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He saw the lingerie shop and felt the same dislocated thrill of excitement that he did every time he stood in front of the candy rack in a bodega. There was a version of him somewhere in his fractured memories--probably the version who was all of fourteen years old--who would have fallen all over himself to get what Bucky was looking at now.

He couldn't resist buying chocolate bars when he felt that stirring in himself; it was too much like being a real person and wanting things real people wanted. He didn't resist the lingerie shop, either. He walked right in, even though he was ten times further than that fourteen-year-old kid had been from taking anybody's clothes off to find something pretty underneath, or buying lacy underthings for anyone.

Once inside he was distracted almost immediately from enjoying his own vague, distant fascination with the filmy undergarments. The person behind the counter was a man, defying Bucky's baseline threat assessment of the location. He broke stride slightly, taking a more accurate set of observations.

The man wasn't any more of a threat than the woman Bucky had instinctively expected. He was a noncombatant. Bucky could dispatch him in seconds without even pulling any of the knives Steve pretended not to know Bucky routinely carried. He was the only person in the room, which was cluttered with piles of soft and silky things and had a second exit through the back. That would likely lead outside and to a fire escape that would let Bucky get to roof level.

It was only after the tactical analysis that Bucky registered the shapes of the mannequins posed around the room. This was not the lingerie shop his teenage self would have imagined. He would have been fascinated, though, Bucky thought; that echo of excited interest was back, along with a thread of curiosity that felt less remote.

Bucky nodded to the man behind the counter, who was watching him with some interest, and moved further into the store to look around. The salesman's attention drifted away from him within a minute, leaving Bucky to browse through the displays and racks of negligees and corsets and all kinds of soft, pretty underwear.

It was all meant for men to wear. Some of it was obviously supposed to make a man look like a woman; Bucky remembered men like that, the fairies who got all dolled up that way.

Some of it wasn't, though. Bucky stopped in front of a table with half-mannequins displayed on top of it, which put the crotches right at eye level. Each one was wearing panties in some soft pastel, cut to accommodate, not suppress, a bulge between the legs.

Bucky just stared until he realized that the fascination he was feeling wasn't distant at all. He reached out with his right hand, touching his fingers to the edge of the silky pink fabric. It was surprisingly soft, so smooth it felt almost liquid under his fingers.

He jerked his hand back and spun around when he realized the salesman was approaching. The young man pasted on a bland smile and didn't back away. Instead he said, "Hi, I'm Jason. Can I help you find something in your size?"

Bucky laughed, a rusty startled burst of sound.

Jason's bland smile stayed in place. He tilted his head and said, "Sorry, was that funny?"

Jason's face was calm but his body was braced for impact, Bucky noted. Jason probably knew exactly what kind of guy might find that suggestion funny. Jason was going to keep goading him until Bucky punched him or ran away; either way, Jason would win.

So Bucky answered the question, waving his bare right hand at himself. "Do I look like the type?"

Jason gave him a thoughtful up and down look, taking in Bucky's too-long hair and dark beard, his left arm held stiffly with his hand tucked into his pocket, his sturdy dark jeans and heavy boots.

"That's the beauty of this stuff," Jason said, tilting his head toward the display Bucky had been looking at. "Nobody knows what you're keeping under your clothes. That's between you and yourself."

Bucky managed not to laugh that time. The things he kept between him and himself--the variety of selves he hid under a hoodie and jeans, trying to make sure they all pointed in more or less the same direction--were a sick enough joke that he couldn't even share it with Steve without choosing his words carefully.

"I mean, you do you," Jason added, raising his hands in a half-hearted gesture of placation or surrender, more mocking than submissive. "If you just wanna gawk at the freak gear, knock yourself out, but if you damage anything I'm gonna make you buy it."

Jason couldn't make Bucky do anything, but Bucky could hear the taunt under the words: you don't want to admit you want it.

It shouldn't have meant anything to him. He actually didn't want it, except that he was still rubbing his fingers together over the memory of that softness. The fascination that made him reach out in the first place had been all his own--not something half-remembered but something happening here and now.

Anyway, he never could back down from a challenge. Bucky jerked his chin up. "Fine, yeah. I want help finding something in my size."

It was only half an hour later, leaving with a shockingly small bag for the amount of money he'd spent, that Bucky realized that Jason also won if he got Bucky to spend a couple hundred dollars on silk underwear.

He stashed the shopping bag under his bed, next to the growing collection of candy bars he never actually ate because the sugariness was overwhelming after a single bite. It was no kind of hiding place, but Steve and Sam left Bucky's room scrupulously alone. He'd tested them dozens of times before he began to believe that, but his knives were always just where he left them, even when they were visible to anyone who so much as opened the door. The panties were a stupid thing to buy, but not actually contraband; he only wanted to keep them out of the way.

He never thought about the candy bars again after he bought them, but that night, lying in bed, Bucky remembered the way the panties and stockings had felt passing briefly through his fingers. He felt the same stirring of fascination, the desire to touch. For a while he just lay there staring at the ceiling, reveling in the way it felt to want something.

He could take the bag out--the panties and stockings were his, not even stolen, not forbidden except in the vague way that he knew it was something he wasn't supposed to own or want. He'd never been a fairy, couldn't pass for a woman if he tried; he wasn't even one of those slender soft-bodied boys who could make that sort of thing look natural. But he'd bought the stuff fair and square, and it was his to touch if he wanted. No one would see what he did in here; Bucky made plenty of suspicious noises screaming his way through nightmares and Steve never did more than bang on the door and ask if he was all right. Steve never came in without permission.

It did occur to Bucky to think of what they might hear. Probably they wouldn't hear anything; there wouldn't be anything but maybe the rustling sound of tissue paper, fabric-on-skin sounds that could just be Bucky moving around in bed. He'd never heard anything that subtle from his side of the wall between his and Steve's bedrooms. He did hear other things sometimes, but Steve and Sam had to get a little bit loud before anything really carried through.

Just thinking of it had Bucky trying to catch a sound from next door. Steve and Sam had gone to bed a while ago and he didn't hear anything now, not even when he sat up and put his ear to the wall. He considered getting a glass, and then he shook himself. If he wanted to check, he could just check. He didn't need to. He knew that they were fine; they were asleep in Steve's bed. They were right there, safe, close if Bucky needed them but not watching or listening.

He just had to be sure, before he could do anything else.

Bucky slipped out of bed and walked silently to the bedroom door, eased it open and closed again behind him, and walked equally noiselessly down the hall. He listened at Steve's door--still no sound from him or Sam. Bucky could knock, but he didn't want to wake them, and Steve had never insisted on it. Bucky's ears were good enough that he'd never walked in on them doing anything in the bedroom that they didn't do in the kitchen or on the couch.

He heard Steve move even as he eased the door open; when Bucky looked in the first thing he saw was Steve lying on his back, his eyes open and fixed on the door. On Bucky. Sam was still asleep, or at least politely faking it, lying on his side with his back to the door.

"Hey," Steve said, pitched low for nighttime but not a whisper. "Need something?"

Bucky shook his head. He didn't need anything now that he'd seen that Steve and Sam were where they were supposed to be. "Just checking."

Steve nodded. "Want me to come keep watch?"

Steve would if Bucky asked. The first three weeks he was in the apartment Bucky had mostly stayed barricaded in his bedroom. Steve had slept in a bedroll stretched across the door, so no one could get in at Bucky, and Bucky couldn't get out and go on some kind of rampage, without going through Steve. Steve had yelled through the door to wake him up from nightmares nearly every night, and by the end of it Bucky had been spending a lot time curled up against the inside of the door, listening to Steve breathe.

That was the opposite of what Bucky wanted tonight, though, and he still kind of owed Sam for all those nights Steve hadn't spent in bed.

Bucky shook his head. "Go back to sleep."

Steve nodded again. He took Bucky at his word, turning his back to the door to cuddle up to Sam, throwing his arm over Sam's waist and tucking his head in behind Sam's on the same pillow. Sam's arm shifted, coming down to cover Steve's, and Bucky knew Sam had been awake the whole time, deliberately leaving his back to Bucky. He stood a moment longer watching them both lying there pretending to sleep in his presence, absorbing their sense of safety.

Bucky gave them both a silent little salute and shut the door, returning to his own bedroom. He locked the door behind him, pulled the shopping bag out from under the bed, and lay back down, giving Sam and Steve a few minutes to really fall asleep before he did anything more.

He twisted onto his left side and put out his right hand to rest against the heavy paper of the shopping bag, dragging his fingertips up and down it. Even the bag was swank; his fingers remembered rough thin paper shopping bags, disintegrating in a sweaty grip and still being saved for something. Steve drew on them, usually, when other paper got scarce, fitting in tiny sketches between the crumpled places or trying to iron the paper flat if he wanted to draw something bigger. The Smithsonian didn't have those; they'd mostly gone to some scrap drive, early in the war, except for one or two Bucky had hidden away, and even those had vanished long ago.

Bucky was aware that he was dragging this out now--when he stopped with his fingers at the top of the bag, ready to dart in, he felt his heart beating fast, wanting and scared at once. Someone would take this from him, this was--unnecessary to mission performance, frivolous distraction, fairy stuff, not for him.

He plunged his hand in before he could think any further about it, closing his fingers on the first tissue-wrapped little item and pulling it out as he rolled onto his back, dropping the little parcel onto his chest. It didn't weigh anything--there might be nothing inside the paper at all, just more paper.

Steve would've drawn on this too, once. But they didn't have to hoard paper for Steve's drawings anymore, and Bucky was pretty sure that Jason hadn't palmed the goods and sent Bucky home with a bag full of wrapping paper with nothing inside.

He used just his right hand to unwrap the parcel, pulling apart the folds of paper to reveal something black, a puddle of shadow in the white. Bucky eased his fingers into the pile and raised his hand to reveal the filmy long shape of stockings--silk stockings, with proper seams down the backs and everything. They spilled off the paper and onto his chest, cool against his skin.

He rubbed the silk between thumb and fingers, then trailed his fingers over it where it lay against his chest, and caught his breath at the sensation. The skin of his chest was smoothly hairless--they'd done something to him, sometime in all those half-remembered years, because he knew for a fact he'd had hair there before, but he wasn't thinking about any of that. He wasn't thinking at all, just feeling. The silk transformed the idle touch of his own fingers into something strange, slippery and new and startling.

It didn't take a second of that before Bucky had to push it a little, dragging the silk up his chest to cover one nipple. The stocking was sheer enough to show the brown skin standing out from the paleness of his chest, and when Bucky's thumb circled it the sensation sparked through him, the softness becoming something sharp and focused as it arced through his body.

Too sharp. After a few touches his dick began to stir and it felt electric in a way that had Bucky dropping his hand and panting--too much too much too much. But even before the feeling had faded he was plucking the silk away from his chest to rub his fingers over it again. He could feel sweat blooming on his skin, and he wondered what the silk would feel like if it got wet.

He raised the stocking to his mouth without thinking, stopping short when the end of it flapped against his cheek. He had a sudden vivid memory of shaving his face carefully, twice crosswise, to make sure that his cheek was smooth enough for a lady, nothing to scratch her skin--or her stockings. Girls had complained sometimes about the roughness of his hands, but his gun calluses were worn down smooth and hard now, slick as silk in their own way. His beard, on the other hand, was short and prickly. He had shaved a while ago--more than a week, he thought--and hadn't wanted to repeat the experiment. The sight of his own bare face in mirrors gave him the creeps.

He was tempted, with that silk lying against his beard, to get up and shave now, just to keep from putting a run in these brand new stockings. He could do it in the dark, he wouldn't have to see.

But then, hell, what did it matter? He wasn't going to wear them, and no one was going to see them.

And if they got spoiled, he could just buy more.

Bucky let his hand fall the rest of the way, pressing the silk to his lips, letting his tongue flick out to dampen it. The stocking didn't taste like anything, but he could smell the clean, slightly spicy air of the shop over the tang of his own fresh sweat.

He touched the damp silk to his lips, and at the feeling of it his whole body was seized by memory, like a giant hand clamping down on him. He could smell and taste and feel what it had been like to have his face between a girl's slightly sweaty thighs, smooth skin against his smooth cheek and his mouth on her panties, smelling her hot and wet for him.

More than anything he was suddenly drowning in the memory of wanting--not just being hard, not just craving physical release, but a yearning that took up his whole mind, his whole self. At that moment, with his mouth on that damp silk, he'd wanted nothing in the world but to be let into her panties.

He struggled to breathe, reaching out with his right hand until he could flatten it against the wall and anchor himself in the present, letting that overwhelming feeling fade with the fragment of memory. He couldn't remember her name or what she'd looked like--he couldn't even remember if he'd succeeded in convincing her to take those panties off. The memory of the wanting--already fading into that slightly dislocated sense of knowing what he used to want--was more than enough.

He stared at the ceiling a while longer, letting his brain settle back into the present, and then picked up the stockings and tissue paper with his left hand and dropped the whole mess into the shopping bag. He shoved it back under the bed, out of sight.

Bucky thought, lying there feeling his heart race, that he wouldn't sleep at all, but he began to feel drowsy almost as soon as his breathing settled down. He didn't wake up again until morning, and the only thing he remembered about his dreams were his lips feeling raw from kissing.

It was early when he woke up, and the apartment was empty and still around him. By the angle of the sun and the concomitant quiet of the street outside, Bucky clocked this as the emptiness of Steve and Sam went running. His surmise was backed up when he found the coffee set to start brewing in the kitchen.

Bucky left it alone. Coffee made his stomach hurt and his hands shake now, which was a fucking switch after a lifetime of reminding Steve what a second cup would do to his gut and his heart. Even milk hurt Bucky's stomach sometimes now.

He went into the bathroom, avoiding looking into the mirror by pure habit. He hesitated once he'd started the shower, though, and picked up the safety razor left by the sink. It was his, and it had been brand new when he used it, just once, so it would still be sharp. He took it into the shower with him--no mirror, and the steam was good for skin, or good for softening the hair. Something like that.

Once he'd started shaving--with the shaving cream whose smell lingered around Steve and Sam sometimes, and wafted out of the bathroom with the steam of their showers--his hands took over. Bucky closed his eyes and didn't think about anything, going through the long-practiced motions of shaving. When he was done, instead of looking at the face in the mirror, he used his fingers to test the smoothness of his skin.

There were a few places that still felt rough against his fingertips; he stood there under the water just testing the sensation. The slight prickle made the smoothness of the rest feel softer. After a moment, though, he picked up the razor again and went back over the rough places in the opposite direction. He knew this, this taking-care. This was getting ready for a date.

He felt the little buzz of anticipation in his chest again, and he didn't let himself think about it too much, just kept his eyes closed and went on showering. He took care with every part of his body, like it was going to matter that he was clean and good-smelling all over. It was a pleasant illusion. He might be about to let someone close enough to notice; he would care, then, about how he smelled when someone got that close to him, and not just the geometry of his knife and their flesh.

He combed his hair when he was done--it felt oddly slippery and smelled like Steve's shampoo--working from the dim reflection in the fogged-over mirror. He turned away sharply when he thought about wiping the mirror clear and looking at his own face again. He knew what he would see. It would be someone else's face, made of pieces that seemed familiar individually but didn't add up to anything he recognized as his own.

Bucky didn't think. He yanked the bathroom door open and flung himself out. He tried to change direction when he recognized an obstacle, but he still collided shoulder-first with Sam, who put both hands up, not to push him away but to catch him. Bucky flung his left arm clear and flattened his right hand against Sam's chest, absorbing some of the force of his own momentum. He still wound up tackling Sam into the opposite wall of the hallway, making an almighty thud that had Steve whirling around.

Bucky closed his eyes and stayed still. Sam's hands were big and warm, one flattened against Bucky's right shoulder, one on his left side. Sam was big and warm in general. He smelled pleasantly sweaty, and the material of his shorts was startlingly silky against the inside of Bucky's thigh, his sweatshirt damp under Bucky's fingers.

No one was saying anything at all. Sam seemed not to be even breathing.

Bucky opened his eyes and looked in Steve's direction, expecting amusement or annoyance or anything but the look on Steve's face.

He'd seen it a thousand times; it meant Steve was making a mental sketch, memorizing lines and details so he could draw later. Bucky had even seen it from this angle before--Steve had looked at him like that, before--but seeing it now was strange. It made him feel like he'd caught a glimpse of himself in an entirely different mirror, one that showed him whole.

That was as much a lie as what he would see in the glass, and Bucky couldn't bear it.

He jerked away from Sam, turned his back on Steve's gaze, and bolted into his bedroom. He waited until he heard Sam and Steve go into the kitchen, and then he jerked clothes on--whatever came to hand, clean or not, it didn't matter. He didn't mean to be close enough for anyone to smell him, didn't care whether they liked what they got if they did.

