“Steve, you know if there was anything…” Peggy trails off, but at least she doesn’t look away, eyes meeting his even though they’re bracketed with apologetic tension. “You’re doing the best thing you can right now,” she finishes, and hands him the bundle of letters. Steve would challenge her on it, but he’s lacking his usual conviction.
Instead he smiles crookedly, glancing up at the Department of War building as he steps backwards a few paces. Its facade has the same pugnacious jut as a drill sergeant, impervious to the fervent drive in Steve’s chest to just get in, to help somehow. He looks back at Peg, standing in the doorway. Dusk is about to drop and it makes her lipstick look darker, turning her face from bold to inscrutable. “I know, Peg.” He waves the letters. “Thanks.”
For a moment she seems to hesitate, as if she’s poised to step after him. Or more likely it’s just Steve’s wishful thinking. “Goodnight, Steve.”
As much as the letters feel like they’re burning a hole in his pocket, it’s an aching reluctance rather than anticipation that makes him wander around the streets of Washington longer than he needs to. Dusk kicks over into night and the various shades of military personnel currently passing through the capital begin to trickle out around the dance halls and bars, loud and jittery, alcohol starting to burnish the sombreness of their faces into a determined kind of excitement.
Steve tells himself he’s just waiting for somewhere with enough light for him to read, pushing down the niggling part of him that says it’s privacy that he wants, but the wait is for nothing—none of the envelopes bear Bucky’s blunt handwriting. Aside from a few pieces of fan mail (smudged kiss marks pressed in red lipstick to the backs of the envelopes), they’re all addressed to the girls. There’s even one for Madam Fontaine, the chaperone built like a battleship, postmarked a month ago from New Jersey.
Steve huffs out a sigh, allowing himself one moment for the twist of disappointment— just that, nothing more—to curl in his chest as he flops back onto the narrow bed. The springs squeal alarmingly and after a moment Steve opens his eyes again to stare up at flocked wallpaper covering the ceiling. His memory calls up Bucky’s voice, teasing Steve for moping, and Steve grits his teeth against it, pushing it aside and sitting up. No point in keeping the girls waiting, after all.
The girls’ boarding house is a couple streets over, and Dolores appears the second-floor window after at least ten minutes of Steve tossing pebbles up at the glass, her hair in rollers and face strangely monochromatic without makeup. He holds up the letters and she slides the window open.
“They’re at the Quonset!” she whispers loudly, jerking her thumb in the direction of downtown, straight back where Steve had just come from. She gesticulates down at him. “Put ‘em through the door!”
Steve obligingly jams the bundle of letters through the mail slot on the front door, then steps back to sketch a rough salute to Dolores in confirmation. She smiles, tucking her robe tighter around her before reaching up to close the window again. The movement and the light silhouettes the corded muscles of her arms; Steve is never going to stop being surprised at how strong chorus girls are.
He hadn’t expected them to all be staying in on a Friday night, not after weeks going from town to podunk town, cheeks aching from their fixed smiles, dust clinging grittily to their thick makeup after every show. But the fact that Dolores—secretly-married Dolores—is staying in tells Steve just what kind of night they’re planning. It’s testament to how much he loathes the flocked wallpaper ceiling that he barely pauses before making his way back downtown.
The Quonset is heaving already, music bouncing out into the street with the along with cacophony of voices raised to speak over it as the door opens, and there are enough men in uniforms inside that Steve doesn’t feel like the odd one out for a change. There are at least as many dames in there as fellas, though, their laughter rising up above the haze of cigarette smoke that fills the dimly-lit club.
His eyes find Gert and Marcie without too much trouble, both of them with elbows propped on the bar and cigarette holders held aloft with casual elegance as a couple of soldiers behind them scramble with lights, seemingly ignored as the two girls gasbag, completely focused on each other.
