Chapter 1: Bucky
“You should audition,” Natasha had told him as she stuffed a dumpling into her mouth. “How long has it been since you’ve done a show? It’ll be fun!”
And that is how Bucky finds himself filling out an audition form for the local community theatre production of Octopus. He’d found a copy of the script at a used bookstore and devoured the one-act show in an hour. He may have had reservations at first, but he really wants to do this show.
He passes his completed audition form to the woman manning the table outside the theatre. It hasn’t taken long to fill out. It’s been at least three years since he was in a play. And that had ended badly, souring his taste for the theatre since then. The woman looks over the form and to her credit doesn’t appear to judge his limited experience.
“What about a headshot?” she asks him.
Bucky blushes. He’d hoped it wasn’t necessary. “I don’t have one. It’s been a while.”
“No worries,” she says cheerfully. She pulls out her phone and instructs him to stand against the wall closest to the table. “This’ll be fine. They just want to remember you is all.” She snaps his picture, hits a few buttons, and a small device on the table Bucky had assumed was another phone whirs to life and begins printing out his picture. When it’s finished, she staples the snapshot to his audition form.
“You can have a seat inside,” she says. “It’s a standard cattle call.”
This is it, he thinks. He opens the door and enters the theatre. He’s been here before, so it’s not unfamiliar. He and Nat have seen a couple of shows in the space, but he takes in his surroundings under a different frame of mind.
The theatre is a standard utilitarian black box with four levels of raised seating rather than seating on a slope that would lead to the stage. There are several sconces scattered on the walls, no doubt part of the house plot. The stage is simply an empty space with black fabric suspended from pipes on the ceiling to separate the backstage area. There are no curtains to separate the stage from the audience.
Bucky scopes out the seats and finds that there are about fifteen other men there which surprises him considering the subject matter of the show. Two male couples have a one night stand and suddenly have to deal with the fall out when one of them tests positive for AIDS. He supposes he should be happy that there are men willing to put themselves out there. That, or they don’t know the show’s material.
With a cast of just five, he’s suddenly worried about his chance of being cast. He’s read the play three times in preparation for this audition. He’s figured out the main conflict, the ruling idea, and given circumstances of the play, as well as mapped out French scenes, which was really just stupid since it’s not something directors ever ask for. To say he wants a part in this show is an understatement. He’s not even fussed about which part he gets, although he’s leaning toward Blake in his readings. But really, he’ll accept any role that’s offered. Even that of the soaking wet Telegram Delivery Boy.
There’s a small table at the front of the audience where two men sit. Bucky assumes they are the director and stage manager. That would make the most sense. The woman out front could be the producer.
But then he recognizes the back of one of the heads. It’s fucking Steve Rogers. He’s certain of it. He must be directing the show. Fuck.
Bucky finds a spot and sits. It’s a few minutes before seven, so he’s got a bit to obsess over his audition and the fact that his ex-boyfriend is the director. He’s suddenly glad that they hadn’t wanted a prepared monologue because he’s not sure if he could remember his own damned name right now.
He supposes he shouldn’t be surprised that Steve is directing this show. He is heavily involved with several of the local theatres. Bucky hadn’t thought he’d been associated with this one, though. He begins to break out into a sweat and wonders if he can slip out without drawing any unwanted attention to himself.
He looks around quickly and decides that leaving is the best course of action. He can’t work with his ex. That would just be insane. He’s about to make his getaway when the woman from out front enters the theatre, bringing the resumes with her.
He’s stuck now. He wasn’t quick enough to escape and grab his resume and get the hell out of Dodge. Now he’s going to be forced to audition not just in front of but for his ex. He slides down in the seat enough so that he can just barely see over the one in front of him.
“Thanks, Wanda,” Steve says as he takes the stack away from her. “You hanging around?”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” she says sitting just off to the side of him in the front row.
Bucky knows she has no idea of the shit show that’s about to happen, but he can’t help but feel that on some level she does. Which is stupid. And impossible. He’s never met her before. But man, is this going to be awkward.
Steve shuffles through the resumes and then stops. He looks up into the audience and spies him. “Bucky?” He has the good sense to sound like he didn’t stomp the fuck out of Bucky’s heart three years ago.
Bucky sits up a little bit. “Hey, Steve.”
“Good to see you.”
“You, too.” Yeah, I bet you bastard.
Steve welcomes the actors and introduces his stage manager, Sam Wilson, and producer, Wanda Maximoff, the woman from earlier. He explains his audition process and why he requested a cold read rather than a prepared monologue. He lets the men know about the rehearsal schedule and what is expected of them if they are cast.
It’s a demanding schedule that will take up most of Bucky’s free time over the next month, and why is he even thinking he’s going to get cast? There’s no way Steve is going to work with him no matter how good or well-prepared he is. He sighs in resignation.
The evening progresses as expected. Various combinations of men read from the script. Bucky watches and thinks he may be better than some, not quite as good as others. I would’ve done that differently, he thinks when one man attempts what Bucky thinks is just this side of melodrama. Definitely not what the script is about even if it is a dark comedy.
“Bucky?” Steve says, shaking him out of his head. “You want to read?”
Which is a stupid question because he’s fucking here isn’t he? Of course he wants to read. “Sure,” he says trying to sound like he’s not about to come out of his skin. He thinks he nails it. He stands and heads down to the table where Sam holds a script out for him. There are three other men still on the stage.
“Top of 11,” Sam says. “Read Kevin.”
Bucky nods and opens his script.
Chapter 2: Steve
Steve runs the audition. He wasn't expecting to see Bucky there.
“I don’t know, Sam,” Steve whispers. “This isn’t exactly an easy script. We’ll be lucky if we can find five guys willing to do it.”
Steve and Sam sit at the audition table in the theatre. It’s fifteen minutes before the audition is to begin and they have exactly zero men in the theatre waiting to audition. Steve hopes they’re all outside filling out their audition forms.
“Which is exactly why Wanda is letting you do it,” Sam replies. “She doesn’t think you’re going to get it cast.”
“She thinks I’m gonna fail.”
Great. That’s not what he wants to hear. Steve had approached Wanda about producing Octopus almost a year ago, asking her to fit it into the theatre’s schedule, even if they billed it as a workshopped production. The play hit him that hard. While the drugs have gotten better over the years, Steve has still lost a number of friends to AIDS, and he wants to make people aware that the fight is not over yet.
“We’re not going to fail. We will find a cast for this show, and we are going to do it justice.” His voice trembles with a bit of anger. He’s going to show Wanda just how important this play is.
“Whatever you say, boss.”
It’s then that the theatre door opens and the first of the auditionees enter. Steve doesn’t turn around. He can’t bear it if there’s only one person coming in.
Sam, however, cranes his neck to check out their prospects. “There’s four - no, five coming in,” he whispers.
“Hey, look. We have a cast already,” Steve says mirthlessly. He hears the door close and he looks at his notes again. He doesn’t need to, but he’s nervous. The door creaks open again, and Sam tells him another three men have just come in. “Oh, thank god,” Steve says.
“Maybe they don’t know what the play is about,” Sam says.
“Would you stop disqualifying actors before we’ve even started.” He knows Sam is trying to lighten the mood, but Steve really is nervous about the whole affair. Another creak of the door lets him know more people have entered. Please be good, he thinks.
Steve stares at his script and underlines words with his pencil at random. He immediately erases them. He glances at his watch. Five til. The door creaks once more in what will be the last time. Sam tells him there are fifteen men that have shown up for auditions.
Finally, Wanda enters bringing Steve the stack of audition sheets. He thanks her and rifles through them. His heart speeds up when he sees it.
No. That can’t be right. Bucky wouldn’t be here. He couldn’t be here. Steve sucks in a breath, hoping Sam and Wanda don’t notice he’s just broken out into a flop sweat. He stares at the picture Wanda took in lieu of a headshot. Bucky looks good. His hair is longer than it was when he and Steve were together, and Steve idly thinks that it would be good for pulling.
Stop it, he thinks. That ship has sailed.
Steve turns and looks up into the audience. He scans for only a moment before spotting him. Bucky is slouched so far down in his seat it looks like he’s trying to hide. And hell, maybe he is.
“Good to see you.”
Well, as first conversations after three years go, it could’ve been worse.
Steve lingers a hair too long on Bucky’s face and he wishes he could have done everything differently. Wishes that he hadn’t broken Bucky’s heart. Wishes that he could have stayed. Wishes that…
“- get started?” Sam is asking him.
That shakes Steve out of his thoughts. Thoughts he has no right to be having. He mentally shifts gears into Director Mode and addresses the auditionees. He lets them know that the play is difficult, the subject matter not to everyone’s liking, that if they accept a part, they need to be comfortable with nudity.
His brain flashes back to Bucky lying naked in their bed.
Not helping, he thinks as he closes his eyes, which doesn’t help. It just makes the image of Bucky more clear. Fuck.
He lets the men know about the demanding rehearsal schedule, and that whoever is cast as Andy will likely have extra rehearsals for a three-page monologue that is required of the actor. He introduces Sam and Wanda, who provides a helpful wave from her seat.
He then dives into the auditions, calling actors up to read with each other as Sam hands them scripts. One actor up, one down. Two up, one down. He realizes he’s been actively avoiding calling Bucky up to read. He needs to fix that.
“Bucky? You want to read?”
“Sure,” he says, pushing himself up off the seat.
Steve can’t help but stare. The years have been good to Bucky, there’s no denying it. The man is dressed in black boots and jeans with a blue button up shirt that is just this side of too tight. Steve can see his bicep flex as he takes the script from Sam.
“Top of 11. Read Kevin.”
“Kevin. Got it.”
“Whenever you’re ready,” Steve tells him.
“ I don’t know, just...better that we try it together, right? Okay, okay, look. What if, what if we come up with some kind of signal? Like if either one of us wants to call it off when they’re here, so it won’t be obvious and we can get out of it.”
“What kind of signal?” his scene partner responds.
“ Like a word, something we don’t usually say. And if things get scary and you start to feel uncomfortable, you can just say it and we’ll stop.”
“ No matter what?”
“No matter what.”
The scene goes on for another page and a half, but Steve has already checked out. He’s staring at Bucky. He’d almost forgotten how good of an actor Bucky is. He already knows he wants him in this show no matter the consequences.
The question is will Bucky say yes?
Chapter 3: Bucky
Bucky realizes just how fucked he is.
Well, that was a disaster, Bucky thinks as he’s walking up to his shared apartment. He fishes out his keys and pops the first lock. The second one always sticks, and does this time as well. He’s jiggling the key as he hears the lock turn from inside. Natasha must be home.
The door swings open, and Nat greets him with a “So, how’d it go?” She looks so eager, he’s dreading telling her exactly how it went. She must read his face because her expression drops. “Oh, no. That good, huh?”
“No, that bad.” He clips his keys to his messenger bag and deposits it on the sofa. “You want some tea?” he asks heading toward the kitchenette.
“Oh, god. Tea? You only have tea when it’s really bad.”
He picks up the kettle on the stove and swishes it to gauge how much water is left. He knows it’s relatively fresh water since Nat drinks tea every day. For him, it’s a comfort. He decides it needs a little bit more and fills the kettle, then places it back and turns the burner on high.
“What happened, Buck?” She slides onto the stool on the other side of the counter to face him.
“What about him?” She frowns at the mention of his name.
“He’s directing the show.”
“I wish I was. But there he was, beautiful as ever, like nothing had happened.”
“Oh, man. I’m sorry.” And he can tell she genuinely is. She’s the one who pushed him to go to the audition in the first place and would never have done so if she’d known Steve Rogers was involved in it. She was there to help Bucky pick up the pieces three years ago.
“Not your fault. You didn’t know.”
They’re silent for a minute and Bucky can’t help but be a little mad at the whole situation. The first audition he’d gone on in three years and it turns out his ex is directing. Ain’t that a kick in the head?
“You gonna do it?” Nat asks quietly.
The kettle goes off and Bucky grabs their mugs and tea bags and places them on the counter in front of her. He pours their tea to steep. “Do what? The show? Please. Like I’m getting cast now.” His voice is bitter. Yep. Still angry.
“But you’re good. You’ve got talent. I remember seeing it way back when.” She blows on her tea to cool it down.
“You remember the Bucky who was with Steve and did shows together. We fed off of each other.” God, he misses working on a show. The rehearsals, learning lines, blocking, those rehearsals that get tense. Tech week - no one likes tech week, but Bucky does. The exhilaration of opening night. Sharing it all with Steve. Nope. Not going there.
“Maybe so, but you’re good. And you’re good at a cold read.”
Bucky takes a sip of tea. “It wasn’t a cold read. I read the script ahead of time.”
“What? Oh, honey. You really wanted a part, don’t you?”
“I do. Or I did. Nat, it’s an amazing script and super powerful and poignant and relevant, but now because of Steve fucking Rogers I’m not getting a part.” He slams his mug on the counter more forcefully than he’d intended, but the tea stays in the mug. “At least you don’t get to see me naked.”
“Nudity? I’m missing nudity? How dare you!” She giggles and places her mug on the counter as well. “I’m sorry. I wish I could fix it.”
He huffs a laugh. “Can you make him disappear so that someone else can direct?”
“I’ve got contacts. Let me see what I can do.”
“What would I do without you, Nat?”
She reaches across the counter and takes his hand. “Let’s just hope you never have to find out.”
“Thank you.” He looks down at his mug and decides that not even tea is going to fix the fuckery that happened tonight. He releases her hand, dumps the tea, tosses the bag, and places the mug in the dishwasher. “I’m going to bed. This has been A Day.”
“You said that already.”
“Doesn’t make it any less so.”
Bucky circles the counter and wraps Natasha up in a hug from behind. She hugs his arms back and they stay that way for several seconds before Bucky pulls away. He just needs to go to sleep and pretend this night never happened.
Two hours later, however, he’s still wide awake, his brain helpfully supplying memory after memory of him and Steve: at the theatre, having dinner, watching movies snuggled up on the couch, clutching each other as they fuck….
It’s not fair, he thinks. It’s not fucking fair. Why does Steve have to be the one directing Octopus? It could have been any number of people, but no. It had to be Steve, looking just as good, if not better than when he had walked out the door three years ago, leaving Bucky an absolute mess, with Nat helping him through it.
Three years, and Bucky’s heart still aches for him. Thinks about him often. Compares every date he’s had since then to Steve. None of them have been good enough.
He flips over onto his back and sighs. His brain just won’t shut up, and he knows he’s not getting to sleep anytime soon. Maybe an orgasm will help him sleep. He slips his hand under the covers and palms himself. He starts to think of a trusted Pornhub video he’s watched a number of times that never fails to get him off.
He slips his pj pants down over his balls and he fists his cock, working it to full hardness. His breath hitches as he rolls his frenulum between his thumb and forefinger before pumping it with his fist again.
His mind pictures the video of two men fucking, back to front, kneeling up on a bed. The man topping jacks off the bottom in time with his thrusts. The bottom turns to kiss the top. It’s awkward and messy and probably Bucky’s favorite part of the video. He loves watching men kissing.
He pictures himself in the bottom’s place as his hand flies over his dick. He’s close. He shallowly thrusts his hips chasing his orgasm. His free hand pinches his nipple and he mutters “Steve,” as he comes over his fist.
He is so fucked.
Chapter 4: Steve
Steve casts the show.
“And for Blake?” Wanda asks. She sifts through the audition forms that are left.
They have cast three of the roles and eliminated six auditionees that they felt wouldn’t fit any of the available roles. All that is left to cast are Blake and the Telegram Delivery Boy.
Steve swallows. He’s doing it. He’s going out on that limb. Bucky easily gave the best reading of the night. “I was thinking Bucky. He put that down as his first choice of roles. And I think he can do it. Hell, think he could do Andy, but he’s a little too young for the part.”
“You know him, right?” Sam asks.
“Yeah,” he says non-committedly. The less he says the better. He shouldn’t tell them about their relationship and how Steve was the one to end it. Shouldn’t tell them how he misses Bucky with every fiber of his being.
Wanda must sense something because she asks, “You’ve worked with him before?”
“It’s been a while, but yes. We’ve worked together. He’s good and has a good work ethic. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d gotten a copy of the script beforehand to peruse. His audition was that good.”
“Don’t get me wrong,” Wanda says. “I agree. He’s good. But what aren’t you telling us?”
Dammit. In for a penny, in for a pound, he guesses. “We, uh, dated for a while.”
“You dated,” Wanda says folding her arms across her chest. “What exactly does that mean?”
Steve scrubs his hand over his face. He takes a deep breath and blows it out. Here goes nothing. “We were together for two years. I ended it.”
Sam cocks an eyebrow at him. “And how does he feel about that?”
“Honestly. I don’t know,” Steve says. “Tonight was the first I’d talked to him in three years.”
Sam whistles. “Three years. Do you think he knew you were involved with the show?”
“I’d like to think he did and came to audition anyway,” Steve says hopefully. He’d like to believe it anyway. “Maybe he’s over how it ended.”
“Oh, that doesn’t sound good,” Wanda says. “That sounds like you ended it on bad terms.”
Steve knows he did just that. He broke up with Bucky without even giving him a say in their relationship. He reasoned that his moving to New York would break them up anyway, not even letting Bucky try to persuade him that they could make it work. It was easier to simply break up rather than trying to make a long-distance relationship work. He had hurt Bucky and he knew it.
But New York had lasted all of six months before Steve found his way back to Boston with his tail between his legs, his directorial debut folding during previews. So much for New York. He’d seen Bucky in a Target a few months after he’d returned home. They’d spotted each other and Bucky had simply turned and walked away before Steve could say anything.
Like he was sorry.
Like he was wrong.
“I don’t care, Wanda. I want him.” Steve throws down his pencil on the table. And whether he means for the play or in general, he’ll sort that out later.
“You realize what a bad idea that is, don’t you? Casting your ex?”
“That you broke up with and are now being cagey about,” Sam supplied helpfully.
He shifts gears to get them off his back. “Fine. We’ll table it for the moment. What about the Telegram Delivery Boy?”
“Fine,” Wanda says. “Telegram Delivery Boy it is. What about this kid?” She slides an audition form towards Steve.
Sam leans in to look at the form, too. “Oh, yeah. I liked that kid. He doesn’t have a lot of experience, but his audition was solid. He could be good.”
Steve looks at the picture attached to the form. Kid looks young. He’s listed his age a nineteen, but he looks more like sixteen. “Yeah. I like him, too. Peter Parker it is.”
And that little diversion didn’t last anywhere near as long as he wanted it to. He’s going to have to convince Wanda that casting Bucky is a good idea, regardless of their history together. He looks at her and he sees he’s got his work cut out for him.
Wanda looks through the remaining forms once more. She pulls one form out of the pile. “Why not Scott Lang for Blake? He did pretty well.”
“I don’t want pretty well, Wanda. I want someone who can do this part. And Bucky is that man. I know he is.” He does his best not to pout. He’s not entirely sure he’s succeeded.
Wanda sighs and Steve knows he’s about to get an earful. “Okay, look. Say we do cast Bucky in this part. Can you keep this professional?”
She cocks an eyebrow at him. “Can he?”
And that makes him think. When he’d spied Bucky in the audience, Steve felt like all he wanted to do was run away. But when Steve called him, he’d looked better. Confident even. He hadn’t been able to detect anything other than typical audition jitters. And Bucky had given an excellent audition. Even though Steve had him read a different part from the one he’d listed he wanted on the form, he’d been able to switch between the two characters seamlessly when asked to switch mid-read.
As for how they’d work together? Steve thinks they can do it. He hopes they can do it. He doesn’t know how Bucky feels about him anymore. Does he hate Steve, or does he not care about him anymore? If he doesn’t care, they could probably work together. If Bucky hates him, well, he figures they’ll cross that bridge when they come to it. He resolutely ignores his own feelings on the matter.
“That’s a hell of a pause, man,” Sam says.
Steve shakes his head. “Sorry. Just thinking it out. I think Bucky and I can work together. I think he’ll be okay with me directing.”
Wanda runs her hand through her hair. “Fine. Cast him. But I want Scott Lang on speed dial for when this inevitably goes to shit. Hopefully sooner rather than later.” She levels a stare at him. “And this better not turn to shit during tech week.”
Steve smiles. “It won’t. I promise. I won’t let it. Thank you.”
She waves a dismissive hand at him. “You’re welcome. Now the two of you go home and get some sleep. We start on Thursday.” She stands and heads towards the back of the theatre. “Don’t fuck this up, Steve,” she says as the door closes behind her.
“Yes, ma’am,” he says to the door.
“You sure about this?” Sam asks him.
“Did you notice anything off about him during auditions? Like he was overly nervous or was shooting daggers at me or something?”
Sam thinks for a moment. “No. I didn’t notice anything unusual.”
“See? It’ll be fine.”
He hopes to god that’s true.
Chapter 5: Bucky
Bucky finds out he got cast in the show.
The next day at work is a blur. He barely has time to grab his morning coffee before his boss dumps a pile of loan packets on his desk for processing, telling him he needs them done by the end of the day.
“Sure thing,” he says, although he wonders just how he is supposed to get them finished. He guesses he’ll end up skipping lunch considering how large the stack is. He sighs, loosens his tie and opens the first folder.
By five o’clock, Bucky is toast. He’s spent the entire day working on the packets and getting them to the right people, ensuring all the information was correct. He had indeed skipped lunch in favor of more coffee and a packet of Pop-Tarts from the vending machine. Adult as fuck, he’d thought.
He’s barely stepped out of the building when he hears the roar of thunder. He looks up to see the sky clouding over, looking like it’s going to open up any moment. He quickens his pace to get to the T before it starts.
He stops at the local bodega for some ramen for dinner. He’ll watch the Sox, enjoy his ramen, and have a nice quiet night at home since this is Nat’s late night at work. Yes. That’s what he’ll do. And he won’t think about the auditions even once.
Okay, that last part is a lie. He’s been thinking about them on and off all damned day, wondering when he’d get a call or an email telling him thanks but no thanks. Can’t have you working with your ex. Don’t want any drama during the drama and all that.
When he gets home just before the rain starts, he sheds his tie - whoever thought that wearing a noose around your neck was a good idea should be shot - and settles in on the sofa, cross-legged, cradling his ramen bowl. He does his best to ignore his phone that is not ringing.
The game is well into the fourth inning - Sox up by two - when his phone pings ( finally! ) with an email message. He grabs the phone and quickly scrolls through to the email app, clicking it open. It’s an email from Steve.
This is it. This is the moment of truth. He sets his ramen down on the coffee table and opens the email. He wonders why his hand is shaking.
Octopus Cast List
Good evening -
I wanted to thank everyone for coming out last night to auditions. You made it difficult to choose a cast for this show, but it’s done. If your name appears below, please email to let us know that you will accept your role.
Kevin - Peter Quill
Blake - Bucky Barnes
Max - James Rhodes
Andy - Stephen Strange
Telegram Messenger Boy - Peter Parker
He scans the rest of the email for the date they start rehearsals, times, and such. They start Thursday.
Holy shit. He got cast. Holy fucking shit. Steve actually cast him. And in the role he put down that he wanted. He can’t believe what he’s reading.
His first thought is that he needs to up his workouts if he’s going to be naked on stage. And had he really thought that through? Naked. On stage. In front of people. Yup. Totally adding crunches to his workout routine.
His second thought is that he needs to tell Nat. She’ll be happy for him. He’s pretty sure she’ll help him run lines. She may even teach him some yoga poses to help him strengthen his core.
His third is that he’ll be working with Steve again.
Does he do it? Does he accept the role?
God, he really, really wants to.
On the one hand, the play itself is amazing and the role is challenging, and it gives him a feeling of exhilaration at the thought of being on stage once again.
On the other hand, Steve .
Steve, who, if he’s being honest with himself, and he supposes he’s feeling generous, because he admits to himself that he’s still kinda hung up on the guy. Which, really, is an understatement. He’s never gotten over Steve. And if he accepts this role, he’ll be in close proximity to him for the next six weeks.
At the very least, he doesn’t have to perform that sex scene with him. But he’ll be watching. Critiquing Bucky’s fake fucking. As if he doesn’t know what Bucky’s real fucking is like.
He drops his head to the back of the sofa.
Just then, he hears Natasha’s key in the door. “Hey,” she says. “Did you eat?” She closes the door with her hip as her arms are full of groceries. “I got dinner if you haven’t.”
“I’m good,” he says reaching for his ramen and deposits his phone on the table in front of him. “I stopped at the bodega.”
“Well, shit. I was looking forward to cooking.” She puts the bags on the counter and makes quick work of emptying them.
“You can still cook, Nat.”
“Nah. I’ll wait until tomorrow since it leftovers are out of the question. Don’t stop anywhere, though. I’ve got all the ingredients for Killer Pasta.”
“Oh, yeah? Now I wish I hadn’t stopped.”
“Well, now you’ll be looking forward to it tomorrow.” She pours herself a bowl of cereal and joins Bucky on the sofa. “Who’s winning?”
“Sox up by two.”
They’re quiet for a moment, Bucky not sure why he hasn’t said anything about being cast yet. He doesn’t need to be nervous telling her. She won’t judge him. Much.
“You hear anything on the audition,” she asks. She keeps her eyes on the game, but her voice wavers a little revealing she’s probably as anxious to hear the news as he was.
“I got cast,” he says with as much calm as he can muster.
“Oh yeah?” God bless her for sounding nonplussed.
They stare at the game for a good thirty seconds before she breaks and practically flings her cereal bowl on the table.
“Oh, my god! Bucky!” She smacks him on the arm for good measure and turns to face him. “You got cast! That’s amazing!”
He sets down his own bowl and mirrors her position. “I know, right? I’m excited!”
He spends the next few minutes telling her when rehearsals start, when the show opens, his thoughts on who he thinks was also cast. She asks about the part he’ll be playing and if he’s really going to be naked on stage.
“Nude,” he corrects.
