[AN: This chapter begins in the middle of the last chapter of Forget Me Not Part 1. Please bear with it, and thank you for your patience.]
Clint leans with his shoulder into the hallway wall, watching Steve and Sam as they walk out the door. They're going to get Natasha, Clint's already called her and got yelled at for being reckless, and it gives him a little private time with James. This entire things hurts like a bitch, and Clint still trembles from the comprehension of what he's put James through. Now, knowing who James is, the fact that he's lost memories of them forms a lump in his throat that's making it hard to breathe.
"You scared the shit out of me," James rasps from behind him, and Clint turns to lean his back fully against the wall.
"Sorry," he says as James' palms come to rest on either side of his head. He wraps his fingers around James' hips, pulls him closer. "Vision says it will be a few days before I get everything back. But I know Russia, and the bunker, and the first time we kissed."
The first time he's killed for James, the first time he's hurt for him.
James' face softens. "What else," he breathes.
"Reading Dune, dancing in the living room," Clint leans in to press their cheeks together, "your screams."
Intertwining their loneliness, cherishing their love, carrying his pain.
With a shiver, James lowers his forehead to Clint's shoulder.
"I'm sorry this happened," Clint adds. "I'm sorry you had to suffer through it."
James nods before straightening to look at Clint. "You're back now. And you were still you."
It pulls a smile out of Clint. Yes, it's still been him, through it all. It speaks to how much James means to him if he's kept feeling it, this connection they have.
James' eyes are shining like electrified steel in the shade of the hallway, piercing through Clint right into his core. How has he never noticed...
"James," he whispers, "your eyes. They really are alive."
A beat, his irises almost fluid, and James' lips are on his. His kiss is hard, promising of bruises, desperate and hungry. It uncoils something in Clint's belly, his heartbeat skipping with a flutter of want. He pulls James closer, tight against him, and fuck.
It's been two years since the last time he's had this.
"Do more to me please," he breathes and James growls into his mouth.
He pulls away, looks at Clint. He's breathing hard through his nose, eyes invading every one of Clint senses, until Clint's feeling fucked right there. A moan travels out of his throat, and then they're moving. James grips at him, steers him backward, up the stairs, his mouth more demanding with each bite at Clint's lips, each swipe of his tongue.
Clint's back hits the mattress, and James is on him, hands pulling at clothes, teeth grazing the tendons of Clint's neck. It's turning frantic, a little too desperate, fingers pushing too hard into his muscles, and Clint's heart rabbits in his chest.
"James, James," he breathes, "slow down, I'm not going anywhere."
He stills above Clint, raises to look at him, hands on either side of Clint's head again. But this time, the swirl of want in James' eyes in replaced with distress. A fat tear plops onto Clint's cheek, and he places both palms on the sides of James' face.
"No, kitty," he says, but it comes out more like a whine, and Clint's eyes fill right along this utter hurt.
A sob shakes James' frame and he muffles it against Clint's shoulder.
"I lost you," comes in hoarse sounds between gasps, "I fucking lost you."
It chokes Clint, and his entire body trembles as his throat closes in tandem with the tears he can't stop from spilling. He clutches tightly at James, pulls him as close as possible, but it doesn't feel enough. James' arms sneak beneath him trying to take hold, so Clint rolls them on their sides. And now he's being squeezed so tightly, that his skin aches under the pressure, but it lets him breathe, allows air to find its way into his lungs again, and he buries the sounds flowing from him into James' skin.
Clint watches James, and James watches Clint, and they're still closely entangled on the bed, face to face on the same pillow. James' eyes are still wet, but they're both a lot calmer now.
James wipes at Clint's cheek with his flesh thumb, warm against his skin. His metal arm rests bent between them, fingers intertwined with Clint's, knuckles pressed onto Clint's chest, right above his heart. From time to time, his index twitches, in rhythm to Clint's heartbeat. Clint draws air with a sniffle.
"Stop crying with me, stupid," James rasps.
The huff of laughter that leaves Clint is choked off by more tears trying to spill, but he's all dried out right now.
"I don't remember us in bed," Clint breathes.
James swallows, looks at him for a beat. "You do, a little. What you said earlier, to do more to you? I told you that, first time we..." he stops to pull air in, and it's shaky.
So Clint leans closer, touches their lips lightly. He does it again, and again, until James' eyes close, his hand wrapping itself around the back of Clint's head. It's incredibly soothing, this slow, gentle kissing, breaths mingling as the hurt subsides.
Time stretches with this comfort, and Clint loses track of it. He shifts, pressing closer, driving a low moan out of James. He's hard against Clint, and Clint's heart flutters with anticipation. But James leans back, with a hushed "sorry" that's more reluctant than apologetic. Clint wants him, too. He wraps his leg around James' hip, pulls him back in.
"Don't stop," he whispers.
James licks his lips. "Yeah?"
"Yeah," Clint smiles, "just go slow."
James presses his own smile into Clint's, and his hand travels down Clint's side before it pushes his t-shirt up, caresses the skin there, then back down to his hip, his thigh. James' palm is warm as it cups his backside, fingers slipping over... Clint gasps at the sensation.
"This ok?" James asks quietly.
Clint nods with a swallow, and James smiles at him. It's soothing.
"Don't move," comes next from James before he twists without dislodging Clint, then turns back around with a bottle of lube and a condom retrieved from the nightstand.
His gentle kisses return, along with his caresses over Clint's leg, the small of his back, light touches against his entrance over the fabric of his sweatpants that are filling his cock and making his breath hitch in his throat. Soon, James pushes Clint's pants down, and Clint helps remove them entirely without breaking their embrace. James' metal hand presses harder against Clint's chest, his other one pulls Clint's leg high around his waist.
James' lips are warm and distracting enough that Clint doesn't hear the bottle cap snap, doesn't realize James' hand is gone from his side, until one of his fingers rubs wetly, slides inside, making Clint hold his breath. His body is welcoming, yields easily, and Clint's exhale trembles.
"We do this often," Clint says, trying to distract himself further, but his voice is wavering.
"Plenty, but usually the other way around," James whispers against his lips. "I recover faster."
Clint's nod of acknowledgement is cut off when another finger slips inside. But there's no pain, his muscles accommodating to the stretch easily. A whine makes its way out of Clint's throat with it.
"Mhm," James hums in agreement, "that's right."
And James moves his fingers in such a way that it sends waves of tingles throughout Clint's entire body, knowing exactly how to twist and rub and touch. It turns the whine into a low moan.
"So good, Clint," and James' lips nip at his gently. Clint is floating.
A shift, and the sheets beneath them rustle as James rolls above Clint, hooks both his legs around him.
It's one unrelenting push, hot against his insides.
It's slow, so fucking slow, but unending, and Clint's lips are numb, his mouth unable to close.
And James finally stops, leaning above Clint on his metal elbow, his other hand fisted in the sheets. He's trembling, or Clint is shaking, or they're both shivering, he can't tell anymore. He draws air, but it only comes in too short gasps. James moves.
Sound spills from Clint's throat again, a whining 'no' because he's so close, too close, it will be over too soon, but he still pulls James closer, legs tightening around him.
"Yes," James breathes, pushes inside again, tortuously slow, and he knows, he knows exactly what Clint wants.
He kisses at Clint's lips again, a little distracting. It's so chaste comparing to the fullness inside of Clint, that it sends waves of warm pleasure through him, coiling in his belly, ready to be released.
"Nnh," he tries again, chest tight, and his fingers ache from where they're fisted in James hair.
"Shh," and James doesn't stop, "that's it, let go," his voice soft, his movements gentle as he presses his palm on Clint's shaft.
It overflows from Clint with a tenderness that makes his back arch against the bed despite the slowness of it all, and James keeps pushing into him through the tremors, once more, and again, and then he shivers. There is a delicate stillness to his pleasure, his eyes closed, lips curving in a smile, that is sends a pang of delight through Clint's chest.
"Fuck..." Clint breathes.
James' smile turns wider, revealing his teeth, and his eyes are so bright when he opens them, that it drives a low sound out of Clint's throat. James twitches inside of him, and that pulls a small laugh from Clint.
With a peck to Clint's lips, James withdraws, but only to roll them back into their previous embrace. This time, Clint's head rests on the metal of the arm, while James presses his lips on Clint's forehead. His fingers feel a little numb, and Clint stretches them.
"Might have pulled a little too hard on your hair," he rasps.
James hums. "I like it," he murmurs with a contended sigh.
Clint wiggles closer, if that's even possible.
"I think I wanna let it grow again," James says and Clint offers a questioning hum. "Yeah, it's... this doesn't feel like me, not really."
Leaning back to look at him, Clint raises his hand, caresses the side of James' face.
"I think I figured it out," James continues. "I'm not entirely Bucky, and not an asset anymore. I'm me. I wanna be me, wanna be James."
It curls Clint's lips in a smile.
"That's why you have two pictures of me in that box, isn't it?"
"Yeah. Meeting him, the soldier, changed my life," Clint whispers. "But I fell for you."
James draws a long breath, licks his lips with a nod. His flesh arm wraps itself around Clint, and he pulls until their foreheads touch.
Yes, Clint was right. James is home.
"Clint," and the sounds presses itself against Clint's forehead, "wake up."
Another touch to his cheek, then a caress through his hair.
"Come on, wake up," follows in hushed tones.
Everything is warm and soft. Clint blinks slowly, smiles at the sight of James' smile against late afternoon light.
"Natasha texted," James whispers, "they'll be here soon. Thought you might want a shower."
