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Longer Than The Silence

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Sam wakes up first, too early for the first day of the year. He’s too comfortable to move, under piles of blankets and Bucky curled up around him, sound asleep, their legs tangled together.

He takes a minute to enjoy the sight, the sun slanting through the curtains and over the bed, dust motes spiralling in the quiet room as Bucky breathes slowly. It’s a lot smaller than their room at home, and it has Rusty’s things on Bucky’s old shelves, but it's cozy and warm despite the snow outside.

He knows he should let Bucky sleep - it was a long, loud night with Bucky’s sisters and their kids - but he leans forward and kisses Bucky’s lips. Bucky wakes up almost at once. At first, he just kisses back, just as gently, but then he pulls Sam closer with one arm and rests their foreheads together.

“I thought I was dreaming,” Bucky says, quietly.

“This is better,” Sam replies, grinning. Then, “Sorry for waking you. You could go back to sleep if you want.”

Bucky shakes his head against the pillow. “You’re right, this is better,” he says, then shifts a little under him to get comfortable. “What time is it?”

“Too early,” he replies. “Listen.”

They’re both quiet for a moment. “I don’t hear anything,” Bucky says.

“Exactly,” Sam grins. “Everyone's asleep.”

Bucky laughs softly. “We’re not that loud.”

“No,” Sam says, “you’re not, individually. But all together? It’s like an army, or a sports team.”

Bucky rolls his eyes at that but the smile doesn't fall. “There are a lot of us,” he concedes. He pauses for a moment, looking at Sam, sizing something up, “I have an idea.”

“Oh no,” Sam says, “do I have to say yes?”

“Yes,” Bucky says. “No. Well - you don’t have to, and you’re probably not gonna like at it first but I promise it’s worth it.”

Sam sighs. “Lay it on me.”

“There’s a lake,” Bucky starts, “about ten minutes walk from here.”

“Oh no,” Sam repeats.

“It’s on the Khans' plot, they’re usually visiting family this time of year,” Bucky continues, “and they usually give us access.”

“It’s frozen over, isn’t it?” Sam guesses.

“Do you know how to skate?” Bucky asks, and gives Sam his best pleading look.

“That’s disgusting,” Sam says, “don't give me that look, you know I can't resist.”

“You can borrow my old skates.” Bucky says excitedly, shifting at the covers.

“I haven’t said yes yet,” Sam calls after him, as he slips out the door. Sam rolls his eyes and slowly follows.

 

 

Sam is unsteady on his feet at first. Bucky does his best not to laugh at him as he skates circles around Sam.

Sam slips and Bucky is right there, holding him up.

“I used to know how to do this,” Sam says.

“I believe you,” Bucky says, but he doesn’t sound convinced at all. “We should go to Wollman Rink, give you more practice.”

“I don’t even have my own pair of skates,” Sam says.

“I’m sure we can find some in the city,” Bucky says. “You know, New York, where we live.”

“Don’t be a smart ass,” Sam says, slowly letting go of Bucky and standing on his own.

Bucky smiles. “I think once you get the hang of it, you’ll love it, it’s like flying.” He skates away, hands out, demonstrating.

“Show off,” Sam says after him.

“Aw, Sam,” Bucky says, “don’t be like that, come on, I’ll show you.”

He takes Sam’s gloved hand in his, and makes sure both of them are steady before starting to glide slowly, pulling Sam along with him.

“I’m going to go faster okay?”

Sam nods, so Bucky takes wider strides. Sam starts to smile, following along. “Yeah,” he says, “that’s not too bad.” He lets go of Bucky’s hand and glides on his own, further into the middle of the lake. But, before he can get too comfortable, he slips and falls on his ass.

“Ow,” he says, as Bucky races to him.

“You all right?”

“Yeah,” he says, rubbing his tail bone, “I think I bruised my ego though.”

Bucky laughs and puts out his hand. “Maybe take it slow at first.”

Sam takes it and Bucky starts to pull him up, but before Sam is fully standing, they hear a crack. Sam’s eyes widen and they both look down to see a starburst crack under Bucky’s feet.

“Don’t move,” Sam says.

“I’m gonna lower you back down,” Bucky says, “and you’re going to slide away from me, okay? On your butt, as far away as you can.”

“No,” Sam says, trying to get up on his own, but there’s an uncomfortable creak, so he stills again.

“I’m gonna try to get down, and slide away, too,” he says. “I’ll be fine.”

He looks at the cracks and starts to slowly lower himself. Before his hand touches the ice, he slips forward.

His knees crash through the ice and then everything goes black.

 

 

Sam watches as Bucky’s head hits the ice with a sickening thud, and then he’s gone through the ice.

“Bucky!” he calls, but there’s no movement, the water going still.

He pulls off his gloves and scrabbles for his phone, calling Steve, who’s hopefully awake at Becca’s already.

“Sam?” he hears Steve pick up.

“We’re at the lake,” he says in a rush, “Bucky just fell into the ice. I’m going after him.”

He hangs up before Steve can protest, stuffs his phone into his glove, and jumps into the water.

It’s freezing, more than he could ever expect. He can’t see anything at first, and then something catches the corner of his eye and he thanks whoever is listening for Bucky’s ugly orange jacket.

He swims down and grabs a handful of the material. Swimming up is harder though, the skates a heavy weight pulling him down, their shape inefficient for the task. By the time he makes it back up to the opening in the ice, his muscles are aching and his lungs are screaming.

He bursts out of the water and pulls Bucky out with him. He holds him close, trying to catch his breath, hoping Bucky will wake up.

“Hey,” he says, using his free hand to slap gently at Bucky’s cheeks. “Buck, come on, wake up.”

But Bucky doesn't. His lips are blue and his head is limp.

Sam tries to hold it together, he doesn’t know how he’s going to pull them both out without falling through again.

“Sam!” He looks up and sees Steve at the edge of the lake. “Don’t move.”

“I don't think he’s breathing,” he calls out in a panic. “Whatever it is, you better do it quick.”

Steve throws a rope out to Sam, and he ties it around Bucky’s chest, under his arms, and with Steve's help, he heaves Bucky onto the ice and they pull him to safety.

Once he’s sure Bucky is on dry land, he gets to work on pulling himself out, listens to Becca doing CPR and getting more hysterical as Bucky doesn't respond. As Sam pulls himself to the shore line, Mary is taking over.

“Take off the wet clothes,” she says. “Steve, there are blankets in my car. Make sure Sam wraps up, and bring me some for Bucky.”

Bucky heaves and coughs up water, so she rolls him onto his side, and starts unzipping his jacket. She wraps the blanket Steve hands her around Bucky and sits back.

“We need to go to the hospital,” she says, “Steve, take them to my car. Becca, I need you to go home.”

“I want to come with you,” she says, “I can’t just - ”

Mary is up and grabbing Becca’s shoulders. “You can and you will,” she says. “You’re the mom, so go be a mom. Make sure everyone’s awake, has had breakfast, is ready, and then follow us.”

“Ready?” she asks, looking around her to see Steve and Sam moving Bucky into the car.

“He’s breathing,” Mary says, “but he’s not waking up. The sooner we get him to the hospital the better, okay? So stop questioning me, and go home. You go do your job, and I’ll go do mine.”

Becca nods, gets into her car and drives away.

Mary gets in her own car and pulls away too. Sam doesn't take his eyes off Bucky as she calls ahead to the hospital.

 

 

The staff try to separate them once they get to the hospital, but Sam flat out refuses. “I’m his partner, I’m not going anywhere.”

“The room isn't big enough for two teams,” Mary insists.

“I don’t need a team, I have my blanket, I’m fine.”

“I am his sister,” she says, forcefully, “do you think this is easy for me? But I know what I’m doing, trust me, okay?”

He presses his lips together and nods.

“Get changed,” she says, “get into a bed, let them make sure you’re okay so that when he wakes up you’re there for him.”

He nods again and lets another nurse lead him away. He lets them poke at him as much as they want. Eventually they leave him be with warm water in his hands and the heaters turned up high.

It doesn't take long for Becca to show up with dry clothes for him to change into, and then he’s out to Bucky’s room.

Steve gets up to greet Becca, who tells him Tony is waiting outside. Sam takes Steve’s spot next to Bucky and nods at Lily sitting on his other side. She has tear streaks on her face and her eyes are red-rimmed. Becca moves over to her and Lily shifts so they can share the chair.

“They said they’ve done everything they can,” she says. “He’s just not waking up.”

“What else did they say?” Becca asks.

“They think there might be b-brain damage,” she says, her eyes welling up again. “But they can’t tell how much until he wakes up.”

Sam leans forward and takes Bucky’s hand. “He’s warm.”

She nods. “The warmer the better they said.” And she’s crying again.

Becca hugs her around the shoulders, “It’s okay,” she says, “he’ll be okay.”

Lily nods, but doesn’t stop crying.

“Come on,” Becca says, pulling her up, “let’s get you something to drink. Have you had your coffee yet?” She leads Lily out and they close the door behind them.

Sam watches Bucky’s chest slowly rise and fall. They have tubes under his nose and a drip going into his arm, but he still looks too pale. Sam just wants to get into the bed with him and pretend it is still the morning and this is some horrible nightmare.

 

 

Bucky doesn't wake up the next day, or the next. Steve eventually drags Sam home and makes him shower, makes him sleep in a bed. Someone’s come through and tidied up, but the pillows still smell of Bucky’s shampoo. He holds one tight and breathes deep, and he’s so exhausted he falls asleep in seconds.

He wakes up with a jolt, alone in bed. When he gets his bearings he covers his face with his hands and tries to breathe. It’s dark outside but he doesn’t feel like he slept at all. The house is silent, but it’s nothing like New Year’s Day. He takes another shower, makes the water as hot as he can take it, and then quickly gets dressed, the room that had seemed cozy a few days ago just feels suffocating now.

He leaves a note for Steve and Tony, and takes their car to the hospital.

