I own none of this. Thank you for your time!
"Hey, JARVIS?" Steve said quietly as he leaned against the wall JARVIS' main operating panel was on.
"Yes, Mr. Rogers?"
"You got any Glenn miller in that datalist thing of yours?"
Currently, new-age jazz filled the room as the elites of Tony's party (a classy affair to celebrate the Avengers' success over the last couple of months and schmooze the other funders of the program) mingled with each other. It was eerily like the night that Ultron had made his appearance, but Steve and Natasha had been very diligent in making sure that Tony didn't have any experiments going on in the tower that they didn't know about.
The entire team was there. Steve, Natasha, Stark, Rhodey, Barton, Thor, Bruce, Wilson, Wanda, Maria, even Pepper and Jane had made it to this one; but there weren't as many civilians as there had been the night Ultron had come to life. There were only a hundred or so guests invited and they were all scattered around, talking amicably and enjoying the finger foods the waiters carried around on trays. There were a handful of guests that had wandered out to the dance floor as JARVIS played some slower songs (Pepper and Tony being one of them) and some more adventurous couples had stayed on when the music had quickened pace again, but only one or two remained for any length of time.
Bucky was there, too, sitting on one of the couches in his khaki dress pants and white button down shirt with one of his feet tucked up underneath him and that was what Steve focused on as he conversed with JARVIS. His hair was pulled back out of his face into a messy ponytail/bun thing, and while he had a tie around his neck, it had come loose from how much Bucky had reached up and tugged at it nervously.
Steve had noticed his best friend looking like he was he trying to fade into the microfiber and disappear as Barton, Thor, and Stark tried to get him talking. Bucky just looked so scared sitting there, fidgeting and looking around wildly every couple of seconds like somebody was going to come out of nowhere and start attacking him or something and it absolutely broke Steve's heart. He remembered what he'd felt like the first couple of times he'd been forced to attend these stupid soirees after he'd woken up and he hadn't had to deal with any of the identity issues Bucky was currently facing. He could only imagine how Bucky felt, and he hated it.
He also knew that Tony and Thor and Clint were only trying to help, but they were only causing Bucky to draw more and more in on himself as they directed more and more attention to him, and Steve knew that if he couldn't get Bucky to feel comfortable soon, it wouldn't end well.
"Database," JARVIS corrected him gently. "Or playlist, sir."
"Yeah, whatever," Steve gave a light-hearted chuckle in response, far from offended. Steve had been using advanced technology with the army for months before he'd been frozen, so learning how to work all of the new technology around him when he'd woken up hadn't really been as much of a problem for him as everybody thought. He'd just never put much stock into learning all of its new terminology. Working it was good enough for him, he'd leave all the fixing and building and fancy stuff to Stark and Banner. "You got any?"
"Mr. Stark has informed me that I am not allowed to accept requests, regardless of what I am offered in return," JARVIS replied, knowing the next logical thing out of Steve was going to be just that.
"So, I take it that means you do?" Steve smirked as he kept an eye on the party going on around him.
"It will take a moment to download, sir," JARVIS confirmed.
"Awesome," Steve grinned. "Put it up next."
"But, sir, what about Mr. Stark's orders?"
"Eh, Tony'll be fine," Steve waved his hand over his shoulder as he set his drink down on the bar and pushed away from the wall. "He always likes to cause a little bit of mischief. Just tell him somebody else started it for once this time. Can you throw some Goodman and Duke Ellington in there while you're at it?"
"Yes, I can, sir," JARVIS answered hesitantly. "But, I really think-"
"Thanks, JARVIS," Steve cut him off yet again as he started to make his way over to where Bucky was sitting. "You're the best!"
JARVIS let out a noise that could have only been an imitation of a sigh as he started going about doing as Steve had asked, but Steve didn't hear him. Not even with his superhuman hearing. He was too busy grinning as he approached Bucky confidently (but not in a manner that could be taken as smug. The way that he practically bounced back and forth from foot to foot with a goofy little grin on his face and childlike wonder in his eyes was anything but smug), and it had caught more than one person in the room's attention as he closed the distance to where Bucky sat.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, Steve wasn't entirely sure), Bucky was not one of them. In fact, he didn't look up at all until Steve was standing right in front of him, holding out his hand as he bent down to be closer to eye level, "Mr. Barnes, would you make me the happiest man in the world and dance with me for a song or two?"
