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Body Studies

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It's Bucky's idea.

An angry storm is lashing against the window, seeping in under the cracks and stirring up the curtains. Outside it's gloomy and gray and hard rain is lashing alongside the wind. The drains are clogged and the streets are running with water. The singular excitement of the afternoon comes when a big old tree down the block uproots and topples over.

All day long they've been trapped inside. Bucky hates confinement, always has, and he's split the time between pacing, speculative monologues, and throwing himself, listless, onto the threadbare bench by the glass and staring down the weather.

In the corner, by the second window, Steve is drawing. He'd taken up the position after lunch and hasn't stirred much except to stretch his elbow and shake out his hand.

He's drawn the storm, the gusts of wind in branches, caught a couple scurrying down the street, umbrella broken, trenchcoats billowing. He's drawn the cat half-hidden under the car who watches him with a pointed stare, who poses well. He's drawn a self-portrait made of thin lines and imagined himself made of broader strokes. He turns the page.

Bucky's treading a path back and forth across the worn carpet of their apartment when inspiration strikes.

“Hey,” he calls over, and when Steve doesn't look up he says it again. “Hey. I've got an idea.”

Steve has started to draw the ocean. They had the radio on earlier, heard that the ocean was washing in all the way to Red Hook and had punched clear through Coney Island. He starts to draw the ocean flooding through Brooklyn, floating them away, across it.

He still doesn't look up because this numbers amongst the dozen times Bucky's hailed him with an idea in the past few hours.

“Hrmm,” Steve agrees instead, a Bucky-soothing sound, laying down the foundations for the Brooklyn Bridge.

“No, this one's good.” Bucky's annoyed that he doesn't have his full attention, and he stops pacing and paces straight at Steve. He stands blocking out the best light on purpose, throwing shadows across the sketchbook, and Steve bats him away.

Bucky says, “Listen, I could do one of your pictures.”

Steve blinks. He and Bucky have had a few impromptu drawing lessons over the years, mostly for school projects or if Bucky wanted to make a birthday card on the cheap, but Bucky usually got impatient before long and left the remainder to Steve.

He said he preferred making something with his hands in shop-class to paying so much goddamned attention to a pencil but he liked Steve's art and was careful to praise the pieces Steve let him see. Bucky didn't quite have an artistic temperament, not that, but he looked at the ability in Steve with admiration, thought it set Steve apart for better things than the rest of the kids they'd grown up with and Bucky besides. Steve thought it set him apart alright, but not like Bucky said.

Still, the encouragement has helped an awful lot, has kept him drawing. They've only been in their shared flat a year past graduation, but they've cobbled the rent from Bucky's shifts down at the Navy Yard and Steve's at the diner, where he makes a damned artistic pastrami sandwich.

Lately Bucky has been telling him to go into the diner less and find more drawing students. Bucky's been telling him to take his portfolio over the bridge and show the suits on Madison Avenue.

Steve shrugs him off: he's good, he knows he is, but he could be so much better, and he doesn't want anyone but Bucky to see his work until it's perfect. Which means no one but Bucky will ever see it.

But if Bucky's bored now, if Bucky wants to sketch -- he could start out teaching something simple, the most basic of --

Bucky tilts his head sideways. “You wanna draw me or not? Hell, I could be offended. You drew old Mrs. Hibbins down the hall, and she hardly knew you were doing it, her brain's half-batty as it is.”

“She was a painter herself, once,” Steve starts, and then the gears shift and he processes that Bucky is offering to pose, not asking for a drawing lesson.

Bucky wants Steve to draw him. Bucky's bored enough to model, and that's -- that's --

“That's -- a fun idea,” Steve supplies, fingers tight around his pencil. “I mean, we could try that if you wanted to.” Is his palm sweating on the pencil? “It'd be pretty boring for you, though, I guess.”

“Nah.” Bucky shrugs at the window, the dark clouds rolling in thick. “Got nothing else to do. Trust me, I passed pretty bored a while back.” He fishes free a grin. “I'll be great at this, Steve. You'll see. Better than those fancy college models are.”

He backs up a few feet, then reaches behind his head, gets a fistful of fabric and tugs up his tee. It rucks up around his armpits, and then Bucky's shirt comes all the way off, and he tosses it over the couch.

If Steve had a stronger grip, he'd have a broken pencil. Instead he swallows, and focuses on brushing bits of eraser from the blank page with extreme care. “What're you up to now?”

Bucky shirtless is a very well-known quantity, Steve's been around and aware of it for many years, but Bucky slipping the fabric up and off as he moves to pose for Steve is unknown. Bucky isn't over-tall -- taller than Steve, but who isn't -- but he's strongly built, solidly made, filling out even more of late with his interest in the Army. His muscles make defined lines and hard curves, ready to be drawn; and there are shadows on him that beg for shading.

Bucky's shoulders go up in another shrug. He gives Steve a quizzical look. “Well, this's how they do it in those classes, ain't it? And all the statues in the museums you draw. They don't have clothes on either.”

Steve presses his lips, wonders if he can explain the Greek classical nude ideal in an ideal sentence or two, doesn't. He inclines his head a little, allowing, “Right, body studies can be important. They're part of an artist's develop--”

“Right,” says Bucky. “Like I was saying.” His hands are on his belt and he unhooks it, threads out the leather tongue. Gets the top button unfastened. Has the zipper halfway pulled on the fly when he looks up from doing that and looks at Steve.

His eyes are a blue that all of Steve's primary colors can't name. His eyes are only a little wide, and his expression is just...Bucky. Mischievous and open, cautious and sneaky, all of it there on his face as he glances over, hand paused. “Should I take my pants off?”

It takes longer than it should for Steve to look away, and after that time passes he's still looking. He shifts to sit straighter on the little wooden stool, feels it creak under him in protest. Feels sweat starting to trickle, threatening his brow. Finally his eyes rediscover the blank page. “Whatever you want, Bucky.”

Bucky toes out of his shoes. “Okay, let's go for the masterpiece,” he says. He's standing in good light as his hand resumes its motion on the zipper. Light from their chipped ceramic lamp is bathing him just so as his thumbs hook into his waistband and pull. He's cocky as he says it, says it cockily, and then he's -- all of him is big and bared and broad.

