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Well before he discovered Steve's identity, Bucky moved into Steve's tent. As camp mascot, he lived catch as catch can, making an unceasing rotation between various tents, barracks, and messes.

Shortly after he first met Steve, he liberated a spare cot from Storage Room 8 and moved right in.

"You and me, buddy boy." Bucky sat cross-legged in the center of the cot. "We got a lot to learn about each other."

Steve blinked and ducked his head; Bucky laughed, a sound like rain through leaves.

"Don't be shy," he said, because he knew Steve was, knew, further, that Steve couldn't help that fact. Bucky was the brash one, the fast-talker, and as the weeks stretched on and they tangled with Sergeant Duffy, as Bucky showed Steve how to liberate spare rations and chat up the daughter of the dairyman, they became thick as thieves.

"Stick with me, and we'll go places."

Bucky was never wrong.

Steve might hem and haw, feign diffidence and reluctance, but Bucky knew what he was doing.

So when the evening came that Bucky stopped short between the tent-flaps - he'd forgotten his comb, he liked to check up on Steve, Duffy needed them to unload a transport: his explanations for the intrusion varied with the wind - and he saw Steve stripping off Captain America's jersey, not much changed at all.

*Everything* changed, strictly speaking, but nothing significant. Not their friendship, their trust, their dependency on each other, and certainly not their personalities.

Bucky became Steve's partner as well as his friend and brother.

"What'd I tell you?" he crowed after their first European mission (Benito's Black Shirts would think twice before buying arms from the Sicilians in America). Bucky bounced on his cot, so hard that it squeaked and groaned, jumping across the floor. "We're unstoppable!"

"Well," Steve said slowly, "I don't know about that..."

Bucky bounced harder and shook his head so his hair spilled over his eyes. "Maybe you don't, Steve-o, but listen to me. *I* got the score, and that headline's going to crow like an eagle about what we did tonight."

Steve smiled then. When he was tired, as he was now, his vision blurred a little at the edges and his limbs went heavy. Even the serum and regimen of Vita-Rays had not changed that. "Like an eagle, huh?"

Bucky pushed his hair off his face, then tore off his drab field shirt. "Like an eagle, that's what I said." Having tugged off his undershirt and stepped out of his uniform pants, he snapped the waistband on his undershorts for emphasis, and rolled back onto his cot, wrapping himself tight in his blanket. "Night, partner."

In the dark, Steve undressed more slowly. He left his uniform neatly folded atop his foot locker, just as the regulations demanded, and climbed into his own narrow bed.

The tent's ceiling slanted over them like the sketch of a cathedral. In these moments before sleep, with exhilaration drained out of him, leaving only lassitude and incomplete thoughts, Steve often pictured Michelangelo on his back, painting the Sistine's ceiling.

"Shame we can't celebrate," Bucky said eventually. He never could be quiet for very long; Steve smiled and made a noncommittal sound. "Get some bubbly, maybe a dame or two. Play some Basie..." His cot squeaked as Bucky sat up and continued detailing his ideal party.

"Buck?" Steve rolled onto his side when Bucky paused, finally, to suck in a breath.


"Aren't you tuckered out?"

Their cots were all but adjoining, thanks to Bucky's bouncing. In the darkness of the Lehigh night, Bucky's grin was quicksilver - fast and shining.

"Aren't you?" Bucky asked, mimicking Steve's tone as he lay down on his side.

"I am," Steve said.

"Could've fooled me," Bucky replied and grinned again.

"I *am*."

The cot screeched against the floor, that much closer. "So tell me, you big lummox, why, oh why, are you still jawing on?"

Although he flushed, Steve did not answer.

Bucky knew why - because Bucky *always* knew, because he was quicker than greased lightning, a regular William James of human behavior and motives - but he didn't tease Steve further. He ducked his head until his face was in shadow, then licked the corner of his mouth, the tip of his tongue glistening for half a moment, before he rolled onto his back, throwing his arms and legs out.

Because Steve grew up in a tenement on Henry Street, sleeping with other people in the room had not been the adjustment that it was for many new recruits. He could sleep through any amount of whistling snores and wheezy dreams, murmured conversations and even the soft, moist sounds of lovemaking.

He could not, however, ignore Bucky. The cot had ceased rocking, but the sound of Bucky's breathing quickened, sharpened, became nearly a pant. Steve swallowed air and resisted the urge to close his eyes.

Tonight, he would not feign sleep as he did most nights. Tonight, he lay very still and let the evidence of Bucky's...*ministrations* lap at his senses. The rapid breaths, the whisper of his arm beneath the rough blanket, the pressure of palm on skin, tickling and sweeping as it moved.

The last was Steve's hand, skating beneath his own blanket. For a moment, he could not hear Bucky - he froze, and Bucky's breaths deepened, and so he moved again, fingertips twisting the hairs low on his belly. He still was not, quite, comfortable in this new body of his, muscled and *strong* as it was.

Bucky's breath caught again, just as Steve's thumb circled the base of his penis. Steve stopped, but then Bucky inhaled, high and sharp, the sound of a man close to pleasure - or of one who'd just been kicked in the stomach, as Bucky had done to three Fascists in a row earlier that day, grinning all the while.

Bucky fought because he wanted to, because he *had* to; there were no serums for him, no shield. Just his smart mouth and quick feet, and Steve drifted for a moment, half-asleep, fingering his shaft, drawing out light tendrils of warmth that curved through him and gathered in his belly.

"Oh -" Bucky's cot thumped, once, and Steve, finally, turned his head.

Rather than the splayed, boneless form he expected to see, he saw Bucky curled on his side, staring intently at Steve as his right arm moved under the blanket. His eyes were bright and wide.

"Gotcha," Bucky whispered and Steve's mouth opened.

It was dark, and he was exhausted, and yet when Bucky grinned, Steve's hips seized and pushed upward, filling his hand.

"Buck," Steve said, when he had regained control of himself, and then, more severely, "James -"

Bucky smiled, lips curving up, showing his teeth, dim in the dark, and his eyes dropped, lashes shadowing his cheeks. "Almost there, partner."

Bucky's arm was moving faster now, the jut of his elbow peaking and furrowing the blanket. His lower lip caught in his teeth, and Steve could not speak. Words shredded in his throat before they reached his lips; his own strokes were speeding up, his blood beating in time with spurts of anticipatory moisture over his hand. The heat knotting in his gut flared once when Bucky's head bent back, his throat going white as bone, and then again, when Bucky looked back at him, intent and narrow-eyed.

"Buck -" Steve tried again, but his will was weakened, just enough, that when Bucky reached across the minuscule gap between their cots and brushed his knuckles down Steve's forearm, Steve rolled into the touch and shoved into his grip, twisting harder than he ever had, breath tearing out of his open mouth.

"Right here, buddy," Bucky whispered. His fingertips were sticky, sour as bleach on the infirmary's floors, as they danced over Steve's lips. "Not going anywhere, don't you worry."

Steve closed his mouth around Bucky's thumb and shoved three more times in quick succession until the heat, the pleasure, the sight and feel of Bucky beneath him, the *expectation* and need, shot from him. He muffled his gasps on the inside of Bucky's wrist, the pulse strong against his lips, and removed his hand from under the blankets.

"Did good tonight," Bucky whispered as Steve wiped his hand on the underside of the cot. "Real good."

Fascists or onanists, it did not matter what Bucky *meant*. He was right.