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hearing you talk always saves me

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“I cannot believe someone reported us to HR for having a totally normal difference of opinion!” fumes Bucky. “Does literally everyone think I’m gonna snap and kill you every time we argue?”

Sam shrugs. “Yeah, kinda,” he says, and Bucky shoots him an aggrieved look as he murderstruts his way to their mandatory meeting with Dr. Raynor, Sam ambling beside him.

“This is a hostile work environment, Sam.”

“Yeah, kinda,” Sam says again, because while it had started out kind of funny, seeing all the agents so spooked any time Bucky so much as raised his voice, it’s really starting to get old, and it’s clearly starting to genuinely bother Bucky, which means it’s bothering Sam too. 

Because Bucky’s not just the Winter Soldier any more, and Sam knows how damn hard Bucky works to make up for ever having been him in the first place. Sam’s not sure Bucky needs to hear it from him, but he’s genuinely proud of Bucky: of his recovery, of his sincere efforts to make amends, of his sheer indefatigable perseverance in the face of unimaginable losses and horrors. 

So yeah, it rankles to see people still treat him like he’s a dangerous weapon. But then, it’s not like anyone else here knows Bucky like Sam knows him. No one else here seems to get that it’s a good thing that Bucky talks and argues and even yells at Sam. No one seems to get that there’s a reason Sam pokes at Bucky, gives him shit, teases him. 

“I’m gonna tell Dr. Raynor this is a hostile work environment,” insists Bucky, and Sam snorts.

Sam kind of doubts that Dr. Raynor is gonna be super convinced of that, at least not unless she’s sufficiently assured that Sam and Bucky don’t actually hate each other and that their coworkers are overreacting. Sam suspects Bucky’s not going to be willing to air their private shit in front of her just to prove it. Hell, Sam’s not that interested in filling her in on their relationship either.

“Listen, either we tell her about us and say a little bickering is part of our love language—”

“Our what—”

“Or we play along and make nice with her and get her to tell HR that we’re making big strides in interpersonal conflict resolution. I’m guessing you wanna go with the option that won’t have her all up in our sex life.”

Bucky looks hilariously scandalized at the mere suggestion, and Sam grins.

“You guessed right,” says Bucky.

Sam claps him on the shoulder and says, “So make nice and play along for once, Barnes.”

“So,” says Dr. Raynor. “I’m guessing you two know why you’re here?”

Dr. Raynor is sitting across from them at the table, a file folder and a notebook set in front of her. There’s the usual take-no-shit, expectant expression on her face, which is a good sign. Sam’s hopeful they can get out of this by parroting the right buzzwords and assuring her that despite the occasional raised voices, he and Bucky get along fine.

“Is there a reason HR is making us do this in the interrogation room? Because that feels very hostile to me,” says Bucky, and Sam has to smother a grin.

“Yeah, I have to admit, this doesn’t feel like an especially safe space to me, Dr. Raynor.”

“All the conference rooms are booked today,” is Dr. Raynor’s bland response. “Well?”

Bucky lets the silence ride for a long moment, and with an internal sigh, Sam figures he might as well be the one to break it.

“Someone snitched on us, is why we’re here,” Sam tells her.

“Yeah, our coworkers invaded our privacy,” adds Bucky.

“Hmm, I don’t really think you can claim your shouting argument in the hallways of SHIELD HQ is all that private, gentlemen.”

“It wasn’t an argument, it was a difference of opinion about our most recent mission,” Bucky corrects her.

“Which, let me add, was successful,” says Sam. “All of our missions have been successful lately, with minimal injuries, casualties, or collateral damage.”

“That’s true,” admits Dr. Raynor. “And yet, your coworkers have expressed discomfort with your, shall we say, argumentative, professional dynamic.”

“Sometimes we disagree on our methods, sure,” says Sam. “But we compromise and talk it out, and check in with each other after missions. We’re just a little loud about it, maybe.”

Bucky nudges Sam’s leg with his knee, a silent good job, and Sam presses his thigh back against Bucky’s in thanks.

“Uh huh, that’s very healthy. It’s just that when this ‘checking in’ involves,” she pauses, checking her file, and continues, “Sam shouting, ‘You get that you’re not the literal Terminator, right? What the fuck was your cyborg brain thinking running into that burning building,’ and Bucky yelling back, ‘Stop making movie references I don’t get, for the hundredth time, I haven’t seen any of these action movies. And what the fuck was I thinking, what the fuck were you thinking when you blew up that machine, dumbass. It could’ve been radioactive.”

Dr. Raynor gives this verbatim recap in a bored tone of voice, devoid of inflection, and then she looks back up at them, expectant.

“Our debriefs are very passionate,” deadpans Bucky.

Sam has to breathe in very slowly and very deeply and very quietly through his nose at that, because otherwise, he’s going to burst into helpless, inappropriate laughter. Yeah, their debriefs are passionate. About two minutes after the little tiff that Dr. Raynor has just helpfully recapped, Sam had bent Bucky over his office desk and fucked him, daring him all the while to stay quiet, savoring every single gasp and choked down moan as proof that Bucky was alive and well and not dead in a burning building.

