“Honey, I’m home!”
Sam’s cheery voice echoed through the house, followed by the sound of the front door closing. Bucky was in the kitchen, stirring a pot of pasta on the stove. One of his new things was learning how to cook. He called out to Sam, taking note of the barely concealed weariness in Sam’s voice.
“Kitchen, you hungry?”
“Depends,” Sam replied, walking into the room. He narrowed his eyes at the food, taking a tentative smell. “What are you making?”
“Nothing weird? After the meatloaf incident-”
“Ok, that was one time-” Bucky retorted.
“You almost set the kitchen on fire, and then you still made me eat it,” Sam said, a grin overtaking his face.
“I didn’t make you do shit,” Bucky grumbled. “I’ve gotten better since then.”
“I’ll admit, this doesn’t smell too bad. I’ll just keep the pizza place’s number on standby.”
Bucky rolled his eyes, but a fond half smile slipped across his face when Sam turned his back.
“It’ll be done in 15, you have time to shower if you want,” he said.
“You saying I smell?”
“Yes,” Bucky replied blandly. “You know the suit makes you sweat.”
“I think it's the amount of physical effort my job takes that makes me sweat,” Sam protested. “You’ve been sitting around on the couch all day, maybe you’re just getting soft.”
Bucky raised an eyebrow, stretching his arms over his head so his shirt lifted up, showing off the still defined muscles of his stomach. “Yeah, you’re right.”
Sam’s eyes lingered on his stomach just a moment too long, and Bucky felt a strange fluttering sensation in his chest.
“All right, no one likes a show off,” Sam said, walking off to shower. He was back when the pasta was done, and from the way he scarfed it down, he was either starving, or Bucky had done a decent job on the pasta. They made small talk about the mission, then made their way to the couch to mindlessly scroll through channels. Sam was still making his way through a list of everything he said Bucky needed to catch up on. Much as Bucky hated to admit it, he usually liked what Sam put on. The other man had good taste.
They’d fallen into this routine in the year that they’d lived together. After the fiasco with John Walker, Sam had taken on the role of Captain America. Bucky had gone back to therapy, and while he was still on standby for emergencies, he was pretty much out of the game. He’d seen enough combat for a lifetime or two, he’d said, and Sam seemed to agree. He’d only been called in once since then, and only because Sam had gotten himself in a tight spot.
But the two of them had grown used to each other over the months, and after Bucky got out of the game, it felt strange not seeing Sam often. So they moved in together, in case of emergencies, of course. Not because they were friends. It was just more convenient this way.
“I think you’re protesting a little too much,” his therapist had told him when he said as much to her, but Bucky wasn’t going to read too much into that.
He liked the routine they had, though. It kept him steady.
So when Sam didn’t come home the next evening, who could blame Bucky for panicking?
Sam didn’t come home when he was supposed to. Bucky could excuse that. He could understand if maybe Sam got held up after the mission, or maybe the debrief went long. He’d been there, he got that. Then three hours went past, and that argument fell out of the window. Then Sam didn’t answer his phone.
By the time Sam finally came home, opening the door and strolling in with a whistle, Bucky had gnawed his fingernails down to the quick in an attempt to ease the shaking in his hands, and he’d paced the house so often he was surprised the floor wasn’t worn down. He was at the door in an instant when he heard Sam come in, grabbing the other man’s arm, eyes frantically scanning him for injuries.
“Holy shit,” Sam yelped, reaching out with his free hand to steady Bucky’s shoulder, pushing him back a bit.
“Are you ok?” Bucky demanded, hating himself for the crack in his voice.
“Yeah, man, I’m good,” Sam said soothingly, still looking confused. “You wanna take a breath?”
“You’re not hurt? You’re sure?” Bucky insisted, refusing to move from Sam’s side.
“Not hurt. The mission was fine, I promise. Just intel gathering, ok? I was with Joaquin the whole time. Come on, sit down, let’s go further inside and close the door.”
