and trailed a fingertip down the curves of Bucky's face. “It's hard for you to shift into human form, isn't it?”

Not hard. But it's something I have to concentrate on,” Bucky admitted, leaning into Steve's touch. “I like that I can look human when I want to. But yeah. It's...a thing.” He sighed. “And the one-arm thing doesn't help.”

Guess not.” Steve kissed Bucky softly, then again, a bit less softly. “I love you.”

Thanks.” Bucky smiled and snuggled close. “Love you too.”

 

So that's dinner time,” Bucky said when Steve's stomach growled loudly.

Sorry,” Steve mumbled sheepishly, but he smiled at Bucky. “I've got a ton of food in the kitchen, we can just heat something up.”

Mmm. Let's see what you've got.” Bucky grinned at him. “You've behaved yourself eerily well, so you can come and keep me company if you promise to stay off your feet.”

I'm just lulling you into a false sense of security,” Steve said, carefully standing and settling a pair of crutches under his arms.

Whatever buys me time,” Bucky said, and he kissed Steve sweetly, arm loose around his waist; a reward for moving gently and using the crutches.

Clint had some clickers for training his dogs – I bet he'd lend you one if you asked him,” Steve said innocently.

Just because you know you're being trained doesn't mean it won't work,” Bucky said, and they walked (or hobbled, in Steve's case) to the big kitchen. Bucky watched him pointedly until he sat down and put his feet up, then kissed him again. And once more.

Remember the first rule,” he said softly. “Are you hurting?”

Not enough to matter.”

I'll take it.” Bucky ruffled his hair and started exploring the kitchen. There were definitely leftovers – like enough spaghetti and meatballs to feed an army. Or, at least, him and Steve. He set about reheating them, and found a very sad piece of parmesan in the back of the fridge.

Tell me about when you were little, before the Mer started living on land?” he asked, digging around for a grater. Steve had every other kitchen appliance known to man, he must have one somewhere.

I saw my first Mer when I was a teenager,” Steve said, and laughed at Bucky's astonished look. “Really! I mean, I'd seen pictures, but not even very many of those. He was about your age, with black hair and blue eyes, and blue-green scales.”

Oh,” Bucky breathed, and Steve smiled at him.

Yeah. He was...stunning. Just amazing. It was at Coney Island, so I could see his arms and legs and...yeah.” He smiled shyly. “I tried not to stare, but, um. Anyway. Yeah, before that...” he shrugged. “Obviously I knew Merfolk existed, but if any of them spent time on land, they were like you, and stayed in their human form. It wasn't anything anyone really talked about. I know there were Mer-human couples back then, but really no one talked about it. It's like...we were two species, who were so alike, but we didn't really interact. It's weird looking back on it, but it was normal then.”

Bucky listened, fascinated. “You really weren't curious?”

I was! But it's like...look, you're curious about what the surface of the moon smells like, right?”

Bucky nodded, and Steve continued. “But you're probably not going to find out ever; not firsthand anyway. And it's not something you're going to, like, devote your life to finding out.”

I get it,” Bucky said, and smiled. “But you get to find out. Learn everything you ever wanted to about Mer-folk.”

Yeah,” Steve admitted, and smiled. “I can read everything I want, and talk to you. I get to love you, and watch you swim, and be a part of things like the full moon. It's...amazing,” he admitted, and laughed when Bucky set a plate in front of him with a kiss. “If I could go back in time and tell my younger self about you, you'd be a miracle.”

Stop that,” Bucky chided gently. “I just want to be your lover.”

Fine, that too.” Steve started eating once Bucky was seated with his own plate. “Oh, hey. Is anyone gonna be upset that you just...left work to come here?”

Nah. I've got some stupid amount of comp time, and my presence isn't really vital to the continuing operations of SHIELD, y'know?” Bucky asked with a shrug. “It was a slow day anyway.”

I think it's really cute how you pretend to me you're not important,” Steve said.

I'm not! I mean, not really. I could be replaced.”

Mmmm. Yeah, that's why you're in an office that is located deep enough to withstand anything short of a nuclear missile,” Steve said.

Bucky gave a start, and looked at him sharply. “It helps to be near the rest of my department.”

Who are also located in probably the safest spot in Manhattan. But you'd want that, from your support staff.”

Bucky narrowed his eyes.

Steve looked at him.

Motherfucker,” Bucky said, and Steve started laughing.

You're good, baby, I'll give you that. I really did think you were just a cog in the machine.”

Who gave me away?” Bucky groaned.

Maria Hill, actually. I mentioned I was dating you and she nearly choked on her coffee.”

She did not.”

She did!” Steve protested. “Honest. And then I innocently asked her if she knew you, and she, uh, educated me. Loudly. And at length.”

Bucky laughed out loud. “Oh, God. So, yeah.” He smiled shyly. “I never intended to fool you, or anything, I swear. I really don't think I'm that important. Maria...disagrees.”

She said that, too. And proceeded to correct me on just how important you are to SHIELD.” Steve smiled and reached across the table. “I'm really proud of you, Bucky. Truly.”

Thanks. But, um, don't. I'm lucky to have an amazing staff, it's all them.”

Uh huh.” Steve squeezed Bucky's wrist briefly, then let go so he could eat again. “Still proud of you,” he stage-whispered, and grinned when Bucky groaned.

 

Postscript One:

I've got you, baby,” Steve murmured, his hands tight on Bucky's hips, helping to hold him up while Bucky reached back with a slicked-up hand, stroking Steve's cock. “Oh, God, oh, Buck, you feel so good.”

Bucky grinned wickedly at Steve as he slowly, slowly sank down onto Steve's cock, easing his way, relying on Steve's strong hands to hold him up. Steve was lying on a few pillows, so not completely prone, and it was easy to bend forward, pause for a moment, give him a searing kiss.

Please, please,” Steve begged, and Bucky eased himself down until he was sitting on Steve, panting and leaning back a little. “Shh, baby, just rest a moment.”

Shut it,” Bucky ground out, and rolled his hips, his cock bobbing a little at the movement. “Fuck, Steve, just...” he groaned and rolled his hips again. And smacked Steve's thigh when he arched up to meet him. “You hold still.”

Don't tell me what to do,” Steve said, and squeezed Bucky's legs hard.

You are supposed to be taking it easy,” Bucky rasped out, and moaned when he shifted to just the right place. “Oh, oh, oh fuck, you're so...”

If you wanted me to take it easy, you should've rubbed one out in the shower,” Steve said.

Bite my entire ass,” Bucky said, his hand loose around his cock now, stroking slow and easy. “Ah, ah, oh, Steve, wanna stay like this forever, want to be this close forever.”

How do you do that,” Steve murmured, drawing Bucky down for a kiss. “We're fucking and fighting and you go and make me fall in love with you again.”

You think this is fighting?” Bucky asked, but he was smiling, and his kiss was tender. “Stevie, fuck, oh....” He dropped his head, holding himself up with his arm and rocked back, riding Steve with obvious bliss, with abandon.

Faster,” Steve said. “Ah, God, like that, oh, you're so good, like that, fuck, fuck, baby, I can't --”

So don't,” Bucky said, and lifted up a little, then sank back down, his hand moving a little faster on his own cock. He only had to do that a few more times and Steve was crying out, hands squeezing on Bucky's thighs, his hips tight against Bucky's ass as he wailed and came.

Bucky moved his hand faster, timing himself, his orgasm starting just as Steve's ended, and he came with a sharp cry, cock spurting, face flushed, and absolutely absorbed in pleasure.

He barely held himself up, not wanting to be apart from Steve just yet, but his strength didn't last, not when he was shuddering, still whimpering as he rocked up and forward, Steve's cock slipping out.

Baby, baby,” Steve murmured. “Shhh, c'mere. I've got you, babydoll. C'mon, Buck – that's it. Get us both messy,” he teased gently, as Bucky rested, their bellies pressed together.

Bucky gave him a bleary smile, then tucked his face into the crook of Steve's neck, catching his breath while Steve rubbed his back, fingertips tracing the line where scales became skin.

I love you,” Steve whispered. “My Bucky, my man teaching me to be loved.”

