sam finds him sitting stiff, silent and still on the couch in the dark.
bucky’s fists are clenched tight, fingernails on his right hand digging into the soft flesh of his palm. hot tears are streaming down his face, an unrelenting drip off his chin and onto his jeans and shirt.
the clicking of the door shutting behind sam catches his attention for a moment and he wipes angrily at the tear tracks on his cheeks.
more tears instantly replace them.
“barnes?” sam’s voice is loud and jarring in the otherwise silent room. bucky sniffs and wipes his eyes again. “bucky.”
sam gently lowers himself onto the couch beside bucky, slowly reaching a hand towards him.
“I’m gonna touch your leg right now, man, is that alright?” he speaks more softly this time. when bucky nods, quick and sharp, sam places his hand on bucky’s thigh. he grips it lightly, grounding.
bucky gasps before letting out a shuddering breath and collapsing onto the couch back. he sobs, loud, twice, before squeezing his eyes shut and breathing hard. sam moves his hand to bucky’s shoulder and squeezes gently.
“what’s going on, man? what can I do?” he moves his head into bucky’s eyeline, trying to get the other man to look at him.
bucky huffs out an angry, bitter laugh. he wipes his eyes again.
“steve— he— I don’t know what to—“ he sobs again, smiling bitterly through the tears.
sam slowly moves his arm to wrap around bucky’s shoulders.
“it sucks, man. I know it sucks,” sam rubs his thumb over bucky’s arm, “but it’s been more than a year. what brought this on?”
bucky shrugs. lets out a laugh that is more of a whimper. leans into sam’s side, lays his head on sam’s shoulder.
“I loved him. I loved him so fucking much and he knew that. he had to ‘ve known. I wasn’t very subtle.” he turns his face into sam’s neck and sighs long and slow. “I guess I feel guilty. I thought him and me were the forever kind of love and now-“
“you got nothing to feel guilty about, barnes,” sam cuts him off. “he left us. left you. that’s not on you, man.”
bucky shakes his head, inadvertently rubbing his nose over sam’s skin and leaving goosebumps in his wake.
“that’s not what I mean. I realised it wasn’t forever from his end the second he volunteered to return those stones.” he breathes deep before lifting his head and looking sam in the eyes. “I just worked out tonight that it isn’t gonna be forever for me, either.”
sam squints in confusion.
he, too, had thought steve and bucky had something good. something forever. he still can’t wrap his head around steve leaving. can’t understand why anyone would pick someone else over bucky barnes.
“what made you work that out, buck?”
bucky smiles, so soft and shy and hesitant, so unlike himself.
“I realised that I’ve fallen in love again.” he pauses to grin, big and beautiful, and wipe his face clean one more time. “y’know, you’re right, what the fuck do I have to feel guilty about? I’m in love, man, and it’s fuckin’ awesome, and I am happy. that’s a good thing.”
sam smiles back at him. “yeah, buck. that’s a really good thing.” he bumps his shoulder into bucky’s playfully. “so? who’s the lucky chump?”
don’t tell me, he wants to say. let me live this lie, let me hold onto this futile hope. don’t burst my fragile little bubble.
bucky’s smile dims. “doesn’t matter. he doesn’t think of me that way. but I love him, and that’s enough for me. what we have now is enough for me.”
sam is once again struck with confusion so strong it’s almost anger. who the fuck does this guy think he is?
“he’s a damn moron, buck. any guy’d be lucky to have you. you’re a dream come true.”
sam is so caught up in his thoughts that he doesn’t notice bucky’s face lighting up once again. doesn’t notice him scooting closer.
he definitely notices bucky’s flesh hand gently cupping his cheek and pulling him in.
and he sure as fuck notices the rush of joy he feels when his lips finally meet bucky’s.