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The First and Last Night

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"Buck," Steve said, looking away, his hand grasping his other arm. "I know I ain't much to look at-"

"You're everything, Stevie," Bucky breathed out.

Steve looked at him, biting his lip and Bucky couldn't help himself, couldn't stop his thumb from reaching forward, from sliding over Steve's bottom lip, getting him to release it on a gasp, eyes gone wide. 

"Really?" Steve said, his voice so lost and hopeful that it broke Bucky's heart. He'd done just about everything to declare what Steve had meant to him, short of yelling it from the rooftops, and still Steve doubted.

Steve suddenly squared his shoulders, as if he was about to challenge Bucky to a fight and Bucky thought quickly what he could have possibly done to garner that sort of reaction from Steve.

He couldn't come up with a single, goddamned thing.

"Bucky, you ship out tomorrow," Steve's tone was nervous as his hands came up to smooth at Bucky's collar though it didn’t need it, his uniform pressed very neatly. Not once did Steve’s eyes look any higher than Bucky' chest. 

Did his hands linger?

"Yeah," Bucky drawled as nonchalantly as he could, despite the pounding of his freaking heart. Stevie had to feel it, with his hands right there.

"Wanna give you something, if you…” Steve hesitated, swallowed. Steve never hesitated and Bucky held his breath, trying not to break this moment, to scare Steve off. “If you want it."

"I'd want anything you give me, Stevie," Bucky said.

Steve looked up, those ridiculous blonde lashes accenting his eyes so beautifully. "Yeah?"

"Yeah," Bucky said firmly.

Steve surged upward, up onto his tiptoes, his hands grasping each side of Bucky' face and pulling. So startled was he that Bucky went with the tug and moaned, eyes gone wide, when their lips met.

Not that he’d have resisted in any way, shape, or form.

Holy fuck.

Was Stevie kissing him? A dream come true, at long last. But at what cost?

"Now you kiss me, Rogers? When I gotta leave you behind?"

"You can do more than kiss me, Barnes," Steve whispered. "Give ya something to look forward to, coming back."

Steve pushed into his space, all his hesitation gone, and Bucky let him, surging forward to meet him. He fumbled, his fingers slipping over Steve’s clothes to tug at the suspenders, at the buttons of Steve’s shirt.

When Steve stepped back, letting the last of his clothes fall away, to puddle at his feet, Bucky got his first good look at Steve. He expected the wiry frame - though it was a little less frail looking without the clothes that always seemed to swim on Steve. Bucky’s eyes drifted lower, going wide.

“Jesus, Stevie,” Bucky whispered hoarsely. “The dames were missing out.”

Steve blushed. “Yeah, well, never was much interested in the dames.”

Without stopping eye contact, Steve dropped to his knees, hands going to the front of Bucky’s uniform. Swallowing, Bucky moved his hands shakily upwards to work at his collar -

“Don’t,” Steve said firmly, his hands working quickly to open Bucky’s pants. “Not yet.”

And then Bucky was gasping as Steve pulled him out, smirked and swallowed him down in one go. 

“F-fuck, Steve,” Bucky gasped out, his back hitting the wall, his hands slamming back to brace on the same wall, even as his hips arched away from it, towards Steve’s damnable mouth. Bucky’s eyes were transfixed at the sight of Steve bobbing up and down on his cock, at his cock moving between those plush lips, at the feel of Stevie – Stevie - sucking down his length.

Nothing had ever felt like this and Bucky keened as Steve lathed his tongue over the head of his cock and worked his way back down, and up again.

Stuttering, Bucky managed, “You’ve… ah! You’ve done this… be-before.”

“Hmm….” Steve hummed around him before pulling off, pumping his artistically nimble fingers over Bucky’s shaft. “I have,” he said smugly. “Haven’t you?”

Bucky blushed, eyes lowering and breaking away from Steve’s steely, penetrating gaze. “N-not this, not with… just the dames,” he admitted finally.

“I’m glad,” Steve said, drawing Bucky’s eyes back to him. “That means this -” Steve squeezed his cock just right and Bucky whined, thrusting into Steve’s grip. “Is mine, isn’t it, sweetheart?”

“Yeah, doll, all yours,” Bucky gasped out when he could catch his breath again, what little of it he seemed to have.

