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Embers, Not Ashes

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Bucky’s underpants are sticking to his skin, inching up between his legs with every step he climbs, pasted to the itchy tickle of liquid heat creeping down the inside of his thigh. If it weren’t for the hot ache in his ass, it’d be maddening. As it is he keeps getting distracted by the dull throb of raw flesh and the occasional sharp sting when he can’t quite stop himself from clenching.

Steve’s hand isn’t helping, feather light on his back, like he’s scared to touch Bucky and can’t help doing it anyway.

That kind of thinking sloshes around the empty space between Bucky’s ears, seeps down into the pan of his hips. Gives him a whole other sensation to focus on as his sensitive dick nuzzles at the inside of his fly.

There’s only three flights of stairs up to their apartment, but it feels like eighty with how his legs are shaking. He spends most of his days hauling crates, there’s no good reason for him to be this worn out from barely an hour of-

The memory of Steve sprawled out under him, bucking up into him, hits so hard he’d swear he can smell the roses and powder and expensive cigarettes. Feel the dew of sweat on Steve’s skin - flushed, but healthy-like; the kind that comes from exertion instead the sickly, clammy sort that Bucky’s seen staining his face too damn many times. Looking like he’d found religion right there between Bucky’s burning, trembling thighs while Bucky tried to screw the both of them into each other faster, harder. The heavy, strange weight of his cock so deep inside Bucky’d wanted to press at his own belly just to see if he could feel it from the outside.

A weak blurt of precome squeezes out of Bucky, twin to the thready puff of sound that’s too close to a moan for him to be making out on the stairwell. It’s late enough that most decent folks will’ve already gone to bed, but there’s plenty of indecent types around to make the prospect of being overheard a real risk.

Steve nudges up against his ribs as if he’d be able to catch Bucky if he fell. Couldn’t and they both know it, but still, Bucky clutches at him, hand engulfing the whole of Steve’s shoulder; thin skin and fragile bones and the kind of strength sunk down in them that most people’ll never be lucky or smart enough to know anything about.

Steve might not be able to help carry a couch up the stairs, but he wears the damn world around his neck, and he puts it on willingly. Sometimes Bucky sits around feeling smug over being one of the only people sharp enough to notice it. Other times he’d like to kick everybody who’s ever looked right at Steve and not seen anything worth a second glance.

The keys plunk loud against the landing outside of their door as Steve fumbles with them. Has to let go of Bucky to snag them again, so Bucky presses up against the doorjamb instead. Hopefully if anybody walks by it’ll look like he’s hit the bottle too hard. Not exactly the kind of reputation he’d like to build for himself, but still better than being seen standing around with his best friend, a hardon, and a hitch in his giddyup.

A hundred years later, Steve finally gets the door open and Bucky makes a low speed beeline for the kitchen sink. He runs his head under the tap, the cool shock rinsing away sweat and pomade and not a single one of the dozen sinful thoughts knotted up around the base of his skull.

“You okay?”

Steve’s hovering just inside the front door when Bucky looks around, water dripping in his eyes and pattering onto the floor. Locked it, at least, for all the illusion of privacy that provides.

The outline of Steve’s hands, balled into fists inside his pockets, looks too sharp despite the wool barrier. His nice pants. Standing there in his fucking church clothes and all it makes Bucky want is to walk over there and rub him through them until he’s in just as much of a state as Bucky is.

The laugh that catapults out of Bucky’s mouth tastes like bile. “Nope.”

Worried guilt chases the discomfort right off of Steve’s face. He’s at Bucky’s side in seconds, one hand flat to Bucky’s soaked forehead, the other clasped around his wrist, delicate fingers feeling out his pulse.

Bucky’s working overtime just to breathe through the image of that same hand curled that same way around his cock, rubbing through all the slick he was making, finding the places that drive him wild. He can’t imagine what Steve must think of his heart rate just now.

“You don’t feel feverish, did I hurt you somewhere down,” Steve’s eyes flick to Bucky’s crotch, which he figures is doing a swell job of conveying how not hurt he is, leastways not in any way he’s not enjoying just fine, only Steve goes on with, “I mean. I should. I’ll call for a doctor.”

Bucky traps something snide about having the cash for it now between his back teeth, grits out instead, “Oh, sure. Getting arrested’d really cap off the night.”

Steve’s fingers don’t tighten near as much as his face, still being careful even with that short fuse of his. “Bucky, if you’re injured-”

Another laugh shakes free of Bucky, less bitter than the last, but barbed around the edges. Water sluices cold under his collar and halfway down his spine when he tips his head back to glare at the ceiling. “You ain't one to lecture on that subject, pal.”

