Fandom: The Avengers (MCU)
Characters/Pairing: Steve Rogers/Bucky Barnes
Warning/Spoilers: Band-AU, College-AU, Pre-serum Steve Rogers
Word Count: 9000
Summary: Bucky Barnes is Winter Soldier’s lead singer. Steve Rogers is their biggest fan.
Notes: 50 reasons to have sex #27: your one chance with a celebrity.
“Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere
They’re in each other all along.”
— from “Music Master”, Rumi
“It’s pointless to try and win these things,” said Steve as Sam dialed the radio station’s phone number again. “There’s hundreds of people calling this number right now. Thousands, maybe.”
“I’ve got a good feeling this time,” Sam replied. “You just worry about the answers to the trivia questions.”
“If they ask you something I don’t know it’ll be about a different band,” Steve said.
“It’s ringing!” Sam bounced in his chair, making it roll across the rug protector, and he pushed himself back to the computer so he could mute the speakers. He said into the phone, “My name is Sam Wilson, and I’m calling to win Winter Soldier tickets!”
Steve pressed his fists to his mouth. They had tried to win tickets every year Winter Soldier toured, but had never even gotten through to the DJ. Stay calm, stay calm, he told himself, but still checked his jeans pocket to make sure his inhaler was within reach.
Meantime Sam was nodding eagerly, and said, “I’m ready. Fire away.”
Steve watched Sam, biting his lip. Sam listened to the phone, his eyes wide, and then gestured to Steve like he was sawing off his arm.
“Car accident when he was seventeen,” Steve whispered, and Sam said triumphantly, “Bucky lost his arm in a car accident when he was seventeen!” He pumped his fist with triumph and said, “Okay, question two. I’m ready.”
His eyes grew wide and he shook his head at Steve. Steve made a “What?” gesture with his hands, and Sam tucked the phone between his jaw and shoulder so he could mime banging on drums.
The band’s drummer — Natasha — hardly anybody knew anything about her. She was as mysterious as she was hot, and everybody knew how many “Hottest Musicians in Rock” and “Most Beautiful Women in Music” types of articles she’d turned down. Objectively, Steve agreed that she was amazing to look at, but his daydreams about kissing someone in Winter Soldier weren’t about Natasha.
“Natasha started playing drums when she was four?” he whispered, hoping it was the right answer to whatever question the DJ had asked.
Sam scowled at him and said, “When she was four,” in a determined voice. He broke into an enormous grin and pumped his fist again. “Bring on question three.”
Steve bounced on Sam’s bed and then wrapped his arms around his legs to keep himself quiet. Sam listened closely to the DJ, then held up one finger to Steve.
‘What?’ Steve mouthed impatiently. One could mean anything! Their first number one, their first song, their latest number one, their first mainstream album?
Sam made a one more emphatically, and Steve whispered, “Their first album was called War and they released it independently, their first number one was ‘Wash Away,’ and their first single was called ‘Trains.'”
Sam made a face at him. “Trains,” he said, and then burst into an even bigger grin and yelled, “Yes! Hallelujah! Thank you, thank you!”
Steve started jumping on the bed as Sam gave the DJ his name and wrote down the information he’d need to collect the tickets and backstage passes. That didn’t last long — any kind of exertion never lasted long — and Steve let himself fall onto the bed and got his inhaler out of his jeans pocket. He took a deep breath of it, and then grinned at Sam as Sam flopped onto the bed beside him.
“We’re seeing Winter Soldier,” Sam said, and they both burst into giggles.
The night of the concert, Sam and Steve were met by a representative from the radio station, a pretty brunette named Peggy. She gave them their backstage passes on lanyards and took them through the arena’s enormous halls to the stage. “Don’t be disappointed if you don’t have much time to talk to the band before the show,” she said as they walked up a staircase to the main hall. “There’s still the meet-and-greet afterward, and they make an effort to talk to contest winners. Have you seen Winter Soldier live before?”
“I have,” said Sam. “My man Steve hasn’t yet.”
“Are you a new fan?”
“Oh, no,” Steve said. “I’ve been listening to them since the beginning. I have all the indie 45s and their albums and everything. Something’s always come up when they’ve been in town.”
“Usually hospital-related things,” Sam put in.
Peggy looked curious, so Steve sighed and explained, “The last time Winter Soldier did the Fourth of July festival, our friend Tony bought tickets as a present for my birthday. Then the day before I had an asthma attack that put me in the hospital and I missed the show.”
“The rest of us went,” said Sam, “but it wasn’t the same without Steve.”
“Aw, you’re making me blush,” Steve said, and they elbowed each other until Peggy rolled her eyes as if to say, “Boys.”
They had to be frisked by security before they went farther inside the arena. Steve had an old Army surplus map case that held his sketchbook and pencils, a CD and one of their first 45s for the band to sign, drawings to give the band, and his inhaler, which got a skeptical look from the security guard. Steve took a copy of his prescription from another pocket of the case and gave it to the guard. “It’s so my lungs don’t strangle me to death,” he said wryly, and the security guard cracked a smile and gave the inhaler and map case back.
“I still don’t get why you brought the sketchbook,” said Sam as they were led backstage. “Do you really think you’ll have time to draw anything?”
“I always bring the sketchbook. You never know when you’ll see something you’ll want to draw.” He slung the strap across his chest so he wouldn’t have to worry about it falling off, and moved the inhaler to his jeans pocket.
With a, “Have fun, boys,” Peggy put them in the hands of an assistant, who took them to a part of the backstage area where they could watch the show and not get in the way. There were roadies and managers and staff rushing here and there, with bottles of water and towels and bowls of fruit. TMZ had posted the rider for the tour a few months before, and it was standard stuff except for the request that all food be cut small so it could be eaten with one hand.
