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Something There In Between

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"Steve…”

He couldn’t believe what he was seeing, he’d smiled and said the name again. The towering, bulky man in brown leather, wearing a blue helmet with an A on it, pulled him upright. Bucky stared in awe and confusion. The muscles he felt under his grip…the muscles alone, where before there had been nothing but skin and bone. A hand came to briefly touch the back of his neck in an idea to grip, but decided against it, as if to check if he was alright. Bucky stared, taking in every inch of his friend and coming to his face to see that it was indeed him. The face was still the same, it was the body that changed.

“I thought you were dead,” Steve breathed.

“I thought you were smaller,” he replied.

The rest was damn near a blur. Escaping the base while it was blowing up, seeing a guy rip his face off...it took them the rest of the night and most of the day to return to basecamp. Those that couldn’t walk were in any vehicles they had managed to steal. Any open spaces within were traded off when someone became too tired, what with them being slightly malnourished and all that. Being forced to build and work on what was going on at the base, they were exhausted without trying to show it. Not with Captain America around and having saved them. Everyone wanted to prove something or other, but Steve wouldn’t let them. If he saw someone struggling, he’d call a switch. If someone nearly fell, he would wrap an arm around them and assist them in walking until they felt sure enough to take over for themselves again. Bucky watched all of this with intent eyes.

Back there the punk had told him to leave, and anger flared inside him. It echoed in his system, where even now he couldn’t get over how self-sacrificing Steve was. He’d shouted, “No, not without you!" And seeing him jump, just as fire burst upwards…his heart practically stopped. He’d thought he’d already lost Steve, then the fool almost made him lose him again.

It should have been comforting to know that he had indeed made the jump, saved him and everyone else. That he was taking the lead, just like he had always done back in Brooklyn by standing up for what was right. Bucky, all of them… they were the little guy…

He must’ve stumbled a bit, because soon there was Steve ready to take up the mantle of a supporting hand. Bucky gave a nod and a thin smile, silently telling him thank you and that he was good. On the walk, they talked a bit. He wanted to know just what all had happened to him, because the answer he’d got back in the hallway that he ‘joined the army’ wasn’t good enough. Steve told him a short whispered version about how at the Stark Convention, that night that Bucky was last in New York, he’d been accepted by a doctor named Erskine. After some observational tests at basic training, Steve was selected for an experiment.

“One thing led to the other and I wound up being put on the USO tour as Captain America.”

“Yeah, I see that,” Bucky replied. “At least tell me that with your newfound wonder boy look, you have been doing well with the dames.”

“Nah, there is a strict ‘no dating’ rule. Even if there was someone that interested me…you know me Buck.”

“You’re right, I do. You’d rather just draw and mope.”

Bucky smirked as they laughed. No matter that Steve had managed to break through Bucky’s wishes and hopes that he wouldn’t ever get this close to war, he was glad to see his ugly mug. It wound up being the one thing that saved him and all the men behind them. 

Arriving at the camp, they were welcomed with disbelief and joy. Seeing that the Colonel and their paths were about to meet, he turned back to the men to begin directing them on the procedure of what next, now that they were back. He half-listened to what was being said and glanced over his shoulder when a beautiful brunette, wearing red lipstick, stopped right before Steve. The air was practically charged with sexual tension and Bucky couldn’t help but feel a tad jealous. That thought made him blink. He thought he’d buried those months ago, or at least he had tried to.

Deciding that the moment needed to be broken, not only for his sake but for the rest of the men eagerly waiting to get on with their return, he shouted. “Hey! Let’s hear it for Captain America!”

Bucky’s face lit up with pride as the cheers erupted around them, swallowing them whole and drowning out anything but the moment. Because, in the end, he was very proud of Steve and what he had done for all of them. It took some time for the excitement to settle down. Once it did, in small groups, the rescued men from multiple regiments were taken to either get evaluated for injuries, or be doled out food and water. He was one of them to be looked after, Steve insistent that he be checked by a nurse, considering where he had found him. Bound to a table with a horrifying machine above, three thick injection needles attached to the front. Bucky remembered being taken from the cages, having caught pneumonia. He knew that when someone was taken, they didn’t return. They had definitely done something to him. Something that cured the pneumonia and made things a little more heightened. Then again, he didn’t want to think too much about that. Maybe it was his brain trying to deal with things…the lack of torture they had done. No questioning, no matter how many times he repeated his name, serial number, and rank.

Thankfully the stop at the nurse didn’t take too long, they tested the usual: blood pressure, temperature, and even took some blood samples just to be sure he was okay. Once done, it was time to find some food and discuss where he would be staying. Most of the men were written off as ‘killed in action’ by the Colonel, so that meant bedrolls and tents were given up to any new bodies that managed to fill the slots. Though from the looks of it, there weren’t many. He knew it would be a matter of time before they were all going to be shipped out, now that the base was taken care of. So the worry for lack of room, wouldn’t last too long.

While he ate--Steve watching him like a hawk--his friend offered that he could stay in his tent by the back of the stage. Steve said he had more than enough space and could even offer to some of the other men that Bucky felt the most comfortable with. Bucky appreciated that, considering he doubted he would be able to utilize a bed to actually sleep, so he nodded and mentioned a good handful by name. Those, who Steve happened to have met before rescuing him and taken a liking to. It couldn’t have worked out any better…except for being stared at.

“Who would have thought you’d be such a mother hen? Jeez pal, I’m starved and you’re eyeing me like…” Bucky sighed. He imagined that this is how Steve felt all those times growing up, whenever he got sick enough that he had to be made sure he ate and could down the food.

“Like you did,” Steve finished for him.

Bucky nodded, shoulders slumping forward with guilt for getting on Steve’s case. He guessed the role he’d sort of got used to being in for the man, was no longer needed. In fact, it had almost been reversed. Bucky had lost fat and muscle from being captured and toyed with like a lab rat. So the least he could do now—though he didn’t like it, not one bit—was allow Steve to hover and worry over him. At least for the rest of the day, any further and he was going to call it quits. He finished the stew and bread; not really tasting it, but rather inhaling it. It apparently amused Steve enough that Bucky deduced he needed a good kick in the shin from under the table.

Steve yelped and rubbed at the spot, giving a fake wince as he opened his mouth to joke. “Glad to see your strength is returning.”

“You bet. All it takes is your punk face and I’m right as rain.” Oh how Bucky wished that wasn’t as true as it was, not when Steve’s blinding smile seemed to have turned up in wattage since he said goodbye. Bucky swallowed hard and shifted as casually as he could. No one knew, not even Steve, that he liked him more than he should have. If people found out, he could be court martialed and sent to jail. If Steve found out…it would be the end of their friendship. The end of the line and then some.