Dot’s bronze hair shines out under the lights on the dance floor, bouncing as she bobs to the beat and is swung out and reeled back in by an officer with his collar flipped up in a way that makes Steve twitch. Irene makes eye contact with him from the other side of the dance floor, corner of her mouth lifting sardonically as she sips at a glass. Steve nods a greeting before her eyes turn back to where he can see a glimpse of Eva’s platinum bob against the backdrop of another khaki uniform.
“Doll!” he hears, around about the same time someone grasps his elbow from behind. He turns, leaning down automatically as Betty smacks her lips against his cheek, her hand reaching up to press against his chest briefly before sliding down, like his army-issue shirt is something far more luxurious than starched cotton. It would have made him uncomfortable a matter of months ago - same way he wouldn’t have been able to see the game behind Gert and Marcie’s apparent disregard—but Steve finds himself sharing some of the giddy excitement of being out from under the keen eyes of Madam Fontaine, even if he intends to do nothing about it.
“Betty,” he greets her, catching her hand and raising it briefly to his lips with a smile. It still feels too bold, like he’s bracing himself for a slap or incredulous laugh of rejection, but she giggles and flutters her eyelashes. He quirks his lips at her, like the way one of the photographers had taught him. “Can I buy you a drink?”
“Martini,” she shouts into his ear, before turning and shimmying through the press of people; Steve can see Alice’s gleaming gold head and bare shoulders close to the middle of the crowd, Lois standing nearby with her hand on Charles’s shoulder.
Steve mentally marks their position before turning back to the bar, signalling the barman and getting his attention gratifyingly quickly. He orders a martini for Betty and beer for himself—he knows he’s an ornery drunk, more likely to pick fights when he’s had more than a couple of beers, so he’s not had more than one glass of the stuff at a time since the serum. Besides, staying sober means he gets to keep an eye on the girls while they get to let it all hang out—while he may disagree with Madam Fontaine’s methods, in general principal he appreciates her purpose.
Betty squeals her appreciation as he hands over the cocktail, and Lois, Alice and Charles turn unrestrained grins in his direction. “No Agent Carter?” Charles asks, mouth pursing into a moue of disappointment.
Steve huffs out a laugh, relieved that there is some humour audible in it. Charles’s exaggerated affectations are always good for a distraction. “Meetings, all night,” he says shortly, as if Peg had wanted to come out but had been pulled away. As if he’d had the guts to ask her.
Charles’s expression turns sympathetic, Lois and Alice’s noises of concern almost harmonised. Betty wraps her arm around Steve’s elbow and squeezes. “Tough luck, Cap,” Charles says.
Steve takes a sip of his beer to give himself time to muster a smile. He really oughtn’t feel sorry for himself. For all that he’d felt like the ugly duckling the first time he’d walked into a dressing room packed with people who looked good for a living, he really does have a bunch of friends now. Friends who care about him, who like to have a good time, who want him to have a good time too and are generally not asses about it. The nickname they’d carried over from on stage had only smarted the first week or so, before he’d realised that.
“Make way, comin’ through,” he hears from behind him, and Dot shoulders through the raucous crowd, flushed and breathing hard from dancing. She’s holding hands with the guy with the flipped collar, pulling him along behind her, and Eva’s bringing up the rear, giggling and—Steve blinks— holding the guy’s other hand. He thinks it’s so they all stick together in the crowd, but as they reach the group of them the guy pulls them alongside him and wraps his arms around them both.
The guy is out of breath too, grin huge on his face and skin glowing a little in the low light, faint sheen from the exertion of dancing. He beams his smile around at the group of them like a spotlight. “I just love wartime parties, don’t you?”
The girls laugh in agreement, clearly tipsy. Steve smiles politely. The guy is definitely rubbing him the wrong way. The dark, perfectly styled hair, the cleft chin, the charm. The damn collar. The fact that he clearly feels pretty comfortable with being handsy with the girls, despite being a stranger to their group, but none of them are giving Steve the “muscle this jerk the hell out of here” signal.
