Wouldn't it be nice if we were older,
Then we wouldn’t have to wait so long,
And wouldn’t it be nice to live together
In the kind of world where we belong.
-The Beach Boys
The car is a 1955 two-door Chevy 210 hardtop. It’s got a 350 V-8 coupled to a 400 automatic. The exterior is turquoise-blue and white, and of course, the interior matches.
To Bucky, the car is heaven on earth. It’s a gleaming, mobile palace that attracts second (and third and fourth) looks as it sluices through traffic, transporting the driver in style from diner to party to make-out point. The upholstery feels like butter under your fingers, and the radio is loud and bitchin’. And should one thing lead to another and you find yourself in a race, the Chevy makes all other cars eat its dust.
Or at least it could do all these things in Bucky’s capable hands. In reality, the car leads a much duller existence.
To Bucky’s father, the car is an investment which must be carefully guarded from teenage machinations. Sure, Bucky is allowed to spend his afternoons washing, waxing, buffing, and detailing, but try to do anything besides drive your mother to the Piggly Wiggly for groceries and No, Buck, cars aren’t for goofing off.
Never mind that it feels like every other boy in the senior class (and a fair number of the girls) have their own cars or at least regular access to their parents’. Never mind that Bucky has to spend his Friday and Saturday nights in the back of his buddies’ cars to cruise around town and meet girls. Never mind that he never gets to hook up with any girls unless his buddy is two feet away, willfully pretending that the front seat and back seat exist in two separate universes.
It’s cruel and unfair. Bucky would be so freaking responsible if he were only allowed to take the car cruising once in a while, but his parents have no trust. He doesn’t understand how the number of bikes he wrecked as a child has any correlation with his plans for the Chevy.
His parents obviously want him to be unpopular.
“Bucky, I mean it, don’t get any funny ideas about the car while I’m away,” his dad tells him as he fixes his tie for the thousandth time.
“Got it, dad,” Bucky repeats solemnly as he watches 77 Sunset Strip. He’s not really following the plot so much as he’s waiting for his dad to finally leave for his business trip.
He’s maybe also checking out Roger Smith just a little bit, but that’s okay because the guy’s a movie star, and there’s nothing wrong with finding movie stars attractive. That’s why they’re movie stars in the first place.
“Winnie, the carpool’s here, are you still ironing?” Bucky’s dad calls up the half-flight of stairs.
“Yes, George!” she shouts back.
“Winnie, I said the car’s here!”
“Yes, George, I said I heard you!”
“Winnie, I need to leave-”
“Jesus Christ, dad, I think she heard you,” Bucky snaps before this can get too ridiculous. George Barnes narrows his eyes, but luckily, Bucky’s mom jogs down the stairs at that moment
“I couldn’t get all the wrinkles out, but you’ll be sitting anyway…” she says as she hands over the brown slacks that match Bucky’s dad’s blazer. He looks like he’s going to grumble a bit, but both Barnes men see the look in Bucky’s mom’s eyes; it threatens retribution and a hell of a lot more domestic labor for them if George doesn’t shut up and back off right now.
“Thanks,” his dad says instead of complaining. He puts the pants on and gathers up his luggage from the dining room.
Bucky’s parents kiss like chickens pecking at each other, and his dad drops a hand onto Bucky’s shoulder seconds before he leaves.
“Take care of your mom and sister. Leave the car alone,” he imparts before leaving for the week.
The carpool hasn’t even left the block yet before Bucky’s off the sofa and trailing his mother into the kitchen.
“I got the dishes, ma,” he volunteers with a smile. She raises an eyebrow but doesn’t stop him as he snaps on the yellow rubber gloves and runs scalding hot water into the sink.
“So dad was being kind of a jerk, assuming you’d do his ironing and then trying to criticize you for it,” Bucky starts once he’s added suds and started to scrub away at the dinner dishes.
“You seriously think I’m going to let you take the car out,” his mother says with an evident smirk in her voice. Bucky cranes his neck to see her sitting at the table and sipping a mug of long-chilled coffee.
“No,” he argues instinctively. “I was thinking nothing of the sort.”
“Your father said no, Bucky.”
“Yeah, but whose car is it? Is it just his, or is it collectively yours?” Bucky asks as he nearly cuts himself on a soapy steak knife.
“You’re not playing us against each other, young man,” his mother scolds. Bucky hears her open the discarded newspaper behind him. “Leave it be. Are you going out tonight?”
“I guess I’m going to third-wheel it with Mike and Linda,” he says, making sure that she can hear the bitterness in his tone.