He finds Becca slumped in a chair in Bucky’s room, so he takes the other one. She eyes him warily. “Did you sleep at all?”

He nods. “Doesn’t feel like it though. Any changes?”

She shakes her head. “I keep expecting him to at least shift, you know? Like he’s just sleeping.”

They listen to the steady beat on the monitors, strangely comforting in the dim lights.

“You should go home,” he says, “try and get some rest.”

She shakes her head. “I wouldn't know what to do with myself,” she says, “Cory is taking care of the kids, and I know Lily is cleaning to calm her nerves.” She shrugs.

“You need to take care of yourself,” Sam says, and she rolls her eyes at him.

“Is that why you're here at 3 am, looking like shit?”

He smiles, despite himself. She has a point. He is in no position to berate anyone. Becca falls asleep at some point, but Sam just crosses his arms and watches the monitors, and waits for Bucky to wake up.

 

 

The others join them in the morning, bringing breakfast and coffee and noise, and it’s like Bucky was just waiting for everyone to get comfortable.

It happens quietly, Lily handing out pastries and cups of coffee when Bucky stirs.

“Did you bring me an eclair?”

Everyone goes quiet and turns to him as he pushes himself up. “What’s going on?” he asks, looking around at them and then at the surroundings.

“I’ll call the doctors,” Becca says, and runs out.

Bucky watches her go and turns to the others. “What happened?” he says, frowning, “Why am I here?”

“How do you feel?” Sam asks him, leaning in to take his hand.

“Tired,” he says, “why can’t I remember why I’m here?”

“We were skating at the lake,” Sam says, “the ice broke, you fell through… don't you remember?”

“No, I - we?” he asks, pulling his hand free to touch his head. “Do you know my sisters?”

“Bucky,” Sam says, slowly, his heart in his throat, “I met your sisters at Thanksgiving, and then we spent Christmas and New Years at Becca’s.”

“I don't understand,” Bucky says, looking at Steve, “is he a friend of yours?”

“Buck,” Steve says, quietly, looking just as scared as Sam feels, “Sam is your fiancé.”

“What?” Bucky says, turning to Sam in confusion, “but I don't even know you, I don’t - what’s going on?”

Sam is going to be sick. He’s frozen in place, unable to comprehend why this is happening.

As the doctors usher them out he leans on his knees, trying to breathe.

“I don't understand,” Sam repeats, “How does he remember all of you but not me?”

“He’s probably just confused,” Becca says, her hand on his shoulder. “The doctors will sort it out.”

The doctors are in there for what feels like all day, but Sam can’t move, can’t even process what is happening.

When the doctors finally come out, they won't let anyone in. Instead, the head doctor leads them down a long corridor to her office. They all crowd into the small space, Becca taking the only seat as the doctor settled behind her desk.

She regards them for a moment, fingers laced together. “It looks like Mr. Barnes has what we call retrograde amnesia,” she says. “He’s lost some episodic memories, so things related to emotions, but his procedural memories seem to be okay - ”

Sam stops listening after that. He knows she continues to speak, but her words don’t register.

“What does all of this mean?” he finally asks. “Is he gonna get better?”

The doctor sighs. “The short answer is, he might,” she says, “I wish I could give you something a bit more concrete, but with this type of injury it really depends on the individual, and how hard they're willing to work on it. Honestly, sometimes patients like this never regain all of their memories, but they still go on to lead full lives.”

Sam gives her a reproachful look. She's dodging the answer.

“When can we see him?” Lily asks before he can respond.

“Now,” the doctor replies, standing up. “We’ve given him some sedatives, so he might be sleeping, and I’d recommend you see him two or three at a time. He’s quite distraught, as you can imagine, so don’t pressure him too much.”

They file out and Becca, Mary and Lily go to see him first.

Sam wanders away to the lobby and sits down, head bowed as he tries to figure out their next steps; how he might start getting over his shock, how to handle the situation, and how to convince Bucky that they are together.

“You all right?” He looks up to see Steve standing in front of him, almost looming.

He raises his eyebrows and rubs at his mouth. “I don’t know,” he says, leaning back. “He doesn’t remember me. How am I supposed to comfort him if he doesn't even know who I am?”

He doesn't ask, who’s going to comfort me?

Steve sighs, sitting down next to him. “The doctor says it could be temporary.”

“That doesn't help me right now,” Sam insists. He can’t keep looking at Steve's face, the pity almost palpable. He looks back at his hands, linked between his knees.

“How's he doing?” he finally asks.

“He's sleeping,” Steve says. “The doctor says we can take him home tomorrow.”

Sam nods, not making eye contact.

“I was thinking,” Steve continues, “we could stay at Becca’s for a couple of weeks, until his next appointment, and then, maybe, he could come home with me and Tony.”

“No,” Sam says defiantly. “No, he should come home to our place, that's his home.”

“Are you gonna be all right looking after him?”

“Yes,” he says, sure of himself. “The doctor says it’ll help being in familiar places, and this is where he lives. He was here even before I moved in. It’s been his home for years. It makes sense for him to move back there.”

 

 

They drive back to New York a couple of weeks later, when the doctors are sure that everything is okay, and they make sure Bucky knows to go see his own doctor when he gets home. The drive is long, and silent and uncomfortable. Bucky doesn't ask any questions and Sam doesn't offer any answers.

When they finally arrive home, Sam carries the bags in and lets Bucky trail behind him, looking around curiously. “So you live here too?” Bucky asks.

“Yeah,” Sam says. “It just made sense, you know? Steve was moving out, and you needed a roommate, and my place was so far away from work.”

“Do we - I’m guessing we share a bed.”

“We do,” Sam says, “but I can sleep on the couch if you want, or on the floor. Steve’s room is still there but he sold the bed - ”

“No we can - we’ll share,” Bucky interrupts. “The doctors prescribed familiar things, right?”

Sam can't help the smile. “Yeah, they did.”

Bucky nods decisively and goes to have a look inside. They get pizza for dinner and Sam levels Bucky with a look.

“You look like you have a lot of questions,” he says.

“I do,” Bucky says, “I’m not sure how much I’m supposed to already know, what I’m not supposed to ask - ”

“You know everything,” Sam says, “there’s no limit to the questions you can ask.”

“I’m guessing the houseplants are all yours?” Bucky asks, “I could never keep anything alive for more than a week.”

“Yeah,” he says, “Occupational hazard.”

Bucky’s lip quirked at that. “You collect plants, I collect tattoos, is that how it is?”

Sam is surprised into laughter. “I never thought of it that way but I guess it is.”

“Do you know anything about them?” Bucky asks, turning his left wrist upwards. “I don’t remember them at all.”

“Oh sure,” Sam says, gently taking Bucky’s hand. “These are for your sisters.” He smooths a hand over the flowers. “The nautical star is for Steve, he has the same one in blue, and the metallic shoulder plate is for you. Tony designed it and tattooed it on for you.”

“Tony is Steve’s husband?”

“Yeah, but he wasn't back then,” Sam says. “You introduced them.”

Bucky nods, thinking it over. “And how did we meet?” he asks, pulling his hand away and under the table, not meeting Sam’s eyes.

“You could say they introduced us,” Sam says. “Actually it was Natasha. You two planned the wedding.”

Bucky seemed to think for a moment. “What do you mean, the metallic plate is for me?”

“That’s what you said. You told me you were in a motorbike accident when you were younger, there was some damage, lots of scar tissue, a couple of metal screws holding things together.”

Bucky’s eyebrows shoot up. “What?”

Sam gives him a small smile. “That’s why we drive to your sister’s place,” he says. “You hate airports, you need lots of paperwork.”

“Jesus,” he says, running a hand through his hair, “and the wing on the right shoulder?”

“Oh,” Sam says, the smile falling from his face. “That one’s for me.”

“Oh,” Bucky echoes, he makes a face, lips downturned. “I really love you, don't I?”

“Yeah,” Sam says, unable to keep the sadness out of his voice. Then he grins, trying to cover up the fact. “I mean, I’d hope so.”

Bucky smiles back but it doesn’t reach his eyes. “I’m sorry,” he says, “I wish this wasn't happening.”

“Oh, no, don't worry about it,” he says, waving a hand dismissively. “You’re alive, and you’re home, and whatever comes, we’ll deal with it.”

 

 

Bucky wakes up slowly. His limbs are heavy and he’s too comfortable to move. There's no alarm going off, no phone ringing, complete silence. He reaches out automatically and touches his phone, pulling it towards him, but it feels different, heavier, smoother. He peels an eye open and sees that the thing in his hand isn’t his phone.

He pushes himself up, looking for his actual phone, and that’s when he sees the other person. He backs away too quickly, gets tangled in the sheets, and falls off the bed.

“Was’matter,” the man says, getting up, looking around. And it is Sam, his name is Sam. He sees Bucky on the ground and seems to wake up properly. “What happened?”

“Nothing,” Bucky says, “I was surprised, that’s all. I wasn't expecting - it’s fine.”

“Hey, that’s okay,” Sam says, helping Bucky up. “You weren’t expecting another person in your bed, I get it.”

“Sorry,” Bucky says, pulling the blankets away from his legs, “for waking you.”

“It’s all good,” he says. “This’ll give me a chance to make you breakfast.”

“You make me breakfast?”

“Yup,” Sam says, “pancakes, waffles, but you love my omelet the best.”

Bucky makes a face. “I’m not a fan of eggs.”

“Then this omelet is gonna change your life,” Sam says. “Again.”

Bucky laughs. “These better be the best damn eggs that I’ve ever tasted.”

“Oh, they will be,” Sam says, walking away. Then he looks over his shoulder. “As far as you’ll know.”

Bucky smiles. He’s starting to see why he might have fallen for Sam.

 

 

Sam is trying his best to keep Bucky occupied. He seems restless but when Sam suggests they go out, Bucky declines. He sits in the living room for a while, leg shaking up and down, then gets up and goes to their bedroom. Sam isn’t sure if he should follow or not, but before he comes to a decision, Bucky returns.

