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Bucky leaned against the warehouse wall and lit a cigarette as he looked out at the ocean past the docks. The sun was long gone from the eastern sides of the warehouses, and the cool breeze from the water offset the September heat. The wall felt good against his sore shoulders; he'd been down there twelve hours hauling cargo while Steve did God knows what -- probably sign-painting, but possibly getting beat to a pulp; you never knew, with Steve -- missing him every minute, but Bucky wasn't about to smoke at home and set off Steve's lungs. If he smoked now, he could hold off 'til Steve was asleep tonight.

"Got a light, Barnes?"

Bucky turned; Joe O'Reilly smiled at him, but tightly, a little nervous around the edges. Joe kept to himself, mostly, and everyone knew why but no one talked about it. "Sure," Bucky said, and handed Joe his matches. Joe lit up and blew smoke into the air, tossed the matches back to Bucky, and looked down at his shoes. Bucky took a long drag and held the smoke in his lungs, feeling the buzzing inside him that cigarettes always gave him. It was a little like Dutch courage, but wilder, and he flicked ash on the ground and let his eyes drift over Joe, looking because it was nice to look at a guy who wouldn't punch you for looking. Or worse, not punch you, just get sad around the eyes and move out of your apartment, or stop letting you sling your arm around his neck -- Bucky knew he was sweet on Steve, but he wasn't sure he could bear it if Steve ever found out. He must've made some noise, some face, because Joe frowned back at him. Bucky's stomach clenched, tightening up like he was wading into a fight after Steve, and he said, "Joe, Billy Connors, he's your sweetheart, yeah?" Joe flinched and curled the hand not holding his cigarette into a fist. Bucky held up his hands, open. "I ain't tryin' to start nothing," he said. "I ain't got a problem. I'm just wondering what two guys do together, is all."

Joe stared at him. Bucky stared back. After a few seconds, Joe blinked and said "Are you fucking blind, Barnes? You ever look down the alleyways by your building?"

Bucky shrugged. "That don't seem polite," he said, because it wasn't, and also because if Steve caught him looking, well, it didn't bear thinking about. "Anyway, I only ever been with dames. There's stuff you gotta do to make sure she has a good time, but the basics are pretty obvious."

"Guys got hands and mouths same as dames," Joe said, eyes back on the ground, shoulders drawn in. His cigarette hand was trembling a little.

"Yeah," said Bucky, "that's so, but I heard two guys could fuck. Where do you stick it?"

"Jesus, Barnes, anybody could hear you," Joe said. "You wanna get your ass kicked by some of these motherfuckers, that's your lookout, but don't drag me into it."

Bucky ran his eyes over Joe's body, whip-thin and strong; thought about Billy Connors and his black-Irish good looks; remembered the way he'd seen Billy's mouth open over Joe's collarbone as the two of them sloped home, drunk as lords. He looked at how Joe was holding himself, scared but ready to fight if he had to. "All right," Bucky said, and stubbed out the end of his cigarette. "It ain't my business what you do," he said, as he turned to leave, taking one last look and letting Joe see he was looking. Maybe then Joe would understand what Bucky was asking, maybe even understand why -- Joe lived on their block, and he'd known Steve since they were all schoolboys; even if he hadn't, just about everyone on their block knew Steve by reputation. Steve was a loudmouthed skinny little troublemaker, liable to start fights he couldn't finish, and Bucky'd split his knuckles on the skulls of so many guys for Steve that he was surprised no one ever said anything about it to him. "Good night, Joe. Don't stay out too late, worrying Billy over nothing."

Joe flicked his own cigarette, still glowing softly, into the darkness. "Shove it up your ass, Barnes," he said, and vanished between the warehouses.

Bucky was halfway home before what Joe said kinda zinged inside his brain. "Jesus," he said, frozen on the sidewalk, his insides cold despite the heat still rising from the pavement, despite the sudden burn of blood in his face. As if it weren't bad enough, wondering what Steve would taste like if he kissed him, now he was gonna wonder what it would feel like if he put his dick in Steve's ass. Or -- he felt struck by lightning, like something lit up inside him that he didn't know was there, chasing out the cold -- if he let Steve -- if he let Steve --

As if it weren't bad enough, knowing how soft Steve's hair was, how talented his big calloused hands were, the exact shape of Steve's crooked spine, and the earthy smell of Steve after a fight, all blood and sweat and dirt. Bucky absolutely could not think too much about Steve's hand on his dick or how Steve might smell after fucking -- Jesus, he hoped Steve was out when he got home, so Steve wouldn't see whatever the hell Bucky was sure was all over his face. He took a deep breath and willed his feet forward, started thinking about his sore shoulders so he wouldn't think of Steve, or of -- of Joe O'Reilly, who -- yeah, if Joe wasn't someone else's sweetheart, and Bucky didn't want Steve so bad he could feel it under his skin, he'd sneak around with Joe, kiss Joe, maybe let Joe, with his hands or -- and it apparently it wasn't just Steve fucking him that did it for him, if the flare in his belly was anything to go by. "Well, hell," Bucky said out loud, stopping again, and got a sharp look from old Mrs Flanigan and Mary -- young Mrs Flanigan, now -- who were out with the baby. "Sorry, sorry," he said, and old Mrs. Flanigan shook her head.

