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1937, Brooklyn, New York

You lost your virginity to a fat stranger, bent over a couch in the filthy backroom of a bar. You’d never been kissed before that, and the man had only offered a few perfunctory busses before flipping you around and yanking your pants down around your boots. Although you’d gone soft the second he’d pressed a dry thumb into you, you’d asked him for this and it was too late to back out of it now. It had become vital to go through with it. A job that needed doing, no matter what.

Your stomach had balked the whole time, and not just because the hard sofa was pressed into it. Heavy breathing, the squelch of Vaseline as the strange man shoved gobs of it up your ass, the shuffle of shoes on a dirt floor— it made you think that if there had been anything in your stomach, you’d throw it up. It didn’t matter either way. You’d been too busy to eat, working on signs for Mr. O’Brien’s grocery. There was nothing inside of you, nothing to throw up at all.

When he started pushing into you— slow, jerky shoves of his cock into your bruised-feeling asshole— you got a little more lightheaded and sick feeling. Every time he thrust into you, your soft dick bounced on top of your sack before jarring into the damask patterned sofa back. Your throat felt tight, like it did when you were small and asthma kept you from playing with all the other kids.

You hadn’t had an attack like that in years, but as he fucked you, you idly imagined it, choking on your own cut-off lungs. Your face would be bright red, a bloated-up balloon on your shoulders. Your asshole would be dirty, stretched-out like an old ragged undershirt, yellow and brown at the underarms, a ruined pucker with filthy sludgy grease trailing out of it as you writhed on the floor, pants around your ankles, struggling to breathe. Your throat would grow tighter and tighter until there was nothing but a scrunched up little windpipe.

In your little daydream, the man would leave you there as you died, disappearing back up into the bar to find someone who wasn’t so weak that a little fucking would kill him. In reality, the man just humped you with all the finesse of an old dog, jerky and rough.

While he came inside of you, you were imagining the police discovering your dead body, your strangled face and the obvious evidence of your perversion. When he came inside of you, it hurt like when Ma had washed out the worst of your cuts with carbolic, and it was worse still when he yanked himself out of your body, phlegmy drools of his spunk dragged out of you to make a mess up and down your ass crack and thighs and the back of your balls.

It continued to burn as he patted you on the flank like a mule. Your arms and stomach were too weak to push yourself upright, so you stayed there panting for a long moment while he zipped himself back up. “Thanks, kid,” the man said as he lumbered away. You were still using the flat of your hand to swipe at the mess oozing out of you.

You ended up wiping your hand off on the dirty couch; it was still sticky and a little crusty, but there wasn’t much for it other than shoving your hands into your pockets and getting out of there. It was only a few moments to go back up the stairs and through the bar, and then you were ducking back out onto the street.

Stopping at an automat for a sandwich from a coin-operated machine, you ate with your clean hand while you walked. A block before your tenement, you puked into a garbage can while the man from the Chinese laundry looked on impassively, sitting in a chair outside his shop doorway.

You shared rooms with a few other guys; they were all out, save for Paul, who never went out and barely spoke with anyone. He didn’t so much as look at you while you gathered up your towel and clothes, but you were careful not to turn your back to him anyway, because your underwear was clinging sloppily between your legs, and you had no idea what sort of state the seat of your trousers might be in.

In the bathroom—empty when you got there, a small mercy—you stripped down. The bathroom was dirty and the shower always smelled faintly of wet wool socks, but the water came in at more than just a trickle. It was enough to help you use a finger to push the mess out of you, a delicate job that left you wincing into the frigid spray.

After you’d cleaned out your ass, you scrubbed down with the plain block of shoddy soap that made you itch. Your skin pebbled up and your teeth clacked the whole time, even after you’d shut off the spray and began to towel off. You rubbed the towel so hard over your skin it began to hurt, but it never seemed to chafe any warmth into your skin.

Mr. McInnis gave you a dirty look when you came out of the bathroom. “It’s about damn time, boy,” he grumbled at you, pushing his way into the bathroom and knocking into your shoulder. You forgot to apologize until after he’d slammed the door behind him, so you just walked back to your room, clutching your stuff in your arms.

It was still only Paul in the flat, so you took the chance to get in bed without having to bother with any conversation.

In the morning, you woke up even earlier than usual and your ass hurt worse than it had last night. When you went to the bathroom, it felt like trying to shit out a rusty bolt. Your eyes watered and you punched yourself in the knee for it. It made you feel better while you sat on the toilet, but your knee and your ass both throbbed when you stood in front of the sink to scrub your hands, your face, your teeth.

You dressed in your nicest suit when you were back in your room, the one you’d used all your savings to buy two weeks ago. You’d had to buy a new one because a sudden and unexpected growth spurt had made your entire wardrobe useless only a few months ago.

You weren’t supposed to eat in the morning before taking Eucharist, so you forewent breakfast, even if it would’ve been easy enough to snag a mouthful of bread.

Following the wave of Irish tumbling down the block towards St. Mary’s, you marched along until you were genuflecting in the aisle and stumbling down the row you’d always sat in with your mother. You struggled to listen to Mass as Father McCarthy worked methodically through the Latin ceremony, but you found yourself rising and falling, responding and praying out of habit, not mindfulness.

When the priest read out the Mass’s intentions— you’d paid for it last week, right after the funeral, when Father McCarthy had been sighing at you— you did not flinch at the way your mother’s name sounded on the man’s lips. Sarah Anne Lynch Rogers, the man in his priestly garments intoned, and you did not cry. Not for her, not for you, and not for the sins you’d committed last night.

 

1941, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

“You, my dear,” the man declared in his swishy, high-pitched voice, beaming at you from across the booth, “are clearly a fine tribute to our dear Uncle Sam. Look at you!”

The man was dressed in a brightly colored shirt, a multitude of colors you’d never put on, yourself. He was handsome in a shiny new penny sort of way, effete and affable, with those feminine mannerisms you never would have pulled off, even when you were still roughly the size of a girl.

“Thanks,” you said. He’d bought you a beer and complimented you, and you felt a faint stirring in your gut just from looking at him. It was far from the first time since you were seventeen that you’d looked at another man and thought that you’d like to try again, but this was the first time you thought you might actually go through with it.

You were bigger now than you had been, too. The growth spurt that had begun when you were seventeen had only just now begun to taper off, and nearly four years in the service had made you stronger than you ever would’ve gotten painting signs and sitting in a factory in Brooklyn. You’d been promoted, you’d been praised. You were Sgt. Steven Grant Rogers of the 27th Infantry of the United States Army, cooling your heels until you were inevitably dragged into the war.

The last four years of being a thirty-year kind of man—a real U.S. Army lifer—had taught you to keep your mother’s death locked so deeply inside of you that you’d have to peel open your dried-out bones to get to it. You didn’t feel fear the same way anymore. Most things didn’t feel the same way anymore, especially not with knowing that war was looming right around some corner or another.

Maybe it was time to try again. It was early enough in the evening that no one else from your company was around, and this man was looking at you like you were the belle of the ball. He wasn’t bad looking himself. He had small, narrow eyes and clean, straight teeth. Yeah, he was good looking, with a lithe frame, a movie starlet’s waves and a mobile mouth.

So you talked with him, and didn’t shy away from his innuendos. Yes, it was gorgeous here in Hawaii, but so terribly hot, so you unbuttoned the top button of your shirt, meeting his eyes all the while. When his leg leaned into yours under the table and he apologized for crowding you, you didn’t shuffle away, but kept your legs pressed together and said you were fine. The army had gotten you used to close quarters.

No, you didn’t have a girlfriend back on the mainland. No fiancée. No wife. “I’m in the army,” you told him. “I’m having the time of my life. What do I need with a girl?” You smiled and he looked at your mouth.

When he asked you if you wanted to try the fancy wine he had at home, you accepted, of course, even if you’d never once cared about a glass of wine in your life.

That night, he took you to his apartment. His bed had to have been made of feathers, because it was the softest thing you’d ever laid on.

You were pleasantly surprised to realize that he wanted you to fuck him. You took your time opening him up—that, at least, you knew how to do, you’d done it to yourself, if infrequently—and then he laid out on his belly and moaned loudly when you pushed inside. It was the tightest fucking thing in the world, and you never wanted it to be over, but you came pretty quickly and jerked him off before you’d even slid out of him.

After that, Hawaii was a fucking paradise to you, the place you learned to fuck and suck cock, and where you refused to bend over for anyone like you had that one time when you were a broken-hearted kid. Your size and military bearing gave you that privilege because nobody that looked at you in uniform ever wanted to argue with you.

You learned that there were a few others like you in the service, and you mastered a sort of discreet regard, an intense form of privacy that meant you never got caught, even if others did. It was nice to feel like you weren’t the only one, even if that just meant you nodded at another drab-clad man across a crowded bar or exchanged a couple of words in the mess.

You got to know a good handful of queer civilians, and they liked you just the same ways you liked them. They’d give you money, sometimes, or gifts, and plenty of them were willing to let you draw them, and your art got good that way. Plenty of them were artists or musicians themselves, and it made you think a little bit of some of the vibrancy you missed from Brooklyn, the sparkling lights and colors and the limitlessness of not being in the service, even though you liked the structure of being in the service more than being without it.

It wasn’t romance. You never fell in love. But there was fondness and there was friendship, and even if you mostly just felt it while you were coming.

Of course, all of that fell apart when the Japanese bombed the harbor, but it was nice while it lasted.

 

1942, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands

“Shhh,” you murmured into Arnie’s ear, squeezing his dick before slowly starting to stroke him off again. His reddish hair was sweaty, damp against your face. “Gotta be quiet.”

He’d already sucked you off and all of you felt lax, softer than your supposed-to-be starched shirts in this humidity. You could take your time with him, nice and easy, because you’d already come and you knew he liked you to take your time.

Arnie had joined the 27th after Pearl Harbor, and you were friends at first because he was quick and smart and loved comics the same way that you did. You both liked art and reading and he didn’t fight you on socialism, even if your reading and fervor sometimes made him roll his eyes. You’d never wanted to fuck another GI before. But the further they shipped you out into the Pacific, the more the rules bent, not just for you, but for the skyrocketing number of guys like you, and Arnie had put his hand on your knee and kissed you, and when he pulled away, he looked scared, his pale green eyes wide and mouth open like he couldn’t believe what he’d just done.

So you kissed him back.

For the first time, with Arnie, fucking felt like it could be making love like the way movies hinted at, with desperate kisses and lingering touches and stormy, quicksilver eyes.

Here and now, jerking him off in the fucking jungle, you licked up the back of Arnie’s neck just because you liked the taste of his sweat and he liked the feel of your tongue, and you smiled when he shuddered against you. You sped up and slowed down, advance and retreat, teasing him as best you knew how.

Arnie’s fingernails dug into your arm, his whole body gasping and shuddering and shaking like he was crying, but you knew he was good. You wished you could fuck him— he’d let you before, and you’d both liked it— but it was usually too much risk, too much work, too much mess. So you were happy with this, glad for even the smallest kisses and the way he sometimes slung an arm around your shoulders in camp. It wasn’t perversion. It was affection. And two big combat guys like you, neither of you fruity-acting in the least? You got away with a lot.

When Arnie came, you covered his mouth with your hand, because you knew he’d get too loud. “That nice?” you asked, still holding him up. He was like dead weight in your arms.

Je-sus,” Arnie said, dragging the word out to two syllables. He still sounded shaky, and you felt smug.

 


 

You and Arnie had a whole slew of hours to yourselves, both of you free for an unimpeded stretch of the same time, a miracle bigger than the entire U.S. Army itself. It was a real Christmas miracle if there ever was one.

There were other guys like you, and you all had places you knew to go that would be safe. The lot of you looked out for each other, and only some of that was because you knew that if one or two of your kind got caught, it could mean some kind of witch hunt, where everybody pointed their fingers because there was nothing else to do before they hanged you.

This time, you were able to take your time and get right into the meat of it, the way the two of you so rarely got a chance to. They gave you proper lube and little rolled up condoms in your kit, and there wasn’t any point in not putting them to use out here where clean up was too much trouble and the lube was bad enough without anybody’s come thrown into the mix.

You two fucked sweet and slow, Arnie on his hands and knees while you knelt up behind him. The both of you gasped and shuddered and whispered back and forth to each other, praise and demands and romantic gibberish. When you couldn’t take it anymore, you reached around and jacked Arnie off until he was coming all over the dried out palm fronds beneath his belly, and then you let yourself come, too, filling up the condom with short, sharp jerks. You settled the two of you on your sides, letting yourself get soft and slide out of him with a sticky-slick squelch of used rubber.

There was water nearby where some of you, your kind, would regularly go swimming, and the two of you yanked your shorts and pants up loosely for the walk over there, neglecting your buttons and just holding them up with sticky dirty hands until you could drop trou at the bank and dive in to clean off.

Afterwards, the two of you laid out half-naked, because it was hot enough here for it to be okay to be caught with your shirt off and belt undone.

Arnie laid out on his back and smoked a cigarette, and you took your sketchbook and pencil out. You still had plenty of time before you had to be back, so you propped yourself up against a tree and drew him, wanting to immortalize the way he looked in that afternoon light. He was lax with sex, sweet with it, the pair of you doped up on what it felt like to make love.

“You think we could both get jobs in Brooklyn, once this whole war with the Japs blows over?” he asked when his cigarette was all but burnt out against his sweaty fingertips. “We both got pretty good ranks. Bet we could make detective easy as pie,” he said. You’d told him you wanted to get out of the service once this war was over, maybe settle for something a little more mundane, like being a cop out in Brooklyn. It was a pretty easy gig to get for an Irish guy with a good service record.

“Bet we could,” you agree amiably, because sure. It sounded good. You sketched in the brush of eyelashes above his cheeks and thought about the way they felt when he pressed against you for a deep kiss.

Arnie pressed his cigarette out against his belt buckle before spitting on the ashes and flicking it out into the open air. It was gone forever before you could even really see it. “You think you’re gonna go steady with Peggy Carter?” he asked. You were startled by how genuinely blithe he was when he asked. He got more het up about what was being served in the mess tent than the thought of you going with someone else.

“The nurse?” you asked. “Why would I do that?”

He shrugged lazily, still sprawled out on his back. “Gotta get married, don’t you? You get married to Nurse Carter, I get hitched to some lady I meet in Brooklyn, we stand up at each other’s weddings, have some kids. Work together. And then…” Arnie trailed off, and what he meant was implied in the silence dangling from his kiss-swollen lips.

You construct a sandcastle life with a sandcastle wife and children you can’t even imagine conceiving, and on your own time, fit in a handful of minutes to fuck the guy that anybody would beat you to death for being with.

But it wasn’t a bad idea. It was as safe an idea as you’d ever heard. You could have children that way, an idle want that you’d always neglected to dwell on. You could have the stability of a wife. You and Arnie would be best pals, maybe work together. You could get most of what you really, really wanted that way.

“Guess that’s not such a bad idea,” you mused. “Guess we gotta hope she’s got a friend for you.”

Arnie’s smile was amused, clearly pleased with the outcome of your conversation.

“Merry fucking Christmas, Arnie,” you said, and you wrote that beneath the sketch, so that you’d always remember that this was the best Christmas you’d had since 1936, when it was you and Ma in a tiny Brooklyn tenement, just before she got sick.

Rolling over onto his elbow, Arnie made eyes at you. “Yeah, Steve, merry fuckin’ Christmas to you, too.”

 


 

Arnie died on Guadalcanal, right next to you, and there was nothing you could do, because his head was knocked off his shoulders quicker than you could blink. It wasn’t that long after Christmas, not that far from Valentine’s day. At least he died quick.

 

1943, New Georgia, Solomon Islands

“Peggy,” you said to the soft skin of her shoulder, all cream and ivory and a delicate little mole close to her neck. You can see where the strap of her brassiere had cut into her skin, leaving it chafed and red. Below that, her breasts dangled down, nipples almost brushing the sheet of the thin little bed you were trying to fuck on. “I—” your voice cracks and you try again. “I don’t think I can…”

She was silent when she rolled out from under you, tugging the sheet up over her body and frowning up at the ceiling with her perfectly rouged lips. When she finally sighed, it didn’t feel like the helpless sort of gusty air drawn out of an emotional woman’s mouth, but rather a decisive crisp little sigh of quietly displeased resignation.

“Well, I wouldn’t feel too badly, darling. I’ve spoken with enough of the other girls and I’ve been told it’s quite normal for it to happen from time to time.” Her voice was such that she always sounded professionally detached; the learned shape of her British accent always threw a kid from Brooklyn for a loop.

“I’m really sorry,” you told the roof and the water stained wood boards. “Guess I just... It’s been real bad, since Arnie died.”

You weren’t lying. Arnie’s death had cut you up real bad. You wanted to tell her what little of the truth you could, because despite the fact that you couldn’t stay hard enough to fuck her, you did like her. After Arnie died, it had become important to fulfill the little plan you’d made on Christmas, so you’d decided to go steady with, and then propose to, the flinty nurse that never took anybody’s shit. For whatever reason, Peggy said yes to you. Probably because you were a good soldier, a good sergeant. The two of you could respect each other.

The both of you had proven yourselves out here. You were both practical people, hardworking. She’d be a good wife, an even better mother. She was smart as hell, and more stubborn than you, even. You found you actually liked talking with her, liked trading barbs and truths and thoughts when you had some time to catch up. And if any woman could become a doctor on sheer force of will alone, it was going to be Peggy. Her family had money, either way, though, and she’d been planning on medical school in Syracuse before the war started. You’d seen her in action, blood up to her elbows and absolutely fearless in the face of things that had scared you shitless. Even if she had to claw her way there, she’d be a doctor.

There was a part of you that thought maybe you could marry her for real. She was a genuine friend, objectively beautiful, even if you didn’t feel it in your guts in exactly the same way Arnie had made you feel. You had figured fucking was fucking, because in Hawaii, you’d fucked men you didn’t exactly like and never had a problem. And out here, everyone said you were a lucky son of a bitch, because she was a hell of a woman. A damn fine woman. Too good for the likes’a you, Rogers.

But it turns out, you couldn’t fuck her at all, and you planned on needing to spend the rest of the war figuring out exactly how you were going to get married to her if you went soft after a few moments of getting inside of her.

Peggy unabashedly slipped out of bed, naked as anything, verifiably pin-up perfect and more, and donned a pretty little slip of a nightgown. She slid back into bed while you tried to hitch your shorts up without losing the sheet. You mostly succeeded.

Your father had survived the Great War only to die in 1921, crushed to death in an iron-working accident when you were barely old enough to breathe on your own, and your ma had never remarried, so you had no idea what a marriage looked like from the inside. But when Peggy laid her head on your shoulder, already working through her plan for your lives, you liked the thought of marriage so much you had to reckon you’d even figure out how to fuck a goat if that was the only way.

You liked the way she scratched at your scalp with her nails (short for work, but carefully maintained), and the way she idly massaged the calloused ridges and bumps of your hands. She would lean into your hands when you petted the great soft, fluffy mass of her glorious dark hair. You found you liked the shapes of her knees, the knobbly bends and dips of bone that seemed suspended lightly by some sinewy magic of female bone structure you’d never considered before.

“You have perfect knees,” you told Peggy, and she laughed, an effervescent sound that was heady and low, but sparkling like tonic. “Let me draw your knees,” you asked her, grinning up from where your big hand engulfed the small joint, all soft skin and softer little baby hairs. “I have to draw them. They’re perfect. The best knees in all the world,” you said.

“Don’t be silly,” she said, pushing at your shoulder with surprisingly strong hands, but you could tell she was pleased as anything, based on the coy tilt of her smile.

This, you liked, you thought, as Peggy talked about medical school in the city. This you could get used to, you decided, as you pet the soft, silky fabric under your fingers where it puddled nicely at the trim little nip of her waist. This was what you would do, you reasoned, because it was right and nice and safe, and you loved her, if not exactly ravishingly so.

You’d be Mr. and Dr. Steven Rogers everywhere that anybody could see you, and when you were somewhere private, with the right type of people… you’d be just Steve.

 

1945, The Philippines

The Philippines were where you got caught. Truthfully, there were a whole handful of you that they’d probably been thinking of cutting loose for a while, especially now that the war was winding down. And so some kid got caught sucking cock, and he named names, and those people pointed their fingers, too, and the next thing you knew, you weren’t a soldier in the United States Army anymore.

You and some others wound up with a blue slip and nothing but a useless dishonorable discharge to show for signing up well before there was even a war. For being there the very second Japan dragged the US into the fucking Pacific. For slogging through Guadalcanal, for watching Arnie and everybody else die.

Aside from painting signs and selling newspapers, the Army was the sum total of every lick of work you’d ever done, and now it was a fucking blight— government proof you were some kind of degenerate.

And Peggy.

You had the chance to see her before you were sent back home because they sent the lot of you to medical for observation, a sort of psychiatric quarantine for homosexuals, like it was smallpox instead of sex.

You hadn’t given Peggy a proper ring because she had a family heirloom she’d wanted to get from her mother instead of any old brass ring a GI could pick up for his sweetheart, so there wasn’t any call to tell her to keep what you hadn’t given her. When she saw you and the others cordoned off in the makeshift hospital, she pulled you aside, where the others—the other queers, the other nurses—would just barely be able to hear the two of you talking.

Her face had been like marble in its immobility and bloodlessness, grimmer than anything you’d seen in a long time. She wasn’t faded, exactly, because that would imply that she had relied on you for any of her color, when the truth was she was just always the steely type. That was exactly what you liked about her, and you liked it about her still.

“That was terribly foolish of you, Steve,” Peggy told you when she saw you. Of course she knew everything before you even opened your mouth. And she wasn’t crying or carrying on, and she wasn’t even really scolding you. It was more dry than all that.

“I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt you, Peggy. I do love you, in my own way.”

Her lips thinned, and she didn’t say anything in response to this.

“Peggy, I wish I could explain,” you began. “It’s—it’s always been like this for me.”

She was quiet still, and there was a masculine twitch at the corner of her square jaw. Peggy was choosing her words carefully.

“You lied to me,” she finally said. “You led me on. And you— while we were engaged, Steve. I don’t know if I can forgive that right now. Although I won’t claim to understand—” she drew in a deep breath, khaki shirt rustling with the force of it, “our differences, being what they are, I can gather that you felt as though you couldn’t tell me, and that you thought you were doing what was best. I think you are a good man, at heart. But that’s not a reason for me to try to put this behind me.”

“There’s things you need to do, and I’d get in the way of that. Trust me, Pegs, I understand. I still want you to become a doctor. I hope you can marry a man that can do right by you.”

She was quiet for a long moment, and uncharacteristically, her fingers knotted together, not wringing them, but pressing them together until the skin went a bit white and red around the edges. “Oh, Steve, darling,” she whispered, so quiet no one but you could hear her, “I wish it were you.”

You sighed, because you had wished for that, too.

 

1945, Brooklyn, New York

New York was terrible and wonderful when you finally got back from the service, getting bounced around from the field hospital to a ward stateside, before they finally processed you out as a queer with a dishonorable discharge, cutting all your job prospects down to about nil.

Compared to the Pacific, New York was overcrowded, loud and brassy for all that the weather was a hell of a lot more mild than the damn jungle islands you’d been stuck on. You got drunk a lot at first, but it was easier not to drink so much once you got hired to move boxes around a warehouse. Nightshift, to begin with, because you lacked recommendations. The only reason you got the job was the foreman remembered your mother from St. Mary’s and didn't bother to ask after your service record.

You worked more, you drank less and less. Once or twice a month you’d go to a queer bar, though you did that less and less, too. You mostly stuck to trading hand jobs, suck jobs in basements and back rooms— something that could be easily stopped and tucked away if the doors got kicked in. You never went anywhere with anyone. You always went home alone.

It was worse than being alone.

 


 

Sam Wilson, you met by accident.

You met him in a queer bar, of course, one of the ones in Manhattan that had a little more class than the places you visited with dwindling regularity in Brooklyn.

There was a frisson of attraction—he was handsome and quick with a smile, with an understated strength under his sport coat—but after a while, it had become so muted that it would’ve been wrong to bring it up after so many months of genuine, uncomplicated friendship. Without the petty strangeness of sex, it was even better than the honest friendship you’d enjoyed with all those men in Hawaii. You’d never simply been friends, good friends, with someone you met in a queer bar before. You were at once grateful and regretful that it wasn’t a romance at all.

He never seemed angry, at first—he was all duck feathers, everything rolling off his back with a gap-toothed smile and a shrug of broad shoulders. He was kind. Thoughtful.

It turned out, he was exactly as angry as you.

 


 

“It’s Riley’s birthday,” Sam announced to the empty rooftop sometime in April. “He’s twenty-eight.”

The both of you had cruised past falling down drunk about half a bottle of whiskey ago, so you were laying down with your jackets wadded under your heads, with only the stars and Sam’s sleeping pigeons for company. He kept them in a well-constructed coop that he’d painted fire-engine red and kept in spotless condition. They still smelled and shit like birds, but Sam loved them like they were children, which you thought was as silly as it was nice.

You took the bottle back. “Who’s Riley?”

The silence was absolute for a good minute or so, except for when you slopped down another mouthful of whiskey and the bottle gurgled. You’d almost forgotten about your question until Sam started talking.

“Riley’s dead. Italy. I watched his plane just…” A long-fingered hand waggled in the air, unconvincingly explosive, careening downwards. You could hear the scream of a dying engine like you were still out there.

Another too-long pause. “He was my husband. Close as we could get, anyway. He’s the only person I’ve ever kissed. I tried, a couple times, since coming back… but. I can’t. Not even you, even if I wanted to, a little bit.” He stopped talking. “I’ve been in love with him since I was twelve years old.”

That was the worst thing Sam ever said to you. Your eyes were bleary and gritty when you looked over at him, but you could tell he was drunk, his cheeks tear-shiny but you didn’t hear him crying at all.

You wondered how many people on Earth knew that Sam and Riley had been like husbands to each other. Probably not that many.

 

1937

 

Chapter Text

Fall 1947, Brooklyn, New York

You felt strangely protective when you first met Bucky. He was so clearly one of the youngest men in the room, still soft about the jaw and a little awkward in his limbs. His uncertainty lived right there on the surface of his pretty body, and god help you, it made you want him more. The urge to pull him onto your lap and stroke his thick hair was unnerving and intense, a dizzying rush of lustful want and affectionate care.

“Do you want to go somewhere more… private?” he asked, and you had to give him credit for not acting scared or brash. He was almost natural.

He looked as young as you had been when you first walked into a bar and asked some man nearly the same question. The kid was undoubtedly prettier than the scrawny, scowling bag of bones you had been ten years ago. No, this kid had the sort of handsome charm that wouldn’t look out of place on the silver screen, or plastered onto posters and hung all over the city. Thick dark brown hair, combed back perfectly in sleek, neat waves. Gorgeous blue eyes and a cleft chin, a soft little mouth. A body that was almost full-grown but still soft with a little baby fat. You could already see how good he’d look in your bed.

You almost never went anywhere with anyone; it was all orgasms spurted in nameless mouths, over hands, in somebody’s ass, or on the floor of the basements and back rooms and bathrooms of bars like this one.

If you told this kid no, he’d just ask somebody else; you could just read the determination in the set of his shoulders and the careful composure of his appearance. He felt the same reckless want that all of you here felt — the same want that ate at you, that made you stupid and susceptible, a coward that lived for his perfunctory, fearful indiscretions.

You could be good to him, you reasoned, better than it had been for you when you were seventeen and curious and burning from the inside out for want of something that you’d always been told was a sin. You wanted him, desperately, in a way that was bone deep, glorious and sweet and raw-knuckled. You wanted him the minute you saw him, and you could have him.

So you let yourself — just this once, you told yourself — have something that felt like falling in love.

 

Bucky, Part I

The blond man, after a long silence, had agreed. “My room is just up the block,” he said, jerking his head at the bar’s door.

“Alright,” Bucky said, and watched as the blond man swallowed the last of his beer, tipping his head back before nudging the empty glass towards the barkeep. His hands were scarred up and roughened, Bucky noticed, with blunt fingernails that were cracked in a few places, flower-like blooms of purple-red bruising under the nail. But he was clean and neat, if not exactly nattily attired, from the carefully ironed but fraying collar of his shirt to the polished but creased leather of his boots.

When the blond man stood, Bucky following to his feet half a beat later, it became suddenly obvious how huge the man was. He’d looked unassuming, hunched over his beer, but now the man stood straight-backed, the breadth of his shoulders and chest widening like he’d unfolded and ironed himself out by getting up off his seat. Bucky barely came up to the hard jut of the man’s shoulder; if he stood on the man’s toes to dance, like small girls had done to him at church dances, he’d be able to press his mouth to the slightly sweaty hollow of the man’s throat.

Bucky followed the man through the dark, cramped space of the bar, his gaze ricocheting surreptitiously from the firm lines of the man’s back where it bulged and moved under his clothes, to the other shadow-and-smoke disguised patrons. He could just see nebulously masculine shapes through the haze: a pair of dark suits wedged close together; a plume of men, ephemeral as smoke, bunched around a far corner of the bartop, hands on necks and waists and fingers linking; a coy curl of smoke rising from a cigarette briefly forgotten for the allure of a quick glance of one man’s daring mouth off another’s.

By the time they reached the door, Bucky felt hot and cold and sick, but giddy and drunk with it, like he could puke all the sickness out and keep on dancing. The blond man waited cautiously at the doorway, peeking out at the dark street before opening it just enough to slip through and leading Bucky out into the street.

The street lamps were dim and the streets were slick with dirt and gritty refuse, and the further they stepped from the bar, the more he felt like maybe this encounter was one of those meandering dreams, where he’d wander around aimlessly until he finally woke up hungry and miserable, feeling like he hadn’t slept a wink.

“I’m Bucky,” he finally offered when they rounded the corner. He didn’t look directly at the man when he spoke, instead squinting up at the tall rise of the building above him, the cornice a menage of art deco affectations. But after he spoke, Bucky glanced carefully at the man, not wanting to not look at him, either.

Jerking his head up, the man looked a little startled, his hands jolting a bit where he’d stuffed them deeply into his pockets. It was almost as though he’d forgotten Bucky were there. “Steve,” he said back.

“You always lived here?” Bucky asked.

Steve looked over at Bucky. “Brooklyn, born and raised,” he said, smiling a little bit at that. And now, his words unswallowed by the din of the bar, it was quite easy to make out the forcefulness of his accent, the strange circular shape of his vowels, to hear with gut-shivering rawness how deep and low the man’s voice was.

Bucky hummed, smiling foolishly and stepping closer— not so close their arms brushed, but close enough that they might, if he and Steve stuck their elbows out at the same time. “Yeah, sure sounds like it...” He was quiet for a moment. “I was born in Indiana, but I’ve been here since I was twelve. Ma went back, but,” he paused, sneaking a glance at Steve and the gleaming damp cityscape, lit up in plumes of erratic light that flared and faded around them as they drifted into towards something more residential. “Brooklyn’s where it feels like I need to be.”

Steve smiled a little more at that, looking less than sober as a judge for the first time all night. “Yeah, no place like home, kid.”

The tenement building they stopped in front of wasn’t the worst Bucky had seen— it was certainly better than the crummy joint he was staying at. But it wasn’t exactly nice, either, with garbage heaped at the mouth of the alleyway, windows streaky and the doorframe hung crooked.

Since Steve had clammed up as soon as they stepped through the threshold, Bucky kept his mouth shut, too, silently following along as Steve took the stairs two at a time. He tried to keep his footsteps even; each lunging step up and up was another opportunity to be discreet. He might be young and brash and a little stupid—he’d propositioned a complete stranger that looked like he ate raw eggs for breakfast and steak for every other meal—but he wasn’t all stupid. He knew they had to be careful.

They peeled off the stairway at the third floor. Steve led him down a hallway to door marked number 39 and let them both in after digging his key out of his pocket. He lit a small lamp, bathing the whole place in sallow light.

It was a tiny place, and it was easy, at a glance, to take in the shape of it: a shallow sink and a tiny, squat stove for a kitchen; a square little table pressed right up against the wall and a single spindly chair; not so much a bedroom as a bed off to one side, tucked under the lone window. It was much like most tenement apartments that way, a whole life crammed into a small room, mundane in all the usual ways of life.

But the details were harder to catalogue. There was a cup of half-drank coffee in a white mug and a dog-eared book to the right of where the chair was pulled up to the table; a few stubby pencils in a jam jar were set atop a pile of blank newsprint. Clothes were folded neatly atop a black steamer trunk at the foot of a brass bed that looked like it had seen better days. There were books—a pulpy splay of comics mixed in with a few fancy cloth-bound books and loose newspapers—stacked under the bed in piles with no discernable shape. The floor was scrubbed wood planks, scarred deeply but clean nonetheless. The bed was made up with a quilt of plain, dark colors; the pillow was thin but looked as though anybody could gladly press their face into it at the end of a long day.

It was plain and old-fashioned, without the clutter of a massive family or half-a-hundred transient roommates. It was boring and endearing all at once, to imagine Steve at that table with his cup of coffee and a book.

“You got a nice place,” Bucky said once Steve had locked the door and shut them both into the room for good. “Nice to have privacy, I bet. I’m sharing rooms with three other guys now.”

Steve pulled out the chair and waved Bucky into it; Bucky sat there while Steve sat down at the side of his bed and tugged loose the thick laces on his boots.

“Used to have roommates, before the war,” Steve said. “I’d stay in a bigger place, pay less in rent.” He dropped one shoe on the floor, then the other, and tucked them neatly under the bed, close to the trunk. “I like this better,” Steve finally said, glancing at the blank walls like they might offer some confirmation, as well.

Bucky took a moment to slip off his shoes as well, tugging them off his feet carelessly enough that he dragged his socks off too. He left them flopping over the tongues, and wiggled his bare toes cheerfully against the tidy floor. “And your place is a hell of a lot cleaner with just you, Jesus, look at that. Could eat offa this floor.”

Steve’s laugh was quiet, but Bucky heard it all the same, and preened a bit. Sitting across the narrow room from him, Bucky could see the way Steve’s eyes crinkled slightly, faint wrinkles around the pale blue and slight grooves at the corners of his pink mouth. He had a good face, Bucky mused, same as he had thought when he first saw Steve across the bar. It was a good face not just for the symmetry of features and graceful arrangement; it was also the seriousness of his expression, the way the harsh lines of his expression could unexpectedly yield to some softness or another.

It was that thought that pushed him up and out of his seat, walking across the room in a few light steps. Steve’s knees were spread and Bucky’s slim legs fit in the space between them easily enough; the insides of Steve’s large thighs brushed the outside of Bucky’s legs, the skin-warmed wool of their trousers catching faintly.

Bucky put his right hand on the side of Steve’s face, pressing lightly with his fingertips, testing the jut of thick bone and the give of smooth skin and the prickle of a day’s worth of faint blond stubble. Steve’s breathing came in quick, even puffs against Bucky’s thumb at the corner of his slightly parted mouth, and his blue eyes were liquid when he tipped his head back to meet Bucky’s gaze. Steve remained passive, his massive hands resting on his thighs, as Bucky traced his fingers over the shape of his face, from temple to chin; nose to cheek; the corner of an eye to the shell of an ear.

He wanted to say something to Steve, to the man looking up at him in perfect silence, but he found that he didn’t have a collection of words waiting at the tip of his tongue like he usually did.

Instead, he put both of his hands on the man’s broad shoulders for balance, and bent down to kiss him.

The kiss was stunningly chaste: they barely parted their lips and their bodies were separated by several inches. Bucky could feel Steve’s hands hovering before finally closing lightly on his waist, like Bucky was a schoolgirl at a church-sponsored dance, and the man’s hands were huge and warm where they rested, twin loaves of bread fresh from the oven.

For several long, molasses slow-sweet moments, they kissed in gentle tandem, making Bucky’s pulse go airy and light. He was light-headed by the time Steve laid a palm between Bucky’s shoulders and ran his tongue over Bucky’s lips, a tender entreaty for more, and he squeezed Steve’s shoulders and opened his mouth in reply.

Steve’s kisses grew wetter, hungrier as they went on. Bucky could feel tension in the hand and arm pressed to his back, the hand clutching more firmly at his hip.

“Here,” he said, breathlessly, pulling his head back and shuffling awkwardly around Steve’s legs. Steve’s eyes were dark, the blue like midnight in summer, and Bucky couldn’t look away when he climbed into Steve’s waiting lap. He hovered, uncertain, perched on his knees spread around Steve’s narrow hips, unable to let himself just drop onto the waiting surface of those muscular thighs. Burning hands were perched at his hips now— balancing, not tugging or directing— and Bucky took a deep breath, cupping Steve’s face between his palms. This time, the large man’s breath was more ragged, damp, his gaze sharper on Bucky’s face. His face was still kind: no greedy twist on his lips, or impatient look in his eyes.

Bucky’s face was still above Steve’s this way, and so he leaned down for another kiss, less restrained. When Steve licked into his mouth, Bucky carefully lowered his ass until he was sat in the berth of Steve’s lap, and Steve’s hands— slowly, like a man touching a beloved wife’s finest silk gown— slid down his hips to the very backs of his thighs, gently urging Bucky closer, closer, ’til they were pressed together, chest to chest, Bucky’s arms wrapped around Steve’s broad shoulders.

Beneath him, he could feel where Steve had started to get hard, the involuntary throb of it nudging, gently, at the underside of Bucky’s sac and the insides of his thighs. Bucky was hard too. Surely Steve could feel him, rubbing and pressing into his belly, even through Bucky’s thin wool trousers and Steve’s cotton shirt.

He broke the kiss on a sigh, and Bucky had to stop himself from pressing his fingertips to where his mouth felt swollen and wet. Instead of looking Steve in the face, he split his gaze between Steve’s throat and the way his chest and shoulders moved with each breath. Bucky bit his lip, considering.

Bucky’s hands found the open collar of Steve’s shirt easily enough, but his fingers were slow and stiff working the buttons loose, and it took him a long time before he could tug the separate tails from the waistband of Steve’s pants, rucking up his undershirt as he pulled.

Steve was mostly passive as Bucky worked; he was silent save for the sound of his deep, steady breathing and he followed Bucky’s lead as Bucky tugged at his clothes. He let Bucky work his shirt down off his shoulders and throw it away; he lifted his arms obligingly when Bucky pulled his undershirt up and over his belly and off.

There was crisp blond hair on Steve’s chest and a line of it down his belly and further, where his pants were fastened. His small nipples were pale pink, soft looking, and he was even stronger and bigger than he had looked when he’d first stood over Bucky in the bar. Even sitting, Bucky could see the ridges of muscles in Steve’s belly, the magnificent sculpture of his arms. Despite his obvious strength, Steve wasn’t like a sideshow strongman, all bulge and veins, but something leaner and more carefully rendered. His musculature was in balance with his classically beautiful features, dressed with just a little softness— little rolls on his belly and the soft milky white of the insides of his upper arms.

It made Bucky wonder if he would look like that in a few years. He’d always been strong, first from hard work on the farm, and now from boxing and working in the copper mill. He knew he still sometimes looked younger than he felt, from the baby fat at his jaw to the way he still felt ungainly and imbalanced, not yet filled out. But he was growing older, his body shifting in ways that pleased him. Maybe, someday, he could look a little like this man.

Tentatively, he ran both hands down over Steve’s ribs to the slight fleshiness of his belly; under his fingers, the muscles twitched and sharpened briefly before relaxing again when Bucky’s hands stilled.

It was a strange and heady combination: envy and desire, wanting to be like Steve but also desperately, desperately wanting Steve’s warm body above his, hard and heavy and gorgeous and warm.

His fingers plucked at the button at Steve’s waistband, pinching the fold of cloth, and he looked up at Steve from under his lashes, scrounging up whatever was left of his courage. Despite being fully dressed still, Bucky felt unfairly naked. “Can I?”

Steve’s hand cupped his jaw and tilted Bucky’s face until their eyes met more fully. The grip was light and dry, but he could feel the brush of calluses on his skin.

“Here,” Steve said. His blue eyes were calm and steady, and Bucky could breathe a little easier, looking at him. “Let’s get undressed and get into bed.” He pressed a last, swift kiss to Bucky’s mouth and shifted them both upright with an ease that made Bucky’s breath catch.

With a few inches between them, it was easy to look away and undo the top few buttons of his shirt before yanking the thing over his head along with his undershirt, chucking them both on top of the lone chair. When he turned back, Steve was just in his plain white shorts, folding his trousers and placing them neatly atop the trunk. The hair on his legs was darker than the honey-blond hair on his chest, and again, Bucky felt a stab of lust-tinged jealousy at the sight of him, larger than life and perfectly assembled.

Steve wasn’t even looking at him: he was half turned towards the bed and the trunk, neatly folding up the shirts Bucky had carelessly tossed a few moments ago.

Taking a deep breath, Bucky thumbed loose his button fly, holding his pants limply at his hips for a long moment, his fingers unable to let go of the waistband even as the fly flapped open over his shorts. Then he released the breath and eased his pants down, stepping out of them and rolling them up into a half-folded pile and placing them alongside his shirts and abandoned shoes.

Without a lick of shame or concern, Steve pushed his shorts over his hips and down his legs. He still wasn’t really looking at Bucky, but Bucky was looking at him: the mostly soft heft of his cock, his balls where they hung heavily between his legs, and the springy, curly hair at his groin.

Steve peeled the bedclothes back, pulling the quilt to the foot of the bed. While Steve was completely turned away, Bucky turned his back too, facing the kitchen table and dropping his shorts with the rest of his stuff.

Jesus fuck, what was he doing.

Warm fingers found the small of his back, a brief touch that sent a jolt through his spine. “Let me turn the lights out. You can get in bed.” Steve’s voice was warm and low against his ear.

