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the measure of a man

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 Steve is doing push-ups in the gym.

This is nothing new. He spends time in the gym every day, in addition to his runs, because it's his duty to maintain the gift of his body, but also because he likes physical exertion. He likes pushing himself; he likes doing things that would have had him passing out as a kid. That's been the case since he was doing calisthenics before USO shows.

What's new is Bucky watching him.

Bucky spends his own time in the gym. Bucky's always been an active kind of guy, welterweight boxing champ of Brooklyn, 1938. He's got a lot more muscle now, and Steve doesn't know that he takes the same kind of joy in what he can do that Steve does, but he trains anyhow, making sure his body is capable of supporting the weight of the arm. 

But not at the same time Steve is working out. He just sits there watching Steve do burpees, watching him at the weights, with the kettlebell.

And now, intently, as he does pushups.

Steve stops after a set of fifty and wipes his sweaty face on the hem of his shirt. 

"Do that again," Bucky says suddenly.

Steve drops his shirt and frowns at him. "Another set?"

"No," Bucky says impatiently. "Lift your shirt."

Steve does, a little mystified.

"Higher," Bucky says.

Steve can feel himself flushing, but he pulls his shirt higher anyway, because at this point in their lives, there's not much he won't do if Bucky asks him. The cool air hits his hot, sweaty muscles, and his nipples immediately contract into points. Bucky's focus only intensifies.

He stalks across the room like he's coming to murder Steve and Steve has long since reconciled himself to the fact that his reaction to Bucky looking like he wants to kill him is getting turned on. He would say it's just that he likes Bucky walking toward him no matter what, but once, buzzed on Thor's booze, he had confessed this particular kink to Natasha, and she, equally tipsy, had said, "Oh no, that's just the way James walks, you can't help it."

Steve had said, "Thank you," with the fervor of someone who felt truly seen for the first time in his life.

He feels seen now, too, in a much more uncomfortable way, because Bucky has leaned forward and is scrutinizing Steve's chest with the kind of focus he once dedicated to scoping out targets and watching Steve's six. He is close enough, in fact, that Steve can feel the puff of his breath against his exposed skin, and frankly, if Bucky keeps this up, Steve's running shorts are going to do very little to conceal the effect this is having on him.

"What," Steve finally says, unable to bear it any longer.

"I knew it," Bucky says, which tells Steve exactly nothing about what's going on. Bucky straightens and cups Steve's pecs, which is, okay, not entirely unfamiliar, but usually happens in the privacy of their apartment rather than at the gym.

"Buck—" Steve manages.

"Your tits are bigger after you do push-ups," Bucky says. "I've suspected it for weeks." His fingers flex and Steve bites back a moan. "Do another set."

Steve bites his lip. Bucky is still staring at his chest, and his nipples have ascended straight through perky to aching. "Buck," he says, "I’ll do any number of push-ups for you, as long as you let me do them at home instead of here."

Bucky narrows his eyes, taking in his own fingers wrapped around the swell of Steve's chest, the state of Steve's nipples, and then, with a glance down, the state of Steve's dick, half-filled and rising. 

"Oh," Bucky says.

"Yeah, oh," Steve confirms.

"You'll do more push-ups for me?" Bucky digs his fingers into the meat of Steve's chest.

Steve lets his head fall back. "Many as you want."

"All right," Bucky says, like his own breaths aren't shallower, like he's totally disinterested. "Yeah, we can go home." 

They walk the ten blocks from the gym to their apartment with Steve, at least, determinedly thinking of anything but Bucky touching him, trying not to anticipate what's going to happen when they get home.

Because here's the thing.

Steve has touched Bucky in almost every way he can think of. Bucky has touched him in ways that no one else ever will. There is no part of himself that he doesn't want to offer up to Bucky on a platter if it will entertain or please him. Bucky is, Steve has thought but never said out loud, because it would embarrass them both, not so much the other half of his soul as the shared breath they both take. He trusts Bucky with everything he is, everything he could be, everything he wants, because Bucky will take all of it seriously even if he doesn’t want the same thing. And whatever Bucky wants of him, he wants to make happen.

