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Storge

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Storge (Family Love): Liking someone through the fondness of familiarity, family members or people who relate in familiar ways that have otherwise found themselves bonded by chance.


 

“So, I was thinking…” Sam said one night. He couldn’t count how many days it had been since Steve’s breakdown but the blonde had come out of the shower put together and had tucked the cracks in his façade away neatly.

Sam could still see it because Sam was trained to see it and being with Steve almost every day helped a lot but Sam couldn’t in good conscience let Steve continue this way and he had the perfect way to get Steve to actually acquiesce: some good, old-fashioned guilt. Ethical? Probably not. Effective? More than likely.

“Yeah?” Steve replied distractedly as he sifted through the documents of the latest HYDRA base they’d taken down. There was nothing on Barnes or the Winter Soldier experiments but there was a lot about some of HYDRA’s past covert operations, maybe some insight into their current ones and possible intel about any moles that might still exist in deep cover within any major world operations.

“I was thinking of heading to New York next, Harlem to be specific.”

“I didn’t see anything about HYDRA connections in Harlem in the reports.”

“There’s not, there’s something much scarier.” Sam replied gravely. Steve looked at him with interest and concern.

“My mom. Well, most of my family really save for some of my extended relatives.” Steve gave Sam a look at that.

“That wasn’t funny.”

“I thought so. You looked so concerned. All ready to run off and throw your mighty shield at something. It was kind of hot, actually. Your jaw clenches when you’re gearing up for a fight. It’s a lot for any man to handle.”

“Stop.” Steve replied, a blush dusting his cheeks lightly. Sam chuckled, he really was too easy.

“In all seriousness, my mom’s birthday is coming up and I haven’t seen her in a while. I want to surprise her. Preferably with an expensive gift from overseas, show my brother and sister up.” Steve chuckled lightly, shaking his head.

“I’m sure we can find something around here in Giza that isn’t too touristy but flashy enough to make you the favorite for the time being. And I’ll call Nat or Maria, see if they want to meet up while you’re gone.”

“One: I’m always the favorite. Perks of being the baby. Two: maybe I wasn’t clear but you’re coming with me.”

“Huh?”

“Can you imagine the points I’ll rack up if I bring an awesome gift and a national hero home? I’ll be set for at least two birthdays. Plus, you can talk all the baseball you want with my dad so it benefits you too. Well, other than giving you a much-needed break.”

“Sam—”

“Taking a break is not giving up. In fact, it’s better to take a step back and revisit this after you detox a bit. It’ll make things clearer.”

“Sam—”

“And you’ve never been to Harlem before. How does that happen? How do you live in New York in the 20s and 30s as an artist and not go to Harlem?”

“Sam—”

“That was a rhetorical question but either way, I can show you around the neighborhood and despite what I said in the beginning, my family’s really not that bad. They’ll love you… probably. I hope.”

“Sam, if you’d let me speak I would’ve told you that I agree. I think I could use a break.”

“Oh.” Sam said lamely as Steve looked at him with an amused smile.

“Really? You? You’re okay taking a break?”

“Yeah.”

“You sure you haven’t been kidnapped and replaced by a HYDRA bot? Because this is taking considerably less coercion than I thought it would.” Steve chuckled again in response.

“You know, I like to think you know me well enough by now to know I’m not as high-strung as most people think I am.”

“Oh, I know. Your three settings are warrior of justice, uptight goody-two-shoes and snarky asshole. Interesting and slightly contradictory. By the way, I haven’t fully forgiven you for how we met.”

“Forgiven me? It’s not my fault you run at a snail's pace. I think I could feel the Earth spinning waiting for you to catch up."

"Like I said, an asshole. And this is not helping you in the forgiveness department." Steve shrugged lightly.

"I'm sure I'll figure something out."

"Careful, you might give me bad ideas." Sam replied easily.

Sometimes Steve casually flirted with him and Sam didn't even know if he knew when he was doing it. Steve knew Sam was gay and Steve was... not entirely straight was the extent of Sam's knowledge there but Sam knew Steve’s flirting was in jest. Steve was definitely in love with Barnes. Sam had read a whole reddit thread about it. They presented some compelling evidence but Steve hadn't said anything about it, not yet anyway.

