Fic: Juste Un Peu Plus Près [Steve/Bucky]
Disclaimer: Movieverse. All characters in here are owned by Marvel, not me. No copyright infringement is meant.
Summary: Steve hates himself. Bucky wishes he could help with that.
Dedicated to bitchinminority who has put up with me hating this fic at her for about two months. Title and cut text come from Coney Island by The Plastiscines.
“This is a bad idea.”
Steve and Bucky were standing under the wooden framework of the Thunderbolt. Rollercoaster cars rattled overhead, kids screamed in excitement, and the scent of cotton-candy hung heavy and stickysweet in the air.
“This is great idea,” Bucky replied, turning to give Steve a grin. “All gals love Coney Island. Ella’s got a friend - Kelly, or Christy, or something - you hold her hand on the Wonder Wheel, take her for a spin on the bumper cars, cuddle her close on the ghost train... what’s not to love?” Bucky passed Steve his candy apple, and the younger man dutifully took a bite, the red sugar staining his lips.
“Me,” Steve shrugged, mumbling around his mouthful of apple, and Bucky rolled his eyes, before raising his hand in greeting as he saw the two girls coming over, rocking slightly on their heels on the slat-boarded pier-front.
“Lose the apple,” Bucky murmured out of the side of his mouth.
“Done!” Steve smirked, eating the rest of the snack in one bite, tossing the stick into the trash as the girls approached.
“Bucky!” he heard Ella exclaim delightedly, running up and taking his arm.
“Bumper cars,” Bucky whispered to Steve as a reminder.
“I can’t drive,” Steve shot back, and then Bucky’s eyeline was full of Ella’s blonde hair and bright red lipstick. He bent down and placed a kiss on her cheek, before giving Kelly-Christy-whatever a once over. She was somewhat plain, he admitted to himself. He owed Steve better next time.
“And, of course, you remember Kitty,” Ella was saying, standing with her back to Steve.
“Kitty!” Bucky knew it had started with a k-sound, if nothing else. He gave Kelly-Christy-who-was-Kitty a dazzling grin, and she smiled back. It didn’t suit her.
“Do you have a friend for me?” she asked pointedly.
“I sure do,” Bucky nodded. He put a hand on each of the girls’ waists and turned them to see Steve, who gave them both a bashful smile. “Kitty, this is Steve. Steve, Kitty.”
There was a brief pause. Steve held out his hand, and faltered as both girls looked him up and down in silence. “No,” Kitty stated flatly. She gave Steve a long look down her nose. “Don’t you have another friend for me?” she asked, smirking.
Bucky pretended not to see the exact moment the insult hit Steve in the gut. He pretended even harder that he didn’t want to return the favor to Kitty.
“It was nice to meet you, miss,” Steve said politely, only the downturn of his lips betraying anything other than impeccable manners.. “Bucky, I’ll see you back at home.” Bucky opened his mouth to say something, to tell Steve to stay, but the blond had already turned away from the fair, and started the walk back to the subway station.
Steve was no more than a dozen paces away from them when both girls burst into a peal of giggles that made Bucky’s skin crawl.
“What?” he asked shortly, causing both girls to look up at him, cruel smiles still fixed on their faces and malicious mirth in their eyes. “I think I missed the joke, gals. Care to share?”
“Seriously?” Ella asked, trying to contain her giggles. “That string-bean’s who you wanted to set Kitty up with?”
“He’s a good guy,” Bucky replied through clenched teeth, “Kitty, you should have given him a chance, you should have liked him.” Bucky looked over at the other girl, who just looked back, stony-faced and unapologetic.
“Well, I think I’ll side with my friend on this one,” Ella replied, her grin faltering when she saw the look on Bucky’s face. “Bucky?”
“You know what, doll?” Bucky all but snarled, “I think I’ll stick with my friend this time as well.” He turned on his heel, and angrily pulled a packet of cigarettes from his jacket. “Bitch,” he spat, for good measure, hoping it would make him feel better. It didn’t. He jammed a cigarette between his lips, and cast his gaze out over the crowd.
