The first time Bucky lays eyes on Steve, it’s his friend Peggy who introduces them. Bucky’s doing his usual, rebellious teenager thing: smoking a cigarette behind the school, skipping his third period because who fucking cares about human geography ? He doesn’t need the credit anyway, it’s just a filler class since he has to be enrolled in at least five class periods as a senior (which is beyond dumb due to the fact that he only needs two required classes the rest of the year to graduate).
“Hello, Margaret,” he greets her, barely glancing in the direction of the kid following close behind. He takes a long drag and feels the nicotine buzzing in his system. Heaven .
“Call me that again and I might have to knock you out,” she replies only with a hint of venom. She stands next to him and plucks the cigarette out of his fingers, smirking when he shoots her a murderous look. She clicks her tongue before putting the thing to her lips. “It’s really too bad, James…. You’ve been out here by yourself and you didn’t even invite me for a cig? What number is this one?”
Peggy knows him all too well, Bucky can’t just have one in a sitting. He needs to go through at least three before he’s satisfied (the answer is two). His habit’s getting pretty bad but he doesn’t give a damn, the sooner he dies the better. He takes back what is rightfully his and breathes the smoke into his lungs.
Instead of acknowledging her question, he juts his chin out at the small figure hovering at an awkward distance, “Who’s the shrimp?”
She swats his shoulder. “James, be nice.” She turns to the other guy, “I’m sorry, he can be a bit of an ass —”
“That’s me!” Bucky interjects as he waves without making eye contact. He flicks some ash on the ground before taking another hit.
“— This is James Barnes,” Peggy says, rolling her eyes. She’s always had a mouth on her, but Bucky loves it, keeps him in check from time to time. Not that he would tell her that, of course. “He’s my—”
“Jesus, Peggy, if I can’t call you ‘Margaret,’ you can’t call me ‘James.’ Makes me sound like I’m all fuckin’ proper and shit,” he groans. He puts out the finished cigarette on the wall and drops it, stepping on it for good measure. He fishes out his pack and lighter, swiftly starting a new one. Peggy’s giving him a look. “What?”
“I—nothing,” she sighs. “Anyway, this is Bucky Barnes. And Bucky, this is Steven Rogers; he’s in my bio class.”
“You can call me Steve,” the kid smiles sheepishly, Bucky finds it adorable.
“Nice to meet ya, Steve,” Bucky nods, sticking out his hand and leaning towards him. Steve feebly takes it and opens his mouth like he’s going to reply, then starts coughing and wheezing. He pulls away quickly; Peggy and Bucky both don’t know what to do, they look on in mild horror. To their surprise, Steve pulls out an inhaler and soon after he uses it, he’s pretty much okay. Bucky has to ask, though, just to make sure.
“Yeah—yeah, I’m fine. I just have this wicked asthma and I guess the smoke set it off,” he tells them, clearing his throat.
“Right,” Peggy states as she takes the initiative and trashes Bucky’s half-finished cigarette. He growls at that; he could throttle her. “Don’t be rude , Bucky. We don’t want Steve to have another attack.”
“But… but… I—my nicotine fix, goddammit!” Bucky argues with little grace. It’s too late now, Peggy’s already won. She always does. He huffs, meeting Steve’s eyes. The pupils are large and he seems awestruck; he blushes and stares at the ground once he realizes he’s been caught. Bucky grins, raising an eyebrow at Peggy. She gives him the ‘we’ll talk later’ shake of her head. Okay, then…. “So, Steve, what year are you? I haven’t seen you around.”
“Oh, I’m a senior. I transferred a few weeks ago ‘cause my mom got a promotion at her job and we moved, so… here I am.” He lifts his arms meekly only to let them fall back to his sides as he rocks back and forth on his feet. God, he’s fucking cute , Bucky thinks.
“That’s cool; where’d you move from?” Bucky leans against the wall, facing the other two.
“Not too far, just upstate.”
“Well, it depends on how far upstate you’re talking, Steve,” Peggy pokes fun. She’s not fooling anyone, not with the accent she acquired from ‘across the pond.’ She knows the most basic of information about the state of New York yet she enjoys acting like she knows more than she really does. Classic Peggy.
Steve flushes and stammers, “I-I mean, it’s kinda far—not too bad, though—I’m from… uhh… south end Albany.”
Bucky nods, he knows that neighborhood is supposed to be ‘bad’ but it can’t be nearly as bad as their current area. “I see, so you come from the capital city? Well, Steve, welcome to Brooklyn. Hope it treats ya well.”
Steve laughs a little, “Thanks…. It’s been alright so far.”
