Chapter 1: Turn Them Out of Service
"Hey, Shrimpy!" slashes through the pub's cheerful noise, popping Steve's good mood like a stabbed balloon. Sighing to himself, he folds the paper one-handed, shoving it into his pocket as he turns. No point pretending they don't mean him.
At least there's just two of them, big loud GIs. Privates, which is good, they only barely outrank him. "What the fuck are you doing here?" Flat Face demands, waggling a finger at Steve. "Littlest soldier I've ever seen."
The other has a rat-pointy nose, Steve could swear it twitches as Rat Face grabs his collar. "Ain't no soldier," he slurs, drunker than his buddy, and at least Steve's hasn't had a whole beer yet, just sips of all the Howlies'. "Look, a pro-boy!"
Steve's fingers curl tight. "Yep, Auxiliary First Class," he confirms steadily. "Let go of me."
Of course Rat Face doesn't. He tugs instead, making Steve set his feet to keep from being pulled forward. "You're a long way from London, pretty boy. What'ch'a doing out here?" Both of them press in closer, grinning like wolves.
"You're a long way from your village." Steve's not a lamb. "Don't they miss their idiot?" Twisting as he jerks sideways frees his collar from Rat Face's grip. "Excuse me."
Rat Face frowns but Flat Face grins wider as he grabs, annoyingly fast enough to get his big fist wrapped around Steve's bicep. "C'mon, pro boy, give us a kiss." This with an absurd wet-mouthed fishface, and Steve dodges Flat Face's first try but Rat Face grabs at him as if to hold him still for another.
Steve bares his own teeth, his nerves crackling. "You're not my assignment." The Howlies' table is still a ways away across the room, but this won't be his first barfight. "Now take that hand off me if you want to keep it."
"Ooo!" They laugh, Flat Face shakes Steve some. "Ain't you feisty? Get on your knees and show us what that sassy mouth can do." His fingers bite into the scant meat of Steve's arm as he tries to haul him down.
Steve hauls back, heels braced against the floor. "Hell, no. You can go look for each other's dicks." That gets them both scowling again. "Left my tweezers in London."
That does it. "Smart mouth fairy," Rat-Face snarls, with a wild swing Steve easily dodges. Flat Face comes in overhand, Steve ducks forward and down, putting his legs into it as he swings upwards; as his uppercut jars a surprised grunt out of Flat Face, big fingers startling loose, Steve assures his conscience that at least he can tell Sergeant Barnes he didn't throw the first punch.
* *** *
Steve's arm is the first thing he notices, that long slender arm flying up the way it does when Steve throws himself dramatically backwards into Dugan's lap or Gabe's, Dernier's or Bucky's, laughing as he lets them catch him. Steve's arm flies in a punch now, other elbow jabbing sharply sideways into the gut of the guy trying to flank him. He's fighting two at once, sloppy-dressed GIs; they've got height and reach on him but Steve's landing solid punches, he's not giving in, even when a blow to the ear staggers him and one of the assholes grabs his wrist and something's hanging heavy off Bucky's arm, pinning it to the table.
He's half out of his seat and Gabe's holding his arm down with both hands. "Sarge," is all Gabe says, eyes big above his broad set mouth, and understanding slices cool through the red haze behind Bucky's eyes. If he wades into the fight this all goes up to Colonel Phillips.
If any of the Howlies do, it just comes to him. "Morita," Bucky snaps out, "Jones, Go."
Morita nods as he spins his chair. "With pleasure!" Gabe answers, flashing a grin, squeezing Bucky's arm as he stands. Across the room, circled by lookie-loos, Steve's hasslers shake him between them, pushing him back into Pointy-face's grip as Bulky cocks a fist and Steve glares up defiantly, mouth open, chest heaving. The bartender's leaning across the bar, yelling and flapping a towel, but only distracts them a moment before Bulky grabs the towel and yanks it away. Steve takes that moment, stomping backwards on Pointy-face's foot; he bellows, wincing, but Bulky punches Steve hard across the mouth, snapping his head sideways.
That's the last blow he lands. Gabe full-on tackles him into the bar, Morita kidney-punches Pointy-face, grabs Steve's arm and pulls him free. Steve shakes Morita's hand off, wiping at a trickle of blood down his chin, but his split lip stretches into a smile. Gabe's back surges as he punches Bulky, one-two-three, before Steve reaches out, despite Morita's obvious try at catching him, to pat Gabe's shoulder. That puts Steve inside Pointy-face's reach, but that idiot's too busy huddling on the floor to do anything about it.
As Gabe turns towards Steve, Dugan makes a sad noise like some big dying animal. "Please, Sarge?" he asks, and Bucky pulls his gaze from the fight and finds Dugan pouting. "Lemme join the fun?"
"Jones and Morita have it handled," Bucky says with all the authority he doesn't feel, adrenaline searing through his veins. He wants to charge across the room so badly he can taste it, coppery as blood. But he watches Gabe and Morita handle it, forming up, flanking Steve; the two assholes help each other up, obviously hurting, and start yelling from a safe distance, wheezing and wincing between shouts. Bucky hears something that might be 'your commander', and that's his cue.