He sets his feet apart, sets hands on his hips. His cock is heavy between his thighs, and a narrow path of chestnut hair ventures from base up towards his flat stomach. “How do you want me?”

Steve really needs not be in the room. This is a bad idea. This is one of Bucky's bad ones, he should have known. Doesn't he have enough of a detector by now? But Bucky always knows how to yank him into terribly wonderful escapades, and now he's supposed to draw -- to draw him like this, with nowhere else to go, Bucky ready to be angled five feet away.

Outside the rain is filling the gutters with water and leaves, and the low clouds are blocking out the glow from the city. They might as well be alone in the world.

Steve bites the inside of his cheek, considering. Then he says, “Um. We could do one like, like the statues. You can -- uh, keep you feet like that, but lift your right hand in front of your chest -- yeah, that's right -- like you're holding something to throw. Right, exactly.”

Bucky's muscles shift under skin as he moves, moving his arm slowly until Steve's affirmative nod. “Now kind of -- put your hips to the right, and turn your head that way. Good. Keep your lower body like that -- no, more forward.” He's allowed to lavish his gave on Bucky now, inspect him, so he does it instead of stealing sideways looks.

“That's really good,” says Steve.

Bucky grins wide. He appears almost completely at ease, is good at this. Stands looking utterly unconcerned about all his revealed lengths, stands confident, wears his skin with a surety Steve has always envied.

He holds the pose well, capable of fierce concentration when tasks are at hand, and he strikes it naturally, somehow understands how to elongate his lines. But he looks like he doesn't know quite what to do with his hand. Flexes his fingers. “What am I holding?”

Steve draws the oval that will be Bucky's head so that there's something on paper and then resumes looking. “A discus. It's a bronze circle that you throw for distance.” Back to the page, and he has to fill in the point where Bucky's neck becomes shoulder before he can breathe again. “All of the Greek heroes had them,” he explains. “You're competing against all the best athletes for top honors. Gotta see how accurately you can toss it.”

“Huh,” says Bucky, “just like the winning game against Lafayette, yeah?” and his wrist turns and then he's posed just...just perfectly, limbs aligned like a statue's in their little living room, his bare feet on the rug they dragged up five flights together the day they moved in.

Bucky had mostly dragged it while Steve clutched and wheezed and tried to help. After that Bucky had set him to carrying plates and lamps while he dealt with the furniture. Now all the lamps are revealing Bucky. There's too much light, too much Bucky.

Bucky had been a fullback on their high school team. Football was a blood sport in Brooklyn -- the scrappy fierceness learned from years of stickball in the street translated well -- and in their heightened last years of school, the teams worked even harder, drilled longer, turned their skirmishes into micro-preparation for war.

What had once been spirited recreation became a chance for young men who expected to find themselves called across the sea to show that they were ready for it. The games their senior year had been brutal. Steve watched every one from the stands. He'd drawn Bucky there, too.

“Sure,” says Steve. “Think football, if it helps.”

Bucky rocks gently on his heels, then settles into the pose exactly. He's dynamic, looks caught in motion, about to release the discus for a mighty toss. His bicep jumps, flexes, catches. His head is turned towards the window, and his hair is sticking up, as though he's been out in the wind, as though he's in a Grecian field. Steve could look at him forever like this.

He should probably be doing more drawing. He starts to do it. Something clicks and he's drinking Bucky in and the pencil is flying under his fingertips. Lines come down and blend up. Shadows are accounted for. The pencil has a mind of its own, is making the most exquisite marks and uncovering brand new textures.

The shape of Bucky starts to emerge in shades of lead bordered by paper-white, and God help him, now there are two of them. Two naked Buckys, one held in Steve's lap, both his to draw.

He sketches for a while, and Bucky holds patiently enough. It's raining harder now, loud against the glass, the only sound save for the hiss of graphite and eraser. The picture's coming along more than nicely when Bucky rolls the eye that's facing Steve and works his jaw a bit. He doesn't look uncomfortable, but Steve can read another level of boredom descending. Bucky's game enough to pose, but the entertainment factor has fast run out. He lets his mouth run again, default Bucky.

“So how come you've never drawn me before?” Bucky demands, and quite heroically does not turn his head and break his lines, though he looks like he wants to, because Steve bursts out laughing. Instead he narrows his eye, and the half of his expression Steve can see tries to be offended. “What's so funny about that?”

It's funny because sometimes Bucky is all that Steve draws. It's funny because he has sketchbooks and shoeboxes and canvases full of nothing but Bucky. Bucky composed in every which way since they were kids, Bucky's bold edges increasing as they aged and Bucky grew bigger and Steve didn't, much, but Steve's skill did.

It's funny because Bucky was the first sight he ever drew, Bucky bent over the funnies when they were eight, and how it had been Bucky who said, “Hey, you're real good at that, Steve, bet you could do it for a living if you tried--”

It's hysterical. Steve laughs and laughs and nearly mutilates Bucky's arm on the page. He stops laughing when Bucky's on the verge of real annoyance and then he thinks about it.

Steve's been called a wimp for the way he looks all his life but he isn't one. He's never backed down from anything important, does the opposite really, is better at sticking his nose in and stubbornly pursuing what he knows is right.

Bucky says he's dogged, which is why he gets kicked around so much like a street dog. Bucky would prefer Steve leave the nose-sticking to him, but that isn't Steve. Both of them are uncompromising in what they believe and what they want, which is part of why they get along so well.

So he doesn't run from it. He meets it head-on. He tells the truth, like he prefers.

“Sorry,” Steve says, “it's just,” and he starts filling in the dip of Bucky's lower back. “I wasn't laughing at you, Buck. It's just I've drawn you a lot.” Bucky's lower back dips into Bucky's firm ass and strong thighs. Steve moves up to work on the arm again instead.

“Any good?” Bucky asks. “I wanna see 'em.”

“Maybe later,” Steve demurs, and on a cold day in hell, my friend.

