Actions

Work Header

Painted in Indigo

Work Text:

It's 1938 and Bucky takes to visiting Steve at work during his own lunchbreak, trailing after him as Steve sorts books and half listens to his endless chatter and occasionally, much to Steve's chagrin and his coworkers never ending teasing, bringing him lunch whenever he thinks Steve is looking too peaky.

Bucky, at constant ease with the world, shrugs off the digs about them being an old married couple with a laugh, pulls Steve in for a rough half hug and says "A gal could do much worse, just look at this mug.” Then he’ll pinch Steve’s cheek and wink at a swooning Nancy, the girl working the register, until Steve elbows him in the gut. Steve’s coworkers are, of course, irrevocably charmed by Bucky - people tend to be. Steve minds it but tells himself he doesn’t, so used to eyes sliding over him in favor of the charismatic, bright figure Bucky cuts.

Bucky shows up with a scarf for Steve on one of the first truly cold days in the fall, and Steve chases him out of the bookshop, torn between amusement and indignation. Bucky makes faces at him through the shop window as he wraps the scarf around his own neck, and when Steve can’t hide his helpless laughter, his entire face lights up with a broad grin, his eyes crinkling at the corners, looking boyish and carefree standing on the street with a too-large scarf around his neck and his front pocket lumpy from the sandwich Steve wouldn’t take.

When he gets back behind the counter, Mr. Hendrickson, the bookshop owner and a stern man of fifty-something that has never hidden his distaste for Bucky, is looking at him with his arms crossed. “You should be careful of that one,” he says, with a nod out the window where Bucky’s walking away, hands in his pockets and whistling to himself.

“Who, Bucky? He’s just dumb, I swear, he’d never steal anything,” he says dismissively, mostly certain that he’s not lying.

But Mr. Hendrickson shakes his head. “It ain’t right. Looking at you all the time as he does. The way he should be looking at girls.”

There is a long, long moment of silence, while Steve tries to get his mouth to close again. “Are we talking about the same person?” he finally asks, so surprised he can’t even get offended at the disgusted twist of his mouth.

“Don’t be dense, boy. Doesn’t suit you.”

“No, I’m just -- I just really think you’re reading him wrong, Mr. Hendrickson.” Maybe Steve should keep his dumb mouth closed. Let the man think the queer is someone other than the one working in his own shop, and won’t that be a petty revenge? But he can't help the laughter bubbling at his throat, until he has to put a hand against his mouth to hold it in. Bucky, looking at him. Ridiculous.

He gets a sharp look in return, which makes him laugh even harder. “Think what you want, Rogers. But go and get that box upstairs unpacked while at it.” Steve does, and makes a complete mess of organizing the week’s new books, getting shouted for his trouble near closing time. He keeps laughing at himself during the day, amused to no end by such a silly idea. Bucky, the neighborhood’s darling, looking at runty little Steve Rogers with his two left feet and his perpetually bruised mouth from not being able to keep it shut.

And yet -- and yet, he spends a long time that night staring at Bucky over their soup, Mr. Hendrickson’s words going through his mind over and over, like a chant, until Bucky gets fed up and puts his spoon down.

“Do I have something on my face or what?” he says, kicking Steve on the shin to get his attention.

“Nothing more than the usual amount of stupid,” Steve says on reflex, suddenly finding the soup incredibly interesting. Bucky gives him an eyeroll and another, softer kick before going back to his meal, still looking wary.

Steve keeps staring through dinner and throughout the evening, Bucky getting progressively more annoyed at him. He finally shuts his latest pulp novel as theatrically as possible. Unsurprisingly, there's an intergalactic princess and a beefy man with a sword as big as he is on the cover. Bucky loves that kind of books for some reason, and he’s read so many of them at Steve while he’s sick that he’s developed an instinctive hatred of them.

"This is fit to give a man a complex. I'm going to bed," he announces.

Steve shrugs. "Suit yourself. Not much to look at without that horrible thing growing on your nose, anyway."

"Wait, what?"

"What?" Steve is all innocence, big wide eyes and eyebrows up. Bucky narrows his eyes at him, but he still gets up to check in their shaving mirror by the sink.

"You're an ass, Rogers." Steve doesn't even merit that with an answer, letting his smirk do the talking.

He stays up for a long time thinking about what Mr. Hendrickson said, long after the neighborhood quiets down and he’s just sitting in the dark with a sketchbook he hasn’t touched in hours. He’s pulled out of his thoughts when Bucky shuffles out of bed and calls at him from the bedroom door. “Steve? It’s freezing, what are you doing still up?” He’s still half asleep, rubbing at his eyes and with one of his feet scratching at his other ankle, looking soft and rumpled and like an absolute dream; dark hair falling over his eyes and nipples showing through his thin white t-shirt.

Steve wishes, more than anything, that if he crawled into bed right now, it would be to take that shirt off, to kiss down his chest and hear Bucky say his name. Instead, he bites his lip and waves his sketchbook vaguely around in Bucky’s direction. “Just got caught up in drawing, I’ll be there in a second.”

“If you want. At least put on an extra sweater or something though,” Bucky says, looking around for something to pile on Steve while he scratches at his own belly.

“I’m fine, Mom,” Steve says with an eyeroll. “Just go back to bed.”

After Bucky goes, once he’s convinced Steve isn’t about to freeze to death in the middle of the night, Steve stands up to lean against the window, looking out into the empty, dark streets and the shivering play of lights and shadows from the hazy streetlights. A pair of cats run across the street only to disappear into an alley, and Steve is reminded of the time during the second grade when he and Bucky kept a kitten successfully hidden from their parents for a whole three months. They kept her in an old shoebox under Bucky’s bed until they got caught, and then no amount of begging managed to keep Mr. and Mrs. Barnes from sending her to the countryside cousins to become a barn cat, appropriately enough. He breathes into the glass until it fogs over and starts drawing the little cat with his finger, shaking his head at himself. All of his thoughts come back to Bucky, it seems.

He wonders what Mr. Hendrickson saw in Steve only to have it reflected on Bucky. Bucky is the single brightest, best thing in his life - the only person that has seen all of Steve with his endless anger at the world and the self-righteousness he can’t quite shake and that has still stayed, has never stopped having his back. Bucky has seen him after countless fights and scrapes, has held him up after all kinds of rejection, has rubbed his back after Steve coughed so much he threw up all over their kitchen floor, and was there to put a warm hand on his shoulder when his mother died, his thumb rubbing small circles into his neck as he made offers Steve was too tempted to accept.

He knows his eyes soften when looking at Bucky, has seen it in the mirror; and maybe it was that that Mr. Hendrickson saw and twisted by making it every single thing Steve has ever wanted to hear, a shiny present dangled at his face before being taken away.