As Bucky sat down at the edge of the bed, he turned his head towards Steve with enough time to catch a glimpse of the man as the light flickered out. A skewed halo of bronze light fell over Steve’s bare shoulder and down his back for a gleaming moment before abruptly winking out, giving him just a fleeting glimpse of thick muscle under tanned skin. The image of it lingered in Bucky’s sight for a long moment, and then there was the dim, shadowy shape of Steve in front of him, and Bucky had to blink, tipping his head back, back, to try to meet his eyes as best they could in the dark.

A hand on his shoulder eased him back and he followed blindly, lightly swinging his feet up on the bed. It faintly squeaked, and he froze, but then there was a knee pressing into the bedding at his side, an elbow planted next to his shoulder… a hand skimming up his side, hip to ribs…

A thigh, all smooth skin and rough hair, pressed against his; the bed creaked again. His breath caught in his throat, and then Steve’s chest was pressing into his, more warmth melting into his skin.

Something brushed the side of his face, featherlight— the back of Steve’s hand, perhaps?— and then Steve’s face was above his, sharply carved grey marble, statue-like save for the faint brush of his warm breath between their mouths. Bucky had a moment of just this— the heat of the huge body along his side, and pressing into his chest, air thick and syrupy between them— and then Steve lowered his head, gently, slowly, until there was no space at all between their mouths.

This kiss was like the ones earlier, sweet and soft and slow, but it was also more. There was a firm hand carding through his hair, a thigh shifting against his before smoothly slotting between his knees and drawing slightly upwards.

Bucky felt torn by handfuls of disparate impulses: to leave, because this was frightening and wrong; to yank Steve closer and kiss him harder; to lie there passively and wait for whatever was coming; to do something, anything, to ease the trembling of his hands.

In the end, he went with the most straightforward of all the strange pullings in his belly, letting his hands slip up Steve’s back, roaming over the symmetrical, shifting halves of him, split down the middle by the thick, dotted line of his spine. And from there he followed the next impulse, pressing in with his fingertips, pulling Steve closer and deeper into their kiss.

Steve didn’t rest his full weight on Bucky, for which he was grateful, but he was still a reassuring pressure that kept Bucky’s thoughts and body from splintering in a thousand different directions. The kiss made him feel heady and hungry, like the final mouthful of sweet wine that buzzed through his blood, but Steve’s body was like a hot brick, keeping him heavy and warm and loose, pinned down.

The kiss grew by increments. It was like the way a morning could slip from cool to hot without much notice, until all your bare parts were tender and pink from the sun. Steve’s hand gripped the back of his neck, thumb rubbing into the short hair as he kept them locked together. Bucky opened his mouth wider, let his tongue move more hungrily against Steve’s when it pressed into his mouth; he followed where Steve leaned and arched into even the softest of touches until he was panting.

Bucky couldn’t help the soft sound he made into Steve’s mouth when Steve began to rut against him, shifting his hips until his thick shaft was rubbing along Bucky’s dick. What would it look like, he wondered, the two of them, fucking up against each other like this? It was too dark to see all that, though, even if he could look outside his own body to watch himself as he lay open and hungry for it from underneath this massive blond stranger; instead, he let his hands fall further down Steve’s back to the barest swell of his ass, and measured for himself the motion of Steve’s hips as he thrust in a steady tattoo.

When it was too sloppy, too hard to breathe through their kisses, Steve’s face fell against Bucky’s shoulder with a low, muffled groan. His lips moved against Bucky’s ear as he spoke, quiet and urgent. The barest flicker of tongue lapped at his earlobe. “Oh, honey, you’ve got such a sweet mouth.” Steve licked up the side of his neck like he was licking up melting ice cream, even though Bucky knew he was damp with sweat there. “What do you want?”

Pressing his burning face to the side of Steve’s neck, he faltered a bit, hips stuttering as he rutted lazily against Steve’ hard stomach. His arms twisted up until they were locked around Steve’s neck; he could feel himself try to shrink into Steve’s arms. “I— I never…” his voice was muffled as he spoke into Steve’s skin.

Fuck. He hadn’t meant to say that.

Steve didn’t roll off of him, exactly, but he stopped their lazy rutting, pushing his shoulders back until his face hung a few inches above from Bucky’s. Since they’d crawled into bed, his eyes had adjusted to the dark, and he could clearly see the outline of Steve’s face: stern jaw, parted lips, straight nose, dark brow. He was beautiful, and Bucky dug his fingers into Steve’s shoulders to keep him from pulling away farther. Steve didn’t even flinch.

One of Steve’s huge hands smoothed the fall of Bucky’s hair away from his brow; he was careful and gentle, and Bucky leaned greedily into the touch.

“You’ve never?”

Steve didn’t sound angry, like Bucky had feared he might. Instead, he sounded exactly as steady as he had all night, since Bucky first saw him in the bar as the good-faced man and asked him to go somewhere more private. His neutrality calmed the dissonant buzzing in Bucky’s ears and stomach, but it also made Bucky feel an acute awareness of his own smallness, his own inexperience, stupidly in possession of a second virginity he wasn’t exactly sure about.

Bucky let his eyes fall to Steve’s throat; it was too dark to really see his eyes, save for the faint glitter of them. “Used to jerk off with a friend from school, been all the way with a girl a few times but…” he trailed off, rubbing his jaw briefly, self-consciously, into his own shoulder. He sucked in a breath, and he could smell Steve’s sheets, their faintly masculine tang and plain, soapy neatness. He set his jaw and met Steve’s eye. “I went to that place looking because I had to know what it was like, to really go with a guy. And when I saw you sitting there, I wanted it to be you like I never wanted anything else before.”

There was a brief moment where Bucky was forced to breathe in the quiet that his own words left behind. Both he and Steve were a little soft now, but it was still wonderful, to have their bodies pressed up against each other. Broad fingers found the cleft of his chin; Steve’s thumb pressed into the dimple there, forefinger hooked underneath, and Bucky followed where Steve tilted his head.

“How old are you, honey?”

“Nineteen,” Bucky fibbed immediately.

Steve remained quiet for a heart-rattling moment, but tilted Bucky’s chin up further, a weird parody of defiance enacted by the person he was lying to.

“How old are you really?”

Bucky set his jaw for a long moment before answering, and jerked away from Steve’s grip. “Seventeen. Eighteen in March.”

“Christ,” Steve murmured. “You’re so young.” There was a wistfulness to the man’s deep voice, almost like he was sad about something, though Bucky didn’t think there was much to be sad about here.

“Look,” Bucky said. “I want it to be you. I walked into that place, and picked you.

Steve’s answering breath was too quiet, too small to be a proper sigh, but Bucky felt it like that all the same. But Steve’s large hand was back in his hair, slow and steady, the pads of his fingers rubbing whorls into Bucky’s scalp.

“You said you’ve been with girls,” Steve said, slowly. He lowered his blond head, his hair brushing Bucky’s jaw, his chin. His breath was warm on Bucky’s neck; then his mouth was open and warm against the hollow of Bucky’s throat, lips dragging provocatively, tongue skimming briefly before Steve pulled away. “Was that a lie, too?”

“No, I’ve been with a couple,” Bucky whispered, tilting his head back, eyes slitted. And it wasn’t a lie: he’d done it with girls a handful of times, had enjoyed it the same way he always enjoyed getting off, the same way he enjoyed jerking off with Toro, kissing when they got close to coming and their hands knotted between them.

Steve hummed his acknowledgement into Bucky’s throat. The man licked his neck again; and they were both getting hard again, their dicks fattening up when Bucky arched purposefully. “So you picked me, hoping I’d be kind to you?” Steve asked.

Bucky put his hands on either side of Steve’s face, pulling him forward and lifting his own head off the pillow. “You have a good face,” he mumbled, just before fitting his mouth to Steve’s and kissing him for all he was worth. His breath jerked, and he moaned when Steve pressed back into the kiss, licking into Bucky’s open mouth.

This kiss marked a shift, some fundamental unraveling around the polite distance with which Steve handled Bucky. He was still gentle, carding his fingers through Bucky’s hair, but he pulled the ends, too, directing Bucky’s pliant neck so it arched up for the wet suction of Steve’s mouth. His grip was no longer church-dance soft on Bucky’s side, instead squeezing into the muscle and fat, keeping Bucky in place under his body. When Steve’s mouth found his again, his kisses were hungry, starving, like he couldn’t resist kissing a little more deeply, more wetly, more fiercely.

Steve’s hand snuck between their bodies, first gripping, tightly, the head of Bucky’s dick, sending a lick of flame down his shaft, and then his hand moved, and Bucky felt Steve’s thick cock pressed up against his, both of them squeezed into the vise grip of Steve’s hot, dry fist. But Steve didn’t move his hand to stroke, merely circled his calloused thumb over their foreskins, rubbing both of them at the same time until Bucky was shuddering at the way both of their wet had slicked Steve’s thumb.

“Is that good, honey?” Steve murmured into Bucky’s temple. His voice was low, quiet.

The words had Bucky sucking in a deep mouthful of air and wiggling closer to Steve. His mouth felt dry, so he just nodded.

The motion of Steve’s thumb over his foreskin turned more deliberate, brushing over the sensitive tip where it was just peeking out from the folds of skin. “Here,” Steve said suddenly, drawing his hand away and shifting to root around under the bed, resting his weight on Bucky’s chest for a long, gorgeous moment before he returned upright with a narrow, medicinal looking tube in hand.

Slick, he realized. Proper stuff. Bucky had only ever used spit, save for a few indulgent occasions when he’d used Vaseline.

Bucky watched as Steve squeezed a large dollop of the stuff onto his fingers, the tube recapped and lost to the folds of the rucked up bedsheets as Steve lowered himself back down.

It was cold at first, and it took a few awkward strokes to coat both their cocks, but when Steve took them both back in his big hand, Bucky had to bite back a groan at the hot, wet sensation of fucking into Steve’s fist as their cocks slid together. It was better than spit, better than the fragrant wet between a girl’s thighs. All of him was summertime hot, melting under Steve, held in thrall by the slow, steady motion of his tight fist.

He ran idle hands up Steve’s back; thick slabs of muscle shifted and shivered under his touch as he ran curious fingertips down the groove of his spine.

Bucky had only gone this far with Toro a handful of times; they mostly kept their hands on their own cocks and skirted kissing only a handful of times, usually when they’d nicked a drink or two from their parents. With Toro, the both of them had been slightly awkward in their own skin, confused and quick to come, but shy to lock eyes when they had their hands down their pants.

What Steve was doing to him already felt different— an already ambiguous somehow-more, an open ended question that left him aching for wherever Steve might lead him next. They were anchored only by the way they were so lover-like, the faint fondness and hesitation that mingled with their every light touch.

Bucky had heard talk, of course; he knew how to be quiet and discreet and listen in when men of a certain type talked or disappeared into certain bars. Once or twice, he’d even been brave enough to ask a few roundabout questions of those men in crowded, sweaty dance halls, but had always excused himself if an invitation or insinuation was directed his way.

“Are you going to— will you—?” Bucky broke off.

Steve’s mouth hovered over Bucky’s ear; his quick breathing was broken by a strained laugh. “I won’t fuck you tonight,” he said, pulling back to look Bucky in the face.

“Why not?” Bucky asked, nonplussed. He’d wanted to be done with it and know.

“Christ, honey,” Steve said, still stroking their cocks together, slower than before. “You ever finger yourself?”

Bucky thought about it, trying to ascertain the correct answer without showing his hand too early. “No?” he replied, tentative. “I mean, I’ve touched it a little. But you know what you’re doing, right? Isn’t that the point?”

Steve’s hand slid up, palm twisting mercilessly sweet over the head of Bucky’s cock, making him bite back a pleased grunt, before letting go completely. And then, lightning quick, Steve’s grease-slick hand was between his thighs, slipping neatly under his balls to press lightly at his ass with two wet fingertips. The palm of Steve's broad hand, the square fleshy swell above where wrist met hand pressed neat and snug against the underside of Bucky's sac, cradling.

“I might be able to,” Steve said, fingers stroking lightly in lazy circles. It was a strange sensation, Bucky realized, having another man pet lightly at that tightly closed part of him. And the strangeness was neither simply good nor bad, but something undefined and buzzing, a word on the tip of his tongue he just couldn’t recall. “But you probably won’t like it,” Steve finally said, still stroking. “It’d hurt. And maybe not even that so much, it’d feel damn awful. Don’t know how to tell you about it exactly, Buck, but it’s not always nice at first. Takes a while to get used to.”

Bucky must’ve made some sort of a face at Steve’s words, because the man’s mouth curled up crookedly. “I was seventeen once, too, honey.”

“Wouldn’t it be better to just get it over with, then?” He flashed his most winning smile.

“No,” Steve said, gracelessly nonchalant. Steve’s fingers were sliding freely, now, gliding over a silky curtain of wet, pressing at the skin behind his balls, running over the tender insides of his splayed thighs, even tracing up past his hole to stroke a long line down the cleft of his ass. “But I could compromise.”

Bucky held his breath while Steve’s wet fingers stilled and pulled away, gripping the inside of Bucky’s thigh. Thick fingers left cool, tacky smears as Steve moved further down the bed, settling between Bucky’s knees, forcing them further apart around the width of his shoulders.

Then the fingers slipped back over his hole, resuming their careful stroking. In the dark gloom, Steve’s face was serious as it had been all night; the darker line of his brow was evident over the sharp, flat line of his mouth. But then Steve hummed a low, tuneless noise for a brief moment, and while Bucky watched, he ducked his head, pressing his face to the jut of Bucky’s hip bone. All of Bucky’s muscles contracted at the sensation, the slightest brush of stubble, a glance of his eyelashes and brow; and then, lips at the crease of his thigh and the curly hair that grew there.

“Breathe,” Steve said, a quiet murmur that was nearly washed out by the throbbing in Bucky’s ears.

And then Steve’s tongue, flat and wet, pressed itself against the head of Bucky’s cock, then further down, rubbing, teasing— a tease to mimic the fingers playing between his thighs.

It wasn’t the first time someone had used their mouth on him like that, but it felt like it, sprawled naked on Steve’s sheets and breathing heavy. It was strangely personal, more like the sweeter times he’d shared with Toro than the stilted, awkward moments he’d spent with Anna or Francesa, who he’d known only for a little while, all told, and had needed to be gently coaxed into just a few moments’ worth of half-hearted cocksucking.

Unable to stop himself, he reached a hand out, running it lightly over cornsilk hair as Steve sucked the head of Bucky’s cock into his warm mouth.

Bucky’s jaw felt tight from holding in the words and sounds he wanted to make.

He didn’t realize at first, that Steve’s fingers were moving more firmly, the circles in tighter, more careful arcs around his hole, but then the tip of one finger was easing into him in a gentle ripple of pressure and pleasure. Instinct had him clenching down, throat stopped up tight around how badly he wanted to make a noise, any noise, to acknowledge the way Steve was playing havoc on his body.

Steve’s finger stayed still even as he just barely pulled his mouth off of Bucky’s cock. “I told you to breathe. Don’t get stiff,” he mumbled, pink lips rasping over Bucky’s wet shaft.

Bucky released a long, slow exhale, letting his fingers uncurl when he realized they were clenched tightly in the fine strands of Steve’s hair. He relaxed as best he could, loosening his shoulders like before a fight in the ring; unclenching his belly and thighs and trying desperately to reclaim the elusive, involuntary softness he’d felt beneath Steve’s slicked up fingers.

“That’s good, honey,” Steve praised, lapping at the head of Bucky’s cock before speaking again. “Don’t tighten up on me.”

And then Steve’s mouth was sucking him back in, this time deeper and wetter and messier, and Bucky was forced to close his eyes, unable to watch the faint gleam of Steve’s hair as he bobbed up and down. As he breathed, he could feel the straining of his own muscles lessen, the unclenching that started in his belly, and went lower, to the tight hole beneath Steve’s patient fingers and the long muscles in his thighs that quivered around Steve’s shoulders. The fingertip eased in slowly, barely doing much more than pressing into him, but it was good Steve was moving so slowly. Bucky couldn’t decide how to hold himself and the tight muscles inside of him seemed unconnected to his whims: he wasn’t clamped up quite as vise-like as before, but he still wanted his body to relax more, to simply yield around Steve’s wide fingers, same as a girl. It was all he could do to breathe, to keep his body from pushing Steve away, like it was struggling to do.

Wet lips mouthed at the head of his cock again, the rest of him sloppy-wet and cold where the air curled around his length. “Try to focus on my mouth, honey,” Steve murmured before diving back down, swallowing Bucky until that mouth was snug around the base of his cock. Everything was wet and tight, and Bucky could hear it, hear the wet, sucking sound of his dick working in and out of that hot mouth. It was everything he could do to lay still and take it without fucking up into Steve’s mouth.

It wasn’t a perfect distraction, but it worked well enough; he relaxed by increments, letting in Steve’s finger with increasingly deeper but gentle-soft nudges that nevertheless stung.

When he felt the curled knuckles of Steve’s hand bump against his ass, it took him a moment to realize a single finger had been pressed all the way inside, and he opened his eyes to see Steve looking up at him. It was too dark to know for sure, but Steve looked flushed, too.

“Another?” Buck asked, feeling a little dizzy but so hungry at the prospect.

Steve hummed around his dick, a noise of assent, and began thrusting that single finger in and out of him slowly. The wet drag, coupled with the vibrations, made Bucky whine a little in the back of his throat. It was a strange sensation: a pushing and pulling that seemed to wind his body up, the same throat-climbing squeeze of rattling up to the highest drop of a roller coaster.

Bucky had to ease himself down all over again: he was brainless and hyper-aware all at once, he hadn’t a single coherent thought in his brain, but he was somehow tuned into the count of his breath and the throb of his beating heart all at once, the sweat on his back— but he couldn’t figure out how to keep his hands from shaking in the knots he’d made of Steve’s hair.

There was a certain mindlessness to fucking a girl or just jerking off. This wasn’t the same as that, and Bucky felt too hot and cold to figure out if that was a blessing or a curse.

Steve’s mouth sucked around his length harder, pulling him in deeper and faster, and Bucky felt suddenly like he could come like this, with Steve’s mouth on his cock and Steve’s big finger pressing into the tight squeeze of his ass. And once he realized it, he couldn’t stop thinking about it. With his eyes shut, it was easy to imagine Steve’s hard mouth and the way it could look, gone all soft and tight around Bucky’s cock, wet with spit and full of Bucky’s come. And then it was the thought of Steve’s fingers inside of him, too, that he couldn’t stop imagining. Steve was going to press another one of those thick, strong fingers inside of him, and then maybe Steve would fuck him with his cock, all shiny and wet with lube, and Bucky would be loose and pretty beneath him, and Steve would come, too, thick, hot gobs of it, and Bucky wanted it so bad he could die of it.

Bucky felt another finger pressing at his hole, almost sliding in alongside the other. He felt beautifully tense, the arc of an outstretched arm just before the fist collided with a sandbag. When both fingers began to press in, it was slow, careful, like Steve could sense the biting pressure Bucky felt as his body stretched twice as much.

It felt like it could almost hurt, if Steve pressed in harder or faster, or if Steve even just barely moved at all. Every motion of Steve’s fingers had to be done by the barest, softest measure. But Bucky breathed deeply, trying to smooth the hitch in his lungs and the way his body wanted to seize up. Breathe, Steve had said, and Bucky did, thinking of his cock in Steve’s mouth, sucked in snug and tight. He thought of the play of Steve’s tongue and the spit and slick that coated his shaft and trickled over his balls, the slick between his thighs and in his ass.

Steve’s two fingers were barely halfway into him, still hugged too tightly by that tense circle of muscle, when Bucky came, too wound up to do more than tug weakly at fistfuls of Steve’s soft hair. It was absolute rapture, a tightness and sudden release that shuddered through him and wracked his whole body, but it was strange too, like Steve’s fingers were too solid inside of him as his hole clenched up. Steve’s hand was mercifully still even as his mouth coaxed Bucky through the last of it. He didn’t sputter, just swallowed neatly, once, twice, before gently pulling his mouth away, lips suckling one last time at the sensitive head of Bucky’s cock.

He let go of Steve’s hair as he panted, opening his eyes to look at Steve as he breathed heavily between Bucky’s legs. Steve had one hand hand between his legs and Bucky, over the sea swells in his ears, could hear the slick sound of Steve fucking his fist.

Steve’s other hand was still at Bucky’s ass, fingers motionless. He pulled them loose, wiping his fingers on the inside of Bucky’s thigh. It was an uncomfortable sensation, his hole feeling not exactly stretched, but still awash with the hot and cold of the earlier friction but somehow less pleasurable.

“Lay on your side,” Steve commanded, his voice low and gravelly and most direct he’d been all night. He loomed over Bucky as he scrambled to comply, feeling jerky and loose-jointed.

Bucky managed to unhook his legs from around Steve’s hips, and he shifted into position, resting his head on the pillow. “Like this?” he asked.

But Steve was already settling behind him, mouthing at the back of his neck and hooking one massive arm around Bucky’s waist to tug him closer. Steve was still slowly fisting his cock with his other hand, slick knuckles grazing Bucky’s asscheeks with each long stroke.

The arm moved from around his waist, the mouth away from his neck, and Bucky heard Steve spit before he felt Steve’s hand between his legs, rubbing more wet at the fleshiest, softest part of Bucky’s thighs, right below his ass.

“Oh, honey,” Steve said, thrusting his dick in the wet between Bucky’s thighs, “Tighten up for me, that’s it.” Steve’s arms wrapped tight around his chest, one sloppy, wet hand coming up to cup Bucky’s jaw and turn his face up to Steve’s.

The angle of their kiss was awkward, slightly painful, and Bucky’s whole body was arched to keep the tension thrumming through his legs. He couldn’t stop kissing Steve, who engulfed him completely, rendering him tiny and sweet and wanted.

Steve’s cock felt huge as it fucked the wet, narrow hollow Bucky’s thighs made for him: Steve’s thighs and hips and balls rubbed sweetly up against Bucky’s ass and legs; the blunt head of Steve’s cock pressed again and again into Bucky’s spent, swollen sac; the thick shaft rubbed along the sensitive skin of his perineum, still awash with the pleasure of coming.

Their kiss devolved into nothing but shared breath, mouths loosely pressed, Steve’s low, rough grunts muffled into Bucky’s lips. Steve was thrusting harder now, but grinding in deeply so their thighs didn’t slap together with each new thrust.

“You feel so good,” Steve panted against his mouth, sounding strained. “Christ, so good.”

Bucky wasn’t hard, but he wanted to be after hearing that. Steve’s earlier solemnity seemed washed away, leaving a man that seemed larger and dangerous, like the huge, blond stranger that had loomed over him in the bar. “Want you to fuck me,” Bucky whispered back. He lifted a hand and wrapped it around where Steve was clutching hard at his jaw. “Want it to be you.”

Steve groaned at that, a low, loud sound that melted Bucky’s bones. Strong thighs jerked behind him, hips stuttering, and then Bucky felt Steve’s release, hot come sliding all over his thighs, dripping into his crack and coating the back of his balls.

Bucky whimpered, unable to choke back the noise.

They panted together for a long time, Bucky only partially aware of the uncomfortable pulling on his twisted neck and the too-hard way Steve held onto his jaw. Steve’s chest heaved behind him, and Bucky melted back against him, their skin sticky and sweaty and too hot for it, but he couldn’t make himself roll away.

“Fuck,” Steve said succinctly, finally letting go of Bucky’s jaw.

Bucky straightened his neck out, feeling a little tender. “Yeah,” he agreed, breathlessly.

They slowly untangled their bodies, limb by limb. “Stay put,” Steve said as he rolled carefully out of the bed. “Let me get you something to clean up.”

Bucky complied, listening to Steve rummage quietly around behind him, There was a cabinet being opened, a rush of running water and the splash of it falling in the basin. A cloth being wrung out. Steve’s footsteps were creaking back over those clean floorboards, and then there was the squeal of the bed as it dipped under Steve again.

A damp, soap-sweet hand touched his jaw and Bucky twisted his neck all over again for Steve to wipe a wet flannel across his chin, where Steve’s huge, slick fingers had held him immobile. The cloth was soft and smelled of plain soap; Steve was gentle as he cleaned, but Bucky could still feel the indent of Steve’s strong grip on his face. Steve’s face was too shadowed to see, but he could feel Steve’s gaze on him, solemn all over again.

After he cleaned Bucky’s face, the cloth moved between Bucky’s thighs, scrubbing firm and gentle over the mess of come and slick, and that was somehow stranger than the sweet way Steve had washed his face. It was too much, and Bucky was glad for the dark just as much as he was glad for the tender yet practical way Steve cleaned him up.

Bucky rolled over after Steve had finished cleaning up, but couldn’t make his mouth work to say anything— not thanks, not coy praise, nor angling for more. He watched in silence as Steve went back to the sink, running more water to rinse off the filthy rag.

When Steve finished cleaning off the rag, he didn’t turn around, but just stood at the sink. There was thin, watery moonlight coming in through the window, and it lit up the broad, muscular expanse of Steve’s back in a streaky swath of grey. Bucky saw that Steve had his elbows bent, hands pressed to his face. The shoulders rose and fell with each long, slow breath.

Holding his breath, Bucky rolled out of bed and shuffled across the floor to stand at Steve’s side. Steve had surely heard him—Bucky wasn’t trying to sneak up on him—but Steve still stood still, breathing slow and deep and even, the heels of his square hands pressing into the sockets of his eyes.

Bucky reached out with one tentative hand and touched Steve’s elbow. “Do you want me to go?” he asked. He didn’t want to, but Steve seemed even more solemn and impassive than he’d been earlier, and Bucky felt, for the first time, that perhaps he wasn’t exactly wanted here.

But Steve pulled his hands from his eyes, dropping him palms to his side and relaxing the unnaturally tense line of his huge shoulders, reshaping himself slightly before Bucky’s eyes, more resembling the man slumped over his beer in the far corner of the bar. His face was soft when he turned to face Bucky. “No, stay tonight,” he said. There was a brief moment’s hesitation where nothing was said, and then, almost as an afterthought, Steve’s hand came up to card gently through Bucky’s hair, pushing the errant, sweaty curls away from his forehead before dropping a kiss there.

They dressed in silence, both of them slipping back into the undershirts and shorts they’d shed; the quiet was much less electric this time around, and they quickly turned back to each other.

Steve had also tugged his pants back on. “Here, put your trousers back on, I’ll walk you to the toilet.”

So Bucky did, and followed Steve out into the quiet hall. They took turns in the bathroom and walked back to Steve’s rooms, arms brushing tentatively.

After Steve locked them back in his room and they dropped their trousers all over again, he lumbered toward where Bucky stood awkwardly at the edge of the bed feeling newly exhausted by the events of the night. Unexpectedly, Steve moved directly into him, wrapping his arms around Bucky and slinging him playfully into the bed before following him right down into the sweaty, rucked up sheets. Bucky laughed into Steve's neck and didn't untangle his legs where they were caught between Steve's heavy calves. Bucky fell back against the pillow when Steve reached down to snag the blankets where they were hooked over the footboard. The quilt was tugged right up to their chins, and Bucky smiled into a fold of cloth that fell over his mouth.

Steve's mouth was loose and warm and wet on his cheek. “Good night, honey,” he whispered, tugging Bucky a little closer.

“Night, Steve,” Bucky whispered back.

The next morning was a Sunday, and Steve woke him up early with a plate of fried eggs and a couple of thick slices of toast.

“I’ve got to make mass at Saint Mary’s soon,” Steve said, naming the big Irish church a few streets over with all the stained glass. “Otherwise I would’ve let you sleep.”

While Bucky ate, bleary-eyed and trousers yet unfastened, Steve scrubbed up the dishes and dried them with rags before putting everything right away. In no time at all, Steve had his tie drawn up tight around his neck while Bucky was still fumbling with his own buttons and trying to smooth his hair into something slightly neat.

Just before Steve unlocked the door and ushered him out, Bucky put his hand on Steve’s bigger hand, squeezing.

“Hey, am I gonna see you again?” Bucky asked.

Steve’s face was impassive, save for the considering tilt to his jaw, but he met Bucky’s gaze evenly. After a brief moment, he lifted the hand Bucky had grabbed and Bucky’s hand fell away. Steve just put his hand to Bucky’s chin and lifted Bucky’s face for a chaste kiss. “You know where I live, honey,” he said.

It wasn’t exactly an invitation, but it wasn’t exactly a rejection either. Something hot and anxious coiled up tightly in Bucky’s guts, an awareness that maybe he hadn’t exactly impressed Steve, but he wasn’t out of chances, either. Just as quickly as he’d felt that bone deep worry, it was replaced with a sense of determination. He could work with you know where I live.

Steve had dropped his hand, but Bucky jerked up to his tiptoes for one more lightning-quick kiss to Steve’s clean-shaven jaw. “Thanks, Steve,” he replied when he rocked back on his heels, feeling sheepish and shy and small, but pleased at the faint curl of a smile on Steve’s blunt mouth.

They walked down the stairs the same they’d come up, skipping down them quickly and quietly, no conversation between them, but this time, Steve skipped ahead a few paces and they didn’t look at each other, especially when they passed other people. Steve’s legs were long, and he quickly outpaced Bucky.

When Bucky trotted out of the tenement doorway and out to the sidewalk, he saw Steve standing to the side, hat pulled on over his shiny blond hair; Steve discreetly caught his elbow, and leaned close to whisper into his ear as he brushed past. “You’re a real sweet kid, Buck. Be careful.”

Steve disappeared into a crowd of people headed towards Saint Mary’s, and Bucky trotted off the other way, finger-combing his hair as he went, already halfway to convinced he’d be skipping mass at Saint Michael’s.

 


 

Tuesday night, after his shift at the gym, Bucky ended back up outside of Steve’s apartment. He held his breath while he knocked, and sucked in air only when Steve opened up his door.

“Buck,” Steve greeted, raising one eyebrow. He was wearing a thin, white undershirt with sleeves that hung to just above his elbows. There was a new scab approximately the size of a thumb on Steve’s right forearm, just below the elbow. Steve’s wool trousers limply draped over the shockingly white tops of his bare feet.

Bucky grinned, helpless to stop it. “Hiya, Steve. Fancy seein’ you here.”

Steve smiled at that, at least, swinging the door open and stepping aside to let Bucky in. There were a few lamps lit up, and Bucky could see that Steve had been sitting at his table: there was a half-finished plate of flat-iron steak and smashed potatoes, a finger’s worth of amber liquor in a small glass. A pulpy magazine was spread open next to Steve’s plate, no pictures, just line after line of smeared text.

Steve locked back up and crossed the room to stand between his squat stovetop and one-person table, next to Bucky. He took Bucky’s jacket and hung it from the same hook where a plain brown jacket already hung, and Bucky yanked off his boots standing up, so he could be barefoot, too. “You eat yet?” Steve asked.

The answer was no— Bucky had come right after boxing and sweeping up around the gym and wiping down the mats and bags— but he didn’t rightly yet know what he was after, so he fumbled for an answer but never said anything after opening his mouth.

Steve pushed him into the single chair, sweeping the magazine out of the way. “Here,” he said, dragging the plate to rest exactly in front of Bucky. Steve’s other big hand cupped the back of Bucky’s neck. “Finish this up while I do the dishes.”

“Isn’t this your dinner?” Bucky asked. Steve’s calloused thumb rubbed a circle on Bucky’s neck.

“I ate enough,” Steve said, dropping his warm hand.

The floorboards creaked, and Bucky began to tuck in, hungrier than he’d care to admit. The food was plain but filling, suitable bachelor fare and certainly better than what he’d get at an automat with his meager collection of pennies. He wolfed the meal down to the restless slop of dirty dishes through sudsy water behind him, and washed it all down with the last mouthful of Steve’s serviceable whiskey.

Steve had just finished tucking away a small, beat up pot when Bucky stood and walked the scraped-clean dish over to the sink.

“I can do it,” Bucky said when Steve moved to take the plate and silverware from Bucky’s hands.

Steve raised an eyebrow but let Bucky proceed; he kept close to Bucky’s side as he scrubbed a soapy cloth over the face of the plate, swirled it over the bottom of the glass, through the tines of the fork, and over the slight serrations on the knife blade. He took special care with Steve’s belongings, thoroughly cleaning each item before rinsing it and handing it off to Steve to be dried and hidden away.

There was no mantlepiece or clock hung on the wall, but Steve did wear a watch. Once they’d finished with the dishes, Bucky turned to Steve and asked for the time.

“Nearly seven,” Steve answered.

Bucky thought about the fact that he had to be to work for the first shift at seven, that he had to scrape together a little coal and rent money, that he still had to write his mother a letter this week.

“Can I stay here tonight? Promise I’ll be out of your hair early, I’ve got to be to work by seven.”

Steve nodded. “Sure, honey,” he agreed. “You don’t go to school?”

Bucky shrugged. “Finished last year. Not going to college. I work down at Canton Copper for now. And at Goldie’s Gym, cleaning up so I can box for free.” He shifted closer to Steve as he talked, not bothering to be coy about it but breaking his orbit so he could press into Steve’s side. He toyed with a button on Steve’s throat, the way he would fuss with a girl’s belt or the lace on her neckline. “When do you have to be to work?”

A warm hand settled on Bucky’s back, just above the waist of his jeans. “Seven, too.” Steve’s nose brushed along Bucky’s temple.

Bucky tipped his chin up, letting his mouth linger a hairsbreadth from Steve’s downturned lips. “Take me to bed?”

Steve rumbled, an affectionate but low sound that vibrated between their mouths; when they kissed, Bucky felt it under his skin as well.

Their kiss stuttered briefly— a gasp and a hitch in his lungs— when Steve shifted him, pulling them chest to chest and thigh to thigh. Bucky felt like he was sagging, but Steve held him up anyway, an arm banded across his waist and a hand on the back of his neck. It should’ve felt harsh, like rebar digging into his back and a choking grip at the base of his skull, but it wasn’t. It was too sweet for that.

Plucking weakly at Steve’s shirt, Bucky managed to eventually tug it loose enough to get his hands pressed to the bare skin of Steve’s back. There was a part of him that thought about yanking the shirt up and off, but he merely flattened his hands to sleek lines of Steve’s back, enjoying the warm skin, the heavy muscle knitted to strong bones, all of him linked in some gentle but immutable symphony of motion.

“C’mere, Buck,” Steve mumbled, herding him gently towards the bed in shuffling steps where they were toe to toe, forehead to forehead the whole time.

Their fall into bed was careful; Steve supported him with one hand on the way down and settled them both on their sides, sharing the pillow between them and curling into each other’s bodies. Their clothes whispered when they brushed together, their mouths were sticky wet, and their breathing was heavy, humid and whiskey sweet-sour.

Steve was hard against Bucky’s thigh, and Bucky was hard, too, but they didn’t really rock their bodies so much as simply press into each other as much as they could with their arms now tight around each other’s necks and Steve’s knee nudging its way between Bucky’s pliant thighs.

The warmth of Steve’s mouth eventually trailed down to his neck, but the kisses were more wet and loose than demanding and bruising. There would be no marks from these kisses, no rashy redness, but Bucky knew he’d feel it all later, even without the proof pin-pricked into his skin.

“Think you’ll fuck me this time?” Bucky eventually asked, more breathless than he’d thought he’d be as he spoke into Steve’s hair.

The answering laughter was huffed out into his collarbone, a warm puff of happy air. “Oh, honey, not tonight.”

“Soon?” Bucky asked.

Steve peered up at him with amused eyes. “If that's what you want, honey.”

“Can I— can I try sucking you off, then?” was his next question, and Steve’s hands tightened where they rested on Bucky’s back.

“Christ,” Steve said.

It was apparently a yes, though, because Steve didn’t stop him when Bucky’s hands worked at his belt and his pants; he lifted his hips when Bucky shoved his pants and shorts down to his knees. Bucky shoved Steve’s shirt up, too, letting it get curled up like a rug under Steve’s armpits.

They still lay on their side when Bucky worked himself down to the middle of the bed, his face level with Steve’s dick where it was starting to plump up, already half-hard. He hadn’t gotten a good look at it the other night, but now, with the lamps still lit and laying with his ear to the bed at Steve’s hip, he was getting an eyeful. He liked the way everything was, from the hard muscles of Steve’s belly to the thick, corded strength of Steve’s thighs and the soft shape of Steve’s balls and the hard jut of Steve’s dick. He liked the dark, curling hair that was only a little lighter than his own, and he liked the way that Steve’s dick looked, heavy and thick and flushed pink, darker at the crown.

After a moment, Bucky leaned in slowly, because even if he had an idea of what to do, his bravado didn’t extend to attempting to fake any technique he’d felt first hand. First he just licked a little bit at it, and it tasted fine enough, slightly bitter and sour but nothing he hadn’t expected. He was a little surprised when he sucked in a mouthful and found his lips dragging a little dryly over the shaft— he’d have thought everything would be wetter.

But he quickly figured out to let everything get messy and wet without feeling a bit of shame for the way spit trailed down his chin; he learned to be careful to direct Steve’s dick down the center of his tongue, away from his teeth; and it was surprisingly easy, after that, to fall into the routine of it, the uncomplicated act of sucking and bobbing his head, gradually trying to take in more as time wore on, syrupy sweet and slow.

Bucky knew from what he’d felt from when Steve had done this to him, and Bucky knew he wasn’t giving it to Steve nearly half so good, but Steve seemed content enough to let Bucky suck long and slow along his length. Big, warm palms cradled the sides of Bucky’s face, fingers combing into his hair and rubbing at the tops of his ears, all slow and tender everywhere they were touching. And Steve didn’t talk so much as just sigh sweetly when Bucky sucked him in deeper or rubbed his tongue over the plush head of Steve’s cock where it had peeked out from his foreskin, but Bucky felt his approval all the same. It was easy to get lost, to savor the growing ache in his jaw and the friction on his lips, to creep forward until he was as close to Steve as possible.

Bucky wound up with one arm tucked beneath himself, palm balanced on Steve’s narrow hip; his uppermost arm was slung around Steve’s thigh just above the knees, and he clutched at the back of Steve’s leg, coarse hair tickling and muscles flexing under his fingers. One of Steve’s legs was pressed to his groin and he rutted his fat cock against the firm muscle, letting himself enjoy the slow, easy drag of it.

Eventually, Steve hands tugged lightly at the hair on the back of Bucky’s head, and Bucky followed, not letting Steve’s cock fall out of his mouth. He looked up from where his lips were pursed around the swollen head, feeling hazy and achy and that body-sweeping chill of almost shivering.

“Oh, honey, fuck,” Steve groaned. “Your mouth’s so sweet.”

Steve looked a little desperate, Bucky realized. His eyes were a little glassy and very dark, his pink mouth flushed and wet. It was like Steve was just as hungry as he was, and with that came a little thrill of power.

Bucky ducked back down again, emboldened enough to try taking Steve’s cock in his mouth a little faster, a little deeper. Even with his eyes squeezed shut, he could still see the way Steve had looked at him with naked want, feel the heat of his gaze on his face.

One of Steve’s hands found Bucky’s right arm where it was slung over Steve’s legs, and dragged his hand to grip around the base of Steve’s cock. Steve groaned low and gravelly when Bucky curled his hand up into a firm fist and began stroking in time with the suction of his hungry mouth. Under his hand, Steve’s cock was slick with spit, and the sound of Bucky sucking Steve off was loud and ravenous: the hungry slurp of Bucky’s mouth, the raspy-wet sound of Bucky’s fist around Steve’s cock, the harshness of his own smothered breathing and the way Steve grunted with want above his head. Had this always been so loud?

It wasn’t long before Steve’s hands curled up tight in his hair, directing Bucky’s mouth a little more firmly than before. He choked a little, mouth messy and wet where he kept sucking up and down the length of Steve’s thick cock, but swallowed as best he could and kept his hand moving in quick, even strokes. His eyes had gotten watery, and when he blinked, wet caught in his lashes.

“That’s it, honey, oh,” Steve said, voice gone quiet and raspy. “Jus’ a little more, that’s it, Buck.”

The words went straight through Bucky, a hot stab of desperate want he felt throbbing in his own dick, hard and caught against the rough fabric of his shorts and trousers.

Steve groaned, a long, deep shuddering sound, and Buck felt him yanking at the back of his head, but Bucky kept his mouth wrapped around the head of Steve’s cock as it jerked, letting the spurts of hot come slide over his tongue, thicker than he’d expected it to feel rolling around in his mouth. Swallowing wasn’t as easy he’d thought it might be: it was slippery and bitter and there was so much of it and he grimaced a bit as it went down. Steve’s cock slipped from between his pursed lips, softer now as it flopped onto his thigh, and Bucky swallowed another couple of times.

Even the strange, choking awkwardness of it didn’t calm that buzz Bucky felt. He could feel Steve panting, his thighs shaking, his big rough hands pawing gracelessly through Bucky’s hair. “Oh, honey,” Steve said, and Bucky leaned his head back to see Steve staring down at him, face red but lax in the aftermath of his orgasm, hair in blond disarray on his sweaty brow. Bucky felt a shock of warmth at the sight of Steve like that, so openly pleasured and at ease.

“Get up here,” Steve commanded. He was slightly out of breath, but Bucky complied all the same, half-dragged up the length of Steve’s warm body by the hands pulling him up by the arms.

Steve rolled over him, half-laying on top of Bucky and working Bucky’s pants open with one hand; together, they shoved his pants and shorts down to his knees and hiked his shirt up over his belly. With wide eyes, he watched Steve bring a hand to his mouth and spit, and then that large hand was wrapped around Bucky’s dick, wet and slick. The motion of Steve’s hand was rough and steady— not too fast, but merciless, dizzying. He dug his hands into the bed, fisting a handful of quilt. After ignoring his own want for so long, the intensity of Steve’s hand made him shake a little, the stimulation making him feel a sudden wild desperation.

He couldn’t look away from Steve’s face, from the pink tongue that licked a swipe over his lower lip, from the clench of his strong jaw, from the darkened, hooded blue eyes.