It took a moment for Bucky’s muscles to respond to his commands. He was so wired that he couldn’t sit, but he didn’t want to be far from Sam, so he opted to lean on the kitchen counter, tapping his fingers restlessly. Sam did sit down, raising his eyebrows when Bucky didn’t.
“What’s going on, Buck?”
“What’s going on? Where the hell were you?”
Sam frowned. “I was on a date. I told you yesterday.”
Bucky paused, racking his brain. “No you didn’t.”
“Shit,” Sam swore softly, understanding dawning on his face. “I thought I did, I swear. That’s where I was after work. I got off early, even. I didn’t mean to freak you out.”
He stood up, walking to Bucky’s side and placing a hand on his shoulder. Bucky let himself relax, letting his nerves settle with the comforting weight of Sam’s hand pressing into his skin, warm, alive, safe, and home.
“How was it?” he found himself asking as his breath started to come easier. The question startled Sam, and the other man shrugged.
“It was fine. We had a good time, nothing too spectacular.”
The look he gave Bucky then was odd, something hidden in his dark eyes that Bucky couldn’t quite parse out.
“Didn’t blow your mind?” Bucky replied drily, averting his gaze. Sam let out a short huff.
“I guess not. I really am sorry, Buck. I’ll tell you next time, I promise.'' The sincerity in Sam's voice was hitting a little too close to home, a little too close to a spot in Bucky’s heart that he’d closed off long ago. The part of him that craved comfort, craved contact, craved… Well, craved everything that Sam gave him. He hadn’t allowed himself to want that in a long time.
So he did what he did best. Avoided the topic altogether.
“I wasn’t worried, I don’t know why you’re making such a big deal of it,” he grumbled, moving away. He just missed the way that Sam’s hand continued to hang in the air, the way his fingers flexed as if to grab Bucky, keep him there, keep him close. Just missed the way hurt flashed across his face, smoothed away before a moment could pass.
“Course not,” Sam said quietly. He was mostly talking to himself, but Bucky heard. He always heard.
Sam dove into dating with an enthusiasm that surprised Bucky. In the year that they’d been living together, Sam had never dated, never even mentioned dating. Sure, Sam was a flirt- he was charming and charismatic, and flirting seemed to come as easily as breathing to the other man. He flirted with the girl at the coffee shop, grinning at her until she blushed beet red. He flirted with fans who saw him on the street, flirted with the people he was fighting in missions if they had banter. He’d even flirted with Bucky on occasion. But there was never any intent behind the words.
He went out at least once a week, sometimes more. He always told Bucky, holding up the promise he made, though Bucky insisted he didn’t need to know, that he wasn’t worried. Even though he still worried when Sam was out late. He wasn’t sure why, but he did. Sam had enemies. What if he got set up one night?
He had to shake the thoughts from his mind, however, and they were always assuaged when Sam walked through the door. He always said the dates were fine, always said they were nothing special- until, apparently, one was.
Bucky had been out, for once. He’d gone to visit Sarah and the kids, having been specially invited for the birthday of one of AJ’s friends. Bucky still didn’t understand why they wanted him around, but Sarah said he was surprisingly good with the kids. Besides, he’d do just about anything to get a taste of Sarah’s cooking, even let a bunch of kids climb all over him for an afternoon.
He didn’t get home until late in the evening. The house was dark, but there was noise coming from the living room, lights indicating that the TV was playing.
“That you, Buck?” Sam called.
“Yup,” Bucky called back, tugging his shoes off and hanging up his jacket. He was wearing a short sleeved shirt underneath- he had just been in Louisiana, and the kids liked to see the arm anyway. It had taken him a while to get there, to wear a short sleeved shirt even when he was living alone, but this was his own house, and he was going to be comfortable, damn it.
“What are you watching?” he asked, strolling into the living room. He stopped short. Sam was sitting on the couch, and the TV was playing, but he wasn’t alone. He had his arm slung around the shoulders of another man, who was sitting far too close to Sam for Bucky’s liking. He was about an inch shorter than Sam from the looks of it, with shoulder length dark hair and the beginnings of a beard.
