Both times Steve makes a fool of himself in front of the soccer coach, it’s mostly an accident.
The first time, Steve is elbow-deep in soapy dish water, scrubbing spaghetti sauce off bowls, when his phone starts vibrating on the kitchen counter. He lifts his soap-covered hands out of the sink and stares at them, considering. It’s probably nothing important, but maybe it’s Peggy calling with an updated ETA. Or the school letting him know there’s been an outbreak of measles and he should climb into the nearest nuclear bunker with his son immediately.
He glances over his shoulder to where the aforementioned six-year-old is perched at the kitchen table, doodling aimlessly on a legal pad while he waits for his dad to finish so they can rewatch My Neighbor Totoro. “Harrison?” Steve says. “Buddy, can you look at my phone and tell me who’s calling?”
Harrison drops his colored pencils with a clatter and scrambles for Steve’s phone, which is making a break for it across the counter with the force of its vibrations. “It says ‘Coach Barnes.’ That’s my soccer coach!”
“Oh,” Steve hums. Harrison’s supposed to have a game tomorrow afternoon—maybe Barnes needs Steve on last-minute snack duty. “Can you answer it for me?”
“Yeah.” The kid handles technology like it’s nothing. “Hi, Coach Barnes, it’s Harrison Rogers.”
Steve can’t hear Barnes’ reply from across the kitchen, but the chair squeaks on the wood floor when Harrison scoots it back to hop down. He’s at Steve’s elbow in a moment.
“Coach says he’s gotta talk to you, Dad.”
“Okay, bud—here, put the phone on my shoulder, I’ll—perfect, thanks.” With his phone wedged between his ear and his shoulder, Steve keeps up his washing as he says, “Hey, Coach Barnes, what’s up?”
There’s a laugh on the other side of the line. “You and your formality. It’s Bucky to you.”
Steve’s cheeks flash pink—just the heat of the dish water. “Right. Bucky. What can I do for you?”
“Well,” Bucky sighs. “Looks like half the team we’re supposed to play tomorrow came down with the flu, so there’s no game.”
“Oh. Oh, no! Harrison, hey, I’m sorry, but it looks like—”
“No game tomorrow?” Harrison says, wearing a hopeful smile.
“I feel like you should be more disappointed, bud.”
Bucky laughs again, warm in Steve’s ear. He’s a good coach—Steve’s pretty sure he teaches middle school science. He’s good with Harrison, too, which is hard sometimes. He’s kind of a weird kid. Takes after his father.
“Anyway,” Bucky says, “sorry to throw a wrench in your Saturday. I know you and your wife like coming to the games.”
“Oh, that’s okay,” Steve huffs. Stupid crusted-on marinara won’t come off the pot no matter how hard Steve scrubs, but he puts his back into it. “Peggy’s out of town this weekend anyway, so.”
“Ah. Well. Practice next week—”
“Tuesday night like usual?”
“Great. Oh, hey, not to be a stalker but I checked out that band on the shirt you were wearing the other day—they’re good!”
“You doubted my taste?”
“I mean, no.”
Bucky snorts. “Well, they’re playing in Brooklyn next month.”
Is that an invitation to go? Steve can’t tell, so he just says, “That’s cool.”
“Mhmm,” Bucky hums. There’s a pause that borders on awkward. “But I guess I’ll let you get back to your Friday night now. Good talking to you, Steve.”
“Alright.” And then, like a faulty vending machine spitting out too much candy, it falls right out of his mouth: “Goodnight, Bucky—I love you.”
“Oh, my God,” Steve breathes. “That just slipped out. Habit, I didn’t mean that—“
“Hey, it’s okay...”
“Daddy, did you just tell Coach Barnes you love him?”
“Oh, my God.”
“I’m telling Mom!”
Bucky’s laughing so loud it hurts Steve’s ear. Steve grabs a dish towel to dry his hands, then fumbles with his phone trying to figure out if he can just hang up without getting his son kicked off the peewee rec league soccer team.
“I’m telling Aunt Natasha!”
“Steve,” Bucky says, “Steve, I don’t care, holy shit this is the best thing that’s happened to me all week—”
“Bucky, I gotta go.”
“Really, Steve, it’s fine!”
“I know, look, I’ll see you Tuesday.”
“Right, right, see you Tuesday, honeycakes,” Bucky tells him, still giggling, before the line goes blessedly silent.
Steve drops his phone to the counter and props himself up over the sink. Jesus Christ. It’s not a big deal.
But the thing is, he likes Bucky Barnes; likes the way he’s as quick to squat down to photograph a flower as he is to offer ruthless political commentary on the soccer field sidelines, and admires how skilled he is at wrangling a baker’s dozen six-year-olds. Steve has been working up to asking him to hang out—thought maybe they could be friends. Steve could use something positive in his life like a new friend right now. But he’s gone and bungled the whole thing and worst of all his son is never going to be able to play soccer ever again in his whole entire life. Though maybe Harrison wouldn’t actually be upset about that, which they should probably talk about.
“Dad, do you really love Coach Barnes, because I don’t know how Mom’s gonna feel about that.”
“Mom doesn’t care,” Steve sighs, harsher than he means to. When Harrison frowns at him, he backpedals. “I just mean—hey, you know it’s okay for men to tell each other ‘I love you,’ right?”
