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Three Pencils and a Garage

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Today is not going well for Steve. He has ten minutes to get to class on time and his college is twenty minutes away, and his motorcycle is not starting.

He turns the engine once more and groans.

The Harley is old, the man who sold it to him for dirt cheap had told him as much, but it was just what Steve could afford as a struggling college student with no family for financial support. But Steve is happy. He could be content with the shit hole appartment, the cheapest meals he could make, avoiding going out often with friends, (unless Tony came, that man could afford to pay for him).

But Steve could not be content with flunking out of art school because he had to miss class again because of his fucking bike.

Resignedly, Steve knocks on Sam’s door for a ride.

“Yeah, bike’s not starting again, can you drive me today?”

Steve thanks Sam once again after classes have finished in the afternoon as he helps Steve unload the bike from the bed of his truck. Truthfully, Steve could probably take the weight, but it’s most likely safer with help.

“You got it from here? ‘Tasha wants to see a movie, so I’ll probably be late tonight,” he says as they stand outside the small mechanic shop about a block away from Steve’s apartment.  

“Yeah, thanks again, man, say hi to your girl for me,” Steve says, clasping his hand.

Sam smiles and hops back into the truck, giving him a two fingered salute before driving off, leaving Steve to roll the bike in.

Steve walks into the garage, the smell of fuel, metal, and something smokey hitting him in a rush, unfamiliar though not entirely unpleasant. The space is tidy for a garage, a couple cars and bikes lined up in a row, and natural light seeps in through large windows on every wall. Good light for drawing , Steve thinks idly. He clears his throat.

“Hello?” he calls in and the clanking stopped and something shifts before a man is approaching Steve.

He’s wiping his hands that are black with grease and he has a smear across his left eyebrow, and even still, he is the most breathtakingly beautiful man Steve had ever seen. He’s tall, as tall if not taller than Steve, and has longer dark hair pulled back in a messy half knot.

His eyes are a bluish gray, closed off and hidden but still so beautiful, as though so much lays hidden beneath the surface but is closed off from the rest of the world.

The guy is well muscled, his build defined beneath a dirty white t-shirt and loose fitting jeans that hang low on his hips but grip strong thighs, showing off the power and strength beneath them.

“Hi,” he says, brushing a stray hair away from his face with his clean wrist. Well, clean er wrist. “Can I help you?” he asks when Steve hesitates a moment, most likely gaping like a fish.

Steve closes his mouth sharply, biting back a wince when the quick movement injures his cheek. “Yeah, um,” he says, rubbing the back of his neck, struggling to remember for a moment what in the world he came in for, but luckily the mechanic glances down at the motorcycle that Steve is still propping up.

God, the way the man looks at him, like he can see all the way through Steve, like he isn’t some sort of monster of a man with muscles too big for anyone, body simply too large and awkward, and Steve knows that he takes up too much space, but that’s an issue to consider later. No, instead, his gaze looks through his eyes for a moment before turning swiftly to the bike, as if that was the only thing requiring his attention.

It’s liberating and infuriating; Steve wants to memorize every detail of this man, wants him to keep looking him straight on, simultaneously ready for a challenge from the way his shoulders are slightly tensed and ready while his clothing gives the impression he’s comfortable.

“Yeah, tried to start her up this morning, the engine started to turn but… she’s real old, so… Can you help, doc?” Steve asks, shifting his weight from foot to foot as the mechanic circles the bike.

He opens his palm and Steve looks at him confused for a moment but then he says a curt, “keys,” and Steve is fumbling in his pockets to plonk them unceremoniously into his hand.

He nods his thanks and tries to start the engine, only to have the same result Steve had described. As he grasps the handlebars and flexes his fingers as he curls them around, Steve notices that his left arm is badly scarred, shiny flesh covering the arm in a way that looks like it would never heal.

The mechanic makes a noncommittal noise in his throat, fiddling with the handlebars and wheels before turning back to Steve, who is watching fascinated at the easy grace with which he walks, swinging a leg over it with practiced ease, and damn if that wasn’t one of the hottest things Steve had seen.

The mechanic hops off after fiddling a moment longer, and Steve notices that the small garage has no other mechanics, or anyone for that matter, although a couch and some chairs indicate he sometimes has company.

“I’ll take a look. You can come back tomorrow,” the mechanic says.

“Okay, uh, thanks. How much do I owe you upfront?” Steve asks, beginning to fish for his wallet but the other man waves a hand.

“I don’t charge upfront. We can discuss the cost when the bike is finished,” he says, holding out a hand to shake.

Steve grasps it and the hand is warm and firm in his own, and he doesn’t want to let go. “Thank you--”

“James.”

“Steve. Thank you, James, I appreciate it. Uh, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow,” and James nods curtly, signalling their business is done for the day, and Steve makes his way out of the small garage, pondering over the fact that a mechanic’s garage is more homey than the apartment he’s lived in for over a year.

Steve walks to his classes the next day with a skip in his step, unbothered by the fact that he had to walk to the college, because he‘s going to see the dark haired mystery mechanic afterward.

When his final class is finished, he quickly makes his way to the shop, long legs carrying at a brisk pace. He swings into the garage, natural light illuminating the place, and Steve briefly wishes he could draw it. Or better, the man who owns it.

Speaking of whom, James seems to have heard him come in, or sense or something, because are Steve’s footsteps louder than the machinery he was working on?

“Hey,” James says, wiping his hands on a towel again, navy shirt tight around his torso, and damn , that shouldn’t be legal, and low hanging jeans show off the V of his hips.

“Hi,” Steve manages to casually get out, clearing his throat as he fights to keep his gaze at eye-level. But then those fierce gray eyes are on him, seeming to look all the way through him, and Steve wouldn’t be able to look away if he wanted to. “How--” he begins, but James is already leading him around a couple of cars to the very back of the shop where a motorcycle gleams new and beautiful in the light.

Holy shit. That’s Steve’s bike. But there’s no way that the bike with chipping paint, a bum engine, and nearly bare tires that Steve brought in is this shiny black motorcycle with tires that are definitely new and a seat whose leather seams to work as a mirror.

How in the world is Steve going to afford this?

“Replaced the engine and fixed her up a bit, she was looking a little worse for wear,” James says, running the fingers of his left arm along the handlebars for a moment before stepping back, moving out of Steve’s way in an invitation to take a look.

Steve walks around the bike, hesitant even to touch it, it looks so perfect. He’s entranced by how much work has clearly been done for this bike, the time and care James must have put in…

Steve turns the engine and the thing barely makes a sound, vibrating to life beneath him smoothly.

“Wow, how did you…” Steve says, shaking his head with wonder, but the pit of his stomach is tight and heavy because James deserves a goddamn fortune for the work he put in and Steve barely has enough to live on, and working part time on campus doesn’t pay that much.

Steve turns the bike back off and James smiles sheepishly. He seems almost shy for the first time since Steve met him, and Steve wants nothing more than to hug him before regaining swift control over himself. Jeez, what is it about this man he hardly even knows that draws him in this way?

Steve looks down to fish for his wallet, breaking the spell and giving him a moment of reprieve from the intense stare James has.

He follows James the another part of the shop that has things like car freshener, leather polish, seat covers, etc., and is led to a cashier. James punches some numbers and gives Steve the total, which is wayyyyy less than he could have even hoped, even for the engine alone, and the cost only includes the engine, none of the other work that the man clearly put in.

“Hey, this is missing the paint and the leather, and…” But James holds up a hand.

“Just the engine. The rest was because you’re a first time customer,” he says with a playful smirk that has Steve’s knees buckling, but Steve knows there’s no way the man is making a profit, and in fact is probably losing some money from this deal, and it makes guilt sit heavy in Steve’s stomach, because the fact is he can’t really pay him all that he’s owed and keep paying rent, but he wants to.

Sam already pays more than half the rent of the apartment since Steve’s still at school, but he still wants to help out so he covers people’s shifts at the cafe on campus when people can’t make it.

“You can’t be serious, you’re basically giving me a brand new bike,” Steve says, crossing his arms, because maybe he can pick up some extra late shifts, or…

James shakes his head again. “This is your total,” and his tone is firm and leaves no room for argument, and Jesus, where did this man come from, and Steve hands him everything in his wallet, more than what James has asked for, but it’s the best Steve can do.

