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He and Steve had been ‘dating’ now for almost a whole month, and Bucky was pretty happy with things. Obviously they couldn’t step out, officially, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t go on double dates or stay in and listen to the radio and just sit close and be. Reading twined together on their couch, with Steve absently stroking his hair. Little kisses exchanged over dinner prep or before Bucky left for work in the morning. The nights when they’d push their beds together and he’d curl himself around Steve’s back; he loved those nights. Problem was, they hadn’t talked about anything beyond kissing or petting or spooning. And while Bucky knew he couldn’t exactly be described as ‘normal,’ he was still a man and he had his wants.

Which he was content with taking care of on his own, like he’d been doing since puberty, but if Steve was willing…. Bucky had never quite gotten that far with any of the girls he’d gone out with, so he wasn’t entirely sure of the protocol around finding out whether or not Steve was willing. (He was pretty sure, though, that none of those protocols involved pressing one’s erection into one’s best guy’s back while he was trying to sleep. On those occasions, he’d ease himself gently out of bed, trying not to disturb Steve, and either pace their apartment until it went away on its own or sequester himself in the bathroom, biting down on the rolled-up hem of his shirt to keep quiet.) He didn’t know what Steve liked or didn’t like, what he’d done or hadn’t done. People had boundaries; it wasn’t something you asked your friend.

It was something you asked your lover. And, being lovers as well as friends, sooner or later, he’d have to ask. Steve knew that Bucky had good touch days and bad touch days, and that sometimes those days overlapped. Bucky was a little afraid that, because of that, Steve might hesitate or not ask for something he wanted because he wasn’t sure how Bucky would respond. So Bucky would have to make the first move.

Eventually.

(How was he supposed to do it?)

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Bucky started awake with a gasp and a shudder and a warm damp spot spreading in his underwear. The thought flashed through his mind that it was lucky that they had decided to sleep apart tonight; it would have put Steve in an awkward position and they still hadn’t talked about this. He glanced over towards Steve in the darkness of their room. He didn’t stir, his breathing as steady as expected as he slept. Maybe he hadn’t heard. Maybe Bucky hadn’t disturbed him with his little outcry. Bucky slipped his hand down his pants for a moment, ghosting his fingers over himself, catching the last little aftershocks, before climbing out of bed to wash up and change his shorts.

As he lay back down and pulled the blanket up, he thought he caught a shift, thought he saw Steve watching him. Bucky closed his eyes, not wanting to look and see. He paused, holding his breath and listening, but Steve was as still as ever. Bucky exhaled slowly and tried to relax. Maybe it hadn’t happened; the night was full of imagination, and surely Steve would have spoken to him if he had been woken. Bucky drifted back to sleep.

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Sunday morning. They rose together at dawn to wash and dress for Mass. Bucky wasn’t much of a morning person as it were, so his silence was nothing unusual. Steve kept up his usual one-sided conversation, little pleasantries that Bucky would yawn and smile at. Maybe he spoke a little faster, a little brighter, like he was trying to smooth over his thoughts and could only do so by drowning them out. Maybe Bucky was a little too tired to notice, or maybe Steve was being a little too subtle, but the morning passed as any other Sunday morning.

Breakfast finished and the table cleared, and they pulled on their good Sunday jackets and locked the apartment behind them to walk the four blocks to church.

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Back home again. Steve took Bucky’s jacket from him and hung it with his own on the same hanger, conserving space on their clothes rail. Bucky stood at the window, peering out and drumming his fingers against his thigh. Something was bothering him, and the fact that he couldn’t figure out what exactly was bothering him, was bothering him, too.

“You ok?” Steve asked, suddenly next to Bucky (how long had he been there before speaking? Bucky wondered).

“Yeah,” Bucky answered, maybe a little too quickly. He shrugged. “Yeah, I’m good.”

Steve settled his hand into the small of Bucky’s back, his fingers pressing gently, making affectionate little circles. Bucky flinched involuntarily. He wanted this, but part of him clearly wasn’t as sure. Steve noticed and pulled his hand back.

“Sorry,” Steve said quietly.