When he finally goes to bed, a while later, Bucky sighs as the tip of his cold nose falls into its usual place on Steve’s nape, and Steve sighs as well at the warmth that spreads over his body, at his own foolishness at the way he’s never more content than surrounded by the feel and smell of Bucky’s body.

He decides to forget about it altogether. Nothing to be gained by wishful thinking, after all.

 

 

----

 

 

In early December, he comes home bleeding from his eyebrow and lip and with a torn jacket, bloodied fingers numb with cold, and then of course, of course Bucky is home early, his cushion-creased face peeking up from the back of the couch, losing all traces of sleep in the few moments it takes him to catalogue all of Steve’s injuries.

Steve closes his eyes for a moment in resignation before going over to the sink and spitting blood down the drain, already tense and ready for another fight.

“Eventful day, had we?” Bucky says, the bastard, from behind the couch.

“It seems so -- got fired again, did we,” he sings back in the same mocking tone as he rinses his hands.

“Fuck off,” Bucky says distractedly, which means he probably didn’t. “What happened?”

Steve keeps on washing his hands, buying himself some time. He was really hoping to avoid this. It's bad enough when he feels justified in his bruises, with the way Bucky hovers and is generally worse than old grandma Barnes herself; and then today...

Unlike most times he gets into fights, he’s not proud of this one. There was no heroic rescue, no rightful setting wrongs to rights, no injured animal to save. Just his pride, and his temper getting the best of him, and the frustration of being out of a job for the second time in only three months, the persistent pain in his chest that won’t go away and is getting exhausting to hide from Bucky, the nagging anger at hearing Mrs. Johnson being told to leave for a place that serves coloreds last week and being laughed out of the store when he protests. Never being taken seriously. He was just so mad, aching for a fight.

“So?” asks Bucky, impatient.

“So nothing, I’m fine.”

Bucky lets his head drop onto the back of the couch to muffle a frustrated groan before rising and getting the aging first aid kit they keep in the cupboards above the sink, brushing Steve’s side as he does so.

“You don’t have to--”

“Shut up. Go sit down.”

Steve does go sit down on top of the table, but he grumbles all the way through.

Bucky has been doing this for him since even before Steve’s Ma passed, once she was ill enough that he didn’t want to worry her further. He’s never gentle in the way she was - she used to hum as she cleaned up bruises and scrapes, even the time she had to do stitches in his scalp, with Steve nodding off once the adrenaline had faded. She would say, There you go, darling, all new, and then check his temperature with a wrist to his forehead out of habit, whether or not he was actually ill.

Bucky’s hands are rough and calloused, but they feel better on his skin for an entirely different reason as he tilts Steve’s face up and moves it this or that way, expression serious as he examines the gash on his eyebrow. It doesn’t feel deep - it just keeps opening, and Bucky spends a long time dabbing at it with peroxide, eyes narrowed at the all the dirt he probably finds there. He hasn’t seen the way Steve’s hands are scraped raw from when he was thrown to the ground, and he curls them into fists and pushes his sleeves down before he can notice.

“Are you just not gonna tell me then?”

“Nothing to say, Buck.”

“You’re such a moron.” Bucky shakes his head, but he still looks for the salve to put on the cut.

“I didn’t ask you to--”

“Shut it. I know, alright.”

He’s rougher with the bruise high on Steve’s cheek, clearly still mad. When he reaches his split lip though, his touch gentles, dabbing at it until all the blood is gone, but instead of moving his hand it stays there, thumb moving until it’s resting against his mouth, so softly Steve can barely feel it. When he looks up, Bucky is staring transfixed at his fingertips on Steve, his own lower lip between his teeth. He looks a bit dazed, and the full weight of his attention makes Steve’s heart quicken.

He smells good, slightly sweaty and a bit sweet from the peach canning factory he works in. Steve will never breathe a word of it, but he’s absurdly fond of these moments, with Bucky so close in between his legs, his hands soft on Steve’s hair as he moves his head. Sometimes he forgets himself, probably muscle memory from being with some girl, and he rubs little circles on Steve’s neck, and Steve will invariably end up squirming with want.

“What,” he finally says when the moment stretches for too long.

“Huh? Oh. Just wondering how I got saddled with such a reckless idiot, s’all.” He lifts his hand to hit him lightly over the head, just a tap, and Steve resolutely doesn’t let him see that it hurts, because then he would have to tell him about hitting the ground so hard he saw white spots and started heaving, the real reason the fight ended, when the others got too spooked by the half-dead look of him.

Steve rolls his eyes. They’ve had this same conversation approximately a million times, and it still follows the same script.

"I dunno, Buck, that must've been a lotta babies you ate in your past life," he says half-heartedly, beginning to crash after the adrenaline surge, head listing towards Bucky's shoulder. Bucky's face softens into a soft smile, as it always does no matter how dumb the response might be.

"Baby flesh, yum," he says playfully into Steve's ear, and Steve gives a laugh that turns into ow, ow, ows when the cut on his eyebrow reopens.

Hours later, he keeps licking at his lips, tasting blood and imagining he can taste Bucky there as well. What Mr. Hendrickson said goes briefly through his mind, as he thinks of Bucky’s fingertips pressing down on his lip, and then Bucky kicks the leg of his chair to get his attention and asks if his royal highness the king of idiots would please eat his dinner instead of daydreaming and Steve rolls his eyes and forgets all about it.

 

 

----

 

 

Bucky lets in the cold air with him when he comes home from work, sweaty and whistling to himself. He takes his ratty scarf off and then his boots, which he throws haphazardly on the floor, the little indulgence he relishes after a lifetime of his parents being the neatest people either Bucky or Steve have ever met. Steve drags his eyes back to the advertisement poster he’s working on as Bucky cracks his back, his arms high in the air and his shirt coming untucked, pale belly showing for a moment.

They grunt to each other in greeting, and Bucky washes most of the grease and sweat off his face and arms before coming to join him on the couch with a deep sigh of exhaustion.

Bucky spent so long trailing after the machine maintenance guys at work that they eventually took him on as an apprentice, and he’s come home ever since covered in grease and bubbling with excitement about the brand new things he learned that day, this or that idea that he has that could improve the machinery at the canning factory and that he can’t wait to tell the other guys. He’s in a constant good mood, sweet and affable, sometimes so cheerful Steve can barely stand him, and at others so quietly and vibrantly happy that it makes Steve’s mouth go dry.