“I knew it,” Bucky says, and he's grinning again, annoyance gone, spectacularly changeable. “You've been dyin' to draw me in the buff. I'm better than the models they have in those fancy classes, ain't I, Steve?”

It's the second time he's mentioned “fancy” educational activities. Steve knows it's Bucky's attempt to defuse his ongoing disappointment at not having the tuition enough for art school and that situation not changing any time soon or ever. It makes Steve's already over-worked heart squeeze up in his chest.

“Yup.” Steve agrees to all of it. “You're doing great. You're a natural.”

Bucky's Bucky, and he's bored, thoughts ranging, two steps ahead and sideways in every conversation.

“Are we ever gonna talk about it?”

“Talk about what?” Elbows are tricky to draw, and Steve pokes out his tongue a little in concentration.

“The way you're looking at me,” Bucky says.

Steve stops sketching. He doesn't look up, though, doesn't look at Bucky now, he's fighting his heart down from his throat. He doesn't say anything. What in the name of God is he supposed to say?

“The way you look at me, Steve,” Bucky says. He says it calmly, steadily, steady as he's standing. Says it flatly. He's not teasing now. Steve still can't speak, and Bucky's still talking: “It's one thing with us, but I get worried about you. I worry about when I have to go away. Wrong person sees you looking like that, and I'm not there to--”

Speech returns in a rush. Sense is lagging. “I don't -- I wouldn't --”

I wouldn't look at someone else like that he wants to say, almost says and bites it clean in half. Back-steps to Bucky saying it's one thing with us because that -- he doesn't know what that -- “What're you--”

“Let's lay off it,” Bucky says. “Let's just lay off, okay?”

“Okay,” says Steve.

And like that, the barrier's down. They're talking about this, the thing that they didn't talk about, that they spoke about in other ways. It's the most difficult thing he's ever done, talking about it, and easy, because it's Bucky.

And Bucky is -- Bucky is his best friend, his only true friend, Bucky is family and home. Bucky is everything, and Bucky is -- Steve looks up at last, meets Bucky's eyes on him -- Bucky is turned on. Bucky is getting hard, Bucky's big cock filling, while Steve blinks harder, and turns magenta.

“That answer the question?” Bucky says.

He doesn't shift his body, doesn't drop the pose, though Steve hasn't set pencil to page for some minutes. He doesn't look ashamed, or abashed, or anything like that. He looks like Bucky: bold.

It's hard -- hard not to look away, but Steve doesn't know how to turn back. Always moves forward. Steve says, softly, “I didn't think you'd--”

“You know,” Bucky says, “For such a smart fella you aren't very sharp, Steve. You're too busy looking at the big picture to see the details.” His stance doesn't change. “Now, me, I see all the small stuff. Folks think I don't pay attention when I'm runnin' my mouth, and that's when I see right through them. That's how you get to know what people are really made of. And you--”

Now, Bucky moves, breaks his statue's mold, his muscles made of marble. His hand goes to his cock, and he takes himself in hand while he says and you, and he doesn't drop the hand that's supposed to be holding a discus. “You're the best person that I know.” His grin is crooked. “And I'm an opportunist.”

Steve laughs again, because there's nothing else for it: Bucky is stroking his cock and Steve is gripping his sketchbook, getting papercuts. “You're out of your mind,” Steve says, but his pulse is racing, heart rattling against his thin ribcage. It's the most erotic thing that he's ever seen and it's Bucky and Bucky is saying that they're --

“Same as you,” Bucky returns. “Same as you.”

Steve wants to kiss his mouth, his pert, upturned lips, always red like wet paint. He wants to toss the sketchbook like a discus and crush Bucky up against the bookcase on the far wall, drive Bucky across the room with a strength he doesn't have until they hit it.

Steve will kiss him there, against the books. They don't have very many, they're expensive to come by, but the collection is growing, and Steve will press Bucky into their spines.

He doesn't move. It's not that he's afraid. It's not that he doesn't think it's right. It's just that it's Bucky who goes first.

So Steve waits, and it's Bucky who says, “You wanna draw me while I jerk off, Michelangelo, or help me out?”

Like he was saying Steve, do you want carrots or peas with dinner, and also in a rough, low voice that Steve doesn't know well but wants to.

Steve wants to say both, because both are the best ideas Bucky's ever proposed. But there's a time and a place for artistic endeavors, and that time is not now, not with Bucky actually proposing --

He puts the pencil down. The sketchbook follows. Gets up with Bucky watching like a hawk and his body protesting, having sat cramped for hours. Stretches like it's no big deal, puffs himself up, tries, as always, to make it seem like there's more of him.

Then he walks over to Bucky. Then he goes to his knees.

Bucky makes a noise and his hand freezes, but he doesn't move. His cock is very close, long and thick, proud as the rest of him. Steve leans in to taste, and the first thing he thinks doesn't even make sense -- that Bucky tastes familiar, tastes like himself, of course he does; and then he's following the swipe of his tongue with his mouth and trying to take all of Bucky down.

Bucky says, “Steve--

He's read about this. As much as he can, at least. The pick of what the local Brooklyn Public Library has and what it doesn't know it has. He doesn't have any technique or practice outside his imagination, but he's been plenty active there.

Bucky's cock is hard and hot and heavy on his tongue, and Steve tries to relax and tries to breathe through his nose, thinking about the hundred thousand times he's thought of doing just this, wanting to fit his lips around this particular cock, take it deep enough to make his jaw ache. He learns quickly about keeping back his teeth, and tonguing at the head. Bucky keeps making surprised noises, and his hand is kind of scrabbling at Steve's shoulder, then threading into his unkempt hair.

Why should Bucky be surprised, really, when they came to it? Were they going to be coy, go out to share milkshakes, bat their eyelashes like dames?

They've known each other all their lives and seen each other at their best and worst, been bruised and bloodied together, sick and well, slept a year in the same small bedroom, narrow cots set apart, knew the sound of each other's snoring and dreaming.

Coming, too. He'd listened to Bucky jerking off at night or in the morning under his blankets dozens of times, hundreds. Heard all his muffled moans. Is he supposed to pretend that he doesn't know Bucky like the back of his hand?

