It's little things at first. Things he thinks he sees but things he can never be terribly certain of. A flash of silver from the corner of his eye, something dark just beyond the low brush by the edge of his favourite cafe, something moving just out of his peripherals, the presence of someone else where no one really was. Steve wasn't alone, and the crawling sense that he was being watched was... prevalent and overwhelming.
He doesn't alert Nat. He doesn't try to contact Fury. He doesn't tell Sam. He's been reluctant to tell Sam anything, and he thinks the other man knows. This one isn't like the others. This one is personal. This one-... this one isn't like anything else Steve has ever faced. It isn't a man with a red skull or a group of ambitious nazis, it isn't someone he can force into submission and watch SHIELD take care of from there because it's him.
..and he's the only one that has the power to undo Steve like this.
So he doesn't text Sam back when he asks if he's all right – because not even Steve thinks he has an answer for him. Is he all right? No. He's being followed, but that isn't what scares him. He scares himself. He knows he can't (won't) fight. He isn't sure how many days he can do this without seeing him. He wants to see him, he wants to touch him. He doesn't want to hurt him.
He just wants to know if he's real or not.
The rest of the day is slow. His days feel more and more like routine, now. Sharon doesn't live in the apartment next to him any longer, an old woman who likes Steve's record collection does. She offers him tea and sometimes he accepts, she doesn't know who he is and he likes it that way. She tells him all about the places she went as a girl, she tells him about how New York has changed, and how everything seems so expensive, and he smiles and pretends that he can't imagine how she feels when he knows – he knows entirely too well.
He goes for his morning jog, he buys a coffee on his way home, he sketches the view from the cafe sometimes, and he spends the rest of the day reading things on the internet, on the laptop Tony had taught him how to use. Sometimes he watches movies, he's come to like the animated Disney films. They're colourful and artistic – things he only ever dreamed of when he was a boy.
The sun goes down, and Steve goes to bed at eleven at night, but he can't sleep. He doesn't sleep well, not since New York. But, he doesn't think any of them do. Nat has given him tips and tricks to help him sleep (like counting sheep). Bruce had given him some sleeping pills to help, but the serum counteracted them entirely. He tosses and turns until two in the morning when he finally drags himself out of bed, resolute on some warm milk to help. He's wearing little more than a pair of flannel sleeping trousers tinged a soft blue.
A hand comes up to rub wearily at his eyes as he steps out of his bedroom and into his living room – and he stops dead in his tracks.
The window is open.
A figure stands in front of it, silhouetted against the moonlight behind him, it's a full moon out – and the light shines past the thick blanket of clouds enough for him to see through the dark. The moonlight lights up the stranger's dark hair, and the edges of the mask clasped around his mouth. His skin is covered in a thin layer of grime and dirt. He's wearing thick leathers roped perfectly around his frame. The steel of his arm shines against the moonlight, the star emblazoned into the swell of his arm shines like a spot of blood against his colourless figure.
Steve says nothing. His heart is racing, his stomach is twisting. A lump has forced itself into his throat and it won't go away no matter how much he swallows, again and again, hoping, hoping that he can clear it. Blood pounds past his ears, hope swells in his stomach, he feels as if he's just swallowed down an open net of butterflies, and he drags his tongue over his lips.
He sees the knife a moment too late. Held within the figure's steel hand, shining against that moonlight, wicked and curved and deadly. Caked and rusted with blood.
A slow breath trembles past Steve's lips. He lifts both his hands, slowly. As if to show him, as if to prove that he isn't armed. He closes his eyes and he opens them again – just in case. This feels like a dream. This feels too good to be true.
The figure doesn't move.
So, Steve draws in a slow, careful, tentative breath. He feels as if he's treading upon thin ice that is on the verge of shattering at any moment. He wills himself to speak. His mouth feels dry.
Even that feels too loud, he barely breathes it, still laden in his disbelief.
The figure finally moves. Steel fingers tighten around the blade in his grip. He shifts his weight from one leg to the other, the moonlight catches on the rounded steel of his arm, and his features are indistinguishable in the dark.
“..Buck, it's okay-.. I'm not gonna hurt you.” he breathes out. He takes a single step forwards – and he sees him go tense, so Steve freezes. He doesn't want to scare him off, not when he's got him here. Not when he's this close.
“You've been following me.” Steve says, words gentle, slow – like he's trying not to spook an animal. “I've seen you. You've been everywhere.” he lets out a small breath, he knows what he had seen – he wasn't crazy, he wasn't seeing what he wanted to see because Bucky is here, Bucky is standing in front of him. “You're starting to remember, aren't you?” he asks.