“Trouble settling in?” Peggy assumes the role of a concerned mother, as she always does with Bucky; it seems to be she’s not going to treat Steve any different. He shrugs, toeing at some dirt to avoid eye contact. She smiles sympathetically and touches his shoulder; he returns the expression, but it’s a bit forced. “I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it. Bucky and I would love to show you to the best places around Brooklyn some time.”
Bucky snorts, “Or the worst places, depending on how you look at it.”
“Oh, whatever, he’ll love them,” she quips back. Wrapping an arm around his waist, she runs her free hand through his long hair. “I think you need a haircut.”
“I think you need to mind your business.” He can’t help but grin, kissing her forehead and reaching down to pinch her butt. She jumps with a high gasp and a giggle.
“You’re no gentleman, James Buchanan Barnes,” she tries the best she can to stop her laughter in an attempt to be serious (she fails).
“And you’re no lady, Margaret Elizabeth Carter.”
With that, Peggy gestures for Steve to come with her and Bucky picks up his backpack, trailing behind them.
Bucky thought it would be awkward with Steve around; he’s not one to warm up to new people but Steve’s different. Him, Peggy, and Bucky hang out all the time. It’s been a few months since the guys met and Peggy’s just ecstatic about Bucky finally making a new friend. She’s been worried about him not having a lot of people to talk to. She can count on one hand how many friends Bucky keeps in contact with regularly, well, now she needs two hands. It’s a start, at least.
What she doesn’t seem to realize is the fact that it’s painfully obvious Steve’s got a crush on him. He doesn’t mind. He actually thinks it’s quite endearing with how hard he’s trying to cover it up. Bucky wonders if he knows he’s not subtle, or if he thinks he’s doing a fantastic job. There’s also a huge possibility that Bucky’s completely wrong and he might not be interested at all. Wouldn’t be the first time he made that mistake, though he wishes to not experience that again….
It’s Peggy’s turn to host their little get-together, so it’s no surprise that she’s cooking up something when Bucky knocks on the front door. The delicious smell wafts out as she stands there, clearly irritated. Crap . “You’re on thin ice , Bucko.”
She steps to the side to let him in. He follows the scents to the kitchen where Steve sits on a chair, leaning against the table and eating some chips. Bucky drops his backpack on the empty seat across the table. Steve has a smug expression, watching Peggy when she bustles in. There’s a pause, then, because Bucky loves to poke the sleeping bear, he opens his mouth, “What did I do this time?”
“You’re late and you reek ,” Peggy snaps, yanking open the oven door to check on her lasagna? Casserole? Who fucking knows…. “You’re lucky my parents aren’t home or they’d sit us all down for a lecture.”
Bucky goes to make a smart-mouthed reply when Steve starts wheezing uncontrollably. Fuck , if Bucky wants to save his friendship with him, and consequently with Peggy, he’s going to need to quit smoking, and fast.
Steve reaches into his bag and pulls out his inhaler. As his breathing evens out, Bucky brings the hem of his shirt to his nose. He really does smell like a walking carton of cigarettes. He makes a note: don’t hotbox a car using them . He grumbles as he whips off the offending item and sets it on his backpack.
Steve’s eyes feast upon Bucky’s expanse of toned muscles and his breath catches when Bucky’s stretching makes all of them flex. This subsequently sends him into another fit of coughing. Peggy scolds Bucky, telling him to take the shirt out to his vehicle so their friend doesn’t keep having attacks. He obliges, though he and Steve both know the shirt’s not the reason for the second wave. Peggy has no clue. He finds an old shirt in the bottom of his bag that doesn’t smell of smoke and puts it on (to Steve’s dismay).
They talk for a bit, mostly waiting for whatever it is that Peggy’s making to eat. She pulls out a dish that’s apparently nachos, and Steve points out that it doesn’t look like nachos. He receives a smack across the back of the head with an oven mitt. Bucky laughs at that; it’s nice to see someone else getting beat up by Peggy for once. Unfortunately, this also earns him a smack from the oven mitt.
Peggy leads them to ‘The Den’ as she calls it. She carefully sets the dish on top of the hot pads on the coffee table and plops down in the middle of the couch, swiping the remote in the process. Steve and Bucky sit on either side of her after placing the drinks down. She puts on some sitcom they’ve all seen so they can continue talking without fearing that they’ll miss something important. They dive into a heated debate about whether or not Dumbledore was a good character in the Harry Potter series.
“Okay, I see what you’re saying, however , Dumbledore was trying to—” Peggy starts, pointing her finger at Steve. She’s resting in between Bucky’s legs, her back against his chest, facing her audience. Bucky sits sideways so his back is against the armrest, elbow propping his arm up and his head in his hand; Steve is adjacent to them.
“No, Peggy, I’m telling you: yes, Dumbledore had good intentions but that doesn’t mean what he did was good . Harry’s a kid —Dumbledore knew what was happening—you can’t leave a kid in an abusive household like that!” Steve waves his hands like he’s drowning in an attempt to make his point, which, Bucky thinks, is a really good one.
