Bucky was lying in the center of the plush, oversized bed he and Clint had purchased together, surrounded on all sides by opened and unopened boxes. The wealth of knowledge he’d acquired in his time as both a Russian assassin and an agent for SHIELD turned out to be particularly useful to the University of Iowa’s History Department, and he was in the process, at the moment, of red-inking his way through his first fat stack of essays.
Clint had turned to him one day and asked if he was happy in New York. Not particularly, Bucky had replied; he liked it well enough, but it seemed some days as though he were chasing after his past self, looking for some trace of who he used to be in the sight of the Brooklyn Bridge, all lit up at night. He found the new New York overwhelming and, more often than not, exhausting.
Clint wanted a farm, and he wanted to go home, and he wanted Bucky to come with him. Something about Iowa, he’d dreamily replied when Bucky had asked him why. Something about it just sticks in you: the memory of a sunset or something over some huge, endless field, twinkling with fireflies. The shape of a silo out on the horizon. I don’t know. It sticks in you.
So they’d left the city, and they were renovating an old farmhouse. Bucky would come home most evenings just as the workers were leaving, sweaty and dusty from the work of the day, Clint chattering among them, equally dirtied and grinning.
Clint was coming now up the staircase - the awful, wickedly creaky staircase that he promised he would get around to soon. He was dressed in his work clothes: the dirty Levi’s, the paint-stained History Department t-shirt that hugged him around the arms and waist, the dusty baseball cap. He’d left his mud-caked boots downstairs, and the sight of him in their bedroom in his socked, vulnerable feet did something to Bucky.
“C’mere,” he said, setting the pile of essays on the bedside table.
Clint smiled and went to him, tucking one leg between Bucky’s, settling comfortably down on top of him when Bucky sank back into their too-many pillows.
“How’d it go today?” Bucky murmured, smoothing his hands up and down Clint’s sides, delighting in the weight of him, in how Clint went easily down into Bucky’s arms without holding himself up over him, accustomed by now to Bucky’s strength and not at all intimidated by it.
“Got the siding all done. We’re gonna start on the trim tomorrow. It’s comin’ together real nice.”
“‘It’s comin’ together reeeeal nice,’” Bucky teased, elongating all the vowels. “Farmboy.”
“You making fun of me, Barnes?”
“What’re you gonna do about it?”
“Ungrateful,” Clint sighed, shaking his head in feigned disapproval. He took off the baseball cap - leaving his hair sticking up in all directions - and pressed his mouth to the sweet, sensitive spot beneath Bucky’s ear. “You’ve been sitting in that fancy, air conditioned college building all day,” Clint murmured, tilting Bucky’s head back and kissing the underside of his jaw. “While I’ve been sweating in the sun trying to build us our dream house. I just don't know what to say.”
Bucky chuckled and moaned. “Your efforts are greatly appreciated. And you’re right, you do smell.”
“I warned you. Come shower with me.”
Bucky went back into the bathroom, hanging his shirt and slacks for the day on the door, and stepped around Clint to spit his toothpaste into the sink. “What’s up?” he said, standing upright again, rinsing off his toothbrush, and looking at Clint in the mirror.
“I found a gray hair,” Clint whined, pouting at his reflection. “No - two gray hairs.”
“I think it’s kinda sexy,” Bucky said. “Very Reed Richards.”
“Is that who you think about when we’re having sex?”
“It is now.”
Clint snorted. Bucky went about washing his face while Clint went yawning and stretching into the adjacent bedroom. “It’s not fair,” he called out to Bucky. “I’m going gray and you look like James Dean.”
“Is that who you think about when we’re having sex?”
“Remember that time we saw East of Eden at the black and white theater, and you started getting all handsy-”
“Say no more.”
“So many conflicting feelings. So many.”
“I forgot to tell you, a letter came yesterday.”
“Our first piece of mail?! Exciting!”
”Very. Hopefully it’s not laced with cyanide. Someone named Maxime? I left it on the kitchen counter.”
Clint went downstairs without another word, the stairs creaking with every footfall. Bucky finished up in the bathroom, dressed himself for work, and made the bed, all while sidestepping cardboard boxes of varying sizes.
“We’ve gotta finish unpacking,” he called out, creaking his way down the staircase. “At least in the rooms upstairs. It's like sleeping in a storage locker.”
Clint had opened the letter. He was reading it in the middle of their massive, unfinished kitchen, leaning his hip against the island and drenched in the dusty morning sunlight.
Bucky curled his arm around Clint’s waist and kissed him on the cheek. “Who’s Maxime?” he asked offhandedly, going over to the only working appliance in their kitchen and making coffee for the two of them.
“Maxime is, um... She’s... She’s my kid.”
“I didn't know you had a daughter.”
Clint let out a heavy sigh, flopping down next to Bucky on the couch in their otherwise empty living room. He’d hurried out of the house that morning before Bucky could come at him with a hundred questions. “We don't talk a lot these days,” he said reluctantly.
“You and me, or you and your daughter?”
“Please don’t. Not now.”
“Then when? Am I supposed to never bring up how you have not once mentioned you're a father?”
“Can we please, please talk about something else?” Clint begged him, shuffling around on the couch to straddle Bucky’s lap. “I’ve been putting down hardwood flooring all day.”
“And it looks great-”
“But, Clint, why is this just now coming up? What are you not telling me?”
Clint kissed him until he melted back into the cushions, giving up on the conversation with an annoyed sort of groan and then fitting his hands around Clint’s hips and kissing him back with mounting fervor. “You keep trying to use sex as a way to get out of arguments.”
“Were we having an argument?”
“You tell me,” Bucky challenged, kissing his way down Clint's neck, hands slipping up underneath Clint's t-shirt and taking him roughly by the waist.
“I can't tell if you're angry,” Clint said helplessly. “Your words sound angry but you aren't acting very angry.”
“Should I be?”
“Are you gaslighting me? Is that what’s happening here?”
“I tend to be more aggressive when I’m trying to wear someone down.”
“This is true.”
Bucky put his hands under Clint's thighs and guided them up around his waist as he stood, carrying Clint in his arms as if he were light as air and kissing him greedily all the way to their downstairs guest bedroom.
“I wasn't trying to hide anything,” Clint explained between breathless kisses, arms and legs locked tightly around Bucky. “I just wasn't ready to talk about it.”
“I get that.”
Bucky laid him out on the bare mattress, going willingly when Clint fisted both hands in his jacket and pulled him down.
It hadn't been like this in a while: this rough and desperate, the two of them grabbing at one another like they couldn't get enough. Already Bucky was grinding down into him. Already Clint was flushed and panting for it.
“You feel so good,” Clint gasped, all the air leaving his lungs in a surprised rush when Bucky flipped him onto his stomach.
“We’re not done talking,” Bucky breathed against the back of his neck, tugging Clint’s pants down. “Consider this a hiatus.”
Clint writhed against the sheets, pressing his forehead into the mattress and pushing back into Bucky’s hands. “Fine,” he sighed airily.
“Me and her mom were super young - way too young. It was totally unplanned. And then her mother met some Frenchman and moved to Marseille, and I haven’t seen either of them since. Apparently, she’s on this thing right now about ‘discovering her roots.’ Her mom said she went to India last summer to find herself, and now she’s, uh.. she’s coming here. To meet me. Wants to get coffee.”
“Did you tell her we live in middle-of-nowhere-Iowa?”
“Yeah, she’s flying into Des Moines. I’m gonna drive out to meet her.”
“She need a place to stay?”