“You’re surprisingly on board with this,” Steve said, thumbing over the slit of Bucky’s cock, spreading the precome around. “How long?”

“How long, what?” Bucky bit at his lip as Steve’s thumb continued to circle around the head of his cock, fingers pulsing around him. “How long have I wanted this? Since forever, you punk. Didn’t think you…” Bucky bit back a curse and thunked his head against the wall of their apartment.

“Didn’t think I wanted you? Fucking hell, we’ve wasted a lot of goddamn time,” Steve muttered. “Remember when you were 16 and I caught you with Evie's hand down your damn pants and her tongue in your mouth? I knew then it was more than friendship I felt. I was so damn jealous of Evie, I turned around and got myself into a fight.”

“You always get into fights,” Bucky pointed out, even as his head whirled. 12 years. Steve had been pining after Bucky for 12 years and Bucky’d been pining for nearly as long. They were such morons.

“Man, I finally get you right where I want you, and I can't decide what I want to do more to you, right now.”

“We got all night, remember?” Bucky asked, his voice far too small. He was shipping out in the morning, he should probably sleep before he did but… this was far too important. Steve was far too important, and one night would never be enough.

But it would be a start.

Steve grinned, but there was a grim edge to it. “We do, and I’ll be making the most of that time, but it’ll never be enough Buck, for all the things I've wanted to share with you.” He leaned forward, licking and sucking at the tip of Bucky’s cock. “Do to you.”

“Then let’s get started, Steve,” Bucky pleaded. “I’m dying here.”

“You better not be, I just got ya, Buck,” Steve said, and then Bucky was shouting, jerking forward into Steve’s mouth, his cock hitting the back of Steve’s throat but he didn’t choke, not like half the girls Bucky had been with and fuck Steve had practiced that.

Bucky would be jealous if Steve wasn’t currently sucking his brains out though his dick.

Rocking his hips forward, Bucky’s fingers scrabbled at the wall in an attempt to keep himself upright, his knees weak from Steve’s mouth working him over. Pleasure was washing over him, rising like a tide and he swore.

“Steve, Stevie,” Bucky panted, planting one hand in Steve’s hair and tugging. “Gonna… gonna come…” Most of the girls he was with didn’t like that, didn’t like the taste of it in their mouths. “Hell, I ain't even naked yet. Still got my uniform on.” 

“I know,” Steve said, pulling back enough to mouth along Bucky’s throbbing shaft. “I want you to come with it on, looking down on me. I want you to watch my mouth on your cock. I want you to think of me when you’re over there, when you have to put on that uniform. I want you to bring me with you, so you’re never alone.”

Bucky whimpered as Steve resumed, sucking, licking, bobbing his head down and back, his tongue swirling about, his hand twisting, pleasure and white-hot need jolting through him. He shouted, the hand in Steve’s hair pushing him down and Steve just let him, no fight, just opened up and took him, every inch, every drop, as Bucky spilled inside of Steve.

Shaking, Bucky slid down the wall and stared at Steve with wide, dazed eyes. Steve straddled his lap and kissed Bucky long and deep, cradling Bucky’s face in his hands. The taste of himself on Steve’s tongue was strange but the fact that Steve had taken him, had swallowed him, that was… that was everything.

He gave over to the kiss, letting Steve dominate it as his eyes fluttered shut, his fingers caressing up the skinny ribcage, then down to Steve’s ass, his mind blanking when he got two handfuls of flesh and squeezed, Steve rocking down on him, biting Bucky’s lip with a startled sound.

“Later, Bucky,” Steve said. “You can have that later. I’m not done with you yet.”

Under Steve’s tutelage, Bucky had reciprocated the blowjob before they’d relocated to the bedroom to get more comfortable. Bucky had made to pull Steve towards his own bed but Steve had shaken his head and urged Bucky onto his, sitting him right down on the edge of it and finally helping Bucky divest himself of his uniform. Steve kissed every bit of exposed skin as they went until Bucky was sitting naked and hard with well kissed lips, reaching for Steve.

Steve stepped back, undressing before climbing into Bucky’s lap and taking them both in hand, Bucky holding on to Steve’s hips for dear life as Steve rocked their cocks together in his loose grip. Steve couldn’t quite wrap around both of them at the same time, but his hands were larger than one would expect of Steve’s build - like he was a puppy who still hadn’t grown into himself – and dexterous all the same.