As if he can sense Steve’s discomfort, the guy hones in on him, unhooking his right arm from Dot’s shoulder and reaching out, no subtlety at all to his glance over Steve’s comparatively plain uniform before returning to lock his eyes on Steve’s. “Captain Jack Harkness,” he says, grin turning more calculated.
Steve shifts under the scrutiny despite himself. The guy has clearly sized Steve up as his main competition and intends to do his best to embarrass him in front of the girls—Steve has a lifetime of experience with guys who think pissing on the little guy makes them more macho.
He’s never been able to not rise to the bait. “Private Rogers,” he says, taking the guy’s hand in a grip that’s stronger than it really needs to be. Instead of telegraphing the increase in machismo that Steve expects, the guy’s eyes soften, his mouth pursing. He holds onto Steve’s hand long enough that Steve has to withdraw first.
“You, uh,” Steve says, and gestures to Captain Harkness’s shoulders to give himself time to regroup. “You’re British?”
Captain Harkness looks down in his uniform as if he hasn’t seen it before, then glances back up and laughs. “I guess so,” he says, accent no less American than it was the first time.
“He’s on secondment,” Dot says, her broad Brooklyn accent reassuring Steve a little even as she leans forward to smack Steve’s shoulder, though whether it’s in camaraderie or chiding he can’t tell. “Like Agent Carter.”
“Wait, you know Peg?” Captain Harkness says, wattage on his grin going up again. He laughs again. “Then yeah, I guess you could say I’m on secondment. Like Agent Carter.”
Steve bristles at the familiarity in his tone, but before he can say anything the guy’s looking at him too closely again and saying, “Wait, Steve Rogers?” and his eyes are getting all big and shiny.
Steve’s used to hiding his fan mail from the girls, but this is something else. Especially as the fan mail is at least addressed to Captain America. As if he’s heard Steve’s thoughts—and Steve wouldn’t be surprised, given at how hot he can feel his face is—Captain Harkness says, “Private?”
Steve shrugs, feigning a lack of concern pretty damn poorly, if he has to admit it. He’s acutely aware of all the other uniforms in the club, and the fact that none of them are covered in stars and stripes. Captain is a stage name, Steve has done nothing to earn it, and he’s not delusional—there’s no way the military would give him the authority to command anyone, even to fuel their propaganda machine.
“Technically,” he says shortly.
Captain Harkness is still looking at him funny: soft, open appraisal. It’s familiar enough to make Steve’s heart hurt in a way he doesn’t want to examine, so he clears his throat and glances away to break the moment. “You meet Agent Carter at Torchwood?” he asks, changing the subject.
Captain Harkness’s eyebrows shoot up. Steve probably shouldn’t have mentioned Torchwood—he’s fairly certain Peggy only told him about it out of pity, the tip of the iceberg of secrets that occupied the parts of her life Steve is shut out of. Still, he’s got ground to make up; Peg’s clearly shared some American secrets with Harkness if he can recognise Steve out of costume. Besides, the girls are used to every soldier they meet talking practically in code around them, he’s not exactly about to lead them all merrily to SSR HQ.
“Sure,” Captain Harkness says, his expression on its way to calculating. “Their special forces division.”
Steve had thought that Torchwood was special forces. He knows when he’s in over his head. He peers down at his beer, which is little more than a third empty, closing off his escape route back to the bar. Captain Harkness's left hand has slipped down to curve around Eva’s hip, the right has returned to Dot’s side. Irene looks conflicted, though she hides it well, draining her martini glass and dragging her gaze drolly over the dance floor again. Steve feels a bittersweet, silent empathy for her. So much for a night out taking his mind off things.
“How long have you been stateside, Captain?” Charles leans in to ask, and Harkness’s attention shifts again, completely focussed yet completely at ease as he answers. Steve watches Charles’s body language open up, and Harkness mirrors it—charm not dimmed a bit and the girls still held close.