"James Barnes, you watch your mouth," she said. Mary buried a smile in the baby's mop of brown hair.

"Yes'm," he replied, and stepped around them on the sidewalk, trying not to look at how Mary's breasts pressed on her dress, full of milk, how her waist flowed softer into her hips now than it had before, when she was Mary Kennedy and let Bucky put his hand under her skirt when they were fifteen. She'd been hot and slick between her legs and made soft wordless noises into his mouth as he slipped his fingers inside her. She'd been the first girl he'd ever loved, a stolen, puppy-love innocence to what they'd done with each other, and he'd kissed her cheek at her wedding with a clear conscience.

And that was the other thing, the other reason Steve wasn't going to understand if he ever found out about Bucky being sweet on him. Bucky liked women, liked how they smelled and how they tasted, how their smooth bellies felt against his when they fucked, how they looked when they danced and their skin flushed and their laughter -- Steve wouldn't get how if Bucky liked dames, he could want Steve so bad. Bucky didn't get it either; it just was.

Steve was at the stove when Bucky got home, stirring a pot, his shirt hung up on the back of a chair and his undershirt stuck to his skin with sweat. Bucky sniffed the warm, beany smell in the air; there was the faintest tang of meat to it. "Is that salt pork?" he asked, and his heart jumped in his chest when Steve smiled over his shoulder.

"Murphy needed me at the shop today, so I picked up a few things." Jack Murphy was the butcher, who would let Steve trade sign-painting and wrapping at the counter, sometimes, for bits and pieces. It wouldn't help make the rent, but it made things better all the same.

"You get enough for colcannon?" Bucky asked, stripping off his own shirt and leaning against the stove. He loved colcannon with salt pork cooked in, loved the way the pork flavor smoothed everything out. Steve smiled again, eyes on the beans.

"You buy some cabbage tomorrow, Buck, and I'll make you colcannon like my mother used to."

"You'll make someone a fine wife someday," Bucky said, and dodged the wooden spoon Steve aimed at his knuckles. It was easier, here at home, not to think about what Steve would be like, stretched out naked in Bucky's arms, or kissing him, open-mouthed; easier, because at home Steve was there, taking up space. His raspy breathing and wry smiles and strong, sure hands drove out the fantasy Steve between Bucky's ears, and a good thing, too, or Bucky might forget and lay one on Steve, forget and press Steve up against the wall, start doing things he oughtn't. He bumped Steve with his hip, and Steve shook his head and started dishing out the beans. Bucky pulled a dollar out of his pocket and put them down next to the bowls at Steve's elbow. "I ain't got the time to do the shopping. You get the cabbage. Milk, too, to make it proper."

"With a dollar, I can get cream," Steve said. "You ain't gotta pay for everything, Bucky."

The truth was that sometimes he wanted to, wanted pay for everything and get a nice place, real nice, where they could live together and he wanted to wrap Steve up in cotton wool -- or fancy clothes -- and only let him outside to -- to -- to take art classes, and sit in the sun with Bucky, laughing, to kiss long and sweet outside the dance hall, but he couldn't say any of that, so instead he said flung himself into a chair and scowled. "Punk."

Steve's smile turned wicked. "Do you even know what that word means?"

Bucky grinned back, let his tongue push against his lip, and waggled his eyebrows. "Hell, yes, I do," he said. "You tellin' me you ain't givin' it up for Murphy, to get me some salt pork?"

Steve shook his head again, laughed, and handed Bucky a bowl. His laugh, warm and low, seemed to coil itself around Bucky's throat and heart, because Steve didn't mind at all what Bucky kept implying about him, when most guys would sock you in the jaw for it. "I don't know why I keep you around," Steve said, and Bucky smirked around a mouthful of beans. A bead of sweat traced its way down Steve's neck, and Bucky buried his desire to lick it off in another bite, and another, and another. "Buck, slow down, 's not like there's wolves coming after your supper." Steve's brow was furrowed, his lips parted.