He then gets up and goes to the kitchen, and comes back.

“Bucky,” Sam says. “What do you want? Is there anything I can do?”

Bucky sits down again and lets out a sigh. “No, I’m just, I know this is my place, but it feels like strangers live here.”

Sam tries to hide the hurt look but he knows he’s not successful by the sudden change on Bucky’s face.

“Sorry,” he says, getting up again, only pacing now. “I know you’re not a stranger, and I’m just me, but I feel like I don't know the people who live here. Why do we have flowers? Why are there no energy drinks? Why is Steve’s room so unlived in?”

Sam opens his mouth to answer but Bucky waves him into silence. “I know why, not specifically, but the general why.”

“The general why,” Sam replies, deadpan, watching as Bucky walks across the living room.

“Yes,” Bucky emphasizes, and sits down next to Sam. “I knew this was going to be hard but I didn't expect to be so overwhelmed. I feel like a stranger in my own skin.”

Sam reaches out almost automatically, but he stops himself just in time. His hand hovers for a moment over Bucky’s shoulder, but when Bucky notices he flinches away, almost imperceptibly.

“Sorry,” Bucky says. “I’m not used to so much touching.”

“No, I’m sorry,” Sam says, now unable to hide the hurt anymore. “We just used to do this a lot. I’m not sure how I’m going to comfort you if we’re not allowed to touch.”

Bucky looks horrified, but he quickly turns away.

They sit in silence after that, neither of them sure how to move past this. It’s a long time before Bucky speaks again.

“I think,” he starts, “I think I need to move out.”

“What?” Sam says, blindsided. “Why?”

“This is too much, Sam. For both of us,” he says. “Can’t you see? We’re both suffocating.”

“I’m not -” Sam starts, “I’m fine, and you will be too, just give it some time.”

“No,” Bucky says, “It’s space that I need, and you’re hurting, I don't need to know you to see it.”

“I’m fine,” Sam insists, “just think about this first.”

“I can’t think here!” Bucky exclaims, standing up again. “There’s too much, I can’t breathe.”

“Bucky,” Sam says, hearing the defeat in his own voice.

“You have to let me do this.”

Sam takes a deep breath. “I don't have to let you do anything,” he says, “you’re your own person. I’m not your keeper. I just don't know how we can fix this if we’re not living in the same place.”

“You said that we only moved together a few months ago,” Bucky says, “that we met and,” he waves his hand, “everything while we were in different places, this could be the same.”

Sam doesn’t try to hide his downturned mouth, or his frown. He doesn’t know how to process and hide his feelings at the same time.

“Where will you go?”

“Steve’s, I think,” Bucky says, “to start with.”

Sam licks his lips, suddenly dry, and stands up.

“I’ll help you pack,” he says, “it’s the least I can do.”

 

 

“I’m sorry,” Bucky says, for what feels like the hundredth time. He can see how much this is hurting Sam, despite the brave front he’s putting up.

“I understand,” Sam says. “I get it, it’s weird living here if you don't know me, for both of us. I just want you to be comfortable, you know? And we tried this and it’s not working for you, and that’s okay.”

Bucky swallows. “There was one more thing.” He turns the ring on his finger and then he takes it off.

“I want you to have this back,” he says, looking at the ring between his thumb and fingers.

“No,” Sam says, taking a step back. “Absolutely not.”

“I don't want you to keep waiting for me. The doctors say I might never remember. It’s not fair to you to keep waiting for something that might never happen.”

“You can’t just give up on yourself like that,” Sam says. “I gave it to you to keep, in sickness and in health.”

“We didn't get married,” Bucky says, unable to look up at Sam.

“The sentiment is there,” Sam says, voice hard.

Bucky takes a step forward and takes Sam’s hand. He puts the ring in his palm and closes Sam’s fingers around it. “I obviously cared about you a lot,” he says. “But you deserve better.”

“You’re the best thing that ever happened to me,” Sam says, looking away from Bucky.

“I’m sorry,” he says again, and lets go of Sam’s hand.

 

 

With Bucky gone, Sam becomes restless. He goes out for runs after work, he goes to the gym before work, and at night he can’t sleep.

By the time Sunday rolls around he really should be exhausted. He's hoping to sleep in, relax. Everything aches enough for it.

But he finds himself awake at 6 am, and unable to go back to sleep. He mentally swears at the sun, at his body clock, his bladder and at every other little reason keeping him awake.

He pushes the blankets aside and gets out of bed, quietly grumbling. True to form his body aches. He hasn’t pushed it this hard for a long time. He is going to stay at home today, whether he likes it or not.

He makes a big breakfast, a complicated affair with several courses and a lot of preparation. Then he cleans the kitchen. Then he moves on to the rest of the house. He vacuums with vigor, getting under the bed, into all the corners and around the potted plants.

Next he brings down the hanging plants and prunes them, makes sure they’re doing okay, and does the same for the ones on the ground.

Then he vacuums again.

He takes a break for lunch, and decides he’ll go out anyway. But when he opens his closet, he can’t take how empty Bucky’s side of the closet is. He closes the door and turns to his room. Time for a change.

They never really changed the room when he moved in, just bought a bigger bed to replace Bucky’s lumpy one. So it’s time really. He’s living alone now and this organization doesn't really suit him.

It takes him all afternoon to move things around, lunch forgotten. He moves the closet, rotates the bed, and realises there’s no room for the night stand. So the closet goes back to where it was and he still isn’t sure he’s happy with it. He decides to give it a week and see how it works out for him.

Then he vacuums the room a third time.

By then, he’s well and truly exhausted. He makes dinner, another complicated process, and finally sits down to rest.

He sleeps like a log that night, but the next morning he’s up and at the gym again.

 

 

Bucky feels like he’s five years old when he walks into Tony’s Tattoos. He doesn’t recognise the place but it has a comforting feel about it. The walls are pasted with art and the desks are painted black and peeling, but it’s an open space. The front desk is raised and has a high chair and a monitor that’s seen better days, but the tattoo chairs and machines are in plain view of the front door, and there’s a cheerful jingle every time the door opens.

Natasha is on the left, bent over her own desk, she waves at them distractedly and goes back to her sketch.

“My desk is the one in the back,” Tony says, pointing to the desk by the right wall, “but I like spending my time at the front desk to greet customers.”

“He likes to feel tall,” Natasha says, not looking up.

Tony looks affronted and pointedly turns away from her. “This is your desk,” he says instead, steering Bucky to the right. His own desk faces the back of the store so if he sits at it, he can see Tony and Natasha, but the door would almost be at his back.

There’s a tattoo chair and a regular chair in front of his desk and half finished designs sprawled all over.

“We had to pick up a few your customers, and we tried to use your designs when we could,” Tony says, making a face Bucky couldn't understand.

“Sorry,” Bucky says.

Tony waves a hand dismissively. “You were on sick leave,” he says, “but now you’re back.”

Bucky sits at his desk and to his surprise, Tony sits opposite him, in the tattoo chair.

“I’m okay. Steve and Sam have tried everything already,” Bucky says, settling down behind his desk. “I just want everything to go back to normal.”

Tony gives him a look, and despite Bucky's shut-down, he leans in.

“I'm not Sam, and I’m not Steve.” Tony says, “And you know I love them, but they’re both a bit soft-hearted sometimes, so you better listen up.”

Bucky blinks at Tony in surprise but stays silent, listening.

“You want to go back to normal? That's fine, and I won't tell you that Sam was terrible or anything like that because Sam is a good dude.”

Bucky glares at Tony. He never said anything against Sam, and he doesn’t understand why no one can see that he just needs space.

“But,” Tony continues, “if you want to go back to this ‘normal’ you think is out there, you need to suck it up. You gotta grow some tough skin and fake it till you make it. It won't be easy, and it'll be exhausting, but you can do it, and only then will you get to a place that's good enough to heal.”

“Tony,” Bucky starts, unsure how to reply to that.

“Save it,” Tony says. “We’ll be treating you as normal. I’ve talked to Natasha, there'll be no sympathy, no sad looks or commiserating pats, you come into work, or you have as many sick days as you want.”

Bucky nods. “Thanks Tony.”

Tony gives him a half smile. “You're welcome.”

He makes to get up but Bucky stops him. “Tony.”

Tony turns back to him, sitting down again.

“I just wanted to say,” he says, and licks his lips, trying to work out the right words, “Steve loves you, and I know how much you love him.”

The half-smile is back. “You don't even know me,” he replies.

“I don't need to know you,” Bucky says, “I just needed to see you watching Steve when you thought he wasn’t looking.”

“Yeah?” Tony asks, almost defensive. “And how's that?”

“Like you're afraid,” Bucky says quietly, not rising to the bait, “like Steve might look at you with anything other than love.”

“That's not - ” Tony starts, but can’t finish, looking away now.

“You don't have to worry,” he replies. “I might not be all there at the moment, but I know my best friend, he's just as scared.”

“Of what?”

“Of you changing your mind,” Bucky says. “That you might walk away or find something better.”

“I wouldn't.” Tony replies, indignant. “There's nothing, I mean - ”

“I know,” Bucky interrupts, then smiles, close-lipped and sad. “Don't fuck it up.”

“Listen,” he says, “if I can get Steve, if our relationship works, then you and Sam sure as fuck will work it out.” Bucky starts to shake his head, looking away, but Tony stops him. “You keep saying you need space, so take it. Take all the space you need, but if you decide you want Sam back, you will make it work. That’s just the type of people you both are.”

He finally stands up, picks up a bag of what looks like grapefruit from behind his own desk and dumps it in front of Bucky.

“What is this?” Bucky asks.

“Practice,” he says, “the doctors said your procedural memory should be fine but I’m not going to let you practice on a paying customer until you’re comfortable around the machines again.”