“We both just—care about our work so much,” Sam manages to grit out.

Dr. Raynor narrows her eyes. “Why do I get the impression you two aren’t taking this seriously?”

“We’re definitely taking this seriously,” lies Bucky.

“Our working relationship is very important to us.”

“Right,” says Dr. Raynor slowly. “Well, as effective as your relationship in the field is, your communication style leaves something to be desired. The name-calling, in particular.”

Bucky scoffs. “Oh come on, Doc. You were in the service, as you so often like to remind me. You know the kinda ball-busting guys do in the field.”

Dr. Raynor acknowledges this with a tilt of her head, and continues, “And your SHIELD coworkers have expressed some concern about your partnership being volatile, or even unhealthy.”

“It’s not volatile,” Sam tells her.

“It’s not unhealthy either,” Bucky adds.

“Hmm,” says Dr. Raynor, then she picks up her pen and opens her notebook. Bucky groans.

“Seriously? With the notebook again?”

“How about we go over some effective, positive communication strategies together, hm? And then you can write up a report for me about how you intend to implement them.”

“You’re giving us homework?” demands Sam. “I’m not even your patient! I have way too much paperwork to do as it is!”

“Sure,” says Bucky, suspiciously cheerful.

“At least one page long, Mr. Barnes. I know for a fact you were an exceptional student, do not expect me to believe you don’t know how essays work. Now, let’s go over how you two can better communicate your differences of opinion, as you put it.”

Sam may or may not resort to mental meal planning in an effort to tune out Dr. Raynor’s little lecture on communication strategies. Honestly, meal planning has more immediate utility to Sam than communication strategies he and Bucky don’t need. They communicate just fine. More important is whether Sam should get extra ground beef for burgers, because Bucky might come over on Friday, and also whether he should try making his own brioche buns or not….

“Alright, I hope those strategies prove helpful to both of you,” says Dr. Raynor, closing her notebook, thank fuck. “Now, before I let you two go, I’d like you to try a little team-bonding exercise.”

“Is that really necessary?” asks Sam. “Like, I think we’re good.”

“Yeah, I think we have a great bond,” Bucky says. “The bond of, uh, battle and having had the same best friend. No stronger bond than that.”

Also the bond of having frequent, astonishingly good sex.

“Yeah, definitely, such a strong bond,” Sam adds, nodding.

“Well, that’s lovely to hear, after you two had such a rocky start,” says Dr. Raynor with a sharp smile. “So you two won’t have any problem if I ask you to face each other, make eye contact, and tell each other some things you genuinely like and appreciate about each other. I’ll set a timer for two minutes.”

“What, this soulgazing eye contact shit again? It didn’t exactly work out so great the last time!” Bucky says, snippy, but when Sam elbows him, a silent let’s just get this over with, Bucky sighs and shuffles his chair around along with Sam until they’re facing each other.

They’re sitting close enough that their legs are still pressed together in this new position, thigh to thigh. Sam’s knee is in fact pushing up delightfully close to Bucky’s dick, and Sam maybe shifts forward just far enough to put some pressure there. Bucky glares, but he doesn’t squirm or shift backwards. He hadn’t the last time they’d been in this position either, which maybe should’ve given Sam some ideas back then, but, well, he’d been pretty preoccupied then.

“Alright, I’m starting the clock now,” says Dr. Raynor. “Sam, how about you get us started? And remember, eye contact!”

Sam gets what this exercise is supposed to achieve. He fully understands that Dr. Raynor is just doing her job, and that it’s not her fault that half of SHIELD thinks Sam and Bucky hate each other and are always moments away from murdering each other, rather than moments away from tearing each other’s clothes off. But that doesn’t mean Sam’s gonna fully and earnestly cooperate with this nonsense.

So he looks Bucky in the eye, arranges his face into a serious and earnest expression, and says, “You have really beautiful eyes. Like, the color and everything—those steel blue eyes make me feel like I’m home, you know?”

Bucky narrows those beautiful steel blue eyes at Sam. His expression is equally serious, a thoughtful little furrow in his brow.

“Thanks,” he says warily. He tilts his head, the angle slightly quizzical. “Uh. I really like your smile. The, um, gap in your teeth is really cute?”

“Aww, thanks buddy,” says Sam, charmed despite himself. “Your hair is seriously gorgeous. Like, it’s fluffy, and soft, and it smells really good. I really appreciate that, what with how often I have a face full of it while I’m flying you to safety.”

“Uh huh. That’s definitely the reason I picked my shampoo,” Bucky says, his lips twitching up into the slightest of smiles. “Well, I spend a lot of time watching your back to keep you from getting killed, and it’s a pretty good view because your ass is amazing. Your dedication to leg day really pays off, Sam.”

“Okay, okay, less jokey sexual harassment and more actual compliments, you two,” says Dr. Raynor. “Your turn, Mr. Wilson, a compliment that is not about Mr. Barnes’ physical attributes.”

