Steve has no fucking clue what he’s doing. The fuck did he just agree to??? A live-in “maid”???? What kind of a moron did his momma raise?
“I need to pack up my things,” he says to Barnes, lifting out of his chair and tugging his dressing gown around him tighter. “Can you give me a few minutes?”
Barnes just puffs on his cigar. “G’head, doll.”
Steve hesitates. “I’ll meet you at the bar,” he adds.
Barnes flicks his eyebrows up. For a second, Steve thinks he’s going to say no, but then Barnes pushes up, cigar tucked between his teeth, and simply exits the room. Steve lets out a breath.
He gets exactly two seconds to inhale before his door is bursting open again and every queen in The Big Apples is shoving their way in.
“Whoa, whoa, guys!” Steve protests.
“The fuck kinda racket you pullin’, Steph?” Tiffany demands.
“Yeah, that fella’s bad news!” Ginger hisses.
“Guys,” Steve says flatly. “C’mon, I grew up with the mob.”
Brooklyn has always strongly been ruled by a mob presence. When he was little, his ma patched up the boxers for Sean O’Hara’s illegal bare-knuckle fights. His first job was “running papers” and keeping a look-out for O’Hara’s boys. When he presented as an Omega, O'Hara helped his ma get him into St. Maria’s Finishing School. Steve is not even fazed by mobsters.
“Is he comin’ back?” Betty asks, popping his gum.
“Uh,” Steve starts.
“Please tell me he’s comin’ back,” Tiffany adds in a whine, “he’s gotta tip like a Rockafella! You owe me two bucks!”
“Well,” Steve drawls.
Ginger gasps, his hands flying to cover his exaggerated lipstick. “Do you owe the mob money?” he hisses.
“I don’t owe the mob money!” Steve snaps. “Will you let me have a second t’a get the damn sentence out?”
“What is it?” Vicky says.
“Tell us!” Corrine whines.
“I’m going with him!” Steve spits out. “There!”
The queens fall silent. Ginger’s cigarette drops from his lip and he fails to even notice. Betty pops his gum again. Then Vicky pretends to faint and Corrine and Tiffany squeal as they catch him.
“You’re goin’ with ‘im?” Ginger demands. “What?”
Steve shrugs. “He paid off my contract,” he explains. “Says he wants me for a long-term gig.”
“Long-term?” Ginger squeals.
“I’m gonna swoon,” Betty sighs, fanning himself with a hand.
“I gotta pack, guys,” Steve adds, hurrying away from his vanity. “I’m leavin’ tonight –”
“But you got three more shows t’a do!” Tiffany insists. “That mob fella can’t just snatch you up –”
“He did,” Steve says firmly. “Look, I don’t got time to stand here an’ debate the morality’a shackin’ up with a mobster, ladies, I’m already doin’ it!”
Betty feigns swooning, though he doesn’t need to be caught; not like any of them could have caught him, of course, Betty’s six foot four and doubles as a heavyweight boxer (they call him Black Bob, Betty thinks it’s “hilarious”). Steve just shakes his head and starts grabbing costumes off the rack to shove in his trunk.
“Can I have your Mary Garden rouge?” Vicky asks.
“No!” Steve snorts. “The fuck I look like, Vi, your sugar daddy?”
“But you got your own sugar daddy now!” Vicky whines.
Steve snatches the top shelf rouge off his vanity and stuffs it in his trunk, then pointedly shoots a look in Vicky’s direction. Vicky turns his painted lips down in a frown.
“So, you gonna be Barnes’s woman now?” Betty asks, snatching Ginger’s dropped cigarette off the floor to puff on it himself.
Steve gives a shrug. “He said he wanted a maid he could fuck,” he says, now packing up his makeup table. “And he wants a pet,” he adds.
Betty whistles. “How much is he paying’ you?”
“A pretty penny,” Steve answers evasively; he wouldn’t trust Betty not to try and snatch up his new sugar daddy, after all, she’s a real snake.