* *** *
"Wait 'till your commander hears about this!" Flat Face snarls, and Steve has to allow himself something, so he lets himself laugh. Rat Face's still wheezing, Flat Face lunges, and Gabe calmly sets a broad arm between the asshole and Steve's grin. "You're gonna fucking pay!"
"You called, boys?" Sergeant Barnes strolls through the dispersing crowd, all loose-limbed menace, and Steve's mouth goes dry. He's still hot from the fight, he tells himself as his commanding officer arrives, strong arms swinging, posture deceptively negligent. Barnes stops beside Jim, who smirks sideways as he salutes, and folds his arms, so easy he's almost slouching, every inch of him saying he's already measured up these two idiots and found them so very lacking. Steve salutes, hiding his grin in the napkin, and Barnes's eyes flick to him, crinkled with amusement. "What seems to be the problem?"
"These three troublemakers," Flat Face babbles, peering from one unswollen eye and shaking that pointer finger, "they attacked us!" Steve just rolls his eyes, absolutely sure Barnes knows better. "For no reason!" Rat Face nods, still clutching his back. The bartender's snort carries all the way from the sink down the bar.
"Really," Barnes drawls. " 'Cause from where I sat it looks like you two assaulted my auxiliary here." Liking that 'my' more than he should, Steve squares his shoulders.
"So you sent your boys to rescue your fairy?" Rat-Face snipes back, and Steve squeezes his fingers tight around the cloth, pushing back against the surge of annoyance. He knows what he is, and what he's not.
"My soldiers backed up their squad mate," fills Steve with a different, sweeter warmth. "Damn well, I'd say. Now, unless there's anything else...?" Barnes flicks his gaze to the three of them and back to the two louts before them, lifting his eyebrows, letting the unsaid, Unless you wanna report that an Asian, a Negro, and a pro boy cleaned your clocks? hang in the air.
Flat-Face turns nearly purple. Half leaning on him, half pulling him back, Rat-Face grumps, "Thanks for nothing then, sir," and the two slink away.
Barnes shrugs, smiling, and looks his soldiers over, Gabe and Jim, and Steve too. "You guys okay?"
"Just fine, Sarge," Gabe answers for them all, setting a hand on Steve's shoulder, and Steve does his best to smile winsomely from behind the napkin.
"All right, then," Barnes says, "Guess we'd better clear out for the night."
Steve's heart plummets faster than it rose. "Oh damn, Sarge, Gabe, Jim, I'm sorry!" They all stare at him as he waves his hands. "We only just got here, I didn't mean --"
"It's okay," Barnes tells him, smile curling up at the corners as he pats Steve's arm. "You fought like a tiger. Good job." Gabe squeezes his shoulder and Jim nods, and now, after everything, Steve feels a blush wash hot across his face and down his neck.
"Here, take this," the bartender offers, pushing a glass jug over to them, full of nut-brown ale. Jim reaches for it but Barnes grabs it first, smirking at Jim's disappointed frown; Steve looks from them back to the bartender, who smiles crookedly. "Well done, lad," he says, before turning to his customers.
Barnes steers them away too, back across the room to the other Howlies. "This should cheer Dugan up," he observes, hefting the bottle so its contents slosh. "He's pouting about missing the action." Barnes rolls his smoke-blue eyes, and busted lip or no, Steve has to laugh. Squadmate, Sargeant Barnes called him, and my auxiliary, and as he walks back between Gabe and Jim, following Barnes's broad back and gleaming dark hair, Steve notes this down in his memory as one really satisfying bar fight.
Chapter 2: Strip His Sleeve
Steve likes being Gabe's birthday present.
With all thanks to PotOfSoup and Caitri for encouragement and brainstorming.
Steve likes being a birthday present more than he probably should, he sleepily considers from his current position, his back tucked to Gabe Jones's broad bare chest, his waist under Gabe's thick warm arm. There's a lot about this assignment he enjoys too much, like traveling with the Howlies, storing up the European countryside's wintry beauty, and being wrapped in warm arms every night. Usually Barnes's arms since Steve's second night, when Barnes thrashed so desperately he woke Steve up across the tent, looked so lost and afraid Steve dragged his sex-sore body out of his soft bedroll and clambered over. Barnes pulled him in tight, wrapping all four limbs around him, and Steve's slept with him ever since, except for special occasions.
Steve likes this special occasion, from Gabe's bright smile when they all raucously serenaded him while Steve presented him with a chocolate square topped with a scavenged candle, to tingling all over under Gabe's hands and mouth and body as Gabe thoroughly took advantage of the chance to enjoy him slowly. Steve should probably mind being lent like a teddy bear, but if he weren't sleeping with Barnes he's pretty sure he'd pick Gabe to crawl in with. Sometimes Steve thinks it might be more fair to set up something like a weekly rotation, to give each of the guys a regular turn... except that most likely Jim would lie stiffly awake all night, Juniper would never stop chatting, and Dugan would roll over Steve and squash him flat. Besides, Barnes's got worse nightmares than Steve's ever seen; they came every night during his first week, but subsided to maybe once or twice a week since, and if Steve can help that much, his heart would hurt him if he stopped.
Barnes is on watch tonight, taking Gabe's turn. Steve wiggles a little, pressing more firmly to Gabe's warm bare solidity, and silently makes himself stop worrying, quietly lets himself enjoy this, relative safety and the chance to sleep naked. Gabe breathes slow and lulling in his ear, and he lets himself drift, already halfway asleep.
