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Fire Under the Skin

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“Are you sure about this, Stevie?”

Bucky turns his head to whisper to his roommate, and gets a whiff of the fancy pomade he’s been given to apply to his own hair. Steve is leaning over the back of the sumptuous leather chair where Bucky is sitting, one leg tucked up under him, and they’re both watching the older man set up his easel and pick out pencils and paints not too far away from them in the large, airy studio.

“A’course I’m not sure, Buck, but it’s Leyendecker. And twenty bucks, what the hell,” Steve whispers back. 

Bucky fidgets in the chair, unaccustomed to the high-end dress clothes he’s wearing. The pants and shirt are just a little big on him, but the fancy suspenders solve that problem. 

Steve’s dress shirt swims on his thin frame, and he’s even more uncomfortable in the clothes than Bucky is — Bucky turns his head a little and sees that Steve has already loosened his tie. 

“Stevie, ya gotta button your shirt and do up your tie right.” Bucky tries to keep his voice low, but the urgency in his tone reaches across the space and the man turns his head. 

“No no, that is fine,” he says with the faintest trace of an accent. The corners of his mouth turn upward and his heavy, dark brows raise a little. “The contrast between you two, between the two shirts, that is good.” 

When the man smiles, he looks a little less forbidding, a little less melancholy, and Bucky feels like he can relax a little more in his chair. 

 

*

 

It’s only been two hours since he and Steve met this man. They’d been walking down 34th Street toward Herald Square after buying some handkerchiefs for Bucky’s ma at Macy’s — why they couldn’t get them for her at A&S in Brooklyn, Bucky still hasn’t the foggiest — when a middle-aged man, his dark hair threaded with grey, had approached them in the street. 

“Excuse me,” he’d said diffidently. “I wonder if I could interest you two in a business proposition.” 

Both of them had stiffened and Steve had started to say, “What the hell, pal” in his patented Steve Rogers more-righteous-than-God voice, when the man had shaken his head urgently and said, “No no no no, my apologies, it is not that,” and had pulled a stiff piece of cardboard out of his pocket and put it into Bucky’s hands. Bucky had stared at it, uncomprehending.

 

J.C. Leyendecker

80 West Fortieth Street

New York, New York 

Neptune 6-5732

 

 

“Nice card, but who are you?” he’d said, looking frankly at its owner. He didn’t look like a perv, but you never could tell. Steve had glanced at the card, his eyes wide. 

“Are you really Leyendecker?” Steve had said, unbelieving, and when the man had nodded, he’d turned to Bucky. “This is that commercial artist I was telling you about,” he’d said. “Does stuff for Arrow shirts and Kelloggs and the Saturday Evening Post.” 

“Huh,” Bucky had replied. He’d looked the man up and down and reckoned he didn’t look like a famous artist, but had admitted to himself that he had no idea what a famous artist would look like. 

“Can I buy you an early lunch?” The man had indicated a nice restaurant across the street, and while Bucky was still completely unsure about him, he wasn’t gonna say no to a decent meal. During lunch, he’d asked if they could come to his studio so he could paint them for an ad, and had offered them twenty dollars to pose for him. 

 

*

 

Bucky leans his arms over the sides of the chair as he thinks about that moment. Twenty bucks for both of them! It’s not like his family is that poor, but ten bucks would definitely help out, and he knows it would be even more of a windfall for Steve and his ma. 

He and Steve only graduated high school a year ago June and they moved into a one-bedroom dump together just last month. Bucky’s been a temporary laborer around the docks but there’ve been no permanent jobs and he doesn’t know anyone with the longshoremen’s union to put in a good word. Steve has been doing odd jobs around Red Hook but hasn’t found any full-time employment. With this cash, he and Stevie could give money to their families and still feed themselves and make next month’s rent. 

Finally Leyendecker finishes fussing with his supplies, and comes over to the easel with a selection of paints and pencils. 

“OK,” he says. “I am ready.” At this, Bucky starts to sit up from his slouch and to untangle the leg he’s sitting on, but the artist stops him. “No no,” he says. “Stay in exactly that position. And put your left elbow on the chair arm with your hand against your head...yes, perfect.” 

He directs Steve to kneel behind Bucky and put his left hand on the back of the chair and his right hand on the chair arm behind Bucky’s right shoulder. He stands back to look at the two of them, then grabs a magazine from a nearby table, opens it to a random page, and puts it in Bucky’s lap. 

Bucky thinks this is the craziest idea ever. This guy has a commission to sell shirts, and he’s not even gonna have them sit up straight, much less stand so you can see the whole garment? What kind of idiot would want to buy a shirt when it doesn’t even look formal? And what’s with the goddamn magazine? 

