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this city bleeds its aching heart

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Bucky calls in to SHIELD headquarters. "So it turns out I need someone to act as my significant other on this mission."

"I'll call in Natasha," Fury says.

There's a delicate pause. "Not that kind of significant other."

There's another pause for it to sink in exactly what kind Bucky means. Fury sighs in irritation. "He's not the best at espionage, you know."

"He'll be fine," Bucky says. "I've been teaching him a few things. Besides, all he needs to do on this mission is look pretty."

"Well, he can do that," Fury says sourly.



Steve's called into SHIELD headquarters and given a briefing file. "Barnes needs support on his current mission," Coulson says.

"Mm-hm," Steve says as he reads through the file. "Seems straightforward enough." While Steve's given the file and briefed on the mission, he won't find out until much later that his SHIELD briefing neglected to inform him on one very, very important fact.

He's given an address and told to expect to be there for a month at most. It'll be kind of like a holiday, they tell him. Only light work.



Bucky, of course, expects Steve to be fully briefed on the nature of his involvement in the mission—support and making nice with the neighbours while undercover—so he thinks nothing of bounding down the steps to meet Steve on the pavement, throwing his arms around him and giving him a big ol' kiss right on the mouth.

Steve recoils for half a second and Bucky maybe panics a little that Steve actually hasn't been briefed at all, but then Steve drops his bag, wraps his arms around Bucky and kisses back with astounding enthusiasm.

Perhaps Steve just wasn't expecting such an emphatically touchy-feely welcome.

(What Bucky's not expecting is the hint of tongue from Steve, and okay for a "just for pretend" relationship that seems a little committed for a first kiss. And yeah, okay, he'd not expected the thrill of electricity, because Steve's a really good kisser; and if he presses in a little closer, it's just for the benefit of the people ogling their hot new neighbours, right?)

It's easy to look love-struck as he pulls away and picks up Steve's bag, taking his hand and leading him to the front door.



Steve's head spins from the unexpected welcome as he follows Bucky into the narrow, two story, red brick town house that's meant to be their home for the next month. He'd expected Bucky to be happy to see him, since between Bucky's missions and everything that Steve's been dragged out on, they're lucky to have seen each other for two weeks worth of days in the past six months. But a greeting like that?

He touches his mouth, where he can still taste Bucky on his lips. He'd been surprised, of course, but more than happy to return the kiss. Maybe because he's only been wanting to do that since he first ever realised he might want to kiss someone.

As soon as the door shuts, Bucky says, "Sorry if that was a little full on, but I've been telling the neighbours how much I've been missing you since I made the request to Fury, and they're under the impression we're completely mad for each other. Here, you'll need this. I now pronounce us husband and husband."

He flicks something to Steve that glimmers gold and white in the air. Steve catches it. It's a wedding band and he stares at it. It takes him a moment to connect Bucky's words with the ring with the kiss with the reality that this is something that could happen now. Two men, married in the state of New York, who could be open and out and in love, the way they couldn't have—had they even wanted to be—back in the 30s and 40s. Him and Bucky. Except they're not married, they're not even—

It doesn't make sense.

"You—you are okay with this, yeah?" Bucky asks anxiously. "I mean, the whole pretending to be married part? You're not here as Captain America, so it shouldn't impact on your whole—" he waves his hands, "thing, and Fury said that if you were needed you could be pulled out and—"

Steve stares at him. Pretending to be married? Oh hell, is that what this is all about? It makes sense now; the kiss that is, not why him, why they pulled out the SHIELD agent who was assigned to this mission and trained Steve up to be the support Bucky would need and—

"Steve?"

"What? Yeah, yeah, I'm fine with it," Steve says, forcing a smile. He hides his discomfort as he slides the ring onto his finger, thinking that it sure would've been nice if he'd been given some kind of prior warning in any of the hours he spent in briefing. Then he thinks that the ring looks rather nice on. Shame.

Bucky gives him a weird look, but doesn't push it.

"So," Steve says. "What now? I mean, I've been briefed on your mission, but we should probably talk about... this." He gestures between them, then touches the gold band on his finger. While he doesn't think he has much of a choice, he doesn't want to suffer a reenactment of the kiss on the pavement if he can help it.

