Burn the Ships (Chapter 2)
Warnings: Gun violence
Sokovia is a wreck. Protests fill every street. You’re constantly surrounded by armed guards. Ever since Ultron, no one in Sokovia wants anything to do with Stark. Unfortunately, Tony was a very branded man, and every piece of equipment the Foundation has comes with a Stark Industries logo emblazoned on the front. You manage to make it to your hotel with only a few scrapes and bruises. One of your guards took a baseball bat to the knee leaving the airport, but the crowd thinned out as you drove, and most of the rest of your team is unharmed.
You look at the new guy, worry written plainly across his face. Normally, you’d never bring a volunteer to a place like this, but funds are tight. His chest heaves with deep breaths, and his hands still look shaky.
“Welcome to Sokovia,” you smile, tearing off your bulletproof vest.
The sound of Velcro tearing apart fills the room as the others follow your lead. Watching you seems to remind the volunteer that he’s wearing a vest, and he begins pawing at the sides. “Is it always like this?”
You take a deep breath, watching the steam come off your body. “Only since Ultron.” Even in Sokovia’s moderate climate, those vests are suffocating. “Hopefully, we can repair some of that damage this week.”
He nods, and Jack holds up a bottle of merlot. “Who needs to take the edge off?”
The volunteer looks around nervously. Several people raise their hands or voice their agreement.
“Jack,” you grin, “what would I do without you?” You glance at the security team, noticing their less than eager expressions. “Agent Hamilton, would you gentlemen prefer something stronger from the bar?”
The senior agent looks up, smirking. “You always knew how to read a room, ma’am.”
“Alright, have your men sweep the suite, and then you can go for the night.” You wave a hand toward one of the bedrooms as you walk into the kitchen, glancing at the volunteer. “Greg, you want something?”
You take your glass and make your rounds, sliding through the door adjoining two suites. Usually, you’d have your own room, and the rest of the team would double up. Being in Sokovia, security wants to keep you all close. You take a seat at the table in the next room, and half the team follows. The other half, mostly assistants, huddle in the living room.
You take out a notebook and look across the table at your PR Director. “Lynn, you want to start?”
“Not particularly,” she laughs. “We haven’t had a presence in Sokovia for nearly a decade. I don't expect to be received well.”
As you motion to your swollen cheek, Jack passes you a towel full of ice and retreats.
“I think we’re passed begging received well,” you chuckle, pressing the ice pack to your face.
Lynn continues discussing her plan for rebranding Stark Industries in Sokovia. The Volunteer Coordinator jumps in when they begin discussing high publicity events, and the representative from Logistics almost has a breakdown ranting about how they couldn’t possibly obtain enough supplies.
After three hours of arguing, you send everyone downstairs for drinks. The truth is, no one is going to agree, and you need time to consider the options. You walk them to the door, and collapse on the couch. Leaning your head on the back of the couch, you let out a long sigh.
You look up when someone taps your shoulder. A glass of white wine appears next to your cheek.
“I know you prefer moscato,” Jack says softly.
You take the glass and swirl it under your nose. “Do you just break into my apartment and snoop around?”
“It’s called putting away groceries, and you gave me a key.” He passes you two ibuprofen tablets and massages your tight muscles.
“So, that’s why I always have something for dinner,” you muse jokingly. You don’t let yourself sink into his touch, no matter how nice it feels. “You didn’t want to grab a nightcap from the bar?”
“You look like shit.” He presses a thumb into a knot in your neck and taps your shoulder. “I'll order you some takeout. You take shower. It's going to be a long week.”
You groan as you get to your feet. You'd be lucky if it was only a week.
You’re incredibly unlucky, as it turns out. The week rolls by with little progress. Meetings lasted well into the night, and Lynn was pissed. Her job grew harder every day. You finally understood why your predecessor pulled the plug on the relief effort after Ultron. Sokovian disdain for anything Stark related runs deep. It’s beginning to look like it always will.
The free clinic you opened downtown receives only a handful of visitors and countless threats. After a group of teenagers pulled knives on the nurses, security added a metal detector to the entrance, which did little for appearances. You refuse to allow them to carry weapons openly, even Jack. The few local volunteers you had quit because of threats to their families. The outlook of your little expedition was not good.
“How’s Wanda doing?” You drag a hand down your face, mumbling into your cell phone. Your “office” is simply a desk in the corner. Not even a back corner, the only place you get cell service is by the large window along the front wall.
“Well, she’s still at the farm,” Clint chuckles over your phone.
Your eyebrows pull together as you open a file on your tablet. “Was she a flight risk?”
“For a while.” You can picture him shrugging on his end. “She took it all pretty hard.”
“Yeah,” you sigh, closing out of Wanda’s record. “I really could use her out here.”
“She’s nowhere near ready.”
“I know,” you sigh. “We’re outsiders. Maybe if she made a statement in Sokovian, they’d-”
“Y/N,” Clint’s tone ends your train of thought, “I don’t think you get how bad she is.”
“I know.” You glance at the empty coffee mug on your desk. She’s about as far from being cleared for duty as Bucky.
“You don’t.” A door squeaks open and slams shut on Clint’s end. He talks softly. “She keeps talking to Pietro when she’s alone. When I ask her about it, she says she’s just remembering old times.”
“What?” You shake your head, standing to refill your mug. “You think she’s hallu-”
Glass shatters amid screams. You drop to your knees, feeling like you’ve been punched between your shoulder blades. Jack rushes to your side, weapon drawn. A few agents secure the employees, and the rest flood into the street.
“Oh, mother of God.” You lean into Jack. “It burns.”
He snakes his arm around your waist and guides toward the emergency exit in the back. “Yep. Keep moving.”
“What the hell?” You look over your shoulder, trying to discern the situation from among the chaos.
“You wearing your vest?”
“Yes.” You follow Jack thoughtlessly, feet moving without commands from your brain. You can barely hear anything over your heart pounding in your ears.
Your rental car waits at the curb at the end of the alley behind the clinic. Jack clears the alley before ushering you out the door and into the vehicle.
“Hotel,” he barks, slamming the door shut.
“They’ll get there when they get there.” He grabs your shoulders and twists you to face the window, sliding your vest down your arms. “You’re the face of Stark Industries right now. You’re the primary target.”
He jerks a radio from his belt, and static crackles as he holds down a button. “Get Strange to the hotel, pronto.”
You turn to look at Jack, but he pushes you back around.
“Jack, answer- Jesus Christ!” You drop your forehead into the window. “Stop it!”
“Can’t.” He presses harder against your back.
The pieces fall into place. “Was I-”
Your eyes go wide at the confirmation. “How bad?”
“It’s a good thing you stood up when you did,” he smiles. “You’ll be alright, but it’s probably going to hurt like hell.”
“Great.” You grit your teeth against the ache spreading across your shoulders and the burn under Jack’s hands.
“Hopefully Strange has some anesthetics or something for you.”
You let out a morbid chuckle. “I personally nixed those. Too expensive. We weren’t supposed to be an ER. Vaccinations, antibiotics, stuff like that.”
“Well,” Jack offers weakly, “it won’t get infected.”
You choke out a laugh through the increasing pressure on your back. “What exactly happened back there?”
“I don’t know much more than you.” The pressure releases as Jack inspects the wound, muttering mostly to himself. “Can’t really see anything through the shirt.”
“What?” You glance over your shoulder, wincing with the new renewed pressure.
“We’ll just have to wait for Strange to take a look.” He shakes his head. “We’re pretty sure it was just a guy on the street, realized he couldn’t get a gun past security and took the best shot he had.”
You reach for your vest as the car approaches your hotel.
“Leave it.” Jack brushes your hand away. “It’s been compromised. Just run fast and keep your head down.”
Jack steps out of the car first and shields you as you climb out. He wraps an arm across your shoulders and pushes your head down. You cradle your left arm as you make your way into the lobby as quickly as possible, which isn’t very. The ache in your shoulder has only deepened, and your entire back feels like it’s on fire.
Once inside, Jack lets you stand up straight, but still keeps an arm around your shoulders.
“Does it always feel like a billion knives being pushed through your skin?” you ask as the elevator door shuts.
“No.” He takes a deep breath and lets you go. “Sometimes you don’t feel anything.”
“Well, lucky me.” You lean your right shoulder against the wall.
“I don’t think the bullet hit your shoulder, but the impact might have fractured it. A few inches to the right, and I’d be carrying you right now.” He eases you upright and supports your weight as the doors ding open. “All things considered, you are pretty lucky.”
The dampness spreading down your back makes it difficult for you to believe that. You take a deep breath and set your eyes on the end of the hall. The farthest room from the elevator was a great idea from a security standpoint, but right now it just seems impossibly far away.
When you’re halfway to your room, Jack shoves you into the doorway to your left. You groan at the jolt of being slammed into the door. He draws his sidearm and advances down the hall. You hear several punches land and lean away from the door. You see a muzzle flash and jump back against the door bracing for the crack of the shot. Another punch, and Jack stumbles back to you.
You reach a hand up to his bloody cheek. He takes your wrist and pulls you down the hall. “Let’s get back to your room before another fanatic comes out of the woodwork.”
You nod and follow him, stepping over the knife in the middle of the floor. Glancing at the body on the ground, you manage to croak, “Is he-”
“Unconscious. Come on.”
He urges you down the hall and pulls a key card from his pocket. Once inside, he instructs you to change into a robe so he can inspect your wound. You sit down at the table and slide your left arm out of the robe, letting his fingers trail across your back.
“I’ve seen worse.” He prods around the edges of the bullet hole. “The bleeding slowed, at least.”
The skin is sensitive and tight. You flinch away, groaning and pawing at his hands. “Stop it.”
“You stop it.” Jack swats your hand and reapplies pressure with a towel he must have gotten from the kitchen. “I’m doing my job.”
“Jack.” Heat races through your body, and you feel sweat bead on your forehead. White encroaches on the edge of your vision. “I don’t feel good.”
“Yep.” He slides a trashcan in from the kitchen.
You grab the edges and bend over, retching loudly. You vomit with much more energy than you thought you possible at this point in time. “I need to lay down,” you groan hanging onto the edge of the trashcan.
“Yeah, sure, after-” A knock on the door interrupts, and Jack stands up to answer it. “-Strange fixes you up.”
You lay your head on the table, groaning to yourself.
Jack mutters with another security agent in the doorway. “I’m going to get another room. She’s not safe here.”
The other agent grunts an agreement and takes his post by the door.
Strange walks up and drops a bag on the table. “How do you feel?”
“Like I need a nap.” You glare up at him.
“You want me to give you another dose before I get started?”
“Please.” You wave toward the bedroom. “In my makeup bag.”
Strange shuffles around in the bathroom and returns with a vial in hand. He takes a syringe from his bag and begins filling it. “How long has it been since you used this?”
“The day after we landed,” you answer slowly, retracing the previous week.
“A regular dose?”
You nod weakly.
“I’ll give you double.” He taps the syringe and pulls a rubber band tourniquet from the bag.
You turn your arm over, as if preparing for a blood draw, and prepare for the burn. Strange ties off the rubber band and presses on the crook of your arm.
“Is this where you usually self-inject?” He raises an eyebrow, glancing up at you.
You shake your head.
Wiping a spot with alcohol, he gives you the injection. You immediately tense, all your muscles contracting. And it’s over.
You take a deep breath and roll your head side to side. The skin on your back tingles, and your heartrate skyrockets. Your breathing comes easier, and the nausea subsides.
“Is she diabetic?” Jack comes around the table to sit in front of you.
You glance at Strange and shake your head slightly.
“Yeah, something like that.” Strange begins working on the bullet still lodged in your trapezius.
Jack glares at you. “These are things I need to know.”
“I can handle it.” You take the granola bar he holds out to you. “This isn't your job, you know.”
“My job is keeping you alive. Until today, you were my biggest threat.” He nudges the granola bar back toward your face.
Your snicker morphs into a grunt, and Strange drops a piece of metal onto the table. Jack picks up the disfigured scrap and rolls it around in his palm.
