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Little Did They Sleep - Part III

Title: Little Did They Sleep
Fandom: Captain America/Avengers
Series: To Rewrite History
Pairings: Past Steve/Peggy, Peggy/Daniel Sousa, Steve/Bucky
Ratings/Warnings: NC-17.  This is the one with the sex.
Word Count: 9295 (21002 total)
Disclaimer: If I owned it, there would be a happy ending.
Summary: Things get better after that.

Part I: Peggy
Part II: Captain America


Things got better after that. Not at once and not completely; Steve still had trouble sleeping and leaving their apartment made him nervous the next few dozen times he tried. There were still days that the blond couldn’t seem to make it out of bed and he wondered why he bothered waking up at all. But his promise to Bucky gave him the motivation to keep going anyway. If he backed out then so would Bucky and he refused to let his best friend waste his future because of his own damn cowardice.

Steve could finally see a light at the end of this dark tunnel and when Bucky dragged him to the Pratt Institute to enroll in classes, he actually began to feel excited like he hadn't since he woke. Of course, even if the Pratt Institute had bored him to tears, Steve would have signed up anyway. Chasing his own happiness had never been good motivation, but making Bucky happy was enough for him to try.

Because the brunet kept his promise. He called up Howard Stark after just a bit more nudging and when the scientist offered him a job, he accepted on the spot. Apparently Howard needed someone sturdy to test his prototypes and Bucky was more than willing to be his guinea pig.

Steve worried something fierce when his friend explained that offer, but he decided the fretting was well worth it after Bucky came back beaming ear to ear. The other man started leaving for work eagerly each morning and when he got home, he’d tell Steve about the crazy things that Stark was working on.

“We still don't have a flying car yet, but the jet boots are kick ass.”

Some nights, Bucky could talk for hours and on others he’d start to nod off at the dinner table since Howard still kept hours that made normal people weep. But even when his friend was utterly exhausted and complaining loudly about the scientist's inability to speak normal fucking English, Steve could tell there was respect beneath the bickering. Honestly, Howard and Bucky had argued just as much back in the SSR and the blond was overjoyed to see his best friend’s eyes shine so bright again.

Sure Steve missed the other man a little – Stark didn’t know how lucky he was to spend his days with Bucky. But the docks had worked him just as hard during the busy season and once his classes started, Steve didn't have much time to spare.

Suddenly his days were full of lessons and his nights filled with assignments, mostly art but also a few essays now and then. The blond was out of practice and his classes discussed techniques that he'd never tried before. Some of them he'd never even heard of but Steve wasn’t one to back down from a challenge and he was determined to learn as much as possible. The Pratt Institute wasn't cheap even with his savings and he intended to get his money's worth.

There was one trick to portrait shading that gave Steve heaps of trouble and he forced his friend to sit for him until he got it right. Seventeen drawings later, Bucky was out of patience but he finally had the knack of it and the top score in his class. Steve didn’t mind the effort; the more his teachers challenged him, the more he felt like he was living instead of getting by.

The blond hadn’t lost his nightmares but the ennui was fading and the sleepless nights that still plagued both him and Bucky were now filled with sketches and schematics instead of alcohol.

---

Two months in, Steve felt enough like a real person to call up the Commandos; he wanted to see his friends again. It took some effort to coordinate their schedules since most of them were still in Europe and finagling a few days off for Bucky was a mission in itself. Steve had to threaten Howard for the first one and he got the second by inviting the other man to come along.

He and Bucky arranged to meet the Howlies at their favorite local diner and the excitement Steve felt over their reunion was well worth the time and money spent.

“Hey, Cap! Sarge! Over here!”

Steve looked up at the shout and he grinned wide when he saw Morita walking toward him rapidly.

“Jim! It's good to see you,” Steve said, pulling the other man into a hug. “But you know I'm not your captain anymore.”

“Whatever you say, Cap,” Morita told him with a laugh as he and Bucky slapped each other on the back. Indeed, Jones, Dernier, and Falsworth greeted Steve and Bucky exactly the same way and after the fifth, “Aye, aye captain,” the blond gave up protesting the title anymore.

Once everyone had arrived, the six of them moved into the diner, talking and laughing over top each other until Steve could barely tell who was speaking anymore. The Commandos didn't settle down until they'd gotten their meals and claimed a corner table, six men squeezed together in a booth built for four.

“How have you been? You're looking better,” Falsworth asked during the first lull in conversation. “Are you doing something new these days?”

“Yeah, both of you looked like corpses when we first pulled you out,” Jones agreed. “I should have stayed here longer, helped you settle into being plain civilians.”

“No, Gabe, you shouldn't have,” Bucky disagreed. “You all have lives of your own and we needed some time to get our heads together. We weren't very fun two months ago.”

“We spent years slogging through half of Europe with you; if we could eat your cooking, I think we could have managed to deal with your bad moods,” Morita snorted. “I still don't know how you managed to char toast.”

“Hey, I had good reason,” Bucky retorted. “I wouldn't have been distracted if someone hadn't forgotten to dry our packs out properly. And I wouldn't be so sure about surviving; you've never seen Stevie here in a proper snit.”

“Buck is right. Neither of us would have been great company,” Steve said, the familiar banter making him smile easily. “But it's really good to see you and things are going better now. I’ve actually gone back to school.”

“I finally convinced this lug to train as a real artist,” Bucky added, clapping the blond on the shoulder. “People will pay a fortune for his stuff one day, just wait and see."

“Makes sense to me,” Jones told him. “Cap always did draw the nicest maps. Not like Jacques and his awful chicken scratch.”

“My maps are good,” Denier retorted, his English having grown much better through the years.

“Yeah, maybe for a bomb drop. The rest of us prefer a bit more detail when we’re laying out our traps,” Morita said. “But what about you, Sarge? Have you gone and become a scholar too?”

“Are you kidding? Could you see me in a classroom?” Bucky snorted. “I'd go crazy in a week.”

“He's working for Stark,” Steve told the Howlies proudly. “Buck tests out his new inventions to make sure they can handle the stress of battle without breaking. You know the way most soldiers treat their gear.”

“That sounds interesting. And dangerous. Is it dangerous?”

“Only sometimes; I did have one gun explode on me a few weeks back. Made a huge dent in the floor.”

“I need details. Many details,” Dernier said fervently and the ensuing discussion of explosives lasted until their plates were clean. The Commandos paid their bill and then wandered from the restaurant, strolling through the streets until they saw an empty bar.

Steve bought the first round of shots with one extra glass for Dugan, the Howlies toasting their fallen comrade before slamming their shots down. Bucky bought the next round and Morita the one after, the conversation growing louder as drinks flowed freely back and forth. A dozen glasses later, the whole group somehow made it to Stark's mansion and even though Steve was still sober, he really wasn't sure how that went down.

They weren't actually supposed to meet Howard until tomorrow, but the scientist welcomed his trespassers with wide open arms. He gave them his standard dose of sarcasm and access to a fully-stocked liquor cabinet, the shelves holding enough expensive alcohol to pay Steve’s rent for a month.

Lesser men could have drowned in such largess and the Commandos gave it their best try. They told stories of the war, of their lives and of their families, Steve and Bucky making sure that their friends were comfortable as they passed out one by one.

“Well, I guess it's down to us then,” the brunet said after tucking a blanket over Stark's snoring form. “Should we just go to bed?”

“Nah, let's stay a little longer,” Steve replied, flopping down on the sitting room’s ridiculously soft couch. “I know I see you near every day, but it feels like it's been forever since we had a chance to talk.”

“If I'd known that you were missing my scintillating conversation, I would have made more of an effort,” the other man said with a grin, perching on the arm of the couch. “And you know you can tell me to drag my head from my schematics any time. Sometimes I think I'm turning into Stark.”

“You like your work, Buck. That's not a bad thing.”

“As long as I still manage to have an actual life. You think I should try harder to go out?” Bucky mused. “What do you say, Stevie? You wanna go dancing?”

“You serious? Haven’t I ruined enough of your double dates by now?” the blond asked, ducking his head to hide his blush. He wasn't sure why he was embarrassed; maybe he simply wasn't used to seeing that particular smile anymore – soft and fond with just a hint of wickedness.

“Nah, you were usually good company even when you were being a sarcastic punk. Not your fault most dames couldn't see what they were missing,” his friend told him. “Of course, these days I'd be lucky to get a second glance. The dames are gonna swarm you as soon as you walk in the door.”

“You make it sound so inviting,” Steve retorted. “I think I'll pass for now.”

“Whatever you want, Stevie. You know the offer's always open,” Bucky said with an easy shrug before his expression turned more serious. “As long as we're talking, there is something I've always wondered. Why didn't you ever ask about the draft?”

“Why would I, Buck? What brought this on?”

“Seeing this lot made me think about the war,” the other man said, waving his hand vaguely at their sleeping friends. “And I know you heard my serial number when you found me at Azzano – I repeated it enough on that damn table and you're not an idiot. Starting with a three means that I was drafted, so why'd you never ask? Why did you let me keep pretending that I actually volunteered?”

“Honestly, Bucky, it didn't seem important,” Steve replied. “You were fighting either way and I'd had my suspicions from the start.”

“Really?”

“Well, yeah. It's not like you'd ever talked about enlisting. Suddenly joining up one day was out of character.”

“I suppose it was. Who knew I'd be so damn good at killing people?”

Protecting people, Buck, and you were always good at that,” Steve told him fiercely. “Drafted or not, I just wanted to support you. Why'd you think I was so desperate to get into the army? I wasn't only there to fight the Krauts.”

“I never told you this, but I was glad that you kept failing,” the brunet admitted quietly. “I didn't doubt your courage but I wanted you kept safe. The thought of you still back in Brooklyn was comforting when I was on the front and I always had a feeling that I wouldn't make it home. Of course, if you'd listened to me instead of getting yourself all scienced up, I really would have died – or something worse – so I guess I should be glad that you're a stubborn idiot.”

“It was worth it,” Steve replied, needing Bucky to know that he was better than he thought. His friend always said that Steve was the good one but the blond knew that wasn't true. Captain America hadn't been anything without Bucky at his side. “Give me the chance and I'd make all the same choices. You're my best friend, Buck, and I don't want to know what I'd do without you; I don't want to find out.”

“Same here, Stevie,” the other man said with another of those smiles that made Steve flush red-hot. “But we really should be turning in now before we get too maudlin. We don't need to be weeping into each other's arms.”

“Because we've never done that,” the blond snorted but Bucky had a point. Not about the crying – his friend had seen him bawling more than once – but about the sleeping. Steve's sleep schedule still wasn't regular enough that he could afford to blow it off. So the two men wandered off to find spare beds – Howard had about a dozen – and he even managed to sleep through the night for once.

