Sam puts the Trouble Man soundtrack on repeat, like a talisman at first, when he thinks that Steve might die. The doctors are grim and serious, claiming that they did what they could for him, removing the bullets and stitching his insides back together. A few hours later, the doctors' faces get less grim, more confused, and a few hours after that, they're throwing their arms up in the air in frustration and grinning with triumph at the same time, because apparently the Super Soldier Serum is worth more than just the fastest mile in human history.
Sam spends that time beside Steve, in the position he's gotten used to after only a couple of days: on his right, waiting to see where he'll run next, ready to get his back.
In the end, the Trouble Man soundtrack only plays about twenty times – Sam loses count in the middle of the night, when he falls asleep for a while – before Steve is awake, blinking into the harsh hospital fluorescents and croaking out a quip.
"On your left," he says, and Sam grins, because it wasn't much more than twenty-four hours ago that he stood on the muddy bank of the Potomac and lifted Steve Rogers in his arms, sure that he was dead, or about to be. He'd been looking at the wound in his thigh, a through-and-through that, judging from the amount of blood, had torn up the artery, but then he'd seen the gut shot and it'd felt like he was getting shot in the gut himself. He screamed for the other members of the search party, and he ran with Steve in his arms, but he didn't believe, then, that he would live.
"Hey," Sam manages, eventually. "Believe it or not, hero, I'm pretty sure I can outrun you at the moment."
A smile flickers over Steve's face, and he sits up a little. "Wanna bet?"
"No, I do not want to bet, I want you to lay your ass back down and heal up," Sam says, putting pressure on Steve's shoulder until it hits the pillow again.
Steve huffs a laugh. "This is funny. It's been a while." At Sam's puzzled look, he adds, "When I was with the Howling Commandos, you know, I got injured a lot." He pulls up his hospital scrubs and stares down at the surprisingly healthy-looking gut wound. Sam knows from gut wounds, and this looks like it's four weeks along, not twenty-four hours.
"You never been shot in the gut before, though, huh," Sam says.
"Oh, sure," Steve replies breezily. "Four times, I think? Five? Maybe four and a half."
Sam raises his eyebrows incredulously, and looks down at Steve's bare abdomen. Except for the most recent hole, it's smooth and unscarred. And really, really pretty, not that that's relevant to the conversation at hand. Though it is worth noticing, since Steve's giving him a good reason to stare at his stomach.
"I don't scar," Steve says. "So, anyway, with the Howling Commandos, at first they were like you. All worried."
"Yeah, pretty silly to be worried about someone who was shot four times through major arteries and organs."
Steve grins. "After a while they knew I'd be okay. I always healed up fine."
"I gotta get me some of that serum stuff," Sam says. He's got a broken rib and a lot of pretty nasty bruises, and he knows from experience that it's going to be weeks before he can walk without the occasional pull of pain.
"Well, you can talk to Dr. Banner about that, if you like." Steve rests his head back against his pillow and closes his eyes.
Sam pours a glass of water and sticks a straw in it. "Here," he says. Steve cracks one eye open, then leans forward and takes the straw between his lips. His very pretty lips, which is also not salient at the moment. "Dr. Banner? The Hulk guy? That's how he got like that?"
"That's how he got like that."
They don't talk for a minute, and Sam is starting to wonder if he should offer to leave. He wanted to be here when Steve woke up, but maybe the man needs some time to himself.
"Is this the Marvin Gaye?" Steve asks, into the quiet.
"Yeah." They listen together for a minute.
"I like it."
Steve glances at him, smiling again. "It's kinda sexy."
Sam, who's made out with dudes to Marvin Gaye more times than he can count, says, "Is it?"
"Yup. Now I see what your intentions were."
Sam tries not to let the surprise show on his face, that Steve would tease him like that. It's not what he expected from a guy born before the invention of the television who routinely drapes himself in the American flag. It's just teasing, though. "Yeah, I had this elaborate plan to get you shot and bleeding so that I could have my way with your broken body in a hospital bed."
