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He wasn’t supposed to have found it. Ma always told him that it didn’t matter how much it cost to fix him up afterwards, he should always stand up to bullies, not let them change him. Turns out, hospitals didn’t exactly agree with her there. They cared a lot about how much it cost, and the broken arm and lung infection right before Christmas was apparently overdue, even though the invoice he’d come across -- found only because Ma was pulling another double shift and hadn’t remembered to put the bills away before he was around to see them -- said she’d been paying on it ever since.

So when Rumlow cornered him again in the emptied-out locker room, three of his teammates -- thugs, really -- clustered around him with evil, eager grins already splitting their ugly faces, and Brock said that a faggy little twink like him should find something better to do with his pretty mouth than run it off at his betters, Steve… thought of the bills. The way Ma always looked tired. And he swallowed his pride and said “Would it matter? If I… did that for you, Brock. You’d leave me alone?”

He shuddered at Brock’s answering grin and the rough shove to his shoulder, down, this time, rather than back against the metal locker doors like all the others. He settled onto his knees on the hard, cold tile and thought about bills, and then about nothing at all.

----

They came to an arrangement, after that. Pretty straightforward, really, like… like paying a bill. He gave Brock sex, and Brock kept the rest of the the Shield High Strikers from touching him. It wasn’t so bad, mostly. It was nice not to have so many bruises and aches all the time, not to get shoved into walls or have to pick the lock on his own locker from the inside again, and they hadn't shredded a single term project since he'd started. And anyway, it wasn’t like Brock being another guy was a problem. Steve’d known he liked men just as much as he did women for a while now, in the hazy, general sense of information that wasn’t particularly relevant to anything actually likely to happen to him, like a desire to hike Mount Fuji one day. It was just Brock, not any of the others -- well, okay, Brock and that one time he'd made Steve suck him off while Rollins watched, and then jerk Rollins off in turn. It hardly ever hurt bad, and Steve'd even managed to come from getting fucked once or twice, which gave Brock new mockery material that was at least a little more inventive than Steve's height, build, and hobbies. Most of all, though, Steve knew he'd asked for it -- quite literally, he'd offered up the arrangement in the first place, and it was worth it every time his Ma came home after just a single shift and could spend a little time with him, or got groceries without that pinched look around her eyes.

So, really, it was all just fine. Right up until the last week of summer break, and Brock had pre-season football practice and needed to… relax, afterwards, and knew Steve was still around campus for his application portfolio workshop. The deal had been put on hold while Brock vacationed with his parents, but he was back, so Steve found himself once more finishing class, securing his portfolio in the art classroom (no need to tempt anyone by leaving it somewhere easily accessed and liquids-permeable), and trudging dutifully to the men’s locker rooms. He glanced at a clock in passing and tried to hurry as much as he could, realizing he was already late. Between that and the choking, sticky heat of New York in late August, Brock was going to be in a foul mood, so Steve pushed ahead as fast as he dared and slipped into the changing area, hoping Brock’s friends had already gone home. They all knew about it, wouldn't have laid off him if Brock hadn't explained the arrangement to all his buddies on the team in loving detail while he made Steve stand there and listen, but he could still do without another round of their idle, unoriginal jeers about what a whore Steve was.   

Steve sighed in relief to find the room deserted, a shower still running, and headed on back, dropping his bag at the last bench outside of spray-range and stripping as efficiently as possible. Rumlow had made it very clear exactly how little he actually wanted to see Steve naked, but even he admitted that wet clothes would be inconvenient to explain away if a coach or something came through and Steve had to spring off his knees and pretend to be showering too. Likewise, he'd banned his goons from stealing Steve's clothes while he was… busy, a small kindness Steve was still silently, intensely grateful for after the first time he'd almost had to walk home naked but for his bag and Brock had intervened. Steve took a slow, careful breath of the steam-laced air and walked inside to Rumlow’s favorite spot, the first showerhead right by the entrance.

“You're late,” Rumlow growled when Steve approached. He'd clearly already finished washing, and damn it, Steve should have kept a better eye on the time. An already-showered Rumlow meant an even more irritated Rumlow, one undistracted by the practicalities of soaping up while he got his rocks off, as was his preference, and more attention was never a good thing.

“I'm sorry,” Steve murmured as he dropped to his knees, glasses starting to fog with the shower’s damp heat. The slap caught him off-guard, but it wasn't all that hard. Maybe Rumlow wasn't that pissed off?

“Don't make me teach you manners again, Rogers. Unless you want to end our little understanding?” Rumlow taunted, all mocking faux-concern.

“I'm sorry, sir,” Steve managed after a second’s pause, shoving down the abrupt spike of righteous irritation Brock’s blow and comment had inspired. Eyes on the prize, Rogers, ten more months until you graduate and this is all over, don't give him a reason. College application fees are expensive. Just think about the bills. Steve closed his eyes and licked at the head of Brock’s already half-hard cock by way of distraction.

“Fuck, your mouth is just made for that, isn't it?” Rumlow groaned, attention already redirecting itself. Then again, the fucker probably considered slapping Steve around to be foreplay, so he really shouldn't have been surprised. “‘s all you're good for, that's for certain.”

Steve kept his eyes closed, tuned it out, and started taking Brock’s cock into his mouth properly, sucking around the head before sliding down to flick his tongue along the shaft. That, at least, was pretty mindless at this point, let Steve focus on his breathing as Rumlow’s tiresomely degrading dirty talk grew more interspersed with moans and his own breathing rougher and faster. The hand burying itself in his hair should have been a warning sign; Rumlow never touched him more than necessary, and wasn't likely to enjoy the feel of short strands under his fingers and the accompanying reminder that his ‘wet little hole’ was, in fact, another guy. After a second, Brock’s grip tightened, holding Steve in place as Rumlow started thrusting into his mouth, hard and fast and deep, too deep. It was hardly the first time Rumlow had ever fucked his throat, but he'd never done it during a shower before. Steve choked on the humid air, trying to gasp a breath between thrusts and. Couldn't. Fuck, no, no, not the time! He could feel it, though, the pressure in his windpipe that had nothing to do with Rumlow’s cock and everything to do with the heat, and his earlier hurry, and the steam-laden air, and his own traitorous body. He wheezed and pulled back immediately -- or tried to, still held firm by the hand in his hair. He struggled for a moment, fruitlessly, as his lungs started burning and then in desperation bit down just a little bit, just enough for Rumlow to pull out so he could backhand Steve into the tile floor, sending his glasses flying. Rumlow snarled out a furious “You ungrateful little bitch!" and kicked Steve hard in the side, his soaked form skidding across the floor even as he crawled half-blind towards his bag, fumbling desperately for his inhaler.

He'd just grabbed it when Brock’s next kick caught him hard in the breadbasket, knocking what little wind he'd managed to gather right out of him, and his vision swam, developing worrying dark spots even as his ears sort of rang from Rumlow punching the back of his head, slamming his face painfully into the floor. He thought he heard another voice then through the fog, saying “Anyo … here? Coach ... back, nee ... the fuck? Rum ... you think you're ...” but all Steve cared about was his inhaler, just barely managing to get down the two puffs he needed before curling into a fetal ball, waiting for Brock’s next kick and praying today wouldn't be the day his lungs finally gave up on him.

After a moment he noticed the kicks weren't coming anymore, that there were sounds of a scuffle of some sort. When they stopped, he dared to roll up to his knees again, trying to figure out what the hell had happened without really being able to, you know, see much. Then there was a shape in front of him, tall and well-built and dark-haired and quite naked, and Steve threw himself forward, licking at Brock’s cock once more even as he forced himself to beg “Please, I'm sorry, Brock. Sir. I just couldn't breathe with the steam and you in so deep. Y-your” he steeled himself for an instant, shoved down his pride, and continued, “cock, is just. So big. Sir. I'll make it up to you, this doesn't have to change anything,” he finished as he went back to sucking, Rumlow already half-hard in his mouth again even with the bitter-cilantro taste of the prednisolone still lingering on the back of his tongue, now mixing with the musk of precome.

What he wasn't expecting was for a voice that definitely wasn't Brock’s to say “Woah, hey!” even as long-fingered hands pushed firmly, if not roughly, at his shoulders and the dick slipped free of his mouth. He felt those same hands -- strong, but slender, long, hairless, nothing at all like Rumlow’s -- as they settled carefully around his ribs, seeming to intentionally avoid the reddish discolorations that would eagerly bloom into purple-black bruises within a few days, and gently pulled him to his feet. He felt his breathing go rough again, this time with panic as the stranger -- oh, God, he'd just tried to blow a complete stranger -- pressed Steve's glasses into his hand. He put them on, shaking, and the vaguely-Rumlow-shaped blur resolved itself into a, a humiliatingly gorgeous young man, as tall and broad-shouldered as Rumlow but narrower through the waist and hips, why hadn't he seen that, with a graceful spill of wavy dark bangs where Brock had a quasi-military high-and-tight. “Are you okay?” the other man asked, and Steve nodded miserably, preparing to offer desperately groveling apologies of an entirely more sincere stripe. Before Steve could say anything, though, the guy continued “He's getting back up, so Imma go break that asshole's face even harder. Unless you need a hospital? By the way, my name's Bucky."

----

Bucky, as it turned out, had just moved to town -- “Yeah, my senior year, too. Military brat, what can you do?” -- and seemed bafflingly more concerned about Steve’s bruises than the fact Steve's mouth had been on his dick without, you know, any consent having been given. Once Bucky finished beating Rumlow enough that he stopped trying to get back up and take another swing (and who'd have thought that anyone could beat Rumlow in a fight like that!), he'd even offered Steve a ride home. Steve, already breathing carefully while dressing and trying to convince himself that the shifting sensation in his chest didn't mean a couple of his ribs were really broken, just bruised, cracked at most, decided that not walking well over a mile in the gathering dusk sounded very sensible, and would also give him more opportunities to apologize to and thank his rescuer. Once they were actually in Bucky's surprisingly nice sedan (“technically, it's my mom's, but her shifts work out so that I get it during the day right now"), Steve tried apologizing again only to be waved off once more.

After an awkward silence filled only with Steve's occasional quietly-murmured directions, Bucky asked “So, uh, Steve, what do you do for fun?”

“Uh, there’s a movie theater, right across the bridge, ten screens. Um, with it still hot out, most people are at a couple pools in the area, I can give you the addresses if you want. There’s a retro arcade that’s pretty popular, down Alameda, with jukeboxes and egg creams and stuff, I guess the owners couldn’t pick a decade. It’ll be a left at the light, thanks again for, um, driving me, I, uh, you shouldn’t’ve had to see that, I’m sorry I --”

“Hey, it’s not -- I’m not worried about half a blowjob, really. I’m a lot more worried about your ribs. Are you sure I shouldn’t take you to a hospital?” Bucky asked, probably for the fourth time.