Bucky wanted to tell him, no, it’s ok, please don’t stop, but he couldn’t get the words out. Instead he gestured to catch Steve’s attention and pointed at the door, managing to ask “Wanna go to the Met?”

Steve smiled. “I’d love to.”

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He and Steve slept apart again that night. He didn’t really want to, but after the day they had had, Bucky felt that it was safest for him to not worry about recoiling when he touched Steve in the night. He didn’t want to make things even more awkward.

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After work, Bucky let himself into the apartment and collapsed onto the couch, not even bothering to pull his boots off, instead letting his feet dangle over the arm. He knew he had a little time before Steve got home from his job at the advertising firm, and he deserved a bit of a rest before dinner. He had time to catch forty winks before he had to wash up and start chopping vegetables. He deserved a nice nap.

Bucky woke to the sharp smell of sautéing onions. He made a sound that wasn’t quite words and sat up quickly.

“Hey, look who decided to join us,” Steve said with a laugh in his voice as he pushed the diced onions and celery and carrots around the pan, keeping them from sticking and burning. The chicken broth was already simmering gently in their stock pot with the leftover baked potato from last night.

“How long was I asleep? Why didn’t you wake me?” Bucky asked, a little muzzily. He was still kind of tired. “I was supposed to cut those up so you wouldn’t have to do the cutting and the cooking.”

“You were conked out real good,” Steve said, turning back to focus on the cooking. “I said hi to you when I got in and you didn’t even twitch. You looked exhausted, so I thought I should let you keep sleeping until dinner was closer to ready.”

“But I was supposed to help,” Bucky groused, swinging his feet back to the floor and standing up. He walked the few short paces to the stove.

Steve turned and pointed the spoon at Bucky in mock chastisement. “Nope, I got this. You still wanna help? You can go change out of your work clothes, get washed up, set the table, and check if the bread’s still good. It was getting a little hard yesterday, but I figure if we’re using it to mop up soup, it should still be fine.”

Bucky nodded and touched his fingers to Steve’s shoulder for a brief moment and lingering half a second longer than absolutely necessary before heading back to the couch so he could sit back down and finally get his boots off.

He didn’t notice Steve’s little smile at the contact.

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After dinner Bucky put on a record but didn’t move the kitchen table; no dancing tonight, just listening. He stretched out on the couch with a library book and a pillow under his shoulders. Steve retrieved a sketchbook and took the wing chair. His pencil danced over the page, moving to the music where he was still and focused and Bucky was quiet and relaxed, only his foot flicking occasionally.

When Steve finished his drawing, he stood up and stretched, his back cracking a little as he unbent himself. He walked over to the couch and, giving Bucky a light pat on the ankle, asked “Think I could share this space with you? You can put your feet in my lap, I don’t mind.”

Bucky lifted his legs to let Steve slip under and settle into his cushion before relaxing again, not taking his eyes off his book.

“Something’s been bothering you,” Steve said, placing both hands gently but firmly on Bucky’s right calf.

Bucky made a sound of disagreement and kept reading.

“No, I know you’re upset. And given that you haven’t told me what’s bothering you, it’s probably something about me. And I’d like to try to make it better. And I think I have a pretty good idea what it is, but I don’t know for certain. You wanna talk?” Steve pushed.

Stubbornly, Bucky thought that no, he didn’t really want to talk about it, even though he knew they needed to. He turned the page.

“If we don’t talk tonight, that doesn’t mean we won’t have this conversation another time,” Steve said a little more firmly. “We have to talk, sooner preferable to later. Is tonight not good?”

“No, it’s ok. I can talk,” Bucky said, closing his book and setting it on the floor.

“Good,” Steve answered. “And it’s important that we have this talk, but if you start getting uncomfortable, you’ll let me know, ok?”

“Yeah,” Bucky nodded, looking in Steve’s general direction.

“So, a couple nights ago,” Steve began, cheeks starting to turn a little pink already. “I, uh, heard you. I was having a little trouble sleeping, so I was trying to just lay really still and pretend like I was asleep, and I heard you. I guess you thought I was actually asleep. Have you been doing that every time we sleep apart? You know,” he jerked his hand, making an obscene gesture. “Is that not something you want with me? You want me but you don’t want me? I don’t understand.”

