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That Girl's A Genius

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Weirdly, of all the things Bucky has had to get used to since he moved into Avengers Tower, having people around all of the time has honestly been the easiest.

It makes sense, he supposes. He grew up with three little sisters, all of whom followed him around the house like ducklings. And then, when he lived in that tiny place with Steve, they were practically on top of each other at all times, just based on the fact their entire home was the size of Bucky’s current closet. And the war, and the Howling Commandos, and no one ever found any privacy there.

Then Hydra. And…all of that.

So yeah, the fact that Bucky’s never really been bothered by the constant flow of other people in the Tower shouldn’t surprise him. But he’d spent so much time alone before Steve came out and found him, begged him to, ‘Come home, Buck. Please.’ And Bucky has never really been able to say no when Steve Rogers has asked something of him. So he came home.

And it’s not quite home, no. It’s not that tiny apartment, or the house his parents owned. It’s not even Brooklyn. But it’s New York, and it’s with Steve. And that’s home.

Okay, it’s not quite with Steve, either. Bucky still hasn’t been allowed that, not yet. He thinks, sometimes, that maybe he could, someday. When Steve turns to him in a crowded room, and smiles so softly, so gently, that it makes Bucky’s insides ache. Or when they’re on a mission, and something goes wrong, and Steve’s very first instinct, before anything else, is to do anything in his power to make sure Bucky is safe. Not the team, not civilians, but Bucky.

And there’s also the fact that Steve tracked Bucky down, all the way to Romania, and brought him back to New York. Wouldn’t leave until Bucky came with him. Promised him (or was it a threat? Bucky’s not sure) that he would happily go anywhere with Bucky, or stay with him right there, but he wasn’t leaving without him. And then, when they got back to New York, Steve gave Bucky half of his floor in the Tower, just like that. Made Stark adjust the floor plans so that Bucky could have a place of his own, nestled right up against Steve’s.

It all sort of points toward something, doesn’t it? Something Bucky has wanted more than anything else for his entire life. Something Steve…might want, too.

But then there’s the other thing. The thing where every time it seems like they’re starting to get close to whatever that something might be, Steve just shuts down.

It happened again the other night. Bucky was over at Steve’s, lounging across his couch the way he does most nights, and Steve sat down with him, awfully close, pulling Bucky's legs into his lap as they talked, as they do, about everything and nothing. One of Steve’s big hands started rubbing over Bucky’s thigh, and when his fingers brushed the inside of his thigh, Bucky’s breath hitched.

And then Steve leaned forward, just a little, his eyes on Bucky’s lips.

But then, without thinking, Bucky’s fingers lit on Steve’s jaw, and something about the touch broke the spell entirely. Steve stood suddenly, knocking Bucky’s legs out of his lap, made some kind of excuse about being tired, and disappeared quickly. And Bucky’s heart broke again.

He knows why Steve does this. Bucky knows that there must be at least a part of Steve that wants him, too. But Steve has one very important responsibility — a responsibility to the entire world. He’s admitted before, during their long talks together, when it’s late enough that honesty comes too easily, that it scares him, sometimes, how strongly he needs to keep Bucky safe. How he has to fight himself just to stay on mission when Bucky is nearby.

He’s never said it out loud, but Bucky can read between the lines. He’s known Steve for his entire life, and he’s loved him just as long. There’s nothing about Steve’s thought process that Bucky doesn’t understand. Steve may have some desire to move things forward with Bucky, but not enough to risk his duty to the world.

And it’s not like Bucky can fault him for that. So he’s stuck doing what he always does after they get close to something and then Steve shuts down — hiding in his half of their shared floor and actively avoiding seeing Steve at all for a few days.

Which is why Bucky groans internally when there’s a solid, Steve-like knock on his door.

He’s really not in the mood for this right now. But Bucky has never been able to say no to Steve, not really, so he heaves himself up off of his couch, and out of his pity party, and goes to answer the door.

He’s looking up at Steve height when he opens the door, which means Bucky is, horrifically, jump-scared by a tiny woman.

Although, to be fair, she’s genuinely the most terrifying person Bucky knows. Also, the only other person besides Steve who knocks on doors like a fucking cop.

Natasha looks up at Bucky with an evil look on her face, and before Bucky has a chance to say hello or ask her what she’s doing here, she smiles like a shark and says, “I have a plan.”

Bucky lets her in.

“A plan for what?” he asks, gesturing toward his sofa to invite Natasha to sit.

But Natasha bypasses Bucky’s sofa altogether, walking right past it and going straight to Bucky’s breakfast bar instead. Her hands are occupied with holding a plain, white shirt box, but still, she hops right up with all of her ballet grace to sit on the counter, next to the bowl of M&Ms Bucky keeps well stocked. Yes, the Winter Soldier’s greatest secrets include that he’s madly in love with his best friend, and he’s got the worst sweet tooth in the world.

“To get Steve to pull his head out of his ass,” Natasha answers him when she’s settled, “and finally act on how he feels about you.” With that, she swings her legs like a child, and pops an M&M into her mouth, grinning.

Bucky stares at her, blinking. “How he what?” he squeaks. Very dignified.

Natasha rolls her eyes so hard Bucky thinks they may fully flip into the back of her head. “Come on,” she groans impatiently, “you think you’re the only one who pines? He gave you half his floor.”

That’s not— Bucky didn’t realize anyone knew that— “I—you know about—?” he stammers, but Natasha cuts him off.

“You want Steve to admit that he loves you or not?” she asks him point blank, then pops another M&M into her mouth.

“He—” Bucky stammers helpfully, “he doesn’t—love me—”

Natasha fixes him with a look that makes it extremely clear exactly what she thinks about his intelligence level. “Of course he does, you idiot,” she tells him flatly. “Do you want to hear it from him?

Bucky’s mouth snaps shut. He can’t bring himself to answer. But the way Natasha grins and expertly tosses another M&M into her own mouth tells him that his silence clearly reads as yes.

“Good,” she says, her voice low and her grin wicked. “Here’s what we’re gonna do. Tony’s having a party this weekend, and as always, there’s gonna be massive amounts of booze. I’ve already made sure Thor knows to bring that Asgardian stuff, and you’re gonna peer pressure Steve into getting drunk.”

Bucky waves a hand dismissively. “That’s not necessary, he’s the one who usually peer pressures me. Also, he’s not gonna get drunk and make moves on me,” he adds ruefully, “that’s never happened, not ever.”

Bucky has noticed.

Natasha gives him another look. This one is…scary, actually.

“I know,” she says. “I’m honestly insulted that you think that’s my plan.”

Something about the way she says it, combined with the unimpressed look she’s giving him, makes Bucky laugh. Natasha’s mouth twitches in response, her eyes dancing just a little.

“Okay,” Bucky relents, “you’re right, sorry. What’s your plan?”

“I’m trying to tell you,” Natasha admonishes, “stop interrupting.”

Bucky raises his hands in surrender, grinning. And then, without another word, he crosses his arms over his chest, and leans back against the back of his sofa to listen.

Natasha smiles at him approvingly. “You make sure Steve gets drunk, and I’ll make sure Tony proposes a game of strip poker. You and I are going to play, and we’re going to lose.”

Bucky doesn’t interrupt, but he does raise an eyebrow skeptically.

Natasha rolls her eyes in response. “Just play really badly, I believe in you.”

Bucky snorts. He fixes Natasha with an assessing gaze, cocking his head to the side, and says, “I’m not gonna insult you by suggesting your grand plan is for me to get naked in front of drunk Steve and just wait for him to jump on me, as though I haven’t tried that before.”

Natasha’s eyes flash. “You better not. Thought I told you to stop interrupting?”

Bucky’s the one who rolls his eyes this time, but he obligingly goes quiet again. Natasha nods, approving again, and Bucky has to stifle the satisfied little purr in the center of his chest at the feeling that gives him.

“You are going to lose at strip poker,” Natasha tells him plainly, “and you are going to flirt with me, not Steve, and you are going to wear this.” With that, she hands him the shirt box, and smiles like a shark.

Cautiously, because that look makes him nervous, Bucky lifts the lid off the box. As soon as his eyes land on its contents, his face flushes and his eyebrows shoot up to his hairline.

“Okay, that—” Bucky coughs, “that could work.”

Natasha smirks. “Not done yet,” she purrs.

Bucky’s eyebrows, impossibly, raise even higher.

“Once you’re down to just that,” Natasha tells him slowly, “and I’m down to mine, you and I are going to very loudly and obviously leave. Together.”

Bucky looks back down into the box, a slow smile growing over his face. “We’re gonna make him think I’m giving this,” he nods toward the shirt box, “to you.”

Natasha’s returning smile is downright evil. She nods.

Bucky thinks it over. This could work. This could actually work. If Natasha is right — and she usually is — and Steve…loves him, impossible as that seems, then this is what might make Steve actually act on those feelings. Bucky has always been utterly devoted to that spitfire, just as much now as when he was tiny and weak and angry at the world. But Steve is, by nature, jealous. And when it comes to Bucky, he’s always been almost...possessive. Watching Bucky move on to someone else, as underhanded as it might be, is the one thing that might make him decide he wants to be with Bucky after all.

Does he want to be with Bucky?

Guess they’re about to find out.

“What’s in it for you?” Bucky asks, looking up at Natasha, where she’s helping herself to more of his chocolate.

She stares right back, and if Bucky weren’t trained to catch things like this, he might not be able to tell that she’s trying to decide how much to tell him.

“I have my reasons,” is what she ends up deciding on. “You don’t need to know them.”

Bucky smiles at her. Fair enough. He looks back in the box.

“Gotta hand it to you, Romanova,” he murmurs appreciatively. “You craft a good scheme.”

Grinning, Natasha hops down off the breakfast bar, and pats Bucky on the chest.

“I know,” she says simply. And then she turns, and walks out of Bucky’s apartment.

Bucky watches her go.

 

art of a bra and panties on the floor

 

The shirt box, and the secrets it keeps, sit in Bucky’s closet for the next four days, burning a mark inside his mind. Bucky avoids Steve for the first full day after Natasha tells him her plan, but he’s weak when it comes to Steve, and when Steve invites him over to watch a movie the next night, he goes. They sit on opposite ends of the couch, not touching, and Bucky can’t pay attention to the movie because his thoughts are occupied by nothing but that box in his closet.

So, four days crawl by slowly, and are gone in the blink of an eye. And all at once, the party is here.

Bucky carefully dresses in the things Natasha picked out for him. He hasn’t worn anything quite like this before, so parts of it take a few minutes to figure out, but he likes the feel of it all on his skin. Soft lace, satin, and sheer nylon. It’s quality stuff, well made, and fits him disturbingly accurately. How the hell did Natasha know his measurements this precisely?

As soon as the entire set is on his body, Bucky steps back and surveys himself in his full-length mirror.

He looks...hot.

That’s not something Bucky is used to thinking about himself anymore. Sure, he knows he’s built well. Muscular and trim, and his face is still the same one that used to make girls and fellas all swoon over him back when he knew how to use it. But he’s different now. Has the metal and the scarring to prove it. Bucky hasn’t thought of himself with words like ‘hot’ in something like seventy-odd years.

But right now—wow. The satiny brassiere is fitted to his chest, without any extra fabric where breasts would be necessary to fill it in further. The cups are lined with a delicate lace trim, elegant and refined. Not at all the brutalism Bucky has come to accept must define him these days. Lower are a pair of matching satin briefs, providing him coverage over the parts of himself he’d rather everyone didn’t see, but cut just a little high over his asscheeks, showing a nice little peekaboo of his full, round derrière. Over the briefs is the garter belt. Lace matching the bra stretches across his hips, atop triangles of sheer nylon, attached by ribbons to the matching nylon thigh-highs, with their matching, lacy bands, hugging his thick thighs. It’s all a striking black against his paler skin.

The set is stunning. And Bucky looks…stunning.

Holy shit.

