The first time Bucky sees Steve, their eyes meet across the lobby of the club. Steve’s gaze flickers down to Bucky’s bare throat, then back up to his face, and then away when Bucky smiles and winks.
The second time, Steve comes up to Bucky and offers to buy him a drink. Bucky accepts, and they exchange names. Bucky offers to suck Steve off in one of the semi-private booths in the back, and Steve accepts.
The third time, Bucky’s already on his knees. He’s naked and warm, his mind pleasantly fuzzy. He knows his legs are cramping and his jaw is aching but he can’t feel it. What he can feel is yet another hand settling on his head, yet another dick pushing between his lips. He’s lost track of how many different hands have already touched him, how many different dicks have already filled him up tonight. There’s something about the way this hand touches him that makes him force his heavy eyelids open, glance up. The man’s face looks familiar, but Bucky is too far gone to recall the name that goes with it.
It’s enough for now.
(Steve, he remembers later. Steve.)
The fourth time, Steve gives Bucky a manila folder after his bar shift, tells him, “Think about it,” in a low voice and leans in to kiss the corner of Bucky’s mouth before sliding into the car waiting at the curb.
The fifth time Bucky sees Steve, he’s just moved into Steve’s penthouse apartment and is wondering what the hell he’s gotten himself into this time.
Of course Steve lives in a penthouse. Maybe he’s afraid people wouldn’t be able to tell he’s filthy rich if he didn’t live in a penthouse. Or maybe he just likes the view of the city skyline. It is a nice view, Bucky thinks, especially now, by nightfall. He absently touches the glass, promptly regretting it when he sees the smudges left behind by his fingertips. He wipes them away with his sleeve.
Steve is still not here. The waiting and the silence are making Bucky jittery. He doesn’t know what to do with himself. He has already gravitated from the door—well, the elevator doors, because how could anyone be expected to know that Steve is filthy rich if his penthouse didn’t have a private elevator—to the wall of floor-to-ceiling windows across the apartment, taking it all in. Everything is bizarrely clean and tidy, like no one lives here at all. Like it’s a hotel room, or a model home.
He drifts back to the kitchen island. There’s no unopened mail, no used cups in the sink. Not even a dirty dish towel lying around. The only thing out of place is the flat, dark blue box sitting on the marble countertop.
Bucky feels so fucking jittery, and the box is just so incongruous with everything else. He’s opening it before he even makes the conscious decision to open it.
There’s a collar inside the box. It’s exquisitely simple; padded black leather, silver buckle and D-ring. It looks expensive. Heavy. Soft to the touch, too.
Bucky doesn’t touch it.
The Dominant agrees to furnish the submissive with a symbolic token of ownership.
He can feel his pulse at the base of his throat, right where the collar will rest once Steve puts it on him.
None of this had seemed entirely real until now. In the folder Steve gave him the fourth time they saw each other, Bucky had found an NDA, a proposed Agreement of Consensual Ownership (capital letters and all), a general information form, and a checklist of activities. Reading those documents, doing his research, filling out and signing everything, coordinating with Steve’s PA, rearranging and trimming down his work schedule, somewhat frantically reevaluating his life decisions during the seven-day waiting period demanded by the agreement… None of that had made it feel real. Not really.
But this. This does.
God, it does.
The elevator is humming. Bucky tears his eyes away from the collar. His collar. The back of his neck is prickling with heat.
There’s more than enough time for him to put the lid back on the box.
For some reason, he doesn’t.
“You’re already here,” Steve says when the elevator doors ping open. Another incongruity: He’s wearing an immaculate suit, but his hair is damp and his cheeks are flushed like he just got out of the shower. He strides into the apartment, dropping the gym bag that was slung over his shoulder.
“Yeah,” Bucky says. His mouth feels dry. “Didn’t have much to pack.”
Didn’t much feel like staying any longer than necessary, either. He wonders if he’d have hated his shitty furnished sublet so much if he’d known some billionaire businessman was about to show up and turn his life into an improbable sexual fantasy. Probably not.
Steve’s eyes fall on the box.
“I,” Bucky says. “Opened it.”
“So I see,” Steve says, looking down and adjusting one of his cufflinks. “Will it do?”
Bucky swallows. Will it do. God. “Yeah,” he says again. Yeah, it’ll do, all right.
He’s half expecting Steve to collar him right away, but Steve doesn’t. He heads for the fridge and gets out a water bottle, one of those fancy reusable ones. Bucky is not at all surprised; Steve looks exactly like the kind of guy to use fancy reusable water bottles.
Steve throws a glance over his shoulder at Bucky. “Something to drink?” he asks.
Can I buy you a drink, he’d asked the second time they saw each other. Deep voice, kind eyes, steady hands. He’d smelled good too, and tasted even better. Maybe it was the familiar taste of him that had fleetingly pulled Bucky out of subspace the third time they saw each other.
“Sure,” Bucky says. He clears his throat. “Water’s fine.”
Steve gets out another fancy bottle, handing it to Bucky on his way past the kitchen island and the dinner table to the sitting area. Bucky trails after him, perches on the arm of the couch perpendicular to the one Steve sinks down on.
There’s a coffee table. It looks very sturdy.
Bucky wipes his hands on his jeans before twisting the cap off his bottle and taking a sip.
“All right,” Steve says after downing most of his bottle in one gulp and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “Something came up at work, so I’m afraid I don’t have much time tonight, but there are a few things I’d like to get out of the way. You signed the agreement as is. Are you sure there are no amendments you want to propose? Was everything clear?”
Bucky shrugs and shakes his head, then nods. “No amendments, everything clear,” he clarifies when Steve stares at him.
“All right,” Steve says, again. “Anything that wasn’t on the checklist you feel should’ve been included?”
The list was relatively short and tame; Bucky had quickly deduced it only contains activities Steve is willing to engage in. He’d checked pretty much every box, except for the ones that involved having his arms restrained behind his back. Although he has regained full range of motion in his arm since the accident, it’s better to be safe than sorry, as his physical therapist used to say. Although she probably didn’t have bondage in mind when she said it. “I can’t think of anything,” he says.
“Okay,” Steve says. “Do you have any questions for me at this point?”
Bucky looks at him. His well-groomed beard, his elegant suit, his polished dress shoes. His crossed arms and his squared shoulders and the way he’s got his ankle resting on his other knee in a very deliberately casual manner. “Yeah, I guess,” Bucky says. “Why?”
“Why what?” Steve asks. He unfolds his arms, stretches one arm across the back of the couch. “Why you?”
“Why this,” Bucky says, gesturing between the two of them. “Why invite a complete stranger to move in with you if you could just come to the club instead?”
“I’m a busy guy with specific tastes,” Steve says simply. “I work long hours, and I have to keep a low profile for professional reasons. I can’t be caught frequenting a sex club. This is less risky and more convenient.”
It’s a pretty solid elevator pitch, convincing and well crafted, but Bucky presses on. “Okay, but what if you had a pet I was allergic to? What if I had a pet, would you’ve allowed me to bring it? What if I lived with and cared for my sick grandmother, what would’ve happened to her?”
Steve crosses his arms again. “You don’t have a sick grandmother,” he says, “you don’t have a pet, and… Bucky, look, I’m not going to pretend I didn’t have a background check done on you.”
A shiver runs down Bucky’s spine at the way Steve says his name—slowly, warmly. He shifts a little, says, “All right then, Mr. Grey.”
Steve gives him a look. “Are you really gonna try and tell me you didn’t at least google me? Or did you just blindly accept a complete stranger’s invitation to move in with him?”
Bucky pulls a face. Steve has a pretty extensive Wikipedia page. The guy is basically an older, hotter, richer version of Danny Rand. Everyone and their mother has heard of Stark Industries and of Howard and Maria Stark’s selfless, heroic, PR-savvy act of taking in a poor orphaned boy after his mother died. Sure, Bucky’s done some digging, but it’s not like it was hard. Mostly he’d checked out a bunch of websites and asked around at the club, and, well, he’s here now, isn’t he.
“Is it true you punched Justin Hammer in the face once?” he asks by way of answering the question.
Steve winces, and Bucky can’t help but snort.
“I’m sorry,” he says.
“It’s true, though,” Steve says, glancing at his watch. “I was young, and foolish, and my brother dared me to.” He gets to his feet. “I have to go. Let me show you your room real quick.”
“My room,” Bucky echoes.
“Yes.” Steve frowns at Bucky’s pitiful pile of bags by the elevator doors. “You are moving in, right? You read the documents before signing them?”
“Of course I—how much of an idiot do you think I am?”
He says it more sharply than he means to say it. Actually, he didn’t mean to say it at all. Well fucking done, Bucky.
Steve stops dead in his tracks and looks at Bucky, eyebrows raised.
Bucky takes a deep breath, runs his hands through his hair. Tugs until it hurts, then lets go. “I’m nervous,” he says, more or less accidentally, instead of I’m sorry. Fuck. His face goes hot, stomach flooding with embarrassment.
Then again, the agreement he signed (after reading it carefully, thank you very much) does state that not only The submissive [further] agrees to volunteer any information that the Dominant should know regarding the submissive’s physical or emotional state, but also The Dominant accepts full responsibility of the submissive. This includes but is not limited to: the submissive’s survival, health, physical well-being, and mental well-being, so. Well. There’s that.
Steve’s face softens. “You’ve never done this before,” he says. It’s not a question.
“I’ve been dabbling in the scene for years,” Bucky says. “Working at the—but I’ve never… not like this, no. No. Have you?”
Steve nods. “I’ve had several live-in subs.”
“Okay,” Bucky says. Weirdly enough, that makes him breathe a little easier. At least one of them knows what the hell he’s doing here. Even has a whole vocabulary for it and everything. “Okay.”
Steve ushers him down a hallway leading from the kitchen area. They pass a few closed doors before Steve opens one, gesturing Bucky inside. The room is spacious, bright. It has the same tasteful grayscale color scheme as the rest of the apartment. It’s also just as clean and tidy and impersonal as the rest of the apartment.
“This will be your own personal space for as long as you decide to stay here,” Steve says. “You can do whatever you want with it. I won’t ever come in here without your permission. The door locks from the inside. Your bathroom’s through there.”
“Cool,” Bucky says, because he feels like he should say something, and his mind’s reeling too much for him to come up with something better. He tries to dig his nails into his palms to ground himself, but his nails are too short and his palms too sweaty.
“I’ll be home late, so don’t wait up,” Steve tells him. “Feel free to help yourself to anything in the kitchen. We’ll discuss everything else in the morning. Go over the agreement and the checklist together, work out any remaining details. Okay?”
Tomorrow’s Saturday. Bucky canceled his shifts for the weekend. If this—if Steve—hadn’t happened, he would’ve slept in, maybe even languished in bed until it was time for work. Dragged himself to the gym or to Nat’s place or to a coffee shop downtown with a book, maybe, at some point.
“Yeah,” Bucky says. “Yeah, okay.”
Steve smiles at him. “All right, I’m off. And for the record,” he adds, “I definitely would’ve allowed you to keep the pet. I love animals.”
“Good to know,” Bucky says. He’s aiming at sarcastic, but it comes out sounding small and grateful. Steve hears it too, judging from his sympathetic smile.
After Steve leaves, Bucky moves his bags into the room. His room. He doesn’t unpack, just changes into sweatpants and a hoodie and carries his laptop back to the living room with him. He’s already curled up on one of the couches when he realizes he forgot to ask Steve for the Wi-Fi password.
Bucky turns on the TV, but he can’t focus. His skin feels too tight. Usually when he feels like this he goes to the club. He can’t go to the club tonight, though, not without Steve. Not without Steve, and Steve’s collar around his neck, and a red or yellow wristband instead of his usual green one.
The collar. It’s still in the box on the kitchen island. Steve hasn’t put it on him yet. Steve hasn’t even touched him yet. The only order he’s given Bucky so far, don’t wait up, is not so much an order as a word of advice.
Steve hasn’t told him not to jerk off either. Orgasm control is one of the activities on the list. If that’s something Steve is into, this could be the last time Bucky gets to masturbate without asking for permission. Hell, this could be the last time he even feels like masturbating, if Steve turns out to have an insatiable sex drive. Which would only be fair, really, considering the rather generous allowance—as his PA had called it—Steve is paying Bucky to be here for him.
The submissive agrees to obey to the best of his ability, and to devote himself entirely to the pleasure and desires of the Dominant.
The submissive agrees at all times to make his body readily available to the Dominant for his use.
Yeah. Starting tomorrow, that is.
The next morning, over breakfast, they discuss the agreement, the checklist, the details. Steve is very serious and meticulous about it all, insisting they take it slow the first couple of weeks, they’re just getting to know each other, and so on and so forth, and Bucky still. Can’t. Fucking. Focus.
He slept like shit, which is not entirely surprising. He kept—keeps—getting random flashes of images. Memories, thoughts. Steve’s hand settling on his head. The collar in the box. What if this. What if that. It’s a good thing Bucky has already discussed everything Steve wants to discuss with Steve’s PA, ’cause he’s barely registering anything Steve is saying.
After what seems like forever, Steve finally, finally goes to get the box. He puts it in front of Bucky on the dinner table and carefully lifts the collar out of it. “I’m going to put this on you now,” he says softly, holding it up with both hands. “Is that okay?”
A symbolic token of ownership. The implication of Steve’s words is clear: Once I’ve put this on you, our agreement goes into force.
This agreement is in no way legally binding, and is meant only as an aid to better understanding of the needs, duties and responsibilities of the Dominant and the submissive.
This agreement shall immediately become null and void if either of the Parties delivers notice to the other of his desire to terminate this agreement.
Bucky nods and tilts his head back a little, baring his throat for Steve. His heart’s beating fast.
Steve leans in.
Bucky was right about the collar; it’s a little on the heavy side, and it’s incredibly soft against his skin. Even softer than he thought it would be. It seems to fit snugly, and for a second he feels like he can’t breathe. Then, Steve slides two fingers under the collar and runs them along the inside, almost all the way around. Bucky shivers. Goose bumps spread down his back, his arms.
“How does it feel?” Steve murmurs, hooking his fingers into the D-ring and giving a gentle tug on it.
Bucky swallows. Nods.
Steve says, “Bucky?”
The submissive agrees to answer any and all questions asked by the Dominant freely, promptly, and to the best of his knowledge.
“Feels good,” Bucky says.
The submissive agrees to speak respectfully to the Dominant at all times.
The submissive agrees to address the Dominant as Sir unless otherwise directed.
He adds, “Sir.”
Steve smiles warmly. He cups Bucky’s cheek with his hand. “Good,” he says, in a low, pleased voice, and pulls Bucky in.
They’ve kissed before, once. Bucky had eased Steve’s soft, spent dick back into his pants and then straddled his lap to kiss him harshly, make him taste himself on Bucky’s tongue. This kiss is different; slower, sweeter. Steve is controlling the pace this time, letting out a quiet noise of disapproval when Bucky tries to take over.
“No,” Steve mumbles against Bucky’s lips after the third or fourth time Bucky inadvertently presses closer to deepen the kiss. “Relax.”
Easier said than done, pal. Bucky can’t help it—he’s still thrumming with nervous energy, and the imaginary pressure of the collar against his throat has him feeling light-headed and short of breath. He’s not doing it on purpose, honestly.
Steve pulls back and strokes Bucky’s cheekbone with his thumb. His other hand has slid around the back of Bucky’s neck, fingers threading into his hair. Steve makes a fist, and Bucky bites down on the inside of his cheek to hold back a noise.
“You like this,” Steve says a little absently, tucking a strand of Bucky’s hair behind his ear. “You like it when people touch your hair, your head. The back of your neck.”
Thanks for letting me know what I like, Bucky thinks, but all he can manage in response is a shaky, “Y-yeah.”
