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Lighting a Candle

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“So, are we going to do something about that, or....?” Tony raised an eyebrow, nodding impatiently towards where Steve and Bucky were laughing in the kitchen, only a few inches between them. 

“I don’t know what you’re referring to,” Natasha responded, refusing to look up from her phone. 

“What I’m referring to is...is that! That right there!” Tony scowled, pointing at where Bucky had just slung an arm around Steve’s neck. 

“They’re making breakfast, man,” Sam scoffed. “You need to learn to mind your own business.”

“Besides,” Natasha cut in, “I spent the better part of three months trying to set Steve up with everyone in sight, and it never went anywhere. I think maybe relationships just aren’t his thing or something,” she shrugged, going back to the game she’d been absorbed in. 

“Or maybe-“ Tony pressed on, “Maybe it didn’t go anywhere because he was, y’know, uh, lighting a candle,” he nodded knowingly. 

“Carrying a torch, dude,” Sam corrected. “And look, maybe they’re a little....touchy-feely, but c’mon, they both thought they’d lost their best friend for....how many years? I say, we cut ‘em a break and let them be.

Tony shook his head. “No way, look, we all owe him, okay? If Barnes is his only chance to do the horizontal tango and ride off into the sunset, we gotta make it happen!” 

“Tony,” Sam said sharply. “I’m telling you, as Steve’s 21st-century best friend, you need to leave this alone. Is there any chance of that?”

“Fine,” Tony sighed dramatically. “I will allow Cap to grow old and gray without ever getting to bone his past-life BFF. Scout’s honor,” he added, saluting Sam while sticking his tongue out.” 

Thank you,” Sam rolled his eyes, grabbing his plate and heading into the kitchen, where Bucky was now perched on the counter, tossing the occasional blueberry at Steve. 

Natasha snorted and raised an eyebrow. “You’re really gonna leave it alone?” she asked. “Just like that, just because of Sam?”

“Hell no,” Tony scoffed, “but if he’s so against helping, I don’t want him knowing what we’re up to.”

“We?” Natasha asked, delicately raising an eyebrow. “I don’t remember agreeing to anything,” she smirked. 

Tony pointed his spoon at her and leaned in. “Seriously? Look at them!” he whispered furiously, jabbing his spoon back towards the kitchen. Bucky was showing Steve something on his phone, glancing at the blonde while Steve chuckled at the phone. “You can’t tell me,” Tony continued, “that they wouldn’t be great together. I know, I know—“ he pressed on, “you’re gonna say that they won’t get it because they’re both guys and they’re from the 1800s or whatever.”

“That’s not what I was going to say,” Natasha leaned back in her chair, on her phone again. 

“But I think,” Tony continued, as though she hadn’t spoken, “we just need to.. expose  them to it a little. Y’know, get them used to the idea, then set ‘em up. So, you in or what?”

Natasha sighed, considering. “All right,” she said after a beat. “I’m in.”

Chapter Text

Sam slipped his sweatshirt on over his head, grabbing his phone and keys as soon as he’d pulled it all the way down. He walked out the door and sent off a quick text to Steve to let him know he was leaving. 

“See you soon!” He got a response about two minutes later, shaking his head at the three thumbs-up emojis Steve had added at the end of the message. 

Predictably, Steve was already there waiting for him, dressed in almost the same workout clothes he wore for every run. “Hey, man,” Sam greeted him with a nod. “I hope you’re ready to taste my dust today,” he grinned. 

“Sure I am,” Steve said amicably, “I always do when I end up lapping you,” he added after a beat, making Sam snort and shake his head. 

“Whatever, man,” Sam rolled his eyes. “You wanna run or what?”

“Run? Is that what you call-” Steve started. 

“Jesus, Rogers, give it a rest,” Sam interrupted, laughing as they started  a brisk jog. 

Steve kept his pace even with Sam’s, clearly dialing it back as he always did until Sam rolled his eyes and told him to go on and actually try. 

He hadn’t said it yet, though, and Steve was clearly itching to take off running and probably lap him a couple times. “Hey, man,” Sam started, faltering after a few seconds. 

“Yeah?” Steve asked, raising an eyebrow.

“It’s just, you know....I’m really not trying to pry!” Sam interrupted himself, waving a hand in Steve’s general direction. 

“Okay...” Steve trailed off, clearly still confused. “So what are you not prying into?”

“Y’know, your...personal business. That’s, well, it’s...personal,” Sam rambled, “and I know it’s none of my business, anyway.”

“Sam, what are you talking about? What’s none of your business?” Steve asked, brow furrowed. 

“You. And Barnes. You and Barnes. Together. Or not together!” Sam added hastily, determinedly not looking at Steve. “Look, Stark’s got it in his head that he should set you up. I mean, he promised he’d drop it, but-“

“But he’s Tony, so he’s definitely not dropping it,” Steve finished for him. 

