Steve is basically at peace with what he wants. It's pretty shitty deal all around, to be honest, but what is he going to do about any of it? The skinny arms, the asthmatic chest, the fact that he likes being turned onto his stomach and feeling Bucky's dick against his back? He remembers a night at the beginning of June when the city was unseasonably hot, and everyone in the building was either up on the roof or out on the fire escape or on the front stoop; he and Bucky picked the rooftop, because it had a chance of catching the breeze. There were kids running around, people on dining room chairs, and Steve has a bucket of beers in ice from the corner store. They work their way through that, and after midnight, they go back down to Steve's apartment. As promised, Bucky produces a bottle of rye whiskey, and they keep on drinking.
Thanks to his body weight, Steve is a lightweight, but he drinks enough to stay drunk, and Bucky pretends to work on getting drunker. The fan is on, but none of the lights are. After a while, claiming heat and the fact that this is actually his apartment and Bucky is just crashing here because his mom kicked him out again, Steve shucks off his shirt, then his undershirt.
"Keep going," Bucky says, mouth of the bottle resting against his lower lip.
Steve looks over at Bucky. Bucky looks back at him, face lit only by the streetlight across the way. It makes his eyes look huge and dark.
So Steve does keep going. When Steve wakes up each morning, does he think about his skinny wrists or the fact that he buys belts in the boys' department of clothing stores? No. When he wakes up each morning, does he think about the fact that he can get halfway hard in his pants, just from taking his clothes off in front of Bucky? Does he think about the impatient noise that Bucky makes when Steve fumbles with getting his belt buckle undone? Steve doesn't think about it in the morning when he wakes up, but right now, sitting half-naked on the bed with Bucky in a chair three feet away, it goes straight through him, and Steve knows that he is all the way hard now. Steve can hear Bucky breathe. He can hear the slosh of the bottle when Bucky tips it forward to take a drink, hear Bucky make a little noise, low and in his throat, when the burn of the whiskey hits him.
Steve pushes his pants and underwear down past his hips and kicks his them off. He back sits down on the edge of the bed, and again, he looks at Bucky.
Bucky looks at him, and Bucky makes a turning motion with his index finger.
"Other way," Bucky says.
"What do you mea -- "
"Off the bed," Bucky says. "Facing the wall."
Steve looks at Bucky. Bucky looks at Steve. Before Bucky can flinch and look away, though, Steve slides off the bed and turns his back to Bucky. Steve puts his hands on the edge of the bed, keeps his knees about shoulder-width apart, and waits. He remembers the first time. How many years ago was it? Two? Three? There had been calculation of how much they had both drunk, as well as a half-thought-when-drunk, half-remembered-from-more-sober times about what Bucky wanted out of people and the things Bucky was willing to accept in order to get what he wanted or liked.
All thinking stops, though, when Steve hears Bucky put down the bottle of whiskey. Steve can see it out of the corner of his eye. It's the only thing that Steve can see in the world, the half-empty bottle of rye whiskey gleaming in the street light, and when Bucky puts his hand on Steve's shoulder, Steve stops feeling anything in the world except Bucky. There is a pause, and Bucky takes his hand away, so that he can use both of his pants to get his pants down; Steve can hear the sound of the zipper, the rustle of the cloth. Steve's breathing hitches a little when he hears Bucky spit into his hand; when Bucky puts his hands back on Steve, it's one hand on the left shoulder, one hand on the right hip.
The right hand is damp, and Steve knows he makes a noise when Bucky's dick touches his back. Wet. A little slicked. Bucky is rubbing his dick against Steve's back. Bucky's breath is coming fast; Steve is trying to remember to breathe at all.
"Put some more spit on, and just do it," Steve says and hangs onto the frame underneath the mattress.
Bucky's left hand comes back to his shoulder in a moment, gripping Steve hard enough that Steve knows is going to leave a bruise. Steve also knows it's only the beginning of the pain: it isn't the first time and it won't be the last, but it hurts so much that Steve bites down and tastes blood in his mouth. He still pushes his knees apart as wide apart as Bucky's shoulders. Maybe wider.
Steve Rogers is basically at peace with what he wants.
Bucky wakes on his back in darkness and panics -- on his back, in the darkness, the breathing of other men above and around him. What is he supposed to think? It takes a minute before he thinks to check his left wrist to see if it has been strapped down. It has not. His right wrist is free. So are his legs. Bucky decides that he has been sleeping in skivvies because of the heat in the room. There is a fan going, and when Bucky's eyes adjust to the darkness, he sees that the fan is at the end of the room, set up in front of the window, looking out onto a courtyard.
The man on the lower bunk of the next bed over turns over in his sleep. His dog tags clink, and
Bucky can see the floodlights in the courtyard, the crack of light underneath the door coming from the hallway. He reassures himself: this is a government building near Whitehall that has been turned over for Army usage. The Howling Commandos are sleeping around him. Steve is on the bunk above him. Everybody in the unit drew slips of paper from a coffee mug for the four beds closest to the window and the fan; Steve didn't get one of them, so Bucky didn't take one of them, either.
Now, he can pick out the shapes of other bunk beds. Hear the other men. Hear the guards at their posts. Traffic, very distant. It's London on an unseasonably warm night in early June. A heat wave.