Careful that nothing catches or snags as he pulls jeans on over the lingerie, Bucky wonders what Nat’s version of this looks like. She didn’t go into specifics, and hasn’t expanded on it at all in any of the short text conversations they’ve had since then (which have mostly consisted of Bucky panicking and asking a bunch of questions she’s answered effectively, and without flair). He slips on a soft v-neck tee that he knows Steve likes touching, and then an even softer cardigan, if only to have a few layers to strip tease before the lingerie is revealed.

After deliberating about it for a minute, Bucky also pulls on a pair of socks over the nylons. The stockings on his feet are going to be the first clue that he’s not just wearing boxers under his clothes. Might as well draw the suspense out a little bit.

It takes Bucky almost ten minutes to figure out what to do with his hair. Should he leave it down? Arguably, that will look hottest when he’s down to just the lingerie set. But it could pose something of a problem as he gets tipsy (which he will certainly need to, in order to get almost completely naked in front of a bunch of people he only kind of considers his friends). Bucky can’t imagine that, between the Asgardian booze and the adrenaline he’s already experiencing, he won’t get sweaty quickly. And while there’s something to be said for sweat-stuck hair looking sexy, it’ll also undoubtedly start to get frizzy with the added humidity. The curse of the wavy-haired.

All right, Bucky decides, up it is, and ties his hair into a simple knot at the back of his head.

And to look at him now, he’s just Bucky. Just dressed casually, ready to go follow Steve around a party he feels half-awkward attending, and go home early to read in bed in the quiet.

It’s like the lingerie under his clothes is a thrilling secret only he and Natasha know.

That’s a damn sexy thought.

Okay. Time to go.

Almost like they have some sort of homing instinct specifically towards each other, just as Bucky walks out of his side of their shared floor, Steve is coming out of his.

“Hey, Buck,” Steve greets him warmly, and Bucky’s cheeks do not heat up thinking about what he’s wearing underneath his clothes, and how Steve is going to see it all in just a few short hours. “You heading to the party, too?”

“Yep,” Bucky answers, willing the flush in his face to go down. Please don’t notice, Steve, please don’t notice. “Walk me up?”

Steve grins, and gestures for Bucky to lead the way to the elevator.

They’re both quiet while they wait for the elevator. Neither of them says anything else until the doors have slid shut, when Steve turns fully toward Bucky, and Bucky’s heart flips over in his chest.

“Are we okay?” Steve asks him quietly.

Bucky actually startles a little at that, blinking at Steve in surprise. He…did not expect that at all.

“Yeah, Steve,” he says earnestly. “We’re always okay.”

Steve frowns a little. “Are we?” he asks. “We don’t have to be.”

Bucky’s breath hitches as Steve takes a step into his space. “Why wouldn’t we be okay?” he manages to rasp out.

Steve’s frown deepens. “Last week,” he says, his voice dropping down nearly to a whisper. “When I—”

“Steve,” Bucky cuts in before he can stop himself, everything inside of him screaming that he cannot deal with this right now. “We’re good. I swear.”

He kind of expects Steve’s frown to smooth over. For him to look relieved. But he doesn’t. Instead, he cocks his head to one side, looking assessingly at Bucky. Like if maybe he tried hard enough, Steve could see right through him.

And he could. He probably could.

Steve’s lips part. “Bucky—” he whispers. Bucky can’t breathe.

But thank all the gods, Steve is interrupted once again, this time by the elevator opening up into the huge, open penthouse, and the hum of a party already begun.

And thank this god in particular, Thor is standing right there waiting for them.

“Steve!” the jolly Norse giant bellows as soon as the doors slide open. He reaches in and clasps a hand to Steve’s shoulder, pulling him bodily out of the elevator car and toward the bar.

Bucky walks out, too, and watches them go — because he’s weak and he can’t help it — until someone touches his arm.

Natasha is standing right next to Bucky when he turns his head to see her. She’s giving him that same assessing look that Steve just was, and Christ, Bucky would really like people to stop doing that.

“How’s the party?” he asks her, in a very pathetic attempt to deflect the attention away from him.

It doesn’t work.

“You okay?” Natasha asks him, ignoring his deflection.

Bucky huffs out a gust of air. “Yeah,” he says, “fine.”

Natasha narrows her eyes at him, but then, blessedly, turns away. She’s not gonna make him tell her about how even the thought of having a conversation with Steve about this thing that they’ve both known was between them for so long just made him feel like curling up into a ball and promptly dying.

Bucky might love her.

“Are you still on board?” she asks him in a low voice, glancing around casually, like they’re not even talking to each other. And that lead, Bucky can follow.

“Yup,” he replies, making it look like he’s just taking in the party, deciding who to talk to first.

Natasha nods, and Bucky sees it out of the corner of his eye. “You’re free to back out any time, you know,” she says. “I probably should have made that more clear earlier.”

“I don’t want to back out,” Bucky assures her, turning to flash her one of those charming, ladykiller grins he thinks he remembers from two lifetimes ago. “I’ve been looking forward to this, honest.”

Natasha smiles back at him, and this one isn’t sharklike at all. Wow, Bucky thinks out of nowhere, she’s beautiful.

“I’m glad,” Natasha tells him genuinely. “So have I.”

And then, with a miniature nod to each other, but not one more word, they break off and head into the party in opposite directions.

The first place Bucky goes is straight to the bar. His job tonight, until the strip poker starts up, is to make sure Steve drinks.

Luckily, when he arrives at his usual place at Steve’s side, Thor has already started seeing to that. Steve is currently throwing back what looks like his second shot of Asgardian liquor, based on the empty shot glass in front of him. Thor smiles conspiratorially at Bucky when he walks up, and hands him a glass of the same stuff, but on the rocks, and — if Bucky’s nose is correct — mixed with club soda.

That’s good. Bucky needs to stay relatively sober tonight. A buzz will help him feel less nervous, make flirting easier, and boost his confidence when it comes to stripping down in front of literally everyone later on, but if Bucky gets drunk, he knows what he’ll do. It’s the same thing he used to do every time he got drunk before the War. The same thing he still does when he gets drunk on this godkiller stuff to this day. He’ll follow Steve around, drape himself over Steve’s body, and try like fuck to get Steve to make out with him. He cannot do that tonight.

This is the plan.

“Don’t cave,” Natasha warned him earlier today as they were going over the final details of the evening. “He might try to get with you after he sees you in that, and sees you flirting with me. Don’t let him.”

“Why not?” Bucky couldn’t stop himself from asking. “I mean, that’s the point of this, isn’t it?”

But Natasha fixed him with this look, and said, “Because he’s been acting like an idiot. And, based on what you’ve told me, kind of an ass. You’ve been pining for him for nearly a century, James. He can pine for one night. He deserves it.”

Bucky had wanted to argue, but he couldn’t actually deny her reasoning. So he’d shut his mouth.

Besides, if Steve tries to get with Bucky tonight after seeing him in lingerie, flirting with someone else, Bucky’s not sure it’ll feel…genuine. If all goes to plan, Steve will be very drunk at that point, and Bucky does not want to be Steve’s for one night only, because Steve was drunk and jealous, and then lose it all when he comes to his senses. No. He’s gonna do this right.

And to do this right, Bucky has to stay at least somewhat sober.

 He’s really glad Natasha got Thor in on the scheme, then. Because Thor keeps goading Steve into doing shots with him, and doesn’t once include Bucky in that. And when Steve tries to cajole Bucky into doing a shot, too, Thor scoffs at him.

“Come now, old friend!” the god cries in that warm, unrelenting bellow of his. “Are you so afraid of not keeping up you must rally your comrade in arms?”

And Steve, already a little fuzzy and glazed-over from the shots of godkiller, immediately lights up in that all-too-familiar fiery need to prove himself, and knocks back another shot, forgetting entirely about trying to get Bucky to drink one, too.

Bucky nods to Thor behind Steve’s shoulder. Thor winks back at him.

And oh.

Oh, fuck.

Okay, this stuff is stronger than Bucky remembers. His serum is a knock-off version of Steve’s, so it already takes less of it to affect him than it does to affect Steve. He’s only been sipping, but maybe he’s been sipping a little fast, because his second glass is nearly empty, and the moment Thor winked at him, Bucky’s immediate instinct was to lean forward and place a kiss on Steve’s shoulder. Like he, what? Wants to show Thor that he’s Steve’s, that he’s not available to be winked at?!

Jesus Christ. Bucky’s gotta go.

He makes himself wink back because fuck you, Stevie, Bucky is available to be winked at by other blond hunks! And then he says, “Gonna mingle,” and leaves before Steve can turn those baby blues on him and ask him to stay.

Fuuuuck, Bucky is bad at this. Bad at not giving himself over to Steve in full, whether or not Steve will take him. Bad at withholding even a little of himself, instead of dying for Steve, over and over again.

“Hey, it’s Buckaroo!” an entirely-too-giddy voice shouts from one of the sofa alcoves.

Bucky looks over to see Tony Stark waving excitedly at him with both hands, as Pepper calmly removes the highball glass from one of them.

Stark has never shown this much enthusiasm upon seeing Bucky, ever. It makes Bucky bristle with suspicion. Nevertheless, he makes his way over to the group gathered there. Mainly because Natasha is in that group.

“Hey,” Bucky says carefully, planting his hands on the back of the couch, just behind where Natasha is sitting, and leaning forward on them.

Natasha is looking up at him with something like amused understanding, and Bucky smiles at her gratefully when she reaches up and puts a hand on his forearm.

Stark is babbling to everyone else in the circle about something that Bucky can’t decipher, but that involves his own name falling from Stark’s lips an awful lot, but he focuses on Natasha, who’s now rubbing her hand comfortingly up and down his flesh arm.

“How are you doing?” she asks him in a soft voice.

Bucky leans down on his elbows to get closer to her, and murmurs, “This is harder than I thought it would be.”

Natasha hums, and takes a sip from her drink, her hand still stroking Bucky’s arm.

“Which parts?” she asks when she’s finished.

“All of it,” Bucky sighs after he’s double checked that no one is listening to them. “All I wanna do is hang off of his shoulders and…I don’t know, put my mouth on whatever part of him is closest.”

Natasha chuckles into her lowball glass. Her hand squeezes Bucky’s bicep while she takes another drink. It’s, strangely, deeply reassuring, and very pleasant.

When she’s drained the last mouthful of her drink, Natasha sets the glass down on a small end table, and then shifts a little bit so that she can lean further into Bucky, pulling gently at his arm until he leans in to her, too.

“How’s this sound?” she asks, her face so close to his that Bucky can smell something sweet on her breath. “Whenever you want to flirt with him, come flirt with me instead.”

“You’d be okay with that?” Bucky breathes, and Nat grins at him. Charming, and gorgeous.

“That’s what we’re here for, aren’t we?” she asks, then wets her lips as her eyes drift down to his mouth.

Bucky’s breath catches for some reason. He’s sure, for just a moment, that she’s about to close the distance and kiss him — and oh wow, wouldn’t that be something? Bucky hasn’t been kissed in—

But she doesn’t. Instead, she just smiles again, slow, and promising, and looks back up into his eyes.

“Go back to your boy,” she whispers, so quietly that Bucky’s enhanced ears have trouble picking it up even as close as they are. “I’ll be here.”

And then she pats him gently on the forearm before she turns back to the group around her.

And Bucky is left oddly stunned.

 

He doesn’t go back to Steve right away. In fact, for a while, Bucky actively keeps his distance. He can see Steve laughing with abandon at the bar — eyes squeezed shut and head thrown back — and Bucky really thinks that if he allows himself to sit near that level of unrestrained joy from the man he loves, who isn’t permitted to feel this way often anymore, he might not make it through tonight without saying fuck the plan and dragging Steve into a corner or something, promising it only has to be for tonight.

So Bucky goes and finds someone else to talk to, ending up in a conversation with Wanda, Bruce, and Carol that manages to hold his attention sharply enough that he starts to forget about the ache in his chest that draws him, like a magnetic pull, towards wherever Steve is.

Until, that is, he hears Steve’s voice, loud and happily slurring, calling his name.

“Where’s Bucky?” Steve demands, almost whining, to whoever is near him. “I want Bucky, where is he?”

