Thursday, September 8th, 2016 01:01 am
Where I work, 'farm jobs' are constant and ongoing. I talk to a lot of farmers, among other people. So this seemed kinda....inevitable. Hehe.

Steve is a North Dakota wheat farmer. Bucky is just wanting to feel like he's come home from the war. What else, but hitch-hike out to Steve's family farm and...hope for the best? :)

Beta'd by the amazing [livejournal.com profile] darkhavens, as always.

At AO3.

"Yeah, okay," Bucky said, and Steve smiled slowly and then went back, down the hall and down the stairs, and a moment later outside, the screen door creaking shut behind him. Bucky stood there for a moment, eyes shut. And then he went in to take a shower.

He woke with a little start, lying on something soft, a cool breeze playing over his face. His arm went out, pure reflex, feeling for the weapon that should be right there, and a dull ache went through him, arm and back and belly. He gasped softly, fingers clenching into a fist. He'd just laid down for a minute, just so his head would stop spinning. He had to get up, had to move, he was on duty….

"Cap?" he whispered, and there was a little noise, a soft creak. Bucky squinted in the dimness, at the shape that was standing, silhouetted in the golden light of an incandescent bulb.

"Yeah, Brooklyn. All's quiet. My watch," Steve said, and Bucky could have cried from relief. He nodded mutely instead, and turned a little on the mattress, curling deeper into the soft sheets, the faded quilt. He was safe; he could sleep. And in a few moments, he did.

The light is so bright, it's blinding. It's like being under a hammer, with the desert as anvil. And Bucky is forged steel, crushed between them. Heated and overheated and beaten out thinner and thinner until he shatters, and the world shatters with him; flying apart, fire and smoke, fanged wind, red noise, forever….

Bucky woke up shouting, clawing away from whatever was entangling him. He hit a hard floor and rolled, scrabbling, crawling. He found a corner and wedged himself in, heart pumping, hands reaching for the weapon that wasn't there. Hands. Hand. His body remembered, quicker than his mind, and throbbed old pain through an arm that no longer existed, reduced to ash and dust. Bucky shuddered and coughed and gasped for air, then deliberately rapped his head back into the wall behind him once, twice… The third time was hard enough to knock him dizzy and then he just sat, his limbs knotted up and shaking, his vision slowly clearing to show him Steve's spare room, pale-gold light slanting in through open windows and light, billowing curtains. Bucky concentrated, panting, cataloguing details; something he'd learned to do, to get himself to focus on what was around him. On what was; distracting his brain until he could deal with his brain.

There were cream-white walls and a ceiling of combed plaster, wide plank floors that were a soft, greenish-brown, like a new acorn. A bedstead of chipped white enamel over black iron, spread with tangled white sheets and a quilt in blues and greens and golds, starbursts on white, little knots of red thread. Heaped pillows, one on the floor, now, with a cut-out decoration on the open end. A wardrobe stood in one corner, the same warm green as the floor, the paint rubbed off and showing dark wood at the corners and along the edges.

A desk was against another wall, the roll-back top rolled most of the way open, with drawers and cubbies and pigeon holes; an enameled tin cup of pencils and pens, a crooked stack of notebooks and writing paper. There were pictures on the wall, two or three, framed and colorful, but Bucky let his gaze slide past them, not needing the details. He was awake enough, finally, to know where he was, and that he was okay. Mostly okay.

He cupped the stump of his left arm in his hand, kneading carefully through the thin sleeve of his tee-shirt, trying to relax the tense muscles, to massage away the phantom pain that made his nonexistent arm burn and cramp, made invisible fingers curl into a claw. As his breathing gradually slowed, and his heart stopped knocking against his ribs, he could feel the tension slip out of his shoulders and, grudgingly, the 'phantom' dissolved and he was left with only the few inches of scarred, knotted muscle and skin, aching under his hand.

Bucky sighed, his tight-curled legs sliding down to sprawl on the cool floor, his right arm flopping bonelessly into his lap, his head tipping back and his eyes falling shut. After a couple of minutes of just breathing, in slow ins and outs, while the shook up bits of himself settled into some kind of order, he realized he urgently needed to piss, and he was starving. With another sigh - huge and heavy, this time - he climbed shakily to his feet, groaning a little as sore muscles complained. He went across the hall, and halfway there he heard the screen door creak open and bang shut. Steve, coming or going. The bathroom was as crazily perfect and weathered as the bedroom, with a big, claw-foot tub, the tall shower head rising above it like a stainless steel daisy, and a porcelain sink sunk into a repurposed dresser.

