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Put Your Hand on the Glass

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Bucky didn’t really plan it out. In fact, if he’d had to program his own life, he would’ve probably picked something quite different. Something sweet and boring, something average, something comfortable.

But as it happens, he met Steve Rogers at age five, and it all went downhill from there. Or uphill, depending on how you looked at it. In some very definite direction, anyway.

 

*

 

Bucky had presented early by American standards, blowing on blue candles at age twelve. His ma had teared up a little, and his pa had a big smile, patting him on the back as he chatted with Father Gabe. Bucky was mostly interested in the cake, because it gave him an excuse to feed Steve who’d been looking skinnier and skinnier since his dad’s passing two months ago. Steve adamantly refused any sort of help, and Steve’s ma smiled sweeter but said no all the same. Presentation cake, though, you could eat and share without any shame; and so Steve and Bucky had stolen big slices for themselves and gone to eat them on the fire escape.

Their scraped legs dangled against the metallic frame, and they were munching on the cake and pondering the mysteries of adult life—Bucky wasn’t sure what being a Dom entailed and Steve didn’t know either. They’d remain in a mixed-orientation class till age fifteen anyway, so there was still time to find out. For now it meant cake and a friend.

Steve had a split lip that day, vivid red under the blue and white icing; he was already picking fights then, and Bucky was all the happier he got to put some food in him without protest. It felt natural to take care of him, just like he took care of Bucky. Any acquaintance of them would have been hard-pressed to say exactly how sickly Steve Rogers was any help to Bucky Barnes—but Bucky knew. Steve had fire in his veins and fists that itched for the good fight and a mouth that didn’t know when to quit. Things were always more interesting, more important, more real when he was around.

Bucky helped Steve survive and in return Steve helped him feel like he was alive. So they took care of each other. Simple as that.

 

*

 

When Steve hit fifteen, every other boy in their class had presented, all blowing on blue candles and bringing droplets of congealed wax to school for proof. All Steve got was a brush with death that very same winter—coming down with the most relentless streak of pneumonia Bucky had ever seen. No matter how many blankets they piled on him, he kept saying he was cold when Sarah asked him how he felt. I’m just fine, ma, he’d say, shaking so hard his words came out clipped, just a bit cold is all, and eventually Bucky couldn’t stand it anymore and stuffed himself with him under the covers.

They weren’t kids anymore and it wasn’t the appropriate thing to do, but Steve pressed into Bucky like he wanted to leech his warmth and it was all Bucky could do to hold him tight. It was a fucking furnace under there, and Steve was so delirious with fever he didn’t know what was happening around him anymore.

“Hey,” he wheezed, blue eyes hazy, lips too colored in his pale face, “Buck, hey—whatcha doin’ here?”

He hadn’t been able to feed himself properly in a week; his body felt bony and breakable in Bucky’s embrace, and his hair was dark with sweat, and Bucky stammered, “I stayed over—I’m just stayin’ for the night.”

“M’not sick,” Steve said. “Don’t you go worryin’ now—I’m not sick,” and Bucky said, “Okay, Stevie, okay, go to sleep now,” and Steve closed his eyes with a sigh, and Bucky suddenly thought oh God please don’t let him die God please I’ll be good please just don’t let him die.

Maybe God heard him, or maybe Bucky was running hot enough to break Steve’s fever; in any case, Steve was up the next day, though it was another week before he could actually go back to school. It was the middle of September by then; the weeks at school had felt like ages without him, and Bucky was looking forward to have him back.

Except Steve got sorted in the sub class.

Bucky was thunderstruck. He’d forgotten they were fifteen and he’d forgotten what it meant. Sure, he’d regretted a little that the girls were gone but—he hadn’t even thought about what—Christ, this was bullshit.

“This is bullshit,” he said on the way home. “Stevie, you don’t belong there, you gotta file a complaint!”

Steve just shrugged. “Maybe I do belong there,” he said, not sounding like he cared all that much.

It was true that Steve didn’t clean up very well. Back when they were all kids, it was less obvious; but while Bucky had grown like a weed, while his shoulders had gotten broad and strong, Steve had stayed his shrimpy self, and his relentless fighting had brought him more bruises than muscles. Still, Bucky was baffled by his reaction. He’d expected indignation and hurt pride and loud protests. At first he thought Steve just didn’t see the point of fighting for once—after all, he was already small and sickly and furious, so this was just another indignity to add to the list.

