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Lovers in a Dangerous Time

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Growing up on military bases, Bucky figured he would have joined up even if the first wave of Kaiju attacks hadn’t killed his parents.

Rebecca’s motivations, on the other hand, were a mix of wanting to stick close to Bucky and the wish to kick Kaiju butt. The latter Bucky could get completely behind, but it wasn’t until the day they found out they were Drift compatible that he reconciled himself with his big sister’s need to keep an eye on him. He was a grown-up, dammit, and didn’t need a babysitter. Still, it was pretty much impossible to resent the only family he had left, especially since the shared consciousness of the Drift made it impossible not to see the deep love underlying the incessant mothering and ceaseless ribbing. So the Barnes siblings joined the Jaeger program and became Rangers for SHIELD.

They were good ones, too, piloting American Invader to victory over four Kaiju. The last one was the biggest, a Category IV in Manila, and they only made it with the help of Hawkeye. Bucky quite liked the other pilots, Barney and Clint Barton, and was sad to hear of Barney’s death in 2022 - although not enough to reach out, too lost still in his own grief. He’d lost Becca in 2020, to a fucking Category III Kaiju, although admittedly the biggest one to date.

Afterwards, when he wasn’t drowning his sorrow in as much cheap liquor as he could afford, that night replayed in his head over and over again. Getting woken by the sirens in Anchorage Shatterdome, the grin on Becca’s face on stepping into the Conn-Pod, the familiar surge of adrenaline when they dropped into the ocean and got ready to face Baron Zemo. Bucky had been so confident, so sure they would pull this off, he was the one who pushed to save the little fishing boat. Not that Becca would have done it any differently, but that didn’t stop Bucky from blaming himself, full of bitterness and anger, once he regained enough of his senses to do so.

At first, though, all he could feel was unbearable agony, ice cold in place of Becca’s warm and familiar presence. It was so bad he didn’t even notice the pain of his missing arm until he woke up in hospital. SHIELD tried to debrief him there, but even had he wanted to cooperate and remember those eternal minutes during which he somehow managed to kill Baron Zemo and get American Invader to shore by himself, only the second ever Jaeger pilot to do so, Bucky’s mind was a screaming emptiness. He discharged himself from both the hospital and SHIELD as soon as he was able.

There was no way he could face going back to the Shatterdome and watch other Jaegers, maybe even American Invader, go out to fight Kaiju, not when Becca’s absence was a permanent ache in his mind and heart. At least SHIELD gave him, the hero of Anchorage, a brand-new prosthetic arm powered by neural connections derived from Jaeger tech. He took it and disappeared into the cold.

***

Steve Rogers wanted nothing more than to become a Jaeger pilot. Not just because the Kaiju had killed his parents but because as far as he was concerned it was the right thing to do, the only thing to do. The moment he was old enough to make himself a fake ID, he tried signing up for the Ranger program over and over, but his health issues, numerous from birth and exacerbated by his exposure to Kaiju Blue, got him rejected every time.

Finally, desperate, he reached out to the man who had rescued him from the attack that cost his parents their lives, and Marshal Fury, no longer a Jaeger pilot but in charge of the entire program, seemed to see something in Steve. He still did not get to set foot inside a real Jaeger, but at least he got to work on them. And then Dr. Erskine, one of the original inventors of the Pons System on which the whole Jaeger tech was based, managed to derive something miraculous from the toxic waste of Kaiju Blue.

It always struck Steve as rather fitting that the stuff that had made him so ill ended up turning him into the picture of health. He was supposed to be the first in a new line of Rangers, bodies and minds optimised to better withstand the strains of piloting a Jaeger. However, the first ever Category IV, codename Red Skull, put an end to that, flattening Manila Shatterdome and killing several hundred people, among them Dr. Erskine.