"Knew it," Steve says, shifting around on the bed, obviously trying to get comfortable. He winces and makes a little grunt of pain.
"Need help?" Sam asks. He's been at a lot of vets' hospital bedsides, and he knows better by now than to help without asking first.
"Yeah, I just – this angle's a little rough on my back," Steve says, and he probably means that the angle's rough on his rapidly healing exploded abdomen, but whatever.
"Here," Sam says, handing him the remote for the bed. "This is the head of the bed, this is the foot, this is up, this is down."
Steve frowns down at the remote as he touches the buttons, then grins like a kid when the bed moves.
"I love the future," he says softly, and Sam can't help but laugh. He pulls back from Steve's side, moving to sit down again, but before he can get far Steve grabs his wrist. He must be healing quick, if his grip's that strong after getting shot in the shoulder.
"Hey Sam," Steve says, and for a second Sam is lost in the wild, impossible thought that Steve Rogers might kiss him. Sam swallows.
Steve's grip shifts, so that he's clasping Sam's hand instead of holding his wrist. It's a manly kind of bro-handclasp, not like holding hands or anything, but it still feels intimate. Sam thinks that Steve wants it to feel intimate. Is this how guys in the forties interacted? Touching each other a lot and staring into one another's eyes? Is it just Steve? It's really hard to tell.
"Thank you." Steve's voice is hoarse. "It was good that you were here. When I woke up. Much better than last time."
Sam tries to think what he means by last time, and then it hits him in a rush, how Steve must've felt coming out of the water, half-drowned, half-conscious. He's known soldiers with PTSD about water who've been through far less.
"Glad I could help, man," Sam says. He wishes he knew how to match Steve's intensity, but he can't, so he just squeezes his hand back and puts his other hand on Steve's shoulder. "It's good to see you awake."
When Steve lets him go, Sam sits back down, but he can still feel the pressure of Steve's hand on his, how good it had felt to touch him, and fuck, if they're gonna be friends Sam is gonna have to work really hard to not fall in love with him.
"So, Sam, what do people in sickbeds do to pass the time in the future?"
Sam grins, because this question's pretty easy. "What do you know about game shows?"
They spend that afternoon, evening, and the next morning getting Steve intimately acquainted with The Price Is Right and Family Feud, watching episode after episode of The Game Show Network until Steve has the correct opinions on Bob vs Drew and Dawson vs Combs. Jeopardy turns out to be a lot of fun for both of them, since Steve's knowledge is patchy but esoteric, and Sam's is a lot more broad. Natasha comes by and sits with them for a few hours, once she's able to get away from the emergency hearings and whatever other fires she's putting out, and she's scarily good at almost every category, though she doesn't seem to know anything about 70s American cop dramas, so Sam has her there.
The morning after Steve wakes up, she comes back again, this time with a tall blond dude who Sam almost recognizes.
"Sam, this is Clint," Natasha says. "Clint is very sorry that he was napping with his phone off while the world was in danger."
"Sorry, Cap," Clint says, glaring at Natasha. "In fairness to me, I just got off a mission and hadn't slept in three days."
"Well, we could've used you, but we're all sure glad you got your rest," Steve says, which makes Sam and Natasha laugh out loud, and Clint duck his head.
Steve holds out his hand to Clint, though, and Clint takes it. "It's good that you're okay," Clint says. "We're all pretty shaken up about SHIELD and stuff. If you need anything, you can call me."
"Just not while he's getting his beauty rest," Natasha clarifies.
Clint holds out his hand to Sam, too, and Sam shakes firmly. It takes the weird calluses on the guy's hand for him to realize that this is Clint Barton, the bow and arrow guy.
"Sam?" Clint asks. Sam nods.
"All seriousness, man, we all appreciate what you did in New York," Sam says, which makes Clint smile a little.
"Sam is Steve's new partner," Natasha puts in. "He was the guy with the wings."