If he had a penny for every time Steve needed a doctor and wouldn’t see one, well, there probably wouldn’t be any high class perverts out there who know what Bucky sounds like when he comes with Steve’s dick stuck in him.

Steve says, “Bucky,” again, meaning he’s run out of argument but still thinks he’s right.

Bucky feels like he’s dying, or maybe just wishes he was.

He’s in the shitty kitchen of the little firetrap apartment they can barely afford, with the starch soaking out his shirt collar and a stiff one for the feel of his best friend’s come slicked up in him, and now, on top of all of that, Steve’s trying to guilt him. And it’s working. This just might be hell.

“I look injured to you?” He’s aiming to keep some swagger in it when he flips around to lean backwards against the sink - doesn’t wince, even though he wants to – and puts the bulge in his pants on full display. It still comes out more like embarrassed. Despite what folks might say, Bucky’s very well acquainted with the meaning of shame.

Fortunately, where Steve lagged behind on the height and weight, he shot right up past Bucky when it came to a sense of decorum, so while Bucky’s cringing internally, Steve’s face goes bright red and his eyes discover something real interesting on the other side of the room. Bucky ruthlessly smothers the part of him that’s disappointed in that.

“No. But that doesn’t mean,” Steve runs an irritable hand through his hair, “I put, you know. I don’t care how much Vaseline there was, that can’t be healthy.”

The pressure of the sink against his backside is making the ache flare, and for some godforsaken reason Bucky keeps wanting to grind back into it, so he pushes himself away instead, taking measured steps in the direction of the back room.

“Pansies do it all the time, they seem to get by alright,” he shrugs.

The dark of the bedroom is a small relief. Smaller when Steve doesn’t take the hint and follows.

“Don’t call people that, it’s not nice.”

Hypocritical too, neither of them say, but Bucky can hear it in the tenor of Steve’s silence.

Face to the wall, Bucky strips out of his shirt and tie. With Steve’s eyes burning into his back, it’s more of a struggle than it ought to be not to do it any different than usual. Steve’s seen everything he’s got to offer hundreds of times, got a real good feel of it earlier tonight; wouldn’t be any reason for him to play the tease at this point, even if Steve did get worked up over that kind of thing.

Still, it’s got Bucky’s blood up - just like, and so very different from, taking his clothes off in that room with all those eyes on him, revealing his skin like another pretty bauble to go with those gilt ceilings and carpeted floors.

Here in their own rundown slice of nothing he’s just Bucky, the guy who puts his feet up on the sofa and chews his nails and comes home smelling of fish more often than not. Doesn’t make him feel like showing off any less. More, maybe, because Steve’s always going to see more of him than anybody else, naked or not.

So that’s as good a reason as any for why he hears himself saying, “Would you feel better if I showed you?” at the same time it’s running through his head. Probably. It’s hard to tell anymore, with this sandpaper need wearing him down.

He knew things, of course; the neighborhoods around the docks and the Navy yard don’t work awful hard at keeping their secrets. They wouldn’t be in this jam in the first place if the fella who runs the fairy bar over by the St. George hadn’t had the balls to up and make Bucky an offer in the first place.

He’s thought about boys a few times before, some of the slim ones he passes on the way home from work, done up pretty as dames. Plus he and Steve have been best pals for near on forever; they’ve spent enough nights sleeping at each other’s places, and now living together, and, hell, sometimes it’s nice to feel somebody else’s hand, even if it’s only a favor to a buddy.

And sure, some of those times Bucky might have kissed along Steve’s neck a little or bitten at his earlobe, but Bucky likes kissing, and he’s gone out with a few girls about Steve’s size, so it’s not so hard to imagine one of them with his eyes closed and a firm grip around his dick.

Besides, Steve doesn’t get to make time with the regularity that Bucky does - he’s not entirely sure Steve’s ever made time at all, since Bucky’s apparently the only person in all of Brooklyn who can recognize a good thing when it’s right in front of his face - and he’s got amazing hands and he shivers so lovely for a soft breath against his ear and it’s satisfying to make somebody feel good, no matter what’s between their legs.

It’s never been like this, though. Never him looking at Steve and wanting like this, like it’s baking him from the inside out; this live, writhing thing under his skin trying to claw its way toward Steve.

Bucky’s never been all that good at denying himself things he wants.

Steve still hasn’t answered by the time Bucky’s toed out of his shoes. He stalls with a hand on his belt, waiting, but Steve doesn’t make any noise about that either.

Taking the silence for permission he shucks out of his trousers, leaving them puddled on the floor like he’d never usually do. They’re bound to be wrinkled to hell come morning, but he’s honestly not sure he wants bend down that far just now.