Bucky can feel Steve fidgeting uneasily as he takes the pose and he knows instinctively that Steve is thinking the same thing. Earlier this summer, Steve had gotten an art commission — his very first — from Joe’s Bar over on Johnson Street in Brooklyn, and they’d wanted him to paint a real classy dame in a red dress, curvy, full-length, everything smooth with no wrinkles. 

This? This is kooky.

In the next thirty seconds it gets even kookier. 

“Look straight at me,” Leyendecker directs. “Don’t smile. And think of a big secret you’re keeping.” 

Bucky squirms in his chair a little. His asshole is still a little sore from last night, and that certainly has everything to do with a big secret he’s been keeping. 

 

*

 

Bucky kneels on the bed. The night air is cool in the apartment, the draft pervasive through the thin walls and ill-fitting windows, but there’s a light sheen of sweat all over his body, and a fire burning under his skin. 

He feels strong, sensitive fingers caressing down his back and grabbing his asscheeks, spreading them open. A well-slicked finger swirls around his hole before gently dipping in.

Bucky moans, loud and involuntary, at the breach and cants his hips back. A slim figure drapes itself over his back to whisper in his ear. 

“Ssssshhhh, Buck, we gotta keep it down, don’t want the neighbors to hear,” says Steve softly. He pushes his finger further in and slowly circles it around Bucky’s walls. 

Bucky’s cock and balls hang fat and heavy between his legs and his entire body tingles. He turns his head to Steve, lips parted, wanting to scream with pleasure but mindful of making too much noise. 

Steve’s eyes darken and he leans in to fasten his mouth on Bucky’s, his tongue swiping across Bucky’s upper lip. Bucky sighs into the kiss, then gasps into Steve’s mouth as Steve slips another finger in. 

“Gotta open you up, Buck, gotta get you ready for me,” Steve murmurs, his breath hot on Bucky’s mouth as he scissors his fingers inside. Bucky closes his eyes, reveling in the stretch and slight burn as Steve’s fingers go deeper.

“Can you be quiet for me, sweetheart?” whispers Steve. “I want to watch while I open you up.”

Bucky nods, his gut seizing and his cock twitching at the “sweetheart,” and buries his face in the blanket, and he feels the cool air on his back again as Steve pulls off him, never stopping the thrusts of his fingers. 

After a few minutes, Steve adds a third finger, his thumb massaging Bucky’s taint, and Bucky uses all the willpower he possesses to keep from coming right then. His entire attention is focused on that spot where Steve is breaching him, occasionally swiping across some magic spot inside him that makes him shiver with pleasure. The fire under his skin glows hotter.

“So beautiful, Buck,” coos Steve. “Such a good little hole, opening up for me.” Bucky can feel his breath against his left buttcheek, and the thought of Steve’s pretty face so close to his asshole just fans the flames in him.

“Oh god, Steve, please,” he whispers between gasps.

“Please what, baby,” Steve says, thrusting his fingers as deep as they can go before pulling them back a bit. 

“Please fuck me, Stevie, please,” moans Bucky into the bed. “Want you in me so bad. Please.”

Steve pulls his fingers out, leaving Bucky temporarily bereft and empty. Bucky feels the head of Steve’s cock, which is impressive despite his small stature, pushing against his hole. 

Then suddenly Steve appears to change his mind, and Bucky feels him pull away. Before Bucky can complain about that, though, strong hands are pulling at his hips.

“Turn over,” Steve whispers. “Wanna see your face while I fuck you.” 

“Ahhhhhh, fuck yes,” Bucky whines, and hurries to comply. The sweaty skin on his back rubs against the scratchy wool of the blanket, but he doesn’t care. 

Steve pushes Bucky’s knees up toward his torso and arranges himself between Bucky’s legs. His large thick cock stands out from his thin body, glistening in the low light. He leans in, and once again Bucky feels him against his needy, aching hole. There’s a feeling of pressure for a moment, and then Bucky’s rim opens to let Steve in. 

The burn is stronger this time but Steve is inexorable, pushing inside, bit by bit. Bucky feels the sting, but it’s the sweetest pain he’s ever felt. Soon Steve is fully sheathed inside him and pauses, and Bucky’s never felt so full. 

“Gonna fuck you now, sweetheart,” whispers Steve in almost a growl, his face close to Bucky’s neck, and Bucky can’t even speak, just nods dumbly, his mouth open. Steve pulls almost all the way out, and plunges back in, over and over, the girth of his big dick hitting that magic spot inside Bucky every time. 