“That’s the bullet?” you breathe out.
“Hollow point.” Jack nods and holds it back out to you. “Amazing what something as soft as the human body can to a piece of metal.”
You hiss while Strange prods around. “Isn’t that what a hollow point is supposed to do?” He’s not gentle by any stretch of the word. Every move is deliberate.
“You know a little something,” Jack smirks.
“Not really, I- shit!” You drop your head to the table. “What the hell, Stephen?” He doesn’t treat you like the word “fragile" is stamped on your forehead. He has a job to do, and he does it.
“I have to close the wound,” he answers flatly, tugging at the sutures. “You vetoed any pain meds stronger than Tylenol.”
“We don’t have the- money.” You grit your teeth, but don’t even attempt to pull away. You spent so long waiting for Bucky that every touch, no matter how small, felt so good.
“You need to get back to the states.” Strange ties off the thread and backs away.
“I thought you said I’d be fine.” You look between the two men.
Strange nods. “You need imagining so we know what the damage really is. And you're sure as hell not going to a Sokovian hospital.”
You look at Jack’s stern expression and drop your shoulders. “Fine.”
“Until then,” Strange continues, “I want that arm in a sling.”
You offer a choppy nod, the new sutures pulling at your neck. “You said we have Tylenol?”
Strange tosses you a bottle before closing his bag. “Get some rest.”
You stand and make your way to a bedroom and drop onto the bed. You whimper when your back slams against the mattress. You’d been working with Strange for over a year, and never once found yourself wondering what else his hands could do. Damn Barnes.
“Strange says you can’t get those wet for at least 24 hours.” Jack sets a bottle of pills on the nightstand and tosses a sling onto the bed. “Antibiotics. You need to take two tonight.”
“I feel like shit.” You sit up, wrapping the sling around your neck. “A bath would have been nice.”
“You can take one, just don’t get the stitches wet.”
You shake your head, realizing someone took your hair out of its ponytail. “Too much work.”
“Get some rest, while I pack your shit. Then I’ll help you clean up the blood, at least.”
“What are you getting at, Jack?” You glance at him as you sink into the pillows.
“Nothing.” He kicks open your suitcase and walks to the closet. “I’ve been there. It sucks.”
You watch him fold your clothes not so neatly and tuck them into your luggage. Letting your mind wander for the first time, you barely hear his monologue.
“… a lot with SHIELD. Hell, saw a lot before SHIELD…”
You wonder what Bucky would have done if you’d let him come. He has more training than Jack, maybe he would’ve seen it coming.
“…nice to have help…”
He hasn’t been back in the field since being the Winter Soldier. Chances are just as good that he would’ve lost it. This is probably the best-case scenario.
“…weird, but I’m still here…”
Yet, you still wish you’d let him come.
“So, seriously, if you need anything, I’m happy-”
“Jack?” This is a bad idea. “Would you lay down with me?”
He freezes, staring at you. “What?”
“I just-” you take a breath, pressing a hand against your head. “I’m a little high strung.” That’s it. You just need some security so you can sleep.
He narrows his eyes, but nods. “Yeah, of course.” He climbs onto the other side of the bed and wraps an arm around you.
You pull in closer to him, grounding yourself in his warmth. Slowly, you begin to hear the rest of your team trickle in and pull you back to common sense. You shift away from Jack and groan. He turns to watch you ease to your feet.
“We should get up.” You go to the bathroom to change out of the robe.
“Yes, ma’am.” He chuckles, picking up right where you interrupted him.
“Come on, Jack. Don’t be-”
“I get it.” His eyes dart to the door when you emerge in your gym attire. “Go show everyone you’re alright.”
You make your rounds, assuring everyone it was only a flesh wound. One of the security agents hands you your phone, which you must have dropped in the flurry. You have twelve missed calls and twenty-three unread texts, all from Clint. Typing out a quick reply, you chuckle to yourself. He’s going to be pissed when he turns on the news tomorrow.
When Strange tells you to wind down, Jack grabs your bags from the bedroom. You call everyone’s attention and explain that you’ll all be returning home tomorrow afternoon. They need to pack their bags and be ready to leave by 10:30 in the morning.
With that, Jack escorts you to your new room two floors below. You sit on the couch and click on the TV. You wonder if the media has covered the attack yet.
Jack walks in front of the TV and whistles. “I don’t speak Sokovian, but they don’t look too upset.”
“Shouldn’t everyone be in a different room?” You look up at Jack with heavy eyes.
“Not enough vacancies.” He carries your bag to the bedroom as he finishes, “You’re the priority.”
You drag your good hand down your face and groan. “This was a terrible idea.”
“Getting shot? I’d have to agree,” he laughs, scanning your face for any hint of relief.
You just glare. “This whole thing. We shouldn’t have come.”
He pinches his eyebrows together. “What changed your mind?”
“Look at us,” you pout. “I put everyone at risk for nothing. They don’t want us here.”
He sits down beside you and rubs your shoulder delicately. “You couldn’t have known they’d go to these extremes.”
“Bucky did,” you mumble, slumping back against the couch.
Jack takes a deep breath. “He didn’t see it coming. He’s just very cynical.”
You snicker halfheartedly. “Who were they?”
Jack groans. “An extremist group. Happy warned us. They’ve made attempts on Tony before.”
Your face drops, and you look away, tamping down your anger.
“Did you want to clean up a little?”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Your struggle to keep your voice level.
“What?” He tugs at your shoulder, trying to turn you back around.
“About this group,” you snap pulling away from him. “Don’t you think that would have been helpful information in my decision to intervene here?”
“We didn’t think they’d make an attack at home.” Jack watches you pace across the living room. “They like to keep these things in our backyard, not their own.”
“These are things I need to know.” You glare at him.
“You would have changed your mind.” His voice is so calm.
You scoff, “Of course I would.”
“You didn’t make anyone come here.” He locks eyes with you, determined to hold your attention. “They followed you because you believe in what you’re doing, and they want to help.”
“How does that make a difference.”
“I’ve known you for more than five years now,” he adds softly. “If you hadn’t tried, you would never forgive yourself when Sokovia falls. You needed the deniability.”
You tear your eyes away from his and walk into the bathroom. All Bucky had done was try to keep you from going. He wanted you to be safe, sure. But you weren’t made of glass. Hell, you’d just been shot and were still standing.
Jack follows you, waiting outside the door. When the shower turns on, he knocks quietly. “Come on, you’re not supposed to be in there. You’re going to get an infection.”
You unhook your sling and carefully pull your shirt over your head. You inhale the steam, letting the warmth clear your mind. “What’s your game?”
He leans his head against the door. “My what?”
“Why do you help me so much?” You need to know. Your head tells you it’s his job, but a piece of you hopes it’s something else. You really need your head to be right.
“I don’t have a game.”
You wait. Good. It’s just a job. That’s good.
“I-” He lets out a nervous laugh. “I believe in you too. Just like everyone else here.”
You drop your head, turning off the shower, and slide your bra off. Wrapping a towel around you, you open the door. “Will you please help me wash the blood off?”
He nods, waving you over to the bed. You lay face down and unwrap the towel, leaving you in just your gym shorts.
“Strange did a decent job around the entry site.” Jack walks to the bathroom and soaks a washcloth with warm water. “But the rest of your back is a mess.”
You brace for the pressure on your sore muscles, but he just drapes the cloth across your back and returns to the bathroom. The tension slowly eases as the steam seeps into your muscles. You relax into the soft bed, your eyes fluttering closed.
He spreads the new washcloth across your lower back and begins rubbing at the dried blood on your shoulders. “Why did you hire me?”
You turn your head to look over your shoulder. “What?”
“No one else would.”
“I’m not one to judge on past mistakes,” you smirk into a pillow.
You let yourself laugh. “Barnes.”
The light pressure begins to soothe your muscles. The ache is barely noticeable now.
“I get it, you know?” He moves down to your lower back. “How he feels. Being manipulated. Looking back and knowing it was wrong.”
“Jack, I don’t think it’s quite the same.” You rotate your neck slowly.
“I know, but just-” He waves a hand in the air. “Knowing you can’t go back. You want to get past it, but no one will let you.”
You listen silently, running through possible motivations for telling you this. You hardly notice that he isn’t cleaning your back anymore, just massaging it, being careful not to come too close to your wound. You should tell him to stop, but it’s so relaxing, and his hands are so warm.
“It’s taken me ten years to get here. Barnes will come around.”
“Yes,” you roll your eyes, “I always wanted to start a brand-new relationship at forty-nine.”
“Fair enough.” His hands freeze as if he’s just become aware of his own actions. He wraps your towel around and tucks it in at your back. When you manage to turn yourself over and sit up, he’s waiting with your t-shirt in hand.
You take it and, with your back turned, slide it over your head. You turn on the bedroom TV and let Jack help adjust your sling.
“Almost ten years,” he mumbles standing behind you, “and I still have to prove myself.”
You turn to face him, kneeling on the bed. This is a bad idea. “As far as I’m concerned.” You brush your thumb up his cheek and smile. A very bad idea. “You don’t have to prove anything, Rollins.”
Damn it, Barnes. You lean forward, pulling his face to meet yours. His lips are just as warm as his hands.
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Title: How to Win a Supersoldier in Ten Months
Major Tags: Post-Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Alternate Universe - Canon Divergence, Slow Burn, Bucky Barnes Recovering, Protective Sam Wilson, Enemies to Friends to lovers, Snark, Pranks, Humour, Sexual Content, Happy Ending
When they realize that all the Winter Soldier's interactions with Sam are just him trying to Awkward MurderBot Flirt (TM) with the sexy man, Steve, Tony, and Nat convince Sam to play the honeypot and bring Bucky in.
Sam's pretty sure the honeypot isn't supposed to fall in love with the target, but what can you do?
Word Count: 14,901
Mission Parameters: Kill the mark, Captain America, by any means necessary.
Means: Violence, murder, subterfuge, lying, distraction, seduction… Seduction.
Mission Strategy Means Updated.
Means Target: Natalia Romanova. Negative. Subject Immune.
Means Target: Steven Rogers. Negative. Subject--t-t--t-t- no no no. Not St- error.
Means Target: Sam Wilson. Positive. Means Selected.
Looking back, Sam supposed it all started back in Washington. When the steering wheel had been ripped out of his hand while he’d been driving, his initial reaction had been sheer terror, along with a healthy dose of ‘what the fuck’ because, again, he’d just had the steering wheel ripped out of his hand while he was driving.
But there’d been a moment on that overpass when, for just an instant, the Winter Soldier had stilled, head tilting curiously as he peered at Sam. And then again, after Sam had kicked him in the back to get him off Steve. Of course he’d followed that up by kicking Sam about three times as hard on the helicarrier and then pulling his damn wing off, so he hadn’t thought too much of it.
Only then it kept happening.
After they’d ended the Hydra mess at SHIELD, and taken down the helicarriers, and Steve had been found half-drowned on the riverbank, they’d ended up in New York. Or, more specifically, they’d been co-opted to New York when Stark had shown up approximately five minutes later and immediately started coordinating with Natasha to get a handle on everything from clean up and PR to arranging care for Steve. The next thing Sam knew, he was moving into an apartment in Avengers Tower that already contained half his furniture.
There’d been the whole awkwardness with the revelation that Barnes was likely responsible for the death of Tony’s parents. Steve had hemmed and hawed about what to do with the information and while he’d still been dithering Natasha had gotten impatient and just told Tony herself. There’d been a lot of screaming and yelling and things had been pretty tense for awhile, but in less time than Sam would have expected, Tony seemed to come to terms with the fact that Barnes hadn’t truly been responsible. And as an added bonus, he managed to convince Steve not to take off after Barnes half-cocked and without a plan.
Only, as it turned out, he wouldn’t have had to go far because Barnes, it seemed, had followed them to New York.
