Bucky curled up tighter. He hurt everywhere. He didn't know which particular seduction had drawn the protective ire of the Dola—Natasha had warned him to stay away from the Russians, warned him the Dolas didn't like their careful plans being thrown into disarray—and at this point he didn't care. All he knew was that he hurt and he had to get out of this alley. This was a bad part of town to be down and vulnerable in. Being an incubus didn't make him strong or fast or immune to damage; all he had were his powers of seduction.
Footsteps. He could hear footsteps.
He dragged himself out from behind the dumpster, making more noise than he wanted. Sent out a feather light touch of invitation. The footsteps paused. Good. It was someone who'd want him. "Hello?" A man. Bucky sent out stronger tendrils of power, of seduction. Of desire. He was hurting, he thought a rib or two might be bruised; getting fucked wasn't exactly going to be the most fun he'd ever had, but he needed the energy he'd get from the sex, needed it to heal, and it was a small price to pay to be somewhere safer than this. Bucky didn't think the Dola would be coming back but there were worse things out and about in the night.
The guy walked down the alley towards Bucky and Bucky threw out more power, more desire. He was pouring it out like a furnace, could feel it draining him, but it must be working, because there were gentle hands on his shoulder. A soft voice asking if he was okay, did he want to go to the hospital? Bucky wasn't sure what he replied, was giving all his attention to wrapping this guy in ropes of want so tight he'd take Bucky home. The guy was strong and he lifted Bucky, was carrying him held securely against his chest, saying, "It's not too far."
Mission accomplished, Bucky checked out for awhile.
When he came back, he was being lowered onto a bed, his boots were being pulled off. This, he could do. Even injured. Probably even in his sleep. It was all automatic, conscious thought wasn't involved, as Bucky shucked out of his pants, pulled at the guy's clothes, stroking, touching, but he wasn't cooperating, Bucky wasn't getting anywhere. He must have been hurt worse than he thought. His hands were suddenly caught, were being held in a gentle but unbreakable grip.
"Okay, don’t do that." There was a sigh. "But if you're that determined to get out of your clothes." The last thing Bucky was aware of was being carefully stripped out of his shirt and then he was gone, the drain on his power and the damage from the Dola too much.
The morning sun hit his eyelids and he blinked as he opened them. The bed he was lying in was soft, the deep blue comforter over him even softer. Bucky kind of wanted to snuggle down into it and go back to sleep except he had no idea where he was. He felt better than he had last night, had started to heal, his powers were once more simmering, so sex must have happened at some point. Except nothing about his body was telling him he'd had sex. It was the sort of thing he always knew. But he was definitely naked. It was confusing.
There was a knock on the bedroom door and a blond head appeared. "Hey, you're awake." Bucky stared at the guy. He was taller than Bucky, bigger, too, broad shoulders to Bucky's slender strength, and gave off an impression of quiet power. His eyes were the same blue as the comforter. Bucky immediately threw out a rope of seduction, just to be on the safe side, since he was vulnerable: he didn't know where he was, he was still sore, and he was pretty sure this guy could do some serious damage if he wanted to.
It didn't seem to have any effect. Bucky tried again, stronger. It should have had the guy panting and hard. Bucky's eyes flicked down to the guy's crotch. Nothing. Even if he was straight as an arrow, he should have had some reaction.
Bucky's eyes returned to the guy's face. He wasn't sure what his face was doing, but it mustn't have been anything good, because the guy held up his hand. "Hey, it's okay," he said soothingly. "You're safe. I'm not going to hurt you. I just brought your clothes, okay?" He pushed the door open enough to show the clothes he was holding in his other hand. Bucky's clothes. "Washed and dried. You were pretty determined to take them off last night so I thought I may as well take advantage of it."
"And that's all you took advantage of?" As if Bucky wasn't the one who'd been doing his best to have sex with him. He remembered that much. But that had been when Bucky had thought he'd been in control, had thought his power had wrapped this guy up in chains of desire. Bucky wasn't in control now and he didn't know why his powers weren't working. It made him desperately uneasy.
"The only one trying to take advantage last night was you. Pretty sure you grabbed me in places I've never been grabbed." Bucky felt his shoulders hunch a little, outside his conscious control. The guy blew out a breath and his eyes dropped briefly to the floor before he lifted them to meet Bucky's. "Okay, since you seem a little freaked out, lets skip to true confession time. I'm ace. Even if I was enough of an asshole to screw around with an unconscious person? I wouldn't. No sexual desire. No libido. No sex. Not with you, not with anyone. Not interested, not ever. So I didn't mess around with you and I'm not going to," he said firmly, holding Bucky's gaze. "Okay?"
Bucky stared at him in confusion. But there was nothing about the guy that made Bucky think he was lying and Bucky was good at spotting a lie, at spotting a liar. Which left him with a burning question. "Then why did you bring me home?"
The guy stared back at him, apparently seeing Bucky's confusion and raising it. "You think I brought you home so I could have sex with you?" Bucky couldn't say I spent a hell of a lot of power trying damn hard to make you do exactly that, but apparently it didn't work. He nodded instead, because it was close enough for this conversation. The guy dragged one hand through his hair and let out a long ragged breath as they stared at each other in mutual bafflement. Finally the guy asked, voice very gentle, "Can we start this again?"
