Every once in a while Sam has those...feelings. Like he can feel something coming.
His grandma would call them a gift. His mom would entertain him for a minute, then dig up the scientific explanation for déjà vu. His sister would laugh at him and tell him to get his head out of his comic books.
Whatever this is, whyever the fuck it happens, Sam had known today would be a shitty day from the moment he had woken up.
At 4:32 AM, Sam was woken up from a deep sleep by his downstairs neighbor Jasmine yelling at her ex that he should get the fuck out (he’d been kicked out three times in the past four days. Sam has considered sliding one of his many Break up with Him t-shirts under her door). Sam had only managed to fall back asleep thirty minutes before his alarm rang, which meant that he’d snoozed until he only had 10 minutes to leave the house.
He had made it out of his apartment with barely enough time to grab coffee on his way to work, only to find out his favorite coffee shop was closed for renovation, and was reopening in 9 weeks. Just as Sam was resigning himself to a morning without coffee, he remembered the Starbucks a block away...which, he found out after sprinting there, was also closed ‘cause of water damage.
The B train was smellier than usual, the performers louder than usual, and Sam would've been able to handle all of that had he had his damn morning coffee.
The text he gets from Nat as he gets off the train is the last straw.
Nat: Flared up this morning. Take over my 8:45?
If this had been anyone else, Sam would have seriously considered not doing it. He’ll gladly teach kids, and can even handle teenagers, but adult classes are the fucking worst.
That’s not how I learnt it when I was a kid!
Cosmo said I could lose weight by doing ballet and I haven’t lost any yet!
Are you the ballet instructor? No, no reason at all, I just thought you’d teach hip hop or something. Never mind.
Sam sighs. He’s hasn’t slept in four nights (Jasmine is loud ), he’s under caffeinated and he can’t stand the thought of some lady with too much time and money telling him how to do his job. Sam stops at a red light a block away from the studio, stares at his phone and sighs again, his decision already made.
Sam: No worries.
Nat: Thanks Sam. I owe you.
Sam: Don’t mention it.
Sam: (Shake Shack cheeseburger & Lemonade)
Nat: rihanna_eye roll_window.gif
Because most days he’s a reasonable, rational person, Sam tries to push his morning away from his mind as he steps into their building. He takes a quick detour to tell their boss about the switch (“Oh thank God Sam, you know how much I hate doing refunds”), puts his stuff down in the staff room and changes into his tank top, leggings and dancing shoes.
Sam makes it to the third floor at 8:41, takes the time to greet the early students and sets up his favorite Spotify playlist for classes.
At 8:45 on the dot, he gets started.
Maybe his shitty morning will stop right then and there? Riley always said he was at his most dramatic in the mornings.
“Hi everyone. As you can see Ms. Romanova is not able to join us today. I’m Mr. Wilson, I will be your instructor for this class. Before we get started, would anyone mind telling me一”
Sam’s interrupted by the loud, unpleasant creek of the door being opened.
A tall, broad man is just standing there, head down and tense. He’s wearing a loose, long sleeve black t-shirt (not practical to evaluate arm movements) and sweatpants (not ballet appropriate). When it’s clear he’s not gonna move unless he’s invited in, Sam puts on his most welcoming smile.
“Hi there. Will you be joining us? This is Adults’ Introduction to Ballet.”
“I, uh, yeah. I’m...this is what I’m here for,” the man says. He hasn’t moved an inch.
“Come on in. There’s a place in the middle here, and in the back over一” The man makes a beeline for the back before Sam can finish.
“What’s your name?” Sam asks just before he finishes crossing the room.
“I’m, um, James.”
“Hi James. I’m Mr. Wilson, and as I was telling the class, I’ll be replacing Ms. Romanova this session.” This seems to make James relax a tad bit. Sam tries his best not to take this personally一most people prefer women to teach ballet. “Alright, before we warm up, would anyone mind telling me what you did last class?”
Two eager students explain that they just began learning about pirouettes and for about ten minutes, class is going smoothly, just as planned. The students are at the bar, stretching. Sam’s making his way down, correcting postures and giving out encouragement, when he reaches his late student.
“James, it seems like you’re having a little trouble with your demi plié. Here,” Sam offers, placing a hand between James’ shoulder blades, “straighten out your back一”
James flinches like he was struck. “I’m fine,” he says, louder than is necessary. “This is...this is fine.”
“I一sure.” Sam removes his hand and tries to pretend he isn’t startled. “It might help if instead of bringing your hips down first, you bent your knees. No一your knees一”
“That’s what I’m trying to do,” James hisses. How the hell can a grown man look petulant, scared and scary at the same damn time?
“That’s alright, take your time.” Time to switch strategies and try one last time; Sam’s only half-way through the students.
“It's a bit like squatting, but一”
“I know squatting, pal, this ain't it.”
“Right, but as I was saying, it's a bit like squatting一”
“Ms. Romanova usually lets us go at our own pace. She says patience is key.”
They both turn their heads to find an older blond woman looking at them.
Sam clears his throat and pushes down every little petty remark his brain is conjuring.
“And she only corrects us when we’re learning a new move, not when we’re at the bar.”
Sam looks at the lady, takes a minute to remember that this is a capitalist society and he has bills to pay. He breathes in and out一just like his therapist taught him一and tilts his head at the lady, smiling.
“Alright.” He clears his throat and moves right past James and the blond lady to get to the next student, ignoring James’ unnecessarily loud sigh of relief.
He goes through the students with relative ease (it seems like James just upped his student talk back tolerance), and is back to feeling like class is on track when he goes back to the center of the room.
“Alright everyone, gather around. We're going to review pirouettes. Once I'm done with the instructions, you'll be pairing up. One of you will be practicing pirouettes, making sure your right leg is in cou de pied. The other person will be pushing into your shoulder, to show you the momentum you need to complete your spin. Don't forget your spotting. Questions? Alright, let’s pair up!”
As expected, most people already have a partner in mind, but the number of students is odd, which means Sam will be pairing up with whoever's left.
And because Sam’s life is a horrible D-list movie, that student is of course James. Lord have mercy.
“James, would you mind being paired up with me for this exercise?”
Sam chooses to interpret James’ vague shoulder gesture as a shrug.
“Good,” Sam says, barely withholding a sigh. “Would you like to start with the pirouettes or…”
James is staring at the other pairs.
“I can't一I can't do this.”
“The pirouettes? If you weren't there last time, I can take a few minutes to show you一”
Before Sam can even ask James if he's alright, he hears an annoying voice say: “Ms. Romanova says we don't have to一”
“Well since Ms. Romanova trusted me enough to ask me to run the session一James? James!”
The man’s running from the classroom like a murderer fleeing a crime scene, half the students are laughing under their breath, and Miss “Ms. Romanova said” has her arms crossed over her chest, smirking.
In his 10 months of teaching, Sam's never had anyone walk out of his class. Let alone run out. Jesus Christ.
“Okay everyone, water break.”
As he watches the students make their way out of the studio with varying degrees of annoyance, Sam keeps oscillating between wanting to laugh and wanting to cry. Is that what Nat had to deal with at 8:45 every Tuesday morning?
