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Voices in the Dark

Chapter Text

Sam was seething as he stalked the hallways of T’Challa’s palace. He paused to take a deep, calming breath as he approached the king’s study. He bowed respectfully to the Dora Milaje standing guard outside the closed doors.

“I’d like to request a brief meeting with King T’Challa if he isn’t busy right now,” Sam said.

One of the guards said, “I will pass on your request to His Majesty. Wait here.”

The other guard silently stared at Sam as he stood at military rest. He was a patient man and didn’t mind waiting even though he was feeling very angry at the moment.

After a brief wait, the first guard reappeared. She left the door open and said, “King T’Challa will see you now.”

Sam nodded and said, “Thank you,” as he passed by them into the study. He bowed before the king, who was sitting behind his massive desk.

“Hello, Your Majesty, thank you for seeing me so quickly.”

“There is no need to be formal, Samuel. You may call me T’Challa. What can I do for you? You seem to be agitated.”

“Steve just informed me of what happened in Siberia between him, Bucky, and Tony. I’m getting the feeling like I’m missing part of the story. I can’t believe that they attacked Tony and just left him there, alone and injured,” he stated angrily. He shook his head to clear the images of a hurt and broken Tony lying on the ground.

“I have two things I’d like to ask you. First, do you know how Tony is? Is he ok?”

T’Challa looked at the upset man in front of him. He could see that he cared about his former teammate. “Tony was very injured, but he is healing nicely now. We talked a few days ago, and he sounded better. What is the second thing you want?”

“I’d like to talk to Tony. I want to apologize to him. Do you have a way for me to contact him securely? I don’t want Ross to trace me. I don’t want to lead him here to Wakanda, not after you generously offered to shelter us.”

T’Challa nodded. “Thank you for your concern, but Wakandan technology is more advanced than the U.S. government. I can give you a secure phone,” he said. “May I ask why you’re apologizing to Tony? You weren’t in Siberia; you didn’t attack him.”

“I sent him to Siberia after Steve and Bucky. I asked him to go there as a friend, to help them stop Zemo. If I hadn’t have told him where they were, he wouldn’t have gotten hurt.”

“You can’t deal with what-if scenarios, Samuel. You cannot predict what could have happened. Zemo might have defeated Steven and James and released the Winter Soldiers. Then, where would we be? You and your friends would still be in the Raft.”

“I see your point, but I still feel partially to blame. I know Tony would have found them in Siberia; I just got him there sooner.”

T’Challa reached into a desk drawer and pulled out a sleek black cell phone. He handed it over to Sam. “Do you have his number?”

“I know the tower’s number. I’ll ask Friday to connect me. Thank you, T’Challa, I really appreciate this,” Sam said gratefully.

“It takes a strong man to admit his mistakes and apologize for them,” the king said. “I respect and admire your integrity.”

Sam bowed. “Thank you.”

As he walked back to his guest room, Sam thought about what he wanted to say to Tony. A lot of mistakes had been made by both teams. He would own his mistakes and take responsibility for his actions.

He locked his door and walked over to his couch. He decided to call Tony immediately so he wouldn’t stress too much and chicken out. After dialing the tower’s number, Sam waited for Friday to answer.

“Hello, may I ask who is calling?” a robotic female voice asked.

“Hi, Friday, it’s Sam Wilson. I’d like to talk to Tony if it’s possible please,” he said.

“I don’t think that would be wise, Sergeant Wilson,” Friday replied.

“I understand,” he said. “Can I leave him a message?”

There was a slight pause as Friday processed the request. “Yes, Sergeant Wilson, you may leave a message for Sir. After you hear the beep, you may begin.”

“Thank you, Friday, I’m glad Tony has you to watch over him.”

Friday didn’t reply and a beep immediately sounded.

“Hey, Tony, it’s Sam. Sam Wilson although I’m guessing you already knew that since Friday told you about this message. Shit, man, I’m nervous. T’Challa gave me this phone, so don’t worry about it being traced. Steve just told me about the fight in Siberia, so I’m calling to see how you are doing. I hope you’re doing ok. I’m sure Steve didn’t tell me the whole story, so I’d like to hear your side of it. I can’t believe he just left you there. Who does that kind of thing? You just don’t leave a man behind, especially an injured friend and teammate. I know you guys were on opposite sides of the Accords and we just had a knock-down, drag out fight at the airport, but you don’t walk away from a man who needs help. Steve was wrong and he’s too proud to apologize.

“I know Bucky is his best friend, but he loses all perspective when it comes to him. Bucky is definitely his blind spot. I still can’t believe things got so out of hand. I’m sorry I sent you to Siberia. I knew Steve and Bucky would need back up against Zemo. Even though we disagreed about the Accords, I still trusted you and believed you would help them. I don’t know what went wrong. Steve won’t tell me what started the fight. I’m guessing he or Bucky did something stupid.

“I also need to apologize about the Accords. Friends don’t always have to agree on something; it’s ok to have different opinions. I’m sorry that I didn’t stop and ask you about your reasons. I’m sure you didn’t wake up one morning and decide that the Avengers were too dangerous and needed to be under government control. I should have asked you why you agreed to the Accords. As your friend and teammate, I owed it to you to offer you a chance to explain your reasoning. But I didn’t, so I’m sorry.

“Alright, man, I guess that’s all I wanted to say. You can call me back if you want to talk. I’ll understand if you don’t. Take care of yourself, Tony.”

Sam hung up the phone and wondered if he would hear back from Tony. He had a feeling that he wouldn’t. He couldn’t blame him. He was sure the other man was feeling hurt and betrayed, and Sam had sided with Steve. He was sure that Tony didn’t want anything to do with any of them.

Meanwhile in New York, Tony went upstairs to his penthouse after spending several hours in his workshop. He couldn’t spend as much time as he wanted working because of the brace on his wrist. He was slowly healing from the fight in Siberia. Two supersoldiers definitely packed a punch, he thought wryly.

As he was making a smoothie, Tony was informed by Friday that he had a message.

“Boss, I have a message for you. Sam Wilson called a couple hours ago. He wanted to talk to you, but I knew you didn’t want to be disturbed. So, he left you a message. Do you want me to play it?”

He looked confused. Why did Sam want to talk to him? Was he calling to yell at him? Did he blame Tony for his imprisonment?

“Friday, do I want to listen to it?”

“Yes, boss, I think you should listen to it,” Friday said soothingly.

“Ok, play it for me.”

Tony stopped making his smoothie as he listened to Sam’s apology. He was surprised that Sam was feeling guilty about sending him to Siberia to meet Steve and Bucky. He wasn’t surprised that Steve was still keeping secrets. He knew Steve wouldn’t do anything to make Bucky look bad. He agreed with his assessment that Bucky was Steve’s weakness. He could hear the anger in his voice when he talked about three of them fighting. He would also swear he could hear genuine concern for him, but he didn’t want to get his hopes up. He thought he and Sam were good friends before the Accords. Sam would join him in his workshop and they would discuss improvements and new designs for his wings. He also helped Tony with designing Redwing. Tony was going to miss their talks and Sam’s company. He decided not to call him back even though he wanted to.

Chapter Text

A few weeks later, Sam jolted awake in bed, a scream lodged in his throat. He took a shaky breath as he looked around his room. He was in Wakanda, he reminded himself. He was having his usual nightmare of Riley being shot out of the sky by an RPG. He had almost reached Riley this time, but then Riley’s face morphed into Rhodes’s face and he fell to the ground. When he reached Rhodes, Sam heard him say, “This is all your fault, Wilson. I can’t walk because of you. It’s all your fault.”

Sam buried his face into his hands as he tried to calm down. He wanted to talk to somebody. As a counselor, he understood the importance of talking about your problems. However, he didn’t have anybody here to talk to right now. He and Steve weren’t exactly talking at the moment. Sam was still mad at him for fighting with Tony, and Steve still wouldn’t explain his actions or apologize for them. T’Challa was the king, and Sam didn’t want to wake him in the middle of the night just so he could ramble about his nightmares. Bucky was in cryofreeze, but Sam didn’t know him well enough to confide in him. Clint, Scott, and Wanda had left Wakanda, so he couldn’t talk to any of them either.

Sam’s gaze landed on the phone on his nightstand. He remembered feeling better after talking to Tony. Maybe he could leave another message for Tony. Even if the other man didn’t listen to the message, maybe he would feel better just talking about his feelings.

He quickly picked up the phone and dialed the tower’s number. He didn’t give Friday time to say anything before he started talking.

“Hey Friday, it’s Sam again. I’m just going to leave another message for Tony. Thanks.”

He paused to catch his breath, the panic induced from the nightmare slowly leaving his body. “Hey Tony, sorry to bother you but fuck, man, I just need somebody to talk to. I just had a nightmare about Riley falling and I couldn’t reach him in time. Then, Riley turned into Rhodes, and he blamed me for everything. Shit, I blame me too. I’m the reason Rhodes can’t walk. If I hadn’t ducked out the way, Vision wouldn’t have hit Rhodes and he’d be fine. It is my fault; I couldn’t save either of them. I just watched them fall, helpless.”

He took a ragged breath as he began to sob, guilt consuming him. He began mumbling, “My fault, all my fault, my fault, all my fault,” over and over again.