But as weeks passed, it became obvious that Steve genuinely didn’t mind. Every time Bucky prodded Steve about his new classes, all he said was that learning to sew was real useful and everyone should do it.

He still behaved like a Dom, though, which reassured Bucky a little—or rather, he behaved the way he damn well wanted, and got prickly whenever people tried to tell him otherwise. Mostly he was too busy with the world’s problems to worry about himself. Eventually, Bucky dared to ask Steve if he didn’t think it was unfair. Steve just shrugged and said being who you were had nothing to do with fairness.

Bucky was terribly impressed by Steve. He’d never stopped being impressed since the day he’d met him.

And hell, Steve was the only right thing in this world; if he was an invert then it just meant the world itself was upside down. The year was 1935 and it was exactly what it was beginning to feel like, anyway.

But one night Bucky suddenly realized that if Steve was a sub, then—then it meant he was a sub, and Bucky was a Dom, and he tossed and turned in his bed and hid his head under the pillow and thought firmly about his first kiss with Dottie McKinney.

 

*

 

The next year Steve said they should move in together and Bucky said yes before he even heard his reasons.

They found a dingy little apartment they could pay with Bucky’s work at the docks and what little money Steve made selling his art to a few newspapers. That way Sarah Rogers could rent the little room in which Steve had grown up, and Becca and Grace didn’t have to sleep with the baby in the same room. Their parents did need the help and the money, so they didn’t put up too much of a fight, but—well, they were lucky Bucky was known for fooling around with all the girls in the neighborhood.

He’d found out a bit more about what it meant to be a Dom. He liked it a lot—it was complicated sometimes, being in charge of someone else even for a few moments, having all that trust placed in you. Talking was awkward but it helped make things go smoother, and Bucky became a bit better at telling which girls wanted to be pushed around and which ones wanted praise and petting. Sometimes he still had surprises, though, and Steve had taught him early on never to assume, anyway.

Bucky stayed out late most nights and often came home still riding a rush of adrenalin, and he collapsed on his bed with a big smile, listening to Steve in the other bed. That was the best part of his night, coming down slowly with Steve’s bird breath to ground him. Sometimes he was awake and Bucky told him a little about it.

Sometimes, Bucky tried to set Steve up, but nobody wanted anything to do with a shrimpy invert. It infuriated Bucky to no end and he went on loud rants more than once about how inverts were allowed to marry now. But Steve kept saying he wasn’t interested, kept saying he didn’t mind; and Bucky didn’t try to ask him why, and slowed down on the double dates instead. Selfishly he was glad. One of the dames might’ve actually kept Steve—and then what would he have done?

Bucky was selfish and stupid and young, having his cake and eating it, he knew. But maybe he was also aware of the great inevitability coming for him—something dates and laughter and perfumed kisses could only keep away for so long. The truth was coming out, in the dreams he had a harder time repressing, in the way he caught himself glancing away from Steve every day.

The truth was that he wouldn’t have known what to do with himself without this tiny little punk by his side. But Steve was invisible and Bucky had him all to himself. They could still go on for a little while.

 

*

 

Another year went by. The summer of Steve’s seventeenth birthday was hot and damp, and the dam in Bucky’s head had broken a few months ago, flooding him with thoughts and images of Steve until he came trying not to scream his name. Afterwards he lay in his sticky bed thinking Steve Steve Steve Steve, and twelve years of repressed desires slapped him round the head, and he babbled alone “Yes, I know, I know,” because he did know.

Oh, he knew—he’d always known. Dames had soft curves and soft flesh but Steve was tough as bones, tough as nails, carved deep into Bucky’s heart.

He wanted to make sure, though—so he quit dating as much and started wandering on the wrong side of the street instead. It took him a few days to muster his courage before he finally found himself in the dim lighting of an invert bar. He learned to go from nice tame scenes in parlors to rough fuckings in back alleys. He liked it both. He liked it all. He was sure, now.

And now he had no idea what to do.