Bucky could already feel himself growing tense, a wire stretched taut, ready to come. He curled in on himself, reaching out with one arm to draw himself upright and latched onto Steve’s shoulders, trying to get as close as possible, curving inward towards the solid line of Steve’s long body. Whining quiet and low in his throat, he kissed a ragged, wet line up Steve’s neck and over his jaw until he could find Steve’s mouth.

Steve’s kiss was wet and filthy, ravenous and sloppy. Bucky had never felt his desperation so keenly matched before, both of them breathing hard through the harsh press of their lips. Their skin was sweaty and sticky where their bodies touched, burning hot.

When Bucky came, it was with a sharp, punched out grunt, lips slack against Steve’s as his whole body jerked in white, wracking pleasure. When the tremors had slowed, he looked down, panting as he studied the place where their messy bellies and thighs were stuck together. Come slipped over Steve’s slowly pumping hand as he coaxed the last shivers of pleasure from Bucky’s worn-out body, and a few strands slowly dripped and pooled on Bucky’s belly and the curly hair at the base of his spent cock. Steve’s cock had gone soft, but Bucky still loved the look of it where it rested limply against his sac, still a little flushed and sticky with spit and come.

A final overstimulated jolt of pleasure shuddered through him, and Steve dropped his hand, messy palm up, on Bucky’s thigh.

When Bucky flicked his eyes back up to Steve, the man was staring at him intently. His face was serious again, but the skin around his eyes and mouth was still soft, not drawn tight and tense. Steve leaned in for another kiss, slow and easy, letting their noses brush before fitting their mouths together in a chaste kiss.

“That felt good,” Bucky whispered, when Steve drew away. It was an inadequate word, and Bucky felt bashful and stupid even uttering out loud, but he did it anyway.

Steve smiled a little at that, a slight curve on his narrow mouth as he ducked his head to brush his lips over Bucky’s in soft almost-kiss. “That mouth of yours is real sweet, honey. Thank you.”

Bucky followed Steve as he rolled out of bed, and they kicked their pants off in messy heaps on the floor before scrubbing off at the sink with their shirts awkwardly tucked up under their elbows and chins. Steve’s blue eyes crinkled in delight when Bucky looked at him cross-eyed and tongue hanging out, shamelessly wiping spunk out of his belly button. After Steve washed his hands, he rubbed them through Bucky’s hair, laughing quietly at the mess he made of Bucky’s waves. Bucky could feel it sticking up on his head in cowlicky spikes, and he grinned, too.

They shucked their shirts next, tossing them over to where their pants and shorts had been abandoned, and then stood naked at the sink while they brushed their teeth. Steve went first, and Bucky stood behind him, wrapping his arms around Steve’s waist and pressing his face to the broad slab of Steve’s back, listening to his heartbeat. Then Steve handed him the wet toothbrush, already dotted with paste, and traded places. Steve hooked one arm around Bucky’s waist, and with the other, smoothed Bucky’s hair back away from his face, fingers warm and gentle on Bucky’s scalp.

Steve donned some night clothes hanging at the foot of the bed and dug another set out of the trunk for Bucky. He inhaled deeply when he tugged the cotton shirt on over his head; it smelled faintly of Steve, warm and soapy.

They took turns ducking out to use the cramped hall bathroom, and when Bucky came back, Steve was sitting up against the headboard, magazine in hand, lamps still burning. “I usually read in the evenings,” Steve said, lifting the dull pages of his magazine slightly. “Radio broke,” he explained. “There’s books under the bed if you’d like to read, as well.”

He got down on his knees and dug around in the piles of books and magazines. The magazines appeared to mostly be pro-union rags, more serious than the usual stuff he saw around the break room, and the books were of all sorts, histories and biographies and picture books full of art. That didn’t surprise him half so much as the stash of colorful pulp magazines neatly arranged to one side.

“Found the comics, I see,” Steve said as Bucky crawled over his legs to wedge himself between Steve and the wall. “There should be some Escapist in there. The good ones, from before the war.”

Bucky brandished a somewhat battered looking issue of the Escapist, wriggling slightly as he settled on his front halfway the bed. Steve was still looking at him when he propped himself up on his elbows and smoothed the comic out on Steve’s belly.

“All settled?” Steve asked, smiling.

In lieu of an answer, Bucky smiled back, and then pressed a kiss to Steve’s hip, the cotton of his pants warm under Bucky’s mouth. Then he flicked open to the first page, and began to read, the comic rising and falling with Steve’s breaths.

 


 

On Wednesday, they woke up and made Steve’s bed up neatly before heading off to work; Bucky worked his eight hours at the mill before a hasty meal at an automat and spent the rest of the night at Goldie’s, going a handful of rounds with a kid about his size before cleaning and locking up for the day. By the time he got home, he was rank with sweat and exhausted, so he stripped down to his shorts and slept like the dead.

On Thursday, he woke up hard and still half-dreaming about what it had felt like to suck Steve off, the lazy, slow way he’d worked Steve’s cock deeper and deeper into his mouth until there was nothing to do but let Steve fuck shallowly into his mouth and hand until he’d come. He crept out of bed early, well before anyone else was up, and took a long shower. As he rinsed the soap out of his hair, he played with himself a little, jerking his fist over the head of his dick and tugging gently at his balls, working himself back up to the superfine sugar rush he’d felt in Steve’s bed, granules of pleasure swimming so gauzily in his bloodstream that he’d been drunk on it.

He swallowed hard at the remembered feeling of Steve working thick fingers inside of him, wet with slick. Takes a while to get used to, Steve had told him. Bucky didn’t have any slick like that—like condoms, slick had to be asked for at the druggist’s counter—but still he dragged his hand off his cock and reached behind himself, slowly dragging two fingers downwards to the tight pucker of his hole, feeling how small and tense it was, even relaxed as he was, even under the warm spray. The water didn’t help any, didn’t ease the drag of his fingertips over his body and he hesitated slightly, blinking the wet out of his lashes as he thought about how slippery Steve’s fingers had been as he worked them into Bucky’s tight body. He wanted that again, wanted to get more used to it so Steve would press more of himself inside the next time.

Bucky’s eyes fell on his plain bar of white soap and he took it in both hands, rubbing suds onto his fingers, turning himself so his ass and hands were out of the spray. When his fingers were slick with soap, he reached back again, stroking lightly over the wrinkled skin there. It wasn’t as nice as the lube Steve had, and the angle was awkward, forcing him to arch his back, but it was better than nothing, and he carefully pressed his forefinger inside, moving slowly.

The tightness of his own body was a shock: the way a girl’s body opened was different, soft like the gentle curves of their bodies. His hole was a muscular clutch around his finger, electric with a buzz of hot sensation, and he pressed in harder, deeper. If he squeezed his eyes shut, he could almost imagine it was Steve behind him, Steve’s thick fingers breaching him. He rinsed his fingers and slicked up with more soap a couple of times, noticing the way the soap clung to the inside of him as he worked his finger in and out of his body. Water streaked down his face, and he used his left arm to brace himself against the wall of the shower when he began to work in a second finger.

It did sting a little, and he’d gone mostly soft between the spread of his thighs, but he still felt that honey-sweet warmth of arousal simmering low in his belly. He concentrated on the heat wrapped snug around his two fingertips—it was too difficult an angle to manage anything more than shallow thrusts—and thought about Steve. Steve, with his broad chest plastered to Bucky’s water-slick back, opening Bucky’s body up for his cock, all while murmuring his sweet, filthy praise into Bucky’s ear. He could practically hear the rumble of Steve’s low voice in his ear, calling him honey, saying all the sweet things Bucky wanted to hear: Oh, honey, that’s it. So good for me, Buck. Let me fuck you, honey.

He had to choke back a moan, and he realized that he was hard again from the easy thrust of those two fingers in and out of his loosened hole and his fantasy of Steve. He felt a dizzying rush at that, and he suddenly wished Steve’s fingers were inside of him so he could just jerk himself off until he came like that, spread open for Steve to take his own pleasure.

Reluctantly, Bucky pulled his fingers out, savoring the last clutching drag of it before just pressing his fingers to the slightly loosened opening. Restlessly, he shifted himself so his back was braced against the wall instead of his forearm, and he used his now-free hand to grip his cock, carefully rubbing at the foreskin for a few moments before simply giving into the swelling wave of want that loomed over him and began stroking himself, quick and hard. He kept those two fingers pressed just inside his hole as he stroked himself faster and faster.

When he came, it washed over the whole of him: he could feel it in the tightness of his thighs, the strain of his arms, the bolt of heat in his groin. But he was so acutely aware of those fingers pressed to his hole, the reflexive flutter of that ever-so-slightly stretched muscle, and that feeling washed over him too, a new sweetness to the pleasure of orgasm.

He stood under the spray for a few moments longer, letting it wash away the stickiness of his come and the slick traces of soap between his cheeks and feeling very pleased with himself.

The rest of his day was split between counting each tick of the clock and daydreaming about seeing Steve again. Bucky hadn’t asked if he could come back again, but it had felt implied that they’d meet soon, what with Steve’s promise to eventually fuck him, and the hungry way Steve had kissed him goodbye in the morning, pressing Bucky flat into his door, hands wandering restlessly over Bucky’s pliant form. By the time Steve had dragged himself away, they were both breathing heavily, and Steve’s darkened eyes had been fixated on Bucky’s wet and swollen mouth. It had been hell, dragging himself out of Steve’s apartment after that.

Bucky thought about Steve all day at work. After quitting time, he scrubbed up in the small bathroom at work, washing his face and his arms up to the elbow and running a comb through his hair. He studied his reflection in the cloudy mirror, eyes narrowed as he studied the flush on his cheeks, the slicked back waves of his hair. Even in his rumpled work clothes, he looked good. Bucky had always been aware of his easy charm and good looks—only for the first time, he felt like he was truly capitalizing on them, chasing after Steve the way he was.

On the walk to Steve’s rooms, Bucky puzzled distractedly over the differences in chasing after a girl and chasing after a man. In some ways, it was pretty much the same, pursuit eliciting a bubble of cheerfulness no matter what. But it was also so unlike being with a girl that he could barely imagine all the differences. The sex for one—not just the mechanics of it, but the directness of two men getting hard and worked up and coming together without any of the confusing titillation of feminine mysteries. It was also easier, in a way, to spend time with Steve, like when they had lain in bed and read comics until their eyes were tired and they’d gone to sleep, Steve curled protectively around Bucky’s back. But there was also the fear and secrecy fed into chasing after a man, the gut-churningly unpleasant consequence of the choice he’d made by even going to that queer bar in the first place.

There was a formula to chasing after a girl, but Bucky hadn’t yet stumbled on the formula for courting a man. Was it even really courting if it was two men? It was a confusing, circular wonder: Bucky seemed to be pursuing Steve, and yet it was impossible to ignore that Steve was older, clearly more experienced, taking the reins whenever they met, the same way Bucky would lead a girl about on a date.

By the time Bucky made it to Steve’s tenement building, he hadn’t come to any significant conclusions. When he got to the door of Steve’s apartment, he decided to set all of that from his mind, so he took a deep breath and knocked.

No one answered.

He waited a few moments, and knocked again. Bucky held his breath, trying to calm the writhing in his belly, but still, nobody answered. There wasn’t a soul in the hallway, so he gave into his nosy impulses, first pressing his ear to the door—he heard nothing—and then trying the knob. The door was locked up tight.

His walk home dragged considerably, and when Bucky finally lugged his heavy body through the door to his flat, his roommates were all in, jammed into the chairs around their cramped kitchen table. Vinny was fiddling with the radio, and Tommy and Christopher had their heads bent over one of the cheap magazines splashed with pictures of actors and actresses, listening to Vinny’s continuous stream of idle chatter.

“Look what the cat dragged in,” Vinny announced, loud and brash, in typical Brooklyn Italian fashion. “What happened to you, Buck-o? Awful long face you got there, pal.”

“Aw, shuddup,” Bucky answered without heat, sinking into the open seat next to Vinny. “What’s for dinner?”

Tommy and Christopher looked up, twin looks of glee on their near identical faces. “Vinny’s ma gave him fried meatballs,” Tommy said, which perked Bucky right up.

“Hey,” protested Vinny. “Who the hell said I was sharing with all you freeloaders?”

But in the end, Vinny surrendered his meatballs to the table and they cobbled together a meal, everybody laying something out. Bucky had a massive loaf of fresh bread and a jar of sweet orange marmalade; Tommy and Christopher fried up a mess of potatoes and onions in Irish butter from Mrs. Reilley. They heaped food up on their dingy, second hand plates, the pattern scrubbed clear away in some places, and settled back around their tiny table. Their elbows brushed as they ate, and they didn’t talk much after they dug in, which turned out to be just fine, because the scrape of cutlery over their plates was already nearly enough to drown out the program they were listening to.

 


 

After quitting time on Friday, Bucky went home and scrubbed up, eager to wash away the grease and stink of spending most of his day trying to repair one of the older rolling machines. He felt sore from being crouched down and curled up like a pill bug, trying to get at some of the harder-to-reach gears and belts, but the soreness was sweetened with the satisfaction of knowing that he’d gotten it all squared away before the end of the day.

When he was cleaned up, and had eaten the last of the fried meatballs on the last of his bread, Bucky got dressed up for going out, tucking a blue shirt into grey trousers and fussing with his hair until it laid neatly slicked back from his face. He shoved a little money into his jacket pocket— most of his pay was already promised to rent and his mother— and gave himself a final once over in the tiny oval of his shaving mirror.

Vinny had gone out before Bucky had even finished stringing his belt through the loops, and the twins, who almost always stayed in, had already commandeered the radio, flipping through channels quicker than Bucky could even hear.

It was still relatively early by the time he emerged out onto the city sidewalk, sun not quite setting behind the massive arrangement of buildings that surrounded Bucky on all sides. He took his time as he walked, fingering a quarter in his jacket pocket.

Last night, distractedly reading a book about a martian spaceship, he’d come to a decision regarding his Friday night. He was going to try Steve’s door again. If Steve answered, he’d at least know where he stood with that. And if Steve didn’t answer, he’d flip a coin: heads, he’d go to the same dance hall where he’d met Anna and Francesca and try his luck with girls again; tails, he’d go back to the queer bar and see if anyone struck his fancy, maybe figure out if Steve had gone back there for somebody else.

It was that decision that had propelled him through his Friday. He didn’t want to flounce around in a tizzy like his sister did when Billy Carmichael hadn’t noticed her new dress, and so Bucky had decided to try one last time and be done with it. If he was going to be a man that occasionally went with other men, he was going to damn well be a man about it.

Despite how slowly he’d made the walk, and despite the fact that he didn’t take the stairs up to Steve’s apartment at nearly the same clip Steve did, he was breathing oddly quickly by the time he made it up to the third floor landing. His skin felt clammy and feverish in equal turns, and he spent a long moment at the end of the hallway, catching his breath.

When he knocked on Steve’s door, he still felt stupidly lightheaded.

But then there was the creak of a large body moving over wooden floors, the schick of a lock being turned, and he exhaled, long and jagged.

Steve opened the door, a huge figure in his own doorway with the light from inside the room haloed around his shoulders. He looked just like he had the other night, from the soft, rounded shoulders of his undershirt to the threadbare hem of his trousers and his bare feet. His hair was soft and loose, not combed back with any cream or oil, like he’d just washed it and let it be.

Bucky could feel his whole face stretch around his smile, eyes crinkling up like his father’s always had. “Hiya, Steve,” Bucky said.

“Hey, Buck,” Steve said. “Coming in?” he asked.

“Yeah.”

Steve locked the door behind him, and Bucky slipped off his shoes and stood in the middle of the room, caught between the kitchen table and the bed. Steve stopped just short of him, hands in his pockets. “Look nice, Buck. You goin’ out?” he asked.

Bucky shook his head, looking away because he wasn’t sure how to say thank you. “Just— wasn’t sure if you wanted to see me again, is all. I stopped by Thursday and you weren’t around. Wasn’t sure if…” he trailed off awkwardly. There wasn’t any etiquette book for asking if a man had gotten enough of you after you’d sucked him off, let him put his fingers inside of you, let him fuck your thighs and jerk you off.

“I go out on Thursdays,” Steve said. “Meet up with a friend every week.”

“Oh,” Bucky said, because that was a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

“I ought to have told you,” Steve said. “Not used to keeping regular company.”

Bucky filed the last part of Steve’s statement away to puzzle over later, because if he didn’t, he’d be overwhelmed by what “keeping regular company” might imply. But he decided he liked the first half of what Steve said: I ought to have told you. He decided to smile at that, offering a blithe shrug. “Well, now I know better, I guess.”

Steve reached out, briefly combing his fingers through the hair behind Bucky’s ear. “Did you want to spend the night again? I’ve got tomorrow off, no plans.”

“If you don’t mind,” Bucky replied. “Maybe we could do something tomorrow? I haven’t gone to the movies in ages.”

“Sounds good to me, Buck. We’ll have to wander down there and see what’s playing.”

The slight smile on Steve’s face was enough to get Bucky moving, and he leaned forward, pressing a brief kiss to Steve’s jaw, inhaling the wonderful faint soapiness of Steve’s skin, savoring the rasp of his stubble on his lips. Steve’s massive arms came around his waist, trapping him briefly in a gentle circle while he kissed Bucky’s temple.

“You don’t have a radio,” Bucky remembered when Steve pulled away, just keeping one hand pressed to the small of Bucky’s back. They could’ve listened to music, or a program—it was still early enough for light to be streaking in the window, pooling on the bed and slipping over the edge to the plain floors. It was early enough, really, that Bucky wasn’t sure they could get away with lying in bed until a reasonable hour to fall asleep. Aside from the other night, he’d never had the luxury of simply laying in bed with someone, and wasn’t clear on all the particulars of managing such an unchaperoned date.

Steve looked a little bemused at that. “I have one,” he replied. “Broke, though. Haven’t bothered taking it to be repaired yet, newspaper’s fine for me.”

“Oh,” Bucky mused. “Well, if it’s just broken, let me take a look at it. I mostly do maintenance these days, I’m pretty good at that sort of thing.”

Steve pulled a little tabletop model out of a narrow closet at the far end of the apartment, and Bucky sat right down on the floor with it, fiddling with the dials and peering in at the speakers before he’d finished crossing his legs. It was just a little Philco, nothing fancy, probably a handful of years old, from before the war and a little dinged up, but not in terrible shape, all told.

It took him a moment to realize that Steve had also brought over a small handful of tools. “Thanks,” he mumbled, glancing at Steve’s knees before tilting his head back further and nodding.

Bucky’s jacket wasn’t made for fiddling around in; the shoulders bunched and the arms were too tight around his biceps, so he shrugged it off before unbuttoning the top few buttons of his collared shirt and yanking it over his head. He piled the garments at his side, and he halfway noticed Steve picking them up and shaking them out before taking them away somewhere.

“You don’t want to sit at the table?” Steve asked.

Bucky had already pried off the back panel, peering in at the tubes and wires and the transformer can. “No, ‘m good here.”

This was the sort of thing Bucky was good at, taking apart something that wasn’t quite right, and fiddling all the pieces back together again. It was half the reason they’d hired him on as maintenance at the mill, rather than just as some wet-behind-the-ears kid polishing up copper pots. He wanted Steve to see that, too, to know that he might be young but he wasn’t silly. That he could be useful.

He wound down there for a good while, fiddling with the wires and brushing away dust and studying the tubes. He ended up having to pull the knobs off and tug the whole radio out of the cabinet to look at the wiring underneath.

“Don’t suppose you got any spare wires around, have you?” Bucky asked, hooking a bit of wire with a crook of his finger.

Steve looked up from where he was hunched over a sheet of the blank newsprint he kept stacked at his table, his fingers blackened at the tips. He was holding a stick of charcoal. “Hmm?” he asked distracted, before answering the question. “No, I was never good with electronics.”

Bucky ended up making do, though he’d do better to simply replace some of the wiring. He could do that later, he reasoned—pick up some spare wires from that shop by the mill on his way home from work, and do it some other day.

“I think I’ve got it,” he said, slowly working the chassis back into the cabinet. He put the back panel back on, stuck the knobs back on, and adjusted the dial.

There was a burst of static; it faded into a faintly scratchy din that hovered behind the rich swell of music that spilled out of the speaker. Bucky looked up to see Steve watching him, blue eyes focused and bright.

Swallowing hard, Bucky’s hand stilled on the dial. “I can rewire it properly next week,” he said, his voice distant even to his own ears, like his words were coming in through an open window somewhere. As if he’d been asked to, Bucky got to his feet and lifted up the radio, walking it over to the table and setting it carefully at the end that butted up against the wall, next to Steve’s newsprint and charcoal sticks. He switched the dial of, and silence settled between them, waiting.

Steve was still looking at Bucky, face blank and serious as he absently used a rag to wipe the smears of black from his fingers and down the side of his hand to his wrist. In front of him, a sheet of paper was spread out, disembodied fragments scattered across the page. It took a moment, but Bucky realized that the fragments on the page were him: that was his hand where he had braced it to the curved top of the radio to ease the chassis from the cabinet; that was his ankle peeking out from underneath a rucked up trouser leg; that was his ear, his jaw, a lock of his hair curling loose over his forehead.

“Oh,” he said, eyes flickering back up to Steve’s, darkened blue against the pale, golden-cream of his skin.

Bucky could suddenly read the intentness as it was etched into Steve’s face, the way he stared at Bucky like he could see straight through him. He could feel the weight, the warmth, of Steve’s eyes on him, sinking beneath the skin right to his marrow.

In a smooth, rolling motion, a giant shaking off his slumber, Steve rose from his chair, looming over Bucky and making his knees feel soft, his head tip back instinctively. Bucky could see the bulge at the front of Steve’s pants where his cock was already hard. “Honey,” Steve murmured, voice impossibly low, but he never said anything else before he was pressing his mouth square on Bucky’s, kissing like neither of them needed air, winding his arms around Bucky’s waist and back and his fingers combing through the hair at the back of Bucky’s head.

One of Steve’s thighs slid between Bucky’s, and he was guided backwards, slowly and gently and firmly, towards the bed where it had been waiting for them this whole time.

Steve tipped him back and Bucky fell easily, amazed at how heavily he was breathing already, shallow, excited little breaths that caught in his throat. Above him Steve stayed standing, not falling into bed alongside him, and even more intimidating at this angle. Bucky sat up on his elbows— only a little— and watched as Steve’s broad hands went to Bucky’s belt, undoing it deftly before moving onto the buttons of his fly and pulling Bucky’s pants off with a few quick tugs.

Bucky sat up, letting the muscles in his belly hold him upright while he yanked his shirt up and over his head and promptly lost it to the bedclothes, or maybe the floor. He lay back again, following the pressure of Steve’s hands where they framed his waist, thumbs digging in until Bucky’s naked back hit the quilt.

Steve’s fingers were a warm current of sensation as they skimmed low over Bucky’s belly where his shorts had been pulled down to his hips, where dark wisps of hair trailed a thickening line down below his navel. Thumbs snuck beneath the elastic waistband, massaging his hips.

When Steve bent down over Bucky’s splayed form, his soft undershirt brushed over Bucky’s bare skin, a tease against the gooseflesh that had prickled across his chest. Their mouths met in a slow kiss, all tongue and wet heat and their bodies lined up neatly so Bucky could slowly grind himself upwards against the hard planes of Steve’s stomach.

All too quickly, though, Steve was pulling away, back upright over Bucky’s relaxed sprawl. “Take ‘em off,” he rumbled, jerking his chin at Bucky’s plain cotton shorts. Bucky’s eyes were glued to the way Steve’s hands had dropped to his own belt, undoing it methodically, and Bucky shoved his shorts down and let them fall to his ankles and off his feet before Steve had even finished undoing the buttons of his fly.

Bucky could see the thick bulge of Steve’s cock at the flapped-open fly of his pants, the head caught just under the waistband where Steve had pressed it to one side. Steve didn’t pull his pants down just yet, just reached back behind his head to pull his shirt up over his head in a quick motion.

“Touch yourself, honey.” Steve’s voice was so low and quiet it barely took up any space between them, but Bucky felt Steve’s command in the hollow of his belly like a splash of warm liquor. It had his hands rubbing sweetly over the insides of his thighs, rasping against the peach fuzz that grew there before dragging upwards, left hand moving softly over his balls as his right hand wrapped around his hard shaft.

It was too rough, too dry, without even any spit to slick himself up, but he didn’t care. It was all just a tease at the moment, touching himself too carelessly to get off while watching Steve strip down to nothing, leaving his clothes in a pile on the floor.

The sight of Steve finally unclothed and restlessly rubbing the heel of his hand over his swollen cock, though, sent a shock of heat through Bucky’s system. He brought his hand to his mouth, spitting sloppily into his palm before jerking himself again, quicker this time than before. The wet glide of his hand felt just right after all this waiting, and words starting falling out of his mouth.

“Touched myself the other day,” Bucky panted, meeting Steve’s eyes briefly before letting his hungry stare crawl down Steve’s chest. “Inside,” he clarified, spreading his legs just a little so his free hand could stroke lightly at the smooth, sensitive skin behind his sac. “Just—fuck,” he said, pressing his fingers hard against his perineum, “wanted it to be you.”

Bucky had never done much talking while in bed with someone, but now it felt like he couldn’t close up his mouth. “Came like that, thinking about you fucking me,” he said, licking his lips when he saw Steve’s hand tighten around the head of his cock, stroking more urgently. “Don’t you want to—ah—to show me what it’s like, with you inside’a me?”

Steve's mouth split open at Bucky's words, jaw softer this way, and Bucky wanted to run his mouth all over Steve's chin and throat and jaw, down to the broad slashes of his collarbones. “Fuck,” Steve swore, soft but vehement. “Honey, you gotta be careful what you ask for.”

“Why?” Bucky asked, letting his knees fall open, like a girl would do for him. “Been telling you how much I want you. I can't think about anybody but you. S’like my whole brain’s gotten rewired.”

There was no trace of surrender that crossed Steve's face, no hardening of resolve or decision made. But he seemed to focus more carefully on Bucky, as if the intensity of before was only a fraction of Steve's true focus.

A big hand closed on Bucky’s wrist, stopping him on an upward stroke and pulling his hand away from his cock.

“Get on the bed, now,” Steve gently directed. “Lay right down on your belly,” he said, tipping his head towards the middle of the bed.

Bucky complied, slipping backwards and up and swinging his legs up onto the bed. Rolling over, he tucked his arms under the pillow and buried his face in the rich scent of it, of whatever many disparate elements pulled together on Steve's skin and rubbed off on his pillow.

Thick legs suddenly bracketed his, Steve kneeling so close behind him that he could feel Steve's cock brush the cleft of his ass, sending a shiver up his bared back. One hand trailed downwards, resting gently at the small of his back; the other, Bucky could hear, came down on the headboard.

Steve's mouth brushed his ear. “Get up on your knees a little,” he said before straightening back up. Hands on Bucky’s hips guided him as he shifted to balance on knees and forearms.

He couldn't lift his face up off the pillow; it was burning red at his body so utterly on display. Between the spread of his thighs, his heavy dick and balls hung helplessly, for Steve to examine or touch or ignore. Cool air tickled up the soft, secret skin behind his sac, up to the cleft of his barely parted cheeks.

Paralyzed with his own fearful desire and display, he lost what could've been hours of time imagining the way he'd laid himself out so openly for Steve, and how Steve might be looking at him, examining him for blemishes or flaws, for beauty and hunger. Bucky only came back to himself when he felt cold, wet fingers daubing greasy dollops of the fancy lubricant on his hole. A little of it slipped down to his balls, but most of it was massaged into the tight, wrinkled skin. Steve’s fingers moved in a coaxing, placating motion that eased a little tension out of the hard line of Bucky's shoulders.

It was still a bit uncomfortable when Steve began to finger him open, but it was eased with more slick — more than last time, and more silky than soap — and Steve murmuring soothing nonsense and praise. Steve's dry hand stroked down his spine from time to time, petting him the way an especially timid child might run a hand down a cat's back.

“Oh, honey,” Steve sighed. “Just one more finger,” he said, pressing a third finger inwards. This burned a little, a new intrusion Bucky hadn't yet put himself through, and he grit his teeth around a slightly pained grunt, burying his face in the pillow so deeply he could feel his forearms pressed to his forehead.

Steve's fingers stilled, the hand at his back rubbing circles into taut skin. “You know we don’t have to do this, honey,” he said, a great quiet sound from behind Bucky, mountainous in presence, enormous but non-threatening.

Taking a deep breath, Bucky arched his back more sharply, more shamelessly; he didn’t think he was imagining the quickened intake of Steve’s breath at his movements. “I want it. Want you to show me how it can be good. Like last time.” He rocked slightly backwards, towards Steve’s still hand, and the ache was less this time, easier to bear. “Felt so good,” he mumbled, letting his voice dip into the breathlessness he felt, the shivery, locked-tightness of his lungs.

It did get easier as Steve went on, his fingers dragging in and out rhythmically, clearly careful with the way he spread his fingers out against the softening give of Bucky’s hole. It got easier to rock into Steve’s motions, to anticipate the way his fingers would move inside of Bucky’s body, same as it got easier to follow the gentle path Steve’s dry hand took as it roamed the sweaty skin of Bucky’s back. Bucky grew more desperate and overheated, like kindling the instant before the spark caught, the consuming instant of ignition.

He slipped one hand out from under the tightly-clutched pillow as Steve fingered him, letting his hand slide down his belly, feeling his sweaty-hot-cold skin quiver under his fingertips as he reached down to fondle his cock. Not with any real intention, but as a sweet tease that left him sweaty and shivering, feeding into the pressure of Steve’s fingers inside of him. If he paid too much attention to it, he’d come.

Eventually, Steve leaned back over the bare expanse of Bucky’s back to whisper into his ear again. “You sure about this, honey?” His fingers were almost pulled loose of Bucky’s hole, but lingered at the rim.

“Yeah,” Bucky answered on a sigh.

It was strange when Steve pulled his fingers away, and Bucky couldn’t help the hum of displeasure that escaped his throat at the strange emptiness, an immediate and disappointing lack of sensation that made the cold sweat on his body start to feel a little sour, if only for the brief moment it took for Steve to tip them onto their sides. Just a heartbeat later, and Steve’s iron forge of a body spooned up behind him, Steve’s cock hotter than anything else and impossible to miss between them.

Warmth and wet met the lobe of his ear: Steve’s mouth, first messy wet suction, then a low, hoarse whisper. “Talk to me, honey. The whole time. Need you to tell me how you’re feeling.”

“Feel good,” he breathed back. “‘M glad it’s you,” he said, even more quietly.

It was a few moments of careful molding, Steve melting him down like so much ore, drawing Bucky into a position that pressed his chest forward but left his hips drawn back against Steve’s. It was a graceful but tenuously twinned arcing of their bodies, the hard knobs of Steve’s knees pressed to the sweaty backs of Bucky’s drawn up ones.

One of Steve’s arms was pinned beneath them, elbow hooked under Bucky’s armpit and his forearm pressed across Bucky’s chest. His other hand had been pressed to Bucky’s belly as he guided Bucky into position, but now—

Bucky could feel Steve fist his cock, hear the slick wetness of it. And then Steve was sliding the head of his cock down, down to the cleft of Bucky’s ass, pressing ever-so-slightly against the tender give of his stretched hole before slipping lower, greasy-slick against the tender patch of skin beneath it, nudging the backs of his balls before drawing back up.

The motion was slow, controlled, and Bucky was reminded of the way Steve had fucked Bucky’s thighs that first time, strong and sure as he held Bucky close. Only this time, it was supposed to be even more.

“Aw, c’mon,” Bucky said, playful but breathless. “Thought you were really gonna fuck me this time.”

Steve huffed a laugh into Bucky’s hair. He could feel a slight pressure where Steve’s face was pressed to the back of Bucky’s head, nose to chin, perhaps like a kiss.

“If you insist,” Steve said, dry amusement lacing his words.

Bucky felt himself seize up a little at the first blunt-tipped thrust against his hole, easy as it was. Bucky reached back instinctively, holding fast to Steve’s thigh like any pressure he exerted against Steve could possibly be enough to hold the man back from thrusting. But it was enough to stop Steve, who held perfectly still against Bucky’s back, the tip of his cock just barely pressing inside. It was panic, not pain.

Steve’s hand on his shoulder squeezed down reassuringly, and Steve’s steady voice returned to Bucky’s ear. “I’m just going to go slow,” he said. “I won’t hurt you. I’ll stop whenever you want.”

Bucky realized he was clutching at Steve’s forearm where it crossed his chest, fingernails biting into skin and everything. He exhaled, long and slow, the last of his air shuddering through him on its way out, and let himself grow limp in Steve’s arms.

“I know,” Bucky murmured, ducking his head and tilting it to press his lips to the back of Steve’s huge hand. “I just…” he trailed off.

But Steve picked up the thread. “It’s new.”

He nodded, knowing that even if Steve couldn’t see him, he could at least feel the motion of his agreement. “You can go again,” he managed to say, relaxing his grip on Steve’s thigh, petting awkwardly.

The only answer was a gusty breath over the back of his neck, and then Steve began to ease forward again. Bucky could feel the slight bulge of the head as it pressed into him, his hole stretching and contracting as Steve’s cock moved into his body.

There was no thrusting after that, just Steve’s hand falling away from between them and hooking, wet and messy, over the curve of Bucky’s hip. “Oh, honey,” Steve said, voice unsteady. “You have to do this part,” he said. “I just—you gotta do it yourself. I can’t hurt you. Just move—do it however feels good, Buck.”

Bucky sucked in air and everything smelled like Steve and sex and the weirdly hollow scent of the lubricant. He gave the slightest twitch of his thighs, pressing back only a scanty fraction of an inch, testing his own resolve and being rewarded with a new burst of shivery hot fullness, sweat at his forehead and throat, a tingling at his fingers and toes, a glorious pressure at his hole that slithered quickly up his spine to the roots of his hair.

He didn’t speak so much as whine out a pleased oh at the way even the tiniest movement rocketed through his body. Bucky couldn’t make himself manage much of anything distinct as he slowly pushed further down onto Steve’s cock, just a little at a time. Time ebbed and flowed strangely as he worked, and he paused every so often, overwhelmed by turns with a sweeping glut of too much and not enough and oh fuck. It was at once easier and harder as he went on; he was forced to move slowly at first, unable to handle taking in too much at once, forced to work himself up and down with his breath held against the immensity of it all. He could feel ribbons of tension from his waist to the middle of the back, where he curved and arched to accommodate the motion of his hips and ass and thighs. It did get easier as he went, but the pressure and fullness only grew the further he took Steve into his body. There was only so much space within him, and Steve had never seemed bigger than he did right then, slowly splitting Bucky open like he was, pressing inside like there was no limit to how far he could get into Bucky’s body.

Steve remained still but not entirely relaxed and easy behind Bucky. He didn’t thrust, but Bucky felt sure he could feel Steve’s cock occasionally twitching inside of him. He could feel the sweaty, shaky grip that Steve had on his hip, and feel the hot panting breaths that bloomed unevenly against the back of his neck, where Steve had pressed his face. From time to time, Steve’s hand would stroke up to the cage of his ribs, callused fingers a flutter-light touch. Breathe, honey, Steve would whisper, tracing the bones beneath the skin.

But truthfully, by the time Steve was in him as deep as he could go, Bucky’s ass snugged up tight to Steve’s hips, he could no longer tell who was shaking more, whose breath trembled more. He’d let out a high-pitched little whine—a noise so sharp and feminine he almost didn’t recognize it as it slipped through the split of his lips—and Steve had groaned in response, a rumble of hunger that Bucky could feel against his back.

“Go slow,” Bucky finally managed, voice splintering between a low whisper and another high-pitched whine. “Just. Fuck me.”

Steve shuddered and went briefly still before he began to move slow, slower than a spill of honey. Even as he thrust gently in and out, he kept their bodies pressed close together, Bucky locked against his chest so they could rock neatly together. It made it easy for Bucky to figure out how to meet Steve’s thrusts, how to arch himself just so. Getting fucked was different from fucking, a whole different set of rules of how to hold his body, how to let Steve take control but also to meet Steve halfway as he worked Bucky up and up. He felt delirious, packed so full of Steve that all his nerves were buzzing with it, overwhelmed and happy to let Steve take charge.

He’d softened through Steve opening him up, arousal pooling warm in his body in a whole new way as he’d slowly worked himself down Steve’s cock to the root. But as Steve took over, it felt easier to concentrate on the interested twitching of his own cock, the way it slowly fattened up against his thigh, flushed red and the wet tip peeking further and further out of the folds of his foreskin.

Everything felt good in a sun-soaked sort of way, leisurely but too hot. Bucky reached down and palmed his cock, not really stroking at first but just teasing himself, letting his fingers play about the damp plume of his cockhead before teasing a thin line down the shaft to his balls.

“Christ,” Steve swore against the side of Bucky’s neck, the hand at his shoulder slipping up to cradle the open curve of Bucky’s neck. It was a loose, gentle hold, an act of tenderness that left him feeling strangely protected for all the vulnerability of his throat under the weight of that big hand. “Go on. Stroke yourself, honey. Let me see it.”

As if he had needed permission the whole time, Bucky began to stroke in earnest, just a loose fist and a half-distracted attempt to match Steve’s steady, deep thrusts. Lust trickled up his sides, a sensation like cold water on burning skin, too much but not enough. He turned his face into the pillow, crying out a fractured little sob of pleasure, knowing he’d never be able to bite back the sound without breaking skin.

But Steve’s hand on his neck, gentle pressure and calloused fingers, turned his face away from the pillow, just enough that he could see Steve out of the corner of his eye. Steve’s jaw was clenched and his skin was flushed pink and red, but there was a distinct softness around his ice-chip eyes as he stared down at Bucky’s face.

“I— I— oh,” Bucky whined. He couldn’t string together the words to tell Steve how good it felt, how fucking sweet it was to turn his head and see Steve’s face looking down at him like that, all ease and control.

Steve thrust in a little harder, grinding deep, deep, so deep Bucky felt his spine bow at the pressure, a thick line of too-blunt pleasure that shot up his whole body to the back of his throat.

He cried out, a soft noise, unable to smother it in the pillow this time.

Steve’s voice rumbled like thunder of his ear, vibrating over sweaty skin. His voice was like a coiled spring tucked deep inside his throat, the tension practically palpable. “You think you can come like this, Buck? Oh, so sweet for me, Jesus, honey. You’re already so small, almost hurts to be inside you. Wanna feel you come for me.”

Bucky could only manage an inarticulate groan, his whole body shuddering and awash with a tangle of shorted out wires and electric buzzing. His hand moved faster, slicked up with sweat and the wet leaking non-stop from the tip of his dick.

He could die like this, he thought.

But instead Bucky came, hard and sudden and choking back the urge to say Steve’s name, to feel the shape of it on his lips and tongue. It felt almost like a convulsion, his whole body shrinking in for a brief moment before splitting outwards at the seams, too full of pleasure for it all to remain trapped inside of him.

Steve’s thrusts got harder after that, and Bucky just lay there, dizzy and relaxed, as Steve fucked the air right out of his lungs. It was all he could do to choke into mouthfuls of air around punched out exhalations, to lay back and let a new edge of raw sensitivity shoot through the haze of mindless pleasure. He’d closed his eyes against the shock of it all by the time Steve’s thrusts grew jerky. There was a low, sharp series of grunts in his ear, and then Steve was pulling out, leaving a shocking cold emptiness in his wake and splashes of hot come all over the small of his back, dripping down the curve of his ass.

Bucky realized he was shaking only when he felt Steve pull him backwards, plastering him to the sticky mess between them, even closer together than while they’d been fucking, massive arms wrapped tightly around his arms and chest. Heaving in a deep breath, he reached up with trembling fingers to curl his hands around the arms that pinned him in place. He let his head loll back slightly, and he concentrated on the slow, quiet slur of Steve mumbling into the back of his neck: Bucky, honey, so good, so sweet, Jesus Christ.

As he listened to Steve’s words being mouthed into his skin, he felt his body slowly coming back to itself, no longer shaking so badly, no longer mindless and hazy. He could catalogue the huffing of Steve’s breath, the thrumming of his own heart, the tacky stickiness that anchored them together, the soreness in his hips and back, the new and unexpected emptiness he felt where Steve’s cock had stretched him open, a cool and elasticky soreness at his hole.

They drifted apart by inches as their bodies cooled. Steve loosened his grip and Bucky let his hand fall to the messy sheets beneath them; Steve’s too-hot mouth left the back of his neck; Bucky felt the scrape of stubble as Steve’s chin rubbed over the wing of his shoulder. Bucky mostly grit down on a displeased grunt when their thighs and hips fell apart, Bucky’s back unpleasantly stuck to Steve’s sweaty front, and Bucky felt the oily itch where come was drying on his skin. Rolling forward wasn’t much better, though, given that he’d wet up Steve’s sheets himself.

Steve got up, tugging his arm out from underneath Bucky. “Stay here,” he rasped, blunt-fingered and sticky-messy hands trailing down Bucky’s back, leaving behind a shivery wake.

Bucky rolled onto his belly proper, curling so he missed the wet spot and tucking his arms up and under the pillow so he could turn his head and watch Steve as he moved, naked, through the apartment. Steve washed his hands with a brick of plain soap, splashed a little water into a kettle to be heated over his tiny stove, and pulled a couple of clean flannels out and set them on his tiny table.

While the kettle warmed, Steve went about scrubbing himself in the cold water that came from the taps, washing his arms and belly and thighs before moving on to the mess at his groin. He seemed utterly unconcerned with his nakedness, at ease and unselfconscious as Bucky watched every rough swipe of damp cloth, the oily sheen of lube abraded away to leave behind tender pink splotches of skin. He didn’t bother to dry himself, but just tossed the rag into the sink and left it there.

The water was pulled from the stove after Steve had finished scrubbing himself, but before the kettle had started to whimper, let alone whistle or shriek. The silence remained unchallenged, in fact, suffusing the tiny apartment in a fragile quiet broken only by their breath, the rustle of Bucky in bed and the sounds of Steve using the kettle to dampen another flannel rag and rub a brick of plain white soap over the cloth.