Bucky’s second orgasm blindsided him just as much as the first one, a part of himself thinking none of this could be real. He couldn’t take his eyes off Stevie, even after Steve came, coating Bucky in his spend, their come mixing over their bodies.

Entranced, Bucky ran a finger over Steve’s abdomen, swirling it about in the mess and unable to help himself from lifting his fingers to his lips and tasting their mixed desire.

Steve inhaled sharply and knocked their heads together. “Oh god, Bucky, why the fuck did we wait so long?” he croaked.

“Hell if I know, Stevie,” Bucky admitted.

With a groan, Steve slid off of Bucky, bare feet hitting the cool floor with a hiss. Bucky watched his ass when he walked away, grabbing a shirt off the back of their door.

“Hey, where you going?” Bucky asked.

Steve smiled coyly, making Bucky swallow. “I just need a drink, Buck. Not going far.”

Bucky relaxed with a nod, but being left alone was not good for his thoughts.

Bucky hadn’t been sleeping well over the past few weeks – worry about shipping out, worry about the war, worry about Steve, all swirling around in his head not letting him rest. And if they had their way, Bucky wouldn’t be resting much tonight either.

Probably not a good idea, with basic training looming ahead of him, followed by war, but Bucky didn’t want to lose an iota of this night if he could help it. Even if they did nothing else but hold each other all night, Bucky would remember this night forever. It would be a shining beacon calling him back home throughout the war. Knowing that Steve wanted him, and maybe even wanted to spend the rest of their lives together…

One night. One fucking night was all they had and deep down, Bucky was so scared he’d never come back, that he’d be leaving Steve so completely alone…

Or that he’d come back and it would be Steve that hadn’t made it through the next winter or the next fight he’d picked.

Bucky felt the cold hand of terror grip his heart at the thought of Steve falling ill and passing without Bucky even being the wiser, only coming home to an empty apartment, a broken heart.

How would he cope?

Bucky didn’t think he would. He and Steve had been nigh inseparable before, and this… this would only highlight just how much both of them had to lose if this went south on them.

Steve returned from the kitchen, and that’s when Bucky realized he was dressed only in one of Bucky’s shirts, too large and swimming about him, hanging just far enough to preserve and provide a modicum of modesty Steve didn’t really seem to have, if the past hour was any indication.

“Why are you bothering to even wear any clothes?” Bucky joked, trying to chase away the chill of fear that clawed up his spine, to derail the morbidity of his thoughts. There was no place for any of that tonight.

“Cause it’s damn cold out here, Buck,” Steve said, crawling back into bed with him, knee walking over to Bucky’s side over the disturbed blankets. Bucky felt instantly dumb. It wasn’t like their small, shared apartment was the warmest thing ever and the weather had turned last night, strangely cold for mid-June. It felt like a bad sign, and Steve always felt the chill worse than Bucky, which brought with it Steve’s greater propensity for getting sick. Bucky’s worry and fear for Steve while he was gone was only growing but Steve didn’t seem bothered.

“Sorry if I took too long getting back.” Steve grinned suddenly, eyes roaming up and down Bucky’s naked body. “Though I understand the appeal for less clothes. Seeing you stripped bare like this, waiting for me...” Steve reached out and trailed a hand along Bucky’s jaw and Bucky tilted into the touch, starved for all things Steve.

“Actually, I could come around to liking this,” Bucky said, voice husky with need, leaning forward to get his hands on Steve. Knowing that the shirt was all Steve was wearing - that it was Bucky’s shirt, no less – and seeing how hard Steve was already, his impressive length tenting Bucky’s shirt obscenely, all of this was making Bucky’s dick twitch.

Steve gasped, his eyes closing and his head falling forward to bump into Bucky’s when Bucky slipped his hand under the shirt, sliding his fingers over Steve’s thighs. Steve shivered under his touch.

“You’re always so warm,” Steve murmured. “Your hands are a brand on my skin.” Bucky inhaled shakily and Steve’s eyes opened, mischievousness lurking in the lust blown pupils. “Wanna mark me up, Buck? Really brand me? Remind me who I belong to?”