“More than a pretty penny if you’s walkin’ out on us without even a moment’s warnin’,” Ginger says wisely. “Say two pennies.”
“Two pennies!” Betty gasps, swooning again.
“I’m doing two weeks and if I don’t like it, I’m coming back,” Steve insists, throwing things into his trunk at first glance at this point. “And if I come back, you can have ‘im, Betty!”
“Oh, I don’t want Barnes,” Betty says quickly, shaking his head firmly, “no, sir! I’m a good Catholic girl and you won’t find me in no man’s bed before he puts a ring on my hand!”
“He’s scared’a the mob,” Ginger declares.
“An’ you should be, too!” Betty snaps. “Really, Steve, pennies or not, that’s James Barnes! ”
Steve throws his last wig into his trunk. “I know!” he answers sharply. “Believe me, I know! It’s a contract and I’m gonna tie him up in so much string he’ll think I’m the one with the whip!”
“Talk t’a Blind Murdock,” Ginger tells Steve, nodding in his direction. “He’ll fix you up good.”
“I mean to,” Steve says, sweeping his bangs from his face.
He lets out his breath and looks around at his suddenly empty dressing room. A pang of nostalgia hits him. He’s been powdering his nose and rolling up his stockings in this dressing room for over a year now.
“We’ll miss you, Stevie,” Vicky says in an emotional voice.
“We’ll be jealous’a the dick you’re gettin’,” Corrine adds.
Corrine and Vicky embrace and both heave a heavy sigh. Tiffany claps his hands together and shakes his head.
“Oh, to have a knot you could live on,” he says mournfully.
Steve lets out a laugh. “Like any’a you’s ever taken a knot in your life.”
“I have!” Tiffany insists. “Once!”
Steve raises his eyebrows. Out of the six of them, he’s the only Omega. Betty’s a Beta, but the rest of them are Alphas; they’ve taken cocks up the ass, but it’s not even common practice for working Omega girls to be knotted by a customer. So Steve has a point. Tiffany grimaces a little.
“Might’a been a small knot,” he mutters.
“I’ve touched a knot,” Betty offers up with a sage nod. “Was a lot bigger than I’d thought it’d be.”
Steve shakes his head. “No,” he says, thinking back, “they’ve all been disappointingly small for me.”
“Hey!” Ginger protests. “You said mine was big!”
“It was the biggest,” Steve tells him honestly.
“You’re disappointingly small,” Ginger counters.
Steve holds a hand to his collar. “Why you think I’m the one in pearls an’ a skirt, Bo?”
The other queens laugh. Betty gives a conceding shrug.
“You gonna greet your new sugar daddy in your stockings and robe?” Ginger asks then.
Steve glances down himself. “Shit!” he gasps and spins around to start digging in his trunk for clothes.
Betty joins the others in laughter this time. Vicky and Tiffany bustle in and start helping Steve yank out street clothes from his trunk.
“Are you goin’ with your sugar daddy as Stephanie, honey?” Tiffany asks.
“Figured I would,” Steve answers, stumbling into a pair of kitten heels while he stabs a couple of big fake pearls through his earlobes. “Find me something with sleeves and a high collar?”
“How’s this?” Vicky asks, yanking out a tan frock with black lace trim.
“That was my mother’s,” Steve says, pausing a little.
“Frumpy enough,” Corrine says with a wave of his cigarette.
“Cor!” Ginger snaps, slapping his elbow.
“What?” Corrine asks, shrugging widely. “Mothers dress frumpy!”
Steve grabs the dress from Vicky and undoes the buttons in the back to step into it, yanking off his dressing gown while stepping. Tiffany automatically moves to his back and starts doing the buttons back up while Steve tugs a simple bob wig from his trunk and starts to tuck it onto his head.
“Pins,” Vicky reminds him, producing bobby pins from his bra.
“Thanks,” Steve answers, grabbing a handful and shoving them in place.
“Our little girl!” Tiffany coos, swishing around to face Steve as he clasps his hands together under his chin. “Grown up and goin’ to live with her man!”
