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Jumping Off Bridges

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Steve jolts awake, half-thinking they’re getting robbed when he hears the front door bang open. Must be one hard up burglar, breaking into this rotted out, old place. Blinking blearily, he can make out the time on the wall clock. Just past two in the morning.

Draping a blanket across his narrow shoulders, he pads into the living room, hardwood biting cold beneath his feet. Bucky is standing in the doorway, cheeks reddened from the frigid, night air. He fumbles to pull his keys out of the lock and knocks a nearby lamp over in the process, swearing softly as he barely catches it from smashing to the floor. It takes a clumsy couple of tries before he sets it upright again, holding onto it with both hands like the room is spinning around him.

As Steve gets closer the all-too-familiar smell of liquor fills his head and he knows it’s another one of those nights.

“Buck?” he tests, coming up beside him and switching the rescued lamp on. Bucky squints at the flood of light and hell, his face is already swelling up on one side, lip busted and still bleeding sluggishly, and as Steve takes the picture in he notices Bucky favoring his right side like somebody worked over his ribs.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to wake you up,” Bucky wets his lips, brief flash of discomfort when his tongue runs over a cut.

Steve exhales loudly, shaking his head. “Jesus, Buck. Who did this bad a number on you?”

His mind goes to brawls past, times when it was more than one loudmouth with a crap attitude Bucky was picking off of him, coward enough to take advantage of the fact that it was just him and Bucky up against a gang. Times when one of them almost took a blade. Times when Bucky came out looking like this.

Steve steps into their cramped kitchen area, opening the refrigerator and pulling out a bottle of milk. Bucky nods as he takes it from him, pressing it to the side of his face, eyes fluttering closed.

“Evelyn Parker’s big mook of a boyfriend. More muscles than brain cells.”

“That waitress at Ray’s?”

“Best pair of gams in the joint,” Bucky confirms.

Everybody that went into Ray’s knew Evelyn. She was gorgeous and knew it, fire-tinged hair and legs that Steve could agree, did go on for days. Just as well known though, was her man’s short fuse. Rumor had it he’d thrown a fella out of a window just for eying Evelyn at a dance hall.

Bearing all that in mind, Steve can still easily picture him coming from around a corner and finding Bucky whispering in her ear.

“Damn stupid, you windin’ him up, knowing what he’s like.”

“What can I say, I was feeling brave. Thought it was my night.”

Steve snorts. “Thought you were always feelin’ brave.”

“Not always,” he mutters darkly.

Steve doesn’t ask him what he means. Pulls on the sleeve of his overcoat for him to follow. He sets him down on the bed they share more often than not and switches on the light.

“Be right back. Don’t fall over,” he orders before heading to the bathroom and gathering up some first aid supplies they were forced to keep in stock, although it was typically Steve on the receiving end.

At least he can say he throws himself into the fire for good reason.

Who knew what was running through Bucky’s thick head lately. Too many nights playing out like this, Bucky dragging him along with him when he could, seemingly making it a mission to end the night in some state of reckless and stupid. Whistling at the first girls he saw, doing his damndest to get them tossed out of bars or himself into a drunk tank for the night, and just generally making whatever spectacle he could drum up.

Steve didn’t understand the hard-edged glint that crept into Bucky’s eyes now. Made him wonder what it was behind them that was scratching to get out so bad.

He drops his armful of supplies onto the nightstand, wetting a cloth with some peroxide. Gingerly, he dabs at the cuts along the side of Bucky’s face which elicits a hiss.

“Sit still,” Steve mutters. Bucky’s quiet from then on out, fixing dark eyes on him as he works. Something about it weighs heavy, makes Steve avert his gaze to Bucky’s wounds, the cloth coming away a deeper crimson with each swipe.

He clears his throat. “How many nights does that make this month?”

“Millions of lonely ladies in this city, Steve, just waiting for a man to come calling.”

“Think Evelyn Parker’s already did,” he reminds him. “You’re gonna feel that beating in the morning. Least nothing’s broke.”

Bucky shrugs, indifferent.

“So, you’re making it your mission to get to every single one?”

“Ain’t that how it’s supposed to go?”

Steve answers with a shrug of his own. “Thought it was about finding just the one. That’s, you know, special.”