This, though -- this is new, and is supposed to be forbidden, and it's nothing like anything they've ever done, but Bucky shouldn't be surprised, and after a moment of Steve sucking down on his cock he stops sounding it, starts twitching at the hips instead.

“Steve, Christ,” Bucky mutters. “Mother of--” and it doesn't sound blasphemous, it sounds like a prayer, and Steve just keeps going.

Bucky grunts when lips touch his belly. Somehow Steve's swallowed him all the way in and down, with nothing but the tenacity of will and want and perseverance. He's stubborn,dogged, and he does it. It isn't elegant, and it takes a while and different strategies of approach, and Steve's mouth and chin are shiny, and his cheek is distended.

Bucky lets him do it, shifts his pose to try and help sometimes, and the further Steve goes the tighter Bucky's grip gets in his hair. By the time Steve has all of him Bucky is holding on just like he's being held in. When Steve is flush, Bucky lets him breathe, then he pulls back a little. Then pushes in.

Steve doesn't gag, Steve fights gagging. He takes it. Bucky groans, rocking back again, refilling Steve's throat; Bucky gets cocky, looks straight down at Steve and starts to screw his mouth.

It's so good. It's so -- fuck -- good. Now he can't breathe but for once doesn't panic about it, deciphers Bucky's rhythm to get his air flow going again. Bucky's cock glides over his tongue, over lips rounded on teeth.

For once -- for once in his life, Steve's slight frame doesn't matter one bit. It doesn't matter that he's small, it's of little consequence, folded onto his knees, bent over Bucky, all that matters is how he can swallow Bucky and how Bucky thrusts back.

He bobs his head to the motion of it so that he doesn't choke and Bucky's fixing him in place at just the right angle, and it's sloppy and wet and so good, so good to have him like this, feel him like this, have there be nothing else to consider but his mouth and Bucky's cock.

Guys traded tales about getting head like it was something to trick a girl into doing, but Steve thinks maybe the girls were getting one over. It's a kick of adrenaline and lust to show how far he can take Bucky, how close he can bring him, to close his eyes and feel him smooth and slick along on his palate. Bucky's pressing up and in and out, but Steve's in control, Steve's tongue and the press of his lips and hollowed cheeks are running things, and Bucky's along for the ride. Bucky goes with him.

Bucky gasps, “Steve, hold back, I'm gonna--” but Steve only angles away slowly, dragging suction, so that Bucky goes off on the tip of his tongue, on his tastebuds. Steve keeps sucking, licks him throughout, and Bucky shudders and tugs at his hair; the taste of him is bittersweet, and Steve's greedy for it, swallows it, chases the last drops. Takes as his the evidence of what they've done.

He pulls away reluctantly, Bucky's cock softening and slipping free. Other than than they don't move, Bucky half-posed with shaky thighs spread, Steve on his knees with his head ducked, Bucky's fingers plying his scalp.

“Whoa,” Bucky says, after a few false starts. “You weren't kidding.”

“No,” says Steve.

Strong, capable hands are pulling him up, and they don't let him go. “That was really something. How'd you learn? No, don't tell me, I'll beat his face in.” The hands move to the hem of Steve's t-shirt, yank at it, but Steve twists, squirms. Bucky's right eyebrow makes a triangle. “C'mon, you're going shy on me now?”

He tugs again, and this time Steve lets him take it off, though he crosses wiry arms in at the chest and fights a sudden chill. Bucky's regard is warming enough, but Steve doesn't understand it, not in this.

He's nothing to look at, less than nothing. He's concave. He's terrifically slender no matter what he eats, and his arms lack definition no matter what he lifts, and his shoulders are a little hunched from too much drawing. His face isn't so bad he supposes, and he'd liked the way Bucky had stared down at him and just watched the way his cock went in and out of his mouth. But like this he's too exposed and not exposing enough.

Then Bucky reaches out to touch him, and Steve forgets to care, because Bucky's fingers don't seem to care, Bucky's touching him everywhere, and is quick to do it. Steve's chest, his sides, his arms, his stomach, his nipples, a hand pushing firm into his hair, and Bucky steps closer, steps into him.

“I wish you wouldn't be so shy,” Bucky says. “We might've done this sooner.”

“Really?” Steve knows he sounds startled because he's shocked.

“Sure, why not? But you're always changing behind that goddamned dressing-screen you set up, and covering all the way with towels, and jerking off under the covers. Figured you didn't want to yet. Even with the looking and all that. Thought maybe once we had the flat to ourselves, but--”

Steve kisses him. It's a poor first kiss, clash of lips, teeth underneath, mouths closed. But he kisses him. “I'm sorry,” he tells Bucky. “I was being an idiot, and close-minded too. I'm sorry.”

“Used to your idiocy by now,” Bucky says with a shrug, like they can shrug off wasted years. He leans into the kiss. Slowly they make it softer and it gets better and better. Then Bucky tilts back and looks him full in the eyes. Repeats himself with a good deal more deliberation this time.

“So,” he says. The afterglow of orgasm is on him, sanding down his sly smile, gentling the permanent mischief-lines around his eyes. “How do you want me?”

Steve doesn't know how to back down. But he's cautious in unknown territory. “Bucky -- I don't kn --” I don't know what to say, he wants to say. So many ways, he wants to say. We could do so many things, we could do anything, together.

“Sure, you know how,” says Bucky. If he had pockets, he'd tuck his hands in them, but he's naked. Resplendently naked, better to touch than anything Steve could have drawn. His hands settle on either side of Steve's hips, palms down, fingers stretching. Like he's wanted to see if he can span Steve's slim waist with their breadth. Can't, quite. Then he smooths downward, over the soft fabric of Steve's pajama pants, over to where Steve is very hard beneath.

“Like one of your dirty pictures,” Bucky suggests.