He wonders idly if Steve is expecting him to end every sentence he utters while wearing the collar with “sir.” That would get tiring real fast, right?
Steve doesn’t seem to notice the absence of the honorific, or maybe he just doesn’t care. His eyes are roaming over Bucky’s face like he’s searching for a hidden message. He’s very close, and he’s. He’s very good-looking. It’s somewhat unsettling. Bucky looks away, and then, because it seems more obedient, more submissive or whatever, looks down.
Not the way to go, apparently. “Hey,” Steve says, brow furrowing. He straightens up a little without letting go of Bucky. “You doing all right?”
“I’m fine,” Bucky says. “Guess I’ve just never been all that good at the whole gazing soulfully into each other’s eyes thing.”
Steve doesn’t seem convinced. “Are you still nervous?” he asks, which makes heat rise to Bucky’s face. “’Cause we could—”
“How about you just,” Bucky says, but he doesn’t know how to say what he wants to say. Something tells him that Shut up and shove your dick far enough down my throat to get me out of my own head for a while would just have an adverse effect and probably only inspire Steve to ask more well-meant but embarrassing questions.
Instead of finishing his sentence, Bucky presses their mouths together again, harder. He slides his hands up the insides of Steve’s thighs to tease his legs apart.
Steve makes a small noise in the back of his throat. “Bucky,” he says in-between kisses.
“I don’t wanna take it slower,” Bucky tells him, sliding out of his chair to kneel at Steve’s feet. The floor is nice and warm under his knees and shins, because of fucking course Steve’s penthouse has a floor heating system. “Can I…”
Steve nods. His hand settles at the nape of Bucky’s neck; his fingertips dip under the collar, casually reminding Bucky of its presence. Bucky’s stomach jolts. He draws Steve’s half-hard dick out of his track pants and leans in to wrap his lips around the tip.
“Fuck,” Steve says under his breath, his grip on Bucky’s neck tightening.
Bucky moans around him, starts stroking him to full hardness. This is more or less familiar territory for them, and Steve seems to somehow remember exactly what Bucky likes, every little detail. He keeps touching Bucky, combing his fingers through Bucky’s hair, rubbing Bucky’s cheek with his thumb to feel himself through it. He remembers to cradle Bucky’s head in his big warm hands and thrust into Bucky’s mouth when he’s about to come. He even seems to remember that Bucky needs a quiet moment to recollect himself afterward, to rest his forehead against Steve’s knee and keep his eyes closed and just breathe for a minute.
It’s. It’s really good.
“Hey,” Steve says when Bucky sits back on his heels and wipes his mouth on his sleeve. His voice sounds hoarser than before, which doesn’t make sense, really, seeing as Bucky is the one who just got his throat fucked. Steve is holding out his hand. “Come up here.”
Bucky gets to his feet; so does Steve. He leads Bucky to the couches and gently pushes him down on one to kiss him. Bucky allows it, lets himself be coaxed into a horizontal position. He shivers when Steve starts kissing down his throat, his fingers flexing involuntarily where they’re curled around Steve’s sides.
“Relax,” Steve says in the same low, hoarse voice, and Bucky can’t help but shiver again. Steve’s hand has worked its way into his pants, is curling around his half-hard dick now. When Steve drags the pad of his thumb over the head, Bucky’s whole body arches up, his breath catching in his throat. He bites down on his bottom lip.
Steve nuzzles at Bucky’s jaw. “Gonna let me hear you?” he asks, thumbing the head of Bucky’s dick again, slowly, maddeningly. It’s too, it’s too much, it’s—
“Is that an order?” Bucky gasps, to buy himself some time.
Steve raises one eyebrow. Squeezes him.
“Is that an order, sir,” Bucky says, and he can’t take the next slow swipe of Steve’s thumb, has to let his head fall back and moan, hips twitching up against Steve’s.
“Do that again,” Steve says, kissing the hollow at the base of his throat. “That’s an order.”
Steve continues to tease him until he’s wet with precome, then jerks him off at an achingly slow pace until he comes. By then Bucky is trembling and sweating, helplessly thrusting up into Steve’s hand. Steve is warm and heavy on top of him, keeping him pinned to the couch even after his breathing has returned to normal. He’s kissing Bucky’s cheek, Bucky’s temple, and he’s so warm and heavy, and Bucky feels so warm and so heavy, and he slept like shit, and Steve is pressing all these soft kisses to his face and he keeps telling Bucky to relax, right.
Bucky wakes with a start, heart pounding. They’re still on the couch, Steve curled around him from behind with one arm slung around his waist.
“Shit,” Bucky mumbles, sitting up. He scrubs his hands down his face, through his hair. “Sleeping on the job on my first day. You regret hiring me yet?”
Steve sits up as well. “You were only out for about an hour,” he says groggily. “And don’t… It’s not a job, Bucky. You’re not one of my employees.”
Well, then what the hell does Steve call people who… provide him with… services? “Right, okay,” Bucky says, “sleeping on the lifestyle,” which earns him a laugh and a little shove against his shoulder.
“Come on,” Steve says. “Get off me. I need a shower.”
He doesn’t invite Bucky along, so Bucky goes to his own bathroom and has an enjoyable time sampling all the products presumably stalled out for him by someone from the small army of invisible housekeepers Steve presumably employs—shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, body scrub, body lotion, shaving cream, aftershave, toothpaste, deodorant. He’s feeling a little light-headed again by the time he emerges from the steamed-up bathroom.
He’d left the collar on his nightstand. It’s the first thing he puts on again. It feels weird, putting it on himself. Clumsy and wrong. Getting dressed is next on his list, but he suddenly realizes that he has no idea what to wear. Steve hasn’t said anything about clothes. There’s nothing in the agreement about clothes. Is he supposed to wear anything at all, besides the collar? Are they going anywhere today? Wait—is Steve even expecting Bucky to spend the whole day with him? There’s something in the agreement about that, Bucky thinks, but he can’t seem to recall what it says.
Stop overthinking this, Bucky tells himself, chewing on the inside of his cheek. He takes a few deep breaths. Rummages around in his bags for a comfortable pair of jeans and a plain sweater. He pushes his hands into his pockets to stop them from trembling as he goes back to the living room.
Steve is sitting on the couch, typing on his laptop. He’s wearing another one of his immaculate suits. Bucky is about to ask him if he’s got big plans for today when he catches sight of the throw pillow lying innocuously at Steve’s feet. His mouth goes dry, heartbeat speeding up.
Steve glances up at him. “Come over here,” he says.
Bucky obeys, pushing his hands deeper into his pockets.
“Kneel,” Steve says with a nod at the pillow. He sounds distracted; he’s not even looking at Bucky, just continues to tap away at the keyboard as he gives the order. Maybe that’s why Bucky’s stomach goes weak and his knees buckle, and he wordlessly sinks down onto the pillow like a puppet whose strings have been cut.
“Good,” Steve says, briefly touching Bucky’s hair, and Bucky almost fucking whimpers at the praise and the fleeting touch. He blushes, hard. He ducks his head and threads his fingers together tightly in his lap.
Steve is quiet while working, only letting out the occasional sigh or disgruntled noise. There’s no music playing, no TV droning on in the background. Nothing for Bucky to focus on except for the sounds of Steve breathing and typing, the dull ache that’s spreading up his legs and starting to pulse in his lower back. He’s not in the most comfortable position, but he doesn’t want to draw attention to himself by moving. He thinks maybe this is a test, and he refuses to fail it.
“Fuckin’ amateurs,” Steve says under his breath. He sets his laptop down beside him on the couch and pushes to his feet, startling Bucky. Steve brushes his fingertips against Bucky’s shoulder and murmurs an apology before heading for the kitchen area.
Bucky takes the opportunity to shift a little, stretch his arms. His shoulder pops satisfyingly.
Steve returns with two bottles of water. He hands one of them to Bucky and stares Bucky down until Bucky pulls a face and drinks from it.
“You doing all right?” Steve asks.
Steve gives him a small smile. Once he’s seated again, he gently positions Bucky’s head so his forehead is resting in the space between the edge of the couch cushion and the side of Steve’s thigh. This time Steve doesn’t take his hand away again, but continues to play with the hair at the back of Bucky’s head while he works.
Bucky drifts. He doesn’t fall asleep, he thinks, not exactly, but when Steve squeezes his neck and calls his name it takes him a while to come to. Like he’s struggling to wake up from an unnaturally deep sleep that’s loath to let him go. It clings to the dry insides of his eyelids and weighs down on the back of his tongue, coiling tightly around his windpipe. Feeling a spike of panic, Bucky gropes around for the bottle of water Steve gave him earlier; he can’t tell whether it’s been minutes or hours. He drinks from it, shakily.
“Where’d you run off to, huh?” Steve asks quietly. “You wanna get up?”
Bucky shakes his head, presses his forehead to Steve’s thigh again. Straightens his legs, muscles protesting.
“Okay,” Steve says in a soothing voice. He starts petting the back of Bucky’s neck, right above the collar. It feels nice.
Bucky closes his eyes again.
“I have a meeting later this afternoon,” Steve says after a while. He’s still carding his fingers through Bucky’s hair. “And dinner after.”
A thought trickles into Bucky’s mind, slow as syrup. “That why you’re wearing a suit?” he asks muzzily, looking up.
Steve’s hand goes still. “Yes,” Steve says. “Why?”
“You sit around wearing a suit all day long because you’ve got an afternoon meeting and dinner,” Bucky mumbles. “Weirdo.”
Steve huffs out a laugh, fisting his hand into Bucky’s hair and shaking his head a little. “You’re wearing your collar, Bucky,” he says. “Better watch your mouth.”
Or what, Bucky thinks, but he knows the answer to that question. They both know the answer to that question.
“Or what?” he asks anyway, heart beating in his throat.
Steve’s hand tightens in his hair. “You know what,” he says softly. “Right?”
The submissive agrees and understands that any infractions of this agreement, or any act the submissive commits which displeases the Dominant, will result in punishment. The submissive understands that failure to comply with the Dominant’s orders will result in a more severe punishment. The submissive will gracefully accept punishment and try to learn from it.
Bucky shivers. “Yeah,” he says.
“And don’t forget to take it off before going outside,” Steve says, letting go of Bucky’s hair.
“Right,” Bucky says. That could get awkward.
“If you’re going outside,” Steve adds.
Bucky shrugs. He figures he probably should; he didn’t work out this morning, has barely even moved all day. So, after Steve leaves, Bucky takes off the collar and heads out as well. It’s a dreary day, sky overcast. He aimlessly wanders the crowded streets for a while, exploring the neighborhood. His new neighborhood. He ends up getting himself a coffee—Starbucks, a venti white mocha, because he can.
The thought of going back to the empty apartment isn’t particularly appealing, so he decides to make a detour. He’s wandering through a park when Nat calls.
“Still alive, huh,” she says by way of greeting.
Bucky snorts. “I told you,” he says. “We met at the club. A legit, fancy club.” Something to file away for future reference: The next time anyone asks him how he met Steve, he should just say they met at his work. That’s a normal thing normal people do, meeting people at work. Technically the bar is adjacent to the club, not officially part of it, but that’s just semantics. “And you googled the guy, right?”
“You know I did,” Nat says. “I googled the shit out of him. Worked my detective magic, checked every record I could access. And then I hired the best private investigator I could find. But still. You can never be too careful.”
Bucky steps on a crunchy leaf, because he can. “Look,” he says, “people do this kinda stuff all the time, all right.”
“Yeah, that’s all over the internet, too. Just do me a favor and don’t quit your day job yet, okay?”
“I didn’t,” Bucky says, kicking at another leaf. He doesn’t feel like pointing out he’s mostly been living off the settlement money since the accident. She knows that, anyway. Nat knows everything about him. “I’ll still be working the bar at the club.” No more late-night shifts, though; Steve expects him to be home in the evenings. “Although I’m definitely tempted to quit and just hang out in the pool and spa area all day every day, you know?”
Nat groans. “Stop trying to make me jealous. It’s not gonna work. And by the way, please tell me he didn’t make you sign one of those weird-ass contracts I keep reading about.”
Bucky hesitates a moment too long, and Nat bursts into laughter.
He gets home—home, such a strange thought—around six. Steve appears not to believe in purchasing vegetables, or in cooking in general, so Bucky orders in some sushi. Expensive sushi, because he can. He curls up on the couch with his dinner and Netflix. Decides to unpack before going to bed. Texts Nat when he’s done: All my stuff takes up about 25% of the storage space in his guest room. Does that say more about me or him?
Either way, he sleeps a little easier that night.
Steve sure wasn’t kidding when he said he wanted to take things slow the first couple of weeks.
Bucky doesn’t know what he expected, really. It’s been clear from the start that Steve is cautious and meticulous; somewhat of a control freak, maybe. Probably, judging by the whole manila folder and all those documents, and the serious—and seriously superfluous, considering the whole manila folder and all those documents—conversation they had yesterday morning.
Okay. Definitely somewhat of a control freak.
So it’s not like Bucky was expecting Steve to chain him to his bedframe and go to town on him for hours right away. Not exactly. Not really, anyway. It’s just.
Maybe he’s a little disappointed.
God, he doesn’t know.
On Sunday, they talk. Bucky learns that Steve would love to have a cat or a dog, but doesn’t have one because of work; has suspiciously and enviably healthy relationships with most of his adoptive family members, but doesn’t see them all that often outside of work; is not, as it turns out, fundamentally opposed to the idea of purchasing vegetables, or even to the idea of cooking in general, but doesn’t have time to do either of those things because of work. Essentially, Steve seems to have a life that consists mostly of work and working out.
He also has a really nice voice to listen to.
When Steve starts asking Bucky questions, it almost feels like a job interview. Which is funny because Bucky has already accepted the job, and even funnier because it’s already been established that Steve would rather he didn’t refer to it as such.
“Aren’t you gonna take notes?” Bucky asks mildly after listing three of his favorite and three of his least favorite movies, TV shows, bands, books, and foods on command.
Steve blinks, then laughs a little sheepishly. “I’m sorry,” he says, scratching at his beard. “I didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable. I just don’t want this to be awkward.”
Not exactly doing a great job of it, buddy, Bucky thinks, but he keeps a straight face and resists the urge to say it out loud. He’s wearing his collar, after all; chose to wear his collar, even though Steve told him he didn’t have to put it on, not yet. He pulls his knees closer to his chest and digs his toes into the crack between their couch cushions.
“I usually wait until I’ve actually gotten to know someone before… inviting them, you know,” Steve says after a moment.
“Yeah?” Bucky says. He sits up a little more, armrest digging into his back. This time he can’t resist. “You mean like you make them fill out questionnaires and have your PA do some data visualization, or what?”
“Hey,” Steve says. Narrowing his eyes at Bucky, he reaches for the ring on Bucky’s collar to give it a tug. “I told you to watch your mouth when you’re wearing this. Tone it down. This is your last warning.”
“Yessir,” Bucky says, contritely biting his bottom lip for good measure.
Steve makes an amused sound. “And no, I mean like actually getting to know them. Not just likes and dislikes—pet peeves, irrational fears, biggest regrets. I don’t know. Relationships with family members, aspirations in life. That kinda stuff. I guess I’m just trying to get us caught up.”
Aspirations in life. That kinda stuff.
From the look on his face, Steve is not even kidding. Seriously. This guy.
“Slow-walking people, crowded spaces, dropping out of college, nonexistent ’cause they’re all either dead or pathologically emotionally unavailable or both, nothing really comes to mind, why didn’t you?” Bucky rattles off.
“Um,” Steve says, brow furrowed. “I… What?”
“Wait,” Bucky says. “With me. Why didn’t you wait until we’d gotten to know each other?”
Steve looks at him. Doesn’t say anything for a couple of seconds. “How do you feel about people taking pictures of you?” he asks then, putting his arm on the back of the couch.
