Bucky’s been dating this nice girl Maria for a few months. He takes her out a couple of nights every week and comes home to Steve with lipstick on his collar, but never stinking of sex and smoke. Maria’s a good Catholic girl, just like Bucky’s a sweet Catholic boy (his mother used to think so, anyway), but as far as he knows, a bit of necking is as far as they ever go. Bucky’s always home before Steve is asleep, never keeping Maria out too far past her curfew. He’s sweet and respectful, and he always shows up on time.
Steve’s been out with them now and then, paired off with girls who change every week because, to Bucky’s annoyance, he just can’t keep ‘em interested. Steve tells him to just stop trying, because he hates seeing Bucky disappointed in him: or worse, feeling sorry for him. Bucky getting mad at him for letting Maria’s friends down far outweighs any little bit of fun he might get from going along.
When he does go, he’ll wait and scuff his toe and try to look the other way while Bucky walks Maria to her door and kisses her good night. Always the same; right hand on her waist, not standing too close, leaning in to push his mouth against hers, always firm but gentle. It’s not right to watch, but sometimes he can’t help it if they’re just there, and he’s bored and disappointed, and there’s a hot current of frustration in his belly from being ignored by both his date and Bucky and what seems like the whole world.
He only looks because they’re beautiful, together. Half in shadow and rumpled from dancing or crowding together in a diner booth, and Bucky’s big hand bunching up Maria’s blue dress, her dark hair shining in the streetlight. It’s not unpleasant to watch.
He draws it, sometimes. If he’s alone, and tired of drawing the view from the fire escape for the hundredth time. The way Maria’s eyelashes rest on her cheeks and Bucky’s lips smirk against hers, wet and full. He draws Bucky’s hair coming loose from the pomade and curling over his forehead; fingers gathering the fabric around Maria’s waist; the sweat on his neck and - and then he stops, and realizes the drawing is Bucky with a sketched out nothing of a phantom girl beside him.
He stops agreeing to the double dates. He stops drawing them. He stops caring about the way Bucky looks at him pityingly, hovering in the doorway, before he goes out to meet Maria.
Wednesday is Bucky and Maria’s date night, so Steve makes himself some coffee and settles down to do some drawing. He’s weeks behind on his work, and he’s been waiting for a quiet few hours without Bucky around so he can get through it. It goes well for the first hour or so, but it’s only just after seven when he hears a familiar tread on the stairs, and Bucky’s key in the lock. He gets halfway out of his chair, but Bucky gets his head around the door and says, “No no, siddown, I won’t get in your hair.” He shuts the door behind him quietly and bends down to unlace his shoes. “I’m gonna hit the sack.”
Steve falls back into his chair and glances at his watch. “Buck, is something wrong?”
Bucky shrugs him off with a quick shake of his head. “Nothing, Steve, don’t fuss.”
Huffing, Steve turns back to his work. “Suit yourself.” He hears Bucky go into the bedroom, then come back again a minute later and pad around the kitchen. Steve deliberately keeps his back turned. He’s got too much work to do to waste time with Bucky’s bad temper.
Bucky goes out to fetch some water, and swears quietly as he tries to light the stove. Steve’s shoulders tense at the clatter of a pot. “Bucky.”
“What’re you doing back so soon?”
Bucky kicks at one of the empty chairs with a muffled curse. “You want me to go?”
“No.” Steve sighs. He puts down his pencil and turns in his chair. “Is it Maria?”
“Dumped your sorry hide at last, did she?” Steve says, playing at levity. It comes out strange and forced, but he thinks Bucky would rather have a joke than a shoulder to cry on.
Bucky just shrugs and offers him half a grin. “Sure, we called it off.” He turns away again and drags his fingers through his hair, letting out a long, heavy sigh. “You want a drink?”
Steve glances at the pan. “You making coffee?”
“I was.” Bucky sniffs loudly, scowling at the unlit stove. “Kinda fancy something stronger. You in?”
Steve can’t help a sigh as he looks down at his work spread out haphazardly across the table. But he glances back at the hard angle of Bucky’s shoulders, drawn up to his ears, and he sighs and pushes the papers into a messy pile. “Alright,” he says reluctantly. Bucky laughs and dances across the kitchen to fling his arm around Steve’s neck.
“Who needs dames, eh?” He ruffles Steve’s hair with a vicious glee before releasing him. “We got any whiskey left?”
Steve frowns and smoothes his hair down with his palm. “Some.” He gets to his feet and digs around in a basket under the bed, coming up with the bottle of single malt Bucky’s mates bought him when he lost his job at the warehouse. “Here,” he says, bringing it back and tilting it to the light. There’s just under a third of the bottle left; Bucky had meant to save it, but he’d never have managed, so Steve had hidden it for just such an occasion as this.
“You dirty little thief.” Bucky comes up to him with an incredulous laugh and takes the bottle from his hands. “You told me it was finished.”
“You’d only have wasted it."
“Well.” Bucky grins and flips the bottle into the air, catching it in his other hand. “We’re not gonna waste it now, are we?”
An hour and just the right amount of whiskey sees them slumped on the couch, warm and dazed while they talk about nothing in particular.
“Let’s go see a movie this weekend,” Bucky says, turning his head around slowly to face Steve. “We ain’t been out in weeks.”
“Sure, Buck,” Steve says, letting the smile roll across his face. “I’d like that.” He does feel bad about Maria, of course he does, but a little part of him is pleased that he’ll see more of Bucky now, even if it does mean he’ll be working twice as hard to catch up with his deadlines. “Are you cut up about Maria?”
Bucky shrugs. “Plenty more where that came from.” He grins and nudges Steve with his elbow. “Never even made it to third base anyhow.” Steve obliges him with a half smile, but there’s no fire to Bucky’s voice, and Steve can’t help but wish he knew he didn’t have to pretend like that, not with him.
“It’s okay, Buck,” he says, aiming for casual. “She’s a nice girl, I know you liked her.”
Bucky snorts. “She’s sure as hell nicer to me’n you are.”
“Hey, who makes you dinner?” Steve shoves him half-heartedly. “You wanna be careful, Barnes. I might decide you’re not worth my time anymore.”
“Aw, you don’t mean that,” Bucky says, leaning in close. He pushes his face into Steve’s neck, skin burning hot from the drink, and Steve can feel his mouth making wet shapes on his neck. Bucky’s hand is against his hip on the couch, fingers flexing, pulling at the pocket on Steve’s pants.
“You’re drunk,” he says, as if they both don’t know it already.
Bucky nods, pulling away from him. He pushes himself up with his hand on Steve’s hip. “Should get to bed,” he says, before staggering to his feet.
Steve gets up too with a reluctant sigh. “I’ll just clear up,” he says, and reaches out to clap his hand on Bucky’s shoulder. “Goodnight, Buck.”
Bucky turns toward him, sliding his hand onto Steve’s hip as he mutters a lazy “G’night” and presses a soft kiss to the corner of Steve’s mouth. It takes him by surprise, and he barely has time to register Bucky’s half-closed eyes and the warmth of whiskey-ripe breath on his lips, before it’s over. Bucky moves away without a word, fumbling with the fastening on his pants as he stumbles into the bedroom.
After he’s gone, Steve rubs his mouth with the back of his wrist. He’s watched it happen enough times to recognize the gesture: it’s the way Bucky always kisses Maria goodnight.
Steve watches the empty doorway with a frown creasing his forehead. They’ve kissed each other before, never meaning anything; on the cheek, on the head; once Bucky kissed his hand while he taught him to dance in their apartment. It’s just the silly way they make each other laugh. This felt different, more deliberate. It doesn’t mean anything, Steve tells himself firmly. After the night Bucky’s had, he’s just moving on autopilot. He’ll forget by morning; there’d be no good in Steve ragging him for it. Better they just forget about it.