“Fuck,” Bucky breathed. He did, he really did. And he wanted Steve to do the same to him in return, to turn his body into Steve’s canvas.

“Not yet, Buck. We’re working up to that, remember?” Steve asked. “Now, I got a taste of you, and you got a taste of me, and we made each other pretty damn dirty, third time ‘round.” Steve chuckled and slid a hand over Bucky’s skin, over the mixed semen coating his stomach and chest. “Thinkin’, maybe I should clean you up.”

Steve’s mouth brushed over Bucky’s cheek, his words caressing Bucky just the same as one of the soft teasing kisses he was learning Steve liked to give. If Bucky’s hands were a brand, Steve’s lips were a blaze. Bucky arched into every touch of Steve’s lips against his throat, soft gasps leaving his mouth unbidden. Steve seemed to eat it up, each of Bucky’s gasps followed by an awed curse as Steve slowly, methodically, made his way over Bucky’s body.

He trailed downwards across the thatch of chest hair, sucked at a nipple and rolled the tip of it in his mouth, his hips rocking, Steve’s length dragging along Bucky’s thigh, hot, hard and dripping.

“You cleanin’ me up or makin’ me dirtier?” Bucky gasped out as Steve pushed at his chest till he laid back on the bed, Steve bracketed over him on his hands and knees. The shirt hung down so far Bucky could only see Steve’s cock if he looked through the gaping collar of it. Thankfully, it wasn’t one of his brand new, uniform shirts, but it was a favorite of Bucky’s – soft and worn so much that it was no longer suitable for wear outside of the house.

He could have replaced it – should have, replaced it, perhaps – but Steve had always liked to borrow it when he was feeling sick because of how comfortable it was (and Bucky maybe liked it even more for that reason, to wear it after Steve had).

Steve shifted, moving downwards, the cool shirt dragging lightly along Bucky’s skin in counterpoint to the firm, hot mouth leaving wet kisses and licking along Bucky’s ribs, his hipbones, skirting the burning need between his legs. Bucky trembled under the onslaught of Steve’s lips, under the torturous glide of fingertips tracing patterns on his skin, framing his cock but then moving away again and leaving it untouched.

“You ever done this before, Buck?” Steve asked, his hands coming to rest on the tops of Bucky’s thighs, his fingers dexterously kneading at the muscle there.

“I ain’t ever done anythin’ with a man before,” Bucky admitted, at last.

“Nothing, ever?” Steve paused, actually looking a little surprised. “As popular as you are with the ladies, I couldn’t imagine you not having your way with a fella, if you wanted.”

“A stolen kiss or two, but they weren’t you, Stevie,” Bucky breathed. “There was no fella I wanted like I want you, and no dame who could compare. If you want to know the truth, I was so popular with the dames because I was… safe.”

The expression that crossed Steve’s face was so many things at once, Bucky wasn’t sure he – even as practiced as he was in reading Steve’s body language and moods through the masks Steve projected – was hard pressed to say what Steve was feeling. Relief, he thought, hunger too, but everything else was lost to the haze Steve’s hands spreading Bucky’s legs open, leaving him wholly exposed to Steve’s eyes.

Steve licked his lips, settling back on his heels, eyes dragging downwards past Bucky’s erection, down further to –

Bucky blushed and wriggled under Steve’s gaze.

“I’m a jealous man, Buck,” Steve said, sliding further down, nipping at the inside of Bucky’s thigh, then laving it with his tongue. “I can’t tell you how glad I am, that I'm your first in this.”

“Gotta say, Stevie, so am I,” Bucky gasped. “My first and only.”

Steve drew in a ragged breath and he pressed his face into Bucky’s thigh. “Fuck, sweetheart, Buck, the things you say…” Steve sat up and Bucky whined, reaching for him.

Turning, Steve pressed a fingertip to Bucky’s lips. “Ssshh… easy, Buck, ain’t going any further without this.” He held up a small jar and Bucky didn’t realize what it was at first, till Steve unscrewed the lid and scooped something out, making sure to cover his fingers thoroughly.

“Oh,” Bucky breathed, eyes going wide.

“Do me a favor, sweetheart?” Steve asked.

Bucky nodded eagerly. “Anything.”