Now, it wasn't weird for Steve and Bucky to dance together before the serum or even after it with the commandos. Back when they were kids, one of the few things that they could do for entertainment was listen to the radio and dance along to the music. It was what people did when they got together to hang out. They danced. Normally it was preferred to do it with the opposite sex, but Bucky and Steve had never minded dancing together.
At first, it was because they felt more comfortable experimenting—and subsequently messing up—with each other instead of out with some girl who would laugh at their embarrassment and then go back and tell all of their friends. Then, it was because there were always more boys in the orphanage than girls and they'd still wanted to have a good time. After they moved out of the orphanage, it was because they'd gotten good at dancing with each other and people enjoyed watching them.
There wasn't any funny business to it, Bucky still had his reputation with the ladies, and all of the girls fawned over how adorable Steve could be; and they were fairly well received in most areas of town.
They were far from quitting their day jobs to go out on the road, but most joints would let them in free and discount their food and drinks because their presence always brought more people around.
Even after the serum and when Steve had rescued Bucky from the Hydra base, they'd kept dancing together. Again, there hadn't been near the amount of women around to match the men, and they were both weary of strangers at the time for their own reasons. Steve had some bad experiences because of his new found fame and Bucky had the whole being kidnapped and tortured thing he was still dealing with, so they quickly found themselves falling back into their old partnership and none of the other commandoes seemed to mind. In fact, they found it quite entertaining.
Steve had thought about those nights many times since he'd woken up, and it had only gotten worse since he found out Bucky was still alive, but he'd yet to find a time to broach the subject with his former-and-hopefully-still best friend. He'd only been back for a couple of months as it was, and he'd spent most of that sleeping, mediating, or deconditioning himself from all of his training that had turned into reflexes (like strangling whoever came to wake him up or shooting JARVIS' panel every time he said something). Steve had hardly felt like it had been the right time to bring something up as potentially trivial to the man as dancing.
He had no idea what had possessed him to ask JARVIS about the music in that moment, it had just come out of his mouth before he could stop it, and while he tried to remain as cool and collected as possible on the outside; on the inside he was nervous as hell. If this worked, it would be fantastic. But if it didn't...if it didn't everybody would be around to see him get rejected (and at worst strangled or laughed at, too. Steve wasn't sure which was worse.).
Steve saw Bucky tense initially as he seemed to realize there was somebody standing within his personal space—everybody had (or at least all of the Avengers)—but he'd also seen him relax as he'd comprehended that it was only Steve before he'd looked up in shock at Steve's offer. Steve had always thought Bucky had handsome eyes, but what he saw in them in that moment put every over played love song to shame. They were open and wide; more honest than Steve had ever seen them, with a fear in their depths that was so incredibly different than the one Steve had seen in them so frequently over the last couple of months. This fear was soft and timid and it was shining in his eyes almost like tears as all of the tension left Bucky's body as he stared up at Steve in a way that told Steve he should have done this a very long time ago.
"I don't know the music," Bucky finally broke the silence between the two of them, shaking his head back and forth subconsciously but never looking away from Steve.
He had wanted to—that much was obvious, but he just wasn't sure. What if he'd messed it up?
"I've already got somebody taking care of that," Steve gave a dazzling smile in response (although he hadn't really realized he'd done it). Bucky quirked his eyebrow at that, eyes flashing away from Steve to Tony for just a second before coming back to Steve, but the confused (and slightly indignant) look Tony was giving Steve's back told Bucky that he hadn't known what Steve was talking about either (and therefore this wasn't something that had been planned, at least between the two of them). "So, dance with me, please?"
The room was silent for five more heartbeats and Steve was just starting to worry that Bucky was going to turn him down; but then, the first familiar notes of In the Mood drifted through the speakers concealed within the décor and Bucky reached up and slipped his hand into Steve's without another word. He was still nervous, that much was clearly evident, but the trust in his eyes made Steve's heart swell as he helped the darker haired man to his feet.