Steve approached the bed with the wet rag in hand. “Hold your arm out,” Steve said, reaching for Bucky’s arm and not waiting a beat before rubbing the wet, warm cloth over sweaty-clammy-sticky skin.

Bucky hadn’t been washed like this since he was a child, gently manhandled like a person holding cut glass up to the light, scrubbed from the tips of his fingers to the teeny little webs between each finger; up his arms to the elbow. Bucky could tell that Steve’s gaze was intent on his own hands as he washed Bucky, but not altogether serious; he was like a man reading for pleasure rather than work, like what he saw brought him joy as it meandered through his absorbed mind.

Bucky felt glad that Steve didn’t try to meet his eyes as he worked; it would’ve been too hard to meet that even blue gaze and not shrink away from how keenly he felt it.

Steve wiped the slick backs of Bucky’s thighs before carefully wiping the come from the small of Bucky’s back. The drag of the cloth pushed and pulled the tiny hairs on his body, and left cold air to tingle along behind as the wet dried on his skin. The motions of it could’ve lulled him to sleep if not for the chill.

The cloth was rinsed with hot water and re-soaped and Bucky sat up and rolled off the bed, standing on shaky legs and leaning back against the edge of the mattress with his knees locked. He watched Steve walk back, his whole body massive and solid and rock-like. His hair looked like cornsilk, sweaty and flattened and golden, but the hair around his dick had been washed and dried, and was dark and curly and puffy around the base of his flaccid cock, and seemed incongruously dark compared to the rest of his pale-gold loveliness.

There was still lube and come smeared into Bucky’s groin, Steve’s sticky handprints on his hips, and a squelchy, unpleasant dampness between his cheeks and in his hole. “Here,” Bucky said, holding out his hand and plucking the rag from Steve’s hand. “Let me get this,” he said, first rubbing at the stickiness left on his hips and thighs while trying to figure out how to wipe his ass without looking foolish.

It turned out there wasn’t anywhere discreet to go to scrub the mess off his dick and balls and at his ass; he just shuffled a little away from the bed and turned himself at an angle so he wasn’t forced to look Steve in the eye as he dragged the cloth over his dick and balls, and at the creases of his thighs where they snugged up against his balls. That wasn’t so bad, really. Every man needed to adjust himself down there from time to time, especially in the summer when they were all cranky and soggy between the legs, and this wasn’t really much different.

Bucky felt fortunate that Steve decided to occupy himself with stripping the bed, flinging the quilt over the footboard and carelessly folding the sheets into ever-smaller trapezoids. While Steve pulled new sheets from his trunk, Bucky discreetly turned again and scrubbed between his cheeks, washing away the slickness where it had oozed all the way from the top of his asscrack to beneath his hole. Wiping over his hole wasn’t entirely pleasant, but it didn’t truly hurt that badly. It was just odd to feel the strange new give of it, the fragile, puffy soreness. He wondered how long it would be before going back to normal, but wasn’t exactly sure how to ask.

The bed was made up hospital tight by the time Bucky had washed his hands with the rest of the warm water and dumping his rag in the laundry bag with Steve’s. Steve turned to look at him, an assessing pass of his eyes that swept Bucky from head to toe and left him feeling just as awkward as he’d felt a few moments ago while cleaning up.

But then Steve just stepped forward, resting his hands on Bucky’s waist, and pressed a kiss to Bucky’s mouth, all sweet and spring-like, chaste and tender, but lingering. For all that they were naked and a little wet still, it all felt very much like the end of the sort of pure and adolescent date stipulated by the etiquette guides Becca had started to read religiously the summer she turned twelve.

“I should’ve been more gentle with you,” Steve said. “I should never have been so rough with you.”

Under the flat of his hands, Steve’s back was oaken planks warmed by a spill of summer sunlight from an open window. “I think it felt good,” Bucky said. “I don’t hurt. It felt… right,” he said, casting about for the right word and coming up nil.

One of Steve’s hands came up and futzed with the disordered wreck of Bucky’s hair— he could feel it was sticking up just as much as it was mashed down, and Steve just combed lightly through the mess of it, grooming him. “It might feel worse later,” Steve said, ruefully.

Bucky shrugged and closed his eyes, nose rubbing against Steve’s wrist as his hand still carded through the tangled hair. He could smell the plain neatness of Steve’s soap and skin. “I am pretty sore,” he admitted. “But it wasn’t half as bad as a full night boxing. Least you didn’t punch me in the face.”

When Bucky opened his eyes, Steve’s mouth was a little curl that felt almost sarcastic. “Guess that’s a fair point.” Steve’s hand fell away from his hair, cupping his elbow instead.

Jabbing the point of his chin into Steve’s shoulder, he heaved a sigh. “I know it’s early,” he began, squinting briefly at the early evening fall gloom that drizzled in through the uncurtained window, “but could we lay back down again?”

A hum was all the agreement he got before Steve ducked down and threw him over his shoulder, forcing a bark of surprised laughter out of him, and a huff of delighted air when he was bounced onto the bed. He scooted out of the way so Steve could tumble into bed, as well, grinning madly at the small, pleased smile on Steve’s thin mouth.

They ended up sitting against the headboard, the quilt drawn up over their naked laps and shoulders touching. There was a lingering soreness in his ass and thighs and back, and he knew he wouldn’t want to sit like this for long— but for the moment, he basked in it.

“Where d’you work?” Bucky asked.

“Wöden & Sons Warehouse down by the docks. Foreman for the first shift.” Steve answered. “What do you do at Canton Copper?”

Bucky felt warm at the thought that Steve remembered where he worked. “Maintenance,” he answered. “Some of those machines are older’n sin,” he said. “And they were all retrofitted for wartime production, then switched back to regular rolling. Makes ‘em a little unreliable from time to time.”

“And you fix radios,” Steve said, looking over to the little Philco perched atop the table.

Bucky shot him his best coy little look. “Just for you, Steve, just for you.”

Steve didn’t answer, just rubbed his hand over Bucky’s head, making his hair even more of a rat’s nest, that neat, tiny little smile on his handsome face.

Bucky didn’t know what to do with his hands, his shoulders, his thigh where his brushed Steve’s, so he ducked away, blushing and laughing a little. It felt strange to know that, if Steve had been a girl, it would be Bucky, tugging on a lock of her hair as he teased her, slinging an arm over her tiny, bird-boned shoulders, yanking her in for a kiss on the forehead, cheeks, lips. But neither of them were girls, and, at any rate, Bucky was the smaller one, younger and far more inexperienced. Steve had been calm and unruffled that first night at the bar, but Bucky had been captivated at the sight of so many men sharing their casual touches. And yet, for all his curiosity, for all his stolen glances, for all his hopeless wonderings, he realized that he had no earthly idea how to touch Steve for the sake of it, something sweet and nice, the after-touches, the before-touches, the in-between-touches that two lovers might share simply because it felt good to touch another person any which way and be welcome.

Sucking in a breath as quietly as he could, Bucky decided to keep following his whims, since they’d gotten him this far. He scooted down the bed a little, and rolled towards Steve, resting his head on a firm, quilt covered thigh, nose almost brushing Steve’s belly where the quilt was rucked up over his belly.

“Sorry,” Bucky said, hamming it up with a bit of a hang-dog face. “It wasn’t exactly comfortable, sitting like that.”

A warm hand settled on his back immediately, a motionless heat that sunk through skin to tired muscles. Bucky sighed and rubbed his cheek against Steve’s lap.

“I never asked,” Steve began, after a moment. His fingers dipped lower, skirting the swell of Bucky’s ass, rubbing up and down a couple times. “Where does ‘Bucky’ come from?”

“James Buchanan Barnes, at your service,” he said, tilting his face up and grinning at Steve, a cheesy little flip of a smile that worked wonders on near about everyone.

Steve raised one eyebrow, but the tiny lines next to his eyes crinkled all the same. “Steve Rogers.”

 


 

The next morning, they woke up slow and lazy, kissing almost before Bucky could open his eyes, warm and naked and content under the quilt, and when they came again— rubbing against bellies and hips slow and mindless, stroking each other so softly it was almost like petting—it was almost like falling back asleep, only sweeter.

Eventually, Steve rolled over, and Bucky let himself be dragged along too, following the arch of Steve’s body as he reached over the side of the bed to snag his watch and check the time. “Nine o’clock,” he said, seeming pleased, and Bucky buried his face in Steve’s armpit, inhaling far too deeply but uncaring how audible his breath had been. They were sticky filthy and sweaty but the smell of it was intoxicating; it made him sleepy and cheerful all at once, and if it left the warmth of their quilted cocoon, it would dissipate into the still air of Steve’s tiny apartment, just like it had never been at all.

Steve prodded him out of bed with the promise of breakfast from a little diner a few blocks over; they took turns walking down the hall to the bathroom for showers, and Steve loaned him a slightly too-large shirt that looked funny tucked into the good trousers he’d worn over to Steve’s the night before.

When they left Steve’s apartment this time, they walked together, but with a careful distance between them, enough space to fit a woman between them. Bucky would catch Steve’s eye on a glance, and they’d share a small smile, and Bucky would want to kiss him, touch the back of those big hands, press his face into the massive sprawl of those shoulders—but he wouldn’t, just jam his hands further into the pockets of his jacket until he could feel seams stretching at his knuckles, waiting for the urge to pass.

The little diner was tiny and cramped and crowded, but they found a booth in a lucky moment, along with a discarded newspaper, corners hanging out all loose and jagged, but still crisp enough to be read as they waited to be noticed by the harried waiters.

Their knees brushed slightly as they settled in, and Steve’s legs were so long that Bucky didn’t even budge when he felt their knees rub up against each other, because there was nowhere else to go. Other men at other tables were surely forced to let their knees touch. Surely it wasn’t just them touching like that.

Steve separated a few pages of the paper, setting the comics face up in front of himself. “What do you want? Sports?”

“Yeah,” Bucky agreed, holding out his hand for the furl of paper. “See what movies are running,” he ordered, already skimming down the sports stories, waiting for a headline to grab him first.

Bowery Buckaroos is playing at the Strand,” Steve said, with unusual lightness. Poking fun.

Bucky snapped his half of the paper up to block Steve’s face, grumbling as he went back to reading the front page story about Notre Dame football. Steve’s laugh was quiet, but Bucky heard it all the same.

By the time their order was placed with a rumpled looking man in an apron, they had settled on catching the day’s first showing of Mother Wore Tights at the Albee Theatre on DeKalb, and were buried back behind their papers as they waited for coffee and food. He was as grateful for the newsprint barrier as he was for the way Steve’s leg kept brushing his, just a bare whisper as Steve flexed his foot, or when Bucky jiggled his knee or shuffled his shoes. It would’ve been too much, he thought, to look at Steve in the bright light of this bustling space, but it was enough to know that he was just there on the other side of the paper, all golden-haired and real beyond the confines of Steve’s dim little apartment.

But when they were forced to roll the papers up and banish them to the far end of the little table so their food could be shoved in front of them, it wasn’t nearly as bad as Bucky had imagined. Steve looked normal, a real handsome but masculine kind of guy, and Bucky had long since crafted a persona of well-developed normalcy with a dash of charming articulacy. Everything else about them was invisible.

They ate for a while before talking, slurping hearty coffee from thick ceramic mugs and forking potatoes and sausages and fried eggs hungrily.

“So,” Bucky asked, studying Steve again, tidy and plainly dressed in a white shirt with a mended collar. “You draw?” He was thinking about that sheet of newsprint, covered in tiny little sketches of him as he’d repaired the radio.

“A little,” Steve replied, dragging a heel of bread through runny yolk. He looked as serious as Bucky had ever seen him, and Bucky could only tell something was different by the shift of his jaw, a minute flex of muscle right at one square-jawed corner.

Redirecting, Bucky nodded, toying with his fork for a moment and spoke again. “Nobody’s ever drawn me before. I mean, aside from my little brothers and sister. I meant like a real drawing like that. I didn’t even notice until I finished with those wires.”

Steve shrugged, but his jaw softened again. “You were focused on what you were doing,” he replied, but it didn’t necessarily sound as simple as all that, not when Steve’s blue eyes flashed at him like they did.

“S’nice, is all,” Bucky finally said. “Must be why you have all those comics, then.”

A genuine smile curled on that stern mouth. “Never too old for a comic,” he said with obvious pleasure. “I’ve been reading since I was a kid, and I’m not keen on stopping now.”

“But you don’t care about your broken radio,” Bucky teased. “Don’t you know all the best comics have their own radio program?”

Steve shrugged. “I like the drawings. The colors,” he admitted, ducking his head. There was a newly discovered hint of bashfulness, and Bucky reveled in the look of it on Steve’s too-stoic face, like Steve had admitted to some silly, strange thing when it really wasn’t at all.

They talked a little about comics as they ate around their own awkwardness. They both liked the heroes with their costumes and special powers and weapons, and Steve seemed to know everything—every arcane detail, every storyline and minor character from every story—like the pulp pages were flipping in his brain right the minute he thought about them.

He’d guessed that Steve had liked comics, given the fact that he’d had a stack of them under his bed with all his other books—the only haphazardly organized space in his otherwise spare, precise apartment—but Bucky hadn’t realized that Steve was a walking encyclopedia for every comic ever. He’d seen the dry, direct pamphlets about unions and the working class and had assumed that comics were nothing more than a passing fancy.

Steve was as cheerful as he ever was when they talked about comic books, quick to smile like he’d been in the aftermath of sex, playful and easy and less stern about the eyes. He looked younger, this way, and Bucky wondered how old Steve really was, if he’d turned thirty or not, and found he couldn’t make up his mind. The light would catch his eyes and he’d look so young, laughing about Superman and drumming restless fingers on the sticky table that separated them. But in another instant, he’d drink from his cup of coffee and stare, flat and serious, out the steamy, greasy diner windows, and Bucky would feel like Steve was so impossibly old.

Finally, his curiosity defeated his sense of propriety, and he spoke into a lull. “How old are you?”

Steve set his cup down, looking a little bemused. “Twenty-seven,” was his succinct return.

Bucky nodded. “Guess I can believe that,” he said, then caught the furrowed look Steve gave him. “Couldn’t tell, honestly. Sometimes you look like you aren’t so old. Sometimes you do.”

The look Steve gave him was wry. “Gee, thanks, pal.”

Shrugging, Bucky jammed the last of his eggs into his mouth and washed it down with the remnants of his coffee. “S’your face,” he answered.

Steve ended up paying for their meal, and after a slow, meandering walk, he paid for their tickets at the theatre while Bucky ponied up the change for a couple of sodas. Bucky sort of assumed they’d sit in the back of the theatre, but Steve just lead them to the center of the seats and plopped them down so they could watch the seats fill up around them, the lights still up and the screen blank and grey.

They talked about their favorite movies in the theatre: Bucky loved musicals and comedies, all gaiety and dancing and romantic kisses, but Steve liked the more serious dramas and crime stories, the kind that had orchestras trembling over bleachy, silvery black and white.

“What I want is a really good movie about space travel,” Bucky said, after listening to Steve talk about The Big Sleep.

Steve looked at Bucky, and Bucky was willing to wonder if that was fondness written into the shape of the faint lines around the corners of Steve’s mouth. “Space, huh?”

Bucky leaned back in his seat, tiling his head against the hard metal curve of the seat back, staring up at the intricate scrollwork that arched over their heads. Beyond the ceiling and the heavy, airless gloom of city smog, he knew there were the same stars that had burned above his head in Indiana, radiant in a way that was only truly visible out in an open field, nothing but grass and crops and livestock and wood-framed homes and fresh water for miles. “Yeah,” he said, slowly, thinking about one of the few things New York hadn’t managed to impress him with. “Think about it. Imagine being on Mars. It’d be the best thing in the world, I think. If a person could go to Mars, they’d come out of that spaceship a whole different person, you know? You’d never be the same after that. Everything would change.” He looked over at Steve, a little sheepish and flushed with his own strange burst of honesty, but nothing on Steve’s face said that what Bucky was saying made him silly, or childish. In fact, Bucky seemed more certain of Steve’s fondness. Their knees brushed slightly—Steve’s leg moving closer to his, an impression of heat, and then nothing—and Bucky’s fingers twitched, wanting very much to press his fingers to Steve’s.

Instead, they sat, separate but together in a slowly filling theatre with yellow lights beaming overhead, hands in their own laps while they waited for the movie to start. It was strange, the deliberate ways in which the whole trip to the movies was at once a date but wiped of any of its trappings, intimate only in the way it had been stripped bare. They caught and held each other's eyes when lights filtered and flickered over the screen, and Bucky scooted his foot out until his ankle was at a sharp angle and his shoe was butted up against Steve’s plain boot. The air between their calves and knees felt electric, hot and fuzzy like frayed live wires were sewn into the seams of their trousers, sending electricity up to his brain.

In fact, there was so much buzzing in his ears, he could only blink in and out of the newsreel and the shorts and the film itself, time broken up only by the shift of Steve beside him. Even the commonplace fidgeting of a large man in a tiny seat was enough to send his eyes flickering over the screen, trying to catch up with the reels. He found he couldn’t sit perfectly still, but had to keep shifting himself, a little sore from the fucking. It was a good reason to shift around, either way, and he wondered if the fucking was what Steve thought about, too, each time Bucky shifted.

When they walked out of the theatre, they stood to the side of the entrance for a few moments, loitering by the movie posters with their hands in their pockets as they rocked back on their heels. Bucky blinked into the sudden brightness that reflected at him from every which direction, feeling belatedly stunned—stunned by something he didn’t really understand

“Did you enjoy the movie?” Steve asked. He was squinting, too, but now they were just sort of squinting at each other rather than at the slow boil of the crowded sidewalks.

“Yeah, I think so.”

When their eyes had adjusted enough to the faint fall glare, Steve pulled away from the wall and Bucky followed along by unspoken agreement, matching Steve’s long-legged gait on the walk back to Steve’s tenement building. He felt almost as worn out as if it were late at night, but it was only early afternoon, the sidewalks teeming with people running errands and visiting with friends.

When they got back to Steve’s apartment, gloriously cramped and private, Bucky tugged on Steve’s arm and jacket, and Steve followed pliantly until Steve was pressed back against the door, Bucky plastering himself to Steve’s chest. Steve was looking down his long nose at Bucky’s face, still as stone, like he was waiting.

So Bucky let Steve take a little more of his weight and tipped his chin up until they were kissing, taking the lead by moving his lips over Steve’s all sweet and slow and careful. He had wanted to kiss Steve like that all day, but he couldn’t, so he had to do it now, as soon as he could, as soon as it was allowed. It tasted bittersweet, a faint syrupy soda tinge in a hot mouth, slow licks and squeezed shut eyes because Bucky couldn’t bear to look at how beautiful Steve seemed to him, not when they couldn’t look at each other like that all the time.

By the time their kiss broke apart, crumbling like rock candy on a wet tongue, Bucky felt the faintest tremors of want shivering down the hair at the back of his neck, but he just tugged a little at Steve’s lapels, nesting, and buried his face in Steve’s shirt for a long moment, letting Steve hold him in place with those massive hands around his waist. It felt like all the embraces he’d wanted today, rolled into one drawn-out moment. Bucky let his grip on Steve’s jacket go lax just as Steve’s hands were beginning to loosen, and they shifted apart, Bucky pushing himself off of Steve and finding his own footing.

Steve checked his watch. “Almost three.”

Bucky was already shedding his jacket and shoes. “We could make supper,” he suggested. “I figure I could stay tonight again.”

He felt a little foolish, just asking outright like that, but he couldn’t not ask, not when he wanted it so very much. Bucky felt sure that Steve wanted it as well, because Steve agreed without complaint and moved past Bucky into the corner of the apartment that was mostly kitchen and scrubbed table, rifling through his own cabinets.

There was some leftover beef laying on a plate with thick, congealed grease and a few fatty white lumps; Bucky found some tinned vegetables and twin handfuls of dirty potatoes. There was a meager supply of spices in tiny cupboard, and Steve seemed happy enough to settle on a cobbled-together stew after Bucky suggested it.

Steve peeled and chopped the potatoes at a needlessly fast speed, the peeler spitting out skins into a heap at doubletime; he was finished with that before Bucky was done tearing apart the cold beef, chopping it into large, messily rent mouthfuls that would melt as it cooked in the broth.

Bucky’s eyes ran while he chopped up an onion and Steve opened up the tinned vegetables. Tears made a sodden mess of his eyelashes and pooled at the uppermost peaks of his cheekbones, making it hard to see the onion as he chopped. It was stew, so all the rough, misshapen lines would soften anyway, and he left the pile of onion sitting messily on a plate while he rinsed the sticky white onion juice from his fingers, stinging eyes still blinking.

After he’d splashed some water on his face, he turned blindly into Steve and wiped his damp face on Steve’s shirtsleeve, chuckling when the man elbowed him a little in response.

They dumped everything into a big pot with water and bouillon and a little salt and black pepper, stirring idly for a few moments before wandering away from the hot stovetop. Fall as it was, neither of them seemed drawn to the fire for warmth, and their stew—as simple and plain as it was, nothing like the rich, almost sauce-like concoction Bucky’s mother would boil up—scarcely required their attention while it lowly bubbled away.

Instead, they ended up in bed again, shedding their bed-wrinkled clothes piece by piece as they kissed under the covers. They traded slow, lazy blowjobs; Bucky sucked Steve down until his jaw hurt, lips a little numb with friction-burn by the time Steve was spurting across the open splay of his tired mouth. After a few panting moments in the afterglow of Steve’s whimpered out orgasm, Bucky was dragged up and laid out flat in the middle of the bed, and Steve sucked him slow and sloppy until Bucky felt like he was ready to fall apart at the joints. He came when Steve began to rub two dry fingers to the tired ache of his hole, shaking a little at the sudden force of it, Steve’s mouth swallowing him down until it almost hurt.

They stayed in bed for a while longer. Bucky was almost asleep with his face buried in Steve’s armpit, crisp hair and clean sweat tickling his nose as he dozed, trying to figure out by the slow steadiness of his breath if Steve was awake without lifting his face to see for certain.

By the time they’d dragged themselves out of bed again, the window had gone mostly grey with the fading sun. They ducked into their pajama shirts, haphazardly buttoning them up while the hems flapped over their shorts. Steve cut up the last of his bread while Bucky scooped stew into two bowls, and they returned to the bed, gingerly sitting cross-legged in the saggy middle of the bed. The bowl was warm in his hands, and the peaks of the rucked up quilt and sheet tickled his bare knees, and Steve sat directly across from him, an enlarged, golden-haired Adonis of a funhouse mirror reflection. Bucky felt ravenous.

Steve looked at him the way he always did, but Bucky was starting to read the fondness scrawled onto his face, the tiny tic of a smile at one corner of his flat little mouth, the barest tracery of crow’s feet at the corner of his sky blue eyes that got deeper as Steve looked at him.

There was a little stew on Bucky’s chin, and his hands were full with his bowl and his chunk of bread, but Bucky looked right back at Steve, letting a huge smile split his face so widely he felt like he was cracking open.

“You look like a mess,” Steve said, but it didn’t sound like admonishment or complaint, because Steve’s voice was too quiet for that, the flat, nasally quality of his accent almost turned drawling as he looked Bucky up and down.

Shrugging, Bucky carefully angled his bowl of stew up and away from his face so he could wipe his chin off on the back of his hand. He looked down at himself, gesturing with his bowl. His shorts were hiked up on one side, his balls pressed a little uncomfortably to one thigh and the seam of his shorts. The shirt of Steve’s he’d borrowed hung open to the middle of his chest, and the unbuttoned sleeves flapped around his wrists. If he licked his lips, he could taste stew over the thick, sour taste of Steve’s come where it splashed over his face.

Steve was a mess, too. His lips looked a little swollen still, from where Bucky was sitting, the pink of them closer to red. His hair was rumpled straw, his jaw stubbled. He’d misbuttoned his shirt, and it gaped open over the muscular roll of his belly and the honey hair that trailed downwards.

“So do you, pal,” Bucky answered, and Steve smiled, a real, true smile that crackled across his face, a gorgeous and brilliant thing.

 


 

On Monday and Thursday nights, Steve was never home. Monday nights he had union meetings, and Thursday nights he went out with friends. On Tuesdays, over a shared dinner—Steve finally bought a second chair for his small table—Bucky would listen as Steve methodically went through his meeting with Bucky. He had recently been elected president of his local union and there was a limitless supply of problems to occupy Steve, and he always talked them through with Bucky, never bothered when Bucky had to ask one hundred and one questions about the whole thing. Steve would drag books out from underneath his bed, and those text-heavy magazines, pulling Bucky onto his lap and pointing out passages as they sipped from a shared tumbler of whiskey.

Steve always wound an arm around Bucky’s waist when they shared a seat, and Bucky usually rested his hand on the back of Steve’s, playing over the thick, bony ridges and the sprinkling of coarse hair. Sometimes Steve would press his face to Bucky’s back, breathing warmly through his shirt; sometimes Steve would surprise Bucky and just start mouthing wetly at the back of his neck, even in the middle of discussing some socialist precept.

It got to the point that Bucky spent most of his time at Steve’s. If it wasn’t Monday or Tuesday, and if he wasn’t working, he was likely within a few feet of Steve. He liked to stay the night in Steve’s bed, wrapped up in his pyjamas and using Steve’s chest for a pillow. He liked that Steve had cleared out a space under the bed for Bucky’s ever-growing stack of science fiction magazines, going soft around the corners faster than Steve’s pro-union publications ever did, partly because Bucky tended to fall asleep reading. Steve was too scrupulous to squash his magazines beneath his chin while he slept.

Sex grew soft around the corners, too, for them. For all that Bucky was always hungry for Steve—he felt like he’d regressed back to fourteen or fifteen, when it was all he could do to keep his hands off of himself—it wasn’t mindless or the sort of thing that made it hard to look at the other person, the way it had been with strangers. Bucky felt like there was a superfine line of fishing wire that connected them, both of them always reeling the other in with the barest, sweetest of brushes. Steve wasn’t effusive and he didn’t talk even half as much as Bucky did, but he always touched Bucky in a way that felt like valentines on the skin. Even the roughest moments, the odd violence of their hunger—it was gentle, too, in its own way.

They hibernated in Steve’s apartment through the winter. Bucky was the only Barnes of his kind in Brooklyn, and Steve was the only Rogers, so for Christmas, they split for late night mass— Ukrainian Orthodox services lasted for days, it felt like, but at least they weren’t crowded with an army of children the way Steve’s Irish church was—and met up again in Steve’s apartment as soon as the services broke up.

“You have to have mistletoe,” Bucky said, naked save for his shorts, and holding a sprig of mistletoe to a spindle of the headboard. “Now give me some string,” he commanded.

Steve fixed him with an annoyed look, but handed over string as soon as he’d scrounged some out of his neatly organized drawers and cut a length with his knife. “I don’t see why I need mistletoe to kiss you in my bed.”

“You don’t,” Bucky said, knotting the plain brown string around the greens before hooking a loop over the spindle. It was just a simple knot, and the mistletoe was a little ragged. It didn’t look as beautiful as the bowed, beribboned bunch his mother would hang up around Christmas time, but it made him smile all the same. “Maybe I want an excuse to stay up all night kissing you, Steve,” he argued, glaring at Steve over his bare shoulder.

Steve had his arms crossed over his bare chest; he looked as muscular and huge and impossibly strong as always, but it was the softness of his face that made Bucky’s stomach flutter. “I don’t think you need an excuse for that either, Buck.”

But he went to bed under the mistletoe willingly, and they fell asleep sticky and naked, mouths open and slack against each other’s faces. When they woke up—they could hear the merry ruckus of excited children up and down the hall and over their heads—they traded presents, still curled up in bed.

Bucky hadn’t had much money to spare; he’d sent nearly everything home to his mother and siblings, scraping by all month with as little as he could. He had intended to save more money for Steve’s gift, but it sounded like Rebecca was struggling to find decent work and his younger brothers were still too young to bring in anything more than scanty pocket change. So he’d only had a little money with which to buy Steve a packet of the fanciest colored pencils he could find and a pad of drawing paper. He’d wanted something nicer than that, but he had to comfort himself that at least this was better than slippery, discoloring newsprint and quick-to-splinter charcoal sticks.

He felt a little bashful about it after he handed the gift over, and he smoothed his hair back away from his forehead while he watched Steve tear away the cheap red paper he’d used to wrap the gifts. It felt silly and small compared to how colossal Steve was to him.

Steve swiped a broad thumb over the colored pencils, red to blue to green. “Haven’t used pencils as fine as this in a long time,” he said, and Bucky tracked the motion of his thumb, swiping backwards, green to blue to red. “Thank you, honey,” Steve said, quietly, and Bucky looked up in time for Steve to kiss him, chaste and warm.

In return, Bucky was handed a small pasteboard box, tied up with more of that plain string they’d used to hang their mistletoe, a lopsided rabbit-eared bow tied on top. When he tugged the string loose and flipped off the lid, he was greeted with a chronograph wristwatch, shiny-new and silvery, with a pair of smaller dials nestled into the round white face, with black numbers and a few red details.

It was nicer, nicer by far, than anything he could’ve ever afforded, if he’d even bother to spend that much on any one thing at all. It made Bucky think it was the sort of watch his father might’ve got him, someday. But George Barnes was dead and Steve had—Steve had taken care of something Bucky hadn’t realized he’d been missing.

“Jesus, Steve,” he said, touching his fingertips to the tiny knobs along the side of the face. “This is too much.”

“No,” Steve said simply, plucking the watch out of the box out from under Bucky’s hands. “It’s not.” He wrapped the brown leather band around Bucky’s wrist and did up the buckle. “You should have a watch.”

Bucky twisted his wrist this way and that when Steve let go, and he watched the way the light caught on the glass face, on the shiny leather strap. He held it so close to his nose he went cross-eyed, trying to see every detail of it at once.

“Jesus,” he breathed, and kissed Steve, grateful and pleased.

January into February saw them stuck indoors, waiting out the brash bluster of ceaseless snowstorms and slush-slick dirty sidewalks. The window and door ended up lined with rags to keep rattling gusts of cold air out, and they took to donning flannel pyjamas and woolen socks even when they slept plastered together.

For Valentine’s day, Bucky brought Steve a love poem he’d copied from a library book in his finest penmanship; Steve handed him a hand-drawn card colored in with pencil, addressed to BB from SGR. They made dinner together, drank half a bottle of cheap whiskey, and fucked until they both passed out, and neither one of them bothered to go to church in the morning, which was especially unusual behavior for Steve.

Bucky still spent about half his week at his own apartment. Steve had never objected to his showing up, but Steve generally said so little about his own preferences or wants that Bucky was afraid to ask for so much that one day Steve said no. Half a week felt like an adequate compromise when all he wanted to do was crawl into Steve’s breast pocket and never leave.

It didn’t always feel so sweet, though. Winter gloominess made them both snappish from time to time. Bucky fretted about his mother and sister and brothers. Steve got preoccupied and fussy about his union and spent far too long writing up articles and notes for a quarterly newsletter. Bucky got bored easily and needled Steve too frequently. Steve was a shit conversationalist.

In the rare moments when he paused to take stock of himself—when Steve’s knees were tucked right up under the kitchen table as he squinted at his meeting notes and Bucky stared at the crackling plaster ceiling, comics and books discarded out of boredom, window whistling sharply through the window—he could admit to a certain ache. He missed going out, he missed dancing, he missed walking down the street with his arm looped around a girl’s neck, thoughtlessly pressing a kiss where anyone could see them. If he and Steve went out anywhere, a drink at a bar, or a meal at a diner or automat, it always felt like the distance between them had to be precisely measured out. All the thoughtless intimacy of their time in Steve’s apartment had to be excised, pruned out, until they were just two men sitting in vaguely uncomfortable quiet as the world moved blithely on around them.

But for the most part, it grew easy to roll all that up into a rug and tuck it into a dusty attic; if he laid in Steve’s bed long enough for his eyes to glaze over, Steve would eventually crawl into bed beside him, curl up around him, and kiss him until Bucky felt good, instead of bad.

 

1945

 

Chapter Text

Winter 1947, Brooklyn, New York

When Bucky had shown back up after that first night, all raw nerves and cocky smile, you had been surprised. A kid like that, you’d thought, he could fuck any girl he wanted. He’d told you he’d gone with girls before, and you didn’t think he was lying. He was good looking, smart and charming as all hell. He could have anybody he wanted.

Unlike you, he could go through with fucking a girl. He liked it, even.

You figured he’d go back to girls eventually, once he realized how much it hurt to live like this, hidden and stifled, all of a body’s want and need crammed behind locked doors, or rushed through in the furtive, seedy backrooms of anonymous clubs.

In the meantime, the stubborn heart of you had decided you’d let him in, for as long as he’d show up at your door. You’d always tell him yes.

 


 

“It was different when I was a kid,” you told him, one arm hooked across his thin waist, holding him on your lap. With your chin hooked over his shoulder, you could see where he was reading: one of his hands framing the magazine column you were talking about, the other was hooked around the glass of whiskey the two of you were sharing.

“Mmmhmmm,” Bucky mumbled, taking a drink. You could easily see the long, white line of his throat when he swallowed.

When the two of you talked at your table, he was pretty good at listening and asking smart questions, but what you liked best is that he didn’t pretend to listen to you when he didn’t care to be listening anymore. He was pretty upfront about it, which is why, right about now, he was shifting carefully on your lap, pressing the curve of his ass backwards into you. His coyness, his boyish charm: it was as evident as the impossible dark blue of his beautiful eyes; the cleft of his sweet chin; the rough, tender hold of his calloused hands. He didn’t care one lick about the socialist meetings you went to back when you were his age—not right now, anyway.

You let your hands slip down to his hips, holding him in place. You turned your face into the warm curve where shoulder met neck, nose and lips brushing over the sensitive skin below his ear, the way you could always tell he liked. Bucky shivered, and you smiled like you were a kid, too.

There was no good reason for it that you could think of, but going to bed with him was different than anybody else you’d ever slept with. You came up and discarded a thousand different reasons for why being with him meant so fucking much to you, and so you just decided that it was everything about him, an everything so all-encompassing that it must be a sort of faith of its own.

It was religious, your love of him.

“Christ almighty,” he breathed out when your hand slipped between his legs, palming the growing bulge, rubbing gently with the heel of your hand. You loved even his dick; the youthful way he was always ready for fucking; the slick, fleshy slide of his foreskin; the way he sunk, unabashedly, into pleasure without fear or worry, just blithe lustfulness, sleepy-sexy eyes, and a hard cock.

It was almost careless, the way he entrusted himself to you. But you, too, were powerless in the face of it all, and so, your weaker self always reasoned with your guilt that it was all fair between the two of you.

His head rolled back against your shoulder, and when you turned your head, you saw his eyes were barely-there slits. “Don’t think you gave me much of a kiss when I came in tonight,” Bucky said, those plush lips barely scraping over your jaw, the world’s faintest shave.

“Oh?” you said, turning your lips closer to his cheek, the corner of his eye, his temple. You didn’t quite kiss him yet.

Bucky hummed again, a low burr of a groan that you could feel. “No, you didn’t, Steve.”

In reply, you put your hand on his jaw to hold his face to yours, and craning your neck, you kissed him long and slow. You kissed him until his breath hitched, until you could feel him unraveling in your grip, great handfuls of hot sand slipping through your fingers to spill across your lap.

You pulled away from the kiss and bumped his cheek with your nose. “How’s that, honey?” you asked. “Have I kissed you enough to take you to bed?”

“I think so,” Bucky murmured into your skin, teeth scraping (earnest, awkward, brief) over stubble before he slid out of your lap. “Come on,” he said, reaching out and yanking you out of your chair, walking backwards to the bed, kissing you all the while.

Bucky was gleeful when he tugged your pants off your hips and left them in a heap on the floor next to his own hastily shucked pants and shorts— he always chucked clothes on the floor, draped them over the footboard, tossed them on the seat of your chair— and you helped him out by pulling your shirt over your head and letting it fall to the floor instead of taking the time to fold it. He smiled wide when he’d pulled his own shirt over his head and saw you naked and sprawled across the bed.

By the time you were reaching down to tug at your cock, Bucky was climbing onto the bed to lightly straddle your hips, spitting messily into his palm before nudging your hand out of the way.

He jerked you off just enough to make you restless, going slow and fast, pausing to press tiny little kisses to the tiny points of your nipples, or rub needlessly at the red tip of your dick when it popped free of its hood. From the crooked smirk on his face, he knew exactly what he was doing to you.

“You’re a tease,” you accused, breathless with the fun of it. And he was: the curl of his crooked little smile deepened at your words.

With a single tug of your hand, you pulled his torturously slow and loose fist from around your cock. After that it was easy to flip him onto his back, his laughter trailing behind him on a gasp when you rose up to loom over him.

The laughter turned to happy, faint little moans when you began to suck him off. You swallowed his dick down quick as hell and went deep and fast, working him up and up until his messy fists were tangled in your hair and his hips worked uselessly against the firm grip you kept on them.

His breath came quickly, high pitched little hiccups of air that shuddered through the perfect ladder of his ribcage. You could see the flush on his cheeks, the bitten-red glow of his red mouth as it hung open.

So you slowly dragged your mouth up, lips pulling and working at the head of his cock for a few long moments and then—

You let go of that sweet perfect mouthful of cock, letting it pop right out of your lips. It was so hard it slapped against his taut little belly and the trail of dark hair there. Instead of putting your mouth back on it, like you wanted, you let yourself lick a broad strip over the inside of his thigh, running your tongue against the grain of the thick, dark hair that grew over his legs.

“Get the slick, honey,” you told him, tonguing the short hairs that grew at the softest, most inner part of his thighs, achingly close to the salty, musky crease of him.

He twisted his torso and scrabbled under the edge of the mattress, searching; you hooked your hands around the insides of his thighs and lapped at the soft, baby-haired skin that stretched across the hollows of his hips. You smiled when he flopped onto his back and all but thrust the tube of slick into your hands.

It surprised you from the start how easily he always opened for you, even when he was new and nervous and laying in your bed for the first time. It only got easier the more he crawled into your bed. If you hadn’t been so fucking careful, protective, with him from the start, you might’ve been envious at how simple it all was for him.

You wet the pads of your fingers with enough slick to drip down the creases between your fingers; you ghosted your fingers down to sink only but barely between his thighs. Playing with the crease of his thigh, you teased without offering much relief. “What do you want, honey?” You dug your fingers into the fleshy inside of his thighs, a hint of pressure— “Want me to fuck you here?” you asked, letting your grip soften, dragging slick along his skin, getting it faintly wet and shiny. You let your fingers dip between his cheeks, brushing against the pucker hidden there. “Or do you want me inside?”

Using the heel of his hand, Bucky shoved his hair up off his forehead, already a little sweaty and still sticky with pomade so that it stuck up and away from his face in a halo of disarray. You could see him twitching with want as he considered, and you lowered your mouth to lap at his nipples, across the dip of sternum, to rile him up some more.

“Inside me,” he commanded while you licked at his chest. “But you’ve got to be sweet to me about it,” he said, fixing you with a look that was probably meant to be serious, but mostly just made you want to fuck him all the more. It must’ve shown on your face, because his frown grew even more sweet and surly. “I mean it, pal,” he scowled through swollen lips. “Fuck me like I’m a regular princess. I’ve got to scrub the floors at the gym tomorrow after work.”

“Okay, honey,” you agreed.

Bucky didn’t exactly mean princess when he said it like that, and you knew that, too. It was a sort of shorthand, really, for the sort of sex that barely rocked the bed, that was so even-keeled you felt it across your whole body, not just in all the inches you’d fucked yourself into his body. The sort of sex that lasted longer than you could count, that made you sweaty even when you were barely moving.

It’s love, you thought, as you licked a kiss into the fuzzy underside of his balls. It was still love when you lifted his hips and helped him flip over onto his belly, orienting your legs around the splay of his parted thighs. It was love when Bucky grinned at you over his shoulder, and love when you pressed a single shiny-wet fingertip inside of him, crouched over the back of him so that he fit perfectly tucked under the too-large overhang of your body.

You finger fucked him for so long it was just easier to lie on your side next to him, breathing in the soapy clean smell of his hair from when he’d showered after work. Bucky had shown up to your apartment still dirty, with grit and metallic dust under his fingernails; he’d stolen your soap and your towel, and disappeared down the hall before showing back up, damp, five minutes later. The dull, cheap fragrance of your soap was all over his skin now, though, and he was cleaned down to pale skin and a few moles that dotted the gleaming flex of his smooth back. It was easy to press kisses to them as you went about the careful task of prepping him, measuring the worth of your work by the catch of his breath and shivers that licked up and down his spine, desire made visible to the naked eye.

He hummed and sighed while you stretched him open, pleasant alto nonsense that washed over the both of you, vague and happy and muddling with the sloppy wet slather of lube on skin. When Bucky had softened around your fingers enough, lax and receptive to any touch, you rolled him back towards yourself, helping Bucky settle on his side, enjoying the way he melted into you, the way he folded himself willingly along the lines of your body. The warmth of his body was faintly too warm, a touch of fever sinking in. Unable to help it, you rubbed your cock a little against his thigh, his leg; the damp furl of your foreskin left sticky kisses along his skin.

Either you pressed further and further towards him, or Bucky curled further and further back towards you, but eventually you were both on your sides, all of him arching back into you, his thighs spread and ass cheeks held open, a fleshy give under the weight of your expectant hands. In the yellowish light of your lamp, you could see his slicked up crease, the puffy, tender give of his hole, the place where he was open and waiting for you, lax and warm, but so ungodly tight. Bucky breathed shallowly while you rubbed the tip of your cock against his exposed hole, not quite pressing in, but just testing the subtle give of him, the way he was stretched open but still not as loose as he’d be after you’d fucked him. It teased him just as much as it teased you: each time you rubbed your cock in his over-slicked, over-heated crease, Bucky arched further back, opening himself more, keeping his thighs spread and pliant: an engraved invitation to fuck right into him, and one you could only ignore for so long.

