Sixteen thousand feet above the French landscape, in the shimmering void between sky above and sun-baked soil below, Captain Steve Rogers exhaled humid frustration into the folds of his scarf and rubbed his nose into the damp fabric. He was cranky and bored, his skin itched with the changeable weather and their solo patrol had borne no fruit to distract him from his fractious mood.
They’d had the sky practically to themselves all afternoon — just Steve, Bucky, their new Stark Mk.2B and the heaped banks of developing clouds that had promised thunderstorms, but never delivered. In sharp contrast with the climate at ground level, the air at this altitude was chilly and Steve was somehow managing to feel simultaneously both too hot and too cold. Steve tipped his head back and groaned, joints aching from two hours and change spent immobile in the cockpit.
Who’d have thought that the miracle of flight could turn into a chore?
Behind him, he could hear Bucky tapping out a cheery tattoo on the three-hundred-and-sixty degree gun-mount surrounding his gunner’s seat, no doubt to some beer-hall ditty he’d picked up from Dum Dum’s habit of banging out shitty tunes on the mess room piano. Every so often he’d reach forward to thump Steve on the shoulder in warning and swing his gun downwards to release a stream of tracer bullets into nothingness and Steve was grateful, both that Bucky was mindful to keep his guns warm — rather than have them jam from the cold when they needed them — and also for the heads-up. Weary and irritated as he was, Steve much preferred to save his nerves for a genuine emergency.
He decided it was about time to turn and head for home. Their fuel reserves weren’t going to last forever, and the skies had shown neither hide nor hair of a German or HYDRA machine; if anyone back on the ground challenged them for the lack of action, he’d be all too pleased to argue they’d given it a fair shot. His calves were stiff and his shoulders were tight and he tensed before stretching his legs out as far as they would go in the confined space. Unbidden, one leg spasmed with cramp and Steve, like a thrice-damned amateur, kicked the rudder. He heard Bucky yell and felt the impact of his body against the side of the cockpit as they abruptly peeled to the left.
Heart hammering in his throat, Steve got control of his machine with a practiced roll and straightened them out only to feel a further jerk to the plane’s tenuous equilibrium as Bucky’s Lewis machine gun thundered out a staccato rhythm behind him.
He craned his head around to glare at Bucky in annoyance for the lack of warning, assuming it to be Bucky’s idea of payback for the unplanned aerobatics, only to see the wheels of another aircraft sweep overhead, just missing their top-plane. Steve swore.
The hell was he doing missing that?
“Serves me right if I get us shot,” he ground out through his teeth, and jerked the control column into his stomach. They zoomed upwards and he toggled the trigger for his Vickers gun, synchronised ammunition pumping between the blades of his propellor and sketching stippled lines in the air between him and the other aircraft sweeping through his sights.
A flash and it was gone; any bullets that found their mark did so with more luck than judgement, and the aircraft had dodged away and out of sight.
Steve swung hard after it.
Why the blazing hell, thought Steve, mid-roll, are the Germans so fond of decorating their kites with such goddamn ugly colours?
The Albatross D.III single-seater, which was by then fully in view and determinedly gluing itself to their tail, was painted maroon with sickly green irregular spots that put Steve in mind of an infected tonsil. At least, thought Steve, he assumed that it was the paint-job that was blotchy. He was banking so sharply to keep out of the enemy’s gun sights that the spots could well have been behind his own eyes.
Steve thanked his lucky stars-and-stripes that he was blessed with the best gunner a man could possibly want, as Bucky’s tracer ammo cut bright swathes through the sky and their machine shuddered with the percussive chatter of his gun’s recoil. Steve’s initial burst of bullets seemed to have struck something important in the German’s controls, as the other machine’s handling looked increasingly erratic and he could see the enemy pilot slam both fists on the instrument panel in frustration before gripping the stick and diving, presumably in an attempt to escape for home territory.
Steve was inclined to leave the other pilot to it — he was hardly going to pursue an unfair advantage against a crippled combatant whose only desire was to get away — but the pilot of the Albatross changed his mind and swooped up in a steep and sudden loop-the-loop only to dive straight back towards them from above.
Afterwards, Steve never knew if it had been a feint, and the German pilot had always meant to dip the propellor of his aircraft just to gain speed for the loop, or if he’d genuinely changed his mind and decided if he was going to go he’d rather go out guns blazing and take an American or two with him. Either way, his motivation was moot.
While Steve had time only to roll his wings and swing their craft away from the stream of bullets pinging from the fuselage all around him, Bucky was standing up in his seat with both hands gripping the Lewis gun, his aim straight and sure.
Bucky’s onslaught of lead hit home — nearly inevitable at this short range — and they both saw the moment the engine of the Albatross caught fire, orange flickers licking at the cockpit, sparks and flames spiralling away from the stuttering propellor. As the other craft shot past them Steve caught the wild and panicked eyes of the pilot for just a moment, before the coruscating phosphorous from the tracer ammunition caught the canvas in earnest and the aircraft went up in a comet of flame.
They watched as it broke apart, falling away, struts and wires tangled amid the blazing pieces.
Steve wheezed a shaky breath and squeezed his eyes closed before exhaling and taking a moment to steady their flight and just breathe.
After a moment, he felt the heavy touch of Bucky’s gloved hand resting on his shoulder.
Below them, the remains of the German scout twirled and burned all the way to the ground.