Harrison doesn’t quite have the classic Carter eye roll down, but he’s on his way. “Yeah, Dad, men can get married and have babies with each other too, but you’re already married to Mom and you already have me. You can’t marry Coach Barnes.”
“Ah, God. Okay, look.” Steve squats down to Harrison’s eye level—the serious business pose. “All that, yeah. I’m not trying to marry your soccer coach. I meant that it’s okay for men to be good friends and express their care and affection for each other like that, okay?”
“Right. Like we’re both men and how you tell me you love me a thousand times a day.”
Steve musses his kid’s brown curls. “Yeah, sweetpea, just like that.”
“Then why were you embarrassed?”
“Harrison,” Steve sighs. “It’s—your coach and I don’t know each other that well. I said it by accident ‘cause I’m used to saying it your to your mom and your grandparents when I hang up the phone.”
“So you don’t love Coach Barnes?”
“Oh. Well, I love him.”
“That’s great, buddy. You ready for movie night?”
“I’m still gonna tell Mom. Can I call her after the movie?”
“Oh, my God.”
Steve skips Harrison’s next game because he still can’t look Bucky in the eye, but figures it’s okay—Harrison doesn’t care, and maybe Steve will text Bucky about that concert.
Except that two weeks later, Harrison tells his parents he doesn’t want to play soccer anymore, and then Peggy finally uses the word “divorce” on the same damn Thursday afternoon, so Steve never does find the time to make friends with Bucky.
When Steve and Peggy sit him down to talk, Harrison asks in a wobbly voice, “Is this because of my soccer coach?”
Peggy, for her part, manages not to laugh. “No, darling.”
“You guys are never gonna let me live that one down, are you?”
“Oh, not a chance, Steve.”
The second time takes a little more build-up.
“Natasha,” Steve whines into the phone the moment his best friend picks up. She’s moved up to number one on his speed dial in the last two years, a short cut which he frequently abuses. “Nat, help me.”
“Are you lying on the living room floor again?”
“How do you always know that?”
“I thought you passed the depressed stage like, a year ago.”
“God, no, it’s not the divorce. I’m fine.” Steve thumps his head against the area rug. He really is fine re: the dissolution of his marriage, once he’d moved across Brooklyn to escape the weird, sad memory museum of it all. Harrison’s good too, and Peggy is thriving. Steve grew a beard. Everybody’s coping like a goddamn champion.
“Do you remember when we used to go out?” Steve says. “And like, eat Korean food and ceviche and shit and then go get drunk off our asses? You remember, back when being single was fun instead of just depressing.”
He waves his hand through the air, painting a picture for himself of youthful recklessness even as he tallies up how many quarters he’s gotta stick in the swear jar for that sentence.
“Let me guess. Harrison wants spaghetti for dinner again.”
“I love that kid, light of my life, best thing that ever happened to me, but I swear to God—if he doesn’t start eating something besides chicken tenders, I am going to lose my mind, Nat. I was eating crab legs at eight years old. Why won’t my son eat a crab leg?”
“You know you don’t have to eat what you fix for him.”
“But then I’d have to make two dinners.”
“Well,” Nat says, and he can hear the telltale smirk in her voice. Thank fuck. “I guess we have to hit the town, then.”
“You’re the best.”
“Isn’t that band you like playing this weekend?”
“Yes. I have four tickets already—you, me, Clint, Sam. Harrison’s sleeping over at a friend’s.”
“You shithead!” If Natasha were here, she would have punctuated that sentence by smacking him in the back of the head. “When were you going to tell me about these plans of yours?”
“I had to get you to pity me before you’d agree to go. You don’t like that band.”
“Wow. You’re conniving.”
“Nat, I really do need to get drunk. And like, go somewhere that’s not work or the grocery store.”
“Okay, I get it—I’ll strongarm Clint and Sam for you. Call you back later?”
“Sounds good. Love you, Nat.”
“Yeah, love you too, honeycakes.”
“Holy shit, it’s been two years, stop it!”
Natasha’s raspy laugh cuts off when he stabs the ‘end call’ button with his thumb. He thumps his skull against the rug again for emphasis.
“Okay, buddy, do you have all your stuff packed?”
Harrison pushes his glasses back up his nose and says, “Yeah, Dad.”
“Toothbrush? Clean underwear? Lemme check your bag, I need to be sure all your meds are—”
Steve reaches for Harrison’s overnight bag, but the kid just grabs it back. “Dad, I got it.”
“Sorry. I promise I have everything, you don’t have to check.”
“I already called Andre’s moms earlier, so they know what to do if you have an emergency, alright?” God willing Harrison will have a fun and uneventful night, but Steve passed his son his asthma and severe strawberry allergy, so sometimes things happen. Steve’s mapped out a route from the music venue to the hospital just in case. “You’re gonna have fun.”
“I know I will. Are you?”
The kid’s too observant. Steve smiles at him, even as he’s mentally tabulating the correlation between the exponential growth of Harrison’s intelligence vs. the decline of Steve’s control over his microexpressions. “Yeah, bud, of course. I’m just a little nervous about you spending the night with somebody new.”