He almost thinks he dreams the "Hey, Steve?" soft in Gabe's deep voice, until he realizes he felt it too, and jerks awake all over.
"Huh?" Steve asks clumsily. He thought Gabe was out for the night. Gabe tends to go nicely loose-jointed and easy after he comes, even when they're all passing Steve around a friendly joking circle, and on a flat surface he usually doesn't do much more than give Steve a light kiss before falling sound asleep. Steve likes knowing that about Gabe, or at least thought he did. Maybe he was wrong. "Did I wake you up?"
"Nah, just caught my breath." Gabe snuggles his nose in behind Steve's ear, his stubble scraping bright little sparks along Steve's throat. His lips are wide and soft and feel really good on Steve's skin. "Usually you knock me out, you glad lad you." Steve snorts at the flattery, and Gabe breathes a warm chuckle over his jaw and squeezes him a little tighter. "Can I have one more birthday present? I've wanted to ask you something for awhile."
"I'm yours till morning," Steve agrees, and smiles under Gabe's cushiony kisses up his cheek. He rolls prone to kiss Gabe back, to look up into his bottomlessly dark eyes, lit only the moonlight spilling under the tent flap.
Gabe smiles, just a little curve of lips; he flattens his hand gently over Steve's chest, and the skin prickles. "How'd you end up here, Steve?"
"As our auxiliary," Gabe clarifies, stroking Steve's chest. Soothingly. "You're bright, you're brave, we get so much more out of you than just getting laid, good at it as you are."
The petting's getting distracting. "Stop that," Steve snaps, grabbing Gabe's wrist, pressing his hand flat when he starts to pull it away. "I'm 4F. So I volunteered." Out of everything, Gabe asks him this?
Gabe nods like he gets it, big and strong as he is. "I volunteered too," he says slowly, and because Gabe's been his friend since he got here, Steve doesn't roll over and put his back between them. "I got my degree first, I thought a bachelor's in linguistics might be useful to the war effort, that the Army could use someone with both French and German under his belt." Now Steve's listening because he can hear the undercurrents, can see them in the bitter twist of Gabe's generous mouth. "They took one look at me, made me a private and gave me a gun."
Gabe does get it, better than Steve let himself realize, and his cheeks heat with self-reproach. "Like they took one look at me and figured I was good for nothing but servicing the real men."
Gabe nods, and gives Steve another squeeze, warm around his ribs and waist. "You are a man. I noticed."
Blushing harder, Steve can't help a grin. "What would we do without our translator?"
Gabe smiles in answer, more than worth listening to. "I didn't get the chance till Barnes brought the Howlies together. I've gotten to do a hell of a lot more here than before."
It's Steve's turn to nod, agreement and shared experience, and Gabe's grin is almost blinding. "At least Sarge sees what we're good for."
"It doesn't hurt that he's knows what it's like -- " Gabe cuts himself off, and starts over, more carefully. "Did he tell you?"
"Loose lips sink ships," Steve teases, because he can, because it makes Gabe roll his eyes. "Yeah, when we talked about Brooklyn, we know each other's neighborhoods and everything. Since he's cut I thought maybe he was born in a hospital, but he told me he's Jewish, pointed it out on his tags. He wants me to know -- him, I guess. Not just our Sarge."
"Sounds like it," Gabe agrees. "What do you think of him?"
Steve almost talks without thinking, then catches himself and shuts his mouth. That's the thousand dollar question, isn't it? He considers a moment, looking up at Gabe, and says, instead of mysterious and frightening and strangely gentle and vulnerable, "He's so annoying." That shocks a laugh out of Gabe, and Steve runs with it. "Other day he gave me an acorn he found, asked if I wanted to draw it for my Ma or my sweetheart back home." It's still in Steve's pocket, and he still remembers how carefully Barnes asked about his sweetheart, not even trying to hint at boy or girl. "Had to tell him my Ma's dead and the position of Steve's Sweetheart's gone vacant a while." Barnes' eyes went wide, but his jaw firmed, and instead of pitying words he'd just told Steve to draw the acorn for himself.
"I'm sorry to hear about your mother," Gabe says, but his eyes glint with mischief. "And I think you have a qualified applicant."
"What, Juniper?" Steve asks, confused. "I can't do that to the kid, I'm his first lay, is all." He just looks so grateful and astonished every time Steve sucks him off or climbs into his lap, it makes Steve feel ten years older rather than just two.
Gabe laughs, loud enough to muffle himself with his hand, then with Steve's shoulder. "Come on, Rogers." His grin flashes in the dimness. "And after I said you're smart." Stteve stares, nonplussed, and Gabe rolls his eyes again.
"But all of you like having me around," Steve points out. "I make you guys feel big and I don't say no. I'm here to make things better."
"Lord help me, you're gonna cause a cramp in my eye muscles." Gabe curls a big warm hand around Steve's shoulder. "I've served with Barnes for over a year," he tells Steve, smiling as ever but with firm intensity. "I marched beside him into Hell or as near to it as I've been in this life, and I followed him back out. He's as good a man as I've ever met, and under all those scars he's got a big heart. And the way he looks at you, you don't see it?"
