Steve was never a drinker. Not before it stopped working on him in any real way, and even after, it was more an idle thing if it was offered, or a Hail Mary at the end of the rope if it—
Well. Steve wasn’t ever much of a drinker, is the main thing.
Which is why he’s pretty damn surprised at how much he likes the fizzy wine that’s kinda champagne, which he’s never cared for the dryness of, but kinda sweeter, which he likes, because he’s got one hell of a sweet tooth but Bucky’s the only one who knows that, who ever knew that, ‘cept his ma.
Which is probably why they’ve both got what amounts to endless glasses of prosecco, Stevie, say it with me now, not like Prosehcoeah or some shit. Fuckin’ Spehdahté, you’re never gonna live that down, punk—it’s probably because Bucky knows Steve like the back of his hand, like the beat of his heart, and so Steve’s sucking the stuff down like it’s going out of style, really.
He has to have downed a good couple glasses by now, but he never runs out when he gropes blindly for another sip, eyes blissfully closed with the cool cream-stuff smeared across his face. Doesn’t even run low.
Steve thinks he likes that.
He thinks he likes that a lot.
Steve groans; the voice startles him, not that he’ll admit it. It warms him, too, though—because that’s what Bucky’s voice always does. So he’ll take it.
“The hell you do that?” Steve asks, just a little sleepily, relaxed as he is; just narrowly missing making it a whine.
“Keep your eyes open.”
Bucky tries to swallow the snort, Steve can tell.
Steve can also tell that he only tries a little bit, and fully intends to fail at it.
“S’funny, these lids over ‘em? They just, like, stay open,” Bucky regales in a tone of a fairytale read for children. “Crazy, right?”
Really small children, too.
“Jerk,” Steve says, grabbing for his wine. “I mean, with the stuff.”
“The stuff, he says,” Bucky laments, and Steve doesn’t have to open his eyes to see the expression on his face: goddamn drama queen, that’s Bucky, and always has been. He’s probably got an open hand across his sternum to catch the earth-shaking sigh in it all.
“You mean the very carefully formulated and fortified moor mud that is sitting on your face and tingling like hell and maybe making you a little tight in your trousers, Captain Rogers?”
“Not right now.” And now Bucky clasps the palm to his chest, miming scandal. “But soon,” and his tone turns cheeky, turns sly and hungry quick as a breath, and goddamn, but Steve’s such a goner.
He takes another sip from his glass, because even if the alcohol doesn’t affect his cognition, maybe he can pretend that it’s still to blame for the flush on his cheeks—and Steve isn’t entirely sure it isn’t hot enough or bright enough to show through the moor-mud-stuff.
Bucky knows better, though, and Steve knows he wouldn’t even have to check to catch the way Steve blushes; doesn’t have to see it full-on beyond his peripherals, if at all, in order to giggle.
And damn, but Steve loves that sound: so full of life. So, so…
Nameless. Breathless. Strong and unrestrained and like cotton candy on the pier in the middle of summer and a hand cool from the water on Steve’s back, breath against droplets on his chest and the shivers that come from it: but better, so much better and stronger and more filled with bliss than they’d known even then, because they’ve seen the dark, and they’ve held the light, and they’ve grasped each other and refused to let go and—
Fuckin’ goner, just like Steve said.
Three more, though—pages, in Bucky’s latest check off of his reading list. Steve’s never been much for words, himself, save to doodle in the margins, but he’ll never say there’s no merit in them, and if pressed he’ll read a book worth its salt, so as self-edification-by-proxy for Steve (which is probably an oxymoron or something), and because he loves the sound of Bucky’s voice—and because Bucky believes in the inherent worth of literature down to his bones, and he, in turn, loves what his voice does to Steve, nine times outta ten—they’ve taken to an exchange: Bucky reads the books, and shares the last page aloud.
Steve rarely decides he needs more than that, in all honesty, but he’s read five more books than he would have otherwise as a result.
He’s also sucked Bucky off about sixty extra times, as an added bonus.
“What number’s this, again?”
Hmm, yeah. Sixty, fifty-seven. That was about right.
“Almost done,” Bucky says, voice low and warm like he knows exactly where Steve’s head’s at, and maybe—maybe ‘cause his head went there, too.
“I’m spellbound, honestly,” Steve sighs out deeply, sinking into the plush cushion beneath him. “Absolute edge of my seat, here.”
“Shut it,” Bucky warns, but it’s without any heat. “This one’s good.”
“Mmm,” and it’ll take Bucky all of a second to get to the finish, but maybe Steve’ll just doze for a second. He’s so fucking comfortable...
“And O that awful deepdown torrent!”
