Chapter 8: Tall Tales

Chapter 8: Tall Tales

Soft romantic music played as Bucky held onto Peggy as they danced amongst the sea of couples on the hardwood dance floor. The smell of lavender a comforting constant, as was her hand in his, her other on his chest. He had been a dance partner for various aunts, a grandmother, a cousin and a second cousin of the groom that evening after dinner. Apparently, while the bride wasn’t thrilled or in the least bit impressed that she was in the presence of ‘a war hero,’ the grooms side – the more political side of the two – was. Or at the very least they were impressed by Bucky and his dancing skills – the one aunt had grabbed his ass, so maybe it was different reasoning all around. All he knew was he had been itching to dance with Peggy all day, and he finally had her in his arms.

“Well … she looks nice?” he offered as the bride bashing commenced.

“Mmm, she’s finally found something to defrizz that hair, though with her daddy’s and husband’s millions it’s probably not all that hard.”

Yeah, Peggy was in fine form.

“Careful, you’re starting to sound bitter,” he said with a laugh, placing a soft kiss to her cheek.

“I’m really not, I just … I shouldn’t have come. People like her, they just love to look down their noses at everyone, and I hate that on principle, you know that.”

He did.

“I don’t so much mind her talking down to me, but you–”

“Peggy, I’m a big boy. I  can handle the waspy waif for a few more hours, and even at that, if we stay near the bar we may never see her,” he added with a wink, thinking that getting her a little liquored up was probably not smart. He gripped her a little tighter, pulling her as close as they could get, and slowed the dance as the music changed to another love song.

“I just feel like I’m twelve years old around her and her friends, is that stupid?”

“No, it’s natural I think, she was a childhood … person,” he stuttered in search of a word that wasn’t a friend nor quite an enemy. Did twelve year olds even have enemies?

Then he recalled Jack Whitmore, the red headed little fucker that beat a twelve year old Steve into the dirt, and decided that yes, they definitely had enemies.

His wording made her laugh into his chest.

“I feel silly, but my god what a cow.”

It had started off a nice day, the sun was shining, Peggy was faultless in her fitted and flared navy dress with matching wedding hat and high shoes – Bucky had been a gentleman and let her pick his suit – a newly tailored three piece navy pinstripe, with a white handkerchief. He usually protested when she insisted on buying him just about anything other than food – but on occasions where he knew appearance mattered he put her firmly in charge.  There had been a messy dress code misunderstanding about six months after they had started dating, and he had been invited to her cousin’s child’s christening. It was fancier than he had realised and had shown up straight from work. He felt the sweat prickle on the back of his neck at the recollection of their faces. Peggy, to her credit, laughed and kissed him and embraced him anyway, but he knew she had been at least a little embarrassed then.

The ceremony was lovely, and the reception was fine. Mingling with politicians was never Bucky’s strong suit, though he spotted Howard Stark in his element and instantly felt even more uncomfortable. Anywhere where that guy fit in was somewhere Bucky had no right or desire to be. Then they met the lovely bride and her charming groom, or the ‘bride and gloom,’ as Peggy had dubbed them after a rather insulting five minute conversation where the bride laughed off Peggy’s involvement in the war to being nothing other than the girlfriend of a super soldier. The she had fixed her gaze on Bucky and deemed it ‘just gosh darn adorable’ that she could ‘shack up’ with a national icon’s best friend and find love ‘or whatever it is, as I don’t see a ring Pegs!’ He had never seen Peggy’s smile more strained, or her laugh more false, but with his hand at her back he hoped his silent support was obvious. When they stepped away after what seemed like a lifetime of awkward conversation and forced smiles, he whispered to her a quiet but truthful sentiment.

“Fuck it, just remember both of us could take out the whole room using just the champagne glasses and that ugly ass veil of hers.”