Thanks to his Kaiju-improved constitution Steve survived and did his best to help free as many victims as possible from the wreckage. Still, it was with bittersweet longing that he watched Hawkeye and American Invader defeat Red Skull, until Peggy found him. Her eyes were red, although Steve wasn’t sure whether from crying over Erskine’s death or from the dust of destruction still clinging to the air, and she hugged him hard, her small frame dwarfed by his own, still somewhat unfamiliar body. Still, he knew better than to underestimate the British Ranger, knowing how hard she’d had to fight to become one of the first female pilots.

Peggy Carter was who Steve had dreamed of Drifting with almost from the first time he met her, which had been well before Erskine’s treatment. Not only was she beautiful, funny and fiercely intelligent, she had also never treated Steve as something less, unlike many of the other Rangers, who in the earlier days of the program often came from hyper-masculine military backgrounds. She listened to his dreams and shared her own, and together they imagined a day when Steve was well enough to join Peggy in a Jaeger.

Now Steve was definitely well enough, but still Fury didn’t let him sign up, even as years passed and their fight against the Kaiju became more and more desperate. It didn’t matter how good Steve was in the simulations, Fury always pointed to the differences in his brain scans, caused by Erskine’s serum. The idea had of course been that there would be more Kaiju-improved Rangers, whose brains would be compatible, but since Steve was the only one, Fury flat out refused. Unfortunately he was backed up by Howard Stark, another pioneer of Jaeger tech and now the head of the Kaiju science division, and since Steve most certainly did not want to hurt anyone he was Drifting with he accepted the decision with a heavy heart.

This was compounded by Peggy finding a co-pilot in the affable Daniel Sousa. They were a good fit and made for a great Jaeger team - right until the moment a massive Category IV Kaiju tore off the digital drive powering their brand-new Mark-4, immobilising and finally destroying it. Peggy and Daniel did not make it to their escape pods, leaving Steve grief-stricken and more lonely than ever. He took to scavenging the closed Shatterdomes, needing desperately to be of more use than just standing on the side-lines while Fury tried to keep the Jaeger program alive.

It was in Anchorage that he discovered that the remnants of American Invader had never been scrapped. Looking at the giant Mark-3 that had impressed him so much back in Manila, Steve thought of the Marshal’s desperate need for more Jaegers and made a call. Maybe the time for old-fashioned, analog nuclear power had not yet passed - and maybe Steve would still get his chance to avenge his parents, Peggy and everyone else. Despite the cold Alaskan air, Steve felt warmed by a flicker of hope.

***

“Bucky!”

The first time the name was called, it really didn’t register, so unused had Bucky become to the sound of it. He’d been Barnes or Hey you for most of the past five years, trying his best to forget who he’d been before in the hopes that then he’d also be able to forget who he’d lost.

“Bucky Barnes!”

The second time he ignored it on purpose, edging slowly, unobtrusively, towards the back. He’d worked hard to become just another man helping to construct the massive Anti-Kaiju Wall, and he had no intention of going back. But his fellow Wall workers had dropped everything the moment the black chopper prominently displaying the SHIELD logo landed and were now forming a rather inconvenient obstacle.

“James Buchanan Barnes!”

The third time Bucky had only managed to elbow his way through a few rows of curious onlookers, but he was still holding out hope to disappear. However, right then the Foreman caught sight of him and yelled, “Hey you, you’re Barnes, aren’t you?”

Sighing, Bucky turned around and made his way to the front of the crowd. It appeared there was no alternative than to face the annoyingly insistent man in Ranger black. However, when he was finally able to see the new arrivals clearly, he stopped short. Just for a moment, then he’d regained his composure and even managed a half-hearted salute. “Marshal Fury, what brings you to the wilds of Alaska?” He nodded to the Ranger next to Fury, the one who’d so enthusiastically called his name, and said in his driest voice, “Barton.”

The pilot grinned, undaunted, but remained standing at what passed for attention with Clint Barton. Not that Bucky could blame him, Nick Fury’s presence was enough to intimidate even the most mischievous man into good behavior. The man was a living legend, and Bucky found himself wavering slightly under the unreadable gaze of Fury’s one eye. His voice was similarly expressionless: “I’m afraid I’ve come for you, Ranger.”

