Dit is geschreven pre-Infinity War, dus het is volledig spoilervrij, al speelt het zich technisch gezien gedurende de film af (maar een versie van de film die totaal niet klopt met wat de film echt is omdat ik daar dus nog niets van wist toen ik dit schreef). Geïnspireerd door, uiteraard, Steve's nieuwe look in Infinity War.

De titel van deze fic is de titel van deze fic omdat mijn enige andere optie "You're beardiful" was, en dat vond ik helaas nog erger.

“Steve.” It’s the first thing Bucky says when he opens his eyes. He’s still inside the man-sized freezer, and Steve wishes he would get out, but his heart skips a beat at hearing Bucky say his name. Then Bucky follows it up with, “What the fuck.”
      T’Challa’s scientists are absolute professionals, so they pretend they’re perfectly deaf while checking the monitors and noting things down on their WakandaPads, but Steve still wishes they had a bit more privacy for this conversation. “It’s an emergency, Bucky. I need you. The world needs you.”
      “Yeah, I know,” Bucky says, and Steve thinks he’s being sarcastic, but he doesn’t sound that way at all. “I know you wouldn’t wake me if the world weren’t about to end.”
      “Then what -”
      Steve doesn’t finish his question, because Bucky finally makes use of his recently thawed out limbs to get out of his metal tube. He takes two steps forward and stops just on the edge of Steve’s personal bubble. Steve wants to close the distance and hug him — real and alive and warm — but he doesn’t, because this seems like a situation where he should let Bucky lead.
      Then Bucky reaches up and pulls on the hairs at Steve’s chin. Steve yelps and slaps his hand away, and Bucky half laughs, half snorts.
      “I thought maybe it wasn’t real, but it seems pretty solidly attached. You wear a beard now? What on earth?”
      “I was on the run,” Steve says, scrubbing a hand over his chin. It was scratchy for a while, but it’s long enough now that it’s pretty soft. “I didn’t have much time to shave.”
      “Or cut your hair, apparently.” Bucky’s eyes have wandered a little higher, and he lifts his hand again. Steve isn’t sure if he should be proud that he doesn’t flinch away immediately, because it seems like that would have been the smart thing to do, based on recent experience.
      But Bucky doesn’t pull this time. He just runs his hand over Steve’s head. It’s almost a caress.
      “Gentlemen,” T’Challa calls as he enters the lab. Bucky’s hand falls to his side, and Steve mourns the loss of contact. “I apologize if I’m interrupting.”
      “It’s fine,” Steve rasps.
      T’Challa probably isn’t convinced, but, in contrast to certain other superhero billionaires Steve knows, has enough tact not to pry or joke about it. He looks from Steve to Bucky. “It’s good to see you awake again, Bucky Barnes. The jet is ready for departure. It would be prudent to make haste.”

They meet Sam and Natasha in a secret location. Bruce is there too, and Bucky has never met him, so Steve introduces them and they shake hands politely.
      Bucky turns to Sam. “Alright, so why isn’t your hair blue?”
      “Sorry?” Sam says, clearly amused, but also about as nonplussed as Steve is.
      “You should be. Natalia has gone blonde, Steve now has a stupid beard and hair long enough to braid, so what’s your thing?”
      Sam gives Steve a sidelong look and Steve already knows he’s not going to like what comes next. “My thing is looking good, especially next to this hipster lumberjack.”
      Bucky narrows his eyes. “Wait. Were you with Steve, when he was running from – whatever the fuck we’re about to fight?”
      Bucky turns to Steve. Steve shrugs. “It’s easier?”
      “No time, my ass.”
      Natasha, who’s been rifling through one of the crates in the back of the jet with Bruce, pushes two guns at once into Bucky’s hands. “You’re right about at least that, James. There’s no time for your ass.”
      “Steve has a beard,” Bucky says, inexplicably. That’s the end of it for then, as they’re suddenly being shot at from the sky.
      Sam exchanges a tired look with Steve. “Why am I not even surprised this secret location isn’t secret anymore? What has your friendship done to me?”
      Steve just grins at him and pats him on the back when he overtakes him on their jog down the exit ramp of the jet, into the jungle.

Eventually, they meet up with Tony and the group he’s been forming, because they realized a united front would be their only shot against this alien invasion. Tony brings some people that call themselves the Guardians of the Galaxy and have a talking raccoon as one of their members, but Steve’s willing to skip shock and disbelief and just go straight to acceptance, because they need the help. It’s worse than New York, and that’s saying something. The meeting overall goes better than expected, even if Tony is predictably Tony about it all. He oddly seems to share some of Bucky’s priorities, which is a day Steve had never thought he’d see.
      When Tony enters T’Challa’s secret bunker — actually secret, this time — he pretends to do a double take. “Wow, Cap’s a furry now.”
      “Tony,” Rhodey groans, but Bucky nods vigorously, until Natasha leans over and whispers something in his ear. Then he just looks slightly stunned. It’s very effective in convincing Steve he doesn’t want to ask.
      “Alright,” he says instead. “Here’s the plan.”