"So, Harlem? Few days from now?"

"We're on."

"Great."

They arrived at Harlem a few days later with little fanfare or problems. Despite the 10-hour flight, Sam was practically buzzing with energy. In truth, he hadn’t seen his family in a while and he knew he’d hear about that, but he was happy and nervous. He had only talked sparingly to his family since he ran off with Steve. They made comments here and there but he wasn’t entirely sure what their reactions would be.

Their hotel room was a room with two beds so it was fine. It wasn’t so strange considering they’d spent the last few months practically on top of each other. Sam didn’t want to fall into some pseudo co-dependent relationship with Steve and he genuinely did want some time to just marinate in being home, so once they settled in he directed Steve to set them up in their room and then meet him for lunch later on.

The neighborhood was different from when he grew up but having visited it fairly recently, it wasn’t as much of a shock and a surprise to see the differences. Lenox Lounge was shut down. Small’s Paradise was turned into an IHOP. There were a number of new yoga studios and vegan bakeries which Sam never thought to see on this side of Manhattan. Harlem’s Paradise was still standing though, and so was Pop’s Barbershop.

As he walked inside the barbershop he could already hear Pop, Fish, Chico and Shameek debating basketball greats.

“You know that Russian kid they drafted? He better be good.” He heard Pop say.

“He's Latvian.” Fish corrected in a distracted tone. Sam could tell he was probably playing chess again, probably against himself.

“What they need to do is fire Phil Jackson.” Shameek said.

“Wait a minute, Phil Jackson ain't out there playing no more.” Pop pointed out.

“Phil Jackson overrated, B. Anybody can win with Jordan and Kobe."

“Phil ain't no Pat Riley.” Pop replied. Sam chuckled to himself as all the other occupants groaned.

“Aw, Riley, again?” Chico asked incredulously.

“Damn right.” Pop said, admiration clear in his voice. Sam decided then was as good a time as any to make an entrance.

“Now Pop, what does the rules on that wall say?” Sam asked walking in with a large smile on his face, pointing to the sign on the wall with the rules of the shop, NO SWEARING, standing out in bold red letters.

“Boy’s right, Henry. That’s a dollar in the can.” Fish said as Pop approached Sam with a jovial laugh and a hug.

“Look who decided he wasn’t too big for Harlem after all.”

“Looks like it’s Harlem that’s getting too big for us.” Sam replied, reciprocating the hug before giving Shameek a dap and pulling Chico into a headlock. Damn, they were getting big. Which meant the trouble they were getting into was probably big too but Sam hadn’t come to give a lecture.

“You know how it is. Boone’s talking high and mighty about fixing Harlem up with this and that, acting like we don’t know it isn’t supposed to be for us. I got just enough to hang on though.” Pop replied. Sam smiled in return. Pop somehow had a way of making even the darkest things a little brighter. He had been a boon when Sam's father was shot trying to break up a gang-related fight and they weren't sure whether or not he would live.

“So, what you come here for?” Shameek asked in his usual abrasive tone.

“Nothing from you. I want a proper cut and I know I ain’t getting it in your chair.” Sam replied teasingly as Shameek kissed his teeth at him.

“I just want to get a shape-up, Pop. I’m surprising Mama today for her birthday.”

“Now, you know full well Darlene hates surprises.” Pop said, dusting off a chair for Sam to sit down.

“I figure the gold and crystal will make up for that. And if you mention that to anyone, Meek, I’m going to drag you all up and down 125th. Don’t think I won’t.”

“Why you talking to me, man? What about Chico?” Shameek complained.

“You the one with the big mouth, not me.” Chico replied teasingly.

“Fuck you, man.”

“Swear jar.” Pop ordered. Sam chuckled as Shameek groaned but put the dollar in the swear jar anyway.

Pop was quick about giving him his shape-up while they talked and caught up about what had been going on in Sam’s absence.

“Thanks again, Pop.”

“Don’t even mention it, young’un.” Pop replied as Sam paid him. Before he could feel too good about the endearment Shameek spoke.