Bucky tries not to let his overwhelming relief show, but Tony just grins, a gleam in his eye. “When you’re ready you can tattoo me.”

 

 

Sam hadn’t meant to stay so late, but he had some accounts to catch up on and it’s not like there is much to go home to anyway.

It's like he’d only said goodbye to Wanda and Pietro a few minutes ago, but when he looks up the sun is gone and the streetlights are turning everything an eerie orange.

He rubs at his face and stretches his back, hearing it click into place. His neck is sore from the way he was sitting, but there isn't much he can do about it other than hope for the fix of a good night’s sleep.

He closes his computer, puts away all the paper piles he’d amassed and stands up, stretching again before slouching with a sigh. He contemplates taking his computer home and decides against it, already making plans for a quick dinner and an early night.

He slings his bag over his shoulder, and makes the final checks; the till is put away, the office is locked, no live plants out in the open and the fridge is still running. He then locks the front door and brings down the grill. He winces at the too-loud sound in the dark street. When he turns, he realizes that the lights at Tony’s Tattoos are still on.

Reconsidering his dinner plans, he walks across the street. He taps on the door and finds it open, the bell ringing above his head as he slips in.

“We’re closed,” a voice says from inside, and Sam almost cries with relief.

“Sorry,” he says, walking to Bucky’s desk. “It’s just me.”

“Oh,” Bucky says, standing up in surprise. “What are you doing here?”

“I was working late too,” he explains. “I saw the light on, I thought - ”

“Sam,” Bucky starts.

“Look, I know you said you wanted space,” Sam says before he can stop himself, “but I thought, that we don’t have to be anything. We could just talk?”

“Sam,” Bucky tries again, but he doesn't say anything more.

They stand in silence for a moment longer, and when it becomes clear neither of them are going to move, Sam speaks again. “It’s been weeks. I miss you.”

“I know,” Bucky says, and shakes his head. “I mean, I don't, but I’m just - there’s so much, Sam. I’m just trying to figure this out.”

Sam nods. “I get it, I don't want to make things worse for you.”

“Thank you,” Bucky says, too quick, “I -”

“No, I’ll - ” Sam says, and stops himself. “Goodbye Bucky. I hope I can see you again,” he shrugs, “at some point.”

 

 

Bucky covers his head with the pillows. This was a bad idea. He’s regretting every decision he has ever made, remembered or not, that ended with him here, on Steve’s pull-out couch.

He doesn’t remember much of Tony, but god, he wishes he’d remembered how loud Tony can be. And it’s not like the apartment is small, no. It’s twice as big as his old – as Sam’s apartment - but he can still hear Tony’s moans all the way in the guest bedroom.

He’s happy for Steve and all, but this is ridiculous. He grabs at his phone and taps the screen on, flinching at the brightness.

I cant sleep, he texts Natasha.

are you okay? is the reply, then, where is Steve?

Busy with Tony, being very loud.

I should let you suffer

He groans and plants his face into the pillows, but his phone buzzes again.

be there in one hour. meet you downstairs

He sends up a silent thank you to anyone listening and gets out of bed, getting ready as quickly and quietly as possible.

He meets Natasha outside the building and they walk in silence. It's too cold for conversation so Bucky focuses on walking, watching his breath fog up in front of him.

She leads him to a coffee shop that's open, its lights an oasis in the darkness.

He stamps his feet at the door to get circulation back into his toes and approaches the counter with Natasha.

“One espresso, one hazelnut latte,” she says to the attendant, before Bucky can say anything.

“Hazelnut latte?” he asks her. “Is that what I usually order?”

“How do you figure it's not the espresso?” she asks.

“Nothing will change me enough to ever like that disgusting black water.”

She laughs, her eyes closed and her head thrown back. “That's what you’ve always called it,” she agrees, “Yeah well, you like them sweet and milky, you'll probably need to add like, two sugars into this one.”

He smiles and looks away, but she sees right through him. “What's the matter?”

“I feel like everyone knows me better than I know myself,” he says. “I know everyone is trying to help but,” he shrugs, not finishing the sentence.

She watches him for a minute, her green eyes piercing. “What do you need?”

The question makes him hesitate, and really think about it. He’s been so preoccupied with what everyone wants from him that he never really considered anything else.

“No expectations,” he says finally. “I want to move past this but I feel like I'm disappointing everyone.”

“No one’s disappointed,” she says, her eyes hard. “We just want you to get better.”

“And if better isn't the same as before?”

“It shouldn't matter to your real friends,” she says, and leans forward, “and it doesn't, trust me on this. Just focus on you, get past it, and I promise you, everyone who matters will be there on the other side.”

He still isn’t sure he believes her but she’s right. He has to get past this, alone. They can deal with whatever happens after, when it actually happens.

 

 

Sam is surprised when Tony asks him out for lunch.

“Friend date,” Tony had said, hands in pockets. “It’s a thing people do, apparently.”

“You know we don't have to do this,” Sam says, swirling his Frappuccino. “We don't know each other that well.”

“I know,” Tony says, “but we’ve owned the stores opposite each other for years, and our significant others are like brothers. I feel like we could at least talk.”

“Anything specific you wanted to talk about?” Sam asks, smirking at Tony.

Tony sighs. “No?” he says. “What do people usually talk about during these things?”

“Normal things?” Sam asks, now full on grinning. “I’ll start, how’s business?”

Tony instantly brightens. “It’s going all right,” he says. “We had to cancel a few appointments a couple of months ago, some of Bucky’s customers, I mean. Me and Natasha took some on but that’s half of a normal load on top of our own, there was no way we could accommodate everyone.”

“You couldn’t have hired someone else in the meantime?” Sam asks. “Fixed term until he came back?”

Tony shrugs, more of an expression with his face than his shoulders. “I looked but no one really fit the bill, and now that he’s back, it doesn't matter.”

Sam nods. “I get that, you want to make sure people get quality.”

“Exactly,” Tony says, “It’s not something I take lightly.”

Sam smiles, softly this time. “That’s good to hear,” he says. “How’s he doing?”

“He’s doing okay,” Tony says, nodding. “How about you? How’s business?”

“It’s going well,” Sam says. “Spring is always busy for us, lots of flowers blooming, Mother’s Day is around the corner, and weddings every weekend.”

“That’s good to hear,” Tony says. And then he continues in the same tone, “And how are you doing, personally.”

Sam sits back. “We really don't have to do this,” he says. “Did Steve put you up to it?”

“No,” Tony says. “Well, he might’ve mentioned that you might need some support, and him and Bucky need some alone time.”

“And he sent you to me?” Sam says, raising a skeptical eyebrow.

“I am insulted,” Tony says, “I’ll have you know - ”

“You have no idea what you’re doing,” Sam suggests.

Tony’s shoulders sag. “This is true,” he says, “but we worry about you? We’re all worried about you.”

“You don't need to be,” Sam says. “I’m fine.”

“You don’t look fine,” Tony says, leaning forward to inspect Sam’s face. “You look like you’re not sleeping.”

“I’m not,” he admits, pushing away his half empty cup. “And this drink probably won’t help with that.”

Tony is frowning at him.

“I’m fine,” he insists. “I just have more time than I know what to do with. It’s not like Bucky and I spent all of our time together, and it’s not like I can’t do the things we used to do together alone … I just don't remember what I used to do with myself before.”

“You bake,” Tony says. “Amazing cookies from what I heard,” he sniffs. “Not that you ever let me have any.”

“Tony,” he says, “you’re married to an actual baker, like a legit trained expert. I’m not going to give you my subpar cookies so you can compare them to Steve’s.”

“But you gave them to Bucky?”

“I was trying to impress Bucky,” he says, “that’s different.” He’s quiet for a moment, remembering the texture of cookie dough between his fingers. “I guess I can make a batch and bring it over.”

He looks up to see Tony grinning. “That’s what I like to hear.”

“You’re not allowed to compare to Steve’s, okay?” he says. “And you have to save some for Bucky.”

“Scout’s honor,” Tony says, giving him a small salute.

 

 

“I want to see,” Bucky says.

“See what?” Steve asks, and Bucky knows he’s faking innocence.

“I wanna see the scars, the metal,” he says. “I wanna see what it looked like before I covered it all up.”

“Oh Buck,” Steve says, finally turning to face him. “I don't think it’s a good idea.”

“The doctor says it might trigger some memories,” he insists. “I want to see. It’s my body, and I need to know.”

Steve’s shoulders drop as he sighs. “Okay, but I’m just warning you, it’s not pretty.”

“I know,” Bucky says, “I’m ready.”

Steve shifts on the couch to make more space for Bucky to sit and he puts the computer between them. “Tony has some pictures of the before and after,” he says, “for his website, but he took them down when you went to work for him.”

“He did a good job,” Bucky says not looking at Steve, “You can’t see the scars at all.”

“He did,” Steve says, smiling softly. “Okay so here it is.” He pulls the pictures up and moves the computer closer to Bucky.

He flicks through the photos slowly. None of them show his face but the pictures are from all sides. There is a long scar along his collarbone that he’d seen in the shower, but the torn skin on his forearm and the long scar down the back of his arm are now under tattoos.

“This was me?” he asks, looking at the scars.

“Yeah,” Steve says, “there was lots of scarring from the accident itself, and then there were surgeries to fix things in your shoulder and arm, which left even more scars.”

“And then what? It just went back to normal?”

“No,” Steve continues heavily, “you had to get physical therapy to make sure everything got back to normal. And it did, you never complained or anything.”

Bucky nods slowly. His arm feels strange sometimes, a numbness in some places, or tingling in his fingers, especially in the cold, but he’s not surprised Steve doesn’t know.

He clenches his left hand and releases, going back to the keyboard.

There are more pictures of his arm, some before surgery, and some before the injuries had healed. The open road rash near his elbow and on his thigh are the worst to look at, barely looking like flesh.

He runs a hand down his thigh, the only sign of injury left is mottled skin and a little desensitization, easy to forget about.

“And the tattoos?”