*

It took at least two days, for people to be processed for injuries and to tear down camp, before heading back to London. Once there, further plans that involved Steve’s input on where to go next, left the rest of the men to recoup…take in the sights. At least until it was decided what to do with them. Some would return back to their countries, discharged from the experience. Whereas others were merely wondering where they would be placed. Bucky had been right that he wouldn’t be getting much sleep since that first night in Steve’s tent. Not saying he hadn’t tried, because he had. It was just that whenever he closed his eyes, he felt the pain and burn. He felt them working on him and heard Zola’s voice as he documented whatever new procedure he was attempting.

When Bucky couldn’t sleep, he acted like he was. Except for that fact that Steve had noticed and caught him when he was on his way to the bathroom. It was then that Steve had told him about the crazy idea about asking the others if they would join him for what he was already planning. Bucky explained that they wouldn’t say no. 

Sure enough, the night that they were all boozing it up at the Whip & Fiddle, he’d heard Steve enter the pub and bring up the idea to the men. He’d separated from the group to sit at the bar top, through the door, a section over. Bucky had wanted a moment to himself and no one complained. After all, he had been put through something they hadn’t. Something, that made it where the alcohol he was consuming had no effect whatsoever. It didn’t stop Bucky from pretending when he glanced over his shoulder to see Steve entering his area, having been found.

“See? I told you,” Bucky raised the tumbler to his lips. “They’re all idiots.” Bucky took a sip and shifted in his seat so he could rest his elbows on the counter. 

“How about you?” The question was stupid and Steve knew it, but Bucky let him continue. “You ready to follow Captain America into the jaws of death?” Steve finished.

“Hell no,” he replied, worrying his bottom lip where a dry piece of skin managed to pull his attention. He couldn’t meet Steve’s intent eyes, even if he tried…not right now. Not while he basically bared a part of his soul for the punk. “That little guy from Brooklyn, who was too dumb not to run away from a fight…” 

Why was he doing this to himself? All for the sake of appearing normal, like everything was okay? While also pining for his damn best friend again, when he was in a semi-fragile state of mind?

Bucky smiled softly…sadly…He looked at Steve then. “I’m following him.”

It was a nice moment. One that should have ended, but God knew why he kept going. Yet another ‘why’ added to his list for the night. Probably enough to last him a lifetime. He sure as Hell couldn’t blame it on the booze, at least not to his own mind.

“But you’re keeping the outfit, right?” Bucky added, teasingly.

What he expected from Steve, was what he got. An inhale and a roll of the eyes, slightly uncomfortable from the joke Bucky hoped he thought it was—when he damn well didn’t think it was, he would carry that image in his brain to his grave—about ready to be the classic Steve only Bucky knew. Except…Steve did something after that…that he didn’t expect. Bucky watched as Steve, dressed in his clean pressed suit with his pins and colors, looking dapper, gained a twinkle in his eye. It made Bucky swallow and straighten his spine enough that he felt a vertebrae pop, as well as a wave of heat sink into the front of his slacks. They stared for what was really only a moment, but Bucky found himself entranced by the blue irises framed by long gorgeous lashes. Stevie really was a looker, always had been, but now…now there was a confidence in that stare. And when those eyes flicked down to Bucky’s crotch and raised a hint of a teasing brow—it short circuited his brain the right amount, where he almost didn’t know if he had really seen that. Did Steve just check him out?

“You know what?” Steve asked, his sights having moved onto the poster behind them. “It’s kinda growing on me.”

Bucky smirked and blushed, glad that the lighting in the pub wasn’t good enough that he could be caught. He took another sip from his bourbon, trying to figure out if Steve had flirted with him. Which was impossible, right? Steve didn’t really know how to flirt…but what had that been back at camp with Agent Carter? It was as if the mere thought of her had done something. The both of them leaned back in their seats at the silence that seemed to permeate the drunk and rowdy men. At the sight of Miss Carter, wearing a red dress that hugged every curve, it was no wonder shock and awe is what met her. Bucky and Steve quickly stood at attention. Even he couldn’t deny how attractive and stunning she was, but his eyes glanced from her to his friend. Especially, considering what he’d been trying to figure out. The way Steve was staring at Carter wasn’t anything like how that possible look at his goods was. It put to bed instantly that he was way more tired than he originally thought.

So, he took back his old role of lady killer and tried to pick up where Steve was lacking. Carter was dropping all sorts of hints and even going so far as to ask for a dance. No wonder Steve hadn’t dated since the serum. Yet, Bucky’s advances fell on deaf ears. Neither broke eye contact from the other. There also appeared to be some unknown message, or old joke they were relaying to the other. No one else existed. She left as soon as she arrived, and Bucky felt he could breathe again. He couldn’t believe he pondered that there was even a chance that Steve might feel a little bit the same. Even if by some weird cosmic event, society said it was beyond wrong and there was no way it could ever work. Not with the way the world was. What just happened was proof that he was delusional.

“I’m invisible. I-I’m turning into you. This is a horrible dream,” Bucky said, putting all the fake disbelief into his performance as they sat back down to enjoy their drinks.

“Well, we know how we can fix that for you, Buck. Don’t take it so hard, maybe she has a friend?” Steve teased, causing Bucky to nod and release a breathy laugh of feigned annoyance. “Besides, Peggy isn’t like that.”

“Peggy is it?” Bucky raised his brows.

Steve blushed and choked on the sip from his drink he ordered, having copied Bucky’s order like he did in the past. “I just meant, she is different. She can take care of herself.”

“Yeah?” Bucky glanced in the direction she left.

“Yeah…you know…she reminds me a little of you.”

It was Bucky’s turn to nearly choke, but on his spit. His brows furrowed, and he felt heat decorate the back of his neck and cheeks. He felt like he’d been doing a lot of staring at Steve since the rescue, but could anyone seriously blame him? Bucky waved away the hand that tried to see if he was okay, his friend enjoying how he was the one having quite the reaction now. “How’s that?” Bucky asked, curiosity getting the best of him.

“Oh, you know…” Steve started and shrugged.

Bucky turned in his seat towards him more. “No Steve, I don’t. I may know when you get an idea in that thick skull of yours, but other than that you’ve got me stumped.”

It never seemed to fail, showing Steve the blaringly obvious. Whenever something was bothering his friend, Bucky pretty much had to resort to the method of pulling metaphorical teeth to get the answer. The punk could hide from everyone else, but he couldn’t hide from him.

“For one, she throws one hell of a right hook,” Steve finally caved in and spoke, color spotting his cheeks.

