Steve was shivering, and the only thing Bucky could do for it was pile on another blanket and hope the wind let up soon, or the boiler kicked in, or if they were very lucky, both.
"Nah, I'm all right," Steve tried to tell him, but since he was doing it through chattering teeth, it wasn't all that convincing. "This one's yours, Bucky."
"I don't feel the cold like you do," said Bucky. "I got two coats on, plus my longjohns. You can keep it tonight."
"Only till you go to bed," said Steve. "You're not sleeping in your winter coat."
"I've slept in worse," said Bucky, "and so've you, so stop arguing."
Steve's hand trembled a little bit as he turned the page of his book, but he did stop arguing so Bucky would take that win. He tried listening to the radio for a while, to distract him from the cold, but it kept crackling out thanks to the storm until he finally just shut it off and picked up one of Steve's books, thumbing through it idly.
"You won't like that one," said Steve. "It's got no pictures."
"Jerk," said Bucky, grinning at him, but he dropped the book back down on the pile anyway. Without the distraction he just looked at Steve again, and Steve was still shivering. And yawning.
"Listen," said Bucky. "Let's just share tonight. It's not getting any warmer, and I'll just worry about you all night if you don't."
"You don't need to worry about me so much," said Steve grudgingly, but Bucky noticed he didn't turn down the offer. It wouldn't be the first time they'd shared but it probably was the first time since they were fully grown, and sharing that narrow little bed was going to be a lot tighter than he remembered.
"I'll stop worrying about you when you stop worrying about me, how about?" said Bucky. When Steve was silent, he nodded his head. "Yeah, that's what I thought. Come on, bring all your blankets with you."
Steve peeled off layers as he got up, first handing Bucky's blanket back to him, then shedding his own and draping it over one arm, then shuffling over to strip his bed of everything down to the sheets to bring it into Bucky's room with him. Bucky's room was an illegal subdivide of the living room so it didn't have a window, which was hell in the summer but just what they needed tonight.
He didn't have to tell Steve to strip down to his skivvies, even in the cold; they both knew all too much about the way body heat worked, and the wisdom of not putting a few layers of fabric on to separate limb from limb.
Once Steve was comfortable, Bucky switched the light off and crawled in behind, spooning him only because that was the most comfortable way to share the bed without going top to toe, which always ended up with someone getting a foot in the face.
"Sorry," he said, chuckling close to Steve's ear. "I'd say just pretend I was a girl, but then you'd be the one on the outside."
"Wouldn't know much about that anyway," mumbled Steve, not sleepily but because he had his face mashed against the pillow.
"What, you don't like to stay and cuddle?" said Bucky. He was just teasing, but he was also a little genuinely surprised. Steve might've had some shortcomings, but he was the most gentlemanly guy Bucky knew. "Or do you mean they like to be the ones to cuddle you?"
"C'mon, Bucky, you know I've never been with a girl," said Steve.
No. No, Bucky did not know that, actually.
"What do you mean, you've never been with a girl?" he said. "How many double dates we been on now, Steve? And you've never...?"
"We don't go on double dates, Bucky, you go on dates and I keep her friend or her sister or her cousin from Boise company while you do. Not the same thing."
"You've gone out with girls, though, without me."
"No," said Steve. "I haven't."
"So you've never...with anyone?"
"Don't you think I would've told you if I had?" said Steve. "You sure told me about it the first time you did."
"Yeah, but I was a loudmouth fifteen-year-old who didn't know any better."
"And now you're a loudmouth twenty-one-year-old," said Steve, giving him a fond nudge. "So don't worry about me thinkin' this is anything like that. I don't need to pretend I'm snuggled up with some dame to get some sleep, Bucky."
Steve really did go to sleep not long after that, and Bucky was just happy that he wasn't shivering anymore and his breathing was even and smooth. He kept his arm wrapped around him and never let go, and turned it over and over in his head that Steve had never been with a girl. That Steve was a virgin. It had honestly just never occurred to him, because it was Steve and Bucky thought Steve was just about the greatest guy in town.
Everyone else should have thought that too. Steve included.