“What’re ya working on?” Bucky says, already burrowing into the threadbare cushions, settling down for a nap. Steve turns the poster mock up around for him to see, still in such early stages that it’s barely an outline of where the main figure’s going to go and color annotations in the borders. He’s been struggling with the typography at the top - he’s alright with the loose cursive that the main copy calls for, but the angular serif of the brand’s logo has been a pain to do. “Looking good,” Bucky says anyway, as he always does. “It’ll be gouache or watercolor?”

“Gouache,” Steve says, turning the drawing back to the wooden board he uses to draw in bed or on the couch, salvaged from the last time P.S. 287 upgraded their desks and didn’t count on half of Brooklyn making off with them before they could be thrown out.

“See, I told you that gift would pay off, and you still bitched endlessly about the price,” Bucky says in a sleepy murmur, eyes already half closed. Steve hits him on the hip with his socked feet, but aside from a small smile Bucky doesn’t say anything back, face going slack with sleep.

Steve goes back to his work. They’re vain, forgettable things, powder soap and hand cream advertisements, but Steve tries to make them as beautiful as he can, dreamy and magic in the way the products most definitely aren’t. It’s not what he’d be doing given half the chance, but it’s the job he has, and he’s lucky to have it at all.

After a while, Bucky lets out a small sigh that distracts him from the dazzlingly big smile he’s working on. Bucky is breathing slow and deep, hair sticking up and mouth slightly open. He’s beautiful in the day’s last light, oranges and pinks making him luminous.

Steve bites his lip and puts the poster aside, reaching instead for the sketchbook he’d left on the ground next to him. He works in fast strokes at first, getting the angle of Bucky’s forehead and then the softness of his round cheek; the small divot of his chin and then the straight broad eyebrows.

Eventually, he forgets himself, taking more time and care to draw the curve of his closed large eyes, the dip under his mouth that makes his lips even more prominent. There is a grease stain high on his forehead he didn't quite wipe off that Steve spends a long time drawing, probably from carelessly wiping off sweat - and sure enough, when Steve looks down at his wrist, there's a matching stain there. Steve loses himself in the scratch of his pencil against paper and the soothing sound of Bucky's breathing.

He doesn’t realize Bucky’s awake until he looks up from shading the dark mess of his hair and sees his eyes are half open and fixed on Steve, a small, soft smile on his red mouth. he’s still half curled into himself, his fist curled under his chin and his knees up and resting against the back of the couch. He looks young and open, more like the sweet kid that would read comics with Steve while lying on their bellies in the Barnes’ tidy living room than the charming young man that knows just the right words and touches to get girls all over Brooklyn to bite their lips and invite him upstairs after dancing. That gets Steve to bite his lip and draw him with lust in every stroke, that makes him bite his palm when he jerks himself off late at night a scant few feet from Bucky just so he won’t forget himself and whisper his name in the darkness.

“Hey,” Steve says, as he goes hard on the eraser and adds in Bucky’s heavy-lidded open eyes, clear irises behind dark eyelashes.

“Hey, Stevie.” His smile broadens just a bit, and then he’s stretching and moving further down the couch until his feet are tucked under the other arm rest and he’s pressed to Steve hip to hip, awkward and not exactly comfortable - only working because Steve is so damn small - before going back to sleep.

Steve catches himself stroking at Bucky’s knee with his free hand as he shades in Bucky’s lips over and over, until they look bitten and dark on the white paper. Bucky just shuffles in a bit closer in his sleep though, so Steve keeps doing it for a long, long time.

 

 

----

 

 

January is cold enough that Steve has to get out of bed in stages, taking courage to put his feet down on the freezing floor. He sits in bed for a long time, wishing he could just go back inside the covers to Bucky’s body, but in the end he just sighs, rubs at his eyes and pulls his shirt over his head.

He shivers a bit as he stands up and takes his pants off, eyes still half-closed as he shuffles to the beat up dresser. It’s only until the sleeves of the shirt he pulls on go down to the tip of his fingers that he realizes he grabbed one of Bucky’s by mistake. They used to share clothes, when they were much, much smaller and their size difference wasn’t quite so stark. Steve spent a large part of his childhood in Bucky’s hand me downs, until Bucky’s growth spurts - to Steve’s envy and later on appreciation - coupled with Steve’s growing pride put a stop to it.

Even now they share hats, and gloves thanks to Steve’s unproportionally big mittens for hands, but nothing like this. It feels nice, being so wrapped up in the warm smell of Bucky, never mind that Steve spent the entire night wrapped in its owner.

He takes a look at the bed, and to his surprise he finds Bucky staring at him in silence, only for him to immediately close his eyes again, his cheeks coloring. He burrows down into the pillows until the only thing he can see is the tip of his bright red ears in such a childish, adorable gesture at odds with the heat in the pit of Steve’s stomach at the thought of Bucky seeing him undress.

“Didn’t mean to wake you up,” he says, only to be met with silence. Then, because Steve Rogers has never known when to back down, he adds, “Worried I might look better in this than you do?”

“Shut up.”

“Oh, so you are awake.”

“Well now I am, dickhead,” sighs the bedding pile. Bucky’s ears are still red, which makes Steve perversely glad. It might be awkwardness and not lust what’s in Bucky’s head, but it’s good to know Steve can still get a rise out of him.

Steve takes the shirt off, balls it up and throws it at Bucky’s head, smirks at the little noise of outrage he gets before turning around to keep dressing properly. “Get up, Barnes. Rise and shine and all.”

“G’way, Steve. You don’t gotta be this fucking cheerful this early on.”

Steve laughs and does, indeed, go away, though not before stripping the covers off the bed and laughing some more at Bucky’s protests.

A few nights later, he startles awake only to find Bucky looking at him again, this time leaning against the doorway, fingers playing with a cigarette near his mouth. There’s a sad, desperate look to him, at odds with his hastily buttoned shirt and the stink of sex and booze Steve can smell on him even from all the way across the room. He’s barely visible in the darkness, just a contrast in a deeper shade of blue and shining eyes, but he can still tell he’s biting anxiously at his lips.

“She figured out what an annoying bastard you are, Buck?” Steve murmurs sleepily, turning around to get more comfortable.

Bucky lets out a huff of laughter. “Nah. Can’t get enough of me, that gal.”

“What’s the problem then?”

“Nothing, Stevie. Just go back to sleep.”

But Steve doesn’t, and instead he angles his head so he can still see Bucky when he goes out the fire escape for that smoke, haloed in the light of the streetlamp outside and painted in a contrast of cream and deep indigo that Steve aches to draw.

There’s something Bucky’s not telling him. It bothers Steve, who has spent most of his life being able to read Bucky’s every mood and tell; the slight rise of his smile that means mischief; the eyerolls he uses to cover up his worry; the soft little smile he has when he’s doing something he loves and has no one to impress.