His main problem was that he couldn’t reconcile the thought of Steve with any of the subs he knew. Any fantasy involving Steve on his knees turned invariably tepid. Bucky tried to make him say yes, sir and only heard aw go to hell, Buck. He tried to make him say I’ll be good, and all he heard was you fuckin’ kidding me? Steve was Steve, and Steve was only sweet if you liked lemons. Also he could never take a singletail, no matter how gentle Bucky was being; and the idea of hurting him in any way horrified him. Steve got enough of that on a regular basis.

Bucky couldn’t say he liked whips very much, anyway. Any kind of tool was unpleasant to him; he liked to touch and taste and hold down with his bare hands. This, maybe, he could see—Steve writhing underneath him and finally begging him for release when it became too much. But even that felt wrong somehow. Something didn’t click.

Bucky knew—Steve had told him a lot about the subs he went to classes with, all dames who mocked him gently and who’d taken to protect him like a little brother—Bucky knew being a sub didn’t necessarily mean you were a cooing thing with delicate bones and good manners. Hell, the boys he’d met in back alleys were as built as him sometimes. But they craved someone telling them what to do, if only for a few minutes; in the same way Bucky craved the rush of having someone under his control for a few flying moments of vibrant adrenaline, when he was quite content otherwise to let people do their thing.

It was what got them going, what spoke to their innermost desires and to the animal depth in them, the part that didn’t think—the part that only felt.

But Bucky knew Steve—knew him like the other half of his soul—and couldn’t see him enjoying even just a second of surrender. Or maybe the reason he fought all the time was because he didn’t want people to think him even weaker for it—maybe he was just waiting for someone he could trust to finally let go. But then why would he be so casual about going to class with the other subs? He couldn’t both hide and not hide himself, couldn’t be both proud and ashamed.

Bucky’s thoughts were going in circles and he argued with himself late into the night. Deep down he knew he was stalling, knew he was focusing on that because then he didn’t have to think about how much he wanted Steve, and how afraid he was not to be wanted back.

Living together was heaven and hell now. Bucky’s imprecise cravings were so strong sometimes he could have wept with it. He wanted to have Steve close, he wanted him his— and maybe this was what being a Dom was all about, the desperate need to get a hold of someone and make sure they would never leave. He was grasping into emptiness, never daring to do more than ruffle Steve’s hair or bump his shoulder like he’d always done, and secretly consuming himself with want. He could fight a hundred drunkards in a thousand back alleys for Steve, but he could not muster the courage to ask him—well, he couldn’t find it in him to ask him anything really.

It was all the more ridiculous since there was nothing to ask. They were already sharing their life in almost all the ways that counted. All Bucky had to say was that if things stayed that way forever he wouldn’t exactly take issue with it.

But he was afraid Steve would feel insulted—think Bucky was demanding rather than giving. Think Bucky was like all the others, just looking to show him how it was done. He was afraid Steve just didn’t see him that way. He was plain afraid, period, and so it was easier to just say nothing for now.

In a year Steve would turn eighteen, and any boy who hadn’t presented by then would get a cake with white candles for his birthday.

Bucky told himself he could start making plans around that time. He’d never been very good at making plans; he’d always been following Steve in everything he did.

He should have known not to skip ahead this time either.

 

*

 

One day he came home for lunch and found a note on the table saying Steve was at Sarah’s.

He ran out of the house and hurried down the street, already worried for either her or Steve’s health. But when he got there, he found not only Steve and his ma but also Bucky’s ma and Father Gabe and Mrs Gallagher.  

At first he didn’t understand. But then he saw Steve was sitting at the table and there was a small cake on the table, and there were candles on the cake and the candles were blue.

 

*

 

“It was so sudden,” said Sarah. Her cheeks were pink and her breath a bit shallow; she looked happier than Bucky’d seen her in years.

It wasn’t sudden at all, thought Bucky from what felt like a great distance. It had come so slow and quiet, like a tidal wave—suddenly rising from the depths and crashing onto the shore. Bucky’s ears were ringing with it now. He couldn’t breathe. The blue of the candles hypnotized him.

“It has to be something of a record,” Father Gabe was saying, laughing. “Presenting at seventeen! He took his sweet time, our Steve.”

“I must say,” Mrs Gallagher said, “I’ve never been happier to be wrong. Your father would have been so proud, Steven.”

“Thanks,” Steve said. God, his voice was deep—and when he swallowed Bucky could see it, the small bump of his Dom’s notch. Jesus, it wasn’t a joke. It was real.