That made her giggle so hard she was fixing her makeup by the time they were seated for dinner. They were seated next to Howard and his date Louise. Louise was a Londoner, and a former USO girl. She had known Steve, though she was quick to point out she had only been part of the crew for the English dates, which had lasted all of a month. She had a sweet smile and looked curiously at both Peggy and Bucky as Howard introduced them, before it switched to polite conversation about home for her and Peggy, leaving him to converse awkwardly with Howard.

There were a lot of stretched silences, but they chatted about the weather, the newest cars on the market, travelling, how he’d met Louise ‘old friend from the war’ which meant they had slept together then and now were giving whatever it was another go. When he excused himself and Louise for a dance, Peggy scooted beside Bucky, handing him a fresh whiskey sour.

“Figured you’d need it. Howard is wonderful in small doses in a non-social setting, otherwise it’s just science talk or work talk or scientific work talk,” she said with a smile before sipping her own drink. “Lou is nice though,” she nodded and he agreed. He had seen her converse with Stark at various times throughout the day, always from across the room or at the  bar, always ending in her face changing from neutral to annoyed, him expressing himself in what seemed to be erratic hand gesturing and pouting – and it always ended in her walking away. Maybe she was right, small doses, less freely available alcohol.

“Think they’ll last?”

“No, really not. She basically told me its sex and shopping on her part, which is fine for now but he’s not the settling type, too involved in his own head.”

“The settling kind, I never knew we were defined in such ways,” he said jokingly.

“Oh yes, there are a lot of ‘kinds’ of men; funny ones, stupid ones, horrible ones, great ones,” she said, putting her hand on his knee and giving it a little squeeze.

Speaking of which… “She said she knew Steve,” he mentioned, trying to sound casual as possible but probably failing. He was on his fifth whiskey at that point and the bar served the good stuff, which meant the usual slow process of getting drunk was moving a lot quicker.

She knew he had missed her compliment, he always missed them, or shooed them away with the inherent modesty that was almost annoying.  The mention of Steve made them both sit up straighter, for some reason.

“That she did. We were just discussing her time as part of the dance troop. Lots of tales of bleeding feet and tired legs, but a lot about it being odd to see you in person.”

“Me?”

“Yes, Steve would socialise with the girls she said, on occasion for dinner in the questionable hotels they would be housed in, and they had talked a time or two. She said that THE Bucky Barnes was as impressive in the flesh as he was in Steve’s stories. She said he told a good story.”

“Course he did, his Ma and Da are Irish,” Bucky said with a chuckle, and Peggy chose to ignore the blush on his cheeks that flooded right up to his ears.

“Well, either way, seems like you were the star of those stories, not that it’s a surprise. He would talk my ear off about you too – even when we first met.”

“Really?”

He hadn’t known that as she’d never told him, but in the moment she wasn’t sure why not.

“Skinny and having issues breathing, that day as we drove from base camp back to Brooklyn, he talked my ear off about you. How good you were, how brave and how ‘if Bucky were here…’ lots of that. He missed you, he was proud of you.”

He cleared his throat in a vain attempt of removing the lump that had found itself there. He put his hand on her knee then too, hoping to reassure the concern on her face that he was okay.

“I …”

“He said ‘If Buck was here, he’d probably kick my ass for doing this, but I gotta try, right? Least I can do is try.’ And I always admired his bravery. He had to have been terrified you know? But you’d never know it. He just wanted to try his best, try … to be a hero, one that, to him, you already were.”

He drained his glass then and she squeezed her hand on his knee tighter.

“I knew nothing of you then, but when I saw him so determined to save you – that hope that you were alive even though everyone and their mother told him different, it was inspiring. Then I met you, beat up, tortured, should have been dying on your feet but you weren’t. You were standing next to him, shoulder to shoulder – and that more than anything was what he wanted. He wanted to be a hero, not for me or for Hitler – not really. The only one he wanted to be a hero for, to be equal to, was you.”

“Why are you telling me this, Peggy? Why now?” he asked, his voice rough with bottled emotion and top shelf whiskey.

She sighed, taking a large gulp of her drink.