“Exactly,” Sam pressed on, “and I just figured you should know. In case there’s anything you need to tell people. Or not tell people! That’s up to you. And Barnes. You and Barnes.”

“Right,” Steve said slowly, now avoiding Sam’s gaze as well. 

“And I know he’s a private guy!” Sam added quickly. “And anything that isn’t my business is...well, not my business,” he gave Steve a meaningful look. “Just know that...I’m here for you, buddy. No matter what.”

“Thanks, Sam,” Steve said, clearly bemused. “That’s real sweet,” he continued, lightly elbowing Sam in the ribs and clearly holding back laughter. 

“Fuck off, Rogers,” Sam shot back, laughing and picking up the pace. 

“Language,” Steve responded absentmindedly, easily outpacing him without trying. 

Whatever,” Sam grumbled, pushing himself harder to try and catch up with Steve, which only worked for about ten seconds before Steve broke into a full run.

“See you in a minute or two!” Steve grinned, looking back over his shoulder at Sam.

“Fuck off!”

“Language!”

Chapter Text

“Home!” Steve called loudly, pulling the door closed behind him and dropping his keys in the bowl by the door.

“In here!” Bucky called back, accompanied by the sound of metal clanging. Steve walked into the kitchen, plastering himself to Bucky’s back and wrapping his arms around him.

“Hello to you, too,” Bucky chuckled, pouring cocoa powder into a cup measure.

“Whatcha making?” Steve asked, resting his chin on Bucky’s shoulder.

“Chocolate ganache cake,” Bucky muttered, mixing some dry ingredients together.

“It’s 9 in the morning,” Steve pointed out, raising an eyebrow.

“Yeah, so?” Bucky asked, continuing on without waiting for a response. “I was gonna decorate it with—I can’t remember what’s it called, but I got it on Amazon. It makes flowers and stuff out of the frosting.”

“Sounds good, Buck,” Steve chuckled, “Need any help?”

“Not from you, Rogers,” Bucky elbowed him, wriggling out from his grip to grab the flour canister. “You remember the Christmas cookie disaster? And the time with the spice cake? Oh, and—"

“All right, all right, I get the picture,” Steve interrupted laughingly, jumping up onto the counter and sticking his tongue out at Bucky.

Good,” Bucky stressed, flicking Steve on the arm and starting to add ingredients to their stand mixer.

“So…” Steve started, kicking his legs a bit where they were dangling off the counter.

“So?”

“So, apparently, Tony thinks we make a cute couple,” Steve finished.

“Good for Tony?” Bucky asked, clearly confused.

“Or he thinks we’d be good together. Something like that,” Steve continued. “According to Sam, anyway.”
“We’re already good together,” Bucky protested, clearly offended. “Is he really one to be giving relationship advice?”

“No, like Tony told Sam we’d be good together because he wants to set us up,” Steve leaned forward, grinning.

“You’re saying he…doesn’t know we’re married? How could he not know?” Bucky looked even more offended. “I mean, we haven’t exactly been subtle. In this century, anyway,” he added as an afterthought.

“That was my first thought,” Steve agreed.

“So Sam told you about this?” Bucky asked, briefly glancing up at Steve while he poured heavy cream into a measuring cup.

“Yeah, during our run,” Steve answered. “Although…the way he told me…” he trailed off.

“What?”

“It was like…like he knew about us,” Steve continued.

“He does know about us. Everyone does. Except Stark, apparently,” Bucky amended, snorting.

“Yeah, but it was like…like he’d figured it out. Like he’d found out a secret and been keeping it this whole time,” Steve explained further.

“You’re saying it’s not just Stark?” Bucky raised an eyebrow. “We share an apartment. A one-bedroom apartment. We go on our vacations together. We wear each other’s clothes frequently. Hell, when we stay at Avengers Tower, we share a suite, so Tony really has no business not knowing,” Bucky finished, looked annoyed once more.

“At least Sam figured it out,” Steve pointed out, clearly amused by the entire situation.

“He thinks we’re trying to keep it a secret!” Bucky was gesturing dramatically by this time. “Seriously, what do we have to do at this point?”

“I have an idea,” Steve offered, trying to steal some cake batter and having his hand slapped away.

“Okay?”

“We go with it.”

“We…go with it?”

“Yeah,” Steve leaned forward, grinning. “We let them try and set us up—and we don’t act any different than we have been. See how long it takes ‘em? Or we wait ‘til they think they’ve made us realize our feelings and then drop the bomb.”

“That’s diabolical.” Bucky shook his head. “I love it.”

“So you’re in?” Steve asked, successfully sticking his finger in the cake batter this time.

“I’m in.”

