Alpha'd by Travelilah! Thank you so much for your help and words of encouragement!
Steve's bike rumbled under him as he drove through the streets of New York on his way home. He had met with Tony and Natasha regarding a new direction for the Avengers. In addition to saving the world and possibly taking the fight to HYDRA, God how he hated the fact that they were still around, Tony had suggested protection detail for political dignitaries. Lately, there had been an increase in threats to foreign heads of state when planning for visits to the United States as well as an attempted bombing of the UN. Thankfully the police had acted quickly and had the meeting moved to an unannounced location. The bomb went off and did damage but no lives were lost.
Steve wasn't sure how he felt about playing guard-duty for politicians. They had Secret Service and military escorts already, how could having Captain America standing nearby help in any way? Besides, there weren't that many enhanced individuals to hire out. Bruce was a doctor working in third-world countries and the Hulk wasn't always as aware of his targets to be a good guard. Tony was so famous he needed his own security detail. Clint had checked in after SHIELD went down but left shortly after, claiming he was semi-retired now that SHIELD was gone. Nat was a spy more than a soldier and though he didn't doubt her abilities in the least, he wasn't sure how her presence standing next to politicians was going to deter threats. Thor was still off-world, as far as Steve knew.
He scrunched his face as he thought about his teammates. They all seemed to have things to do except him. Even Sam had the VA. Did Tony suggest guard-duty just so Steve would have something to do? He wondered if he ought to share his self-appointed mission of finding Bucky with Tony; would that help or hurt the search? He pulled his bike into the space where he normally parked it and shut it off.
Steve unlocked his apartment door and walked in, sighing. He dropped his keys on the table in the hall and set down his shield. He didn't bother with the lights. Tension and frustration were settled into his shoulders, digging in and making the muscles tight. He needed to take a hot shower to ease the strain otherwise he probably wouldn't sleep well. He doubted he'd sleep well regardless.
He was two steps into his bedroom when he stopped. Someone was sitting in the chair in the corner across from his bed. The blackout curtains had been pulled closed so it was difficult to see who was there. A flash of déjà vu reminded him of the Winter Soldier's—Bucky's—attempt on Fury's life. The attempt that the world saw as successful. His eyes finally adjusted to the deep darkness in his bedroom and his heart rate picked up when he processed what he saw.
Shaggy brown hair, broad shoulders, the slightest glint like metal on the man's left wrist between his sleeve and glove.
It took a moment before he found his voice but it came out steadier than he expected. "Do you know me?"
Bucky didn't move and his voice sounded gravelly like his throat was dry. "You're Steve; I read about you in a museum." Steve had read about himself in a museum too. The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum had reopened an exhibit about him three years ago when he'd come out of the ice. Steve's heart pounded heavily in his chest as he hoped that Bucky knew him, remembered him, beyond what he'd read at the exhibit. It was dark but Steve thought he saw the corners of Bucky's mouth lift just slightly before he added, "Of course, I know you, punk."
Elation and relief filled Steve and he might have shown it with a smile but his planted feet didn't move. It seemed his body remembered well the pain of being near the Winter Soldier. He opened his mouth to retort his practised line at that taunt but the single word got lodged in his throat and he felt he might choke on it.
Bucky nodded like he understood and got to his feet. He took the few measured steps until he stood directly in front of Steve. For several long beats of Steve's heart, Bucky gazed into his eyes. He brushed his fingertips against Steve's cheekbone in a tentative caress. Steve's breath rushed out of him in a shaky exhale that sounded suspiciously like a sob. "Jerk," he whispered.
Bucky's lips curled up into a tiny smile. He nodded as if he agreed with Steve's declaration and then tipped his chin up and pressed the smallest kiss against Steve's lips. Finally, Steve's body relaxed and his arms came up and wrapped around Bucky's back. He pressed quick, chaste kisses over Bucky's mouth, his cheeks, his jaw and rested his forehead against Bucky's. Bucky had tried to keep up and respond but gave up at one point and just let Steve shower him with kisses, even as he wiggled enough under Steve's clinging to wrap his arms around Steve's waist.
"You're here, you're real... Bucky, Bucky, Bucky," Steve's words were whispered and hurried, falling and tripping over his tongue like he'd never be able to say everything he needed to say fast enough before Bucky disappeared again. At some point in his litany, Steve realised he was crying but he didn't care. His best friend, his lover, that he'd thought he'd lost—that he'd failed to save—was back in his arms. Was here and not trying to kill him. Steve buried his face in Bucky's neck, only feeling slightly ashamed of the tears that still slipped from his eyes. He tried to calm his breathing, unconsciously attempting to match Bucky's, which caused memories of Bucky trying to get him to breathe slow and deep before they went off to war to come to mind. That's when he noticed a hitch in Bucky's breath every few inhales. He breathed deeply again, wanting to capture and keep the smell of him—leather, gun oil, clean sweat—just a bit longer before he pulled back.
Bucky's eyes shimmered and he had tear tracks glistening on his own cheeks. It made Steve feel less ashamed to know that Bucky'd cried too.
"I'm never letting you go again, you hear me?" Steve said, half-joking but still serious. He had no intentions of ever again having to live his life without Bucky by his side.
"Til the end of the line, pal," Bucky answered, agreeing. He pulled him back into another hug.