Steve rinses out their tumblers and sets them to dry, then he picks up Bucky’s discarded clothes. They still smell a little of smoke but they’re good for another day’s wear otherwise, so he hangs them over chairs to air out before going into the dark bedroom. Bucky is already in bed, flat on his back with one arm thrown up over his head. Steve shimmies out of his pants and joins him. Bucky is already snoring faintly, but Steve’s too tired to roll him over, and if he’s honest with himself, the familiarity of it is comforting. He pulls the sheets up over them both and closes his eyes.
When Bucky comes home the next day, Steve’s leaning over the stove to check if the potatoes are boiled, so he doesn’t look up right away. He can hear by the heavy footsteps that Bucky is tired; probably still a little hungover from the night before.
“Hey, sweetheart,” Steve calls out in a teasing voice when Bucky opens the door. “You hungry?” He turns, just in time for Bucky to stumble the two steps over to him and kiss him; soft but firm, one hand on his waist. They both still have their eyes open, and Steve watches as Bucky realizes what he’s doing and his eyes go wide. Their lips separate and Steve rears back a few inches. “Uh, hi.”
He watches decision flash in Bucky’s eyes, watches him force a smirk onto his face. “Hi, honey, you got dinner all ready for me?” He chucks Steve’s chin with his thumb and forefinger. “You’re such a good little wife.”
Steve flicks him off impatiently. “Quit it.” His face is hot from the steam, and Bucky smells like second hand smoke from his work buddies, but there’s no hint of alcohol on his breath. Steve can’t understand why Bucky would up and kiss him like that if he hadn’t been on the sauce. It’s probably his idea of a joke, but it’s not much of one in Steve’s opinion, and he turns back to his cooking with a frown. “I’m not dumb enough to be your girl,” he mutters. “Even if I was one.”
Bucky doesn’t take the slightest notice. “I’m gonna get out of these clothes,” he calls, as he disappears into the bedroom and shuts the door behind him. Steve’s a little surprised; they don’t often close doors between them, and he guesses Bucky’s feeling rougher than he looks. He turns back to the potatoes, which are almost done after all, and busies himself with getting their dinner on the table while Bucky does whatever he does in the other room.
He’s feeling wiped out himself, which has as much to do with the whiskey as it does with the lingering cold that started blowing through the city this week. He worked pretty steadily today and got a lot of the sketches polished up, but he’s paying for it now with a headache behind his eyes and a crick in his shoulders from hunching over the table.
Despite Steve calling him twice, Bucky’s dinner is lukewarm by the time he emerges from their room looking rumpled and sleepy-eyed, in his underwear and an old sweater his ma knitted him two years earlier.
“I’da left it on the stove if I knew you’d just let it go cold,” he says testily.
Bucky just shrugs. “I don’t mind, still tastes good. Thanks for cooking.” He’s oddly subdued compared to the weary bravado he came home with, and Steve wonders if maybe he took a quick nap while he was in there.
“I’m gonna visit Ma’s grave on Sunday,” he says, setting down his cutlery and watching as Bucky chews methodically. “You wanna come along?”
“Ahh you don’t want me there, trampling all those ghosts with my big feet.”
Steve frowns slightly. “Your choice.”
“Tell you what, I’ll buy her a posey, you can take it for me.”
“And you wrap up warm too,” Bucky says, a hint of his usual irreverence creeping in. He raises an eyebrow at Steve, trying to make him smile. “Sposed to be a cold one this weekend, and I’m not having your old ma come around haunting me because I didn’t make you wrap up.”
Steve rolls his eyes and nudges Bucky under the table with his foot, but it breaks the strange mood, and they smile at each other like everything’s back to normal.
Steve won’t ever admit it, but Bucky was probably right about him not bundling up as warm as he should. His lone warm coat has a couple of holes by now, but he’ll be damned if he admits it long enough for Bucky to break out their emergency funds for a new one. Bucky earned most of that; Steve shouldn’t reap the rewards.
It starts as a sneeze while they’re both tangled together on their threadbare couch, Bucky reading the same pulp novel for the third time and Steve angling his sketching pad away so it’s not that obvious that he’s drawing Bucky’s face for the eleventh time in one evening. Bucky raises his eyes from his book, and Steve burrows deeper into his drawing, jaw set stubbornly.
A second sneeze becomes five, eight, a round dozen, and each time Bucky glares harder at him. His toes dig into Steve’s thigh more pointedly by the minute. An hour later, Steve can’t stand it anymore.
He slams his sketchbook shut with a scowl. “All right, goddamn it, have at it already.”
Bucky’s eyes narrow. “And why would I do that, Steve? Just because I said, time and again, that your stubborn ass should go to work with more layers on? It’s not as if you had a chest infection just six months ago,” he says, voice low and tight.
“Fuck you,” Steve says, kicking at him, but his voice has a nasal twinge, and he rather ruins the effect by sneezing again.
Bucky closes his book and stands up. “Jesus Christ, you’ll be the death of me,” he mutters to himself with a shake of his head. He puts water to heat on the stove, and digs through the half-empty cupboard for the tea they usually reserve for Steve’s illnesses.
Steve closes his eyes and drops his head to the couch’s arm, hating the constant feeling of helplessness he gets whenever he has to admit he’s getting sick again. There’s a headache starting at his temples, getting added to the tingle in his throat. He’s distracted enough that he’s surprised when Bucky’s cool hand presses against his forehead, checking for a fever Steve hopes won’t come.
“Come on, up you get. You’ll be warmer in bed.”
Steve sighs as he stands up, and if he leans on Bucky’s arm a little for support, it’s only to make him feel useful. “I’m not a kid, you don’t have to take care of me.”
“Well someone should,” Bucky says, tipping him into bed and tucking the sheets around him. He straightens up and reaches over to fluff the pillows in the exact way Steve’s mom taught him to: the way Steve hates, but tolerates because it’s familiar.
Steve rolls his eyes, but he still accepts the tea he’s offered. It’s got honey in it, which he perfectly knows they shouldn’t be able to afford. He looks at Bucky askance, eyebrows up.
To his surprise, Bucky colors a bit. “Shut it and drink it,” he says roughly.
“I have deadlines, you know. I can’t just lie around just because.”
“Avoiding pneumonia isn’t just laying around,” Bucky says sharply, but then he looks down at Steve and his expression softens a bit. “If you’re good, I’ll even let you have your pencils.”
“Gee, thanks, Mom,” Steve says, but he says it lightly, and Bucky grins.
Despite Steve’s hopes, a fever comes up overnight, leaving him weak and aching and dazed, barely conscious of the passage of time. When he isn’t dozing, he’s aware of Bucky sitting next to him with his book, the better to check on him constantly.
His body can’t decide between burning up or freezing, either shivering through the night or tossing his sweat-soaked sheets away, eyes glazed. Bucky helps as much as he can, but none of them can afford to have him lose work, and he goes out with a pinched expression, despite Steve’s assurances that he’ll be all right. Mrs. O’Malley three doors over checks on him every now and again, probably charmed by Bucky’s rakish smile.
“What will we do with you, Steven?” she asks, shaking her head. Steve tries to give her a wan smile, but a coughing fit shakes his body, and she just clucks her tongue and brings a glass of water to his lips.
She is kind, but not as much as Bucky’s hands when he mops Steve’s brow with a wet rag, or massages his back as he coughs. At night, he plasters himself to Steve’s back, a curved parenthesis trying to shield him from as much as he can. Steve tries to push him away at first, claiming that there is no reason for both of them to get sick, but his teeth chatter as he says it, and Bucky just snorts and presses closer, rubbing Steve’s bony arms to get him warmer.
“M’fine, Buck,” he keeps saying.
“Let me be the judge of that,” he says, and that is the end of that. Steve feels clammy and sweaty and disgusting, probably smells the same, but Bucky’s hand through his hair makes him feel ever so slightly better.