Sam's reeling from the word partner, so he doesn't have time to downplay anything before Clint's eyes go wide.
"Hey, we all appreciate what you did in D.C.," Clint says. "Some fancy flying there."
"Thanks," Sam says.
"You doing okay, Steve?" Natasha asks. Her voice is neutral, ready to accept any answer.
"I'm doing fine," Steve says. Then he blinks, and looks away, and adds, "I think Bucky's still out there."
This is news to Sam. Natasha just nods.
"We haven't found him," she says, softly. Sam doesn't know if she means there's a manhunt on, or if she's talking about looking for bodies in the wreckage in the river.
Steve sighs. "You won't."
"I'll see if I can get some intel for you," Natasha says, after a pause. Steve nods.
After they've gone, Sam wants to ask Steve about the Winter Soldier – Bucky, apparently, James Buchanan Barnes, who Sam once did an eighth-grade history report on and who apparently kicked his ass two days before – but Steve is fixed on the tv, asking questions about Jeopardy categories, guessing wildly at Price Is Right prices, and obviously not ready to answer.
He also wants to ask where Natasha got that partner stuff. Does she think they're going to work together from now on? Because Sam has his work with the VA, and anyway, it's not like Steve Rogers needs a partner – or, okay, if he does, he probably doesn't need him.
Sam keeps his questions to himself, though, and waits.
Later that day, more visitors arrive, and these ones Sam recognizes right away.
"Sam Wilson, this is Tony Stark, Pepper Potts, and Bruce Banner."
"You couldn't call us?" Stark complains, while he clasps Steve's shoulder gently. Potts bends down to kiss his cheek, which Steve leans up to accept, and Banner waves awkwardly but sincerely from the corner of the room.
"Phones were compromised. Didn't know who our allies were," Steve says.
"Hmph. I have to design something. To use to communicate with each other outside of the system."
"That's a pretty good idea, actually," Potts says. "Something we can use to get everyone gathered together in emergencies."
"I'll put it on the list," Banner says.
Then Stark turns his full attention towards Sam, which is one of the more terrifying things that Sam's experienced. He stands up and offers his hand.
Potts and Banner race in at the same time, both of them moving to shake his hand. Banner gets there first, and offers a wry smile as they shake.
"Good to meet you," he says. "Tony doesn't shake hands much."
"So this is the new partner," Stark says, looking Sam up and down.
Sam blinks, because there's that word again. Where are these people getting their information?
Stark nods once, approvingly. "Not bad, Rogers." Stark meets Sam's eyes. "I saw some of the footage of you in the air. Very nice. Those wings were originally a Stark Industries design, you know."
"I know," Sam replies, as Potts shakes his hand next.
"Well," Stark says, cocking his head. "Say the word, and I'll get you suited up with some new ones, more modern design. I heard the ones you had took a beating."
"I'll put that on the list too," Banner says.
"Appreciate it," Sam says, surprised.
"Anyhow, I'm afraid we can't stay long," Potts says to Steve, a few minutes later. "We've had JARVIS crawling through all the data that Natasha set free yesterday, and we have a dear old friend to visit here in D.C. After we visit the D.C. police, that is."
"Senator Stern?" Sam guesses, and Potts glances at him sharply.
"Yes," she says slowly.
"He was in a meeting with a couple of SHIELD agents who turned out to be working for HYDRA," Sam explains. "And I remember that hearing a few years ago."
"Hmm, I do like this one, Steve," Potts says. "It's good that you've got a new partner."
"Thank you, ma'am," Steve laughs.
"Heal up, soldier," Stark says briskly, patting Steve on the shoulder. "The world's a-changin', and we've got work to do."
"Nothing new," Steve smiles.
They make their goodbyes and leave. Sam turns to glance surreptitiously at Steve, who seems to be glancing surreptitiously at him.