At this Bucky pulled himself up and replied firmly, “I’m not a Ranger anymore, Marshal, I don’t take orders from you or anyone.”

Half an hour later he was scowling through a window down at the disappearing coast of Alaska. His dark thoughts were interrupted by Clint, who sat down next to him and said cheerfully, “Don’t feel bad, you stood your ground longer than I’d have done in your place.” Then warmth infused his voice as he continued more quietly, “I never got a chance to tell you in person, but I’m so sorry about Becca.”

Bucky froze and squeezed his eyes shut for a moment before forcing himself to exhale and reply as civilly as he could manage, “And I’m sorry about Barney.”

He could feel Clint nod, but he didn’t say anything else, and the rest of the flight they shared a surprisingly comfortable silence. Bucky felt himself relax incrementally. He still thought Fury was crazy to think he could get Bucky into another Jaeger, but maybe being back with people who shared some of the same experiences wouldn’t be so bad. When they reached Hong Kong and the last remaining active Shatterdome, it was raining, and Bucky slung the satchel containing all his possessions over his shoulder and stepped out of the plane, feeling mostly ready to face what was left of the Jaeger program.

***

Steve and Natasha stepped outside when the plane landed. Gallantly Steve shielded the red-headed pilot with his umbrella, which earned him a snort and the quirk of an impeccably curved eyebrow. He smiled down at the small woman, taking it as the thanks it was doubtlessly meant to be. Natasha Romanoff had been Clint’s co-pilot for two years, but Steve had only really begun to get to know her when they all relocated to Hong Kong.

There were so few of them left now, only three Jaegers and the men and women needed to maintain them. Well, soon there’d be four Jaegers, and Steve was looking forward to meeting the man Fury had travelled halfway around the world for. If a part of him stubbornly clung to the hope that he might become the other half of the pilot team, Steve did his best not to be too obvious about it, although doubtlessly Natasha could read him easily. Still, when they reached the arrivals, he pulled himself up until he almost stood at attention. In the process his umbrella whipped around, and there was an awkward little dance as frantically apologized to Natasha and tried not to hit anyone with it.

“So that’s your top team, Fury, the ones that are supposed to save the world from the Kaiju?” The voice speaking in Russian was mocking but not mean, and Steve looked up and met a pair of amused blue eyes. A shiver ran down Steve’s spine, one he clamped down on immediately. This was most certainly not the time to develop a crush, not even on a man he’d admired since Manila.

He managed to reply calmly in the same language, “I’m not a pilot, Ranger Barnes. And I rather thought you were here to do the saving. Else you’ve come a long way for nothing.”

“I’m sorry, I just assumed - you seem like perfect Ranger material,” Barnes said in English, a surprised grin quirking the corners of his mouth as he looked Steve up and down in a way that was just a bit too deliberate to be casual. Since Erskine’s treatment Steve had become used to the long glances and usually found them something of a nuisance, but somehow this time it wasn’t unwelcome.

Their eyes locked until Fury broke the moment that was threatening to stretch between them. “Glad you gentlemen seem to get along. Barnes, this is Steve Rogers. His assistance has been invaluable in getting your Jaeger back up to scratch. He will also help select your co-pilot.”

Steve looked down and stared at his feet, feeling suddenly small and unimportant again, after Fury had made it so clear to Barnes that Steve would never set foot in a cockpit. The warmth in the other man’s voice made him raise his eyes again. “Call me Bucky, Steve. I’ll be glad to work with you. And now, please introduce me to the lady - and this one’s certainly a pilot, right?”

The smile on Steve’s face was wide. He tended to judge people on how he thought they would have treated him when he was still the scrawny kid desperate to prove himself, and Barnes, Bucky, struck him as the type who despised bullies. Before he managed to reply, however, Natasha spoke up in her usual firm way, “The lady can introduce herself. Natasha Romanoff. Pleased to meet you, Ranger Barnes.”