James counts the money and narrows his eyes at Steve, lips pursed, but Steve just stands with his arms crossed and looks at him innocently. He can be a stubborn bastard too.

James rolls his eyes but the corners of his mouth twitch in a tiny smile that Steve is certain he was not meant to see, but the tightness in his stomach eases and he feels his belly flutter slightly. He wants to make him smile for real.

He follows James back to the bike. “You’re free to go, then,” James says, walking back to a car whose hood is propped up. Steve watches for a moment before swinging a leg over the bike, comfortable and familiar in his grip and he grins to himself.

“Thanks, James!” he calls as the engine revs to life and he grins when James hums before rolling out of the garage.

The next day passes in a blur, Steve unable to pay attention in several of his classes, his mind drifting back to James over and over again.

It’s stupid and fruitless, he doesn’t even know this man, and he seems like such a private person… Not to mention the fact that he’s most likely straight.

But those piercing eyes haunt Steve’s thoughts, and Jesus, the way he looked straddling the motorcycle…

And why in the world had he put in all that extra time and work and then charge Steve next to nothing for it? He couldn’t be making that much profit if he did that for everyone, and if he didn’t do it for everyone, why then for Steve?

Even Sam notices something’s off during dinner.

“Dude, seriously, what is up with you tonight?” Sam asks, eyeing the half eaten piece of oven pizza.

“Eh, nothing, long day I guess,” Steve says, forcing a grin and taking a large bite out of the slice.

Sam gives him a look that essentially translates to ‘bitch, please’. “It’s a guy, isn’t it.” Sam has always been too good at reading Steve.

Steve slumps in his chair, eyes turned to the heavens. “Ugh, I’m such a mess,” he says, rubbing his forehead.

Sam sighs sympathetically. “Tell me ‘bout him.”

Steve shakes his head, still covering his eyes. “No, it’s not even like that, he’s probably straight, which is beside the point ‘cause we don’t even know each other,” he says with a huff, finally sitting up and removing his hand.

Sam looks at him puzzled for a moment. “Then how…” he lets the question hang.

“I don’t know!” Steve cries, and he knows he’s being utterly ridiculous but at the moment he doesn’t care. “I’m a fucking wreck over a guy I don’t even know, but I really want to, and--”

“So why don’t you?”

Steve looks at him with furrowed brows, waiting for an explanation.

“So why don’t you get to know him? How do you even know him? Is he in one of your classes?” Sam asks, finishing the crust of his slice.

“No, he fixed my bike. Well, he did more than that, he redid the paint, made it look brand-spankin-new, and he only charged me for the fucking engine,” he says frustrated with a gesture that says ‘can you believe it?’

Sam whistles lowly, shaking his head. “And you said he doesn’t even know you? That’s quite a gesture…” But Steve shakes his head.

“No that’s the most frustrating part, I think he’s just a genuinely nice guy and took pity on my broke ass,” Steve laments, angrily ripping off another piece of pizza.

“Okay, so if he’s so nice, and I assume attractive,” (to which Steve vigorously nods), “then why don’t you go see him again? Get to know him and all that?”

Steve takes a swig of his beer before shaking his head. “I can’t just stop by at his shop everyday just to talk to him or some shit, that’d be pretty much stalking,” Steve says.

“Okay, so go there with a purpose. Buy something, I don’t know, don’t mechanics usually have shit you can buy? Make conversation and see if there’s a connection,” he says, putting a hand on his shoulder. “If he’s got any brains, and I guess if he’s gay, he’ll like you,” Sam says with a smile, and Steve wishes he can believe him, but he nods anyway.

“Thanks, man,” Steve says, giving a small smile.

“Hey, anytime, I hope it works out. You wanna watch somethin’? New season of Survivor is on…”

Steve nods and they both clear their plates and plonk in front of the TV.

Steve gets through one more day before he finally decides to take Sam’s advice. He tells himself it’s so he can buy some leather polish to maintain the beautiful leather work James was able to do. He’d gotten a good night of tips and he plans to use what he can on the polish.

He rides to the shop after class, he doesn’t have work for the rest of the week, and pauses at the entrance to the garage, taking in a soothing breath. He walks into the garage and is nearly knocked breathless because James is wearing those jeans and just about nothing else. Okay, he has a pair of old converse on, but he’s shirtless, abs and pecs on display for anyone and Steve barely manages not to give him a once over, staring at the ground for a moment before trying again.

He fights to keep his gaze on James’ eyes, the blue-gray like molten steel, warm but slightly closed in anticipation as though he has no idea what Steve is about to do.

“Hi,” Steve says with a nervous smile.

“Hey, something happen to the bike?” he asks, walking to where his shirt is on the couch, and to be fair, it is quite warm in there, but perhaps it’s just the effect Steve has from being in the same room as James.

“No, uh, no,” he says, following James and trying not to feel too disappointed that his chest is no longer bare, but at least he’ll be able to concentrate a bit more now. Hopefully. “Nah, the bike runs great, thank you again. I came to get some leather polish if you’ve got any.”

James’ eyebrows furrow in the middle but he just leads Steve wordlessly to the shop.

Steve thinks back on Sam’s advice, and God, it’s been years since he’s tried to flirt with anyone... He’s always been awkward, never able to find the right thing to say, but it didn’t hurt to make conversation, right?

“So how’s your day goin’?” Steve asks as James leads him to the shelves that have seat care products. He pretends to scan them, trying to focus, but it’s difficult with James’ piercing gaze on him and his body so close.

His hair is pulled back again today and there are deep circles under his eyes indicating a sleepless night. Steve wonders what the reason behind them is with a pang in his stomach.

“S’alright, I guess,” James says nonchalantly, not giving anything away. He moves away, giving Steve more space to look, and Steve mourns the loss.

“How long do you work today?” he asks, scanning the prices listed.

“We usually open at noon on Wednesdays and Saturdays but I came earlier today. Shop closes at seven everyday.” Steve nods, tearing his gaze from watching the mechanic’s face reverently to look back at polishes.

He picks up the cheapest one there is, only a couple dollars, less than a single person’s tip. He starts to bring it to the register but James pulls a different one off the shelf.

“I recommend this one for the best results,” James says quietly, showing him the bottle, (and Steve could swear he can feel his breath on his cheek), and while the container clearly holds several more ounces than the one Steve chose, it’s also significantly more expensive.

“I, uh,” Steve begins eloquently, holding up the cheap bottle in his hand. “This is-- I can’t, uh,” but James is nodding and walking to the cash register and Steve didn’t see him put the better bottle back.

James runs the total and Steve’s relieved that it’s only a couple dollars, but when James starts bagging up the expensive one, Steve stops him.

“No, no, you already fixed the bike for next to nothing, I can’t--” But again, James is shaking his head and he doesn’t stop bagging the item. Steve’s voice lowers, defenses up and lips pursed. “I’m not a charity case.”

“No, you are a returning customer and loyal customers get discounts,” and Steve looks at him because he is so full of shit and James has a small smile dancing on his lips, one that Steve can’t help but return.

He hands him the money, eyes slightly narrowed. “Ya know, you’re not gonna make much of a profit if you keep givin’ away shit,” Steve says as he places the remainder of the money he made last night that, (other than what he’s saving for rent), into the tip jar, challenge evident in his eyes.

“Ah, but that’s the trick, that’s how ya get ‘em to keep comin’ back,” he says, smirking crookedly and Steve can’t breathe for a moment, because 1) that smile is adorable and hot as hell, and 2) was that just an invitation to come back?

Probably not, probably just playful banter, but his heart is so light that James is actually talking to him that he doesn’t care.

“Well I hope that strategy works out for you,” Steve says, grinning.

“Me too,” James responds quietly, smile softening as he continues to look at Steve.

“Thanks again, James,” Steve says and reluctantly exits the shop.

Thursday trudges by at an agonizing rate and again Steve is daydreaming about James for nearly the entire day, but this time it’s not just tight t-shirts and beautiful abs, it’s a surprised but happy look when he sees Steve, (at least he hopes), and a mischievous smirk that occupy his thoughts.