He really shouldn’t have been surprised; she appeared to be able to do alright for herself with where she stood in the scheme of things. Bucky continued to listen, despite how he wanted to insert more of his own commentary. If he interrupted now, Steve might chicken out and get all huffy. And though sometimes entertaining, it wasn’t what he wanted.

“She looked out for me every step of the way, while also trying to do her job. Also pointing out some of my idiot ideas or choices, but going along with them in the end. I don’t know Buck, what more do you want me to say? She’s a female version of you. You’d like her actually…if you got to know her.”

Bucky blinked, his lips titling in the suave way it did when he was trying to pick up girls at the dance halls. “Didn’t I just try to get to know her? She didn’t even say my name and barely made eye contact when I called her ‘Ma’am’. Trust me, she doesn’t want to get to know me. The only person that matters to her is you, ya lug.”

The blonde man rolled his eyes and shook his head. Bucky couldn’t have wished more than ever that he was drunk, when the thought hit his mind that Steve’s blush was adorable in the lighting. Even if the blush wasn’t for him, but because of what he said about Carter. It soured a bit of his thoughts, which is what he needed. Yet, why didn’t he feel any better? Steve had a gal that was interested in him, and clearly he reciprocated. Together, the two friends sat and talked while they drank. Mainly about how Steve was an official Captain now, and not just a title from the tour…Bucky couldn’t help but think that it was appropriate. Steve always took the lead; the initiative. Always looking out for others beyond himself. Bucky felt a little jealous that now he had to share his friend with everyone. That he wasn’t technically needed, but he had to remind himself that Steve wanted him on his team. And that meant the world to him. At least he could be there for Steve in one way.

They didn’t stay long. Steve had to get back and wake up early for that meeting Carter mentioned. He tried to tell Steve he was fine, but that didn’t work so well. He was talked out of being all alone by himself, away from the rest of the group, and into walking with Steve to the hotel they were put up at. It was nice to be able to have an actual bed and a room, but Bucky didn’t appreciate it like the others did. To him, being alone in his own space was a nightmare. Nothing but his thoughts and the images replaying in his brain. Problem was, it wasn’t just the liquor, but the healing. He’d nicked himself shaving that morning, hands too shaky for his liking, the wound had healed faster than it should have, and now there wasn’t even a scar to say what had happened. So when they got to the floor where their rooms were, he continued past his own and followed Steve to his. Further delaying the inevitable.

Bucky leaned against the wall, casually eyeing the art that was hung up while Steve pulled out his key and unlocked his room. “Hey, Buck?”

He hummed and looked at Steve, tilting his head and widening his eyes to show he was listening. The sight of the broad shouldered man fiddling with the key, the door opened a crack and propped open by his shined shoe, made Bucky’s jaw clench. Normally, it was the type of move done by dames he’d taken out on a date…about to ask if he wanted to come in for a spell. But that wasn’t the case now, Steve had something serious on his mind. Concern and confusion lacing his expression, causing Bucky to straighten and swallow.

“Everything alright, Stevie?”

Steve sighed and gave him a look. “I could ask the same of you.”

‘Fuck,’ Bucky thought.

He moved his arms and lifted a hand to smooth his hair back. “I don’t know what you mean. I’m fine,” he said with a wink and a cocky smile.

Steve nodded, pocketing his key and stepping forward over the threshold. He stopped to look back at Bucky. It was another long stare, like at the pub. One that Bucky wanted to decipher and badly speak out to ask what it meant, but he refrained. He licked his bottom lip and Steve’s eyes flicked to the action. Bucky swallowed, and again, Steve’s eyes followed.

“Steve…”

“You’re not drunk either, are you?” Steve finally asked, determination taking over whatever phantom thought had been exposed for a brief moment. When Bucky was about to protest, Steve shook his head. “You stopped the act some blocks ago. I know you well enough to know, even back there, that is not you when you have had a few rounds.”

Bucky’s lips pressed into a thin line and he glanced down the hall. So, Steve had noticed that. And here he had thought it was the other thing…the unspoken, potentially one-sided thing. He didn’t answer. Bucky rocked back on his heels and inhaled deeply. On the exhale, his eyes returned to Steve’s, and he dipped his chin to wipe a hand down his face. “What do you want me to say? It sounds like you already know. Or at least suspect what I do. I don’t have anything for you, Steve.” He slowly began to step away, snapping and pointing at the blonde. “But, you know, maybe you should get some sleep. I hear you have a date in the morning,” he smiled, trying to cover up what he really didn’t want to talk about.

“Bucky…”

“I want to hear all the details after. Only fair, since we’ve switched places and all that.”

“Buck--” Steve leaned out into the hall.

It was then, and only then…since he was at his door and had to take the time to open it…that he let the façade drop, but he did not turn his head. Instead it was his turn to fiddle with the key, staring at it as if it held all the answers to his problems. That is what keys did, unlock things you wanted and lock shit up you didn’t. Even with the pause, none of them really moved. Steve didn’t walk towards him, and Steve sure as hell didn’t say anything more. Bucky could almost hear the wheels turning in the man’s brain, trying to figure out what Steve could say or do.

“G’night,” Steve finally said.

With a nod and a huff of a laugh, that was both amusement and relief, Bucky waved and spoke his reply before entering his room for the long night ahead.

*

Turned out that the meeting was an upgrade on Steve’s suit and shield, as well as the men on his team now called: The Howling Commandos. It was all fine and swell, except for the fact that the new stuff made Steve look even better. But with Bucky’s new outfit, he could hide most of his pleased reaction to that. The first couple weeks involved planning a method of attack on the nearest Hydra base that was uncovered, thanks to Captain America. Neither of them spoke about the night at the pub or after. Steve did indeed tell him about what happened, only to say that it hadn’t been a date at all. That didn’t mean that Bucky didn’t hear about the blonde woman that kissed Steve before the meeting, and he didn’t…well…Bucky didn’t like that. He hated how he couldn’t seem to control the feelings that had found a resurgence within. Another thanks to Captain America, who happened to go by the name of one Steven Grant Rogers when they weren’t trying to be the good ol’ boys. Bucky digressed.

It was on these missions, one after the other, that more changes in his own person had begun to be noticed. This time, by the other Commandos. No one said a word, and Bucky couldn’t have been more thankful for the men that he had suggested to continue serving with him. To fight beside. They all became really close friends, but there was never any doubt that what Steve and Bucky had was special. Different. Around the campfire at night, eating whatever was made for nourishment, whether it was good or bad, they joked and told stories. Everyone wanted to know what the Cap was like back home in Brooklyn. Surprise on their faces when they found out he hadn’t always looked like he did now, but still ran into a fight without a care. Really, Steve hadn’t changed, and the serum easily could have done that. Just like it changed Schmidt.