“No, that’s not, that’s, that’s not it,” Bucky said, barely waiting for Steve to stop speaking. “No. I do, I do want, I just…” He paused and took a breath, exhaling slowly to try to get his brain and mouth back to the same speed. “That one wasn’t on purpose. It just kind of happened. I woke up and it was finishing up. And more general, I, I just wasn’t sure how to ask. It’s one thing to go for milkshakes and try not to look too much like we’re stepping out together, because I know you like that. I know you like strawberry best, no whipped cream. I wasn’t sure how to ask, wasn’t sure if I’d like what you like.”

“Wait, that’s it?” Steve asked, tilting his head a bit to the side.

“What do you mean ‘that’s it?’” Bucky asked, forehead wrinkling a little, eyebrows pulling together as he processed Steve’s question.

“I thought there was some deep, complicated reason why you didn’t want me that way, why you’d rather touch yourself after I was asleep instead of letting me help,” Steve clarified. “I didn’t think it would be something as easy to fix as miscommunication. And to help you out, well, I haven’t done anything with anyone else yet, but I’ve got some ideas of what I might like. And if I don’t like it, then we can stop and try something else. Does that sound ok?”

“Tonight?” Bucky asked, caught a little off guard.

“It doesn’t have to be tonight if you don’t want,” Steve backpedaled a bit.

“Tonight, I, I think, tonight’s good,” Bucky nodded. He pulled his knees up and got into a sitting position. He looked up as Steve rose from the couch.

Steve held out his hand for Bucky to take and helped him onto his feet. They turned off the record player and headed to the bedroom.

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Back in their bedroom, Bucky pushed his bed flush against Steve’s while Steve stripped down to his underwear. Steve watched eagerly as Bucky slowly undressed and kicked his clothes into the corner to pick up later.

“So, what did you want to do?” Bucky asked, sitting down on the edge of the bed and looking up at Steve.

Steve shifted a little on his feet, still standing. Thumbs tucked into the waistband of his underwear, shifting but not pushing them down yet. “I wanna suck you off. Would you like that?”

“You wanna put my cock in your mouth?” Bucky asked.

“Yeah, nothing wrong with wanting that,” Steve replied. “I imagine it’ll feel pretty good for you, and I wanna enjoy getting you off.”

“Alright,” Bucky said, standing up and crossing the room.

“Hey, where’re you going?” Steve asked. “Are we not doing this right now?”

“Jeez, Steve, I’m just gonna wash things off a bit. I mean, if you wanna put it in your mouth, it should be clean, right?”

“Uh,” Steve said. “Well, yeah, I guess. But I don’t wanna taste soap, ok? I wanna taste you.”

“Alright, no soap,” Bucky called back from their tiny bathroom. “You wanna come in here and make sure I’m doing it right?”

“Jerk,” Steve laughed, but he shoved his underwear off and followed Bucky to the sink. He winced a little at the cold water, but if it was important to Bucky to wash himself off a bit beforehand, then Steve would too. He’d warm back up again quickly enough.

Back in the bedroom, Bucky sat down on the edge of the bed and spread his legs for Steve, who knelt in front of him.

“You finally ready?” Steve teased. “Nothing else you gotta do first, or can I finally get in there?”

“Yeah I’m ready, Steve. Don’t be so impatient. I wouldn’t want an unwashed cock in my mouth,” Bucky huffed.

“I was teasing,” Steve said.

“Oh, ok,” Bucky replied, silent for a moment. He laughed and reached down to ruffle Steve’s hair before leaning back, bracing himself on his hands. “Alright, show me what you’ve got.”

Steve shuffled in closer and pressed his cheek to the inside of Bucky’s thigh. He lifted his right hand to stroke his fingers lightly over Bucky’s cock, coaxing it up, watching as it twitched and rose. Licking his lips, he wrapped his fingers around the shaft and took the head into his mouth. He ran his tongue over the glans and glanced up at Bucky to see his reaction. Bucky’s eyes were closed, his mouth hanging open a little. His breathing was still fairly even, prompting Steve to increase his efforts. Steve slid his hand down to the base of Bucky’s cock, following his fingers with his mouth until he couldn’t go any further without discomfort (someday…). He hummed and bobbed, relishing the little moans he drew out of Bucky.