When they get to the hall of their apartment and Steve turns and fists his hands in Bucky's hoodie, Bucky pulls him close.

"Seems like you've cooled off a lot, pal," Bucky says, untangling from Steve long enough to fish out his key.

"Maybe," Steve says, and runs his hands down Bucky's sides.

Bucky laughs softly. "Don’t forget we have science to attend to."

 "Bucky," Steve says, because he doesn’t want to do push-ups. He wants to get in the shower and let Bucky get all the sweat off him and then dirty him up again.

"Nope." Bucky twists the key and the door to their shared space swings open. "I've got plans for you."

Steve walks in while Bucky holds the door open, and then Steve leans against the wall while Bucky locks up.

Bucky turns around with his hair in a tangle around his face and his eyes intent, and fuck.

"Where do you want me, Buck?" Steve says. 

"Come in the living room. I gotta get a baseline first," Bucky says. "Hold on."

Steve walks into the living room and contemplates the span of his own chest under his sweaty shirt while he waits for Bucky to come back from wherever he's gone. He supposes there's something to what Bucky's saying; exercise does get more blood flowing to a muscle group—that's why people take gym selfies immediately after they work out. But to think that there's enough of a difference that Bucky could track it...surely not.

Bucky returns with an actual measuring tape like tailors use, and Steve wonders where the hell he got it. Did they just have it somewhere? "Pull your shirt up."

Steve does, rucking the fabric up until it's bunched just under his armpits, chest bared, feeling more exposed than he would have if he'd just taken his shirt off.

"Arms out," Bucky says, and Steve holds his arms away from his body so Bucky can get the tape around his torso. Bucky makes a production of it, wrapping the tape around Steve's waist and slowly dragging it up, groping his way up Steve's torso, accidentally-on-purpose stroking over his abs, his sides, the swell of his pecs, a look of exaggerated concentration putting a furrow between his brows.

God, Steve wants him. Steve always wants him, Steve has wanted him since he knew how to want, and it's only gotten sharper and more focused here in this miraculous time where both of them are alive and there's no reason not to be together. 

Bucky gets the measuring tape around Steve's pecs, just under his nipples, and gives it a little tug. Steve is already hard. He wants Bucky to keep pulling, to bring him closer, to kiss him. He knows that isn't on Bucky's agenda, not yet, but it doesn't stop him leaning closer to press his lips to Bucky's. Bucky smiles against his mouth and kisses him back, but only for a second. 

Then, because the man Steve loves is a bit of an asshole, he lets go of the measuring tape, pulls a reporter's notebook and pen from his back pocket and ostentatiously writes down Steve's measurements like he doesn't have an eidetic memory now that he's not being forced to forget. 

"On the ground." Bucky crosses his arms, measuring tape still dangling from one hand. "Drop and give me fifty."

"Do you know what a pain it is to do push-ups with a hard on," Steve complains to an uncaring world, but he drops and gives him fifty, focusing on his form, on the tension in his abs and the flex of his biceps, the strain of his chest muscles, because this is what Bucky wants from him right now.

He jumps up when he's done, breathing hard, and Bucky shoves his shirt up immediately and gets the measuring tape around his chest again, this time without teasing.

"Ha! I was right, science has proved it." He smiles at Steve, a predatory expression, and writes the fucking number down in his notebook. "God, look at you, all flushed and sweaty." 

He jams the notebook back in his pocket and runs his hands over Steve's chest, rubbing his thumbs over Steve's nipples, curving his fingers around the slope of the muscles and Steve is going to explode, so he reaches out for Bucky.

Bucky bats his hands away. "Not yet, Steve. I bet you can get 'em bigger. Do another set."