Bucky nodded, and pressed a little closer, and Steve held him through the afterglow, the two of them breathing together, sweat (and other things) cooling and drying.

Bucky started giggling when he tried to sit up and found their stomachs were pretty well glued together, and laughed harder at Steve's yelp when their skin pulled apart. “Oh my God, we're both practically hairless, grow up.”

It stings! Honest to God, yours is stickier or something.”

Bucky snickered, and kissed Steve's cheek. “Tastes better, though.”

Not with as much coffee as you drink.” Steve's words would have had a great deal more impact, Bucky thought, if Steve didn't take every chance he had to lick Bucky clean, or go down on him, or otherwise taste him.

I'll go get a washcloth, then.” Bucky kissed Steve quickly, and got them cleaned up, gentle but efficient. He fussed until Steve propped his feet up on extra pillows, and finally curled into his side, lights out and the lamplight from the city glowing through the curtains. “No pain?” Bucky asked softly, touching Steve's leg.

None,” Steve assured him. “Lying still, nothing hurts.”

Good.” Bucky snuggled a little closer. “Love you. Night.”

Hey Buck?” Steve asked.

Hmmm?”

What rule are we on?”

Uh. Four?”

Okay.” Steve stroked Bucky's back, long and strong, running his hand along the bumps of his spine. “Rule number four of being loved. I'm going to screw up, a lot. But you have to promise that you'll remember that I never, ever intend to hurt you. And I'll always work my ass off to be the best man I can be.”

I promise,” Bucky said softly, his hand resting on Steve's chest. “I promise to talk it out with you, and to be the best I can be for you, too.”

We'll be okay, then,” Steve said, and felt Bucky smile against his shoulder.

Yeah, baby.” Bucky yawned, and hugged Steve, and settled down again. “We're gonna be fine.”

 

Postscript Two:

Honey, what are you doing up?” Bucky scolded, letting himself into Steve's bedroom. “It's the middle of the night.”

I can sleep in tomorrow,” Steve said, and held his arms out, laughing when he got a lapful of giggling Mer. “And there was no way I was going to miss you on the full moon, love.”

Bucky giggled again, and pressed kisses to Steve's throat. “I love you.”

Are you drunk?” Steve asked, delighted.

Li'l bit.” Bucky grinned and rolled over, wrapping his arm around Steve and hugging him tightly. “Tati said thank you for the pass, by the way.”

I know. She stole your phone and sent me pictures,” Steve said, cracking up when Bucky yelped and dove for his phone. In lieu of Steve, Bucky had taken a distant cousin who was visiting New York, and she had been kind enough to send Steve a string of pictures and video. Most of them were even actually nice.

You're so gorgeous when you're swimming,” Steve murmured, kissing Bucky's ear, as he frantically scrolled through his texting history. “Tell her I said thank you, truly. It meant a lot to see you that way.”

Oh, Steve,” Bucky breathed, and set his phone aside. “I've got a treat for you.” He started to undress.

Oh do you?” Steve cackled, and smiled into Bucky's kiss.

Touch my hip,” Bucky whispered in his ear. “Close your eyes, and just touch me.”

Oooh, yes please,” Steve purred, and did so. And gasped, when he felt Bucky's skin change under his hand, felt the muscle there swell and smooth out, until Bucky was lying there, right in Steve's bed, fully changed into mer form. “Buck, no, this hurts you, don't do this for me,” he protested.

Bucky giggled and kissed him. “Doesn't hurt right now. Gotta concentrate but...full moon. And drunk. And in love.” He rolled over carefully, and delicately rested the fin of his tail on Steve's legs, still encased in the medical boots. “And you need a treat.”

I've got one,” Steve said softly, but he brushed his hand down Bucky's tail, caressing the scales. “Oh my God. I can't believe you're real.”

Bucky laughed and pushed himself up with his arm, stretching so that Steve could see where Bucky's torso turned into tail, the silver scales growing thicker.

Steve trailed his hand down Bucky's belly, caressing, eyes still wide with awe. Bucky's tailfin was translucent gray and looked unreal, gently resting on his legs. Steve stroked his hand down the length of the big tail, finally just barely touching the thin membrane, stretched nearly double to reach.

Bucky giggled and flicked his tail, brushing against Steve's hand, then draped it over his feet again. It was so beautiful, especially against the ugly boots, it made Steve's heart hurt.

God, but I love you,” he whispered, and gathered his mer-man close, his Bucky who came so easily and kissed so happily.

Bucky's form changed, going back to the hybrid he wore most easily, and he laughed, looking down at his naked self. “Ooops, sorry.”

You have nothing to be sorry for,” Steve chided, and caressed Bucky's bare hip. “You're just as beautiful like this.”

Bucky flushed at the praise, and Steve kissed him again, moving carefully to wrap around Bucky.

Your ankles,” Bucky protested, but Steve shook his head.

Don't hurt in the least,” he murmured, in between kissing Bucky's throat, their bodies pressing together. Each soft touch made Bucky gasp a little, made him react so beautifully it was addictive.

Dawn was just breaking when they finally fell asleep, Steve bossed back into lying on his back, his legs propped up, and Bucky, in his hybrid form, lying mostly on top of him. His body was heavy with drink and love and the special soothing that the full moon brought him. Floating in the odd place between dreaming and awake, Steve wondered if the feeling was catching. This bliss shouldn't be possible, otherwise; he'd never fallen asleep so happy and secure and right .

Chapter Text

This is a scientific study,” Steve said with great dignity.

Oh, my ass. They barely taught science in school when you were growing up.”

I learned from other places, Bucky,” Steve informed him.

Like?”

Comic...books? Look, if it hadn't been for my generation's total ignorance, the government would never have been terrified of losing the space race, so you're welcome for your scientific education, young Barnes.”

Bucky made a face. “Have I ever told you it's a massive turn-off when you try to pull the 'I'm an old man' card?”

Don't care,” Steve said happily.

Baby, if I can't get turned on, your dumb experiment isn't going to get very far.”

Steve made a dismissive noise. “Buck, I know you. All I gotta do is wiggle my ass at you and maybe suck your dick for like a second and you'll get cross-eyed and be coming and moaning about how pretty my eyes are.”

That happened once and I was drunk,” Bucky yelped, wishing desperately that he could cross his arms.

Still happened,” Steve said.

Bucky snorted and rolled over, landing on top of him. He closed his eyes and pushed himself as close to mer as he could without it actually hurting – and, just as expected, felt Steve's cock twitch against his belly. “See?” he asked, opening his eyes and reverting to his usual hybrid form. “You're the easy one.”

You're the easy one,” Steve mimicked in a high voice, and Bucky groaned and shoved him, so Steve shoved back. Bucky flared his gills, hoping there might be some water left over from his last shower – a very fine mist, but okay, it would do.

Steve yelped and shoved him away and Bucky laughed and pounced, the two of them rolling over and over on the giant bed. They finished in the middle somehow, wrestling quickly turning to necking.

So as I was saying,” Steve said, between kisses growing ever more frantic.

You have a kink and wanna justify it.”

I have a kink and I'm curious.” Steve laughed out loud at the look on Bucky's face. “Oh, sorry, was the idea of Captain America being kinky as fuck supposed to surprise me?”

I guess not,” Bucky mused, thinking over their sex life so far. “Also, when you get the new uniform, can you fuck me while you wear it?”

Jesus. Yes.” Steve smirked. “I'll lay you over the shield.”

Bucky whimpered.

Right, about my kink and both our curiosities,” Steve corrected. “Let me come first. Then, depending on where it lands on me, you come on me someplace else --”

Like your face?” Bucky suggested, just to watch Steve shudder, pause, and try to remember how to talk again. “I'll try to pretend to aim for your mouth, if that helps.”

Fuuuuck,” Steve hissed, and surged over for a hard kiss. “Like my belly. Wanna see 'em both side by side...”

Aye aye, Cap'n. Cover your belly and chest in come, until you're sticky and worn out--”

Stop talking,” Steve ground out, one hand around his cock.