The gentleness spiralled straight down Bucky's spine, shooing out some of the tension. His shoulders eased. He was still uneasy, but not about the guy standing in front of him, not anymore. Even if he still didn't know why he was feeling better. Even if he still didn't know why this guy had brought him home. "I think we might have to."
"Hi. I'm Steve. I found you in an alley. You were kind of out of it but you didn't look too banged up. You seemed pretty worried about me taking you to the hospital and I wasn't going to leave you there, so I brought you home."
"Bucky," he said. "Thank you, for, uh." He waved a hand at himself. "And I'm sorry for…" He trailed off because there was no good way to finish that sentence.
"It's okay," Steve said. "If I woke up naked in a strange guy's bed, I'd think the worst, too. I never would have taken your clothes if you hadn't already taken most of them off yourself."
He made a face. "Sorry about that."
"Again, don't worry about it. People have weird reactions to stress." He paused. "You were pretty handsy, though."
"Sorry," he said again, because it seemed to be the thing to say. He wasn't precisely sorry; he'd thought he'd been trying to make himself safe, but he was starting to feel a bit bad. Even with all that, he couldn't resist tossing another bit of power at Steve. Once again there was no reaction. "You're really not interested in sex at all?"
There was a pause before Steve replied. Bucky had the sense he almost didn't answer. Had a feeling if Bucky hadn't been lying naked in his bed he wouldn't have. "Not interested. Not going to be. Not even if you decide to parade around naked and— Okay." Steve's eyes snapped up to fix on the ceiling as Bucky threw back the covers and swung out of bed. "That wasn't actually an invitation."
"My mistake," Bucky said innocently. It was unsettling, knowing his power didn't work on Steve, and he covered by projecting absolute confidence. Sauntering over, he plucked his clothes from Steve's hand.
"Is that what it was," Steve said dryly, eyes still fixed on the ceiling. "And here I thought it was you being a pain in the ass."
"Is that any way to talk to a guest?"
"A guest is someone you invite over. Not someone you find in an alley."
Since Bucky couldn't actually argue with that, he didn't. He pulled on his clothes, ran a hand through his hair, trying to get it into some semblance of order. "Can I try something?"
When Steve's eyes met his they were flat, all the light and warmth faded away. His voice was just as flat, the trace of teasing humour gone as if it had never existed. "If it's something to see if I get hard, no."
Since Bucky had been thinking along those lines, wanting to know for sure if it was really Steve or if it was something wrong with his powers, he suddenly felt like absolute shit. "No," he lied. "I want to poke you, just once. To see if you're real." To Steve's sudden confusion, he said, "You rescue random people you find in alleys. I feel like I could have made you up."
The warmth faded back into Steve's eyes. "No, you can't poke me."
"What if I'm imagining you? I could have a head injury."
"No." This time it definitely sounded amused and Steve folded his arms.
"Oh, come on. Please?" Bucky widened his eyes, looking hopeful.
"Fine." Steve's sigh was deeply put upon. "If you promise to stop that." Bucky grinned and poked his chest. It was firm and strong and warm under his finger, and he kind of wanted to linger but he didn't. "Happy now?" Steve asked.
"You have no idea."
Steve shook his head. "Come on, I'll make you breakfast." Bucky's clothes had been fine in the overheated crowds of a nightclub but in the chilled morning air outside the bedroom he shivered. "And get you a sweater."
Bucky had a plate full of bacon, eggs, and toast and a promise of pancakes if he was still hungry after that. He was wearing a dark green sweater, too big and incredibly soft, and the sleeves kept slipping down over his hands. He took a sip of his coffee and said, "I'm pretty sure there was some sort of sex going on last night."
Steve grimaced. "My upstairs neighbours. They're…enthusiastic. They were going at it most of the night."
And there was the last mystery solved. Even in his sleep, Bucky must have been siphoning it off, ambient feeding on the sexual energy leaking into the apartment. It was why he'd started healing, why his powers had recharged. It was why he was feeling better.
It had nothing to do with Steve and his smile or his blue eyes, who had rescued him from an alley for no other reason than he thought it was the right thing to do. Steve, who had revealed something about himself so Bucky would feel safe. Who had made him breakfast and was sitting across from him at the table, warm and strong and exuding comfort like a woodstove radiated heat. It had nothing to do with Steve, who wanted to know who'd hurt Bucky, who looked like he was ready to take them all on if only Bucky would tell him who they were.
Nothing at all.
The beat of the music was pumping through his veins, across his skin. Already, Bucky was perking up, feeding off the sexual energy flowing off the dance floor as couples ground against each other, the dark, the heat, giving them a sense of safety, of adventure, of daring, of whatever they needed, collectively and individually, to push each other further than just dancing.
This club had a reputation, Bucky's presence, Natasha's presence, enough to ramp up the human desire to let go. Patrons here were wilder, went further, than anywhere else. This was where people came to hook up, to get laid, to try things they wouldn't anywhere else. Where inhibitions got left at the door.
Bucky shivered as the energy pouring off the dance floor spiked and he slid onto the barstool next to Natasha. There was a reason he came in even on his days off. "What happened to you?" she asked, taking in the fading bruise on his cheek, the way he was holding himself.