“I spend the night at Mom’s all the time and you don’t freak out.”
“That’s because it’s Mom, and I know she can take good care of you.”
“Okay, well, you can call me if you need to.”
Steve presses his hand to his forehead. “That’s my line. Hey, c’mere, give me a hug.”
“Dad, we’re not even saying goodbye yet! You still have to take me to Andre’s!”
But Steve just smushes his son into his chest and holds on tight. Everybody’s fine.
After Steve drops Harrison off at his friend’s house, he heads for Natasha’s place in Manhattan—it’s closer to the music venue, so it’s the best place for everyone to congregate. He’s the last one in the door. Clint is already sprawled on Natasha’s couch, and Sam is in the kitchen helping everyone’s favorite redhead make… frozen daiquiris.
“Those better not be strawberry,” Steve says as he shuts the door behind him. He’s had his own key to Nat’s apartment pretty much since the day she moved in, the same way she has a key to his place in Brooklyn.
“They’re mango,” Natasha says. “If I was trying to kill you, I’d be more subtle about it.”
“Look who finally made it!” Sam calls, ambushing Steve with a hug in the entry hall. “Gang’s all here, baby. Your divorce beard’s looking good.”
“For the last time, it’s not a—”
“We’re gonna go crazy tonight!” Clint yells from the couch.
Steve thumbs in his direction. “He already a couple deep?”
“No, that’s just his personality. You know this.”
“Ste-eve,” Natasha singsongs. “Come be my guinea pig. See if this burns your eyebrows off.”
They never used to put Nat on bartending duty, on account of how her preferred drink is purified rocket fuel, neat. But if the plan is to get a little shitfaced tonight, well…
The drink is cold and sweet and strong. “Gah!” Steve gasps, sticking his tongue out. “Jesus Christ, Nat, what are you trying to do? Make us all fire hazards?”
“Fatherhood has made you soft, Rogers,” Natasha says, dumping an extra shot of rum into her own drink. “When’s the last time you had liquor?”
That’s the whole reason he’s here, really. Steve loves his son, truly, and for the most part hasn’t minded letting most of his identity get absorbed into parenting Harrison. But instead of feeling freed by his divorce like he’s supposed to, he’s fallen into a rut for the past two years. He gets up in the morning, gets Harrison up, gets him to school, goes to work, picks Harrison up from after-school care, then spends the evenings and the weekends entertaining and enriching his kid. Even when Harrison goes to Peggy’s every other weekend, Steve mostly just uses that time to catch up on television that he can’t watch with his eight-year-old always underfoot in their little apartment in Lefferts Gardens.
So going to a concert with his friends, drinking something besides whatever Sam Adams seasonal the corner bodega has—he hopes it’s a first step in figuring out how to reclaim a little bit of himself. Harrison’s getting older and doesn’t need Steve as much as he used to, and as hard as that is to come to terms with, it’s nice too. He and Peggy raised a good kid who makes good grades and knows when to take his meds. Steve will always worry, but truth be told the divorce had been good for everybody. He has a beard now. He learned how to let Harrison out of his sight for a night without having an aneurysm.
Well, the alcohol’s helping anyway.
Half an hour later, the group is draped all over Natasha’s living room in various states of intoxication. They need to head out soon if they want to find a good spot in the crowd for the opener, but Steve’s having a little trouble feeling his fingertips.
“You guys are my friends,” he says.
“Aw, Steve,” Sam coos, patting Steve’s cheek. “You’re drunk, man.”
“‘S’just like old times, you know?”
“We can afford better alcohol, though,” Natasha says.
“And we’re on a couch nobody had to fish out of the dumpster,” Clint adds.
“I’ll drink to that.”
“Oh, my God, Steve.”
The next ten minutes finds them rallying, making slow moves toward the door. Somebody calls a Lyft because they’re adults with money who don’t need to take the train if they don’t want to. Before the car arrives, Steve bends over Nat’s toilet for a good thirty seconds, his stomach rolling, but he manages to keep his Korean takeout and all the daiquiris sloshing around with it down.
“Ride’s here!” someone calls.
The trip to the music venue is a blur, but Steve feels slightly more sober by the time he’s handing his ticket over at the door. He gets a hand stamp and a grunt from the security person, and then he’s inside, his friends following behind. The club is slowly filling up already, the opener’s crew still setting up a few things onstage. Loud music pours through the speakers, making it so he has to lean into Nat’s ear to say, “Let’s go find the bar.”
She grins at him. “You gonna remember this concert, Rogers?”
Steve waves a flippant hand. “I’m fine, Nat.”
“If you say so.”
They crowd the bar together, hips bumping, Sam’s arms around everyone’s shoulders. Steve’s calling out an order for a round of rum and cokes when he spots her.
“Oh, what the fuck!”
Sam is closest and hears him best. “What, dude?”
“My ex-wife is right the fuck there.”
He points down the bar, where Peggy is leaning on the countertop, looking like a vintage daydream as she always does. Her friend Angie is with her, and a man Steve doesn’t recognize is making them both laugh, his hand on Peggy’s waist.
“Steve.” Nat grabs him by the chin. “You guys are amicably divorced. We literally had brunch like two weeks ago, and your progeny wasn’t even there. She’s your friend.”
