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Instinct of a predator

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It wasn’t a light noise that woke Steve up. Neither was it a gentle breeze, nor a sense that he must be awake immediately.

It was actually a hell of a racket, as if somebody had struck a cast-iron radiator with a heavy metal bar. Steve sprang out of bed, sparing only half a second to shake himself fully awake and shift into soldier mode before silently moving out of his bedroom.

Nothing to report from the hallway. He crossed it with a few quick steps, then went to crack the dining room‘s door panel open a bit more. Thanks to its well-oiled hinges, the door swung open silently, revealing a figure darker than the room’s shadows. The figure froze at the door's motion, even though they were not facing the right way to have seen it move.

“Don't come any closer!” the man shouted, with a voice Steve would have recognized anywhere. It wasn’t easy though as this version was hoarser than the one he remembered, as if damaged by years of disuse interspersed with violent screaming sessions. He was about to ignore the command and cross the living room anyway when he heard a huge clonk. The man had just stuck a second magnetic handcuff to the radiator, trapping himself completely.

“Bucky ?”

The only answer to his question was a sigh. Now that he had gotten used to the darkness, Steve could see when the figure in the shadows relaxed his stance minutely. A thought made its way through Steve's mind: Bucky could not be comfortable like that. But then, both of them had known far worse.

He slowly moved closer under the pretext of turning on the lamp, giving himself time to evaluate the situation as rationally as possible. He couldn't believe this was really happening, but he was not about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Bucky. In his home. He couldn’t stay silent for long.

“What are you doing here?”

Silence was his only answer for such a long time that he wondered if his visitor had even heard the question. Bucky looked…

…like a fugitive: unhealthily thin and bearded, his hair filthy and matted, his gaze feverish and surrounded by dark shadows.

“I need help.”

Steve's old instincts immediately came back to life. He knelt to examine Bucky carefully and couldn't see any signs of injury, but the dark clothes the Winter Soldier wore could hide many sins. He would have to make sure that no bone had been broken, that no suspicious moisture was wetting the clothi—

“Don't touch me,” Bucky growled. Steve's hands froze, his fingers an inch away from Bucky's leg. “Not before I’ve told you. What I need.”

“Understood. Please tell me.” Steve then put his hands on his own knees, so he wouldn't give in to the temptation to touch. He leant forward, eager to hear, to understand, to know everything. Everything he had missed in his best friend's life, all his trials and sufferings, his joys and pains…

But more than anything else, he was eager to provide Bucky with what he needed right now. Whatever it might be, if it was at all possible for Steve to give it, he would. Bucky had come to him; it was the least he could do.

“I need sex.”

Steve blinked. He had been prepared for anything, except… that.

Bucky took advantage of his stunned silence to keep talking. “I need to… release the pressure. Don't ask me why, I have no fucking idea. I don't know if it's the cryostasis or the repeated brainwashing that disrupted something in my hypothalamus, all I know is that HYDRA provided me with girls on a regular basis and… well. That worked.”

Steve's gaze sharpened, his strategic mind awoken by the rather brief explanation. He valiantly tried to ignore his friend's tone — halfway between contempt and bitterness, with a good old dose of acidic irony — and used his captain voice to reply, the firm voice of a man used to asking direct questions and getting answers immediately. “What happens if you don't do it?”

The Winter Soldier shrugged as much as his handcuffs allowed. A few beads of sweat had appeared on his forehead and his upper lip.

“Overheating, coma, brain death. Anyway, that's what my handlers told me. I'll be honest, I never tried to go without until now.”

Steve ignored this deliberate allusion to Bucky’s past as a killing machine. He lifted his hand again and held it mere inches from his friend's face.

“Can I?”

Steve would have been hard-pressed to say if Bucky's jaw tensed as a result of suffering, irritation or something else. But at last he nodded; he then seemed to stop breathing when Steve delicately touched his forehead.

Steve jumped to his feet. “You don’t need sex, you need some aspirin! You are running a very high fever.”

“That won’t help,” was the Winter Soldier‘s answer. The end of his sentence was muffled by a cry of pain as his spine arched. “Don't you think I’ve already tried all that and more, before coming here?” he pointed out when he could finally breathe again normally.

Hearing those words hurt Steve more than he had expected. In the old days they dealt with their problems together. Always united in the face of adversity. Now… he understood what asking for his help must have cost the other man. This didn’t prevent his fists from clenching up against his thighs, furious witnesses to his helplessness to change a past that had pulled them apart — a past responsible for turning his best friend into a savage beast reluctant to get close to other human beings, close to him, unless pushed by a desperate need.

He frowned as he returned to his position next to the Winter Soldier. “Tried ‘all that and more’?”

“Drugs, frozen baths, doing it myself,” Bucky listed in a worn voice, staring at the lamp's halo before him. “Didn't work, none of it. Next time — if there’s a next time — I won’t wait so long. It will allow me to pay a girl instead of having to explain all this.”

It seemed Steve hadn’t been able to fully hide the hurt under his puzzled expression, because Bucky offered him a small, lopsided smile — a pale and misshapen shadow of the luminous grins he used to save for Steve before.

He added, “The state I’m in, there is a 99 % chance I would kill her before having done anything. Why do you think I tied myself to your radiator?”

That's when Steve really saw the state his guest was in. All the tiny details he had absent-mindedly noted coalesced into something much more dire: although Bucky’s hands were useless in their current position, they were definitely not at ease, his fingers pointed toward Steve like talons; his muscles relentlessly battling the impediment of the shackles; the constant shifting of his legs and his shortened breath; the sweat sticking his clothes to his skin.