Bucky's shirt clung to his back and ribs; he felt sticky and clammy and generally gross. His fingers rasped over his chin, against stubble that was starting to itch, and his hair was a mess, slept on wet and now hopelessly tangled, sticking to his neck. Bucky sighed (third time's the charm!) and decided to shower again. He cranked on the water, knowing from earlier that it would take a minute to warm, and crossed back to the bedroom to root around in his pack for something that was - hopefully - not too dirty.

But his pack wasn't there. He stood in the middle of the room, knowing he'd propped it right up by the head of the bed, right in reach. He looked under the bed, and then, hesitantly, opened the wardrobe. And there it was, tidily laid out on the bottom, under a pole with a dozen empty hangers.

The floor outside the room creaked, and Bucky startled. He jerked around from staring at his pack to staring at Steve, who was standing in the doorway, a laundry basket in his hands.

"Morning, Brooklyn," he said, with a huge grin. "I heard the shower, figured you were up." Bucky just blinked at him.

"M-morning? But I just...laid down." Bucky nervously raked his fingers back through his hair, wincing at a particularly bad tangle. "It's not...not even noon."

"You slept the clock around and then some," Steve said, walking inside and putting the basket on the rumpled bed. "It's nearly nine. I hope it's okay that I...I did your laundry. I had a heap of my own and it seemed like-"

"No, no, it's..that's...great, that's- Oh, hell, I left the water running in the shower." Bucky felt weirdly anxious and exposed, standing there in his sweat-stained tee and underwear, sleep-rumpled and confused, while Steve looked….

Well, Steve looked like some poster for All-American, home-grown perfection in his blue jeans and white tee, checked shirt hanging open over it, golden hair and golden skin and summer-blue eyes. The swooping, giddy feeling Bucky had kept running head-long into, every time he looked at Steve, came back with a vengeance, and Bucky suddenly, distractedly, needed to not be thinking about how Steve looked.

"Fuckin' Captain America. Too precious for this world," Bucky said, his voice a little wobbly, and something unknotted with a little jerk in his chest when Steve just grinned harder and rubbed the back of his neck, little glint in his eye.

"White bread an' apple pie," Steve said; old joke, old tease, and Bucky laughed outright, a little too loud and a little too much but, Christ, it felt good. It felt safe, to fall back on that, the familiar give and take. "Get cleaned up and c'mon down. I got breakfast going."

"Yeah, okay," Bucky said, and when he rummaged out boxer-briefs and tee and jeans from the basket, they were still warm, a faint citrus-smell on his clothes now, just like Steve's. His socks were rolled Army-style, little lumps of worn-out green. Little lumps of kindness that made Bucky sniff hard and get himself into the shower, double time.

Bucky spent the morning trailing around after Steve, eating the food Steve kept handing him. Hell, he wasn't gonna turn down fresh-made pancakes, and crisp bacon, peaches like little balls of fuzzy sunlight and sugar, banana bread thick with pecans. And the fucking apple pie, made by an actual farmer's daughter down the road somewhere; Steve's neighbors, apparently.

The actual farmer made an appearance sometime after noon, when Steve had been leaning into the guts of 'the Beast' - his combine - banging and cussing for half an hour, while Bucky lounged in the shade and made sarcastic comments about his abilities as a mechanic. The heat was syrup-thick, sticking in their lungs and all along their skin.

The old guy - white-haired, rake-thin, and wearing bib overalls - drove up in a rattletrap old Ford and limped through the wheat, calling out a hello, giving Steve an easy smile with strong, white teeth. He leaned in over the engine just like Steve had, and peered closely at this and that, asking questions, brow furrowed. Ten minutes later, under his direction, the machine roared to deafening life. It coughed out smoke and then settled to a bone-rattling rumble.

"Thanks, Del, thanks so much," Steve said, and stuck out a grease-streaked hand. Del shook it without a thought.

"Dinner down at the VFW tonight. We gonna see you, Stevie?" Del asked, and Bucky snorted incredulously and then looked away, fighting a manic grin. Stevie.