"You're a romantic, Jones." Steve glances away into the shadows, too warmed by pointless hope to meet Gabe's eyes, helplessly remembering Barnes's gentle palm on his cheek each night, every soft morning smile. "Why'd you tell me this, anyway?"
"Because he's doing better since you got here, which means we all are. In fact, we're all just plain doing better with you around. Because I think you ought to know it." Steve looks up at Gabe for that, and Gabe leans in and kisses him softly, then sets his head down beside Steve's again.
Steve lies in Gabe's arms for a moment, his brain whirling around and around the subject of Sergeant Barnes, before he shoves it in a different direction. "You went to college?"
"Howard University," Gabe says, proud as a trumpet.
Steve squeezes his bicep and smiles. "What was it like? I did a little art school, but that's about it."
"I've seen your drawings, Rockwell." But Gabe sounds distracted. "I miss it," he says eventually. "It was... freedom, to study what interested me most, surrounded by other students, by instructors, by knowledge." He pauses, and now Steve's listening closely enough to recognize this kind of silence, to make an interested encouraging noise. "All the students there are colored kids," Gabe says carefully, and Steve nods. "From all over the country, all of us together. Instead of being pushed back and given scraps, for the first time we got the best of everything the university could give us. All they asked was that we do the most we can with it."
Steve nods, squeezing Gabe's arm again, trying to find the right words for the feeling swelling in his chest. He remembers the first time a teacher held up his drawing and judged him talented, how it didn't matter for that moment that he was scrawny and stunted and still using leg braces. "Good," he says inanely, and decides to just stick with that. "Good. It sounds like a wonderful place. I'd like to see it one day."
Gabe sighs deeply, broad chest shifting against Steve's side, and when Steve looks at him he looks much sadder than a thoroughly laid handsome man should. "Wish I could take you."
Steve gets it. "I'm not exactly the sort of girl you take home to Ma," he jokes, keeping his voice as light as he can.
Gabe squeezes him with both arms, until his ribs creak pleasantly. "Wish I could take you home too," Gabe murmurs into Steve's hair. "Anyone would be proud of you. Things should be different." Steve makes a face, because they should be, but they're not, and Gabe kisses beside his eye. "You're my first fellow, you know."
"Didn't know," Steve babbles, honestly surprised. "I'd've never guessed, you sure know your way around."
"You're easy to know," Gabe rumbles, and Steve blushes hot. "And, well, I wanted to, I've dreamt of guys as well as girls since I was fourteen, but I didn't dare. I needed to be a good churchgoing boy, at home, even at school. But I came to war, and then we got you. With all we give up we should at least get a few opportunities, right?"
"Right," Steve agrees in a daze. "I just -- I'm sorry, I guess, all you got was me. You deserve someone good looking, with some meat on his bones."
Gabe growls before Steve's done speaking, and pulls him into a hard kiss. "Come on, Rogers, you know you're pretty."
Steve isn't pretty. "Don't think I won't pop you in the nose, birthday boy," he threatens, and scowls until Gabe wrestles his smile down into a contrite look.
"Okay, okay, you're handsome," Gabe says, and Steve snorts doubtfully. "Vous êtes beau? Sie sind schön?" Steve laughs helplessly before Gabe can go through any more languages, and leans in to start the next kiss.
This one goes on for awhile, soft and unhurried, as Gabe pulls Steve in tight, stroking a big hand down his back until his whole body hums with it. Steve sighs, and Gabe rumbles in response, and pulls back only to yawn before kissing Steve again. "Maybe we should actually sleep," Steve murmurs into Gabe's cheek, and Gabe chuckles and kisses him one more time.
He keeps chuckling all the way into, "I bet the powers that be had a good laugh when they let Barnes pick his menagerie. Me, Jim, Dernier, Monty, those crazies Juniper and DumDum, and Barnes leading us all..."
"Fuck the powers that be," Steve says heartily, and gets a bright laugh from Gabe. "The Howlies are an amazing outfit I'm proud to serve."
"We're proud to have you," Gabe mumbles, settling flat and pulling Steve half atop him.
Steve smiles against Gabe's shoulder, and realizes he's got one more thing to say, before Gabe conks out, while it's still his birthday. "Of all the things I thought I'd find out here," Steve murmurs, "I didn't expect a friend. Thanks, Gabe."
"Mmm, Steve, you're welcome," Gabe answers, slurring with sleep. "Thank you for my birthday present."
Chapter 3: Gentle His Condition
Coleman fiercely envies Gabe and Barnes and all the Howling Commandos this lovely fellow's fellowship.
I love the 4F setting ever so, but I was missing Sam Wilson, so I wrote about his identical grandfather. That's Lt. Coleman Harris, Anthony Mackie's lovely character from the 2013 movie "Gangster Squad". Google images of him in his sharp 1948 fashions: you won't be disappointed.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Lieutenant Coleman Harris has occasionally been afflicted with envy. He never indulges the feeling, because the days are short and there's much to be done, just allows it to rise up and pass through him, then lets it go. Tonight, sitting in Sergeant Barnes's tent planning their joint mission to capture Hydra's Nordseekalmar facility, Coleman has to remind himself of that resolve when the tent flap lifts and the most winsome little blond soldier ducks in. His, "Hey, Sarge -- " cuts off as his plump pink mouth forms a delicious-looking 'o', then firms into a friendly smile beneath his quick salute. "Sirs. Sorry to interrupt."