In the morning, Steve and Bucky woke up early and went out for a run, arriving back at the mansion with plenty of time to shower and dress before their friends woke up. The brunet teased the other Howlies mercilessly as they groaned and staggered upright, reveling in his new immunity to hangovers while Steve went to the kitchen to whip up his old cure.

It was his mother's recipe, the one he used to give to Bucky after long nights on the town. Steve hadn't had the opportunity to mix this drink in ages but it came back to him quickly after he began. The unfamiliar kitchen gave Steve a bit of trouble at first – who needed fifteen kinds of silverware? But Stark's butler showed up in the doorway part way through his rummaging and the concoction went much smoother with his help.

The other man kept handing Steve incredibly expensive versions of the stuff that he was used to and he tried not to think about the fact that they'd be drinking three weeks’ pay. At least the Howlies appreciated the blond's efforts, gulping it down with loud sighs of relief.

“Hey, Cap, you don't need to go to art school. I'll offer you my backing and we can make a fortune selling this,” Stark said once he'd drained his glass completely. “Seriously, Jarvis, tell me you got his recipe.”

“Of course, sir.”

“Good. Good. Give yourself a bonus on next payroll, a big one,” Howard told him. “And we'll want the Rolls Royce after breakfast. Make sure it's all gassed up.”

Jarvis nodded one more time before he exited, disappearing from the room as silently as he'd entered earlier.

“That man would make a damn good spy.”

“Don't even think about it. He's a damn good butler and I'd probably starve without him,” Stark retorted. “Speaking of which, what do you bastards want to eat?”

After the mansion's cook whipped up enough food to feed an army – and then a second course – the seven men finally got moving. Apparently Howard had decided late last night that the Commandos needed to be shown all the sights of the Big Apple and while Steve still felt uncomfortable being chauffeured around the city, he didn't argue very hard. Not when Bucky had always wanted to get up close and personal with Lady Liberty. The blond couldn't let him miss his chance, not when it had been his health that always ate up Bucky's money and kept him from his plans.

So the group climbed up the Statue of Liberty and marveled at the view, Howard's money getting them a completely private tour. Steve's fingers itched for a sketchbook as he took in the New York skyline, though he also had to stop himself from tugging Bucky from the edge.

The blond didn't know how his friend could lean over the railing without having flashbacks of their plummet from the train. Even standing two feet back, Steve couldn't stop the nervous flutter in his gut and despite the gorgeous view, he was relieved when they reached solid ground again.

Then it was Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge and a quick swing by the Flatiron Building before the group hit Coney Island, Steve and Bucky stuffing themselves on hot dogs like they'd done when they were kids. However, the blond had learned his lesson about getting on any rides afterward. He stood on the sidelines while Bucky dragged Stark and Jones onto the Cyclone, the rest of the Commandos watching from the ground as the dang thing started up.

Howard gave up after the first go round but Gabe and Bucky kept on going until neither man could walk straight and they were looking rather green. Not that this stopped his friend from stealing Steve's last piece of candy floss and cackling like mad when he tried to steal it back. The two of them started scuffling right there on the Boardwalk while the other Howlies laughed.

“Reminds me of the way they used to fight over the last tin of beans,” Steve heard Morita mutter as Bucky grabbed him in a headlock and he was just getting in a few good strikes of his own when Howard bought them all new bags and ruined everything.

But the blond decided that Stark could be forgiven as he watched Bucky suck sugar off his fingers; the other man had always had a sweet tooth and the war had made him even more appreciative of such small luxuries.

I should've brought a hat, Steve thought when he started to feel a little overheated. He might not get sunburned like he used to – one more thing fixed up by Erskine's serum – but he knew the signs of heatstroke rather well. What else could make him feel like he was burning, bits of sugar sticky on his tongue?

“You all right there?” Falsworth asked, nudging the blond's arm.

“Huh? Oh, yeah, I'm fine. I was just thinking that it's been a while since I've gotten this much sun. I should enjoy it while I can.”

“I know what you mean,” the other man said with a chuckle. “England isn't exactly known for its good weather and work keeps me in the office from dawn to dusk more often than I'd like. The wife wants me to take a transfer and I'm starting to wonder if she's right.”

“I'm hardly an expert if you're asking for advice,” Steve told him. “But I'd love to meet your family if you can bring them out next time.”

“Maybe if someone else will foot the bill again. Traveling across the ocean really isn't cheap,” Falsworth told him. “Now come on, no more brooding. I know it's not your strong suit, but we're here to have some fun.”

The Brit had a good point so Steve pulled his thoughts back to the present, to the sun and the laughter and the spark in Bucky's eyes.

---

Steve held his memories of Coney Island close as autumn turned to winter and snow filled New York's streets. Although he didn't have to worry about freezing like he used to, the cold brought his nightmares back in force.

The blond dreamed of losing Bucky, of the other man slipping through his fingers as he watched paralyzed. He couldn't move, couldn't stop his friend from falling to his doom. Steve couldn't even jump after the other man as he had in real life, wrapping himself around Bucky and deflecting the worst of the impact with his shield.

Night after night he watched the brunet shatter on the rocks and woke up crying, a scream still on his lips. Night after night Steve reached for Bucky and missed him every time.

He poured his fear into his artwork, his teachers remarking on the starkness even as they complimented his bold lines. They didn't know Steve's style the way that Bucky used to; they didn't know enough to worry at the change.

Steve could tell that Bucky worried even though the other man didn’t ask him any questions. The brunet just roped Jarvis into making Stark keep better hours so that he and Steve always had time for a real dinner before they went to bed. He didn't pry, just kept Steve company, talking if he wanted to and staying silent otherwise.

There was still a separation, the weight of things unspoken, but the gap didn't seem as daunting anymore. Slowly but surely, the two of them were moving forward and Steve had faith that they would find their balance once again. Life would be almost normal if the blond could only sleep.

“Hey! Wake up, Steve! Wake up!”

He snapped to consciousness, nearly braining Bucky as he shot upright. His friend was leaning over him and Steve grabbed onto his arms tightly, panting heavily as he tried to calm his racing heart. His feet were freezing, which might explain the strange turn that his dreams had taken, ice creeping up his body as Bucky bled out at his side. But the other man was warm beneath his hands, his voice a low rumble that chased the ghosts away.

“Sorry, Buck. Did I wake you?” Steve asked quietly.

“Nah. I was just getting some water when I heard you shout my name,” the brunet said with a half shrug. “I know that we don't talk about this and I didn't mean to overstep but it seemed cruel just to ignore you like I always have before.”

“I- thank you,” Steve told him, unable to stop a shiver from running through him now. “That was... that was a bad one.”

“Yeah, Stevie. Sounded like it,” Bucky replied, patting his shoulder and then sliding to his feet. “I should go back to my room but I hope you sleep better now.”

He took a few steps toward the door, barely away from the bed before a sudden flash of panic had Steve reaching out again.

“Wait!”

“Stevie?”

“Could you please just stay?” the blond asked weakly. He could feel his whole face flushing but he didn't take the words back. Steve might be embarrassed but he didn't want to be alone.

“Are you sure?” Bucky replied hesitantly. “It won't be an easy fit.”

“I know but... maybe it will help,” Steve said. He hated to show weakness but he couldn't do this anymore. “I keep dreaming that I've lost you and if I wake you'll be right there.”

“All right, Steve. I got you,” his friend told him almost instantly. Bucky had always offered Steve anything he needed and the blond didn't know why he'd been so worried that the pattern would change now. “Budge up a little, will ya? I want some pillow too.”

He rolled onto his side and scooted toward the wall, trying to give Bucky as much room as he could. Steve's bed really wasn't built for two and the other man let out a grumble as he tried to get comfortable. But eventually he settled down with his back pressed tight to Steve’s like they'd often slept out in the field. Steve could feel his best friend breathing – could feel his warmth like a bonfire – and the sensation quickly drew him back down into sleep again.

Bucky was gone when Steve woke up and the blond couldn't find the strength to talk about it. His fears seemed so damn stupid in the light of day and he was actually grateful that Bucky never brought the topic up. But the next time Steve had a nightmare, the other man just grabbed his pillow and slipped into the bed without a word. This soon became a habit and with his best friend there beside him, the blond's nightmares finally eased.

---

Steve hadn't slept alone in almost three weeks when he finally mustered up the courage to ring Peggy. He’d meant to call her for a while, to make sure she knew that he was truly happy for her and to see if maybe they could still be friends. Peggy had been one of the first people to believe in him – after Bucky and his mother – and he hoped that she’d forgive him for failing to take the news of her marriage gracefully.

However, Steve still found himself a little blindsided when Peggy promptly invited him to dinner at her house that coming Friday. “You can bring Barnes too if he doesn't have a previous engagement. It would be good to see you both.”

The blond could hardly refuse the invitation and by the time he hung up the phone again, he'd somehow promised her dinner, Bucky, and a bottle of expensive wine as well. Which is how Steve found himself standing outside of a small brownstone four days later, holding a wine bottle and wondering if he should have worn a nicer tie.

“Will you quit fidgeting? You're worse than my little sister was when she went on her first date.”

Steve turned to glare at Bucky, the other man looking far too relaxed where he stood a few steps down. However, before the blond could snark back something suitable, he heard the front door open and quickly spun around.

“Peggy, it's good to see you,” he murmured quietly, the breath punched from his lungs. She was still the most beautiful woman that he had ever seen and Steve took one long look before reminding himself firmly that he no longer had the right. But he was still gaping like an idiot when Bucky stepped up to his shoulder, doffing his hat and greeting Peggy cheerfully.

“Hello, Mrs. Sousa. It’s very good to see you,” the other man said before plucking the wine from the blond’s hands. “This is for you.”

“Oh, thank you. I told Steve that you didn't need to bring anything, but he was quite insistent,” Peggy said and Bucky smiled impishly.

“Don't be silly, of course we had to bring something. Only the best for our best lady,” the brunet told her with a bow. “Besides, I nicked that bottle from Howard Stark and I doubt he'll even notice. The man has wine to spare.”

“You really are a wicked one, aren’t you, Sergeant Barnes?” she replied. But her expression was amused rather than offended and just like that, Steve felt himself relaxing. He probably wouldn't ever get over Peggy Carter, but he didn't have to now; tonight they were just three old friends catching up again.

“Please do come in,” she told them. “I try not to scandalize the neighbors anymore than necessary.”

“Pity that,” Bucky murmured, but he followed them inside.

“Daniel is waiting in the dining room if you'll just walk through,” Peggy said as she closed the door behind them. This odd request made sense when Steve and Bucky entered the room and Peggy's husband pushed himself to his feet, most of his weight supported on the cane in his right hand. His leg clearly gave him trouble but he seemed to be in good health otherwise, his smile bright and his eyes warm as he held out his free hand.