“I told you, my Ma’s a nurse, if I’m wrong and anything’s worse than it seems, she’ll see to it,” Steve answered yet again.

Bucky groused almost-silently for a moment as he made the turn as directed, before darting a glance back over to Steve and adding, “I meant you, specifically. Not just what there was to do in the neighborhood, but, uh, what you like to do. For fun and stuff.”

He looked … odd, as he said it. Almost … flushed? Steve frowned in confusion, but eventually replied “... I draw. Um. I want to go to art school. Why?” Before Bucky could respond, they’d reached Steve’s building, and he asked Bucky to stop the car. “This is me,” he said, somewhat awkward from the half-finished conversation.

Bucky pulled up just in front of the main doors, and as Steve hefted his bag and made to step out said “I’ll, uh, see you Monday, right? When school starts back up?”

Steve nodded absently, already bracing himself for the joy that five flights of stairs with bruised -- totally just bruised -- ribs would be, only barely remembered to nod and wave as Bucky pulled off slowly, seeming to watch as Steve made it to the doors. As he entered the stairwell, Steve tried to put the whole thing out of his mind. He needed to get upstairs and get his ribs wrapped and his head straight before his Ma came home and saw the whole thing written across his face. Ten more months of keeping it quiet, until there wouldn’t be anything to keep quiet any more and he’d have his whole life ahead of him. Ten more months.

----

Monday dawned as hatefully sticky as the week before had been, but Steve's ribs were carefully bound, and the gritty sensation was almost completely gone. He made a point to leave half an hour earlier than normal, pretending he couldn't see Ma’s worried glance in the process, and walked slowly, carefully, watching for any hitch in his breathing as he did, and certainly wasn’t surprised or grateful when none appeared. He got there well before classes started, and slipped into the art classroom to check on his portfolio. After the shitshow on Friday, it would be completely in character for Brock or one of his grunts to have found a way to bump the lock and get a little payback. He found his portfolio miraculously untouched except for -- Steve felt his heartbeat kick up, slightly uneven as always -- a bright yellow sticky-note, one identical to the half-dozen pads Ms. LeMure kept around the studio space for comments or brainstorming, unremarkable other than the fact that it wasn’t there when Steve locked up on Friday. The front was blank, but when he lifted it off of the portfolio the underside bore Brock’s distinctive handwriting, sharp whorls marking out a characteristically terse “Locker room. Monday. Lunch.” Steve felt his heart abruptly slow, panic kicking him into a frozen stillness in the absence of anything to fight. Okay. He’d known Brock would be pissed. He… couldn’t not show up, at lunch. Delay and dodging only ever made Brock madder, before the arrangement, and would probably be even worse now. He could beg… maybe. Brock did like it when he begged, and Steve was a master at swallowing his gorge by now. It might mitigate the beating. But after Friday… An insurance policy, that was what Steve needed. He abruptly shoved the portfolio back into its usual resting spot, striding across the room and locking up behind himself. He had just enough time, now, to get into the computer lab and access his email. He’d write a timed note to...  Dr. Erskine was always nice to him in class, and he’d probably know what to do. Steve normally had Study Hall right after lunch, and the librarians always let him use the computers as much as he wanted. He’d set an email up to go out halfway through his normal Study Hall session telling Dr. Erskine that a student was in the men’s locker room and badly injured, please assist. If Rumlow didn’t hurt Steve too badly -- which was a possibility, he realized, his mind clearing even as his steps took him closer to the lab and a plan, given that Brock wanted him during lunch, where his absence afterwards would be much more quickly noticed -- then Steve would just delete the email before it ever was sent. If not… half an hour wouldn’t really make that big of a difference, either way, getting help.

The hours seemed to fly between the starting bell and lunch, and Steve hadn’t heard a single word any of the three teachers had said, drifting between classrooms in a daze only to wake abruptly in AP Chemistry, scarcely twenty minutes before lunch but just in time to ask Dr. Erskine for the hall pass. He slipped out quickly, headed in the direction of the bathroom until he was out of sight of the classroom’s inner window, and then detoured for his own locker, finding that no one had elected to fill it with anything unsavory yet, or even scrawl the odd lewd insult, which was nice. He opened it quickly, palmed one of the handful of sample-sized sachets of lube he kept there as a precaution, and slammed it closed before anyone could pass by to see inside. After that, he had just enough time to go to the bathroom and work himself open on his fingers, quick and dirty, barely managing to get three fingers sliding in easily before he knew he’d have to get back to class to avoid arousing suspicion at his absence. He wrapped the emptied packet in a paper towel before tossing it and washed his lube-sticky hand as quickly as possible, avoiding his eyes in the mirror. There was nothing there he hadn’t already seen plenty of.

-----

Steve returned to his seat just before the lunch bell rang, grabbing his bag and taking a precautionary puff of his inhaler even as he hurried through the halls, slipping past students and teachers, his small size working to his advantage for once. When he reached the locker room door he paused for just a second, heart pounding out of scale even to his hurry, and squared his shoulders for an instant, reminded himself of the email that would send itself an hour and a half from now, and pushed the door open. Inside, he found a singularly black-and-blue Brock, his constant shadow Jack Rollins, and nearly half a dozen of their typical hangers-on, scattered in a loose half-ring around the door. 

“Rogers. Clothes off,” Rumlow barked immediately, and, okay, that was new, but whether Brock wanted to fuck him sooner or didn’t want the blood to stain, Steve figured it was pretty much a win-win and stripped as efficiently as ever, used to it by now. When he was down to nothing but his glasses, Rumlow finally spoke again, saying “God, look at you. I can’t believe I can even get it up when I can still see your scrawny ass and shrimpy dick. Eugh. Get on your knees.”

Steve dropped, too accustomed to the order to let the commentary on his looks -- far from the first time he’d heard any of it, even if it’d been awhile since Brock had laid in on that particular track, and, well, there were mirrors where he lived, he knew exactly what he looked like -- slow him down, no matter how much it unsettled him.

“That's better, isn't it, down where you belong,” Brock praised, voice oily with scorn. “Now about that trouble on Friday.” He shifted a step closer and Steve flinched, instinct too strong to override. Instead of punching him, though, Brock just grabbed his hair, more possessive than painful. “Now, I know how much you enjoyed our understanding last year. It's not your fault you're just so worthless you can barely even suck dick, is it? I know you didn’t mean to bite me, now did you, bitch?”

Steve choked down a snarl --bills. Bills. There are half a dozen built jocks here who’d love nothing more than to cave someone’s face in, don’t give them the satisfaction -- as Rumlow used his grip on Steve’s hair to jerk his head into a rough imitation of a shake and kept his eyes lowered as he responded “No. Sir.”

Brock’s grip turned almost gentle as he continued “And I remember hearing about just how eager you were to make it up to me, before that prick interrupted us. You show me how sorry you are, nothing has to change.”

Steve caught himself darting a glance up, hope starting to fill his expression.

“Yeah, I can tell how bad you miss my cock already. Go on, bend over that bench.”

Steve eyed the other men still clustered around the locker room, watching almost eagerly, before looking up at Rumlow and daring to ask “In front of…?”

“You want to show them you’re still my good little pet faggot, right? That there’s no hard feelings? My guys here might not believe it if they don’t see it themselves. I’m known to be too generous for my own good. They might think I was trying to be nice to you about it, lie to keep ‘em from having their fun,” Rumlow answered.

One of them laughed at that, a low, rough sound Steve distinctly recalled from at least two of the beatings that had sent him to the hospital previously. Steve squared his shoulders, took two shuffling knee-steps toward the nearest of the long benches down the center of the room, and laid himself over it crossways without another word, flushing a deep, ugly red as he did. Ten months. Bills. Ma. We can go back to how it was. It don’t matter who’s watching, it’s just Rumlow, same as always. He felt Rumlow’s hand wrap around his bony hip an instant before there was an insistent pressure at his entrance and then Rumlow was inside him again, grunting and crowing “Damn, Rogers, you are a little slut, aren’t you, already wet and stretched out for me. You really must have been desperate for this, working your filthy little hole open with your fingers, hoping I’d stick it in you again, fuck.”

Steve shuddered and closed his eyes at that, gritted his teeth against the response just aching to come out One of my fingers is bigger than your sad little prick, Rumlow, that’s why you can’t get anyone to go with you but me, I wasn’t missing jack shit, and pretended he couldn’t hear one of the other thugs unzipping his pants, a rhythmic slip-slip joining Rumlow’s continuing litany on what a slutty little hole Steve had and how much he must like it, the steady slap-slap-slap of Rumlow moving inside him, and the occasional moan Steve couldn’t quite suppress whenever a thrust drove his still-healing ribs particularly hard against the side of the bench or, far more rarely, Brock managed to find his prostate absent a map and personal guide.

He kept his eyes closed through it, and so he startled when he felt something brush his cheek, blinked open to find, eugh, Rollins rubbing his cock against Steve’s face. Steve didn’t quite stop the “Seriously?,” but Rumlow only slapped his ass in response.

When Steve turned his head to raise a skeptical eyebrow, Rollins gripped him by the hair, pulling him back into uncomfortable genital proximity even as Rumlow said “Jack’s my second-in-command. Had to borrow his dad’s truck to come pick me up on Friday, after you distracted me before that fight. You should apologize to him for the inconvenience.” Steve parted his lips to try for a half-convincing I’m so sorry, sir, that left off the remaining that your douchebag friend getting his ass kicked gave you an excuse to show off your dad’s Ford F-Overcompensation that he drives even though we live in freaking Brooklyn, but before he could make a sound Rollins had already thrust in, grunting in what was pretty clearly satisfaction as he set up a counterpoint of thrusts that were weirdly in time with Rumlow’s and honestly, fellas, why don’t you just ask each other to prom already. At any rate, Rollins was actually substantially more of a gentleman than Rumlow about getting his dick sucked and seemed less intent on cramming his cock as far down Steve’s throat as it could go in favor of a shallower, more tongue-intensive experience given, wow, that was a loud moan, yup. Steve hadn’t ever, ah, taken two at once before, and it involved a lot more concentration that what he’d seen in porn, back when he could stand to watch the kind of porn that ended with the smaller guy getting called a whore while someone bigger and stronger reamed him. It’d sort of lost its savor once he had an idea of how that actually went. God, and those guys managed to come from it, how the hell, he wondered. Sure, Rumlow’s thrusts were about as careless as usual and would occasionally hit his prostate, but that was hardly enough to get all the way on its own, and with Rollins down his throat he was too busy watching his teeth and keeping his tongue going just right, yeah, there were go, that tasted like precome, okay, he’s getting close, that’s good to even try to focus on the haphazard stimulation. Well, probably there was off-camera foreplay, and the top knew what the hell he was doing, I'm looking at you, Brock -- Steve’s train of thought broke off abruptly as Rumlow’s next thrust, faster than the others like he was getting close, shoved Steve into the bench a little too hard, ribs screaming in protest. He choked ever so slightly on Jack’s dick, but managed to keep his jaw from clenching at the discomfort just in time. Teeth were a bad, bad idea, and that was before he’d ever had to bite, however gently. The motions of his mouth as he resisted the cough-and-grimace the pain had inspired were apparently just right, though, because a few seconds later Jack was coming across his tongue, which was nice of him, no bottoming out of feel Steve struggle to swallow or pulling all the way free to come across his face, always so annoying to clean afterwards. It seemed like Rollins’ grunt of satisfaction did it for Rumlow, who finished up a few seconds later with another slap to Steve’s ass.