“If you’re still around later, maybe we could hit up Rucker. If you still got it anyway, old man. I’m not trying to have you break your back along with your ankles.” Sam rolled his eyes and opened his mouth to retort when a voice stopped him.

“Oh please boy, you still throwing those fly balls you call three-pointers?” Sam turned at that and felt himself freeze internally as Misty stood in the doorway, her hair in its usual curly afro wearing clothes he assumed meant she was on the clock.

“Well, don’t look too much like you’ve seen a ghost.” She said upon noticing Sam’s stare.

“A benevolent one, I hope.” Sam replied carefully, standing up and approaching her. He wasn’t sure how she’d receive him considering how they left things. She rolled her eyes and pulled him close by his shoulders, looping him into a hug.

“We can dispense of the metaphor now and you can just hug me and find out.” Sam chuckled before wrapping his arms around her waist, holding her tightly.

“Your police contacts are that tight? ‘Cause that was quick, girl.” Fish quipped.

“News still travels fast in Harlem, you know that. When I heard it was Sam, I figured I was close by anyway. Might as well drop by.” Sam met Misty’s eyes briefly before looking away. Something about them always got to him, even now after all these years. It was a kind of anxious, falling feeling. Though dulled from the distance and the unspoken words between them, it was still there.

“You’re not busy, are you?” Misty asked.

“I don’t have to meet my friend for another half an hour. We’re having lunch at the Tavern.”

“I’ll walk you there. We can talk.”

“Ooh.” Shameek and Chico chorused. Sam rolled his eyes and flipped them off behind his back.

“Pop.” Shameek said indignantly. Pop shrugged in response.

“The boy didn’t swear.” Sam gave Shameek a wide smile before following Misty outside the shop. They were silent for a while as they walked, the sounds of Harlem continuing around them. It brought back memories of when they were teenagers and it was just them thinking that nothing would ever dampen their love. Neither had yet gone through an identity crisis that it turned out their relationship wouldn’t survive. Neither had seen things that would haunt them and change the fabric of who they were. Neither had been tainted by the world yet.

“You come by for Miss Darlene’s birthday?” Misty asked suddenly.

“Yeah. I wanted to surprise her. It’s been a while since I’ve been back.”

“It certainly has been that.” Sam nodded to himself before deciding to just suck it up and say what he was thinking.

“Listen Misty…”

“Oh, that sounds serious.” She mumbled to herself.

“I just wanted to say that I’m sorry for how things went between us last time we spoke. I was in a lot of denial and pain I didn’t know how to deal with it at the time, being gay, so when you confronted me about… everything, my first reaction was to lash out. I said things I didn’t mean.” Misty looked down for a moment, watching her feet as they continued walking.

“I did too. I wanted to hurt you like I was hurt but I know we were both just growing up and growing apart. I didn’t want you to go over there and you didn’t want me to be an officer and we both had our reasons. Probably would’ve done us some good to actually talk to each other about them. The distance didn’t help that much and you figuring yourself out, your sexuality. I’m sorry I accused you of cheating on me, I know you never would do that. I guess I was just jealous of Riley because I thought I saw something in the way you looked at him that wasn’t there when you looked at me.”

“He was gay but he was just a friend to me, Misty. I swear to that. And I really did love you, you were my first love. I’ll never forget that.”

“You were mine too. And probably my longest relationship which is frankly sad to think about.” She groused, shaking her head.

“Don’t worry, I’m in the same boat.” Sam replied. His love life was a sad state before he met Steve and it wasn’t likely to change with all their globetrotting.

“What? You’re not tearing the DC night scene a new one? You don’t have a trail of men left in puddles in your wake?” Misty asked teasingly. Sam rolled his eyes.

“You think you’re so funny.”

“I do pretty well for myself.” They chatted amicably together as they walked towards The Tavern. Once they reached 116th street, Sam could see Steve sitting at one of the tables outside. He waved at him once he spotted Sam and Sam waved back. Misty stopped up short beside Sam.