"Didn't listen to you, pissed off the local Dola," he admitted. Natasha eyed him like she wasn't sure whether to smack him so his teeth rattled or order him a drink. Being Natasha, she did both. He was rubbing the side of his head when the bartender, one of the guys who covered Bucky's shifts on his days off, slid the vodka in front of him. Bucky nodded his thanks. "Was that really necessary?" he asked, taking a sip. The good stuff. Another advantage of drinking where you worked.
"How many times have I told you to stay away from the Russians? The Dolas set the course of their people's fate. They don't like it when you mess with their plans."
"I'll listen from now on. Cross my heart." He made an exaggerated heart crossing gesture, looking solemn, and she snorted and stole the vodka right out of his hands.
"Just like you listened the last two times?"
"No, this time for real." Her answering hum was dubious. He ignored it and didn't try to take his vodka back, signalled for another instead. "Nat," he asked after it arrived, "have you ever heard of someone being immune to us?"
"Have you been listening to gossip again?"
"No, seriously. I met someone and he's immune." It was the first time he'd ever seen her look alarmed. Of course, alarmed on Natasha was a tiny, almost imperceptible tightening of her mouth, the slight shift of her fingers on the glass.
"You met someone who's immune."
"Explain exactly what happened." Her voice was serious. He did and by the time he was finished, she'd relaxed. "Oh, one of them. I was thinking you'd been found by a Koschei or something. I've run into them a few times. They've got something missing." She shrugged. "There's nothing for our power to grab onto. You're never going to get anything out of him. Just move on to the next person."
Bucky was bristling. He wasn't sure, but he thought he was angry. Steve had found him hurt in an alley and helped him. Not because Bucky had flooded his mind with desire until he couldn't think of anything but taking him home, but because Bucky had needed help. And Nat was dismissing him as having something missing. "He's not missing anything." It came out as a snap, a bite.
She raised an eyebrow at him. "Really."
"He's just different."
"I see." She'd gone inscrutable.
"I'd probably still be in the alley if he hadn't come along." This time she didn't say anything. Bucky frowned at his drink. "Or worse."
"Probably," she agreed, studying him. "It's a bad part of town. Who knows who you might have caught in your net." Because that was always the danger when they were weak, when they were vulnerable. They could always catch someone, but it might not be someone they wanted to catch. Beggars, choosers and all that, Bucky knew, and incubi and succubi were survivors, but the desire they incited didn't come with an off switch. "But if he's such a good guy, what was he doing there?"
That was a good question, one he hadn't thought of. "I could ask him."
Natasha looked at him. Then she sighed, stole his new drink, and said, "Leave it alone, Bucky."
Bucky, energised from the ambient feeding he'd been indulging in since he'd walked into the club, shook his head. "It's a good question. And I should return his sweater. It's polite."
"You're an incubus; since when do you care about polite?"
That was also a good question. One he didn't have an answer to.
Steve answered the door on the second knock. His smile was just as warm as Bucky remembered. "Bucky, hi." He stood back from the door. "Come in?"
Bucky did, looking around as Steve pulled the door shut. "I brought your sweater back." He held up the bag he was carrying. "And some beer, the good stuff, to say thank you."
Steve seemed surprised and genuinely pleased to see him, if Bucky was reading him right. "You didn't have to do that."
Bucky shrugged, because he was kind of out of his depth with this. It must have shown; Steve came and took the bag from his hands. "I was going to order pizza and watch something stupid. If you don't have any plans, do you want to join me?"
He was an incubus. He should be out prowling the clubs in search of food. Not watching movies and eating pizza with someone who was basically immune to sex. Which why he was surprised when his mouth opened and his voice said, "Sounds good."
Steve's smile was blinding and, for just one second, he thought he understood how people felt when they were caught in his power.
After a brief argument about pizza toppings, "Pineapple does not belong on a pizza, Steve," which Bucky won by playing the guest card, they sat on Steve's couch, beers in hand. It was...weird. Not the couch. The couch was perfectly ordinary. The situation was weird.
"You're looking a lot better," Steve said, eyes travelling over Bucky's body, and that was weird, too, because Bucky knew he was looking to see if Bucky was okay, not checking him out.
"I heal pretty fast."
"Good to know. I was pretty worried when I found you, wasn't sure I was making the right call not taking you to a hospital." His eyes were dark with remembered worry.
"Hey, it turned out okay. I'm fine."
"Yeah. I was pretty glad when you were awake and talking the next morning."
"But not so much when I was walking around naked."
"No, not so much that."
Bucky's smile was teasing and Steve rolled his eyes. "What were you doing in that neighbourhood anyway?" Bucky asked.
Steve looked away, started picking at a loose thread in the hem of his shirt. "I volunteer at a community centre down there. I teach art to a bunch of kids after work some nights." He shrugged. "It seems to help and they seem to like it."
"Uh, yes?" Bucky shook his head. Held out one finger. Wiggled it. "Bucky, no."
"Come on, Steve."
"Fine." Bucky gently poked him in the chest while Steve looked on, both eyebrows raised in a distinctly unimpressed manner. Bucky wasn't fooled; he could see the amusement lurking in the corners of his mouth.
"Okay, you're still real."
