Happy birthday to the tremendously talented and delightful musesfool! Honey, I actually started a Bucky/Steve vid to TMBG's "Hot Cha" only to be rudely reminded how much time vidding takes. So I wrote you something instead, and the marvelous angelgazing did a stellar beta on it. It's your Brooklyn boys, Steve and Bucky, helplessly in love.
Steve couldn't ever explain just what was wrong with his vision except to gesture vaguely at his face and mumble something that sounded like "floaters," but Bucky knew just how close he needed to stand to be sure those eyes saw him as clearly as possible.
Maybe he stood a little closer than that, because, jesus, the kid had eyes like lakes, luminous in whatever light, and having them on him usually made Bucky feel like a millionaire. No one else in the world had eyes like that, except for Steve's ma, and Bucky hadn't had to wonder even for a second why exactly Steve's dad had fallen and fallen hard.
"Steve," he tried again, "what's the worst that could happen? We hear some good tunes, get smiled at by some pretty girls." It'd be good to see a smile on the guy's face, watch him move a little to some music.
"I'm not up for it, Buck," Steve said, a little sharp in his tone, and from the way his fingers plucked at his shirt – oh, that was the last shirt his ma'd made him, about two wearings away from sprouting holes like the rest, holes that Steve did his best to hide with undershirts that had their worn spots in different places and suspenders strapped way too tight to his skinny chest – Bucky could see that Steve was tired more than anything else. He was just getting over a hell of a cough, course he was tired.
"Alright, so we stay in," he agreed quickly. "We'll get all the girls missin' us good and proper."
"Yeah, that's it," Steve said, pushing those long fingers through the messy sweep of his hair, and Bucky undid his careful work with a friendly arm wrapped around his neck.
"I'll do the wash if you can scrounge up some dinner," Bucky offered. He'd be especially careful with the shirt Steve was wearing, even if Steve would say that he had plenty to remember his ma by. Steve was a champ at putting on a brave face, even when he didn't have to, when it was just the two of them. "We'll look sharp for tomorrow night."
Steve raised one eloquent eyebrow at him, a trick Bucky'd never mastered, then squawked when Bucky squeezed him harder. Bucky let Steve set the pace up the stairs, pleased when it wasn't snail-slow.
He unlocked the door and headed straight for the shelf above the sink, unbuttoning his shirt as he went. The squared-off tin pitcher of soap flakes felt small and light in his hand, a reminder that it'd been bought for someone with smaller hands. The butterflies Steve had painted on it for his ma – blue and yellow only; they'd been saving up for a tube of red paint when she'd slipped away – looked like they were dancing in a breeze above swaying grass. "Gimme your shirt," Bucky called over his shoulder as he stripped off his own. "What else you got that needs a scrub?" He set the kettle to heat up water and upended the tin tub that doubled as a footstool, coffee table, or perch, whistling through his teeth.
He thought he knew why Steve'd been looking shifty-eyed when he saw the stains on two of the shirts – smears of blood at the cuffs and down the front – and it was more than a little sad that he knew enough by now to tell that they weren't from any fisticuffs. Steve would've worn those like a badge of honor anyway, the little punk. To think he'd been wondering why no handkerchiefs were showing up in the tub. "Nosebleeds again?" he asked, turning when he got no response.
He should've recognized the sound of a pencil against paper; he caught Steve sketching him. Steve had worked himself up into a sweat, hardly a good sign in the chill of their apartment, and both of them in just their undershirts and shorts. Bucky dropped the telltale shirts in the tub and stalked toward Steve, taking in the pleasing lines of the length of the pencil balanced against long, slim fingers. He dried his hands on his undershirt and held them up in mute plea. "C'mon, Steve, you look done in. Why don't you just lie down? You can draw me any time – I ain't goin' nowhere."
"I almost had it, and then you had to move," Steve said like he was capitulating, but his eyes kept stubbornly darting between Bucky and the page. Christ, the heavy sweep of his eyelashes was enough to knot Bucky's belly.