He'd been given Bucky's file. He'd seen everything they'd done to him. They had to wipe him, again and again, just to make sure that his mind stayed as blank as they wanted it. The longer he went without a wipe, the more he'd remember. How long has it been? It's been two weeks since those helicarriers came down, two weeks since Steve woke up in a hospital bed with Sam at his side, two weeks. They never kept Bucky off ice for that long.
Steve's searching blue gaze peers through the darkness, steadily adjusting to the new light in the room. He moves forwards again – only a step. Bucky doesn't move. He takes another, and another, bare feet padding against the lacquered floorboards beneath him until he steps onto the rug thrown under his couches and the coffee table set in front of him.
There's a couch between them, now – Bucky is by his window.
The closer Steve gets, the more he can see – and the more he wishes he couldn't. Bucky looks gaunt, he looks weak. A cut upon his brow is oozing blood in a smooth rivulet along his temple, the only other colour upon him. A swelling bruise is pressing against the hinge of his mask, along the right side of his jaw. Steve wonders how he got hurt – he decides he'd rather never know. Worry swells within him, lurching into overdrive. He wants to reach out for him, he wants to pull him into his arms and he wants to hold onto him. He's had dreams about this, he's thought about it – about the things he might say or do, most of these made-up scenarios end with his head buried in Bucky's neck, arms wound around his middle, breathing out his dry sobs into his friend's shoulder.
“You're hurt.” he says, lowering his arms, slowly. “You're bleeding, Buck..” he lifts a hand to gesture to him, “Let me-.. let me take care of you, please. Please, Buck-..” let me take care of you like I should have back then, maybe then you wouldn't have fallen off that train. Let me take care of you, let me make up for the years I left you behind. Let me take care of you like you've always taken care of me..
Steve inches around the couch, wanting to get as close as he can. His movements are all slow, measured, careful.
Despite his evident malnutrition, he launches towards Steve. His steel arm bends at the elbow, lifting quickly enough to hide his face, knife pointed away from Steve but he collides with him, the sound of steel-on-flesh rings out against the absolute silence of the apartment as his forearm slams into Steve's chest and he goes down – he doesn't even fight, he doesn't want to fight. He doesn't want to hurt him any more than he already has.
He falls onto his back, he isn't dazed but he closes his eyes as if he is – he feels Bucky's weight settle over him, resting upon his hips, pinning him down to the floorboards. That knife presses to Steve's throat, the steel fingers of his other hand curl gently around the base of his neck – thumb pressing against the divot of his collarbone, threatening, lethal.
“Bucky-..” He starts, but he's cut off.
“Don't call me that.” comes the voice, rough, scratchy, muffled by the thick leather of the mask covering his mouth. The iron grip upon Steve's throat tightens with warning.
Steve's eyes snap open. He stares up at him, at his grimy flesh, eyes sunken and rimmed with the residual smudges of his war paint, the blood on his brow is still flowing, still wet and slick – that cut is recent, and Steve is willing to bet that the bruise upon the hinge of Bucky's jaw is just as fresh.
He had spoken to him.
Steve lets out another breath, chest sinking under Bucky's weight as he keeps his hands pinned to the floor on either side of his head – showing the other man that he doesn't intend to fight back.
“It's your name.” he says.
“It isn't.” comes the response, filled with vehemence, with venom so sharp that Steve almost flinches. “Tell me who you are.”
..and Steve is surprised. His blue eyes search Bucky's face, or what parts of it that he can reach. “Steve Rogers.” he says, “I'm-.. I'm your friend. Your best friend.”
He sees the denial shine thick in Bucky's eyes, in his haunted, empty eyes. He sees something flicker behind them, something like warmth, something like familiarity. Nat was right, no matter what they would do to him, he wasn't going to be the same man Steve had grown up with. The mere thought has his stomach knotting in refusal. He won't believe it.
“We grew up together.” He says, when Bucky doesn't interrupt him. He tips his head back, trying to escape the press of the other's knife. “..you and me, pal. Remember? Brooklyn. Our apartment was tiny, we had cardboard boxes for months after we moved in, 'cause we couldn't afford real furniture. Th-There was that old pub down the road, with its grimy windows and that dame with the brown hair and hazel eyes – the one you liked, remember?” he breathes. “She never gave you a second glance, drove you nuts-..” he shifts slightly, propping one foot up, bending his knee slightly.
“You know me.” he says, softly. Bucky isn't responding to him, he's looking at him as if Steve is growing a third eye, fearful. He's afraid. He looks terrified. Steve wants to reach out for him, he wants to hold onto him, he wants to tell him that it's going to be okay, that he has him now, and that he won't let anyone, or anything hurt him ever again.