After a few seconds of Rumlow’s weight crushing him into the bench in a way that made Steve start to seriously worry about his ability to breathe, the other man pulled out, softened dick trailing wetly across Steve’s ass as Brock rose, saying “I think the natural order of the universe has been restored, hasn’t it, gentlemen? Get out, Rogers. The men in the room have business to discuss, you’ve already done the only thing you’re good for.” Steve gingerly pushed off the bench, legs slow to work from all the time spent kneeling on the cold floor, but managed to grab his bag and clothes and slip into the attached bathrooms after a few moments, before the delay could piss Rumlow off any more but in time to hear the name “Barnes” being thrown around in increasingly angry tones. He left them to it, more interested in cleaning up and getting to the lab in plenty of time. No one needed to see that email. He was going to be just fine. 

----

Steve’s day proceeded much as expected after that, email deleted as soon as he slid into the lab, the rest of which was spent looking at scholarship applications and portfolio requirements, same as ever. It wasn’t until art, the last class of the day and always his favorite, that he got another rude surprise. There, sitting easy as anything at Steve’s usual solo two-person table, was Bucky, the new guy who’d walked in on them on Friday. Steve went over warily, settling down into his seat just in time for Ms. LeMure to start the class session. He’d seen Bucky in half his other classes, but the B desks were far enough away from the Rs to keep him well clear of anything like interaction range. Steve was busy wordlessly eyeing him and cursing Ms. LeMure’s ‘pick your own spot’ philosophy when the other man abruptly spoke, voice low and friendly. “Hi, I hope it’s okay I sat here. I got here a little late, and Ms. LeMure said that your table had the last free seat in the class.”

Steve’s glare silently transferred itself to Ms. LeMure, who grinned back and mouthed ‘You need friends, make friends,’ before continuing to introduce the basics of color theory for the students who just started art classes this year. Steve grit his teeth and replied “It’s a free country. You can sit where you like. Thanks again for the ride.”

When Bucky fell mercifully silent for a moment after that, Steve dared to hope that would be the end of things, but -- “So, uh, you and Rumlow.”

“What about Rumlow?” Steve hissed quietly, tone lacing with annoyance as he glanced around to track Ms. LeMure’s movements up at the front, making sure she, and for that matter the rest of the class, weren’t too close. Damn it, couldn’t Barnes have brought this up somewhere a little less public?

“I, uh, I guess I don’t understand?” Bucky continued, voice going somewhat sheepish, if still low.

“What’s there to understand? He’s the captain of the Strikers, most popular guy in school.”

Bucky’s only reply was a soft “Oh,” before he mercifully started to pull out a pad and get to work.

----

After Steve’s… apology in the locker room, things mostly went back to normal. None of the football players touched him or messed with his stuff, even if some of them had started giving him speculative looks that sort of worried him. Rumlow was still Rumlow, still wanted his dick sucked during post-practice showers, still wanted someone to fuck over the weekends (and thank fuck for bulk-rate subway passes, God), still liked reminding Steve how ugly he was and how all he was good for was getting his holes used. Rollins’ presence was the only real difference, for the most part. It wasn’t every time, but sometimes, especially on the weekends, Rumlow would call Steve over and Rollins would be there, and Brock would make Steve do things for him, too. It could have been a lot worse. Jack was usually pretty nice about it. His taste for blowjobs with more lingual finesse and less forceful deepthroating was apparently a constant, and whenever Rumlow wanted it the other way around, Jack was liberal about the lube and prep, distant and almost professional about the fucking -- no finger-shaped bruises on Steve’s hips from holding him still against punishingly hard thrusts, no soreness for days after because Rumlow got the idea into his head that “as fast as physically possible” was a desirable thrusting pace and didn’t understand about friction vis a vis how much lube was needed. With Jack, it was almost… pleasant. Comparatively.

Lately, though, Rumlow had also gotten more… creative, on the weekends. During school, there wasn’t really time or opportunity for anything more involved than a quickie blowjob after practice, not with teachers to dodge and parents expecting them home and Barnes always hanging around to give younger players advice, now that he was the quarterback because of the pair of state championships under his belt from his dad’s last two postings. Steve’d learned to get his homework done on Friday night while Brock had games, though, because come Saturday afternoon, he was increasingly likely to get a text that just said “By 5,” and Steve would close his flip phone and rush to finish whatever chore he’d been working on so Ma wouldn’t know he’d ever been gone when she finally got home from her weekend double-shift at the hospital.

Take today, for instance. Brooklyn was already getting blustery with mid-September wind as Steve slipped off the subway stop near Brock’s fancy brownstone and trudged up the flight of stairs, dodging other commuters. A train delay had already put him dangerously close to the deadline and left him hurrying as best he could, slipping inside the building with the door code Brock had given him half a year ago and then up the two flights of stairs. He knocked politely on the inner door and after a moment it opened to Jack’s face, which broke into an easy grin as he pulled the door a little wider and said “Well. Brock didn’t tell me you’d be over today, that’s a nice surprise. Come in.”

Steve stepped inside and forced himself not to flinch when Jack closed and locked the door. He’d done this dozens of times. There was nothing to be nervous about, just because Brock was creative on weeken-- he heard a sharp crashing sound from the living room and twitched at it, easing forwards hesitantly as Rumlow’s voice started to filter over to him.

“Can you fucking -- okay, yeah, last night was a disaster, sure, whatever. But what the fuck, why the fuck would Coach Pierce make freaking Barnes goddamn captain? Captain! That’s my fucking job, I’ve had it for years, this is my last fucking year! I needed that captainship.” As Steve approached, he saw as well as heard another empty beer bottle introduce itself to the wall before Rumlow continued, muttering now, “Man, I knew I had to take that bastard down a peg or three, but this makes it a priority.” Steve elected not to point out that the last of Brock’s bruises from his prior attempt to assert his dominance had only faded the week before, and waited to find out what Rumlow had in mind this time.

After a second, Rumlow looked up and noticed Steve standing there, in his worn jeans and faded, near-see-through t-shirt, what he usually wore on weekends. Sometimes Brock liked to get a little… shred-happy with his clothes when they had the time. “Good, you’re finally fucking here. God, what did you do, stop to suck half a dozen dicks on your way over? You’re so fucking slow.” Steve stood there, impassive, and started mentally planning the composition for his next landscape while he waited for Rumlow to get to the point. Rumlow pointed at a dustpan and hand-broom nearby, then at the mess of what looked like three, or maybe four, broken bottles in a little pile on the floor. “You’re late and I’m pissed, so you’re gonna clean that up for me,” he said, wandering over as he popped open a fresh beer. Steve rolled his eyes and reached for the pan, only to be brought up short by Rumlow suddenly grasping his shoulder. “Clothes off, first. We're going to have some fun.”

Steve forced himself to take a slow, deep breath as he pulled his shirt over his head, the aroma of liquor on Brock’s breath wafting over with his new proximity. They hadn't … played, or whatever this was, when he was drunk before. Not since he'd started to get creative. Steve found himself looking over at Rollins nervously as he thumbed open the button on his jeans and slid them down, kicking out of his shoes. Jack seemed… eager, though, not concerned, so either he didn't know what Rumlow had planned or he thought it was hot, no help there.

Steve stepped out of his lowered jeans and pushed them out of way, leaving his shirt piled atop them. He hadn't bothered wearing anything beneath. “Better,” Rumlow said, pushing Steve at the dustpan once more. He bent over to pick it up and jerked back up at a stinging slap to his ass. He stopped, turning in confusion, only for Brock to shove at him and say “Keep going.” Steve bent back over only to receive another slap. He ignored it, and the way his cock had maybe started to take a little interest in the proceedings, and slid onto his knees to start sweeping up. He sensed more than heard Rumlow settle onto his own knees directly behind Steve, and so only shivered when Brock drew a finger slowly down Steve's spine. “You were late,” he murmured, uncomfortably close to Steve's ear, his alcohol-laden breath ghosting over Steve's skin and making it prickle. 

Steve stared at the wall, trying to make his heart stop racing quite so badly, and replied “I'm sorry, sir,” as Brock cupped his ass, squeezing a little. 

“You were late,” he repeated. “And now Jack and I are going to correct you. You're going to clean that mess up, and while you do, we're going to give you a little motivation to work harder,” he said with another stinging slap to Steve's ass, again followed by a squeeze. “Sooner you finish, the sooner we stop,” he added, smacking Steve's ass again, this time not soothing the blow afterwards but instead repeating it. “Hey, Jack, c’mere. You take his left, I got his right. Let's see who can get his ass redder before he finishes his fucking work, God, get going, Rogers. At this rate, I'm starting to think you want to get hit.”

Steve bent to it only to rapidly realize that if he wanted to be close enough to hurry the clean-up, he ended up all but offering his ass out for their attentions. He half-shrugged to himself and just kept going, tried to ignore the blood rapidly rushing southwards with every strong, square smack against his ass. Trying to avoid it only delayed the inevitable, after all, and if he hurried it might not hurt to sit down tomorrow. As they kept going and seemed to get more into it, the slaps grew more regular, more sure, and Steve found himself twitching from side to side, unconsciously trying to avoid the next blow, which didn't work very well when there was one of them on either side of him. When he was just finishing cleaning, they noticed the movement and Jack added softly “Look at that little ass shake. Think he’s trying to get our attention?”

Rumlow chorused in a second later, punctuating his next slap with “God. Fucking disgusting, look at that. The little pervert is getting off on it. We just turned his ass cherry-red and his pathetic little cock looks like it’s about to burst.” Rumlow capped this off with an idle flick of his thumbnail at the head of Steve's cock, and oh, fuck, Steve may have just moaned.