Steve's jaw drops, and Bucky's eyes flash a hint of guilt, all that he can spare: “I didn't snoop, I wasn't snooping. I needed a piece of paper, see, and it was sticking straight out from your mattress.” He wants to be mad but can't quite be, because of the look on Bucky's face, how Bucky's face looks. “I only looked a little when I saw what it was. Haven't looked at anything else, Steve, I swear it.” He tries to regain favor with a waggle of eyebrows. “But I liked what I saw, gotta say—”

Steve feels himself flushing and can't stop; his cheeks must be berry-bright. The thought of Bucky poring over his most secret sketches, his fantasies, his filthiest ideas, his unleashed images, is tricky to process, to say the least; but Steve also isn't a fool, because Bucky is a bit of a snoop, and at least none of the men he'd drawn had been Bucky, even if they favored lithe bodies, triangular faces and dark hair.

He swallows. There's little use getting angry now, not with Bucky saying that he likes what he saw, Christ Almighty. So he sets his shoulders, straightens his spine, tries to look more confident than he feels, tries to mirror Bucky's boldness. “I'll forgive you if you tell me which one was your favorite.”

Bucky likes to see the swagger on him. Responds in kind. “Why don't I show you,” he says. “I'm better at demonstrating than describin'.”

Why doesn't he. Why doesn't he. Steve is spinning, but he makes himself nod, like he has a handle on this. He's nodding, and Bucky's nodding, and Bucky's naked and Steve's half-naked and then they're heading towards the bedroom as a unit.

They go inside and shut the door. It's a cramped space, barely big enough for the two cots set at opposite walls, a shared dresser and a window with iron bars. Bucky had bought bright yellow curtains at a stoop sale to bring some color in and there are a few of Steve's cityscapes tacked on the walls and a few old faded family photos hung carefully. Bucky turns on the light. Steve would have left it off.

Without having to talk about it they shove the cots together in the farthest corner to make a bigger bed. They pile pillows into the space between the mattresses and spread out all the blankets. Bucky climbs right on in, and Steve perches along the edge. His shoulders are too hunched.

Kneeling nakedly, Bucky studies him. “Listen, we don't -- we won't do anything you don't want to, Steve. You're looking like maybe you--”

“No. No.” Steve presses a hand to Bucky's bare thigh, holds there. “It's nothing like that. I want to...I want to do everything with you.” He says it, swallows that confession, confesses another: “It's just that I wouldn't know what to do without you.”

“Hey.” Bucky reaches, slides his arms around Steve, pulls him up and onto the bed. Steve's easy to maneuver, lets himself be. “I'm not going anywhere yet, and I'm coming back from that besides. You know you can't shake me.” He's smiling, teasing the smile into Steve's collarbone. “I always turn up like a bad penny.”

Steve shivers as Bucky's tongue traces up and pauses at his ear in exploration. “Won't lose me over stuff like this, if that's what has your knickers in a twist. Don't you -- don't you want to, Steve?” and his expression is broken-apart and open, more vulnerable than Steve's seen it in many years. Bucky sounds uncertain, and Bucky's never uncertain.

So Steve turns into him, steals Bucky's lips from his ear and speaks against them. “Yes,” Steve says. “I want to.” Bucky opens his mouth to speak, but Steve doesn't let him, Steve licks into his mouth, his hot, wet mouth, meets his smart tongue. Then he pulls back. “I've always wanted to.”

“No point cryin' over spilt time,” says Bucky, sounding sage, after he regains his voice. “We make up for it instead.” He takes in a deep breath. “About your pictures --”

Steve holds himself quietly, is held quietly, lets Bucky's mouth run.

“Yeah,” whispers Steve, acknowledging them. They're his.

“There's one in particular I remember. Thought maybe we could try that.” Bucky's moving away, and then he's getting onto his hands and knees on their linked mattresses. He tilts his head back. “Like this, right?”

Steve's heart may not be up to this. It's thudding in his chest, trying to break free. He reaches out to fit his hand along Bucky's hipbone. Tries to remember about breathing. And speaking. That's the most difficult part. “You'd let me do that?”

Bucky swings a look over his shoulder: half-exasperated, half-inviting. “I want you to, Steve. There's a difference.”

“You've thought about it?” Never, not even in his wildest dreams about Bucky had he imagined this: Bucky on his hands and knees in easy acquiescence and expectation.

“Sure,” says Bucky. “Lots of times. Haven't you? Granted, I think I'd like to do you, too, but it makes more sense to start out like this. You're a scrappy sonofabitch, wouldn't want to fight ya, pal, but I don't want to hurt you.”

Steve's hand tightens on Bucky's hip. He makes himself talk about this like it's happening, like it's happening. He'd like to dwell a little while on I think I'd like to do you, too, he'd like to dwell on that for a good while, but this is what's happening. Bucky wants Steve to fuck him. Bucky's thought about it. Lots of times.

Steve worries his lip. “What if I hurt you?”

Bucky's eyes look lit-up. “Maybe I'd like that,” he says. He isn't smirking. His mouth is a line.

Okay. “Okay,” says Steve. Okay. Okay.

He moves, then. He drops down over Bucky. His weight is slight but it's much warmer with skin pressed to skin. He kisses to the back of Bucky's neck, into his hair. He smells like their twenty-five-cent apple shampoo and sweat and Bucky, and Steve. He tastes himself on Bucky, their scent intermingled with salt.

He lets himself touch Bucky for the first time without reserve. Steve's hands go everywhere, everywhere he's always wanted to grip and grasp and grab. He's worshiped Bucky's body for as long as he can remember, desire and envy mixed together; mapped its changes as they got older.

Bucky broadened at the shoulders, and the muscles of his arms swelled with football practices. His chest became formidable, and his abdomen a washboard. Still he retained lithe grace from a slimmer youth, and he cut a figure everywhere he went. Bucky prowled, and Steve followed, glad to have the comfort of Bucky's shadow cast over him. Other than a few spare inches and pounds and patches of blond hair, Steve's body hadn't changed overmuch with puberty.

He runs his hands all over Bucky, who leans into it, catlike and unashamed. Steve scrapes nails down Bucky's back, raising scarlet stripes. He thumbs on Bucky's flat nipple, to see if he likes that, and Bucky does, hissing through his teeth. He takes double fistfuls of Bucky's ass, keeps gripping until he groans.