“You know me,” he breathes, “..and you know it.”
“..can't remember.” Bucky breathes, his head tips down, his hair skims along the tip of Steve's chin. “I can't, I can't-..”
“You can.” Steve says, fingers curling gently into his palms. “Think, Buck. C'mon.”
“No-..” Bucky shakes his head. “They'll-... they'll wipe it-..”
“They're gone, Buck.” he says, “They won't touch you again.”
That was his first mistake.
Bucky goes still over him, he lifts his head slowly – the muscles in body barely move. His weight shifts onto his steel arm where it's clamped over Steve's throat. His thumb presses down over the larger man's windpipe, pressing it down until the blood rushes to Steve's face, until the capillaries burst behind his eyes and he snaps them shut, he arches off the floor, but he doesn't reach out for him, he doesn't want to touch him. He wants to prove to him that he isn't going to hurt him, that he won't fight him. He struggles for air, his lips part, he gapes for it, but none comes.
"You're lying." Bucky breathes out. That grip isn't slackening. So Steve reaches out – he clamps a hand upon Bucky's upper arm, thumb digging into steel as his other hand grips at the smaller man's midsection. He jerks sharply to the right, sending Bucky tumbling towards the floorboards. His thighs cinch tightly around Steve's middle, and their positions are reversed – Bucky locks his ankles around the small of Steve's back, and his hand falls away from the other's throat to grip uselessly at his arm.
Steve surges forwards, he slumps against him, gasping for air, panting as if he's just run a mile. The blood slowly drains from his face, his vision sparks and bursts, he feels the sharp edges of Bucky's steel arm digging into the curve of his bicep, and he draws back – the knife slashes sharply over his chest, skimming flesh just enough to tear it – just enough to send blood beading past an ample cut over his sternum
He sucks in a small hiss and he reaches out, catching hold of Bucky's wrist, and pinning it down above the other's head.
“Im-.. not lying. I said, I'm not gonna hurt you.” his words are firm, sharp and sincere.
“Why?” Bucky hisses out. “I tried to kill you.”
“You're not yourself, Buck.” Steve tells him.
“I am-.. I'm-.. hit me.” he snarls. “Hit me.”
“No.” Steve responds. “Bucky-.. no.”
The wrist in his grip surges up, he fights against Steve's restraining hold. His steel arm comes away from Steve's bicep, his fingers curl into a fist, and he snaps his arm out, catching Steve in the jaw with an almighty crack that has Steve spitting up blood, pain erupts along the side of his face, he's dazed a moment – that arm is strong . He surges forwards, catching the arm in his grip and wrestling it down – it fights, it fights until he hears it creak and whine against his hold. Bucky lets it fall, and Steve suspects the only reason that he does is because he doesn't wish for it to be crushed.
But he isn't out of fight. Steve knows Bucky, knows he fights like he does everything else – with all that he has. His thighs go slack, he tries to wedge a leg between them to shove Steve away with his foot but Steve only presses closer, suffocating the air between them until he's a mere inch away from Bucky – with his thighs parted around the other's narrow waist.
“Stop it, Buck.” he murmurs. “Stop fighting me. I wanna help you. I just-..” he tips his head down, looking down at the ample space between them. “..-let me take care of you.” he says, swallowing down the blood on his tongue. His face is still throbbing with pain but he barely feels it, barely notices it at all, attention entirely fixed on the man beneath him.
“Let me go.” Bucky says, words soft.
“Are you gonna hit me again?” Steve asks, carefully.
A long pause follows his question, Bucky's eyes lid closed.
...and Steve trusts him. Maybe it's his second mistake, maybe he doesn't care. Maybe he's so used to trusting Bucky that he can't not trust him. His hands go slack around Bucky's wrists, and he waits – as if Bucky will go tense and surge against him like he had before the moment he's released, but his arms stay there, above his head, resting upon the floorboards.
So, Steve eases the knife from his grip, he knocks it away, sliding it under the couch and out of Bucky's reach. He'll get it later. He draws back enough to leave some room between them, Bucky's hips slide from the curve of Steve's, and he feels the man beneath him go slack. The steel arm creaks and shifts audibly as it moves back to his side, and his eyes crack open again, he looks as if-...
...as if he's waiting for Steve to hit him.
“Can I touch you?” Steve asks, softly.
Those empty blue eyes study him in silence. He doesn't answer Steve. They close again, and he gives his head a single nod, before he turns it away. Steve leans down, his hands trace the edges of Bucky's mask, and he finds the hinge keeping it closed around his jaw. He clicks it free, and he slides the leather from the smaller man's flesh. It comes away easily, and Steve pauses the moment a lock of Bucky's hair catches upon the edge, making sure that he doesn't pull it as he draws it free. He tosses it aside, he doesn't look where it lands, he's so intent on the man below him.