He and Steve were on a run “together,” which mostly consisted of Steve being an eternal asshole and lapping Sam around the park. He was just passing from under one of the bridges when something slammed into him from the side, knocking him into the grass. It wasn’t as painful as it could have been, but he wasn’t ashamed to admit that he yelped loudly when he rolled over to find the former Winter Soldier looming over him.
“Um.” Sam swallowed hard, felt his heart pound in his chest. “Hey there.”
Barnes didn’t speak, just stared down at him. Trying not to spook him with any sudden movements, Sam drew his legs up, trying to regain his footing. But the second he started to pull himself into a seated position, Barnes moved, giving him a hard enough shove that he found himself flat on his back again, although it hadn’t hurt.
“Okay,” Sam said, holding his hands up. “You want me here, that’s fine.”
For just a second he could swear that he saw the hint of smirk on Bucky’s face.
And then Steve’s voice came from further down the path, yelling Bucky’s name. Sam turned automatically at the sound of his voice, and when he looked back again Bucky was gone. By the time Steve zoomed up beside him (not even winded, the asshole), Barnes was long gone.
“You alright?” Steve asked, looking at him in concern.
Sam nodded, pulling himself to sitting and waving Steve off when he moved to check him over. “I’m fine,” he grunted, brushing dirt off his knees. “He just… Pushed me.”
“He… Pushed you?” Steve repeated. He looked confused, but Sam could see the smile twitching at his lips.
“Shut up,” he grumbled.
“At least he’s getting less violent?” Steve offered. “That’s gotta be a good sign, right?”
“Yeah, sure,” Sam agreed, taking the arm Steve offered and letting him pull him to his feet. “That’s a huge consolation for me. Maybe he confused me for you too, huh?”
The next time it happened, Sam was alone, coming back from a dentist appointment, of all things. He was on a relatively quiet street uptown, no one else in sight. He was checking his phone when there was the clank of metal on metal. Before he could look up he was suddenly being doused with a large spray of water.
“What the fuck?” Sam hollered as he was drenched immediately, coughing a little as some of the water got in his mouth. It took him a minute to realize that it was the fire hydrant that he was being sprayed with, another minute to figure out which way was up and get out from under the spray. “What the fuck?” he asked again, coughing and trying to catch his breath. He leaned against the wall of the building and when he looked up he caught a brief glimpse of a very familiar figure standing on the other side of the spray.
It was, at least, a warm day, so Sam didn’t risk hypothermia on his trek back to the tower. That was about the only consolation he had, and by the time he made it home he was uncomfortable and cranky. He couldn’t even be surprised when the elevator opened on the common room floor instead of his own to reveal Steve and Tony. They were arguing amicably over something but stopped when they spotted him, eyes going wide in twin expressions of surprise.
“Um.” Steve snorted and Tony elbowed him. “What the hell happened to you?”
“Your boyfriend,” Sam grumbled, shoving past them because as long as he was here he was going to steal some of those cookies that Tony bulk ordered.
Steve gaped after him. “My… How…” He started before Tony elbowed him again. “Wait, you mean Bucky? Bucky did this?”
Sam shot him a look over his shoulder. “Who else would I be talking about?”
“Right,” Steve agreed, still looking confused. “But why?”
“How the fuck should I know?” Sam asked.
“I think he means more ‘how.’” Tony offered. “Was it an ambush? Did you go after him?”
“Do I look like I got a death wish?” Sam asked with an arched eyebrow. “No, man. I was just walking down the street and all of a sudden I got attacked by a fire hydrant.”
“A fire hydrant?” Tony repeated incredulously. “That’s… A less than effective means for a murderbot.”
“No shit,” Sam agreed. “I wouldn’t have even known it was him if he hadn’t stuck around to gloat.”
He saw Tony mouth a ‘what the fuck’ to himself, before shrugging. “Maybe he’s breaking through more of his brainwashing? Little less murder in the bot?”
“Don’t call him a murderbot,” Steve told him absently, still frowning like his brain hurt. “Why do I feel like I’ve heard this story before?”
And then there was the bush.
It had been weeks since the fire hydrant incident, and for all anyone could tell, Barnes had ghosted. No one could track down any sign of him, not Natasha with her super spy skills, not Tony with all his tech and algorithms, and not Steve with his can-do attitude.
Sam was supposed to be meeting Steve for a late dinner, some tiny, hole-in-the-wall place that Steve swore by. Steve, of course, was running late, and Sam was waiting for him outside (since the last time Steve had been ‘running late’ he’d ended up sitting alone at a table for nearly an hour while the servers gave him pity looks, thinking he’d been stood up). One minute he’d been dicking around on his phone to pass the time, and the next thing he knew there’d been a vice grip around his arm, another around his mouth, and he was being hauled into the alley around the corner.
(Though if anyone asked, Sam had not been so distracted that he’d let someone get the jump on him, world’s greatest assassin or no.)
It had taken him a second to catch his bearings after he was practically thrown against the wall and when he looked up there was Bucky, looming over him. Sam could barely make out his face in the shadows and felt his heart start to race.
“ Hey man,” he said, trying to keep calm. “We gotta stop meeting like this.”
There was a noise near the front of the alley, and suddenly Bucky was brandishing a knife, holding it threateningly in his hand. Sam tamped down on the reflex to yell; he didn’t know what Bucky’s reaction would be to that, but he was pretty sure it wouldn’t be good. He wasn’t stupid enough to think that taking him on in wingless hand-to-hand would be anything other than suicidal, so his best bet was to stay calm and try and work some other way out of here.
And then, while he was still weighing his options, Bucky’s other hand came up. For the briefest of seconds, Sam thought he was holding a dead animal of some kind (it was a scary situation, he could forgive his eyes for playing tricks on him) but when Bucky threw the lump at his feet, it turned out to be some kind of bush.
“Uhh… What’s this?” he asked before he could stop himself.
Bucky blinked at him. “Yours,” he replied, voice sounding gruff and unused. “It’s… Yours.”
And then, while he was still trying to figure out what that meant, Steve’s voice sounded from the street, calling his name. Sam’s head shot up and before he could think the better of it he was shouting back.
“Here! I’m down here!”
Bucky snapped his head to stare at him, eyes wide and wounded before he turned and ran deeper into the alley. In the scant seconds it took Steve to reach him, Bucky had disappeared again.
“What the fuck are you doing in the alley?” Steve asked before he caught sight of Sam and the look on his face. “Shit. Are you okay?”
“Uh.” Sam reached down and picked up the bush. “Your friend’s back.”
Steve stared down at the plant in his hand and some kind of realization cleared across his face. “Oh,” he said, the word coming out on an exhale. “You okay?”
“I think so,” Sam said, before shaking his head. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine, I’m good.”
“Okay, good. I think we should go back to the tower. We’ll order in.”
Steve steered Sam out of the alley with a hand on his lower back, and he didn’t need it but it was reassuring enough that he didn’t tell Steve to knock it off. He also didn’t let go of his plant.
By the time they made it back to the Tower, Tony and Nat were waiting for them after Steve’s frantic texts, and Sam was feeling a little less shaken.
“Did he just…” He shook his head as the elevator deposited them on the common floor. “Sorry, man. I thought he was gonna kill me, but he just brought me a bush.”
Tony looked at Sam like he was a fucking idiot. “D’you mean a plant? Like a bouquet but manly? You know, to match his… Murderlicious aura?”
Sam gave him a withering glare. “I know you don’t know me that well yet, but I’m not an idiot, Stark. It’s a goddamn bush,” he explained, holding up the bush in question. He could feel his ears heat with suppressed frustration.
And it was a goddamn bush. He felt a small modicum of satisfaction when Stark’s eyes widened as he took in the root structure, the clumps of dirt falling and breaking all over his precious floor. Sam was half expecting a reprimand, even had a snarky response ready, but Tony wasn’t even looking at him. He only had eyes for Steve, which Sam figured wasn’t anything new.
“Steve, oh my god.”
Steve sighed heavily, rubbing at the back of his neck. “So you see it too, then?”
“Oh my god,” Stark repeated.
Sam finally put the bush down, since it seemed nobody was about to yell at him for dragging it in here. He felt weirdly reluctant to set it aside, even though it was heavy. “What?” he asked, resigned.
“Sam, don’t freak out,” Steve started, and Sam resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Steve either didn’t notice or didn’t care, moving forward to take Sam’s shoulders in both of his big hands. Sam would have laughed at him for being so cheesy, if not for the painfully earnest look on his face. “I think… I think the Winter Soldier has a crush on you.”
Sam blinked back at him as Natasha, who up until now had been observing their exchange with mild interest, cracked the fuck up, laughing so hard she actually grabbed Tony’s shoulder for support. Sam could feel his ears definitely heating up now, the flush migrating down his neck and back.
“Like a big crush,” Stark emphasized, spreading his arms wide to demonstrate his point. “Huge.”
Sam sighed and shook Steve off, rubbing at his forehead. “You all don’t have to sound so thrilled about it,” he grumbled, with a particular glare for Natasha who was still cackling in the background. “Damn.” He sighed and sank onto one of the couches, leaning forward to rub at the tension he could feel building in his neck. He gave a half-hearted kick at the bush, trying to ignore the twinge of guilt that went through him when he did. There was something weirdly endearing about it in a sad sort of way, the tendrils of dirt clinging to the roots. He cleared his throat, feeling weird about the direction his thoughts were taking. “What did the bush do to him anyway, kill his parents?” he asked to cover up his fascination with it. He was pretty sure nobody present was a mind reader, but since he apparently hung out with superheroes now, you couldn’t be too sure (especially Natasha).
There was a beat and he looked up to see Steve staring at him with wide eyes and Tony looking mostly exasperated. Sam just shrugged, out of fucks to give.
“Too soon?” he asked Tony, giving him a slightly guilty smile.
Tony just rolled his eyes. “I can’t decide if I like you, or hate you,” he told him.
Sam shrugged again. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”
That got him a laugh before Tony clapped the still horrified looking Steve on the back. “Relax, Cap. We’ve all moved on. The question now is what to do about this boytoy of yours.”
“We were never like that, Tony, you know that,” Steve told him with the voice of someone who had said it a thousand times before.
Tony arched an eyebrow at him. “Who said I was talking to you?” he asked before the two of them turned their gaze back onto Sam.
“Wait, no, what?” Sam held out his hands, palms up. “He’s not my anything.”
“You know,” Nat said, apparently finally managing to get ahold of herself. “I hate to say it—,”
“No you don’t,” Tony interrupted, grinning at her.
Nat shot him a smirk back. “But we could use this to our advantage.”
“I’m sorry,” Sam said, staring over at her with wide eyes. “We could what now?”
Nat just rolled her eyes. “Oh, relax. I’m just saying, if Barnes likes you, we could use that to our advantage. Let him come to you, let him start to trust you, and then get him to understand that we’re not here to hurt him, we want to help him.”
“But it’s demeaning,” Sam protested, wincing at the blank stare that Nat sent his way. “I mean, it’s not… It’s just…”
This time both she and Tony cracked up, snickering to each other, and Sam shook his head at Steve. “What have you dragged me into, man?” he grumbled. He was working with a bunch of assholes. Steve just shrugged helplessly as Natasha gave a very unladylike snort.
“Relax, Sam,” she told him again. “Don’t act like you’re the world’s first honeypot. I’d offer to do it myself, but clearly I’m missing a key element or three. And he already likes you, which is half the battle.”
“No one’s asking you to marry the man, Samwise,” Tony added. “You don’t even gotta put out. Just… Let him know he can trust you and then bring ‘im in when the time is right?”
“Please, Sam?” Steve added, all hopeful and heart-eyed. It was those eyes that did it, those big, blue Captain America eyes looking so damn eager that Sam found he couldn’t say no.
“Fine.” Sam sighed, burying his face in his hands against the headache he could feel coming on. “Fine, let’s do this.” He looked up at Steve, narrowing his gaze slightly. “Those eyes of yours are dangerous, man.”
“Tell me about it,” Tony sighed.