“Sounds fun,” she tells him perkily. Bucky rolls his eyes and finishes the dishes in silence.
Mike and Linda pick him up just before ten in Mike’s yellow T-bird. He says goodbye to his mom after combing his hair over one ear and slipping into his Letterman jacket even though it’s April.
“Hey, Buck,” Mike tells him as he situates himself in the backseat. “Where you wanna start tonight?”
“Eh, try the drive-in, see who’s there,” Bucky tells him with a shrug.
“Is Brenda comin’ out tonight?” Linda turns around to ask.
“I don’t know. Guess we’ll see her if we see her,” Bucky responds. She squints at him and gives him a little frown before turning back to the windshield.
“Where are my fuckin’ tunes?” Bucky asks with a laugh, playing off the fact that he should probably care a little bit more about the girl he’s going steady with at the moment. Or at least, Linda thinks he should. Mike plays with the radio, and a second later, Little Peggy March’s voice fills the T-bird.
“Shit, I hate this song,” Mike complains, but Linda bats his hand away from the radio and she and Bucky obnoxiously croon along, “Follow him wherever he may go…”
“Oh, there is an ocean too deep if you two don’t shut the fuck up,” Mike growls harmlessly. Linda leans over to kiss him as he drives, and Bucky whoops in the back seat.
It’s time to go cruising.
With the wind buffeting their hair and the radio blaring, the teens head to the drive-in diner on 118th street. They run into some guys from the baseball team in a black deuce coupe, and Mike pulls alongside them so that Bucky and Linda can yell out the passenger side windows.
“Where are you goin’?” Rich, the driver, shouts.
“No fucking clue, where are you going?” Bucky shouts back. A car honks behind them, and every teenager automatically throws up a middle finger to the middle-aged asshole.
“See if we can find some girls, then probably heading to the Strip,” Jerry shouts from the deuce coupe.
“That’s our plan too, after we see if anyone’s at the drive-in.”
“Barnes, I thought you and Brenda were going’ steady?”
“Yeah, we are,” Bucky responds. He’s saved from having to contribute anymore when Linda squeaks, “car!” and Mike swerves back into their own lane seconds before being slammed head-on by a pickup truck.
All three scream, and then it dissolves into mad giggles.
“Shit!” Bucky yells through his laughter, high on adrenaline and youth and the road, “Mike, you’re gonna get us killed!”
“They’re busting up!” Linda points to the deuce coupe, where Bucky can see Jerry peering at them through the rear window and making ‘terrified’ faces.
“I’ll pull up again; let’s throw something at them,” is Mike’s brilliant idea, and he pulls back into the wrong lane so they can drive parallel to the boys’ car.
“What are we throwin’?” Bucky asks.
“Isn’t there any trash back there?”
“No, asshole, who the fuck leaves trash in a T-bird?”
“I’ve got something,” Linda pipes up, and a moment later, she’s balling up her underwear and throwing them through the driver’s window into Rich’s face. He yells and swerves, and Mike guns the engine.
“Race them!” Bucky yells as the black car tries to get back in front.
“I can’t believe you fucking did that, babe!” Mike is yelling at Linda, who looks incredibly satisfied with herself and her prank.
“Come on, step on it!” Bucky eggs him on as Rich tries to pass them again.
“Just makes it easier for later,” Linda tells Mike with a flirty shrug, and Bucky grimaces.
“Okay, we’re definitely gonna have to find Brenda if you two are feeling frisky tonight.”
“Oh, now you want to find your girlfriend, now that Mike and I are feeling romantic,” Linda turns around again to accuse Bucky. He ignores her and cheers Mike on as he speeds down 40th street and loses the deuce coup in his dust.
They get to the drive-in and order french fries liberally soaked in ketchup while they assess the social situation. It’s pretty barren of teenagers for a Friday night, so they don’t stay long.
“Strip?” Mike asks as Bucky licks ketchup off his fingers.
“Strip,” he confirms.
“Need more gas first,” Mike mutters under his breath. “Got any money, Buck?” Bucky sighs and hands over the dollar folded in his pocket.
“And what about you?” Mike prods Linda as he swings into traffic. “Crusin’ ain’t cheap.”
“You’re hilarious,” she says, fixing her lipstick in the rearview mirror like a handful of fries had completely ruined it.
They stop and fill up at Carl’s Texaco, and they finally hit the Strip just before 10:30.