“I know, it’s just, like—the principle of it—”
“Didn’t you introduce her to this band?” Sam asks.
“Okay, big britches needs more alcohol before he insults his lawyer ex for no reason and she sues him,” Clint chimes in.
Once he has a drink in hand, Steve calms considerably and even goes over to say hello to Peggy and her friends. It’s fine. He just hadn’t expected her to be here, but she’s happy to see him and it’s good. They’d spent a few months awkwardly cooling off after the divorce was final, but since then they’ve been able to get back to what they were in the first place: good friends.
Still, though. This dude is probably Peggy’s date tonight, and that’s just reminding Steve of how he hasn’t gotten laid in approximately three eons. And the petty part of him is screaming that he needs to rebound before his ex does, even though it’s been two years and they’ve both rebounded more than once, just not in front of each other, in public. He thinks about threatening Peggy’s date about treating her right, but he’s not really in the mood to get punched by his ex-wife, so he bites his tongue.
Once the band starts playing, though, he forgets about everything besides the drink in his hand, the song blaring into his eardrums, and his best friends pressed close to him.
That is, until Natasha slings her elbow around his neck and whisper-yells, “Your homewrecker is here, too.”
“My whom?” Steve splutters, even as his brain stutters toward comprehension.
“Soccer coach. Ten o’clock.”
Steve’s head whips around fast enough that it takes a while for his vision to clear. Then, lo and behold—there he is. Coach Bucky Barnes bobs his head to the band he’d indirectly introduced Steve to two years ago right before they never saw each other again. His hair is still long, pulled back into a low bun, so that the stage lights catch his sharp, smiling profile.
“Oh,” Steve breathes. “What the hell is going on tonight?”
“I forgot how much you swear when you’re drunk.” Natasha pushes at his shoulders. “Go say hi to him!”
“‘Cause you love him.”
“I’m gonna kill you,” Steve says, but it’s lost in the noise of the music as he starts shuffling his way through the crowd toward Bucky. He ought to say hello, just to be friendly. What the hell, right?
When Steve settles in beside him, Bucky doesn’t notice, too engrossed in the music. It seems like he’s here by himself. Steve downs the last of his drink and drops the cup to the floor—be mindful of the mess you leave for others, Harrison, blah blah, sorry God—before he taps Bucky on the shoulder.
Bucky spins to face him, brow pulled together. Then his face breaks into a wide grin of recognition, and God—Steve’s divorced now, he’s allowed to admit that Coach Barnes is exactly the kind of guy whose legs Steve liked to spread back before he became a Responsible Family Man. Loose bits of brown hair frame Bucky’s face, sticking to the sweat at his temples, and the way the pulsing stage lights highlight the flush in his cheeks—it all adds up to make Steve wonder what Bucky would look like in less public of a venue. Just like this, maybe.
It's probably better they never made it to friendship, because then Bucky might have actually been able to wreck Steve’s home, instead of just being the unwitting butt of a joke among Steve’s friends and family for two years running.
Or... something. Wow, Steve has had some alcohol tonight.
“Hey!” Bucky shouts. “I remember you. Harrison’s dad, right?”
“Right, no, I remember. Almost didn’t recognize you with the—” He reaches out and touches light fingertips to Steve’s jaw, to his beard, which sends a veritable shockwave down Steve’s spine. “You look good.”
“So do you,” Steve says, and means it.
“How the hell are you doing? You enjoying the band?”
“First time I’ve seen them, actually,” Steve says, while Bucky leans farther into his space to hear him better. “You kinda introduced me to them.”
Bucky’s grin hasn’t faded a millimeter. “Oh yeah?”
And Steve just smiles, because it’s too hellaciously loud this close to the stage to ask Bucky questions like what do you do with all those pictures of flowers you used to take by the soccer fields? or maybe just how have you been? but definitely not I think you’re hot wanna fuck in the bathroom like 22 year-olds? No, that one’s a bad idea.
Bucky points toward the band, does a little air guitar thing, and leans closer into Steve when he makes himself laugh. Then they’re just standing there together, listening to the band, Bucky’s hips swaying and knocking into Steve’s every few lines of the song. It’s nice. It’s making Steve’s skin itch.
“Hey,” Bucky says between songs, while the lead singer is mumbling something profound into the microphone. Bucky lifts the cup in his hand. “I’m empty—wanna get a drink?”
His breath is hot on Steve’s ear. “Sure!”
They escape to the bar. It’s still loud at the back of the venue, but they don’t have to shout as much to hear each other as Bucky flags down the bartender.
“What are you drinking?” Bucky asks.
“Beer it is.”
It takes a few minutes, but then they both have plastic cups in hand, and Bucky’s making no moves to head back into the fray of the crowd. He turns and leans his back against the bar, one elbow propped on its service. With him leaning that way, Steve can see the sweat beading on his neck, slipping beneath the collar of his shirt. God, Steve wants to lick it off him. Or kiss it. Use his mouth, yeah—he could do that. Kiss him.
Steve’s body moves like he triggered an action sequence. He sets his cup down and sways closer toward Bucky to reach for his sparkling face, cupping his cheek with alcohol-sticky fingers, and turns Bucky to look at him.