The third day he’s bedridden, Bucky comes back not ten minutes after leaving for work, hat in his hands and color high on his cheeks. “Not a word,” he says before Steve can even open his mouth, and then puts his palm over it when Steve starts talking anyway. He gives it a half-hearted lick, and Bucky says an equally half-hearted “Gross,” before starting to pull his coat off.
Steve wants to protest some more, but not even an hour later the fever is back, and after that everything is just aching joints and his eyes feeling like they’ll burn off and it hurts to breathe, no matter how much vapor rub Bucky slathers on his chest.
“You shouldnt’a missed work, Buck,” he says as Bucky places yet another wet washcloth on his forehead. It’ll be dry in no time, but for the meantime it feels so good that he gives a long sigh, nuzzles into the hand holding it.
“And leave you here to burn a hole through the sheets?”
“S’not fair that you have to stop doin’ stuff to take care of me.”
Bucky’s eyes soften. “I don’t do it out of obligation, pal.”
“You just don’t see it, do you?” Bucky says, soft and close, and there should probably be an answer to that, but it feels just out of Steve’s reach, like a puzzle he knows he’s seen the last piece of, and for the life of him can’t remember where he put it. He can’t finish the thought, he’s so cold. Bucky’s warm, with his big hands holding the rag in place and running through his hair in tandem, his thigh pressed all along Steve’s torso as he sits in bed beside him. Steve moves closer.
The room is swimming, the shadows seeming to change every time he closes his eyes. Only Bucky is solid, his anchor in a rolling ship. He digs his fingers into Bucky’s shirt, drags him closer with what little strength he has.
“You’re solid,” he says with closed eyes, finding Bucky’s collar and pulling him down even lower, until the rag falls next to him on his pillow and Bucky’s forehead is pressing against his.
“Thanks, I guess.”
“And warm. You’re really warm.”
“Look who’s talking.” Bucky tries to disentangle them, but Steve won’t let him go.
“No no, stay, Buck, you’re warm.” He can feel Bucky snort against his over-sensitive skin, and it makes him shudder.
“Alright, Stevie. Not leaving.”
“Thanks,” he says, barely a whisper. Bucky turns his head, and he chases it, pressing their cheeks together and then pressing in to mouth the words against his skin. “For being solid. Thanks for that.”
He nuzzles at Bucky’s face with his lips, eyes still closed and fingers tight on his collar. Bucky’s hand is still in his hair, and it clenches shut once Steve reaches the corner of his mouth. The pain on his scalp is nice, relieving the tension in his skull, so he does it again, edging closer to the center of his mouth, his chapped lips dragging against Bucky’s languidly. Bucky’s breathing comes harsh and Steve is distantly concerned about it, eyebrows pulled together, but then Bucky’s mouth opens slightly and that’s even warmer, an entirely new heat source to draw from. He chases that heat, angling his head to taste it better.
The inside of Bucky’s mouth feels like velvet against his tongue, so wet and hot and soft. Bucky shudders, and no, Bucky can’t get sick too, he’s not allowed, not from taking care of Steve, not from being as stupidly selfless as he always is. Steve pulls back slightly, puts a hand against Bucky’s forehead to look for a fever, but his own hand is burning, and he can’t tell up from down. Bucky’s eyes are wide and glassy though, and his cheeks are red.
“Not allowed to get sick, Buck,” he whispers. Bucky lets out an oddly manic laugh before dropping his head on the pillow next to Steve’s, the hand not in Steve’s hair clenched tightly on the sheets.
“I’ll try my best,” Bucky says, muffled by the pillow. Steve nods, mollified. His eyes feel heavy as he molds his body to Bucky’s beside him, and his shivering eases as Bucky puts his arm around him and pulls him closer. He really is the only solid thing in the room, he thinks as he falls asleep.
He stays in bed for two more days, and under house arrest for another week, much to his chagrin. By the end of it he feels half wild with the isolation, craving fresh air even as he coughs endlessly into his handkerchief. Bucky is less solicitous once both Steve and his temper are up once more, having to leave every once in a while when Steve chafes at being fussed over and starts with the cutting remarks. It’s not that he’s not grateful. He’s just not sure what to do with all that gratefulness, and he throws it around like punches, sharp and angry.
Bucky lost three days of work to stay with Steve. The less said about the days Steve missed, the better. It takes some begging, but Bucky doesn’t lose his job after all, although his mood is strange even after things get back to normal. Steve wants to ask if he did something, said something stupid while he was feverish, but every time he catches Bucky giving him odd, wide-eyed looks across the apartment he thinks better of it.
Bucky comes home the next week bright and cheerful. He greets Steve with a big smile and a hearty slap on the shoulder, hard enough to loosen the phlegm in his chest and set him coughing over his sketches.
“Jeez, Buck, watch it will you?” Steve gasps once he’s got his breath back and Bucky is done apologizing.
“Don’t know my own strength,” Bucky says with a rueful grin, taking a seat at the table with him.
“What’s put you in such a good mood? Find yourself another dame already?” He tells himself he doesn’t sound bitter. It’s just gonna be a change after having Bucky all to himself the past couple weeks, and he feels a twinge of guilt for being such a stubborn mule while he was sick.
“Not quite, my friend. Tonight you and me are goin’ dancing!”
Steve cocks his head, giving Bucky a wry smile. “You’re letting me out now?”
“How about I promise not to hit you anymore and you stop hacking your lungs up?”
Steve laughs, and his voice is only slightly croaky. “You got a deal.”
As a rule Steve doesn’t much like dancing, not in public anyhow. He isn’t built right for it, too small to be a good partner to anyone, but he likes the music and he loves to see Bucky having a good time, so he’ll go, and make the most of it.
They grab coats and scarves, Bucky bundling Steve up like an old grandmother before they walk out the door, making sure no part of Steve below his chin is exposed to the cold.
“Not gonna freeze to death, Buck.”
“That remains to be seen,” Bucky says with arched eyebrows.
It’s a shock going from the cold streets to the busy dancehall, and he loses sight of Bucky almost immediately, probably on his way to get a drink. With a sigh, he walks around the room, in search for either a drink or a partner. He catches glimpses of Bucky every once in a while, twirling a different girl every time with a bright smile on his face, looking sharp in the suit he doggedly keeps immaculate. He’s a good dancer. Steve should know; Bucky was the one to teach him, laughing in Steve’s mom’s kitchen after school.
He runs into Anna Ferguson, an old classmate who was in his art class and hadn’t known Bucky, which had made wonders for their civil almost-friendship. Once girls met Bucky, they tended to either see past Steve, or hate him in association after Bucky inevitably screwed it up with them. Sometimes it was both, in rapid succession.
Steve suggests dancing, because it’s expected of him, and he’s half surprised when she agrees and stands up from the table they’ve been sharing. He gets up as well, dreading the inevitable result of him trying to dance, and expectant at the same time. Anna is just slightly taller than him, with dark hair and huge blue eyes that seem forever surprised. He discreetly wipes his sweaty palms on his trousers and drags a hand across his bangs before squaring his shoulders and leading Anna to the dance floor.
When he trips her, he’s not entirely surprised, not the less because she’s already tried to hide several grimaces as he steps on her feet, but he still apologizes profusely as he helps her limp towards a chair. He’s about to offer to buy her a drink when he hears Bucky’s wild laughter behind him, and he reddens again. He was hoping to avoid the teasing, but it’s just that kind of night.
“Don’t tell me you already trampled the first lady of the evening?” he says, bright and loud enough for the entire dancehall to hear. Beside him, Anna giggles a little, and Steve could just about kick him. “We haven’t been here an hour, Steve!”
“Yeah, yeah, quit it,” he says with gritted teeth.