Bucky never thought he could feel this way. The fire under his skin spreads from his crotch to his torso and throughout his entire body. Steve is all heat and angles and sharpness, his ribcage hard against Bucky’s chest, his jutting hipbones pressing into the back of Bucky’s thighs as he moves. His pale skin glows in the low light and Bucky can’t help but reach out and grab those thin shoulders, splay his calloused hands against Steve’s upper back. 

“Come for me, Buck,” says Steve against Bucky’s collarbone, and lifts himself up just enough to grab Bucky’s leaking dick in his slippery right hand. Bucky starts to cry out, but manages to muffle the sounds by jerking his head up to sink his teeth into Steve’s shoulder. The feeling rises through his pelvis and into his balls and then he’s coming in thick white spurts, biting Steve’s shoulder harder so he doesn’t scream. 

“Oh...god...Buck...” Bucky hears as his own orgasm subsides, and after a few more strokes, he feels Steve shudder and his dick pulse inside him, once, twice, and the heat of Steve’s come soaks his walls and oozes out of him and it feels so. goddamn. good. 

Steve collapses on top of him, heedless of the mess on Bucky’s chest. For a moment he just lies there, spent and breathing hard, but then he lifts his head to look in Bucky’s eyes. As Bucky feels Steve soften inside him, Steve’s lips fasten onto his like he’s never going to let go. 

 

*

 

All this flashes through Bucky’s mind as he fidgets in the chair. He works hard to keep his face neutral and decides that the best way to do this is to plaster on a doubtful, sort of challenging expression and turn his lips up in a smirk. 

Bucky can’t really see Steve out of the corner of his eye, but he knows that his roommate is thinking of last night too, can hear it in the catch in his breath, the tiny scraping noise of his hand fisting the leather on the back of the chair behind him.

And then Bucky feels pressure on his right shoulder and the warmth of Steve’s other hand seeps through the fancy shirt and Bucky’s undershirt. He can feel the slight pull of Steve’s fingertips as he grips onto Bucky for stability. 

The thought of those long, strong fingers caressing him, opening him up, penetrating him, makes Bucky a little dizzy. He swallows hard, once, and looks even more mockingly at Leyendecker, as if daring him to comment, as if daring him to paint what is actually happening here. 

“Perfect! That is perfect,” says the artist sharply. “Please hold that pose, just as you are. Yes. Yes.” He starts frantically sketching on the canvas. 

Bucky and Steve stay as still as they can, looking directly at Leyendecker as he works. Bucky continues to look a little sardonic, but his entire awareness is focused on that one spot where he and Steve are touching, where the heat from Steve’s hand is stoking the fire under his skin again. If it weren’t for that twenty dollars, Bucky would stand up right now, grab Steve, and run off to a closet or a back alley somewhere so Steve could ravish him. 

After an hour, Leyendecker finishes his sketching and gives them a few minutes to stand up and stretch and use the john. When they resume the pose, the heat of the earlier session has dissipated, but Bucky still feels Steve’s touch just as acutely, warm and sure on his shoulder. The artist paints and paints, saying nothing, until the light outside fades to the point where he needs to light a few lamps around the large room. 

“Alright,” he says, turning back to Steve and Bucky. “I am done working for now. And I’m finished with you two, you have done excellently well, thank you.” 

“Do you need us to come back tomorrow, or...” Steve starts hesitantly as he and Bucky stand up and move around to get some circulation back into their limbs.  

“No no, that is fine,” Leyendecker interrupts. 

“Is the painting finished?” says Steve, looking both dubious and impressed, and as if he wants to inspect it himself. Bucky glances tenderly at his beautiful, avid face and something jagged in his chest breaks off. He catches Leyendecker looking at him thoughtfully and quickly returns to his mocking smirk. 

“Not quite,” the artist laughs. “I have some details to take care of tomorrow, in the daylight, but I’ve captured all I need from you two for the picture. That secret of yours... it must be quite something.” With this last sentence, he looks straight at Bucky with a reproduction of the latter’s insolent expression.

You have no idea, pal. Bucky tries his hardest to fight back an insulted snort and an annoyed blush, and quickly steers the conversation in a different direction. “Where d’ya need us ta put these clothes when we change?” he asks, purposely playing up his Brooklyn accent as he pulls on one suspender. 

“Oh, you can keep them,” Leyendecker waves his hand. As the two young men start to protest, he cuts them off. “It is no matter,” he says. “The client sends me free samples for my models to wear, and these shirts are too small for my...other model.” His eyes stray to the wall. 