Bucky needed him. Needed Captain America, whose body had been made strong and tough by the serum. Trusted Steve Rogers to help him while his own body betrayed him.

Steve had not yet made a conscious decision, but his fingers were already working to free Bucky from his trousers. His hard and feverishly hot cock sprung out from beneath the cloth. Steve wrapped his hand around it and, in a moment of hesitation, tested the reactions of the straining flesh between his fingers. Then his face grew resolved; he bowed his head, opened his mouth… and paused to lift his gaze to his friend's face. “Think this will work?”

The Winter Soldier tried to focus his blurry gaze on him. “I don't know,” he answered hoarsely.

A second later Steve's mouth finally closed around the Soldier's touch-starved cock; Bucky's back arched, a bitten-off moan escaping his throat as his thighs convulsively squeezed around Steve's shoulders.

Steve honestly wasn’t sure this was a good idea. But Bucky had obviously never used this kind of outlet before, so they would only know by trying.

And if this got a bit too close to some of Steve's most secret fantasies, only called upon during his more lonely nights… no one had to know, right?

His lack of experience made his gestures uncertain and clumsy. But he was aware of the theory; he had found a certain number of interesting things while 'surfing' the ocean of information that was the Internet. Everything you needed was out there if you just took the time to look for it. If there was one thing he did not regret, it was learning to use a computer.

Because, all in all, Steve had to confess that except for going through with his missions, spilling the sandy guts of his heavy bags, and catching up on his reading backlog, his evening dance card was still rather empty.

He therefore tried to apply everything he had gleaned from the Internet, along with some common sense and his own experience in what brought him pleasure and what did not. It seemed he wasn’t doing too poorly, if he was to believe the choked-back groans, moans and other half-spoken cuss words escaping from between Bucky's gritted teeth. He couldn't stop himself from feeling a bit proud, despite the unusual situation, accomplishment and excitement twining deep in his belly. He was doing this for Bucky. He was making Bucky feel this way.

The embers simmering in his abdomen suddenly flared up into a fierce inferno; he had to pause to find his breath and try to get himself back under control. One of his hands stayed firmly wrapped around the base of Bucky's cock but he pressed the other one against his own crotch; his normally-comfortable sleeping shorts suddenly felt way too tight.

A sharp intake of breath from further up let him know the motion had not gone unnoticed. Steve looked up, held the Winter Soldier's gaze without faltering and closed his lips around him again. He looked, fascinated, as Bucky’s gaunt face twisted toward a painful expression. He saw the rapid breathing suddenly halt, the abs contract under the combat clothing — and backed his head away just in time to avoid a mouthful of come. Not because he didn’t want to taste it, but he felt that swallowing the first time might have been a bit too much, even for a serum improved super-soldier like him.

 

The white strands shot out and ran down Bucky's shaft until they reached Steve's hand; he had gotten so caught up in the moment he'd neglected to pull it away. They were as hot as Bucky's body, as Bucky's arousal, which still…

…which still hadn't flagged.

Steve blinked, intrigued. He looked up when the Winter Soldier laughed; it was almost inaudible, and as dry as the desert.

“You really thought one time would be enough?“ Bucky sneered. “Not so lucky, eh?”

Steve side-eyed him. He was slowly beginning to understand how this man operated: the Winter Soldier had come to him because he had no other choice. But Steve wasn’t about to let himself be kept at a distance so easily, not now that they were both here in Steve's home.

“Quite the opposite,” Steve answered in a voice so sexually charged he wouldn’t have recognized it if it hadn’t come from his own mouth. “We are far from being done here.” Leaving Bucky no time to answer, he simply took his own sleeping shorts and his friend’s pants off.

Bucky laughed harshly. “Rogers, I didn’t think you were the kind of guy who fucked people tied to his living room radiator.”

Steve couldn't help but recoil as if his friend had physically struck him. How could Bucky, even if only for a second, think that… Wait, no, this was just Bucky's defense mechanism kicking in again. And even if it wasn’t, he was going to prove to him that he had been right to put his trust in Steve.

“I'm not,” said Steve, kneeling down again between the soldier's thighs. “And you're well aware of that.”

Steve shifted until his erect cock lined up with Bucky's, refusing to let his mind wander about the facts and circumstances that had led them to this — he would have all the time in the world to think about it later — and wrapped his hands around both their shafts.

The intimate contact made Steve shiver. Bucky's temperature was still too high, a bit less now, but definitely still feverish compared with Steve’s. He wanted to touch Bucky everywhere, put his hands all over his skin. But would Bucky ever let him in like that? Steve didn’t even know if his friend felt any true desire for him, or if this was all just the expression of a physical need that Steve was best equipped to satisfy. A long time ago, he’d had a sliver of hope that Bucky felt the same, had dared to dream. But then, before they could sort anything out…

“People change,” muttered Bucky, pulling Steve back from his memories.

“I didn’t. At least not about this,” Steve amended, purposefully not dwelling on the bitterness in his friend's voice.

To shut Bucky up, he started stroking them, and had the pleasure of seeing the Winter Soldier’s eyes roll back a bit, a strangled groan stuck in the back of his throat. Despite being distraught and unhealthily thin, despite the aggressive words he had hurled at Steve up 'til now, Steve still found Bucky… the word “beautiful” seemed too small to express everything Steve felt for this man. He bit his own lips to hold back any inanity at the crucial moment and focused on bringing them both to orgasm. He had some experience in this area, at least, and although the presence of a second cock against his own forced him to adapt a bit, it was also an undeniable source of pleasure. Bucky was panting and rocking his hips to better follow Steve's motions: the view was ineffably erotic. Steve wondered what it would be like to sink into this warmth, or to welcome this scorching hot cock into his own body… his climax overcame him, destroying his ability to think for a moment.