But Steve doesn’t go back to the shop that day, as much as he wants to, because he knows it has got to be creepy, and if not, more than a little desperate. That evening, he and Sam drink beers Natasha brought over that were left over from a party at her place.

“So have you seen the mechanic again?” he asks, taking a deep drink of his beer.

“Yeah, I went back yesterday,” Steve says sheepishly, looking down at his beer and running his finger around the stem of the bottle.

“Damn, Rogers, you work fast,” Sam says with a clap on the back. “Did ya buy somethin’ or just talk?”

“I bought some polish for the seat, he sold me the most expensive one for the price of the cheapest,” he says with a frustrated eye roll, sipping his beer.

“Jesus, this guy must really like you,” Sam says contemplatively. “You gonna go back and ask him out?”

Steve sighs miserably. “No, I barely know this guy. He seems so nice and he’s so handsome and funny and have I mentioned nice because…” Sam is looking at him with sympathy. “I’m so fucked.”

“Not yet, but maybe soon,” Sam says with a chuckle and Steve socks him on the arm with a laugh.

“Ugh, what am I gonna do?” he laments.

“I dunno, man, it looks like this strategy’s working so far,” and Steve shrugs. “You say you barely know him, but that’s how you get to know people, goin’ out, conversing, all that jazz,” and Steve nods because the man has a point.

“Yeah, I’ll go back soon, I just don’t wanna be a stalker, ya know?” Sam nods.

“Well, it sounds like he might be into you, I think you should see where it goes. Give it a chance, right?”

“Yeah… thanks, Sam,” he says, and Sam clinks his bottle with Steve’s with a smile.

Steve waits until Monday to go back to see James, trying and failing to come up with something to buy, or otherwise some other excuse, but finally settles on looking around the shop until he finds something.

Nervously, he rolls up to the garage and walks in, and though his stomach is fluttering, already he is becoming more comfortable with the place… and the man who owns it.

He walks in and as usual the garage is bathed in just the right amount of light, enough to see what you’re doing but not so bright that it’s uncomfortable there. Steve wishes he had a place with light like this one.

“Hey,” he calls in, and this time he hears the greeting, “Steve?” before James can even see him. It really shouldn’t have the effect it does on Steve’s heart.

“What’s up?” James asks casually, taking his hair out of his half bun briefly so that he can redo it and Steve is stuck on ‘gape like a trout and say nothing’ setting until James is done with his hair, one strand already falling into his face and Steve’s fingers itch to touch it, and is looking at Steve expectantly.

“Oh uh, just needed an um,” he stammers, gesturing to the shop, and James holds out a hand so that Steve can go first. He fiddles with the bag thrown over his shoulder, grateful to have something to do that isn’t just mess with his fingers, and leads James to the little shop.

Steve scans the shelves for something he could plausibly be getting but there are very few things meant for motorcycle riders, and even fewer within his price range.

“Know what you’re looking for?” he asks, an amused smirk playing on his lips.

“Yeah, uh,” Steve looks around desperately, thankfully catching sight of one of those cheap car air fresheners. He holds up the pine scented one.

“You have a car?” James asks, and he sounds surprised to say the least.

“No, uh, friend asked me to pick one up today?” Steve answers but the end of his sentence sounds more like a question because even to his own ears he sounds so full of shit.

“Mm, okay,” James says, face serious but his eyes are dancing, as if he’s agreeing to play along but he is so on to Steve.

They go to the register and this time James lets Steve pay the correct amount, (it is three bucks afterall), and as James hands Steve his receipt and item, their fingers brush, warm and pleasant, and it’s so cliche and Steve knows it but he’s still a goopy mess from the feeling all the same.

“Thanks,” he says quietly, smiling shyly to James.

“Anytime,” James says, and something about the way he says it makes Steve think he really means it.

They look at each other a moment longer before Steve turns to go, unable to think of a reason to stay. “I should, um,” he says, gesturing to the exit, and James’ face loses some of the lightness it had a moment ago, still less closed off since the first time they met, but…

James follows him back out into the garage and Steve is just passing the couch but his foot catches on the leg and he stumbles, his bag falling to the ground as he just barely catches himself, and all his pencils, several sheets of paper and some assignments fall out.

“Shit,” he curses under his breath, hoping that James has already gone back to his work, but it’s just his luck that James crouches beside him, helping collect the papers and pencils, and Steve’s face is beat-red because of course it is, and he refuses to make eye contact even as James carefully hands him the pencils.

But shit, some of his drawings have fallen out without Steve realizing but James is already looking them over with a curious eye, eyebrows drawn together slightly as he gazes at them intently.

“You’re an artist,” he states surprised, looking at the next sketch, and jeez, Steve hopes the nude bodies he’d had to draw for class last week haven’t fallen out. “You’re really good.”

Steve flushes at the compliment but smiles. James hands back the drawings with a smile but hesitates with a landscape piece he’d done with charcoal, one he’s actually pretty proud of, depicting a lake and the trees surrounding it, a couple birds in the sky above and reflected in the water. James looks it over, fingers floating across it without actually touching, as though entranced by the piece.

“Incredible,” he murmurs, and Steve is sure he wasn’t meant to hear. “You drew this for a class?”

“Not that one, most of them I do in class ‘cause it’s hard to find a place with good light, but I try to draw as much as I can…” Steve trails off for a moment, lost in thought. “I shouldn’t complain, I’m luckier than most, Sam pays for a lot of the rent since I can’t work too much with classes and everything. I’m lucky to have him for family…” he cuts himself off again because he’s rambling and there’s no way this is interesting, but James is looking at him riveted, eyes searching his face for answers to questions Steve doesn’t know.

“Is Sam you’re only family?” James asks, but the nature of his question almost seems to be asking for something different.

“Ya, Ma died right after I started school, and that was really hard… she took good care of me, which ain’t easy with the type of kid I was, and I never knew my dad so… Oh yeah, but Sam’s been a pal since before Ma died, convinced my to stay in school and everything ‘cause that’s what she woulda wanted. He and his girlfriend, Natasha,” Steve pauses here, watches as James’ face lightens and opens to him more. “And some other friends. That’s my family.”

James nods quietly, still seeming to look into Steve, seeing the words he didn’t want to say out loud, and his gaze is both nerve wracking but something else as well.

“Well, if you ever need a place to draw…” and Steve must look surprised because he continues, “my sister Becca’s an architect, sketches here all the time. You’d like her,” James says with a soft smile on his face, half amused and half fond.

Steve wants to decline the offer because James seems like such a private person but then he gets these glimpses of the man inside, the man beneath the scarring and hard gray eyes. “Are you sure?” he asks instead, guilty that this man has already given him so much and he has done nothing to give back.

But James nods with a smile that makes Steve’s stomach tighten. “We’re open everyday except Sundays, 9-7. Oh, except Wednesdays and Saturdays, then we--”

“--open at noon,” Steve finishes for him with a grin, and James looks surprised that he remembered but then he too is smiling, his more shy than Steve’s. He doesn’t want to leave yet but it’s nearing 5 pm and Steve wants to make Sam dinner as a special thanks tonight… but he supposes five more minutes can’t hurt…

“Do your friends hang around here a lot too?” Steve asks offhandedly, gesturing to the seating area.

James shakes his head. “Don’t really have friends, just Rebecca,” and Steve looks at him, trying to find what he’s saying underneath that.

But all he does is hum and thank James again. “So, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow?” Steve asks nervously, sheepish smile on his face.

“Guess you will,” James says with a smirk that Steve is quickly falling in love with.

Steve smiles softly and gives a half wave, adjusting his bag when he realizes James is still carrying the drawing of the lake. James opens his mouth to say something but Steve just smiles. “Keep it, I’ve got a thousand just like it.” He’s almost to the exit when he gets an idea. “What’s your coffee order?” he calls back, and James looks surprised.

But then James is grinning, and he replies, “Black,” and Steve walks home with a grin he can’t keep down for the rest of the day.

Tuesday moves at a snail’s pace and Steve is bouncing on the balls of his feet as time moves impossibly slower. He drops by his apartment to pick up some things and stops by an old coffee shop just around the corner before leaving for the garage.