Steve looked up at Bucky and grimaced a smile. “Surprise, I guess. You seen that?”

“Yeah,” Bucky said, breathless. “Yeah, that’s—holy fu—sorry, Father.” He swallowed and felt like his mouth was full of sand. “Stevie, you should have said. I woulda brought flowers or something.”

His mother said something he didn’t hear. Steve looked a little pale; his jaw was clenched and his eyes were dark. Probably thinking of all the years he’d lost learning how to sew and cook because everyone assumed—even Bucky—

“Seriously,” Bucky insisted haphazardly. “I just walked by a violet seller on my way here, I’ll be right back.”

Everyone protested he shouldn’t worry about it and Bucky laughed—said it wasn’t any trouble—it was how he was supposed to act, and a minute later he was out the door, promising he wouldn’t be long.

And then he started running down the stairs, until he was in the hall and breathing hard, squeezing his eyes shut and breathing so hard. Pressing a hand against his mouth, turning round to go back, turning again to go away, pressing harder on his mouth so he’d stop panting like that, like he was crying.

He wanted to be happy. He needed to be happy. His head was spinning. All he could think about was his painful fantasies and how they never felt right. All he could think about was how it should have felt right now, but instead it felt worse than ever, like a gaping hole in his chest where hope had once lived.

“Buck!”

Bucky gasped and looked up, blinking wetness out of his eyes. Steve was coming down the stairs, without his jacket or shoes. He looked pale and angry and his hands were shaking a little.

“I’m sorry,” Bucky started to say, because of course he hadn’t fooled Steve—of course it was all coming out in the open now, and he tried to think of a way to excuse his stupidity, his foolish assumptions and his selfish hopes, but Steve walked right up to him with something desperate and furious in his eyes, and he grabbed Bucky at the collar and kissed him.

The kiss was unlike anything Bucky had imagined, and infinitely more real—like a punch to the stomach.

It was rough and bruising, and so terribly angry Bucky’s head spun a little. Because it meant—it meant he wasn’t the only one whose hopes had just been shattered, and it was a very cruel kind of blessing, to know that Steve was raging just like he was.

Bucky raised his hands like a praying man, grabbed at Steve’s shirt, pulled him closer and opened his mouth, kissing him really—feeling the taste of him, the shape of his lips, his halted breath. At first it was just a cry of furious assuaging—nothing like kissing a girl; nothing like kissing a sub—but then Steve started kissing him differently, more insistently, even angrier, like words, like a promise, and as they kept going Bucky fuzzily began to understand what Steve meant by it. Of course—of course Steve would always refuse to back off.

It made Bucky break the kiss, even though he would have happily drowned into it.

“We can’t,” he said—almost pleaded really.

Steve shoved into him again. His lips were hot and clumsy; he was panting. “The hell we can’t.”

“Steve—” Bucky started talking real fast against the temptation to just sink back into it—“Steve, this isn’t even about inverts or—Steve, we won’t fit, you know we won’t, I thought we could and I was gonna—you know I would’ve, I would’ve in a heartbeat—”

“We won’t fit?” Steve repeated, growled, “we won’t fit?”

Bucky wanted to find an argument, wanted to make him face the facts, wanted to shake him and make him admit that this time the fight couldn’t be won, not this time, and Steve had never won a fucking fight in his life anyway—

But then they were kissing again. God he’d wanted it for so long, and now he wanted to touch him everywhere, to drink him and eat him, but they were in the goddamn hallway and Bucky was supposed to go buy violets and everyone was waiting for them upstairs.

“Buck, we’ll find a way,” Steve said, “it’s what we do, but—so help me, if you don’t want me, say it now, because I won’t—I won’t stand pity from you, Bucky, I won’t. If you don’t—

Bucky tugged hard at his shirt to shut him up and exhaled, “I do. I’ve always—I do.”

Steve stopped, breathing hard, staring at him, and they both became gradually aware of how it sounded, what it meant. Bucky said it again, more slowly, and it hurt like he was scraping it from within, digging up the bottom of his soul to give it to him. “I do.”

“I do,” Steve said back, and they kissed again, clung to each other like it was the last time they were seeing each other.