Peeling out of the underpants is worse. They’re pasted right to him, snagging at the sprinkling of hair on the inside of this thigh as he pulls them down, the band accidentally skidding over the damp head of his cock.

He has to rest his forehead against the wall for a second to catch his breath. The cheap plaster’s like a cold compress, chilling the sweat already reforming at his temples. Nobody knows a fever better than Steve, but if Bucky hadn’t heard it from the horse’s mouth he wouldn’t believe it. He feels like he’s burning up, even with the sudden rush of cool air against his wet hole squeezing like a fist in his stomach.

Gunshot loud, the lamp in the corner switches on. It’s the only light they’ve got in here, and the mellow glow of it’s just barely enough to read by sitting up in bed at night. It feels like a spotlight.

When Bucky was fifteen, Sister Theresa caught him with his hand up Katie Thomas’ skirt in the church coatroom and he’d been dead-certain just then that nobody could feel dirtier than that. Only now, with Steve’s quiet steps sidling up behind him, he knows he was wrong. This is a thousand times dirtier than the Sister dragging him through the nave by his ear ever could have been. He’d give just about anything for it not to make his mouth water.

Chalky plaster dust cakes under his nails as his fingers spasm, fighting the urge to arch his back, stick his ass out. One taste and he’s got it worse than every booze-hound he ever saw panhandling for just one more drink.

Ends up it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t do it, because Steve’s hand lands on his hip anyway. Sets off a shiver that pours right down to Bucky’s toes and bounces back up, crisscrossing itself like ripples on water.

Any one of a dozen things Steve could do would put a stop to this. Joking it off, or saying he didn’t like it; the money was great and all and a hole’s a hole, but he doesn’t go invert. Getting angry, mean, disgusted, even though that’s the sort of thing Steve’d never do, not to anybody, and Bucky least of all. Just walking the hell away and leaving Bucky here with the broken glass jumble of lust in his head. Instead Steve’s other hand is gently spreading him open, baring him to take a nice long look just like Bucky offered.

Steve’s next breath hisses in, but Bucky can’t see anything but the backs of his own eyelids.

“Looks sore,” Steve says, steady and even like when he’s promising his nose isn’t broken and he really doesn’t need stitches. “Not bleeding or anything, though.”

There’s not enough air in the whole damn borough for Bucky to laugh this time. He gets out a huff, lets the wall take more of his weight.

“Got me wet as a good-time girl, don’t see how I co-” the rest of the word’s wrung out of him on a whine as one thin fingertip brushes right over the pucker, sliding on come and leftover slick.

His body clutches for it with no say-so from Bucky, another warm spill of fluid slipping out to creep down toward his balls. With it goes whatever morsel of sense was keeping the restlessness ripening his veins in check.

“Do it,” comes out a rasp, shunted back in his face as he rolls his forehead against the wall. “Just put it in me. I want you to.”

He doesn’t… it wasn’t supposed to be like this. It was only ever meant to be a thing they did, he did, for the money, for the doctors that blow in like the east wind every winter no matter how much care Steve takes. A sweaty twenty dollar bill in his pocket for one night’s work, and Bucky’s used his body for tougher things, he’d figured.

He could take this, would take this, had insisted on it even when Steve said he’d… that it’d make more sense if he was the one… Bucky’d been doing him a favor sparing him the hurt and here he is tearing the worth of it down and Steve along for the ride, because some part of him wants this like air and sunshine. Maybe wanted it right from the start. Intentions down in the mud with the rest of him, and he didn’t even know it.

Steve stands there, still touching him but not doing a damn thing else for long enough that panic starts to pack Bucky’s head like cotton wool, drowning out everything but the sound of air snaking down his throat and the pound of his rush hour heartbeat in his ears.

Just about the time he’s ready to give in - sob, or crumple, or who knows what, too much going on in him to stand being strung taut this long - there’s pressure, and more, and then the gritty sting of Steve’s fingertip pressing into him melts into a deeper, headier friction.

His dick jerks hard enough to kiss the wall slick. Another sound works free too, a gutted, needy thing that makes blood rush to his cheeks even as he’s pressing back into Steve’s hand.

Steve murmurs, “Hush,” against his shoulder blade, a fug of hot breath chased by a lick. Bucky’s knees are liable to give in any time now. “People are gonna think I finally snapped and throttled you.”

It takes setting teeth to his forearm, but Bucky manages to damp down the next volley of noise that wants to crawl out of him for the feel of Steve’s knuckle pressing against him, almost in.