He’s probably not talking about vacation snapshots. Bucky swallows, says, “Pretty sure I checked that box on the list you gave me.”
“I know you did,” Steve says in a warm voice that sends a thrill down Bucky’s spine. “But that’s not what I asked. How do you feel about it?”
Bucky shrugs. “Fine, I guess. Why?”
“Do you remember the second time we met?”
Bucky on his knees, naked, warm, mind fuzzy. Legs cramping, jaw aching. Steve’s hand settling on his head. Steve’s dick pushing between his lips.
“Yeah,” Bucky says. His mouth’s gone dry. He tucks his hands into the sleeves of his sweatshirt, clenches them between his thighs.
“There must’ve been, what, almost a dozen of us there?” Steve leans in closer, cushions dipping under their combined weight. “You were… I wish I’d taken a picture. I wish I could show you what you looked like that night.”
Bucky doesn’t need to see a picture. He’s seen himself in bathroom mirrors afterward, lips red and swollen, hair a filthy mess. He’s been shown videos of himself begging for more, face streaked with come, eyes glazed over with lust and need.
Steve says, “If I hadn’t tried to snatch you up, somebody else would’ve.”
He’s smiling softly. There’s something in his eyes that makes Bucky feel uncomfortable. Not in a bad way; in a good way, actually, which makes it all the more difficult to bear.
“Plenty of guys who look good with a dick down their throat,” Bucky says when he feels like he can speak again.
“None of ’em quite like you,” Steve says, touching Bucky’s cheek. He sounds ridiculously earnest about it. The pad of his thumb brushes against the corner of Bucky’s mouth, and Bucky moves without thinking, turns his head and sucks Steve’s thumb into his mouth, hollows his cheeks around it. Steve inhales sharply, his fingers curling around Bucky’s chin to pull him in.
Steve is a good kisser. Gentle but confident. He treats kissing as a goal in its own right, rather than as an obligatory step on the way to orgasms or as an assertion of dominance. Maybe that’s why it’s easier for Bucky this time around to just sit in Steve’s lap and let himself be kissed. The frantic urgency he felt yesterday isn’t gone, not by a long shot, but it appears to have gone dormant for the time being.
Steve seems to notice, too. “You’re a quick learner, huh,” he mumbles, beard rasping against Bucky’s mouth.
Bucky ducks his head to hide his blush. Presses his lips to the side of Steve’s throat, then to the area of skin right above the collar of his shirt. Steve smells good, of deodorant and clean sweat. They’re both still wearing the clothes they wore to the gym earlier this morning—the gym that’s just two elevator rides away, the existence of which still doesn’t seem entirely plausible to Bucky. He’ll need to hunt it down again someday soon to verify that it’s real and not something he dreamed up.
When Bucky reaches for the hem of Steve’s shirt, Steve’s hands close around his wrists. “I’ve got a better idea,” Steve says.
Bucky suppresses a groan and says, “Please don’t tell me you wanna talk about my aspirations in life some mo—”
Honestly, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to him when he finally gets what he’s more or less been angling for since Steve told him to watch his mouth yesterday. Or maybe even since before that. Since the first time he decided not to call Steve “sir,” maybe, or since the moment he decided to open the box with the collar in it on the evening he arrived. He’s been pushing Steve, testing his boundaries from the very beginning. He knows it and Steve knows it.
It’s been less than ten minutes since Steve told him This is your last warning, but Bucky is still caught completely off guard by Steve slapping him across the mouth, hard, hard enough that he would’ve lost his balance if Steve’s other hand hadn’t come up to steady him in time; hard enough for Bucky to expect to taste blood when he runs his tongue along his teeth. Hard enough his ears are ringing with it.
“Idea number one,” Steve says calmly, “you stop acting like a brat and start obeying my orders.”
Bucky’s heart is thundering in his chest. “Yes sir,” he manages.
“That’s right.” Steve presses the back of his hand to Bucky’s burning cheek. “What’s your color?”
“Um,” Bucky says, because his mind’s gone utterly blank. Shock and arousal are pulsing hotly within him. The fuck does Steve mean, what’s his color?
“Green,” he says when the words slot into place, a few beats too late. Does his voice actually sound hoarse or is he just imagining it? He has no idea.
Steve looks unconvinced. “Bucky,” he says, frowning. “You know—”
“Yeah,” Bucky says. He definitely sounds a little hoarse. “I know.”
The submissive agrees to accept the responsibility of using a safeword or safe gesture when necessary. The Dominant accepts the responsibility of stopping activities in progress to assess situations where the submissive safewords and will, to the best of his ability, make judgement on whether to modify the activity or stop activity entirely. The submissive agrees to hold no ill will due to the Dominant’s decision. The Dominant agrees not to punish the submissive for the use of a safeword or safe gesture.
“Seriously,” Bucky says when Steve continues to study him with that unnerving look on his ridiculously earnest face. It’s funny; Steve has a point, of course, they’re virtual strangers to each other, and yet Bucky already knows that this—being worried one well-deserved slap in the face might be too much for someone he’s literally entered into a Dom/sub arrangement with—is a very Steve thing to do. “Green as grass. So, what’s idea number two? Sir,” he adds.
Steve huffs out a breath, relaxes a little. “Idea number two,” he says, “is you take off your clothes and go to my room and finger yourself open while I watch, and then I fuck you.”
Steve doesn’t elaborate.
“That’s it?” Bucky says, aiming for a neutral tone. Steve doesn’t slap him again, so he figures he was successful enough.
“Let’s not break out the spider gags and spreader bars before you even know what my middle name is,” Steve says dryly.
“I know what your middle name is,” Bucky says. “It’s on the internet. And it’s probably on all those documents you gave me to sign, too. Sir.”
“You’re aware of the fact that those documents you’re so hung up on are club protocol, right?”
Oh, I’m sorry, Mr. I’ve Had Several Live-In Subs, Bucky thinks, but his cheek is still stinging a little, so it’s probably a wise idea to keep his smart-ass thoughts to himself for the time being.
“Right,” Bucky says, climbing off Steve’s lap.
Steve sits back, spreads both arms over the back of the couch. “Bucky,” he says when Bucky starts toward the master bedroom. “I seem to remember telling you to take your clothes off first.”
Stripteases have never been Bucky’s strong suit. So desperate to get naked, isn’t he he remembers someone once saying about him. Bucky can’t remember a single other thing about them, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have a point. He keeps it simple; pulls off his sweater and his shirt, takes off his socks before pushing his pants and underwear down at the same time and stepping out of them.
It belatedly occurs to him that Steve may either be expecting him to tidy up after himself or reward him with one of those soft, fond looks if he does so of his own accord. He slowly bends over, picks up his sweater. Folds it and puts it on the coffee table.
When he turns back around, Steve is giving him one of those soft, fond looks.
Bucky is more than half hard by the time he finishes picking up and folding each item of clothing individually. Steve hasn’t spoken a word since ordering him to undress, is just silently watching him, and Bucky feels weirdly self-conscious all of a sudden. He realizes he has involuntarily wrapped his right hand around his left elbow, as if to hide the scars from Steve’s view, which is ridiculous; he makes himself let go. He doesn’t look at Steve’s face again, keeps his eyes downcast as he starts toward the master bedroom for the second time.
Steve says, “Wait.”
Bucky waits, skin prickling with anticipation.
“On your hands and knees,” Steve says.
Bucky’s mind briefly whites out again.
He’s been in this position several times by now, kneeling naked at Steve’s feet. The position itself is nothing new. It’s the thought of what comes next—the long, slow crawl across the room and down the hall, Steve silently watching him from here, casually in complete control—that makes Bucky’s head spin. He feels hot and shivery at the same time.
“Go on,” Steve says, reaching out to tuck a strand of hair behind Bucky’s ear.
It seems to take Bucky an eternity to cross the room. He can feel the heady weight of Steve’s gaze on him the whole way there, even when he’s crawling down the hall and logically knows that Steve can’t actually see him anymore. By the time he reaches Steve’s bedroom door, he feels like he’s simultaneously burning up and covered in goose bumps all over.
Steve’s room is similar to his, but bigger, with a king-size bed that has two large armchairs facing it. The carpeting is soft and plush under Bucky’s palms and shins, pleasant in a different way than the heated hardwood floor in the living room. He wonders if Steve had his entire apartment furbished with the comfort of his future subs in mind.
It’s a wild thought.
Bucky crawls to the bed and lies down on top of the covers, on his stomach. Face turned to the wall, fingers curled into the bedspread. As he’s lying there, waiting for Steve to come and his heart rate to slow down, it dawns on him that he could’ve gotten to his feet once he was out of Steve’s line of sight, without Steve being any the wiser.
He could’ve, but he didn’t.
Steve takes his sweet fucking time; it seems like ages before Bucky finally hears footsteps coming closer until they pause in the doorway. Bucky’s fingers curl tighter into the bedspread at the thought of Steve standing there, drinking in the sight of him. He shifts, gets his knees under his body. Has to close his eyes and clamp down on a moan when the tip of his dick brushes against the velvet-soft fabric.
“God, look at you,” Steve says softly. More footsteps. The bed dips under Bucky’s body. Steve puts a warm hand on the small of Bucky’s back, and Bucky feels himself arch up into the touch like a cat.
“You gonna be good for me, Bucky?” Steve asks. His hand slides up Bucky’s spine, comes to rest on his collar.
Bucky shivers. Nods.
Steve’s hand slides further up, fingers threading into the hair at the back of Bucky’s head. “I’d like to hear you say it.”
Jesus Christ. “I’ll be good for you, sir,” Bucky says, almost at a whisper. His eyes are still closed. At this rate, he’s not sure he’ll manage to open them again anytime soon.
“Well done.” Steve leans over Bucky, presses a kiss to the space between his shoulder blades. “You can start by getting yourself ready for me.”
The sound of a drawer rolling open. A bottle cap snapping open. Steve saying, “Hands on your back. Both of them. No, lower. Palms up.”
It’s like Bucky’s every nerve is on fire, every cell primed to respond to the slightest of stimuli. He gasps at the feeling of lube pooling in the palm of his right hand. A breathy, needy moan escapes his lips when some of it drips through his fingers, down his crack and balls.
Steve moves away from the bed. A few more footsteps, almost inaudible. In his mind’s eye Bucky can see Steve settling down in one of those armchairs, leaning back and resting his ankle on his other knee. He may already be naked; may have stripped down in the living room like he made Bucky do. He may be touching himself, palming the head of his cock or slowly jerking off as he waits for Bucky to obey his order.
Bucky’s pulse is racing as he makes a fist, gets his hand slicked up nice and good. Slick him up nice and good, he’s heard that one before—when he was lying just like this, face down, ass up, one wet fingertip rubbing over his hole and pressing down, sinking inside. The weight of several pairs of eyes and hands on him. The sound of laughter, of heavy breathing. Of skin sliding against skin.
His memories of that night are a little vague, the way his memories of those kinds of nights at the club tend to be, but he’s almost certain he didn’t feel this exposed at any point during the scene. There’s something about the thought of Steve sitting there, watching him, that makes this situation feel much more intimate somehow. Bucky is so tense it’s taking him longer than usual to work himself open, still too tight to take more than two fingers when he’d typically be begging to be fucked by now.
“Take your time, Buck,” Steve says gently.
Has Steve ever called him that before? Not according to Bucky’s body, which reacts with an uncontrollable shudder and a fresh burst of arousal that makes him break out in a sweat. He involuntarily clenches down around his fingers. They’re gonna mess up Steve’s nice bedspread, he thinks suddenly, with a breathless laugh that could just as well be another moan. He’s already getting sweat and precome and lube all over it, and Steve hasn’t even joined in yet.
“I’m ready,” he says when he can finally slide three fingers easily in and out of himself without feeling any discomfort. “Sir.”
Bucky nods, cheek rubbing against the bedspread. He can hear the rustle of clothing, the sound of a condom wrapper being torn open. The mattress shifts again.
“All right,” Steve says from behind Bucky, “let’s see,” and then he’s pushing two broad fingers into Bucky, right up to the knuckle.
“Oh, fuck,” Bucky whispers, his mouth going slack.
Steve takes hold of Bucky’s hip with his other hand. First he lifts Bucky’s ass up higher, and then he holds him in place while thrusting his fingers in and out of him, neither very carefully nor particularly gently. He doesn’t stop after a few thrusts either, just keeps going and going, steadily fingerfucking Bucky with two and then with three fingers until Bucky fears he might come from this alone. And, well, Steve hasn’t told him to be quiet, has he, so…
“Please,” Bucky says, moaning when Steve hits the spot that seems to make all his nerve endings come alive at once. His hands are starting to cramp up from clutching the bedspread. “Sir, please.”
Steve pauses. “Please what?” he asks. He sounds a little out of breath.
Bucky exhales loudly through his nose. “Please fuck me,” he says, “please, I can take it, I’m ready, please just fuck me.”
Steve makes a non-committal sound. He’s started thrusting his fingers into Bucky again, small insistent movements that massage his prostate and make heat pulse low in his stomach.
“Please,” Bucky gasps, squeezing his eyes shut so tightly he can see little bursts of light. “Please, sir, I can’t—I want to feel you inside me, please, I want to come on your dick.”
“You’ve got such a filthy mouth on you,” Steve says appreciatively. “Anyone ever tell you you look real pretty like this?”
Well, actually, Bucky thinks, but Steve’s fingers are sliding in and out of him at a more leisurely pace now, and he’s too busy trying to catch his breath to tell Steve he’s been told he looks real pretty on his knees, looks real pretty in lace panties, looks real pretty with tear tracks down his cheeks, looks real pretty while getting spit-roasted, looks real pretty when he’s been fucked so hard for so long he can barely remember his own name. He’s probably heard You look real pretty with three fingers up your ass before.
“Y-yeah,” he chokes out.
It’s both a relief and a disappointment when Steve withdraws his fingers; a relief because it means he’s one step closer to fucking Bucky, and a disappointment because it leaves Bucky feeling open and achingly vulnerable. He’s quivering with the effort of holding still, thinking that maybe if he doesn’t move Steve will finally give him what he wants without any more stalling.
“You’re doing so well for me, Bucky,” Steve says. One of his hands is still low on Bucky’s hip, thumb rubbing back and forth. “I think you’ve earned this.” He adjusts his grip, spreads Bucky open a little.
Bucky’s whole body jerks when he feels the head of Steve’s dick against his loose, wet hole. “Oh god, yes, please,” he gasps. “Please, sir—”
“Ssh,” Steve says, “ssh, it’s all right, I got you,” and he finally, finally pushes into Bucky. Once he’s buried fully inside, his other hand settles on Bucky’s shoulder, fingertips digging for purchase on sweat-slick skin. Steve’s grip tightens as he pulls almost all the way out and pushes in again. “God, you feel good,” he says, voice rough.
Bucky moans again, overwhelmed. Steve starts rocking into him, short deep thrusts that fill him up so good, his brain short-circuiting a little every time Steve gets the angle just right. It’s not long before he feels like he can’t speak anymore, can barely even think straight—can’t do anything but lie here and take it, caught between Steve’s strong hands and Steve’s increasingly sharp and erratic thrusts.
“Touch yourself,” Steve’s voice cuts through the fog in his head. “I wanna feel you come.”
Bucky wraps his hand around his dick, mindlessly obeying the words. He’s so turned on it’s almost too much. He whines embarrassingly in the back of his throat.
“C’mon,” Steve murmurs, “come for me, I know you’re close,” and then he lets go of Bucky’s shoulder, hooks three fingers under the collar instead. It goes tight around Bucky’s throat, and for a second he can’t breathe because of the pressure. Or maybe it’s because of the thought of Steve controlling his air supply. Maybe it’s a little of both. It doesn’t really matter why; all that matters is his orgasm comes rushing in, crashing over him like waves.