The storm let up overnight, but the cold was there to stay. It wasn't the first winter they'd spent together, but it was the first in this drafty apartment with the dodgy heat, and after that first night Bucky started suggesting Steve sleep in his room more often. Nearly every night.
"You don't gotta, Bucky," insisted Steve. "I know you'd rather be someplace else. All those girls just waiting for their shot with Bucky Barnes."
"I don't have anywhere else to be," said Bucky, "and I don't know if you noticed, but I spent most of my time in this bed even before you were in it."
That didn't come out quite the way he intended it to, with implications that he didn't mean, but if Steve was bothered by that he didn't let it show.
"Yeah, most, not all," said Steve.
But the truth was, Bucky still couldn't get it out of his head that Steve'd never been with a girl. He had to have had loads of chances, it wasn't like he said. Those were real dates they went on, with real girls who thought Steve was funny and smart and handsome, because he was. Or had Bucky really never noticed the way it was for Steve?
"Did you ask them?" he asked one day over a cold supper of leftover pork roast and a can of beans.
"Did I ask who?" said Steve.
"Did you ask the girls?" said Bucky. "The girls you dated. Did you ever ask them, if they wanted to make time with you?"
"C'mon, Bucky, we don't need to talk about this."
"But did you?" insisted Bucky. "Did they turn you down, or did you not give them the chance to in the first place?"
Steve put down his fork, dabbed his mouth with his napkin, and Bucky knew a stall when he saw one but nobody was going anywhere and he could wait it out. "You don't know what it's like," Steve said finally, "and I'm not complaining, it is what it is. But it's easy as breathing for you, Bucky. Dames fall all over you. It's not like that for everybody."
"So you did ask."
"Things never got that far, Buck. When a girl doesn't even want you to hold her hand or put your arm around her, odds are she's not gonna be coming home with you."
He picked up his fork again, and Bucky wasn't going to discourage him from eating the rest of his meal even if that wasn't the answer he was looking for. Steve was skinny enough as it was, and they should enjoy good food while they had it.
Steve shivered in his arms that night and Bucky stayed awake an extra hour, pulled the blankets up tight to their throats and watched Steve breathing. He didn't know if he believed everything Steve told him, but maybe he really wasn't seeing things the right way. Dames didn't fall all over him or anything, but ever since Bucky grew up he usually got his fair share of attention. He never needed to try too hard. His sleep that night was hard won, and uneasy.
Steve was working at a newspaper stand these days, just a couple of streets over. It was never great pay, but he did all right and it wasn't usually too hard on his constitution. The winter weather was terrible for his lungs, though, and when he had to stay outdoors, or even just partly outdoors, for a long time he came home in rough shape. Bucky made him soup, and boiled some water for some vapor for Steve to breathe, grateful the boiler was running on full this week. He'd rather have an overheated apartment than a cold one.
"You eat something too," said Steve. "I know you were out at the docks all day. You've got your hands all bloodied up again."
Bucky held his hands up, looking at the backs then at the palms. They weren't bloodied up too badly, just chapped from the cold and a bit skinned along one side. "Soup's not going to help my hands," he said, "and maybe you were too busy shoveling it into your gob to notice, but I ate plenty too."
"Let me rub them at least," said Steve. "You'll be hurting tomorrow if I don't."
"I'll be hurting tomorrow anyway," said Bucky. And most days, if he was being honest, but it was a good hurt. The hurt of getting paid to do something, of making his way in the world. All the same, when Steve was finished eating—because Steve warming himself up was the priority—Bucky did hold his hands out to him, and Steve sat him down on their old couch and started rubbing warmed ointment into them.
Bucky was pretty sure the stuff was just snake oil, but it felt good for a little while, anyway. Maybe it felt good because he had someone taking care of him for once, not that he and Steve didn't always take care of one another. It was just a kind of personal, physical attention that he didn't get a lot of, even when he got other kinds of physical attention.
That just brought him back to thinking about Steve again. About how Steve had never felt that. About how Steve had maybe never even come close to feeling that, if the closest he'd come was sharing a bed with Bucky over the winter.
"Listen," said Bucky, and Steve's hands slowed. "I just want to ask you something."