“Captain Rogers, Sergeant Barnes, it's good to finally meet you more officially,” the man said. “I'm Daniel Sousa, Peggy's husband.”

“Steve Rogers, but you already knew that,” the blond answered. “Please call me Steve; we're all friends here.”

Daniel's grip was firm, his gaze steady, and Steve's first impression gave him nothing to dislike, nothing but a weak twinge of fading jealousy.

“I'm not a sergeant anymore,” Bucky said as he shook Daniel's hand as well. “Just call me Bucky – or James if you must. Your wife there has always refused to use my nickname.”

“Bucky is no name for a grown man,” Peggy replied.

“Maybe, but Buchanan ain't no name to give a kid so you can blame my folks for that one,” the brunet snorted in response. Then he turned back to Daniel and asked, “I'm sorry, but do we know you? You seem familiar.”

“Not by name,” the other man replied. “But I was a few cells down at Azzano. You both saved my life.”

“I didn't do anything special,” Bucky protested even as Steve said, “I couldn't have done it without Peggy. She deserves the accolades.”

“Really? Is that true?” Daniel asked his wife. “You should have mentioned it before.”

“Of course not, he exaggerates. All I did was find a plane,” Peggy told him with a smile. “Now, please, no war stories over supper. You might lose your appetites.”

“As you wish. The lady’s choice, of course,” Bucky agreed. “Although, I'm sure that I have a couple war stories that wouldn't distress anyone. Like the tale of our captain's first encounter with French cooking. Those poor snails would never be the same.”

“Seriously, Bucky?” the blond groaned.

“Everyone likes that story, Stevie,” the other man retorted.

“How about it, Pegs? Just a little shop talk?” Daniel pleaded with a crooked grin.

“All right,” she conceded. “I must admit, I haven't heard this one.”

“Because I made him promise not to tell you,” Steve admitted and he knew when he was beat. “Shall we open up the wine?”

Several glasses, one fine dinner, and too many embarrassing stories later, Steve was having a grand time. Once Bucky finished embarrassing the blond, he and Peggy had both gotten a few digs of their own in – the brunet accepting the ribbing gracefully – while Daniel countered with a few of his less successful missions from his early days at S.H.I.E.L.D.

“I got a lot of coffee,” he admitted with a self-deprecating sigh.

“They didn't know what they were missing,” Peggy said, reaching out to take his hand. “But you proved them wrong.”

“We both did,” Daniel told her with an adoring smile and watching them, Steve couldn't help a stab of wistfulness. Not jealousy exactly; he liked Daniel too much to wish them separated. The other man was smart, funny, and clearly thought the world of Peggy. But Steve still wanted the sort of love he saw between them and he told Bucky as much after they’d made their excuses, saying goodnight and promising that they'd do this again sometime.

“I really thought she was the one, Bucky. And now...” he shrugged. “I hope I haven't missed my only chance.”

“Does this mean you're finally ready to take out other women? There are some nice girls at the lab.”

“I don't know, pal,” Steve told him. “I think I'd rather let things happen naturally.”

“Your loss.”

“And hey, you're hardly one to talk. It's not like you go paint the town these days; are you gonna settle down?”

“I don't know, maybe,” Bucky said with a shrug. “The way Stark has me working I'm not sure I have the time to take a dame out properly. Besides, who knows if either of us will be lucky enough to find another girl like Peggy Carter? That woman is one in a million.”

“True enough,” Steve told him, ducking his head a little when Bucky grinned and threw an arm around his shoulders.

“Don't worry, pal. Until then, we can keep each other company.”

---

“Did you hear about Stark Laboratories? Michael said the Russians blew it up.”

The girl wasn't talking to Steve but the words still stopped him in his tracks, several of his classmates cursing when they ran into his back.

He rushed across the hall to the student who had spoken and demanded frantically, “Who blew up? What happened?”

“Excuse me? Who are you?” the girl's friend replied, glaring up at Steve. “It's not polite to eavesdrop.”

“Please, I’m sorry. I've been in class all morning and if something happened to Howard Stark then I really need to know,” he told her. “It’s important.”

“Look, I don't know much,” the first girl told him, taking pity on his fear. “There was an explosion at Stark's lab this morning; it was mentioned on the radio. My friend Michael said that it must be the Russians but I don’t-“

“Thanks,” Steve interrupted, missing the rest of her explanation as he dashed off down the hall. He ran full out to the nearest subway station, a chorus of Bucky, Bucky, Bucky, running through his mind.

By the time he reached Howard's facility, Steve was half-convinced that his friend had probably died and the cordon of fire trucks around the building didn't help to calm him down. He shoved his way through the crowd, ignoring the firemen who tried to move him back.

“It's all right. Let him through.”

“Howard! Where's Bucky? Is he okay? What's going on?”

The scientist looked tired, dust covering his face and a bandage wrapped around his head.

“I really hate explosions. But your boy there saved my life. He's over in that med tent,” Howard said, jerking his head toward a temporary structure that had been put up nearby. “Barnes wouldn't sit down until he was sure that we’d been rescued and then he went and kicked the doctors out. But I promise you, he's fine.”

Steve was already moving before the other man had finished. He burst into the tent with Bucky's name there on his tongue and he almost collapsed with relief when the other man looked up. His friend had removed his shirt and was wiping bits of rubble off his skin, cuts and bruises fading quickly right before Steve's eyes.

“Damn, you heard the news then,” Bucky muttered, putting aside his towel. “I was hoping that you wouldn't have a chance to worry. It really wasn't bad.”

“Explosion!” Steve replied, gesturing wildly toward the ruin of Stark's lab. That was hardly a full sentence but the other man understood what he meant anyway.

“It was just a disgruntled ex-employee with a bomb,” the brunet told him. “I subdued him without much trouble but he had a Dead-Man-Switch and I didn't grab it fast enough. Seriously, Stevie, there's no permanent damage. It looks worse than it is.”

“I could have lost you,” the blond said, the reality of that statement crashing over him. Bucky could have died and Steve would have been oblivious, sitting through his classes without a single clue.

“You could've...”

Words failed him then so he just leaned forward, taking the brunet’s face between his hands and kissing him with everything he had. Bucky’s lips were slack and warm beneath his, sweet and oh so tempting, but Steve didn't realize what he'd done until he pulled away and saw his best friend gaping up at him.

“Shit! I'm sorry. I didn't mean to... Oh my god,” Steve stammered, backing away slowly.

“Hey, wait,” the other man said, shaking himself from his stupor and grabbing the blond's hand. “Come back here a second.”

Bucky reeled Steve in and kissed him. He was careful but not hesitant as he slid their lips together, his stubble rough against Steve's skin. The blond was afraid to touch the other man, afraid to blink and realize he was dreaming, but he couldn't hold back a low moan when Bucky sucked on his lower lip.

Huh. That's... interesting,” the brunet said when he drew back again. “I think we need to talk.”

Steve blinked once dazedly and then returned to panicking. He didn't know what was going on – wasn't even sure why he'd kissed Bucky in the first place – and he was terrified that he'd ruined everything.

The blond was only vaguely aware that he was hyperventilating, choking on air like his asthma had returned, and he flinched when Bucky grabbed his shoulders.

“Steve. Hey, Stevie, it's okay. You gotta breathe for me.”

“I- I can’t-”

“In and out, pal. You can do it,” Bucky said. He talked Steve through the process until the panic started fading and he could finally breathe again. “Relax, punk. I'm not gonna throw you to the wolves. You're my best friend and you'd have to do a whole lot worse than that to make me give up on you. We'll figure this out, okay?”

“Okay,” Steve agreed a little shakily.

“Good. Now let's get out of here.”

Steve trailed after Bucky as he stood up and left the med tent, his cheeks flushing scarlet when he realized that he was watching his friend’s ass. Although the blond had always known that Bucky was attractive, he'd never thought about it consciously. But the sway of the brunet’s hips felt so damn familiar, like he'd memorized the motion a thousand times before.

“Hey, Howard,” Bucky said as they approached the scientist, Steve trying to look attentive instead of awkward as all Hell. “I need to take this guy home before he frets himself to death. You all right to finish here?”

“Yeah, go on. I've got this covered,” the other man told him. “Actually, you might as well just take the weekend. You've earned it and I need to see what can be salvaged before we start work again.”

“Then I'll see you Monday. Thanks, boss,” Bucky replied before tapping Steve on the arm. “Come on, punk. Let's go.”

Neither man broke the silence on the way back to their apartment. Bucky seemed deep in thought and Steve was busy tallying the number of times he glanced at the other man habitually. He gave up around one hundred and since at least half those looks were aimed at his friend’s mouth, his sudden desire to kiss Bucky was clearly not as sudden as he’d thought. Indeed, it took an effort of will not to watch the brunet’s ass as he followed him up the stairs to their apartment. Instead he found himself staring at the broad sweep of his friend’s shoulders and wondering how they'd feel beneath his hands.

“Home sweet home,” Bucky murmured, shutting the door behind them. The other man ran his left hand through his hair, a nervous tic that he'd never gotten rid of, and then turned back to Steve. He sat the blond down on the couch before grabbing a chair out of the kitchen and sitting down across from him.

Bucky straddled the seat, resting his arms on the back of the chair and asking, “So, Stevie, you wanna tell me why you kissed me?”

He didn't sound angry or disgusted, just honestly curious, but the blond couldn't find the words to answer. He didn't know how to describe the mess of want and love and worry that was knotted in his chest so he just shrugged helplessly.

“All right,” Bucky sighed, tugging at his hair again. “Different question. Are you queer now?”

“I don't think so,” Steve said, managing to spit the words out somehow and trying to be as honest as he could. “I mean, I still think women are attractive and I really did like kissing Peggy. I would have married her happily. I just also...”

“Want to kiss me too,” the brunet finished for him. Bucky paused for a second, looking pensive, and then asked, “Are you in love with me?”

Steve's first instinct was to deny it; that was ridiculous. But then he really thought about it, about the way he'd spent his whole life chasing after Bucky and how he'd felt watching the other man go off to war without him. He thought about the panic he'd felt on learning that Bucky had been captured, the way he'd always wanted to protect the brunet and try to make him smile, and how he slept much better with his best friend at his side.

Steve wanted to kiss him; he wanted to wrap himself around the brunet and hold him tenderly and he didn't know how he'd never realized that till now. He wanted them to live out their years together and suddenly love didn't seem like such a bad word for his feelings after all.

“I really think I am, Buck. You've always been the most important person in my life and if you gave me the choice, I'd jump off that train again, every single time,” Steve said, meaning every single word. “But I don't expect you to feel the same. I know you'd die for me and that's plenty. You're still my best friend first and I'm sorry; I never meant to make things weird.”

