Steve sees it happen. Well, almost, at least.
One moment, Bucky is fighting, throwing and landing punches on their attackers with an ease that sends fond familiarity coursing through Steve’s heart. Then, just as the final opponent hits the ground and Bucky turns around to beam a victorious smile Steve’s way, the entire world shatters. Something explodes. Loudly – violently – and when the smoke finally clears, Bucky is lying face-down in the middle of the rubble with half a building covering the entire left side of his body.
Steve isn't even aware of his feet touching the ground as he sprints to Bucky’s side. The pulse of relief he feels when he sees Bucky stir before Steve even reaches him, on the other hand, throbs through him with such a force it nearly causes him to stumble.
Bucky groans and tries to push himself up to his knees, but the debris keeps him trapped; a large slab of concrete and pieces of scaffolding weighing him down. Steve doesn’t waste time as he quickly bends down and grabs a hold of a large metal beam, tipping it aside before going to work on the rest of the debris. Bucky grunts when his metal arm comes free, and Steve drops the concrete slab to take a hold around Bucky’s shoulder in order to steady him.
The moment Steve’s fingers wrap around the metal, Bucky lets out a gasp as if he’s just been punched in the gut, and drops back down onto one knee with a sway that threatens to make him topple over. However, when Steve moves to help, Bucky flinches, shaking Steve’s hand off with a startled yelp.
“Don’t touch me!” he growls. He glares at Steve, eyes sharp with something that looks uncomfortably much like fear as he gulps air into his lungs with a heaving chest, but Steve doesn't falter.
“Are you hurt?” he demands, but once again, Bucky slaps his hand away with a grunt when Steve tries to offer him assistance, slowly standing up. For a moment, he looks confused, almost scared with his human hand wrapped loosely around the spot where Steve had touched him, but then he straightens his back, squaring his shoulders. He doesn’t let go of the arm, however.
“We should head back,” Bucky decides. “Where are the others?”
“They’re making their way to the rendezvous point,” Steve supplies, before nodding to a spot right above Bucky’s elbow where a big dent in the plating has left some of the wiring exposed. “Your arm’s damaged,” he says pointedly.
“It’s just a scratch,” Bucky objects, but as Steve reaches his hand out with the intention to look more closely, Bucky actually staggers back with a low snarl. “I said don’t touch it!”
“Okay,” Steve says, backing up with his arms raised in surrender. “Alright, I’m not touching.”
Bucky doesn’t reply, even though his posture relaxes slightly. Steve decides to leave it as it is. They'll have a look at it when they get back; at the moment, they need to get the hell out of Dodge, before things turn real nasty.
They make it out. It’s not graceful, and it certainly isn’t the most successful operation they’ve ever executed, but they’re alive, and that’s enough. Steve’s pretty sure they’re all going to get their hides handed to them by a bunch of government officials come next week anyhow, so there’s really no point in beating themselves up over it as well.
The ride back in the quinjet is quiet. It’s not unusual; they all need time to wind down after a fight like this; to get their bearings right and their heads turned back on straight. No one speaks a word, yet no matter how hard Steve tries, he finds himself unable to relax. He keeps shifting in his seat, restless, and time and time again he catches himself glancing in Bucky’s direction to see how his friend is doing.
Bucky is sitting in the back of the plane, huddled up on top of the storage crates with his right leg tucked up against his chest and the other dangling off the edge of the box, as he stares out at the air in front of him. He’s still holding around his arm, and Steve sees the faint movement of a thumb slowly stroking up and down the plating as the light from the front of the plane reflects in the metal surface.
Bucky had refused to let Tony check his arm when they got on the plate, despite the fact that there’s an evident dent right in the middle of it. Tony had eventually given up trying to convince Bucky to let him at least look at it, and announced that they’ll get it fixed up when they got back to the tower and Tony’s workshop. Bucky, on the other hand, hadn’t seemed very enthusiastic about that decision…
When they get back to the tower, the quinjet barely has time to touch the landing pad before Bucky’s out and gone, heading for the staircase faster than anyone can call him back. Steve assumes he’s heading for the workshop and doesn’t bother trying to stop him. It’s not until three hours later, when Tony knocks on Steve’s door to ask him if Barnes is there that Steve realizes something’s wrong.
F.R.I.D.A.Y. is a good AI; not as cordial as J.A.R.V.I.S. had been, in Steve’s opinion, but still an exceptional piece of engineering. Yet, it hadn’t taken Steve long to figure out that Bucky, during his first week staying with them, had managed to search out and locate at least three areas within the tower where F.R.I.D.A.Y. was incapable of registering his presence. Blind spots, as he had called them. Steve hadn't been very surprised; keeping himself hidden had always been part of Bucky’s skill set, after all.
Steve himself knows of two spots, and the moment Tony leaves, Steve shrugs on his jacket and goes looking. Turns out, Bucky’s not at the first location Steve goes to – a space in the corner of the common room’s upper level – so Steve heads on to the second one, silently hoping that Bucky won’t have picked the unknown third option to stay holed up in this time.
He’s lucky. He finds Bucky huddled up in an alcove on the roof, still in full tac gear and with a haunted expression on his face. When Steve approaches, Bucky doesn’t move a muscle. His eyes, however, shift towards Steve with a sharp gleam, glaring defiance.
“What do you want?” Bucky snaps, before Steve so much as opens his mouth. Steve blinks; it’s been a very long time since Bucky last used that tone with him. Even if Bucky’s sudden disappearance hadn’t already been enough of a clue, Steve’s now thoroughly convinced that something’s not right.
“Tony’s looking for you,” he says simply, and Bucky snorts while rolling his eyes towards the night sky above.
“Well, you tell him he can stop,” he rasps. His voice sounds hoarse, as if he’s been screaming. His hair, which had already been messy and tangled after the battle, now lies like dark streaks plastered against the skin of his forehead. “I already told him, he’s not coming anywhere near me.”
Steve looks at him, long and steady, but instead of elaborating on the statement, Bucky turns away, curling up even tighter with his back up against the wall. His metal arm, which is poking out through the regular open sleeve of Bucky’s jacket, is hanging limp from his shoulder, as if he’d rather not move it anymore. As Bucky shifts around, Steve also spots a pair of screwdrivers lying on the ground by the other man’s feet, and immediately, dread coils its way through his stomach.
“Buck, what did you do?”
“Nothing,” Bucky grumbles, before sighing exasperatedly and letting his head fall back against the wall with a low thud. “I haven’t managed to do a goddamn thing…”
Steve’s brow furrows, but before he can ask what he means by that, Bucky’s lets out another heavy sigh while shaking his head. “I suppose I should be grateful,” he says bitterly.
“Grateful for what?” Steve asks.
“That this didn’t happen with Hydra,” Bucky replies flatly. “Then again, maybe it did, what the fuck do I know…”
“That what didn’t happen with Hydra?” Steve asks impatiently. “Buck, you’re not making any sense.”
Once again, Bucky shifts his eyes to look at him, and then takes a deep breath, as if bracing himself.
“You remember that time…” he asks slowly, “when we found that old Tijuana bible, down at the docks?”
The question is not at all what Steve had been expecting, and it catches him of guard; not just because it’s asked, but because Steve had more-or-less forgotten about that particular event himself.
“Yeah,” he says slowly, searching his memory for details as he narrows his eyes at his friend. “And you convinced me to hang on to it for you so your sisters wouldn’t see it by accident?”
“Yeah,” Bucky agrees, and wondering where this is going, Steve waits. After a while, Bucky licks his lips and swallows hard. “Your mom found it,” he says. “Remember that?”
“Do I ever,” Steve says with a snort. “I swear, I get nightmares about it still.”
That actually coaxes a chuckle out of Bucky. “I can imagine,” he says. He meets Steve’s gaze when Steve leans against the scaffolding opposite of where Bucky’s sitting.
“I owned up to it, though,” Bucky reminisces. “Went to your mom and told her it was mine, just to get your neck off the chopping block. Man, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a woman so disappointed.”
“Are you making a point, or are you just using my mom as a reference to brag about your romantic conquests?” Steve teases, and this time Bucky genuinely laughs at the joke.
“I’m getting there,” he says, defending himself. “My point is you were in a tight spot, and I got you out of it.”
“To be fair,” Steve points out, “it was your book.”
“Don’t get technical with me,” Bucky objects, “It was humiliating for you, I helped, and now, you owe me.”
Steve’s sure that Bucky’s thoroughly convinced there’s a parallel between what’s happening here and the story Bucky’s talking about, but for the life of him, Steve doesn’t see it. Apparently, it only takes one look at him for Bucky to realize that as well. Seeing the confused frown on Steve’s face, he slumps down, hanging his head and burying his face in his human hand – the metal one still lying limp on the ground.
“Bucky…” Steve says. “I have no idea what you’re getting at with all this. I’m sorry, but you’re gonna have to break it down for me.” He pauses, and waits, and after what feels like half a lifetime, Bucky sighs and lets his hand drop down onto his lap.
“You can’t tell a soul, okay?” he says. It’s probably meant to come out as an order, but all Steve hears is a plea.
“Of course,” Steve says, doesn’t even hesitate, but that doesn’t make Bucky look any happier. Quite the opposite.
“Fuck…” he breathes.
“Bucky, if you’re in pain, then we need to let Tony have a look at you.”
“I’m not in pain,” Bucky snaps, making Steve scoff.
“Oh, no, clearly, you’re fine,” he says sarcastically. “You’re just hiding out on the roof and poking at your own arm with some makeshift toolbox—”
“Dammit, Steve, you’re not listening. ” Bucky cuts him off, loudly. “I’m not in pain , I never was!”
“Then why are you acting like this?” Steve demands harshly. “What’s your goddamn problem? ”
“My problem is that it's making me feel too damn good! ” Bucky snarls back, before clamping his mouth shut so fast, Steve can hear the muted clack of teeth. Around them, the night suddenly appears eerily quiet. Steve has no idea how long they stay like that, just staring each other down, before Steve finally shifts his weight from one foot to the other and clears his throat.
“I… I’m sorry, pal,” he says. “I still don't get what it is you’re trying to tell me.”
“Bullshit,” Bucky retorts through gritted teeth. “You know exactly what I’m talking about.”
Steve feels the heat rise at the back of his neck at that, because, yeah, in a way, he’s kind of guessed it by now. Why else would Bucky bring up something like hiding porn when asked about what’s wrong with his arm?
“Is that why you’re… uhm…” Steve waves his hand towards Bucky’s immobile hand, and Bucky nods.
“Whenever I move it, it’s… I think there’s something wrong with the sensory module.” He pauses. Steve sees him reach out with his human hand, as if to slide his fingers over the surface of the arm, only to change his mind and pull it back again, balling his hand into a fist. “You know orgasms start to hurt after a while, right?” he says, blatantly and without any innuendo whatsoever. Steve honestly doesn’t know whether he should feel appalled or embarrassed about the mental images the words conjure up inside his head.
“It’s true,” Bucky continues, as if he’s talking about an interesting fact he’d looked up in a book somewhere. “A normal person could probably go through four, or even five, before it stops being fun. But when you’ve got some radioactive Hydra-cocktail floating in your system, I’d say the number is about the double.”
“Jesus Christ, Buck…” Steve breathes. He tries not to look at Bucky’s lap when he says it, but his eyes are pulled there nonetheless. Not that he can see much with the way Bucky’s sitting; view pretty much obscured.
“Sad, isn’t it?” Bucky asks with a snort. “Who would’ve thought getting off would ever get tedious?”
But Steve’s not listening. His eyes have gone from glancing at Bucky’s pants to stare at the two screwdrivers by the heel of Bucky’s boot, and just like that, a whole lot of things click inside his head all at once.
“Dammit, Bucky, you should’ve said something,” he grates. “We could have helped you.”
“Are you hearing yourself right now?” Bucky asks. “You think I’m gonna go downstairs and announce to everyone that having my arm played with suddenly pushes all my buttons because some bad guy blew off a bomb next to it?”
“You know that’s not what I mean,” Steve argues, but Bucky doesn’t pay him any attention.
“You seriously think I’m gonna let Tony poke around inside my arm and make me cream my pants every other minute?” he asks instead, and Steve cringes.
“Of course I realize that’s not an option,” he snaps. “But we can’t help you come up with any alternatives if we don’t know what’s going on.”
“Stop saying we as if any of the others have something to do with this!” Bucky snarls.
“Alright, then, me, ” Steve retors impatiently.
“Yeah, right,” Bucky says with another lowering snort, that actually hurts a little. “So you’re gonna help me fix this? What you gonna do, huh? Pick up a screwdriver and go poking around yourself?”