Whatever response Steve was going to make was interrupted by a creaking, squeaking noise, coming from right overhead. Steve sighed and dropped his head into his hand. "Thanks, guys. That's great. Good timing."
Bucky hid a smile, because it actually was good timing. "Neighbours again?" he asked, even though he knew exactly what it was. He could feel the sexual energy floating down from the ceiling already, feel it drifting across his skin, recharging him.
"Yes. They love each other very much, very often, and sometimes at extremely unfortunate moments."
"Don't worry about it," Bucky said. "It could be worse. They could be screaming at each other."
They were interrupted by a knock on the door, which was a man bearing pizza. Pizza acquired, beer replenished, they settled in to watch Sharktopus. It was a truly stupid movie, one of the dumbest things Bucky had ever seen, but weirdly compelling despite that. While there was pizza, while there was beer, it was fine. But once that was gone, it was awkward. Bucky didn't know how to do this. This sitting around with a person with no expectation of sex.
He kept fidgeting. When he stopped paying attention, he found himself shifting incrementally towards Steve, then making himself shift back. Steve who would make the occasional dry, sarcastic comment about what was happening in the movie, who kept casting looks at Bucky as Bucky's fidgeting got worse. Finally, Steve turned so he was facing him. "Bucky, are you okay?"
"Why?" He realised as he said it that it was verging on the defensive.
Steve seemed surprised, but his eyes were kind, his voice reassuring, as he said, "You seem pretty uncomfortable. If you're here out of some sort of obligation, you don't owe me anything. I didn't help you because I wanted something from you. I'm glad you came by. Not because I care about my sweater, because I'm glad to know you're okay. But you don't have to stay."
"Do you want me to go?"
"No. I like having you here. But not if it's making you unhappy."
Bucky sighed, looked up at the ceiling where Steve's upstairs neighbours were still going at it—and he mentally saluted their stamina, which was doing wonders for Bucky—and tipped his head to look at Steve. "I'm pretty shit at this," he admitted. "But I don't want to go. We'll never find out if sharktopus triumphs over the evil humans."
Steve started laughing. "I'm pretty sure you're supposed to be rooting for the people. Not the shark."
Steve's laughter flowed over him like a cool breeze, and he felt himself relax. Grinned back at him. "Really? The shark's clearly the better bet."
"The people have guns. And tanks."
"Uh huh. The sharktopus is half shark. And half octopus. I think it's obvious who's going to win."
"The ones with the jet fighters."
"Did you just pfft at me?"
"Yup." Bucky's eyes were dancing. "And I'll do it again."
"Shut up and watch the movie." Steve lightly, very lightly, reached out and gently shoved his shoulder. His fingers were curled when he pulled them back, his expression uncertain, as if he wasn't sure he should have done it. Bucky didn't say anything. He shut up and watched the movie.
Bucky was an incubus. He'd been fucking people senseless for the better part of several hundred years, in more combinations and more ways than he could remember. Something as innocuous as a touch on the shoulder shouldn't even have registered.
He was pretty sure he could still feel it when the movie was over. He was pretty sure he could still feel it when he was leaving. Before Steve closed the door he mentioned there were a whole series of stupid shark movies. Bucky replied that if there were that many surely the shark must win in at least one of them. Steve's noncommittal hum somehow resulted in Bucky agreeing to come by next week for another movie.
As he walked down the stairs he realised, with a strange sinking feeling, that he was already looking forward to it.
"When did you last fuck someone?" The music was loud, but Natasha was leaning over the bar, her mouth practically in his ear, so Bucky had no problem hearing her. He shrugged. "You moron." Her eyes were narrowed.
"I'm not hungry. The way they're carrying on out there, I'm good for the next couple of weeks." He pointed his chin at the dance floor.
"That's not the point."
A summons from down the bar pulled him away and by the time he came back she was gone, whirling across the club with ethereal grace, red hair floating behind her. She was a knife, slicing through the crowd, leaving them bleeding, staring after her in hopeless, desperate awe. It had nothing to do with her being a succubus and everything to do with her being Natasha.
It had been years since Bucky had seen her use her powers to catch anyone. Years since either of them had needed their powers to catch anyone. The way they looked, who they were, was enough to lure in whoever they wanted. That night in the alley was the first time in a very long time he'd tried to net someone in ropes of desire, in chains of want, and it hadn't worked.
Not the way Bucky had meant it to, anyway.
"I brought Chinese."
Steve stood back and waved him into the apartment. "I have Dinoshark."
Bucky paused, stared incredulously. "That sounds terrible."
"Terrible is the point."
Steve smiled, warm and so happy to see him. "Maybe the shark will win this time."
Bucky scoffed and made his way into the kitchen to start dishing up the food while Steve got the movie set up. He knew he was way too comfortable here. Way too comfortable with the whole situation. Had spent way too many weeks like this. You're an incubus. You're supposed to be spending time with people so you can fuck them. Not so you can serve them Chinese food and watch stupid movies with them. Natasha was right. He was a moron.
Bucky watched Steve while he moved around Steve's kitchen. He didn't think Steve had a lot of friends. He talked about a lot of people, lots of names, people he worked with, the kids he taught art to, but there was no one who seemed close. There was one guy, Sam, whose name came up a lot, but he was over in the Middle East, volunteering with some organisation Bucky couldn't remember, working with kids who'd been hurt by landmines. Not someone Steve could hang out with.