“Because I’ve had too much to drink, too much talk of the past gets me nostalgic and maudlin. I’m at a wedding with horrible people outweighing the good people – and it reminds me that we’ve lost a lot of good ones while the shit ones get to keep on breathing. Because of how she spoke to you earlier,” she said, nodding to the bride on the dance floor. “Because Steve is the heroic icon remembered worldwide, celebrated for his bravery, his sacrifice … and because you should know how important you are. How inspiring, how much you were loved … how much you … are loved … by me”

He looked at her then, questioning if he had really heard what he heard.

“Yeah?” He couldn’t stop the smile that broke out. They had never really said this to each other, not in the traditional sense at least, both of them seemingly happy to pretend what they had was more casual than it really was. The truth was he spent more time at her place than he did his own, and it had been that way for at least a year, he hated when they took time apart when she was home because he missed her so much when she was on mission. He knew he had loved her for a long time. It was his habit, he fell fast and deep, but she was different and he knew that too, so it remained the fluffy cloud above their heads, unsaid but brimming over with possibilities.

“Yes.” She rolled her eyes at herself then, dabbing the tear that managed to escape. “Ignore me, I’m a fool. A drunken fool.”

He just slid her from her seat firmly into his lap, his face in her neck.

“A fool that I love, that I’m in love with, very much.”

She laughed then, pulling back to look at him.

“Yeah?” she asked in a whisper, mimicking his reaction.

“Yes.”

Before he could say much else, she grabbed him and kissed him fervently and with no shame or worry that anyone might see. He really did enjoy drunk Peggy; she was hilariously inhibition free.

“Well shit, had I known this would have been the reaction I would have said it a long time ago,” he commented before kissing her again. She laughed into the kiss before she pulled back again, this time standing to yank him on to the dance floor.

“Dance with me, Soldier.”

He had a better idea.

                                                                       ****

The car ride from Camp Leigh to the covert not bookstore in Brooklyn was illuminating for Peggy. She had met Steve on the first day of his basic. He stood out like a sore thumb so it was a little hard not to notice the skinny, starving looking blond with the lovely blue eyes taking just about everything around him in with a look of disbelief and awe on his face. He was a wild card that’s for sure, but as she knew better than anyone, it wasn’t just the big burly men that fought and won wars, everyone did their part and she was oddly proud that someone with his obvious disadvantages wanted to even participate when he could have easily opted for something a lot safer. Through training and her friendship with Erskine, she found out that he was there for a purpose, and that it was one that he – the good Doctor – was championing, he wanted Steve Rogers to be the test subject for the Super Soldier programme. Admittedly at first she had her reservations, not on character or of integrity – she found his sneaky resourcefulness rather attractive once she learned of the many imaginative ways he applied for the army – but on health concerns. She had read his medical files, of which there were many. The poor man had been through so much and he wasn’t even close to thirty. The idea of putting him in as a lab rat for their hair brained idea didn’t sit so well with her, less so once she had actually spent some time with him. He was scrappy and sarcastic and unlike what most people assumed, the British did sarcasm very well. It was rather veiled with a level of arse kissing that Peggy was just never all that comfortable with. Steve didn’t kiss arse, he was blunt – sometimes to a fault – but he was honest and truly believed that he could in some way, help people.

She remembered what that idealism was like, and it warmed her to see it in him.

He was terrible at talking to women. By his own adorable admission the conversations he’d had with her in that car that day were the longest he’d had with a member of her sex. She was puzzled as to why; surely the women of Brooklyn weren’t so shallow as to disregard him completely based on how he looked? Sure, he was shorter than average, and rather delicate in build, but he was smart as whip and funny too, and that was necessary for great conversation.

She realised then that she had spent so long in the company of an army of typical masculine men – in one way or another – that the atypical little guy with the big mouth and bigger vocabulary was a rarity, and one she found attractive.  Dating and a love life were a distant memory for her. She would have had no idea what to even look for anymore unless it was right in front of her. but she enjoyed his company, and his eyes, and that was start she figured.