Chapter Text

“It’s perfect!”

“You don’t think it’s a little on the nose?” Natasha asked dryly, her voice echoing a little over the phone. 

“No,” Tony insisted stubbornly. “It’s great. Forced proximity plus exposure therapy.”

“Two birds with one stone may not be the right approach here,” Natasha pointed out. “They’re like a million years old, you might just scare them off.”

“It’s more efficient this way,” Tony emphasized, talking with his hands despite the fact that Natasha couldn’t see him. 

“Fine. We’ll see how it works out, but if they freak out, we put the brakes on and do it my way?” Natasha questioned. Tony could practically hear the eyebrow raise from across the city. 

“Deal!” he exclaimed. “What about Wilson? Did you invite him?”

“Of course I did,” Natasha responded. “He’s a part of the team now.”

“Yes, but he knows about our plan. And is against it. Also, I told him we weren’t gonna do it, remember?”

“Well, I’m pretty sure he’s gonna figure it out tonight,” Natasha sighed. 

“Whatever, it’s not like he’ll say anything in front of Cap’n Courage and his trusty sidekick,” Tony snorted, “He might yell at us after, but that’s no big deal.”

“If you say so,” Natasha said disbelievingly. “See you later, Tony.”

“Later,” Tony replied, hanging up.


“Hey, how’s it hangin’, big guy?” Tony greeted Thor cheerfully. 

“Hangin’?” Thor questioned, squinting at Tony. 

“Nevermind! Glad you could make it,  c’mon in, make yourself comfortable!” Tony clapped Thor on the back, then nearly fell down when Thor did the same. 

“Natasha!” Thor yelled, barreling towards where she was perched on the top of the couch. 

Tony watched for a minute, laughing a bit at Natasha’s face when she was suddenly lifted in the air and hugged. The doorbell rang again, tearing his attention away from what was unfolding in the living room. 

“Clint! Good to see you man,” Tony greeted, returning the nod Clint gave him in response. 

“I should...probably go help her,” Clint said thoughtfully, gesturing to where Thor was now gesturing wildly as he spoke to Natasha.

“Probably,” Tony agreed. 

“It’s more fun to watch, though,” Clint grinned, heading towards the kitchen instead. 

 Tony chuckled a bit to himself, leaning on the corner in front of the door and watching as Thor finally finished telling his story. He couldn’t hear Natasha’s response, but it made Thor throw his head back and roar with laughter. He lingered a bit more, waiting on the doorbell to ring again, but it still made him jump a little when it actually happened. 

“We’re here,” Barnes stated. “This is for you,” he held out a bag. 

Tony peeked inside to see a six pack of beer, as well as some snacks. 

“Oh—hey, thanks, man,” he said, somewhat awkwardly. 

Barnes nodded, face unreadable until Steve elbowed him slightly.

“You are welcome,” he said, expression unchanging. Nevertheless, Steve beamed at him and his face softened a little. 

“Well, come on in, almost everyone’s here,” Tony said hastily, after an awkward beat. 

Barnes nodded again, not waiting for him to move aside before pushing past him. 

“Bucky!” Steve hissed. 

Barnes turned around, looking lost. “I—he said come inside...” he faltered, looking guilty but confused. 

Steve immediately lost all his tension. “That’s all right, Buck. You gotta wait for people to move out of the way, okay?”

“Okay,” Bucky nodded. “Sorry,” he directed the apology at Steve, who nodded his head towards Tony. 

“Sorry, Stark,” he corrected, still looking at Steve. 

“All good,” Tony shrugged, managing a half-smile. 

“Why don’t you put this in the kitchen, Buck?” Steve suggested, nodding at the bag Tony was holding. 

“Okay,” Barnes agreed, taking the bag from Tony and heading towards the kitchen. 

“Real advanced social skills he’s got there, huh?” Tony asked lightly. 

Tony,” Steve looked reproachful. “Buck’s really trying, and he’s gotten loads better. It’s just big groups make him nervous, and....well...he doesn’t know how to act around you.”

“Around me?” Tony asked, offended.  “Why do I have to be the one he gets all weird with?” 

“You’re not that...straightforward. He doesn’t really know what to make of you, I guess. It’s fine, Tony, he’s still working on it,” Steve insisted, looking every inch the boy scout Tony knew he was.

“Whatever,” Tony rolled his eyes, sighing dramatically. “I’ll sit at the other end of the table for dinner, and then we’ll just watch the movie, there’s not too much social interaction for me to throw him off with.”

Tony,” Steve warned, crossing his arms and heading towards the dining table. 

“Fine, fine,” Tony groaned, following him. “I promise to play nice with everybody’s favorite assassin.”

Hey,” Natasha protested, lightly jumping off the couch and sliding into the chair next to Steve. 

