There is, for once, another guy at the Stitch and Bitch. That’s a pleasant surprise. Bucky has been the only male member of this group for a long time, which he doesn’t mind, but it always makes him wish more men felt comfortable pursuing this kind of hobby.
After the Army, he was a mess - until Becca dragged him to her Stitch and Bitch meeting. Once he got over the masculine/feminine bullshit, he learned very fast. Knitting has been so good for him. The movements are great for his burn-ridden arm, keeping the skin and his joints mobile and flexible. The concentration and repetition are a balm for his mind; it’s calming, predictable, absorbing. And no matter how cheesy it is, the physical act of creating something, stitching things together - it’s really made him feel like he is capable of repairing himself.
He smiles and nods at the other guy, and gets a nervous smile in response. His name is Steve, and it seems like he’s a friend of Lillian’s. He’s real quiet, though. Shy. Bucky wonders what he’s got to be shy about, with a face and a body like that. Of course, he also knows it doesn’t work that way.
Bucky can’t help watching him once the needles come out. He moves slow at first, like he hasn’t done this in a while, but after a half hour or so, his hands start to remember. That’s the beauty of these kinds of crafts. They’re always there.
When he decides to start an actual project, Steve seems almost paralyzed by the choice of yarn. He touches everything, at times looking startled at the softness of some of them. He looks torn between the neutrals and a bright, bold orangey-red. The color of poppies. But then - then he sees the blue, and it’s like he comes to a complete stop. His hand just hovers over the bundle. His eyes are somewhere else.
Oh, does Bucky know that look.
No one else notices. They’re all occupied, talking or drinking wine or making whatever it is they’re making. He exhales and puts his half of a sock down, and moves to sit by Steve.
“You okay?” he asks, low so it won’t startle him. It startles him anyway. Steve pulls back like he was doing something shameful and wipes his hands on his pant legs.
“Yeah,” he says. He has a nice voice, even when it’s a little strained. “Yeah. It’s just...that yarn, it’s...my mother’s eyes were that color.”
“It’s a beautiful color,” Bucky replies, gentle.
Steve nods. “Made me think of her.”
Bucky picks up the yarn and puts it in his hand. Anything on the table is fair game. Steve will catch on to the rules and bring his own contributions, in time.
“What are you going to make?”
Steve blinks at him. “I have no idea. I’m pretty rusty.”
Bucky reaches down under the coffee table for the thick volume that resides there. This book has everything. If Steve needs a refresher, this is a good place to start.
“Well, here’s the Bible. I’m happy to help you if you’re more hands-on.”
He didn’t mean it as flirtation, but he is sitting pretty close, and Steve fucking blushes .
He’s really cute. And judging by that blush, probably not straight. This feels like a set-up. He reserves his suspicion, not wanting Steve to think it’s about him.
Once Steve is occupied with the book and fumbling his way through some new-to-him stitches, Bucky searches for Lillian. She’s at the dining room table staring right at him, smirking like the cat that got the cream. He scowls at her. There are rules; no setups, no you’d really like my friend so-and-so. But she hadn’t broken the rules, per se. She just brought a cute, eligible man with sad eyes to the Stitch and Bitch.
Well played , he mouths at her. She winks, and Bucky shakes his head.
He's only human; he asks for Steve's number at the end of the night. Steve seems happy to give it.
It takes him way too long to figure it out.
Bucky is updating his Etsy inventory, thinking obliquely about where to go for his and Steve's seventh date and debating who to bother to model his latest Avengers-themed sweater, when it clicks. He almost falls out of his chair.
Steve’s clothes. The weird, old-timey politeness. His awe at all the yarn in the world, and his odd preference for thick, drab, scratchy wool. The absolute fear in his eyes when Bucky kissed him on the subway platform last week.
But also the body, the strength, the unwavering integrity...not to mention the persistent feeling that Steve reminds him of someone...
Steve is Steve Rogers.
Steve is Captain America.
He calls Lillian and doesn’t even wait for her to say hello.
“Is there something you forgot to tell me?” he demands.
“It’s about fucking time,” she responds, laughing.
“Seriously, what the hell!”
“Bucky, he--” she pauses. “Let me back up. I noticed him checking me out in the cafeteria at work months ago. Figured maybe it was the piercing or the hair. But then, one day, he approached and asked if I’d like to grab some dinner. Now, I’m out at work, everybody knows, but I thought maybe he just didn’t understand.”
“There were lesbians in the forties, Lil,” Bucky says, rolling his eyes. “He’s not stupid.”