She also figured he was different, in the sense that he may not have had a girlfriend back home waiting for him, but he had a best friend on the front lines, one that Peggy was sure – with each passing minute as Steve spoke of this ‘Bucky’ and sang his praises – he was a little too attached to. It was a dangerous thing, getting attached to anyone, particularly in a war – particularly when she knew where that particular division was being sent – though she would never say even if she could. But this Bucky … she imagined at first he was the classic flirtatious soldier, and from Steve’s stories, she wasn’t wrong. But there was something else, a fondness, affection and a kind of love when he spoke, and the softness of his eyes as he looked at her and then away, the slight smile as he spoke of him … it all made her feel like this guy was different, as if he were the best guy you could know – one that Steve very much wanted to be like.

“And I was beat you know? God, so beat. Bloody nose, my left eye shut with swelling, pretty sure I broke a rib but there was just no way we could afford a hospital visit, so I stumble the three blocks to my place – our place really by then, and he opens the door and I swear not even my mother could give me the look he’d give me. Dragged me inside, yanked me into the tiny bathroom and fixed about like a clucking mother hen, rambling on and on about my big mouth and how it was gonna get me killed one day.” Steve shook his head with a smile. “I figured he shoulda went into medical you know? Man could stitch so neat, didn’t even scar – which was a feat considering how many times he patched me back together.”

“Sounds like a good person to have around.” It was an off the cuff remark, but then a sadness fell over his happy little face and she felt like she’d stepped on a puppy. “I mean…”

“No, he is, really. I mean he’ll be great out there you know? Nothin’ scares him.”

Seemed like Steve getting hurt scared him, but she held her tongue.

“I’m sure he’ll make a fantastic soldier then, though a healthy dose of fear is good now and then. Gets the heart rate going.”

He laughed then and she found she liked his laugh, though she promptly ignored his lingering gaze on her legs when they fell into a comfortable silence.

“I tell ‘em all wrong. If Bucky were here he’d have you charmed and entertained without breaking a sweat.”

She looked him in the eye then, to make sure he knew, “You’re doing just fine alone, Steve. Just fine.” And she smiled when he smiled, a little breathless – a reaction she wanted to take credit for but knew in reality it was probably his asthma.

She had assumed he swung another way, but he was rather enamoured with her legs, her arse – even though he thought she hadn’t seen him checking her out just like the rest of them – and her breasts. Though, he was breast level in height, so perhaps that one wasn’t so much an attraction and more so a measurement issue. Either way it was clear as day that this Bucky Barnes – the boy with a sweet smile (so she was told) and a peculiar name was very much loved by the boy with the beautiful blue eyes.

She had hoped he survived the experiment, proved the weight in her gut wrong that Stark wasn’t completely mental and his genius could win them a war filled with good men – with superpowers of course. Whatever the outcome, she hoped he did well because Barnes deserved to see those eyes when he came home from war.

                                                                       ******

Peggy knew it was reckless, and probably rude, to be making out in the hallways to the bedrooms of a hotel on the upper east side, but with his lips on her neck and his fingers in her hair, the urge to care about that was slowly becoming a distant nagging.

“We need to go home…”

“Urugh, home … far,” he said with his usual horny grace, or lack thereof, with his lips on her neck.

“Someone will come by, in a public hallway. This isn’t what I want them taking about tomorrow.”

With that he relented, grabbing her hand, a naughty glint in his eye as he dragged her down the hallway at a brisk pace.

“Where are we-”

“We’re getting a room … sort of.”

She swore he was playing Eeny Meeny Miny Moe in his head at the rows of doors in front of them. He settled on one, and brought them to it.

“Stand watch,” he whispered with a wink as he brought a small knife and another smaller weapon out of his inner pockets.

That was new.

“You usually travel armed?”

“No, but I usually lock myself out of my apartment, so…” he was jimmying the lock, and it took all of a minute. She was impressed. “They come in handy.” He opened the door, then with a glance left and right, ushered her inside the room.

He pushed her up against the door before she had a chance to look inside, or even switch on the light.