Sam must have been able to smell him. Sam's hands had been warm. Sam had been so fucking big and solid and held so still--

Bucky concealed eight knives under his clothes before he felt ready to unlock his bedroom door and slip out of the apartment. The shower was running and he smelled coffee on the steamy air, but he didn't look back.

He staked out their building from a nearby rooftop with a good angle on the living room window, assuring himself that Steve and Sam were out before he ventured to come home. He'd spent the day the way he spent most days, walking through Brooklyn, familiarizing himself with each neighborhood, each street, each building. He saved learning the rooftops for the nights when he couldn't bear to stay in.

He didn't have to think when he walked the city: he was performing reconnaissance, a basic function. He observed, categorized, and filed the information away. He didn't have to choose so much as whether to turn right or left at each corner, working on a strict grid system that directed each footfall, each glance.

He had not stepped into a bodega today. He had not explored any new shops. He had not wanted anything. He had walked. He had reviewed the nearest approaches to their building and studied several blocks he hadn't checked before. He had observed the patterns of foot traffic and vehicular traffic at several major intersections, adding these observations to those made on previous days. His mental map of his surroundings was becoming adequately detailed for almost any contingency.

The apartment was empty now. It was safe to go back.

He checked every entrance to the apartment once he was inside, assuring himself that there had been no security breach in his absence. Judging from the small objects missing from the apartment and their normal routines, Sam had gone to his day job--he'd transferred to the local VA after he and Steve brought Bucky here--and Steve had likely gone to Stark Tower for an Avengers meeting or briefing of some kind. Possibly he would update everyone there on today's Winter Soldier developments.

Bucky touched his face, which was still smooth, though not as perfectly so as it had been that morning. He touched it at intervals throughout the process of heating up a meal for himself in the kitchen and eating it.

If Steve did tell anyone else that he had observed Bucky's clean-shaven state, wouldn't be able to tell them why Bucky had done it. Steve had seen him, but Steve wouldn't understand, because Steve didn't know his secret. That knowledge gave Bucky a strange sensation he didn't know how to categorize. The stuff he'd bought was a secret, carefully hidden away in his bedroom, but it wasn't like the other things Steve didn't know, or had ever not known about Bucky.

There was no body count attached to this secret: no death, no danger, not even a single law broken. Compared to everything else Bucky had confessed or Steve had discovered, this was nothing. It was a dumb dirty joke, a distraction, a secret he could keep without breaking any promises or violating what he understood perfectly well was his parole, no matter how gently Steve described it when he laid out the rules.

Bucky had a secret. It was a stupid, weird secret, it was unimportant, but it was all his. It wasn't like the knives Steve pretended not to know about or the nightmares no one mentioned afterward. It wasn't like the various confessions sealed in layers of government classification. This was his own. Bucky stood at the sink and ate enough food and drank enough plain water to get him through the next twelve hours without having to come out of his bedroom. All the time he was aware that his secret was just down the hall, behind the closed door, under the bed. Waiting for him.

Bucky washed his plate and fork, made sure the kitchen betrayed no trace of his presence beyond the missing food, which Steve would check for and note as normal. Bucky went into his bedroom and locked the door, checked the shade covering the window, which was barred, although in an emergency Bucky was perfectly capable of breaking the bars. Finally he knelt down by the bed and pulled the bag out.

The stockings were visible, spilling out of the crumpled paper that had once protected them. Bucky picked them up and tucked them into the paper, folding it according to its original creases. He selected another paper packet and opened it, revealing a pair of panties to the indirect late-afternoon light.

They were an eye-catching shade of pink which Jason had insisted would complement Bucky's skin tone. That didn't matter--he wasn't going to wear them, and no one would see if he did. They were the height of the ridiculousness of all his purchases; he'd been well down the road of accepting everything Jason dared him to buy when he agreed to these.

They were pretty. That word stuck in his head: pretty, like a girl in a dress, like a girl dolled up for a date, like someone soft and sweet-smelling and made up to please the eye. They were slightly shiny, slippery-smooth when he ran his fingers over the fabric. They were edged in narrow swoops of black lace, and there were little black bows on the front that had rested just over the hipbones of the mannequin. There was a third black bow in the center of the backside, which on the mannequin had invited the eye to the cleft of that plastic ass.

He could picture a real body under these panties, all soft and smooth and sweetly curved. He remembered remembering before, when he had looked at panties being worn to be seen. He had wanted to be invited inside; he had wanted to please the woman who wore them enough that she would let him take them off her.

There was no one in these. There was no one here to please except himself. He had taken care with his grooming this morning as if he were going to go on a date, as if he were going to want to please someone, but he was alone now. He was carefully entirely alone.

Bucky slid both hands under the panties to pick them up flat. He raised them nearly to his face and closed his eyes as he touched his mouth to them, dragging his lips across the silky surface. He could feel the warmth of his own hands through the barely-there interference of a double layer of thin fabric. He opened his mouth to breathe against them and then pinched a little fold of the cloth between his lips. He lapped against that fold and then opened his mouth again, licking in slow, thoughtful motions, wetting the fabric, tasting it.

There wasn't really anything to taste--just silk--but he pushed his hands together beneath it, pressing his tongue against his own flesh. He wanted--he wanted.

Bucky laid the panties down on his bed and stood up, his fingers going to the zipper of his hoodie. He stripped in quick, businesslike motions, leaving his hoodie and jeans on the bed, his boots tucked under the edge, and throwing everything else into the hamper. He didn't look down at himself when he was naked--he knew what he looked like, and this wasn't about looking. He wanted to feel. He wanted to try on the stupid, pretty underwear he'd paid too much money for.

He shut his eyes as he picked up the fragile little slip of silk. It felt even lighter in his hands after handling his own clothes, all of which had some heft to them, sturdy cotton constructions even if they weren't literal armor anymore. This airy scrap of a thing felt like it couldn't possibly stretch around his body without tearing to shreds, but Bucky got the panties turned around the right way in his hands and stepped carefully into them.

He had to reach down and manhandle himself to get his dick and balls settled once the panties were pulled up snug to his ass, but he was surprised to realize that everything did fit. He hardly felt like he was wearing anything at all, except that there was that soft, silky caress pressed up against him. It clung to the curve of his ass and the line of his soft dick, which twitched a little as Bucky reached down to adjust the fit again, dragging the silky fabric against himself.

He had to look.

At the first glance he saw only colors, shapes, too foreign to take in. Then it snapped into focus: his own body, and the pretty pink panties with the little black ribbon bows snugged into place around his hips, distended a little at his crotch.

It looked wrong to an extent that was almost physically staggering. The panties didn't belong on him, and his body didn't belong inside them. Coarse dark hair stuck out along the leg holes and darkened his thighs below the delicate lace trim, and just past that a ropy scar marked his thigh where a target had nearly managed to kill him before he completed his mission. The points of his hipbones jutted out sharply above the silk, and the muscular definition of his abdomen looked too hard next to that delicate softness. His left hand twitched into view and the sick joke was complete.

He was looking at a weapon wrapped up like a toy. It was wrong, dangerous, disgusting, to decorate it like that, to try to make what he was look appealing, to invite anyone to look, to touch.

It was that thought--the thought that, grotesque and ridiculous as he looked, the addition of the panties might make someone want to touch--that actually released his tight-strung horror into action. He yanked the panties off, crumpled them up inside their original wrapping of tissue paper and shoved them into the bag. He kicked the whole bag under the bed all the way to the wall, and then stood there a moment, naked and nearly hyperventilating.

Jason would have laughed at him if he knew Bucky hadn't been able to bear wearing that fancy underwear for more than a few seconds.

Jason hadn't known what the fuck he was dealing with. Bucky picked up his own clothes and pulled them back on with savage movements that grated against his skin. Jason was lucky he'd gotten away from the Winter Soldier alive.

That night, on the edge of sleep, Bucky found himself rubbing his fingertips together, remembering what it had felt like to touch that silk. For a moment the weave of his boxers felt liquid-soft against his skin.

Bucky shoved his blanket back and dropped to his knees beside the bed. The bag was out of easy reach, shoved back to the wall, but Bucky didn't look for it. He hooked his arm around the little pile of candy bars, sweeping them out across the floor in a brightly-colored array.

You want something? He couldn't say who the furious thought was directed at, but whoever it was, he was barely holding back from shouting at them, kicking them until they didn't move anymore.

You want something, fucking want something you're supposed to want.

He picked up a candy bar, ripped the wrapper open, and forced himself to eat the whole thing without pausing even to breathe. When he was sure it would stay down--when he felt himself wanting to wash the cloying taste of it out of his mouth, wanting to get away from the too-sweet smell of chocolate and caramel--he picked up another one and ate that, too, bite by gulping bite, barely chewing before he swallowed.

His stomach was starting to hurt. He ate another one. He gagged halfway through and made himself swallow what was in his mouth by sheer force of will. The rest he took in small, grim, steady bites. After that he gathered up the rest and took them out to the kitchen, dumping them on the table in the standard signal of food to be shared.

He didn't let himself listen at Steve and Sam's door on his way back to his room. He locked his door, lined up half a dozen knives on the floor, and lay down beside them. He closed his eyes. He made himself ignore the sick feeling in his stomach and the constant, helpless shaking of every muscle. It was time to sleep. He would sleep.

He slept.

His sleep was fractured by nightmares, but he'd learned not to scream, and the weight of fatigue made it easier to sink into unthinking automatic action the next day. He ate the things he normally ate, patrolled and explored in the ways he normally did. The day slipped into a night he spent mostly on rooftops, and then another day, fogged in but simple, demanding nothing of him but that he keep moving.

When the shadows got long, while there was still plenty of light in the sky, he remembered that he should eat. He deviated from his pattern to walk to the nearest familiar restaurant--Sam's preferred Chinese place was only three blocks away. Bucky had never gone inside before, only experienced it as a paper menu from which he ordered exactly what Steve ordered after pretending to scrutinize the dozens of options. It worked the same: he asked for Number 3 with an extra side of rice, paid for his food, and waited until they brought it to him. He sat at a small, unsteady table, methodically eating the familiar food with the wooden chopsticks provided.

Halfway through his meal it occurred to him to look at his phone, which had been inert in his pocket since he left the apartment. He shut it off when he walked his grid--he didn't like knowingly carrying around an active tracking device, even though he had a feeling there were others he couldn't turn off. Now he turned it on and went back to eating while he waited for it to acquire a signal and download whatever data was waiting for it.

He had one text message, from Steve. It wasn't immediately obvious when it had been sent, since the timestamp only showed when it had reached his phone. Please check in.

Bucky put soy sauce on the last of his rice--it was what Steve usually did, and the saltiness was satisfying--and ate while he counted back. Neither Steve nor Sam had seen him in roughly sixty hours. If Steve happened to have slept through Bucky's trip into the kitchen with the candy bars, Steve might not even have been able to hear him in all that time. And Bucky had had his phone turned off for at least the last twelve hours.

Bucky finished eating. He left his phone turned on when he put it into his pocket. He could as easily pick up his grid pattern tomorrow as now, and he knew it was possible for even an unmodified human to make the trip from this location to Steve's apartment in ten minutes on a bicycle. It wouldn't take him long at all.

The apartment had a different smell than usual when Bucky let himself in. It was rich and cinnamon-spiced and faintly sweet, not quite familiar, and nothing like the cloying smell of candy. Bucky wasn't hungry--Number 3 with an extra side of rice was sufficient to keep him functional for several hours, or overnight if he slept--but the new smell was making his mouth water.

He had come back to be seen, so the only logical course was to walk into the brightly-lit kitchen. Sam was there, sitting at the kitchen table, frowning into the battered laptop he used for his work email and electronic paperwork. The kitchen was warmer than usual; there were cookies on racks on the counter, and the oven, though now turned off, had obviously been in use recently.

Bucky was nearly certain that Sam had heard him come in through the front door; Bucky was quiet, but the locks inevitably made a certain amount of noise. Sam didn't have his or Steve's enhanced senses, but he paid attention to these things. Bucky stood in the kitchen doorway. Sam typed, remaining apparently focused on his laptop.

Sam was giving Bucky the option to walk away without engaging. Sam knew he was there; if Bucky walked out now Sam would report to Steve that Bucky had come in and was accounted for. Steve obviously wasn't home, since he could have missed Bucky entering even less than Sam could, and wouldn't have hung back.

Sam, on the other hand, mostly hung back. He didn't hesitate to speak to Bucky when Bucky was dutifully spending time in a common area or speaking to Steve, but he didn't push for contact. He was content to coexist in parallel with Bucky.

Bucky's mouth was still watering, and the kitchen was warm and bright, the only well-lit room in the apartment. The sun had set while Bucky was eating dinner, and while New York was never properly dark, the rest of the apartment was sunk in evening gloom. This was viscerally familiar: an apartment with only one room lit and warmed, everyone gathering in that space. He was conscious of a neglected need--not sleep or food, but contact.

He hadn't seen Sam or Steve in sixty hours, either. Not since he had barreled into Sam coming out of the bathroom. Sam had tried to catch him, and Sam's hands had been warm on his skin. Now Sam had made cookies, and was sitting in the kitchen, giving Bucky the chance to slip out without speaking to him. Bucky knew that he'd been standing in the doorway for several minutes by the time he took a deliberate step inside.

Sam looked up smoothly, not surprised, but as if Bucky had greeted him. "Hey, man. You missed Steve, he had to go up to the Tower."

Bucky nodded. That statement had no hooks for him to catch: no questions to answer, no invitation to stay.

He wanted to stay.

Bucky looked around the kitchen and considered the other chairs at the table. He could sit. Sam would let him.

"Oh, while you're here," Sam said, like he'd just noticed that Bucky was still standing in the kitchen. Bucky looked up as Sam waved to the racks of cookies cooling on the counter. "Would you do me a favor and try a cookie?"

Bucky looked from Sam to the cookies and back. More sharply and clearly--more comprehensibly--than he wanted to stay in the kitchen with Sam, he wanted a cookie. They smelled good, almost familiar. They smelled like Christmas, he realized abruptly, which meant they were months early, but not inappropriate to the cool day and the gathering dark.

"I've been trying to figure out something Steve will like," Sam explained. "He's got a sweet tooth, but he doesn't like most of the store-bought stuff we got now, it's too sugary. I thought molasses cookies were more his speed, so I got my cousin's recipe to try on him. The two of you eat all the same stuff, so if you like them he probably will too."

Bucky thought of the candy bars he'd remembered wanting and hadn't wanted at all. The cookies were obviously different, though. He wanted one, and they were clearly a good thing to want. Sam had asked him to eat one.

"Okay," Bucky said, and then, "thank you."

Sam nodded and said, "Help yourself, man," and went back to at least feigning distraction with his computer. Bucky walked over to the counter and picked up the first cookie from the first rack. It was still warm, but not unpleasantly so, and his fingers indented it slightly as he picked it up. Sugar sparkled on its brown surface, and the smell of cinnamon and cloves was so strong he could almost taste it already.

Bucky carried the cookie back to the table and sat down across from Sam, who glanced up at him as he sat down in what Bucky thought was a wholly uncalculated way. Bucky took a bite of the cookie and froze for a moment, holding it on his tongue.

It tasted like Christmas. It tasted like an apartment crowded with Bucky's parents and sisters and Steve and his ma and some assorted relatives, sharing food and warmth and light in the dark of winter. It tasted like urging the last cookie on Steve, the flavor still lingering on his own tongue, wanting to see Steve eat far more than he wanted to eat himself. He remembered saying Yeah, they're good for you, I read somewhere molasses has iron in it.

Bucky opened his eyes, focusing his gaze down on the cookie in his hand. He chewed slowly, methodically, focusing strictly on the taste in his mouth, keeping himself fixed in the present against that warm lure of memory. He was in the kitchen with Sam, eating a cookie, and the year was 2014.

Sam was watching him.

Bucky swallowed and said, "It's good."

Sam's face lit up with a smile, and Bucky found himself smiling back. He dropped his gaze and took another careful bite of the cookie, and this time it was just a cookie. It tasted good, gingery under the other flavors he'd smelled first. He licked the sugar from his fingers when he was done.

By then he thought Sam was working in earnest, focused in on the computer in front of him. Bucky stayed where he was, in the warmth of the kitchen, in Sam's quiet presence. He let the exhaustion of the last few days settle over him and keep him still.

He was vaguely aware of Sam's warm voice saying, "Come on, Sergeant, at least put your head down, that looks like it hurts."

Nothing after that required his attention until he heard Steve coming in the front door--familiar stride, familiar cadence of key and lock distinct from Sam's, familiar rhythm of turning the locks once he was inside. Bucky didn't move--didn't lift his head from where it was pillowed on his right arm and shielded by his left as he slumped over the kitchen table, didn't even bother to open his eyes--but he listened. Steve didn't break stride at his bedroom door, but came all the way into the kitchen. He came directly to the kitchen table, not hesitating at the sight of Bucky, and there was a soft papery sound as he picked something up. Sam must have left a note.