“I-I—Bucky! Back me up, here!” She tilts her head back against his shoulder and pouts.
“Sorry, I’m gonna have to side with Steve on this one,” he admits, casually putting his hand on her upper thigh. “So, are we done with the bickering? Yeah? Okay. Steve, hand me some of those nachos, will ya?”
Steve’s gaze bounces back and forth between the hand and Bucky’s face. Realizing he’s being addressed, he hastily accommodates. Bucky thanks him and winks, causing Steve to blush.
“So…. How—how long have you two been… uhm… dating?” Steve asks, looking at his two friends tangled together curiously.
“Peggy and I?” Bucky clarifies, Steve nods. “Oh, no. No, Stevie, we’re not dating.”
Peggy removes herself from Bucky and reaches for her drink as if nothing’s happening. She stands and walks over to an armchair and perches there, draping a blanket over her legs.
Steve’s eyes are wide, bemused, “I-I—you—you just… what?”
“We used to date,” Peggy begins, shrugging.
“Until I realized that I’m about as straight as a fuckin’ bendy straw.” Bucky finishes. He points a thumb in the direction of the armchair, “Her too.”
“So you’re both gay?”
“Yep.” The two say in unison.
“Oh, sweet, I guess I’ll fit right in, then,” Steve grins. Bucky raises an eyebrow. “I’m not gay, though; I’m bi.”
“Nice,” Bucky says, high fiving his friend. Peggy gasps, almost spilling her beverage. “Peggy, what the hell was that about?”
“Do you know what this means?” She squeals.
“No.” Bucky objects; he knows exactly what she’s thinking.
“Peggy, yes .”
“No, don’t you dare say it—”
“We can finally make ‘Club Queer’ a reality!” She announces, beaming. Bucky sighs as Steve falls onto the floor cackling. There’s no use in arguing. Just like the first time Bucky met Steve, Peggy won (she always does). And she knows it, too. “I think I have a slogan—”
Bucky simply groans as he puts his head in his hands. Steve’s crying from laughing so hard.
If Bucky said that quitting was easy, he’d be a big fat liar. He’s been smoking since he was fifteen and three years of consistently pumping his body full of nicotine has brought about quite a nasty addiction, so cutting it out full stop is hell. He’s not exaggerating.
Constant headaches, he’s dizzy a lot, and his throat’s on fire. He’s anxious; it’s never-ending. Bucky knows he’s not fun to be around, Peggy isn’t afraid to tell him. He’s snappy and his temper is short.
“My God, Bucky, you quit smoking and you evolve into your final form of ‘true asshole,’” Peggy scowls, poking his thigh with her toes. Bucky shoots her a glare, really not in the mood for her sass. “It’s been what? Two days ?”
He ignores her, counting to ten silently in his head as he tries to control his breathing. He starts coughing violently, sounding a lot like Steve. At least water makes his cough go away instead of needing an inhaler.
He walks into class the next day feeling nauseated. He slides into a seat next to Steve in the back corner of the auditorium. Bucky swapped his human geo class for a study hall, it was his good fortune (or a twist of fate) that Steve’s in it.
Study hall may be for students to do coursework during school, but no one actually does their work. If you don’t have friends to mess around with, you watch something on Netflix or YouTube. That’s how it goes. Steve and Bucky do the former.
“Hey, Bu—holy shit…. Dude, are you feeling alright?” Steve asks, bewildered at the other beside him.
“No,” Bucky grumbles, tipping his head back and closing his eyes. “I feel like I’m gonna puke and then pass out.”
“Maybe you should go home, you know?” His friend suggests, cocking his head to the side. “Get some sleep?”
“I can’t sleep, Steve.” He explains. He quietly curses when his hands begin tingling. First, there’s tingling, then there’s full on shaking. He can’t help the tremors; he can’t help any of the withdrawal symptoms. “I haven’t been able to get more than three hours a night for the past week.” He moves his head to crack open an eye at the other. “I think I’m actually dying without the nicotine, Stevie.”
The nickname causes a blush to spread across Steve’s cheeks. “I don’t think that’s true, Buck. Look at it this way, you’ve made it almost a week now, yeah? The worst of it will pass soon, I promise. Plus, it’s better for your health.”
“If this is what better health is, I’ll take the cigarettes,” Bucky gripes. “Since when are you an expert on nicotine addiction, anyway?”
“I’m not an expert. I just know how to use a web browser and read articles on the subject.”
Bucky hums, he’s flattered that Steve’s concerned enough to do some research. His hands are quivering now; Steve takes one and holds it in an attempt to stop, a pointless action. It seems so natural that neither pays much mind to it for several seconds. When Steve realizes what he’s done, he drops Bucky’s hand as if it burned him.