“Buy me a drink, sugar?” Steve looks down to find Lois sparkling up at him, and feels a rush of affection for her, for all of them. He gripes when the rest of them pile on with orders, but it’s only on the surface. Half of his paycheque gets sent home to the Barneses, but the other half is more than enough to buy his friends drinks every night of the week if he wanted. There’s a part of him he doesn’t like to dwell on too much, just surfacing sharply in the corners of his chest when he takes a deep breath… He just really enjoys feeling useful.
Still, even though he’s escaped the immediate discomfort of watching one far-too-familiar guy chat up all his friends, standing at the bar Steve still finds himself wondering how quickly he can beat an exit. There are waitresses floating around the club, buffeted around by the crowds and dancers as they expertly carry drinks and empty glasses, and Steve tries to scope out which one will be coming closest to him on her next pass.
“So, Steve.” Steve turns in surprise. Harkness is propped up on the bar next to him, an elegant slouch with his foot up on the step and hips canted out. Steve hadn’t even noticed him moving through the crowd, and that kinda surprises him. “I didn’t know you were based in D.C.”
Steve represses the urge to tell the guy just how little he knows. “Just passing through,” he says shortly, keeping his tone pleasant and turning his eyes back to the barman, watching him expertly pour three martinis and drop in the olives.
“I have to say, it’s an honour to finally meet you,” Harkness says, and the earnestness in it takes Steve aback, makes him soften a little despite himself as he turns back to meet the man’s eyes. “You know, Peggy’s said so much about you,” Harkness adds.
It’s the first statement more than the second that warms Steve more, Peg apologetic and unyielding in the doorway at the DoW still fresh in his memory. He shrugs. “Can’t think that there would have been much to tell,” he says wryly.
“Sure there is,” Harkness says, eyes practically sparkling as he smiles again. “Heard you were a real looker before the SSR found you. Bet they couldn’t believe their eyes; a real diamond in the rough.”
Steve’s expression gets away from him before he can control it, and he straightens up from the bar, standing up tall. “Now listen, pal—”
“Easy there, soldier,” Harkness puts his hand on Steve’s shoulder where Steve expected him to have his hands up defensively. “I don’t mean anything by it.” He gives Steve’s shoulder a quick squeeze before letting it drop away, down the clenched muscles of Steve’s arm like Betty’s hand had gone down his chest. “Not unless you want me to, of course.”
The man’s smirk is pure Bucky. Steve has to look away to get his own expression under control, and finds himself glancing over his shoulder, back through the dancers, to where the girls are chattering and laughing, lipstick brightly underscoring of their enjoyment. Steve feels like he did before he stepped on stage for the first time, even more too big for his own skin and his stomach a hard knot, too low and small in his body. Except this time there’s no script scrawled on the back of a shield for Steve to read.
He takes a deep breath and turns, finds Harkness leaning over the bar and tucking a bill into the pocket of the barman’s waistcoat.
“Keep the Manhattan for yourself,” Harkness tells the man, winking. “And make sure the ladies get their drinks too.” He angles his head in the direction of the girls and the barman doesn’t even blink, nodding obediently and shouting back a “Thank you, sir!” even as he’s pouring another drink.
Harkness picks up Steve’s beer straight out of Steve’s hand and drinks it down in one long draught, gasping as he puts the glass back down. He drags the back of his hand across his mouth, and Steve’s eyes skitter away again, but Harkness is grinning a moment later like he hadn’t noticed. Or like he had. “Come on,” he says, tilting his body toward the door in suggestion.
There’s no way Steve is going to follow him. Definitely not with how his collar’s still flipped up, definitely not with how he slips through the crowd with confident, fluid strut, definitely not as the crowd’s attention curls around him like a wake.
The night air is cold after the smoky heat of the club, and Steve jams his hands into his pockets, breath loud in his ears as the door closes behind him, abruptly buffing the sharp edges off the sounds of revelry.
“Cigarette?” Captain Harkness offers a polished silver case, smokes neatly lined up in it, little white cylinders waiting to be sacrificed.
