“You have got to be kidding me,” Bucky said as he saw Sam walking up with a duffle bag slung across one shoulder to the gate area where he was waiting for his flight’s boarding time.
A shit-eating grin spread across the other man’s face as he spotted Bucky and made a bee-line for him.
“Bucky, hey, man, fancy meeting you here!” he said with an exaggerated enthusiasm that he probably knew would get under Bucky’s skin, clapping him on the shoulder as he sat down.
“I thought we were taking separate vacations,” Bucky grumbled back.
It had been a few days since they took the shield back and the government benched them. And apparently they were trying to keep the two heroes busy somewhere else while they cleaned up the mess that was John Walker and regrouped. Bucky had shrugged and accepted since he had resolved things with Zemo and figured it would be a little while before Karli made another move. He hadn’t traveled much since he left Wakanda. And before Wakanda, well, all the places he went to back then were a blur of blood and pain he didn’t like to linger on.
“I’ve heard the military gets a good deal at this resort in the Bahamas. And plus, they probably heard about us being partners and all that.” He grinned at Bucky who just crossed his arms in response. Sam wasn’t about to complain about a free vacation, especially after the chaos of the last few months. He wanted to go home soon, but he needed a weekend away and the government kind of owed him one. And maybe the thought of getting to talk to Bucky, actually talk to him outside of missions and business was causing something new to flutter inside his chest. He looked down at his ticket, wondering what that feeling was about.
Sam snickered to himself as Bucky squinted at the snacks the flight attendant had put in front of them.
“You’re supposed to eat those, Buck, not glare them to death.”
Bucky muttered something about how he knew that and popped a few peanuts into his mouth, apparently deciding to turn that death stare towards Sam instead. Sam stared right back because he was used to it by now and didn’t shy away from the challenge of those pale blue eyes.
They heard someone clear their throat, interrupting their intense eye contact.
“Sorry,” the flight attendant from before said, blushing, which made both of them shift away from each other like they had gotten caught doing something they shouldn’t be, “we’re landing, so could you put your trays and seats up, gentlemen?”
Sam’s shoulders relaxed automatically as they walked out of the airport and into the warm Bahamian atmosphere. There was a car waiting for them, a driver outside holding a sign with their names on it. The ride to the hotel was quick, both of them looking out of the window in awe at the miles of pale pink and white sand.
“Is that pink sand?” Bucky marveled, his face pressed to the car window. Sam smiled to himself at the sight of Bucky looking like an excited kid.
“Yeah, I heard it’s from these little red organisms that die and mix with crushed shells. When it all washes up, it makes the sand look like that.”
“So its dead bugs? Great.” Bucky turned away from the window with a disgusted look on his face, which made Sam chuckle.
“Yeah, but pretty dead bugs.”
Their hotel was one of the mammoth ones with its own private beachfront they could see stretching out behind the building, and a pool out front. Sam wouldn’t have chosen to stay there himself but again, free vacation.
They checked in and got their key cards from the lady at the front desk. Their rooms were on the same floor, a few doors apart, so they both went to their rooms to settle in.
Bucky dropped off his bag in the corner and eyed the bed warily. It looked way too soft and he knew he wasn’t going to be able to sleep on it. He dragged the comforter and the pillow onto the floor. The view, though, that was something Bucky could appreciate. They were on the 20th floor and the rooms had sliding doors that led to a small balcony, which opened out to miles of the bluest ocean. Roads lined with palm trees snaked out into town. The view made him lower his shoulders and take a deep breath, stepping out onto the balcony to feel that salty air on his skin again.
He had his face tilted up towards the sky with a smile on his face and closed eyes when Sam entered with a soft knock. The look on Bucky’s face gave Sam pause because he had never seen an expression of such pure happiness on the other man’s face. It made something twist in Sam’s chest and he wanted to do everything he could to keep Bucky looking like he did right then. Bucky opened his eyes eventually and smiled at Sam, a soft thing that didn’t help the fondness blooming in Sam’s chest.
“Hi, Sam,” Bucky said, almost shyly, like he was embarrassed to be caught enjoying himself. Sam smiled back, moving out to the balcony to join him.
“What a view, huh?”
“Yeah, it’s- I haven’t really been on vacation before, except when I was younger, with my family.”
“I’m glad you’re getting the chance- wait, why is your blanket and pillow on the floor?” Sam interrupted his own train of thought, having seen Bucky’s set up.