Bucky laughs at that, cynical and dry, his hot, boozy breath ghosting over Steve’s face with their proximity. Steve leans back to inspect his work when Bucky’s hand settles over his suddenly. Thumb rubbing absently over his pulse point. “When did you start taking care of me?”

“When you decided that every other night needed to end with you sauced to the gills.” Carefully, he pulls his hand away and it makes Bucky look up at him again, studying. He almost feels self-conscious until Bucky seems to make up his mind about something and starts shucking off his coat. He stands, a little unsteady, and drapes it over Steve’s shoulders.

Flecks of Bucky’s blood stain the lapel. Steve rubs the material between his fingers searchingly, but they don’t come away red. Maybe the cold dried it fast, or maybe Bucky had just been wandering around long enough.

He honestly hadn’t noticed the chill seeping back into his bones with only a shirt and his briefs on. Too focused on cleaning up Bucky. He gives him a small smile of thanks, and is returned with a quirk at the corner of Bucky’s mouth.

“Still mad at me?”

That’s not what he would call it. Doesn’t know how to be angry at Bucky anyway, not really. He rolls his eyes at him and Bucky knows it’s a no without him saying.

Running a hand through his hair, Bucky stretches out on the bed, limbs sprawling all over, eyes at a drowsy half-mast.

“Hey, you’re not sleeping in your clothes again.”

“Fine,” Bucky mumbles something about Steve breathing down his neck worse than his ma, but starts taking the thin jacket he’d had on under his coat off, elbow catching the corner of the nightstand with a painful sounding thud.

Steve bites down on his lip, trying to suppress a laugh at Bucky’s renewed swearing streak. It slips out all the same, his shoulders shaking with it, but quickly dissolves into a light coughing fit that has him fishing his inhaler out of the drawer.

Steve watches him rub at his elbow over the top of the metal canister, breathing in the spray before he speaks. “You want Mrs. Rosenbaum coming up here to crow about all the noise again with you three sheets to the wind?”

“Where’d that even come from. And why’s it three?”

“Dunno. I think it’s nautical?”

Steve leans down, hand hovering over Bucky’s belt before he thinks to look for permission. Bucky tilts his chin up in affirmation, and Steve is undoing the buckle, pulling the fabric through the loops with slim, practiced fingers. Nothing he hasn’t done before. Then Bucky lifts his hips off the bed and its gone completely.

“Last time that old bat came up here, I was making noise alright,” Bucky murmurs, and Steve doesn’t even need to ask if he’s talking about a girl. Knows too well how he thrives on making Steve’s face go red by going into detail about Sheila from the cosmetics counter and Rachel the nurse at Saint Mary’s or whomever had his eye that week.

“What was her name?” Steve indulges him. “If you even remember.”

“I always remember,” he answers tone dripping with mock offense. “Melanie. Boy, did she get wailing when I licked inside of her.” He sighs contentedly at the memory and Steve pointedly keeps his gaze down, tugging at the laces of Bucky’s shoes and prying them off.

A chuckle rumbles from up above him. “Loosen up, Stevie,” he reaches out and tries to ruffle Steve’s hair, his reflexes too slowed by alcohol to find any purchase. He runs his fingers idly over Steve’s inhaler instead. “Can see you blushing.”

“’M not,” he refutes, doggedly ignoring the stupid heat that inevitably creeps up his neck when Bucky starts up with his kiss-and-tells.

“Sorry, by the way.”

“For what?”

Bucky turns the inhaler over in his hand as he studies it. Shrugs. “Being worthless. Making you coddle me. Pick one.”

“Come on. It’s nothing you haven’t done for me about a thousand times over.”

When Bucky finally looks him in the eye, his expression is tinged with guilt, brow furrowed, and Steve wishes it wasn’t. He wouldn’t even have the money to buy his medicine this month if Bucky wasn’t putting in extra hours at the garage to carry them while Steve got over the first of what would, despite his hopes every year, probably be several winter bouts.

Needing Bucky to believe it, Steve levels him with an expression that brooks no argument, “I’m alright, Buck.”