“Sorry, sorry, second favorite!” Tony corrected at Natasha’s expression. 

“Damn right,” Natasha muttered, looking slightly mollified. 

Thor came over as well, not wanting to be left out of the conversation. 

Clint wandered out of the kitchen a couple minutes later with a beer, shooting a grimace Natasha’s way. 

The doorbell rang again, and Tony jumped up to go answer it. Steve waited a few seconds, then slipped away, disappearing into the kitchen. 

“Wilson!” Tony grinned. “Finally made it, huh?”

“Sorry, man,” Sam laughed. “I was a little late leaving and there was more traffic than I thought.”

“Skies full? Big pigeon event going on tonight?” Tony asked cheekily. 

“You know, I think I woulda been on time, I just kept missing it, cause you said a nice-looking building, and—”

“That’s enough, boys,” Natasha interrupted, clearly amused.  

“Whatever,” Tony scowled, sticking his tongue out at Sam as soon as Natasha turned back around. 

“I saw that!” she called. 

Shit.

Tony dropped into the chair next to Clint. “Ok, so I thought for tonight I’d make a really big, fancy meal, all by myself,” he started. 

“Please tell me you decided against it,” Sam interrupted, making a face.

“Well...yes, I did. It was just a thought, but it turned out it was gonna be a ton of work,” Tony complained. “So, I just ordered Chinese.”

This was met with some overdramatic sighs of relief as well as a cheer from Clint, who basically lived on takeout. 

The food arrived fairly soon after that, interrupting Natasha and Sam’s argument over whether or not a hot dog constituted a sandwich.

“It’s bread with a filling in the middle. Sandwich.” Natasha stated, taking a sip of her beer. 

“That’s not how it works! Is a bagel with cream cheese a sandwich?”

“Is it stacked?”

“It doesn’t matter! I mean—sure, yeah, it is.”

“Ok, then yes.”

“It’s not a sandwich! And neither is a hot dog, that’s completely—”

“Anyone wanna help carry?” Tony called over from where he was taking food from the delivery guy. Thor and Steve got up to go help him, and Sam and Natasha turned their attention back to bickering. 

Tony scanned the table as they walked back over, trying to figure out a way to make sure Barnes and Steve would have to sit next to one another. He finally settled on a plan, but before he could put it into action, Steve slipped into the seat on Bucky’s left side. 

“Well, that was easy,” he murmured to Natasha, grabbing the chair next to her. 

She nodded. “Well, they always sit next to each other, right?”

“I guess,” Tony frowned, thinking it over. “I can’t believe I never noticed that. So I guess, like half of tonight’s plan is totally unnecessary.” He pouted a bit, voice still lowered so the others couldn’t hear. 

“Usually they sit on the couch with some of us,” Natasha reminded him, grabbing the container closest to them. “We gotta shift them to the loveseat somehow.”

“That’s true,” Tony brightened up, spooning lo mein onto his own plate.

“Besides, I’m sure the movie will be very...eye-opening for the both of them. In terms of...society’s views on different...things,” she trailed off, giving Tony a meaningful look. 

“That’s the idea,” he grinned widely, stealing a piece of shrimp off her plate and getting his hand slapped for it. 

She rolled her eyes and turned back towards the rest of the group, listening in on Sam and Clint’s conversation without skipping a beat. 

“Of course cereal isn’t considered a soup, you goddamn—!”

Chapter Text

Natasha listened, amused, as Clint and Sam continued their bickering for the entirety of the meal. She waited to interrupt until everyone was pretty much finished eating.

“Just letting you two know, if you talk that much during the movie, I’m going to hole punch your tongues,” she stared them both down, eyes narrowing.

“We won’t,” Sam said hurriedly. “Right, Clint?”

“Right,” Clint grinned at her, being the only one at the table who could always tell when she was joking. She waited until Sam shook his head and turned away before returning the wink.

“Okay, movie time!” Tony said with forced cheerfulness, standing up as he did so. I call the couch!”

“Same,” Natasha chimed in, shooting a look at Clint.

“Same,” he echoed, raising an eyebrow at her before subtly signing, “Why are we sitting with Tony?”

“We need Steve and James on the loveseat. I’ll explain later,” she signed back, and he nodded in response.

“If we are to be claiming seats, I would wish to have the recliner,” Thor interjected, leaning forward. “If no one is opposed?”

“C’mon, He-Man, we know that’s your seat,” Tony rolled his eyes, then quickly moved on. “Wow, look at all these dishes,” he mused, making eye contact with Steve.

“Bucky and I can do the dishes,” Steve volunteered after glancing in Bucky’s direction.

“A true patriot!” Tony cried, clapping Steve on the shoulder as he walked by. “Really, an icon for the American people. I’m in your debt,” he added, glancing behind him before plopping down on the couch.