A quick glance at the tabs and Coleman fits name to face. "Hello, there," he says low and slow as he extends a hand. "Auxiliary First Class Rogers, I presume?" He's heard about this pro boy, from Gabe the few chances they've had to talk, in Army scuttlebutt here and there. This is the Howling Commandos' field auxiliary who's kept up with them for over six months, who singlehandedly took down a squad of Hydra goons, who drew the facility map Coleman and Barnes are using right now. He gives Coleman his long-fingered hand, thick eyebrows hoisted high over his big sweet-water eyes, and Coleman fiercely envies Gabe and Barnes and all the Howling Commandos this lovely fellow's fellowship.
"This is Lieutenant Harris," Barnes puts in, voice gone gravelly. He just might be suffering some jealousy of his own, his forehead furrowed and eyes smoky blue as he looks at Rogers, who flicks his clear eyes to Barnes and back to Coleman. Gabe dropped a sideways word on this while praising them both, between going on about how much he values Barnes's leadership and Rogers's stubbornness and strength, and Coleman lets his smile tilt a little slyly in exchange for letting Rogers have his hand back.
Rogers nods to him. "It's good to meet you, Sir," he says, voice surprisingly, pleasantly deep. "Private Jones mentioned you."
"What'd that anarchist say about his cousin the cop?" Coleman teases, warmed all over when those long-lashed eyes widen, going almost round for a moment before crinkling as Rogers lets out a surprised laugh and flashes a bright smile.
"I'm not telling him you said that," Rogers says stoutly, mischief twinkling in his eyes. "And I've interrupted too long already. Sergeant Barnes, I thought I'd --"
"Yeah, go bunk with Gabe," Barnes tells him, and the smile Rogers gives him is small and sweet. Barnes reaches out like he's going to touch Rogers' face, maybe pull him in, and seems to remember just in time to grip his shoulder instead, where it joins his throat, squeezing hard enough to shake him a little. Rogers sways under Barnes's heavy hand like a sapling in high wind, his smile widening like he likes the rough treatment. Interesting.
Then he steps away with, "I'll be back bright and early," and adds to Coleman, "Have a good evening, Lieutenant, I'll tell Gabe I met you," before lifting the tent flap again. But as he ducks under it he looks back, wide-eyed and curious, at Coleman. Maybe even interested, Coleman can hope.
"So that's your pro boy," he says to Barnes, who's sitting there with his eyes shut.
They snap open, and Coleman's never seen blue eyes so dark, even the last time he shot some Aryan ideal lunging for his throat. "Yeah," Barnes growls. Gabe hasn't said the half of it.
"You're a fortunate soldier, Barnes," Coleman continues, watching Barnes's possessiveness war with his agreement.
Agreement wins, and Barnes doesn't smile, but his scowl relaxes. "Yeah, I am," he mutters, picking up the map and pencil, and as Coleman takes the hint he promises himself that isn't the last he'll see of Auxiliary Rogers.
* * *** * *
"This won't be like our sabotage runs," Barnes says, again, but by now Steve's repeating himself too. "It's gonna be a big assault, both sides might take prisoners. If they get you you need to be a noncombatant."
"Because that worked so well last time," Steve points out, watches Barnes wince and feels the pit of his stomach squirm. He hates bringing it up, but it's true. He'd really rather not be loot again if he can help it, even if getting shot's the most likely alternative.
"Yeah, well, you're still here to mouth off to me, ain't you?" Barnes's voice goes rough, bangs trembling above his wide-open eyes, fists clutching at his sides like he wants to grab Steve, shake him and squeeze him. "You think I want that to happen again, you insubordinate little --"
The tent flap slaps as it's raised. They both freeze as Lt. Harris ducks in, smiling sunnily. "Hello, Sergeant, Auxiliary, hope I'm not interrupting anything?"
Barnes growls, "Absolutely not." Steve clenches his fists and shuts his mouth.
Harris lifts his winglike eyebrows. "Oh good, then." He pulls the words out like taffy, flashing his broad front teeth with their charming gap. Steve thinks disloyally he could spend all day watching Harris's mobile, handsome face; as penance he pulls his gaze away and settles it on the ground. "I've got something for your man Rogers here, if that's all right?" Steve glances up again, at Barnes's jerky nod, at Harris's easy smile as he pulls out the smallest, squarest olive-drab gun and holds it out. Steve reflexively takes it, while Harris tells him, "Picked up this P-45 Liberator not too far from Lyon. It's got one shot, and it's good for two things. It fits in any pocket and it'll get you a better gun."
Steve blinks at the gun on his palm, then at Harris, smiling at him so warmly he can feel it like sunshine. He doesn't dare look over at Barnes. "Thank you, sir," he manages, stashing it in a hip pocket.
"Try your vest," Barnes advises, and Steve actually jumps a little. Bucky's eyes have gone dark as twilight, like they sometimes do in bed, and Steve feels like he's standing between day and night, sunlight and moonlight both shining on him. "Pants pockets get searched first."