The stage lights flash bright in their eyes, yellow and pink, as Steve presses their mouths together, dry and off-center.
It’s blissful for about two seconds.
“Whoa,” Bucky says against Steve’s lips. His hands find Steve’s shoulders and push him back. “Hey, pal, aren’t you married?”
Steve holds up his left hand and wiggles his fingers. “Divorced.”
“Oh.” Bucky’s frown shifts, his eyes dropping to Steve’s mouth. “Huh.”
“I shoulda asked first,” Steve starts, realization dawning. What is it about this damn soccer coach that makes him lose all sense of place? He presses the back of his hand to his lips and God he needs to run away now, disappear into the crowd, or better yet the woods where he’ll start a commune of celibate single dads—on second thought maybe that idea has legs—
Bucky’s hands grip his shoulders, firm and stabilizing. He’s smiling now. “Come dance with me.”
Steve blinks. “What?”
“Come dance with me!” Bucky repeats, taking Steve’s sweaty hand, like it’s easy. As if Steve didn’t just kiss him like a fool with no boundaries.
If anything, the way Bucky’s smiling—well, it almost seems like he didn’t really mind.
They abandon their beers as they stumble back into the crowd—just a few rows deep, where they’ve still got room for Bucky to grab Steve by the waist and start moving their bodies in time to one of this band’s few upbeat numbers. Steve’s not a good dancer even when he’s sober, but Bucky takes it easy on him. Somehow the rest of Steve’s friends find them and pass Steve around like a ragdoll. The band is still playing but Steve couldn’t tell you what song it is, or if they should even be dancing to it. God, he’s not going to remember this concert at all, which kind of sucks because this is his favorite band, but it’s selfish fun like he hasn’t had in months. He kissed his kid’s hot soccer coach, and nobody even punched him for it. Bucky dances so close to him it feels like flirting, the way his eyes stay glued to Steve’s face. Steve’s heart swells about three sizes and stays that way, huge and happy and beating hard.
Steve surfaces sometime during the encore, another drink in his hand and his free arm around Natasha’s waist. The five of them—and there are five, because Bucky’s somewhere to his left, Steve can sense him even if he can’t quite make his eyes focus—sing along to the final song.
When the overhead lights come up, Steve blinks up at them like he might climb into the rafters and crack the bulbs. “Shit,” he mumbles.
“Steve.” Nat’s voice is in his ear. “How are you doing, babe?”
“What time is it?”
“Just past eleven.”
“Shoot. I didn’t tuck Harrison into bed.”
“He’s at a friend’s house, Steve,” Natasha says with a laugh. “He’s okay. You want me to call you a Lyft?”
“Where are you going?”
Natasha raises one neat eyebrow. “Home.”
“Homewrecker’s still hanging out—you better tell him goodnight before we go.”
Steve turns too quickly to keep his balance, but then there’s a hand on his shoulder and someone’s face close to his. “Whoa there,” Bucky says, his voice warm. “I brought you some water, pal.”
“Thanks,” Steve says, and downs the tiny cup when it’s offered.
The water is cool in his throat. Bucky watches him, a faint smirk on his face and—God he’s so hot. Is it just the room? No, no, it’s Bucky making him feel flushed like this. Maybe it’s the liquor talking, or his oft-neglected dick, but Steve’s pretty sure if he doesn’t kiss Bucky again at some point very soon he’s going to collapse. He’ll die of being unkissed.
“I’m going home,” he says.
Bucky’s expression flickers. “Right, it’s late, that’s probably—”
“Are you coming with me?”
That mouth Steve wants to touch pops open in a little circle of surprise. For a moment Steve thinks he’s overstepped, miscalculated what’s going on, that the ratio of his drunkenness to Bucky’s is too off for this to work.
But then Bucky’s eyes darken, skimming over Steve’s body in deliberate appraisal. His teeth dig into his growing smile. “Alright,” he says. “Yeah, Steve, I will.”
Natasha’s still hellbent on chaperoning him home when they all make it outside, but Sam and Clint manage to talk her down. There’s a lot of he’s a grown man, he can make his own dumbass decisions arguments bandied about, which ruffles Steve’s feathers a little bit, but Bucky seems to find it funny. He has his hand at the small of Steve’s back anyway, so it’s not like Steve is paying much attention to his friends.
Nat takes his face between her hands, squishing his cheeks together. “Text me when you’re home or I’m breaking down your door.”
“You have a key,” Steve mumbles.
“I’m being dramatic for emphasis.” She leans in to kiss him on the brow bone. “Goodnight.”
“‘Night, Nat. Bye, everybody.”
The rest of Steve’s friends pile into a cab. As soon as they’re headed down the street, Steve spins to face Bucky. The sidewalk is still littered with concert goers waiting for rides or deciding where to go next, but no one pays them any mind when Steve takes Bucky’s hips and walks him backward into the brick wall of the venue.
“Oof. Steve,” Bucky says with a laugh. “Our ride’s gonna be here any second.”
“Not here yet,” Steve says, leaning in to bury his face in Bucky’s neck. He smells good, like black pepper and sweat. It’s just good manners to taste too. When Steve licks his throat, broad and unsubtle, Bucky gasps and laughs, his hand flying up to grip Steve by the back of the head. He doesn’t say whoa again, though, instead just guides Steve up to look him in the heavy-lidded eye.