Not unless it's real.

God, he wants Bucky to kiss him for real.

"Um, god." Bucky scrubs his hand through his hair. "I dunno, I thought maybe some hand-holding, a little PDA. This community is big on community, if you get what I mean. I get invited to a lot of things." And Steve, god, he can't help but smile at the uncomfortable look on Bucky's face, because ever since—well, ever since Bucky came back to him, Bucky's been no good at social things. "It's part of the reason I asked for you."

"Oh?"

"You're just so... good with people, Steve," he says earnestly. "In a way I'm not." The smile he gives Steve is flirtatious which, no, clearly it's not and Steve is just imagining things. "Anyway, our bedroom is upstairs and your workstation is set up in the backroom. Just check that everything is where it should be, okay?"

"Okay," Steve says obediently. He picks up his bags and heads upstairs. He's surprised at how cosy the house looks. He'd expected it would look more like something out of a catalogue, but it's very homey. It's comfortable. He likes it.

It doesn't occur to him that Bucky had said 'our bedroom' until he pokes his head into the master bedroom, notes that Bucky's things are in there and wanders down the hall looking for the other one, only to discover it's set up with his workstation and there's a distinct lack of bed.

"Huh," he says. Then: "Oh shit."

One bedroom, one bed.



It's only once Steve's left the room that Bucky exhales. He thinks of the way Steve went a little weird when Bucky gave him the ring. Maybe Steve's a lot more old-fashioned than he lets on, he thinks. Sure, they've both adapted to the 21st century well enough, but maybe this whole 'pretending to be gay married' thing is too much, but he didn't want to say no because he never said no to Bucky. (No really, he never said no to Bucky. Not anymore, here in the present, anyway. Bucky tries not to exploit it too much, but sometimes he wonders.)

He absently turns the gold band on his own finger and thinks of the way Steve had kissed back. The sudden flush of heat flusters him and he rubs at the back of his neck, because kissing Steve and Steve kissing back is not meant to push his buttons quite this hard. Because Steve is off-limits, because Steve is Steve.

Except it has pushed all kinds of buttons, and now Bucky's going to have to live with this hole he's dug himself, which will no doubt involve more kissing and touching. Jesus.

If he'd been thinking about anything other than the possibility of getting his hands all over Steve, he'd expect the knock at the door that makes him jump. He opens it to see Jim and Janine, the almost-but-not-quite-retiree couple from next door (the invite to Jim's retirement dinner is stuck on the fridge). Janine smiles, while Jim tries to surreptitiously peer past Bucky, no doubt looking for Steve.

"Hello, Jan, Jim," Bucky says.

"James, hello! We couldn't help but notice that your—your—I'm sorry, what is his name again?"

"Steve," Bucky supplies, "my husband." It's stupid how the word sends a delighted shiver up his spine when it means nothing, really.

"Yes! We noticed that your husband, Steve, has finally arrived."

Bucky coughs. "Sorry about the, uh, welcome home show—"

"Oh, no no, that's fine, we understand you missed him! Young love is wonderful and there's nothing wrong with showing someone how much you love them!" Janine beams and Jim nods enthusiastically. "What we wanted to know," and Janine gestures between herself and her husband, "was if you and your Steve wanted to come over for dinner tonight, if you haven't already made plans. For dinner, that is."

"Yeah, we'd love to," Bucky says. "Me and my Steve." He's made it procedure to accept every invitation, and even extend a few of his own.

"Excellent," Jim says. "We'll see you at six, then."

Six. That gives him four hours to nut out his history with Steve. Plenty enough time. And it's fun, too, making up a back story. Steve wants to go with them both being ex-vets fighting to hide their feelings for each other in the face of DADT, and the repeal wiping away the internalised shame of being in a relationship with another man while in uniform.

"Who knew you were such a romantic?" Bucky teases.

"You want romantic? I can show you romantic." The glow from the workstation computer—because the blinds in the spare bedroom have been replaced with black out curtains and are always drawn—lights the smile on Steve's face.

It's not a threat Bucky takes particularly seriously. Steve is a sap, always has been. "I don't think I'd be ashamed, though," Bucky points out.

"You liked being in the military. You'd never be able to stand a dishonourable discharge."