After a short lull, she carefully asks the obvious question. “And how do you feel about working with Steve?”
“I don’t know yet,” he says truthfully.
“But you’ve told them you’ll take the part?”
“Not yet. I didn’t want to seem too eager.”
“Smooth,” she teases. “You are taking it, though, right?”
“I think so, yeah. It’s just too good of a play no matter what my personal feelings for Steve might be.”
“It’s not going to be easy.”
“I know.” He takes a deep breath. “But, Nat. I’m gonna do it.”
“I’m proud of you, Buck.”
He reaches for his phone to email Steve.
Chapter 6: Steve
Steve admits casting Bucky may have been stupid.
Steve sits in bed with his copy of the script, reading it once again. He’s fairly certain he knows it backwards and forwards at this point, but a little extra homework never hurt anyone. Plus he genuinely loves the script and hasn’t gotten tired of reading it yet.
He stops after scene four, just before the big monologue and picks up the ground plan design and studies it for what feels like the hundredth time. The design logic works and the obstacles for the actors’ blocking feel natural. It’s a solid plan.
He looks over the rehearsal schedule, running his finger over the paper, studying the dates again. He’s grateful that the only solo rehearsal character will be Andy. He’ll always have a second person around when he’s rehearsing Blake’s scenes. He won’t have to be alone with Bucky.
That is if Bucky even accepts the part.
Steve had known he was going to cast Bucky as soon as he started reading. It was selfish, really. Steve wanted the best cast possible, and Bucky was the best actor for the role, no question. He’s certain Bucky had prepared himself for the reading and it showed in his audition.
Keep telling yourself that, he thinks.
He sets down the ground plan and swings his legs over the bed. He needs a drink. He figures it’s nothing a scotch can’t fix, or at least keep at bay for a little while so he heads to the living room.
He finds the scotch hidden behind the vodka in his little homemade bar and pours himself a stiff three fingers. He swirls it around, watching the way it rotates in the glass. He takes a swig as his phone’s email notification goes off in his back pocket.
He’s heard from everyone in the cast except Bucky, and he hopes it’s him. He opens his email and his heart skips a beat. It is.
Hey, Steve -
Thank you for casting me. I accept the role of Blake. See you Thursday at 7pm.
Well. That was...perfunctory. He guesses he doesn’t really deserve much more than that, all things considered. At least he was polite?
He takes another sip of the whiskey. He said yes. Great! Perfect! It’s just what he wanted.
So why is he so nervous? Well, he knows, but he’s going to continue to deny it for as long as possible. He looks at his phone again and decides to call the one person who can set him straight. He calls Tony, his mentor.
Tony won’t coddle him or tell him what he wants to hear. He’ll call him on his bullshit and tell him what he needs to hear, not what he wants to hear, and that’s what Steve needs right now.
“Hey, Cap,” he says when he picks up. It’s a nickname left over from when they were in A Few Good Men together several years ago.
“Hey, Tony. What’s going on?” He starts to pace around the living room, his nervous energy getting the better of him.
“Not much. Get your show cast?” Of course it’s the first thing Tony asks about. Steve had told him how excited he was to be staging it.
“Why do I sense a but coming?” Tony can read him like no one else can.
“I, uh. I may have done something stupid,” Steve confesses. Like really, really stupid.
Steve can hear Tony perk up. “Oh? Do tell? You know I live for your stupidity.”
“So, at auditions the other night. We had a good turnout. Fifteen men came out.”
“That’s a good number,” Tony says.
“It was. But there was one man in particular. Tony, he nailed his audition.”
“Okay.” There’s a hesitancy to Tony’s voice.
He stops pacing long enough to get the words out. “I cast Bucky in the show.” There. It’s out. Just saying it out loud is somewhat freeing.
“I’m sorry, what did you say?” There’s a note of tension in Tony’s tone.
“I said I cast Bucky in the show.”
“Who you practically left at the altar.”
“No, no. That’s just about what it was and you know it.”
“That’s not fair.”
“And he said yes to the role?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing. It’s just that - I’m surprised is all.”
There’s a pause on the other end of the line before Tony says, “And you think you can work with him again?” His meaning is clear: can you do this without breaking his heart - or yours?
“He seems to think so.” He did say yes after all.
“What part did he get?” Tony asks, shifting gears.
“I gave him Blake. It was his first choice.” He takes another swig from his scotch glass and resumes his pacing.
“He can do it.”
“Oh, I have no doubt. Bucky’s a good actor. You know that.”
“Which is why I gave him the part.”
“Jesus, Steve. Has anyone told you what a bad idea this is?”
“Wanda may have mentioned something.”
“I don’t think she is,” Steve says.
“There it is. That righteous indignation.”
“One question for you, Cap. Do you still have feelings for him?”
“It’s been three years.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“I don’t -” Fuck. He needs to be honest with himself. “Maybe.”
“Is this your peace offering to him? A way to tell him you’re sorry?”
“It - might be.” He drains the last of his scotch.
“Oh, Cap.” Tony’s voice is laced with pity. “You need to be careful.”
“I know. I don’t even know if he’s mad or indifferent or what at me.”
“Well, you better figure it out sooner rather than later. You don’t want this shit blowing up during tech week.”
“That’s what Wanda said.”
“She is.” He pours himself another drink. “Thank you.”
“For what? Judging you? Because I am, you know.”
“I have no doubt. Thanks for listening.”
“Sure thing. Now go deal with your stuipd.”
He hangs up and tosses his phone on the sofa and plunks down next to it. Casting Bucky was stupid. He knows it’s stupid. But he can’t help it. Bucky really is the best actor for the role. And if Steve still has feelings for him, well, he’ll just have to suck it up and deal with it.
Chapter 7: Bucky
Their first rehearsal.
It’s 6:45 and Bucky is late for rehearsal. He can hear Steve’s voice in his head from another rehearsal years ago.
Fifteen minutes before is on time. On time is late, and anything else is unacceptable.
It’s a mantra he’s lived and died by ever since. He hates being late more than the Sox losing or getting the wrong coffee order at his favorite shop.
But really, he’s got no choice. He has to be late. There’s no way around it. If he gets to rehearsal on time, he may be the first one there, and he might actually have to talk to Steve and he can’t chance it. He’s got to be as close to 7pm as possible even if it means he’s the reason for The Talk from Steve.
He’s standing outside the theatre, looking at his watch for the hundredth time debating with himself if anyone else is in there yet. Thankfully, it’s a nice night and he’s not fussed by the weather. He’s just about made up his mind when he hears a “Hey,” behind him.
He turns to find one of his castmates walking up to the theater. “Hey,” he replies.
“Peter Quill.” The man offers a hand which Bucky takes.
“Bucky Barnes. Nice to meet you.”
“Guess we’re gonna be boyfriends for the next few weeks.”
Bucky smiles. “You must be Kevin, then.”
“I am.” He noticed Bucky has been standing outside the theatre. “You waiting on someone?”
“No. Just working up the nerve to go in. Come on.”
Bucky opens the door and they enter the lobby. He looks around to familiarize himself with the layout once more since he’ll be seeing a lot of it over the next few weeks.
“How’d you hear about the audition?” Peter asks.
“My roommate told me about it. You?”
“My agent thought it would be a good show to do.” Peter reaches for the door to the theatre and lets Bucky enter first.
Of course he has an agent, Bucky thinks. He’s someone looking to make a living acting, not simply doing it for fun like Bucky. He’s pulled out of his thoughts by Sam, the stage manager.
“Gentlemen. Welcome. Glad you could make it.” It’s five minutes till seven and they’re the last to arrive. The Talk will be forthcoming, he’s certain of it.
There is a table set up in the middle of the stage with seating for each of the actors, Sam and Steve. Tonight will be just a read through to familiarize themselves with the script. It should be a simple and early night as the script is only a one-act. He can get home early and start memorizing his lines.
Bucky and Peter take their seats at the table, each shucking off their coat. Bucky looks around at the other men seated there. He remembers each of them from the audition and he thinks the cast will be good.
So far, he has avoided looking at Steve. He knows it’s stupid, but he hasn’t been able to bring himself to do it. He takes the chance and for the love of god, Steve looks good. He did his best not to think about it at auditions, but the years since they broke up have been kind to him. His hair is longer, and he’s sporting a full beard now, too. The sweater he’s wearing hugs his form perfectly and Bucky thinks not for the first time that it’s just not fair.
But then his eyes meet Steve’s whose smile is kind and full of warmth. The kind of smile he used to give Bucky when they were happy. And then he winks at him, and Bucky has to look away. Doing this show just might be the worst idea he’s ever had.
And then Steve stands and introduces himself to the group. He tells them the reason for doing this particular show and that a piece of the door is going to the local AIDS charity. He lets them know that rehearsals will be weeknights at 7pm and he does give them The Talk about being on time. He introduces Sam as their stage manager. He apologizes for Wanda’s absence. It’s a standard welcome for a show.
After that, Sam passes around scripts and the rehearsal schedule as well as the ground plan. Bucky looks at the layout and sees that the setup for the seating is going to change from what it is now. He lifts his head to look around the theatre trying to picture it and he ends up catching Steve’s eye again. Dammit. He quickly looks down at the sheet.
Once all the scripts are handed out, Steve asks each of the men to introduce themselves, say what part they’ll be playing, and a little bit about themselves. Bucky listens to each of the men and when his turn comes up, he tells the group that it’s been a while since he’s been on stage but is looking forward to getting back to it. He ends up finding Steve’s face again and smiles ruefully at him.
“All right,” Steve says. “Let’s get to it. Sam will read stage directions. This is just a table read, so we’ll keep it low key.”
And the reading begins. Bucky listens to each of his fellow actors, getting a feel for how they’ll work with each other. He gets a good feeling about Stephen who he thinks is the oldest in the cast and exudes a warmth and knowledge that Bucky can come to respect. His impression of James - Rhodey, he said to call him - is similar, his voice a calming influence even when his character has a nervous breakdown. Peter Parker seems like a good kid. He didn’t have much experience outside of school, but his reading is solid. Peter Quill comes off as just a bit arrogant, which Bucky supposes is good considering his character is kind of a jerk.
It’s in those moments during the reading when his character isn’t speaking is when Bucky steals glances at Steve. Sees him write something in his script. Watches him frown at the way a line is read. He knows he has no right to look, but he can’t help it. His heart does stupid things when he looks at him.
When the reading is finished, Steve thanks them for their time and gives them homework. They are to bring in their character's “moment before” for the first four scenes as well as complete a backstory for their character. And then he lets them go for the night.
“Hey, Bucky,” Steve says as he’s putting on his coat. “Got a sec?”
“Yeah, sure.” He has no idea what Steve wants, but he follows him to a more secluded part of the stage. “What’s up?”
“I just wanted to tell you good work tonight.”
“Would you like to go get a drink?”
Before he can even comprehend what his mouth is doing, he says, “Yes.”
Chapter 8: Steve
Steve and Bucky get a drink. It doesn't go so well.
The walk to the bar nearest the theatre is quiet and Steve’s mind races. He didn’t really think this through. He never in a million years thought Bucky would agree to it. And yet, here they are, walking stiffly side-by-side, not a word spoken between them.
What does he even say to Bucky? Where does he begin? Does he confess he’s still holding a torch for him? Probably not the best jumping off point considering their history. He figures “I’m sorry” is always a good place to start. But first he has to get up the nerve.
They arrive at the bar and Bucky heads for a table in the back without even glancing at the bar which is probably for the best. If they do end up saying things they shouldn’t, or saying them a little too loudly, it’s better to be out of the way of any prying eyes.
As Bucky sits, Steve sees that he’s facing the room. He never did like his back to the open behind him and always sat so he could see what was going on around him. Just like a mobster, Steve used to tease. The memory makes Steve smile.
As they sit, a waitress comes by with menus and asks what they’d like to drink. Bucky orders a Stella, same as he always had Steve notes, and Steve asks for a whiskey. They ignore the menus.
“Been here before?” Bucky asks. He doesn’t look at Steve.
“Once or twice. It’s a decent little place.” He hates small talk, but the alternative has the potential to be much, much worse.
They’re silent for a time, and Steve knows he should be the first to say something since he invited Bucky here, but starting is the hardest part. He’s not quite ready to apologize yet even though he wants to more than anything in the world.He decides to go for simple. No delving into the past.
“I’m glad you’re doing this show, Buck,” is what comes out. Truthful and on task.
“Yeah?” His tone is flat and Steve winces a bit. Not that Bucky sees it because his head is down as he picks at a divot in the table.
“Thanks.” Steve knows he’s the cause of the flatness, the lifelessness in Bucky’s voice. He wishes he wasn’t. He mentally kicks himself.
Well, this is off to a great start, Steve thinks. He watches as Bucky sticks his nail into the spot on the table. Thankfully, he doesn’t need to think of anything else to say just yet as the waitress brings them their drinks. Steve thanks her and hands back the menus saying they’re just getting a drink.
Bucky wraps his hand around his beer glass. “When did you start drinking whiskey,” he asks.
After my life fell apart, is what he wants to say. After I hurt you. But he settles for “A couple of years ago.”
“Oh.” Bucky takes a sip of his beer, no doubt steeling himself for whatever it is Steve has to say to him.
“How did you hear about the show?” He’ll try for something non-committal first. Maybe he’ll have the balls to work his way up to saying he’s sorry as the discussion progresses.
“Natasha told me.”
“Yeah? How’s she doing?”
They quiet again. Steve debates what to say next, just how far he wants to go. He stays in moderately safe territory. “Did you know I was directing?”
“Would you have come if you did?”
“Probably not.” At least it’s honest.
“I can’t say I’m surprised,” Steve says. He realizes he needs to ask Bucky something other than a yes or no question if he wants any information out of him at all. “What changed your mind?”
“Truthfully, it’s an amazing script and I wanted in on it. That I got my first choice of character is just the icing on the cake. Thank you.”
“So, why did you really cast me?” He looks up at Steve for the first time. Steve sees so much hope there, his heart aches just a little bit.
“You were the best one to read for it.”
“Simple as that?”
“Simple as that.”
“Bullshit,” Bucky says, his voice laced with venom.
“What do you want me to say, Buck? That I cast you because I felt bad for you or something? You know me better than that.” He’s hurt that Bucky would even consider he was cast for anything even remotely like pity.
“I did. Past tense, Steve. We don’t know each other anymore. We haven’t for a long time.”
“Maybe not, but I know what you’re capable of on that stage and call me selfish, but I wanted you.”
There’s a pause as the men look at each other as if sizing one another up. It finally occurs to Steve what he just said. “For the role. I wanted you for the role,” he clarifies. Because he’s not going to admit to feeling anything for Bucky. Not yet anyway. Or hell. Maybe he should. Get it out in the open and let the chips fall where they may, watch Bucky leave, and then call Scott Lang to have him come in and do Blake.
“Sure.” Bucky reaches into his pants and pulls out his wallet. He tosses a ten on the table and stands. “I’ll see you next rehearsal,” he says as he walks away.
Well fuck. That’s not how this was supposed to go. Steve has a moment of hesitation when he thinks he should go after Bucky, but decides against it. That would only make it worse.
He finishes his drink in one swallow and leaves his own ten on the table. He thanks the waitress on his way out the door. He looks up and down the sidewalk hoping to see Bucky, maybe catch up to him and explain. Explain what, he’s not sure anymore.
Maybe Tony and Wanda are right. Maybe this is a horrible idea, this experiment in emotional upheaval. He pulls out his phone and texts Tony.
I think I fucked it up.
Tony’s response is almost immediate: Already?
We’ll see at the next rehearsal. He tucks his phone back into his pocket, turns in the direction of his apartment, and heads home for a night of second guesses.
Chapter 9: Bucky
Natasha offers some advice.
Goddamn mother fucking Steve Rogers.
He’s pissed and hurt and that man can go to hell for all he cares.
Bucky kicks the apartment door closed. The noise startles Natasha who is in Triangle Pose in her yoga nook by the window. “Jesus, Buck,” she says, standing. “What the hell?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he says pushing past her to get to his room. He tosses his coat and script on the bed and sits with his head in his hands. He just wants to forget this night. Forget Steve.
Natasha, of course, can’t leave it alone. She leans on his door jamb, arms folded. “You may not want to, but you’re gonna,” she says. “You’re back later than I expected. What happened?”
“I said I don’t want to talk about it.”
“You’re acting like a petulant child.”
“I’ve earned it.” He doesn’t pout. Much.
Natasha sits next to him and puts an arm around him. “What happened,” she asks softly. “How was rehearsal?”
Bucky slouches a little under her touch. He should have known she’d want to talk about it when he doesn’t, but that’s on him since he was such a drama queen entering the apartment. It’s his own fault, really. “The read through was fine,” he says. “It’s a good cast and it has the potential to be an amazing show.”
“Steve asked me to get a drink after rehearsal.”
“That’s not unusual, right? Going out with someone from the show.”
“What about this whole situation is normal?”
“Fair point,” she says.
Bucky sits up and runs his hands over his thighs, his hurt getting the better of him. “Steve cast me out of pity,” he spits out. He shakes his head and leans it on Natasha’s shoulder. “I’m a pity cast, Nat.”
“He told you that?” She lets him go as she stands. “He actually told you he cast you out of some sense of obligation to how it ended between you two?”
“No, he said he cast me because I was good.”
Natasha furrows her brow. “That doesn’t sound like pity to me.”
“You didn’t hear his tone. There was definite pity there.”
“Are you kidding me right now?” He snaps his head up to look at her. He can tell she’s angry. “The guy flat out tells you you’re good and you think he’s giving you charity? What is wrong with you?”
And that’s a really good question. What is wrong with him? It doesn’t matter what Steve said, it matters how he said it. Bucky knows it’s a dumb arguement, but he’s making it anyway. Natasha is right: he does sound like a petulant child.
“I don’t know,” he says finally. “I’m all twisted up in knots.”
“I know you are,” she says. “But can you do this role?”
“I think so.”
“If that’s your answer, then drop out of the show. Right now. If you have any doubt that you can work with Steve again, leave.”
“But this show - ”
“I don’t care how much you want to do it.” She kneels in front of him places her hands on his knees. “Look at me. If this is going to fuck with your mental health, don’t do it. Walk away.”
“I’ve already committed -”
“You’ve had one rehearsal.”
“What if they can’t find someone else?” He knows he’s grasping at straws. He’d be lying if he said he didn’t just want to be near Steve again.
“Of course they can. You yourself said they had a good turn out.” She sits next to him again and takes his hand in hers. She gives it a squeeze.
“You’ve got all the answers, don’t you?” He bumps her shoulder with hers.
“And you’ve got all the excuses.”
“I can do this, Nat. I know I can.”
“If you say so,” she says. Her voice makes it clear that she thinks he’s making a mistake. She kisses the side of his head. “Just promise me it won’t be like it was three years ago.”
“I promise.” He kisses her head back and wraps her up in a hug. “I don’t deserve you.”
‘No you don’t,” she teases. “It’s a good thing I like you.”
“Yeah. It is.”
“Now,” she says extricating herself from him. “Are you okay to be left alone or do I need to keep you company and do my yoga in here while you fret for a while?”
“I’ll be fine. Go yoga yourself out there.”
She lingers in the doorway for a moment. “I’m proud of you no matter what you decide to do.” She closes the door on her way out.
He sits on the bed for several minutes staring at the script. She’s probably right. He should pull out of the show. Either he’ll end up falling for Steve all over again just to get his heart broken a second time, or he’ll close himself off so much that his performance will suffer.
Decision made, he pulls out his laptop to email Steve. As he’s waiting for it to boot up, he picks up the script and opens it to a random page. Page nineteen it turns out. Blake and Kevin argue over who was the “star” of their foursome.
KEVIN: Sure, I planned it, fine. But you were the star, right?
BLAKE: How can you be the star of group sex?
KEVIN: You don’t know because you were the star.
BLAKE: And what, you weren’t? Max was all over you.
KEVIN: I was all over Max.
KEVIN: No, I was on the outside.
BLAKE: Come on.
KEVIN: I was on the outside.
BLAKE: That’s bed geography, that’s not my fault; I was just going with the flow. I was just trying to have an adventure, right?
KEVIN: You sure did.
BLAKE: Fuck you. Fuck. You. It was your idea, I did it for you, so you could feel like...
As he reads the barbs and jabs the characters spit out at one another, Bucky makes a different decision.
The writing is too good to walk away from. Come hell or high water, he’s going to do this show, and if that means he’s got to be in close proximity to Steve Rogers, then so be it. He’ll be a professional and won’t let his personal feelings for Steve get in the way.
At least that’s what he tells himself.
Chapter 10: Steve
Steve is distracted at rehearsal.
“Peter, cross down stage left. Bucky, counter him.” They do as Steve directs and write down the blocking in their scripts as Sam does the same in his master script.
The set has been taped out on the floor with a few black cubes set up for the sofa and part of the bed that will be on stage and Peter and Bucky do their best not to step where the set will actually be. Steve shakes his head and smiles when Bucky steps on the “bed” again.
“Sorry,” Bucky apologizes.
“We’ll be using it soon enough,” Peter says breaking any tension in the air. He waggles his eyebrows for good measure.
And so goes the rehearsal. Moving from point A to point B. Only Steve doesn’t see it that way. All he sees is Bucky moving easily around the stage as if he owns it. Steve tries not to stare, but he’s probably doing a poor job of it.
With every move he makes, Steve wants to reach out and touch Bucky, to possess him again even though he lost that right three years ago. That doesn’t mean he wants it any less.
He was worried that after their drink the other night Bucky would drop out of the show. He saw the hurt and anger in Bucky’s eyes and knew that he was going to. He doesn’t know what’s happened between then and tonight, but he’s glad Bucky is here. Maybe he needs to send Natasha some flowers.
“- to the table?”
Steve looks over at Peter and realizes that Peter is asking him a question. “What? Sorry. I got lost there for a moment.”
“I asked if it made sense for me to cross to the table.”
“Right. Yes. Because you’re about to pick up the bottle of wine that will be on the table” Steve says.
“Got it.” Peter writes the blocking down in his script.
It’s about another twenty-five minutes later when Stephen and Rhodey arrive. Their characters aren’t in the first several pages, so they have the luxury of showing up later. It’s then that the rehearsal begins to get complicated. The blocking of the four of them in a small space is a challenge, and Steve has backtracked twice on what he originally wanted.
By the time they get to the sex scene, Steve is on edge. He’s not blocking it for a while as he wants the actors to be more comfortable with each other before he does. His mind is itching to put the four of them in motion, though. He thinks it’s going to be beautiful especially with Bucky being the center of their attention.
He closes his eyes for a moment and his mind is filled with images of Bucky. Of him smiling, laughing, of him cooking dinner for the two of them, of him splayed out beneath Steve, a thin sheen of sweat on his torso, face contorted in pleasure.
And that’s exactly where his mind doesn’t need to be. He needs to be focused on the rehearsal, not daydreaming about what he can’t have. And yet, he does get to have it. Sort of. When he choreographs the sex scene, he’ll get to have Bucky looking like that again. Granted, it will just be an act, but Steve can dream for a little bit.
By the end of the night, they’ve moved at a good pace and managed to block the first four scenes. The next rehearsal will begin with Stephen’s monologue and they’ll block through the end of the show.
“Good work tonight,” he tells the cast as they gather their coats. Steve considers asking Bucky out for a drink again to apologize for the other night, but the world has other ideas.
“Hey, Bucky,” he hears Peter say. “Want to go get a drink?”
Bucky looks right at Steve when he replies, “Sure.” He blinks purposefully at Steve and turns to Peter. “There’s a bar two blocks up.” The same bar Steve took him to.
“Great! We can go over our backstories, make sure we’re on the same page about our relationship.” Peter claps his hands once and motions for Bucky to take the lead, which he does as they exit the theatre together. Steve stares after them.
“Night, man,” Sam says as he passes Steve, clapping him on the back.
“Yeah. Night, Sam.” He watches as Sam, Rhodey, and Stephen leave, and he’s left alone to lock up.
He sets up the ghost light and turns off the light board. He grabs his backpack and heads out the door. He locks up the theatre and has a fleeting thought of going to the bar and joining Bucky and Peter. Or maybe setting up at the bar and stare at them from across the room.
Really, he’s got no right to be jealous. And yet he is. As he makes his way back to his apartment, he can’t help but wonder what they’re talking about. How they’re getting to know each other. As if it were a date. But it’s not a date.
He doesn’t know for sure and it eats at him.
By the time he gets back to his apartment, he’s keyed up like he hasn’t been in a while. It’s close to eleven o’clock and he’s wide awake, so he pours himself a drink hoping it’ll help take the edge off. His mind betrays him by conjuring up pictures of Bucky and Peter at the bar enjoying each other’s company. He imagines Bucky laughing at a joke Peter tells.
And that makes him angry. He’s angry at Peter for asking Bucky to get a drink. He’s angry at Bucky for saying yes. But most of all, he’s angry at himself for what happened the other night. For letting Bucky leave before he had a chance to explain.
He does the only logical thing for him to do at this point: he boots up his computer and navigates to the folder with the pictures of his and Bucky’s vacation to The Hamptons. He spends the next half an hour staring at photos of them when they were at the happiest point in their relationship.
And is he gets absolutely sloshed while doing it, well, that’s nobody’s business but his own.
Chapter 11: Bucky
Bucky and Peter grab a beer.
Bucky is about halfway through his beer when he comes to the conclusion that he likes Peter Quill. Despite his initial reaction of lumping him into an “obnoxious working actor” category when they first met, Peter is actually a nice guy. He’s personable, and funny to boot. And he tells the most ridiculous stories.
“So there we were in a holding cell with my buddy negotiating for some guy’s prosthetic leg.”
Bucky laughs. “How the hell did you manage to get out of that?”
“Luckily my girlfriend managed to not get caught. She came and bailed us out.” Peter shakes his head at the memory. “My buddy managed to get away with that leg, too. Still has it.”