“Sure, sure, of course. Okay, Bucky: I really appreciate all the time and effort you put into planning.”

Bucky’s eyebrows go up, the height and angle clearly saying bullshit. Sam just grins back at him, smug, and hopes that conveys, I don’t mean mission plans. Bucky catches on, judging by the wicked glint in his eyes, and the way his lips curve into the suggestion of a self-satisfied smirk.

“That means a lot, Sam,” says Bucky, and then the bastard makes his voice all low and soft, really savoring every word, and it’s too damn close to the way he sounds in bed, or when his lips are right up against Sam’s ear. “I really appreciate how responsive you are, to those plans. You always tell me exactly how you feel. It’s great to hear.”

Oh this motherfucker. Bucky shifts in his seat, just enough to tilt his head back at what Sam’s come to think of as his come hither angle, the one that always seems to invite a kiss. Sam leans forward, and the motion presses their legs closer together, Sam’s knee brushing up against Bucky’s groin. Bucky’s pupils dilate, but otherwise he gives no indication the close contact is affecting him.

“Well, I think it’s real important to give you feedback. I think it’s great how open you are to new experiences and new ways of doing things.”

Sam keeps his tone bland, trusting that the heated look in his eyes is reminder enough of just what he’s alluding to: namely, the way Bucky had taken Sam’s single offhand reference to blindfolds in a sexy context, and built an entire mind-blowing night around it. Sam had not previously been aware that a little sensory deprivation could lead to what felt like a full-body orgasm, but that night...well, it had been pretty great. Bucky had been enormously smug about it, damn near sparkling with how pleased with himself he was, and in such an expansive good mood that he’d made Sam pancakes and bacon the next morning, so Sam couldn’t even be annoyed by all the smug satisfaction.

Now, Bucky’s cheeks and the bridge of his nose are starting to take on a pale pink flush, either at the reminder of some of their sex plans, or from the praise, Sam’s not sure. He sure as hell wants to find out though. The bare outline of a plan starts to form in the back of Sam’s mind.

“Oh, it can be scary sometimes, but when I’m working with a hero like you?” Bucky’s got his most earnest, big-eyed look on, the one that’s almost too sincere to be real but that nevertheless always makes Sam’s heart twist. Goddamn, could anyone ever say no to Bucky when he looks like this? Is he fucking with Sam right now? It’s genuinely impossible to tell. “You make it easy. Like flying with you. I always feel safe in your arms.”

Oh no. That’s—well, that’s making Sam feel some kind of way, all warm like an updraft has launched him towards the sun, and it’s not helping that the hint of mischief in the curve of Bucky’s lips softens into something much more sweet and real, the creases around his eyes deepening.

“I appreciate your honesty,” Sam says, putting a hint of challenge in his tone, but Bucky doesn’t waver, his eyes now solemn where they’re still trained on Sam. Well, shit. So he really does mean it. Alright, Sam’s not gonna let Bucky one-up him on this score. “And I’m really grateful for your trust too. I know it doesn’t come easy, and I think—I think you’re the bravest person I’ve ever met, for being willing to open yourself up and trust people again, after everything.”

Bucky blinks fast a few times then, his flush deepening as his lips part in shock, but Sam holds his gaze until Bucky swallows hard, his throat visibly working. The silence stretches, and Sam’s starting to worry that he’s overstepped, that Bucky doesn’t believe him. Bucky’s pretty hard on himself, after all, and there’s still such pained surprise in his eyes. Maybe he’s not ready to hear this kind of thing, for all that Sam actually does mean it.

“That’s like three compliments, you competitive asshole,” Bucky says eventually, his voice thick, but he’s knocking his thigh against Sam’s so Sam figures they’re still good.

“Yeah, so pay up, you owe me three back,” says Sam. “Four, even, on account of how you just called me a competitive asshole.”

“Fine,” says Bucky, and clears his throat. “You do the shield proud, Sam, and you have this—this ridiculously big heart that’s protected by a lot of strength. You’re always thinking about how to help people. Even—even me, even when I don’t deserve it.”

Shit, as if Bucky’s words aren’t bad enough, the absolute sincerity radiating from his ridiculously big blue eyes means that Sam can’t help but believe him. And too, Sam knows how rare Bucky’s faith is. He doesn’t take being entrusted with it lightly. Bucky finally breaks their eye contact then, and Sam almost reaches across to him, before he remembers their audience.

“Hey now, you’re the scrambled eggs to my omelet, babe, you absolutely deserve it.”

And just like Sam had hoped it would, that startles a laugh out of Bucky, and not one of his barely audible huffs, but a real laugh, complete with the cute little snorts and scrunched up nose, so Sam’s work here is done.

“What does that even mean!” Bucky demands, still smiling, and Sam just grins back at him.

“Huh,” says Dr. Raynor.

“So, are we done here?” Sam asks her.

She looks between them with barely concealed amusement and sharp interest.