“Oh, Tif, I’d never thought I’d see the day!” Vicky wails.
“Piss off, all’a youse,” Steve laughs. “Is my wig alright?”
“Perfect,” Tiffany sniffs.
“Wait!” Corrine cries, then darts forward before Steve can turn around and tweaks the back of the wig. “Now it’s perfect.”
Steve lets out a heavy breath. “Thanks,” he says, and he means it.
Tiffany opens his arms. Steve steps into the hug and before he knows it, all the queens have joined in and are squeezing the life out of him.
“Don’t choke me ‘fore I get that fat ol’ bastard’s money!” Steve wheezes from the center of the group hug. “I’ll leave all’a youse outta my will!”
“But our little boy’s all grown up!” Tiffany sobs.
“Alright, lemme go ‘fore I holler for Jimmy!” Steve threatens; Jimmy being the bouncer. “I mean it!”
“Alright, alright,” Tiffany says, tone deep and masculine again. “Back off, sisters, back off!”
They let him go and Steve adjusts his dress, then his wig. Ginger drapes an overcoat across his shoulders, Corrine drops a hat onto his head, and Vicky presses a pair of gloves into his hands.
“Hold still,” Betty says, tugging a tube of lipstick from his bra.
Steve holds still. Betty touches up his lips, then dabs his fingers onto the tip of the lipstick and expertly rouges his cheeks. Steve pops his lips and flutters his lashes several times.
“Perfect,” Betty echoes.
“Well, there’s no fixin’ that crooked nose,” Ginger says dryly, tapping his cigarette.
Steve flashes a grin. “I got lipstick on my teeth?”
“Nah, but they’re crooked, too,” Ginger says.
“I’m gonna miss you the least,” Steve tells him, stepping forward. “Gimme another hug.”
Ginger scoops him up and actually lifts him off his feet. Steve squeezes his arms around Ginger’s neck, breathing in Ginger’s sharp and cigarette-laced scent while he still can. He’ll probably miss Ginger the most, actually. And not just his adequately-sized knot.
“Bye, youse guys,” Steve mumbles.
Ginger puts him down and levels a knobbly finger in his face. “You keep a sharp eye on that mafia man,” he says firmly. “I don’t wanna have to come in there with Jimmy an’ start a whole war over you, Rogers!”
“You’d hafta change your stage name to Helen,” Vicky says with a chortle.
“What for?” Tiffany asks with an exaggerated frown, showing off his own crooked teeth.
“Never mind,” Vicky adds quickly, “you’d hafta understand Ancient Greek poetry t’a know what I mean.”
“The fuck is you on about?” Tiffany mutters.
Steve hugs all of them in turn. “I will miss you!” he insists. “But I’ll come visit you, I promise!”
“You’d better,” Corrine tells him, squeezing his ribs to the point of almost cracking.
“An’ if you need us t’a storm in with Jimmy, we will!” Vicky promises.
“I’ll be fine,” Steve assures them. “Seriously.”
“Oh, but he’s a known killer,” Tiffany frets, yanking out his handkerchief and dabbing under his eyes.
Steve sighs and turns back to his trunk. He pulls out a small shoebox, lifts the lid, and shows them all his service pistol, a tried but true Smith and Wesson Model 10.
“I was in the Army, remember?”
“So was I, you little fairy, don’t mean you can’t get roughed up,” Ginger tells him firmly.
“I’ll be fine,” Steve assures them again. “I promise!”
“You’d better!” Corrine repeats, even more firmly.
Steve smiles and, as he’d promised, efficiently checks the round and loads the gun. He makes sure the safety’s on, then lifts his skirt and tucks it securely in his pantyhose; classy, he’s sure. Corrine gives a nod as he fixes his skirt and Vicky snatches Tiffany’s hankie to blow his nose.
“Hey!” Tiffany protests as Steve shuts and locks his trunk.
“I’ll carry it, honey,” Betty offers.
“Thanks,” Steve sighs, stepping back to let Betty lift the end of his trunk.