Steve shakes his head. He likes other folks smoking just fine, and the smell of tobacco warms him with the memories it brings, but get any into his lungs and it brings back the wrong kind of memories—the burn of the asthma cigarettes, and not being able to get enough breath in to stop the panicked rasp of his constricting throat.
The sound of the match striking is sharp against the muffled hum of the club. Steve stares up at the stars, the dim street lights, the tops of the bare trees. The silence goes on long enough that it’s going to be awkward to break it, but Steve’s got no choice.
“Look,” he begins, pitching his tone carefully—a little apologetic, but not gentle enough to suggest any flexibility. “Captain Harkness, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea…”
“Uniforms,” Harkness says, and Steve’s eyes snap back to him. Harkness purses his mouth around the cigarette, sucking in a lungful as he tilts his chin up a little, looks at Steve from under lowered eyelashes. “That’s why I like wartime parties so much.” His voice comes out on a cloud of smoke, relaxed as if he and Steve are in the middle of a different conversation. “All those straight corners and neatly-pressed lines getting danced out. Like everyone finally in on the joke that they’re all wearing costumes.”
Steve suppresses the urge to reach up and make sure his cap’s on straight. When Harkness breaks eye contact it’s to turn and stroll away from the club, and Steve follows as if pulled along by a line.
Steve walks a few paces behind, deliberately not thinking of anything besides the crunch of his well-polished shoes grinding grit against the road. Harkness leads them into a more residential part of town, then directly up to a door of one of the houses—he must be billeted here, of course. No boarding houses for actual military personnel. He looks over his shoulder and beckons Steve closer once he gets a key into the lock, and Steve’s heart leaps even higher than it’s been for the last half of the walk, up into his throat.
Harkness smells like tobacco and pomade up close, and is somehow suddenly more real—Steve can see the enamel gleam of his teeth and the fine creases in the corners of his eyes as he smiles. Steve can’t stop the way his eyes keep drifting back to Harkness’s mouth. “We’ll need to keep it down,” Harkness murmurs, lips curving, smile secretive. “I got a room on the ground floor, the family sleeps up stairs.”
Steve nods wordlessly, his own mouth dry, and Harkness opens the door. He leads them through the front room without turning on the light, dodging side tables and sofas, their steps falling silent on the thick carpet. Little china figurine sentries gleam at them in the low light from their doily plinths, faintly disapproving in their blank stares. It feels more than slightly surreal. This kind of house feels like anything but home to Steve, instead it feels like he’s stepped into one of his own propaganda posters: kids who’ve never had bloody noses or bruised ribs sitting around a table in a kitchen painted in technicolor, rations laid out like a shining feast in front of them. Not a bare surface or darned elbow in sight. Steve half expects to see the bold lettering of DO YOUR PART FOR THE WAR EFFORT blaring from a wall.
The wallpaper of Harkness's room is definitely not flocked, but a tasteful, scrolling floral pattern that stops at a picture hanging rail. There are portraits of strangers on a couple of the walls, a desk with a leather blotter, a basin below a shaving mirror and towel hanging neatly beside it.
Harkness is sitting on the bed, leaning back with his hands braced behind him, watching as Steve completes his study of the room and has no choice but to look at him. When Steve finally meets his eyes, Harkness's smile is more gentle than a smirk. Steve takes his cap off, having to force himself not to twist it between his hands. “Nice place,” he says, failing at lightly.
Harkness shrugs. “It’ll do. I’m only here for another few days.”
“Back to London?” Steve leaps on the opportunity to talk about anything but the fact he’s in a stranger’s bedroom. Bucky would be laughing right now, Steve is sure. He always ribbed Steve for being so bad at talking to dames.
Steve untwists the hat, smooths it flat again.