Bucky’s in his element. There are dozens of cars full of kids his age all around him, and he bounces between his two windows like a ping-pong ball, chatting and laughing with the people on either side of him in colorful, crisp-edged cars shined up especially for this, the premier social event in town on a weekend night. Taillights sparkle as cars and conversation and music flow down the street, people waving and shouting at each other through open windows before the ebb of traffic carries them apart.
“Heard you guys beat Rich earlier,” someone calls to them.
“Hell yeah we did,” Mike shouts back.
“Linda threw her-” Bucky begins to yell before Linda turns around and punches him in the arm.
“Ow, don’t throw your panties if you’re going to freak out about people knowing,” Bucky tells her, defending himself with his forearms as she goes to hit him again.
They somehow end up in the far right lane, and Bucky doesn’t like that as much as being in the center of all the action.
“Hey man, merge left again,” he urges.
“But look, it’s little Stevie Rogers,” Mike calls gleefully as he rolls up alongside the lone pedestrian on the Strip. Something clenches in Bucky’s chest, and the mirth spills out of him.
“Come on, Mike, don’t be an asshole, catch up to that car,” he whines, but Mike pulls up alongside Steve and slows the car down to his pace.
“Hey Stevie, you look like you need a ride,” Linda sing-songs.
Bucky knows that she and Mike have no intention of giving Steve a ride anywhere. It’s the cruelty of adolescence manifesting itself in the form of a middling-popular kid grounding down a not-popular kid.
Social order, and all of that. No one means anything but it, but practically everyone does it. Even Bucky; but he’s never liked to see Steve picked on for some reason in twelve years of school.
It’s not like they’re friends or anything, though. Steve’s an art nerd, and Bucky thinks his Letterman jacket pretty much speaks for itself.
“I don’t, but thanks for asking,” Steve says mildly and sarcastically, and Bucky lets out a breath that he gets the game and isn’t going to embarrass himself.
“Where you goin’, Stevie?” Mike harasses him.
“Come the fuck on, leave the dweeb alone and let’s cruise,” Bucky complains.
“Yeah, leave the dweeb alone and return to your regularly scheduled driving in circles,” Steve says without shedding his catty smile, and Bucky huffs as Mike leaves the curb and pulls back into the main flow of the Strip.
“Why did you have to do that?” Bucky asks a minute later, his earlier joviality revving up but not quite back to normal levels.
“I’m not the one who called him a name,” Mike points out, and Bucky winces as he realizes the truth in Mike’s words.
Whatever; it rolls off Bucky soon enough, aided by the Four Seasons and some hilarious cops who try to pull John Hummel over for riding too low to the ground.
Mike loops around and around, looking for parties or mischief, but there’s nothing going on tonight. Bucky doesn’t mind; he’s content to spend the entire night under the glow of traffic lights, but Mike and Linda are getting cuddly in their bench seat, and he starts thinking that maybe it wouldn’t hurt to finally bring his own girl in on the fun.
“Drive on over to Brenda’s house,” he orders when Mike’s near the turn-off to her neighborhood.
“You’re an asshole, Barnes. We’ve been out here for over an hour,” Linda chides.
“Can I help it if Brenda and I aren’t surgically attached at the hip like some couples I might name?” Bucky fires back.
“You’ve been going steady with her for, what, two months now?” Mike asks him. Bucky confirms, and Mike chuckles.
“Right on schedule then,” he comments. There’s no judgment in his voice (Linda is a different story), only understanding. Bucky always gets girlfriends, but he never keeps them for long. Enough girls think it makes him rakish (again, Linda is a different story) that they keep dating him, even though it’s plain as day to the entire student body that Bucky loses interest pretty quickly.
He sometimes wishes he wasn’t like this. Wishes he could tell some of his exes that it’s not meanness, it’s just that Bucky has never looked at a girl like Mike looks at Linda, or any of his other friends look at their girls. He wants to, though. And when he realizes that the girl he’s seeing isn’t going to give him that feeling, then he usually loses interest in the relationship.
Barbara’s house is still lit-up, so Bucky scrambles out of the backseat and jogs up the walkway. He raps smartly at the red door and waits for Brenda or one of her parents to open it.
“Oh, Bucky,” Brenda’s mom says when she opens the door a moment later. Bucky beams at her.
“Is Brenda here?” he asks.
“Did you call her up earlier?” Brenda’s mom asks nervously.
“Nah, I forgot,” Bucky says sheepishly. He even rubs the back of his neck for added effect.
“Brenda’s out with some friends,” her mom says, and something in the tone of her voice clues Bucky in.
“Is she out with another guy?” he asks placidly. Her mom winces and then nods.
“Sorry, Bucky, it’s just…she waited all day for you to call, and you do forget to call a lot…” she trails off.