“You realize how insane that it, right?”
“Totally worth it, though.” Peter points at Bucky with his bottle and takes a sip.
There’s a momentary lull in their conversation when Peter asks, “How do you know Steve?”
It takes Bucky by surprise. “I, uh...I’m not….”
“He said hello to you at auditions the other night is all. Plus the way he was looking at you tonight.”
And that makes Bucky stop. Steve was looking at him? His brain may have just short-circuited. “He was...what?”
Peter sits back and takes a pull off of his beer. “Couldn’t keep his eyes off of you from what I saw.” He pauses for a second before casually asking, “You fucking?”
“What? No!” But he can feel the tips of his ears burning and his cheeks get a little warm.
“Methinks thou dost protest too much.” Peter leans forward, a sly smile on his face, elbows on the table, trying to coax an answer out of him. “Come on. You can tell me. We are fake dating, after all.”
Bucky closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and lets it out slowly. “Fine. Yes, I know Steve,” he says. It’s all he’s willing to give without prodding.
“I knew it,” Peter says excitedly. “You are fucking!”
“No. We’re not. Not anymore.”
“Oh. Oh! I’m sorry. I didn’t mean -”
“It’s okay. Steve and I dated several years ago.” He takes a sip of his beer in an attempt to calm his beating heart.
“Well, that sounds like it didn’t end well.”
Bucky sighs again. “It didn’t. Steve left me to go to New York.”
“Ouch. Man, I’m sorry.” He sounds like he genuinely means it.
“It’s okay. It was three years ago.” Bucky supposes okay is relative.
“So what’s he doing back in Boston?”
“New York didn’t work out apparently.”
Peter reaches out and touches Bucky’s forearm. “You okay, man?”
That pulls Bucky out of his head. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m good.”
“How do you feel about working with him?”
“Honestly? I’m...okay with it.” At least he is in this exact moment in time. Tomorrow may be a different story. “I didn’t know he was directing when I went to the audition.”
“Guess that explains why you were slouched so far down in your seat,” Peter laughs.
Bucky’s got to give him that one. He didn’t realize anyone was paying attention to him. “Yeah. I was debating whether or not to stay, but then Wanda came in and I couldn’t leave.”
“Now, I’m gonna over-step,” Peter says looking Bucky right in the eye. “You still have a thing for him?”
Well fuck. He doesn’t know what to say to that because he totally does still have a thing for Steve, which he hates because of how Steve stomped on his heart all those years ago. Does he admit to Peter he still has feelings for their director, or does he outright lie about it? And he’s probably waited too long to say anything at this point.
Peter mercifully fills the void. “It’s probably none of my business, but like I said the guy was staring at you all night long. Take that as you will.” Peter drains his beer. “I gotta get going. My girlfriend is gonna want to hear how rehearsal went, and I gotta tell her all about my new boyfriend.”
He winks and Bucky who smiles back. “Nothing bad I hope.”
“Nah. I’m gonna tell her I got the pretty one.”
Bucky laughs. “Same. Hey, do me a favor and don’t tell anyone about me and Steve.”
“Your secret’s safe with me.” Peter mimes locking his lips and throwing away the key. “See you tomorrow night.”
“Night.” He watches Peter leave before downing the rest of his beer. He heads out the door to catch the next train home.
Well, that was new information. Steve staring at him. Of course, Peter didn’t say in what context it was, so Steve could have been staring daggers at him all night for all he knew.
Okay, but what if?
No. Peter must be wrong. There’s no way Steve would be staring at him. Or if he was, it was only through his director’s eye. He ponders that for a moment, and decides that no, it was only a blocking rehearsal. There wasn’t any scene work going on tonight. The rehearsal was cursory at best. They won’t get into any real scene work until next week, so maybe he could have been looking at Bucky the way Peter thinks he was.
He grabs a seat on the T, and just as he does, his phone buzzes with a text message. He doesn’t recognize the number, but it’s local. He opens the message.
Hope you had fun with Peter. I wanted to apologize for last night. I cast you because I know you can do this character justice and I know how you work. You’re going to be great!
He looks at his phone in disbelief. Steve just apologized. To him. For last night. Huh. He’s still staring at the words when the next text arrives.
It’s Steve, btw.
Well, that much is obvious. He texts back a quick thank you , no more, no less. Bucky then second guesses himself and wonders if he texted back too quickly. Should he have waited? And when did he start to act like some lovesick puppy?
You’re welcome, the next text says. Get some rest and I’ll see you tomorrow night.
Bucky smiles at his phone. He doesn’t even realize he’s missed his stop until the doors close.
Surprise! Two chapters in one day! Note that my posting schedule is "whenever I'm two chapters ahead" and man, do I really, really want to get you guys to Chapter 13.
Chapter 12: Steve
Steve works on the sex scene - there is some flirting.
It’s three weeks into rehearsals and Steve really needs to set the choreography for that sex scene. He’s waited entirely too long to put it in motion. He sits on the sofa and reads the stage directions in the script again, soaking it all in.
The men consume each other, melding into one flesh….One by one they fall into each other on the bed, becoming something else all together, a mix of bodies and roaming arms and hands as the lights fade to the wavy blues and then to dark.
It’s going to be beautiful, all the men clutching for each other. He just needs to do it.
Steve looks at the groundplan as he runs through potential blocking in his head. He’s blocked all the dialogue leading up to the sex, so that by the time the dialogue for the scene is finished, the men are mostly naked except for Kevin/Peter, ironically, the instigator of the evening. Steve writes down the steps he wants the actors to follow as he maps them out in his head.
Max/Rhodey and Blake/Bucky kiss; Max stripping Blake down to nothing.
Kevin/Peter and Andy/Stephen mirror Max and Blake.
Max strips off his underwear and he breaks from Blake, who looks to Kevin, who is still kissing Andy.
Andy breaks from Kevin and leads him over to Blake and Max.
Andy strips off his underwear and comes in behind Blake and Max.
Kevin is left outside the action for a moment and he takes it all in.
Blake breaks from Andy and Max and pulls Kevin into the mix.
Max pulls Blake to the bed while Andy pulls Kevin down.
They kiss and paw at each other as the lights change to blue and fade to black.
Steve closes his eyes to picture the progression. It’s close to what he wants, but he needs to make Bucky more the center of attention since it’s his involvement that is the trigger for Kevin and Blake’s undoing. Maybe if he has Bucky center stage while he strips during the dialogue so that when Rhodey comes to him it pulls the focus to them rather than Kevin and Andy. That might work better.
Steve imagines the scene again. Maybe he should start with each of the established couples kissing first, and then break them up into opposites. That might work better, be a stronger visceral image. He pictures Bucky and Peter kissing and he’s suddenly overcome with a wave of irrational jealousy.
His eyes fly open and he stares at the ceiling.
He’s fucked. He knows he’s fucked.
He’s been thinking about Bucky nearly non-stop for the past few weeks. They haven’t gone out for drinks again, but they have texted a few times. It hasn’t been anything personal, simply questions about the script or confirming a rehearsal time. They are questions that can and probably should be answered by Sam rather than Steve.
So why does Bucky keep texting him instead of Sam? If he really wants to talk, why doesn’t he just come out and say so? Maybe he’s hoping for Steve to make the first move. Move for what, he thinks. They’ve fallen into what Steve considers to be a comfortable working relationship. It’s not quite at the level they had before the break up, but Steve feels it could be eventually.
Against his better judgement, he pulls out his phone to text Bucky. The question is what does he say? He hasn’t texted first before, and his nerves are getting the better of him. He decides on telling him what they’re doing tomorrow in rehearsal.
Hey Buck. We’re going to choreograph the sex scene tomorrow.
Bucky’s response only takes a moment. Cool. I’ve been doing crunches.
Steve smiles at his phone. And then he pictures Bucky doing said crunches, and he swallows thickly. It’s a lovely image.
You’ll be fine, Steve texts back. You’re in great shape.
Tell that to Nat. She’s kicking my ass with yoga.
And now he’s picturing Bucky in some bike shorts and a tank top all twisted and contorted which makes Steve’s cock twitch. He wonders how far he should push. He settles on staying safe.
I’m sure you’re fine.
My core begs to differ. ;)
Before he can think too much about it, he sends: Your core is amazing.
It takes a minute for the response to come back, and just as Steve thinks he’s gone too far, he gets a simple: Thanks.
Yeah. That was probably too far. He’s about to apologize when his phone buzzes again: So’s yours.
Well, that’s not what he was expecting. That sounds like flirting. Is it? He doesn’t know for certain since it’s just text and there’s no inflection, but he thinks it could actually be flirting on Bucky’s part. And wouldn’t that be something?
Maybe they can….Can what? Go back to what they had? Start over?
Steve puts down his phone. He can’t engage in flirting with his cast. With Bucky for Christ’s sake. If he does that and it all goes sideways, it’ll just prove Wanda’s point and he’s not going to do that. He won’t give her the satisfaction.
It takes several minutes, but Steve’s phone does buzz again with a message from Bucky: See you tomorrow.
Well, that settles that. No flirting. It was probably just a genuine compliment. Right? Right.
Except he doesn’t believe that for a moment, and his mind begins to wander right into territory it shouldn’t. All he can think about is Bucky working out, all sweaty from exertion, his skin glistening with sweat that Steve wants to lick off his chest. It’s both a memory and a fantasy.
And there goes his cock again. He decides that the best course of action is to do nothing and to take a cold shower and go to bed. He’ll figure out what all of this means later, because if there’s one thing that Steve Rogers is good at, it’s denial.
So he gets up and heads to the bathroom and turns on the shower. He strips as he waits for the water to warm up just enough so he’s not freezing and tosses his clothes in the hamper. It’s only when he’s fully naked that he realizes he’s half hard already.
He looks at himself in the mirror and sighs in resignation. He knows he’s going to jerk off to thoughts of Bucky, so he turns up the heat on the shower. May as well make it comfortable. He tests the water and gets in, wetting his hair as he runs his fingers through it.
He quickly washes his hair and then reaches behind him to the dish and grabs the bar of soap. As he lathers up, his eyes close and he pictures Bucky working out, doing squats. He imagines the muscles in Bucky’s thighs flexing with each one. Steve fists his cock, working it to full hardness. His free hand runs across his stomach and up his torso. He lets his nails drag through his chest hair, relishing the weak mark they leave behind.
His fantasy shifts and Bucky is naked and on all fours on his bed, Steve’s face buried in his ass, rimming him. The noises fantasy Bucky make are noises Steve is intimately familiar with even if it’s been years since he’s heard them for real.
As Steve pumps his cock faster, his breath hitches and he starts to feel that pull low in his belly signalling he’s getting close. Fantasy Bucky shifts again and Steve now pounds into him, his fingers gripping Bucky’s hips tightly. Another few strokes and Steve comes, painting the shower wall.
He only feels the slightest bit guilty.
Chapter 13: Bucky
They choreograph the sex scene.
The next night at rehearsal, Bucky is on edge. He’s second guessed himself all day over that damn text he sent to Steve, telling him his core is amazing. What the hell was he thinking? Flirting with Steve like that.
He’s also trying to run the scene off book which isn’t helping. Having a script in his hand, even if he doesn’t look at it is a welcome crutch. Once the script out of his hands, anything can go wrong and usually does the first couple of rehearsals without it. He’s forgotten his blocking twice and had to call for line more than he’d like.
And to top it all off, they’re about to block the sex scene. Fan-fucking-tastic.
“Hey, you okay?” Peter asks him during a break.
“Yeah. I’m sorry. I’m just off tonight.” He’s a nervous goddamned wreck, really, but he’s trying not to let it show.
Steve gathers everyone together to give them a pep talk, but Bucky doesn’t hear any of it. He nods appropriately like he is, but his mind is too occupied with that text. That and the fact that Steve hadn’t texted him back after that.
Bucky only realizes that Steve has finished his talk when everyone else moves. He grabs his script and pencil to write down the blocking. At least he doesn’t have to say anything. Thank god for small favors.
They walk through the blocking given and Bucky marks down his path in his script. He thinks he sees the progression as Steve speaks. It’s then he realizes that he is to be the main focus in this scene, and he wasn’t expecting that. He thought it would be more of a group effort - heh - so he asks Steve about it.
“Absolutely, you’re the focus,” he says. “It’s your actions that spark Peter’s jealousy which almost become your undoing.”
Oh. Okay. He can see that. But shit. The three of them are going to be all over him. Which he knew, but didn’t know.
They walk through the blocking four times before Steve suggests they try it, “For real, this time. It’ll be messy, but that’s okay,” he says. “We just need to get you all comfortable with this chain of events.”
Bucky sets his script and pencil down, as do the other actors. They take their positions on the stage. “Whenever you’re ready,” Steve says.
“We kissing?” Peter asks.
“Not yet,” Steve says. “Just get comfortable with the progression of the movement first. We’ll add the kissing later.”
Oh, thank god, Bucky thinks. He’s so rattled, he’s not sure he could do it. He takes a calming breath that barely works.
He looks at Peter who winks at him, a reassuring gesture. He smiles in return. And then Peter is walking him backwards towards center stage. He trusts Peter not to let him end up ass over teakettle over the furniture.
Once center, Peter makes a kissing sound that makes Bucky chuckle. He can hear Rhodey and Stephen doing the same. Peter runs his arms down Bucky’s and then lets him go. He and Rhodey switch partners.
Rhodey fake kisses Bucky and mimes stripping him out of his clothing. Bucky dips his head back, pretending it’s amazing. Rhodey steps away from him and mimes getting undressed as he circles around Bucky, touching him reverently but forcefully.
Bucky looks over to Peter and Stephen who pretend to kiss. Stephen breaks away from Peter and crosses to Bucky and Rhodey, and immediately envelops Bucky from behind, pretending to kiss his neck. Bucky’s hand finds its way to Stephen’s head.
They stay that way for a moment when Bucky reaches out his hand to Peter to pull him into the mix. It’s Stephen behind him, Peter in front of him, and Rhodey embracing them all from the side, dipping his head in to nuzzle at Bucky.
Peter breaks away and pulls Stephen away and towards the bed leave Bucky and Rhodey center stage. They stay there for a moment and then join Stephen and Peter, crawling onto it.
“Good,” Steve says as everyone stops and turns to him. “How did that feel?”
“Awkward,” Rhodey says. “It felt awkward.” They all laugh.
“Let’s do it again,” Steve says. “The sooner you get comfortable with it, the better.” The men take their positions once more and walk through the scene once again. And a third time, followed by a fourth and fifth for good measure.
“Okay, this time,” Steve says, “Stephen, I want you to manhandle Bucky a little bit more. You’re being too tender. This night is about fucking, not lovemaking.”
“Manhandle. Got it.”
Bucky nods, steeling himself for the intrusion.
They get back into their starting position to begin again. They move more confidently around each other, the product of having run it five times already. This time when Stephen comes up behind Bucky, Steve stops them, telling him he wants more. Stephen tries it again, but Steve still isn’t satisfied.
“Here,” he says, getting up from his seat in the audience. “Like this.”
He stands where Peter and Stephen start the scene and then stalks over to Bucky, locking eyes with him. His left hand slides up Bucky’s arm and he grips his bicep roughly. He buries his face in Bucky’s neck and Bucky, for the love of all that is holy, closes his eyes and drops his head back and to the side giving Steve full access. Steve kisses Bucky’s neck as his other hand snakes around Bucky’s torso and his fingers dig into Bucky’s shirt. Bucky’s hand clutches Steve’s and Steve grinds into Bucky’s ass. He lets out the weakest of groans.
And just like that, Steve is gone.
“Like that,” Steve says as if everything is perfectly normal. Like Steve didn’t just hump him and kiss him like Bucky remembers.
He picks his head up and opens his eyes. Jesus Christ, he thinks. He hopes to god that Steve is the only one who heard that groan. Thankfully, his dick has mostly behaved. It only twitched a little bit. It must have registered this isn’t the time or place. But Christ, does he want it to be.
“Got it,” Stephen says.
“Let’s do it again,” Steve says walking back to his seat.
And they do it again. This time around, Stephen mirrors what Steve did to Bucky, but his reaction is nothing like what his body gave to Steve. Now he just feels nothing, which he supposes is a good thing.
“Yes,” Steve says when they’ve walked through it once more. “That’s what I’m looking for.” He looks at his watch. “Let’s call it for tonight. We’ve only got another ten minutes anyway. Thank you.”
Bucky says good-night to his co-stars, grabs his script and leaves the theatre wondering with the fuck just happened.
Chapter 14: Steve
Steve realizes what he did.
“Let’s call it for tonight,” Steve says. “We’ve only got another ten minutes anyway. Thank you.”
Steve stands and gathers his script, shoving it into his backpack. He needs to get the fuck out of there and catch his breath. What in the hell was he thinking, kissing Bucky’s neck like that? Not to mention grinding against him. But, god, it had felt good.
He watches the actors leave, Bucky being the first to go, barely even muttering a good-bye to everyone else. He stares after Bucky, trying to bring him back through sheer force of will. What if that was it? What if Bucky drops out because of that stunt Steve just pulled? Fuck. He’s going to have to apologize. A lot.
It’s after the actors have left when things get even more dicey as Sam confronts him.
“You wanna tell me what that was all about?” Sam asks. He’s got his hands on his hips like he’s some mother hen scolding a child.
“What what was all about?” Steve asks as he heads to get the ghost light. Deny, deny, deny, he thinks.
“That little stunt you pulled with Bucky just now.”
“Stunt? What stunt?”
“Stop going all Meisner Technique on me and answer the question.” Steve resolutely does not look at Sam, but he can tell the man is upset by his tone, as well he should be. What Steve just did could cost them the show, depending on Bucky’s reaction. He fleetingly wonders if Scott Lang can be ready in three weeks.
Steve sets up the ghost light and turns it on. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he says.
“You kissing Bucky!” Sam throws a hand up in the air for good measure. “And whatever that grinding thing was.”
“I was trying to show Stephen what I wanted out of him. Stephen wasn’t getting what I wanted from him, so I showed him. I basically just gave him a line reading. That’s all.”
“That’s all?” Sam asks incredulously. Steve knows he’s not buying any of it.
“You’re a terrible liar.”
“That’s why I direct, not act,” Steve says, wincing as he realizes what he just said. He picks up his backpack and makes his way to the light board to turn it off.
“Ah-ha!” Sam says. “So you admit you’re lying.”
“I admit nothing.” At least not to anyone other than himself. He turns off the light board as Sam picks up his own backpack to leave.
“Look, man, considering your history -”
“Our history is just that. History.” Mostly. But he really wishes it weren’t. He just doesn’t know how to approach it.
“You’ve basically just turned this show into a real life Kiss Me, Kate !”
“That’s not fair.”
“You have,” Sam says. “This backstage drama bullshit is going to bite us in the ass, and it’s all your fault! You’ll be lucky if he doesn’t drop out after this.”
And that hits Steve like a ton of bricks. Would Bucky drop out? Shit. He could. He supposes he’s got to make sure he doesn’t. “He’s not gonna drop out, Sam. I’ll make sure of it.”
“How? How do you know he’s not going to drop out?
“Because Bucky has a better work ethic than that. He’s committed.” That will be his first argument when he talks to Bucky.
“You’re the one that needs to be committed.” Sam sounds exasperated.
They make their way to the door, Steve looking back to see if he’s forgotten something, and honestly, with where his mind is right now, anything is possible. He doesn’t see anything amiss in the theatre, so he ushers Sam out the door and locks up.
“You want to get a drink and talk about it?” Sam asks. “Might do you some good.”
Steve thinks about that for a second. Does he want to talk about it? About how he still wants Bucky? Maybe he should even if he doesn’t really want to. “Yes,” he says as he turns in the direction of the bar. “You gonna yell at me some more?”
Once seated in the booth with their drinks, Sam says, “Look. I’m not sorry I yelled at you. You deserved it. But you want to tell me what’s really going on?”
“No,” Steve admits. He doesn’t want to say any of it out loud. If he doesn’t say it, it won’t be real.
“Okay, look.” He scrubs a hand across his face. “Honestly, when I first saw what Stephen was doing, I kept getting frustrated because it wasn’t what I wanted.”
“And what you wanted was to hump Bucky?”
“Sam,” he says testily.
“Sorry. Go on.”
“After the third time trying to explain it, it was just easier to show Stephen what I wanted from him.”
“And you thought that was a good idea to do to Bucky?”
“I didn’t even think about it at first. But by the time I was grinding up on him, it hit me what I was doing.”
“Toying with him, you mean.”
“I wouldn’t call it that.”
“You wouldn’t? Why not?”
“Because it was just a rehearsal. It wasn’t real.”
“Does he know that?”
“Do you,” Sam accuses.
“That’s not fair.”
“Why not? It’s obvious you still have feelings for the guy.” Steve opens his mouth to protest but Sam cuts him off. “Nope. Don’t even try to tell me you don’t. I’ve seen the way you look at him in rehearsal.”
Steve huffs a laugh. “And how do I look at him?”
“It depends on the night. Some nights, you look at him with such admiration, I think you’re going to melt into the floor. Other nights, you look at him like you want to devour him whole.”
And well. That’s fair. Harsh, but fair. “Okay. Fine. Yes. I do have feelings for him.”
“I knew it!”
“So what are you going to do about it?”
What can he do about it? Nothing. Despite the little bit of flirting that Bucky has engaged in, Steve doesn’t think Bucky would be receptive to anything more. “Nothing,” he says after a moment. “I’m not going to do anything else to jeopardize the show.”
“That’s the first sensible thing you’ve said all night.”
“What am I going to do, Sam?”
“You should probably figure out how Bucky feels about what happened tonight. He cut and run pretty much as soon as you called rehearsal.”
“I know. I feel bad about that.”
“But what do I say to him?” He slumps down low in the booth. How did his life get to be such a fucking mess?
“You want me to write you a script?”
“If I thought it would help, I’d say yes.”
“Sorry, man. You’re on your own,” Sam says. “You need to fix this somehow.”
“I know. I will.”
But just how he’s going to do it, he has no fucking clue.
Kiss Me, Kate is a musical about a theatre putting up The Taming of the Shrew. The lead actors hate each other but fall in love.
Chapter 15: Bucky
Bucky and Natasha talk. Bucky has a realization.
Bucky’s head swims. He thinks not for the first time that he’s in over his head.
He’s just gotten off the T and walks home trying to make sense of what happened at rehearsal. Of what Steve did to him. And there’s no other way to describe it - Steve had come on to him. He’s certain of it. It may have been disguised as a rehearsal, but that was a come on.
And Bucky had liked it. Hell, he’d loved it. He hadn’t wanted it to end. He’d leaned into Steve like they were alone, like he was starved for Steve’s attention. One touch from Steve and he was a goner. He touches his neck, savoring the memory.
Thankfully, Natasha isn’t home when he gets back to the apartment. He flings his script and coat on his bed and goes back out to the living room, sitting on the sofa. He pulls out his phone and stares at it. He itches to send Steve a text, but should he? What does he even say? Thanks for groping me tonight, I had a blast. Let’s do it again .
Because he hadn’t wanted it to end. He had wanted Steve to keep touching him the way he used to, the way he remembered. To continue grinding against him and oh god, did Bucky grind back into him? He’s not completely sure he didn’t. Shit.
The bigger question however, is how does he really feel about Steve? Not just how he reacts to the man physically. If he goes on just that visceral reaction, he’s fucked. He’ll choose Steve every time, consequences be damned.
He considers the much different reaction he had when Stephen was the one doing the scene. Granted, Bucky had been a bit rattled by Steve’s actions, but when Stephen had touched him, he felt nothing. He’d been thinking about his next move in the scene, not about what Stephen was doing to him. Not like when Steve had grasped at him.
When Steve had touched him, all his brain focused on was want and need. He’s surprised he was able to do anything else after that. He wonders how much the other actors picked up on it. Peter probably did, and will probably want to talk about it.
He’s still staring at his phone, deciding whether or not to text Steve when Natasha comes home. “Hey,” she says when she sees him sitting there.
“Hey,” he says trying not to let any of his emotions get the better of him. Of course, it doesn’t work and she knows something is going on. He hates how she does it.
“Uh-oh,” she says putting down her bag. “You’ve got a look. What’s up?”
He shakes his head and smiles. “How do you do that? How do you know something’s up?” He tosses his phone on the coffee table.
“I think the better question is why do you think you can hide it?” She flops down next to him on the sofa. “What’s going on?”
“Yep.” Might as well tell her the truth. She’ll just wheedle it out of him anyway.
“What’s he done?”
“It’s embarrassing,” he says, blushing just a little.
“Okay, now I really need to know. Dish.” She puts her elbow up on the back of the sofa and rests her hand on her fist in anticipation.
“So, tonight in rehearsal. Tonight is the night we choreographed the sex scene.”
She nudges his arm. “Finally! Was it hot?”
“We walked through it a few times and then Steve said that Stephen wasn’t doing enough to me.”
“Yeah. I’m supposed to be the main focus in the scene, and -”
“You never told me that.”
“Sorry. Focus. Got it.”
“Anyway, what Stephen was doing was caressing. Steve wanted him to handle me more roughly. Stephen wasn’t getting it, so...Steve showed him what he wanted. On me.”
“I’m not following.”
“Steve demonstrated what he wanted on me. He kissed my neck and...ground his hips into mine.”
“Oh, my god. What?”
“Talk about unprofessional.”
“No, it’s not that,” he says. He never once thought it was. It probably was, though.
“Then what is it?”
“Nat, I... wanted him. I didn’t want it to stop.”
“I know, I know I shouldn’t, but I do.” He sighs heavily and lets his head fall to the back of the sofa. He closes his eyes up tight. “Nat, I...I may still love him.”
And there it is. There are the words he’s been denying himself for the past three weeks. God help him, but despite everything, he’s still in love with Steve Rogers.
“Well, fuck,” Natasha says, laying her hand on Bucky’s arm. She rubs a comforting circle on it.