“If I have to,” Steve replies grimly, and some of Bucky’s confident sneer falters. He stares at Steve, as if just realizing what they’re actually discussing here, and somehow that look makes Steve feel as if he’s just crossed a line he didn’t even know existed between them. It makes Steve lower his gaze to stare down at his own boots, and when the soles of Bucky’s shoes scrape against the concrete, the sound of it seems loud enough to be heard throughout the entire city.
“You’d really do that?” Bucky asks. “For my sake?” Steve lifts his head to stare at his friend, because again; that had so not been what he had expected to hear.
“Do what?” he says, before he can stop himself, and he closes his eyes with a low groan. “I mean,” he corrects himself, “yes. Yes, I would.”
“Why?” Bucky asks. He sounds openly defiant as he says it; as if he’s trying to catch Steve in the middle of a lie, and it has Steve’s pulse quickening in his veins out of sheer frustration.
“Why do you think?” he says. “You’re my friend .”
He expects a retort of some kind. Something about Bucky arguing that friends don’t help each other do things like that, but nothing comes. Again, Steve’s heart picks up pace, and his stomach twists inside his body in a way he can’t really decide is good or unpleasant.
Bucky has gone from staring at Steve’s face, to staring at his legs, right below the knees. His jaw is working as if he’s chewing the inside of his cheek, which is exactly what Steve suspects he’s doing. It’s a reassuring sight, as much of a nervous bad habit as it is. It’s a thing that is entirely Bucky’s , and those little glimpses of his childhood friend never fail to make Steve feel a bit more hopeful about the future.
“I’d never do it without your consent,” Steve says softly, suspecting what it is Bucky’s thinking about. The moment the words leave his mouth, Bucky damn near flinches with guilt as Steve calls him out.
“I know,” he says quickly. “You’re not— This isn’t Siberia.” He sucks in a deep breath and squeezes his eyes shut for a moment, before letting the air back out in a violent rush. “Alright, so… Let’s assume I’ll let you. Help, I mean. How are we supposed to do it?”
“Honestly?” Steve asks. “I haven't really thought that far yet.” He rubs at the back of his neck while gnawing on his bottom lip. “I guess I could ask Tony for the blueprints of your arm—”
“If you tell him—” Bucky starts harshly, but Steve waves him off with a huff.
“Of course I’m not telling him,” he says, as if Bucky’s being an idiot for even suggesting it (which in all honesty, he already had). “He doesn’t need to know why I need them.”
“He’ll never give them to you,” Bucky argues. “Even less lend you the tools to have you go fiddling around inside his equipment.”
“ Your equipment,” Steve reminds him firmly. “He gave you the arm, remember? It’s yours to do with what you please. Tony’s just, you know, the maintenance guy.”
“Better not let him hear you call him that,” Bucky warns. “You’re living in his house.”
“I pay rent,” Steve objects with a shrug that makes Bucky smirk. Steve looks at him, growing serious again as he bends down to pick up the two screwdrivers from the ground. “Listen, don’t worry about it. I’ll get us the prints, and I’m gonna make sure we have better things than these crowbars to work with too.”
Bucky purses his lips while looking at the tools in Steve’s hand. “Are you that sure this is something you're gonna want to work with then?” he asks. “It’s going to be awkward as all hell, and not just for me.”
“I know,” Steve says. Then he chuckles and gives a light kick to Bucky’s boot. “What, you think I never heard you back when we were teenagers?” he teases. “The couch cushions weren’t that far apart, you know.”
“Shut up,” Bucky mutters, kicking Steve’s shoe right back. “You used to moan in your sleep too.”
“Because of my asthma,” Steve defends himself without skipping a beat. “What the hell you were doing, I don’t even wanna know.”
“Fuck you, Rogers.”
“You first,” Steve quips brazenly, and Bucky’s teeth flash white when his lips widen in an amused grin at the familiar rhythm of the banter. Laughing, he tips his head back against the wall, but this time he doesn’t look half as miserable as when Steve had first found him.
“Alright,” he says after a while, and Steve looks on as Bucky, struggling a little, manages to get up on his feet without disturbing the position of his left arm. He hisses a bit when the inside of it rubs against his jacket, but once he’s upright, he relaxes again and lets out a low sigh as he turns towards Steve. “Just so you know, I’m not gonna let you do this before both of us have gotten some proper sleep. And also because if we try to fix it tonight and you screw up, I actually think my dick might fall off.”
“Thanks for that visual,” Steve mutters, but he can’t say the arguments sound unfair. “So tomorrow, then. What time?”
“Is there any reason to wait longer than necessary?” Bucky asks, and Steve shakes his head.
“Not really. Depends on how long you wanna walk around like that,” he says with a pointed nod to Bucky’s limp shoulder, and Bucky nods.
“Right. Bright and early then. Your place.”
“Why my place?” Steve asks, puzzled, and Bucky rolls his eyes at him.
“Because, dumbass, you know just as well as I do that Tony won’t give you actual paper blueprints to this. He’ll have them sent to you on those fancy hologram thingies, and my room doesn’t have that anymore. It’s just a temporary stay, I’ve told you.”
“And I’ve told you , just as many times, that if you want a room on the upper floors, all you have to do is say so,” Steve reminds him politely.
“Fat chance,” Bucky says with a snort, and Steve, recognizing the scenario, drops the topic.
It had taken Tony himself almost three whole months of constant nagging to get Bucky to come live with them in a downstairs conference room that is now Bucky’s studio apartment. Getting him to accept the arm had taken less time, but ever since, Bucky has refused to ask Tony for anything else. “Stark doesn’t owe me a thing,” he had said when Steve had questioned it, and his tone had been so cold and at the same time filled with such emotion, Steve hadn’t needed to ask a second time. He knew.
“Okay, so my floor, tomorrow morning,” he summarizes. “I’ll handle the tools and prints, you handle… well… You, I guess.”
“Pretty much, yeah,” Bucky agrees.
“Great,” Steve says. “Awesome.” He dares an encouraging smile, and Bucky returns it briefly, before dropping his gaze to the floor when the two of them slowly begin to head for the stairs.
“Thanks, Steve,” Bucky murmurs, once they reach the door to the inside of the tower. “I— Just thanks.”
“Don’t mention it,” Steve says. He raises his hand, and comes stumbling close to clasping it over the top of Bucky’s shoulder in a reassuring shake, before he catches himself and quickly yanks it back. Bucky watches him do it, but even though how close Steve comes to touching him this time, he doesn’t flinch. Not even a little.
“Sorry,” Steve offers, and Bucky snorts out an amused laugh through his nose before heading inside when Steve politely holds the door open for him.
“So, let me see if I’ve got this straight,” Tony says, voice echoing hollow from within the torso of the Ironman suit that's lying on the workbench between them. “You want me to forward the complete holographic prints of Barnes’ arm to the communications port in your room?”
“Yes,” Steve answers patiently.
“Uh-huh,” comes the muffled reply. “Aaand, then you wanna borrow a few of my five-hundred-dollar precision screwdrivers so that you can use them to pick apart your boyfriend’s damaged arm?”
“He’s not my boyfriend,” Steve replies dryly, “but yes.”
With a grunt, Tony emerges from within the shell of his suit, black smudges of oil streaked across his cheeks, hair tousled and sticking out wildly in every possible and impossible direction. He looks at Steve from across the worktable, and Steve holds his gaze without as much as a twitch.
Having a face-off with Tony is a bit like staring down a wolf. Give him an inch – show him the slightest of hint that you’re hesitating – and he’ll gobble you up all the way to your elbow. Grinning.
Steve watches Tony lick his lips before pursing them for a moment. “Fine,” he says, and Steve blinks in surprise as he watches Tony dive back down into the robotic torso once more.
“What, just like that?” he asks.
“Yeah,” Tony confirms, popping his head up again. “Or do you want me to say no?”
“No,” Steve says firmly. “No, I just thought… You know what, never mind. Can I take the tools now, or are you using them? I’m gonna need them early tomorrow morning.”
“No, they’re just over here, hold on.” Tony straightens up so fast, he nearly bangs his head on the worklight perched above the bench, and Steve narrows his eyes into a suspicious squint as he watches Tony saunter away towards his desk on the other side of the workshop.
“Why are you not putting up a fight about this?” Steve asks warily. On the other side of the desk, Tony ducks his head to pull at the drawers in hunt for the tools Steve’s requested.
“What, I can’t be nice all of a sudden?” Tony replies, much too innocently, but as Steve pointedly crosses his arms over his chest, Tony’s shoulders slump as he stands back up with a heavy sigh.
“Really, Cap, you’re sending an awful lot of mixed signals here. Either you want me to say yes, or you want me to say no. Geez, no wonder poor Barnes is so confused all the time.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Steve grumbles, trying not to flush when Tony gives him an exasperated look.
“Again, really? ” Tony asks indignantly. “It’s the twenty first century around here, buddy, people don’t care about that stuff anymore.”
“What stuff? ”
“You know,” Tony says while pointedly putting the tips of his index fingers together, rubbing them back and forth. “Stuff.”
This time, Steve can’t fight the blush no matter how hard he tries. As he looks away, cheeks burning, Tony lets his hands drop with a groan and an eyeroll to the ceiling.
“You’re almost a hundred years old, Rogers, I really shouldn’t have to be teaching you about these things.”
“You don’t have to teach me anything,” Steve quips back, perhaps a bit too gruffly. His stomach is doing that swirly, nervous thing again, and his heart is pounding so hard he can feel it all the way inside his skull. “I know what it is that you’re trying to imply, but Bucky is my friend , nothing more.”
“Oh, spare me,” Tony says with a snort. “You think the rest of us don’t notice the way you constantly pine over each other? I swear, it’s painful to watch.”
“There’s no pining,” Steve denies firmly. Then, driven to defend himself further by the straightforward way Tony looks at him, he adds, “Bucky doesn’t feel comfortable around other people, and we spend a lot of time together as a result. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
“I never said wrong,” Tony points out, suddenly stern. “That’s your definition of it, not mine.” He looks at Steve, and as his eyes suddenly narrow into a studious squint, Steve's stomach drops. “You know it’s not wrong, right?” Tony asks. “I mean, you’re aware of that?”
Steve swallows hard, jaw clenching, and Tony slowly lifts his chin as his face softens into an expression that is equal parts smug and understanding.
“So that’s what this is about,” he marvels, and Steve turns away, dropping his arms to perch his hands on his hips instead. He hears Tony shift, footsteps slowly rounding the desk to come to a halt behind Steve’s back. “For how long?” Tony asks, and as Steve squares his shoulders, he hears Tony sigh. “That long, huh.”
Steve doesn’t know what to say. He hadn’t exactly planned on having this conversation, much less with Tony , out of all people, if ever. He feels nauseous, and there’s a tremble to his limbs that makes it hard to breathe.
“Steven,” Tony says softly, and the tone of his voice sounds so sincere and so not like Tony , it makes Steve wanna grit his teeth. “Times have changed. Surely you must have noticed that by now?”
“I know,” Steve indeed grits out. It’s the only thing he can bring himself to say. He looks down at the ground when Tony comes around to stand in front of him.
“Then what’s the hold-up?” Tony asks. “If you know that, and you like the guy—”
“It’s not about what I know, okay,” Steve snaps, not really asking for a response. “Even if there was something like that going on, it wouldn’t work.”
“Why not?” Tony argues.
“Because—” Steve gulps down a breath, choking on the words. He doesn’t want to say them, because they hurt; have always hurt. Then again, it’s the only truth Steve has ever known…
He looks up at Tony, fully aware of the fact that he’s got visible tears in his eyes now, but he doesn’t care. “Because Bucky likes girls,” he says, fighting to keep the wet burn in his throat at bay. “He’s not interested in guys. And even if he was, he’s still my best friend. He doesn’t need me to come barging into his life now, trampling over everything when he’s just managed to piece it back together.”
“How do you know what he needs?” Tony asks sharply, and Steve blinks, taken aback by the other man’s suddenly hostile tone when Tony continues, “Who are you to make that decision for him?”
Steve scowls, and Tony takes a step back, walking a few paces before turning back to face Steve again, hands at his sides, looking a mix between angry and disbelieving.
“You honestly think he doesn’t look at you that way?”
“He doesn’t,” Steve says simply, because really, what else is there to say?
“And what if I told you he does?” Tony argues.
“Then I’d say you’re wrong,” Steve replies.
“Uh-huh. And what if he told you?”