Bucky’s well into proper drunk, light and loose the way he only is after dancing. His eyes are shining, and everyone else’s are on him. Everyone’s eyes are always on him, it has been a fact of life for the entire time Steve has known him. There’s an innate charm, a grace to Bucky that pulls people into his orbit. Now, he’s the only one with Bucky’s undivided attention, and it’s always a heady thing, being the only person Bucky sees. He’s missed it, these months that Bucky was always out with Maria. He hadn’t known there was something to miss before that.
“No, no, this can’t stay like this, you gotta learn how to dance properly, Steve!” There’s a small snort of disbelief from behind Steve, but he doesn’t even have time to look before Bucky is grabbing him by the waist, pulling him closer into a dancing position, to the cheers and laughter of the crowd. Steve goes a bit breathless, the room suddenly too warm, and then Bucky twirls him and a laugh is dragged out of him, sudden and loud.
“Stop it, you jerk,” he says half-heartedly, but it’s not like he gives a real struggle. One of Bucky’s hands is tight around his waist, and the other is grabbing Steve’s wrist, slippery with sweat. His thumb is right across Steve’s shuddering pulse. Bucky’s smile is blinding.
“See, you’re already doing better!” Bucky says, as Steve throws his head back to laugh.
“Doubtful!” yells someone in the crowd, quite possibly Anna.
Bucky gasps. “Who doubts my teaching? It won’t do!” he cries, all mock outrage, and steps into an exaggerated lindy hop, frantic and awful and uncoordinated, dragging Steve around the dance floor, probably for far longer than the joke merits.
“Stop it, you ass,” Steve says, breathless. He both wants to disentangle and stay like that for the rest of the night, surrounded by Bucky’s smell and touch and the smile that is just for him.
“You should be flattered, got the best looking partner in the damn room, didn’t you.”
“Modest, as well!”
Bucky lets out a laugh, and tugs Steve in by the hand he’s holding. “Fine, then, have it your way,” he says, before pressing a kiss below Steve’s ear, loud and wet. Steve’s toes curl, his fingers bunching up Bucky’s shirt at the shoulder. The moment seems to stretch, an hour of Bucky’s breath on his ear before he leans back, nosing slightly at his jaw before pulling away fully and releasing Steve. The crowd has lost interest in them, and they stand by themselves in a sea of dancing people, grinning at each other. If they’re both more breathless than they should be, and if Steve can still feel the damp patch of skin tingling, well. Neither of them mention it.
They don’t get home too late, because although they offer to walk Anna home - well, Bucky does - she declines with a laugh and a knowing look.
“You’re not coming within fifty yards of my apartment, Bucky Barnes,” she says, linking arms with her roommate and tossing them a flirty little wave as they sway off in the opposite direction. Bucky snorts and offers his arm to Steve, who socks him in the shoulder good-naturedly and starts walking.
Bucky is rowdy when they get in, trying too hard to be quiet and making more noise in the process, just the wrong side of tipsy for good coordination. Steve isn’t much better off, but at least he’s smart enough to put the wireless on low to hide the racket they’re making. Bucky has already stripped off his jacket and tie but he jumps up again when a waltz starts playing, and he grabs Steve around the middle.
“C’mon, Stevie,” he urges in Steve’s ear, hot whiskey breath ruffling his hair. “Never got a slow dance before we left. Ain’t a proper night if you don’t finish it with a smooch on the dancefloor.”
“Well this ain’t a dancefloor,” Steve huffs, trying to buck him off, “and I ain’t a girl.”
Bucky laughs softly, “I know that, don’t mean I can’t dance with you.”
Steve tries to struggle away, but it’s more for form’s sake, and when he turns and Bucky catches his wrists in a firm grip he lets himself be pulled into place. “Just one dance,” he mutters, scowling. “But I ain’t kissing you.”
“Course not,” Bucky murmurs, pressing in close and tucking his face down next to Steve’s. Steve sighs, and lets himself be turned gently around the meagre space between the couch and the kitchen table. It’s stupid how much easier it is to dance with Bucky than a dame, but it was Bucky who taught him to dance years ago and he’s never quite got the hang of leading. When they were scrawny teenagers with a curfew and a lot less sense, Bucky would show Steve the same steps over and over, encouraging him when he fumbled, and getting Steve to stand up on his feet when he was so frustrated he wanted to quit. ”Like this,” he would say, slowing it down so Steve could remember.
“Why can’t dames be this easy to dance with?” Steve grumbles, speaking aloud without really meaning to.
Bucky laughs softly, and Steve can hear it in his chest. “Maybe ‘cause you’re expecting them to take the lead.”
Steve snorts. “Would that be so bad?”
Bucky tightens his arm around Steve’s waist, his fingers slipping under the waistband of his pants. “Hey,” Steve warns, smiling. “Don’t get fresh, mister.”
“What’s that, pussycat?” Bucky murmurs, turning his mouth to Steve’s temple. “You don’t like dancing with me?” He ducks his head to mouth at the soft, sensitive spot below Steve’s ear again, the same place he kissed earlier but this time it’s gentle and intimate, and Steve shudders.
“Bucky,” he mutters, his voice shedding its levity. “We oughta get to bed.”
“Just - hang on,” Bucky whispers, turning his head, bringing their joined hands in to tip Steve’s face up to his.
You get your smooch after all, Steve thinks dazedly, as Bucky presses a sweet kiss on his mouth. He presses his palm firmer on Steve’s back, daring him to pull away if this isn’t what he wants. Steve isn’t sure. He knows this is dumb, he knows it’s getting out of control but he likes the feeling of his bottom lip between Bucky’s teeth.
A loud banging on the ceiling alarms them both and they spring apart, eyes wide and shocked. Then they catch sight of each other and they both smirk, laughter threatening to escape.
“Goodnight, sweetheart,” Bucky whispers, and they’re both gone, giggling like idiots until the banging comes again, and they switch off the wireless and crawl into bed.
Steve wakes up early, barely light outside, and he thinks about just rolling over and going right back to sleep, only his bladder has other ideas. He climbs out of bed, careful not to disturb Bucky - not that anything short of an avalanche could - and grabs the pisspot out from under the bed. He doesn’t much wanna get up, but he doesn’t mind the thought of hitting the bathroom while it’s still clean and quiet, so he tiptoes along the hall to empty his bladder and the pot. The building is eerily quiet, but only compared to the usual din that fills the halls, and the city is already waking up outside despite the early hour.
He washes his hands and face and brushes his teeth quickly, before scampering back along the hallways and crawling gratefully back between the warm sheets. Bucky huffs at him, half asleep, and puts his arm out to wrap around Steve’s belly.
“Yer cold,” he murmurs. Steve pushes his feet under Bucky’s calves to warm, and Bucky snorts and pinches his hip gently. “Jerk.”
Sometime later Steve wakes again, still curled up warm in Bucky’s arms, but with an unmistakeable weight pressing into his ass. They’ve shared an apartment and a bed for over a year; it’s hardly the first time one of them’s woken up sporting a little wood. It happens. Normally they just laugh it off and go take care of it with either a cold shower or a hot one, but as far as he can tell Bucky is still sleeping, and Steve finds himself holding his breath. He moves a little to get comfortable, and Bucky shifts against him with a low groan, moving his thigh over Steve’s and pressing into him harder.
Steve realizes he can’t stay like that, so he lets out the breath he’s holding and turns over in Bucky’s arms to face him. Bucky’s eyes open a crack and he smiles gently, half asleep. “Mornin’ sweetheart.”
And because Bucky is warm and sleepy, and because he’d started it god dammit, Steve leans over and presses his lips against Bucky’s, soft and exploratory. Bucky doesn’t even hesitate; his hand slides up Steve’s back to pull him closer, and he leans into the kiss with a slow, lazy roll of his hips, bumping his erection against Steve’s thigh. Their mouths open together, and his tongue touches Bucky’s teeth, then his tongue. Bucky makes a quiet noise of encouragement, opening his mouth a little more to let Steve in, while his hand presses firm against Steve’s shoulder. It’s a far cry from the odd, chaste exchanges they’ve had so far, and Steve realizes it’s probably the most sensual experience he’s ever had. The thought brings him up short, and he pulls away from Bucky’s grasp, from his eager mouth. Because kissing Bucky shouldn’t feel better than putting his hand up a girl’s skirt, or shakily kissing a hard nipple through her blouse, but it does.