There’s more Bucky wants to say, he can tell, always is, but he snaps his mouth shut and nods. They sit in a companionable silence for the minute it takes them to unbutton his shirt, working in tandem, and Bucky lets it fall behind them on the bed while Steve undoes the fly on his slacks. Together, they pull and kick them off until Bucky’s toned legs are exposed to the cold, stripped down to his undershirt and shorts.

“There,” Steve rolls his shoulders, careful not to dislodge Bucky’s coat still wrapped around him. “Now you won’t upchuck all over your best clothes, anyway.”

“Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it.” Folding them carefully, he drapes them over the back of a chair, peeling and uncomfortable, in the corner. His job done, Steve shoves at Bucky’s shoulder until he scoots over, making room for him on the bed.

Steve’s feet are freezing worst of all, but the long line of Bucky’s heat at his side is already starting to warm up his core. He pulls the blankets over the two of them though clearly neither is ready to sleep just yet, backs upright against the wall, lamplight throwing shadows across the room.

“Steve?”

“Hmm?”

“You—you ever wonder what it’d be like if one of us was a dame?”

Steve turns to glance at him with raised eyebrows. The things that came out of his mouth sometimes.

“Be something to see,” Bucky finishes.

“Can’t say as I have. But I don’t think it would be a pretty picture. ‘Specially you.”

The smartass comeback doesn’t appear, and staring at Bucky’s profile, he’s not sure he’s still with him or off on some tangent in his head. With a sigh, Steve pulls the thin blankets tighter, tucking in the corners.

His gaze drifts to the ceiling.

His thoughts to how hard he’s going to have to hit the pavement tomorrow looking for work. The futile frustration with himself for getting sick and losing the gig apprenticing at the print works last week and how much they had needed it. He swore it wasn’t going to be like this when they moved in together, Steve being a burden. Bucky didn’t care, told him enough times that he’d take care of the both of them, but that wasn’t Steve.

But then it was. And he was sick and tired of it having to be.

“You would be,” Bucky pipes up, puncturing the silence and Steve shakes himself out of his self-pitying reverie, takes a second to recall what he was going on about.

“A pretty dame. Wish you were one sometimes.”

Steve snorts. “Wish you weren’t a jerk sometimes, but—“

“You’d be my dame then,” Bucky goes on. “Wouldn’t have to hit the town, burn all my money showing off for girls I ain’t gonna call anymore after two weeks. Not when I had you.”

“I—“ he straightens up, suddenly hyper aware of everywhere they’re touching. Cursing himself for looking over and finding Bucky staring intently, their faces close enough to blur out of focus, for the heated air of their breaths to be mingling.

“Things—would be different. That’s for sure.”

This is—he isn’t sure what this is, but he drops his eyes and swallows all the same. He wants to inform Bucky about what a maudlin and strange drunk he’d turned into, but nothing comes out of his mouth.

When Bucky talks again, it’s like he’s been uncorked, like he himself was powerless to stop the flow of words. “But just cause you’re little doesn’t mean you got to be the dame though. Maybe if I was one— I’d be yours too, Stevie,” he promises, earnest and desperate. “Since none of the ones in this city got enough sense to see what they’re passing up.”

He thinks he should get up now. Put some distance between them. He means to. “I think you oughtta sleep it off if you’re gonna be up for work in the morning. Mr. Morgan’s not gonna—“

“You want to know something, Stevie?” Bucky grabs his arm and then there’s no leaving. No blocking this out. “Something I never even thought before?”

Steve holds stock still, shakes his head slowly when it’s clear Bucky isn’t going to go on until Steve looks him in the eye.

“Think I go chasing after all these dames because it makes it easier not thinking about you. Taking all the good in you and making it dirty. Except it’s not working anymore. Because I can’t—“

And it’s too late, it’s been too late, because Bucky is maneuvering him bodily, exerting his size over him like he’d never do normally, if this were normal, and settling Steve onto his lap, his hands on Steve’s waist. They smooth under his shirt, along his side, big and searching before clasping at Steve’s lower back, pressing him harder into the solid warmth of Bucky’s chest. Now they’re eye to eye, pressed too-tight together and it dawns on him that it’s Bucky’s length nestled against his backside. That, god, Bucky is hard against him. For him.