“Okay, then,” Steve said bemusedly, standing up and starting to gather the dishes. Bucky watched Steve for a second before mirroring him. 

Natasha jerked her head at Clint, then got up and walked into the living room, hearing him follow her as she went. She settled on the couch and watched Thor flop into the recliner as Clint slipped onto the couch next to her.

Steve and Bucky disappeared into the kitchen with the dishes, and Sam ambled into the living room, looking at something on his phone as he sat down on the loveseat.

“Sam!” Tony hissed. “You can’t sit there!”

“Nobody called dibs on the loveseat, man,” Sam snorted, looking up from his phone and raising an eyebrow. 

“Steve and Bucky are sitting there!” Tony insisted, looking to Natasha for help.

“Well, they didn’t call it!” Sam pointed out. “And apparently, that’s what we’re doing now.”

Tony looked at Natasha again, who sighed before interjecting in a whisper, “Sam, James won’t be comfortable sitting by anyone besides Steve. We’re just trying to be respectful.”

Sam looked a bit abashed. “Ok, you’re right, sorry. I wasn’t thinking about that. I thought maybe Tony was going through with his idiot plan after all,” he explained, rubbing the back of his neck.

He got up and squeezed in on the couch beside Tony, leaning forward to make eye contact with Natasha. “Sorry,” he repeated, looking guilty.

Natasha just shrugged and leaned back against Clint, feeling slightly bad about using Bucky’s issues with social interaction against Sam, who was one of the most considerate in the group.

Clint looked around the room, understanding the tension was there even if he didn’t know why. “Anyway,” he broke the silence, “Cereal one hundred percent qualifies as a soup, and let me tell you why,” he began, before Sam cut him off to argue.

Tony joined in after a bit, with Thor being happy to watch the argument play out while Natasha interjected every so often with whatever position would most escalate the bickering. The arguing only ceased once Steve and Bucky returned from the kitchen, both ending up on the loveseat, as they were the only seats available.

“What are we watching?” Steve asked, leaning into Bucky as he got comfortable.

“Brokeback Mountain,” Tony answered, grinning at Steve. “I’m assuming your pop culture catch-up isn’t there yet?”

“Not yet,” Steve shook his head, “I’ve heard it mentioned, though,” he added, glancing at Tony.

“Hold up,” Sam interrupted, “we are not watching that.”

Wow, Sam,” Tony said, acting offended. “I really didn’t expect that from you,” he added, shaking his head disdainfully.

“Not like that!” Sam shot back. “You know what I’m taking about, man,” he insisted.

“Well, it seems like you have a problem with this movie. Do you? Do you have a problem with the movie?” he pestered, poking Sam in the arm repeatedly as he talked.

“Stop that!” Sam snapped, before glancing at Steve and Bucky. Steve had an eyebrow raised and an obvious expression of confusion on his face, while Bucky had no expression, and wasn’t even looking at them.

“C’mon, kitchen,” he muttered to Tony, grabbing him by the arm and pulling him out of the living room.

“What the hell, man?” Sam asked in a low voice, as soon as they were in the kitchen. “You said you were gonna leave them alone!”

“They’re perfect for each other!” Tony insisted, waving a hand as he spoke. “And they’re practically dating already, they just need to figure that out!”

“Their relationship is none of your business,” Sam returned, gritting his teeth. “You wanna drive a wedge between them? Or have Bucky totally shut down around all of us?”

“No!” Tony scowled. “Look, if they were both born when we were, they’d be together! And they’d be happy! Isn’t it our responsibility to help them overcome the…the cultural, um, biases of the past? Or something?” he came up with, giving Sam a pleading look. “Otherwise, we’re basically saying that we agree with, like, homophones in the 1800s!”

“Homophobes,” Sam corrected, rolling his eyes and ignoring the 1800s comment. “And look, even if I agreed with your plan, which I don’t, you think this is the best way to go about it? Going straight to sex scenes and heartbreak?” he asked, shaking his head. “Is that really the introduction to gay relationships you want to give them?” he continued, raising his eyebrows.

“Okay, I may not have thought of that,” Tony admitted.

“Genius, my ass,” Sam muttered under his breath, slapping Tony’s hand away when he got pinched for it.

“Ok, ok, how about we just put the idea of it out there? We say…that, um, you don’t want to watch a sad movie, and we say that it’s sad cause the two guys don’t end up together?” Tony asked, gesturing as he talked. “That way,” he added, “it’s not too outright, and they can ignore it if they want, but we’ve put the idea out there, and we’ve made it clear we don’t care?” he rambled on, ending with a questioning look at Sam.

“Fine,” Sam sighed, “but that’s all you’re doing tonight, got it?”“Got it!” Tony agreed immediately. “Let’s go!” he hurried Sam along, as he quickly left the kitchen.