Somewhere right in the middle of the fight, Steve kicks an unfriendly alien in the chest, turns, and realizes the one behind him was closer than he thought. It grabs at his face with long fingers, and manages to get a grip on his beard. Steve is dragged forward and for a moment he’s in a really bad position, but before he can get a grasp on the creature’s arm to break its hold, it suddenly goes slack.
      Bucky is right behind it, lowering his futuristic Wakandan rifle, which he acquired somewhere, apparently. He hops over the corpse and extends a hand. Steve expects to find it landing on his shoulder, but Bucky aims higher and it ends up on his cheek instead. “You okay?” Bucky asks, eyes a little wild, but completely calm in every other aspect of his demeanor.
      Steve has the funny sensation of not being entirely sure if Bucky is addressing him or his beard, but since the latter can’t answer, he does. “I had him on the ropes.” He covers Bucky’s hand with his own, briefly. “But thanks anyway.”
      He turns and hears Bucky snort behind him when he sprints away, back into the thick of it. Antman, Spiderman and Hawkeye look like they could use some backup.

They win their first battle, but it took more out of them than expected, and Thanos wasn’t even there. They haven’t saved the world yet, but they have bought it a little more time, just enough to allow themselves a short period to rest and regroup.
      Steve inhales some of the pizza that magically appears in their abandoned warehouse in the middle of the jungle. Was it Steven Strange’s magic? Tony throwing around enough money to make the Pope blush? Clint’s unexplained ability to locate good coffee and bad pizza wherever he goes? He doesn’t really care, but it makes him feel a lot more like a human being again.
      He’s with Tony and Rhodey, looking at a holographic map Shuri provided that blew Tony’s mind for some technical reason Steve doesn’t care about, when Bucky is suddenly next to him, appearing out of thin air. Steve had been listening to what Tony was saying, he really had, but he loses focus, because Bucky is very close, actually.
      “You have something here,” Bucky says, and proceeds to lick his thumb and wipe away whatever the something was Steve had on his chin.
      Then Bucky moves on, heading for Clint, and Steve is left blinking after him.
      “Hey, lover boy!” Tony yells. He sounds annoyed enough it probably isn’t the first time he’s tried to get Steve’s attention. Steve turns back to him, but Tony is on a roll now. “Or should I say lover man, considering the fact America’s sweetheart suddenly decided beards are really cool and a good idea and he should totally steal the coolest Avenger’s style ideas?”
      “Tony,” Steve says, but it’s not very effective. Or effective at all.
      “I mean, I’m not saying there’s only room for a limited number of people with beards on every superhero team, or that you’re encroaching on my and Thor’s thing by leaving behind that cleanshaven all-American thing you had going, but I just want it to be put on the record that -”
      “Tony,” Rhodey says, and he must be more experienced with this, or Tony must just like him better because he didn’t grow a beard. Whatever it is, it manages to return everyone’s focus to their planning. Steve makes a mental note to send Rhodey a gift basket when this is all over.

Part of their new and improved strategy is to wait for Thanos’s army in a location that’s advantageous to them, and catch their enemy off guard, if such a thing is possible. A necessary component of this plan is actually lying in wait, however, which isn’t great.
      At first, it isn’t great because Steve hates just sitting around halfway up a mountain when he feels he should be doing something. Then it gets worse, because it becomes apparent Bucky is having the exact same problem.
      “Hey,” Bucky says, sotto voce because they’re not really supposed to talk. When Steve doesn’t react, he repeats it about ten times, until Steve sighs. It’s not much, but Bucky takes it as the capitulation it is. “So,” he continues, “how’s Sharon doing?”
      Steve wants to sigh again, but he doesn’t. People keep asking him this, which is fair, but he never has a good answer. “I don’t really know,” he says, voice barely audible. “We exchanged a couple of messages, but I haven’t heard from her in weeks.”
      “Let me guess. You were here, sitting next to my frozen body, looking like a sad puppy?”
      “Yep,” Sam chimes in from Bucky’s other side. Steve didn’t even know he could hear them, but he seems to think this is too important not to interrupt.
      “I didn’t-” Steve realizes he’s not going to get anywhere now that Sam’s teaming up with Bucky, so he allows himself that second sigh and gives up. He is way past caring how this looks, anyway. The world keeps telling him he can’t put Bucky first and he keeps proving it wrong. It’s not really news. “Well yeah, pretty much.”
      “Interesting,” Bucky says. “You exchanged one blond beard for another.”
      Steve is close enough, so he elbows him for that. “Sharon is lovely even if we weren’t meant to be and you’re an asshole,” he shoots back mildly. “And you know that’s wrong. I like women just fine.”
      “I know,” Bucky agrees.
      Sam snorts. “You two deserve each other.”
      Steve chances a glance at Bucky next to him, who doesn’t look away from the scope of his rifle, but lifts the corner of his mouth in a smirk. “We know,” Steve says.
      T’Challa, who is somewhere on Sam’s other side, shushes them. The army is approaching.