“Cardiff,” Harkness corrects, and stands again. He’s a little shorter than Steve, but not much. Still, he has to tilt his head up to look into Steve’s eyes when he gets close enough to lay his hands flat on Steve’s chest. Steve’s sure he must be able to feel the way Steve’s heart’s about to leap out of his chest. “Easy, soldier,” Harkness murmurs again, warmer than the easy drawl of it had been in the club. “I don’t bite.”
Steve huffs out a laugh that’s far shakier than he’d like. His hands are pressed between them, against the soft-firm heat of Harkness's belly. Hesitantly, he moves them so they’re barely resting against Harkness's sides. “Unless I want you to, right?”
Harkness's smile turns lewd, back to the easy charm of the club, and Steve hadn’t realised that he’d been holding it back until them. He feels oddly grateful, and the feeling takes him somewhat by surprise. Bucky had always known that treating Steve as something fragile had riled him up like nothing else, but this—this is different.
Steve hadn’t wanted to think about it, but when he had he’d imagined cold alleys and furtive touches, the urge for which moved through Steve like a punch. Dark enough to not see the other guy’s face. Not a softly-lit room with floral wallpaper. Not someone who he’s exchanged no more than fifty words with and yet who presses old, familiar bruises in Steve’s heart whenever Steve looks at him. There’s an intimacy he hadn’t expected beyond the physicality, and he feels both more relaxed and even more keyed up than before.
“Do you want me to, Private?” Harkness’s murmur is hot against Steve’s mouth, a breath away from contact.
Steve’s eyes have closed against the blur of blue eyes and dark hair that close. He swallows, licks his lips, hiding in the dark behind his eyelids. “Sir,” he begins, and doesn’t get any further because Harkness’s mouth is pressing against his, lips softer than Steve expected. It’s just for a moment, then his mouth opens and his teeth grip Steve’s lower lip lightly—Steve gasps. His face is so hot Harkness must be able to feel it, and his hands are sweaty where they grip the sides of Harkness’s jacket.
Harkness withdraws, lips clinging, and Steve can’t close his mouth again, needs more air than he can get otherwise.
“Well aren’t you a picture.” Harkness’s tone is admiring, and Steve opens his eyes, blinking to focus, closing his mouth self-consciously. Harkness is flushed too, he’s glad to note, and Steve swallows as Harkness’s gaze drags over his face, throat and shoulders. Harkness rubs his hands over Steve’s chest and the tension in Steve coils tighter, making him shiver.
Harkness grins and moves his hands up again, bringing their bodies closer and wrapping his arms around Steve’s neck. Steve’s not totally inexperienced—there was a girl, when he was still at school, and a few years ago one of Bucky’s friends who had been so obviously trying to get to Buck through him—but this is the first time it’s someone smaller than him. He likes it, though the irony is that it’s also his first time with a man is not lost on him.
Steve’s hands gain confidence, sliding lower to sit broadly at the top of Harkness’s hips, below his jacket this time. Harkness kisses him again, firmer and more intent; his blunt, rough fingers scratching in the hair at the back of Steve’s neck. Steve tries to give back as good as he gets, and uses his hold on Harkness’s hips to pull him closer—which leads pretty much immediately to Harkness determinedly walking Steve backward until the back of his legs hit the edge of a flimsy side table and there’s the ominous sound of rattling china.
Steve jerks his hands up and away, stumbling as he side-steps out of the awkward spot. “Ah—jeez—” He meets Harkness’s eyes, embarrassed, and rubs the back of his neck. He’s really not any good at this. “Sorry, sir.”
Harkness shakes his head, smiling helplessly. “Call me Jack, please.” He holds out a hand. Surprised, Steve takes it, then finds it too hard to look up again. He watches Harkness—Jack—run his thumb over the back of his knuckles and heaves in a deep breath. “How old are you, anyway?” Jack asks, gently amused.
“Oh Christ,” Jack says, and Steve looks up to see an odd expression on his face. He’s not sure why; he’s hardly the youngest recruit out there, and a fella like Jack has probably done this with more than a few. Jack tugs his hand, reeling him in again as his eyes roam greedily over Steve’s body. “Have I mentioned that it’s an honour?”