“You hated the scars,” Steve says. “We told you they were no big deal but you hated how people would stare, you said that you wanted to own it, that if people were going to stare it might as well be for a good reason, for something beautiful. You said you wanted everyone to know that this is what a second chance looks like.”

Now it’s Bucky’s turn to sigh. “I don't remember any of this,” he says, “I remember falling off the bike, I remember the pain, but,” he shakes his head, “sometimes I still feel the skin pulling a little strangely but,” he shrugs, “I don't know.”

“It’s all right Bucky,” Steve says, “You don't have to do this.”

“You don't understand,” he says, “I do. Because I don't know who I am anymore. I know I like certain music but when I listen to it now it’s just not the same, and songs I’ve never heard before make me feel things but there’s no context. I feel like, like - I can’t even explain it.” He runs his hands through his hair and pulls at the ends.

“Then you don't have to do this alone,” Steve says. “Talk to Sam, talk to Tony. We grew up together, you and I, but it’s not just the two of us anymore. You know how you always said you wanted a big family? That’s what we have. You have to give them a chance, they just want to help.”

Bucky nods, but he shifts the laptop back to Steve and stands up. “I think I’m going to go for a walk.”

Steve opens his mouth to say something but Bucky stops him. “I have my phone, if anything happens, I’ll call you. I promise.”

 

 

Bucky isn’t sure where he wants to go. He just knows he needs to be outside. The weight of this other Bucky, this future Bucky he had apparently become, is suffocating.

He knows Steve is trying to help. They all are, but he feels like a messed up 21 year old who has suddenly become a stable 30 year old. It took almost 10 years the first time around, he can’t fathom doing it again in the space of a few days or weeks or even months.

He stuffs his hands in his pockets and gets into the subway. He goes to their old apartment, his and Sam’s place, or just Sam’s for now.

He hesitates at the door though. What if Sam isn’t home? What if this is a terrible idea? He’s the one who had told Sam he needed space, but here he is, violating his own wishes.

He almost turns around to leave when the door opens to reveal Sam on his way out.

“Oh,” Sam says. “Hi.”

“Hey,” Bucky says, trying not to be awkward. “I was just - ” he starts, but stops. What’s he doing here?

“Did you need anything?” Sam asks, not closing the door. “From your stuff I mean. I noticed you didn’t take too many t-shirts and it’s been pretty warm - ”

Bucky shakes his head. “I was just in the neighborhood?” he tries.

Sam smiles. “I was going to get some food but we can get take out if you wanna hang out?”

“No,” Bucky says, the idea of facing future Bucky’s old life is just as overwhelming as Steve talking about physio. “Can I just come with you?”

“Of course,” Sam says, and closes the door. “I was thinking of sushi from downstairs, but if you have a hankering for something else - ”

“No, sushi’s good,” he says, and walks down again with Sam.

They each pick their own from the cabinet and they sit down in a quiet corner facing each other. He's expecting Sam to comment on his choices, but Sam doesn't.

“So what brings you to the neighborhood?” Sam asks.

Bucky shrugs, dumping his wasabi in the soy sauce and mixing them together. “I needed something familiar,” he says. “I used to work around these parts, and me and Steve moved here a couple of years - oh, I guess a while ago now.” He can feel himself blushing, this is ridiculous, there is no escaping it.

“A couple of years before you were 21?” Sam asks smoothly, not even looking up from his slowly falling apart sushi.

“Yeah,” he says, “It’s weird, I feel like I’ve been away on holiday or something. It’s familiar but it feels old, like - ” He takes a breath and sighs.

“Hey it’s okay,” Sam says. “We don't have to do this, we’re just talking, right?”

Bucky nods, his shoulders still too tense.

“What did you use to do?” Sam prompts.

“I worked at an art store,” he says, “I was going to see my old manager but it didn't feel right. I’m not sure how we left things and let’s face it, it wasn't my dream job or anything.”

Sam laughs at that. “Tell me about it,” he says. “Retail, am I right?”

Bucky smiles too. “But you’re a florist,” he says, “It’s also sort of retail isn‘t it?”

“Yeah,” Sam says, tilting his head in agreement, “but people are just the side-effect of my job. I work with flowers and plants. People are just what happens afterwards.”

Bucky laughs at that. “And that’s what Wanda is for, right?”

Sam laughs too. “Exactly, Wanda is so much better with people.”

Bucky stops. “Who’s Wanda?”

“She’s my desk staff,” Sam says, without missing a beat, “you knew her before.”

“I just got a flash of her face, long dark hair? An accent?”

Sam grins. “That’s Wanda,” he says. “She’s going to be so pleased you remembered her and not her brother.”

“Peter?” he asks.

“Pietro,” Sam corrects. “People just call him Peter sometimes because apparently Pietro is too hard.” He makes a face at that.

“I remember your shop,” he says. “I remember it, we need to go there, I need to know if it’s right.”

Sam grins. “Hold up,” he says. “Let’s finish lunch first, I’ll take you there.”

Bucky sits down again and pokes at his sushi. “That hasn't happened before,” he says. “I wasn't sure what to expect.”

“And you didn’t know anything about my shop before?”

Bucky shakes his head. “One minute it didn’t exist and the next it was like I’d known it all along.”

Sam nods. “I can understand that,” He says, eating his sushi decidedly faster.

They finish quickly and head out. Bucky can barely sit still on the train. When they walk over Bucky glances at Tony’s Tattoos across the road and turns away, instead facing Sam’s flower shop.

It's a lot darker inside than his memory, and he resists the temptation to press his nose to the glass as Sam raises the grill and unlocks the glass doors.

Sam lets him walk in first and Bucky takes it all in, turning on the spot to look at the hanging plants, the glass bowls and the planted flowers.

“Usually this stand is outside,” Sam says, following him slowly. “I like to display readymade seasonal bouquets.” He walks past Bucky to behind the desk. “This is where Wanda stands, she likes to make flower crown arrangements of the flowers we can’t sell anymore.”

Bucky nods. “I remember,” he says softly. “You have a garden,” he says, “next to your office.” He walks towards the back and tries to open the door. It’s locked.

“Here,” Sam says, unlocking it for him.

The garden is bare, just spiny branches and dirt. Bucky turns to Sam, frowning in concern. “I usually start planting in February,” Sam says, “But I didn't get the chance to this year.”

“Because of me,” Bucky says. This he knows for sure. Suddenly he can’t breathe, “I need to - ” he says, trying to push past Sam.

Sam lets him pass, and he goes outside, leaning his back against the glass window, closing his eyes and trying to keep his breathing even.

When he opens his eyes, Sam is watching him. “You okay?”

Bucky nods. “I think I should go home,” he says.

Sam nods, “I’ll come with you,” he says.

“You don't need to,” Bucky says, feeling embarrassed. “I don't need a babysitter, despite what I might look like right now.”

“I know,” Sam says, “I want to, like I said. I like hanging out with you.”

Bucky nods again. “All right,” he says, “but let’s just go back to how it was, when I didn't remember anything.”

Sam’s lip quirks up. “Okay.”

 

 

“I don't understand,” Steve says, “I thought you were doing better?”

“I was,” Bucky says, “I am,” he corrects, “but I just need some space - ”

“That’s what you said to Sam when you moved here,” Steve says reproachfully, crossing his arms. “Are we not giving you enough - ”

Bucky grins. “Look buddy, it’s not you.”

Steve lets out a laugh and uncrosses his arms. “Is there anything I can do?”

Bucky pats him on the shoulder. “No, thank you,” he says. “I just need to, I don't know, be alone, think things over, do some research. I could use a holiday.”

“You’re not going to revisit the scene of the crime are you?” Steve says, eyes narrowed suspiciously.

“No, I hadn’t even thought of that,” Bucky lies. “Besides, it’s all melted now, a proper lake, there’s nothing to visit.”

Steve seems to doubt him but doesn't push. Instead, he pulls Bucky into a hug. “Take care of yourself,” he says. “Say hello to Becca and Mary for me.”

“I will,” he replies, “and I’ll be back before you know it.”

 

 

Becca is delighted to see him.

“I know you’re only here for my lasagna,” she tells him, helping him into his room.

“I won’t lie,” he says, “it’s a pretty major factor.”

She laughs. “Well, I made sure your sheets are clean, Rusty can share with Ella while you’re here. Cory is at work and the kids are back at school but I know they’ll want to take you out in the afternoon to catch Pokemon or something.”

“Pokemon?” he asked, “Is that a thing again?”

She rolls her eyes. “Did it ever leave?”

“Thanks Becca,” he says.

“What’s family for,” she smirks, “if not to hide from your feelings?”

He grins and looks away. “I’m just trying to figure some things out.”

“Stay as long as you need to.”

 

 

Rusty and Ella do indeed take him out that afternoon, and Becca makes him lasagna. For the first time since the accident, he feels like he belongs somewhere.

Becca lets him laze around for two weeks before she says anything.

It’s late at night and they‘re the only ones still awake. She has her feet under his thighs and they’re watching a movie and drinking wine. He’s feeling comfortable and extra relaxed, the movie winding down when she speaks.

“How’s Sam?” She asks nonchalantly.

He turns to her, suddenly alert. “He’s fine,” he says carefully.

“How is he dealing with this whole,” she waves a hand at his head, “thing.”

He makes a face at her. “I don't know,” he says. “As you can see, I’m barely coping myself. He seems to be doing okay though.”

“Hmm,” she says, and turns back to the movie. The credits are rolling.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” He asks her.

“Nothing,” she says, faux innocent, and is quiet for a moment. “It’s just that he wasn't doing fine when you fell into the water,” she continues, “or at the hospital, and when he insisted you move home with him.” She shrugs. “He really loves you, it’s hard to imagine that he’s doing fine.”

Bucky’s heart falls. “I haven’t been seeing him a lot,” he admits.

“Why?” she asks, honestly curious now.