Bucky’s body is still trembling with aftershocks when Steve pulls out and collapses next to him with one last deep, satisfied groan. Bucky stretches out his legs. His ass cheeks and thighs are slick with lube. There’s sweat drying on his back, his come sticky and cold against his stomach. He’s already too tired and sore to be grossed out, though. He’s too tired and sore to even move, only manages to muster the energy to roll over onto his stomach when he can hear Steve tying off the condom next to him.
Steve is lying on his back, his chest still rising and falling rapidly. “Hey,” he says, looking over at Bucky. His hair is dark with sweat, cheeks flushed under his beard. “How you feeling?”
Bucky doesn’t reply, too distracted by the sudden and frankly shocking realization that this is the first time he’s seeing Steve naked. “Jesus Christ, how are you so fucking ripped?” he says, touching Steve’s stomach and feeling the muscles contract under his palm as Steve laughs. “You got one of those treadmill desks or something?” His throat is so parched his voice gives out on the last syllable.
Steve frowns, pushes up onto his elbows to reach for the half-full water bottle on his nightstand. “Here,” he says, gallantly twisting off the cap before giving the bottle to Bucky.
“Ew, germs,” Bucky croaks. He lifts his head up just enough to be able to drink a few swallows. Some of the water drips down his chin, but he’s too fucking worn out to care or even wipe it away. Besides, it’s Steve’s nice bedspread they’re ruining, not his.
“I think you’ll live,” Steve says dryly, taking the bottle back and draining it. “How are you feeling?”
“Fine. Sore.” Bucky’s jaw makes a cracking sound as he yawns. “Tired.”
Bucky shrugs. Steve leans over him, tugs at the bedspread until he manages to drape it around their bodies. He settles on his side with one arm around Bucky.
“You’re a cuddler, huh.” Bucky yawns again.
“You’re one of those guys who falls asleep right after sex, huh,” Steve counters, pulling Bucky a little closer.
“If the sex is all intense and drawn-out, then yeah,” Bucky says unapologetically. There’s no point denying it; his eyelids are already drifting shut. “Besides, it’s Sunday. Sundays are for naps. Naps and sex. That’s it. Nothing else.” He briefly forces his eyes open to fix Steve with a look. “Don’t tell me you have work meetings again.”
“I was actually thinking you and I could go out for dinner tonight.” Steve brushes Bucky’s hair back from his forehead. “Talk about your aspirations in life some more. You’ll need to leave your collar at home, so you get to be as bratty as you like.”
Bucky thinks maybe he should bristle at the words, but for some reason Steve teasing him like this just makes him feel all warm inside. Maybe it’s because he’s already halfway gone. “That’s nice,” he mumbles. “I’m gonna go ahead and fall asleep now, if that’s okay.”
“Yeah,” Steve says in a soft voice, running his fingertips down the side of Bucky’s face. “Yeah, that’s okay.”
It remains somewhat of a mystery to Bucky why a self-proclaimed “busy guy” who works “long hours” thought it would be a good idea to pay someone the equivalent of a full-time salary to be “readily available” to him for his use “at all times.” Their arrangement is not a very cost-effective one, that’s for sure. It’s more convenient, Steve had said. At a certain level of wealth, convenience apparently wins out over cost-effectiveness. Bucky’s not complaining, though; after all, he’s the one on the receiving end of the paycheck.
Steve leaves the penthouse at seven a.m. sharp on weekdays. He’s not into pre-seven a.m. sex or early morning breakfast blowjobs, which Bucky is definitely not complaining about either, having never been much of a morning person himself. That said, he doesn’t want to feel like he’s not earning his keep. The first few days he drags himself out of bed at ass o’clock in the morning just in case Steve decides he wants to rail Bucky on the marble countertop before straightening his tie and heading out to the office.
“Jesus Christ, go back to bed before you hurt yourself,” Steve says on the third morning, when Bucky yawns so violently he almost falls right off his stool at the kitchen island. “That’s an order.”
“Yessir,” Bucky mutters.
The next morning, after his alarm goes off, Bucky stays in bed, eyes wide open, ears pricked up, listening to the distant sound of Steve’s shower running and waiting for—what, exactly? For Steve to go back on his word and barge into Bucky’s room and take him right here? That’d be wildly out of character for Steve, and besides, if he’d wanted to have sex he could’ve just ordered Bucky to sleep in the master bedroom with him. He could just arrange it so he could roll over and blow his morning load with minimal effort required.
Anyway, Steve hasn’t brought up orgasm control yet, so Bucky happily jerks it to fantasies of Steve making him sleep with a butt plug in and fucking him when he’s only half awake.
Evenings are fortunately much more straightforward. They quickly fall into an easy rhythm that essentially boils down to Bucky spending a lot of time on his knees with Steve’s dick in his mouth. Steve gets home sometime between six and seven p.m.; they make small talk over the food Bucky ordered in for dinner; Steve goes to the gym, or shoots off some more emails with Bucky knelt at his feet; and then he reads or watches TV while using Bucky’s mouth as a cock warmer until he feels like fucking Bucky instead, or until it’s time to tuck in for the night.
It seems to Bucky like Steve must lead a pretty boring and lonely life in between subs, but then, Steve does also seem like the kind of person who thrives on stability and routine or whatever.
On Friday, their tentative routine changes. Steve is long gone by the time Bucky gets up, but there’s something waiting for him on the dinner table. A square box the same shade of dark blue as the box his collar came in.
“Well, well, well,” Bucky mumbles to himself.
Inside the velvet-padded box are a butt plug and a pair of white lace panties, carefully folded. There’s also a handwritten note. It says I expect you to be ready for me when I get home in small, neat block letters.
Well, well, well.
Bucky’s mind keeps wandering during his shift. He becomes more and more distracted as the day progresses, too preoccupied with what Steve might have in store for him tonight to really be able to focus on his tasks. It’s a relief when he can finally head back to the apartment and start preparing for Steve’s return.
He takes the order Steve gave him very seriously. He goes to the gym, rounding off his workout with half an hour of yoga stretches. He showers afterward, taking his time to clean himself thoroughly. That familiar jittery, skin-too-tight feeling creeps up on him while he’s fingering himself open, and, well, Steve still hasn’t brought up orgasm control. Jerking off helps take off the edge, and Bucky feels calmer by the time he gets out of the shower.
The plug Steve bought for him is wonderful. Matte black, nice and thick, with a wide-flared base. It feels amazing inside him, rubbing against his prostate with every move he makes. The panties feel even better—almost unbearably so. His body is hypersensitive in the wake of his orgasm, and the feeling of the delicate fabric agonizingly soft against his skin combined with the feeling of the plug pressing against his prostate keeps him half hard. He spends the last twenty minutes before Steve arrives sitting very still on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, killing time on his phone and trying not to stare at the elevator doors like a dog desperately waiting for its owner to come home.
When the elevator finally starts humming, Bucky cautiously gets up and shrugs out of the blanket. He makes his way over to the elevator doors and kneels in front of them, naked, with his hands on his thighs and his head bowed. He can hear the doors slide open, Steve stalk into the apartment with brisk, angry strides. He almost doesn’t manage to keep his gaze trained on the floor when he hears Steve stop dead in his tracks and say, quietly, “Oh, Bucky.”
A pair of dress shoes comes into view as Steve steps closer. He puts one hand on Bucky’s head, and just like that Bucky is burning up, already so conditioned to Steve’s touch. God, he’s so fucking easy. He glances up at Steve through his eyelashes. Steve looks tense, frazzled, but there’s something else in his expression as well. Something soft. Gratefulness, maybe, or maybe even pride. Whatever it is, it sends another wave of heat through Bucky.
“Get up,” Steve says, threading his fingers into Bucky’s hair and tugging at it. “Fuck, look at you. You’re being so good for me, Buck.”
Bucky’s face grows even hotter at the praise, at the way Steve says his name. He feels a little shaky, getting to his feet. The panties stretched tight over the head of his dick, the pressure of the plug against his prostate, the feeling of Steve’s hand in his hair, the weight of Steve’s eyes on him, the warmth in Steve’s voice… It’s a lot to take in all at once.
“I see you’re enjoying your gifts,” Steve says. He cups Bucky’s dick through the panties, runs the pad of his thumb over the wet patch there. His other hand is still fisted into Bucky’s hair, keeping his head tipped back, so all Bucky can manage in response is a feeble moan. “Plug feel good?”
“Uh-huh,” Bucky says after swallowing. “Sir.”
Steve works a hand down the back of the panties, shoves them down Bucky’s ass with a sense of urgency. He takes hold of the base of the plug, pumping it in and out of Bucky a few times—testing him, checking to see how loose and wet he is—before pulling it out of him. Bucky doesn’t get a chance to mourn the loss; he’s immediately filled up again by two, no, three of Steve’s fingers.
The hand in Bucky’s hair relaxes. “You opened yourself up for me,” Steve says, his fingers curling inside Bucky. He sounds pleased about it.
As per your implied request, Bucky thinks. He nods.
“Good,” Steve says in a warm voice. His fingers slide out of Bucky with a wet pop. He starts steering Bucky backward, to the kitchen island. Grabs him by his shoulders to turn him around and then puts a hand between his shoulder blades to push him down.
The countertop is shockingly cold against Bucky’s naked chest. He gasps, shivers hard. Shivers again when he presses his cheek to the marble and takes a few deep breaths to center himself. The arousal coursing through his body is making it difficult to think straight.
There’s the sound of a belt being undone, a zipper being pulled down. Steve is gonna fuck him right here, Bucky realizes hazily, right now. No build-up, no teasing. This, this is what Steve had planned for tonight—just getting home and bending Bucky over the counter to fuck him right away. Steve got Bucky a plug to hold him open, a pair of lace panties to keep him on edge; he bought Bucky gifts, but Bucky is his gift, naked and ready, no more than a tight wet hole aching to be filled.
“What was that?” Steve asks, pausing with just the head of his dick inside Bucky, and Bucky becomes aware of the fact that he’s been whispering something.
“Please,” he says again in an embarrassing voice, low and breathy. Needy. “Please, I—”
The rest of his sentence gets cut off when Steve pushes into him with one deep thrust. Steve doesn’t wait for Bucky to adjust to his girth, immediately starts thrusting into him, hard and fast. He’s not talking to Bucky the way he usually does, not giving him instructions or keeping up a running commentary on how good Bucky feels. He’s just holding Bucky down and using him like a toy.
There’s this group of regulars at the club, businessmen who book a private room where they can drink and talk and fuck someone’s ass or mouth if they feel like it. Bucky used to be one of those someones. There was something exhilarating about it, about being considered nothing but a sideshow—just another enjoyable activity besides sipping expensive liquor and discussing successful mergers and acquisitions or whatever. Some nights they barely gave him a second to breathe and other nights they seemed to forget about him for the better part of the evening, leaving him wet and open and empty and aching for hours. Either way, the end result was always the same: Bucky always floated off, retreated into some place deep within his mind where time seemed to pass differently, pleasure was the only thing that mattered, and that jittery feeling he gets sometimes was a distant memory.
He’s too far gone to register who comes first, he or Steve. It takes him a long moment to drift back to his body afterward. He slowly, carefully pushes up onto his forearms, rests his forehead against the countertop.
Steve, proactive as ever, is already dabbing at the mess of lube and come drying on the backs of Bucky’s thighs with a damp towel.
“Better get rid of these,” Steve says, snapping the waistband of Bucky’s panties against his skin before pulling them down further.
“Hey,” Bucky mutters in protest, but he obediently steps out of the panties and turns around when Steve starts poking and prodding at him.
“Here,” Steve says once he’s done cleaning Bucky up. “Put this on before you get cold.”
“Oh my god,” Bucky says, inordinately charmed. “You got me a bathrobe. I can’t believe you went and got me a bathrobe. Is this another gift?”
Steve huffs, ducks his head. For a second—just a fleeting second—he looks a little self-conscious; then he turns back into cool-and-composed Steve. “It’s mine, actually,” he says. “But I promise to buy you one if you continue to be such a good boy for me.”
His tone is light, amused, but Bucky can feel the blood rush to his cheeks anyway. “Jesus,” he says a little weakly, avoiding Steve’s eyes as he accepts the bathrobe.
He’s just finished tying the belt around his waist when Steve gently takes his face between his hands and tilts his chin up, pulls him in for a kiss. It’s a long kiss, a tender kiss, Steve stroking Bucky’s cheekbones with his thumbs and cradling Bucky’s head like he’s holding something fragile and precious. Bucky has to keep his eyes closed for a few more seconds after Steve pulls away.
“How are you feeling?” Steve asks. He hasn’t let go yet, his hands still framing Bucky’s face. It doesn’t make Bucky feel as stifled as it should. Maybe that’s because he’s feeling a little light-headed, like he hasn’t fully made his way back to himself yet; like he’s still hovering somewhere halfway in-between the here and now and that faraway place in his mind. It’s not an unpleasant feeling. If he were lying down he’d probably be able to drop off within minutes, and sleep dreamlessly.
“Pretty great,” he says. It’s the truth.
At some point between momentarily abandoning Bucky and coming back with wet towels and a fucking bathrobe, Steve must’ve taken off his suit jacket. He’s wearing a light blue dress shirt that really complements his eyes. He looks less tense now, Bucky notices with satisfaction. A faint frown is starting to appear between his eyebrows, though, like Bucky’s reply is somehow lacking, so Bucky adds, “I guess I could eat.”
“You haven’t had dinner?”
“Not really. Just some leftovers.”
The frown grows deeper. Steve takes a step back, reaches for his phone in his pocket. “I’ll order something in from downstairs.”
“From downstairs,” Bucky echoes.
“Yeah,” Steve says. “Room service.”
Room service. From downstairs.
“Are you for real?” Bucky says. “I’ve been ordering takeout from random restaurants all week and now you tell me you can get food delivered to this apartment from inside the building?”
Steve shrugs. “I usually order in from here. I’m enjoying your random restaurants.”
“God,” Bucky says. “Do you ever cook? Do you even know how to work that sleek-looking glass top stove of yours?”
“Sure I do,” Steve says, smiling slyly. “I occasionally use it to reheat meals.”
“You’re unbelievable,” Bucky mutters. He yawns, eyes watering. He really is hungry, he realizes. He’s feeling a little queasy with it. His hands are trembling, and he’s starting to feel light-headed in a way that he suspects has nothing to do with having mind-blowing sex.
Steve is frowning again. “Why don’t you go sit down,” he says. He touches his fingertips to Bucky’s wrist. “Find us something to watch. All right? I’ll clean up here.”
Bucky briefly considers objecting. After all, The Dominant agrees to furnish all toys such as vibrators, etc. and punishment implements such as crops and whips. The submissive agrees to clean and maintain all toys and implements, have them available for the Dominant’s use at all times, and inform the Dominant of any needed repairs or replacements. Sitting down sounds like a pretty good idea right about now, though.
He goes to curl up against the arm of the couch and do some mindless channel surfing. Steve brings him a chilled bottle of water, but doesn’t join him until the food arrives. The unfamiliar sound of a bell startles Bucky out of whatever trance he’d slipped into; he jolts upright.
“I got it,” Steve tells him. “You stay put.”
Bucky nods. Watches Steve call up the elevator, get the food. Grab some silverware and two more water bottles from his inexhaustible hoard of them in the fridge before making his way to Bucky.
“Hope you like broiled salmon,” Steve says, handing over a plate of salmon and vegetables.
Bucky isn’t a huge fan of salmon, but he’s not about to tell Steve that. He’s starving, and besides, there’s something about the thought of Steve picking out a healthy and protein-rich meal for him that makes him go all squishy inside. Maybe that’s the hunger talking, though. He makes a non-committal noise, balances his plate on the arm of the couch and tucks in.
The salmon is actually pretty tasty. Bucky’s not even surprised. It was probably prepared and painstakingly plated by a Michelin-starred chef being held captive in the basement.