The opening act was a local band. Winter Soldier always tried to hire local musicians for their opening act, since they’d gotten their start as a bigger band’s opening act themselves at the city’s yearly Fourth of July music festival. The band was good enough that most of the crowd was responding with enthusiasm, but Steve was impatient for them to finish and Winter Soldier to come on. He and Sam were joined by more contest winners from other stations as the evening progressed, and even though Steve usually had a hard time finding things to say to strangers it was easy to talk to fellow fans, to gush about the band and make lists of their favorite songs. Everyone agreed with Steve that “Trains” was awesome and they hoped the band would play it tonight — they didn’t always, according to everyone who had seen the band live before, which was most of them. Some of them had even seen the band when they first started, when they were playing clubs and school proms, and they all were astonished that this was Steve’s first time and had to tell Steve what to expect from the show. They always do two encores, one boy said knowingly, and another girl added that if Bucky was in a good mood he and Clint might do an acoustic song or two like before they were famous.
“Do you ever wish you could have seen them when they were still touring clubs?” Steve said to Sam.
“Sure. It would have been awesome to say you saw them before anybody else knew who they were. But we’re here now and that’s amazing.”
“Is it ever,” said Steve, and they both fell silent as the opening act took their bows and left the stage. The roadies began to set up Winter Soldier’s instruments, and Sam grabbed Steve’s arm.
“Look, look, Natasha’s drums.”
“And Bucky’s guitar,” Steve said at the sight of the specially-rigged instrument that Bucky could play with one hand.
“Girl drummers,” Sam said dreamily. “So hot.”
“She’d eat you alive, man,” Steve replied.
It was only twenty minutes or so — still enough time for the crowd to begin to clap and chat, “Winter! Soldier! Winter! Soldier!” when Steve glimpsed the band coming from the dressing rooms. He clutched at Sam’s arm again as they passed, all of them with determined, focus expressions that Steve supposed meant their minds were entirely on the performance to come.
The last to pass them was Bucky. Steve gripped Sam’s arm even harder at the sight of him. Bucky was smoldering and sexy in all the band’s pictures, but in person it was like the charisma came off him in waves. He wore black jeans and a black T-shirt and he had lined his eyes thickly with black liner, and he had pulled back his shoulder-length hair into a ponytail that Steve knew from pictures of other concerts would be loose again by the time they reached their encores. He looked dangerous and beautiful, like a jaguar sunning itself on a tree branch.
All around him the other backstage pass holders were cheering and yelling, but Steve couldn’t say a word. It was too much, not just seeing the band in person for the first time since he was twelve but being this close to them — close enough to reach out and touch Thor’s enormous bicep or Clint’s purple shirt sleeve — and Steve could only watch them walk past, his eyes enormous and his heart in his throat.
As if if had a mind of its own, his hand reached out and brushed Bucky’s empty sleeve as Bucky passed by.
Bucky stopped. His eyes met Steve’s. They were clear and thoughtful, a deep gray-blue, and they crinkled a little at the corners like he was about to laugh.
Steve’s fingers curled into the fabric, even though he thought, Let him go, don’t make an idiot of yourself, they’ll kick you out–
Bucky took Steve’s hand and gently removed it from his sleeve. His hand was warm and dry, and there were callouses on the fingertips, rough spots on the palm and wrist. His thumb swept over Steve’s palm.
It was like a jolt to Steve’s spine.
“Enjoy the show,” Bucky said and let Steve’s hand go.
“Okay, Bucky,” Steve breathed, and Bucky smiled and went onstage. The audience went crazy, yelling and stomping and cheering, and without a word the band ripped into “Numb.”
“What the hell, Steve?” Sam yelled above the song.
Steve shook his head and gasped, “I don’t even know,” and grabbed the inhaler from his pocket.
Halfway through the concert, Bucky said, “We’re going to slow things down a little,” and roadies brought him and Clint their acoustic guitars and a pair of stools. Clint looked amused as he tuned Bucky’s guitar and then his own, and they bantered with each other: “What are we playing tonight, Buck?” “Same thing we play every night, Clinton.”
Clint strummed the opening bars to “Wash Away,” and then Bucky said, “You know what? I feel like doing something different. Let’s do ‘Trains.'”
The auditorium exploded with cheers again, and Bucky looked out at them with a surprised but pleased smile. “Aw, you guys.”
“People love this song,” Clint said into his microphone. “I keep telling you.”
“Nothing makes me happier. This song is pretty special to me.” He perched on the stool, one leg on a rung to keep him in place, and he put his microphone into its stand so he could take his guitar. “This is for everybody who’s ever felt alone in this big, bad world. You’re not alone, and we love you and want you to hang on. Things will get better.”
Steve felt tears come into his eyes. He had the 45 of “Trains,” and he’d listened to it over and over when it was first released. When the first CD came out and he learned there was a hidden track of “Trains” at the end, he’d called Sam to tell him even though it was long past both their bedtimes.
The auditorium was nearly silent as Clint began to play and Bucky patted his guitar to keep the beat before he began to sing. Steve edged closer to the stage, wanting to see his face, and he felt his breath leave his lungs again when Bucky looked over Clint’s shoulder and right at him.
“Steve, what the hell,” Sam whispered again.
“Sh,” Steve replied, his gaze fixed on Bucky’s face. Bucky smiled faintly, looking down just enough to change the chord on the guitar, and went on singing.
When the chorus came the audience joined in, and Bucky stopped singing to smile at them in amazement. He let them carry the chorus, and as he sang the last verse he was still smiling.