“What’re you doing?“ Steve breathes, dizzy with how fast the blood rushes from his head to his groin and his cock begins to stir against Bucky’s stomach. And he’s never felt—nobody’s ever touched him before and if he’d had a clue it would be like this, Steve would’ve gone easy when Bucky pulled him, bird-thin arms or not because, fuck, Bucky is staring at him, into him, and starting to move their hips together.

Every time Bucky’s cock presses into the cleft of his ass through their shorts, Steve bites down on his lip. When Bucky trails his hands down and slots them together so that their cocks are pressed together, he gasps open-mouthed, shudders, letting Bucky grind them against each other until Steve can feel the hot, beads of liquid forming at the tip and smearing into his boxers.

“Bucky—“

“Goddamned idiot,” Bucky’s whispering like it pains him to be doing this. Whatever this is. Steve doesn’t know, never—“Tired of looking at you all the time and not being able to do nothing about it.”

It’s this tentative touch of Bucky’s fingers along the curve of his jaw, that makes him open his eyes. Bucky tips his chin upward and then he’s kissing him, hesitant and chaste at first. Such a contrast to the way Steve has seen him show off, kissing his girls in public. His breath hitches in his chest and it’s all the reverent way Bucky is touching him and nothing to do with his lungs.

The faint, twined tastes of liquor and tobacco explode into his mouth when their tongues meet, accompanied by something that must naturally be Bucky, that he will know forever is just him.

Steve doesn’t let it stay gentle for long before he’s surging into it, all eagerness and no finesse, no way to compete with Bucky’s practice at this.

“Not gonna break me,” he says against Bucky’s lips.

Bucky slows him down but gets the message, kissing him harder and grazing his teeth over Steve’s lower lip. The tempo of their hips turns rough and frantic and it’s slick sounds, the creaking of the bed, and Steve nigh to bursting just from this.

When they finally break apart, Steve’s breath accelerating warningly, it’s panting and wide-eyed.

He swallows hard and Bucky’s eyes track the bob of his throat. He puts the back of his hand to his mouth, phantom feeling of Buck’s lips not going away, even when he wrenches his eyes shut. Like he’s been branded.

Maybe he has. He’d never done something like this, not with a woman, certainly not with another man. No one had ever put their mouth on him, never kissed him, nobody had ever done anything, definitely not any of the girls Bucky had pushed him toward that looked at him with pity or disdain or a familiar mixture of both.

Everybody looked at him like that it felt like, everybody except Bucky. Bucky, who was his first, and always would be now.

“Can I?“ Bucky is saying to him, snags his fingers in the waistband of Steve’s briefs, waiting. He nods jerkily, waiting for Bucky to pull his shorts down and wrap a hand around the hard flesh, but it doesn’t come. Instead Bucky climbs from beneath him and settles himself further down the bed, making Steve turn around so he can settle between his open legs, and fuck, Steve had no idea he meant this when Bucky mouths over the bulge in his shorts.

Valiantly, he keeps himself from coming apart as Bucky presses open-mouthed kisses up and down his chest and stomach, making the stringy muscles beneath them jump. Steve’s chest is still rising and falling threateningly fast and he struggles to calm his breathing, would never hear the end of it he had an attack now.

He has no idea if Bucky’s done this before. Too bizarre to think of him having done this to another guy when he’s always been such a ladykiller. But then, bizarre doesn’t begin to cover the idea of him thinking about Steve while he was with those girls.

He sighs shakily, burying his fingers in Bucky’s hair as Bucky presses his tongue to the fabric of his boxers, wetness seeping through. Steve moans long and low in response, making him do it again until Steve is squirming, not sure how much longer he’s gonna last.

When Bucky finally bares Steve’s cock to the air and his breath ghosts over the too-heated flesh, a wave of panic washes over Steve and he has to bite down on the urge to reaches down and roll his shorts up, feeling too exposed and vulnerable.

Bucky locks their eyes together when he sucks him down.

“Oh-oh—oh,” Steve manages, hips stuttering and brain short-circuiting at the amazing feeling of heat, wet, softness, Bucky.

Bucky bobs his head, swallowing him down, hands clamped down like a vice on Steve’s hips. He hums in his throat, pleased, when his tongue does something that makes Steve be particularly loud, and it’s about to be over embarrassingly fast.