“Yes, I think we’re done here. Good job, both of you. I think your partnership is doing just fine, and I’ll submit a report to SHIELD saying so,” she says, then stands and gathers her things. She gives Bucky a pointed look. “I’m sure we’ll have a lot to discuss next week, James.”

“That went well!” Sam says as they head back out into the hallways of SHIELD. “It sure as hell went better than the last time we saw her together.”

Bucky groans. “She’s gonna ask me so many questions about you next week,” he grumbles.

“What, you haven’t talked about me in therapy yet?”

“It’s not her business,” Bucky replies primly, and Sam rolls his eyes.

Whatever, he’s not fighting this battle with Bucky today. Bucky only grudgingly submits to the standard talk therapy as it is, and he guards his privacy pretty stringently. I’m not saying I don’t have problems, but she still doesn’t need to know all my personal shit to help me with my trauma shit, he’s told Sam.

“So, now that we’ve dealt with that, what are your plans Friday night?” asks Sam.

“Nothing,” says Bucky, then he glances sidelong at Sam, his mouth ticking up into a sly smile. “Why, you want me to make some plans?”

“Nah, let me handle it this time.” Bucky stops to stare at him, and Sam thinks shit, maybe we’re not there yet. “If that’s cool with you, that is.”

“It is,” says Bucky, with gratifying speed.

“Okay, good,” says Sam, and claps him on the shoulder. “Then come to my place. You bring the beer, we’ll have burgers, we’ll watch a movie—“

They start walking again, and have to detour around a SHIELD agent who’s fully stopped in the hallway, staring at them. Ugh, seriously, maybe he and Bucky really should make their own complaint about a hostile work environment.

“I’m not gonna watch any action movies with you, that’s just gonna give you an excuse to model more of your dumbass plans after them—“

“Fine, we’ll watch a non-action movie, and then…” Sam waggles his eyebrows.

“Why am I suddenly nervous about this,” says Bucky with a sigh.

“Aww, c’mon, you’ve taken real good care of me with all your plans, haven’t you? Let me return the favor.”

“Yeah, yeah, alright.”

“Hell, we don’t even have to watch a talkie, we can watch some real old-timey shit if you want.”

Bucky laughs, bright and easy. Fuck yeah, laugh number two of the day. Sam’s current record for getting Bucky to laugh—and only a real laugh counts, none of this barely audible chuckle shit—is three times in a day, and he’s hoping to hit four by the end of the month. He will get Bucky Barnes to lighten up, no matter what it takes. Sam is a funny guy, okay? Surely if he can’t manage it, no one can. Hell, Sam’ll even dream big: maybe there’ll come a day where Bucky laughs often enough that Sam loses count.

As they dodge a SHIELD tech who’s just dropped a whole cup of coffee right in the hallway—what is with SHIELD agents today, seriously—Bucky elbows Sam lightly.

“Jesus, how old do you think I am?” asks Bucky, still grinning. “Just for that, I oughta make you actually watch a silent movie with me. For the record, by the time I was actually going to the movies, they were pretty much all talkies.”

“Alright, alright, you can tell me more about the good old days on Friday, Grandpa Barnes.”

Here’s the thing: Sam and Bucky have been doing this friends-with-benefits/partners-with-benefits thing for a while now, and Sam’s been pretty content with the status quo of Bucky initiating sex, most of the time. It’s not like Bucky comes up with some elaborate sex setup all the time, and it’s not like Sam doesn’t ever initiate himself. Sometimes they really do just Netflix and chill at Sam’s place, or have a straightforward fuck in some safe house or another.

But Sam’s pretty well aware that where he has preferences, Bucky has trauma.

It’s no big deal if Bucky’s latest sex proposal involves him rimming Sam, and Sam says no thanks, I’m not really into that. Bucky’s always got contingency plans, after all. And if Sam asks Bucky not to touch his elbows, because they’re weirdly ticklish—and no that’s not weird, Bucky, and no it is not because that’s his funny bone, oh my god—Bucky will grin and tease, but he’ll oblige Sam too.

It’s a much bigger deal if Sam accidentally triggers Bucky. Not because he’s afraid Bucky will snap and go all Winter Soldier—this isn’t that kind of trigger. But it’s sure as hell not fun for either of them when, say, Sam briefly holds Bucky’s shoulders down, pressing him onto the bed, and Bucky goes rigid and cold as stone, before fleeing into the bathroom and locking the door behind him. He hadn’t come out for almost two hours, Sam talking to him through the door all the while, and when he had come out, he’d been pale and shaky. Despite Sam’s best efforts, Bucky had left that night, leaving Sam to spend a sleepless night worrying about him.

Sam really wants to avoid a repeat of that particular scenario.

So Bucky has trauma, and Bucky has triggers, and if what he needs to feel safe is to plan out most of his and Sam’s sex, then Sam’s happy to go with it. He’s got no complaints, after all: the sex is almost always great, and is often downright mind-blowing. In fact, Bucky’s just about the best friend with benefits a guy could ask for, what with the regular amazing sex that thoughtfully caters to every one of Sam’s preferences, even the ones he hadn’t known about before trying them. All in all, Bucky’s need to plan is working out pretty great for Sam.