Bucky stole a look at him then. Only the light over the oven was on, casting Steve in a warm low light, and he was smiling that particularly goofy smile he reserved for Sam. Bucky watched his eyes reach the bottom of the note and jump back to the top, scanning through it again, his smile softening and widening like butter melting.

Steve's smile stayed in place when his gaze slid over to Bucky. For a second Bucky was sure that Steve was going to touch him--tousle his hair, or shake him lightly by the nape of his neck--but Steve kept his hands to himself and said, "I hear the cookies have your seal of approval."

Bucky looked over to see a plastic container on the table with all the cookies packed inside.

"They're good," Bucky allowed.

Steve nodded and pulled the lid up, releasing the sugar-and-spice smell of them, and his expression changed. "Oh, wow, those smell like Christmas."

Bucky nodded slightly, noting that memory as probably true as Steve turned away, leaving the lid off the cookies. He took down two glasses from the cupboard, and Bucky straightened up in his seat as Steve took the milk from the fridge. He was already pouring a glass when he said, "What'll you have, Buck?"

Bucky felt a sudden unexpected warmth in his chest at everything those words implied: Steve was going to sit a while in the kitchen, eating cookies, and he expected Bucky to stay and eat cookies with him. Even more than he'd wanted to stay near Sam, Bucky wanted to be near Steve.

He had always wanted Steve; even when he didn't know how to want anything, even when he didn't know anything, he had known he wanted to be close to Steve. He didn't let himself too often, but he wouldn't say no to this quiet bubble of light in the middle of the night.

He wouldn't say no to cookies, either. The cookies were really good.

Steve turned to look at him, holding an empty glass in his hand, eyebrows raised in echo of his question.

"Water," Bucky said. He didn't want to risk the stomachache that milk sometimes brought on, not tonight. "Thanks."

"No problem," Steve said, smiling that warm smile again. "Thanks for leaving some cookies for me."

He woke near dawn from a nightmare that looped on and on, killing the same target again and again and again. Tonight the target had had Steve's face--one of the worst iterations of that dream. Bucky sat up and put his face in his hands while he forced his breathing under control, and inhaled the smell of cinnamon and cloves off his fingers. He remembered eating cookies with Steve in the kitchen last night. That had been real. Not the hunting, not anymore.

This was real now. His bedroom in Steve's apartment in Brooklyn. His knives that he kept because Steve didn't mind pretending not to know about them. His small collection of hooded sweatshirts. Chinese food from either the place Sam liked or the place Steve liked. Cookies.

Steve, mostly. Steve was real. Wanting Steve was real, wanting to stay near him. Bucky wanted to stay near Sam, too, and he wanted to go and eat another cookie, and he wanted....

Bucky shifted his weight on the mattress, probing at the thought like testing an injury, flexing a swollen joint or putting weight on a limb that might be broken. It was going to hurt, but he needed to know how badly.

He still wanted that bag of stuff under the bed. He was still curious about it, still wanted to touch it. It would feel nice between his fingers or brushing against his lips. It would feel good against his dick.

He remembered the way he had looked wearing those panties. He felt a little sick again at the thought of someone seeing, felt ugly and ashamed and wrong. But he wanted them anyway, and the wanting was a tiny stubborn spark that wouldn't be crushed out.

He got up and checked that his bedroom door was locked. He checked that the shade was drawn completely over the window. He crawled under the bed and retrieved the bag made of heavy, expensive paper, made sure all the tissue paper packets were still tucked inside, and pulled it out with him when he crawled back out.

He picked up the crumpled wad of paper half-wrapped around the pink panties with their little black ribbons. He smoothed the paper out enough to wrap it properly around the panties, hiding them, and he took them and stashed them separately in the back of a drawer full of clothes he never wore.

Looking into the bag again, he identified the rewrapped packet containing the stockings that had been the first thing he unwrapped, and he reached past them to lift out a different fold of paper. It turned out to contain another pair of panties, these solid black, unadorned, and nearly as filmy as the stockings. The image of how they might look, and feel, if he wore them briefly formed in his mind, and he pushed it away.

He didn't need to wear them. He could just--touch them. That was enough to want.

Bucky sat for a while as the light leaking in from the shaded window got darker, holding the black panties in his hands, running his fingers repetitively over the sheer silkiness of them. He raised them to his face after a while, brushing his lips across them to feel the texture, rubbing the tip of his nose into their softness. No new memories leaped out at him; instead he heard the sound of Steve's bedroom door opening, and the cadence of Sam's footsteps going down the hall to the bathroom.

Bucky straightened up, looking from the panties to the shopping bag, but he made himself be still and think. After a moment he folded the panties and tucked them under his pillow, next to the knife that he kept there, ready to hand when he slept. He slid the bag back under the bed and brushed his hands against his thighs as he stood up.

He had cookies for breakfast with Steve and Sam, listening to them as they talked about the days they had ahead--Sam had work, and Steve had one of his less-flashy volunteer things, helping out at an arts program for homeless kids. Bucky found himself automatically plotting both locations on his mental map. Steve would be in Brooklyn, Sam in Manhattan. Bucky couldn't keep an effective watch over either of them, but he needed to work on his knowledge of Manhattan more, and Steve was safe on his own.

Bucky had learned his way around every building of the VA medical center, including in-depth exploration of the building where Sam worked, by the time he very casually met Sam on the sidewalk outside with coffee and a bakery bag at quitting time.

Sam looked a little surprised, but Bucky just handed him a coffee and the bag and said, "They're not as good as your cookies, but they're not bad."

Sam grinned and said, "Thanks, man. Are we taking any home for Steve?"

"He gets snacks with the kids," Bucky assured Sam.

"So this is our little secret," Sam said, still smiling.

Bucky smiled hesitantly back, thinking of secrets it was all right to keep.

"Yeah," Bucky said. "What Steve doesn't know won't hurt him."

Bucky didn't always follow them, but for the next few days he only left the apartment when Sam and Steve were out, and slept each night after they had gone to bed. The wanting to be near them was sometimes harder to resist, sometimes easier, but it was there all the time like a pilot light, waiting to ignite something more.

One night he dropped onto the balcony at the end of a rooftop reconnaissance and realized that Sam and Steve were home already from their date. He hadn't followed them tonight. Spying on dates was beyond the pale, he knew, in the same memory-of-memory way he knew he was supposed to want things. He also knew they wouldn't get involved in anything that seriously impaired their mutual situational awareness in a public place.

He hadn't expected them to be home just yet, but he caught a glimpse of movement through the window as he reached the balcony, and he stepped automatically to one side to avoid being seen. He focused on listening. Bucky caught Sam's laugh, but no answer from Steve, and then a thump against an interior wall, and then Sam laughing again. It occurred to Bucky abruptly that they had come home to let their situational awareness be impaired in private.

He stared out at the city, thinking about what to do. He knew, the way he knew he wasn't supposed to spy on them on a date, that he should leave. That was the proper thing to do, when your--your buddy, your roommate--had somebody over for bedroom time, especially when they hadn't actually made it to the bedroom yet.

On the other hand, he'd heard them at it lots of times before now. He hadn't paid any attention, hadn't even bothered to notice anything but the audible evidence of their continued presence and good health and that they were in a romantic relationship that seemed to be going well.

That should be all it meant now. It didn't concern him; their activities concerned only themselves. This was private, more private than a date. He shouldn't care about this. It wasn't his to care about.

But it had been once. The memory was one of those that was just there, like he simply hadn't been thinking about it until right now, like it had never been forgotten. How could he have forgotten it? He and Steve used to do things like that; that used to be one of the ways he wanted Steve, and Steve had wanted him.

Bucky shifted his weight, pressing his shoulders against the brick of the building's wall at his back. He strained to hear--a few halting footsteps, a softer thump, mutual laughter this time. They were progressing toward the bedroom.

He had a feeling that remembering what he and Steve used to do ought to change how he felt about listening to Steve and Sam. It ought to make him not want to be here, or make him angry at Steve. Or at Sam. He didn't feel angry, though, and he didn't want to leave.

He wanted to be near them. He didn't want them to see him--didn't even want them to know he was there, which he knew wasn't right. But he wanted to be nearby while they did this; he wanted to listen. He wanted to know what it was like, beyond the only information he'd retained from other times, which told him that they liked what they were doing together and nothing really weird was going on.

By the time he heard the bedroom door close behind them, he knew what he wanted and what he was going to do about it. He jimmied the window lock and let himself in. He forced himself to do a carefully silent circuit of the apartment to assure that everything was secure. They'd probably been too distracted to check when they got home.

When he found everything undisturbed and all windows and doors properly locked, Bucky slipped into his own bedroom. He went directly to his bed, curling up half on top of the pillow with his ear to the wall.

He didn't have to try very hard to hear them: they were both on the bed, and from the pattern of softly-padded thumps he could imagine them playfully wrestling across its surface. He remembered doing that--carefully, before the war, and much less carefully, on the couple of occasions when there was time and privacy, during. Steve's body was unbreakable then. They had had to learn new ways to fit together.

He remembered the first time Steve had, to their mutual surprise, pinned Bucky to the bed in a hold he couldn't break.

He remembered how hard his dick had been at that moment, and it occurred to him that it was nearly as hard now. The hot, shaky sensation he'd been doggedly ignoring was suddenly clear to him as that kind of wanting. He only hesitated for the space of a few quick breaths before he gave in to it.

He squirmed around so that he could unzip his jeans, working them down just enough to shove his hand inside and close it around his dick. He let out a shuddering breath at the first touch. It had been a long time. He didn't want to think about how long, but even as he reached for it that memory of being flat on a hotel bed in Italy under Steve's startlingly muscular weight was slipping away from him, becoming gray and distant.

He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to remember the way Steve's face had looked, the pressure of his hands on Bucky's wrists, the way the place had smelled. The harder he tried the more distant it seemed. His own touch felt foreign on his dick, invasive. The sick strangeness of touch was starting to overwhelm the wanting, and then he was startled completely out of his own head by an impact directly on the other side of the wall. It reverberated at two simultaneous points on either side of where his head and shoulder leaned against the wall.

"Come on," he heard Steve say, practically in his ear, and he realized that those had been Steve's hands slapping against the wall at the head of Steve and Sam's bed. The fading glimpse of memory was replaced by the vivid certainty of what Steve looked like on the other side of the wall, kneeling with his hands braced.

He would be naked, and Sam would be behind him, maybe slicking his fingers or maybe--

Steve moaned, a low filthy sound that made Bucky's hand move on his dick without thought, and Sam didn't make a sound. Bucky knew--maybe from some half-heard pattern of noises, maybe just from the particular quality of that moan--that Sam's mouth was otherwise occupied.

"Fuck, Sam," Steve said. Bucky bit down hard on his lip and knew he must not even breathe loudly. Steve was so close, and Steve's hearing was as good as Bucky's or better. Steve was distracted, but even so, Bucky had to be careful. He had to be quiet.

He took his hand out of his pants and reached under the pillow--something to bite would help--but his hand touched something soft and silky instead of the hilt of his knife. Bucky pulled the panties out. They wouldn't make much of a gag, but all the wanting in him pulled tight, twining together. He pressed the little handful of cloth to his mouth and held it there with his left hand, wrapping his right hand around his dick.

All the time he had his ear to the wall, and he could hear Steve panting out broken words on every breath. They mostly added up to Sam and fuck and yeah in various combinations. Bucky knew Sam was licking him open, getting him ready. He didn't have to chase the memory of what that felt like--it was happening right there. He could hear it. Bucky only had to follow along.

When Sam did speak again his voice was just a low, warm murmur, and Bucky had to guess at the words from the rhythm and intonation. He thought it had to be, Are you ready for me-- and the last word--it wouldn't be Stevie, that name didn't fit in Sam's mouth. Baby, possibly.

Stevie, that would have been what Bucky said, and Steve would say--

"I was ready an hour ago, where were you?"

Bucky grinned and his hips jerked, pushing his dick into his fist. Sam laughed and said something else low that Bucky couldn't be bothered to decipher, because Steve let out a moan that shook him right to his bones. It cut off sharply when Steve caught his breath. Bucky stopped breathing too, because the wanting was running through him like a fever now, making him shake.

Steve's hands shifted and then slapped hard against the wall again, and the sound of the mattress bouncing turned steady and rhythmic. Bucky jerked himself off in the same rhythm, listening to the little wordless grunts being punched out of Steve as Sam fucked him--the rhythm of it felt a little off, but it was obvious Steve liked it. Bucky's whole body was seizing up with it, and after a while Sam started making noises that were probably words. Bucky was past trying to understand anything at all, or wanting anything but to follow them to the end and over the edge.

Steve went first, with a startled-sounding little noise that Bucky knew in every cell of his body. Bucky knew what Steve would look like, knew how Steve would feel. His hand tightened down almost too hard on his dick and he was coming, too, everything whiting out at the new old rush of sensation. He was vaguely aware of Sam still moving for a few breaths after, and then everything was quiet.

Bucky heard them moving around after a while, bodies thumping down against the mattress. There were low-voiced words that he had even less right to listen in on than the sex.

Bucky slid down to lie on his own bed. He took his left hand away from his mouth--the panties were damp, and he rubbed them idly against his lips and cheek as he lay there with his hand still in his pants, covered in spunk, cradling his softening dick.

He had wanted all of that, and he had gotten it, and no one was the wiser. He'd collected another secret that wouldn't hurt anybody. He felt good, sleepy and warm and impossibly safe, just one thin wall away from Sam and Steve. He shifted his palm against his spent dick, and the too-much aftershock of pleasure felt like a warning. He moved his hand away and went back to nuzzling into the damp pair of panties, and without deciding to do it, he fell asleep.

Bucky woke up feeling sweaty and grimy and stuck to things, but it was only an awareness of the need for hygiene until he peeled the panties away from his face and noticed that they'd gotten snagged on his stubble, or maybe his fingernails. The translucent little handful of cloth was marred by pulled threads in a half-dozen places as well as a dried pool of spit, and Bucky felt like he'd defaced a piece of art. He wrapped them in paper and shoved them all the way to the bottom of the shopping bag, feeling vaguely like he ought to give them a decent burial when he got the chance.

He shaved in the shower that morning, running anxious fingers over his cheeks and jaws to be sure he'd gotten every hair. When he was done he looked down at himself. The razor dangling from his fingertips was right next to the dark hair at his groin, and he studied it consideringly.

Putting on panties would feel better without so much hair in the way, and it would look better without those coarse tufts of hair sticking out all over.

Not that he wanted to look better for anyone, but....

He couldn't even deny to himself that he meant to try the panties on again. He could make them feel better this time. He could maybe recapture that feeling he'd had last night, listening to Steve and Sam.

He touched his dick curiously--he knew perfectly well that he could jerk off any time he wanted--but the feeling of his own fingers was foreign to him, distant and overwhelming all at once. The feeling shivering through his most sensitive skin made him think of the smell of chocolate, and he took his hand away.

He gave the razor a thoughtful look, though.

Shaving his crotch took up a lot of time. Time, and the physical effort of contorting into weird positions to get a razor to his balls and actually see what he was doing.

He waited until Sam and Steve left for the day, so they wouldn't notice him monopolizing the bathroom for however long it took. When he started--trimming the hair all down to stubble, first, then stropping the razor's row of tiny blades to a proper edge like Steve had shown him how to do--the awareness bore down on him of how long it was going to take.

It made him feel guilty, furtively awaiting a harsh correction. It was a waste, an indulgence. He could be patrolling, evaluating, learning. He could be working harder to keep fit and be ready for the next mission.

But he didn't have a mission, and he didn't have a timer ticking down until he had to go back into storage. He had nothing but time and the defiant knowledge that he wanted things, wanted this. He wanted to shave all the hair off his balls to see how they would feel cradled in silk with nothing getting in the way, and there wasn't one person in the world to tell him he couldn't spend his time doing exactly that. What he kept under his clothes was between him and himself, and for once he was more or less all in agreement.

It was a tedious process, but absorbing, and not more physically demanding than anything else he did routinely. Compared to crouching on a rooftop for hours or days on end, curling awkwardly in the warmth of a half-full bathtub was undeniably pleasant. He appreciated the steadiness of his own hands, even if it was hard to maintain a sniper's even breathing while contorted enough to look up his own ass. He'd never spent this much time staring at his own body, especially not from this angle; he hadn't been particularly aware of the little seam down the center of his ballsack, or the minute variations of color and texture on his skin, from the lowest part of his belly to his dick and balls to the crack of his ass.