Bucky’s hands were trembling; he could feel Steve’s skin under the thin fabric of his shirt, and he was freezing cold and burning hot but he knew—he’d always known Steve didn’t have a submissive bone in him. So it couldn’t work—it just couldn’t—

“How—” he began, and Steve said, “Tonight—we’ll figure it out. I really gotta go back up—but you’ll see—you’ll see,” he insisted, desperate.

“Okay,” Bucky said, “okay—” because what else was he supposed to say?

 

*

 

Bucky had no fucking idea how he got through the day.

It took him ages to actually find violets; when he went back up he avoided Steve’s gaze and ate the thinnest slice of cake. It was thick and spongy and he couldn’t even tell how it tasted. If he’d been a bit more aware of his surroundings, he would have noticed how Father Gabe and his ma exchanged reassuring glances. Everything would be fine now; the Barneses’ only son wouldn’t compromise himself with an invert, and Steve himself had been granted the divine grace to belong at long last.

They couldn’t fathom what had happened downstairs. Bucky himself could barely wrap his mind around it. It was unheard of; it went against everything he’d always been taught, against God and against logic, but his heart was still hammering in his chest and he could still taste Steve on his lips.

At some point Bucky realized he was in the street, in the sun and the open air, and he went to the docks with relief, intending to work himself stupid; but no matter how much he tried to exert himself, more restless energy came milling under his skin. He was wired between febrile anguish and pounding anticipation.

This wasn’t like the rush of having a pretty girl kneel for him and push her face into his hand. This wasn’t even like the rush of having a pretty girl crawl across his lap to present her ass for the spanking. This was a different kind of excitement altogether, spiced up with terror and exaltation. It was the wonder of the explorer, the near panic of the total unknown. Because what could they do if they both wanted to care, both wanted to keep, both wanted to control? They’d be like mirrors, reflections keeping each other from getting through the glass.

Fuck that—fuck all of that, because at the end of the day there was one certainty to wonder at: Steve wanted him back. Even though it might prove impossible, Steve wanted him back to the point of melting blue candles together.

Bucky almost ran home until he found himself at his own door still panting, still shaking a bit; and then suddenly he was empty and scared.

He knocked as if it was a stranger’s home, and Steve told him to come in.

The room was dark and Steve was sitting by the window, barefoot and with his suspenders undone. He looked up at Bucky, and Bucky saw in his eyes the reflection of his own uncertainties. Bucky wanted to reassure him it would be fine, but he knew Steve must be feeling the same urge while feeling as lost as him.

He still got to his feet.

“Hey, Buck,” he said.

“Can I,” Bucky stammered.

Steve just pulled him down, and then they were kissing again, and Bucky’s head was rushing with some sort of desperate relief. For a second there was nothing but the wonder to be able to do this, after so many years of denial and distractions.

Steve still tasted of sweet blue cake. The kiss was less hurried, more experimental, and Bucky was back to feeling like an explorer again, lost in something wild and beautiful that might hurt him. He was used to feel soft lips giving in to his kiss, a mouth that’d open for him, a tongue that’d follow the pace he set. But Steve was exploring like he was; it was a tentative kiss, clumsy and reflexive, but it sent thrills up Bucky’s spine.

Still—they had to part, because Bucky felt like there was something clawing at him from the inside, because this was too unfair that they should find out now, after all this time. Steve saw and probably understood, because he clumsily tried to explain.

“Guess I never really felt like a sub—but I thought it was just me, yanno? Just my pigheaded self, not…” He waved his hand, then shrugged. “Kinda wish I hadn’t waited now.”

“No, it’s better like this,” Bucky said quickly. “You woulda tried going down for me and it woulda made you miserable. It’s better to know. It’s better to be sure.”

His hands were fluttering towards him again. God, he wanted Steve, wanted him with the very depth of his being—only he didn’t know how to have him. He thought back about what he’d always felt—that he knew Steve like the other half of his soul, and it made him smile, because he’d never thought it would turn out this literal.

“What’re you smiling at?” Steve said.

“Nothing,” Bucky said.

Then he took a deep breath, and sank to his knees.

It was the only way. Bucky could do that for Steve—could fake it real good for him. He’d been with enough dames to know how it was done.

“Bucky.” Steve sounded both horrified and enthralled. “What—what are you doing?”