“It’s fine. That’s what I deserve, right?” he asks with an embarrassed smile. On the inside, he’s gleefully clapping and dancing because this time he doesn’t have to be the one to give the break-up speech. “Tell her I stopped by and you told me we were broken up. Tell her I’m upset but understanding.”
“Um, okay. Have a nice night, Bucky,” Brenda’s mom says. She sounds a little confused, but Bucky’s already heading back to the car.
“No Bee?” Linda asks as he climbs in.
“She’s with another guy. I guess we’re over,” he tells her. He tries to sound betrayed.
“Ouch,” Mike winces as he puts the car into drive again.
“Um, you don’t think Bucky deserved this?” Linda asks with some heat to her voice.
“Well, deserved to be dumped, maybe, but not to be stepped out on.”
“Yeah, no one deserves to be stepped out on,” Bucky parrots. He feels completely immune to any sort of reaction about no longer being Brenda’s boyfriend, but it should probably sting a little that she hadn’t even told him before taking up with some new guy.
Forty five minutes later, they see her and her new beau on the Strip in a red Ford Edsel. Bucky pretends to glare at the boy whom he doesn’t recognize in the driver’s seat. He must go to a different school.
Brenda catches his eye and shrugs. He shrugs too. Any minute now, the sense of loss will hit him.
“How was your night, sweetie?” Bucky’s mom asks as he pours himself some orange juice and steals bacon off his little sister’s plate the next morning.
“It was fun,” he says through a mouthful of stolen bacon. Rebecca glares at him, and it reminds him of an important detail he’s brushed off. “Brenda stepped out on me, so I guess I’m single.”
“What?” his mother gasps, raising a hand to her breast at the thought of any girl choosing some boy over her baby.
“Yeah, I found out when we went to go pick her up,” Bucky says. He keeps his eyes down so he’ll look appropriately sad. Of all people, his mother is probably the most likely to read into his apathy, and he doesn’t want her to talk to his father about why Bucky isn’t…normal when it comes to girls.
“Oh, sweetie, I can’t believe this,” she says, and she gets up to pace in a triangle around the kitchen to work off her emotions.
“I’m just going to mope a little bit today,” he informs her. Maybe it will get her off his case about his habit of reading comic books in bed all Saturday, which she feels is not ‘appropriate’ for a seventeen-year-old to do.
“Of course, you do that,” she says absently, and Bucky dunks his toast into his orange juice because maybe she’ll give him some peace about that habit too.
“Mom, he’s doing it,” Rebecca tattles, and Bucky learns that even his teenage broken heart doesn’t make it okay for him to mix those two food groups at the Barnes breakfast table.
He enjoys his lazy day, and he starts getting ready to go out again around eight. Before he leaves, however, his mom comes up to him and covers his eyes with her hands.
“Guess what?” she asks excitedly, and Bucky has no idea what game they’re playing.
“Um, yes mom?” he asks. She whips her hands away, and he has no idea what just happened.
Then he sees the key on the bathroom counter in front of him.
“Woah,” he says as he picks it up, the Chevrolet symbol winking at him. His mother’s face peers around his body in the mirror, and she squeezes his shoulders.
“One night won’t hurt,” she says with a little smile. “Cheer my baby up.” And Bucky’s mouth, which is still hanging open, splits into a huge grin. He wasn’t even angling for this, but this is bitchin’.
“Thanks, mom,” he says, and before she can launch into a lecture, he promises to be the most diligent and attentive driver on the road.
He calls Mike to let him know that Bucky’s got his own wheels tonight, and Mike challenges him loosely to a race without deciding where or when they’re going to meet up.
The upholstery sinks under his weight as he slides his ass along its silky-smooth rolls, and he can’t stop smiling as he turns the key, and the engine revs, and he sees the headlights reflect against the metal of the garage door.
It’s going to be a good night.
Bucky waves to his mom and backs out of the driveway, thoughts racing about his plans for the night. Having his own car seems like the perfect opportunity to find a new girl, and they’ll actually get some privacy for once. He makes that his mission as he heads for the drive-in, trailing his hand out the window and feeling the warm wind. It pushes against his hand when his fingers are closed, and it slides through his fingers when he opens them.
No one important is at the diner, so Bucky gets a coke, drinks it very carefully, and peels out of the parking lot.
He finds a car of girls on 71st street, and they all look the Chevy over like they wouldn’t mind being asked to ride with Bucky, but he smiles and drives on.
He finds some girls leaving a club meeting at the Presbyterian church, and some of them smile at him flirtatiously, but he winks and drives on.