“Will you stop apologizing?” Bucky asked, sounding a bit exasperated. “I admit I've never really considered the idea, but you've been the center of my world for years, Stevie, and kissing you wasn't all that bad. Even before the serum, you were an attractive guy.”

That wasn't the response that Steve had been expecting and he was still reeling when Bucky squared his shoulders and nodded decisively. “All right, then. We'll just have to try it.”

“Try what?”

“Sleeping together, of course,” his friend replied and the blond honestly wasn't sure if he had heard him right. Somehow this conversation had gone completely off the rails.

[Error: Irreparable invalid markup ('<i.>') in entry. Owner must fix manually. Raw contents below.]

<b>Title:</b> Little Did They Sleep
<b>Fandom</b><b>:</b> Captain America/Avengers
<b>Series: </b><a href="http://rata-toskr.livejournal.com/tag/rewriting%20history*" target="_blank">To Rewrite History</a>
<b>Pairings:</b> Past Steve/Peggy, Peggy/Daniel Sousa, Steve/Bucky
<b>Ratings/Warnings: </b>NC-17.&nbsp; This is the one with the sex.
<b>Word Count: </b>9295 (21002 total)
<b>Disclaimer:</b> If I owned it, there would be a happy ending.
<b>Summary:</b> Things get better after that.

<a href="https://rata-toskr.livejournal.com/80701.html" target="_blank">Part I: Peggy</a>
<a href="https://rata-toskr.livejournal.com/80955.html" target="_blank">Part II: Captain America</a>

<lj-cut text="Part III: Steve">
Things got better after that. Not at once and not completely; Steve still had trouble sleeping and leaving their apartment made him nervous the next few dozen times he tried. There were still days that the blond couldn&rsquo;t seem to make it out of bed and he wondered why he bothered waking up at all. But his promise to Bucky gave him the motivation to keep going anyway. If he backed out then so would Bucky and he refused to let his best friend waste his future because of his own damn cowardice.

Steve could finally see a light at the end of this dark tunnel and when Bucky dragged him to the Pratt Institute to enroll in classes, he actually began to feel excited like he hadn&#39;t since he woke. Of course, even if the Pratt Institute had bored him to tears, Steve would have signed up anyway. Chasing his own happiness had never been good motivation, but making Bucky happy was enough for him to try.

Because the brunet kept his promise. He called up Howard Stark after just a bit more nudging and when the scientist offered him a job, he accepted on the spot. Apparently Howard needed someone sturdy to test his prototypes and Bucky was more than willing to be his guinea pig.

Steve worried something fierce when his friend explained that offer, but he decided the fretting was well worth it after Bucky came back beaming ear to ear. The other man started leaving for work eagerly each morning and when he got home, he&rsquo;d tell Steve about the crazy things that Stark was working on.

&ldquo;We still don&#39;t have a flying car yet, but the jet boots are kick ass.&rdquo;

Some nights, Bucky could talk for hours and on others he&rsquo;d start to nod off at the dinner table since Howard still kept hours that made normal people weep. But even when his friend was utterly exhausted and complaining loudly about the scientist&#39;s inability to speak normal fucking English, Steve could tell there was respect beneath the bickering. Honestly, Howard and Bucky had argued just as much back in the SSR and the blond was overjoyed to see his best friend&rsquo;s eyes shine so bright again.

Sure Steve missed the other man a little &ndash; Stark didn&rsquo;t know how lucky he was to spend his days with Bucky. But the docks had worked him just as hard during the busy season and once his classes started, Steve didn&#39;t have much time to spare.

Suddenly his days were full of lessons and his nights filled with assignments, mostly art but also a few essays now and then. The blond was out of practice and his classes discussed techniques that he&#39;d never tried before. Some of them he&#39;d never even heard of but Steve wasn&rsquo;t one to back down from a challenge and he was determined to learn as much as possible. The Pratt Institute wasn&#39;t cheap even with his savings and he intended to get his money&#39;s worth.

There was one trick to portrait shading that gave Steve heaps of trouble and he forced his friend to sit for him until he got it right. Seventeen drawings later, Bucky was out of patience but he finally had the knack of it and the top score in his class. Steve didn&rsquo;t mind the effort; the more his teachers challenged him, the more he felt like he was living instead of getting by.

The blond hadn&rsquo;t lost his nightmares but the ennui was fading and the sleepless nights that still plagued both him and Bucky were now filled with sketches and schematics instead of alcohol.

---

Two months in, Steve felt enough like a real person to call up the Commandos; he wanted to see his friends again. It took some effort to coordinate their schedules since most of them were still in Europe and finagling a few days off for Bucky was a mission in itself. Steve had to threaten Howard for the first one and he got the second by inviting the other man to come along.

He and Bucky arranged to meet the Howlies at their favorite local diner and the excitement Steve felt over their reunion was well worth the time and money spent.

&ldquo;Hey, Cap! Sarge! Over here!&rdquo;

Steve looked up at the shout and he grinned wide when he saw Morita walking toward him rapidly.

&ldquo;Jim! It&#39;s good to see you,&rdquo; Steve said, pulling the other man into a hug. &ldquo;But you know I&#39;m not your captain anymore.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Whatever you say, Cap,&rdquo; Morita told him with a laugh as he and Bucky slapped each other on the back. Indeed, Jones, Dernier, and Falsworth greeted Steve and Bucky exactly the same way and after the fifth, &ldquo;Aye, aye captain,&rdquo; the blond gave up protesting the title anymore.

Once everyone had arrived, the six of them moved into the diner, talking and laughing over top each other until Steve could barely tell who was speaking anymore. The Commandos didn&#39;t settle down until they&#39;d gotten their meals and claimed a corner table, six men squeezed together in a booth built for four.

&ldquo;How have you been? You&#39;re looking better,&rdquo; Falsworth asked during the first lull in conversation. &ldquo;Are you doing something new these days?&rdquo;

&ldquo;Yeah, both of you looked like corpses when we first pulled you out,&rdquo; Jones agreed. &ldquo;I should have stayed here longer, helped you settle into being plain civilians.&rdquo;

&ldquo;No, Gabe, you shouldn&#39;t have,&rdquo; Bucky disagreed. &ldquo;You all have lives of your own and we needed some time to get our heads together. We weren&#39;t very fun two months ago.&rdquo;

&ldquo;We spent years slogging through half of Europe with you; if we could eat your cooking, I think we could have managed to deal with your bad moods,&rdquo; Morita snorted. &ldquo;I still don&#39;t know how you managed to char toast.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Hey, I had good reason,&rdquo; Bucky retorted. &ldquo;I wouldn&#39;t have been distracted if <i>someone</i> hadn&#39;t forgotten to dry our packs out properly. And I wouldn&#39;t be so sure about surviving; you&#39;ve never seen Stevie here in a proper snit.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Buck is right. Neither of us would have been great company,&rdquo; Steve said, the familiar banter making him smile easily. &ldquo;But it&#39;s really good to see you and things are going better now. I&rsquo;ve actually gone back to school.&rdquo;

&ldquo;I finally convinced this lug to train as a real artist,&rdquo; Bucky added, clapping the blond on the shoulder. &ldquo;People will pay a fortune for his stuff one day, just wait and see.&quot;

&ldquo;Makes sense to me,&rdquo; Jones told him. &ldquo;Cap always did draw the nicest maps. Not like Jacques and his awful chicken scratch.&rdquo;

&ldquo;My maps are good,&rdquo; Denier retorted, his English having grown much better through the years.

&ldquo;Yeah, maybe for a bomb drop. The rest of us prefer a bit more detail when we&rsquo;re laying out our traps,&rdquo; Morita said. &ldquo;But what about you, Sarge? Have you gone and become a scholar too?&rdquo;

&ldquo;Are you kidding? Could you see me in a classroom?&rdquo; Bucky snorted. &ldquo;I&#39;d go crazy in a week.&rdquo;

&ldquo;He&#39;s working for Stark,&rdquo; Steve told the Howlies proudly. &ldquo;Buck tests out his new inventions to make sure they can handle the stress of battle without breaking. You know the way most soldiers treat their gear.&rdquo;

&ldquo;That sounds interesting. And dangerous. Is it dangerous?&rdquo;

&ldquo;Only sometimes; I did have one gun explode on me a few weeks back. Made a huge dent in the floor.&rdquo;

&ldquo;I need details. Many details,&rdquo; Dernier said fervently and the ensuing discussion of explosives lasted until their plates were clean. The Commandos paid their bill and then wandered from the restaurant, strolling through the streets until they saw an empty bar.

Steve bought the first round of shots with one extra glass for Dugan, the Howlies toasting their fallen comrade before slamming their shots down. Bucky bought the next round and Morita the one after, the conversation growing louder as drinks flowed freely back and forth. A dozen glasses later, the whole group somehow made it to Stark&#39;s mansion and even though Steve was still sober, he really wasn&#39;t sure how that went down.

They weren&#39;t actually supposed to meet Howard until tomorrow, but the scientist welcomed his trespassers with wide open arms. He gave them his standard dose of sarcasm and access to a fully-stocked liquor cabinet, the shelves holding enough expensive alcohol to pay Steve&rsquo;s rent for a month.

Lesser men could have drowned in such largess and the Commandos gave it their best try. They told stories of the war, of their lives and of their families, Steve and Bucky making sure that their friends were comfortable as they passed out one by one.

&ldquo;Well, I guess it&#39;s down to us then,&rdquo; the brunet said after tucking a blanket over Stark&#39;s snoring form. &ldquo;Should we just go to bed?&rdquo;

&ldquo;Nah, let&#39;s stay a little longer,&rdquo; Steve replied, flopping down on the sitting room&rsquo;s ridiculously soft couch. &ldquo;I know I see you near every day, but it feels like it&#39;s been forever since we had a chance to talk.&rdquo;

&ldquo;If I&#39;d known that you were missing my scintillating conversation, I would have made more of an effort,&rdquo; the other man said with a grin, perching on the arm of the couch. &ldquo;And you know you can tell me to drag my head from my schematics any time. Sometimes I think I&#39;m turning into Stark.&rdquo;

&ldquo;You like your work, Buck. That&#39;s not a bad thing.&rdquo;

&ldquo;As long as I still manage to have an actual life. You think I should try harder to go out?&rdquo; Bucky mused. &ldquo;What do you say, Stevie? You wanna go dancing?&rdquo;

&ldquo;You serious? Haven&rsquo;t I ruined enough of your double dates by now?&rdquo; the blond asked, ducking his head to hide his blush. He wasn&#39;t sure why he was embarrassed; maybe he simply wasn&#39;t used to seeing that particular smile anymore &ndash; soft and fond with just a hint of wickedness.