Vaguely, both of the two of them registered Tony's offhanded comment to JARVIS about the music and JARVIS' response, but neither one of them bothered to put any kind of thought into it. Steve's world was lost to the innocence on Bucky's face as Steve moved the two of them towards the dance floor without bothering to turn around and look where he was going, and Bucky's was lost to the confidence that was practically radiating from Steve and the hundreds of memories that were swimming before his eyes as he let Steve pull him away.
He remembered this. He'd always remembered this. It had been locked away in the back of his mind where the Winter Soldier had shoved it during his training, but it had always been there. The Winter Soldier had never been able to make it go away.
And the fact that Steve was standing there in front of him now, asking him to relive those memories with him—asking him to make more of those memories with him—was absolutely surreal.
So surreal that he didn't notice the subtle change in the lighting, or the people that were watching them, or the way the few remaining couples on the dance floor moved out of the way for them.
Neither did Steve.
The only thing that broke through their little bubble was the familiar music, bouncing away around them and begging them to dance along. And dance, they did.
Steve took the lead first, seeing as he was the one that had asked Bucky in the first place. He shifted Bucky's metal hand up to his shoulder before sliding his own right hand down to Bucky's hip, and lifted the other two up into a traditional dancer's hold. He raised his eyebrows a fraction of an inch as he looked down into Bucky's still wide eyes, silently asking if what he had done was okay. Bucky gave the slightest of nods of his head in response.
Of course, it was okay.
With that silent confirmation, Steve waited for the next phrase of the music to start before he started moving them from side to side to the music. Unfortunately, the tempo of the song didn't leave much room for taking the steps slow, but Steve tried to keep them on the smaller side so Bucky had some time to adjust. Just because he'd practiced his steps alone in his room before they'd gotten Bucky back, didn't mean Bucky had.
Bucky was incredibly grateful for the shorter steps, still unsteady on his feet in the best of circumstances because of how easily set-off (and therefore skittish) he was, but Steve was steady and certain in front of him, and pretty soon he found himself looking back up at Steve from where he'd been watching their feet as the song started heading towards it's peak, and Steve started lengthening their strides and throwing in some sharper turns around the floor.
Before either one of them had realized what had happened, In the Mood had faded seamlessly into a slightly quicker Ellington, and the two had adjusted their own footsteps just as easily.
The recordings were different from the one's they'd listened to on the radio, there was no doubt about that. They were much sharper and clearer without near the amount of static the old records had. But it wasn't exactly like dancing to live music either. Live music breathed more than the new recordings did: it swelled and faded unpredictably as players got excited or worn out; no matter how good or experienced the players were, the beat would very just the slightest bit between phrases.
Live music was fluid. That was something that all of the new technology hadn't quite captured yet and Steve was simultaneously very sad and a little happy for it all at once.
The songs were still the same though. Still the same notes with the same basic tempos and the same basic melodies, so Steve and Bucky made it work.
Sometime during the third song, Steve noticed Bucky's grip on his hand and his shoulder had lost some of its deathly tension and a relaxed almost-smile had graced itself upon his lips. Steve relished in that for a moment, seeing Bucky truly calm and almost happy, before he anticipated the next crescendo in the music and whipped Bucky out away from him into a brief open hold before pulling him back flush to his chest in time with the phrase's peak.
To say that Bucky was surprised was an understatement, and if Steve hadn't been there to catch him he probably would have stumbled, but after his body and his mind had a couple of seconds to process it, he found himself smirking up at a grinning Steve.
"So, that's how you want to play this?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about, Mr. Barnes," Steve feigned innocence but the mirth in his eyes gave him away like a light in the dark. He'd been worried that the move had been too much for Bucky, but thankfully it wasn't.
"Oh, you don't?" Bucky challenged, unable to suppress the quiet giggles bubbling up in the back of his throat.
"Not at all," Steve grinned again before spinning Bucky out away from him with another swell of the music.
Bucky laughed—a real genuine laugh that had Steve practically busting out of his skin because it was the first time he'd heard that laugh in over sixty years, but put some of the other guests on edge because the former-Winter Soldier that they knew never laughed—as he let his head fall back in the same trajectory his body had been on before he let him self be tugged back to Steve and crashed against his chest with a grin.
"Alright then, Captain," Bucky accented the word with a purr. "Bring it on."