Plus, by now Sam is well-acquainted with Bucky’s, shall we say, more improvisational last-minute planning in the field, and it’s kind of a disaster, in a well I guess I’ll just punch away the problem if you won’t give me time to plan! kind of way, and Sam’s quickly learned that Bucky’s last-minute planning is even more of a disaster when he’s upset. Things still work out...more or less, because Bucky is very good at punching, but Sam’s not really willing to test out total spontaneity in bed. It seems like a recipe for awkward sex injuries at best and Bucky being re-traumatized at worst. Bucky’s clearly got a good coping mechanism going for himself with the planning shit in advance thing, in both professional and personal contexts, and Sam’s loathe to mess with that unless the exigencies of a mission demand it.

That means if Sam wants to try something new, he’s going to have to come up with a plan of his own, and he’s gonna have to do it right.

On Friday night, dinner goes the way it usually does: Bucky teases Sam about his cooking while also putting an astonishing amount of it away, and Sam teases him about that, and then they watch a movie carefully selected by Sam to ensure the maximum amount of grumpy and hilarious shit-talking from Bucky. Tonight, Sam has chosen Eragon, a movie that is in no way good, but that will hopefully get Bucky’s fantasy nerd ass all adorably infuriated.

It does.

“It’s just—Eragon. It’s the word dragon with an E! What the fuck kind of lazy bullshit is that? Tolkien came up with a whole language! Multiple whole languages!”

“Uh huh.”

“Tolkien had a whole amazing mythology,” says Bucky, fervent. “But this goddamn dragon is named Eragon, which, again, is just the word dragon with an E. Why are you doing this to me, Sam!”

Sam just blinks guilelessly. “I thought you liked fantasy shit, Buck! And we don’t have time to watch all of the Lord of the Rings movies, you nerd.”

“I will smother you with this throw pillow, I swear to god—”

Because Sam’s not a total asshole, he does queue up another movie, an actually good one this one time, Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, and Bucky’s rapt and quiet through pretty much the whole thing. Sam sneaks occasional looks over at him, pleased to see his face looking soft and young, all the pained lines smoothed out with how captivated he is by the movie.

Afterwards, over the pie Bucky had brought along with the beer Sam had requested, for once Bucky doesn’t immediately shovel down his food. Instead he looks over at Sam, his usual intense stare gone hesitant.

“You know I meant it, right?”

“Meant what?”

“All the stuff I said, with Dr. Raynor,” he says, fidgeting with his fork. “Just—it reminded me of the first time she talked to us, and the shit I said to you, and—I, uh, want you to know that I’m sorry, and that I was wrong then. I was a dumbass and I didn’t really get it then, everything you were dealing with, but I do now, at least a little. You’re a good man, and you’re the best man there is for carrying the shield.”

Sam’s first instinct is to wave Bucky’s apology off as unnecessary, to crack some joke or make a smartass comment. But shit, it does mean a lot to hear Bucky say it. And Sam knows Bucky takes making amends seriously, in every way. Oh, not in the little ways, not for annoying shit like stealing Sam’s fries or talking shit about Redwing, but the big stuff. So Sam takes Bucky’s words in the sincere spirit they’re given.

“Thanks, Buck,” says Sam. “I meant all of it too, you know. And hey, all that stuff back then, it’s water under the bridge, alright? We were both dealing with our own shit and taking it out on each other, but we’re good now.”

Bucky shakes his head and fidgets. He smiles, but it’s more a quick grimace than anything else, and he looks down at his plate as he eats a forkful of pie, avoiding Sam’s eyes for once. Sam finds that he misses Bucky’s eyes on him, the relentless and always searching focus of his stare. He clearly doesn’t believe Sam. Or maybe it’s more that he can’t let himself believe Sam, and that’s the whole damn reason for tonight’s plan. Sam really hopes it doesn’t backfire.

Because Bucky’s taken so much damn care, in this whole partners-with-benefits thing. Sam’s sometimes wondered if it’s partly an implicit apology for how at odds they’d been at the start, though hindsight’s eased most of that sting; Sam can recognize now that they’d both been lashing out at each other as the only available target for their pain. Things are better now, they’re better, but even so, this could just be nothing more than a convenient arrangement, a way to blow off steam and get each other off with minimal effort. Instead, Bucky’s putting all this effort in, careful and determined to please Sam, always attentive to just what gets Sam off and how. Sam wants to return the favor, if he can. If this works.

“So, you said you had a plan for tonight?” asks Bucky as he finishes up with the dishes.

Whenever Sam cooks, Bucky insists on doing the dishes, no matter how many times Sam tells him he can just leave the dishes in the dishwasher, and despite the fact that there’s always some mild vicarious stress in watching Bucky be exactingly careful with his vibranium hand and the dishes. Far be it from Sam to stop Bucky from indulging in his little rituals of normalcy and courtesy though.