&ldquo;Nah, you were usually good company even when you were being a sarcastic punk. Not your fault most dames couldn&#39;t see what they were missing,&rdquo; his friend told him. &ldquo;Of course, these days I&#39;d be lucky to get a second glance. The dames are gonna swarm you as soon as you walk in the door.&rdquo;

&ldquo;You make it sound so inviting,&rdquo; Steve retorted. &ldquo;I think I&#39;ll pass for now.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Whatever you want, Stevie. You know the offer&#39;s always open,&rdquo; Bucky said with an easy shrug before his expression turned more serious. &ldquo;As long as we&#39;re talking, there is something I&#39;ve always wondered. Why didn&#39;t you ever ask about the draft?&rdquo;

&ldquo;Why would I, Buck? What brought this on?&rdquo;

&ldquo;Seeing this lot made me think about the war,&rdquo; the other man said, waving his hand vaguely at their sleeping friends. &ldquo;And I know you heard my serial number when you found me at Azzano &ndash; I repeated it enough on that damn table and you&#39;re not an idiot. Starting with a three means that I was drafted, so why&#39;d you never ask? Why did you let me keep pretending that I actually volunteered?&rdquo;

&ldquo;Honestly, Bucky, it didn&#39;t seem important,&rdquo; Steve replied. &ldquo;You were fighting either way and I&#39;d had my suspicions from the start.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Really?&rdquo;

&ldquo;Well, yeah. It&#39;s not like you&#39;d ever talked about enlisting. Suddenly joining up one day was out of character.&rdquo;

&ldquo;I suppose it was. Who knew I&#39;d be so damn good at killing people?&rdquo;

&ldquo;<i>Protecting</i> people, Buck, and you were always good at that,&rdquo; Steve told him fiercely. &ldquo;Drafted or not, I just wanted to support you. Why&#39;d you think I was so desperate to get into the army? I wasn&#39;t only there to fight the Krauts.&rdquo;

&ldquo;I never told you this, but I was glad that you kept failing,&rdquo; the brunet admitted quietly. &ldquo;I didn&#39;t doubt your courage but I wanted you kept safe. The thought of you still back in Brooklyn was comforting when I was on the front and I always had a feeling that I wouldn&#39;t make it home. Of course, if you&#39;d listened to me instead of getting yourself all scienced up, I really would have died &ndash; or something worse &ndash; so I guess I should be glad that you&#39;re a stubborn idiot.&rdquo;

&ldquo;It was worth it,&rdquo; Steve replied, needing Bucky to know that he was better than he thought. His friend always said that Steve was the good one but the blond knew that wasn&#39;t true. Captain America hadn&#39;t been anything without Bucky at his side. &ldquo;Give me the chance and I&#39;d make all the same choices. You&#39;re my best friend, Buck, and I don&#39;t want to know what I&#39;d do without you; I don&#39;t want to find out.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Same here, Stevie,&rdquo; the other man said with another of those smiles that made Steve flush red-hot. &ldquo;But we really should be turning in now before we get too maudlin. We don&#39;t need to be weeping into each other&#39;s arms.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Because we&#39;ve never done that,&rdquo; the blond snorted but Bucky had a point. Not about the crying &ndash; his friend had seen him bawling more than once &ndash; but about the sleeping. Steve&#39;s sleep schedule still wasn&#39;t regular enough that he could afford to blow it off. So the two men wandered off to find spare beds &ndash; Howard had about a dozen &ndash; and he even managed to sleep through the night for once.

In the morning, Steve and Bucky woke up early and went out for a run, arriving back at the mansion with plenty of time to shower and dress before their friends woke up. The brunet teased the other Howlies mercilessly as they groaned and staggered upright, reveling in his new immunity to hangovers while Steve went to the kitchen to whip up his old cure.

It was his mother&#39;s recipe, the one he used to give to Bucky after long nights on the town. Steve hadn&#39;t had the opportunity to mix this drink in ages but it came back to him quickly after he began. The unfamiliar kitchen gave Steve a bit of trouble at first &ndash; who needed fifteen kinds of silverware? But Stark&#39;s butler showed up in the doorway part way through his rummaging and the concoction went much smoother with his help.

The other man kept handing Steve incredibly expensive versions of the stuff that he was used to and he tried not to think about the fact that they&#39;d be drinking three weeks&rsquo; pay. At least the Howlies appreciated the blond&#39;s efforts, gulping it down with loud sighs of relief.

&ldquo;Hey, Cap, you don&#39;t need to go to art school. I&#39;ll offer you my backing and we can make a fortune selling this,&rdquo; Stark said once he&#39;d drained his glass completely. &ldquo;Seriously, Jarvis, tell me you got his recipe.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Of course, sir.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Good. Good. Give yourself a bonus on next payroll, a big one,&rdquo; Howard told him. &ldquo;And we&#39;ll want the Rolls Royce after breakfast. Make sure it&#39;s all gassed up.&rdquo;

Jarvis nodded one more time before he exited, disappearing from the room as silently as he&#39;d entered earlier.

&ldquo;That man would make a damn good spy.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Don&#39;t even think about it. He&#39;s a damn good butler and I&#39;d probably starve without him,&rdquo; Stark retorted. &ldquo;Speaking of which, what do you bastards want to eat?&rdquo;

After the mansion&#39;s cook whipped up enough food to feed an army &ndash; and then a second course &ndash; the seven men finally got moving. Apparently Howard had decided late last night that the Commandos needed to be shown all the sights of the Big Apple and while Steve still felt uncomfortable being chauffeured around the city, he didn&#39;t argue very hard. Not when Bucky had always wanted to get up close and personal with Lady Liberty. The blond couldn&#39;t let him miss his chance, not when it had been his health that always ate up Bucky&#39;s money and kept him from his plans.

So the group climbed up the Statue of Liberty and marveled at the view, Howard&#39;s money getting them a completely private tour. Steve&#39;s fingers itched for a sketchbook as he took in the New York skyline, though he also had to stop himself from tugging Bucky from the edge.

The blond didn&#39;t know how his friend could lean over the railing without having flashbacks of their plummet from the train. Even standing two feet back, Steve couldn&#39;t stop the nervous flutter in his gut and despite the gorgeous view, he was relieved when they reached solid ground again.

Then it was Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge and a quick swing by the Flatiron Building before the group hit Coney Island, Steve and Bucky stuffing themselves on hot dogs like they&#39;d done when they were kids. However, the blond had learned his lesson about getting on any rides afterward. He stood on the sidelines while Bucky dragged Stark and Jones onto the Cyclone, the rest of the Commandos watching from the ground as the dang thing started up.

Howard gave up after the first go round but Gabe and Bucky kept on going until neither man could walk straight and they were looking rather green. Not that this stopped his friend from stealing Steve&#39;s last piece of candy floss and cackling like mad when he tried to steal it back. The two of them started scuffling right there on the Boardwalk while the other Howlies laughed.

&ldquo;Reminds me of the way they used to fight over the last tin of beans,&rdquo; Steve heard Morita mutter as Bucky grabbed him in a headlock and he was just getting in a few good strikes of his own when Howard bought them all new bags and ruined everything.

But the blond decided that Stark could be forgiven as he watched Bucky suck sugar off his fingers; the other man had always had a sweet tooth and the war had made him even more appreciative of such small luxuries.

<i>I should&#39;ve brought a hat,</i> Steve thought when he started to feel a little overheated. He might not get sunburned like he used to &ndash; one more thing fixed up by Erskine&#39;s serum &ndash; but he knew the signs of heatstroke rather well. What else could make him feel like he was burning, bits of sugar sticky on his tongue?

&ldquo;You all right there?&rdquo; Falsworth asked, nudging the blond&#39;s arm.

&ldquo;Huh? Oh, yeah, I&#39;m fine. I was just thinking that it&#39;s been a while since I&#39;ve gotten this much sun. I should enjoy it while I can.&rdquo;

&ldquo;I know what you mean,&rdquo; the other man said with a chuckle. &ldquo;England isn&#39;t exactly known for its good weather and work keeps me in the office from dawn to dusk more often than I&#39;d like. The wife wants me to take a transfer and I&#39;m starting to wonder if she&#39;s right.&rdquo;

&ldquo;I&#39;m hardly an expert if you&#39;re asking for advice,&rdquo; Steve told him. &ldquo;But I&#39;d love to meet your family if you can bring them out next time.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Maybe if someone else will foot the bill again. Traveling across the ocean really isn&#39;t cheap,&rdquo; Falsworth told him. &ldquo;Now come on, no more brooding. I know it&#39;s not your strong suit, but we&#39;re here to have some fun.&rdquo;

The Brit had a good point so Steve pulled his thoughts back to the present, to the sun and the laughter and the spark in Bucky&#39;s eyes.

---

Steve held his memories of Coney Island close as autumn turned to winter and snow filled New York&#39;s streets. Although he didn&#39;t have to worry about freezing like he used to, the cold brought his nightmares back in force.

The blond dreamed of losing Bucky, of the other man slipping through his fingers as he watched paralyzed. He couldn&#39;t move, couldn&#39;t stop his friend from falling to his doom. Steve couldn&#39;t even jump after the other man as he had in real life, wrapping himself around Bucky and deflecting the worst of the impact with his shield.

Night after night he watched the brunet shatter on the rocks and woke up crying, a scream still on his lips. Night after night Steve reached for Bucky and missed him every time.

He poured his fear into his artwork, his teachers remarking on the starkness even as they complimented his bold lines. They didn&#39;t know Steve&#39;s style the way that Bucky used to; they didn&#39;t know enough to worry at the change.

Steve could tell that Bucky worried even though the other man didn&rsquo;t ask him any questions. The brunet just roped Jarvis into making Stark keep better hours so that he and Steve always had time for a real dinner before they went to bed. He didn&#39;t pry, just kept Steve company, talking if he wanted to and staying silent otherwise.

There was still a separation, the weight of things unspoken, but the gap didn&#39;t seem as daunting anymore. Slowly but surely, the two of them were moving forward and Steve had faith that they would find their balance once again. Life would be almost normal if the blond could only sleep.

&ldquo;Hey! Wake up, Steve! Wake up!&rdquo;

He snapped to consciousness, nearly braining Bucky as he shot upright. His friend was leaning over him and Steve grabbed onto his arms tightly, panting heavily as he tried to calm his racing heart. His feet were freezing, which might explain the strange turn that his dreams had taken, ice creeping up his body as Bucky bled out at his side. But the other man was warm beneath his hands, his voice a low rumble that chased the ghosts away.

&ldquo;Sorry, Buck. Did I wake you?&rdquo; Steve asked quietly.