“New plan,” Tony announced, bouncing on his heels. “Sam’s not in the mood for sad movies, so we’re gonna watch a comedy. Right, Sam?”

“Yep, for sure,” Sam agreed. “That movie’s way too depressing. I mean, the two guys don’t even end up together, and I’m in the mood for something more lighthearted,” he rushed through it a bit, refusing to look at Steve or Bucky as he did so.

“Two guys?” Bucky echoed, making Sam jump a little. Bucky didn’t usually volunteer to speak when they were all in a group, unless Steve was staring at him and urging him on.

“Yeah, sorry if I spoiled it, man,” Sam said quickly, wanting to move on.

“Very sad movie,” Tony interjected, “about two men in love who didn’t end up together because of the, y’know attitudes of the, um, culture and the time period,” he added, voice going up as he talked.

Bucky nodded slowly at Tony, still expressionless. Tony glanced at Steve, who looked slightly uncomfortable all of a sudden. He couldn’t tell what was going on in Steve’s head anymore than in Bucky’s, but at least the idea had been introduced.

“Anyway, movie time!” Sam spoke up, shooting a look at Tony, who grabbed the remote and opened Netflix.

“Ok, what are we watching?” Tony asked, putting his feet up as he leaned back. After about 20 minutes of bickering and an incredibly convincing case from Clint, they settled on Clueless.

Fitting,” Tony thought, glancing over at Steve settling back against Bucky’s chest. Of course, they were both thinking the same thing about him, but he had no way of knowing that.

Chapter Text

“You think we should maybe tell Sam?” Steve looked over at Bucky, standing between him and the elevator doors, his back to Steve. He was never fully relaxed unless they were both in the apartment, just the two of them.

Bucky snorted and replied, his gaze still on the doors, “That didn’t last too long, huh, Rogers?”

“I feel bad,” Steve admitted. “Like I said, I’m pretty sure he knows we’re a couple, he just thinks we’re trying to hide it. I feel like we shouldn’t take advantage of him being a good guy just so we can mess with Tony, that’s all,” he added, leaning back against the wall of the elevator.

“Okay,” Bucky started, cutting himself off when the elevator doors opened, too early for their floor. 

A young woman wearing workout clothes, a duffel bag over her shoulder, gave them both a quick smile and got on the elevator, quickly pushing her floor button before taking her phone out.

Bucky quietly took a small step back, and Steve obliged and moved further into the corner so that Bucky was directly between him and the girl. The three stood in silence until the doors opened again and the girl stepped off, nodding at them as she exited the elevator. Steve saw a bit of tension leave Bucky once the doors were closed again, his shoulders minutely relaxing.

“I think you’re underestimating the value of messing with Tony,” Bucky offered up mildly, shifting to the side a little to allow Steve to come out of the corner of the elevator.

Steve snorted at that, running a hand through his hair. 

“We could still mess with Tony, I just think we give Sam a heads-up so he doesn’t worry himself to death,” Steve suggested, nudging the heel of Bucky’s with his toe. The point of contact between the two of them made Bucky relax slightly, and Steve heard him let out a slow breath.

The elevator doors opened again, this time on their floor, and Bucky ducked his head out, checking both ways before nodding at Steve. At the signal, Steve followed Bucky down the hallway until they reached their door. He grabbed the keys out of his pocket, unlocking the door as Bucky covered him completely from one side and dutifully watched the other.

“We live in a very safe building, Buck,” he pointed out mildly, once they were both inside the apartment and Bucky was re-locking everything.

“I know,” Bucky sighed, turning to face him and leaning against the door. “It’s dark out. It’s always worse when it’s dark,” he muttered, not quite making eye contact.

“Okay,” Steve replied easily, pressing a kiss to Bucky’s cheek before flipping on the overhead light. He dropped his keys in the bowl, then walked over to turn the lamps in the living room on.

“Better?” he asked, raising an eyebrow as he turned to look at Bucky.

“Yeah,” Bucky breathed, smiling slightly and taking his jacket off. 

Steve toed his shoes off and set them in the hallway leading to the bedroom before settling on the couch, Bucky joining him shortly after and wrapping his arms around Steve. 

“So you wanna tell Wilson?” he asked, voice muffled from where his face was pressed into the back of Steve’s neck.

“I think we should,” Steve replied, pulling one of Bucky’s legs around his waist and absentmindedly tracing circles into his knee. “He thinks we’re in a secret relationship and that Tony’s plan is gonna out us. And possibly that we’re ashamed of it, but I’m not really sure,” he admitted, craning his neck to look at Bucky over his shoulder.

“Okay,” Bucky agreed, sounding very content and whining when Steve stopped rubbing his knee. Steve snorted and started it back up, shaking his head at how differently Bucky acted when he was in what he’d decided was a safe environment.