“He really likes that, doesn’t he,” Rollins mused, sounding strangely thoughtful as he stood and wandered back into the kitchen for a moment. “Wonder what would happen if we put a plug in him next time. I had a girlfriend one summer, could get her off just spanking her. Bet Rogers is the same.”

Steve felt his breathing hitch up in panicked arousal, because damn it, they were probably right. He didn’t really feel like jerking off that much, so he was kind of always on-edge, and with something to nudge against his prostate with every blow… his hips rolled forward without his conscious command at the very idea, and Rumlow made a disgusted sound. “Aw, fuck no, Rogers, I ain’t a queer like you, I’m not touching your fucking cock. Ewww. You want to get off, do it the old-fashioned way, I’m sure as hell not helping.”

Even as he spoke, though, Steve could feel that Rumlow had started grinding up against his ass, hard and hot, his rough breaths mingling with the sound of Rollins opening his pants off to the side and the sharp crack of a tube of lube opening. He heard Jack's easy “Hey, gotcha something,” and shortly after there were two blunt fingertips pressing against Steve’s entrance, slick enough that they could enter easily even with how hurried the prep was going to be. Steve leaned forward, bracing one arm against the wall and lowering his head as Rumlow started to push those fingers into him, working him open. It wasn’t the roughest he’d been, but there was a clumsiness to his movements that spoke to how many of the beers whose remains Steve had just cleaned up off the floor were currently guiding Brock’s choices. Steve moaned helplessly as Brock worked in a third finger, properly brushing his prostate at last, and thought that there was probably a joke in there somewhere in all the anti-drinking PSAs he’d been forced to sit through over the years. I ain’t even the drunk one to say yes to a bad situation, he mused as Rumlow pulled his fingers free and lined up his cock, burying himself deep with the usual eager grunt and starting to shift inside Steve’s body.

 

Steve flushed with the shame of it, but fuck, he was hard, painfully hard, and he hadn’t gotten off in a long time. It’s not like they didn’t already think he was a whore. He wrapped a hand around his cock, jerking in time with Rumlow’s clumsy-as-ever thrusts. It wasn’t like he hadn’t come before during the sex, he rationalized as he smoothed his thumb over the head, spreading the precome that had started to leak. Okay, sure, both times had been because Rumlow felt like going slow for a change, and Steve hadn’t … participated, either time, just let the more-frequent-than-usual prostate stimulation do the work and eventually make him spill. It shouldn’t matter, didn’t matter. Why shouldn’t he try to get something from the arrangement other than protection, if Rumlow could add a person and now lots of new, uh, activities, what’s wrong with getting just a little pleasure out of the sex?, he reasoned, hand speeding. He felt Rumlow’s change of pace, heard the excitement underlying the scorn as he said “God, Rogers, you must fucking love this, look how wet and hard your dick is, that’s so h-- gross. So gross.” Steve was too far gone to much care, though, grip shifting easily as he got closer, Rumlow’s thrusts pressing his pelvis and thighs just right against Steve’s sore backside, and then, oh, fuck, Rumlow actually managed to hit his prostate for once, oh God that’s good, that’s so fucking --  

He only was distracted for a second or two, but it was enough to have missed Rollins’ approach, because the next thing he knew, Jack was striping his back with come, groaning out his own enjoyment of the proceedings. Rumlow bitched at him, “Aw, man, you nearly got that shit on me, I’m fucking close, don’t gross me out when I’m so damn close,” but didn’t slow down in the slightest, and a moment later was taking his own turn, pulling out just in time to come across  Steve’s still-throbbing ass. Steve stayed kneeling there for a moment, panting and still braced against the wall, his back, ass, and thighs painted with three loads of sticky white.

“Here,” Jack said after a minute more, dragging a towel over Steve’s back with surprising gentleness before handing it to him to finish the rest. “Clean that up. I think Brock’s done for the day.” Steve glanced behind himself to find Rumlow curled up on the nearest rug, dozing while snuggled up against the bottle of his now-empty final beer. Steve paused for a second -- sometimes Rumlow wanted two rounds -- and Rollins continued “Don’t worry, I’ll tell him I sent you home. Go on, your, uh, mom or whatever is probably missing you.” Steve took the grace as offered and finished cleaning up quickly before dressing as quietly as possible and sneaking back out the door, down the hall, and to the subway. That barely took two hours, to and from trips included, he mused as he swiped his pass and headed for his train. I might even be able to pick up the groceries in time to make a nice dinner for Ma. Good thing Rumlow was so worried about Bucky.

-----

“Hey, Steve. Steve!” he heard as he emerged from the lunch line on Monday. There, sigh, was Bucky Barnes, Team Captain Bucky Barnes now, he guessed, waving at him eagerly from a mostly-full table. Steve trudged over, wondering if this was going to be about classwork (always likely, he got pretty good grades and that made him a favorite to lean on to get some homework done fast) or if he was going to end up wearing his lunch now that Barnes had established himself as a contender for top of the high school dogpile.

“Hey, Stevie,” he continued once Steve was closer, and that was a weird bit of intimacy. Okay, sure, Barnes talked to him at least once a day in art and seemed friendly enough, but that was probably just a function of having to share a rather cramped workspace, not a cause for nicknames. “I want you to meet my guys, come have lunch with us.” Steve eyed the group, but most of them seemed to be either nodding happily or, in the case of one boy who already had a seriously impressive mustache, entirely focused on shoveling food as fast as possible and uninterested in him. Steve settled into the space that had been left open right across from Bucky, leaving him stuck between two larger men in a way that made him a little nervous, even if they weren’t showing signs of hostility yet.

“Fellas, this is Steve, he’s in a couple of my classes, and --”

“-- we share a table in art class, and he's so smart, he knows all the answers in our classes and his art’s amazing," the nearest boy interrupted in a high-pitched sing-song, pseudo-American accent clearly forced. 

Barnes blithely bowled ahead with “And you can go fuck yourself, Monty. Steve, this, here, is the International Club of Shield High.” 

Steve made a polite noise of interest, focusing on eating as quickly as possible without running any risk of so much as accidentally grazing one of the guys on either side of him with a passing elbow. He’d learned better than that. “International Club?” he repeated, faintly interrogative.

“Yeah! Well, not an official club, I mean, no paperwork or nothin’, but we’ve nearly all been to a bunch of places. This is Dum-Dum,” he gestured at the mustachioed fellow, breaking off to swat his rather fabulous bowler hat off his head, “and he was raised in a goddamn barn apparently, come on, Dugan, we got a guest, stop filling your face and be polite, the weigh-ins will still be there tomorrow.”

Dugan looked up just long enough for a swallow, a rushed “Pleasedtameecha,” and a chug from a mysterious-looking plastic travel bottle before returning to his meal.

Barnes sighed and said “And in theory, he’s a diplomat’s son who grew up in Norway, but obviously that’s a lie he told us to hide the fact that he was actually raised by wolves. Rabid wolves. Who like embarrassing their friends.”

Steve caught himself smiling a little at the delivery, relaxing, and quickly double-checked he still wasn't touching anyone or bothering them as Bucky continued “And on either side of you there, we have our non-citizen contingent to give this club a little legitimacy and class--” Just then there was a faint whump and a drizzle of smoke started wafting up from the left-hand guy’s bag, which prompted an immediate, passionate slew of French and the man's hasty retreat “-- class like Frenchie, there, I promise they're not always… okay, no, they're nearly always like this. Um. That rapidly disappearing grumpy Frenchman is named Jacques Dernier, but we all call him Frenchie, and not ‘cause of where he's from. Something about that accent, it just isn't fair what it does to girls.” 

The man still sitting to Steve’s right, the one who'd mocked Bucky before, rose with his empty tray and spoke up again, consonants Brit-sharp as he said “An interesting accent doesn’t just work on ladies, Barnes. How else do you think I got James?” 

Bucky continued “... and that’s our resident British Invader, Monty Falsworth. His dad is apparently a Lord or something, decided his horizons needed broadening early. James is Jim Morita, he’s got some engineering club meet today so he’s not here. He’s just from Fresno, but we give him a partners-and-friends pass into the club --”

Another young man approached their table, interrupting Bucky in his own turn with a cheery “And how exactly do you explain me, then? I’m sure not kissing any of you.”

Bucky grinned and welcomed him into the now-empty seat to Steve’s right, saying “Gabe Jones here is from Georgia, which I think we all can agree counts as another planet --”

“Oh, le pousser dans le cul, Barnes. Je suis ici parce que je parle plus de langues que vous, et parce que je suis plus jolie,” the other boy replied, laughing merrily as he did.   

“-- and he’s the only person here who can talk Frenchie down when he really gets going, which is more than reason enough for me. Oh, and me, I guess. Dad’s been stationed in… I think my count is up to eight nations now? Wait, no, nine, we did Kuwait for like three months when I was  five, I always forget to count that one.”

Steve nodded at that, because that was kind of interesting, and if he played along he might actually get out of this unscathed. He was most of the way through his lunch and he still hadn’t bumped anyone, been tripped onto anyone, made to spill on anyone, had anything dumped on him, or been called anything obscene or homophobic. It was already far and away better than any lunch he’d had before the arrangement started last year, and he was sitting with people and no one was telling him to go be fucking weird somewhere else, either. He smiled hesitantly before asking “So, um, why did you call me over?”

Bucky blinked at that, looking confused. “I wanted you to meet my other friends,” he answered, smile taking on a sheepish cast.

“Oh,” Steve said. “Um, they’re very nice.”

Bucky’s cheeks went faintly red at that as he said “I’m sorry they were like that, they’re really great guys. Usually Jimmy’s here to help ride herd on them, but he’s off with Stark and his crew soldering things for prize money today, and I really wanted you to go ahead and meet them. Um. And I wanted to talk to you.” 

Steve nodded. He’d managed to actually finish his meal, with people, in the cafeteria, with no disasters, and now Bucky was going to get to the point.

“Look… about Rumlow.” Steve tensed. Fuck, not again! Why did he always want to talk about this, and in public? Bucky continued on, voice pitched low but apparently otherwise unaware of Steve’s discomfort. “I saw how he was treating you, Steve, that day in the gym? You shouldn’t stay with him if he beats you, I don’t care what he promises you, if he says he’s sorry and he’ll do better. He won’t, he’s just going to keep hurting you. I mean, God, I can see how you're sitting. Can you look me in the eye right now and tell me he didn't hurt you more this weekend?”

Steve decided to ignore the latter part of that revelation because, dammit, he thought he was hiding it better but sitting down did kind of hurt after the spanking, and instead focused on Bucky’s glaring misunderstanding, saying “Stay with him -- I’m not with him, Bucky. Rumlow’s straight. We just have an… understanding.”

Bucky’s expression contorted in confusion before he all but whispered “What could you possibly be getting out of an understanding where he --” 

“Look, how I deal with my business is none of yours, Barnes,” Steve interrupted. “Did you have a reason you called me over here or not?”