He kisses down the joints of Bucky's spine and moves in against him, lets Bucky feel what touching him is doing to Steve. He's been hard since the living room but now it's reaching emergency levels. He could come just by rutting up against Bucky and he doesn't want to, has to hold out to -- this is really happening --

“Lose the pants,” Bucky says with his head hanging low. “C'mon, Steve. We don't have all day.”

But they do, and Steve isn't going to rush this, for all that his cock and Bucky are in agreement about going faster. He leans back to strip off the pajamas, is not blushing, is not, and Bucky turns his head to watch --

“Wow,” says Bucky. He sounds surprised and appreciative and even a touch apprehensive. “So you did grow--”

Steve blushes, no denying it now, but he has enough sense to take his cock in hand for the full effect. Against his fingers it looks even bigger. He's much larger than his build might suggest, longer than Bucky, if not so thick; hard and curved upward, leaking drops of precome.

“You still in this with me, Barnes?” He tries to tease, moves his grip from his cock after a few strokes to ease the ache and puts his hands back on Bucky's hips.

Bucky licks his lips. “Sir,” he says. “Yes, sir.” And Bucky's trying to tease, too, but the words shiver down his spine, which Steve bends to kiss again.

When he gets to the end of Bucky's spine, he keeps going. Keeps pressing soft, sure kisses against the velvety skin he uncovers. Bucky makes a noise that resembles his name, but Steve stays at it. Can't get enough of Bucky, there will never, ever be enough. Has to know and taste and mark every part of him, every last inch of skin. He's easing Bucky's cheeks apart while Bucky says his name, and then he's putting his lips over the entrance to Bucky's body and his tongue, too.

“Jesus God,” says Bucky. “What -- what're you--”

Steve licks him slowly. His tongue edges wet around the well-defined skin. His tongue flickers wet and sure. He starts licking delicately in. He cups a hold and doesn't let go when Bucky's hips surge forward, then back. Bucky tosses his head and arcs his back and presses against Steve, body jerking like he's losing control of it.

Steve,” Bucky keeps saying, a delicious low whine of sound, “Steve,” while Steve opens him up with his tongue. Bucky has always been the focus of his attention but now Bucky is the only thing there is, there's nothing else but Bucky hot and tight around him, nothing but how the slightest movement from Steve's lips and tongue make him groan and moan and claw at the chipped-paint bed-frame.

His tongue works hard, has never enjoyed itself more, and the deeper he gets and the move Bucky quivers Steve starts to let himself really think about what Bucky has agreed to, what Bucky asked for. Bucky wants Steve to fuck him. Bucky said he'd thought about it before.

Steve won't deny that it's a big part of what he's always wanted, though he would have been (almost) content to live a long life not touching Bucky, if it meant Bucky wouldn't ever leave him.

But it's happening now, what he's wanted, what Bucky has, and there isn't any going back from this. After this, no matter where they go, Steve will be able look at Bucky and think, I put myself inside of him. Maybe that won't be much different from how they usually are, though.

Steve,” Bucky's still saying, only now with strained urgency, his teeth grit, “Please--

He draws back to give Bucky's perfect ass a bite hard enough to sting. Bucky's a rare one for “pleases” unless he's after something. Steve grins, thinking about it. “What're you after?”

Bucky whips his head around, trying on his best glare. His eyes are too wickedly bright to make it effective. “Don't be a jerk. Y'know what.” He swallows. “Use your fingers first. Guy down at the docks told me about that.”

Steve can hear his pulse racing behind his ears as he moves across the room, retrieving the vaseline from the spare toiletries atop their dusty dresser. Bucky watches him return, icy blue eyes warm, but Steve lifts a teasing brow. “Fellas just talk about this sort of thing at the riverside?”

Bucky shrugs as much as being on his hands and knees permit. “If you get 'em drunk enough.”

“Books,” says Steve, dropping the vaseline on the bed and settling back in behind Bucky, hands greedily reclaiming overheated skin.

Bucky grunts, more than a little distracted while his gaze tracks Steve preparing his fingers. “Wha?”

“That's how I learned what I did in the living room,” Steve explains. “Books. No one taught me. There's never been anyone but you.” Bucky blinks but looks pleased, so Steve decides it's now or never, and eases a slick finger into Bucky to the knuckle. He's still wet from Steve's tongue, and he tightens up all at once, then relaxes, so Steve keeps pushing. He can't stop looking at the motion of his hand against Bucky's ass, how his finger is in Bucky, is part of him now. Steve could do just this part all night.

“Is it -- is this okay?” he has to ask, because Bucky has dropped his head, and his dark hair is darker with sweat. Sweat beads along the slopes of his shoulders. Steve wants this to be good, wants it to be better than good for Bucky. The idea of hurting him is unconscionable. “Should I--”

“Keep going.” Bucky's voice is strained but steady. “It's good, I swear it is. Do that a bit and then another.”

Steve does as he's told. As he's wanted to try since he first read about it. He follows orders. After a while, Bucky starts to move with him, and the strain is gone and he sounds more like shocked when he speaks. “Yeah, yeah, like that. Damn. Steve, yes, there--” and really, Steve is just fine with doing this all night, or forever.

After what feels like an excellent span of eternity, Steve has to ask, because he's been close to coming since Bucky said You wanna draw me or not? He kisses the dip of Bucky's back, the flair of firm muscle. “Can I?”

“You'd better,” says Bucky. “I can feel myself aging. I'm gonna get gray hair at this rate.”

Steve laughs, and bites him on the other cheek, and puts far too much vaseline on his eager cock. He slips his fingers free, and silently begs his hand not to shake when it closes over Bucky's hip. His other hand is on his cock, lining himself up. He tries to make his first thrust careful, clamps down on the new animalistic urge to seize and take that is buzzing in the back of his brain. He tries to be gentle, fucking.

It's...that's hard to do, because it's the best thing he's felt, better even than Bucky's cock in his mouth, or his mouth on Bucky, or touching Bucky's body, or Bucky's hands on him. Better than anything has the right to feel.