He goes back to the drive-in and hits on the acknowledged hottest roller-waitress in town, and she even seems amenable to riding with Bucky after her shift ends, but he gets restless and says goodbye before the offer can be made.
He finds another car of girls and compliments them for a few blocks, but it’s the same as before.
He’s not interested in any of these girls, and the unprecedented windfall of the car is preventing him from choosing one at random and driving up to make-out point with her. He knows how easy it would be in a fine machine like this; but he’s caught up in finding the perfect girl.
So he doesn’t find any girls.
And he’s annoyed, but not surprised, deep down under his bravado and his affability and his genuine love of this vehicle.
He sees little Steve Rogers walking along the Strip again just after eleven, and something possesses him to swerve the car and try to apologize for calling him a ‘dweeb’ the night before.
“Hey, Steve man,” he calls through the passenger window. “How you doin’?”
Steve turns his head to glare at Bucky, and Bucky’s foot slips off the gas as he sees that Steve’s face, neck, and shirt collar are covered in blood.
“Holy shit, what happened to you?” he asks, illegally putting the car into park. Steve doesn’t stop walking.
“Steve Rogers!” Bucky yells out the window. “Don’t you fucking ignore me, what the hell happened to your face?” He runs through his mental list of the guys he knows who would do this to a dorky but harmless guy like Steve, and comes up with most of the football team. He squirms in his Letterman jacket.
When it becomes clear that Steve is going to ignore him, he shifts back into drive and follows Steve very slowly down the Strip. A car zooms past him on his left and shouts something, but he’s still tasting something bad in his mouth at the thought of one of his friends physically pushing Steve around.
Teasing is one thing; putting hands on someone is another.
“Who beat you up?” he asks again.
“Why do you assume someone beat me up? You really find it that hard to believe that I was in a fight?” Steve finally responds.
“Uhh,” Bucky says intelligently. In truth, it is hard to believe, even though everyone knows that Steve is stubborn as hell and will get into a verbal altercation with any student, teacher, or principal if he doesn’t like the way they’re talking.
“Well, I did. It was a fight. The other guy is bloody too. As you were.”
“Let me give you a ride home,” Bucky urges. “Or wherever you’re going. That looks bad.”
“It’s mostly stopped,” Steve responds, like having a potentially broken nose is so blasé.
“No, man, I actually have a car, and you’re probably going to pass out if you lose that much more blood,” Bucky argues. He backs off when Steve glares.
“I wasn’t making fun of the fact that you’re tiny,” he clarifies, and Steve’s glare intensifies. It’s actually kind of scary above his bloody muzzle.
“Will you fucking get in the car,” Bucky says testily. He’s starting to become aware of the fact that if a loser turns him down for a ride, he will in fact look like the loser. Fucking social order.
“I admire your persistence to this prank, but you can go now,” Steve tells him, and then Bucky sees the problem.
“No, actually get in the car. I’m not trying to rub it in your face that you don’t have a car like…”
“Like all of your friends do?”
“Get in the car!” Bucky yells impatiently to cover up his embarrassment. Steve sighs and gets in, looking like he’s expecting Bucky to fly away at the last possible moment.
It’s only when Steve is seated suspiciously in the passenger seat, and Bucky is pulling back into traffic, that he realizes the supreme danger the upholstery is in from Steve’s leaky nose.
“Shit, your nose,” he panics. He sees Steve unbuttoning his shirt out of his peripheral vision and panics again.
“I got it,” Steve says as he holds the wadded-up shirt against his face, sitting beside Bucky on the bench seat in only his undershirt. Bucky begins to sweat, and he surreptitiously pulls off the Strip so fewer people will see the stripped-down nerd riding with him.
“I don’t live this way,” Steve says after a few minutes. He seems to find it amusing when Bucky swears.
“Where do you live?” he asks, and Steve tells him.
The way to Steve’s house involves a lot of right turns, so of course, Bucky can’t help but look over at Steve ever few minutes. He notices that his arms are skinny but hard, and his skin is pulled taught across his belly.
Steve’s been mocked for looking like a girl ever since their class staggered through puberty and left him behind, but as Bucky completely accidentally runs his eyes over Steve again, he notices that Steve doesn’t look like any girl Bucky’s ever gotten shirtless.
He doesn’t have any curves. Everything about him looks steel-hard and smooth under paper-white skin. There’s not a lot to Steve, but what there is looks serious.
But then there are little indents in his undershirt where his nipples are, and Bucky wonders if they’re as pink as Steve’s mouth.