Betty drags it, really, doesn’t carry it, and Steve follows behind him out of the dressing rooms. As they exit, Steve nervously fixes his hat and hopes that he did the right thing by donning a dress and a wig. It’s not like he has much clothing that doesn’t have a skirt, of course, not with male Omega fashion remaining firmly in the women’s category despite the dick between his legs, but the wig definitely makes it look like he’s trying.
Barnes is waiting by the bar, just like he’d said he’d be. Betty allows Steve to move in front of him and Steve makes sure to keep his stride confident as he crosses the speakeasy. Patrons whistle as he and Betty pass and one steps into Steve’s path, but Steve merely waves him off without even looking. Barnes turns towards him, cigar in one hand and glass of whiskey in the other, and he curls his lip into an obviously smug smirk.
Steve stops right in front of him and raises his eyebrows. Barnes looks him up and down.
“Pretty as a picture, sweetheart,” he says casually. “Ready to go?”
“Yes,” Steve answers confidently. Hiding the rapid patter of his heart behind squared shoulders and a strong set to his jaw. Barnes just smirks a little more.
He gestures to one of the men nearby. “Take Miss Rogers’ trunk,” he orders without turning to look. “Put it in the car.”
A couple of boys hustle forward. Steve steps out of the way, turning to look, and feels a hand drop onto his shoulder. His breath stops. He glances to the side. Barnes calmly squeezes his shoulder.
“It’s heavy, babydoll,” Betty tells the two boys before calmly lifting the trunk completely and pressing it into both of their chests; they stagger and almost drop it in their haste to catch it. “And be careful,” Betty snaps, “if you break one’a Miss Rogers’ nice eyeshadows, I’mma hafta take it outta your hides to replace it!”
“Yes, ma’am!” one stammers.
“Yes, sir!” the other squeaks.
“Sir!” the first corrects.
“Ma’am!” the second says at the same time.
They glance at each other. Steve rolls his eyes. Betty gives the two boys a look, then just turns on his heel and walks back into the dressing rooms, swaying his hips with every step.
“Come along then, Miss Rogers,” Barnes says.
Barnes’s hand slides all the way across his shoulders. Steve takes a measured breath and begins to walk.
Almost a good fourth of the bar leave with them. On the street, Barnes drops his hand to the small of Steve’s back. Steve draws in an even breath.
A sleek black Phantom Rolls Royce is purring at the curb. The two boys that had gone ahead are loading Steve’s trunk into the back of it, with the help of a third man at that point. Steve lifts his eyes and looks away, feigning disinterest. He’s seriously concerned about the safety of his trunk, however; it had belonged to his mother. (What didn’t?)
Then, one of the boys accidentally loses his grip on a corner of Steve’s trunk. Steve involuntarily sucks in a breath.
“Careful, boys,” Barnes calls, however, “don’t mess up our Miss Rogers’ things.”
“Sorry, boss!” the boys call.
Barnes stops just before the car. One of his goons darts forward and opens the door for them. Barnes takes the door, then gently pushes on the small of Steve’s back. Steve takes the cue and gets into the back of the car. Barnes follows him in and the door slams shut.
Barnes slips his hat off and unbuttons his overcoat. Steve takes his hat off, too, but leaves his coat buttoned.
“You ridden in’a car before, Miss Rogers?” Barnes asks him in a nonchalant tone.
“Oh, no, never,” Steve drawls sarcastically.
“It’ll be fine,” Barnes says almost immediately, leaning back in his seat and smirking.
Steve lifts his gaze heavenwards. “At least,” he continues, “I’ve never been in a passenger seat. I drove ambulances in London and Paris.”
“Oh,” Barnes answers, voice suddenly and genuinely startled. “I – I didn’t realize.”
“Mhmm,” Steve replies calmly. “I’m sure riding will be much different.”
“It’s not,” Barnes mutters.
Steve casts a glance towards Barnes. Barnes is holding his hat in his lap and looking down. The youth on his face is uncanny.
“You can quit the Miss Rogers act,” Steve says without prompting. “Your boys know I’m a man.”