“What else d’you propose we do?” Bucky said. He was looking Steve in the eyes with defiance and he knew this wasn’t exactly sub-like, but to hell with it. “You got another idea, lemme hear it.”

“I don’t—” Steve’s voice faltered when Bucky leaned closer to his belt, with insolent eyes still up. Steve made an effort to steady his voice. “I don’t want that. I don’t want to you to pretend.”

“Steve,” Bucky said, grabbing his hips—and the touch burned him, burned them both through the fabric of Steve’s pants—“what are you gonna do? Huh? Order me into dominance?”

Steve set his jaw. “Maybe I will,” he said. “Or maybe I’ll just...”

And then he slid down to his knees, too.

Bucky froze. Steve was smaller than him that way, and he could nuzzle into Bucky’s neck.

“Oh Buck,” he said, and damn he knew how to fake it too—he’d been surrounded with subs constantly for years; of course he knew how to pretend, how to make his voice hitch the right way, how to sound pleading and burning at the same time. “Buck, you gotta give it to me, please…”

“Stop that,” Bucky breathed. Heat was tugging at his gut, fear tightening his stomach.

“Why?” Steve’s lips were brushing his neck, and he added with scathing irony, “I’ll be so good, Buck.”

And then Bucky’s mind just went the way it always went with Steve—Jesus, that little punk.

“Good, huh?”

He put their mouths together, talked against Steve’s lips, breathing hot into his mouth. “You think you can do it,” he said, “but you ain’t ever done it with anyone, isn’t that right, Stevie? You don’t know how to beg,” he grinned, “but dishing it out—it’s in your blood, Steve, and I can tell—thinking back, I can tell when I was grating on your nerves and deep down you just wanted to bend me over and take a belt to my—”

Steve hissed and kissed him silent—then panted indignantly, “What about you—you think I can’t guess what you’ve been doing all those times in the shower alone—think I don’t know what you thought about? Think I couldn’t tell when you looked at me and thought I was so small, so frail, I just needed to be filled right up, I just needed to take it good and hard and you could give it to me—”

“But I can give it to you,” Bucky almost growled, and his hands were fumbling at Steve’s belt, “I can give you whatever you’ll need—you think I can’t? You think I wouldn’t know how to be a good little pet? Just ‘cause you’ve been in sub classes, you think you know the world—”

He cupped Steve’s crotch and Steve’s whole body went rigid. Bucky hesitated—it was his first time, Jesus Christ—and then Steve shoved him back.

Bucky toppled backwards on his elbows and blinked up just in time to see Steve crawling on top of him, pushing a thigh between his legs and rubbing roughly against Bucky’s erection. Bucky’s hips jerked up; Steve grabbed his collar to keep him still and rubbed, again, until he had Bucky panting and twitching.

“Maybe I don’t know a thing,” Steve said, “but I’m not the one about to blow his load.”

“Oh—oh yeah?” Bucky managed, abs tugging to sit up and grab Steve’s loose belt. This time, he didn’t waver—shoved his hand down Steve’s pants and grabbed the length of him, squeezed him tight. Steve exhaled in a rush.

“I think,” Bucky said close to his ear, “I think you’re gonna lose it in no time, and it’d be even faster if you’d just do it the way you really want to—if you just made me put my mouth to good use, pull my hair, make me choke on it—”

Steve panted, kissed him between two gasps, open-mouthed kisses, slender hips jerking forward.

“Bucky,” he whined. “Fuck, Bucky, please keep talking, I’m so close—I’m so—”

At first Bucky tasted sweet victory—and then he realized the sneaky bastard was just playing sub again. Though how much was acting and how much real desperation, he wasn’t sure. Steve was still rubbing his thigh up Bucky’s hard length, and the harsh friction had Bucky closer than he’d realized; but mostly it was Steve—the warmth of Steve, his disordered breathing and the way his body jerked under his hand—mostly it was Steve and Bucky had wanted him so much for so long and now—

“Steve,” he panted, moaned, “Steve—”

“Oh, that’s not—” Steve’s breath hitched when Bucky started kissing him again, his neck, his mouth, his face, “—not fucking fair, Bucky—”

“You’re the one playing dirty,” Bucky panted, then moaned out loud when Steve flicked his jeans open and tugged him free. They were both kneeling up, both jacking each other off, breathless and so close, and Bucky’s hips were jerking and there was no way he was coming faster than Steve, not on his first time—

“Jesus fuck,” Steve panted, and that was it. Bucky let out a half-sob and convulsed in Steve’s hand, coming in spasms of pleasure which felt like they wracked his entire body. Steve wasn’t far behind—or maybe he’d started just before—Bucky didn’t know and didn’t care.