There's something in Steve's tone that hits Bucky entirely the wrong way and Bucky goes from playful to pissed off in a heartbeat. "Yeah," he snaps, "well, I've learned that there's worse things in this world than that." He throws down the pencil he'd been toying with on the desk and stands. "Like me."

"Buck, wait—"

He's downstairs and out into the tiny little backyard before he even knows where he's going, gasping for breath. He'd liked being in the military, up until he'd been captured and used as a guinea pig for god knows what. He'd liked being in the military, until the Russians had turned what was left of his brain inside out and made him into a murderer. He'd liked being in the military, because even with all the blood on his hands, he'd still been welcomed home like a long lost son.

"Bucky, hey." Steve's standing in the doorway, his expression soft. "Hey, I'm sorry," he says, and it only takes a few steps before he's there, and Bucky lets Steve pull him close and wrap him up in his arms. (Hates himself a little for it too, because he likes it so much and because it's a cheap distraction from the hurts; so easy instead to think about how simple it would be to kiss Steve again, now, without having to put a show on for anyone.)

"I'm sorry," Steve repeats.

"Yeah, I am too."



It's better between them, when they go over to Bucky's—no, to their neighbour's place for dinner. Better, but not perfect, and Steve feels guilty because he couldn't help the dig, even though he should have been able to, even though he should have known how it would hurt Bucky.

He'd been thinking instead of himself and his own selfish feelings. The better part of a lifetime is a long time to carry a torch, notwithstanding 70 years under the ice. Bucky had liked being in the military so Steve had never said anything, even when Bucky had looked at him sometimes (like maybe...) and looked at him even more after the super serum. Then he'd fallen and Steve had thought that was that. Except he wasn't gone, he was here.

And now he's here and Steve is meant to pretend to be his husband and utterly in love with him.

He has the second part down pat, at least.

Bucky's stiff and awkward at first at Janine and Jim's place, but he loosens up with Janine's easy chatter. It's such a lie, Steve thinks, that Bucky's bad with people. He has these two completely charmed, and when Bucky curls his hand over Steve's where it rests on the table and smiles winsomely at him, Steve doesn't imagine anyone else on the street could be any different.

"That didn't go badly," he ventures tentatively, later, as they head back into their house, Bucky heading straight for the stairs. "You seem happier." Is he opening the can of worms again? Maybe.

"We'll do a trial run, tonight," Bucky says decisively, like Steve hadn't said anything at all. "See how SHIELD trained you up for the job. I need to relocate the bug in Cohen's office." He ducks into the bedroom—their bedroom—and shucks out of his shirt and jeans, quickly stuffing himself into the uniform he pulls from the wardrobe. Steve maybe spends a little too long in the doorway staring at him getting changed before he realises he's even staring. Bucky tucks in his earpiece, then looks at Steve where he still loiters in the doorway, his expression inscrutable. "Best get to it," he says.

Steve slides into the chair in front of the workstation Bucky set up for him in the back bedroom, pulling on the headset. "Can you hear me?" he asks as Bucky slips out of the house.

"Mm," he hears Bucky say shortly, "not so loud, Steve."

"Sorry." When he speaks quieter, it seems more intimate, Bucky's voice a lower murmur in response. Even in the quiet moments, when Bucky goes silent, he doesn't feel alone. He imagines Bucky in his dappled grey stealth gear slipping unseen through this suburban neighbourhood, a deadly shadow in the night and such a contrast to the helpful, cheery ex-vet with a surprising knack for DIY their neighbours know.

Steve's not sure which version he prefers better. His deadly friend, or his pretend husband. (He knows he should prefer his friend, but there's just something about husband that hits him right in the gut.)

"Seems like an odd neighbourhood for your local friendly arms dealer," Steve says. "Very... suburban."

Bucky chuckles. "You'd be surprised what people like these can get up to. Cohen's been maintaining this cover for years now without activity—no one would expect anything suspicious."

"You, on the other hand..." Steve hesitates. "New to the neighbourhood—"

"That's why I called you in. No one turns on the charm like you. And who's gonna suspect a couple of happily married queers of getting up to funny business even if they're just new to the neighbourhood?"

The word sits uneasily in Steve's chest. "You sure you're supposed to use that word?"