He gets one black for James and puts cream and sugar in his own before heading out and trying to keep himself from flat out running to the garage. He calls into the garage and James is already standing, wiping greasy hands on a rag and walking over with a grin on his face.

Holy shit, what was that for?

“Hey,” James says, tightening his hairband.

Steve hands him the coffee and James gives him a grateful look before bringing to his lips. He sips slowly, eyes closing, and sighs.

“You’re the best, thanks,” and Steve flushes with the compliment.

He brings out the bag of cookies he baked last night and hands them to James, who looks surprised to be receiving something else.

“Wanted to say thanks, ya know, for everything, the bike, the space, so,” he shrugs, rubbing the back of his neck, and James is looking at him with such surprise and tenderness that Steve has a hard time maintaining eye contact, like he can’t believe someone would just want to do something nice for him.

“Thank you,” he says, soft smile occupying his face again, and he opens the bag as he walks over to the couch, Steve following close behind. He bites into the chocolate chip cookie and makes a sound that’s purely pornographic.

Steve watches in fascination with his mouth agape, his pants feeling slightly tighter, and James swallows the mouthful, looking at Steve like he’s a new man.

“Tell me you didn’t make these,” James says, reaching in the bag for another.

Steve smiles sheepishly, cheeks warm, and nods. James groans again and shakes his head.

“You might be too good to be true,” James says, pointing to him with the remainder of his cookie. He finishes and stands, stretching and patting his taught stomach, a bit of abs showing as his shirt peaks up for a moment. “I should let you…” James says, gesturing to Steve’s bag.

“Yeah, yeah, sorry, don’t wanna disturb you or…” Steve trails off, gesturing to the machinery.

“Nah,” James says, waving a hand, “Becca yaps my ear off when she’s here. I don’t mind company while I work.” He gives Steve a soft smile, which he quickly returns, and watches James begin to wax a red convertible.

Steve takes out his assignment and begins to draw.

“Yeah, Sam and I have lived together for a while now, I don’t know what I’d do without him,” Steve says, eyes down as he focuses on the curving of a woman’s cheek.

They’ve been talking for over an hour, each exchanging small stories about their lives along with some easy jokes. Steve is surprised with how easy it is being with James and he feels as though they’ve known each other for years. Something about the way he listens and hangs onto every word Steve says makes him feel so comfortable and important. And in turn, James shares some of his own stories, when the Proctors adopted his sister and him, how Rebecca is a pain in the ass but his best friend.

It’s comfortable and easy, and Steve doesn’t want it to end. But after about three hours, it’s almost closing time and the light is starting to get harder to draw with. Reluctantly, Steve begins to pack up.

James notices and glances at a clock on the far wall. “That time already?” he asks with a chuckle.

“Yeah, I should get out of your hair,” Steve says, only half joking, and stands.

James puts down his tools and comes to walk Steve out. At the exit, he asks, “See you tomorrow?” with a hesitant smile, and well, since he asked , who is Steve to refuse?

“Um, yeah, I’ll see ya then,” Steve says, and James grins.

Steve comes a little bit later today, he had to stay after class to talk to a professor, and by the time he can leave it’s nearing dinner time and golden hour, so Steve decides to pick up some tacos (because who doesn’t like tacos) and brings them to the shop.

“Hey,” he calls in greeting, and James’ face is like a light and Steve’s heart pounds in his chest.

“I was starting to think you weren’t gonna show,” James says.

“Nah, I had to stay late for a professor, but I brought dinner as compensation?” he says, ending hesitantly with a question.

“Hm, I suppose I may forgive you, depending on what you brought.”

“Tacos?”

“You know the way to my heart, Steve Rogers,” James says, dramatically placing a hand on his chest, and Steve laughs, rolling his eyes and shoves him on the shoulder.

They sit facing each other on the old couch munching on tacos and tortilla chips and Bucky tells him about the dog the Proctors have adopted.

“Yeah he’s cute, but kind of a moron,” James warns, bringing out his phone to show pictures. Steve watches him flip through the photos, laughing at a video of him going down the carpeted stairs for the first time (more falling than walking).

James puts the phone back down and finishes his taco with an enormous bite, and that really shouldn’t be adorable, but the way he tries to fight a grin at Steve is just too much.

“That shit was delicious,” James says, leaning back and throwing an arm across the back of the couch.

“I’m glad, I wasn’t sure what kind you’d want, or if you even liked tacos,” he says with a laugh.

James’ face turns serious. “Who the fuck doesn’t like tacos?”

“My thoughts exactly,” Steve says, and they both laugh. Then Steve gets an idea, one even Natasha would be proud of. “Well, next time I pick up dinner, you can text me just to make sure,” he says, fighting to sound casual.

James looks at him, eyes analyzing, before smiling. “Fine, but we alternate paying,” James says, and he doesn’t leave room for argument so Steve doesn’t try.

They exchange phones and enter their numbers and when James hands his phone back, the contact reads ‘Bucky’ next to his phone number.

“Bucky?” Steve asks curiously.

“My friends call me Bucky,” he says with a timid smile.

“I thought you didn’t have friends,” Steve says, teasing.

Bucky flushes and shifts his feet. “I guess I kinda do now.”

When Steve finally has to go and it’s almost seven, he and Bucky hesitate by the exit for a moment.

“See you Monday?” and when Bucky looks as disappointed as Steve feels, he feels the need to clarify. “I’ve got work the next two days, so…”

Bucky nods, soft smile returning. “See ya Monday.”

The next four days pass by agonizingly, and he tries to fill as much time as he can with friends and work but it’s hard to get Bucky out of his mind. All his portraits somehow end up with harder jaw lines and darker hair, and occasionally, when he uses color, eyes that he plans to be green or brown end up gray more times than he would care to admit.

He updates Sam on the situation and the other man seems pleased, as though this actually has a shot, which is a ridiculous notion, but Steve entertains it anyway because he’s never been good at keeping his hopes in check.

But hey, how do you get anything in life if you don’t dream a little?

A pattern emerges and Steve finds himself coming to the garage at least a couple times a week, sometimes more, and they grow closer and closer as friends, to the point where sometimes they stay and get takeout and eat on Bucky’s couch, even after Steve has finished his assignment and the garage has closed.

He’s falling too hard and too fast, and he knows it, and even though Bucky has never mentioned any dates or girls before, Steve knows chances are he’s straight and just comfortable with Steve as a friend since he doesn’t yet know Steve’s sexuality, so he hasn’t thought about that kind of thing.

And even though Steve knows this logically, he still reads far too much into flirty smiles, the big grin Bucky gets when Steve walks in… the casual touches and brushes as he walks by…

Not to mention the fact that they’re texting almost every night, especially the ones that Bucky doesn’t see Steve because he has work. It doesn’t mean anything.

On my way , he texts Bucky, and receives a smiley face within seconds.

...

Steve groans and plonks himself onto the couch, his head thrown back on the back of the couch, and when he hears footsteps approach, he holds out the cup of black coffee without opening his eyes.

He hears a chuckle and Bucky takes the cup. “What’s got you all bent outta shape?” Bucky asks, sitting beside Steve and he throws his arm across the back of the couch as usual, but this time Steve’s head is there, so he feels it just barely brush his hair.

He wants to sit up a bit and see if Bucky moves so that he can lay back on his arm but he doesn’t risk it.

“It’s this fucking assignment,” Steve cries and lets out a groan of frustration. “I’m supposed to draw someone candidly but there is absolutely no way to do this without coming off as a creepy weirdo.” He shakes his head.

Bucky hums, considering a moment. “And it has to be a person?” he asks, even though it seems like he already knows the answer, but Steve nods anyway. Steve doesn’t know what he expects when Bucky stands with a start, but it certainly isn’t, “You could draw me.”

Bucky doesn’t seem like he expected the words either because he looks surprised, but he doesn’t take them back. When Steve hesitates, however, he starts backtracking.

“I mean, if you want, or maybe you can ask Sam or--”

“I’d love to draw you.” The words are too eager and Steve turns red, but when Bucky grins he wouldn’t take them back for the world.

“Okay, um, I’ll just go…” he gestures to the pickup he’s working on with his thumb and heads over.