Bucky sat quiet in the rear seat and kept his eyes firmly on the skies, wary of the next threat, until he judged that Steve’s shredded nerves had settled down. It had been too close.
The Albatross — now smoking in a blackened heap on the ground — had swung out of a cloud bank nearly on top of them. The German pilot had likely been as surprised as they had; despite Bucky’s quick reactions and Steve’s fearless flying it was only luck that had Steve and Bucky winging their way home awash with adrenaline and the German pilot and his Albatross flaming out like a taper all the way down to the carpet.
It was getting late. The sun was sinking like a barrage balloon being winched back down to the horizon, ready to spend the night tethered to the ground after a busy day broiling the French countryside to a sizzle. It lit the sky like a soft summer peach, while by contrast the looming storm clouds grew a steadily deeper and more dramatic purple that gave Bucky a kind of dual nostalgia, since they reminded him both of grape soda and Steve’s cloudy mood — staples of Bucky’s life since at least 1904.
They’d been in the air for well over two and a half hours. They were good for up to three, thanks to Howard Stark’s engineering and an otherwise relatively sedate and therefore fuel-efficient patrol, but Bucky was anxious not to hang around. The real albatross was traditionally a solitary bird, but the German variant tended to hunt in packs and he really didn’t need another go-around with Jerry this evening. Besides, Bucky thought it likely Steve was pretty shaken by the sudden encounter.
Bucky’s own nerves hadn’t bothered him since the factory. In fact, if you’d asked him in his more vulnerable moments — which he tried to avoid on principle — he’d have said if anything, he was pretty numb to this war business. More and more it took the highs of combat and the rapidly dwindling stock of whisky in the Mess to get him to feel anything much at all .
He played it cheerfully enough, he thought. Honestly, it was fine. He was good at hiding; he’d had practice. Hiding his feelings from Steve, his proclivities from his neighbours. Yeah. Bucky had this dance down, and he’d dance it till the end of the war and whatever came after… or until he went west. And he’d like to avoid that, since anything that got the better of him would likely get Steve right along with him.
Bucky shook himself to clear his head of morbid thoughts, and gave Steve another whack on the shoulder. Time to go.
Indicating by hand signal that he’d recorded the location of the smoking wreck of the German Albatross, Bucky watched as Steve hauled on the controls and turned for home.
They’d been flying into the setting sun for perhaps a minute or so when, without warning, the plane’s engine gave a gurgle and a cough and puttered slowly to a stop.
The only sound was the wind in the wires and the creak of the struts.
Bucky stood up to lean over Steve’s shoulder. The petrol gauge told its own story — empty, and since they’d hardly had time to burn a whole tank, probably one of the German bullets had found its mark and drained it dry. He watched Steve flick the switch for the fuel tanks back and forth between the main tank and emergency feed. Nothing.
Bucky groaned to himself in the sudden silence. Howard — currently lending his services to the 107th to manage the transition to the Mk.2Bs — was sick to the back teeth of patching up the holes Steve’s ‘head first, brains later’ approach to dogfighting made of his kite. “I’m an aeronautical engineer, not a blasted seamstress, Rogers,” he’d sniped to Steve, all of three freaking days ago. “I’m this close to just handing you a needle and thread, giving your boy here a glue brush and a pot of dope, and leaving you to fix her yourselves.”
They were never going to hear the end of this.
Bucky looked around and took stock. He tapped his gloved hand on Steve’s shoulder and jerked his thumb downwards. They were just passing the German lines, high enough to avoid the Archie, so they were safe from anti-aircraft ordnance for now. They’d lost height during their battle with the German scout, but the wind was in their favour and at just over 10,000 feet they had enough altitude to glide past their own Lines back into friendly territory. The evening light was fading, though, and the aerodrome itself was a long way off. Bucky got a sinking feeling in his gut. They’d had one miraculous escape already and he hoped Steve didn’t want to chance a twilight glide home low over hedgerows that could send them tail-over-prop for no reason.
Better to pick a field and drop down somewhere, find a hospitable farmhouse and persuade the locals to let them bunk up. They could call it in and get picked up by an army transport first thing in the morning. Come on, Steve, he thought, Read me loud and clear on this one.
Happily, Steve seemed to be of the same mind. Twisting to give Bucky a thumbs-up and a rueful grimace, he turned their aeroplane’s nose towards the Allied lines and cast his gaze downwards, presumably on the lookout for a good field to land in. Behind him, Bucky watched the skies and Steve’s back.
Their evening glide was quiet and the air stayed clear and free of thunder, lightning, and Germans as Steve brought them safely over their own Lines and side-slipped closer and closer towards the ground.
Bucky held his breath as they touched down in a field close to a likely-looking cluster of buildings, praying they wouldn’t hit a sudden ditch or molehill.
Steve brought them in to as smooth a landing as he ever managed on their own tarmac, and it was all going beautifully until their luck evaporated with a vicious jerk and they were both flung forward in their seats.
Their propellor ploughed into the ground, their tail tipped up and Bucky was certain they’d roll right over until, with a shudder, a rip, and a crunch, the aeroplane settled back on its wheels.
Bucky blew out his cheeks and rested his chin on the smooth gun mount. In the forward seat, Steve had stripped off his flying cap, goggles, gloves and scarf and let his head fall back, eyelashes brushing flushed cheeks and leaning ever so slightly sideways against Bucky’s temple as they both took another moment to breathe.
They both groaned.
The sun was nudging the horizon and the skies deepening to blues and greys as Bucky stood up in the cockpit and orientated himself, looking for the farmstead they’d spotted from above.
