Steve inspected the notice board on the wall in the corridor. There were multiple flyers for extracurricular activities, none of which catered to his interests. There was chess club; not smart enough for that, drama club; not confident enough for that, and boxing club. Steve couldn't even begin to list the reasons he wouldn't be able to do that. He wasn't exactly the most physically fit of people.
No, Steve was short, skinny, and very sickly looking. He wore glasses and could be described as looking like a blend between hipster and nerd. Definitely not the type of person to fight others in boxing matches. They'd snap him like a twig.
Steve's thoughts were interrupted as a girl with red hair who was shorter than himself came and joined him.
"Anything interesting?" The girl asked him.
"Nothin' really," Steve replied.
"That's a shame," she turned to face him, "I'm Natasha, by the way."
"I'm Steve," he held out his hand for her to shake. She did shake it.
She smiled sweetly at him and then turned on her heel to walk away.
"Nice meeting you, Steve," she called over her shoulder.
Steve smiled to himself. He wasn't the most popular of people, so to have someone seem actually happy to talk to him felt like a blessing from some divine being living in the heavens.
He turned his attention back to the notice board and took another look at the flyer for the boxing club. It met on tuesdays during morning break (Today, Steve thought) and there were spaces for students to write their names to sign up. There were only three names. Not the most popular club, Steve thought.
He read the names: Michael Johnson, Dean Watson, and James Barnes.
Steve had never met these boys, but he recognised their names as they were in some of his classes. Michael and Dean were in his maths class, and James was in his french class.
He remembered James better than the others. He remembered that he wasn't the best at french, and he often 'forgot' to do his homework assignments. Steve figured that he just couldn't be bothered to do them rather than forgetting.
Steve also remembered him being one of the most attractive people he'd seen around.
But James was one of the popular guys. And Steve was not. Just attempting to talk to James would result in ridicule from the other popular guys. Steve settled on the decision to not attempt this. He didn't want any trouble.
His thoughts were interrupted once again, but this time by the school bell signalling that it was time for first period. For Steve this was english class. Not his favourite, but he didn't mind it.
His favourite class was art. In fact, he loved it with a passion. He spent a good majority of his spare time sketching and painting. He considered it his only talent. He sketched anything he could, from strangers he saw to the trees in the park. The drawers in his bedroom were full of sketchbooks that were packed with drawings and doodles.
He had drawn the handful friends he had several times. He had even drawn some of his teachers (his science teacher was a particularly good person to study, on account of his scarred face. He had served in the military before becoming a teacher).
He had drawn James Barnes once.
English passed by fairly slow, and was followed by maths, which passed by even slower, much to Steve's discontent. He had to deal with Michael and Dean's loud chatting that lasted more or less the entirety of the lesson, even when the teacher was talking to the class.
It was finally morning break, and, since Steve had nothing better to do with himself, he decided to check out the boxing club. It met in the gym, which meant he could sit on the bleachers and watch, hopefully without drawing any attention to himself. He also hoped that he wouldn't be the only person watching.
When he eventually got to the gym, sketchbook under his arm, he was very relieved to discover that there were a good few people sat on the bleachers. Mainly girls who wanted to get a look at the 'tough' guys. He walked to the end of the bottom row, sat, and opened up his sketchbook.
As was implied by the flyer, there were only three people taking part in the actual boxing. And the only one that seemed to be taking it seriously was James Barnes.
"Come on, guys! Are we gonna do this or what?" He shouted at the others, Michael and Dean.
They either didn't hear him, or chose to ignore him.
"Hey, Mickey!" He shouted again, "Get over here! Unless you don't think you can beat me."
A cocky smirk adorned James lips. The confidence practically dripped from him. Steve could tell that he was strong. His shirt was tight enough to reveal his defined abdominal muscles and his arms looked just as strong.
He was perfect....
... To draw, Steve forced himself to add to his thought. He didn't have a chance. After all, he was pretty sure that James was straight.
Mickey had finally stepped up to the challenge of fighting James.
"'Course I can beat ya, Barnes. Do I look like a girl to you?" Mickey said to James.
Ah, what a nice young man, Steve thought.
"Nah, but lookin' at those skinny little arms of yours, I'd say I've got the upper hand here," James replied, to what Steve assumed was his friend.
Not much time passed after the words were said before Mickey launched punch directly at James' face, which James promptly dodged.
"C'mon, man. Surely you can do better than that?" James smirked.
Another punch was launched. It missed again. This time, James retaliated. One of his fists met Mickey's nose, and, in quick succession, the other met his stomach. He fell to the floor with a groan. Dean was sat near them at this point, and he was nearly in tears from laughing at his friend being beaten.