The problem was, Bucky may have liked him but Sam still had no idea how to track him down. He was likely tracking them -- three different encounters seemed like too many to just be a coincidence -- but Sam had no idea what would trigger Bucky to actually show up.
Natasha had been worried that if he showed too much a pattern then Bucky might get suspicious and take off, and Tony had started working on a code that would create an algorithm for when and where Sam should go, and Steve had wanted to create a list of everywhere he might be so that he could scope out hidden spots to watch from ‘just in case’ (Sam wasn’t sure if the ‘just in case was for himself or Barnes).
Sam had ignored them all, and taken to sitting at the same bench in the same, relatively quiet part of Central Park at the same time every morning (weather permitting), holding two cups of coffee. Surprisingly, it had only taken eight days before a shadow had loomed over him and Sam had looked up to find Barnes staring down at him.
“Hey man,” he said, hoping the supersoldier super senses didn’t extend to hearing the way his heartbeat still insisted on doubling up at the sight of him. He extended the hand holding the coffee cup that he hadn’t been drinking from. “Coffee?”
Bucky blinked down at him, and it was hard to tell when he had that resting murder face, but Sam was pretty sure that was the look of an assassin who was taken aback. There was a long moment where they just stared at each other and then, slowly, Bucky reached out and took the coffee from Sam’s hand. An even longer moment, and then Bucky sat down beside him, leaving a careful amount of space between them.
“It’s just black,” Sam told him, more for something to say than because he thought Bucky would actually care. “I didn’t know how you took it.” And then, after another long moment of silence, “Steve’s not coming, by the way. He doesn’t even know I’m here. Tony does, or well, Tony’s ceiling robot does, because I’m not an idiot, so you know. Don’t try anything, I guess? But Steve’s not coming, so you can relax or whatever.”
He chanced a glance over at Bucky. He was staring straight ahead, face revealing nothing, but Sam thought his shoulders were just a fraction less stiff than they had been.
“So everyone seems to think you have a thing for me,” Sam said. “That’s cool man, but we’ve gotta talk about your flirting skills. Are you secretly in the second grade? I didn’t have pigtails to pull, so you had to sic me with a fire hydrant instead? Anyway, that kind of aggressive technique isn’t really the done thing anymore. Toxic masculinity is a thing, my man. Can’t be afraid to show your feelings, you know?”
There was a beat of silence and then Sam yelped as Bucky reached out and shoved him off the bench, knocking him to the ground and spilling the remnants of his coffee all over himself.
He wasn’t hurt, beyond his pride, and Sam had to admire that a little. He was under no misconceptions that Bucky couldn’t have seriously injured him if he’d wanted. Still, he took his time rolling over only to find that Bucky had immediately manspreaded over the entire damn bench, taking up all the room he had without Sam beside him. “Asshole,” Sam grumbled, giving him a flat stare.
Bucky seemed unphased, taking a long swallow of his coffee before getting to his feet. “Sugar,” he told Sam, the only word he’d spoken at all. He stared down at him a minute before he tossed his coffee cup in the trash can and walked away.
It was barely there, but Sam could just see the barely hint of a smirk on Bucky’s face. “Yeah,” he sighed, picking himself up off the muddy ground. “This’ll work.”
He was waiting when Bucky showed up three days later, two cups of coffee in hand once more. He didn’t offer him one this time, just held his hand out, but Bucky took it anyway and sat down on the bench beside him. He waited, taking a slow sip of his own coffee, and watched out of the corner of his eye as Bucky took a sip of his own and then stilled, face neutral.
“Hey man, you said you liked sugar. I figured more is less. That’s the saying, right?”
Bucky turned to face him, and though it was one of the more terrifying experiences in his life, Sam met his gaze head on. “How much?” Bucky asked, voice low, and Sam wasn’t sure if the shivers it sent up his spine were fear or arousal.
“I don’t know,” he told him casually. “Like twelve packets?”
Bucky blinked at him exactly once and then, still making eye contact, he knocked back the entire cup in one go.
Sam sighed and shook his head. “So that’s how it is, huh?”
Bucky shrugged, and there was that hint of a smirk on his lips again. “Guess so.”
They carried on like this for a while, meeting in the same spot week after week. And gradually, Sam started to notice the shift in Bucky. That little, crooked, half-smile appeared more frequently, and for longer. He still wasn’t a talker, but he spoke more at least, responded to Sam’s incessant chattering. Admittedly, it was mostly affirmative grunts and one-word answers, but slow progress was still progress.
Or at least, that’s what Stark kept insisting. Sam had joined them for movie night, something of a habit of late, but with Bruce at a conference and Nat and Clint on a mission, it had turned into a debrief of the Bucky situation.
Which had then turned to Steve, well… Sam didn’t like to use the word whining, since it seemed unbecoming for Captain America, but that was pretty much exactly what he was doing, sulking in the corner of the couch with his arms folded across his chest.
Sam busied himself with a carton of Chinese food, and fought back a snicker when he caught Stark’s eye over top of the cardboard, and Tony gave a truly impressive eye roll.
“Steve. Steven. Stevarina. Come on, we’ve talked about this,” Tony told him, clearly doing his best to fight back his exasperation. “Your buddy’s spent more than two thirds of his life being brainwashed. He was never just gonna walk it off and waltz back in like nothing happened. It’s gonna be a long haul, and he’ll probably never be completely the guy you grew up with. We talked about all of this, remember?”
“Ad nauseum,” Steve grumbled, emphasizing his reluctance with a needlessly heavy sigh. Sam hastily turned his laugh into his cough, and then coughed harder when Tony winked at him, lips quirked in a grin of his own. Still, when Tony took a seat beside Steve and offered him a box of chow mein, Steve took it with a mumbled thanks.
“Look, I know it doesn’t feel like it, but this really is progress,” Tony insisted. “Remember, he’s pretty much on his own. He’s got no support system, no therapist. He’s just working through his trauma by blowing up Hydra bases -- allegedly -- and hanging out with… Sam.”
Sam eyed him and swallowed down a mouthful of noodles. “I feel like I should be offended by that, but usually people just treat me like I am their therapist, so thanks for that.”
Tony saluted him with his own carton. “Progress,” he insisted.
“It’s true,” Sam agreed, rubbing at the bruise on his thigh that was leftover from his last exchange with Bucky. “I made a dumbass joke and he made a noise that I think was maybe almost a laugh. Of course then he punched my thigh in retaliation, and I’ve been bruised for the past few days, but I’m pretty sure he could have shattered my femur without even thinking about it, so if he’s thinking about it, I’m calling it a win.”
He carefully didn’t tell them how he kept rubbing at that bruise because he kinda liked that edge of pain -- and something about the reminder of how goddamn strong and controlled that asshole was was really doing it for him.
Steve sighed, but he looked a little mollified. “I guess,” he grumbled, although he cracked a smile when Tony tossed a fortune cookie at his head.
“Look,” Tony told him. “We all know Captain Patience you are not, but we’re getting there babe, I promise.”
Sam arched an eyebrow at him. “Babe?”
Tony shrugged. “I call everyone babe. You haven’t noticed?” he asked, like Steve wasn’t blushing up a storm and frantically trying to hide his smile with a faceful of cookie. Sam rolled his eyes.
“Keep telling yourself that.”
“So.” Sam reached into his jacket pocket and shuffled through the cards he pulled out. “Have you ever been escorted out by security?”
Bucky turned to look at him with a blank stare.
“Right, fair point. You’d probably just kill security.” He shuffled through again. “If you could take a selfie anywhere in the world, which location would you choose.”
When he glanced over, Bucky was still staring at him, a slight furrow in his brow that Sam definitely wasn’t privately thinking of as adorable. There was a slight moment of silence as Bucky blinked at him and then,
“Yeah?” Sam waited, but apparently there was no additional information coming and after a minute Bucky just turned to look back out over the park. “That’s it, man? No further explanation needed?”
There was a slight shrug from Bucky. “I like the architecture in Astana.”
Sam sighed. “Of course you do.”
He shuffled a few more cards, wrinkling his nose at a couple of them. “Oh! If you had to perform at a karaoke bar, which song would you choose?”
“Okay,” Bucky finally said. “What the fuck are you even reading?”
It was probably the most words that Bucky had said to him all in one go, and Sam did a little internal victory dance before he flashed the back of the cards at Bucky. “Tabletopics,” he said. “Questions to start great conversations. I don’t know if anyone’s ever told you this, Barnes, but you’re kinda terrible at starting conversations, man.”
Bucky actually almost fully smiled at that, lips twitching, before he twisted his face up like he was in physical pain. “You’re an idiot,” he told Sam, voice gruff.
Sam shrugged it off, flicking through some more cards since these ‘conversations’ weren’t really going anywhere. There was a mostly comfortable silence and then Bucky spoke again, voice grudging.
“Call Me Maybe.”
Sam laughed so hard he accidentally scared off a couple pigeons and this time that was definitely the hint of a smile on Bucky’s lips.
“Has anyone ever told you you’re a complete idiot?”
Sam turned and grinned wide at Bucky’s dry voice, popping a french fry in his mouth as obnoxiously as possible. He’d had the worst hankering for fries ever since his run with Steve that morning, so he’d grabbed an order along with their regular coffee order. He hadn’t offered any to Bucky, and judging by the way he kept side-eyeing the bag, Bucky was a little put out about that.
“Come on now, handsome,” Sam teased, unable to resist goading him further. “Don’t be like that.”
He gave Bucky a wink and reached into the bag for another fry only to have Bucky’s hand shoot out faster than he could see and close around his wrist, stopping him in his tracks. Sam swallowed hard, eyes locked on the metal hand wrapped around his skin. It didn’t hurt, but he couldn’t budge his hand at all, and to be entirely honest, it was making him squirm a little. If you’d asked Sam yesterday if being held immobile was one of his turn ons he would have said no, but apparently yesterday Sam was a moron. His breath caught in his throat and it was another minute before he pulled his gaze away to find Bucky smirking at him. Bucky gave his wrist a tight squeeze before using his free hand to pluck the fry out of Sam’s fingers, popping it in his mouth.
“Thanks,” he told him.
Sam rolled his eyes. “There’s that Barnes charm I’ve heard so much about, huh?” he asked, rubbing absently at his wrist. Bucky gave him a nonchalant shrug and Sam couldn’t help grinning grudgingly back. There was still a smirk on Bucky’s lips, but underneath that he looked genuinely pleased and Sam felt something warm settle at the base of his spine in response. “You’re lucky you’re cute,” he told him, making a show of looking Bucky up and down, letting his eyes linger over his chest and arms. Bucky rolled his eyes, but Sam could swear he preened a little too, chest puffing out at the attention.
“Takes one to know one,” Bucky huffed after a moment, eyes carefully focused on the ground in front of the bench. There was a flush crawling up the side of his neck and Sam huffed out a soft laugh before crumpling up the fry bag, tossing it into the trash, and getting to his feet. Immediately Bucky’s head snapped back up. “Where are you going?” he asked, the gruff tone of his voice not quite hiding how disconcerted he was.
Sam shot him a wide grin. “Well, I’m still starving, so I’m gonna go find some more food. You coming?” He didn’t wait for an answer before heading off down the path and it was a minute before he heard Bucky fall into step just slightly behind him. Bucky had snuck up on him any number of times -- making Sam jump was a favourite pastime that he and Steve apparently had in common -- so the fact that he was making his presence so obviously known said something.
There was a little bistro-cafe place a little further into the park, criminally overpriced because tourism, but they had outdoor seating so that’s where Sam headed. They were in that weird in-between section of the afternoon, so while it was a little more crowded than their usual section of the park, the sign at the entry invited them to seat themselves. It only took Sam a second to scout out a table with its back to the cafe proper and a wide-open view of everything around them, and he made a beeline for it, purposely taking the seat with his back to everyone so Bucky could keep an eye out.
“This good?” he asked as Bucky slumped clumsily into the chair across from him. Bucky only grunted in response, but there was a little grin around his lips, so he knew exactly what Sam was doing.