James' skin is damp, his hair still wet, and he's only got a towel coving his middle as he lays on his elbow next to Clint.
"Yeah," Clint tries to say but it comes out more like an incomprehensible vowel.
But James chuckles. "I'll make you some coffee."
"You're the best," he manages.
"Of course," comes back, and Clint lifts a hand to flick James' nose. He misses by a few inches, but it earns him a kiss, so Clint counts it as a win.
Fuck. He's so fucking gone for James, it's not funny.
He steals another peck before making his way into the bathroom. The water is refreshing, and Clint lets his mind travel to wherever it wants to go for a while, cataloging images and sounds and sensations. Memories are coming to him, more like parts of memories, and Clint is a little too overwhelmed right now to chase any one of them more closely. He can do this later.
At the moment, he'd rather enjoy the mellow thrum in his bones. With each movement, the ghost feeling of James inside of him brings him back to earlier, and Clint smiles to himself. He's aware that they must have done this so many times lately, he's felt the way his body is used to it. But for him it still feels like a first, after a long time of no such intimacy. And it's been so good. James had been amazing, leaving a tingle on Clint's skin that is fueling the heat in his cheeks.
James is waiting for him in the kitchen, promised mug of coffee all ready. Clint accepts it gratefully, leans on the counter close to James.
"You're blushing," comes quietly, and when Clint looks at James through his eyelashes, he's met with an expression of slight surprise.
Clint shrugs, takes another sip. "You're that good."
Silence follows, and when Clint opens his eyes fully, James' cheeks are just as red.
"I'm so smooth," Clint declares into his coffee.
A huff, and James wraps an arm around Clint's shoulders. He leans in until his lips tickle at Clint's ear. "I learned it all from you," he whispers so low, it almost sounds like a moan.
Clint's breath hitches.
"Now that is smooth," James smirks.
Clint laughs. His face is even more heated, but it's incredible. It's sating, the echoes of pleasure, the coffee, the warmth of James' embrace.
The quinjet lands just as dusk settles in. Clint hugs Natasha the moment she's inside, and she allows it for two whole seconds before she starts smacking at his shoulder with a hiss. Clint laughs, despite her glare. But she's happy about it, given the way the corners of her lips curl slightly upwards.
She's brining news. Wanda's foray into the comatose attacker's head brought forth a bunch of new information. They've found Jones being held in a run down warehouse a couple of towns over, badly hurt but still breathing. Wanda's also learned why breaking into the vault was important.
"They thought we were holding Strucker in there," Natasha huffs, arms crossed, as they all sit around the kitchen table.
"But he's dead," Steve gapes.
"Apparently these guys never got the message. They're in a small compound out here," she adds, pulling a satellite image of mountain terrain out of the folder she's brought. "And it's so few of them, they had to hire mercs for the job."
Clint groans and Sam sighs.
"We should move in asap, use non-lethal force. I wanna know why they weren't in Strucker's list of facilities, how they got to us undetected, what software they used that Vision couldn't find," she finishes.
"All right," Steve says. "Lift off in thirty."
"I'll call Rhodey," Sam stands up and walks through to the living room.
"Steve," Natasha says and, judging by her tone, it doesn't sound good. "If you don't want me strangling both you and Sam with your own shoelaces--"
"We already said we're sorry," Steve interrupts.
"Tash," Clint starts, but she raises a hand.
"They ate all the almond cookies in my quinjet stash," she grits between her teeth.
James slides his chair back, pulls Clint with him, and Steve eyes them warily.
"Tell you what," Natasha says, "you let them come with," she tilts her head Clint and James' way, "if they want."
"That's a given," Steve raises both hands.
It earns him a huff and a smack on the back of his head, before she stands up. Steve watches her back as she walks out of the kitchen, rubbing at his scalp.
"Grandma used to do that all the time," he mumbles.
Clint tries, he really tries, but he can't hold off the laughter. James joins in like he knows why that is so funny, and Clint's surprised that she's told him. From the other side of the doorway, she looks at him with a wink before moving away. Ok then, so James is important to her as well. It's soothing.
Natasha joins Clint in the basement as he gears up. James is already upstairs carrying the weapons they need to the quinjet. She sits on a table, legs swinging, and Clint studies her for a moment.
"Were those the cookies?"
"Did I know about this stash?"
A head shake.
"You aren't really upset about those," Clint says, and it's not a question. She says nothing. "You wanted to scold them for telling me about Vision." Still nothing, but Clint knows her. "You changed your mind."
Natasha shifts her eyes slowly to look at him, almost a glare. Her legs have stopped moving. Clint takes a deep breath.
"You look tired."
She sighs at that, jumps down from the table, moves toward the stairs.
"Wait, Tasha," Clint calls her back, and she stops, turns around. "You told James."
"About me, yes."
Clint nods, lets out a long exhale.
"Tsk," comes from Natasha along with a roll of her eyes, before she steps back closer. "He's family," she says and slaps both her hands on Clint's shoulders. "Shut up," and she lets go quickly, walks away.
Clint knows he must have the stupidest smile on his face right now.
The raid into the compound has been over too fast. James only got to tase five guys out of eleven, and it grits on his nerves. After everything that has happened to Clint, he can't even induce the necessary amount of pain to feel at least a little bit satisfying.
Off the path, Clint is crouching next to a tree and James approaches.
"What are you doing?"
Clint stands up then, places something small and blue into the palm of James' glove. "Forget me not," comes next with a smile, and Clint's moving away.
It takes a few beats before the sudden ache in his chest dissipates into warmth, and James draws breath. He hurries after Clint, irritation somewhat abated.
"You know," Clint says, tipping his chin toward where Steve and Sam are talking near the quinjets, "we gotta do something about that."
"I'm staying out of it," James returns.
"I'll give you a blow job if you help me," Clint offers.
"I'll give you a blow job if you don't make me help you."
James growls at him.
"Yes, yes," Clint pats his arm. "You're my meanie."
James tries to hide his smile, but Clint sees it anyway, returns it.
Ahead, the new prisoners are being herded into the Avengers' aircraft, under the careful supervision of Natasha and Rhodey. Sam sees them approach, breaks off in a light jog toward them.
"Hey," he says, and Clint hums. "Would you mind company tonight?"
Clint turns to James, a question in his eyes. They could use more time alone, yes. But Sam's been looking so run down lately, James doesn't have the heart to turn him away.
"We don't mind," James says.
It earns him a blink from Clint, and a relieved smile from Sam.
"Great," Sam returns. "We'll need to drop Steve and Natasha at the base, though."
"Sure," Clint says before making his way into the quinjet.
"Steve's not coming?" James asks, and Sam presses his lips together, gives a small shrug.
"They need to sort these guys out," he tips his chin toward the line huddling into the other quinjet. "Might join later."
James nods. Sam doesn't look ok. Perhaps Clint can figure him out.
"I need to catch up on sleep," Sam continues, rubs at his forehead.
"You know you're always welcome," Clint says from behind Sam.
With a huff, James pushes at Sam until he's inside, sits him in a chair.
James leans his head back, takes a deep breath. Clint is fine, he's coming back, he still loves James. The past day has been a rollercoaster and he's feeling the effects of it deep in his bones. He can't wait to make it back home. It's already past midnight and all he wants is to crawl in bed, hold on to Clint.
Steve sits across from him, rubbing at his face, and he looks a bit better than before. James really hopes their talk has helped. He nudges Steve's boot with his own.
"Did you really eat all her cookies?" he asks.
From where he's slumped into his seat next to James, Sam snorts.
"We were celebrating," Steve defends.
The words aren't fully out of his mouth before a balled up piece of paper hits the side of Steve's head. He catches it as it falls, and James snatches it away. In the cockpit, where Clint and Natasha are sitting, nothing shifts. Sneaky, James thinks with a smile to himself as he unfolds the paper. He bats Steve's hand away when he tries to retrieve it.
"You will learn to bake," James reads, and can't suppress the laugh.
'Bake' is underlined three times, several exclamation marks trailing after the words. He lets Steve take the note when he grabs for it this time.
"Good luck with that, Romanova," James speaks in Russian toward the cockpit, "he can't even boil an egg."
"He will learn or die trying," she returns.
Steve mumbles a 'hey' with a frown, Sam is still laughing with tired chuckles, and Clint turns in his seat.
"Will you stop that," Clint says, "some of us don't--"
"For fuck's sake, Clint," Natasha interrupts.
"I was with you," James adds, "in Russia." Silence. "Where you spoke Russian."
"Oh." Clint frowns, scratches at his head. "Now I gotta learn another language I can pretend not to know," he whines.
Natasha rolls her eyes. James smiles at Clint.
"I know Russian, too," Steve says. "Not so good with speaking it."
Everybody is turning toward Sam at this point. Sam raises both hands with a light shrug.
"Don't look at me, you overtrained freaks."
"You're taking over the baking," Natasha tells him, right over Clint's loud laughter.
"Those cookies are really hard to make," Clint says.
"Yeah, well, anything for mister fossil over here," Sam chuckles.
Clint starts a long winded spiel about the merits of breadcrumbs over flour, while Natasha supplies 'helpful' baking tips, like how not to use flamethrowers, and Sam plays along.
Steve, though, he listens with a small smile on his face, carefully stealing glances at Sam from the corner of his eye.
Now James has to help. At least there's a blow job he can collect later on.
The sun is already rising when they crawl in bed. James shifts as close as possible to Clint, wraps an arm around his middle, watches Clint's profile as he stares at the ceiling. Downstairs, Sam is pacing the length of the living room.