“Dunno what’s wrong with me,” Bucky smears, breathless, into his own skin. Like all those times he slunk into a confessional, it’s a relief to say it, even if it jars, mismatched, with the shuffle of his feet spreading further apart.

The brush of Steve’s lips against the knobs of his spine slips like ice chips into his blood, warping whatever Steve responds with into an empty sound.

He kisses along the line of Bucky’s shoulders as his hand sneaks away from Bucky’s hip, up over his ribs. A distraction from the sleek draw of his finger sliding back out, satin-smooth from the mess inside Bucky, and damn if that isn’t enough to set Bucky squirming.

Panting like a goddamn dog, he manages to choke out, “More.”

Everybody’s heard stories like this, idle talk from neighborhood boys back when they were too stupid to know anything and too cocky to keep their mouths shut anyway. Gossip about how easy fairies were, how they liked cock so much they’d beg for it, take it from ten guys a night if they could get it. He’d always figured it for shit talk just like all the rest of the stuff they’d gone on about back then. Cut it off more often than not because those kinds of conversations tended to get flipped back around toward Steve; ‘cause Steve’s small and fragile-boned and most of the guys they grew up with wouldn’t know their head from a hole in the ground.

Maybe that’s why Whitburne offered them the job in the first place. Saw Steve and pegged him for the type, heard Bucky calling him a punk and Steve not denying it, guessed Bucky’d be willing to give it to him for love or money. Or maybe running a bar for fellas who like fellas gives you the kind of jeweler’s eye to look at someone like Bucky and tell he’d be a whore for it.

Then again, good-time girl might’ve been closer to the mark for how he trembles when Steve actually gives him what he asked for. A push and a burn like laying hands on a hot stove and then there’s another one of those long, slim fingers up in him. Taking him apart only a little bit faster than the hand Steve’s got petting over his chest, soothing at him just like Bucky’s done a hundred times when Steve’s lungs up and gave out on him.

“You really like this,” Steve says, not a question mark in sight. Knocks any chance Bucky had of answering right out of him with a fingernail scraping over this spot in there that makes his eyes slam shut and all the air in his lungs catch fire.

He’d touched it before, a couple of times, when Bucky was busy making sure those folks got their money’s worth. Flirty little brushes almost brief enough to be nothing, definitely accidental. This time Bucky must have made a sound, though, or clenched up, or something, because Steve lays into it, pressing and rubbing until Bucky knows just what a lightbulb feels like with the power switched on.

By the time Steve lets up enough for a stray thought to come flittering back through Bucky’s head, he’s somehow gotten himself pressed flat against the wall, one leg hitched up on the end of the bed, other foot up on tip toe, and he can’t even say for sure if he was trying to get away or just give himself an angle to rub off.

“You’re gorgeous.” Steve’s breathless too, fingers sliding nearly free before shoving in to the hilt again. His thumb presses up firm behind Bucky’s balls and that’s something new altogether, a velvety thrum to add to the buzz electrifying his spine.

That other hand has scooted down, pinned between Bucky’s body and the wall just at the dip of his navel. Close enough to right where he needs it to make his teeth itch and still he can’t back off enough to let it swoop lower.

“Wish I had a pencil, I’d draw you just like this.”

There’s a minced second there where Bucky wonders whether Steve means that or if he just noticed enough, knows Bucky enough, to have figured that’d do it for him. Further consideration is wiped clean out of his head with the tingling rush exploding along his nerves.

Come smears against plaster and skin, Steve's fingers and his belly, with a force that rides right along the edge of blinding pain and Steve pulls it all out of him, rubbing along his tender insides with a saint’s devotion.

St. Steve, patron saint of all Bucky’s deadliest sins.

His knees do go out from under him then, the one still holding him up anyway. If the thump when he hits the floor isn’t loud enough to inspire the downstairs neighbors to complain, the hysterical guffaw he’s letting loose with is bound to.

Everything on him aches beyond the telling and he feels like he could run clear to Central Park and back again without stopping; this jittery, euphoric zing rattling his bones in their sockets.

He’s never thought so before, but maybe those doctors who think queers oughta be locked up have it right, maybe getting Steve’s dick up in him really did break something in his brain, because it sure as hell feels like he’s gone looney.

If he has, he’s not particularly inclined to fix it just now.

Steve’s swearing under his breath – rare enough all on its own – as he follows Bucky to the floor. Probably meant to help him up, but Bucky’s not being all that cooperative just now, not unless sticking his tongue in Steve’s mouth counts.

They’d kissed for their audience, deep and dirty as screwing in front of a crowd is meant to be. Once or twice before then, offhand things after a couple too many drinks, some fun between pals; or not so much, considering how familiar the hazy desperation that clambers up his ribcage when Steve’s lips start moving against his is.