He tried to focus on the moment and not on the fact that in an hour or so he’d be sharing a sleeping space with Steve for the first time since the previous winter. There had been a rough couple of weeks in November of 1916 when Steve had caught a terrible chill and Bucky had spent every night huddled up to Steve under blankets, keeping him warm, and feeding him cough syrup by the spoonful. Bucky had been more worried than he let on, but they got through it all right. And the proximity had been nice.
Of course, now Captain Rogers had a separate room at the end of the barracks, while Bucky was sharing with Dum Dum and Morita, and even though Bucky was grateful to the ends of the earth that Steve was here with him, he missed the easy closeness of home they could never replicate here at war. No in and out of each other’s bedrooms, no late nights lounging on the roof. Even if it had never been what Bucky wanted it to be, it was something. Now that Peggy was on the scene, those times were likely already over for good.
Besides, they were a long way from Brooklyn.
That was a safe enough alternative subject to dwell on, actually. As his eyes swept their earth-bound surroundings once more, Bucky pondered that he’d never get over the sheer greenery of the countryside; even the rough-cropped stubble of the field they’d landed in was being consumed by new growth beneath. All around them, buff-brown stalks were softened by fuzzy sprouting shoots. It sure as hell wasn’t New York City.
Bucky stripped off the thick outer layers of his flight suit before hopping down and reaching back to offer Steve a steadying hand. A quick once-over of the aircraft revealed bullet holes in both the main tank and the gravity tank as suspected, which at least suggested a straightforward fix. In the absence of a mechanic, though, this was not of immediate help and the more problematic damage was to the propellor — now hanging in jagged splinters. Hopefully Howard would be so pleased they were alive he’d cut them some slack, but Bucky wasn’t counting on it.
A short inspection of their somewhat truncated wheel-tracks revealed the culprit of their misfortune: a small, half-buried log. They both cursed and kicked at it, which relieved their feelings a bit, particularly when the cursing devolved into cathartic laughter.
“Time to brush off our bon français, Buck,” observed Steve, wincing.
“Oh, I think it’s gonna be your français, Stevie,” Bucky replied with a smirk. “Not sure my vocab suits the situation unless we’re planning on getting in someone’s knickers, and I dunno,” he scratched behind his ear, hamming it up, “it just doesn’t seem like the right tack to take.” The look Steve shot him was dark and priceless. Bucky raised his hands in mock surrender, and said, “But, hey, you’re the tactical mastermind, so if you think it’s best, just point me at ‘em, and I’ll follow your lead…”
He leapt aside, laughing as Steve flicked his sheepskin gloves at the back of Bucky’s head and called him a jerk. Bucky grinned, slung his arm around Steve’s shoulders and tried not to think — even in the privacy of his own imagination — about what Steve would look like in knickers, or how Bucky’d go about getting into them if he were.
The little group of farmhouses wasn’t far. Steve selected the most likely-looking hub of activity and girded his loins, praying he’d manage to communicate their predicament without making trouble.
Steve’s French vocabulary was gleaned mostly from Dernier and therefore in larger part either a) unfit for mixed company or b) about explosives. Nevertheless between his stuttered politesse and Bucky’s charming smile they made themselves understood to the household well enough.
A young boy was dispatched on his bicycle to the house of a local bigwig some miles away who was in possession of an actual telephone. He carried a message informing the 107th that, yes, Steve and Bucky lived to fly again, their catalogue of victories could be increased by the sum of one Albatross, and if Howard would send a spare propellor along with some mechanics to install it and patch their tanks, they could be home the following day in time for lunch.
Madame et Monsieur were sweet and gracious, handing them rolls and eggs and apologising for the poor fare, etc, etc. They seemed unfazed to have two American airmen in their kitchen and a broken Stark Fighter in their hayfield. There was no room in the inn, as it were, but they were assured that the barns were warm and well protected from vermin by an army of farm cats who were very much in evidence, slinking around corners, catching the last of the evening sun on a window sill and going about their own feline business.
Steve watched Bucky suck the crumbs from his fingers and smirk at the kitchen girls, and bit down on his bottom lip to suppress a sigh. Bucky’s cheeks were pink from the sun and wind, burned brown in the spaces exposed between his goggles and scarf, and he looked at home, picking over the remains of his dinner and exuding rakish Barnes charm.
It used to be torment, to spend his days so close to that charm and not know it for himself; Steve tamped down the ancient ache and finished his cold farmer’s tea, setting his mug down with purpose. He was facing a whole night spent bedded down in a barn with Bucky, after so long going without. He missed the nights they’d spent in Brooklyn sharing a room and talking nonsense into the small hours.
Steve was looking forward to it. He’d had some time to think since the events of Paris, and he was almost convinced he wasn’t alone in these feelings — that Bucky could maybe see him as he’d always seen Bucky. Steve had noticed the flare of jealousy get gotten from Bucky after Steve’s escapades with Sam, and the less-than-subtle jibes from Howard and Peggy. Maybe Steve, as Captain Rogers, could finally keep up with his brilliant best friend.
As the sun disappeared over the horizon, they were directed to a barn set some way back from the farmhouse. The air, which had been muggy and stifling during their meal, had turned cool and the first fat drops of rain were beginning to fall. Thunder rumbled in the distance and Steve hurried across the ripe farmyard to the building, Bucky behind him.