“Buck, I’m gonna—you don’t have to—“ He cuts off on a groan when he sees Buck slide a hand into his own shorts, eyes squeezed shut as he strokes himself and gets back into rhythm on Steve’s cock.

When Steve goes off, Bucky sinks him in deeper and works his throat as Steve feels like he’s dying, emptying himself into the welcoming warmth.

He can only gape and lick his lips, as Bucky’s hand moves quickly on himself, faltering as he starts to come with a gasp. And damned if he doesn’t wish he could see, be the one making Bucky unravel the way he had just been made to.

Bucky exhales and presses a brief kiss to the inside of Steve’s thigh as he crawls back up the bed to lie next to him. For long minutes neither of them says anything, bones too liquid and brains too foggy.

He watches Bucky’s fingers twitch, restless, itching for a smoke. He would get his fill at work and step out onto the fire escape at home because Steve’s lungs couldn’t take it. Could always smell it on him, and he was always just about to quit tomorrow. Steve is tempted to ask if that’s what Bucky does when he’s with a girl, after, if what they just did felt the same but voices filter up to them from the street below, distracting him.

Voices too loud and indistinct, someone else that had spent the night cozied up to a bottle, yelling nonsense to somebody else. Nothing you went a day without hearing in the city come nightfall, but its sudden presence is like the world rushing back in. A cold bucket of water over the head.

And what he wanted to ask dies on his lips.

Steve knows he comes back to reality first, because when he glances at Bucky, he doesn’t see the weight settling on his shoulders that is already starting to settle on his.

Bucky catches his eye and moves to kiss him, but Steve puts a restraining hand on his chest. Well aware he wouldn’t taste anything but himself this time. “Don’t.”

The easy, open expression on Bucky’s face clouds in confusion. “Steve. Look at me.”

He does, but not for long. Eyes giving him away. He’s afraid. “Stop. Buck, what we just did, it—ain’t right.”

“A lot of things ain’t right. Boozing. Chasing skirts. Picking fights. I do ‘em anyway.”

“That what this is?”

“What do you want it to be?”

He wishes desperately that he could pretend he doesn’t know, but he does. Knows now that maybe it was always gonna end up here. When the world gave them too much in each other and too little of everything else. But—no matter how hard he wanted he was never gonna be bigger, his lungs were never not gonna fill and threaten to drown him when the air got cold, and him and Bucky would never be able to walk down the street and touch each other in the easy, thoughtless way they would a girl.

Things worked how they worked and they didn’t change no matter how many beatings you took. No one knew that better than him.

“Something it can’t.”

Climbing off the bed, he grabs two of the thin, hole ridden blankets from the bed along with a pillow and heads for the living room, dropping them on the floor. He starts to take the couch cushions and line them up, not staying up on the couch and getting another crick is neck even though he’ll freeze half to death down here and away from the heat radiating from Bucky’s body in the bed. He already has to clench his teeth to keep them from chattering, but he doesn’t care.

Doesn’t want to stay and repeat drunken, dirty fumbling that they already needed to start pretending didn’t happen. Get used to Bucky telling him things that should have gone unsaid, peering at him like he hung the stars. Steve saying it back without saying it.

Bucky follows him, both too stubborn and full of pride to leave things at that and Steve can tell by the set of his shoulders that he’s ready for a fight.

“Never thought I’d see the day you just skulked off with your tail between your legs.”

“You ought to call Rachel back. She was smart and put up with your bull and you could love her for real. Hold hands at the park and let the world know she’s yours. Marry her.”

Do all the things you and me could never do.

It sounds like a poor recitation, and he’s not even sure of whom he’s trying to convince—Bucky, himself, all the accusatory faces emerging in his mind’s eye. His ma and pa, rest their souls. He keeps on, words ringing hollow even in his own ears. “Fellas can’t be like that.”

“That’s a real nice speech.” Bucky scoffs. “Sounds like every moron walking down the street flapping their jaw but I thought I was talking to you,” he jabs his finger into Steve’s chest. Like it’s that simple. Part of Steve thinks Bucky sounds more like him than he does right now.