He smiled at Bucky. Bucky didn’t smile back. His eyes moved to Sam, who was watching him, a line furrowed between his brows.
“Ah, just Star Trek,” Sam replied, gesturing towards the TV. Bucky spared it a glance, but didn’t really pay attention to the screen, eyes flitting back to Sam.
“This is Brandon,” Sam said, and the man, who was still sitting too close to Sam, gave a half wave. Brandon’s eyes ran over Bucky, stopping at his arm. Bucky shifted backwards, and Sam caught on to the movement.
“We were gonna go out to dinner, but the restaurant was closed. I didn’t think you’d be back till tomorrow morning,” Sam said slowly. “How were the kids?”
“Good,” Bucky replied automatically, body relaxing slightly at the mention of the kids. “AJ’s friend had a good birthday. Sarah made fish.”
“Man, that sounds good,” Sam said. He turned towards Brandon, and Bucky bristled. “My sister’s an amazing cook. I can’t believe you didn’t bring back leftovers.”
The last part was aimed towards Bucky, but he didn’t realize at first, too caught up in examining the way Brandon’s hand came to rest on Sam’s thigh.
He realized he’d been staring when Brandon shifted uncomfortably. His eyes snapped back to Sam’s, reading the concern in them automatically. Guilt bubbled in his stomach.
“Sorry,” he said. “I’m interrupting your… date. I’ll leave you to it. Nice to meet you.” He muttered the last part, and turned on his heel, walking back to his room. His heart was beating uncomfortably fast, and there was an unfamiliar twisting in his gut that felt like a snake coiled, ready to strike. He didn't like it.
Behind him, he heard Sam’s voice, what sounded like an apology, and then footsteps behind him. Sam caught up to him outside the door to his room.
“Hey, are you ok?” he said in a low voice. He touched Bucky’s upper arm, and Bucky flinched away. This time, the hurt that came over Sam’s face was evident, and Bucky rushed to correct his mistake.
“Sorry, sorry,” he said. “I’m fine, just caught off guard. I wasn’t expecting someone to be here.”
It was an easy explanation, though not an entirely truthful one. Sam knew Bucky liked routine, liked knowing what to expect, so it could pass as the truth, while leaving out the sick feeling in Bucky’s stomach. He didn’t know how to explain that one to himself, so he sure as hell couldn’t explain it to Sam.
There was a moment of hesitation in Sam’s face, but when Bucky reached out, touching Sam’s arm, he accepted the explanation.
“All right. If you’re sure you’re ok,” he said, meeting Bucky’s gaze unwaveringly.
But he wasn’t sure, and he definitely wasn’t ok. That pit in his stomach stayed the whole night through. It left the next day, when Sam was alone.
Then Sam had another date, and he brought another man home. The feeling crept back up, moving from his stomach to his chest until it encompassed his whole being. Every touch he saw between them, every secret smile they shared, made him want to run and hide.
He didn’t think it could get worse, until he heard the noises they made in the night.
He knew Sam didn’t mean for him to overhear them. Their rooms were separated by a guest room and by the kitchen. But Bucky had the ears of a supersoldier, the heightened senses, and to him it felt like they were separated only by a thin wall. Even with a pillow over his head, as hard as he tried to ignore it, he could hear them. He could hear the sounds of their kissing, heavy breathing, soft moans echoing in the dark. He refused to think about what they were doing, pushed the images out of his mind when they crept in. The other man wasn’t featured in those images, only Sam, but Bucky pushed them out all the same.
He clenched his fist so hard his fingernails broke flesh when he heard a bitten off moan, followed by a breathy curse from Sam. He found no rest even when he finally drifted off to sleep, Sam’s low voice, rich with pleasure, following him into unconsciousness.
He couldn't even look at Sam the next day. Or the day after that.
“I just…. It makes me uncomfortable.”
Bucky was seated in his usual chair in his therapist’s office. There was a couch next to it, but he refused to sit there. She sat across from him, notepad resting on the table next to her. She hadn’t had to use it in a while. Bucky was opening up, apparently, and as much as he hated to admit it, opening up meant he was making progress.