It’s like a goddamn siren call. Bucky is standing here, in the middle of a very interesting and entertaining conversation with three people he actually likes, and suddenly all he wants to do is drop everything, and rush to Steve’s side. Just because Steve is asking for him.

Fucking hell, Barnes.

Reminding himself of the plan, of what Natasha said to him, Bucky valiantly continues on with the conversation he’s having, although he can no longer absorb a single thing anyone says. And as soon as there’s a moment of pause, he excuses himself.

But he doesn’t go to Steve, even though he can still hear the man arguing drunkenly with Sam, still asking for him. Instead, though it takes every goddamn ounce of strength in him to do it, Bucky goes to Natasha.

Jesus fuck, breaking out of seventy years of brainwashing wasn’t this fucking hard. How is it Bucky can do that, but he can’t say no to Steve goddamn Rogers?

Oh, right. Because he’s hopelessly in love with the idiot. Because the whole breaking-out-of-seventy-years-of-brainwashing thing happened because that idiot looked up at Bucky with his heart-wrenching blue eyes, covered in blood and bruises from Bucky’s own hands, and told him he’d rather Bucky killed him right there than abandon this brainwashed assassin to his fate.

I’m with you to the end of the line.

Bucky might puke, walking away when that man wants him at his side.

But he’s been flaying himself open for this man since before he ever understood why, and he can’t bear to do it anymore. Not like this. Something has to change, and it’s gotta be him.

So he finds Natasha.

She’s exactly where he left her, though most of the group that was here before has dispersed. Only Stark and Pepper remain with Natasha, and they’re currently engaged in a quiet, private conversation with each other. Which means Natasha watches Bucky approach, all the way up to him sitting down next to her.

She smirks.

“Doing okay?” she asks knowingly.

Bucky grins at her, trying to channel as much of his past self as he can to come off as rakishly charming. “Sure thing, doll,” he answers, and Natasha grins back at him.

“I heard him calling for you,” she says casually, tilting her head in a coy way. “I’m proud of you for coming to me instead.”

Bucky huffs out a breath through his nose. “Thanks,” he says, and genuinely means it.

Natasha reaches up and plays with a stray lock of hair that’s fallen out of Bucky’s bun. “He’s watching, you know,” she murmurs, and smiles flirtatiously up at him.

“Right now?” Bucky asks, all of his training currently going toward acting laid back instead of tensing up where he sits.

Natasha nods a little. “Mmhm,” she answers, twirling that lock of hair around her fingers. “I think you should go get another drink at the bar. He’ll probably follow you. Talk to him, but don’t linger. Let him want you.”

Bucky sighs out a slow breath, so it won’t look like he’s sighing. “Okay,” he whispers, then grins, and swipes Natasha’s mostly-empty drink before he stands, taking the last swallow for himself as he walks away with a smirk.

On his way back to the bar, he catches sight of Clint watching him go, with a dark expression on his face. As soon as their eyes meet, Clint’s fall away. But Bucky keeps watching as he walks until Clint’s eyes flick up toward Nat.

Ah. So that’s what Natasha meant by ‘I have my reasons.’ Turns out, her reasons are the same as Bucky’s.

It’s not like Bucky is highly attuned to any of the gossip or interpersonal drama that swirls around this Tower, but he has eyes. Pretty fucking good eyes, in fact. He’s a sniper, he observes. He was an assassin, he notices. Can’t turn it off, actually, even if he wants to. He’s seen Natasha and Clint do almost exactly the same dance he and Steve try to pretend they don’t do, too.

Bucky’s not sure what the whys are here, or what reasons Clint Barton could possibly have to not let that woman absolutely dominate him, but whatever they are, he’s a fucking idiot.

With the understanding now that he and Natasha really do have a mutually beneficial arrangement, Bucky’s smirk grows into a grin. He feels a rush of confidence. He can help Natasha. He can do that.

At the bar, Bucky orders two of the drink he just finished. An Old Fashioned, bourbon, extra cherries. He also asks for a glass of the highest-shelf Russian vodka available, neat. It’s not like he’s paying for it — Stark is doing that — and there’s something about really high quality Russian vodka that just feels like the motherland.

Bucky wasn’t in Russia voluntarily, but he didn’t know that at the time, did he? And top-shelf vodka was a kind of comfort back then. He’s fairly sure Natasha — raised in a sister program to the one that enslaved Bucky — will feel the same.

The bartender has only just turned away to start on Bucky’s order when Steve plops down on the stool next to him. He’s facing the room, sitting in the opposite direction to Bucky, and leans back on his elbows on the bar.

“Hey, Stevie,” Bucky greets him. He really tries to keep the fondness out of his voice, but he’s only a little bit successful.

A kind of warmth spreads through his chest, though, when Steve responds with a sunshiny grin, melting visibly into his own shoulders as his head lolls in Bucky’s direction.

“Hi, Buck,” he replies, cute and loose, slurring just a little. His happy smile morphs into a pouted moue, and he sighs. “Where’ve you been, pal?”

Bucky can’t help the way his eyes crinkle at this kid. This kid he’s loved forever.

“I’ve been around,” Bucky tells him. “I’ve been talking to people, like you always say I should.”

“B’not me,” Steve whines. “You haven’t been talkin’ t’me.”

“We’re talking right now,” Bucky points out, trying like hell to suppress his amusement, because he knows that would just make a drunk Stevie even more put out.

Steve grunts at him in answer. Not good enough, that grunt says.

The bartender comes back with the vodka, and Bucky takes a small sip to cover his grin.

“I di’n’t know you’n Nat were so close.”

Steve says it out of nowhere, and he sounds grumpy. Bucky glances sideways at Steve, only to catch this huge, grown man glaring petulantly across the room. Bucky looks over his shoulder to see Natasha, deep in conversation with a frowning Clint, and not noticing or acknowledging Steve’s glare at all.

Steve turns to Bucky again, expression instantly transfiguring from pouty frown to puppy eyes. Bucky’s heart stutters a little, and aches. But it’s working. Natasha’s plan is working.

So all he does in return to Steve’s question and pleading look, is smile.

“Here you go, sir,” the bartender says to Bucky, placing both Old Fashioneds on the bar top in front of him.

Bucky thanks her, and pulls a number of bills out of his wallet to leave a generous tip in the tip jar (he knows Stark always way overpays the servers at these parties, but Bucky spent a solid year tending bar in 1939, he’s not just gonna not tip). He puts two of the lowball glasses in his vibranium left hand, and picks up the remaining glass in his right, looking back at Steve’s now-confused face, and smiling softly at him.

“I gotta get back,” he says simply. “I’ll see you around, Stevie.”

As he turns to go, Bucky feels a thrill rush through him at the deep furrow in Steve’s brow.

Clint is still talking quietly, but fervently, with Nat when Bucky gets back to her. She seems to be doing exactly what Bucky was just doing with Steve, so he doesn’t feel any hesitation before he sits down next to her, close, and passes over her Old Fashioned.

As soon as he does, Nat turns her attention to him, and away from Clint, who looks gobsmacked by this.

“Hey there, soldier,” she purrs to him. “Thanks for the drink.”

Clint blinks rapidly, and then stands up, and leaves. Bucky watches him go.

“Everything okay there?” he asks as Nat eyes the glass of vodka in his hand.

“Just fine, Solnishko,” she replies. Her eyes light up when Bucky hands over the vodka. “This is for me?”

“I had a little taste,” Bucky admits, the corner of his mouth pulling up. “It’s good.”

Natasha takes a small sip, like Bucky’s at the bar. Her eyes close at the taste, and she sighs in satisfaction. “Chert,” she mumbles to herself in Russian, “eta vodka vkusnaya.”

Bucky’s smile widens at her approval. Natasha responds with a dazzling smile of her own.

Holy god, she’s beautiful, Bucky thinks. He’s known that, of course, he would have to be blind to have not noticed before. But Bucky’s had eyes only for Steve ever since Steve broke him out of seventy years of brainwashing (long before that, really, but certainly since then), and Natasha’s never leveled her considerable charm in his direction before. Now that she is, her allure is almost staggering.

Suddenly, Stark stands to his feet with far too much enthusiasm. Natasha chuckles.

“Looks like it’s showtime,” she murmurs in Bucky’s ear.

Oh, fuck, here they go.

“Okay, folks,” Stark shouts, loud enough to gain the attention of everyone around the room, “time for a game!”

Rhodey groans. “Oh no,” he deadpans loudly. “It’s gonna be something stupid, like—”

“Strip poker!” Stark cries delightedly.

There’s a collective groan around the room now, echoing Rhodey’s a moment ago. But there’s also laughter. And Bucky can tell there’s a general feeling of enthusiasm about the room.

Of course there is. If Bucky has noticed one thing about this group of people, it’s that they’re all horny little shits.

Stark starts directing the room into a circle, seated on the floor, and calls out that the serving staff can leave, because, “people are about to start stripping, and sexual harassment is not cool, man.”

Pepper, Bruce, and Rhodey immediately declare they will be sitting this one out, and gather around some of the chairs and sofas to watch, instead. After a moment of thinking it through, Wanda decides the same. Vision doesn’t really have any clothes to strip off, so he settles in with Wanda, and Clint appears to be too mopey to want to show off at the moment. Which leaves seven of them actually in the game: Bucky, Natasha, Tony, Thor, Carol, Sam…and Steve.

Bucky knew this was coming, of course he did. This is the point of tonight. But now that it’s happening, his heart won’t stop fluttering in his chest at the thought that Steve is also going to be stripping tonight. And honestly, Bucky expected the thought of people just sitting around and casually watching him get naked, not even participating themselves, would have made him feel more anxious, maybe even uncomfortable. But…it doesn’t. It really, really doesn’t.

It kind of makes him feel…hot under the collar, as it were.

Well. That’s something Bucky didn’t know about himself.

This might be…fun.

“All righty-roo, my fine fellows!” Stark begins as those of them who are actually going to play take their seats. Steve plops down directly next to Bucky, so close that the knees of their crisscrossed legs touch, because of course he does. He’s jealous, and he’s possessive, and he’s a sad, drunk little puppy, and Bucky could not want him more, which is just. Objectively terrible.

Stark springs the deck of cards he’s holding from one hand to the other, walking around the circle of them all as he quickly and matter-of-factly explains the rules. “Five-card draw, no folding unless you’re leaving the game altogether. Player with the lowest hand takes off one item of clothing. Pairs of something count as one item, so if you’re taking off a shoe, a sock, or a glove, you’re taking off both. Watches, jewelry, hair accessories, et cetera do not count. You win with a full house or above, you get to choose someone to take off an article of clothing, in addition to the person who lost. You are allowed to choose the person who lost, which means that person takes off two that round. This is supposed to be fun, so as soon as you feel uncomfortable, please bow out, no hard feelings, no hard time. Sexual harassment is not cool, man. Any questions?”

“Um, yes,” Carol pipes up on Bucky’s right, raising her hand.

“Sparklefists,” Stark calls on her, pointing in her direction as he continues to circle.

Carol puts her hand down and asks, “How many fucking times have you played this game?”

“Don’t answer that,” Pepper warns from her seat on the outskirts, ankles crossed delicately, as Rhodey snorts the drink he was mid-sip on out through his nose.

Stark frowns over at his best friend and his fiancée, apparently deeply offended by both of their reactions. Turning back to the players, he asks, “Any other questions? More relevant ones, perhaps?”

There’s a silence. A few of them shake their heads.

Stark grins, and goes to drop into the gap made for him between Thor and Natasha (who is seated almost directly opposite Bucky, conveniently). “Let’s get this ball rolling!”

He shuffles the cards and then deals them out to the seven of them circled around here. Since this isn’t about betting, bluffing isn’t all that important. And when Sam snorts at his dealt cards, and smiles smugly at the rest of them, Carol side eyes him, and Nat lightly smacks his knee on his other side. Steve is squinting at his own cards, and Thor reaches over from where he’s seated on Steve’s left to gently turn them away from where Thor can clearly see them.

“Okay, dealer’s left goes first,” Stark says after everyone’s had a moment to look at their hands. “Natasha?”