“If it bothers you,” Barnes says, now looking up at him seriously. “Does it?”
Steve shrugs. “I expect it’ll be necessary at times,” he says, looking out his window casually. “But with anyone you don’t mind knowin’ you’re a queer,” he continues, looking back now, “I’m a queen, not a lady.”
Barnes’s lips curl into a smile that’s neither a grin nor a smirk. Steve holds his gaze for a moment longer, then turns and looks back out the window.
“Of course,” Barnes murmurs.
The car starts. It’s much smoother than anything Steve had driven during the war. The driver gets in and shuts his door, then the car pulls away, gliding over the cobblestone just like the Phantom its name implies.
“How far is it?” Steve asks.
“Manhattan,” Barnes answers calmly. “The village.”
Steve just raises his eyebrows. Naturally.
The car ride is, from that point to the end, silent. Steve looks out his window. Barnes’s reflection looks from the window to the cab and to him. His gaze lingers the longest on him. Steve’s heart is still doing its rapid patter in his chest. Outside, it begins to rain.
The car stops in front of a redbrick townhouse, an Art Deco building that sits tucked amongst other, albeit joined, townhouses in similar styles. This is the Nouveau Riche part of Manhattan, after all. These are just the same rowhouses that Steve grew up with in Brooklyn, but with more reliable heating and fancy facades.
The driver gets out. Barnes waits until his door is opened to get out. Steve shuffles along the bench and slips a foot out, glancing up almost too late to see that Barnes is holding out his hand.
Steve takes it. Barnes helps him out and then tucks his hand into his elbow. He seems to still be treating Steve like a lady, all gentlemanly and proper. Steve’s curious about when he’s going to cut it out.
“Mr. Rogers’ trunk,” Barnes says calmly to the driver.
“Right,” the driver answers, bustling around.
“This way,” Barnes adds, starting to walk.
Steve easily matches Barnes’s pace. They approach the house and Barnes calmly unlocks the iron gate marking out the tiny little front yard; perhaps five feet from the brickwork to the fence. A short set of stairs takes them up half a level and Barnes, keys still in hand, unlocks the front door.
“Mr. Rogers,” he offers, lifting his hand.
Steve walks in, hands in his pockets. Barnes follows in behind him and while Steve looks around, he hears the driver bringing in his trunk.
The mudroom is short and the floor is polished brick, but beyond that is an entrance hallway and to the side, a small parlor. It’s quite nice; there’s soft brown carpet and blue wallpaper with geometric gold linework patterning it, though the far wall is painted a bright and welcoming shade of yellow. A set of three windows curve out and span the width of the parlor. There are two matching blue velvet sofas, royal blue with neat round throw pillows. A square, glass coffee table sits in the center of the room, an ashtray left almost carelessly on a corner. Matching cornered end tables sit at the ends of the sofas, the two exterior ones bearing a pair of ornate lamps. The little parlor is maybe ten feet across and Steve can already see himself using those wide windows for the natural light to draw.
“I can give you the tour first, if you’d like,” Barnes says behind him.
“That would be best,” Steve agrees.
But as he turns, Barnes walks up behind him, hands going to his shoulders. Steve stops, going still, and Barnes closes in on his back. Steve can feel his breath on the back of his neck.
“May I take your coat, doll?” Barnes murmurs.
No one should be allowed to ask something so innocent in that tone, that close to one’s ear, with just that much amount of gravel in their voice. Steve’s breath hitches as his ears start to flame and the heat of Barnes’s breath warms him right down to his groin. Steve just nods.
Barnes slips his coat off his shoulders. Steve gives him his hat and gloves and Barnes tucks his things into a closet inside the mudroom. The driver has paused in the parlor with Steve’s trunk, looking at Barnes.
“What do I do with this?” he asks.
“Put it in his room,” Barnes says sharply. “What do I pay you for, dum dum, c’mon!”
“What am I, your footman?” the driver grumbles as he lifts the trunk again and starts to crabwalk out with it.