Then he wonders what the hell is wrong with him.
“You won an award, didn’t you?” he blurts out to take his focus off his classmate. Too late, he realizes he could have just turned the radio up.
“Uh yeah. How’d you know?”
“Announcements,” Bucky says, creasing his forehead and nodding. “It was for art, right?”
“Yes, Bucky, I won an award for ‘art,’” Steve tells him with no small degree of sass.
“Good. Your art’s good,” Bucky comments. Steve lets it hang there for a minute before even he can’t resist a little praise.
“Why do you think my art’s good? Do you even know what media I work in?”
“Uh, you paint,” Bucky points out. “You did that wall mural in fourth grade.” Steve snorts.
“And you draw,” Bucky adds. “Because you do cartoons in the school newspaper, right?”
Steve’s quiet for a stretch before responding.
“Yeah, I sketch. I won a scholarship for it.”
“That’s so cool,” Bucky says honestly, because he’s not good enough at anything to warrant someone giving him money for it.
“Yeah, it is,” Steve says. He sounds a little less hostile than before, and Bucky flicks the dial on the radio to end the conversation.
It’s the Beach Boys, and Bucky loves this song more than he loves most people. But admitting to an intense passion for “Surfin’ USA” is akin to handing over all of your baby pictures to your buddies and opening the floor for ribbing, so he usually keeps it quiet.
“The Beach Boys aren’t bad, but I hate this surfing shit,” he says, even though Steve hadn’t asked.
“The Beach Boys are boss. Do I have to get into another fight?” Steve asks. Bucky thinks he’s serious for a second before he looks sideways and sees Steve actually smiling at him beneath the bloody shirt.
He laughs like a dork because Steve’s caught him off guard.
“Yeah, I love this song. I’ve requested it before,” he admits, and then he wonders why he divulged such a sensitive piece of information to someone whose social position demands blackmail on other kids.
“I’m going to learn how to surf someday,” Steve tells him.
“In Milner’s pond?” Bucky teases.
“Fuck you, I’m going to the ocean,” Steve retorts, and Bucky laughs again.
“Permanently, or just for a surfing lesson?”
“Who knows. Who knows where any of us will end up once we graduate and split town,” Steve muses. And it kills the fun a little bit, because Bucky isn’t ready to think about graduation or college or any of that.
He pulls up in front of Steve’s house and idles in the driveway as Steve slips out.
“Thank you, Bucky. Sorry I was ungrateful earlier; I really am thankful for the ride. And this is a really cool car,” he adds. Bucky swells with pride in his ride, and before he can stop himself, he’s calling after Steve.
“Hey, put a shirt on and clean yourself up, and we can actually go cruising,” he says before he kicks himself.
There’s nothing wrong with boys riding around together, but Bucky has this beautiful car to himself for the first time in his teenage life. People are going to expect him to pick up a honey, and it’s very weird to have Steve Rogers instead.
Steve looks confused.
“Why?” he asks, wary again. Bucky opens his mouth to say something about how he appreciates Steve’s appreciation of the Chevy, and it doesn’t even make sense to him.
“I thought we were having a good time driving around,” he says instead. There’s a wild moment where Bucky is equally terrified that Steve will reject him and that Steve will take him up on the offer, but then Steve is shrugging and agreeing and telling Bucky to wait five minutes.
Steve comes back out with his face washed and a clean shirt, and he climbs awkwardly into the passenger seat again.
“So, uh, how does this work?”
“How does what work?” Bucky asks as he uses backing up to avoid looking at Steve.
“How does cruising work? Because it seems like it’s all that anyone can talk about, but it seems kind of pointless to me. So show me the point.”
Bucky doesn’t say anything, because he realizes that the epitome of cruising is on the Strip, and people are going to see them on the Strip.
“Do you pick a point and drive there, or do you just randomly turn the wheel?” Steve asks.
“Randomly turn the wheel. Unless there’s somewhere you want to go,” Bucky tells him. He heads back into town but sticks to residential areas, avoiding the Strip altogether. Fuck, what is he doing? He doesn’t even know Steve, and he’s blowing his night with the car on him.
Bucky sticks his hand out the window again, hoping to regain the calm from earlier, and Steve imitates him on his own side of the car. It’s kind of cute, the imitation, like Steve really doesn’t spend a lot of time riding around and doesn’t know the little pleasures.
They drive in circles and squares for over an hour, not really talking much and listening to the radio. They laugh at the announcer’s prank calls and sing along to all the Beach Boys songs. They mostly manage to avoid chatting up any other cars on Bucky’s carefully randomized routes, but his luck doesn’t last forever, and a car honks behind Bucky right about when he’s thinking that this little hang-out is probably wrapping up.