“Hold yourself open like this,” Steve said, nudging Bucky’s legs up and out a little further. Swallowing, Bucky reached down and grasped the undersides of his thighs and did just that, leaving Steve’s hands free to…


“Oh, sweet lord have mercy,” Bucky groaned at the first touch of slick fingers along his rim. His head fell back to the pillow, gasping as Steve slowly teased Bucky.  Bucky was trembling with anticipation, cock dripping on his stomach, before Steve finally dipped a fingertip just inside of Bucky, swirling it along the edges of his rim before pressing in a little deeper, then out and then back in. He repeated this slowly, again and again, drawing it out.

“Steve, please,” Bucky begged. “I need…”

“Need what, sweetheart?” Steve asked, a little smugly, a second finger easing in beside the first and Bucky shouted, arching up off the bed, losing the thread of his thoughts.

“Jesus, Buck, the noises you make…” Steve kissed Bucky’s leg, before sliding up to mouth over Bucky’s cock, his fingers still moving within Bucky the whole while. Bucky’s fingers spasmed over his thighs, his breath stuttering when Steve licked over the tip of his cock and hummed.

Then Steve’s fingers crooked in his ass and Bucky shouted. “Fuck, what was that?”

“Mmm… dunno what it’s called. Doesn’t matter, but it feels damn good, don’t it?” Steve’s fingers moved again, and Bucky saw stars. “Just wait till I get inside you proper. It’ll feel even better.”

Bucky swore, driving down on Steve’s fingers desperately. “Any better than this, I don’t think I’m gonna make it, Stevie.”

“You can, you will,” Steve said, and Bucky didn’t think he was talking about this anymore, but then Steve pulled his fingers out of him and Bucky whined at their absence.

“Steve –“

“Shh… almost there, sweetheart,” Steve soothed, sitting up and leaning to the side a bit. Bucky heard a slick noise and then one of Steve’s hand was sliding over the back of his thigh where Bucky was holding himself, just like Steve had told him to. He forced his eyes open, watching as Steve’s other hand was wrapped around his cock, how it jutted out from under Bucky’s shirt still hanging loose over Steve’s skinny frame.

And then Steve was pressing in closer, the head of his cock nudging at Bucky’s hole, and Bucky thought he was going to burst, to come flying apart at the seams as Steve slowly pushed his was way in. Steve kept going in small thrusts, and soft encouragement, drawing back out to push back in, each time a little further, each time stretching Bucky just that much more and Bucky was breathing hard with it.

Then they were flush together and Bucky wasn’t the only one breathing hard as Steve leaned hard into him, propping himself up against Bucky’s spread legs. “How do you feel, Buck?” Steve asked.

Bucky stared up at Steve in awe. “Like you’re a goddamned angel.”

Steve laughed, his face going redder as he blushed hard, adding to the flush already there. The laughter jostled him, jostled Bucky and Bucky’s eyes closed against the feeling of Steve moving inside him, Bucky groaning long and low.

“Don’t think angels do this,” Steve murmured, pulling out slowly and pushing in just as slow, deliberate. Bucky groaned and rolled his hips up to meet Steve, to pull him back in quicker.

“Jesus Buck,” Steve cursed, and then he began to move in earnest, slow thrusts that seemed to drag over every part of Bucky and light every nerve on fire with desperate need. Having already come twice, Bucky would have thought that this would be a slower thing, but he was already so close –

“Steve!” Bucky groaned. “I –“ Steve’s thrusts sped up and Bucky whimpered and moaned. He let go of his legs, letting them wrap around Steve’s hips instead, feet crossing and pulling Steve in closer. Steve gasped, falling forward, his elbows catching on the bed on either side of Bucky, his face mere inches away.

Bucky leaned up slightly on one elbow, caught Steve’s face with one hand and drew him in for a kiss, their tongues tangling and thrusting, a thrill shuddering over Bucky with teach stroke of Steve’s tongue against his, of Steve’s dick in his ass.

Suddenly, he wanted to see that, but that damnable shirt was in the way, dragging along Bucky’s hard, throbbing cock with every thrust from Steve. He broke their kiss and whimpered as the shirt slid roughly against him, a torturous glide over sensitive skin. He slid his hand down to meet his other, both trembling with desperate fingers over the buttons of the shirt, fumbling to open it.