“I’m -- I’m sorry. You right, I shouldn’t have pressed. Just. If you ever need… anything, Steve, you have friends. Friends who want to help.”

Steve rolled his eyes at that, already picking up his mostly-empty tray and turning to leave. A guy like Bucky Barnes would never really be friends with him, wouldn’t even remember his name if they hadn’t been assigned the same art class table. He knew better than that. Although… Bucky had invited Steve to sit with him during lunch, introduced his friends, acted like he actually wanted Steve around… God, this was all so confusing. What in the hell did Barnes want?

----

After that first lunch, it was like some kind of line had been crossed, and more often that not, Bucky or one his “club”-mates would say hi to Steve in the halls, call him over for lunch, wish him a good evening at the end of classes. As September became October, Steve began to wonder if maybe, somehow, the other men actually meant it when they said they wanted him around, laughed at his tentative jokes, invited him places. Bucky had even given him a couple rides home, on particularly rainy or unpleasant nights. He was consistently charming, and funny, and interested, and Steve was lost in trying to figure out what benefit Bucky stood to gain by teasing him this way. It seemed like a lot of effort to go to, tricking the class loser into thinking he had friends just to laugh at him for it later. With October came midterm projects and, Steve was shocked to discover, a mandatory shared project in Art. Ms. LeMure had been telling him for years how good it would be for him as an artist to get to work with someone else, but she knew that if she put him in a group assignment, it would just be him doing the work for the whole group. It always was, every time a teacher made him do a group project, no matter what class. But for some reason, this time she decided to do it anyway, and of course put him with, sigh, Bucky. Even stranger, when she told them, Bucky immediately turned to him and -- and touched his hand, gently, and almost shyly asked “Would you be alright with sticking around to work on it tonight, after I get out of practice? I can, um, order us some takeout, since it’ll be so late?” with nary a no homo in sight.

Steve thought about it for a second, but it was Wednesday, so Ma wouldn’t get home til near midnight. He’d be staying late to work and see Brock in the showers after his practice anyway -- ever since Bucky was made Captain, Brock hadn’t wanted to use Steve in the locker room or show off in front of any of the guys, just a quick suck once the showers had mostly emptied out. Bet the reminder of getting dethroned makes him wilt like a snowman in the sun, Steve thought viciously, even as he responded to Bucky with a quick affirmative. He figured he was pretty lucky to be assigned to someone who at least wanted to be on top of the deadline and start early, whether or not Steve did end up doing most of the actual labor.

It seemed like no time at all before Bucky left for practice, and even less before Steve heard the alarm he’d set on his second-hand watch go off. He packed up his materials haphazardly, leaving the door unlocked so Bucky could enter whenever he wanted, and headed over to the sports complex. He decided to enter the showers through the bathroom area, hoping to avoid running into any of the other players, particularly their Captain Bucky. Steve was in time to hear the tail end of some kind of argument coming from the other end of the space. Bucky’s voice was deep and loud and angry, nothing at all like the gentle, almost sweet tone he always took with Steve. As he started to strip, he turned his attention to the echoing voices, trying to figure out what could have pissed off the usually even-keeled young man.  

“-- told you if you so much as try laying one more finger on me, I’ll remind you exactly what happened the last time you thought you could beat someone up just ‘cause you felt like it, and this time I won’t. fucking. go easy on you,” Bucky growled, and Steve shuddered at the leashed violence in his tone. He was uncomfortably reminded of how badly bruised -- and utterly pissed -- Brock was after each of his last few fights with Bucky. They hadn’t gone any better than when Bucky intervened that last week of summer, no matter how vigorously Brock tried to regain his status, and those were always the nights Brock felt like passing the hurt along. It was only the deal that had kept Steve from worse than a few ugly bruises under his clothes, ears ringing with Brock’s growled insults and threats about remembering his place.

He heard a locker door slam, sharp in the strange hush that had fallen over the other players, and then Brock was storming into the showers, slapping the nearest one on, the patter of slowly-warming water echoing in the otherwise empty room. “Get over here, bitch,” Rumlow grunted, pointing at the tiles in front of him, and Steve only barely managed to restrain himself from rolling his eyes as he obeyed. Of all the caveman-level aggression displacement tactics Brock clearly favored, telling Steve to do something he was going to do anyway had to be the most pointless, but whatever, anything that didn’t require Epsom salts or icepacks afterwards was a win in Steve’s book.

“Eugh, look at you. Fucking disgusting, like you got some kind of disease. You bruise like the fucking fruit you are,” Brock continued as Steve dropped to his knees. Well, you’re not wrong, Steve mused. Brock’s ham-handed attempts to sabotage Bucky’s performance during Saturday’s game had resulted in Coach Pierce giving him a hell of a reaming in front of the team about order and chains of command and Barnes shaping the football program for years to come or something. Brock had promptly gone home, texted Steve over, and passed along the reaming in a lot more literal fashion, with a bonus beating in the process. It’d been a couple of days, but Steve was still blotchy with blue and purple marks along his ribs and thighs, layered over older yellowy splotches, in whatever places Brock could reach without pulling out. Whatever, a couple clumsy mid-fuck punches were nothing. He’d almost reached a whole year straight without going to a hospital once, and Ma didn’t even have to work but half a week of doubles when the fridge finally died. Goddamn worth it.  

Steve muttered out a quiet “Yessir,” and shuffled a little closer. Brock was only half-hard, though, which was worrying. Half-hard meant distracted meant Brock would want something to excite him, keep his mind off of whatever. It meant creative, and fuck but this was a bad time for creative. Steve still had to go work with Bucky for however long after this; he didn’t have time to patch himself up after whatever creative ended up being. Steve leaned forward to start kissing Brock’s lower belly delicately anyway, nudging in at the base of his cock and rubbing his face against the crease of Brock’s groin, which usually got the job done, but apparently not tonight.

Brock reached down and shoved his head away roughly, knocking his glasses slightly askew but not off, at least. He then wrapped one thick-fingered hand around Steve’s throat almost speculatively, squeezing a little. Steve pulled back at that, sitting on his heels and shaking his head. “Nothing my clothes won’t hide, you know that. Sir.” he said as calmly as he could manage. Brock grimaced and sneered at that, pulling his arm back, hand balling into a fist. Then there was another slam from the lockers and Brock seemed to abruptly remember that it was fucking stupid to do any of the creative shit at school, where just about anyone could walk in and see something besides normal teenage fooling around happening. Sure, Brock’s coterie of Cromagnon rejects would laugh and probably masturbate watching the show, but the rest of the team seemed like decent enough guys, if perfectly willing to pretend they were incapable of seeing a blowjob in progress when everyone involved seemed happy.

Brock got an ugly smirk on his face, then, like he’d just had an idea. His cock flushed the rest of the way to life as he said “Fine. Fine. Nothing the clothes won’t hide. Sure. Howsabout you just do something that won’t show at all, then? If you’re that damn eager, shoving your face into my crotch, how about you prove it. You know what? I’ll even let you pick, not that a worthless little scrap of nothing like you deserves it. Either you work yourself open on your fingers dry, or else you touch your limp little prick while you suck me, and if I come first, I will choke you out after all, and fuck the bruises,” Rumlow offered, cock visibly twitching at both ideas.

Fuck. If he fingered himself dry, sitting would be hell for hours or more, and he still had to go meet Bucky after. It wouldn’t be easy to get off during Brock’s… attentions, but he was pretty sure he could manage it. He flushed, eyes lowering, and wrapped a hand around himself, stroking slowly as the water from the shower eased the way.

“Knew you wanted it, fucking fairy. Come on, come and get it, do your fucking job,” Rumlow all but purred, grabbing his own dick so he could direct it closer to Steve’s mouth. Steve glanced up through his steam-fogged glasses just long enough to adjust his aim, Brock’s cock slotting into his mouth with the ease of long practice. Steve normally tried to hurry the payments along as much as possible, but for this one, he needed all the time he could get. He wasn’t used to having to get excited on command, didn’t get aroused on his own more than one day in four. The health textbooks said that stress could impair that sort of thing, and his heart had never been all that strong, either, so he just… took care of erections when they happened to show up, but otherwise didn’t really think about sex much. He could… if he sort of separated things out in his head, Brock wasn’t actually a bad-looking guy. At all. If he were someone else, maybe someone Steve had met at a party or something, who’d brought Steve a drink and flirted like he meant it and asked Steve back to his place all charming… He felt the first rush of eager warmth in his belly even as Brock groaned and started rocking forward into his mouth a bit more, grunting out a “Yeahhhh, fuck. That’s it, get hard for me, show me what a nasty bitch you are. Such a little cockslut,” as he went.

Well, there went that thought, Steve observed. He cast back to the last time he’d woken up excited, gotten himself off. He’d been dreaming … right. Bucky. Trust his stupid libido to latch onto the only guy who’d ever been decent to him as some sort of sex object. But he did know what Bucky looked like naked, even if he’d only seen it briefly and colored with the haze of mortification and uncorrected vision. He was… really, really good-looking. And he’d been so nice to Steve. Surely it didn’t hurt to… Brock grabbed his hair and started thrusting, and Steve’s hand sped to compensate. He imagined Bucky during that first fight, glistening with sweat as he defended Steve, and then came over, so sweet and helpful, checked Steve over. He’d gotten a little hard while Steve had mistaken him for Brock… what if Bucky decided he deserved a reward for pulling Brock off of Steve, wanted Steve to finish the job he’d started earlier… Steve chased that thought, pretended the hand in his hair was Bucky’s, that it was Bucky making those choked-off moans and thrusting into his mouth, who wanted Steve to touch himself because he thought it was sexy, not to make him prove what a whore he was all over again. Maybe he’d praise Steve, tell him it felt good, that he was good, maybe even… return the fa-- Steve gasped around the obstruction in his mouth, orgasm hitting him by surprise even as Brock’s thrusts turned uneven, faster. Brock moved the hand in Steve’s hair to wrap around his throat instead, used the new grip to pull him back at the very end, come splashing across his face. As the last aftershock spattered Steve’s cheek with white, Rumlow’s grip tightened, but then he looked down and grunted out a laugh. “Damn, you really are a whore. Fine, get out of here,” he said, releasing Steve’s throat and turning into the finally-heated spray.

Steve spit out a stray burst that had ended up in his mouth since Rumlow wasn’t looking at him to see it, and turned one of the other showers on briefly, shivering in the icy water he didn’t dare try to warm lest it make Brock’s shower slightly less toasty and earn his ire. He got clean as fast as possible, not wanting to keep Bucky waiting. The thought of the other man, of working with him right after thinking about him like that, made Steve flush. He took a second to be glad of the cold air as he dressed, which cooled his blush even as it left him shivering into his clothes and hurrying back to the art classroom.