Bucky finally gets into bed by the time Steve is already in a light doze, having flashes of dreams that fade with the next blink. Bucky’s cold from being outside though, and Steve wakes up properly as Bucky settles next to him, his breathing slowing almost from the moment he lies down.

When Bucky’s fingers make their way across his ribs, as they almost always end up doing, the tantalizing smell of cunt and cigarettes wafts up his nose, thick and heavy, and that and Bucky’s sweaty, musky smell are enough to make his mouth water, whole body tensing enough to make Bucky issue a little enquiring sound from the back of his throat. His breath tickles Steve’s ear, and Steve has to bite his lips to keep himself from moaning, body oversensitive and mind reeling. It could be so easy to put Bucky’s fingers in his mouth, so easy to roll over and take Bucky’s cock into his mouth and taste the girl he took out tonight.

He ends up having to steal away to the shared bathroom in the hallway, hand going inside his pants as he’s still locking the door, head resting back against the heavy wood. He thinks of Bucky and the way he smelled just then, the way he must’ve looked with his fingers inside his date and his hair falling all over his flushed face, the groans he’s heard him make when he’s fucking a girl, slow and rough, the low fuck he probably says as he first gets inside her. The way his breathing would sound rough against Steve’s ear as he moved inside him - oh - the feeling of his teeth against Steve’s shoulder, the harsh way he’d jerk Steve off, just as Steve is doing now, hard and fast; and the way he’d say Steve’s name in a whisper--

Steve comes hard enough he hits his head on the door but hardly notices, up on tiptoe and chewing on his lips from the high of it. He then hits the door again, purposefully this time, because what is he doing, torturing himself pointlessly and telling himself silly tales.

He cleans up methodically, angry at himself, and then gets even angrier when he realizes he got a bit of come on his shirt and has to clean it off with freezing cold water. He’s more wound up when he gets back to bed than he was before, silently fuming and frustrated, so when Bucky drags him closer to him, knees already slipping behind Steve’s, he snaps back with a harsh tug to get away.

“Jesus, leave a fella some space. Bad enough I have to stand your stink,” he says, and regrets it almost immediately.

“Oh,” Bucky says softly, sleepy but still sounding dejected. “Okay, then.” He turns his back to Steve, and Steve feels a lot colder than he has any right to be. It takes him a long time to go back to sleep, so angry he wants to hit something.

Bucky never mentions it, but he starts washing up before getting in bed after a date, even if he actually just went dancing and it’s his own sweat he’s cleaning off. It makes things easier, in a way. He has to sneak away to bring himself off less often, certainly. But Steve misses it all the same.

 

 

----

 

 

On the last week of January, Steve goes to bed with a girl on Tuesday and a boy on Thursday, both classmates of his; Lucy from his live drawing class and Michael from his advertisement course. It’s been a while for him, and both times are incredibly intense and thrilling, even more by how close they happen to one another.

Curiously, they both dislike Bucky, from one of the many times when both Steve and Bucky try to introduce their friends to one another and then go back to meeting them on their own when it invariably goes up in flames.

“He just gives me these looks, you know,” Lucy says as she waves her unlit cigarette around. “Like I’m not worthy of being in your presence. I don’t know, maybe I’m just seeing things,” she ends with a shrug.

Michael is, if anything, even more blunt.

“He annoys me. So clean-cut and pretty, I just wanna put his mouth to good use and rough him up a bit, you know?”

If Steve blushes, it’s only because he agrees with the sentiment, a little, and he hates to admit it even to himself. “He’s not - Bucky, he’s - he’s not like that.”

Michael turns to give him a sharp look, eyebrows up. “Are you sure of that, darling?”

“Don’t patronize me. Of course I’m sure.”

"If you say so," Michael says with a shrug and a knowing look.

"Can we stop talking about Bucky?" Steve has to ask, oddly enough, to both of them, before pushing them onto the pillows and getting his head between their thighs. That shuts them up fast enough.

Both times, he refuses to wash the smell of sex off his skin in an obnoxious display of pettiness, which makes Bucky exponentially cranky to the sheer rush of goodwill and exhilaration that Steve rides that week.

Not even the never ending rumors of an approaching war can dampen his mood, not with the way things are going - his body loose and tingling, the commission of new artwork burning a hole in his pocket and the knowledge that he has not lost his touch to annoy the hell out of Bucky Barnes, which he does gleefully and often in a twisted way to get back at him for all the sleep he’s lost wanting him so foolishly.

 

 

----

 

 

In a completely surprising turn of events, it’s Bucky that ruins their double date in early March of that year, when he takes a sudden and total dislike to Steve’s date - a short and curvy girl with ink stains on her hands to match Steve’s, the best tits he has ever seen in his life and a wit that reduces him to mush. Bucky, usually loud and boisterous to Steve’s awkward nervous wreck during these dates, is sullen and quiet, only speaking to make cutting remarks and ignoring his own date otherwise.

Steve has to take him aside a few times throughout the night to ask what the hell his problem is, and steps hard on his foot under the table a few times more. If he didn’t know any better, he’d say Bucky was jealous, from the way he keeps putting himself between Steve and Susan, cutting in with a horrible joke whenever conversation between them starts to get going. He even refuses to dance, strangest of all, and sits with his arms crossed and eyes fixed on his empty glass, radiating surliness.

Betty, Bucky’s on and off gal and usually one of the most even-tempered of Bucky’s flings, seems to be ready to just up and leave after a few hours of tense silences and awkward comments, though it’s nowhere close to how mad Steve is and how confused Susan looks.

Steve does his best to ignore him while he dances with Susan, not quite believing his luck as she smiles at him and dances well enough for the both of them, barely flinching when he keeps stepping on her feet. His eyes are drawn to Bucky though, looking like a sulky child back on the table as he alternates between staring at Steve and Susan and downing drink after drink next to a bored-looking Betty.

By the time they go sit down for a break Bucky is well on his way to drunk, and Betty is glancing longingly at the spinning couples on the dance floor.

Susan finally has enough when, still flushed from dancing, she professesses a love for animated movies, and Bucky suddenly finds them childish and dumb; never mind that he snuck into Snow White with Steve seven times the year it came out and stared rapturously up at the screen each time.

“All right, that’s it. What’s your problem?” Susan asks, before Steve has time to drag him away to cool off.

“I have no idea what you mean,” Bucky says, all wide eyes and innocence, slurring just a little.

Susan stares at him in baffled disbelief. “You know what, I don’t even care. I think I’d very much like to leave now.”

“Yes, please,” Betty says, flicking ash off her cigarette and standing up. “Before I throttle him, Susan, come on.”