Brooklyn in summer — at any time of year, really — was hardly a rose garden but the concentrated farm stench was new to Steve, worse even than the night raid on the factory where he’d been sure he’d stepped in something. The smell was pervasive, and while he supposed it was a more honest and earthy one than that of the city’s sewers, it was also extremely immediate in his nostrils.
Steve was thankful for the lantern the farmer’s wife had pressed into his hands as he lit their way up a sturdy wooden ladder to the hayloft. The smell in the little space amongst the rafters was sweeter and less grim, the dry odour of fresh hay.
They settled in behind some bales, insulating themselves from the damp and the mild chill of night, snug in what amounted to a little room up in the loft. After playing a couple of hands of cards, they decided to turn in, rolling up their leathers for pillows and getting comfortable in the hay. They froze at the sound of smothered laughter and high-pitched voices speaking quietly in French coming from the barn below.
Steve had assumed the temporary American occupation of the hayloft would have been mentioned in dispatches around the farmhouse and little group of cottages, but presumably the message had been lost en route to at least two of the little farm’s inhabitants. Quickly dimming the lamp, Steve ducked down to peer through the bales to the barn below and saw that a young woman and young man had placed their own lantern on a shelf and were giggling and shushing each other as they fumbled with each other’s clothes.
Bucky crouched next to him, both of them on their knees, peering into the barn from behind their hay-bale parapet. Steve was pretty sure no one down there could see them way up in the darkened rafters now, and even if the flicker of their lantern had been visible earlier, the couple had obviously been too occupied with each other to notice.
As the giggling intensified and started to take on a breathy timbre that attested to something more urgent than humour, Steve adjusted his weight. This could get uncomfortable extremely quickly.
It wasn’t as if they weren’t familiar with the need to pretend things such as this didn’t happen. Steve and Bucky had grown up in tenements in Brooklyn, where privacy was a luxury mostly afforded by people in richer neighbourhoods — one they could only approximate by judicious application an attitude of “Noise? What noise?” in relation to the intimate relations of their neighbours.
The tableau below was rather more immediate than either of them were strictly prepared for. Ignoring it certainly wasn’t going to work.
From what Steve could hear of Bucky’s breathing beside him, he didn’t seem to be able to ignore it either.
Bucky pressed his forehead into the tangled hay, bit down on his knuckles and cursed his life.
He had been content, goddammit. He was still alive; he and the Howlies had come to some kind of equilibrium with Steve as their new CO; he was on first name terms with one of the greatest mechanical geniuses of their age; and he’d met the woman Steve was likely to marry and thought she was wonderful.
That was about as good as he’d ever expected it to get.
Now, when he’d been looking forward to a night spent in Steve’s company, a thing he hoarded now they were in rationed supply, he had an awkward erection to deal with. Apparently, his luck had run out for the day.
Bucky and Steve had shared a room in their Brooklyn tenement. Neither was exactly prudish. Still, it was one thing to surreptitiously take care of business under the covers of your own bed and entirely another to be confronted what amounted to their own personal peep show — What the Butler Saw, but with sound effects.
Oh, God, really, really distracting sound effects… Bucky groaned under his breath.
Bucky spun around, propping his back against the hay-bale and letting his head fall back. He closed his eyes. It only emphasised the noises, including Steve’s breathing, which was starting to sound a little laboured.
This was excruciating.
Bucky was hardly a virgin, and hadn’t been since sometime after his seventeenth birthday (Elsie McCall, two years his senior and more than willing to lend a hand). He’d had Rosa Lowenstein up against a stack of linens in the airing cupboard of her parent’s laundrette not three weeks before he’d shipped out, and both parties had had a thoroughly good time.
He was less sure about Steve’s experiences. Steve had always claimed he was waiting for the right partner and, yeah, it figured that Steve would be stubborn about it. He and Carter would make a hell of a partnership, if Steve could get over his squeamishness and Carter could accept Steve was never going to change his principles.
Bucky sighed, a little louder than was perhaps prudent. He was wary of letting himself have this when he supposed to be letting go. Accept it and move on, Barnes, he told himself. Just one compromise in a lifetime of compromises. He’s never noticed how much I want him so far, and it’s been years, he thought. Another moment to navigate carefully, that’s all.
“Sorry, Steve,” he gritted through his teeth, sotto voce. “Just, just… Forget I’m here, we’ve done it before. I’ll shut my eyes, and you just — uh…” Bucky waved a hand in Steve’s direction. He really didn’t want to finish that sentence.
“Oh,” said Steve, barely audibly. “Okay. I mean, it’s just. Well. No need for both of us to be uncomfortable, is there? If you’ve got your eyes shut.”
Well, that was more direct than they usually managed to be about these things, and it was a kind offer. Bucky grunted in assent. He was sprawled in the hay, his eyes still closed. He shuffled up a little, getting comfortable. Below, he could still hear the soundtrack of the young couple’s evening entertainment, and Steve was right there at his shoulder and yet still unreachable.
And then Steve made it worse.
“If you don’t want to look, that’s fine Buck,” he murmured. And then, tentatively, with a nervous laugh, Steve said, “I’ll narrate, shall I? Let you, uh, have your moment.”
Bucky’s eyes snapped open, revealing a dim, cobwebbed view of the pitched barn roof. He focussed on a couple of innocent spiders, oblivious to the imminent desecration of their place of residence. Steve was suggesting…
“If you like?” said Steve, lightly — too lightly. There was a tremor in Steve’s voice.