By the time Winter Soldier had played their last encore, taken their last bow, and left the stage, Steve was bathed in sweat and euphoric on adrenaline. “This is the best night of my life!” he hollered in Sam’s ear as the cheering and stamping shook the arena.
“Glad you could have it, man,” Sam replied, beaming.
The band’s assistant appeared again. “Time for the meet-and-greet,” he said. “Follow me, everyone.”
All the backstage pass winners trailed after him, and Steve held Sam’s hand, feeling like they using the buddy system like on field trips at school. The assistant took them to the green room, where the band members were toweling sweat from their faces and downing water in long gulps. Other winners went straight to their favorites, cameras out and CDs or autograph books in hand, and were greeted with tired but friendly smiles. Sam went straight to Natasha, and Steve thought the look Natasha gave him was more interested than any she’d given anyone else.
Steve found an empty spot against the wall by the buffet table. He took their CD from his map case and turned it over between his hands a few times before putting it back. He felt weird and intrusive, even though the meet-and-greet was part of the winner’s package and he knew objectively he had every right to be there. He had drawings to give the band, too, portraits of every member, but that seemed stupid and childish now that they were in the same room.
The assistant — who really seemed too mild to be in the music business — appeared at Steve’s side. “How are you doing? Ms. Carter mentioned we should keep an eye on you.”
“She did?” Steve said.
“She said your health is tricky. Are you feeling all right?”
“I’m a little overwhelmed,” Steve admitted. “And everybody’s so busy…”
The assistant gave him a thoughtful look. “Come with me.”
Steve followed him, gulping with nerves when the assistant took him straight to Thor. “Phil!” Thor said. “Who’s your friend?”
“This is Steve, one of the contest winners,” Phil said and nudged Steve, and Steve mutely took the CD out of the map case again and handed it for Thor to sign.
“Hello, Steve!” Thor bellowed and signed the CD with a flourish. “Did you enjoy the concert?”
“It — it — yes,” Steve said, shaking already, and Phil put his hand on Steve’s back and told Thor thanks. “Wait,” he said as Phil started to guide him away. “I drew this for you.” He pulled out the drawings — carefully made on good paper — and gave Thor’s portrait to him. “For you to keep.”
“Oh,” said Thor, his voice lower and awed. “This is fantastic. Thank you.”
Steve remembered to say, “You’re welcome,” and let Phil guide him first to Clint, and then to Natasha. Clint thanked Steve for coming as he signed his name to the CD and was just as pleased as Thor at his portrait, and Natasha smiled at him like she knew his secrets before signing hers.
Steve had to have a suck on his inhaler after that, and Phil watched him with concern, and then gestured to one of the roadies to bring a folding chair. “Here, sit down, Steve.”
Steve sank into it gratefully and had another dose of his inhaler. “I’m okay,” he said when he could breathe again. He looked around for Sam, who had made his way back to Natasha and was sitting at her feet, his flirting face on and his hands gesticulating freely as she leaned down to talk to him. He beamed when Natasha showed him the picture Steve had drawn, and he gestured to Steve proudly.
“Ready to meet Bucky?” said Phil, and Steve gulped and nodded.
He expected Phil to take him to Bucky, but instead Phil said, “Wait right here,” and came back a minute later with Bucky in tow. “This is Steve,” Phil told Bucky and then melted into the crowd again.
“Hi,” said Bucky, pulling over another folding chair to join Steve. “Phil said you needed to be off your feet.” His voice was warm and easy, and his eyes were kind as he looked at Steve.
“Hi,” Steve whispered, blushing. “Hi.”
“Did you enjoy the concert?”
“I thought it was amazing,” Steve said sincerely. “I’ve never seen you live before. You’re incredible.”
“Thanks,” Bucky said. “We love performing live.”
“I loved it. And I’m so happy you played ‘Trains.’ I love that song so much.”
“We don’t play it often,” Bucky said. “Tonight it felt right.”
“I’m so glad it did. Oh!” He gave Bucky the CD. “Would you sign this? I’ve got the rest of the band, too.”
“Sure.” He had Sharpies hanging from his lanyard, and took one to sign his name on the inside cover, the CD balanced on his knee like he knew exactly how to do this. Steve hardly noticed the missing arm in pictures, but it was obvious now with Bucky by his side, the stump visible beneath the hem of Bucky’s T-shirt sleeve.
“You inspire me,” he blurted out, and Bucky looked up at him. “I mean, you wanted to be a musician and a lot of people would give up on that dream after losing a hand but you didn’t give up, and — and — I’m going to be a comic book artist and I’m not going to let anything stop me. Like you. I mean, I want to be like you.”
“Thanks,” Bucky said, and his tone was touched and a little confused. He gave the CD back, and as Steve opened the map case to put it away, Bucky plucked out the 45 of ‘Trains.’
“Oh, wow,” he said. “I haven’t seen one of these for a long time.”
“I’ve loved the band forever,” Steve said, and Bucky smiled at him again.
“Want me to sign this, too?”
“Yes, please.” He bit his lip to keep from smiling too widely when Bucky signed the paper sleeve of the 45, and put the record back in the map case reverently. “And — and I drew this for you.” He took out Bucky’s portrait and gave it to him.
“Oh,” said Bucky, as awed as Clint and Thor had been, and he held the portrait carefully. Steve had drawn Bucky like one of his favorite photographs of him, his hair in his face, his eyes thoughtful, his chin dark with stubble. “This is amazing, Steve.”
“I draw you a lot,” Steve murmured, blushing.
“When you’re famous I can say I knew you when.”
Steve blushed deeper. “I’m not going to be famous.”
“Yes, you are,” Bucky said. He held up the drawing and said, “Hey, Natasha!”
She looked up from Sam and smiled. “Nice.”
