It doesn't take much to get Steve drunk; he occasionally goes shot for shot with Bucky, but Bucky's hard-headed and outweighs him by a good forty pounds. Which is a good thing, because on those nights, he usually has to carry Steve home and pour him into bed.
But after Mary Margaret O'Reilly tells him she'd rather kiss a frog than kiss him, Steve just wants to get polluted and forget, nothing fun about it. He gets into a fight with some palooka from Sheepshead Bay who thinks he's funny when he asks if Steve's even out of grade school yet, and goes home with a black eye and a split lip for his troubles.
"Forget Mary Margaret O'Reilly," Bucky says, pouring him a glass of water and handing him an icepack for his eye, muttering under his breath about stuck-up, lace-curtain Irish girls. "That one's never gonna kiss anybody."
"Who cares about that?" Steve says, slumping over the kitchen table. The rush of the fight's worn off and now he just feels tired and sad. Tears burn behind his eyes, but he can't let them fall, not even in front of Bucky. Not over this. "No one's ever gonna kiss me."
"Now you're talking crazy," Bucky says. "You're a great guy. Dames who've passed you by are kicking themselves now."
Usually, he lets Bucky's encouragement and his own optimistic nature cheer him up, but the whisky's made him maudlin and angry and tired. "Don't lie to me, Bucky, and don't patronize me. I know what dames like and I know it's not skinny, asthmatic guys like me."
"They're just dumb," Bucky says. "We'll find some independent college girls from the Village and--"
"Stop it, okay? Just stop it. We both know that's not true, so just quit it."
He stares down at his hands, so tangled up inside his own head that he misses it when Bucky moves closer. He puts a hand under Steve's chin and tips it up, and before Steve can even ask what he's doing, Bucky presses his mouth against his. Bucky's lips are warm and soft and Steve feels a hot flash of humiliation and something else, something worse, because if Bucky knew how much he'd dreamed about this, wanted it--well, that'd be the end of their friendship, and Steve couldn't handle that.
Bucky licks at his mouth and it stings where Steve's lip is split, and he desperately wants to open his mouth and let Bucky in, but he can't, not like this.
He shoves Bucky away with all the strength he's got, and anger must give him something extra, because Bucky stumbles back against the cabinet, confused, his eyes dark and his lips bright with Steve's blood.
"I said, don't patronize me." Steve jumps up from the table and weaves his way into his bedroom, slamming the door behind him.
In the morning, he pretends to have been too drunk to remember, and Bucky doesn't mention it again.
Bad weather and dodgy intel strand the Howling Commandos somewhere in the Alps for a few cold, snowy days, huddled together in some abandoned ski lodge.
Jones keeps trying the radio but they've been cut off for eighteen hours and Steve doesn't expect that to change, not with the way the wind's howling and the clouds look low enough to touch if he just reaches up a hand.
He doesn't feel the cold the way he used to, but the others are miserable with it, and the need to get out and do something is making them all snappish and mean.
On the second night, Dernier finds a jug of peppermint schnapps and they pass it around, not even bothering with the tin cups from their mess kits.
"Happy bloody New Year," Falsworth says, raising the jug in a toast, and they all stare at each other in surprise.
"Really?" Dugan asks. "I thought it wasn't for a couple of days yet."
"That's because you can't count," Morita says, and they all laugh.
Steve drinks along with them, enjoying the burn of the alcohol without any of the fun side effects, until, one by one, they fall asleep around the fireplace.
Besides Steve, Bucky's the last one still awake, and he gives Steve a rueful grin. "Sorry we couldn't get you back to London in time to kiss Agent Carter at midnight."
"Even you can't control the weather," Steve answers.
"Gimme some time," Bucky says. "I'll work something out." He pushes himself to his feet and crosses the few steps to where Steve is sitting. "In the meantime, this'll have to do." He leans in and presses his mouth to Steve's.
Steve opens his mouth in surprise and Bucky's tongue slips inside. He tastes of peppermint, and for a moment, Steve lets the kiss go on, feeling that same flash of hot desire he remembers from the first time Bucky did this, and a little of the old heady buzz that booze no longer gives him.
Bucky pulls back, small smile still playing around his lips and shining in his eyes. "Happy New Year, Steve." Then he curls up in his bedroll and goes to sleep.
Steve murmurs, "Happy New Year, Bucky," with his fingers pressed to his still tingling lips.