"Okay, Sarge," Steve agrees, unbuttoning his jacket enough to tuck the gun into his vest beneath. "Um, thanks. And thank you, Lt. Harris. I should --" He nods towards the tent flap and quick-steps over, not quite running away.
"See you later," Harris calls; Steve glances back, at his inviting smile, at Bucky's downslung mouth, and throws himself out into the open air. Beneath the bright cloudy sky he gulps some deep breaths, struggling to clear his spinning head, acutely aware of the small solidity of his little gun tucked inside his vest.
* * *** * *
Then, because they met their first day in Basic and Reilly's a snide bastard, he glances back at Rogers, who's smiling earnestly at Parkerson's hoarse thanks, looks Coleman in the eye, and smirks elaborately. Rolling his eyes in answer, Coleman spins on his heel and heads out. And waits in the empty hallway, listening to the distant cheerful noise of all the other able-bodied men moving into the cleared-out facility.
It doesn't take long before Rogers emerges, yawning and rubbing his face. He notices Coleman, stops short and salutes, his eyes huge under those caterpillar brows, his cheekbones delicately arched. "Lieutenant Harris," he says, a tiny smile curving that pretty mouth. "Congratulations on your victory."
"Thank you, Mr. Rogers." Coleman wonders, with that slender neck and thin-boned wrists, how many layers of uniform he'll have to unwrap to uncover Rogers's birthday suit. "And thanks again for lending a hand in the infirmary."
"I try to be useful." The smile broadens a bit. "Corporal Reilly said he didn't need me anymore tonight, so I should go get some shut-eye."
"And some food, too. In fact, I've been meaning to ask you --" Rogers straightens alertly, his smile vanishing, and doubt slugs Coleman in the stomach, hard and cold. He'd thought he'd gotten Rogers to like him, at least a bit.
"What would you like, sir?" Rogers asks neutrally, cool as water, and Coleman gets it. Of course a pro boy would have reason to be wary.
"I'd like to borrow you for a night, feed you a solid meal and watch you sleep in my new bed," he says, and watches Rogers's lips part, his whole face blooming into pleased surprise. "Anything or nothing else, that's your call."
"Uh, I -- thank you! I'd like -- I mean --" Rogers is adorable when stumbling over his words, punctuating them with little headshakes, his bangs swaying. "I'm not looking for a transfer," he blurts loyally, "no offense, Sir."
"None taken," Coleman assures him. If he dared requisition Rogers away from them, from Barnes and from Gabe, he's pretty sure the Howling Commandos would go rogue and hunt him down. "I just want a night with you. What do you say?"
"You're actually asking?" Rogers's eyebrows fly up his forehead, pink wells up in his cheeks. "I mean, Sir, you don't have to."
"That's why I'm asking." Coleman watches Rogers stare at him, smiling wide at last, and take a deliberate step and another, putting himself in Coleman's space.
He doesn't get handsy, doesn't go for a kiss, just stands there, face tilted up, chin lifted, eyes bright and unwavering. "Lieutenant Harris, I accept your invitation. As long as my Sergeant gives permission," he adds, with an apologetic little shrug.
Coleman leans in and steals a quick smooch from Rogers's tender mouth, smiling into his shining eyes. "Then let's go ask him."
* * *** * *
Eventually he mutters, "Rogers likes your cousin." Another time, another place, and Harris would've caught Bucky's eye too, with his easy manner, his sleek figure in uniform, his pleasant heart-shaped face and high forehead.
"Coleman likes him, too," Gabe agrees, steadily polishing the knife.
"He asked to borrow him for the night." Bucky stares ahead at the cratered hillside below them, where Steve helped Dernier set up the mine gauntlet. At its foot the facility's former combatants lie under a mound of soft dirt, hidden in the shadows beneath the full-leaved trees.
"You say yes?" Gabe's hands don't falter or stop.
"No reason not to." Bucky doesn't close his eyes. "Told him Rogers was for him personally, not the whole damn platoon." If he shuts them all he'll see is Steve in his memory, glowing at being asked, sunken-eyed tired and achingly beautiful.
"He laughed and said 'of course', didn't he." As Gabe quotes the words Bucky remembers them in Harris's voice, the careful way he stood back, not crowding Steve, the sizzling glance they traded.
"Got it in one," Bucky mutters. Gabe grunts affirmatively. A few more moments pass, and Bucky adds, "I don't like your cousin."
Gabe stops to look the knife over, turning it in his fingers. "I don't blame you." Bucky watches the moving glint from the corner of his eye. Then Gabe goes back to polishing, Bucky goes back to even breathing, and they both stay there, propping up the wall, as the evening sinks to full dark night.
* * *** * *
The bed's still warm beside him, the blanket smells richly of Harris, of both of them. Pushing up on an elbow, Steve opens his eyes to a line of light streaked across the wall, leaking from the ensuite bathroom. Water runs, splashing into a container, and the light wavers slightly -- there's a sheet tacked over the Hydra logo on the wall, Steve remembers, just as the door opens and Harris steps out, holding a mug, shirtsleeves and smile luminous in the dimness.
"Hey," Harris tells him, clicking on the desk lamp beside the bed as he sets the mug down. He does a quick turn to get the bathroom light, letting Steve enjoy watching him move, and sits down beside Steve looking fresh as a daisy even whenever the time is. "Didn't wake you, did I?"