Steve sighs loudly, but he jumps back down and gets started. The thing about fifty push-ups is that it takes a little while to get through the set and you can't really look up while you're doing it, so when he hears a zipper getting unzipped, all he can do is kind of grunt out "Bucky—"

"Keep going," Bucky says hoarsely, and he does.

When he finishes the set, he stands up, and is not actually surprised to see Bucky sitting on the couch with his right hand down his pants, hand moving lazily on his dick. Steve wants to touch him so badly, but Bucky stands up, measuring tape in hand, and tells him, "Arms out."

Bucky pulls his shirt up again, and honestly, Steve doesn't know why he didn't just take it off except that Bucky seems to enjoy tormenting him with it. Bucky gets the measuring tape around him and hmmmms in a thoughtful tone. "I'm going to need you to flex for me," Bucky says with no trace of shame. 

"What does that even mean?" Steve says.

Bucky pushes his shirt up even higher. "You gotta hold your shirt with your teeth, Steve. I need you to pull on your arms, all right? It's for science."

"Well, if it's for science," Steve says with all the sincerity he can muster and then opens his mouth to accept the hem of his shirt, for science apparently, and grabs his wrist and flexes, keeping his chest and biceps engaged.

"Good," Bucky murmurs, and takes the opportunity to thoroughly grope him, muttering "how interesting," and "who could have predicted these results," and Steve is not sure how he's going to get his revenge for this, but he will

"Bucky," Steve mumbles—pleads, really—around the fabric in his mouth.

"I'm almost done. You're being so good," Bucky says absently, and the combination of praise and being—ignored isn't the right word, not when Bucky's hands are all over him, but he's certainly not being paid attention to, either—has Steve even harder.

Finally, Bucky drops the measuring tape. Steve lets go of his wrists, and Bucky gives him a mild glare, then yanks his shirt up over his head, but leaves it bunched around Steve's elbows so his arms are stuck over his head, trapped together. This position makes the muscles in his chest bunch up, makes a valley between his pecs.

"Interesting," Bucky says, and traces a line down Steve's sternum with his metal hand while his flesh one goes to his cock. He slowly jacks it a couple of times, and Steve knows what book he's reading, and fuck, he's on the same page.

"Yeah, Buck," Steve says. "You should put your dick right there. For science."

"That's one way of taking measurements, I guess," Bucky says, and then both of them crack up, leaning against each other, and Steve loves him so much. He feels bright with desire and laughter.

Bucky gets his game face back on first, and Steve stops laughing pretty quick when Bucky pinches his nipples. He gasps instead, sucking in breath, and then Bucky flattens his hands on him and leans down to suck on the hard nub, and Steve's back arches, pressing him forward against Bucky, and Bucky's thumb presses over the other nipple, and Steve makes a strangled noise.

"Let me get you to bed." Bucky’s voice is low and his pupils are huge.

"We don't have to go that far," Steve says, because he could drop to the floor right here; he doesn't care.

But Bucky's having none of it. He grabs Steve's t-shirted arms and drags him toward the bedroom, and Steve follows him, because what else is he going to do?

Bucky yanks the shirt the rest of the way off his arms and Steve grabs him and pulls him closer so he can kiss him and get a hand down his pants the way he's wanted to since he heard the damn zipper. Bucky's cock is hard and warm in his hand, and Bucky groans into his mouth, and Steve's blood feels like it might be burning.

"Nope, wait," Bucky gasps, and Steve lets go of his dick reluctantly. "Get on the bed."

Steve lies back, propped on his elbows so he can watch Bucky strip. Somehow Bucky can still be graceful even when he's getting out of his jeans, which is a trick Steve never mastered. Steve is as familiar with Bucky's body as he is with his own, but every time he sees him, he is struck all over again with how beautiful he is, with the way the planes and angles of his body come together. He could draw him a thousand times and never get tired of it, and desire rings him like a bell, just from looking. Steve squeezes his cock through his running shorts and groans at the spike of pleasure that pierces him.