This time, Steve lets Bucky pretend he was too drunk to remember, and he forces himself to forget.
When Falsworth said it was a special sort of private club for men, Steve had known what he'd meant--he might not have a lot of hands-on experience but he's not an idiot--but he hadn't understood. He surveys the dimly lit room, which is full of men kissing and touching and dancing with each other and it feels like every single one of them is staring at him when he stops in the doorway.
Bucky gives him a wry look and says, "You gonna buy me a drink or what?"
"A drink. Contact's not here yet, so we have to, uh, blend in." Bucky's hand is warm against the small of his back as he guides Steve towards the long bar lining one wall of the room. He doesn't seem nervous, but then, Bucky never seems nervous. It's one of the things Steve's always admired about him, his ability to walk into any situation and own it completely. Steve can plan an assault or lead men into battle without hesitation, but social situations still make him feel off balance, like he's still that skinny kid inside, even if no one else (no one but Bucky) sees him that way anymore.
They take a place at the bar, and Bucky orders drinks with a wave at the bartender, and Steve tries not to stare, though he can feel the tips of his ears burning in embarrassment whenever he accidentally catches someone's eye. He's not used to being ogled so openly, and he feels a surprised pang of sympathy for Peggy and the other women in the service, because this must be what it's like for them all the time.
Bucky leans in and says, "You okay?" His breath is warm against Steve's ear and it smells like whisky.
"Yeah, yeah." Steve finishes his drink in two quick gulps and signals the bartender for another. "I just wasn't expecting--It's not what I was expecting."
"I didn't think it bothered you," Bucky says, glancing down at his drink.
"What? No, it's not that. I think it's a shame this has to be secret, that these men would be in trouble if anyone saw them here. It shouldn't be like that, Bucky. It's not right."
Bucky huffs a soft laugh. "You really are the same old Steve underneath it all, you know that?"
Steve smiles, pleased, but before he can say anything, the bartender places another drink in front of him. "From the chap in the moustache," he says, pointing towards a man at the other end of the bar.
Steve looks over and blushes when the man raises his glass in a toast.
"Now that just ain't right," Bucky mutters.
Steve turns back to him, laughing. "What's wrong, Bucky? Jealous?" He's sure there are any number of men in the place who want to buy Bucky a drink, but they're probably intimidated by how handsome he is.
Steve's startled out of his contemplation of Bucky's mouth when Bucky shifts forward off his stool and into the vee of Steve's legs.
"Yes," he says, and then he kisses Steve.
This isn't like the tentative press of lips Steve remembers from New Year's, or Brooklyn. Bucky's mouth is hot and hungry over his, demanding a response, and Steve gives it to him, no thought to the propriety of it or whether anyone's watching. He curls his hands in the soft material of Bucky's shirt and licks the taste of whisky off his tongue. Once, just once, he'd like to do this without alcohol involved, without a roomful of people watching them, but he knows that will never happen, so he takes what Bucky's willing to give, knowing it doesn't actually mean anything at all. His skin is so hot it feels like it's going to evaporate and his heart feels like it might beat its way out of his chest. He's as breathless as he used to get from running or fighting, and it's worth every gasp and palpitation to have Bucky kissing him.
Bucky pulls back and licks his lips. "That'll show 'em," he says, grinning sharply. Then something catches his eye and the grin disappears. "Scheiner is here. Let's go."
Steve rubs his lower lip with his thumb and finds standing up a little dizzying. Bucky's hand on his arm steadies him, and they walk over to the corner table where their contact is waiting, all business.
"I still think we had time to change into uniform," Steve mutters as they skulk along after the leader of the gang Fury suspects is selling guns to a local HYDRA cell.
"Did the meaning of the word stealth change while I was mothballed?" Bucky whispers back. "Because you are not anything approaching stealthy in that get-up. You're lucky I let you bring the shield."
"I thought you liked it." Steve mock-pouts at him. "And you didn't let me do anything."
Bucky puts a finger to his lips and shoves Steve back against a building in answer, the brick rough through the material of his shirt. The mark has met up with an associate and they're glancing around warily.
"You sure you ain't being followed?" the second guy says. "Those guys back there--"
Steve doesn't even have time to bite off a curse at being made, because Bucky's hands are tangled in his hair and Bucky's mouth is hot and wet over his, tongue slick and licking at the roof of his mouth. Steve doesn't curse, but he makes a low, small noise in the back of his throat that makes Bucky's hands tighten in his hair.