He smells good, too, like he washed and shaved, and Steve feels rather rumpled beside his handsome neatness. At least he's alert enough to hold back that being alone in the bed was what woke him. Instead Steve shakes his head, managing a smile, wondering a little hopefully if Harris will kiss him again. "What time is it, Sir?"
Harris rolls his big expressive eyes, but it's not as if Steve can toss rank out the window, at least not without being bluntly ordered to. "0327," he answers, adding a low, "C'mere," as he leans in and does kiss Steve. Steve lets himself return the kiss, lets himself enjoy Harris's full lips and warm hand curling around his shoulder.
When Harris sits back Steve couldn't keep from smiling if he wanted to. "Did I miss anything?"
"Oh huh," Harris says, glancing down at his half-dressed self. "No, nothing. Just got up to check on my guys."
Steve wonders sharply how his Howlies are tonight, if Barnes is sleeping all right without him, and looks down a moment at the blanket under his hand. He can't exactly ask, but his face gives him away, and when he looks up Harris is smiling softly. "Ran into your Sergeant on my way. He asked where I'd stashed you." Harris's smile tips slyly sideways and Steve helplessly feels warmth gathering in his cheeks. "I told him you were sound asleep in my nice new commander's quarters. He told me Gabe and the others were all sacked out too."
"Well, good, okay, thanks." Steve's blushing hard by now, he can feel the heat blazing in his cheeks and climbing up his neck and ears. "Thank you, Sir."
"Thank you, Coleman," Harris corrects, tapping Steve's nose with a fingertip, and Steve just shrugs.
Harris shakes his head again, and reaches down to shuck his trousers. "Mind if I climb back in?"
"Of course not!" Steve pulls the blankets open as invitingly as he can. "It's your bed, Sir." He's just here to warm it, and really, he shouldn't've let himself sleep so long.
Harris opens his mouth, then seems to stall as he glances down Steve's body, probably watching the blush add some colorful interest to Steve's skinny frame. Tossing trousers and shorts and shirt over the bedside table, Harris rolls back in under the covers, nestling a strong arm under Steve's waist, slinging a hard-muscled thigh over his. "You know what else he told me? That you made the maps we used today."
"Oh. I -- oh." It didn't seem like a big deal, working with Monty to translate the recon sketches and reports into a useful set of maps, while Juniper sharpened pencils and gawked.
He doesn't know what to say now, looking up into Harris's dark eyes gone serious, as Harris curves a hand over his cheek, brushing a thumbpad over his lips. "Steve Rogers, you should be a soldier."
Steve's heart trips a sideways beat, he flushes hot all over and twists his cheek from Harris's touch, looking down. It's meant as praise, he knows, but he feels just a little pleased and mostly mad; he stares at Harris's nickel-round nipple, the deepest brown against his dark skin, surrounded by tiny crisp black curls. He could lean forward and fasten his mouth over that nipple, he knows, distract Harris from this entire topic, give him his due.
Instead Steve mutters, "Well, the Army already decided this is the best use for me." It doesn't happen often anymore, but the thought flashes through his head, unasked for and unwelcome, of just about how many men have used him indeed. He grits his teeth against the surge of shame, ready to beat it back with pride in the good he's doing, no matter how.
Harris gets there first, knuckles skimming Steve's shoulder as he drops his hand between their chests. "Rogers," he says softly, "I learned a long time ago if they don't see potential it doesn't mean there isn't any." Steve starts to roll his eyes, because he's heard it before, but finds Harris's smile soft and apologetic, completely self-aware. "Yeah, yeah, I know," he adds, sliding his hand up Steve's arm, "but it's still true."
Steve tries to glare but the corner of his mouth edges up, and Harris smiles brilliantly at him. "You could use a brass band to go with that speech," he says, and grins as Harris laughs. "Sir."
"Oh, someone's got a mouth on him," Harris answers, eyes twinkling. Steve grabs his wrist and they widen, lifts his hand back up and they crinkle again as Steve presses Harris's hand to his cheek again.
"I can do other things with it besides chatter," Steve points out, and Harris chuckles, thumbing his bottom lip again. "And I didn't really earn your signature in my record yet."
"You were asleep on your feet." Harris keeps petting him, just firmly enough to not become annoying, pressing little tingles into his lip. "Besides, you're pretty cuddly considering your lack of padding."
"Yeah, well, I'm not exactly a teddy bear." Pressing his cheek into Harris's touch, Steve lays his own hand over Harris's heart, tilting his thigh up a little. "Permission to suck your dick, Sir?"
Harris groans into a laugh, pushing closer to Steve, heart thumping beneath his palm, dick hardening against his thigh. "Commanding from the ranks, that is," he half-protests. "And you're not distracting me that easy." He grips Steve's nape just slightly, just enough to hold his gaze. "Before you blow my mind, set it at ease. If you could do anything in this war, anything at all, what would you do?"
Steve blinks, turning over the only answer in his head, gives in and gives it up. "I'd stay with the Howling Commandos," he tells Harris. "As some kind of specialist, I guess, but I'd stay with them. They're my guys. I'm proud to serve with them."
