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Bucky really should have seen this all coming. It’s all there when he finally takes the time to notice—the way Sam pushes his buttons, the way Bucky kind of likes having them pushed. Then there’s the fact that Sam’s the kind of guy who sees a fight that needs fighting and runs right for it without a second thought. Maybe Bucky has a bit of a type, okay? Maybe he always has. And maybe Sam having that smile and that heart on top of everything else just really doesn’t help.

Though… He knows Sam and Natasha had a thing for a minute. Long before that big purple fuck and five more years lost to the ether and— Bucky sighs. Okay, bisexuality is a thing. Pansexuality too. Bucky thought he might be one of those things for about five minutes after he finally got his head unscrambled and remembered how many girls he’d taken out pre-war.

Then he remembered he never really… liked any of them, not in a romantic way, not even in a sexual way. They’d been attempts to… Well, not important.

What is important is that he kind of wants to tear his own face off as he watches Sam attempt to discus-throw the shield. There are a few dummies set up on the lawn of their new living quarters—a quaint little cabin in the woods of upstate New York where Sam can strap on his wings and do flight maneuvers all day without anyone calling the cops. Or filming all of Sam’s moves and putting them on the Internet like a giant neon sign that says, “Hey bad guys, come find out everything Captain America might do to you.”

Sam’s not very good at it, the shield stuff. This is the first time he’s really practiced with it since the lakeside, since Steve continued on his lifelong journey of making the worst possible decisions and took it so far that he finally fucked up in a way neither the serum nor Bucky could fix. Either way, even though he and Steve tried for a little while, it was the end of their friendship as it had been. Seventy years, and it had been so easy to pick up the pieces after Shuri helped get Hydra out of his head.

But Steve losing Bucky and Sam and T’Challa and Wanda and half of fucking reality must’ve been a few losses too many. And Steve choosing to leave his entire life behind to—well, Bucky doesn’t know him anymore. Bucky supposes life is like that even for people who haven’t been displaced in time (though there are far more people who have these days). Sometimes friends just grow apart. Sometimes friends rip themselves right out of your life and become unrecognizable shells of who they used to be. 

He suspects Sam felt (feels?) some things too, that maybe that’s why he hasn’t touched the shield for the past several months. Or maybe he was working up to it. Bucky can only imagine how loaded it is to be a Black man in America, passed that shield and everything that comes with it. Maybe he and Sam will talk about it someday—why it took so long. If it was mourning or processing or a whole bunch of other things Bucky will never fully understand.

They probably should talk. About Steve and the shield. About the ether. About Her and how no one had even bothered to throw her a funeral.

For now though, Bucky settles back onto his elbows and watches Sam miss another target, his biceps flexing in his too-tight compression tee. It’s a sunny afternoon, bright yellow butterflies occasionally coloring the corners of Bucky’s vision. It’s an easy day to ignore the scars and to focus on all the good life still has to offer.

Bucky watches Sam miss another throw and cups his hand around the side of his mouth. “You’re doing great!”

Sam raises his middle finger in response and picks the shield up off the grass. “I’d like to see you try, old man.”

“And embarrass you like that?” It’s easy to tease Sam. It always has been. Bucky likes the give and take of it, the way it makes heat prickle on the back of his neck. He likes Sam’s wit and when Sam gets so flustered that he misplaces that wit altogether.

He likes Sam.

“Me? Embarrassed? Captain America doesn’t get embarrassed.” Even half-joking, it’s nice to hear Sam try on the title, pulling it on like a vintage jacket to see where it needs to be let out or taken in. One corner of Bucky’s mouth twitches, and he watches Sam walk back to the crumpled patch of grass that has become his starting point. He grips the handles on the back and spins. Another miss. Sam swears.

“Spoken like a guy who wasn’t there when something bit Steve on the ass while he was using the latrine.”

That gets Sam’s full attention, brown eyes turning on Bucky. Bucky swallows. “When what?” Sam asks.

“We’d just come off a mission, so he’s still in the uniform and everything. A few of us are playing cards for cigarettes when we see Steve shoot by with his pants around his knees. And of course what finally stopped him was running smack into Colonel Phillips.”

Sam snorts, mouth opened to show the perfect gap in his teeth. Then he shakes his head and goes to pick up the shield again.

“You really are doing great,” Bucky says.

“Doesn’t feel like it.” Sam attempts yet another throw. He’s throwing it exactly like Bucky would expect honestly—like someone who’d seen Steve do it a million times but was a little too busy getting shot at to actually study how.

Bucky stands up and approaches, sizing up Sam and the targets in the distance. “Do you need to figure this out on your own, Cap, or do you want help?”