"You know," Clint whispers, "I'm not afraid of it," and James offers a questioning hum. "The stone," Clint continues. "I'm good with Vision having it."
James leans up on an elbow to look at Clint properly.
Clint nods, grasps the front of James' t-shirt between his fingers, as if searching for support. "I stopped hating it, too," he breathes.
"When?" James asks just as quietly. This is news to him
Clint swallows. "Yesterday, when it looked in my head, I saw inside of it." He looks at James, eyes wide. "It feels sentient," he whispers so low, James has to strain to hear him, "and it was a victim as well."
"How can you be sure?"
"I can't," Clint shakes his head, "but I felt it. Like someone had control of it, but now it's free with Vision."
"Hm," James hums with a frown. "So, it's more of a tool?"
"I guess," Clint shrugs. "But alive. And not alive."
He scrunches his eyebrows helplessly, and James leans in, kisses his forehead.
"As long as you're good with it," he breathes.
Clint smiles at him and James hadn't known he'd needed this relief until he's felt it. He's been worried, he realizes, about Clint's reaction to James letting him go near that thing.
"More," Clint pulls at James' t-shirt, puckers his lips with a sucked in noise.
It draws a smiles out of James. "You wanna slurp spaghetti?"
A light smack to his shoulder, and then Clint pushes him on his back. He's laughing quietly, and James joins him.
"Don't be silly, kitty."
"I'm always silly for you," James winks.
Clint looks really good with pink dusting his cheeks, eyes bright and a smile on his lips. He also tastes amazing, lips dry and chapped, but so gentle, it aches pleasantly through James. With a content sigh, Clint lays his head onto James' shoulder, snuggles back down, and James wraps both arms around him.
Outside the room, Sam climbs the stairs, his footfalls uneven and weary.
"He's not well," Clint whispers.
"He doesn't look ok," James adds.
"Any idea why?"
James rolls back the last days, notes the anomalies in Sam's behavior. "Steve," he finally says.
Clint sighs, understanding. "We'll sort them out."
Clint sits on the back stairs of the porch, lets sunlight fall on his face. He's watching James as he runs laps around the house, and Clint understands how he's a little unwilling to go farther away around the perimeter. There's a roast cooking in the oven, Clint's stomach already grumbling at the smell drifting out the open kitchen door.
Footsteps pad toward him, and Sam sits down next to Clint, yawns in his hand. He doesn't look much more rested.
"Hey," Clint offers and receives a muttered hello in return.
Silence settles between them for long minutes. James waves at them as he passes by, Clint matches it with a smile, Sam nods.
"I remember you now," Clint says. "I remember meeting you at the Tower, sitting here talking at night."
Sam clears his throat, a small smile curling up the corners of his lips. "Good."
"I'll remember more."
"Yeah," Sam breathes, picks at the material of his sweatpants. "It's fucked up, what happened."
"I know," Clint sighs.
"He..." Sam breathes in, "James, he... he ripped apart three guys after you went down."
Clint's eyebrows go up in surprise, and it's not unpleasant. Flashes of blood splattered concrete walls run through his head, the smell of burning flesh in his nostrils. But why is Sam looking apologetic? No, no, no. This is not the place, not when Clint's done the same in turn.
"Only three?" he asks, and Sam turns an incredulous look at him. Clint winks and leans closer. "I killed thirty nine for him," he whispers, slow and low.
Sam freezes next to him. So Clint's never told him this. Well, better to scare him off early than to grow attached.
"Only thirty nine?" Sam rasps. "Steve leveled two HYDRA bases for him."
A relieved huff makes its way out of Clint and he shakes his head.
"I stand by my previous assessment," Sam adds, "you're all freaks."
"But you like us anyway," Clint smirks and Sam exhales through his nose.
James approaches again, and this time he does a cartwheel, grins at them.
"Show off!" Clint shouts.
Next to him, Sam laughs, short and a bit choked. "Supersoldiers, man."
Clint snorts. "He has to slow down every time we run together."
"Steve never slows down," Sam returns, "I swear he's running faster on purpose."
"Maybe that's his way of showing off," Clint adds with a smile.
Sam grows silent, and when Clint looks at him, he's frowning at his fingers as they twist the fabric of his pants between his fingers.
"Tell me about Steve," Clint says quietly, and Sam huffs.
"You don't waste any time, do you?"
"Not when it comes to my friends," Clint returns.
It makes Sam stop picking at his sweatpants, and he swallows audibly. "I can't figure him out," he says.
Clint waits, but when nothing more follows, he scoots closer, wraps an arm around Sam's shoulders. "Then tell me about you."
With a shaky exhale, Sam curls in on himself, leans into Clint.
"I'm fucked," he mumbles.
"Sounds to me like the problem's that you aren't," Clint jokes.
It has the intended effect, because Sam laughs, even though it sounds a little pained. James passes by again, but he doesn't stop. The minutes trickle in silence again.
"He's touchy feely lately," Sam finally whispers, "and I don't know if it's... if..." He draws a big gulp of air, lets it out. "If it's wishful thinking or not."
Huh. "Why would that be wishful thinking?"
Sam clutches his hands together, intertwines his fingers. "He's just friendly, nothing else," he says and Clint opens his mouth, but Sam continues before he can respond. "Except..."
"Except?" Clint nudges when Sam stops.
"We shared a bed, and he cuddled. Twice!" Sam says, slaps his hands on his knees. "The hell am I supposed to understand from that."
A small laugh makes his way out of Clint and Sam glares at him. Clint squeezes his shoulder in apology.
"Have you talked to him?"
Sam shakes his head. "I don't know if I wanna know," he says, and Clint nods in understanding. "Don't wanna make it awkward."
"More awkward than cuddling?"
"Yeah, well, you try telling your team leader you're in love w--fuck," Sam stops, body tense.
Clint slides closer, pulls Sam tighter against himself. He can feel Sam's heart rabbiting in his chest where their ribs are pressed together.
"'s gonna be ok," he says.
Sam doesn't believe him, given how he breathes another shaky swear.
James turns the corner again, but this time he slows down, approaches. He raises his eyebrows at Clint, and Clint tilts his head with a press of his lips in confirmation of their suspicions. James walks inside, returns with beers, then sits down on Sam's other side, crowds close.
They nurse their drinks in silence for a while, elbows bumping, watching the sunlight stretch lower.
"Does he even like men?" Sam asks suddenly, staring unfocused at the trees ahead.
"Yes," James says before taking another swig.
"Ok," Sam returns, sounding relieved.
"You're gonna have to be blunter than a train," James adds. "Only other option is to wear a pretty red dress and shoot at him."
With a roll of his eyes and a huff of laughter, Sam elbows James. Clint chuckles just as a ping reverberates from the kitchen.
"Dinner's ready," James says, standing up, and he extends a hand to Sam.
"Guess I'm gonna need a dress," he mutters as he lets himself be pulled up, then heads inside.
James' hand turns to Clint and he grips it tightly, steals a kiss on his way up. James smiles at him, offers another one, and oh... James raises an eyebrow at him when he stops, and Clint grins.
"We like making out on the stairs," he says.
The way James' smile turns wider, lighting up his entire face, sends a satisfying tingle through his limbs.
Yeah, they're all gonna be ok, Clint will make sure of it. They have to be ok.
Steve watches from behind the one way mirror, unable to wipe the grimace off his face. In the other room, a single chair sits in the middle of the space, a man tied to it. Wanda is bent on his left, red tendrils emanating from her fingers and touching the side of his head. There's a pool of piss forming at the man's legs, his pants already wet.
They've brought their newly acquired prisoners in, selected the one that seemed to be giving the most orders when they'd stormed the compound. Regular interrogation hasn't worked on him, and that's when Natasha's sent Wanda in. She can really get into their heads, really push the worst sort of buttons.
"Rhodey's taken a team back to sift through their systems," Natasha says from where she's watching next to him, "maybe we can find the answers they aren't giving us."
Steve nods, rubs at his face.
"We'll do this one today," she continues, tipping her chin toward the mirror, "then take a break. We all need rest."
Steve nods again. They do. They've been up since yesterday morning, then all night and for the better part of today. Rhodey's been looking the most run down of them all. He hopes Clint, Bucky, and Sam got some sleep already. Speaking of...
"Did you talk to them?"
"Clint called earlier. They're fine," she says, then turns toward him. "I can handle things here if you wanna go."
Oh, how Steve wants. But he can't just dump everything on her, second in command or not.
"After we finish this," he says and he can already feel the burn of her measuring stare.
He doesn't dare look back. There are things that not even Steve knows what to make of swirling inside his head, and he's pretty sure she'll know everything he's been fretting over before he does. He needs time to sort through himself. He should have done this long ago, but he'd been postponing it for months, an underlying wisp of fear tugging at him every time he'd start dissecting his own thoughts.
"Fine," she says, the word so clipped and quiet that it draws a shiver out of Steve.
She's out the door and into the other room before he has a chance to open his mouth.
It's a little over three hours before the man talks. Wanda has created the illusion that he's speaking to Strucker while Natasha asks questions. It's been slow, the delicate nature of the fantasy needing to be constantly in place, nothing asked too directly. Wanda is wrecked by the time the man passes out. In the end, Steve has to roll his eyes at his story.
They've been a team hand picked by Strucker himself, a few scientists, some military, broken off of the remains of HYDRA. They were supposed to be Strucker's last line of defense, the team to rescue him should he get captured. They've lost communication after Strucker's arrest, then started searching for ex-SHIELD agents, trying to find a base that might be holding their boss.