When he returned to himself, he peeled off his shirt and used it to wipe them somewhat clean. Bucky had come, too—the evidence was sticky on his abdomen—and was catching his breath, his gaze still feverish. Suddenly he seemed so far away, too far away; the distance between them, now more than ever, was unbearable.

Steve leaned forward with a hand against the radiator and caught Bucky's gaze. "Our first time should not have been like this," he whispered.

With a muffled groan the Winter Soldier hit the back of his head violently against the radiator. Steve's face contorted in sympathy. He had never liked to see anybody suffer, but — because it was Bucky — this was a thousand times worse.

“Don't talk about things that are no longer relevant,” Bucky thundered. “This is not the time to stop and chat. We aren’t done here, you said it yourself earlier.” Bucky deliberately arched forward, rolling his hips to let Steve feel his cock; it was already getting hard again.

Steve held him down with a hand on his hips. “Oh, I've got no plan to stop. But I'm not going to ‘fuck’ you as if you were a thing at my disposal. I can't do that, Bucky, I…”

“Do whatever you want,” interrupted the soldier. “I ain't hardly in a position to ask for nothin' different. Just keep doing it, dammit!

Steve dropped his head for a second, worried at his lip, then looked up to catch his friend's feverish gaze.

“Can I kiss you?”

“What is it you didn’t get in: ‘Do whatever you want’ ?”

Steve shook his head, unwilling to compromise on this. “Just ’cause you’re wearing handcuffs doesn't mean that you don't get a say in what I do.”

The shaky sigh escaping the Winter Soldier's lips took Steve by surprise, but the words following after it made his heart clench. “Steve, don’t do this to me. Don’t make me believe.”

“Believe what?” Steve whispered and slipped his hand under Bucky's tangled hair to cup his neck.

“That you are doing this for any other reason than honor and the memory of who I was before.”

Steve kept silent as he gathered his thoughts and then took a deep breath.

“Do you remember our last mission together? The Alps, and the train?”

Bucky pulled a face, but his answer lacked any kind of animosity. “It took some time, but eventually… yes, it all came back to me.”

“The day before that mission, I wanted to speak with you. You looked at me and told me to save it until we got back.”

Bucky clenched his fists and closed his eyes. “Yes, I remember,” he said in a toneless voice.

Steve carefully pressed his forehead against Bucky's. “I never should’ve listened to you. I had a bad feeling… I should’ve told you then.”

“No! Steve, you were in love with Peggy.”

Steve, wearing a bittersweet smile, refused to let his friend change the subject. “I loved her, yes. She was strong and beautiful, the perfect woman… But ultimately, I’m happier she could live her life without me. It would have been unfair to sentence her…”

“Shut up Steve. Please, shut up. Don't tell me no more…"

But Steve relentlessly carried on through his friend's litany. "… to accomplish an impossible task. Filling the void you left in me. Right here," he said in a soft voice. He backed away a few inches. Enough for Bucky to see where Steve had just put his hand on his torso: over his heart.

Bucky violently shook his head, dismissing Steve's words and avoiding his gaze. “You can’t say that! You know what I've become.”

“I know you had no choice. I spoke with Natasha…”

Again with the dry laugh, which felt like sandpaper against Steve's naked skin.

“Oh, that’s even better. So you are aware of my full resume. Now I'm really wondering why you haven't thrown up yet.”

Steve's hand gripped the Soldier's hair and lifted his head at once. “Now listen to me, you moron. I cannot believe that you still need me to spell this out. It wasn’t you. It was the Winter Soldier. Not James Buchanan Barnes.”

“No, you listen to me,” Bucky growled. His gaze locked with Steve's, churning with rage and helplessness. “I am the Winter Soldier. All these memories in my mind, all this blood on my hands, it’s all on me. Despite everything you could ever say, I'm the one who did it all.”

“And yet, when I look at you, I only see you.”

“How can you say that? You know, intimately, what I'm capable of. Dammit, I tried to kill you!”

“You saved me.”

“Wasn’t exactly a conscious decision.”

“Doesn't matter. It's even better actually, if it was your instinct’s doing.”

“Do you know what my instinct is telling me right now?” the Winter Soldier replied. “That I could close my thighs around your neck and squeeze until you suffocate. It’s telling me exactly how much pressure I'd have to apply, and that I have enough strength and stamina to overcome even your super-soldier powers.”

“Then why don't you just do it?” Steve said. “Why have you not once tried to kill me since HYDRA fell? I'm pretty sure nobody rescinded that order, so why?“

“Stop looking for reasons where there are none. Stop trying to find a man who's not there anymore. Your Bucky is dead, Steve. He died the day you let him fall from the fucking train.”

Steve staggered visibly under the blow. But as usual, he refused to stay down. “Then it's the Winter Soldier I'll love,” he said, cupping his hands around his friend's face to give more weight to his words.

“Don't speak such nonsense,” the soldier hissed. He shook his head free from Steve's grasp. “You really think you’d be able to love an assassin? Are you fucking kidding me? You don't know what you are talking about.”

“Don't try to make me give up. You know very well that you won't succeed.”