This time, when their mouths meet, it’s entirely intentional. Bucky kisses him light at first, like he’s still got ideas about being gentlemanly even when it’s nearly midnight and they’re standing pressed together in the middle of a crowded sidewalk. The moment Steve’s lips open under his, though, they both give up any compunctions about making out in public. Steve pins him to the wall, his knuckles brushing brick, while Bucky sighs into his mouth and fists his hair hard enough to smart. It’s as fast and overheated as their dancing had been—far less inept. Even drunk, Bucky kisses perfect.
A loud wolf whistle shocks them apart, but Bucky doesn’t push him away. His hands knot together at Steve’s back, keeping him close. Steve’s forehead drops to Bucky’s shoulder to catch his breath.
“Think our ride’s here,” Bucky says, his wet lips against the shell of Steve’s ear.
They stay glued to each other’s sides while they tumble into the back of the car. Steve mumbles out a confirmation of his address to the driver, then hauls Bucky across the backseat of the sedan to get him in his lap.
Steve gets in one hard kiss before the blaring horns of Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual” blast through the speakers loud enough to hurt his still-ringing eardrums.
Bucky jerks hard and falls backward into the door. “Oh, my God,” he gaps and slaps his hand over his mouth, trying to stifle a laugh.
Steve stares at him with wide eyes. He can feel the horniness dying as the vocals start. “Was that on purpose?” he whispers.
Bucky shrugs. His shoulders still shake with barely contained mirth.
“Seatbelts on, please,” their driver says cheerfully.
That only sets them both off laughing even harder. Bucky scrambles into his own seat to comply, but he leaves his hand outstretched across the bench, and Steve takes it in his own. As the car starts moving and his head starts spinning, Bucky’s touch helps ground him. He rubs his thumb over the bone of Bucky’s knuckles while New York passes them by outside the windows. Bucky is watching the city, but every so often he turns his head to smile at Steve, warm and crooked.
Steve lays back against the headrest and tries not to think too hard. It’s been so long since he brought someone home like this—what, ten years? Before he met Peggy at least. The two people he’s slept with since the split were proper dates, people he’d seen a few times and decided, while in full control of himself, to fuck. He doesn’t know if he remembers how to do this, exactly.
Bucky is— He’s—
Well, he isn’t a stranger, even if Steve hasn’t seen him in years. A decade ago Steve wouldn’t have blinked twice about crawling all over someone he’d just met two hours before, but he doesn’t really do that anymore. Doesn’t have much desire to, even if his dick might be happy about it. Bringing someone into his home isn’t so easy these days, because it’s not just him.
But Bucky, he’s—
Steve doesn’t get the chance to decide what he is. The car slows to a stop outside his building. For a moment he’s nervous again, wondering if he should apologize and send Bucky home, ask if they can meet next week for coffee or dinner or…
“Steve?” Bucky asks. He squeezes Steve’s hand. “Is this the right place?”
Steve looks at him sitting there, the top buttons of his shirt undone and his grey-blue eyes bright in the dark, and says to himself fuck it.
Out loud he says, “Yeah—let’s go.”
A fire engine wails somewhere nearby as he guides Bucky into the building, onto the elevator, up and up. Heat erupts in Steve’s gut the moment the doors slide shut, burning like some building close by, and this time it’s Bucky who shoves Steve into the wall to get his hands all over him. However sober Steve may have felt in the car, it’s gone the second Bucky’s touching him.
“Hey,” Bucky says, right against Steve’s mouth.
Steve kisses him. “Hi.”
“This your floor?”
Bucky’s laugh is loud as he pulls Steve out of the elevator and pushes him forward, making him lead the way. The lock always sticks, has to be twisted at just the right angle. With Bucky crowded up behind him, hands curled around Steve’s waist, it takes Steve longer than it ought to to get it unlatched. That and his failing coordination. Eventually he puts a shoulder into it and the door pops open, banging hard into the wall of the entryway. When Bucky giggles about it, Steve jabs an elbow into his stomach.
“Shush,” he says. “Get in here.”
Steve closes the door on the hallway—on everything else. The familiarity of home puts in stark relief just how inebriated he’s still feeling. “You want something to drink? A snack? Hell, if you’re really hungry, I’ve probably got some—mmph.”
Bucky’s lips press to his softer this time, then trail sideways over his jaw. “I’m good,” he says, “if you are.”
“Yeah,” Steve breathes. And why bother? They know exactly why they’re here; it’s not for late night pasta. “Okay, bedroom’s that way.”
They tangle together and make for the hallway. It’s sheer dumb luck the way Bucky pulls Steve’s shirt off without getting it caught around his head, how Steve manages to stay upright even with their knees knocking. Bucky’s mouth is hot and open against his, their lips catching and parting and meeting again. Even intoxicated, their bodies just work together.
Bucky has Steve’s fly open when they both stumble over something plastic and noisy in the middle of the floor.
“Shit,” Bucky gasps. He grips Steve’s shoulder hard with his free hand to fight for balance.
“Sorry, sorry, Jesus Christ.”