He was patient, and thorough, and he nicked himself three times and stropped the razor again after each one while cursing in as many languages as he could consciously remember to cycle through.

He ran more water into the tub when he was finished, warming up where it had gone cool and washing away the annoying eddies of shaving cream lather. He stayed in the tub a while, shifting to a marginally more comfortable position. He left one leg splayed up on the edge of the tub and ran his fingers over his freshly-shaved skin. Its texture was as strange and fascinating as the underwear he'd shaved for; his skin, here, was softer than he'd have thought under all that hair. He ran his fingers around the base of his dick, over his balls and along the crease of his groin, the border where he'd stopped shaving.

It felt wasteful, or silly, not to be jerking off, but he defied that thought too. He wouldn't do things he didn't want to, and he would do things he did want to, even if they were childish or inexplicable. He wanted to touch the places where he found he was suddenly nice to touch, even if they didn't make his dick hard or make him feel good in the way that led to getting off. He would lie in the bath and run his finger along the same pattern again and again until his fingers were too wrinkled to feel.

That was also an interesting sensation, as it turned out: the strange new friction of water-wrinkled fingers made him catch his breath when he ran them against his dick, or over the more familiarly smooth skin of his chest. It was only when the water started getting cold again that he finally got up and rinsed out the tub to remove every trace of what he'd been doing. He listened at the door before he opened it, making sure he was still alone in the apartment, but even so he wrapped a towel firmly around himself before he stepped into the hall. He wouldn't risk anyone seeing what he'd done: it was between him and himself, and if it wasn't under his clothes at the moment it was still going to stay under cover.

He locked his bedroom door behind him and then dropped the towel and hurried over to his bed, pulling the shopping bag out and peering down at the tissue-wrapped packets inside. He considered his options, including the exiled pink panties in the dresser drawer, and then he reached to the bottom of the bag and pulled out the spit-stained snagged panties he'd messed up that morning and shook them out. They didn't look that bad, really, if you didn't have your face smashed into them. The snags were hardly visible, and they were so sheer. Fine enough to draw through a ring, he thought, and had no idea where that expression came from.

Unlike the first time, he didn't take his eyes off the panties the whole time he was putting them on, watching the weird contrast as he drew them up his hairy scarred legs--he thought of the stockings in the bag, thought maybe next time.

He stopped with them at the tops of his thighs, looking at the shape and weight of his dick hanging just above the delicate little garment, and then he pulled the panties up and on, wriggling his hips and tugging to get them settled. Then he wriggled a little more, because they were really almost transparent when they were on, looking like a silky shadow cast across his crotch and hips more than anything that qualified as actual clothing. They were so soft it was like they weren't there at all, except for the way they cradled his dick and balls close to his body.

Bucky reached down cautiously to touch himself, palming his dick through the panties, and he bit down hard on his lip to contain a whimper. That reminded him of the night before--they were the same panties, after all, the ones he'd used to muffle his breathing while he listened to Sam fucking Steve in the next room. Bucky remembered the sound of Steve's voice, the rhythm of the movements, and before he'd considered it he was kneeling on the bed, bouncing a little on the mattress in that same rhythm, rocking his palm against his dick. He was getting hard so fast he felt dizzy, or maybe that was just from the way the memory was making his skin flush. He felt a surge of want inside him as he pictured Sam's hands on Steve, Sam's dick pushing into Steve's sweet, perfect ass.

The sound of a key in the front door lock startled him, and he actually fell off the bed, hitting the floor hard before he bounced up. He snatched a knife and his pants as he skittered into the corner between the window and the closet, his back hitting the wall with a thud.


Steve was right outside his bedroom door, sounding concerned. Bucky's right hand, clutching his pants to cover himself, twitched toward his still-hard dick. His other hand flexed around the grip of a knife, the plates of his arm shifting with a soft whir.

"I'm okay," Bucky made himself say. It was all right if his breathing sounded strange. Steve would have recognized the pattern of sounds that meant Bucky had just been startled into taking a defensive posture. "I'm awake."

"Sorry if I surprised you," Steve said, still right outside the door. Bucky closed his eyes and shifted his hand on purpose, pressing the heel of his hand against his dick through the jeans he wasn't even wearing, through the nothing-layer of the panties. Steve was right there, and even when he was saying completely normal things the sound of his voice went right through Bucky. "I was going to make lunch, you want some?"

"Yeah," Bucky said, eyes still closed, hand clenched tight on the knife, dick straining against the silky confines of the panties. "Just give me a minute."

"Take your time," Steve said, and Bucky heard him move away from the door.

Bucky released his grip on his pants and, after another second's thought, set his knife on the windowsill where he would see it and remember to return it to its correct hiding place. When his hands were empty he looked down at himself for a moment, his dick tenting out the sheer fabric of the panties. He should stop, get his body under control, get dressed, go have lunch with Steve.

He heard a soft thump in the next room and knew without a shred of doubt that it was the sound of Steve's pants hitting the floor. Steve was changing clothes, that was all. He'd had to dress up for the charity thing he'd gone to do this morning and he was changing into regular clothes.

But Steve was undressing in the next room and Bucky knew exactly what it sounded like. He knew exactly what Steve looked like, the motions of his hands and his body as he stripped. Bucky closed his eyes, curled his hand around his dick and tugged at the panties so that he could thumb the head directly as he jerked himself off. He let it play out in his mind's eye, Steve exposing all that perfect skin, maybe Sam joining him, and Bucky could listen and watch and want.

His teeth clenched hard as he came, his whole body sagging into the corner where he was still leaning against the wall. He stared blankly at the locked door of his bedroom for a while, and then he heard Steve moving around in the kitchen.

Bucky looked down and found that he had definitely ruined the black panties now. He stripped them off, wiped his hands on them, and hauled his own clothes on. Between his over-sensitive dick and his freshly-shaved crotch, even regular underwear felt strange and fascinating, but he made himself sit still and focus while he ate sandwiches with Steve. It was between him and himself what he kept under his clothes. No one else had to know.

The next day Bucky spent hours twisting himself up between wanting and the creeping feeling that he would be found out and punished. By evening he hadn't so much as touched any of the underwear in the bag, and he stomped out of the house, fully dressed and concealing five blades, to patrol. He tossed the ruined black panties into a trash can a mile away from the apartment, and spent the rest of his patrol grid ruthlessly suppressing the desire to go back and retrieve them.

The next day he shaved in the shower--first his face, and then, with some awkward maneuvering, the prickly growth of stubble all over his crotch. It didn't mean he was going to do anything in particular; it was just that the hair itched.

That night Sam and Steve went out somewhere together, and when they were gone Bucky locked himself in his room and dumped out the shopping bag and unwrapped everything, reviewing his options. He had four pairs of panties and three pairs of stockings, including the pair that had been the first thing he unwrapped. He had another pair of panties in pink, one in blue, and two more in black--one lacy, one opaque and trimmed with ribbons. He chose the blue ones, which he thought were not pretty or sexy but cute--a word for a harmless thing, pleasant and undemanding. He slipped into them, adjusting himself almost automatically. He folded everything else and put it away in a drawer, neatly layered at the bottom underneath his regular socks and underwear.

Then he went and sprawled on the bed and looked down at himself wearing silky blue panties. He touched himself curiously through them; they felt good, nice to touch, gently encouraging against his dick, but he was getting used to that set of sensations. When he rubbed his dick through them he felt pleasure, but with that same confusing edge of strangeness, too much and nothing all at once.

He moved his hand away from the panties and what they covered and touched his thigh, instead. It was hairy and scarred in a grotesque contrast to the soft silk of the panties and the skin under them. He thought of the stockings again.

He could fix this. He wanted to fix this.

Not right now, though. For now he just wanted to lie on his bed, wearing his cute blue panties, and let things be a little bit easy for once.

Two days later he shaved his legs, from his ankles to his groin. It took even longer than shaving his crotch, and despite all the stropping he could do he had to change out the razor cartridge before he'd even finished a leg. He'd bought some lotion for soothing skin irritation--Sam had three different kinds in little bottles in the shower and on the counter by the sink, and when Bucky noticed that he'd stopped to count back and try to remember the last time Sam hadn't spent the night. But aside from what the little bottles meant, they also offered an alternative to the itchy obnoxiousness of the day after shaving. Bucky had bought his own, as well as his own shaving cream; using Sam's would leave damning evidence. He kept the lotion in the drawer with his underwear to apply when he was safely locked in his room after a shaving session.

There was no way to cover enough of himself with a towel to hide the fact that he'd shaved his legs in the shower. He toweled off and pulled on a pair of pajama pants with nothing underneath to walk back to his room. Steve and Sam were still out, but Bucky wasn't taking any chances.

When he got back to his room, he locked up and then dropped the pants and took a lotion bottle from the drawer. He stayed there, standing by the dresser, while he rubbed the lotion in everywhere, rendering his skin even softer and silkier than it had felt to begin with. He thought of what else the lotion could be good for when his hands first glided, wet and slick, over his balls and back toward his ass, and he let the thoughts roll on while he rubbed it in and continued down his legs.

It was plenty slippery enough for fucking--God knew he and Steve had used worse things sometimes. He had a sudden sharp memory of the smell of come and sweat mixed with near-rancid butter, and laughed breathlessly against his thigh as he bent. The lotion had almost no smell, just something slightly sharp and clean, and there was plenty of it to go around. He could get a great big dollop of it on his fingers--or on Steve's fingers, Sam's fingers. Maybe that was why Sam had so much of the stuff anyway. Maybe he was using it on Steve, or Steve on him. Bucky and Steve used to do it both ways, and he was pretty sure he'd heard Steve and Sam switching it up from time to time.

It could be Steve's fingers, maybe, with a generous glob of cool white lotion, parting his cheeks and pressing in, teasing at the rim until he was pushing back, until a fingertip slid inside almost without force. Steve would work inside slowly, carefully--Steve never wanted anything to hurt even when a little pain would feel good--but soon enough he'd get down to the stretching, working another finger in, going deeper. Everything would be slick and wet and easy.

Bucky didn't really make a decision about it. He was on his knees with his legs spread wide, squeezing lotion onto his fingers and folding forward as he reached between his legs to find his asshole and press in. He was tighter than he remembered being, and it took a long time circling and prodding before the muscle memory kicked in. He had to make himself think of Steve's fingers, Steve's patience, before he found the way to make himself relax and let it happen. He sunk two fingers into himself right to the knuckle, twisting and stroking and fucking in and out.

He went slowly at first, and then faster, and it was an afterthought to grab his dick with his other hand. He was curling his fingers inside himself, finding the spot that made his breath catch. After that it only took a few pulls at his dick and steady pressure inside his ass before he was finished, coming in spurts against the floor.

He was aware, eventually, that he was curled forward on the floor, resting awkwardly on his shoulder and forehead. He got up a while after that, fished a dirty pair of boxers from the hamper and wiped his hands and then the wet spot on the floor. He considered putting on panties, or stockings, which had been the whole point of shaving his legs, but it seemed like overkill. He crawled into bed naked instead, and even the touch of the sheets against his bare skin seemed like too much. He wiggled around, feeling it until he shivered with it; when he couldn't take the sensation anymore he kicked the covers off and curled up on his side. He never heard Steve and Sam come back in.

He learned to want things when he wanted them and not when he didn't. Bucky wound up locking himself in his room to try on his panties and stockings one day out of every two or three. He didn't jerk off even that often, and he made himself leave the apartment anytime he heard Steve and Sam start something. He knew it wasn't right to keep listening, no matter how badly he wanted to.

He never went further than the roof, those times. He would sit there and keep watch and let himself feel how much he wanted to be near them, listening in. It wasn't a pleasant sensation--it felt like hunger, like the need to go in to base and debrief. He sat under the stars and remembered nights in Italy when he'd sat and missed Steve too much to even jerk off to thoughts of him. On nights like that he could only hope Steve was safe and wish the war would end soon.

That kind of wanting didn't feel good, but it was a decided change from numb mechanical action. Bucky thought it was probably a good change; he thought, if it were anything else, he would tell Steve about it and Steve would be pleased with him. It would probably be good for a check mark on some list somewhere, inching him toward the hazy future of when you're cleared.

He wasn't going to tell anyone, though. He wasn't going to listen in. He just wanted to. The wanting was enough.

Bucky had a run of nights with bad dreams that sent him out patrolling from two or three until well after the sun was up. He caught up on sleep in the middle of the day, throwing off his sense of time and his awareness of the rhythm of Sam and Steve's days. He had figured it was midday and the apartment was probably empty when he opened his bedroom door and found it was evening. Sam and Steve, lit by the movie playing on the TV screen, were kissing on the couch.

Bucky just stood there, the want catching him like a fishhook of heat in his belly. His door was almost level with the couch, and they'd turned sideways, so most of what he could see was Steve's back. Sam's hands moved restlessly over it, dark fingers sliding into golden hair, sliding down to cup the pale column of Steve's neck. Sam's hand moved lower, rucking up the back of Steve's t-shirt, showing Bucky the small of his back and a shadow that might be the top of his ass. Bucky's right hand clenched on the doorframe as he bit down hard on his lip, wanting to see and knowing he should be gone.

Steve made a little noise, not even a proper moan, just a breath with some voice to it. Sam echoed him and shifted, kissing the side of Steve's throat.

Bucky saw Sam see him; he saw Sam go still. Steve was motionless too. That was the moment when Bucky should have said something, or laughed, or just walked out of his bedroom to... wherever he'd been going, he couldn't remember anymore. He couldn't hold anything in his head except the fact that Sam was looking right at him, meeting his eyes.

Sam raised an eyebrow in a perfectly eloquent expression of yes? can I help you?

Bucky dropped his gaze, turning his face away. He was gathering himself to move, bracing himself for one of them to say something or at least the sound of them separating. Steve had to know he was there just as well as Sam did; even if he hadn't heard or sensed Bucky's presence, he had to have noticed Sam's hesitation.

But the next sound Bucky heard was the wet soft touch of another kiss. He looked without raising his head, and both of Sam's hands were on Steve's face. Sam was kissing his mouth. Steve rocked forward, leaning his weight into Sam as they kept on kissing, and his shirt rode up again. Bucky's eyes dropped to that exposed skin, then rose again to see what he could of the two of them kissing. Sam twisted, putting his back against the couch cushions, and Steve followed, curling himself around Sam. Bucky had a pretty good profile angle on them now, and he could see their mouths moving over each other, flashes of tongue between their lips. Steve's whole body kept moving; his hands were busy.

Sam let out a sound that was definitely a moan, and this wasn't just kissing. Bucky jumped like he'd been scalded and darted out of the doorway, making for the bathroom. He shut the door behind him with a bang, and stood there in the dark little room for a while before he remembered that he'd just woken up and had to piss and his mouth tasted foul.

He flicked a light on and got on with it, but he couldn't stop replaying what he'd seen. Not just the kissing, although the kissing--and the touching, and the leaning into each other--had been something he never wanted to stop seeing. But more than even that, there was the fact that Sam had looked right at him, that Steve had been quiet and still and had to know.

They had let him watch--invited him to watch. As if they knew he wanted to see. As if they didn't mind, or even... maybe wanted him to see as much as he wanted to watch.

And if they wanted him to watch--would they let him listen, too? Had they let him listen? Had they known he was there all along?

His brain went blank by the time he was washing his hands, and he didn't think at all. He didn't let himself notice that Sam and Steve were sitting on the couch with enough space between them for a whole other person when Bucky passed on his way back into his room.

It was a few days later that Bucky caught himself wishing Sam and Steve would go away so he could slip into panties and stockings. He'd shaved, and put the lotion on--both of those were manageable even with Sam and Steve in the apartment, as long as he was careful and put his pants back on in the bathroom--but he could hear them talking in the kitchen. Sam was typing, which meant he was probably settled in for a while, and Steve didn't have anything in particular to do today, so he would probably stay close to Sam.

After some time spent pacing around his room getting increasingly bored and irritated, it occurred to Bucky that he didn't really have to wait. The door was locked; no one would come in. They wouldn't know what he was doing in here. Even if he made noises, they wouldn't guess exactly what he was doing. His secret was safe. He was safe, never safer than when Sam and Steve were in the apartment, able to keep watch while he was distracted.

Bucky checked the lock on the door, checked the blind on the window, and then retrieved the lacy black panties from the drawer. They revealed a dappled pattern of skin when he pulled them on, and he ran his hands over and over them, tugging them up so that they revealed the undercurves of his ass to his exploring fingers. It would be better with a mirror, maybe.

Bucky shook his head at himself, letting his hair swing against his cheeks, at the thought. He still looked how he looked, ropy muscles and scars a ridiculous contrast to the scrap of lace cradling his dick and balls, his metal arm the crowning grotesquerie. He might as well have a knife clenched in his teeth and blood splashed up to his elbows; he shouldn't want to see the picture he made any more than he wanted anyone else to see.