Unbeknownst to Sam, Tony had picked up the phone after Friday informed him it was Sam calling. He was concerned about Sam calling him in the middle of the night. He was worried that something was wrong, and he was right. Sam was in a bad place.

“Sam, it’s ok. Just listen to my voice. It’s not your fault. You are not to blame for Rhodey’s injuries. You ducked out of the way of enemy fire, just like any trained soldier would do. You couldn’t have known that Rhodey would be hit. It’s not your fault, Sam. It’s ok,” Tony said in calm, soothing voice.

Sam hiccupped in shock at hearing Tony’s voice. He didn’t know he had answered the phone. His sobs tapered off as he realized the other man had just heard his breakdown.

“Shit, man, I’m sorry you had to hear that,” he apologized, feeling embarrassed.

“Stop apologizing, Birdboy,” Tony said. “You have nothing to be sorry for. You are not at fault for Rhodey’s injuries. He doesn’t blame you. I don’t blame you. Nobody blames you.”

“Yeah, I know he doesn’t blame me,” Sam said. “I called him a while ago and apologized. He yelled at me for feeling guilty. He told me he ordered Vision to fire at me, in attempt to ground me, so I couldn’t fly anymore. He wasn’t trying to hurt me, just disable the wings. He said he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He said he would have dodged too if he were me.”

“Well, good then. You can stop blaming yourself.”

“Easier said than done. Logically, I understand it’s not my fault, but I still feel responsible.”

Tony remained silent. He understood shouldering the blame for things that are not your fault. He was feeling guilty about signing the Accords and listening to Ross. He also blamed himself for the airport battle, fighting against his friends and teammates. He felt guilty about blasting off Bucky’s arm, but he knew Steve was to blame for keeping secrets. If he had told Tony earlier about Bucky killing his parents, then Tony wouldn’t have tried to kill Bucky after watching Zemo’s video. He would have had time to process the information and grieve before facing Bucky.

When he spoke next, Sam sounded calmer. “So, how are you feeling, Tony? How badly were you hurt?”

“I’m ok, don’t worry about me,” he said, trying to deflect.

“Tony.”

Tony actually winced when he heard Sam’s no-nonsense tone. He knew the other man wouldn’t drop the subject until he confessed.

“I am ok, Sam. The bruises have all healed, and the surgery on my wrist went well. I’m still wearing a brace, but it should come off next week.”

“What the hell happened, man?”

“Didn’t Steve tell you?” Tony asked. He really didn’t want to talk about it.

“No, he just said that the three of you fought. He wouldn’t tell me why.”

Tony stayed silent, words on the tip of his tongue but he couldn’t open his mouth to speak them. After several long moments of silence, Sam spoke again.

“You don’t have to tell me, Tony. It’s none of my business. I was just curious and worried about you.”

He sighed in relief. “Thanks, Sam. Maybe one day I’ll explain, but I can’t right now.”

“That’s fine. I hope you’re talking to somebody though. Talking to someone really does help.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“Ok, time to change the subject. Do you have my wings and Redwing?”

Sam desperately missed his wings, missed flying and feeling free. He knew he wasn’t getting his wings back; he just wanted them in safe hands.

“Yes, I do but I can’t give them to you, Sam. I’m sorry,” Tony said. He had argued with Ross over ownership of the wings and Redwing.

“That’s not why I asked, Tony. I just wanted to make sure they were safe. I don’t want the government to get their hands on them. They could become a weapon in the wrong hands. I trust you with them.”

Tony was speechless. How could Sam trust him after everything that happened?

“Tony, are you still there? Are you ok?”

“Yeah, I’m here,” he said shakily. “What do you mean you trust me with your wings?”

“You made them. You love them as much as I do. You won’t let them be used to hurt people. You won’t give them to somebody who is unworthy to wear them.”

“I’m not giving them to anybody. They are your wings, Sam. Nobody else is allowed to wear them.”

“Thanks, Tony, I appreciate it, but you and I both know that I’m not getting the wings back. I’m a fugitive and hiding from the U.S. government. I’m never flying again,” he said. His sigh of despair sounded clearly through the phone.

Tony’s brain started working overtime. It wasn’t fair that Sam would never fly again. He belonged in the air. Tony understood his love of flying. He would somehow fix this problem and make Sam happy again.

“Never say never, Sammy.”

He grinned at the nickname. Tony had occasionally called him that when they were working on his wings.

“Thanks for talking with me. It really helped,” Sam said, trying to stifle a yawn.

“I’m glad I could help. Try to get some rest,” Tony said.

“I’ll be glad to return the favor; call me anytime,” he said. “I mean it, Tony. I’m here if you need me.”

“Thanks, Sam,” he said, oddly touched.

After they hung up their phones, both men felt like their friendship was on the mend.

Chapter Text

For the next several weeks, Tony and Sam called each at least once a week. They talked about their days. Tony was perfecting the exoskeleton that helped Rhodes walk again, and Sam had asked T’Challa for a job. He couldn’t sit around and do nothing all day. The inactivity was driving him crazy. T’Challa had offered Sam a job that allowed him to use his skills as a pararescueman. He was teaching the cadets at Wakanda’s military school how to fly planes, parachute out safely, scuba dive, and perform field medicine in case of an emergency. He loved his job teaching the cadets how to be a pilot, diver, or EMT. He hoped those skills would help them if they ever needed it.

One night, Tony awoke from a nightmare, gasping for breath. He dreamed he was back in Siberia fighting Captain America and the Winter Soldier. This time he hadn’t been able to shoot off the Winter Soldier’s metal arm, so both supersoldiers were beating him bloody. He was lying helpless on the floor as a shield and metal hand ripped apart his suit and pulled out his arc reactor. In his dream, he still had his arc reactor and could only watch as it was pulled out of his chest. Then, Captain America and the Winter Soldier walked away, leaving him dying on the ground. The last thing he heard was their vicious, mocking laughter as they left.

After failing to catch his breath or stop the imminent panic attack, Tony shakily reached for his phone and dialed Sam’s number. He needed to hear Sam’s deep, soothing voice. As soon as his friend answered the phone, Tony gasped out his name in high, panicked voice.

“Sam!”

“What’s wrong, Tony?” Sam asked. He had never heard Tony sound so terrified.

“Dream. Siberia. Arc reactor. Shield. Metal arm. Dying,” he babbled disjointedly.

Sam was confused, but he got the gist of Tony’s ramblings. He had had a nightmare about the fight in Siberia, which Sam still did not have all the details of. He needed to know what happened in order to help him.

“Tony, listen to me. You’re fine. You’re in your bedroom at the Tower. You’re in New York, not Siberia. You don’t have the arc reactor anymore. You’re not dying; you’re alive. You’re going to be ok, Tony.”

“Couldn’t stop them, too strong. They left me alone, walked away laughing,” Tony whispered.

Sam knew they had left him alone injured and in pain, but he didn’t think they had laughed as they left. Bucky was missing his arm after all. He doubted they would be in a laughing mood.

“Take a deep breath for me, Tony. Focus on my voice. Breathe in, hold it, now breathe out. That’s good, Tony. Let’s do it again. Breathe in, hold it, now breathe out,” he said as he listened to Tony’s breathing, which was slowing down.

Tony gasped in relief as he felt himself come down from his panic attack. Suddenly, he felt very lethargic. He wanted to sleep, but he didn’t want to be alone. He wished Sam was here to hold him, to offer him comfort and safety. He shoved that thought to the back of his mind. He would deal with his newfound attraction to the other man later.

Sam waited in silence while Tony calmed down, then he asked, “How are you feeling, Tones?”

“Tired.”

“Try to get some more sleep,” Sam said, wishing he was there to hold him and help him sleep better. “If you have another dream or just want to talk, call me.”

“Thanks, Sammy,” Tony said around a yawn. “Good night.”

“Good night, Tones.”

The next day after work, Sam walked into his room and flopped down on the couch. He was tired and hungry after training the new cadets all day, but he wanted to check on Tony. He was worried about him. He hoped he was talking to Pepper or Rhodes, but he suspected that Tony was keeping silent about his problems. He wished he was living in the tower, so he could take care of him. His crush on the genius billionaire had come out of nowhere, but now that he was aware of his feelings, he desperately wanted to be near Tony. Instead, he settled for dialing his personal number, which Tony had given him as a show of trust.

“Hey, man, how are you doing?”

“You don’t have to check up on me, Sam,” Tony said defensively.

“You’re my friend; I’m allowed to check on you. So, spill. How are you feeling after last night?”

Tony sighed. “I got a few hours of sleep after we talked, so I’m feeling ok. Thanks for talking to me; it really helped.”

“You’re welcome. I promise to do my best to answer my phone anytime you call.”

“Anytime?”

“Well, it might be hard if you call while I’m working. It’s kind of difficult to answer if I’m scuba diving or jumping out of a plane,” he said, smirking slightly.

“I hope you’re being careful. I don’t want to get a call from the Cat King saying you’re in the hospital.”

Sam heard the note of concern in Tony’s voice and was touched that he worried about him. “I’m always careful, don’t worry about me.”

“You’re my friend; I’m allowed to worry about you,” Tony responded cheekily.

“Touché. I guess we’ll just worry about each other then.”

“Hmmm,” Tony agreed. “How was work today?”

“Good. It’s rewarding work, but I’m not as young as I used to be. I’m tired, man.”