"What's all this partner stuff?" Sam asks eventually, because he's a counsellor, dammit, and he can ask honest questions of his friends. Even if they're extremely new and strangely intense superhero friends who arrived cryogenically frozen from 1945.
Steve cocks his head at Sam, considering. "I don't know, I think Natasha told them that. But you know – she's not wrong. We did make a pretty good team, there."
Sam can't deny that it felt good to be flying again, and more than that, it felt good to have someone's back.
"So what do you do, when you're not bringing down government agencies?"
"Bringing down HYDRA," Steve corrects, with a twinkle in his eye. "If we brought down government agencies, that would be treason."
It's not like the thought never occurred to Sam while they were sabotaging billions of dollars worth of American military property, but somehow this moment, in the little hospital room with the shitty tv still playing Jeopardy on mute, is when it comes home to him. HYDRA is their cover, the reasonable enemy that they can say they were fighting, when really they were fighting SHIELD.
"The stakes are pretty high," Sam says.
"You didn't answer my question, though. What's the day job look like?"
Steve shrugs. "High stakes. We got a lot of HYDRA agents still to take down, I bet. And I – well." He coughs, and his voice becomes strained, hoarse. "I think I gotta go find Bucky."
It's been a day and a half since Steve woke up, and this is only the second time he's mentioned his best friend, who he recently engaged in a fight to the death. Sam sobers and glances down at the floor, in case Steve needs to not be looked at right now.
"You're sure it was him?" None of them know the details of that fight on the helicarrier, beyond the fact that Steve's was the only body that washed up on shore.
"Yeah. And he saved my life, I think. He didn't kill me, and then he saved my life."
Sam nods, and stays quiet, giving Steve more space to talk about it. It takes a long, long time, but eventually Steve speaks again.
"I can't just leave him out there. With him not knowing who he is."
Sam nods, risks a glance at Steve's face. He's not crying, but it looks like it's from long practice, rather than because he has no tears to shed.
"I get it, man. Of course you can't." Just to put some words in the air, give Steve something to grab hold of.
"He's trapped, like I was in the ice," Steve says slowly, and there's anger in his voice, along with the sorrow. Nothing Sam hasn't heard before, but it cuts him deep to hear it. "Trapped, and he doesn't even know it."
This time Sam reaches out, going slow so that Steve can see him, and opens his hand. Steve clasps it immediately, gratefully, hard enough to hurt. Sam doesn't say anything about it, just holds on to him.
"We'll find him," Sam hears himself saying. He wonders if this is what happened back in the war, if all those Howling Commandos just looked into Steve Rogers' eyes and decided that they couldn't do anything else but follow him.
"It's not your responsibility," Steve says, dropping Sam's hand. "I don't want you to feel obligated."
"I gave you my resume," Sam smiles. "I wanted the position."
"You thought it was a temporary gig," Steve says. Sam opens his mouth to refute this, even though it's completely true, but Steve cuts him off. "Okay. We'll discuss it later. You can think about it."
"Okay," Sam says. Steve's voice isn't shaking anymore, and he's sitting up straight again. Sam's met guys before who were like this, who were careful to never bleed on other people. He knows it from the inside out, and knows better than to push his luck.
"Help me up, will you? I want to do some stretches." Steve asks. Sam can't hide his surprise.
"You serious? You know you'll bust your stitches, right?"
Steve laughs, and if there's something a little desperate in it, Sam makes sure not to notice. He lifts up his shirt, just like he had the day before, but now, instead of an obvious hole in his body, there's just a pink healing scar.
"Nurse came in to take the stitches out while you were out getting lunch," Steve says. "I'm outta here tomorrow."
Sam, unable to help himself, reaches down and touches the skin of Steve's abdomen. He realizes right away that it's inappropriate, and pulls back, but Steve just smiles.
"All right," Sam says. "Move your ass over to the side of the bed and we'll see what we can do."
Steve shimmies out from under the blankets. His legs are bare, long, muscled, and as the hospital gown rides up Sam sees a pink patch on his thigh, just like the pink patch on his abdomen.