"You know you can always ask me stuff," said Steve, but it was warily.
"You do want it, don't you?" he said. "With the girls?"
"Now what's that supposed to mean?" said Steve sharply. "What are you asking me, Bucky?"
"Nothing...nothing," he said, shaking his head. "Nothing bad. I just wondered if maybe you just weren't ready for that. If maybe I was pushing you for something you just didn't want yet."
"Course I want it," said Steve. "Course I want to be with someone. But I want to be with someone who wants me, Bucky. I can wait for that. I know I won't be waiting forever. The right one'll come along eventually."
"Because I just thought," said Bucky, going on even though Steve had vehemently denied it. "If you were worried about it. If you were scared about it. I could help."
Steve laughed, which was not the reaction Bucky was expecting. "Bucky, you've never been shy about sharing with me just what you like to do with girls in bed," he said. "If I didn't know anything before, I sure would've after that. I'm not worried or scared, and I don't need you to give me a pep talk. The kind of girls that go for you just don't go for me."
"They don't," said Steve. "I gotta find something else. I gotta find what's right for me. It's just a little harder, that's all. It's just gonna take some more time. And you don't gotta," he paused, running a hand through his hair and getting a little goop in it, making it stand up in the most adorable way. "You don't gotta worry about it so much."
But telling him not to worry about it wasn't going to change anything. Because Bucky wasn't worried about it, and he wasn't worried about Steve. Not when it came to sex anyway. He just couldn't get the idea out of his mind, that no one had ever touched Steve, that he didn't know what sex or even intimacy felt like. That he had all those first times still to look forward to.
On a nice day, relatively speaking, Bucky threw open the window while Steve was at work just to air the place out for a little while. And later on that night, after he got home from his own shift, he discovered that Steve'd got some fresh produce from a customer who Bucky was convinced was sweet on him, and had done them up a real feast for supper.
It was just a real nice day, all around, and maybe because it was such a nice day and they were both feeling so nice that Bucky's gut told him to go for it. They were in bed together (even tonight, more habit than necessity), and he just met Steve's eyes and they smiled at one another then he was leaning in ready to press his mouth to Steve's.
He couldn't even really have said why.
"What are you doing?" said Steve. His hand was on Bucky's chest but he wasn't pushing. They were still only a few inches apart.
"I wanted to..." said Bucky, and couldn't figure out how to finish that sentence. "I thought we could...for practice."
"I don't need your pity," said Steve, and he really did push this time. "Don't you make fun of me."
"Don't be like that, Steve, I'm not making fun of you," said Bucky, backing off. At least they hadn't gone so far that he couldn't do that. "Honest mistake."
"You know what people will think if we...do that," said Steve.
"People'd have nothing to do with it," said Bucky. "Nobody else's business anyway."
"You know how people are, they make it their business. Just go to sleep, Bucky. Get some sleep or you'll get yourself hurt at work tomorrow."
Bucky's body was uncomfortable as he tried to settle into the bed again, both because it had started to anticipate what was coming and because he was trying to lie there without pressing his body against Steve's, which was just about impossible. It was stupid, what he tried. It could've gone way worse than that. But he couldn't get it out of his head, the things he could make Steve feel.
"Don't think just because I'm smaller than you, you can make me your girl," Steve added, in the middle of a long silence.
"Believe me, I'd never think that," said Bucky. "I'd never."
"Good," said Steve, and then he never said another word all night, but Bucky didn't sleep well at all.
Steve didn't stop sleeping in his bed, even after that. They didn't even talk about it anymore, didn't bother to come up with any excuses for it. It was just what they did. They didn't talk about Bucky trying to kiss him either, and he didn't try it again. He didn't stop thinking about trying it, though, and couldn't help watching Steve's mouth sometimes. Okay, a lot of times.
It wasn't an obsession. It really wasn't. But there was something just not right about no one ever taking Steve up on anything, and at the same time it...it turned Bucky on, is what it did. It turned him on that Steve was a virgin. Not because it was something he wanted for himself but because he remembered that time when everything was still new and it was an amazing, if occasionally embarrassing, time. He wanted that for Steve, he really did.