“Yes, sir,” Steve says, then when Jack winces, “sorry, Jack.” He hesitates for a moment before making a request of his own. “Though I’d prefer you didn’t.”
Jack quirks his eyebrows, speculative, but doesn’t push it. “Noted.”
This time he pulls Steve forwards, walking backwards until his own back is pressed against the bedroom door. Hands at the back of Steve’s head, he pulls Steve back down to meet his mouth again before grappling lower; Steve startles when Jack grips his ass and squeezes.
“This ok?” Jack pants into Steve’s mouth, hauling him closer, and it’s so far from the nameless clash in the dark Steve had imagined, but so much better.
“Yeah,” he grunts shortly, keeping his eyes closed and letting himself run on instinct—which is ok by Jack as well, if the way he moans when Steve rubs his mouth against the prickle of his throat is anything to go by. The only sounds in the small room are Jack’s pleased noises and Steve’s panting breath, the rush of blood pounding in Steve’s ears masking the rustle of cloth and whisper of skin against skin. His own face is starting to smart, skin tender from the rub of Jack’s stubble. It feels as sensitive and raw as the rest of him, and his breath catches when he feels Jack’s hard prick pressed against him; they’ve somehow wound up with Steve’s knee pressed against the wall, Jack’s legs straddling his thigh.
Jack eases back a little, his grin more languid than the sniper-sharp charm of earlier as he looks up at Steve. “Can I?” he asks, hands at Steve’s shirt buttons. Steve’s tie is already loose and askew, and he hooks a finger behind the knot and pulls it off himself as he nods.
Jack’s eyes darken as he pushes apart Steve’s shirt, hands flattening again on Steve’s undershirt. He rucks it up with his hands and Steve tenses before he forces himself to relax again.
Jack looks up from where he’s watching his hands palm over Steve’s skin. “Have I mentioned… Right, sorry.” He bites his lip, coyer than Steve expected. “Just… Thank you. Thank you, thank you—”
Steve kisses him again to shut him up, and it at least succeeds at making him non-verbal; Jack groans back into Steve’s mouth and lets his head knock back against the door. As embarrassing as the man’s appreciation is, it eases Steve’s nervous tension some—he’s used to fighting with men, whether challenging them or being challenged. Gratitude and vulnerability isn’t ever part of that. Even he and Buck had traded insults instead of compliments, though the weight of something like this moment behind their friendly barbs is something Steve shoves out of his mind just as quick as it’s come in.
Jack’s hands are at Steve’s belt. He hasn’t asked permission this time, but Steve gives it anyway in the rock of his hips against Jack’s body. He gasps at the first touch of Jack’s hands on him, breaking the kiss and pushing his forehead onto Jack’s shoulder, eyes squeezed shut. He doesn’t know if he can bring himself to look at where Jack’s touching him.
“There you go,” Jack says, whispering sweetly, and strokes Steve’s prick easily. From the angle of his breath hitting Steve’s cheek, he knows Jack has no such problems with looking. “Magnificent.”
Steve huffs, too turned on to be properly irritated. His own hands feel clumsy and too large; like all the sensation in his body has rushed to where Jack’s hand is wrapped around him. Still, he manages to rub his palm against Jack’s erection, hot through the thick wool of his uniform trousers. The way Jack bucks against the touch and pants encouragement into his ear gives him the courage to go for Jack’s fly, unbuttoning carefully. He puts his hand in rather than drawing Jack’s prick out, rubbing the way he’d done before, bare skin even hotter against his palm.
Jack’s thumb is rubbing over the tip of Steve’s prick, so Steve curls his fingers and does the same. Jack groans again, then laughs softly. There’s no malice to it at all; Steve lifts his head to look Jack in the eye, quirking an eyebrow.