You only gave him a little bit, half a tease, half careful enjoyment of the way Bucky’s body slowly opened up for you, swallowing you whole, bit by bit. You held yourself completely still once you’d fit the head of your cock just inside the tight hold of his little body. There was the faintest flutter of tension in him, a tremble in his grip where he’d linked his fingers in your free hand— and then Bucky breathed out, his body yielding to you, sinking into the mattress, into your arms, like a stone in water.

The thing about fucking him was that you had to hold back the rough urge to fuck right into him until your balls fit up snug against the smooth skin of of his taint, until his overworked hole was gripped vise tight against the base of your cock. The thought of him hurting any more than necessary made you sick and angry all at once.

That night, you just barely fucked him. You never went deeper than a few scant inches, no matter now he asked for more. It split your concentration into a handful of different directions. You got hung up on the incredible tightness swallowing you up; the sweaty grip of his hand around yours; the soap-and-sweat smell that lingered at the base of his neck.

“Jesus Christ,” Bucky breathed out after a slow eternity of slight thrusts and swallowed moans, and the sound of his low, rough voice was a new wave of pleasure crashing in your belly. There was always something about his profanity that pricked you.

You licked a little at the dampness at the back of his neck. “Think maybe I’ll fuck you slow like this for another hour,” you said, feigning some conversational nonchalance because you knew it’d rankle. “How’d you like that, honey?” You punctuated your thrust by all but pulling out of him, just the tip of your cock caught in the grasping thrall of his rim, only moving in the slightest, smallest little rocking motions.

Over the curl of his shoulder, you could see him roll his stormy-sea eyes. “Fuck you, pal,” he said, mouth twisted into a grin that flashed pretty white teeth, small and square and perfect.

You agreed with a little hum, but you drew your hand, linked with his, down to his cock, and together, you teased a little. Your fingers played at the head of his cock, pinching and squeezing and playing with the pearly drops that spilled from the drawn-back hood of his foreskin. Bucky reached down further, rubbing at his balls, tugging in gentle little motions.

When he started to rock back against you in earnest, trying to work you deeper and deeper still, you almost let him. It would’ve been nice to work yourself all the way inside, until there was no you or him, just the both of you as a single one.

But you’d promised him sweet and slow, a real gentle fucking, fit for a princess, and that’s what he’d get.

Eventually, you had to grab ahold of Bucky’s hips to keep him from taking you in all the way. You told him to use his hand and bring himself off, only partly because you liked the look of his square, long-fingered hands moving over his flushed dick. Bucky shivered when you whispered in his ear how pretty he looked, how sweet and good he was. You watched over his shoulder while he started stroking himself off, liking the way his fist moved faster and faster at your words. His sweat, the jolt of his shoulder under your mouth, tasted like, felt like, was blissful pride.

Bucky was seizing up beneath your mouth, under your hands, against the planes of your body. All the lines of his trim body were pulling together more tightly, and you could feel the almost, almost, almost that throbbed through him.

“Let me see it, honey, please. Just let me see you.” Desperation made your voice go a little broken and gruff, but his hand tightened, moved jerky and lightning quick.

He cried out when he came, but in the next moment, he was biting back the gorgeous, high-pitched sound just like the way his fingers clamped down tight around the spill of come in his fist.

The arrhythmic clench of his slick hole was maddening around the fat head of your cock, the only bit of you still inside of him. You had to let go of his hip, had to get your hand wrapped around the base of your cock. You had to stroke yourself, too, had to give yourself a little more friction to match the pulsating give of his pretty, stretched rim where he hung off the tip of your cock.

A thought, an image, punched through you, hot and heady and— fuck.

You could come in him. You could come inside of him, you could come inside of him a little, pull out just a moment too late and watch the last of your come spill down his taint and the back of his balls, dribble down his pretty, hairy thighs—

You’d never done that with him before. You’d barely done it with anyone before.

“Buck, honey, Buck, please, let me come inside, just a little, please, let me—”

His voice was a cracked whisper. “Yeah, please, Steve, c’mon.” Was he pleading?

Jesus christ.

It was easy to come after that, just a few quick, shallow thrusts and your mouth bruised where you had your lips and teeth smashed to the back of his skull to keep quiet. Sensation shook through you, a roil of momentary delirium that brightened the whole world to an insensible whiteness.

After a long moment of joint-knotted stillness, panting and a little lightheaded, you relaxed slowly, bracing your hands against his hips and ass as you pulled out of him in a controlled motion. You didn’t miss the little jerk Bucky gave at the sensation of being empty, nor did you miss the way his hole twitched a little, now all wet with slow-moving smears of your come. His body slowly relaxed under your gaze, and you reluctantly pulled your hands away from where you were keeping him spread open to your gaze. You felt absently guilty and pleased in equal measure, but mostly wrung out, like if you let yourself, you’d collapse back into him and sleep it off. Instead, you drew back a little, trying to wrangle your legs into climbing out of bed in search of a wet rag.

In a daze, you wiped Bucky’s come off his hand first, then cleaned up between his legs, the tenderly wiping away the evidence of where you’d wetted him up, messy and loose. From head to toe, he was as pliant and boneless as the wet rag in your hand. His hair was a wavy tangle, blue eyes slitted and sleepy. Bared, pale skin was mottled red with flush and the blush evidence of where you’d gripped him firmly.

You cleaned yourself up carelessly, mopping up your own mess with cold water before wringing out the rag as best you could and draping it over the mouth of your laundry bag. You left your whisky glass on the table and your clothes on the floor, and sprawled, still naked, on the bed next to him. “Did you want dinner?” you asked, tracing the imaginary lines between the moles on his shoulder, down to the inverse curve of his lower back.

Bucky hummed noncommittally, wriggling closer still to you, inviting you to press your whole palm to the middle of his back. “Later,” he groaned into the pillow. You knew he would want to eat sooner or later—he ate more than you, most days, which wasn’t surprising. He was filling out still, thicker in the shoulders than he’d once been, face even more lovely for the sharp new planes written into it.

“Alright,” you said. “We’ll go out.”

For a moment, it was quiet, and then Bucky twisted his head so he was peeking out at you with a single navy eye. You could read the demanding quirk of his grin like the idea of a command was written right there on that dark mouth in plain English. “What do you want?” you asked, trying not to act like you’d already given in.

“My magazine’s next to the bed…” he said, snuggling a little closer to you. “One story?” he asked hopefully.

You gave him an annoyed look, but you still reached over the edge of the bed and snagged the rumpled copy of Galaxy, setting the book against his bare skin, using his ribs for a table to flip to the back of the magazine in hopes of finding a story he hadn’t read yet.

Bucky roused slowly while you read, livening up paragraph by paragraph til he was propped up next to you. While you talked, he massaged your thigh in complete silence, face screwed up in concentration as he kneaded the muscle with absent care. He listened with his whole body. His fingers paused at anticipatory moments, dug in slightly too hard when the action hit its crescendo, and caressed gently at a bit of fanciful romance.

“You oughta be on the radio,” Bucky informed you after you’d finished the last of the story and tossed the magazine back on the pile of books.

You fixed him with a look. “With an accent like this, pal?” you asked, playing up the Brooklyn drawl, much to his obvious delight. “I don’t think so.”

“Well, I like the way you read to me, Steve,” Bucky said, pecking you sweetly on your mouth. “Guess I’ll have to keep you around.”

You kissed him back, and then you got dressed and bought sandwiches from the cheap place around the block, and brought them back to the flat. The both of you laughed as you juggled the wax-paper packages between you as you strolled back in the biting wind, using the cold as an excuse to press close together on the sidewalk.

You both ate ravenously, and crawled right back into bed. Bucky dropped off as quickly as he ever did, that is to say, just about as soon as his head hit the pillow. You fell asleep more slowly, curled around his lean body, thinking about the way he said guess I’ll have to keep you around. So easily, like he meant it, like it cost him nothing to say, nothing to admit, nothing to mean.

 

Bucky, Part II

“My birthday’s on Thursday,” Bucky announced over dinner.

Steve looked up from inhaling his plate of boiled chicken and vegetables, fork hanging clumsily in the air with a bite of cabbage clinging valiantly to a tine. “Eighteen?” he asked, eyebrows drawn in deeply together over his eyes like gathering storm clouds.

Bucky nodded, brushing a socked foot alongside Steve’s, poking him in the ankle with a grin, trying to cover up his own squirming feeling at announcing his birthday, the way a child would. “Now I won’t be a kid anymore.”

Putting down his fork, Steve reached over and laid his hand on Bucky’s thigh. Bucky automatically reached out, flipping Steve’s palm upwards and laced their fingers together. “Don’t think you’ve been a kid for a while, pal,” Steve said, wry for a moment before slipping back into his furrowed-brow frown. “I should’ve realized your birthday was coming up.”

Shrugging, Bucky picked at a scab on Steve’s thumb where it was peeling away; Steve didn’t so much as flinch. “It’s not really a big deal.”

Truthfully, Bucky couldn’t make up his mind about his birthday being a big deal or not. He wasn’t anywhere near his mother, so he wouldn’t get dinner and cake and his mother’s kisses smacked into the middle of his hair, the way she liked to do to tease her first born son with a mother’s embarrassing affection. Rebecca wouldn’t be there to gift him one of her infamously bad embroidered handkerchiefs; his brothers wouldn’t be there to beg for extra slices of birthday cake.

And it was his first birthday since his father died. Bucky didn’t like to think about it that way.

But it was also his first adult birthday, a day he’d spend with Steve, the only person in New York that knew him even half as much as his family.

“Only happens once,” Steve said. Bucky could feel Steve’s eyes on him, but he didn’t look up from his inspection of Steve’s fingers. “I can tell Sam I won’t be out on Thursday,” he said. “Is there anything you want to do for your birthday?”

“Spend it with you,” he listed. “Eat cake for dinner. Maybe… maybe we could go out for drinks. I’d say dancing, but…”

“If that’s what you want,” Steve said, frowning, but not necessarily with his usual mask of concentration. “We could go back to that bar. Where we met.”

Bucky thought about this. It perhaps wasn’t the safest thing they could do; he’d been scared to visit for a long time before he’d ever ventured out and met Steve, and that was only partly due to his own inexperience.

“Is it safe?” Bucky asked.

Steve’s other hand was tight on his fork, and now, looking closely in the under-lit apartment, Bucky could read the sharpness of the grooves around Steve’s frown, the new rigidity to the muscle at his jaw, the crevice of his furrowed brow. “Maybe.”

“Well…” Bucky hedged, dragging his fork through his rapidly cooling, sludgy green mess of his boiled cabbage.

“There’s been raids,” Steve said. His voice was so even it was almost as though his accent had been drained out of it, let like fluid from a wound by a doctor’s clinical, impartial hand. Sterile.

They didn’t talk about it often, because the differences between them and the miles between their experiences were always a strangely spectrous, impossible thing to put into words. But Bucky knew that Steve was twenty-seven, and Steve’s obvious experience was unspoken proof that Steve had been with men before. Steve didn’t say much about it, but Bucky knew he had friends that went with men, too, and that they were all old like Steve— men that knew things Bucky did not.

“Perhaps we shouldn’t, then,” Bucky deferred.

In the end, they went out for a meal at the Ukrainian men’s club that Bucky used to go to with his father on special occasions. Bucky ordered for the both of them, using the small armful of Ukrainian words he’d learned as a kid, grinning at the soft smile that Steve wore the whole time Bucky talked with the taciturn man that waited on them.

“I haven’t been back since my father died,” Bucky said, looking around. The place hadn’t changed in the almost-year since George Barnes’s heart had given out. The same Orthodox cross was prominently hung at a far end of the room, fantastically gilded. The same old men sat at the bar, talking in low, muzzy and grizzled Ukrainian. There were still the same paintings on the wall, just slightly dustier. He ground his teeth and sucked in a deep breath and stared at a pair of old men sitting in absolute silence, hands hooked around their beers.

It felt like days before Steve spoke. “I was seventeen when my mother died. TB.”

Bucky met Steve’s eyes. The blue seemed stitched together out of half a hundred things at once, an understanding no more but no less than shared facts. Steve’s hand touched his knee under the table, an almost indistinguishable glance of fingers over knobbly bone before Steve was drawing back, straightening up in his seat to his usual impeccable posture.

Bucky straightened up, too, and it was easier to breathe.

They drank cold beer while they waited for their food; it was fizzy and light in Bucky’s mouth, and as weak as it was, he savored the giddy little rush he got from it.

“Draw me,” Bucky commanded, sucking down a large mouthful of beer, foam clinging to his lips before he licked it away.

Steve raised one eyebrow, a sardonic little touch on his otherwise blank face.

“It’s my birthday,” Bucky said, allowing himself a little petulance because he knew it worked surprisingly well on Steve.

Steve huffed, but still dragged a little notebook and a stubby pencil from his pocket. He hunched over when he drew, and Bucky liked to watch the top of his head, his poorly slicked back hair flopping forward a little as his nose inched closer to the paper. His shoulders inched up towards his flushed ears. His head bobbed up and down as he glanced between Bucky and the booklet spread open with his fingers; a line of shadow waxed and waned over his face as he went.

“Happy?” Steve asked, passing the drawing over. A smile twitched at the corner of his mouth.

Bucky took the little book in his hand, careful to keep his fingers to the edges of the page so he didn’t smear the pencil lead.

It was a small little sketch; it’d fit neatly in the palm of his hand. It was quickly made, but there was Bucky’s lopsided, wide grin, his carefully combed waves, his arched eyebrows and the cleft on his chin. He liked the way Steve drew him, the way whatever it was that Steve liked about him danced on the page, affection impossible to miss.

“Oughtta charge you for this,” Bucky mused smugly. “I’m a good model.”

Steve fixed him with a fond, flat look, taking his notebook back and tucking it back into his jacket pocket.

Their food came out quick enough, heaps of it piled onto big plates that they stuffed between them, covering the table up as best they could. Steve’s eyes were round, and Bucky laughed at the look of happy anticipation on his face. They dug into fat, steaming golumpkis, and Steve looked delighted at the sweet tomato sauce, and then at the rice and beef that spilled from the leaves as Steve cut into his cabbage roll with a fork.

“Now will you admit that you Micks don’t know a damn thing about how to cook cabbage?” Bucky asked teasingly. Steve didn’t even argue, just snagged a couple potato pancakes with his fork while eyeing the coil of peppery sausage that Bucky was hack-sawing from halfway across the table.

They ate in companionable silence, Steve occasionally asking Bucky about the food or what something was called, or how it was prepared. They nudged plates back and forth to each other, taking notes of the other’s preferences: Bucky slurped down the last of the beetroot salad but it was Steve that curled the last potato pancake into a u-shape and sucked it whole into his mouth.

Steve’s whole face puckered up angrily when Bucky dared him to down a heaping spoonful of horseradish, and Bucky laughed so hard his eyes watered, not entirely unlike Steve’s. He laughed so loudly and for so long, in fact, that some of the old men at the counter turned to look at their cluttered little table, stacked with half-empty plates and a collection of empty, foamy pint glasses as it was. Steve gave up and laughed too, and it appeared their happiness was contagious because no one complained about their ruckus.

“When I’m a hundred, I want us to come here for my birthday,” Bucky said when they’d cleaned their plates, only smears and crumbs left behind. He was pleasantly full, a little flush with drink. Steve was warm and solid across the table from him, his hair all fine gilt like an icon, and their feet bumped happily under the table.

The little smile Steve wore was sweet, so sweet Bucky wanted to lick it from his face, to mash his face into the pink little curve of his hard masculine mouth, always so stern and flat except for when Bucky could coax those little smiles out of him. “Hmmm. One hundred, you say? We can do that.”

Steve paid, and it was a shock of cold to slip back out into the bitterness of a still-wintry Brooklyn night, the sky already a tapestry of grey and black and bursts of lamp light. He wanted nothing more than to curl into the warmth of Steve’s jacket, to let Steve rake his hands through Bucky’s hair and put that big, warm hand on the back of his neck, better than any woollen scarf. If they were in the apartment, Bucky would be free to bury the tip of his nose in the fuzzy warmth of Steve’s chest, to slide icy fingers up the back of Steve’s shirt until he could press them into the thick muscles of his back.

They couldn’t do any of that just yet, though. They had to wait. But the streets were busy enough, and the walk back to Steve’s tenement short enough, that they walked pressed side by side, thighs brushing and elbows knocking together. The walk was bracing and they hurried along—Bucky just wanted to be inside the safe warmth of Steve’s apartment.

Steve locked up as soon as he’d snapped the door shut behind them, same as he always did. Their boots and jackets were still on when Steve pressed Bucky into the wall, and Bucky followed the tug of Steve’s hands over his cheeks, groaning a little when they kissed. Steve’s thigh was huge between his, pinning him in place, while hot hands slid down his face and neck and dragged his coat and jacket off his shoulders. It sagged around his elbows before he sent it slipping off his arms into the puddles clinging to their messy boots.

He barely had a moment to acclimatize to the heat of Steve’s body oozing into his before Steve was dropping to his knees, practically crashing into the floor. Steve’s breath was hot at his navel, and Bucky reached for Steve’s hair, fisting silky handfuls of it while Steve’s hands wrenched his belt open, mouthing at his belly through the cotton of his shirt.

Bucky’s pants and shorts ended up pooling around his ankles and atop his boots; his shirt was shoved up and Steve was licking every exposed inch of skin with a sloppy, animal intensity. He just hung on to Steve’s head and sagged against the wall, cock hard but the rest of him practically boneless with want.

Steve licked above his navel. Sucked a sharp, hard mark into Bucky’s hip with a vicious pull of his narrow mouth. Ran his tongue over the trail of hair that led down to his cock. Steve’s hands grabbed at his ass and Bucky found himself yanked forward so much he had to brace the very tops of his shoulders against the wall. Those hands were spread so wide the tips of Steve’s fingers were nearly curling between his cheeks, pulling him apart, exposing his hole mercilessly to the cool, dry air.

All of Bucky gave a sharp jerk when Steve’s tongue curled briefly around the wet tip of his dick, and then Steve’s mouth was engulfing him whole, sending scalding heat all the way down to the base of his cock. Through his own shuddering, he could feel the convulsions of Steve’s throat as Steve swallowed around him, and then Steve was pulling back, sucking hard and fast around the head, a fist suddenly squeezing tight around the base, jerking him in time with the rise and fall of Steve’s mouth.

Looking down, he grunted at the tight, shuddery feeling in his chest. He loved the sight of his hands in Steve’s hair and the way Steve looked up at him from under his honey lashes, his mouth a red wet circle around his dick. Bucky had seen Steve like this, he’d gone, grateful and hungry for it, to his knees for Steve— and yet he never got used to how fucking good, how right it felt to lay with Steve.

“I’m gonna— fuck— Jesus fuck, Steve, I’m gonna come.” He panted as he talked, trying to pull Steve’s tight mouth off his cock, but his grip was too weak to do anything.

Steve’s answering groan vibrated through him, he could feel it on his dick, a raspy shudder of tongue and a tightening of the fist around his shaft. He couldn’t look at it without wanting to just blow down Steve’s throat, so he tilted his head back and tried to hold out for a few fucking moments more, just wanting to savor—

It was like everything blurred together after he closed his eyes. The weakness of his own aroused body left him as just a mass of wanting nerve endings. Steve’s mouth sucked harder, wetter, and his fist was jerking Bucky off in time with the working of his mouth. He could hear and feel it when Steve kept making that purring groan in the back of his throat, almost continuously now.

Bucky’s whole body curled forward when he came, white-out pleasure and held breath, thighs jolting and shivering, belly jumping as Steve swallowed everything that spilled out of him. He could feel Steve’s mouth gently working as he swallowed, smooth bursts of suction that sent a few lasting tremors juddering through him. When he opened his eyes, a few breathless moments later, he saw that he was just sort of restlessly petting Steve’s hair, stroking over the top of his head to his ears again and again as Bucky breathed slowly back into himself.

“Happy birthday, honey,” Steve said, his voice cracked and ruined, his eyes luminously dark and huge as he licked his lips.

“Jee-sus,” Bucky said, the word practically dragged from his slack mouth as he stared down at Steve. “Thank you,” he said with a low laugh.

Steve stood right back up and then Bucky was suddenly swept up into his arms, carried like a bride, head lolling against that big chest, legs and ass bare, pants still tangled around his laced up boots. Steve set him on the edge of the bed and Bucky fell backwards, suddenly exhausted, but mouth stirred up.

“That was fuckin’ ‘mazing,” he crowed to the ceiling while Steve tugged off his boots. “You got a fuckin’ mouth on you, Steve.” Steve’s laugh was quiet but amused. “Hey,” Bucky said, tipping his head up to look at Steve. “You’re gonna fuck me later, right? I’ll make it so good for you,” he coaxed, wiggling a little to pull his pants back up over his now-soft dick. “Swear I’ll make it so sweet for you.”

“Sure,” Steve agreed. “Later.”

“Yeah, later,” Bucky said, musing a little as he watched Steve pick up their discarded coats and Bucky’s lopsided boots. “First,” he said, drawing out the word, “you gotta dance with me.”

Steve huffed. “Bucky…” he complained. “I don’t dance.”

“That’s because you haven’t ever had anyone that could lead you. You might be taller, but you’ve got all the rhythm of a thumb tack. I’m the best dancer around here, pal. Girls were lining up to dance with me. I’ll show you how it’s done.”

Steve emptied out his pockets onto the kitchen table, and then shuffled over to the tabletop radio. With a huge, gusty sigh, he switched the radio on, and the boring drone of a newscast filled the room. “Alright, get your lazy ass outta bed, come put on your music. Let’s get this over with.”

Bucky got right up at that, using his heels to pinch the top of his socks to the floor and yank his feet out of them one at a time. He leaned over the table and fiddled with the dial for a few moments, practiced at finding the best stations for dance music.

“Ah-ha,” he said, waving his hand in the air with a flourish when he’d finally found the right music. “Nothing too fast,” Bucky said, giving Steve a sly look and a hammed-up wink. “I want to be able to slow dance all night long, sugar pie.”

Steve’s mouth twitched, but he otherwise maintained a sour face in the wake of Bucky’s antics. He even had his arms crossed over his big chest, like he was just asking for Bucky to yank his stiff arms into place. With the slow, romantic music playing in the background, he looked a little silly. Amused, Bucky leaned over and kissed Steve’s cheek. “Aw, come on,” he wheedled, flirting a little the way he would with a girl, sugar sweet but firm. “Don’t be like that.” He put his hands on Steve’s arms above the elbow and rubbed up and down a few times before squeezing with just a little gentle pressure. Nimbly, he drew his hands down, pulling just hard enough to coax Steve to uncross his arms and drop his hands into Bucky’s. “Don’t you want to dance with me?” he asked, drawing Steve’s left hand up to his shoulder.

“Yeah, I do,” Steve finally said, his voice low.

Bucky got them into position quickly; Steve apparently knew enough to keep his left hand by Bucky’s shoulder and his right hand in Bucky’s left, but he drooped his elbows like melting candle wax and his hands hovered and twitched, like he wasn’t used to the light pressure of dancing. “Relax,” Bucky said, dropping his hand a little lower on Steve’s back and rubbing up and down. “I’ll be real gentle with ya,” he promised.

Stepping in real close to Steve, he drew their linked hands in and kept them pressed between their bodies, right up against his chest, and Steve’s eyes followed the motion before he met Bucky’s eyes again. “Here,” Bucky said, “I’m gonna count. All you gotta do is step backwards when I move forward.” He jiggled one leg. “Feel that? We’re not quite touching, but you can feel my thigh right up against yours, see? All you gotta do is let your body listen to mine. Don’t think too much. Let me boss you around for a change, pal.” Steve’s forehead was creased in concentration, and he looked down between their bodies. “Hey, eyes up here,” Bucky commanded. “Don’t look down. I’m going to count now.”

Even after not really dancing much for the past few months, it was still second nature to find the rhythm and step into it; he just had to count to four out loud, murmuring as he pressed Steve backwards, leading him around the crowded little apartment. It was not all that different from the constraints of a crowded dance hall, but lighter than that smoky atmosphere. Here, in Steve’s apartment, he had his bare feet on Steve’s scrubbed wood floors, and Steve’s huge body leaned into his, the wide knot of their clasped hands heavy against his heart.

As far as their dancing went, it was kiddie stuff. Steve was a little off, and wasn’t exactly responsive to being led though he put in a good effort. He kept trying to sneak looks at their feet and would poke his tongue out in concentration. He looked sweet as hell, with a grumpy little frown and awkward elbows, and lumbered a little bit when he fell out of rhythm, catching up to Bucky slowly and with more than a little fumbling.

Bucky took pity on Steve, given that the poor guy wasn’t getting any better, and just stuck to a slow shuffle, moving mostly in place and not even bothering to count. “You’re doing pretty good,” he said, when Steve had managed to sway appropriately through most of a song. The look he got in response was nothing short of baleful.

“No, I’m not,” Steve grumbled.

“You haven’t stepped on my toes yet,” Bucky pointed out. “That’s good enough for me.”

Steve cracked a grin at that. “Kid, you got some low standards.”

Well, Bucky had to kiss him after that, tipping his head just so and leaning in all on instinct. It was sweet at first, but then Steve opened up his mouth and everything got a little hotter after that. They both ended up a little hard and breathing heavy, but it wasn’t really about sex. They kept moving in their lopsided little box step, and their hands never really dropped any lower, but they kissed like they were dying for it, eyes closed and Bucky’s heart beating like crazy.

After a while, they had to stop kissing: they were breathing hard, faces pressed together still. Bucky squeezed his eyes shut and breathed in the usual plain, sweaty smell of Steve, clean and male and so big against him, a huge mountain he could wrap his arms around, a solid, steady thing to anchor himself to. Unchanging, good and serious.

They swayed along like that for a long time, until the broadcast ended and the radio crackled into the next show, a radio drama that neither of them cared for. Bucky let his arms fall away, and Steve reached over with one long arm and snapped the radio off.

Bucky had to clear his throat before he could talk, feeling strangely hoarse. “See, that wasn’t so bad.”

Steve kissed his forehead in reply, draping an arm around Bucky’s shoulders and pulling him close again for a moment. “No,” he answered. “Dancing with you ain’t so bad.” He kissed Bucky’s hair and let him go. “Let’s get ready for bed, honey,” he said.

It was still early, so they took their time: Bucky went off to the bathroom and showered first, taking his time cleaning up from head to toe and brushing his teeth until they were shiny white. Under the spray, he scrubbed all the pomade out of his hair, letting it get floppy and messy and squeaky clean. He soaped up between his legs, idle fingers tracing over his hole until he shivered a little, and then he got out and dried off before dressing up in the loose pyjamas he always stole from Steve’s trunk.

Bucky fell into Steve’s bed to wait while Steve went off to shower; he pushed the quilt down to the foot of the bed and spread an old lap blanket over the middle of the bed, stored under the bed for this exact purpose. He laid on his belly and thought idly about sex. It was always so close to the surface now— he could always recall the way Steve felt on top of him, inside of him, or the heady, harsh pleasure he got from putting his mouth on Steve’s cock, so distinct from the mindless pleasure he felt when Steve returned the favor. He got more than a little hard thinking about it, rutting a little idly against the bed where Steve had gone to bed with him so many times before. Thinking about sex was more or less just a flash of heat these days, imagined and remembered snippets of all the ways Steve could or had been with him.

Of course, Steve showered more efficiently than Bucky, turning back up just a few minutes later, fresh as a daisy even without all of Bucky’s dawdling. He just wore his sleeveless undershirt and his old ratty trousers for around the apartment. Bucky could see where he hadn’t bothered to dry off that well, with beads of water dotting the thin fabric at his ribs and upper back. His blond hair gleamed darker than usual, slicked back away from his face. He put his clothes away, fastidious to the last, and more than that, all too aware that Bucky lacked patience.

It seemed tonight that Steve was going to enjoy drawing the whole thing out. He poured himself a glass of water while Bucky watched, still laid on his belly and propped up on his elbows in Steve’s bed.

“Why don’t you get undressed, honey,” Steve said. “I’ll be there in a minute.”

Bucky enjoyed this. He knew he was good looking and that Steve was just as susceptible to that as any girl had been before him. He rolled onto his back, making a show of adjusting his dick before drawing his shirt up and over his head. Steve’s drink was halfway gone by the time Bucky had tossed his shirt over the foot of the bed. He was staring at Bucky, the way he so openly wanted Bucky going straight to Bucky’s head and down to his dick.

He was slow and methodical about taking his pants off; he looked right at Steve the whole time, challenge in his eyes. He arched his hips up and off the bed while Steve watched, and kicked the loose trousers down to the foot of the bed. Easing himself back down onto the bed, he tilted his head back and let his eyes fall shut as he palmed his dick and balls lazily, without much intent over than just rubbing himself up and down, enjoying the light friction. It was more to tease Steve than himself.

When Bucky opened his eyes again, Steve was undressing. He was never playful about it the way Bucky was sometimes, but that was just Steve. Even the methodical way he pulled his shirt up over his head and pushed his pants down his thick thighs was fucking gorgeous to Bucky.

When Steve was finally naked in front of him, Bucky drew his hand slowly up his own body, pulling it away from his dick as Steve settling comfortably atop him, bracketing him. His hard cock nudged at Bucky’s belly and slid a wet, sticky path along the hollow of his hip, settling into the groove of Bucky like their bodies had been grown together like intertwined trees. Bucky drew his knees up, let them settle around Steve’s hips in a comfortable, yawning stretch.

“How do you want it, honey?” Steve asked, mouth right against the sensitive shell of Bucky’s ear, nuzzling at Bucky’s hairline.

“Uh,” Bucky grunted into Steve’s neck, licking a hot, quick line up the side of Steve’s sweaty throat. He felt playful and awake, coming back into himself with Steve pinning him down. “Seems like you have a plan so far.” He bit Steve’s ear, because it always made Steve shiver and huff.

Steve rolled his eyes, but he reached for the slender tube of lubricant they kept half-shoved under the mattress, close to the wall. They went through it like water because they both liked the sweet slickness of it. The sound of it had gotten wired into Bucky’s mind, the slick sound of in on their hands as they fisted their cocks, or on their fingers when they pressed into Bucky’s body, the wet sounds they made when they fucked.

They squirmed around playfully until Bucky was on his stomach, Steve a low hanging, humid summer cloud hovering just above his back as he worked huge, eager fingers into Bucky’s easy body. Steve was unusually slow and playful as he worked Bucky open, and Bucky floated on the slow moving simmer of his pleasure, keeping his whines and moans and teasing entreaties so quiet barely the pillow beneath his face could hear him—but Bucky knew Steve heard him all the same, because his fingers would twitch in slightly deeper, or he’d nip, hard, at the back of Bucky’s bared neck or shoulder, or he’d even lean forward himself to whisper something filthy in Bucky’s ear.

“You think you want to get on top of me tonight, honey?” Steve asked, and in answer, Bucky rolled his hips back, fucking himself back onto Steve’s two fingers where they’d spread him open wetly.

“Yeah,” he breathed out, already feeling a rising tide of want stroking up his spine, his cock hard between his belly and the soft flannel sheets. “Yeah.”

When everything was wetted up with slick, and when Steve’s fingers were working in and out of him all easy and steady, they rolled over again, plastering themselves together so they wouldn’t roll off the mattress on accident. Steve laid on his back and put his feet flat to the bed, knees to the ceiling, and Bucky balanced above Steve’s stomach with a knee on either side of Steve’s narrow waist.

Bucky stuttered out a curse when Steve helped him sit down on his dick. It always felt deeper this way, and he had to drop a fist to the bed behind him and lean back against Steve’s thighs for a moment of relief. He held himself still, slightly twisted back and to one side. It was an impossible balance to maintain when Steve’s big hands were dragging slowly, slowly, down from his waist to his hips, stroking the curving jut of his hip bones. He jolted when Steve’s hands skimmed over his ass and spread his cheeks for a lingering moment; the jolt forced Steve’s cock deeper into him, stroking over the swollen, achy knot of pleasure inside of him.

Swallowing a cry, Bucky thighs tensed as he held himself steady for a long moment. He breathed out, took his tight fist from where he’d balanced it on the quilt and straightened his back, letting himself relax into Steve’s hold, into the hot, damp palms that had settled high up and inwards on the backs of his thighs.

Bucky hummed a single note, a rich low sound that he couldn’t help but let flow out of him as he began to rock back and forth on Steve’s dick, following the push and pull of Steve’s hands as they helped guide him. Bucky was hard now. His cock jerked and bounced with him as he settled into a steady rhythm of fucking, slapping down onto Steve’s belly when Bucky shoved himself downwards particularly hard.

Bucky loved when they fucked like this, not only because it felt good, but because it afforded him a sweet measure of power over Steve. He felt a little small still, stretched out over Steve, but that was its own beautiful power, because Steve’s blue eyes were locked onto him, completely focused on every tiny move, each little twitch. Since the beginning, since their first night together, Steve had watched him carefully, taking stock of each reaction: pleasure, pain, discomfort, disinterest, rapture. But the way Steve studied him was less of an assessment these days, more a memorization, a wonder and rapture of want all its own. Steve’s mouth would get slack as he stared, fixing his eyes on Bucky’s face—always lingering on his lips, Bucky noticed, so he was always sure to bite them, to lick them—before tracking down the exposed curve of his throat and the bulge of his Adam’s apple, down over his shoulders. Steve would stare if Bucky ran his fingers over his own nipples, if he licked his fingers and rubbed wet little smears into the gooseflesh there. Steve was unabashed in his interest in Bucky’s cock, hard against his belly, or a soft and flaccid shape against his balls; he liked to scratch at the dark hair at that grew around the base of Bucky’s cock, thicker than Steve’s slightly paler, honey colored hair. Steve liked to watch Bucky as he stroked himself off in time to Steve’s thrusts, and Bucky loved knowing what Steve wanted to see.

It would be an oversimplification to say he did any of that just for Steve’s benefit. He liked touching himself, but he liked doing it with Steve more. He liked learning at Steve’s hands, liked testing the limits of Steve’s patience, liked learning what he was indifferent to, and what make him crazy with want. Everything was better with Steve.

“Feels good,” Bucky breathed out into the room, looking down at Steve’s face. “I like fuckin’ like this. Nice and slow. Easy. Let you work up to fuckin’ me hard, y’know.”

They rocked together like that long and slow, until the arch of it was too much pressure on Bucky’s spine, and he tipped himself forward until his forehead was pressed to Steve’s throat, fingers scrabbling up the side of Steve’s neck into his short hair, twisting and pulling. He sighed into Steve’s skin and rubbed his face along the silky, sweaty skin of his neck; he twisted his face to the side and began laying kisses down the long path of Steve’s collarbone, sticky and wet, a hint of teeth and tongue to test the skin.

Long, blunt fingers were digging into his hips, probably too hard and enough to dot his skin with penny-sized blue-black marks. It was a sweet anchor as the rest of him rocked in time with the rising tide, a steady point in a recklessly hungry sea. Bucky murmured wordlessly into Steve’s shoulder, happy, hungry little noises that spilled out thoughtlessly.

It wasn’t too long before everything— the fucking, Steve’s hands, the taste of Steve’s skin under Bucky’s lips—caught and turned like a lock, tumbling their easy want into something more desperate and quick.

Steve thrust up, pressing in unendingly deep, and instead of crying out, Bucky bit down on the meat of Steve’s shoulder, hard enough to leave the impression of his teeth, hard enough to feel the saliva and marked up skin left behind on golden skin.

“Fuck,” Steve swore, an emphatic gust of sound pressed into Bucky’s scalp.

After a few awkward, jerky thrusts while they settled into a more comfortable rhythm, Steve’s hand was wrapped around Bucky’s dick, just under the swollen head. His calloused hand squeezed tight, thumb pressing into the give of the foreskin, rubbing over the head. Bucky held his breath, waiting for the inevitable wet friction.

But Steve never started to stroke him off, so he pushed up on his elbows, trying to catch his breath through an aggravated whine.

“Show me, honey,” Steve whispered in his ear, a nasty tease and a promise. There was another hand at the small of his back, pressing down, forcing Bucky to arch his back, and — oh.

This time, when he rocked back, impaling himself on Steve’s length, his cock dragged backwards, pulling the wet tip of him into Steve’s fist. And when he rocked forward, his cock thrust forward too, tight and hot and wet in Steve’s sweat and slick and precome-dampened hand.

“That’s it, honey,” Steve said, voice tight and shivery in Bucky’s ear. Bucky realized that he was shaking, shivering on his elbows while his ass was up in the air, working the head of Steve’s cock in the tight little give of his hole while he fucked his own dick into Steve’s massive grip. “Show me what you need. Take it, honey, take it.”

So he did, fucking back and forth until he was brainless with how badly he wanted to come, eyes shut to little slits and tongue nearly lolling out of his head. Pleasure was a fragile thread away, every part of Bucky poised to snap, crack open, break apart until he could tip into orgasm.

All the while, Steve whispered sweet, filthy things in his ear, mouth moving wetly in damp little puffs of air over Bucky’s shivery, sweaty skin, up his neck and behind his ear, down to his throat and then the same all over again.

“Christ, honey. Feel so sweet. So fuckin’ tight, Jesus. Never seen anything look so good as you, the way you take it.”

Bucky came all over Steve’s stomach, too far gone to cry out, just whimpering as he fucked erratically into Steve’s fist, coming in long waves that jerked endlessly through him and left him limp as a rag doll. He sagged bonelessly into Steve’s chest and listened to the blood-thump in his ears, floating while Steve held his hips still and took over, pounding up into him with impossible strength.

The last few thrusts were short and grinding, and unlike most nights, Steve didn’t pull out of him, and in Bucky’s haze, it was just hot-wet-warm-shivery, Steve holding himself perfectly still inside of Bucky, an iron grip on Bucky’s arched hips.

Steve didn’t groan or cry out, but he pressed his face to the side of Bucky’s head and whimpered words into Bucky’s throat. As Bucky swam towards the surface, rubbing his face into the muscle of Steve’s chest, mouthing at a swelled-up nipple, he realized that Steve was whispering his name, over and over again, in a small, cracked, desperate little voice.

Bucky, Bucky, Buck...

 


 

Bucky knew there was another pair of flannel pyjamas in Steve’s trunk, he just had to find them, wherever they were buried. The trunk was packed tight and neat, layered full of sheets and clothes, all crisp corners and neat tucks. It looked neater than when his mother had carefully packed up their Brooklyn apartment for her long trip back to Indiana with the kids.

It was Monday, and Steve was out for his union meeting. Steve had merely nodded when Bucky had nicked the spare key from the teacup on the table this morning, and now that he was here, Bucky decided to crawl into bed with a book to wait for Steve. The problem was that the bed wasn’t nearly as warm without Steve, so he had to dig through the trunk for flannels in lieu of sprawling out on top of Steve, who was usually hotter than a furnace.

Steve would probably frown when he saw the mess, but after some fruitless poking around, Bucky just decided to start hefting clothes and sheets and everything out of the way, setting them on the floor beside the truck with as much care as he could muster. There was no way he was going to get everything back in there as neatly as Steve had managed, but he could try.

Eventually, though, he ran out of cloth to pull from the trunk, and was left looking at an assortment of books and odds and ends, even a framed photograph of a slight blonde woman next to a tall man in an old fashioned uniform. It was an aged looking photo, the corners a little beat up and the clothes that the couple wore were high necked and formal, old fashioned to Bucky’s young eyes.

Bucky looked at his watch guiltily before glancing at the spread of blankets and clothes stacked next to him in disheveled piles. It wasn’t quite eight o’clock. He had at least another hour or so before Steve came back to the apartment, brimming with pro-union speak and possibly smelling of that cheap ale he liked, depending on how late he’d been out.

He pulled out the picture, first. Studying the woman, he could see Steve’s eyes in her face, immediately similar for all that they were captured in black and white. She was short and slender, a narrow waif in a wedding dress holding the hands of a uniformed man with Steve’s same broad build, but darker hair and a rawboned face. It was clearly a wedding photo, and judging by the looks of it, they’d gotten married at some point during the Great War.

Reaching in, he pulled up a handful of books, carefully stacked by size. Their spines and covers were all bent and cracked, the pages wavy and stained by water or age. There were no titles stamped on them, just blank cloth or card or even leather.

Sketchbooks, Bucky realized.

Steve rarely drew, save to draw little doodles of Bucky while they lounged about the apartment. Steve never drew a full picture of anything, just sketch after sketch of little details: Bucky’s hands chopping carrots, Bucky’s toe poking out of a holey sock, the folds of a shirt tucked haphazardly into the back of his trousers.

But these were proper sketchbooks, he realized, holding a heap of them in his hands in an aborted motion, halfway between the mouth of the trunk and his lap. They were cracked open and puffy, stuffed with drawings— he could tell without even opening a single one, could tell just by looking at them, just by holding them in his grip. These weren’t the same as the sketches Steve did now— those, more often than not, ended up twisted and used for kindling in his finicky stove. These, in contrast, were carefully hidden and packed away, stacked in neat and tidy formation at the bottom of a carefully kept trunk.

Bucky hesitated. He wanted to flip through every page here, consuming every flick of pencil or smear of charcoal, every bit of white space. They were clearly too precious to discard, but Steve didn’t exactly leave them out, either. If Steve had wanted Bucky to see them, he would’ve shown them to him. Steve never stopped Bucky from peering over his shoulder at whatever scattered arrangement of drawings he’d put down on newsprint.

He couldn’t look. Reluctantly, Bucky settled the books back, fingers hesitating as he dragged them over the spine, the edges of the pages.

He wanted to look.