Steve jumps, and his eyes fly open, half-stuck with stray bits of mud-mask, and the first thing he sees is Bucky’s insufferable smirk that he loves too damn much to ever respond to in the way it deserves, which is with stern disapproval and disdain.
Steve’s pretty sure he just kinda grins and looks like a lovesick puppy in return, every time. Or so Natasha says.
And Steve had fought that for a while, then she’d taken a video. Even in tiny-iPhone quality, he can’t even pretend to deny it.
So there’s that.
“O and the sea,” Bucky continues announcing, arms spread wide, book dangling from his grasp as he quotes all theatrical and big in his chest. “The sea crimson,” and he isn’t even looking at the pages as he saunters over to the door and flips the lock, and Steve’s pulse had jumped, if only for a second, at Bucky’s interruption of the silence, but now it jumps again, and stays in the air for the promise in the click that resonates through the room, for the look in Bucky’s eyes, and what it means as a sum of the parts.
Fifty-seven then, it is.
“Sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets,” and Bucky strides from the door toward where Steve is still lying, watching Bucky like he’s a miracle unfolding, and damn if Steve ever had a chance of looking away; of ever wanting to.
“And the fig trees,” Bucky leans down and hovers over Steve’s head, his brow to Steve’s chin and grins wide, setting aside the book and capturing Steve’s lips upside-down and sloppy. “In the Alameda gardens, yes!”
He smiles broad and almost-goofy, save that Steve thinks even goofy looks gorgeously sexy and perfect on him, even beyond Steve’s own biases—he smiles and that bastard: he didn’t even manage to get moor-goop between their lips.
But like Steve said: mostly perfect.
“And all the queer little streets,” Bucky walks around him, then, and reaches for two warm towels from the rack, cleaning his face with the first before crowding into Steve’s space—has the ending memorized at a glance, courtesy of the serum—and pressing into Steve’s space, the gap between his legs where they’re spread wide and folded over the edge of the lounger he’s lying in and reaches, tender and slow as he tends to Steve’s face, pats off the dry patches of the mask against the skin, the hint of his growing erection brushing hot against Steve’s own tightening groin.
“And the pink and blue and yellow houses,” Bucky continues on, but Steve barely even hears it, for how Bucky’s leaning into him just enough, putting just enough pressure for it to waylay his mind a little bit, or a lot a bit, whatever—completely at odds and yet perfectly matched to the soft, practiced strokes Bucky uses to clean his face: intimate and heartbreakingly close, hot and cool and generous and needy and fuck.
“And the rose gardens and the jessamine and geraniums,” Bucky traces the lines of his face, each edge and curve lavished with a certain kind of reverence that Steve knows he doesn’t deserve but soaks up nonetheless. He grabs for another clean towel and finishes the job, careful to move only from the waist up, driving Steve fucking insane.
“And cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl,” Bucky cups his cheek and presses it into the material of the cloth and the touch of his hand is softer; sweeter. “Where I was a Flower,” and Bucky nips at his lower lip in the blink of an eye, leaves the taste of himself like a whisper at Steve’s mouth; “of the mountain,” and then he leans back, surveys his work, and nods.
“When,” Bucky’s eyebrows raise: a warning, a rebuke—Steve knows better than to interrupt the ending of the story, he really and truly does, but he can barely stand it. He can hardly stand not being closer.
Bucky seems to feel it, too.
“When I put the rose,” he returns to Steve’s space, Steve’s orbit again, presses his whole body down against Steve, but light with it somehow. “In my hair,”and he leans forward, buries his face in Steve’s tousled, cloth-damp hair and breathes in, long and deep, and Steve aches with it, moans unashamedly for it: “like the Andalusian girls used.”
And he takes a moment to rain kisses, soft and quick enough almost not to merit the word, on every inch of Steve’s hairline, of his jawline, of his lashes and the outlines of his lips, and Steve’s mouth parts, and steals a few pecks of his own on the way, but he’s hungry.
It’s not enough.
“Or shall I wear a red,” Bucky presses lips to Steve’s temple, holds there longer than he needs to: suddenly gentle again, but everywhere now, with everything, and not just with his lips and his hands. “Yes.”
And then he lowers himself, boneless and yet still agile, as he speaks against Steve’s lips:
“And how he kissed me.”
And Steve doesn’t need a fucking engraved invitation. Steve doesn’t need to be told twice.
And his tongue is in Bucky’s mouth before either can breath, before either one of them can speak or move except inward, forward, toward a single body that feels and shifts in tandem for knowing so deep. Bucky tastes of alcohol and coconut and dandelion greens—the tea when they arrived, the drink with the umbrella, the prosecco and all that is undeniably just Bucky underneath: strong and heady and sweet, and Steve laps it from the back of his mouth to the front, sucks his lips and traces his teeth and takes him in in every way he knows while Bucky does the same: undoes him from just the taste and the desire to taste in kind, from just the pressure and the unbridled hum of desire—everything.