Sam picks the shield up again, turning it over and over in his hands, his eyes focused on the blur of red and blue and silver. Bucky can see the tension in his brows and the tightness in his shoulders, the way that tightness bleeds into his neck and jaw. Bucky’s about to say something when Sam exhales and relaxes. With one hand, Sam holds the shield out to Bucky and nods at him—a simple dip of his chin.

“So…” Bucky starts, pushing back a flood of memories that involve a forest in Italy and Steve cursing a blue streak and nearly throwing the shield into a river. Bucky gripping Steve’s arm and turning it just-so to help Steve’s muscles learn the angles. And Steve so warm in the chill of the morning and so close and so…

Bucky takes a deep breath. He doesn’t love Steve anymore. He mourned the loss of what might have been long ago. But nostalgia is a hell of a drug when life has spent a lot of time being unkind. And he doesn’t hate the memories, not really. Someone’s gotta keep that Steve alive somewhere.

“So?”

“Right.” Bucky moves the shield from his right hand to his left. “I figured all this out in the 40s. Steve couldn’t throw this damn thing either at first. You should know that.”

“You trained Steve.” There’s no tease in it, no incredulity either. If anything, Sam sounds like… Well, he sounds like he’s a little impressed. And Bucky does not need to let that feeling tingle down his spine right now, nor does he need to let it settle into his belly like a warm weight. He doesn’t.

He needs to be a friend. A partner.

“I’ve always had a hard time seeing a problem without trying to solve it. The shield. It’s all angles. Physics. Geometry.” Bucky grips the handle and sizes up his target. “I was bored. The movies never show that part—how boring war can get. So I went looking for him, found him doing about what you’ve been doing. I was a sharpshooter and Howard loved building me new guns to train with. Basically, I was so used to doing math all the time that I started doing it almost on autopilot.” Bucky spins and releases the shield, sending it flying so it sails clean through the neck of one of the dummies. There’s nothing for it to rebound off of out in the empty grass, so he jogs to get it and hand it back to its rightful owner.

“Please don’t tell me I have to try to remember Mrs. Edie’s 11th grade AP physics.”

Bucky shakes his head. “No. All you need is enough practice to train your muscle memory.” Bucky steps up behind him and tries to ignore the smell of Sam’s soap and deodorant, the faint hint of sweat underneath. “I’m gonna guide you through one.” Bucky wraps his metal hand loosely around Sam’s waist and curls fingers around Sam’s right wrist.

Sam swallows. “Yeah,” he says hoarsely. “Sounds good.”

 


 

Sam stands on the lawn with Bucky pressed against his back.

Do you think I can do this? Because I’m not sure I can do this.

Sam doesn’t ask that. Sam doesn’t ask because Steve left him with a big hole in his heart and an even bigger job to do, and right now learning how to use the damn shield feels like the most important thing in the world. Of course, Sam is a mental health professional, or at least he used to be. He’s at least a little aware of what he’s doing, focusing all his energy on this instead of asking Bucky that question, instead of taking the time to process the symbol he’s meant to be and all it will mean to be it.

At least the hole in his heart is gone, filled in and covered by a sparse layer of native grasses and wildflowers. A little longer, and he’ll only be able to tell it was ever there when he walks the ground that was his past—a surprise misstep where one part is just a little lower than the rest, and he’ll remember for a moment how bad it used to hurt to be left behind.

How bad did it hurt you, Bucky? Because sometimes I saw you look at him and I imagine it felt a lot like coming back from Nowhere and finding out one of your best friends was dead and the other might as well be.

Sam doesn’t ask that either.

Instead he takes Bucky up on his offer to help. Instead he lets Bucky put his hands on him and encourage his body to move this way, his arm to curve that way, his wrist to…

When Bucky’s fingertips slide gently over the veins on the back of his hand, over his knuckles, Sam shudders and realizes it’s been a long time since anybody touched him in any kind of intimate way.

But he doesn’t feel that way about Bucky. Bucky is a nuisance. Bucky is a…

Good-looking guy, admittedly.

Who makes Sam want to kill him more often than not.

Who keeps Sam on his toes, who tries his best to anchor Sam’s tendency to jump feet-first into a fire, who is always there at Sam’s back no matter how much they snipe at each other and flirt—no, not flirt. Bucky is…

Really, really close, his warmth bleeding through the back of Sam’s shirt.

Bucky turns Sam’s hand, so slightly that if anyone was watching them do this, they’d never notice the change. His breath ghosts over the nape of Sam’s neck.