Bucky listens to the steady breathing and the guards and the traffic for a while, above, to the side, all around him, and when he doesn't fall asleep, he puts his hand down under the covers.
What does he choose to think about? He has plenty to choose from, and he still takes pride in that, but the room is hot, so Bucky goes with a memory of being cold: the rooftop of the building his mother lived in, where the roof was not actually accessible by staircase like Steve's. It could only be gotten to by going up the fire escape from the highest floor, putting your feet on the railing and digging your fingers into the brick and hauling yourself up and hoping that the old baggage who lived on the top floor didn't report you to the super. Why the fuck had they gone up there? Maybe it hadn't yet been raining at the start.
First, a detail: the memory is of being up there with Steve. Not the first time, not the last time, not even a time when he fucked Steve up the ass or convinced Steve to blow him, but one of the early times. It was a cool April evening, maybe a little after seven. Dark enough that Steve had stumbled on the steps on the way up. It made the whole goddamn escape clatter, and Steve and Bucky both froze, waiting for one of the windows to pop open and a head to pop out and start yelling, but nobody stuck their head out, and they kept on going. Bucky remembers pulling himself up on the roof, then pulling Steve up after him -- holding onto those skinny wrists and pulling and Steve rubbing his wrists afterwards and looking around.
"Still the same view," Steve says.
Bucky remembers how pale Steve's face had looked; the sun had gone down, and there wasn't a light on the roof. They hadn't exactly kissed, but Bucky put one knuckle under Steve's chin, tilted Steve's face up like he was a girl, and he had brought his mouth very close to Steve's. Still: not a kiss, just his breath on Steve's, Steve's breath on his mouth, still a little shaky from having climbed six flights of stairs and then been pulled over a brick knee wall, but when Bucky let go and stepped back, he could see the -- whatever it was on Steve's face, plus the calculation. Good enough, wasn't it? Close enough to a kiss?
How clearly did Bucky know this wasn't a friendship that Steve could walk away from? How clearly did Steve know Bucky wasn't going to walk away from getting to come, guilt free, with somebody's body besides his own?
Years later, Bucky jerks off in London, thinking how hard he got off that night. Steve had taken off his jacket and gotten down on his knees on it; the roof was gravel, and he had braced himself against the knee wall running around the outside of the building. It began to rain, a soft, fine mist that was more cloud than anything else. It clung to the skin and hands and hung on the breath, and to keep them from getting too cold or wet, Bucky put his coat over both of them.
Years later, Bucky wipes his hand on the sheets, then gets up and goes to the john. He takes a piss, washes his hands, and looks at himself in the mirror over the sink.
Second, something that comes to Bucky as he is staring at himself in the mirror:
Has he always remembered so clearly the noise that Steve made without realizing every time the head of Bucky's dick rubbed across his ass? Has Bucky always thought about the way he held Steve's shoulder in his hand, and how Steve got turned on, so he started to move, arching and bending, and how that made it harder for Bucky to do what he wanted, so he gripped Steve hard by the shoulder until Steve stopped trying to move? He has always lingered on the moment in the hallway, just outside Bucky's mom's door, when Steve turned his hands over and his left palm was scraped raw from being up against the brick wall? What about the momentary expression of regret on Steve's face when he was looking down at his hand? Bucky didn't --
Third, a memory that strikes Bucky and sends him onto his knees, vomiting into one of the shower stalls because he can't make it to the toilet:
Bucky remembers being on his back in a place where his wrists were strapped down, and his legs were not free to move. Two men are standing by the side of the table. One is the man with the terrible face; the other is a short man, sweaty, the scientist. There are other men in the room, but they don't have faces, and they are lifting bodies from other tables. Unstrapping them at the wrists and dragging them out of the room. Some of the bodies protest; some of the bodies try to fight back. One of the bodies is sobbing, and Bucky can hear him get dragged a long way down the hallway.
Then, the man with the terrible face touches Bucky's upper arm. "Against my expectations, we have succeeded," he says. "You alone had the seed of something greater in you."
"Thirsty," Bucky says, and it's true. His lips are cracked.
"Of course," the man says, and he turns, lifts his hand. One of the other men in the room brings a cup, and very carefully, almost tenderly, the man with the terrible face tips it forward until Bucky can drink. It's messy. About half of the cup ends up soaking into Bucky's shirt, but at least his throat doesn't burn. At least his mouth doesn't taste quite like blood. Does it violate the code of conduct to ask for water? Bucky remembers, in the moment, fiercely thinking that he didn't care.
He also remembers wondering, briefly, why the man doesn't sound like he has an accent anymore.
When the cup is empty, the man with the terrible face puts it on one of the nearby, newly emptied tables. Then, he turns to the shorter man while Bucky licks at his own lips, his chin, his cheeks, anything he can for another taste of water.
"Double the strength of the injections," the man with the terrible face says. "See if you can teach our success something besides basic German."
Steve Rogers is basically at peace with what he wants, but with dawn starting on the horizon and the base starting to wake, Bucky Barnes sits on the floor of the bathroom next to his vomit and tries to decide whether he can live with what he fears he has always been.