“Well, I wasn’t gonna turn down sad puppy face Captain America in front of the whole cafeteria! So I went to dinner with him. And I’m getting ready to let him down gentle, when he looks me in the eye and says: I’ve heard that you’re of a certain persuasion. ”
“No he did not,” Bucky breathes.
“Oh, it gets better. Then he tells me he is, too!”
He shakes his head. “Captain America came out to you, just like that.”
“Yes. No hesitation. The guy is not ashamed, Bucky. Not at all.”
“Nothing to be ashamed about.”
“No, but the time he comes from…”
They share a sigh over the phone. Then Lillian goes on.
“He asked me if I was safe and made me promise to tell him if anyone threatened me. Then he apologized about eight times and said he just doesn’t know what the rules are anymore, and he wanted to talk to someone from the community before he decided what to do.”
“What to do?” Bucky blinks, anxiety rising in his gut. “Is he...is he gonna go public?”
“I don’t know.”
He can’t even imagine. One, what it was like to be queer in the thirties and forties, and two, what it was like to wake up seventy years later, having lost everything.
“Anyway, I’ve been catching him up on LGBTQ history and culture once a week. A while back he saw my knitting in my bag and let slip that he used to knit, too. The USO chorus girls taught him when he ran out of books on the tour bus. Man, what I’d give to be on one of those buses…” she trails off, and Bucky nods on his end of the phone. It’s a good fantasy. Lillian returns to the moment and goes on. “I thought the Stitch and Bitch would be a perfect way to help him make some friends. I really wasn’t trying to set you up, Bucky, but you’re always bitching about there not being enough men and I thought that the two of you would get along.”
Oh, they’re getting along just fine. Steve slept over two nights ago and Bucky’s legs are still a little sore from riding him. Steve’s outrageous stamina makes a lot more sense now.
“ Are you getting along?” Lillian presses, voice heavy with insinuation.
“Famously,” Bucky says, and hangs up to the sound of her laughter.
He’s sitting in an incredibly boring meeting when Bucky texts him.
Can you come over later? I need help with something. Not an emergency. :)
Steve smiles. He can’t help but lapse into a daydream about two nights ago, Bucky riding him slow, flushed and cast in golden light like some kind of angel. But he really shouldn’t think about that right now, or else he might end up in an uncomfortable situation.
He thinks about ice instead.
It’s not his best decision.
In fact, it’s a really bad decision, if an effective one.
Not ten minutes later, he has to excuse himself from the meeting to go have what they’ve told him is called a “panic attack” in the bathroom. It’s not cold, but he can’t stop shivering. It feels like his chest won’t expand.
His phone pings. It’s Coulson, asking if he’s all right. He likes Phil, he really does, now that they’re mostly past the weird idolization phase. But he’s not the person who should see him like this. Not if he wants to stay on active duty, which he very much does.
He messages Lillian, and she’s there in under ten minutes with a thermos of hot tea and a rice-bag heating pad. He can’t tell if it’s flowers or vaginas printed all over it, and that’s probably the point. She sits on the floor with him until he gets himself together, and oh, Lord, Romanov already thinks he and Lillian are dating and now they’re about to walk out of a single occupancy bathroom together. At work.
Well. He’s always been good at letting people draw their own conclusions. It sure worked with Peggy - got the world off both their backs. Peggy would’ve liked Lillian.
“Thank you,” he says, and he doesn’t think she has any idea how much he means it.
He detours to Bucky’s on the way home. He did promise to help him with whatever it is he needs, and if he’s honest with himself, he doesn’t want to be alone in the apartment that’s bigger than anywhere he ever lived before. He knows it’s nice, and is thankful that SHIELD set him up there, but sometimes it feels like an echo chamber.
He forgets to text. He’s still not used to having to announce his comings and goings. Bucky clearly expects a delivery person when he opens the door; he blinks, then looks thrilled, but it’s short lived. His excitement rapidly morphs into concern.
“Are you all right?” he asks.
“Yes,” Steve lies.
Bucky makes a face that says he isn’t fooled. Then he drags Steve up to his apartment. Steve likes his apartment; it’s small but lived-in, kinetic, familiar in a deep collective-consciousness sort of way.
“Chinese food is coming. Lucky for you I couldn’t decide and ordered two things.”
He’s about to protest when his eyes fall on Bucky’s latest knitting project. It’s a sweater. A Captain America sweater.
The lingering gloom from the panic attack evaporates completely. Steve feels unexpectedly choked up, and it sneaks into his voice when he asks, “Did you make that for me?”
Bucky follows his eyes and suddenly becomes the most awkward, flustered, monosyllabic human on the planet.
“Oh. Er. Uh. That. Uh...”
His face does something very complicated. Steve realizes that the answer is no, but Bucky wants it to be yes, but he won’t lie about it. It’s...highly endearing.