“The big thing is your arm and your wrist. You keep this angle while you’re putting the spin on it, you’ll hit something. You got somebody coming at you, then something is something. But hopefully we’ll get to changing heights and maybe even playing with your wings before some asshole makes robot hippos or something.”

“Hippos?” Sam laughs, some of the heat in his belly dissipating. Although teasing Bucky, now that he thinks about it, kind of brings its own not-strictly-platonic range of emotions. He shakes his head.

“I’ve got a knockoff serum and a metal arm, and hippos are the only shit I’m afraid of that ain’t organized fascists or goddamned aliens.”

Sam laughs again and tries not to feel any particular way about Bucky slipping into that Brooklyn accent as easily as a favorite pair of jeans.

“What about bears?”

Bucky makes a noise of mock annoyance and lets go of Sam’s hand and waist, taking a step back.

“I can’t believe you don’t think I could beat the shit out of a bear, Sammy.”

Sammy.

Sam loses the position Bucky just put him in, his arm faltering before he even gets a chance to try a throw. Nearby, Bucky has his eyes on his, sparkling with the amusement of another fake argument. And that’s what they’ve been for so long, isn’t it? Fake arguments, playful ribbings between two friends who just a little want to see each other naked.

A lot, a little voice in the back of Sam’s head says. You know how well he fills out his tac pants.

“You’re right, Buck,” Sam says, trying out a nickname of his own. Bucky twitches a little but recovers quickly, smiling wider. Oh God, Sam is screwed. “You would fuck a bear up.”

“Thank you for recognizing that,” Bucky says.

“Now, I’m gonna need you to show me those angles again.”

Even though he expects it, Sam’s still not ready for Bucky’s hand sliding across his own.

 


 

At the edge of a clearing, Bucky spray paints several uneven lines up the trunk of a tree. It’s an old oak, dead and crumbling, but sturdy enough that he doesn’t have to worry about it tipping over. Not yet anyway.

Sam’s somewhere behind him, huffing his way through one of the hiking trails Bucky cleared and wore away in the undergrowth.

“Aren’t there any trees that are downhill?” Sam asks. He emerges into the clearing with sweat glistening on his forehead, the sun hitting him just right to make him glitter like a Twilight character. The absurdity of it has Bucky choking back a laugh. And then Sam lifts up the hem of his shirt so he can wipe his face, and all thoughts of laughter die immediately at the sight of so much exposed skin. Sam’s toned belly is damp and dusted with dark hair.

Bucky licks his lips and catches the faint taste of salt that is his own sweat. It’s not a stretch to imagine Sam beneath his tongue, Sam’s musk invading his nose, Sam’s hands in his hair while Bucky—

Bucky clears his throat.

“We’re gonna try some height targeting today,” Bucky says. “You wanna warm up first?”

Sam’s got a harness now—black leather, finely-crafted to fit around his expansive chest. He pulls the shield from his back and easily whips it to Bucky, who catches it and whips it back.

“Gotta do better than that, Sammy. It’s like you don’t even wanna hit me.”

“Me? I’ve seen drunk college kids playing Ultimate Frisbee who could throw straighter.”

“Yeah, well straight’s not really in my wheelhouse.”

They should call this training game Whips and Quips. Bucky and Sam circle each other, the shield flying fast, the teasing insults flying faster.

“Come on,” Bucky says. “Just one little kiss on the forehead. A graze on the arm. You can do it.”

“Yeah, I’m not kissing you on the forehead, Buck.”

How about the mouth?

Bucky can’t get his thoughts past that long enough to come up with a retort. He tosses the shield back in silence.

“I gotta stop.” Sam drops the shield at his feet and rubs his palm. “I’m gonna have to get better gloves. Reinforced or something. This shit must have killed Steve’s hands.”

“Steve…” It gets easier to talk about him every day, to sidestep the residual hurt and the loss of the last tangible tie to Then that Bucky had left. Bucky smiles at the idiot who used to be his best friend. “Steve’s frame of reference for pain was a little fucked up. Wouldn’t surprise me if the asshole broke his hand every time he caught the shield.”

“Well, that’s a disturbing thought, but no, yeah, I can see that.”

“Reinforced gloves sound like a good idea.”

“I think I can still throw.” Sam picks up the shield and whips it at the marked tree. It slices into the bark somewhere in the middle, halfway between two white lines.

“I think you can.”

“So changing the height is…”

“Right. You’ll get better at it as you practice. Sort of a muscle memory of its own, but judging how much to shift will become second nature. Like how most people can say something is about an inch long without having to measure.”