Bucky smiled and shrugged; he hadn't meant to worry Steve, to put that look on his face. "You got a flavor into them," he said, "and how do you know wolves ain't coming to steal our supper, anyhow?" Steve's face shifted into the cockeyed grin that always made Bucky want to kiss him, and Bucky concentrated on licking bean broth off his spoon instead of meeting Steve's eyes. It would've been too much, just then; Steve would've guessed, and Bucky would've had to see his face do -- do -- something, he didn't know what, but he didn't want to see it happen.

After they ate, he washed their bowls and Steve sketched on scraps of butcher paper, humming to himself. He only ever hummed when his lungs felt good, and the sound of it shivered up Bucky's spine. He blamed the window Steve had propped open to let in the cooler night air for the goose prickles on his arms. Later, when Steve was asleep, the breeze blew away the sweat from his stomach as he bit down on his lip and slid his Vaseline-slick hand over his dick, eyes open, looking at Steve's splayed-out body across the room, imagining Steve's thigh between his and Steve's breath on his chest. He knew what Steve felt like under his hands, the exact span of Steve's chest and hips, from casual embraces and the thousand times he'd run his hands over Steve's body after a fight, checking for broken bones. He knew from the roughhousing sessions that ended with Steve laughing under him, his stomach trapped between Bucky's thighs, his heartbeat thumping against Bucky's palm. Bucky kept his hand over his mouth when he came, wiped himself off with his dirty undershirt, and skinned back into his undershorts.

He lit a cigarette and leaned out the window; the breeze blew the smoke away into the night. He watched it uncurl from his mouth and wished this damnable feeling about Steve would blow away with it, leaving behind only the soft, warm affection he remembered from childhood. He'd been thirteen the first time he'd jerked off thinking about a girl, and thirteen the first time he'd jerked off thinking about Steve. He'd been fourteen the time he'd knelt beside Steve, each of them jerking themselves hard, and Bucky'd tried not to look at Steve's dick, truly, but if he closed his eyes he could still see every detail, still hear every hitch in Steve's breath, still remember wishing he was bold enough to reach out and touch. He didn't see it stopping any time soon, this want, this -- this -- wanting fellas in general, and Steve in particular, even if he found a dame he wanted to marry. He couldn't let Steve know, but he didn't know how to stop it; he'd wanted Steve since he knew what it was to want.

He smoked until the cigarette burned his fingers, then put it out and slid the window shut. It was getting cool out, the heat leaching from the buildings. No sense in Steve getting a chill.

*

The next day at the docks, he ignored Joe, and Joe ignored him, but at the end of the day Joe wordlessly offered him a smoke, and Bucky wordlessly took him up on it. They stared out at the water together, cool wall at their backs. "Liable to get cold," Joe said, finally. "Don't let Rogers breathe too much night air, you know it ain't good for asthma."

"I know," said Bucky. "And what are you, his mother?"

Joe shrugged.

"Anyway, Steve ain't like you and me," Bucky said, and looked at Joe out of the corner of his eye. Joe was smiling down at his dirty hands, and Bucky hated being laughed at. 'What?" he said.

Joe just shook his head. "See you tomorrow, Barnes," he said, which was no kind of answer at all. Bucky glared daggers into his back as left, but it did about as much good as glaring daggers ever did.

He came home to Steve humming, to the smell of colcannon, and he stuffed his hands in his pockets to keep from coming up behind Steve at the stove and kissing the back of his neck. Steve's shirt was off, again, and he looked so goddamn homey there, like everything Bucky ever wanted out of loving someone. "Hey," he said, softer than he meant to.

"Hey," said Steve, "taste this, it's almost as good as Ma's was." He held a spoon of colcannon out, his face alive, anticipatory, and Bucky opened his mouth, let Steve poke the spoon in -- dared to wink at Steve mischievously as he closed his mouth around it.

"My ma always said never trust a skinny cook, but that ain't bad," he said, and Steve laughed and turned to dish it out.

Bucky did the washing up, like always, while Steve bustled around behind him, making up the laundry bundle. "You lugging that to the laundromat on your own, Stevie?" he asked, because -- he was worried, that was all, and anyway Steve didn't need to be doing Bucky's laundry for him.

"You can't go to church in dirty lingerie, beautiful," Steve answered, "so shut your yap."

Something knotted inside Bucky's chest. "And what would you know about the state of my lingerie?" Then, before he could chicken out, he said "Talked to Joe O'Reilly. He said it's gonna get cold, that you should -- that I should take care of you."