“I know.” He can feel tears prick at the corners of his eyes and he does his best to ignore them. It doesn’t work, and one slips down his temple. He brushes it away. He doesn’t want to cry, but the tears have other ideas.
Natasha scoots over on the sofa and wraps herself around him, her head on his chest. He lifts his arms up to let her in and then hugs her back, occasionally wiping away a tear, then hugging her again.
“Does he know,” she asks.
“No. At least I don’t think so.”
He considers the possibility that he may have given something away over the past few weeks. He doesn’t think he has. They’ve texted a few times, but they were all about the show. Well, except for that bit of flirting last night, but that’s all that was, harmless flirting. And now that he thinks about it, he huffs a laugh because he was so deep in denial that he could do this show and not fall for Steve again, it’s laughable.
“What are you going to do,” Natasha asks after a moment.
“What can I do? I’m just going to finish the show and be as professional as I can with the time we’ve got left.” Besides, it’s not like Steve has any feelings for him. His grinding up on Bucky was just about sex, not feelings. If that. For all he knew, Steve really was just showing Stephen what he wanted, nothing else.
“Will you tell him when the show is over?”
“Why? So he can laugh at me while he’s walking away? No. Better to just let it end and be done with it.”
He’ll be damned if he gives Steve a chance to break his heart again.
Chapter 16: Steve
Steve apologizes to Bucky.
Steve arrives at the next rehearsal an hour early. He’s been on edge ever since last night and his early arrival means that he’s not getting over it any time soon.
He turns on the light board and puts away the ghost light. He drops his backpack near his chair and finds a spot just outside of the staged set to do some warm ups. He starts with the typical “hee” and “ha” breathing exercises, says a few “red leather, yellow leathers” for good measure, and then drops to the floor to do a few quick pushups to get his blood flowing.
He hasn’t texted Bucky yet. He’s been too much of a coward to do it. But he also hasn’t heard from Bucky either, so Steve assumes that he hasn’t dropped out of the show. He knows all about assumptions, though, so he’s putting odds at 75-25 Bucky is dropping out.
He gets back up to do a shakedown. He starts counting off from ten on each of his feet then his hands, but quickly loses count by the time he’s gotten down to eight. He curses himself and his lack of concentration. He tries it again, starting with his hands this time. He makes it as far as six before his thoughts get the better of him and he’s lost count again.
He sighs and gives up, looking at his watch. He’s wasted all of fifteen minutes. He sits, but his leg starts bouncing with anticipation and he chews on his thumbnail, so he gets up again, this time checking the prop table to ensure they’re all there. They are.
What is he going to say to Bucky? Sorry for humping you in front of people? He supposes that yes, that’s exactly what he should say, but he’s pretty sure those words aren’t coming out of his mouth. Maybe I’m sorry for putting you in that position last night. Yes. That’s better. He just needs to actually work up the courage to do it.
Because like he admitted to Sam last night, Steve still has feelings for Bucky. Bucky is the one that got away. No. That’s not right. Bucky is the one he let go. Pushed away for his own selfish reasons and has regretted it ever since.
He’s wanted to find a way to apologize to Bucky for the past three years, but he’s been too much of a chicken shit to do it. Of course, Bucky had blocked his number, so he couldn’t call, but if he’d really wanted to, he could have found a way to contact him. He was just too scared.
And now it’s even worse because of what he did last night. It’s worse because it gives him hope. He’d heard that little groan Bucky had let out, had felt him push back into him when he ground his hips into Bucky’s.
Bucky had wanted it.
Steve is shaken out of his head when he hears the theatre door open and Sam comes in. “Hey,” he says. “You talk to Bucky?”
“Right to the point, huh?”
“I just want to know if we have to call Scott Lang,” Sam says coming into the space. “Or if you’re going to make me fill in. Because, I gotta tell you, I haven’t been exercising like some of these guys. You see how jacked Quill has gotten?”
He ignores that last bit about Peter. He’s noticed, but he couldn’t care less. “No, I didn’t talk to Bucky. But he didn’t get in touch either, so I think we’re okay.”
Sam cocks an eyebrow at him. “Maybe he talked to Wanda.”
Steve shakes his head. “No. If he’d talked to Wanda, she would’ve called me herself to gloat.”
“Fair point.” Sam sits in his seat near Steve’s. “You still need to apologize.”
Steve sits next to him. “And I will. After rehearsal tonight. I promise.”
“Maybe you should do it before rehearsal. You know, clear the air.”
Steve considers this for a moment. If he apologizes before they start, then he won’t be so keyed up anymore, plus it’s not fair to Bucky. He should have apologized last night. Or at the latest sometime during the day today. Fucking coward, he calls himself.
Steve pats Sam on the leg. “Yeah. You’re probably right. I’ll pull him aside before rehearsal.” He looks at his watch. Twenty minutes to seven. The cast should be here soon.
“I know this isn’t easy for you,” Sam says to him. “What with your feelings and all.”
“It is what it is. Just because I still have feelings for him doesn’t mean he has any for me.” Other than maybe just wanting to fuck if his reaction to Steve’s actions last night is any indication. It may have been just a physical reaction, nothing more.
“Yeah. Okay,” Sam says as if he doesn’t believe it. But before Steve can say anything, Stephen and Peter enter the theatre. Bucky and Rhodey are right behind them with Peter Parker bringing up the rear. “You’re up,” Sam says quietly.
The men enter and each finds a seat to claim as their own, scattered through the theatre. Steve stands and bushes his hands on his hips, steeling himself for what he’s about to do. “Hey, Bucky, got a sec?”
“Sure,” he says. “What’s up?” If there is anything amiss, Steve can’t tell.
Steve guides him away from the other actors, towards the curtain. “Listen,” he starts. “I just wanted to apologize for last night. That was probably unprofessional of me.”
Bucky scrunches up his face. “What do you mean? What was unprofessional?”
“You know. Last night...when I...gave Stephen that direction and basically used you as a prop. I’m sorry.” Whew. It’s out.
“Oh, that? That wasn’t anything,” Bucky says, his expression flat. “Don’t worry about it.”
“Oh. Okay. Good.” That’s...not the answer he was expecting. He searches Bucky’s face for a sign of anything to indicate that it’s not okay, but he doesn’t see anything. “I’m glad.”
“Anything else,” Bucky asks.
“No, that was it. Thank you.”
“Sure thing.” Bucky walks back over to his seat and takes off his coat.
Huh. Well. Maybe Steve was wrong. About everything.
Chapter 17: Bucky
A tense rehearsal with a (stage) kiss.
Bucky is relieved to see he’s not the first person at rehearsal. He gets there just as the other actors are headed inside. He can blend in and hopefully not have to say anything to Steve.
Quill asks if he wants to get a drink after rehearsal. There’s a tone to his voice that says he wants to talk. Probably about what happened last night. He agrees.
When he enters the theatre, he doesn’t look at Steve, instead giving his attention to the new piece of furniture on the set. That’s the perfect place to look that isn’t Steve. Because if he looks at Steve right now, he may just start to cry. Of course, his luck doesn’t hold.
“Hey, Bucky, got a sec?” Steve asks. Bucky’s blood runs cold. He drops his script on a chair and strips off his coat. He hopes that no one can see how nervous he is. His hands only shake a little, so he puts them in his pockets so Steve doesn’t notice.
“Sure,” he says going for casual.He hopes he pulls it off. “What’s up?”
Steve steps away from the other actors and guides him toward the curtain. Whatever it is, it can’t be good if he’s pulling Bucky away from the others. “Listen,” he starts. “I just wanted to apologize for last night. That was probably unprofessional of me.”
Bucky scrunches up his face in disbelief. Steve is actually apologizing. Again. Who is this man and what did he do with Steve? Maybe he can work with this off after all. “What do you mean? What was unprofessional?”
“You know. Last night...when I...gave Stephen that direction and basically used you as a prop. I’m sorry.” Huh. Well, that’s...something.
Bucky needs to play this off as nothing but casual if he’s going to make it through this rehearsal. “Oh, that? That wasn’t anything,” Bucky says. “Don’t worry about it.”
“Oh. Okay. Good.”
Bucky thinks Steve might be a little dejected of all things. Like he was expecting a fight or something. “Sure thing,” Bucky says as he turns back to the theatre. He finally lets his guard down and he and Quill catch each other’s gaze. Bucky nods to him that everything is all right. Quill nods back, a sign of solidarity.
And so begins the rehearsal. Bucky focuses on the material and his performance, and he doesn’t give another thought about what Steve said to him all night. Until the last scene.
The scene is between Quill’s Kevin and Peter Parker’s Telegram Delivery Boy. Kevin insists that Bucky’s character isn’t sick and that he loves him. The Telegram Delivery Boy tells him it’s too late. Bucky’s Blake is already gone. As the two fight, their argument climbing to a crescendo, it’s the final monologue of the show that gets to Bucky.
Doesn’t make a difference that I love him? Fuck you. Not like fucking movies and stories, not like poetry, what I feel is more than that, it hurts, it’s like my ribs imploding, breaking and crushing me, cutting up everything, it’s wet and dirty, it’s all over me, it’s insane, it’s fucking insane, I feel like I’m losing my mind, no, he needs me, he doesn’t need to be alone, he needs to be here, where he belongs...Where he belongs! With me and he knows it. You know it. Blake, can you hear me? You were right. I’m sorry, okay? And I won’t let you go….It’s my fault he’s gone now. I get it; I know it. I’m sorry, Blake, sorry I didn’t know, wanted more, that I was scared and weak and reckless with what we had, have, what we still have. No, so no matter what you do, I won’t take that telegram. He needs to know that. Whatever happens, you, all of this, it doesn’t matter, none of it, and I love him and those aren’t just words and he’s the reason that they’re not just words, so you can go deliver that message straight to the bottom of the goddamned ocean and give him back! Do you hear me? I will not let you go!
And that is Bucky’s cue to enter. Which he misses entirely because he’s so caught up in the moment, imagining that Steve is the one saying those words to him, he’s not paying attention, he’s too busy wishing Steve would say that to him. He’s only shaken out of it when Sam says, “Bucky, that’s your cue.”
“Right,” he says, voice shaking. He clears his throat. “Sorry.” Thankfully, they’re not doing a full run through without stopping, so he doesn’t feel too bad about missing the cue. He does feel bad for fantasizing about Steve, though. Again. He wonders just how much more he can take before he breaks.
They take it back to Quill’s last three lines and Bucky makes his entrance, sputtering as if he’s just been saved from drowning. He’ll be glad when they rehearse with actual water. The play ends with the Telegram Delivery Boy bidding them a nice day while Bucky and Peter kiss.
It’s the first time they’ve kissed, and Bucky idly thinks it’s nice, even in its fierceness. Peter’s lips are softer than he imagined. He hears a cough in the audience and it’s enough to break the moment. They look at each other and Peter slaps him on the arm. “Good job, Buck.”
“Thanks. You, too.”
The cough happens again and Bucky shields his eyes from the stage lights to look out into the audience.
“That was great,” Steve says. His voice sounds rough. “Good job tonight, guys. Starting tomorrow, we’ll be running the show from top to bottom, no stops. You get into trouble, get yourself out of it.” He looks at his notepad. “I’ve only got a few notes for you, but I’m sure Sam has more.”
“I do,” Sam says as he flashes his own notebook. “There were points it looked like you forgot the blocking entirely.”
So Bucky sits and listens to the notes from both Steve and Sam, jotting down those that are relevant to him. Thankfully, he doesn’t have many, and he feels good about that. It’s when Steve dismisses everyone that his stress level kicks up.
“Ready for that drink,” Peter asks him. “We’ve got some catching up to do.”
I wanted to remind y'all of this play the monologue is from. It's called Ocotpus by Steve Yockey, and it's one of my two all-time favorite stage plays ever, and it works perfectly for this fic and these two lovesick idiots.
Chapter 18: Steve
Steve fucking hates watching Peter and Bucky kiss.
The rehearsal goes well. Steve is impressed with just how far the cast has come. They’re all mostly off book, only calling for a line every so often. The blocking is good, and they seem to be finding their rhythm. It’s going to be a good show.
So why is he so annoyed?
They’d started the night with Andy’s monologue which needs some more work, but he knows that with a few tweaks, Stephen will have it down cold soon, so he’s not worried too much about it. Blake and Kevin’s fight lacks some bite, but again, simply running the show over and over will help Peter and Bucky find the intensity needed for a couple falling apart at the seams. Peter Parker does an excellent job of bouncing back and forth from plasticine to a heightened emotional state.
And yet, something is eating at him.
By the time they get to Kevin’s final monologue, Steve is on edge. As he watches Quill deliver the lines, he’s struck by just how close to home those words hit him. How Kevin really loves Blake no matter what. How Kevin will fight to get Blake back from the clutches of the metaphoricle sea monster. How he’s not giving up on their relationship. When Quill talks of his ribs imploding, Steve knows exactly the feeling he’s talking about because he feels that way about Bucky.
And then Quill and Bucky kiss.
And Steve’s heart clenches.
It’s a rough, desperate kiss, Peter’s hands cupping Bucky’s face, Bucky clutching Peter’s forearms. It’s the kind of kiss you give someone when you realize they’re alive, and you’ve got a second chance at life with them. It’s exactly what the scene needs. It’s perfect.
Steve hates it.
He hates it even though he knows it’s not real. Knows that Quill has no interest in Bucky. Knows that Quill has a girlfriend. Is sure Bucky isn’t seeing anyone. Knows that it’s one hundred percent straight up acting. That doesn’t mean his heart knows that, though.
Steve Rogers is jealous.
Because his heart beats faster and his mouth goes dry while he watches them. He reaches for his water bottle and takes a sip. And because the world hates him, a little bit of water goes down the wrong way and he coughs.
Peter and Bucky part, saying something to each other that Steve can’t hear which he hates. He coughs again trying to clear his throat.
“That was great,” Steve says, his voice rough and not only from the water. “Good job tonight, guys. Starting tomorrow, we’ll be running the show from top to bottom, no stops. You get into trouble, get yourself out of it.” He looks at his notepad as a way to ground himself. “I’ve only got a few notes for you, but I’m sure Sam has more.”
He and Sam give their notes to the actors and Steve bids everyone good night. He overhears Quill telling Bucky they need to catch up over a drink and he balls his hands into fists at his sides. His teeth grind together, and his anger sparks again. He tells himself it’s nothing.
“You okay,” Sam asks after everyone leaves.
Steve is shaken out of his thoughts. “Huh? Oh, yeah. I’m good.” He starts his routine of setting up the ghost light and turning off the light board so they can leave for the night.
“You don’t look good. You look mad.” Sam slings his backpack over his shoulder.
“Why would I be mad?”
“Because of that kiss Quill and Bucky shared. You looked like you were going to spit nails.”
“That? No. I’m good,” he says, hoping his voice doesn’t betray him. Sam’s already accused him of being a terrible liar once. Steve doesn’t need to make his point for him.
They exit the theatre, say good night and head off in opposite directions. Steve thinks back to the final monologue when Peter poured his heart out to Bucky. He knows that feeling well. Just like in the play, Steve said something stupid that caused Bucky harm. Unlike the play, however, Steve hasn’t said the words to get Bucky back.
He pulls out his phone and calls Tony. “What’s up, Cap,” he asks when he answers.
“I’m screwed,” Steve says as he starts walking.
“The fun kind of screwed or the bad kind of screwed?”
“The bad kind.”
Tony’s tone shifts to help mode immediately. “This about the play?”
“Yes. No. Sort of?”
“Ah. It’s about Bucky,” Tony says knowingly.
Steve sighs. “Yeah.” He looks up at the lights of Boston. “Tony, I still love him.”
Tony says nothing for so long that Steve thinks the call has disconnected. “I knew this was going to happen,” he says finally.
“You’ve never let him go. Sure, you told him it was over and even ran away for a few months while you tried to get your shit together in New York, but you never really let him go. He’s always been with you in some capacity.”
“I - I don’t -”
“Nope. Don’t even try to deny it. When’s the last time you even had a date?”
He has to think about that one. “I don’t remember,” Steve confesses.
“Because no one ever measures up to Bucky.”
He’s right. Tony is absolutely right. Steve hasn’t had any kind of meaningful relationship in the past three years because in the back of his mind, Bucky was always lurking, waiting. And now that Bucky is right here in front of him, what does he do? He shuts the fuck up like the coward he is.
Steve stops walking and he realizes he’s in front of the bar. He looks through the window and spies Quill and Bucky in a booth having a beer. He has no idea what comes over him when he tells Tony, “I’ve gotta go,” and hangs up before his friend can answer.
Before he even knows what he’s doing, he pockets his phone and enters the bar.
Chapter 19: Bucky
Steve joins Bucky and Peter at the bar. Peter makes a hasty retreat.
“It was good tonight, right?” Peter takes a sip of his beer. “It felt really good.”
Bucky nods in agreement. “It was. You killed that final monologue. I completely forgot to make my entrance.”
“Thanks. Was the kiss okay?”
“Fishing for compliments,” Bucky teases. “It was fine.”
“Fine? Ouch.” Peter sits back in the booth. “I must be losing my touch.”
Bucky laughs at him. “I’m sure your girlfriend doesn’t complain.”
“As a matter of fact, she does not,” Peter says, tipping his beer bottle at Bucky. He takes a sip before asking, “You wanna talk about what’s going on with you and Steve?”
“What do you mean?” Might as well make him clarify it.
“Dude. He practically humped you last night. And he attacked your neck like a damn vampire.”
“He was just giving Stephen a line reading is all. It’s fine.” He doesn’t look at Peter as he says it.
“A line reading,” Peter asks in disbelief. “You think he would’ve done that to anyone else in the cast?”
“Yes?” He’d like to think that he’s not the only one. But in reality, he knows better. Steve had done it because he’d been comfortable enough with Bucky to do it despite their recent history.
“You don’t know that.”
“For sure? No,” Peter says. “But I get the feeling that he liked it, probably as much as you did.”
“I didn’t -”
“I heard that little groan you let out when he did it.”
Bucky lets out an entirely different kind of groan and puts his head in his hands. “I was hoping no one heard that,” he says.
“Sorry, Bucko. But look at the bright side.”
“There’s a bright side,” he asks the table, head still in his hands.
“At least now you know that Steve wants you, too.”
Bucky snaps his head up at that. Could that be right? Could Steve actually want him again? No. If he does, it’s just physical. They were always good at physical. Really good at physical.
“All I’m saying is that if you think you might still want something with him, you may have a chance,” Peter says.
Bucky is about to respond that that’s a fallacy, but he catches the door to the bar out of the corner of his eye and Steve coming in. He looks around and spots Bucky and waves as he makes his way over to their table.
“Hey, guys,” he says. “Mind if I join you?”
“Actually, I was just leaving,” Peter says. He drains his beer and stands. Bucky could kill him. “Have a seat.”
“Thanks,” Steve says dropping his backpack into the booth. “Great work tonight, Peter. You really nailed that monologue.”
“Thanks. I’ll see you guys on Monday.” And just like that, Peter is gone, leaving Bucky alone with Steve.
“You did good work tonight, too, Buck,” Steve says. “You and Peter are well on your way to getting that fight down.”
“Thanks.” He has no idea what to even say to Steve. This is going to be an awkward evening.
“So,” Steve says.
They both begin taking at the same time.
“I just wanted -”
“What are you -”
Steve laughs. “You first,” he says.
“What are you doing here, Steve?” Bucky is more tired than anything and he’s sure his voice reflects it. But really, what the hell is he doing here? He knew Bucky was going to the bar with Peter.
The look on Steve’s face changes from light to serious pretty quickly. “I just wanted to apologize,” he says.
“You already did that,” Bucky accuses. “I told you it was fine.”
“Not for that, although, I am still sorry. I shouldn’t have done that to you. I mean for how I left you when I went to New York.”
“What?” He couldn’t have heard that right. There’s no way in hell….
Steve sighs and reaches across the table. He takes Bucky’s hand. Bucky doesn’t pull away, but lets it happen. There’s a spark inside him that’s threatening to explode.
“When I left for New York, I did the worst thing possible. I hurt you. I thought I was doing you a favor by breaking up with you before you had a chance to break up with me.”
Bucky’s hand constricts around Steve’s fingers. “Why would I -”
But apparently, Steve is determined to get out what he needs to say because he cuts Bucky off. “For when you realized that long-distance relationships don’t work.”
“Boston to New York is hardly long distance.” He feels tears prick at the corners of his eyes. No, not here, he thinks.
“I know that now. What I did was selfish and arrogant and stupid. And I realized it about a month after I got to New York when things started to go to shit early on, and I didn’t have you to lean on.”
Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry.
“You were always my rock. And I treated you like shit, and I am so incredibly sorry for what I did to you.” He squeezes Bucky’s hand.
The first words Bucky almost says are “It’s all right,” but he catches himself just in time. He can hardly comprehend what he’s hearing. Steve apologizing again, this time for the one thing that Bucky doesn’t want to forgive him for. “Do you know what you did to me,” he asks instead. “Do you have any idea how devastated I was?”
Steve shakes his head a little and squeezes Bucky’s hand again. This time Bucky pulls it away. “We had plans, Steve. We’d talked about getting married.”
“I remember,” Steve says softly.
“And the next thing I know, you’re breaking up with me to go to New York, and not once, not once did you ever consider asking me to come with you.” Bucky’s voice rises in anger.
“I’m sorry. I thought it was for the best.”
“For the best? For who? For you, you mean. Did you even think about what it would do to me?”
He feels a tear slip down his cheek and he wipes it away, then pounds his fist on the table. “You didn’t, did you?”
“You had so much going for you here. You were on the fast track at your job -”
“Which I got fired from because I missed too much work wallowing over you!”
“You had your friends -”
“The only one that stuck around was Natasha.”
“Your family is here.”
“Jesus, Steve. You. YOU were my family. I would have gone to New York with you in a heartbeat, because I love you.”
Their eyes meet and Bucky realizes what he just said. Just said it in the present tense. Fuck. He’s got to get out of there. He can’t do this right now. “I gotta go,” he says and he exits the booth and flees the bar.
He hears Steve call after him, but he just keeps going.
Chapter 20: Steve
Steve chases after Bucky.
Steve quickly finds his wallet and throws a twenty on the table. He grabs his backpack and takes off after Bucky. Because he didn’t imagine that. Bucky had used the present tense when he said he loves him.
Steve’s heart pounds as he chases after him. If he thought for even a moment he had any kind of a chance with Bucky….
He stops just outside the door of the bar, looking up the street and then down, frantically searching for Bucky’s familiar form. He spies him headed back in the direction of the theatre.
Bucky turns to look at him, but just as quickly turns away. He puts his head down and walks faster, so Steve runs after him, dodging pedestrians as he goes. Steve knows he’s going to catch up to him, since Bucky isn’t exactly running away from him so much as speed walking, but that doesn’t mean that Steve worries that he won’t get to him in time.
He’s got to ask Bucky if it’s true. Did he mean that he still loves him? Steve hopes against hope that it’s true.
Steve knocks shoulders with someone as he’s running, and he says “Sorry,” to the man as he keeps moving forward. He dodges a woman and her dog, and jumps over a busker’s open guitar case.
When he catches up to Bucky, he grabs his arm. “Hey,” he says, hoping Bucky will stop trying to get away from him.
Bucky stops short and Steve realizes they’re in front of the theatre. “What?” Bucky sounds resigned.
“Did you mean it?” Steve searches Bucky’s face for the answer he wants. “Do you still love me?”
Bucky sigs wearily. “Can we just not do this, please?”
“Please,” Steve asks. He points to the theatre. “We can talk inside if you want.” Please say yes, he thinks.
Bucky pinches the bridge of his nose and scrunches his eyes. “Fine,” he says tersely. “Let’s get this over with.”
Steve fishes his keys out of his pocket and quickly unlocks the door. As soon as they’re inside, he locks it back up. He leads Bucky to the theatre and down to the set. He drops his bookbag near his usual seat, his mind and heart racing. He starts to take off his jacket, but Bucky stops him.
“Don’t bother,” he says. “This isn’t going to take long.”
Steve’s stomach drops. Bucky is going to tell him to fuck off and get out of his life. And well, that’s a completely fair thing for him to do. But at least if he says it, Steve can maybe, just maybe, move on.
“Oh, Buck -”
“No. Don’t you ‘oh, Buck’ me,” he says, his anger apparent.
“I’m sorry,” is the only thing Steve can say.
“This isn’t fair. You don’t get to just waltz back into my life like nothing happened.”
“I never thought -”
“Shut up.” To his credit, Steve stops talking. “You have no right to apologize and think that everything is going to be okay, because it isn’t. You didn’t just hurt me, Steve. You devastated me.”
“I am so sorry.” Steve can’t even begin to imagine what Bucky went through. What Steve caused him to go through.
“When you walked away, I shut down. I had no idea what to do with myself. I think I stayed in bed for a week before Natasha kicked me out and made me go to work, which promptly fired me because I hadn’t called out. I stayed in bed for another week after that. When I got up, I walked around like a goddamned ghost because I didn’t know what to do.”
There is so much hurt and anger in Bucky’s face that Steve doesn’t know what to do. So he just stands there and takes it.
“You selfish bastard! I couldn’t even hate you properly because I love you so much.”
And there it is again. Love. Present tense. Steve takes a step closer to Bucky. “If I had known -”
“No. You would have done it anyway.” Bucky wipes a the back of his hand across his eyes.
“But that’s the thing. I wouldn’t have.” He takes another step towards Bucky, who doesn’t move. “I should have asked you to come with me. I shouldn’t have assumed. And for that, I’m so incredibly sorry for what I did to you.”
One more step and he’s face to face with Bucky. He reaches a hand up and cups Bucky’s cheek. It’s wet with tears. Tears over Steve. He wipes one away with his thumb. Steve’s own tears threaten to spill over. He can feel them brewing.