He laughed. “Wait until you get to be my age. It’s a struggle to get out of bed some days.”

Sam chuckled. “You’re not that old.”

“I feel every one of my years sometimes, especially after a battle or long session in the workshop.”

“I hear ya, Tones. I feel like an old man when I’m running with the cadets.”

Tony smiled as he fidgeted with one of the tools lying on his workbench. “Uh, Sam, I want to tell you something.”

“Ok, Tony, you can tell me anything,” Sam said seriously. He wanted Tony to trust him and feel comfortable sharing with him.

“It’s about what happened in Siberia, what my nightmare was about,” he said as he nervously tapped his fingers on the workbench.

“I’m listening.”

“When I got to Siberia, I found Steve and Bucky. We talked and everything was fine. Then, we found Zemo and he had killed all the winter soldiers. Turns out the soldiers weren’t Zemo’s plan after all. He really wanted to destroy the Avengers, and he accomplished that goal. He had a video from December 16, 1991, the day my parents died.”

Sam exhaled sharply. He could guess where this story was going. “Tony,” he breathed.

“The video showed the Winter Soldier crashing my parents’ car, killing them. Bucky killed my mom and dad,” he said with a tiny sob.

“Oh, Tony, I’m so sorry you had to see that. Nobody should have to watch someone they love die,” Sam said. He ached to hold Tony in his arms to comfort him and protect him against any future hurt.

“I went a little crazy. I was full of rage; I wanted to kill Bucky. I started the fight, Sam. Bucky was defending himself, and Steve joined in to protect his best friend. It escalated quickly. I shot off Bucky’s arm and Steve slammed his shield into my chest. The suit was completely destroyed. I was lying on the ground, completely helpless. They could have killed me, but they didn’t. I told Steve he didn’t deserve his shield; my father had made it and Steve wasn’t worthy. Steve dropped the shield and left with Bucky. That’s it. That’s what happened.”

Tony was feeling shaky after he told his story. He didn’t want Sam to blame him. He had promised Sam that he would go to Siberia as a friend, and then he had fought against Steve and Bucky. He hoped the other man would understand.

Sam remained silent as he processed the information. He knew something major had to have happened in Siberia, but he never would have guessed that Bucky had killed Tony’s parents. He now understood why Steve hadn’t told him. He wouldn’t want Sam to blame Bucky but keeping that information wasn’t fair to Tony. Without all the information, people would blame Tony for the fight, but it wasn’t his fault. He was angry and grieving and wanted revenge against the person responsible for his parents’ deaths. Sam didn’t blame him at all.

“Sam? Are you still there?” Tony asked in a small voice, nervous about his reaction.

“Yeah, sorry, Tones, I’m here. I was just trying to digest all that information. First of all, I do not blame you, not at all. Your reaction to finding out the truth about your parents’ death is understandable. Your feelings are valid. You were grieving and angry, and you wanted revenge. I can understand that. I don’t blame you for lashing out. I don’t blame Bucky for defending himself. I’m sure a raging Iron Man is very intimidating. I blame Steve for his part. He could have found a way to stop you without attacking you. Like I said before, Steve doesn’t think when it comes to Bucky. He saw you as a threat to Bucky so he attacked. He forgot that you were his friend too.”

“Really?” Tony whispered. He couldn’t believe that Sam didn’t blame him. “But I threw the first punch?”

“Because you just watched your parents’ murder. You weren’t thinking clearly. How do you feel about Bucky now?”

Tony thought for a moment. “He wasn’t Bucky then. He was the Winter Soldier and completely under Hydra’s control. Bucky knew my dad and he probably met my mom. I don’t think he would want to kill them.”

“Do you still want to kill Bucky? Do you blame him for your parents’ death?”

“No, I don’t. I know Bucky isn’t responsible. He’s a victim too,” he said firmly. It was true; he didn’t blame Bucky. He was just Hydra’s weapon. He didn’t have a choice in the matter.

“I’m proud of you, Tony. After you had time to think, you reached the rational decision. It’s still hard to know who killed your parents, but you don’t want revenge anymore. That’s a mature and logical decision.”

Tony blushed slightly at Sam’s warm voice praising him. “Thanks, I just wish that Steve had told me before Zemo did. I wouldn’t have attacked Bucky; I would have already reached the logical conclusion that Bucky wasn’t responsible.”

“What?” Sam yelled. “Are you telling me that Steve knew Bucky killed your parents and didn’t tell you? That’s completely fucked up.”

“Um, yeah, he knew and kept it a secret, probably to protect Bucky.”

Sam seethed silently. The entire fight in Siberia was Steve’s fault. The same Steve Rogers who preached about team loyalty, honesty, and trust had kept a major secret from his friend and teammate. What a hypocrite!

“I hate hypocrisy! Do you know how many times I had to listen to him lecture about trusting your teammates and the importance of honesty and loyalty? Then, he does this shit. It’s not right, man. He betrayed you. He should apologize to you.”

“He sent me a letter and a flip phone. He apologized and said that the Avengers were mine now,” Tony said, a little in awe over Sam’s anger. He shouldn’t be so surprised though; Sam’s main virtue was integrity, and he valued it in others.

“Was it a true apology or a weak-ass one?” Sam asked.

“What’s a weak-ass apology?” he asked, chuckling.

“A weak-ass apology is one where a person is feeling guilty and only apologizes to make himself feel better. He only cares about his own feelings, not the person he wronged. He makes it all about himself.”

“I don’t know if I can judge that from a letter. He said he was sorry for not telling me sooner about my parents. That’s all he said about it.”

Sam hummed thoughtfully. “I know he’s feeling guilty, but I don’t know if it’s about you or Bucky.”

“It doesn’t really matter, Sam.”

“Yes, it does, Tony. You’re having nightmares about that fight. You and Steve need to work this out, so you can have closure and move on.”

“I don’t want to talk to him. I just want to forget about it,” Tony said, shaking his head. He tried to deny the sense in what Sam was saying. He didn’t know if he could handle seeing Steve or Bucky again. He had hidden the shield in his workshop. He didn’t want to look at a reminder of how defeated and helpless he had felt in Siberia.

“I’m not going to force you into anything you’re not ready for. I just want you to have some peace and sleep without nightmares. I wish I could do more to help you.”

“You are helping me. Talking to you helps more than you know.”

“I’m glad,” he said. He hated that he was so far away from Tony. He wanted to be able to take care of him, to make sure he was eating and sleeping. He just wanted to see him. He missed seeing his face. He thought of an idea.

“Hey, Tones, how do you feel about video chats?”

“What’s the matter, Bird Boy? Do you miss my handsome face?”

Sam laughed. “As a matter of fact, I do. So, next time we talk can I see your handsome face?”

Tony blushed. He was positive that Sam was joking, but he was still flattered and flustered. “Sure. I might miss seeing you too. Maybe.”

“Of course, you miss seeing my face. I’m gorgeous and you know it.”

Tony laughed. “You’re so modest too.”

“I’ve learned from the best,” Sam said. “You’re my role model.”

“Hey, I’m already so many things; I don’t need to be modest as well. I know how great I am.”

“Alright, Mr. Greatness, I think it’s time for me to eat some dinner and go to bed. I have another long day tomorrow.”

“Ok, I’ll talk to you later,” Tony said, reluctant to hang up. He loved talking to Sam.

“Night, Tony. Make sure you eat something too.”

“I will, Sam. Good night, gorgeous,” he said. He hoped he sounded like he was joking, and that he hadn’t given away his crush on the other man.

“Good night, handsome,” Sam said, chuckling. He thought he might try flirting with Tony more. So far, Tony was flirting back. He would feel him out, to see if he was receptive to developing a relationship between them.

A few days later, Sam initiated a video chat with Tony. If he showered beforehand and put on a nice shirt, Sam would never tell. He had butterflies in his stomach as the call connected and he finally saw Tony’s handsome face again. He felt a bit breathless as he saw his warm smile directed at him. For his part, Tony was also feeling nervous. He automatically grinned when he saw Sam’s beautiful smile. He had definitely missed seeing him. He felt his heart beat faster as he saw how happy Sam was just by talking with him. The two men enjoyed the video chat and agreed to do more of them.

Chapter Text

Six months after that first video chat, Sam told Tony that Bucky was scheduled to come out of cryofreeze. Wakandan scientists and doctors had successfully removed the trigger words from Bucky’s mind and built him a new arm. Tony was worried that something could go wrong and Bucky would become the Winter Soldier again. He didn’t want Sam to be in danger. He called T’Challa and asked if he could visit Wakanda. He wanted to be there for Sam. Although he didn’t want to see Steve or Bucky again, he couldn’t stand by and do nothing if there was a potential danger to Sam. He wanted to protect him. He brought his new and improved Iron Man armor with him. He also decided to surprise the other man and not tell him he was coming for a visit. Plus, he had another surprise for him.

The day before Bucky was to be released from cryofreeze, Sam had received a message that T’Challa had requested his presence in one of the guest rooms. He couldn’t figure out why he had to meet the king in that strange location. Sam himself had moved out of his guest room and into a nice suite located in the west wing of the palace after he started his new job. T’Challa had said he was no longer a guest but a working resident of Wakanda.

Sam bowed respectfully to the two guards outside the door of the guest room. “May I go in? King T’Challa is waiting for me.”

One of the guards opened the door and announced Sam’s presence. “Samuel Wilson is here, Your Majesty.”