Natasha is satisfied with this, they will interrogate the rest one by one for the specifics. In the meantime, Rhodey has returned with documents and computers secured from the compound, and Steve's already instructed their own people to start working on those.
It's night again by the time he makes his way into his bunk. The shower he pushes himself through is not refreshing, not at all, a bone deep exhaustion settling even further over Steve. So much has happened in the past days, that it's left him shaking.
He doesn't remember falling asleep, but he does so knowing something feels off. Something feels missing.
Sam closes the bedroom door behind him. He's kept himself together all through dinner, managed to bid an early good night. Now that nobody can see him, he allows his fingers to shake and he sits down heavily on the edge of the bed.
He can still feel it, burning a hot line across his shoulders.
Seller once got caught under a boulder during a rescue, and they got him out fine, but he remembers it like it happened only hours ago, sitting outside the med-tent, in the dirt. And he remembers the relief, that their mate was safe. But most of all, he remembers Riley's arm around him, Garner picking the guys up one by one, the celebration they held that night, the closeness, the pats on the back and the too tight squeezes of shoulders.
It's burning into his skin, and it's making him realize the gaping nothingness left behind when he retired.
His unit had been his second family and it's been gone for a while now. Sam's never tried to seek replacements, never tried to create connections, never searched for other brothers.
He can still feel it, across his back.
Clint's arm around him.
Fuck, how he's missed this feeling of belonging.
He sat there between them, James and Clint warm at his sides, and it felt like it hasn't in a very long time. It felt safe. Accepting.
Sam wraps his arms around himself, wishing for more. Because now that he's reminded of it, he feels its absence so dearly, of friendship and the comfort it brings.
He's been starving.
And he's been putting it on his yearning for Steve, when it's not just that.
These guys, they're different from his old unit. They're a whole different breed of fighters, with their own moral codes, with a sort of calculated violence that runs deep in their bones.
Sam shudders, swallows against his dry throat, closes his eyes.
When they had stormed the compound, he had found himself in a secluded corner with one of their targets, and he's been so tempted to hurt him more than necessary, to give back a lot of what he's felt.
He's just like them, like Steve and James and Clint. Perhaps even like Natasha.
Sam inhales and exhales slowly, lies himself down. James cares about him, he's said so himself, and if Clint is faking the way he cares about Sam, then he's a damn good actor. Clint's sat on that porch with Sam more than one sleepless night, listening to Sam rambling about scorpions and sand and gunpowder. Natasha is harder to comprehend, but the way she shows affection is gritty and raw and it reminds him of his grams, clipping the kids' fingers with a long stick when they used to reach for the cookie jar.
Steve clearly cares, but...
Sam wants their friendship as close as possible, he realizes. And the one that's been giving this to him the most these past days is the one he wants something else from.
Steve doesn't care the way Sam wishes he would. He knows this, he does, and yet he can't stifle the spark of hope that Clint and James have given him.
From the first time Steve had brought him to the farmhouse, he's been wanting to come back, and he's tagged along at every opportunity. In all these months he's known them here, in this place that is a home more than a safehouse, he's never felt like he really belongs, not until tonight.
As he curls up on his side, he wishes Clint's arm back around him, James' thigh pressed close. He wishes for a simple, long hug, and to hear again their reassurances.
This hunger. It aches.
Clint blinks at the ceiling from where he's washing plates in the kitchen sink.
"He's different, isn't he?" he asks. "I'm not remembering him wrong."
James follows his line of sight, crosses his arms after he leans on the counter next to Clint. "He's quieter than usual."
Clint gasps and James turns toward him, places a hand on his shoulder. "Everything ok?"
"Yeah," Clint nods, letting go of the fork he's been holding, "remembered something," and he laughs. "Tasha and Sam were making filthy jokes and your way of telling Steve about us was to throw me over your shoulder."
James doesn't stop his lips from pulling upward, doesn't stifle the burn behind his eyelids. But this time, it's only there provide relief instead of overflowing painfully outwards.
"By the time we got upstairs," James adds, "we were laughing so hard and for so long, that we didn't even get to fuck."
Clint snorts. "Sounds about right," he says, and resumes washing the dishes. "It would kill me if you forgot me."
The words are quiet and small, but James hears them just fine. He shifts, runs his fingers through Clint's hair as he works. Soon, Clint finishes, wipes his hands, and he turns toward James, moves closer. James wraps his arms around him, holds on tightly, breathes him in along with the pounding of Clint's heart that he feels against his chest.
Forgetting is indeed worse than death.
Clint runs his fingertips on the edge of the kitchen table until they reach James' metal ones, then follows his arm up with his eyes.
In his mind, James smiles in his coffee, and sometimes he smiles at Clint. Where he's sitting, facing Clint and leaning sideways into the table, the sun falls on his cheekbone, sending his eyelashes into an amber glow around his blue eyes.
The air is quiet and still.
Their mornings, silent and wordless, are overlapping themselves onto Clint. James smiles at him right now as well, and Clint shifts with the memory, turns to match James' position. It's not right though, not just yet.
Clint inhales, coffee and the smell of James' skin close to his. Their cheeks turn pink in the sunshine, but not from the heat, no. It's the remembrance of words that Clint's whispered to him the night before, and the night before that... words they both know.
It's this moment suspended in time, fingertips touching on top of the table.
Hot coffee and the soft rustle of leaves outside. Clint rests his foot on the edge of James' chair. In winter, the shine of the morning is harsher, a lot brighter, and James' skin is colder, so Clint kisses his face warm, enjoys the way James lets his eyelids fall closed, accepting the caresses.
Clint opens his eyes, offers a smile.
"I remember our mornings."
"I never knew you had a lock box," James says as they're cleaning their gear in the basement.
Clint blinks at him from where he's scrubbing at his vest. "Nobody else knows."
"Not even Natasha?"
"Not even," Clint confirms with a shake of his head. "I mean I know I didn't tell her, but she's her."
"She is," James adds.
"Do you want one?" comes next and James grins.
With a 'tsk' Clint kicks his leg under the table. "A box, for memories."
Clint smiles knowingly at him.
They find a battered metal box among the knick knacks on the shelves, and they don't have another fingerprint reader at hand, but a small padlock would do for now. Clint helps him print a few pictures, and James places them carefully in the box.
"Here," Clint says and takes the tiny key from his fingers.
He pulls at the chain around James' neck, slips on the key before reconnecting the links. It slides easily down, nestled behind the cat pendant, and Clint covers it with his palm where it hangs on James' chest. He moves his hand, too, to press onto Clint's.
"Thank you," he says, and Clint matches his smile with a nod.
Sam ambles down right before lunch, and he eats silently, staring at his food with too little focus in his eyes. It alarms Clint, and he exchanges a few looks with James that tell him he's worried as well. They're halfway through their plates when Sam stops eating, just sits there, holding his fork between lax fingers.
Fuck, they really need to do something about this.
Clint has to say his name twice before he finally looks up.
"What's wrong with you?"
Uh, yeah. Clint, foot, et caetera.
But Sam just blinks, mouth working soundlessly. "A lot," he finally says, looking away with a frown, as if he's confused himself.
"Anything we can do to help?" Clint offers. Next to him, James shifts, squeezes Clint's knee in support.
Sam is silent for long seconds, but then he looks back up with a smile. "Nah, man, I'm good."
He's lying, and Clint can't figure out why. Sam already knows they're backing him when it comes to Steve, so what is he hiding?
They return to their food, and Sam offers to do the dishes. James retires to the sofa with a book, but Clint watches Sam's tense back for long minutes.
"You're not good," Clint says.
Sam stills, mug extended in mid air between the sink and the drying rack. But then, it looks like all the fight in him drains out, and he puts down the mug, leans heavily into the edge of the counter.
"I'm a grown ass adult," Sam mutters.
"Uhuh," Clint offers.
"An Avenger," Sam adds.
"Yup," Clint nods, even though Sam can't see him.
"I miss my best friend and my unit," Sam shakes his head, "and I want a damn hug."
Oh. This, Clint knows this. This loneliness, even when surrounded with new people, because no two connections are alike. He misses lost touches all the time, but he has James to pester now for replacements. Sam doesn't, not really. Steve is a whole different issue at the moment.
Clint can fix this, if Sam will let him.
"Aw, then you're in luck," Clint says, "'cos I found this lost hug lying around the house today and I didn't know who it belongs to."
It takes Sam a few seconds to process that, but Clint waits patiently.
"What," Sam turns, confusion on his face.
"Give Clint his stupid hug," James shouts from the living room. "He won't get more direct than that. The part of his brain that conveys feelings is fried."
"What the hell, Jimmy," Clint yells back.
A snort, followed by laughter comes from Sam. Clint raises from his chair, walks closer, extends a hand toward Sam's shoulder. It doesn't take long for Sam to wrap himself around Clint, and Clint holds on as well, rubs at Sam's back soothingly.
"Come on," he says after Sam lets go, pulls at his hand, leads him into the living room.
Sam spends the afternoon between James and Clint on the sofa, listening to obscure music only Clint's heard of, and trying to slip in Marvin Gaye in the mix. He's pretty sure he's got a bruise from where James has accidentally elbowed him while trying to get to Clint for a bad pun, but it just serves as proof.
He's not alone.
Today is a little bit better than yesterday. Admitting things out loud has been a lesson learned long ago, he just needed to be reminded of it, especially when James finds him on the back porch later in the evening to share a small secret. If he wants a hug and doesn't know how to ask for one, sitting close to Clint will invariably end in Clint's arm around him. Because Clint trusts Sam enough to be loose around him, to welcome him in his home.