The two stare at each other for a few moments, taking each other in. Steve’s other hand comes up to cup Bucky’s other cheek. “I’m so sorry,” he says again. “When I saw you in that Target after coming back to Boston, I should have gone after you.”
“Why didn’t you?” Bucky’s hands find their way to Steve’s waist.
“I was a coward. I still am a coward.”
“You didn’t -”
“Shhh,” Steve says.
He closes the gap between them and his lips brush Bucky’s. There’s a spark of static electricity, but he doesn’t pull away, and neither does Bucky. The kiss starts gentle, nice, but after a moment, picks up in heat and intensity as Bucky opens his mouth to let Steve in.
Bucky’s kisses are exactly like Steve remembers. They taste faintly of beer, which Steve reslishes. He feels Bucky gather his shirt in his fists, and Steve moves his hands to Bucky’s waist as well, pulling Bucky closer.
The kiss turns fevered, their breath coming faster, teeth clacking together. Steve bites at Bucky’s lip, eliciting a groan from him and it’s the most beautiful sound Steve has ever heard. He laughs into Bucky’s mouth at the absurdity and the wonderfulness of it all.
But that laugh is apparently enough to break the spell as Bucky pulls away from him. He doesn’t let go of Steve, just pulls his head back enough to break the kiss. He puts his forehead on Steve’s.
“What are we doing,” Bucky asks.
“Kissing,” Steve says. “Making up for lost time?”
“Steve, I -” and this time Bucky does pull away from him.He runs his hands through his hair. “I can’t do this.”
“We can go slow,” Steve says, tamping down the panic that’s threatening to rise. He’s just kissed Bucky for the first time in three years and he can’t wait to do it again. “Please,” Steve says, just barely a whisper. “You said -”
“Yeah. I did. I know what I said. But I’m not ready to forgive you.”
“What can I do?” Steve hopes his voice doesn’t sound as pathetic as he feels. “I’ll do anything, Buck. Anything.” And he absolutely means it. He’ll do anything Bucky asks of him.
Bucky crosses his arms like he’s thinking about it, but then throws his hands in the air saying, “I’ve got to go,” as he makes his way toward the theatre door.
“Bucky, wait,” Steve says going after him. “Please.”
When they get to the lobby, Bucky tries the door, forgetting that Steve had locked it. “Open it, please,” he asks.
“Can we just talk -”
“Please open the door, Steve.” His tone has taken on a bit of iciness.
“Sure,” he says dejectedly.
He unlocks the door and Bucky is gone without another word.
Chapter 21: Bucky
Steve surprises Bucky the next morning.
As it’s Friday night, Bucky has nearly seventy-two hours until he sees Steve again.
Seventy-two hours to wallow.
Seventy-two hours to hope.
Because that’s what tonight gave him more than anything: hope.
He sits on the sofa with a cup of tea, enjoying the solitude as Natasha is gone for the weekend with her friend, Maria. She won’t be back until Sunday night, so he’s got the whole weekend to himself. A whole weekend to be alternately miserable and hopeful.
He thinks back to the kiss. It wasn’t perfect - far from it - but as far as first kisses after several years go, it was pretty damn good. He touches his lips at the memory, his fingers ghosting over the skin.
He’d told Steve he’s not ready to forgive him yet. And he’s not. But that doesn’t stop him from wanting to kiss Steve again. God, it had been nice.
Steve had apologized. Had said he was a coward. Had said he would do anything for Bucky. But what does Bucky want? The apology had been a great start, but it’s going to take more than a simple I’m sorry to make it right. He probably needs to get into a frame of mind where they have an actual sit-down and he listens to Steve’s side of the story.
Of course, Steve’s side of the story is stupid. Breaking up with someone before they could break up with you. Or over a long distance relationship. Jesus. He gets angry just thinking about it. So fucking stupid, he thinks. But then his mind shifts to the apology and how sincere Steve sounded. And the kiss….he’s so discombobulated, he’s like a damn ping-pong ball going back and forth.
He’s reminded of the fight that his Blake and Peter’s Kevin have and how it’s so apropos to his situation right now.
BLAKE: Say you’re sorry again.
KEVIN: I’m sorry.
BLAKE: For what?
KEVIN: I’m sorry that….
BLAKE: You don’t even know, not even a little bit.
But maybe Steve does know.
It’s that thought that gets him through the night.
The next morning, Bucky lazes in bed longer than is strictly necessary. He only gets up when his bladder can’t take any more. He gets up with a yawn and a stretch and heads to the bathroom.
Once done, he goes to the kitchen to make coffee. As the pot is brewing, he opens a couple of cabinets looking for something to eat. His options are Grape Nuts ( ew, Nat ) and a mini Kind bar. He should probably go to the bodega to get something. Maybe a bacon, egg, and cheese bagel. That sounds good.
He’s about to grab his wallet and keys - not to mention, you know, pants - to get food while the coffee brews when there’s a knock at the door. He’s not expecting anyone, and Nat’s not coming back until tomorrow night, so he’s at a loss. Maybe it’s one of their neighbors. He looks down at his pajama pants and figures they’re good enough for a neighbor.
He looks through the peephole and immediately regrets it.
Steve is on the other side.
Bucky drops his chin to his chest and sighs. What the fuck, he thinks wearily as he opens the door.
Steve stands there, a big smile on his face, a bag in his hand.
“What are you doing, Steve?” Bucky blocks his entrance by keeping one hand on the door, the other on the jamb.
“I brought breakfast,” he says, holding up the bag. His smile falters as he asks, “Can I come in?” He still looks hopeful, though.
“Fine,” Bucky says, moving away from the door to let him in. He runs his hand through his hair as he watches Steve sit on the sofa and set the bag onto the coffee table. He closes the door and goes to the kitchen for his coffee. “Do you want coffee?”
“Always. Cream and -”
“Two sugars. I remember.”
As Bucky fixes the coffee for them, he wonders what the hell he’s going to say to Steve. He should probably let Steve do all the talking. He’ll just sit stoically, not giving an inch. He’d specifically told Steve that he wasn’t ready to forgive him, after all.
“Where’s Nat,” Steve asks, looking around.
“She’s on a girl’s weekend,” Bucky says curtly.
“So she’s not here to kick my ass.”
Bucky ignores the attempt at humor. “Why are you here,” he asks as he hands Steve a mug.
“I was thinking -”
“That’s dangerous,” Bucky says without thinking himself. He chastises himself for falling into their old banter. He blows on his coffee, hoping Steve doesn’t say anything about it.
“What you said last night. How you’re not ready to forgive me.”
“There’s only so many ways I can say I’m sorry.”
“And you haven’t said it anywhere near enough yet,” Bucky says. He needs to hear it at least thirty or forty more times before he even considers forgiving him.
“I agree.” He turns to face Bucky, putting his mug down. “I am going to tell you I’m sorry every day for the rest of the show.”
“That’s a start.” Bucky sets his own mug down and picks up the breakfast bag. Might as well see what’s in it. He finds a bagel with cream cheese and an apple pastry. “I’m taking the bagel,” he says pulling it out. He sets the bag down and unwraps it.
“You know. After you left last night, I couldn’t help but think of the last scene between Quill and Parker where Parker tells him that saying I love you is the easiest thing in the world to say, how there’s no trick to it. They’re just words.”
“And?” Bucky takes a bite of the bagel. So far he’s unimpressed.
“Yockey is right. They are just words. Words I’ve taken for granted. Words I basically threw away when I left.” At least he has the good sense to look contrite as he says it.
“You didn’t just throw them away. You threw them at me.”
“You’re right. I did. Bucky, I am so sorry. You have no idea.”
“You’re right. I don’t.”
“I’ve got to somehow get you to see that I know I was wrong.”
“Oh, I think you know that,” Bucky says, tearing into the bagel. “That’s not the point,” he says around it. “I don’t need words, Steve.”
Steve’s voice is soft. “What do you need? Anything. I’ll give you anything you want.”
“What I need is time.” Bucky chases his bite of bagel with coffee. “You’ve said the words, and that’s a start, but I need time to process them. And you can’t just bring me breakfast and think I’m going to start kissing you again.”
“I never thought -”
“You know what I mean. I get that you want to try to make things right, but I’m just not ready to let you back in.” He needs to stand firm or else he will end up making out with Steve on the couch and as heavenly as that sounds, Bucky needs to keep him at arm’s length for his own sanity. He gets up and crosses to the front door, opening it. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to finish my coffee and bagel and go for a run.”
Steve takes the hint and stands to go. “I could go with you,” he says hopefully. “We could run together like we used to.” He crosses to the door and steps outside it.
“I don’t think so. I’ll see you Monday.”
Bucky closes the door before Steve can respond.
Chapter 22: Steve
Steve and Tony talk. Steve starts drawing again.
“I’m sorry,” Steve says to the closed door. He doubts Bucky heard him. He places his hand on the door and wills it open again.
It stays shut.
He thinks of all the things he didn’t say. All the things he should have said but didn’t. He kicks himself for trying casual conversation rather than earnest sentiment. He knows Bucky said he wasn’t ready to forgive him, but he thought if he made an effort, he could at least get his foot in the metaphorical door.
Bucky just isn’t ready and he needs to respect that. He will respect that. He’ll give Bucky the weekend at the very least. He can wait.
That resolution lasts all of four hours before he’s texting Bucky, hoping for maybe a little more than he got this morning. The answers he gets back are not encouraging.
How was the run? Fine.
Any plans for the day? No.
It’s a change from their flirting on previous occasions, and Steve thinks it must be because of their newfound pining for each other. When neither of them knew they still loved each other, the flirting came easy. There were no expectations of anything ever happening. Now, however, they’re both hyper aware of each other’s feelings, and that’s going to change the tone of their conversations.
It’s then that Steve suddenly realizes he’s said he’s sorry, but he never said I love you. He supposes, technically, Bucky hasn’t either, but Steve needs to make sure Bucky knows. He pulls out his phone, ready to text Bucky, but wonders if it should be a phone call instead. It probably should. His fingers hover over the buttons to call Bucky and he stares at his phone.
He can’t do it.
He’s still a damned coward.
He texts Thanks for the coffee this morning instead. He doesn’t get a response.
A few hours later, Steve is working on revising some blocking for the script, sipping either his fifth or sixth coffee of the day when his phone rings.
“Hey, Tony,” he answers.
“Everything okay? You hung up on me last night.”
“I think so?” Really, he could go either way right now. Last night was both the best and worst few moments of his life in a while. Knowing that the man he still loves loves him back, but isn’t ready to forgive him.
“Did you do something stupid last night?” He can practically hear Tony rolling his eyes.
“Why do you always assume I’m doing something stupid?” It absolutely wasn’t stupid to go after Bucky. All right. Maybe it started out as stupid, but if he hadn’t, he never would have known Bucky still wants him.
“Call it history. I need to know if it’s repeating itself.” Steve can hear the exasperation in Tony’s voice.
“Bucky and I talked,” he says after a moment.
“He still loves me.” Steve picks up the pencil again and begins doodling in the margins of the script.
“That’s good, right? That’s what you wanted.”
“It is. I never imagined he’d still want me after New York.”
“I’m sensing some hesitation here, though.”
“He doesn’t forgive me. At least not yet anyway.”
“Well, I suppose that’s to be expected.”
They’re silent for a moment, Tony waiting for Steve to confess something, Steve not willing to give it up right away.
“What else,” Tony asks, finally.
“We kissed,” Steve says.
“How was it?”
“Not long enough.” Even if it had lasted twice as long, it was never going to be enough for Steve.
“And let me guess, that’s when he told you he’s not ready to forgive you.”
They’re silent again before Tony sighs. “It’s like pulling teeth to get you to talk to me. What else aren’t you telling me?”
“I went over to his apartment this morning with breakfast.”
“And you’re still alive?”
“Natasha wasn’t home.”
“What’d you do?”
“Told him again that I really want to apologize.”
“What did he say to that?”
“Said he wants time to process.” He pauses a fraction of a second. “Tony, what if he decides I’m not worth it?”
“What if he does?”
“I - I don’t know.”
“You’ve gotta be prepared in case he doesn’t want you back,” Tony says gently. “You did a number on him.”
“I know. I know I did. I’ve got to come up with some way to show him I’m sincere.”
“You’ll come up with something,” Tony says.
Steve huffs a laugh. “Got any ideas?”
“Sorry, man. Pepper’s got my credit card for when I do stupid stuff.”
“Of course she does.”
“Let me know when you figure it out.”
He hangs up and pockets his phone. Steve looks at the doodle in his script. It’s not much of anything, but it sparks him to get his journal. He finds a blank page and begins to sketch.
Soon, he’s got an outline of a face. Bucky’s face. Smiling wide. Whether it’s a wish or a memory, Steve isn’t certain. Probably a little of both. He hopes he can make Bucky smile like that again some day.
He flips to a new page and sketches out a beach with sand dunes and beach grass. He adds two chairs with a bucket of beers between them. This one is a memory of their trip to The Hamptons. They’d been so happy on that trip. So in love.
The memory pulls at Steve’s chest and it tightens. He inhales to try to stop the tears he feels forming. It doesn’t work. One slips down his face and onto the sketch, blurring some of the beach grass. He lets it dry on the page.
He lifts his head to wipe away his tears and to look out the window and realizes it’s getting dark. He’s been drawing for a couple of hours. He smiles ruefully. It’s been a long time since he’s drawn like this.
He picks up his phone to text Bucky.
I’m drawing again. Not that Bucky knows he ever stopped, but he sends it anyway. It only takes a minute to get a reply.
Didn’t know you’d stopped.
I lost my inspiration.
Glad you found it again.
Good night, Steve.
Good night, Bucky.
It’s officially three weeks before the show opens and Bucky is freaking out. He’s got two weeks to have his lines and blocking down pat, and then, suddenly, without warning, it’s tech week, full of starts and stops and not a real rehearsal in sight. Until their final dress the night before opening.
All that plus this past weekend with Steve and their kiss and admitting they still love each other. It’s enough to make him distracted and jittery.
Steve hadn’t texted or stopped by at all on Sunday, and for that Bucky is thankful. He’d been able to spend all day Sunday with is script and mostly not thinking about him. Plus, Natasha had come home after he’d gone to bed, so he didn’t have to hear her thoughts on the insanity of him kissing Steve.
And as insane as it had been, Bucky really, really wants to do it again. He’s thought about it every waking moment that hasn’t been filled with distractions. Hell, he thought about it even when there were distractions. Running through his lines takes him entirely too long because whenever he reaches a pause in his dialogue, his traitorous mind takes him right back to it.
And now he’s about to walk into rehearsal for the first time since the kiss. He wonders how he’s going to get through it with Steve watching his every move, and for all he knows, ready to swoop in with another “line reading” like he gave Stephen. He doesn’t know if he can take it if he does.
He enters the space and looks around to see who’s there already. No one so far, which is strange. He heads down to his usual seat, sits and waits. He checks his watch: 6:47. He’s right on time.
It’s then that the door opens and Steve enters, spying Bucky. “Oh, good. You’re here.” He walks quickly to where Bucky is and drops his bookbag. He looks suspiciously happy.
“Of course, I’m here. We have a rehearsal.”
“That’s the thing,” Steve says smiling wide. “We don’t. I cancelled it.”
“I cancelled it.”
Steve ignores him and unzips his bookbag. He digs around until he finds whatever it is he’s looking for. “Got it,” he says.
“Why did you cancel rehearsal,” Bucky asks again. “We’re three weeks out. Don’t you think we need it?”
“Yes. We do,” Steve agrees. “But this was more important.” Whatever he’s pulled out of his bag, he hides behind his back. “We’ll do two speed throughs tomorrow to make up for it,” he says as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world.
“Wait, why didn’t you tell me rehearsal was cancelled?” He could be at home going over his lines there. Or watching the Sox on ESPN. It’s a toss up, really. Okay, watching the Sox while looking at his lines during commercials.
“I didn’t tell you it was cancelled because I wanted you here.”
“And Sam was okay with this?”
“Oh, he absolutely was not okay with this,” Steve says. He moves closer to Bucky, hand still behind his back.
“Then why -”
“Because of this.”
Steve brings his hand out from around his back. In his hand is a rock, and on top of that rock are several smaller rocks, painted various colors and glued upright. The colored rocks have eyes painted on them and behind them is a popsicle stick sign that says “ Rock Concert. ” It’s both the ugliest and cutest thing they had ever seen. Bucky had to have it.
It’s a souvenir from that trip to The Hamptons.
Bucky’s mouth opens, though he is unsure what to say. He reaches out to touch it, making sure it’s real. “You kept it?” He thought for sure Steve had gotten rid of the reminders of their life together when he left for New York.
“Of course I kept it,” Steve says. He holds the rocks out and Bucky takes them.
“Hey guys,” Bucky says to the rocks. And damn if these stupid rocks aren’t going to make him get all weepy. Because why the fuck not?
“I couldn’t get rid of them,” Steve says softly. “We were so happy that weekend.”
Bucky can’t disagree. They’d spent three glorious days in Montauk, walking the beach, touring the lighthouse, fishing for swordfish and catching only skates, checking out the dive bar that only seemed to have locals, making love on that one path they prayed they wouldn’t get caught on. It had been magical.
And barely only one short year later, they would be in different cities, broken up.
Bucky frowns at the memory. “Why did you bring them here?”
“To show you I didn’t forget.” He sounds so earnest, so sincere. Bucky can feel his heart melt just a hair.
Steve turns back to his bag. “I also brought this,” he says pulling out a pastry bag and hands it to Bucky.
Bucky hands back the rock concert and accepts the bag. Inside is a giant black and white cookie. He furrows his brow trying to figure out the significance of it. He looks back up at Steve who looks like he’s about to burst with excitement. “I don’t understand,” Bucky says.
“We’d been together about six months,” Steve says. He scuffs the floor with his foot, avoiding Bucky’s gaze. “You made some comment about never having had a real black and white. So, when I went to New York for a conference with The Dramatists’ Guild, I brought one back for you.”
Bucky thinks for a moment until it clicks. “Oh, yeah! I remember that, now. I was excited to get a real one from New York City!” It’s then that he notices the cookie’s shape. It’s flat, not domed. You can only get the flat ones in New York. “Did you...go to New York for this?”
“I had some time yesterday….” Steve rubs his neck and blushes a little. Bucky guesses that’s why he didn’t text like he’d expected.
“You drove to New York. For a cookie.” Bucky can hardly believe what he’s hearing.
“Not for a cookie. For the cookie. The cookie that made you smile like a kid at Christmas.”
And, okay. Bucky was not expecting that. That’s kind of...sweet, if not a little crazy. For a memory that Bucky had forgotten. His heart melts maybe another hair. Half a hair. No sense in it melting all at once.
Chapter 24: Steve
A cookie, Cheez-Its, and a dance.
Steve’s nerves are frayed.
He’s standing in front of Bucky holding the rock concert, watching the realization of what the cookie means on his face. How he smiles and then watches as his face falls as it dawns on Bucky just what Steve did.
“Did you...go to New York for this?”
“I had some time yesterday….” Steve rubs his neck and blushes a little. It had been an incredibly impulsive decision. A ten-hour round-trip into New York City. Well, twelve when you counted Manhattan traffic.
The idea had come to him Saturday night as he sketched a third drawing of Bucky in his journal. He’s not really even sure what jogged the memory, but once it was in his head, he knew he had to do it.
“You drove to New York. For a cookie.” The look on Bucky’s face clearly says that Steve is crazy and he’s wondering why he’s even entertaining Steve at this point.
“Not for a cookie. For the cookie. The cookie that made you smile like a kid at Christmas.”
Steve takes a step forward and places his hand on Bucky’s arm. Bucky doesn’t shake him off, but looks up at Steve with watery eyes.
“You went to New York. On a whim . For a cookie. For me.”
“For you,” Steve confirms. “For that look, right there.” He brushes his knuckles against Bucky’s cheek with his free hand. He’s just about to lean in to kiss him when Bucky pulls away, tucking his face into his shoulder.
“Share this with me,” he asks as he moves to the bed on the set.
“Of course,” Steve says softly. He sets the rock concert down on top of his backpack and joins Bucky on the bed.
Bucky sets the bag down, breaks off a piece of the cookie and hands it to him. Some crumbs fall onto the sheets. “Shit. I don’t want to be naked in bed with crumbs,” he says as he brushes them off the bed.
“You always yelled at me for eating in bed.” Steve smiles at him.
“I hate it,” Bucky confirms. “And you’re the worst. You can’t eat cereal in bed. No, you have to eat anything that made crumbs. Cookies. Sandwiches.” He pauses as he remembers.
“Cheez-Its.” Steve’s smile widens. He knows how much Bucky hated him eating his favorite snack food in bed.
Bucky laughs. “Oh, god. You and your damned Cheez-Its. Those things were the bane of my existence.”
“You love them and you know it!”
“I do, but not in bed!”
Steve nods. “Fair enough.” He takes a bite of the cookie and brushes some crumbs off the bed.
Bucky breaks off a piece of his own portion and pops it in his mouth, making a noise of approval. “I forgot how good these things are.”
“Nothing like a real one, right?” He knows it beats any other knock-off black and white around.
Bucky shakes his head. “I can’t believe you went to New York for this thing.”
Steve goes quiet as he debates whether he should say what he’s really thinking. He looks down at the bed and picks a crumb off the sheets.
“What,” Bucky asks. Steve doesn’t answer right away. “Steve?”
“I didn’t go to New York for the cookie,” he says.
“Then what -”
He takes a deep breath. “I didn’t do it for some cookie. I did it for you.” To show you I mean it, he thinks. Why he doesn’t say it out loud, he had no clue.
“Thank you,” Bucky says. His hands find Steve’s on the bed.
Their fingers touch, and Steve covers Bucky’s hand with his own. Bucky’s hand is cold and Steve wraps his hand around his to warm it up. They both look at their joined hands.
“Are you cold,” Steve asks.
Steve sets his cookie piece on the bag and opens his arm to Bucky, an invitation for him to come closer. Bucky shifts on the bed, untangles his hand from Steve’s and presses his body up against his. Steve wraps his arms around Bucky as Bucky rests his head on Steve’s shoulder. They stay that way for a good two minutes, neither saying anything.
“This is nice,” Steve says softly. He gives Bucky a little squeeze. Bucky snuggles closer.
Steve turns his head so his nose is buried in Bucky’s hair. He inhales Bucky’s scent and closes his eyes. He’s missed this. He knows he has no right to ask for it, but he’s glad that Bucky has let him get this close. It feels more intimate than the kiss they shared the other night.
“You know that was stupid,” Bucky says. “Driving to New York. It’s not exactly a day trip.”
“When have you ever known me to do anything not stupid?”
“Good thing you took all the stupid with you when you left.”
Steve winces at that. He supposes it’s fair, though. “I’m sorry, Buck.”
“Hey,” Steve says, letting go of Bucky. “I’ve got one more thing for you.”
He leans over and pulls his phone out of his back pocket. As he navigates to the app he wants, Bucky tries to sneak a peek at what he’s doing. Steve leans over and tilts his hands so Bucky can’t see his phone. “Patience, grasshopper,” he says. Bucky never was one to wait for anything.
He opens his music app and scrolls to the song he wants. Before he presses play, he stands and holds out a hand to Bucky. He presses play with his thumb and the song starts, the singer vamping with the first several notes. He drops the phone on the bed.
“Dance with me?”
Bucky smiles but shakes his head. “You’re not playing fair.”
“I’m not playing at anything,” Steve says. “Come on. Dance with me.”
See the pyramids along the Nile
Watch the sunrise on a tropic isle
Just remember, darling all the while
You belong to me
Bucky lets the first verse play out before standing and taking Steve’s hand, leaving his cookie on the bag. They fold into each other, a hand on each other’s back, and their joined hands between them. They look at each other, Steve fighting every cell in his body to lean down and kiss Bucky.
See the marketplace in old Algiers
Send me photographs and souvenirs
Just remember when a dream appears
You belong to me
I’ll be so alone without you
Maybe you’ll be lonesome too, and blue
Bucky turns away and places his head on Steve’s shoulder as they continue to sway.
Fly the ocean in a silver plane
See the jungle when it’s wet with rain
Just remember till you’re home again
You belong to me
I’ll be so alone without you
Maybe you’ll be lonesome too, and blue
Steve leans his head down so it’s resting on the side of Bucky’s head. He can’t remember when something felt so good.
Fly the ocean in a silver plane
See the jungle when it’s wet with rain
But remember, darling till you’re home again
You belong to me
The song ends and they lift their heads up to look at each other. They each move closer and just as they’re about to kiss, the next song starts.
SomeBODY once told me
The world is gonna roll me
I ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed
They look at each other and laugh.
Chapter 25: Bucky
There is kissing.
Bucky laughs at the absurdity of it all. He really hates Smash Mouth right about now, though.
Steve extricates himself from Bucky, picks up the phone and turns off the music app. “Sorry,” he says.
“It’s okay. Although, using our song was playing dirty.” He runs his hands through his hair in an effort to shake off the intimacy.
Steve sits on the bed. “Come on and finish your cookie.” He pats the bed next to him.
Bucky sits. He doesn’t pick up his cookie, though. “You really went to New York,” he says. He’s still kind of dumbfounded by it all.
Bucky swallows. “And you came back,” he says quietly. That’s all he ever wanted was for Steve to come back to him.
“Of course, I did.” He obviously doesn’t catch Bucky’s meaning.
“But you didn’t. Not at first.” He needs to have this conversation if he’s ever going to let Steve back in. He sees Steve wince. Good.
“I know. And I’m so sorry for that.” Steve reaches for his hand, but he pulls it away.
“I know you are,” he says. He really doesn’t doubt that Steve is sorry. “But you have to understand how stupid it was. What you did.”
Steve gives him a rueful smile. “So I’ve been told,” he says.
“Yes, but do you get it? Really get it?” He flops down on the bed, placing his hands on his stomach, looking up at the lighting plot.