Bucky is tight, so tight, too tight, Steve knows he must be hurting him, but the only sounds Bucky's making are good ones, breathy gasps and curses of encouragement. Bucky braces himself and angles back, spreading his legs wider to take Steve in, and when Steve's all the way in, he knows with a certainty he's never felt before that this is where he's meant to be. Buried in Bucky, lost in him, so deep he can't feel where he stops.

They hold there, and Steve lets Bucky take his weight, too, drapes himself over Bucky so he can mouth at his neck, and pepper kisses behind his ear. “You feel incredible,” Steve tells him. Bucky responds well to flattery, but it's the simple truth, and it seems to relax him further.

Bucky's muscles are tensed but loosening by the moment, and when Steve pulls out and back and slowly reseats himself, Bucky's lower body bends to meet him. Steve's cock slides in without resistance, and on the fifth try, Bucky bites off a desperate moan. It's the finest sound never fully vocalized, ever.

Bucky gets back his voice enough to say, “Fuck.”

An explosion of a word, an exclamation and a description of the action at hand. Steve Rogers, officially no longer a virgin, is fucking Bucky Barnes across the joined length of their cots. He's hard and long, there's more of him than Bucky anticipated. He's small and big. He rocks them slowly together at first, but there's already enough excited momentum that the bed creaks underneath them, and around him, Bucky trembles, and says it again, says “Fuck.”

Steve still can't believe that they're here. He can't believe they haven't done this before. It's the greatest thing in the history of time, he thinks, and they could have been doing it a while now. Bucky said so. It's the greatest waste of time that has ever been squandered, Steve thinks, lamenting lost months and years, even, when he could have been doing Bucky.

Bucky, a swaggering fifteen-year-old with laughing eyes: “You wanna practice kissing, Steve, so we get good for girls?”

Steve did. Steve wanted to, very much. By then, Steve knew how he felt, knew he wanted kisses and more, had learned it wasn't something he was supposed to want aloud in their day and age and got good at hiding it.

If they kissed -- if they practiced kissing -- there'd be no way to hide his body's reaction, his face's, his wanting-more. So he shook his head and punched Bucky's growing bicep and said, “Nah, don't be silly,” while his heart beat and ached.

Bucky, at eighteen, after his girl gave him the slip for another guy at the dancehall, joining Steve on the sidelines, circumspect: “You and me, Steve, it's always you and me in the end.”

Bucky put his hands in his pockets as they watched his ex-date jitterbug past. “Maybe we should go to the room I got for this dame. It's got candles and everything and it's mine 'til three in the morning.”

Steve had hardly been able to swallow, inundated with imagery corresponding to the idea of him and Bucky alone together in a room all their own. Back then, before they lived together, the mere idea of that was enough to strike him dumb. “Ha ha ha,” he'd managed at last, weakly, and then Bucky asked a thin blond girl to dance and disappeared.

He remembers all that now, a thousand missed moments, as he holds on to Bucky, as he thrusts into him, as Bucky takes his thrusts and gives back, as they start to move with a fluid rhythm, like they've been doing this for years. They work well together, do things best when they figure it out as a team. Neither of them are perfect, far from, and they're long used to leaning on the other to fill in the gaps. They're a far more perfect whole together than apart.

Steve tells Bucky some of that, as he drives them on, tries to make it last. He's been clinging on the knife-edge of orgasm since his second thrust, and it's a miracle he's lasted this long at all. His hands are large like his cock, larger than the rest of him proportionally, leaving bruises dug in around Bucky's hipbones.

Bucky keeps making noise, lots of different ones. Every time Steve moves, Bucky makes another. He's seldom quiet and he isn't now. Does what he does best. Lets his mouth run. He says “Steve,” and “more,” and “ease up,” and “harder,” and “Christ God” and “Steve” and --

“I'm not gonna last much longer,” Steve tells him, in deep. “I can't. I want to. You feel too good--”

He can't see Bucky's smug grin with his head down, but he can taste it in the air. “Sure you can,” Bucky pants. “Sure. Think of football.”

Steve smiles against his neck. “The number of times I watched you get knocked down -- no thanks.”

“Hey,” says Bucky hotly, “That's a boldfaced lie. They never saw me coming. Besides,” and he tilts his head sideways, tilts a look at Steve, “Taught me how to take a hit, didn't it?”

Steve is fucking him into the mattress and it's words that make him flush. Thinking about Bucky going down on the field is an effective enough thought to slow him, though. He softens the slap of flesh on flesh, trying not to think too much while he holds onto Bucky, is held in.

Bucky's on the lists. His number will come up like it has come up for so many of their friends and the young men they know. It's only a matter of time, and the war will take Bucky from him. Won't take Steve, no matter what he does. He's tried everything, he thinks.

He goes too still, because Bucky's stopped moving too and is reading him too well. Bucky lifts an unsteady hand, sweeps his soaked hair away from his brow. He doesn't break eye contact. He says, “Steve, hold back a minute.”

Steve regrets having to, but he eases out of Bucky, careful at the withdrawal. He sinks back on his haunches. His cock his painfully hard, over-hard, ready to come if Bucky were to so much as touch it; but Bucky doesn't. He shakes his magnificent body once, like a dog out of the rain, then turns over to his back. He spreads his thighs. Crooks a knee.

Says, “I remembered another one of your pictures.”

Both of Bucky's eyebrows are up, and Steve surges between his thighs, over his broad chest, into his waiting arms. Steve moves to kiss him, tongue confident now, meeting Bucky's straightaway, and Bucky's arms are cradling him, and his legs are, too. Bucky settles an ankle over Steve's ass and starts to reel him in.

Steve puts a hand on his grateful cock and pushes back into Bucky straightaway. Bucky nods, then snaps his head back, showing a pale column of neck for Steve to kiss and suck and bite. But being able to kiss him while they screw is what sets off the fireworks in Steve's brain. They keep their eyes open, kissing, and Bucky is open to him, taking all of him. If it was the best thing in the world to bury himself in Bucky the first time doing it face-to-face is the stuff of outer space.