And that was, what? A request for permission? For Steve to talk dirty to him? To translate what was desperately transpiring below, while Bucky closed his eyes and, and, paid a visit to Mrs Palm and her five daughters? With Steve right there?
Bucky wasn’t really thinking. The blood usually running his brain was evidently occupied elsewhere. Permission fucking granted, he thought, still focussed on the ceiling. He mentally apologised to the spiders, closed his eyes and without a word, slid his hand into his pants.
Steve really didn’t know what he was doing.
Sometime between supper when he’d watched Bucky suck his fingers clean, and the moment they’d been interrupted by the warm, enthusiastic sounds of sex from below, he’d decided he would make a move, but he’d had no idea what he was going to do. How does a man say to his best friend, “I’ve been in love with you all my life, and I think you like me, so hey — how about it, pal?”
Steve had absolutely no clue.
So this was maybe a way to… get that started.
It was a God-send. Uh. Or something.
Bucky liked stories. Of all flavours. Steve knew that; it wasn’t just Conan Doyle and Mary Shelley gathering dust under his bed in their shared room back home. And Steve figured he could try out his nascent flair for oratory and command, make this work. He just had to start. How difficult could it be?
“Steve?” asked Bucky, and his eyes were still closed, unhurried fingers stroking himself, wrist shifting gently against the bunched cloth of his unbuttoned fly, but he sounded unsure. Steve couldn’t have that. Bucky was going to find out how he, Steve, felt about him and Steve was missing his window.
“Just, uh, give me a sec, Buck,” he hissed.
“What’re they doing now, Stevie,” said Bucky, barely a whisper, his hand resting over his crotch, unmoving now, paused, waiting for Steve.
“Well, uh, you know,” said Steve. “Kissing. He’s groping, trying to get his hands under those skirts.” Smooth, Rogers, he thought. Get a grip, ha ha ha.
Gift for oratory. Right.
Steve peered over into the barn below, making certain of his situation. He surveyed the scene. Ah. Right.
Steve quietly cleared his throat and warmed to his theme.
Steve’s voice. Sweet Jesus H. Christ on a fucking bicycle.
Bucky didn’t know what to do. Happily for him, there is such a thing as muscle memory, and it had taken over as he’d undone his flies and pushed his hand into his pants. His cock liked Steve’s voice. A lot.
Steve was talking.
“Oh, hey, look,” he said, low and deep and so quiet Bucky had to strain to hear it. “He’s got her skirt up round her waist, you see, and he’s squeezing his fingers round her hips; he’s running his thumbs up and over her belly. That’s all he’s doing, just stroking, but his thumbs are sliding lower and lower, you know?”
Bucky was listening. He stroked himself with his right hand and hitched his hips up a little to shuffle his pants down his thighs. He ran the fingers of his left hand through the hair under his navel, down and back, in slow accord with the lilt of Steve’s voice. He couldn’t hear the couple any more, he was listening to Steve.
Steve gulped, audibly. He was still talking, but he sounded a little more confident now, a little closer.
“He’s reaching real low, Buck. She’s moaning, she really wants him to touch her. She’s grabbed his hand, so impatient,” he whispered. Bucky could hear his smile. He smothered a whimper. “He’s got his fingers inside her now, Buck. You ever had your fingers inside someone? You ever had your fingers inside yourself?”
Bucky had, of course, in answer to both, but still Steve’s words still shocked him. He felt himself twitch under his hand.
The voice he’d known all his life, the one he’d imagined and then thought he was imagining while he’d believed himself dying on a table in occupied territory, the one that gave orders over morning briefings — that voice was asking him if he… if he…
He squeaked a little, then quickly bit down on his lip. They had to be quiet, dammit. Which at least meant the question was rhetorical. Probably.
“Bet it’s nice in there,” continued Steve, almost conversationally. “Soft and warm.”
Bucky bit down harder just to keep quiet as Steve kept talking.
“She seems to like it real good, Buck. Her head’s thrown back, he’s unbuttoning her blouse with his spare hand, she’s helping out — touching herself, I mean, not helping with the buttons. She’s clasped their fingers together and she’s rocking into their hands.”
Bucky was working himself in earnest at this point.
He heard dry stalks shift and rustle as Steve shuffled closer. Bucky could feel him now, the heat from his body, he must be within arm’s reach. Bucky’s fingers twitched as if to reach out with the hand that wasn’t on his dick.
Bucky instead bent his elbow up behind his head and gripped his own collar tight, lest he do something stupid and embarrassingly emotional. He got up onto his knees, his uniform pants crushed under his shins, and he thrust up, trying to chastise himself, clenching his fist.
Next to him, Steve whimpered and swallowed with a click. He must be really into what the two were doing downstairs, if just talking about it was doing that to him.
“He’s got one tit in his mouth, now, Buck,” said Steve, hoarsely. His voice sounded so close. “God, imagine how it feels on his tongue.”
Bucky could indeed imagine, and did, but in his mind’s eye he let the image drift and change. Steve could just keep talking, Bucky’s mind was full of only him — imagining his chest, yeah, narrow and skinny, but all Steve, and it would be all Bucky’s. He could just let his tongue flatten out, lean forward and lick…
“Yeah,” said Bucky, panting, still thrusting. “Yeah, imagine.”