A shadow of a bruise colours Bucky's jaw. His skin is cleaner, his full lips bear a single split along the pillowy curve of his lower, without the hair – he looks just like he always did, like he's just come home from another fight on Steve's behalf. He feels as if he's been thrown back seventy years and he's sitting opposite Bucky, dressed down in nothing but a pair of loose jeans with his arm hanging off the edge of the couch as he tips his head back for a tiny Steve to disinfect the split flesh upon his black eye.
Only-... the wounds upon him manifest in a missing arm and a psychological torture that no amount of disinfectant is going to fix, and somehow – that's scary. The weight of the world always had no bearing upon the pair of them. They lived in their own little world, until the war came knocking at their door. They'd both been forced into reality in a way they'd never wished to be. Naive Bucky had gone to war too young. Gentle Steve had been turned into a fighting machine made for war--...
They'd lost one another, and somehow, found their way back.
Steve reaches out, still careful, still as if he's afraid that Bucky will flinch and lash out again. He traces his fingers along the curve of his jaw, feeling the answering scrape of his overgrown stubble. He traces those two fingers down towards the bruise upon the hinge of Bucky's jaw, and the man beneath him turns his head – as if he's asking for Steve to keep touching him.
It's been a long, long time since anyone had ever touched him without hurting him. He's waiting, waiting for Steve's grip to turn cruel, to turn bruising and brutal – the mere thought has the steel plates of his arm recalibrating. Shifting and buckling down anew until Steve's attention is caught upon it. Bucky tries to hide it – shifting his arm away, but Steve only glances back up at him.
He traces the shadow of that bruise down to the curve of Bucky's throat, to where his flesh vanishes beneath the thick leather of his jacket. He can see how much strain it's putting on him. Bucky almost looks as if he's in pain, face turned away, eyes closed tight, teeth gritted hard enough for the muscle of his jaw to press into the hollow of his cheek.
“Don't stop.” he hisses out. His throat shifts as he swallows.
Steve stares down at him, swearing he's misheard.
“Don't. Stop.” Bucky breathes out, words gentler.
So, he doesn't stop. He reaches for the buckles holding the jacket closed, he fumbles with them, he remembers them – so similar to the coat Bucky had worn what felt like a lifetime ago before he'd tumbled into that frozen ravine. He tugs them slack, one by one, fingers careful and slow, still so wary of Bucky's comfort, still so worried – even if he can taste blood on his lips, even if a gentle rivulet of blood is slowly running down the curve of his chest.
The jacket falls open over Bucky's chest. The leather tumbles away, slithering back to reveal his pale flesh. There's not a scar to be seen, nor a single hair – HYDRA had taken the time to remove his body hair. Why? Steve decides he doesn't wish to know.
He doesn't touch, not yet. He leans forwards, he moves onto his knees, he braces a hand by Bucky's flesh shoulder as he leans over him, fingers hovering over his flesh, not quite touching, as much as he wants to. The flesh around that cybernetic arm is raised, red, injured, gnarled, burned. What happened to it? Steve wants to ask-..
Carefully, he touches the edge of the steel limb. He sees Bucky's fingers twitch, but he doesn't lift his arm. Steve traces the metal carefully, his fingertips move to that angered flesh. He sees Bucky suck in a small hiss, his chest sinks as he lets out a breath – he's lacking in muscle mass, Steve knows it's because of his lack of food. He wants to feed him, bathe him, give him that double bed in his bedroom and tell him to rest for as long as it takes. But Bucky is giving him permission to touch-...
How can Steve turn that down?
His fingers skim away from Bucky's shoulder. He sees him turn his head form his peripherals, he sees his eyes flutter open, he feels them studying his face. He doesn't look up. He doesn't want to. His fingers draw down to the dip of Bucky's navel, and his palm presses down once he reaches the curve of his hip. His fingers curl around it, his thumb digs into the hollow, it skims under the waistband of Bucky's trousers – and yet still, he doesn't fight him. He doesn't go tense.
He feels like he's touching a live-wire, like he's tracing the edges of an open flame that could burn him at any moment, but Bucky has always been like that, a wildfire that wasn't to be tamed, something to be admired from afar – get too close, and he'd be burned. He doesn't care any longer. Let him be burned, this fire was his. This fire was worth the burns.
..and he wasn't going to let anyone else touch it. Not after what HYDRA had done to him.
It's too much, a part of him knows it – knows that he should be helping Bucky into his shower and then into his bed, he knows he should be cooking for him, he should be trying to fit a comb through his tangled hair, he should be getting him out of these HYDRA-issue clothes--... he is doing that, isn't he?