They get Steve stood up, which involves Steve's hand on his shoulder, and Steve's breath on his neck, and the whole six-foot-two bulk of him warm and alive against his side. That's the point at which it becomes painfully clear that he's going to need some pants, if only for the sake of Sam's sanity.
"I'll, uh, go find something for you to wear," Sam says, trying really hard to tear his gaze away from Steve's legs, and ducks out into the hallway.
When he gets back with a pair of scrub pants, Steve's already doing pushups on the hospital room floor, somehow able to balance just right so that his ass doesn't show through his hospital gown. Damn shame.
"Here," Sam says, tossing them onto Steve's back.
"Thanks," Steve says. "So, listen. It's almost the end of visiting hours, and now that I'm not dying I don't think the nurses are going to let you stay."
Sam gives him an incredulous look, but Steve shakes his head.
"Best not to argue with nurses," Steve says, "trust me. But come back tomorrow, willya? Around one, bring me some clothes from my apartment, and we'll get out of here."
"You got it," Sam says. He's happy to give Steve his space, but it's hard to leave, hard to trust that Steve will be whole and alive when he comes back tomorrow.
"And Sam?" Steve adds.
"Take a shower." Steve's grinning like an eight-year-old who just made the best joke. Sam snorts and turns to leave.
"I was waiting by your deathbed, you punk," he says. "Sorry I didn't make myself pretty first."
Steve blinks at him, like Sam's just touched a nerve. He turns back. "What?" he asks.
"Nothing. I – Bucky used to call me that." He smiles, a little bitter. "I think it meant something else in the forties."
"Sorry, man," Sam says. Steve shakes his head.
"See you tomorrow?"
Sam showers, brushes his teeth, flosses, plucks that weird hair under his nose, shaves meticulously, uses his best aftershave, puts on the nicest clothes he has that won't be so nice that they're suspiciously nice, and then sighs at himself in the mirror.
"Partners," he mutters. He's never liked the word for gay couples; too businesslike, and too fucking ambiguous. Boyfriend, he's always said, or sometimes, under Don't Ask Don't Tell, girlfriend. But now the ambiguity of the word is almost thrilling, like there's some hidden intimacy in it that goes beyond being colleagues or even brothers-in-arms.
"Get it together, Wilson," he tells the mirror earnestly.
"Oh, good, you're here," Steve says, when Sam knocks on his door.
"Brought you pants and everything," Sam says. He'd had to root through the dresser drawers in Steve's little apartment, where there was still a blown-up wall and bullet holes in everything. It'd been weird.
"Thanks," Steve says.
Sam waits while he changes in the hospital bathroom. Sam wonders, not for the first time, who's paying for Steve's care, since he kind of blew up his employer, which might invalidate his insurance. They should probably get out of here before anyone figures that out.
"Ready for lunch?" Steve asks, when he comes out of the bathroom. He's wearing jeans and a t-shirt and a sweater, just the stuff Sam brought for him, but it's such a change from three days ago, when he'd been bloody and bedraggled in that ripped-up Captain America suit, that Sam has to catch his breath.
"You look good," he says. Steve gives him the eye.
"You too," he says, after a moment. Then he walks towards the door, and over his shoulder he adds, "I like the aftershave."
Sam's really glad that Steve's not looking at him, because right now he couldn't bear to meet his eyes.
They get lunch at a Thai place that Steve found on Yelp. Steve, to Sam's ever-decreasing surprise, orders a ton of food, and half of it spicy enough to eat through the dishes it's served on.
"You're serious. You got shot in the gut three days ago."
"Carpe diem," Steve shrugs. "I had Thai food on my list."
"What else you got on your list?" Sam asks, and Steve's answering grin is bright and beautiful.
"Here," he says, taking out the little book and handing it over.
"I get it, you need both hands for eating," Sam laughs. He opens it up, pleased to see "Trouble Man (Soundtrack)" written at the bottom. There are thirty or forty pages already filled up.