“When I’m with him,” he says, and stops, trying to figure out the words, “it’s overwhelming. Something in my chest just, I feel like I can’t breathe, like something wants to come out and I can’t control what it might be.”

She gives him the strangest look.

“What?” he asks. “What are you not telling me?”

“You love him, you idiot,” she says, poking his side with her foot. “That’s butterflies in your stomach, remember when you had a crush on that girl, Dotty? You remember what that felt like?”

He thinks for a moment, and then “Oh.”

“Yeah, oh,” she says. “You dummy. What did you think it was?”

“I don't know!” He hisses, trying to keep his voice low. “I thought it was a side effect or something, I thought I was still sick and I didn't want him to be stuck with someone who was sick forever.”

“Oh Bucky,” she says. “He probably doesn't even care about that.”

“He doesn't,” he says, sagging. “He told me he just wants to be with me.”

She gives him a pitying look.

“Don't,” he warns, “don’t - ”

“Bucky,” she says, meaningfully.

He sighs. “I know,” he says, “fuck. Do you think I fucked it up?”

She shakes her head. “I don't want you to push yourself into something you’re not ready for,” she says, “but maybe give him a chance, he hasn’t done anything to deserve this.”

“I can’t believe you’re taking his side.”

She stands up, pulling the blanket with her. “He’s pretty hot,” she says, unable to keep a straight face, “I’d like to keep him around.”

“You’re a terrible person,” he tells her, following her up. “You know that, right?”

“Runs in the family,” she says, and ducks his swipe.

 

 

“Okay so the rules of the game are this,” Tony says, looking around at the group. “It’s called ‘do you remember’ and we’re playing the strip version.”

“Strip version?” Sam asks dubiously.

“Yes,” Rhodey says emphatically.

“I’m not sure I like this game,” Bucky says, and Steve grins at him.

“We’re gonna take turns,” Tony says, “I’ll start, just to give you an example.”

Bucky glares at him, but Tony ignores him. “Do you remember my and Steve’s wedding?”

“Oh yeah,” Sam says, taking sip of his beer. “White hydrangeas and blue thistle.”

“Beautiful ceremony,” Rhodey agrees.

“I hate you all,” Bucky says, taking off one of his shoes and dumping it on the table.

Tony grins. “So we all get the idea? Rhodey, you’re next.”

“Okay, do you remember,” and he looks at Tony, “when we snuck into Doctor Stephen’s office and tried to steal the answers to that test?”

Tony laughed. “And we set off the weirdest alarm system.”

They high five and the others groan, taking off various articles of clothing. “So is that how it is?” Sam says.

“That’s how it’s gonna be,” Rhodey grins, “Bucky, you’re up.”

“Well shit,” he says, and looks at Steve. “Do you remember when we were kids and there was this girl, Dot.”

Steve grinned. “Dolores,” he says. “Who calls their kid Dolores? You had the biggest crush on her.”

Bucky grins. “I did,” he says, and looks at Sam, who is struggling with his other shoe.

“You guys are making this real hard for me,” Sam says, “what with me being the newest to the group and my boyfriend being all amnesiac.”

Bucky shrugs. “Sorry.”

Sam sighs in resignation but then he smiles and looks at Steve, who looks surprised. “Do you remember,” he pauses, looks at Bucky then back at Steve, “what Bucky told me the morning after the bar fight you guys had?”

Steve grins. Tony frowns. Rhodey rolls his eyes. “You guys were in a bar fight?” He ducks down to take off a shoe.

“Only a little one,” Steve says defensively.

“I want to know about this bar fight too,” Bucky says, looking between them as he takes off his cardigan.

“It wasn't a big deal,” Steve says, “honestly I barely remember it myself.”

“And Tony?” He says accusingly.

“Oh no, I wasn't there,” Tony says, crossing his arms and sitting back, “but I know about the bar fight.”

“Did you not hear the whole thing, Stark?” Sam says. “Morning after, what did Bucky say?”

Tony frowns and looks at Steve. “I thought we tell each other everything,” he says.

“Sorry babe,” Steve says, not looking sorry at all, then he leans in, “but I will say this, you remember Bali, that night on the beach … ”

“Gross,” Bucky cuts in, taking off his socks. “I’m glad I didn't know that.”

“I wish I still didn't,” Sam says, taking off his t-shirt, leaving him in the long-sleeved shirt under it.

Bucky tries not to look at the slice of stomach before Sam pulls his shirt down again.

“I hate to break this up,” Rhodey says, looking pointedly at Tony and Steve, “but you’re gonna need to help me off with my socks.”

“Way to break the mood, Rhodes,” Tony says, pulling away from Steve’s whispering, and pushing his chair back.

Rhodey pulls his wheelchair out of reach. “No dude, I was just kidding,” he says, laughing. “I can’t believe you were actually going to do it.”

“That’s true friendship right there,” Tony says, as Rhodey ducks down to take them off. “I would have done that for you, I am hurt that you would - ”

“All right, all right,” Rhodey says, dumping his balled socks on the table with the rest of the stuff. “Your turn.”

“Do you remember my crowning glory before I started tattooing?”

“That was a monstrous disaster,” Rhodey says.

Steve’s eyes widen. Sam takes off his own socks, resigned to the situation.

“It won an award, didn't it?” Bucky says, taking a handful of chips. They all look at him. He shrugs, “I googled you.”

“Oh god,” Tony says.

“Yeah,” Bucky agrees, “Game just got harder didn't it? Steve? What’s wrong with your face?”

Steve slowly, slowly, takes off his other shoe. Tony looks at him in horror. “You don't know?”

“I’m sure you’ve told me but ... I can’t bring it to mind right now,” he says.

Bucky can’t help laughing at him. “You should google it later,” he tells Steve, “well worth it.”

Sam already has his phone out.

“Oh my god,” he says, looking at Tony. “You designed this?”

“I may have had a hand in the making, yes,” Tony says.

“Let me see,” Steve says, leaning into Sam to look at the picture. “Oh. Tony.”

“See, I told you,” Rhodey says. “Monstrosity.”

“Look, it was the eighties,” Tony says. “It was the latest thing.”

Bucky lets out a snort, leaning into Sam’s other side to look at the photo again. “Did it have to be that big?” he asks, “and the colors!”

“I had to actually tone it down after I was told it was too much.”

“This is toned done?” Sam asks, his eyebrows going further up.

“Hey, why did you leave fashion design?” Bucky asks. “I feel like I already know this but I can’t put my finger on it.”

“I would actually take off all of my clothes for this story,” Sam says. “Your wiki page says you were amazing, something about being as big as Alexander McQueen one day. And then you just disappeared. They don't even know about your tattoo shop.”

“Yeah, and I’d like to keep it that way,” Tony says, looking uncomfortable.

“Hey you don't have to - ” Sam says, looking between the others.

“No, Bucky knows this story so it’s only fair we tell it to him again,” he says. “So - Stark Fashion was huge, and I thought all of our stuff was being produced here by in the US. Obie, my mentor, he told me that everything was legit, and that the reason we were making so much money was because of how popular we were.” He shifts uncomfortably. “Just because I went into the arts, doesn't mean I’m stupid. The numbers didn't add up, I did the math.”

“So, how - ” Bucky asked, a feeling of dread coming over him.

“Child laborers,” he says, “in underdeveloped countries. No minimum wage, no nothing, working around the clock, for - for what? Dresses? So I shut the whole thing down. No more dresses, no more designs, no more Stark Fashion. The only designs I do now, I do myself. Skin not fabric. Safer that way.”

They all sit in silence for a moment. Then Rhodey looks up at Sam. “So do you need help taking off all of your clothes or will you manage?”

They all laugh, the tension broken. They manage to get Sam down to his underwear, cheering at every piece he takes off, before Rhodey relents. “No one needs to see that!”

“Well,” Sam says, “I think I’ve had enough excitement for tonight. I’m gonna leave before I get myself into more trouble.”

Bucky can’t stop the blush, and busies himself by taking the empty bottles and bowls of chips to the kitchen while Sam puts his clothes back on.

“I’m gonna head out too,” Rhodey says, “I’ll race you down!”

“Hey!” Sam calls after him, still struggling with his shirt. “I’m still half naked and you have wheels!”

“Losers weepers!” Rhodey calls out over his shoulder. “See you later! Thanks for the show!”

Tony laughs and closes the door behind him.

“Thank you guys,” Sam says, putting on his jacket. “I think next time we should have less stripping.”

“And less targeted games,” Bucky says, looking pointedly at Tony.

Tony shrugs. “You guys try and come up with games that don't include alcohol and I will beat you in that too.”

Sam rolls his eyes but he’s smiling. “I’ll see you guys later.”

“I’ll walk you down,” Bucky says, too quickly. Steve looks at him but Sam is nodding absently, hands in his pockets, looking for his keys.

“Sure,” he says, and they walk out. Bucky thinks Tony is going to burst the moment they close the door.

But the elevator ride is quiet on the way down and Bucky hesitates outside.

“I’m glad you came,” Bucky says.

“Me too,” Sam replies. “Good to get out of the house every now and again.” He smiles.

Bucky smiles back. “Actually I was thinking,” he says, “if it’s okay with you, if we could go out?”

“Together?” Sam asks.

Bucky laughs, more out of nerves. “Yes. Together. I know I said I wanted space, but I’ve had enough of that, and I’d like to get to know you properly.”

“So … like a date?”

“No,” Bucky says quickly. “No, just as friends? No expectations.”

Sam nods, a little deflated. “No expectations. Sure, I can do that.”

Bucky grins. Why can't he stop smiling? “Great,” he says. “Next week, I’ll text you.”

Sam smiles back. “Next week.”

 

 

Bucky is not freaking out. Definitely not. Natasha looks across the store at him every once in a while and laughs silently, which is making things worse.

“You’re not helping,” he calls across at her as she leads a customer through to her own desk and tattooing chair.

“Wasn’t trying to!”