Before he could stop himself, Bucky picked up the smallest volume, a slender book with a soft leather cover. It was the most damaged of all the little books, with big water splotches on the cover and the paper edges. Bucky held his breath, then flipped the book open, letting it fall open naturally to whatever page it pleased. A veneer of fate for a very deliberate action.

The sketchbook opened to a heavily detailed drawing that sprawled across the two pages towards the end of the book, gorgeous and carefully made even if it was just drawn on cheap blank paper with pencil. It wasn’t colored at all, but Bucky could imagine it all so easily in his mind.

It was a drawing of jungle. There were palm fronds and skinny little trees, scraggly little tufts of reedy grass and an amorphous blob of water in the background, pouring around the landscape.

In the foreground, a wiry man— shirtless, uniform pants low on his hips— lay on his back on a heap of palm fronds. He was grinning and smoking, eyes shut and hair a curly mess over his brow. He had a helmet next to him, lazily tipping to one side. The crease of the book bisected the man down his middle, separating his waist from his hips. The man looked pleased and happy, buzzed like the rattle and sway of alcohol through a body’s veins.

Arnie, Merry-fucking-Christmas. 1942., was written in the corner in Steve’s now-familiar looping scrawl. It was maybe messier, more cramped, smudged and dirty, but it was Steve’s, all right.

It felt unexpectedly sexual, the naked contentment on the man’s face, and it set off a murmuration of jealous, pinwheeling birds in his stomach. It was stupid to be jealous—Bucky had been twelve to Steve’s twenty-two in 1942, collecting scrap metal while Steve toted around a goddamn gun in the jungle—but he still felt that sickly curl of stupid emotion, making him feel stupid, too. He’d have to be stupid to think that Steve hadn’t gone to bed with others before. Steve’s experience had been patently obvious in the pains Steve had taken to make everything so good for Bucky.

Perhaps it was not really the sex that Bucky was so jealous of, but the intimacy. The tender pencil strokes for lashes; the lax curve of the man’s spine as he reclined on a bed of palm and discarded clothes; the decadent fall of his open mouth. It spoke of something more intangible than simply fucking.

But maybe it was a little stupid that Bucky had never faced the obvious fact that Steve had most likely gone to war. He had clearly gone to war, but it wasn’t something Steve had ever mentioned, obliquely or otherwise. He’d talked to Steve so much over the past few months of their togetherness that it felt strange that an entire war could exist between their understanding of each other. Steve—who could talk about the minutiae of his union meetings, about something he’d read in one of his communist magazines, about a book or comic strip he’d read or a movie he’d caught—had never once mentioned something so immense as war.

It was tempting to card through more of the pages—but to what end? It was wrong to have looked in the first place. Bucky knew that now that it was too late.

Bucky snapped the book shut and restacked it with everything else in the trunk. He let his mind fill with radio static and nothing else, and he packed the bed clothes and shirts and socks back into the trunk with as much care as he could muster. He took an eternity doing it, trying to get everything just so, exactly the way Steve had put everything in there himself.

He hadn’t managed to find the flannels he wanted, so he stood instead at Steve’s sink in his cotton shorts and one of Steve’s undershirts—it stank of sweat and musk, and he’d pulled it from the laundry bag with no hesitation—and drank a full glass of whiskey quick and messy, alcohol wetting the corners of his mouth, threatening to spill down his chin. He washed the glass methodically, dried it, and put it carefully away. He’d brushed his teeth before he drank, but he did it again now, carefully scrubbing away the remnants of his sloppy drink.

Mechanically, Bucky pulled the quilt back and crawled into bed, hissing a bit at the crisp coldness of the sheets on his bare legs. He wished for another blanket, but he didn’t want to go back onto the floor and reopen the trunk. Instead, he just tugged the covers up to the cold tips of his ears and curled into a ball.

For several long moments, he shivered. He wondered how on earth he’d be able to sleep with all the cold, but he closed his eyes and fell asleep right away, carried away by the whiskey.

He didn’t wake up until Steve got into the bed, bare-chested and still wearing his socks and shorts. A pair of woolen feet caught his, itchy and warm and just right.

“I was hoping to see you tonight, key-thief,” Steve mumbled into his hair. Bucky allowed himself to be manhandled, coaxed into a lazy sprawl of sleepy limbs over Steve’s winter-cold fingers and still-warm core.

Bucky blinked fuzzily, rubbing wakefulness into his cheeks by nuzzling into Steve’s bare pectoral. “Ho’z the mee’in’,” he slurred through a yawn.

“Good,” Steve mumbled into the crown of Bucky’s head. Their faces nudged and pressed closer, not really in a kiss, but something like one. They were tugged together, pulling into a slow moving orbit of shared breath and sleepy murmurs. Bucky blinked a few more times, then let his eyes slide shut again.

“Can’t believe you’re asleep already,” Steve mumbled. His hand was moving at the back of Bucky’s head, a lethargic tug and pull through the nest of his hair. Bucky lifted lazy fingers, let them trickle and slide over the dips and curves and hard lines of Steve’s chest. He pawed at the crisp, dark hair that grew on Steve’s chest, brushing over a nipple, over the hard furrow of his breast bone.

Bucky’s fingers caught and skid on a raised lump and a slick patch of skin. Below Steve’s armpit was a hard, knotted lump that spilled into a weal of slick, smooth scar tissue.

It wasn’t unusual. The both of them had scars from work. They compared healing scabs and puffed up burns; they’d scrubbed bits of metal from cuts and pulled splinters from each other’s gouges. It was almost a game to them, to poke at jagged cuts and smear ointment over sores, to tug bandages tightly into knots.

But this was an old one, healed as good as it was going to get. Bucky knew the spot, had seen it a thousand times, had touched it intentionally, accidentally, thoughtlessly and carelessly. It was more white than pink; there was a hard knot of tightly twisted skin along one edge. It was just another mark among many between them. It could’ve been from anything.

Tracing the lumpen mass, the puckered edge where scar turned to skin, Bucky stuttered into sleep, wondering about how all the thing he didn’t know about Steve—had never asked about—could fill books.

 


 

The next morning they ate breakfast at the small table, oatmeal and coffee boiled to near-black tar thickness and a bowl of sugar between them. Bucky had clung to Steve when it was time to roll out of bed to use the showers, groaning and squeezing his arms around the solid shape of Steve’s impossibly warm middle. Bucky had showered quickly and blankly, living in the quick slip-slide of moments to go before he had to drift down to the mill.

While they ate, they shared yesterday’s newspaper, a habit that had unfolded into routine somewhere along the line.

Bucky left first, Steve still lingering over the world news and the dregs of his shitty coffee. “I’ll be late tonight,” he said, touching two fingers to the open collar of Steve’s threadbare work shirt. “Got a shift at Goldie’s.”

Steve tugged him down, and Bucky closed his eyes, leaning into the kiss and breathing in deeply the bitter taste of coffee that clung to Steve’s mouth. “Alright, Buck,” Steve said agreeably, nodding as they drew apart.

The whole day sort of futzed along around Bucky. He didn’t think about the drawing he had seen last night, or the scar without a provenance. He just put in his hours at the mill, changing the oil on the truck with the sticky gears and writing up inventory reports and purchasing requests until his hand had cramped up into a goblinish little curl. He bummed a smoke from Walt at lunch, and they spent the afternoon dismantling an old machine so they could repair the flooring beneath it. Everything was rote and easy and he did everything well without much thought.

He grabbed a dry sandwich from an automat on his way to Goldie’s and choked it down with the help of some scalding coffee. He boxed with some younger kids, showing them the ropes, and when everyone was starting to clear out, he scrubbed the floors up as hard as he could. Everything was mindless.

By the time he’d made it back to Steve’s place—he hadn’t seen the inside of his own apartment since Thursday, and he was running out of clothes at Steve’s, but he didn’t care to go back to his crummy apartment just yet—it was so dark all the alleyways had gone black, even if the sidewalks were all lit up with lamplight and the flashing light of all the buildings in Brooklyn.

Steve was cooking when he got in, standing at the stove; he turned around briefly to greet Bucky with furrowed eyebrows and a quick hello before turning back to plate up their food.

Bucky kept as quiet as he had all day while they ate their food. His mouth felt dry and he slumped over the table to saw at the fried slices of ham with careless elbows plopped onto the table. Eventually, Bucky looked up to realize that Steve was watching him from over his almost empty plate; he looked back down at his picked-over dinner and began shoveling it into his mouth determinedly.

Steve fiddled with the radio—adjusting it to one of Bucky’s radio programs without speaking—while Bucky did the washing up. Under the music, Bucky could hear Steve puttering around, muttering to himself as he tidied.

After the last dish had been put away, Bucky dried his hands off on the rag, wincing at a crack that had split open and bled earlier today. He pressed a thumbnail into the slit of it, and kept it there until he couldn’t help but wince.

“Can I ask you something?” Bucky said, leaning back against the sink to look at Steve without getting too close.

Steve looked up from where he was sitting on the floor, sorting through the books under the bed. “Sure, Buck,” he agreed, already looking back down at the heaps around him. The piles had gotten unruly, and Steve was clearly still concentrating on weeding them out, like he’d been threatening for weeks.

A thin moment stretched while Bucky felt himself hesitating. He’d spent all day not thinking about it and he didn’t have any words ready.

So instead, Bucky walked over to Steve, picking his way over the comics and pulps and novels.

“Here—,” Bucky said, reaching out and snagging the books from Steve’s hands, “Just—,” he set everything to the side and knelt down so he was face to face with Steve. “Let me.”

To his credit, Steve didn’t bluster much when Bucky’s hands went to his shirt and tugged it up, forcing the thick weight of his arms to hover in the air with an unexpected uncertainty, undershirt wrenched up to his armpits.

Bucky’s left hand hardened into a knot around the bunched up fabric, and he braced himself against Steve’s chest. Leaning forward, he pressed the flat of his hand to that ragged, drawn-out oval of a scar just a few inches below the sucked-in curve of his armpit, just wide of his pectoral.

“I just wanted to find the flannels,” Bucky said, frustrated because he didn’t fucking know how to arrange the words he wanted to say when it was something as serious as all this. If it had been something easy, charm would’ve been easy and flowed in spades. But this wasn’t easy.

Steve looked vaguely concerned. “Bucky, what—,”

“You were in the war.” Bucky meant to say it as a question, but it wasn’t.

A large hand wound around Bucky’s wrist, tugging his hand away from the scar; their hands wound up between their laps, clamped tight together. Steve’s shirt fell down unevenly, rumpled folds settling over his belt.

“Yes,” Steve answered.

Bucky looked up, just a quick glance. Steve’s face was flat, stony and more serious than Bucky had ever seen it. There was a tension, an electric current, that coursed through the flinty planes and bumps of his face. Steve was wire, strand after strand of electric voltage caught and held in the skeletal sparity of a transmission tower.

“I was in the Army. I joined when I was seventeen, in ‘37, after my mother died. I was in Pearl Harbor, then the Pacific. And then I got sent home for being a queer, and… that was it.”

Bucky looked back up, but Steve was almost unrecognizable for the way his face had curled into anger. Red had crept low over his face, his jaw ticked tightly. His eyebrows had drawn together, a hard vee above his eyes glowing angrily in their sockets. His mouth, thin as it was, had receded to pencil-fine nothingness.

Steve’s breath was suddenly audible to Bucky, like he’d flipped a radio switch and was suddenly tuned into just the right station. And Steve kept talking, more hotly than he ever did, even at his most frustrated moments with the union work. The radio station inside of Steve was channeling pure anger, something with great, dripping wet teeth and coal-eyes, something that whistled and shrieked as it fell closer to earth from the sky.

“Gave them nearly ten years of my fuckin’ life. And I was fuckin’ good at it, too. Promotions, men of my own. I could shoot more than worth a damn, wasn’t afraid of anything. I’d take any fuckin’ mission they even thought about offerin’ me.” Steve’s hands got tight around Bucky’s, squeezing too tight over the bone, and Bucky twitched his fingers but Steve didn’t seem to notice. “And all that fuckin’ ended because I got caught—”

Instead of finishing whatever it was he started to say, Steve just swallowed back his words. But Bucky could figure it out, for the most part: Steve had gotten caught with another man, and a likely promising military career had evaporated.

It didn’t hurt in nearly the same way to think about Steve with that man, the one from the sketchbook. The jealousy and curiosity he’d felt in hot flares yesterday suddenly went stone cold, mealy and rotten in the pit of his stomach. The hurt felt worse now, because to Steve, that man in the picture was likely a marker of everything falling apart for him, even as the war was grinding down to a slow capitulation.

“I’m sorry,” Bucky choked out with all the fumble-mouthed clatter of a child admitting to some childishly grievous sin, but he made the effort and looked Steve in the eyes while he did it, even if he hated how small this whole thing had made him feel. “I saw one of your drawings in your trunk. I shouldn’t have looked. I just... I just thought it was like your other sketches, y’know? And I… I just wanted to know.”

Steve let go of him slowly, like he had to peel his fingers off and away from Bucky’s, like glue had dried all the crevices of their hands together. Steve looked away, and the long, low exhale that Steve let out was too controlled to be a sigh. “It’s not your fault. I haven’t spoken about this in a long time. It’s not… It’s not who I am anymore.”

There were still piles of books scattered around them, and while Bucky watched, Steve got them all under the bed with a few quick shoves, letting them sit messier than they had before Steve had tried to sort them out. Steve got to his feet and held his hand out for Bucky.

It would’ve been stupid to hesitate. He reached out and grabbed ahold of Steve’s hand and let himself be pulled up until they were both standing in the middle of the room, Steve’s hand still wrapped around his, only far more gently this time.

But then Steve’s hand was gone and Steve was moving towards the cabinets. While Bucky watched, Steve took down the two tumblers and the bottle of whiskey, and poured until the amber liquid was barely an inch from the rim. They usually shared a couple weak beers or a single shallow glass of whiskey with dinner, and on weekends they might indulge a little more, but Steve wasn’t keen on drinking to get drunk, and Bucky was fine with following his lead.

So it was unusual when Steve passed him a glass and kept the other, taking a sip before passing that off to Bucky, as well. And then Steve brushed gently past him, striding the few feet back over to the bed and the trunk. He opened the trunk, and with uncharacteristic sloppiness, began unloading all the clothes and bedsheets from the trunk onto his neatly made bed.

“Steve,” Bucky began, tentatively. “You don’t have to—”

“Yes, I do,” Steve said firmly.

Steve was always serious, but his calm had always seemed bone deep, resonating from his very marrow, from the webbing that held his skeleton together. This was different, like a heartbeat gone haywire, the rapid flutter of a pulse that had to beat like crazy until all the sound in the world was a washed-out drumbeat.

Steve knelt down in front of the trunk when it had been emptied down the to books and pictures at the bottom. Bucky took a few tentative steps forward, drinks held awkwardly in front of him. “C’mere, honey,” Steve said, shoulders sagging, the sharp line of his spine drooping like a leftover bouquet. He sounded soft for the first time since Bucky had brought the whole thing up.

Bucky knelt down next to Steve, cautiously dropping to his knees, and not only because of the tumblers of whiskey held in his hands.

A big hand reached out and took the fuller glass, and Bucky watched as Steve drained half of it before setting it carefully off to the side. Bucky glanced at the glass in his hand, the one Steve had drank from before they’d left the kitchen; he could see the faint outline of where Steve had pressed his lips to the rim. Bucky considered taking a drink, but found he couldn’t. He didn’t want to drain his glass in a few large swallows, but sipping, like any part of this was something to savor, felt wrong. He set it down on the floor as well.

Steve pulled a couple of the books out, including the small one Bucky had peeked at, and a manila envelope Bucky hadn’t noticed at the time. They made a soft wuffing sound as Steve set them down on the floor between them. Steve’s hand brushed Bucky’s knee as he took up the smallest book and flipped through it, a quick ruffling of the pages that allowed only the tiniest flash of imagery: sketches and pages of words, all jammed together.

“I miss it, sometimes,” Steve said, fingers caught between the pages of the notebook. “I’d been doing it since I was seventeen and had nothing else to do. And it wasn’t hard. Not like you’d think.”

The little book was set aside. Steve picked up one of the larger books, one with bent corners and obvious water damage, brown whorls warping the cover. He flipped idly towards the middle, the same easy way he had when flipping through one any one of the books stacked under the bed.

“I was stationed in Hawaii, before Pearl Harbor,” Steve began, leaving the book open to a full page, colored pencil drawing that he tilted towards Bucky. “There were a lot of men like us there,” he said. “Bars where GIs could go and older queers with money would buy drinks for us. And as long as we denied ever doing anything…” Steve trailed off, thumb twitching at the corner of the notebook page where he held it trapped open.

The drawing was not incriminating or obscene at all, not nearly as overt as the drawing of Arnie from the small book. It was just a scene from what was very likely the sort of bar Steve was talking about. A pair of men standing close together along the bar top, facing each other with forearms braced on the counter and drinks and ashtrays and half-drawn strangers outside of their elbows, everything going sketchy the closer it got to the edge of the page. One man was obviously a soldier, but he wasn’t Steve. He had short dark hair and dark eyes, a heavy, dark brow and a longish nose, a casual tilt of the head that signaled easy handsomeness. He wore a green uniform, all of him carefully neat and put together. A cigarette was pressed between his lips.

The man opposite him wasn’t a soldier: he was a handsome man with a sweet, coy look on his face, dressed in a pale blue short-sleeved shirt that showed off his arms. His honey colored hair was brushed away from his face in gleaming waves not unlike Bucky’s.

No, it wasn’t obscene or sexual, but there was a feeling Bucky got from it, an ineffable sense that these men were like him and Steve. There was a certain softness in the way they were leaning towards each other, the angled route their bodies took in balancing against the bartop. The haze of light and cigarette smoke that Steve had somehow captured with blues and white and gray was somehow sexual, marked by an erotic tension that transcended the obvious.

Reaching forward, Bucky briefly pressed two fingertips to the scant space between the two men’s waists, feeling the slightly waxy texture of colored pencil, the grainy marks of pencil on old paper.

“Did you know them?” Bucky asked.

“Private Roberts,” Steve said. “He wasn’t in my company, though, so I didn’t know him well. But he was like me. We both went there too often. And the other fellow was Roy, I think. I never went with him.”

“Oh?” Bucky asked, curious.

Steve shrugged, flipping through the book a little more. “He was well-off. Liked to show he had money. Flashy. A real ass.” Steve stilled on another drawing, this one smaller, crowded in among lines of tiny text. This was just regular pencil this time, a hastily rendered little sketch of the back of a man’s head on a pillow, the drawing slipping down to the middle of his naked back before fading into nothingness. “Thomas was sweet to me. I slept with him a few times. He was one of my firsts.” Steve reached for his glass of whiskey and took another drink, smaller this time, more controlled. “I’d forgotten about it. But it was nice for a time, back then.”

There was a marked wistfulness in Steve’s low voice, now. It was strange to think of Steve as having firsts with someone; to imagine Steve as young and inexperienced was unfathomable when everything about him reeked of confidence and capability.

“I can’t imagine you as a kid,” Bucky said. “Don’t mean a real kid. I just mean… young enough to be a virgin, I guess.”

Steve laughed at that.

“I was a real shrimp when I was your age,” Steve said, setting aside the notebook and reaching back into the trunk and pulling out a smaller envelope. He opened the flap and tipped a small spill of pictures out onto the floor between them.

Bucky looked curiously at the photos, eyes roving too quickly to get more than quick black and white snatches of imagery: men in uniforms, crowded streets that looked like Brooklyn, a fleeting glimpse of the woman from the wedding photograph, only older, gaunter.

“Here,” Steve said, handing over a photograph. “Think I was about sixteen, here. Just before Ma got sick.”

Bucky looked down at the photograph in disbelief. Steve was miniscule compared to himself now, bony and scowling, not at all grown into his chin or nose or ears. His hands were unreasonably large, dangling from toothpick arms. He was short, dwarfed by the crowds at the beach. Clothes hung loosely on his spare, scarecrow body.

“Jesus. They let you join the army like this?”

Laughter met his incredulous words. “I grew like a weed the next summer. I got sick and lightheaded, whole body felt like it was getting tugged apart from the inside. Kept filling out for a while. You’ll get bigger yet, I think.”

Bucky looked up from the screwed-tight, angry little face in the photograph to the smoother, wider face next to him. “You think so?” he asked, slightly skeptical.

“Hmm,” Steve agreed. He settled back, stretching his legs out and leaning back on a hand. After another sip of whiskey, he continued. “You seem like you might grow into your shoulders more. Your hands.”

Bucky couldn’t help the smile he flashed in return, but directed it at the photographs and open notebooks at his knees. He gathered up the large notebook with its drawings of Hawaii, and scooted backwards to sit next to Steve. While he’d talked, it seemed like all the anger had flushed itself out an open window.

“Did you always know?” Bucky asked, looking at an illustration of a man frowning down at his tie. It was more cartoonish than some of the other drawings, and Buck liked the flippancy of it.

Steve drained his glass. “Always know that I was queer?”

Bucky nodded, and reached for his glass, and then leaned back, even closer to Steve this time.

“I guess so,” Steve said slowly, like there were still more words waiting in the back of his throat, scrambling to get in last-minute order before they came out of his mouth. “Only fooled around a little before I enlisted. It was different when Ma was alive. Easier to not think about it. Never did much of anything when I enlisted, and I was in Hawai’i… It was nice to stop hiding for a while. And it was the same when we shipped out, too. Fellas like us, we could have our fun out there. Just. Hiding in plain sight.”

Bucky looked down at his drink. He hadn’t had more than a couple sips. “Then… why’d they kick you out?”

Snorting derisively, Steve picked up his empty glass like he was going to take another swallow and ended up just eyeballing the liquor-sheen on the drained glass. Wordlessly, Bucky handed over his glass, and took the empty one.

“Thanks,” Steve said shortly, immediately bringing the glass to his mouth for another swallow. “It turns out that they all found it a lot easier to be ignorant about us queers when there was a draft on. But when it looked like the war was ending…” he trailed off, meeting Bucky’s eyes. Bucky could read the flash of blue well enough, the implications of his flat but furious gaze.

Steve wasn’t his usual unruffled self; his anger and melancholy had melded into some strange, heaviness that made his spine uncoil and sag before Bucky’s eyes, that made heavy fingertips tap distractedly over the side of his glass. Watching Steve like that had Bucky caught between poles, absorbed in the story of Steve’s life, but horrified at the disruption of it, the way it must’ve hurt Steve for it to still feel like this.

Reaching over, Steve yanked on a loosened fold of cloth from the piles of bedclothes he’d scattered across his quilt, and a set of sheets— a set too light for winter— tumbled to the floor at Steve’s side. He drained his whiskey and set the glass to the side, scooting it along a floorboard towards Bucky. Then he tucked the wad of mashed up sheets behind his head and laid back on the floor. Without lifting his head, he reached out and fumbled for the pile of books and dragged them closer. He picked up the small book again, flipping through it.

“Grab the bottle of whiskey, and come over here,” Steve said from behind the sketchbook propped up on his chest. “Lay down with me.”

Bucky brought over the bottle and refilled Steve’s glass but didn’t pour himself anymore. He didn’t want it. It seemed inappropriate to play at some sort of solidarity, like Bucky should allow himself anything more than what he already had just by playing—demanding—witness. He just sat cross-legged in silence while Steve drank a third glass of whiskey, then a fourth, in rapid succession, rubbing at Steve’s feet and calves, the strong backs of his thighs.

“I was engaged once,” Steve announced, halfway through his fifth glass of whiskey.

Bucky’s hand froze on Steve’s thigh, where he’d been massaging the long, heavy slab of tight muscle that ran from his ass to the back of his knees. His legs were always so tight and tired after a shift.

“What?” he croaked.

Steve let his notebook flop back onto his belly, pages up, and nudged it towards where Bucky was sitting.

When he reached out to turn the book towards his gaze, his hand was still buzzing from the constant rasp of Steve’s pant leg under his massaging fingers. He had to nudge the book awkwardly a few times, trying to get it to settle just so on the unsteady rise and fall of Steve’s abdomen.

Along the edge of the page— leaving enough space along the seams of the pace for a few paragraphs in tiny, cramped writing— was a full drawing of a woman in profile. She was wearing a nurse’s uniform, sleeves rolled up to her elbows, a soft, beautiful cloud of dark waves around an elegant face with gorgeous lips curved in an arch little smile.

“Jesus, Steve,” he said on an exhale. He might’ve whistled in approval of the bombshell figure she cut, but it was all too surreal for that. “She’s a looker.”

Instead of replying to that, Steve hummed, ambivalent. “Obviously that went away with my dishonorable discharge,” he carried on. “She was a British girl. Smarter than me, too. We were going to come back to Brooklyn. I was going to be a cop. And she was going to be a doctor. Jesus fuck. Peggy was smart. Bet she did it, too. She never did need me. Or any other man.”

Somewhere along the line, Steve had topped up his glass. Had he been doing that all along? It hadn’t been that long since dinner, and an alcohol flush was storming across Steve’s cheeks. His eyes had gone distinctly glassy. At some point, just drinking had turned to outright drunk, and Bucky felt stupid for not exactly pinpointing when.

“You’ve been with girls,” Steve said, twisting his head up to look at Bucky. The hand not wrapped around his glass of whiskey reached out, pawing a little clumsily at Bucky’s hair, and Bucky masked a wince when Steve’s watch caught the top of his ear. “Did you like it?”

“It was nice, yeah,” he said truthfully.

Steve sighed. “I didn’t,” he said. He laughed, but it wasn’t a happy or pleased sound; instead, it was a little bit of a braying sound, helpless and harsh. “Peggy was the only girl I ever tried with. Kept gettin’ soft.” He laughed again, another cracked open sound. “Tried everything. Put her on her knees and closed my eyes, didn’t put my fingers inside of her. Still couldn’t keep it up. I told her it was because of Arnie dyin’ and she said it was okay.”

“Steve—” Bucky began, but Steve cut him off, almost like he hadn’t even heard Bucky.

“She was real nice about it when she broke it off. Nicer’n I deserved. Disappointed in me. Like she was Ma. I was fuckin’ guys out there and I got caught and it ruined everything she had planned out. Shouldn’t have been going with anyone when I had a girl like that. Just. Wanted to.”

Bucky gently prised the whiskey glass from Steve’s hand and subtly pushed the whiskey bottle out of sight. “So why’d you get engaged at all? If you don’t like girls?”

A big hand caught his elbow and tugged, and Bucky was glad he’d gotten rid of the glasses and whiskey when he tumbled into Steve’s chest, uncoordinated because of the way he’d been yanked. Steve was blistering hot, a thousand sweaty degrees.

“S’ what you’re supposed to do, but I couldn’t, so I didn’t and now I’m here,” Steve said, mouth hot and wet as he talked into Bucky’s scalp. A big hand rubbed, hard, up and down the line of his back, zig-zagging idly. “You’re gonna marry a girl, ain’t you.” It wasn’t a question, or it if it was, it was rhetorical. Steve had already decided he didn’t need an answer.

“Why?” Bucky asked. “I don’t see you marrying a girl.”

Steve crushed Bucky into a hug. “Oh, honey. You’re too sweet for this. Too sweet for me. It’s lonely. An’ you have a choice, don’t you. You’re so pretty, honey. You’ll get married, Buck, and you’ll be so sweet.”

“What if I just want to stay with you?” Bucky asked, unable to parse whatever emotion made those words feel so hot in his mouth. It was maybe anger, maybe fear, or maybe something like a little bit of disappointment.

The exhale that Steve gave was shuddery, hot and almost uncomfortable over the line of Bucky’s neck. “That’d be real nice, Buck. I’d like that.”

Shouldering up a little, Bucky deliberately dug the point of his chin in Steve’s chest. “Say,” he said, slapping Steve’s chin lightly, once, twice. “It’d be real nice to get to bed, don’t you think?”

“Sure, honey,” Steve said agreeably, without making any move to get up. He looked like sugar, dissolving into hot coffee.

Bucky sighed. “Lay here for a moment,” he allowed, shrugging his way out of Steve’s grip and getting awkwardly to his feet around the delayed grasp of Steve’s hands trying to pull him back down. He evaded well enough, though, and set about putting the apartment to rights as best he could, packing up the tumble of clothes and bedsheets back into the trunk, folding with precise care. He left the notebooks out, stacked neatly now beside the bed, and tucked the whiskey well away before washing out the glasses.

Bucky walked down to the bathroom, then brushed his own teeth and shucked his clothes, donning one of Steve’s dirty undershirts to sleep in. Standing hunched over the leaky, shallow sink he washed his face, combed his hair, examined the red constellation of acne that had puffed up on his cheek overnight. He studied his face, trying to figure out how old people would guess he was just by looking at him. Usually he didn’t think about it. But sometimes when he and Steve went out for a drink, or roast dinner at the diner, he wondered about how puny and baby-faced he looked like next to the masculine figure that Steve cut. Right now, he just couldn’t tell. He looked the same as he had this morning, but he felt different, maybe. Bigger and smaller on the inside in a way he didn’t really get.

When Bucky let himself back into the flat, Steve was still sprawled out on the floor. He could tell Steve wasn’t sleeping, exactly, but drifting towards it, breathing heavily. If he were counting sheep, he’d be hitting the point where numbers had slurred together.

It took a fair amount of cajoling, but Steve was eventually convinced to stand up and take his turn in the bathroom. Once upright, he trudged along without complaint, wordlessly carrying out his nightly ablutions without fuss but also without care.

“C’mere,” Steve said, low and grumbly, into Bucky’s neck, though Bucky was really the one herding Steve into bed and dousing the lights. Bucky pulled back the quilt while Steve cupped his hips and stroked up his sides.

Jerking his head towards the sheets, Bucky pulled until they were falling into bed with less grace than usual. “Alright, ya oaf,” he grumbled, struggling to get Steve tucked properly into bed.

Eventually, after a lot of squirming, they ended up like they usually did, Bucky caught up in Steve’s arms, pulled back into the hot hold of his chest and hips, legs tucked up together. Steve’s mouth was slack and open against Bucky’s neck, sort of like a lazy kiss.

Steve huffed a good night into the back of Bucky’s neck, rubbing his mostly soft dick restlessly and forgetfully against Bucky’s ass for a while. It was comforting and pleasant in a way he didn’t really care to examine, even if it was the lazy sort of frotting that went nowhere. While Steve snuffled the back of his neck, Bucky stroked up and down the scar-pocked length of Steve’s arms, stroking the hair there this way and that, massaging over wrists that swelled too easily and fingers that were jammed or crushed or nicked more often than not.

“Y’r sweet,” Steve garbled into his shoulder, sweaty forehead a tad too warm on Bucky’s neck. “Sweet an’ pretty.” His accent was nearly impenetrable, thick with drink. Fingers pet at his chest briefly before relaxing, slack and heavy.

It wasn’t long after that Steve was snoring, his heavy body practically sealed to Bucky’s with sweat and deeply asleep. Judging by what Bucky could see of the alarm clock, it wasn’t really that late, not far off when they usually were starting to fall asleep. He felt a little tired, maybe; he’d worked a full day then put a few more hours in at Goldie’s. But the tiredness was only clinging to the very edges of him, because too much of him felt bewildered.

Truthfully, none of what Steve had told him felt very much like some kind of surprise. Steve was the right age, had the right mannerisms and look, to be a veteran. His sexual experience was a given, he’d known that since the first night they’d met. The woman—Peggy— was a bit of a surprise, and frankly, Bucky felt a tidal wave of secondhand embarrassment over Steve’s inability to fuck her. For Bucky, it was always so easy to look at a girl or guy and think idly about kissing or touching, and he assumed anybody could go with anybody, if they felt like it. Steve was the best he’d ever felt in bed, of course, but Steve was also the best at scrambled eggs and toast and reading comic books in bed, and Bucky didn’t really think it mattered too much, one way or another, if he was a guy or a girl.

But to Steve, it had mattered, and he felt badly that Steve, who fucked like he was made for fucking, had drunkenly admitted to an absolute inability to do it, just because she wasn’t a man. And Steve had apparently passed it off as Arnie dying, Arnie, the man Steve had drawn in his small book, Arnie, Merry-Fucking-Christmas, 1942.

All of it together was bewildering, then, not because it was a grand mystery, but because all of it was so fucking much. It was incomprehensibly more than Bucky had even figured it would be, a whole writhing mass of things that had happened when Bucky was just a kid.

He fell asleep thinking about that. Bucky had been seven when Steve had enlisted; that was the year he’d fallen out of the tree swing and broken his arm. His father had carried him in his arms all the way to the doctor’s.

 


 

“Shit,” was all Steve said when the alarm clock went off in the morning.

Bucky switched the alarm off with some difficulty; Steve was laying on top of half of him, a dead, sleepy weight that had made his arm so numb he couldn’t feel it at all.

Steve rubbed his face into Bucky’s armpit, the tip of his nose tickling the insides of his arm. Bucky could see red lines ironed into Steve’s square face, creases from sleeping too heavily. His eyebrows were all over the place, the tiny hairs flattened every which way. “Shit,” Steve grunted in another puff of hot air. Bucky could feel where Steve had drooled on his shoulder, the fabric clinging to his skin when he dragged his pins-and-needles arm out from underneath the deadweight of Steve’s chest.

Usually it was Bucky that had to be dragged from bed, groggy and mule-mouthed, well after Steve had taken his shower and gotten a start on breakfast. But this time, Bucky rolled out of bed and rubbed Steve’s shoulder soft and nice. “I’ll make breakfast today,” he mumbled, mouth feeling cottony and rough.

The hall shower wasn’t occupied, just wet, so he scrubbed up quick, ducking in and out without seeing more than one or two other tired souls in the hall as most of the city staggered out of bed and off to work.

After Bucky got dressed, he pinched Steve’s bicep, earning himself the sight of Steve smearing his face off the pillow to glare at Bucky with one angry but hazy blue eye.

“Time to get up, Steve,” he said, cheerfully. “I’m making scrambled eggs, and you need to get into the shower before Mr. Salerno does, otherwise you’ll be late to work.”

It took a couple of moments, but soon Bucky could hear the floor creaking behind him, Steve’s feet shuffling and dragging.

Bucky took extra care with breakfast, fixing Steve a sweet cup of coffee— lighter than the raunchy swill Steve usually tried to pass off as coffee— and scrambling up the eggs with a little bit of cream and keeping the toast soft and barely browned, just the way Steve liked it.

When Steve came back into the flat, he looked much better, rubbing a towel through his damp hair before slicking it away from his face, careless as ever. Bucky looked over from scouring the cast iron pan to see Steve smiling at the table and the loaded up plates of food, and Bucky just shrugged abashedly when Steve flashed a small, pleased smile his way.

Before he sat down, Steve snagged Bucky around the waist, tugging Bucky and his soapy hands away from the sink. Big hands curled around his waist, spinning him right into Steve’s chest. And then his chin was being tilted upwards.

“Thank you, honey,” Steve murmured into his mouth.

Bucky deepened the kiss, just a short lick of minty tongues. “You’re welcome,” he answered. He wanted to put his hands on Steve’s chest, but there was dishwater dripping down his wrists and arms, and he didn’t want to get Steve’s clothes dirty.

They sat down at the table and ate, the paper foregone in favor of pressing their feet and legs against each other in comfortable silence. The toast and eggs had gotten a bit cold, and Bucky’d forgotten to put the pepper on the table, but it was nice.

It felt normal, like any other morning they got out of bed on time and shared breakfast before work. There wasn’t anything different about this morning, save for maybe the way Steve was squinting a little. “Old man,” Bucky said, warm with affection, looking at Steve’s scrunched up face when the window glare caught on his face.

Steve knocked their knees together, sucking down a mouthful of coffee.

“Your coffee’s better than mine,” Steve said. It was a compliment that sounded almost like a complaint, and Bucky had to laugh at the absurdity of it.

Taking a long, loud slurp, Bucky looked at Steve over the rim of his mug. “Turns out you don’t have to boil the grounds ‘til they cry,” he said.

And then he was being reeled forward, into a kiss over the side of the table. “Is that so…” Steve mumbled when they broke apart.

“Mmhmm,” he chirped.

Steve did the last of the dishes while Bucky fussed with his hair, peering at himself critically in the small mirror and trying to get it to lay just so. When it was time to head out, Steve pressed Bucky up against the still-locked door, and Bucky sagged into their kisses, happy for a few last moments of privacy.

“Thank you, honey,” Steve whispered, into the scant air between their wet mouths. His grip was firm but not hard on Bucky’s hips, keeping them snugly anchored together, and it wasn’t just for breakfast, he thought.

 


 

In April, Bucky gave up his space at the apartment he shared with Vinny, Christopher and Tommy, and he and Steve had moved into a two bedroom flat close to the mills. He’d almost wanted to stay in Steve’s old apartment—it had been their own little world since November, really—but it was too much of a risk to be two supposedly single men sharing a single room like that without even a trundle bed. It had been risk enough for Bucky to sleep there half the week, to shower there, to half live inside of Steve’s pocket like that.

But the place they found was in a new building, small and neat with two tiny bedrooms and a bathroom that, closet-sized as it was, would be only for the two of them, and not the whole floor. Bucky had charmed the super, complimenting the plumbing and the radiators, and the man had easily approved them as tenants after that. Bucky didn’t come with much, and he managed the move in one trip, but for Steve’s apartment, they borrowed a truck from a guy Bucky worked with at the mills and loaded it up with all the stuff that would really fill up their apartment, the books and the cookware, the radio and the bed, the trunk and all of Steve’s drawing supplies.

They bought a cheap, second hand bed for the smaller bedroom, and dressed it up like it was Bucky’s room; they put their winter clothes in Steve’s old trunk at the warped footboard; the comics were neatly arranged on the shelves next to books Steve only rarely paged through. It was all their spare stuff, arranged to look like a lone person inhabited all the non-essentials of their life.

In the larger room, they made up their bed, stacked their clothes side-by-side in a cheap dresser that smelled of fresh-milled wood, and arranged their books on the shelves. They argued a bit about the order of their books because Steve had too many, and Steve had gone pinched about the mouth when he saw the way Bucky had dumped his socks into the drawer, unmatched and messy. Steve scrubbed obsessively at the floors, and Bucky sighed at Steve’s terrible coffee and constant mess of papers spread out on the kitchen table. It was awkward, puzzle-like, trying to arrange their lives into a space that wasn’t just Steve’s, but Bucky’s, too.

But it was worth it when, that first weekend, they drank mouthfuls of warm bourbon on the kitchen floor next to the fancy new stove, trading sticky kisses until their breath went bad with too much liquor. By the time they were squirming out of their clothes, right there on their shiny clean floor, they were laughing like kids, reaching out for each other with sweaty hands. Bucky jerked Steve off all quick and dirty, spunk spilling all down his hand and Steve’s shorts, which had barely been pulled down over his balls. They didn’t clean up before Steve was rolling over onto his side and shuffling down the floor and giving Bucky one hell of a blow job.

They were sticky and disgusting afterwards, and they stood side by side in the bathtub with their shorts all wet and shoved down to their thighs so they could rinse off. Steve forgot to take his socks off before clambering in, and they laughed like kids at the water creeping up Steve’s socks, the suds on their shorts and in their short, curly hairs, and their limp cocks dangling a little stupidly over their balls.

“Christ, honey,” Steve said after they’d staggered out of the shower basin. Bucky leaned tipsily against the sink, while Steve kept himself up against the wall, struggling with soggy socked feet.

Bucky darted forward, trying to peck a little kiss on Steve’s nose, but missing and catching the space above his top lip instead. “You look dumb,” he said, patting Steve’s flaccid cock kindly.

A warm, stubbled jaw scratched sweetly at his neck. “Dumb for you, honey.”

 

1947

 

Chapter Text

Spring 1948, Brooklyn, New York

One time, when you got him to lean his arms against the awful brass headboard and arch, and you fucked him that way, you looked down the lean, rippling lines of his sinuous spine, all the way down to where you could watch his ass cheeks spread around your cock.

There was something obscene about it—profane, even—in how fucking perfect he was in that moment.

Afterwards, he lay on your naked chest, sweat and come barely wiped away before you both collapsed back on the sheets; he’d frowned charmingly at you and you massaged the red marks on his forearms where he’d braced himself against the bed frame. He was quiet and happy, loopy and dozing against you while you while you lay in silence, awake and the tips of your fingers overstimulated by rasping against the grain of hair on his arms.

He slept so much still, young as he was. Not that you didn’t like a good lie-in, but he was quick to fall asleep in the evenings and harder to rouse in the morning. And what you wanted to do, you realized, tracing the red imprints on his beautiful skin, looking down the relaxed, angular sprawl of him, was roll out of bed, drag your chair over to the middle of the room.

Stare at him.

Draw him.

He’d gotten you those lovely colored pencils for Christmas. He’d been embarrassed that he couldn’t afford the finest set for you, knuckling his own cheek with a sheepish smile when you’d unwrapped them. He had no idea that you’d draw him in the dust on your window panes if that was all you had.

You imagined it: shading blue-black into the shadowed place where he’d hid his face with his arm; stark black charcoal on white paper to mark the sharp, sinuous arch of his long spine; a little shading to show where your hands —huge, on his slim hips—held the soft curve of him deeply enough to bruise; the faint, barest blush of pink where your dick was inside of him.

Ever since Hawaii, you’d drawn the sexually suggestive. A single naked male form in gentle, almost feminine repose. Male couples, posed in bemused regard over a bartop or snug together in a booth. Innumerable pages of male figure study, clothed and unclothed, coy or bored or tired or composed or entirely faceless. You’d skirted the line of your own deviancy, but it was always the sort of thing you’d be able to explain away. As a man in the army, you had no shortage of male figures to copy down on paper, and a definite lack of female figures. Even that picture of a well-fucked Arnie —it was just a tired man sweating in the jungles of Guadalcanal, worn to sleepily smoking by the impossible heat and weight of war.