“Steve,” he hollered, catching sight of his friend’s slumped shoulders silhouetted in the hazy Coney Island dusk. He jogged until he fell in-step with his friend, who didn’t acknowledge his presence beyond a quick glance up at his face.
“You should have stayed,” Steve said softly. “Could have cuddled them both close on the ghost train, they wouldn’t have minded sharing.”
“I’m sorry,” Bucky shrugged, risking a glance up at Steve, who looked as hurt as Bucky had been expecting. It made his stomach twist, and he looked back down at the pierboards quickly. “Actually, no, I’m not sorry, I’m real mad. Mad at those dizzy broads, mad at myself for picking such dizzy broads, mad-”
“Don’t be,” Steve said, fumbling in his pocket for a nickel as they approached the subway station. “I wouldn’t want to spend time with me on a Friday night.” He sighed, sounding defeated. Bucky briefly reconsidered his belief that he’d never lay a finger on a woman. “I don’t want to spend time with me any night and I'm stuck with it. What gal’s going to want a weed like me holding her hand on the Wonder Wheel?” Steve pinched at the bridge of his nose, and sighed. “It’s fine, Bucky, let’s just go home, okay?”
“Steve-,” Bucky faltered, and Steve stopped in his tracks, finally looking Bucky in the eye.
“Bucky!” Steve gritted out, brow furrowed. “Some people get what they want, and some people don’t. I want to be taller, stronger, better... Wanting’s not getting me anything other than older. I mean, for God’s sake, would you want to dance with me?”
“I’d follow if you’d lead,” Bucky bit his lip. “I hate seeing two pointless dames upsetting you like this,” he admitted.
“The dames are the least of my troubles,” Steve said shortly. “Look,” he paused, and ran a hand through his hair. “I don’t care that no-one out there would want me, okay? Or, at least, I try not to.”
“There’s gotta be a dame out there that’d want you,” Bucky replied, not really thinking. “I’d want you if I were a gal.”
Steve stopped, and looked up at Bucky oddly. “Don’t joke around about stuff like that. Don’t tell me how if you had a sister then she’d want me, don’t-,” Steve bit down on his lip. “I’m gonna walk home,” he said shortly. “I’ll see you back at the apartment.”
“Steve, look, don’t walk it, it’s miles to go before you’ll hit the threshold. I’ll walk, you get the subway,” Bucky called out, but the slender man just squared his shoulders and kept walking. “Steve!” Bucky tried again, before cursing and crushing the butt of his cigarette under his heel.
He watched Steve’s shadow shrinking on the vista for a couple of long seconds before he pulled a nickel out of his pocket and headed inside the station. The screams and the neon and the smell of burnt sugar on the air were making him feel sick to his stomach.
It was closer to tomorrow than today when Steve rolled back home, drunk and with his jaw set like he was spoiling for a fight. Bucky glanced up from his game of solitaire and gave Steve a cursory glace, more relieved than he’d ever admit when he saw Steve’s face was free of cuts or bruises.
“Good walk home?” he asked, trying for levity and missing by a mile.
Steve snorted and collapsed on the couch next to him. “Good walk to the pier bar, sure,” he shrugged. “Jeanette says hi, and that you owe her a dance.” The younger man’s tone skewed bitter as he shifted slightly, turning to see Bucky better. “I offered to make it up to her, but gee, Buck, she just couldn’t take my charity, and said she’d add it to your tab. What a shock,” he rolled his eyes.
Bucky winced. “Maybe she just didn’t want a drunk guy treading on her toes all night. She’d probably let you any other night, you do your best work sober, after all.”
Steve’s laugh was ugly, broken and bitten off against unspoken things heavy on the younger man’s tongue. “Stop making excuses for me, Bucky,” he snarled, and Bucky forced himself not to look away or shrink back. Steve noticed though, and dropped his head, shoulders slumping as he sank lower on the couch. “‘m sorry,” he apologised, all heat vanished from his expression. “I’m not mad at you, I’m just... dammit, Bucky, I know that know gal’s ever going to like me: hell, I don’t like me, and I’m pretty sure I’ve got a head-start on that one.”
“I like you,” Bucky said softly. The words fell heavy in the tense air of the lounge, and Steve rolled his eyes.