Why?” Bucky asked innocently, gently batting Steve's hand out of the way. “You like when I talk to you, babydoll. When I tell you how sexy you are, how gorgeous. How much I love your cock.” He smiled sweetly, moving his hand a little faster. “You love it when I tease you. Oh, hey – you like the feel of scales on your cock, right?” he asked sweetly, shifting just a little to grow the line of scales up his arm, silver and glinting when he twisted his wrist.

Steve groaned and sank back on the bed while Bucky got him off, cooing to him while his hand twisted and moved, stroking faster until he just started to feel it shake.

That's it, baby,” he whispered. “Come all over yourself for me, love, so I can see how my baby looks when he's messy and gorgeous and so happy. Come on yourself so I can taste it, please.”

Steve whimpered and Bucky kissed him through the orgasm, teasing set aside for the moment to cuddle and kiss his man, stroke his hair and murmur nice things to him while Bucky kissed him again, long and sweet.

Mmm. Love you,” Steve drawled, and Bucky giggled and kissed his nose.

Love you too. Now lie still, sweetheart, it's my turn.” He kissed Steve again, then again, slow and lingering, wrapping his hand around his own cock.

He put on a little show for a sleepy-eyed Steve, aimed for his chest, and let the orgasm take him, careful to land beside Steve for his post-coital kisses.

“You're just as big a softy as I am,” Steve said, clearly bemused.

“Sh'up,” Bucky mumbled contentedly. He was loose and comfortable and so happy, cuddled into his impossible lover's side.

“Softy.” Steve whispered, and poked him in the side.

Bucky giggled and gave a lazy squirm. “Gimme a minute! You got to recover.”

“Uh huh,” Steve sighed, and Bucky giggled again, resting his head on Steve's shoulder and graciously letting him drop kisses on Bucky's face.

Better?” Steve asked softly when Bucky looked up, blinking, his eyes clear again.

Mmmhmm.” He leaned over for a deep kiss, then one more, then sat up to look at Steve's torso. “Wow.”

Yeah.” Steve touched the stuff on his chest. It did look a little different – Bucky's was pearlescent, maybe a little tinged in blue. “I was right, yours is definitely stickier.”

Bucky poked at both, and reluctantly agreed. “You make more, though.”

That, uh. That's not all me,” Steve admitted, and Bucky laughed.

Man, super-serum is good for everything,” he teased, and leaned over to kiss the tip of Steve's nose. “Taste for me, love,” he murmured, and swiped a fingertip through Steve's spend on his belly, moaning his approval when Steve sucked it off his fingertip. “Now mine,” he murmured, and followed the same procedure.

Ah ah – don't say anything to influence me,” he teased, holding up a hand. “My turn, now.” Bucky leaned over, supporting himself on his arm, and lapped first at Steve's belly, then his chest.

Oh Jesus,” Steve breathed. “I...oh. Oh, Bucky. Look at your face...”

Bucky giggled and kissed him. “Yours is saltier.”

Yeah, yours is definitely sweeter,” Steve admitted. “'s pretty, too. I like it.”

I'll have to come on you a lot, then,” Bucky cooed, and grinned when Steve's eyes rolled into his head. “I like yours,” he whispered, kissing Steve's ear. “I like that it's you, that it shows how happy I can make you. I like the feel, when it fills me up, warm and salty and you.”

Steve moaned and arched his back, cock twitching and starting to fill again.

Oh, yes, baby,” Bucky cooed, extremely pleased with himself.

Steve just groaned, as Bucky wrapped his hand around his cock. He stroked it a few times, and leaned over for a filthy kiss. “Can I ride you?”

The answer to that is always yes,” Steve muttered, rolling his hips.

Bucky laughed softly rummaged around for the condoms and lube – never very far away, since they'd arrived at their little cottage by the sea. He unrolled the condom onto Steve because, pretty words aside, this just made clean-up a million times easier. Bucky quickly slicked his fingers and stretched himself open, leaning over for a deep, filthy kiss.

“It's not a race,” Steve said, cupping his hand around Bucky's bottom. His thumb brushed hard against the arc of his hip. “Easy, love.”

“Shut uuuup. I'm fine.” Bucky leaned over and kissed him until Steve couldn't make words and then, satisfied, reached back to wrap his hand around Steve's cock and slowly sink down onto it.

“Oh fuck,” he breathed, while Steve just moaned, his hands on Bucky's thighs and helping him ease down.

Steve moaned again as Bucky settled on his hips, and laced his hand with Bucky's, holding on when Bucky started to rock back and forth.

“Christ, fuck, yes --” Steve bit back further words, just making the deep sounds that Bucky loved like crazy, adored how Steve lost himself in pleasure like this.

He did this to Steve, just him, just their bodies coming together, and this enchanted Bucky. He caressed the soft skin on the inside of Steve's forearm, then clasped their hands together again, interweaving their fingers, and stretched Steve's arm over his head, leaning forward, then rocking suddenly back.

Steve yelped and howled, called Bucky's name and chased him down for kisses, his hand on Bucky's side, thumb brushing the curve of his gills, and they rocked together for a good long time, both of them careful to draw it out, careful not to push too hard, until Steve gave one final gasp, arched his back, and came.

Bucky slowly separated them, gentle with his giant, superhero boyfriend who was suddenly soft and vulnerable. He took care of the condom, and of cleaning them both up, before lying down and immediately being engulfed in a pile of Steve Rogers.

Hi, baby,” he teased, and giggled when Steve started to kiss down his neck.

You're the best,” Steve said happily, and Bucky giggled again, accepting some sweet kisses.

Yeah, I try.” He chased Steve's mouth down and kissed him back, easy as anything, savoring how carefree they were, even just for this week.

Ocean soon,” Steve promised him, voice still a little bleary, and Bucky nodded and snuggled him a little closer.

Soon,” he agreed. But first, a little time just for each other.

 

Steve laughed as he ran down the beach after Bucky. “Oh my God, slow down!”

No!” Bucky called over his shoulder, and stopped at the edge of the water, shedding his clothes. “C'mon! Ugh, you can be naked you loser, no one else knows about this place.”

Unlike some of us, I keep my external genitalia in the water,” Steve informed him, stripping off his t-shirt and adding it to Bucky's pile. “Some protection is better than nothing.”

Bucky rolled his eyes and waited impatiently for Steve to take ten seconds to get his shoes off. “Come on, you'll love this,” he said, and took Steve's hand, drawing him into the ocean.

You'll love this,” Steve teased, giggling when Bucky dove into a wave, and quickly dove after him. He opened his eyes, blinking against the salty water, and watched his lover transform in front of him.

Bucky smiled, his second eyelids in place, and reached for Steve, pulling him close. They rose to the top of the water together, and Bucky was kissing him, tail wrapping around Steve's body, as soon as they broke to the surface.

I love you,” Bucky said, and Steve touched the tip of his chin, tilting it up for another kiss.

I love you,” he said softly. “Bucky, you're so amazing.”

Aw, you just don't know enough other Mer,” Bucky teased.

Yeah I do.” Steve touched their lips together, just brushing them, while the swells in the water gently moved their bodies. “I know plenty. But I love you.”

Bucky just smiled, and kissed Steve again. “Swim with me a little while?”

How about for a long while?”

Bucky giggled, and took Steve's hand, leading him on a dance through the cool water. He didn't look any different than when he changed into his full-Mer form in the pool, but now they had a whole ocean to play in, and Steve could, just barely, keep up as Bucky sped through the water.

Bucky dove beneath the waves, his tail automatically compensating for the changes in current, for the cross-currents, for every little thing. He reached behind him to pull Steve along as needed, his lack of an arm hardly noticeable under the water. They left land far behind but, of course, Steve was safe as could be with Bucky navigating currents he'd known all his life. He moved them into the deep ocean, clearly heading somewhere but taking his time to get there.

Want to see something amazing?” Bucky asked, and Steve nodded. He had come up for air and Bucky had come up with him this time. They had moved back towards the coast, to a little inlet north of where they were staying.

Do you trust me?”

Of course,” Steve said. “Of course I trust you.”