“Uncomfortable how?” she prompted. Bucky shrugged.
“I don’t know. Just uncomfortable.”
She tapped a finger on her armrest, not impatient, but contemplative.
“How does it make you feel physically? Is there an area where the discomfort is located?”
Bucky frowned. “Why does that matter?”
He shifted slightly in his chair. “Uh, my stomach, I guess. My gut. That’s where it starts. Then it moves to my chest.”
“Is it a sinking feeling, or a fluttering one?”
Bucky paused at that. “Both?”
“Uh, sinking in my gut, fluttering in my chest.”
“Hm,” she hummed, examining him thoughtfully. “Are you afraid of the men that Sam brings home?”
Bucky shook his head. “No. I trust Sam, he wouldn’t bring home someone dangerous.”
It had taken him months to admit in his sessions that he trusted Sam, but it was true. Sam was maybe the only person left on this earth that Bucky trusted completely.
“So it's not a fear response,” she said. There was a beat of silence, then she continued.
“Have you ever seen two men dating before?”
Bucky blinked. “Yes.”
He shrugged. “Uh, around, I guess. No one I knew personally, really, but I see them around.”
“Besides Sam, have you ever known a gay man personally?”
“Just one,” Bucky said slowly, racking his brain. “A kid named Adrien, back in high school.”
“And you never saw him with another man?”
A memory came to him then, unbidden. Adrien in an alley, with one of the other boys from school. A football player. Bucky hadn’t meant to watch, had meant to turn around and leave, but before he could, the football player, Brian, had turned around and seen him. Then he was shoving Adrien off of him, and before Bucky could stop him, his hand had balled into a fist and struck Adrien in the face. Bucky had to pull the other man off of Adrien.
Adrien had been crying, but when Bucky went to help, he pushed him away.
He relayed the story to his therapist, who listened with her usual intensity.
“So, the only real experience besides Sam of gay men was in the 40s. A very homophobic time, where those relationship were very taboo.”
“I guess so,” Bucky said. He knew the word homophobic, though he hadn’t learned it until recently, after Sam came home from an unsuccessful date. He’d been mad, ranting about ‘homophobic assholes’ who wanted to make comments about him and his date.
“So maybe you just aren’t used to seeing it. It could just be a learning curve. And to me, it sounds like you might be worried about Sam, worried that he’ll get hurt because of who he loves.”
That sounded right, so Bucky nodded. He didn’t think it explained everything. His therapist could read him like a book, knew the troubled expression on his face, and she raised an eyebrow.
“There’s another explanation that I could think of, if you wanted to hear it.”
Bucky motioned for her to continue.
“Have you considered that it might be jealousy that you’re feeling?”
Bucky could have laughed her out of the office, and he nearly did. So that line of investigation was dropped, though there was still a glint in her eyes when he spoke of Sam in his next session.
Bucky didn’t give the idea of jealousy a second thought until weeks later. Sam hadn’t had a date in a while, and the two of them were starting to get back to normal, getting over the awkward air that had been surrounding the two of them since Bucky started feeling strange around Sam. They ate dinner together, watched shows together, and got on each other’s nerves, the same way they always did. And Bucky was growing comfortable again.
He’d worried, for a while after he’d spoken with his therapist, that he might be homophobic. It did make him feel strange, and he did grow up in the 40s- it seemed like the logical conclusion. But he didn’t feel strange around other gay couples, it didn’t make him feel strange to see two men kissing in public or being affectionate with one another, no more than it would a man and a woman kissing or being affectionate. And he didn’t feel uncomfortable with Sam, even knowing that he liked men. So maybe it was like she said, that he just wasn't used to it.
Part of his mind whispered that she could be right about the jealousy. But he wasn’t ready to admit that. Not right away, not without prompting.
The turning point came late one night, around 2:00 in the morning. Bucky woke up in a sweat, breath coming in pants, completely disoriented. He didn’t know where he was, or even who he was, eyes frantically scanning the darkness.