Fury, ignoring them as well as the rain, started to walk into the Shatterdome. They followed him as a group, Clint doing his usual proud spiel whenever he got to introduce anyone to his co-pilot: “You might have heard of her - I poached her from the Russians.”

By which he meant he fished her out of the sea when Black Widow was destroyed by Zola. Her co-pilot had been killed, and since Russia had stopped their Jaeger program, Clint had managed to convince her to join him in Sydney, where they became the most successful team in history, defeating no less than nine Kaiju, including the one that broke through the Anti-Kaiju Wall on the day after Widow Hawk was decommissioned. Steve had heard the story many times before, but it never failed to amuse him, mostly because of the fond look in Natasha’s eyes.

Bucky was listening with the appropriate amount of interest, but when Steve caught his eye, he winked conspiratorially and Steve had to bite his lip to keep from laughing. Two minutes later they ran into Tony and Bruce, the Kaiju scientists, and Steve had to swallow another laugh at the look on Bucky’s face when he saw Tony’s rather impressive tattoo of Baron Zemo. There hadn’t been much laughter in recent months, and Steve felt strangely light-headed. It was somewhat reminiscent of when he still had asthma, except not in a bad way at all.

***

The Hong Kong Shatterdome was pretty much like any other Shatterdome Bucky had ever been to - except for the scrap metal everywhere and the air of desperation that hung over everything. Even Fury seemed more serious than ever, if that was even possible. At least the pilots were good, probably the best. He’d heard of Natasha Romanoff, of course, and Clint pointed out the other two teams and their Jaegers, brothers Thor and Loki Odinson in their massive Mark-1 Nordic Hammer and Black Falcon’s Sam Wilson and T’Challa.

When they reached the LOCCENT, Fury didn’t even need to say anything to get Natasha to drag her co-pilot away. Steve Rogers remained, however, and looking up into the handsome face, still smiling from Sam Wilson’s friendly greeting just before, Bucky found he didn’t mind at all. There was something incredibly appealing about the big man with the gentle eyes, who held himself as if he wasn’t the most impressive specimen Bucky had seen in… ever. He still wondered why Rogers wasn’t a pilot but only some kind of engineer. Remembering the naked look of longing he’d caught before Fury shut down any question of Steve being a Ranger, Bucky vowed to find out what the story was here.

His thoughts were interrupted by two familiar voices, and with a smile he greeted Maria Hill, Fury’s right-hand woman. Someone was missing, however. Looking around, Bucky asked, “Where’s Coulson? Don’t tell me he’s no longer with the program?”

Fury’s face darkened, but it was Maria who replied, voice tight, “I’m afraid he died last year in San Diego when Thanos attacked.”

As always when faced with the reality of yet another death, the familiar white-hot pain shot through Bucky’s arm, originating in the part of his mind that had been laid waste when Becca had been ripped away. He gritted his teeth and managed to nod and mumble some platitude, but his thoughts were far away, in the cold waters before Anchorage. A gentle hand on his arm brought him back, and he looked up to meet Steve’s eyes. There was no pity in them, only understanding, and Bucky could feel himself relax marginally.

“Let me show you something,” Steve said quietly, his hand warm even through Bucky’s jacket. Without another word he led them to a hangar bay, and Bucky’s breath stocked again, this time in amazement. Steve spoke again, “I found her in Anchorage and figured she had at least one more fight in her.”

This led to Fury calling the Kaiju scientists they’d met earlier, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, to further explain their desperate plan of dropping a nuclear bomb right into the Rift. Tony did most of the talking, both similar and very different from his legendary father, and Bruce’s role seemed to be to reign him in and contribute facts when Tony became too fanciful. But although Bucky was listening, he couldn’t stop looking at what had once been American Invader, looking even more beautiful than the last time he’d seen her five years ago.