Resigned, Bucky let his head fall back against the radiator. Yes, he did know. Steve had always been so pigheaded in the face of any and all opposition. Through thick and thin, he would always soldier on — it was part of his charm. Plus, the fool was very much capable of going on a sex strike until Bucky yielded. ‘Which would give him a significant advantage,’ the Winter Soldier thought as the embers in his belly simmered on, keeping his fever up. Indeed, he was far from having managed to put them out. Very far.

“You were always good at ignoring what you didn't like,” Bucky sighed.

“You’re probably right,” Steve answered, without a single ounce of shame. The dimples in his cheeks were showing. This particular pair of dimples had probably made more than one head turn, without their owner even intending them to.

"So you gonna carry on, or what?”

Steve’s long blond eyelashes fanned down, hiding the vivid blue of his eyes as his smile turned a bit sheepish. “Just in case you hadn’t noticed,” he whispered, “my expertise in this field is limited. So if you don't want us to run in circles here, you gotta help me out a bit.”

Despite his fever inexorably climbing up again, an amused snort managed to escape Bucky's lips. “As far as I’m concerned, you can suck me all night. I'm not gonna complain.”

“Don't you want to… try something else?”

Bucky's right eyebrow went up a bit. “You wanna take me?”

“I'd like to untie you.”

There was a moment of complete silence, before the Winter Soldier answered.

“No. Way.”

Steve kept looking at him. The trust shining through his eyes felt like a branding iron to Bucky.

“Steve. I handcuffed myself for a good reason.”

“You can control the Soldier's urges.”

“I will not take that risk. And you should not even be thinking about it.”

“I trust you.”

“I said no.”

Steve surrendered to Bucky's forceful tone, but not without a sigh. “How many times again?”

Bucky took the time to really think about it, instinctively squaring his shoulders against the radiator while assessing his body's needs. “Hard to say. At least twice.”

He seemed on the verge of saying more, but remained silent. Steve therefore went on with his next question. “How long will you have, after all this, before it becomes critical again?”

“How am I supposed to know?” Bucky replied, a bit moodily. “The cryostasis was probably slowing down the process, and I was never awake long enough to count the days between two frolicking sessions.”

After a few seconds of silence, he added: “Let's say, definitely no more than three months.”

“So if I haven’t heard from you in two and a half, it'll be time for me to look for you.”

Bucky shook his head. “Steve… I’m not gonna come to you every time I need a fuck.”

“And why not?” Steve replied without hesitation.

Bucky's withering glare was the only reply Steve would ever receive.

“Is it because I don't know what I'm doing?” Steve insisted.

“Bullshit,” snapped Bucky.

“Then why not, Bucky? Tell me!”

They held each other’s gaze for a long and tense moment, neither willing to yield the slightest inch. Steve understood that a full frontal assault would not help at all when he saw a droplet of sweat roll down Bucky's temple, even as his face remained a frozen mask of irritated determination. Even worse, it kept them from actively treating the most pressing issue: Bucky's need for sex.

Anyway, the question’s moot as long as he’s handcuffed to my radiator, Steve thought.

In his eyes it was the only positive thing about the situation his friend had deliberately put himself in. The heavy metal rings were stuck high enough to prevent Bucky from lowering his shoulders to the ground, but still low enough that he could not use his arms to lift his lower body — the ideal height for hindering any and all escape attempts or aggressive attacks.

Holding back a sigh for fear it would be misinterpreted, Steve lowered his gaze to Bucky's groin. Despite their rather animated conversation, at no point had his arousal flagged. It was undeniable proof that the Winter Soldier's state was just a glitch in the system, and not something he consciously desired. While his hands curved around Bucky's erection, Steve’s heart clenched. Admittedly Bucky had come to him, because he needed Steve. Somehow, his trust in Steve was anchored so deeply that it had survived everything he had been through, had resurfaced with his memories. But this changed nothing in their relationship — their lack of a relationship. Bucky remained obstinately withdrawn.

Bucky rolled his hips to get a bit more friction and grumbled at him, and Steve remembered where he was supposed to be focused. He was not experienced enough to do this without thinking about every step, without trying to guess from the Soldier's reactions what was pleasurable for him. In the dim light Bucky's eyes appeared navy blue. His eyelids had drifted half-closed, but Steve could still see the feverish glint of frustration; how Bucky desperately sought a gratification that would, once again, most likely fade away moments after it was reached. Steve couldn’t do much to address this, could only keep offering himself and his help, hoping the Soldier’s hunger would eventually subside.

Steve’s eyes darted across Bucky’s half-naked body as he stroked him faster. He swiped his thumb over the sensitive tip and was pleased with the hiss he got in response. The show Bucky offered was, once more, having an effect on Steve's body. The relentless rhythm of his hand and its direct influence on Bucky's shortness of breath, how it made Bucky's gasp and sigh, pushed his own frustration to the back of his mind. All the more so as the Soldier's body wasn’t rejecting him, quite the opposite. It answered beautifully to every touch, muscles stretching and rolling under Steve’s fingers, cock hard and pulsing in Steve’s palm.

Intensely focused on his task, Steve felt a heated breath on his face and realised he had slowly drifted towards Bucky — perhaps unconsciously searching for a connection he was denied.

Bucky's mouth was so close now, almost within reach, his parted lips chapped, dry, and red. He must have bitten them again and again to prevent any noise from escaping. They were still as full as Steve remembered them and all of a sudden he absolutely had to know.

“Bucky?”

"What?" Bucky grunted, in a tone definitely not conducive to further talking.

"You know you didn't exactly answer my question earlier?"

The soldier frowned, struggling visibly against pleasure to find a bit of coherence while also trying to remember which question he had not answered.