“Is this where you tell me that if you were a dame, you’d dance with me?” Steve said derisively, “because I can’t hear that again, Bucky.” Steve raised off the sofa, fingers curled into loose fists at his side. He swayed a little, and looked away as Bucky tried to catch his eye.
“But I wo-”
“No, Bucky!” Steve said, raising his voice, “I can’t hear it again, okay, because you’re not. You’re not a dame, you don’t have a sister, so these pretend gals don’t cut it. If the only girl I can get is my best friend in an imaginary skirt then forget it.”
“That’s not what I’m saying!” Bucky retorted, frustrated, moving to Steve’s side. “I don’t have to be a dame to know there’s gotta be someone for you, Steve.”
“No, you just have to be one for there to be someone for me,” Steve curled his lip.
Bucky frowned, biting back a growl of frustration. “You’re not going to listen to me, are you?” he asked, and Steve just turned on his heel, heading towards the bedroom. “Goddammit!” he swore, blocking Steve’s exit, pinning him against the doorframe.
Steve looked up at him, eyes more nervous than they were angry, and Bucky weighed his options. If it wasn’t for the fact that knocking sense into Steve never worked, he would have been sorely tempted to try it.
“I’m sorry, Bucky,” Steve said softly, and there was such a depth of dejection and self-loathing in the younger man’s deep eyes that Bucky felt all the anger coursing through his veins melt away. Being furious was all well and good, but he had to do something to get Steve to realise that it wasn't him that was wrong, it was everyone else. Bucky swallowed, let his eyes fall from Steve's, and as they caught on the blond biting his bottom lip, he realised there was a better option to show Steve how he saw him, and one that he hoped wouldn't involve breaking his fingers.
Though he fully acknowledged that if this went wrong, he’d probably end up with bloodied knuckles anyway.
“I don’t,” he swallowed thickly, and reached up to touch Steve’s face, “I don’t have to be a dame to see you as you are,” he murmured. It was a cliché, but clichés existed for a reason, and he smiled a little as he brought his fingers round to cup the back of Steve’s head.
When their lips met, Bucky was shocked by just how natural it felt.
Steve tasted like whisky and candy-apples, and he made soft appreciative sounds when Bucky bit down on his lower lip. Bucky trailed his fingers down from Steve’s neck to let them rest at the base of his spine. He pulled his slight frame closer, and Steve let out a soft gasp as their chests bumped together and Bucky threaded his fingers through Steve’s belt-loops.
Bucky swallowed heavily and fought past his uncertainty to open his eyes and dare to look at the blond. Steve looked nervous, but he wasn’t pulling away, and didn’t break eye contact. His pupils were blown wide and his lips were just the right kind of swollen. It was a goddamn crime, Bucky thought, that nobody else had ever seen Steve like this. If he were generous, he would want to share him with the world.
Bucky never did share well with others, though, and relished the fact that he was the only one to have seen Steve like this, to be the one to make Steve like this. Mine, he thought possessively, and realised that thought didn’t scare him either.
“Beautiful,” he murmured, instead, and dropped his lips to Steve’s neck. His tongue swiped over the younger man’s pulse point, sweeping up the salty tang resting on the pale skin. Steve’s fingertips tightened against his shoulders, and he arched up closer as Bucky let his teeth graze down across the point where his shoulder and neck met.
Steve whimpered, throwing his head back and exposing his throat, pressing himself closer still to Bucky as the older man slid a knee between his thighs.
“Gorgeous,” Bucky repeated, words pressed hard into warm skin like he was trying to shoot them through to Steve’s veins, “so beautiful just like this.”
“Bucky, don’t.” Steve protested, tensing in the older man’s arms and turning his head away.
“Steve?” Bucky asked, freezing instantly, hands stilling on Steve’s hips before he moved them away completely. He stepped away and held his hands up in front of him. “Steve?” he asked again, trying to meet the blond’s eyes.
“C’mon, Buck,” Steve said, swallowing heavily and looking everywhere but Bucky’s face. “Lie to me or pity me: one’s fine. I can cope if you lie and I can cope if you pity me, but not both at once. It’s too much,” he shrugged. His tone was light, but his smile was brittle, and Bucky felt a spike of anger flare through his system, the kind he’d never felt towards Steve.