Bucky remembered what Steve had told him the night after the rescue, how Erskine had said the serum also enhanced who the person was on the inside. Those words came back to haunt him just a little, because he wondered…if he had some version of whatever was inside Steve, what did that enhance for Bucky? On the outside, he could heal fast, see and hear better, but in terms of bulk he was fairly normal. He had yet to test any feats of strength, mainly because the idea of what he would discover scared him. But on the inside…He worried that was the reason his feelings had returned, but there was no proof. What good was enhancing a forbidden love for someone? I wasn’t like it was some kind of superpower. Whatever his internal enhancement was, he tried to ignore it. Not wanting the things he did during the war to be what defined that.

So he tried to look beyond that which ached in his heart, every time Steve smiled at him, or they patted each other on the shoulder with a steady lingering grip. Damn near every little thing made butterflies soar, and sometimes it was enough that he couldn’t even eat. What kind of man would desire to be with his best friend, in every way imaginable, like any normal fella and his lady? Not to say he hadn’t noticed how Jones and Dernier acted when they were communicating in a language that no one had yet mastered, despite all the teachings. It made him think of Steve a lot more in that respect, friend and the hopes of more, and seeing how the others didn’t have a problem with it…it really didn’t help Bucky in the slightest in dealing with his thoughts and feelings.

He lay on his stomach, high up on the hill with his eye trained through the sniper scope. He scanned the area that the others were traversing, looking for any sign of the enemy, so then they could return to their camp and call it a day. Bucky admittedly could use a moment to himself after seeing Steve walk around. The way, from a distance, he could see the fabric bunch and smooth over shapely legs and a well-rounded rump. He shifted and exhaled, working his jaw back and forth to ignore the erection growing between him and the packed earth. A welcome distraction came in the form of movement that wasn’t a familiar color or cloth, so he aimed and squeezed the trigger.

The bullet hit its mark, right in between the eyes of the soldier that had been about to attack Steve. Bucky watched Steve part his lips in shock, the cowl making it almost seem more prominent…those lips…Bucky pulled away from the scope once a salute of thanks was given. It should have been like the other times, but the way Steve looked right at him and breathed heavily…as though he couldn’t believe how close he’d come, if it hadn’t been for the man from a distance. James Barnes. His pal...

Shaking his head of the wild thoughts and ideas, he made another sweep through the scope of his rifle before giving a thumbs up that all was clear, so he could meet up with them and continue. Doing his job aided in further distracting Bucky. Except later, once the base was taken care of and it meant they were to start the long journey back to the pickup point, he found it hard to take his eyes off of Steve. Arriving back at the camp, there was little to no time to take care of any personal problems he might have had. Explosions and death tended to do that to a person, no matter if the latter was preventable or not. They simply couldn’t get to the soldiers in time, what with them all insisting on those damn cyanide capsules. But soon, the problems began to arise again, and he couldn’t just excuse himself quite yet.

He waited, all while Dum Dum cooked…everyone agreeing that Steve should never be allowed the chore again after the first instance. Though not for lack of trying. A plan formulated in his brain that he would wait till after they had all eaten, then he could steal away into the trees with the excuse of needing to take a piss, and a moment to himself; away from their stupid mugs. Once receiving his portion in the military issued tin, that doubled as a plate and a bowl, Bucky slowly ate. He used the spoon to shift the contents from side to side, not because he didn’t like it, but because he had too much on his mind. It’d been like this for two months, plagued with the same things. Sleep still was a sensitive subject, what with him favoring being a lookout more than one who took hold of the opportunity to get some shut eye. Too many times had Steve got into a whispered fight over it with him, making the men uncomfortable, and it was only pointing that out that made Steve stop.

Bucky felt like one of Dernier’s bombs, just waiting to combust. He nearly jumped when Steve came out of his tent, missing the upper half of his uniform and sat beside him. The too tight t-shirt strained against muscular biceps, displaying every indentation of his torso like a fucking map. Bucky hadn’t realized he’d turned his head, watching hands take hold of the offered food and dig in. Perfect pink lips, lit by firelight, opened to swallow the morsels on the spoon. It barely registered that Bucky was gripping his own spoon, pressing dents of each finger into the hard metal. How could he focus on that, when he was throbbing so hard in his pants? Giving a sniff and clearing his throat, he blinked furiously while turning his attention back to his food. He didn’t miss the knowing looks from Morita, Jones, Dernier, Dugan, and Falsworth.

It was enough that Bucky nodded, clenching and unclenching his jaw before setting down his meal to stand. “I’m gonna—thanks for the dinner…” Bucky spoke, words thick and strangled.

His footsteps quickened as he maneuvered around rocks and trees, finding his breathing had picked up. It signaled that he was on the verge of hyperventilating. Blood rushed in his ears and he stumbled a few times, feeling like the world was closing in, then a hand clasped around his elbow. Turning around from the momentum, he blindly stared at the face he’d been trying to get away from. The face that infected his every cell and space in his mind, to the point where every breath and beat of his heart practically shouted Steve’s name.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” Steve asked, eyes frantically scouring his face. “Are you having a panic attack? Bucky?”

Bucky shook his head and went to move away…push away. Steve held on, his words not making sense to Bucky. Soon Bucky was being forced into a hug that was suffocating. At least, until it wasn’t. He squeezed his face into an expression of pain and relief, hands shooting to fist into the back of Steve’s shirt. If he wasn’t careful he’d rip holes into it, like he disfigured the utensil at camp. His shoulders shook, his mouth opened and he bit into the hard, yet soft, fabric covered flesh of Steve’s shoulder. A muffled scream released from Bucky; ripped from his core like a man burning alive. There was no knowledge of how long they were like that, standing in the embrace of Mother Nature and each other.

Slowly, he loosened his jaw and teeth. His sights took in the specks of blood that seeped from the white material. He could tell the skin was raised and puffy, which made him want to freak out again. What prevented that, was Steve nuzzling into his neck. His breathy whispers underneath his ear were just starting to register. Bucky furrowed his brows, turning into Steve and then looking away as he pulled back. Fingers uncurled from the shirt and wiped at the tears that had managed to run down his cheeks. Rubbing his eyes, he stepped away to give them space…except Steve only allowed him as far as his arms could extend. The blonde still held on to either arm, attention unwavering and waiting. Waiting for his friend to look at him, make eye contact so he could ask his questions.