When he got there, Bucky was setting out a couple of takeout boxes on their desk, and looked up at his entrance, smiling. Steve dropped his eyes, blushing again, before trying to smile back. “Thanks for waiting for me. And for getting dinner,” Steve said quietly.

Bucky smiled at him again, even brighter, and said “Of course,” gesturing for Steve to sit across from him, so they’d be eye to eye. The food looked… really nice, actually, like maybe it came from an actual restaurant and not just a drive-through. That was weird. Once they’d eaten, Bucky paused and cleared his throat for a second before saying “I’m really glad Ms. LeMure decided we should work together. I’ve been wanting a chance to get to spend more time with you, but you always seemed so busy with -- Um. I -- I was hoping, maybe,” he broke off, staring down at the remains of his food with strange intensity and a high flush to his cheeks before starting again. “So, uh. You know, I'm captain of the Strikers now, and I'm pretty popular, um, and you said you and Rumlow were because -- If you aren't, um, you know, with Rumlow, if you're just, um, messing around together or whatever your, your understanding thing is since he’s popular, um. You could, uh--” Bucky looked up, straight into Steve’s eyes, tone evening out, “You could be with me.”

Steve blinked slowly for a second, lost, before feeling sick. He'd -- God, he was so stupid. He'd actually started to think Bucky wanted to be friends with him, started developing a stupid little crush. But no, Barnes just wanted to take Rumlow’s place with the local easy lay. And then Steve … thought about it. Brock’s power had been slipping for a while, with Barnes taking the team over and publicly handing Brock his own ass every time he tried to challenge the new captain. The way things had been going, it was only a matter of time before Brock completely lost control of the Strikers, got pissed off enough to actually break something on Steve again and end the deal, or both. Even better, Bucky didn't have a Rollins to share Steve with, as far as he could tell, and he didn't know about the, um, creative stuff Rumlow had gotten Steve doing lately. For all he knew, it was just blowjobs and the occasional beating. And Bucky… he'd been so nice, and he was handsome, and he might even be… gentlemanly about things. Okay. Steve could do this. It would make the next eight months substantially pleasanter, really, in comparison. Hell, he’d gotten off from thinking about doing precisely this not half an hour before, no point in being squeamish now. Steve closed his eyes for a second, licked his lips, and dropped to his knees beneath the table.

Once kneeling, he began nuzzling at Bucky’s cock through his pants, and wow, apparently his fuzzy-sighted memories had undersold Bucky considerably. If what he could feel through the fabric was anything to go by, he was going to have to be a lot more insistent about lube and prep than he ever was with Rumlow, and Barnes was still only getting excited. Bucky stuttered out a “S-Steve? What are you...” at the motion, but Steve just kept going, feeling Bucky getting harder under the attention. He took the waistband corner of Bucky’s jeans into his mouth, tugging. Convenient that Barnes was wearing heavy denim today, to let him do this trick. Other fabrics it didn’t work half so well on, but nice thick jeans always let him -- there, unbuttoned, and now just the zipper, the easy part. “Oh, oh fuck,” Bucky panted above him, dick already tenting his boxers and leaning through the open fly of his pants. Steve nudged the remaining fabric out of the way with his nose and, okay, definitely wow.

He dared to look up for a moment, finding Bucky looking flushed and a little dazed, wavy bangs hanging into wide-blown eyes as Bucky watched him eagerly, braced against the table. God, he was handsome, and already being so nice about this, not shoving or grabbing at all. Steve started licking along the thick shaft in front of him, meeting Bucky’s lust-dark eyes challengingly as he got the other boy's dick nice and wet. Bucky moaned at the eye contact, panting eagerly, which was new. Brock had pulled out to slap him, last time he'd tried that one, told him to keep his eyes on his goddamn work. Once Bucky's cock was slick from all the licking -- and the other man's breathing gratifyingly heavy -- Steve wrapped his lips around the head, sucking delicately as he flicked the tip of his tongue against the underside and around the crown. Before long, he was opening his throat and sliding on down, even as Bucky reached out to pet Steve’s hair gently, not grabbing, just dragging his fingers through in a slight scritching motion that felt incredibly nice. Steve’s throat was still a little rough from Brock, but the time to mentally prep and the saliva he’d spread let him take Bucky’s cock to the root easily. He had to pause for only a moment before his throat opened and the head breached it smoothly. After that, it was a pretty standard affair of hollowing his cheeks and bobbing his head while Bucky groaned and babbled quite gratifyingly and Steve tried to pretend that he wasn’t half-hard in his pants. He may have just gotten off earlier that evening, but it was the first time he’d done it this way -- gotten to hear Bucky moan for him and see how excited he’d made the other man, gotten to suck a guy off without being made to choke on it or feel his body aching from getting slapped around, gotten petted and nearly praised during it.

He took Bucky deeper and then sort of checked out, let his body take over the work while he idly debated the likelihood that Bucky would make Steve take over the group project entirely or if he’d just want sex, not other services. His odds were good, really -- Barnes seemed to be doing well in all his classes, didn’t seem like much of a shirker. Steve noticed Bucky’s cock hardening the last little bit that meant he was close and pulled back easily, prepared to swallow and glad to have the freedom of choice about doing so. The other man babbled out a “Please, please, can I come, please, is it okay if I come?,” which was about the first intelligible thing he’d managed since Steve got started and also surprisingly nice of him, asking like that. Steve grunted in the affirmative and sucked a little harder, looking up into Bucky’s eyes to see if he’d caught on, and the man convulsed as he spilled into Steve’s mouth.

Steve finished swallowing, and braced himself. “Okay, there are some ground rules to this,” he said while Bucky panted through the aftershocks, jeans still open and framing his mostly-soft cock, shiny with spit after Steve’s attentions.

“W--whatever you want. Oh my God, that was amazing,” Bucky replied, looking satisfyingly dazed.  

Steve took a deep breath. It was always a risk to make demands, even pretty basic ones, but there was no better time to get something he wanted than after a really good fuck, and Bucky was certainly acting like that had been a particularly spectacular one. He began with “We don’t fuck around where we might get caught. Locker room, latched bathroom stall, classroom after hours, or empty apartment only, and you aren’t coming over to mine. None of the team gets to touch me, or mess with my stuff, and you make sure they don’t. When you beat me --

Bucky’s blissfully relaxed expression began to rapidly turn confused and somewhat alarmed. “Beat you? Why would anyone beat--”

Steve shrugged, interrupting with “I dunno, fun, profit? I’ve never really seen the appeal myself, but it’s apparently football-player catnip. So, anyway, the rest of my terms are, when you beat me, it has to be under the clothes only, nothing where my Ma can see, and if it’s ever bad enough for a hospital the deal is off. It’s just like it was with Brock, same arrangement.”

Confused shifted into sickened, and Bucky choked out “Steve, I, I don’t -- I think I’ve missed something. Exactly what kind of understanding or, or arrangement or whatever, did you have with Brock?”

Steve shrugged. “I sleep with him, he doesn’t beat me up too bad or let any of his football goons touch me or my stuff. Isn’t… isn’t that what you want too? It’s a good deal. You lose out on some fun from kicking the shit out of me, yeah, but you already know I give really good head; I’ve had a lot of practice,” he offered, disturbed by the idea that his terms may have run Bucky off. They didn’t seem that unreasonable, did they? Sure, he hadn’t explicitly offered to keep doing some of the stuff he did for Brock, but Bucky couldn’t know about those things to miss them, right? It didn’t make sense for him to balk over so little.

“Steve, I -- I didn’t mean, I--” Bucky stammered and abruptly leaned down, pressing their lips together briefly before Steve started back in shock. Bucky just… just kissed him, like a… like a boyfriend. Why would Bucky kiss him? Bucky was gorgeous and sweet, charming and kind and thoughtful, and he could have anyone he liked. It wasn't like with Rumlow, who’d wanted an easy lay he could slap around without complaints and who he didn't have to call or even pretend to like the next day. Bucky wasn't that kind of guy, even if he apparently did want to sign up for that very same easy lay. If he wanted to date someone, he could, could -- He seemed like the kind to get his girlfriend, or evidently boyfriend, flowers when they were sad, and to remember anniversaries and plan swanky dates. Hell, even if it was just a fuckbuddy he was after, he was still smoking hot and probably really damned considerate, too. Bucky seemed the type to be fonder of ample lube than, say, punching the guy bottoming for him when he wanted it tighter. He’d certainly been mannerly while getting his dick sucked just now. He’d be able to pull, well, anyone at the school who even kind-of liked dick -- so why in the hell was he kissing Steve, like, like some kind of boyfriend?

While Steve reeled from the brief contact, Bucky continued talking. “I, I wanted to date you, want to date you, I didn’t -- I had no idea Brock was -- we gotta tell someone. Maybe Coach Pierce --”

Steve grunted out a laugh, even through his confusion. “You say that like Pierce doesn’t damn well know. Brock liked to fuck me in the locker room, in front of a quarter of the football team. You think it didn’t get back to Pierce? No one cares, Barnes. If they did, they’d have stopped Brock trying to cave my face in years before I found my own damned solution to the problem. Now do we got a deal or not? I got eight months of school days left that I’d rather not be in the hospital for, and final projects to not get shredded besides.”

“I don’t -- Of course I won’t let anyone hurt you,” Bucky said, and Steve felt himself go almost boneless with relief. Fuck, yes, it worked. This was going to be so much better than having to put up with Brock. But Bucky kept going. “You don’t have to, to sleep with me either, Christ. I’m not a fucking rapist, I’m not gonna extort --”

“It ain’t like that,” Steve barked before he could think better of it. Bucky looked incredibly skeptical at that, though, so he kept on. “It ain’t. I knew what I was doing. Hell, I suggested it; he didn’t force me. It’s just like buying anything else. It was a business arrangement, that’s all, I just paid him in something other than money.”  

Bucky’s face twisted like he wanted to say something else, something angry, maybe, but after a frozen moment all he said was “Well, you damn well don’t have to pay me. Fuck. If any of those creeps so much as looks at you funny, me and the boys will give them a hell of a seeing-to. You don’t have to … pay Rumlow for jack shit anymore.”  

Steve felt his face shift into a relieved smile, entirely independent of his intention. It worked. Bucky was going to be so much easier, and the thought settled Steve right out of his apprehension, the months of confusion finally resolved. He knew exactly what to do now. “Well, then,” he said, still unable to shake the fragile bubble of… something dangerously close to hope, swelling up inside him and making him feel all shaky and light like when he didn’t eat and got up too fast. “You’ll need my number so you can text me when you want me to meet up or come over, here,” he continued, wriggling back under the table and into his own chair before grabbing Bucky’s fancy smartphone off of the shared table and starting to figure out inputting the contact information. “You still got time to work on the project tonight, or did you just want to have dinner and get things sorted?”  