“Pity?” he asked, his voice cracking. “Steve, you think I’d treat you like... like you were some pity lay? You think I’d do that to you?!”
“Well, isn’t that what this is?” Steve asked belligerently. “‘Poor Steve, too bad he’ll never get a dame, I guess I’ll give him what he’ll never manage to get on his own.’ Tell me that’s not what this is, Bucky, and I’ll tell you you’re a goddamn liar.”
“I have never pitied you,” Bucky growled, fists clenched at his sides. “Ten years, Steve, and I have never pitied you, I’ve never had a reason to pity you!”
“Liar,” Steve hissed.
Bucky clenched his jaw, squared his shoulders, and only the spark of victory in the smaller man’s eyes stopped him from socking Steve - his friend, his best friend, goddammit - square in the jaw. Instead, he bit down on his lip, took a deep breath, and stepped back. “I’m not fighting with you, Steve,” he said quietly.
“You sure?” Steve asked, stepping back into Bucky’s space. “I’d deserve it.”
“I’m not doing this, Steve!” Bucky insisted, feeling a little desperate as he drew a hand through his hair. “I’m not going to hit you, I still don’t pity you and I can’t - I can’t - stay here and watch you hate yourself.”
“I don’t hate myself,” Steve shot back automatically, and Bucky just shook his head.
“Now who’s the liar?” he asked resignedly. “I’m going to bed.”
As he left the room, he still felt sick to his stomach.
Dawn came and went without Bucky paying it much mind. His stomach was still hollow and aching, and the book he’d tried to lose himself in lay at the foot of the bed. Birdsong intermingled with the sounds of the market setting up outside, but none of it was enough to drown out the jumble of noise in his head.
Steve stood in Bucky’s doorway, pyjama pants hanging loosely on his hips and vest baggy on his chest. He was staring steadfastly at his feet, and his voice wobbled slightly. “I never… I don’t sleep well when we fight either,” he continued, fingers wrapping around the doorframe. There were purple smudges under Steve’s eyes, one of the side-effects of his Irish skin being how ringed his eyes became when he was tired. “I’m sorry, Buck.”
“I told you I wasn’t going to fight you,” Bucky replied, sitting up and kicking the blankets to one side, “you know I meant it.”
“I know.” Steve swallowed awkwardly and crossed the threshold. “I guess you weren’t wrong with what you were saying,” he admitted, sitting at the foot of Bucky’s bed, staring at the counterpane. Bucky wished he’d meet his eyes instead.
“No?” he asked, shifting down the bed to sit next to the blond.
“It’s not,” Steve paused, glanced up at Bucky and he looked so pure-and-simple sad that it made Bucky’s chest ache a little, “it’s not all the time or anything, but…”
“Yeah,” Steve affirmed, dropping his head, letting out a mournful-sounding breath.
“C’mere,” Bucky said softly, pulling Steve into his chest. “S’okay, Steve, s’okay,” he murmured, holding a little tighter as he felt Steve’s fingers clenching at his t-shirt.
Minutes passed. “S’getting bright out,” Steve said quietly, when the stripes of early sunlight fell upon them through the gap in the curtains.
“You should sleep, Steve. Hell, we both should,” Bucky suggested. Steve murmured in agreement. Neither of them moved. “You want to sleep in here?” he asked.
Steve nodded almost imperceptibly against Bucky‘s collarbone.
“Things’ll look better in the sunlight, Steve,” Bucky promised as they both slid into the bed, mattress dipping under their weight. He wrapped an arm around Steve’s waist without thinking, stroked his fingers over his stomach.
“I don’t know that I will,” Steve let out a little broken laugh into the pillow. “I don’t… I don’t want to hate myself, Buck,” he admitted.
The street below got noisier, but the two men lay in silence for a few minutes before Steve’s breathing evened out and shoulders softened as the tensions of the day melted away into dreams. Bucky felt his fingers rise and fall with Steve’s breath.
“I could love you for both of us,” he admitted in a whisper, letting the words disappear into Steve’s hair.
When he fell asleep, he dreamt of bumper cars and candy-apple smiles.