Bucky smiled. “Okay. I think you'll be able to hold your breath long enough, but if you need air, I can breathe for you. Hold on tight to me, around my waist, and don't let go .”

I promise,” Steve said, and smiled when Bucky pulled him close for a long kiss. He wrapped his arms around Bucky's waist and, as requested, held on while they dove deep, his head nestled against Bucky's back. Bucky's stomach was hard and strong, and his tail, pure muscle, moved against Steve's body with incredible strength and control. Everything about his lover was perfect; Bucky in full Mer form not in some sad little pool but here, in the ocean, with the whole world at their feet.

Steve privately promised himself that he'd get Bucky to a proper ocean as often as they could. This was a thousand times better than an inner-city pool. (And they had a pretty little cottage all to themselves to go home to, to cuddle together and make love as often as they liked, which was a lot.)

Bucky dove them straight down and Steve could just make out a rocky outcrop before the sunlight filtering through the ocean was cut off. Closing his eyes against the dark, he felt Bucky swim them into an opening in the rocks, the water temperature dropping considerably. He held on tighter, and felt Bucky's hand on his. A gentle squeeze and a caress; you're not alone. You're not in a plane, dying in the Arctic. Your boyfriend is here, and he can breathe for you.

He felt Bucky tilt up, and swim through warmer waters, and didn't let go, holding his breath until the rush of water and then a pop to the surface, and Bucky turning around and holding him lightly, gently. “Hey,” he murmured. “It's okay, you can breathe now. Just breathe to start with.”

Steve smiled and did as he was told. “I'm okay. Honest.”

Good.” Bucky kissed over each eye, then wiped them with his thumb, and pressed a smile against Steve's cheek. “Open your eyes, lover.”

Steve did, and gasped. They were in a cave of stars.

He turned around, still loose in Bucky's embrace. “Whoa.”

Bucky giggled. “Uh huh!”

The cave was lit by dim sunlight – there was an opening high above them, wide enough to light up a patch of sand and rocks, but keep the water and the walls in a dim twilight. Something in the rock here – mica, Steve guessed – picked up the dim light and reflected it, making the whole place shimmer, the tiny dots of brightness reflected in the cool water. “Oh my God.”

Bucky smiled. “Even among the Mer, I don't know if anyone else knows about this place.”

This is incredible,” Steve breathed. He gently pushed away from Bucky and swam over to one of the walls, running his hand over the sparkling, rough stone. “Bucky, thank you.”

Bucky giggled again, swimming up behind him and kissing the back of his neck. “I knew you'd love it here.”

Completely,” Steve agreed, and turned around to kiss Bucky again. “How did you find this place?”

Bucky shrugged. “Went exploring when I was a kid. I found the entrance and followed it to...here.”

Do I even need to tell you you could've been killed?”

Bucky giggled and poked Steve in the belly. “Like that woulda stopped you ?”

Point.” Steve kissed him. “Can I get up onto the beach part?”

Of course, love.” Bucky helped him swim over, and they figured out together how Steve could scramble up the steep drop-off and sit in the sunlight. Bucky ably swung himself up one-armed, and twisted to sit beside Steve, the end of his tail still in the water.

Steve smiled at him and leaned over, kissing his boyfriend very, very thoroughly. “Beautiful.”

Yeah, it's great here,” Bucky agreed.

You're beautiful,” Steve murmured against Bucky's skin.

Bucky giggled softly and leaned into Steve, the two of them making out lavishly, affectionately, kissing for the pure joy of it. Steve's hand rested on Bucky's tail, stroking the slick scales. He drew his hand around to the front of the tail, to what would have been his lap if he'd had legs.

You're so fucking perfect,” he murmured, and rubbed his thumb along the ridge where Bucky's scales met his skin. “I love you.”

Bucky just smiled into his mouth, and kissed harder.

They took a breather to lie on the beach together, soaking in the sunlight that filtered down from the high skylight. “Hey baby?” Steve asked, hesitating.

We can't really have sex when I've got the tail, sorry,” Bucky said.

I am not that obvious,” Steve huffed.

You are the most obvious,” Bucky said, pushing himself up, and leaning right over to kiss Steve. “Sorry, love.”

We really can't?” Steve asked wistfully.

Well, I mean I can get you off,” Bucky pointed out, and Steve shook his head.

Not if I can't give you pleasure too.” He rested his hand on Bucky's lap. “I thought you had a, um...I don't even know what to call it. Where your sperm comes out.”

I do,” Bucky said, and moved Steve's hand a few inches lower. He bent Steve's forefinger and gently pushed it into a slit that had been all but invisible. “That. Technically, it's a urethra. Kind of.”

Steve nodded. “Does this hurt?” he asked, and Bucky shook his head.

I can feel it, but it doesn't hurt or anything. You can push deeper if you like,” he said. “It won't really feel like anything though. To you, I mean.”

You're right,” Steve admitted, slipping his fingertip a little deeper. “What's it feel like for you? When I do this?”

Like this,” Bucky said, and poked Steve in the bellybutton. “It's kind of intimate, I guess, because it's you. But it doesn't feel like anything. Not like when I'm in hybrid or human form, and you've got your finger up my bum or anything like that.”

Steve giggled and slipped his fingertip out, kissing the thin slit. “I love you. Do Mer not orgasm?” he asked.

Yes and no.” Bucky stretched out, lying back on the fine sand, his arm stretched out above his head. “I never have in this form. A couple merpeople can come from fantasizing hard enough or whatever, but we don't really have orgasms. Reproduction...isn't totally separate from desire and pleasure, but it kind of is, you know? It's all hormones and taste and stuff.”

Steve nodded slowly. “Oh, that makes sense.” He rolled over and stretched on his belly, lacing his fingers with Bucky's, gritted with sand. “Does anything feel especially good, though?”

Yeah! Oh man, yeah!” Bucky giggled. “I mean, kissing obviously. Being held and cuddled and caressed on my human half – that all feels just as amazing as when I'm hybrid.” He squeezed Steve's hand. “Intimate things – when your finger was inside of me, that may not have felt like anything special, but my brain was damn well enjoying how curious you are, how gentle and how intimate it was to have you penetrating me in any way.” He grinned at Steve. “If you run your hands down the sides of my tail, that feels really good, like getting a massage does. And the very tip of my tail fin is a little sensitive.”

Steve giggled, and leaned over to kiss Bucky deeply. “Good to know.” He moved to kneel beside Bucky and kiss him again, trailing his mouth over Bucky's jaw and down his neck, tasting salt-flavored skin. “Thank you for letting me love you like this.”

Well, it's not hard,” Bucky said, deeply bemused. “Oh, baby. I am so glad I snatched you up before anyone else could get to you. Want you all to myself.”

Steve giggled, and kissed each of Bucky's nipples in turn, licking the tip of the second one, just a little tease, before he kissed down to Bucky's belly, flat and strong.

He sat up a little to smile down at his lover, and started caressing the sides of Bucky's tail, varying pressure until he found what made Bucky moan. Steve was slow and easy; they weren't working towards anything other than Bucky's pleasure, and the sweet sounds he made, lying in sunlight in the sparkling cave.

Gradually, Steve worked his way down to the translucent gray fin, and gently fanned it out in his lap. “Beauty,” he murmured, and touched his fingertips to the frilly edge.

Bucky gave a little gasp, and a giggle. “Tickles. But good.”

Steve laughed at him, and ran his fingertips along the sides of Bucky's tail.

Augh! Stop!” Bucky yelped, squirming as Steve kept tickling him. “Oh my God!”

Steve laughed harder, running his fingers along the edge of Bucky's tailfin, then reaching up to tickle his belly, then going for his tail again, all until Bucky was breathless with laughter, tears leaking out of his eyes, gasping out curses.

Steve giggled and moved to lie back beside Bucky, the two of them kissing sweetly (once Bucky had caught his breath, and also swatted Steve good). Gentle kisses faded away, and they just held each other, Steve's head on Bucky's chest, watching the way the light changed as the sun moved across the sky.

Want to go back?” Bucky asked softly, when Steve started to get a little wiggly.

No.” Steve smiled. “But I'm getting really hungry, so I guess we should. Can we come back tomorrow?”