Bucky, the absolute shithead, completely turned on the charm for their server in a way that left Sam a little thrown. He was smiling and making eye contact, and talking to her in that low, gruff voice that somehow came out more seduction than murderbot, and left Sam feeling a little squirmy. The second she’d left again, Sam kicked him under the table, wincing when Bucky kicked him right back, a little bit harder.
“What the fuck, man?” he demanded. “How come you never talk to me like that?”
Bucky shrugged, a grin on his face. “Maybe I just don’t like you that much.”
“I’m your goddamn date, asshole.”
“Are we?” Bucky asked, arching an eyebrow. He cleared his throat. “On a date?”
“I mean, we’re in a restaurant, getting a meal together. Where did you think all that time on the bench was going?”
Bucky was smiling down at the table again, looking shy and definitely not adorable, and Sam rolled his eyes.
“Yeah. Oh. So the least you can do is flirt with me a little.”
Bucky looked directly at him then, tongue tracing over his lower lip in a way that probably should have been ridiculous but still made Sam feel a little hot under the collar. Then he huffed out a laugh. “Maybe she deserves it more. She’s bringing me food, after all.”
Sam just huffed at him. “See if I pay for your meal now.”
Sam had been so caught off guard with Bucky’s flirting that he hadn’t even noticed what Bucky had ordered. So when the $18 artisanal toast (it was literally just toast and jam) and the deconstructed coffee showed up, he couldn’t do anything more than stare for a full minute.
“Yeah, I’m definitely not paying for your food now. You’re such a dick.”
Bucky just smiled sweetly at him and shoved his mouth full of toast.
Sam yawned, tilting his head back toward the ceiling as he listened to Steve and Tony bicker over Chinese or Thai for dinner (his choice had been pizza, but he’d been outvoted).
“Guys,” he shouted at the sky. “Just pick something. I’m starving.”
“Agreed,” Natasha piped up, dropping onto the couch cushion beside him out of nowhere, and making him yelp.
“Jesus,” he grumbled. “Is sneaking up on people part of your Russian training or something?”
Natasha just winked at him before glancing over at Steve and Tony again. “Seriously guys. You don’t decide soon and we’re starting movie night without you.”
“Blasphemy,” Tony retorted, pausing long enough to point at her accusingly before turning back to Steve and waxing poetic about pad thai. Sam was pretty sure he’d started out rooting for Chinese.
Natasha grinned and looked back over at Sam. “So speaking of Russian training…”
Sam groaned. “Don’t you start. I’ve already got Steve bugging me for hourly updates.”
She shrugged. “Just wondering how things are going,” she said sweetly before waggling her eyebrows. “You bang him yet?”
Sam didn’t quite choke on his own spit, but it was a near thing. “You’re shameless,” he told her. “And no. I only just got him to leave the damn bench.”
“I mean that literally,” he told her dryly. “We, uh… I bought him lunch.”
Her grin grew even wider. “Of course you did. Such a gentleman.”
“Shut up,” he grumbled, saved from having to defend himself further when his phone buzzed in his lap. Natasha gave him a pointed look.
“Speak of the devil.”
Sam rolled his eyes as he opened the messaging app on his phone. “Hardly,” he protested. “We’re not on text level, believe me. He just kinda… shows up. I don’t know if Barnes even has a cell phone…” He trailed off, frowning down at the series of numbers on his screen. “Are these… Coordinates?”
With apparently no sense of personal space or privacy, Natasha leaned right over his shoulder to peer down at his phone. Sam didn’t bother protesting; she had probably already read his entire chat history in her spare time anyway. “Yup,” she agreed, pointing at the eight digit number that followed. “Date and time too. Sounds like you’ve got a date, hot stuff.”
“What? Come on, it’s just a random string of numbers. That doesn’t mean it’s Bucky,” he argued, although it did kind of sound exactly like him. Nat was smirking at him and he purposely shifted so she couldn’t read over his shoulder as he typed his response.
Barnes? That you?
It was only a second for his phone to buzz with a response. Yeah, asshole. Obviously. Who else would be texting you with date info?
It was completely at odds with the cloak and dagger vibe of the first message, and that made Sam’s lips twitch up into a smile. Not very romantic. You’re terrible at asking me out man, you know that?
Who says I’m asking you out? I’m telling you where our next date is gonna be.
Sam snorted at his phone. Oh, that’s how it is? I don’t know, I feel like I’m owed flowers at the very least. Champagne… Chocolate covered strawberries.
I’m allergic to strawberries.
You’re a supersoldier, dumbass. You’re not allergic to anything.
Whoops. Caught me.
He was about to type in another response when somebody elbowed him hard in the side, making him jump. He looked up with a start to find Natasha smirking at him again and Steve and Tony apparently done with their argument as they watched him curiously.
“We’ve decided on sushi,” she told him, saccharine sweet. “If you’d like to place your order.”
“Who were you texting, Sam?” Steve asked.
“My realtor,” he grumbled.
Sam stepped into the restaurant -- crowded enough to go unnoticed but with plenty of open spaces to keep an eye on everyone -- and blinked when he spotted Bucky waiting for him at a table in the corner. He headed over and slid into the seat. “Hey man. You’re usually more of a fashionably late kinda guy. Didn’t think you’d be here already.” Then he blinked again when he spotted the bouquet of daisies on the table. He couldn’t help the grin that spread across his face. “You bought me flowers?”
“Told you, I’m allergic to strawberries,” Bucky told him. He was going for all nonchalant, but Sam could see that familiar flush on his neck again.
“Thanks man,” Sam said. “Daisies are my favourite.”
“Yeah, you seemed like a daisy guy.”
“I have no idea what that means.”
“Of course you don’t.”
It was a minute later that their server brought over the bottle of champagne, and Sam couldn’t stop grinning.
Bucky was his usual charming self (he cracked two jokes, both of which were solely for the benefit of their server, and then kicked Sam in the shin under the table) but when the cheque came he grabbed it before Sam had the chance, pulling out a wad of cash from one of his pockets to pay for it. Sam arched an eyebrow at him.
“And you got that money…?”
Bucky’s lip curled into a smirk that was may more attractive than it had any right to be. “Oh, yeah.”
“Uh huh.” Sam eyed him a minute. “So listen, I don’t know what kind of weird, robocob stuff you usually do to fill up your afternoons…”
“Hunting down and systematically murdering modern-day Nazis,” Bucky supplied without skipping a beat.
“See, I can’t tell if you’re joking, and I kinda feel like you’re not, and that concerns me. But anyway, if you can take a break from your serial killer stint, do you wanna… Do something? I don’t know, do you even like doing things?”
Bucky gave him a flat stare. “I like ice cream,” he offered.
Sam still wasn’t entirely sure if he was serious or still messing with him, but he shrugged anyway. “Let’s go get some ice cream then, hot stuff.”
It was a sunny day, warm enough that Bucky actually stripped out of his jacket, leaving him in a long-sleeved t-shirt that was clinging to every muscle he had. They ended up walking along the river, and Sam couldn’t help eyeing him as they went, especially ogling his biceps every time he lifted his arm to take a lick of his ice cream. It was at least the fifth time when Bucky ‘caught’ him, looking right back at Sam with a pleased smile flirting around his lips.
“Don’t look at me like that,” Sam told him loftily. “You know you’re hot.”
“Yeah, well…” Bucky took a big lick of his ice cream that Sam was pretty sure was intended to make him shiver (it worked). “You’re not too bad yourself.”
“I’m sorry.” Sam stopped dead in the path, making Bucky roll his eyes. “What was that? Are you admitting that I’m hot? You are totally into me, man. You want alllll of this.” He gestured vaguely at his own chest. “You think I’m sexy, you want to kiss me…”
Bucky squinted at him. “Is that Miss Congeniality?”
Sam squinted right back. “You know Miss Congeniality? Weren’t you frozen for that?”
Bucky shrugged. “It was on cable last week.”
Sam just sighed, shaking his head skyward. “Of course it was.”
Bucky huffed out a laugh but a beat later his entire demeanour had changed, going almost eerily still. Sam blinked at him, a little unsettled by the abrupt change.
“What?” he asked, looking over at him. “What’s wrong?”
“Uhh.” Bucky visibly shook himself, but his gaze was caught on something in the distance. Sam followed where he was looking and then felt his heart sink when he spotted Steve further down the path, talking to some kids who had apparently recognized him.
“Oh,” Sam said. “Shit.”
Bucky did look over at him then, face twisted in pain. “Help,” he croaked out, voice helpless.
Without thinking, Sam grabbed his upper arm, turning him down toward a side path. It occurred to him a beat later that yanking on the Winter Soldier without a heads up could turn out very badly, but Bucky didn’t seem upset, just turned and fell into step with Sam. They were out of sight a second later, but Sam could still feel how tense Bucky was so he kept walking. He didn’t stop until they were well away from where Steve had been and until Bucky started to breathe a little easier. He spotted a coffee shop that didn’t look too crowded and nudged Bucky inside, letting him pick out a table while he grabbed them a couple coffees, well-versed in Bucky’s order by now.
“Hey.” He dropped into the seat opposite Bucky and slid the mug across the table toward him. “You okay?”
Bucky met his gaze with a rueful expression and then shrugged. “Sorry about the ice cream,” he muttered, voice low. Sam rolled his eyes.
“Right, because ice cream is what I care about here.”
Bucky didn’t answer, looking down at the table instead, and Sam drew in a deep breath.
“Listen, for what it’s worth, I think you would have been okay. You’re doing better, Bucky. You could just try… Talking to him. I mean, hey, you haven’t killed me yet, right?”
Bucky looked back up and tried to force a smile, but his expression was pained. “I… I don’t…” He trailed off, looking frustrated and Sam held his hands up, trying to put him at ease.
“Hey, it’s okay. If you’re not ready, that’s okay too. You can take as long as you need, man.”
That didn’t seem to make Bucky feel any better. He chewed at the inside of his cheek as he stared somewhere over Sam’s shoulder and then got abruptly to his feet. “I gotta go,” he announced abruptly, glancing down at his untouched cup of coffee. “Thanks.”
Sam couldn’t help feeling like he’d fucked up, and that feeling got worse when Bucky was a no-show for their next park date. He’d tried texting too, worried that this was it, Bucky’d gotten spooked and taken off, but there was no answer there either. When almost an entire week went by without any contact, he knew he was going to have to tell the team.
He was in his room, trying to work out how on earth he was going to break the news to Steve, when his phone dinged with an alert. Pulling it out, he felt his eyes went wide. News about Bucky temporarily sidelined, he jogged down to the common area where Tony and Steve were already watching the news about a massive factory explosion somewhere in Austria.
“Holy shit,” Sam breathed. “Should we… Do we…”
“Out of jurisdiction,” Steve told him, sounding less concerned than Sam might have expected.
“Okay…” He narrowed his eyes at him. “What am I missing here?”
“Weirdest thing,” Steve said dryly, eyes still fixed on the screen. “There were no workers on site. They got an official call that there was a chip shortage, and it’s not like they’re going to pay the workers for not working, so they shut down for the day.”
Sam frowned. “Why is that weird?”
“There was no chip shortage,” Tony said. “Higher up who called it in had no idea what was going on when they looked into it.”
Steve glanced over at him. “Tell him the rest.”
Tony gave Sam a pointed look. “This factory? Also on the shortlist of highly likely Hydra covers that JARVIS pulled. Nat was supposed to head out next week for recon and confirmation before we called the team in.”
Sam turned his gaze back to the television. “So someone got all the innocent people out and then destroyed a Hydra base?” He felt his chest do a weird flutter. “Huh.”
And then, right on cue, his phone buzzed in his hand. He wasn’t even surprised when he pulled it open to find another set of coordinates, a date, and a time. A minute later it buzzed again, this time with an actual message.
Sorry for going MIA, btw. Had something to take care of.