“Two,” Natasha replies, passing over two of her cards, face down.

Stark deals her two new cards, and looks up at Sam.

“I’m standing pat, man,” Sam tells him with a grin.

Carol asks for three, and then it’s Bucky’s turn. And…he knows the point here is to lose, which his current hand will surely accomplish. Best he’s got is a high card, and it’s a fucking nine. But, he reasons, if he stands pat with a high card hand where his high card is a nine, people are gonna know right away that he’s got an agenda. And that’s not any fun.

It has nothing to do with the nerves that shoot through him as he’s literally about to start stripping in front of people. In front of Steve. Nope. Not at all.

All of this takes almost no time at all to go through Bucky’s mind, so there isn’t, he hopes, a noticeable hesitation between Carol asking for three new cards and when he places two of his own facedown on the ground. Most likely, he’ll just end up with another high card, since his remaining three cards are all unrelated aside from all being spades. Maybe he’ll get one pair, that’d be fine.

But no. The two cards Stark deals him are…both spades.

Without meaning to, Bucky just got a flush.

Which means every other person here needs to have a full house or higher for him to have the lowest hand.

Great. He’s already failing at losing. Cool. Good job, Bucky Barnes.

Steve takes a few moments to figure out what he’s gonna do, but ultimately just swaps out his entire hand, Thor stands pat, like Sam, and Stark only exchanges one of his own cards.

“Time to meet our maker, folks,” Stark says when he’s done. “Table—or, floor, I guess—your hands.”

Carol and Natasha have one pair each. Stark’s got three of a kind, Thor, like Bucky, has a flush, and Sam wins the lot with four of a kind, the absolute bastard. Steve, however— Steve has a high queen, and that’s it.

Giggling, Steve clumsily yanks his shoes off of his feet, and tosses them haphazardly over his shoulder, just managing not to nail Clint in the face with one of them. And four of a kind is higher than a full house, so Sam chooses Stark, as the one who suggested this game (as far as Sam knows), to remove his own shoes as well.

Bucky’s eyes flick to Natasha, surprised to find she’s already watching him. The corners of her mouth twitch, and Bucky’s face burns.

Shoes discarded, Stark gathers up the cards, shuffles them once, and hands them over to Natasha, who shuffles them again, and then deals them out. She makes lingering eye contact with Bucky every time she passes him a card.

They go again.

The second round, Bucky has two pair straight off, and stands pat before he can remind himself what his goal is here. Thor wins, but with a flush, so he doesn’t get to pick a bonus strip, and Natasha loses with a high ten. And now she’s down to stockinged feet, and Bucky still hasn’t taken off anything.

Sam deals, and Thor wins with a full house. Steve loses his jacket. Bucky manages to only get one pair this time, but so does Carol, and Bucky has the kicker. So once again, he keeps everything on.

While Carol is shuffling, Natasha catches Bucky’s gaze again. Her right eyebrow twitches, almost imperceptibly, but Bucky both sees it and can divine its meaning.

What the fuck are you doing, Barnes? she’s asking. And that’s…a fair question, really.

Bucky scrunches his nose in apology. Natasha smiles warmly.

“Jesus, get a room,” Carol mutters beside him, dealing him his first card.

Bucky glances at her and goes red. But that—that’s good, if Carol thinks he and Natasha are flirting. That’s what’s supposed to be happening.

Bucky just…wasn’t flirting with Natasha with a purpose in mind just now. He was just flirting.

Fucking hell, Bucky was flirting.

That realization sends a little jolt of confidence through his veins, and this round, he actually manages to lose.

He’s putting his shoes aside behind himself, waiting for Sam, with his four of a kind, to pick who will strip with him, when Stark suddenly says, “Come on, Rogers, chop chop! Who’ll it be?”

Bucky’s eyes snap to Steve’s cards, lying face-up in front of him. Just a glance at them, and Bucky had thought Steve had a flush. But now he sees he was wrong. Steve has a straight flush. Steve won.

This seems to be a revelation to Steve, too, who looks down at his own cards at Stark’s prodding. A predatory grin spreads slowly across his face. His eyes lift up and meet Bucky’s, and Bucky’s breath catches in his throat.

“I choose Bucky,” Steve murmurs, low.

The sound goes directly to Bucky’s dick. It’s really only decades of training as an assassin and spy that keeps his face schooled into anything even close to neutral. But he can’t tear his eyes away from Steve’s as he shrugs out of his cardigan, lets it fall somewhere behind him.

Steve’s gaze finally drops from Bucky’s, but it’s only a relief for a moment. Because that clear, blue gaze falls to his v-neck. The one Bucky chose because Steve likes to touch it.

And Steve isn’t usually quite as tactile with Bucky around everyone else as he is when they’re alone. But tonight, Steve is drunk. Tonight, Steve isn’t so careful.

Bucky forces himself to look away as Carol passes him the deck of cards. He manages to shuffle them, glancing up at Nat occasionally to get some silent encouragement, and he’s leaning past Steve to deal cards to Thor and Stark when it happens.

Bucky doesn’t need to look down to know that the fingers that just hooked under the hem of his soft t-shirt are Steve’s. Even just barely grazing the skin of his hip, Bucky recognizes them by touch. Goosebumps roll over his arms, his scalp. His nipples harden under the satin of his brassiere. His cock twitches in his jeans.

Just the lightest brush of Steve’s fingers — which aren’t even trying to touch Bucky, just his shirt — and Bucky’s entire fucking body responds.

And this is when Bucky’s focus narrows down to a point. He continues to play, but every part of his mind is occupied by only three things: keeping his hands poor, Natasha’s steady gaze on him, and Steve. Not just the hand fiddling with the hem of his shirt, but all of Steve. Steve’s eyes and his lips, Steve’s little giggles every time someone addresses him directly. Steve’s everything.

Carol has to nudge Bucky when he loses the round he deals out before he snaps back to attention, and realizes he needs to take something off. Welp. He’s officially run out of clothes that aren’t about to reveal parts of what he has on underneath them all.

This is it.

Bucky peels off his socks. He doesn’t wait to look around and see if anyone notices the stockings he’s wearing right away, just twists enough to tuck his socks into his shoes behind him.

When he turns back around, however, multiple pairs of eyes are glued to the stockings on his feet. It almost makes him want to tuck them under himself, hide it all away.

Except that Tony and Sam are both blushing, and Thor has one eyebrow cocked. Carol looks approving, and Nat is smiling darkly at him. And when Bucky glances around, more than one of the onlookers has a pink tinge to their own cheeks.

It’s almost like— Well, like it used to be. Before all of this. Before Bucky’s mind and body were turned into something he never wanted to be. Back before the War, when Bucky knew how to turn heads, and enjoyed it.

It flushes his own face, but it feels good. It feels nice. He almost feels…wanted.

The only person who doesn’t seem to have noticed Bucky’s stockings is, of course, the great big dumbo he’s in love with.

Until.

Steve finally catches sight of the stockings, and he instantly freezes. It’s with deep satisfaction that Bucky watches what looks like Steve’s brain just full-on short circuiting.

Triumphantly, Bucky turns to Nat. You were right! he wants to cry. Look, it’s working! But when he sees the way she’s looking at him — her eyes dark, clearly interested in him — he stops short.

Fuck. Oh, fuck.

Steve’s hand moves from the hem of Bucky’s shirt to slide across his back and stay there. It seems like he’s lost the plot now, and as the game continues, the only reason Steve doesn’t end up fully naked in the next three rounds is because Bucky and Natasha are losing on purpose.

But Steve’s unrelenting attention on him, and his big, warm hand pressed to the small of Bucky’s back, fingers occasionally stroking slowly over his shirt, has Bucky lost, too. And that’s not even taking into account the way Natasha keeps looking at him like she might legitimately enjoy eating him alive, or the way Bucky keeps catching other sets of eyes on him, watching him hungrily.

It’s a lot.

But…it’s not bad.

Two rounds later, Bucky loses his shirt. When he pulls it off over his head, revealing the pretty bra Natasha got for him, he hears a hissing gasp from the general direction of one Steven Grant Rogers, and more than a few mouths around the room have popped open.

By the time Bucky loses his last round, Natasha has only her own jeans left to take off, Carol is wearing her shirt still, but no pants, Tony’s in slacks and an undershirt, Thor and Steve are barefoot and shirtless, and Sam has, somehow, only lost his shoes.

Bucky can feel all eyes in the room on him as he stands, laughing, to strip out of his jeans. Natasha and Carol start singing the tune of an old-fashioned strip song as he pops open the button on his fly and slowly lowers the zipper. If he’s honest, Bucky’s got something of a chub from so many people watching him with this amount of appreciation — of want — but the tension in the air is hot, and flirty, and fun, and Bucky lets himself indulge in a playful swing of his hips as he inches his tight jeans over them, and down his thighs.

There are a few wolf whistles as he steps out of the jeans altogether, kicks them to the side. Bucky looks over at Natasha, leaning back on her hands and blatantly raking her eyes up and down his entire body. When their eyes meet, her pupils are wide. She holds his gaze, runs her pink tongue showily over her lower lip, and then sucks it between her teeth. Bucky’s breath is shallow, and his cock is undoubtedly interested.

And not just because of the plan anymore, either.

“And with that,” Bucky begins, easily flashing a dashing grin at the room at large, “I’m bowing out. Nice playing with you, folks.”

He winks at Natasha, and her smile widens. And then Bucky turns, treating everyone to the swell of his asscheeks, just peeking out from the satiny briefs he’s wearing, and walks away.

Not, however, before he steals a glance at Steve, half sprawled on the floor next to Bucky, staring up at him like—

Fuck.

Like he’ll die if he doesn’t get his hands on Bucky this second. And when he absently licks his own lips, it kind of seems like that amends itself in Steve’s mind to hands and mouth.

It makes Bucky shiver bodily as he crosses the room to disappear into the attached kitchen off the main room.

Clint is leaning against the wall beside the kitchen’s door, though, and before Bucky can pass him entirely, he says, his voice low and accusatory, his expression dark, “I know you did that on purpose.”

Bucky can’t help it. He rolls his eyes. Sure, the point of this whole thing was to make Clint and Steve jealous, but lord almighty are both blonds the fucking dumbest. Clint is really gonna stand here and act like he’s justified in being angry at another man for flirting with the woman he apparently hasn’t gotten it together enough to actually be with? Bull-fucking-shit.

But Bucky’s too high off the thrill of the last hour, and the look that’s still on Steve’s face as he continues to stare after Bucky across the huge room, that he doesn’t say any of what he’s thinking.

What he says instead is: “I’m not the one you want, Barton. No use talkin’ t’me.”

And then he pushes through the swinging door into the kitchen. Alone.

The lights in here are brighter than the more atmospheric ones in the big room, but Bucky doesn’t mind. He’s well aware that he’s still half-hard, and that this fact is blatantly clear in the lingerie he’s wearing with nothing on top. He grabs a glass from one of the cabinets, and fills it up at the sink.

He’s somehow both surprised, and not surprised at all when, halfway through his glass of cold water, Steve pushes into the kitchen with him.

Steve looks stunned. He stops there, just past the doorway, and just gapes at Bucky. His eyes trail, with agonizing slowness, down Bucky’s throat, across his shoulders, over his chest, his abs, down to his half-hard, covered cock, which swells even more under his gaze. They linger there a moment, and then scan appreciatively over his thighs, taking in Bucky’s legs, clothed in black thigh-highs, and then make their way back up to Bucky’s arrested face, pinned by that gaze.

Steve stumbles forward. He closes the distance between them until there’s barely a foot left. Bucky can feel the heat radiating from Steve’s bare chest, can watch up close as the muscles in his pecs and arms tighten while Steve’s hands twitch at his sides.

“Bucky,” Steve murmurs, his voice a low rumble that makes Bucky honest-to-god tremble from head to toe. “Buck, you look— Why’re you—?”

Apparently unable to form an entire coherent sentence, Steve simply reaches out across the inches between them, and brushes his fingers deliberately over the bared skin of Bucky’s side.