His fingers pause over the button of Bucky's fly, he's not used to it – his friend had always had a gentle edge of hair doffing his chest, but now? There's none. His skin is smooth and unmarked, and Steve can only look at him with awe. With admiration. His best friend lies beneath him, disfigured and broken by HYDRA and yet still-... beautiful.
“I didn't say stop.” Bucky says, words whispered into the open air above him. Steve looks up at last, their eyes meet – but it's only for a moment before Bucky looks away, averting his gaze, closing his eyes – as if he can't look Steve in the eye. He doesn't want to wonder why, he was aware of how Alexander Pierce had treated him.
“Look at me.” Steve says, “Buck.” there's a pleading edge to his words.
He opens his eyes again, and Steve looks down at him. They're close, so close they're sharing the same air. Steve can feel Bucky's breath, fluttering and broken, as if he's waiting for this to turn violent at any moment, let out against the curve of Steve's throat.
“I'm not gonna hurt you.” he tells him, “Listen to me, Buck. I'm not gonna hurt you.” and he sees the look in Bucky's eyes shift. He closes them again, and when he opens them – his eyelashes are wet.
Steve wonders if he even notices that he is. That human hand lifts, it touches to the curve of Steve's cheek, Bucky's fluttering breath seems to catch, and Steve wants to lean in – and so he does. His eyes flutter closed, his nose nudges to Bucky's, he gives him a moment – as if he's expecting him to shove him away, or turn his head.
But he doesn't.
So Steve's head tips, he slots his lips to Bucky's, and it's like a switch flicks somewhere in his mind. Bucky moves against him. His fingers curve around the column of Steve's throat, his lips move against his, and Steve almost jolts as he feels Bucky's tongue skim along the seam of his lips. He parts them, he melts into him, lost in the wet press of his lips – something he's wanted for a lifetime and a half. Something he's dreamed of during long nights in the same room as Bucky. Something he'd almost let himself have that night after he had rescued Bucky from the train. He'd taken him back to camp and they'd shared a bunk, holding one another in what he told himself was a brotherly way, but there was nothing familial about his feelings at all.
There never had been.
He'd lied to Nat when she'd asked if he'd been kissed since he went under. He hadn't. His first kiss was some unnamed blonde, his second was Peggy Carter, and his third was Nat. Now? His fifth was Bucky.
It's like the floodgates have been torn open and his emotions have come rushing out. His eyes close, tightly – he feels them prickle with heat. He lets out a sharp breath, his touch still somehow stays gentle, despite the growing ferocity of their kiss. His fingertips drag beneath the lip of Bucky's trousers again, and he feels the other man lift under his touch.
Steve breaks the kiss. “We don't have to--..”
..and Bucky's lips are upon his once more. So he doesn't fight, but he doesn't move to unbutton Bucky's trousers. The other man's legs lift, and cinch about his waist once more, he tugs him in, and Steve lets out a breath into their kiss, he falls forwards, lowering down onto his arm until he's holding himself up on his elbow and not his palm. That hand slips from his throat to skim down along his bare flesh, almost touching Bucky's – his fingertips drag along the shallow slice over his chest, nails dig in, and Steve lets out a low hiss into the kiss, he feels flesh tear anew, he feels warm blood flow, but he suspects that's what Bucky wants – so he lets him.
“Touch me.” Bucky breathes past his lips.
A spike of arousal floods through Steve at that request. He feels it swell, a low, burning heat that he hasn't ever been able to replicate until now. His hand smooths down Bucky's chest again, his fingers curve along his ribcage, and down towards his hip. The man beneath him shivers under his touch and so – Steve doesn't stop.
He breaks the kiss, he tips his head to press his lips against the bruise upon the curve of Bucky's throat, almost as if he wishes he could soothe the hurt away with his lips alone. His hips rut forwards before he can stop himself, he breathes out a soft 'mmf' and his hand drops forwards, he wills himself to freeze, he can't do this.
He hasn't ever done this..
“Bucky-..” he tries, again.
“Please-..” he breathes out, eyes closed, Steve draws back enough to look down at him. “Please..” Steve doesn't know what he's asking for, but he can guess. He leans in again, he presses a gentle kiss to the curve of Bucky's jaw.
“It's okay, Buck.” he murmurs to him, lips moving against his flesh. Bucky's human hand shifts down, it catches Steve's wrist, and he moves his hand down, he moves it past his fly – to the swell of warmth beneath, pressing into the seam of his trousers. Steve looks down between them, stomach doing a flip as his lips part – and his mouth goes dry all over again.