Bucky reached out and touched Steve’s hand again, like earlier that day. It was still a strangely intimate gesture for what was essentially a business relationship, but maybe Bucky was into the ‘boyfriend experience’ or something. That wouldn’t be much of an inconvenience at all, compared to the shit Rumlow got off on. The thing with the ginger had stung for hours afterwards. Bucky was smiling back and him, which, wow. Steve hadn’t really let himself notice it before, but Bucky really did have a gorgeous smile. “I wanna hang out with you as much as you’ll let me, Steve. And it would be good to get started on the project tonight -- I don’t know what your schedule looks like, but I think Ms. LeMure said this was due before school lets out for winter break, and I’ve got December ACT and SAT dates, and our last game isn’t til, like, practically Thanksgiving, so … yeah. I’m yours for as long as you want me. Um, tonight, I mean. I already texted my parents I’d be home real late, and I can drive you to yours once we’re done, my mom’s shifts don’t cycle til the new year so I still have her car.”

Steve found himself nodding, still smiling without really meaning to, too awash in the rush of relief to stop. He pulled out his sketchbook from its safe little cubby, opening it to the page of thumbnails he’d worked up while Bucky was at practice, and they got to work.

----

Steve didn’t bother saying anything to Rumlow about their deal ending. It was an easy way to hedge his bets, test out if Bucky really meant what he said. He hated to have to be so suspicious, but it was too big a gamble to just rely on Bucky’s word. So he didn’t say anything to Rumlow, just… didn’t show up after practice the next night, though this time he made a point to empty out his locker and take home everything he’d stored in the art classroom, just in case Rumlow started in with the property damage and then the smackdown. If Barnes meant what he said, when Rumlow tried to punish Steve’s absence, the other young man would step in. If not, Steve would get one hell of a beating, but he could just claim he was missing the night before ‘cause he was sick and the deal with Rumlow would continue on, unchanged. Win/win.

Sure enough, with Friday morning came the prickling, oppressive sensation of Brock’s barely leashed beady-eyed rage all through their shared first class, paired with Bucky’s eyes darting back and forth between the two of them, both settled halfway across the room with the other Rs, whenever the teacher’s back was turned. Steve made a point to be packed up and ready to leave a full minute before Mr. Phillips would actually call it, just in case, and all but darted for the hall as soon as class ended. He headed for his next class, but within seconds felt a large, strong hand settle on his shoulder just before he was shoved face-first into the nearest wall. As he tried to shake off the dizziness the impact had inspired, he heard Brock’s gruff, angry voice demanding “Where the fuck were you last night?” in a near-hiss.

Steve felt his jaw clenching, dropped his bag and turned to line up what he knew would be a useless punch, but then stopped. Keep it together, Rogers. Moment of truth. Let’s see what he does. Much as it burned to do so, he swallowed his gorge and started backing up instead, putting more space between himself and Brock, trying to give Bucky a little more time. Rumlow lunged at him, grabbing Steve by the shirtfront and dragging him closer. Steve tried to keep his anger out of his tone when he said “Let me go, Brock.”

Brock audibly growled at that, low enough that probably only Steve could hear, but even so the corridor was rapidly emptying out as other students found somewhere else to be. “It’s sir you worthless little twink bitch. What, you want me to teach you some damn manners again? Last time I did they had to call your mommy to leave work and get you after you broke your arm falling down the stairs like that. So clumsy. Think she’ll get fired if she has to come get you again? Wanna find out?” he taunted, actually lifting Steve slightly off the floor by the grip on Steve’s shirt before tossing him against the wall again, this time back-first.

The impact knocked the wind out of him, rattling him a little, and then the next thing he knew Bucky was there, standing between them and saying, loud but even, “Keep your fucking hands off my boyfriend, Rumlow.”

Steve tensed behind Bucky, prepared to dart out of the way if Brock took a swing and they started tussling here, but instead Brock… laughed, and said “What, the bitch found someone else to bend over for? You sure you wanna make that play, Barnes? That little cunt’s already all fucked out and sloppy, not fucking worth it. Half the damn team’s had him already.” Steve felt himself flush, blotchy and burning hot. He knew it was true that he was… experienced, but that didn’t mean he wanted it shouted across half the damn school, and he hadn’t with the team, but -- but if Bucky started asking questions, Steve knew he was a terrible liar, and he’d end up having to admit all the things he had done, and maybe Bucky would decide he did want those things, too. He was spiraling, he knew he was, but -- wait. Bucky had called Steve his boyfriend, and loud enough that the few people nearby would have clearly heard it. He wouldn’t be able to play straight and still have Steve as his easy lay on the side, if he went around saying stuff like that, that didn’t make sense. The cognitive dissonance was enough to halt the spiral, and Steve shook himself out of his head after scant seconds, suddenly noticing both that Bucky had yet to throw a punch and that Mr. Phillips was approaching.

“Barnes!” he barked, and Steve now tensed for an entirely less physical, but no less real, threat. Of all the times for a teacher to decide they care about a fight in the hall, Steve groused, trying to think of some way out of this one, some way to protect Bucky from the bad luck that always came with trying to help out one Steve Rogers.

“Sir. Didya see enough?” Bucky responded, still calm-seeming.

“Saw and filmed, Barnes. I will admit, when you came to see me this morning I was unconvinced this was more than a little intra-team scuffle, but you were absolutely correct. Mr. Rumlow, you and I are going to have a conversation very shortly that you won’t enjoy. Follow me,” Phillips said before marching off towards the head off, Rumlow trailing and turning back to shoot murderous glances at Steve and Bucky both every few steps.

Steve leaned against the wall, legs abruptly jellying. Even as he stood blinking, Bucky turned around, resting a gentle hand against Steve’s shoulder. “Hey, you want t’go to the nurse, get her to look you over? I can take you there.” Steve shook his head absently. Bucky made that concerned face he seemed to have an awful lot around Steve, but just continued “You okay to walk to class, then? We’ve got a couple minutes of passing period left, we should be able to make it fine. Here, let me carry your bag,” he said softly, and Steve was still too shocked to protest when Barnes picked his bag off the floor and slung his free arm around Steve’s shoulders, steadying him.

They started walking, and after a few seconds Steve managed to croak out “How?”

Bucky blushed a little at that, ducking his head as he answered “I… know Phillips. Well, my dad does. Served under him when I was real little. Phillips won’t believe a word out of anybody’s mouth, but what he sees with his own eyes he’ll hold to his grave, and he won’t just not do anything, no matter how prickly he may seem. So I warned him before class so he’d be watching real close as you left, and then… I’m sorry I had to wait so long to step in. I had to let him say that shit and get a little rough so Phillips would catch all of it but it ate me up inside to see him hurting you. You sure you don’t need to see the nurse?”  

Steven finally managed to break through his frantic calculations -- it was all a ploy? Set Rumlow up to prove the shit he’d been doing in front of an incontrovertible witness? Brilliant, but a little… well, Steve had started to think maybe Bucky meant it when he called Steve his boyfriend, but it was clearly just to set the scene, give a good, clean explanation for Bucky’s involvement in the mess. That was a little disappointing, but not particularly relevant to the situation at hand. “M’fine, Buck,” he murmured, daring to lean into the other man’s reassuring warmth for a moment when they turned a corner. He was safe now, or safe-ish at least, with Rumlow likely to be suspended for weeks or more and any subsequent reports of harassment much more likely to taken seriously now that Bucky’d arranged for there to be proof. Bucky himself seemed committed to the boyfriend thing in public, and that probably even meant no more blowjobs in the locker room after practice, which would be very nice. At the same time, it also sent a slight chill down Steve’s spine, hidden as they entered the classroom and took their separate seats. Bucky was clearly a hell of a lot smarter than Rumlow. Crossing him would be exponentially more dangerous, if he ended up being worse than Brock somehow. Steve would have to be very cautious and keep him happy. Well. Still, only one of him, and only eight more months.

-----

Steve was nervous. That was… kinda strange for him, really. Before, with the arrangement with Brock, he knew exactly what to expect, so there was no anticipation, no uncertainty. They were both invested in keeping things private, quiet, and limited to a fairly specific range of activities and places. There was nothing to be nervous over, then. But the next school week had started with the widely-discussed hot gossip: Rumlow was suspended through the end of the month, and off the football team entirely. Eventually the word got back to Brock’s favorite goons and Bucky had been forced to intervene in no less than three attempts to grind the ‘backstabbing little faggot,’ as they’d so charmingly put it, into the hall lockers. That, though, that wasn’t what made Steve nervous. Despite the break he’d gotten during his arrangements with Brock and now Bucky, dodging meathead fists was very much the rule, not the exception, of his life. No, what had him nervous was Saturday night.

Bucky had asked him to stay late again Wednesday to work on their art project -- a quasi-abstract mixed media piece that shaded in from precise and blocky charcoal (Steve’s specialty) through angular pastel figures, swooping watercolors, and eventually into uneven but vibrantly dynamic splotches of rich oil paints over textured gesso (Bucky’s specialty, a medium that had always been too expensive for Steve to feel comfortable fooling around in) transitioning and intermixing in a top left-bottom right diagonal. It was definitely coming along nicely, and Steve had been pleasantly surprised both by Bucky’s skill and his enthusiasm for doing his share of the work. When they’d met, Steve had tried to pay up -- at that point, it had only been two near-fights Bucky had run off this week, but between that and dealing with Rumlow it was still more than enough to settle up over -- and Bucky had turned him down, gently pushing away Steve’s questing hands when he made the attempt. That would have been bizarre behavior enough to worry anyone, but Bucky ended the evening asking if Steve would go see a movie with him on Saturday after his game.

It had been an awfully tough call. Steve couldn’t get caught fooling around in public, he just couldn’t. It would shame his poor Ma, and even worse, it would be on his record for every college admissions office to see, plain as day. Best case scenario, he spent the year he’d gained from being put a grade ahead in elementary just cooling his heels, waiting for 18 to hit and his juvie record to seal before applying at different schools. Doing it like that, going onto his knees in the middle of the theater -- it was one hell of a risk. But at the end of the day, he owed Bucky big time, and it was hardly the worst demand the other man could make. At least this way, there couldn’t be any hitting, and the usual degrading dirty talk would have to be avoided so as not to draw attention. He’d nodded his consent and tried not to cringe at Bucky’s grin, wide and delighted, and the accompanying offer to pick him up around seven, which he’d quietly accepted.