The toy shouts To infinity, and beyond! before Steve kicks it across the floor and out of the way. It crashes into the wall, emits one pitiful laser bleep, and then goes silent.
“He was supposed to put everything away—”
“Your kid? Harrison?”
“How’s he doing?”
“Actually,” Steve says, “you know, I don’t wanna talk about my son while your hand’s down my pants, thanks.”
Bucky laughs and thumbs at the band of Steve’s underwear. “What, isn’t this how you made him?”
“That’s—nope. No. Terrible.”
Steve gets a handful of Bucky too, and that has Bucky sighing enough to drop the subject. His hands find Bucky’s hips and start guiding him backward, first against his bedroom door and then through it. The full-size bed shakes when he shoves Bucky backward onto it. Instead of following him down, he stands there a while, watching Bucky pant up at him with his eyes blown wide. Like maybe he likes being pushed around.
“You gonna stand there all night?”
“Thinking about it.”
“Mm.” Bucky lost his shirt too, somewhere in the shuffle, and he smooths a palm down his torso. “Guess I’ll try to tempt you.”
But before he gets his hands on his jeans, Steve steps between his knees. “No—here. Let me.”
Steve’s head is feeling less clear by the minute—still drugged up on alcohol, and now Bucky too—but he gets them both naked. When he drops to the bed, Bucky rolls into him and clings, his arms locking them tight. Steve meets him for a kiss that lasts long enough his head starts swimming again, like maybe he’s forgetting to breathe. The room feels hot and close.
“Wha’d’you want?” Bucky says against Steve’s cheek. Somehow he ended up on top of Steve, straddling his hips. His long hair fell out of its bun and swirls all around them, a little curtain, blocking out everything else. Steve keeps his eyes on him—if he closes them his head goddamn somersaults.
“You can have it,” Bucky murmurs, “whatever it is.”
“I want…” Steve’s hands trail down Bucky’s spine, find two handfuls of his full ass. What he really wants—that’s easy—is to spread Bucky open on his cock till they both cry out. Steve palms him, and Bucky shivers, the soft moan sounding like assent. Steve’s only half-hard but it won’t take long, not like this—they’ll just keep kissing hot like this a while—and he’ll—he will—
Steve lets his head fall back into the pillow, which only makes the weird pitching-and-rolling sensation worse. “Jesus.”
“I think I… I had too much to do this.”
Bucky hums softly. His fingers are cool at Steve’s temple. “Hey, that’s okay.”
“I’m sorry, God, you came all the way back here with me and then I…”
“I’m just tired, ‘s’all, it’s not that I don’t wanna, I do. But just ‘cause I can’t get it up—I mean I could still, if you wanted—”
Suddenly Steve is trying to talk between lips pinched together by Bucky’s hand. When Steve stops trying to apologize, Bucky smiles at him, soft in the orange glow from the streetlights. God, Steve can’t believe his dick won’t get it together for this man. The utter betrayal. The treason.
“‘S’okay, Steve. I’m pretty tired too.” Bucky snorts. “Probably wouldn’t have been that good right now anyway.”
Steve scoffs. Highly doubtful.
“Anyway,” Bucky says, and starts to roll off him. “It’s late, so…”
Steve sits up all too quick, setting his head spinning again. “You don’t have to,” he starts. “Leave, I mean.” When Bucky blinks at him, he continues, “It’s late. Just stay, if you want.”
“‘Course.” Steve sucks in a breath and lets it out, trying a smile. “We could try again in the morning, huh?”
Bucky laughs and collapses back onto the bed, muttering something that sounds like horndog even as he burrows under the covers. This mattress really isn’t made to handle two men of their size, but Bucky just grabs Steve’s arms and pulls them around himself, shuffling around until his back is pressed to Steve’s front, their ankles wound together. Neither of them had bothered to put clothes back on. It’s nice, like this—skin to skin. Steve had missed it.
“Probably should’ve let you get up for some aspirin or something first,” Bucky says, a yawn in his voice.
Steve kisses the back of his head. “I’ll be alright. G’night.”
“Mm. Night, Steve.”
They fall asleep in a hazy heap.
At too-early in the morning, Steve wakes up bleary-eyed, his head twinging with the beginnings of a hangover. He has three angry texts from Natasha, which he answers on his way to the bathroom. Not dead. Thanks for last night. Pink heart emoji.
When he shuffles back into the bedroom after grabbing some aspirin and the biggest glass of water he owns, Bucky is blinking up at him from the sheets.
“Good morning,” he says, voice all a rumble.
Steve smiles and crawls back under the sheets. “Go back to sleep.”
The warmth of Bucky’s skin when he snuggles in close works as well as the aspirin. Bucky prods him in the chest. “How you feeling today, huh?”
“Fair to middling.”
Steve holds up his thumb and forefinger an inch apart.
“Hm. How much of last night do you remember?”
“I remember the important parts.”
Bucky snorts a laugh and sinks down onto Steve’s bare chest. “You know,” he says, close to Steve’s ear, “I got a pretty good home remedy for hangovers, if you wanna try it out.”
“Oh yeah? Not some weird homeopathic bullshit, is it?”
Bucky smooths his hand down the plane of Steve’s stomach, lower and lower. “Huh uh. This technique’s patented.”