But he touches, just like Bucky wants. His fingers curve gently around him, and the moment he does, Bucky lets out a broken sob. His hand flies back up to grip onto Steve's shoulder, his nails bite against his flesh, leaving crescent-shaped welts behind, and Steve presses his lips into Bucky's shoulder, muttering gently,“Shh-.. it's all right, it's all right.” against him.
It works. The more he touches him, the more Bucky seems to relax under him. The more he warms to him. His hips lift into Steve's hand, until that isn't enough. His fingers catch on the button of Bucky's trousers, and he gives an ample tug. It pops open. He tugs down the zipper, and he gently feeds his fingers inside. He feels the answering warmth of Bucky's flesh, damp and hot under Steve's calloused touch. He fits him into his hand, he's hard, and Steve wonders if this is all a dream. If he'll wake up in a few mere moments and none of this will be real and he decides that he doesn't care, even if it is a dream – it's worth it.
He strokes slow, and Bucky's hips are soon rising into the ring of his fingers, fucking steady and slow and still too much for Steve. His other hand glides up and down the curve of his ribs, soothing and gentle, he watches the shift of his features, shifting into a look of bliss-.. but Steve wants more.
That hand withdraws, and he reaches out, he hooks his fingers through the waistband of Bucky's trousers, and he gives a pull – they come sliding down, too large for him with the weight that has fallen from his form, from his weeks of starvation. They come down and off, Steve slips off his boots, too – and he folds over him again.
Never, not ever did he think he'd have Bucky here, like this – under him. Naked and reaching for him. Steve's gaze is caught by the steel arm, and he reaches out to smooth the jacket from Bucky's shoulders, letting it fall from his form until he lies entirely bare beneath him. So he reaches out, he scoops him up, into his arms, he eases his weight against him, and he rocks back onto his heels as he pushes up to stand, thighs trembling with effort until he's upright, holding Bucky's weight with ease.
He moves around to the couch, and he eases Bucky down upon it. “I'm gonna try something.” he tells him, folding a knee under himself, and settling himself between Bucky's parted thighs. “You-.. tell me to stop-.. if I hurt you, tell me to stop-..” he murmurs to him, quiet, gentle. Always quiet, always gentle.
When Tony had visited him once upon a time with Nat, they'd both joked about the girls that Steve could bring home to his 'batchelor pad'. He'd rebuffed their efforts, and Tony had slipped what he would later tell Steve were 'sex helpers' into the top drawer of his coffee table. Tugging it open, now – Steve is immensely grateful. A strip of silver-packaged condoms and tear-open lube are settled upon the pamphlets and brochures that Bruce had given him on how to work his television, he takes out the entire strip – trying to mask how much his hands are shaking.
All it takes is one glance at Bucky and he comes undone. He leans down again, he presses his lips to the other man's, and he responds to him. The answering scrape of his stubble sends a shudder of a thrill down Steve's spine, and he lets out a quiet sound into the press of their lips, he doesn't pull away this time, he tears open the lube, letting the condoms fall between them as he catches the curve of Bucky's knee under his grip and presses it up, Christ – what is he doing?
Bucky breaks the kiss.
“Tell me your name. Again.” he says, fingers curling against the hinge of Steve's jaw, he doesn't draw away – their brows touch, and that steel arm stays wedged between the couch cushions, like Bucky is refusing to touch Steve with it.
He squeezes the lube onto his fingers as best he can with one hand, and he drops it between Bucky's parted thighs. Two fingers brush against his dusky pucker, he only touches – mind racing a million miles a minute, too fast for him to comprehend. Bucky is responding to it, his hips lift, his head tips back, a small breath comes tumbling past his split lips.
“Steve-.. Steven Grant Rogers.” he breathes out. “Relax, Buck.” he murmurs, pressing his lips to the corner of Bucky's, the man below does as he's told, and Steve gently presses his index finger into him. His lips part further the deeper he gets, he's warm and wet inside – he's tight and hot. Steve tips his head down to rest his brow against Bucky's collarbone. He feels the other man knot a hand through his sandy-blonde hair. He can only imagine what it'll feel like to be there..
“Another.” Bucky murmurs.
Steve complies. He slides in his second finger, pressing them both in deep until his knuckles brush against Bucky's slick entrance. He shudders beneath him, those fingers threaded through Steve's hair knot tighter, his steel arm finally lifts to grip against the larger's bare shoulder. He moves his hand, gently easing his fingers in and out until he has a steady rhythm, until Bucky is letting out breath upon breath, lips parted, eyes closed, head tipped back, exposing the pale column of his throat. Steve lifts his head, wanting to see.