He can’t do anything but kiss him. There’s simply no other option.
“You’re not mad?” Steve asks forty minutes later, still pleasantly tingling from head to toe in spite of the fact that he’s realized Bucky had no idea he was Captain America until today.
“Wha?” Bucky says from his spot on Steve’s chest where he’s dozing. “Why would I be mad?”
“I didn’t tell you.”
“You don’t gotta tell somebody everything the first time you meet them,” he grumbles.
“Or the sixth?” Two days ago, their first time sleeping together, had been the sixth date. It felt fast to Steve, but Bucky assured him it was twice as long as most people waited these days. Honestly, he thought Bucky knew; he wouldn’t have slept with him, otherwise. He says as much.
Bucky waves a hand, unconcerned. “Guess I won’t win any prizes for my keen powers of observation.”
Boy, is that a lie - he’s seen Bucky pick out one bad stitch in endless rows of tight, low-contrast yarn. He’s also noticed the way Bucky’s eyes sweep and scour when they’re out in busy open spaces. He’s suspected from the beginning that Bucky was military, and probably a sniper. But as Bucky said, you don’t gotta tell somebody everything the first time you meet them.
Steve lets himself relax a little. It’s hard not to feel like he did something wrong, but Bucky’s still here. He didn’t run for the hills.
“So what did you need help with?”
Bucky’s eyes pop open and he laughs. “Oh! The sweater. I need a model for the sweater so I can put it up for sale on Etsy. I have a whole Avengers series, and how cool would it be to have Captain America modeling Captain America ? That’s how I was going to tell you I figured it out.” He rolls out of bed and disappears back into the main room for a minute. He’s shaking his head when he comes back.
“I’m an idiot,” Bucky says. “There’s no way this is going to fit you. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that.”
Steve eyes the sweater. It’s dark, not-quite-Navy blue, with a silvery gray star in the center of the chest. Three lines radiate out from the star at a slight angle. It’s a play on his classic uniform and the wings on his old helmet, which were a combined tribute to home and the SSR. He really, really likes it.
“This is a great design,” he says. “You think they can make it out of Kevlar?”
Bucky blushes like crazy and shrugs, which is adorable.
“I hate the uniform SHIELD made for me,” Steve confides. “It’s hideous and impractical and it gives me migraines.” He turns the sweater over in his hands, tests the tensile strength. It’s sturdy, and the yarn has some stretch to it. The design shouldn’t distort too much. He smiles. “It’ll fit.”
“Yeah, if you put it on your thigh.”
“It’ll fit,” he repeats. “I’ll prove it.”
“If you rip my sweater…”
“You’ll what?” Steve asks, grinning, pulling it over his head.
Bucky covers his eyes, genuinely horrified. “I can’t watch.”
And yeah, it’s tight, and the sleeves barely cover his elbows, but it won’t rip.
“Oh my God,” Bucky cackles when he realizes the structural integrity of his sweater has survived Steve’s shoulders. “It’s a crop top!”
“How do I look?” He looks ridiculous, is how he looks, given that he’s not wearing any clothes other than the sweater.
“Amazing,” Bucky breathes, beside himself. “Please let me take pictures. Please.”
“Well, I need pants for your Epsy thing, don’t I?”
Bucky’s eyes actually glaze over for a second, and then he springs up out of the bed to dig in one of his drawers. He returns with a red and white striped jockstrap. Steve never wore one before the serum - his body didn’t exactly allow him much in the way of athletic pursuits - but they were pretty damned helpful under his suit afterwards.
He puts it on, well aware that Bucky is about to spontaneously combust. He’s reverted back to his monosyllables.
“Wow. Wow. Oh. Kay. Wow.”
He’s basically still naked, yet Steve feels more comfortable in his skin than he has since he woke up. He knows how to pose for a camera. This is the first time he’s actually wanted to, though. Especially since he can see how much it’s affecting Bucky.
“Just keep my face out of the pictures,” he says, a little breathless and a lot happier than he’s been in a long time. There’s still a ways to go, but everything already feels easier with Bucky in his life.
The sweater sells in 18 minutes, and several people message Bucky asking him if he’ll make more. More still send what Bucky refers to as “keysmashes”, and a few intrepid souls ask for the model’s contact information.
“You wish,” Bucky smirks, and deletes those messages with gusto.
The Stitch and Bitch group talks about it at length, trying to get details out of Bucky. Bucky plays coy. They love it, and the stories they make up get wilder and wilder. They’re blissfully unaware that the model is sitting right there in the circle knitting away with the rest of them.
Except for Lillian, who, like an asshole, knits them matching jockstraps.