"You sure will. Me and Buck, we'll be there. Bucky! This is Delmar Boone. He was with the Big Red One at Gela in 1943."

"Sir," Bucky said, and straightened up, stepping forward to grasp the thin, callused hand Del held out. "James Barnes. It's an honor to meet you."

"Any friend of Stevie's here is a friend of ours. Known this boy since Hector was a pup," Del said, squeezing Bucky's hand and then letting go. His gaze settled on Bucky's arm - what was left of it - and he reached out again and patted Bucky's other shoulder. "You come on along tonight. Merlin Freely's loaned us his smoker, and we're gonna do us up some barbeque."

"Yes, sir. I'd be happy to."

Del nodded and then turned back to Steve. "Think you can get this cut before tomorrow? They say a storm's comin'."

"I'm gonna try. Probably do alright, now that you've got her goin' again," Steve said, patting the dusty flank of the combine. Del grinned and touched his fingers to the ratty brim of his cap. The grubby white and navy cap had a 'North Dakota Certified Seed' patch on it.

"You're learnin' still. Give it a few more years and you might just get the hang of it," Del said, and Steve laughed. They both watched the old man hobble his way across the furrows, and give a little toot of his horn as he drove away. Steve waved, and then sighed and looked up at the sky.

"I gotta get the rest of this wheat cut, Buck. Probably gonna' take me right up until sunset. You can just...go on back to the house and relax. Have some lunch or something, whatever you wanna do."

"Can I help?" Bucky asked, saying it out loud, this time. Not like he had a clue what he could do; he wasn't really even sure what the machine did or how it cut wheat or...anything. And there was only one place to sit on it, and he sure couldn't rake up wheat into those little stacks or whatever the hell they were. If that's what you even did to wheat. Christ, who knew?

"Nah. I been doin' this for a couple years on my own, I got a system," Steve said with a grin, pausing to wipe sweat off his face with a greasy hand, and leaving a streak behind. "You just go have some more pie. You're so damn thin, Bucky," Steve said, and his voice went soft and serious, the look in his blue eyes making Bucky look away. Not pity, no; Steve didn't pity. Steve loved, and worried, and cried over broken stray dogs in the middle of a village road. Steve had a heart as big as his North Dakota skies, and everything in Bucky yearned wildly toward it.

And skittered away, cringing.

"Guess I should'a bought me that bike instead of new boots. Stevie," Bucky said, and Steve's expression went from serious to horrified, flushing under his tan.

"Oh, hell, don't you dare, Brooklyn, nobody calls me that-"

"Except old men who probably saw you in diapers," Bucky said, and they were both laughing, shoving at each other and scuffing up dust. Steve pulled Bucky close and gave him a little hugging shake, leaving fingerprint marks of grease on Bucky's old Army tee. Bucky could smell the scent of it - of Steve - all the way back up to the house.

Steve came in with the last of the light, fuzzed with dust and looking tired, shoulders bowed. Bucky'd spent the day watching Steve's chickens, or the previously unguessed troop of cats that lived in the barn, or eating, or napping, propped up on the padded glider, his eyes slitting open every now and again to watch the plume of pale dust that marked Steve's progress through the field. He poured Steve a glass of lemonade and watched him drink it down in one long, long gulp. Watched his throat move and the way his eyes fluttered shut, dusty-gold lashes against freckled cheeks.

"Jeez, Cap, you look out on your feet."

"Oh, I'm alright," Steve said, putting the glass in the sink and wiping his hand over his face and back over his hair. Bits of chaff and dust slid out, and he made a little face. "I need a shower. Probably already got started at the VFW."

"You're not...too tired?" Bucky asked, half hopeful and half not. Not looking forward to being stared at by old geezers in overalls or their wives, but wanting, very much, to go somewhere where everyone...got it. Or most everyone.

Steve shook his head, smiling. "Nah. I'm alright. Got it all cut, too." Steve reached up, stretching his arms over his head, leaning from side to side with a little groan. His shirt rode up off his hips, his jeans slid down just a little, and Bucky took in the pale stretch of skin between both with a blink and a gulp. He looked away a little too slow, seeing Steve's gaze find his and the knowledge of where he was looking cross Steve's face. Steve looked down, a ghost of a smile curling up the corner of his mouth. Then he turned on his socked feet and padded away.

A moment later, Bucky heard the shower come on and he sat down hard in a kitchen chair. He was right back where he'd started, almost four years ago; right back there wanting Steve, any damn way he could get him.