Steve picks up the bag and places the cookie pieces in it, then puts the bag on the floor. He mirrors Bucky’s pose on the bed. “I do,” he says. “I never should have left you, Buck. I thought that what I was doing was for your own good, I really did. I didn’t want you wasting your life waiting for me to get my shit together.”
“But that’s just it. We should have been working on that together. ”
“I get that now. Hell, I got that after I moved back to Boston. I never meant to hurt you.”
“Yes you did,” Bucky says. “You had to know what your leaving was going to do to me.”
“That’s just it, though. You were always the strong one. I thought you’d be okay. After a while.”
“I was never strong when it came to you,” Bucky says. “Whatever crazy scheme you came up with, I was on board 100% when I should’ve been saying no to you.”
“Like that path in Montauk?” Bucky can hear the laughter in Steve’s voice.
“Like that path in Montauk,” he agrees, a little laugh of his own bubbling to the surface. “We’re so lucky we didn’t get caught.”
“There was no one around for miles,” Steve protests. “We were perfectly safe.”
Bucky laughs. “But that’s the thing. We weren’t safe. Anyone with good eyesight could’ve seen us from the Manor. I went along with it because you’re so damned persuasive and I love you.”
“I love you, Bucky,” Steve says quietly. He props himself up on his side, resting on his elbow so he can see Bucky’s face. “I don’t think I ever stopped.”
Bucky feels the tears brewing again and wills them not to fall. “How can you? After how you treated me?” One falls and he wipes it away.
Steve doesn’t answer the question. Instead, he says, “You know, Tony thinks I’m crazy for trying and you’re crazy for listening. Says that I judge everyone I’ve tried to date on you and that no one’s good enough.” He’s quiet for a moment. “He’s right. No one ever measured up to you.”
“Nat says the same thing.” Might as well get it all out in the open if they’re going to be able to move on.
“I don’t care how crazy it is. I still love you, and I’m sorry for what I did to you, and I hope that you can somehow find it in your heart to forgive me.” He reaches for Bucky’s hand.
Bucky lets him take it this time and he turns his gaze to Steve and smiles. “I’m not ready, but keep doing stuff like tonight, and I may get there.”
Steve leans down as if to kiss him. “Is this okay,” he asks.
Bucky turns into Steve and they kiss. It’s soft and tentative, almost like a first kiss, which Bucky supposes it kind of is all things considered. It’s different from the kiss they shared last week. That one had been born of need whereas this one is sweeter, nicer.
They kiss like that for several minutes, Bucky soaking in the feeling Steve pours into it. Hands don’t roam, no one groans in pleasure. There’s no urgency or hurriedness to the kissing. They make out for no other reason then that they can.
It’s Bucky that makes the first move to turn the kissing into something more. He licks at Steve’s lips seeking entrance which Steve grants. One of Bucky’s hands pushes its way under Steve’s body, the other over, pulling him closer. He entwines his legs with Steve’s.
Steve pulls Bucky into him. Their kisses pick up in heat and speed and before he knows what he’s doing, Bucky is panting with need. “God, Steve,” he says breathier than he intended.
Steve rolls them over so that he’s on top of Bucky. Bucky opens his legs to let Steve in. Bucky grips the lapels of Steve’s jacket and pulls him in again. He lifts his head chasing after Steve’s lips. They kiss with fervor.
Until Steve suddenly breaks away.
Bucky tries to pull him down again, but Steve won’t let him.
“We should stop,” Steve says.
“What? Why?” Bucky’s confusion is apparent.
“Because it’s the right thing to do.” Steve rolls off Bucky and sits up.
Bucky sits up as well. He nods in agreement. “You’re probably right.” He sets his elbows on his knees and puts his head in his hands. Who knew that Steve could be the reasonable one?
“Besides,” Steve says. “If we get to the point that we do more than kiss, I don’t want it to be on this set.”
“It wouldn’t be the weirdest place we’ve ever done it,” Bucky says. He looks at Steve and smiles.
“No, it wouldn’t,” he agrees. “But I want to do right by you, Buck. I don’t want to fuck just to fuck. I want it to mean something.”
And holy shit, who is this Steve and what pod person has taken him over? But really, Bucky has got to agree with that statement. Fucking on the set woudn’t be prudent. “I guess you’re right,” he says. “So what now?”
“Can we just talk?”
“Yeah. We can do that.”
Chapter 26: Steve
Calling off rehearsal was worth it.
They spend the next two hours talking and reminiscing about everything and nothing all at once. They talk about their new hopes and dreams in the three years they’ve been apart. The talk about the Sox and Patriots. They talk about why neither of them has a pet even though they both want one - Steve a dog, Bucky a cat. They even fall into some of their old banter that makes Steve feel like they could be getting somewhere. By the time they are ready to say good-bye for the night, Steve is practically floating.
“Thank you for tonight,” he says to Bucky as they pack up to leave the theatre.
“Thank you for trying, Steve.”
Steve hands Bucky the rock concert. “I want you to have it,” he says. “You’re the one who picked it out.”
Bucky smiles. “Are you sure?” He reaches out for the souvenir.
“I’m sure,” Steve says. Their skin brushes together and Steve feels a jolt of static electricity. He almost drops it, but they both lunge for it, Steve getting there first, Bucky’s hand closing around his. They smile at each other. They’ve been doing a lot of that tonight.
Bucky’s hand falls away from his, so Steve reaches for it, takes it, and places the trinket in his hand. “Thank you,” Bucky says. Their hands continue to touch.
They stand there, hands touching, staring at each other for several moments when Steve says, “C’mere.”
Bucky does, pressing his chest into Steve’s. Steve closes the gap between them and kisses him again. He revels in the fact that he gets to do this again. Their kisses are still tender with no urgency to them. It feels amazing.
They break apart and Steve rests his forehead on Bucky’s. “We should probably get going. We do have a rehearsal tomorrow.”
“Yeah. And I hear the director’s a real pain in the ass,” Bucky teases.
Steve pulls back and gives Bucky a fake confused look. “Oh yeah? I heard he was pretty easy going. Plus he’s really good looking to boot.”
Bucky laughs. “Well, if you’re into that sort of thing, I guess.”
Steve playfully swats Bucky on the arm and breaks away from him. “Come on, we need to get out of here.” Bucky agrees and they head out of the theatre.
Outside, they kiss good-bye and hug for longer than is strictly necessary. Steve watches Bucky walk away. He only turns around once as he makes his way to his T stop. They wave to each other, Steve finally turning to go his own way when Bucky turns the corner.
He pulls out his phone to call Sam, who picks up on the third ring.
“How’d it go,” he asks.
Steve can tell he’s not exactly happy about the whole cancelling rehearsal thing. But Steve doesn’t care. He made a decent amount of headway with Bucky tonight.
“Sam, it was perfect.”
“And the cookie?”
“You didn’t have sex on the set, did you?” Steve can practically see him pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration.
“We didn’t have sex on the set.” Not that he hadn’t wanted to. He just showed remarkable restraint tonight.
“Thank god for small favors.”
“There was kissing, though.”
“I don’t need to know this.”
“I’m trying to say it was good. We had a good talk.”
“So it was worth calling off rehearsal?”
“We needed that rehearsal, Steve.”
“We’ll be fine, Sam.” And he means it. The work the cast has been doing is solid, and they’re about eighty-five to ninety percent off book with three weeks to go. The show won’t suffer because of one missed rehearsal.
“And how do you plan to make up for it?”
“We’re going to do two speed-throughs tomorrow instead of one. We don’t have to be out of the space until eleven, so we’ve got the time to do it.”
“I don’t like this.”
“I know you don’t. And thank you for not telling Wanda.”
“Who says I didn’t?”
“Because I didn’t get a call from her.”
“Fine. I didn’t tell her. But don’t think I didn’t think seriously about it.”
“I appreciate it.”
“Promise me you won’t call off any more rehearsals.”
“I promise. The show is actually in really good shape.”
“It is, but that doesn’t mean we can afford to lose any rehearsals.”
“From this point on, it’s all business. My impulsive whim has been satisfied.”
“Good. Now, I’m going to bed. See you tomorrow.”
Steve pockets his phone and continues his journey home. By the time he gets there, he’s practically giddy with excitement. He almost can’t resist texting Bucky to say good night again. But because Steve Rogers has exactly zero chill, he texts Bucky.
Thank you for tonight, he texts.
The reply comes almost right away. Thank you for the cookie.
It was my pleasure. I’m glad you liked it. Don’t expect one every weekend, though. ;)
IDK, a guy could get used to being spoiled.
And I could get used to spoiling you.
There’s a pause while Steve waits for the next text to come in and he wonders if he pushed just a little too far. He mentally kicks himself. He’d been doing so good tonight, too.
Just as he’s about to give up waiting on a response, he gets one.
Sorry. Nat just got home. She asked about rehearsal.
What did you tell her? He texts back
That it was good. She doesn’t need to know yet.
I have a feeling she’ll pull it out of you sooner rather than later. Steve has never been on the receiving end of a Natasha Romanov temper tantrum and he hopes he never will.
Go to bed, Bucky. You want to be bright eyed and bushy tailed for your director tomorrow.
Oh, I’ll be something for him, all right, but it won’t be bright eyed and bushy tailed. :D
Steve is grateful that they seem to have fallen back into their flirtatious texts. He thinks a moment before sending the next text. He hopes they will keep it up.
And what will that something be? Steve texts back.
Can you keep a secret?
I’ve kind of got a thing for the director.
You don’t say. I’ve heard that he feels the same about you.
Good night, Steve.
Good night, Bucky.
Chapter 27: Bucky
Natasha. The voice of reason.
I’ve kind of got a thing for the director.
You don’t say. I’ve heard he feels the same about you.
Good night, Steve.
Good night, Bucky.
Bucky grins like an idiot at his phone. The night has been magical. Between the cookie, the dance, and all the kissing, Bucky has every right to be grinning like the idiot he is even though his brain keeps telling him that it’s too fast, too soon, too much, while his heart just says more, please and thank you.
He has a hard time believing Steve drove all the way to New York City for a cookie for him. Really, he would have been won over tonight by just the rock concert. But that had been an unexpected bit of impulsiveness that was just a bit over the top. And Bucky had loved it.
He thinks back to their kisses and how they were soft and sweet, exactly what Bucky needed. While he would have been one hundred percent on board with hot and heavy, Steve had been the one who pulled them back from that edge, Bucky not realizing at the time how much he needed just that.
Because it would be so incredibly easy to fall back into bed with Steve. And don’t get him wrong, he longs to do that, but it’s not what he needs just yet. Fucking would only complicate things, and Bucky needs simple right now.
He needs tender and loving and simple gestures rather than grand, sweeping declarations of love. He knows they still love each other, it’s the trust that they need to work on. Well, that Steve needs to work on. Honestly, though, he’s not sure how can Steve can top the cookie. That had been an amazing gesture.
He’s laying in bed, staring at the rock concert when Natasha walks by his room. She catches a glimpse of the souvenir through his open door.
“What’s that thing,” she asks.
He shows it to her. “It’s a rock concert.”
She holds out her hand to take it. She looks it over and rolls her eyes. “This is the cheesiest thing I think I’ve ever seen,” she says. “Where did you get it?” He doesn’t answer right away. “Bucky?”
“It’s from that trip to The Hamptons Steve and I took four years ago. Steve gave it to me tonight.”
“You okay,” she asks tentatively.
And with that, Bucky sits up and scoots up the bed, gesturing for her to sit with him. She does, and he excitedly unloads everything that happened tonight. From the rock concert, to the cookie, to the dance, the kisses, and their talk. It had been a perfect night.
“He called off rehearsal for that?”
“You’re missing the point, Nat.”
“Actually, I’m not.” She places her hand on his knee. “Buck, that’s the biggest part of your story. Steve cancelled a rehearsal. To woo you. You and I both know what a hardass Steve is about rehearsal time.”
That thought hadn’t actually occurred to him, but Natasha’s right. He’s never known Steve to call off a rehearsal in all the time they’ve known each other. Not even when the urgent care told him that one time that he had walking pneumonia. He’d still gone to rehearsal, insisting that if he was fine enough to sit on the sofa watching football, he was fine enough to sit in a chair and watch a rehearsal.
Holy shit. Steve Rogers cancelled a rehearsal. For him. “Jesus, you’re right, Nat.” He scrubs a hand over his face. “That hadn’t occurred to me.”
She smiles at him. “How close to forgiving him are you?”
“After tonight? Closer than I was.” He doesn’t want to admit just how close he is after the cancelled rehearsal realization.
“Do I need to remind you just how much of a mess you were after he left?”
He thinks about that for a moment. She really doesn’t need to, but maybe she should anyway. With his heart doing back flips for Steve tonight, he really should get grounded. “Not explicitly,” he says. “But remind me not to take him back too quickly.”
“So you are going to take him back.” It’s a statement rather than a question.
“You want me to say no, don’t you?” He reaches out his hand for hers, which she takes.
“I want you to do what you want to do,” she says.
“But I also don’t want you running back to him at the first sign he’s doing the bare minimum to win you back.” Her face shows both sorrow and anger and he knows that she feels for him, but will also kick his ass for being stupid with his heart.
“I promise, I’m not going to do that.” He won’t. Really.
“Yeah? Because it kind of sounds like you are.”
“You didn’t see how sincere he was,” Bucky says. And shit, he’s defending Steve now. Should he? Has Steve really started to make amends? That cookie, though. And the dance. Ugh. Why is it so hard?
“You’re right, I didn’t.” She sets the rock concert on the bed next to him. He lets go of her hand and picks it up, turning it over in his hands.
“He told me he loves me.” He’d purposefully left that part out of the recap he told her.
“Did he now?” And that’s Natasha’s skeptical voice. “Did you say it back?”
“I said it first,” he confesses. “But I questioned how he could still love me after leaving me the way he did.”
“Good,” she says firmly. “Make him work for it.”
He huffs a laugh at her. “I know you’re looking out for me, Nat, and I appreciate it.”
“Someone’s gotta watch out for you,” she says. “I love you, Buck. And I don’t want to see you that way ever again.”
Bucky scoots over to her and hugs her. “I love you, too, Nat. And believe me, I don’t ever want to feel that way again. I’m going to be careful.”
“You better be,” she says over his shoulder. “Otherwise, I will hurt you both for very different reasons.”
He snickers as he lets her go. “Yes, Mom,” he says saluting her.
She stands and heads towards the door. “Now get some sleep. You’ve got rehearsal tomorrow night, young man.”
“I’m kind of excited to sleep,” he says.
“I figured,” she says as she leaves. “Good night,” she calls from down the hall.
“Night,” he calls back.
Bucky switches off the light on his night stand and gets under the covers. He gets into his sleeping position and sets his pillow right. He closes his eyes and deepens his breathing to help calm him down.
Yeah. He’s not going to sleep any time soon.
Chapter 28: Steve
Quill sees something he shouldn't.
KEVIN: ...And if things get scary or you start to feel uncomfortable, you can just say the word and we’ll stop.
BLAKE: No matter what?
KEVIN: No matter what.
BLAKE: Okay, all right, that sounds okay.
KEVIN: Good! Good, okay, what word? You pick the word.
BLAKE: I don’t know, um…”Palomino.”
It’s the next night at rehearsal and Steve watches as Quill and Bucky work on the opening scene. They’ve done their two speed throughs with only minor hiccups, so now they’re able to dive right into the meat of the show.
The only other hiccup of the night is that Wanda has shown up for the rehearsal to “See how things are going.” All things considered, Steve thinks they’re going pretty well.
She’d asked about the speed throughs during a break and when he explained to her that they had cancelled rehearsal the night before - glossing over the real reason why it was cancelled - she tutted a noise as if she didn’t approve. He assured her that the show wouldn’t suffer because of it. Sam had even agreed with him, saying that the speed through they just finished looked pretty good.
“I don’t want pretty good, ” Wanda said. “I want this show to be the best it can be.”
“It will, I promise.” Steve caught Bucky’s eye and gave him a little nod that everything was all right. Bucky took a sip of water and turned back to something Quill said.
“It better be,” she said.
And so this is where Steve is now. Caught between watching the man he loves about to be manhandled on stage (although Steve had wisely said that they were to just go through the motions of the sex scene tonight with Wanda there) and Wanda’s critical gaze.
He notices as she leans into Sam to whisper something in his ear. He whispers something back and she nods. Steve’s hackles rise. What are they talking about? Why doesn’t she ask him since he’s the damned director?
By the time Stephen finishes Andy’s monologue about being stuck at the bottom of the ocean and just how big and frightening it is, Steve notices Wanda get up during the scene transition. She comes over to him and whispers, “You’re doing better than I thought you would. Keep it up.”
Oh, thank fuck, he thinks before thanking her and bidding her good night. He’s only a little angry that she continues to think he will fail, because he knows this show is going to be amazing, and she’s going to eat every single negative word she ever said or thought about it.
He goes back to watching the scene in front of him. This time Quill and Bucky are fighting about their night with Stephen and Rhodey, and Steve swears that every time Bucky opens his mouth, he’s talking right to him. This fucking script, he thinks.
You sure are good at explaining, you talk and talk. This isn’t an explain moment. There’s no undo now.
If you’re sorry, and I don’t know that you know what that really feels like, but if you’re “sorry” then say it doesn’t matter because it doesn’t matter, that’s the thing you’re looking for, the thing you can say, right, because it’s not the end of the world.
Steve wonders if he would have picked this script if he’d known Bucky was going to be back in his life like this. With all the headway they made last night, Bucky saying these lines to Quill feels like a punch in the gut to Steve.
He hasn’t done anywhere near enough to show Bucky he’s serious and he wonders if he blew the big guns last night. He’s not sure what to do next to show Bucky he’s sorry. His mind starts to wander.
It’s only after Parker yells at Quill during the final scene does Steve realize he missed scene seven entirely. Well fuck, he thinks as he straightens up and watches the end of the play.
When it’s over, the actors gather in the audience waiting for their notes. As he does, he realizes that he’s taken more notes on Bucky’s performance than anyone else’s. Yes, he wants Bucky’s performance to be the best it can be, but he needs to pay that kind of attention to the other actors as well. He resolves to do better tomorrow.
Sam only has a few notes on line flubs, and it’s about ten forty five by the time they’re finished for the evening. He notices Bucky hanging around a little bit longer than normal, so Steve bids Sam farewell for the evening, thanking him for all he does. Sam gives him A Look, but Steve ignores it in favor of talking to Bucky.
“Hey,” he says when everyone has gone. He reaches out for Bucky’s hand.
“Hey,” Bucky says, taking it.
“Good work tonight,” Steve says. His eyes flick down to Bucky’s mouth.
“Was it?” Bucky sounds genuinely concerned. “You had a ton of notes for me.”
“I did. And I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I was doing it until it was too late.”
“Because I want you to be the best version of Blake you can be.”
“But not to the detriment of everyone else, Steve.”
He sighs. “Yeah. I know. I’ll do better tomorrow night. I promise.”
Steve pulls him closer and takes his other hand. They fold into each other and kiss. Steve releases Bucky’s hand and places it behind his head while Bucky’s snakes around his back. They open up for each other and kiss for what feels like forever to Steve.
They’re so wrapped up in each other they don’t hear the theatre door open.
“Aha!” Quill says loudly, accentuated by a clap of his hands that makes them jump apart. “I knew it! You are fucking!” He points his finger at them as he enters the theatre.
Steve breaks out into a flop sweat. Oh, god. This is bad. “What are you doing here, Peter?” He asks with as much calm as he can muster.
“I forgot my scarf,” he says plucking it out of the chair he was sitting in earlier. “Way to go, Buck.”
“Peter -” Bucky starts testily.
“Wait,’ Steve says. “Did you tell him about us?”
“Not really. I told him -”
“It’s not important,” Quill says. “What’s important is that you’re back together.” He claps Bucky on the shoulder.
“We’re not back together,” Bucky says standing in front of Steve. And okay, that hurts a little bit.
“Well, what the hell was that then,” Peter asks wrapping his scarf around his neck.
“None of your business,” Steve mutters, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Steve,” Bucky warns before turning to Peter. “That was two grown men figuring out their relationship, which you said would remain with you.”
“Oh, it has. I haven’t said anything,” Peter says. He mimes locking his mouth again and throwing away the key.
“Can I expect you to keep it that way?” Bucky shoots Peter a glare that Steve is very glad he’s not on the receiving end of.
“Of course,” Peter reassures them. “I’m no snitch. Whatever you two do is between you. Wouldn’t be the first production where people got together.”
“Thank you,” Bucky says.
“I’m out,” Peter says starting to walk backwards out of the theatre. He swipes his hands together and holds them out like a dealer at a Vegas gaming table. He turns and exits the theatre.
Steve takes a breath. “You sure he can keep it to himself?”
“No, but what choice do we have?” Bucky turns back to Steve and pulls him close again. “Besides, I’m sure Sam knows, right?”
Steve furrows his brows. “How do you know that?”
“Just a hunch.” He leans in to kiss Steve. “Come on. Let’s get out of here.”
“Is that an invitation?” Steve’s hopes just went sky high.
“Yes. An invitation to go home separately.”
“Sorry, Rogers. We’re not ready for that yet.”
“No, you’re right,” Steve agrees. “You want to get the ghost light?”
They break apart and Bucky sets up the ghost light while Steve turns off the light board. Steve holds out his hand for Bucky’s, and they walk like that out of the theatre. Steve locks up and gives Bucky a quick kiss good night.
Steve watches Bucky go and hopes that Quill can keep his damned mouth shut.
Chapter 29: Bucky
They begin work on the sex scene.
To say that Bucky is nervous for tonight’s rehearsal is an understatement. He’s on the T, his leg bouncing about a hundred miles an hour, hands gripping the front of the seat, wishing Steve hadn’t given him the heads up that they would be working the sex scene tonight.
Steve had texted him around lunch time to tell him the news, and from that point on, Bucky had been distracted the rest of the day. He hasn’t been able to eat, and he’s been chewing Trident all afternoon. He can’t let his breath be bad for all that kissing he’s about to do.
And oh, god. So much kissing. Sure, he’s kissed Quill a few times for the final scene, but not like he’s going to have to for the sex scene. Desperate closed-mouth I’m-glad-you’re-alive kisses are much different than desperate open-mouth I’m-going-to-rail-you-into-next-week ones.
By the time he gets to the theatre, he’s a jittery mess to say the least. At least he’s wearing his best boxer-briefs and he hopes he’ll feel somewhat comfortable on stage in them. Out of them will be something else.
He’s really going to be naked. On stage. In front of god and the world. Not to mention Steve. And it’s not like Steve has never seen him naked before, but that was an entire lifetime ago. He wonders if he should fuck Steve sooner rather than later just so maybe he won’t feel quite so self-conscious about it.
Talk about dumb ideas, he thinks.
Steve gathers everyone and explains that this rehearsal is all about the sex scene. They’ll be running it a few times, full contact, as they need to get used to touching, kissing, and being naked with each other.
Bucky swallows thickly. He knew this was coming, but he didn’t know. Kind of like he’s going out with Steve, but not going out out. Not yet anyway. And when did he start thinking of their relationship in terms of a teenager?
They assume their positions a page before the sex begins. They’ll work their way into it. They’ve walked through it several times before, so they know how it should go, but that doesn’t ease Bucky’s mind in the slightest. He sneaks a peek at Steve who is saying something to Sam. He doesn’t catch his eye before they start.
“Action,” Steve says to begin the scene.
MAX/RHODEY: Jesus, we’re so fucking awkward. (MAX pulls his shirt over his head, tosses it to BLAKE/BUCKY)
ANDY/STEPHEN: Just leave him; he’s in his element. Max is always the first person to get undressed at any occasion.
MAX: That’s right. And proud of it.
ANDY: We’re both proud.
BLAKE: Definitely need to drink more.
KEVIN/PETER: Maybe you should finish that glass first, Baby?
(BLAKE drains the glass; MAX takes off his pants, standing only in briefs.)
ANDY: And here we go.
MAX: All right, come on. We can drink wine in any attire. Come on. Kevin?
(KEVIN gets up and begins taking off his clothes. BLAKE follows suit. MAX assists BLAKE. They all watch each other. ANDY takes it in.)
MAX: Now we’ve got a party.
(KEVIN reaches his underwear quickly. He stops.)
KEVIN: Andy, are you gonna…?
(ANDY drains his wine then begins to undress. MAX begins kissing BLAKE, as he finishes undressing him down to nothing. KEVIN crosses to ANDY and begins taking off ANDY’s clothes. They too begin to kiss. MAX breaks from BLAKE, now naked, and quickly stops off his own underwear as BLAKE looks at KEVIN, who is kissing ANDY. MAX takes BLAKE in and grapples him into a deeper kiss.
ANDY breaks from KEVIN and leads him over to BLAKE and MAX. ANDY strips off his underwear and steps up behind them as BLAKE and MAX continue to embrace. He joins them. Just for a moment, KEVIN is left outside the scene, the only man still wearing something. He takes in the moment.
BLAKE breaks away from between MAX and ANDY and pulls KEVIN into the mix. He is quickly stripped of his underwear. The men consume each other, melding into one flesh.
After a moment, MAX breaks away, tugging BLAKE by the hand towards the bed. BLAKE in turn pulls ANDY by the hand and ANDY pulls KEVIN by the hand; a chain of men moving around the living room and up to the bed. One by one they fall into each other on the bed, becoming something else all together, a mix of bodies and roaming arms and hands as the lights fade away to the wavy blues and then to dark.)
“And lights! Good,” Steve says from his spot in the audience. “Get dressed and do it again.”
Bucky is certain his face is red and his body is flushed. He makes a move to get off the bed and accepts a hand from Stephen who pulls him up.
“Was that enough grinding on Bucky,” Stephen asks, peering out into the audience. Steve assures him it was.