The other man shrugged. “The bed’s too soft.”
It was the only explanation he gave, suddenly closing off and staring out towards the distance. Sam hated when Bucky did that, it always felt like having a door slammed in his face. He shivered slightly, the air feeling colder out there all of sudden.
“You’re on vacation, Bucky. No time like now to try to adjust to living as a civilian,” Sam said gently, leaning forward on the bars of the balcony, matching Bucky’s pose.
The soft openness of Sam’s face made Bucky swallow the deadpan retort he almost responded with. “Yeah, maybe.” He gave a little and Sam accepted it with a grin.
“Good man. But first, let’s go enjoy that beautiful beach instead of just staring at it. I’ll meet you out there.” Sam clapped him on the back, shifting the mood back to a lighter one.
Bucky undressed quickly and changed into the swim trunks he had bought at the airport store, excited now to get closer to that clear water. The last time he had been to the beach was with Steve eons ago in New York and suddenly it felt like exactly what he needed. He thought about taking his shirt off but hesitated, not wanting to draw attention and kept it on.
When he found Sam on one of the lounge chairs along the beach, he was sipping a colorful drink with a tiny umbrella in it and lying back with sunglasses on.
Bucky swallowed, his eyes moving down Sam’s body. The man had put on what looked like suntan lotion and the tight muscles of his body looked emphasized because of the shine. He had seen Sam with his shirt off before when they had to change quickly on missions, and sure, the other man was good looking. But he had never seen him like this, his skin looking golden and beautiful, all laid out in the sun. His hand twitched like it had a mind of its own, wanting to touch and explore. Get your shit together, Bucky, he told himself, clenching his hand into a fist.
Sam felt a shadow block out his sunlight and looked up to see Bucky’s face peering down at him. The other man sat down next to Sam, and squinted out at the water, shifting like he was uncomfortable. He was wearing his usual long sleeved shirt, tight as always but now he was wearing swim trunks with it. Sam almost laughed in pure joy at the sight of Bucky in swim trunks. But they were on vacation and he didn’t want to piss him off already, so he just smiled instead.
“You want one of these? It’s as good as it looks.” Bucky hesitated and then shrugged because what the hell , his therapist had told him he needed to try new things and if drinking a fruity drink with Sam on a beach was part of that, maybe it wasn’t all bad.
They sipped their drinks for a while, making small talk back and forth, because there was too much heavy shit they could be talking about that they didn’t want to, not during this small slice of peace.
“You wanna get in that water?” Sam said eventually, eyeing Bucky’s shirt.
Bucky looked around, feeling self conscious and not wanting to ruin their peace by drawing too much attention to them with the vibranium arm. “I don’t know, maybe you should go ahead.”
Sam tilted his head, trying to think of the right words that would cause Bucky to let his guard down. “C’mon, man, there’s not many people around, it's a private beach. And you know that water’s gonna feel so good.”
Eventually Sam coaxed Bucky into going into the water with him after all. He tried not to stare as Bucky gingerly took off his shirt, clenching and unclenching the vibranium arm.
“So Shuri made your arm waterproof, huh? You won’t short-circuit on me?” Sam teased as they walked towards the ocean, trying to distract Bucky from his clear nervousness.
Bucky huffed out a laugh that seemed to escape despite his best efforts. “It’s Shuri, of course she did. You just worry about keeping up without your wings to help you.” And with that Bucky started running towards the water, leaving Sam to scramble after him.
And you know that expression about watching someone walk away? Yeah, that one , Sam thought, because it was downright unfair how good Bucky’s muscled back and toned ass looked as he ran, especially without all his gear and layers of black clothing.
The warmth of the water surprised Bucky, though he knew logically it would be warmer than the east coast beaches he was used to. He went under water right away, starting to swim away while Sam tried to catch up. They swam for a while, getting further and further away from the beach until the people started looking miniature. Eventually, Sam had to take a second to breath so he surfaced, panting. Bucky popped up next to him, his hair falling in his eyes and a breathtaking smile on his face. Sam’s hand subconsciously moved to push it away before he realized halfway and awkwardly touched his own hair instead.
Sam wanted to etch the memory of Bucky like this in his mind forever. Smiling and golden and carefree, with miles of ocean around him.
God, I’m so in love with you.
Oh fuck , where the hell had that come from?
Sam ducked back into the water with a sudden splash, swimming away like he was trying to rescue someone drowning in the distance. Or something, like maybe his sanity.