He entered the room and stopped abruptly in surprise. Standing next to the king was Tony. He was smiling brightly at the look of shock on Sam’s face.

“Tony! What are you doing here?” Sam asked. He thought he might be dreaming. He couldn’t understand why Tony was in Wakanda.

“Surprise! I decided to come for a visit. Aren’t you happy to see me?” he asked with a smirk.

“Of course, I’m happy to see you. I’m just confused as to why you are here.” Sam was trying hard not to run up to Tony and hug him tightly. Only the presence of T’Challa was stopping him. The king was already watching the two of them in amusement.

“Perhaps, I can clear away your confusion. Anthony has requested to be here when Sergeant Barnes is awakened tomorrow,” T’Challa stated. “He wishes to be on scene if something goes wrong, although I have assured him our scientists and doctors are the best in the world.”

Tony ducked his head down. “There is still a potential risk involved. It doesn’t hurt to be cautious.”

Sam sensed Tony’s nervousness and knew there was another reason he was here. “Well, I’m happy you’re here, Tones.”

Tony quickly looked up at him. “Really?”

“Yes, I am,” Sam said, smiling at him.

“Would you like to show Tony around, Samuel? I’m afraid I have many meeting today and cannot properly show him around my home,” T’Challa said. Inside his mind, he was shaking his head and laughing at these two pining idiots.

“Sure, I’d love to, T’Challa,” Sam said before turning to Tony. “Wakanda is beautiful. You’re going to love it here.”

Tony nodded. He was happy yet anxious about spending time with Sam.

“I will take my leave then. I’ll see you tomorrow,” the king said and left the room.

Sam waited a moment after the door closed and then stepped closer to Tony. “I really want to hug you right now. Can I?”

Tony blushed and his eyes widened, but he nodded. “Yeah, you can.”

Sam smiled softly and took the final step to Tony and wrapped his arms around him. He hesitantly put his arms around Sam. When it seemed like it just wasn’t going to be a quick, friendly hug, Tony took a chance and nuzzled his face into Sam’s neck. In response, Sam tightened his hold on him. He bent his head down and whispered into Tony’s ear, “I missed you.”

“Missed you too,” Tony whispered, lips brushing against Sam’s skin.

He lightly shivered at the feel of Tony’s lips. He reluctantly let go and led Tony over to the couch. “We can go on a tour soon, but first will you tell me why you’re really here? I know you don’t want to see Steve or Bucky.”

Tony sighed. He knew Sam would see right through him. “I do want to be here in case something goes wrong. Bucky is dangerous as the Winter Soldier.”

“Yes, he is, but T’Challa and Steve are here. They could stop Bucky before he hurts someone.”

“Do you really think Steve would hurt Bucky?”

“No, but he won’t let Bucky run around as the Soldier. He’ll find a way to stop him and get his best friend back.”

“I know but I still worry about the damage he can do.”

“What about the damage that seeing Steve and Bucky will do to you? Are you prepared for it?”

“I’m more worried about you honestly,” Tony admitted.

“Did you come all this way just to protect me from Bucky?” Sam asked.

“I know you don’t need to be protected. You’re a trained fighter and can take of yourself, but Bucky is a supersoldier. I just wanted to be here in case you needed help.”

He smiled fondly. “Thank you, I trust you to have my back. And I’ll be here for you if you need it.”

Tony smiled slightly. “Thanks. I know I can rely upon your support.”

“So, what do you want to do first? Tour of the palace or city? Are you hungry?”

“Nah, I’m good. Do you know where Steve is? Because I’d like to avoid him for now. I just want to have fun with you first, and then I’ll deal with him.”

“He’s probably with Bucky. He spends most of his time with him, talking to his doctors.”

“How about we start here in the palace and then go out into the city? We could eat dinner there; T’Challa said he wouldn’t be able to have dinner with us tonight.”

“Ok, I know the perfect spot for dinner. I found this great little restaurant run by this sweet, old couple, and the food is amazing,” Sam said.

“That sounds perfect,” Tony said. He’d rather have wonderful dinner with Sam in small, cozy restaurant than in a fancy, 5-star restaurant where the waiters never left you alone. After nearly nine months of phone calls and video chats, he wanted to enjoy his time with Sam in person, just the two of them.

Sam guided Tony through the palace. He showed him the throne room, ball room, formal dining room, library, indoor swimming pool, gym, and his own suite. Then, he led him outside into the Royal Gardens.

He breathed in the fresh air, smelling the fragrant flowers. “This is my favorite place here.”

Tony looked around the gardens. He really wasn’t much for flowers or the outdoors; he much preferred his workshop, but he could appreciate the natural beauty of the gardens.

“It’s lovely,” he said, looking at Sam glowing in the sunlight.

Sam walked over to a secluded bench and sat down. Tony wandered around the garden, pretending to look at the flowers but secretly watching the other man.

“I like to come here and think,” Sam said. “It’s quiet and private. It’s nice to have a place away from all the chaos.”

“Yeah,” Tony agreed. He walked over and sat next to Sam on the bench. “So, what’s next on our tour?”

“I can take you to the academy if you want, show you where I work. You could meet some of the cadets. Or we could go downtown and window shop until dinner time. It’s too bad you’re going to miss market day. It’s pretty great. There are fresh fruit, vegetables, and pastries. There’s also all these different crafts like quilts, paintings, ceramics, and clothes. I got this great hat there last month.”

Tony smiled at his enthusiasm. “When is market day? Maybe I could stay a little longer to experience it?”

Sam shook his head. “It’s tomorrow and we’re going to be busy with Bucky.”

“Ah, I guess we’ll have to miss it then. Too bad because it sounded like fun.”

“So, what’s it going to be? The academy or downtown?”

Tony was torn. He wanted to see where Sam worked, but he knew there was going to be a lot of people there. He wanted to be alone with him; he didn’t want to share him yet. He only had a few days in Wakanda.

“Can we stay here for a while and then go to dinner? Maybe I can see the academy before I leave. I’m not feeling up to a lot of people right now.”

“Sure, Tony, that’s fine. This is a good place to relax.”

They sat together on the bench in a comfortable silence. As he relaxed, Tony slumped down a little and rested his head on Sam’s shoulder. Sam smiled as he saw Tony’s hand lying close to his on the bench. He inched his hand closer and entangled his pinkie finger with Tony’s pinkie finger. Tony laughed lightly and gently squeezed his finger. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt this content.

Sometime later, Tony’s stomach gurgled loudly. Sam chuckled. “Time for dinner, Tones.”

He smiled sheepishly. “Yeah, dinner would be good.”

“Come on, we’ll take my car into town. It’s not very far.”

They walked to the garage and Sam pointed out a newer model black sports car. “T’Challa assigned this car to me so I could travel to work and around the city.”

“It’s nice but I could probably make it go faster for you,” Tony said, thinking of all the ways he could improve the car.

“No thanks, it’s not my car. I don’t need an extra fast car just to get to work.”

“If you change your mind, let me know. It wouldn’t take me very long.”

“I don’t plan on making you work, Tony. This is your vacation,” Sam said. “I want you to enjoy yourself.”

“As long as I’m with you, gorgeous, I’ll enjoy my vacation,” Tony said, smirking.

“Whatever you say, handsome, let’s go eat.”

Sam drove into the city, pointing out interesting landmarks as they passed. He parked close to a small building nestled between two larger buildings. As they walked into the restaurant, an older gentleman approached them, grinning broadly.

“Samuel! How nice to see you, my friend, and you brought somebody with you. Excellent!”

“Hello, Jelani, it’s good to see you too. This is my friend, Tony; this is his first visit to Wakanda, so I had to bring him to the best restaurant in town,” he said.

Jelani laughed. “Such flattery! Welcome, Tony, I hope you like to eat because once my wife finds out that Samuel has brought a guest with him, she’s going to make a feast.”

“Thank you, Jelani. You have a beautiful place here and Sam has raved about the food, so I’m sure I’m in for a treat,” Tony said.

“Come on, let’s get you two to a table,” Jelani said. He led the two men over to a small table near the back.

Jelani took their drink orders, two local beers, then said if they didn’t mind, his wife, Furaha, would choose their meal for them, making a large sampler for them, so Tony could try a bit of everything.

“That sounds great,” Tony said. “Thank you.”

After Jelani walked away, Sam said, “Furaha is an amazing cook; I’ve never had a bad meal here.”

“How did you find this place?”

“Jelani’s cousin works at the academy. He told me I had to try this place, so I came here and loved it. I try to come here every time I come into town.”

“I can see why you like it here; it’s very homey and welcoming,” Tony said as he looked around the restaurant.

Jelani brought over their beers and their appetizers. There were beef sambussa, vegetable sambussa, tomato salad, and buticha.

Tony smelled the richly fragrant foods, identifying garlic, saffron, turmeric, lemon, and onion. He looked for his utensils but couldn’t find any.

Sam noticed his searching and said, “We eat with our hands. You can use the injera, the bread, to scoop up the tomatoes and buticha.”

Tony nodded and tried a bite of the beef sambussa. He moaned in delight as the flavors exploded on his tongue.

“This is delicious,” he said. “I wonder if they’ll ship food to New York.”

Sam laughed as he ate. He liked watching Tony enjoy his food. His face was very expressive as he tried each new dish.