Of course.” Bucky kissed him. “We'll bring food with us, make a little picnic.”

Steve grinned and kissed back. “Awesome. I wanna stay in the water all day tomorrow, if we can.”

Oh hell yes.” Bucky giggled, and hugged him tightly. “C'mon, hold onto to me tight, we have to swim out to the ocean again. A little, extra kiss. “Close your eyes, and remember I'm here, and I love you, and I won't let anything hurt you. This is my place.”

Steve smiled shyly. “I remember. You know they sent Merfolk to look for my plane?”

Uh huh. Everyone learned that, at my school.” Bucky caressed his face. “That we failed.”

Bull. Shit.” Steve looked startled, then angry. “They seriously taught you that? That you failed because you couldn't find one tiny plane in a fucking giant ocean?”

Bucky shrugged. “Well, we did. We're supposed to be good at this shit, you know?”

Steve's color was up, his face pale with anger except for two pink spots on his cheeks. “How dare they. How dare they say that about...how fucking dare they .” He cupped Bucky's face in his hands. “I have never, will never believe that it was failure. It was the most insane courage. I know they chose merfolk who were adapted to the icy waters, but to search the cold and the dark, to go in knowing that it was dangerous, fuck, that it was nearly hopeless! I know their names, and I know they all got frostbite. I know that their leader lost part of his tail. All that, just to look for a dead man.” He kissed Bucky, hard. “I will have some fucking words with everyone about that when we're back in the city, I tell you what. It is a goddamn fucking shame that you were told that. There was no failure, you got me? None. None whatsoever. Just bravery and courage like I could only aspire to.”

You're plenty brave, you dumbass,” Bucky managed. And then, more quietly, “Of course they were brave. Of course they didn't fail. Everyone knows that. What's taught and what every Mer kid knows aren't always the same thing.”

Well it fucking well should be,” Steve said, and shook his head. “Sorry. I'm messing up your beautiful day.” Another kiss, softer this time. “I love you. I love your people, for caring. I love that you all know they were heroes. And I'll make sure everyone knows I know that too.” Another kiss. “C'mon, love. Let's go back to our place now.”

Bucky smiled. “I was gonna , then you got all righteous,” he teased. But he also kissed Steve, and very thoroughly, too.

They slipped back into the water together, Steve holding onto Bucky for the long, dark swim back to the open ocean, and then the two of them swimming back to their private beach together, playing a little in the waves, chasing each other. (Mostly Steve chasing Bucky, if he was honest.)

They got back to their little beach just as the sun began to drop in the sky, Steve walking out of the water. Bucky let a wave wash him up on the beach, where he changed back into his hybrid form. Steve reached out and they clasped forearms, Bucky hauling himself up. He pulled on his shorts and they both carried their sandals for the short walk to the house, Steve's arm around Bucky's waist, easy and casual in the low summer sunlight, the two of them going home together.

Chapter Text

Hi, Maria,” Bucky said, giving her his most charming smile.

Oh for the fuck of shit,” Maria Hill said.

You know better than to be surprised,” Bucky said, still with that sweet smile in place.

Maria sighed loudly. “You know what? Fine. It's probably better this way. You can deal with him.”

I love my reputation,” Bucky gloated. Show up, look at Maria, get let in to see his boyfriend who got hit with some serum-reversing shit and –

He stopped, startled. Photos...did not do pre-serum Steve justice.

Bucky!” Steve scrambled in the hospital bed, tangled in covers. “I didn't think you...what're you doing here?”

Uh.” This was not what Bucky had envisioned. Then again, thinking about it, Steve letting Bucky sit by his bed and stroke his hair and kiss him softly, the two of them gazing into each others' eyes was pretty unlikely. This was Steve. Steve did not respond to comfort the way most people did.

Steve's pointy chin stuck out. “Here to assess my capabilities?” he said angrily. “To see how much SHIELD's lost, now that I don't have the serum?”

Bucky blinked. “...No. Steve, I've told you like fifty times, you're not really my job.”

So what're you doing here?” Holy hell, Steve had a glare on him.

I'm here to see you. To see how you're doing. To...be with you. If you want me.” Bucky reminded himself that Steve was defensive because he was used to being treated like shit in re: his bodily autonomy. That Steve was depressed and in a strange time, and that he sometimes forgot how to be Bucky's loving, affectionate boyfriend.

Still. It would be nice to not start off with a fight.

Steve's scowl lessened only slightly. “It's not permanent.”

I know. I got...someone called me,” Bucky said, and Steve's scowl came right back.

I didn't ask 'em to,” he said. “You got stuff to do.”

Uh huh. But it can wait.” Bucky felt cautiously good. Steve was clearly not on death's door, even if his legion of health problems were back. But he also had a good place to live now, and enough to eat, and modern medical care, and fuck. He'd gotten through Basic like this; Bucky had been more concerned about secondary injuries. A bandage around Steve's right forearm and hand said that there had been some, but otherwise, he was fine. So Bucky could do a little Steve-whispering.

It's fucking boring here,” Steve offered, clearly his last-ditch try.

So let's go home. Come to my place if you want,” Bucky said. “I don't see why you gotta stay here.”

Steve blinked. “What?” Aw, someone had found him glasses. Steve was really cute in glasses.

I mean it. Is there anything that we can't deal with together?” His baby had been hit by some weird otherworldly beam of light, and the transformation hadn't been painless, and Bucky just – wanted him close.

Also he was so, so, so fucking cute like this, Bucky was going to eat him up.

They'll let me leave?”

Well, yeah. You're not a prisoner, and you might as well be comfortable at home. Seriously, your place or mine?” Bucky asked.

Don't you have work?” It was Steve's last-ditch attempt, and it was, frankly, pathetic.

I have like seventy hours of comp time saved up.”

Okay smart guy. What'll I wear?” And oh, there was that sly smile, and Bucky laughed and came over to the side of the bed and pull Steve into a hug. Skinny, strong arms wrapped around him, and he hugged back tightly, pressing a long kiss to Steve's cheek. “Your place,” Steve whispered in his ear.

I'll find you something,” Bucky promised, hoping he was on Steve's not-deaf side. “Honestly, your shirts will all actually fit now.”

They fit before!” Steve argued, and Bucky rolled his eyes, and kissed his baby, then went to go spring the asshole and find a pair of pants that would at least roughly fit him.

 

You owe me,” he informed Maria Hill, coming back with a pair of jeans and a t-shirt from the H&M down the street.

I owe you,” she agreed. “Try not to throttle his little face, will you?”

Mmm, no promises.” Bucky grinned at her. “Can you call us a car? We'll go back to my place. Oh, and any guesses on how long this'll last?”

Too long?” Maria shrugged. “The lab guys are still running tests, but it's not like they know what they're looking for. We'll know when we know.”

Man, I love seeing my tax dollars so hard at work,” Bucky told her, and headed in to give Steve his clothes, collect an inhaler, and then spring them both.

They were mostly quiet on the ride home, but Bucky did put his arm around Steve's shoulders, and Steve surprised him with a small, sad smile.

Hey beautiful,” Bucky murmured.

Hey,” Steve muttered back, but his smile grew a little.

Bucky idly pressed a kiss to the top of Steve's head – which came up to his shoulder now, oh God he was going to die of joy with his tiny precious gem of a boyfriend – and felt Steve tense.

He frowned and pulled away. “I'm sorry. I...do you not...uh?”

Bucky did not want to be broken up with in a car. Or at all. But especially not in a car with the driver right there .

Steve set his jaw. “You don't gotta.”

Huh?”

You don't have to act like nothing's changed, Buck. You don't gotta pretend you still want me.”

What?” Bucky's jaw actually dropped, and he turned to look at Steve in amazement. “What are you talking about?”

Steve glared at him. “Don't act like nothing's changed. You don't have to pretend that I'm...I'm still all muscle-y and hot and whatever.”

No, now you're shorter and angry and hot,” was what Bucky's brain helpfully supplied.

Steve snorted and turned away to stare out the window.

Bucky took a deep breath and counted backwards from ten. Then a hundred. He could have a cry on his own later.