Steve had put a lot of thought into what he’d want if anyone — if Bucky — ever reciprocated his feelings. He couldn’t believe Bucky trusted him to take the lead on this, Bucky who must have had dozens of experiences. He knew this was different; this was them. Steve would do anything for Bucky, he’d proved that. Bucky had spent more than half their life taking care of Steve. Steve desperately wanted to take care of this, right now. This was Steve’s job.
Before him, Bucky was propped on his knees, fucking his fist, his eyes squeezed tightly shut. Steve wondered if he knew about the tears leaking from the crinkled corners of his eyes. They were beautiful.
Steve flipped the top button on his own trousers and slid three of his fingers into the top of his underwear, running his nails through wiry hair, teasing himself, stretching to reach the inner crease of his thigh.
He knew exactly where the action down in the barn was headed.
There was a pause. Steve’s breathing was shallow, but surprisingly even. That was fortunate, thought Bucky, what an inconvenient moment for an asthma attack this would be.
Bucky heard Steve shift position, felt him readjust on the hard wooden boards. He seemed to be leaning close. The words slid into Bucky’s ear on hot, hoarse breaths.
“She’s turned around, Buck, she’s begging him again. She’s got her palms flat on the wall, right where there’s this cross-beam. She’s bent right over, Buck,” Steve croaked.
Bucky’s brain was the wind in the washing lines hung out between the flats, the empty blue of the sky at 15,000 feet. He swallowed.
Steve inched closer and his mouth made delicate, unbearably intimate little sounds as he moistened his lips. Bucky shivered.
“Yeah,” whispered Steve, “her skirts are all rucked up, I can see her legs — she’s got great legs, Bucky — and he’s peeling down her bloomers, getting her ass out and she’s hanging onto that cross-beam for dear life. You wanna hear about that?”
“ Steve ,” Bucky began, not even sure there was an answer to that that didn’t incriminate himself more than he wanted, but Steve wasn’t waiting around for an answer.
“Yeah, well,” said Steve, close and private in Bucky’s ear. “He’s got one hand around her, you know, in front, down there. His other hand’s on her ass, he’s thumbing her cheeks open, and — oh look, he’s got oil or something, or maybe she’s just that wet. There goes his other thumb. Oh, she’s gonna leave fingernail marks in that beam, Bucky.” Steve’s lips were scant inches away, he could feel the heat, the dampness of his breath. “He looks desperate for it,” said Steve, low and broken, “but he’s not rushing. He’s taking it slow for his darling. What d’you think: one finger, two?”
“Start with one,” said Bucky, hardly knowing what he was saying. The sounds of his hand on his own dick shushing in the darkness, the only lights playing behind his eyes. Steve’s lips, almost, nearly, brushing his ear. Bucky was, oh God, so close.
Steve was still talking, his body hot up against Bucky’s side.
“Yeah, there he goes,” said Steve. “Think it feels good for dames, getting it like that?” As if Bucky could possibly have it in him to answer to an interrogation right now. All he could imagine was Steve’s fingers, himself bent over a bed, or a rail, or this damned hay-bale, and Steve working him open… Steve…
“Dunno,” managed Bucky, his own voice sounding harsh in the warm dark. Bucky squeezed, thrust up into his fist, shoulder blades still propped on the bale, rising up on his knees. Bucky could smell Steve beside him, soap and castor oil and engine grease and, under that, just plain old Steve Rogers, Bucky’s home.
“He’s so hard, Buck,” whispered Steve. “He’s dripping with it, it’s like, like wrought iron and she wants it so bad — but Buck, he wants it too. Oh, oh Buck, it feels so good. He wants… He wants…”
“Yeah?” gasped Bucky, nearly out of his mind.
If Bucky had even a single brain cell to spare, he should have realized that Steve couldn’t actually be watching this and have his lips practically in Bucky’s ear; that this was a fiction for Bucky’s benefit, and possibly — hopefully — Steve’s.
Still, he wasn’t thinking — or, rather, he was thinking only of Steve’s fingers deep in his ass as Bucky fucked into his own hand, desperate to come but not wanting Steve to stop talking — when his mouth bypassed his higher faculties and asked, like a traitor, “How d’you know that?”
There was silence.
Bucky didn’t open his eyes, didn’t stop, didn’t want to stop, and he was so close, he could feel the world starting to recede behind his eyelids…
“Bucky,” whispered Steve, “I want…” and the tip of Steve’s tongue ran gently over the rim of Bucky’s ear and Bucky came with a ragged sound that was probably heard in Berlin, let alone the barn downstairs.
Steve looked down into the eyes of his dearest friend and only love, feeling warm and proud.
Bucky had collapsed, panting, with his ass resting on the floor between his splayed heels, his trousers tangled under his socked feet, his hands fallen helplessly to the side, like a debauched puppet soldier with its strings cut. His shirt was spattered with his own mess. He looked crumpled and shattered and glorious.
I did that, thought Steve, and the realization lit him up from the inside. He beamed, he couldn’t stop himself.
“Steve,” said Bucky, and it sounded like a plea.
Steve put his arms gently around Bucky’s shoulders. Bucky craned backwards, almost as if to get away, but he didn’t try to move anything other than the curve of his spine.
“Steve,” he said. “You can’t have seen that.”
“I read,” said Steve, doing his best rendition of the cocky Barnes shrug. He was working up to the smirk.
“Steve?” repeated Bucky, and he looked almost horrified, his eyes enormous in the dim light, his gaze searching Steve’s face.