“Aw, what --”

“Just shut up already, Buck,” Steve interrupts, and Bucky finally, finally colors in shame, eyes falling to the table as Steve helps gather their coats. They leave him sitting there, biting at his thumb nervously, but he catches up to them three blocks away from the dance hall, slightly out of breath from running.

“Sorry. I-- Sorry,” he says, hands in his pockets and eyes downcast. “Let me walk you home, at least.” Betty shrugs and Susan is hesitant, but she does allow them to take her home, walking arm in arm with Betty and ignoring them as they walk behind the girls.

When they get to Susan’s building, Betty nudges Steve forward until he’s standing just behind Susan as she digs for her keys.

“So, um,” says Steve awkwardly. He has his hands in his pockets and he’s trying unsuccessfully to keep himself from rocking on his heels. He can see Betty roll her eyes unbelievingly out of the corner of his eyes, and Bucky looking as if he’d really like to laugh.

Susan gives out a big frustrated sigh as she opens the door. “Steve, you seem great. Let me know when you drop your barnacle and we can go out properly,” she says, and with a last glare at Bucky, closes the door in Steve’s face.

“Well someone’s touchy,” says Bucky, the complete bastard, and Betty steps hard on his foot.

“Lord, what a mess,” she says, but Steve is too busy digging his elbow into Bucky’s stomach to answer, and she politely ignores the resulting scuffle. “Come on, my place is just this way.”

Bucky seems to get more and more cheerful as they walk towards Betty’s place, shaking his bad mood off in an incredibly grating way, suddenly all smiles again as he walks ahead with Betty, determined to make her laugh. It makes Steve want to deck him, to yell at him until he’s hoarse and then some.

It’s past midnight and freezing when they finally get to Betty’s building, Steve trying to keep himself from shivering with his hands buried in his jacket pockets, his toes stiff from the cold. Bucky hardly seems to feel it, cheerful again and humming as he tries to drag Betty into a last dance step at her door. She playfully twists his ear and then giggles at the mock hurt in his voice.

This, waiting around for Bucky to finish flirting, is an old dance Steve is well used to, and he resignedly sighs and leans against a lamppost, watching the way his breath fogs on every exhale. He’s mad enough at Bucky to consider faking a cough just so he’ll hurry it up.

“Well good night, boys, it was…it was certainly something, I suppose.” Betty says, startling Steve when she also waves at him, windswept and red-cheeked and lovely in the dim light.

“What, don’t I get a goodnight kiss for my trouble?” Bucky says before she can turn to go, all easy charm as he leans into Betty’s space, slipping an arm around her waist. He has that smirk on his face, the crooked one that has given him a reputation in the neighborhood and that Steve has put to paper a million times without thinking before he realizes and stops himself.

Betty pinches his arm, but doesn’t move it away. “And you really think you deserve it, Bucky Barnes, after the way you behaved tonight?” she says smartly, but Steve can already see the way her face tips up, the subtle blush on her cheeks. Bucky is magnetic, easy to forgive and even easier to love and hard to forget. He sucks the air out of every room he walks in - people can never seem to tear their eyes from him.

“Oh, I always do, sweetheart,” Bucky says, thick as molasses, his hand stroking her waist through her dress and coat, the other one going up to twirl a strand of hair by her ear around his finger, dragging fingertips across her earlobe with every turn.

Betty is already tilting her head up, seemingly without realizing it, heavy-lidded eyes staring up at Bucky, and Steve wants to turn around, he really does, but can’t seem to manage it, not when they’re painted in hard contrast from the light and look like a postcard come to life.

He can hear a small muffled “Why do I even bother with you,” but then Bucky is kissing her and she is melting against him, back arched and head thrown back and up on tiptoe, looking beautiful and bright. And yet, all Steve can see is Bucky, the strands of hair falling on his forehead and his hand cradling Betty’s head; his strong frame and broad shoulders and the glimpses of tongue as he kisses Betty slow and deep.

This is why Steve never looks. This is the lesson he learned the time he came home early and saw Bucky fucking Betty on their bed through the half open door, when he ended up jerking himself off with one hand covering his mouth and the other tugging himself as hard and fast as he could. Because Bucky is a sight to see like this, focused and intense; absolutely mouth-watering in how much of himself he puts into everything he does.

Steve is biting his lip and starting to get labored breathing when, while still kissing Betty, Bucky opens his eyes to look for Steve. His lazy, hooded eyes open wide when he finds Steve already staring at him, and Steve is close enough to hear the small moan he gives and to see the blush climbing up his neck as he holds Steve’s gaze. It’s like an electric shock, Bucky’s eyes on him, so blue in the dark, but then Betty bites his lip hard and the moment is gone with Bucky’s eyes clench shut.

Bucky gives Betty a last squeeze and a hard kiss before finally leaning back, looking a little dazed. “Ah, that’s why, I remember now,” Betty whispers, eyes still closed and head pushed back, and Steve can feel his stomach rumbling with jealousy, with want, his hands making fists inside his pockets.

Betty steps away, fixing her lipstick, a thankless task as most of it is on Bucky’s plush lips, making them look bitten red, and it’s only then that Steve looks away, face feeling hot. Bucky tries following her, and she pushes him away playfully. “Stay, boy. I’ll have you know that was a horrible time and I fully expect you to make up for it,” she says, and Bucky gives her a lazy salute.

“Yes, ma’am, consider it done,” he says, and Betty giggles as Steve rolls his eyes. She climbs up the stairs to her building and waves before she closes the door, and then it’s just the two of them again in the near darkness, short of breath and avoiding looking at each other, painfully aware that something happened and not wanting to acknowledge it.

It takes a few moments for Bucky to finally turn around to face him, but when he does he just visibly shakes himself and puts the awkwardness away. He’s always had a knack for it.

“Well that went well, didn’t it?” He says almost cheerfully, his broad smile not quite reaching his eyes as he flicks Steve’s cap up from where it was sliding down his head and walks past him, and all of Steve’s earlier anger at him comes back in a rush.

“I can’t believe the things you get away with,” Steve says darkly as as he trails behind Bucky, squeezing at his dick through his pants pocket in what he hopes is a discreet fashion. Bucky flashes him a blinding smile, his lips still kiss-swollen and wet, which doesn’t help matters.

“Pot, meet kettle,” he says. “Besides, you don’t get to be angry at me, Steve. It almost being my birthday and all.” He reaches back to drag Steve in for a rough hug, but Steve disentangles himself in a sharp move, and Bucky’s face falls.

“Do you think they sell brains, Buck? Or just a bit of shame, maybe? Some basic decency?” Steve says unkindly, watching as Bucky’s outstretched arm falls back against his side.

