Bucky didn't remember courting someone being this hard.
He knew the world painted James Buchanan Barnes as a flirt back in his day before the war, and truthfully he was, but maybe he's been out of the game too long because trying to capture Sam's attention was extremely hard. Either that or Bucky really needed to brush up on his flirting skills.
It didn't take long for Bucky's crush on Sam to develop. Truthfully, it started when Steve revealed to him that Sam was looking for him those two years. Bucky tried his best to ignore the overwhelming emotions he felt for the man and for awhile it worked, given the constant ongoing fights with aliens and trying to save the world. But then came the Flag smashers, the boat, meeting Sam's family, and the cookout and the feelings came rushing back at full speed but even bigger than before. Bucky couldn't ignore it no matter how hard he tried so he just. . .stopped trying.
Bucky would find himself staring at Sam curiously as he talked with his family, joked with A.J and Cass, walk around the house humming old tunes. Just simple stuff. Like he was now.
Sam was tending to shrimp that was steadily sizzling away in melted butter, garlic, and a slew of other seasonings on the hot pan. The smell carried through the house and caught Bucky's nose where he was stationed at a stool near the kitchen island. It smelled wonderful. Bucky admired how Sam always made time to cook lunch for them, no matter how busy he was. Today he decided on Shrimp and Grits, a Louisiana delicacy. Bucky never tried it but he decided that he was going to enjoy it anyways because of who made it.
Sarah interrupted his thoughts as she came bustling through with a magazine in hand, a look of distress crossing her features. "Guys, what are your favorite flowers?" Sarah asked. Although it being such a light question, she said it with such malice in her tone. Sam must've picked up on it because he snickered quietly.
"Why?" Sam asked, turning from the stove to face his sister with crossed arms and a smirk that Bucky definitely wasn't losing his mind over.
Sarah rolled her eyes, "Because Maggie can't make up her mind about what flowers she wants for the center pieces at the reception so she told me to chose. You know how indecisive I am, Sam, so please could the both of you choose?" Sarah pleaded in distress.
Both men were already making their way to stand near Sarah where she splayed out the magazines on the kitchen island. Bucky wasn't paying attention to the magazines, no, he was more interested in Sam's side profile. He was more interested in Sam's defined heightened cheekbones. He was more interested in the slight furrow in Sam's brow as he focused on the variety of flowers presented before him.
"Hmm, they don't have tulips on here? I would've chosen those, they're my favorite." Sam said more to himself but Bucky of course heard it.
Sam likes tulips? Bucky wondered. And that was how he got his idea.
"The peonies look fine though Sarah, just go with those." Sam decided, looking over at Bucky for input.
Bucky's heart stuttered at the sudden attention from Sam. "Uh yeah, peonies sound fine." Bucky agreed, slightly stumbling over his words. Sam grinned and nodded at his approval.
Sarah sighed in relief, "Thanks guys, I'll run it by Maggie!" She said before gathering the magazines again and rushing out the door.
The next morning, Sam awoke to a beautiful bouquet of tulips with a bow wrapped around the stems, sitting on his night stand. Despite his vision still being blurred from sleep, he reached over and grabbed the note card and looked over it a couple of times until his vision cleared.
"The Shrimp and Grits were great." -Buck.
And that's all Sam took it as. An appreciative gift from Bucky for making him lunch. He later patted Bucky twice on the back with a: "Thanks man!" In reference to the beautiful surprise left on his nightstand.
"Man?" Bucky thought in defeat.
It was a hot muggy night, nothing out of the ordinary in the middle of summer in Louisiana. Sarah and Bucky were in their parents old rocking chairs with cold beers that dripped condensation onto the splintering old wood, shooting the breeze with easy smiles on their faces.
Bucky was in the field chasing fireflies with AJ and Cass, laughing gleefully and in that moment he felt like a carefree child and he looked it too. Grass stains decorated his pants, he was grinning from ear to ear so much so that the highs of his cheeks were tinted a light pink. And the light in his eye was something that you just couldn't fake. Bucky realized that he's had that same light feeling running marathons through his body whenever he's with the Wilson's. He's gotten so used to the feeling, so used to the happiness that it brought that he never wanted to let it go.
AJ and Cass were clearly more skilled than him at catching fireflies but after a couple more tries, he finally caught one. Bucky held the jar in his metal hand, watching the bug bump against the glass in astonishment. Bucky held the jar close and looked over to see Sam already watching him. Bucky gave a tentative smile and Sam returned it with a fond one. Before Bucky thought better of it, he turned and started to walk towards the porch steps.
Sam watched him with a curious gaze until Bucky offered the jar to Sam. "Good job, Buck. First one of the night." Sam praised with a hint of tease in his tone.