“Well, I guess I’ll give it a shot.”
Later Steve wouldn’t be able to tell you how much it actually helped, but when Bucky knocks the sheets back and bends over Steve’s hips to get his mouth on him, any worry about his headache disappears.
“So I got kind of a funny story,” Steve tells him over breakfast. Eggs, toast, some sliced fruit—nothing fancy, but Bucky kissed him for making it anyway. Steve needs to head out soon to pick up his kid, but right now he’s got a glow to bask in and someone handsome to share it with.
“Yeah? What’s that?”
“So, I don’t know if you remember this—you probably don’t, it’s been so long, and it’s kind of stupid anyway.”
Bucky flicks a bit of pineapple at Steve across the table. “Just tell me.”
“Like two years ago, we were on the phone for something about soccer practice, and I told you—”
“That you love me.”
Steve nearly drops his fork. Bucky’s grinning wide at him over his coffee mug. “You remember that?” Steve asks.
“Steve, I’ve been telling that story for years.”
“Oh, my God.” Steve sets his chin in his hand, shaking his head. “Me too. There’s this running joke that you caused my divorce—”
“Whoa, holy shit. I didn’t, did I?”
“No, Jesus, of course not. Completely a joke.”
“Well. I mean. Sorry about the marriage, but also…”
Steve laughs. “I’m not sorry. You don’t have to be either, Buck.”
“Great.” Bucky smiles, real and morning-warm. “So you wanna do this again sometime? Like properly. Go to dinner or something.”
“I’d love to. I should—well, warn’s not the right word.” Steve’s fork taps against his plate, thinking. “I don’t really have the bandwidth to date casually right now.”
“Okay,” Bucky says with a shrug and a half-smile.
“I just mean, with Harrison and all—”
“Steve, I get it.” He reaches for Steve across the table and laces their hands together. “And I’m telling you that’s fine. Kinda had a crush on you since that time you chewed out little Benny Taylor’s dad on the sidelines for wearing an ‘All Lives Matter’ shirt.”
“God, it’s just so—that’s not the point of the movement—“
“Steve.” Bucky shakes their joined hands. “I’m on board. Dinner. You and me. When are you free?”
Steve bites his lip and says, “Harrison’s with his mom next weekend.”
“Friday,” Steve agrees.
They’re both out the door in the next ten minutes, after checking they still have each other’s phone numbers and promising to call sometime during the week. Steve kisses him on the curb outside his building, all traces of a hangover cleared away.
He feels fucking great.
An easy, too-fast three months later, and Bucky has melded seamlessly into their lives like he was always there. On his more sentimental mornings, Steve thinks that in a way, he sort of was—both he and Harrison have known him for years. The first time Steve introduced Bucky to his son as his boyfriend, Harrison said, “That’s fine, but I already said I don’t wanna play soccer anymore.”
Once Bucky convinced him this was no long con to get him back on the field, Harrison took to Bucky’s new role in his life better than Steve’s ever witnessed.
Well, as they say: like father, like son.
Bucky is over for movie night—has been over all day, and the night before, and probably won’t go home till tomorrow—when Steve asks him to call his phone. He swore he left it on the coffee table but it’s not there, or in the couch cushions, and he doesn’t really need it because his two favorite people are in the room with him but he wants it just in case—
“Steve, relax, I’ll call it.”
When they don’t hear any vibrating in the living room, Steve wanders into the bedroom, where the comforter is still a mess and Jesus, they really gotta learn to put the lube away with an eight-year-old wandering around who only barely understands the concept of boundaries.
He hears buzzing from the sheets and crawls onto the bed to search. Lo and behold, the accursed device is buried beneath Bucky’s pillow, God knows why. Steve presses the green button.
“Found it, thanks.“
“Don’t hang up,” Bucky says.
“I want to tell you something.”
“Okay,” Steve says slowly. “I mean, I’m walking right back, just tell me when I’m—“
“I love you.”
Steve hears his son’s bright peal of laughter before his brain registers what’s happening. His feet carry him back into the living room, with his phone still pressed tight to his ear. Harrison is peeking over the back of the coach, still giggling, and Bucky—
Bucky’s relaxed against the couch arm, smiling and warm in a long-sleeve shirt emblazoned with the name of Harrison’s elementary school that he’d pulled out of Steve’s dresser this morning. His hair is piled on top of his head, and he looks so proud of himself with his phone still in his hand, Steve’s not sure whether he ought to punch or kiss that look off his face.
“I mean it, though,” Bucky says, his voice doubled in Steve’s ear. “See, unlike you, honey, when I make a declaration over the phone—“
“I love you too, you asshole.”
“Dad, that’s a bad word!”
Steve probably loses his phone again when he dives onto the couch and tackles the both of them. He gets Harrison under one arm and Bucky under the other, smacking kisses left and right onto both of them.
“I love you,” he tells his son, and his next kiss finds Bucky’s cheek, the one after that longer and sweeter on his lips. “And you, too.”
“Sure you’re not just saying it out of habit?” Bucky teases, but Steve just kisses him again, his heart too full to bother being anything but earnest. He doesn’t really mind acting foolish in front of Bucky, these days.
“Plan on making it one,” he says, settling in with the both of them, “if that’s alright with you.”