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“You stupid, harebrained-!” Bucky’s shout, even stopped mid-sentence, drew the attention of the four roughnecks thrashing Steve. Four thick heads swivled in his direction, but none of them got so much as another kick before Bucky charged toward them.

He vaulted over the trashcans like an champion athlete, landed in a crouch, and rolled his body up into an easy stance. Grabbing one of the men by his shirt collar, Bucky threw him back; the man stumbled back a few steps and started to draw back a fist, but Bucky was already throwing a second at him and knocking the both of them over, using the leverage of the spin to take him the few more steps it took to get between the remaining bullies and Steve. He threw a hay maker punch at the third and, panting, glared at the last. They got the idea quick.

Steve flinched when Bucky bent down on his knees. Rolling away from the sympathetic hand Bucky offered, he struggled to his bare feet. Blood streamed from his nose down onto the pavement, leaving little puddles in his wake. Maybe it was a trick of the dim streetlight, but Bucky thought there might have been steam coming off it as it hit the slushy snow.

Steve’s feet left dark red prints when he turned away from Bucky. He siad: “I could have taken them.”

Bucky’d heard it a million times, laughed at it, shrugged it off, assuaged Steve’s pride and berated him for his ego; nothing worked. Now, with his knuckles stinging from the force of his last punch and Steve’s blood scuffing his shoes, it echoed loud in his head, building pressure and strength until it exploded outward in one smooth movement that pushed Steve into the tall wooden fence dividing the narrow alley.

Steve grunted, and guilt tried to worm its way into Bucky’s mind, but he squashed it ruthlessly. Breathing hard and using only one arm, more leaning against Steve than holding him there, Bucky easily kept his friend subdued. Steve wiggled, but failed to break free, and Bucky could already see those likeable, stubborn wheels tuning in his head. He wouldn’t allow it, not this time: he had to make Steve understand or they’d never survive to see twenty.

“You idiot,” Bucky repeated, and he could feel the soft grunt from Steve as well as he could see it. A response was forming somewhere in that thick skull, but Bucky wouldn’t let him have it. Not yet. “You could’ve been killed! Those guys were both twice your size, easy, and you – what? What are you trying to prove, Steve?”

Steve didn’t answer. His blue eyes stared up at Bucky, giving no quarter, offering no apologies. Bucky knew the answer before Steve did: he wasn’t tying to prove anything, he was just stupid enough to think that doing the right thing was worth putting himself in danger.

And maybe it was – for other people. But not for Steve, who was small and stupid and the best friend Bucky’d ever had.


Bucky didn’t want to hear it again. He stopped the argument with a harsh kiss. Steve’s mouth tasted like blood and sweat-salt that coated Bucky’s tongue and rolled over his stomach. Ignoring it he pressed on. For once in his life, Steve wasn’t fighting back. He’d stilled, his mouth opened, and Bucky wondered if this were his first kiss. He struggled to remember – had Steve ever told him about any girls? He’d told plenty of stories, at least half of them true, but Steve had never joined in.

He couldn’t feel guilty, even if this were his first. He had things to prove.

His knee slipped between Steve’s legs and glided up to press gently against his balls through the too-thin fabric of his trousers. Steve made a noise and Bucky thought maybe he’d fight against what Bucky was doing, try to push him off. Bucky would stop, if Steve just said no, flushed and explained that while there wasn’t anything wrong with that, he just didn’t -

As usual, Steve was surprise. Bucky’s thoughts squealed to a halt. Maybe Steve really did like to get hit, he thought with a sudden hysterical humor, because Steve’s hands were all over him and Bucky felt something against his thigh that meant Steve was vey happy to see him.

“Could have died,” he said, because that was all he could think when the rest of his words deserted him in the face of Steve’s sudden skill. Maybe it wasn’t so hard, like doing yourself, Bucky thought. He’d never done anything like this, but Arnie’d told him stories, and there were people in the Village…

No, maybe it wasn’t so hard at all. Steve’s hands, always too big for his body but now the perfect size, squeezed the base of Bucky’s cock through the fabric of his underwear and slipped between fabric and skin. The New York winter nearly ended the moment before it had really begun, but the fever-bright warmth between them kept his body going long enough for Steve to start warming him up again with hands that were too hot in the first place.

“Could have,” Steve answered quietly, with that same steel in his voice as always. “Didn’t.”

“’Cause of m-“ Bucky’s words caught in his throat between Steve’s blood and his own lust. “-me.”

“Yeah.” Steve leaned his head on Bucky’s shoulder and closed his eyes. “’Cause of you, Buck.”