As they were finishing their appetizers, a beautiful, older woman approached their table. “Samuel, it’s been too long since you’ve been here. Who is your friend?”

“Hello, Furaha, you look wonderful! This is Tony; he’s visiting me from the U.S.”

“Welcome, Tony. How are you liking the food?”

“It’s amazing. You truly have a gift, Furaha. I was just telling Sam that I wished I had food like this back in New York,” he said.

Furaha laughed joyously. “I’ll bring the entrees out soon. Do you have a preference for beef, chicken, lamb, or seafood?”

“I like anything,” Tony said. “I’m sure it will be wonderful.”

“Then, I’ll give you a little bit of everything,” she said.

She returned to their table with a large sampler platter. “Enjoy, gentlemen,” she said and walked back into the kitchen.

Tony looked at the platter with shock. There was a giant piece of injera lying on the plate and eight different dishes on top of the bread.

Sam helpfully pointed out the different dishes. “We have tibs wat, ye beg wat, chicken tibs, shrimp wat, gomen, tikil gomen, keiy sire, and ye misr wat. You just rip off a piece of injera and dip it into the dishes. Some of them are very spicy, so be careful.”

“You said wat a few times. What is that?”

“It’s a stew or curry with meat or vegetables with a lot of spices,” Sam said as he dipped into the gomen. Since gomen was collard greens, it reminded him of home. His grandmother had made collard greens all the time.

They talked as they ate. Tony waved his hands around as he explained his newest invention, and Sam had to duck as food went flying because Tony forgot he was holding it. He blushed as Sam laughed, but Sam just told him to make sure he ate the food in his hand before he waved them around.

For dessert, Jelani brought out shushumow and saffron and pistachio kashata. Shushumow was a crisp, deep fried pastry, and kashata were rolled balls of dough dipped into coconut. He served the desserts with small cups of coffee.

Tony took a sip of coffee and hummed in appreciation. “This is really good.”

“Yeah, their coffee is really strong. If I didn’t already know you lived off of coffee, I would be worried that this cup would keep you up all night. You should be fine though.”

Tony chuckled as he tried the desserts. Just like everything else he ate, they were delicious. Sam and Tony fought over the check after Jelani gave it to them. Tony insisted that he pay in order to show his appreciation for Sam introducing him to this wonderful food.

Furaha and Jelani walked over to their table before they left. Tony praised Furaha’s cooking profusely. Sam thanked them for their fantastic meal and promised to return soon.

As they drove home to the palace, they were silent. Each man thinking that dinner had been amazing and how much they enjoyed the other’s company. Sam walked Tony to his guest room, and they lingered by the door. Tony decided to be bold, and he leaned in and pressed a light kiss to Sam’s lips.

“Thank you for an incredible night,” he whispered. “I had a really good time.”

Sam smiled and said, “You’re welcome, I had a good time too.” Then, he leaned in and kissed Tony sweetly, more than just a brush of lips like their first kiss had been.

He melted into Sam’s arms and kissed him again. It was one of the best kisses he ever experienced.

After a few more slow, deep kisses, they parted reluctantly. Sam confessed, “I’ve wanted to do that for a while now. I really like you.”

“I like you, too. I’ve been thinking about kissing you too.”

“Wow, I didn’t think you felt the same way.”

“Why? You’re amazing, Sam. I’m surprised you like me,” Tony said. “You could have anybody you want.”

“I want you, Tony. I see the real you, and I’ve liked everything you have shown me.”

He ducked his head; he wasn’t used to people genuinely liking him, not his money or brains. Except for Pepper and Rhodey, people generally used him for what he could do for them. He wasn’t sure how to deal with Sam’s attraction.

Sam gently placed his finger under Tony’s chin and tilted his head up. Looking him in the eyes, he said, “We’ll go as slow as you want. There’s no rush. I want you to be comfortable.”

“Thank you. I know I have trust issues, but I’m working on it. I do like you, and I want this to work.”

“You’ve been hurt and betrayed by the people closest to you; I’m not surprised you have trust issues. I’ll try my best to prove that I won’t betray your trust again. I’m grateful that you’ve given me another chance to be your friend. I want us to work too. I think we could be really good together.”

“Yeah, I do too.”

“Good night, Tony. Want to eat breakfast together tomorrow?”

“Yes. Good night, Sammy.”

Sam smiled and pressed a chaste kiss to his lips. “Sweet dreams, handsome.”

“Hopefully, I’ll dream about you, gorgeous.”

Sam laughed as he started walking away. “See you in the morning, Tones.”

Tony smiled as he walked into his room. Tonight had gone better than he had expected. He couldn’t wait to see Sam’s reaction to his surprise. He planned to give it to him tomorrow after dealing with Bucky and Steve.

When he returned to his suite, Sam took out his phone and saw that Steve had called and texted him numerous times. He decided it would be easier to call him back rather than reading all of the messages.

“Sam, where were you? I’ve been calling you all night,” Steve said, sounding angry.

“I had dinner with a friend. What’s the problem, Steve?”

“Bucky’s going to wake up tomorrow; I really needed you tonight.”

“Don’t even try to guilt trip me, man. You’ve been ignoring me for months. I’ve invited you to come running with me or to meet me for lunch at the academy. You turned me down every time. Every time I tried to talk to you, you didn’t want to listen. You’ve been so focused on Bucky that you ignored all your other friends,” Sam said. It felt good to get that off his chest.

“You know how important Bucky is to me. He’s my best friend,” Steve whined.

“Yes, but he is unconscious. He’s frozen, Steve, he can’t talk to you. He doesn’t even know you’re there. There is no excuse for neglecting your friends.”

“You seemed to move on pretty quickly, Sam. You have a job and new friends, so obviously you aren’t feeling too neglected,” he said spitefully.

“Yes, I have tried my best to adjust to my new life here in Wakanda. I have a job that I love and friends to hang out with. However, I haven’t forgotten about my old friends. Have you even talked to Natasha, Clint, Scott, or Wanda?”

“No, we can’t talk to them, Sam. We’re in hiding.”

“Well, if you would have asked T’Challa, he could have given you an untraceable phone to call them. I have been talking to our friends. I’ve even been able to talk to my mom and sister.”

“That’s too dangerous, Sam. You shouldn’t have done that,” Steve lectured.

“I trust T’Challa when he says it’s safe. He doesn’t want Ross anywhere near here, so he wouldn’t give me the means to communicate with our friends if it wasn’t safe. Relax, man.”

“I guess it’s ok if you’re only talking to Nat, Clint, Scott, or Wanda.”

“I’ve been talking to Tony and Rhodey too,” Sam said with a smirk. He wished he could see Steve’s face right now. He’d bet it would be bright red with indignation and outrage.

“Sam! Why would you risk exposure like that? It’s too dangerous to talk to Tony; he could come after Bucky again.”

He bristled with anger. “How dare you blame Tony? I know what happened in Siberia. I know what Bucky did, and I don’t blame Tony for reacting the way he did.”

Steve was silent for a moment. “Tony told you what happened?”

“Yes, he did. Why did you keep it a secret?”

“It wasn’t Bucky’s fault. He was under Hydra’s control when he killed Howard and Maria.”

“I know Bucky wasn’t responsible, but you are responsible, Steve. You knew about Tony’s parents and you didn’t tell him. He had to find out the truth from Zemo. You betrayed Tony’s trust.”

“I thought I was doing the right thing. I was trying to protect Bucky.”

“You made the wrong decision, and you need to apologize to Tony.”

“I already said I was sorry. I wrote him a letter and gave him a flip phone in case he wanted to talk. He never called me,” Steve whined.

“Can you really blame him? You and Bucky beat him, destroyed his armor, and left him alone in Siberia. I wouldn’t want to talk to you either if you did that to me.”

“What do you want me to say, Sam? I know I messed up.”

“You need to apologize to Tony, face to face. You need to think about how he’s feeling, what he went through. You need to put yourself in his place and think about what you want to say to him. At the very least, he deserves a genuine apology.”

Steve sighed. “I’ll think about it later. Bucky’s waking up tomorrow, and I need to be there for him.”

“Ok,” he said. He knew he couldn’t force Steve to apologize to Tony. He just hoped he gave him enough to think about that he wouldn’t attack Tony tomorrow when he saw him here in Wakanda.

“Will you come tomorrow when we wake up Bucky? I could use a friend.”

“Yes, Steve, I’ll be there.”

“Thanks. I’m sorry about yelling at you. You’re allowed to go out to dinner with friends. I’m sorry I’ve been such a shitty friend lately.”

“I appreciate that. See you tomorrow, Steve.”

“Good night, Sam.”

Sam ran his hand down his face after he hung up his phone. He liked Steve, but he was a lot to deal with sometimes. He could be very aggravating. As he got ready for bed, he hoped tomorrow wouldn’t turn into a battle. He just wanted everyone to get along and spend the day with Tony. He planned on spending as much time with Tony as he could until he returned to New York.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Tony called Sam to see if he was ready for breakfast yet. He answered, sounding out of breath.

“Hey, handsome.”

“Morning, gorgeous. Are you ok?”

“Yeah, I just finished my run. Are you ready for breakfast? We can eat in my rooms if you want.”

“That sounds good. I can meet you there in twenty minutes,” Tony said. He couldn’t imagine waking up early and going running.