They got to Bucky's place and Steve trailed him inside.

So. Uh. You want lunch?” Bucky offered. “I can make sandwiches or whatever.”

Steve crossed his arms. “Why're you being nice to me?”

A question I am asking myself right now,” Bucky agreed, and glared right back at him. “Why are you being a dick?”

Steve scowled and looked away. “I don't want you to think you gotta pretend with me. Things've changed and they'll change back and you don't have to act like you still love me.”

Bucky took a deep breath. “Steve, where the fuck do you get off telling me how I feel?”

It's obvious, isn't it?” Steve shook his head. “Would you pick me up at a bar right now?”

Well, no, because you're kind of being an asshole to me,” Bucky said. “But going by looks, yeah. You're gorgeous, Steve.”

Are you serious?”

Bucky made a frustrated sound. He'd moved to hybrid form when he'd gone into see Steve, knowing that that usually reduced his boyfriend to kind of a softy, but now he changed back into fully-human form. No scales, straight hair, nothing. “What if I was like this forever?” he asked softly. “You'd stop loving me?”

No!” Steve looked horrified. “Oh my God, no, never.”

Or this?” Bucky asked, dropping back through his usual hybrid form, and pushing on towards full-mer. There was some limitation to what he could do on land – pants and all – but his hair curled into a soft halo and the scales on his hands and arms thickened, the membrane between his fingers growing thicker.

Bucky gave a little gasp and went down to sit on the floor as the bones in his feet changed, no longer able to support him. He flicked the membrane over his eyes into place and looked up at Steve through a painful haze, pushing himself as close to his full Mer form as he could stand. “Or this?” he asked, voice shaky with effort.

Stop!” Steve begged, kneeling down and putting his arms around Bucky. “Stop, you're hurting yourself, please stop,” he begged, and Bucky sighed, reverting to his usual hybrid form.

Never, ever do that again,” Steve told him, taking Bucky's weight and cradling him close. “Never for me.”

I made my point, though,” Bucky pointed out, breathing deeply.

Fuck you,” Steve said, and hid his face in Bucky's neck for a moment. “You're beautiful no matter what.”

So're you.” Bucky wrapped his arms around Steve, careful and gentle to start. “You're valuable and important, no matter what.”

Steve snorted.

You are!” Bucky gave him a little shake. “Okay, so you can't do the acrobatics. You're not dumb, Steve. The opposite, actually. And you can still make people follow you, still get people to work as a team. No one else can do that with the Avengers.” He smiled and kissed the corner of Steve's mouth. “Trust me, we've tried.”

You mean Tony Stark can't stop alienating people for ten minutes and get them to work together?” Steve managed a small smile.

Yeah, it's crazy, but true.” Bucky hugged Steve again, harder this time. “I love you. Trust me on this, okay?”

Other ear,” Steve said and Bucky laughed and moved his head to repeat himself on Steve's hearing side.

You're crazy,” Steve observed, but he hugged back. “Okay.” He sighed. “We'll...get through this.”

Uh huh.” Bucky made sure he wasn't on the deaf ear. “I'll make lunch, but can I kiss you first?”

Steve smiled and turned his head, capturing Bucky's mouth in an insistent kiss. “Will that keep you?” he teased, and laughed when Bucky swooned into his lap.

Bucky smiled up at him and reached up, brushing scaled fingers against his skin. “I love you,” he said gently, seriously.

I know,” Steve said, and leaned into the touch, his face going sad again. “I love you, Buck.”

I know.” Bucky turned and nuzzled a little against Steve's thigh, but got himself up and pulled his boyfriend up after him. They needed to eat, and then he needed to kiss Steve about two dozen more times, but for the moment, things were okay.

They ate together quietly, and Bucky put on some music just to fill the silence. Steve lay down on the sofa and curled onto his side, fitting easily in the amongst the cushions.

Bucky sat at the other end of the sofa, not sure what to do. “Oh, uh. Is your arm okay?”

Steve nodded. “Just a cut and some burns. It'll be okay, though.” He smiled bitterly. “Even now.”

That's good.” More awkward silence.

So this is what I used to look like,” Steve said.

Yeah. The photos don't really do it justice,” Bucky admitted.

Steve snorted. “Yeah, the reality is a lot starker. You should see my spine.”

Okay. Yeah. Take your shirt off.”

Steve stared at him. “Bucky, don't be a dick.”

I'm not. I wanna see your back.” Bucky scrounged up a smile from somewhere. “I want to see all of you, honestly. But that's a start.”

Bucky Barnes was the eldest of four, and the only boy. To say he knew how to play dirty was putting it lightly.

You know what my body looks like,” Bucky added quietly. “And no one'd ever call that perfect.”

I fucking would!” Steve said, his eyes blazing.

Bucky sat there patiently, while Steve thought this one through.

I don't like you anymore,” he finally informed Bucky.

You were taking your shirt off?” Bucky asked sweetly, and Steve sighed and yanked the t-shirt off.

So, yeah,” he muttered, hunched over.

So yeah,” Bucky echoed gently. He reached out and trailed his fingertips down Steve's arm. “Hey, look at me, honey. Just look me in the eye. There we go.” He smiled, and wrapped his hand around Steve's bicep, giving the slender limb a little tug. “Is a hug okay?”

Steve went into his embrace quietly.

Close your eyes, darling,” Bucky murmured. “Trust me. I learned this from a lover, a long time ago. Keep your eyes closed and just listen to me.” He pulled away enough to kiss Steve's forehead, and nuzzle his hair, still short-cropped, rough and spiky from the gel he used. “Your hair drives me crazy. It's not even long, and it still gets up my nose, I swear. I love it. You're so striking-looking, all tow-headed. I can always pick you out in a crowd, baby. It's like you glow.”

He kissed Steve's cheek, smiling into the skin over sharp bones, and trailed his mouth down to Steve's jaw, now pointed. Another kiss for his nose, and a kiss for the side of his glasses, the tortoise-shell plastic warm against his pale skin. “I love your face, because it's gorgeous. Because you smile when you see me, even if you're pissed at me. I love the lines of it. You're super-cute in glasses, by the way.”

Steve gave a little start, but didn't open his eyes.

You are! Seriously!” Bucky laughed and kissed Steve lightly. “Your mouth tastes exactly the same,” he murmured, and ran a silver-scaled fingertip down Steve's face to his neck, and over the pale skin. “You taste the same. You're still my baby.”

Bucky traced now-prominent collarbones, and kissed each shoulder. “You're still pretty strong, love. You made it through Basic like this, after all. And you got good food now, and everything you need.” He trailed the back of his hand down Steve's arm, smiling when he shivered. “Chilly?”

N-no. Just. Your hand feels amazing. The scales.”

Thank you.” Bucky laid them down, his fingertips tracing down Steve's back, finding the curve in his spine. “Oh. Yeah, I see what you mean.” He circled each vertebrae with a fingertip. “Does your back hurt?”

Not right now.”

Good.”

It makes my shoulders uneven. And I walk funny.”

Okay.” Bucky trickled his fingers down Steve's spine. “I'm sorry. I'm uneven too. It sucks, a lot. I still think you're gorgeous, though.” He rested his hand on the small of Steve's back, still rubbing his thumb along the bony bumps. “I love your body because my darling lives in it. I love your body now because I get to see you the way you grew up. I get to be a part of this bit of your life, in a way. I get to literally see the man Peggy Carter fell in love with and I gotta say, I don't blame her one bit.”

Steve made a kind of gasping sound, and Bucky soothed him with a kiss, with another. “I love your glasses and I promise I'll remember to aim for your good ear. I'll give you the comfy pillows so you can sleep at night, and I'll still wrestle with you for the good spot on the sofa. I want to hold you, and make love with you, and kick your ass when you're a dick to me. I want all that, just like I wanted it when you were big and muscle-y.”

Stop being so fucking amazing all the time,” Steve muttered, and Bucky laughed.

I'll remember you said that when one of us has to make the coffee,” he teased, and was heartened when Steve smiled.