Steve’s heart gives a sharp, violent thud inside his chest at the mere thought. To have Bucky say that to him… It’s a thought that's crossed his mind before, of course it is. If Steve could have a nickle for every time he had entertained such daydreams, Tony would look like a church rat in comparison. If Bucky said it… If Bucky—
He shakes the thought from his head – actually, physically shakes it – and closes his eyes. It's stupid, Steve tells himself. Stupid and useless; nothing good will come from lingering on thoughts like that, not even to answer a theoretical question.
“Why is this such a big deal to you, anyway?” he asks instead, turning his gaze on Tony. Tony responds by tipping his head back to the ceiling above with a silent groan, before looking Steve in the eye once more.
“Alright,” he says. “You wanna know why? I’ll tell you why. Because you’re getting on my nerves.” He throws his arm out to the side in a wide, sweeping gesture. “You walk around the tower sighing and looking wistfully at each other like some bizarre production of Romeo and Juliet. Because Barnes is taking up space in one of my biggest conference rooms when I’m guessing he’d much rather spend his nights with you. And because I’m tired of constantly having to check with F.R.I.D.A.Y. whether your fella is still in the building, or if he’s holed up on the rooftop, as usual. And yes, I know about the roof,” he adds when Steve’s face goes pale, “and no, I haven’t added any surveillance up there. With the former Winter Soldier claiming the space as his own little sulking corner, I figure that’s the last place I need to put in extra resources around here…”
Steve exhales, feeling relief from the fact that Tony hadn’t been able to see Bucky’s failed attempts to repair his damaged arm. There’s a part of Steve that wonders briefly what surveillance footage of that would have looked like, and another part that sternly tells him not to think about it when his imagination fleetingly begins to pull in that direction.
He clears his throat and straightens up, aware that Tony’s still looking at him; studying him with an intensity that feels close to physical on Steve’s skin. He clears his throat again and licks his lips, but he still doesn’t know what else to say. So he’s in love with his best friend. That’s nothing new. He had realized that ages ago; before Captain America, before the war… Back when Bucky had gone out dancing with new girls every other weekend, all smiles and masculine charm, while Steve had trailed behind like a lovesick puppy. Keeping it secret back then had been important, sure. The world hadn’t exactly been forgiving regarding those kind of things, but the main reason was, had always been, and is still the same.
Bucky can’t know.
If Bucky ever were to find out about Steve, about what he is… And that he is that way because of Bucky…
It can not happen. Steve can’t allow it.
“C’mon, Cap,” Tony pleads. “Why do you think he’s still here? It sure ain’t for my sake.”
“He feels indebted to you,” Steve argues, knowing that he's falling back on worn-out defenses, but he doesn't care. “He’ll stay for as long as you let him.”
“You're unbelievable,” Tony accuses. “You can't possibly be that blind.”
“Oh, so I'm the one that's unbelievable?” Steve snaps, suddenly angry. “I came here to ask you help me help a friend, and you decided to take that as a cue to start lecturing me on my life choices.”
“Because they're choices you're making even though you don't have to!” Tony defends himself. “You're making both of your lives miserable, all for nothing!”
“Bucky can handle himself,” Steve shoots back. “If he really needs the help, he'll ask for it.” He says it, even though knowing that it's a complete lie. Isn't that why he's here to begin with? Because Bucky had been too stubborn to ask for help, Steve had to actually chase him down in order to offer it. Again.
He pushes the thought away. “If you're so sure there's something else going on between the two of us, then why don't you just go ask him about it?” he says, trying not to make it sound as if he's sulking.
“He doesn’t wanna talk about that with me, ” Tony scoffs. “He wants to talk to you. ”
“Tony, I—” Steve cuts himself off, pushing his palms up to rub over his face. He drags a shaky breath into his lungs, telling himself to calm down. To breathe.
C’mon, Stevie, just breathe.
“Can we just, please, forget about this conversation?” he asks. “Please?”
There’s a moment of silence that feels like it stretches on forever, and then Steve hears Tony sigh.
“Sure… Whatever you say, Cap.” Tony pauses. “You still want the tools?”
“Yeah,” Steve decides, dropping his hands back down with a deep breath through his nose. Tony gives him a look that’s both sympathetic and frustrated beyond relief, and then goes to get the screwdrivers from the desk drawer.
They’re tiny, all collected in a box Steve can easily carry in one hand. As his fingers grasp around the plastic cover when Tony reaches it over the desk towards him, Tony doesn’t let it go right away. Instead, he searches out Steve’s gaze and holds it while tightening his grip around the toolbox.
“Don’t throw this away, Steve,” he says earnestly. “Things might not be as black and white as you think they are.”
Steve quickly tugs the tools out of Tony’s hand, and he's relieved when Tony lets him.
“I’ll send the blueprints to your com station,” Tony says when Steve turns around, already heading for the door.
“Thanks,” Steve says flatly. His skin is itching, and he just wants to leave as quickly as possible. He doesn’t want to stay here. He doesn’t want to be anywhere near Tony and his dumb, useless theories that send butterflies soaring through Steve’s gut whether he wants them to or not. He doesn’t want to hope.
As he reaches the door to the workshop, the automated doors have already slid open for him to walk through, when Tony speaks up behind him.
Steve stops in the middle of the doorway, but he doesn’t turn around. “Yes?” he asks.
He hears Tony drag for breath, hold it, and then let it back out again in a slow, tired sigh.
By the time the soft knock on Steve’s door is heard, Steve is already so nervous he feels like he’s just about ready to crawl out of his own skin. He has spent the morning rearranging the furniture of his sparse living quarters to create an acceptable working space for what they’re about to do, even though he’s done his best to not think too much about what that work will actually entail.
As of now, Steve has cleared the bedside table and pushed it as close to the bed as he can, creating a stable surface for Bucky to put his arm on. At first, he had contemplated on whether he should add some kind of pillow on there for comfort, but had discarded the idea just as quick. The less doting and more professional they keep this, the better for both of them. Besides, the moment he had placed the pillow on there, he had found the combined result to appear oddly… seductive. As if he might as well start lighting candles and playing romantic music, and he had flung the pillow down faster than he had put it on the table, nerves ratcheting up his heartbeat.
He has rearranged his desk to stand next to the mattress, in order to provide them with efficient lighting from the desk lamp, as well as to keep his supplies within convenient reach. He had considered the option of having Bucky sit in an actual chair by the desk itself while they did this, but as much as Steve found the bed to be suggestive, given the context, a chair would be equally as disturbing – for entirely different reasons.
They had not spent long inside the hidden facility in Siberia, but Steve had still seen more of that place than he ever would have wanted. He had seen the chair in the middle of the cryostasis room, and more importantly, he had seen the way Bucky had looked at it. Putting two and two together hadn't exactly been hard.
No way is Steve about to mimick that grotesque set-up here inside his own home, where Bucky has finally begun to build his life anew after all this struggle. No way in hell. So… bed it is.
Steve is just finishing with lining up all the screwdrivers on the desk for easy access when he hears the first tap of knuckles against the other side of his door. He turns around so fast, he nearly sends the tools skidding off the table when he stands up from his seat to greet his friend as the door opens. Bucky is wearing a loosely fitted, black tank top and grey sweatpants, his hair still a tousled mess, as if he just got out of bed. After seeing the worn-out expression on the other man’s face, Steve decides that’s also most likely the case.
“Hi,” Steve says, and Bucky nods a reply. “How’d you sleep?”
“Sitting,” Bucky answers dryly, closing and locking the door firmly behind him. When Steve frowns in confusion, Bucky sighs, adding, “Apparently, nowadays, I tend to roll over on my left side while I sleep.” He gives a bitter smile as he bites down on his lower lip briefly. “Thankfully, sleeping in a chair seems to prevent me from doing that.”
Steve swallows, nodding, while refusing to imagine the scenario he’s just been told of. He sneaks a glance at Bucky’s arm, which Bucky is holding at an angle that leaves plenty of space between the actual arm and the rest of his body, as if he’d rather not have it touch anything other than air. The action speaks volumes over anything Bucky could have possibly said, and Steve quickly tears his eyes away while clearing his throat.
“I’ve, uh, got the stuff set up,” he offers. He gestures to the bed on the other side of the room, pretending not to notice the way Bucky’s throat bobs at the sight of Steve's rearranged furniture. Bucky lets his gaze linger on the bedspread for a moment, before moving it to take in the sight of the screwdrivers aligned on top of the desk. He looks nervous, Steve thinks, but then again, that isn't exactly strange.
“You're gonna get your back crooked if you sit like that,” Bucky says eventually while nodding to the office chair next to the much-lower bedside table.
“Well,” Steve says, sighing. “Wouldn't be the first time I had one of those, would it?”
Bucky gives him a somewhat slanted shrug, but doesn't say anything else as he approaches to the bed, stopping by the side of it. He's chewing the inside of his cheek again, and the look he directs towards the bedding is unreadable.
“Bucky,” Steve says, sensing the other man's hesitation all the way from across the room. “We don't have to do this.”
“I know,” Bucky says simply, without looking up. Then he spins around to sit down on the bed, arm held high as he slings his legs up to lie on his back on the mattress.
Instantly, Steve's mind revs back through time, to Bucky, shirtless and smiling at him from across a baking hot room back home, a thumb tucked underneath the dark strap of his suspenders as he complains about the late summer heat while the sweat beads on his brow; to Bucky, lying on Steve's raggedy old bed and grinning with his arms folded under his head, going on and on about his new girl while Steve forces himself to at least look happy for him as he nods his silent replies; to Bucky, on a dingy army cot in the middle of nowhere, his leg in a splint from where he’s sprained it on the latest mission, and a brave look on his face as Steve patches him up; to Bucky, with his glassy expression and dark hollow eyes as Steve drags him from a cold slab in the murky depths of a Hydra research facility, mumbling numbers and a rank under his breath as if they're the only words left inside his head.
Steve squeezes his eyes shut, turning away.
This is not the same, he tells himself sternly. This is… This is not a leisurely visit, a mission gone wrong, or the results of unspeakable violation. This is Bucky, giving Steve the go-ahead to help, and it's not the same.
“You okay?” he hears Bucky ask, and Steve quickly straightens up.
“Yeah, I’m good,” he says, before adding, “Are you okay?” He says it to avoid having the room fall silent more than anything, and Bucky nods as he looks at the side table.
“Yeah,” he replies. There's a rasp to his voice as he speaks, and he quickly clears his throat at the sound of it. “I’m fine.” He swallows nervously, before sending Steve an encouraging smile. “Let's do this then, shall we?”
Steve nods and quickly makes his way over to sit down in the office chair next to the bed. He looks on as Bucky lowers his left hand down onto the table, and tries to keep his facial expression schooled as Bucky's jaw clenches slightly when the metal makes contact with the polished wood.
“So Tony gave me the plans last night,” Steve says while reaching out to press a button that's been integrated into the surface of the desk. As he does, a holographic illustration immediately flickers into existence in the air above, depicting the schematics of Bucky's arm. “I've tried to study it as much as I can, and F.R.I.D.A.Y. helped me understand a few things better. I never said anything about why I needed to know them, though.”
“Sounds fair,” Bucky agrees. He's looking at the hologram, eyes flitting over the blue-ish lines for a moment before he raises his human hand to point at a spot just above the elbow. “Pull that up,” he orders. As Steve does, the holographic map splits up into a more detailed version of the same spot; parts and wiring sectioned into two different frames.
“You're gonna have to remove that plate first,” Bucky says, gesturing with his finger to the left image. “There are three screws that'll need to be loosened before you can do that. Then you'll be able to pry the dented plate off to reach the right section of wires.”
“You want me to pry the plate off?” Steve asks hesitantly. “Really?”
“It's all bent out of shape already,” Bucky explains. “I'm gonna need Stark to replace it either way.” He looks at Steve. “The pressure sensors only register stimuli to the outside of the arm. Once the plates are gone, I won't feel a thing, even if you decide to rip the entire sensory module out, as long as you stay clear of the other panels.”
“Alright,” Steve agrees. He leans down to study the plates of Bucky’s actual arm, and as he does, he realizes that there’s a flaw to the instructions Bucky has just given him.
“Bucky…” he says slowly. “There are no screws on any of the plates here.”
Bucky sighs, dropping his head back down onto the pillow to stare up at the ceiling.
“Oh, they’re there alright,” he assures him.
“Where?” Steve asks. “I can’t see any.”
“That’s ‘cause they’re between the plates,” Bucky informs him flatly, and when he sees the way Steve’s eyes widen at the information, he nods. “Yup. I tried to loosen them myself last night, but… well, you know how that went.”