It's not as familiar as he'd like, but it's probably more familiar than it should be, the taste and feel of his best friend's mouth as it's pressed against his.
Bucky shoves his knee between Steve's and bites Steve's lower lip, and Steve can't help it--his hips jerk forward, desperate for friction. Bucky laughs into his mouth, and Steve might be offended by that, might be angry that Bucky thinks this is an okay thing to do as a joke, but he can also feel the hard line of Bucky's dick through his jeans, and that drives every other thought away.
"Nah, just a couple of homos looking to get their rocks off," their guy says, and he sounds like he's a long way off, or maybe it's just the blood pounding in Steve's ears drowning him out. "Come on. I got something to show you."
Bucky slides his mouth up Steve's jaw to his ear. "I'll distract them," he whispers, hot breath sending a shiver down Steve's spine. "You call Fury for backup."
"I should go in first," Steve says, or tries to say, but Bucky's already gone. Steve knows he's carrying, and also, as he likes to joke, given his cybernetic prosthesis, never unarmed, but Steve's the super-soldier, the one with the invulnerable shield, and he can't bear thinking about losing Bucky again so soon after getting him back. There's plenty left to do when he rushes into the warehouse full of thugs and terrorists, and there's something joyful singing in his blood as he and Bucky fight back to back again, just like the old days.
In the confused aftermath of the fight, Bucky slips away, and Steve knows better than to bring the kiss up with him. It was a distraction, a cover, nothing more. Times may have changed, but at heart, Bucky's still the same.
Since Bucky's been back, he usually joins Steve on his morning run around the neighborhood. Bucky laughs when he realizes Steve knows all the kids' names, and they all know Steve, by sight if not by name, and Steve smiles fondly at him when he points it out. It's one of the things Steve likes about living in Park Slope; it reminds him of the neighborhood they grew up in.
In more ways than one, sometimes.
They've missed the beginning of the fracas developing outside the schoolyard, but it looks all too familiar to Steve--there's a skinny little kid trying to gather up his books while a bigger kid taunts him with all the familiar names and slurs.
"You're a little faggot, Caputo. That's why nobody likes you."
"Hey," Steve says, putting a hand on the larger kid's shoulder. "You shouldn't talk to people like that. It's wrong and it's hurtful."
The kid shrugs him off and gives him the stink-eye. "You and your boyfriend gonna do something about it?"
There really isn't anything they can do, Steve thinks, except maybe have a word with the boy's parents or the teacher who's supposed to be on duty, and then he can't think at all, because Bucky's hauling him in for a quick kiss.
Steve pulls back before it can turn heated--the last thing he needs is for some concerned busybody to accuse them of being deviants on school property--but Bucky just shows his teeth to the kid, who looks like he's suddenly realized that maybe he's pushed the wrong guy.
"You shouldn't judge people by who they like to kiss," Bucky says. "It's stupid, and also, there's always the possibility they'll be able to kick your ass." Bucky points at the young bully. "I'll be keeping an eye on you, kid."
The kids gape at them, and Steve is already calculating how many phone calls and public relations nightmares this is going to cause, so he drags Bucky away from the schoolyard before anything else happens.
"What the hell was that?"
"Kid's twelve, Steve. Can't punch a twelve-year-old," Bucky answers reasonably. "And maybe now he'll think twice before picking on someone." He gives Steve that same vicious grin. "Why? You worried the neighbor ladies will think you've got a boyfriend?"
He doesn't know how to break it to Bucky that they already do, smiling sweetly at him and asking after his nice young man when they see him in the laundry room. "That's not what worries me," Steve says, shaking his head. "It's not that simple anymore."
"Seems simple enough to me."
"Yeah. It would." But he lets it drop, picks up the pace again, until they're running flat out, like they can outrun Steve's feelings or the complications they carry with them.
It's not until later that he remembers the particulars of the kiss, and how right it felt, for all that it was fake.
It's late when Steve gets back to his apartment. He's tired, and not the good tired from fighting or sparring; no, he's tired from sitting in meetings and debriefings and dealing with paperwork and public relations disasters over the latest round of property damage, because even though Dr. Doom caused it, somehow the papers always blame the Avengers.