“Right.” Sam pulls the shield from the tree and walks back to the middle of the clearing. “Do you need to, uh…” Sam glances behind him.

A small thrill zings through Bucky’s body. But he does need to. It would be the easiest and most efficient way to help Sam feel it out.

“Yeah.”

“Good.” Sam clears his throat. “I mean, it seems to work the best.”

Sam looks down at his shoes and takes a deep breath before blowing it out. Bucky watches him. For a second, just a second, he thinks… But no. Couldn’t be.

“Right.” Bucky takes Sam’s waist and forearm. “So you’ve got it down at this general angle and height. What you wanna do is leave your wrist in the position it’s in and shift the curve of your arm. Like I said, this will get easier, but if you imagine your arm as kind of a seesaw, you’re adjusting the angle of that seesaw, which ultimately adjusts the height of the shield. Sorry, I gotta…” Bucky gets even closer, wrapping his left arm around Sam’s body completely so he can grip his elbow with both hands.

Christ, Sam is solid in his arms. He’s also breathing so loud, sending Bucky’s brain toward a thousand different thoughts that aren’t remotely wholesome.

“So yeah, just play with it, get a feel for it, see if you can hit a line or two.” Bucky lets go and starts to pull away when Sam grabs the metal arm with his free hand, the pressure sensors lighting up in Bucky’s brain. Sam’s gripping it tight, really tight, keeping himself in Bucky’s embrace.

“Sam?” Bucky’s voice cracks in the middle.

“Sorry, just a lot to process.” Sam’s hand slips away.

“Right.”

They hike back a little before dinner. Sam doesn’t manage to hit any of the lines before then, but he’s getting it.

He’s gonna be just fine.

 


 

Sam’s hands are fucking killing him. So much so that he wonders if he didn’t crack or fracture something. He certainly bruised the shit out of his palms. He has to stop eating dinner every few seconds to put down his fork because it hurts too much to grip it. He knows Bucky notices. He can feel his eyes on him and keeps waiting for some kind of teasing remark, but Bucky doesn’t say anything about it. Instead, they talk about who might make the MLB playoffs, which leads into who might make the NBA playoffs, which leads, somehow, into Sam rambling about how so many college professors are severely underpaid while coaches are making six or seven figures.

“Hey.” Bucky finds him on the couch after dinner, draped over the cushions and watching some alien bullshit on the History channel. Sam had been watching a special on female codebreakers during World War 2, but it had taken him a good ten minutes of remote-gripping agony to find that, so he isn’t willing to change the channel right now. Secret alien autopsies it is.

“Sit in the chair,” Sam mumbles without taking his eyes off the terrible reenactment. “I’m comfortable.”

“Oh, I…”

Sam looks up. Bucky’s got his eyes on him, all gray-blue and tender-soft. He’s got a tub of cream held loosely at his side.

“Can I see your hands?” 

Sam sits up, offering them palms-up. Sitting down on the coffee table, Bucky casually slots one of his thighs between Sam’s, one of Sam’s thighs casually slotted between his in return. That brings Bucky close enough that Sam notices a single small freckle near his hairline. Cute.

“If this causes any sharp pain, let me know.” Bucky checks one hand and then the other, following the lines of Sam’s bones with gentle squeezes. When Sam doesn’t react, he picks up the cream. Whatever’s inside smells sharp and strong when Bucky spreads some on one of his aching palms. With soft (God, so soft) touches, Bucky uses his right hand to massage cream into Sam’s skin. Whatever the cream is, it works too, taking the bite off the worst of the pain. Sam pulls his hand away and offers the other just to get it treated faster.

“Better?” Bucky asks.

“Yeah, a lot actually. What’s in this stuff.”

“A concoction of CBD, essential oils, and lidocaine. I use it when my shoulder gets bad.”

Sam hums and closes his eyes, relaxing into the rhythmic circle of Bucky’s thumb against his palm. Around and around.

“Bucky…”

“Mhm?”

“Do you think I can do this?” Sam asks quietly, his eyes still shut.

“Do I think…?”

“It’s just kinda hard right now not to see my limitations. I’m not like you. Like him.” Sam swallows. “I’m just some dude.”

Bucky reaches for his other hand, pulling it into his lap. There’s no more cream to work in, but it’s okay that Bucky keeps touching him like this, the calloused pad of his thumb crisscrossing the roadmap of Sam’s palm.

It’s more than okay even.

“Yeah, Sammy, I do. What Steve did…” Bucky trails off.

“You loved him, didn’t you? I mean, I loved him too. But you were in love with him.”

Bucky blows out a breath. “Yeah. I was.”