“Got somewhere to be?” Bucky asks, fingers falling onto the mattress in the space between them.
Steve blinks, struggling to see him clearly such scant inches away; he’s far sighted enough to need glasses really, but he gets by. “I oughta get started on the laundry.”
Bucky rolls away from him with a groan, and just like that, they’re back to normal. Although, as he climbs out of bed, Steve notices Bucky’s hand beneath the sheets, adjusting himself through his underwear. He bites back a smart remark and starts picking up their discarded clothing.
“You gonna lie in bed all day?” he asks, glancing over at Bucky. If he’s still touching himself, it’s hidden by a fold in the blankets. He rolls his head around to look at Steve, who rummages around for a shirt to pull on, feeling small and strange under Bucky’s gaze.
“Might be nice,” Bucky says off-hand. “Have my little woman bring me breakfast.”
Steve casts him a vicious scowl. “I told you to quit with that.”
Bucky pulls a face. “I’m just kiddin’ around, Stevie-”
“Well stop,” he says sharply, looking away. “And don’t call me that.”
Bucky rolls out of bed with a sigh and grabs a pair of pants out of Steve’s hands. “These are good for another day or two,” he says quietly, and bends to pull them on. Against his will, Steve finds his eyes dropping to Bucky’s groin, but it doesn’t seem like he’s still hard, and he forces himself to look somewhere else before he gets caught peeking. He feels Bucky’s eyes on his neck, and he walks off, carrying the dirty clothes into the kitchen.
“You gonna give me a hand?”
“I’m gonna take a walk,” Bucky says coldly, pulling a shirt on as he follows. “Want me to pick anything up?”
Steve sighs. “We’re outta milk. And coffee.”
Mirroring Steve’s sigh, Bucky nods and bends to put his boots on. “Fine, I’ll be back in a few hours.”
Steve watches the curve of Bucky’s back as he leans over. It feels like he should say something, but his words seize in his throat as Bucky straightens up, brushing his hair out of his eyes. He gives Steve a fake smile as he buttons up his shirt. “I’ll help you finish the laundry when I get back.”
“Sure, Buck.” He watches Bucky leave with a heavy feeling in his stomach. He’s got the idea this is gonna get worse before it gets better.
He’s proved right three days later. It’s instinctual to blame Bucky, especially given how he’s been eating Steve’s time up since Maria ditched him, but he knows it’s his own fault for getting behind on his work. He’s been trying to keep up but that cold floored him, and he knows he’s let himself get distracted.
It’s not a surprise that the weekly he draws for drops him, but it’s a disappointment all the same. They treated him like crap, sure, but they paid well and always on time, providing his sketches were punctual. He doesn’t have to break the news to Bucky; as soon as he steps in the door and sees Steve’s expression, the ripped up drawings on the floor, he gets it.
“You look like a man who needs a drink,” he says, his voice gentle, but it’s clear he won’t be brooking any refusal.
And maybe Steve can’t afford a night on the tiles, and maybe it’s the worst idea ever given that they still haven’t talked about - whatever it is that’s happening between them, but right now he wants to be out of his own head for a while. So he gets off the sofa and gives Bucky a curt nod. “Sounds good to me,” he says, and feels his chest loosen slightly at Bucky’s pleased expression. “I’ll put some pants on.”
“My, so formal today,” Bucky says. It’s a little too much, but it didn’t used to be, so Steve forces a laugh and scurries away to the bedroom to pull on a clean shirt and pants.
Bucky does right by him, taking him out in style and ensuring he has enough to drink to take him well into merry and beyond, well into a place where he can forget about his shitty luck for a couple of hours. They stumble all over as they leave the bar, arms around each other and laughing over nothing. The day’s disappointments seem far away now, and he feels light and warm, like everything is possible.
Bucky’s telling an awful joke, one he’s heard before, and he looks at Steve out of the corner of his eye, waiting for the inevitable laughter. Their sense of humor isn’t quite the same: Steve’s a little dry, Bucky’s a little dirty, but it overlaps in enough places, and long years of practise have taught them to read each other like newsprint. Bucky smiles as well when Steve laughs at his joke, sly and secretive, head bent so low that his hair brushes Steve’s forehead.
It’s been snowing since they reached the bar, but it’s not falling thick yet and the ground is wet where it hasn’t settled. Steve’s shoes are worn smooth on the soles, and he slips more than once, grabbing at Bucky’s jacket for balance. Bucky laughs and keeps him steady with an arm around his waist.
“Jesus, you ain’t that drunk,” Bucky says, molasses thick, and it makes Steve’s stomach twist, forcing up a giggle that builds until he’s laughing hard, breathless in the cold air. Bucky ends up holding up most of his weight, and he swears softly before pushing them into an alley. Steve’s useless now, loose with booze and laughter, and Bucky presses him against a wall so they won’t both tumble to the ground. Steve clings to the front of his shirt, twisting his fingers tighter when his feet slide from under him. The movement brings them even closer. Steve can feel Bucky’s warm breath on his face. The falling snow muffles the sound, turning the traffic noise to soft radio static. There’s not many people out on a night like this anyway, and it almost feels like there’s nobody else for a hundred miles.
“What’s so funny, asshole?” Bucky murmurs, face close and soft.
“You, you dick,” He manages to say in between bouts of laughter. “Your face is hilarious.”
“Such eloquence, Steve.”
They quiet down after a moment, but they stay where they are, standing amongst old newspapers and dirty snow. Steve can hear rats scuttling nearby, but the air smells clean for probably the first time since Spring, crisp and cold enough to make his nose redden.
“You must be freezing,” Bucky whispers, moving closer to shield him from the cold. His eyes drag across Steve’s face like they’re searching for something. “Don’t want you to get sick again.” He lifts a hand to follow the same path, brushing over Steve’s forehead in a move he’s more than used to, looking for a fever, and then sliding down in an entirely new move to cup the side of his jaw. His thumb touches the corner of Steve’s mouth, the same place he kissed him the other night when he was drunk, when he started all of this.
Steve takes a shallow breath. “I’m not,” he says quietly. “I’m not cold.” Because he really isn’t: he feels like he’s burning up, with Bucky’s thighs brushing his, the solid warmth of Bucky’s chest behind his shirt.
He looks up, blinking snowflakes out of his eyes, and meets Bucky’s gaze. Away from the streetlights, his head tilted down, Bucky eyes are dark and shadowy, but even if he can’t quite see them clearly, Steve can see the way they’re fixed right on him. He finds he can’t remember how to swallow. He takes another quick, shallow breath and licks his bottom lip nervously.
“Bucky,” he whispers, surprised to find that his mouth still works, that his tongue isn’t yet too sluggish to form words. “I forgot how to swallow.”
The urgency in his voice makes Bucky’s eyes widen, but then he laughs softly and leans in close, his hand firm on Steve’s jaw to tilt his chin up. Bucky holds his gaze for a moment, his eyes big and soft, before he pushes his mouth hard against Steve’s. He wonders if Bucky was right after all because he does feel feverish, penned in by broad shoulders and strong arms. Bucky tips his head to get a better angle, fingers scrabbling at Steve’s neck and chest as if he wants to climb inside.
With a soft noise, Steve opens his mouth and kisses back, a part of him wondering what this is, while the rest of him ignores it in favor of dragging Bucky closer. He may not be feeling the cold but his fingers are numb, and he pushes them inside Bucky’s coat, burrowing into his body and finding a thrill in the way Bucky crowds him up against the solid brickwork. He moans gently as Bucky’s tongue brushes against his, sure and sly as he always is. It’s maddening; the furnace of Bucky’s mouth and the snow melting on their heads, the sharp contrast of the brick dragging against his back and Bucky’s hot skin warming his fingers through the threadbare shirt.