Steve had watched the whole thing, and didn't understand how being this barbaric to one another could be entertaining. He returned to his sketching. He was drawing James, for the second time ever. It was only quite a basic sketch, with not much fine detail. But if you looked at it, you could easily tell who it was.
Mickey returned to his feet with a mighty huff after a few moments.
"What was that about you bein' able to beat me?" James asked, rather amused by his own victory.
"Yeah, whatever," Mickey replied, turning away to face Dean, who was still laughing a bit under his breath.
Something caught his eye. It was Steve. And Steve was looking in his direction, just not directly at him, so he didn't notice the angry look creeping onto Mickey's face.
"Hey, what you lookin' at?" Mickey yelled at him.
"... What?" Steve replied, completely baffled.
Mickey was stomping over towards him now. Steve grew afraid, but also oddly confident, so he closed his sketchbook and stood up to face the boy who was fast approaching him.
"I said, what are you lookin' at, fag," Mickey repeated.
"I wasn't lookin' at you if that's what you're worried about." Steve regretted his choice of words as soon as they left his mouth.
"Ooh, we got a little smart ass here."
"Maybe we do." Steve couldn't stop himself.
"Oh really? Well, let's see how smart you are after this."
And with that, Mickey raised his fist and hit Steve square in the face, immediately knocking him over and sending his sketchbook flying across the gym floor. No one had noticed this, or perhaps no one cared. Steve didn't have time to think about that right now. He got back up on his feet, only to be met by another punch. He was knocked over, again. But this still didn't deter him.
"That the best you got? I can do this all day," he retorted.
Mickey's face was now dominated by an expression of white hot rage. He raised his fist for a third time, but just as he was about to hit Steve's face again, his fist was grabbed and held still by James.
"Hey, leave him alone," James told him.
"Back off, Barnes, this ain't got nothin' to do with you," Mickey spat.
James wasn't satisfied with this, so he pulled Mickey away from Steve by his shoulder and clocked him in the jaw, causing him to howl in pain and fall over.
"Fuck off, Johnson, if you know what's good for ya'."
Steve's eyes widened in surprise. No one had ever stood up for him like that before. Well, no one had stood up for him, ever. Bullies often picked on him, he was an easy target, after all, but not a soul had ever bothered to do anything about it.
"Sorry about that, kid," James apologized.
"Don't sweat it," Steve replied, trying to seem cool about the whole situation.
James spotted the sketchbook that was sprawled out across the floor. He turned back to Steve.
"Is that yours?" He asked, as he bent over to pick it up. He held it towards Steve.
"Uh, yeah. Thanks," Steve said in appreciation, taking the sketchbook from James' hands.
James smiled that perfect, sincere smile that had long ago grabbed Steve's attention. This was the smile that Steve had yet to get the hang of sketching. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't quite get it right. He would learn. He was determined to.
"Hey, aren't you in my french class?" James asked.
"Uh, I think so." Steve knew he was.
"Cool," James smiled again, but this was a different smile, "Listen, that guy gives you any more trouble, you let me know, okay?"
"Will do," Steve smiled back.
"I'm James." Steve knew. "But people call me Bucky."
"Bucky?" James laughed, "Yeah, the benefit of a weird middle name. Full name's James Buchanan Barnes."
The school bell rang.
"See ya round, Stevie!" James called as he left the gym.
Steve was in complete and utter disbelief. He had only dreamed of being able to talk to James - no - Bucky Barnes. He had to face it, he had a crush, and a rather large one at that. But he still didn't stand a chance.
The day ended fairly quickly. Steve headed home straight away, on his own, as usual. Nobody he wanted to be associated with lived nearby him, so the walk home was a lonely one.
He got home before his mother. She hadn't finished her shift at work yet, so she wouldn't be home for another couple of hours. Steve decided that he would spend his time drawing, trying to perfect Bucky's smile. But the day had made him tired, so he was only able to get through a handful of simple sketches before he eventually fell asleep.
He didn't dream. He didn't sleep nearly long enough for that.
He was woken up by his mother's hand on his shoulder, gently shaking him to rouse him from his slumber.
"Hi, sweetie," she said in a kind, soothing voice, "you had a good day?"
"It was alright, I guess," Steve replied, half lying, half telling the truth, and attempting to cover the bruise on his cheek.
"Who's that?" She was pointing to Steve's many sketches of Bucky.
"Oh, uh, he's a... friend."
His words were ever so slightly hesitant. Part of him hoped that someday Bucky would be more than that. A hopeless dream.