When Bucky first opened his eyes, after the orgasm of the decade, Steve was kneeling over him. Steve’s trousers were open and he was braced on the hay-bale with one hand next to Bucky’s shoulder, his eyes bright and wide. Bucky tried to ask what the hell this was, and Steve had been evasive, but kinda pleased with himself. Then Steve had actually embraced him, and Bucky had meant to back away, but couldn’t quite work up the coordination to do so.
As he eased back to let go of Bucky’s shoulders, Steve’s hand fell to his own lap. Bucky’s gaze was drawn inevitably downwards. This, he thought, is a mistake.
But Bucky couldn’t take his eyes off of Steve’s hand cradling his own fully erect dick, which shone bright and flushed and beading. A moment later, a drip reached some critical volume and angle and rolled slowly downwards. Bucky tracked the movement, felt his mouth awash with saliva. His lower lip wobbled.
His attention was broken by Steve’s hushed voice.
“They’re gone Buck, they left a while ago. It’s just you and me.”
“What?” Bucky felt his stomach drop through the floor. He snapped his head around and found himself looking up into blue, blue eyes. Steve’s voice was gentle.
“She just jacked him off and they left. It was over not long after you stopped looking.”
“What the hell?” asked Bucky, because it was a reasonable question.
“I’m good at extemporising,” said Steve, with a half-shrug and a smirk, and that wasn’t the question Bucky had been asking at all. Fuck me, thought Bucky, he really is smug.
He wasn’t wrong, though.
“Want me to extemporise a little more?” said Steve, as he raised an eyebrow in invitation.
“Jesus,” whispered Bucky. Who’d have thought Stevie Rogers could flirt?
Steve looked back and — God Almighty and little fishes — shamelessly pumped his cock.
This was perfect. No awkward declarations, no stuttered questions; they were here, together, of one accord.
Bucky always knew what Steve needed. Steve generally had a fair idea what Bucky needed, too, although it hasn’t been until recently — thanks to the needling from Sam and Peggy and Howard — he’d gotten the idea that what Bucky wanted was Steve.
And now Bucky knew how Steve felt.
Steve smiled at his best friend and waited for him to respond.
Bucky blinked, mouth dry with desire and despair.
So much for finding the right partner, then.
It was fine. It was fine. If Steve wanted this, a roll in the literal hay before he went off with Carter and they made little Carter babies then yeah, okay, sure. Bucky could do this. It wasn’t like any of them were guaranteed a tomorrow anyway. Any or all of them could be gone without warning — if the bullets earlier hadn’t hit the fuel tanks, but the engine, or either one of them, it would already have happened. The lesson here was take what you can, while you can, and be grateful.
Bucky could be grateful. It would hurt, afterwards, but he could.
He stared up into Steve’s unfathomable expression, and back down at Steve’s cock.
One chance? Okay. He wanted his mouth on Steve right fucking now.
Steve had barely blinked before Bucky knocked him to the ground. That was nice, if somewhat unexpected.
He grabbed what he could of Bucky’s hair and yanked. Bucky’s head jerked back with a gasp. Steve stared down his own body to Bucky’s wild eyes and open mouth.
“You’re not going to kiss a fellow, Barnes?” he teased. “You want me that badly?”
Bucky’s eyes grew round.
Bucky was honestly floored.
That Steve wanted a one-night fling was one thing. That he knew Bucky’s feelings on the subject, had grasped the extent of the desires Bucky thought he’d concealed completely effectively, yet could still ask this of him was nearly unthinkable.
Bucky knew Steve loved him, as a friend, as a brother. Undoubtedly. He hadn’t thought Steve was capable of this sort of casual cruelty.
But that was Steve sometimes. Throwing himself ahead and not thinking of the consequences, going after something single-mindedly no matter what, other considerations be damned.
And he loved that reckless, passionate Steve. Even if it was the height of callousness, even if Steve leaped first and counted the cost it brought others later, if ever — Bucky still loved him.
Hell, maybe Steve thought he was doing Bucky a favour. That was okay.
So, Steve wanted to kiss him? That was more than he’d ever expected. It was probably going to be harder than he’d expected, too. But okay. That was fine. What was kissing, after all? Bucky had kissed loads of people. He hadn’t been in love with any of them.
There’s the rub, thought Bucky and sighed.
When Bucky’s lips met his, Steve groaned. Bucky made a different, tighter noise high in his throat before he drew back, then seemed to collect himself and brought their lips together once more.
Bucky had been wrong.
It wasn’t fine.
It wasn’t anything in the vicinity of fine.
He closed his stinging eyes and kissed Steve again.
They kissed for a long time, the taste of Bucky’s tears salty on their lips. Steve was awed to the depths of himself. He was loved, he felt loved. He kissed Bucky with all his heart; Bucky kissed back like he was dying and Steve was the only thing that could save him. Steve’s fingers skimmed over Bucky’s chest, tracing raised scars all-too-recently healed. The combination of hurt and adoration he felt was devastating.
Steve hitched himself up into Bucky’s lap and they were face to face in the dim light, breath hot on each others faces.
“Whaddaya want, Bucky,” he asked, carding his fingers through Bucky’s slick hair. “Anything.”
Bucky sobbed, his chest heaving, before he gulped it down. He brushed the tears from his own cheeks with the heel of his hand, and met Steve’s eyes.
Bucky took another, desperate breath and swallowed.
“Anything?” he asked, and Steve nodded, smiling.
“Buck. Of course,” Steve promised. And he meant it; anything, anytime, always.