Bucky, following his gaze, sees a large print of a beefy dark-haired man in a white shirt and cream trousers, his green and gold tie flowing in the breeze. Something clicks right then in Bucky’s head, about how maybe this guy does have some idea about their secret, but he says nothing.

“When will the painting be published?” Steve asks, trying to tuck the shirt, which really is three sizes too big for him, back into his own pants. 

“It should be in the magazine next month,” answers Leyendecker. “Ah! Your remuneration.” He frowns at his error of almost forgetting and hurries over to a strongbox on a table in the corner. He comes back with a handful of bills, which he divides between Steve and Bucky. Bucky looks at the money and he stares back at the artist in disbelief. 

“Ah...sir...this is too much,” Bucky protests. “You said twenty dollars.” 

“Oh yes,” smiles the artist. “I meant twenty dollars each. You really have been exemplary models, especially for two so young, with so little experience.” 

“But sir, it doesn’t seem fair...” Steve is still inclined to fight about it, but Bucky grabs his arm. “Steve, just go with it,” he hisses. Twenty dollars each means they can pay next month’s rent, give money to their families, maybe even go see The Prisoner of Zenda at the matinee on Saturday. 

They put on their coats, worn and threadbare against the shiny opulence of their new clothes, and gather up their other clothes and put them in the Macy’s bag with the handkerchiefs for Bucky’s ma. She’ll wonder why they’re so late coming home, but she’ll be happy to see the extra cash.

“Please do call me if you’re ever interested in modeling again,” Leyendecker says as he ushers them out of the studio. 

“Thanks, Mr. Leyendecker,” they both say, shaking his hand as they leave. 

As they walk down the street, buttoning their coats against the October chill, Bucky reflects on the modeling session, and on the reminiscences of last night. It had been the first time they’d fucked, after weeks and months of bj’s and handjobs, of rutting up against each other, both in their apartment and in stolen moments at their parents’ places before they moved in together. But last night’s fucking, the actual penetration, wasn’t even the biggest secret.

 

*

 

They lie together under the blanket, bundling close together for warmth. The cold night air bleeds through the windows and settles around the room. They’ve cleaned up and put on their old pajamas and are holding each other close in the dark. They can hear the far-off noises of the city through the thin walls of the apartment, but the darkness brings quiet to the small space of their bedroom, and with it a measure of calm. Of sanctuary. 

Steve stirs in Bucky’s arms, and Bucky drops a light kiss on his sweetheart’s forehead. He can hear a slight rasp in Steve’s breathing and is making sure to keep him warm to ward off a chill or an asthma attack. 

“Buck,” Steve murmurs, half-asleep.

“Yeah,” whispers Bucky into Steve’s tousled blond hair.

“I love you, Buck,” says Steve, his voice low and sweet.

Bucky freezes for a moment in shocked recognition. His throat closes up a little and his heart feels like it’s going to beat out of his chest. *This* is what this is, *this* is what he’s been feeling all this time for Steve, for all the years he’s known him. Of course it is.

“I love you too, Stevie,” Bucky manages to croak out, and it hardly seems enough, these little words, to encompass the enormity of what Bucky feels for his roommate, his best friend, his everything. 

 

*

   

They walk down Sixth Avenue so they can jump on the subway home at 34th. They keep their hands in their pockets to keep warm, but they steal smiling glances at each other as they walk down the street, communicating in that secret way they have about their modeling adventure and the excitement of a windfall in their pockets. 

The subway is crowded but they manage to grab seats next to one another after Canal Street. Steve looks covertly at Bucky from under his ridiculously long eyelashes, and Bucky experiences a moment of extreme joy and extreme frustration intermixed. 

He wishes he could hold Stevie’s hand on the trip home, wishes he could stand up and tell the whole goddamn train car how happy he is that he’s found the love of his life, that he can’t wait to get home to their apartment to wrap his arms around this man and keep him safe and close forever. 

Bucky stays quiet, but he feels the little nudges from Steve’s bony leg and shoulder as they’re pressed together on the hard train seats, and knows that he feels the same. He wonders about Leyendecker and how he’d looked at the model in that poster on the wall of the studio.  

All of a sudden, Bucky can’t wait to get home and be alone with his love. They’ll put their leftover cash in the cigar box on the bottom shelf of their tiny bedroom closet, and Bucky will save a nickel of that money to buy next month’s Saturday Evening Post as a surprise for Stevie. It’ll be swell to see that finished painting. 

Although not as swell as whatever Steve’s got planned for him tonight. Bucky presses his thighs together in anticipation.