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Seven Kisses: Five kisses Steve had before Natasha kissed him and one that came after

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1.

Steve has a vague memory of perfect sunlight, a sweet smell, a voice that didn't resolve into words, and the pressure of lips against his own. He wasn't awake, he wasn't asleep. He thinks that if he wasn't just dreaming of Peggy, someone, maybe a nurse, kissed him while they thought he was still unconscious.

2.

The pretty blonde girl who said on TV, "Captain America saved my life," had thrown her arms around his neck and bussed him heartily before bursting into tears of relief. He hadn't even had time to feel embarrassed that a perfect stranger had smooched him; he just held her and patted her until she calmed down enough to go with the EMTs.

3.

He didn't kiss Beth the waitress until their third date. To be honest, she kissed him. He wasn't expecting to go straight into—what was Clint's phrase?—"tonsil hockey" on a first kiss, but Beth barreled into his mouth the way he'd barreled into the Red Skull's headquarters on his motorcycle. Steve had never had a problem with women who could take charge--if he had, he wouldn't have lost his heart to Peggy Carter, would he--but this kiss just didn't feel right.

Maybe she felt that, even though he kissed back, or tried to. Maybe he just tensed up, maybe she thought he didn't like strong dames. Third date, first kiss, last time they went out.

4.

When the helicarrier was being attacked by Loki's forces, Maria Hill had passed Steve in an empty corridor. Without warning she had blocked him expertly, seized his head in both hands, and kissed him. He hadn't minded Agent Hill slipping him the tongue; she kissed as well as she fought. Steve liked that in a dame. Then she'd let him go, taken off at a run, and never mentioned that kiss again.

5.

He kissed Peggy when he saw her for the last time. The thin, swollen-veined hand he held was trembling, and her sweet mouth was chapped and dry, but to him she was still the Agent Carter who had socked Hodges for mouthing off to her and flown with him and Howard Stark into Austria to rescue Bucky. She would always be his first best girl.

0.

Natasha kisses him while they're riding an escalator, to get people to look away from them, from their faces. Her lips are warmer than he expected, a little chapped; she tastes of cinnamon, and her small hand cupping his face feels just as strong as he'd expect.

"Was that your first kiss since 1945?"

Steve is not ready to talk about his personal kissing history, despite Natasha's willingness to try to set him up with dates even while they're on the run or fighting the bad guys hand-to-hand. So he just deflects the question the same way he'd deflect a blow with his shield. Nat is smart enough to recognize the move, he can see it in her face, but she doesn't push the issue.

+1

Bucky's artificial hand is twisted tight in Steve's shirt, chokingly tight, but his eyes are wide and frightened. Steve flashes on a memory, a time he ran out into the street and almost got hit by a car, except that Bucky had grabbed him by the collar and hauled him outta the way. Bucky's eyes had looked the same as they did now, and he'd hugged Steve for just a moment before shoving him away, scowling, and shouting, "You gotta look after yourself, punk! I won't always be here to keep ya from gettin' hurt."

"Yes, you will," Steve had said. Not smug, just certain that was how the universe worked: Steve and Bucky, they'd always be there for one another. They didn't ever kiss back then, though Steve is sure there were plenty of times one or both of them thought about it.

The metal hand tightens just a little bit more, but the rest of Bucky's body is trembling. It's as if the damned arm has a life of its own, a mind of its own. Steve doesn't know what else to do except take Bucky's face in his hands, look him in the eye, say, "It's me, Buck. It's Stevie. I'm here. I know you don't want to hurt me, so why don't you let go?"

Bucky stares, still trembling. His metal grip loosens just enough for Steve to notice. He licks his lips, and maybe that's why Steve leans in to kiss him.

Bucky's lips are sandpaper-rough and bordered with stubble; his breath is sour, in fact, his whole body smells of fear and neglect. But he doesn't resist, doesn't pull away, and doesn't move his hand from Steve's shirt to, say, Steve's throat. The kiss doesn't last long, but when it's over, Bucky's hand drops to his lap, and all the tension goes out of him. He looks around Steve's bedroom in obvious bewilderment, lifts his right hand toward his head but doesn't run it through his hair like it looks like he's about to do.

"Stevie?"

"Yeah, Buck."

"You're Steve."

"Yep."

"And I'm…."

"Bucky. You're my friend, Bucky."

Bucky gives him a long, searching look. Natasha might ask, "Do you always kiss your friends like that, Rogers?" Bucky's not up to asking questions like that yet.

"I'm Bucky."

"Yeah, you're Bucky." Well, it's a start.

They sit quietly in the dim bedroom for a long time, Steve leaning against his headboard, Bucky beside him with one leg on the mattress, one foot on the floor. The sun is coming up when Bucky finally speaks.

"Kiss me again?"