“I thought so.”

“I wanted to strangle him for a long time.”

“Steve has a way of bringing that out in people.”

Bucky laughs. “I guess so.” He switches hands again, and Sam doesn’t like that a faint ache persists even now, doesn’t like that his hands are all fucked up in general, but this part? Bucky so close, his skin against his. This part is good. “I was so angry for a long time. Half my childhood memories have Steve in them. We were friends for so long through so much shit that it should’ve meant we’d never not be. Hell, we’d both be dead a thousand times over without each other. You’re not supposed to just be able to— He threw all that away, and what he did to her when he knew…”

“Yeah, well, no one ever said Steve was smart.” Sam opens his eyes, words coming out with a hint of the bitterness buried in that hole that’s mostly grown over. “I was pissed too. He was my best friend, and I was dead for five years. You think a guy would want to stick around, catch up, have a fucking funeral for Natasha.”

Bucky moves his hand to Sam’s wrist, wrapping his fingers around it, his thumb stroking along the wrist bone.

“And you know logically that everything he went through finally succeeded in fucking him up,” Sam says. “But it’s hard not to take it personally. And him being fucked up doesn’t excuse everything he did, to Peggy, to Nat, to us.”

“You still angry?” Bucky asks.

“Mostly no, but it sneaks up sometimes—the anger. The hurt too. That’s kind of how mourning works, I guess. You never really get over the people you lose. And it’s harder with Steve because you know he’s still out there, but you also know he’s not the guy you loved anymore. I mean, our Steve would drag this guy out back and tear him a new asshole.”

“Tell me about it.” Bucky looks down at his lap, at the mishmash of legs between legs. “I meant it though.”

“Meant what?”

“That I think you can do this. Not only do I think you can do this, I think you’re maybe the only person who can right now.”

Sam inhales deeply, exhales slowly.

“But,” Bucky says.

Sam’s head snaps up. “But?”

“I just want to make sure you remember that…” Bucky takes both of his hands now, letting them rest palms-up atop flesh and metal, thumbs curled just over the sides of Sam’s index fingers.

“Sam, somebody handing you a knife doesn’t mean you have to use it. Steve choosing you, Steve giving you that shield—I absolutely think you can do it. I think Steve passing that cursed fucking Frisbee to you is maybe one of the few sound decisions he made After. But we’ve still established he was fucked up. That he didn’t ask you was fucked up. And Sammy, if you don’t want it, if you wanna be Falcon forever, if you wanna go back to just being Sam goddamned Wilson, if you wanna retire in this cute little cabin and feed birds, go back to the VA—all those choices are okay. Any choice you make is okay. You don’t owe anybody shit, least of all Steve.”

Sam nods and lightly curls his fingers around Bucky’s thumbs. “And if I need to do this?”

“Then I’ve got your six. Always. Even when I want to kill you.”

“And has anybody reminded you lately that you can also retire and feed some birds? Maybe fistfight a bear or three.”

Bucky smiles softly, his eyes just a little sad.

“Maybe someday,” Bucky says. “Those bears do have it coming.”

 


 

Bucky clocks Sam’s arrival by the faint whoosh of him cutting through the air. He aims the barrel of a paintball gun in the direction of the noise, waits for a single flash of red or silver, and starts firing. The shield comes hurtling at him a moment later, Sam managing to whip it while wrapped in his wings.

It sticks in the grass well behind Bucky, but it’s still something that Sam managed to protect himself and go on the offensive at the same time. It’s a pretty fancy bit of maneuvering really. Bucky’s impressed.

And maybe a little hot for it.

“Again?” Bucky asks when Sam lands and retrieves the shield.

Sam claps his hands together, the metal in his reinforced gloves hitting with a dull clack. “Let’s do it. I almost got you that time.”

“Sure. If several yards away is your definition of ‘almost.’ Oh, is this like ‘boner’? Did the definition of ‘almost’ change since n—?”

“Barnes, I don’t normally punch the elderly, but I will make an exception.”

“Pal, if you could even get a shot in, I’d suck your dick right now.”

Sam’s eyebrows go up in surprise, and then he laughs. “Don’t threaten me with a good time, Buck.”

Bucky pulls the shield out of the grass and hands it over. “So you admit it’d be a good time.”

“Hey, you’re like a thousand years old. I’m not gonna deny you your many, many, many years of dick-sucking experience.”

“Thank you. Honestly that means a lot coming from Captain America.” Bucky stands up taller. “Like, you put a lot of time into perfecting a skill, and it’s nice to have someone like you reco—”

Sam punches him softly on the arm, and Bucky gives him a light shove in return, both of them grinning.