Glancing at Steve, who was giving Fury his whole attention although he must have heard this speech before, Bucky felt somehow sure that it had been his idea to paint her red, white and blue, with a star gleaming on her chest. It was obviously a labor of love, and when Steve showed him to his room later, he couldn’t help but ask, “How come you’re not a pilot? You obviously have the heart of one.”

Steve blushed, something Bucky found incredibly endearing, and mumbled, “Thank you. That means a lot, coming from you.” When Bucky couldn’t hide his confusion completely, he added softly, “I always figured doing what you did in Anchorage took more than brute strength, it took a lot of heart.”

Bucky stared, his stomach tight, but Steve squared his shoulders and held his gaze. After a long moment, Bucky exhaled with a sharp laugh. “Wow, underneath all those muscles you’re a great big sap, Rogers!”

It was that or bursting into tears, and miraculously Steve seemed to get this, giving him a grin that was decidedly flirty. “Call me Steve. Jerk.”

“Alright, Steve - you punk.” They were standing in the hallway between their quarters, smiling widely at each other, and Bucky felt as if he’d known this man his whole life. So he didn’t hesitate to repeat his question, “But really, why aren’t you a pilot?”

***

Steve normally didn’t like to explain the whole Kaiju serum story, but when he and Bucky separated that night, he had told him everything, from his childhood illnesses to the anomalies in his brain scans that led to his exclusion from the Jaeger program despite his excellent results in the simulators. Somehow Bucky’s reactions hit exactly the right balance of sympathy and gentle humor, and having finally said good night, Steve stood a moment in the entrance to his room, looking across the hallway to Bucky’s open door.

The pilot had pulled his baggy sweater over his head, exposing the gleam of his prosthetic arm, something that hadn’t been noticeable before because he was wearing black gloves on both hands. Where the metal stopped thick scars ran down Bucky’s left side, and Steve’s hand twitched as he imagined tracing the knotted skin, feeling the hard muscles of Bucky’s broad back, and twisting in the unkempt black hair. His fantasies were interrupted, when he realized that Bucky was looking straight at him, face unreadable. Blushing furiously at having been caught staring, Steve stepped back and slammed the heavy metal door shut.

The next morning in the mess hall he avoided Bucky, taking his tray up to American Invader. However, since he had been the one vetting the applicants, he had no alternative but to show up in the Kwoon Combat Room. He told himself it didn’t matter that he wasn’t one of the candidates, that all he wanted was to find the right partner for Bucky. He deserved the best.

The only problem with this was that, although they tried hard, none of the candidates were up to scrutiny. Bucky dispatched one after the other with an ease that left Steve full of admiration and with just a bit of tightness in his pants. If there were differences between how he controlled his real arm and the neural pathways of the prosthetic, Bucky didn’t show it, although it was unlikely he had done much fighting while working in construction, unless of the very down-and-dirty kind. Steve itched to go up against him, thinking that for once he might not have to hold back.

As if he could read his mind, Bucky shook his head when the next candidate wanted to step onto the mat. “This is getting us nowhere. Marshal, why don’t we give Steve a shot - he’s been looking decidedly unimpressed.” Steve looked at him pleadingly, but Fury was already shaking his head. Bucky remained undaunted. “Look, I know all about the serum, but I tell you, I’m not letting you match me up with anyone until we’ve at least tried. You want the best, don’t you? And if I’m willing to risk it, and Steve is willing to risk it...”

Fury was watching them both with his one good eye, as always not letting anything slip. But Steve knew him better than most, had seen him step out of his Jaeger alone, on the day that had cost Steve’s parents their lives, and he sensed a slight softening. Realizing he was holding his breath, he released it to add quickly, “Yes, Nick, he’s right. Do you think Erskine would have wanted me to stand on the sidelines? Just let us try!”

Much to everyone’s surprise, Fury did agree, although he made sure they knew he was only letting them fight and had not agreed to anything more as of yet. Steve didn’t care, all he felt was elation as he took off his shoes and joined Bucky on the mat. He did not bother with the staff, and Bucky put aside his as well, acknowledging Steve with a nod and a grin.