The weather quickly took a turn for the cold again, the radiator spitting out only the barest hint of warmth and snow falling past the window. At least it wasn't windy. Bucky was at the point where he actually was relieved by little things like that. They went to bed early, just to stay warm, and Bucky had an arm around Steve while Steve read a book. It took him a long time to realise that Steve wasn't turning pages anymore. Longer than it should have considering he'd spent the entire time staring right at him.
Steve closed the book, set it on the floor, and rolled onto his other side, still within Bucky's embrace. "What is it?"
Bucky shook his head. "Just go to sleep," he said.
"I'm not tired," said Steve, "and I want..."
Bucky closed his eyes against the intensity and sincerity of Steve's gaze. Sometimes everything about him was just too much, it was too much for him to handle. "I know what that feels like," he murmured.
"Bucky, look at me."
"It's not late," said Steve, "and I just want..." There was such a long pause that Bucky finally did open his eyes again, just to make sure Steve was okay. "I want to know why this is happening."
Bucky could play dumb with the best of them. He knew how to get himself out of just about anything. But not with Steve, and especially not right now. He couldn't pretend he didn't at least have an idea where Steve was going with this.
"You're going to have to be more specific," said Bucky, but he barely got the words out before Steve was surging up and kissing him, and for a little while he forgot to breathe, he genuinely forgot.
"It's not right," murmured Steve, even though he was still so close to Bucky's lips that by most definitions they were still kissing. "I shouldn't be...I shouldn't want."
"I don't care," said Bucky, and in that moment he didn't. He been increasingly not caring for days. Weeks. "You've never...of course you want."
"With you," said Steve. "I wasn't supposed to want it with you."
"I'll make it so good," said Bucky, and all he could think about was being the first for Steve, of being there with him through every moment, of being the one to make him feel that way.
"It's always been..." said Steve, even more quietly, and Bucky forgot to breathe again, or maybe he just didn't dare interrupt Steve's words with such a petty need as oxygen. "It's always been you. That's why. The girls were nice and all...but it's always been you."
He sounded like he was trying to apologize or explain and Bucky didn't want any of it. He kissed him again, clutching his shoulder too tightly but he just couldn't let go. He didn't dare let go.
"Bucky, you don't have to—" Steve tried to say, but Bucky stopped him.
"I know you're not slow, Steve," he said, "so you gotta know by now I want this too. And damn anyone who tries to say we shouldn't, if we both want it."
"We can," said Bucky. "We will. You have no idea, Steve, you have no idea how good it's going to be."
"I got some idea."
"You don't, you really don't," said Bucky, "and I gotta stop thinking about that or I'll come too fast and it won't be any good for you at all."
"So show me already, then," said Steve, exhaling in a rush, like just then he decided that they were really going to do this, right here, right now. "Show me what the big deal is, Bucky. Show me what I've been missing all this time I never said anything to you."
Bucky closed his eyes for a moment like he was looking at the sun. "Okay," he said. "I just gotta figure out where to start with you, Steve, I don't even know where to start."
"Guess you shoulda thought of that before you started, huh?" said Steve, and then he was kissing him again, so sweetly but so hard, too. So determined. It was definitely a good place to start.
"Let me see your body," said Bucky, and opened his eyes again. He'd seen Steve before, of course. He'd seen all of Steve loads of times. But never with intent, and never with an implicit understanding that he was allowed to touch him everywhere.
They couldn't get very far apart, but they could get far enough and Steve pushed the covers back only after twisting underneath them in such a way that Bucky realized he was taking his underwear off. When he saw Steve, he saw all of him, the bones that still protruded a bit too much for Bucky's liking, the dusting of hair that started only very low down on his torso, the sweet dip of his throat, and his uncertain-but-by-no-means-unwilling smile.
"Can I kiss you?"
"You've been kissing me, Buck."
"Not there," said Bucky, and leaned in and started with his throat. The parts of his body that had been outside the covers were cool to Bucky's lips, and those parts he'd been wrapped around while Steve was still reading were warm and even the slightest bit damp in places. Bucky covered them all, touching everywhere with his lips that he could, while Steve went from still and quiet to trembling and moaning beneath him.