“Don’t be an idiot,” Steve growls. “Don’t do this because you’re sore at the world and you want to spit in its face. You can have whatever else you want, Buck, don’t you get it? Don’t waste it staying down here with me, going nowhere.”

Bucky’s eyes flare warningly, because this dance they’ve done before.

“Let me tell you what I know about goin’ nowhere,” he sounds impossibly tired. “Sometimes I scare the shit out of myself thinkin’ about the things I’d be willing to do for you. How I know, simple, like I know the sun’s gonna rise tomorrow, that if you stopped breathing one night that the next one I’d make sure I did too. That if anybody is settling here, that it’s sure as hell not me, because fuck, Steve—”

It’s the hardest punch in the gut he’s ever felt. “You never said anything.”

“Say what? Hey, Steve I’m starting to think I’m queer for you, you keen? Little guy or not, you might’ve knocked my teeth in.”

He sighs, the chastising fight draining out of him. “That really sound like me?”

“Nah. I think I was just too chicken.”

It’s pointed and sharp and meant to hit him right where he lives.

Sometimes Bucky would complain, when he had finished splitting his knuckles open on his behalf because Steve took it upon himself to defend something good and right and worth defending, even if he had to be the only one doing it, that his life would be a lot easier without Steve’s voice in his head, nagging at him to do better. To be better.

He’s never claimed to have all the answers, just came into this world seemingly incapable of taking the easy road over the right one. But now his world of black of white had turned to an ambiguous, alien gray and for the first time, he isn’t sure what the right thing means anymore.

“God help me, but I do,” he almost whispers. “I feel that way about you too.”

“That’s good. ‘Cause you never gave me an answer. About you being mine and me being yours.”

He looks at him, helpless. “If one of us was a girl.”

“But we’re not,” Bucky finishes for him, resigned.

And there’s nothing else left to say.

Wordlessly, Bucky takes the pillow Steve didn’t realize he was still holding onto. He finishes kicking the couch cushions into place, lips set into a thin line. “Take the bed.”

“Don’t need it.”

“You just got back on your feet and now you’re gonna make yourself sick again?”

He starts to protest—

“It’s either both of us in that bed or it’s you.”

He knows what he wants to say. Nothing comes out. He turns on his heel and pads back to the bedroom, steps heavy and self-conscious.

The apartment is quiet the rest of the night. Steve lies with his back to the door, rattle in his chest keeping him company as he stays awake, staring at the wall. He’s never felt more like a coward in his life.

*

In the morning, the air is different.

It’s a Monday, Bucky will be hungover, the boiler is still barely functioning, and they’re about to be broke at the end of the week. Everything and nothing is the same.

Steve is up first, moving around. He didn’t get much sleep.

He can’t feel his nose, his lips are dry and cracked, and he cringes at the thought of having to strip down for his shower. When he does, the air hitting his body is like a slap, the spray stabbing and piercingly cold. He stands out of its range as much as he can, hoping against hope it’ll warm up for a couple minutes.

He wraps his arms around himself as he waits. Tries to keep his thoughts a blank. It doesn’t work.

His mind seeks out the only warmth it can. A familiar body pressed against his, a tongue in his mouth, gliding over his cock, whispering things that made him feel like he was catching fire. He lets one of his hands slide down to rest over his stomach. The other drifts lower to the only part of him that isn’t cold.

He brings himself off quickly, slamming his palm against the wall when he comes with Bucky’s name on his lips, his phantom touch all over. Hell.

The water warms up soon after and he hurriedly washes himself, avoiding his sensitive cock as much as possible and scurrying out before his luck runs out.

He’s still half-damp with the speed he pulls his clothes on, nearly grabs one of Bucky’s jackets from the closet to throw over his shoulders the way he always does in the winter, but he catches himself at the last moment, hand falling limply to his side.

He slams the closet door with more force than necessary, the scent of Bucky’s aftershave threatening to fill his head. This space is too cramped and it’s impossible to get away from. Every square inch seemingly infused with the two of them. The noise makes Bucky come to on the floor, blinking the sleep out of his eyes. Scrubbing his hands over his face, he gets up and pads past Steve to the bathroom. Neither of them speaks to the other.

Steve doesn’t know how to act around him now. The feeling’s apparently mutual.