"The moon landing?" Sam asks, frowning. "How long you been in the future, you haven't seen the moon landing yet?"
"Well, I saw it," Steve says, between bites, "and it was amazing! But then a guy at the park told me that it was actually faked, so I wrote it down so I could go look into it."
"Okay, first of all, don't take historical information from guys you meet in the park, what's wrong with you?"
"I met you in a park," Steve replies mildly.
"Immaterial. Second of all – is Mythbusters in this book already?"
Steve shakes his head. Sam takes the pen out from the middle of the book and writes "Mythbusters" at the bottom of the list. "That'll short circuit a lot of other problems you're having."
"I did see Short Circuit," Steve offers. Sam sighs.
"We have so much work to do."
After lunch, they walk up along the Mall, close to the route where they first met, what feels like years ago. Sam doesn't say anything, just lets Steve lead the way, figuring that he might need the time to get his head right. Steve walks close to him, their shoulders rubbing together, which is maybe another one of those forties-guys things, or another one of those Steve things. Sam doesn't pull away.
When they get to the Reflecting Pool, shining in the D.C. sunlight, Steve takes his hand.
Sam glances down in surprise, and when he glances back up Steve's kissing him, there in the middle of the world and directly on the mouth. It's soft, and hot, and so exactly like Sam imagined it that he figures he's probably just dreaming. That's the best explanation, that he's dreaming, because Captain America probably isn't making out with him on the National Mall. Sam doesn't get it together in time to kiss back before Steve's pulling away.
"What?" Sam says, as if Steve said something that he didn't quite hear.
Steve frowns a little. "Uh. Were you not expecting that?"
Sam can't think of a way of saying no big enough to express his lack of expectation, so he just shakes his head. Steve's still holding his hand, he realizes.
"Sorry, I – isn't this – " he looks frustrated now, and embarrassed, and Sam can't help but feel for the guy.
"You thought this was a date?" he asks. Steve drops his hand so that he can gesture with it, a big exasperated shrug.
In retrospect, Sam can see it – the aftershave, the meal, the closeness, the romantic walk to the place they met.
"Actually, that makes sense," Sam admits.
"Thank you," Steve says. Then he loses his exasperation and seems to be stuck with just embarrassment, fidgeting with his hands and shuffling on his feet. Sam can't bear to see it, so he steps forward and leans up to kiss Steve, and this time he knows it's real so he takes it all in, the press of Steve's lips, the scrape of his stubble, the slide of his tongue. It's good, too good, and when he pulls back a little noise escapes from the back of his throat.
"What did punk mean in the forties?" Sam asks. They're still standing close, almost chest to chest, and Sam's sure glad he came out a few years ago, because he's sure someone somewhere is gonna find their camera eventually.
"Cocksucker," Steve says, the word tripping easily off his tongue. Sam wants to hear him say it again, maybe another ten times, maybe for days. "That's the closest, because it's used as an insult. It means you, uh. Are the catcher."
"Huh," Sam says. Steve kisses him again, and this time his hands land on Sam's upper arms, his thumbs stroking up and down in a steady rhythm. Sam can feel, in that moment, how they'd be together in bed, the give and take of them, the energy they'd take from one kind of – one kind of partnership to another. He can almost see it, see himself fucking Steve's ass, or sucking Steve's cock, both of them sweating and panting, pushing against each other's skin, trying to get inside.
He can taste it.
He breaks the kiss, and takes a step back.
"Okay, here's what I'm worried about," Sam says softly. He looks around, but miraculously, no one seems to be around to gawk at them; he figures the massive explosions a few days ago might've put a damper on the tourist traffic. If anyone's watching, it's through a telephoto lens. "I'm worried that you're freaked out about your buddy, and grieving, and latching on to me as a substitute."
"Bucky and I were never – " Steve begins. Sam waits, but he doesn't finish the sentence.