The two stood there for a couple of measures, sizing each other up and basking in the fact that this was actually happening, before the music faded out into a Goodman at the same tempo and the two started moving in synch once again with even more determination than they had before.
Although he still lead, Steve was looser in his movements than he had been, reacting to Bucky's confidence in his own abilities and the more intricate steps he was adding in-between Steve's more simple ones; and no longer stopped himself from spinning Bucky out into an open hold when he felt like doing something a little more complex of his own.
Neither of them realized it, but they had quickly become the center of attention. They'd both caught glimpses of people standing around watching as they spun in and out and around each other, but neither one of them had paid enough attention to see that everybody was staring at them in amazement and cheering them on all the while. They were too wrapped up in the feeling of what was happening to even care. A few different couples came out and joined them (Clint and Natasha being one of them), spurred into confidence by how much fun the two of them seemed to be having, but none of them could quite keep up with the duo.
JARVIS played song after song, taking the liberty of pulling some of the songs from the list that Steve had given him for his personal playlist when he'd first moved in. He'd gotten a short lecture from Tony on the ranking of whose orders were more important, but Tony had also told him to keep playing whatever Steve had told him in the same breath, so JARVIS took it in stride.
Steve kept the lead for the next couple of songs just like he had for the first three, Bucky kept up with him step-for-step, smiling and laughing all the way as the two started trading jokes and taunts and compliments back and forth all the way.
Eventually both of the two of them relaxed a little bit and started passing the lead back and forth every couple of phrases as the music changed around them. This was how it had always been between the two of them. Steve and Bucky had always seen each other as equals who balanced their own weaknesses out, and no serum or metal arm could ever change that for them. Their strengths and weaknesses were just different now.
As time wore on and more and more songs passed (and Steve and Bucky's movements and jibes at each other became less competitive and more sweet nothingness), the attendees of the party slowly lost interest in the sight of Captain America dancing with man they were told was the Winter Soldier, and Tony and Pepper and Thor and Sam took the opportunity to subtly start showing people to the door. It was getting late, and despite Tony's former (read still strongly hinted at in certain ways to keep up the appearance that he wasn't making as many advances in research as he was) playboy image and speculations about the rest of them, none of them liked the parties that they hosted to help raise funding, and they couldn't wait for the tower to be empty again so they could stop smiling and walking on eggshells.
If Steve or Bucky noticed the crowd thinning out around them as JARVIS started playing slower and slower songs at Pepper's order to help urge people to move on, neither of them gave any indication of it. In fact, neither of them gave any indication that there was anything going on around them other than the music until Clint laid a hand on Steve's free shoulder and both of the two of them jumped.
"Thought you might want this," Clint said, holding up a glass of water to Steve as Sam offered the one in his hand to Bucky.
"Oh, thanks," Steve recovered faster than Bucky did and reached up with the hand that had fallen from Bucky's when they'd jumped apart to grab the glass out of Clint's hand. He took a look around the room as he took a sip, and then a deep gulp when he realized how thirsty he was, and then turned back to Clint in confusion as Bucky took his glass from Sam with a quiet thank you. "Where did everybody go?"
"They've already left, man," Clint gave a quiet snort as he squeezed Steve's shoulder.
"They have?" Bucky questioned after taking a much more dignified swallow of his water than Steve had.
"Tony and Thor are showing the rest of them out now," Sam nodded his head in the direction of the elevator where Tony and Thor were—in fact—making small talk with the last of the guests while they waited for the elevator to come back up from dropping off it's last set of passengers.
"I hadn't realized it was getting that late," the tips of Steve's ears turned pink as he ducked back down to take another drink from his glass.
"Yeah, it happens," Clint nodded in understanding. It was sad how often he lost track of time and was late for things because he was so used to sitting around for hours on end behind his bow or the scope of a rifle waiting for a target to stumble upon wherever he was waiting for them to be. "That was quite a show you two put on, though. You danced for a good two or three hours."
Steve choked on his water at this newfound realization, spitting it back out into his cup, "Really?"
He'd known that they'd been dancing awhile—heck, he couldn't even tell you how many songs had been played; but two to three hours?
"Yep," Sam confirmed Clint's statement with a single nod of his head.