He knew he would have to look at Steve eventually, so once the evidence of tears were gone from his face, Bucky locked on. Both sets, different shades of blue, searched the other. “Was it…was it what happened today?” Steve tentatively asked. “Or—or was it Zola?”

When put that way, it made Bucky think that his episode wasn’t entirely his bottled up feelings for Steve. But it had been the first shoe to drop; the trigger that had started the fall of the looming guillotine blade, sharp and ready to go. “It wasn’t—nothing from the mission,” he replied.

He couldn’t talk to Steve, not about Zola and definitely not about…that. He knew he should’ve just lied and said it was what had first been offered to him, but he knew that his friend would see through it. Call him out on it. There was only so many times Steve could let things slide before he felt the need to press and solve problems. Seeing the fire spark in Steve’s eyes, that time had come. “Tell me Buck. Please. Come on pal, we used to tell each other everything and after…after…damn it, I can’t hold a blind eye to it anymore.”

“I never asked you to,” Bucky said. He fully removed himself from Steve’s reach, albeit a little roughly and that pained Bucky. “If you have something to say, then please say it. That never seemed to stop you before. Why is me being a basket case the reason now? Huh?” His chest ached thousand fold to speak those words, but he’d already broken down…what was a few more steps?

Steve reached for Bucky, but his hand was smacked away. The blonde’s shoulders rolled back, jutting his chest out in annoyance and frustration, but that wasn’t necessarily new. “Jesus, Bucky, I tried to give you space. Just like all the times you did when I got in a mood after those dates you used to drag me on, or the first few times I kept getting declined at the enrollment offices.”

“Oh, so another reason on how I’ve become you.”

“I didn’t say that!” Steve nearly shouted, stepping closer and making Bucky flinch. The shine in Steve’s eyes told him just how on edge his friend actually was through all of this, most likely since the lab.

Bucky fluttered his eyes and licked his lips, swallowing through the emotion that had started to burn in his nostrils and behind his eyes. “I’m sorry, Steve. I shouldn’t…” he inhaled shakily and looked up.

“What is going on with you? I want to help,” Steve pleaded, his hands finding Bucky’s shoulders to grip and almost shake…as if that would help Bucky stop being such an idiot. “Let me help.”

He wanted to. He really, truly, wanted to let Steve help him. To let Steve know the horrors he was put through, but more importantly what he felt inside. How did someone tell their best friend of the same gender that they loved them? More than what was considered right? Eyes searching Steve’s, Bucky was startled to find something that he hadn’t seen since they were teenagers. It was as if he was back at Steve’s apartment and it was the 4th of July. The fireworks were going off, and he was there, with Steve, just having a good time watching them while they ate the bit of cake Bucky had saved up for…he’d nearly said it then.

He said it now.

“God, you’re so damn beautiful,” he breathed. Whispered. Choked.

“What?”

Bucky’s lips parted as the building tears broke free, disbelief that he’d said what he did. It was out there, there was no going back. Steve was looking at him with confusion and disgust…wait…no…not the last thing. Bucky’s brows furrowed, and he inhaled sharply. “I said, you’re beautiful, Stevie. Always have been and always will be. I-I’ve loved you for as long as I can fucking remember.”

He went to back away, but found the iron grip on his shoulders preventing him. He glanced down at the firm hands, steady, maybe even showing a hint of a tremor. Bucky followed the trail of sculpted muscles and veins, over the shirt and where he’d bitten into moments ago; over the thick neck and defined jaw, to stare back at the man that had captured his heart from day one. Saving his ass in the schoolyard, while the punk had been trying to save someone else from the bullies. If Steve didn’t want to run and hide then--and wasn’t doing so now either--that meant that Bucky would have to follow suit and wait for what was to happen. The impending explosion that he felt was inevitable. The rejection, where he’d been expecting disgust and found that lacking. Something just had to go down the path that his brain had told him it would go. Steve wasn’t gay, he didn’t like Bucky in that way, and the most important part--that Bucky was way more messed up than Steve had originally thought.

But none of it ever came.

“Bucky,” Steve exhaled and pulled him in, their faces coming closer and closer until soft lips pressed against Bucky’s.

His hands shot to Steve’s waist, not knowing what to do in the shock of the kiss other than to hold on. There was an inch of a difference in height with Steve’s new form, yet Bucky still tilted his chin the barest hint up, his eyes shut, and he automatically opened his mouth to take control of the kiss. He could tell that Steve had never kissed a person before, but it didn’t mean he didn’t follow along at the first signs of urging progression. It was everything Bucky had hoped it would be. The way Steve felt, tasted, smelled…Bucky was intoxicated, riding the high that was the moment, only for him to remember that they should not be doing this. This was wrong. They could get in trouble.

With all the strength he could muster—using the perfectly blissed out and dazed way Steve looked, and no doubt felt right now, to his advantage—he separated and shook his head. He tried to ignore the small groan trapped in his throat, but found his eyes darkening slightly from the whimper that left Steve’s wantonly. That alone could have undone him and changed his mind, but Bucky needed to stay on track. They were minutes away from camp, out in the open and vulnerable, not to mention two men…two best friends…

“Steve, I can’t. We can’t. You don’t—you can’t possibly--”

“Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do...or how I feel,” Steve interjected, his features hardened into the familiar pig headed determination that got them into so many messes. “Don’t think for a second anyone back there would care. I’m not stupid. I’ve seen Gabe and Jacques. I’m not naïve enough to think that in war, that two men can’t find love with one another. Can’t you see that I feel the same way? That I—fuck…that I have, and can guarantee it has been for as long as you.”

“It’s not a competition, ya punk,” Bucky scoffed.

“But it is. Isn’t it? It always is with you, and I don’t care. If we want this and know this, why can’t we have it? No one will stop us, and no one outside of the Commandos would have to know. Haven’t we been keeping this secret for too long already? We both just found out that we feel the same! Can’t we win and end all of this tangled mess?” Steve pressed their bodies together, just so they could both see how aroused they were for the other. How much they meant to the other…

Bucky did groan then, unable to deny that…fuck…everything…every god damn thing that Steve said was true. He wanted to live where Steve did, and not give a damn. Hell, he just found out that his best friend loved him back and on top of that, wanted him. Badly, if the size and heat of the bulge was anything to go by. If the desperate words and expression weren’t just a shot between the eyes, much like what Bucky had done earlier that day. Instead, Bucky felt like he was the one on the target end of the sniper scope. Steve had sighted him, had him all lined up and at his mercy. Except, Bucky didn’t want to be the only one weak kneed and vulnerable.

“Shit, Steve,” his voice croaked, so he tried to clear his throat and swallow. “Is this really how you feel?”