Bucky grinned back and then gave the drawing to Maria. “See that this is stored safely somewhere, would you?”
“Sure, Bucky,” she said and gave Steve a fond look before heading off.
Steve pressed his hands to his face, blushing furiously now. “Thank you,” he managed to stammer out. “I’m glad you like it.”
“I do.” He sipped from his water bottle. “Want to come to the hotel for a while?”
“What?” Steve dropped his hands.
“We’re going to the hotel soon. Come with me.” He nodded to Natasha and Sam. “I think your friend is coming, too. She likes him.”
“I — okay.” He blushed and fidgeted with the map case. “I — you want me to draw you more?”
Bucky put down the water bottle and reached over to take one of Steve’s restless hands. “Sure. Or whatever you want to do.”
“Oh,” Steve said, and thought, Oh. This is — oh. It took only a moment for him to make up his mind — Bucky’s touch was so gentle, his eyes so friendly, his scent so delicious — that if Bucky wanted him, Bucky could have him.
“Tony is never going to believe we went to the after-party,” said Sam gleefully as they went down the front steps of the arena to the parking lot. “This night just gets better and better.”
Steve smiled, his hands in his back pockets. Of all the contest winners, only he and Sam had been invited to the after-party, and only a few groupies and other fans had been invited too. That made Steve walk taller than he ever had.
Phil had given him a card with the hotel’s name and address, Bucky’s room number and the name he was listed under. “Come right on up,” Phil had said, and there was something in his expression that made Steve wonder if Bucky did this a lot or if it was something new.
In the green room, Steve had been certain he understood what Bucky wanted — what he wanted, too — but as he walked beside Sam he wondered if he was right. Bucky might find him amusing, interesting, even — but wouldn’t a rock star want somebody else, sexy and handsome and hot? Not skinny, undersized Steve. Nobody ever wanted Steve.
They were halfway to the hotel when he interrupted Sam’s rehash of the concert with an abrupt, “How do you know when somebody wants to have sex with you?”
Sam glanced over at him. “Usually they say something like, ‘I want to have sex with you.'”
“But if they don’t say it, but you think they might be thinking it? How can you tell?”
Sam shrugged. “If they look at your mouth a lot they want to kiss you. Or if they eyefuck you — look at you for a long time, but it’s not just a cold stare.” He looked at Steve again. “Steve. Is that why Bucky invited you? He wants to sleep with you?”
“Maybe,” said Steve, looking out the window.
“Oh, God, Steve, will you think about this? Do you really want your first time to be with a guy you barely know? Not just that but a rock star? He probably finds a new fuck in every town.”
“Who says it’d be my first time?” Steve mumbled.
“You would have told me if you had done it already.”
That was true. Steve went on looking out the window, even so.
“Look,” Sam went on, “don’t feel you have to fuck him just because he’s famous. If you don’t want to have sex with him — even if you’re, you know, in the middle of it — you say no. You yell ‘no’ if he won’t stop and I’ll come get you.”
“You don’t have to look after me, Sam.”
“I promised your ma that I would, so I will.”
They drove in silence for a few miles. Steve said, “Are you going to sleep with Natasha because she’s famous?”
“I’m going to the party because Natasha is hot. Girl drummers, Steve. Girl drummers. And if all she wants is for me to rub her feet I’ll rub her feet until dawn.”
“And if all Bucky wants is to talk, we’ll talk until dawn. I’m okay with that.”
“My little man,” Sam said fondly. “Look at you, growing up.”
“Shut up,” Steve muttered, smiling.
At the hotel, all Steve had to do was give the front desk clerk Bucky’s alias, Jack Monroe, and they were allowed into the elevator. Winter Soldier had a floor to themselves, and while there was music playing and people in the halls, it didn’t seem like much of a party going on. Steve expected that, really — the band was notoriously straight edge since Bucky’s accident.
The door to Bucky’s suite was open, and Steve peeked inside. On one of the couches, Bucky and Natasha were talking cozily like the best friends they were known to be, Natasha with her legs drawn up and her feet bare, Bucky in the process of tugging off his sweaty T-shirt. Clint was in an armchair, necking with one of the groupies, while Thor had gone out to the balcony and was talking to someone on the phone. Other fans milled around the room, drinking beers and talking to each other. There were other people that Steve recognized from the green room, which he supposed were concert promoters and management.
Steve was still hovering in the doorway when Phil spotted them, and he came to Steve and Sam with a friendly smile. “Hey, guys. Come on in. Glad you could make it.”
“Thanks for inviting us,” Steve said, and Phil waved a hand like it was nothing.
“Bucky’s been waiting for you.” He turned Steve by the shoulders toward the sofa. “Have a good time.”
Steve nodded shortly, too nervous to even smile, and went to the sofa. He had to take a deep breath — wheezing only a little — and said, “Hey, Bucky.”
Beside him, Sam gave Natasha a nod and said, “Hey, girl.”
“Hey,” said Natasha, an amused but interested look on her face.
Bucky looked up at Steve and broke into a big, sweet smile. “You’re here. Hi.”
“Hi,” Steve said and swallowed. Shirtless, Bucky’s body was amazing, lean and strong, the left side marked with scars like the badges of a survivor. Steve wanted to run his hands over Bucky’s shoulders and chest, count those scars and kiss every single one. He shivered, and Bucky looked like he knew just what Steve was thinking and was thinking the same thing.
“Natasha,” he said, not looking away from Steve, “shove over, give the man some room.”
Natasha smirked and got off the sofa. “I’ll leave you boys to it.” She took Sam by the hand and dragged him to another part of the suite, and Steve took her place on the sofa. He opened the case and gave Bucky his sketchbook.