"When I asked you if I could…" Steve clarified.

"And I told you," panted Bucky, "to do whatever you wanted. You won’t get… a better answer… out of me.”

"That's not exactly an answer."

"Deal with it."

Steve let his forehead fall down against Bucky's. "You really can't help yourself, you have to screw with me."

"I’m only trying to keep you from making foolish decisions."

"I don't see what's foolish here."

"You don't see the foolishness of hanging on to old things?"

"You’re in pretty good shape for an old thing."

"Steve…"

This was the tone Bucky always used in the old days, whenever he found out that Steve had stood up to a guy four times bigger than him, or had tried once again to join the army. A tone of resigned but protective affection, mostly irritated by what he regarded as foolishness coming from his friend, the little guy whose spirit and heart had always been so much bigger than his frail body.

Steve hadn’t been a skinny little guy for a long time now, but Bucky had always found it hard to break old habits. This hadn’t changed…

“You don't have to protect me from yourself,” Steve whispered.

“Well if I don't do it, who will?”

Steve's answering smile was tender as he slowly shook his head. After that his gaze turned serious. He slid his hand to the nape of the Soldier’s neck and gently fit their mouths together.

For what seemed like an eternity Bucky didn’t react, frozen by… shock? Steve didn't really want to think about it so he closed his eyes and pressed his lips more firmly against Bucky's. Steve had not shared many kisses in his life and most had taken him by surprise; he had no idea how to proceed from here. But Bucky seemed to quickly regain his senses and helped by taking control of the kiss. This meant Steve could now re-allocate some brain power to his own hand's motions — though damn! Bucky was kissing him back! — and he felt his friend open his mouth slightly and groan in pleasure while Steve found a good stroking rhythm again. Steve took the opportunity to try and slip his tongue between Bucky's lips. He felt Bucky's breathing speed up, his muscles tense and then heard a low whirring sound: Bucky was unconsciously feeding power into his bionic arm. Steve spared a quick second to hope his wall would hold up.

All these considerations fled his mind as Bucky came for the third time. With a touch of regret Steve lifted his mouth from Bucky's, to really look at him and burn the whole scene into his memory. He didn't know if he would ever see him again like this. If he would ever see him again, period.

Thus he wasn’t ready at all to hear the Winter Soldier roar and see him bang his head against the radiator, again. Steve frowned and brought his hand up from Bucky's neck to cup the back of his head, protecting it from the metal in case Bucky felt the need to repeat that damn movement. "Stop doing that."

"It's not enough," hissed the Winter Soldier, ignoring the admonition. "Your hands, they aren’t… it's not enough. I need more, I need something else."

"What do you mean 'something else'?

The soldier lowered his gaze and his face closed down.

"I need… a girl."

Steve would have been unable to say which one of his emotions was the strongest. His drive to fulfill his friend's need by himself or his disappointment at not being able to do so? Maybe the jealousy twisting in his gut as he imagined those arms hugging a female body — or any body that was not his own — or even his protective instinct torn between doing anything and everything in order to give Bucky relief, and keeping him away from SHIELD’s and Fury's clutches? All this was swirling inside him and battling to gain the upper hand; in the meantime he was reduced to silence.

Bucky took the opportunity to think out loud. "There’s probably a huge psychological part, I don't see how else that’s supposed to… It must be connected to my programming. Maybe a need to establish my dominance or something like that.”

These words shook Steve out of his stupor. "What are you talking about?"

"Steve, I'm a predator," Bucky sneered. "I go out, I kill my prey, I come back to my den."

"You aren’t, not anymore," Steve argued.

"Ya think so? The programming’s still holding up well. That’s why we’re here right now."

"Are you sure about that?"

"I don't see any other possibility. Otherwise it means they used to give me something to stop the overheating — and without it my goose is cooked. Literally.”

"This isn't the time to be witty," Steve sighed. "If I have this right, you have to… to sexually dominate somebody to satisfy the predator's instinct?"

"Maybe."

"Maybe? Buck…"

"I already told you, this is the first time it’s happening to me outside of HYDRA. I don't know what's happening, I can only… analyse the situation and hazard some guesses."

"Ok, yeah." Steve held his hands up to signal his understanding. "But can you explain what makes you think that's the reason?"

The soldier rolled his shoulders in an attempt to alleviate the stiffness in his muscles.

"The first time," Bucky replied, "it was… it worked better. When you did it with your mouth. And I don't remember needing to come so many times with the girls. At first I thought it might have been linked to how long it's been since the last time, but it could also be because of the acts themselves."

Steve nodded to show his understanding and to encourage him to keep talking. Bucky grimaced slightly, straightened up against the radiator in order to find a more comfortable position— without much success.

"They always looked… submissive. Terrified even. They seemed afraid I was gonna hurt them, but I wasn't looking for that. They weren’t targets, so I didn't have to…"

He took a deep breath, shook his head. And seemed to find an anchor in the hand Steve had laid on his knee.

"Then these cuffs really aren’t helping."

"Steve, we've already talked about this."

"And I haven't changed my mind. If you wanted to kill me, you could have done it by strangling me as you described earlier, or by tearing out my jugular with your teeth, or a hundred other ways. You came to me because you know that I can overcome you, that you can't hurt me without really meaning to. And Bucky's heart will help you fight against the Soldier's instincts. Am I wrong?”

Steve considered Bucky's muted groan a confirmation. He thought about Natasha, about her unobtrusive and unfailing friendship, and everything she had told him about the Winter Soldier.