Steve, trying to lighten the mood, declares, “WebMD is a beautiful thing, Buck.”
He chuckles, “I bet it is, Stevie, I bet it is….”
Steve’s right, Bucky’s physical symptoms are practically gone within three weeks. He still craves cigarettes like hell and he still has that lingering cough sometimes. During the insufferable first month, though, he’s discovered that lollipops are probably the best thing to ever exist. Seriously.
He made the discovery when he couldn’t find a single cough drop to soothe his damned throat; he hoped the candy would serve as a decent substitute. It truly did. Not only did Bucky’s sore throat go away, but so did his headache and the intense need for a cigarette. He’s been hooked ever since. It doesn’t mean he hasn’t slipped up, though. He refuses to tell that to Peggy or Steve, especially Steve.
The two are sitting on Steve’s bedroom floor and Bucky unwraps a lollipop, offering one to his friend (he declines). Steve rises to his feet, walking to his desk to put on some music. With his favorite playlist on, he turns around and witnesses the hottest thing he’s ever laid eyes on. He’s sure Bucky’s not intentionally eating the candy in an inappropriate way or like he’s completely blissed out while sucking on it. Bucky’s laying on his back, one arm under his head as a makeshift pillow, stretched out enough so his shirt rides up. Steve can see his lightly tanned skin and the dark hairs of a happy trail disappearing beneath the peeking waistband of his underwear and jeans. The curved, harsh lines of his hip bones on full display, as well as his lower abdominals. God fucking help Steve because he just might explode.
“Like what you see?” Bucky says cheekily as he tongues the lollipop slowly, refusing to look away. Steve blushes and wonders if Bucky subtly spreading his legs is on purpose. After a long period of silence, Bucky just raises an eyebrow, continuing his assault on the sugary thing between his lips.
Steve tries to compose himself and sits down again with his back against his bed. His breathing is irregular, but he’s not having an asthma attack…. His come back would be good if he could stop stuttering. “N-no, you’re—you’re ugly as sin it-itself.”
Bucky throws his head back as he laughs. When it finally dies down, he gives Steve this wicked grin, “Now now, Stevie, we both know that’s not true.” He gives the candy a kitten lick and makes a noise that’s somewhere between a moan and a hum. Steve’s poor heart is racing and he swallows hard, eyes locked on the lollipop. He’s near hyperventilating. “I think we both know what you’re really thinking.”
Steve stops breathing when Bucky hollows his cheeks. He chokes out a “Jesus Christ,” which makes Bucky’s smile only more wolfish.
“What’s wrong, Stevie?” He asks innocently, rolling over to his stomach and facing the other. “What’s going on in that pretty little head of yours?”
Steve freezes, unable to speak, as Bucky crawls over and sits close enough that their shoulders brush. He mirrors Steve, resting his head back and gazing at his narrow frame. Silence falls over them, heavy and filled with sexual tension. Bucky’s relentless with the lollipop and he knows how it’s affecting Steve. He carefully watches, Steve’s chest tightening every time he flicks his tongue over the top-most part of the candy. It’s almost gone by now, just a little more…. Soon enough, Bucky leans over and Steve’s breathing hitches audibly. He smirks as he reaches the now-clean stick over to the trash, their body heat radiating off of each other. It drives Steve fucking crazy. Fingers drag over skinny thighs as Bucky returns to his personal space; that was obviously intentional.
Steve reaches over to sweep hair out of Bucky’s eyes, gasping when his small wrist is enclosed in a strong hand. Bucky murmurs, “C’mere, doll….”
Letting himself be guided into Bucky’s lap, Steve loops his arms around his friend’s neck. His heart’s pounding and he’s not sure where things are going. He wants to kiss those pretty candy-coated lips. Bucky knows this, he can see Steve’s eyes flitting down to his mouth. He can also feel Steve’s semi hard-on pressing against his own partial arousal. Realizing that Steve won’t take the initiative, he closes the gap between them.
Steve sighs into the kiss, bringing his hands to cup Bucky’s face. He tastes sweet like strawberries and also a little bitter. Steve’s never smoked but he can imagine the flavor is similar to the smell. He pulls away.
“Stevie, please, let’s not do this now,” he begs. “I just want to keep kissing you. I know I’ve been doing so good—it was just a slip up—please, Stevie, I think I could get addicted to your taste,” Bucky steals a kiss, “and your lips.”
Steve blushes, ducking his head. “Shut up.”
“Never,” Bucky breathes out, dragging Steve down so their mouths crash together once more. As long as Bucky continues to kiss him like this, Steve doesn’t give a flying fuck about the flavor because he’s never tasted something so good.