“Go ahead and look through it. It’s just doodles, mostly, practice. I’m still in art school and there are a lot of things I’m still figuring out how to do.”
Bucky looked through the pages, turning them carefully as if he was worried about smudging the drawings. “These are great,” he said. “Are these friends of yours, or just interesting faces?”
“A little of both,” Steve said, looking at the book over Bucky’s shoulder. “That one is my friend Gabe, and that’s Tony, and that’s Jimmy and Dum-dum–well, his name is James too, but we call him Dum-dum. I don’t even remember why anymore. And that’s my mom.”
“I think so, too.”
Bucky turned another page, and Steve blushed — it was one of his ideas for a comic, just a rough sketch. “And this guy?”
“A superhero. He’s — he’s kind of based on you.”
Bucky looked up at him, faintly smiling. “A one-armed superhero?”
“He has a prosthetic,” Steve said. “That’s his weapon — an advanced prosthetic arm that acts as a weapon and gives him super-strength.” Bucky was still gazing at him and Steve mumbled, “‘Cause you, you know, you didn’t let losing a hand stop you from living your dream.”
“I’m not a hero,” said Bucky. “I’m just a guy who loves music.”
Steve’s throat felt tight. “You’re my hero,” he said, shaking all over.
“Well,” Bucky murmured, gazing at him, “aren’t you sweet.”
Now or never, Steve thought, and kissed Bucky.
He thought Bucky would stop him, laugh that easy laugh Steve knew from a dozen interviews, and gently push him away and tell him it wasn’t like that. But Bucky didn’t. He put an arm around Steve and pulled him closer, and made encouraging noises when Steve clambered onto his lap and shoved his hands through Bucky’s hair and kept on kissing him. It didn’t seem to matter that Steve’s hands were shaking and he really had no idea how to kiss — he didn’t even think to open his mouth until he felt Bucky’s tongue against his lips — but Bucky kept on kissing him too, sweetly and patiently like he was waiting for Steve to get the hang of it.
“Oh, my God,” Steve whispered when they parted, and he buried his face in Bucky’s neck. “I can’t believe I just did that.”
Bucky stroked his back. “Believe it. You did.”
“Hey.” He held Steve tighter and whispered into his ear, “Don’t apologize for kissing. It’s too nice a thing to be sorry about.”
“You could have anyone you want.”
“Which is why you’re here.”
Steve looked at his face, hands on Bucky’s shoulders, and the cocky smile he expected was nowhere to be seen. “Nobody ever wants me.”
“Then I get you all to myself, don’t I?” He ran his hand up Steve’s thigh.
“Oh, you are getting so kissed now,” Steve whispered and kissed him again, and though Bucky laughed he did nothing to make Steve stop.
The rest of the party passed in a blur. Steve knew he had talked to other people, other guests, the band’s staff — but all he could remember was Bucky’s arm around his neck and Bucky’s lips, kissing his hair or his neck or his mouth; Bucky’s hand possessive, protective, on his back; Bucky looking at him like he was something wonderful as Steve got out his pencils and drew Bucky again, lingering over his scars. “Don’t draw those,” Bucky had objected but Steve said, “They’re important, they’re part of you,” so Bucky let him draw them.
He wanted to kiss every one of them. He wanted to kiss the callouses on Bucky’s fingertips. He wanted to let Bucky touch him the way no one else had or had wanted to, and he wanted to draw Bucky like he drew the models in his life-drawing class, every aspect of him, every angle.
Finally Bucky murmured something to Phil, and Phil said, “Everybody out, Bucky needs to sleep,” and the party trickled out of Bucky’s suite — Sam and Natasha together, Steve noticed, and he wished Sam luck.
Steve picked up his map case, ready to go too, but Phil said, “Bucky would like you to stay.”
He could only nod, and Phil patted his shoulder. “You still have my card? Call me if you need anything, at any time.” He glanced at the door to the bedroom, where Bucky had gone while the sitting room cleared out, and added, “But you have nothing to worry about. I’ve never heard a complaint about him.”
“Thanks,” Steve whispered, and pressed his hands to his overheated face as Phil gave him an encouraging smile and left.
Steve perched on the sofa and played with the strap of the map case, and tried to look confident and sexy when Bucky appeared in the bedroom doorway again, rubbing his face with a towel. He’d washed off the eyeliner and his hair was loose around his face, and Steve didn’t know what he wanted more, to kiss him more or draw him again.
“You’re really beautiful,” he blurted out.
“Thanks,” Bucky said with a quiet laugh. “You’re not getting nervous on me again, are you?”
“Maybe a little,” Steve admitted. “I’ve never done anything like this before.”
“Oh?” Bucky leaned against the door frame, and Steve’s palms itched with the need to explore him. “Never?”
“Well, you don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to,” Bucky said and looked away.
Steve was still for a moment, the map case strap tight in his hands, and then put the case on the sofa and got to his feet. He crossed the room to stand in front of Bucky, who looked baby-faced and vulnerable without his makeup, and like he needed someone to take care of him for a while.
He put his hands on Bucky’s waist and kissed his shoulder, and then his neck. He had to stand on his toes to reach Bucky’s mouth, and Bucky made a soft sound in his throat and put his hand on Steve’s back to steady him. Bucky’s eyes were shuttered when Steve pulled back to look at him.
Steve put his mouth next to Bucky’s ear, and whispered, “I want to do everything.”
He felt a thrill of triumph when Bucky shuddered, and without another word Bucky pulled him into the bedroom.