Steve’s panting when they finally pull back.
“Under the Moorish wall,” Bucky murmurs, breathless, as he watches Steve with need-bright eyes; as he lifts up and straddles Steve, his thighs tight at the juts of Steve’s hips.
“And I thought,” Bucky leans in, his body flush against Steve’s so he can feel Steve’s rising-falling chest, can feel the want between his legs; “well.”
And Bucky’s looking at him with an intensity that Steve’s not sure he’s ever seen before, staring through him and in him and witnessing the life in him swim and stir and it feels like too much; it feels like everything.
It feels just right.
“Well,” Bucky starts again, his register suddenly gone low, gone caught-up with breath. “As well him as another.”
“And then I asked him,” and Bucky’s hand is trailing down, and Steve’s breath catches when he feels Bucky’s fingers dance to the vee of his legs: low, but not quite low enough.
“With my eyes,” and Bucky never breaks their gaze, doesn’t even blink, and Steve’s heart is pounding heavy, thumping hard in anticipation as Bucky watches, the evidence easy to see at his throat, he knows; as Bucky’s hand strokes, teases—
But moves to the side.
Moves to the waist.
Moves to Steve’s front pocket, and fuck. Fuck.
Steve’s heart stops, his eyes widen: he knows he’s found out, and he should have thought twice, he should have stopped to pick it up later, some other day, any other day because it’s too soon, he knows it’s too soon and now his heart’s picked up again at triple time, tripping over itself because that shape in his jeans is obvious, that shape can only be one thing, can only be what it is and he—
“To ask again.”
Steve stills. The world stills. His lips part.
There might be air in the room, but hell if he can find it.
Hell if he can find it, until Bucky’s lips quirk, and his eyes shine, and he leans in again, chest to Steve’s chest before he breathes against Steve’s mouth, soft and sweet and impossibly real:
Steve thinks for a second he’s died, probably, and this is a heaven he doesn’t deserve. Steve thinks he’s asleep, drifted off, and this is a dream.
Steve thinks he can’t possibly have heard right, except his pulse is running frantic, dancing wild, and so it’s obvious it heard something.
It’s obvious, as much as it’s more than Steve could ever hope for in this world.
“And then,” Bucky whispers, murmurs, because he can read Steve like the book he’s reciting; he can memorize and paraphrase and tease out all the meaning in Steve’s body, in Steve’s soul.
And that’s exactly what he does, now. That’s exactly what he does because Steve needs it. Needs him.
“He asked me would I,” Bucky draws him in, lets Steve’s crazy heart beat straight into his chest as his mouth settles and speaks against the unflagging pulse in Steve’s neck, each word like a caress against the pump of his blood: “yes.”
Steve moans into it; trembles. Bucky’s fingers slip into Steve’s pocket and wrap around the tell-tale box.
“To say yes my mountain flower,” and Bucky lifts the box and presses the bridge of his nose to the hollow of Steve’s throat, breathing—just breathing—as he murmurs: “and first.”
The soft creak of the box flipping open isn’t lost on him as Bucky fits the base to his palm without looking, absolute finesse, and for all the Steve wanted to ask, wanted to promise forever—as much as Steve’s fantasies about how this played out have been so very different, he thinks this is better.
“I put my arms around him,” Bucky says, as he does: wraps himself in Steve and licks soft, playful, exhilarating up his neck: “Yes.”
Steve blinks, as Bucky shifts against him, lifts up on his knees and draws Steve in.
“And drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume, yes,” and he inhales deep as he brings Steve to his chest and just holds him; holds him like the world could end and start again and they’d be here, just Steve buried in that breath and that heart: the only things that mattered.
“And his heart was going like mad,” Bucky whispers, and Steve hears the box drop, hears it hit the floor; he shudders, his breath shaky as Bucky runs his hands down Steve’s shoulders, Steve’s sides until he smoothes his left hand up against the mad heart going, flattens his palm against the torrent of it and Steve can feel it, on every swell before the beat: the outline of a ring pressed firm and dear against his skin, metal on metal and loved beyond all measure in the world.
“And yes, I said,” and Bucky drops a kiss to Steve’s chest, the tip of his tongue darting out to meet the damn-rejoicing, over-full beat of his heart.
“Yes,” Bucky breathes, and looks up at Steve meaningfully through his lashes: “I will.”
And Steve won’t know it until late, much later: but whether he means to or not, when he breathes back, disbelieving, overjoyed:
When he breathes, he finishes a masterpiece.
Although: he thinks it’s probably more accurate to say that he begins one, instead.