Steve gets out his supplies and lays out a board as a hard place to draw on.

Bucky’s clanking something that Steve doesn’t know the name of, and Steve begins to trace the shape of the car. Bucky’s movements are stiff and timid, nothing like the smooth grace he usually exhibits.

“Pretend I’m just doing my assignments as usual, that I’m drawin’ the car or somethin’,” and Bucky nods, but he still looks a tad unsure. Gradually, his movements become less restrained and he whistles softly to himself while he works.

After procrastinating by focusing on the truck and the rest of the garage, Steve finally starts on drawing Bucky. He worries his lower lip between his teeth as he sketches the shape of his body, bent as he leans over the engine.

He focuses on the arms, marveling at how the muscles tense and shift and Steve is both grateful and terrified at having the excuse to just stare at Bucky. He notices he hasn’t moved his pencil in some time and quickly huffs to himself. Focus.

“Hard time drawin’ all this ugly?” Bucky asks with a laugh.

“I wish,” Steve mutters under his breath and continues to sketch his arms and torso. He carefully outlines the slight v of his hips, accented by the low jeans. Steve blushes as he draws the curve of Bucky’s ass, wondering if it’s as firm as it looks, and when he looks up Bucky is smirking at the engine as if he knows .

When he feels the proportions and shapes are right, Steve finally begins on the face, tracing a sharp jaw and nice cheekbones, the straight bridge of his nose before finally finishing with stormy gray eyes, full of humor and passion but below that, secrets and a past Steve doesn’t yet know about.

He finishes cleaning up his lines and shading the right places and he can’t help but smile that even in his drawing Bucky’s lips are pulled into a half smirk.

Steve watches Bucky work for as long as he dares before dramatically declaring he’s finished.

Bucky is a like an excited little kid and it shouldn’t be this adorable as he comes bounding over to see. He plops next to Steve on the couch and looks over his shoulder, his hot breath tickling Steve’s neck and it is suddenly far too warm in the room.

Bucky is studying his drawing intensely, brows pulled together it what looks like wonder.

Steve is beat red, he knows he is, and he wants to create some space between them before he gives himself away but he can’t move, frozen where he sits.

“You’re incredible,” Bucky breathes and he turns to look at Steve, and Jesus, when did their faces get so close together, and Steve needs to leave, go, run, something , because everything is too much right now and Bucky doesn’t know what he’s saying.

Steve clears his throat and scoots away just an inch, but it makes a world of difference because he can breathe a little again and the blood rushing in his ears isn’t so deafening anymore. But all of that doesn’t make up for the way Bucky’s face falls a little, closing in on himself.

“Sorry,” Bucky says quietly, moving away to give Steve more space, and no, no, this isn’t what he wanted. But he needs to leave before he does or says something stupid.

“No, no,” he corrects quickly, “You don’t-- I--,” but his sentences are going nowhere good and he’s too close to revealing something. “I should…” Steve says, and Bucky nods but his lips a pursed and worried and his brow is furrowed.

Steve packs up his things and avoids looking up at Bucky because he can’t bear that face, even though he doesn’t know exactly what caused it.

“Thank you for, um, letting me…” and Bucky nods with a soft smile and sad eyes.

“No problem, Steve,” and Steve gets up and leaves, even though it’s the last thing he wants to do.

Steve doesn’t go back next week, and guilt weighs heavy in his stomach, and Bucky doesn’t text him. Sam notices him moping even though Steve does his best to hide it, and when Sam finally wheedles out the story, the dam bursts and Steve is suddenly telling him everything and Sam gives him a hug and but looks at him like he’s the biggest idiot he’s ever met.

“You need to go back,” he says, and Steve opens his mouth the argue but he just holds up a hand. “No, you need to pull your head outta your ass and realize he’s into you, and even if he wasn’t, he’s still a good friend, and vice versa. And you can’t just throw that kinda thing away. He probably doesn’t have as many people as you do, didn’t he say something about not having friends?” He pauses, watching Steve’s face. “You need to do what’s best for you, but I’m tired of seeing you mope about someone who probably wants you back.”

Steve is watching him with his mouth agape and he wants to argue but he knows Sam doesn’t wanna hear it.

“Okay, rant over. You ready for dinner?” Steve nods and he can’t help but laugh because Sam is just the best.

Steve is deliberating whether to text Bucky or not and just show up at the garage when his phone buzzes at him.

Hey, sorry for what happened when you were here, I hope you’re doing okay and everything.

Steve is about to send a response but suddenly he’s out the door and walking around the block to the garage. He stops by the entrance, nerves catching up to him, but he swallows it down, because there is absolutely no reason Bucky should be apologizing.

So Steve walks in and is knocked breathless because how could he have forgotten how beautiful Bucky is, it shouldn’t be legal.

He’s bent over an engine, hair pulled back but a couple strands hang in his face and he looks unhappy, he keeps glancing back to where his phone sits on a desk, and Steve suddenly regrets not responding.

“You know you have nothing to be sorry for, right?” and Bucky startles, looking to Steve with disbelief.

But then the surprise on his face transforms to a heartstopping grin and Steve is just about to melt in a puddle where he stands. He gives a timid smile back, and Bucky looks down, chuckling slightly and rubbing the back of his neck.

“Sorry, uh, guess I just got used to havin’ you around,” he says with a sheepish grin.

Steve walks in, sitting on the couch with a soft smile. “Yeah, I missed ya, Buck,” and the smile that sweeps across Bucky’s face is so heartfelt and lovely that Steve’s traitorous mind begs him to think it means more than friendship.

They talk and catch up, and actually go out to a cheap dinner instead of ordering takeout and it feels like a date, even though Steve knows it isn’t.

Bucky walks Steve back to the apartment and when he turns to go, Bucky asks, “See you soon?”, as though afraid of saying it out loud, or maybe the answer…

“See you tomorrow?” Steve counters with a shy smile, and the returning grin on Bucky’s face is worth all the awkwardness because that smile could light up the world.

Steve is coming every weekday to the garage now, even when he has work, if only to stop by and give Bucky a black coffee or a cookie. They text all the time, for Steve in between classes, always a smile on his face when he sees Bucky’s name come up on his phone.

He’s late today again, staying to discuss an assignment with his professor so it’s already 5 pm by the time he gets to the garage, not even having time to pick up a coffee.

He bounds in and Bucky gives him his winsome smile as usual, the surprise and happiness never growing old on his face and Steve can’t help but return it.

“Hey, you,” he says playfully, nudging Bucky as he takes a seat on the couch. “How was your day?”

Bucky smiles again somewhat tiredly, and Steve’s stomach tightens. “Pretty good, pretty quiet,” he says, but his eyes are sad and below them are dark circles indicating a sleepless night.

Steve stands and walks to Bucky, standing next to him beside the truck. “What’s wrong?” he asks quietly, hesitantly placing a hand on Bucky’s arm so that he’ll look at him.

Bucky smiles again but is interrupted by a yawn. “Nothing’s a matter, jus’ didn’t get much sleep.”

“Some girl keep you up?” Steve asks jokingly, but the words taste like ash in his mouth. Bucky shakes his head and looks at him strangely, cocking his head.

Steve looks at him, searching his eyes for what he isn’t saying. “How long have you been here today?” he asks, and when Bucky opens his mouth, he adds, “tell the truth.”

Bucky sighs and turns back to the engine. “I got here at about 4:30.” Steve opens his mouth and is about to ask a hundred questions but Bucky quickly adds on. “It’s fine, I just woke up real early and couldn’t get back to sleep. It happens…”

Steve purses his lips. He wants to ask how often it happens, and how long he was up before he finally came to work, but he keeps the questions to himself. “Well, since you got here so early, makes sense that maybe you should close early,” Steve says with a mischievous smile that Bucky returns.

“I dunno…” Bucky says, hesitant, but Steve takes him by the hand and pulls gently.

“C’mon,” he says with a smile, but his face turns serious for a moment. “I won’t keep you, but you need to get some rest, let me just walk you home.”

Bucky grumbles that he’s fine but he lets Steve drag him to the exit and he locks up quickly before heading to Bucky’s apartment.