"Oh Bucky, you gotta let me—"
"You need a break?" said Bucky quickly.
"No!" said Steve. "You gotta let me do that to you."
Bucky just grinned and dove back in again, sucking on Steve's earlobe. "Next time," he says, with faith now that there would be one. That there would be many more next times. "This time, just let me show you, Steve. Just let me do this for you."
"I think I'm about ready to burst already, Bucky!"
"Well, that's the idea, isn't it?" he said. There was stuff he'd never done before, but he'd had it done to him so he didn't hesitate to give it a try, because this was Steve. The way he thought that to himself, maybe he should've had a clue a long time ago about the way he felt about all this.
"Are you gonna...?"
Bucky didn't answer him, just took Steve's cock in hand—not huge, but perfect—and then into his mouth, and it wasn't strange at all. Steve bucked up against him, pushing nearer his throat, and Bucky just took it for a moment before pressing down on Steve's hips.
"I can't believe you're gonna..."
Believe it, thought Bucky, and if he couldn't swallow him down like some girls he knew could, he could do just about anything but. Bucky knew how to use his mouth and his lips and his tongue and his hands, and he put everything to work here, making it the best he could.
"Hey, hey Bucky," said Steve. "Hey Bucky, you gotta." Bucky sucked harder. "Hey Bucky, you gotta stop now, you gotta...oh God."
Maybe Bucky should've stopped, because he knew this part could get tricky if you didn't know quite what you were doing. But the same thing that got him here in the first place kept him going—this was Steve, and he was going to do it right. Besides, what was so hard about swallowing?
A few moments later, when Steve cried out and clutched at Bucky's shoulders and came, Bucky found out. But he did it anyway, and if he made a bit of a mess, well, Steve definitely didn't care and no one else was ever going to know.
He licked his lips and wiped his mouth on the back of his hand and then rested his palm against Steve's stomach as Steve caught his breath, watching carefully for signs that it was more serious than just post-orgasmic breathlessness. It took Steve a little longer than it would've taken Bucky, but he looked so happy as he did it.
"You didn't have to—"
"Shut up," said Bucky, and slid up the bed again and kissed him solid on the lips. "I didn't have to do anything. Was it good?"
"Was it good?" Steve echoed him, and laughed in his face. "Are you nuts? Of course it was good. It was great. It was...everything."
"It wasn't nearly everything," said Bucky, "but we'll get there." Maybe not all in one night, but they would get there.
"I should...you haven't," said Steve awkwardly. The language of sex never did come easy. "Just tell me what you need me to do."
"I don't need you to do anything," said Bucky, hand sneaking down to press into his underwear. He could take care of this.
"But I want to," said Steve. "I just don't know what you like."
"You can just touch me," said Bucky, and his eyes actually shut for a moment when Steve did touch him, pressing a hand to his bare chest and then letting it slide down to rest right at his waist. And that, just that, it was enough. He wrapped a fist around his cock and jerked a few times and he was coming just like that.
He choked in his next breath and Steve let his hand drift back up to the back of Bucky's neck again and when he opened his eyes Steve was saying, "I know what to do now," and leaning in to give him a soft, wet and very thorough kiss. Bucky almost thought he could survive on a diet of kisses, if they were all like that.
"I coulda done more," said Steve finally, nose pressed against Bucky's cheek and body—hot body—still so close.
"You don't even know what you do to me," said Bucky. The air around them was no warmer than it had been, and they were going to start feeling it again before long if Bucky didn't get them better settled than this.
"I'm starting to have an idea," said Steve, letting himself be manhandled into place. "And I'm pretty sure I like it."
"Can't promise it won't take me a little while to get used to the idea," he said, skirting around the edges of an issue that, one day, they were going to have to address, "but Bucky...it's just so good. We're just so good."
"You have no idea, Steve," he said against Steve's ear as he pulled the blankets around them again and wrapped Steve under his arm. "There is so much more than that."
The wind started whistling outside of their room and Bucky pulled the blankets up tighter, pulled Steve in closer, and for a little while neither of them felt any cold at all.