Sam gives himself exactly 5 seconds to indulge the “you’ve known since this morning your day was gonna go to hell and you still decided to go through with it, you fool” thoughts swirling in his head. He uses 2 more seconds to take a deep breath, releases it in three, and gets back to work.
But even as he heads to the door to ask the students to come back in, his brain lingers on James literally fleeing the studio.
I should’ve stayed in my damn bed.
“You here to disturb Barnes again?”
Even if he hadn’t overheard Steve and his not-so-quiet one-sided conversation about the way masculinity is portrayed in sports movies to some poor soul who didn’t ask for it, Bucky would’ve known it was him from Nick’s discouraged tone.
“As far as I know, his session finishes at 6:45, which means thatー”
“Which means that for 10 more minutes, he’s mine. Get outta here.”
The only thing keeping Bucky from laughing is that his entire upper body is on fire.
“Bucky, I’ll be waiting inー”
“Out, Rogers!” Bucky hears more than sees Steve leave, the echo of the heavy doors closing resonating around the vast training area. “These reps are looking sloppy, Barnes, straighten your backーthat’s it. Three more.”
Up. Down. “Three!”
Up...down. “Twoーlast one, keep it up. Andー”
Up...down. “One. There we goーgood work, Barnes. Water break, then we cool down.”
Bucky curses the day him and Becca had been parked in front of the TV watching Silverster Stalone pound his fists into huge slobs of meat, and his small, naive, impressionable brains had said “Yes. This. This is it!”
Though honestly, Bucky thinks as he downs the entirety of his water bottle in one go, nothing would’ve really stopped him. Before一well, before everything 一as much as he ragged on Steve for raging at literally anything within his reach, it’s not like he wasn’t also determined.
He’d begged and pleaded with his mom till she let him go to one of two schools in the entire city with a varsity boxing team一one that was an hour away from Brooklyn. He quickly became the best on the team, and one of the few people to ever get a full ride to college on boxing, and then一
Well. Shit happens.
Euphemism of the decade, Bucky thinks as he scratches idly at the scar that runs the length of his left arm.
“If you’re done daydreaming Barnes, you can start cooling off.”
Bucky grabs his right ankle, folds his leg behind him and glares. “After what you put me through today, you’d think I’d be allowed a little daydreamin’.“
“You come here to be allowed things?”
“I come here to be allowed to legally kick people’s asses.”
“And people’ll legally kick yours if you’re not trained properly. Speaking of training, how’d the dancing go?”
It’s been a week, but Bucky remembers the teacher’s baffled face as he ran out like it happened seconds ago.
“I, uh. It went.”
Nick frowns. “That bad? I thought Romanova would be perfect for you.”
“It一it wasn’t her. Some guy was replacing her.”
“Maximoff? He’s not bad either一”
“Nah, he said his name was Wilson.”
Bucky had never seen Nick look so confused. “Wilson? And it went badly?”
“I just一” panicked when I saw it wasn’t Romanova, panicked more when I saw it was a guy, reached peak panic when I saw the guy’s face一“didn’t click with his teaching style.” Honestly, he couldn’t even explain to himself why he’d decided to just...go, instead of saying something. It seemed like the rational thing to do at the time.
Rational. Jesus. That sounds like something Steve would say.
“Alright.” If suspicion wasn’t Nick’s default state, Bucky would be worried about the face he’s pulling. “I’ll call her and ask when she’s back.”
Fuck. Bucky had kinda hoped Nick would move on to yoga or swing dancing or any other type of cross training that didn’t involve him showing his face anywhere Wilson might be.
“Nope. I’m...ballet一” Bucky remembers the way Wilson’s patient demeanor had started slowly but surely crumbling when that lady behind them started talking. “一ballet’s good. It works.”
Nick snorts. “Yeah, it usually does,” he says, looking Bucky up and down, a corner of his mouth lifting up. This is the closest he’s ever gotten to seeing Nick smile, the same way he had looked when Bucky had walked into the gym for their first session, both utterly confident and ridiculously scared.
The “smile” disappears as fast as it came. “I think you’re good for tonight, Barnes. Rest tomorrow; Monday’s sparring with Barton.”
Bucky gets up slowly and shakes it off, grabs his towel and water bottle, and nods at Nick. “See you on Monday.”
The last thing Bucky hears before entering the locker room is Nick calling, “Don’t let Rogers drag you into anything you shouldn’t be doing!”
Bucky strips quickly and hits the shower as fast as he can. Steve’s usually patient, and they’re only five minutes away from his apartment, but they have plans tonight, and they still need to drop Bucky’s stuff at Steve’s before heading to all the way to Midtown.
He’d usually head home on his own or go to Barton’s to play video games (Bucky has a fantastic social life). Tonight though, they’re heading to a ‘real nice’ (Steve’s new code word for fancy) reception hall for dinner, which is why Bucky's out of the shower and into his sweats in two minutes, and out of the locker room 30 seconds later. He spots Steve who's already suited up leaning on a wall close to the entrance, on his phone. When Steve sees him, he puts his phone away, and opens the door for Bucky. They both get a mouthful of that early March, not-quite-spring-yet wind and an earful of early evening New York City traffic.
“I don’t know why Fury doesn’t let me watch you train.”
“I don’t know why after all these years I’m still surprised you have a death wish.”
“I’m trying to be supportive!”
“You can be supportive from outside. It’s true,” Bucky swears when he sees Steve’s unimpressed face, “Steve, I swear I could feel your support from anywhere in the city.”
“You can’t make fun of me the night of my engagement dinner.”
“Says who? I’m only going easy on you the day of the wedding一and that’s just ‘cause Peg would have my ass if I wasn’t.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Steve tries unsuccessfully to hide the small smile that creeps up anytime someone mentions his fiancée. “It’s been a while, she’ll be happy to see you.”
“Yeah, me too.”
“Oh,” Steve adds, properly smiling now, “and you’ll finally be able to meet Sam! It’s good you too are meeting well before the wedding. I’m sure you‘ll hit it off.”
Bucky turns to properly look Steve in the eye.
“Are you still trying to set me up?”
“What? No! You’re my groomsmen, am I not supposed to be invested?” At Bucky’s look, Steve adds, “Well it’s not like it hasn’t crossed my mind once or twiceー”
“Jesus Christ, Steve.”
“ーbut I just want my two of my best friends to meet and get along, okay?”
Bucky just rolls his eyes and before Steve can say anything else, he quickly climbs the stairs to Steve's studio while fumbling around for his keys and lets himself in. Bucky's already dropped his bag in a corner and taken off his shirt when Steve flicks on the lights.
“And ever since you and Peggy got engaged,” Bucky shoots back, striding towards the furthest corner of the apartment, “you’re up my ass about finding someone too.”
“I'm not gonna feel bad about wanting you to be happy, Buck.”
Bucky turns away from the clothes rack they call a closet to look at Steve and raises an eyebrow. “You saying I'll only be happy if I'm in a relationship?”
“Iー’course not I justーI don't want you to be alone when…”
Ah. That's what this is about.
Bucky holds back a heavy sigh. He’d be annoyed if it was anyone else, but he can’t blame Steve for being worried he’ll “disappear” again, even after all these years. And honestly, hell would freeze over the day Steve stopped worrying, which is why instead of ignoring him, he repeats the same thing he’s said again and again over the past 6 months.
