Shared Life Experiences

Part Two: Dancing Cheek to Cheek

One night, Steve was working late, looking over status reports from the offices of In the Light all over the country on the kitchen island. He heard soft footsteps in the hallway and looked up to see Bucky enter the kitchen. He wore a sleeveless shirt, pyjama pants and the Darth Vader slippers Nat had given him as a ‘welcome to the Avengers’ gift (something about him also having a metal arm). From his lack of metal arm and how his hair was all flattened on one side, Steve could tell he had been sleeping.

“Hey,” Bucky said quietly.

“Hey,” Steve replied, intending to go back to his work, but he couldn’t help stealing glances as Bucky moved around the kitchen, grabbing the ingredients for hot chocolate.

It was so nice to see Bucky in a normal, homey environment in regular clothes. Something about it let Steve relax in a way that he hadn’t been able to in a long time.

As Bucky opened the cabinet, he looked over at Steve, who quickly ducked his head to look back down at the papers in front of him. When he dared to look back half a minute later, Bucky was smiling to himself as he prepared two mugs of hot chocolate.

Steve thought about saying something. He thought about saying many things – all the things he had wanted to say since he had found out Bucky was alive. All those old memories and old feelings that had resurfaced.

But the silence was nice too. There was no real awkwardness between them, just comfortable quiet.

Bucky leaned against the counter, watching the two mugs turn around each other inside the microwave – always the same distance apart.

Steve thought of the last time they were at a dance hall. They didn’t know it was the last time, of course, just another Friday night – with Suzie and Maria this time.

Once they had danced with the girls for a little while – long enough to keep up the ruse of being their dates – they had gone to sit down and let the girls dance for a while. It was not entirely uncommon or improper for two girls to dance together for a bit, so no one really looked at them funny.

As he and Bucky had a drink, their fingers linked loosely under the table, hidden by the dark tablecloth. They spoke in low voices – loud enough that they could hear each other, but no one else could over the music.

Steve had been going on about something – he couldn’t remember what – but he remembered Bucky’s soft smile as he listened to him babble on.

At one point, his smile widened, and Steve stopped and asked, “What?”

Bucky grinned and looked down. “Nothing.”

Steve leaned closer, an elbow on the table. “Seriously, what?”

Buck looked up again, grip on Steve’s hand tightening a little, blue eyes soft and full of something. The corner of his mouth tugged up into a half-smile. “I just like hearing you talk about things you’re passionate about.”

There had been a silence between them then too – a hopeful silence. It was skies the same colour as Bucky’s eyes, it was all those nights falling asleep and mornings waking up I the same cot, it was Bucky teasing him about his terrible coffee, it was Bucky singing at the top of his lungs until his mom kicked them out of the house for the afternoon. It was a feeling that looked towards the future. An apartment of their own where they could be themselves without hiding.

And when Suzie and Maria came over and asked them to dance, Steve and Bucky’s eyes found each other across the floor. Even though they spun around the room with the girls in their arms, never close enough to each other to touch, it felt like they were dancing together.

The beeping of the microwave brought Steve back to the present.

Bucky sat down across from him and put the steaming mug in front of Steve.

“Thanks,” he said with a smile, moving some papers aside.

“Deadline coming up?” Bucky asked after a few minutes.

Steve shook his head. “Just reports form the main offices.”

“Hope you’ve got some good accountants,” Bucky said, his voice echoing into his mug as he drained the last of the hot chocolate.

“Mm?”

Bucky grinned, putting the mug down. “You were always shit at math.”

Steve rolled his eyes. “Like you were any better.”

“Mrs. Monteiro thought I was a wonderful student,” Bucky said as he put his mug in the sink and rinsed it out.

“Mrs. Monteiro hated you because you never did your homework – which is why you were bad at math.”

“Or maybe,” Bucky said, leaning over the island and resting on his elbows in front of Steve. “I didn’t do the homework because I was bad at math.”

Steve rolled his eyes again but couldn’t help but smile.

Then they held eye contact for a little too long and their faces were very close together. Steve thought he saw Bucky’s blue eyes flit down to his mouth for a second. And his lips were so dry all of a sudden, but he couldn’t like them, not now – that would be entirely too much.

And suddenly he was overthinking everything – with Bucky, the person he felt most comfortable around.

Bucky must have felt it too because he cleared his throat and stood up straight. “Well, uh, goodnight Steve.”

“Goodnight, Buck,” Steve said, looking down into his half-full cup.

“And, Steve?”

He looked up. Bucky stood up in the doorway, looking like he wanted to come back in. “Yeah?”

The corner of his mouth tugged up a little, and that familiar softness returned to his eyes. “Get to bed soon, you look exhausted.”

Steve nodded. “I will.”

As Bucky’s soft footsteps retreated down the hall, Steve sighed and drew his fingers through his hair.