&ldquo;Nah. I was just getting some water when I heard you shout my name,&rdquo; the brunet said with a half shrug. &ldquo;I know that we don&#39;t talk about this and I didn&#39;t mean to overstep but it seemed cruel just to ignore you like I always have before.&rdquo;

&ldquo;I- thank you,&rdquo; Steve told him, unable to stop a shiver from running through him now. &ldquo;That was... that was a bad one.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Yeah, Stevie. Sounded like it,&rdquo; Bucky replied, patting his shoulder and then sliding to his feet. &ldquo;I should go back to my room but I hope you sleep better now.&rdquo;

He took a few steps toward the door, barely away from the bed before a sudden flash of panic had Steve reaching out again.

&ldquo;Wait!&rdquo;

&ldquo;Stevie?&rdquo;

&ldquo;Could you please just stay?&rdquo; the blond asked weakly. He could feel his whole face flushing but he didn&#39;t take the words back. Steve might be embarrassed but he didn&#39;t want to be alone.

&ldquo;Are you sure?&rdquo; Bucky replied hesitantly. &ldquo;It won&#39;t be an easy fit.&rdquo;

&ldquo;I know but... maybe it will help,&rdquo; Steve said. He hated to show weakness but he couldn&#39;t do this anymore. &ldquo;I keep dreaming that I&#39;ve lost you and if I wake you&#39;ll be right there.&rdquo;

&ldquo;All right, Steve. I got you,&rdquo; his friend told him almost instantly. Bucky had always offered Steve anything he needed and the blond didn&#39;t know why he&#39;d been so worried that the pattern would change now. &ldquo;Budge up a little, will ya? I want some pillow too.&rdquo;

He rolled onto his side and scooted toward the wall, trying to give Bucky as much room as he could. Steve&#39;s bed really wasn&#39;t built for two and the other man let out a grumble as he tried to get comfortable. But eventually he settled down with his back pressed tight to Steve&rsquo;s like they&#39;d often slept out in the field. Steve could feel his best friend breathing &ndash; could feel his warmth like a bonfire &ndash; and the sensation quickly drew him back down into sleep again.

Bucky was gone when Steve woke up and the blond couldn&#39;t find the strength to talk about it. His fears seemed so damn stupid in the light of day and he was actually grateful that Bucky never brought the topic up. But the next time Steve had a nightmare, the other man just grabbed his pillow and slipped into the bed without a word. This soon became a habit and with his best friend there beside him, the blond&#39;s nightmares finally eased.

---

Steve hadn&#39;t slept alone in almost three weeks when he finally mustered up the courage to ring Peggy. He&rsquo;d meant to call her for a while, to make sure she knew that he was truly happy for her and to see if maybe they could still be friends. Peggy had been one of the first people to believe in him &ndash; after Bucky and his mother &ndash; and he hoped that she&rsquo;d forgive him for failing to take the news of her marriage gracefully.

However, Steve still found himself a little blindsided when Peggy promptly invited him to dinner at her house that coming Friday. &ldquo;You can bring Barnes too if he doesn&#39;t have a previous engagement. It would be good to see you both.&rdquo;

The blond could hardly refuse the invitation and by the time he hung up the phone again, he&#39;d somehow promised her dinner, Bucky, and a bottle of expensive wine as well. Which is how Steve found himself standing outside of a small brownstone four days later, holding a wine bottle and wondering if he should have worn a nicer tie.

&ldquo;Will you quit fidgeting? You&#39;re worse than my little sister was when she went on her first date.&rdquo;

Steve turned to glare at Bucky, the other man looking far too relaxed where he stood a few steps down. However, before the blond could snark back something suitable, he heard the front door open and quickly spun around.

&ldquo;Peggy, it&#39;s good to see you,&rdquo; he murmured quietly, the breath punched from his lungs. She was still the most beautiful woman that he had ever seen and Steve took one long look before reminding himself firmly that he no longer had the right. But he was still gaping like an idiot when Bucky stepped up to his shoulder, doffing his hat and greeting Peggy cheerfully.

&ldquo;Hello, Mrs. Sousa. It&rsquo;s very good to see you,&rdquo; the other man said before plucking the wine from the blond&rsquo;s hands. &ldquo;This is for you.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Oh, thank you. I told Steve that you didn&#39;t need to bring anything, but he was quite insistent,&rdquo; Peggy said and Bucky smiled impishly.

&ldquo;Don&#39;t be silly, of course we had to bring something. Only the best for our best lady,&rdquo; the brunet told her with a bow. &ldquo;Besides, I nicked that bottle from Howard Stark and I doubt he&#39;ll even notice. The man has wine to spare.&rdquo;

&ldquo;You really are a wicked one, aren&rsquo;t you, Sergeant Barnes?&rdquo; she replied. But her expression was amused rather than offended and just like that, Steve felt himself relaxing. He probably wouldn&#39;t ever get over Peggy Carter, but he didn&#39;t have to now; tonight they were just three old friends catching up again.

&ldquo;Please do come in,&rdquo; she told them. &ldquo;I try not to scandalize the neighbors anymore than necessary.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Pity that,&rdquo; Bucky murmured, but he followed them inside.

&ldquo;Daniel is waiting in the dining room if you&#39;ll just walk through,&rdquo; Peggy said as she closed the door behind them. This odd request made sense when Steve and Bucky entered the room and Peggy&#39;s husband pushed himself to his feet, most of his weight supported on the cane in his right hand. His leg clearly gave him trouble but he seemed to be in good health otherwise, his smile bright and his eyes warm as he held out his free hand.

&ldquo;Captain Rogers, Sergeant Barnes, it&#39;s good to finally meet you more officially,&rdquo; the man said. &ldquo;I&#39;m Daniel Sousa, Peggy&#39;s husband.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Steve Rogers, but you already knew that,&rdquo; the blond answered. &ldquo;Please call me Steve; we&#39;re all friends here.&rdquo;

Daniel&#39;s grip was firm, his gaze steady, and Steve&#39;s first impression gave him nothing to dislike, nothing but a weak twinge of fading jealousy.

&ldquo;I&#39;m not a sergeant anymore,&rdquo; Bucky said as he shook Daniel&#39;s hand as well. &ldquo;Just call me Bucky &ndash; or James if you must. Your wife there has always refused to use my nickname.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Bucky is no name for a grown man,&rdquo; Peggy replied.

&ldquo;Maybe, but Buchanan ain&#39;t no name to give a kid so you can blame my folks for that one,&rdquo; the brunet snorted in response. Then he turned back to Daniel and asked, &ldquo;I&#39;m sorry, but do we know you? You seem familiar.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Not by name,&rdquo; the other man replied. &ldquo;But I was a few cells down at Azzano. You both saved my life.&rdquo;

&ldquo;I didn&#39;t do anything special,&rdquo; Bucky protested even as Steve said, &ldquo;I couldn&#39;t have done it without Peggy. She deserves the accolades.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Really? Is that true?&rdquo; Daniel asked his wife. &ldquo;You should have mentioned it before.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Of course not, he exaggerates. All I did was find a plane,&rdquo; Peggy told him with a smile. &ldquo;Now, please, no war stories over supper. You might lose your appetites.&rdquo;

&ldquo;As you wish. The lady&rsquo;s choice, of course,&rdquo; Bucky agreed. &ldquo;Although, I&#39;m sure that I have a couple war stories that wouldn&#39;t distress anyone. Like the tale of our captain&#39;s first encounter with French cooking. Those poor snails would never be the same.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Seriously, Bucky?&rdquo; the blond groaned.

&ldquo;Everyone likes that story, Stevie,&rdquo; the other man retorted.

&ldquo;How about it, Pegs? Just a little shop talk?&rdquo; Daniel pleaded with a crooked grin.

&ldquo;All right,&rdquo; she conceded. &ldquo;I must admit, I haven&#39;t heard this one.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Because I made him promise not to tell you,&rdquo; Steve admitted and he knew when he was beat. &ldquo;Shall we open up the wine?&rdquo;

Several glasses, one fine dinner, and too many embarrassing stories later, Steve was having a grand time. Once Bucky finished embarrassing the blond, he and Peggy had both gotten a few digs of their own in &ndash; the brunet accepting the ribbing gracefully &ndash; while Daniel countered with a few of his less successful missions from his early days at S.H.I.E.L.D.

&ldquo;I got a lot of coffee,&rdquo; he admitted with a self-deprecating sigh.

&ldquo;They didn&#39;t know what they were missing,&rdquo; Peggy said, reaching out to take his hand. &ldquo;But you proved them wrong.&rdquo;

&ldquo;We both did,&rdquo; Daniel told her with an adoring smile and watching them, Steve couldn&#39;t help a stab of wistfulness. Not jealousy exactly; he liked Daniel too much to wish them separated. The other man was smart, funny, and clearly thought the world of Peggy. But Steve still wanted the sort of love he saw between them and he told Bucky as much after they&rsquo;d made their excuses, saying goodnight and promising that they&#39;d do this again sometime.

&ldquo;I really thought she was the one, Bucky. And now...&rdquo; he shrugged. &ldquo;I hope I haven&#39;t missed my only chance.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Does this mean you&#39;re finally ready to take out other women? There are some nice girls at the lab.&rdquo;

&ldquo;I don&#39;t know, pal,&rdquo; Steve told him. &ldquo;I think I&#39;d rather let things happen naturally.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Your loss.&rdquo;

&ldquo;And hey, you&#39;re hardly one to talk. It&#39;s not like you go paint the town these days; are you gonna settle down?&rdquo;

&ldquo;I don&#39;t know, maybe,&rdquo; Bucky said with a shrug. &ldquo;The way Stark has me working I&#39;m not sure I have the time to take a dame out properly. Besides, who knows if either of us will be lucky enough to find another girl like Peggy Carter? That woman is one in a million.&rdquo;

&ldquo;True enough,&rdquo; Steve told him, ducking his head a little when Bucky grinned and threw an arm around his shoulders.

&ldquo;Don&#39;t worry, pal. Until then, we can keep each other company.&rdquo;

---

&ldquo;Did you hear about Stark Laboratories? Michael said the Russians blew it up.&rdquo;

The girl wasn&#39;t talking to Steve but the words still stopped him in his tracks, several of his classmates cursing when they ran into his back.

He rushed across the hall to the student who had spoken and demanded frantically, &ldquo;Who blew up? What happened?&rdquo;

&ldquo;Excuse me? Who are you?&rdquo; the girl&#39;s friend replied, glaring up at Steve. &ldquo;It&#39;s not polite to eavesdrop.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Please, I&rsquo;m sorry. I&#39;ve been in class all morning and if something happened to Howard Stark then I really need to know,&rdquo; he told her. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s important.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Look, I don&#39;t know much,&rdquo; the first girl told him, taking pity on his fear. &ldquo;There was an explosion at Stark&#39;s lab this morning; it was mentioned on the radio. My friend Michael said that it must be the Russians but I don&rsquo;t-&ldquo;

&ldquo;Thanks,&rdquo; Steve interrupted, missing the rest of her explanation as he dashed off down the hall. He ran full out to the nearest subway station, a chorus of <i>Bucky, Bucky, Bucky,</i> running through his mind.