For a miracle, Steve lets himself be cradled up against Bucky’s chest, pulled down so they’re spread out across the floorboards in a hot line. Steve’s shirt sticks to Bucky’s skin in a wad, suspenders scratching at his nipples and the rough weave of Steve’s pants muffling the feel of his hard cock, hard for Bucky, pressing up against Bucky’s belly. All of it winding him tight as a watch spring regardless of the come gumming up the creases of his hips.

“Stick it in me,” he slurs straight onto Steve’s palate, stomach bottoming out at how the words ripple through Steve’s body.

“Not gonna be able to sit down tomorrow,” Steve counters. Doesn’t keep him from arching against Bucky, getting all sorts of unseemly stains on his good clothes. Bucky’s perversely proud just thinking about them.

“One more go’s not gonna make the difference.”

It might, actually, but he’s not going to say that, not with the thought of Steve sliding back into him breathing down the back of his neck. Certainly not about to mention the one that pops into his head right after; him laid up on the couch on his belly, still molten with the sloppy, empty feeling that’s gnawing at him now, letting Steve touch him, take care of him, spread him open and push back inside whenever he felt like, use him however he wanted.

Groans like he’s dying for it, but doesn’t actually say it.

He really has lost his marbles.

But Steve’s goddamn finally fumbling his slacks open, gingerly pulling himself out. So hard his cock’s curving up toward his belly, a long slender number to match the fingers he wraps around it, dragging the skin back from the shiny pink head then over it again on a slow stroke that feels an awful lot like a come on. Could be Bucky’s not the only show off around here.

“I’d let you, ya know,” he says, voice like a jar of thumbtacks. Never was able to keep his mouth shut in bed, doesn’t know why he’d have thought that’d be any different with a guy.

Steve’s thumb slips over the head of his own dick, glistening in the lamp light. Wet just from touching Bucky, just from looking at him.

“Yeah,” a smile slithers up one side of Steve’s lips, “you said.”

“No, I mean,” Bucky shakes his head, knee skidding out and up even though Steve’s got worlds of room to get between his legs already. “The drawing. I’ll model for you if you want. All dirtied up for you.”

The expression falls right off of Steve’s face and his hand stumbles on the next stroke. His chest’s pumping hard, but not juddery like he’s got an attack coming on, the blotchy flush on his neck disappearing underneath his collar. Eyes like saucers following the hand Bucky sneaks down over his own balls, pads of his fingers brushing, shocky-tender, at the puffy rim of hole.

It’d be nothing to slip himself one now, two even, muscle giving way easy for a little bit more force. Instead he spreads them, razor-thrill skirting along his nerves as he uses the V of them to make sure Steve’s got a good view.

This might not be okay, somehow. Sure, Steve’d fucked him for money, helped him home, touched him and kissed him and gotten up for it all, but Bucky’s gotten in with enough girls to know how quick two people can get to talking at cross-purposes once clothes are out of the way. It might be that this was alright so long as Bucky wasn’t laying himself out like a pin-up, reminding Steve who he is, what he’s getting beyond the feel of skin and a willing body. Steve sure wouldn’t be the first guy ever to get somebody under him pretending it was someone else entirely.

Only Steve’s growling, “Hell,” like that tiger up at the Bronx Zoo and then he’s shoving at Bucky’s hand, leg, pressing Bucky’s thigh up toward his chest until there’s a cozy little nook to shove his dick into at the bend of Bucky’s hip.

Steve’s head hangs low between his shoulders, breath steam-heat against Bucky’s skin. Still nothing compared to the stinging little nips he peppers along Bucky’s chest, the bicep of the arm he’s got hooked around Steve’s shoulders to hold him close.  

This is what it would be like, he thinks crazily, if they’d done it the other way; Steve over him, rutting into him, all those needy, twitchy thrusts of his hips unleashed without Bucky’s weight holding them still. Quivering under the hands Bucky’s set to roaming his back and the little bit of nothing he calls an ass as it flexes and clenches. Desperate. Bucky did that. Put Steve into a frenzy with his body and his words and, damn, that’s better than the money, better than anything. He can tell right now he’s never going to get enough of it.

The trapped heat of Steve’s cock pistoning against his skin is almost too much, too rough. Skin tugging with slowly drying come, the nerve-grating jolt when Steve’s thigh slips every now and again and snugs up against Bucky’s soft dick.

It’s the weightlessness that comes after a fight, the rush that leaves him floating like a puff of smoke trapped inside his body.

It’s heaven.

Better still when Steve groans for the soft breath Bucky spills into his ear and goes off like a firecracker.