You're valuable, you know? You're still so good, and so special, and so valuable,” Bucky murmured. “You're still fighty and irritating and wonderful. That never changes. That's why you're Cap.”

Steve just shrugged, but he was still smiling, and he opened his eyes and kissed Bucky back, really kissed him, finally.

Love you,” Bucky whispered in Steve's good ear, and smiled when Steve hugged him tightly.

Love you too, Buck. I'm sorry. I'm being a dillweed.”

Bucky burst out laughing. “Who taught you that?”

Steve shoved him, but he was laughing too. “Fuck off! Clint said it and I thought it was great.”

Bucky shoved back. “It's hilarious. You're hilarious. Oh my God.”

I am modern.”

You are a dillweed.”

No, you're a dillweed.” Steve was giggling so hard his face was bright red, and what was Bucky gonna do, not pounce on his adorable, laughing, asshole boyfriend?

He giggled and pulled Steve to kneel straddling his lap, kissing Steve's belly while Steve kissed the top of his head, his hands resting on Bucky's shoulders.

Whoa,” he said softly, and Bucky stilled.

Shit. I'm sorry,” he said. “Do you want me to not haul you around? That was really...I'm sorry, Steve.”

Steve smiled, though, and kissed him. “Nah, it's okay. Right now, when we're playing, it's fine. You haul me around in the water plenty, after all.” He kissed a line down to Bucky's throat. “Not anytime else though, okay?”

Promise,” Bucky managed, his voice breathy. Steve's mouth was doing things to him. So was the skinny body in his arms, the passion in Steve's movements, the urgency in him pulling off Bucky's shirt.

I love you,” Steve said, in between frantic kisses on Bucky's skin. “God, I love your body – every way it can look – and I love you, and I just...” He paused and pulled back, looking Bucky in the face, full and fierce. “I thought some of how I felt about you was the serum. How it takes what's there, but makes it stronger. I was wrong. It was all me. How much I love you, how happy you make me, it feels exactly the same now.”

Bucky bit his lip. “Steve...”

Exactly,” Steve said, and kissed Bucky hard, teeth clashing, biting, mouths coming together. Bucky hauling Steve closer and squeezing his ass hard.

Fuck yeah,” Steve breathed, and shoved Bucky over so he lay on the sofa again, Steve over him, kissing his skin frantically, both of them scrambling to touch each other. Bucky managed to get Steve undressed first, and yowled at the sight of his lover, going in to kiss his chest, down his belly, and bite the ridge of his hip.

Steve moaned and rocked into Bucky's touch. “Naked. Now .”

Bucky laughed and smacked his ass. “Since when were you the boss of me?”

Since I wanted your cock in my mouth,” Steve retorted and, admittedly, Bucky did get the rest of his clothes off in record time.

They rolled around on the sofa, playfully violent. Kissing and biting, and Steve teasing Bucky with the promise of a blowjob that he finally, finally, delivered on, Bucky coming with a howl. He recovered just long enough to flip them over and start eating Steve out, much to Steve's very vocal appreciation.

By the end of the afternoon, they were both exhausted, covered in light bruises, and Bucky was going to have to just get the damn sofa re-upholstered.

They were holding each other, bodies curled together under a soft blanket. The sofa had held them all right when Steve was big, and now there was more than enough room to cuddle.

Bucky traced his fingertips down Steve's back, and smiled when Steve kissed him tenderly. “I love you.”

I love you,” Steve said, and Bucky kissed him back, openmouthed, sharing breath.

That was amazing,” he admitted, and Steve laughed.

Pretty much,” he agreed, and pushed himself up to kiss Bucky's nose. “I liked being able to really throw you around.”

Me too,” Bucky admitted, and smiled. “I can feel when you have to hold yourself back. And I know you really do have to, or I'll get hurt, but this was something special.”

Steve nodded, and caressed Bucky's hair, then framing Bucky's face with his hands. “I could hurt you so easily if I wasn't careful,” he said softly. “But I can't, in this body.”

Bucky smiled at him, and leaned up for a soft kiss. “My baby. Taking care of me.”

Steve snorted. “You wish,” and grinned when Bucky cackled at him. “I'll make you dinner, though.”

Bucky gave a little wriggle, and snuggled them more firmly under the blanket. “In a little bit. Want you some more, first.”

Got me,” Steve promised him, and went about doing his best to kiss every inch of Bucky's face.

They made dinner together, in the end, and Bucky checked Steve's meds schedule, all ready to help him puzzle out what he needed to take, but he was gently pushed away.

I've got it,” Steve said, quiet but blisteringly sure.

Okay,” Bucky told him, and kissed his cheek, and went into the living room for some made-up reason.

Steve joined him there a few minutes later and leaned over the back of the easy chair to kiss the top of Bucky's head. “What d'you wanna do?”

Mmm. You?” Bucky giggled at the look this earned him. “Look, we're not trapped here. You wanna go out for a drink?”

I...yeah, actually. Yeah!” Steve grinned. “No one'll think to look for me like this.”

Bucky laughed and tilted his head back, clearly asking for a kiss – which he got. “Well, c'mon then. I wanna show off my hottie boyfriend.”

We're going somewhere we aren't regulars,” Steve grumbled. “I don't want people thinking you're walking out behind my back.”

Bucky snickered, and pulled Steve down for another kiss. “Who in the world would be the asshole who cheated on Captain America?” he pointed out. And another, softer kiss. “Or Steve Rogers.”

Bite my entire ass.”

That's later, after we get home.” Bucky finally hauled himself up, grabbing wallet and keys. “C'mon. Drinks are on you.”

Steve rolled his eyes, but he also put a very proprietary arm around Bucky's waist as soon as they hit the street.

Bucky had a hunch he wasn't the only one showing off.

They got to the bar – one they hadn't been to yet, and Bucky was careful to roll his eyes the entire time – ordered beers, and settled into a quiet corner.

Steve took one sip, and his eyes went wide. “Bucky. Bucky.”

“What? Are you okay?” Bucky asked, desperately wracking his brain to figure out what could possibly be the matter.

“Bucky, I can get drunk,” Steve said, his face like a sunrise.

“Oh, shit,” Bucky said.

Later that night, as he hauled Steve home, he reflected on the things he had learned. One, it was good Steve was light enough to be all but carried with Bucky's one arm. Two, it was entirely possible that Bucky was now the only living human being to have knowingly seen Steve Rogers drunk, and he was a little bit proud of that.

And three, it was a fucking goddamn miracle that Steve had survived to make it into the super-soldier program, considering that he was the fightiest fucking drunk Bucky had ever met in his life. He wasn't mean – quite the opposite, considering how he spent half the night draped over Bucky, petting him and cooing about how handsome he was. It was just that he spent the other half trying to fight on behalf of literally everyone.

They weren't allowed back in the bar anymore, but at least Steve hadn't gotten decked. And he was mumbling now, threatening to fight the entire House of Representatives, all at once if necessary. He paused once to be sick in an alleyway, and once to fall quiet and look up into Bucky's face.

“Are you gonna puke again?” Bucky asked, sighing. “Because if so, I'm aiming you in the other direction.”

“No,” Steve said, and his eyes went soft, and he smiled with his whole beautiful, delicate face. “I just...love you. I really love you, Bucky.”

“I love you too,” Bucky said gently, and he shifted his grip to be a little – a very little – bit nicer to Steve.

“You're amazing. And you're the most beautiful person I've ever met. I know I tell ya all the time. But Buck, if anything ever happens...you made me so happy, you know that? You made me happier'n anyone's ever made me before.”

Bucky blinked hard. That wasn't just bullshit. Steve could very well not come back from the next mission. He wasn't immortal. “You make me happy too,” he said, and pulled Steve into a hug. (He didn't love anyone enough to kiss Steve's pukey mouth.) “You got no idea. You make my life so good.”

“Uh huh,” Steve sighed happily, and they stayed like that for a long time, holding each other in the middle of the sidewalk, Bucky amazed and charmed by the skinny body in his arms, Steve's hold on him still strong and steady.

 

The next morning, they learned that Steve could also get hangovers.

“Oh God. I've made a terrible mistake,” Steve moaned, and burrowed deeper under the covers.