“I was thinking we could try a new position,” says Sam, propping his hip on the kitchen counter.

Bucky narrows his eyes and studies Sam with suspicion. “We are not doing the reverse soaring eagle.”

Sam grins. “What, are you saying you couldn’t manage it? Because look at these guns,” he says, flexing his biceps. “I could handle it. And I’m pretty sure I’m flexible enough for the other way around too.”

“Never mind whether we could manage it or not, it’s ridiculous. Pick another position,” he says, heated, and when Sam laughs, Bucky rolls his eyes and throws the dish towel at him.

“What, you can’t blame me for wanting to put all those super soldier muscles of yours to sexy use!”

Bucky screws up his face into a thoughtful, dubious expression. “Well, if you really wanna try it…”

“Aww, baby, I’m just messing with you,” Sam says, and reels Bucky in for a kiss, easy and comfortable. “It’s real sweet of you to be up for it though, for real.”

Bucky shrugs and puts his arms around Sam’s shoulders. “Who am I to deny you fulfilling all your ridiculous acrobatic sex, porn fantasies? Might as well put my super soldier shit to fun use for once.”

“Well don’t worry, that’s not the position I was thinking of. C’mon,” Sam says, and then he turns and starts leading Bucky towards the bedroom.

“Am I gonna need to do some stretches before we get started?” jokes Bucky, and Sam snorts.

“I mean, I won’t stop you,” he says, and looks back at Bucky with an exaggerated leer. “Just take your clothes off first, and let me enjoy the show.”

“I don’t think you want to see me attempting to make stretching sexy,” says Bucky, dry, but shit. Sam’s seen him work out. There’s no attempting involved, Bucky just looks hot as hell. Faintly murderous, sure, but that’s a good look for him.

They don’t often make it to Sam’s bedroom—if they’re at Sam’s place, they usually end up exchanging luxuriously lazy hand jobs or blow jobs on the couch—but they’ve still done it often enough that the routine of getting undressed between kisses is familiar. Familiar as it may be, Bucky still kisses with hungry intensity, something desperate in it, like every time is either the first or the last. Sam’s not sure how to ease that, or if he even can. If he should. That’s gotta be beyond the scope of fuckbuddies.

“So you said you had a plan?” murmurs Bucky. “You ready to let me in on it?”

Sam soothes the tension in Bucky’s shoulders with a quick and firm press of his hands. “Yeah, it’s nothing complicated. Like I said, new position. No big deal if you’re not into it, just tell me and we’ll stop.”

It’s going to be a little bit more than just a new position, but Sam’s just gonna have to wait and see how Bucky takes the other part. He figures the worst that can happen is Bucky asks him to shut up.

Bucky tilts his head and studies Sam for a moment, a wary furrow in his brow that makes Sam’s heart ache, just a little. The ache flares hotter still when Bucky’s brow clears and he nods.

“Alright, where do you want me?” he asks.

“Thanks for trusting me, Buck,” says Sam, and Bucky’s breath hitches just a little as he nods again.

Superheroes or not, they still need to do some preparatory sex choreography if they want to avoid doing themselves an embarrassing injury. Sam does not want a vibranium elbow to the face or something should he and Bucky fail to be on the same page, position-wise. So Sam directs Bucky to kneel on the bed, and pushes his knees apart wide, splaying them open until Bucky has to sit back almost on his heels or risk overbalancing. Sam takes a moment to appreciate the picture Bucky makes like this, naked and lean, his half-hard cock and his thighs, corded with muscle, on display. Bucky notices, of course, and he tilts his head and settles deeper into the position with a sly half-smile.

“Like this?” he asks, and Sam kisses him, slow and gentle until Bucky makes a happy little humming noise. “And where are you gonna be?”

“Yeah, just like that. You’re as perfect as a pin-up,” Sam says as he settles himself on Bucky’s lap, putting his arms around Bucky. “And me, I’m gonna sit on your cock while you hold me up, pretty much.” With anyone else, Sam probably would’ve had to brace himself, but Bucky holds his weight easily, his muscles taut under Sam yet not betraying any strain. “You need to stretch for that, old man? Do some squats?”

“Nah, I’m good,” says Bucky, following the words up with a sharp nip of a kiss. “Hand me the lube.”

They rock together lazily as Bucky opens Sam up—using his left hand to Sam’s delight—kissing all the while, Sam stroking Bucky to hardness. Their rhythm settles as easily and steadily as if they were following the beat of a song they’ve memorized by now. There are some real benefits to having a recurring arrangement like theirs, and this is one of them: they can skip past all the awkward parts and just fall in sync.

“This position still okay with you?” Sam asks between kisses, already breathless. “I know you like all this deep staring into each others’ eyes shit, so I’m trying to be accommodating here.“

Sam expects Bucky to crack a deadpan joke, but instead, that stare of his stays solemn and steady, the same dreamy blue as a distant horizon, and as searching and intense as always.