Steve has sat down on the other couch, which makes Bucky feel weird. Rejected, which is stupid, and—fragile, exposed, which just doesn’t make any sense. He curls up a little tighter and reaches for the nearest throw pillow to cover his bare feet with it.
“Are you cold?” Steve asks.
Bucky shrugs, stuffs another forkful of vegetables into his mouth. Steve is already setting his plate down on the coffee table and standing up to get Bucky a blanket, even going so far as to drape it over Bucky’s legs.
The food seems to get stuck in Bucky’s throat. He swallows it down with some water. “Thanks,” he says. His voice is a little hoarse.
“You all right?” Steve says. “Is there anything else you need?”
Your hands on me, Bucky thinks, absurdly. “I’m fine,” he says, watching Steve sit down and grab his plate again. He doesn’t look tense anymore, that’s true enough, but he does still look exhausted. “How about you? Rough day at work?”
Steve shrugs. “Some days are more stressful than others,” he says. “Thank god it’s Friday, I guess. How about you? Did you have a good day?”
Bucky would be amused by the off-the-charts level of honey-how-was-your-day domesticity going on here if it weren’t for the fact that Steve sounds, and is, genuinely interested. They’ve had this conversation every evening for the past week, and every time Steve is genuinely interested to hear about Bucky’s day.
Before moving in, Bucky had expected things to be awkward between the two of them, definitely at first. Instead, it feels suspiciously natural, being around Steve. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Steve had already thought all of this through long before Bucky was even aware that “live-in subs” was an actual term that actual people—or at least one actual person—actually used. But then, maybe it’s just because of Steve. There’s something about him, something about his presence that feels calming and comforting to Bucky even when Steve seems distant or on edge, like on their first evening or their first day together. Or just now. All moments when he’d just come home from work, Bucky realizes.
“I don’t even know what you do all day,” Bucky says. “I mean, I know what your company does, obviously, but that’s about it.”
Steve breathes out a laugh. “Mostly operational planning, overseeing research activities, distributing funding. That sort of thing,” he says, which doesn’t really clear much up. At all. It’s kind of endearing that he seems to think it does, though. “And I spend a lot of time delegating tasks and being exasperated by my brother. You could come by the office sometime, if you like. Watch me take important calls and send out important emails and have important meetings with important people.”
“Yeah, sure,” Bucky says. “Sounds like fun. When’s your next Bring Your Sub to Work day?”
Steve lets out a short burst of laughter, then goes quiet. He’s looking at Bucky like he—
“Oh, you’re picturing it, aren’t you,” Bucky says. “I could hide under your desk and suck you off while you’re having serious conversations about research activities and funding and whatnot. Or you could fuck me over your couch. Does your office have a couch?”
“My office has glass walls,” Steve says dryly.
Bucky shrugs. “I look shy to you?” he asks around a mouthful of salmon.
“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” Steve says, color creeping into his cheeks. “You could choke.”
Bucky dutifully swallows. “You’re blushing,” he tells Steve.
“You’re pushing it, Buck,” Steve says in a stern voice, but the tips of his ears are bright red.
They don’t fuck in Steve’s glass-walled office. They do mess around in one of the company limousines several weeks later, after a fancy business dinner Steve invited Bucky along to. He introduces Bucky as his partner and keeps finding excuses to touch him throughout the evening—putting a hand on the small of Bucky’s back while the maître d’ escorts them to a quiet corner of the restaurant, intermittently pressing their knees together under the table, brushing his fingers along the nape of Bucky’s neck before excusing himself to go to the bathroom, slinging a casual arm over the back of Bucky’s chair after dessert. Bucky can’t actually feel Steve’s touch through the fabric of his brand-new suit, but he’s pleasantly aware of it nonetheless.
He knows the proprietorial touches are all part of Steve’s efforts to exude an air of confidence, just the right amount of extravagance and a smidgen of indifference. Bucky is here to be shown off, freshly shaven and dressed up in pretty clothes and as charmingly ignorant of the inner workings of the multibillion-dollar tech industry as the stunning woman Steve’s client has brought along as his date. Steve had been very upfront and rueful about this. (“So,” Bucky had said, “just to be clear, you want me to be your arm candy for the night, and yet you somehow manage to present this to me as a reason why I might not want to go?”)
There’s a lot of alcohol involved. Bucky doesn’t know much about fine wine, but after tonight there’s at least one conclusion he can draw with some certainty: It’s a lot like cheap wine in the sense that 1) it makes him restlessly horny and 2) he can’t feel his face after drinking a few glasses too many.
Once they’ve dropped Steve’s client and the stunning woman off in front of their hotel, Steve turns to Bucky and says, smiling, “You’re holding up admirably.”
“I can’t feel my fucking face,” Bucky tells him.
Steve laughs, a loud and beautiful sound. His eyes are a little unfocused, but he doesn’t seem anywhere near as drunk as Bucky feels. How unfair. “Look, I’m not above using alcohol as a means to soften up potential clients,” Steve says. “Their partners generally tend to make sure they don’t drink too much themselves. I can see the same doesn’t apply to you, though.”
“Touch me,” Bucky says, sliding his hands up the insides of Steve’s thighs. “Please. Steve.”
It gives him a heady feeling, getting to call Steve by his name. He isn’t wearing his collar, for obvious reasons, which means that—according to their agreement—he’s not currently Steve’s sub and Steve is not currently his Dom. Right now, they’re just two not-quite-strangers, not-quite-friends at different levels of intoxication, getting driven home after a lavish dinner.
“You’re terrible,” Steve says with another laugh, but he immediately puts his hands on Bucky’s waist to steady him when Bucky throws one leg over Steve’s lap, straddling him.
“Steve,” Bucky says again, because he can, and then he kisses Steve, because he can. Steve tastes of coffee and peppermint. His beard rasps wonderfully against Bucky’s palms. Bucky kind of really wants to rub his cheek against it, but he recognizes that would be weird, and also probably definitely a reason for Steve to gently shut him down. After all, if there’s anything Bucky has learned about Steve over the past month or so, it’s that Steve was raised to be the perfect gentleman. Steve is a perfect gentleman, and then there’s Bucky, bearing down on Steve’s perfect and gentlemanly lap to keep from losing his balance as their car cuts smoothly through traffic, pawing at the beautiful tie Steve is beautifully wearing in the hope of undoing it before Steve can start pondering the exact meaning of the term “meaningful consent.”
Steve’s beautiful tie, however, refuses to budge. Bucky groans against Steve’s mouth, frustrated, and decides to leave it as is, loose and askew. It’s not like Steve really needs to lose the tie anyway; freeing his dick is what’s really important here.
Bucky tries to distract Steve from what his hands are doing by pressing open-mouthed kisses to the underside of Steve’s jawline, down the side of his neck. Steve sighs, lets his head fall back. His grip tightens, and he pulls Bucky closer, the bulges in their pants rubbing together.
“Fuck, Bucky,” Steve says under his breath.
The fly of Steve’s pants is as uncooperative as the knot in his tie. Bucky sits up, narrowly avoiding bumping his head on the roof of the car, and runs a hand through his hair, holding onto Steve’s shoulder for support. “I can’t reach your dick,” he announces.
“Tragic,” Steve says, eyes bright with amusement. “What are you gonna do about it?”
“I don’t know,” Bucky says mournfully. He leans in to kiss Steve again, rocks his hips forward again. Steve makes a strangled noise and pulls him even closer, and it’s, it’s good, god, it’s good, and that’s what they end up doing, rutting against each other like desperate teenagers until they pull up in front of Steve’s building. Their building? The building.
Things are a little hazy after that. One moment Bucky is crowding Steve back against the elevator wall and shoving his hands into Steve’s hair to press their mouths together, and the next they’re in Steve’s bed, naked. They’re both gasping for breath, Steve’s dick sliding wetly along the jut of Bucky’s hipbone, Bucky’s groin a hot tangle of lust, Steve’s face buried against Bucky’s shoulder—
Bucky jolts awake several hours later, sticky and disoriented and acutely aware of the fact that he didn’t brush his teeth before falling asleep. “Yuck,” he mutters, extracting himself from Steve’s tight embrace to tiptoe to the bathroom. It’s not his bathroom, he realizes with some confusion after drinking greedily from the faucet. Oh well. It’s not like he and Steve haven’t exchanged body fluids before. Besides, Steve is sharing pretty much everything else with Bucky, up to and including his apartment and his paycheck, so he probably won’t mind Bucky using his toothbrush.
They’ve never shared a bed before, not overnight, but that thought only occurs to Bucky when he’s already half asleep again, nestled up against Steve’s warm, broad back.
The next time Bucky wakes up, he’s alone and sunlight is streaming into the room. His phone tells him it’s well past noon. He appears to have slept off most of his hangover; his mouth is dry and a dull headache starts pounding between his temples while he’s in the shower, but other than that he feels fine. Mostly.
Steve isn’t in the living room either, but he’s clearly up and about. Bucky does a double take at the sight of a small bowl of fruit salad, a basket of fresh croissants and a box of donuts sitting on the kitchen counter. From the corner of his eye he can see the coffee machine blink at him, slow and enticing. Classical music is playing softly.
“What even is my life,” Bucky mumbles to himself.
He devours two croissants and most of the fruit, savors a donut while he waits for the machine to finish pouring out his second cappuccino. Cradling the mug in his hands, he wanders to the other side of the room. He doesn’t know how long he’s been standing there, sipping his coffee and idly admiring the view, when he hears footsteps behind him.
“Whatever, Tony,” Steve is saying in a tight voice. “You and I both know it’s none of his—yeah. Fine. We’ll talk about it when I’m in L.A. next week.” Pause. “Yeah. You too.” He ends the call. “Morning,” he says, smiling softly. He’s wearing glasses.
“Hi,” Bucky says a little weakly.
Steve makes as if to start toward Bucky, then stops. Something flickers in his eyes as he looks Bucky up and down. “You planning on going down to the gym?” he asks.
Bucky follows Steve’s gaze to the yoga pants and the oversized sweatshirt he threw on after showering. “Um,” he says. “I was mostly just planning on doing absolutely nothing today, to be honest.” This was also his last clean pair of comfortable pants, but today is laundry service day, so it doesn’t seem pertinent to mention.
God. Laundry service. What is his life.
Steve nods very seriously. “How are you feeling? Did you sleep well?” Before Bucky can reply to him, Steve’s phone starts ringing. Steve glances at the screen and swears under his breath. “I have to take this,” he says, voice apologetic. “I’ll be right back, okay?”
“Sure,” Bucky says, watching Steve disappear down the hall again.
Steve isn’t back yet by the time Bucky has finished his coffee. Bucky spends some time nursing his headache, considering taking a nap to allow his aching body some more time to recover from yesterday’s shenanigans, and listening to Trish Talk while scrolling through news sites on his phone without really absorbing any information for lack of something better to do. He still finds himself wondering what people who don’t have to cook, clean, go grocery shopping, or even wash their own goddamn clothes are even supposed to do all weekend, besides getting dicked down by their Dom.
Maybe he shouldn’t have had that second cup of coffee. He feels off. Untethered. He touches his throat, a self-soothing gesture he’s picked up over the past few weeks, and is startled when his fingers brush against bare skin rather than leather.
His collar. He’d taken it off last night, before they went out to dinner, and he’d completely forgotten to put it on again this morning. Shit. That’s why Steve kept his distance; he was respecting the boundaries Bucky had completely unintentionally established. Good job, Bucky.
Bucky considers his options. He could just put the collar on and wait for Steve to notice. It’d work, probably, but then, there’s also something alluring about the idea of going into Steve’s home office and wordlessly presenting him with the collar, like a dog begging to be taken for a walk. Even just thinking about it fills Bucky with an unidentifiable emotion. Something akin to shame, less extreme yet more complex somehow. He settles for getting his collar and placing it on the table in front of him, where Steve will be able to see it upon his re-emergence.
Minutes pass. Bucky picks up the collar again, turns it around and around in his hands. He rubs his fingertips over the smooth leather; a nervous gesture more than a self-soothing one, actually, as proven by his jumpy reaction to the sound of Steve’s office door falling shut.
Bucky twists in his chair and, before he can overthink it, offers Steve the collar in the palms of his outstretched hands. “I didn’t—I just… I forgot,” he says, because he feels like he should. He doesn’t want Steve to think he did this on purpose. The thought of it almost makes him feel a little sick.
Steve hums in acknowledgment but doesn’t say anything, simply takes the collar and leans down to ease it around Bucky’s neck. He’s still wearing his glasses. He smells very good. Bucky shuts his eyes for a second.
“You all right?” Steve asks, his hand a warm weight on the back of Bucky’s neck.
“Yeah,” Bucky says. “Just.” He takes a breath. “My head hurts.”
“Is that all?”
Bucky’s face feels hot. “Just a little anxious, I guess. For no reason.”
Steve nods thoughtfully. “I think I know something that might help,” he says. “Wanna try?”
“Wait here,” Steve says, straightening up again.
When Steve returns, he heads directly for the sitting area, motioning for Bucky to follow him. He’s carrying his iPad under his arm. There’s something in his hands, too, but Bucky can’t see what it is.
Steve sits down on the biggest couch and drops a pillow at his feet. “On your knees,” he says, nodding at it. “With your back to me.”
Bucky sinks to his knees; sinks down into obedience, into Steve’s control. He tucks his hands into the sleeves of his sweatshirt and clenches them together between his thighs.
“Close your eyes,” Steve says from behind him. “Sit up straight. Don’t bend your head.”
Bucky’s eyes are already closed. He squares his shoulders, tilts his chin up a little.
“I’m going to touch you now,” Steve says. “All right?”
Bucky says, almost automatically, “Yes, sir.”
“Good,” Steve says, placing a hand at the junction of Bucky’s neck and shoulder and brushing his thumb against the short hairs above the collar. “Hold still and keep your eyes closed,” he says, and then his hand is gone again and he’s pulling something over Bucky’s eyes.
He’s blindfolding me, Bucky realizes with a start, blinking against the darkness despite Steve’s order. Steve doesn’t tell him off for moving, or even comment on it at all.
“Open your eyes for a second,” Steve says after tying the blindfold around Bucky’s head, putting his hand on Bucky’s shoulder again. “Tell me if this is okay.”
The blindfold is soft as silk. It’s wide and thick enough to block out all the light, like a sleep mask but nowhere near as heavy. The darkness is so vast and overwhelming Bucky can’t stand having to look at it. He closes his eyes again. “Yeah,” he breathes.
“How does it feel?” Steve asks. “Would you like to keep it on?”
“Yes,” Bucky says rather than nodding his head, because Steve told him not to move. “Please. Sir.”
Steve squeezes Bucky’s shoulder. “All right,” he says. “You can relax now. You have permission to shift your weight or move your legs if they go numb. And I want you to tell me immediately if you start feeling uncomfortable in any way, physically or otherwise. Do you understand?”
Bucky nods. He obediently sags back a little, into Steve’s touch.
“Do you have any questions?” Steve asks, rubbing the back of Bucky’s neck with his thumb.
Bucky thinks about it. He thinks he doesn’t have any questions, but he’s not entirely sure. His mind feels—slow. Sluggish, but in a good way. He thinks.
“Shouldn’t I be naked?” he asks after a long moment.
Steve snorts softly. “No,” he says. “That’s not what this is about.” He pauses. “Do you want to be naked?”
“Not necessarily,” Bucky says after thinking it over. “I think.” He’s not entirely sure.
“Do you have any other questions?”
Bucky thinks about it. “The music,” he says. “Could you turn off the music? Please.” When Steve doesn’t respond right away, he adds, by way of explanation, “It’s… It seems real loud. All of a sudden.”
“Really,” Steve says. He sounds like he’s surprised and trying not to sound surprised.