He sighs and walks over to her as she’s making the stencil. “Natasha,” he says, trying not to pout.

“Have you had lunch?” she asks him, not looking up. “You should go to Steve’s and get an apple turnover or something, and coffee.”

He makes a face. “I don't think caffeine is a good idea,” he says.

“So get me a coffee,” she says. “Do you want anything, Kate?”

The customer, Kate, shakes her head. “I hate coffee,” she says.

“I’ll get you a hot chocolate,” Bucky says.

Kate laughs. “Okay.”

“Bye Nat,” he says.

“Don’t call me that,” she says.

“Sorry,” he says, “Tasha.”

“Better,” she says on a nod.

He approaches Tony at the front desk. “I’m getting lunch and some other stuff from Steve’s, do you want anything?”

“Oh my god yes,” Tony says. “Get me some of Maria’s muffins okay? And coffee, like, a huge one, Steve knows what I like.”

He opens the till and hands Bucky some money.

“Oh, no, I have - ” he starts awkwardly.

“Don't make this weird,” Tony says, waving the notes at him. “Business expense, and Steve gives us a discount anyway.”

Bucky takes the money gingerly and puts it in his pocket. “I’ll be back.”

“You better be!” Tony calls after him as he walks out into the sun.

 

 

The errand does him good, so by the time he’s walking across the street to pick up Sam, he’s feeling excited instead of terrified. When he sees Sam, everything ramps up, and he has a momentary urge to run.

Then Sam smiles at him, and Bucky realizes it’s butterflies.

He smiles back. “Are you ready to go?”

Sam pats his pockets and nods. “Wanda is going to close up tonight.”

She smiles knowingly at him and waves. “Have fun,” she says sweetly.

He can feel himself blushing but before he can reply, Sam takes his arm. “None of that,” he warns her, “let’s go.”

“It’s a bit of a train ride,” he tells Sam as they walk towards the station, “but I’m hoping it’ll be worth it.”

“I don’t mind,” Sam says, smiling. He hasn’t let go of Bucky’s arm so Bucky gently pulls away. Sam doesn’t object, just keeps smiling. “Are you going to tell me where we’re going or is it meant to be a surprise?”

“Oh, of course,” Bucky says, shaking his head, “The Met Cloisters is having a wine tasting, and I’ve sort of remembered that our first date was flowers? At a garden? And I’ve put together that it was your thing, and there’s research to suggest that smell and taste can help with memories and I don't think I’ve ever been so - ”

“Hey, hey,” Sam says, stopping him with a hand on the shoulder. “Stop, breathe, it’s okay.”

Bucky stops and takes a breath. “I’m just nervous, it’s starting to feel like a date.”

“It’s not,” Sam assures him. “We can do something else if you want, we can turn around and I can take you home if that’s what you want. No expectations right?”

Bucky nods. “No expectations,” he repeats, then he looks at Sam, “I really want to do this. With you. I want you to be there.”

Sam grins. “That’s good,” he says. “Let’s pick up some food on the way though, because I’m starving.”

Bucky is surprised into laughter. “Actually, me too.”

“Good,” Sam says. “Let me take you to dinner, there's this place just up here, Juniper Bar, they make amazing burgers.”

Fifteen minutes later, Bucky finds himself marvelling that their burgers are indeed truly amazing.

“Have we come here before?”

Sam shakes his head, his mouth full. When he swallows, he looks at Bucky, “I used to come here when I lived in Harlem, but now it’s just enough out of my way that I don't make it up this far.”

“It’s good,” he replies. “I think I’d like to come back.”

Sam grins at him and goes back to his burger.

The train ride is long, and despite their silence, Bucky isn’t uncomfortable. He watches the houses pass by, the trees in full bloom, and the people that board on and off. Sam doesn’t seem too bothered by the silence either, content to sit and people watch with him.

“It’s this way,” Bucky says gesturing for Sam when they come off the train. It’s a short walk to the entry, and by the time they get there it’s easy to distinguish where the wine tasting is going to be, from the signs and the people heading in one direction.

They make their way to one of the benches and a man approaches them, holding out a bottle of wine.

He pours a small amount for them, so Bucky swirls it and smells, then drinks it, as the man explains what they are supposed to be tasting. He looks at Sam and he looks just as oblivious.

“Do you taste the hint of sandalwood and strawberries?” the man asks.

Sam shakes his head and Bucky tries not to laugh. Sam catches his eye and grins back. “Let’s move on,” he says.

They do and the same thing happens. This one is made of pineapple apparently, and still, Bucky isn’t too impressed.

“I’ll be honest,” Sam says. “I don't know much about wine.”

“Me either,” Bucky says, relieved, “I was hoping, I don't know, not this. Do you wanna get out of here? Look around? The pictures of the grounds that came up on the internet were amazing.”

Sam grins. “Yes,” he says. “I’ve heard great things about the garden.”

Bucky laughs. “We could go there first.”

They head out and straight into the gardens. The pink pillars are bathed in afternoon sunlight, the garden blazing and bright.

Bucky looks around him, at the crisscrossed paths, the covered corridors and the art further inside the rooms. There aren’t too many people wandering around, and Sam manages to go around everything twice, carefully stepping over the uneven ground, before he notices Bucky lingering by one of the doorways.

He rejoins him and they make their way in. They walk in to see a giant fireplace and several tapestries of unicorns. Sam catches Bucky frowning at them and turning in a circle to take them all in.

“What the hell,” Bucky says.

Sam laughs. “I dunno man,” he says, “Unicorns right? I’m not interpreting this wrong?”

“No,” he says cautiously, “unless we're both wrong.”

Sam approaches the first plaque and looks around the room again. “They’re part of a series,” he says, “the Hunt of the Unicorn.”

Bucky raises his eyebrows in appreciation. “That’s some dedication.”

Sam smiles at that. “Yeah.”

They wander into another room with tapestries, another series by the looks of it, and then into a spacious room with stained glass windows overlooking the river. Bucky's eyes widen and he gets closer to the windows, almost pressing his nose to the glass. “I wonder if we can go out from this side.”

Sam shrugs. “Let’s go have a look,” he says, leading the way back outside to the hallways surrounding the garden.

They walk past an open room with brickwork walls and pillars only to be met with a door to another room, on the north side of the building. They wander around for a few minutes, looking at paintings of animals, most notably a lion and a dragon, and then find themselves in the second room, where there is a giant hanging cross.

Sam can feel himself making a face, and he hears Bucky laugh.

“What?” he asks.

“Not very religious I see,” Bucky replies..

Sam smiles despite himself. “No, not really, not anymore.”

“I’d like to hear that story one day,” Bucky says, “but not today.”

Sam nods, his smile going soft. “I’d like that,” then his eyes catch the sunlight. “This way,” he says, and grabs Bucky’s arm to direct him to the open doorway.

He gasps when he gets there. It's another cloister, smaller than the central one, and with potted plants, but the sun is shining through the clear ceiling.

“They have another one,” he sighs.

Bucky laughs. “Yeah, didn't I mention that?”

“No! You definitely did not,” Sam says.

They spend some time there. Bucky takes a seat on a wooden bench and watches Sam take it all in. He can hear Bucky shift every once in a while, but he can’t bring himself to leave yet. “Next time I’m bringing a camera,” he says, “for reference.”

“Of course,” Bucky says, smiling, “but I was hoping next time we could go somewhere else.”

Sam smiles and doesn’t let himself hope. “Let’s go,” he says, “I think the way outside is this way.”

He leads Bucky back into the first room, the one with dragon painting, and down some stairs into another chapel like hall.

He tries not to let his displeasure show at the coffins and statues, instead turning to the high stained glass windows. To his surprise, Bucky grabs his arm and leads him through another door.

“I think the terrace is out this way,” he says, so Sam follows him.

They are met with the sun low on the horizon, round and orange as they leave the stairwell. They step out into the warm air.

“Wow,” Bucky breathes, walking to the edge, looking down at the river and then up at the sun. “Have we done this before?”

Sam shakes his head, his breath just as taken as Bucky’s.

“Have you ever?” Bucky presses.

Sam shakes his head and leans on the balustrade, unable to speak. Bucky does the same, relaxes on his elbows and they watch the sun go down in silence. Sam had really enjoyed the museum but this, standing next to Bucky, just being with him, is different.

He had been planning to say so, but Bucky speaks first.

“Everything is wrong, Sam,” he says gently, almost a sigh. “I’m afraid I might have ruined it all.”

“Nothing is wrong,” he replies, “you haven’t ruined anything. I maybe shouldn’t have pushed so hard, at the start.”

“No, I just - I realize now that I have feelings for you,” he says, every word weighed carefully. “And I was scared, I couldn't figure out what was happening with me.”

“You were injured,” he says, “you’re allowed to be confused - ”

“Sam,” Bucky interrupts, “let me finish.”

Sam bites his lower lip and nods.

Bucky looks away again, at the setting sun.

“When I talked with my sister, she said that I should maybe look at why I was so overwhelmed when I was with you, and not with anyone else, and it wasn't to do with the apartment, or my memories, because when I saw you at the store, when you came in - Sam, I think I still love you,” he says in a rush. “I was hoping, if you’d let me, I’d like to go out with you, for real, on a date, we could take it slow. I mean, I might not get all my memories back, ever, but I know I’d like to make new ones with you, if you could accept that, if you could accept me.”

They’re quiet for a while and Bucky finally looks at Sam expectantly. “Are you finished? Can I talk now?” Sam asks, unable to keep the grin away.

“Yes,” Bucky says emphatically, laughing.

“Of course, you doofus,” he says, “haven’t you been listening? I love you, and if you never remember our first year, then so what? I want to be with you for as long as you’ll have me, for as much as you want me. I just want to be with you.”

Bucky smiles and looks away, but not before Sam catches the blush on his cheeks.

The sun is almost gone when a uniformed attendant comes up and tells them the museum is closing in 10 minutes.