It was no wonder he was always so happy to see Bucky. But there was something...Bucky didn’t know. He was pretty sure Steve wasn't happy to see him because Bucky was company. He was pretty sure Steve was happy to see him because he was Bucky. Could be wishful thinking, because Bucky knew he was always happy to see Steve.
They settled on the couch, Steve with his legs neatly tucked up under him, Bucky with his legs stretched out. Right on cue, the upstairs neighbours began their nightly serenade, which Steve ignored and Bucky pretended to ignore while he siphoned off their energy.
When the food was gone, the movie half-way done, and Bucky completely disappointed in the shark, he shook his head. "And that's why the shark should win. No one ever listens to the person who saw what happened." When Steve didn't respond, he looked over and saw he was asleep. His head was pillowed on his arm and he looked incredibly peaceful.
Bucky watched him, the flickering light from the television casting strange shadows across his skin. Without thinking about it, he eased to his feet, went to crouch next to him. Steve was beautiful. Handsome, gorgeous, sexy, even if he'd probably hate being thought of that way, but more than that. He was actually beautiful.
Part of Bucky was aware that what he was doing was completely not okay; the rest of him was ignoring it.
He lifted a hand and almost touched him. Almost ran his fingers down Steve's cheek. Then he curled them tightly and jerked his hand back. What the fuck are you doing? He stood, reached over Steve to pull the blanket off the back of the couch, shook it out and carefully draped it over him. Was even more careful not to touch him while doing it. What the hell. You can't just touch him. Not while he was sleeping, not without him knowing. Even if it had nothing to do with sex it would betray the trust that had let him fall asleep with Bucky there. And it wasn't anything to do with sex, Bucky realised. Not really. Not when he knew Steve wasn't interested. He just wanted to touch him.
He hadn't realised until that moment just how much he wanted to. Hadn't realised until that moment that he was completely fucked.
Next week, he didn't show up. He went to the club. He danced with everyone and anyone, hot and hard and dirty. Incubi were predators and he reminded the world of that fact. He fed and fed until he was sated.
He still didn't have sex with anyone.
Apart from that one failure, Natasha was very proud of him.
He wasn't proud of himself. All he could think about was Steve, who'd be wondering where he was.
The next week, he tentatively knocked on Steve's door. Any doubts he had about whether Steve was happy to see him because he wanted company or because he wanted Bucky's company were gone.
"Bucky." For one brief moment, Bucky thought Steve was going hug him. It was there in the line of his body, in the way he was holding himself. But he didn't. Bucky was disappointed. "I was worried," he said quietly.
Bucky felt very small. "Sorry. I should have called."
"It's fine. You don't owe me anything. I'm just happy to see you."
It sparked something. "You should be mad. I stood you up."
Surprised, Steve said, "It's not a date. I don't think you can stand me up."
"It's close enough. You should expect better of me."
"Bucky." Steve's voice was soft. "It's okay. Apology accepted and you'll do better next time. All right?"
"All right." He turned to go and Steve's fingers snagged his sleeve.
"You're not staying?" Bucky turned back. "Ghost Shark and Thai food?" Steve's smile was warm and hopeful and welcoming and his fingers were curled in the edge of Bucky's sleeve.
Bucky's answering smile was just as warm. "If it's a ghost shark that means it's already won."
"What? That makes no sense." Steve let go of his sleeve and gestured him inside.
"No, it makes perfect sense. The humans killed it, it came back from the dead, that means it won." An insidious sense of wellbeing spread through him as he flopped down to sit on Steve's couch.
"You're ridiculous." Steve told him, handing him the menu. "Pick what you want."
Bucky was sitting with his back to the bar, looking out over the club, letting the wash of sexual energy flow over him. There were at least three people getting off on the dance floor right now, hidden in the crush. Maybe feeding like this made him more scavenger than predator, but he was still well-fed and he had other things on his mind.
Natasha came up beside him. "Where did you go?"
"Bucky." Her voice was dripping with disappointment.
"I'd rather be there than here."
She blinked, for Natasha an expression of extreme surprise. Then she grasped his chin in her hand, pulled his head around, studying him, tilting it this way and that. "Oh, Bucky." She laughed softly and sadly at him and let him go.
Bucky kept going to Steve's because he wasn't really able to stay away. Steve was always so genuinely happy to see him. His face lit up and it made something twist around inside him which was stupid. No wonder Natasha had laughed at him. Incubi didn't fall in love with people. They sure as hell didn't fall in love with people who had no interest in sex, who didn't feel even the faintest hint of desire, of lust; who were completely immune to their power.
Yet here he was.
Not that Bucky was in love with Steve. He just liked being with him. Liked they way he laughed. Really, really wanted to touch him. Not even in a sexual way. He'd be lying if he said Steve didn't turn him on, but he was an incubus. If there was one thing he could control (and at this point he was starting to think it was the only thing he could control) it was his sexual reactions. Steve didn't want sex. Wasn't interested. It didn't even register for him. Not a problem. If Steve didn't want sex, Bucky didn't want to seduce him.