A few taps on a screen. The music stops.
“Thank you,” Bucky says faintly.
“Anything else?” Steve says, fingertips light on Bucky’s skin.
“Just,” Bucky says. He shuts his eyes tighter. Cups his elbows in his hands. “Don’t… don’t stop touching me. If that’s okay. Please. Sir.”
“Of course,” Steve says, squeezing Bucky’s neck. “I’m right here.”
He doesn’t take his hand away again.
Bucky sinks deeper into this slow, good-sluggish state of mind. It’s different from all the other times he’s knelt at Steve’s feet. The blindfold changes everything. He’s more present in his body than he usually is; sounds seem louder and his skin seems more sensitive, Steve’s feather-light caresses setting his nerve endings alight. At the same time, he feels safer—calmer—than ever before. It’s like the blindfold is simultaneously keeping him grounded and holding the world at bay.
After an indeterminable amount of time, Bucky becomes aware of Steve softly saying his name.
“Bucky,” Steve says. “Hey. Buck.”
Bucky makes a noise in the back of his throat. His head feels too heavy to lift up.
“There you are,” Steve says softly. “Just checking in.”
“I’m good,” Bucky says. His voice sounds like it’s coming from very far away. “Sir.”
“Sit up for me. I want you to drink this.”
Bucky grunts, but obeys. His arms feel heavy, too. “What’s that?” he asks after sloppily drinking from the bottle Steve hands him.
“Electrolyte drink,” Steve says. “You like it?”
Bucky shrugs and wipes his mouth on his hand. The question seems irrelevant. It doesn’t matter whether or not he liked the drink; Steve handed it to him, told him to drink it, and so he did. He shifts, suddenly aware of the pins and needles in his legs. Huh. “Can I cross my legs?” he asks Steve.
“You can sit however you want,” Steve says. “As long as you stay within reach.”
Bucky keeps his legs stretched out for a while before crossing them. Steve’s feet are on either side of him, bracketing his body. He leans back against the couch, slowly tips his head backwards until it’s resting in the V of Steve’s legs. He can feel Steve’s hand on his forehead, combing his hair back. Steve isn’t hard, Bucky realizes, which reminds him—
“What’s this about,” he says muzzily.
Steve’s hand stills. “What?” Steve says.
Bucky suppresses the urge to shake his head to clear the fog. He doesn’t want to clear the fog. He’s enjoying the fog. Even his headache has dulled. He rolls his head to the side, presses his cheek against the inside of Steve’s thigh. “You said ‘that’s not what this is about,’” he says. “Earlier. So what is it about?”
Steve starts combing his fingers through Bucky’s hair again. “It’s about comfort,” he says. “You were on edge. It may be just a physical thing, but last night was the first time we interacted outside the clearly defined parameters of our relationship for an extended period of time. That could make you feel confused. Unsure. I wanted to make sure you didn’t get lost in your own head, but I didn’t want to take you out of your head either. This seemed like the best solution.”
Bucky makes a noise of assent. He’s not sure he understands, but he’s pretty sure he agrees.
“I wasn’t expecting it to work this well, though,” Steve says. “You pretty much went under the moment I put on the blindfold, didn’t you?”
His tone of voice—warm, fond—makes Bucky’s chest swell with pride. He nods.
“I thought about adding handcuffs, or a toy,” Steve says, “but I don’t think you need them.”
Bucky nods again. Steve, he’s learned by now, definitely has a few favorite activities. He clearly likes putting Bucky on his knees, sometimes carefully restraining his hands in front of him or filling him up with a plug or a vibrator. He likes making Bucky wait, edging him, telling him not to come until Bucky’s entire body feels like a live wire, taut and exposed. When they fuck, Steve likes to watch Bucky finger himself open first. He likes taking his time, drawing it out, driving Bucky mad with gentle touches and quiet orders before finally thrusting into him.
“So what’s in it for you?” Bucky asks, still processing everything else Steve said. “Sir.”
Steve laughs softly. “Control,” he says. “I like it when you submit to me. When you trust me to make the right decisions for you, and trust me to stop and come up with something else if my decision turns out not to be the right decision for you at that moment. I like coming home and knowing you’ll be here, waiting for me. Ready for me.”
Bucky nods slowly. He understands. He thinks he understands. He feels—fuzzy. Far away.
“You don’t like to hurt your subs,” he says. “Right?”
In his current state of mind, it seems like a logical progression of the conversation. Steve, however, sounds confused when he says, after a beat, “What makes you say that?”
“You’ve never hurt me.”
“I slapped you.”
“Once,” Bucky says. His voice sounds slow. Dreamy.
Steve is quiet for a few seconds. “Do you want me to hurt you?” he asks then.
“Not right now,” Bucky says. “But I think…” His thoughts are struggling to slot together. “I feel like I’m not sure you’ll hurt me when—if I need to be. Punished, I mean.”
“It’s up to me to decide whether you need to be punished and, if so, how you should be punished,” Steve says in a gentle yet firm voice, threading his fingers into Bucky’s hair and tugging at it.
“Yes, sir,” Bucky says reflexively.
“Besides, corporal punishment isn’t the only kind of punishment,” Steve continues. “Not by a long shot. And I’d prefer any flogging or whipping or spanking we engage in to be part of our play, not activities used for punishment. As you know.”
As you know. The words drip into Bucky’s consciousness one by one. He’s momentarily confused, but then a memory bubbles up: a memory of them discussing the agreement and the checklist of activities on the morning after Bucky’s arrival. It’s only been a couple of weeks, but it already seems like a lifetime ago. Most of the activities Steve just mentioned aren’t even on their list at all, Bucky realizes suddenly.
“You’re right, though,” Steve says. “I generally don’t like inflicting pain, personally. And I’m definitely not into it when my sub isn’t supposed to enjoy it, either.” He’s quiet for a few seconds. “Do you? Like it?”
Bucky recalls the handful of times he’s been flogged or spanked at the club. It was always part of a scene, never an act of punishment. Which—makes sense, actually, come to think of it. He’s never disobeyed a Dom bad enough to deserve punishment because he’s never really had a Dom to disobey before. Definitely not like this. Not like Steve.
He’s never had anyone like Steve.
“I like the way it gets me out of my own head for a while,” Bucky hears himself say.
It surprises him. Not the thought itself; the fact that he’s admitting it out loud. It’s not something he mentioned when they discussed the checklist, way back when, but Steve is kind enough to let it slide. He just continues to pet Bucky’s hair until Bucky sinks back into that deep, faraway state of contentment.
The headache doesn’t go away. Neither do the body aches. Over the course of the next two days, the headache develops into a pounding pain behind Bucky’s eyes and the body aches deteriorate into chills. Toward the end of the second day he starts to feel like he might be running a temperature, and he’s about to reluctantly admit to himself—not to Steve, fortunately, who’s off on a rather impromptu business trip—that he’s coming down with the flu and may have to call in sick and spend a few days in bed when something much worse happens.
He’s in the kitchen, making himself a cup of herbal tea, when a wave of dizziness hits him.
“Fuck,” he mumbles, and tries to catch himself on the counter. His hand slips, and he bangs his left elbow on the countertop, hard.
He comes to on the floor, curled in on himself. He’s soaked with sweat, and he’s panicking. He knows, on some level of consciousness, that he’s panicking, but he’s not conscious enough of it to be able to control himself, to stop panicking, because it hurts, fuck, it hurts, he can’t remember the last time it hurt this bad—the accident itself was a blur, shock, chaos, flashing lights and so much noise, sirens, crashing of steel against steel and steel against flesh, against bone, glass shattering, people yelling—the pain came later, much later, nauseating and debilitating and all-encompassing until finally it wasn’t. The first few years it hurt when the weather changed, the scarred area throbbing with pain insistent and unbearable in its steadiness; it’s because of the plates, they said, the metal plates and screws and pins and wires (did they say and or or? He can’t remember) they placed to reposition the bone fragments into their normal alignment. It’ll settle down, they said, and eventually it did.
There’s a weight on his chest. His breathing is shallow. He’s panicking and he knows it. He can feel them, can feel each and every plate and/or screw and/or pin and/or wire light up one by one by one, white-hot and angry like they don’t want to be there, trapped under his scarred skin, keeping the pieces of his cracked-porcelain bone together.
He knows that’s probably not what it looks like, but in his mind it does.
The pain ebbs away, because that’s what it does. It’ll settle down, they said, and at some point it did. If you make yourself small enough, hold still enough for long enough, it might just go away. And it does. The pain ebbs away and leaves him on the floor, sweat-soaked and breathless and alone. He somehow makes it to the couch and lies there, exhausted, staring into space, for what feels like a very long time.
He was like this for a while, after the accident. Apathetic. Sleepwalking through life. They told him to sue the asshole lawyer who didn’t stop at the stop sign, so he sued the asshole lawyer who didn’t stop at the stop sign. They told him to accept the settlement offer, so he accepted the settlement offer. They told him the migraines and vertigo attacks and memory problems would most likely disappear within a few months, so he waited until the migraines and vertigo attacks and memory problems disappeared within a few months. They told him This doesn’t define you, so he told himself it didn’t define him, just like his kind of shitty parents and the kind of shitty childhood they gave him don’t define him, and his fondness for cheap science-fiction novels doesn’t define him, and his mango allergy doesn’t define him.
“You know it’s totally okay to think your life really fucking sucks sometimes, right?” one nurse said, and Bucky obediently thought My life really fucking sucks sometimes and also briefly fell in love with her, as did Nat, who hated the this-doesn’t-define-you people with a passion.
Bucky must definitely have spiked a fever by now, because he finds himself thinking it’d be kind of nice to have her here. He’s very glad Steve wasn’t around to witness, well, any of this, but now that the pain in his elbow has retreated (neatly tucked itself away, gone-but-not-gone; sometimes it’s like there’s a landmine buried in his arm, lying dormant under his scarred skin. It’s been X days/months/years since our last accident, but you never know when the next one might happen, can never completely let your guard down, the landmine keeps self-regenerating) and the panic has subsided, he’s aware again of how awful he feels in general. If Nat were here, she could get him drinks and snacks and snark lovingly at him and feel sorry for him, or at least pretend to feel sorry for him.
Yeah, it’d be nice to have Nat here.
He ends up not calling her. He considers it, and he’s sure Steve wouldn’t object to him having a friend over—knowing Steve, it’s probably written down in one of those many documents somewhere: The submissive agrees to make himself at home, something along those lines—but it doesn’t feel right, for some reason. It’d feel like inviting someone into Steve’s space.
He’ll just have to lie here and feel sorry for himself instead.
Bucky lies there and feels sorry for himself until a voice in the back of his head starts nagging at him to take care of himself. The voice sounds suspiciously like Steve’s voice. At its insistence, Bucky ventures to the kitchen and back to get a cup of yogurt and some fruit, a glass of water and a bottle of Advil. He curls up under a blanket on the couch and eats his food very, very slowly. The effort wipes him out; he barely manages to wash down a few pills before falling asleep.
He wakes up to the couch cushions dipping under him.
“Hey,” Steve whispers.
Bucky can’t remember whether it was light or dark out when he fell asleep, but it’s definitely dark now. The pendant lights over the dinner table are on, casting dark shadows on Steve’s face. He looks tired.
Wait. Steve is back?
“What time is it,” Bucky murmurs, rubbing his eyes. His throat hurts. Great.
“Almost midnight,” Steve says. “Why are you sleeping on the couch? Did you fall asleep watching Netflix again?”
“Something like that.” His voice sounds hoarse. When he sits up, his headache shifts and sloshes around inside his skull. He winces. “Ow. Jesus.” Yeah, he’s definitely calling in sick tomorrow.
Steve is frowning. “Are you okay?” he asks, pressing the back of his hand to Bucky’s forehead. “You’re burning up. Why didn’t you call me?”
“I don’t know,” Bucky says. Steve’s frown deepens, says Insufficient answer, Bucky, so he adds, “I considered calling Nat.”
Steve’s frown says, Insufficient addition, Bucky. Steve’s mouth says, “Why didn’t you?”
“I don’t know,” Bucky says again, a little grumpily this time. Stop pelleting me with questions, Steve, his pounding head says. And stop looking at me like that. Steve’s eyes are soft, full of concern. It’s unnerving. This is exactly why Bucky was glad Steve wasn’t here earlier, when he hurt his elbow and had a minor freak-out over the whole thing.
It’s been 0 days since our last accident.
Bucky shrugs off his blanket and sits up, ignoring the indignant protests of his body. He folds himself up in the space between Steve and the arm of the couch. “It’s probably just a cold anyway. The flu at worst. It’s not like I’m dying.”
Flashing lights. Sirens. Bone and glass shattering.
This doesn’t define you.
Bucky suppresses a cough and crosses his arms, pulls his knees up to his chest.
“You should’ve called me,” Steve insists, because he’s Steve.
“You were on a business trip,” Bucky says. “Having important meetings with important people.”
Some indecipherable expression passes over Steve’s features. “Just one, actually.”
“Just one important meeting or just one important person?”
Well, that explains why he’s home so soon. “I take it that one important meeting didn’t go very well,” Bucky says, pursuing this line of conversation in the hope of distracting Steve from admonishing him for not calling in the cavalry the second he started feeling less than stellar. Seriously, this guy.
Steve sighs, shrugs. Starts taking off his tie.
Bucky says, “I hope you told ’em where to shove it.”
Steve grimaces. “Well, that one important person was Howard, so. I didn’t.”
When Steve talks about Tony, he almost always says my brother, but he only ever calls Howard Stark Howard, never his father. He doesn’t talk about Howard very often, period. All Bucky has pieced together so far is that Howard Stark is still involved in the company in some capacity, has all of Steve’s control issues (and then some) and none of his warm and comforting presence.
“I don’t see how that matters,” Bucky says; personally, he’d always felt like telling his father where to shove it had been as good a way as any to deal with his daddy issues.
“He co-owns the company most of my net worth is tied up in, for one.”
Steve has moved on to unbuttoning his shirt. It’s a sad sight to see a man with his looks look this unhappy while unbuttoning his shirt.
Bucky says, “If it makes you feel any better, most of my net worth is tied up in secondhand sci-fi paperbacks.”
Steve’s laugh really is a beautiful thing.
“Also, I don’t think I’ve ever said the words my net worth out loud before,” Bucky continues.
“All right, all right, I get the point.” Steve bumps his shoulder against Bucky’s shins. “You little brat.”
Before he can think of a witty reply, Bucky is seized by a coughing fit.
“Yeah, okay, let’s get you into bed,” Steve says, getting to his feet. “Why didn’t you—”
“Please,” Bucky says in between coughs, “stop asking me that,” and he must sound pitiful enough, because Steve drops the subject. For now.
Steve accompanies Bucky to his room, supervises him as he washes his face and brushes his teeth, and then gently ushers him to the bed, stopping just short of helping him undress and tucking him in. Later, shivering under his sweat-soaked sheets and half-delirious with fever, Bucky can’t remember whether he asked Steve to do this. He probably did—knowing Steve, and judging from his almost overbearing concern earlier, he’d have preferred to tuck Bucky into his own bed—but he can’t for the life of him remember why he would ask this of Steve. He feels fucking miserable, frazzled and disoriented, and all he wants right now is to have Steve’s strong body next to his, tethering him to reality. He makes a half-hearted attempt to put on his collar as a substitute for Steve’s presence, but the weight of it on his throat makes him break out in a cold sweat and his hands are shaking too much.
Bucky rarely got sick as a child, but the handful of times he can remember started out exactly like this: It’d come on suddenly and with a vengeance, then go away again within a couple of days. The first night was always the worst. On the first night, his mother would even come and sit by his bedside and hold his hand and wipe his forehead with a wet cloth.