"Come on, it's bedtime, my little artist."
The next day, lunch couldn't have come fast enough. Steve was ridiculously hungry as he had gotten up late, so he hadn't had time to have any breakfast.
His mother had packed his lunch for him, as he had too many allergies for it to even be worth telling the school so they could provide meals suitable for his health. It was far easier for his mother to just do it.
Steve could not see any of his friends in the cafeteria, so he found a table that was empty and sat by himself. They must be busy, he thought to himself.
People were flooding in the room one after the other. But unfortunately, two of the people that walked in were the last two that he wanted to see. Mickey and Dean. Steve tried to hide his face behind his hand and prayed to any God that would listen that they wouldn't spot him. Dean did, but luckily Mickey didn't. And Dean decided that it would be best not to say anything to his friend after seeing what Bucky had done the day before. Steve was extremely grateful. He was still nursing a bruise on his cheek, but it would have been a hell of a lot worse if Bucky hadn't intervened.
"Hey, Steve!" A voice suddenly called from behind him. He turned around and saw Natasha. A smile crept onto his face.
"Come sit over here!" She said.
Steve didn't even stop to think about the invitation. He grabbed what was left of his lunch and got up off of his seat. Natasha was not alone, she was sat with another boy that Steve did not recognise.
"Steve, this is Clint. Clint, Steve," she said, gesturing to both of the boys in her presence.
"Nice to meet you, pal," Clint said with a warm smile.
"Same to you," Steve replied.
There wasn't much talking after that, just a few tidbits of introductory conversation as they ate their lunch.
Suddenly, something caught Natasha's eye and she stood up and shouted.
"Barnes! Get over here ya big nerd!"
Steve's ears pricked up at the sound of Bucky's name.
"Romanov! How ya doin'?" Bucky shouted back as he walked over.
They hugged and Bucky sat down opposite Natasha, and beside Steve.
"Hi there, Stevie, how's your face?" He asked, genuinely concerned.
"Not too bad. Just a bit bruised," Steve replied.
A happy thumbs up and a smile served as Bucky's response.
Conversation and laughter erupted from the group with the addition of Bucky Barnes. They were loud, but Steve stayed more or less silent. He listened intently to what the others had to say. Especially to what Bucky was saying. The words flowed from his mouth in his thick Brooklyn accent and hit Steve's eardrums in the perfect way. Steve was careful to avoid staring.
"Well, we better get going. Tony wanted to show us something," Natasha said, sounding displeased.
"Alright, see ya round, Nat," Bucky called after her as she walked away, Clint following her, "Later, Clint."
This left Steve sat at the table with Bucky. Alone. And he had a question that was gnawing at his mind. He dared to ask it.
"Uh, so are you and Nat a... thing?"
"What? Oh, no. No. She's uh... she's not my type." Bucky replied hurriedly, "You got anybody?"
"Nah. Haven't found anyone," Steve lied.
There were a few moments of silence.
"Hey, you're pretty good at french, aren't you?" Bucky questioned Steve.
"I guess so," Steve replied, trying to sound humble.
"Well, I was wondering - if it's not too much trouble - if you could help me with it? I mean, I ain't the best at it, but with a bit of help I could probably do better."
"Sure, I'd be happy to. You can come by my place later if you want?"
"Yeah, that sounds awesome."
Steve waited very impatiently for the day to end. He didn't enjoy art class as much as he ought to have done, but how could he when he was that excited? Even if Bucky wasn't interested in him the same way he was in Bucky, he was still pretty sure he'd made a good friend. And that's a hard thing to come by when you were nerdy little Steve Rogers.
But the bell signalling the end of the school day finally sounded and Steve practically jumped out of his seat and bounded happily out of the door. He quickly gathered his belongings from his locker, shoving his books into his bag, and went to stand by the school gate to wait, as Bucky had instructed him to do.
He watched other people pass, on their way home, laughing and talking with their friends. He had always envied them and the fact that they had company on their homeward journey. But not anymore. Now Steve was one of them, even if it was just for one evening.
Suddenly, he felt a firm hand on each of his shoulders and a voice from behind call "boo!". To turned rapidly to face the source, half in shock. It was Bucky.
"Heya, Steve," he said cheerily.
"Hi, Bucky," Steve responded, perhaps even more cheerily.
They walked to Steve's. They walked and talked and laughed and joked and Steve felt his heart grow fonder. He wasn't sure if it was simply the fondness you feel for a close friend, or if it was the fondness you feel romantically. Either way, he liked the feeling. It made him happy.
"Well, this is my place," Steve said, gesturing toward the front door.