Bucky laughs softly. "If I can't, then who can?" Steve's about to ask Bucky to explain when Bucky says, "I'm going in."

There's a long silence on the other end and even though Steve knows Bucky's done this before, he still feels his heart claw up into his throat at the thought of Bucky in this guy's house. Cohen might look benign, but who knows what he might get up to if he found an agent of SHIELD in his house.

"Everything okay?" he says, trying not to sound nervous, his eyes glued to the screen in front of him, with the little glowing dot that represents Bucky inside Cohen's house. There's a double pip in response. Yes.

A ping on Cohen's phone line has Steve reaching over and turning up the volume on the audio tap Bucky had previously placed. He can hear the chime of the phone, the click of the answering machine and then a mechanical voice reels off an alphanumeric list. It recites twenty odd digits before hanging up. "Sending through to SHIELD," Steve murmurs. "Any sign of Cohen?"

A single pip. No.

After another breathless moment, Steve hears Bucky say, "All done. Sleeping Beauty didn't even roll over at the call." Bucky yawns suddenly.

"Maybe you should come in now?" While Steve has the final say on whether or not to bring Bucky in, he'd like to give Bucky the illusion of autonomy. It was one of the few conditions Steve stipulated for this mission, because he knows what Bucky can be like, and with just an ordinary SHIELD handler running at his heels for the past three weeks, Steve has no doubt from the dark circles under Bucky's eyes that he's been pushing himself harder than he should have.

"Mm, it's done anyway, no point staying up. Go to bed, Steve. I'll be in soon."

Bed. The one, lonely bed in the house that they're going to share. It's a big bed, but then again, Steve isn't exactly small himself.

It's 2am when Bucky comes into the bedroom, crawling under the sheets with another sleepy yawn. Steve rouses when the mattress shifts and can't help his murmur of surprise when Bucky cuddles up. He shifts his arm so Bucky can curl against him, head pillowed on his chest. And if he presses a kiss to the crown of Bucky's head, well... he's sleepy is all he'll say if Bucky calls him on it.

Bucky doesn't call him on it, he just makes a soft, content noise in the back of his throat and pushes in closer.



They settle into a routine: rising at 6am for a morning jog, the pretense throughout the day of a work-from-home couple hopelessly besotted with each other interspersed with Bucky on reconnaissance and tailing missions or napping and reviewing data with Steve from the bugs planted in Cohen's house. Evenings regularly involve dinner with neighbours, and then some nights between midnight and 5am Bucky might be out doing more reconnaissance on any new leads to do with those on the other end of Cohen's deals, who keep far less convenient 9-5 hours than a suburban psychiatrist.

Bucky's upstairs napping when there's a knock at the door, and Steve leaps out of the armchair he'd been trying not to snooze in himself and hurries to the door. It's Samara, one of the young professional couple who live two doors down, and opposite. "Steve, hello!" she gushes as she brushes past him and into the house. It had taken him a little while to realise that when she stood a little too close and flirted outrageously, it wasn't because she was trying to start something with him, it was just the person she was.

She looks around brightly. "Is James not in?"

"He's upstairs... having a nap."

Her eyes widen like saucers as she takes in his rumpled clothes and she lets out a chirrup of a laugh. "I'll be quick then," she says and the look she gives him is frankly naughty. "Let you get back to your... napping."

"I... okay?" Then he realises what she's implying and can't help the hot blush that scalds his cheeks. "No, he is actually asleep," he protests. "I swear."

Samara laughs again and pats his hand. "Sure he is. Anyway, Jason and I are hosting a picnic at the park tonight and everyone in the street is invited. Even Albert's coming and he rarely does! We'd love to see the two of you there. When you've finished napping, of course." She winks.

"Um," Steve says helplessly. "Sure. We—we'd love to." He was under strict instructions from Bucky to accept all invitations, and if Albert Cohen said he'd be there wild horses couldn't keep them away. "Did you want us to bring anything?"

"Ooh," she flutters, "if it's not too late notice, we do love James' potato salad. If he could bring some that would be fantastic, but if not we'll have plenty of food to go around anyway."

"Sure," Steve repeats. "I'll see if it's not too late notice." Potato salad? Bucky makes potato salad?