“Is that Riley? ‘Cause he gained a lot of muscle.” Sam stopped next to her, only just realizing that Misty wouldn’t know about Riley because Sam didn’t immediately come back to Harlem after and then he only ever visited very briefly after that, determinedly avoiding her when he did.

“No, that’s Steve. Riley died a few years back.” Sam explained, the lump he always got in his throat when he talked about it making itself known.

“Oh. I didn’t know.”

“I know. It’s okay. I mean it’s—”

“You don’t have to explain. I lost my partner a few years back too. I have a new one now and Scarfe’s great, he gets me but it’s— I still… I get it.” Misty replied solemnly. They were silent for a moment before Misty looked up at him with a smirk.

“So, Steve huh? He’s cute, in a guy-you-see-at-the-gym-and-stare-at-for-motivation kind of way. I guess you do have a type. You like ‘em big and blonde, huh?”

“I dated you.” Misty shrugged in response.

“You were a kid and you hadn’t even realized you liked guys yet.”

“I’ll have you know I date a very diverse group of— why am I even explaining this to you? Steve isn’t my boyfriend.” Sam said, cutting himself off.

“So, you just casually hang out with someone who looks like that? You?”

“What are you implying?”

“That if I still know you as well as I think I do, you’re probably salivating over him in your spare time but you’re holding it in because that’s you.”

“Stop it.”

“You’re not denying it.”

“I’m going to walk away. I should walk away. He’s waiting for me.”

“Well, we wouldn’t want to keep your boo waiting. Gimme your phone first.” Sam quizzically pulled out his cell and unlocked it before handing it over. Misty typed in it for a few moments before handing it back.

“My phone number. Call me later so I can have yours.” Sam nodded in acquiescence before smiling as Misty pulled his face down to kiss his cheek.

“Take care of yourself for me.”

“I will.”

“And tap that before someone else does. If you don’t, it’ll be a tragedy.” Misty said teasingly.

“Stop it.” He repeated, laughter in his voice as he watched her walk away. He turned and walked towards Steve who was looking at him curiously.

“Who was that?” He asked as Sam sat down across from him.

“That was Misty. She’s my ex.”

“Oh. You guys…”

“We haven’t seen each other in a while. My fault, I ran away. She knew me too well, told me about myself before I was ready to learn about it. Believe it or not, I used to be almost as emotionally stunted as you. Didn’t like to talk about myself.”

“I talk about myself.” Steve protested.

“To me. I don’t know about everyone else.”

“Well, everyone else seems to think they know me already before they’ve even met me. I don’t correct them. It’s not worth it.”

“I think it’s worth it. People should know the real you, not the you people made up to suit whatever agenda they have.” Sam replied. Steve gave him a soft look before looking away towards the menu in front of him.

“So, when are we gonna go see your family?” Steve asked. Sam could detect the hint of nervousness in his voice. He should be a good friend and be upfront with Steve, at least about his mother, but he was too amused.

“We’ll go later on today. It’ll be fine. My family’s pretty cool. Just your average nuclear family. Nothing too special or different about us. I’m pretty sure I’m the most unconventional one there.” Sam replied. Steve narrowed his eyes at him.

“I don’t know if I believe you.” Sam held a hand to his chest in mock offense.

“How dare you, sir.”

“You’re the same guy who said you were just a pilot.”

“For the last time, I never said I was a pilot. Weren’t you just talking about preconceived notions?” Steve rolled his eyes in response.

“If you’re any indication, I doubt your family is just your normal, everyday family.”

“I don’t know if you mean that in a good way or a bad way.”

“I think I’m going to leave you hanging.”

“Look whose catching on to modern slang.”

“Wikipedia and urban dictionary are both my greatest friends and foes.” Sam chuckled just as the waitress made her way to them.

After a good meal and a quick tour, Sam and Steve found themselves walking down the street side-by-side. When he got to the block his house was on, he paused staring at the brownstone. He could almost envision himself back when he was young, and things were simpler, running up and down the steps with Gideon and Sarah while his mother bustled about inside and his father worked on his car outside.

He snapped out of it as Steve knocked his shoulder against him. Sam glanced over at him where Steve stood smiling at him.

“What?” Sam asked after he didn’t say anything for a while.