The VFW was both worse and better than Bucky had expected. It was a plain, brick-built building in a town called Beulah, just a little over ten miles from Steve's farm. Inside, a gleaming linoleum floor held trestle tables draped with plastic cloths and folding chairs in rows. Two fire doors were propped open in the back, letting in a steady trickle of sweet-spicy smoke and women and girls carrying trays of cooked meat and heaps of grilled corn on the cob.

A pass-through to an industrial-looking kitchen held more pans and bowls of baked beans, cole slaw, potato salad, three-bean salad, and fruit salad. Fluffy heaps of whipped Jell-O and Cool Whip, studded with marshmallows, coconut and nuts, sat cheek-by-jowl with baskets of sliced bread and stacks of golden cornbread. An entire separate table was reserved for pie, cake, and something gooey and chocolatey that Steve said was Mississippi Mud Pie, in a tone of abject reverence. About half of the men and women there were already sitting, paper plates and plastic forks in hand. Little kids ran and darted about in the open space.

Everyone, of course, knew Stevie. An hour in, Bucky's sides hurt from attempting to control his hysterical laughter, and he was stuffed to the gills on smoked pork and chicken and brisket, helpings of every side, and yes, Mud Pie, which Bucky thought was damn good but nothing compared to the lemon meringue. The men all clapped Steve on the back or took his hand from where they sat, some with canes or walkers. Women with lined faces and grey curls kept patting Steve on the cheek, and little kids either giggled from a distance, or hurled themselves on him, leaving sticky smears of barbeque sauce on his arms.

Steve...just took it with a grin and ducked head, his cheeks pinking, his hair side-parted and combed like some matinee movie star. Bucky watched him talk to tottering senior citizens and toddlers alike, relaxed and easy, as happy, it seemed, to discuss the weather or wheat or something called DeKalb hybrids as he was to talk about puppies or 4H projects or a sparkly skirt on a girl that looked like a tiny, dark-haired fairy.

And the whole time - the whole time - Steve kept Bucky right there. Introducing him, talking him up, bragging on his record and his supposed heroics and staying, always, on Bucky's left. Giving him cover and support that Bucky didn't realize he needed (wanted, craved), until the second time someone had come up on that side and startled the hell out of him by putting a hand on his shoulder.

It was a whirl of voices and faces and hands sticking out to take his, and a couple hours in, when people were starting to box up leftovers and stack the chairs away, Bucky was long past ready to go. One of the women - Del's wife Susan, apparently - pushed a foil-lined box into Steve's hands, assuring him he'd gotten some choice cuts of the pork and chicken. "And I saw you makin' cow eyes at my lemon meringue," she said to Bucky, smiling, and put a foil-covered paper plate in his hand. Bucky just knew there was a saved-back slice in there.

"Best I ever had, ma'am," Bucky said, ducking his head, and she patted him and smiled at Steve, and then they were walking out, and climbing up into Steve's old blue and white truck, a relic of his father's teen years. As they drove over the narrow roads, the only lights for miles were the headlights and a thin, sickle moon overhead. Far out, over the plains, lightning flickered, pink-white, behind bulkheads of clouds. Warm air pushed in at them through the open windows, and the droning call of cicadas was in Bucky's ears. He put his hand out into the stream and let the air push his flattened palm up and down, back and forth. Riding the slip like a bird or a jet, content to just glide.

"Never thought I'd be okay, out in the country," Bucky said softly, as they slowed to turn up Steve's drive. The denuded wheat field looked sad and tired right now, but soon it would be thick with new growth again, Steve had said; he'd be planting the winter wheat in a month, maybe less. "I thought I'd miss the city, you know; thought all this quiet and empty would make me crazy."

"Does it?" Steve asked, pulling the truck to a halt and shutting it off, turning off the headlights so that they sat in shadow, a lone bulb up on a pole near the barn the only illumination in the cab.

"It really doesn't," Bucky said. He unlatched the door and climbed out of the truck. Steve did the same, and they climbed the porch steps to sit, by silent, mutual agreement, on the glider, the little cache of leftovers on the porch floor beside them. A push of Steve's toe set it to sliding, back and forth, and Bucky twisted a little so that he could see Steve more clearly, drawing his leg up, foot under his opposite knee. Steve was still mostly a shadow; clearer, as Bucky got his night-sight back, but still no details.