Sam nods at himself, inhale lodged in his throat, gripping tightly on the thread of determination running through him. He can do this. He's going after Steve.
The day has gone in the blink of an eye, between interrogations and reports. Steve finds himself staring at his bunk wall, towel twisted in his hands. Last time he sat here, Sam came and... Steve's inhale is a little too shaky.
Right. Stop delaying.
Steve can't say he's loved many people throughout his life, it's not like he had been given the chance. But he does love Bucky, and he's also grown incredibly fond of Clint and Tasha and Sam. He's never had siblings growing up, except for Bucky, in a way, but now there's three more and it fills Steve with a sense of belonging so strong, that it weakens him in the knees sometimes. It's acceptance and comfort and safety with them.
Which is quite amazing, considering.
Steve is not the man who went into ice all those years ago, just like Bucky isn't the man who fell from that train. He's been reluctant to see it, but the last two weeks have showed him just how changed his friend is. There's a layer of Bucky in there, but that's not everything. This new James is someone more grounded, in spite of the torture he's suffered for years. Bucky's told him once that it feels like a only few months have passed between his fall and their dive into the Potomac. It's like they've pressed pause on his life when he was put into cryo.
Steve had been clinging onto the old Bucky just like he has been clinging to his old self.
He's let go of one, why not the other?
He rubs a hand over his face with a deep breath. He'd been quite afraid, when he'd started going over to Clint's, that he's changed too much to still be recognizable to Bucky. But instead of the strain he'd been expecting, he got quiet conversations in the middle of the night and a sense of humor so dry, it almost brought him to tears a few times.
He got to know this new Bucky, and got to be known in return. It's been a restart instead of a drowning in the rotting corpses of their past selves.
Selves that are gone.
So, yeah, it's pretty amazing.
And Steve is about to fuck it all up.
He can't even tell why it happened. Perhaps it was because of how he flirted during those morning runs, maybe because of how he waited next to Steve's bed at the hospital, or how Sam always seemed to understand. He always still understands more than Steve does about himself at times. He's been a great friend, incredibly soothing, but Steve had to go and fall for him.
It had hit Steve out of nowhere, when Sam had placed himself between Bucky and danger, weapon ready. That's when he knew. Steve had stood there, frozen, with too little air and too much tightness in his chest. And he's been off center ever since.
Sam's been nice, though, putting up with Steve's need to be near him. He knows he shouldn't have gotten that close while they slept, but Sam was right there, and Steve gave in to this yearning.
The breath he draws in trembles.
What the hell is he going to do now?
Clint has heart. But he doesn't, not anymore, because it's been taken away from him, crushed and crumbled and falling down into the vast expanse of water along with the burning pieces of the helicarrier's motors.
He twirls an arrow, makes his way through the bowels of the vessel.
She is there.
And he fights, because what would be more fitting than taking down the woman who's made him. The arrow goes through easily, from beneath Tasha's chin, all the way up to the top of her skull.
Loki laughs and Clint screams from inside himself, helpless. He bangs at invisible walls, thrashes against his prison. Agony coils tight around him, just like the vice grip around his throat. He's taken her life, and he's going to slaughter everyone else as well, he's going to watch James die...
"Kill me," he begs Loki, "kill me please..."
The fingers around his neck tighten, and Clint's hands scramble around the wrist on their own accord.
"Clint, listen to me."
No more, no more, no more. Take him out before he hurts anyone else.
"Concentrate on my fingers, can you feel them?"
Yes, yes he can, please, snap his neck.
"Who am I, Clint? Say my name."
He's not Loki. Oh, no, not this voice. Clint's eyes search around him, but there's only darkness for miles and miles. The grip is unyielding, and his throat hurts as he gasps air, tiny trickle by tiny trickle, dust infusing his lungs. It's unforgiving metal, and Clint blinks his eyes open.
"Yes," James says. "Listen to me," and Clint tries, he really tries. "Listen to my voice." Sounds fall away, the screams and the blood and the explosions. "You're safe. We're all safe."
"Yes, safe. Now breathe in, slowly."
Clint tries, and he manages, just a little bit.
"Let it out," James says.
It's harder to push, but he does it.
It hurts, badly, right inside his chest.
"Shh," comes softly, lips pressed against his temple, and Clint knows this touch. "Breathe, come on," the gentleness says, so Clint complies.
James never lets go of his neck, and Clint never lets go of his wrist. It's grounding, settling his heartbeat back into a slow thump. He looks at James then, properly sees him, and is met with a worried frown.
"Sorry," Clint rasps and James shakes his head. "Was worse the first time around," he manages, throat aching on the inside.
"You're afraid you'll be turned against us again."
Clint blinks at him in confirmation, and James leans close again to press another kiss to his temple.
"Me too," James breathes. "But look," he continues, squeezing onto Clint's neck, pushing him against the mattress, "feel this? I can knock you out easily."
Will he really?
"You can't win against me," James adds. "I'll bring you down before you hurt anyone, I promise."
The relief makes Clint's eyes roll in his head, and he loses all the tension in his muscles at once. James' metal fingers loosen their grip, and he runs them over the side of Clint's face, back down over the skin of his neck.
"Let's get you some ice," James says, and Clint lets himself be pulled up.
The bathroom light is harsh, glinting off the metal, as James rubs medicine into his skin. The touch is feathery, but Clint is still feeling it. Like that time, when his entire back was bruised...
"One, two, two, four, three one," he breathes.
A pause, then a whispered "yes" follow from James.
"I can take you out, too," Clint observes.
The words are clipped, but when Clint looks up, James is smiling at him. It's the same sort of security, knowing they'll be stopped should the need be.
They move on the stairs of the porch after, Clint holding an icepack against the side of his throat, switching it around from time to time. A wisp of dark purple slithers along the horizon at the east, bringing back familiar sensations.
"That morning," Clint says, "when you first remembered. We were sitting here."
James nods. "We promised each other to try."
"Yeah," Clint finds James' hand, intertwines their fingers. "What did we do after?"
With a small huff, James shifts closer, presses his smile against Clint's shoulder. "We fell asleep here."
Clint lets out a disbelieving sound.
"No, we really did," James adds, "woke up so sore and cranky."
"We made french toast and you shoved an entire slice in your mouth," James huffs.
It pulls a laugh out of Clint. "Lets do that again," he says, leans in to peck at James' cheek.
He'd rather concentrate on the memories of James than those of Loki, anyway.
Raising his chin, Clint checks his neck in the mirror. The skin is still a bit reddish, but no obvious bruises seem to form. With a sigh, he makes his way downstairs. He's not in the mood to explain.
Sam sees it anyway, but doesn't comment, and Clint wonders just how much he's heard during the night. Well, they all have their demons, and Sam understands those. He's perceptive like that. So Clint offers him a smile with a nod, Sam does the same, and it's settled. They both wave from the porch to Steve and Tasha approaching from the quinjet.
"What happened to you?" Steve asks once they're inside, tipping his chin toward Clint's neck.
Clint gives an eyebrow wiggle and the best smirk he can manage. It makes Sam laugh and Steve cough awkwardly in his fist. Tasha, though, she studies him. Ugh.
They are bringing news of the investigation into the compound. The techs and Vision are still going through their systems. Fury's reached out as well. Natasha is still working with Wanda on interrogations.
Steve looks like he wants to be there to help, and also like he doesn't want to be there. Interesting. Clint notices he's also trying to keep himself as far away from Sam as possible, but he isn't very successful. James provides a 'helpful' commentary on the art of awkward moping in Clint's ear throughout the day.
Seriously, those two. Even Tasha turns raised eyebrows at Clint in silent questioning. James saves him from that talk and drags her to the porch, tunes her in himself. Steve gets a smack an hour later, Sam another hour after that. They're both terribly confused, and Clint has to use everything he has to refrain from bursting into inappropriate laughter.
Clint finds Tasha before dinner in the room at the end of the hallway, sitting on the low padded bench that lines the window sill. Clint takes the other end, leans against the window.
"I remembered Loki," he says.
She hums. "James did that?"
Clint looks at her then, and she is still observing from behind her high walls. "Yeah, but it's a good thing."
Natasha considers this for long seconds, but then she nods. "He's strong," she says, "stronger than me." She taps her fingers in a pattern on the sill for a while. "He's more balanced than I thought he'd be."
"His brain is literally regenerating," Clint waves.
The sound that comes out of her is bitter.
"I know this hurts," he says quietly. She looks away. "After everything, now I had to go ahead and..."
And that's the whole point, isn't it. Others aren't this lucky. Clint goes back to watching the trees outside. Clouds have been gathering all day, announcing rain.
"It's not that, Frankie," she says with a sigh, and she isn't Tasha anymore, but the woman he's met over twenty years ago. The one who's been a real mother to him. "What bugs me the most is that he can go there, hold her hand whenever he wants, but I have to keep it secret. I haven't seen her in such a long time."
"We should go for a visit," Clint says and she looks at him with one of her rare smiles. "I'm sure she'll be thrilled to see you."
He extends a hand, and she slides over, leans into Clint's embrace. It's quiet again for a long time in the room, distant voices drifting muffled from downstairs.
"Remember when I got you those explosive arrows?"
"I blew a hole in the cafeteria wall," Clint laughs.
"You almost blew your damn head off, too. She was so upset that you might have hurt yourself... I slept on the couch for a week."
Clint squeezes her tighter.
"I think she'd approve of James," comes next, quietly.
He lets out a long exhale through his nose. Natasha raises from where she's been leaning against Clint, pulls on the lobe of his ear, and Clint covers it with an 'ow.'