“Nothing. It’s just that, you smile a lot but you don’t smile like that.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know, there’s just something… innocent about it.” Sam scoffed at that.

“There’s nothing innocent about me.” Sam quipped flirtatiously before crossing the street to the house. They walked up the stairs, Steve holding the bag with Sam’s gift, and Sam rang the doorbell.

“Okay, just act cool. Or don’t act cool. The last white guy I brought home starting “acting Black” and that didn’t end well for anyone so just be yourself. You’ll be fine.” Steve nodded in response just as the door swung open.

“Well, well. Look who decided to drag his hide to Harlem.” Sarah said after she got over the initial surprise.

“I figured I should bless you guys with my presence every once in a while.”

“And exponentially humbler than you were when you left, I see.” Sarah commented, stepping down to pull Sam into a hug.

“Someone’s gotta be in this family of braggers. Speaking of, my present for mom is totally gonna dwarf yours.” Sam replied teasingly but hugging her back fiercely. He didn’t try to hide how happy he was to see her. He and Sarah had always had a close connection with each other. It helped that they were so close in age, Sarah being only two years older than him where Gideon was seven years older than him. It wasn’t to say they weren’t close to Gideon but he was like a second father for them, a good source of wisdom when they were in trouble or anything and didn’t want their parents finding out but Sam and Sarah got into trouble together and learned together. She was the first person he came out to and he was the first person she told when she got pregnant, both times. Her husband wasn’t exactly pleased Sam knew before him, that fact had amused Sam endlessly.

Sarah pulled back from the hug, her eyes flickering over to Steve.

“As far as presents go, he’s pretty but I don’t think Dad will let her keep him. I might though.” Sam didn’t have to glance back to know Steve was blushing deeply, the smirk on Sarah’s face told him all he needed to know.

“This is Steve. Steve, this is my sister Sarah.” Steve stepped closer and held out his hand to the woman.

“It’s really nice to meet you. Sam talks about you all the time.”

“He better. He mentions you a lot too.” Sarah said, shaking his hand, before glancing at Sam.

“You said he was hotter in person but I thought you were exaggerating.” She commented before walking into the house, motioning them to follow. Sam rolled his eyes at his sister’s attempt to embarrass him. He glanced over at Steve who gave him a questioning look. Sam shrugged in response before walking into the house, leaving Steve to follow and close the door behind him.

“I found a stray on the stoop, Mom.” Sarah called through the house. Sam walked to the kitchen where he knew his mother probably was.

"Hi Mama." He said, poking his head into the kitchen. His mother turned around with a wide smile on her face.

"Boy, you finally decided to drag your hide home." Darlene said as Sam walked over to her pulling her into a hug.

"It's your birthday, of course I came. I brought company." Sam said, motioning for Steve to join them.

"Steve, meet my Mama: Colonel Darlene Wilson." Steve gave Sam a look at that.

"Colonel?"

"Did I forget to mention that part?" Sam asked lightly before his mother spoke.

"Captain America." She said in a stern voice.

"Colonel." Steve replied in a formal tone. Sam was sure he'd salute if he didn't have the bag and its delicate and expensive contents in his hands.

"Ma'am is fine for now."

"Of course, Ma’am."

"You're the man my son has chosen to run off with then?"

"Uh, I—"

"These kids used to run around, tearing up my living room thanks to that awful kids' show they made of you and now you're the man that's got my baby leaving his job high and dry to run around the world chasing Nazis with those damn wings of his.” Darlene switched her gaze momentarily from Steve to Sam then.

“Fort Meade called me about that by the way. With as many favors as I had to call in for you, you are nowhere close to being off the hook, boy."

"Mama, his name's Steve and stop scaring him. Especially since he has your present which, I think, will make up for the whole Fort Meade fiasco. Other than, you know, saving the world from a Nazi cult’s reign of tyranny." Darlene gave him an unimpressed look so Sam nodded for Steve to hand over the small bag. His mother pulled the gold and crystalline figurine out of the bag before smiling broadly.

"A sphinx?"

"Yup, got it straight from Giza on our last trip. I thought you could put it on your memory wall." Steve gave Sam a curious look at that.