“You wanna come have takeout and a movie?” Bucky asks, and even though his heart is screaming and he wants to hug himself like a child, Steve manages to nod casually.

“I’ll go grab dinner?” Steve asks when they are almost to Bucky’s building. Steve’s walked him home but he’s never been up before. Bucky nods with a smile.

“See ya in a few,” he says, and he looks like he’s hesitating, likes he wants to do something, but Steve has no idea what it could be and too soon he’s heading up. Steve jogs to the Chinese place they like and on his way back, it starts raining to Steve quickly makes his way up.

Steve knocks and opens the door, walking in to set the food on the counter, and he’s about to call out for Bucky when he sees him fast asleep on the couch. Steve chuckles and puts the food in the fridge so Bucky can eat it later.

He’s about to go when Bucky’s blanket falls off the top half of his body and he shivers slightly. Steve smiles and quietly walks over and begins to adjust the blanket, pulling it up over Bucky’s chest, but suddenly Bucky’s eyes flash open and his hand is around Steve’s throat.

He’s on the floor before he can think and Bucky is straddling his hips, (and God, in any other scenario this would be perfect ), and Steve can’t breathe, but he’s trying to say his name but the hard steel eyes can’t hear him and don’t recognize who he is.

Steve doesn’t fight, just pulls at Bucky’s iron grip, but suddenly the eyes are soft and fully open, seeing Steve for the first time, and the clenched hand instantly loosens, and Bucky looks horrified , and his face should never hold such an expression…

Bucky puts a hand over his mouth and he looks like he is trembling, and he’s shaking his head. A sob tears through Bucky’s body and he’s suddenly crying and Steve unthinkingly pulls him to his chest, sitting up and leaning against the couch on the floor.

Bucky keeps murmuring, “I’m so sorry… I’m so sorry,” around sobs, but Steve keeps rocking him, whispering “it’s okay,” and “shh,”.

Steve rocks him for a long time, holding him close with his head on his heart, and in that moment he wishes he could stay there forever. He strokes up and down lightly along Bucky’s back, running his fingers through his hair and up and down his arms, trying to remind him he’s here in every way he can.

He knows Bucky was in the military but he’s never been very forthcoming about that part of his life. He knows Bucky will tell him when and if he’s ever ready, and he hopes Bucky will trust him one day with it, but even if he never does, Steve knows it’s probably not because of him. At least, he tries to tell himself as much.

Some memories are just too hard to go through again, and Bucky’s obviously a very private person who doesn’t make many friends, so Steve has never expected Bucky to reveal that part of his life.

Bucky’s shaky breathing calms, little tremors still occasionally running through his body and Steve just continues his slow strokes. He’ll stay here all night if that’s how long it takes until Bucky feels better.

Bucky tightens his arms around Steve’s torso like a lifeline, anchoring him, and this is all Steve wants to do for the rest of his life. Bucky has his face buried in Steve’s neck, his voice muffled when he finally speaks.

“I joined the marines when I was 18, was sent overseas six months later. Luke was a member of my squad.” Bucky pauses, burying his face further into Steve’s neck and his voice grows quieter. “He was the first man I ever loved.” Steve freezes a moment, because Bucky is into guys, what? “He was straight of course, had a girl back home, he was a lot like you actually,” and Steve’s heart quickens. “The base was bombed, Luke was one of the few in the building at the time, and I went in looking for him.”

Bucky pauses and swallows, and Steve can tell he’s trying not to cry again. “You don’t have to tell me… if you don’t want to… or if you’re not ready,” Steve says, but Bucky shakes his head.

“No, I’ve been… wantin’ to tell you for a while now,” and Steve resumes his timid stroking up and down Bucky’s back. “So I ran into the place and it was all on fire but somehow Luke was still walkin’. He had a soldier on his shoulder but I could tell she was gone soon, if not already… I helped him carry her over to the window I came through… You gotta understand, he was the most selfless guy you could meet, carrying this woman so they could bury her, and--”

He clears his throat, burrowing further into Steve’s chest.

“--and he insisted I go out first, and I tried to argue but there was no way he was gonna have it. Pushed me half out the window, and then he was lifting her body out, passin’ her to me, when the fire musta hit a gas tank or something ‘cause the whole place blew.”

He tightens his hold on Steve and Steve’s arms wrap more firmly around him in turn.

“She and I survived, both of us burnt pretty bad, but we’re alive and… Luke didn’t make it.”

Steve has no words, nothing that he can say to make it better, so he just stays there with Bucky, letting him know with his presence that he’s there, and hopes to be there for a long while. He kisses Bucky’s temple and keeps his arms tight and secure around Bucky, communicating what he can’t put into words.

“Thanks, Steve,” and Steve shifts so he can look down at Bucky, puzzled, but Bucky just mumbles against his neck, “for listening.”

“Anytime, Buck,” Steve whispers, placing a soft kiss at the top of Bucky’s hair. They sit there for what could be minutes, could be hours, and Bucky’s breaths deepen against Steve’s neck, and he knows he’s fallen asleep once more, so Steve carefully stands, holding Bucky in his arms, grateful for once in his life for his enormous stature, and finds his bedroom. He gingerly lies Bucky on the bed, pulling the covers over him, ready in case Bucky startles again, but Bucky remains unconscious.

Steve quietly exits the room and is preparing to leave, straightening the coffee table from where it was disturbed earlier and admiring Bucky’s home for just a short minute before making his way to the door, but a clap of thunder stops him.

Should he brave it and try to walk home in the thunderstorm, it is only about five blocks… but he knows Bucky wouldn’t mind…

Sighing, he decides to impose on Bucky and sleep on the couch, knowing Bucky would insist if he were awake.

Steve wakes up before the sun has finished rising, but as soon as he opens his eyes he knows he has no chance of going back to sleep.

Should he skulk out like a two cent whore? But what if Bucky wakes up scared and alone… or what if he wakes up and regrets all that happened.

Steve decides to distract himself from invading thoughts by cooking.

He peeks into Bucky’s fridge and sees eggs and bread and decides to make cheesy eggs and toast. He’s nearly finished by the time Bucky comes shuffling into the room, rubbing at an eye and his hair adorably mussed.

“Hi,” Bucky says, and he sounds surprised, and Steve instantly regrets staying.

“I’m sorry, a storm rolled in and I would’ve walked but I didn’t think you’d-- sorry,” he finishes lamely, but Bucky is shaking his head, brows furrowed.

“No, no.” He walks into the kitchen, closer to Steve, and the air is distinctly thinner. “You can stay, anytime.”

His firm response both surprises and touches Steve and his face feels warm. “Thank you.” Changing the subject, he says “I hope you like eggs…”

“Love ‘em,” Bucky says, boyish grin returning, and he looks far more rested than he had the previous day. “But I’m sure I’d love just about anything you made, Stevie,” and Steve shakes his head, but he’s blushing vigorously at the nickname.

They eat a quiet breakfast, making small talk and banter, teasing each other lightly. When they’ve finished, Steve stands and begins to clear their plates, but Bucky rises too. “No, no, you made breakfast, I’ll clean up.”

Steve grins and Bucky returns it, and damn he’s beautiful, and Steve stays longer than he probably should, keeping Bucky company until he finishes the dishes (and Steve insists he help dry them). He doesn’t have classes today and had planned on a lazy Saturday spent with Sam and the afternoon with Bucky, but now he’s not sure if he should come back since he’s spent so much time with Bucky.

“Well, I should get out of your hair--” he starts but Bucky interrupts him.

“Are you doing anything tonight?”

Steve’s heart is beating a mile a minute as he answers, “No, I’m not.”

“Can I buy you dinner? To say thanks for breakfast and… and last night?” He looks hopeful and Steve’s stomach falls when he realizes Bucky just wants to pay him back.

“Buck, you don’t gotta do that, I was happy to…”

“No, I want to.” The words are simple and definite. “I’ve wanted to ask you… for a while now,” Bucky says, looking down at the floor.

“I’d love to,” Steve says with a soft smile, and Bucky’s boyish excitement in his eyes is too much, so Steve places a gentle kiss on his cheek. “I’ll see you tonight.”