"Then lemme see," Bucky bargained, stepping close enough to touch. Just in time, because Steve's knees buckled and Bucky caught him around the waist with one arm and saved his precious pad with the other hand. "Jesus, Steve! Why you always gotta do this to me?"
Steve's head was lolling gracelessly, and his hands were clutching at Bucky's bare shoulders, but he had the nerve of a daredevil and little enough common sense to retort, "Didn't do nothing to you."
"'cept take years off my life with all this pitching and swooning." Steve's cheeks were pale and damp, the hair flopping over his brow dark with sweat. Holding him was like holding a bundle of twigs imbued with the spirit of a junkyard dog. "Into bed with you."
"With the pad."
Bucky's sigh was enough to rearrange Steve's cowlick. "Fine. Five more minutes, I'll hold the pose, then you gotta get some shuteye."
Steve pulled a face but didn't try for a harder bargain, which meant he really was done up. He sank back against the pillow and shivered. "Hand it over before the floaters block everything," he said, trying for dictatorial and failing miserably.
Bucky handed the pad over without a word, scrounged on the floor for the pencil that had rolled to hit the baseboard, and stepped away from the bed, arranging himself as Steve dictated in a voice gone raspy.
When Steve finally stopped fighting sleep and let his grip on the pad relax, Bucky eased it out from between his fingers. That was him on the page: the lines of his limbs, the bunched up musculature of his back, the shoulder blades divided by the concave curves of his sleeveless undershirt. Steve never idealized him, but there was a haziness to the image that made it oddly appealing in a way he'd never considered. It was almost like there was a veil over the whole page, and Bucky felt his throat catch when he realized Steve'd drawn him as he saw him, floaters and all.
He went back to the tub to finish scrubbing the laundry, wishing he could scrub those spots away from Steve's lovely eyes. He wondered how Steve would see him then.
There were dots on the ceiling, dots that kept moving like a ticker-tape, but jerkily. Maybe that was how the Nazis did Morse code. He didn't speak German, but he tried to translate the patterns into letters anyway. Was he moving? No, he seemed to be strapped to some kind of hospital bed, so he wasn't moving, but the dots definitely were, coming off the ceiling toward him like growing icicles and he half expected them to drip down onto his face.
He knew what drops of water against the floor should sound like, knew it from endless summer nights in the apartment with Steve, both of them lying in their beds and sweating quietly while the thin towel they'd soaked in cold water and hung between them like a coy little curtain dripped its bounty onto the floor.
Come wintertime, he'd had Steve in his arms, curled over that thin body like he thought he could get as close as parachute silks to molding to every bump and edge. The awkward angle Steve had to lie in just to keep his airways open had always looked to Bucky like pleading, like yearning. But it was necessity, and Bucky had compensated, shifting so he could be a line of warmth down Steve's spine, along the undersides of his spindly thighs, over his big bony feet.
Bucky squirmed in this bed, wanting to find that position again, but he only managed to pull against his restraints, and all that got him was a small face hovering above him, sort of a cross between a rat and a pug. It spoke, though, so he figured it was probably a man. It took a few rounds of blank incomprehension to realize that the man was speaking English with such a heavy accent it might as well have been German. His words were metallic insects that floated free of his mouth and danced in the air and Bucky watched them go.
Suddenly there was another conversationalist butting in, an electrical current that jolted his body and fizzed and popped in his brain, and he screamed, arching up off the bed against the restraints. The dots flashed from black to white to black again, swirling dizzily in the air. He couldn't free an arm to reach up and try to touch them.
When he looked up again, it was snowing, flakes floating down to his bed, and he turned his head to catch Steve's eye. He and Steve had caught snowflakes on their tongues during the first snow of every year. No more than a few minutes outside before Steve had to go back inside and let his ma wrap him up snug and warm and dry, but those couple of minutes had been all they'd needed.
The snow went sharp above him, small flashing knives, and he wanted to roll both of them out of the way but then the blades turned into butterflies, red and rust and golden, and he remembered that Steve was safe, back in New York. Only his floaters had somehow hitched a ride with Bucky. He'd take it, he'd take anything he could get of Steve.