No, he just wanted to touch him. He was so goddamned warm and so goddamned big and so goddamned gorgeous. Bucky wanted to pull those arms around himself and burrow into him. Wanted to curl around him and hold him close. Bucky just wanted to touch him anywhere Steve would let him and not stop.
It was a problem.
Natasha told him not to go over there and it wouldn't be a problem anymore. To find someone who looked like Steve and fuck his brains out, get it out of his system.
Bucky wasn't going to do either of those things. He hadn't had sex with anyone since the night Steve had found him in the alley. It wasn't that he'd suddenly lost interest in fucking; it was that no one measured up to Steve. Ambient feeding had been it. It wasn't as exciting, didn't have the same visceral kick, but it wasn't a burden. Steve's upstairs neighbours, the patrons at the club; the people who thought the club's bathroom was a great place to have sex, the number of people actually getting off on the dance floor—he was well-fed. When his desire to get off was too much, well, he had talented hands and was more than capable of dealing with it.
Bucky was pretty sure Steve wasn't going to stop being a problem anytime soon.
He didn't say any of that to Natasha, but she'd always been able to read him like a book and she'd sighed, banged her forehead on the table, called him several choice words in Russian and then smacked him across the back of the head on her way out of the club, a beautiful woman on each arm.
Bucky really couldn’t disagree with her. He was completely fucked.
Bucky was sitting next to Steve on the couch, only a foot between them. They'd been sitting closer since the week after the week Bucky hadn't shown up. The TV was on, the shark stalking the land in search of prey. Neither of them were paying it much attention. Bucky was watching Steve out of the corner of his eye. He looked a little tired. A little down, like maybe work had been tough this week. "Does the no sex thing mean no touching?"
Steve looked at him, obviously surprised. "Why do you want to know?"
Bucky was kind of surprised himself, because he'd been thinking it but hadn't meant to ask. Yet here he was. "I'm interested. It's research," he replied, trying for casual. He didn't think he fooled Steve.
"No, touching's fine." Steve shifted awkwardly as he added, "I like it, as long as it's not sexual."
"So, where don't you like to be touched?" Bucky, what are you doing? His inner voice sounded remarkably like Natasha.
Steve studied him, then reached for the remote control, switched off the TV, and turned to face him. "Why?"
"Well, what if you were sad and I wanted to give you a hug, but I was worried about making you uncomfortable, so I didn't, and you went unhugged?" Bucky schooled his features into exaggerated sadness. "It could be tragic."
He could see Steve trying not to smile. Trying and failing. "Grope a lot of people when you hug them, do you?"
Bucky shrugged one shoulder, gazing back innocently.
"I'll make you a list."
He didn't expect Steve to get off the couch, walk over to the kitchen counter, pick up a pen and—"Wait, are you actually making me a list?"
Steve's reply came not in words but in a vaguely challenging eyebrow tossed over his shoulder. Bucky once again realised how utterly fucked he was. It didn't take long and Steve settled back on the couch next to him, holding out a folded piece of paper. Bucky closed his fingers on it but Steve didn't let it go. There was something vulnerable in the back of his eyes, the set of his mouth, as he said, "This list is just for you. It doesn't apply to anyone else."
Bucky nodded and pulled it from Steve's fingers. It only had two bullet points on it, because of course Steve had written him a list with bullet points. The first said, never okay: ass, genitals, nipples, immediate surrounding areas. The second said, as long as it's not sexual, everywhere else is fine. Bucky stared it for awhile. He had a feeling this was kind of a huge amount of trust. Kind of a fucking massive amount of trust. He glanced at Steve, who was looking at his hands. Not like he regretted it, but like he had no idea how Bucky was going to react.
He probably wasn't expecting Bucky to ask, "How do you feel about kissing?"
Steve's head jerked up. "What?"
"It's not on your list."
"I didn't think it was relevant," he said, searching Bucky's face.
"It could be. It might be," he amended, because he didn't know how Steve was going to react. Because apparently he was going to do this. "But there's a problem." Steve's face shuttered, going blank. Bucky, taking advantage of his newly acquired permission, reached out and gently rested his fingers at the nape of Steve's neck, smoothing them over the short hair. Steve's eyes went wide and Bucky waved the list. "I'm allowed; I have a note!" It pulled a huff of laughter out of him. "The problem's not with you. It's with me."
"With you." Steve's brows were drawn down in confusion.
"Yeah. And it's kind of hilarious, except for the part where it's not. See, I like you. I'm pretty sure I a hell of a lot more than like you." And it wasn't fair that Steve's eyes should light up like that, simmering warmth under the blue, making him so much more gorgeous than he already was. Bucky held up one hand, the other still curved gently around Steve's neck, and pulled in a breath. "But I'm an incubus."
Steve stared at him. The silence stretched, twisting around them, growing larger and more insistent until it was practically noise. Steve finally spoke. "What?"
"An incubus. Sex demon, but don't get too hung up on the demon part. I'm not evil. We can incite desire in people, we feed off sex. Basically, incubi are sex. And I'm an incubus. Also pretty sure I'm falling in love with you."
Steve's jaw worked and when words finally made it past the tension they were flat, suspicious. Hurt. Ready to make the leap to angry with the slightest provocation. "Is this a joke?"