Bucky’s face turns even redder, if that’s possible. It certainly feels hotter. He grabs his underwear off the floor - nope. Not his. Rhodey’s? He holds them up and Rhodey takes them from his hand.
Peter calls his name, and Bucky looks up. Peter tosses him his underwear, which he quickly puts on. Feeling a bit more covered, he finds the rest of his clothing and gets dressed. He resolutely doesn’t look at anyone else.
They get back into position and start again when Steve says “Action.”
This time Bucky tries to really lose himself in the moment, rather than concentrating on the correct flow of action.
When Rhodey comes up to him and starts to undress him, Bucky paws at him, leaning in to kiss him while he’s rucking Bucky’s shirt up and over his head. He places his hands on Rhodey’s hips while Rhodey undoes his pants. Bucky pulls off his shoes and socks and steps out of his jeans and underwear, coming back up to kiss Rhodey deeply.
When Stephen breaks from Peter to come to Bucky and Rhodey and grinds against Bucky, Bucky groans and pushes back into him, breaking from Rhodey to lean back to kiss Stephen over his shoulder. Stephen’s hand wraps itself around Bucky’s waist and tugs him impossibly closer.
Bucky breaks from Rhodey and Stephen to pull Peter into the mix. They kiss and Bucky strips Peter of his underwear. The two kiss as Rhodey and Stephen slink over to them and gently pull them apart.
The four make their way over to the bed. They stand there for a moment, the three of them grasping at Bucky. Then they’re on the bed, a tangle of limbs and Bucky is no longer certain who is kissing who.
Steve’s voice is somewhere in his head saying “Lights!” which he barely registers, too caught up in kissing Stephen. When Stephen pulls away, breaking the moment, Bucky shakes his head out of the scene. He’s mortified to realize he’s half hard.
“Good,” Steve says. “Now that you’ve done it a couple of times, it should come easier each time you do it. Get dressed and take five.”
Bucky darts off the bed for his clothes. He takes side glances at the others to see what kind of state they’re in, and he’s relieved to see that Stephen is in the same state he is. Oh, thank god, he thinks. He’s not the only one. No big deal.
Except it kind of is. His mind had wandered to Steve at the end of the scene. He was so in the moment, he’d pulled on the memory of fucking Steve to help him act it out. And that absolutely cannot happen again.
He quickly dresses, runs a hand through his hair and sighs. He kind of wishes he smoked so he could get out of the theatre for a moment.
He hears Steve say, “Stephen, a word,” and his mind shifts into second gear wondering what note Steve could possibly be giving him. He doesn’t notice Peter come up behind him until he claps him on the shoulder.
“Good work,” he says. “That was only minimally awkward, right?
Bucky lets out a nervous laugh. “I guess. We’ll get used to it, I suppose.”
“It’ll be even better when we have an audience.” How does he manage to stay so positive in all this?
Bucky swallows thickly. An audience. God. He really, really didn’t think this whole thing through. What is Natasha going to say? Maybe he can ban her from the show. “Yeah,” he agrees.
“Hey, guys,” Sam says to everyone. “Since we don’t have Parker tonight, we’re going to do one, three, five, six, and seven and then we’ll call it a night. We’ll start with Parker’s scenes tomorrow.”
There’s a general consensus among the actors and they get back to work.
Chapter 30: Steve
Steve is forced to watch the sex scene.
Steve Rogers hates his life. He curses the very moment he said he would direct this damned play.
He sits in the audience watching the sex scene for the second time and it’s going to kill him. He’s certain of it. Watching Bucky kiss not just one but three other people, their hands all over him, is excruciating.
When he gets naked, Steve sucks in a breath. Bucky is just as beautiful as he remembers. He notices the veins in Bucky’s arms first. They stand out as he reaches for Rhodey to kiss him. Steve follows them down his forearms to his hands. He watches as Bucky’s hand wraps around Rhodey’s head and they open up to each other.
Steve’s stomach is one big knot.
Rhodey’s hand goes to Bucky’s exquisite stomach, and Steve watches the muscle flutter at the touch. Bucky places his hand over Rhodey’s.
Then Stephen comes up behind Bucky and grinds against him just like Steve told him to, only this time they’re both naked and it’s exactly what Steve asked for, and he fucking hates it. He watches helplessly as Bucky’s hand finds its way to Stephen’s hair, as he tilts his head back for a kiss.
If he squeezes his pencil any harder, it’s going to break.
Bucky breaks from Stephen and Rhodey and pulls on Peter’s hand, bringing him close and kissing him. And fuck it all if they’re not gorgeous together. Watching Bucky and Peter kiss is like watching some high-class porn you have to pay to see on Men.com, not at all like the crap on the front page of PornHub.
Steve has to adjust how he’s sitting. He hopes Sam doesn’t notice.
And they’re all four of them on the bed in a writhing mess of arms and legs and Steve loses track of Bucky for a moment, but then there he is, kissing Stephen with as much fervor as Steve can take.
“Lights!” Steve says. He hopes his voice isn’t as rough as he thinks it is.
Steve clears his throat. “Good,” he says. “Now that you’ve done it a couple of times, it should come easier each time you do it. Get dressed and take five.”
The actors untangle from each other, each seeking out their pile of clothing. And that’s when Steve notices that Bucky is half hard.
His mouth waters and he longs to reach out and touch, but he knows he doesn’t have that right. Not yet anyway. Hopefully soon. And not in a theatre full of people either.
“Stephen, a word,” he says trying to distract himself from the situation at hand. He gets up and goes sage left to talk to him.
Stephen comes over as he’s buttoning up his jeans. “Yeah. What’s up?” He wrestles with his shirt looking for the right way to put it on.
“Any way you can stay a little later tonight to work on the monologue?”
“Yeah. Sure. Not a problem.”
And Stephen walks off to get his shoes.
Steve goes back over to Sam and sits. “How’s it look,” he asks.
“Hot,” Sam answers. He pauses before asking Steve how he is.
“What do you mean?”
Sam shoots him a look. “I mean, seeing him up there like that,” he says quietly, obviously meaning Bucky.
“It’s fine,” Steve says trying for casual.
Sams’ eyebrows shoot up his forehead. “Really?”
Steve is not going to let it get to him. “It’s...it is what it is, Sam. Nothing I can do about it.”
Sam is about to say something else, but Steve stops him. “Can we not do this now?”
And with that, Steve begins rehearsal again from the top of the show.
It’s when he’s lying in bed later that night that it hits him just how jealous he is of Bucky being in the sex scene. He’d watched it three times tonight and each time, it made him even angrier than the last. Watching Bucky kiss someone else - several someone else’s - even if it’s just make believe. It hurt. A lot.
He picks up his phone to text Bucky, but sees it’s nearly midnight. He puts the phone back down. Bucky’s probably asleep now anyway.
His mind wanders back to Bucky and Peter kissing. It’s the two of them he’s most bothered by for some reason. Probably because they looked so natural doing it. And again, that they’re both stupid good looking factors into that.
The way Bucky had pulled him close. Had wrapped his arms around Peter. The way he pulled him in for a kiss that was so filthy and amazing looking that Steve had to switch positions in his seat.
He has to switch positions now as he slips a hand underneath the covers and into his pajama pants. He’s still angry, so he grabs his dick roughly. He’s already half hard just from thinking about the scene.
He pulls down the covers and his pjs and watches as he jacks himself off. The head of his cock dribbles out a little bit of precome, and he swipes at it with his thumb. His free hand pinches his nipple.
It doesn’t take long to get him going, and he can tell he’s not going to last long. He shoves thoughts of Bucky and Peter out of his head and concentrates on just Bucky. He imagines Bucky on top of him, their cocks pressed together as Steve strokes them both off.
His breathing picks up and he moves his hand faster, picturing Bucky’s face contorted in pleasure, much like he was tonight, and dammit, there’s Peter again. Steve frowns and tries picturing Bucky again. Again Peter slips into his thoughts.
Goddammit. Steve stops his ministrations and gives up, flopping his hands on the bed. His cock is apparently just fine with that as it begins to flag. Fuck it all, he thinks as he pulls his pjs back up and brings the covers up to his chin. Fucking Peter Quill.
He’s so angry at his brain for not being on board with jacking off, that he practically throws himself around in the bed trying to get comfortable. After his fifth try, he gives up, gets out of bed, and heads to the living room to watch whatever shitty television is on at midnight.
Chapter 31: Bucky
Bucky has a less than optimal rehearsal.
It’s just before rehearsal a week later and Bucky and Peter are grabbing a quick drink at the bar.
Bucky and Peter have become friends, Bucky thinks. Peter has proven to be a decent guy and hasn’t given him any grief for his relationship with Steve. If anything, Peter has become a cheerleader for them.
“All I’m saying is that Youkilis retired too early,” Peter says.
“Dude. He was Forty. That’s ancient in sports.”
“You saying Brady should retire?”
“Not in the slightest.”
They laugh and clink bottles.
“How are you and Steve doing,” Peter asks.
“Okay. Taking it slow.” Bucky smiles at the thought of he and Steve texting this past week. There had been flirty texts and serious texts. Texts about nothing and texts about the show. Texts about how difficult the sex scene is to either be in or to watch. Learning that Steve is jealous of Bucky being in that scene had felt, well, it felt good to know that Steve would rather he be the one kissing and pawing at him.
The week has been amazing, if he’s being honest.
“That’s good though, right?”
“It is. It’s really good.” He smiles fondly at his beer thinking about the past week. Then Bucky looks at his watch. “Come on. We don’t want to be late.” They leave some bills on the table and head out.
They’re just inside the lobby when Peter says, “I’m glad you and Steve are back together. Sort of.”
“Do what now?” A voice says.
They turn and see Wanda slipping in the door behind them. Fuck.
“Did I hear that right? You and Steve are dating?”
“Um…” Bucky says.
“No. It’s okay if you are,” Wanda says in a voice that makes Bucky think she doesn’t mean it.
“They’re sort of dating,” Peter supplies. “There’s history there.”
“ Peter,” Bucky hisses.
“I’d love to hear it sometime,” Wanda says. “See you in there.” She waves her hand and enters the theatre.
Bucky smacks Peter’s arm. “What the fuck was that? I thought you were keeping your mouth shut!”
“What? She’d already heard me say you were dating Steve.”
“In for a penny, in for a pound?”
“Something like that.”
“Jesus.” This is bad. This is really bad.
Bucky grabs the door and flings it open. He spots Wanda saying something to Steve and Sam. He mouths I’m sorry to Steve when he catches his eye. Steve furrows his brow as if he doesn’t know what Bucky is talking about. Maybe Wanda is okay with it.
She says something else and Bucky sees Steve’s eyes go wide. There it is. She said something. Obviously, right before rehearsal starts isn’t the time to have it out. It’ll wait until after the night is done.
This is gonna be awkward.
Bucky looks around the theatre. Everyone is there and ready to go when Sam lets them know that their costumer will be at the theatre the next night and to bring any pieces they were thinking of wearing. Steve has nothing to add, so Sam calls “Places.”
Bucky quickly strips his coat off and takes his place on the stage, leaning against the couch and staring at the front door. Peter makes his entrance down stage left and the rehearsal begins.
And it’s a disaster. Bucky is so rattled by Wanda knowing about him and Steve, he can barely concentrate. The first time he calls for line, Sam tells him to get himself out of it. It’s only two weeks until opening night after all. Bucky flounders until Peter steps up to cover for him. He’s going to owe Peter a beer to two.
By the time they get to the sex scene, Bucky is so fucking glad he doesn’t actually have to say anything, doesn’t have to get any actual words out of his mouth, that he’s so eager to get it right, he gets it wrong.
He trips over his comforter cocoon in the second scene. He knocks his shin on the bed in the fourth. He practically trips over Parker in the sixth. After the sixth scene, he’s got fourteen pages to regroup before he has to come back on for the final kiss with Quill. And of course he misses the last step and nearly face plants before Peter catches him. By the time Sam calls “Lights” and tells them to take five before he and Steve give notes to the cast, he’s ready to forget this night ever happened.
He stumbles off the set and plunks himself down in his seat with a heavy sigh. Quill sits down behind him and leans over the seat next to him. “You okay,” he asks.
“Christ, no.” Bucky can’t ever remember being so off during a rehearsal, and it’s killing him. What happened before rehearsal clearly got in his head. “Thanks for getting me out of that jam in the first scene.” He drops his head to the back of the seat and closes his eyes.
“Hey, that was just as much for me as it was for you.” He nudges Bucky’s shoulder in a comforting gesture.
“Got a sec,” a voice says above him. He opens his eyes and sees Steve standing over him.
“Yeah, sure,” he replies, not looking forward to anything Steve might have to say.
Steve leads him back behind the stand of chairs. “Something you want to tell me,” he asks.
Bucky groans. “Peter and I were talking and Wanda just sort of popped up behind us.”
Steve sighs and looks at the ceiling. “Okay.”
“I’m sorry, Steve. It was an accident.”
“No, it’s okay,” he says somewhat unconvincingly. “I’ll deal with Wanda.” He scrubs a hand over his face. “You just concentrate on fixing what you need to. You were completely off tonight.”
“Yeah, I know. It’s sort of rattled me.” Knowing that he could have fucked this up for them has him questioning everything involved with the show.
Steve huffs a laugh. “Understatement. We’ll be fine. I’ll talk to her after rehearsal. Does anyone else know?”
“No. Just Wanda.”
“Okay.” Steve must see how worried Bucky is. “Hey. We’ll be fine. I promise. We’re not the first people to date during a show.”
“I know,” Bucky says. “But I still feel horrible about it.”
Steve checks to see if the coast is clear, then leans in and gives him a quick kiss. “It’s fine. Now come on and get your notes. I’ve got a lot.” Steve smiles at him.
Chapter 32: Steve
Steve finds out why Wanda is really upset.
“Something you want to tell me,” Wanda asks once she’s alone with Steve and Sam. She’s got her arms crossed across her chest, hip thrust out to one side.
“Not really,” Steve says.
“Steve,” she warns.
“Wanda,” he warns right back.
“Should I be here for this,” Sam asks. They both ignore him so he sits in the next bank of chairs over.
“You’re lucky I don’t fire you,” Wanda says to Steve.
“For what,” he asks incredulously. “Fraternizing with the enlisted?”
“I don’t know,” she says, obviously frustrated. “How stupid are you, Steve?”
“I really shouldn’t be here,” Sam says.
“I don’t know, Wanda. Why don’t you tell me how stupid I am.”
She throws her hands up in the air. “Do you understand how many ways this could have gone wrong?”
“Could have. And didn’t.”
“There’s still time,” she says. “God, dating a member of the cast?”
“Not the first time it’s ever happened and you know it,” Steve says, his voice getting a tinge of anger to it.
“No, but it’s still not a good idea. Quill said something about you have history between you?”
“Yes. And we’re working on it. Hell. You were here the other night and you didn’t notice anything then, so why is it an issue now?”
“Why don’t you tell me what this is really about,” Steve says. “Because it’s not about me and Bucky, that’s for sure.”
“You and Bucky are the icing on the cake,” Wanda says.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
Wanda sighs and sits. She lowers her voice to conversational level. “I never expected you to get this far,” she says. Steve is only mildly surprised by her confession.
Steve sits a couple of seats down from her, mirroring her position as they face each other. “Do you not like this show?”
“No, that’s not it.”
It takes her a moment to answer. “This show scares me.”
And that does take Steve by surprise. It’s challenging material, certainly, but to scare her sounds suspect. He asks her why.
“Why? We’ll be lucky if we’re not protested for doing this show.” She puts her head in her hands. “I’ve already heard from some season ticket holders who are...concerned...by it.”
Steve laughs incredulously. “You’re worried about what a couple of blue hairs are gonna think about it?”
“This wasn’t a blue hair. It was Pierce.”
And it suddenly clicks into place for Steve. Alexander Pierce is the theatre’s largest benefactor. While Wanda will never admit to selecting a season on his say-so, Steve strongly suspects she has done it.
“Shit,” Steve says.
“Yeah,” Wanda agrees. “Shit.”
“Son of a bitch,” Sam mutters.
“Is he going to let us put this show on,” Steve asks. It’s a legitimate question. He’s threatened to pull funding in the past.
“What choice does he have,” Wanda asks. “His son is gay and he’s got to put up a good front for him.”
“But. You know as well as I do that he can make next season an impossibility.”
“When do you announce it?” Steve puts his chin in his hand, partially covering his mouth.
“A week after you close.”
“What show does he want that you don’t?”
“That’s just it,” Wanda says. “He hasn’t even hinted at a show he wants to see next season.”
They’re all silent for a few moments. “Should I get rid of the nudity,” Steve asks. “Tone down the sex scene some?”
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about asking you to do just that,” she says.
Sam asks, “What’s the lineup for next year?”
“ Mama Mia, Noises Off, Fiddler, and Guys and Dolls. ”
Steve nods. “That’s pretty innocuous. Why Guys and Dolls, though?” He makes a face. That show has been done to death. Really, so has Mama Mia, but at least it’s contemporary.
“It’s always a money maker.”
“What have you got for the Showcase Series?”
Wanda takes a breath. “We’re leaning towards The Goat. ”
Steve and Sam both perk up at that. “I want to direct that,” Steve says.
“If it’s approved, it’s yours,” Wanda says.
“You want to stage manage that,” Steve asks Sam.
“Are you kidding,” he says. “I’m all over that show.”
“Great,” Wanda says. “Now that that’s settled. What do we do about this show?”
“You promise you’re okay with me and Bucky,” Steve asks. He really does want to know.
“Not...totally, but what choice do I have? We’re two weeks out. Whatever you and Barnes do, just...don’t fuck with the show.”
Steve gives her a look. “You know me better than that.”
“Yeah,” she acknowledges. “I’m gonna say to keep the show as is. Fuck Pierce.”
Sam whistles. “You sure about that?”
“Again, no,” she says. “But he’s not really giving me anything to work with. I can only hope we get an audience.”
“I’ll talk to Tony,” Steve says. He knows Tony’s got connections he can call on to help make sure the show will be a success. “How’s the marketing been?”
“Tricky,” Wanda admits. “The posters are out and about and we’ve gotten a couple of calls looking for more information, but it’s been tricky both hyping up the importance of the show while warning there’s full nudity.”
“I can cut it back,” Steve says again. He doesn’t want to - well, he does so he doesn’t have to see Bucky naked every day - but he will if it could become a problem with Pierce.
“Let me think on it,” Wanda says. “I’ll let you know tomorrow. I may try calling Pierce to feel him out.” She stands to go. “And whatever you’ve got going on with Barnes, just keep it on the down low, please.”
“Sam and Quill are the only ones who know,” Steve says. “We’ll keep it quiet.”
“Good. I’m sorry I called you stupid,” she says.
“Wouldn’t have been the first time.” Steve stands to give her a hug goodbye. “Thank you for letting me know about Pierce.” Wanda nods and exits.
“Well, that was fun,” Sam says gathering his stuff to go.
“Fucking Pierce,” Steve spits out. He just hopes Wanda can smooth him over enough that it doesn’t jeopardize the show. He knows Pierce can be a grade A jackass if he wants to be. Normally, he lets these smaller and edgier Showcase Series shows alone, so Steve wonders why he’s interfering in this one.
“Come on,” Sam says. “You get the light board, I’ll get the ghost light, and we’ll figure it out tomorrow.”
Chapter 33: Bucky
Bucky is doing his level best not to freak out. It’s been forty five minutes and he hasn’t heard from Steve yet. He hopes Wanda isn’t chewing him a new one. He knows what Steve said to him, but he’s not convinced everything will work out.
When he left the rehearsal, Peter had apologized and offered to buy Bucky a drink, but he’d declined. He’s too nervous to hold any kind of conversation, and he’d just be a stick in the mud, thinking about all the ways Wanda can bring the show to a screeching halt.
Is she going to fire Steve? Is she going to fire him? Either seem plausible, although his money is on Steve being fired since there’s only two weeks until the show goes up. Sam could easily handle taking over directing duties. Steve’s gonna be pissed if that happens.
He makes himself some tea to help calm his nerves. While he waits for the water to boil, he sorts through the day’s mail. There’s the usual junk, the cell phone bill - which he really needs to go paperless with - and a small padded envelope addressed to him.
He doesn’t recognize the return address, and although it’s in Boston, there’s no from name. He turns the envelope over and squeezes it, seeing if he can figure out what’s in it. Nothing comes to him.
The kettle whistles, so he pours the water to steep his tea. He shakes the envelope. Nothing rattles. He idly wonders if someone has sent him anthrax, but figures that A) no one is doing that anymore and 2) that he’s not important enough to get anonymous anthrax.
He takes his mug and the package to the sofa, setting the mug down on the coffee table. He sits cross-legged on the sofa with the envelope. He squeezes it again, and again he gets no clue as to what’s in it. He figures there’s only one way to find out.
He rips the top of the envelope off and peers into it. It looks like another envelope. Huh. He pulls out that envelope, hoping again that it’s not anthrax, and reads what’s on the front of it in a familiar handwriting.
I remember you liking these guys a whole lot. I asked Tony to pull some strings. ~Steve
He opens the envelope and holy shit. It’s two tickets to see They Might Be Giants at the Royale at the end of April. Their shows had sold out in a matter of minutes and Bucky had been bummed he’d missed out on them. But now, here they are. Thanks to Steve.
And Tony, but that’s neither here nor there.
He sits back on the sofa, unable to believe what he’s holding in his hands. April. That’s six months from now. Steve’s thinking into the future. Not a lot, but still. He’s thinking. And okay, Steve actually listened to him when he talked about music at some point. Enough that he remembered how much Bucky likes They Might Be Giants.
He sets the tickets down and picks up his tea. He warms his hands with the mug and blows on the liquid to cool it. He smiles at the tickets where they sit on the table. One more gesture that makes Bucky’s heart swell. He can feel the ice around his heart melting just a little bit more.
Just as he takes a sip of his tea, his phone chirps with a text message. He picks up his phone. It’s from Steve.
Got a sec? Can I call?
He types back a yes and waits for the phone to ring. It does and he answers with a breathy “Hi”.
“You okay,” Steve asks. “You sound out of breath.”
Bucky laughs. “No. I’m good. Really good. Thank you.”
“I got the tickets.”
“Already?” Steve sounds surprised. “I just mailed them yesterday.”
Bucky rolls his eyes. “They were just going across town.”
“So, you like them?”
“Steve, I LOVE them. We’re going to have a great time!”
“Oh. You don’t have to take me. They’re a gift.”
Bucky is confused at that. “You don’t want to go?”
“No, I’d love to go! I’m just saying you don’t have to feel obligated to take me.”
“Of course, I’ll take you,” Bucky says. Why wouldn’t he?
Steve gets quiet for a moment. “It’s just that it’s six months away. Who knows if we’ll even…”
Oh. And Bucky guesses that’s a fair point. Why would Steve think they’d be together in six months? Yeah, Bucky has told Steve he at least somewhat forgives him, but he hasn’t given him any kind of timetable.
“I’d like to think we will be,” Bucky says.
“Yeah? Me, too.” It’s a quiet confession, one that makes Bucky’s heart skip a beat.
They still again, when Steve suddenly gets excited. “Oh! I forgot why I called you. We’re good. Wanda is fine, relatively speaking, with us.”
Oh, yeah. Bucky was so excited over the tickets that he forgot about his and Steve being found out by Wanda. “That’s good, right?”
“For us it is,” Steve says. There’s a hesitancy to his voice, though.
“What aren’t you telling me?”
“Apparently, Wanda is getting shit from one of the theatre’s benefactors over the show.”
“Ever hear of Alexander Pierce?”
“That’s him. He’s been a contributor to the theatre for several years. He’s apparently gotten wind of what our show is about and isn’t too happy about it.”
“It’s about love conquering all,” Bucky says. “How could he not like that?”
Steve huffs a laugh. “He’s a conservative.”
Well that pretty much explains everything. “Love is love as long as it’s straight love?”
“Wanda thinks it’s more the sex scene than anything, but probably.”
“So what do we do now?” Bucky’s not gonna lie to himself - he’d be fine if they toned down the sex scene.
“Nothing yet. Wanda’s going to talk to him tomorrow and see if she can suss out what his real complaint is and maybe ease his mind a bit. We’ll go from there.”
“Oh, they’re talking about doing The Goat for the Showcase Series next year,” Steve says brightly.
“How’s that gonna go over with Pierce?” If he’s blanching at a gay love story, no way he’s going to be on board with a guy actually falling in love with and fucking a goat.
“Dunno. I told Wanda I wanted to direct if they end up doing it.”
Bucky laughs. “Of course you do.”
“Well, I just wanted to let you know that we’re good,” Steve says. “Go get some sleep and I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Okay. Thanks again for the tickets.”
“Good night, Steve.”
Chapter 34: Steve
Steve and Wanda talk. The costumer shows up.
Steve has waited all day to hear what Wanda says. He’s been bouncing around, full of nervous energy. Although, why he cares what an asshole like Pierce thinks is beyond him. No. That’s not true. He’s angry that some rich douche canoe gets any say at all in what’s being produced, but fuck it all if that just isn’t how the world works.
He’s at the theatre early again. Wanda had texted him to meet her here before rehearsal, and because he’s so anxious, Steve is thirty minutes early to meet her. He just wants to get this over with. Find out what he’s got to cut and move on. He’s got a show to put up in two weeks.
He pulls out his sketchbook and flips to a blank page. Drawing has always settled him, and this time is no different. He begins by quickly mapping out the set, working in only the bare minimum of shapes. Then, since it takes up a considerable amount of space, Steve starts to hone in on the bed. He doesn’t give it too much detail, but enough that it stands out from the rest of the drawing.
Soon, he’s sketching Bucky sprawled out on the bed, working from memory. Bucky is on his stomach, the covers barely draped over his ass, and he rests his head on his arms. Steve works on the curve of his spine and that one muscle that he wants to kiss.