"Be more careful next time," she grits.
And they're back to the walls and the tough love, but love nonetheless. Clint sticks his tongue out at her, and runs off the bench before she can tackle him.
Natasha leaves after dinner, she's going to fetch Fury, have a sit down with Hill and Coulson as well. Steve still oscillates between running after her and stepping back in the house.
"She dumped Steve on us and ran," Clint tells James when they're alone.
"That's not very nice," James says, wrapping an arm around Clint.
He looks at James then, and whatever else he was going to say is lost, because those eyes... they're liquid again, drawing Clint in. So Clint wraps his hand around the back of James' head, pulls him closer, brings their lips together.
The first time he's kissed James had been for comfort. The second time for love, and now he has that memory back as well. It's reassuring.
Clint rests his head on his own arm on top of the kitchen table, coffee mug warm against his hand. He watches James puttering around while gathering ingredients for breakfast, smiles at the small pecks he gets to his temple when James draws near from time to time.
It dawns on Clint, that he knows James inside out, has listened to his recollections, has dried his tears. But James has only gotten glimpses into Clint's life, and even those not offered freely. It feels uneven. The things released in the information dump about Hawkeye are just as fake as the ones about the Black Widow, even though they're equally atrocious. Only, they don't tell the real story.
"Kitty, I should tell you more about my past," he says.
James turns from where he's been chopping a tomato. "You don't have to."
"But I do," Clint counters. "I owe it to you."
With a head shake, James wipes his hands and comes to sit next to Clint. "I have questions," he says, metal fingers resting on the back of Clint's head. "But unless it's something that's threatening your life, what happened before won't change anything between us right now."
Clint pulls at James' flesh hand, kisses his knuckles, offers a small smile that is matched. "I met Tasha when I was seventeen, already had three kills under my belt by then."
James nods, fingers scratching at Clint's scalp lightly.
"She made me," Clint breathes. "They both did."
"You don't have to--"
"Tasha considers you family," Clint talks right over James, he needs to get this out, "which is good, because after we'll be gone, she won't be alone. You won't be alone."
He blinks slowly, and his smile is wobbly against James' frown.
"We have a home, north of London, big house," he pushes on, "with a private cemetery. All the deeds and paperwork are in a deposit box at a bank in Chicago, I'll give you the details."
He watches James, sees his scowl deepen, his mind working to make sense of what Clint is saying, and he waits. Finally, James draws a big breath, shoulders slumping.
"You have to live at least until one hundred," he rasps, flesh fingers clutching tightly at Clint's.
Clint smiles, although it feels a little bitter. "I love you, too, kitty," he whispers, and James nods, pained huff flowing from his lips. Clint presses another kiss on the back of his hand. "But enough about death," and that earns him a small smile, James blinking fast against the light.
Footsteps follow the opening of a door upstairs and soon Sam trudges in, sits heavily with his forehead on the table in front of him. James brings him coffee, pets the top of his head for a while.
"Morning, Sam," says Clint, and is rewarded with a mumble. "How'd you and Steve sleep?"
"Dunno, slept in Natasha's room," Sam replies.
Clint exchanges a look with James before James returns to his interrupted cooking.
"Steve and Sammy, sitting in a tree," Clint sing-songs, "k-i-s-s--"
"Shut the fuck up, man," Sam bats his hand toward Clint, but he laughs. Clint laughs with him.
Silence settles again, the thump of the knife James is using on the cutting board the only sound filling the kitchen. But his movements stop suddenly, and James turns.
"Why would they be sitting in a tree?"
In the afternoon, Clint declares a little exercise would be beneficial for all of them, so they set out to run around the house. The air is crisp, and Sam's muscles unwind gradually, as he lets his mind drift. He's running at a slow pace next to Clint, and of course the other two have already done four laps before he and Clint managed one.
James runs fast from behind, offers a breathless 'hi' as he comes closer. He presses a kiss to Clint's cheek, runs ahead.
"Where's mine?" Sam yells after him with a laugh.
He isn't expecting an answer, so when James doubles back to peck at Sam's cheek, he almost stumbles on his own feet.
"That's not fair," Steve says from behind them as he approaches.
James runs backwards for a few steps, grin wide. "I'll make you a bet," he says, "first to get most kisses in fifty laps wins," and Sam raises at eyebrow at him.
Steve's slowed down to a jog next to Sam, and Sam is afraid to look his way.
"Sounds good to me," Steve says.
Next thing he knows, cold lips press on his cheek, and then Steve turns toward Clint before shooting ahead at a fast pace. James' shit eating grin flashes for a fraction of a second before he's off as well.
Clint keeps laughing lightly, and it's contagious, making them both slow down until they're strolling casually through the grass rather than running. Ten laps later, James and Steve are tied.
"Why didn't you sleep with Steve last night?" Clint asks.
Sam shakes his head. His cheeks are stinging from where he's still feeling the lingering press of Steve's lips, and his mouth is numb with want, yearning for a full kiss.
"Don't run away from this," Clint adds.
"Won't," Sam returns. He's already decided to try. "Just needed time."
Clint hums in understanding, and the other two make another pass by. There's a good natured banter going on between Steve and James that is making Sam smile.
"You ever wonder how they were when they were kids?"
"I assume pretty much the same," Clint tips his chin at their backs.
"Sometimes I forget how young they really are," Sam breathes.
Clint sighs, and is silent for a while, watching the grass as they walk. His head snaps up. "You know Steve's a virgin, right?"
This time, Sam really stumbles on his own feet.
"You did that on purpose," Steve says as he runs next to Bucky. No, not Bucky anymore, James. Steve should have respected the name he'd chosen for himself, but he'd been reluctant to let go of the memory.
"Thanks," he whispers, and James' hand comes to squeeze at his shoulder. "Is it that obvious?"
"A little bit," James returns, a little amused.
Steve huffs. "Does Clint know?" and he receives an incredulous look for that. "Fine, he knows."
"When will you tell Sam?"
Steve's steps falter, but he recovers quickly. "Sam's not..." he waves a hand helplessly.
He swallows the rest of his words as they pass by Sam and Clint again. Steve's heart skips a beat when his lips touch Sam's skin, just like the other eighteen times so far.
"Sam's not what?" James asks when they're out of earshot. Steve doesn't have an answer for that. "He's been putting up with your stupid all this time," James presses.
"He's just a good friend," Steve returns. "You've put up with me, to--"
A punch to his arm makes Steve shift to the side, but he manages not to trip. "The hell," he looks up to see James flipping him off with half a smirk.
Steve lunges forward for a tackle, but James catches him around the middle, spins with the momentum without letting them fall. He holds onto Steve, and it's a warm hug instead of a childish fight.
"He likes you, trust me," James says with a pat to Steve's back before he lets go.
"You can't know that," he returns as they resume their running pace.
James rolls his eyes, raising his hands in frustration. Steve gets it, James thinks Sam's into him, but Sam's just too nice to push Steve away.
Silence settles between them for a long while, and they each rack sixty eight pecks, before Steve gathers up enough nerve to ask.
"So how's it feel?"
"How's what feel?" James returns.
Steve raises both eyebrows with a pointed look.
"I don't understand," James says, but the upward curl of his lips betrays him.
"Getting fucked," Steve huffs. "How's that feel," he grits.
"What a filthy mouth, Stevie," James laughs, and it's Steve's turn to punch his arm. "Come on," James jumps away, hands raised placating in front of him. "Is good," he says. "Why, haven't you tried your fingers?"
Steve shakes his head, and he's already feeling his cheeks heating. Good thing that they're both already flushed from the run. "Just wanted to experience everything first time," he confesses, voice barely above a whisper, just like he'd told Bucky during the war, when they had been talking about Peggy. But this man here doesn't remember that conversation, the support he's given, the strength he's infused in Steve over and over.
James smiles at him warmly and it unfurls something coiled tightly inside of Steve. His friend is still here.
"I didn't either, before Clint. He... I mean," James draws a deep breath, "I needed to learn how to, you know," and he scissors two fingers in front of him, "so I can..." he clears his throat, "on him... Why are we talking about this?"
When Steve looks at him, James' entire face is the darkest shade of red he's ever seen on his friend, and laughter bubbles out of him unabated. James scowls, drawing near.
"When you're gonna open your legs and let someone push into you," James says quietly, "that's the most open you'll ever be in your entire life. Highest trust you can give them."
Steve slows down, heart pounding against his ribs.
"I want that," he whispers. "Want him."
And James nods, understanding, squeezing at his shoulder.
The living room is quiet as Sam takes in their surroundings, bathed in the dim light of the sunset. James is curled up in his armchair, book open in his hand, but he isn't reading. Instead, his eyes are moving with a pointed look between Sam and Steve, who is sitting cross legged on the floor, eyebrows scrunched in concentration as he pokes at his tablet laid on top of the coffee table. Clint nudges Sam gently from where he's sitting next to him on the sofa. Sam nods, shifting to the edge, rests his elbows on his knees. They've talked about this, just ask Steve out, a simple meal somewhere, start easy.
"Hey Steve," Sam says, "how about we get dinner sometime soon?"
Steve's head snaps up, confusion on his face for a moment, but he brightens quickly.
"You're right," he returns, standing up, "we should take turns cooking. Let me see what's in the fridge."
And he's off.
Sam knows his mouth is hanging open as he gapes at the empty space left behind Steve, but he can't bring himself to close it. James is laughing, book held between his fingers, and Sam scowls at him. A snort follows from the side, and Sam turns to see Clint shaking, both hands pressed on his mouth, eyes already wet. It pulls Sam along, and laughter bubbles out of him as well. He leans back with it, rolling his eyes at the ceiling.