A quiet gasp rattles in Bucky’s lungs. The first breath he’s taken since Steve walked in and fixed him with that heady gaze. Steve’s fingers raise goosebumps over every inch of Bucky’s skin they touch. Bucky can’t tell if Steve even notices that, but he does take another half-step closer. Like he can’t help it. Like he’s being tugged toward Bucky’s body by some invisible force.

Maybe he is. Maybe they both are.

God, Bucky, you—” Steve’s eyes drop to Bucky’s lips.

It would be so ridiculously easy, as terribly close as they are — so close, Steve’s warm breath ghosts over Bucky’s face even as he, like Bucky, is breathing shallow and ragged — to just lean forward, and press his lips to the only lips Bucky has been absolutely dying for, for his entire life. To let Steve kiss him, right here. Let Steve run his hands over Bucky’s entire body, take whatever it is he wants, maybe drag Bucky somewhere private so Steve can fuck him. Can inhabit him. Can finally take everything Bucky has been giving him, unrelentingly, for a hundred years.

It’s so fucking tempting to just give in. To just let go. To give it all to Steve, the way he wants to more than anything else in the world.

But.

But Steve is drunk. He’s not thinking this through. He could very well take Bucky home tonight, ravish his body, ruin him for anything less than this, than having Steve—and then wake up in the cold light of morning and realize his mistake. Pull away. Break Bucky’s heart again. Worse, this time.

And Bucky— He trusts Nat’s plan.

He trusts Nat.

So, he smiles up at Steve. “You see something you like, Stevie?” he asks, his own voice low and rumbling, too. He presses into Steve’s hand, just a little. Privately delights in the warmth of that big, strong palm against his bare skin. Calloused, but still soft. Bucky wants it forever.

Steve licks his lips again, still staring down at Bucky’s, and nods minutely. “Fuck, Bucky, I—” He nods again, letting out a broken sigh. “Yeah. Yeah, I—”

Bucky leans in an inch or so. His heart skips as Steve leans in, too.

But right before their lips touch, right before Steve kisses Bucky — finally, after an entire century of longing — Bucky raises his flesh-and-blood hand, and presses it against Steve’s perfect, pink chest, holding him there, just out of reach.

“Maybe you should do something about that, then, huh?” Bucky whispers, breathing against Steve’s parted lips, watching as those sweet blue eyes widen in shock.

Bucky smiles gently, but he doesn’t give in.

“Serious offers only,” he murmurs honestly, keeping both of them exactly where they are, “I’m tired of doing this dance with you. Until you figure that out, though, Stevie, you are more than welcome to look—” with his left hand, he pulls Steve’s hand from his side, squeezes it tenderly before letting it go for tonight, “—but I’m not yours to touch.”

Unsure if Steve is even breathing at all anymore with how utterly flabbergasted he looks right now, Bucky softens his hand against Steve’s chest. He leans in again, past Steve’s mouth, until his lips brush Steve’s ear as he whispers, “Not yet, anyway.”

Pulling back again, Bucky pats Steve’s chest, then drops his arms back to his sides, and steps back, leaving Steve standing there stunned.

“You want that to change, you know where to find me,” Bucky tells him frankly.

And then he brushes past Steve, stock still and dumbfounded where Bucky leaves him, and walks away with a smirk.

When he pushes through the swinging door, back into the main room, the first thing Bucky sees is Natasha across the room. The game of strip poker seems to have come to a close, and she’s standing over near the elevators, ready to leave when Bucky’s ready. She’s deep in conversation with Clint, who seems to be trying to either argue with her or convince her of something, but Natasha’s face is calm, the light of something almost like amusement in her green eyes.

She’s also stripped down to a simple, but elegant black bra and matching thong.

God, she’s gorgeous.

Bucky’s dick is already very hard from his conversation with Steve — from Steve’s eyes and hands on him — and looking at Natasha like this, it twitches noticeably in his silken briefs.

Natasha’s eyes find his across the room, and she grins.

“Barnes!” she yells happily to him, drawing the attention of just about everyone here. And then she beckons him over.

As Bucky starts off in her direction, following her command, he can feel the kitchen door swing open behind him, as Steve comes out to watch him go.

Bucky’s eyes are firmly on Natasha, though, as he crosses to her. She reaches one hand out to him, firmly ignoring Clint as he tries to keep talking to her, and Bucky reaches out to her, too, taking her proffered hand in his vibranium one, smiling as she laces their fingers together.

“Nat,” Bucky hears Clint plead softly. “Nat, c’mon.”

Natasha’s eyes finally leave Bucky’s to cut to Clint. “Later, kotik,” she says, affection softening the edge in her voice. “Make up your mind first.”

And then, without another word, all eyes on them, Natasha pulls Bucky by their joined hands into the elevator, abandoning their clothes where they still lie on the floor in the center of the room.

As the doors of the elevator begin to slide closed, Bucky catches sight of Steve, still standing just outside the kitchen, staring right back at him. There’s something oddly careful and sober about his expression. Something almost like understanding pushing past the drunken haze in his eyes.

Bucky doesn’t break eye contact with Steve until the elevator doors shut, breaking it for him.

As soon as the elevator starts to move, taking them down to their own floors, a loud laugh bubbles out of Bucky’s mouth. He stumbles back, leaning against the wall of the elevator and covering his face with both hands. He feels like he’s vibrating out of his skin with how aroused he is, how triumphant he feels.

“Oh my god,” he mutters, almost to himself, though he hears Natasha’s lilting laugh join his own. “Holy shit!

God, Bucky wants to be touched right now. Wants to be fucked. Steve was shirtless, and Bucky was nearly naked, and Steve fucking touched him and looked like he was about ready to swallow Bucky whole. There’s a part of Bucky that wishes he could have let Steve. Let him do whatever it was Steve was thinking of that made those deep blue eyes flash like that as he took in the sight of Bucky’s body like this.

But it worked. It fucking worked! And whatever happens tomorrow, at least Bucky knows that, with Natasha’s help, he did what he had to. Tonight, he can furiously jerk off when he gets home. And if Steve comes drunkenly knocking, Bucky will be able to restrain himself from just opening the door stark naked and letting Steve have his way with him. He knows he will, because he has this. Because this worked.

“I’m really proud of you, Barnes,” Natasha tells him, cutting through the images of standing naked in his own doorway as Steve, fully clothed, wraps him up and kisses him. “You were so good.”

Bucky actually, genuinely shivers at the praise. Jesus Christ, he does remember having a praise kink back before the War, but he doesn’t remember anyone but Steve ever making him feel quite so on edge with it before.

Then again, he also doesn’t remember ever being this much of a fucking exhibitionist, but Christ did he enjoy all those eyes on him. An image of getting fucked in front of an audience flashes through his mind for only a moment — but fuck does it do something to him — before Natasha laughs again, not mocking, but joyful.

“You like being praised, don’t you?” she observes.

Bucky peeks at her between his own fingers, then lowers his hands to hold onto the handlebar just under his asscheeks, his body open and on display for her.

“Yeah,” he replies, grinning as Nat’s eyes rake over him the way he wanted them to. “I do.”

Nat’s eyes return to meet his gaze through her eyelashes, and she bites her lip.

Bucky’s cock, still pointedly hard, twitches again, his breath hitching a little with anticipation.

They were only supposed to pretend to go home together. The plan had them leaving in a show of going to fuck each other, but in reality simply going to their respective floors to do what they want on their own. But all night, Bucky has been feeling drawn to this woman. All night, he’s been struck by her beauty and her charm. And that look she’s giving him now seems to indicate that she might feel something similar to him.

Bucky meets her, look for look, and eventually, Nat grins.

“You do look good like that, Barnes,” she tells him, eyeing him up and down again, even more blatantly this time. “Shame no one’s gonna fuck you tonight.”

Bucky breath hisses in his lungs. “Yeah,” he agrees, his voice low, and already rough. He eyes her in return. “Shame.”

Nat steps closer, and Bucky’s blood races through his veins. He feels lit up like a firecracker about to explode as she slowly raises her hand, lets it rest lightly on his chest.

Natasha leans up just as Bucky tilts his head down, and slowly, their lips meet.

art: Bucky, in lingerie, about to kiss Natasha, also in her underwear; art by: CapDeady

art: Bucky, in lingerie, about to kiss Natasha; art by: CapDeady

It’s just a light press of lips at first, but Bucky feels it jolt through him like electricity. No one has kissed him in almost seventy-five years, and Natasha’s lips are soft, but insistent, exactly the way he used to like. She seems just as eager to tear him to pieces as she is to make him feel good, and that thought drives into Bucky like a nail.

When her tongue slides languidly over the seam of his lips, Bucky opens his mouth obediently.

The elevator dings, doors sliding open to Bucky’s floor, but Natasha reaches over and hits the door close button without even stuttering in pushing her tongue inside Bucky’s mouth to twist around his own.

“Aren’t you a good boy?” she purrs against his lips after Bucky licks against the roof of her mouth. It makes him whine, surprising himself, but seemingly not Nat. She just grins. “Are you going to be good for me tonight?”

“Yeah,” Bucky pants, losing it already. “Yes, Natasha, I’ll be good.”

“Yes,” she agrees, biting down on his lower lip. “You will.”

The doors open again, and Natasha doesn’t waste any time. She pulls Bucky out of the elevator, up to her front door, and presses her own keys into his hand, apparently so she can start biting at his nipples through his brassiere while he tries, with shaking hands, to open the door.

Ah!” Bucky gasps against her ministrations. “Nat—fuck—what do you—?”

He’s trying to ask her what she wants, what he should do, but he can’t even get the words out with the way she’s sucking a bruise into the meat of his left pec.

“You can touch me,” she tells him just as he finally gets the door open around her.

And good thing, too, because Bucky finds he desperately needs his hands on her waist just to keep himself upright as she yanks him inside, and through her living room to the hall. She’s pulling, shoving, pushing him around, and he’s letting her. He’s strong enough that he could resist her, but why would he want to? This is exactly what Bucky needs. To give up control to someone who can handle him. Won’t hurt him. Only if he asks her to.

He might ask her to.

Natasha manhandles Bucky into her bedroom, and unceremoniously shoves him down on her bed.

“I’m gonna fuck you so good tonight,” she murmurs a promise as she climbs into bed over him. “How’s that sound, solnishko? Make up for how lonely you’ve been?”

Bucky whimpers, he can’t help it. “Please,” he breathes desperately, his hands scrabbling over her soft skin, seeking an anchor. “Been so fuckin’ lonely, Nat.”

“I know,” she coos mournfully. Sympathetic, but also patronizing in the most delicious way. “I know you have, love. Poor little baby, huh? No one’s been taking care of you. I’ll fix that.”

And then, before Bucky can utter a single word, her hands push aside the satin cups of his brassiere, and she ducks down to lick and bite at his nipples again, leaving teeth and lipstick marks all over his chest as Bucky gasps and squirms underneath her.

“Fuck—” he hisses when Natasha’s lips and teeth travel a little lower, start sucking deliberate bruises across his ribcage. His hands are clutching at her shoulders, her waist. He’s already so wound up, and she’s making him feel so good, and Bucky feels like he’s adrift, doesn’t know how to hold on.

And Nat— Somehow, she understands. Even though he can’t articulate anything but muttered curses, moans, and gasps, Natasha gets it.

She keeps marking him up with her teeth and her lipstick, leaving pink and red marks all over his chest, collarbone, shoulders, and neck, leaving Bucky a sobbing mess beneath her. But as she continues this expedition over his body, Natasha reaches over to one of her twin nightstands, pulling a few select items out of it and tossing them on the bed, down near Bucky’s thighs where he can’t see them around her legs straddling his hips.

“Tell me something, sweet boy,” Natasha murmurs against his throat, taking hold of both of his wrists, and pulling them up, over his head. He lets her, arching into the rush of gratitude at being guided, told what to do. She circles both of his wrists in one of her hands over his head so she can pluck one of the items from her drawer off the bed. “How long is that refractory period of yours?”

Bucky breathes in a stuttered gasp again, both at the question, and because in her hand, Natasha is holding a pair of dark purple, silken rope cuffs.