"Huh," Bucky hummed contemplatively as he absently reached up to run his metal hand over Steve's back comfortingly as the Captain continued to cough and sputter into the napkin that Bruce had offered him. "Not our longest, but it's definitely up there. You quite alright there, Twinkle Toes?"
"Yeah, 'm fine, Quick Draw," Steve brushed the nickname off as he was finally able to take a deep breath without coughing or wheezing. Even though he was Captain America and could withstand pretty much anything, sometimes he was just as clumsy and careless with himself as he had been back in Brooklyn all those years ago.
"You swore to never speak of that again," Bucky pointed a finger at Steve's chest accusatorily, but there was no sign of the Winter Soldier anywhere in his stance. At least not to Steve. For once since they'd re-found each other all those months ago, all he saw was pure Bucky, just like he had when they'd been dancing.
"Yeah," Steve let out an exaggerated sigh. "But you also promised that Cindy Clearwater was going to fall in love with me and we were going to run off and get married back when we were eight, but that never happened either."
"Hey, that was not my fault!" Bucky defended himself. "Everything was set in place and it was going to be perfect. I can't help it that she walked in on me trying to keep you from freezing to death in the middle of December one year when we were teenagers and took it the wrong way and decided we were weirdoes who might infect her with the plague or something."
"Bucky, we were bundled up in a blanket, practically naked on my bed, and feeding each other apple pie with our fingers. How else was she supposed to take it?"
"Like I was being a good friend and trying to keep you from freezing to death in the middle of December."
"While licking apple pie filling off of my chest?"
"We didn't have a fork," Bucky shrugged indifferently.
"There was one on the nightstand," Steve rolled his eyes. "Remember? She chucked it at my head."
"Ah, yes," Bucky gave a smug smirk as he remembered the curly blond-headed girl grabbing it off the table and throwing at the two of them before she turned around and ran out of the room crying. "She was quite feisty, that Cindy Clearwater. Still, it wasn't my fault she had bad timing. Didn't realize you were still so torn up about it, though."
"W-what?" that took Steve by surprise. "I'm not still torn up about it! It's been seventy years!"
"Really?" Bucky continued to tease him in a concerned tone, tilting his head to the side contemplatively. "Because you're the one who brought her up. It can't be healthy for you to hold on to the agonizing pain of young love for so long."
"I'm just saying, I still stand by what I said all of those years ago. You two would make a wonderful couple."
"There's only one small problem with that," Steve snorted.
"Oh, right, the fact that she's probably dead now?"
"And missing a couple of body parts I find fairly attractive."
"But think of the babies, Stevie!" Bucky gave a very good impression of one of their grandmothers as he placed a hand back on Steve's shoulder and sagged against him in exasperation. "All blond hair and blue eyes and pure New York-ian blood! They would be perfect! Perfect, Stevie; just perfect!"
"I knew I was going to regret bringing that up," Steve rolled his eyes as he chose to ignore that particular comeback of Bucky's and shook his head, but a small smile tugged as his lips as he looked back down at his best friend pressing against his shoulder with a giant grin on his face.
"Then why did you?" Bucky giggled.
"Because, clearly, I'm an idiot," Steve gave a poorly suppressed sigh and didn't realize it when his free hand came up to rest at the small of Bucky's back.
"Yeah," Bucky agreed, causing Steve to frown and pout until Bucky giggled again. "But you're my idiot, punk."
"Jerk," Steve shot back with a giggle of his own.
Both Clint and Sam raised their eyebrows at the exchange, but neither one of them said anything while Bruce only gave a quiet chuckle into the sleeve of his own dress shirt off to the side. That was more than they'd ever heard Bucky say at once except for when he was debriefing about his experiences with Hydra, and this was certainly the most animated and open and honest they'd ever seen him be.
The same went for Steve, just to a slightly lesser extent. Regardless of the fact that they'd been working together now for so long, nobody really knew all that much about Steve's personal life. Of course they knew what had been put in the history books, but beyond that, Steve had never really opened up all that much.
Heck, they hadn't even known he could dance until a couple of hours before hand.