And then it was over. They collapsed gradually against each other, panting and gasping until they were tangled in a sticky, breathless heap on the floor.

After a minute Bucky started laughing, quietly at first and then out loud, because seriously—oh, he really didn’t understand now how he could have ever believed it might not work out. Of course Steve could only have another Dom—what the hell would he have done, with a sweet sub following his every order? Died of boredom is what—and Bucky couldn’t stop laughing now.

“What,” Steve said, annoyed, and Bucky laughed even louder and said, panting for breath, “Like everything you do—oh, Stevie, of course this is how you fuck—”

He laughed again, but then his laughter turned into sheer joy and he rolled on the sticky floor to face him and grin at him. “Stevie,” he said, and then giggled again. “Fuck, Steve.”

“Bucky,” Steve groused. But then he cracked a smile, too. “Shut up.”

“Oh,” Bucky said, sighing out his laughter. “Oh, jeeze. So is this what we do? Just rile each other up till we get too excited? That’s not very dignified—”

“There’s nothing dignified about sex,” Steve said. “It’s gross.”

“It is,” Bucky conceded, almost cracking up again.

“There’s a whole lotta more things we could do, anyway,” Steve said.

“Like what?”

“I could suck you off,” Steve said, voice rough. “I could have you in my mouth and feel you about to fall apart. And you, you’d be fighting yourself waiting for me to lose it first, and maybe I would ‘cause having you like this would drive me insane, just—”

He stopped, swallowed. Bucky swallowed too.

“I thought about it a lot,” Steve said like an apology.

“It’s fine,” Bucky said hoarsely, nonsensically.

“Even when I thought I was still… I’ve never felt like a sub, so I was trying to find ways around…” He shook his head. “What I’m saying is—I don’t think anything’s either for subs or for Doms. Anything you do—it’s just about the way you go at it. About how you live it in your head.”

Bucky felt like the sun was rising on new horizons. All he could do was stare at Steve. But Steve’s brow was creasing, and he was seeking his words, and Bucky knew what he was about to say.

“You could have anyone else,” Steve began. “You don’t have to—”

Bucky shook his head. “Don’t want ‘em.”

Steve shut up. Bucky glanced at him. “You?”

Steve shrugged, almost tiredly. “S’only ever been you, Buck.”

Bucky absorbed this information, blinking a bit. “Is that—” he swallowed. “Is that why you were fine being an invert? ‘Cause then we could stick together?”

“On top of the rest, yeah.” Steve smiled a bit weakly. “Though I guess we’re sort of inverts too.”

Bucky thought about it, caught between everything they’d won and everything they were losing. It was unheard-of and probably unnatural. But they fit—they fit, in this strange competitive way, though Bucky thought it really did feel more natural than not, Steve refusing to give in but refusing also to have anyone defer to him, demanding that people fought the way he did; and Bucky, well, Bucky being attuned to Steve like he always was, getting to keep him like the jealous creature he was.

“There’s no way it’s only us,” Steve said. “There’s gotta be others. Even sub on sub.”

He sounded like he was trying to be reassuring, so Bucky said, “I’m fine if it’s only us.”

Steve smiled at him, his crooked little smile. Bucky watched him for a minute, then reached out and cupped his face, thumb rubbing at his cheekbone.

“You okay?” he asked in an undertone. “It was your first time.”

Steve wrinkled his nose. “You don’t gotta take care of me afterwards, Buck.”

“I don’t gotta,” Bucky said, “but I wanna, so come here, you stupid punk.” He extended his arms. “You can take care of me right back. Like you said—it’s about how we go at it.”

Steve hesitated; but then he settled in Bucky’s arms, and Bucky clung to him, and they breathed together on the floor, hearts beating together, sharing the same warmth.

After all, Bucky thought—it had always been that way between them. It made sense. Taking care of each other.

Simple as that.