"If it's a girl you need, I'll find you one." Steve forced himself to add. "But, Bucky… can't you do that with me?"

The soldier looked at him wide-eyed, his mouth hanging half-open.

"You… do you even know what you are asking?"

"To let you in? Allow you to dominate me? I can do it.”

The quiet confidence in Steve's voice was almost enough to convince Bucky. Steve pressed his forehead to Bucky's; the last stroke came when he softly whispered, “Do you really need me to describe everything I'm picturing us doing right now?”

Bucky felt the heat coming from his friend's flaming cheeks, felt how Steve's breath had grown heavier, and couldn't ignore the tension in the hand still cradling his neck. He lowered his gaze and right there was the ultimate proof that Steve was indeed having really naughty thoughts. And he had known for a long time that Steve’s body was the one most likely to resist the Soldier's onslaught — even if Steve was the last person Bucky wanted to hurt. He therefore closed his eyes and concentrated on his next exhalation… a surrendering sigh. "My pants. The keycard's in the left cargo pocket."

Steve immediately moved toward them to fish out the precious card.

"I hope we won't regret this," Bucky couldn't keep from muttering.

Two metallic clicks and a few seconds later, he was massaging his right wrist and flexing his muscles, both natural and mechanical. He didn't have time to change his mind; Steve was already holding out a hand to help him get up. Then Steve, still naked as the day he was born, guided him to the bedroom.

Steve paused there, faced with the bed, and hesitantly looked at his friend. Bucky was finishing his examination of the room, identifying the exits, the structural weaknesses, any potential weapons, before coming back to rest his gaze on Steve himself.

"If you wanna change your mind… it's now or never," Bucky said in a relaxed tone, belied by the way his fingers clenched around Steve's hand.

Steve’s answer was a shake of his head and a tightening of his own fingers, before he released Bucky's hand and sat down on the mattress. He watched the Winter Soldier bite down hard on his own lip. Steve admired the play of his powerful muscles as the man finished undressing and watched him climb onto the bed like a lean jungle cat. He felt his own heartbeat speed up in an instinctive and age-old reaction, felt his emotions morph into excitement as he retreated toward the wall at his back and spread his legs to welcome his friend's body. It would’ve all been very confusing to him, had he taken even the smallest moment to think about it, but Bucky burrowed his face into the curve of Steve's shoulder, his body pressing Steve's into the mattress. Steve could have pushed him away easily but he had no such desire; he’d had more of Bucky in the last hour than during the last nine decades, and yet it was still not enough. He wanted everything his friend would give him. A ravenous hunger gripped his chest and left him panting for more.

"Hey, you know how this works, right?” Bucky asked, his breath hot against Steve's shoulder. His deep voice felt terribly intimate to Steve.

"Broadly speaking, yeah.”

That answer made Bucky raise his head and Steve shivered under his fierce gaze.

"You've never done it."

It wasn't even a question. Expressions were flickering across Bucky's face too quickly for Steve to figure them out.

"I don't see how that’s a problem," was nevertheless Steve’s answer.

Bucky opened his mouth, closed it again and gave a little sigh. "Might as well keep going…"

He took a few seconds to consider the situation, his gaze lost in the distance, and then nodded as though he'd reached a conclusion. Leaning on his metal arm, he used his other hand to touch Steve everywhere with long, deep strokes. Not a single place on Steve’s body, neither curving muscles nor angular joints escaped his focused and careful consideration. Steve tried to stay still, but soon his body began moving of its own accord to follow the contact, seeking it when it faded away. He tried several times to give back at least part of what Bucky made him feel but his friend’s only reaction was to pin him down with a look and a hand on his chest. Every time, Steve willed himself to relax as much as possible, and while his breathing stayed short he tangled his fingers into the blanket to keep them from digging into Bucky's skin.

"Why," Steve had to ask, "are you doing this?"

"Because I can," Bucky answered him, leaning forward and, finally, sucking on Steve's adam's apple. "Because you are at my mercy," he added, his lips whispering the words directly against Steve’s skin, making him shiver.

Now that Bucky had put his lips on Steve's body, he no longer seemed to want to leave it, and Steve certainly wasn't going to complain. The metal arm was right there beside his head, an immovable support, so Steve curled his fingers around the cold wrist and buried his other hand in the dark hair tickling his torso. It was a fantastic feeling, offset only by the delicious sensations Bucky's tongue delivered.

"I'm at your mercy," Steve reminded him, his thinking not yet fully dulled by lust. "So why are you giving me pleasure instead of taking what you need?"

He got told off in the form of a sharp bite, but Bucky didn't drive either of his hands away. "What makes you think,” he muttered against Steve's ribs, "that you know what I need better than I do?"

Since Steve didn't feel like answering, the Soldier lifted his head and came back up the bed to meet his gaze head on.

"Maybe I need to make sure you're fully prepared to accept everything I could do to you."

"You don't have to make sure. I am ready."

Something that could have passed for a ferocious smile stretched Bucky's mouth. "Says the guy who’s never spread his legs for a man."

"It's not a matter of experience but of trust."

Bucky narrowed his eyes and reached up to bury, none too gently, his metal hand in Steve's hair. He looked aggravated enough to want to shake Steve.

"How many times will I have to repeat that you cannot trust me?"

"You know I'm a real stubborn kind of guy."

"And an idiot."

"I never pretended otherwise."

"Turn over."