“How else am I supposed to know what’s going on with you? You don’t actually say that much sometimes, for all that you talk a lot.” Sam goes still, unsettled by the deadeye accuracy of Bucky’s insight. Bucky kisses him, soft and a little sad this time. “It’s alright. I don’t mind. Just means I have to look closer.”

“And you’re always looking, huh?” asks Sam, as he lowers himself onto Bucky’s cock, taking him in slowly until Sam feels that perfect, impossible fullness. His own cock throbs with the perfect kind of ache that tells him it’s gonna feel amazing when he finally comes.

Bucky sighs, the barest tremor running through him as he holds Sam still on his cock. “Yeah,” he says, barely more than a breath. “Trying to do a better job of it,” he admits, a wry quirk to his lips even as his face flushes.

And yeah, okay, it’s time to really get going with phase two of Sam’s plan. 

“You’re doing real good, baby,” Sam says, and starts moving. Bucky’s strong hands support him, firm at Sam’s waist and ass as he thrusts up into Sam. “All these sexy scenarios you plan out because you notice every little thing that gets me off? You’re real good to me, giving me what I need every damn time.”

From this close up, Sam can practically feel the heat that flares in Bucky’s face at that, and Sam grins.

“Aww, look at that blush,” he says, and leans in close, gasping as it shifts the angle of Bucky’s cock deeper, and kisses the pink on Bucky’s cheeks. “You look real sweet when you get all pink like that.”

“Sam,” complains Bucky, still blushing hot, his eyes hidden by the sweep of his lashes now. Sam rolls his hips, and Bucky’s grip on his back and ass tightens, encouraging the motion.

“What? You do. I love how responsive you are, you know. All that time you spend looking at me, I’m looking back, baby. I see how much you need it.”

“Sam, I—”

“Shh,” Sam says, and kisses him, deep and coaxing, and when Bucky opens up and moans into it, the grip of his mismatched hands turning tight and greedy on Sam, the thrill of victory surges down Sam’s spine like they’ve just pulled off a particularly tricky in-air maneuver. “It’s alright. You think it’s not good for me, seeing you go from being all resting murder face to this? Fuck, your mouth alone—”

Sam kisses him again, swallowing Bucky’s hitching moan with satisfaction. His thighs are starting to burn and twinge from the strain of this position, but that’s a distant concern right now, compared to the way Bucky’s cock is filling him up, each roll and thrust of their hips taking Sam tantalizingly close to an edge that’ll send him flying.

“Your mouth,” Sam continues, maintaining eye contact, relishing the hungry and almost shocked look in Bucky’s eyes. “When you suck me off, god, baby, that’s a pretty sight. I can’t keep my eyes off of you. You wanna suck me off after you finish?”

“Yes,” gasps Bucky, practically slamming into Sam by now, hard enough that pleasure’s rattling through him. “Yes, yes, yes, fuck—”

“Yeah, I thought so. You look goddamn gorgeous when you let go for me. When you come, when you laugh—” Bucky lowers his head and hides it against Sam’s shoulder, his breath coming fast and hot against Sam’s bare skin. Sam laughs a little, pets at his hair. “Aww, don’t get embarrassed now. Seeing you like that, like this, all sweet and desperate, nothing on your mind but feeling good, knowing I’m the one that got you there?” Sam tugs on Bucky’s hair just hard enough to make him lift his head and meet Sam’s eyes again, and fuck, Sam sighs happily just looking at the dazed and desperate desire in Bucky’s darkened eyes. “Buck, you have no idea how much that does it for me.”

There it is, thinks Sam, as the rhythm of Bucky’s thrusts gets erratic and his face goes slack with abandon, and he comes, shuddering and panting with the force of it. Sam’s own cock is desperate for more than just the friction of brushing up against Bucky’s abs, but he still holds Bucky through the trembling aftershocks of his orgasm. At least, he does until with one shockingly swift move, Bucky pulls out and practically tosses Sam backward on the bed, barely giving Sam enough time to bounce before he swallows down Sam’s cock.

“Holy fuck,” Sam gasps, his back arching involuntarily.

The angle’s bad, and it doesn’t matter: Sam still can’t take his eyes off Bucky, his flushed face and disheveled hair and bright eyes still trained on Sam’s, his red lips stretched around Sam’s cock with every evidence of hunger. Sam tries to hold out, so he can really appreciate the sight along with the feeling of Bucky’s hot and wet mouth around his cock, the hungry swirl of his tongue, but it’s all too much and Sam comes into Bucky’s mouth with all the stomach-clenching rush and release of taking off for flight, complete with seeing goddamn stars.

When he comes back down, Bucky’s flopped down next to him, taking deep breaths, and Sam follows his lead.

“So, maybe you should plan more often,” is all Bucky says, his voice deliciously wrecked, and Sam laughs, giddy.

“Sure thing, Buck.”