Kisses were good. Lazy and slow, careful. Hands were good. Bucky may have been missing one but Steve hardly noticed, Bucky’s remaining hand touched him so thoroughly. Thighs were good. Hips, legs. Bucky had a narrow waist and long legs, a body kept tight from all the energy he poured out on stage, an artist’s dream. His stomach was flat and strong, and Steve discovered he liked to lay his hand on the edge of Bucky’s ribs and feel it rise and fall with Bucky’s rapid breathing, feel it speed up as Steve slid his hand lower.
But the best thing, better than anything Steve had ever imagined, was to slide inside a hot, yearning body and to see the way it made Bucky’s face open, like every door inside him had been torn off its hinges. He thought he would gladly accept every lonely night to come in exchange for one more chance to see that look.
He left bruises on Bucky’s hips. That astounded Steve, that his hands could hold someone tight enough to leave marks.
He was gazing at them in wonder — and a little bit of worry — when Bucky said, “What is it?”
Steve lay his fingers over the prints on Bucky’s hip. “My ma once said I have my father’s hands. I don’t know if she meant it as a good thing.”
Bucky looked at him a moment, then took his hand and kissed his palm and said roughly, “These are good hands, I like these hands,” and even though Steve thought they were done for the night they weren’t, not even close.
“You haven’t used your inhaler once,” Bucky said. “Should I be insulted?”
“No,” Steve said, eyes closed, smiling, blissful. Maybe it was the endorphins, maybe it was how relaxed he felt, maybe it was that Bucky was so careful with him, maybe it was the long, luxurious kisses that made Steve feel like time slowed to a stop. Whatever it was, for once his body wasn’t fighting him. He breathed in from the bottom of his lungs, his diaphragm expanding under his hand, and breathed out slow and deep. “Who knew the cure for asthma was orgasms?”
“Oh, so this is medicinal,” said Bucky and tackled him, kissing him while Steve laughed and tugged him closer and ran his hands over Bucky’s skin, so happy he felt like another person.
“Sometimes I think about getting a prosthetic,” Bucky said.
They lay sprawled on the enormous bed, whispering even though there was no one around to disturb. Steve loved the intimacy of it, lying with his chin on his folded hands so he could watch Bucky as they told each other things no one else knew — like how Steve’s only memory of his dad was blurry and rapidly fading but involved Joseph Rogers tossing him into the air and then catching him, and so Steve thought maybe Joseph loved him a little; how Bucky remembered nothing of the accident and could only piece together what happened from what the doctors and police told him, and how his mother had been so ashamed of him that she wished he had died.
We’re both kind of broken, Steve thought.
Bucky flexed his fingers. “But they don’t make prosthetics for musicians. Not really. They’re for looks, so that regular people don’t get uncomfortable.”
“And you’re not a regular person?”
“I am highly irregular.”
Steve smiled, then asked, “Do you ever get phantom pain?”
“Yeah. All the time.”
They both were quiet, and then Bucky laid his hand over Steve’s face like a mask. “Would you like me better if I had two hands, even if one was fake?”
“No,” Steve said, “I like you plenty now,” and laid his hand on top of Bucky’s. He licked Bucky’s inner wrist and Bucky hummed, his hand sliding around to cradle Steve’s face and turn it to his. As tender as Steve’s lips were, as much as his jaw ached, he opened his mouth to kiss Bucky back, craving his kisses like water and air.
“You should sleep,” Steve said as he drew — Bucky’s soft mouth and hazy gaze, the lines of his body lazy with satisfaction.
“You should stop drawing me if you don’t want to keep me awake.”
“Oh, so this is my fault?” He grinned at Bucky.
“Kid’s got a mouth on him,” Bucky observed. “I never would have thought, with that innocent face.”
“A mouth and a temper,” said Steve, “both of which I keep in check until called upon.” He tapped the end of his pencil on the tip of Bucky’s nose. “So mind your manners, boyo.”
“You’re no longer in awe of me,” said Bucky. “I think I like it. But if I have to sleep, so do you.”
“I will,” Steve said. “When I’m done drawing you.” The pages of his sketchbook were filled with pictures of Bucky now, the curve of his back as he scrubbed his thighs with a washcloth, his hand on the frets of his guitar, the curve of his eyelashes on his cheek. He’d never get a chance to draw Bucky this close up again, and he wanted to use it as much as he could.
Bucky grunted and rolled over, and Steve laughed and flipped to a fresh page. Bucky’s shoulder, this time, and his messy dark hair and the smooth line down his back to his ass and thighs. “Your body is perfect, did you know that?” Steve said and Bucky chuckled. “You have amazing proportions.”
“Don’t lie — you wanted to fuck me just so you could draw me.”
“I wanted to fuck you because I wanted to fuck you,” Steve said, with a slight shiver. It felt strange to say it so casually, to admit to having desire. Even his friends tended to treat him like a child because of his size, like he didn’t have things like a sex drive, like he didn’t occasionally look at someone and wonder what they tasted like, how they’d feel in his arms. “I’m drawing you because — well, because I want to draw you.”
Bucky looked at Steve over his shoulder, and Steve sketched that, rapid and simple, in the corner of the bigger drawing. “You really are an artist, aren’t you?” Bucky said. “You drop everything to draw. I’ve dropped everything to write a song — forgotten to eat, lost track of time, the whole thing.”
“I hope so,” Steve said. “I’m trying to be.”
Bucky chuckled again and lay his head on his arm, his back to Steve. “Okay. Draw me as much as you want.”
“Thanks,” Steve murmured and went on drawing.
When Steve finally put his pencil down, the point completely worn away, he stretched his arms over his head and put the sketchbook back in his map case, and lay behind Bucky like they were spoons. Bucky moved closer to him, and Steve leaned his head against Bucky’s shoulder and lay an arm over his side. He whispered, “I don’t want this night to ever end. I know it has to, but I want to put it off as long as I can.”