“Come on, White Wolf. Let’s go again.”

With a casual salute and a megawatt smile, Sam unfurls the wings and takes off.

Bucky stares at a blank sky for several seconds before reaching over to touch the spot where Sam’s fist brushed against his bicep.

 


 

Sam watches a storm roll in, thunder increasing in volume until it’s loud enough to rattle the dishes in their shelves. They’d planned another training session of Wings and Paint. These days, Bucky has to dive out of the shield’s path more often than not. Progress feels good. Being forced to stay inside the little cabin, where Bucky is everywhere in his soft pajama pants and form-fitting tank top—that feels…

“Hey Cap, you want a sandwich?”

Sam looks up from the breakfast bar where he’s been sipping a cup of decaf and watching the rain drip off the roof. Bucky’s half-buried in the two-door fridge, the little dimples at the small of his back visible above the elastic of his pants. Sam clears his throat and looks up, as though he suddenly has to study the ceiling for some very important reason.

“Yeah, sure.”

One nice thing about living with Bucky is that both of them can cook, so more days than not, there’s something worth eating on the table. When Bucky makes a sandwich, that usually means freshly-sliced bread, heaps of deli meat and cheese, fresh tomato, sometimes avocado. It can also mean a pear and brie grilled cheese.

Either way, Sam’s not missing out on what Bucky’s planning.

Today, “sandwich” apparently means cheddar, tart apple, bacon, and onions caramelized in brown sugar, all grilled on big slices of brioche. It’s damn good, made better by the fact that Bucky joins him at the small breakfast bar. He’s so close that their arms and legs sometimes brush together while they eat. Bite after bite, it becomes too easy to think about resting a hand on Bucky’s thigh, about finally doing something about whatever has been going on for months.

Years?

Maybe they were always heading this way.

So close. Sam keeps savoring his lunch, steadily giving into the temptation to relax his leg more and more, until his thigh rests casually against Bucky’s, warmth seeping through layers of soft cotton. In the corner of his eye, Sam sees Bucky look over at the space where their bodies meet, then back at his plate.

“Sammy.”

“Buck.”

They keep eating, neither of them speaking or even looking at each other. And then the plates are empty and they both sit staring at the crumbs, their legs still pressed together with the weight of their thoughts.

Another clap of thunder rattles the kitchen, and Sam swears he can feel it rattling his bones too. When was the last time he wanted something so much? When was the last time he wanted to feel another body move against his.

“Buck,” Sam says. “Bucky.”

Silence for several long seconds that stretch on and make Sam doubt everything he thought he might have known.

Then softly, “I can’t…” Bucky sounds like he’s struggling to breathe. “Sammy, if you don’t… There are some people you can’t do casual with. I can’t just put my toes in the water with you, not without drowning.”

“I’m not asking you to.”

“Then what are you asking?”

Sam mulls that over. What is he asking? He glances over at Bucky, his hands gripping the edge of the counter. He really is a good-looking guy. He’s also insufferable and intolerable and everything Sam wants to wake up to for the foreseeable future.

“The word ‘partner’ has a lot of definitions.”

Bucky lets go of the counter to reach for him, curling his fingers around Sam’s wrist. He can probably feel Sam’s heartbeat jumping beneath his skin. Sam can certainly feel it punching at the skin of his neck.

“Come to bed with me?” Bucky asks hoarsely, and for the first time since Sam was about ten, he leaves a dirty plate on the counter.

Bucky chooses his own bed, the sheets butter-soft when Sam walks down the edge of the mattress, trailing his hand along the fabric. Bucky’s on the other side, looking at him like he doesn’t know what to do with himself.

“Bucky, if you’re not ready for…”

But Bucky grabs at the hem of his tank top and slowly peels it up his torso, and all of Sam’s thoughts crash into a wall and jumble together. He’s seen Bucky shirtless before. Hell, he saw it just last week when he ran into Bucky in the hallway at 2 a.m.—clad in nothing but a pair of navy boxer briefs. But it’s different like this, Bucky undressing himself and giving Sam full permission to look at everything as much as he wants. And Sam does look, taking in the shape of his pectorals and the slight pudge around his middle. Below his belly button, Sam maps a trail of dark hair until it disappears beneath the waistband of Bucky’s pajamas.

“See anything you like?”

“I guess. One or two things maybe.” Sam smiles at him and then grabs for the back of his own shirt, pulling until it slips off his head. Across the mattress, Bucky drinks him in in return, his eyes so greedy with thirst that Sam feels like he might die from the heat of that gaze.