Bucky tries for a smile, but it comes out small and watery. “Probably wouldn’t be able to afford it, pal.”

“No, not with the amount you need, you jerk. What do you even have against Susan?”

Bucky lowers his eyes and scoffs his foot on the ground, the picture of a grounded sulky child. “Look, Steve, I really am sorry. I was out of line and - and in a terrible mood and I’m sorry I ruined tonight for you. I know you liked her,” he finishes, looking away and biting at his thumb again.

“So what, that makes it all okay?” Steve’s getting closer, chest puffed up and ready for a fight, but he doesn’t even notice it until Bucky takes a step backwards, looking contrite.

“No, of course it doesn’t. But I’ll make it up to you, I promise,” he says, looking hopefully at Steve.

“You just said that to Betty.”

“Yeah and I meant it - and I mean it even more with you.” He gives a long sigh. “I always mean it more with you, you know that.” He looks honest, and like it’s paining him to do so.

Steve rolls his eyes and starts walking again, his belly in knots from the soft look in Bucky’s eyes. “Jesus, Bucky, you can be such an asshole.”

Bucky laughs, a little. “I guess that’s why we’re friends then.” he catches up to walk beside Steve, hands still in his pockets but standing close.

“The sad assholes club,” Steve says in a wandering voice, and Bucky laughs and shoves him with his hip. Steve shoves back, harder, and soon they’re just roughhousing in the middle of the street, like stupid kids, and it doesn’t stop until they get chased away by a grandma in a flowery nightgown and a cane after they almost knock down the trash cans in front of her doorway. They laugh all the way to their apartment, and by the time they get there Steve has forgotten to be mad at him at all.

Three nights later he dreams of Bucky kissing Betty, long and wet, and then Bucky’s looking at Steve and drawing him closer and when Steve kisses him he tastes like lipstick and liquor and -- well. It’s a very good dream.

 

 

----

 

 

When Bucky's birthday does come around, Steve treats him to baklava instead of the jacket he couldn’t afford even with the job at the drugstore he got after commissions dried out, and they go sit in Prospect Park side by side to eat it together as they stare into the crowds. Bucky had gotten him a brand new set of gouache paints for his own birthday, and no matter how much Bucky claims he doesn’t mind, it still sits heavy on his shoulders.

His sketchbook is sticky and tacky with honey, the sketches of children playing and Bucky laughing smeared; but the light is perfect, all golden hues that bring out the red in Bucky’s hair, so he stubbornly keeps at it. Bucky’s sitting so close, the scent of him everywhere as he comments on the drawings and insists on funny mustaches for everyone, from the old lady dozing in front of them to the little girl chasing pigeons close by.

He takes another piece of the baklava and honey drips down his hand, making an even bigger mess, and when he turns around to see why Bucky has suddenly gone quiet, Steve’s fingers still in his mouth as he sucks and cleans them off one by one, his heart misses a beat -- because Bucky is staring at him with hunger in his eyes, focused entirely on Steve’s mouth, a flush rising on his cheeks. Steve sucks in a breath, and Bucky’s eyes snap up to Steve’s before he looks away; and maybe, if they were behind closed doors - maybe Steve would use his sticky fingers to turn Bucky’s face back towards him; maybe he would get even closer and taste the honey off Bucky’s lips.

But they stay quiet for a long while, angled away from each other, until the old lady wakes herself up with a snore and they have to hide their laughter when she glares at them. Then it’s back to draw this and draw that, and eat more or the ants’ll have it, c’mon, don’t be stupid, Steve.

It was such a small moment, so fast Steve could have just imagined it, but Bucky keeps biting at his thumb in the way he does when he’s nervous or turned on, and now that he’s looking, he can see Bucky glancing at his fingers again and again, like he can’t help himself.

Steve wants to do it again, push as hard as he can if it’ll get him that look again, or if it’ll get him Bucky’s hands on him. He spends the rest of the evening in a state of continuous exhilarated anticipation, constantly searching for Bucky’s eyes, edging into his personal space in a way that feels as natural as brand new.

He’s been so blind. Bucky is looking, and he is finally looking back.

 

 

----

 

 

When Steve wakes up, it is to Bucky’s nose buried in his hair, his breathing soft and warm against the back of Steve’s head. One of his arms is slung heavy across Steve’s chest, his fingers dragging against Steve’s thin shirt as they twitch in sleep, and Steve has seen Bucky sleep so many times, for so many years, that he can picture clearly where his other hand is, curled into a fist under the pillow in the scant space between their bodies, thumb a bit out after years of a slight thumb-sucking habit that embarrassed Bucky to no end.

Steve can picture it so well, the way Bucky will start dragging his legs and his inevitable hard-on against Steve’s thighs and ass, slow and unhurried, and how it always stops when he starts properly waking up, his nose wriggling after being tickled by Steve’s hair. Steve could draw it, the moment he will clench his eyes shut harder in an attempt to sleep for longer, the way he’s done after every night and every nap and every drunken stupor in his life, and then the way his voice will be rough and low with sleep as he says, face rubbing against Steve’s shoulder, “Can’t be time to get up yet, s’far too early, Stevie.”

Steve will shiver and pretend not to, and Bucky will feel it and be worried about Steve being cold, and they will eventually get up and cobble up breakfast from whatever they have in their almost empty pantry and they will go to work, if they have it, or stay in and fret, if they have not, like every single day since they started living in this shoebox together, and the drop and flutter of Steve’s belly in those mornings will remain the same: wanting and desperate and unfulfilled.

Steve worries at his lip. Last night, at the park - the memory still makes his heart race, and nudges him the last inch towards fearlessness.

He turns around in Bucky’s arms, settling higher until his head’s resting over the arm Bucky has under the pillow, faces close together. Bucky lets out an annoyed little grunt in response but doesn’t really wake up, just settles back and rubs his face into the pillow in lieu of Steve’s nape like an overgrown cat, his broad mouth open and slack with sleep. Steve moves closer, until he’s breathing in Bucky’s sour morning breath, and murmurs a quiet “Hey,” steeling himself before putting his fingertips to Bucky’s chin and his mouth to Bucky’s open lips.

It starts so soft, Bucky’s lips warm and dry against his, but Steve is soon pressing harder, once his blood starts throbbing and Bucky hums and pushes back with a small sigh against Steve’s mouth, still sleepy and warm. It’s just a brush, their lips sliding together chaste and with the smallest hint of moisture, and it still makes Steve’s head swim, his toes curl.