By the time he reached Howard&#39;s facility, Steve was half-convinced that his friend had probably died and the cordon of fire trucks around the building didn&#39;t help to calm him down. He shoved his way through the crowd, ignoring the firemen who tried to move him back.

&ldquo;It&#39;s all right. Let him through.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Howard! Where&#39;s Bucky? Is he okay? What&#39;s going on?&rdquo;

The scientist looked tired, dust covering his face and a bandage wrapped around his head.

&ldquo;I really hate explosions. But your boy there saved my life. He&#39;s over in that med tent,&rdquo; Howard said, jerking his head toward a temporary structure that had been put up nearby. &ldquo;Barnes wouldn&#39;t sit down until he was sure that we&rsquo;d been rescued and then he went and kicked the doctors out. But I promise you, he&#39;s fine.&rdquo;

Steve was already moving before the other man had finished. He burst into the tent with Bucky&#39;s name there on his tongue and he almost collapsed with relief when the other man looked up. His friend had removed his shirt and was wiping bits of rubble off his skin, cuts and bruises fading quickly right before Steve&#39;s eyes.

&ldquo;Damn, you heard the news then,&rdquo; Bucky muttered, putting aside his towel. &ldquo;I was hoping that you wouldn&#39;t have a chance to worry. It really wasn&#39;t bad.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Explosion!&rdquo; Steve replied, gesturing wildly toward the ruin of Stark&#39;s lab. That was hardly a full sentence but the other man understood what he meant anyway.

&ldquo;It was just a disgruntled ex-employee with a bomb,&rdquo; the brunet told him. &ldquo;I subdued him without much trouble but he had a Dead-Man-Switch and I didn&#39;t grab it fast enough. Seriously, Stevie, there&#39;s no permanent damage. It looks worse than it is.&rdquo;

&ldquo;I could have lost you,&rdquo; the blond said, the reality of that statement crashing over him. Bucky could have died and Steve would have been oblivious, sitting through his classes without a single clue.

&ldquo;You could&#39;ve...&rdquo;

Words failed him then so he just leaned forward, taking the brunet&rsquo;s face between his hands and kissing him with everything he had. Bucky&rsquo;s lips were slack and warm beneath his, sweet and oh so tempting, but Steve didn&#39;t realize what he&#39;d done until he pulled away and saw his best friend gaping up at him.

&ldquo;Shit! I&#39;m sorry. I didn&#39;t mean to... Oh my god,&rdquo; Steve stammered, backing away slowly.

&ldquo;Hey, wait,&rdquo; the other man said, shaking himself from his stupor and grabbing the blond&#39;s hand. &ldquo;Come back here a second.&rdquo;

Bucky reeled Steve in and kissed him. He was careful but not hesitant as he slid their lips together, his stubble rough against Steve&#39;s skin. The blond was afraid to touch the other man, afraid to blink and realize he was dreaming, but he couldn&#39;t hold back a low moan when Bucky sucked on his lower lip.

&ldquo;<i>Huh</i>. That&#39;s... interesting,&rdquo; the brunet said when he drew back again. &ldquo;I think we need to talk.&rdquo;

Steve blinked once dazedly and then returned to panicking. He didn&#39;t know what was going on &ndash; wasn&#39;t even sure why he&#39;d kissed Bucky in the first place &ndash; and he was terrified that he&#39;d ruined everything.

The blond was only vaguely aware that he was hyperventilating, choking on air like his asthma had returned, and he flinched when Bucky grabbed his shoulders.

&ldquo;Steve. Hey, Stevie, it&#39;s okay. You gotta breathe for me.&rdquo;

&ldquo;I- I can&rsquo;t-&rdquo;

&ldquo;In and out, pal. You can do it,&rdquo; Bucky said. He talked Steve through the process until the panic started fading and he could finally breathe again. &ldquo;Relax, punk. I&#39;m not gonna throw you to the wolves. You&#39;re my best friend and you&#39;d have to do a whole lot worse than that to make me give up on you. We&#39;ll figure this out, okay?&rdquo;

&ldquo;Okay,&rdquo; Steve agreed a little shakily.

&ldquo;Good. Now let&#39;s get out of here.&rdquo;

Steve trailed after Bucky as he stood up and left the med tent, his cheeks flushing scarlet when he realized that he was watching his friend&rsquo;s ass. Although the blond had always known that Bucky was attractive, he&#39;d never thought about it consciously. But the sway of the brunet&rsquo;s hips felt so damn familiar, like he&#39;d memorized the motion a thousand times before.

&ldquo;Hey, Howard,&rdquo; Bucky said as they approached the scientist, Steve trying to look attentive instead of awkward as all Hell. &ldquo;I need to take this guy home before he frets himself to death. You all right to finish here?&rdquo;

&ldquo;Yeah, go on. I&#39;ve got this covered,&rdquo; the other man told him. &ldquo;Actually, you might as well just take the weekend. You&#39;ve earned it and I need to see what can be salvaged before we start work again.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Then I&#39;ll see you Monday. Thanks, boss,&rdquo; Bucky replied before tapping Steve on the arm. &ldquo;Come on, punk. Let&#39;s go.&rdquo;

Neither man broke the silence on the way back to their apartment. Bucky seemed deep in thought and Steve was busy tallying the number of times he glanced at the other man habitually. He gave up around one hundred and since at least half those looks were aimed at his friend&rsquo;s mouth, his sudden desire to kiss Bucky was clearly not as sudden as he&rsquo;d thought. Indeed, it took an effort of will not to watch the brunet&rsquo;s ass as he followed him up the stairs to their apartment. Instead he found himself staring at the broad sweep of his friend&rsquo;s shoulders and wondering how they&#39;d feel beneath his hands.

&ldquo;Home sweet home,&rdquo; Bucky murmured, shutting the door behind them. The other man ran his left hand through his hair, a nervous tic that he&#39;d never gotten rid of, and then turned back to Steve. He sat the blond down on the couch before grabbing a chair out of the kitchen and sitting down across from him.

Bucky straddled the seat, resting his arms on the back of the chair and asking, &ldquo;So, Stevie, you wanna tell me why you kissed me?&rdquo;

He didn&#39;t sound angry or disgusted, just honestly curious, but the blond couldn&#39;t find the words to answer. He didn&#39;t know how to describe the mess of want and love and worry that was knotted in his chest so he just shrugged helplessly.

&ldquo;All right,&rdquo; Bucky sighed, tugging at his hair again. &ldquo;Different question. Are you queer now?&rdquo;

&ldquo;I don&#39;t think so,&rdquo; Steve said, managing to spit the words out somehow and trying to be as honest as he could. &ldquo;I mean, I still think women are attractive and I really did like kissing Peggy. I would have married her happily. I just also...&rdquo;

&ldquo;Want to kiss me too,&rdquo; the brunet finished for him. Bucky paused for a second, looking pensive, and then asked, &ldquo;Are you in love with me?&rdquo;

Steve&#39;s first instinct was to deny it; that was ridiculous. But then he really thought about it, about the way he&#39;d spent his whole life chasing after Bucky and how he&#39;d felt watching the other man go off to war without him. He thought about the panic he&#39;d felt on learning that Bucky had been captured, the way he&#39;d always wanted to protect the brunet and try to make him smile, and how he slept much better with his best friend at his side.

Steve wanted to kiss him; he wanted to wrap himself around the brunet and hold him tenderly and he didn&#39;t know how he&#39;d never realized that till now. He wanted them to live out their years together and suddenly love didn&#39;t seem like such a bad word for his feelings after all.

&ldquo;I really think I am, Buck. You&#39;ve always been the most important person in my life and if you gave me the choice, I&#39;d jump off that train again, every single time,&rdquo; Steve said, meaning every single word. &ldquo;But I don&#39;t expect you to feel the same. I know you&#39;d die for me and that&#39;s plenty. You&#39;re still my best friend first and I&#39;m sorry; I never meant to make things weird.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Will you stop apologizing?&rdquo; Bucky asked, sounding a bit exasperated. &ldquo;I admit I&#39;ve never really considered the idea, but you&#39;ve been the center of my world for years, Stevie, and kissing you wasn&#39;t all that bad. Even before the serum, you were an attractive guy.&rdquo;

That wasn&#39;t the response that Steve had been expecting and he was still reeling when Bucky squared his shoulders and nodded decisively. &ldquo;All right, then. We&#39;ll just have to try it.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Try what?&rdquo;

&ldquo;Sleeping together, of course,&rdquo; his friend replied and the blond honestly wasn&#39;t sure if he had heard him right. Somehow this conversation had gone completely off the rails.

&ldquo;<i.>What?&rdquo; he asked, gaping at the brunet in surprise.

&ldquo;Look, we&#39;re practically married already and I&#39;m okay with that,&rdquo; the other man said plainly. &ldquo;Since you want to sleep with me and I&#39;m not viscerally opposed to the idea, I think we should give this thing a shot.&rdquo;

I don&#39;t want to force you into anything,&rdquo; Steve protested.

&ldquo;You&#39;re not forcing me, you idiot, I&#39;m offering,&rdquo; Bucky told him with a crooked grin. &ldquo;I&#39;ve always been a hands on sort of guy and I won&#39;t know if I like it till try it. I&#39;d rather know for sure, one way or the other, and if it turns out that I can&#39;t handle being physical, then we go from there. But it seems stupid to dismiss the idea out of hand.&rdquo;

&ldquo;We&#39;d have to keep it a secret,&rdquo; the blond said. His resolve was weakening quickly but he couldn&#39;t say yes without ensuring that the other man had really thought this through.

&ldquo;So we take a dame out now and then to deflect suspicion,&rdquo; his friend responded with a shrug. &ldquo;We&#39;re already hiding who we are and our abilities. This is just one more secret, one that&rsquo;s no one else&rsquo;s business anyway. Come on, punk. Take another leap with me.&rdquo;

At this, Steve&#39;s resistance crumbled and he found himself nodding faintly. He still felt like he was dreaming when Bucky sat down next to him and he was afraid to move lest he wake up again.

So the blond kept his hands to himself as the other man leaned in to kiss him, though he couldn&#39;t stop himself from kissing back. Bucky was just <i>Bucky</i>, strong and stubborn and everything that he&rsquo;d never known he wanted. Everything Steve had never allowed himself to dream of having and he could barely believe that they were really doing this.

His eyes slipped closed as he chased the warmth of his friend&#39;s mouth, their lips moving gently in a slide of skin on skin. Steve was half-hard already and he let out a noise of protest when Bucky pulled away.