His other hand smooths down Bucky's chest, again. He wants to tell him he's beautiful, that he's always thought he's beautiful. That he's brilliant and perfect, that he's a work of art, that Steve has drawn him a thousand-and-one times before just to make him seem less like a dream, that he wants to draw him again and again.
He's fucking Bucky with his fingers, drawing them almost all the way out before he presses them back in, until Bucky reaches down to catch hold of his wrist. He pushes his hand away until his fingers are free, and he shifts where he lies, steel hand sliding down towards the curve of Steve's wrist.
“It won't hurt.” he says, quietly. He knows that's what Steve wants to hear.
The other man stares down at him, labouring in disbelief and indecision. He's never done this before , his best mate who he thought was dead three weeks ago is lying on front of him, naked, thighs parted for him, cock hard and flushed and pink, resting against his abdomen.
It takes him a moment to jump his body back into motion. He tears open one of the condoms, he tugs it free, he pinches the top just like they'd been taught in that one health class they'd sat through some eighty years ago, and he leans forwards, he tucks down the front of his flannel trousers to free his length – he's a mere inch larger than average, something that had become painfully apparent after his serum. He sees Bucky looking, and the desire to tug his trousers back up and hide is still there, but he ignores it. He stifles it. He rolls the condom on with surprising ease. He takes up another of the tear-open lubes, and he rips it. He squeezes it onto his length with a trembling hand and he closes his other around himself, stroking to spread the stuff as he leans over Bucky again.
He kisses him, he rests over him, their bare chests touch, and he feels his drying blood mingle between them. The warmth of Bucky's flesh upon him is almost enough. He breaks the kiss, he tips his head forwards, resting it upon the soft curve of muscle along Bucky's throat as he shuffles forwards onto his knees. He grips at his base, carefully. His hips cant gently forwards, and he nudges the flushed tip of his length against the gentle press of Bucky's entrance. His hips ease forwards, he feels Bucky give under him, he feels him shake – he feels him go tense with pain as Steve pushes in, deeper and deeper, but he doesn't offer a word of protest.
Steve pauses half way, he lifts his head, he peppers kisses along Bucky's collarbones, he lifts his head to press another to his chin, to the corner of his lips, and to his closed (and smudged) eyelids. His eyelashes are still damp, and Steve catches the warmth of a tear upon his lower lip.
“Hey-..” he whispers. “It's okay, Buck.” he murmurs to him. “I'm not gonna hurt you. I'm not-.. ah--..” he chokes and silences himself as he feels Bucky shift beneath him. It feels nothing like his hand ever could, it's warm and tight and surrounding him, suffocating him. It's good, it's so good that he understands what all the fuss is about--.
“More.” Bucky whispers.
Steve can't say no to him.
His hips arch forwards again. That steel hand presses to his chest, palm covering the ample stains of blood, curving around his left pectoral, artificial nails bite against his skin, they drag down, they hurt, but Steve doesn't stop. Bucky goes tense under him, he's warm and flushed – a flush that has crept down from his cheeks to his throat and spread over his chest.
A small smile tugs over Steve's lips at the sight. His lips are kiss-bitten red, his eyes are damp and yet livid – alive with more emotion than Steve has seen them with ever since he laid eyes on Bucky. He reaches out for Steve, he holds him close, he winds his arms around his shoulders, and he lifts his hips enough to pull the very last inch of him inside.
Steve lets out a small sound, a quiet, muffled, choked-off little moan of absolute astonishment. A hand jumps down to Bucky's hip, as if to steady himself.
“Move.” Bucky breathes, words muffled by the swell of Steve's shoulder. It hurts, but he wants the pain.
Steve does as he's told. His hips draw back and ease forwards. He presses into him gently, he draws back, he presses in. He fucks him shallowly, until Bucky's arms are slackening, tracing down the bends of Steve's arms, steel fingers dragging over his flesh in a chilling slide that has the hairs on the backs of Steve's neck standing on edge, such a contrast from the too-hot slide of their skin.
“Faster.” he breathes out, words riding out with his breath. Steve glances up again, and he pushes up, he lifts one hand to brace against the armrest of the couch above Bucky's head, and his hips rock forwards. The couch gives a low creak. He draws back, and he rolls forwards again. Bucky's head tips back, that steel hand drops to curl around the base of his length and Steve is left to watch with growing curiosity.
Bucky has done that before.
He doesn't press, he knows now isn't the time. This is hot and desperate and meant to be fast. It isn't how he imagined sex to ever be, but it's perfect. Ill-timed and all wrong, it's them. It's Steve and Bucky, Bucky and Steve. His hips press forwards again and Bucky arches off the couch beneath him, and Steve sets a steady pace, he doesn't want to hurt him, he doesn't want to push him too far.