Jack looks wrecked, mouth red and hair mussed out of its careful style, skin flushed down to his collar. His own tie has come undone at some point, and the top buttons of his shirt. Possibly thanks to Steve’s mouth. The thought is inflaming.
“The things I would do to you, if we had the time…” Jack says, though before Steve can answer, he’s saying “C’mere, come on—” and expertly pushing their clothes aside, pulling Steve closer, and oh—
He’s holding their dicks together, too much for one handful until he grips Steve’s wrist and guides him to help. Steve wraps his hand over Jack’s, enclosing them both, and he makes a noise that definitely is not a whimper, face pressed against the side of Jack’s neck as Jack’s hand moves under his, stroking firmly.
“That’s it,” Jack says, panting, his other hand spasming in the hair at Steve’s nape. “There you go.”
Steve groans, unable to stop the piston of his hips. He’s losing his mind. He’s lost his goddamn mind. Jack’s neck tastes like sharp cologne, and his skin rasps under Steve’s tongue. “Oh,” Jack gasps. “Good, you’re good—good boy, that’s it—” and Steve shudders and comes with the sweet ache of not being able to get enough air, of being good, of being useful.
His face is aflame but Harkness doesn’t seem to care, just pushes him back, gets them to the bed at last, props Steve to sit up against the wall and straddles him. He wraps Steve’s hand back around his prick—hot silk over steel, slick with Steve’s come (and Jesus, there’s an embarrassing amount of it)—and keeps his hand around Steve’s, moving it in rapid strokes. He’s kissing Steve, too, mouth wide and teeth hard, and Steve just lets him, his mouth as open as the rest of him feels.
It’s not long before Jack’s movement seizes into trembling stillness, and Steve feels the hot splash of Jack’s come over his belly and chest. He’s braced to feel disgusted by it, but as Jack collapses against him, laughing in breathless delight, Steve feels nothing but a giddy sense of accomplishment.
Tentatively he puts his arms around Harkness, his fingers in the man’s hair, stroking gently as he feels his breath slow, calming the heaving of his chest. It feels almost more intimate than what they’ve just shared, to have this closeness without the hounding urge to get off nipping at his heels. He’s almost relieved when Harkness finally sits up again and swings off, shuffling back to give Steve some space again.
His eyes are still warm, though. “Thank you,” Harkness says again, deeply sincere.
Steve knows his cue, even if he doesn’t have the script for this one. He scoots forward himself, starting to put his clothes to rights. “Don’t mention it,” he says politely, then cringes internally. He still can’t talk to dames. Goddammit, Buck.
Jack just smirks, tossing Steve the towel from beside the basin and politely turning his back to clean himself up, giving Steve a bit more privacy.
The khaki shows more stains than Steve is really comfortable with, but he’s feeling somewhat more relaxed than he was not ten minutes ago. Besides, it’s dark outside and Charles will likely still be at the Quonset, a long ways off returning to their shared room—Steve can get back to the boarding house and into bed without anyone even seeing him.
Steve looks up from tucking his tie away to find Harkness gazing at him wistfully. “Captain?”
Harkness huffs a laugh. “Look me up if you’re ever in Cardiff, will you?”
Steve is never going to see this man again. That, he expected. What he didn’t expect was the fondness that warms his chest, reflected in the man’s soft expression. “Yes, sir.”
Harkness smiles. “And give Agent Carter my regards.”
Steve ducks his head. There’s no way in hell he’s doing that. Peggy would see straight through him.
Harkness leads him out of the house, the furnishings looking strangely still and washed out, now. Though perhaps that’s from Steve’s eyes, adjusted to the warm light of Harkness’s bedroom.
“Until next time,” Harkness says to him at the front door, bracing himself in the open doorway as Steve jams his hands in his pockets and turns around on the front stoop.
“’Til next time,” he echoes and, impulsively, salutes. Jack grins, an expression Steve has come to realise is ever-ready to emerge. He smiles back, brief but genuine, then turns on his heel and strides out into the quiet night.