“You know I'll stick around, right? No matter what.”
“If we stop seeing each other when you get married, I'll kick your ass myself.”
“You can try,” Steve mutters.
“I can and I will. Steve,” he calls, making sure Steve's looking at him. “I'll be fine, okay? We’ll be fine.”
“I know, I know.”
“Good.” Bucky zips up the black slacks he’s “borrowing” from Steve and makes quick work of the buttons on his grey shirt. “Ready?”
“Yeahーwait, come here.”
Bucky checks his phone while Steve fusses over his collar. “I'm good, I'm good,” he says, batting Steve's hands away. “We should head outーget your hands outta my hair, Rogers.”
“It's hard enough trying to make you look good, you should be grateful.”
“29 years and you still ain't funny.”
“Better than 29 years still being uglyーshit we're gonna be late!”
“Whose fault is that?”
“Shut your mouth, let's go!”
Sam feels a cool hand touch his arm. He raises an eyebrow at Nat while she slips her arm in his, holding her third drink of the night in her left hand.
“I know none of these people, and these things always last longer than they need to. The vodka helps.”
“Hey, I’m not judging,” Sam says. “Plus obviously this is top-shelf,” he adds with a nod to where some thirty people are mingling in what has to be the most luxurious room Sam’s ever been in.
Sam had expected some form of opulence when Steve told him they’d be doing this at the Plaza (the fucking Plaza !), but God, the Ballroom is...something else, to say the least.
The mirrors and tall ceilings make the room seem larger than it already is, but somehow the atmosphere still feels private and intimate. Taking in the room for what must be the hundredth time since he and Nat had arrived, Sam soaks up the chandeliers’ soft light and how it bounces on the gold and copper, on the amber and the cream all around them, leaving the roomーand the guestsーfeeling warm.
Steve had mentioned to Sam a few times how much Peggy’s folks, who were writing the checks for a lot of the wedding events, wanted her engagement and wedding to be “perfect” (read: expensive). After butting heads a lot with their daughter and future son-in-law, they’d agreed to this engagement dinner as a compromise for the smaller, more intimate wedding Peggy and Steve had been hoping for.
Nat and Sam had made the rounds, saying hi to the few people they knew (Angie, Barton and Banner; Stark hadn’t shown up yet), introduced themselves to the people they didn’t know, hit up the bar, and claimed one corner of the room to themselves.
“This is exactly what my father would’ve wanted me to have,” Nat muses. “With more people. And a live orchestra.”
Sam can’t help but smile a little bit. Whenever Nat mentions her dad, no matter how many times he’s seen the man over the years, he always remembers the tall, bald man looking down at him when he came over to their place for the first time, for Nat’s sixth birthday party. “Natalia’s daddy is a diplomat,” he’d explained to his mom when she picked him up later that evening, around a mouthful of red licorice. “Means he’s ‘mportant, and scary, andーand he could only stay at her birthday for a little bit.”
“You’d be engaged to an investment banker.”
“Hmm...or maybe a White House staffer. He’d allow it.” Nat takes a slow sip. “With political ambitions of his own, of course.”
“Course. I’d be here with Misty. Or a doctor.”
“Absolutely,” Sam says, nodding. “Harvard or Yale graduate who spends her free time with her family. Involved a lot at church.”
“Yet here we are,” Nat faux-sighs.
“Here we are,” Sam agrees. “Single.”
“Gay. Single and gay,” Nat offers one of her rare grins, one that’s all teeth, and clinks her glass against his. Sam’s amused smile turns into a smirk.
“ You could change that.”
“The gay part?” she asks widening her eyes, as if Sam hasn’t known her and her bullshit for 24 years.
“The single part, smartass. I bet your girl’s gonna be around.” Nat’s girlーNat’s woman ーhas a name, but Sam remembers what happened last time he’d said it out loud. (Nat can pack a punch.)
“So could you.” If Nat’s changing the topic this quickly, he hit a nerve. Sam’s letting it go for now, though. “Steve is still hoping you and Bucky’ll be love at first sight.”
Sam sighs. “Steve just wants his two groomsmen to get along. Besides,” he adds after taking a final sip of his drink, “how the fuck am I supposed to date someone whose name is Bucky? I'm supposed to introduce a Bucky to my mom? I don't think so.”
Nat frowns, and at first Sam thinks it's because Steve, Peggy, Stark and a few other people (including Sharon), just arrived. Sam puts his drink down on a nearby tray, and they make their way to the front of the room, where Steve and Peggy are greeting people.
“Sam,” she continues, “the name’s one thing, but I’m not attracted to men and I can see that he's gorgeous.”
“Huh?” He must've missed something. “How am I supposed to know what he looks like? Doesn't he not like social media?”
“What? I mean no, he doesn't do Facebook or Instagram, but you've met him, right?”
“What? When? Iー”
Steve’s eyes light up when he spots them, and he starts making his way over with a man behind him. Sam's about to ask Nat to hold that thought when Steve moves to the side, allowing Sam to see who he brought along.
Suddenly, Nat’s bullshit makes so much sense.
What. The fuck.
“I'm so glad you could make it.” Steve, bless his heart, is all smiles and completely oblivious to the fact that the color just drained from James’ーBucky's ーface and that Sam’s mouth is literally gaping.
“I'm so happy you two are finally meeting. Buck, this is Sam. Sam, this is Bucky.”
“Yeah,” Sam starts, a little awkwardly, “we’ve uh, we’ve alreadyー” James’ hand abruptly shoots out, ready to shake Sam’s.
“Niceーnice to meet you, Sam.”
What. The actual. Fuck.
Oh shit. Oh shit.
Bucky’s hand is still dangling in the air in front of Wilson, whose expression went from shocked to confused, to annoyed and confused in about 10 seconds.
Maybe pretending not to recognize him wasn’t the best move? But what was Bucky supposed to do? Let him tell Steve the story of how they met?
Yeah, funny story, SteveーI ran out of your friend’s class like a toddler ‘cause I was fuckin’ uncomfortable!
Yeah, funny story, Steveーstill struggling with expressing myself with people I don’t know or trust!
Steve, funny storyーI was also intimidated ‘cause your friend happens to be really good looking!
Steve, who had been beaming when he first introduced them, is looking back and forth between them, frowning.
“Have you two met before?”
“Uh, no,” Bucky says.
“Yeah,” Sam says, at the exact same time.
“I’mーguys?” Steve looks mostly confused, and a bit upset.
Sam’s face is quickly moving from annoyed and confused to pissed off, and Bucky’s actually considering escaping again when Natalia intervenes.
“Barnes,” she says casually, as if this entire situation isn’t ridiculously embarrassing, “nice to see you again.” She takes his handーwhich is still just hanging thereーin hers and leans over to kiss his cheeks. “Well. We’ll catch up with you later boys, Sam and I should go say hi to Stark and his friends.”
Natalia and Wilson walk away quickly, Wilson already whispering something in her ear.
Okay. Pretending not to recognize him definitely wasn’t the best move.
Steve stays quiet for a while, mouth gaping just like Wilson’s was earlier, before he turns to Bucky.