“Uh…,” Bucky sighs helpfully as she loops one end around his right wrist, then threads the cuffs through one of the bars in her headboard before looping the other end around his left wrist and pulling the whole thing taut.

“It’s uh—nonexistent, just about,” Bucky finally answers her question, pulling experimentally at the cuffs. He could rip out of these so fucking easily, he thinks, but Natasha knows that. She’s tying him to her bed, and expecting him to stay there, even though they both know he could choose to break free at any point.

Fuck, that shouldn’t be as hot as it really, really is.

Nat smiles down at him, sharklike, and Bucky honest to god shivers at that look in her eyes.

“Good boy,” she praises him, petting his cheek with one small, capable hand. That thumb presses against the corner of his mouth, and without even thinking, he opens it obligingly. “Then I can make you come more than once tonight,” she purrs, watching with dark eyes as his lips close around her thumb.

Bucky groans, sucking on the digit she’s given him. Automatically, he swirls his tongue around it like he’s sucking a cock, even though that is a particular body part Natasha doesn’t possess. Even so, she seems to enjoy it, if the glint in her eyes is anything to go by.

Maybe it doesn’t matter whether or not she has a dick, Bucky thinks. He’s blowing one of her fingers because she gave him the mere suggestion to do so, and there’s a great deal of power in that. Bucky — bigger than her, serum-enhanced, deadly, the Winter Soldier himself — is submitting to her, fully. Letting her dominate him. That seems to please Nat greatly, which in turn, deeply pleases Bucky.

He wants to be good for her. Wants to be so fucking good for this woman on top of him.

Suddenly, the thumb slips from his mouth, but Bucky barely has time to let out a mournful whimper at the loss before Natasha is smearing what’s left of her lipstick down his chest, his stomach, as her body slides lower down his.

Bucky sobs, and focuses all his efforts on holding still, as slender fingers hook into his panties, under his garter belt, and Natasha frees Bucky’s aching, leaking cock from the satin, wet with his precum. 

And god, he doesn’t even have time to appreciate the feeling of no longer being contained before suddenly, Natasha’s mouth is on him.

The broken sound that escapes Bucky as that feel like it emanates right out of his fucking soul. Holy fuck, Nat’s mouth feels incredible; all hot and wet, suckling gently at the head of his cock before she pushes down farther, slowly, taking him into her throat like a fucking champ, and Jesus Christ her tongue—it’s—

Bucky writhes, pants, feels unmoored as he tries so hard to keep his arms from ripping open the cuffs around his wrists.

Natasha’s lips slide up his shaft, her tongue playing with his slit for a moment before she lifts off entirely.

“God, Barnes,” she murmurs, running her hand up and down his stomach, “you’re fantastic, do you know that? Do you have any idea how sweet you are like this? You’re being so good for me, aren’t you?”

Bucky takes a shuddering breath, letting her words wash over him, and nods.

“Good boy,” Natasha praises him. “Are you gonna let go for me now?” she asks. “Let me take care of you? All you have to do is what I tell you, all right?”

Bucky nods again. Relief. His eyes close.

“Perfect boy,” Nat’s voice washes over him. “You’re wonderful, James.”

And it’s that, weirdly. It’s Natasha calling him by his first name; warm, and familiar, and affectionate. And all at once, Bucky drops. Just lets go, trusts this person with all of himself, and falls.

He would be shocked at how quickly and easily he goes under, if he had any space left inside his mind to think about it. Instead, he thinks of nothing but the things he can feel.

Natasha’s hands on his hips.

Ropes around his wrists.

Nat’s mouth on his cock.

He loses himself to it, to the sensation of it all. He drifts, taken care of, pleasure building, until something slick and cool teases at his entrance, slips inside his body, fingers pressed up against his prostate, and he’s coming. Jerking and gasping, and still so pleasantly floaty as he spurts down Natasha’s warm throat.

“That’s it, James,” he hears Natasha’s voice praising him through the comfortable haze of it all. He feels euphoric, relaxed. “That’s so good, you sweet boy.”

Her fingers are still inside him, Bucky realizes, as she adds another. He has no idea how many there are in him, nor how long she’s been opening him up, but when he belatedly realizes what this means, his lips stretch into a lazy grin.

She’s gonna fuck him. She really is going to fuck him.

“Hey,” Natasha says gently after some unquantifiable time, in which Bucky simply floats, content and taken care of. “James. Open your eyes.”

He does.

What he sees is Natasha’s soft smile, and her hand holding up some kind of sex toy for him to see. It looks like…a dildo. But at the end, there’s a ridged flat, a flexible curve, and what looks like another, shorter dildo.

“I’m going to fuck you with this,” Nat tells him kindly. “Is that all right? Do you want that?”

Bucky would speak if he knew how. As it is, he just nods as enthusiastically as he can muster.

He manages to lift his head up enough to watch Natasha — who is now fully naked, he realizes, and oh, so is he — rise to her knees, and spread them apart a little. Just enough that she can slide the shorter end of the dildo inside herself.

Oh, of course. It’s one of those strapless strap-ons.

Bucky fucking loves the future.

As his head falls back against the pillows, Natasha settles in between his legs. He feels fingers at his entrance again, and then something else. Something cool, and firm. Something that, when Natasha presses a remote in her hand, begins to vibrate.

“Oh fuck,” Bucky hears himself breathe raggedly. “Oh fuck, oh please, oh please, please, please….”

She’s pushing forward, breaching his rim, and she doesn’t stop. Keeps pushing those vibrations further and further inside him, until her hips meet his. She leans over him, kisses his mouth. She tastes like him.

Bucky lets out something almost like a growl against Natasha’s lips when the vibration changes, and then the angle changes, and suddenly that vibration is pressed up against his spot. She pulls her hips back, then thrusts back inside.

And Bucky’s gone. He was already floating, already under, and now this. His sweet spot repeatedly nailed, over and over, just vibrations and sensations, and Natasha’s lips on his throat.

There’s absolutely no way for him to tell how much time passes like this. It could be days, for all he knows. It could be one mere instant. All Bucky knows is that right now, he’s coming again, spilling across his own abs and chest, even his own throat, Jesus. And as Natasha’s mouth finds his again, he can feel her tremble as she comes, too.

And then it’s just air. Just light, and lightness, and soft.

 

When Bucky comes back up — returns, slowly, to awareness — Natasha is sitting on her bed, wrapped in a robe with a book in one hand, his head is cradled on her thighs, and her other hand is stroking through his tousled, loose hair. It must have come out of its ties sometime while Bucky was in his, he thinks with a little giggle.

Nat glances down at him from her book at the sound, and smiles.

“There you are,” she says warmly. She doesn’t stop stroking his hair.

“How long was I under?” Bucky asks her, his voice rough. He rolls onto his back to look up at her, and doesn’t take his head from her lap.

Natasha shrugs one shoulder. “Does it matter?” she asks. “Took your time coming back, but you seemed pretty happy about that.” She grins, and winks down at him.

A rush of gratitude floods through Bucky towards her, so strong that he thinks if he weren’t lying down, it would bowl him over.

“Nat,” he breathes, awed, “that was…. Fuck, that was amazing.”

You were amazing,” Natasha says in reply, and Bucky— He blushes. But that just makes Natasha’s grin wider. “Really, James, that was very good for me, too.”

“Yeah?” Bucky asks, swelling with pride.

Nat hums the affirmative. “You were so perfect for me, sweet boy,” she purrs.

Bucky lets his eyes close. Lets himself feel the warmth of that praise.

“I’m glad,” he whispers.

A moment of contented silence passes between them. And all the while, Natasha keeps stroking Bucky’s hair.

“Thank you,” he murmurs finally, opening his eyes again to meet her gentle gaze. “I have been lonely.”

“I know,” Natasha breathes back, her entire being softened with affection. Affection for him. “Will you stay the night?” she asks, scratching her nails gently against his scalp.

Bucky hums happily, and nods. At his assent, Natasha closes her book, and places it on her nightstand. She slips her robe off her shoulders, and drops it on the floor, so they’re both naked together again. Bucky lets her arrange him on the bed, until his back is pressed up against her chest, her lovely breasts. She reaches over to turn off her bedside lamp, and then, in the darkness, her arm snakes around Bucky’s waist.

Bucky falls asleep, quicker than he has in almost seventy-five years, to a soft kiss placed on the back of his neck.

 

art of a high heel shoe with panties draped haphazardly over it

 

In general, Bucky doesn’t really do well when waking up somewhere he doesn’t expect. On missions, he has a routine he does before falling asleep to try to help his sleeping brain remember he’s not in his own bed before he wakes up and panics. He didn’t do his routine last night. It would be so easy for this morning to be a disaster.

Except that before Bucky’s even roused to full consciousness, he can smell freshly-brewed coffee, and he can hear a familiar woman’s voice singing low to herself in Russian in the other room.

As his eyes blink open to Natasha’s bedroom, Bucky wonders if this is just her morning routine, or if she’s doing this on purpose for him. She’s been on missions with him. She even saw him panic, once. Pretended like she wasn’t watching while Steve calmed him down. It seems like maybe…she gets it. Like maybe she’s doing this on purpose, specifically to keep him from panicking.

The singing gets closer, shifts into a hum, and just as Bucky’s realizing he recognizes the tune, the other side of the bed dips as Natasha sits down.

Bucky rolls onto his back and sits up, accepting the hot, black coffee she passes him.

“Good morning,” Natasha says as Bucky sips at the strong coffee. He watches as she reaches out and presses her thumb to a spot on his neck where he knows, even without looking, she left a bruise on him the night before. Rubbing her thumb over that spot, she hums sadly. “They fade so quickly on you.”

Bucky smiles. “Serum,” he tells her simply. “Good morning.”

Natasha grins.

They lean in at the same time. Natasha’s mouth is soft. Bucky hums into the kiss, and Natasha’s lips curl into a smile.

When she pulls back, just a few inches, Nat pushes her fingers into Bucky’s loose, tangled curls.

“Thank you,” she tells him honestly, mouth quirked in a crooked smile, “for going along with my scheme.”

Bucky laughs. “Thank you,” he replies, “for coming up with it.”

“It worked out even better than I expected,” she says, her eyes trailing down Bucky’s bare chest. He’s still very much naked, and he does, in fact, have morning wood, and it does, actually twitch a little at the look she gives him. “This was a lot of fun, Barnes.”

Bucky ducks his head, trying not to fucking blush again. “Yeah, Romanoff,” he agrees, “it was.”

There’s a moment of silence as they drink their coffee and consider each other. Bucky is fairly certain they’re thinking the exact same thing.

“So,” he breaks the silence, willing to take a chance and find out, “if our respective dumbasses don’t get their shit together after this, would you want to—?”

“Do this again?” Nat finished for him, smiling over the lip of her mug. “I’d love to, James.”

Bucky grins. He feels warm.

Natasha’s eyes lower to her mug. She takes another sip, and then looks up at him again.

“Maybe we could see how we’d do on a date, even,” she posits.

Bucky’s smile turns rakish. He feels rakish. “You askin’ me out, Romanoff?” he asks.

Natasha quirks an eyebrow. “We’ll see.”

Another silence. Comfortable. Familiar.

They finish their coffee like that, just quietly together. And then, as she’s taking his empty mug from him, Nat asks Bucky, “Do you want to stick around a while?”

Bucky smiles at her, but shakes his head. “Thanks,” he says, and means it, “but I kinda wanna spend some quality time with my shower.”

Nat laughs, and she’s gorgeous. “Understandable,” she says, and gets up.

They seem to be fully on the same page here, too. It’s a little bit remarkable how much they agree on, Bucky thinks.

He’s trying to figure out how he’s going to get home without being naked in the elevator, when Nat returns, and dumps a small pile of clothes on the bed beside him.

“I got our clothes from last night back,” is all she’ll say about it when Bucky asks.

She leaves Bucky to get dressed, still covered in fading bruises and lipstick stains. She’s standing by the front door when he comes out of her room.

“No matter what happens,” Bucky says to her, “how about we get lunch later this week? Just you and me?”

