What Now?

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"Steve— fuck. Gimme a fucking minute."

Bucky slowed to a stop on the dirt path, panting. With his eyes closed, he leaned forward to brace his hands on his knees. His head was pounding; his insides felt sour, and he was sincerely regretting agreeing to go on this run.

Steve was a few paces ahead of Bucky, and he stopped to turn back and face him. "You good?" he asked, his hands on his hips while he caught his breath.

Bucky nodded, lying, as he inhaled through his teeth to combat the nausea. Steve walked back to his side, and after a few seconds Bucky was able to straighten up again. He sighed and rubbed his eyes; the drumming in his head softened when he pressed against them. "How are you not— fucking miserable?" he asked. "I didn't drink any more than you."

Steve was fine. Of course he fucking was. America's golden boy woke up after his first night of drinking in decades and decided to go on a fucking jog, dragging Bucky along with him. Steve looked at Bucky with a half-smile teasing on his lips. "You know what Thor said. It affects—"

"—People differently. I know. I get it." The events of the previous night had made that painfully obvious; while Steve sat giggling quietly, enjoying the euphoric effects of the Asgardian whiskey, Bucky was busy doing... whatever the fuck he had been doing.

Embarrassing himself. Jeopardizing his relationship with you. Risking your job and your home.

Of course, you reassured him again and again that that wasn't the case. Whereas Bucky had spent the evening clinging to you, you barely let go of him after the party ended so abruptly. When his intoxication suddenly plummeted to exhaustion, you curled up around him in your bed and held him while he slept. And that morning when he woke up, when Bucky was so miserably hungover, you seemed positively jolly as you fetched him water and pulled the curtains shut to block out the sunlight.

Bucky could feel it, the weight that had lifted from your shoulders. And as the day went on and the crushing pressure of his embarrassment faded, he realized he was starting to feel lighter, too. The burden of his secret was replaced with relief, because at least now there was no more pretending. No more hiding, no more waiting.

It was messy, but you told him you would figure it out together. He believed you.

But Bucky's relief was short-lived, because in the early afternoon, after he had showered and eaten and felt slightly more alive, Steve texted him. He wanted to go on a run, which was terrible enough, but Bucky knew there was more to it than that. Steve wanted to get him alone, to talk, to ask him about what the hell had happened last night. He couldn't blame Steve; if roles were reversed, he would have some questions, too.

Despite the chill autumn air, Bucky had been sweating since the moment he laced up his shoes.

On the trail, when the nausea had passed and Bucky finally met Steve's eye, he gulped. There was something about the way Steve was looking at him that made him feel small; insecurity flickered inside him, and he couldn't hold Steve's gaze.

"That stuff was pretty wicked to you, huh?" Steve's tone was artificially light; he was holding something back. Bucky could only nod, his mouth clamped shut as the memory of the whiskey rose in his throat.

"I'm sorry," Steve said quietly, and Bucky stared at him in shock— that wasn't what he had been expecting. He expected anger, or at least annoyance, but Steve sounded genuinely remorseful. "I should've done something," he continued. "When Tony started yelling. I should've made him back off."

Bucky shook his head, gently, so the pounding behind his eyes wouldn't worsen. He smiled at the thought of drunk, blushing Steve trying to talk an irate Tony Stark down. "Don't be," he said. "Not your responsibility." He looked at his feet and scuffed the toe of his shoe in the dirt. "And I deserved it, anyway."

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