Steve obeyed immediately and without reservation, following Bucky’s silent encouragement to get onto his knees. He shivered when the metal fingers grabbed his hip; the hand stroking his back inched lower and lower. If Bucky hadn’t held him tightly Steve would have jerked in surprise when he felt something warm, wet and very agile — a tongue?! — dart in between his cheeks and light a fire in his loins. He heard the sound of torn fabric and it took him a few seconds to realize that he was shredding the bedsheet between his clenched fingers; he wouldn’t have been able to relax them enough to save the rest of his bedding even if his life depended on it. Leaning on his forearms he let his head fall down between his shoulders and tried to get back a sliver of control over his body.

That's when the metal hand left his hip to slide along his groin and delicately close down on his cock. It was a strange feeling: the metal had been warmed by the contact with his skin but it still felt very much inflexible. It was very different from the sensations provided by an organic hand, but it wasn't unpleasant. Far from it.

Bucky obviously didn't want him to have any kind of control. Steve had always hated being at the mercy of anybody, given his past as a skinny little guy that no bully had ever spared— he suspected the Winter Soldier had used those exact words on purpose. Had it been anybody else, it would have killed Steve's excitement. But with Bucky… honestly, Steve had to admit that not having any control at all was having an incredible effect on him. And this effect was only added to by the acute awareness that it was something Bucky needed

Just like the rest of his body, Steve's voice was no longer under his control. Sounds spilled out of his mouth — a mix of inarticulate noises, Bucky, and God yes — each time the devilish tongue moved, sending shivers of pleasure up his spine. He was so very, very close once again to coming — when the sensation disappeared altogether, tearing a frustrated growl from him. The mattress moved under him as the Soldier shifted positions. Was he going to…

Disappointment warred with relief when Steve felt a single finger slowly push inside, the feeling so alien that for a moment he wasn’t even sure if he was supposed to appreciate it. That question was soon chased away — like so many others since he awoke to the sound of shackles on his radiator — by the fact that this was about his best friend. And there wasn't much he would refuse to do for Bucky.

(Also, the pleasure this brought him was just the icing on a fantastic cake, a delicious reward that encouraged him to give more and more.)

(And the maddening pace of that metal hand, which made him want to gnash his teeth and rock his hips just to get more, encouraged him even further to accept the Soldier's touch.)

One finger became two; when Bucky started pushing a third finger in Steve winced but forced himself to relax. He was helped along by Bucky's mouth going up his spine, nipping teasingly at his shoulder blades.

"You wanna stop?" Bucky whispered against his skin, voice so low that had Steve not been absolutely focused on everything Bucky was doing, he would have missed it.

"No," he answered in the same tone.

He didn't want to stop. Because it was what the Soldier needed, and if this was the only time Steve ever saw him, he wanted the memory of it to be the most complete and intense possible.

A groan escaped him when he felt the flesh and the metal leave his skin at the same time. He closed his eyes and waited. Both of Bucky's hands came back to Steve’s body, gripping his butt as if their owner was afraid he was going to escape, spread him and…

Dear God, this really did not feel enjoyable.

Steve gritted his teeth, breathed in, breathed out. Exhaling helped a bit, but he couldn’t spend his time pushing air out of his lungs, he had to get a minimum of oxygen in. Bucky was going very slowly though, so slowly. It even seemed to Steve that the more his friend slowed down, the worse it felt; he was about to ask him to just go all the way in already, and stop dithering instead of spreading the moment out. That’s when the Soldier laid his hands onto Steve’s lower back, — the metal one almost the same temperature as Steve’s own skin, the other so much warmer, hot like that searing invasion, which reminded him about the reasons he was doing this.

"Relax," Bucky told him.

This single word sent heat coursing through Steve’s veins, culminating in a tongue of fire coiling in his lower belly. The mix of consideration and impatience conveyed could have explained this reaction on its own, but it was Bucky’s voice — hoarse, breathless, tense — that finally did him in.

"Keep talking to me," said Steve. The thought of hearing this voice again sent a chill traveling up his spine that had nothing to do with the discomfort of penetration.

Bucky stayed motionless just a bit too long and Steve feared he had asked too much, stepped on a deadly land mine. However, just as he was about to sit up and try to assess the extent of the damage, Bucky resumed his slow and tortuous progress.

"Coming here tonight," he whispered, still using that naked, raw voice, "I never thought we would end up like this. You've got no idea… of what this is doing to me… God, Steve…"

And suddenly it wasn’t so terrible anymore. As if Bucky's words had insinuated themselves into Steve's body, to welcome Bucky and draw him in. And never again let him go. Indeed, when Bucky pulled back for the first time, an intense feeling of emptiness overwhelmed Steve. He had to bite his fist to keep from moaning piteously. It might feel hot and uncomfortable when Bucky was in him, and he had so many contradictory feelings he didn’t know how to handle, but it still felt a hundred times better than this void. Fortunately the feeling went away like the tide as soon as the hard cock penetrated him again, with a little more confidence and strength this time, bringing with it something that was still too intense but could probably turn into blinding pleasure.

Steve was more than ready to give it a chance. He braced his head on his forearm, spread his knees so he could lower his hips a little and then pushed back when the Soldier entered him for the third time. Steve took his lover's tiny surprised gasp as a personal victory, although he didn't get to enjoy it for too long as Bucky choose that moment to plaster himself to his back. The metal hand once again slipped along Steve’s belly and closed around his neglected cock. It then started a stroking motion perfectly matched with the rhythm of Bucky's thrusts, which already had them panting and moaning.

“Bucky,” Steve called, “Bucky.”