Bucky peered at him curiously. He didn't feel super-amazing himself, but he was doing a sight better than Steve. “You cannot seriously be surprised.”

“I forgot.” Steve paused and licked his lips, and found the energy to continue. “I forgot how bad this was.”

Bucky sighed. “Stay in bed, I'll get you something to drink. And something greasy for your stomach.”

Steve just moaned, and hid under a pillow.

Bucky got an egg sandwich into him, and a cup of coffee hot enough to challenge everything he had believed about physics. Steve consumed both, and returned to his misery, falling back asleep while Bucky curled up beside him with a full slate of terrible reality TV on his iPad, and a soft, wistful feeling. He had literally never taken care of a hungover Steve before, and likely wouldn't again. He loved his stupid superhero boyfriend; loved how Steve could pick him up and carry him effortlessly. (Frankly, he really loved that ability when they were moving in together and Steve handled lifting everything heavier than a dishcloth.) Loved how big and tall his baby was, and loved how, if he did get hurt, he was always more grumpy than in pain, and healed quickly. But this little flash of total normalcy – this was worth treasuring, too, he reckoned.

Steve woke up again in the early afternoon feeling considerably better, and the two of them were having a frankly excellent cuddle session that was poised to turn into something even better, when Bucky's phone rang.

“Hey Maria. Yeah, he's right here.” Bucky handed the phone over and curled up, arms around Steve's legs, while he talked to Maria. His side of the conversation was short, but Bucky could feel his thighs flexing, then relaxing, then tensing again. So something was happening.

Steve hung up and Bucky rolled over, looking up and meeting his eyes. “We gotta go back?” he asked quietly.

Steve nodded. “They figured out how to put me back.” He smiled humorlessly. “So to speak.”

“Okay,” Bucky said. “Whenever you want to go, baby, I'll call us a car.”

“I'll put on real clothes. Then...yeah.” Steve leaned over and kissed Bucky. “You sure you want to come with me?”

Bucky snorted and didn't deign to reply, just got up and went hunting for pants that didn't have holes in them.

 

They rode to SHIELD headquarters in silence, holding hands in the back of the car, and Bucky slipped an arm around Steve's shoulders as he swiped them past security, then up to the floor Maria had told him to go to.

They walked through a nondescript door into a lab, and Bucky's jaw actually dropped at what he saw there.

“What the fuck,” Steve said, dumbfounded. “Where did you find that?”

“Oh my God,” Bucky exclaimed. “You guys actually found Howard Stark's Hottie Machine!”

Steve whipped around to stare at his boyfriend.

“What? That's what we call it on the internet.”

Steve buried his head in his hands, while Maria sighed.

Yes, we pulled it out of storage,” she said. “Because Vita-Rays are still a thing, and they're a thing we'll be using today. It's not exactly Dr. Erskine's method,” she explained. “But close. Instead of injecting you, we'll be re-activating the serum.”

“Ah.” Steve swallowed. “That's...something.” He turned to Bucky. “Buck. Don't be there. Please. It's going to be painful.”

Bucky gave him a Look. “Excuse me?”

Please. I don't want you to see me like that. Or...hear it.” Steve reached out, then dropped his hand. “I know it's a big ask, and a dumb one. But I just wanna protect you. You can be there right after, even before they let me out. But I can't...I can't love you, and let you hear me in so much pain.”

Bucky swallowed hard, and looked as unhappy as Steve had ever seen him. “All right,” he said finally. “Because you asked. But I don't like it, and I don't think it's fair, and we'll talk about this later.” He reached out, twining his fingers with Steve's. “I'll be right there, soon as you're out.” Maria would make sure of it, he knew.

Steve nodded, and turned back to face her. “I'm ready.” He'd borrowed sweatpants from Bucky; he wouldn't even need to change. Nor would he have to deal with...well, anything he had, after the first time he'd come out of the machine.

Maria gave a short, sharp nod. “Bucky, go to Recovery C. There's a connecting door and corridor, and someone will get you...after.”

Bucky nodded and pulled Steve into a hug, and a fierce kiss. “I love you.” He smiled wryly. “Go be a good supersoldier.”

Steve laughed, and if he hung onto Bucky a little longer, no one paid any attention. “I'll be me again before you know it.”

“You're you now, dumbass,” Bucky told him, and stole another kiss.

He took his time walking to the room, looping through the corridors, because why not walk instead of waiting in a soundproof room staring at a wall and thinking about his boyfriend who was a gigantic shitheel but also who Bucky loved more than his own life and who was going through an excruciating process and –

He only had to spend a few minutes in the room, at least, although that was more than enough time. Bucky practically leapt on the poor bastard who was sent to get him, which wasn't the guy's fault, but still. If Steve had an ounce of sense or was less stupidly self-sacrificing, they wouldn't be in this situation.

He could see Steve through the window in the stupid thing, and managed to hold back while someone opened the door. Maria had brought him well into the room, so Bucky was there when his muscle-bound lover came tumbling out. Bucky caught Steve – somehow, considering Steve definitely outweighed him – Steve, huge and muscle-y and familiar, and still pretty fucking fighty, considering how he thrashed around, however weakly.

“Hey, hey,” Bucky soothed. “It's me. It's me, baby, you're okay. It's all over.”

Steve blinked, and his eyes started to clear. “Buck?”

“Yeah, sweetheart. I got you. C'mon, there's a nice quiet room with our names on it,” he said, ducking under Steve's arm and starting to walk him out of the room. The scientists or whatever could do their thing with the data they had; taking care of Steve was the only important thing.

Bucky walked him to the quiet room and settled them both on the narrow bed, curling protectively around all six foot and two-hundred-plus pounds of muscle.

Steve was himself enough to bristle. But also to rest his head on Bucky's chest, and let Bucky stroke his back and smooth his hair down.

“How you feeling?” Bucky asked softly after he reckoned a quarter of an hour had passed.

“Fine. Honest.” Steve smiled a little wryly. “This is considerably less stressful than the first time it happened.”

“Hah. Yeah, that's not a difficult bar to hit.” Bucky leaned over and kissed the top of his head. “Did it hurt?”

“Yeah.”

“I'm sorry,” Bucky said softly. “I wish it hadn't been that way.”

Steve shrugged. “Thank you for waiting here,” he said, haltingly. “There's – it meant a lot. To be able to. Protect you.”

“I don't like it,” Bucky said. “We're together for good, yeah? I mean, that's pretty obvious.”

Steve smiled. “Yeah, we are.”

“So even though we never said the words, 'in sickness and in health' is pretty important,” Bucky argued. “Steve, I love you. I wanna be there for it all, the good and the bad.”

“And you are! Shit, Buck, how many times have you taken care of me when I come back hurt from a mission?” Steve argued. “You and I take care of each other plenty. This was how I take care of you.” He sighed, and flopped back on the bed. “I know you don't understand, and I guess you're right to be mad. But I had to do this for you. You've seen me in a bad way so much before...I could actually control this one.”

Bucky sighed. “I'm not mad at you. Not exactly. I get the feeling behind it.” He kissed Steve's brow. “And I get you wanting to protect me. I really do. But baby if this is gonna work, it can't be like that. Would you be okay if, I dunno. I had to have surgery or something, and I didn't let you be with me?”

“Oh, Christ no. I'd go crazy. And be pissed at you.” Steve smiled sadly. “I don't regret it, though. It was horrible. And you deal with enough, with me.”

“Because I choose to,” Bucky reminded him, as they resettled, lying on their sides and facing one another. “Look, love, we don't need to litigate this forever. But next time – let me be there, for the good and the bad. Please.”

Steve sighed.

“You'll always be there for my best and worst,” Bucky promised him, and grinned. “Baby, we're together, forever. We got so much to live through.”

Steve gave him a grudging smile. “All right. You're right.” He wrapped Bucky in his arms and sighed. “I promise. Whatever I go through – we share it, good and bad.”

“And the same for me,” Bucky said. “I promise you.” He kissed Steve's chest. “I'll do my best to make it mostly good.”

Steve gave him a little shake. “You'd better.”