He wants a beer and a burger and maybe an hour in front of the television, watching I Love Lucy reruns.
"Bucky?" he calls out when he pushes open the door to the apartment. The light in the kitchen is on, but the living room is dark.
"In here," Bucky calls back.
Steve stops dead in the doorway of Bucky's room. Bucky's sprawled on his bed in nothing but his boxers. He's got Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in one hand and a bottle of water in the other. The lamplight gleams dully on his metal arm, and his smile is breathtaking when he looks up and sees Steve.
"This is pretty good," he says, holding up the book. "I think Professor Lupin and Sirius Black are doing it in that shack of theirs."
Bucky shakes his head. "Never mind." He puts the book and the water on the night table and pats the mattress next to him. "C'mere. You look completely beat. Fury on the warpath again?"
Steve hesitates for a second, but then he sits down on the bed and starts unlacing his boots. "The usual song and dance about property damages. And expense reports. It's not like it was with the Commandos. With this bunch, I'm lucky I can get them all aimed in the right direction at the same time in the middle of a fight. I can't ride herd on their inability to fill out the appropriate paperwork in a timely fashion, too."
"Thought that was Coulson's job," Bucky says. He sits up behind Steve, puts a hand on his back, and starts rubbing gently. Steve lets himself relax into it, shoulders slumping in relief.
"Apparently, we're all supposed to make the effort."
"Fury can go fuck himself with the appropriate paperwork," Bucky says, and now he's resting his chin on Steve's shoulder and his hand has worked its way around to ruck Steve's shirt up and press warmly against his belly. Steve's muscles twitch at the touch but the rest of him freezes.
"Hmm?" Bucky's mouth is hot against Steve's neck, and his teeth are sharp against Steve's jaw.
"What the hell are you doing?"
"Something I should have done--actually did do, a few times, for all the good it did me--a long time ago." He presses little kisses along Steve's jaw and cheek. "Feel free to join in at any time." He nips Steve's earlobe and Steve sucks in a surprised, and turned on, breath. "Or tell me to stop, I guess. If it's not what you want."
Steve turns and Bucky's mouth is right there, red and slick, his breath warm and stale. "You've been drinking."
"Only water." And then Bucky's licking into his mouth, curling his tongue around Steve's in a way that makes Steve's whole body stand at attention.
"Bucky," Steve gasps.
Bucky takes it for the permission it is and slides into his lap, and Steve is confronted with a seemingly endless expanse of warm, bare Bucky-skin he desperately needs to get his hands and mouth on. He sweeps his hands over the jut of Bucky's shoulders, the skin on the right warm and supple, the metal of the left cool and mysterious. He runs his fingers along the swell of Bucky's biceps and the leanness of his forearm, over the ridged metal of his left arm, which warms under his touch.
Bucky moans into his mouth and rolls his hips; Steve drops his hands to Bucky's hips, thumbs brushing the warm skin under the waistband of his boxers, holding him still so he can push up against him. They rock into each other for a brief moment, and then Bucky pulls back just far enough to look Steve in the eye, his pupils wide and black and his lids at half-mast and his mouth swollen and red.
Even though he looks and feels like he's enjoying himself, Steve braces for the punch line, the rejection.
Instead, Bucky says, "You're wearing too many clothes." He plucks at the buttons on Steve's shirt and then, clearly frustrated, just pulls it apart, buttons scattering everywhere.
"Am I supposed to find that hot?" Steve asks. "Because that was ridiculously hot."
"You're ridiculously hot," Bucky answers, pushing the shirt off Steve's shoulders and then pulling his t-shirt up roughly and tossing it over his shoulder. His fingers fumble at Steve's fly and Steve curls his hands around them, stopping him for a second.
"Are you sure about this? We're not going a little too fast?"
"I've been waiting more than seventy years for this, pal. There's no universe where that counts as too fast."
"Seventy--Oh." Steve leans back so he can look at Bucky's face. "Really?"
"And you think you're the smart one in this relationship."
Steve laughs--he has to laugh or he might just start crying. "You mean we could've been doing this all along?"
Bucky doesn’t bother to answer that with words. He kisses Steve again, hot and sweet, hands busy again getting Steve's pants open, and then they have to separate for a second so he can shuck them off. Bucky doesn't waste any time after that, climbing into his lap and pressing him back against the pillows.
Steve can't really blame him for being impatient. They have a lot of lost time to make up for.