He was never getting back home to Steve.
And then there he was, a giant version of his best friend, same lakewater eyes but a body like no mere mortal had ever boasted, leaning over him and breathing his name. "Bucky," he heard, and he tried to blink a response. The floaters persisted, layering atop the new planes of Steve's face, but Bucky managed a smile, because that voice was just the same, shaping his name just right.
"You're way too big to lurk, Captain America," Bucky said when he'd been released from the base hospital, and Steve stepped out of the shadows. Steve had scrubbed up, but had ink on his fingers; he'd probably been up at acting HQ spilling everything he could remember about the camp and the factory, particularly that map that Bucky had tattooed on the backs of his eyelids, the one that marked all the HYDRA bases.
"Bucky, I – what did they say?" Steve asked.
"They poked around a little, but I'm still blue-ribbon material for the county fair."
Steve fidgeted a little, but the bad thing about the service uniform – if anything that sat so sweetly against Steve's new contours could be bad – was that every part of it was pinned down tight and couldn't be fussed with. He looked up and those eyes gave him a look that caught Bucky like a blow. The new clarity of Steve's eyes was visible even from the outside; their soft hue had always been that of the first brave crocus to push its head out of the ground, and now it was as though that crocus sparkled with dew. Sentimental as the metaphor was, Bucky didn't even try to quash it, because Steve said, "I walked into that base for you."
He nodded, sharply. "I know you did." He held open his arms and Steve charged forward and they crushed each other close. "See, you got me," he murmured into Steve's warm neck, his chapped lips catching on Steve's Adam's apple.
"I can finally see you, Buck," Steve said, squeezing him once and stepping back. "To think, you had every right to be so cocky. Who knew what was under my nose this whole time?"
"Wasn't nothin' under your nose, ladybug. You were under mine." He hauled Steve back into his dirty arms. "And I always liked what I saw."
"What – Bucky –?" was all he heard before a new voice broke in.
"Captain! Sir!" The voice was young and eager, no hint of Brooklyn, but it made Bucky homesick anyway – homesick for his best friend, who'd had a mouth bigger than Jersey, and wasn't that just peachy, to be lonely even in the guy's arms. "There's a special bulletin goin' out about your rescue mission!" They disentangled a little and turned to face the new kid. Bucky didn't see the kid's face because there was a big black camera in the way. "This your best friend?"
The flash that went off then was blinding. Bucky couldn't see anything but spots no matter how hard he blinked, but he could hear Steve gamely playing along. "This is Sergeant James Barnes of the 107th Infantry, the man whose rank meant he was singled out for torture, and my best friend in the world." Bucky could feel Steve turn to face him. "And now I need to find him a bed."
"Sir!" said the kid and charged off.
Steve was coming clear before Bucky's dazzled eyes in little bits – that ruby mouth, those heavenly eyes; the same, but different too because he had to look up to see them. At least the shiver he got when Steve ducked his head to whisper in his ear was unchanged. "Just come along," Steve instructed.
His vision grew with every step, and he could see the endless rows of tents, the slim uprightness of the trees. Steve marched them into the forest and put Bucky's back against a tree, and Bucky leaned there, waiting. Steve's expression crumpled into a frown and then he darted forward, hands up to cup Bucky's cheeks, his half-open mouth pressed against Bucky's. Bucky drew his arms up slowly, feeling heady and nicely buzzed.
His eyes were closed but his mouth still found Steve's throat and jaw; he had Steve memorized, after all. "You walked into there for me, I walked outta there for you." Steve's mouth trembled until Bucky soothed it with his own, kissing hungry and reverent and happy until they both had their eyes open.
Steve smiled even as his eyes welled up. "Buck," he said, tilting Bucky's face up with his big hands like it was a treasure and not the same old face he'd seen forever, just bruised and battered, "you're a sight for sore eyes."
"You took the words right outta my mouth," Bucky said.
As always, I'd love to hear what you think.
This same entry also appears on Dreamwidth, at http://innie-darling.dreamwidth.org/454395.html.