Steve and Bucky are separated in the battle. Their paths only cross again when their enemies start to dwindle in numbers and all of the Avengers are converging on their central goal, where Thanos is holed up with his infinity stones. Steve sees one of Thanos’s soldiers approach Bucky from behind while Bucky is busy holding off three at his front, so he jumps in and knocks the fourth attacker out cold. Two more are behind that one. Steve backs up a little to dodge their claws, and his back briefly bumps against Bucky’s in a familiar, reassuring way.
      Bucky doesn’t even look over his shoulder to see who it is before he starts talking. When they were still living in Brooklyn, Steve had often thought Bucky must have some sort of sixth sense, like Peter’s spidey sense, but connected to Steve specifically.
      “‘We know’?” Bucky shouts. He manages a slightly indignant tone even over the general tumult of the battle being fought all around them. “What does that even mean, Stevie?”
      “Now might not be the right time!” Steve yells back. He throws his shield and manages to incapacitate both of his opponents in one go, so he turns to help Bucky. He is only in time to see Bucky jam something that looks like a kitchen knife up the last of his three enemies’ throats. Bucky wriggles his knife free, lets the body drop to the floor and also turns, putting him in very close proximity to Steve once again.
      “It’s never the right time,” Bucky says. His breathing is barely even elevated from the fight, but his long hair is a mess. He must have lost the hair tie holding it together at some point. Some of it is in front of his eyes and Steve feels the urge to brush it away, so he does, which doesn’t surprise him very much because he’s always been weak when it comes to Bucky. Bucky lets him, which surprises him a little more, but not all too much either, when he thinks about it.
      He gives Bucky a shrug and a wry smile. “I guess that’s just our lives.”
      Bucky narrows his eyes at him, and then there’s suddenly a finger jabbing at his chest, hard even through the armor in his suit. “Okay, you know what? No. No, you don’t get to grow a depression beard while I’m in the freezer and then ‘guess that’s just our lives’ me, because that’s not fair and we’ve both waited long enough.”
      Next thing Steve knows, he’s being pulled forward. The accusing finger has left his chest and a hand has wound itself in the short hair of his beard, using it as leverage to tip him forward into Bucky. It wouldn’t have worked if he hadn’t let himself be dragged, but he does, so their lips meet and slot together perfectly, like something out of a movie Wanda or Clint would choose. Bucky smells of sweat and gunpowder and tastes much the same. It’s the best damn thing Steve has experienced in his nearly hundred years.
      Until Bucky flinches away because a bullet just pinged off his metal left arm. Steve spots the culprit and takes him out with a well-aimed frisbee throw of his shield, but by the time it’s returned to him, Bucky has gotten caught up in the fighting again and Steve’s been reminded that there are other things in the world than the two of them. The mood is definitely gone.