A shuffle of feet, and that’s Bucky’s thigh in between his, dragging a gasp out of Steve’s mouth.
“Yeah, sweetheart,” Bucky says, dreamy and low, reaching up with his callused fingertips to brush the damp hair out of Steve’s eyes, before Steve pulls him closer again, mouth growing more sure. His head is swimming as he drags his hands down Bucky’s chest, getting a shiver out of him. And then Bucky squeezes his hip and mutters, “Stevie,” against his mouth, soft and raw, and it’s like waking up. A sudden panic bubbles up Steve’s throat because, Jesus Christ, what are they doing, out in the open and about to ruin everything.
Steve shoves him away, needing some space to think, to breathe, and Bucky is so distracted that he stumbles back, all wide eyes and open red mouth.
They stare at each other for a moment. “I might be cold after all,” Steve says, fast and slurred, before turning to walk out of the alley, hands clutching at his coat to hide any evidence of what just happened.
“What?” Bucky says, still rooted in place. “Wait, Steve!” He chases after, catching up far too soon. The snow has started to settle at last, and it crunches under their feet, already gray from the dirt on the sidewalk. Steve is panting, blowing hot air in little clouds, and he hopes Bucky will think it’s just him trying to get warm.
Glancing over his shoulder, he sees that Bucky looks like he might want to stop him, so Steve throws a smile his way, urges him on with a flick of his head. “Come on, you don’t wanna pass out drunk in this weather, Buck,” he says, hoping his voice is back to normal. It’s not quite so, but Bucky just frowns and falls into step with him. He’s flushed from the kissing, and his expression is a mix of confusion and hopefulness. Steve takes in his damp hair curling over his forehead, the snow settling on his shoulders, the part of his full lips, and his stomach twists again because all he can think of is how he wants more. He walks faster.
That night, he lies as far away from Bucky as the small bed allows, stiff and uncomfortable in the corner as Bucky shifts restlessly. The silence is thick as they both pretend to sleep for hours, the lack of sound overwhelming with the snow making a blanket of quiet outside the window. Steve has two shirts on and his long underwear, and their coats are piled on top of the blankets, but it’s still cold and he can’t help shivering. Normally he’d curl in close to Bucky, or Bucky would notice anyway and pull him in to cuddle despite his protests. But even though Steve is almost certain that Bucky isn’t sleeping either, can tell by the way he can’t get comfortable, the rhythm of his breathing, neither of them moves to touch each other. Eventually Steve pulls Bucky’s coat over his head to keep out the worst of the chill, and falls asleep.
The next morning they wake pressed together as usual, breathing in sync. Bucky’s hand is splayed on Steve’s chest, mouth pressed against his neck, and as Steve shivers in a way that’s nothing to do with the cold, he finally admits to himself just how much trouble they’re in.
Steve pushes himself up out of the bed, ignoring Bucky’s murmured complaints, although the soft sleepy noises make him want to stay right where he is and never move. He pulls on his coat and creeps along the hallway to the bathroom. It turns out some idiot left the window open overnight, so the room is frigid and there’s snow in the bathtub. Steve slams the window shut with a scowl and sits himself down on the crapper so he can think. He’s never felt like he didn’t know what to say to Bucky, not like this. Something’s gone wrong between them and for once he hasn’t the slightest idea how to make it right.
He sits there for a long time, until his feet go numb and someone starts hammering on the door. “Just a second!” he yells, standing up stiffly. He looks at himself in the cracked, dirty mirror. His hair is messy from sleep, his eyes red from not enough of it. He turns on the cold water, and the pipes groan and sputter before a burst of freezing water sprays out. He ducks his head and takes a long swallow of it, wincing when the cold makes his teeth ache. A fist hammers on the door again, and he scowls and straightens up. “I said I’m comin’!”
Steve shuts off the water and runs his wet hands over his face and through his hair, then dries them on his coat. He unlocks the door, and opens it to find Bucky standing on the other side.
“Buck-” is as far as he gets before Bucky shoves him back inside and slams the door behind them. “Hey, watch it!”
“Now you tell me what’s goin’ on, Rogers,” Bucky hisses, backing him up against the basin and tipping him backwards until his shoulders hit the mirror. Steve winces at the unnatural angle, his back forced into an uncomfortable curve, nowhere to look but up into Bucky’s furious expression. “You tell me, because I’m sick of you creepin’ around me like something’s gonna happen if you so much as look at me wrong.”
“How should I know?” Steve snaps, without thinking. “ Why don’t you tell me? You started it.”
Bucky looks startled. “I did not.”
“You little shit.”
Bucky gets his fists into Steve’s coat, holding him in place. His whole body screams threat and that’s just fine by Steve: threat he can deal with, threat he’s used to. “Gonna hit me, Bucky?” he snarls, glaring up at him. “That make you feel better?” He sticks out his jaw, grits his teeth, the way Bucky always taught him to be ready for a fight. If you’re too dumb to run away, at least go in swinging.
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” Bucky whispers with a curl of his lip. “This ain’t a situation you can fight your way out of, Steve.”
Bucky shakes his head, eyes falling shut for a few seconds. “No good, Stevie.” He opens them again, looks right at Steve, his gaze so crisp in the cold morning light. “We gotta sort this one out right.”
“Bucky-” Steve mutters, his voice cracking. And Steve can see it, he can see the moment Bucky gives in, to whatever this is. His face softens and his hands loosen their grip; his eyes fall halfway closed and he looks so beautiful that Steve can’t even breathe. But there’s no way, not a chance he’s letting Bucky stumble them into this again.
“Get off me,” Steve says, too loud. They’ve been making a racket, someone will have heard even if they don’t come right away. Steve flicks his eyes over to the door; Bucky never locked it when he came in. He looks back, and Bucky's eyes are cold and full of hurt that he'd hide from anyone else. "Not here," Steve says more quietly, nodding at the door. Bucky follows his gaze and his expression crumples sadly.
"Fine," he says, stepping away. He wrenches open the door and strides out into the hallway, not bothering to see if Steve is behind him as he walks back to their apartment.
Steve makes sure he does lock the door behind them this time, and stays there pressed against it while Bucky paces around the room in his underwear and a old, torn t-shirt, restless as a caged wolf. If he thinks about it hard enough, Steve can still feel what it was like to kiss him the night before. He wishes he could go back to before this started, but when he tries to think when that would be, he’s not even sure. Steve could tell himself it started the day Bucky broke up with Maria and kissed him by accident, but he knows it’s a lie. And he always promised his Ma he’d tell the truth, no matter how much it might hurt.
“What’re we doin’, Bucky?”
“You’re being a stubborn jerk,” Bucky spits, and Steve realizes for the first time that Bucky isn’t pacing because he’s nervous or worried, oh no. He’s goddamn furious. “As usual.”
Steve narrows his eyes. “I’m the stubborn one?”
“You’re damn right you are!”
That does it for Steve, and he pushes himself off from the door with a fire lit in his belly, setting his jaw again ready for a fight. “The hell is your problem?” he hisses, advancing on Bucky, who stops his pacing and stands his ground in the middle of the room. “I’m not Maria, alright? I’m not just some cheap stand-in for when there’s no pussy around.”
Bucky eyes go wide, and it’d be funny if he weren’t so mad. “If your ma heard you talk about a lady that way, she’d turn in her grave,” he says in a reproachful voice, which is a cheap shot to take, and Bucky knows it.
Steve takes a swing for him, and Bucky doesn’t even flinch. He catches Steve’s wrist right out of the air and shoves him back against the nearest wall, pinning his arm up over his head. “Lemme go!” Steve shouts, trying to lash out with his knees and elbows, but Bucky grabs his other arm and pins that in place too. “Goddamn you, Bucky,” he curses, struggling hard and getting himself warm and out of breath. “Let me go.”