They go to the same Mexican place that Steve first picked up tacos from. The conversation is easy and honestly not any different than their usual. Steve could listen to Bucky for hours, and it often looks like that goes both ways.

At one point, Bucky stops his sentence and says, “You’ve got some guac…” gesturing to Steve’s chin, and Steve is horrified because holy shit, it’s their first date and everything is falling together, but already Steve is messing it up.

He frantically wipes at his chin, and when he removes his napkin, Bucky laughs and shakes his head, reaching forward with his own napkin, and suddenly he’s wiping a whole glob of guacamole on his chin.

Steve gasps in surprise, glaring at Bucky, and he kicks him under the table, not enough to really hurt but the message is still there.

“You jerk,” he says, but he can’t help laughing as he wipes his chin.

Bucky just grins innocently and eats another tortilla chip, and this is definitely the best date Steve has ever been on.

They walk together back to Steve’s apartment, (he’s cleared it with Sam and he’s staying at Natasha’s most nights anyway).

“Wanna come up and watch The Office or somethin’?” Steve asks, smiling as Bucky laces their fingers together casually.

“Is that even a question?” Bucky says with a grin and Steve laughs, rolling his eyes.

They head up and Steve lets Bucky mess with the Netflix while he goes to use the bathroom, splashing cool water in his face while he’s there. He catches a glimpse of his reflection and even though he’s big and awkward as usual his eyes are bright and his face is flushed. He looks really happy, as he imagines he usually does around Bucky.

He walks out of the bathroom with a skip in his step. “Did ya find…” but his voice cuts off because Bucky is standing there, Steve’s sketchbook in his hands, and oh no , there are so many drawings of Bucky, sketches of Bucky laughing, Bucky shirtless and working, Bucky mock glaring at Steve with humor in his eyes…

Steve’s stomach is on the floor, and fuck , how much did he see? He needs to get that away from Bucky before more damage can be done…

Bucky looks up at him, grinning innocently, and how can he even look like that when he’s just discovered?

Steve reaches for the sketches and tries to get it from Bucky, but he’s too quick, holding it out of his reach. Steve tries to reach around but Bucky just keeps turning, chuckling and keeping it just out of reach.

“Buck,” Steve says sternly. “Bucky, give it back!” But Bucky is having the time of his life just keeping a stupid sketchbook away from Steve, and Steve is so embarrassed and frustrated, and he just wants the damn book back.

He grabs for it again, and Bucky pokes his side in retaliation and Steve can’t keep in a giggle that shouldn’t be able to come from his huge body but comes all the same.

Bucky looks surprised for a moment, then grins with this new knowledge and pokes his side again. The unbidden giggle returns full force, and Steve knows he’s toast.

Bucky starts tickling his sides and Steve just about collapses, dying of laughter, and Bucky is laughing too and the sketchbook is long forgotten. Steve is on the floor in less than a second a Bucky tickles his sides mercilessly and Steve is doing his best to push him off but Bucky is like a solid wall.

Bucky somehow ends up on top of Steve, straddling his hips for better control of the man beneath him, and Steve thrusts upwards to try to knock him off, but that motion creates a very different sensation and he quickly puts that to a stop.

Bucky continues poking and tickling up and down his ribcage and Steve is to the point of tears he’s laughing so hard.

“Bucky… stahhhahhhpp,” Steve says, squirming and writing and then the tickling stops altogether, and it’s just Bucky on top of Steve and they are so close , and how did Steve not even notice?

Steve freezes, unsure of what Bucky is doing, but neither of them look away from each the other’s eyes and Steve is just about ready to fall into the depths of the gray, but then Bucky is slowly leaning in and all thoughts go out the window.

“Buck,” he murmurs, their faces only a couple inches away, but that distance is slowly lessened as Bucky’s gaze drifts from Steve’s to his lips  and back up again, a silent question evident. Steve stares at Bucky’s mouth and Steve’s tongue pokes out to wet his lips, Bucky’s eyes following the movement of his tongue.

Bucky closes the distance and it is both sudden and slow, his lips a gentle pressure on Steve’s own, and fuck, Steve has wanted to do this for so long. Their lips slowly explore, finding what each other likes, and Steve hesitantly brings up a hand to cup Bucky’s jaw, thumb brushing against his cheek, and Bucky sighs into his mouth.

Bucky’s hand holds Steve’s face and the other explores his chest, slow and unsure. They continue to kiss, and when Bucky brushes against Steve’s nipple, a tremor of pleasure runs straight to his filling cock, and he groans into Bucky’s mouth.

Bucky uses the opening to barely brush his tongue against Steve’s lower lip, testing the waters, and when Steve opens his mouth for him, they each begin to explore the other, and Steve knows he has never tasted anything better than Bucky on his tongue.

Bucky is becoming more sure of his movements, but every time he escalates even a little, he slows down, waiting for Steve to give permission, which he happily does. Bucky placing a chaste kiss on the corner of Steve’s mouth and slowly travels downward, kissing and licking at Steve’s jaw before traveling back to place a kiss just below Steve’s earlobe, and Steve’s never been kissed there before, has never know that it was so sensitive .

Steve shivers and Bucky nips gently at Steve’s earlobe, continuing further south as he explores the tendons in Steve’s neck. He nips and sucks a path to the place where neck meets shoulder, biting gently on the muscle there, and maybe Steve has a kink for biting, or, more likely, he has a kink for Bucky, because every nip, lick, kiss, suck Bucky does is sending pleasure to his full cock, straining against his pants.

Steve grips Bucky’s hair tightly and does his best to maintain control enough that he won’t hurt him, but Bucky is making him feel things he never has before; no one has ever taken the time to explore his body and what he likes, worshiping just about every inch of his skin, for everything in the past had been a quick fuck in a club or alley, never something like this, something so much more personal…

Bucky starts to run his hand beneath the bottom of Steve’s shirt, feeling the skin of his abdomen, and begins to pull it up, but Steve stops him.

“Bed,” he murmurs breathlessly, and Bucky nods, pupils blown wide and his gray eyes are dark and fierce.

They stand quickly, and Steve leads him to the bedroom and Bucky gives him the his smirk Steve loves but his eyes are full of hunger instead of his usual humor, but Steve turns the tables and shoves Buckyshoved Bucky onto the comforter, scooting up with him before pushing him back down on his back.

He wants to taste every inch of Bucky, memorize the patterns of taut muscle, every scar, everything that makes Bucky who he is.

Steve rucks up Bucky’s t-shirt and with his help, pulls it over his head, and his own quickly follows. Steve quickly replaces his hands on the newly bared flesh, tasting his chest and running his tongue along the seam where the scarring meets new skin. Bucky is hard against his hip, and Steve just barely isn’t rutting against him, but as much as he wants to speed this up, he wants to make this moment last forever.

Steve kisses down Bucky’s chest and over his abs, licking a path from one hip to the other in a way that has Bucky thrusting into the air, and Steve holds back a smile that he has as much of an effect on Bucky as he does on himself.

Steve stands a moment and Bucky lets out a noise that almost resembles a growl, but when he realizes Steve is removing his pants he just watches with dark, hooded eyes.

Steve pulls Bucky’s pants too and soon they are both in their boxers, and Steve is hard and throbbing, and he needs this to happen soon .

“How do you…” Steve begins, eyes searching.

“I switch, it depends on the mood and the person, but I haven’t… done anything in years …” Steve kisses him softly because his eyes are still dark but they hold a hint of worry and fear, as though Steve is going to disappear too.

“I’ve never done something with a person that I… with someone I have feelings for, I mean.” Steve looks down. “I’ve been dreamin’ about having you inside me from the moment I walked into the garage, but I don’t want to do anything you’re not comfortable with yet…”

Bucky leans up and kisses him softly, and suddenly Steve is on his back with Bucky between his legs. “I wanna be inside you…” He pauses and nips at Steve’s neck, “... so fuckin’ bad.” Steve moans as Bucky teases the sensitive flesh with his tongue, soothing the sting of the bite.

Bucky pulls at the waistline of Steve’s boxers and Steve obligingly lifts his hips, and then Steve is naked and Bucky looks like he is just drinking him in. Steve resists the urge to cover himself because he knows Bucky won’t like that. Besides, Bucky isn’t with him because of his looks, Steve knows it must be something else.