Maybe that made it easier.

"I thought...after you left, I'd go nuts over there, too. Lost my shield, you know? Not your fault," Bucky added, at a small, distressed noise from Steve. "You did your time and you got out, and I didn't...I wasn't mad at you for it. Mad at myself, mostly, for bein' so stupid."

"Stupid about what, Buck?" Steve said softly, and Bucky took a deep breath, nerving himself.

"About a lot of things. About what I wanted. About what was real, and what wasn't. It only took me...six months to fuck up so bad..." Bucky paused for a moment, his throat closing, and Steve shifted a little closer, one broad hand reaching out and settling on Bucky's tucked-up knee. "I got them killed, Cap, I got them all killed." Bucky stopped again, this time so he could gasp air into his lungs, eyes stinging, and Steve's hand tightened on his knee.

"It's not your fault, Buck. It's not. I still talk to Carter sometimes, you know. She told me; told me what a cluster-fuck it was. You did the best you could, Brooklyn. I know that. I know it."

"Don't feel like it," Bucky said, and sniffed. Steve fished in his back pocket and pulled out a pale square. He shook it open and handed it to Bucky, and Bucky snorted in watery amusement. Of course, Steve had a damn handkerchief. Bucky wiped his nose and sat there, the little square crumpled in his fingers. "Thing is, I work best on your six, Cap. I trust you and I just...don't fuckin' trust anybody anymore. And…."

"And what, Buck?" Steve asked, and his voice was so soft, his hand easier, now, on Bucky's knee, fingers lightly stroking instead of gripping. Bucky shivered.

"And I...really fucking missed you, Cap. Steve. I really...fucking missed you. After I got out, after...all the hospitals and shit...I felt like a damn ghost. Like I was just walkin' around Brooklyn waiting for the sky to fall. Didn't make any sense, and then I finally got the last of my stuff, you know, and that damn picture was in there…."

Bucky stopped again, and Steve made a little noise, obviously remembering what picture Bucky was talking about. Taken with the same camera that had taken the one in Steve's house, this one was just Steve and Bucky, sitting side by side on a crumbling wall in their gear, weapons leaning against their thighs, their heads close together as they looked at some bit of intel. And Bucky had, without thinking, looped his arm around Steve's neck, and Steve had his fingers casually tangled in the hand that Bucky had let fall over his chest. They were touching from knee to hip to chest, obvious, really, if you looked, and Bucky had been pissed as hell at Morita, for a while, for taking it.

But then Steve's tour was up, his whole hitch in the Army was up. He'd come to say goodbye and they'd ended up just holding on, for long, silent minutes, pressed heart to heart in the undersea gloom of the tent. Steve had kissed Bucky, just the once, soft and reverent, and then he'd gone.

Bucky had about worn the damn picture out, looking at it. It had felt as if he'd missed out on the best thing his life might ever offer him; like he'd looked away for one moment, and the light had just gone out of everything. That picture was in his pack right that minute, safe inside a zippered pocket, worn and fragile and so, so precious.

But not nearly as precious as the man, the living, breathing man, sitting right there.

"That was a really good picture," Steve said, a smile in his voice, and Bucky sniffed, scrubbed his nose with the now-damp handkerchief, then laughed softly, a little choked.

"It really was. And I just...I saw it again, after all that time, and I realized...I had to come find you, I had to see if...if I hadn't fucked it all the way. If it wasn't too late."

"It's not," Steve said, so low it was almost a whisper, and he leaned in, just like the picture, so close, his heat and his scent and his breath on Bucky's skin. His forehead rested against Bucky's forehead and they just breathed together for a moment. Then Bucky shifted a little, and Steve did too, and then their mouths were touching, slow and easy, the lightest of pressure. Bucky didn't even really open his mouth, and Steve didn't either, and then Steve pulled away the tiniest bit, leaning into Bucky's forehead again.

"I never knew, not for sure, if- God, Brooklyn, you almost died and I'd never have known."

"I'm an idiot, Cap. I should'a said something, or...wrote. Something. I was just…." Bucky tipped his head up and kissed Steve, this time a little harder, a little deeper, his hand going up to fist in Steve's overshirt, hitching himself forward on the padded seat of the glider so he was leaning into Steve's warm, solid body. Christ, it felt so good.