Steve grimaces. “Does he need help?”
“Don’t mind him,” Barnes says quickly with a wave of his hand, “Dum Dum just likes to be dramatic.”
Steve pauses again. “Is that…?”
“His name?” Barnes finishes for him, removing his own coat now, and he laughs. “Yeah, it’s a nickname. Please call ‘im that, it’ll make me so happy.”
“Alright,” Steve says cautiously.
“His given name’s Timothy,” Barnes continues, hanging up his coat. “Timothy Dugan. He’s my go-to guy, you might say.”
“Go-to t’a haul trunks full’a bricks!” Dum Dum calls from deeper inside the house.
“Watch it!” Barnes shouts after him.
Steve finds himself smiling a little, humored by the whole situation. Barnes shakes his head, rubbing a finger against his temple, and as he releases the button of his suit jacket, Steve spies the holster under his arm, the handle of a pistol; a Colt revolver by the looks of it.
Steve is not surprised, of course. He’s very aware of the cold metal gun tucked into his stockings.
“I’ll go ahead and give you that tour,” Barnes says, turning back to Steve and holding out his elbow. “Shall we?”
Steve closes the distance between them and curls his hand into Barnes’s elbow. Barnes starts them walking.
“I hardly use that parlor,” he says, waving as they leave it. “It’s too small, besides. Those French doors go into the dining room.”
Steve glances at the French doors as they pass through an open doorway into another hall. Stairs lead up on the right, and tucked near another doorway is a tall mahogany grandfather clock. Steve sees the dining room then, a long wooden table and a couple of china hutches. The wallpaper is different there, pale gray with thin birch trees making the rooms look taller.
“This is the kitchen,” Barnes says as they near the bottom of the stairs. “Do you like to cook?”
“It’s not bad,” Steve answers, looking around. “Do you want me to?”
“Well, if you’re going to be my housekeeper,” Barnes starts.
Steve leaves his arms to give the kitchen a longer glance. It’s tiled, which is nice, in white, copper, silver and blue herringbone. The wallpaper is the still birch forest, but the back wall is the same bright yellow that had greeted them in the parlor. There are cabinets, a gas stove and oven, a double sink, and another china hutch. A much smaller table takes up the center of the space, four chairs surrounding it. An icebox sits in the corner next to a small chest of drawers, near the bottom of the stairs. A door leads out, though the window has a curtain over it, Steve presumes it goes to a patio.
“What you want is an Omega who will cook and clean and have sex with you,” Steve guesses as he looks around. “So, really, you want a wife.”
“Something like that,” Barnes answers.
Steve turns back, raising his eyebrows. “Is that why you want to start with a year-long contract? You’re hoping somewhere along the way we’ll fall in love and then I’ll marry you?”
“Wouldn’t deny that it crossed my mind,” Barnes says, leaning against the stair railing as he raises his eyebrows at Steve in return. “Is that bad?”
Steve thinks about it, looking around. “No,” he decides, brushing his fingers across the cover of a radiator. “I suppose not.”
It is quite a nice kitchen. And Steve has enjoyed getting to cook with good ingredients the few times he’s been able to afford it.
“I won’t ask you to do anything you detest,” Barnes tells him. “So if you really hate cooking and cleaning, we’ll think of something different. A private nurse, perhaps.”
Steve smiles, scoffing under his breath. “I don’t mind,” he answers. “Not if on paper I’m your housekeeper.”
“Would you like to see the other floors?” Barnes adds, lifting his eyebrows again.
“Might as well,” Steve says.
Barnes gestures to the stairs. Steve goes up first, hand resting on the banister. The stairs are carpeted in the same soft brown as the parlor, but reaching the second floor, Steve finds the space floored in dark hardwood.
“This is where I typically do business,” Barnes tells him.
“Do you normally hold meetings in your own home?” Steve asks, stepping into the room and looking around.
“Unfortunately,” Barnes says. “Somehow my place is considered neutral territory.”
Steve raises his eyebrows. “Neutral,” he repeats.