“Bucky, what the hell was that?”
“What was what?”
“Have you two met before?”
“You’ve met Sam before? And you never told me?”
“I didn’t know he was Sam, let alone your Samー ”
“But then why’d you pretendーand where’d you meet? Iー”
“I met him once and it was a disaster and ー no, I am not telling you what happened!”
Bucky actually sputters a little. What ? “This is your engagement dinner, for fuck’s sake!”
“You didn’t have a problem with that earlier!”
“Steve. If you really think we’re gonna talk about this now of all timesー ”
“Steve, dear, do you have a moment?” Not for the first time, Bucky finds himself thinking thank God for Peggy Carter. “Sorry Bucky, this should just take a second.”
“No worries, Peg,” Bucky says with what he hopes is a reassuring smile. From the look on Steve's face, it probably looks more like a show of teeth.
There’s a bathroom three floors down. Maybe he could grab a drink and take the stairs, drink quickly beforeー
“No leaving, Bucky,” Steve says, slapping a hand on his shoulder, harder than is strictly necessary. “I’ll be right back.”
As soon as Steve turns his back, Bucky makes a straight line to the bar, right as guests are starting to make their way to the table for their meal. He's not leaving (yet), but he sure as hell is gonna need a drink if he wants any chance at surviving this dinner without embarrassing himself anymore. Not that that would be possible, Jesus .
His whiskey in hand, Bucky heads to the table, looking for his seat. He barely has time to be annoyed at the fact that they used his full name before he sees the card placed just a few inches right of James Buchanan Barnes.
Right there, in ugly and expensive cursive, is Samuel Thomas Wilson.
Bucky takes a quick look around the room to make sure Steve isn't looking, and downs his drink in one go.
“Bye Mr. Wilson!”
“See you next week, Ahmed. Keep up the good work!”
Cliché as it may sound, Sam’s favorite part of teaching kids is seeing them realize their own talent and worth. Little Ahmed’s smile is dazzling as he runs to his dad, and Sam can hear him talking about his arms in second position and how he can do “arms and feet together now!”
Hearing his excited chatter is just confirmation that he’s in the right place. Both he and Nat had had a few more years of being full time performers in them, but Sam’s a firm believer in retiring while you’re still at the top of your game, so they’d started looking looked for teaching positions. (Riley not being there anymore also had something to do with it, but Sam’s not going there. Not today.)
Sam does one last check to see if anyone left stuff behind, closes the door behind him and heads to the staffroom, praying his good mood lasts the afternoon.
With the annual recital coming up in a month, everyone’s nerves were shot up. Parents were demanding extra lessons for their kids, Sam’s boss was worried about putting on a good show (“Good recital equals impressed parents. Impressed parents equals more money, Sammy.”), and the instructors hadn’t come up with the piece they were presenting yet (it’d probably end up being him, Nat and Pietro figuring something out. He’s been at the studio just a little under a year, and he’d stopped kidding himself about who actually pulls their weight here after two months).
All in all, Sam’s spread thin, has been for the past week, and so he has no clue how he's gonna deal with spending the entire afternoon with James/Bucky.
Sam sighs as he remembers what must be the most confusing evening of his life. Even with Bucky/James being quiet the entire time, the engagement dinner is probably in his Top 3 most awkward interactions ever. Sam had swallowed, along with a huge gulp of red wine, his pride and ego, and attempted to make conversation. After getting one “uh huh” and one blank look, Sam had given up.
Still, the food had been fantastic, and Peggy and Steve looked so goddamn happy that Sam’s sour mood couldn’t last for more than 2 minutes at a time before it was gone.
But Steve’s not gonna be there with them this afternoonーsome emergency deadline he had at workーand Sam and Bucky (or James ー Sam really needs to make up his mind about what to call the guy) were gonna go get their groomsmen suits altered. Together. For at least an hour.
Sam is actually considering running to the church across the street and sending up a quick prayer, but he probably won't have the time. For a hot second, Sam even thinks about sending a text to his grandma asking her to pray for him...until he remembers that that’s a recipe for every Wilson in the tri-state area to be contacted, and for his face to end up on missing posters before he could say the words “I'm fine.”
“Still brooding?” Sam likes to pretend after all these years he can’t be startled by Nat, but that would be a lie. Nat’s in their staff room, eating an apple, feet up on one of the chairs . Sam’s never seen anyone look so smug eating a piece of fruit.
“I’m not brooding,” he lies, ignoring Nat’s scoff. “I'm not. Buck ー James and I are two grown men ー ”
“Who couldn’t even look at each other during dinner last week ー ”
“ーwho love Steve and can put our differences aside to get something done.” Sam side-eyes her which does absolutely nothing but make her outright laugh.
“Don’t forget to tell me how it goes.”
“So you can make some more money off me?”
Nat grins unapologetically. “I don’t gamble anymore.”
“Yeah, and my name’s Tony Stark. Anyway, this should go just fine, long as he doesn't fucking run out of there, too.” The words leave Sam’s mouth before he’s even thought about it.
Nat raises both of her eyebrows. “Low blow, Sam.”
Sam shrugs. It's a low blow, he just can't bring himself to care. “I'm justーI'm just tired. I'll try to play nice or whatever,” he promises.
“Okay,” she says after a moment. “You know how disappointed Steve would be if you two didn't pull it together. Picture the eyes, Sam.”
“I'll try not to break Steve’s heart. Or Bucky’s. James’. Whatever.”
Whatever. The key word here is try. Before Sam can think of another unconvincing platitude that will do absolutely nothing to reassure Nat, he hears someone awkwardly clear their throat.
How can someone clear their throat awkwardlyー
Well, of course James would. He's hovering in the doorwayーthe exact same way he was when they first metーhands deep in his pockets. It's like he's some combination of two different people whenever Sam sees him. He’s always a bit awkward, out of place, but sometimes it seems like he’s bothered by it (like the first time they met), and other times, like now, he just seems to not care. His posture is screaming I know I’m not supposed to be here, but I’m here now so take it for what it is.
Which is why he sounds out of place when he uses a hushed tone to say, “I got off work earlier than I thought I would. Thought I'd meet you here instead of...there.”
Sam’s ready to be annoyed that he got caught off guard again , but he deflates completely when he runs the conversation he just had with Nat in his head. Oh God. Oh God, how much did he hear?
“Iーyeah, yeah that's good. Give me a few minutes then we can head out?” James shrugs and leaves the room.
“Well shit,” Sam sighs. He rubs his eyes, and pinches his temple, willing away the headache he can feel coming on, and, more importantly, the goddamn embarrassment.
Nat’s back to looking smug, as well as vaguely amused.
“Yeah, yeah, laugh it up, Romanova.” Sam crosses the room to get his bag and kisses Nat’s cheek on his way back to the door. “Can’t wait to see the next time you run into Sharon.” Sam leaves the room before her apple core can hit his head. “Later!”
Sam doesn’t linger in the shower, no matter how much he wants to . Growing up with two siblings and a military dad prevents him from doing that to this day. Once he’s dressed, he forces himself to walk calmly to the entrance of the building, ignores the nervous flutters of his stomach and meets James outside.