Steve tasted like salt and sweet, and his hands were easy on Bucky's ribs, on his shoulders. He just held, letting Bucky push him back and get a hand into his hair, messing up that perfect 'do, dragging his fingers through it as he tried to get even closer. Steve's arms were around him, urging him, stroking and squeezing, and Bucky ended up half on Steve's lap, breathing hard.

He leaned back for a moment, because he just had to see, and Steve reached up and tugged the elastic out of Bucky's hair, letting the long strands fall forward, curving around his cheeks.

"You're so damn...pretty," Steve said, teasing lilt in his voice. "Just like one'a those French girls."

"All-American golden boy," Bucky teased back, and then he ducked his head a little, splaying his hand on Steve's chest, feeling the solidity of him, the reality of him. "I never expected to come home, Cap," Bucky said softly, and Steve made a hurt little noise and tugged Bucky close again, and kissed him until they were both breathless, flushed and shaking.

"Steve," Bucky breathed, and Steve got his fingers in Bucky's hair and tugged, lightly.

"Come upstairs with me?" he asked, and Bucky nodded against his mouth, smiling.

Steve's room was all in shadow, with a bar of illumination from the barn-light falling diagonally across the bed. Bucky would always remember that night - that first - in that light; the shadow and shine, the muscles of Steve's chest and belly and thighs rising from darkness and subsiding again, parts of him lit up and glowing, parts of him hidden.

They were too new-foal shaky and unsure, in those long moments, to do more than press skin on skin, mouth on mouth. Bucky knelt over Steve's thighs and kissed Steve's collarbones and sternum; caught one nipple in a gentle bite and rubbed a sweat-slick thumb over the scar that creased the other, legacy of that other place, that other time. Steve's whole right side was laddered with the little marks of war, and Bucky wanted to touch them all. Acknowledgement. Reassurance. Proof of life.

So he couldn't pull away when Steve's hand slid from his shoulder to the top of his arm, and down, gently cupping the scarred stump of flesh there. He feathered kisses over it until Bucky wanted to scream, or cry, or...something, his breath coming in shocky-short gasps, almost sobs.

"Sorry, I'm sorry, Buck-"

"No," Bucky said, and he lifted his head from Steve's bicep, seeing the clear blue of his eyes, and the fall of antique-gold hair, the hollowed shadow of his cheek and throat. "No, it's okay, it's good, it's...so much."

"Okay, okay," Steve said, and Bucky squirmed backward and dragged his hand down Steve's ribs to the arch of his hipbone, the taut curve of his belly, the silken, hot length of his cock. He kept sweeping his fingertips over it, from crown to root and back again, curling his fingers under to comb through the wiry curls at the base. "Ooh," Steve sighed, and Bucky laughed softly.


"Yeah, f-fuck yeah." Steve's hands were on Bucky's thighs, on his hips, just touching and tugging and holding on tight, and Bucky leaned forward and took Steve's cock into his hand, pressed his own cock on top, grinding, sliding. And then Steve's hand came over his, fingers lacing together, and Bucky shuddered and curled down over them both, his mouth sloppy-wet on Steve's chest.

Steve's other hand kept moving, touching - raking down Bucky's spine and up to twist in his hair and down, again, to clutch at his thigh; to steady him when he lost his balance a little, swaying too far. The air in the room was thick with heat and humidity, thick with the smell of them, salt and musk. Skin on skin on skin, slip and catch, the sudden slick of precome under Bucky's thumb and Steve arching helplessly, a bitten-off cry rasping out of his mouth.

"Come on, honey, c'mon, oh fuck," Bucky said, his own voice gone to a hoarse whisper. Steve squeezed with his hand, and Bucky sped up, his hips grinding down, his balls against Steve's, the throb of them seeming to bloom out into his belly and down his thighs, a tingling ache that was piercingly sweet.

"Buck, Bucky," Steve said, and then curled up and yanked at Bucky's hair, lining them up, mouth on mouth, just as he came, hot and slick against Bucky's fingers and his cock. Bucky could feel every pulse, the length of his, and he followed Steve over the edge with a shuddering groan.