&ldquo;Sorry, this isn&#39;t gonna work,&rdquo; the other man said. However, before Steve had time to panic, Bucky added,&rdquo; You&#39;re just too damn tall. I&#39;m getting a crick in my neck and it&#39;s damn uncomfortable.&rdquo;

He took a quick look around the living room, considering their options, and then said, &ldquo;Ah, screw it. Scoot back a little, will you?&rdquo;

Steve did as Bucky asked, though he wasn&#39;t quite sure why, and he nearly had a heart attack when his friend hopped into his lap. Bucky straddled his thighs, knees braced on the edge of the couch and his arms around Steve&#39;s neck.

&ldquo;There, much better,&rdquo; the brunet said with a wide grin, looking him straight in the eye. Then he buried his hands in Steve&#39;s hair and dove right in again. Kissing Bucky before had been nice but this was so much better, the other man a blaze of warmth against his chest.

Steve wrapped his arms around his friend and tried to pull him closer. Those shoulders were just as muscled as he had imagined and Steve felt Bucky shiver when he stroked his fingers down his back. But that mouth... fuck, that mouth. The blond was pretty sure he whimpered when the brunet&#39;s tongue teased his lips apart, licking and exploring and tasting everything. It was heat and groans and filthy murmurs, sucks and nips and Bucky&#39;s hands stroking through his hair.

Steve clutched at the other man&#39;s hips and pushed into his kisses, sucking hard on Bucky&#39;s tongue when it stroked across his lips again.

&ldquo;Jesus, Stevie,&rdquo; the other man exclaimed, pulling back just far enough to gasp against his mouth. His chest was heaving, sliding against Steve&#39;s with every breath, and the blond&rsquo;s length twitched as he imagined doing this with both of their shirts off.

However, before Steve could suggest undressing, Bucky planted another kiss on the corner of his mouth. He trailed kisses down Steve&rsquo;s neck, licking and stroking and somehow finding every spot that made him shudder, finishing with a sharp bite to the blond&#39;s right collarbone. Just a hint of teeth before he soothed the sting with lips and tongue and Steve couldn&#39;t stop his hips from rocking forward then.

&ldquo;Fuck, sorry,&rdquo; he groaned when his johnson rubbed over Bucky&#39;s stomach.

&ldquo;Don&#39;t <i>apologize</i>,&rdquo; the other man ordered, drawing back to glare at Steve. Bucky looked... he looked like sex personified, completely wrecked and gorgeous. His lips were red and bruised from kissing, loose strands of hair were falling in his face, and his eyes... Steve had never seen those blue eyes so dark and hungry; Bucky looked ready to devour him whole and the sight threatened to steal his breath away.

Steve did gasp when the other man thrust his own hips forward, letting the blond feel just how hard he was right now.

&ldquo;I may not be queer for anyone else,&rdquo; the brunet murmured against Steve&#39;s skin. &ldquo;But apparently I am very queer for you and I just... I wanna watch you fall apart.&rdquo;

Bucky stole one more kiss before sliding off his lap in one smooth motion.

&ldquo;Hey, wait,&rdquo; Steve protested; Bucky wasn&#39;t supposed to go <i>away</i>. But then the other man nudged his legs apart and slid down to his knees.

&ldquo;What are you doing?&rdquo; the blond asked breathlessly. He didn&rsquo;t think he&rsquo;d ever forget the way that Bucky was looking up at him and he was sure that he&rsquo;d be blushing furiously if all his blood hadn&#39;t rushed down south instead.

&ldquo;Trust me, Stevie,&rdquo; Bucky murmured as he unbuttoned the blond&#39;s trousers. &ldquo;A French gal did this for me once and I think you&#39;re gonna like it.&rdquo;

Steve shivered when the cool air brushed over his aching cock or maybe it was just the look in Bucky&#39;s eyes. The other man considered his johnson for a moment, long enough that the blond started to feel a bit self-conscious.

&ldquo;Are you just gonna stare?&rdquo; he asked. &ldquo;I&#39;m pretty sure it&#39;s normal.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Normal? It&#39;s fucking perfect. I&#39;m a little jealous honestly,&rdquo; Bucky told him with another crooked grin. Then he bent his head and it took everything Steve had not to buck his hips when wet heat engulfed his cock.

&ldquo;Oh my God,&rdquo; he groaned, hands clenching in the couch. &ldquo;Bucky!&rdquo;

It was less a word than a strangled gasp and the blond swore that he could feel his best friend smile around his cock. Then Bucky&#39;s mouth tightened and Steve lost the ability to think about anything at all. There was just heat and pressure, the smooth slide of Bucky&#39;s lips as he took Steve deeper. His tongue teased over the slit and around the head, tracing the line where Steve&#39;s foreskin would have been. Bucky swallowed and then choked a little, lifting his head to cough.

&ldquo;This is harder than it looked.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Are you all right?&rdquo; Steve stammered, a little surprised that he managed to get the sentence out. He felt like he&#39;d run a marathon back before the serum, the way his heart was pounding in his chest.

Steve stroked his hand down Bucky&#39;s cheek, wiping up a drop of spit at the corner of his mouth. He let his fingers trail over the other man&#39;s skin, rubbing his thumb across his bottom lip. Bucky grinned and nipped his finger before sucking Steve&#39;s thumb into his mouth.

The blond&#39;s breath caught, his length twitching again as the brunet hollowed his cheeks, swallowing around Steve&#39;s finger as he had around his cock. Bucky pulled off with a wet pop and then settled himself a bit more comfortably.

&ldquo;You can touch me, you know. I want you to touch me,&rdquo; the other man said, his voice a low rumble that Steve felt to his bones.

Bucky took the blond&#39;s hands and put them on his head, waiting until Steve curled his fingers against his scalp before leaning in again. His friend&rsquo;s mouth was no less overwhelming the second time around but touching Bucky helped to keep him grounded, his fingers clenching tightly in the other man&#39;s hair. Steve tried not to pull too hard; he didn&#39;t want to hurt the brunet but it was a struggle when Bucky began to bob his head.

He didn&#39;t take Steve quite as deep this time but he made up the difference with his hands, his palms rough around the base of the blond&#39;s cock. The other man stroked him slowly, fingers quickly matching the rhythm of his mouth.

Rough and smooth, heat and cooler pressure, Steve lost himself to Bucky easily. He wanted to watch, wanted to see his johnson disappear between those slick red lips, the other man&#39;s mouth stretched wide open and obscene. But Steve&#39;s eyes kept slipping closed as waves of heat washed over him.

&ldquo;Fuck, I&#39;m close, Buck,&rdquo; the blond groaned, his whole body burning from the inside out. He heard his friend moan in answer, the sound muffled by the roaring in his ears.

Instead of pulling back, the brunet just pushed closer, taking Steve&rsquo;s cock as deep in as he could. The other man swallowed around his length and then sucked hard, the added pressing breaking Steve&#39;s control. He snapped his hips forward sharply and his mind went hazy as he came with a hoarse shout.

The blond man collapsed back into the couch, every muscle limp and tingling. He sat there panting for a long moment, cracking his eyes open just in time to see Bucky spit into his handkerchief. The brunet looked even more debauched now, his hair a sweaty mess and his face flushed red. Steve thought he could be content to watch his friend like this forever, reveling in the evidence that Bucky wanted this as much as him.

But then the brunet shoved a hand down his own trousers, biting his lip and baring the long line of his neck, and Steve couldn&#39;t just watch anymore. He surged forward and grabbed Bucky by the shoulders, pulling him back into his lap and kissing him hard. Steve chased the taste on Bucky&#39;s tongue as he worked his hand into the other man&#39;s pants. He tangled their fingers together and stroked the brunet quickly, johnson hot against his palm.

&ldquo;<i>Steve,</i>&rdquo; the other man keened, breaking their kiss to bury his head against Steve&rsquo;s shoulder. He rocked his hips into each stroke, twisting his wrist and showing Steve just the way he liked it. The blond was an eager student, matching Bucky&#39;s rhythm until his friend was shaking in his arms.

&ldquo;Let go, Buck. I&#39;ve got you,&rdquo; Steve murmured into the brunet&rsquo;s skin. &ldquo;I wanna see you come.&rdquo;

He stroked Bucky again, rubbing his thumb over the slit and spreading slick all down his shaft. Once more a little faster and the other man stiffened, going still as he spilled into his hand. The brunet was completely silent except for a quiet whimper and the sound made Steve&rsquo;s cock twitch again. His refractory period was apparently ridiculous but maybe he&#39;d finally get the chance to test his stamina to the limit with both of them enhanced.

But first Steve had to catch Bucky as he melted, only the blond&#39;s firm hold keeping him upright. He held onto the other man as he moved to lay them down, dangling his legs off the end of the couch and letting Bucky sprawl on top of him. He stroked the brunet&rsquo;s hair with one hand as his friend curled into his chest with a contented purr, wiping his other hand off on Bucky&#39;s trousers. They were a lost cause already and it was a good thing that Steve could afford to buy another set of clothing because those stains were never coming out.

However, even if he hadn&rsquo;t had the money, this would have been well worth it. So he just settled his arm beneath his head and continued petting Bucky until the brunet finally stirred.

&ldquo;What do you think, Stevie?&rdquo; he asked quietly. &#39;Was that a successful trial run?&rdquo;

&ldquo;I think I need to thank your French gal,&rdquo; the blond told him honestly. &ldquo;You sucked my brains out through my johnson and they aren&#39;t all back again.&rdquo;

&ldquo;I don&#39;t know about that. I think I could use a bit more practice,&rdquo; his friend chuckled. &ldquo;Wanna give me a hand?&rdquo;

&ldquo;I&#39;ll give you both,&rdquo; Steve promised. &ldquo;In fact, as soon as I can feel my legs, I might ask you for a lesson. You don&#39;t get all the fun.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Fuck Stevie,&rdquo; the other man groaned. &ldquo;You&#39;re gonna be the death of me. Why the hell didn&#39;t we do this years ago?&rdquo;

&ldquo;No idea,&rdquo; the blond answered. &ldquo;But we&#39;re here now so let&#39;s enjoy it. I don&#39;t plan to waste our second chance at life, not anymore.&rdquo;

&ldquo;Me neither,&rdquo; Bucky told him. &ldquo;Though I don&#39;t think a dozen lifetimes could make me sick of loving you.&rdquo;

Steve couldn&rsquo;t doubt the brunet&rsquo;s sincerity. His friend had never done things by half measures and he knew that they were in this for the long haul, both of them together till the end. So of course Steve had to kiss him and the conversation ended quickly after that.

Maybe they should have talked about it instead of jumping in headfirst. But loving Bucky felt so natural, so inevitable, and Steve couldn&#39;t be afraid of falling with his best friend at his side.


<i>Finis</i></i.>


Bucky doesn&#39;t believe in big gay freakouts, like at all.

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