“Okay?” Steve asked, wanting to make sure Bucky was actually onboard.

“Yeah,” Bucky said, voice clearer as he leaned his head back. “He kept your dumb ass from dying when I wasn’t around to do it. We shouldn’t get him stressed over some joke we’re playing on Tony.”

“Language,” Steve teased, grinning widely.

“God,” Bucky said, shaking his head disdainfully. “I can’t believe you somehow convinced ‘em all that you don’t swear. Or don’t approve of it,” he added. “Whichever.”

“There wasn’t any swearing in the 40s, Bucky,” Steve said, adopting what Bucky called the ‘Captain America’ voice. “That’s some sort of new-fangled invention,” he continued, only breaking from his serious expression when Bucky snorted and jabbed him in the ribs.

“Also gay people,” Bucky added in a poor imitation of the ‘Captain America’ voice. “We didn’t actually exist back then. Thank god we have Stark to let us know that men can be in relationships together,” he continued, breaking out of the voice halfway through and shifting more into blatant sarcasm.

“And with Brokeback Mountain?” Steve laughed. “I don’t know if it’s possible to be alive in the 21st century and not hear that referenced enough to have a rough understanding of the movie,” he rolled his eyes, still chuckling.

“I don’t think subtlety is really Stark’s strong suit,” Bucky pointed out, pulling Steve back against him before pressing a kiss to his jawline.

“Or yours, apparently,” Steve countered when Bucky slipped a hand up his shirt.

“This is purely platonic,” Bucky insisted, “Y’know, just like us living together and sharing a bed and holding hands.”

“Yeah, I really don’t know how Tony doesn’t know,” Steve laughed. “It doesn’t take a genius, but isn’t he supposed to be one?”

“Stark’s a robot genius, not a people genius.”

“A people genius?”

“Yeah, like Natalia.”

“Nat’s a people genius?” Steve asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Yes.” Bucky said firmly. “She can always tell what’s going on in people’s minds. What their motivations are, how things make them feel.”

“I guess it makes sense she’s not involved with Tony’s plan, then,” Steve offered.

“She is.”

“What?”

“She is involved.”

“Buck, why would she be involved if she’s a…people genius? Shouldn’t she know we’re together?” Steve asked, furrowing his brow.

“She definitely knows. But she was signing to Clint about it during dinner. He wasn’t involved, but he probably is now,” Bucky shrugged. “I figure she’s probably also trying to mess with Tony, so technically, she’s our ally.”

“Okay, so…our relationship, which wasn’t a secret, is something Nat figured out and told Clint. We’re telling Sam. And Tony definitely doesn’t know.” Steve summarized. “What about Thor and Bruce?”

“I doubt Thor’s thought about it. Banner probably suspects, but he’s not back for another week, so Stark can’t annoy him about it.”

“I can’t believe we somehow ended up in a secret relationship,” Steve groused. “I figured they’d assume we were just dating and we’d have to explain we actually got married—”

Twice,” Bucky stressed, interrupting. 

“Yes, that we got married twice,” Steve amended fondly. "But everyone thinking we’re just friends is way too weird. I mean, it took the Commandos, what?”

“About 30 seconds after you came busting into their cell, apparently,” Bucky smirked.

“You weren’t even there!” Steve protested, not wanting to rehash this argument again.

“Dum-Dum told me that’s when he knew,” Bucky defended himself. “Even so, I’d been going on and on about my gal back home to everyone. Blonde, blue-eyed, pretty little artist with a penchant for starting fights she couldn’t finish. I guess once you actually showed up, it was pretty obvious that ‘Stephanie’ was actually Steve.”

“Pretty?” Steve asked, grinning cheekily.

“I may have exaggerated on a few points, punk,” Bucky teased, causing Steve to snort and roll his eyes.

“Jerk.”

Chapter Text

“Hey, man,” Sam called, waving from the bench he was seated on. Steve grinned and nodded in response, heading in his direction.

“You ready?” he asked with a nod at Sam, remaining standing.

“Yeah, sure,” Sam responded, standing up and slipping his phone into his pocket. “Last night was…fun, right?” he began, glancing at Steve as they began to run.

“Good food, good movie,” Steve agreed, a slight grin beginning to form. “Super fun.”

“Look, man…” Sam trailed off awkwardly, sighing.

“Yeah?” Steve asked innocently. “What’s up?”

“Um…okay, so I think it’s best if I frame this in a certain way,” Sam hesitated. “You know we’re all your friends, right? We just want you to be happy,” he insisted, determinedly not looking at Steve.

“Aw, thanks, Sam,” Steve grinned, nudging Sam’s shoulder. “I want you to be happy, too.”