There was a long silence from behind him. Bucky dried the plates without looking around, because if he made it casual, then it didn't matter what Steve read into it. He didn't mind if Steve thought he and Joe were friendly. Friendly with Joe didn't mean -- they'd been kids together, it didn't mean -- and anyway Steve knew as well as anyone that Joe had a sweetheart and that Bucky wasn't -- that Bucky wouldn't, not with someone's sweetheart. He didn't even mind if Steve -- if Steve guessed, a little, because Steve wasn't the type to -- Steve wouldn't care, he wouldn't, the same way he didn't hit Bucky for calling him punk. He'd judge a man for pushing around a dame or a littler guy faster than you could say boo, but he wouldn't -- not this, Bucky didn't think. Or if he did, he'd keep it to himself, anyway. "Did he, now," Steve said, softly, and Bucky tried not to feel it in every bone of his body.

He nodded, firmly. "That's what he said, and you know how your lungs get. So maybe we should close that window."

Steve didn't say anything about how it was still sticky-summer hot in their tiny apartment, or about how he hated being treated like he was weak. He just said "All right, Buck," and then Bucky heard soft footsteps and the window sliding shut. He put the plates away, grabbed a dirty shirt out of the half-made laundry bundle, and said "I'm going out for a smoke. Night, pal." When he turned around, Steve was standing by the table, watching him. He had one hand on his lower back, which he only did when his back hurt from the kink in his spine, but his eyes -- those bright, knowing artist's eyes -- seemed amused and wry, untouched by pain.

"Night, Bucky," he said, and his voice was too gentle, too fond; Bucky had to get out before he did something stupider than half-admitting to being a queer.

By the time he came back, from a smoke and a long walk, the air was cold enough to chill the leftover sweat on his skin, and Steve was asleep in only his undershorts, shivering slightly. Bucky pulled up Steve's blanket and draped Steve's jacket on top for good measure, and didn't let himself fall asleep until Steve's body stilled and his breathing evened out.

*

Because Steve was a stubborn cuss, he went out the next day with the laundry, even though it was cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey. "Buck, you're being ridiculous," he said. "It's fifty by the thermometer."

"Yeah, and it was ninety-odd yesterday! That's a hell of a difference and you know it ain't gonna agree with your lungs." He knew he was gonna lose the argument the minute he started it, because Steve's mouth was set and his shoulders as square as he could get them, and also Steve had the personality of a rat terrier. He had to have the argument anyhow, because -- because -- if something happened to Steve, not a single soul would blame Bucky except Bucky. He bit back "don't make me tell O'Reilly I can't take care of my fella" and "don't you know it'd kill me to lose your stupid ass to pneumonia" and a thousand other things, and settled on "Dammit, Steve, you ain't got the self-preservation God gave a -- a jar of jam." Because truth be told Bucky didn't think God gave self-preservation to all that much, when you came right down to it.

Anyway, that did about as much to change Steve's mind as Bucky expected, but at least Steve got a laugh outta the morning. That was something.

The whole day was chilly and damp. Bucky's hands chafed and his shoulders ached and his mind wandered. He needed new work gloves, and he needed to patch up his overalls sooner rather than later, and he bet Steve had lost the thimble again, and Steve's mouth, flashing teeth when he laughed, his throat working, and Bucky could just cup Steve's jaw, run his tongue up Steve's neck and push Steve down and -- and he was gonna run over his foot with a fucking barrel if he didn't get his mind and his dick out of daydreams about Steve. "I wish I'd never asked you nothing," he muttered to Joe, as they hauled freight side-by-side.

"That'll teach you to mind your own business, then," Joe replied, sounding more cheerful than Bucky felt any man had a right to on a cold day on the docks. But then, Joe got to go home at night and -- and -- Bucky's mind provided him with a confused picture of Joe and Billy, fucking, or something, and did you just move the other guy's dick out of the way, or -- you'd have to, wouldn't you? And then did you -- could a fella come from being fucked, or did you have to jerk him off? And anyway how did -- dicks were kinda big, how did they fit? "Pay attention, Barnes," Joe said, smacking him on the back of the head. "You wanna get us killed?"

"Does it hurt, being fucked up the ass?" Bucky blurted out, and Joe smacked him again, harder.

"Shut the fuck up and do your job! Holy Mother'a Jesus, why do I even talk to your stupid ass?"

Bucky decided right then he was going out dancing tonight -- Steve was in art class anyway, he'd never even miss Bucky, he'd never know -- and he was gonna find a dame and forget about wanting Steve, if only for a few hours. Nevermind that neither dancing nor dames had ever helped with that before.

*

Her name was Sally, and she wore red lipstick and stole puffs of his cigarette; her roommate was a nurse on the night shift, and she wanted to mess around "but I won't let anyone but a steady put it in, so don't try it". He swore, hand to God, that he wouldn't, and she must've believed him because she took him home, and he ran his mouth down her belly and up her thighs, licked up into her sex, her brush against his nose and cheeks. She tasted salty and tangy, and smelled even better; he got her off with tongue and fingers until she laughed "enough, enough" and flipped over to return the favor, her pretty breasts bouncing as she moved.