"Blunter than a train," Sam mutters, rubbing his hands on his face.
"Yeah," James nods, still chuckling.
Five seconds later, a loud bang reverberates from across the hall.
"He's gonna burn down the kitchen," James leaps to his feet, hurries off as well.
Clint's mirth renews, and he curls in on himself, wiping at his cheeks.
"Shut up," Sam says, but he's laughing right along with Clint.
It takes a while, but they both manage to settle down, after they make each other restart their bouts a couple of times. Soon there's the smell of cooking drifting in, interspersed with the muffled voices of the other two in the kitchen.
"Should sleep in his bed tonight," Sam muses, rubbing at his chin.
"Atta boy," Clint pats his back.
"Shirtless," Sam adds.
"Even better!" and Clint smiles at him.
"You sure he's into me?"
Clint smacks him over the back of his head, Natasha style.
Steve runs to the kitchen as fast as possible, heart fluttering in his chest. For a second there, he thought Sam was asking him out, and he almost blurted out something inappropriate. Good thing he figured out what Sam was saying before he could do something even more awkward.
He pulls out pans from a cupboard without looking, and drops one of them when he startles at the mess on the counter.
Fuck. He needs to focus.
"You ok there?" James' voice drifts closer, and Steve looks at him with a slow blink.
"I thought he was asking me out," Steve hisses, waving toward the living room.
But instead of commiserating, James leans into the counter, quiet laughter shaking his frame. Steve straightens with a long huff through his nose, jaw set.
And then he kicks James in the shin, because why not. If they're going to be children about it, might as well do it all the way.
"Ow, dammit," James jumps away.
Steve crosses his arms, raising an eyebrow.
"Told you to stop hogging all the stupid," James mutters with a head shake. "He was asking you out."
Steve's heart sinks. "Fuck's sake, Buck, stop making fun of me."
The next second, James sobers up, takes Steve in carefully, and his gaze feels heavy. Steve tries not to squirm.
"I'm not making fun of you," James finally says, voice soft, and Steve's shoulders slump. "Come on, let's get dinner ready."
He lets the motions of preparing food take away the thoughts of Sam, of how Steve wishes he could be as close to him as James is to Clint, of how he's missed Sam the past few days.
Dinner is light, and they all watch a movie after. Steve bids everyone good night as soon as the end credits roll in, crawls into bed tired but unwilling to sleep.
He draws the covers closer, eyes unfocused against the dark ceiling, listening to the others puttering around downstairs. It's a long while before everything settles down, and Steve lets out a soft sigh. He's spending tonight alone as well, it seems. But the door creaks open, familiar footsteps following, and Steve stills, breath lodged in the back of his throat.
Sam takes a deep breath, psyching himself up in front of the bedroom door. He has been tempted to go in shirtless, but he doesn't want to push things too far. He'd rather have everything falling into place nice and slow, starting with a kiss and then building up to more. Tonight is just about sleeping, and hopefully snuggling close to Steve.
He makes his way in carefully, slides under the covers, and Steve is there, lying motionless on his back, but he's too tense to be asleep.
"Hey," Sam breathes.
A few seconds pass before an answering 'hey' comes back to him.
"Not sleepy?" he asks, but only gets a nondescript grunt in return. "Talked to Natasha earlier," Sam whispers, "she said you've been really tired lately. And to make sure your supersoldier ass gets enough sleep."
A soft snort follows. "She didn't say ass."
"I'm paraphrasing," Sam returns, looking at the shadows on the ceiling. When nothing else follows, Sam turns his head to look at Steve, watches his profile against the dim sliver of moonlight that comes in from the window. "She said you've got something on your mind." He swallows. "You know you can tell me anything, right?"
At that, Steve turns his head as well, but away from Sam. "Yeah," comes back, and it sounds strained.
He could... Sam could say something now, but his heart thumps slowly and painfully against his ribs. What if Clint's wrong, what if Steve will reject him. He's not that brave yet, not alone, in the dark, with only him and Steve. This isn't innocent flirting, this is about his entire life ahead, because Steve is such a big part of everything already, of his work, his friends, his newfound second family. Failing this connection could change it all.
So he rolls on his side, slides himself close to Steve and wraps an arm around him. He pushes his face right in the space between Steve's shoulder and his neck, rests his forehead against Steve's cheek.
If possible Steve tenses even more, but Sam waits patiently, petting the side of Steve's torso. With a long exhale, Steve gradually relaxes, and Sam continues the caresses until his breathing evens out.
"Good night, Stevie," he murmurs, pressing a kiss on the clothed shoulder next to his lips, before he lets slumber overtake him as well.
They spend the next day flying to New York so Clint can get a check up and the man grumbles all the way there. Sam is afraid he's going to get a permanent crick in his neck from shaking his head so often. Clint's results should be ready in a few days, but the doc is positive his recovery is sound, and James seems more relaxed after that.
They have a late lunch with Pepper, while Tony's off somewhere setting up another lab for Stark Industries. Sam likes her, she's grounded, even after all the Extremis trouble they've had.
By the time they get back, it's late into the night, tiredness drawing him to sleep, the weight of Steve's arm around his middle comforting.
It's almost noon when Sam ambles down, join the others in the kitchen. Steve is sipping coffee next to James at the table, while Clint is skilfully flipping pancakes in a pan. Sam's stomach grumbles as he grabs a mug, fills it before taking a seat himself.
The minutes trickle slowly in silence, Steve's knee pressed onto Sam's, and soon they tackle the heap of pancakes Clint drops in the middle of the table.
"You know," Sam muses, "after all this time, I still haven't seen that damn cat of yours. Where's it hiding?"
Across from him, James chokes on his bite, coughing loudly into his hand, and Clint shoots up to pat at his back. He's biting his lips, as he tries not to laugh. Curious.
"You ok?" Steve asks with concern, but turns to Sam after James nods. "Haven't seen it either."
Clint brings James a glass of water, rubs at his shoulder as he takes a sip.
"It's shy", he says, and James spits water all over his plate.
A chuckle leaves Sam's lips just as Steve turns to James, worry on his face.
"You sure you're ok?" Steve asks.
"Yeah, fine," James rasps, takes another mouthful before rubbing at his eyes.
Curious indeed. By the way Clint mouths a 'sorry' toward James when he thinks nobody's looking, it must be an inside joke. It warms Sam into his core, to be in this quiet moment with all of them, privy to such glimpses of intimacy.
"I had a dog when I was little," he offers. "His name was Mr. Rogers."
"Yeah, I mean I was a Captain America fan, like all the other boys."
James laughs, wrapping an arm around Clint's middle, and is that pink Sam is seeing on Steve's cheeks? Huh.
"Had this utter crush on him," he adds, wanting to see how much redder he can get Steve, and Steve doesn't disappoint, trying to hide his face by shoving a too large piece of pancake in his mouth.
Clint shifts to sit in James' lap, drags his plate closer to get another bite as well. "Did you have posters all over your room?"
"Yeah," Sam grins. "The largest was one of you two," and he winks at James when James raises an eyebrow at him, "looking all tough in uniform. Cap made me realize I wasn't straight, but meeting the man doesn't even compare."
Steve looks up at him, eyes bright and Sam catches his gaze.
"He's more real than the symbol," Sam continues, heart rabbiting in his chest, "he's making me feel alive again."
There it is, the perfect shade of light flush spreading over Steve's cheeks, and Sam wants to press his lips on that skin. Well, perhaps that's not such a bad idea, so he raises to lean over the table.
"Thank you," he breathes, after he places a kiss on Steve's cheek.
Clint gives him a thumbs up, James a wide smile, and Sam goes back to his pancakes. The day is looking up, he thinks, as Steve clears his throat awkwardly, shifting in his seat, but his eyes are more alight than ever, the small curl of his lips betraying his delight.
The song in the chapter is called Amnesia, by Dead Can Dance.
To everyone who's been yet again so supportive and has indulged me in my long rants regarding the writing of fic, thank you very much. You're all fluffy warm fuzzies. *brings out tea and cookies*
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Sam rubs a hand over his face before taking another swig of his beer, as he sits on the back steps of the porch. Behind him, the kitchen is animated with dinner preparations, and Sam smiles to himself. Too bad they need to go back to the Avengers facility soon. They've got a couple more days at most, and his heart beats faster against his ribs when he thinks about it. He can't waste any more time, he needs to do something soon, can't have the thing between him and Steve linger on until it becomes painful. And here, here it's safe, here they both have support.
The air shifts and Steve drops down next to him with his own bottle, close enough that their arms brush from time to time as they sip their drinks.
"Sam, I..." Steve starts, but trails off.
Sam stills, inhale stuck on its way down. Is this-- is this finally?
"I'm very lucky to be your friend," Steve says instead.
He should be disappointed, but the gravelly tone of the words, the way Steve's voice strains against something running underneath their meaning, it says more, a lot more.
"Me too," he manages.
The smile Steve gives him, although frail and wobbly, is the best Sam's ever gotten, because under its sad tinge there's the knowledge that Steve's not satisfied with just this friendship. Sam can see it clearly now, and it twirls through his chest in a pleasant ache.
Dinner comes and goes, and they've all been lounging around the living room, listening to Clint's choice of music and discussing the episodes of Doctor Who they've watched that afternoon. Sam keeps practicing a speech internally, scratching it off, and starting over. He can't seem to get it right, anxious with anticipation. But he's going to do it, tonight, he's determined, and he keeps running scenarios in his head.