He makes breakfast with what they have left because it what he does, but he knows it’s going to go waste. He chews weakly on a piece of toast, glancing up as Bucky comes to the table, combed and dressed. There are three aspirin laid out for him along with a weak cup of coffee. Without comment, he accepts them and proceeds to bury his face in the paper. Steve doesn’t remember the last time they sat at this table in silence. Probably never.

One of them has to crack first and thankfully, it’s Bucky. “Gonna have to ask old man Morgan if I can get a couple more hours in today to make up for being late.”

Steve nods perfunctorily. “I’m gonna see what I can drum up. Might go see if Ed Berman will let me sweep up around the market again. It’d be something for now.”

Bucky’s quiet. Steve can feel his eyes linger for a moment before they go back to the paper.

“Want to hit the town tonight?” he offers, but the set of Bucky’s jaw is hard and his eyes closed off. Steve did that.

He shakes his head. “Probably get out of the garage too late.”

Steve doesn’t know what he was expecting. What he wants even. But something inside him deflates all the same. He feels like a liar. Things have shifted.

“Tomorrow?”

“Might have a date,” he checks his watch and goes to stand up. “Don’t worry, I won’t drag you out, make you play fourth wheel.” He goes to pass him and Steve catches him by the elbow.

“Buck.”

“Listen,” he sighs pre-emptively, “Just forget it. Too much whiskey and stupid will make a man do all sorts of things. Don’t take it too serious.”

It’s a way out, if Steve wants it.

Bucky had been dealing with this for a lot longer than one night, had picked his poison. Drank himself desperate when he couldn’t admit he was in love and would probably go on doing it now that he had. The stubborn bastard would paste a smile on his face and go on falling apart in silence and hurt if Steve told him no. If he lied.

The right road or the easy one. It was always a matter of time until Steve found his way to the right one.

“You remember that construction site where they ended up building the Rutherford packing plant?” he starts slowly, still sitting down. “How when we were kids and they were digging it out there was this rickety, makeshift bridge where the pipes were gonna go and Jimmy Farrelly and his friends threatened to push me off it?”

Bucky eyes him warily before nodding in remembrance. “Can’t believe I was friends with that little creep.”

“You weren’t after that. Told him he might as well push you off too because if I went in, you’d be jumping right after me.”

He doesn’t want to forget. Can’t. So he jumps. “I don’t mind you dragging me out, but, maybe it could be just you and me. Go up to Coney.”

Bucky considers him, expression unreadable. “Figured you’d say we don’t got money to waste on that.”

“We really don’t,” Steve laughs lightly, “But—we don’t have to go anywhere. We could stay here and—“

“Go jumping off bridges?”

The fire that kindles in Bucky’s eyes makes Steve’s chest swell. But he’s seen that before, directed at him. And how did he never notice it.

“You and me,” Bucky tests, and it’s not really a question. “Finish what we started?”

“Guess we can. It was—alright,” Steve finishes with a shrug and Bucky knocks his shoulder, rogue’s smile flashing.

“Oh, you got a lot to learn, Rogers.”

He feels it in his gut when Bucky bends down and kisses him. Heat of him radiating into Steve, chasing away the cold. Serious as a heart attack, Bucky always accused him. He can feel the blinding grin that Bucky can’t seem to wipe off his face as Steve opens up and lets him in deeper and right then, the world that had been weighing him down can’t begin to compete.

“Didn’t even last a day,” Bucky teases against his neck, biting down on a tender spot and laving over it with his tongue, marking him, and Steve’s cock twitches in his pants. Bucky’s hands move to his fly, but Steve breaks their embrace and stops him. “I, uh, in the shower, already—“

Bucky chuckles lowly and takes his arm, turning him around so that his back is to Bucky’s front. He wraps his arms around Steve’s middle, making him want to press back into him, get even closer somehow. “Did you think of me when you shot off? Cause I do, all the time.”

“Think about yourself?”

“You’re a riot,” he deadpans, presses a final, lingering kiss to Steve’s neck, murmuring promises about later and holding on like he never wants to let go and it doesn’t feel wrong. Not where it counts.

Bucky is at his back and it was the two of them, like it had always been. And maybe they were too brave for their own good. No wonder no one had ever accused them of being smart.