Natasha’s beautiful eyes dance. She leans up, and kisses Bucky goodbye, patting his chest fondly when she pulls away after only a moment.

“It’s a date.”

 

art of a bra on the floor

 

It takes some time to get all of the lipstick off of Bucky’s body. Largely because it’s everywhere, smeared all over his skin. But each red stain is another little reminder of a damn good night, so it’s worth the extra time needed to wash them all off.

The hot shower feels good. It reinvigorates Bucky, and he finds himself humming that Russian song that was on Natasha’s lips this morning.

He’s still nervous; about what Steve will do, how it’ll be to see each other after a night like last night, but this morning, at the very least, Bucky feels unusually calm.

Maybe because he got railed into next week, he thinks to himself with a giggle. That might have something to do with it.

After his shower, Bucky slips into a t-shirt and a pair of soft sweatpants, ready to stay comfy for most of today. A reward for a well-executed mission, he tells himself.

He’s toweling off his hair and heading for whatever’s left in his M&M bowl, when he hears a gentle knock on his front door.

Bucky frowns. Who does he know who would be knocking on his door before nine in the morning, and knocks gently?

He goes to answer the door, and stops short. Surprisingly, considering how he usually knocks, it's Steve.

Steve looks contrite. He looks tired. He’s holding a box of the fancy, expensive chocolates that Bucky only occasionally allows himself to splurge on, which he holds out to Bucky as soon as Bucky opens the door.

“Hey, Buck,” Steve says apologetically while Bucky accepts his offering of chocolate. “Do you have a minute?”

“Sure, Steve,” Bucky answers carefully. Because he will always have time for Steve, but he doesn’t know if this is going to end up with Steve breaking his heart again, just more penitently this time. “What’s up?”

Steve takes a deep, slow breath, and then lets it go in a shaky exhale.

“I think I’ve been kind of—really fucking stupid,” he says emphatically. “Maybe. Can we talk?”

A smile spreads slowly over Bucky’s face as he gazes up at the distressed face of the man he loves so fucking much.

“Come on in,” he says, stepping back so Steve can enter.

Steve does, wringing his hands. He paces around Bucky’s living room for a while, and Bucky knows him really fucking well, knows this could take a while, as Steve internally works himself up into a frenzy. So, while Steve works on that, Bucky opens the box Steve brought him, and delicately selects a chocolate to eat as he bears witness to Steve’s silent breakdown.

Fuck,” he groans at the first bite of fudge, marshmallow, caramel, and sea salt. These are his favorite chocolates for a reason, damn it.

“Okay, here’s the thing,” Steve says in a breathy rush, rounding on Bucky a lot sooner than he’d expected to be rounded on, mouth still full of chocolate. “Bucky. The thing is—fuck!

There’s a moment when Bucky is relieved that he’s gonna get a chance to finish chewing and swallowing the food in his mouth before Steve drops whatever the thing is on him, but no such luck.

Steve collects himself, way too fast, and says with such earnestness, it knocks Bucky backward. “Buck, Christ, I love you.”

And now Bucky is choking on his favorite chocolates.

Steve is there, right next to him, because of fucking course he is, rubbing Bucky’s back and encouraging him to breathe, Bucky, come on, you can do it, that’s good, pal.

Bucky is gently guided to the couch, where Steve sits down next to him. It isn’t until the chocolate, marshmallow, caramel, and sea salt have fully cleared his esophagus that Bucky is able to croak out, “You what?!

“I love you,” Steve repeats, just as earnestly, like those three words directed at Bucky from this man don’t shake his entire universe apart. “I love you, Bucky, and I’ve been a fucking idiot.”

“Well, I’m not arguing with that,” Bucky says, still trying to make sure his head hasn’t, like…floated away, or something equally plausible now that Steve Rogers is sitting here, telling Bucky he loves him.

Steve fixes Bucky with a glare. “You can’t argue with me telling you I’m in love with you, Buck, that’s a fact, not an opinion.”

“You’re in love with me now?” Bucky squeaks.

“Do you think I’m not?” Steve demands. He obviously thinks Bucky’s trying to challenge him, the absolute dingbat, and he’s taking a breath to surely launch into an entire fucking speech about it, when Bucky lifts his arms, and covers Steve’s mouth with both of his hands.

Steve,” he begs. “Please. Are you really in love with me?”

Steve’s eyes, which have been hardened by conviction, suddenly melt into a softness as sweet as the marshmallow in those chocolates he bought just for Bucky.

Bucky lowers his hands to let Steve speak, and Steve smiles tenderly at him.

“Yeah, Buck,” he breathes. “I’m really in love with you. I’m surprised you didn’t know that already.”

For his part, Bucky is trying really hard not to cry right now. “You never said anything,” he says weakly, his voice thick.

“Well, neither did you,” Steve shoots back without any venom, “and you—”

He seems to realize exactly what he’s about to say, and cuts himself off abruptly, but Bucky grabs hold of his hand, gushing out before Steve has even a second to doubt it, “I love you, too. I do, Steve, I love you so much.”

Steve smiles, and Bucky is pretty sure, for a moment, that he’s finally going to get kissed by the love of his entire fucking life.

But then Steve is up like a shot, and pacing the living room again.

“But the thing is, I knew that,” he’s saying, distraught. “I knew that you love me, and that I love you, and it’s fucking scared me, Buck. I thought that just refusing to do anything about it would be okay. It would keep things the way they are, and I wouldn’t have to be afraid of loving you too hard to be able to make the right decisions for anyone else.”

Steve stops, across the room from Bucky, and looks at him with such deep, unrelenting remorse all over his face.

“I didn’t realize until last night,” he tells Bucky seriously. “But I think I knew you’d wait for me. I think I expected you to just be there until I was ready. That’s so fucking unfair to you, pal, and I can’t even express to you how deeply sorry I am. And if you’re done—if you’ve moved on, and that’s what you want, I completely understand.”

Steve wets his lips, takes another shaky breath, and Bucky can’t remember standing up off the couch, but he’s standing now. He’s standing, and staring across the room at Steve, who holds every hope and wish Bucky’s had for his entire life in his hands.

“I know I’ve blown a hundred chances with you already,” Steve says, his voice gone soft, and wobbling. Bucky wants to hold him, steady him, be steadied by him. “But if you think you could ever forgive me, I’d like to try to earn one more.”

Bucky is bursting with joy. Tears definitely fill his eyes now, but he’s grinning as wide as he thinks he ever has.

“Do you mean it this time?” he asks Steve. “Are you serious?”

A tentative smile crosses Steve’s face in return, and he breathes out, "Serious offers only, pal."

Bucky laughs, and he cries, and Steve takes one small step toward him. But then he reaches out for Steve, and Steve crosses to him at once.

Big, strong arms circle Bucky’s waist, pressing their bodies together. Bucky’s hands slip into Steve’s golden hair. And suddenly, a hundred years later, Steve Rogers kisses Bucky Barnes.

Steve tastes like coffee, and something that is uniquely Steve. Caffeine doesn’t affect either of them anymore, but it seems neither of them ever broke the habit of drinking it in the morning when they can. His lips are soft. They fit together perfectly with Bucky’s, like the two of them were genuinely made for each other.

Bucky moans helplessly when Steve sucks on his lower lip, bites down gently and worries it with his teeth. Steve is holding him so tightly, kissing him so sweet, Bucky might simply melt into goo right here and now.

Despite the distinct feeling that this is all Bucky wants to be doing for every moment of the rest of his life, after a minute or two, they both pull back. Though only enough that they can look at each other. Steve’s eyes are practically glowing with cartoon hearts as Bucky keeps carding his fingers through that gilt hair.

“I love you, Buck,” Steve whispers.

Bucky’s grin is painfully gigantic. “I love you, too,” he breathes back. “I’m yours, Stevie. I’ve always been yours.”

Steve sucks in a breath, wonder written all over his face as his hands rub up and down Bucky’s back. “Mine,” he repeats, awed, and Bucky can’t do anything but nod, and pull Steve in to kiss him again.

There’s more urgency to it this time, more vim and excitement. Bucky pushes up on his toes, even though he’s only a few inches shorter than Steve, so he can wrap his arms more tightly around Steve’s broad shoulders, opening his mouth eagerly to Steve’s inquiring tongue.

“Mine,” Steve says again — growls, just about — breaking from Bucky’s mouth to kiss across his jawline, down his neck. He slows as he reaches the most prominent fading hickey, outside of his clothes anyway, that Natasha left on Bucky’s neck. Bucky’s heart flutters a little in anticipation of Steve’s reaction to this. That Bucky didn’t just leave with Nat last night, but actually went home with her, let her fuck him, mark him.

Steve is possessive, after all, and Bucky really is his.

He’s not worried Steve will be angry with him, not even a little bit, but Bucky is worried Steve might feel…hurt, maybe. Upset?

But Steve reaches that mark that someone else gave Bucky, and he kisses it. Softly, almost reverently. He kisses it, and then he licks it, and Bucky shivers.

“Did you and Nat have fun last night?” Steve murmurs against Bucky’s skin. “After you left?”

Bucky glances down at Steve’s face, still a little worried he might see a hurt jealousy there, but he doesn’t. All he sees on Steve’s face is curiosity, and something very like mischief.

“Yes,” Bucky replies primly, feeling like he’s about to be teased. “We did, thanks very much.”

“Good,” Steve says genuinely, right before his smile turns wicked. “You’re about to have a lot more fun.”

And then, before Bucky can even breathe, Steve yanks Bucky’s shirt off over his head.

As soon as the shirt has cleared Bucky’s head, and been tossed carelessly over Steve’s shoulder, Steve’s mouth is back on Bucky’s neck; kissing and licking, scraping his teeth there, too light to leave his own marks yet. Bucky just clings to him, unable to even try to get Steve’s shirt off, too, just fully overwhelmed and overjoyed by what’s happening. That Steve wants him. That Steve loves him!

“So sweet of Nat to take care of you while I was being a jackass, wasn’t it?” Steve murmurs into Bucky’s skin as he moves to the other side of Bucky’s neck and focuses his attention there.

Bucky nods, his eyes fluttering shut, and, breathless, whispers, “Yeah.”

Steve hums, kisses under Bucky’s jaw.

“I should thank her,” he purrs. “You deserve to be taken care of, baby boy. And I’ve been neglectful.”

Already losing control of himself, Bucky genuinely whimpers. He can feel Steve’s mouth curl into a grin against his pulse point.

“But you’re mine now,” Steve growls, “aren’t you?”

“Yeah, Steve, fuck,” Bucky pants. He’s shaking, actually trembling through his entire body, being held and seen and known by the man he just fucking adores.

“Yeah,” Steve agrees slowly. “Yeah, you’re mine. And now I get to take care of you, huh?”

“Y—ah!” Bucky’s cut off by Steve’s teeth latching onto the mark Natasha left on his neck.

Steve begins to suck, clearly leaving his own mark on Bucky over Natasha’s. Claiming Bucky as his. Bucky clings to him even harder, nails scratching involuntarily across Steve’s back, over his t-shirt, pressing himself up against that broad chest. He squirms under Steve’s mouth. There’s nothing that could make him happier than he feels right now.

When he’s done, Steve lifts his head to admire his handiwork. He brushes a thumb over this fresh bruise, presses down on it until Bucky gasps, and then grins.

“Damn, that looks pretty on you,” he whispers.

Bucky ducks his head to nose gratefully at Steve’s jawline. “You gonna do the rest of ‘em?” he asks, his voice rough.

“Think I gotta,” Steve replies, eyes sparkling. “You want me to?”

Bucky smiles at Steve, pretending to think about it. “Well,” he deliberates, “I am yours now. Might as well claim me.”

Steve laughs, and it’s the prettiest sound Bucky’s ever heard. “Might as well,” he agrees.

He kisses Bucky again then, hard and pressing, and starts walking him backwards towards his bedroom. As they move there together, mouths open and tongues sliding against each other, Steve’s fingers undo the tie on Bucky’s sweatpants, shove them down past his hips, his thighs, then quickly grabbing hold of Bucky’s waist to keep him steady as he steps backward out of the last thing he’d been wearing.