They squared off, circling one another slowly, until Bucky lashed out, lightning quick. Steve managed just barely to block him, but used his momentum for a hard kick that had Bucky stumble backwards. However, he caught himself before Steve could take advantage of the opening and countered with a whirlwind of kicks and hits, sometimes using his prosthetic to propel himself. Steve just about managed to avoid the worst hits and realized that he had indeed found an opponent with whom he didn’t have to hold back.

Using the whole mat, he backed up only to weave sidewards when Bucky tried to press him, showering him with a quick succession of punches. However, the metal arm made for a great shield, and Bucky held Steve off long enough to find the moment Steve was slightly off-balance from another fast kick and swept his legs out from under him. Recovering just in time Steve bounced back, but Bucky charged him, not losing control for one second, and they tumbled onto the mat. Steve twisted, reversing their positions, but Bucky leveraged himself on his left arm and they rolled over, both uselessly trying to either land a good punch or break the other’s hold.

Finally, Fury’s clipped voice broke their little bubble, calling a draw, and they collapsed onto their backs. Both men were sweating and breathing hard, and Steve was fighting the urge to laugh. Looking over to Bucky, their gazes locked, and Steve recognized the same delight in those blue eyes. Heat coiled in Steve’s stomach, and he couldn’t suppress the grin spreading on his face as he asked mock-coyly, “Well, and do I pass muster, Ranger Barnes?”

Bucky pushed himself to his feet and offered Steve a hand up which was gratefully accepted. His grasp was warm and firm, as was his smile, tinged with approval and flirtation. “Oh, do you ever...” He turned towards Fury, who was watching them, face inscrutable, and added, “You must see it, Marshal - Steve is my co-pilot.”

It was a statement of fact, but Fury remained unmoved: “You will find that this decision is still up to me, Barnes.”

***

At the Marshal’s words Steve visibly deflated, the excited light disappearing from his eyes along with his smile, and Bucky felt instantly furious on his behalf. 48 hours ago Bucky would have sworn to never set foot in a Jaeger again, and now he realized he was willing to do whatever it took to be able to go into the Drift with this man. But there was no arguing with Fury, and when Bucky knocked on Steve’s door after his confrontation with the Marshal, he knew he’d come very close to be dismissed altogether.

Steve opened, and Bucky could feel an ache starting in his chest when he noticed the dark circles around the tall man’s eyes. He forced himself to smile. “I’m sorry. I tried, but…”

“But Fury doesn’t change his mind for anyone.” Voice flat, Steve shrugged, motioning for him to enter, but the muscles in his neck relaxed almost imperceptibly. Bucky followed the invitation, looking around the room curiously. It was standard issue, not much more than a bunk, a desk and some storage, but there were drawings all over the walls. Many of them were of Jaegers, both complete and in schematics, and Bucky recognized American Invader as well several others, but even more were of people, some posed, some obviously caught unawares. He didn’t need to see the tiny ‘SR’ signature to know who had drawn them.

All of them were beautiful, and Bucky couldn’t help but stare in awe. “Wow. Steve, these are amazing!”

“Umm. Thanks.” Steve gave a small, embarrassed laugh and actually scuffed his toes like an overgrown schoolboy, charming Bucky thoroughly. The attraction he’d felt pretty much from the start was beginning to feel dangerously like a crush, which normally would have sent him running. Running was all he had done in the last five years, after all. Yet here he was, and the last thing he wanted was to be anywhere else. He became aware that he was staring when Steve caught his eyes. “And thanks for what you did in the Kwoon.”

It was Bucky’s turn to feel embarrassed. “I did it because if I have to go back out there, I want to have the best co-pilot. And you must have known even before the fight that we’re Drift-compatible.”