“Quiet!” Bucky says, glaring down at him. “Now, you listen to me, you little punk. We kissed, and you can’t change that. It’s done.” Steve feels his cheeks go red, and he tells himself it’s just the exertion of fighting back, and he puts another surge into trying to escape. Bucky slams him back against the wall. “I said listen! Now, either we’re gonna shake hands and forget about it, or we’re gonna stop swiping at each other and try it for real. Either way, this horseshit stops right now.”
Steve glares at Bucky, but he’s right, and Steve is sick of fighting too. He just wants things to be easy between them again. With a sigh, he makes himself relax, stop fighting, and he feels Bucky’s grip loosen on his wrists. “I know,” he murmurs, lowering his head. Truth is, he’s ashamed of himself; of the way he’s tried to ignore this, even as he tried to take it for himself, of the way he’s let it twist him up so much he’d try to knock out his best friend (not that he’d ever manage).
“So, you wanna shake hands then?” he asks in a trembling voice. “Because I - I don’t know what you want from this.”
Bucky clears his throat as he slides his hands down Steve’s arms, moving down to skim his skinny ribs, making him gasp in surprise even though he can barely feel it through all his layers.
“Think you know what I want, sweetheart,” he mutters in a rough, quiet voice.
“I don’t wanna be your girl,” Steve says, his voice small but firm. “If-” He stops, takes a deep breath, shoves his hands in his coat pockets. “If we’re gonna - whatever, I ain’t your little woman. Not just here to cook dinner and wait around for you to get home.”
“You’re suddenly gonna stop just ‘cause we made out a little?”
Steve shakes his head. “No, but that ain’t why I do it.”
With a sudden burst of laughter that startles Steve, Bucky reaches up to cup his cheek, rough fingertips shaping his jaw. “You’re one hell of a guy,” he says softly. The look in his eyes leaves no doubt where he wants to take this, but he gets this shy look as he rubs his thumb over Steve’s bottom lip, and it’s Steve who starts it this time. He gets up on tiptoe, putting his arm around Bucky’s neck to drag him close. They hesitate, near enough to trade hot breath, too near for Steve to see a damn thing other than the dark blur of Bucky’s eyes. He twists his fingers in Bucky’s t-shirt and kisses him.
Bucky smiles, the jerk, and Steve smiles too and it’s almost impossible to keep kissing when they’re grinning so wide but they keep going anyway, nipping at each other’s mouths and pushing their fingers into each other’s hair until they’re both breathing heavy and kissing with more fervor. Steve breaks off to whisper Bucky’s name, to ask if he’s doing it right, and Bucky takes the chance to mouth over Steve’s neck, pulling the collar of his shirt aside to kiss along his collarbone. Steve moans softly and Bucky turns it into a bite, his teeth scraping insistently at the pale skin of Steve’s shoulder.
“Dunno what you mean about doin’ it right,” Bucky murmurs, hand pressing tight on Steve’s hip. “You kiss like an angel, Stevie. Like a good little boy right out of Sunday school-”
“Shut up, Bucky,” Steve hisses, flushing pink. “That ain’t funny.” And moreover it’s not true, and he’ll prove it. He struggles again, pushing his hips against Bucky’s thigh. With a chuckle and a little pull of his teeth on Steve’s earlobe, he goes, giving Steve space to wriggle free. Bucky half turns, resting his shoulder against the wall with his eyes on Steve. He licks his lips slowly, and Steve drops a noise like a crying puppy, before he throws himself against Bucky and kisses him roughly. It’s not like he’s got the weight to pin him there, but Bucky’s not going anywhere. He catches at Steve’s elbows to steady him while they tear at each other’s mouths again with eager lips and teeth, then pushes the coat off Steve’s shoulders and lets it fall onto the floor, before sliding his arms around to hold him tight. Steve whimpers when Bucky’s hands push up under his layers of shirts, spreading over the meagre span of his back, almost big enough to hold all of him.
The cold air on his back makes him shiver, but Bucky is hot against him, warm fingers digging into his ribs, all the spots he’s usually ticklish but that right now are just making him squirm against Bucky like there’s a current under his skin. Bucky pulls him closer, tilting his hips forward so that Steve can feel that he’s hard. His mouth opens in surprise, and Bucky leaves off kissing him for a moment so he can mutter in Steve’s ear, “This is what you do to me, Stevie, make me so hot.” He nips at the skin under his ear. “I get you hot like this too? Your prick screaming out for me to touch it?”
“Bucky,” Steve murmurs breathlessly, “shit, I can’t think right-”
“Good,” Bucky says, sliding his hands down to cup Steve’s skinny ass. “You think too much as it is, gets us in all kinds of trouble.”
Without warning, Bucky hitches him up in the air by his ass, big shoulders rolling against Steve’s chest and upper arms. Steve yelps and instinctively wraps his legs around Bucky’s waist, grabbing at his t-shirt for balance when Bucky adjusts his grip. “Buck,” he whispers urgently, “I don’t know if I like this-”
“Shh,” Bucky hushes him, before backing him against the wall again, pressing himself full against Steve, the hardness of him pushing up against Steve’s ass through their underwear. “That better?”
Steve gasps for breath, and Bucky looks concerned for a minute before he realizes it’s not asthma that’s making him out of breath. “Bucky,” Steve whines, dragging his fingers through Bucky’s hair.
“This feel good?” Bucky whispers, leaning in close and dragging his tongue up the side of Steve’s neck. “Can feel you getting hard, can’t believe you’re doing that just for me-”
The wall is uncomfortable against his back, his shoulders, but he just pushes back hard, arching his spine and surging against Bucky with a moan, digging his erection into Bucky’s stomach and his bare heels into his ass. “Kiss me again,” he says, voice catching. “Buck, please-”
Bucky obliges him, using his hips to support Steve so he can run his fingers up under his shirt again. He doesn’t kiss like a girl, even if Steve’s only kissed two to know, both gentle and patient, waiting for him to take the lead as if he knew how. Bucky’s more eager, more forgiving, and their kisses are mixed with laughter and urgent groans and the occasional curse word. He starts rocking his hips, his erection bumping up against Steve’s ass, making his stomach twist with anxiety and want.
“Jesus,” he moans, tipping his head back to the wall with a soft thud. “You know what you’re askin’ there, Buck?”
“Not after anythin’ you don’t want,” Bucky murmurs. He pushes one hand between their bodies as he leans in and fastens his mouth over Steve’s adam’s apple and sucks on it. It feels good, and Steve chokes out a moan when Bucky’s fingers push inside his underwear and brush over his dick. “But I wanna do this, if you’ll let me. Wanna bring you off, make you feel so sweet-”
“I want that,” Steve whispers, pushing his mouth to Bucky’s and grabbing at his arms. “Wanna make you feel good too, Buck - fuck, let’s go to bed already-”
Bucky laughs and gets his arms under Steve’s ass again so he can haul him into the bedroom. He kicks the blankets aside with his foot, then lowers Steve down slowly, following him down into the cold sheets and pulling them over their bodies. “You warm enough?” he whispers, nuzzling his cheek against Steve’s.
Steve nods and turns his head for a kiss. “Get the feeling I will be soon,” he murmurs, and rolls his hips up against Bucky’s. His mouth already feels raw from kissing, from the scrape of Bucky’s stubble on his jaw, and he hopes to god he won’t come out of this with a rash on his face for anyone to see. Bucky is kneeling between his thighs, shoving at his shirt to get his palms flat on Steve’s stomach. “How d’you want me to touch you?”
Bucky makes a curious noise, considering the question, then he shuffles down and rubs his face against Steve’s soft belly, open-mouthed so his lips drag against the skin. Steve shudders and reaches for Bucky’s head, pulling at his dirty hair. “You smell good,” Bucky murmurs, stroking one hand over Steve’s chest, hesitating at the hard little nub of his left nipple.