It was honestly ridiculous, the way he and Bucky were cautiously tiptoeing around each other. To everyone else, they seemed back to normal, thick as thieves, with inside jokes and entire conversations had without words – but they thought they had only been friends, nothing more.

And Steve wasn’t quite sure why. Back in the day, they had been sure about their feelings. Even during the war, they’d understood each other.

About a week after that night at the dance hall, Bucky shipped out. Steve had always kind of wondered whether he’d already known that night and had just wanted to have one last fun night together without the knowledge hanging over them.

A few days later, they were both in the music room. Bucky had been trying to get back into piano since he’d moved in. Steve knew it was because playing had always relaxed him.

It had been frustrating in the beginning, but eventually, with some design tweaks by Tony, Bucky had figured it out.

Now, a few months in, he could play as well as before.

Steve like to work in there when Bucky was practising. As he read over quarterly reports and proposals from people on the ground and did final edits of speeches, hearing Bucky slide between the hymns his mother approved of, the jazz she most certainly hadn’t, and newer music was some of the best support.

“I watched your press conference announcing the start of In the Light the other day,” Bucky said, somehow effortlessly transitioning from amazing Grace to Oops, I Did It Again.

“Yeah?”

Bucky chuckled. “Coming out to the entire country partly to spite a dickwad politician is one of the most you things you’ve ever done.”

Steve smiled and looked up from his laptop. Bucky was watching him with that look – that clear blue skies look. The tempo of the music turned jazzier and the melody turned into an old familiar song, one they played often in those dance halls before the war complicated their lies.

As he continued working, part of his mind tried to remember the lyrics, but they were just a bit out of reach.

Bucky had played on for a while after that, and it wasn’t until after he’d gone that the words came back to Steve:

Heaven, I’m in heaven

And my heart beats so loud that I can hardly speak

And I seem to find the happiness I seek

When we’re out together dancing, cheek to cheek

He looked up to the now-silent piano. It was the song that had played the night he had danced with Peggy in the army camp, which wouldn’t make sense for Bucky to refer to if not for the events that followed.

After Steve’s successful rescue of the captured soldiers of the 107th, including Bucky, there had been a huge party. They had all gotten rather drunk – except for Steve, of course – and danced late into the night. When Peggy pulled Steve into a dance, he’d lost track of Bucky for a while. That was until Cheek to Cheek began to play and the dancing slowed. As he swayed with Peggy, he saw Bucky turning away, downing a bottle as he went.

“Hey, Peg?” he said, standing still.

“Yeah?”

“I’ll be right back. Bucky’s…” he paused. “I gotta make sure he doesn’t die of alcohol poisoning; it would make my whole rescue a waste.”

She smiled. “And since no one’s gonna remember anything they see tonight, I have to find that redhead Star-Spangled dancer who was making eyes at me earlier.”

Steve quickly caught up to Bucky, who was wandering aimlessly through the rows of tents and trucks.

“Hey, Buck,” Steve fell into step beside him.

“Oh, hey, Steve,” Bucky said. “Get tired of Agent English already?”

Steve was so stunned he didn’t say anything for a full thirty seconds. Finally, he said quietly, “What do you mean by that, Buck?”

“Oh, you know what I mean,” he said.

“She’s my friend, Buck.”

He turned and raised his eyebrows incredulously. “Sure.”

Steve sighed. “It’s not like that, okay? You know I’m… well, I’m not…” he sighed again. “You know what I mean.”

“It’s just weird to see you, like,” he gestured vaguely at Steve. “this. And everyone else, well, they see it too. And they, you know, like you and the girls want you – I see them – and probably some of the guys too, cause, I mean, who wouldn’t. and It’s stupid but, you know, I was first. And they can’t know that, but I want them to.”

As Bucky babbled on, Steve led them closer to his tent. But before they could go inside, Bucky grabbed his arm, stopping them in the deserted muddy path.

“You know what I mean?” he asked and as they locked eyes, Steve realized that Bucky wasn’t half as drunk as he thought he was, although he certainly had had a lot of drink.

“Yeah,” Steve said. “I do.”

“And, like, you don’t really need me anymore, cause you’re, you know.” He gestured at him again. “So, I don’t want to hold you back, and if you were with someone else, that’s entirely up to you and I wouldn’t want to stand in your way –”

“Buck,” Steve grabbed his shoulders. “I don’t want to be with anyone else. I –” He didn’t finish the sentence, but he didn’t have to.

“I love you, Steve,” Bucky said, and it was all Steve could do to make sure he’d dragged him into his tent before kissing him.

As they tumbled onto the cot together, he had only a few coherent thoughts. One, he was very grateful that his position as Captain America meant he got his own tent; two, he hoped that Peggy had found that redheaded dancer; and, three, that their cot at home had been comfier. All other thoughts were hidden beneath the haze of Bucky, and Bucky saying he loved him and knowing that he loved Bucky.

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