“Shit,” he says as he looks into the rearview mirror and sees Mike’s yellow T-Bird. “It’s my best friend.”
“Mike Williams? Why is that bad?” Steve asks when Bucky doesn’t say anything. Bucky flushes and stays silent.
“You’re embarrassed that I’m in the car with you,” Steve says knowingly a moment later.
“No!” Bucky sputters, but it’s the truth. He’s not one hundred percent sure what he’s even worried about, but it creeps under his skin that Mike will see him cruising with a guy late at night and think…what will Mike think?
“You totally are,” Steve says, and he sounds more amused than hurt. “I can hide, I guess.”
“How would-” Bucky asks before he sees that Steve is laying down on the seat next to him, curling his body between Bucky and the passenger-side door.
His embarrassment comes at him from another side; now he’s making Steve think that he needs to hide from Bucky’s friends, which probably means that Steve knows what Bucky’s nervous about.
“They won’t see me,” Steve says confidently, and Bucky’s eyes dart down to see that Steve’s head is practically pillowed on his thigh.
He swallows at the thought of thighs and car seats and closeness, then leans back and flips Mike off casually.
The asshole zooms forward to ride next to Bucky, and Linda grins at him.
“Sweet wheels, Buck!” she calls. “You get any girls in there with you tonight?”
“I can get girls when I ride with you!” Bucky shouts back with a grin on his lips. Steve shifts against his thigh, and he clenches the wheel as he feels his body start to react.
This is absolutely not helpful, he lectures himself. Quit being so wire-crossed and stupid.
“Wanted to just burn through a tank of gas by myself. Listen to some music, think some thoughts,” he tells Linda, and she rolls her eyes at him.
“Yeah, you’re real deep, Barnes.”
Steve shifts again for some ungodly reason, and Bucky swears that he can feels Steve’s breath through the legs of his slacks. It’s hot and moist, and his cock continues to harden in the context of Steve’s proximity.
Boy, he tells himself. Boy, boy, boy. No breasts. No pussy. Just flat skin and muscles and a dick.
“Almost out of gas, though, can’t race now. Maybe tomorrow before my mom takes the keys back,” he says through a shit-eating grin. They laugh at him and flip him off before flying ahead, their taillights disappearing into the road’s curves.
Bucky can’t unclench his hand from the steering wheel. He’s panting, and his heart is pounding.
He knows exactly what’s going on. Has always pretended that he didn’t, but he’s not stupid. He’s a teenage boy, and he thinks about sex enough to know what images and thoughts do the most for him.
But if Steve finds out, he’s going to expose Bucky’s secret. Bucky’s secret is illegal, and harmful, and sick. He can’t let his parents know that about him. He can’t let little Rebecca get teased for it.
“Get up,” he says hoarsely. He sees the shadowy body sit up on his right, but he doesn’t look over at Steve.
He turns the wheel in the direction of Steve’s neighborhood without saying anything.
Steve doesn’t move away, though. He keeps it so that there’s only a few inches between them, and Bucky is rearing up to lash out and say something mean that will express his masculinity and shut down whatever Steve thinks is happening here.
Then Steve puts his hand on the bulge in Bucky’s pants, and Bucky nearly bites off the tip of his tongue.
“I’m guessing you haven’t done this before, but this is me propositioning you,” Steve says quietly and somehow calmly beside him.
Bucky exhales wetly as Steve squeezes.
“Is there somewhere we could go? If you want to,” Steve says, still polite and casual and calm calm calm.
Meanwhile, everything that Bucky knew about himself is going up in flames. He has no idea what he wants, but he wants it badly, and he loses track of where he’s pointing the car as Steve’s fingers unfasten his pants and worm their way inside.
Some level of Bucky’s consciousness brings them to make-out point, and he finds a secluded spot before turning the car off.
“I need a smoke,” he says as he leans over and digs through the glove compartment for his dad’s stash. The movement dislodges Steve’s hand, and he’s both relieved and disappointed.
His hands fumble with the cigarette and lighter, and he nearly burns the upholstery more than once.
“Jeez, Bucky, you drove us here,” Steve says as he steadies Bucky’s hands and ends up lighting the cigarette for him.
Bucky breathes the smoke into his lungs, knowing that the smell is getting in the car and he’s probably going to get found-out, but hardly caring. This is a significantly more bearable thing to get caught doing by his parents.