And still, it was fascinating to see himself dressed this way, and he wished he could see it better. It hadn't occurred to him to want a mirror in his room before now--he knew approximately what he looked like, and if he wanted to check something in particular there was a mirror in the bathroom.

He touched his fingers to the bare skin of his ass below the panties and then sat down on the bed and pulled on stockings, too. He fell back on the bed, and put his legs up, toes pointing to the ceiling, so he could admire the look of the stockings. They were real silk, with a real seam up the back and everything, sheer enough that the black of them only tinted his skin. He could see every bony knob of his ankles, and the too-sharp muscles of his calves. The scar on his thigh sprouted out of the opaque elastic top like a knife from the top of a boot. Bucky rubbed down the line of the scar where it was exposed and then along the extent of it that was covered. That line felt strange--less sensitive, or more, or differently. He dug in a little with his fingernail, trying to quantify.

Steve laughed, startled and warm, and Bucky could hear Sam's voice under the sound. He froze for a moment, startled and then flushing with shame, as though Steve had seen him--

But it wasn't that laugh. That was Steve's laugh for happiness, for Sam. Even at this distance, Bucky felt warmed by it, and suddenly impatient with being locked away with his secrets. He shucked his things off and got dressed again in normal clothes, and went to the kitchen to see what was so funny.

The next time Bucky needed to wash panties and stockings, he decided to do all of them. Before that he had been washing just one thing at a time--just what he could tuck into his pocket going to and from the bathroom. He hung them to dry in the closet, out of sight.

It was inefficient, though, so one day when Steve and Sam were out he took everything at once. It only made a double handful, not even an armload when it was all crumpled together in his hands. He washed each little item in the bathroom sink, leaving the dirty ones on the counter as he took each wet one back to his bedroom.

He laid the panties on top of the dresser to dry, and the stockings on a clean towel on the floor. Anyone could see them if they walked in, but Bucky knew they were safe enough.

Bucky wanted to go back to the lingerie shop. He thought he'd like a new pair of panties--he still couldn't look at the pink ones with the black bows, and he'd jerked off so many times in the black-on-black ribbon-trimmed pair that they were starting to get bleached from the spunk he didn't rinse out quickly enough. Then he laddered two stockings in one day on an insufficiently trimmed toenail, and he knew he had to get more.

He thought about buying the things he wanted on the internet--he could do that, Steve had made him his own private profile on Steve's laptop--or finding a different shop than the last one he'd visited. He had plenty of options. He could protect himself and his secret in any number of ways.

He found, though, that he wanted to go back to that first shop. He wanted to see Jason again. He wanted Jason to know.

The secret he was carrying around wanted out, and there was one person in the world who he knew would be pleased, or perhaps impressed, that he'd chosen to wear the things he'd bought. At the very least Jason wouldn't laugh, or think badly of him, and would definitely sell him more stockings and new panties.

It didn't occur to Bucky until he was walking through the door that there might be someone else behind the counter; even when he'd recognized Jason he felt uncertain. Jason was giving him exactly the same skeptical look he'd given Bucky the first time, with no sign of the truce they'd reached by the end of Bucky's visit.

Jason didn't recognize him.

Bucky felt unreal for an instant--as if he himself were just a sheer wisp of darkness, more a shadow than a thing. A ghost whose memories were all illusions.

Then he remembered that he'd shaved and washed his hair this morning and wasn't wearing a hat. Jason almost certainly hadn't been trained to recognize a target's face despite the few dozen most common methods of disguise; he would be thrown by changes in surface cues.

Bucky approached the counter instead of avoiding it and said, "I probably still don't look like the type, huh?"

He saw recognition arrive: first a slightly caught-out look, when Jason registered that Bucky recognized him, and then an intent study of Bucky's face and a sweeping look up and down his body. Jason's forehead wrinkled in thought--he almost had it--and Bucky stepped closer.

If there was one thing any expert would remember and recognize, it was the stuff of his trade. Bucky never forgot a gun or a knife. Jason would remember what he'd sold.

Bucky hooked his thumb into the waistband of his jeans and tugged up on the lacy black panties he was wearing underneath, just enough to show them.

Jason's eyes widened slightly, flashed back up to Bucky's face, and the salesman--boy, really--went pink at the tops of his cheeks and his ears as he looked Bucky over again. Like he wanted to look, like he wanted... Bucky. Oh.

"You look... different," Jason said, and Bucky had no trouble translating that as better or hot. "You had a beard before, right?"

Bucky nodded.

Jason smiled a little. "Satisfied with your purchases, I hope? You definitely can't return those now."

"Wouldn't want to," Bucky agreed, smiling back, and Jason turned a little more pink. Bucky remembered how this used to work; he used to do this all the time, without thought. Talk, flirt, look at people who were looking back at him, at his body, at his face, and wanting what they saw.

"I wrecked some of my stockings," Bucky said. "Um. Some of the panties, too. So I need to buy some new ones."

"Well, that's what we're here for," Jason said, his smile steadying as he turned to business. "Come on, let's see what I can talk you into this time."

"You've already got me on the ropes," Bucky assured him.

Jason shot another up-and-down look over his shoulder and said with a smirk, "No ropes here, I'm afraid, but I can tell you where to go if that's what you're into."

Bucky didn't have a comeback for that one. He bought all the stockings Jason suggested and new panties in blue and black and a gray pair with black lace. The gray was darker than the metal of his arm--like iron, but with a steely sheen. Like a weapon transmuted into a silky scrap of cloth.

He changed into them as soon as he got home.

It was an ordinary night. A Thursday, although that had less meaning for them than Bucky thought was strictly normal. Steve and Sam were as likely to have work commitments on weekends as weekdays, and Bucky, of course, never had any commitments at all. Sam had made some noises the other day about Bucky maybe attending some VA group meetings--although not the ones Sam led, which would be improper in some way that Sam seemed to assume Bucky understood. Steve had been talking about some of his volunteering lately in a tone that invited Bucky to take an interest.

Bucky knew he was being coaxed, and he was still trying to decide if Steve and Sam were trying to move him down a checklist or were inviting him to do things that would bring him closer to them. He wasn't sure why the difference mattered, but he hadn't made any promises yet.

For now Bucky had given in to the desire to be near them. It was easy tonight. Bucky was perched on one end of the couch while Sam watched a recorded episode of Parks and Recreation from the other end. Steve was sitting in a chair by the window, ostensibly sketching, but the soft scratch of his pencil had been silent for six minutes, and Bucky had heard him suppressing laughter twice. Steve liked Leslie mostly too much to laugh at her, but Ron entertained him a lot. Bucky was trying to put together the question he wanted to ask Steve about who Ron reminded him of--was it just the mustache, or more? Bucky thought it might be more, but the memories and pictures wouldn't fit together in a way that let him ask the question.

A siren went off, and Bucky went extra-still and calculated his escape routes and how best to cover Sam. Steve, at the window, was too far away and less in need of protection. Bucky didn't let his hand twitch toward either of the two knives he was wearing.

Sam and Steve both burst into motion, going for their phones. It was only when the siren stopped from one side faster than the other that Bucky realized it wasn't an actual siren; it was an alert noise on both their phones, going off simultaneously.

"Well, shit," Sam said, and paused the TV before he stood up and walked toward the bedroom.

Steve just exhaled a sharp, unhappy breath. Bucky was on his feet, hands still quiet at his sides, ready.

"Bucky," Steve said, standing up and pocketing his phone. He looked unhappy. "We have to go."

"Avengers?" Bucky asked. He knew that Steve met with them pretty regularly; he also knew that Steve had been trying to stay out of actual combat since he brought Bucky here. Whatever this was, if Steve was going in on it on the strength of a text message, it was bad.

Bucky remembered the footage he'd seen of the Chitauri invasion and tried to imagine the scale of the disaster they were facing now. He'd seen no signs of anything brewing, either in the city or on Steve, but he knew as well as anyone how suddenly an attack could start. Bucky didn't have enough weaponry for this, but if a war starting in New York, getting his hands on a gun wouldn't present a problem for long.

"Yeah," Steve said, his eyes intent on Bucky. "It's not big-- it's not going to come here. It's contained, but it's something we have to take care of right now. I need you to sit tight."

That last shaded into an order, and Bucky's jaw clenched as his spine reflexively straightened. Steve came around the couch to stand close to him, looking directly into his eyes. His hand came down on Bucky's shoulder.

"Bucky, I've tried not to do this, but I need you to promise me that you're going to stay put," Steve said. "No tracking us, no coming after us--no matter what you might hear. I need to know that you're going to stay out of this and let us handle it."

"You're not going to tell me what it is," Bucky observed.

Steve's mouth twitched toward something that could have been a smile, but his eyes stayed grim and steady. "I'm not, because I need you to stay out of it. You and I both know that I can't lock you up anywhere that will hold you. I need your word on it. I can't be worrying about where you are."

Every second Bucky spent arguing was a second he was keeping Steve and Sam away from whatever it was they were needed for.

"I get it," Bucky said. "I'm not cleared. I'm not even allowed to have personal weapons."

Steve's gaze flicked down and touched on each of the places Bucky was concealing a knife right now before he met Bucky's eyes again.

Bucky tilted his head slightly. Yes, he had personal weapons, but the point was that he wasn't allowed to have personal weapons. That permission would be a precursor to being cleared for combat.

"Buck," Steve said quietly, without reiterating his demand.

Bucky was aware of Sam coming back into the room, having changed into sturdier clothes and collected his wings and the associated gear. Sam didn't come any closer.

"I'll stay out of it," Bucky said, holding Steve's gaze. "I promise."

Steve searched his eyes for truth, and Bucky tried to shape his expression to give Steve what he was looking for.

"All right," Steve said finally, and his hand twitched on Bucky's shoulder as the focus of his gaze shifted. For a fraction of a second Bucky knew, with absolute physical inevitability, that Steve was going to draw him into an embrace, perhaps kiss him, before he left. His whole body tensed, wanting it and bracing against it all at once.

Steve's grip on his shoulder tightened, but exerted no directional force. Steve said a brusque, "Thanks," instead, not allowing himself to be awkward.

Bucky turned to watch as Steve headed toward the door, grabbing his shield from where it leaned against the couch and a duffel from the hall closet. He passed a second bag to Sam.

Sam said, "We'll update you as often as we can. I know it sucks staying behind."

Bucky nodded and looked away as they went through the door; it was bad luck to watch anyone all the way out of sight. They left without bothering to lock up behind them.

Bucky went to the door after they'd had enough time to reach the street. He turned the locks and then stood there a while, calculating. Sam would have taken his guns; Steve didn't actually keep any firearms of his own in the apartment. He was strictly opportunistic in his use of weapons other than the shield.

Bucky's private collection of knives stood at fourteen, plus a few garrotes and, purely in the interests of diversification, a taser. He had no explosives and no firearms, nothing that would let him kill at a distance beyond the few yards of a thrown knife's reliable range.

He could obtain weapons if he had to, but Steve had said it's contained. More than about a thousand civilian lives at risk would probably have been enough for Steve to remove the conditions of Bucky's parole and take him into the fight immediately. Steve was a pragmatist about war and an optimist about Bucky.

Whatever tonight's fight was, it would not come to him. If he needed to find it--if Sam and Steve did not return promptly, if they belatedly asked his help--he would have to find them. It would be most efficient to follow; he was losing them already.

He had promised Steve. It had been half a lie, and Steve had been perfectly aware of that half. They both knew that if Bucky found out that Steve and Sam were hurt or taken or killed, he would do what had to be done. Steve wouldn't try to take that from him.

That left the other half, though. Steve was trusting Bucky to let this play out until he had reason to believe something had gone wrong. Steve was asking Bucky to trust his assessment of the situation, whatever it was--not so dangerous, merely urgent. It was possible that Steve was right. Steve had an entire team of people who would help and protect him, even a proper sniper.

And whether Steve was right or not, whether Steve was safe or not, Bucky had promised to wait. To sit tight, which meant waiting here, where Steve and Sam could find him or send others to find him if necessary.

If he cared only for cold efficiency he would ignore the promise. He would follow. He would protect if he could and rescue or avenge if he could not. The arithmetic of violence made that simple. It made everything simple.

But Bucky cared for Steve. He wanted Steve to trust him and be pleased with him. He wanted Steve to come back to him. That meant that he had to stay here, and to stay he had to fight the urge to turn cold and calm. If he let himself stop thinking, stop feeling, he wouldn't stay anymore.

Bucky turned around and went back to the living room. He turned off the television, frozen with Tom mugging at the camera. He picked up Steve's dropped sketchbook--open to a mostly-blank page--and closed it, setting it on a table along with Steve's pencils and gum eraser. He checked that the windows were locked.

He went into the kitchen and put away the dishes Steve had washed after dinner. He stood by the sink and made himself be aware of what he wanted: I want to be with them. I want to protect them. I want them to come home. I want them to be near me. I am afraid of what will happen to them without me.

He couldn't let himself not know it, because when he stopped knowing it he would become a weapon, and a weapon only knew how to do one thing. He had to wait. He had to be--not a weapon. Wanting things was the best way he knew to remember not to be a weapon.

He wanted them to come home. He remembered the night that Steve had asked him to come home and check in; he remembered sitting here in the kitchen with Sam that night, and later with Steve, and the next morning with both of them.

Bucky started opening cupboards, pulling ingredients out and setting them on the counter. There was still most of a bottle of molasses, most of a bag of brown sugar, plenty of flour, and all the little bottles of spices. He found the index card with the recipe written in Sam's handwriting, tossed in among the four other recipes Sam and Steve ever cooked and a dozen takeout menus.

Bucky retrieved the cold ingredients from the fridge, assembled bowls and spoons, and kept his mind focused on that night: the warmth of the kitchen and the smell of the freshly baked cookies, the taste of them melting on his tongue. If he made cookies, Steve and Sam would want to stay in the kitchen with him to eat some when they came home. He would make cookies and then Steve and Sam would come home.

Bucky followed the instructions meticulously, starting with turning the oven on before anything else, which Sam had written in block capitals and adorned with asterisks. He waited patiently for the melted butter to cool, and was rewarded, while he sat staring at it, by the buzz of his phone.

It was a text message from Sam: Briefing. Not gonna jinx, but I think we got this.

Bucky frowned at the message, trying to pick apart what it implied: they had enough time to receive a briefing on the crisis, and for Sam to text him about it. Sam was willing to risk bad luck to reassure Bucky, which meant that he really was fairly certain of the outcome. That matched with Steve's initial assessment, something urgent but contained.

They would come home, probably tonight. They would eat cookies. They would be here with Bucky. He tested the temperature of the melted butter with his fingertip--still too warm--and licked the liquid away. He rubbed his fingers together after he'd done so, feeling the faint trace of slickness that lingered. The butter tasted rich and good in his mouth, but his stomach twisted a little, even before the trace of food could have reached it.

He wasn't hungry, and he didn't want to eat right now, but he wanted the cookies to be ready when Steve and Sam came home. He put the melted butter in the fridge to cool while he toured the apartment, checking all the locks again. When he came back he could finally get on with the mixing.

He found that cooking let him fall into a different, warmer kind of thoughtless action, following the steps as instructed. There was nothing of a weapon about rolling little cookie-balls from the sweet-spicy smelling dough and sprinkling them with sugar, but he didn't have to choose each action either. He only had to choose his goal and then follow the steps toward it. Cookies, therefore everything else.

Still, it only took so long to prepare the cookies, and they baked quickly--five minutes, swap the pans around, five more minutes, and the same for the next batch. The free minutes between swapping pans was sufficient to wash the dishes he'd dirtied. He got another text from Sam while he was setting the cookies to cool on their wire racks: So far so good, no surprises.

Bucky washed his hands, carefully cleaning crystals of sugar from the joints of his metal hand, and then he had nothing left to do. The smell of the cookies was good--hopeful--but it still made his stomach twist up too tight to consider eating. He needed something else to fill his time.

He slid his right hand into his jeans, touching the prickle of hair above his dick, and then he went to fill the bathtub.

He shaved his face first, and then everything else, with as much meticulous attention as the first time he'd touched a razor to these places. When his phone buzzed with another text from Sam, he leaned over to see the notification without taking his hands from his work.

Gonna go quiet for a while, don't worry.

That meant they were going in to whatever the confrontation was, Bucky knew. He dragged a razor slowly, carefully up his thigh, and knew that people were trying to kill Sam and Steve right now, while he sat in a bath and shaved his legs.