Slow, wet heat pulsing over his skin pulls Bucky’s spine into an arch, easy as a puppeteer pulling the strings. The feel of it quenches some of the blaze crackling in Bucky’s gut, but what’s left feels more like embers than ashes.

Steve slumps onto Bucky’s chest, panting. His hips are still moving in erratic, helpless little thrusts that smear his come all over the inside of Bucky’s leg and the low of his belly. All things considered, the melty feeling that gives Bucky isn’t such a surprise.

Since it’s handy and Steve never minded before, Bucky hides his face in curve of Steve’s neck, spends a long few minutes tracing the shape of tendons with his tongue.

“Q-” Steve breaks off on a shudder, or because his voice turned out to be as lazy as it sounds, “Quit it. You’re gonna leave a spot.”

Bucky mumbles a, “Sorry,” he doesn’t mean one bit into the scrap of Steve’s neck he’s caught between his lips. Keeps right on sucking the taste of salt off of Steve’s skin.

A damp curl of Steve’s hair nudges at his nose. He smells like a farm animal, they both do probably, and any minute now the cooling, sticky mess between them is bound to overshadow the steady flow of desire Bucky’s been riding. He’s got a mind to lay here for just as long as he can anyway, in case Steve abruptly remembers everything they were ever taught in Sunday school and never gives him the chance again.

Not very Christian-like at all, Steve scratches his fingernails along Bucky’s scalp and asks, “‘s it really feel good?”

If Bucky was a little more of a shit, he’d ask which part Steve means. Only he’s got a pretty damn good idea exactly what Steve’s asking about, and a prickly, nervous feeling that whatever he answers with is going to be important.

Obviously this is where going to bed with your best friend becomes a problem - Steve knows him too well for any of the lines Bucky might feed somebody else to work.

“Yeah,” he says instead, trying to bury the honesty of it under the collar of Steve’s shirt.

Steve’s hand doesn’t stop, just cards back up the other direction, making Bucky’s hair stick up and smoothing it back down over and over.

“Seems like it’d hurt.”

Like thinking about it woke them up, the muscles in Bucky’s ass fidget, siphoning his next breath in around the edges of his teeth. The sensation sparks off weirdly through his insides, a sputtering, syrup-thick roil of something so alien that he can’t figure whether he wants it to stop or keep going forever.

“Kinda does,” he grates out after a second, “Dunno if I can explain it.”

Steve’s weight is oppressively hot on top of him. All the places their skin touches greased up with sweat and worse, the rucked mess of his clothes chafing at all the rest.

“But you liked it?”

Bucky’s spent the past couple of hours specifically trying not to think about how he’s the first person Steve’s ever done it with. Failed pretty spectacularly, truth told, but Steve’s been keeping up the pretense alright. Except for this. This sounds like a guy who’s got as little idea about what he’s doing as Steve actually is and that breaks something in Bucky into a thousand glittery pieces. He really hopes it wasn’t anything he’ll need.

The words catch like burrs in his throat, but Bucky shoves them out anyway; that same impulse to protect Steve that landed them both here in the first place propelling them past his lips. “Yeah, I liked it real well.”

By the time Steve peels away from him, Bucky’s losing feeling in his left arm, and a nail that’s started working its way up out of the floorboards has turned into a pike under his kidney.

“Ugh,” Steve grimaces as cool air bum-rushes his heat right out of Bucky’s skin. “I hope I didn’t ruin these.”

His fingers pluck at the clinging fabric of his shirttails pasted to his belly. Bucky’s not thinking about what those fingers were up to fifteen minutes ago, but it’s an effort.

“It’ll be fine. We’ll get ‘em in some water to soak.” With a grunt - there’s a whole lot of aches on him that feel a whole lot less friendly now his dick’s not involved in the proceedings - Bucky levers himself up to sitting.

Alright, more like slouching. His rear has a lot more to do with all of this moving than he’d have anticipated.

“I will.” Familiar as an old friend, Steve’s knees creak when he stands up, one hand hitched in the waistband of his pants to keep them up. “You’re not going anywhere except bed.”

“You’re awful bossy.”

Not that Bucky’s exactly rushing to help. In fact, he’s giving some serious consideration to just camping out right here on the floor tonight. He’s had worse.

But Steve’s shoe is nudging at his thigh - so riled up he didn’t even get his shoes off first, whispers a smug little voice at the back of Bucky’s head - shooing him like a stray cat until he shows some signs of life. “You could do with some bossing.”

Grudgingly, Bucky hauls himself to his feet.