Harris nods, and he's tucked Steve up against him belly to belly, but even so he teases, "You sure? You wouldn't even take over the comic? The guys might actually look like themselves if you drew it."
"Ugh, now you're trying to tempt me." Steve could draw so much better than those hacks, and he's not going to let Harris get him going on that.. "Do you want this blow job or not?"
"Oooh, you forgot the 'sir' that time." Harris stops Steve's reply with two fingertips across his lips. "And I want your sweet mouth on me, very much." Rolling onto his back, he pulls Steve effortlessly atop him. "Permission granted, Mr. Rogers. You may proceed."
Steve has to laugh through his, "Yes, Sir!" as he leans in to kiss Harris's smile. As he shuffles back Harris rumbles in pleasure, tucking a hand behind his head as he watches, so Steve keeps up the kisses, chin and throat and chest and all the way down.
* * *** * *
Steve's got a hand up, half greeting and half startled, and behind him Lieutenant Harris frames him with both outstretched hands, gesture and grin saying, 'Look, I brought him back safe and sound' louder than words.
Bucky bares his teeth in what he hopes passes for a smile. "Morning, Lt. Harris, Rogers. Slept well?"
Steve looks back at Harris, who regards him with melting fondness. "Yeah, I'd say so," Harris murmurs, and as Steve turns back to Bucky, smiling cheerfully, Harris shines that same knowing look over Steve's head. "Thank you again, Barnes."
"Don't mention it," is a bit too true, but Harris shakes his hand anyway, with an honest smile Steve earned and Bucky doesn't deserve. "It's been good working with you, Lieutenant."
"Likewise, Sergeant." Harris lets go Bucky's hand to wave past him. "Hey, fellows, breakfast's on us! Up the hall and two rights!"
That gets the Howlies cheering, and as they file out they call, "See you there, Sarge!" to Bucky and pat Steve's shoulder. Gabe stays, tugging Harris aside to talk to his cousin a moment, which involves plenty of arm-punching and conspiratorial murmurs.
Bucky leaves them to it and looks Steve over. He hoists an eyebrow, well rested and neat as a pin except that his overlong bangs droop low across his forehead. "Sarge, you sleep okay?"
In fact, Bucky did not, at all, missing Steve's warm slight weight in his arms. Lies wither under Steve's earnest gaze, so Bucky just shrugs and doesn't watch Steve's eyes widen. "You eat yet?"
"Yeah, did you?" Steve retorts with his usual sass, and tugs Bucky's arm. "C'mon, let's get you your free breakfast. I could use some more coffee anyway."
"Think I can stand you a cup," Bucky says, following Steve from the quarters. He smiles a little, and Steve smiles broadly back, radiantly pleased with himself. Rather than get tangled in comparing Steve's sated midnight smiles with this morning cheer, Bucky says, as mildly as he can manage, "Did up your pack for you, in case you needed to come back and get it."
Steve twitches hard, shooting Bucky a strange sharp look, then plants his foot on the floor and squares his thin shoulders. "Thanks, Sarge, that's kind of you," he says negligently, and Bucky's palms itch with wanting to grab Steve and shove him into the nearest empty room, to shake him hard and haul him in for breathless kisses. "At least now you guys won't have to wait around for me before we head out."
Relief smacks Bucky dizzyingly, he almost trips over his own feet. It takes all his strength to keep his voice light, to keep his hands at his sides. "Well, you're welcome. Just trying to be prepared."
"Yeah, of course." Steve's knuckles brush Bucky's, perhaps by accident. "I mean, Lt. Harris showed me a great time, but I made it clear I wasn't looking for a transfer."
"You'd know him better than I would," comes out meaner than Bucky meant. Steve stops still in the hallway, drags in a deep noisy breath, and suddenly spins towards Bucky, poking his chest with one hard forefinger, eyebrows slammed together and eyes ablaze.
"You!" Steve starts, then squeezes his eyes shut, takes another long deep breath, and glances up and down the hallway. Luckily they're alone, and Bucky's face cracks into a crazed grin as he's shoved up against the wall by ninety-five pounds of righteous fury. "Sergeant," Steve continues, more calmly but still crushingly earnest, "I'm not going anywhere. I mean," he drops his hand, shaking his head so his bangs swing, pinning Bucky effectively with the force of his gasfire blue gaze. "Thanks for letting me go, but I was always gonna come back."
Bucky's throat is suddenly jammed with jagged edges. "You'd better," he chokes out, and when Steve smiles at him like a sunrise he can't say anything at all. He helplessly reaches out to thread his fingers through Steve's hanging bangs, stroking them back from his forehead, and Steve pushes up into his touch, looking up at him like he's the only thing in the whole world, until Bucky finally regains his voice. "Insubordinate punk."
"Cantankerous jerk," Steve retorts, smile as wide as Bucky's ever seen it, and they stare stupidly at each other, grinning like idiots, until a door creaks up the hall and the noise of GIs enjoying their food leaks back to them. "C'mon, Sarge, they're gonna drink all the coffee without us."
"All right, all right." Wrapping his arm around Steve's shoulders, Bucky ruffles his hair. Ducking away, Steve headbutts him in the chest and wraps an arm around his waist, and together they head around the corner.
That's a real gun.
And it's going to show up again.