Steve truly hopes that his face doesn’t betray him – considering the exact amount of time he’s already spent thinking about that particular scenario – as he turns to fiddle with the screwdrivers on the desk.
“Which one?” he asks instead, and Bucky quickly selects one of the smaller tools for Steve to use. As Steve turns back around, appropriate equipment now in hand, he realizes with a nervous twist to his gut that this is it. They’ve gone through the talks, the instructions, the tools...The only thing left to take care of is the actual doing , and Christ, they’re actually doing this.
Steve feels like he’s sixteen years old all over again. Like the time when Bucky had tried to teach him how to dance and Steve had realized that Bucky would be required to actually put his hands on Steve's body to do so. Only this is so much worse. The moment Steve puts his hands on Bucky’s arm, it’s going to make Bucky – make his body – feel things a friend shouldn’t make another friend feel. Even more so, Steve’s not sure what doing so is going to make him feel .
“So?” Bucky says, making Steve damn near flinch in spite of himself. “You’re just gonna stare at it, or what?”
Sternly telling the dirty side of his imagination not to read too much into that question, Steve tightens the grip around the screwdriver in his hand, and then reaches out to angle the desk light a bit further down.
“If you want to stop—” he starts.
“If I want to stop, you’ll know, ‘cause I’ll be kicking you in the face,” Bucky mutters impatiently. “Now get going, while we’re still young.”
“We’re a century old, Buck,” Steve points out as he leans down to support his wrist on the table. “ Young is too late for us.”
“Well, age is just a number, right?” Bucky retorts. “Or at least that's wha— ah..! ”
With a zing, the panels of Bucky’s arm slam shut around the screwdriver Steve just tried to insert into the seam, trapping it as Bucky’s nerves triggers a spasm in the now-mechanical muscle of his bicep.
“Sorry!” Steve apologizes, and Bucky grits his teeth as Steve finishes with wiggling the tip of the screwdriver in between the plates. “Sorry, I didn't think it'd be that intense.”
“S’okay,” Bucky hisses, before dragging in a deep, grounding breath through his nose. “Just caught me off-guard.”
“Right,” Steve breathes, once again doing his very best not to think too much about what that sentence implies, exactly. Slowly, Bucky relaxes to will the plates apart, and Steve can’t help but notice the little jagged cut that they left in the metal of the screwdriver once it comes free. Steve takes a deep breath to steady the rapid pounding of his heartbeat, before leaning down to peer in through the gap in search of the screw he’s supposed to be loosening. Needless to say, it’s a tight fit.
“Can you feel anything?” he asks, and Bucky shakes his head.
“Not like before,” he admits. “As long as you don’t— The sides of the plates aren’t as bad,” he ends lamely.
Steve nods, and even though Bucky tries his best to mask it, Steve still picks up on the minor stutter of his breath when Steve moves the screwdriver to fit it into the groove of the screw’s head. He begins to twist the handle, and after a moment of resistance where both Steve and Bucky holds their breath, the screw begins to rotate.
“It’s secured in the panel,” Bucky grates while staring firmly up at the ceiling. “So don’t try to get it out through the gap, ‘cause it won’t work. Just leave it when it’s loose enough.”
Steve nods, and sure enough, after a few more turns, the screw is dangling from the edge of the socket. Steve throws a searching look at the hologram, locating the spot for the second screw.
Bucky’s jaw clenches when Steve pulls the screwdriver out, just a little, and as Steve slides the tool alongside the plate towards its next location, Bucky’s chest rises with a sharp intake of breath.
“Sorry…” Steve mumbles again, but Bucky just grunts out a nondescriptive reply. Steve carefully eases the screwdriver back in between the sheets of metal, but the space is narrower here, and the metal rod scrapes against the edges of the two panels with a slight grating noise. Bucky’s hands, both of them, immediately curl into fists, and a noise slips past his lips that makes Steve’s stomach twist around itself in both unabashed arousal and shame.The plates of the arm tremble, but they stay in place, even as the low whirr of mechanical cogs makes it sound as if they’re threateningly close to do the opposite. As Steve begins to spin the handle of the screwdriver, Bucky’s breathing picks up pace with every turn of Steve’s wrist, and the rapid ins and outs of his breath send jolts of icy-hot flashes up Steve’s spine, all the way to his brain.
“Almost,” Steve whispers soothingly – to Bucky or himself, he’s not sure. “Almost.”
Bucky groans while tipping his head back against the pillow, and god, it takes everything Steve has not to echo him as the sound of it reaches his ears.
Finally, the second screw is out far enough for Steve to remove the screwdriver completely. As he looks up at Bucky’s face, however, the triumph of success inside his chest is quickly smothered by the sickening lurch of his gut.
Bucky is staring up at the ceiling, lips pinched into a thin, hard line. He’s sweating; beads of it forming on his brow to eventually slide down his temple and into the roots of his hair. His eyes are glassy as his throat works around noises that won’t make it past the barrier of his lips, and Steve can’t watch it for another second, he just can’t.
It’s too much like that time, and to realize that he’s the one who put that haunted expression on Bucky’s face is just about the worst thing Steve’s ever had to experience.
He turns away, swallowing down the taste of vomit in the back of his mouth. In order to buy himself some time, he spends a few seconds fiddling with the hologram in search of the third screw, but as he locates it, his heart instantly plummets.
“What is it?” Bucky asks. Steve turns back around, only to find Bucky looking straight at him, obviously having read him like an open book.
“The third one,” Steve says while pointing to the schematics floating above the desk, “is located between this panel and the damaged one.”
“So?” Bucky rasps.
“The plates are pinched,” Steve explains. “They’re— I—I can’t get to it with the screwdriver.”
“Not even with the smallest one?” Bucky asks.
“No. It’s too narrow.”
Bucky closes his eyes again as he lays his head back down against the pillow with a frustrated whine. Then, he breathes in deeply through his nose, before opening his eyes once more.
“Bend them apart,” he says grimly.
Steve stares at him, and Bucky gives him a blank look in return. “I said bend them apart,” he repeats.
“Steve, for fuck’s sake!” Bucky snaps, and Steve shuts his mouth with a dull click of his teeth. He looks at the tools on the desk, and then picks up the box they had come in to see if there’s anything else hidden inside for him to use. He has no idea how hard the tools need to be in order to bend the material of Bucky’s arm, or how much force he’ll have to use in order to do it, but he doesn’t like the idea at all. Seeing how simply scraping the metal has affected Bucky this far, Steve feels dread coil inside his stomach at the thought of actually using force on it. Along with a floating whirl of curiosity.
The toolbox gives him nothing, and he reluctantly turns back to the assorted screwdrivers on the desk. He picks up one by chance and holds it up for Bucky to see. Bucky swallows hard, and then nods shortly before looking back to the ceiling.
“Jesus Christ…” Steve mutters, but he picks up another, smaller screwdriver as well before lowering his head down to search for the best angle to start from. He’s going to have to come in from the left, all the way from the elbow. Then he’ll have to chisel his way along the crease of the metal until he can get the blades of both tools through the opening at once.
His throat runs dry as he considers the scenario that most likely will unfold if he does that. He knows that he has promised Bucky to help, but he had not expected that help to involve anything as complicated as this. Jesus, he hadn’t expected that he’d actually have to—
“You know how you said this was going to be awkward?” he asks quietly, and Bucky turns to give him a quick, quizzical glance.
“Well…” Steve swallows. “I think we’ve reached the awkward part.”
“Oh, good,” Bucky comments darkly. “About time, I was getting sick of foreplay.”
“Could you please not do that?” Steve asks testily.
“Could I please not do what? ” Bucky retorts, his voice just as sharp.
“ That ,” Steve says. “As if you’re treating this like some kind of joke.”
“In case you haven’t noticed, this is a fucking joke!” Bucky snaps back. He gestures towards himself with his other hand in a grand, sweeping gesture, and Steve tries not to stare as he follows the movement to the obvious bulge that’s tenting Bucky’s sweatpants as the other man continues, “You don’t think I’d rather be back to doing the five-knuckle shuffle like any other fella?”
Bucky glares at him, and Steve manages to hold his gaze for about three excruciatingly long seconds, before turning away. He brings the tools back up and gently places the tip of the smaller screwdriver against the near-invisible crease between the plates, ignoring the way Bucky tenses up as he does. Bucky’s breathing immediately grows shallow, and Steve grits his teeth, bracing himself to slam the heel of his hand against the blunt end of the handle to drive it down deeper.
He glances up at Bucky’s face just in time to see Bucky look away. There’s a hard crease to his brow, and he has his eyes clenched tight, as if he’s expecting Steve’s blow to cause him pain rather than pleasure. The tension in his jaw is causing it to tremble right along with his breathing, and Steve has to tear his eyes away as he raises his hand, inhales deeply, and—
“I can’t,” he chokes.
He sets the tools down so hard they rattle against the desktop, rolling over the wooden surface with a clatter as Bucky sits up on the bed to stare at him in confusion.
“What?” Bucky rasps hoarsely. “What do you mean, you can’t?”
“That I can’t, ” Steve snaps. He makes a move as if to stand up from the chair, but finds that he’s suddenly feeling too sick to even try. “Dammit, Buck, you can’t expect me to just— Fuck…!”
He meets with Bucky’s gaze, and Bucky’s eyes immediately drop to stare down at the covers in between his knees. “It’s okay,” he says tightly, even though his voice clearly says he’s anything but. “I get it.”
“No,” Steve objects. “No, Bucky, that’s not— Listen, I wanna help you, I really do, but… I can’t do it when you— For god’s sake, you act like I’m gonna hurt you! ”
For a moment, Bucky stares at Steve as if he’s just sprouted a second head. Steve groans, pulling at his own hair when Bucky proceeds to clamp his eyes shut and shake his head in confusion.
“Wait,” Bucky says, “so— So what you’re saying is that you’d rather have me look like I’m enjoying myself?”
“Yeah,” Steve replies with a snort, perhaps a bit snappier, and with a more sarcastic tone than he intends to. “Yeah, that would actually be a lot better, thanks.”
“Stop it,” Bucky growls threateningly.
“No, I’m not gonna stop it, ” Steve throws back. “I said I was gonna help you, and I will, but I ain’t gonna do it like this.”
“Great,” Bucky grits out, glaring at him. “Fucking awesome. Then how the hell do you suggest we do this? If you’re too grossed out just from looking at me—”
“—then what’s the goddamn point?! ”
“You think this is about me being disgusted with you?!” Steve shouts as his voice rises to match the tone of Bucky’s own.
“Well isn’t it?!” Bucky snarls back, but his expression quickly drops into something that makes Steve’s throat pull tight when Steve just looks at him blankly in return. They stare at each other in silence, and after a while, Bucky’s shoulders slump as he sends a long look up and down Steve’s body with a disbelieving shake of his head.
“You’re out of your goddamn mind,” Bucky decides, and Steve throws his arms out to the side with an exasperated huff.
“Why, you said it yourself, didn’t you?” he prompts. “That it feels good?”
“I did, but— “
“And you’re not in pain, right?”
“Then why the hell do you keep looking like I’m ‘bout to—” Steve can’t even bring himself to end the sentence. The word ‘rape’ sounds too crude – to simple – to explain what he feels about the way Bucky had looked just now. But there’s no other word he can think of that would explain it better, either.
“You’re my best friend,” he says instead. “You always have been. And for what it’s worth, I’d rather give my best friend a consensual orgasm than put him through something he doesn’t want to experience. To be perfectly fair, I think you’ve had enough of that…”
As the word ‘orgasm’ falls from Steve’s lips, Bucky quickly looks away, cheeks visibly flushing hot. But as Steve’s sentence ends, he nods slowly in agreement. “Yeah,” he mumbles under his breath, “Yeah, you’re right… I mean, I wouldn’t— I wouldn’t want to make you go through something like that either.”
“Then you see my point?” Steve asks, and Bucky nods again while licking his lips slowly.
A silence lowers itself between them. It’s thick like a wool blanket, and the weight of it presses down over Steve’s chest like an iron band that makes it hard to breathe right, or even move. Bucky doesn’t seem to be doing much better where he is, one leg pulled up against his chest and his left arm still resting on the side table. He’s staring down at the bed, chewing the inside of his cheek, and he looks every bit as unhappy as Steve had feared he would.
Bucky’s hair is draped around the sides of his face, dark strands resting feather-light against the curve of his cheekbones to shade the silvery glow in his eyes that has mesmerized Steve ever since he was a teenager.