Then his door opened, and Sam rushed in, crouching next to Bucky. He’d fallen on the ground, apparently. Maybe that’s what had woken him up.
Sam was close, but not touching Bucky, saying his name in a low voice, telling him to breathe. This was a common occurrence for the two of them. They were both soldiers, both plagued with PTSD- nightmares could be expected. When they moved in together, after Bucky had his first nightmare when Sam was there to hear, it became an unspoken agreement that they would help each other through the difficult nights. Bucky had had a chance to return the favor a week later, and it was settled from then on.
“You with me, Buck?” Sam asked gently. Bucky could just make out his face in the dark, the sheen of his eyes, the movement of his lips. He focused on Sam, on the warmth radiating off of his body, and tried to breathe. He reached out then, hands searching for Sam in the dark, and Sam clasped them in his own, fingers steadying the trembling.
“I’m right here,” he said, tugging Bucky closer, Bucky went willingly, but he took one hand out of Sam’s. Sam went still, trying to figure out what Bucky was looking for, and he went even stiller when Bucky’s hand landed on his chest, over his heart. The steady thumping of Sam’s heart sped up, reverberating until Bucky thought he could feel it in his bones, and he took a deep, shuddering breath.
“There you go,” Sam said quietly, a waver in his voice.
“You were dead,” Bucky said by way of explanation, when he could speak again. He’d been the Asset again, in his dream, back in Hydra’s clutches, Sam tied to a chair and pleading for his life while Bucky held a gun to his head.
He could just barely see Sam nod in understanding.
“I ain’t dead yet,” he said, and the tension left Bucky’s body. He slumped forward, head landing on Sam’s shoulder. The other man’s hand came up to cup the back of his head, fingers threading through his hair. Bucky nearly whined. He wasn’t used to this. Used to kindness, to gentleness. But Sam gave it away like it was nothing, as if kindness wasn’t a limited resource.
“You want to sleep?” Sam asked. “Try to, anyway?”
Bucky thought for a moment, then nodded, but he made no effort to move. Sam paused, heartbeat increasing under Bucky’s finger’s.
“You want me to stay?” he asked after a moment.
“Please,” Bucky breathed out. He couldn’t find it in himself to be embarrassed, or to wonder if he was crossing a line.
Sam helped him stand, helped him get back into bed, always touching him in some way, reminding him that he was still there. He crawled in next to Bucky.
They’d done this before, sleeping in the same bed. Sometimes the nightmares were too much to bear alone. But they hadn’t done it often, and they hadn’t done it like this, with Sam pulling Bucky in close, wrapping his arms around him, letting Bucky rest his head on Sam’s chest, taking comfort in the steady beating of his heart.
But it worked. Bucky drifted off. He dreamed of Sam again, but this time, the dreams were good.
Bucky woke the next morning to warmth. Sam’s arm was wrapped around him, the other man pressed up against Bucky’s back, breath tickling the nape of his neck. His fingers were splayed across Bucky’s hip. Bucky let out a contented breath, shifting backwards until his body met Sam’s. It wasn’t until a satisfied hum left Sam’s lips that Bucky froze, snapping fully awake.
Sam moved slightly, still asleep, fingers drifting across Bucky’s lower stomach as he pulled him in closer. That feeling was back, the ache in his stomach, the fluttering in his chest, and it was all too familiar.
Bucky had a fleeting thought, wondering if this was how Sam’s dates felt waking up with him in the morning, and a burst of yearning hit him so hard he may as well have been punched in the face.
His therapist was fucking right. Jealousy. Bucky was jealous.
He would have had a full blown panic attack, but he pushed it down, instead slipping out of bed with all the agility of a former assassin, and when Sam stumbled out of his room later that morning and asked how he was feeling, Bucky lied and said he was fine.
He cancelled his next session with his therapist. It wasn’t court mandated anymore, just highly recommended, so he could skip a session or two. He just couldn't face her, couldn’t tell her that she was right about this. But he also couldn’t stop thinking about Sam.