He gets bolder, and he drags his hand to the back of Bucky’s neck, pulling him closer as Bucky does the same with the arm around him, his hand opening wide across Steve’s back, sliding down to push their hips together until their cocks drag heavy against each other’s. Steve gasps against Bucky’s lips, and he knows the exact moment when Bucky wakes up all the way because he gives a startled jolt, and then his front is cold again after Bucky drags himself away a few inches. He refuses to look away, and so he stares at Bucky’s wide, scared eyes, at his bite-swollen red lips and the way he’s trying to pretend he’s not breathing hard.

“What are you doing?” Bucky finally says in a low voice.

“What does it look like,” he says, all bravado straight into Bucky’s face, but he’s biting his lips, his stomach twisting with the fear the he somehow got this all wrong. He takes a deep breath and moves a bit closer. “You didn’t seem to mind, Bucky.”

“Steve, what the fuck,” Bucky says, low and on the way to angry, his body tensing as Steve moves further into his space.

“Tell me you mind, Buck, and I’ll back down,” he says, practically whispering the words into Bucky’s mouth, betting hard and so excited about it. This might go down in flames, but by god, he’ll have tried. He puts his fingers to Bucky’s throat, trying to keep them steady as he feels Bucky’s fluttering pulse against them.

He kisses Bucky again, tongues at Bucky’s lips and is rewarded by a low moan and Bucky’s hands twitching against Steve’s belly before clenching hard on the thin fabric of his shirt, grabbing at it like it’s the only thing keeping him from falling apart. “Yes, I knew it,” Steve says, slipping his arms around Bucky’s neck and dragging a leg up to nestle in between Bucky’s, wild with triumph and want.

He’s tilting his face for a deeper kiss when Bucky suddenly pushes him down onto his back and climbs on top of him, easy as anything, and Steve hates being manhandled usually but he lights up, dick so hard it hurts, and he wants Bucky to press him down onto the mattress so much, he wants Bucky to ground their hips together and suck bruises on his skin and to take him apart completely.

But instead of bearing down on him, Bucky just presses his arms down and holds himself above him, face drawn and confused. Steve tries to find friction with his hips but only finds air, and he thrashes against Bucky’s hands, desperate for contact, until Bucky frowns and says, “Dammit, Steve, hold still for a moment.”

Steve does, but tries to be clear about his distaste for the idea. Bucky shakes his head at him, like he’s done a million times in a million other situations, and it makes Steve aware of how different this is, how Steve can still taste Bucky on his mouth and feel the warmth of his body above his. It’s a bit dizzying.

“Why are you doing this?” Bucky asks, with a pained twist to his mouth. He’s scared still, Steve can see. But his thumbs are stroking Steve’s arms where he’s holding him down, and his eyes keep falling to Steve’s lips.

“Because I want to. And because I think you want to, too. And I’m sick of watching you watching me and doing nothing ‘bout it.” He brushes his nose along Bucky’s chin, up until it ends with his lips brushing past Bucky’s. Bucky’s eyes fall closed, his breathing going harsh once more.

“Is that so?”

“Are you saying it ain’t true? ‘cause I’ve seen you sniffing my undershirts, you absolute sicko,” Steve says with his chin raised high and a smirk. That had been once, actually. And they’d been doing laundry, but he’s desperate to wipe the fear off Bucky’s face.

“Jesus, Steve. You’re such an asshole, what is wrong with you,” he says, but he sounds more like his normal self, less scared of Steve and more in awe at the shit he manages to pull, an expression he’s being doing for the past decade and some.

“Thought that was my main selling point.”

Bucky laughs, full and deep, and lowers his head until he’s resting his forehead on Steve’s shoulder, as if in surrender.

“Yeah. Yeah, I guess it is,” he says, and Steve melts a little when he presses the smallest of kisses to the soft skin below his ear.

"Steve --"

"Come here," Steve says before Bucky can say anything else, and drags him down for another kiss.

This time Bucky finally, finally kisses back, settling down on his elbows so he can take Steve’s face in his hands, his mouth insistent and hungry and maddening, the single best thing Steve has ever felt. Bucky’s nose is digging into his cheek, and their teeth clack whenever they get too eager, but they spend a long time just learning each other’s mouths, Steve’s hands alternating between grasping at the soft hair on Bucky’s neck and digging at his shoulders, his back, every bit of soft skin he can get to.

Bucky groans and spreads Steve’s legs roughly to get between them, finally pressing him down into the mattress, and suddenly the earlier urgency is back, blood singing in Steve’s ears as he tips his head back and lets out a moan, panting hard.

"God,” Bucky says roughly against his neck, turning it into an open-mouthed kiss on his pulse. “Damn, Stevie.”

Steve nods his head, tilting his head to leave more room for Bucky’s lips and tongue and teeth, feeling feverish. “I know.”

It’s Bucky that rocks his hips against Steve this time, almost shy with how small the first movement is, his lip caught between his teeth. Steve gasps and mirrors it, sparks bursting behind his closed eyes. They get a rhythm going, rocking into each other slowly while kissing their mouths and necks and shoulders, until Steve can’t handle it anymore and finally grasps Bucky through his pants, relishing in the choked-off moan Bucky lets out as he moves his hand down the length of him. The tip is wet already, precome spreading on the front of his pajamas, making Steve crazy with lust. “Off, I want these off,” Steve says, and then they’re undressing each other, getting tangled in clothes and laughing as they rush to strip.

“Jesus, yes,” says Bucky reverently once Steve is kneeling naked on the bed in front of him, and Steve doesn’t get any time at all to be self-conscious before Bucky is pulling him back to him and kissing and nuzzling at his chest, his nipples, the soft skin on his sides below his armpits. He bites at Bucky’s earlobe, the closest thing to him, and that gets such a wonderful noise in response that he does it again before brushing his lips against the shell of Bucky’s ear.

Bucky grabs his cock, and then, amazingly, absurdly, grabs Steve’s hand from where it’s resting at his neck and puts a small kiss on the palm before giving it a broad lick and placing it on his own cock, his eyes half-closed and adoring, and Steve could almost come just from that. Steve looks down to watch their hands moving, bodies close enough that their cockheads touch at every downwards stroke, wet with precome and so hot Steve feels dizzy, not quite believing it’s Bucky mouthing at his shoulder, not just a stranger in an alley he can call by another name.

They eventually overbalance and fall back onto the covers, breathless and entangled. They move until they’re facing each other on their sides, hands awkward now, but still so good. Bucky nuzzles his nose up and down Steve’s, gentle like Steve never really imagined he could be in bed.

It’s such a contrast, this shivering, panting mess of a man to the Bucky that slips a hand up girls’ skirts behind churches and gets away with it and still gets invited to dessert with the parents afterwards; to the flirty, cocky bastard that always gets the best dancer in the room as his partner, and that wears lipstick stains on his collar like badges of honor. This Bucky seems ready to come apart at the seams, desperate as he says Steve’s name again and again against his skin, the hand around Steve’s cock loose and spasming when he can no longer think about what he’s doing, so close to coming.