His teeth are chattering so badly his jaw muscles hurt. All his muscles and joints are aching. One moment he’s lucid enough to understand that his left elbow hurts because all his joints are aching and the next there are images of exploding landmines and shattered porcelain flashing across the insides of his eyelids and there’s this pressure building behind his eyes, between his temples.
He wants Steve.
Bucky tosses and turns for hours, drifting in and out of consciousness. By early morning he manages a trip to the bathroom, but by the time he gets back to the bed he feels so weak and tired he barely makes it under the covers before dozing off again.
Seconds or minutes (hours? Probably not hours) later, there’s a knock on the door.
“Yeah,” he mumbles into his pillow.
The door creaks open. “Hey,” Steve says softly. “I heard you get up. How you feeling?”
“Kind of shitty,” Bucky admits, although he feels nowhere near as shitty as he did a few hours ago. The first night is always the worst.
“May I come in?”
Bucky makes an affirmative noise. Steve quietly enters the room and sits on the side of the bed. Bucky can feel the weight of his gaze, can feel Steve’s hand hovering over him. His skin is both itching to feel Steve’s touch and crawling at the thought of being touched at all.
“Did you get any sleep?” Steve asks, brushing his fingers through the hair at the back of Bucky’s head.
“I think so,” Bucky says. A shiver runs down his spine. He can’t tell whether it’s a good shiver, a bad shiver, or just a feverish shiver. “I’m not sure.” Talking makes his throat hurt. Then again, everything makes his everything hurt right about now.
“Is there anything I can get you?”
Bucky makes a noncommittal noise. Steve’s hand briefly settles at the base of his neck, then disappears again. Bucky, somehow simultaneously relieved and disappointed at the loss of Steve’s touch, gropes for Steve’s hand, finds it in midair and laces their fingers together.
“I’m working from home today,” Steve says, rubbing his thumb over Bucky’s knuckles. “I’ll be here if you need me, okay?”
Bucky has never been very good at needing people, but it’s less exhausting to nod than to point this out.
He dozes off again. At some point, Steve brings him breakfast; he manages to eat most of it before falling back asleep. The next time he wakes up, he feels well enough to move to the living room, where he drifts off on one of the couches amid a heap of blankets and throw pillows.
The next time he wakes up, he feels vaguely human again. Overheated, and woozy, but human.
He kicks off the blankets. The blankets say, “Ow.”
“Oh,” Bucky says. “Hey, Steve.” He sits up. “Are you watching me to make sure I don’t die in my sleep?”
“Maybe,” Steve says, glancing up from his laptop. “Or maybe you’re just hogging the best couch.”
Bucky stifles a yawn. “You’re, like, a multibillionaire,” he says. “All your couches should be the best couches.”
Steve huffs out a laugh. “How are you feeling?” he asks, giving Bucky a once-over. He stops typing, eyebrows drawing together. “You okay?”
Bucky shrugs. “Feeling much better already.”
“You’re holding your elbow.” Steve says it hesitantly, like he’s not sure it’s his place to point this out. “Yesterday, too. Did something happen?”
Bucky looks down to where his arms are folded across his chest. He’s cupping his left elbow protectively. Huh. “I banged it on the counter yesterday afternoon,” he says, uncurling his fingers. “It’s fine, though. Not even bruised.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Steve asks, his mouth an unhappy line.
“I grew up with emotionally unavailable parents,” Bucky deadpans. “I’m not very good at letting people take care of me.”
Steve, rather than cracking a joke in response or laughing, like any normal person would, goes, “Is that why you didn’t ask Nat to come over yesterday?”
“I changed my mind,” Bucky says, sliding down until he’s lying on his back. “I suddenly feel terrible again.”
Steve pats Bucky’s foot. He leaves his hand there, big and warm. “It’s different when you’re wearing the collar, isn’t it?” he asks after a moment of silence. “Easier.”
Bucky swallows. Feels himself flush. “Yeah,” he tells the ceiling. “It is.” He clears his throat. “I don’t know why.”
Steve squeezes his foot.
“That’s not the only reason why I didn’t call Nat, though,” Bucky says in an attempt to rescue himself from this hole of emotional openness he has inadvertently dug himself into. A very counterproductive attempt, he realizes a second too late. Well done, self. “It just wouldn’t feel right,” he explains feebly. “Like… like inviting someone into your space when you’re not around.”
“This is your home as much as it is mine,” Steve says, which is sweet, but Bucky has been living here for, what, less than two months? Apparently realizing this, Steve adds, “It should feel like your home. I want it to feel like your home. You should feel free to have friends over.”
Bucky pushes himself into a sitting position again, head swimming just a little, and gives Steve a pointed look. “You never have any friends over,” he says.
“I haven’t even met your family.”
“Do you want to meet my family?” Steve asks skeptically.
“Sure,” Bucky says. “Yeah, let’s give a dinner party. I’ll hit on Tony and tell Howard where to shove it. Or at least, I don’t know, accidentally on purpose call him Harold all evening long. Something like that.”
Steve rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling. “I don’t know which would be worse, actually,” he says, “you hitting on Tony or Tony hitting on you.”
“So you’re cool sharing me with a dozen random guys, but you draw the line at me hypothetically and innocently flirting with your brother?” Bucky says, amused.
“I was cool sharing you with a dozen random guys before you wore my collar,” Steve says, and he gives Bucky that look he gets sometimes, the one Bucky hasn’t quite figured out yet. There’s fondness in it, pride, a touch of possessiveness. It’s a look that gives Bucky a fluttery feeling deep in his stomach. He tends to deal with this feeling by jumping Steve’s bones, but that’s not really an option at the moment; he physically doesn’t have the strength, and even if he did, Steve is most definitely the kind of guy who would declare a moratorium on sex until Bucky has fully recovered from the flu.
And there’s something else, too. Steve mentioning the collar again—twice now in the span of a few minutes—makes Bucky even more painfully aware of the fact that he’s not currently wearing it, and that he’s still not entirely sure how to behave around Steve without it on. How to “interact outside the clearly defined parameters of their relationship,” as Steve had put it the day after their drunken night together, the day he blindfolded Bucky and made his mind go blissfully quiet. Sure, Bucky knows how to carry on a conversation with Steve, how to make him laugh and blush and roll his eyes, but does he get to just climb into Steve’s lap and kiss him whenever he feels like it?
If he were wearing the collar, he probably wouldn’t even feel the need to do so. Steve would probably already be touching him, or fucking him, or have otherwise quieted his mind by giving him an order. But if he did, if he did spontaneously climb into Steve’s lap and kiss him while wearing the collar, it could go one of two ways: Steve would either indulge him, make a small noise in the back of his throat and pull Bucky closer and deepen the kiss, or he would put Bucky in his place by gently yet firmly telling him off, or slapping his face, or doing any of the other exhilarating things he gets to do to Bucky when Bucky is wearing the collar. When Bucky submits to him.
Bucky’s head is starting to hurt again. He tells Steve he needs another nap, but he spends a long time listening to the sound of Steve’s typing, waiting for sleep to come.
A little over a week later, when Bucky has fully recovered from the flu and Steve’s moratorium on sex has finally expired, they give a dinner party.
The lead-up to the party is nerve-racking, to be frank. Bucky would be lying through his teeth if he said he’s never fantasized about throwing parties at the penthouse, but all of his fantasies involved a sizeable cast of nameless, faceless business partners and acquaintances of Steve as well as an ever-expanding lineup of increasingly imaginative and unfeasible sex toys and X-rated activities. None of them involved Steve’s brother Tony (or Howard Stark, for that matter, but he’s not invited), or Steve’s best friend Sam (“And here I was starting to think you didn’t have any friends” “Very funny, Buck”), or Nat, or Nat’s new friend Colleen, who wasn’t invited but kind of just shows up, carrying a small curly-coated dog and looking a little sheepish.
“Sorry,” Nat tells Steve, sounding utterly unapologetic and looking the exact opposite of sheepish. “We were having coffee earlier and she didn’t have any plans for dinner, so I told her she should join. I thought you wouldn’t mind.”
“Of course we don’t mind,” Steve says, smiling warmly at Colleen and even more warmly at the dog in her arms.
“You’re testing him,” Bucky hisses at Nat as Steve guides a bewildered Colleen into the apartment to take her coat and offer her a drink, probably while wondering if he has any 22-karat gold bowls for the dog to drink from. He’s very devoted to his duties as a host.
“He seems nice,” Nat says, unperturbed. “Easygoing.”
“Just because he likes to dominate me sexually doesn’t mean he’s going to burst a blood vessel at you bringing a surprise guest to dinner,” Bucky says under his breath. “Don’t think I can’t see what you’re doing here, Romanoff.”
Bucky wonders, not for the first time, why he thought this party would be a good idea. He wonders this again when Tony (good-looking, charming) arrives and again when Sam (even more good-looking and even more charming) arrives. No, seriously—why the fuck did he think this would be a good idea?
As it turns out, the party wasn’t necessarily a bad idea. If anything, Bucky is reminded of what it was like when he first moved in with Steve. Everything feels very natural, against his expectations, and everyone plays surprisingly well off each other. Sam is smart and funny; Tony is sarcastic and quick-witted; Steve is clearly happy to see them both, even if he and Tony get into a sibling quarrel within minutes of Tony’s arrival; Nat is on her best behavior now; Colleen is a breath of fresh air; and the dog is adorable and kind of a godsend, because sitting with it in his lap or next to his chair and petting it gives Bucky something to ground him and something to do with his hands.
As they’re waiting for dessert to arrive, Bucky manages to tear himself away from the dog for a few moments to go get a refill of water. Steve is in the kitchen, dutifully stacking dirty plates in the sink, possibly trying to make up for the fact that all the food is being brought in from downstairs and the only kitchen appliance they’re using tonight is the fridge. “This is going well, isn’t it?” he says quietly as he turns to wash his hands.
“Uh-huh,” Bucky says.
“Are you enjoying yourself?”
“Good,” Steve says, drying his hands and then leaning in to kiss the corner of Bucky’s mouth before returning to the table. He leaves the towel in a heap on the counter.
Bucky dazedly pours himself a glass of wine instead. When he slides back into his chair, Tony gives him an indecipherable look from across the table.
No one, Bucky realizes as he reaches down to scratch the dog’s head, not even Colleen, has asked him and Steve how they met, or how long they’ve known each other. How much does everyone know? Nat knows everything, of course, but does Tony? Does Sam? What exactly do they think Steve and Bucky are to each other?
Then again, what are Steve and Bucky even to each other? What does Steve think he and Bucky are to each other? What does Bucky think? He doesn’t know anymore. He touches his throat, but obviously he’s not wearing the collar. He eats his dessert without tasting it.
It’s a relief when Colleen asks him if he feels like going for a short walk with her and the dog.
“So how long have you and Steve been together?” Colleen asks once they’re outside.
“Um,” Bucky says, his face going hot. He pushes his hands into his pockets and ducks his head against the chilly wind. “Three months. Give or take.” It seems best to round up the number. And to change the subject. “Where’d you get the dog?”
“I actually run an animal shelter downtown,” Colleen says. “We’re thinking of putting this little guy up for fostering. That’s why he’s with me this weekend, so I can see what he’s like in different situations.” She pauses. “He was also my escape plan for tonight, to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I came, I had a good time and the food was amazing, but I was on my way over here and I just couldn’t remember how Nat even talked me into coming.”
“Yeah,” Bucky says. “She does that.”
“An animal shelter, though,” Bucky says. “That’s awesome.”
“You’re welcome to stop by anytime you like. We can use all the help we can get.”
“Please don’t tell Steve that,” Bucky says. “He’d probably never leave again.”
Colleen laughs. “You two make a cute couple,” she says, and fortunately fate intervenes and she has to go pick up after the dog before Bucky has to try and come up with a reply to that.
“What do Sam and Tony know?” Bucky asks Steve later, when everyone has left and they’re sitting on the couch, finishing the last bottle of wine. “About me, I mean. About us.”
“Everything,” Steve says, which is… not what Bucky was expecting him to say.
“Everything?” he echoes faintly.
“Well,” Steve says, “I don’t go into extreme detail, generally, if that’s what you’re asking.”
Bucky pulls a face at him. Very funny, Steve. He doesn’t say it. He’s wearing his collar; he put it on immediately after the last guest left. Steve had hooked one finger under it to pull Bucky in for a long kiss and then carried on cleaning up without saying anything.
“Why do you ask?”
“Just wondering,” Bucky says. “So they don’t think it’s weird? They’re not worried I’m a gold digger out to steal all your money? Or a psycho who might strangle you in your sleep? Or a psycho gold digger who might strangle you in your sleep after stealing all your money? Or a corporate spy who will steal all your trade secrets and sell them to Hammer Industries? Or to the Russians?”
“No, and I’m pretty sure my PI would’ve found out if that were the case. She’s the best of the best,” Steve says. “But I’m happy to have her do another check if you’re worried about being any of those things.”
“I’m not,” Bucky says, touching the collar. “Worried. About that. I’m not worried.”
“Good,” Steve says with a soft smile. “Neither am I.”
It’s a confluence of factors that lead to Bucky having an anxiety attack in front of Steve. A non-exhaustive list:
1) After his conversation with Colleen, he briefly daydreams about spending the rest of his working life having sex with Steve and doing full-time volunteer work at Colleen’s animal shelter, which, in his mind, consists mainly of taking dogs for walks in the sun, petting kittens, and cuddling eight-week-old Golden Retriever puppies;
2) During this brief daydream he realizes that he wouldn’t even miss working the bar at the club all that much, which is a startling realization because the club was his safe space for years, which makes him think about what’s changed and why he no longer needs it the way he used to, which makes him realize this is really something he doesn’t want to think about at all because the answer is right in front of him and scares the shit out of him;
3) During his brief daydream he also realizes that, between Steve’s busy schedule and his own bout of flu, it’s actually been a while since the last time they had sex, which makes him think about a lot of things he doesn’t really want to think about either because they’re confusing (like how Steve apparently doesn’t mind this at all, seemed perfectly happy just to serve as a glorified pillow and/or blanket while Bucky was sick, and wasn’t amused by Bucky’s quips about him having the right to demand his money back), which means Bucky has been a little on edge for days now, both physically and emotionally;
4) Actually, it’s entirely possible that he’s been a little on edge for weeks now, maybe months; maybe he’s been a little on edge ever since the first time he set foot in the apartment, or maybe even ever since Steve gave him that folder after his bar shift and told him to think about it—maybe, ever since that moment, everything has just seemed too good to be true and he’s just been waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it just… doesn’t;
5) Bucky is beginning to think that maybe there is no other shoe;
6) This also scares the shit out of him.
Okay, so maybe it’s more like a cascade of thoughts and realizations that lead to Bucky having an anxiety attack in front of Steve. Whatever.
Having an anxiety attack in front of anyone, let alone Steve, is mortifying enough, but the worst thing about it is that it happens while they’re having sex.
The best thing about it is the epiphany that follows.
This is how it happens:
“Is this okay?” Steve asks, pulling at the restraints around Bucky’s wrists to make sure they’re not too tight. Again. “Is your arm—”
“My elbow usually doesn’t bother me unless I’m actively banging it on countertops and the like,” Bucky says. Again. “It doesn’t have a problem with you banging me. None of my body parts do.”
Steve taps Bucky’s cheek with three fingers. It’s not hard enough to sting, but it’s clearly a warning: Stop acting like a little shit, or else. “What’s your safeword?” he asks.
“Red,” Bucky says. “Red, and stop.”
“And yellow if you want to slow down,” Steve says.
“Yeah,” Bucky says. “I know.”
“Bucky,” Steve says. “Watch it.”
“Yeah, I know, sir,” Bucky says, because he just can’t seem to make himself stop. His skin is buzzing; he can’t tell whether it’s buzzing in the good way or the bad way. It was buzzing in the bad way this morning, and he’d hoped the feeling would go away—had hoped Steve would make the feeling go away—when he knelt at Steve’s feet, naked except for the collar, and waited for him to take the hint.