“I stink,” Steve scoffs, nudging him with his foot. “We both do.”
“Nuh uh. Like the way you smell, ‘s why I always wake up pitchin’ a tent.”
Steve blushes and gives a shove at Bucky’s shoulder. “You’re just sayin’ that.” Ignoring him, Bucky shimmies down further and drags his tongue over Steve’s underwear, pressing at his dick underneath. Steve moans and his hands seize at the sheets on either side of his hip. “Bucky-”
“Smell so good,” Bucky reiterates in a firm voice, his voice bleeding hot through the thin cotton of Steve’s underwear. “Bet you taste even better.”
“Don’t fuckin’ tease me, Buck,” Steve hisses, feeling light-headed and stupid.
Bucky shakes his head, stroking his ribs with soothing motions. “Not teasing.”
Steve props himself up on his elbows to look, but Bucky has his eyes shut, and he leans down to nuzzle at Steve’s dick again with a soft, reverent look on his face. It takes all of Steve’s willpower not to empty his load right then and there, overwhelmed by the soft pressure, by the shape of Bucky’s eyebrows drawn together, looking faintly surprised. In one smooth movement, he tugs Steve’s underwear down so his dick pops free, then he runs his tongue along it. Steve feels him shake and he frowns when he realizes Bucky is laughing gently.
“What?” he says, feeling self-conscious.
“It’s bigger than I remember,” Bucky says, grinning up at him.
Steve scowls at him. “Good thing you’ve got such a big mouth.”
Bucky’s eyes widen, and he laughs harder. “That’s right,” he says, moving his hands around Steve’s hips and holding him down. He expects Bucky to keep talking, toss out more smart remarks, but instead he opens his mouth and takes Steve’s dick onto his tongue.
“Oh shit,” Steve moans, hips straining to move against Bucky’s grasp. “Shit, shit, Bucky-”
Bucky doesn’t do very much to him, just closes his mouth around Steve’s dick and takes it down into his throat. Then he closes his eyes and sucks gently, and Steve has to push him away. “No, no, stop,” he chokes out, “I won’t last, please.”
Unhurried, Bucky pulls off slowly, then he flicks his eyes up to Steve’s face and sucks him down again, harder this time. Steve whimpers, and kicks him hard in the ribs, and Bucky slides off with a gasp of laughter. “You shit,” he says, clutching at his side, but he grins all the same.
“I nearly shot right in your mouth!” Steve hisses, eyes wide.
Bucky shrugs. “Don’t think I’da minded much.”
“Don’t be dumb,” Steve mutters grumpily, ignoring the sweeping sensation in his belly of being up high, and grabs for him. “Get up here.”
He rolls his eyes, but apparently Bucky is content enough with this to tolerate Steve’s temper, and he moves without complaint. Nudging Steve to one side, Bucky rolls onto his back beside Steve, then pulls him on top, a hand on his shoulder and the other on his thigh. Steve makes a strangled noise of frustration and arousal, but he gives in to Bucky pulling him around because it gets him in Bucky’s lap, with their pricks rubbing together through his underwear. “Take it off,” Steve mutters, breathless and urgent now. “I gotta feel you.”
It takes even more shoving and wrestling between them, but thirty seconds later Bucky is naked and Steve is crouched over him, still wearing his loose shirts because it’s still freezing, but there’s nothing else between them but air. Even that won’t do. “Come on now, sweetheart,” Bucky says, and there’s a smile but it’s sweet and gentle and there’s no teasing in his voice, just like he promised. “Come on and let me see you get all fired up.”
“You talk too much.”
Bucky smirks at him. “You like my big mouth, remember?”
Steve kisses it, whether to shut him up or to assure him that yes, he does, he’s not even sure anymore. It works, at least; Bucky hauls him close with firm hands, more sure now of where they’re going as they roam over Steve’s back, his naked thighs, his ass. Bucky runs the tips of his fingers down his spine while Steve sucks the tip of his tongue curiously, then he trails them down further to the small curve of Steve’s ass, the spread of his cheeks that leads down-
“Sure interested in that,” Steve murmurs, giving him a reproachful look. Bucky smiles guiltily, and moves his hand over to knead at Steve’s ass firmly, pushing him down so that he can’t help but grind his dick against Bucky’s.
“Just wanna watch your pretty mouth when you’re sighin’ my name,” he says, in a filthy voice that has Steve torn between a laugh and a scowl.
“Told you to quit with that pretty business,” he mutters, dropping his head and focusing on getting the balance of his weight right. He’s seen people fuck in his life, he knows this is how he could do it; on top, bearing down, thrusting against the person underneath him. He gives it a try, grinding against Bucky so that he moans loud and grabs at Steve’s hips.
“Ohhh, that feels good, keep going.”
Steve licks his lips and starts to rock against him, shifting so he catches Bucky’s dick in the hollow of his stomach, and then rolling his hips against it. “Like that?”
“Just like that,” Bucky murmurs encouragingly, reaching up to touch his face, trace his fingers over Steve’s mouth. His hips move in time with Steve’s, his other hand coming around to clutch at the small of his back, his ass, urging him to move faster. One of his fingers slips into Steve's open mouth, and Steve presses his tongue against it, pulls it in with a slow suck like Bucky used on him a minute ago. "Ah, fuck," Bucky moans, his hips jerking up hard and toppling Steve forward onto his chest. His hand falls away, but Steve grabs his wrist and pulls it back to his face, sucking Bucky's index and middle finger into his mouth again. Bucky's voice sputters from his throat, nails digging into Steve's back as he chokes out broken pieces of Steve's name, endearments and encouragements. He shudders, and his dick spits up wet heat onto Steve's belly, and Steve can't help a shivery moan at the feel of it. He pushes his hand through it, gathering it on his fingers and reaching between them to stroke himself.
It takes him three good pulls before he loses his mind in the smell and taste and heat of Bucky and comes harder than he ever has on his own. He pushes his face into Bucky's neck, biting down on the tendons there to stifle his cry. Bucky gentles him through it with spread palms and soft words of encouragement there's a good boy that's it Stevie come on now sweetheart take a breath there we go
"Bucky?" he mutters, lifting his head a degree or two.
Bucky kisses his temple and hugs him close. "Yeah?"
"That was disgusting,” he says offhand. Bucky freezes, and Steve runs a sticky, comforting palm over his shoulder. "Wanna get into the tub and try it again?"
Bucky shoves him off with an indignant laugh. "You bastard," he huffs, rolling Steve onto his side so that they're gazing into each other's eyes across the pillow. Steve can't help but wonder if a dame will ever look at him like Bucky does. He wonders if he really cares. “So, you wanna - we gonna keep doing that?”
Steve shrugs. “Not hurtin’ nobody.”
“I dunno about that,” Bucky says, looking mournfully down at the red mark on his chest where Steve kicked him.
“You don’t count,” Steve tells him, moving his sticky fingers up to cup Bucky’s jaw. “Tell me this ain’t just a game, Buck. That it ain’t just you getting bored or desperate, and I’m okay with you doing whatever you want to me.”
Bucky groans and throws his arm over Steve to cuddle him in close. “Don’t even fuckin’ say it,” he mutters, pressing their damp foreheads together. “You and me, pal. This is what it’s all about.”
Steve smiles, placated for now, and lets himself relax under Bucky’s weight. They’ll get up and get clean up soon enough, but for now he’s happy where he is.
Two days later, Steve gets home from the market with a bag of groceries, and Bucky gets up from the couch to give him a hand.
They catch each other’s eyes as Steve hands over the bag, and they laugh and Steve pretends to turn at the same time as Bucky pretends to drop the bag and their heads turn the same way, so that they kiss, just for a moment, just by accident.