It’s only after they’ve cleaned up a little that Sam starts feeling a concerning twinge in his thighs that suggests, yeah, maybe he should’ve stretched. Sam groans and rubs at the muscles, mourning his twenty-something self who could’ve engaged in all kinds of wildly athletic sex with Bucky without any unwelcome soreness afterwards.

“You alright?” asks Bucky, because of course he notices.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. Nothing a hot shower tomorrow morning won’t fix,” he says, with probably unwarranted optimism.

“You shoulda stretched,” declares Bucky as he sits up and leans over Sam towards the nightstand. “Turn over.”

Sam groans and throws his arm over his eyes. “Buck, I know you’ve got a damn near nonexistent refractory period, but I cannot go again, I’ll just fall asleep with your dick in my ass.”

“Hot,” says Bucky, deadpan, and Sam squints his eyes open to see Bucky rummaging around in the drawer. He pulls out a bottle of something unfamiliar. “But no, this isn’t round two. C’mon, turn over.”

“What is that? Did I buy that?”

“Massage oil, and no.”

“Then where’d it come from?” Sam asks, but he does dutifully turn over.

“I put it there.”

“Jesus, do you want a badge? A sex preparedness merit badge, that you can, like, stick on your metal arm? Because I feel like you deserve one. What else did you put in there?”

“That lube that, like, warms up, and more condoms, you were running low. And gloves.”

“Okay, doctor role-play is not really my thing—”

Bucky gives him a light swat on the ass with a now gloved hand.

“I’m not getting massage oil in the panels of my left hand, that’s a pain to clean out,” he says, and then he straddles Sam’s calves and starts sweeping his oiled up hands up and down Sam’s thighs with gentle pressure. A sweet and warm aroma reaches Sam’s nose, something vaguely coconut-y, but not in a sunblock kind of way, underlaid with the richness of musk. “This okay?”

Sam moans, and practically melts into the bed. “Oh my god, yeah. Just—a little harder,” he says, sighing when Bucky obliges him by digging the heels of his hands into Sam’s sorest spots. “Wait, massage oil—did you have sexy massage plans?”

“Well, now the surprise is ruined,” says Bucky, and moves on to Sam’s lower back.

“You are really spoiling me,” Sam tells him.

“Mostly I just don’t wanna hear you whining about your sore ass tomorrow morning,” says Bucky, and Sam chuckles. 

He drifts a little, as Bucky continues to give him a gentle massage, his mind turning the evening over. Getting a massage sure as hell isn’t where Sam had expected the night to end up, but he probably shouldn’t complain or second guess it. This is just Bucky being a good partner, same as when he adjusts the straps on Sam’s uniform or helps him get the wing pack on. But what if…

“This isn’t some weird guilt thing, is it?” Sam asks, because he wonders, sometimes, if all of Bucky’s assiduous attentiveness in bed is more than even some kind of sideways apology, if it’s all some odd form of penance for Bucky and he’s still trying to make up for his perceived wrongs against Sam. 

It’s not like Bucky hasn’t hurt him—not even as the Winter Soldier, but just as himself—when Bucky’s been too caught up in his own pain to see or understand Sam’s, when Steve’s absence and the question of the shield had torn them apart like two ragged, bleeding edges of the same raw wound. But Sam thought they’d moved past all that, that they’d stitched up the worst of it. If Bucky’s using sex to make up for his past...Sam’s stomach churns and flips, unsettled. 

Bucky’s hands stop their work, and Sam can sense Bucky go still behind him. Just as Sam’s beginning to think it’s the bad stillness, the kind Bucky gets when he shuts down and is unwilling or unable to talk, Bucky presses a soft kiss to the top of Sam’s spine.

“No,” he says, eventually. “You can’t just deserve it?”

Sam sucks in a shaky breath as the wake of Bucky’s words shivers over his skin. Goddamn Bucky’s aim: whether it’s behind the scope of a rifle or not, he’s always on target.

“You’re kinda going above and beyond here,” Sam says, aiming for a joking tone, but the words come out uncertain.

Nothing Sam had said while they were fucking had been a lie. Bucky is good to him. Too good, maybe, for what they’re doing, for fucking out of convenience and shockingly good sexual chemistry. Sam may have planned tonight, but he hadn’t anticipated that they’d end up here, in this quiet and almost tender place.

“Do you want me to stop?” asks Bucky. 

His voice is low and even, and so soft. Sam wonders what expression is on his face, almost turns around to look, just to make sure it isn’t that terrible, stony blankness. 

Sam’s used to jumping out of planes and off of high places, trusting in his wings and the air to carry him. When he jumps now, he doesn’t feel anything but the thrill of it, the joy. In the beginning though, every time had been an exercise in terrified, ecstatic hope. Every time, there’d been a long moment when he hadn’t been sure if he was falling or flying. This moment right now feels a lot like that, and Sam’s not sure what that means. But he knows how to answer Bucky.

“No,” he says, and Bucky lets out a long sigh, then settles down beside him. Sam pulls him close, and figures he'll find out soon enough, whether they're falling or flying together.