They'd never seen him as snarky or as easily embarrassed as he was acting, and that was the first time he'd even hinted at his personal personal life that any of them knew about. They'd all had their various suspicions; gut feelings that had no solid basis in fact, but regardless of how hard they tried to coax something out of him on the matter (or how many interviews a certain genius/billionaire/playboy/philanthropist did with senile old ladies and men in nursing homes across the city) none of them had been able to make heads or tails on the matter. And even now, there was more than one way that conversation could have been interpreted.
"Hey, freeloaders," Tony called as he and Thor made their way back over from elevator, all heads turning to look in their direction. The guests that they had been entertaining only moments ago were nowhere in sight. "Aren't you going to help me clean up?"
"Who are you calling freeloaders?" Bucky cocked his hip to the side as he glared at Tony. Clint and Thor's jaws practically hit the ground at that, and Tony was confused for a fraction of a second, too, but then he smirked when Bucky went on because there was the man from the Howling Commandoes with the snarky sense of humor his father used to tell him stories about from time to time when he was a kid. "Steve and I have more than earned our keep for the night. I think we should be given warm glasses of milk and tucked into bed for the next two weeks to recuperate."
"You know, that's pretty fair," Tony nodded his head, pretending to think for a second before frowning. "But unfortunately, I only have one crib free, I don't have two; so, you'll have to share."
"Wouldn't be the first time," Bucky shrugged, completely unfazed. "Probably won't be the last. And at least it's a real bed, and not a military sleeping bag or a cardboard box."
"True," Steve added with a sip of his water.
"He's got you there, Tony," Bruce added with an appreciative smirk of his own.
It wasn't very often that somebody bested Tony.
"Yeah, whatever," Tony rolled his eyes, more annoyed at Banner's input than Bucky's comebacks. "Doesn't change the fact that we need to rearrange the furniture and Cyborg and Capcicle over there can almost lift more than the rest of us combined. That is unless you're interested in hulking-out anytime soon."
"Oh, calm down, Sir Starks-a-lot," Bucky rolled his eyes as Bruce ignored Tony's jab like he typically did. "If you needed our help that badly, all you had to do was ask nicely."
"So, what's your definition of nicely?" Tony asked, taking a step closer to him as he smirked. "Is it the please part or the telling you it'd make me the happiest man in the world part? 'Cause I didn't quite catch it earlier, what with everything happening so fast and all."
"From you, definitely the please part," Bucky answered, setting his drink down on a nearby table. "I have a feeling you use the other one too often for it to mean anything—"
That got snickers out of almost everyone standing in the room (which was saying something, considering how shocked they all were), and Pepper was all out giggling over by the bar while Steve grinned down into his own cup again and shifted his weight back and forth on his feet as he resisted the urge to let out a real laugh of his own.
"—now what do you want moved?" Bucky ended his question as he turned back to Tony. "I'm tired from dancing my ass off to make your party a hit, and I want to get to sleep before the buzz wears off and the nightmares come back."
Tony actually faltered for a second, before he blinked himself out of it and pointed towards one of the couches, "I want that one back against the wall."
"Awesome," Bucky said, sounding like he thought it was anything but as he walked over to the couch that Tony wanted moved. "Are you going to help me there, Twinkle Toes, or are you just going to stand around looking pretty?"
"Depends, you going to put on a show for me, soldier?" Steve smirked even though he put his drink down beside Bucky's and followed him over to the other end of the couch.
"Oh, definitely," Bucky grinned back devilishly as they both reached down to figure out the best way to positions themselves to pick up the couch before turning back to Tony seriously. "Where do you want this, again?"
"Over there," Tony indicated where he wanted it with a nod of his head, awed into silence at what he was witnessing, just like everybody else.
"Okay," Steve nodded his head. "Let me know when you're ready, Buck."
"Give me one second," Bucky replied, shifting himself into a better position.
"Alright," Steve agreed, then counted down from three when Bucky looked back to him with the slightest of nods of his head and Steve knew he was ready. They both grunted as they lifted the half ton couch up (not only was Tony's style expensive, it was also very sturdy) and started shifting their way over towards where Tony wanted it. "And if it's all the same to you, I think I'll be standing around looking pretty, thank you very much. Much better view that way."
"I disagree," Bucky smirked, letting his eyes roam over Steve's flexed chest and arms under the weight of the couch for a second or two before he looked back up at Steve with a wink that had Steve throwing his head back and laughing so hard that they almost had to set the couch down for him to catch his breath.