"Doesn't mean you weren't in love with him," Sam offers gently. "Or just that you're missing him, and worried about him, and doing something stupid as a result."
Steve licks his lips. "This feels right to me," he says, softly.
Sam has to take a second to remind himself why he's saying no, exactly. "I just – I don't want to be your one night stand that you use to work through your grief," Sam says. "Nothing wrong with that, but that's not what I want."
Steve opens his mouth to speak, then closes it again, and Sam can feel him curbing his initial, defensive answer – I wouldn't use anyone that way – in order to get at the more important question. He might make a good counsellor himself.
"What do you want?" Steve asks.
Sam licks his lips, trying to think of the word, then almost laughs when it comes to him. "I want to be your partner," he says. Steve nods.
"Okay," Steve sighs, scrubbing a hand through his hair. "Okay."
"I've thought about it, and I want to go with you. Get back in the suit. Do some good."
"You do good here," Steve protests. At this rate, if they keep talking each other out of it, Sam doesn't know how they'll ever get anywhere.
"There are a lot of good counsellors at the VA. Lotta guys who can take my place." Sam hesitates, then reaches out and puts his hand on Steve's shoulder. "I get the feeling that there aren't a lot of guys you'll trust to catch you when you jump off of tall things."
Steve cracks half a smile. "I don't really require that much catching," he says. Sam rolls his eyes.
"Hell yeah, you do. Trust me: your propensity to throw yourself off of high places and hope that you land soft is one of the most annoying things about you."
"Okay," Steve says quietly, and his smile broadens out a little more. "I trust you."
Sam feels a rush of warmth in his chest, and wonders if it's always going to be this way, always going to feel like this, with Steve. Like someone's pouring light inside him and making him shine from under his skin.
"Good," he says.
Steve looks at him for a moment, then reaches out again, cupping his palm under Sam's face, running a thumb over his cheekbone. Sam can't help but lean into it.
"Are you saying never?" he asks. It's a simple question, asked generously, with plenty of room for Sam to say yes, never.
Sam isn't made of stone, so he closes the distance between them one more time – just this one more, he tells himself, one more for right now – and kisses him. He makes it last, makes it deep, makes it say everything he wants to say, the confusing mix of want and worry and helplessness. When they break apart, he rests his forehead against Steve's.
"I'm saying think about it," Sam says. "I'm not going anywhere. I'll be here when you've got your head right."
"Yeah," Steve says. "I get that."
Sam pulls away completely, then, because if he doesn't he's going to make out with this guy till next Tuesday, and Sam's got shit to do. He starts walking again. To his dismay but total lack of surprise, there's now a little group of tourists looking at them, or else pointedly not looking at them.
"What's the matter, never seen Captain America kiss a black man at the Lincoln Memorial before," Sam mutters to himself, not loud enough for anyone to hear, just in case they didn't realize that the tall guy in the ballcap was Steve Rogers. Steve obviously hears him, though, because he laughs under his breath, and squeezes his hand once before letting go.
"So, Natasha texted me," Steve says, when they've walked on and gotten mostly away from the crowd. "She says I should meet her and, uh, our other friend. Tomorrow."
"Did she say what for?"
"No. But I'd like it if you would come with me." Steve glances up at him, sidelong. "We can find out together."
"That sounds good," Sam agrees. As they walk, he doesn't take Steve's hand, or tuck his hand in Steve's back pocket, or lean up to kiss Steve on the jaw, but he does press up against him as they walk together, shoulders rubbing, fingers brushing occasionally, enough to feel close. Steve looks at him every now and then, and his eyes are hot, though whether with desire or with his eagerness to get on the road, Sam doesn't know. All he knows is this feeling between them, something new, and intense, and powerful; something life-changing. When their arms brush, Sam can feel nothing but potential, crackling potential energy in the space between their bodies, endless potential futures unfolding in front of them: all the things they could be for each other, all the things they could be to each other. All the things they could be together.
Sam walks beside Steve, step by step, and waits for tomorrow.