To say that Steve’s had dreams about Bucky in the past would be the understatement of the century. Wet dreams, fun dreams, bad dreams; he’d gone through every single category there is. Steve has to admit, though, it’s only recently that Bucky’s face has featured in anything other than nightmares for him. However, since Bucky came back to live with them in the tower…
It’s the proximity, of course; being around each other all the time, just like in the good old days. In fact, for Steve to wake up with Bucky’s name tumbling off his lips at the same time as he himself tumbles over the edge has become more-or-less routine lately. Just like it had been in his teens. But no matter how nice those wet dreams are, it doesn’t exactly help when they suddenly warp into something as morbid as this, and then shoved in his face without warning. The taunt of having the man of his dreams right there in front of him, asking him for something Steve so desperately wants to give, yet not really wanting it…
As much as Steve would love to see Bucky’s face overwhelmed with ecstasy, he sure doesn’t want it to happen without Bucky’s consent . Bucky has given Steve consent to help fix his arm, yes; but that doesn’t mean that free orgasm-donations are automatically part of the package.
Fate, as it would seem, is a cruel, cold-hearted dame. As if Steve hadn’t been aware of that already…
He looks at the silver gleam of Bucky’s hand, before he lifts his gaze to his friend’s face, and makes a decision.
“I know you can’t help it,” he starts slowly. “And I realize that this ain’t exactly a dignified position for you, or anyone, to be in.”
“But?” Bucky replies. His voice is low, as if he’s almost too scared to ask, and Steve straightens up in his seat.
“But…” he says, “this really doesn’t have to be more unpleasant than we make it out to be.”
“What do you mean?” Bucky frowns at him, and Steve swallows hard, clearing his throat.
“I mean…” he murmurs, “If you’d be okay with it, we could always… alter the rules a little.” As he speaks, he leans forward in his seat to slowly place his hand on the table next to Bucky’s own. Bucky watches him do it, and even though he doesn’t flinch, his gaze is still guarded when he looks up to meet Steve’s gaze.
“Alter how?” he grates.
The fear that one question causes to surge through Steve’s body shouldn’t, in Steve’s opinion, be chemically possible. Still, Steve licks his lips one more time, before inching his hand a bit closer to the tip of Bucky’s fingers.
“You know…” he says nonchalantly, “Instead of focusing on getting the job done without anything happening… maybe we should just… let it happen?” He doesn’t have the courage to look up to see the face Bucky makes at that suggestion, though the silence Bucky gives him in reply makes Steve’s heart beat hard and fast, adrenaline nearly causing his body to shake.
“I mean,” he dares as he inches his index finger so close to Bucky’s pinky, he can feel the shift of temperature in the air around it, “people do things like that, right? Even back in our day, people did that…”
Bucky drags in a slow, shuddering breath when Steve’s finger ghosts along the top of his, but he doesn’t flinch or move away. Steve hears him gulp down a breath, and when Bucky speaks, there’s a new sort of gravel to it that Steve can’t recall having ever heard outside of his own dreams.
“So it’d be like… a favor?”
“Yeah,” Steve replies softly. “A favor, exactly.”
“And you’d be okay with that?” Bucky asks. His tone is surprised, almost disbelieving. As if the problem with this entire suggestions isn’t what Bucky’s going to think of it, but Steve.
“Of course,” Steve says. He smiles a little. “I mean, like I said, I’ve heard you before.”
“This ain’t like that,” Bucky points out, but when Steve moves to gently lay his palm over the top of his hand, he only lets out a soft gasp instead of pulling away.
“I know it isn’t,” Steve confesses, “but that doesn’t make this a bad thing.” He rubs his thumb in a slow swipe back and forth over Bucky’s wrist, and Bucky’s entire body gives a violent shudder at the touch. “Let me do this for you,” Steve pleads. “Like a favor between friends?”
“Y—You’d…” Bucky actually has to close his eyes in order to focus on his own speech, and Steve feels a hot wave rush through him at the sight.
“You wouldn’t think it was weird?” Bucky asks. “I mean, we’re not— I—I’ve never— Not with a fella, I—”
“I know,” Steve says. “I know, me neither.” It’s a technical definition, of course; Steve’s been with Bucky plenty of times inside the safety of his own imagination, but not in real life. Not with anyone.
“It’s not gonna be just once.” Bucky says it as a warning, low and urgent even as the barely-there touch of Steve’s hand sends his voice trembling. “I told you last night, it doesn’t stop. I can’t control it, Steve, I swear. It happens inside my head before it happens to my body, it’s crazy.”
“Then we’ll go slow,” Steve promises. “Maybe it won’t be as bad if we give you time to rest?”
“Okay,” Bucky gulps. “Okay, just… Shit…” Steve watches Bucky’s eyes flutter closed, only to open again with a disbelieving chuckle. “That’s some touch you’ve got there,” he offers, and Steve quickly eases up on his grip around Bucky’s hand. He doesn’t let it go fully, though.
“Thanks,” he says, and Bucky smiles at Steve’s sudden shift from offering apologies to acknowledgements.
Steve feels a bit reluctant to let go of Bucky’s hand, but Bucky continues to smile when he does, so he figures that it’s a good sign. He picks up the tools once more, and as he holds them up, Bucky smirks and angles his arm a little on the table with a hitch in his breath.
“Go ahead, Cap,” he offers. “Let’s see if you can put your money where your mouth is.”
Steve snorts out an amused laugh, and he bites down on his lower lip as he carefully places the blade of the first screwdriver against the dented metal once more.
“You know,” Bucky says while looking at Steve’s hands from the corner of his eye, “I know the future is all sexual liberty and all that jazz, but even in this age, this has gotta be a bit weird.”
“Don’t place any bets on it,” Steve advices, “I’ve seen pop-up ads on my laptop that could make Thor blush.”
At that, Bucky just laughs, and when Steve adjusts his grip on the handle, the laugh morphs over into a throaty chuckle that shoots straight to Steve’s groin.
“On three,” Steve says, and Bucky nods. He looks up at the ceiling, much like he had before, but there’s no tension to his jaw this time, and his eyes are bright and alive rather than dead and hollow.
“One,” Steve counts. “Two.” He raises his hand. “Three.”
The blade splits through the crease of the arm in a sharp, metallic crunch, and Bucky’s back arches off the mattress with a choked-out cry as he fists the covers of the bed with his human hand. The metal arm hums as his body drops back down, just as fast, leaving him gulping for air as he makes futile attempts to speak.
“You okay?” Steve asks with a nervous squawk, and Bucky groans out what Steve can only describe as a shocked giggle under his breath.
“Are you kidding?” he asks. “Holy shit…”
“Well, you better brace yourself, then,” Steve warns him, trying not to sound too smug as he settles the screwdriver against Bucky’s arm for a second time. “Because I’m gonna have to do that at least two more times.”
“Two mo—” Bucky chokes a little as he sinks deeper into the beddings. “Okay… Yeah, alright, I can do that…”
“On three?” Steve prompts, and once again, Bucky nods.
Steve has to slam his hand against the blunt end of the screwdriver twice this time before the metal separates, and Bucky gasps out loud with every hair’s width the plates slide apart. His chest heaves underneath the thin material of his tank top, nipples pebbling and pushing against the fabric in a way that’s straight-up obscene. Steve is having a hard time focusing on the task at hand as his gaze continuously wanders to the various angles and shapes of Bucky’s body; all the way from the sharp bob of the man’s throat to the bend of his knee when Bucky braces himself against the mattress to rock his hips against the inseam of his pants.
Two more blows with the screwdriver, and Bucky’s a gasping, writhing mess on Steve’s bed, and Steve’s cock throbs with every ragged sound that leaves his friend’s mouth.
“Jesus fuck…!” Bucky pants under his breath when Steve sets tool against metal once more. There’s just a short segment left where the plates are pinched together. If he strikes at it hard enough, he might be able to make it in a single blow…
He glances at Bucky.
“One more,” he reports, “and then I’m through.”
Bucky swallows down a noise while tipping his head back and twisting it to the side in a spasmic shiver. “N’gonna last one more…” he slurs. The sounds of his voice – so raw and helplessly dazed – goes straight to Steve’s cock, which responds by straining against the seam of his zipper with a violent twitch. Steve’s grip around the screwdriver tightens as his heart begins to beat a rapid staccato against the inside of his ribs.
“On three…” he breathes, and on the bed, Bucky’s hips jerk in an involuntary shudder as the plates of his forearm begins to slide shut, one by one.
“One…” Steve whispers. “Two…”
“Oh, god, I’m gonna fucking lose it…” Bucky rasps, and Steve’s throat instantly ties a knot around itself that makes his windpipe feel about the size of a straw. The final number leaves his mouth in the shape of a groan at the same time as he brings his hand down, and as the metal splits beneath the blade of the screwdriver, Bucky’s body goes rigid.
The noise he makes is equally as glorious as it is painful. Steve yanks the screwdriver out to stare at Bucky when the other man nearly jackknifes off the bed, before slamming back down again with a throaty whine, his back arched high. His metal fingers grasp around the edge of the side table with a loud zing, gripping it so hard, the wood creaks threateningly beneath the pressure. At the moment, however, Steve couldn’t care less about some damn piece of interior design.
Bucky’s face is completely blissed out; eyes closed, mouth open, his jaw slack as moan upon breathless moan blurts across his lips to send Steve’s stomach curling with a lust so pure it threatens to make him dizzy. There’s a dark patch forming on the front of Bucky’s sweatpants, and while Steve looks on, the stain rapidly grows as the hard outline of Bucky’s cock twitches on the other side of the fabric.
Steve has no idea how long he sits there, staring, but by the time Bucky’s breathing evens out, Steve has to make a show out of turning around to study the schematics on the desk while he adjusts himself through his jeans. He’s surprised, however, when Bucky’s voice comes floating towards him from behind immediately after, winded and drowsy.
“C’mon,” he demands impatiently. “Hurry up… before it starts again.”
“What do you mean?” Steve asks, and Bucky groans as he gestures towards the tools still in Steve’s hand.
“There’s a time gap,” Bucky pants. “It’s less than a minute, but it’s— The screw , Steve, you—”
“Okay,” Steve says quickly while spinning his chair back towards the side table. “Okay, I hear you.”
He pokes the smaller screwdriver in through the gap he’s just made while setting the edge of the thicker one right above it, and pries the two plates apart. Bucky hisses, but keeps still, and when Steve pulls the larger tool away, he can see the head of the screw clearly in the uneven rift left behind. Loosening it takes little to no effort at all, and both Bucky and Steve let out a sigh of relief when the damn thing finally comes unhinged.
“Great,” Bucky rasps. “That's great. Now pop the panel and lift it off.”
“How do I do that?” Steve asks
“Slide it to the side,” Bucky instructs, but as Steve places his fingers on top of the plated section, Bucky let’s out a gasp as his human hand shoots up to curl tight around Steve’s elbow.
“Slow…!” he begs. “Holy fuck, Stevie, go slow, or I—”
“Slow,” Steve echoes as he quickly releases Bucky’s arm. “Got it.”
Gently, and very, very slowly, he presses his fingertips against the top of the panel once more, and gives it a firm nudge. Bucky groans while biting down over his lip, but Steve takes note of the way he still hasn’t let go of Steve’s arm. The panel moves, and with every fraction of an inch that Steve tugs it down, Bucky’s breath stutters and shakes while his fingers clutch tighter and tighter around Steve’s elbow.
When the panel finally slides all the way off, Bucky releases a shuddering gasp and slumps back against the pillow. He’s still breathing hard, and his eyes look a bit distant when he shifts them to glance at Steve as if he’s drunk.
“One down…” he pants hoarsely.
Steve swallows as he carefully sets the now-loose panel aside. He’s so turned on, his stomach is literally aching, and when he raises his hand to grab for the thickest of Tony’s screwdrivers, his hand is trembling. Bucky doesn’t move or make a sound when Steve tucks the tool underneath the remaining damaged panel, confirming that the sensors indeed only appear to be picking up stimuli from the surface rather than all around. Encouraged, Steve puts more force behind the grip as he begins to pry, and even though Bucky hisses slightly when the dented plate rubs against the rest of the arm, he doesn’t seem all too affected by it.
That is, up until the moment when the tool in Steve’s hand suddenly snaps in half with a sharp, and somewhat mocking, clink.
Steve and Bucky both stare down at the now-much-shorter screwdriver in Steve’s hands, were only about half an inch’s worth of the blade is still sticking out of the handle.
“Oops?” Steve tries, and Bucky lets out a short, astonished snort.
“Tony’s gonna kill you.”
Steve makes a dismayed sound in the back of his throat as he carefully picks out the remaining part of the screwdriver that’s still lodged in Bucky’s arm, and tosses the two pieces onto the desk.