“Thanks for waiting,” Sam says as soon as they start walking. It’s the least Sam can do after being caught being rude earlier.
Well alrighty, then. If James is back to uh huhs and blank stares, Sam’s not gonna try either.
James’ silence doesn’t prevent Sam from looking at him, trying to get some information as to who the hell this guy is. There’s nothing he doesn’t know already, Sam realizes after a minute or two. James’ hands are deep in his pocket, just like earlier, his head is down, except when they’re crossing a street, and he looks like he’s stalking rather than walking. Like most people in Manhattan, I guess.
The only noteworthy thing Sam notices is how every once in a while, James removes his right hand from his pocket to push his hair behind his ear. This is when Sam notices he has that ‘hobo chic’ look going on, which his sister says is in at the moment.
Sam can kind of see it. Kind of. It could work, if you were into that kind of thing. Sam’s not.
He really isn’t.
The staring must’ve caught James’ attention, ‘cause he turns towards Sam and sighs.
“Look,” he starts, looking directly at Sam for the first time since they left the studio. His eyes are a weird, cold shade of gray-blue Sam is sure he would’ve noticed if James had bothered to look him in the eye at least once before. “I'm sorry about theーabout what happened in your class the other day.”
Sam could let it go right then and there, but that isn't the entirety of what happened. So he nods, receiving but not quite accepting the apology yet, and asks, “And the other thing?”
“Yeah,” he says after a while, “that too, I guess.”
“ I guess ?”
James stares at him. “You really wanted me to tell Steve about the disaster that was?”
“Disaster? Disaster. Really.” Bucky actually shrugs , like he'd called their first meeting a ballet class, not a damn disaster.
“‘Hey Steve, met your buddy Sam who you can’t seem to shut up about, and it went so badly I actually ran out on him half-way through.’ How the fuーhow does that sound to you, huh?”
James doesn’t even look bothered, just annoyed and a little incredulous, while Sam is still reeling over disaster and it went so badly that I ran out on him . What the hell is it about this guy that gets Sam riled up so goddamn fast? He has to remember to mind his tone when he answers with what should’ve been obvious.
“There’s a difference,” he says, biting every word, “between not mentioning the class and pretending you don’t know me at allーwhich, by the way, wouldn’t even be that bad if at least you didn’t insist on it and made me look like a foolー”
“What would you have told Steve?”
“That you were in a class I taught! That enough for you, or do you wanna go back to pretending we don’t know each other?”
Bucky looks like he’s about to say something, but he closes his mouth and sighs again instead, like he’s got anything to be mad about. Sam rolls his eyes.
“I’m sorry about your class and I’m sorry about dinner. Good?”
They’re everything but.
Sam’s good friend’s best friend hated him so much when they met that he’d rather pretend they never did. And Sam has three more months of dealing with this (he refuses to consider the fact that he’s actually got a lifetime of dealing with this considering he’s not giving up Steve for anyone).
But Sam can only keep up so much petty when there’s a friendship (and a wedding) at stake, especially considering the fact that James had apologized. And he does feel bad about what he heard earlier. He’d meant it at the moment, mean as it was, but that doesn’t mean James should’ve heard him say it. And if Sam’s being honest, he probably shouldn’t even have thought it at all.
So, once again, Sam swallows his sass, his pride, and...something else he doesn’t quite know what to name, and takes a deep breath.
“Yeah. Yeah, James, it’s all good.”
Bucky exhales as quietly as he can and lets some of the tension he’d been carrying in his shoulders go. They have about two minutes till they get to the shop, and maybe 45 minutes to an hour to go with the alteration people. In less than two hours Bucky’s gonna go release his frustration on his favorite punching bag.
He can’t really blame Wilson for being pissed, but that doesn’t make any of this easier. James has had reasons for acting the way he does, ridiculous as they were, and he doesn’t feel like explaining them to Samーwho he’d known for a weekーeven if he knows it’d probably go a long way.
Nobody ever called him emotionally mature, or emotionally stable.
He looks over at Wilson, who now looks completely disinterested (and still as good looking as both times they’d met, but that’s not helpful at all right now, Barnes).
Maybe he can do small talk now that he knows Wilson’s at least pretending not to mind him. Things can’t be much worse, right?
“Soーballet. It’sーhow?” Bucky stops trying when he sees how unimpressed Sam is. Things could be worse, apparently.
He swallows hard, curses Steve for having normal, wholesome friends who can carry conversations, and tries again.
“Steve talks about you all the time. It’sーisn’t it weird we’ve hadn’t met before this?” Sam stares, but it’s not unkind. It’s like he’s trying to read his thoughts. Bucky doesn’t know how to project Dude, I’m trying here, so he settles for keeping his face blank.
It must work, ‘cause Wilson takes a deep breath before he says, “Well, you know we met in D.C. during his internship, about, I don’t knowーa year and a half ago?” Bucky nods. “I stayed in D.C. another six months before I came back to New York. And Steve talked about you too, said you worked at lot. Assumed I’d meet you at some point,” he finishes, shrugging.
“Yeah. I work at Stark Industries with himーin R&D though. Had to pick up a second job on the weekends, equipment’s not gonna pay for itself.”
Ah, shit. Bucky doesn’t usually bring up anything that has to do with boxing. Too much explaining to do to people who usually don’t care. Too late now, though.
“Yeah.” Bucky’s right hand twitches in his pocket, and he’s trying to resisting the urge to scratch his arm. “I, uh, I’m training to be a boxer.”
That seems to catch Wilson’s interest more than anything Bucky’s said this entire conversation, including his apology. “That’s cool, man. And yeah, boxing’s expensive. Riーone of my friend’s brothers did it for a few years. Pretty tough sport, too.”
“Well, it helps if you can make it through one full class.”
Bucky sighs, though he’s not actually that upset. That’s fair, I guess. “You’re not gonna let that go, are you?”
Sam shrugs, but he seems like he’s still in a decent enough mood. Bucky’s looking for something clever (or at least not dense) to say back to Sam, but they’re in front of the store before that can happen.
Bucky opens the door and steps aside, gesturing for Wilson to go first. Wilson stops for half a second, rolls his eyes and walks in. Bucky’s really gonna need to come up with a whole strategy to talk to Sam without fucking up every other second if they’re gonna do this again.
“Mister Barnes, Mister Wilson?”
A young woman dressed in all black with her hair pulled into a bun (your aesthetic, Buck, Bucky can hear Steve half-honest, half-mocking) approaches them, her right hand extended.
“I’m Minh Anh, I’ll be with you this afternoon. I understand this is your first fitting with us?”
“That’s correct. I’m Mister Wilson,” Wilson says with a smile after shaking her hand. Minh Anh’s smile broadens immediately.
Jesus. It’s like Bucky’s the only one who can’t manage proper interactions with Sam. You are, asshole.
“I’m, uh, Barnes. Mister uh Barnes.”
Silver lining, it seems like Sam’s not the only one Bucky can’t manage interactions with.
“Nice to meet you,” she says. Her smile hasn’t faltered though, so it’s a win in Bucky’s book. “Follow me, please.”