Something that starts in H and ends in Nazis? Sam texted back. Honestly I don’t know if I’m more upset about the fact that you took off and did this without any backup, or about the fact that you just used btw. You’re an old man, how do you know text slang? We can’t even get Steve to use actual emojis, just the :)
He regretted it almost as soon as he hit send, worried that talk of Steve would throw Bucky off again. But the little indicator showed Bucky texting back almost immediately.
Steve’s trolling you. Dumbass.
And well, that certainly felt like progress.
When Sam looked up the restaurant at the coordinates Bucky had sent him (why he couldn’t give him a name or even an address he wasn’t sure, but he was 99% sure it was just Bucky fucking with him) it looked a little fancier than their usual place. Not Stark Gala fancy, but still. He’d thought about texting Bucky to confirm just how dressy he should be, but didn’t want to stress him out. Instead he opted for dressier pants instead of jeans, and a button down -- though he skipped the tie and wore a leather jacket that he knew made his shoulders look amazing, thank you very much.
It turned out to be the right choice. Sam actually stumbled a little on his way to the table when he caught sight of Bucky in a blue sweater that made his eyes pop and looked like it was cashmere, the tight fit leaving his biceps looking like he could hold Sam up for hours. (Which he obviously could do, but he didn’t have to go around showing off about it.) If the little twitch on his lips was any indication, he’d caught Sam’s slip, but Sam didn’t let on, just sat in the chair opposite him with a broad grin on his face.
“Nice sweater, Bucky,” he told him. “Who’d you steal it from?”
Bucky just shrugged, unrepentant. “Some asshole on Wall Street,” he answered lazily. Sam genuinely couldn’t tell if he was joking, but he was pretty sure he wasn’t.
Bread was dropped off at their table and Bucky immediately grabbed the basket before Sam had a chance, dragging it over to his side of the table and picking out the biggest piece. He smirked when Sam rolled his eyes, but a minute later he was sliding it back into his reach.
“Classy,” Sam told him, but he couldn’t help the fond grin when he said it.
Dinner was quiet, and delicious, and over too fast. Since neither of them were really ready to say goodnight, they went for a walk. Apparently, this was their new habit. Sam kind of liked the idea of them having habits together.
They skipped the ice cream this time, but it was a pleasant walk all the same, the two of them falling into that same comfortable silence -- right up until it was broken by a violent yawn by Sam.
Bucky actually snorted before he arched an eyebrow at him. “I’m sorry, am I boring you?”
“Sorry man.” Sam offered him a slightly sheepish smile. “I need a vacation. We should run away, go to the beach or something.”
He mostly just talking to talk, but Bucky made a scoffing noise. “You think your baby-sitters will clear that?”
“Uh…” Sam squinted at him a minute and then shook his head. “Yeah, you’re gonna have to give me more than that. I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about.”
Bucky’s expression was dry. “You’re telling me Steve and Stark don’t know exactly where we are right now?”
Sam stopped dead and eyed him a minute before folding his arms across his chest. “Nah,” he drawled. “Not unless they’re tracking my every move, in which case we’re gonna be having some serious words.” He waited for Bucky’s expression to change, somewhere between startled and confused, before leaning forward again. “Your privacy is important to me. They knew about the park bench meetups, you know, just in case. I haven’t told them about any of our other dates since then, except that we’ve had them. And sometimes not even that.”
“Oh.” Bucky nodded down at the ground. “Okay then.” He didn’t say anything further, and Sam grinned at him before bumping his shoulder against Bucky’s and starting to walk again. A second later something bumped against his hand, and when he looked up Bucky gave him a soft, almost shy smile before he curled his hand over Sam’s, twining their fingers together.
They carried on like that through the summer. Every few days Sam would get coordinates from Bucky, or sometimes he’d set the date first -- with actual words, like a normal fucking human. And he could practically see Bucky getting better every time they met up. The constant tension that he seemed to carry between his shoulders gradually eased, he smiled and even laughed more, and the pain in his eyes was less, replaced by a spark that Sam could never seem to look away from. Best of all, he seemed to want to get better. He stopped giving Sam side looks like he couldn’t understand why he was spending time with him, and when he’d asked Sam for help finding a supersoldier-approved therapist, Sam had to resist the urge to dance right there, he was so proud (judging by the eye roll and smile that Bucky fought back, he did a terrible job hiding it, but that was neither here nor there).
And goddamn, once he started feeling human again, Bucky was gorgeous. Obviously he’d always been attractive, Sam wasn’t blind. But just that little bit of confidence he’d regained was doing things to him. He didn’t know if it was the way Bucky carried himself now, drawing attention to those thighs, or that smirk that he was always throwing Sam’s way, or C, all of the above, but his thoughts about Bucky had taken a turn toward the filthy.
And he was pretty sure he wasn’t alone in that. Sam hadn’t wanted to push, though he’d made no attempt to hide it every time he ogled Bucky. Bucky took his hand almost every time they went for a walk, and sometimes even while they ate. Sam had thought it was sweet at first, it was sweet at first. But then Bucky had started playing with his hands and fingers while they walked, stroking his thumb over Sam’s palm. Sam was hardly a prude, but the way he did it was nothing short of obscene, sending shivers up Sam’s spine. Then, a couple weeks ago, Bucky had started playing fucking footsie with him under the table, working the toes of his of feet up under the leg of Sam’s pants to stroke over his calf. And after their last date, he’d patted Sam on the thigh as they were leaving the table, and his hand had ended up too high to be anything less than an invitation.
So when it was his turn to pick the date again, he’d switched it up. Instead of a dinner, or another walk, he’d brought Bucky to a dance hall instead. And while he still hadn’t convinced Bucky to actually get up on the dance floor, he wouldn’t say it wasn’t a success. They were tucked up in a table in the corner, Bucky watching the dancers with that befuddled look that Sam was a little in love with, the two of them tucked up so close that Bucky’s thigh was pressed all along his, thick and warm, and he could practically feel Bucky’s voice rumbling through him every time he leaned in to speak.
“What?” Sam asked, elbowing him in the side. “You don’t like dancing?”
Bucky looked startled for a moment before he grinned at Sam. “I love dancing,” he told him, turning his gaze back to the dance floor, that little furrow appearing between his eyebrows again. “I just don’t remember it being quite like this.” He tilted his head, watching a couple grind up against each other a few feet away, and Sam laughed.
“Tell you what, I’ll go see if the DJ has any big band in his album. Get us a couple more drinks while I’m at it, see if that can’t give you the courage to get up there.”
Bucky arched an eyebrow at him. “You know I can’t get drunk, right?”
Sam just shrugged and winked, still grinning, and when he got up to slide past Bucky, that vibranium hand came up against his back, steadying, before sliding purposefully lower, palming Sam’s ass and then giving him a squeeze that made heat furl in Sam’s stomach. It was too obvious to be anything other than deliberate, but Sam looked over his shoulder anyway. Bucky wasn’t even trying to be subtle about it, watching him with a heated gaze that had Sam adjusting himself as he walked away.
Apparently Bucky had already made up his mind, because when Sam came back with the two bottles, Bucky knocked his back in one go before getting to his feet and immediately pulling Sam up after him. “Okay, come on. Let’s go.”
“Hey, I only had one swallow,” Sam protested, because Bucky would expect nothing less. “Don’t you know anything about clubbing? Can’t leave your drinks unattended, Buck. They might get drugged.”
Bucky just rolled his eyes at him and curled his hand around Sam’s wrist, fingertips like spots of fire on his skin as he dragged him out onto the dance floor. Sam had been expecting to have to lead, but as soon as Bucky had claimed their spot, his hands were curling over Sam’s hips, dragging him in close and then moving with him in perfect rhythm.
“Christ.” Sam couldn’t help the way he choked as Bucky’s thigh pressed between his. “When’d you learn to do that?”
Bucky shrugged, that damn smirk back on his lips. “Told you, I love dancing.”
“Yeah?” Sam eyed him, but Bucky seemed genuine, and while his sudden dancing ability had taken Sam by surprise, it wasn’t like he could let him win. He let his palms press against Bucky’s back, sliding down the length of his spine, and when there was no hesitation he let his palms shift lower, gripping Bucky’s ass and pulling him in closer until there was no space at all between them.
He had to give Bucky credit; the man had amazing rhythm. He kept up with every motion that Sam made, the two of them rocking together. He was hyper aware of Bucky’s body, the hot press of his chest against Sam’s through his thin t-shirt, the spicy scent of his cologne mixed with something that was just Bucky. They shifted slightly and then his thigh was grinding right up against Bucky’s cock, thick in his pants. Bucky bit back a moan, his hands squeezing over Sam’s waist as his head shifted forward, breathing thick and raspy in Sam’s ear.
“Christ, Buck,” Sam muttered, grinding up against him harder as the beat of the music changed.
Bucky lifted his head again to meet Sam’s gaze. His face was flushed but he was grinning and Sam really wanted to kiss him. His tongue flicked out against his lower lip, unconscious, and immediately Bucky’s eyes zeroed in on the motion. Sam hesitated just a second, but then Bucky twisted his hips in a way that had Sam’s vision going white and Bucky pressing his forehead against Sam’s neck and the moment to kiss him was gone.
They made it through three more songs before Sam had to admit defeat and request a breather. His shirt was soaked through with sweat, breath coming fast, and his cock was a half hard distraction every time he moved. He squeezed his hands against Bucky’s waist and then leaned in close; he knew Bucky would be able to hear him over the music regardless, but couldn’t resist the temptation of how good the man smelled.
“Hey, come on,” he said, raising his voice to be heard over the music. “I need some fresh air.”
Bucky grinned like he’d won, but he refrained from commenting as he let Sam lead them off the dance floor and then down a hall, slipping out a side door and into the night air. It was warm out, but after the hot, heavy air of the club, it was still enough to be refreshing. Sam paused a moment outside the door, leaning back against the concrete wall and trying to calm his racing heart. He let his eyes fall shut for a moment, distantly aware of Bucky beside him.
When he cracked his eyes back open, Bucky was standing just a step too close. Sam’s posture gave Bucky a height advantage, and he was looking down at Sam with heavy eyes. Sam swallowed hard, acutely aware of the way his heart rate ratcheted back up, and the fact that Bucky could probably tell.
“Shit,” he said, trying not to sound so out of breath. “Haven’t danced like that in awhile. You having a good time?”
Bucky nodded mutely, and he was grinning but his gaze dropped to Sam’s lips. Sam couldn’t seem to look away from that expression, and as he stared Bucky’s hand came out, curling over his hip in a mirror of their actions in the club. He tugged enough to slip long fingers under Sam’s t-shirt, thumb stroking over the cut of his hip and Sam cursed under his breath when his hips shifted unwittingly into the barely-there touch. That was enough for Bucky to meet his eyes again, his own wide open and wanting, and without thinking Sam pushed off the wall, curling an arm around Bucky’s neck and pulling him in for a kiss.
The reaction was instantaneous. Bucky shoved him up against the wall, hard enough that Sam grunted, and kissed him back rough and needy, teeth nicking over Sam’s lip and making his toes curl in his shoes. Bucky’s hands gripped his waist hard enough to bruise, keeping him pinned against the wall, and Sam felt him shudder when he scratched blunt nails over the back of Bucky’s neck.
As quickly as it had started, it was over, Bucky pulling back slightly before freezing completely, expression unreadable. Sam shifted them enough that he could take half a step back, not wanting Bucky to feel trapped, and held his hands up soothingly.
“Hey man, I’m sorry. Should haven’t done that without asking. You okay?”
“We need to get off the street. Now,” was all Bucky said, and Sam resisted the urge to wince -- or kick himself. That wasn’t exactly a resounding ‘yes.’
“Yeah, of course,” he said instead. “Whatever you need. Um…” He looked around, trying to think where they could go, but then Bucky had a tight grip on his wrist and was pulling him down the alley.
“Come on, I gotta place.”