He likes this Bucky better, Steve thinks, as Bucky comes all over his hand and belly, his teeth set firmly on Steve’s chin, sure to leave bruises. He is sweet, after, soothing the bite with his tongue and murmuring a steady litany of “Jesus, Steve, God, fucking Christ,” into his ear. His eyes are dazed and heavy-lidded, dreamy, and he looks so beautiful and soft, looking at Steve like he’s the best damn thing he’s ever put eyes on. Steve could get drunk on it.

Bucky pulls him into a kiss, slow and languid, but Steve is still aching, and he starts moving against Bucky again as they kiss, the mess of come on his belly making it easier as he drags his cock against Bucky’s hard stomach, slow enough that he’s just teasing himself. He has to tear his mouth away, breathing too hard, with his eyes clenched shut. Bucky bites delicately at his lower lip before raising himself to his elbows.

“You’re unbelievable,” he says, worshipful, and then he’s mouthing at Steve’s belly and even lower, until he’s breathing hot over Steve’s cock and it gets hard to think of anything else but Bucky’s red lips around him, wide and wet as they slide down the shaft. He lets go of it almost immediately, looking overwhelmed, and Steve can’t help the little whine of protest at the back of his throat, or the way his leg hikes up around Bucky’s back, pressing him closer to him. “Coming, coming,” Bucky says obviously without thinking, and then they’re both laughing and the moment feels a bit lighter, less charged. More like them.

“Bucky, you complete asshole, if you don’t finish what you started--” he says, digging his heel into Bucky’s back, which makes Bucky laugh some more.

“Of course you would be bossy in bed. Of fucking course, I’ve no idea why I didn’t think so,” Bucky tells him, looking up through his lashes, a bit of his swagger back as he takes Steve’s cock in hand and pumps it once, root to tip, holding Steve’s gaze.

Steve chokes down a curse, and then says, haltingly, “So you admit you’ve thought about this.”

“Fuck, Steve, you’ve no idea how much,” Bucky says, and then he’s swallowing Steve down again, as deep as he can, and Steve swears and thrashes and loses all semblance of composure, lost in the velvety feel of Bucky’s mouth and his hands stroking and pinching at his nipples; and most of all, his eyes focused entirely on Steve, riveted and wide and so blue in the morning light. Even with Steve’s limited experience, he can tell Bucky has never done this before. He keeps gagging, mostly because he’s pushing himself past his limits, and there are traces of teeth, and yet the reality of it still surpasses all of Steve’s fantasies, Bucky’s slightly too-long fingernails digging into his thigh into crescent moons grounding him in the moment. When he comes, too sudden to even warn Bucky, his back arched and his toes curled up against Bucky’s back, it feels a little bit like dying, like there’s not enough air in the world to breathe and yet he can’t even seem to care about it.

When he catches his breath back, Bucky is drawing patterns into his hip with his fingertips, face pressed to Steve’s thigh. He looks a bit pole-axed, as if he can’t quite believe that happened. “C’mon, come up here,” Steve mumbles, tugging Bucky up until he’s laying beside him again and he starts stroking his side once more, like he doesn’t want to stop now that he’s allowed. Steve moves closer and buries his face in Bucky’s neck, and they’re sweaty and covered in come and are in hard need of a wash, but it’s warm and Bucky smells so good that he starts dozing without really realizing it.

“Tell me,” he says, half asleep already. “How long have you thought about it.”

Bucky shakes his head. “No. It’s embarrassing.”

“What, like I’m gonna laugh about it more than that time with the crayons in the third grade.”

“You swore you’d never mention that again, you little shit.”

“I swore I’d never mention it to anyone else, and I ain’t, so there. Tell me,” He adds, because he has to know, he really does have to, so all those years of his stomach twisting with want while waking up next to Bucky mean something.

“I dunno, Stevie. A lot.” Bucky does sound embarrassed, and when Steve tries to shift so he can see his face Bucky just buries it even deeper into Steve’s hair. “Since Eileen kissed you in front of the whole schoolyard and you got all dopey and pleased and I was just - so mad. She didn’t really know you, what business did she have taking your first kiss. Could’ve pushed her away, I was so pissed off.”

“Bucky. I was fourteen then,” Steve says, awed and surprised, his belly twisting in pleasure. At fourteen he had been bony and even shorter and with a perpetually runny nose, hands too big for his small frame and angry and awkward all the time. That Eileen Dziedzic had kissed him had seemed like enough of a blessing; that Bucky had wanted to as well seems a bit more than he deserves.

“I know that, Steve.”

Bucky still sounds uncomfortable, body slightly tense, so Steve starts saying, “Bucky, tell me something,” and then when Bucky invariably tenses more, he continues, “Why wouldn’t you think I would be bossy in bed?”

Bucky laughs, just as Steve expected, and then rolls them over and holds Steve down and kisses him until it’s hard to think.

“I have no idea, you complete bastard, I really don’t,” Bucky says in between kisses, bright and happy and the most extraordinary, beautiful thing Steve has ever set eyes on.

 

 

----

 

 

When Steve finally gets out of bed, because he can’t get fired again, he does so grudgingly, coming back for kisses and touches to a sleepy Bucky that seems intent on keeping him in place. He looks tantalizing in the early morning light: tussled and careless, deliriously happy in a way Steve wants to claim for his own and keep where it’s safe.

“Just a few more minutes, Stevie, c’mon,” he says, mouthing and biting at Steve’s wrist, leaving bruises as he goes. “I promise to make it worth your while,” he continues, coy as he looks up to through his lashes.

Steve, who has a lot more bruises to attest to it, does not doubt it. He kisses Bucky, lingering, and then says, “Not all of us can be as much of a lazy bum as you are, Buck.” Bucky laughs, and rubs his face against the pillow.

When Steve looks at him again, halfway out of his shirt and with his suspenders hanging off his hips, Bucky is looking at him with a small smile, face still pressed against the pillow in a way that is almost the same as the last time he caught him doing this, and he realizes with a jolt that this must be a habit of his, watching Steve while he pretends to sleep, because it was the only way he got to.

“Bucky.”

“Hmm?”

Steve takes his nightshirt all the way off, takes notice of the way Bucky’s eyes dilate. “You can watch all you want, you know. I know you like it, you creep,” he says, and then Bucky is laughing and blushing and throwing Steve’s balled up socks at his face before grabbing him by the wrist and pulling him bodily back in bed, until Steve is lying on top of him and has no option but to kiss him breathless.

Steve’s late for work, not that he really minds.