Soon enough, and without any incidents of any kind, both he and Wilson are being taken care of by Minh Anh and her colleague Naima. Bucky’s feeling pretty relaxed, calmed down by the seamstresses’ unhurried and professional movements, and drifts a little. He only realizes he missed something when Naima stops whatever she was doing to his pant leg and looks up expectantly.
“Huh? I mean, I’m sorry, what?”
He can’t see it, but he swears Wilson’s rolling his eyes.
“I asked how you two met,” Naima repeats with an indulgent smile.
“Uh, we, umー”
“We met in a ballet class,” Wilson says. This again?, Wilson’s eyes are telling him. Bucky shrugs and looks down at the floor. To his surprise, Wilson continues. “I was teaching, and he wasーwell, he was there.” Not completely untrue, at least. And not the least flattering version of events, either.
“You could call it that,” Sam mutters, just as Bucky frowns and asks “Why?”
“Well, I mean, I don’t know.” Shit. Naima, who’d been perfectly fine so far, looks flustered. “It’s a pretty good setting for a meet-cute, I’m sure.”
Wilson starts coughing hard enough to dislodge Minh Anh’s hands from his suit jacket. “Iーwe’re notー”
“Me and him?” Bucky asks, ignoring how high his voice pitches. “We’re not together. I mean we are. We’re groomsmen. So we’re together, but like, not really. Barely,” he corrects when Sam’s coughing gets worse. “Myーour best friend’s getting married.”
“I’m so sorry,” Naima apologizes. “I really thought you were together.”
“Really? I swear I saw grooms in our files,” Minh Anh mutters. “Anyway, we sincerely apologize for the mistake.”
“You’reーit’s alright,” Wilson says, finally recovered from his coughing fit.
“At any rate, you two would make a handsome couple.”
“Thank you?” Bucky can feel his cheeks warming up, so he quickly looks away.
“Don’t mention it,” Minh Anh says, with slight amusement in her voice. “Let’s go back to alterations, huh? Before one of us puts their foot in their mouths again.”
Yeah, that’s a pretty solid idea, especially because Bucky’s pretty sure Wilson noticed his blush and is now looking at him with an eyebrow raised.
“That’s good,” he says clearing his throat. “Let’s goーlet’s go back. To alterations, that is.”
Bucky ignores the fact that both of Wilson’s eyebrows are at his hairline, and that he’s blushing even harder than earlier.
Wilson rolls his eyes again , but it looks different this time. It looks resigned, indulgent.
“Yeah, Mister ‘uh Barnes’,” Sam says. Bucky still can't read his expression. “Let’s go back. Stop putting our feet in our mouths.”
Bucky knows he’s confused, because if he didn't know any better, he'd swear Sam almost looked fond.
As I said earlier, we're jumping to the 'lovers' part. It still works, but the whole middle chunk is missing. Hope you enjoy!
Sam tries to avoid looking at the muscles of Bucky’s arms and back as he slips off his jacket. Even in the low light of the hotel room (Sam refuses to think of it as mood lighting), every part of Bucky is beautiful.
Lord in Heaven. When had he started being so unashamed of how attracted he was to Bucky? The vodka probably helped a little. A lot.
“So. Which side d’you want?”
“I don’t really care. Long as you don’t snore or kick, we’ll be just fine, Barnes.”
Interesting definition of ‘just fine’, Wilson.
Oblivious to Sam’s internal struggle, Bucky moves to the side closest to the window. He dumps his jacket on the chair that’s next to the bed, and starts unbuttoning his shirt.
Oh fuck. I can’t do this. I really can’t.
“Barnes, Jesus, why?”
“What.” Bucky look at him with a frown on his face. “We’ve seen each other half-dressed before at all those fittings.”
“...Yeah, but it wasn’tー” Sam sighs. They had done this before. But it hadn’t involved a honeymoon suite with a single bed, or Sam being tipsy enough to let hisーhis feelings for Bucky run wild.
Bucky shrugs, takes off his belt and his socks, and collapses face down on the bed.
“Barnes. How the fuck am I supposed to get under the covers?”
“ ‘S a huge bed, Wilson. Plus I’m not gonna sleep anytime soon, and it’ll be way too hot if I go under the covers.”
“So fuck my sleep, I guess?”
“ーyou’re so grumpy.” James lifts his head and the gentle smile on his face makes Sam’s stomach swoop. “Come on,” he says pleasantly, patting the spot next to him. Sam knows for sure he’s not the only one who’s tipsy. “Sit down, at least. Ya had plenty to say to me earlier.”
Yeah, when I was in control of the situation and you weren’t half naked.
Sam sighs as he removes his own blazer and shirt, then sits on the other side of the bed, leaning on the huge pillows behind him. He stays quiet, letting the awkward silence take them over. Sam bends forward a little to remove his socks, running his hand on the comforter andーwoah. This is some good shit. Soft. Probably five hundredーno, like a thousand thread count sheets.
How did those work anyway? He’d have to ask his sisterー
Every little thing Sam was feeling up to nowーgood and badーleaves his body, and all at once Sam is drained.
“Woah, SamーWilson. Sorry, I didn’t mean toー”
“You’re fine.” Sam clears his throat, tries to sound like his entire state of mind didn’t just do a 180 in less than 2 seconds. “You’re fine, Bucky.” He hears more than sees Bucky turn over to lie on his back.
“Clearly not if you’re reacting this way,” he says quietly. “I’m really sorry.”
Sam inhales and exhales deeply. Honestly, he wouldn't mind telling Bucky about Riley. It’s just that he’s already feeling so much right now...he’s scared of telling, of revealing, more than the situationーmore than his relationship with Buckyーwarrants. More than what Bucky’s ready for.
“You don’t...you don’t have to tell me anything. It just looked like you were upset earlier, and, well…”
Sam was upset earlier. Still is, a little bit, but Peggy’s aunt and the room situation had overshadowed his feelings.
This wouldn’t hurt anymore than he already was, would it?
Sam takes another deep breath.
“I started ballet when I was three, like a lot of kids.” Sam has seen the tapes a hundred times by now: his mom in a tan suit with huge shoulder pads, telling him and 1 year old Sarah about challenging gender roles, fine arts, and the importance of an active lifestyle. (All true, but Sam mostly cared about tutus, and flying like the dancers he'd seen in magazines and movies.)
Sam shakes thoughts of his mother and carries on.
“At the timeーit’s not like today, even though today’s not a piece of cake eitherーbut at the time, it was even worse for Black kids.” Sam smiles ruefully. “I remember this asshole in my class making fun of me ‘cause of the way my leotard looked on me. Like it was my fault they only made one type of nude, likeーanyways. Riley.”
Bucky’s still quiet next to him, but Sam feels he’s listening.
“Riley was one of the few who didn’t really give a shit. We were in the same class, then we were friends, and that was that. The way it’s supposed to be when you’re a toddler.”
“That was before you met Nat?”
“Yeah,” Sam nods. “We never left each other’s side. He was the first oneーhe’s the one who made me realize I was gay.” Sam swallows, hard. “He didn’t feel the same, though. Thought that would be the end of it, the end of everything, but he justーhe didn’t care. Said he loved me andー”
Sam has to stop for a minute. He’d started up calmly enough and thought he could get through everything, but his throat is feeling tighter and tighter, and he can’tーhe can’t breathe, andー
Sam feels a light pressure on his hand. He looks down and sees Bucky hesitantly placing his fingertips on the back of his hand. Sam doesn’t allow himself to think too hard about it, and grabs Bucky’s hand.