He was not a weapon. A weapon wouldn't do this. Couldn't do this. A weapon was efficient and focused. Bucky was sitting on his ass, naked, shaving his legs. Bucky was a person who had made a promise. He was a person who wanted things. He was a person making a choice, and the choice was weird and stupid from some angles; from some angles it was totally indefensible. If they died tonight--

They were good. They could take care of themselves. They'd survived him with less backup than they had now. Steve had asked him to stay put and Bucky had promised. He took two slow breaths, steadied his hands, and dragged the razor carefully through a smear of shaving cream.

His phone didn't buzz again while he finished shaving his legs. Everything stayed silent while he walked naked from the bathroom to his bedroom. He turned the lock by habit, separated out the two knives he'd been wearing from the pile of his clothes and set them on top of the dresser. He covered his hands in lotion and applied it thoroughly to his legs and crotch and every inch of sensitive skin, leaving himself smelling clean and pleasant, his skin silky and inviting.

The phone didn't make a sound.

He opened the top drawer and rifled through it. Nothing he touched was right. The black lace panties he could too easily picture wearing under his jeans if he had to go and find them; he had worn them out of the apartment that way more than once already. The gray--no. Those were meant for a weapon. He couldn't go that way tonight.

He stood for a moment staring into the drawer, and then he dropped to his knees, opened the lowest drawer, and fished out the paper-wrapped shape of the panties he had worn only once, for less than a minute. They were as pretty as he'd remembered: silky-soft like liquid in his hand, edged in black lace and adorned with little black bows. He stood up and stepped carefully into them, watching his hands draw them up his legs. Jason had been right; the pink was just bright enough to contrast against his pale skin. Bucky settled himself into place, adjusting his dick inside them.

His phone stayed silent, which meant Sam and Steve were still in danger. Bucky smoothed his right hand down the front of his panties, feeling the sweet softness of them, the lax weight of his dick behind them. His panties were pretty and pink and his, something he'd wanted, something he could keep. He stood up again and picked out his favorite pair of stockings to go with them--the ones with a design of lacing up the back instead of a real seam, as though he'd tied them up. The fake lacing ended in real ribbon bows at the back of each thigh, echoing the ribbons on the panties.

He glanced at his bed, but he knew he couldn't lie down. He definitely couldn't jerk off right now--thinking of Sam and Steve wouldn't be any help, and he was just barely holding on to knowing what he wanted. Summoning up the focus to want that was beyond him now.

He paced twice across the small room and then gave up, throwing open the lock and yanking the bedroom door open. He walked around the apartment wearing nothing but pink panties and black silk stockings. He checked every lock again, checked his phone and the phone on the kitchen counter. There were no messages, no updates. Steve and Sam were still in danger, and he still had to wait.

Bucky paced a while, feeling every place the air touched his skin, distracted by his own exposure. But when even that began to feel routine, he gave in, just a little, to the awareness of what might be coming next. If they weren't safe, if they weren't coming home--he would have to go and find them. He would need to arm himself to the best of his ability.

Bucky went and gathered up every weapon he had from its hiding place. He laid them all down on the coffee table in front of the couch, lined up the knives in neat rows and coiled each garrote. He checked the charge of the taser.

He got his whetstone and his cleaning kit and sat down on the couch. The feel of the upholstery against his thinly-covered ass and his bare, hairless thighs was startling. He let it distract him for a few seconds, but even that distraction passed. He picked up the first knife and set to work making sure that he was ready.

He had to focus carefully to avoid dropping into automatic action. Preparing his weapons had been a part of the pre-mission routine. It always had been, even when Steve had led the missions; Bucky remembered examining every inch of his sniper rifle, going over a new scope Stark had made for him, cleaning his knives, arranging his spare ammunition. Bucky had always been partly a weapon. But back then he had followed Steve, obeyed Steve. Back then Steve had trusted him to follow.

Bucky put the first knife down, sharpened to a razor edge, and picked up the next, letting himself think about Steve. Back then Steve would never have gone into danger without hugging him, kissing him if they could get away with it. The feeling of Steve's body against his would have been a tangible memory, fresh enough to hold some warmth, and not a ghost of a recollection, worn thin and tattered by ice and time.

But if Steve hadn't pulled him close, Bucky would have reached out. He remembered with sudden vividness the night before he'd shipped out, the night of the fair, and Steve's body small and sharp in his arms. He had been the one to come toward Steve with his arms open that night. He had been the one who reached out. Armored in a uniform, constrained by the public place, he had still reached for Steve to feel him close one more time.

The recall of those stiff layers made him more conscious again of his near-nudity, and the scraps of fabric that more emphasized his bare skin than covered it. He lowered the heel of his hand, still holding a knife, to rub against his right thigh where the black stockings covered it, and then he heard the unmistakable sound of Steve's stride, and Steve pushing a key into the lock.

Bucky froze, tallying up his chances. His best move would be to bolt, leave out the weapons and take cover--but if he left the weapons Steve would take them as a message, or worse, take them as surrendered.

The door opened, and Bucky heard Steve take the first step across the threshold, heard Sam behind him, and all other considerations evaporated. Bucky couldn't not be here when they walked in. He couldn't not see them at the first possible second. Bucky's left hand tightened on the whetstone, his right hand tightened on the knife. He spread his hands apart, not covering himself, and his back straightened as his chin jerked up.

Steve stepped into view of the couch and stopped abruptly, and Sam halted behind him. Bucky couldn't look anywhere but Steve's face; he caught a brief flash of something that vanished into controlled neutrality before Bucky could identify it.

"Hey, Buck," Steve said, his voice even. His eyes stayed steady on Bucky's. He definitely didn't look down.

"Sorry I didn't send more messages," Sam said, staying where he was, behind Steve. Neither of them had come further into the room. "Phone got busted and by the time I could tell Steve you'd been in the dark we were halfway home."

There was pink around Steve's mouth, visible because Steve's face was otherwise clean and unmarked. Bucky translated halfway home as making out in the back of one of Stark's cars.

They were home, and in a minute they would go into the bedroom to finish what they'd started on the way back, high on the thrill of a successful battle. Bucky knew that feeling. He remembered sharing that with Steve; he wanted it with Sam too. The wanting woke up and surged through him as Bucky sat perfectly still, perfectly impassive, just watching them.

"No problem," Bucky said. "I kept busy."

"Smells like it," Steve said. "Did you make more of those cookies?"

Steve still didn't look down. Not at the knives, not at Bucky.

Bucky nodded. "I even left a few for you guys."

"Thanks, man," Sam said, grinning. "Food always tastes better when somebody else cooks it. I'm looking forward to those."

"Sounds like you earned them," Bucky said. The whole conversation had a surreal edge, and for once Bucky didn't think it was just that he didn't remember how human interaction was supposed to work. "Did you get hurt when they broke your phone?"

"I dropped it from half a mile up," Sam admitted, stepping slightly to one side so that Steve didn't entirely eclipse him. Bucky could see for himself that Sam was unhurt, the clothes he'd been wearing when he left scarcely disarranged. His wings were packed into their case again.

Steve was in his uniform, no more than a little dusty, with a few tell-tale blotches of blowback on the white showing that he'd fired a gun at some point. Bucky's gaze stayed down once he looked, studying the shape of Steve's body in the tight-fitting uniform, looking for the places it was armored and the places where it was just Steve.

"Buck," Steve said. He sounded perfectly calm, but he didn't follow that up with anything, like he couldn't think of a word to say.

Bucky dragged his gaze back to Steve's face, which was still carefully blank. Bucky didn't know what it was hiding: amusement or disgust or pity or the same patient acceptance of this perversity that he'd shown to all of the other ways Bucky was damaged. Bucky held Steve's gaze, and Steve looked back because Steve would always, always look back.

Steve would let him go if Bucky got up and walked away. Steve would never mention it again, and nor would Sam. Bucky could come back when he had pants on, gather up his knives, and his weapons would disappear into the same silence that would shield his nakedness. He never had to know what Steve was thinking.

Except that he needed to know what Steve was thinking like he needed to breathe. His secret was out, and pretending it wasn't wouldn't actually make it so.

"Come on," Bucky said into the growing silence. "Ain't you gonna tell me I look nice?"

He'd meant to sound coolly mocking--of Steve's discomfort and his own appearance all at once--but it came out with a plaintive edge. Bucky's metal fingers were close to cracking the whetstone, and his right hand ached from the tightness of his hold on the knife.

Steve finally looked down, his gaze lingering at Bucky's crotch. Bucky shifted, unfolding his legs and splaying them out to show the stockings to best advantage, one foot propped on the coffee table and the other leg extended along the couch. If Steve was going to look, Bucky was going to let him see.

He saw the exact second Steve stopped guarding his expression; Steve's eyes went hot and dark, and a flush hit his cheeks. Bucky knew that shade of pink right down to his bones, and his dick stirred at the sight. Bucky's skin felt hot and tight all over by the time Steve met his eyes again and said in a low, serious voice, "You look really good, Buck."

Bucky moved and Steve moved all at the same time; Bucky was mildly surprised, when he came to a halt, to find out that he'd moved away, dropping stone and knife and scrambling up over the back of the couch to retreat toward a wall. Steve had followed him around the couch, but he stopped a couple of meters short, well out of reach. Bucky hadn't actually reached the wall yet, but Steve was now between him and every exit route except the locked window.

Steve seemed to realize that at the same time Bucky did. He edged sideways, clearing Bucky's path out of the living room without really giving ground.

Sam, Bucky noted without taking his eyes off Steve, hadn't moved a muscle. That was Sam's way. He didn't push himself on Bucky, not like Bucky and Steve had spent their lives pushing on each other. At least until Steve got so careful not to push too hard and Bucky locked himself away.

"Sorry," Bucky said, overheated and breathless. "I didn't mean to...."

But he couldn't make himself move, not toward an exit or Steve or anywhere. He wanted to run and he wanted to hide and he wanted Steve and Sam so badly--wanted to keep on letting them see. He didn't want to just keep refusing to hide, he wanted to show them, and at the same time the thought of them looking--touching--was like the thought of plunging his right hand into a fire. It was too much, but he wanted it all.

"It's okay," Steve said calmly, and then he bent over and started unfastening his boots. Bucky closed his eyes and clenched his fists until they hurt, so that he could want to open his hands instead. He opened his eyes as he stretched his fingers, and he looked right past the folded shape of Steve easing his boots off. Not coming closer, not even looking at him.

Sam was still standing just barely inside the room. He'd put the case down and had his hands tucked casually into his pockets, elbows jutting out. He was watching Bucky, and he wasn't being nearly as careful to blank his expression as Steve had been. He looked like he liked what he was looking at.

"What about you," Bucky said, because Steve belonged to Sam now. Sam was the one who slept in Steve's bed. "What do you think?"

Sam cracked a smile and looked Bucky up and down. Bucky thought of the scratch of Sam's narrow beard against Steve's face, thought of what it might feel like against smooth skin.

"I probably shouldn't say," Sam said, warmly, like it was a joke they already shared.

Bucky wanted to smile back. He felt a different kind of heat go through him--not the old, embedded wanting he had for Steve, the banked fire waiting to roar out again, but something new and warm and welcome.

Steve straightened up then, already in the process of peeling out of his uniform. He pushed it down from his hips and stepped out of it, leaving himself wearing a tight blue undershirt and tight black shorts.

"Okay," Steve said. "Now I can breathe. You breathing okay, Bucky?"

"Nothing stopping me," Bucky parried. He thought of the corsets he'd seen at the shop and of the firm grip of his own body armor. He felt the lack of that embrace everywhere; his ribs pushed against so much nothing when he took a breath. "Nothing stopping you, either."

"No?" Steve said, and he took another step forward. Bucky's legs tensed, wanting to move, but he held his ground.

Bucky could see Steve debating his next move, waiting for a signal from him. He knew he was supposed to reach out, open his arms, step forward; he wanted to do those things and all the other things that would come after them. It felt like too much to ask for, too much wanting to hold inside his skin.

Well. Not all of him was bounded by anything as flimsy as skin.

Bucky forced his left hand to move, turning it palm up and reaching forward. It didn't go far, but it was enough. Steve took two more short steps and laid his hand in Bucky's. Steve was smiling, and his eyes moved up and down over Bucky's body again, entirely appreciative, as though he saw nothing strange in what Bucky was wearing at all. Steve's eye didn't catch on the panties and stockings or the scars or his metal arm.

Bucky could feel the weight of Steve's hand in his metal one, and all the little cues that added up to contact with living flesh. It was automatic to modulate pressure accordingly when he closed his fingers around Steve's hand. He pulled a little. Steve took another step and another; even when Bucky couldn't help backing away Steve kept holding on to Bucky's hand.

Bucky's back hit the wall and his left hand followed a second later, pinned there by Steve's grip. Bucky could break that grip if he wanted to--he could go right through the wall if he had to--but he was where he wanted to be, penned in against the wall by Steve's body, the warmth and size and familiar smell of him.

Bucky remembered that bed in Italy again, Steve pinning him down to their mutual surprise. Bucky's dick was already hard, tenting out the front of the pretty pink panties, and Steve wasn't even touching him anywhere but his hand. Steve's other hand was on the wall above Bucky's right shoulder, and Steve was just standing there, not quite up against him. Steve was looking into his eyes, steady and sure, but still not holding Bucky, still not kissing him. Bucky was pressing back into the wall with all the force of his longing; he was going to dent the plaster soon.

"Steve," Bucky said helplessly. He knew where this was going, where it had to be going, but he didn't know anymore how to get there.

"I'm right here, Buck," Steve said softly. He finally, finally leaned in, his body just brushing up against Bucky's, a touch as light as silk. Bucky grabbed hold of Steve's shoulder with his right hand and tilted his head into a kiss, pushing past the gentle brush of Steve's lips into something open-mouthed and hungry.

Steve was with him. He leaned into Bucky, licking into his mouth, tasting and feeling exactly like he should. In the rush of memory it felt like Bucky was kissing Steve a hundred different times all at once, every rough or sweet or casual or long-awaited kiss layered over the present. Bucky broke away, panting, and stared at Steve wide-eyed.

Steve had known all of that all along. Steve had been wanting him all this time, when Bucky didn't know, when Bucky didn't let him see. When....

Bucky's eyes went to Sam, who had come around the couch and was standing a little way off, looking... happy. Like he'd been watching, like he'd been allowed to watch. Bucky felt a greedy rush of desire. He didn't have any kisses to remember with Sam, but that just meant it would all be new with him. He wouldn't know quite what to expect.

Steve's attention turned toward Sam. He was following Bucky's lead. His body stayed firmly pressed against Bucky's, his hand still holding Bucky's metal hand to the wall.

"Sam," Steve said, sounding calmer than Bucky felt. "You sure you don't want to say what you were thinking about Bucky here? Seems like it might be a good time, before we get any further."

"Oh, well," Sam met Bucky's gaze, raised his eyebrows in a gentle question.

Bucky nodded sharply, and Sam smiled and took a few more steps forward, still out of arm's reach. "I was just thinking that you're looking really, really good, Bucky. But even more you look like you'd be really good to touch."

Bucky's whole body jerked against Steve's, but he knew that Sam didn't just mean like this, pressure and friction and heat. He meant he wanted to touch Bucky the way Bucky touched himself, to feel what he felt like. Bucky had made his whole body inviting, silky and smooth and soft over the hardness of muscle and around the edges of his scars. Sam wanted to get his hands on all of that.

"Come over here and find out," Bucky said. The words came to his tongue easily, a familiar challenge, but they fell out of his mouth as the purest invitation.

Sam's smile widened, and he took another step in, but still stopped short. "I don't know, man. Kind of looks like Steve wants you all to himself. He's not leaving me much room."

Steve's hips ground against Bucky's, making him extra-aware of Steve's hard dick pressing against him through the flimsy layers of their underwear. Then Steve pulled back slightly and met Bucky's eyes, looking happy and excited and like he was about to lead Bucky into a whole world of trouble. Bucky had been caving to that look since he was six years old.

"We can make room for Sam, right?"

Bucky nodded without thinking--he wanted them both, he could have them both. They would let him, they would push in and take him when he couldn't reach out and take them. Steve tugged him forward and Bucky went where Steve put him, letting Steve take his place against the wall. Steve made Bucky turn, and Bucky understood; he was as safe with his back up against Steve as he was with his back to the wall. Safer.

Bucky had to let go of his hand, but Steve didn't let go of him. Steve's right arm wrapped around him, his fingers splayed on Bucky's chest. Steve's left hand went lower, landing on the bare, smooth stretch of Bucky's thigh exposed between the top of his stocking and the edge of his panties. Bucky arched into that touch. Steve's fingers tightened and then loosened again quickly, shifting across his skin in quick, teasing motions that made Bucky shiver and his dick throb.

"Fuck, you feel so good." Steve's dick was right against the cleft of his ass, rocking against him. "Sam, look, plenty of room now."