“Hey,” Sam says, and Bucky meets his eyes, his pale chest rising and falling so heavily. Sam knows what it takes to make a supersoldier pant, and that Bucky is panting right now… Sam holds his hand out over the mattress, and Bucky reaches for it, both of them tugging each other to the center of the bed.

It’s a tangle of limbs, their thighs and calves sandwiching together, bare torsos pressing skin-to-skin. They almost collide in a hot kiss, but Sam stops it at the last second, something even louder than his lust making him take Bucky’s ridiculously cute chin between his fingers.

“We only get to do this for the first time once.” Slowly, Sam leans in to press his lips to Bucky’s, all the while doing his best to cement every detail in his memories—how warm Bucky’s mouth is, how it’s pillow-soft, how a tender little noise slips from the back of Bucky’s throat.

How Bucky’s metal hand softly curls around the nape of his neck. How Sam could do this forever—his body close to Bucky’s, their lips meeting like waves gently lapping at a shore. And then he slips his tongue between Bucky’s lips, keeping the kiss soft and gentle even while his body begs for him to crawl closer, to squeeze Bucky so tight against him that it hurts.

Vaguely, he can feel Bucky’s cock against one of his thighs, resting hard against his skin. But right now, all that matters is Bucky’s tongue sliding gracefully along his own. Bucky’s lips dragging across his. Bucky’s heart, beating so close to his own.

“Sammy.” Bucky finally pulls away, resting his forehead against Sam’s. “I…”

Bucky looks down between them, to where his cock tents those blue plaid pajamas. To where Sam’s cock is doing a lot of the same inside his charcoal joggers.

Bucky looks back at him, eyes falling to Sam’s mouth, and just like that, whatever tenderness they had in them falls away like rain. They dive for one another, lips meeting in a fury of kisses that are almost too hard, filled with nipping teeth and wanton groans. Bucky pulls him closer with the strength of the metal arm, until they’re pressed so tightly that any movement means friction, glorious friction. Sam finds himself rutting into Bucky and Bucky rutting back, breaths growing heavier and heavier while they lick hot into each other’s mouths.

“You know, you did actually punch me last week.”

“What…” Sam can barely think. Punch… What… “Oh. Oh God, yeah, please.”

Bucky gets Sam’s pants off of him like he’s up for some kind of pants-removing speed record. The first curl of his fingers around Sam’s cock is like coming up for air.

“I was promised the results of a lifetime of dick-sucking wisdom,” Sam says.

“Hey Sammy.”

“Yeah?”

“Please never stop running that perfect mouth.”

Sam starts to run it some more, he really does. But then Bucky dips his head and engulfs him fully, angling his neck so that he takes Sam all the way into his throat in one continuous motion. And hell, how is Sam supposed to speak when the only things left in his brain are “warm” and “wet” and “Bucky”?

“Oh shit,” Sam says, and Bucky hums loudly. “Oh shit,” Sam says again, this time with a little more feeling.

Everybody with a dick knows there are times in life when someone is sucking your cock so good that you don’t wanna do anything to interrupt them. You barely wanna breathe for fear that you’ll somehow throw them off their game.

That’s how Bucky Barnes sucks Sam’s dick, his soft lips moving up and down Sam’s length, his mouth and throat a continuous tunnel of all-consuming fire. For months, maybe for years, Sam has wanted to tangle his fingers in Bucky’s hair. But now his hand hovers uncertainly near Bucky’s head, because what if he does that and…

Bucky reaches back and grabs his wrist, forcing Sam’s hand onto the back of his head. His hair is just as soft as Sam thought it would be, especially considering half the bathroom is full of expensive conditioner, and hair masks, and leave-in hair cream infused with Moroccan avocado dust or whatever. Kind of worth it though for the way Bucky’s hair is like silk between Sam’s fingers. 

“You can pull it. If you want.” Bucky’s hand slips down Sam’s cock when he speaks, and hell, he’s so good at jerking Sam off that Sam almost likes it more than his mouth.

“Noted.”

Sam does pull, abs clenching when Bucky moans down his cock. The effort it takes to focus on anything that isn’t Bucky’s lips is Herculean, but Sam manages long enough to make a mental note that Bucky likes a little pain, that he might enjoy fucking rough and dirty.

“Buck, you keep going like that and I’m…”

The response he gets is a moan so lewd that Sam knows, even if casual had ever been on the table, that sound would’ve pushed it off like a cat exploring gravity. The message is undeniably and intensely clear: Bucky wants his come in his mouth. He wants it so fucking bad. And damn if that’s not the hottest thing Sam’s experienced in a long time: somebody with lips like that, swollen and pink from kissing him and sucking him off, begging him to shoot off inside their gorgeous mouth.