"Mama has a wall in the living room where she keeps all her memories. Pictures, souvenirs, keepsakes, etc. She and my dad met in Giza. He was studying abroad and her family was on vacation." Sam explained.

"Bumped into each other right under the Sphinx. Some would call that fate." A man's voice intoned. Sam watched his father enter the room with a genial yet stern look on his face. Sam was certain that was his resting expression but having known his father his whole life he knew when he was happy underneath it all.

Steve wouldn't.

"Um, Pastor Wilson I presume." In the year he'd known him, Sam had never heard Steve use the word 'presume' until just then. He almost wanted to laugh. Sam watched his father raise an eyebrow.

"You presume correctly. And you are?"

"What? You don't recognize Captain America from all the interviews and magazine covers?" His mother said. Sam could tell Steve was grimacing at that. He hated doing interviews that didn't pertain to his job or public safety and he didn’t like being Captain America out of the field. Paul Wilson tilted his head slightly, scrutinizing Steve’s face.

“I don’t really see it but then again you’re the artist in the family.” Steve gave Sam another look then.

“Mama was an artist before she enlisted. Did I forget to mention that too?” Steve mumbled something under his breath that Sam didn’t quite catch but he still smirked to himself.

“You know, Steve’s an artist too. He’s actually pretty good.” Steve made a noise of protest then.

“Artist is a strong word, I just sketch a little.”

“He’s downplaying it. It’s actually kind of disgusting to me seeing as how I can barely draw a straight line believably. I did not inherit your artistic skills, Mama. Maybe you and Steve can talk about art things some time or another, bond a little. And Steve loves baseball, Dad, so you and he can have all the talks you want about the world’s most boring sport.”

“Hey!”

“Boy, don’t start.” Both Steve and Paul protested. Sam shrugged unapologetically.

“Watching some guys run around to put a ball in a net is no better than watching them hit a ball and run in a square. And that’s not a defense of baseball or basketball.” Darlene intoned to throw them all off before they could even start.

“Because running a ball from one end of the field to the other is so superior?” Paul asked his wife.

“Yes, it is.” She replied. Steve looked between them curiously.

“You see, Steven, everyone in the family has their own favorite sport. Mine is baseball, Darlene’s is football, Sam’s is basketball, Sarah’s is tennis and Gideon’s is soccer so you can imagine the endless debates we can have on which one is better. Family reunions can usually dissolve into people picking a camp and taking up arms for it.” Paul explained.

“Still, that’s gotta be the true mark of family: respecting everyone else’s wrong decision and allotting everyone their time in front of the tv to watch whatever they choose, even if the rest of us are bored to tears.” He continued. Steve smiled a little at that.

“I’ve gotta admit though, it’s nice to have someone who likes baseball around here. All of Sam’s other boyfriends have been about basketball and football.”

“And lacrosse that one time.” Sarah piped up from her place in the doorway where she suddenly popped up.

“Don’t know what he was thinking then. Least he’s choosing someone more sensible to date now.” Sam and Steve traded a look then.

“Um, we’re not dating.” Sam said.

“Really?” Paul asked doubtfully.

“No. Unless something happened I don’t know about.” Sam replied, glancing over at Steve. He could see that the tips of his ears were red, not a new or unnatural occurrence.

“Oh, I just assumed from the way—” Darlene elbowed Paul discreetly to stop his sentence.

“Anyway, I just assumed. That’s fine too. Friendship is just as important as romance and even family in some cases.” Paul replied. Sam felt a little warm inside. Growing up, his father always had little gems of wisdom like that for all three of his children and Sam had always endeavored to live by them. It wasn’t always easy but he tried anyway.

“I suppose you should stay for dinner, Steven. Get some homecooked food. Gideon and his family will be joining us later on.” Darlene said, although she sounded reluctant to say so.

“Thank you for the offer.” Steve said and she nodded in response.

The dinner went better than Sam thought it would. When Gideon arrived and met Steve he was nice enough. He ribbed him a bit, making quips about the Captain America suit among other things but Steve had found his legs by then. It helped that he spent the day with Sam and Sarah, who he seemed to get along well with and Paul who stole Steve and tuned the television to a baseball game.