So there he was sitting on the steps in front of his building at six forty-five on a Saturday night, wearing one of his nicer shirts and contemplating his incoming misdemeanour public indecency charge. He’d prepped just in case Bucky actually wanted to screw properly, like in the bathrooms or something, although he thought it wasn’t very likely. He felt the fluttering nerves ramp up a little more, and then Bucky was there, pulling up in his mom’s car. Steve tried to smooth his slacks down unobtrusively as he stood and got into the car. Bucky had dressed up too, tight dark jeans that clearly hugged his thighs even in the half-dark of the car at dusk, paired with a neat-fitting moss-green henley. Steve tried very hard not to notice how nice he smelled, and made awkward small talk as Bucky drove them, not north to the glittering megaplex just across the bridge, but rather south towards Cobble Hill. Steve made an enquiring noise, and Bucky offered “Um, I heard about a good second-run theater around here. I missed Ghostbusters, when we were moving, or I think they’ve also got Star Trek, um, I think I heard you and Jim talking about liking Star Trek once, something about Sulu and a … sword? Or, um, we can do something else, if you want.”

Steve blinked in surprise that Bucky had even noticed them talking about ‘60s icons, much less remembered it. That was… really thoughtful, but then again, Bucky and Jim were pretty close, so maybe that explained it. The second-run theatre was a nice touch; if they got caught, at least he wouldn’t be permanently banned from one of the national chains, and it was likely to be darker and more sparsely attended. “Um. I heard Ghostbusters was funny. If you want.” Steve attempted. He’d also heard that one of the two main male characters was huge and blond and gorgeous. Maybe it’d speed things up, if Bucky was looking at someone actually attractive during, well, during. And it was always good to support a movie that actually managed to pass the Bechdel test.

Bucky nodded happily and turned the corner, passing in front of the theater and managing to snag one of the few available nearby street-side spots, which were quickly filling now that the metered period had just passed. As he did, he said “That sounds great. I checked ahead, there’s a 7:30 Star Trek and a 8:05 Ghostbusters. We can get tickets now and wait through the previews, or Buddy’s across the street has really good tacos if you haven’t had dinner yet?”

At the thought of tacos, Steve’s stomach rumbled embarrassingly. He’d not been able to eat from the unfamiliar nervousness before, but now sitting somewhere really public and not alone in a deserted, still-lit theatre just waiting for someone to come in and catch them at it sounded great. His Ma made sure he always had a little cash on him just in case, so he’d be fine as long as the place wasn’t too pricey, which a quick glance at the weathered, homey exterior suggested it wouldn’t be. Bucky cocked his head like he’d heard it and grinned again. “I’ll grab the tickets and we can head over,” he offered, and Steve nodded. Even at a second-run’s discount, movie tickets for a show Steve would only really get to see part of were a bit much,  and anyway it was Bucky’s kink and he could damned well pay for it besides. The internet orders for lube were enough of a dent in Steve’s lunch money as it was.

Steve waited by the car, feeling awkward but unsure what to do beyond linger. Soon enough, Bucky all but bounced back over to him, offering Steve his ticket and heading to the taco-burrito joint across the street. Once they made their way down the line, trays laden, Steve reached for his wallet only to feel Bucky’s hand on his arm. He turned, confused, as Bucky blushed and said, sounding almost nervous, “Let me?” Steve clenched his jaw but nodded, moving out of the way with his dinner, which did look delicious.

After Bucky had settled up and joined him at one of the low tables, he hissed quietly “I don’t need charity or whatever that was. I can buy my own dinner.”

Bucky blinked at him for a moment, confused, before responding “I know that. I just… I’ve never, um. The last place Dad was stationed, it wasn’t a great idea to be taking another guy out, even if there’d been any guys into me. And we kinda kept moving around enough that I never… I mean, the last date I went on with a girl was in Holland and I was fourteen. I haven’t ever actually gone out with a guy and I wanna do it properly, now that I finally got the chance. Not just kissing behind the privates’ barracks and hoping the MPs didn’t catch us out after curfew. I wanna do right by you.”

Steve stared down at his food, mind churning even as he ate, distantly noting that the food really was pretty good. It was one thing to say things like “boyfriend” at school, where it could usefully explain Steve’s presence during payments without costing anything (at least not to someone of Bucky’s status. He could probably decide feather boas were suddenly ‘in’ and half the school would just go with it). But out in public, where strangers might see and didn’t know Bucky as king of the highschool heap, just some guy, and, and spending actual money to treat Steve to dinner… there was no point in the boyfriend subterfuge here. Which meant that… the thought was almost beyond comprehension. Maybe Bucky... meant it?

Steve chewed mechanically, grateful for the conversational pause the food provided, and tried to work through the situation in his head again. If he took the impossible as a starting assumption, that Bucky really did just want to date him, it made some things make more sense. But at the same time, that didn’t gel with wanting risky public sex for a payment, and really, why the hell would a guy who looked like Bucky, who was kind and talented and hard-working, want to date someone like Steve? He didn’t think he was hideous or anything, but out of a pool of several hundred interested candidates, minimum, there was no way he’d win on looks, and it wasn’t like he had status or money to compensate for it. He shook his head fractionally. He didn’t have enough information one way or another to make any sure conclusion, he decided as he scooped up the last of his burrito scraps. He’d just have to wait and see.

Bucky looked up at him, a faint ready? in his expression even as he casually sucked the last of the salsa from his fingers, little flashes of tongue peeking out from his pursed lips. That seemed deeply unfair to Steve. He coughed once, refocusing, and nodded as he said “Yeah, we better head over to the theater so we can get good seats.”

When they did, he expected Bucky to claim the quiet, less dense seating in the back, maybe next to the wheelchair accessible spaces so there wouldn’t be anyone sitting next to them when the time came. Instead, he led them right to the prime seats halfway to the front and in the center, where the most people would be as well as the best view. Maybe he’ll take just a handjob. I can maybe do that without getting caught. Maybe, Steve fretted as they sat. Bucky turned to him and gestured at the armrest between them, asking a quiet “Can I?” and only raising it once Steve had nodded his agreement. It seemed they’d picked just the right evening, though, for even as the lights dimmed a moment later Steve noticed that the rest of the theater was largely empty, all the other patrons several rows away at least. The movie started, and at the tour guide’s first jump scare he nearly jumped himself when he felt Bucky’s arm wrap gently around his narrow shoulders, tugging Steve in a bit closer without the armrest between them. It felt really, really nice. Bucky was warm, and he smelled even nicer than he had when they were just next to each other in the car. Steve kept catching himself relaxing into it, enjoying the movie and Bucky’s warmth for a moment before stiffening, remembering what he was supposed to do later. As the hot-as-promised assistant made his first appearance, Steve started to wonder if maybe he was supposed to initiate it, and found he just… couldn’t. It was stupid and weak, but he really liked cuddling in close and sharing a funny movie with Bucky. He didn’t want it to just be business, which was a dangerous, dangerous kind of thought to be having. The movie continued, and Bucky kept right on sitting there, warm and solid, his laugh soft and a little husky as it brushed against Steve’s ear, making his spine tingle. The shove to his shoulder never came, the significant look, the slide of fingers up his thigh, none of it. By the time the gang was back together and ready for the final showdown, Steve’s head was sort of leaning against Bucky’s surprisingly comfortable shoulder as Steve laughed along and idly wondered what Bucky’s secret was for smelling that good. It seemed like all the ‘player’ types in their year thought half a cup of Axe was a satisfactory replacement for regular hygiene, but Bucky just smelled healthy, and fresh, and masculine.

When the movie ended, Steve almost didn’t want to get up, to break the safe little bubble he’d settled into, but the lights came up and with them Bucky’s suggestion that “I should probably get you back before your mom worries. Don’t want you to get in trouble for coming in too late.”

Steve shook off his almost-drowsy haze, rising and following Bucky out, back to the car. He wondered what the bit about Ma was. It was, okay, sweet and completely in character for Bucky to do the “date” thing and keep an eye on Steve’s theoretical curfew, but Ma had given him carte blanche to come and go largely as he pleased once he entered high school and she had to take doubles more regularly and still saw nothing happened. Maybe -- oh, right. Payment. Steve still owed him; Bucky was being subtle. “I don’t have a curfew or anything. And anyway, Ma took her extra shift tonight, so, uh. She’ll maybe get home around one. You can --” he hesitated a second, but damn it, Bucky’d let him off from doing the risky theater sex, he could break one of his rules when he knew Ma wouldn’t come home early. It would be fine, and anyway he knew how to get blood out of the sheets by now even if things did go bad -- “can come up with me. For, you know. We’ll have time.”

Steve watched as Bucky’s eyes darkened, pupils growing slightly, even as he smiled and shook his head. “I’d love to, but my mom goes into the office to do, I dunno, ‘something something hardware patches’ on Sundays and Dad’s on base for a thing, so I gotta take Becca to gymnastics practice real early. I don’t drive her when I’m tired, not ever. Sorry.”

Trying to hide his relief at not having to associate memories of … business with his Ma’s apartment, Steve latched onto the conversational anomaly. “Becca?” he prompted as Bucky pulled out onto the quiet street, working his way back north.

“My sister. She’s gonna be thirteen soon, which is kind of baffling. She’s great at gymnastics, too, really loves it,” Bucky answered, fondness clear in his voice. Steve wasn’t really sure where to take things from there, so he let the silence in the car grow longer, wondering almost idly if Bucky would want a quickie in the car on the drive home, but somehow not quite buying it. When they reached Steve’s building with not so much as a double-entendre to give him the push, he was surprised by how surprised he wasn’t that Bucky just stopped at the curb, slid into Park, and turned to say “So, um. I know this is super cheesy and all, but I never pretended to be smooth, so, uh. I had a really nice night?”

Steve looked down at his lap, flushing a little, because sure, it was cheesy, but it was date cheesy. He glanced up at Bucky through his eyelashes, biting his lip without really thinking about it before saying “Um, me. Me too. I had a good night too.” Okay, moment of truth. Either Bucky would laugh at him for falling for the trick, or… “Would you, um, would you maybe want to go on another date with me sometime?” 

Bucky’s smile only brightened, dazzling even in the dark of the car, and Steve felt his breath catch for a second in ways that had nothing to do with his shoddy lungs. “I’d love that,” the other boy said before tilting Steve’s chin with a gentle finger and leaning in for a soft, strangely chaste kiss. “I better let you get to bed. See you Monday?”

Steve nodded eagerly and then fumbled his way out of the car, waving awkwardly as Bucky pulled carefully out into the thin stream of traffic. He climbed the stairs and thought back over the evening, the meal, the movie, the… the kiss. As impossible as it was to try to imagine… it looked like he’d just been on his very first date. This arrangement wasn’t turning out to be anything like he’d expected.