He touched her hair lightly, gently, because Mrs Barnes might've raised an idiot but she didn't raise a cad, and thrust into her mouth. He shuddered as she pressed her tongue up, firm and sure of herself, and what the hell, he was probably never going to see her again. "Put your fingers in," he said, and she laughed again, low and wicked, like she knew everything about him, and maybe she did, maybe she had the Sight like his ma used to say her aunt had. "You handle this, then," she said, tracing her fingers up to the tip of his dick and letting go, sliding her fingers into her mouth, getting them wet and making a show of it. He wanted to ask why, but she pressed her slick fingers against his asshole, then just barely inside, not even all the way in, and his body shorted out. He wrapped his hand around his dick and didn't call Steve's name when he came, because he might be stupid, but he wasn't that stupid.

He wasn't real sure if that answered his question about if guys could come from being fucked or not.

Sally lit a cigarette, afterward, and let him take a drag from it when he bent down to kiss her goodbye. She stretched on her bed, and he touched her bare, velvety stomach. "Thanks," he said. "You're a peach."

She pushed her foot into his thigh. "And you have a sweet mouth, Bucky Barnes." She had a great smile, long legs, nipples that felt perfect against his palms, and it would be so much easier if it was only dames he wanted, or at least, if he wasn't so gone on Steve. If he didn't want Steve, maybe he'd've fallen for a dame by now, but if he didn't want Steve he wasn't even sure he'd be him anymore.

He took her foot off of his thigh and kissed the top of it. "Glad to help a lady out any way I can," he said, and she pulled her foot away and waved him towards the door, following him there to lock him out.

It was what he'd gone out for, and it'd been fun, but the chill he hunched his shoulders against as he walked home had nothing to do with the weather.

*

It turned out Steve hadn't lost the thimble, but he'd somehow managed to dent the metal so that it didn't sit right on Bucky's finger. He sat in the open window, foot up on the sill, and swore under his breath as he stitched the patches on, the thimble wobbling unreliably as he pushed the needle through.

"I'm going out to sketch," Steve said. "You need anything while I'm out?"

"Get a coupla quarters off my dresser, pick me up some work gloves? Gloves ain't but thirty-nine cents, so get yourself something pretty, too, dollface." Steve detoured across the room to smack him on the arm. "Hey! What was that for?"

"Don't insult dames like that, Buck. They don't need to be compared to me; you'll make the whole race of women ashamed."

"Aww, you'd make a great dame, Steve, pretty little thing like you. Get a new thimble, too, would you? What did you do to this one?"

"Embroidery," Steve said, straight-faced, and Bucky didn't know why that struck him funny, but it did, and he barked out a laugh that made the damnable thimble jump on his finger and the needle stick into the pad of his thumb.

"Goddamn -- sorry, Steve, but --" He put his thumb in his mouth. "Guess I ain't cut out for embroidering," he said, sucking the blood off, and Steve -- Steve was looking at his mouth, a thoughtful expression on his face, like he hadn't even heard Bucky swear.

"You got blood here," he said, almost absently, and brushed his finger along Bucky's lower lip. "And don't worry, I'll get you a new thimble, and a paper of needles, too."

And then he was gone, the door clicking shut behind him, and Bucky's whole face was burning from the touch of Steve's hand.

Six hours later, Bucky was pressing a cool rag to Steve's knuckles. "I can't let you out of my sight, can I?" he groused. There was dirt on Steve's sketchbook, and Steve's trousers would need to be patched again; Bucky would have to make sure to set aside some of his pay, soon, to buy new ones. "What was it this time?"

Steve huffed softly as Bucky dabbed at the cuts on his hands. "I don't like bullies, Buck, you know that."

"You don't hafta take on the whole world, dammit." Steve's hand was warm, cool trickles of water bridging from Steve's skin to his. Bucky wanted to bow his head and press his mouth to Steve's skin, to put the flat of his tongue against the scrapes and lick them away. Instead he dipped the rag back into the bowl of water.

"You see someone else doing it?" Steve asked through his teeth, clenched against the sting of cleaning. "There's people out there every day, making life worse for other folks -- you want me not to stand up against that?"

"You know that ain't it," Bucky said, checking Steve's tendons for damage before turning Steve's hand over to inspect the scratches on the palm. "You know that, Steve."

"Don't," Steve said, a growl in his voice. "Don't." He made to pull his hand away, but Bucky held on.