He didn't have to try at all to reach out this time; Bucky grabbed two handfuls of Sam's t-shirt as soon as he was in range, hauling him in close. Sam didn't press all the way up against him, though, keeping a little breathing space between his jeans and Bucky's pink panties.

He settled his hands on Bucky's hips, rubbing his thumbs in little circles above the ribbon bows that sat on the crests of his hipbones.

"God, Bucky, look at you," Sam said softly, raising his gaze from Bucky's crotch to his eyes. "All prettied up. That feel good?"

"Not as good as you touching my dick," Bucky said.

Sam laughed and caught his mouth in a kiss before Bucky could marvel too much at the fact that he'd said that without even trying. Bucky moaned into the kiss--he could feel the scratch of Sam's beard and he wanted it everywhere--wanted Sam's tongue and lips everywhere, why hadn't he thought about wanting kisses? Kisses were amazing, kisses--

Kisses were almost enough to distract him from Sam's hand on his dick, but not quite. Sam was only touching him through the panties, adding that silky slipperiness to the warm pressure of his hand wrapping around Bucky's dick.

Bucky whimpered into Sam's mouth and pushed into his hand, rocking back and forth between that and the promising pressure of Steve's dick against his ass. Steve's fingers dug into his thigh a little harder, making him spread his legs. Bucky shifted his left leg to the outside of Steve's, hooking his foot around Steve's ankle. He could throw Steve that way--could easily break his grip--but all Bucky wanted to do was feel the scratch of Steve's hairy leg against the smoothness of his own, barely hindered by the barrier of his stocking.

Steve groaned and shifted behind Bucky, ducking his head to kiss at Bucky's throat. His thumb found Bucky's nipple, and Bucky let go of Sam's shirt to wrap his arms around Sam, pulling Sam in closer. Sam made a little startled noise but kept rubbing Bucky's dick through his panties. He slipped his other hand between Bucky's thighs, where Steve had made room for him. His fingers brushed over Bucky's balls, drawn tight enough that even that glancing touch sent sparks rushing through him. Sam's fingers probed further back.

Bucky sobbed, tipping his head back to gasp for breath. Steve's hands and Sam's hands were on him, giving him so many different things to feel, and he basked in the warmth of two bodies pressed close around his. He finally had what he'd wanted, all that friction, all that touch, flooding into him from every angle.

It was too much. All the sensations raced through him like lightning, gathering at the base of his spine, the pit of his belly. It ignited right where Sam's fingers pressed in, right where Sam was stroking him. Bucky came in racking pulses, shivering between them, cursing frantically under his breath because there was no point trying to be quiet now.

When the rush of it subsided Bucky was still sandwiched between Steve and Sam. Sam had shifted his hands back to Bucky's hips, but Steve was still hanging on in the same way.

"I don't care," Bucky said, because he suspected they were waiting for him to tap out, or just bolt. He pressed his ass back against Steve's dick, which was still promisingly hard. His own dick was going soft in the sticky-wet heat of his panties, but even the mess felt like part of the warm pleasant feeling after coming. "It's still your turn to fuck me, you're not getting out of it that easy."

He felt Steve tense a little behind him, his hands tightening, and Bucky shifted, grinding back against him deliberately. He felt a little more settled in his skin now, more able to focus on something other than all that overwhelming sensation; it felt good now, instead of too much.

"My turn, huh," Steve said, sounding guarded, which Bucky knew meant he was hoping for something underneath. Steve's thumb shifted along the top of Bucky's thigh, just short of the edge of his panties, and Bucky didn't let the shivery feel of it distract him.

He ran it back in his head, but what he had said felt right. Steve was reacting like he had it right, so what the hell.

"Your turn," Bucky repeated, shifting so that he could turn his head and actually see Steve's face. Steve was definitely trying not to look hopeful, but the smile was leaking through in his eyes.

"You fucked me in London," Bucky said, and he got that startled little flicker of expression that meant he was remembering accurately. "And I fucked you in that fucking drafty Austrian barn we were bivouacked in. And then you made me wait a long fucking time, but it's still your turn."

"Yeah, okay, you got me," Steve said, and his hand slid up Bucky's chest to his throat, his thumb on Bucky's jaw as he leaned in for another kiss, sweetly longing until Bucky slid his hand down to cup Steve's hard-on and Steve jerked into the touch.

"I got you," Bucky agreed, grinning.

Sam edged away from them, dropping his hands from Bucky's hips and leaving Bucky feeling cold. Bucky caught him with the arm he still had slung around Sam's neck. His left arm, as it happened, but he knew he hadn't pulled too hard and Sam hadn't seemed to mind the cool metal touch. "Where do you think you're going?"

Sam smiled at him brightly enough for it to be obvious that Sam wasn't feeling slighted or left out or anything else that might make him pull away. Bucky eased up on his grip a little and Sam leaned in to kiss him, a quick, light brush of lips.

"Well, I'm a little overdressed for this party," Sam said, in a slow, patient tone with playfulness buried underneath. "And this seems like a good time to take things to bed. I mean maybe the two of you are into this up-against-the-wall thing, but in my experience if Steve's gonna fuck you, you wanna be on a nice soft surface you can pass out on after."

"Oh," Bucky said, glancing sideways at Steve and grinding against him a little more. Steve's cheeks were going pink in a way that meant pleased embarrassment, not just sex. Sharing him with Sam was going to be fun. "Yeah, that sounds about right."

Steve made an impatient noise--he knew when he was outnumbered, even if it never, ever made him back down--and he pushed forward into Bucky, grabbing Sam's shoulder with one hand. He tugged Sam into a kiss right over Bucky's shoulder, just long enough to shut everybody up. Bucky watched, almost close enough to press his mouth to theirs, and felt the wanting start right back up again. He wasn't done yet, not by a long shot.

"Come on, what are we waiting for?" Steve demanded as he broke the kiss and pushed Bucky and Sam both ahead of him. "Apparently I'm late, let's go."

Sam stripped off his shirt as he headed for the bedroom, and Bucky helpfully shoved Sam's pants and shorts down together when he unfastened them. Sam barely stumbled, and grabbed both of Bucky's arms without hesitation to steady himself as he kicked his pants the rest of the way off. Bucky held still and let him, glancing back over his shoulder to see that Steve had stripped out of the remainder of his clothes too.

He looked so exactly like Bucky remembered, every shining perfect inch of him, that Bucky felt off-balance. Maybe this was only a dream or another vivid flash of memory, and not his real life at all. Then Sam's grip on his arms shifted and Sam whistled low, almost in Bucky's ear, appreciating the same view.

Steve rolled his eyes. The pink of his cheeks was deepening toward red, but he put on an authoritative voice as he said, "This isn't a free show, you two. Move it."

Bucky twisted and pushed Sam ahead of him toward the bed. They both moved like this was a long-practiced maneuver, Sam scooting back to sit against the pillows while Bucky crawled after him, settling with his knees to either side of Sam's outstretched legs, his ass tilted up for Steve, who was leaning one knee against the foot of the bed. Steve was staring at his ass, so Bucky shook it helpfully, aware all over again that he was wearing his prettiest panties and the stockings with lacing up the back, all thoroughly displayed to Steve now.

Sam must have seen where Steve was looking, because he settled both hands on Bucky's hips, his thumbs pushing just under the top of Bucky's panties. Steve moved then, getting up onto the bed behind Bucky. He put both hands on the outsides of Bucky's thighs, his palms warm against the bare smooth skin above Bucky's stocking tops. His thumbs traced the arc of lace along the sides of Bucky's ass. Bucky closed his eyes and arched into their hands, letting them touch.

"I meant it when I said you looked good in this, Buck," Steve said. That was the most directly he'd said anything at all about what Bucky was wearing, and despite how obvious it already was that Steve wanted him, it made Bucky feel strange and warm and good in the space left over from sex to know that he didn't need to keep this secret anymore, that Steve and Sam liked even this.

Steve went on, "But I think you're gonna have to take them off now."

Bucky had figured that was part of the deal until the second Steve said it. He found himself shaking his head, squirming a little to feel the wrecked wet feel of the panties against his dick and balls. "Just push 'em down, I like how they feel."

Steve's hands and Sam's all tightened on him at once, Steve's a hair faster. Sam recovered first. He slid one hand down to work his thumb in through a leg hole at the front of his panties, where he'd gotten them soaked with spunk. Sam's thumb moved against his wet skin, not quite touching his dick, and Bucky felt it stirring, wanting more. Wetness trickled down his skin, and he took a deep breath and let his head hang down, looking at that shiny line of spunk dripping down his thigh from under the panties. His eyes couldn't settle, moving from that to Sam's hand looking big and dark against Bucky's pretty panties and pale thigh.

Sam's other hand moved down further, touching the very top of the scar on Bucky's thigh, and meanwhile Steve's hands moved up and Steve bent closer, kissing the cleft of Bucky's ass where it peeked out right above the ribbon bow of his panties. Bucky bit his lip and didn't quite moan, pushing his ass toward Steve. Sam's cheek pressed against the top of Bucky's head, and Bucky picked his head up to kiss Sam while Steve gently worked the backside of his panties down below the curve of his ass, making the stretched fabric dig in all around his thighs. Sam tugged up a little on the front, keeping Bucky's dick covered even while Sam's other hand was teasing at the scar down Bucky's thigh and Bucky was sucking on Sam's tongue.

He felt Steve move behind him, away and then back almost before Bucky could be annoyed. Steve kissed his bare ass, light teasing brushes of lips while his hands got comfortable on Bucky's cheeks right above the stretched line of his pushed-down panties. Steve took one hand away, his left hand urging Bucky to spread his legs as far as the panties would let him. Bucky shifted his mouth from Sam's to rub his tingling lips against the scratch of Sam's beard, and Sam got a hand on the nape of Bucky's neck, tangling in his hair.

"God, Bucky, you've already blown Steve's mind and he's not even in you yet," Sam murmured, and Bucky had to look.

Steve was already looking up, but Bucky caught the last of his dazed expression before it disappeared into the determination to rise to the challenge. Bucky grinned. He knew that look. He was about to get fucked right.

Steve pressed slick fingertips against Bucky's hole--two at once, but Bucky knew that wasn't as promising as he'd like to think. Steve was just teasing, circling and testing without pushing in. Bucky tried to keep still, but Steve knew exactly how to touch him. The perfectly silky-slick feel of whatever Steve had on his fingers was new, but Steve's touch on his ass was the same.

Bucky had been waiting a long time for this, and his body knew it; he couldn't think of anything else, couldn't do anything but feel it. After all this time, after everything, he'd arrived in the exact moment when Steve was teasing his hole, getting ready to fuck him. Bucky felt his nipples draw tight from the little shuddering darts of pleasure, felt goosebumps rise on the shaved-smooth skin of his legs. He tried to spread himself wider and came up against the panties, digging into his thighs.

Sam's hand tightened on the back of his neck, pulling him into another kiss, but Sam was apparently in a teasing mood too. He just flicked his tongue over Bucky's lips, open-mouthed but barely making contact.

"Jesus Christ," Bucky grated out. "One of you had better--"

Sam gave him a rough kiss then, scraping his teeth over Bucky's lower lip. Bucky pushed into it hungrily, desperate for enough of anything to anchor himself. Steve's slick fingers pushed just a little bit harder, enough to draw Bucky's attention back, and then Steve switched to rubbing with the pad of his thumb. It was drier than his fingers, but there was plenty of slick already on Bucky's ass. Bucky growled in frustration.

"Didn't I say I've waited long enough?"

"You've waited exactly as long as I've waited," Steve replied, and Bucky took a little comfort in the fact that he sounded out of breath already when no one had even touched him. That was just from having his hands on Bucky, just from being here with him and Sam. "I'm not going to rush through this, Buck."

Bucky groaned and dropped his cheek to Sam's shoulder, sucking a hard kiss on Sam's neck to distract himself. Sam's arms came around his shoulders, holding on firmly.

Bucky said as steadily as he could manage, "You know he says that but he was always like this. Is he always like this with you?"

"Always," Sam confirmed, his voice betraying a little of the desperate impatience Bucky felt. "Thinks everybody but him is breakable as hell."

Bucky picked up his right hand--his left was plenty to bear his weight--and settled it on Sam's thigh, sliding in toward Sam's crotch.

"Which is fucking hilarious," Bucky said, looking down to watch his own hand close around Sam's dick, beautiful and dark and hard, thick enough to keep his hand busy. "Because he never let me go easy on him when he actually--"

Steve pushed a finger into him, finally. It wasn't enough but it was a start and a promise of more, the familiar-unfamiliar push of someone else's body into his--Steve's body. Steve circled his finger, pushing and tugging gently at the sensitive rim. Bucky pushed back against him, wanting the fullness, the stretch and pressure and connection, that this tease just hinted at.

"I mean you just looked at him wrong," Bucky said. He remembered to stroke his hand up and down Sam's dick, making Sam suck in a startled breath. "He'd bruise like an overripe--"

Steve pulled his finger all the way out and Bucky's goading words faded into a whine. Steve said sweetly, "Sorry, did I hurt you?"

Bucky's shoulders shook with frustrated laughter, and Sam snorted and tightened his arms around Bucky.

"Steve, please," Bucky said, breathless. That at least got him two fingers pushing back in, enough to stretch him a little, enough to really feel there was something in him. Steve toyed with him a little longer, stretching him, keeping his touches achingly shallow and soft. Bucky tried to go with it, passing all that sweetness along to Sam in kisses and the slowest handjob in the world, but Sam just gave it right back, his mouth as soft as Bucky's and his hands petting gently along Bucky's shoulders and toying with his hair.

Then Steve pressed his fingers in further, like it had never occurred to him to try that before, and the sudden sharp pleasure of Steve hitting that spot made Bucky tense everywhere. He took his hand off of Sam's dick, making a tiny apologetic noise. Sam just smoothed both hands down Bucky's back and kissed him deep and wet and dirty while Bucky tried to fuck himself back onto Steve's fingers.

"Stevie, Steve, please," Bucky said, his voice blurred with need. "Please, don't make me wait, don't--"

Steve's fingers pulled out of him altogether, and both of Bucky's hands tightened on Sam. He pressed his forehead down on Sam's shoulder, suddenly unable to find the words to beg.

"Shh, baby, he's got you," Sam said, and his hand trailed all the way down Bucky's back to the cleft of his ass, dry fingers touching him where he was so wet and needy and open. "Just give him a sec, he's got you, he's--"

"Right here, Buck," Steve said, and the pattern of movements and noises behind Bucky fell into place. Steve had been putting a rubber on, slicking himself up. He'd been getting ready to give Bucky what he wanted. Bucky lost all track of whose hands were where after that; he was being held and steadied everywhere at once as Steve pushed into him.

His body knew this. Bucky didn't have to think, didn't have to make choices, didn't even have to want anything. He had everything he could want now, Steve's dick sinking into his ass, opening him up and filling him all at once, so he wasn't empty, wasn't alone, couldn't be cold if he tried. Sam was kissing the side of his face and along the line of his jaw, and Bucky was vaguely aware of his own rough breathing. He was clinging to Sam like a lifeline.

Steve said, "Buck? You with me?"

Bucky nodded frantically against Sam's shoulder and then Steve folded down over him, heavy and hot against Bucky's back, and Bucky heard him kissing Sam over Bucky's head while his dick was buried in Bucky's ass.

He clenched around Steve, making him gasp, and then Steve said, "Yeah, yeah, you got me, Buck."

Steve kissed the back of Bucky's neck and along his shoulder and started to move. He went slow at first--he wanted to make even this a tease, dragging his dick out inch by inch and working it in again, making Bucky feel the whole length of it every time. Steve's whole body shifted away from Bucky's and then back each time, until Bucky reached back with his left hand and caught Steve's thigh in a merciless grip, holding him close.

"Steve, fuck me already," Bucky gritted out.

"Well, if you think you're ready." Bucky pushed back against Steve, taking him deeper by some tiny fraction, feeling the press of Steve's hips and thighs around his.

"Let me move if you want me to move, Buck," Steve said, closing his hand tight around Bucky's metal wrist, and Bucky's fingers opened instantly. Steve didn't let go, holding on to Bucky's wrist as he finally started fucking him hard and fast, pounding into him while Bucky braced against the wall with his right arm, pushing back to meet every thrust. Bucky let his head hang, his cheek brushing against Sam's every time Steve slammed into him.

He was aware that it was his own body, his own effort, that made the hard fuck behind him into the gentle touch of his face against Sam's; his own strength sheltered Sam from Steve's force, let him have both at once, just the way he wanted.

"Is this what you wanted?" Steve asked, just behind his ear, and Bucky's eyes opened wide as he pushed back into it, meeting Sam's gaze. Sam had his head tilted back against the wall and his eyes were steady on Bucky's.

"When you were listening?" Steve asked, fucking into him hard, a wave of dizzying pleasure with an edge of pain. Sam's gaze didn't waver. Sam was starting to smile.