Samara pats his hand again. "Excellent! We'll see you around 7pm then," she says and breezes out.



Steve's at the table sitting in front of the fan when Bucky comes downstairs rubbing at his eyes sleepily. He's poring over the codes left on Cohen's answering machine. "No noise from SHIELD?" Bucky asks. He doesn't even think twice before trailing his fingers across Steve's shoulders, from left to right as he pads past to the kitchen and puts on the kettle.

Steve drops his pencil and scrubs his hand over his face. "I thought fresh eyes might've helped with looking for a pattern, but I can't see anything." He props his chin on his hand, and Bucky can sense him watching.

"You want...?" Bucky gestures with a glass and a raised brow. Steve nods and smiles. Instant coffee makes a terrible cup of joe, but with some ice in it it's not so bad, and they've both drunk far worse in their time. To be honest, Bucky's never had much of a taste for fancy coffee, so he never thought to requisition a coffee maker for the house.

"I'm going to call and see if I can't get someone to come and fix the air-conditioning," Steve says as Bucky sits the cup in front of him, the ice cubes clinking against the glass.

Bucky slides into the seat next to him, grimacing as he takes a deep drink. He sits his glass down away from the papers and picks up one covered in Steve's scribble. "Anything new?"

Steve shakes his head. "Makes as little sense to me as it does to the SHIELD cryptographers. Oh," he says, "Samara came by before, invited us to a picnic tonight." He has an odd flush across his cheeks that Bucky's pretty sure isn't because of the heat. "Cohen's going to this one."

"Excellent, he never seems to go to any of the street gatherings. I take it you said yes?"

"I said yes."

"What else did she say?"

Steve ducks his head. "Nothing."

"This isn't nothing." Bucky reaches out, dragging his fingertip across the blush that paints Steve's cheekbone. He leans in close. "She try and hit on you? Do I have to play the jealous husband tonight?" If his voice pitches weird and low at the thought, he hopes Steve doesn't notice. He can imagine playing the jealous husband, all handsy and possessive in front of their neighbours, staking his claim with his hands and mouth—

"No!" Steve says suddenly. "No," he repeats, in a calmer tone. He hesitates, wets his lips. "She thought—she thought she'd interrupted us." If anything his cheeks go redder. "Upstairs. Together."

"Ohh," Bucky breathes. It doesn't take much effort to imagine them 'upstairs, together'. Steve gives him a sharp look and he reaches for his glass, taking a deep drink to cover the fact that what she suspected is exactly what he wants to do. He laughs lightly. "That's what we want her to think, right?"

Steve breezes right past that and says, "She also said something about potato salad."

Bucky snorts.

"I didn't know you could cook anything, much less potato salad." Steve gives him a suspicious look. "You don't just buy it from the deli do you?"

"I'll have you know I make that shit from scratch," Bucky says defensively. He's offended by Steve's implication that he can't cook. "Besides, you know I can cook. Unless you've gone all senile on me and can't remember what happened before the war anymore. I hear that happens to you old folk at this age," he says with all the authority of four official years difference in their age, leaning across the table and patting Steve insultingly on the cheek.



Albert Cohen is a portly man with greying hair and a sun-aged face that's a roadmap of wrinkles. He doesn't look like any kind of arms dealer with extensive terrorist links that Bucky's ever seen before.

Aside from the bugs and the tailing to his office and his secret meetings and spying through a high-powered scope, this is only the third time Bucky's seen him out in public for anything unrelated to his work—both legal and illegal—and the first time at one of the community events (the social event that is buying groceries in this neighbourhood doesn't count). He seems quite at ease with his neighbours and the comfortable way everyone greets him indicates to Bucky, at least, that this isn't a man who is a recluse.

It's easy enough to work his way through the gathering to say hello to Cohen, since Steve is flavour of the week now and all their neighbours flock to his side. (Perhaps it was a little mean of Bucky not to give Steve a heads up on what to expect from this kind of gathering. Perhaps not.)

They exchange small talk for a while—Cohen lies and says he's been out of town a lot lately, which is why he's been missing from the community gatherings, Bucky smiles and says it's a pleasure to finally meet him, he's heard so much—when Cohen glances over to Steve, chatting easily with Adrian and Reena Michaels, the second newest couple on the street, with their daughter Lily.