“Now what do we do?” he asks with a sigh, expecting an answer; a joke, a mocking comment, anything.
He gets none.
“Bucky?” he prompts, but when he turns back around, Bucky is just looking at him in silence, and oh. Oh…
“Y—You want me to…?” Steve stutters.
“You’ve got any other bright ideas?” Bucky retorts simply, and Steve shakes his head slowly. He glances at the panel; at the narrow space between the wires and the dented plates.
“I’m not sure if I’ll be able to fit in there,” he confesses.
“Yeah, I bet you say that to all the sailors…” Bucky mutters, making Steve snort out a laugh at the joke in spite of himself. It helps ease his nerves a little, but his hand still trembles as he brings it up to experimentally press his fingers into the slot. It is narrow, and even though he tries not to, the pads of the digits still squeeze against the panel’s edges as he tightens his grip. Bucky sucks in a sharp breath between his teeth at the touch, and Steve catches the sight of silver fingers curling into a fist in his peripheral vision.
“You want me to stop?” he asks, but Bucky just shakes his head.
“No,” he grits out. “No, keep going. It’s okay.”
Steve nods, but he still has to clamp down with his teeth over his lower lip to keep from gasping when Bucky suddenly moans out loud. He folds his thumbs over the surface of the panel to get a better grip as he gives it a rough tug in an attempt to dislodge it, and Bucky’s hand slips off Steve’s elbow to fall flat against the mattress when Bucky slams his head back against the pillows.
“Holy shit…!” he gasps. “Jesus, fuck , Steve…!”
Something hot and blazing goes off inside the pit of Steve’s stomach when his name comes rolling off Bucky’s tongue. It’s not scolding, or angry; quite the contrary, which honestly is almost worse. Focusing on the task, Steve tugs harder, feeling the plate in his hands give a little from the force of it. This time, Bucky downright whines as he twists his head to bury his face amongst the sheets, shaking all over.
Steve’s heart is going at two hundred miles per hour inside his chest. His palms are growing sweaty and the sound of Bucky’s ragged breathing is shooting bolts of arousal up his spine.
“Steve… Steve, oh, god…”
Steve can’t stifle his own groan in time. It slips out, half choked and strangled, and Bucky answers with a similar sound of his own. This is crazy, Steve thinks. This is so fucking crazy, but his mind is spinning faster than he can will his thoughts to keep up with. Because this should be all about complex wiring and malfunctioning equipment, but now Steve literally has his fingers curled around Bucky’s arm, and yet Bucky is moaning his name as if he’ll die if Steve lets him go rather than the opposite.
Steve’s breathing is going awry, as if his lungs have suddenly decided to reject all the healing effects of the serum in order to revert back to their original asthmatic state. He shifts his hips and bites back a grunt behind his teeth when he rubs against the insides of his jeans at the same time as he tightens the grip around the metal sheet once more.
“C’mon, Buck” he says shakily, and Bucky groans, chest heaving. His hair has fallen in messy tufts over his eyes, and his gaze is hazy as he looks at Steve through the strands.
“Do it…” he mouths; the words barely audible in the effort it takes for him to get them past his lips. “Steve… Do it. Please, just— Fuck…”
Steve grits his teeth. He adjusts his grip to squeeze his fingers even further underneath the panel, and this time, he stands up from the chair to gain extra leverage before he begins to pull. He strains, tendons in his arms bulging, and Bucky’s voice echoes like the chime of a bell inside his head; whining, begging, gasping:
“Oh, god. Oh, my god…! Oh, fu—! ”
With a loud, tearing noise of metal, the panel comes off, sending Steve staggering backwards with surprise. Bucky digs his heels into the mattress as his legs spasm, and he’s making noises in the back of his throat as if he’s dying . The wet patch over his crotch grows even darker, spreads wider, turning the ashy color of the fabric into deep charcoal. His hips jerk with the desperate throes of his body as his second orgasm ripples through him, and the force of it leaves him gasping and choking on his own breath seemingly before he even manages to drag it into his lungs.
Steve just barely manages to keep himself from palming himself through his own pants at the sight as he steps forward, desperately trying to both sear the image before him into his brain and not look at the same time. He has less than a minute to turn off the sensory receptor, but once that’s done, this bizarre nightmare-dream will finally (and regrettably) be over.
“Which wire?” he asks breathily, already reaching for the complex nest of modules, mechanical cogs, and circuits in the sudden hollow of Bucky’s upper arm.. “Which one, Buck?”
He pinches around two of the larger wires to trace them up to the nearest circuit board, but his fingers has barely had time to touch the rubbery texture when the warmth of Bucky’s hand clamps down over his wrist, stopping him.
“Wait…!” Bucky groans. “Don’t— Just— Just wait.”
Steve halts to give Bucky a confused look.
“I thought you said you couldn’t feel anything here?” he asks, but Bucky just viciously shakes his head and grunts out a low negative under his breath. He tugs at Steve’s wrists, pleadingly at first and then more demanding, until Steve begins to lean down. Then, Bucky lets go of his wrist in favor of fisting the fabric of at the front of Steve’s shirt to yank him down so hard, Steve has to catch himself against the mattress not to fall on top of him. Next thing, Steve’s heart stops dead inside his chest as Bucky surges up to meet him halfway; mashing their mouths together with a groan that makes Steve’s toes curl.
It’s a good thing Steve already has both hands firmly planted on either side of Bucky’s head, because otherwise he’s pretty sure he would have sagged to the floor right then and there. Bucky’s breath is warm against his cheek when Bucky exhales softly through his nose with a low moan, and Steve abruptly curls his fingers into the sheets below, suddenly too terrified to even move as the fact of the matter slams into him.
Bucky is kissing him.
Why is Bucky kissing him?!
“Don’t,” Bucky mouths against Steve’s lips as he tightens his grip on his clothes. Steve doesn't know what he means. Don't what? Don’t move? Don’t speak? The questions are already balancing on the tip of his tongue, but they’re all replaced by a gasp as Bucky tugs and pulls for him to come closer; the other man’s breathing growing shallow and desperate when Steve remains frozen in place. Bucky growls against his lips, and Steve moans out loud when Bucky abruptly lets his shirt go in favor of reaching down to palm Steve through the front of his pants.
“You’re hard,” Bucky hisses under his breath.
“Sorry,” Steve stutters back. “I— I didn’t mean—”
“Don’t worry ‘bout it,” Bucky interrupts him, and Steve bites back another startled moan as Bucky shifts his grip into something more determined – with purpose and intent – before continuing, still in a whisper, “We’re exchanging favors here, aren’t we?”
Steve can’t even bring himself to answer. He just gasps when Bucky begins to fiddle with the zipper of his jeans, popping the button at the top before dragging the fly down to worm his fingers inside. Steve’s hips make an involuntary jerk forward when the pad of Bucky’s thumb rubs over the head of his cock through his underwear, and just like that, Bucky’s kissing him again. Steve moans into his mouth, the goosebumps rising on his arms reaching all the way up to the back of his neck when Bucky moans back.
Bucky’s lips are warm and full, and the way they slide against Steve’s when they kiss is nothing but intoxicating. Not that Steve can focus on the mechanics of proper kissing at the moment. Bucky has gone from just squeezing Steve’s cock to stroking it through the fabric, going hard and fast until Steve’s nothing more than a panting mess propped up on trembling arms above him while Bucky continues to mouth and nip at Steve’s lips.
“It’s the same for you, yeah?” Bucky breathes out raggedly. “Three times s’nothin’. Sometimes, not even five…”
Steve nods. He doesn’t know any other way to respond, but of course, Bucky’s right. The serum had changed a lot of things; enabled Steve to do and perform in ways he hadn’t been able to before.This particular side-effect, however, is one Steve figures the military hadn’t found any reason to keep records of.
Bucky appears to take his nonverbal answer as a good thing, because he lets out another one of those low growls into their kiss as he slips his hand down the front of Steve’s underwear, picking up pace as he wraps it around Steve’s hard flesh.
“Yeah…” he breathes. “Yeah, I know. It’s okay, Stevie. It’s okay…”
Steve makes a high pitched, strangled noise. He wants to tell Bucky that it can’t be okay; that after this, nothing will ever be okay ever again, but he can’t bring himself to say it. His entire body is turning into a live-wire from Bucky’s touch, and he can feel the hot tingle at the base of his spine turn scorching with every passing second.
“C’mon, Stevie,” Bucky pants. “Just breathe.”
It’s the way he says it that makes Steve lose it. The words set off a chain reaction of images inside his head, and they flash before his eyes in rapid succession, like bullets fired out of the barrel of a gun; Bucky, smiling at him from across a messy kitchen table, Bucky’s fingers wrapped comfortingly around the top of his shoulder, Bucky’s hands, rubbing soothing circles over his back while Steve struggles to get his asthma meds into his mouth with trembling fingers, Bucky, glancing at him with an unreadable look in his eyes that sends Steve’s stomach curling in on itself, just like now, just like it had back then. Bucky. Oh, Bucky…
“Bucky…” Steve manages, but that’s as far as he gets before the world around him whites out into a blissful void. He comes in hot white streaks over the front of Bucky’s tank top, splattering wet all the way up to the exposed jut of Bucky’s collarbones. The air in the room doesn’t feel like it’s going to be enough as Steve struggles to get his breathing back under control, vision still blurry as Bucky’s hand slows to a halt after having wrung the last of Steve’s orgasm out of his body.
“That’s it,” Steve hears Bucky breathe as he lets him go. “Fuck, just like that…”
Jesus, Steve can’t even— What just—?
“Bucky…” he groans for a second time, low and broken. He can feel the panic set in as his brain struggles to catch up with what they’ve just done, but before he can say anything else, Bucky is once again pressing his lips against Steve’s own with a breathless sigh.
“Please,” Bucky begs, human fingers now grasping around Steve’s right wrist to pull it away from the pillow and down. “It’s okay,” he mumbles urgently. “It’s okay, Steve, I swear it. I swear it…” His lips tremble as he settles Steve’s hand against his own hips, still pushing it down with another pleading, “ Please, Stevie…!”
“Wait,” Steve begs, and Bucky immediately freezes, pulling back. For a few seconds, Bucky’s face twists into something hurt and filled with pain, right before Steve, to his own shocked surprise, hears himself say, “We should get undressed first.”
Underneath the fabric of his shirt, Bucky’s chest heaves as he sucks in and lets out a sharp breath, and that one, shuddering sigh is all it takes to send Steve’s final defences crumbling. He pulls back, just enough to bring his leg up to balance on the edge of the bed while tearing his own t-shirt over the top of his head, before tossing it to the floor behind him. On the mattress, Bucky one-handedly shimmies out of his sweatpants and kicks them off along with his underwear, leaving Steve with an unobstructed view of his cock where it lies hard, flushed, and messy against Bucky’s stomach.
The sight makes Steve feel lightheaded, even more so when Bucky moves to yank his own tank top up over the top of his head, only to stop with a groan as the fabric drags against the metal plates of his shoulder and armpit.
“Fuck…” Bucky twists around in a clumsy attempt to get his fingers into the space between the panels and the shirt, failing miserably, and Steve’s throat runs dry when Bucky’s cock twitches at the accidental touch.
“Let me,” he says. Bucky sends him a quick, hesitant glance, but obediently pulls his hand back to give Steve the space he needs. As he moves to rid Bucky of the garment, Steve can’t resist smoothing his fingers up the side of Bucky’s ribs in passing, and his lip twitches up in a smirk when Bucky’s breath promptly hitches in response.
“Still ticklish?” Steve asks slyly, only to laugh when Bucky pinches his lips together with a nervous glare at Steve’s face. “Don’t worry,” Steve promises him, “your secret’s safe with me.”
“It better be,” Bucky grunts. His eyes flutter shut when Steve begins to guide his arm out of the shirt, and Steve decides to take pity on him as he does his best to remove the garment with as little metal-to-fabric contact as possible. He manages, even without accidentally smearing any of the messy splotches of his own come in Bucky’s face as the tank top comes off, and just like that, Bucky’s lying there naked on the bed in front of him.
He’s every bit of gorgeous as Steve’s ever thought he’d be. As a matter of fact, as of this precise moment, Steve can’t even imagine having ever been able to picture something this beautiful, not even inside his own head.
“C’mon already,” Bucky grumbles with an impatient glance towards Steve’s partially open jeans. “I’m getting cold here.”
Steve knows that it’s most likely meant to come out as a joke, perhaps to lighten the mood, but he can hear the tremble in Bucky’s voice as clearly as he can feel it in his own limbs. Bucky is nervous, and as selfish as it may be, that actually makes Steve feel a whole lot better about the situation at hand.