Steve appeared to fit right in and Sam tried to ignore that but it was hard to, especially with his father just assuming they were dating. Normally it wouldn’t bother Sam if someone assumed something about him but it was his father and he knew him pretty well, probably better than he knew himself. If he saw something in Sam that made him think he had feelings for Steve then what did that say? Was he not hiding it enough? Was there anything to hide? Sure, Steve was good looking and Sam had a tiny crush on him but that was it. That was probably what his father saw but those things were fleeting, they always passed quickly. Mostly, anyway.

He shook those thoughts away and grabbed his coat, trekking through the house to find Steve so they could leave. He heard his voice coming from the kitchen and walked towards it before pausing as he heard his mother’s voice join Steve’s.

“Sam is special, he always has been. He loves a lot and he loves hard and once he loves you, it’s hard for him to stop. That’s given some people in the past carte blanche to use him and hurt him but I don’t care if he’s a grown man, he’s still my baby and I’ll go to my grave before I let him get hurt like that again.”

“Ma’am, I wouldn’t do anything to intentionally hurt Sam.” Sam rolled his eyes about to go in to save Steve but what his mother said next stopped him in his tracks.

“Not now, no, because you’re in love with him or at least you’re getting close to it.” Sam’s eyes widened as silence prevailed on Steve’s end.

“But things happen, things change and you two are in a very dangerous position. I don’t want you falling for my baby just because he’s there, because you’re lonely and missing whoever or whatever from the past and using him as a buffer or a replacement or distraction. That’s not Sam, he’s better than that.”

“I know that, believe me, I do. I don’t… I’m going to be completely honest with you, Ma’am. I don’t know how I feel about him, at least not completely, but I know he’s my friend and I know I care about him. He is more than I deserve in more ways than one but he makes me better, happier and I hope I do the same for him in at least a small fraction of what he does for me.” The two were silent for a moment before Darlene spoke again.

“Sam said you were good at speeches. You are, you’re good. I’m sure you sold a lot of war bonds back in your day. Face like yours, body like yours, good voice: people listen and people pay. I’m not up for buying what you’re selling just yet. Anyone can talk a good game, I like to let actions do the talking for me.” To Sam’s surprise, Steve laughed in response.

“You know, you remind me of my mother. She was always overprotective. For good reason. I wasn’t healthy when she was alive but she could be a hurricane when she wanted to be. I remember she used to chase off bullies with a stick because she knew that I’d get involved and inevitably get my butt kicked if she didn’t step in first.”

“Sounds like my kind of gal.”

“I promise you, Ma’am, Sarah Rogers didn’t raise a bully or a fool. I’ll do my utmost to show you I care about Sam and that’s all I can do.”

“I suppose it is. Don’t mess it up. As far as boys that have been brought home to me, you’re proving to be one of the more tolerable ones.”

“Thank you.” Sam drifted away then to give the illusion he wasn’t eavesdropping. He didn’t even know what to do with himself. Sam’s mother thought Steve was in love or falling in love with him, his father had thought they were in a relationship and Steve hadn’t denied anything his mother had said to him. But that couldn’t be, Steve was in love with Bucky. He hadn’t actually said so in words but it was so obvious to Sam that their relationship ran deeper than just friendship, it had to. But what if it didn’t and Steve had feelings for Sam? Steve wasn’t one to lie unless absolutely necessary, why would he tell his mother he had feelings for Sam if he didn’t? Maybe he really was just confused.

Sam tried to appear normal as Steve and his mother began walking towards where he stood by the front door.

“Ready to go?” Steve asked, pulling his jacket on.

“Yeah. Let’s get back to the hotel room.” He said, his eyes not quite meeting Steve.

“Mama, happy birthday again. You look amazing for 50+ years old.”

“Damn right. I’ll see you tomorrow baby?” She asked, leaning in to kiss his cheek when he nodded in affirmation.

He and Steve walked down the street silently beside each other to their hotel, both of their minds heavy with the implications of what feelings they repressed and what it all meant for them and their future.