He thought Bucky was asleep or nearly there, when Bucky rolled over so they were face-to-face and said, “Okay. It won’t end.” He kissed Steve and Steve stroked Bucky’s stubbly cheek and kissed him back, lazy and sleepy and warm.
Steve propped pillows behind him so he could breathe easily, like he did most nights, and Bucky fell asleep with his head in Steve’s lap. Steve knew he should sleep too — it was so embarrassing to fall asleep in class — but instead of sleeping he watched Bucky and combed his fingers through Bucky’s thick hair.
The phone rang at seven-thirty, as pale morning light began to show under the thick curtains, and Bucky snorted awake and picked up the receiver with a brusque, “Yeah.” He rolled his eyes and hung up again. “Wake-up call. I had the brilliant idea I’d want to get an early start today.” He eyed Steve. “Did you sleep at all?”
“No,” Steve said and got out of bed to start gathering his clothes. “It’s okay. I don’t have much going on today — just a life-drawing class at two.”
“You don’t have a job to get to?”
Steve pulled on his jeans. “I can’t keep one,” he said. “I always get sick too often and they stop scheduling me to make me quit, so I gave up on that back in high school. I have a comic blog, just a diary comic, and I make a little money from ads. Sometimes I take commissions when I need extra cash. I’ve gotten pretty good at drawing whatever fictional characters are popular at the moment.”
Bucky said, his voice tight, “Are you going to do a comic about this?”
“Yeah, of course,” Steve began, and then realized what Bucky meant and went back to the bed to kneel over him. He kissed Bucky, hands on Bucky’s shoulders, and felt Bucky relax the longer the kiss went on. He leaned their foreheads together. “I’ll do a comic about the concert. You and me — that’s between you and me.”
“Okay,” Bucky murmured. He held Steve’s waist, his thumb brushing over Steve’s hip bone and his eyelids lowering, and then he cleared his throat. “I should take a shower and get you home. If you’ve got class later you’ll probably want some sleep, and I’ve got a couple interviews and an acoustic show later, and the second concert tonight…”
“Right,” Steve said and climbed off him. He picked up his T-shirt and pulled it over his head. “I’ll call Sam–“
“I’ll drive you home. It’s no problem.”
“Can you?” He added hastily, “I mean, you haven’t lived here for a long time–“
“I got my driver’s license back a couple years ago, and I remember how to get around town,” Bucky said dryly. “Is there still a Starbucks with a drive-through on Zimmerman?”
“There is,” Steve said, smiling again, and he knelt to put on his sneakers.
Steve tried to call Sam while they waited in the drive-through line at Starbucks. Sam’s phone went straight to voice mail, so Steve said, “I’ve got a ride home, so you stay and enjoy yourself as long as you want. Talk to you later.” Bucky gave him an amused glance when he put his phone away, and Steve said, “Does Natasha do that a lot?”
“Not really,” Bucky said. “Not with boys, anyway. She must really like him.”
“Huh,” Steve said. “Well, he’s a good guy. I don’t think she’ll regret it.”
“I doubt she will. Natasha doesn’t do regret.” He glanced at Steve again. “What about you?”
“No regrets,” Steve murmured. “I don’t think I could ask for a better first time.”
There was a beat before Steve realized what he’d let slip, and he gave a sidelong look to Bucky, who was now staring at him.
“Do not tell me you were a virgin last night.”
Steve felt himself blush to the roots of his hair. “Um…”
“Shit, Steve, you should have said something! Fuck.”
“I did say something. I said I’d never done anything like that before.”
“I thought you meant have a one-night stand. Fuck, Steve.”
“I didn’t want to say more,” Steve said. “I thought you’d change your mind if you knew, and when would I have the chance to be with you again?”
Bucky shook his head and inched the SUV forward.
“I won’t get weird and obsessive,” Steve muttered. “Don’t worry about that.”
“I think I’m more astonished that no one’s snatched you up before.”
“I think you see me differently than most people do.”
“Maybe I do,” Bucky said and rolled down the window to get their coffee and donuts. “God knows why.”
Steve took his coffee and one of the donuts silently. He suspected he knew, but if Bucky didn’t remember he didn’t want to say anything.
“Where are we going next?” Bucky said as he drove the SUV out of the drive-through line.
“Yeah? Nat used to live near there.” He turned back onto Zimmerman and had his first sip of coffee, then said abruptly, “Okay, ever since I first laid eyes on you I’ve felt like I know you from somewhere. Did we meet as kids? We wouldn’t have been in high school at the same time, right? Did you used to come to our club shows?”
“No,” Steve said. “You never played all-ages places when you were touring clubs, and by the time I was old enough to get in you weren’t playing clubs anymore.” He paused a moment, having a sip of coffee, and then made up his mind. “We have met, though, once.”
“When I was in junior high and Natasha still lived on Ellis Street. I was walking home from school one time and some bigger kids came after me and caught me by her house. The band was rehearsing in the garage so when they started hitting me you heard it and came out to get them to knock it off.”
Bucky pulled over and turned off the engine. He didn’t say anything as he looked at Steve, his face serious.
“This was just after your accident, I think. They laughed at you, because they didn’t think a one-armed guy could do anything to them, and then Thor and Clint and Natasha came out of the garage too and you all wiped the floor with them.”
“I remember that,” Bucky said softly. “When they ran off you had a bloody nose and we cleaned you up, and Natasha gave you some milk and cookies to help you feel better. Did that happen a lot?”
“Yeah.” Steve focused on the base of Bucky’s throat. There was a hickey on Bucky’s neck, visible just above the collar of his T-shirt, and Steve shivered, knowing he’d put it there. “Like you said, I have a mouth on me. Sometimes it gets me into trouble.”