Bucky climbs onto the bed and Steve reaches out to him, desperate to touch him. Bucky comes up to him and for a little while they kiss and run their hands over each other. Steve rocks his hips against Bucky and they both catch their breath at the friction. Bucky's cock bumps against his hip, hot and hard even through the thin fabric of his shorts.

Bucky gets his hands on Steve's chest again and pushes him back against the bed, and Steve is very ready for this. Bucky straddles his hips and Steve pushes up—he can't help it—and Bucky reaches behind himself to give Steve's cock a few slow strokes. Steve sucks in a gasp, and now he's ready, he can wait.

"Come on, Buck." He grips Bucky's hips and pulls him closer. Steve is still running hot from working out, sweat only a little cool on his skin, and Bucky runs a considering hand over his pecs, then reaches over for the bottle of lube they keep by the bed. The lube is cold against Steve's hot skin as Bucky drizzles it on his chest, and he arches his back again as Bucky smears it on him. His fingers slide over Steve's pecs, teasing at his nipples.

Lying flat is a bad angle for this—it brings Steve's pecs apart—so he jams some pillows behind his shoulders and brings his arms flush to his chest to press his pecs together, giving himself a line of cleavage that would not be out of place on an actual dame.

"Oh god, Steve," Bucky mumbles, and then thrusts up into Steve's chest. Steve's at a bad angle to get his mouth on Bucky, but he cranes his head down, and the sight of Bucky's cock, red and hard and slippery, sliding along the line of his muscles has his own dick aching. He digs his fingers into the muscle of Bucky's thighs without letting his pecs give Bucky any room. "Fuck, Steve, fuck," Bucky says, and Steve looks up to see Bucky watching the glide of their bodies together, his eyes wide, his cheeks flushed. Steve lets go of Bucky's thighs to rub his own nipples, and that makes Bucky groan louder, and the rhythm of his thrusts stutter. He's close already.

"Come on me, come on, I want it," Steve says. Bucky groans, and then he does, getting come on Steve's chest and mouth and chin, and collapsing down onto Steve, not caring that it smears all over both of them.

Steve licks whatever he can reach with his tongue, and then Bucky is kissing him desperately, wiping his hand through the mess on Steve's chest, and reaching between them to jam his hand down Steve's running shorts. Steve's hips snap up at the touch and he makes a sound like all the breath has been stolen from him.

Bucky's hand is slick with lube and his own come and he wraps his fingers around Steve's cock and strokes. He's not messing around—and Steve doesn't want him to, he's so ready, he's been ready—and he sets a fast pace, his fingers tight. Steve is reduced to biting against Bucky's shoulder and making little broken sounds—when he feels the opposite of broken; he feels whole—and then his entire body stiffens and his dick pulses against Bucky's hand, and orgasm catches him in a moment of perfect pleasure that he feels everywhere. Bucky slows down, strokes him gently through the aftershocks. They curl around each other, kissing and hanging on as their breathing slows. 

When the lube and come on Steve's chest have stopped feeling sexy and started feeling kind of gross, he leans back and wipes himself off with the sheet, since the bed is already in dire need of a change of sheets. "Science is messy," he tells Bucky.

Bucky snorts a laugh and kisses him again. "Why don't we go take a shower?"

"Yeah, that sounds good." Steve was all sweaty from working out even before they made a further wreck of him, and a shower sounds great.

"You distracted me from writing down my final measurements," Bucky says.

"You remember them, though, right?" Steve tosses the dirty sheet to the side. He’s really only smearing it around on himself anyway.

Bucky shakes his head, his expression serious. "I'm going to need to repeat the experiment, Steve. That's the scientific method."

Steve snorts. "Happy to be of help with your research, pal."

Bucky pulls him close and kisses him again. "I'll be sure to thank you when I present my thesis for my PhD in titology."

Steve throws a pillow at him and chases him into the shower.