“Riley, he’sーhe wasーa bit like me. Loved, loved dancing, loved to take care of his family, but he wasn’t so good at taking care of himself. We hadーwe had rehearsals for...God, I can’t even fucking remember the damn piece. It was our last one though. He wasーup on this balcony. One moment he’s laughing with his partner, the next he’s justーfallingーfalling down to the main stage. I justーwatched him. Doctor said he wasn’t eating right and he’d been stressed and his blood pressureー”
Sam briefly closes his eyes against the onslaught of emotions and immediately regrets it. He can see it, hear it, like it happened yesterday. He opens his eyes, and takes a deep breath to be able to finish the story. It’s all he can do now.
“That was about two years ago.”
Sam turns his head when he hears Bucky inhale sharply. “Two years? Oh,” Bucky breathes, “sweetheart .”
“It’s whyーI think it’s why it hit me so hard when you pretended you didn’t know me at the dinner,” Sam hears himself say. He hadn’t even intended to go that far.
“Oh,” Bucky says again. It doesn’t sound anything like his tone when he’d said it the first time, and he turns away from Sam, his eyes on the ceiling. Sam feels Bucky’s fingers slip away, but he grabs them and laces them with his before they’re completely gone. He’s not mad at Bucky.
“I’m not mad at you,” Sam says out loud. “I wasn’t even mad then. Not the first time, anyway. It’s justーit’s just that I really didn’t think I could do it again. Ballet, I mean. Not even teaching. But it worked out, and I love it, I love teaching ballet a lot . At first I thought you were, I don’t know, just an outlier. But then, when you pretended you didn’t know me at the dinner I thought maybe it really was awful.” Sam blows out a heavy sigh. “I thought maybe I wasn’t as good as I thought I was.”
“I know it’s not rational. That’s all my anxiety andー”
“Sam,” Bucky says again. “It’s okay. It’s okay and I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”
“Yeah,” Sam says. “Me too.”
They sit in silence for a while. Surprisingly, it’s not uncomfortable. It’s not heavy either, not burdensome. It just is.
Sam slides down slowly so he’s actually laying on the bed, thinking that was gonna be it for the evening, and more than ready to sleep it off.
“I’mーI was really uncomfortable in class ‘causeーI don’t deal well with people touchin’ me.”
Sam turns towards Bucky, who’s chewing on his bottom lip. He clearly has something to share and Samーwell Sam wants to listen. It’s the least he can do.
“I started boxing in high school.” Bucky must feel Sam’s surprise, because he chuckles weakly. “Yeah. I’d wanted it since I was a kid.”
“You were a little Rocky?” Sam asks with a smile.
“Yeah, actually,” Bucky smiles back. “Saw Stallone once and that was it. I was obsessed with it. Still am.” His smile disappears slowly, and Sam’s heart drops right along with it. “But I, uhーI took a little detour.”
“I was good at itーI was real good. My coachー” Sam feels Bucky’s hand twitch in his. “My coach had a...an interesting way to make his assets better.”
“Training was day and night. And I mean...that’s what it’s like when you do sports in school. But he took it to a whole other level. Trainingーit was all that mattered. It was all any of us could do. At the beginning and end of every practice, he’d sit there and make us watch the same videos over and over again of theseーthese athletes no one had heard of, who clearly weren’t healthy. It was likeーit was almost like he wanted to hypnotize us. Started giving us those ‘protein shakes’,” Sam can hear the quotation marks, “that kids had no business drinking.”
“How old were you?”
“Yeah. My mom didn’t know what to doーStevie told me years later she’d begged him to find out what the hell was going on, ‘cause she had no clue. Just saw me...changing. ‘Gettin’ bigger and emptier’, is what she said. Couldn’t recognize me when I walked through the door.” Bucky sighs, heavy, but somehow it doesn’t even sound like he’s released half of what he’s feeling.
“It all came to a head at a meet in...in D.C., actually. One of the guys on my team wasn’t reacting well to whatever it is he was feeding us, and the more we talked, the more we realized how fucked up the entire thing was. Three of us went to his hotel room. He was drinking some fancy bottle of wine. The kid, the one who had the bad reaction, started yelling at Pーat the coach. Asking what the hell was going on. He pushed PーPierce, the wine bottle hit the table pretty hard, broke. Pierceーhe used it to…”
Bucky removes his hand from Sam’s and Sam lets him, thinking he needs his space after all of this. But then he takes Sam’s hand again and pulls it towards him, trying to bring his attention to his left arm...where a scar about as wide as his pinky finger runs the length of his arm.
Jesus. Jesus Christ. They were just kids, and this man ruined themー
“I’m sorry, Bucky. I'm so, so sorry.” It’s nothing, it’s nonsense to say you’re sorry for something so devastating, but it’s all Sam can say.
Bucky nods. “It’s why I don’t do well with strangers. If I’m not there to compete, to win a fight, it’s hard to get past it. And I get what you mean,” he adds, looking up at Sam again. “When I realized that I wanted to do boxing again after everything, I...it really fucked me up. Thank God for my therapist.”
Sam laughs at that, more genuine he thought he could be right now. “Yeah. Thank God for my therapist, andーwait. You said the coach’s name was Pierce?”
“Is itーis it Alex Pierce? Isn’t heーhe’s running for Senator or whatever it’s called in D.C., no?”
“Uh huh.” Bucky’s expression changes, goes harder. “The whole thing was an accident, see? Three sixteen year olds got drunk, couldn’t deal with the pressure of the competition, tried to attack their coach and he defended himself.”
“Pierce was...Pierce. He’d been on the school board for like 10 years. He wasn’t even faculty, technically, but they allowed him to coach ‘cause he was ‘that good’,” Bucky says with a mix of disdain and disappointment in his voice. “The guy had a lotta power. Still does, clearly. Sports environment, you know how it is.”
Sam does, unfortunately. The way the studio had let the press report on Riley’s death was...infuriating, to say the least.
Sam doesn’t know what to do or what to say that he hasn’t already, so he settles for squeezing Bucky’s hand. Bucky squeezes back.
Once again, Sam thinks it’s the end of their conversation, but Bucky says, “It’s why I am the way I am.”
“Yeah,” Sam nods, “that explains a lot.” Bucky’s mouth curves down, and Sam’s confused.
“It does. I’m...I’m mentally fucked up. I can’t carry a conversation, I’ll literally run away from a situation instead ofー”
Sam laughs. He can’t help it, he’s still laughing even after seeing the baffled look on Bucky’s face.
“Unbelievable. You’re fucking unbelievable, Barnes, you know that? You just told me about how you overcame a shit ton of trauma. And I know you managed to get through collegeーand do well, tooー‘cause you ended up with a job at fucking Stark Industries. And you still found a way to do the thing you love, worked your ass offーphysically and mentallyーto go back to doing it.” Sam shakes his head, incredulous. “Unbelievable,” he says again.
Bucky’s face goes from baffled to bashful, and a slight flush colors his cheeks. It’s adorable. (Sam had been (ridiculously) honest with Bucky tonight, so he should manage to be honest with himself.)