"So, that's how you want to play this?" Steve asked as he readjusted his grip on the couch from where it had slipped in his distraction.
"I have no idea what you're talking about, Mr. Rogers," Bucky shrugged, pulling off the innocent act much better than Steve had earlier as they started moving again.
They spent the rest of the evening moving things around and cleaning up with the rest of the Avengers. Bucky was a little quieter after that, not as interactive with everybody else in the room. But he still joked and played around with Steve just the same, and he'd even had a full conversation with Clint, Sam, and Thor when Steve had gotten pulled away to help the caterers move some of their equipment.
Once again, they both lost track of time and the next thing they knew they were walking down the hall of their floor of the tower towards their bedrooms, Steve leading the way as Bucky followed closely behind. They were still joking and picking on each other, laughing over some story that one of them had told on the elevator ride down, and Steve hesitated by Bucky's door for a couple of minutes so they didn't have to say goodnight to each other so soon. That evening had been one of the best of his life, and he was reluctant to see it end.
But end it had to, and eventually Steve ran out of things to say other than goodnight, so he made his excuses and turned to head towards his own room a couple of steps down and across the hall.
Steve froze mid-step at Bucky's hand on his shoulder, "Yeah?"
Bucky was silent for a second, and from what little of his face Steve could see over his shoulder, he thought that maybe Bucky had thought better of whatever he was going to say, but just when he was about to make some other lame excuse he hadn't even figured out yet, Bucky spun him around, much like he had done a hundred times earlier while they were dancing, and threw himself at Steve without any other warning. The ever-graceful Captain America stumbled backwards, but managed to keep himself upright and catch his friend as he wrapped his arms around Steve's shoulders.
"Thank you," Bucky's voice was full of more gratitude than Steve had ever heard as he sighed, and Steve couldn't resist the urge to wrap his arms around Bucky's waist and hug him back and hold him any more than he could have resisted the urge to ask him to dance earlier.
"What for, Buck?" Steve rested his chin against the side of Bucky's head as he pulled him close enough that they had practically melded back into the same person they'd been while they were dancing.
"Everything," Bucky answered, humming at the way Steve's hand was absently running over his back comfortingly. "For saving me from Hydra, to bringing me back here, to being my friend for all of those years…all of it. Everything. Thank you."
Steve wanted to argue with him. Wanted to tell him that there was nothing for Bucky to be thankful for. But Steve was worried that would somehow turn into a fight, and that was the last thing he wanted tonight, so he just nodded his head and pressed a quick kiss to Bucky's hair.
"You're welcome, Buck. You would have done the same for me."
"Yeah," Bucky nodded against his shoulder, and the two continued to stand there like that for a couple more minutes before Bucky finally pulled away and fell back down on his heels with a slightly embarrassed chuckle. "Sorry, about that. I just—I really wanted to make sure you knew how much it's meant to me. I know you've been through a lot because of me and I—I just—like I said, I wanted to make sure you knew I appreciate it."
"I do," Steve reassured him, fingers still playing with the fabric over Bucky's hips. "It's okay. I don't mind hugs. After going without human contact for seventy years, it's kind of nice to be held every once in a while. Especially from you."
He hadn't exactly meant to say that last part out loud (because really, the only person he wanted to be held by was Bucky), but he did, and Bucky just grinned in response before reaching up to press a kiss to Steve's cheek, "I'll keep that in mind."
"Okay," Steve practically squeaked, as his face flushed red and Bucky backed away with a small giggle.
"I think we should go to bed now though," Bucky backed away towards his door and reached out behind him for its handle. "Before either one of says something even more stupid than we already have."
"Yeah," Steve nodded his head a couple of seconds later, looking like he'd just woken up from another seventy-year nap. "Yeah, I think that's a good idea."
"Me too," Bucky agreed with another small chuckle. "I'll see you in the morning, okay?"
"Okay," Steve nodded again, seeming a little more with it this time, and Bucky took that as his cue to turn around and push his door open. "Good night, Bucky."
"'Night, Twinkle Toes," Bucky said in response with a small smile over his shoulder before he shut the door behind himself, and Steve smiled.
The boring party that Fury insisted he'd gone to had turned out to not be all that boring after all.