It seemed to last forever; was over far too soon. Bucky slumped on top of Steve, panting, feeling the rising push of Steve's chest against his own, the heave of their bellies, their hands trapped between them. Bucky's whole body tingled, his knees ached, and he wanted a drink. But more than anything, he just wanted to stay right where he was for as long as possible. Steve's free hand stroked down his back, over and over, and Bucky finally turned his head a little, kissing Steve's cheek.

"Okay?" Steve murmured, and Bucky smiled against his skin, tasting salt on his lips.

"Yeah, okay. You fuckin' idiot."

"I gotta ask," Steve said, but he was laughing, and Bucky was, and they rolled apart, sprawling on the bed. "Oh, that was…."

"Sticky," Bucky said, and laughed again. He struggled up onto his elbow and then up, to the edge of the bed. Steve's fingers touched his back and slid down, slowly.

"Cleanin' up?"

"Yeah. N'I need a drink." Light flashed, suddenly, an actinic flare, and Bucky and Steve both flinched. A moment later, a slow rumble of thunder shivered through the air, and the breeze puffing in the window was discernibly cooler.

"Guess Del was right. Here comes the storm. I gotta shut some windows," Steve said, rolling upright, and onto his feet. He headed toward the door, tripping a little over the discarded tangle of their jeans and shirts, and Bucky snorted.

"Watch where you're goin', Cap."

"I left the truck windows down!" Steve called, and Bucky heard him thumping down the stairs, and then the creak and bang of the screen door. Bucky got up and stretched, hard. He felt warm and heavy, sated in a way he hadn't felt in a long, long time. He stepped carefully across the room and into the bathroom, doing a quick clean-up at the sink before going downstairs. Steve was in the living room, shutting the windows, and Bucky went back to the kitchen, getting glasses down from the cabinet. The foil-covered plate of lemon meringue pie stood on the counter, and Bucky poured out lemonade and then got a fork.

"Just gotta get a couple upstairs shut. The weather always hits the west side of the house." Steve leaned in the kitchen doorway, a shadow, little gleams of detail picked out by the soft glow of the dim light over the stove. "Midnight snack?"

"Thought we could share it," Bucky said, and carefully stacked the pie on top of one of the glasses. Steve came forward and just as carefully lifted the glass and pie out of Bucky's hand, and put it on the counter.

"I like it that you're comfortable raiding my icebox naked," he said, tugging Bucky against him by his hips.

"I like that you like it," Bucky said, feeling stupid and turned on and...giddy, again. Still. Like a kid with a crush. His hand, resting on Steve's forearm, slid up until it came to rest on the little string of numbers and letters tattooed across Steve's left bicep.

Latitude and longitude. 'What's that?' Bucky had asked, a month into knowing Steve; thirty days that had felt like forever, and like nothing at all, and like the end of the world.

'That's home,' Steve had said.

"Home," Bucky said, echoing the memory, and Steve stroked one hand down Bucky's back, slow caress.

"If you want. For as long as you want."

"Might want forever," Bucky said, and looked up that inch or so necessary to meet Steve's gaze. “I dunno if I will, or if I can, but I want...to try."

"Okay," Steve said, and he smiled, wide and tender, so much joy in the look he gave Bucky that Bucky's heart ached, pounding in his chest.


Sometime later that night, so late it was nearly morning, Bucky woke with a little start. Steve's arm was heavy across his ribs, Steve himself on his belly, his face turned toward Bucky, one leg hanging out off the edge of the bed. Bucky smiled sleepily at him and then turned his face to the window, watching silent lightning flicker in the clouds, pink-white. He counted under his breath, one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi, three-, and thunder rumbled, but far away, like a train on a distant track.

Rain was pattering down outside, a thousand tiny little pops, and the cool breeze that lifted the curtains and flowed over Bucky's face was clean and rich with the smell of wet earth and ozone. It was like wine; intoxicating. Bucky took a long, long breath in, all but tasting it on his tongue, and Steve moved a little, his fingers curling against Bucky's skin.

Bucky breathed in, and breathed out on a sigh. He was safe, and he wasn't alone anymore. He was finally home, after so very long, in a way he'd never thought he could be, ever again. And he had Steve, right there, close as a heartbeat, real as apple pie.

Bucky traced the little numbers and letters of Steve's tattoo, and tugged the sheet and quilt a little higher over both of them. Then he let his eyes slide shut, and finally slept, content.

The Beast
The Big Red One
Mississippi Mud Pie
And for those who may be unfamilair, a cutwork pillowcase.