"You ain't weak, Stevie. It's not that. You know I don't think -- you got the heart of a lion, and I know that better than anyone, and I'd still -- it wouldn't matter if you were a prizefighter. I just -- I don't know what I'd do without you, so don't -- don't make me find out, punk." Bucky felt raw, exposed, like he shouldn't be saying this, not to Steve, like Steve would hear the real meaning behind his words and -- and do something.

Steve narrowed his eyes, but he stopped tugging on his hand. After a moment, he squeezed Bucky's fingers back. "I promised you I wouldn't die on you," he said. "Have you forgotten? Two years ago. It was all I could afford to get you, for Christmas."

Bucky chuckled, shaking his head over Steve's injured hand. Steve had given him a rolled scrap of paper with a ribbon around it, and Bucky'd unrolled it carefully to find a cartoon: Steve with his hand on a Bible, a word bubble saying "I solemnly swear not to kick the bucket and leave Bucky paying all the rent". He kept that cartoon, carefully re-rolled and tied up, tucked next to his socks. It was the best thing he'd ever been given, which just went to show how stupid he was over Steve, if he was being honest with himself, and he was trying to be, these days.

*
Bucky spent a few nights not sleeping, his brain turning things over too much to let him rest. He leaned out the barely-cracked window and blew smoke into the wind while Steve slept behind him, into the small hours, even knowing he had to be up at five. He listened to Steve's breathing and the sound of the city around him, the night-sounds that never stopped: a baby crying, the rumble of a car engine, laughter drifting up from an alleyway. The weather was colder now, summer heat fading as September bled into October, and Steve was wrapped up well, just his hair sticking out of the blankets. Another month and he'd be curled up next to Bucky, sharing Bucky's body heat through the winter and into spring. Bucky thought it was almost enough, spending nearly five months of the year wrapped around Steve, Steve's knobbly back to his chest. Except "almost" wasn't the same; "almost" wasn't what he wanted, and maybe it shouldn't be, for Steve or for him. Steve deserved whoever would make him happy, and he couldn't have that with Bucky mooning around after him.

He blew smoke and listened to his own heartbeat and tried to find the right prayers for a God he wasn't sure was exactly like the priests always said, and maybe God only talked Latin anyway; he tried to figure out if you liked dames and fellas if you were half a queer, or all the way a queer, or what. He liked dames, and fucking dames, and he knew that although he loved Steve, it wasn't just Steve that -- he knew he'd go with a guy, maybe even fuck a guy, even one who wasn't Steve, if he could get up the courage. He wanted to know what it felt like, to have a man's dick in him, maybe his mouth, maybe up the ass -- would the fella hold him, strong calloused hands on his hips, just pushing inside while Bucky gasped like a fish? Would Bucky -- dames, if you prepped them just right, would arch up when you slid in, their heads thrown back. Would he do that, if some fella did him, fucked into him the right way? In his head these guys always turned into Steve, but that wasn't happening, so he may as well just -- everyone knew where to go for that; it wasn't a secret even if it wasn't polite to talk about, but he didn't know the best places. He didn't want to get the clap or something, and he wasn't gonna spend hard-earned rent money on a one-hour hotel, and he sure as Hell wasn't going to his knees in an alley. Well. He knew people who'd know, didn't he?

After that he slept better; after that, it was just getting up the guts to do it.

"So," Bucky said, one evening after work as he scrubbed up in the sink while Steve made cabbage soup. "So, I've been thinking I might ask Joe O'Reilly to take me out some night." Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Steve's stirring hand still, then start moving again.

"Oh?" Steve said.

"Not like -- Joe's got a fella," he said, "you know he has a fella, I wouldn't -- I just, he'd know the safest place to go, I figure."

"I see," Steve said.

There was something on his face that Bucky couldn't quite read. It ripped him up inside, shredded him inside his skin; he couldn't bear it, not knowing what Steve -- what Steve thought, if Steve was angry, or -- he hadn't thought Steve would be surprised, not when Steve had to have guessed, already, that Bucky was queer, the way Bucky'd been talking, but he didn't know what to do with the look on Steve's face right now. He took a deep breath and wiped his hands dry, trying to keep them from shaking. "Don't look like that, Stevie, please."