“Come on,” Bucky says, nudging Sam with his hip, “I’ll take you home.”

 

 

The train ride home is less silent. They make plans for more outings, Bucky leans into Sam more and he’s content. He can’t believe he hadn’t realized before, all that time trying to swallow his feelings when it can be so much better.

“It would’ve made more sense for you to just get off at an earlier station,” Sam says, as they walk into their building.

“I know,” Bucky says, “but I’m enjoying this. I wasn't ready for the night to end.”

“What about now?” Sam asks.

Bucky hesitates outside Sam’s door. Sam pauses with him. Technically this isn't a date. Bucky had insisted on it.

But now everything has changed.

“Are you all right?” Sam asks him.

Bucky nods then looks up. “I would really like to kiss you,” he says, “I mean, I know that’s not - I know I said - and I still think - ”

“Bucky,” Sam says softly, interrupting him, “I would really like it if you kiss me too.”

“But we decided - ” Bucky says.

“You decided,” Sam says, “and I agreed, but you can change your mind, and I’ll continue to agree.”

“That doesn't sound right,” Bucky says, feeling his face fall.

“It’s what I want,” Sam says, “I’m a grown up and I love you, so whatever you decide, I will agree too, because I want you to be happy.”

“I don’t know what that is,” he says, the easiness of the evening falling away. “I shouldn't have said anything.”

He starts to turn away but Sam stops him with a hand to his elbow. “Bucky,” he says, smiling gently. Everything about Sam's gentle. “If you want to kiss me, then kiss me, and then you can think about whether it was a good or bad idea.”

Bucky’s lips quirk up against his will. He leans forward and kisses Sam softly.

It isn’t life changing. His memories don’t come rushing back like he's half-expecting them to do. But his heart beats against his chest. He licks his lips and doesn’t meet Sam’s eyes.

“So?” Sam asks, “Good, bad?”

Bucky swallows. “Not … bad,” he says. “I think I’d like to do it again.”

Sam grins and leans in himself, putting a little more force into the kiss, licking open Bucky’s mouth and Bucky lets him. He wants more, he pulls Sam’s whole body against him, and he has to lean back against the wall, planting his leg between Sam’s thighs.

Sam shifts his hips and Bucky gasps with the friction. “Oh,” he sighs, and it’s like a switch comes on. Sam jumps away, as suddenly as if he’d been burned.

“Sorry,” he says, “sorry, space, we should take it slow - ”

It takes Bucky a second to register what’s happening but then he shakes his head, grabbing Sam’s shirt again. “No,” he says, “No, that was good, let’s go back to doing that.”

Sam still looks unsure, so Bucky pulls him close again.

“If you want to stop - ” Sam says, bracing his hands on the wall either side of Bucky’s head.

“I won’t,” Bucky says, moving to Sam’s neck.

“If you change your mind - ”

“I’ll let you know,” Bucky murmurs, then, “I’d like to go inside.”

Sam’s eyes widen slightly and he fumbles to unlock the door.

Bucky follows Sam inside and closes the door behind them.

“Here?” Sam asks.

“Bed,” Bucky says, so Sam takes Bucky’s hand and leads him inside.

“You moved the bed,” Bucky says, sitting down on it.

“Yeah,” Sam says, “is that - ”

“No,” Bucky says, lying down and pulling Sam on top of him. He puts his arms around Sam’s neck and goes back to kissing. Bucky feels like they could make out for hours but he can’t keep still, he wraps his fingers around Sam’s arms, then runs his hands up his shoulders, and then around his back, and down his waist, holding onto his hips and pulling him closer.

He slides his hands under Sam’s shirt, wanting to feel skin under his fingers. Sam moans into his mouth so Bucky moves his hands further up, pushing the shirt out of the way so he can pinch at Sam’s nipples.

Sam gasps and pulls away, bracing his knees on the mattress to take off his shirt. Bucky can’t help but stare. Sam is beautiful.

Sam notices Bucky’s wandering gaze and grins smugly at him.

“Like what you see?”

“Come here,” Bucky says, wanting to get hands on Sam again. “Gorgeous,” he mutters. “Amazing.”

“You’re not so bad yourself,” Sam says, kissing down Bucky’s neck again, biting at the sensitive spot just under his ear.

“Sam,” he moans, pushing his head into the mattress.

He realizes he’s wearing way too many clothes, he needs Sam to touch him everywhere, so he fumbles with his own shirt and pulls it off, almost getting tangled in the sleeves. He has a moment of self-consciousness, until he sees the look in Sam’s eye.

He laughs softly. “You’ve seen this before,” he points out, then frowns, “right?”

“Yes, I know, and yet I am still overcome by your beauty.”

Bucky smirks. “Overcome, huh?”

“Shut up,” Sam says, and leans in again, biting Bucky’s shoulder, just where the wing tattoo starts.

“It’s really not fair,” he says, “you know me too well. I want more, Sam -” he fumbles with Sam’s pants.

“Are you sure?” Sam asks, hiding his face in Bucky’s shoulder, breathing heavily.

And Bucky knows, if he wanted to, they could stop right now and Sam wouldn’t hold it against him. That only makes him want Sam more.

“Yes,” he says, “I am so sure, the most sure, don't make me beg for it, Sam.”

“Well, we can’t have that,” Sam says, and Bucky grins, hooking a leg around Sam’s and flipping them over. He undoes Sam’s pants and pulls them down.

He looks up at Sam’s face through his lashes and takes him into his mouth.

Sam sighs softly, so Bucky keeps going. He’s surprised by how easy this is, he just stops thinking and lets his instincts take over. One hand on Sam’s hip, one around his dick, his tongue flat, his jaw soft. Sam, for his part, tangles his hands in Bucky’s long hair, not pushing or pulling, just holding on, moaning Bucky’s name and gasping softly. But Bucky isn't ready for it to be over. He slips two fingers into his mouth alongside Sam’s cock and pulls them out to rub soft circles over Sam’s hole.

He slips one finger in and Sam thrust upwards almost involuntarily. “Bucky, what - ”

“I want to - ” he starts, and pulls up further. “Do you have …”

“Lube?” Sam tries. “Condoms?”

“Both,” Bucky says.

Sam reaches over to his nightstand and rummages around in the top drawer. “You’re overdressed, don’t you think?”

Bucky smiles and takes off his pants, squeezing his own dick a little to relieve some of the pressure. He has plans still. He climbs back up and pushes Sam’s knees up.

“You good?” he asks and Sam nods, his eyes dark and watching. Bucky covers his fingers with the lube and gets to work, stroking Sam a couple of times and then sliding one slippery finger inside.

Sam breathes in and then relaxes all at once. Bucky can tell he’s trying to keep his breathing even as Bucky works up to two fingers and then three, but his grip on the sheets is telling.

“Bucky,” he gasps, “if you’re gonna do this, now's the time.”

Bucky looks at him and nods. He slicks his dick and moves up into Sam’s arms, lining himself up and sliding in slowly, so slowly, until they settle.

He kisses Sam softly. “Breathe,” Bucky reminds him.

Sam smiles at him, gasping a little. “Move,” he says.

So Bucky does, pulls out and thrusts in slowly, making Sam moan in ecstasy. It's easy to fall into a rhythm, but before long the rhythm is falling apart, becoming erratic as Sam pulled at him, winding his legs around Bucky and moving with him.

“Sam,” Bucky moans, a warning.

“Touch me,” Sam replies, breathless.

So Bucky squeezes his hand between them and strokes Sam, once, twice and Sam is coming. He strokes Sam through it, not stopping his own thrusts as everything becomes tighter and he sees stars, his vision whiting out.

When it’s over and he can breathe again, he rolls off Sam to lie on his back.

“Wow,” he sighs.

“Yeah,” agrees Sam. “I haven’t done that before.”

“What?” Bucky asks, turning to him, coming up to one elbow to look at Sam’s face, “We never - ”

“No, we did,” Sam says, “just never this way round.”

“Next time,” Bucky says, rolling off the bed.

“Next time?” Sam asks, watching Bucky’s naked ass go into the bathroom and come back a second later with a warm washcloth.

“Yeah,” Bucky agrees, “I think I’d like to try the old way.”

 

 

It’s December and Bucky is excited. He can see the doubt on Steve’s face but, really, what is there to worry about?

He puts on his skates and joins Sam on the ice.

“You sure you’re up for this?” Sam asks him, following him on wobbly legs.

“I don’t even remember the accident,” Bucky calls out to him, circling back to him and coming to a graceful stop, “and it looks like I’m not the one that needs to watch out.”

Sam’s eyebrows go up. “You are so gonna get it,” he says, holding his hands out, “just you wait till I reach you.”

Bucky skates backwards a little, watching Steve and Tony skate by them with a last look their way.

“You take your time,” he says to Sam, who's still trying to move forward. He suddenly stumbles but Bucky is close enough to catch him. “You okay?”

Sam nods into Bucky’s chest. “I might need you to literally hold my hand.”

Bucky helps him stand up straight and loops their arms together. “Come on,” he says, “I can show you the world.”

“Please don't,” Sam says, now gliding easily with Bucky by his side.

“Shining shimmering - ”

“Don't make me pull you down with me,” Sam says.

“You wouldn't.”

“Try me,” he replies, “sing some more Disney.”

“I was actually hoping to talk about something else,” Bucky says, trying to sound casual.

“Oh?” Sam asks, frowning at him, “what’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Bucky reassures, “I promise, I was just wondering actually, if - if I could move back in, if you’ll have me.”

“You wanna move home?”

“Yes?” he says, looking away, into the distance. “I mean I spend most of my time over there anyway, and it feels right, you know?”

“Yes,” Sam says, “I do know. I thought you’d never ask.”

“You were expecting it?”

“Of course,” Sam says, now stopping on the ice to look at Bucky. “Don't you get it? Being with you feels like coming home.”

Bucky smiles and leans into kiss Sam, a moment of warmth in the freezing cold.