"When you were watching?" Steve asked, fucking into him on every other word, and Sam's hands were on Bucky's hips again, riding along with the force of his and Steve's fucking.

"Is this where you wanted to be?" Steve kissed the back of his shoulder and Bucky turned his head, closing his eyes as he kissed Sam to muffle the whimper that he couldn't hold back.

"Right between us?" Steve asked, snapping his hips in hard and forcing Bucky's breath out in a sob against Sam's lips. He was vaguely aware of the popping sound of stitching giving way under pressure and the sudden disappearance of the constricting bond around his thighs.

"What else do you want?" Sam asked softly, rubbing his palms against Bucky's hips.

"Please," Bucky said, unable to think past that with Steve still fucking him steadily, with Sam's hands so close to where he wanted them. Sam's fingers were on the bare skin of Bucky's hips, and when Sam's hands moved, the silk of the panties slid loosely over Bucky's skin, a dizzying new sensation that didn't distract him from how hard his dick was. Being fucked felt so good he could barely hold his head up, shaking him to his core, but it wouldn't finish him. "Sam, please, fucking please--"

"I got you," Sam said, and he curled a hand around Bucky's dick, wrapping it in the silk of his panties. Bucky's whole body went rigid at the perfect pressure, the slippery slide against his dick when Sam moved his hand, and he heard Steve give a punched-out grunt behind him.

Bucky knew that sound and reacted automatically. He pushed himself back onto Steve's dick, relaxing a little and then clenching around him.

Steve pushed back, thrusting into him harder, and Bucky said, "Did you want me here? When you were letting me listen?"

"Always," Steve said, his voice shaking with more than just how close he was getting. Bucky's brain felt shaken loose with the relentless pleasure of Steve's dick and Sam's hand. Steve's arms closed around him and Steve's voice was in his ear while Sam's mouth moved so softly against his.

"Always, Buck, I always want you wherever I am--" Steve was fucking him faster, quick short thrusts that didn't let Bucky catch his breath.

"Stevie," Bucky said. "Always--" and the words worked better than any little trick his body had remembered. Steve groaned and tightened his grip on Bucky, fucking him in a flurry of thrusts until he came.

Steve pressed his face to Bucky's shoulder and Bucky held perfectly still, waiting him out. Sam's hand was still curled around Bucky's dick, but softly now, holding still. Sam was waiting too.

Bucky looked down at Sam's dick, hard and leaking and untouched, and even with Steve still inside him--and still mostly hard, because Steve's big new body never knew when to quit--he found himself wanting again, wanting more.

Bucky raised his gaze to Sam's and Sam was watching him, steady and patient, not pushing. Sam never pushed. He offered, sometimes.

Please, Bucky mouthed, and Sam smiled.

Steve shifted his weight, not pulling away yet but gathering himself to do it. Bucky rocked a little under him and said, "Hey, Steve, don't go to sleep. It's Sam's turn."

Steve raised his head, and Bucky watched Sam look over his shoulder at Steve. Bucky leaned in to press a kiss beside Sam's mouth. Sam turned his head to make it a real kiss, and Bucky licked into his mouth, trying to remember how to ask with a kiss, how to invite without words.

Steve laughed a little behind him--warm, happy, pleased--and Bucky smiled reflexively, turning his head a little to see what he was laughing at.

"No, don't stop," Steve said. "You're right, it's Sam's turn."

Sam's hand came up to Bucky's face, tugging him back into the kiss. Bucky whined into his mouth as Steve pulled gently and carefully out of him, leaving him empty and still needing more.

"Sam," Steve said, and Bucky whimpered again as Sam let go of his dick--but then there were fingers pressing into him, pushing in easily now that he was wet and open, touching him gently where the flesh was hot with friction and stretching. He was a little sore, and the pleasure of Sam's fingers dipping into him was threaded with pain. Even that felt good now, every touch going straight to his dick. Bucky pressed back against Sam's fingers--not quite enough, but better than being empty. Bucky pulled away from Sam's kiss when Steve's body pressed against him from a new angle. Steve was kneeling behind him, leaning around to roll a condom onto Sam's dick.

"That is what you meant, right, Buck? You aren't done getting fucked yet?"

"Yeah," Bucky said, looking from Steve to Sam as Sam's fingers curled inside him, jolting pleasure through him. He thought he should probably say it out loud this time, just so they were all clear. "Please?"

"My pleasure, baby," Sam said, tugging him into another kiss, and Bucky lost track of what Steve was doing for a while after that. It was enough to know he was close, to know Sam and Steve were going to take care of him between them. Sam moved, the angle of the kiss changed and his fingers inside Bucky jostled interestingly, but Bucky kept his eyes closed and kissed Sam and didn't care.

Then Steve said, "Okay, Buck, he's all yours."

Sam pulled back enough to break the kiss, and Bucky realized that Sam had moved to get his legs folded under him. Bucky was looking up slightly at him now. Sam's fingers were still in him, and Sam held Bucky's gaze while he stroked Bucky inside, crooking his fingers against Bucky's prostate. Bucky's eyelids shivered, his eyes wanting to close at that jolt of pleasure. He kept his eyes on Sam's, waiting for Sam to finally push.

Sam's fingers moved again inside him, and Bucky's hips moved instinctively, hunching forward. Sam smiled and kept up the exact same pressure and Bucky finally realized that Sam wasn't going to take his fingers out of Bucky until he could put his cock in.

Bucky groaned and laughed at the same time, darting in for a fast kiss against Sam's mouth.

Sam said, "Come on over here, baby," and Bucky moved, knee-walking in until he was straddling Sam's lap, and Sam's fingers were inside him all the way, Sam's other hand on his hip, holding up his torn and filthy panties to cover his aching-hard dick.

"Come here," Sam repeated, and when his fingers slipped out of Bucky's ass, Bucky didn't need Sam's hands on his hips guiding him to sink down onto Sam's cock, inch by perfect inch. Bucky rocked his way down, feeling Sam filling him up again, hot and solid inside him, Sam's steady hands on him. Bucky had his hands on the wall--right where Steve's hands had been when Bucky had listened, when Steve had known he was listening. Bucky turned his head to find Steve sitting on his heels behind him, hand on his dick, sex-flushed from the tops of his ears to his belly.

Bucky grinned, and Steve grinned back and shuffled forward slightly so he could put his other hand on Bucky's hip, his fingers overlapping Sam's. Bucky turned back to Sam, who was looking up at him again, looking at Bucky like he was something worth wanting. Sam pushed up under him, and Bucky could feel it as much in the power of Sam's thighs bunching to lift their combined weight as in Sam's dick pressing up harder into his ass. Bucky's head went back as his eyes closed, pleasure sliding through him all hot and sure.

"Almost got it, baby," Sam said. "Get your hands off that wall, though, what's that wall ever done for you?"

Bucky dropped his hands to Sam's shoulders, which earned him another thrust up, and Sam said, "Warmer, but not quite."

Steve's fingers slipped up from Bucky's hip to his side, tugging a little, and Bucky huffed and ground down against Sam's dick as he arched back. He wrapped his stockinged legs around Sam as he leaned back toward Steve. His wrists landed on Steve's shoulders, and Steve leaned in, letting Bucky loop his arms around Steve's neck. Sam pushed up into him for real, rising up off his haunches and fucking into him, driving Bucky's shoulders back to meet Steve's chest.

"Look at you," Steve said softly in his hear, and Bucky opened his eyes and looked: he was spread out between them, offered up like a feast, his thighs, pale above the black of his stockings, against the deep brown of Sam's skin, spread wide around Sam's hips as Sam fucked up into him. The pink puddle of Bucky's wet and torn panties barely covered his dick as it strained upward. Sam moved again as Bucky watched, his muscles rippling with the force of his thrust. Bucky arched, absorbing the impact and the crackling pleasure of it together.

Steve's hand came down to cover Bucky's dick, still keeping the damp silk of the panties between them, though it felt like nothing at all; Steve's hand was hot and tight around him. Bucky whimpered as Sam thrust into him again, setting up a slow steady rhythm while Steve worked him in counterpoint. Sam settled a hand on Bucky's chest, thumbing Bucky's nipple as he sped up a little, fucking harder. Bucky couldn't do anything but moan and cling to Steve and take it, writhing between them as the pleasure built in him, too much for him to contain.

Sam adjusted his angle again, leaning further over him, and Bucky braced one foot against the wall and tilted his head back, baring his throat. Steve kissed him there, teeth scraping over his pulse while Steve's hand worked his dick just the right way, and Bucky's mind went white with overload as he came.

Sam's lips against his felt like settling back into his body from somewhere else. Bucky was aware again of Sam fucking him--leaning fully over him, now, his hands on Bucky's hips to help hold him up. Steve was still at his back, shifting closer as Bucky melted against him, until Bucky was resting mostly on Steve's chest, and he could feel Steve's dick pressing against his back, not far from where Sam was still fucking him.

Bucky returned Sam's kiss with sloppy licks at his mouth, and didn't bother to move otherwise, leaving his leg hooked around Sam and his arms around Steve as they rocked him between them. They could use him however they wanted, now; he was wrapped in a warmly sleepy sense of sated pleasure that seemed to muffle everything they did into one hazy caress.

It occurred to him, when Sam stopped kissing him for a little while and Steve took over, that a weapon couldn't do this. A weapon couldn't lay itself down. Only a person could surrender. Bucky smiled against Steve's mouth while Sam's thrusts sped up and Sam cursed under his breath, steadily and almost reverently, until he came buried deep in Bucky's ass.

Sam curled forward, resting his forehead against Bucky's chest, and Bucky took his right hand from around Steve's neck to pet the roughness of Sam's hair. Sam's hips twitched, shoving his softening dick into Bucky again, and Bucky smiled and tilted his head to look at Steve, who was holding very still at Bucky's back.

"You gonna fuck me again, Stevie?" Bucky asked. "Sam and I might fall asleep if you take too long about it, but that's all right."

Steve made a weird noise and his hips jerked, rubbing his dick against Bucky. Bucky wiggled a little.

"I bet you could get in there without Sam even pulling out," Bucky said idly, wriggling a little. He would hardly even have to move, Steve could just shift down a little more. "I'm nice and slick and relaxed, you could just--"

Steve made a wounded, startled noise and came, splashing spunk all over Bucky's ass, and Bucky laughed and shivered a little with Sam still inside him. Sam moaned weakly and picked his head up.

"As the only regular human being in this bed," Sam said, looking at Bucky and Steve with a fond smile that didn't waver as his gaze shifted from one of them to the other. "I'm gonna require a nap first."

"It's been a long day," Steve said. "I think we can call it a night. Buck, we wrecked these, sorry."

Steve hooked a finger into the intact side of Bucky's panties and ripped them open so he could gather the sodden scrap of pink and black into his hand. Bucky shivered again at the feel of them dragging over his skin, the sight of them crumpled in Steve's hand.

"I can get more," Bucky said, looking down at himself entirely exposed, his damp and softening dick lying against his hairless thigh. "I know a guy."

Steve huffed something like a laugh, and Bucky added, "You can come with me, he can help you find something in your size if you want."

Steve actually laughed then, startled and delighted and not mocking at all, and Bucky suddenly did want him to come to the shop so Bucky could show him off to Jason. So Steve could pick out the next thing he'd like to see Bucky wearing, maybe.

Sam's fond smile had widened into a grin, and he said, "What about me? I need a different color palette than you two."

"He's good at colors," Bucky promised, wincing only a little as Sam shifted and his dick finally slipped free of Bucky's ass. "He picked the pink, I wasn't sure it would work."

"It worked," Sam assured him. "But like I said--" Sam kissed him again, his hand going back to run down Bucky's thigh, still pressed to Sam's side, "--even nicer to touch."

"I'm pretty nice to touch under the stockings, too," Bucky suggested, and Sam took the not-really-a-hint and peeled them down for Bucky. Steve reached out immediately, scratching lightly at the pink indentation the elastic left around Bucky's thigh while Sam ran an appreciative hand down the whole length of Bucky's other leg, hip to ankle.

A moment later Sam yawned, and Bucky was yawning even before he finished, and he felt Steve follow suit behind him.

"Calling it a night, right," Sam said, and he fished off the side of the bed, coming up with something soft that turned out to be an old t-shirt, faded and washed soft, torn at the collar. He used it to wipe off Bucky's sticky thighs, looking at Bucky for permission before he did anything else. Bucky nodded, and Sam cleaned him up further--Bucky rolled mostly off of Steve and Sam got his backside, too, and tossed the t-shirt after Bucky's stockings.

There was never a moment when Bucky was without someone's hands on him, no instant when he could wonder if he was supposed to return to his own bed now. Sam stretched out with his head on a pillow, and Steve guided Bucky around to lie with him. Bucky draped himself half on top of Sam, his metal arm stretched over him, the flesh one curled under a pillow.

Steve kissed each of them and murmured, "Gonna check the doors," before he got up. Bucky listened to every step Steve took around the apartment, checking the perimeter and turning off lights, before he returned to the bedroom, shutting that light off last. He climbed into the bed on Bucky's side, curling up against Bucky's back.

Bucky let his eyes close, drifting easily toward sleep. He felt drowsy and weighted down, safe and relaxed and warm between Sam and Steve. His secret was out--all his secrets, with his knives still arrayed on the coffee table--and even so he was here, cuddled in the middle of this warmly crowded bed.

His stomach growled shockingly loudly. Steve gave a startled laugh, and Sam said, "Steve, was that you or a rabid dog?"

"Me," Bucky said, "so half--"

"Uh-uh," Sam said, covering Bucky's mouth with his hand, only a little off target.

"It could've been me," Steve said, cuddling closer to Bucky as he said it. "I'm hungry, I just don't want to move anymore."

They all lay there a while, but Bucky knew he wasn't going to fall asleep now, and his mouth was watering a little at the thought of the cookies in the kitchen.

"Those cookies smelled really good," Sam observed. Bucky grinned in the dark, knowing they were all thinking the same thing.

"How many did you actually leave us, Buck?" Steve asked, sliding both arms firmly around Bucky.

"All of 'em," Bucky admitted. "So I don't know if they're any good."

"Cookies don't smell like that and taste bad," Sam assured him firmly. "Steve, you should go get the cookies so Bucky can have some."

"I should?" Steve said.

"Worn out regular human over here," Sam said. "Bucky made the damn cookies and got fucked by everybody in this bed, so he shouldn't have to get up either."

"And I'm lying on top of Sam," Bucky said helpfully. "So he can't move."

Steve gave a play-aggravated huff against the nape of Bucky's neck and then kissed him there, like Bucky might believe it.

"I'll be right back," Steve said, and Bucky watched him go in the little light that filtered in through the covered window, his ass perfect and pale above his long legs. Bucky snuggled into Sam while he listened to the sounds from the kitchen--Steve was hunting for a container to put the cookies in and then carefully transferring them from the cooling racks.

Bucky hadn't really been thinking about it--not anywhere he let himself know about, anyway--but being momentarily alone with Sam and actually awake made it the obvious moment to ask. "Was it about me, tonight?"

Sam exhaled and kissed the top of his head. "It was Hydra. This group was--bad. We had somebody on the inside, so we knew they wanted to get their hands on you. Probably couldn't have handled you if they did, but Steve didn't want you coming in on it without knowing what you'd be up against."

And he couldn't be officially briefed on it when he wasn't cleared to fight; Bucky nodded slowly against Sam's shoulder, thinking about it.

That was the threat that would always hang over him in one way or another. There would always be one last splinter of Hydra left. There would always be someone who wanted to get hold of Bucky and use him the way he'd been used before. The possibility of the machine, the weapon, was always going to be in him, from his left arm to his heightened senses to every thought in his head, some days.

He couldn't cut that out of himself and wouldn't want to; tonight had gone smoothly, but sooner or later Sam and Steve were going to need him to back them up. The weapon they'd made of him belonged to him, as much as his smooth legs and nonstandard wardrobe. If someone tried to take some piece of himself from him, Sam and Steve would no doubt come after him again, just like they had the last time. They would keep him safe until he was himself again.

Steve came through the bedroom door, balancing a stack of glasses and a Tupperware full of cookies in his hands, a jug of milk dangling from one finger. Sam turned a lamp on as Steve came over, and Bucky sat up to take things from his hands.

There were four glasses, Bucky realized; the top one was full of water.

"Wasn't sure what you'd want," Steve said, gesturing with the jug of milk, as Sam sat up beside Bucky and settled the cookies in the center of the bed, yawning and leaning into Bucky's side.

Bucky lifted the water glass free of the others and handed it back to Steve. He was safe here; he could stand a little risk.

Bucky picked up a cookie, took a sweet-spicy bite, and said, "I'll have a glass of milk."