Perhaps that’s why, instead of just stripping down right away, Steve slowly leans forward to crawl up the bed, until he’s straddling Bucky’s left thigh, arms braced against the mattress on either side of the other man’s torso.
“Guess I better get you warmed up, then,” he murmurs softly. He doesn’t intend for it to be seductive, or even teasing, but apparently it still works, seeing as Bucky’s eyes turn a darker shade of excited the moment the sentence leaves Steve’s mouth.
Steve leisurely leans over to run the pads of his fingers up the back of Bucky’s left hand, which is now lying flat on top of the sheets by Bucky’s hip. The moment Steve’s skin makes contact with the sleek surface, Bucky shivers, and Steve sees Bucky pull his lower lip in between his teeth to stifle a moan. Steve glances up to catch and hold Bucky’s gaze as he gently guides the artificial limb up into the air with a light grip around the wrist. Then, just as slowly, he begins to lower his face down, and Bucky’s breathing instantly picks up pace. As he comes to realize what it is Steve’s planning to do, his mouth falls open in a breathless groan of anticipation.
Steve starts with pressing his lips against the back of Bucky’s hand; an almost chivalrous gesture, had the situation been different. As it is now, it makes Bucky’s hips twitch up in an uncontrolled, spastic movement that’s just about as far from coy as it can possibly get. Steve lazily slides his mouth up to place a second kiss against the tip of Bucky’s pinky, and Bucky groans low in the back of his throat as his entire body tenses up, as if bracing itself.
“How’s this?” Steve murmurs while repeating the kiss on Bucky’s ring finger. “This doing anything for you?”
“Oh, yeah,” Bucky gulps, hips rolling when Steve moves over to his middle finger. “It’s working alright…”
Steve smirks. Making sure to let his tongue run along the metal seam of the tip of the finger pressed against his mouth, he takes note of the way Bucky’s eyes widen as they follow with the movement. It’s a tiny little thing, but it sends off a spark of exhilaration in Steve’s gut nonetheless. When he slowly slips Bucky’s index finger between his lips to give it a light suck, tasting the penny-like flavor of metal on his tongue, Bucky’s eyes nearly roll back in his head as he drops it back onto the pillows with a ragged groan.
“Fuck…” he grates. “Fucking hell, Stevie…”
“What does it feel like?” Steve asks. He nips at the digit with his teeth, just to try it, and Bucky responds by grabbing and curling his human fingers in Steve’s hair, hard.
“Does it matter?” he hisses; the sound of his voice mixing with the low whirr of his arm. “It— Jesus Christ…”
“Does it tingle?” Steve prompts, now genuinely curious. “Or is it more of a pulse?”
“Depends,” Bucky blurts out with a gasp. “My hand— It gets worse the higher you go…”
“So your fingers are, what?” Steve asks while mouthing his way along the metal webbing between Bucky’s index finger and thumb. “First base?”
“Try third…” Bucky groans, and as he twists his head to bury the side of his face into the pillow, Steve lets his gaze dip to look down between their bodies.
Indeed, with every flick of Steve’s tongue, Bucky’s cock gives an eager, yearning twitch in response, beading wet and spreading slick over the skin of Bucky’s abdomen when it slaps back down. The realization that he’s actually capable of coaxing such reactions out of Bucky’s body by using his mouth alone makes Steve’s body run all kinds of hot. It spreads a pleasant shiver up his spine in a vicious flash of lightning, and when he looks back up, he makes sure that Bucky is still watching him, before he begins to move again.
He slides his mouth down the curve at the base of Bucky’s thumb, all the way to the heel of the hand, altering between licking, sucking, and grazing his teeth against the metal plates on the way. By the time he reaches Bucky’s wrist, Bucky’s already begun to roll his hips in pleading little circles while whimpering low in the back of his throat. His eyes are glued to the spot where Steve’s mouth is pressing against the bright silver of his arm, and with every shift of Steve’s lips, the movement of Bucky’s pelvis turns even more erratic and off-rhythm.
“So if your hand is third base…” Steve murmurs, letting his breath fog up the gleaming surface beneath his lips, “then what does that make the rest?”
As he speaks, he slowly pulls at Bucky’s hand. The mechanics inside whisper along with the movement, until the entire length of Bucky’s arm is pulled taut to expose the gleaming inside of his elbow. Bucky swallows hard when Steve leans down to nose his way from the curve of the wrist, down along the stretch of Bucky’s forearm. The moment Steve puts his lips against the spot where the plates come together to form the inner bend of the elbow, Bucky squeezes his eyes shut, as if watching Steve do that to him is more than he can possibly endure.
“Shit…” he hisses. “Oh, shit, fuck…”
“That good?” Steve asks curiously.
“Yes,” Bucky breathes. Steve can feel the other man’s grip tighten at the back of his neck, but Bucky doesn’t yank him away, or push him closer. He just holds, as if he’s grounding himself, and yeah, Steve’s all kinds of okay with that.
Experimentally, he begins to lick his tongue over the inner plates of Bucky’s arm, tracing the seams of the panels while keeping Bucky’s arm trapped by the wrist to prevent him from accidentally bending the limb and pinching him. He alters between flicking the tip over the plating in swift little strokes, and flattening it in broad swipes that send Bucky’s toes curling. It’s the most arousing thing Steve’s ever done, or thought of doing, and he finds himself incapable of staying still as he begins to grind himself against the firm muscle of Bucky’s thigh, just to take the edge off. It doesn’t take long before Bucky’s entire body is shaking, and Steve can see the tendons of the other man’s human arm and neck tense and bulge the closer to the edge Steve’s actions are pushing him.
“Like this?” Steve asks while pressing his thumb into the center of Bucky’s palm, and Bucky groans loudly, struggling to find words but without succeeding. He nods, however, and fuck it, Steve can barely stand it.
“Can I?” he asks breathlessly, mouthing the question against Bucky’s arm even as he reaches down between them to wrap his free hand around them both. “Please, Buck, can I?”
“Yeah,” Bucky whines. “Just hurry, I’m not—” The sentence ends in a keening whimper as Bucky rolls his hips up into the tunnel of Steve’s fist, rocking them together. “Oh, god…”
Steve growls, leaning down to pepper kisses up Bucky’s bicep, up his shoulder, until he’s pressing his lips along the seam where Bucky’s arm meets flesh. He can feel Bucky’s cock twitch against his palm, and suddenly, Bucky pulls his left hand free from Steve’s hand, only to lace their fingers together in a joint grip below the waistline a split second after with a strangled moan.
“Holy shit,” Bucky grits while arching his body against Steve’s chest. “Oh, my god, this— Fuck, this feels so good…!”
Steve nods. He’s holding himself up on one elbow now, his arm trembling right along with the rush of adrenaline coursing through his system. He’s chasing the high with every single thrust he makes, rubbing himself against Bucky’s cock, (Bucky’s cock , in his hand, oh, sweet jesus…! ) and beneath him, Bucky is doing the same. Bucky’s eyes are hazy where they peer out from underneath his eyelids, but they don’t stray from Steve’s face for even a second, not even as their rhythm begins to fall apart. Bucky lets his hand slip from Steve’s hair to clutch hard around the back of his neck, clinging to him with a desperation that’s damn near tangible against Steve’s skin. With his other hand, Bucky is rubbing his thumb over the slick head of Steve’s cock in swift, frantic circles, and as amazing as the cool of steel against the heat of his skin feels like, Steve suspects that it’s nothing compared to the pleasure the action is bringing to Bucky’s own senses.
“Fuck…” he hears Bucky whisper. “Fuck, oh, fuck…” Bucky closes his eyes as he tips his head back to expose the long line of his neck as he moans to the ceiling. Steve licks and kisses greedily over the jut of his Adam’s apple, feeling Bucky’s stubble scrape against his tongue while he tastes the salt of Bucky’s skin. He pulls back with a groan as the mixed sensations gives an additional edge to his already searing arousal.
“Hey,” he gasps, shuddering all over. “Eyes on me. Look at me, Buck, lemme see you…”
Whining, Bucky slowly opens his eyes, and Steve can feel every single muscle in his entire body tighten up when the grey gleam of them settles on his face.
“Oh, god,” he moans. “Oh, my god, Bucky, I’m gonna come… I’m gonna come…”
“Yes,” Bucky pants, and his grip around Steve’s neck tightens almost painfully as he repeats the word in a hiss. “Yes…”
“Don’t hold back,” Steve pleads, words tripping over his lips in their hurry to make it out in time. “Come with me. Oh, my god, Bucky, please, come with me…!”
“Steve, you—” Bucky chokes, and his eyes widen at the same time as his jaw goes slack. Then, all Steve hears is the noise Bucky makes when the wave finally hits, and it travels through him like a lightning bolt, burning bright and blinding before his eyes.
He comes with the smear of Bucky’s third orgasm coating his fingers, slickening the way for Steve’s own cock during the last few frantic thrusts it takes to push him over the edge. Steve manages to keep his eyes open through most of it, but he must have closed his eyes at some point, because he can’t remember seeing Bucky as the other man pulls him down to kiss him through the final high. All of a sudden, Bucky’s lips are simply on his, and Steve’s not about to object. He lets himself be kissed, and he also kisses back, lips moving lazily and uncoordinated in their mutual afterglow.
It’s almost as good as the orgasm itself, which is why Steve can’t help the disapproving grumble that slips out of his mouth when Bucky suddenly pulls back with a low hiss.
“Wait,” he says, already twisting underneath the weight of Steve’s body. Steve reluctantly pushes himself up on both arms to give Bucky the demanded space, and as he looks on, Bucky reaches into the open cavity of his arm, fiddles around a little while furrowing his brow in concentration, and then he yanks. A handful of wires detaches from inside with a low pop that sends Steve’s mind racing into a momentary panic, before he realizes that Bucky hasn’t actually ripped the cables off, he’s just detached them from their sockets.
The moment the wires are out, Bucky lets out a sigh of relief and sags back against the mattress, closing his eyes with a murmured, “Finally…” Then, he drops the wires onto the bed and reaches up to tug Steve’s head back down. Steve lets him. However, Bucky’s lips have barely brushed against Steve’s own when the other man suddenly pulls back again to frown up at Steve’s face.
“What?” Steve asks.
“You’re not gonna say anything?” Bucky asks with a wary squint, and Steve’s heart promptly skips a beat.
“About what?” he counters nervously. Bucky’s eyes narrow even further,
“You mean you’ve got nothing?” he asks. “We just jumped in the sack together, and you have nothing to say?”
Steve is at a complete loss for words. Thankfully, he doesn’t have to come up with a way to explain any of the conflicting things he’s currently feeling, because Bucky snorts out a laugh and shakes his head at him before he even opens his mouth.
“Wow,” Bucky says. “I’ve gotta be honest with ya, pal, ‘uh’ wasn’t exactly the reaction I expected.”
“Sorry,” Steve apologizes. “Sorry, I just… I mean, I didn’t—” He looks up, meeting Bucky’s gaze, and Bucky rolls his eyes at him.
“Save it, Stevie,” he says. “I already told you, it’s okay.”
There’s that word again. Okay. It’s really strange how such a mundane word can turn Steve’s stomach into a bundle of knots so quickly.
Steve doesn’t know what to say. He know what he wants to ask , of course, because there’s some pretty vital information regarding this entire situation that the needs to know…
“When you say okay,” he starts slowly, “do you mean okay as in… tolerable?”
“What do you mean, tolerable? ” Bucky asks, and Steve groans while pushing himself up and off the bed.
“This,” he says, gesturing to the space between themselves with one hand while quickly tucking himself back into his jeans with the other. “I’m talking about this, Buck. About you and me, naked, and in bed, and—”.
“Alright, alright, calm down,” Bucky says, sitting up as well. “I get it, this isn’t what you planned.”
“You damn right it’s not what I planned!” Steve snarls back, but he immediately regrets it when Bucky clamps his mouth shut. “I’m sorry,” Steve says. “I’m sorry, Buck, didn’t mean it like that, I— Goddammit…”
“Do you regret it?” Bucky asks. His voice isn’t low; it’s strong and demanding, but there’s an edge to it that Steve recognises as hurt by the first syllable alone.
“No!” Steve exclaims. “No, I don’t regret it, I just— I just don’t want things to become weird. ”
“Who says they have to get weird? ” Bucky demands hotly, and Steve’s jaw clenches.