“Thanks, Sam,” Bucky says quietly. “So are...so are you.”
Sam is grateful his blush doesn’t show, and burrows down on the bed, still holding on to Bucky’s hand.
Neither of them breaks the silence this time, though Sam knows it’s gonna take a while for sleep to come after that conversation. All they hear is the city, noisy as ever, and each other’s deep breathing. If he inched closer, Sam would probably be able to hear Bucky’s heart beating.
Since they blew past uncomfortable, Sam waits for it to become awkward again, maybe, or at least for things to go back to being lighthearted, to their usual back and forth, but they don’t. The silence isn’t tense or sad, either.
It just is.
Bucky would be worried, but Sam’s face is as calm as he’s ever seen it, the pale light of the morning doing interesting things to his skin.
They're laying in bed, in the exact same positions they fell asleep in, which is rare for Bucky. He looks at Sam, for any signs of discomfort, anything that looks, sounds or smells like morning after regret.
Bucky watches Sam’s chest rise and fall regularly. Watches Sam’s right hand laying on the bed. Watches the light move higher and higher, from his neck, to his chin, to his face.
Bucky thought there couldn't be anything prettier than the pink-orange light of the sunset on Sam’s face, but as with each and everyone of their interactions, it turns out he's wrong.
“I'm mad,” Sam says again. He's not whispering, but his voice is quiet, like he doesn't wanna disturb their little truce ー or how quiet this morning is.
He's not the only one.
“Aren't you always?” Bucky says, instead of what can I do. Instead of even after last night, I'm happier right now than I’ve been in so long.
“I think that's you, Barnes.”
Bucky chooses to ignore that. “Why are you? Mad, I mean.”
“This was supposed to be a short term thing,” Sam says with a smile that's not quite happy. “I was supposed to find a way to be civil to you so that Steve could have his perfect wedding.”
“And now?” Bucky's not holding his breath. He's not.
“I don't hate you.”
Bucky reaches out, grabs Sam’s fingers, places their hands just like they were the night before. He waits for Sam to look at him before he says, “That's progress.”
Sam loses the smile completely, and Bucky’s stomach sinks.
“No ー no, it’s...I never hated you.” Sam looks Bucky directly in the eye. “I never hated you.”
It's so little. They'd been really petty towards each other at the beginning. If they'd met under different circumstances, that pettiness could've turned to resentment really fast. But they didn't, and it hasn't, and honestly Bucky doesn't see a single fucking universe where a least one of them didn't realize that this is where they were meant to be.
He looks, really looks, at Sam.
Competent, dedicated, Sam. Graceful, talented, Sam.
Annoying, infuriating, beautiful Sam. Who doesn’t take shit from anyone, not even himself.
“Wilson,” he whispers. “I wanna kiss you.”
“Barnes,” Sam whispers back. “Fucking do it already.”
And for the first time since they've met, Bucky does as Sam says.
“Sam, darling, how did everything go?” Peggy’s voice echoes slightly in the large lobby. She looks tired, but not nearly as stressed as she did last night. As she crosses the lobby to meet Sam, who’s next to the elevators, he notices she’s carrying a tray with four cups of coffee.
“Pretty good.” That’s the understatement of the century, but Peggy doesn’t need to know that. “What about you, is your aunt okay?”
“She is, thanks for asking.” She moves to hand him a cup of coffee and stops midway through her gesture. “Wait. ‘Pretty good’? Really? I would’ve thoughtー”
“Sam, sweetheart, they say breakfast ended at 11, so we’ll have toーoh. Hi, Peg.”
“Ah. Right,” she says with a smirk that’s making Bucky squirm where’s he’s literally hiding behind Sam. ”Pretty good.”
Sam feels his cheeks heat up. “You can’t tell Steve!”
“Can’t I?” she asks, right as Bucky says, “So when you’re the one pretending, it’s okay?”
“Shut up, Barnes,” Sam says with a huff. “You really wanna deal with Steve’s insufferable ass when he finds outー”
“When I find out what?” Steve Perfect Fucking Timing Rogers asks as he bends down to grab his coffee and kiss Peggy’s temple.
“I don’t know, love. They were just about to tell me.”
“I, uh, weー”
“It’s nothing.” Bucky says. Sam would kiss him as a thanks for the save, but that would kinda defeat the purpose of this whole thing. “It’s just...you were right all along, Stevie.”
“Yeah?” Steve asks with a knowing smirk. “About what?” Sam holds his breath. Here goes my peace of mind.
“I’m not telling you.”
Okay what the hell, Barnes?
“Not telling you, Steve. Just know that you were right.”
Steve’s face runs through a series of expressions before he settles on outrage.
Oh. Oh. Sam’s maybe-almost-boyfriend is a genius.
Sam is barely withholding his laughter at Steve’s bewildered expression. “You can’tーyou can’t do that!”
“I can and I just did. Anyways, don’t we have errands to run? You’re getting married tomorrow.”
“I know I’m getting married tomorrow, asshole, I just wanna know what the hell is going on.”
None of them are saying anything and Steve sighs. “Peg?”
“I have no clue, love.”
“Et tu, Peggy?”
“You’re smart, Steve,” Sam says now that he’s sure he won’t burst out laughing. “You’ll figure it out.”
“ Fine,” Steve says. He grabs his coffee from the tray and stalks to the revolving doors. “I don’t even care,” he throws over his shoulder.
They’re not a block away from the hotel before Steve whines, “You guys. Come on.”
Bucky starts cackling, and he looks so delighted, so happy, that Sam thinks fuck it, and kisses him. When he feels Bucky smile against his lips, Sam forgets all about Steve, Peggy, the entire city of New York and only gets snatched back to reality by Steve’s triumphant, “I knew it! I told you you two you wouldー”
“You knew what?” Bucky asks, before his mouth is even fully separated from Sam’s.
“That you twoーyou’re clearly together!”
“I don’t know,” Sam says. “Are we?”
“But you justーyou just kissed!”
“IーI can’tーoh my God, just, fuck you both,” Steve sighs. He grabs Peggy’s hand and starts walking again.
Sam chuckles and bumps his shoulder against Bucky’s. He looks up at his face, expecting amusement there and starts worrying when he sees a slight frown instead.
Sam feels him tense up.
Sam opens his mouth to ask what Bucky means by that when it hits him. Bucky’s avoiding Sam’s eyes, and that adorable blush of his is making its way across his face.
“Well,” Sam says, moving to face Bucky and grabbing his hands, “I don’t know, Barnes.” When he has Bucky’s attention, Sam lets go of Bucky’s hands to cup his face, ignores how hard his heart is pounding in his chest and kisses Bucky again. This time, he pours in everything he feels. Every ounce of affection, of appreciation, of uncertainty he’s feeling he leaves right there, on Bucky’s lips. So it’s no wonder he sounds so out of breath when he says, “You tell me.”
Sam feels a little proud when he sees the dazed look on Bucky’s face.
“I hate to say it,” Bucky says with a grin that completely belies his words, “but Steve was right.”
Sam grins right back at him. “You wanna tell him properly?”
“Nah. Let’s let him squirm for a while.”