Bucky sits up and removes his own boxers and lines up so that he is grinding into Steve’s cock, waves of electricity pulsing through him, and fuck , Bucky isn’t even in him yet and this is already the most intense thing Steve’s ever felt.

He groans as Bucky mouths his shoulder, rolling their hips together, and Steve’s cock is throbbing and wet with precome, and he needs Bucky in him soon or this is going to be over before it even really begins.

“Lube?” Bucky asks between kisses up his neck and back to his mouth, sucking Steve’s lower lip into his mouth.

“Second--” but Steve is interrupted with a hiss as Bucky finally grasps his aching cock. “--second drawer.”

Bucky leans off him to grab the lube but quickly returns, spreading Steve’s thighs. “Are you sure?” he asks, stroking Steve’s inner thigh tenderly, and Steve can only nod breathlessly.

“I’m sure about you.” Bucky smiles softly and places a gentle kiss on Steve’s lips as his hand travels to Steve’s entrance, teasingly tracing the rim teasingly after slicking up his fingers. Steve gasps and his cock twitches as Bucky slowly pushes a finger in to the first knuckle.

He wiggles it gently, trying to loosen him up as best he can, and fuck , it’s been so long since Steve has bottomed for someone and he’s probably so tight, but Bucky’s finger feels marvelous as it pushes past the outer ring and all the way into him.

Bucky slowly works him open, and the faces he makes when he brushes his prostate, a mixture of pride and wonder, makes Steve’s stomach feel warm.

“Buck,” he says, panting, “I’m ready. Fuck me, please…”

Bucky nods and removes his fingers, rolling on a condom carefully before slicking himself up. He exhales through his teeth as he gets a hand around himself, and Steve just wants him in now .

Bucky looks to Steve’s eyes questioningly once more and Steve spreads his legs as much as he can, pulling Bucky closer by way of answer.

Bucky carefully lines himself up before slowly pushing in, and Steve throws his head back at the feeling, a whine escaping his throat at the feeling and he is so, so full.

“Ah, Bucky…” he cries out, wrapping his legs around him to just hold him there for just a moment, and Bucky leans up, eyes wide.

“Did I hurt you?” And he looks like he’s about to pull out and put a stop to the whole thing so Steve reaches up and tugs Bucky down for a soft kiss.

“No, no.” He sighs in contentment. “Just been a while… so full .” He feels Bucky’s cock twitch inside him at the words and he smiles but is interrupted by a moan as Bucky circles his hips slightly.

Bucky’s hips are twitching without his control, and Steve can tell it’s taking all he has not to thrust wildly, so Steve clenches around him experimentally, both of them gasping simultaneously at the intense feeling, and when that doesn’t hurt, Steve knows he’s ready.

“Bucky… fuck me,” he murmurs desperately, and it seems that Bucky can control himself no longer and he carefully pulls his hips back before pushing back in. It’s slow and measured, but it’s perfect, and Steve watches in wonder as Bucky’s dark eyes close with pleasure and small noises escape his lips.

The man is too perfect for him and so beautiful and Steve doubts he will ever tire of watching the blissful expression on his face. But Steve can’t think coherently anymore because Bucky brushes against his prostate and Steve writhes on the bed, pleasure zinging through his system.

Bucky hasn’t even started going fast and Steve is already near his climax. Bucky continues the slow, deep pace he’s set out, and because everything is so slow and is slowly building, Steve can feel every tremor of pleasure, experience every twitch in Bucky’s muscles and every change in his expression.

Steve is grabbing him wherever he can, wanting to pull him so deep that they become the same person and he doesn’t know where Bucky starts and he ends.

Bucky finally begins to speed up, and Steve can tell from the noises he makes that he too is nearing his end, and Steve holds on for dear life, unable to look away from Bucky’s eyes as he pounds into him.

Bucky reaches a hand and wraps around Steve’s cock, pumping it in time with his thrust, hitting his prostate almost every time.

“Come, Steve, come for me,” he grunts out, fucking him relentlessly and Steve’s gone, tightening impossibly around him as he throws his head back and cries out as white fluid splashes his stomach. Bucky grinds his hips as he helps Steve come down from it, easing out of him when Steve has finished.

“Come on me,” Steve murmurs, looking up at Bucky from beneath hooded lids, and Bucky groans, ripping of the condom and working his cock fast. He’s gone within seconds and he lets out a small gasp as his orgasm rips through him and he’s choking on a whimper as stripes of white mark Steve’s stomach, mixing with his own fluid.

Steve watches him with a small smile on his face as Bucky slowly comes down, lying on his back next to Steve. Bucky slowly regains control of his breathing, and when he has calmed a bit, he turns to Steve in wonder.

“Is it always like that for you?” he asks, and Steve looks at him confused. “Is it always this good with you?”

Steve laughs and shakes his head. “I could ask you the same question, that was…” he trails off, lost in Bucky’s eyes which are light and open once more.

Bucky smiles softly and leans in to give Steve a gentle kiss, no longer the rough exploring from before but rather languid and sated.

Bucky places one more chaste kiss on his lips before pulling back with Steve’s favorite grin on his face. “You need a shower,” he says, and Steve laughs, nodding.

They walk hand in hand to the shower, Steve exploring Bucky’s body again but with just his fingertips as they wait for the water to get warm. They get in together and clean each other, stroking softly, everything slippery and smooth under the warm water.

They kiss languidly and Steve’s cock slowly fills as Bucky’s presses against his hip. They slowly bring each other off with their hands, lazily finishing while their cum goes down the drain.

Steve is growing sleepy when they’re finally clean and he barely summons the energy to pull on some pajama pants and Bucky steals a pair of boxers. They climb sleepily into bed and kiss lazily.

“Night, Steve,” Bucky murmurs as Steve crawls into his arms. He rests his head on Bucky’s chest and places a soft kiss there.

“Goodnight, Buck,” and Bucky’s arms tighten around him, and Steve quickly drifts to a dreamless sleep.

Steve awakens slowly, his pillow seeming to move against his cheek. It’s harder and smoother than usual, but Steve is too sleepy to really think about it.

The pillow moves again and Steve groans and shifts, grumbling that it needs to keep still, and the pillow rumbles a laugh. Steve feels a kiss at the top of his head and he peeks up blearily, blinking away the sleep.

Last night returns to him all at once when he sees Bucky smiling down at him, hair mussed and eyes sleepy, and Steve can’t help but lean up and kiss the smile off Bucky’s face.

Steve is riding home after dropping the drawings off at the office late in the evening. It’s been almost a year since he moved in with Bucky, and even after all this time, it never fails to surprise him at just how lucky he is.

After graduating, Steve secured a job at an advertising company doing illustrations which means he can work from home, or, more often, in the garage while Bucky works as well.

He unlocks the apartment door and the smell of pasta hits him full force when he walks through the door.

“You made dinner,” he says surprised, smile sweeping across his face as Bucky grins at him from the kitchen. God, that smile will never fail to take Steve’s breath away. “You shouldn’t have done so much work, I would’ve helped,” Steve says, returning Bucky’s quick kiss.

“I know, but I wanted to make this for you,” and Bucky’s smile is so warm and excited that Steve’s chest feels ten pounds lighter. “Now, go get comfortable while I finish up, and then we’re finishing our Disney marathon,” he says with a grin.

Steve rolls his eyes and kisses Bucky’s cheek again. He hears Bucky humming ‘Tale as old as Time’ and he chuckles to himself as he makes his way to the bedroom.

He’s about to take out some pajama bottoms when he notices his old sketchbook laying on the bed, the one with all the embarrassing drawings with Bucky. He had forgotten they still had that.

There’s a marker in between two of the pages so Steve opens it to find a drawing of two stick figures holding hands, one with short blonde hair and huge blue eyes and the other with longer dark hair and gray eyes. There’s a heart in between them and Steve laughs before glancing down at a rough sketch of a ring and a question mark right next to it.

And Steve stops breathing.

He turns to see Bucky leaning against the doorframe with the ring in his hand and that smirk on his face and Steve runs to him, hugging him tightly.

“Yes, you dork.”