Steve smiled slowly and closed that last bit of distance, resting their foreheads together as he blushed. “I’d never lie to you, Buck.”

“And Peggy?”

Bucky watched Steve close his eyes and sigh. “Remember when I told you that she reminded me of you?”

Of course he did, how could he forget that night at the pub? Lifting his right hand, Buckycupped Steve’s face and nudged gently with his nose to signal the man to open his eyes and look at him again. When those pretty blue met his own, Bucky’s lips quirked up to one side. “You sap.”

“Look who’s talking,” Steve shot back.

“Steve…” he groaned and captured Steve’s lips.

While he threaded the hand on Steve’s cheek into the short strands, curling his fingers to scratch at Steve’s scalp, his other hand went around to press at the dip in the man’s lower back…just above his pert bottom, so that their fronts had no room for space between them. Bucky wanted Steve as close as possible, especially now that they decided this was where they were going. Taking control of the kiss once more, Bucky kept it closed mouthed at first before teasing his tongue along the crease. When Steve opened for him, he dipped inside to tentatively brush their tongues. The sound that escaped Steve made them shift, hands moving to grip and explore, now that the ante had been upped. Steve’s big hands roamed, but instead of moving like the fighters they were made into, they felt like the artist they really were smoothing up Bucky’s spine to brace the back of his neck. Bucky hadn’t expected it, mouth falling open as his head tilted back.

Steve didn’t stop, his mouth travelled down the divot in his chin and even further, to kiss the Adam's apple in Bucky’s throat in an obscene way.

“Mmm, fuck…” Bucky sounded and arched into Steve, rolling his shoulders back to cave in just as his hips rocked forward.

A nip of teeth to the side, where his artery lay had his breathing hitch, and Bucky brought his head back down. He knew without needing a mirror that his eyes were just as blown as Steve’s were. Heady on the contact and noises. Bucky had been with women plenty of times, but this was nothing compared to that. Kissing and touching Steve was unlike anything…while also being everything. Placing his hands on Steve’s waist, he pushed back and down in order to tell the man his intentions. Bucky led them to the ground, laying on top of Steve, who opened his legs oh so invitingly and perfectly. He couldn’t stop kissing Steve if he fucking tried, and neither did he want to. Not really. He swallowed the startled whine that shook from the blonde beneath him, having just ground their clothed erections together.

“You like that, Stevie?”

Steve nodded and grazed his teeth over the line of Bucky’s jaw, causing a dirtier roll of hips against hips that made both of them moan in need. “Please…Buck…Pleasepleasepleaseplease…”

“Oh god, the way you beg,” Bucky groaned, and this time, it was his turn to kiss down Steve’s throat. “The way you ask so nicely…” His hands snuck under the hem of the too tight t-shirt, loving the ripple and tension of the muscles from skin to skin contact.

It felt so different in comparison to all those times he’d had to help Steve dress and undress when he was sick. The skin and bones not unlike a fragile bird or an underfed stray in the alley. Back then, Bucky had wanted to worship Steve’s body with soft kisses and trace their names featherlight on the skin, while also holding on for dear life as they did more. Because even though Steve technically had been fragile, he sure as hell had wanted to be treated just like everyone else. Now, Bucky was allowed to do all of those things, and hopefully not get berated for acting in a way that might have annoyed Steve for giving him special treatment. Bucky returned to the hem to bunch it up and dip his face down to lick, kiss, and suckle at no particular place. Every inch of Steve needed attention and all at once, but sadly Bucky only had one mouth and one set of hands. He was just one person.

Bucky latched onto Steve’s right nipple, swirling his tongue over the soft pink bud until it pebbled. He widened his mouth to take more of the pectoral in and sucked, absent-mindedly pulling off the shirt from Steve before his hand could go to the second one. To massage and play the center with his thumb. The bud caught on rough calluses, forged by manual labor, military training and the harsh experience that followed it.

“Damn, your chest…nice and big and full…” Bucky hummed, letting his teeth drag closed, somewhat teasingly around the nipple. He placed a soft kiss to it and looked up at Steve. “Wanna burrow in them and call them home.”

“Who’s the sap now?” Steve breathed a little heavily, his eyes creasing at the jab, only to flutter shut when Bucky hollowed his cheeks and once more his pec returned into the wet heat of Bucky’s mouth.

It helped to pinch the muscle to collect as much meaty flesh as he could. Bucky released it with a pop and exhaled, diving over to the neglected pec and giving it the same treatment. He loved that Steve was widening his legs to allow Bucky to sink further on top of him, his stomach fully on the erection that Steve sported, gently rocking up for friction. His pal showed where he needed and wanted attention. Who was Bucky to deny him? Abandoning the chest marked by hickeys that would surely fade within the hour, regretfully, he ventured south over abs that were chiseled by the gods. It should have been a sin for Steve to be so perfect.

His eyes looked up as he smirked and licked between each indentation of muscle slowly. He gave a kiss on all six before going just above Steve’s belly button and licking a stripe straight up. Steve groaned; the flush of his skin couldn’t have made Bucky smile wider. The decision to stop teasing the Captain came since Buckywas just as desperate to find out what lay below the belt as his friend was, so he kissed the lower stomach and the pubic hair that led down. Nimble fingers slid the button from the slit and unzipped the fly. The slow separation of the metal teeth loud and akin to torture, but Bucky didn’t want to jump the gun what with this being Steve’s first time.

“Bucky…” the drawn out half-groan-half-whine at the final release of the most restricting of layers pleased Bucky greatly.

He curled his fingers into the waistband of both pants and underwear, taking a moment to appreciate the fact that he was this close…Steve really did look amazing in the suit, even if it was only half of it now. Tugging down, he tilted his head and kissed the exposed hip and thigh with every incremental reveal. When he noticed Steve’s cock practically springing free of its containment, Bucky groaned and narrowed his eyes, the heat pooling in his own groin. Bucky licked his lips and kept the clothing bunched at Steve’s calves. After all, they were doing this outside on the ground, and if they needed to cover up quickly, it made it somewhat easier.

Bucky sat up and removed his own shirt, giving a wink to Steve. “To level the playing field.”

Seeing how the blonde went to sit up, intent on helping Bucky out of his own pants, Bucky shook his head and splayed a hang in the center of Steve’s chest. “B--”

“Not so fast, punk, I’m not done showing you the preliminaries.”

“This isn’t…” Steve huffed, resting his back against the leaves, twigs, grass and dirt beneath him. “This isn’t a baseball game, Buck.”

“Could’ve fooled me, Stevie,” Bucky quirked a brow and settled further down between the man’s legs.