“No, that’s not…I mean, thank you, that’s nice, but I guess what I’m trying to say is…” he trailed off again, looking down at the ground.

“Is?” Steve asked, raising his eyebrows. “Is what?”

“Ok, no, let’s start with this,” Sam shook his head. “Look, man, a lot has changed since you went into the ice.”

“I know,” Steve protested, looking offended. “I learned how to use my phone and I’m watching that whole list of movies. C’mon, I’m working on it,” he laughed, elbowing Sam playfully.

“Not just technology,” Sam countered. “I’m talking about…cultural…attitudes. Regarding different…types of people,” he continued, furrowing his brow a bit.

“Sam, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but different types of people have always existed,” Steve snorted. “Just cause some folks don’t want that to be true doesn’t make it so,” he raised an eyebrow, giving Sam the ‘Captain America’ look he was so used to seeing from the old propaganda videos.

“I know, I know,” Sam huffed, “but attitudes change over time, and things that you maybe…kept hidden? You wouldn’t be judged for them nowadays. By the right people, anyway,” he amended. “And I guess what I mean is—”

“Bucky and I are married,” Steve interrupted lightly.

“I—what?!” Sam came to a stop, grabbing Steve by the arm.

“We’re married,” Steve repeated, amused. “I figured that’s what you were hinting at,” he laughed.

“I…what? No! No, that’s not what I was hinting at!” Sam said incredulously, still looking shellshocked. 

“I know, I know, you just thought we were dating or something,” Steve replied breezily, still looking unconcerned.

Also no!” Sam hissed back, gesturing a bit wildly by this point.

“Wait, what?” Steve was confused now, too. “What about that conversation we had about me and Bucky? And what on earth were you hinting at just now?”

“I thought you were in love with him!” Sam shot back. “You’re married? Since when?”

“1936,” Steve replied instantly. “And I am in love with him,” he insisted hotly.

“No, no,” Sam waved his arms, “I meant I thought you were secretly in love with him. I figured Tony’s plan would cause an issue, so I gave you a heads up so you could tell Barnes if you wanted to. Or just be more prepared,” he finished with a shrug. “1936?” he added as an afterthought.

“The first time, yeah,” Steve replied.

“The first time?!” Sam was back to incredulous.

“Oh, yeah, we actually got married twice,” Steve said casually. “The second time was in 1943.”

Sam took a deep breath. “Ok,” he said. “Ok. So, you’re not harboring a secret love because he knows about it. And you’re not dating because you got married. And you got married…twice?” he asked, trying to sort everything out.

“Yep,” Steve was trying not to grin, feeling slightly bad at this point. “I honestly thought you knew we were together,” he defended himself a bit, “and Buck and I figured we should tell you so you wouldn’t get too worked up on our behalf.”

“Worked up?” Sam asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Oh yeah, after you told us Tony’s plan, we came up with our own to mess with him,” Steve snorted. “But we didn’t want to mess with you, so…” he trailed off.

“You’re messing with Tony?” Sam said incredulously, before a grin took over his face. “Oh, I want in. What’s the plan?”

“Pretty simple,” Steve shrugged. “Just keep acting the same while he tries to get us together, then eventually drop the bomb somehow.”

“Amazing,” Sam agreed immediately. “It’s gonna drive him insane. You know how Tony gets,” he snorted, shaking his head.

“Thanks, man,” Steve laughed. They started jogging again, still laughing a little until Steve broke the silence.

“I can’t believe you didn’t actually know about us,” he groaned. “I mean, that was our only consolation. We thought everyone knew until you had that talk with me.”

“Really?” Sam asked, genuinely curious. “You don’t really act like a couple,” he pointed out.

“Of course we do!” Steve insisted. “We live together! We share a bed! Even when we’re all at Tony’s, we share a bed. We cuddle in front of you guys all the time. The first time you looked in my sketchbook, you pointed out that basically every page had Bucky on it,” Steve finished, exasperated.

“Oh my god,” Sam muttered, looking to the side. “Oh my god.

There was a beat of silence.

“Oh my god! That time I walked in on you two sparring?” Sam seemed afraid to ask.

Steve blushed in lieu of an answer.

“Oh my god!

This carried on for the duration of their run. Steve tried and succeeded to change the subject many times, but Sam inevitably would remember some other detail that the knowledge of their relationship had painted in a new light and turn the conversation back to Steve and Bucky. When Steve got back to the apartment, Bucky was stretched out on the sofa, eyes on the door. He sat up the moment Steve entered, only lying back down once Steve had closed and locked the door behind him. 

“How’d it go with Sam?” he questioned as Steve toed his shoes off and wandered over to the couch.

His only response was a groan and Steve collapsing onto the couch, on top of him. Bucky laughed and rearranged him a little.
“That good, huh?” he joked.

“Oh my god.”