“You know why,” he replies tightly, but when Bucky just frowns at him, he sighs and throws his hand out to the side while trying his hardest not to think about the fact that Bucky’s still naked in the middle of his bed with come sticking to his stomach.
“We’re—” He cuts himself off, and Bucky gives and exasperated sighs as he tips his head to the side to look at him.
“Because we’re what?” he says. “Guys? Friends? Old? All of the above? C’mon, that’s bullshit, and you know it.”
Steve swallows, even though his throat is struggling to close in on itself with every other breath he takes.
“So, when you say okay…?” he starts.
“Then I mean okay ,” Bucky clarifies. “Hell, I mean better than okay. I mean great, and awesome, the bee’s knees, and the cat’s meow. Alright? All of it. It’s okay, Steve.” He sends Steve a look as if he just had to explain to him why two plus two equals four, and then he nods with his head towards the bathroom. “Now are you gonna stand there like a mook, or are you gonna fetch me some tissues to help me clean this mess up?”
“Hey, three-fifths of that mess is yours,” Steve grumbles, feeling heat rise on his cheeks even as he turns to do as he’s being told.
“Yeah, well, five-fifths of it is still your fault, so there’s that,” Bucky counters without missing a beat, and Steve feels the knots inside his chest slowly begin to loosen at the familiar pace of the banter forming between them.
He goes into the bathroom and comes back with a full roll of toilet paper which he tosses at Bucky, after having torn off a few sheets for himself. Bucky, predictably enough, catches it in mid air, and Steve is actually taken aback by the lack of moaning that occurs when the metal of Bucky’s fingers close around the roll.
“So the arm’s gone numb now?” Steve asks. “Like, is that what you did?”
“Pretty much,” Bucky agrees. He grimaces a little as he wipes down the front of his chest, using generous amounts of paper to make sure he gets all of it. “I mean… it still registers things like heat and cold, but the actual touch sensor is unplugged.”
“Okay,” Steve says. He doesn’t know what else to say, really, so he just settles with fiddling with the tools still strewn over the desk, putting them back into the box again. Then, he pushes the side table back to where he first got it, before turning back to readjust the angle of the desk light.
“What are you doing?” Bucky suddenly asks from behind him. When Steve turns around, he finds that Bucky’s climbed beneath the covers of the bed and is holding a corner of them up while gesturing for Steve to climb in. “Get back in here.”
Steve opens his mouth to reply, but when Bucky just raises a challenging eyebrow at him, Steve obediently follows the order and joins the other man beneath the sheets. Bucky makes a low, contented noise as he wraps the covers around them both, and just like that, Steve finds himself with Bucky’s nose buried against the side of his neck and Bucky’s right arm slung over his midsection.
“Relax,” Bucky mutters against his skin. “You’re like a wooden board. And not in the good way.”
“Sorry,” Steve says, before he can stop himself, and Bucky grumbles in annoyance.
“Stop saying sorry,” he orders. “You don’t have to be sorry. I’m not sorry, so knock it off.”
“You’re naked in my bed,” Steve points out, as if that is explanation enough.
“And you’re not,” Bucky counters. “Really, you couldn’t have taken the jeans off?”
“You— Seriously, you’re not—” Steve twists around, ignoring the fact that he indirectly shoves Bucky off of him as he turns to face him. “How are you so calm about this?” he demands.
“How are you not? ” Bucky retorts. Steve opens his mouth to answer him; exactly how, he doesn’t know, but he doesn’t get the time. The moment the first unintelligible syllable passes his lips, Bucky lets out a low groan, grabs him by the chin, and mashes their mouths together in a kiss that’s equal parts rough as it is tender. He kisses him until Steve has to steady himself against Bucky’s shoulder not to fall into him, and then Bucky pulls back to give Steve a long, steady look.
“See?” he asks. “You like that, right?”
“Yeah…?” Steve replies shakily.
“Great,” Bucky decides. “I like it too. So stop freaking out on me, get your damn pants off, and just lie here for a moment, can you do that? Please?”
Steve hesitates, but only for a moment. Bucky’s eyes are honest where they regard him from across the pillow; the same sincere look that Steve’s known all his life, and he couldn’t have told those eyes no even if he had wanted to.
He wiggles out of his jeans and underwear underneath the covers, and kicks them off the edge of the bed with his feet. He barely has time to lie back down before Bucky’s wraps his limbs around him once more, pulling him in tight.
“Fucking finally,” Bucky mutters as he settles his head upon Steve’s right shoulder while slinging his leg over Steve’s thigh. “Had I known all I had to do to get you out of your pants was to order them off you, I would have done that from the start.”
Steve snorts, blushing like an idiot even though he tries not to. “You make it sound like you’ve been thinking about a way to do that for quite a while?” he asks.
“Maybe I have?” Bucky retorts. When Steve’s breath stalls, Bucky continues, “Maybe I’ve just been waiting for the right time?”
“Like…” Steve swallows, clearing his throat, “For your arm to suddenly malfunction in a way that only I could help you fix?”
“Well… not exactly like that,” Bucky admits. “But close enough, I guess.”
“Huh, what?” Bucky asks, suddenly sounding worried.
“No, nothing, it’s just... “ Steve lets out a low chuckle while shaking his head. “Tony’s never gonna let me live it down if he ever finds out about that.”
“What’s Tony got to do with anything?”
“You know, he’s, uhm…” Steve clears his throat again. “Last night when I went to get the tools, he sorta… hinted that… you and I had the potential to be, you know… more than just friends.”
“He did, huh…?”
Bucky’s voice is low and unreadable, and Steve sends him a quick glance from the corner of his eye. Bucky is chewing the inside of his cheek again, but when he notices that Steve’s looking at him, he stops.
“Well,” he decides simply. “I guess if you don’t want Tony to know about this, then—”’
“What?” Steve says, feeling his stomach drop. “No, no, that’s not— Bucky, I don’t care if Tony knows or not. I don’t care if anyone knows. I just meant that he’s gonna go all smug because I told him this wasn’t ever gonna happen, and—”
“You didn’t want this to happen?” Bucky asks, sitting up for a second time, and Steve sits up as well, because this is so not going in the direction he wants it to.
“Of course I did!” he exclaims. “I’ve wanted this to happen since forever!”
“Then why did you tell Tony—?”
“Because I didn’t think you’d want to!”
Bucky blinks, and just like that, all the tension in his posture appears to melt away as his lips suddenly widens into a wide, lopsided smile.
“You really are an idiot, aren’t you?” he asks, albeit without any accusation. When all Steve can do is shrug back helplessly, Bucky reaches out and pulls him in by the shoulder to give him a long, soft kiss.
“Tell you what,” Bucky murmurs against his lips, before pulling back to look him in the eye. “Lets just spend today in here, alone. No Tony, no nothing. Just us. Then tonight, or tomorrow, or later, we can decide what all this means, and where we want it to go. Sounds good?”
Steve nods. In reality, that offer sounds almost too good, but if there’s one thing Steve’s learned from the past, it’s not to look a gift horse in the mouth. So he nods again, for safe measure, and allows Bucky to guide him down next to him, again . Once there, Bucky proceeds to pepper Steve’s mouth, cheeks, jaw, and neck with kisses; some slow and tender, some quick and hurried, as if he can’t decide which way he prefers. Steve doesn’t really care, because the effect is still the same, and not before long, he’s squirming beneath Bucky’s mouth, gasping when Bucky dips lower to lick wet and lazy swipes over his nipples, one side at the time.
By the time Bucky’s managed to work his way down to Steve’s groin, Steve is nearly shaking out of his skin, in the best of ways. As Bucky wraps his lips around the head of his cock – as if it was the most natural thing in the world to do – Steve lets his own fingers drop to tangle in the other man’s hair, brushing the brown curtain out of the way so that he can see it properly. And the sight that meets his eye is wonderful indeed.
Bucky’s lips are stretched around him, already puffy and flushed from the previous lip biting and kissing they’ve gone through over the past hour. Bucky’s working Steve over like he’s savoring a treat, and as Steve looks on, Bucky hums while taking him deeper, until Steve can feel the head of his cock brush against the back of the other man’s throat.
He’s not going to last long, he knows that, and Bucky doesn’t seem very intent on dragging it out either. It doesn’t take many minutes before Steve tightens his fingers in Bucky’s hair, holding on for dear life as he attempts to stutter out a warning of some kind to let Bucky know he’s reached his limit. But Bucky doesn’t pay him any attention. Steve comes inside his mouth with a choked gasp, and Bucky swallows around him eagerly, once, twice, and then gives his cock a final, lingering suck, before pulling off.
“That’s three for you,” he announces smugly as he plops himself down on the pillow next to Steve’s head. “Now we’re even.”
“Great,” Steve pants. He raises his hand and gives Bucky a weak thumbs up and a smile, chest still heaving. “Fantastic. Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it,” Bucky drawls. He’s gone back to snuggle his face against the dip between Steve’s chest and shoulder, and this time, Steve shifts around so that he can put his arm around Bucky’s shoulders before letting himself relax into the mattress. The gesture is appreciated, if the little huff of laughter coming from Bucky is anything to go by, and Steve smiles, closing his eyes.
In less than five minutes, Bucky’s breathing has evened out into a steady rise and fall against Steve’s chest. Another minute after that, both of them are sound asleep as Steve’s mind slowly drifts off into the soft, gentle dark of his unconsciousness.
“What do you mean, it broke? ”
“Exactly what it sounds like,” Bucky hears Steve reply from the stairs, moments before the two men step onto the common room floor; Steve first, and Tony after.
“Rogers,” Tony says firmly, “those are custom made industrial screwdrivers, they can’t break.”
“Well, I don’t know what else to tell you,” Steve says. “I mean, if I were you, I’d ask for my money back. Hey, Buck,” he adds, coming up to the couch where Bucky is sitting, flopping down next to him.
“Hey,” Bucky replies simply, and when Steve leans in to give him a quick kiss on the lips, Bucky lets him without a fuss. When Steve pulls back, Bucky has to hide the smug grin threatening to overtake his face behind the back of his hand when he notices the way Tony stares at them both.
“So yeah,” Steve continues, as if he hadn’t even paused, “I’ll pay for a new screwdriver, of course, but if I were you, I’d probably check out another brand before placing an order.”
“What’s this?” Tony asks, and both Bucky and Steve look up at him with identical expressions of pure innocence.
“What’s what?” Bucky asks.
“This?” Tony says, waggling his fingers between them. “You two. Being all… relaxed with each other.”
“What about it?” Steve asks, at the same time as he nonchalantly wraps his arm around Bucky’s shoulder, and Bucky leans into the touch, still with his eyes intently fastened on Tony’s face. Tony looks at Steve, before shifting his gaze to Bucky, who smiles back. Then Tony lets out a deep, exasperated sigh as he turns back towards the stairs while throwing his arms up in the air.
“You know what,” he says over his shoulder, “never mind. I don’t wanna know.”
“You sure?” Steve asks. “Don’t you need to hear what we did to the arm in order for you to fix it?”
“I’ll manage,” Tony promises.
“Then what about the screwdriver?” Bucky calls out.
“You two just keep your freak off my couch, and we’ll call it even!” Tony chimes back, and Bucky turns to bury a snicker in the fabric of Steve’s shirt-clad shoulder as Tony disappears down the stairs once more.
“Well, what do you know?” Steve says. “It actually worked.”
“Told you,” Bucky muses. “Stark likes to talk a big game, but public displays of affection make his skin crawl.”
“How do you even know that?” Steve asks.
“I’m a world-class assassin,” Bucky replies simply. “Knowing things without asking comes with the job description.”
“And it still took you so long to figure me out?” Steve teases. Bucky huffs, rolling his eyes to the ceiling.
“You were different,” he decides firmly. “In case you haven’t realized, when it comes to you, I’m a bit biased.”
“Obviously…” Steve hums, before using the hand on Bucky’s shoulder to guide him into a kiss. Bucky sighs as he lets Steve dip his tongue into his mouth. When Bucky makes a playful tug at it with his teeth, Steve chuckles, pulling back.
“So…” he drawls. “How long do you think until everyone knows?”
“Depends,” Bucky replies. “If we stay here, less than an hour.”
“And if we don’t?” Steve replies.
“It’ll take longer, of course,” Bucky admits, “but you heard Tony. Staying on the couch means staying civil…” He leans in to drag his lips against the shell of Steve’s ear. “And I’m not sure I wanna stay civil right now…”
“Well then,” Steve breathes as he drops his fingers to rest them against the small of Bucky’s back. “Guess that means we better get a move on, huh?”
“Yeah,” Bucky answers, smiling against Steve’s lips. “Guess we better…”