He’s so absorbed in what he’s doing that he doesn’t hear Wanda enter the theatre. He doesn’t hear her until she’s right up on top of him.
“Good likeness,” she says.
Steve almost drops the pad he’s so startled. “Jesus, Wanda.”
“Sorry,” she says. “You really like him, huh?”
“I do.” More than you know, he thinks.
“Quill said there was a history there.” She sits a couple of seats away from him. “Want to share?”
“Let’s just say that I fucked up and he’s giving me a chance to redeem myself.”
“Then I hope it works out for you.”
“Me, too.” He closes the pad and shoves it into his backpack. “So, what did you learn from Pierce?”
“I can’t get a read on him,” she says. “I mean, he’s expressed concern for the content -”
“Which content? Just the sex scene or the gay content?”
“A little of both,” she says. “But it’s nowhere near what I would’ve expected from him.”
“Maybe he’s mellowing in his old age,” Steve says. At least, he hopes that’s the case.
“Maybe,” she concedes. “I let him know what next year’s season is and he actually said he liked the lineup. Not a single cringe or objection anywhere.”
“Well, you said his grandson is gay. Maybe he’s coming around?”
“When’s the fundraising gala?”
“January twenty-sixth. Two weeks before the Oscars. There’s a whole theme tie-in. Black tie. Dust off your tux.”
Steve groans. He hates fundraisers, but they are a necessary evil. Oh! Maybe he can ask Bucky to go with him and Bucky in a tux would be just lovely. “Has he given any indication that he won’t contribute?”
“Not expressly, no.”
“Then I guess there’s no use worrying about it,” Steve says. Although, he’s going to. A lot.
“No, I suppose not,” she agrees. She stands and says, “I’ve got to get going. Pietro is taking me to dinner to meet his new girlfriend.”
Steve smiles. “Have fun with that. And tell him I said hi.”
“Will do.” And she turns to leave the theatre.
As she’s exiting, Sam enters. They exchange pleasantries as he comes down to where Steve is. “We okay,” he asks.
“I think so. Pierce apparently hasn’t said much, even told her next season is a good line up -”
“She tell him about The Goat?”
“I doubt it,” Steve laughs. “For now, we’re just going to go on as is and hope the Westboro Baptist Church doesn’t show up opening night.”
Sam throws his hands up in the air. “Why would you invite that kind of temptation?”
“The Westboro Baptist assholes aren’t going to picket the show, Sam.”
“Do you know that for sure?”
“Who’s gonna call them? You?”
“All right, all right. Fine. If the shit hits the fan, though, it’s on your head.”
There’s a pause before Sam asks, “You talk to Bucky?”
Steve furrows his brow. “About what?”
“That god-awful rehearsal he had last night.”
“I did, actually. He was nervous about Wanda finding out about us.”
“That’s it. He’ll be better tonight.”
They both turn to see Darcy Lewis, the costumer, enter the theatre. Behind her trail Bucky and Stephen.
“Darcy!” Steve gets up and meets her half way, enveloping her in a huge hug, even picking her tiny frame off the ground. “Good to see you!”
“You, too, Cap,” she says. He sets her down and she practically runs to Sam. “Hey, Wilson!” He hugs her just as hard as Steve did.
Steve turns to Bucky who’s got a look of absolute confusion on his face. “She’s the costumer,” he explains. Bucky nods, though he doesn’t look any less confused.
He’s about to pull Bucky into a hug and give him a kiss, but realizes that Stephen is standing right there. So much for greetings. “She’s going to watch the rehearsal and then talk to you about what you’re thinking of wearing and she’ll figure out how to dress out the rest of the show.”
“We’re not cutting it too close, are we,” Stephen asks.
“Nope. Darcy is very good at what she does,” Steve says. “You guys will probably just end up in your own jeans, but she’ll have ideas for shirts and such. And probably your underwear.”
“Does that mean I get little heart boxers,” Stephen asks.
“God no,” Darcy says untangling herself from Sam. “No one gets boxers. Or tighty whiteys. Ugh.”
Steve laughs. “Darcy, come here. Meet two of our cast.”
Steve introduces Bucky and Stephen, who she declares will probably be in some kind of skimpy briefs because of the exhibitionist nature of his character. Stephen does his best not to blanch at her words.
“You,” she says turning to Bucky. “You, I think will be in some nice Calvin boxer briefs.”
Steve takes a moment to picture it, and nods approvingly. He’s on board with whatever Darcy thinks is best for him because he knows Bucky is going to look amazing no matter what.
And there’s that little twinge of jealousy that in two weeks, complete strangers will be staring at Bucky’s naked body.
The theatre door opens again and in comes the rest of the cast.
“Okay,” Steve says. “Let’s get down to business.”
Chapter 35: Bucky
Bucky finds Steve's journal.
It’s the Monday of tech week and Bucky sits. And sits. And sits. And sits.
And that’s what makes a Gumby Cat. That’s what ma-akes uh-a gu-um-bee caaat, he sings to himself. Christ, he really is bored if he’s singing Cats.
The challenge of the moment is lighting Stephen’s monologue as Steve and Bruce, the lighting designer, have been going back and forth on the correct shade of blue from the LEDs. They’re exchanging words up at the light board, something about there not being a “light-medium blue” that Steve is looking for. Their voices aren’t exactly heated, but they’re a little testy.
Tech week is always a bitch. How much longer, he thinks to himself. He stretches out in his seat, putting his feet on the one in front of him. He shifts to get comfortable, if at all possible in these seats, and accidentally kicks Steve’s backpack off the seat. Shit, he thinks as he gets up to to put it back.
Just as he grabs the pack, the top opens up and a book falls out of it. It lands open and face down on the floor. He picks up the book, flips it over and stares at his own face.
He knows he should close it and put it back and forget he ever saw it, but just can’t. He flips through the pages and instantly recognizes several of the places he and Steve have been to together. There are several sketches of Bucky as well.
But when he comes across the drawing of him sprawled out on the set’s bed is when his heart jumps into overdrive and his breath catches in his throat. These are new sketches, recent drawings of Bucky.
He touches the drawing, ghosting his fingers over the sketch. The pencil smudges a little bit and he panics at the thought of damaging Steve’s work. He closes the journal quickly and tucks it into the backpack and sits in his seat, pretending he never touched the backpack.
Steve has been drawing him. A lot. And recently. He drops his head and smiles. Steve’s been thinking about him.
He’s shaken out of his thoughts when Steve says they’re ready to move on to scene six. He looks up at the light booth and wishes rehearsal were over so he could make out with Steve, because finding out about the drawings has been the best thing to happen to him all week.
He really doesn’t even mind all that much that the rest of the rehearsal drags on. Scenes six and seven are fairly easy to light, but the blue lights are back in scene eight which is taking longer than expected. He’s not in it again until the very last page of the script, and he’s getting antsy.
They get through the scene, he kisses Quill, the lights go out, and they get their notes. Bucky hangs around a little bit to see if he can talk to Steve alone. Thankfully, Steve gets the hint and he shoos Sam out of the theatre.
“Don’t mess up my set,” Sam says as he exits.
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Steve replies, waving him off. “What’s up,” he asks once Sam is gone.
Bucky practically launches himself at Steve’s lips, his hands cupping his face and pulling him close.
“Mmph,” Steve says. After a moment of accepting the kiss, he pulls away from Bucky. “Not that I’m not grateful, but what’s that for,” he asks.
Bucky’s hand goes to his neck and he blushes. “I, uh...saw your journal.” Steve cocks his head in confusion. It’s adorable. “While you were bickering -”
“I don’t bicker.”
“While you were bickering with Bruce, your backpack fell off the chair and your journal fell out. I saw your drawings. Of me.”
And now it’s Steve’s turn to blush, which again, Bucky finds absolutely endearing. “Oh, god,” he says. “Those are terrible. I haven’t drawn in like three years.”
Three years. The amount of time they’ve been apart.
“Steve, did you stop drawing?”
“And you just started again?”
“Yes?” It’s a tentative answer at best, but Bucky knows it’s the truth. The ice around his heart melts a little more. Pretty soon, it’ll be completely gone, he’s certain of it. If he were guessing, there’s only about a quarter of the ice left at this point, and it’s melting fast.
Bucky absolutely loves this giant dork of a man standing in front of him. There’s barely an I love you but in his mind. Yes, it’s probably against his better judgement, but he doesn’t care at this point. He leans in to kiss Steve again.
They make out leisurely for a little bit with gentle nips and licks here and there. There’s no real rush to do anything more. It’s enough that Bucky is able to be with Steve like this again. They laugh into each other’s mouth when Steve bites his lip a little too hard.
I want to take him home, Bucky thinks. I want him in my bed.
But the rational part of him knows that that can’t happen until after the show is done. He might be a decent actor on stage, but he’s not sure he could keep his emotions to himself if that were to happen.
So, instead he says, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Steve’s pout is cute. “I don’t want you to go yet,” he says.
Bucky sighs. “And I don’t want to go, but we need to. Before we do something on this set we shouldn’t.”
Steve pulls him close again. “I could wash the sheets?”
“Ew. No.” He gives Steve a little shove. “I couldn’t live with myself if we fucked on the set.”
Steve’s face suddenly goes all serious. “We could go back to my place,” he says.
Bucky groans and rolls his whole body in frustration. “You have no idea how much I really want to say yes to that.”
“Not yet, I can’t. Not until after the show.”
“Well, that gives me something to look forward to.” Bucky blushes and drops his head to Steve’s shoulder. Steve kisses his head. “I get it, though. I’ll wait for you, Buck. I’ll wait for as long as I need to.”
“Thank you,” Bucky says into Steve’s shoulder. He takes a quick inhale and pulls himself away from Steve. “We really should be going. Tomorrow is going to be another long night.”
“You’re right. Want to set up the ghost light while I get the light board?”
Bucky gets the light and sets it out while Steve turns off the light board, where they come together when Bucky is finished. They nudge shoulders as they exit the theatre together.
Bucky is certain he’s made the right choice in waiting, but that doesn’t make it any harder for him to say goodbye once they’re outside. They hold hands and kiss once or twice, maybe four times for good measure before parting, Bucky going one way, Steve going the other.
Yep, Bucky thinks. It’s going to be a good show.
Chapter 36: Steve
They discover a protester outside the theatre.
Just a quick warning: there's some NSFW artwork in this chapter made by the epic PowerfulWeak who has also been the best beta ever.
Steve and Bucky spend the next two days texting almost constantly, and staying later at the theatre to leisurely make out after everyone has left. Though neither has professed their love outright, but Steve is pretty sure it’s a thing that may happen after the show has closed. He hopes it does. They’ve danced around it for weeks now.
He’s practically walking on air. His relationship with Bucky gets better with each day that passes. To think that just six short weeks ago Bucky had walked back into his life again. Steve never in a million years would have ever thought it was possible.
It’s been a good couple of days.
Then opening night rolls around. Thursday. Call is for six thirty, half an hour earlier than their normal rehearsal time. Steve gets there at six because he’s anal like that even though he really doesn’t need to be there until seven at the earliest to give the cast their pre-show pep talk. He’s just ridiculously excited to see the show come to life.
As Steve approaches the theatre, he notices a man sort of lingering around the front door. He appears to have flyers in his hand. As Steve gets to the door, the man hands him one, but he doesn’t look at it, just mumbles “Thanks,” and unlocks the door to enter the theatre. It’s not until he’s set his gear down in the green room that he really takes a look at it.
“Son of a bitch,” he says.
The flyer is, quite frankly, pornographic, which is ironic considering that’s what they appear to want the show shut down for. There’s no identifying information, no organization listed on it. It’s just a generic warning. It’s disgusting is what it is.
It’s also like a punch in the gut. He didn’t recognize the guy handing out the flyers, but he’s put solid money on him working for Pierce. He’s about to call Wanda, but really, what can she do? Besides, she’ll be there in a half an hour anyway and she’ll see for herself. Maybe she’ll shoo him away.
Fucking Pierce, getting someone else to do his dirty work for him. Steve seethes with anger and is ready to punch something, so he takes a calming breath which doesn’t to much to sate his anger.
“Did you see this bullshit,” Sam asks entering the green room. He’s got a copy of the flyer in his hand that he waves in the air.
Steve nods and waves his own flyer at Sam.
“What are we gonna do about it?” He crumples the flyer and tosses it into the bin at the other end of the room.
“What can we do about it? The guy’s got a right to do it.”
“Think Pierce is gonna show tonight?”
“I don’t know. He may want to put on a good face.”
“Pfft. A good face. That’s rich.”
“I just fucking pisses me off,” Steve says. He paces the length of the room. “It shouldn’t fucking matter. And you’d think that someone who’s a patron of the arts would get that.”
“He’s not even a blue hair,” Sam says.
“Right? At least we know where we stand with them! The same innocuous musicals year after year.”
“Which is what Wanda is giving them next year.”
It’s then that Bucky rushes into the room. “Guys, did you see this?” He’s brandishing his own flyer. He looks panicked.
Steve switches from angry to protective in a millisecond. “Hey, hey, hey...it’s okay. It’s just some asshole out front.”
“But what if he manages to turn people away?”
“Then we didn’t need them in the audience anyway,” Steve says. “Can we have a minute, Sam?”
“Yeah, sure,” he says as he exits the green room.
“Come here,” Steve says as he opens his arms to Bucky who comes immediately. Steve envelopes him as Bucky tucks his head into Steve’s neck. “It’ll be okay. We’re not going to let one bigot bring down this show.”
Steve kisses his head. He’s going to do everything he can to reassure Bucky that they’re going to be fine. Pierce isn’t going to get to him. Not when he’s got to be strong for Bucky.
“I don’t know that I can do this,” Bucky says.
Steve pulls away from him, grips his biceps and looks him in the eye. “You can do this. You’ve been amazing in this role, and you’re ready to do it.” He searches Bucky’s eyes.
“But that guy -”
“Is some asshole who hasn’t even seen the show.” He pulls him back in for another hug. “Bucky, I’m so proud of the work you’ve done. That you’ve trusted me enough to work with me again.”
“It wasn’t an easy decision.”
“I know. Thank you.”
They stay snuggled together for a full minute before the door of the green room is flung open and Quill enters.
“Did you see the asshole out front,” he demands. He’s also wielding a flyer from the guy at the front of the theatre. “Oh, sorry,” he says when he sees Bucky and Steve wrapped in each other.
Steve and Bucky look over at Quill, but Steve doesn’t release Bucky. “Hi Peter.”
“You guys need a sec?” He at least has the decency to look embarrassed.
“If you don’t mind.”
“Sure. Sure,” he says backing out of the room. “I’ll just - I’ll be out here.”
They go back to their hug, but Steve knows they need to stop before everyone else shows up. “Come on,” he says. “This show is going to be good. Great, even. I’ve been working on what you and the guys are doing and everyone that shows up to see it is going to be amazed.”
Bucky lets go of him. “You’re going to have to come up with a rousing pep talk and even better curtain speech now.”
“You’re the one I care about getting through to, Buck. As long as you believe you can do this, the rest is just academic.”
Bucky snorts a laugh. “Don’t let the rest of the guys hear you say that.”
Steve kisses Bucky’s hand. “It’s true, though. I want you to believe that you can do this. If I can convince you, the rest of the guys will be easy.”
Bucky rolls his eyes. “You make me sound like some wilting flower.”
“Hardly. But I know you and I know how this is going to get under your skin. The other guys will just get angry, shrug it off, and go about the show. I don’t want this to eat at you. I want you to forget that asshole and know that I believe in you.”
Bucky looks up at him and Steve knows he’s gotten through to him. Bucky nods and pulls him in for one more hug. “Thank you,” he says.
“You’re welcome. Now, open that door before Quill thinks we’re doing something we shouldn’t in here.”
Chapter 37: Bucky
Bucky is seated at a table in the green room and he stares at the flyer again. He doesn’t even know why he keeps looking at it, the thing is so over the top offensive. The damn thing may have well have said “There be homosexuals therein” for fuck’s sake. But the fact that someone out there is bigoted enough to want to turn people away makes him angry. And more than a little scared.
Quill comes up behind him and gently pulls the flyer from his hand. “Let it go,” he says quietly. “It’s not worth it.” He crumples the sheet of paper and tosses it into the bin.
Bucky looks at himself in the mirror and sighs as he picks up a brush and dusts some powder on his face. He can do this regardless of any asshole who may think otherwise. Rationally, he knows he can do this. Steve even told him he can do this, and he wants to believe Steve more than anything. Wants to make Steve proud of him.
He’d been so rattled by the guy with the flyer, he almost had a panic attack. It’s a good thing he keeps Xanax on him. He’s popped one of them in hopes that it will help settle his nerves. So far, it’s mostly worked. His heart rate has slowed so it’s not hammering in his chest, more of a dull, nervous thumping, which Bucky deems acceptable.
Steve had been right about the rest of the cast. They got angry at the guy out front, and are now working on channeling that anger, that raw emotion, into their warm ups to use it to their advantage with Quill leading the charge.
“You okay,” Quill asks him when the warm ups are done.
“Yeah,” he says. And he means it. He can do this. He’s not going to let one asshole ruin his performance. “I’m okay.”
“Good,” Peter says clapping him on the back.
Just then, Sam steps into the room and says “Places in five,” before ducking back out.
“Thank you, five,” the cast responds to his retreating figure.
“Almost there,” Peter says. “Break a leg.”
Bucky’s got enough nervous energy for at least two people, and he’s excited to start the show. He finishes dusting his face with the powder, stands, and hops up and down a couple of times in an effort to dissipate some of it. He stretches his arms over his head and touches his toes. He takes a couple of deep breaths in through his nose and out through his mouth and motorboats his lips, continuing to loosen himself up.
This time, it’s Steve who comes in to tell the actors “Places.”
“Thank you, places,” they parrot back to him.
He gives Bucky a wink as he exits the green room.
“Here we go,” he says to himself.
He and Quill follow behind Steve to take their places backstage.
Bucky resists every urge he has to take a peek to gauge how big the audience is, instead closing his eyes and reaching for Quill’s hand. They grasp hands in the near dark, silently wishing each other to break a leg.
He hears Steve enter the stage to begin his curtain speech. Steve thanks the audience for coming, lets them know about their upcoming season, and reminds everyone to turn off their cell phones. One more thank you to the audience, and the lights go down.
KEVIN: But he’s not alone.
TELEGRAM DELIVERY BOY: We’ll see. Have a nice day, sir.
Parker exits the stage. Bucky and Quill kiss. There is a distant roar heard in the theatre. Bucky looks for the sound, but Quill pulls him back into the kiss.
The lights fade as the scene and the play ends.
The audience applauds and Bucky takes his place on the stage for the curtain call. He’s soaked and dripping all over the stage from having been “underwater,” but it feels good on his heated skin.
He’s pretty sure they’ve nailed it. The energy felt wonderful. Whatever opening night jitters they had were gone by the third page and the script gelled seamlessly.
The lights come back up and they each take their bows. Bucky can hear Natasha “whoop” for him from the audience.
The house lights come on and the actors exit the stage to meet their friends. Bucky and Parker, however, quickly make their way to the green room to get into some dry clothes and to towel off their hair. Having had a bucket of water dumped on them every night for the past week, they’ve gotten efficient at it.
They head out to the lobby and Natasha spots him easily and jumps up into his arms. “I’m so proud of you,” she says, squeezing him tightly.
“Thanks,” he manages to get out as he sets her down.
“Although, I don’t ever want to see that much of you ever again.” She pretends to cover her eyes with her hand.
“Duly noted.” He steels himself to ask his next question. “Did you happen to see a guy out front handing out flyers?”
“Oh, my god. That asshole? Yeah. When I saw him, I yanked the flyers out of his hand and threw them out.”
“You did what,” he asks incredulously. He doesn’t wait for her to respond before he grabs her face and kisses her full on the lips.
Someone clears their throat near them.
Bucky breaks free of Natasha and apologizes to her. “Sorry. I didn’t mean -”
“You’re acting like it’s the first time you’ve kissed me,” she says. She then turns to the man who’s joined them. She nods at him curtly. “Hello, Steve.”
“Natasha. You look lovely.”
“I do, yes,” she says. “I’m assuming you’re going out tonight,” she says to Bucky. He nods. “I’ll see you at home, then.”
Bucky gives her one more big hug and thanks her for coming. She assures him she wouldn’t have missed it for the world. She then turns on her heel to go.
“It was good seeing you,” Steve calls after her. She doesn’t respond to him.
Steve shakes his head. “Well, I guess she’s still mad at me.”
“Give her time,” Bucky says. “She’ll come around.”
“I hope so,” Steve says.
And because Bucky needs to know how the show went, he asks Steve what he thought of it.
“Really, really well. I’ve got notes, of course -”
“Of course,” Bucky agrees.
“But you guys did a great job.” He gives Bucky a quick hug. “I’ll see you in a bit. I’ve got to schmooze.” And he wades into the crowd around them.
Bucky smiles. They did all right. They really did.
Chapter 38: Steve
I keep involuntarily running the possible outcomes through my head; what if this, what if that, but not in a good way, over and over, like every time I stop thinking about something specific, even for a second, my brain just automatically starts forecasting possible futures, for us, for me, for me, possibility after possibility, like noise, a flurry of, like little cuts from a movie. And some of them are, are, are…
It’s closing night, and Steve swears he hears something new that applies to him every time he watches the show. He pictures Bucky telling him that he’s just not sure Steve will stay with him despite Steve’s attempts to show him that he really is in this relationship for the long haul, and that makes him a little sad.
Bucky hasn’t actually said anything to that effect, but Steve can one hundred percent understand how Bucky would feel that way. Steve really was horrible to him, and the fact that Bucky is even remotely entertaining taking him back amazes him.
The guy with the flyers hadn’t come back after Natasha threw out his propaganda on opening night. Pierce came to the show the night before and actually told Steve that he did a good job, although whether or not he really meant it is another story. Steve couldn’t tell.
Wanda managed to corner him and he told her that while the show wasn’t his cup of tea, it was well done. She let him know about The Goat in next season’s lineup, and he hadn’t balked. He professed no knowledge of the protester although Wanda isn’t completely convinced. She did get him to commit to the Gala, though.
The cast has been perfect save for one little hiccup on Saturday in scene eight when Parker, soaking wet, slipped and nearly fell, but he managed to stay upright and continue the scene without a hitch.
As Steve watches Bucky and Quill share their final kiss and the lights go down as the audience erupts into applause, he realizes two things: this has been his best theatre experience of his life, and that he now gets to be with Bucky, hopefully forever if he doesn’t fuck everything up again.
He can’t. He won’t. Steve has learned his lesson. He was absolutely miserable when he moved to New York alone, even more miserable when he moved back to Boston. He’d longed to reach out to Bucky but was too stubborn to admit how wrong he was.
Not anymore, though.
Steve makes his way back to the green room where he knows Bucky will be changing out of his wet clothing. When he opens the door, Bucky is just buttoning his jeans. He hasn’t gotten a shirt on yet. Steve’s mouth waters.
He enters the green room and closes the door. “Where’s Parker,” he asks.
“He’s got someone here. He did the quickest change I’ve ever seen and split.”
“Do you have anyone here this afternoon,” Steve asks. He needs to know if he has to let Bucky go out front or if he can pounce on him here. Because he’s ready.
“Not that I know of,” Bucky says.
Bucky reaches for his shirt, but Steve is on him in two quick strides. He grips the hand holding the shirt to stop him from putting it on as he splays his hand out over Bucky’s chest. Bucky’s breath hitches and his eyes flick down to Steve’s lips.
“Good,” Steve says as he leans in to kiss him. It’s a couple of quick pecks before Steve says, “I’m so proud of you, Buck. What you did with this role is more than I could have ever hoped for.”
Bucky bites his lip and smiles. “Thank you. I couldn’t have done it without you, though.” He leans in for another kiss as his hands find their way to Steve’s shirt as they grip the material tightly.
Steve gently kisses him again. He flicks his tongue out, seeking entrance to Bucky’s mouth. Bucky opens immediately, and the kiss picks up some heat. Steve is beyond glad that he gets to do this again.
Before things go too far, Steve pulls away and says, “We need to strike the set. Then you’re all mine.”
“I’m all yours anyway,” Bucky says.
“Bucky, I -”
“I’m not gonna lie. I’m still a little hurt, but what you’ve done for me these past few weeks?” He looks to the ceiling as if searching for the words.
He doesn’t get to finish because the door to the green room opens and the rest of the cast filters in. Steve and Bucky don’t bother trying to separate. The show is over. They can be together now.
“Finally,” Stephen says. “I was wondering when you two were gonna stop eye fucking.”
“‘Bout time, you two,” Rhodey adds.
“I knew it all along,” Quill says smugly.
“Wait. You’re dating,” Parker asks. “Since when?”
Steve pulls away from Bucky and lets him get his shirt on. He thanks the guys again for their dedication and hard work, reminding them it’s almost over. Once they strike the set, they’re free to go.
And so for the next hour and a half, the cast and crew dismantle the set, ensure props are put back in the prop room, put the lights back into the house plot, and give Darcy back the costumes she picked out for them.
Once the stage is bare and swept and mopped and the lumber put away, the cast begins to take their leave. There are hugs and promises to get together sometime that will likely not materialize until the next show. After a little bit, it’s just Sam, Steve, and Bucky left in the theatre.
“Sam,” Steve says. “It’s always a pleasure.”
“You, too.” They hug quickly. “And you,” Sam says turning to Bucky. “Don’t let this jerk do anything stupid, okay?”
“I won’t. I promise.”
And Sam is gone.
It’s just the two of them again, so they make quick work of shutting down the light board and setting up the ghost light. They have better things to do.
“I don’t know about you,” Steve says, “but I’m ready to go home.”
Bucky’s face falls. Steve realizes what he’s just said.
“I’m ready to go home with you, Buck. Come home with me.”
Steve holds out his hand for Bucky and they exit the theatre.