He didn’t let go of Sam’s wrist as they hurried down the street at a pace just short of frantic. Sam was still a little confused, worried he’d pushed Bucky too far or too fast. But at least he hadn't taken off, was keeping Sam close, so that had to be a positive sign. It was less than a block before Bucky’s hand slipped down to curl over Sam’s instead, fingers tangling, but he still didn't speak and it was a long few minutes before he pulled Sam into a building and up the stairs.
Sam blinked as they walked into an apartment, sparsely decorated but in an oddly cozy kind of way. It definitely felt lived in, and Sam stilled as he took a second look at everything. “Wait, is this your place?”
It was all he got out before Bucky’s hold on his hand tightened, pulling him in. “God,” he muttered, pushing Sam against the wall and kissing at his neck. His right hand was still pinning Sam’s wrist, but the other was running up and down over Sam’s side, pulling at his t-shirt until he could ruck his hand up underneath, dragging cold metal fingertips over his skin to leave Sam gasping and twitching.
“You, um…” Sam swallowed, doing his best to ignore the way his cock was firming up fast in his jeans. “You okay, man? We booked it out of there fast.”
But Bucky just huffed out a laugh. He scraped his teeth over Sam’s shoulder before lifting his head to meet Sam’s eyes, his own looking dazed. “I can’t remember the last time I wanted,” he breathed, rutting against Sam’s hip like he fully intended to come that way. Sam wasn’t exactly opposed, but his knees were feeling a little weak and collapsing wasn’t on the list of things he wanted to do tonight.
“Hey, I got you,” he told Bucky, stroking his fingers over the back of his neck and then having to swallow hard at the way Bucky shivered and clutched at him in response, burying his face against Sam’s neck and sucking a bruise into his collarbone. “You got a bed around here?”
Bucky whined into his neck, loathe to let him move, and seeing him all soft and open like this was doing things to Sam. He laughed though, flexing the wrist that was still pinned in Bucky’s grasp.
“Come on, man. My arm’s falling asleep.”
“Yeah.” Bucky finally lifted his head, gave Sam a wide grin. “Yeah, come on.”
Bucky’s ‘bed’ was little more than a mattress on the floor, but Sam didn’t comment, just sank down to sit on the edge, leaving Bucky staring down at him with a hungry expression.
“Look at you,” Sam hummed, shifting forward to run his hands up the outside of Bucky’s legs. “Fuck, you’re gorgeous,” he told him bluntly, leaning in further still to mouth at his cock through the jeans he was still wearing. Bucky choked, body curling forward around Sam as his hands scratched over his head.
“That’s… Fuck,” he mumbled, hips rocking minutely. “Sam.”
His voice was rough and hoarse, pitched low, and Sam shivered a little. He’d never heard his name spoken in quite that tone, and it was really working for him. “Yeah?” he asked, reaching down to squeeze himself quickly through his pants. “What do you want, baby?”
“I… I’m…” Bucky scrubbed a hand through his hair, looking completely overwhelmed, and Sam huffed out a quiet laugh.
“C’mere,” he hummed, curling his hands around Bucky’s hips and yanking. Bucky made a frankly hilarious sound as he tumbled to the mattress, catching himself on his elbows before he squashed Sam completely. Sam laughed at him, reaching up to rub at the back of Bucky’s neck. “There you are,” he purred, spreading his legs a little wider to let Bucky settle more comfortably between his hips.
“Such an asshole,” Bucky grumbled, but he melted at Sam’s touch. His face pressed into Sam’s neck, kissing and biting at his skin until he teased a groan out of him. Bucky ground his hips down at the sound, panting at the sensation. “Shit, Sam,” he muttered. “I just… I want you so bad.”
“Yeah?” Sam wanted to make fun of him, but his own heart was racing. “Me too,” he said, tugging at the hem of Bucky’s shirt. “Come on, man,” he grumbled, tugging and pulling to yank it up over his back. “At least let me see you naked first.”
Bucky huffed, like it was the most demanding thing anyone had ever requested of him, but he pulled back far enough that Sam could haul the fabric over his head. He took a minute to just admire once it was gone, letting his hand trace down between Bucky’s pecs.
“Christ, look at you,” he breathed before flicking his eyes up to meet Bucky’s. “The serum really did a number on you, huh?”
Bucky rolled his eyes, but there was a pleased glimmer to his eyes. “Are you implying that I wouldn’t look like this on my own?” He didn’t wait for Sam to answer, instead gripping Sam’s own t-shirt in his fists in tearing it in two with apparently no effort at all.
It took a couple tries for Sam to swallow around his suddenly dry throat. “Jesus,” he muttered, doing his best to pretend that wasn’t turning every crank he had. “Thought we talked about the toxic masculinity thing.”
Bucky rolled his eyes again, smirking down at Sam. “You like it,” he drawled, leaning forward to kiss Sam, heavy and hard, pulling at Sam’s lip with his teeth. Sam groaned into his mouth, sliding his hands down to grip at Bucky’s ass. He squeezed and Bucky made a low, wanting sound, nipping harder at Sam’s lip. Sam squirmed around enough to get a leg between Bucky’s, grinning at the gasping sound he made at the shift in pressure, and pulled away to nip at his earlobe instead.
“Come on baby,” he purred into Bucky’s ear, only half hamming it up. “Let me blow you?”
A punched out sound slipped past Bucky’s lips and he ground down hard against Sam’s thigh before lifting his head enough to nod at him, looking a little dazed. “Yeah,” he mumbled. “Yeah, fuck. Please.”
Sam grinned back at him. “Look at you,” he teased. “So polite.” Bucky looked like he was going to protest, but Sam gave him a push instead. He wasn’t stupid enough to think that that would actually be enough to shift Bucky, but he went anyway, flipping over onto his back and looking up at Sam with wanting eyes. “Fuck,” Sam muttered, sprawling on top of him and wrestling with the fly of his jeans. “You’re killing me here, asshole.”
Bucky huffed out a laugh, the sound turning into a sharp hiss through his teeth when Sam’s mouth closed around his nipple, tongue flicking at the sensitive skin. “Could -- shit, Sam -- could say the same.” His hands moved to Sam’s shoulders, dragging paths over his warm skin and Sam grinned as he kissed his way down his chest, shoving at Bucky’s pants as he went.
Bucky’s pants were tight enough that Sam couldn’t quite get them off and he pulled back with a reluctant sigh, sitting up enough to get his hands on them properly. Bucky whined softly under his breath and helpfully arched his hips, wiggling around as Sam tugged his pants down over his thighs. It took a second -- Bucky wasn’t as helpful as he thought he was -- but then his cock was finally springing free, hard and heavy and weeping at the tip.
“Shit,” Bucky cursed, hips arching up again at the rush of cool air on his skin. “Oh, shit.”
Sam echoed the sentiment, staring down at him and swallowing hard. “I could say the same,” he said, voice coming out low and rough. He swallowed again. “Christ, Bucky. Where’ve you been hiding that thing?”
Bucky groaned loudly in response, head rubbing over the pillow. “Sam,” he bit out, an edge of desperation to his voice that had heart flaring in Sam’s belly.
“Yeah, yeah,” Sam soothed him, lowering down again. “I got you, baby.” He curled his hand around Bucky’s length, staring a moment longer as Bucky twitched in his grip, and then closed his lips around the head, flicking his tongue against the tip of him.
“Ah -- fuck!” Bucky keened at the touch, his hips making an abortive jerk, like he wanted to thrust in but was holding himself back. The idea of Bucky losing control like that made Sam shiver and he hummed, swallowing him a little deeper. Bucky choked back a groan, his left hand moving up to stifle the sound and Sam grinned around him before pulling back with a purposely obscene pop.
“Come on, handsome,” he teased, winking up at Bucky. “Don’t go all strong and silent on me now. I wanna hear you.”
Bucky glowered at him -- he managed to look awfully annoyed for someone getting head -- but Sam didn’t let him respond. He squeezed his hand around the base of Bucky’s cock and closed his mouth around him again, swallowing him deeper this time until his lips were brushing against his own fingers. Bucky was more than a mouthful, but Sam still managed to flick his tongue as worked, his own cock twitching when Bucky’s thighs tensed and another loud moan slipped past his lips.
“Sam,” Bucky choked, his hips rocking up against him. His fingers twitched over the back of Sam’s head. “Sam, fuck. Your fucking mouth.”
Sam grinned around him again, preening a little at the praise, and flexed his hand, squeezing Bucky and swallowing him down further. He’d always loved giving head, and he lost himself in it a little, the rhythm and motion and weight of Bucky in his mouth. His own cock was thick and heavy, aching for touch, but he ignored it for now, focusing on the man before him. Bucky had taken his words to heart apparently, cursing and groaning and breathing Sam’s name like a lifeline, and it was sending little thrills of heat through Sam.
He didn’t even notice Bucky tensing further, the way his heels were digging into the mattress, until the tone of Bucky’s pleas suddenly changed.
“Shit, shit, Sam -- I’m…”
His hand squeezed hard against Sam’s shoulder, and the feeling went directly to his own cock. He couldn’t help the way he groaned around Bucky in response and a beat later Bucky was cursing as he came down Sam’s throat, back arching off the mattress.
Sam pulled back, coughing a little, and stared down at him. Bucky was splayed out, prone on the mattress, damp strands of hair stuck to his forehead and a sheen on his chest as he panted. He was grinning up at the ceiling, a dazed, pleased expression on his face, and it was one of the best sights Sam had ever seen.
“Jesus, Bucky,” he muttered, scrambling to get his jeans unfastened and shoved down. He groaned as he curled a hand around himself, rocking up into his own grip. “That was… Fuck.”
Bucky rolled his head enough to grin at Sam, and his eyes darkened again when he saw him jerking off. “No, no, come on,” he protested, pushing himself up on his elbows, knees bending to frame Sam’s hips. “I’m good, keep going.”
Sam leaned back on his own knees, slowing down the motion of his hand as he arched an eyebrow at him. “Yeah?” he teased. “Sure you don’t need a minute?”
Bucky huffed. “I look like I need a minute?” he asked. He slid his hand down his lower abdomen, pulling Sam’s attention, and Sam swallowed hard when he realized that Bucky was already -- still? -- hard.
“Jesus,” he muttered, voice suddenly dry, and ignored Bucky’s knowing smirk in favour of leaning forward to press him into the mattress again. “Shit,” he muttered, curling a hand around the two of them. “God, that’s hot.”
Bucky snorted, the sound shifting into a groan when Sam’s calloused fingers dragged over him just right. “Yeah Sam, god. Just like that. Want you to fuck me, come on.”
Sam stilled at that, ignoring Bucky’s whine of protest. “Wait, what?”
Bucky rolled his eyes so hard it looked painful, flinging his head back against the pillow in frustration. “I’m sorry, what part of that was unclear?” He gave Sam a look like he was stupid. “I. Want you. To fuck me.”
“Alright, smartass.” Sam did his best to glare at him, but it was hard when Bucky was sprawled beneath him, cock thick and hard between his legs and expression still a little dopey from his first orgasm. “Just trying to make sure you’re comfortable. Figured you’d wanna top, be in control. Especially the first time.”
Bucky’s eyes went wide before he laughed, loud and bright. Sam had gotten snorts and chuckles out of him before but never a laugh like this, and it made him feel warm inside in ways that had nothing to do with impending orgasms.
“Fine, sure,” Sam huffed, though he was grinning too. “Laugh at me. I see how it is.”
Buck just gave him a wolfish grin. “The fact that you think this is my first time is adorable.”
“I didn’t say your first time,” Sam grumbled. “I meant us. You and me, together.”
“You’re an idiot,” Bucky told him before reaching up and curling a hand around the back of Sam’s neck, yanking him down to sprawl out on top of him. He kissed Sam hard, rocking up against him and Sam made a punched out noise when their cocks lined up, grinding against each other. “Yeah,” Bucky groaned, grinning against Sam’s lips. “I’m good, I’m fine, I promise.” He pulled back enough to meet his eyes. “I want it.”
“Okay.” Sam nodded, recalibrating, and then lost himself in the smooth expanse of skin beneath him. “God you’re distracting,” he muttered. “Okay. You got any lube?”