Keeping his expression even is a good enough distraction that he doesn’t think he makes any sort of embarrassing noises. There’s a chance Steve was right about sitting down tomorrow, though.

“Yeah, I’m gonna try that line on you next time I can’t get you to stay in bed.”

What that sounds like hits Bucky square between the eyes about two seconds after it does Steve, going by the shell shocked look flattening his features.

Then Bucky has to stop and breathe and swallow and possibly give that breathing bit another go because Steve just skins the hair off of his forehead and says, “Maybe you oughta.”

It takes longer for Bucky to come up with anything resembling a response than for Steve to slip out the door. A few seconds later the faucet squeaks on in the kitchen, covering up any soft sounds of fabric on skin that Bucky’s only just now realized he’s used to listening for when he knows Steve’s getting undressed.

Well ain't that something.

His trek over to his bed is more of a hobble, but nobody’s around to fuss over it, so that’s alright. After a quick debate he decides laying down on his back’s his best bet; he’s never slept worth a damn on his belly, and once he actually gets settled it doesn’t feel half bad.

His hole still feels different, which in itself is bizarre - he can’t recall ever noticing it feeling anything at all. A warm, hazy throb that blends into the tenderness in his groin that usually follows good sex. Just enough to make him perversely want to knead at it like a bruise. If he was on his own he might even give in to it, but the water’s shut off in the other room and whatever’s happening between him and Steve right now, he’s got a feeling Steve walking in on him like that probably wouldn’t clear things up any.

Of course that just means that Steve waltzes back in on him laid up in the bed naked, instead of naked and doing something. Bucky really should have thought about that before he plopped down on top of the covers.

Steve’s only got his undershorts on, though, and he doesn’t look too put off by the free show.

He’s carrying a cloth with him, stained from the mop-up of dozens of dirty brawls. Cold enough to make Bucky gasp when it touches his hip. Steve shoots him an unimpressed look and sets right back to scrubbing Bucky’s skin clean, blessedly gentler around the family jewels.

His hand stutters slightly when it comes to dipping lower, but it’s Steve, so of course he doesn’t back off. Neither one of them points out that Bucky’s still perfectly capable of giving himself a wipe-down.

There is a spot on Steve’s neck, plummy against all of that pale skin. Bucky watches it flutter with Steve’s pulse and doesn’t even try to shut up that same voice smirking I did that while Steve’s fingers brush softly into the cleft of his ass, nothing but worn cotton in the way of him starting this whole business over again.

Not expecting it at all, it takes Bucky’s brain longer than it should to filter through the softness of Steve’s voice and pick out, “Thank you.”

He doesn’t manage more than a confused grunt in return, too busy trying to scavenge some sense out of Steve being the one playing beholden here.

“For… For tonight. For, everything.” The cloth disappears into Steve’s fist, bone showing white against the fine web of scars from too many split knuckles. “You wouldn’t have had to- If I could pull my weight or-”

Surging up just now isn’t the smartest move Bucky’s ever made, but the bristle of pain’s worth it for how close sitting up puts him to Steve’s face.

“I haven’t ever hit you before, and I ain't aiming to now, but you better shut it, Stevie. That’s my best pal you’re trying to bad-mouth and I ain't about to stand for it.”

Up this close, the blue of Steve’s eyes looks stormy, melting like frost over the yawning stretch of his pupils. Crinkling at the corners when Steve’s mouth curls on a saucy grin.

“Think you’d have to be able to stand at all first.”

Chuckling pulls along Bucky’s insides in unexpected ways. Good enough he’s got to make himself lay down again before he gives in to the urge to see whether the shape of his mouth on Steve’s throat tastes as sweet as it looks.

“Smart alec.”

Steve disappears out to the main room again, rinsing out the rag by the sound of it. The words are still stuck in Bucky’s head like flypaper, like a gramophone needle that’s skipped its groove. Thank you  playing over and over with enough earnestness to turn Bucky’s stomach.

Thank you for sacrificing his dignity, his body; for the money that Steve’ll need one way or another before the year’s out. Like he didn’t enjoy it enough to splay himself out and beg for more. Like he wouldn’t give it up for free right this minute if Steve asked.

Only Steve wouldn’t ask even if he wanted it. Bucky’s known him for more than half their lives and Steve’s hardly ever taken anything for himself unless somebody forced it on him.

But he’d taken Bucky, hadn’t he. Called him gorgeous and thanked him when it was over.

The front room’s been quiet for a few minutes now, as good as Steve yelling out to say he’s hiding.