Steve would have had a field day with this, he thought sourly. Bucky and Sam had spent so much time at each other’s throats, that finding out that Bucky may have fallen in love with the other man would have made Steve laugh so hard his asthma might just make a reappearance.
Bucky managed to stay normal around Sam, surprisingly, managed to hide behind their usual banter and his own dry wit- that was, until Sam brought home another date. When he saw the other man, Bucky stammered out an excuse, and left the house entirely.
He walked around for hours. He kept picking up his phone, but there was no one for him to call. He missed Steve, missed him like crazy. He could have used a friend, but right now Sam was the only one who he could call a friend.
Although… that wasn’t entirely true. Sam wasn’t the only Wilson Bucky had bonded with.
As if thinking of her had summoned her, Sarah’s name appeared on his phone. He wondered if she had psychic powers sometimes. It wouldn’t be remotely surprising, at this point.
“Hi, Sarah,” he said, picking up the phone.
“That’s all I get? Hi, Sarah?” her phone sounded from the other end of the line, and Bucky bit back a grin.
“What else should I say?” he asked.
“You could start by telling me why my brother just called me in a panic, saying you stormed out of the house.”
Bucky frowned. “I didn’t storm out.”
“You sure? That’s how it came off to him.” Bucky knew that lying to Sarah was useless. He’d only tried it once, and she’d been able to catch the lie from a mile off. He wouldn’t be trying that again.
“I didn’t mean for it to come off like that,” he said, wincing. “I just couldn’t be in the house.”
“Couldn’t be in the house with Sam and his date, you mean,” she said. “What’s up with that? Sam said you’d been acting weird, but I thought he might be reading into it.”
Bucky let out a long sigh, and the words came out of him almost unprompted. Sarah just reminded him so much of his own sister, he couldn’t help himself.
“I think I’m in love with Sam, and I don’t know how to tell him.”
There was a beat of silence, then Sarah’s laughter rang out. Bucky found himself chuckling too.
“Jesus Christ, is that all it is?”
“What do you mean, is that all it is?” Bucky replied indignantly. “I think that’s a pretty big thing.”
“Man, I’ve known about that for months. You’re telling me you just figured it out?”
That set her off again, laughing so loudly that Bucky had to hold the phone away from his ear.
“Jeez, Sarah,” he grumbled.
“Sorry, sorry,” she wheezed. “I don’t mean to laugh, I just really thought you knew.”
“Well, I could use some advice, here. What the hell am I supposed to do? He’s on a date right now.”
“No, he’s not.”
Bucky blinked. “What?”
“He’s not on a date anymore. The date left. Because Sam’s upset and worried about you.”
Sarah’s tone sounded like she was talking to a toddler- which in all honesty was probably fair, considering how long it took Bucky to figure out his own goddamn feelings.
“Yeah, huh. So you want my advice? Get your ass back to the house and sort this out with him. You’ve both been dancing around this for way too long.”
“Yeah, I-” Bucky paused. “Both of us?”
“I’m not saying anything, I’m not getting involved. I’m already too involved for my liking, and I’m not interested in being the middleman for this discussion.”
She stopped then, and softened. “But just a fair warning, he’s upset. Play nice, ok? I know you guys snipe at each other, but I don’t think that’s the best idea right now.”
“I can do that.” There was a warmth blooming in Bucky’s chest, something that he hadn’t allowed himself to feel in a long time. It felt like a bundle of nerves, anxiety, and…. Hope.
“Thank you, Sarah.”
“Yeah, yeah, you’re eternally grateful and you owe me,” she said dismissively.
“Seriously. I’ll babysit for free anytime.”
“That’s more of a treat for you than it is for me,” she said teasingly. “Now go get your house in order.”
Bucky paused in front of the door to the house, taking a deep breath before reaching for the doorknob. Before his fingers even touched it, the door swung open. Sam was standing inside, mouth set in a firm line, shoulders tensed.