Steve put the spoon down and turned the burner off under the soup. "If you want to go out with Joe, you should go out with Joe," he said, and he sounded firm, and sure, and Bucky didn't know what to do with the surety in Steve's rough baritone, couldn't square it with face Steve was wearing. "But if you are going out with Joe because you think you can't have me, you're the stupidest thing on two legs in all of Brooklyn." Bucky shook his head, because Steve did not just -- Steve did not say that, he didn't. Except Steve was standing there, hands on his hips, wearing his very best mulish look. "Tell me no," Steve said, "tell me it ain't my name you choke on when you're gettin' yourself off, and I'll never say another word about it." Bucky stared at him, his mouth hanging open, but he couldn't say anything, couldn't get a single word out, not even Steve's name; he could barely hear past the blood pounding in his ears. "You can't, can you," Steve said, something soft in his voice, something -- and then Steve was --

Bucky shuddered under Steve's hands, whimpered into Steve's mouth, and then somehow, his hands were in Steve's hair and Steve's body was pressed against his, not much taller than a dame's but much harder, and Steve wasn't a strong fella but he was stronger than a dame, too, strong enough to manhandle Bucky around and shove him up against a wall with his thigh pushing Bucky's legs apart, his face pressed between Bucky's shoulderblades. "Tell me no," Steve said, his breath hot through Bucky's shirt, and Bucky shuddered again and searched for his voice.

"No -- I mean, I don't wanna say no to you," he said, and then Steve's hands were pushing his braces off his shoulders and unbuttoning his trousers, and suddenly clothes were too much, too much, and Bucky's hands shook as he took off his shirt, his undershirt, helped Steve shove his trousers and skivvies down to his ankles and off. He knelt on the floor by his clothes, naked and shaking and the want inside him making his stomach jump.

"Go to your bed," Steve said, right in his ear, and Bucky swayed, caught himself on the wall in front of him, and nodded. He stumbled to his feet and to his bed, half-blind; when he got there, Steve planted one of his hands -- Bucky loved his hands, fuck -- on the back of Bucky's neck, pushing him down on the mattress. "What do you want?" Steve asked, and all Bucky could feel was Steve's skin against his own as Steve leaned over him.

And Bucky didn't know -- had never thought about Steve pushing him down, bossing him like this -- he breathed in, closed his eyes. "Joe s-said," he stammered, "said two fellas could -- he told me they could fuck, but I -- I can't see it, Steve, I want it but I don't know how it works."

Steve laughed. "You want to fuck me?"

Held like this, Steve behind him, invisible, with Steve's big strong hand on his neck, Bucky couldn't think. "No! I -- but I want you to --" and thank God, Steve wasn't as stupid as he looked, because suddenly his other hand was cupped under Bucky's ass, fingers pressing firm against Bucky's asshole.

"You want me to fuck you," Steve said, his voice deep and raspy, scraping along Bucky's nerves, playing him like a fiddle. Bucky shuddered, and nodded; his throat was dry and he pushed back into Steve's fingers, trying to get one inside, to show Steve how much he wanted -- he wanted. Steve pressed back, and Bucky yelped, because that -- it -- he remembered Sally, slicking her fingers with spit, Sally must've known, must've done that before. "Hm," Steve said, but he didn't pull his hand away, just left it there, gentle, fingers pushing in but not inside. "I don't want to hurt you."

"I," said Bucky, swallowing hard, "maybe spit? But you -- if we can't -- I can ask Joe what I -- I can use my mouth, Stevie, you can put it in my mouth if we can't -- " Because if Steve stopped--if Steve stopped, Bucky wouldn't -- something in him would break, if Steve stopped.

"Hush," Steve said, running his other hand down Bucky's back. "You're like a broken record. Let me think." After a moment, he dropped a kiss between Bucky's shoulderblades. "Stay here," he said, and Bucky squeezed his eyes tight and nodded again, his entire body trembling, his stomach jumping even as he held still. Steve's weight and warmth left his side, and after a few moments, returned, the bed dipping underneath him. "Remember that life drawing class we took?" Steve asked, and he turned Bucky over. Bucky opened his eyes, and Steve's face was above him, his eyes crinkled at the corners, that wry grin Bucky loved on his mouth.

"Yeah," he said. "You blushed when the lady dropped her drawers."

"So did you," Steve said, and pushed Bucky's foot so that his knee came up and his foot was down on the bed. "Remember some of the poses? I have an idea. Just -- just go where I put you." Bucky nodded, and Steve slid his hand up Bucky's dick, and he'd -- he must've gotten the Vaseline, when he got up, because his hand was slippery, and Bucky thrust into -- Steve had his big, skilled hands on him, one hand sliding on his--and the other back on his ass, pressing back inside, slick this time. Bucky felt -- wild, like everything in him was crawling and clawing and screaming, like his skin might break apart. It felt like the sparks of fucking a dame who knew how to fuck, one who pressed her hips up and her muscles inside grabbed you -- some dames didn't do that and some did and -- and Steve was -- Steve's fingers were inside him, rubbing, and he -- he -- his body was letting Steve in, and it felt--Steve was shifting Bucky's legs apart, and Bucky looked down. "Kind of --" Steve leaned into Bucky's legs until Bucky got the picture and dug his toes in, drawing his knees up -- hadn't he thought of Joe and Billy like this? And in class, when they'd -- there'd been a man, sitting, his face on his knees -- he could see, almost, what Steve was trying to make him see, how their bodies would fit.