Bucky couldn't, or maybe didn't want to answer his friend's call, so instead of making a promise he couldn't keep, he sped up, deepened his movements as much as he could. He had no idea that to Steve there was no difference; Bucky's actions meant the same as declaring out loud that he was here, with him, for him.

Steve shivered as he felt the last unpleasant sensations disappear away, erased by the fireworks that each single motion elicited in him. It was… incredible. Still, part of his brain was trying to record as many of these sensations as possible, in order to feed his heart and his libido for the rest of his life if he had to.

He would do everything to prevent that, but one could never be too careful, said the part of him that had been hungry for so long.

Meanwhile Bucky had taken hold of one of his hands, brought it back to his cock and said, in that voice that made tingles run down Steve’s back, "Your turn now."

He guided Steve’s hand for a few strokes until he found his speed satisfying. He then straightened up, gripped Steve's hips again… and pulled back most of the way before pushing back in. Even if Steve’s body was slowly getting used to having Bucky inside of him, Bucky spreading him open like this pulled a long moan of surprise out of him. Bucky watched Steve's hand speed up and goosebumps rise all over his skin. This brought a ferocious smile to his mouth and made him repeat the whole motion. Again. And again. Steve was arching his spine, his head thrown backward, completely lost in the sensations. Steve didn't know if sex was this intense for everybody or if it was specific to what his friend was doing to him. His last thought before his mind gave up was that it would ly be hard to go without in the future.

His awareness of the world around him was only gone a few moments. He came to in the exact same position, still panting, with his face pressed against the heavenly cool bedsheet. He realised Bucky now kept to shallow little thrusts in order to stay fully seated in him. He shuddered as he felt the scorching hot cock pulse at the same pace as the almost inaudible groans escaping from Bucky's throat.

Steve may not be an expert but even he could identify an ending when faced with one. Bucky would now withdraw from his body. After that, depending on Steve's luck, they would go once more, or… well, if his need had been satisfied, the Winter Soldier would leave, just as he had come.

Steve refused to let this possibility spoil his afterglow and firmly shoved that thought to the back of his mind. His muscles seemed disconnected from his will, and he wouldn't have been able to move even if the Soldier had released him — which was not yet the case. No, in fact he remained deeply embedded in Steve, silent except for his heavy breathing. And his hands still hadn’t let go of Steve's hips, his fingers inflicting bruises on Steve’s flesh which would, sadly, only stay for a few minutes.

After a while, he'd have been hard pressed to say how long, Steve felt Bucky move. His mouth, hot after their earlier exertions, delicately touched down in the middle of Steve’s back and formed a few silent words; Steve couldn't — wouldn't — guess their meaning. Bucky was no longer hot enough to justify a new embrace and Steve couldn't prevent a spark of bitter disappointment, before shame took over. He had no right to wish this fever on his friend just to keep him in his bed. That would be absolutely vile.

As Bucky finally pulled out Steve winced; the sensation wasn’t exactly pleasant anymore. When he turned around he saw Bucky getting dressed, his motions precise and mechanical, his face hidden behind his dark and messy hair.

“Buck…”

Without even looking up, the Soldier raised his metal hand to interrupt.

“Don't ask more from me, Steve. You know I can’t give you what you want.”

Steve merely sat up on his bed, keeping his shoulders low; his muscles felt incredibly heavy.

“Will you come back?”

Bucky's fingers stilled on his clothes.

”I shouldn't,” he mumbled, as if trying to convince himself.

“But you'll come back anyway,” Steve whispered.

“It's not just about you and me,” Bucky sighed. "Can you imagine the consequences if anybody realises that you are in contact with me?"

“Do you really think the consequences are any match for…”

“They should," Bucky snapped. "You are Captain America. Once you could explain away as a lapse in judgement. But if I come back…"

“Then come back for good,” Steve retorted. He kept talking even when Bucky shook his head. "Join us. Come back to me, Bucky."

“I can't,” the Soldier answered, opening the window on the balmy and clear night, into which he would disappear like a ghost. "I still have… things to do."

Steve thought about the many heads of the hydra they were still chasing, even several months after the fall of the helicarriers. He remembered all these times they thought they had followed a false trail… how often had they just been too late?

“It’s a permanent invitation,” Steve said. “There will always be a place for you at my side.”

Bucky didn't answer, though his gaze caught Steve's and held it for a few too-short seconds. Then he turned around and left. In the time it took Steve to reach the window, Bucky had already disappeared into the night, leaving Steve with the memory of his warmth as sole defense against the encroaching loneliness.

* * *

A few days later, Natasha was a guest at Steve's house for a vespertine coffee when she noticed her spoon was behaving quite strangely. It seemed it was being slightly attracted by… the wall?

Now that she was looking for it, Natasha noticed the myriad of tiny metal objects — two paper clips, three pins, a few grains of filings — sticking to the cast-iron radiator just beside her armchair. She carefully lifted her spoon, and again she observed the attraction, felt its pull with her hand. Still, there was nothing that could explain the sudden magnetization of this radiator.

That’s when Steve came back from the kitchen with the little cookies she positively adored. She had never said anything about this predilection of hers, but he always had them for her when she came by. In fact it was exactly this kind of thoughtful attention that had kept her from subjecting him to a formal interrogation. But now, after this new magnetic development, she had to know.

“Is there a link between your radiator being transformed into a giant magnet and what you've refused to talk about these last days?”

She watched attentively as he put the box of cookies down onto the coffee table with more care than necessary, before he sat down and sheepishly rubbed his neck.

“You could say that.”

Natasha took a cookie, bit into it with great delight, and listened.