Bucky stayed where he was, squinting at Sam’s retreating back as he took a beat to just appreciate the moment, oblivious to the other man’s turmoil. Him and Dr. Raynor had talked about being in the moment and he hadn’t understood that fully, until right now. This was a moment to be there for.
They swam until they got tired, or rather Sam did and Bucky pretended he did, though he wasn’t actually fooling Sam. Mostly he found himself wanting to stay by Sam’s side. Go figure, he thought, as he toweled off his hair in his room afterwards, his thoughts lingering on the fact that he didn’t actually want to get far away from Sam like he thought he might when this all ended.
That night, they wandered down to the hotel bar, which was crowded with vacation-goers moving and grinding to the music.
Bucky had changed into a tight, blue long-sleeved t-shirt that brought out the blue of his eyes in a way that had Sam looking anywhere but at his face. He cracked a joke instead. “When’s the last time you danced, old man? You think you still got it in you?”
Bucky looked at him with a glint in his eyes that made Sam swallow the rest of his quip down. Before he knew what was happening, Bucky was tugging him onto the dance floor.
With his heart in his mouth and suddenly feeling very unsure of what he was trying to do, Bucky put his hands on Sam’s hips, moving along to the music with an impressive amount of skill. Sam joined in after a moment, the infectious beat cutting through his surprise.
Bucky leaned in as the DJ transitioned the next song into a slower one. “1943,” he whispered in Sam’s ear, a reply to the earlier question. He walked back to the bar where he had left his drink, leaving Sam speechless for maybe the first time in his life. He raised his drink with a smirk towards where Sam was still standing, looking stunned.
Before Sam could walk back to the bar to join Bucky again, another man tapped him on the arm and whispered something in his ear. Sam hesitated and then shrugged. Then the two men started dancing together, not quite touching but standing close.
A hot rush of anger burned through Bucky, causing him to squeeze the glass in his hand. He realized what he was doing and put it down before the glass shattered.
He knew enough to recognize it as jealousy as he looked away from the dance floor, facing the bar instead.
But what did he have to be jealous about? Sam was single and he could do whatever the hell he wanted with his time.
He downed his drink in one go and then moved to get up, deciding that he was tired and wanted to head to bed. He passed by Sam, who was still dancing with the handsome stranger. He gave the other man an awkward two finger waved as he headed towards the elevator, making a yawn motion when Sam raised an eyebrow at him.
Bucky was laying on the stupid, soft bed, trying to get used to it like Sam had suggested.
What a dumb suggestion. He thought to himself angrily, as he shifted, trying to get comfortable.
He heard a rap on the door and then it opened with a click, Sam peeking in.
Bucky didn’t say anything to him, barely acknowledging the other man.
Sam was a little confused as to why Bucky was so closed off again but figured it was the bed. He wasn’t sure why he was here to tell Bucky that Derek had invited him up to his room after they had danced for a bit. He didn’t need Bucky’s permission and the other man had never shown any interest in Sam’s love life. But here he was, feeling suddenly nervous and ridiculous at the same time. He remembered the thought he had earlier but pushed it away.
Sam licked his lips as Bucky turned to look at him when the silence had gone on too long.
“What do you want, Sam?” Bucky asked with a tired sigh.
“Derek, uh, the guy I was dancing with. He invited me back to his room to hang out. I might go, unless you need anything here.”
Bucky looked away, squeezing his eyes shut, his gut twisting painfully as the realization of his ridiculous crush and Sam’s clear interest in someone else hit him at once. He needed a lot of things, most of them involving Sam, but he obviously couldn’t have any of them.
“Uh- do whatever you want, Sam,” he replied, his voice sounding flat and distant.
Sam nodded, his shoulders deflating, and moved to walk away.
All the missed chances in his life suddenly flashed in front of Bucky’s eyes. And all the chances taken away while he was under mind control.
“Wait, Sam. Stay,” he croaked out.
“Stay?” Sam replied, turning back around and searching Bucky’s face as the other man walked towards him, his heart threatening to thump right out of his chest.
“Stay.” Bucky whispered, closing the rest of the distance to kiss Sam hard. The force of it knocked Sam back against the door and then he was kissing back, hands going to Bucky’s waist, his arms, his face, anywhere he could get his hands on.
“Okay,” Sam replied when Bucky pulled away, a smile on his face that would rival the midday Bahamian sun.
Sam pulled him back down before the other man could say anything more.