He lived in small-ish apartment building that was five stories high. It was suitable for Steve and his mother, as it was just the two of them living in their apartment. There were tenants in the other apartments, but Steve didn't really know them very well.
Steve led Bucky up the stairs and to the first apartment door on the left. He unlocked the door and motioned for Bucky to walk inside.
"My mom won't be home for while so we'll have the place to ourselves," Steve informed him.
"Alright, let's get our french on," Bucky replied enthusiastically.
They studied for a while, with multiple mistakes from Bucky that lead to side-splitting laughter from Steve. His eyes ended up watering heavily, but Bucky didn't stop making mistakes. Steve wasn't sure if he was doing it because he didn't know what the right thing to say was, or if he was doing it to intentionally make Steve laugh. Either way, Steve was having the most fun he had had in a long time.
"Je suis un ananas," Bucky said with a surge of overconfidence and a cheeky grin.
"You're a pineapple? Really?" Steve queried, trying to control his giggling.
"Yeah, course I am, Stevie. Isn't it obvious?"
"Nah, Buck. Hate to say, it isn't."
"Okay, let's try somethin' else," Bucky suggested, "You say somethin' in french, and I'll translate."
"Alright. Uh, il fait beau aujourd'hui?"
"Aww that's easy, the weather is nice today. Give me somethin' harder, Stevie."
"Je voudrais un morceau de gâteau s'il vous plaît."
"I would like a piece of cake please."
"You don't need teachin' anymore. You're a natural!"
"You're too kind, Stevie," Bucky stood up and took a bow. Steve laughed at this. "Hey, I'm gonna get a drink, you want anythin'?"
"No thanks, I'm okay."
Bucky showed himself to the kitchen and starting routing around in the cupboards to find a glass. He was humming a song that Steve didn't recognise.
"Je t'aime," Steve said under his breath, so quiet that he thought it was impossible for anyone to hear him.
He was wrong.
"What was that?" Bucky asked from inside the kitchen.
Steve felt his temperature rise and he was fairly sure that his cheeks had gone bright red. He hoped and prayed that Bucky didn't understand that particular phrase in french, or, even better, that he hadn't heard what exactly he said.
"Nothing," he replied hurriedly. Please leave it at that.
"You know I'm not stupid, right Steve?"
Please just don't ask.
"And I'm a lot better at french now too."
Oh, good god, no.
Bucky came back to the living room and sat back down beside Steve on the sofa.
"Stevie, you can tell me anythin'. We're good friends, right?"
"Yeah, course we are. It's just... it doesn't matter."
"Seriously, Buck. It really doesn't matter."
"Tu es mignon. Je t'aime aussi."
"C'mon, you're better at this than I am. You know what I said."
"You don't mean that."
"Oh yeah? And how would you know?"
"You just don't."
"Steve, look at me." Steve looked. "I swear I wouldn't lie to you. I mean... I know we haven't known each other properly that long, but I wouldn't lie to you. I'm pouring my heart out here, Stevie."
"I'm sorry, I just don't understand it."
Bucky's face displayed an expression of utter frustration, but he didn't look angry. He looked more disappointed. He wanted to make Steve understand. And he could only think of one way to do that.
He cupped Steve's face in his hand, careful to avoid the bruise on his cheek, and pressed his lips against Steve's. Steve's eyes widened. This was the last thing he expected to happen. He was pretty sure Bucky was straight. But... he couldn't be. He had just kissed Steve.
"Believe me now?" Bucky asked, smiling cockily.
Steve was speechless. He couldn't form a coherent response. He was in complete and utter shock.
"Steve? You okay?"
Steve still didn't respond. Well, with words anyway. He responded much in the same way as Bucky had tried to convince him.
Only this time the kiss lasted longer, and the person being kissed, kissed back. Steve adjusted his position so he was sat directly next to Bucky. He rested his hand on the side of Bucky's head and pulled him closer, deepening the kiss. Bucky followed suit and grabbed Steve's waist to pull him closer. Their lips were joined in an enthusiastic motion of pent up affection and adoration.
Steve finally accepted it as fact that Bucky was not straight. It was fairly obvious at this point. And Bucky accepted it as fact that it was okay for him to like this nerdy little kid that loved to draw nearly everything he saw.
When the kiss finally broke, it was Steve that pulled back first.
"I believe you," he said warmly.
"Thank god!" Bucky laughed, "I don't think I could have done anythin' more to convince ya."
He smiled that perfect smile that Steve had fallen in love with. And Steve smiled back with a smile that Bucky thought was just as perfect.