“You asked that as if you don’t have-” he slid his hand slowly up her dress, hitting her outer thigh, and moving deftly to her inner thigh and sure enough, “that in its usual place!”

With that he flipped on the light, yanking the knife from its sheath and leaving it on the nearest table, a lamp stand behind the door.

“There, there, Bella, you’ll go home soon.”

Before he could kiss her again, she pulled back, a rightfully confused look on her face.

“Uh, Bella?”

He smiled, ducked closer to kiss her again.

“Bella the Blade.”

Peggy just sighed, because really?

“Really? Seriously? You’ve named my knife?”

Blade,” he corrected with a kiss to her neck. “And yes. I also hate that little bitch.”

“Why’s that?”

She was sure she knew the answer but she wanted to see just how big a nerd she was in love with.

“Because…” He pulled back to kiss her on the mouth before continuing, “she has the best seat in the house.”

And there it was.

Peggy sighed again. “What am I going to do with you?”

At that he wriggled his brows.

“Lots of things! Hopefully lots of dirty, naughty, in-some-states-this-is-illegal, things – Oh.”

In his sweeping hand gestures mid-sentence he had turned away from her, allowing them both to get a good look at the room they had broken into.

Oh God.

“Barnes, have we commandeered the fucking honeymoon suite?”

The awkward shrug he gave complete with cringe-face is what set her off on a fit of giggles

“Okay this is bad,” Peggy admitted, but he was apparently nonplussed.

“So what, it’s not like the frigid twosome will be making use of it anyhow.”

“Bucky!”

“What? He was totally checking me out before and she’s just frosty. You telling me you felt warmth between them? No, for a summer wedding the couple were positively winter. Now, you and I on the other hand…” he grabbed her about the waist and wedged her between himself and what appeared to be an antique writing desk, sturdy, ornate, and the rock to his ‘hard place’ she was currently caught between.

He lost his train of thought as he littered her neck and tops of her breasts – exposed by the modest neckline of her dress – with hot, open-mouthed kisses and let his left hand slide up her hip, pushing her harder into the desk.

“We can’t do this here it’s … wrong.”

“Mmhm.”

“James, I’m serious.”

“Yes. I know you use my real name when you’re serious, it’s adorable,” he concluded with a small nibble to her earlobe, making her squirm. She pushed him away then, ignoring the utterly wrecked look on his face, the mess of his hair and the crookedness of his tie, ignoring both of their laboured breaths and his obvious arousal, as she paced the room once.

“Peggy, tick-tock. It would be an awful thing if someone was to walk in here right now and find the not bride and not groom … and I know you want me and we know Brooklyn is too far for either of us to wait.”

She rolled her eyes at his cocky insinuations, no matter how bloody true.

“Shut up.”

“Oh but you do, I know you do, and I know better than to start your engines and leave the motor running unattended.”

“I really dislike your car metaphors when you’re talking about sex just so you know…”

He just smiled, taking her hand and leading her to the perfectly made bed, with the perfectly scattered rose petals.

“Noted.”

They both regarded the other before she slipped off her shoes, unzipping the back of her dress before tiptoeing back over to the desk and hopping atop it. It made him laugh.

“Well, I do like a little danger, what can I say?”

He obediently followed, their eyes never leaving each other.

“Oh I know you do; I’ve seen the case files.”

He snapped the belts on her garter holding up her stockings, shimmied the dress up around her waist, yanking the rest off, exposing her flesh coloured lace bra.

“We aren’t shagging in their bed. It would be utterly disrespectful, and we’re better than that,” she chastised, though he was barely listening as he took in all her splendour.

He licked his lips, which was subconscious now more than anything, before widening her legs, allowing to him settle there, just where she liked him. He rocked against her, heavy and hot and still painfully dressed and not inside her where she would prefer he be.

“Now is not the time to be a bloody tease…”

He wasn’t going to tease her. Instead, he was fully intending to bend her over that desk and test out the structural integrity.

And that’s exactly what he did.

Twice.

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