He could have sworn there was a hint of a blush on Bucky’s cheeks as he pulled an arm away from him, reaching overhead and rooting around beside the mattress for a moment. There was definitely a flush when the bottle he passed over to Sam was more than half empty, but he was smiling too, lower lip caught between his teeth. Sam shook the bottle slightly, waggling his eyebrows at him.
“You want me to do the honours, or do you want to take of things yourself.”
“You,” Bucky said, just a little too quickly. He cleared his throat as he caught himself. “Uh, if that’s good with you.”
“Oh yeah,” Sam drawled, giving him a quick kiss before he pulled back and snapped open the cap on the lube. “Such a hardship.”
Bucky huffed, looking like he was going to protest, but before he could Sam smacked his hip, catching the side of his ass for good measure. “Come on, hot stuff. Roll over.” He got some grumbling, like Bucky’s cock didn’t twitch at the command, but he shifted over until he was on all fours, the muscles of his back and shoulders standing out in sharp relief as he braced himself.
“I like it better face to face,” Bucky protested, not actually sounding that put out about it.
“And I like it better when I can see what I’m doing,” Sam retorted, offsetting the comment by stretching out over Bucky and pressing a soothing kiss to the back of his neck. “We’ll get there, baby,” he promised, noting the way Bucky shivered at the low tone of his voice.
Now that he had him here, Sam couldn’t resist teasing a little, kissing over his shoulders and spine, nipping at the taut muscle, running calloused fingers up his sides until Bucky’s arms were shaking with want. He didn’t protest, just rocked back into Sam and shivered and moaned when Sam told him how good he was.
“Christ, look at you,” Sam breathed, kissing down his spine. “Could stay here all day.”
Bucky whined through his teeth at that, and when he spoke his voice was rough and out of breath. “I’d really… rather you didn’t,” he huffed, words interspersed with soft little wanting noises, and Sam smiled into his skin.
“Yeah, yeah, alright,” he promised. He pulled back again, fully intending to make good on his promise and prep Bucky so he could finally get in him. But the man was a sight before him, still on all fours, head hanging low and ass up and on display just for Sam. Sam had always been an ass man and would happily admit to having checked out Bucky’s at every possible opportunity. But it hadn’t quite prepared him for just how delectable it would be, having Bucky all laid out for him like this. “Fuck,” he breathed out, all in a rush of air. He reached out, giving Bucky’s ass a squeeze and Bucky jolted in response.
“Sam,” he bit out through gritted teeth.
“Yeah, I know,” Sam told him. “Just let me…”
It hadn’t been his original plan, but Sam was nothing if not adaptable. He shifted a little further back on the bed and then dove in, licking a long stripe up the cleft of Bucky’s ass, hands squeezing at his skin. Bucky jerked like he’d been electrocuted, a garbled noise slipping past his lips.
“This okay?” Sam asked, confident enough in the answer that he did it again before Bucky had a chance to respond.
“Yes, yes, fuck,” Bucky bit out, squirming beneath him and pressing back against his mouth. “Oh fuck, please.”
Sam grinned and traced his tongue over the rim of Bucky’s hole, feeling the way he shuddered beneath him. He pressed in closer and took his time suckling at the sensitive skin, adding the perfect drag of teeth every once in a while just to keep him guessing. Bucky was keening with every flick of his tongue, hips rocking frantically back against him, trying to push Sam closer. His arms collapsed, face pressed into the pillow, but Sam just squeezed his ass harder, working him open with his lips and tongue until he could press in even deeper.
When Bucky’s hole was loose and fluttery around his tongue Sam pulled back a little, blowing cool air across the skin. Bucky practically sobbed into the pillow in pleasure and Sam grinned, squirting too much lube onto his hand before he dove back in, this time slipping a finger inside too. Bucky sounded like he was dying in the best way, kept pleading for more, and Sam gave it to him, working two and then three fingers inside him, stretching him open and licking around them until Bucky was loose and sloppy and more than ready for him.
He pulled back then, laughing at Bucky’s whine of protest, and smacked his ass just to watch it bounce. “Hey, come on man. Roll over. You’re the one who wanted face to face.”
It seemed to take a second for the words to process, but then Bucky was shifting up onto all fours, movements clumsy and graceless, and flopping onto his back. He blinked up at Sam with a dazed expression, and Sam arched an eyebrow at him.
“You come again?”
“I don’t know,” Bucky told him lazily, voice low and face open and happy. “Maybe.”
Sam snorted. “You still want me to fuck you?”
“God yes,” Bucky said immediately, spreading his legs and canting his hips up.
“Fuck,” Sam muttered, quickly shifting into position. “God, look at you. C’mere.”
He didn’t waste anymore time before lining himself up and pressing in. Bucky was all tight, slick heat and Sam groaned as he slipped past his rim, the pressure around his aching cock almost too much. Bucky was moaning though, soft little pleases slipping out on every other breath, and Sam only paused a moment before pressing in further, not stopping until he was buried balls deep.
“Oh fuck,” Bucky gasped when he finally stopped, hands running aimlessly over Sam’s back. “Oh fuck just… Wait a second.”
Sam nodded sharply, ignoring the way his dick was throbbing, body telling him to move. “You okay?”
“Yeah.” Bucky laughed. “Just don’t move. I’m gonna come if you move. Just… Need a sec.”
Sam squeezed his eyes tightly shut, balls throbbing. “Jesus, Buck,” he muttered, resting his forehead against Bucky’s chest. “You’re gonna kill me.”
It was another minute before Bucky finally gave him the go-ahead and Sam couldn’t hold back any longer. Feeling a little out of his mind with pleasure, he fucked into Bucky hard and fast, the noises Bucky made in response only ratcheting him up higher. Bucky was clutching at his hips, squirming around beneath him, and Sam got a grip on his legs, bending him in half until he was dragging over his prostate with every single thrust. Bucky shouted at the shift, metal hand reaching over his head to clutch at the mattress until he tore it. Sam was starting to see why he didn’t have a headboard.
“Oh shit,” Bucky panting, arching his hips a little higher, letting Sam slip a little deeper. “Right there, fuck. I’m gonna, I’m gonna…”
Sam nodded, dropping his head to kiss him, open-mouthed and panting and more sharing air than anything. “Yeah,” he gasped, feeling his own balls draw up tight as he struggled to hold on just a little longer. He wormed a hand between them. “Come on baby, come for me.” He managed to half curl his hand around Bucky’s cock, the angle awkward, and his grip not tight enough, but a beat later Bucky’s back was arching, body tensing as he spilled over Sam’s fingers.
He grew impossibly tighter and Sam let go of his dick, bracing his hands on the mattress instead and managing only two, three more thrusts before he was burying himself deep and coming with a low groan.
They stayed like that for a long minute, Sam splayed over top of Bucky, the room filled with the sound of their panting as they tried to get their breathing back under control. Then Bucky shoved unceremoniously at Sam’s side.
“Get off, man,” he grumbled, a grin in his voice. “You’re heavy.”
Sam sighed but shifted off of Bucky, sprawling out beside him instead. “The hell kind of thank you is that?”
Bucky just rolled his eyes, shifting onto his side to look at Sam, and then scrunched his face up. “God, I am like… Just covered in come,” he grumbled, making Sam snort.
“Charming,” he teased, and Bucky glowered at him, before leaning in and giving Sam a quick, soft kiss.
“Be right back,” he hummed, rolling easily to his feet and padding to the bathroom like he hadn’t just been fucked within an inch of his life. Sam wasn’t jealous. Really.
He dozed a little, listening to Bucky move around in the bathroom, then jolted awake when a cool cloth was dumped unceremoniously on his bare belly. “Thanks,” he grumbled, giving himself a cursory clean up (he’d avoided the worst of Bucky’s mess) as Bucky smirked at him.
Bucky tossed the cloth back in the bathroom when he was done, flopping back down on the mattress beside him. He looked sideways over at Sam, not quite meeting his eyes. “You, uh… You staying?” he asked, sounding just a little nervous, and Sam snorted.
“Well, I’d have to remember how my legs worked to be able to leave, so… Yeah. I’m sticking around. That okay?”
“Yeah.” Bucky did meet his eyes then, grinning. “Yeah, that’s great.” He leaned over to turn off the light and shifted around a little and then they were pressed close, Bucky’s head tucked against Sam’s chest. Sam curled his arm around Bucky’s back, pretending not to notice his soft, pleased sigh at the motion.
They lay in silence for a few easy minutes until Sam couldn’t stand it any longer and nudged his hip against Bucky’s side. “Man. You really came in like five seconds flat, huh?”
Bucky sighed like Sam was the biggest battle he’d ever had to overcome. “Fuck off. It’s been seventy goddamn years,” he told him, rolling his eyes at Sam’s laughter. “Besides, I didn’t hear you complaining.”
“No,” Sam agreed, grinning when Bucky’s hand came up to tangle with his. “No I was not.” He hummed for a minute. “Hey, you should know, I kept that bush you gave me.”
“The…” Bucky rolled to squint at him. “The what?”
“The bush. Way back when? You cornered me in an alley and threw a bush at me and then took off?”
“Oh.” Bucky looked embarrassed, but he laughed softly. “That.”
“Yeah, that. I kept it. Nat’s got a little vegetable garden on the roof. She let me have a patch of dirt and I replanted it. She’s thriving. I named her Rita.”
Bucky snorted, embarrassment fading. “Why?”
“Why did I name her Rita?” Sam shrugged and stifled a yawn. “I don’t know man, I guess I was doing some kind of 40s homage to you. It seemed to suit her anyway.”
Bucky rolled his eyes. “I meant why did you keep it?”
“Oh.” Sam grinned at him then, bumping his shoulder against Bucky’s. “Guess I kinda liked you.”
They fell into easy, comfortable silence. It was late enough that it was early again, the sky outside the bedroom lightening into the soft grey of pre-dawn, and Sam could feel himself drifting, lulled by the regular rhythm of Bucky’s breathing beside him. He was almost asleep when Bucky spoke again.
There was something in his voice that made Sam shift to face him, finding Bucky’s eyes gleaming in the early morning light. “Yeah?”
Bucky drew in a deep breath, and his smile was nervous, but happy. “I think I’m ready to see Steve.”
*** One Week Later ***
Sam let the sounds of his teammates eating wash over him, glancing over at the clock at the stove and trying not to let his anticipation show. Saturday morning Avengers brunch wasn’t anything official, but nine times out of ten everyone would find their way into the common room after training and all-nighters and the dreaded weekend meeting, and it seemed as good a time as any for this. He and Bucky had gone over it over and over again, if it was best for him to see everyone at once, if he wouldn’t rather be on neutral territory, but Bucky had decided he was ready, and Sam was ready to support him in whatever he chose to do.
The clock on the stove flicked over to the hour and right on cue Sam heard the faint whoosh of the elevator door opening behind him and, because he was listening for it, faint footfalls crossing the room. From across the table, Sam saw Clint freeze and his eyes go wide, the forkful of waffle and syrup that he’d been about to shovel into his mouth falling to his lap instead. Clint cursed as he realized and then Sam’s chair was being pulled slightly back and he found himself with two hundred and sixty pounds of half-naked supersoldier sitting sideways in his lap.
“Morning, baby,” Bucky hummed, helping himself to some of Sam’s breakfast like this was an everyday occurrence.
From over his shoulder, Bucky could see Steve staring at them, looking like he was having a stroke, and Sam turned his face into Bucky’s neck before Steve could catch him laughing. He met Tony’s eyes in the process, the other man already over any shock and giving Sam a look that was somewhere between amused and impressed.
Bucky turned his attention on Steve then, and though he was still playing it up, his smile was a little softer, a little more earnest. “Morning Stevie.”
Sam pressed a soft kiss to Bucky’s shoulder and squeezed his hip reassuringly as Steve blinked at them several times in a row and finally opened his mouth.
“What the fuck??”
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