But with Bucky…

You wanted to immortalize the way he looked when you were fucking. The lost, glazed look in his eyes when you sucked him off, painfully slow. The way his fingers looked, moving over his nipples, and the dark, knowing look in his eyes when he caught you watching, exactly as he’d intended. You needed, with ink and paper, to sketch out the way his cock rested on his belly, hard and flush, tacky splatters of your come on his chest, his belly, his strong thighs. The way his mouth fit perfectly around your cock, how he’d keep sucking you down until tears were streaming down his face as you came. The base but perfect pleasure of his tight hole stretched around your fingers, your cock.

It was a strange, transcendentalist yearning your body felt for his, like you could steal his purity for yourself each time you came together. Love was like a god to you.

If, somehow, you could just put it on paper, it would be the absence of sin made real, ink on paper, irrefutable faith and joy.

 


 

The tight-faced secretary made you wait in a wooden chair out in the hall. In your lap, you had the papers you’d brought from home, shuffled and tied together with a bit of twine, and just over the bend of your knees you could see the double-stitched toes of your boots, the brown leather cracked and shabby after the winter. The tidily arranged tile gleamed like water around your feet, and you could see where you’d tracked in sawdust all over the floors.

You’d shown up early for your appointment, neck and underarms freshly washed up in the big sinks and your clean shirt sticking to your damp skin. Inside the antechamber at a fine wooden desk, the secretary was spotless and fussy in a black suit and spectacles, and he’d seemed to think you were trying to sneak in early, shuffling his papers and clucking over the diary spread open over his desk before sending you back out to the hall to wait.

Everyone that walked by was wearing suits, neat from the slick of their hair to the squeak of their shoes, carting ledgers and papers and talking business. You’d needed to take a train out of Brooklyn to get here, and you’d stood out front of the brick building for a long moment, studying the signage. Wöden & Sons, Inc. had been inscribed on pale blank stone far above your head in huge, evenly spaced copperplate font and written on the doors in fine gold lettering, everything gently aged enough to reek of old money, and the smell of it stuck to your nose as you waited.

“Mr. Rogers,” the secretary said, appearing at your shoulder. “You have a half hour.”

You were tucked into the office proper and the door shut behind you with a neat, quiet snick of well-oiled hinges and a well-fitted frame. The room was masculine and dark, wood trim like a spill of bloody red wine and damask wallpaper in a muted green, low lamps and broad arm chairs. The blinds were half-drawn, and light filtered in over a massive desk, even white lines falling in stripes over the leather blotter.

Inside the room were two men: one behind the desk, and another sprawled back against a low sofa along the recessed shelves.

The man behind the desk was bigger than you. Older than you, too, with thick silver-blond hair combed back into tall waves, navy suit tugging at the width of his shoulders. There were wrinkles around his eyes and a near-feminine softness to the smile lines around his mouth. He looked like he was well into his forties, but stronger than you expected, thick like a bull just let into the pasture. “Steve Rogers,” the man said, and his voice was loud and cheerful, the weight of his words chased by the slight rondure of a European accent. “You are here to negotiate on behalf of the warehouse.”

“Yes,” you said. You’d long ago scrubbed away the the bit-out impulse of Yessir, all one word and just as thoughtless. “I’ve brought some papers with me.”

The man on the sofa spoke, somehow without moving a single muscle. “I’ll take those,” he said, eyes barely flickering over you—he looked only at the man behind the desk. The man on the sofa was long-limbed indolence, an elbow balanced on the carved armrest and long fingers pressed to his temple. His face was deathly pale and twice as serious, and his hair and suit were black and sleek. His wrist snapped back expectantly as you approached, and without turning his face towards you, he managed to flick eerie green cat eyes up and down your body like he was inspecting you for trade. You handed him the papers and he finally turned to face you properly, one dark eyebrow raised in a pale face. The inspection continued, lazy and all seeing, for another long moment. “Take a seat, Steve Rogers,” the dark haired man said, jerking his head at a red armchair angled between the desk and the sofa. Your name sounded almost like an accusation, coming from that frowning mouth, and it made you bristle.

You sat.

The man on the couch began to look at the papers, all but hiding his face behind the sheaf of paper studied at arm’s length. All you could see was the dark gleam of wavy hair and a deep crease between his eyebrows.

“I suppose I should introduce myself properly,” the man behind the desk said. “Thor Wöden, and my associate here is Loki Laufeyson.” He paused, drumming thick fingers on his desk, the sound solid but muted against the leather blotter. “You are a manager for the first shift, I am told. Well-liked by your men, reasonable. Hard worker.”

“I’d like to think so,” you answered. “Can’t say for sure.”

Thor laughed at that, leaning back in his high-backed seat and crossing fingers over the beginnings of a soft belly. “Well, they picked you to come here, at any rate. Tell me, what do your men want?”

“Nothing unreasonable,” you said. “Better wages. New windows in the building. New bathrooms, if you can spare the money, which I think you can,” you said, glancing at the office. There was art on the walls and a sparkling bar set into a shelf next to the couch. Your boots were sinking into the carpet. The woodwork and furniture were old and well-maintained, delights from days gone by.

Across from you, Thor smiled. He seemed unbothered.

To your right, Loki hummed drily in acknowledgement. “You are a communist, naturally,” Loki said, lowering the papers to look directly at you. Looking right at his face like that, it seemed like he wasn’t much younger than his partner, if at all.

“Just a union man,” you deferred.

“I don’t believe I asked for your confirmation,” Loki said, shuffling idly over the last few pages of your written requests. “Marxist, socialist, communist,” he listed with airy dismissal, “whatever you’d like. You’re a dying breed in this day and age. Surprisingly well-read for a laborer, I’ll grant you that. But also a trifle boring. Between the Depression and the war, no one wants to bother with this sort of thing anymore—and good riddance. All that pedantic idealism was—oh.”

Loki’s voice changed into something lower and softer, the abrasive nastiness of him vanishing with that single sound. His left hand held a sheaf of pages, but the fingers of his right hovered delicately over the page spread on his lap, and the tidy mask of his face had gone weak around the features of his aristocratic face. The angle of his body made it impossible to see what he was looking at, and then the man unfolded himself from the low sofa. Loki walked around to stand behind Thor, dropping the page next to that big, expectant hand and leaving the rest at the edge of the desk. “Examine that while I talk with our visitor.”

You felt wrongfooted and Loki was taller than you thought when he walked up close to you, looking down at you from the long line of his narrow nose. He hummed, bending slightly at his narrow waist, and took your chin in between his cold thumb and forefinger. You jerked your head but he merely pulled your face back to meet his unnerving gaze. “Ah, yes, I see it now,” he said, sounding satisfied. Loki’s icy fingers dropped away and then he was upright again, smiling down at you like you were a child at his feet. He was still looking at you when he spoke over his shoulder. “What do you think, Thor? That little thing looks just to your tastes.”

Back in the Pacific, you used to get so hot you almost felt cold. Clammy, all swelled up and sick right to the deepest parts of you. Sweat so thick and nasty it was like you’d never wash it off your skin. Guts bubbling up like boiling water but you’d have the chills and your head would be nearly floating off your shoulders.

That’s what you felt when you brushed past Loki’s scarecrow body to that big sun-striped desk and the big man behind it, boots crushing the carpeting as you took the paper from his hands to look down at the awful thing you’d done.

It was just a pencil sketch, drawn in the middle of last night when you woke up feeling uneasy and sweating and thinking about laying in the grass at Guadalcanal. You’d gotten up and drained a couple glasses of water at the sink, staring blankly across the room at the bed to count Bucky’s slow breaths in time to yours. Bucky had rolled into the hollow your body left in the bed, knee pulled up high and the thick softness of his thighs parted and bedsheet shoved away under his feet. You sat down at your kitchen table and—

It was unmistakable and lewd, the filth of you in black and white and a spare bit of paper that had gotten tucked into your notes. There was no subtlety: Bucky, split open at the seam of his ass to show the soft, loose pucker of his hole; narrow hips arched unnaturally to highlight the soft, low hang of his sack draped over his thick, needy cock, pressed along one milk-fat thigh; the sinuous curl of his supplicant spine, shot up over the paper like an arrow to the messy curls you loved to play with.

And you’d tucked it away, the way you did with all the other drawings, but not in the right place— just off to the side, into the sweep of papers waiting for this meeting.

“You drew this, I presume,” Thor said. His big hands were back to that idle drumming on the leather blotter. “He’s quite pretty. Is he yours?”

You remained silent. You hated the way you’d put Bucky on display, made him a curious little perversion to these rich men with their decadent offices and a family business and the power to cut you loose without warning, same as the Army. You hated that these men got to look at him, when none of these drawings— the piles of them you kept at home, stuffed into an old envelope— were meant to be seen at all.

“Come now,” Loki said, far too close to your ear, voice too low and personable. “We’re all friends here. You can tell us all about him. He looks… sweet.”

You talked around your grit teeth. “I don’t have anything to say.”

“Oh, really,” Loki said, smiling a cat’s smile, shining white canines and sharp, rough tongue. “It certainly looks as though you have plenty to say.”

Thor leaned back in his seat. “Lo, don’t taunt the man.”

Loki circled in closer, the glossy, black toe of a sleek oxford pressing in between your spread feet so he was right in front of you.

“Surely you recognize me a little,” he said, his mouth smiling without much input from his eyes. “Even big-boned pedants from Brooklyn must have found their way to Harlem from time to time.” Loki tilted his head to one side, tipping his chin up a little, and the gesture was so brazenly feminine that you were hit with a wave of Hawaii-sweet air, with all the fairies paying for your drinks and squeezing your arms and making you feel good for a change.

Loki’s smile went genuine for a moment, and you liked him a little bit in that moment. “Lola Chevalier.” His accent had gone loose and musical, his voice high and floaty like rich blue cigarette smoke laced with something sweeter. “I used to perform, back when they let my kind out.” Narrow white fingers, almost bony but too elegant and unblemished for that, touched lightly at the button in the middle of your sternum. “Now I merely dress for my own enjoyment. And the enjoyment of any company I entertain.” Those fingers slipped away, and Loki crossed his arms, the gripping over his elbows with an arch, almost ladylike delicacy. Over Loki’s narrow shoulder, you could clearly read the warmth on Thor’s face, over his pink cheeks and the worn in wrinkles at the corners of his eyes.

You looked down at the picture in your hand, the deliberate sprawl of Bucky’s body and the way you loved him. You felt embarrassed at the sweet affection they had with just a look. Affection that had grown up around their knees and elbows, up to their shoulders, like weeds. You didn’t know how to do that, outside of little pictures drawn in the middle of the night, on the long nights Bucky spent boxing and scrubbing floors while your silent apartment walls tilted in at you.

“You are the artist, then,” Thor said. “You have quite a talent.”

“I’m alright.”

“He’s beautiful,” Thor noted. You looked at him and saw the lines of light behind his head, the streaks coming through the blinds and lighting up his face and casting it into shadow all at once. You recognized, all at once, the interest on his handsome, well-aged face. “Lo and I—we host friends from time to time. Our own sort, you know. If you’re interested…” The question dangled, the air thick with something hot and sticky-damp, the hesitation between your body and another man’s.

It was easy to imagine: a big apartment miles and miles away from Brooklyn, with glossy parquet floors for dancing on and private rooms for fucking in. Narrow-hipped men in slick gowns and rouge; sticky mouths gone red with wine; the generous slide of bodies from one to the next. You’d had whole days and nights like that in Hawaii, lovely days that hadn’t hurt except to leave.

Back when they let my kind out, Loki had said. You thought about how narrow and tight that world had begun to feel to you over the last few years. It’s not like you weren’t scared in the Pacific, fear living in your boots and along your shoulders, dogging you from island to island. It’s not that you hadn’t been scared when they interviewed you for your transgressions. It’s not like the world hadn’t felt small then, when they had crammed you and the other queens and fairies into dank little cells and kept you locked up until they could ship you stateside for that medical eval and discharge. And the world had only gotten smaller in Brooklyn, living under the shadow of your documented sins.

You thought that Loki was maybe wrong, because nobody had ever really let you or anybody else out. Not for long, not without yanking you back into the dark by your neck.

“Thanks,” you said, not really answering Thor’s invitation.

In response, he only pulled a card out of a little drawer in his desk. On the back of it, Thor scrawled two letters and five numbers in thick black ink, emphatically marking the snowy stock. “You’re welcome to call,” he said, and you took the card, meeting his soft blue eyes, faded like careworn calico, gorgeous and kind. They saw just as much, you realized, as those eerie green cat eyes.

In three weeks’ time, there would be pay raises at the warehouse, and the windows would be replaced, floor by floor, over a handful of weeks. You hoped it was because they read the report you’d pecked out on a borrowed typewriter, but that probably didn’t have much to do with it.

But on the train home, crammed in with everyone else, you only thought about the phone number tucked and buttoned into your breast pocket. You thought about someday getting a phone of your own and sitting down at your scrubbed raw little table and calling that big blond man to simply ask him how they had made it for so long. Was it money? Was this sadness just something the army had done to you? You wanted the comfort of someone else telling you that you could stay in love for a long, long time.

When you got home, back to your empty apartment, you saw Bucky’s dirty clothes heaped across the footboard and yesterday’s sweater draped across your pillow. You laid down and curled your fingers into the wool, and pressed the whole thing over your face.

You thought about Bucky at one of those parties, dancing and laughing, the gorgeous, careless sound of his happiness as it washed through the whole big apartment. You thought about him half-dressed and draped in borrowed pearls, lipstick smeared over the sweet, chubby curve of his lower lip. You thought about man after man, touching him casually, sneaking fingers low on his belly and high up against the puffy tips of his brown little nipples.

You thought about him crawling onto your lap at a party like that, his sweet little mouth rubbed raw. Him in silk shorts, your hands squishing the fat and meat of his thighs with lace trim falling over your scabbed up knuckles. Hot, wet, messy kisses, and that solid, masculine body sat right down on top of your cock, those strong arms around your neck.

No one would be able to look at anything but him. He’d be the thing most worth seeing in a room full of people, you just knew it.

After you jerked off, you felt better and worse, tired, laying there with your hand fisted up around a handful of come and your pants pushed down over your thighs. Your face felt wet and hot under the wool sleeves still draped over your eyes.

You’d left the drawing with Thor. It had been tucked back into your report, and put into a briefcase, locked up with a tiny little key on a big ring.

“If you’ve more where that comes from, you ought to think about selling them,” Loki had said, leaning back against Thor’s desk, his fingers moving over the leather blotter behind him, rippling like waves a hair's breadth from Thor’s thick, unmoving hand. “Many of us enjoy that sort of thing, you know.” That coy, feminine look was back. You could almost envision a dark lock of curling hair, loose in mussed disarray and brushing his ivory cheek. “More to the point, there are many of us that want to be drawn for who we’d like to be more often.”

“Yeah,” you had agreed. “That’s why I do it.”

 

Bucky, Part III

Summer slid into New York like sweat, hot and fat lazy dribbles of it oozing out of the skin and drying before getting damp all over again. It was like the whole city swelled up with warmth until it was bursting, everyone drowning in the wake of low hanging haze and smothering humidity. Everyone puffed up, too, humid but parched, a little cranky but too dog-tired to pick much of a fight. It was like everyone was waiting for the somewhat bleak relief of the night, a temporary cracking in the atmosphere, pressure somehow alleviated by the dark.

Some nights, it felt almost too hot to sleep next to each other; on the worst nights, when the heat didn’t break at all, Bucky would strongly consider the dubious charms of the day bed if only because then Steve’s impossibly hot feet wouldn’t be anywhere near him. But on those nights, they both just rolled to their far corners of the same bed, careful to not so much as graze each other after their final good night kiss. The quilt atop the daybed would need a good beating before anyone could use the bed. It was too much work in this heat.

On the nights when it was cool enough, Bucky liked to curl up facing Steve, snagging Steve’s hands and holding them close to his face. Steve always looked so fond when Bucky did that, even mostly asleep and all loosened, his mouth slowly twitching upwards. Sometimes, he’d murmur Bucky or Honey, or just loose, content syllables that didn’t mean anything at all but were something sweet, all the same.

Their hands would get sweaty and slide apart sooner rather than later, but it was a good way to fall asleep.

 


 

Much to Bucky’s surprise, Steve had actually agreed to go out for his birthday. Not the day of, since the Fourth of July had fallen on a Sunday, but they went out Saturday night, back to the bar where they’d met. Steve insisted on it, playfully ruffling Bucky’s just-combed hair and saying he wanted to show off the best looking guy in all of Brooklyn, which made Bucky feel a little like ice cream in the sun.

The bar was clouded over with smoke and poorly lit, same as last time, but Bucky was less nervous this time around, if only because he got to be right next to Steve the whole time. The tremulous, untethered sensation of his first visit had long since been utterly forgotten. This time, he had Steve’s large hand balanced on his thigh, large fingers dipping in towards his inseam, sometimes smoothing down to his knee before slipping back up again.

They had managed to claim a booth at the far end of the bar, cramming themselves into the same bench so they could press together side by side the way they never really got to otherwise. Bucky leaned into Steve’s every touch, the thrill of a proprietary hand on the back of his neck or the inside of his thigh.

Even with the veil of cloudy blue cigarette smoke and weak lighting, they had to be somewhat discreet. Their hands were kept hidden under the table for anything more than a scant brush of fingers over flesh, and they were careful not to push the boundaries too far, even if, after his fourth beer, Bucky wanted nothing more than to crawl onto Steve’s lap and tuck his face in against Steve’s warm, sweaty neck the same way that small girls had done to him in the friendlier bars.

But that was too far over the line of indiscretion and lewd behavior, a surefire way to garner the wrong sort of attention. It wasn’t the sort of risk worth taking, not even in a moment of less than sober indiscretion and want. There was a shifty, furtive air that lingered in every corner of the place, an acrid, sweaty stench and clammy draft that had all the bracing, sobering effect of a bitter cup of coffee in a greasy diner after a long, miserable night of mixing cheap beer and whiskey.

It was liberating and stifling, to be out in public with less than half the intimacies they were allowed in their own flat, but it was still more than they’d be granted anywhere else, and they stayed for a long time, drinking and touching coyly.

 


 

Steve wasn’t even kissing the back of his neck anymore. He was just rubbing up against Bucky like a cat, heaving great, shuddery sighs into the curve of his bowed neck. Huge hands, hot like sun-warmed brick, skated up and wide around the broad spread of his chest, teasing roughly, distractedly over his nipples before skating back down to the taper of his waist, grip settling just above his hips.

“Oh, christ, honey,” Steve murmured, the words streaking through Bucky, sending a pleased shudder through him, forcing him to bite his lips around a high-pitched whine. “Everyone was looking at you tonight, weren’t they, Buck, ‘cause of how damn sweet you are.”

The pace Steve set was faster than usual and his hold on Bucky’s hips was like iron. He fucked in impossibly deeper each time, sending sweet white sparks up the ladder of his spine to burst, like fireworks, behind the backs of Bucky’s eyes.

Bucky hadn’t figured on Steve caring about the way the men had watched them most of the night, but Steve had. The more they drank, the more Bucky touched Steve, fiddling with the buttons at the collar of his shirt, skimming the backs of Steve’s broad hands. The more Bucky touched Steve, the more eyes swept over their table, indulging in the barely-visible, chaste romance as it played out between them. And the more people’s eyes glanced their way, the more Steve’s hands rubbed over the back of his neck and into his hair, stroking him like a pet. It was all the same things Bucky had done on dates with girls, possessive little markers of intent and want, a display of courting for the public eye.

Steve was fucking Bucky like he still had a little something to prove, even if they were alone in their apartment, bared only to themselves and the walls and the total sum ephemera and furniture that made up their lives. The way they were fucking, it wasn’t just like Bucky could rest there on his elbows, ass in the air, and take it. Steve’s touches all demanded that Bucky was rocking into the thrusts, that he shivered and shuddered under the sweet, hungry weight of Steve’s grip, that he keep himself propped up on his arms or just get let his face get fucked right into the pillows.

One of Steve’s hands drew a line up his sweaty sternum, the dragging weight of his palm over the staggering beating of Bucky’s heart. The solid touch lightened to a skimming glance, just fingertips balanced on the vulnerable lines of his neck, and Bucky let himself arch into the touch. After a few moments, he brought a hand up, urging Steve’s palm to wrap around his throat, Steve’s thumb and forefinger pressing into the soft skin behind each corner of his jaw. “Please,” he whispered, swallowing hard and feeling his neck bob against the faint pressure of Steve’s grip.

“Fuck, honey.” The feel of Steve fucking him—the sharp fullness, the pressure, the stretch—faltered for a moment, a stormy, jagged crashing of waves on rocks, before easing slightly, slowing down. “C’mere,” Steve grunted, and Bucky followed the pull of the hand at his stomach and on his throat, sinking backwards, like into water, until he was settling on Steve’s lap.

It wasn’t without aches: his legs were spread wide around Steve’s thighs, and he was forced to hold his back just so because his body just kept dragging him back down onto Steve’s cock. But everything had a counterbalance, any ache dissipating in the wake of Steve’s gentle hands on him, the way his hot mouth was pressed right to Bucky’s ear, a damp reel of curses and praises and senseless sounds that fluttered over him ceaselessly as Steve ground up into him.

He let his head drop back to Steve’s shoulder, sinking down as Steve thrust up, just letting his body work in slow, careful undulations. It was a strange balance to find: awareness of his own body as Steve’s hands on his hips helped him move, the ache of his body as he moved, but also a total sort of relaxation, a surrender to the way Steve held him and guided him.

When Steve’s hand wrapped around his cock, he choked on a cry, lungs going tight as he tried to keep from getting too loud.

“Shhhh,” Steve reminded him, maddeningly low, his nose rubbing up along the back of Bucky’s head.

Bucky sighed out, letting his body shudder into the just slightly too-slow way Steve was jerking him off, loose and easy like he didn’t know that Bucky was getting a little desperate to come. “I just—fuck— it feels so good.”

“Mmm,” Steve hummed, the vibrations buzzing in Bucky’s ear. His voice had deepened to a rasp, all darkness and smoke, and it made Bucky shiver. “You like it like this, honey? You feel so sweet like this. Like you were made for me, maybe.”

“Think maybe I was,” Bucky agreed, and Steve’s hand on him sped up, gripping him hard and working so good over the flushed and sticky-wet exposed head. In minutes, Bucky was overwhelmed, too far gone for words in the face of the heart-stopping confusion of what he wanted more: the slick, tight vise of Steve’s grip, or the blood-hot intensity of Steve’s dick thrusting inside of him.

Every few mouthfuls of thick, humid air he tried to gasp in was punched out of him with another deep, well paced thrust. His legs were trembling, and he was beginning to feel himself give out, spiral out of his own goddamn mind, with how badly he just wanted to come. He’d wrapped his hands around Steve’s arms where they bracketed his sides, and he squeezed tighter, feeling the slickness of sweat between them.

“Come for me, honey,” Steve said, low and quick. “Let me see it, wanna feel you.”

The hand on his cock was working so fast and slick and dirty, and he could hear the slap of skin and the wet squeal of the lube; he bit his lip and gave into his orgasm as it went through him like electricity, stifled his cry even as he broke skin. The immediate pleasure was intense, a great seizing white-out of anything but rapture. The trembling aftershocks that rocked through him were just as intense. There was blood in his mouth; there was a reediness to the shallow gasps of air he managed to suck in; the muscles of his belly shivered and trembled and contracted; his legs were sore and tense and the insides of his thighs ached. His hole was still stretched taut and slick around Steve’s dick, but Steve was a picture of barely controlled energy. Steve was an electric tremble against the hot and cold clammy burn of Bucky’s sweaty back.

“Fuck,” was all he managed before squirming out of Steve’s grip, letting himself tip onto his elbows on the bed, rubbing his too hot face against the sheets. Bucky could still feel his dick, soft now but still throbbing, between his spread thighs. “C’mon,” he sighed, grabbing a pillow wrapping his arms around it before dragging it under his face. The action forced him to arch his back, guiding Steve to press even more deeply inside. “Want you to keep fucking me.”

Steve didn’t waste any time. As soon as he had Bucky’s permission, the thrusting picked back up, hard and fast, helped by the dirty-wet grip of Steve’s come-covered hands on his hips.

It hurt a little— not really pain but mind-sparkling overstimulation, the haywire buzz of frayed nerves and wires. The intensity of it would probably tip into too much before Steve finally finished, but it would still be worth it to let Steve fuck him a little while longer, to prolong the sweet laxness of his fucked-out limbs and shuddery heartbeat. He’d come to like this sort of too-much, liked the way Steve grunted and shook to completion behind him, the reverent little praise that Steve liked to murmur as he came down from the high of coming. Steve was always sweeter after coming, dopey and sappy like a girl.

A hand moved away from his waist, skimming up the line of his back, pressing down on his ribs and forcing him to arch just a little bit more and allowing Steve to ram into him more deeply, less controlled. “Jesus, honey… look’it you.” The hand at his back moved downwards, but Bucky stayed arched where Steve had put him, obeying the unspoken command to lay down and take it.

Both hands pulled back from his hips, squeezing into his ass until it hurt before the grip softened. Then Steve was tugging until Bucky’s cheeks were spread wide, pulling at the overworked rim.

“Fuck, fuck,” he heard hissed out somewhere above him. A huge blunt finger was then tracing over him, right where he was stretched over Steve’s dick, rubbing and nudging him. Bucky keened into the pillow, overdrawn and spent and soft cock jerking between his thighs in time with Steve’s thrusts, but Bucky wished he was hard all over again.

He felt like maybe he could cry with how much he felt it, good and bad but impossibly intense.

“Oh, honey, Bucky, Jesus,” Steve grunted, now fucking him harder, faster, but more shallowly. “So good, so good like this.”

It was starting to really ache. Bucky felt like melting butter. He felt a continuous jolt of pleasure zinging through him so much it was starting to feel like lightning. “Please,” he managed to whimper into the pillow, words distorted by the way Steve was fucking him, “wanna feel you come, please.”

Asking must’ve been all he ever needed to do, because right after that, Steve was jerking into him with tight, spastic thrusts, coming on a choked-off groan. The sensation of Steve filling him was raw and a little painful, a slight burn, but warm and messy and it filled Bucky with a stupid sort of pride, like he’d earned something. He’d regret it, sure, in a few minutes, but in the moment, he was glad for the ill-advised desire because it made Steve shiver and groan and pant uselessly, and Bucky loved that more than anything else.

And he did regret it a little, the same way all good indulgences were a little regrettable, when Steve slowly eased out of him and collapsed on the bed and Bucky’s side, his face mashed into Bucky’s side and bellowing hot air into his already-overheated skin.

Being empty after getting fucked and left full of come always felt cold and wet and a little too empty. He frowned into the pillow at the sensation of his hole contracting around the mess in his body, forcing some mess to slither down his taint to the backs of his balls. “Ugh,” he said, shifting his legs but they felt too numb, uncoordinated like it was his first day walking. His ass stung a little, a throbbing burn that promised to taunt him deliciously for the rest of the night and into the next day— his regret was pain and pleasure. “Jesus fuck, Steve, think you broke me.”

A hand clumsily patted his hip, his ass, the small of his back. It was like thoughtless patting of a little kid with an animal, and Bucky loved it.

Then Steve was rolling off the side of the bed, only crushing Bucky’s feeble legs a little when he staggered out into the hall, presumably to hie off to the bathroom.

Bucky lolled about, eyes slitted mostly shut while he waited for Steve to return, mentally cataloging the specific aches that sung through his body, relishing the simultaneous sensation of exhaustion and dazed elation that always followed on nights like this. He could hear Steve clattering about in the other rooms, but he just let the sound wash over him, a comforting rattle of water pipes and creaking wood floors and Steve’s heavy gait.

Steve was a bit more steady when he came back into the room; Bucky squinted at him in just enough time to catch sight of one of their soft, worn flannels in Steve’s hand, damp with warm water, and a glass of water in the other. It was another routine they’d grown used to in the comfort and privacy of their flat, with its warm running water and private bathroom. Even if he sometimes missed the small, cozy flat they’d first spent their nights in, this place was worlds better, more spacious. Modern. It sort of flat you moved a wife into.

Bucky leaned up into the kiss Steve pressed into the side of his head, twisting and grinning up at Steve, pleased the tender little affection. Steve hummed happily, smiling down at Bucky, and bent down further to give Bucky a quick peck on the mouth. “Here, honey,” Steve said, offering the glass of water.

The glass of water was drank, and the flannel was used for a perfunctory cleanup, just enough to get him off the bed and into the bathroom. Steve started the shower for Bucky and leaned halfway in with him, lathering a cloth with soap and cleaning himself off as best he could while Bucky hogged the spray. Steve was always nice about the way Bucky liked to stand under the hot water for ages, scrubbing his hair until soap was sliding into his eyes, until his body felt waterlogged.

Steve had finished his scrubbing well before Bucky, and ran his hands through Bucky’s sudsy hair and tugged him close for a damp kiss before disappearing out of the room. He came back into the room as Bucky was getting out and towelling off, dressed this time, and carrying a set of pyjamas for Bucky. Steve brushed his teeth while Bucky fumbled into his clothes, and they switched places so Steve could rub the sore muscles in the small of Bucky’s back when he bent to spit into the sink.

The bed sheets had been swapped out, he saw, just before clambering into bed, and he hummed in delight at the fresh-smelling pillowcase squashed beneath his face.

“S’late,” Steve said, settling next to Bucky, curling lightly around his prone form. Bucky mumbled his agreement, and a big, warm hand settled on his back, a nice, hot thing for the tired muscles beneath. He curled further into Steve’s warmth, buzzing pleasantly. He was suddenly tired in a way that signalled sleep, lulled further into it with the way Steve was petting him.

“Hey,” Bucky mumbled, stirring slightly lifting his face off his pillow and turning towards Steve. He could barely see the man, just the faint lines of his strong face. “I love you.”

A thumb pressed into the cleft of his chin, lifting his face, holding it steady. A lush kiss was pressed to his mouth, soft and sweet, a melting kiss like cotton candy on the tongue. “Oh, honey,” Steve said, and Bucky held his breath, what he’d said crashing through him, stopping his breath and his heart. He’d said it the way his father had said it to his mother, meaning it in the same, bone-deep, assured way that meant an entire lifetime.

Another kiss, a broad hand gently cradling his face. “I love you, too,” Steve whispered, so quietly the words barely existed. But Bucky heard them all the same, and he leaned up to kiss Steve one more time, and then another kiss, and another, until they were falling asleep, breathing deep from one kiss into another, into sleep.

 


 

Sam wore his years in the service like the finest dress uniform, every button up the line of his strong chest shining like brass, the seams at his shoulders perfectly symmetrical, pulled back like Sam’s whole spine had been welded straight. Bucky could see all the places where Steve’s crisp corners had worn off a long time ago. But Sam—Sam still looked like he was about to step off a recruitment poster of some kind, lined up straight and proper, even in the dim, unfocused light of the bar.

“You alright, kid?” Sam asked, his dark hand a loose circle around a pale, sweaty glass of beer. “How’s work?”

“Same as ever,” Bucky said, pushing the latter half of his beer through the damp puddle of condensation left on the scarred, sticky tabletop. “Still trying to get that rolling machine to quit chewing through belts. Whole thing’s off by a quarter inch or something. What about you? When’s school start?”

That made Sam’s expression soften, his serious face shifting around the curve of his mouth. “About a month. Gotta buy a few pencils and some books, but I’m ready for classes.”

“Can you imagine,” Bucky said, wistful. Sam was about to start studying engineering at the City College of New York on the GI Bill, finally able to cut back at work and schedule himself some classes. In his heart of hearts, Bucky felt a little twinge of envy. It bounced around in the same part of him that wondered what his life would've been like if his father hadn’t dropped dead of a heart attack right there on the shop floor.

Bucky leaned into Steve’s side, just barely, linking their fingers together on Steve’s knee under the table. It was a Saturday and the bar was just full enough for everyone to look a little indistinct, deliberate closeness that only looked like just being crowded together. Steve’s thumb was a warm pressure, sweeping against the back of Bucky’s hand. The dry edge of a callous moved over the knobs of Bucky’s knuckles, rough and careless affection.

“Real happy for you, Sam,” Steve said. It was always plain to Bucky how much Steve cared about Sam, liked him right through. “It’s about time.”

“I think so, too,” Sam agreed, and there was something like bashfulness on his face, a guy who couldn’t believe his luck when it wasn’t about luck at all.

They drank for a little while longer, watching the crowd thin early on. None of them wanted to be out too late, with long walks and early mornings to think about. Sunday morning, with church and chores, was looming just close enough to make Bucky’s shoulders droop tiredly, resting his body right up against Steve’s summer-warm side. There was something comfortable about the bar, though, with Steve and Sam close by, and Bucky wasn’t keen to rush home no matter what his watch said.

Bucky startled when a big man, the muscles of his arms thick right through a dirty white shirt, put a hand on the table and leaned in real close to Steve, all but hanging over Steve’s back.

“Hey, Rogers,” the guy said, his voice like a worn out exhaust pipe, smokey and rattling. Over Steve’s shoulder, Bucky could barely see anything of the man’s features, a fisherman’s cap with a big bill hanging over his face. Then the man twisted his neck to lean in closer to Steve, and the dim lighting caught on the man’s exposed jaw, shining on an uneven patchwork of raw, knotted scars. Bucky looked down at the last of his beer, swallowed hard and dry, and looked back up in time to see the man’s mouth move, scarred and tight, as he spoke to Steve. “You hear about Jimmy’s place?” That was where they’d gone for Steve’s birthday only a handful of weeks ago. “Got shut down last night, Jimmy’s probably lost his license for good this time.”

“Where’d you hear this?” Steve said. Steve’s thigh was all tense and hard next to Bucky’s, firm and almost crude, a body in motion but absolutely still.

The scarred man grinned, but it wasn’t a kind smile, not by nature and not by looks. “I was there, of course.”

“They let you out already, Wilson?” Sam said skeptically.

The man tapped his fingers, drawing attention to where he’d planted his hand against the table, and Bucky noticed, for the first time, that there was the bloom of a bruise right across the man’s knuckles, massive and blue-black-purple. It had to ache.

“Don’t think they had me for long at all, other Wilson,” the man replied.

“Wade,” Steve sighed, “You’re going to get caught one of these days.”

If anything, Steve’s warning only made the man’s grin sharper, the curve of clip point on a bowie knife. “I’ll only make them regret it.”

Before Steve could say anything else, the man straightened up. Bucky could see now that the man was basically Steve’s size, but the bulk of his body was weighted differently than Steve’s, like the rush of water where Steve was stone— they could crush a man, but never the same way.

The man didn’t bother with a proper goodbye, just a wave and then he was gone, already somehow at the bar, leaning far over the counter and whispering in the bartender’s ear.

Sam shook his head, rubbing his jaw. “Poor bastard.”

Bucky looked at Steve, but Steve’s face was blank and hard, his big body about as forgiving. “He came back a little worse off than most,” Steve said, quietly, and Steve was quiet for the rest of the night, quiet on the long walk home and later, in bed, quiet, one arm pulling Bucky closer, and his sad, hard mouth pressed to the back of Bucky’s neck.

 


 

The next morning, instead of splitting up like usual, Bucky went to Saint Mary’s and sat through the Catholic Mass with Steve. It was the first time he’d ever offered to go with Steve instead of going to the Orthodox Mass at Saint Michael’s, and it was even more peculiar than Bucky expected. The inside of Steve’s church was shockingly spare, with row after row of slender white columns that rose into skeletal points. Above those white arches, the blue ceiling continued up into great pointed peaks. The windows were stained glass, but the trim was plain wood, as were the pews. The cross itself rose above a moderately ornate altar and tabernacle; Jesus on a plain, square wooden cross, suffering plainly and tiredly, staring them all down as they genuflected and settled meekly into place.

They sat towards the middle of the church, and several people nodded at Steve before their curious glances fell on Bucky. He felt smaller than usual, sticking close to Steve’s back and trailing after him like a motherless duckling.

The organ music and the faintest touches of Steve’s hand to his knee or the back of his hand served as little propellers, guiding him through the plain Latin ceremony. It felt impossible not to stare almost unseeingly into high ceilinged, gaping maw of the church’s ceiling, and he forced himself to train his gaze on the priest at the front of the church, a white-frocked speck against a wall of white plaster, grey streaked marble, and varnished wood.

Steve himself looked drawn, blue under the eyes, mouth set in a firm line and gaze fixed forward. He prayed so gravely it was almost funereal, in a way, penitent and grieving. It hurt to look at the back of Steve’s neck, blond head bowed in prayer, his big body stuffed into a gray suit and made somehow smaller.

There was barely any gold or red at Saint Mary’s, Bucky realized, working through the motions of mass. There were no brightly rendered byzantine art or decoratively carved wood spindles to draw the eye, and Bucky found the square plainness of it all to be distracting. He was a cog slightly delayed, slipping instead of catching as he fumbled to his knees just slightly slower than Steve. Where there would be gilt halos or scrollwork trim at Saint Michael’s, here there was just plain wood or watery, powdered-milk marble. Bucky couldn’t help but fixate on Steve’s Jesus, with his crown of thorns and suffering face: it was bloodless, fatless, with mostly closed little eyes. A starved man dying, the gash in his ribs and a crown of thorns on his brow. There would be a touch to his hand, and he’d follow Steve backwards, sitting again, letting the Latin move through him, the organ crash over his head, the creak and rattle of row upon row of Brooklyn Irish rising and falling, worshipping as they did in drab, quiet rapture.

 


 

After church, all the Jewish delis were all open, of course, because they’d already had their sabbath. If either of them had wives or mothers, Bucky and Steve would’ve probably had a big fat Sunday dinner to look forward to, elbows knocking at a crowded table laden with food, eating until their plates were scraped clean and their pants were too tight. As it stood, they’d have to make supper themselves, and right now their fasting bellies didn’t want to wait.

It was a little early for sandwiches, but Steve led them down to their favorite place all the same. There was Hebrew lettering on the glass and the big, hand-painted sign; inside, the tables were already full up, arms and legs and handbags and hats everywhere, and the walls lined with grocery goods, waiting to be bought. Up at the counter, Steve ordered for the both of them— pastrami and an extra pickle, extra mustard for Bucky, and plain corned beef for Steve. He even asked for two Coca-Colas, and they waited while the men puttered through order after order, hand cutting meats and laying out slices of bread on wax paper or plates, the workers talking back and forth all the while. On their side of the counter, Steve and Bucky could barely hear each other—it was a symphony of silver on ceramic, chairs dragged across the floor, raised voices bubbling right up over their ears right to the ceiling. It was so crowded that Bucky and Steve were pressed right into each other, and Bucky was sort of squashed up against the glass case of meat, a fist atop the case to prop up his chin.

Their sandwiches were wrapped up tight and taped into wax paper packages, soda handed over and a little money dug out of Steve’s wallet in exchange. It was only just barely quieter outside when they squeezed their way back out to the sidewalk, and only just quieter because there wasn’t a ceiling resting on Brooklyn’s skyline. All the sound and the exhaust and steam rose right up over their heads, disappearing into the blue sky.

“Home, or the park?” Steve asked, glancing down the street.

Bucky thought for a moment. He wanted, simply, to rip open his sandwich and eat it where he stood, warm grainy mustard dripping down between his fingers, while everyone on the sidewalk passed him by.

“Park,” Bucky answered decisively, already thinking about the new bright pink of a sunburn on Steve’s ears and nose, the promise of dozing in the sun, side by side in the grass.

They walked and walked and wound up in the meadow, green grass and trees and a breeze carrying most of the city sound and stink away from them. People were already picnicking on the grass, baskets and bags and blankets sprouting here and there like dandelions; everyone was close enough to be seen, but not close enough to be overheard all that much.

When they sat down, the earth was already warming up, a big hot exhale from within, and Bucky sighed with it, stretching out his legs. It felt like a good summer day, almost as good as a day at the ball field.

Steve used his keys to crack open their Colas, and Bucky peeled the tape away from the wax paper on both their sandwiches, gently unfolding the wrappers into makeshift little plates. Even after the wait of their walk, Bucky’s sandwich still looked damn good, piled high in the middle and mustard not yet eking out the sides. He could smell the spicy mustard and black pepper already.

Bucky scooted Steve’s sandwich—plain corned beef on rye, hold the mustard, dry and awful as all hell, in Bucky’s mind—over towards Steve’s knee. “Cheers,” Steve said, handing over one of the bottles.

Bucky grinned, raising his soda in response. It was cold, wet all over Bucky’s palm, and the feeling was sweet. “Cheers,” he parroted.

They were so focused on eating they didn’t talk, instead chewing away while watching the people that lolled in the nearby grass, the people that wandered by, city strangers gone off to any other elsewhere. They sat close enough together for their knees to nudge right up against each other, and Bucky wiggled his knee from time to time just to feel the bony knob of Steve’s knee pressing into his.

Bucky ate until he was just licking mustard off his thumb and brushing crumbs off his Sunday best, gazing around the park. He was full and warm, a little sleepy from their late, restless evening, and Bucky leaned back on his hands, letting his whole body list until he could tip his head into Steve’s big shoulder.

“Hey, pal,” Bucky said, smiling.

The look Steve gave him back was a small smile, the small indulgence of it like a stolen forkful of cake just before dinner, a smear of bittersweet chocolate. “Hi, honey,” Steve murmured back, the deep warmth of words that were shaped deep inside, dragged out slow and easy.

Steve’s jacket was scratchy and warm against Bucky’s ear; it smelled a little like Bucky’s own cologne and Steve’s cheap soap, and it was a bit like being home, the feeling that washed over him just then. It was somehow safe and sweet, not careless, but gentle affection, a line drawn in the sand of their own guarded behaviors.

They stayed quietly like that for several minutes. The ambient sounds in the park were a pleasant buzz, not unlike the fizzy din of an orchestra warming up at the start of a big band radio program, a conductor, an announcer, a singer humming. Steve’s fingers, hidden in the grass, slipped over Bucky’s. They were rough, like always, thick and strong, and something inside of Bucky settled at the sensation of skin on skin. Across the park, a woman laughed.