So not a problem.

Especially not with Bucky hollowing his cheeks the way he is, sucking and slurping and taking Sam so deep that he wonders how in the hell Bucky hasn’t gagged a thousand times.

“Fuck, don’t stop.”

Bucky doesn’t, not until Sam throws his head back and pulls his hair harder and empties onto his tongue.

Greedy and eager, Bucky swallows him down drop after drop.

 


 

For several minutes that could easily be hours, Bucky rests next to Sam, his head on Sam’s hip, Sam’s fingers stroking his hair with affection and gratitude. Bucky’s own cock still rests hard between his legs, but Bucky’s been alive long enough to learn patience. And he knows Sam, for all that he’s a snarky bastard, is not the kind of guy to get his and leave a fella hanging.

And if he hadn’t been sure of that before, he would’ve been after the way Sam kissed him, forcing him to slow down, to savor the only first kiss they’ll ever get. 

“Buck…”

Bucky looks up and finds Sam’s lovely brown eyes, looking soft and blissed-out.

“Mhm?”

“You wanna come up here?”

Bucky climbs up the mattress, settling next to Sam on the pillows, grinning when Sam pulls him in for another kiss. 

It’s soft at first, Sam kissing him like he means something to him, his fingernails gently massaging and scratching at Bucky’s scalp, and Christ, Bucky could get used to being kissed like this. And then Sam wraps his hand around Bucky’s cock and Bucky could sure as shit get used to that, being kissed tenderly while Sam works his length with a firm and steady hand.

“Before we do this again, we’re gonna talk,” Sam says, rubbing his forehead against Bucky’s, the top of his nose nuzzling along Bucky’s cheek. “About what we like and don’t like.”

“Again, huh?”

“Absolutely, Buck, I’m gonna make you a habit.”

“Good. You need at least one good habit in your life.” Bucky sighs when Sam twists his hand in a way that’s particularly good. “Christ, just like that, Sammy.”

“Yeah?” Sam does it again, and Bucky’s whole body tenses so good. It’s all so good, time lost in the haze of rainclouds and Sam’s breath against his cheek. Bucky’s gonna come soon, can feel it in Sam’s firm strokes and in just how much he’s wanted this.

How much he’s wanted Sam.

Sam kisses him again, breaking loose to mouth along Bucky’s jaw, his lips resting below Bucky’s ear.

“Come on, Buck. I wanna feel you on my skin.”

Bucky nearly chokes on his moan, and Sam twists his hand again. And just like that it’s over, all of it culminating in a moan that rumbles out of Bucky’s chest and mixes with the now-distant thunder.

He comes all over Sam’s hip, streaking his skin, groaning against his cheek.

“Every last drop, Buck. Just like that.”

And he wrings Bucky out until he’s spent, until all he can do is press himself closer to Sam and wait for Sam to tangle fingers in his hair again.

 


 

Sam sits in the bathtub with Bucky between his arms and legs.

“You know, Buck, I take back everything I ever said about you wanting this huge ass tub.”

Bucky has a washcloth in his hand, trailing it gently up and down one of Sam’s thighs. They’re both clean and have been for a while. They’re hanging out in the dwindling bubbles solely for the intimacy of it, and Sam doesn’t mind that at all. Doesn’t mind being able to look down and admire the muscles of Bucky’s upper back, or the way his hairs curl at his nape when they’re wet.

“You know I didn’t get it just for me. I like to think we were on the same page, but I never didn’t like you. Just in case you didn’t know that.”

“I never didn’t like you either. The banter is just…”

“Foreplay.”

Sam snorts. “Shit, maybe.”

“But I knew you’d be sore a lot. How could you not be? I’m sore a lot and I’ve got a healing factor. Captain America deserves a hot bath after a long day, you know?”

“You’re right. He really does.” Sam leans down to kiss Bucky’s shoulder a few inches from his currently-empty arm socket. “He deserves a lot of things.”

“Sammy…”

“Yeah?”

“I think…” Bucky drops the rag somewhere in the water, replacing it with the pads of his fingers—up and down. “I think I might be falling in love with you.”

“Yeah, I kinda figured.” Sam kisses the other shoulder in kind. “I think it might be mutual.”

Bucky hums and finds Sam’s hand where it rests casually over the softness of his belly. He tangles their fingers together. “Partners, right?”

“Yeah, Buck,” Sam says, squeezing everything he can’t say into Bucky’s skin. “Partners.”