He kept his right hand on Steve’s torso as his left one smoothed along the inside of Steve’s thigh, only to narrowly avoid the gorgeous thick and long penis occasionally twitching in front of his face. It wasn’t James Barnes first time with a man, like his friend had pointed out…men got lonely during the war, and previous to that occasion, he’d been curious when he had started to feel less wholesome thoughts about Steve. There was something about having the weight of a man’s dick on one’s tongue, enveloped with so much trust to keep the teeth from scraping. From biting. Bucky started with delicate licks and kisses, mouthing along the side from base to tip. He finally grabbed hold, giving him a better handle to truly feel the girth of the blonde. Honestly, Bucky didn’t know whether he wanted it inside him or trapped between their bodies while he fucked Steve. His main concern was to make Steve as comfortable as possible, but until that decision was to be made…he wanted to taste and swallow Steve whole.

Wrapping his lips around the tip, his tongue swirled and lapped up the small beads of precum that managed to escape due to the Captain’s excitement. Sure, Bucky was almost the same in his own breeches, but this was different. The pearl white fluid, musky and salty, continuously leaked once a mouth was on it. It made him smile, in his eyes as well, that he could make Steve feel so damn good.

“Fuck…B…f...nnnnnhhaa B-Bucky,” Steve writhed, a yelp leaving him when Bucky fully encased him.

Beginning to bob up and down, rolling his neck into the motion before pressing down and down…nearer to the thatch of curls he simply couldn’t reach. “Mmm, you’re so big, Stevie.”

“Bucky,” Steve blushed.

It was no secret that Captain America…Steve Rogers, wasn’t used to someone talking to him in this way. Intimate and dirty. It was also clear that neither was Steve used to the sounds that Bucky managed to get him to elicit from those perfect lips. The image of what it would be like to see and feel them on Bucky’s own cock, made the brunette roll his eyes and groan in the next swallow down. He swirled his tongue on the underside of Steve, using his hand to pump, squeeze and twist what he couldn’t fit into his mouth. He’d said what he meant, Steve was so deliciously big…Bucky let himself choke, trying to breathe through his nose.

Bucky groaned and closed his eyes at the sensation of fullness in his mouth and Steve’s hands shooting to grip in his hair. The dick twitched in his throat and hips rocked up, causing him to choke more and for tears to break from the corners of his closed eyes. Reflexively, he swallowed and found he needed to come up only to snap open his lids. He actively started to swallow from the release of Steve’s orgasm. The amount was copious at best, not near as foul as he’d had in the past, but what startled him the most was how Steve didn’t deflate. Finally, he removed himself with a gasp of air and a pop, strands of spit mingled with cum, connecting Bucky’s lips to Steve’s cock before falling away. They locked eyes.

“S-sorry. I…” Steve looked like he’d been knocked upside the head and just woke up. “It came out of nowhere. Fuck…” Steve huffed and let his head fall back in disbelief. “That was amazing.”

Bucky grinned.

Steve propped himself up on an elbow. “I want to do that to you.”

“Whoa, whoa. There’s plenty of other chances to get there. Considering that time right now is short and that this is your first time, we’ll stick to strictly deflowering on a base level. Okay?”

Seeing Steve nod in reply, Bucky smiled and leaned forward to kiss him. He kept smiling when Steve reacted positively to tasting himself on Bucky’s tongue, the blonde taking more control to devour the mix of flavors. He sat up more when Steve did, both fully upright so Steve could help him undo his pants. While the other man’s focus was there, Bucky reached into the side pocket in the thigh of his pants—crafted by one Howard Stark—and removed the small tube of medical grade Vaseline. It was no wider than a nickel, and in length it was comparable to that of a folded pocket knife.

Steve was frantic in his removal of Bucky’s underwear and pants, all but his thumb was tucked between fabric and the sides of hips and thighs, coming around to cup the globes of Bucky’s ass. He groaned and bit at Steve’s bottom lip. Then, and only then, did Steve see what Bucky was holding.

Brows knit together, face changing into a frown, “Where did you get that?” Steve asked.

“Swiped it from medical before we left.” The disappointment and look of chiding took over as Steve opened his mouth to chastise about stealing. Bucky continued, “All the others have one. Don’t worry, I use it for more than jerking off.”

“Everyone has one?” Steve’s shocked voice stuck in his throat, and his head turned to the side to allow his mind to understand without the distraction that was a naked Bucky in his lap.

“Everyone except you, apparently. Here, after this, this one can be yours. I’ll get a new one.”

Steve looked at him like a puppy, softly replying, “Or we can just share.”

Bucky smiled and chuckled, giving a nod. “Yeah. We can share.”

They made quick work of moving Bucky’s bottoms to his ankles so he could straddle Steve’s lap properly. Each movement that Bucky made in squeezing out the slick substance onto his two fingers, rubbing with his thumb to spread it around just a little, entranced Steve. It was adorable and sexy as hell. It was when he went to reach behind him to start prepping his ass that Steve came out of it. “Wait, Buck. What are you doing?”

“I’m getting ready for your massive dick, that’s what I’m doing,” he joked with a roll of his eyes.

Steve’s hands on Bucky’s bottom slid to catch his wrist before he could go between the cheeks. “What if I want to do it?” Steve asked.

Bucky’s brows shot up, and his breath left him in one go from parted lips. “Um…y-yeah, Stevie…you can…Fuck…You can do it. Just, give me your hand and I’ll put some of this stuff on it.”

Within what felt like minutes, due to his shaky hands, Bucky had Steve all ready to go. Steve used his pinky and ring fingers to pull the brunette open, dipping in and pressing his slick digit against Bucky’s hole. Bucky’s hips canted back, and he gripped onto Steve’s shoulders for balance. He couldn’t believe this was happening. Why he didn’t seem to think that when his best friend’s cock was down his throat, he had no idea. But there was something about the fact that Steve was rubbing him in the most intimate of places...

The slight pressure signaling to his brain that an intrusion was finally happening, had his forehead resting against Steve’s. Slowly, the man made it to the first knuckle inside him.

“Is this okay?” Steve asked.

“Keep going.”

A long, growing moan emanated from deep within his chest. It came out of his partly abused throat faster and louder the further the finger sunk…until it had nowhere to go but back out the way it came. The testing curl caused him to clench. He sighed when slowly, but surely, Steve began to finger fuck him. Bucky tried not to move his hips with what was currently happening through his backdoor, but it was almost impossible. Steve was new to this, all of this, and he was probing any way he could before inserting a second finger that was even thicker. Scissoring, curling and thrusting, it wasn’t long until Bucky’s prostate was found. It was really only a matter of time, especially with the curious attention from a determined Steve to keep Bucky vocal.