“Christ, Bucky,” Steve groans into his mouth, “do you always go commando?”

Bucky laughs brightly, which makes Steve’s next kiss land haphazardly on his teeth.

“No,” he giggles, “you just caught me right after a shower, you punk.”

That makes Steve giggle, too. “Lucky me,” he purrs, and then shoves Bucky backward to fall into his bed.

Bucky stares up at Steve, still fully clothed, as Steve rakes his eyes hungrily over Bucky’s naked body, sprawled across his own bed.

“I love you,” he breathes. He didn’t even mean to speak. He just can’t fucking help it, now that he’s allowed.

Steve’s hungry look doesn’t leave, but it does soften. “I love you, too, Buck,” he says right back, completely honest and true. Bucky shivers with it. He starts scooting up the bed as Steve climbs over him. “I love you so fuckin’ much.”

“Why are you still—ahaa!—still dressed?” Bucky gasps as Steve kisses down his chest, locating every faded bruise on Bucky’s body and marking them over with his own.

“Don’t need to be naked for this,” Steve mutters against Bucky’s skin. And then bites down again.

Bucky yelps, and tries to squirm away, but Steve has him happily pinned. Not that Bucky’s really trying that hard.

I need you to be naked. And Nat didn’t leave anything there,” Bucky points out. It would probably sound more cutting if he weren’t so clearly deliriously happy about the whole thing.

And indeed, Steve looks up at him and grins. “I know,” he says, and goes right back to it.

Bucky melts into it — the feeling of Steve’s mouth on him, leaving kisses and bruises all over his body. Chest, nipples, stomach, hips, thighs, even one sucked into Bucky’s bicep. It’s delicious, and Bucky feels delirious with it all.

And then, very unexpectedly, as Steve mouths at his jawline, a dry finger slips between his cheeks and gently rubs at his hole.

Fu—huuck,” Bucky groans, arching against Steve’s still infuriatingly clothed body.

“You wanna?” Steve asks softly, lifting his head to look down at Bucky earnestly.

Bucky huffs a little laugh. “Stevie, I’ve been wanting this since nineteen twenty-nine.”

Steve snorts. “Better get to it, then,” he chuckles. “You got lube?”

“What do I look like?” Bucky asks, trying to glower through the bliss of being naked, and hard, and pinned underneath the love of his fucking life. “A fuckin’ amateur? Top drawer.”

Steve laughs as he reaches over to rifle through said drawer. “Condoms in here, too?”

“I don’t have condoms,” Bucky retorts. “I don’t have sex. And neither of us can catch or transmit shit, just fuck me, Stevie!”

“Okay, okay,” Steve replies in a soothing voice, clicking open the cap on the lube and coating his fingers with it. “I got you, sweetheart. I love you.”

And Bucky would say it back, he absolutely would. Except that Steve chooses that moment to push two fingers inside him, all at once. And so, Bucky can no longer speak, only moan. Loudly.

“Jesus, darlin’,” Steve praises in a low rumble that goes directly to Bucky’s leaking cock, “you’re so fuckin’ open, honey. You feel so fuckin’ good, Buck, can’t wait to get inside you.”

“Get inside me,” Bucky gasps, panting, chest heaving. “C’mon, honey, I need it. Need you.”

Steve groans. “I gotta stretch you,” he protests weakly.

Bucky shakes his head. “Stretch me on your cock,” he begs, and Steve growls, and crooks his fucking fingers inside Bucky, immediately finding his prostate, and rubbing it savagely.

Stevestevestevestevesteve!” Bucky hisses, arching up further and further, pressing his cock against Steve’s t-shirt and not even feeling a little bad about it.

And then, all at once, Steve’s fingers disappear. Horrifically, this makes Bucky whine. But Steve shushes him gently.

“It’s all right, baby boy,” he croons, stripping his shirt off over his lovely head. “I’m here, I’m right here.”

Bucky wiggles impatiently while Steve slips out of his jeans and boxer briefs, tossing them wildly off the bed.

He’s seen Steve naked before — couldn’t really avoid it, sharing a childhood, and then a tiny railroad flat with the bathtub in the kitchen, and then a squad in the army, where sometimes the only bathing they could get was five minutes all together in a stream — and he’s seen him shirtless plenty, but never like this. Never aroused, the red head of his cock dripping precum, and looking at Bucky again like he wants to eat him alive. His dick is exceedingly pretty, and Bucky desperately wants it inside him.

“Babydoll,” Bucky pleads, reaching his arms out to Steve as endearments fall, unbidden, from his mouth. “Sweetheart, please. I need you, Stevie, I need you.”

“I’m right here,” Steve breathes again, crawling over Bucky to settle his weight back down across the length of his body, but also pushing Bucky’s legs further apart with his own thighs. “Buck, honey, I’m right here for you. All for you, baby boy, I swear to god.”

Bucky whines, utterly gone, desperately needy, and Steve quiets him with a soft, sweet kiss. Their lips woven together, and the lightest scrape of teeth.

And just like that — as Bucky clings to the promise in this sweet, soft kiss — the blunt head of Steve’s cock presses against his half-stretched hole, and then, after a moment’s pause, slowly pushes inside.

Bucky practically sobs the entire time Steve is sliding inside him, stretching him open. Steve is inside him. Steve is inside him. They’re kissing, and they’re fucking, and a week ago, Bucky was sitting alone on Steve’s couch, watching his best friend run away and disappear into his bedroom, while his own heart fractured for the millionth time, and now Steve is fucking him. Steve is kissing him. Steve is murmuring, ‘I love you,’ over and over against Bucky’s mouth.

“You all right?” Steve whispers, tilting his head to press a kiss to the fresh tear tracks on Bucky’s cheek. He’s holding still, buried all the way inside, his hips flush with Bucky’s ass.

Bucky smiles. A few more tears squeeze out of his eyes. “I’m perfect, Stevie,” he whispers back. “I’m with you.”

A crooked smile presses into the corner of Steve’s beautiful, pink lips, kiss-swollen from Bucky’s mouth. “Fuck, I love you,” he breathes.

And then he starts to move.

Bucky, already lost to this, loses himself even more. It’s not like last night, not him sinking into subspace. He’s fully aware of every thrust, every slide of Steve’s gorgeous cock. The way Steve’s brow furrows, the way his eyes shine bright. Each drop of sweat that shines on his temples, every gasping breath as he folds Bucky in half and absolutely fucking rails him.

And through it all, Steve doesn’t cease bestowing Bucky with endless, unrivaled kisses. It’s like he can’t help it. Can’t bring himself to stop pressing their lips together, over and over, for more than just a few seconds at a time. Like he’s been dying for this, too.

“Fuck,” Bucky bites out at some point. Steve’s cock nails his prostate with every thrust, now. “Fuck, Steve—babydoll. I’m gonna— I can’t—!”

“Come for me, sweet boy,” Steve purrs roughly in his ear. He sounds almost gone, himself. “Been dreaming of this for fuckin’ decades, love, show me how pretty you look when you come.”

That does it. Bucky falls apart. He shakes through it, hands clutching at Steve’s toned back and his golden hair. His release spurts between them, splattering both of their chests, shooting so far, a glob hits Bucky under his jaw, this time. A few inches further than Nat got, then, his mind helpfully supplies him. Cool.

“God, Bucky, you’re amazing,” Steve sighs, fucking into him harder and faster, chasing his own release now that Bucky has come all over them both. “You’re just incredible, you perfect, wonderful boy.”

Bucky whimpers and sobs again, hooking his legs up higher around Steve’s waist, trying to hold him so close, their bodies just merge into one. So they never have to be apart, not ever again.

“My—fuck—good boy,” Steve continues, breathing heavily now, his eyes squeezing shut with pleasure. “My sweet boy. My gorgeous—augh—magnificent, beautiful, perfect boy—Buck!

Steve comes with Bucky’s name on his lips, spilling inside him, truly making Bucky his.

He collapses on top of Bucky as soon as he’s spent, and they spend a few minutes just like that, panting, and kissing each other, and waiting until they come back down from this high to move.

Steve’s mouth travels across Bucky’s shoulder and collarbone, up his neck, along his jaw, until it finds his mouth. And Bucky holds on to his own perfect boy. The one he’s wanted his whole life. His, now.

Mine.

Steve lifts his head after a while, but only to shine the prettiest smile Bucky’s ever seen to the boy who has always been his. Even if Steve didn’t know it, Bucky was his. Since birth. Since before the planets were formed. Since time first began.

Bucky loves him. Indefatigably.

“Hey,” Steve murmurs, low and warm. And then, like his mind has wandered in the same direction as Bucky’s has, he asks, “You know I’m all yours, too, right?”

A gigantic smile spreads across Bucky’s face, lighting up his entire body like a flame. “Yeah, Stevie,” he whispers, and reaches up to brush a sweat-stuck lock of hair from this beautiful man’s forehead. “I do.”

Steve hums happily, and presses his lips to Bucky’s once more.

When he pulls away again, he searches Bucky’s face. “Have you had breakfast yet?” he asks.

Bucky shakes his head, twining his metal fingers with Steve’s. “Not yet.”

Steve kisses his cheek. “Lemme get my sweet boy some breakfast, huh?”

Bucky cannot stop smiling, all happy and blushing.

“Okay, Steve,” he agrees, then lifts his head to seal their mouths together again.

 

art of a bra and panties on the floor

 

Not long later, Bucky finds himself seated at a table in the common area’s kitchen, having consumed an entire stack of banana pancakes. Steve is sitting next to him, reading today’s paper, just like he might any other morning they’ve spent together. Only today, Steve’s left hand is resting, warm, high on Bucky’s right thigh, his long fingers dipped to the inner seam of Bucky’s jeans.

Bucky’s fine with the quiet. This routine of quiet breakfasts, where Steve doesn’t try to engage Bucky in too much conversation, began when Bucky first moved into the tower, still too used to solitude to be very comfortable speaking to anyone before he’d at least eaten. And nowadays, that’s not so much an issue for him anymore, but he still does enjoy the peaceful serenity of spending time at the beginning of the day just being near Steve, without any need for words.

And today, especially, because this morning, Bucky can openly watch Steve’s pretty face as he reads, for as long as he wants, with no shame. Steve is Bucky’s, and Bucky is Steve’s. He can stare all he wants. He’s allowed.

It’s his god-given right to gawp at his boyfriend, and he’s gonna take goddamn advantage of it.

Besides, from the quirk of his lips, and the blush high on his cheeks, Steve doesn’t seem to mind at all.

The door across the room opens, and angled as he is toward Steve, Bucky doesn’t even need to turn to watch Nat walk in with a sweet smile on her lips, and her hand entwined with Clint’s, right behind her. Neither of them seem to notice that Steve and Bucky are there yet, as she leads him into the kitchen, stopping and turning to him in front of the refrigerator.

One thing Bucky knows about Natasha is that, while flirtatious, she’s not at all comfortable with pretty much any level of PDA. Even holding Clint’s hand in the common area is fairly remarkable for her. So, when Clint reaches up, and sweetly tucks a lock of her long, vibrant hair behind her ear, and she responds with a blindingly tender smile, Bucky almost feels like he’s intruding on something very private.

But then Clint turns, and opens the fridge, and Natasha looks right over at Bucky. Clearly, she’s known he and Steve were there the whole time. Bucky smiles warmly at her.

Absently, and without taking his eyes off of his newspaper for even a second, Steve lifts the hand he’s been using to squeeze Bucky’s thigh, loops his arm around Bucky’s neck instead, cupping his head, and pulling him close so that Steve can press an absent, adoring kiss to Bucky’s temple as he reads.

Natasha grins at Bucky, utterly happy, and Bucky returns it in kind.

Clint emerges from the refrigerator, talking to Nat in a low voice. She shoots Bucky a fond wink before she turns her attention back to Clint.

And as Nat and Clint start lovingly bickering over breakfast food, and Steve’s hand returns to Bucky’s thigh only to be quickly covered by one of Bucky’s hands in turn, Bucky can’t help but feel that everything worked out exactly the way it was meant to.