“....hi,” Bucky said. A lame introduction, to be sure, but it was the best he could muster. Sam looked him up and down, then turned around, walking inside. Bucky followed. His heart was pounding.
Sam reached the dining room before he turned around.
“So you gonna talk to me?” he asked. His voice was firm, not as upset as Sarah had made him out to seem- at least, Bucky thought that until he saw the muscle ticking in Sam’s jaw. Sam had a tendency to shut himself down, at least in his expression, keep himself neutral when he was under stress. It was one of the things that made him a good soldier, made him a good Captain America, but right now that wasn’t what Bucky needed. He would rather have Sam scream at him than have him standing stock still in the middle of the room, looking at him with dead eyes.
“That was the plan,” Bucky replied, taking a tentative step forward. Sam’s eyes flashed, and he stopped in his tracks.
“Maybe I don’t let you talk. Maybe it's my turn to talk for once,” Sam said.
“Ok. You can talk,” Bucky said, a little bewildered.
“Cause sometimes I feel like I talk, and I talk, but I never really say anything. You say three words and you’re done. Quite a pair, huh?” Sam said, bitterness seeping into his voice.
“So talk. I’ll listen.”
“Fine,” Sam said, blowing out a quick burst of air. “You’ve been acting weird ever since I started dating, and you’re already kind of a weird guy, so that’s saying something. I tried to explain it away. With Brandon I thought maybe you were just caught off guard, like you said. I believed that. Then you stopped talking to me for two days after I had a dude spend the night. When I stopped bringing people home, things were fine again. Then I bring Peter over, and you take off. I don’t wanna ask this, but I have to.”
Sam’s breathing was speeding up, jaw clenching so tight that Bucky was worried he might break a tooth. He felt his fingers flex, wanting to reach out to Sam, to touch him, comfort him, but he knew that touch wouldn’t be welcome right then.
“Maybe I should have come out to you, I don’t know, but are you acting like this because I like men?”
And there was the question, the question that Bucky had been asking himself since he first identified the problem. It hung in the air for a moment, Bucky trying to gather his thoughts, trying to figure out how to explain the progression to Sam. His silence lasted a little too long.
Bucky’s eyes snapped up to Sam at that. Sam’s eyes had a sheen to them, and Bucky realized with a start that the other man was on the verge of tears.
“Look, I get it. It's not like I haven’t lost friends over this before.”
Bucky tried to shake his head, tried to deny it, but Sam pressed on, despite the break in his voice. Bucky’s chest hurt at the sound.
“I’m lucky that I haven’t lost family over it, I guess. That I’ve got Sarah, that I had my parents. I guess I didn’t think I’d lose you over it. Didn’t want to. But I get it. And I don’t want to make you uncomfortable. It’s all right.”
“It’s not alright,” Bucky said roughly. Sam bit back a bitter laugh, looking away, blinking back tears.
“It's not,” Bucky insisted. He couldn’t stop himself this time- he was drawn to Sam like a moth to light, getting to his feet and moving to Sam’s side before he knew what happened. Sam’s entire body was tight and tense. He met Bucky’s eyes, nostrils flaring.
Bucky thought if he didn’t touch Sam he was going to explode, but he made himself hold back.
“Can I talk now?” he asked. Sam gave a short nod.
“I-” he started, and broke off. “I was uncomfortable. I won’t lie to you about that. I thought at first that maybe I wasn’t used to seeing two guys together. I thought because I grew up when I did that I thought it was something taboo. But I didn’t have a problem seeing other guys, other gay couples on the street, you know? Just with you.”
Sam laughed incredulously, hurt and anger dancing in his eyes, and a tear finally fell.
“Shit, that came out wrong,” Bucky said, reaching for Sam, but the other man pulled away. “Please let me finish. Please.”
He would have gotten down on his knees and begged if he had to, but luckily Sam didn’t make him do that.
“I thought maybe it was because I was worried for you. Being gay was dangerous back when I grew up. And I think that’s part of it.”
Sam’s expression softened ever so slightly at that, and Bucky seized the moment, continuing.