At some point during the brawl, Steve hits the ground face first. He tastes salt before he registers the pain in his bitten lip, and even then it’s a distant ninth or tenth concern at the moment, because he’s got better things to worry about, like Thanos’s desire to kill and/or enslave every person on earth and some outside of it.
      His lip is healed up before the fight is over, but there’s still a surprising amount of dry blood matted in his beard when he finally catches a glance of himself in a hallway mirror in the giant mansion where T’Challa is letting them all crash. He doesn’t really think much of it, because there’s blood everywhere – not all of it his own, but more than he’d like to admit to Sam or Bucky – and he’s too tired to care. He just wants to sleep for another seventy years.
      Which is why he’s surprised when they’re all spread out on the couches in what is either a giant living room or a very casual conference room and Bucky turns out to be missing. He sits up as soon as he notices, despite his bones protesting like they haven’t since 1943. “Where’s Bucky?”
      Nobody really reacts. Most of them are asleep and everyone has used their adrenaline reserves three times over already. Steve is about to get up and have a look around – he’s sure he saw Bucky come in with them, he’s sure, because he’d looked at him and he’d been overwhelmed by the fact that they’d made it and they were both still alive, again – when Bucky appears in a doorway. It’s not the one the group came through, but Steve slumps back into the couch, because Bucky is there and that’s the only thing that matters. Steve can submit to the heavy feeling in his limbs safely.
      Bucky sits down next to him with a bowl of water and at first Steve thinks it’s odd they didn’t just give him a glass. He isn’t a dog. Then Bucky dips a cloth into the bowl and scoots closer to Steve and starts dabbing his cheek without warning. Steve startles a little at the wetness, despite how obviously Bucky telegraphed his movements, but it’s warm water and he’d let Bucky do anything he wants, so he just stays where he is.
      When he sees Bucky dip the cloth into the bowl again and the water stains red, he finally grasps what’s happening.
      “You don’t have to do this, Buck,” he says, voice low. It’s not out of a fear to be overheard, but rather because he doesn’t want to wake anyone from their well-deserved rest. Someone is snoring softly. Steve thinks it’s probably one of the Peters.
      “Obviously,” Bucky says, but doesn’t stop what he’s doing.
      When he’s satisfied, he discards the bowl and cloth on a side table and remains standing to inspect either his work or just Steve’s beard in general. Steve watches him without lifting his head from the backrest of the sofa, and waits for Bucky to pass judgement.
      “You know,” Bucky says, after what feels like a very long while, but might just seem that way because Steve is fighting the pull of gravity on his eyelids every single second, “I guess it does suit you a bit. It’s kind of growing on me, the beard.”
      “No, Buck, it’s growing on me.”
      Bucky chuckles, which jerks Steve a little further back towards wakefulness, because he’d expected an exasperated groan at the most.
      Bucky notices and rolls his eyes. “You’re not the only one that’s tired.”
      There’s only one response to that. Steve pats the space next to him. “There’s still room here, if you want.”
      “By your side? Always.”
      This time, it’s Steve who chuckles, while Bucky does finally groan when he realizes what he’s just said. “Exhaustion makes you sappy.”
      “Shut up.” Bucky flops down on the sofa, his right side pressed against Steve’s. “We’re going to talk about ‘we know’ at some point, just for you information.”
      Steve takes Bucky’s flesh and blood hand and presses it against his heart. He scoots down a bit and drops his head to Bucky’s shoulder. “I thought we already did.”
      “Who’s the sap now, huh?”
      Laughing and yawning is a difficult combination, but Steve manages. “Go to sleep, asshole.”
      Bucky pokes him in the chin with his free metal hand for that, but it turns into something of a pat. “Night, Obi-Wan Kenobi.”
      It takes Steve a while to remember what that’s in reference to. “When did you even have the time to see Star Wars?”
      He doesn’t get a response, so he looks up to see Bucky’s head on the backrest, eyes closed, dead to the world for a short while. Steve knows they might regret passing out on a sofa even with their supersoldier bodies, but he doesn’t give even the smallest of shits. They saved not just the world today, but the entire universe, and Bucky is next to him.
      As far as Steve is concerned, everything is right with the galaxy as long as that’s true.

They haven’t even been back in America for a day when one of the Avengers – Steve isn’t sure who exactly, but he has his Tony-shaped suspicions – gives Bucky an idea. Bucky is immediately convinced, it seems, but Steve isn’t.
      “Stevie, darling,” Bucky says, putting on his best puppy eyes. “Please?”
      Steve looks away to avoid temptation and crosses his arms. “No.”
      “Not even for me?”
      Steve is silent, and Bucky sense that he’s close to a win.
      “My therapist says I should embrace my creativity more.”
      “You don’t have a therapist yet.”
      “No, but if I did, I’m sure that’s the sort of thing they’d say.”
      Steve looks at Bucky dubiously, which is a mistake. Bucky’s ill-hidden but very real glee breaks him. “Well. Alright.” He runs a hand over his beard a little nervously. “But be careful.”
      Bucky kisses him on the cheek in celebration and has to spit out a hair afterwards, but he still looks like Christmas has come early. “Don’t worry, I’ll be gentle. Braids are actually a very good protective hairstyle. I did some YouTubing.”
      Peter jumps up from behind the couch, armed with a bag of hair elastics, his camera, and a grin from ear to ear. Steve has a feeling he might have to reshape his suspicions of who he has to thank for this into something more teenage boy-ish. “Twitter will love it!” Peter assures him, while making a waterfall of elastics rain down at Bucky’s feet.
      He is right. #CaptainBraidmerica trends for two days straight.

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