Steve glances around the room again. It’s a much larger sitting room, with three cream colored sofas and more elegant coffee and end tables. A chandelier hangs from the ceiling in the middle of the room, though it is a mere circle of gas lights. The walls are papered in black with gold brocade and a bar sits right next to where they came out of the stairs.
“There’s a guest room down there,” Barnes says, gesturing down the hallway leading away from the sitting room. “I let the occasional pal use it now and then.”
Steve gives a nod. Barnes heads across the sitting room for another set of stairs leading up. Steve follows.
“You’re gonna be on the third floor,” Barnes says. “I’ve readied a room for you.”
“I’m not sleeping with you?” Steve questions, genuinely taken aback.
Barnes glances over his shoulder, a smirk on his lips.
“Eventually,” he says.
Steve raises his eyebrows. Barnes just leads him up.
There’s yet another sitting room on the third floor, with the same hardwood and similar but slightly different sofas, but a black leather armchair stands out and the tables are black. The wallpaper is a washed out blue patterned with sketched white leaves, and a mahogany bar stands in the corner, looking like it was used more often. Dum Dum is sprawled on one of the sofas and he waves as they enter. Stairs lead again up to the fourth floor and Steve crosses to them to look up, but Barnes heads for a door set in the wall breaking up the sitting room and the rest of the level.
“This is your room,” he says. “If there’s anything you don’t like, say so and I’ll change it.”
Steve moves to join him. Barnes opens the door and steps back so Steve can enter.
The bedroom inside clearly had thought put into it. The furniture all matches, a tall chest of drawers, a dresser/vanity, a dressing table with a stool and a mirror, an upright wardrobe, nightstand, and a bed. All of it is paneled in mirrors and trimmed with brass. The bed’s headboard is cushioned in a warm and shiny bronze fabric. The wallpaper here is pale blue with flowers, varying in color. Trinkets sit on top of the vanity and chest of drawers and Steve’s trunk sits neatly at the end of the bed by the wardrobe.
The room is on the front of the house and like the parlor below, the front wall is all window. There are curtains, gauzy white sheers drawn over the windows and hiding the night beyond, and deep gold curtains held back to cover the sheers.
“This is your bathroom,” Barnes says perfunctorily, opening another door that Steve would’ve presumed was a closet. “The bath gets plenty of hot water, so feel free to use it to your full content.”
Steve ducks to look inside; it has the same floral wallpaper, but what draws his eye is the large clawfoot tub.
“I’ve never had my own bathroom,” Steve says softly, hoping not to betray how amazed he is.
“Now you do,” Barnes answers calmly.
Steve gives the bathroom one more glance, then steps back, looking around again.
“Did you get all of this for me?” he asks.
Barnes shrugged. “I wanted to make sure you would be comfortable.”
“It’ll be plenty comfortable,” Steve quickly assures him, giving the bed a testing push.
Thinking, Steve gives the room another long look. Runs his fingers over the mirrored surfaces of the dressers, sits down at the dressing table and tugs on the curtains a little.
“I have an apartment in Brooklyn,” he tells Barnes. “If I come to live with you permanently, I’ll have to ask you to cover the costs of breaking my lease.”
“Not a problem,” Barnes answers him. “Where is it? I can send someone to collect the rest of your things tomorrow.”
“I’ll give you the address,” Steve says, standing again.
Barnes nods, backing out of the doorway as Steve approaches. Steve looks over the sitting room, then heads for the stairs.
“What’s up here?” he asks.
“My room,” Barnes says.
Steve starts up the stairs, then stops when Barnes doesn’t follow. “Aren’t you going to show me?” he asks, flirting a little.
Barnes’s lip curls up. “Eventually,” he answers.
Steve raises his eyebrows but takes the few steps he’d gone up down again. Barnes steps over to the bar.
“Dum Dum, you can take yourself home,” he announces his employee. “Business as usual tomorrow.”
Dum Dum lets out a long, heavy groan as he gets up from the couch. “Tomorrow it is, then, boss,” he says, heading for the stairs down. At the railing, he pauses, glancing behind him. “I’ll see myself out,” he adds.