Bucky set Steve's list on the coffee table and pushed up onto his knees. He knew he couldn't hold Steve if Steve decided to stand, was afraid if he stood he'd never come back, so he put both hands on his shoulders, thumbs rubbing gentle circles—he had permission, he had a note—and said, "I can show you."
Steve eyed him, and Bucky could see hurt in his eyes, a hint of challenge, disbelief, a whole complicated cocktail of emotions he only knew one way to answer. He let go of the illusion that reshaped his true features. It wasn't easy, took an act of will to force it away in the presence of a human, but this was Steve, who he trusted. Bucky let him see the amber eyes with slit pupils, the hands with their long fingers and sharp nails that were more like claws, the too-white, too-sharp teeth, visible when he smiled to show them to Steve.
Steve went rigid, eyes jumping between Bucky's eyes, his mouth, his hands. He blinked several times and reached to grasp one of Bucky's hands, then pulled back sharply. "Can I?" Bucky placed his hand in Steve's and watched as he gently touched each finger, the end of each sharp nail, as if making sure what he was seeing was real. He looked back up to meet Bucky's slit-pupiled eyes and released his hand. "Oh." It was soft, and Steve slumped backwards against the couch.
Bucky once more settled his hands on Steve's shoulders. Steve didn't try and get away. Didn't try and shrug off Bucky's grip. Just seemed to absorb the truth of what Bucky was and accept it. It floored him. The corner of his mouth lifted. With his attention diverted his illusion returned. "Oh," he agreed. "It's not a joke. None of it's a joke."
He could see it moving through Steve's eyes, the knowledge that if none of it was a joke..."Oh," Steve said again, softer this time, and then he started to laugh.
"Yeah," Bucky said. "I know."
"You idiot," Steve said.
Bucky frowned at him. "Hey, shut up."
"At least I didn't know what I was doing. What's your excuse?" He was still laughing quietly and it was a soft, beautiful sound so Bucky slipped his arms around Steve and pulled him into a hug.
Bucky felt his surprise and said, "I have a note."
"I guess you do." Steve's arms crept up to close around him and Bucky almost melted. They were warm and strong and he wanted to shut his eyes and purr.
"Does that mean I'm not on my own here?"
"Have you read your note?" Steve asked. "You think I give everyone, you think I give anyone, that sort of permission?"
It was like getting hit in the back of the head with a board. Bucky pulled back to stare at Steve in astonishment. "You were hoping I'd take advantage of it."
"Little bit, yeah," he admitted, avoiding Bucky's eyes.
"You could have asked."
"That hasn't worked out so well for me in the past." It was Bucky's turn to look at him in confusion. "People say they're fine with it, but inevitably it turns into are you sure you don't want to, just let me try this one thing I'm sure you'll like it, you don't have to do anything, just let me get off next to you, just put your hand here…" Bucky didn't know what his face was doing—he knew what his heart was doing, and it was filling up with anger—but it must have been something spectacular because Steve trailed off. "Never mind."
Bucky let him have his never mind, but he filed all of that away for the future. "But you still gave me my note."
"Because you trust me."
"Does that mean you'll date me?"
Steve went quiet. "That could be a problem. I'm not, I haven't dated a lot of people. Like I said, it tends not to work out well when we get to the whole happy to cuddle but sex is never going to happen part—it would be a lot easier if I didn't look like this," there was no arrogance when he said it, just a weary sort of acknowledgement, "but I know I'm not the sort of person that can share someone I'm dating with other people. And maybe that's unfair, 'I'm not going to have sex with you but hey, you can't have sex with anyone else' but it's how I feel."
"When did I say I'd be having sex with other people?"
"You're an incubus."
"An incubus, not an asshole."
"You said you feed off sex."
"Doesn't have to be my sex. Horny couples at the club and your upstairs neighbours have been keeping me pretty well fed."
"Okay that's, I don't actually know how I feel about that."
"I'm not hurting them. They're the ones who're putting it all out there. The energy your neighbours are generating is literally leaking into your apartment. All I'm doing is siphoning it up. No harm, no foul. I actually haven't had sex with anyone since I met you."
"Huh." Steve looked like he didn't know what to do with that information. Like he wanted to hope, like he wanted to believe that something good was about to happen, and Bucky leapt on it.
"Date me. Or don't date me, I don't actually care if we go anywhere. Stay in with me. Let me snuggle the crap out of you. I may be the biggest idiot in the universe because I'm an incubus and I'm in the process of falling head over heels for someone who's completely immune to sexual desire and I don't care." He grabbed the list and brandished it like a conquering hero brandishing his spoils of war. "I have a note."
A smile was slowly spreading over Steve's face. "You're an idiot."
"Didn't I just say that?"
"Ask me the kissing question again."
Bucky blinked at him in surprise. "How do you feel about kissing?"
"Are you okay with a practical answer or do you want me to amend your note?"
"Both," Bucky said immediately. "Practical first, but I want it on my note."
Steve breathed laughter and carefully placed one hand on Bucky's shoulder and the other against his cheek. It was tentative and Bucky was hardly breathing. He let the list fall to rest on the couch. One arm was still looped around Steve and he wanted to pull him closer, but he didn't. Instead, he laced his fingers together at the nape of Steve's neck, settled his thumbs in the hollows of Steve's jaw.
No pressure, no expectation. Just rested them there.