“It’d be easier for you,” Steve said. His voice even and low, slow. It reminded Bucky of the way Steve sounded when they were in bed together, late at night, turned towards each other under the blanket of a lampless darkness, the warmth of near-sleep. “If we weren’t…”

Bucky opened his eyes, and the sun was so bright it was nearly white; it stung. There was a faint feeling of lightheadedness when he picked his head up off of Steve’s shoulder, a dryness to his mouth, despite the lingering, syrupy Cola-sweetness. He licked his lips, and, blinking, looked at the meadow as it sprawled out before him, strangers on blankets like clouds in the sky. “I don’t think so, Steve,” he said. Bucky realized it even as he spoke, but he was answering Steve with the quiet softness of someone breaking bad news. “I don’t think that at all.”

When he turned his head to look at Steve, Steve was looking back at him. His eyes looked faded, tired, foggy sea glass plucked from the sand. There was an unexpected softness to him, the tight corners of his jaw yielding, the hard line of his mouth now suddenly gentle, the way it was when they kissed. “I know you don’t,” Steve replied, almost smiling, but never quite making it. “I know, honey.”

 


 

Bucky woke up to the sound of Steve’s pencil on paper.

Steve must’ve seen him stir; the moment Bucky started to stretch, to open his eyes, to drag his hands away from where they were buried in his sheets—

“Don’t move,” Steve said, distracted and yet still firm.

Sinking back into his pillow, the pile of rucked up sheets, was easy, and Bucky sighed, heavy and still just barely awake, his face buried in the pillow, turned towards the wall. Steve’s voice had come from his other side. Steve must’ve dragged a chair into the bedroom, sitting at the side of the bed to—to what? Draw Bucky as he slept?

“What time is it?” Bucky asked. They’d taken the long, winding route back from the park, sport coats thrown over their shoulders and shirt sleeves rolled up; at home, they’d stripped right down to their shorts and fallen into bed and right to sleep.

The pencil moved again and again. “Near about six,” Steve answered.

It was hot in the room, and Bucky was slow to wake. He was just slow breathing, the smell of their bodies on their sheets. He drifted, listening to the distracted in and out of Steve’s breath, the focused drag of pencil, the stuttering scrape, the shush of all the moments in between Steve’s motions. He came awake that way, hypnotized, like Steve was the sunlight that poured in through their bedroom and puddled along Bucky’s back. He couldn’t remember the last time he saw Steve drawing; maybe a couple idle doodles in a little pocket notebook here or there, little things like flowers in window box, laundry on the line—the sorts of things that made Bucky smile and kiss Steve’s cheek.

The pencil stopped moving, and Bucky heard the creak of a chair. He turned his head, propping himself up on his elbows just in time to see Steve standing, leaving his sketchbook on the seat of the chair. Steve was still just in his shorts, and as he slid into bed, his bare belly contracted and rolled up, just that faint bit of fat that always clung to a strong body.

Steve dragged Bucky closer, pulling Bucky so his body was half-draped over Steve’s chest, the coarse hair ticklish and warm on Bucky’s still sleep-tingling skin. Steve’s face was unusually relaxed, shoulders gently sloping against the pillow beneath him. Bucky shivered at the heat of Steve’s fingers dragged up and down his lower back, a slow moving fire, arousal gently stirring awake. He reached up, and gently, reverently, swept Steve’s hair back from his face. His belly trembled at the look in Steve’s eyes.

“You know I love you, right?” Steve asked. A warm hand cupped the side of Bucky’s face, and Steve’s thumb was just a faint blush of pressure on his lips. “I ought to tell you more often,” Steve said, features going stern as he looked at Bucky’s face, blue eyes dipping over Bucky’s features. “I never want you to think I don’t.”

Bucky put his fingers on Steve’s mouth— not to quiet him, but just to feel the seam of Steve, the narrow mouth, the white teeth, the red tongue. The familiarity of a body more dear than his own, the most beloved body. “I’d still know if you never said it at all,” Bucky said.

Steve looked at Bucky, their fingers resting against each other’s mouths; the rise and fall of Steve’s ribs shuddered through Bucky’s body, ceaseless, dependable. It took a moment, but Steve pulled his hand away from Bucky’s mouth first, and took Bucky’s hand from his lips. He laid Bucky’s palm flat to his heart, and rested his own big, square hand over it.

“I spent a long time thinking you might change your mind,” Steve said. “About being like this.”

“It’s not gonna happen, Steve.”

Steve smiled, crooked and warm. “I believe you,” he murmured, lifting his head off the pillow and kissing Bucky gently. It lasted only a moment, closed mouth and eyelashes lowered—good, in all the sweetest of ways.

After, Bucky settled his chin against Steve’s chest, and Steve lifted his hand, curling his fingers into Bucky’s hair. It was surely a mess, and yet Steve looked pleased, eyes fixed on where he was wrapping a curl around his finger. It was a slow, rhythmic tug on Bucky’s scalp, one loose curl after another. Sensation rippled gently through him, the sweet almost of it, the promise of something yet to come.

“You look sweet, like this,” Steve said, pushing the mess of Bucky’s hair over to one side, combing it away from his eyes.

Bucky gave Steve a look. “I’m always sweet,” he retorted.

“Is that so?” Steve said, dry, but his mouth was curling up on one side, the fondness unmistakeable.

Rolling his eyes, Bucky wiggled until he was curled up against Steve’s side, head on Steve’s shoulder and a hand resting on Steve’s chest. Their bodies shifted and melted together again, and Bucky sighed when he felt Steve’s big, calloused fingers begin to trace nonsense patterns on his back, long circles and loops that skimmed from neck to ass and back again. “Can I see?”

A spiral worked its way out from the base of Bucky’s spine, Steve’s fingers were deft, dry and rough. “Hm?”

Bucky picked his head up just high enough to glance at the sketchbook left behind on the seat of the chair. “Your drawings. I didn’t know you were using that sketchbook.”

Steve didn’t say anything for a moment, just kissed Bucky’s forehead so Bucky’s face was pressed right up against Steve’s neck and jaw. “It was my Christmas gift,” Steve said, mostly into Bucky’s hair. “Of course I use it, honey.” There was a sigh, then Steve leaned over, reaching for his sketchbook with one long arm and snagging it with the tips of his fingers.

They dragged the pillows up so they could sit back against the headboard, and Bucky leaned happily into Steve’s side. He waited for Steve to flip the cover open, but he didn’t, his square hand resting against the patterned stock, thumb tapping idly, making a purple bruise under his thumbnail look like it was jumping up and down— or maybe that was just the sensation of Bucky’s own impatience, echoing elsewhere in Steve’s body.

The first turn of the page dragged across Steve’s belly, a slow motion of white, a flicker of color and chalky black where the pages behind Steve’s hand fanned out before he smoothed them back. Steve flipped through the book first few pages fairly quickly; they were more of the untidy little sketches that Bucky remembered seeing Steve stop before he’d barely even started— hands on the kitchen table, socked feet crossed at the ankle, an arm that led to nowhere.

And then they ceased to be simple sketches. Connective tissue grew between idle studies and morphed into fuller figures: Bucky saw his own body take shape in larger and larger form, the look of him growing more and more precise, reflections of his own mannerisms played out in black and white. As the little dated corners passed them by, winter into spring, Bucky found himself—the inside of him—more and more in Steve’s drawings, tender little touches that grew more detailed by the page.

When it came, the color portrait was a surprise; the brightness of it was somehow soft, pencil strokes like feathers, wisps against the tooth of the page.

“Oh,” Bucky said. He looked at himself, and couldn’t help but put fingers to the page, to the extended curve of his jaw, the slack but hard line Steve had somehow put to paper. In the drawing, Bucky’s eyes were closed, wet-looking lashes casting long shadows against his hollowed, pink-stained cheeks. Big hands sank into the riotous mess of his hair, curling into taut, desperate fists. His mouth looked almost as though it were painted red, split open achingly wide into a fat-bottomed oh. Come dripped from his open mouth, down his chin, thick, drooling smears of filmy white diffusing the blush.

Next to Steve, Bucky licked his lips like he could already taste Steve’s sticky wetness on his mouth. He felt it acutely, the raw want of being on his knees with an open mouth and empty belly, looking up at Steve with wide, hungry eyes, begging in every way but words. Bucky had never seen himself this way before; he’d never even seen such deliberate art of two men together like this before, either. Steve’s other notebooks had been merely suggestive; this was clear-eyed, stern-faced obscenity, put onto the page with Steve’s own square, rough hand. Bucky’s belly flipped over itself in some kind of anticipation, scared and hopeful all at once.

“Is this how I look?” Bucky asked, tipping his face up to look at Steve— his blond head was already inclined towards Bucky, the stony, faded blue of his eyes already meeting Bucky’s gaze before Bucky even had time to recognize the feeling. It was like Steve had been looking at Bucky the whole time.

Steve smiled his crooked little smile. “Sometimes.”

There was more to see in the sketchbook, and Steve let Bucky slowly turn the pages, not saying anything as Bucky looked at himself again and again. It was him in smeared charcoal, naked at the small bathroom sink, shaving his neck with his head tipped back, eyes heavy lidded, focused on some unseen reflection in the mirror. It was him in feather-light pastels, sleeping in their bed, come still splashed on his skin, cock soft on spent balls, and bruises forming on his nipples, his neck. It was him in messy pencil, shirt shoved up under his armpits and pants around one ankle, the other knee hiked up on their kitchen table, holding his own cheeks apart and baring his hole. And it was him in faint blue pencil, sleeping in their bed, face soft and young, one hand curled into Steve’s abandoned pillow, one whole side of the bed empty and alone. The day’s date—08/22/1948—was written in slashing script in the corner of the page.

Bucky looked at the empty space in the bed, the place where Steve slept, hemming Bucky in close to the wall, shielding him with his body. He missed Steve acutely in the drawing, a sleeping body aching for something without conscious thought. How many nights had he briefly woken to find Steve’s side of the bed cold, to hear the water running for too long in the bathroom, to see a little light from the kitchen? More than many.

There had been at least two dozen pages of full sketches, not even counting the pages of studies and warm ups, like their boots by the door or empty plates on their table, magazines in the bed or flowers at the park. The entire sketchbook was moments of their lives, mundane or not, brazen and understated all at once.

“You must draw me all the time,” Bucky said. His voice came out quiet, bashful. Pleased.

Steve’s fingers were gentle in his hair, already seeking out a curl. “Every chance I get.” Steve’s voice was low and easy, slow moving. Dark honey dripping from a spoon. “Think I’ll keep drawing you until the day I die, Buck.”

Bucky let the sketchbook fall closed, and set it on the other side of Steve’s body, close to the edge but not in any danger of falling. He curled into Steve’s side despite the heat their bodies seemed to throw, uncaring about the way their sticky bodies were glued together under the sheet, letting his hot fingers trail up the line of hair that slid down Steve’s chest and belly down to his cock, all soft and warm in his lap.

“I drew all the time when I was a kid. My ma, boys I used to look at in class, stories from Ma’s copy of Bulfinch’s, things I saw at the park or down by the docks. Even before the war, the army gave me plenty of time to get good at it. And it's not like I was hurting for a view in the Pacific.” Steve’s hand slid down Bucky’s spine, then dragged back upwards. Another whirling motion, another circle drawn into the nape of Bucky’s neck. "Stopped after that, when I was in that army hospital in California. I think—" and Steve's voice stopped, cut off by the same thing that made his hand still on Bucky's neck, thumb digging into Bucky's bones. "It's just you that makes me draw like this, honey. I feel it in my heart, my hands. See you every time I open or close my eyes. I put down every bit of you I can get my hands on." Steve's fingers carefully started moving again, sinking through Bucky's hair to cradle the back of his head. "You're the best thing I've ever seen, honey."

Bucky laughed, low and hoarse with love. "You're kind of a sap, you know," Bucky said, but he knew it was obvious he was pleased, swollen up full on love, bursting at his seams, stitched together around Steve.

"It's just you, honey," Steve murmured back, turning them and dragging Bucky under him as they slipped down the sheets. Bucky’s thighs parted around the warm, solid weight of Steve’s torso, the fuzzy brush of Steve’s belly moving over his bare skin. Steve kissed him then, deep and slick, promise after promise, the two of them pressed together in their bed, in their home, the windows open and light pouring in, the sounds of Brooklyn on a beautiful sunny evening alive all around them. "It's just you."

 

Bucky and Steve

 

Chapter Text

1948, Brooklyn, New York

In 1948, you went to your first Veterans Benevolent Association meeting.

It was something you’d heard about at your bar mentioned more and more regularly between the vets like you. A bartender with vicious burn scars down the side of his body invited you to the next meeting, and Sam looked at you expectantly, but you just shrugged.

You liked to think that the army had gone out of you, cut out of your body and pressed between the pages of your sketchbooks and left to yellow in that old trunk. After the evening you’d gotten drunk and talked about it with Bucky, you’d never brought it up again, and neither had he. You knew he thought about it from time to time; he got lost occasionally, tracing the ugly, skidding scar on your side where a bullet had nicked you.

That night, when you and Bucky got home from the bar, he straddled your lap in bed, and stared you down with sharp little eyes, narrowed into black streaks on his beautiful, pale face.

“You should go to that meeting, you know,” he said, and you stared back at him without saying anything.

Bucky never really told you to do anything; he was easygoing, all warm wax melting into the scars and ridges of your thick-knuckled hands.

His hands were warm on your chest, anchoring you to the bed, so you agreed.

You cried when you got home from that first meeting, on your knees on the kitchen floor and your face against Bucky’s thighs. He got down on the floor with you, and he ran his warm fingers through your hair while you sobbed into his trousers like a child. You let him crowd you into the tiny shower, and he held you while you cried into the faint spray of water. He only shut off the water when you stopped crying, and he led you to bed and you both laid there, naked, shivering, holding hands.

 


 

“I don’t think I’m going back,” Sam said, looking up from his milky coffee. He always took it with plenty of sugar and milk, so much it made your teeth hurt from even across the table. “I stuck out, didn’t I,” he went on to say, and it wasn’t a question. “Not a lot of people that looked like me, there.”

Sam drank a little more of his coffee, then pushed it away, leaning on his elbows, looking out your window, staring at row after row of slow-drying laundry as it flapped between your building and the next. You knew he wasn’t seeing a single thing out there, he was just thinking, so you waited quietly.

“It’s always the same thing,” Sam finally said. You could hear the exhaustion in him, the low roughness of words that hurt coming out of him, the hurt of anger that always had to live underneath. “Black is the first thing they see, even in a room full of queers.” Sam sighed, pulled his coffee close and took another drink. “I’ve got other worries to work on.”

 


 

The Veterans Benevolent Association didn’t last long. It ended up washing out into nothingness when it became clear that it wasn’t enough just to be in the same room at the same time, cast off queer after cast off queer, looking each other in the eyes and trying to make sense of how to open the door. How to step outside and ask to be seen and not get crushed for it.

It was a start, though, and it felt better than you imagined it would. It woke something up inside of you, almost like the way Bucky woke something up inside of you. New wants, old anger had been shaken loose. It stirred you up, then sat hard and heavy in your belly, a metal tang at the back of your throat. Resolve, maybe. New and strong. Getting stronger.

 

1955, Brooklyn, New York

“I got something for you,” Bucky said, head propped up on his hand so he could look down at you. His body was a warm, naked line next to yours; his hair was rumpled, and the smile on his face was small and sweet, secretive.

You thumbed his lower lip, pressing down just a bit. His mouth was still a little red and swollen. You wanted to kiss him again for the thousandth time, so you did. “I thought it was your birthday,” you told him.

Bucky rolled his eyes and turned over, rummaging in the little bedside table. His back was bare to your cool bedroom, and the sheets and shadows barely covered his narrow hips. He was twenty-five now, grown into himself, with the width of his shoulders balancing the low, stocky strength of his pretty, solid body.

“Open your hand,” Bucky said, turning around with his fist clenched tight, held close to his body.

You twisted a little to face him, leaning heavily on one elbow and fixing him with a look. Still, you held out your hand, palm up, and despite his tight grip, Bucky didn’t hesitate to put something small and cool in your palm. “It was my father’s,” Bucky said. “I asked Ma to send it to me a few weeks back. Told her to give the boys and Rebecca everything else, so long as I could get this for myself, for when I needed it.”

It was a gold ring, worn day after day, saved for something, asked for, mailed from Indiana and given to you like it wasn’t one of the few things Bucky had of his father.

“I know it’s not the same for us,” Bucky said, running his fingers lightly over the bared inside of your wrist, tracing you. “But I still want it.” It was a confession, and the awe of it all made your throat tight and hard. You nudged the ring with the tip of your thumb, watching it catch the gleam of the lamp. It was somehow already warming through, like you’d you’d had it in your hand for years now, like it had always been yours.

“I do, too,” you whispered back, because anything louder would hurt to say.

You were surprised how well the ring fit you when you slipped it on, laying neat and easy on your skin. It was careworn already, shadows playing over a marriage’s worth of marks etched into the soft metal, and you wondered, hopeful, about all the marks you’d add to it as your years went on.

 


 

Between the two of you, with extra money brought in by painting portraits of the queens uptown and drawing queer eight-pagers printed on a ditto machine, you had managed to get Bucky through engineering school by 1953. It’d been luck, maybe, that had gotten you to leave that drawing with Loki and Thor after your union meeting at Wöden & Sons, because it turned out that they knew every man in New York that had money in his wallet and a taste for the gaily obscene.

Now, Bucky was the one bringing in enough money to raise a family on, with a house in the suburbs and a train ride into the city every morning, if he wanted it.

“If I get this promotion, maybe you ought to quit,” Bucky said, perched across your back, knees sinking into the bed on either side of your waist. His hands were pressing right down into the chewed up meat of your shoulder, trying to push the pain from your body. You were almost thirty-five, and still, you ached.

“And do what? Iron your shirts?”

You got a pinch to the back of your arm for that, and it smarted just before he rubbed that feeling away, too.

“You could draw,” Bucky said. “You’ve got plenty of work.”

“I guess so.”

Bucky’s mouth was warm against the back of your neck, trailing over the wing of your bad shoulder, kissing all the way to your arm. “Don’t guess,” he said. “I know.”

 


 

You left your job just after your birthday, with money in the bank, a good number of illustration jobs lined up, and a triptych to sell to a guy uptown. You’d probably quit at the right time. Warehouses were all making new homes down in Jersey, and it was only a matter of time before you got to punch out for the last time. At least someone else could get your time while it lasted.

With your last paycheck, you went down to a secondhand shop and studied neat rows of men’s rings, trying them on the pinkie finger of your right hand to check the fit. You didn’t leave until you’d found exactly the right one. You didn’t let the clerk bother with a box, and just wore it like a signet ring instead, hand curled into a fist and tucked into your pocket for good measure.

It was past dinner time, and Bucky was probably wondering where you were, but you took the long way home all the same, walking slowly in deference to the July heat, sleeves rolled up and sweat at your temples.

This was one of those nights where you walked through Brooklyn and weren’t quite sure what you saw anymore. Coney Island was getting reformed and closed down right into nothing; the Navy Yard and the rest of the waterfront were shrinking, jobs drifting to cheaper, newer waters.

Other things were drying up, too. Jimmy’s, the bar where you’d met Bucky, was nothing now, just boarded up basement windows and garbage at the mouth of the stairs. All the other bars like it had gone the same way, liquor licenses revoked and doors chained shut, and all the replacements were coming in uptown, where there was more money, more class, maybe, but still the same old dangers. More so, these days, with vice cops crawling out of the sewers like rats.

It wasn’t quite dark by the time you made it home, but it was gray enough that the buildings all sort of sank into the twilight, blurred by twitchy sodium lights and passing headlights. You squinted upwards, and tried to imagine what Bucky was doing, your eyes scanning the smear of lit-up windows and shadowy curtains, but then you were slipping inside, into the building, and you were just one more body in a great, faceless concrete block.

When you got in the door, it turned out that Bucky was in the kitchen, putting chocolate chips on a cake to spell out your name. The radio in the living room was playing, a background fuzz to all the warmth in the kitchen. “Hey, Steve,” he said, looking up from gently placing the last chip in the V. “I thought you’d be back to help me frost this. If it’s a mess, it’s your fault, pal.”

You stood over his shoulder and kissed his cheek, and when he turned to kiss you back properly, you tasted chocolate frosting on his mouth. “What’s all this for?” you asked.

He bent back down, getting to work on the second E. Chocolate chips on chocolate frosting. You hoped the inside was yellow instead of chocolate, but truth be told, you’d eat it and be happy either way. Your teeth were already hurting in anticipation—what Bucky’s cakes lacked in looks, they more than made up for in plate-scraping sweetness.

“Your last day of work. Did they make you stay late? I was expecting you back a couple hours ago.”

Leaning back against the counter, you grabbed his can of beer, abandoned by the flour tin. You watched the delicate way he placed each little chip in place, bobbing on the wavy surface of the thick layer of frosting. He was so tuned into what he was doing you knew he wouldn’t notice your hand at all. “I had an errand to run.”

“Oh?”

You took a sip of beer. “Finish the cake and I’ll tell you, honey.”

There was a little more fussing with the bag of chocolate, Bucky’s fingers nudging wayward chips here and there, coming back sticky with frosting at the tips.

He frowned down at the cake, smudged fingers held aloft like he was ready to keep fussing. “Not my best work,” he said, but looking at it, you already felt the sweet sugar rush, belly fluttering and heart beating like you were a kid.

“Looks good enough to eat,” you said, setting down the beer as he rolled his eyes at you. You pushed away from the counter and stood beside him, palming his belly. It really did look lopsided and homey, the perfect cake to put on the dinner plates Bucky had picked out, to eat side by side at the kitchen table with his feet tucked between yours. “All done, now?”

“I think—” he started to say, only for the words to turn into a laugh when you caught him around the hips and hefted him upwards. “You put me down!” he cried as you carted him backwards.

“Okay,” you agreed, and set him on the kitchen table, leaning him back until he was laid out across it, a stack of mail under his head and papers under his elbow. You kissed him once, hands on either side of his shoulders, mouth hovering over his even after you pulled back. There was laughter in his eyes, the corners of his mouth twitching like smiling was an inevitability, so you kissed him again, and then again, until you could feel the bright, warm shape of his mouth curving up against yours.

You nudged his nose. “Got you something.”

Bucky made a curious noise, still trying to kiss you. “My errand,” you reminded him.

“What’d you get me?” he murmured.

You kissed him again, one last kiss to hold you over, and straightened up enough to pull the ring off your pinkie. He was already sitting up on his elbows, looking down at your hands.

“It seemed only fair to get you one,” you told him. “I don’t have my parents’. We sold my dad’s, and I buried my ma with hers.” You slid the ring between your thumb and forefinger, feeling the bite of the engraving. “I’m sorry it took so long, honey.”

He still had chocolate on his fingertips when he took it from you, and it was silly, so unbearably silly you wanted to kiss all over his hands for it. You didn’t, because you were busy watching him as he ran his fingers over the thick gold band, all art deco lines and a fussy geometric weight to it you knew he’d love the moment you’d found it, no matter that it was a little out of fashion.

When he put it on, his hand was shaking, so you put both your hands around his. It didn’t help much, because you could feel your own little tremor. You hadn’t expected this, how it would feel to look down and see a ring on his finger and another on yours. Two things that didn’t quite match, but still went together all the same.

“Jesus,” he said. “So this is what it feels like.”

You’d been married for years, is what it came down to, but this was still something else. A big rising tide of warm ocean water, the rush of breaking the surface and breathing in. It was greater than a swell of organ music at Saintt Mary’s, brighter than the sun when you opened the cathedral doors. There was nothing on this earth that could’ve made this any better, not paperwork nor a priest. You had your whole life right there with you in your kitchen.

This was Bucky’s hand in yours, rings for the both of you. This was yet another thing you thought you’d never have. This was nearly ten years of your life, full up on love. This was Bucky being the best thing that happened to you, day after day.

And the best thing that day was the both of you wearing rings, eating cake on the kitchen floor in just your underwear, both of you sweaty and red and riding the high of a sugar rush, yellow cake and chocolate frosting, chocolate chips in every other bite.

 

1962, Brooklyn, New York

You’d been in the house for a few years now, and your studio walls had gotten all covered over with pictures and paintings, photos and little sketch studies taped up, tacked up, nailed in. Some of it—that photo of Bucky, sleeping against your side—you looked at every day, standing by the window and drinking your morning coffee. Some of it was just random little ephemera, hidden under current projects and nigh unrecognizable to you. Odd details here and there that were impossible to distinguish from the whole, years of art fluttering like leaves whenever there was a crossbreeze.

The bed was getting delivered next week, and you had the weekend to take down all the obscene things, the things you didn’t want anybody else to see. You had folders and shoeboxes, waiting to be filled up and tucked into your bedroom closet, hidden behind Bucky’s endless wardrobe.

You wound up sitting on the floor, lingering over soft-edged scraps of paper, chasing the sleek lines of Bucky’s hair, combed over an ear; the hard-boned look of knuckles curled into bedsheets; the pale insides of thighs dusted with dark hair. Everything was a little sunbleached from the light that poured in through the big windows all day long.

Bucky came through after a while, a smudge of dust on his cheek and his undershirt damp across the belly. He smelled like oily slick lemons and harsh cleaner. You could only imagine the mess he made of his hands from scrubbing all morning long.

“Hey, honey,” you said, looking up from the drawings scattered between your spread thighs. “How’s the kitchen looking?”

You got a sigh for an answer, and Bucky sat down, facing you cross-legged, picking through the drawings you’d already dropped into a waiting shoebox. His fingers were red, roughened up around the nails. “Good enough,” he finally said. He dropped a sketch of his own bare back, and glanced up at the walls, the blank patches here and there, tack marks at empty corners. “Is it vain to say I miss my own ass up on the walls?” The corners of his pretty eyes crinkled, soft, and you laughed at him, dropping another handful of sketches into the box.

“Maybe, but I have to agree,” you told him. You reached out and snuck a hand under the hem of his tawny-white shorts, squeezing just above the knee, thumb digging in only to stroke upwards along the thigh, trying to rub the tension away.

Bucky put his hand on your forearm, absentminded except for the way that he turned his head to watch his fingers trawl a couple inches up and down, rubbing over your hair against the grain. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I know you’re busy. I wish we didn’t have to kick you out of here.”

“I’ve got plenty of space to do my work,” you said, flipping your hand over and catching his fingers with yours. “It’s just a week, anyway.”

“Ten days,” Bucky corrected.

You hooked his chin, tipping him over to meet your eyes, staring at him until he looked straight back. “Honey, it’s going to be fine,” you said, dragging your faces closer over the shoebox full of sketches between you. You kissed the corner of his mouth, the soft roll of a faint pout. “Promise.”

 


 

A few days later, Bucky picked his mother up from the train station, and you stayed home to wash two dirty teaspoons and two coffee cups, smooth the wrinkles from the clean, new sheets on the daybed, and tuck all of Bucky’s dime store novels back into his bedside table.

Truthfully, there wasn’t anything else to be done, and you wound up out on the stoop sooner than you’d’ve liked, hands folded in your lap and feet planted on the bottom step. You’d never met the woman before, only heard her voice on the phone or seen her handwriting on letters; Bucky had a few photos of his family but he never put them up, instead keeping them tucked into an envelope next to his socks. She was a stranger that lived halfway across America, and she would be living out of your studio for the next ten days.

Bucky had been almost thirty by the time he told her. After he’d graduated—all but walking off with his diploma straight into a good job—she started asking after him in earnest. Bucky was a good boy, always gentle with his mother when she called, deferring quietly when she asked about nice girls in New York, nice girls in Indiana, good jobs out in Shelbyville, big old homes with big yards selling cheap, station wagons, church socials, tire swings and growing up by the creek.

“I’m happy here in New York, Ma,” he’d always say, fingers wound tight into the telephone cord like an anxious kid. “Of course I miss you all.”

He went to Indiana once, for Becca’s wedding in June 1957. He came back quiet, eyes marked by dark circles, sweaty, stiff, and stale from the long train ride. He hugged you for a long time, suitcase at his feet just inside the entryway of the old apartment, and you held him by the back of his neck, pressing him to your shoulder until his breath turned to a wet, trembling sigh.

“It’s hard, sometimes,” was all he said about it, before taking a shower and going to bed with wet hair while the sun was still up.

By early autumn, he’d written his mother a letter. I’m not going to get married, he wrote. Steve and I aren’t interested in anything like that. We’ll just keep living together the way we do. I hope you can understand. He got an answer at Christmas, when she wrote a letter, mentioning neither girls nor you, and Bucky and his mother went back to talking every few weeks on the phone, letters here and there.

You’d never expected to get to know Bucky’s mother beyond stilted pleasantries on the phone, long silences while you waited for Bucky to pluck the phone from your hand. But she’d bought a train ticket, and Bucky had scoured the house from crown molding to floorboards and took two weeks off from work. You’d cleaned out your studio for her to stay in, made up her bed, sat in front of the home you’d made with her son, and waited.

 


 

Winnifred Barnes was slighter than you expected, younger than your mother would’ve been now by nearly a decade. Her hair was still mostly dark, cut short and familiar curls patted perfectly into place no matter the time of day. Her features barely resembled Bucky’s; instead, she looked more like the photograph of Becca at her firstborn’s christening a couple years back. Her features were smaller than Bucky’s, more reserved, without the boyish, charming brightness that made Bucky ten times more handsome than anybody you’d ever met.

“Buck’s still in bed,” you told her, shuffling loose sketches into a pile and tucking them between a bowl of fruit and the salt shaker, work for an advertising firm uptown. The clock on the wall read just past six in the morning, and Bucky likely wouldn’t be up for at least another hour. “Can I get you a cup of coffee?”

Winnifred folded herself neatly into a chair. “Please,” she said. “Just a touch of milk.”

You fixed up a coffee for her and a refill for yourself, and set it down in front of her on the table, nodding when she thanked you. She’d been this way the whole evening before, when you all had sat down to an early supper. Winnifred had been polite but distant; she spoke almost only to Bucky, and was always a little startled when you spoke, like someone from another table had interjected in a private conversation. She was the kind of woman to blink slowly, and she went to bed in the studio not long after you’d cleared the plates away, kissing Bucky on the cheek and claiming exhaustion from the train ride. For the rest of the night, the usual quiet had been strained under her absence, conversations shuffled away before they’d even had a chance to start.

“James tells me you’re an artist,” she said when you’d sat down, an empty chair between you.

“I get by. Mostly ad work, some magazines.” You omitted all the other things you drew: little booklets you put together with a ditto machine and sold on word of mouth; the pictures of Bucky you drew; the commissions you took from rich guys like Loki and his friends. That was the money that had put Bucky through school ten years ago, not hauling crates and dealing with union dues.

She smiled, small and distant, before taking a sip of her coffee. There was a ladylike quality to the way she looped her fingers through the mug, bringing it up to her lips delicately. It made you think, painfully and unexpectedly, of your own mother, dead now for longer than you’d ever known her. “It looks as though you draw him quite often,” Winnifred said, looking directly at you.

“Most days, for about fifteen years now,” you agreed. You trapped your coffee mug between your hands like you were looking for heat, even if it was summer and you had no need.

Neither one of you said anything for a few minutes. The window was cracked open, and you could hear the traffic of people getting ready to head into work, the din of cars and bodies in perpetual motion. Most days, Bucky would be getting ready for work by now, coming out of the bath with wet hair and eagerly accepting a kiss and a cup of sugared coffee, frowning as he slowly woke up over a plate of eggs and toast. You wished for him now, even just half asleep, elbows on the table and head propped up on a hand.

“That’s—George’s?” Winnifred’s hesitant question was punctuated by a small, narrow hand hovering just above the back of your left hand.

It wasn’t in you to lie, not when you’d worn the ring for most of a decade. “Yes,” you said, turning your hand a little, the light catching on the gold.

“Oh,” she said. “I knew he’d asked for it, but I suppose I…” she trailed off, drawing her hands back to herself and tucking them around her cup. “Is it like that for you, then?”

“Very much so.”

The silence sat heavily again. Winnifred turned her teaspoon in her cup before setting it aside, and you slowly drank your coffee.

 


 

After the ten days, Winnifred went back to Indiana, and you opened the blinds and stripped the sheets off the daybed.

You were still stretched out on the bare mattress when Bucky got back from delivering his mother to the train station, watching the light pour over your desk. You’d hung most of the missing drawings and photos back up, though there were a few you’d just left in the shoe box, culled to make space for something new.

“You got your studio back,” Bucky said, climbing over you to tuck his body between you and the back of the daybed’s green, spindled frame. It was a narrow fit, the mattress smaller than the one in your bedroom, but you just opened your arm and let him curl underneath, his head fitting against your shoulder with a sigh. He slipped a hand under your shirt, palming your belly. “You must’ve missed it.”

“Missed you, more like,” you mumbled into his hairline, tipping your chin to kiss his forehead. “How are you feeling, honey?”

Bucky was quiet, fingers absentmindedly tracing the edges of a scar on your side. “Ask me tomorrow,” he finally answered. “Or maybe the day after that.”

“I can do that.”

“Thanks, Steve,” Bucky said.

He was quiet for a moment, and you almost wondered if he’d fallen asleep like that, curled into you like a bug. Instead—

“Are there any books under the bed?” he asked in a quiet voice, plucking at a button over your sternum.

The bed was low enough to the ground that it was only a little awkward to drop your hand over the edge and fish around until you’d come up with a couple of books, all without displacing Bucky too much.

“Will you—” he said looking up at you hopefully, big blue puppy dog eyes.

“One chapter,” you said.

His smile was still sunshine to you, and you wound up reading two chapters, until your voice was hoarse, until the sun was sinking over the windowsill, until shadows were falling long over the page.

 

1968, Brooklyn, New York

The New Year’s Eve program was switched on but neither of you were watching it; the sound was turned down low enough that it was just a swell on the other side of the room, big band music cresting just beyond your attention. It could’ve been hours or minutes to midnight—it didn’t matter to you.

Warm fingers tipped your chin up, framed your jaw, and Bucky was kissing you, breathless and wet, seeking you out again and again, hungry. And still, he didn’t falter, hips rising and falling slow and steady as he fucked himself on you.

He’d crawled onto your lap after his shower, robe hanging loose around his shoulders and trim waist; when you’d pressed dry fingers between his cheeks, you had found him already wet and open, the soft slickness of him clinging to your fingers as your dipped them inside. “Jesus, honey,” you’d said.

“I didn’t—fuck—I don’t want to wait,” he’d told you, jerking when you pressed those two fingers all the way in, body already relaxing and giving way by the time you were buried in up to the knuckle. The clutch of his body seemed to try to pull you back in as you dragged your fingers loose. He had sank all the way down on your cock in a single neat stroke, leaving you both panting and still, and he took his time after that. He played with you, starting out slow and deep, and he refused to give you anything more, no matter what you said.

Now you were starting to feel the gorgeous, blooming warmth of your desperation, dragged into kiss after kiss, still chasing his mouth even as you were breathless. Somewhere along the way, you had both learned to take your time; you’d made peace with less often, but you still liked to make it count. What hadn’t changed was that you liked his pleasure best, the lovely rush of him as he came, and afterwards, when he wore satisfaction like satin, blush pink and shining, spilled across the bed, the floor, the counter, anywhere you could make it work.

Bucky’s mouth moved against yours, and it was almost like a kiss. “I love you,” he whispered.

You squeezed his waist, cherishing the lovely softness of his body as he moved in time with the gentle rolling of your body under his. Bucky was the other half of you, and still each day was a discovery, the lush wonder of a body changing with time, year after year, side by side.

Dipping your head, you kissed his chest, breathing in the scent of his soap, a rich, musky thing that clung to his skin. “I love you, too.”

By the time you were sucking a dark, hard nipple into your mouth, Bucky had his arms braced against the back of the couch. His body was clutching tight at the head of your cock, no longer taking you all in at once but just rippling around you as he rocked. He left a wet mess on your belly, cock leaking warm and sticky, thin little trails of precome kissing your belly. You loved the little hitch of his breath as he moved, the breathy, happy grunt of pain when you bit his chest, the stirring of a moan as your hands drifted down to his ass, squeezing the muscle as it flexed.

“Let me fill you up, honey,” you murmured, mouth moving up his neck. Your fingers were already pressing between his cheeks, stroking over where he was stretched full around you. “Let me be sweet to you.”

“Yeah,” he murmured, nodding. “Yeah.”

This time, he took you all the way in, sighing out and settling in your lap for a long, sweet moment.

His cock was warm when you wrapped a wet hand around it, gently easing the foreskin back as you smoothed your hand downwards. Your thumb slid through the gushing wetness at the tip of his cock, and you liked the answering shove of his hips, pushing his cock further into your loose grasp. You squeezed him tight and sure, and slowly started jerking him off.

One hand dropped down to your shoulder, squeezing hard. “That’s it,” you encouraged as he started to move again.

Now it was your turn to tease him. You gave him only enough to keep him on edge, and you liked the way Bucky’s body strained towards yours when he wanted to come. His whole body was getting all tight, shaking a little as you worked your hand around his dick a little faster. It was like your whole body was answering his, because you wanted it, too, for the both of you.

This was what you loved about fucking him: Bucky’s body, desperate and rushed, unable to keep from losing control. You loved the way he closed his eyes up tight as he came, the lovely sounds he made, the way his body got so tight around your cock it hurt, the best pain you knew.

When he came, it was with a little cry, muffled into your hair. Come spilled all down your hand and over your belly, and then down, trailing thick and warm over the base of your cock.

For a few burning white moments, you gratefully used his body, fucking up into him, keeping him pressed tight down on you. His body was rippling and you knew it probably felt like too much, too soon to him, but he only wound his fingers in your hair and urged you on. You were barely breathing by the time you came inside of him, pushed up as deeply as you could get. It ached, to come that way, to have him that close and still keep holding on for just another moment or two.

You sat like that for a moment, both of you coming back to yourselves, coming back to your breath, chests rising and falling while his body slowly relaxed. You went soft and slipped from his body when he gingerly adjusted his hips, sitting more comfortably across your lap. “Happy New Year’s Eve,” Bucky said, quietly panting.

It was still 1968, you realized, glancing at the clock to see that it was just barely past ten.

“Help get me cleaned up,” Bucky asked, trailing dirty wet fingers down your arm to grab your hand and tug, pulling you toward the bathroom. It was still steamy warm in there from his first shower, and you stood under the water with him, cradling him to your chest as you gently wiped away come as it slipped from his body, dripping from between your fingers only to be washed down the drain. You did this until it was just Buck's warm, tender hole, gaping but no longer dripping, just wet with clean water.

Maybe if you weren't 48, if you were still the young guy that could fuck twice a night and still wake up hard and ready for more, you'd fuck him again, maybe right there in the shower, or laid out across the bed with his legs thrown over your shoulders. Or maybe you'd just have licked him clean, dragging your own come from his body as your fingers rubbed over his prostate. Maybe he'd have sucked you off afterwards, eyes dazed and his cock soft and spent between his lovely thighs.

But you were 48, and Bucky was ten years younger but still old enough for insatiability to have been replaced by something more like the simple pleasures of always having, bodies that sought each other in the night, bodies that drifted always, always, towards contact: a kiss, a stroke, fingers twined together, an embrace.

Bucky preened while you toweled him off, your own body dripping all over the mat. He was still so young and while you loved the slow-aging softness of him, he was still so vain, body trim and hair silky and dark, just a stately bit of grey at his temples. He'd be forty, soon, and you were amazed at the mere sight of him, a body loose and sated under your hands, more beautiful and perfect than it had been even at seventeen, dearer than anything else on this Earth.

Bucky pulled out pyjamas for the both of you, warm, cozy flannel, and you reeled him back in while his shirt was still partly unbuttoned, dragging him back against your chest and finding a nipple. The bead of it was raised up against your fingers but you didn't toy with him, just thumbed it idly while you kissed his ear.

“Hi, honey,” you whispered.

“Hey, Steve,” he murmured back, body sunk into your hold. “Want to fall asleep on the couch before midnight with me?”

You smiled, pulling your hand away from his chest, releasing him. You were slow to part, his body teetering back towards yours before correcting. “Of course.”

You followed him back out to the living room, where the television was still playing low, the Royal Canadians carrying on in the distance. You laid down across all the cushions, and Bucky fit himself to you, groaning a little as he sunk into place atop you, belly to belly and his face fit to your neck. You wouldn't be like this for long. It'd get uncomfortable, Bucky would shift around, and you'd end up spooned up together, crammed sideways on the cushions until one of you got up and dragged you both to bed.

“Steve,” he complained, shifting around. “My hips hurt.”

You obligingly tucked your hands under the back of his pants, massaging him idly while he sighed in contentment. “Thanks,” he said. He was quiet for a moment, then asked, “What are you going to do in the New Year?”

You thought a moment. “Maybe grow a beard. You?”

“I could get behind that,” he said, tapping your face. “Think maybe I’ll finally write a science fiction novel. You can illustrate all the sex bits.”

You laughed. “Sounds good to me.”

“I mean it,” Bucky said, interrupting himself with a yawn. “It’s gonna be you and me on Mars, buddy.”

You smiled into his hair, and kissed his hair. “Okay, honey.”

It was still 1968, and you were going to fall asleep on the couch with the love of your whole damn life. Midnight would pass you both by, unnoticed, breathing slow and steady into the night.

You didn't yet know about Stonewall, which would happen in the coming June, and you wouldn't know until years later what a moment it was, what a change in the tides that had threatened to drown you all for so long, keeping you pressed under the surface when all you wanted was just enough air to get by.

It had never been easy. But it had always been right to love Bucky and be loved, to share every last thing you could get from this world. It was right, to make love on your couch and wash him clean after, to kiss his beautiful mouth and close your eyes, to fall asleep beside him, to put this New Year, and every other, into his hands.

It was still 1968, but not for much longer.

 

Dance

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