“Or I could walk you to my rooms if you’re ready now.”

“It’s fine, Sam, I remember the way to the west wing.”

“Are you sure? Cause I’m sorta already here.”

“What?” he asked, and then he heard a knock on the door. Opening it, he saw a sweaty Sam, grinning sheepishly.

“Hey, man.”

Tony grinned back at him as he looked him over. He looked good in his running clothes. “You don’t have to escort me.”

“I just wanted to walk with you in case we run into Steve. I told him we were talking last night, and he wasn’t happy about it.”

“Does he know I’m here?” Tony asked, a trace of panic in his voice.

“No, I didn’t tell him. I didn’t want him running through the palace trying to find you.”

“Oh,” he said.

“After I got back to my rooms last night, I checked my phone and saw that he had called me a few times. I called him back and he yelled at me for not answering my phone. He said he needed a friend last night. So, I got mad and yelled at him for neglecting all of his friends. He hasn’t even tried to call any of the others. Plus, he’s been ignoring me since we got here. I admitted that I’ve been talking to you, Rhodey, and the others. He said it was too dangerous to call you guys.”

“The phone T’Challa gave you is untraceable. It’s completely safe for you to use.”

“I know and I told him that. He calmed down a little until I told him I knew about Siberia. I tried to talk some sense into him, tried to make him see the consequences of his actions. I hope I gave him some things to think about, so when he sees you today, he doesn’t fly off the handle. I don’t want a fight today.”

“I’m not going to fight him, Sam. I’m just here to make sure nothing goes wrong and Bucky is ok.”

“I’m not worried about you fighting him,” he confessed. “I might punch him if he says something to you.”

Tony smiled fondly. “Defending my honor, my hero.”

“I know you can fight your own battles, but I said I’d watch your back.”

“I appreciate it, so let’s go eat. You can watch out for any tall, broad-shouldered blondes lurking in the shadows.”

Sam chuckled. “Let’s go, handsome. I’m hungry.”

They walked to Sam’s suite without seeing anyone. Tony was carrying a large case. Sam guessed that it contained the Iron Man armor. The other man wanted to be prepared in case Bucky was still the Winter Soldier.

Sam asked Tony to call down to the kitchens to order their breakfast while he showered. After showering quickly, he debated about what to wear. Tony was dressed in a suit, but he didn’t want to wear one. He decided on a grey button-down shirt with black pants. He walked out of his bedroom to find Tony sitting on one of the high stools in his kitchenette. Breakfast was laid out on the counter top in front of him. The kitchenette only had a small refrigerator, coffee maker, toaster, and microwave. He cooked mostly frozen meals for supper. He missed having a full kitchen; he loved to cook.

“I hope you’re hungry. I ordered a lot,” Tony said. “I didn’t know what you like for breakfast.”

“I like it all, Tones. Thanks,” he said as he took a sip of coffee.

They ate in silence for a few minutes before Sam asked, “Do you really think something could go wrong with Bucky?”

“No, T’Challa has the best scientists and doctors working on it. If they say they removed the triggers from his brain, then he’s ready to wake up. But, I know better than most that something unexpected can happen. I’m here because of that slim possibility. Plus, I really wanted to see you.”

“I’m glad you’re here,” Sam said before he leaned over and kissed his cheek. “I missed you.”

“How do you think Steve is going to react when he sees me?” he asked.

“If he’s smart, he’ll immediately apologize, but I won’t be holding my breath. He’s too proud and stubborn. I think he’ll be focused on Bucky. Once the shock passes, I think he’ll ignore us and give him all his attention.”

“Hmm, that might be the best possible outcome,” Tony mused.

“Yeah,” Sam said as his phone started ringing. “Hey, Steve.”

“Can you come down now? They’re almost ready to wake up Bucky.”

“I’m on my way,” he said. After hanging up, he turned to Tony. “Are you ready for this?”

“As ready as I’ll ever be. Come on, we don’t want to keep Capsickle or Terminator waiting.”

As they walked downstairs, Sam asked, “How do you want to play this? Do we tell Steve we’re dating or are we just friends?”

Tony was serious about wanting this to work with Sam, so he didn’t want to lie about it or keep it a secret. “I want to tell him we’re dating. I don’t want to keep us a secret. I’m not ashamed of you. I’m happy we’re together.”

“Ok, I’m not ashamed of you either. I’m proud to be dating you, so I wanted to tell the truth too. I didn’t want to hide us,” he said as he grabbed Tony’s hand and squeezed lightly.

They walked downstairs to the labs, where Bucky was being held in cryofreeze. The door was open, and they could hear Steve’s anxious voice asking if it was time yet. As they walked into the room, Steve turned to look at them, his friendly greeting to Sam dying on his lips.

“Tony! What are you doing here?” He turned to Sam. “What are you doing with him?”

“Tony came to visit me. We’re dating,” Sam said as he swung their hands a little, drawing Steve’s attention to the handholding.

“When did this happen?” he asked in shock. He couldn’t understand why Sam wanted to date Tony.

“Last night,” Tony said. “We had an amazing dinner and then he walked me to my door like a true gentleman.”

“I know this is a shock to you, Steve, but who I choose to date is none of your business. You asked me to come here this morning, so I’m here. Let’s talk about this later,” he said.

“I asked you here, Sam. I don’t want Tony anywhere near Bucky. He needs to leave.”

Sam tensed as he heard Steve’s demand. He couldn’t believe the nerve of him.

T’Challa took this moment to announce his presence. “Anthony is here as my guest, Steven. You will show him respect.”

Steve looked down. He wanted to argue, but he knew T’Challa wouldn’t listen to his demands. “My apologies, Your Majesty.”

T’Challa nodded at him and then greeted the other two men. “Good morning, gentlemen. I see that last night went well.”

“Yes, it went great,” Sam said smiling brightly.

Tony smiled too as he thought about how the date ended.

“I am very happy for the two of you. Let’s get started, shall we? Doctors, are we ready to revive Sergeant Barnes?”

“Yes, Your Majesty, everything is ready. We can begin at your command,” the primary doctor said.

“Please begin,” the king said.

As the doctors began the process of unfreezing and reviving Bucky, Tony squeezed Sam’s hand and whispered that he was going over to talk to the scientists who had built Bucky’s new arm. Sam nodded and moved to stand next to Steve. He may not be too happy with him at the moment, but he was still his friend and he would support him.

Steve glanced at Sam and briefly squeezed his shoulder. He was grateful for his quiet support. He watched anxiously as the doctors hovered over Bucky’s unconscious body. Then, the doctors transported him to a nearby hospital bed.

“He will be waking up in a few minutes, Your Majesty,” the doctor said. He scanned Bucky’s body with a handheld monitor. “The unfreezing process was successful.”

Steve stood next to the bed, eagerly awaiting the moment Bucky would wake up. He hoped he would remember him. He wanted his best friend back.

Sam glanced at Tony, who was still discussing the technical details of the arm, but he knew that Tony was paying attention to them. He was on high alert, ready to step in if something went wrong.

Bucky blinked his eyes open and looked around the room before finding Steve. He whispered, “Hey, Stevie.”

“Buck,” he breathed.

The doctors started asking questions, so Sam pulled Steve back a step so they could check on their patient. After several moments, they told Steve he could talk to him. He helped Bucky sit up and then anxiously asked him if he was feeling alright. Bucky reassured him that he was fine.

Sam felt Tony stand next to him. He leaned close and murmured, “So far so good.”

“Yeah,” he whispered. He watched as the two men talked; he didn’t see any signs of Hydra’s programming in Bucky.

Then, Bucky noticed them standing there. He stared in horror at Tony. “I’m so sorry, Stark. I don’t remember killing your parents, but I’m so sorry I killed them.”

Steve tried to say something, but Tony interrupted him. “I don’t blame you, Barnes. You were under Hydra’s control, and they told you to kill them. You didn’t have a choice. You’re not responsible.”

Bucky stared at him as he tried to believe that Tony didn’t blame him. “Are you serious?”

“Yeah, I mean it. I’m sorry I shot your arm off. I wasn’t thinking very clearly, and I lashed out in anger.”

Bucky shook his head. “You just watched me kill your parents. I don’t blame you for wanting to kill me. I’m sorry I fought back and hurt you. I shouldn’t have done that.”

“He was trying to kill you,” Steve said vehemently. “Of course, you defended yourself.”

“Yeah and then you jumped in, making the fight two against one. That’s not a fair fight, Stevie.”

“He started the fight,” he said.

“Because he was grieving. If you want to blame somebody, blame me. I killed Howard and Maria.”

“How about we stop the blame game?” Sam asked. “Nobody wins playing that game. Take responsibility for your mistakes, apologize, and move forward.”

“Hey, Wilson,” Bucky said.

“Hey, Barnes, it’s good to see you stop pretending to be Sleeping Beauty.”

“Aww, you think I’m pretty!” Bucky batted his eyelashes at him.

“Oh hell no! I said you were pretending to be Sleeping Beauty.” Sam chuckled at his affronted expression.

“Well sure, I’m not looking my best right now. Just wait until I clean up a little, and then you’ll see. I’ll be the prettiest man in the room,” he said with sly smirk. It felt good to be joking around again.

“I happen to prefer handsome, sexy men,” Sam said with a look towards Tony.

Tony blushed at Sam’s implication. He wasn’t worried about the two men’s bantering; he knew Sam liked him.