Steve's hand tightens against the edge of the armrest. His hips slam forwards, and Bucky cries out. His gaze snaps up, expression written with worry, but there's a small smile upon Bucky's lips. It takes him a moment to realize that the sound had been one of pleasure. So he does it again, his hips jut forwards, Bucky rocks on the couch, he lets out a broken gasp, and his hips crane upwards, seeking violent contact with Steve's. He answers.
The lewd slap-slap-slap of skin on skin fills Steve's dark living room, the couch creaks under them, its legs drag along his floorboards, his grip on the armrest has his knuckles turning white. He folds over Bucky to press his lips to the curve of his throat. He parts them, he scrapes his teeth over his flesh and he bites down. His eyes slit closed and he lets loose a small growl lost in the warmth of Bucky's flesh, muffling his tipping moans into the man under him.
“S'ok, Buck.” Steve breathes out, “I-I've got you, it's-.. it's okay.”
The look on Bucky's face is so similar to the one that had flashed over his features when he'd been caught under that beam upon the helicarrier – only there's no fear there, there's no helplessness. His eyes are wet and his features are drawn with a pleading edge.
“More-- ah-!.. More, please-..” he chokes.
Bucky's steel hand is trapped between them, stroking quickly, out of rhythm and yet desperately at himself, his head tips back, he bares his throat for Steve, features shifting, contorting into this odd mix of pleasurepain . Steve has him feeling so full , and it's good . He knows he isn't going to last, it's been so long since he's had any kind of human contact that wasn't cruel or violent. He's coming undone under Steve, he's seeing stars with every inward press, his ankles lock over the small of Steve's back, his nails drag over the swell of his shoulder, his features shift with the pleasure surging through his body and that coil low in his gut is pulling tighter and tighter until he breaks-..
He cums in a white rush, it spills out between he and Steve, it messes at the other man's abdomen, it catches against the steel of his hand, his abdominals flutter and flex, his breath hitches and a broken cry is wrung from his parted and bitten-bloody lips. His body shakes, and Steve doesn't cease his movements, he doesn't stop fucking him for a mere moment. He nudges against Bucky's oversensitive prostate with every inward press and he reaches up sharply, he clamps a hand around the curve of Bucky's jaw, forcing his head up to catch another messy, open-mouthed and wet kiss. Bucky shakes beneath him, he grips hold of him, he doesn't want him to draw away, he doesn't want Steve to cum because it means this will end and he can't have that, he can't..
But Steve's movements are falling out of rhythm. He breaks the kiss, he glances down at the mess between their bodies, and he lets out a shaking breath. “You feel s-so good, Buck-..” he chokes out. “Y-Y'know I've thought about this? Yeah-.. I-I have.” he whispers, nudging his nose against Bucky's to keep the other's gaze on him when all Bucky wants to do is fall prey to his lingering exhaustion. “I-I missed you. Missed you so much.” Steve breathes out, eyes half-lidded, pupils blown wide with want . “I-It's gonna be okay, now. It's gonna be okay, Buck.” he shakes his head, gently. A small smile tugs at one corner of his lips and his hips surge forwards sharply as he slips and spills over the edge. Both his hands clamp down on Bucky's hips, forcing him back, pulling him down on his length again and again as his muscles tighten and pull taut, as his stomach flutters and his orgasm shoots through him with enough force to have his head spinning. He fucks into Bucky until he can't anymore, until his muscles hurt and Bucky feels so good that it hurts-...
Steve slumps onto him, he catches himself with a hand bracing upon the armrest, and he looks down at Bucky beneath him through half lidded eyes. The other man is a mess, flushed and sweaty and barely strong enough to move. His head his turned and his eyes are closed, and Steve reaches out for him, but Bucky doesn't stir.
Steve drops a hand between them, he curls his fingers around his base as he sits back onto his heels, sliding out of Bucky carefully. He grimaces at the loss of warmth, of that tight heat – he slides the rubber off, and he flicks it into a tissue drawn from the inner pocket of his sleep trousers. He tosses the bundle to the trash can by his television – hitting his mark perfectly. He tucks himself away, carefully, still shaky – still on edge. He feels too weak to move properly.
He leans over Bucky again, he nudges his nose against the smaller man's temple, he presses a kiss to the corner of his lips.
“I won't hurt you.” he whispers to him, as if Bucky can still hear him.
Once upon a time, a scrawny boy had thought Bucky Barnes was like a wildfire – one he couldn't get too close to without burning alive. Once upon a time, a scrawny boy had been given a magic potion that made him large..
..that made him immune to flame.