"You two make such a happy couple in public," Cohen says.

Bucky throws Steve his best puppy-in-love look. Steve's gently tossing Lily, three years old and already a little heartbreaker, into the air now. Her screeches of delight echo across the park. "He's made me the happiest man in the world," he says, with a besotted smile. Steve's grinning broadly and looks happier than Bucky's seen him since—well, since long enough ago that Bucky doesn't like to remember.

"Mm," Cohen says, but he doesn't seem impressed. "I can see that. In public," he repeats. Bucky gives him a sharp look. "Now I know it's not my place to comment, but you don't seem to have the... glow I would normally associate with such a happy couple."

"Glow?"

"Again, I know it's not my place to comment, I wouldn't want to embarrass you, but I associate the glow with a couple who have a regular sex life—" Bucky nearly chokes, "—and I get the feeling you are two healthy young men who are not having as much sex as you're used to. Perhaps it has to do with the move and the time you've spent apart, it's completely understandable. If it's not too forward I would suggest taking some time to get to know each other again in your new home."

Bucky blinks. "Um, gee, Albert." What the hell do you say to that, Bucky thinks, casting about for something appropriate to say. "Thanks for the advice? I mean—I don't mean that in a sarcastic way, I mean—you might be right, maybe we could spend more time, uh—"

Albert laughs and pats Bucky on the arm. "I'm sorry, my dear boy, I've made things awkward. Sometimes I can't help it when the inner professional comes out. Think about what I've said. Maybe all you need is less time out gadding about at night and more quality time in."

It's all Bucky can do not to blank out right there. An off-the-cuff comment doesn't mean he's been made. He laughs instead and shrugs. "It's not easy, where we come from, to reconnect sometimes," he says instead, because that's no lie.

"Ah yes, the military. Well, it's clear to anyone looking at you that you're deeply in love, which is exactly what I like to see in a young couple. Just ensure that you don't neglect any aspects of your life together and I am sure you'll have a strong marriage for decades to come." Cohen beams at him.

"Thanks, Albert. I'll, uh, I'll think on what you said—"

Cohen winks. "Don't be afraid to talk over these things with Steve," he says and gives Bucky a nudge with his elbow.

"What and ruin the surprise?" Now why did he say that?

"Oh ho ho, you mean a seduction!" Cohen crows and that's... that really not what Bucky meant, and he's a little disturbed that's the first place Cohen's thoughts go. If this isn't the weirdest conversation Bucky's ever had he doesn't know what is. "All the best, James," Cohen says, excusing himself. "I must go ask Alia about her delicious quinoa salad."

He must look out of sorts when he heads back over to Steve, who gives Lily back to her parents when he sees the look on Bucky's face. "Is everything okay?" he asks seriously, guiding Bucky away with a hand on his elbow.

"I forgot our resident arms dealer was also a certified psychotherapist specialising in couples counselling," Bucky says sourly, unable to help wondering what Cohen would make of this courteous, considerate behaviour.

Steve perks up. "Couples counselling? Is that something we could use to get closer to him?"

"Probably not. I think we're projecting the whole happy couple vibe a little too well. His only advice was to make sure we have a... a healthy sex life. He doesn't think we're as 'active in the bedroom' as we should be."

Steve swallows a little convulsively. "What does that mean?"

"That for an arms dealer he's very perceptive?"

"Bucky—"

"Well, he has a point."

"Bucky!"

"What?" Steve's cheeks are flaming and Bucky thinks perhaps it's mean to tease him like that, when all Bucky really wants is a healthy sex life with him. "Sorry," he says, but Steve's quickly over his embarrassment. He is Captain America after all, it's probably a talent.

"From the angle of the houses, he could see right into our bedroom," Steve points out. "Maybe he... maybe he watches? These nights it's been hot we've had the window open, and those curtains don't really do a whole lot to block out Peeping Toms."

"I knew I should have gotten better curtains," Bucky mutters.

"Sorry?"

"Nothing. Okay. Maybe he can see into our house, and is judging us on the one thing that might trip up this whole happy couple cover we've got going on. He made a comment about me being out and about which leads me to think he might've seen something. We've gotta put him off his guard, make him think we've taken his advice to heart."