Bucky let go, and wriggled back in the hay. He looked at Steve like he’d never in his life seen anything he wanted more and Steve felt every bit of it.
“Buck?” Steve asked. Bucky sighed, and closed his eyes. When he opened them, they were shiny in the lamplight.
Bucky reached out and took Steve gently in his arms and laid him down in the hay. Steve felt like a virgin on his wedding night which, in truth, wasn’t an unfair comparison. Then Bucky kissed him, pushed away his shirt and undershirt, stripping Steve like he could spend the rest of his life doing nothing more and be grateful for it.
When Bucky took Steve into his mouth, Steve whispered a prayer.
Bucky took what he wanted.
It was as good as he’d imagined. He drew it out as long as he felt was decent. He felt the tears sliding down his cheeks and prayed he’d always, always, whatever happened, remember this.
Steve came with Bucky’s name on his lips, and Bucky’s heart cracked in two.
Later, they dressed before they slept, and Bucky said a silent goodbye to whatever this had been, even as he curled up next to Steve on their blanket in the hay.
In the morning, it would be over. Bucky wouldn’t make Steve spell out the boundaries for him.
He listened to Steve’s gentle snores for a long time before he fell asleep.
Bucky woke to the sound of a rooster, the uncomfortable prickle of dry wisps of grass, and the feeling of fingers carding through his hair. There was a warmth at his back that contrasted with the cool morning air.
He opened his eyes.
“Hey, Buck,” said Steve, smiling. He sounded soft and caring and agonisingly sincere.
“I love you,” said Steve.
Bucky blinked. He was abruptly very, very angry.
“You what?” he hissed, sitting up in a rush. He was so mad he could barely breathe. Letting Steve use him for one night was one thing. Trading endearments the following morning was a cruelty too far.
Steve just looked confused. Bucky could have punched him.
Steve’s oft-broken nose was saved from another brutal impact by a call from below and a creak of the barn door. Dawn light seeped in, barely there, blood-red and dim, promising foul weather later.
“Capitaine! Lieutenant!” cried the farmer’s boy who’d run their errands yesterday. He was a child of around ten, with fluffy hair barely restrained under a felted cap. “Breakfast is ready! And there is someone here to see you!”
Bucky swallowed his confusion and his rage, and scrambled for the rest of his clothes.
Steve rushed to followed suit, gathering the few things they’d brought in from the crash.
The kid waited for them to dress, helpfully pointed them in the direction of the privy, and generally hovered with an air of determined servility until they were decent enough and ready to follow.
Steve mourned the poor timing, but followed the kid across the yard and into the enormous kitchen through the back door, Bucky on his heels. The heat from the stove made Steve’s skin prickle and the smell of herbs and morning bread pleasantly overpowered the parfum-de-farmyard. Curtains fluttered in the windows. He and Bucky accepted mugs of hot milk from the farmer, thanking him in broken French for the food and shelter as they took seats at the broad, wooden table.
The farmer handed them hurriedly-prepared rounds of bread and cheese over the table, accepted Steve’s thanks and beat an inexplicably hasty retreat. Steve was watching Bucky frown at their host’s nervous departure, so he missed the arrival of a newcomer through a second door.
“Captain Rogers?” asked a dry voice, in American-accented English. Steve jerked to attention in his seat.
The voice belonged to an officer in the uniform of the French Army, standing at loose attention in the kitchen doorway. She was tall and narrow, in build and features, and she looked vaguely familiar, although Steve couldn’t place her.
“Yes, ma’am?” said Steve, aware he was still slightly dishevelled, unshaven, unwashed and somewhat non-regulation. Beside him, Bucky was shifting awkwardly as if he was having similar thoughts. The officer, if she noticed anything, breezed right past any reservations and went straight to business, opening with a salute.
“Commandant Maria Hill, adjutant — administrative deputy — to Colonel Fury, Escadrille 616. I hear you’ve had some trouble. I’ve got orders for you and Lieutenant Barnes to convene at the 616 ASAP.”
Steve and Bucky stood to immediate attention and returned the salute. Two chairs scraped hastily across the flagged floor.
Hill waved one hand dismissively, as if to brush away their belated formality.
“At ease, soldiers. We’ve got a situation and Fury’s on the warpath; the 107th will be joining us for an op this afternoon. Any chance you can make repairs, get in the air and over to our aerodrome the quick way?”
Steve hadn’t met Hill socially, but he’d seen her during the planning for the HYDRA gun op. She valued getting things done, as he recalled.
“We can’t, not without a mechanic and some parts,” said Steve, deciding that mirroring her informal approach was expedient under the circumstances. “We broke the propellor on the way down, and the tanks were holed during our altercation with the enemy.”
“Damn,” swore Hill. “Still, doesn’t matter, I drove here with a vehicle, I can drive you back and brief you on the way. Grab your kit and your cheese and come with me.”
She made a swift about-face and left. Steve and Bucky shoved their sandwiches in their pockets and followed.
The second kitchen door led to a smart, panelled hallway and a blue front door. The front of the house boasted cheery flowers in neat garden beds looking out over a rural vista that, in the early dawn, was nearly entirely obscured by an armoured truck with French Army markings.
Hill hopped up into the driver’s seat and gestured impatiently for them to join her.
“What’s happened?” asked Steve, as he slid onto the bench in the cab, letting Bucky squeeze in beside him and close the door.
“Schmidt,” answered the adjutant, shoving the truck into gear, her eyes forward, face grim.