“Don’t you want this thing off?” Bucky complained. The shirt had already been partly open so despite his bumbling fingers, he had the last button undone and was pushing at the shirt by the time Steve answered.

“No,” Steve said breathlessly, his hips rolling forward without pause. “Leave it, please. I want to think about you, about this, every time I sleep in this bed, every time I wear this shirt. Keep you as close to me as I can, Buck.”

Bucky’s breath stopped, his eyes stung and he ran a shaking hand through Steve’s hair, pushing it up and out of his eyes as Steve leaned in to him, gasping, his thrusts speeding up a little. Bucky groaned, and he looked down the length of his body, to where Steve and he were connected so intimately, then back up to Steve, their eyes catching on each other.

There was so much feeling, so much emotion in Steve’s eyes. Bucky had known that Steve had always felt things intensely, for all that he would try to hide behind a calm reserve. He never did things by half, throwing his whole self behind it without reservation – and now it seemed Bucky was to be on the receiving end of that.

To see all that feeling pouring out of Steve, written plain across his face, in the soft gasps of plush lips, the shining intensity of his blue eyes, the non-wavering stare. To feel it expressed on Bucky’s skin, with gentle caresses and bruising grips –

Bucky arched up into Steve with a sharp moan and Steve gasped, curling in over Bucky, heads touching, eyes still caught in each other, reflecting the low lamplight. Steve kept thrusting, slow and deep, filling Bucky with his cock over and over again, with sensation and pleasure that threatened to overwhelm him. He gasped Steve’s name and moaned, his hand roaming over pale skin, flushed and hot and sweaty with exertion. Steve panted, tilting his head to kiss Bucky once more, one hand braced in the sheets beside Bucky, the other reaching between them to wrap around Bucky’s cock.

A few uneven strokes to his dick and Bucky was lost to his orgasm, vision whiting as Steve twisted his hand, his lips grown slack in a wordless shout, all his breath stolen from him as he came –

“Oh fuck, Bucky, that…” Steve groaned, his hips snapping forward. Bucky’s eyes opened in time to see Steve’s flutter shut, the flush on his cheeks growing ruddier. “Nnnngggh…” Steve’s head dropped into Bucky’s collar bone, his hips pushing erratically into Bucky and Bucky was verging on too much, but he wanted – needed – everything Steve could give him.

His hands slid back to Steve’s ass, cupping a buttock in each hand and urging him on. There was a sudden, sharp pain on his shoulder as Steve stiffened with a muffled groan and came, spilling inside of Bucky before collapsing fully on top of him, breathing hard.

They were quiet for long moments, Bucky and Steve still rocking with the aftermath, Steve twitching inside of Bucky, hips grinding forward lightly. Bucky clutched at Steve as they caught their breaths, trailing his hands up over Steve’s spine, under the shirt.

Finally, Steve pulled out and rolled off Bucky and Bucky lamented the loss immediately. He stretched with a light groan, feeling loose and wet. He looked down at himself and couldn’t help the chuckle.

“Looks like cleaning me up was pointless,” Bucky said.

“You look like a damn cat,” Steve said before turning away to grab something then coming back to wipe Bucky’s come off his and Bucky’s bodies.

“A very satisfied cat,” Bucky said, tempted to purr. He caught Steve’s hand when he was done and tugged him back down to lay with Bucky. They traded soft, slow kisses for a while before Steve lay his head down on Bucky’s shoulder, his hand tracing patterns over Bucky’s chest, tangling his fingers in the hair and making Bucky wince lightly.

“Hey,” Bucky said suddenly. “Did you bite me, you punk?”

Steve flushed and nodded. He peeked up at Bucky through those lashes of his again, looking too adorable for words. “Are you mad?”

“Nah,” Bucky said, thinking about it for a second. “Just didn’t expect it, s’all.”

“I didn’t mean to,” Steve admitted. His hands continued moving, an almost nervous energy behind them and Bucky frowned at the change in Steve.

“What’s wrong?” Bucky asked. “You’re not… are you regretting this?” Bucky’s heart pounded at the thought. His last night home… had he ruined this? Had he ruined the best thing that had ever happened to him by wanting too much?