Bucky's smile just widened before he turned and walked towards the yard again, picking up another glass jar along the way.
He missed the knowing look Sarah gave Sam.
It was the evening of Maggie's wedding. The Wilson's knew Maggie well, having grown up with her. Bucky was forced to come along but he honestly didn't mind it. Maggie looked beautiful in her white dress, all smiles with her new husband Cyrus. Bucky remembered him from the cookout. A nice fella. Bucky talked to him over a plate of potato salad, barbecue chicken, and baked beans.
Bucky was sat at a table reserved for him and the Wilson's, they even had a fancy name card and everything. Bucky knew it was only for organization and formalities but there was a sense of pride at being able to sit at the Wilson's table. Being grouped with the Wilson's. Coming to a family function with the Wilson's.
He looked around at the table in nothing but admiration. AJ and Cass were busy eating cake and Bucky was sure that was their second helping. Sarah was staring off at Maggie and Cyrus with a proud smile, occasionally taking pictures. And Sam. . .Sam looked so handsome. He was dressed in Sunday's best. His black slacks were ironed and pleated, a stark white button down was tucked in, secured with a belt along with a suede royal blue jacket that did nothing to hide his toned arms. Sam looked better than the groom and Bucky meant that with every fiber in his being.
Fortunately, Sam didn't notice his staring as he was too busy hurriedly scraping his plate to get the last of the red beans and rice as if someone was going to take it from him. Bucky snickered to himself at that. Sam would've got up to go plate a second helping but You Go To My Head by Billie Holiday suddenly rang through the air. Bucky reached over and quickly grabbed Sam by the wrist. Sam looked over in alarm but his expression softened at Bucky’s curious gaze.
“Dance with me?” Bucky asked hopefully.
Sam acted as though he was pondering the thought for a moment before he responded. “Fine. But if they’re out of meatballs by the time we’re finished, I’m blaming you.” Sam warned with a teasing smile that Bucky matched.
Bucky took Sam by the hand and led them to the dance floor where multiple couples migrated. Couples. They are about to dance as if they are a couple. Bucky tried not to think about it too hard in order to stave off unwanted anxiety. It was a two minute song, he could do this.
The two moved quite gracefully to say it was their first time dancing with each other. Sam had a warm hand on Bucky’s hip with the other grasping his metal hand. Bucky had his hand on Sam’s broad shoulder, lost in thought as to where he should look. Sam made his mind for him as he was staring at Bucky so intently that Bucky couldn’t even pretend that he didn’t notice. He just knew Sam was doing that to make him nervous and by the playful smirk on his face when he finally looked at Sam, he was right.
“I see you still got it old man.” Sam jested as they gracefully moved along the dance floor.
“Never lost it.” Bucky replied, easily keeping up with their never ending banter.
Sam hummed with a smile.
Bucky moved closer and dropped his head onto Sam’s shoulder. He wished he could see Sam’s face from this angle but also he was glad that he couldn’t in case his expression was one of distaste. But Bucky took it as a good sign that Sam didn’t move him off, instead he actually brought Bucky even closer. Bucky breathed in Sam’s subtle but spicy cologne, and in that moment he declared that everything should smell like Sam. Bucky nestled further in the warmth of Sam, the two still wrapped up in each other.
“Alright, you puppy.” Sam said with a light laugh but Bucky knew he didn’t mind so he stayed there even long after the song ended and an upbeat one took its place.
Walking home from a mission was usually very tiresome, especially if the mission didn’t quite go their way. Bucky could feel his body restoring the broken skin and deep purplish bruising from the fight as he walked along the night streets of DC. Sam, on the other hand, wasn’t so lucky and Bucky wouldn’t be able to see Sam’s face clear of bruising and cuts for a few weeks at least.
Times like this, Bucky wished that he could transfer his healing over to Sam to relieve the pain until he was the Sam that he once was before the brutal fight. But until it was made possible, Bucky treated him with a med kit. If the damages were far too complicated for the little med kit to fix, it was to the hospital where Bucky would watch every nurse and doctor that tended to Sam with careful eyes and a litany of questions.
It was silent between the two, save for the occasional car that passed by, bathing them in headlights and the sounds of their shoes hitting the pavement. As they went to cross the street, Bucky reached out his arm to stop Sam from making any further advancements. Sam stared at Bucky’s side profile in confusion, a look that he noticed Sam’s been giving him a lot these days.
Bucky didn’t blame him.