“That’s no reason to beat up a guy,” Bucky said. “Especially someone smaller than you. Assholes.”
Steve smiled. “Sam came into my life not long after that. He helped me make some more friends, and they have no problem convincing people it’s in their best interests to leave me alone.”
“Good,” Bucky said. “So you came to the concert just to thank us, is that it?”
“Of course not. After that incident I started buying your records whenever I could. I have all the indie releases and all your CDs. I’d be your fan anyway because you guys were kind to me, but I really like your music, too. From that day, I always have.”
Bucky looked at him a moment more, moved his hand to the keys to start the engine again, and then let it drop. “Can I tell you something? ‘Trains’ is about you.”
A slow smile broke over Steve’s face. “Seriously?”
“My mom had kicked me out by then and I was living with Nat and her family. I threw myself into music — it felt like the only thing I could rely on anymore. Then one day here was this little kid with the bloody nose who kept getting back up every time he was knocked down, and that kind of stuck with me. I just never got your name.”
“Wow,” Steve murmured. “I inspired a song.”
“Yeah,” Bucky said, his voice rough, “you did.” He cleared his throat and started up the engine again, and they both were silent as he drove Steve home.
Sarah wasn’t home from her shift at the hospital yet, and Steve exhaled slowly, glad he wouldn’t have to explain why a stranger had driven him home at dawn instead of Sam after the concert. Bucky pulled into the driveway and turned off the engine again, and Steve fidgeted with the map case for a moment before he said, “Okay, here’s me, thank you for driving me home,” and opened the SUV’s door.
“Should I walk you to your door or will that make the neighbors talk?”
“I don’t care what the neighbors think,” Steve said. Bucky smiled another one of those half-smiles and got out too, and went with Steve to the front door.
He said as Steve hunted down his keys in the map case, “I suppose that means I can kiss you goodbye, too.”
“I’d — I’d like that.” He clutched the keys in his fist as Bucky held his face and kissed him, sweet and slow, and then leaned their foreheads together a moment before pulling away with a sigh.
“See you next time we’re in town, I guess.”
“Okay.” Steve took a deep breath. “I’ll come to the Fourth of July festival.”
“I’ll put your name on the guest list.” He gazed at Steve a moment more, then turned and went down the front steps. Steve unlocked the door, and then dropped his keys when Bucky shouted, “Fuck!” like he’d stubbed his toe.
“Bucky?” Steve said — Bucky stood on the walkway, halfway to the SUV, his hand shoving through his hair. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” Bucky said, “only the thought of not seeing you for three months fucking sucks. I don’t want to go three hours without seeing you, let alone waiting until fucking July. Fuck!”
“Stop shouting. That will make the neighbors talk.” He twisted the doorknob, and added shyly, “You want to see me again?”
“Yes. Fuck! You’re supposed to just be a distraction so I can get some sleep after the show — not someone who actually means something to me. Shit.”
“Gee, you really know how to make a guy feel special,” Steve said.
Bucky climbed the front steps, that feline, predatory look back on his face. “Give me your phone.” Steve handed it over, and swallowed hard as Bucky stabbed at the buttons with his thumb. “There. This is my number. Call me later and — shit. I don’t know. I don’t know what to do, Steve.”
“I’ll call you when I’m done with class,” Steve said. “We’ll figure it out from there.”
Bucky ran his hand over his face, and then grabbed Steve’s head and kissed him, hard. “I have to go. I’d rather stay, but — shit, Steve.”
“Go,” Steve said, “go on, and I’ll call you later. Cross my heart. Drive carefully.”
“Yeah,” Bucky said, pulling himself away from Steve like it physically hurt, and he climbed into the SUV and slammed the door shut. Steve stayed on the front porch until Bucky turned the corner off Ellis, and then let himself into the house.
He leaned against the door, smiling so widely it made his face ache. His friends would never believe it, and he wasn’t even sure he wanted to tell them — but Sam would want to know how it went, and he wanted to know how things had gone with Natasha —
Feeling like he was moving through a dream, Steve put his map case away, had a shower and changed his clothes. He wondered if he looked different, but his reflection was the same as it had been the day before, his hair flopping over his forehead, his body too thin to even be called slender, his cheekbones sharp under his skin. The only difference he could see was the hickey on his neck — and there were more on his chest, Bucky had not held back from using his teeth — and the redness in his lips, a sure sign that he had been kissed and kissed and kissed again.
He was making pancakes when Sarah finally arrived home, and she stood in the kitchen doorway, sniffing the air with pleasure. “Good morning, sweetheart,” she said and came to kiss his forehead. “What’s the occasion? Did you have a good time at the concert?”
“I had a great time,” Steve said, “and I felt like making my ma a good breakfast. How was work?”
Sarah sat at the kitchen table and took off her shoes. “Not too crazy. We were worried the concert would cause more accidents than usual but it was strangely quiet. I hope it’s the same tonight.”
“Winter Solider is straight edge,” Steve said, “and so a lot of their fans are, too.”
“Well, good,” Sarah said as Steve put a plate of pancakes in front of her. “I’m glad you’re a fan of something that’s a good influence.” Steve kissed her forehead and she added, “You’re affectionate today.”
“I’m happy,” Steve said, going back to the stove to make a batch for himself. He added casually, “I met someone.”
“Just a guy at the concert. We talked all night.”
Sarah said, “Well.” Steve didn’t turn to look at her, and she came to him again and slipped her arms around his waist. “If there’s someone out there who appreciates you for who you are, I’m glad you found him. Will you be seeing him again soon?”
“I hope so, Ma,” Steve said. “I hope so.”