Bucky’s handled a lot from Steve before; sulks and shouting matching, scraping him up off the pavement because he put everybody he sees above himself, even when it’ll get him pummelled. The nights when there’s nothing in the world but the jangle of phlegm in Steve’s lungs and Bucky’s fingernails cutting half-moons into his own flesh. He’d bleed a cure out for everything that ails Steve if he could, mix it up with shavings of his own damned soul. All he’s ever had to offer is a helping hand and a back strong enough to earn what they need for medicine. And now this.

If Steve can never look at him the same because of it, that’s a penance Bucky’ll pay, but if there’s even the smallest chance that Steve’s out there flagellating himself over wanting something he let himself have. Well, Bucky’s always been a gambler.

Heart wedged up somewhere around his voice-box, Bucky calls out, “You comin’ to bed or ain'tcha?”

Asthma isn’t catching, and Bucky’s just going to have to keep telling himself that no matter how much it feels like the air’s turned to wet cement as he waits for the lights to flick off and the soft pad of Steve’s feet to make it past the threshold.

It’s not often that Bucky thinks of Steve as small. That fire in him, that bull-headed, righteous goodness filling up a room as easy as he fills up all the space in Bucky’s head. But there in the shadow of the doorway, light catching on his bones like snow on winter tree branches and eyes more like a beaten thing than any of the times he’s actually been beat, he looks small. Fragile the way Bucky frets over and hardly ever truly believes in because Steve’s so… much.

Like the smoke from that old tenement that burned down over on Henry Street, smell sunk into the bricks blocks away, places the flames had never touched. Steve’s sunk so deep into who Bucky is he couldn’t hazard a guess where he starts and Steve ends anymore.

Probably he’s a fool for not guessing it might work the other way around too.

There’s a perfectly fine bed not two feet away, but all Steve does when Bucky budges up to make room is hesitantly shuffle over to click off the lamp before climbing into the empty space.

It’s too small for the two of them nowadays, even if Steve’s still about the same size as when they’d do this when they were kids; cramming into Bucky’s bed because there was never a spare inch around his place between his folks and his sisters, or else curled up in Steve’s waiting for some sick spell to pass or praying another one wasn’t coming on. Kept it up for years after they should have quit. Even now sometimes, if the weather gets cold enough to give them an excuse.

Could be all that time twisted something in Bucky, made him want things he never should have from Steve. Could be that this thing between him and Steve was a little twisted from the get-go.

Still, Steve’s bare chest pressing up against his, one skinny arm flung across Bucky because it’s the only way they’ll fit, it settles that restlessness eddying around in Bucky’s blood, and that isn’t new at all.

The span of his palm fits comfortably between Steve’s shoulder blades, feeling up the thunder of Steve’s heartbeat from both sides. Funny, since Bucky suddenly feels calmer than he has all night.

“Hey,” he whispers like a hundred other secrets he’s spilled to Steve in the inky hours of the night, “do me a favor?”

The hitch of Steve’s breath against his chest zings along Bucky’s nerves, but he waits until Steve nods to say, “Don’t thank me.”

Steve’s never been as big on having his hair played with as Bucky is - and just the fact that he knows things like that probably should have clued him in a long while before now that things were left of center between them - but he leans into it sweet as anything when Bucky finger-combs through the long bit at the top, uses the spread of his fingers to tip Steve’s head up so they match up just right when Bucky presses his mouth against Steve’s.

If his world hadn’t already flipped upside down tonight, the noise Steve makes would do the job. Gravel-rough, and hungry, and honest.

It’s slow in a way they haven’t been before, just wet enough that their lips keep clinging as the move. Too innocent for what they’ve been up to this evening, and perfect, so perfect. Bucky could very happily do this for the rest of his life.

Once Steve starts breathing hard enough to make it worrying, Bucky finally forces himself pull away. The last quick kiss Steve darts in to give him, then one more, echoes through him like a struck bell.

Yeah, there’ll be no going back to normal after this.

“I don’t know how you expect me to sleep after that,” Steve says, husky enough to slingshot Bucky right back around to smug.

Grinning where Steve can’t see it in the dark, Bucky crooks one arm up behind his head, resituating. Accidentally jostles enough to wake up the shocky, candied aches in his backside, then has to bite down on the urge to do it again just because.

Definitely no going back to normal.

“You stay kean as that, I’m gonna start thinking you only want me for one thing.”

He can feel Steve smiling into the dip of his shoulder, slick, hard teeth and a soft scrape when he says, “Nah. I can think of at least two, maybe three things you’re good for.”

With nothing else to counter it, the tiredness Bucky knew was bound to hit starts pulling him down. Steve’s warm curled up against his side, and that boneless, heavy feeling that comes from working hard at something has turned his muscles soft.

Satisfied, he guesses, this must be what satisfied feels like.