“You do that,” Barnes tells him.
Dum Dum salutes lazily, turns, and starts down the stairs. Barnes begins to pour himself a drink.
“Will you have anything?” Barnes asks without turning.
Steve starts forward, taking slow, measured steps.
“Do you make a halfway decent martini?” he asks.
“As I’m told,” Barnes replies. “Make yourself comfortable.”
Steve looks around again, then chooses a seat nearest to the bar where Barnes is standing. He kicks off his shoes and lifts his feet onto the cushion next to him. He even slips the bobby pins and takes his wig off, tossing those onto the coffee table in front of him.
Barnes turns, martini and lowball glass in hand. He raises his eyebrows, but sets down Steve’s martini next to his discarded wig.
“Shall we talk the terms of the agreement?” Barnes offers.
Steve holds up a finger and lifts the glass. He gives it a sniff, then tastes it.
“Good,” he decides. “Quite good.”
“Wonderful,” Barnes answers.
He steps around the coffee table, then points to the seat next to Steve. “May I sit?”
Steve lowers his martini, nodding. Barnes takes the seat and lifts a knee onto the sofa to put his back against the arm.
“So,” he begins. “For the purpose of this conversation, we’ll assume you’re going to choose to stay with me after the trial period.”
Steve just raises his eyebrows.
“I’d like a list of sexual acts you’re uncomfortable with,” Barnes asks him perfunctorily.
“Really?” Steve returns.
“And a list of acts you enjoy most,” Barnes adds.
“Is this because you want to keep things genuine between us?” Steve counters.
“Partly,” Barnes says, tipping his head to the side as though in thought. “Partly because I like the idea of getting you desperate and eager for what you want.”
“What is it I want?” Steve questions, a brow ticking up.
Barnes smiles. “I did do my homework, sweetheart,” he returns. “Talked to a couple’a your past clients and the like.”
“Oh?” Steve says, flicking his other eyebrow up to join the first.
“I’m told you’re fond of praise and teasing,” Barnes offers up. “And light humiliation.”
Steve feels his ears getting warm. He lets his eyebrows lift higher.
“Are you fond of giving those things?”
“I am,” Barnes says.
“What else are you fond of?” Steve asks.
“Possession,” Barnes tells him calmly.
Steve lets his lips curl up at the corners. “Possession,” he repeats softly.
“More than that,” Barnes adds, sitting back comfortably on the sofa. “Willing and gladly given service.”
“Is that part of why you picked me?” Steve asks.
“No, it’s just icing on the cake,” Barnes answers easily. “I picked you because you saved my life.”
Steve lets his gaze break away from Barnes’s. He gives a nod, but it’s barely there. He doesn’t exactly like thinking of his time in the Army.
“So, the things I’ve heard about you, they’re true?” Barnes asks.
“Yes,” Steve admits. “I enjoy acting submissive.”
“Good,” Barnes says.
Steve looks back up. Barnes catches his eye and Steve feels himself almost pinned by the heat of it.
“I’m glad to hear that, sweetheart,” Barnes tells him softly. “Very glad.”
Steve impulsively licks his lips. His mouth feels dry. Barnes’s gaze is dark and intense and Steve very, very much would like to know what he enjoys most in bed.
"I want you to serve me," Barnes says. "I want you to serve me because you want to. Because you enjoy it and because you know I will reward you for it."
Steve tips his head to the side, curling his lips. "And how will you reward me, Mr. Barnes?"
"In all the ways you love," Barnes replies. "Please, doll, call me Bucky."
"Bucky," Steve repeats.
Bucky raises his whiskey.
“To a hopefully prosperous relationship,” he toasts.
Steve smiles and clinks their glasses together. “Cheers,” he answers.
Bucky’s eyes sparkle as they drink to the toast. Steve can feel his gaze penetrating him deeply, down to his toes; curled in his pantyhose. As he drinks, he thinks, to a hopefully massive knot.