“My therapist said something when I was talking to her about it. She thought I might be jealous.” Bucky’s voice quieted on the word jealous, and he saw Sam frown.
“Jealous?” he asked, the first word he’d spoken since Bucky started.
“Yeah. Jealous of the guys you were dating. Jealous because I wanted… Well, it doesn’t matter, but I thought she was crazy.”
“It matters,” Sam said, eyes wide. Bucky swallowed, trapped in Sam’s gaze, unable to look away. He couldn’t breathe.
“Jealous because I wanted you.”
Sam’s expression didn’t change for a moment, and Bucky wondered if he’d made the admission in his head. Then he noticed the tremor in Sam’s hands, the rapid pace of his breathing.
“Was she crazy?” Sam asked.
“No.” Bucky said. He thought he’d be hesitant, when it came down to it, to finally admitting this out loud, but there was no hesitation, no waver in his voice. Not when Sam was standing there, looking at him like that, not when he knew that Sam was in pain. He deserved the truth, and Bucky could give him that, if nothing else.
“”Bucky, if you’re fucking with me right now-” Sam started.
“I’m not. I promise. I wouldn’t.” Bucky swore.
Sam stared at him a moment longer, almost as though he was holding himself back, then his hands were on Bucky’s face and his lips were on his.
Bucky gasped, hands coming up to clutch at Sam’s back, tasting the salt of tears- his or Sam’s? He wasn’t sure- but none of that mattered because Sam was kissing him, Sam’s thumbs were tracing his cheekbones, and to Bucky there was nothing else in the world. Just Sam, just Sam’s warmth, his strength, his gentleness.
Bucky’s back hit the wall, Sam’s body pressing against his, and Bucky realized with a start that they’d been moving. He hadn’t even noticed. One of Sam’s hands tangled in his hair, pulling slightly, and Bucky groaned.
“Jesus,” Sam swore softly, pulling back just long enough to see the look in Bucky’s eyes, pupils dilated, before moving in again. Bucky tried to press himself even closer to Sam, hands reaching under the hem of his shirt.
“Do you have any fucking idea how long-” Sam started, breaking off his sentence with a shake of his head.
Bucky found himself grinning, and he couldn’t stop. “Were you pining over me, Wilson?”
“Oh fuck off,” Sam grumbled,but he kissed the smile right off of Bucky’s face, and Bucky wasn’t thinking much after that. The only thing he could think about was the press of Sam’s body, the warmth of his skin under his palms. Then Sam rolled his hips, grinding into Bucky, and Bucky swore he saw stars.
“Fuck, Sam-” he groaned, and Sam’s mouth moved to his neck, nipping at his pulse point.
“Yeah, baby?” Sam asked, lips moving against Bucky’s skin.
“I, uh-” Bucky said. He was having trouble getting words out, but Sam seemed to get it anyway. He slowed, letting Bucky catch his breath, leaning his forehead against his.
Sam pressed a gentle kiss to Bucky’s lips, slow and soft, and Bucky could have started sobbing.
“I’m in love with you, you know,” he murmured, eyes fluttering closed. They stayed that way until he felt Sam’s hand on his cheek. Sam was looking at him with a tenderness that shocked Bucky, even when his familiar cocky grin quirked on his lips. Those lips were swollen, and Bucky felt a surge of pride.
I did that.
“I knew I was good, I didn’t know I was that good,” Sam said, but the look in his eyes betrayed him. Tenderness, fear, and hope, all mixed together.
“Asshole,” Bucky said, nudging him. “I mean it. I was coming back here to tell you that.”
Sam let out a long exhale, smile growing less cocky, but happier, more radiant, like the sun. Bucky would have happily gone blind staring at that smile.
“I’ve been in love with you for months,” Sam said. It was like all of the tension, all of the fear and self doubt bled out of Bucky at those words. He let out a shuddering breath, wrapping his arms around Sam’s shoulders and pulling him close. They stayed like that, breathing in tandem, and it felt good. It felt right.
It felt like coming home.