Steve moved his left hand up to Bucky’s thigh, denying himself the temptation to stroke himself as he sucked. He could feel the precome beading up and he didn’t want to come before Bucky did. He wanted to make sure Bucky got the chance to do whatever he wanted to do. He slid back up until just the glans was in his mouth, running his tongue over it, tasting Bucky. Bucky moaned a little louder, panting out little ‘ah’s. Steve felt Bucky tense up, his breath catching in his chest. He came with a quiet gasp. Steve stayed down until Bucky was all spent and beginning to soften again. He debated getting up to go to the sink to spit, but then he wouldn’t be able to enjoy Bucky in his post-orgasmic state, panting, chest and face flushed, jaw slack, a calm, blissed-out look on his face. Steve swallowed and stood back up.

“Mm, you’re not bad at that for a beginner,” Bucky said, straightening up and patting the bed next to him, asking Steve to sit. “You want me to do that to you, too?”

“I won’t say no if you’re offering,” Steve murmured, leaning his head against Bucky’s shoulder.

Bucky nodded and gently pushed Steve back upright so he could climb off the bed. He knelt down on the floor facing Steve, whose cock was dark pink and strainingly hard. Much like the rest of Steve, it wasn’t very big, but from this angle, Bucky thought he might be having second thoughts. Steve had been eager enough to suck him off, so it must be enjoyable. He ought to at least give it a try. He leaned in and took Steve’s cock into his mouth.

And promptly pulled back, grimacing. He shook his head involuntarily, shoulders rising.

“What’s wrong?” Steve asked, concerned. He reached down to cup Bucky’s chin.

“Feels weird,” Bucky explained. “Tastes… weird. I dunno. I don’t think I can do this.”

Steve looked disappointed, but he quickly schooled his face to something more neutral. “It’s ok,” he said. “I can finish myself off.”

“No, no,” Bucky said, scrambling up to sit next to Steve on the bed. He placed his hand over Steve’s. “I’m sure I could do something else for you, just not that. I could jerk you off. Could I do that for you?”

“Of course, Buck. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that. I wasn’t being very clear. Of course you may,” Steve said, smiling to let Bucky know he was ok.

“Ok,” Bucky nodded. “You wanna lie down for me? On your back?”

Steve scrambled, crablike, back onto the paired beds and lay down. He lifted his arms above his head and spread his legs a little, leaving himself exposed. Showing off for Bucky. Bucky sat down next to him and placed a hand on his chest, drawing it down over his ribs, over his prominent hipbones, skirting around his cock and coming to rest lightly on his balls. Bucky braced himself on his other forearm, sliding one leg between Steve’s and climbing on top of him, still gently fondling his balls. Steve inhaled sharply through his nose. Bucky leaned in to kiss him, swallowing Steve’s gasp as his hand finally slid up to grasp his cock.

It only took a couple good strokes before Steve was thrusting reflexively into Bucky’s hand. He dug his fingers into the sheets and cried out, spilling onto his stomach and Bucky’s hand.

“See? I can do that for you,” Bucky said when Steve came back down.

“Point… taken…” Steve panted, still catching his breath.

“Good,” Bucky said, sitting back up, holding his hand carefully up to his chest so as not to smear come on the bed. “I’m gonna go wash up. You wanna come with me or should I bring a washcloth and clean you up out here?”

“Bring a washcloth please?” Steve asked, turning his head towards Bucky and giving him a satisfied smile.

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“Hey, Buck?” Steve asked, twisting his body around a bit to look Bucky in the face from his where he lay, wrapped in Bucky’s arms.

“Yeah, Steve?” Bucky answered sleepily.

“What do you say we just call it a night? Go to sleep right now, a little extra sleep can’t hurt. Especially since you were so tired this afternoon. We don’t even have to put our pajamas on or anything. It’s still warm enough,” Steve suggested, petting Bucky’s arm where it encircled his chest.

“I like that idea,” Bucky murmured, giving Steve a kiss on his temple.