Steve's dick curved up against his belly, shiny with the Vaseline, and he smiled up at Bucky, and Jesus, Jesus, fuck, Steve was going to -- really going to -- Bucky knotted his fingers into his bedsheets as Steve slid his finger out and nudged the head of his dick against Bucky's asshole instead. "Please," Bucky said, "please, just--" and then Steve was, one hand pushing Bucky's left thigh back and up, one somewhere between them, his dick sliding in just a bit, not enough, not -- and -- and then Steve pressed harder, in in in, and Bucky suddenly knew why dames arched their backs when you slid into them, because everything in him was arching, his mouth open and his whole body writhing around Steve's dick. Steve's hands were on his hips, holding him, and his eyes were closed, tears shivering on the ends of his lashes, and Bucky reached up to brush them away. "Hey, hey, Stevie," he whispered, his voice breaking on Steve's name.

Steve turned his head and kissed Bucky's palm. "Hey," he said. "Never thought -- you feel -- why'd we wait so long?" His hips stuttered and shoved into Bucky, and Bucky scrabbled for a minute at the sheets as everything inside him lit up.

"I -- thought you wouldn't want to."

"You coulda asked, you jerk," Steve said, but Steve wasn't an idiot; Steve's smile said that Steve knew exactly why Bucky hadn't asked, couldn't've asked. "You woulda let some other fella do this to you," Steve said, and started to move, fucking into Bucky, and Bucky shuddered, letting his body rock along. "Left me home alone, jerking myself, thinking of you, wondering if you were sucking someone--"

"Stevie--"

"Come on," Steve said, moving one hand back to Bucky's dick, "come on, Buck, I want to see your face when you go off, I want to see you look rode hard and put away wet--" and Steve's hips were -- and Steve was -- and Bucky arched, again, pressing his ass back into Steve's hips and coming hard, his heels dug into the mattress, Steve's hand on his dick and Steve inside him and everywhere, everything, the whole world narrowed to this bed, this instant, to Steve fucking him as he shook apart and then Steve gasping, shuddering, holding still as he came, too.

Bucky pulled Steve down to his side, both of them sticky and shaking. Steve's breath was coming too fast, and Bucky rubbed his back. "Slow and easy," he murmured, his mouth against Steve's skin, because he could, Steve would let him. Steve smelled of sweat and sex, and after a minute, his breathing steadied. Bucky wiped them both off with his sheet. "We're sleeping in your bed," Bucky said, because Steve's bed was clean, still made and tidy like it had been this morning when they'd left for the day, and Bucky's bed was -- well, they'd been fucking in it; it was filthy.

"Sure," Steve said. "But supper first?"

"Yeah, pal," Bucky replied. "And who knew you were a talker, hm? You got a mouth on you."

Steve yawned and stretched up, kissed Bucky sweet and slow. "Guess you'll have to find a way to shut me up," he said, and Bucky cupped his hands around Steve's head and kissed him again.

*

Bucky sat on a dock, swinging his legs, humming a song and smoking. Joe came up beside him and tapped his foot against Bucky's hip. "Got a light, Barnes?"

"Ain't that how this friendship started?" said Bucky, tossing his matches up at Joe, who snatched them out of the air.

"This is a friendship?" Joe said, around his cigarette, but he was smiling. He inhaled deeply and blew out, smoke and misty breath hanging in the chilly air. "Billy saw your boy the other day," he said.

"Steve ain't a boy," Bucky said, because he didn't have to deny Steve was his, not here, not to Joe. "He's a little fella, but that ain't the same thing." Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Joe shrug.

"Guess he was askin' Billy for romantic advice. Bill said he seemed sweet."

Bucky laughed. "Steve ain't the least bit sweet," he said. "Steve's a jackass. And he bites."

"You'd know," said Joe. He flicked his butt into the water. "Seeya around, Barnes." He made to leave, but Bucky wrapped his hand around his ankle.

"Maybe the four of us could go dancin', sometime," he said. "Steve'd like that, I bet." He looked up at Joe's face, which was still a bit wary, probably because Bucky was squeezing a bit too hard to be polite. He let go, and Joe's face softened.

"Billy'd like it, too," Joe said.

"'S a date, then." He looked out at the ocean and listened to Joe's footsteps move away. In a few minutes, he'd go home, and when he got there, Steve would be home, and Bucky would kiss him hello, and if they weren't careful, supper would burn.

October looked to be beautiful.