Bucky watched Sam and Tony with interest. He instantly picked up on their mutual admiration through their body language and eye contact.

“How long have you two been together?” he asked.

“Since last night, so back off, Robocop,” Tony said smiling. “Stop flirting with my man.”

Sam, Tony, and Bucky laughed while Steve watched them in confusion. He saw that Sam genuinely looked happy with Tony, and Tony was smiling more than he had ever seen him. He decided he wouldn’t interfere with their relationship; it wasn’t any of his business. He just wanted them to be happy; and if they found happiness with each other, then he would support them.

After they left the two supersoldiers, Sam and Tony had lunch with T’Challa. Then, Tony told Sam he had a surprise for him. He told Sam to change clothes and meet him in the garage. He walked into the garage carrying two large cases after he had also changed out of his suit.

“What’s in the other case?” Sam asked. He knew the one case contained his armor.

“It’s a surprise. T’Challa told me there’s a private forest and valley outside the city. We should go there.”

“Why do we have to go there?”

“It’s a surprise.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I had a feeling you were going to say that, so let’s get going. I want to see what my surprise is.”

Sam drove them out of the city, and they reached the forest after forty-five minutes. Tony excitedly hopped out the car and grabbed the cases. He handed one to Sam and said, “Come on, we have to walk through the forest. We need the valley.”

Sam just shrugged and followed the other man as he started walking. He thought Tony’s enthusiasm was cute. They talked as they hiked through the woods until they came to the edge of the meadow. It was a large open space, ringed by trees.

Tony put his case down and gestured for Sam to do the same. “I have a present for you, Sammy. Well, they were already yours to begin with; I’m just returning them to you. I may have made a few modifications recently.”

He stared at the case in shock. It sounded like Tony had brought his wings, but he knew he couldn’t have. The wings didn’t belong to him anymore. He looked up at Tony with wide eyes.

“Tony?”

“Open the case, Sam. They’re yours, and nobody is going to take them again.”

Sam opened the case with shaking hands and stared in disbelief at the set of wings inside. “These aren’t my wings.”

“No, your wings were confiscated when you were arrested. You are not allowed to have those wings. These wings are brand new and my present to you, so you are allowed these ones. Nobody ever said you couldn’t have a new set of wings.”

Sam laughed joyously and hugged Tony tightly, sweeping him off his feet. “You figured out a loophole in the law and gave me my wings back. You’re brilliant!

Tony loved seeing how happy he was. “Want to go for a test flight? Try out these babies?”

Sam put him down and kissed him softly. “Thank you, Tony. I never expected to fly again. I can’t tell you how much this means to me.”

“I understand the desire to fly, Sam. You belong in the air,” he said. He kissed him again. “Now, put those wings on and come fly with me.”

Sam picked up the wings. “The pack feels lighter.”

“Yeah, I modified the weight, so it wouldn’t put too much strain on your back.”

Sam put the pack on and strapped it on securely. He flexed his arms to turn the jets on and then the wings popped out. He felt like he was whole again, his missing part had been found. He turned to Tony and said, “What are you waiting for, old man? Scared you won’t be able to keep up?”

“You’re asking for it, Birdboy.” Tony quickly put on his new Iron Man armor and flew up to where Sam was hovering.

“Let’s fly, Tinman,” Sam said into the communicator Tony had included with the wings. Suddenly, he accelerated and flew around the meadow.

He laughed as he quickly caught up with him. “Is that all you got?”

Sam shot up vertically, and then he dove towards the ground before banking sharply, zooming around Tony.

Tony followed suit and they performed all of their trick stunts. Eventually, they slowed down and just enjoyed flying together.

“Hey, Tones, have you ever kissed somebody while flying?”

“I can’t say that I’ve done that. Have you?” Tony asked.

“No. You want to?” Sam asked. He wanted to try it with Tony.

“Yeah, I want to,” he said. He hovered before him and opened his face plate.

Sam moved in closer, careful to keep the wings from hitting Tony. He leaned in and kissed him. He groaned when he felt Tony’s tongue sweeping across his lips. He parted them and allowed his tongue to enter his mouth. He clutched onto his armored shoulder plates and caressed Tony’s tongue before going exploring inside his mouth.

Tony gripped Sam’s waist tightly. He moaned as he felt Sam’s tongue gently moving around his mouth. After a several warm, wet kisses, he pulled back, panting slightly.

“Damn, you’re a good kisser,” Tony said.

“So are you,” Sam said as he tried to catch his breath. If he didn’t need to breathe, he would kiss Tony forever.

“I think we should continue this on the ground, so we don’t crash. It would be a shame if we destroyed your new wings and my new armor after only one flight.”

“It might be worth it though,” he said as he looked at Tony’s reddened lips and the adorable flush on his cheeks.

“Oh, it would definitely be worth it, but I don’t feel like rebuilding them,” Tony said cheekily.

Sam laughed. “Race you back to the ground!”

“Cheater!” he yelled as he quickly closed his face plate and flew after him.

Sam landed first, but Tony was only a few seconds behind. He took off his wings and put them back into the case as Tony stepped out of the armor and it folded back into the case.

“That was amazing!” Sam exclaimed.

“We should definitely go flying again,” he said. “I don’t remember the last time I flew just to have fun.”

“I’d love to, Tony. I’m glad you share my love of flying.”

“So, what should we do next? The night’s still young.”

“We could pick up dinner in the city and take it back to the palace.”

“And after dinner, we could make out on the couch,” Tony said, raising one eyebrow and smirking.

“Oh, we’re definitely making out on the couch,” Sam said. “We need to continue that kiss we started up in the air.”

They walked back through the forest and got into the car. They drove to a local sandwich shop and they ordered two large sandwiches with homemade chips. Flying had given them a big appetite.

After they ate, Sam called Steve to check on Bucky. He said he was fine, and they were reminiscing. Sam tossed the phone onto the table and turned to Tony, who was lounging seductively on the couch.

Sam moved closer so that they were almost touching. He murmured, “Where were we?”

Tony placed one hand on the back of Sam’s neck and pulled him closer. “I think we were here,” he whispered against his lips. He kissed him deeply, his tongue already coming out to play.

Sam tangled his fingers into Tony’s hair and moved his head to get a better angle to kiss him harder. His other hand moved to Tony’s lower back and he traced patterns against his shirt.
They kissed voraciously for minutes, and then Sam pulled back and began kissing down Tony’s jawline to his ear. He playfully nipped his earlobe, drawing a whimper from the other man. He did it again a little harder and Tony jerked against him, moaning louder. He made a mental note about this sensitive spot before he gave him a trail of kisses down his neck. Once he reached his collarbone, he flicked his tongue along the bone and felt Tony grab at his shoulders.

“Sam,” Tony breathed out. He pulled him up and kissed him soundly. He felt out of control, which would normally scare him, but he felt safe with Sam.

They kept kissing as their hands began to wander around their upper bodies. Sam wanted to feel bare skin against bare skin, but he didn’t think they were ready to remove clothing. They had only been on two dates.

Tony felt Sam pull away and he blinked in confusion. He wanted Sam’s lips back on his now. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong, Tones. Everything feels really right. You’re perfect, but I don’t think we should go any farther tonight.”

Tony took a deep breath. He knew Sam was right; they weren’t ready for anything else. But, he really wanted to keep kissing him. He pouted, “Ok, we should stop even if I don’t want to.”

Unable to help himself, Sam kissed the pout off his lips. “You’re too cute for your own good.”

“I am not cute,” Tony grumbled. “I am a handsome, sexy man. You said so yourself.”

He chuckled. “Yes, you are, but you’re also cute, adorable, and sweet.”

Tony huffed but he couldn’t hide his blush. He liked when Sam complimented him because he knew he was being sincere.

“Do you want to watch a movie before you go back to your room?”

Tony fidgeted on the couch. “Do you think I could stay here with you tonight? Just sleeping together, I mean.”

“Sure, you can whatever you need, handsome,” Sam said.

“I just don’t want to have any nightmares tonight. I saw Steve and Bucky today for the first time in months, and it was fine. I was ok, but I don’t know if seeing them will trigger a nightmare,” Tony confessed softly. He knew Sam wouldn’t think he was weak for having nightmares, but he wasn’t used to sharing his insecurities with someone.

“I understand. Of course, you can sleep with me. I want you to feel safe,” he said. He was proud of Tony for admitting his fear and asking for help.

After they had snuggled on the couch as they watched a movie, they headed for the bedroom. Sam handed Tony one of his old Air Force shirts and pajama pants to change into. When Tony came back from the bathroom, Sam felt his heart beat faster as he saw Tony wearing his clothes.

“You look good in my clothes,” he said. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

Tony pulled back the covers and got settled into the bed as he waited for Sam to return. He thought Sam looked good too as he walked out of the bathroom, wearing pajamas similar to what he was wearing.

He crawled into bed and turned off the lamp. “How do you want to do this? Do you want me to hold you?”

“Just because you’re an inch taller doesn’t mean you’re automatically the big spoon,” Tony said.

“Do you want to be the big spoon?”

“No, I want to be the little spoon. I just wanted to point out that I could be the big spoon if I wanted. It doesn’t go by height.”

“Ok, Tony, whatever you say. Can we go to sleep now?”