Steve moves to put his forehead against Bucky's, looks into his eyes, as he thrusts deep again, as he keeps thrusting. He can't stop. It's too good. It's what he was born to do, it's what he's been holding off doing since he heard it was possible. He knows Bucky like the back of his hand, and now he knows him inside and out, and Bucky's even better than he dared to dream.

Bucky's cock is caught between their bodies, rubbed hard and getting harder; so Steve palms his hand around it, guessing from the sounds he's heard across the room noon and night that Bucky likes fast, rough strokes. He closes fingers around Bucky and starts to jerk him in time with the roll of Steve's hips, Steve's cock in and down. Bucky's eyes go glassy and his fingernails scratch for purchase across Steve's back.

“I can't hold off,” warns Steve.

“Want you to come with me,” says Bucky. And Steve does, when he says that, though he presses his face into Bucky's shoulder to hide what he looks like, when Bucky says that.

Steve's hand and Steve going off in him brings Bucky over the edge. “Oh,” he moans. “Oh.” They're the unfiltered exclamations Steve has long desired to produce, and he burns them into his topmost memories. He keeps himself in Bucky and rolls his hips in shallow circles for as long as Bucky can take, while Bucky shoves his head into the pillow and tightens up everywhere all around Steve and quickens in his hand until he spurts hot and slick across their bodies.

Steve twitches at the sight, is wracked with it, feels like he could come again and again and again like this, never stop fucking Bucky ever, feels superhuman. He didn't know he could feel this way, that this was in him. Did he?

“Jeez,” says Bucky agreeably, as Steve, reluctant, starts to pull himself out. It makes the moment less awkward than it could be. “Now how'd you learn to do that?

“Books,” says Steve again, “And art. And books about art.” He drops down against Bucky, half on him and half on the bed. The bed is a mess and they are too, drenched in sweat and lust, still breathing hard together. They breathe like they've run miles.

Less coordinated now without the focus of fucking, Steve kisses Bucky's nose, the side of his ear, his expressive forehead. Bucky obliges him by laughing when it tickles, and putting his arms around Steve.

“Seems to me we should go to the library next,” says Bucky. “I'll do you in the stacks, if we can manage it. You'd like that, wouldn't you, Steve?”

One of Steve's most enduring fantasies is like that. But he plays it cool, nodding against Bucky's cooling skin, tongue darting out to taste so that he doesn't have to speak. He tastes them commingled, salty and cynical-sweet, and he memorizes their flavor. Then he says, “I'd like that an awful lot, Bucky.”

“Then why do you sound so tore up about it?” Bucky wants to know.

Bucky knows, but Bucky still jabs the buttons. Maybe he needs to hear it too. Maybe Bucky, underneath all his bravado, is scared too. Maybe Bucky needs to say it. Maybe Bucky needs to have it out.

So Steve does it. He starts them off. “You know why.”

They hold onto each other naked, and Steve fits his head against Bucky's shoulder, and doesn't look at him, while Bucky looks up at the ceiling, and Steve says, “Don't go.” He says it in a rush. “Don't go, and we'll find a way to get you out of it.” He says this first, knowing it will make Bucky shake his head at once, and there goes Bucky shaking his head. Now he is better primed to listen to the heart of it:

“Or else, help me get in. We'll get you an I.D. on Canal Street that says you're me. Help me pass the physical. Let me go with you.” But Bucky's still shaking his head, and Steve's voice is shaking. “For God's sake. You can't leave me behind.”

“That's Uncle Sam's call, not mine,” says Bucky, puffing up a little with patriotism, but sounding vaguely uncomfortable about it. “They need good men here too, Steve. Who knows, you might get mixed up in something important. And I already told you, I'm comin' back from wherever they send me.”

“But if I could only get to bootcamp, I know I'd--”

“I won't risk it,” Bucky says with a stubborn jut of chin. “I won't risk you.” Steve starts to protest, so Bucky says, aimed to wound just enough, “Look, truth is you'd be a distraction no matter what you tried. Everyone'd have to look out for the little guy and couldn't look after themselves. In war it can't be like that, and you know it.” Steve knows. Even so it hurts for Bucky to speak his worst fears aloud. “Truth is, you'd distract me, all the time. You'd tell me not to worry, but I'd worry.” And it's the truth, his greatest fear, that something would happen to Bucky in spite of him, because of him.

Even if they fooled the recruiters, even if Steve somehow made it past bootcamp and shipped out, even if they made the same regiment: Bucky would spend the war guarding Steve's back, and Steve wouldn't be able to do it for him. The way he looked now, the recoil of a gun would knock him over sideways. Who was he kidding but himself?

He might lose Bucky then, and it would be no one's fault but his own.

Steve curls into him. Bucky's still talking, but he feels the fight go out of Steve. Hugs him closer after the collapse. “If it weren't a good war, I wouldn't go. I'd cut off my hand to stay with you,” Bucky says. His lips are close, in the strands of Steve's hair; he breathes warm air against his scalp, though gooseflesh scatters along Steve's skin. “But it's a good war,” Bucky says. “You know I haveta go.”

No wars are ever good. But Steve knows what he means. It's a righteous battle to join. That's half of why he wants to join it.

“I know,” says Steve. “Only swear that you'll be back.” Bucky can't promise, that isn't fair, of course, but Steve begs it anyway. He's braver than he his body looks, and he's proud, but not too proud to plea for this.

They lie entwined in their joined cots, and Steve will bind the bed-frames with belts and ropes, so that they can't be wrenched apart. He'll hold Bucky like this every night that he can and kiss him awake at dawn, try everything he's wanted to try, show Bucky how long he's been adored, he'll make it seem like they have all the time in the world and that the world hasn't gone mad.

He'll do all of these things and more until Bucky's number comes up. Then he won't know what to do. Missing Bucky is like missing limbs.

“Hey,” says Bucky, rubbing at the tension gathered up in Steve's back and neck, “What'd I tell you?”

“You always turn up,” Steve repeats, slowly.

Bucky turns his head to brush their mouths together, a brush soft enough to paint with. “Like a bad penny.” Like a promise.