“What? No!” Steve said sharply, his fingers splaying out over Bucky’s skin and digging in deep, possessively. “I could never.” He took a deep breath, one that Bucky was glad to note was free of any coughing or rattles, despite the wet and chill of earlier that night and his exertion just now.

“Then what?” Bucky asked softly.

“I’m surprised you can see past this. Most people don’t even bother,” Steve shrugged. “I never thought you’d see me the way I see you.”

“Past what? Your body? Steve, you may be small, but you're not weak. You’ve never been weak. Fuck, you’re the strongest sonuvabitch I’ve ever known, outside of your ma.” Bucky swallowed again. “You inspire me, you punk. You make me stronger.” 

“How? What are you talking about?” Steve reared up to stare down at Bucky in disbelief. “You are strong, Buck -”

Bucky shook his head, cutting off Steve’s protest. “I’m really not. I’m nowhere as strong as you. You keep getting up, no matter what. Your tenacity and determination pushes me to be as strong as you are, but it’s you, you’re the strong one here. Always have been.”

Steve stared at him with wide eyes. Bucky held the back of his hand along Steve's face, stroking downwards. “You don't even know how much you’ve pulled me out of, just by being there. Steve, I’ve just always wanted to do the same for you, in any way I could, but you’ve never let me.”

“When my ma – “ Steve said softly and Bucky nodded.

“You were so quick to see it as pity, but it was anything but. I just wanted to take care of ya, the way you always done for me.”

“But you have always been there for me, Buck,” Steve protested.

“It never felt enough, for the way I feel about you. Jesus, you’re all so fired up to enlist but I’m scared as hell,” Bucky said. “Terrified that you’ll get in somehow. And that’s on top of being plain old scared to death of dying, of what I might see over there – or what I'll have to do. Of you not being here when I get back.”

“Why wouldn't I be?” Steve asked softly.

“Because you’ll have no one to watch your back,” Bucky said, just as soft. He rubbed his hand along Steve’s ribs, too skinny for his liking.

Steve snorted. “Thought you said I was strong.”

“Doesn’t mean you won’t get in over your head.”

“True enough,” Steve admitted.

As much as Bucky had wanted to stay up the rest of the night, to etch every last minute with Steve in his arms – or him in Steve’s – into his memory, everything caught up to him and pulled him under into sleep. They dozed together and woke together, their internal clocks waking them far too early for Bucky’s liking.

He dressed in weighted silence, his uniform a little wrinkled from its time on the floor but not too bad, he thought, as he checked it in the mirror.

“You’re not coming down to the harbor with me?” Bucky said, when he turned, catching sight of Steve, barely dressed, leaning against the wall in Bucky's shirt once more and his arms crossed over his chest. He looked small, like that.

Steve looked away.

“I can’t tell you goodbye the proper way, the way I want to, the way you deserve, with all those people ‘round. Maybe it’ll cause you problems, maybe not, but for me… “ Steve looked at Bucky. “I want to be here when you get back. And I'll greet you properly then, screw the conventions. ‘cause we’ll be together. ‘cause you’re wrong, Buck. I ain’t strong, not on my own. I’m strong for you.”

“I’m stronger with you,” Steve corrected, realization crossing his face. Steve pushed off the wall and sauntered over. “Your tie is crooked,” he murmured, fixing it deftly. When he was done, he straightened and smoothed Bucky’s collar, then stepped back, giving Bucky a small, sad smile.

“You look good, Buck,” he said. “You better come back to me.”

“You better be waitin’,” Bucky answered.

“I’ll always be at your side,” Steve promised, reaching for Bucky and pulling him down into a long, long kiss, filled with bittersweet tears.

It wasn’t until long after they’d parted, when Bucky was well under way, that he realized what Steve had actually said.

Well, it wouldn’t be Steve if he wasn’t a stubborn punk. Bucky just had to hope that Steve didn’t find a way to enlist after all, no matter how many enlistment forms he lied on. Bucky would rest easier, knowing Steve was back home in Brooklyn, as safe as Steve could be, which was certainly a great sight safer than haring off to war.

Bucky fingered the photo in his pocket, that he’d slipped out of the frame on the wall, of him and Steve together. Something to keep with him, to strive for. He was resolute, determined -

They’d be together again – no matter how long it took.