Tony rolled over to his side, facing away from Sam. He felt Sam slide up behind him and then his arm was going around his waist. Their legs tangled together, and he felt Sam press a soft kiss behind his ear.

“Night, Tones.”

“Night, Sammy.”

He closed his eyes and enjoyed Sam’s proximity. He finally knew how it felt to be held by Sam as they slept, and it was better than he could have imagined. He drifted off to sleep quickly, feeling warm and content.

The next day was Tony’s last day in Wakanda; he had to return to New York. He wasn’t happy about leaving Sam. However, he now had new determination towards his goal of repealing the Accords. T’Challa had presented evidence of Zemo’s guilt and Bucky’s innocence involving the bombing and death of T’Challa’s father. The UN was slowly beginning to listen to them and recognize Ross’s ulterior motives for the Accords. Now that he had Sam, he was going to work even harder. This time, he would work with Sam and Steve to reach a compromise they all could be happy with. He wanted Sam to be declared a free man, so he could return to the U.S. He hoped he would want to move into the tower. He just wanted Sam to be living in the same city. It would make it easier to date, plus Tony was going to miss him desperately.

After spending the day together, Sam went with Tony to the airport. He didn’t want to say goodbye, but he knew Tony had to return to New York. He had a company to run, plus Pepper and Rhodey were there. Sam was going to miss him, but he understood why Tony couldn’t stay.

Tony hugged Sam tightly. “I’ll call you when I get back to New York.”

“Yeah, that sounds good, man,” Sam said. He kissed him gently.

“Mmmm,” Tony murmured. “I’m going to miss your kisses.”

“I’m going to miss kissing and holding you. Waking up next to this morning was wonderful.”

“Last night was the best night of sleep I’ve had in a long time. I’m going to miss you holding me as I fall asleep.”

“We can make this work, Tony. We’ll call and video chat like we did before. We’ll be ok,” Sam reassured.

“I hope so. I don’t want to screw us up, Sam.”

“As long as we are open and willing to be together, then we’ll be fine. You won’t screw this up. I won’t let you because I plan on keeping you for a long time.”

“Good because I want to keep you too. Now kiss me goodbye.”

Sam pulled him in closer and kissed him firmly. He poured all of his emotions into this kiss. He wanted Tony to remember it forever.

Tony looked dazed as the kiss ended. “I’ll say it again; you are a really good kisser.”

He laughed. “As much as I don’t want you to go, it’s time for you to get on your plane. Goodbye, handsome.”

Tony brushed his lips against Sam’s. “Bye, gorgeous.”

He walked to the gate leading to his private plane. He paused at the entrance and glanced over his shoulder. He smiled sadly at Sam and then disappeared out of sight.

Sam sighed loudly and walked over to the windows. He was going to stay until Tony’s plane took off. Although their relationship was new, they had a solid foundation of friendship to build on. He wasn’t worried about a long-distance relationship; he thought they could make it work.

Six months later, Tony excitedly called Sam. “The Accords have been repelled. You are no longer a fugitive. You can come home!”

“What? How did this happen?” Sam asked in wonder. “Can I really come home?”

“Yes, gorgeous, you’re a free man. You have been officially pardoned and are welcome to come back to the U.S.”

“Yes!” he yelled. “I’m coming home, baby.”

“I can’t wait to see you. I can call the pilot and come get you today,” Tony said enthusiastically.

Sam laughed. “Slow down, handsome. I can’t wait to see you either, but I need a few days to pack up and say goodbye to everyone.”

“Fine, I waited this long; I can wait a few more days. Have you thought about where you want to live?”

“If it’s ok with you, I’d like to move into the tower. Do you have a room for me?”

“I can give you an entire floor. By the time you get here, I’ll have it ready for you.”

“Thanks, Tony, that sounds wonderful. I don’t need an entire floor though. I’d be happy with a few rooms as long as I have a kitchen. I miss cooking. As soon as I get there, I’m going to cook you the best meal you’ve ever eaten.”

“I’ll start with your kitchen first then. You’ll have a chef’s dream kitchen.”

“Don’t go too overboard, man.”

“I’ll try but you deserve the best.”

“I already have the best; I have you,” Sam said smiling. He could picture the blush on Tony’s face. He loved making him blush because he looked so adorable.

“You are such a sap,” Tony said.

“I’ll talk to you later, Tony. I want to get started on packing. I need to talk to T’Challa and officially resign from the academy.”

“Let me know when you think you’ll be ready to leave. I’ll clear my schedule that day and come pick you up.”

“You don’t have to fly all the way to Wakanda just to pick me up.”

“If I come get you, then I can see you sooner. We can snuggle the whole way home. It’s a win-win situation.”

“I’ll call you when I know what day I’m coming home.”

“Home. I like the sound of that.”

“Me too. Bye, Tones.”

“Bye, Sammy. See you soon.”

A few days later, Sam had wrapped up all his loose ends, and he was ready to go to New York. He had already said goodbye to T’Challa and his friends at the academy. He had also made one last trip to Jelani and Furaha’s restaurant. He was going to miss them and their wonderful food.

Steve and Bucky had left a few months earlier after Bucky was medically cleared. They were travelling under the radar. Sam had the suspicion they were destroying secret Hydra bases. They had asked him to go with them, but he declined. He liked living in Wakanda and his job at the academy. But, he was ready to return to New York and Tony. He was excited about seeing his boyfriend every day. Tony had made another trip to Wakanda, but their relationship mainly consisted of phone calls and video chats.

Sam had told Tony he needed one more day in Wakanda, but actually he was going to fly to New York by himself and surprise Tony. T’Challa had graciously offered to fly him home, so he had accepted. He called Friday from the plane.

“Hi, Friday, it’s Sam.”

“Hello, Sergeant Wilson. Do you want to talk to the boss?”

“No, Friday, I called to talk to you. I’d like to surprise Tony, but I need your help.”

“Of course, I will help you. Boss has been very happy that you are coming home tomorrow.”

“Actually, I’m coming home today. I’m on a plane right now and will land in New York in two hours.”

“Very good, sir. Do you want me to inform the boss?”

“No, that’s my surprise. I need a car at the airport to get me to the tower. Can you arrange a car for me and keep it a secret from Tony?”

“Yes, I can. If you will give me your flight information, I can have a car waiting for you at the airport.”

Sam rattled off the name of the airport and his expected arrival time. “Thanks, Friday. Where is Tony now?”

“He’s in his workshop, sir.”

“Good. He’s not aware of anything else while he’s working. I should be able to get to the tower without him knowing. Does he have anything scheduled for later today?”

“No, boss has cleared his schedule for today and the next several days.”

Sam smiled. He was happy that Tony would not be working; he wanted to spend every minute with him. “Thanks, Friday. Can you let me into the tower when I get there?”

“Of course, sir, you are now recognized as a resident of the tower and have access to the private floors.”

“Good. See you soon, Friday.”

“It will be good to see you, sir. Boss will be very happy.”

When the plane landed, Sam was surprised to see Happy waiting for him. “Hey, man, it’s good to see you. How’ve you been?”

“It’s nice to see you too, Sergeant Wilson. I can’t complain; life is good.”

“Call me Sam,” he said laughing.

As Happy drove him to the tower, Sam was excited to see his boyfriend. He hoped he wouldn’t mind the deception about his departure time and just be happy with his surprise. He hopped out of the car and waved goodbye to Happy. The other man offered to take care of his luggage, so Sam thanked him and walked into the tower. He was eager to see Tony.

In the elevator, he asked Friday, “Is Tony still in his workshop?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Ok, I’m going to call him now. Thanks for your help, Friday.”

“You’re welcome, sir.”

Sam pushed the button for the workshop floor and then called his boyfriend.

“Hey, gorgeous. Are you all packed and ready to go? I can’t wait to see you tomorrow,” Tony said fervently.

“Why wait when you can see me now?” he asked. He was standing in front of the workshop glass doors. He could see the back of Tony as he sat hunched over his workbench.

“What?” he asked in confusion.

“Turn around, baby.”

Tony slowly turned around and his mouth dropped in shock. He couldn’t believe Sam was standing in front of him. He asked Friday to open the doors, and he started walking very quickly towards his boyfriend. Sam jogged over and swept Tony off his feet. “Surprise, handsome! I’m home!”

Tony laughed even as he smacked Sam’s shoulder. “You lied to me! You told me you couldn’t leave until tomorrow.”

“I’m sorry. I wanted to surprise you. Plus, I’m here a whole 24 hours than you thought I’d be here. Aren’t you happy about that?”

“Of course, I’m happy to see you. I’m not mad at you. You’re just very sneaky, and I’m going to have to remember that.”

“I like surprising you, so you should get used to it. Now, where’s my welcome home kiss?”

Tony grinned and happily kissed his boyfriend. Now that he had Sam in his arms again, he planned on never letting go. The last six months of separation had been difficult, but they had made it through. He was feeling hopeful that their relationship was only going to improve now that they were living together in the same tower, albeit on different floors.

“Come on, I need to show you your floor. You’re going to love it,” Tony said as soon as they stopped kissing. He pulled Sam to the elevator.

Sam laughed at his excited boyfriend. As he leaned in to kiss Tony again in the elevator, he thought they were going to be very happy together. He couldn’t wait to start this phase of their relationship. He had a feeling it was going to be an adventure, which would hopefully last the rest of their lives.