"So... you're saying that we should pretend to have sex in case he's spying on us?"

"It's not the most ridiculous thing I've ever suggested," Bucky protests.

"It's terrible how true I know that is." Steve laughs and that's not the response Bucky would ever have expected. When he says, "Okay, we can try that," it's even less the response Bucky expects and he has to tell himself that when it comes actual time to go through with this, Steve will back down. Totally.



"So," Bucky says, leaning against the doorframe. Steve's already in bed, sitting up with his pillow propped up behind his back studying the tablet linked in with the workstation.

"I don't think there's any need to go out tonight."

"Of course not," Bucky says.

"A full night's sleep should be nice."

Here we go, Bucky thinks. "So, about that..."

"Tonight?"

"Yeah. I think if he's watching any night it'll be tonight." Bucky absolutely does not let a hint of eagerness creep into his tone at the thought of laying hands on Steve, even if it's just in fakery. "He'll want to see if I take advantage of y—of his suggestion."

Steve raises a brow and sets the tablet aside on the bedside table. "Okay," he says, looking up at Bucky expectantly. "How do we go about this?"

"Um. I didn't think that far ahead?" Any thinking Bucky had been doing had been solely concentrating on the actual real sex he wanted to have with Steve and not the fake stuff.

"Well, I've had sex before," Steve says with a hint of a grin, "and I'm reasonably sure you've had sex before, so it shouldn't be too hard, right?"

Bucky's never been nervous about sliding into bed with Steve, and he doesn't want to think anything about performance anxiety, but well... performance anxiety. He's pretty sure he has it. He shrugs out of his clothes down to his boxer shorts and crawls under the sheet.

It turns out he shouldn't have been worried about the show, he should have been more worried about his own physical reaction. After all, with Steve rubbing up against him, cheek to cheek to simulate some enthusiastic making out while pressing him into the mattress, thigh wedged between his, his dick does the one thing it's a star player at whenever it comes to Steve Rogers.

Bucky lets out an explosive noise of frustrated embarrassment. "This is ridiculous," he says, not sure if he should be apologising for the erection Steve couldn't possibly avoid feeling poking him in the hip.

"What, that we're awkwardly rolling around simulating sex for some creepy Peeping Tom who may or may not be actually watching us fake it, or...?"

"Well... that's not what I was talking about but yeah, there's that."

"What were you talking about then?"

Steve shifts a little and everything Bucky was going to say like, "We should really stop doing this before I humiliate myself further," is completely blown out of the water because holy shit how was Steve hiding the fact that he's hard too?

Changing tack, Bucky hesitates, unable to look Steve in the eye. Fuck it, he thinks, and takes the plunge. He stares up at the ceiling. "I was... I was talking about the fact that with all this rolling around it’s pretty obvious to me that you—that you're—well, y'know, and I know it's gotta be obvious to you that I am too, so... why are we faking it? I mean, it doesn't have to mean anything, it's just gonna be, y'know, getting each other off. And if friends can't get each other off then who can, right?"

There's a long pause and Steve goes utterly still over him. Cursing himself for playing the idiot, Bucky opens his mouth to take it back, to ask Steve to forget he even said anything, when Steve says, "Okay. Sure."

"Sure," Bucky echoes, hoping it doesn't come out as strangled as it feels by his heart flip-flopping around in his chest like a landed fish. He's pretty sure his expression gives him away though. "We don't have to do anything that's not you—" god, Buck, what does that even mean, he curses himself, "—we don't have to, uh, fuck, or anything, we can just..."

Words are too difficult, so Bucky turns to actions and flips them so he's the one on top; suddenly, electrifyingly aware of Steve's skin, his touch, when he settles his hands on either side of Bucky's ribcage. He presses down against Steve, against the full length of his body, and can't help his shaky sigh of pleasure as he feels his dick press up against the hard length of Steve's. He feels Steve's fingers tighten, and the soft, shaky "Ah..." he lets out goes straight to Bucky's dick. He rocks his hips tentatively and Steve's grip tightens more.

He finally looks Steve in the eye. "Just because we're doing this, Steve, doesn't mean you're... y'know."