It wasn’t the subtlest move Bucky has ever made, but it was undeniably effective, given that he’s currently lying naked on his back on Steve’s bed, all prepped and ready, with his hands cuffed to the headboard and Steve kneeling over him, equally naked and equally ready, cheeks flushed, eyes dark with lust.
Steve threads his fingers through the hair at the back of Bucky’s head and tugs. Another warning. “Maybe I should gag you,” he says.
If Bucky stopped acting like a little shit right now, if he were to give in and follow orders, be a good sub, Steve would reward him by fucking him. He’d probably make Bucky beg for it, but he would coax the words out of him with soft touches and generous praise. It wouldn’t even feel like begging. Steve would kiss Bucky, and tell him Look at you or You’re being so good for me, and then fuck him, hard, maybe even hard enough to get him out of his own head for a while. Maybe.
But Bucky’s skin is buzzing, and thinking about Steve kissing him reminds him of Steve kissing him in the kitchen during the dinner party, and the feeling of Steve’s hand in his hair reminds him of Steve stroking his hair while he was sick, and.
“Maybe you should,” he says. “Sir.”
Steve doesn’t blink, doesn’t move. “What’s your color?” he asks.
“Green,” Bucky says. “Sir.”
Steve clenches his hand to a fist. It hurts, a little. Not nearly enough. “Last warning, then,” Steve says sharply. “Stop challenging me.”
Bucky’s skin is buzzing. He can’t stop. He doesn’t want to stop. He jerks his head; pinpricks of pain spread over his scalp and make heat pool in his stomach. “Or what?” he asks. His voice sounds rough.
“You know what.”
He does. He does know.
“So do it,” he hears himself say.
A muscle in Steve’s jaw twitches.
“Punish me,” Bucky says, arching up against Steve. The cuffs clang against the headboard. “Steve—”
Steve grabs Bucky by the throat. He doesn’t squeeze, but Bucky’s breath catches anyway and his head spins with the sheer shock of it, the sudden feeling of Steve’s hand around his throat, above the collar.
“You want me to punish you?” Steve asks in a voice so low it’s almost a growl.
Bucky can feel his pulse against Steve’s fingers. He shivers, swallows, nods. Every muscle in his body has gone tight with tension.
“Close your eyes,” Steve says, squeezing once.
Bucky shivers again and closes his eyes. It doesn’t occur to him to disobey this time, not even when Steve lets go of his throat and sits up. It doesn’t occur to him to glance up at Steve through his eyelashes, not even when Steve doesn’t move and the moment stretches out.
“Look at me,” Steve says after what feels like minutes, but it also feels like Bucky hasn’t breathed since Steve told him to close his eyes, and these things can’t both be true.
“Keep your eyes on me,” Steve commands. “Don’t move. Don’t speak. Got it?”
Steve leans in and cradles Bucky’s face in his hands. His hands are big and warm as always and Bucky feels his body respond, feels himself melt into the unexpectedly gentle touch. A gasp escapes his lips.
“Eyes on me,” Steve says sternly.
Bucky starts, blinks his eyes open. Steve’s hands are stroking down his chest, his stomach, his thighs, the backs of his knees—
“Bucky,” Steve says, “eyes on me,” and Bucky starts again, forces his eyes open again. Forces himself to watch Steve’s beautiful face as Steve pushes into him, sinks into him inch by inch.
“That’s it,” Steve says, running his fingers through Bucky’s hair and then cupping his jaw. The touch reaches all the way down Bucky’s spine and settles there.
Bucky’s face feels like it’s on fire. It grows even hotter when Steve leans in to kiss him, just a brush of their lips, and hotter again when Steve presses their foreheads together for a moment. Steve’s breathing grows heavy as he thrusts into Bucky, again and again, finds a rhythm, slow and steady, and Bucky is beginning to understand.
This is his punishment.
His punishment is being right here. It’s having to be still and focused as Steve fucks him, not hard but slowly, tenderly. Lovingly.
The punishment, as it turns out, isn’t punishment at all.
“Eyes on me,” Steve says breathlessly. He’s moving so slowly, one of his hands still on Bucky’s cheek, his breath hot against Bucky’s skin. Bucky can smell him, feel him, taste him. Steve is everywhere, everything, and it’s.
It’s too much, and just like that he’s panicking.
“Stop,” he says in a voice he barely recognizes as his own, “Steve, stop, red—”
One moment Steve is on top of Bucky; the next he’s staring at Bucky from the other end of the bed, wide-eyed and stunned. Then he’s back by Bucky’s side, reaching for his wrists.
Bucky flinches, the cuffs clanging against the headboard again. “Don’t—” he says. Don’t touch me.
“I’m trying to get you out of these,” Steve says, “Bucky, please, let me…”
He sounds desperate, concerned in a way that makes Bucky’s skin crawl. Steve’s fingers brush against the inside of his wrist, and he tries to flinch away again.
“Please,” Steve says. All the blood has drained from his face. “I don’t know what to do here.”
“Me neither,” Bucky snaps at him, “just gimme a fucking second to—”
To breathe, he wants to say, but he feels like he can’t breathe. His chest is heaving.
Steve has managed to undo one of the restraints, and Bucky scrabbles at the other one to free himself. Now he’s no longer cuffed to the headboard, but he’s still naked, and suddenly very cold even though it’s warm in the room, because Steve is the kind of guy who’s considerate enough to think ahead and make sure his bedroom is nice and toasty before they have sex there, and the kind of guy who kisses Bucky in the kitchen, and strokes his hair while he’s sick, and Bucky is completely fucking in love with him and it’s terrifying.
Steve is hastily pulling on sweatpants and a T-shirt. He looks like he’s planning to make a run for it. “I’m sorry,” he says when their eyes meet, “Bucky, I’m so sorry, I don’t know what to—please tell me what to do. Do you want me to leave? Do you want me to call Natasha?”
The mental image this evokes (of Nat materializing in the doorway, misinterpreting the situation, and just straight up murdering Steve) is so absurd that Bucky chokes on laughter.
“No,” he says. “I don’t want you to leave. And I don’t want you to call Nat.” He takes a deep breath. “I don’t…” His heart is racing. “I don’t know what I want.” He feels very naked. He is very naked.
Steve, who is apparently also the kind of guy who can read Bucky’s mind, hands him a sweater and a pair of boxer shorts. Between the two of them, they’re now wearing one complete set of clothes. Well. Almost.
“I’m sorry,” Bucky says. “It’s not funny.” Steve is trembling, he notices. “Are you cold?” he asks.
Steve exhales shakily. “No,” he says, hugging his chest. “I don’t think so.”
Just freaked out, then. Bucky’s heart clenches. “I’m sorry,” he says. “It was just—”
“Don’t,” Steve says. “Don’t apologize. You have nothing to apologize for. You don’t have to explain yourself, you don’t need a reason to, to terminate our agreement, you can—”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Bucky says. “Hold on. Slow down. Back up.”
Steve sags into one of the armchairs facing the bed. He’s still pale. For someone who has a lot of experience with these kinds of relationships, and someone who’s usually pretty good at putting up a cool-and-composed front, he’s surprisingly shaken by what just happened.
“Terminate our agreement?” Bucky says.
“I hurt you,” Steve says helplessly. “I don’t—please tell me what I did wrong and I’ll never do it again, just—”
“You think I want to terminate our agreement over this,” Bucky says, sitting down on the bed to process this information. “That’s quite a leap, pal.”
Steve takes a breath. And another one. He looks relieved. Surprisingly relieved.
Just like that, all the pieces fall into place.
The answer has been right in front of Bucky all along.
“Come over here,” Bucky demands.
Bucky holds out his arms and, sure enough, Steve falls into them, burying his face in the curve of Bucky’s neck and breathing in deeply. Clinging to Bucky like he never wants to let go again.
Like Bucky is his safe space.
“There is no other shoe,” Bucky says. “Is there?”
Steve says, voice muffled, “What?”
“You’re in love with me,” Bucky says. His heart is beating fast, but his whole world has just shifted and rearranged itself before his eyes and as he says it he knows it’s true. He didn’t see it before, never even dared to entertain the idea, but it’s true. He knows it’s true. “Aren’t you?”
And Steve leans back, huffs out an incredulous laugh and says, “You’re just realizing that now?”
Bucky meets up with Nat at a Starbucks near Colleen’s animal shelter. Nat is already seated, wrapped in a blanket scarf and hunched over a mug, when he gets there.
“I hate the cold,” she tells him by way of greeting.
“You’re Russian,” Bucky says, kissing her cheek before he sits down across from her with his coffee.
“I can neither confirm nor deny this accusation,” Nat says. “Where’s your boyfriend?”
“I’m not in the habit of bringing uninvited guests along with me when I meet up with my friends,” Bucky says. “Unlike some people.”
Nat cocks her head to one side. “You could’ve brought him along,” she says. “I like him.”
“I thought you didn’t trust him.”
“I didn’t trust the situation. And that was way back when,” Nat says, waving her hand dismissively. “I’ve met him now. He seems nice. His friend is hilarious.”
Bucky doesn’t know whether she’s referring to Tony or Sam, but he guesses it doesn’t matter much. He takes a sip of his coffee. “Also, he’s not my boyfriend,” he says, belatedly. Very belatedly.
“You sure about that?”
“Well,” Bucky says, and tells her the whole story.
“I knew it,” Nat says when he’s done. “I fuckin’ knew it.”
“No you didn’t.”
“Well, I called it.”
“I call bullshit.”
“I have proof,” Nat says, grabbing her phone, and that’s how Bucky finds out she set up a betting pool with Tony and Sam.
“This is terrible,” Bucky says. “You’re a terrible person.”
“You know, you really should’ve hung in there and bottled up all your feelings just a little while longer,” Nat says. “Tony had this whole plan figured out. He was gonna send someone from the company over to take some work off your workaholic boyfriend’s hands and then fly the two of you out to California under false pretenses and lock you up in a cabin in the woods together until you admitted you were MFEO and declared your eternal love for each other. You could’ve gotten a free vacation out of it.”
“Seriously,” Bucky says. “He say all that?”
“Does it sound like something I’d make up?” Nat finishes her drink. “C’mon, Colleen is expecting us.”
There are no eight-week-old Golden Retriever puppies at the shelter, but Bucky does get to pet kittens. It’s pretty great. It’s really fucking great, actually.
He could get used to this life.
When he gets home, there’s a small, square, dark blue box sitting on the kitchen island.
“Got you something,” Steve says from the couch.
Bucky says, “Is it a very small butt plug?”
Steve pulls a face. “Don’t ruin the moment,” he says. “This was supposed to be romantic.”
Bucky’s hand freezes in midair.
“It’s not a ring!” Steve hastens to add. “Jesus Christ.”
“Way to give me another anxiety attack,” Bucky says as he picks up the box and takes it with him to the sitting area.
“Oh, come on,” Steve says. His eyes are bright; looks like Bucky’s not the only one in a good mood today. “Did you really think I’d propose to you like this? After only a few months?”
“You’re the one who asked me to move in with you after we’d seen each other only four times,” Bucky says. “Can you really blame me for jumping to conclusions here?”
“You’re the one who agreed to move in with me after we’d seen each other only four times,” Steve counters with a smug smile.
“You’re a punk,” Bucky says, amused. “Is this how it’s gonna be from now on? If so, I think I preferred the mutual pining.”
“No you didn’t,” Steve says. “Just open your damn gift already.”
Bucky sits down and opens his damn gift.
There’s a bracelet inside the box. Black leather, with a silver clasp. Bucky’s heart clenches, but in the good way. Definitely the good way.
Steve’s voice is gentle when he says, “I thought maybe you’d like having something that can serve as a substitute for your collar when you’re not wearing it.”
He’s saying so many things without saying them, and maybe without realizing it. He’s saying that he has picked up on the fact that the collar is a comfort object for Bucky, and that he understands why. He’s saying that he wants it to be easy for Bucky to be honest with him, to ask for help or support when he needs help or support. He’s saying that the next time Bucky feels uncertain about what he means to Steve, about what he and Steve are to each other, he just has to look at his wrist and he’ll know.
It’s a symbolic token of Steve’s love for him.
Bucky runs his fingers over the bracelet. The leather is soft to the touch. It’s a silver clasp, not a silver bullet, but it’s. It’s a start.
“Thank you,” he says. He clears his throat. “I love it.” He puts the bracelet on his wrist. It’s heavier than it looks. It feels good. He rubs the pad of his thumb over the smooth leather. “If I’d known we were giving each other gifts today, I would’ve brought home a gazillion kittens from Colleen’s shelter.”
Steve’s eyes light up at the mention of kittens. “Why didn’t you?”
“Because I didn’t know we were giving each other gifts today,” Bucky says dryly. “Also, I thought you wanted a dog.”
“Why not both?” Steve says. “Besides, it’s not like we can have a dog here.”
“Wait,” Bucky says. “Are you telling me you spent trillions of dollars on an apartment only to have someone tell you no dogs are allowed in the building? Did you try pulling the ‘Don’t you know who I am’ card yet? Because—”
“No,” Steve says. “And that’s a no to all of the above questions, by the way. Just so we’re clear. But…” His eyes flit around the room.
“Right,” Bucky says slowly as he catches on to what’s going on in Steve’s mind. “Right, yeah, no, you’re absolutely right. We can’t possibly force some poor dog to live in this million-square-foot apartment with us. It’d be akin to animal abuse. I should be preemptively arrested for even suggesting it. What was I thinking?”
Steve is blushing. It’s cute. “We don’t have a yard,” he says defensively. “We’d need a yard. Dogs should…”
“You think people who live in apartments don’t have dogs?” Bucky says. “You think only people who live in lavish mansions with big yards are fit to adopt pets? It’s not about the size of your house, pal, it’s about the size of your heart.” He feels himself flush. “We don’t need a yard,” he says, to drive the point home.
“I know,” Steve says. “But it’d be nice to have a yard. If we’re gonna get a dog. More convenient, too.”
“Okay,” Bucky says, now suspicious, “what’s this really about? Do you want to move?”
“Do you want to move?”
“Seriously? I asked first.”
“I don’t want to move,” Steve says after a pause. “Not necessarily, I mean. But… You once said you felt like this wasn’t your home. Like it wasn’t our home.”
“I never said that! When did I say that? You’re putting words in my mouth.”
“You implied it.”
Fair enough. “I may have implied it,” Bucky concedes, “but that was before you told me you want me for more than just my pretty mouth and my deep-throating skills.”
“I’m sorry, what was that you said about putting words in someone else’s mouth?”
“My point being,” Bucky says, ignoring him, “many chapters of our epic love story have long since passed.”
“Does it really feel that way to you?” Steve asks. “I feel like it’s only just beginning.”
Bucky hides his burning face in his hands and says, “Oh my god, you earnest, sappy—”
“So how about you?” Steve says. “Do you want to move?”
Bucky shrugs. “I don’t know,” he says, looking around. “I’ve grown kinda fond of this place, I think.” He pauses. “Besides, aren’t you afraid people wouldn’t be able to tell you’re filthy rich if you didn’t live in a penthouse?”
“That’s very funny,” Steve says. “You’re a funny guy.”
“You could always buy me a weekend house in the Hamptons,” Bucky suggests. “With a nice big yard. Maybe a private forest, while you’re at it. That would render this whole thing a non-issue.”
“It’s not—” Steve says. “I never said it was an issue.”
“Exactly,” Bucky says. “That’s what I’m saying. Non-issue. We’re on the same page, then. Good.”
“God, you’re such a brat sometimes.”
“You love me and you know it,” Bucky says, touching his fingers to the bracelet around his wrist.
“Yeah,” Steve says, with a soft smile. “Yeah, I do.”