He used to scoff at stories that talked about Drift-compatibility as if it somehow meant two people were soulmates. Most teams consisted of family members, although admittedly couples like husbands and wives were not unheard of, but Bucky had always seen it as a matter of genetics and brain structure formed by similar experiences. Yet there was no doubt in his mind that he could Drift with Steve, that sharing this man’s mind would feel as right than it had with Becca, maybe even more so. She would probably have approved - ribbed him endlessly but approved. Before he could stop himself, he blurted out, “My sister would have liked you.”

There was no confusion at the apparent non-sequitur in Steve’s light blue eyes, only understanding, and his smile was gentle and pleased. “I’m sure I would have liked her, too.” Then his grin turned mischievous as he added, “Not as much as I like her brother, of course.”

They were standing close together, anything else was almost impossible in the small room and with Steve’s bulk, and Bucky could almost feel the inches separating their bodies. Licking his lips, he stepped even nearer, right into Steve’s space. “I gotta say, I’m glad to hear that.”

One second passed, then another, and then they were kissing. There was none of the usual awkwardness of a new partner, despite Steve being easily the tallest person Bucky had ever kissed. Instead they fit together perfectly, each move one made anticipated by the other, in the same way they had done while fighting in the Kwoon. Steve’s arms were around Bucky’s waist, holding him tightly, the strength Bucky could feel coiled in those broad shoulders decidedly arousing. He had never been one for power play in bed, but the thought of Steve holding him down made Bucky moan into the kiss. Using his momentary advantage, Steve took Bucky’s lower lip between his teeth and tucked gently, and Bucky swore and ground his hips against the strong thigh that was pushing its way between his legs.

They had only been kissing for a few minutes, and he was already well on his way to a full erection. His only comfort was that Steve was in the same state, and he wormed his left hand between their bodies, ruthlessly using its strength to simply rip apart Steve’s sweatpants. Now it was Steve who moaned, a low sound starting in the back of his throat that turned into a loud groan the moment Bucky touched metal fingers to hot flesh. Bucky grinned and nipped Steve’s exposed throat. “Kinky, Rogers, kinky…”

It probably would have been a more convincing show of prowess if he hadn’t been rutting against Steve’s thigh like a highschool kid, but since Steve was in no condition to notice he took it as a win. Steve’s cock was hard in his hand, and he began jerking him off in earnest, once again almost instinctively knowing how Steve liked to be touched. It wasn’t long, however, before he found himself lifted off his feet and deposited on his back on Steve’s bunk, his surprised gasp swallowed by an eager mouth.

It was a standard Ranger-issue one-person bunk, and even with Steve straddling Bucky, grinding their hips together while their tongues did a battle-dance that was maddeningly arousing, quarters were tight. Still, Bucky had had sex in more uncomfortable places, and he scooted up until he was half-sitting against the wall, Steve on his lap, their mouths still fused together. Breaking apart for as short an amount of time as possible, he rid first Steve than himself of their shirts, reveling in the expanse of smooth skin under his questing hands.

***

Steve was busy, too, allowing his fingers to trace the seam where flesh turned metal. He must have been doing something right, because Bucky shivered and turned into his touch, making Steve wonder how sensation worked through the neural connections forged by Jaeger tech. Only for a moment, though, because he was too caught up in sensation himself. Bucky definitely knew what he was about, his tongue wickedly teasing and his hands trailing all over Steve’s bare chest, raising goosebumps in their wake.

Tearing himself away, Steve sat back on his heels, all too aware that this brought their crotches into close contact. For a long moment he simply tried to memorize the way Bucky looked, hoping that maybe later he’d be able to draw him like this, all mussed up in Steve’s bed, half-naked and altogether the sexiest thing Steve had ever seen. When Bucky quirked a questioning eyebrow, he swallowed and asked, trying to keep his voice steady despite his increased heart rate and breathing, “How about we get rid of the rest of these clothes, Buck?”