"I know." Steve smiles encouragingly up at him, breathless and bright-eyed. Then he says, "Maybe we should be naked."

Later Bucky won't actually remember taking his shorts off, but he will remember the way Steve pushes him into the mattress, and hot, sweat-slick skin against hot, sweat-slick skin. He slides his hands down to grip Steve's ass, groaning at the bunch and relax of muscles under his hands, trying not to imagine what Steve would feel like inside him, what Steve's ass under his hands would feel like when he was fucking him. Except it's all he can think about, besides white-hot need.

"Oh fuck, Steve, want you in me, I want—god, wanna feel you inside me, want you to fuck me, want you to fuck me 'til I come, then fuck me 'til you come too..." He's babbling, Jesus Christ, he's babbling and he can't seem to turn his mouth off, as an embarrassingly explicit litany of what he really, really wants Steve to do to him falls from his lips.

He's shut up a moment later when Steve kisses him, really kisses him, like the x-rated version of the way he'd kissed Bucky out on the pavement two weeks ago. There's something desperate in the way Steve rocks against him and Bucky responds, arching up and pushing back, digging his fingers into Steve's shoulders like he's holding on for dear life. Maybe he is, as his orgasm hits him, hard, crashing through like a wave. He shakes under Steve, gasping and whimpering, a bundle of raw nerve endings as Steve continues to move against him.

Steve braces himself on his elbows and the intensity of the look on his face is just—Bucky desperately wishes Steve was inside him, was fucking into him with that look on his face, and he clamps his thighs around Steve's hips tightly, holds Steve close as he starts to shudder and Bucky says, "come on, Steve, you can do it," and "come on, Steve, want you to come all over me," because the thought of being all marked up makes him so hot he almost can't breathe.

It must do something for Steve too, because he stiffens, says, "Oh god, Buck—" in a shocked, reverent tone, eyes wide and glazed, and hell, if that's not the most beautiful sight Bucky's ever seen, Steve coming over him, hips jerking spasmodically. Then he groans, deep and satisfied, pressing his face against Bucky's neck.

Bucky's happy to have Steve lying there over him for as long as he can, but eventually the ache in his hips and the inability to breathe properly makes him shove gently at Steve's shoulder, hands still lingering. "C'mon Stevie, off you get."

It's only once Steve peels himself off Bucky, that Bucky really realises how sex-and-sweat sticky they are. "Urghh," he says, and, "I call first dibs on the shower."

"Only if you get there first."

Bucky sometimes forgets Steve's competitive spirit, and he ends up with his feet swept out from under him as he falls back onto the bed with a startled yelp. He's not letting Steve get away with it and manages to maneuver himself into the shower anyway.

The look on Steve's face when he turns and sees Bucky, barely inches away is worth the price of admission. "I'm not leaving," Bucky says, raising his chin belligerently.

"Well I'm not leaving, either," Steve says.

They're a match in stubbornness, Bucky thinks. He's okay with this. Both of them still all naked and it's not awkward. Yet.

It's not the first time they've showered together, but it's the first time they've been jammed together in a cubicle slightly too small for two grown men who've just had their first time at any kind of sex with each other. It's not as difficult as Bucky would have imagined, as they carefully maneuver around each other—not to avoid touching, because there's plenty of that, even if it's not deliberate, but to avoid elbows digging into ribcages and shower screens and walls.

Even once they've finished, towelled off, and climbed back into bed—clean shorts for Steve, and Bucky naked but for the defiant look he throws Steve, challenging him to make something of it—it's not awkward like Bucky would have thought it should be, and Steve automatically moves to the middle of the bed so Bucky will curl up against him and use him as a pillow as has become habit.

"Damn you have a dirty mouth on you, Buck," Steve says sleepily, curling his fingers through Bucky's damp hair.

"Sorry," Bucky mumbles, "I get a bit like that sometimes when I'm getting off. If it helps, it means I'm really enjoying myself?"

He feels Steve's hand tighten in his hair a moment and then Steve laughs. "Yeah, I'd guessed you might've been."

"Think he was fooled?" Bucky asks, and he feels a little squirrelly at the thought of Cohen watching.

Steve yawns and mumbles, "Could've fooled me." Bucky has no idea what that means.