Bucky made quick work of taking off his jacket before laying it down gracefully over the big puddle of water. He looked at Sam expectantly, holding his arm out in a way that said: well? Go on. Sam stared at him for a moment before shaking his head and laughing, walking on Bucky’s jacket. He made it to the other side with completely dry shoes and Bucky knew that which would explain the smug smile.
He grabbed his now soaking wet jacket and followed Sam across the street. “You do that with all your friends?” Sam asked, glancing back at Bucky in amusement.
Bucky ignored the hurt in his heart at the word friends.
“Just the ones I like.” He wanted to say but instead he responded with a simple: “Yep.”
Bucky didn’t know how much more he could take.
Bucky overheard Sam mentioning to Sarah over the phone how much he missed a home cooked meal. It’s been hard trying to find time for cooking lately since they’ve been away on missions. The thought of even making use of their little kitchen in their shared DC apartment made the two feel even more tired than they already were. So take out was common on missions.
Bucky took what Sam said into consideration and got to work on planning a home cooked meal tonight for dinner.
A trip to the grocery store and a couple hours of cooking later, Bucky was plating baked salmon over a bed of linguine noodles with a creamed spinach and roasted tomato sauce spooned on top. Along with the salmon, he made asparagus and added two wedges of lemon just for good measure.
As he set the plates on the table, Sam emerged from his bedroom where he was fixing redwing after a nasty crash into the side of the building from last night’s mission. Sam’s eyes immediately fell onto the plate of food and if possible, hearts would be floating out of them.
“Wow, Buck, I’m impressed.” Sam said, making his way over to the dining table and taking a seat.
Bucky smiled appreciatively, taking a seat as well. “I thought we should finally make use of the kitchen. I thought I saw dust on the stove tops.” He opted for that explanation rather than the truth which was that he heard Sam’s conversation. If a home cooked meal was to make Sam happy than so be it.
Sam laughed, “I wouldn’t be surprised.”
They ate in comfortable silence. Sam occasionally broke it to rave about how good the salmon was and did being a good cook come with the serum because Steve could work magic in the kitchen too.
Soon, the two were finished and they stood at the sink working together to wash and dry the dishes. Sam’s hand grazed the small of Bucky’s back as he reached over him to grab the next dish, deeming Bucky too slow. Bucky tried not to think about it too hard. Sam touched him like that all the time. It was nothing more.
Nothing more. Bucky repeated in his head.
The dinner kept playing in Bucky’s head over and over until sleep wasn’t even an option. He glanced over at his alarm clock and noticed it was around 2 in the morning. Bucky sighed, turning over to lay on his back.
Sam was a smart man, yes, but maybe he was an idiot when it came to feelings. There’s no way he’s not catching onto Bucky’s advances. Unless he’s blatantly ignoring him because he doesn’t see Bucky that way. Bucky couldn’t bare the thought of Sam not returning his feelings, he just couldn’t. He honestly didn’t know what he was going to do if Sam didn’t feel the same. How was he supposed to just get rid of a crush that’s been ongoing for years just like that?
Bucky bit his bottom lip. He can’t keep shooting blanks, the flirting is obviously not working so what if he just outright say it? Bucky slid a hand down his face and before he knew what he was doing, he got out of bed and made his way to his bedroom door. Within seconds, he was standing in front of Sam’s room.
He opened the door quietly and shut it in the same manner, his eyes quickly adjusting to the darkness in Sam’s room. Bucky walked over and climbed onto Sam’s bed and sat cross legged next to his sleeping form. Sam was awake within seconds from the new added weight. He looked startled, as he saw Bucky staring down at him with a determined glint in his eye.
“Jesus, James, what’s—” Sam questioned in alert, eyes squinting against the darkness before he reached over and clicked on his lamp light.
Bucky took a deep breath in and exhaled quietly through his nose. “I like you.”
Sam’s eyebrows rose in shock as he shifted up to rest against his headboard.
“I don’t want you to call me James. I want you to call me those sickeningly sweet nicknames that couples give to each other. And I want to crawl underneath the sheets with you and you hold me because it’s been a while since anyone has done that.” Bucky’s never been this transparent with his wants before, but what better time would it be to use it than now to declare his feelings to the completely oblivious man before him?
Sam said nothing but just shifted back down under the sheets before lifting one side in a welcoming manner. Bucky sighed in relief, crawling under the sheets next to Sam.
“Catch the light will you?” Sam asked and Bucky obliged, reaching over to click the lamp off, bathing them in darkness once again.
Sam nestled in behind Bucky, sliding an arm around his waist and tugging him closer. Sam nosed the back of his neck, wisps of hair tickling his nose. Bucky placed a hand over Sam’s, snuggling back against him.
“I like you too. . .baby.” Sam whispered and Bucky felt the smile against the back of his neck.