Snaking his right hand down to wrap around the still hard shaft of Steve, Bucky used the lubricant still on his fingers to get him ready as well. Giving the instruction that he was good for a third, he knew he was as close as he could ever be to take the next step. To take Steve in himself. He clenched when another brush against the bundle of nerves came, and he nodded frantically.

“Okay, that should…hnnmm…that should be good.” He licked his lips. “I’m good,” Bucky said.

Steve reluctantly removed his fingers, taking up his grip once more on Bucky’s plump cheek to help stretch him open just as the brunette shifted up and forward. Directing the tip to his puckered entrance, Bucky looked down and then at Steve through his lashes before lowering himself. The stretch made his eyes squeeze shut, and he grunted into a drawn out groan and hiss.

“Damn Steve, you’re so fucking huge.” “You’re so tight.” The two said at the same time, causing them to laugh a bit.

It was Steve that leaned forward to capture Bucky in another kiss, swallowing their wrecked sounds the more Bucky took him in. Once fully seated, their lips separated to better accommodate their heavy breathing and the fact of what was happening right then. Where Bucky and Steve were, at that moment. Joined as close as two people could ever be, and wasn’t that just something? The blonde moved his hands to splay and massage the sides of meaty thighs. Despite Bucky being smaller than Steve, he’d managed to get most of his weight back since Zola, and that meant he filled out in all the right places…according to the punk currently sheathed inside him.

“God, Steve…” Bucky’s hands went to rest at the back of Steve’s neck and head, brushing through the short length as he searched the pools of blue.

This was happening. This was really happening between them. They were in the woods, on a mission, and about ready to actually have sex. If he couldn’t feel the delicious burn of Steve way up in there, he might have asked to be pinched to check if he was dreaming. Steve was right, Bucky was a sap, but he could see that Steve was just as big of a one as he was from the way the man was looking back at him. He was beyond happy to be Steve’s first.

Bucky started to move.

Activating the muscles of his knees and thighs, he rose up and down—slowly at first—adding a roll into the action a few times while he fucked himself on Steve. The bounce of his butt and wet slapping of skin from the sweat accumulating on their bodies, mingled with their sounds of pleasure. It echoed quietly in the space around them. Because the truth was, no matter how much they wanted to throw themselves into reckless abandonment, their fellow soldiers…their friends…were not too far away. They would need to learn to be quieter from there on out.

Steve’s hands turned harder, supporting and aiding in the lifting. The man soon got the hang of it and supplied his own thrusts at every downward meeting. Wheneverthey weren’t kissing, they were watching the other, Steve’s eyes going everywhere they possibly could, but constantly returning to Bucky’s dick bobbing and sliding between their stomachs. Wrapping an arm around Bucky, Steve made it so that he could take the swollen member to give it the attention it so rightly deserved. A swipe of the pad of a thumb on the slit, collecting the sticky beads of fluid to help reduce the burn of friction, and Bucky arched.

The Captain was a quick learner in terms of giving a hand job to another person. It was different when learning another man’s likes and dislikes in comparison to oneself. What felt good on one, didn’t always on the other…Well, Bucky felt the need to express just how great of a job Steve was doing. If what Steve was doing to him now was what he did to his own junk--

“Fuuuuck, Steeve,” Bucky moaned and furrowed his brows, letting his head fall back to the sky the faster they got.

Steve kissed and nipped at his exposed throat, working hickey’s into the flesh to mark him as Steve’s own…Owned by Captain America.

“Dear god,” Bucky breathed at the thought.

“Feels so good, Buck. You’re so good.”

“Yeah? Ya close?”

Bucky winced, but it wasn’t in pain. No. He winced because he was trying so hard to keep the floodgates at bay with the ever growing need to spill over. To cum. But he wanted to make sure that Steve was nearly there. Feeling Steve nod against his neck, he rolled his head back down for that lovely eye contact he enjoyed having. He wanted to see the moment his friend broke, to witness Steve unravelling with what was about to take place. Steve was so damn beautiful, flushed and possessed with the carnal emotions and physical exertion that sex wrought. He also wanted Steve to see him come undone. Show Steve how he could make Bucky feel from the combination of cock and hand. Body to body. Steve wanted this, they both had tumbled past the point of no return. They were each other’s now, beyond the words of, “Till the end of the line”; beyond Captain and Sergeant in a ragtag team, on a deadly mission to end Hydra; beyond the inseparable bond of friendship that was one Steven Grant Rogers and James Buchanan Barnes.

Bucky was first. Steve came shortly after and wound up stilling in his movements from the intensity of the orgasm. Shaky, but not entirely unable like Steve, Bucky continued to grind them through it, pleased to feel hints of thrusts in the attempts to make it so Bucky wasn’t doing it all alone. They hugged each other tightly, no longer moving except for the desperate, and yet, languid kiss. “I love you,” Steve whispered against his lips.

If it had been anyone else…Bucky might have played it off or freaked out. But it wasn’t. It was the one person he’d wanted for far too long, and the words sent him over the moon. “I love you too, Stevie.”

*

Later that night in their shared tent, they moved their bedrolls close to each other and snuggled. Fingers danced over bare skin, having shed their shirts once they returned and were inside. Most of the men were already in their tents for the night when they came back, sans the other couple taking time for themselves by the fire in a joint watch. A shared nod and blush between the four of them was all that passed, mutual understanding of just how rare it was to not only find someone in the place they were in…but to have that person right beside them the entire way. As they lay there, they talked about all the times in their past where they thought they had seen a sign of how the other might’ve felt. It was nice to compare and know that most, if not almost all, moments were validated.

Earlier, it was a little bit of a surprise to find that Steve’s erection had only gone down halfway. And even more of a surprise was to find Bucky in the same ballpark. They would have plenty of time to explore the possibilities and their limits at a later date. After one last hand job given to both, they’d been able to tuck away into their pants and be somewhat comfortable. They even talked about what just happened, speaking softly about how much they liked, what they had done and ideas of what they wanted to do next time. Whenever that may be.

“We’ll make it work,” Bucky said.

“Promise?” Steve asked, settling closer and blinking hopefully back.

The side of Bucky’s mouth quirked up and he cupped Steve’s face, their lips connecting and separating for a ghost of a taste before pulling apart to lick the faint trace left behind. He sniffed and nuzzled into the pillow. “I promise.” He watched Steve’s eyes shut, finally unable to fight the tired contentment his body was sliding into. Bucky laced their hands and kissed their joined knuckles. “Till the end of the line.”