“What do you want to do?” Steve asks him when the cigarette is nearly finished. He coughs, but Bucky doesn’t make the connection between the cough and the smoke.
“I have no idea,” Bucky says honestly. “What am I supposed to do when…this is who I am?”
“Well, you could stuff it all down and drive yourself into an early, self-pitying grave, or you could do what you want and find ways to deal with the consequences,” Steve tells him with the gravity of one who’s already had this internal debate.
“I’m a Letterman,” Bucky says to the night, and Steve huffs beside him.
“I’m kind of hoping you go for the ‘do what you want’ option. But I have a vested interest.”
“I don’t know what I want,” Bucky says, again scraping the bottom of his honesty against this terrifying situation.
“Oh. Well, I’m pretty sure I know. I’m kind of waiting for the go-ahead from you to prove that you won’t punch me in the face too.”
“That’s what happened?” Bucky asks, momentarily distracted by the anger at someone hurting Steve. He flicks the cigarette butt into the grass and should probably be lucky that nothing catches fire.
“Are you going to punch me?” Steve asks.
“No,” Bucky tells him, because he does know that.
Steve slips into his lap like a dozen girls have done before. He weaves his fingers into Bucky’s hair and kisses him like a dozen girls have done before. And he grinds down against Bucky’s crotch like...a handful of girls have done before.
What’s different this time is Bucky’s reaction. Instead of faint stirrings of arousal coated by boredom, hyper vigilance, and thinking about television, Bucky feels like something red-hot has been dumped into his lap. He’s left lightheaded as his blood zooms to his cock at seventy miles an hour, and every little twitch that Steve makes against him sends soft waves of pleasure skittering up and down his spine.
He moans into the kiss as Steve opens his pink mouth and lets Bucky lick inside, and he’s sweeter than any girl Bucky’s ever kissed. He tastes clean and wet, and Bucky’s mind can’t help but mentally shift the idea of Steve’s mouth around until he’s shuddering at the thought of Steve’s mouth on his cock.
He nearly honks the horn when he pushes Steve into the seat, tearing at Steve’s pants with one hand and supporting himself against the seatback with his other. Steve laughs against his lips as he helps Bucky pull down his zipper, and then he frees both their cocks with a dexterity that Bucky imagines comes with the artistic territory.
Bucky isn’t an artist; he’s linebacker. So he smashes forward, grinding their cocks together and squeezing them both in his left hand, and too soon, heat rushes over him and his muscles tremble.
Steve laughs when Bucky comes first, but he keeps a hand on the back of Bucky’s neck to keep him on top of Steve, and he ruts into the hot, sticky mess. He bites Bucky’s lip on accident when he comes, and Bucky looks down at him, dazed, as Steve’s orgasm sweeps over him.
He’s never actually seen an orgasm before. He highly suspects the girls he was with faked it, and he wasn’t looking at them anyway.
“Fuck,” he breathes, resting his weight on Steve and feeling their cum dripping over his fingers and legs and –
And on to the upholstery of his dad’s car.
That gets Bucky upright pretty quickly, and thankfully, there are tissues in the glove box. He awkwardly cleans himself up and extends a tissue to Steve.
Then he starts the car, afraid to stay exposed like this any longer.
Steve tucks them both back into their pants and leans against Bucky’s arm like a girlfriend. But the roads are nearly deserted by now, and Bucky doesn’t think he minds. He even gets bolder as his heart rate slows down and he realizes that this is such as small thing compared to the enormity of what they’ve just done, so he slips his arm around Steve and lets him snuggle into Bucky’s side.
It feels good. It feels amazing. This – driving fast with your baby in the crook of your arm – is what cruising is all about.
They don’t talk much as Bucky takes Steve back home, except when Steve asks him if he’s going to have the car again anytime soon.
“Probably not,” Bucky says, thinking of his luck in having it tonight in the first place. Then he realizes that it’s not really what Steve is asking.
He guesses this is his life now. Layers of meaning and multiple consciences, all designed to keep the ones you love from being disappointed and the police from catching on to you.
“Actually, maybe. I definitely want to get the car again, but it might be hard for practical purposes.”
“But you want to drive with me again?”
“Yeah, I want to drive with you again.”
Steve’s house is dark when Bucky pulls up, and Steve squeezes his thigh carefully before getting out and heading for the door.
Words are in Bucky’s throat, but he doesn’t say them. He puts the car into reverse and heads home through darkened streets with the sky big and omniscient above him.
Bucky drives home, feeling the purr of the engine and the wind through the window, and he surprises himself when he can’t stop grinning.