“Now that’s an excellent idea!” The pleased grin that transformed Bucky’s face was quickly becoming one of Steve’s favorite things. He couldn’t help himself, he had to lean forward to kiss him again, but Bucky pushed him away before they got carried away again. Steve obeyed and stood up in order to step out of his sweats, torn from Bucky’s earlier tease. When he looked up, Bucky hadn’t moved but was watching him, appreciation and arousal clear on his features. Resisting the urge to cover his undeniable erection, Steve folded his arms over his chest instead and gave him a long look.

Grinning again, Bucky quickly complied and slid out of his jeans with the innate grace of someone utterly comfortable in his own skin. Then he laid back once more and gestured for Steve to join him, which he did with alacrity and rather less grace, banging his knee in the process and cursing. For a minute the mood was broken as they both laughed, but then Bucky hauled Steve close and resumed kissing him, except this time they were both naked, hard bodies sliding against each other deliciously.

Gasping for air and something resembling composure, Steve fumbled for the drawer of his nightstand, finally producing the lube stashed there. He could feel his ears burning when Bucky gave him an altogether dirty grin, but he soon repaid the favor by letting a generous glob of the cool gel hit Bucky’s overheated skin, enjoying the flinch this got him. However, a moment later this turned into a sharp hiss of pleasure and the almost-sigh of his name, as Steve wrapped a hand around both their cocks.

Pleasure shot through him, and from the flush of his cheeks and the way his pupils were blown, Bucky didn’t fare much better. When a metal hand snaked around his back, impossibly strong fingers digging into his butt, helping to set a fast, rhythmic pace, Steve knew this wouldn’t last much longer. Especially since Bucky’s right hand now joined the other and slid between Steve’s cheeks. A sharp thrill shot through him and he had to break their kiss, bury his face in the crook of Bucky’s neck as he clung to the last threads of composure.

Then one of Bucky’s fingers breached him, and helplessly Steve bit into corded muscle and came with a shudder and a hoarse shout, coating Bucky’s cock and his fist with his come. Bucky held him as he twitched and panted, running a soothing hand up and down his back, and Steve’s whole body relaxed into the embrace.

Finally he regained enough of his wits to become aware of Bucky’s unabated erection. Since this wouldn’t do at all, Steve pushed himself up and back, looking up at Bucky through his lashes as his breath ghosted over the hard flesh. Bucky was mustering him, teeth digging into his lower lip, and half-whispered his name, voice raw. Steve smiled and leaned down, wrapping his mouth around Bucky’s cock. He didn’t have a whole lot of experience, but using a hand in addition to lips and tongue soon had Bucky twisting his hands into the sheets. Coming up for air, Steve grinned wickedly and said, “C’mon, Bucky, don’t hold back…”

As if he’d been waiting to be given permission, Bucky’s hands flew to Steve’s head, gripping the back of it and pulling at his hair. It hurt, but Steve found he didn’t mind at all, not when Bucky was pushing into his mouth while gasping his name. With Bucky’s cock nudging the back of his throat, Steve might have missed the moment when Bucky toppled over the edge, if it hadn’t been for the litany of curses that escaped him. He swallowed easily and then languorously lapped the last of Bucky’s come up with his tongue as he slowed softened.

Finally Steve was pulled up by insistent hands, into a kiss that was slow and sleepy, Bucky’s mouth curving in a satisfied smile underneath his. Steve was full of contentment as well, stretched out on his bunk with Bucky plastered against him, the evidence of his pleasure drying between them. He could feel Bucky’s breath evening out, and slipped out of bed only long enough to clean them both up cursorily.

Then he laid back down, pushing back the insistent thoughts trying to crowd into his lazy satisfaction. He’d always been a bit of a worrier, but Kaiju and Jaegers alike would have to wait until tomorrow as he wrapped himself around Bucky, strangely touched by the way the other man barely stirred. The last thing Steve noticed before he, too, slid into a dreamless sleep was Bucky burying into his side, as if trying to get even closer. And wasn’t that a nice thought.

***