Steve's lips were soft and dry; gentle. It was an entirely new experience for Bucky. There was no expectation behind it, it wasn't a lead in to anything else, it wasn't a tool to build desire. It was a kiss entirely for its own sake and it sent electricity shooting down his spine because it was Steve kissing him. He was following Steve's lead, terrified he'd overstep, terrified he'd push too hard, push too far, but Steve seemed happy, seemed content, was leaning into him while they kissed. There was white noise buzzing in his brain. The kiss was slow, not quite innocent, innocent didn't fit, but neither did anything else he knew and his toes curled.
He was so fucked.
Steve was lifting his head, looking at him uncertainly. Bucky smiled at him and he knew, he knew, it was ridiculous, soft and sappy, but the uncertainty was fading out of Steve's eyes, replaced by warmth and something he was almost sure was joy. Bucky nuzzled his nose against Steve's. "So, kissing is yes?"
"Yes, kissing is yes."
"Just the mouth or anywhere else?"
A strange expression passed over Steve's face. "Uh, I don't know."
"Up for some experimentation?"
And again Bucky knew that was trust, offered up so freely it took his breath away. "Not now, though. Later. First." Bucky leaned forward, brushed a soft kiss across Steve's mouth that made him grin, quick and flashing, and hopped up, returning to hand him a pen and his list.
Steve was smiling fondly at Bucky as he sat back down and he carefully added a new bullet point that read, always okay: kissing on the mouth, no tongue. Bucky took the paper back, folded it in quarters, and slid it into his pocket. "Am I going to regret giving you that?" Steve asked.
"I'm pretty sure you are." Bucky shifted forward, getting as close as he could to Steve. "There's something else I need from you, though. It's important."
"Whatever you need, Bucky."
Bucky shook his head. "It's the opposite of that. I need you tell me if I overstep. If I push too far. If I, I don't know. If I do anything. No 'whatever you need, Bucky'. Never that. Okay?" Steve's eyebrows drew down. Bucky pressed his hand against Steve's sternum. "Everything else we can work out as we go, but that I need you to promise."
Steve's smile was like a sunrise, bright and golden and it warmed Bucky right down to his toes. "I promise," he said and covered Bucky's hand with his own.
Natasha still thought Bucky was a moron. She thought they were both morons. But when she finally met Steve, something Bucky had to bribe her with a 100 year old bottle of Scotch to do (and she still said it was inferior to vodka), she decided he was restful.
Bucky would sometimes come home from work and find her stretched out on the couch next to him, Steve tucked up at one end. The first time, the expression on Steve's face had been begging for rescue, but he slowly got used to it. Slowly came to recognise it for the compliment it was. Bucky realised she actually liked Steve when she offered to let Bucky siphon off the energy she was generating from having sex if he wasn't picking up enough from ambient feeding. When he tried to thank her, she gave him a narrow-eyed stare. When Steve thanked her, she actually let him hug her.
The first time she'd tried to touch Steve, Bucky had moved like the wind and intercepted her. "I have a note." He'd waved it in her direction. "You only get to touch him if you have a note."
She'd looked at Steve, one eyebrow raised, and he'd shrugged. "He does have a note."
"You're both morons," she'd said, but there were definite overtones of fondness.
They figured out that Steve liked being kissed a lot of places besides the mouth: on the cheek, the forehead, the temple, above his heart and, weirdly enough, on the shoulder blades.
"Shut up, Bucky; it's perfectly normal."
"It's really not." But they were both laughing and Steve added it to the list.
Bucky was very protective of his note; Steve thought he was kind of an idiot about it. Bucky was fine with that because when Steve said You're an idiot it sounded a hell of a lot like I love you. Of course, when Steve actually said it—out of the blue one day when Bucky was standing, staring into space, trying to remember where he'd put his socks and suddenly Steve was there in front of him, hands on Bucky's face, saying I love you and Bucky couldn't breathe, but then he was saying it back and disappearing into the warmth of Steve's arms and everything was perfect—he didn't stop saying You're an idiot, and that was okay, too.
He was an incubus in love with a man who was completely immune to sex. Who loved him back, who thought he was beautiful, who loved to touch him and be touched in turn, but never more than that, never anything sexual. Bucky didn't care, honestly didn't care, because he had Steve, Steve who loved him, but it was, when he thought about it, kind of ridiculous.
Fate had a hell of a sense of humour.
Sometimes when Bucky was lost in how much he loved Steve, when his incubus nature was surging to the fore, when he was so hard he thought he was going to die but he wanted to stay snuggled up next to Steve, those strong arms wrapped around him, for just one more second before he went and dealt with it, he'd start laughing. And Steve would get caught in it, know exactly why he was laughing, and they'd carry on like loons, Bucky with his face buried in Steve's neck, because it was ridiculous.
Steve would eventually shove him off the bed, still laughing. Bucky would go, put his talented hands to use on himself, mind awash with thoughts of Steve, return with what would have been embarrassing haste if anyone else had been involved. But all he wanted was to get back to Steve, to sprawl across him in a blissful post-orgasmic stupor while Steve stroked his back and held him so tightly Bucky sometimes wasn't sure where he stopped and Steve started, and he'd realise all over again that, ridiculous or not, Steve was the best thing that had ever happened to him.