Clint brings another bowl of popcorn, but after he places it on the coffee table, he strolls over toward a side of the room, small frown on his face. He runs his palm on the wall there, and he does it long enough that even Steve's attention gets drawn to it.
"What's wrong?" Steve asks.
Clint hums, frown deepening.
"I think I came in my pants right here."
A chocked sound comes from the side, and Sam turns in time to see James spitting beer all over himself. "Dammit," he mutters, wiping at his front.
Clint snickers and Steve laughs in his hand.
"Funny," James growls.
"No, really," Clint returns, moving closer to where James sits in the armchair, "you're very talented if you made me do that."
He leans in, pecks lightly at James' lips, but James wraps a hand around the back of Clint's neck, takes his mouth in a full kiss.
Sam's eyes shift on their own toward Steve, because he wants that, as well, wishes he could have it right now. He's met with Steve's piercing gaze, and Sam isn't imagining the desire entwining with the blue of his eyes. But Steve looks away quickly, burying his nose in his own shoulder, and Sam smiles. Soon, baby, he thinks, stomach flipping in anticipation.
"I think I've got most memories back," Clint says as he turns back to the laptop sitting on the sofa next to Sam, pokes at the keyboard.
The soft tones of a song drift from the speakers, and Sam watches as Clint pulls James up. They wrap their arms around each other, shifting in slow movements along with the tune. The look of relief on James' face sends a sympathetic pang through Sam. The song is comforting, though, and he peeks at the screen.
"Amnesia?" he asks, eyebrows raised, as he reads its name. "Really?"
Clint laughs lightly from where he's resting his cheek on James' shoulder, eyes closed. "It's fitting."
James huffs, but presses a kiss on top of Clint's head, just as Steve leans closer from his place on the floor to look at the screen as well.
"Dead can dance," he reads the band name.
It's James' turn to laugh. "Well, I can dance."
"Show off," Steve mutters.
And this is it, Sam's chance. He raises, extending a hand toward Steve. "'s not that hard," he smiles.
A beat, but then Steve grips his hand, lets himself be drawn up. Sam fits them together, pulling Steve's hands to rest on his hips, then wrapping an arm around Steve's shoulders, allowing the fingers of his other hand to rest on Steve's chest.
They're close, so close that Sam can see the flutter of Steve's eyelashes against his cheeks. He isn't looking at Sam, but somewhere between them, a light dusting of pink slowly forming on his cheeks. Under his fingertips, Sam can feel Steve's heart rabbiting faster in his chest, and it matches his own, as he shifts them slowly with the music.
He looks toward the other two, and they've mostly stopped their motions, watching with interest. Sam gets twin encouraging nods from Clint and James, and it should be exposing, to have such intimacy witnessed, but instead it makes him bolder.
Still, his fingers shake on Steve's skin, and his lips tremble as he presses them to Steve's mouth. There's no pause, no stillness, between his touch and Steve wrapping his arms all the way around Sam. He kisses back, dry lips catching onto Sam's, and it's the best thing ever. Their slide is chaste, but it fills Sam with such joy, he can't hold back the smile that pulls at him, breaking the locking of their mouths.
Steve blinks at him then, as if awareness is coming back to him, eyes widening. He snatches his hands away from Sam's back. "I'm so--"
Fuck, no. Sam pulls him back, stopping him with another kiss. Steve is rigid in his arms, but Sam's determined. He smiles at him, waiting patiently for it to dawn on Steve, adds another kiss.
It takes maybe two more seconds before Steve's arms snake back around him, and Sam finds himself squeezed so tightly, that the air feels thinner in his chest. And that's when Steve takes his mouth, really takes it, hard and demanding. It's so like him, to take possession of what he wants, that it melts Sam. Finally, fucking finally. He's got Steve. And he gives just as much, parting Steve's lips to push his tongue inside, thrilled with the soft sound Steve lets out.
They run out of breath soon enough, and Sam reluctantly breaks away, rests his forehead against Steve's as they both heave.
"Sam, Sam," Steve gasps.
"I know, me too," Sam manages between inhales.
And fuck. Steve's fingers press tightly into Sam's back as Steve locks their mouths again, pulling them flush together. Sam's hand travels down Steve's back to grip at his ass, and it draws a moan out of Steve. He's already hard, sweet deities, so hard against Sam's hip, that the desire uncoiling in his gut takes him unawares, and he thrusts against Steve, pulling a shudder out of him.
A low whistle jostles Sam out of his hazy bubble. Steve looks just as startled as they turn toward James and Clint's wide grins.
"We took the liberty of putting lube in your nightstand," James says with a roll of his hand.
"Condoms, too," comes from Clint.
Steve flips them off, but Sam can't hold back the relieved laughter. He's fucking home, he realizes, as happiness overtakes him.
"I hope you're really loud," he tells Steve as he drags him away toward the stairs.
"I'm sure I can be," Steve responds, following easily, his laughter matching the ones reverberating behind them.
But as soon as the door of the bedroom closes behind them, Steve grips Sam's shoulders with a too serious look on his face.
"I..." he starts, but swallows heavily instead.
Sam lifts a hand to caress his cheek. "Hey, we don't have to do anything," he whispers, "just wanted to be alone with you."
Steve draws air through his nose, nodding slowly, and his shoulders slump. Sam draws him closer, brings their lips together again. This kiss is slower, a lot sweeter, and it flickers through him all the way down to his belly. He's still hard, and when Steve wraps himself around Sam again, pressing against him, he's just as affected. Sam can't stop the roll of his hips, making Steve's breath to hitch against his lips.
"What if I want to," Steve rasps as they break for air.
Sam leans back to look at him, raises both hands to run his thumbs over Steve's cheekbones. "Anything you want, baby. I'll give you anything."
A small huff, and the smiles Steve returns is the brightest Sam's ever seen. It makes his heart pound against his ribs, because he's put it there, given Steve this joy.
"Want you to fuck me," Steve breathes.
Sam hasn't expected something so direct, and it drives a moan out of him, making his dick twitch. Steve's eyes widen, his smile turning into a grin.
"Please," he adds.
"Oh, so that's how it's gonna be," Sam says.
"How?" Steve asks, trying to look innocent.
"Gonna make me do all the work," he jokes, moving his hand between them to palm at Steve's cock.
Whatever Steve's reply was, is swallowed by his sharp intake of breath, and Sam smiles to himself, anticipation building in his bones.
"You're lucky I like doing all the work," he says, burying his face in Steve's neck to run his tongue in a long swipe towards his jaw, fingers squeezing Steve on top of his pants.
The moan that leaves Steve draws a shiver out of Sam, and he nips at Steve's jaw before taking his mouth again. Steve's hands shake where they're clutching at Sam's sides and want swirls around them both, through the wet kiss they share. The low tremble that overtakes Steve's body increases with every swipe of Sam's palm, every thrust of his tongue, and Sam slows down. He's fucking nervous, but Steve must be even more so than Sam, so he wraps Steve in a hug, brings their foreheads together.
"Relax, baby," he whispers, and Steve lets out a small huff. "We can stop at any time," he adds.
Steve nods, eyes closed, swallows. Sam rubs at his back, waiting patiently.
"Don't stop," Steve finally says, leaning back to look at Sam, that determination of his visible in the set of his jaw. "I want this so much, Sam," he murmurs, cheeks flushed and pupils blown, that it flips Sam's heart in his chest with a pang of desire. "Please, don't stop."
"Ok," Sam breathes, "won't stop," and he pulls Steve back in for another kiss.
He does it slower this time, and shifts them closer to the bed, until Steve's legs meet the edge of the mattress, causing them both to stumble down, bringing chuckles to their lips. Sam moves upward on his back, resting his head on the pillows, and pulls at Steve's arm.
"Touch me," he says.
A beat, and Steve slides closer, on his knees, hands hovering above Sam for a fraction of a second. But then he brings both palms down, starts running his fingers over Sam's chest.
It's the right choice, Sam thinks as he watches Steve relax further, getting bolder, hands more firm in their caresses. Sam pulls the hem of his t-shirt up, and when Steve gets the suggestion, he lifts himself to help Steve take it off. The fingers return, to his bare skin this time, and Sam enjoys it, watching Steve's face as he frowns slightly in concentration.
"Can I," Steve says, sliding his hand over the waist of Sam's pants.
With a nod, Sam lifts his hips, and soon he's naked on the bed, hard and already leaking, under Steve's intense gaze. His heart flops in his chest with it, closes his eyes when Steve's hands return on him. He's touching everywhere, tentative at first, but growing more definite in his ministrations. And when Steve's fingers wrap around his cock, his mouth latches onto his nipple, and Sam bucks up in surprise.
"Fuck," Steve breathes, and Sam opens his eyes to be met with a look of utter hunger on Steve's face.
"Lose the clothes and we will," Sam manages with the cheekiest smirk he can pull.
"Yes please," Steve returns, frantic in his hurry to get naked.
Sam laughs lightly, straightening up, and wraps am arm around Steve's middle as soon as his pants fly across the room. He pulls Steve down, on the bed, leans on an elbow next to him to kiss him again. He likes kissing Steve, their mouths so fitting together, that it drives the want in him faster than any other touch. And given by the low moan that travels up Steve's throat, he's not the only one who enjoys it.
He lets his free hand wander down Steve's front as they kiss, grazes his nipples with his thumb one at a time. Steve whines against his mouth, but Sam doesn't let him go, pushes his lips open. He alternates the chaste slides with wet swipes of his tongue, as he finally wraps his fingers around Steve's dick. It's heavy and hot and feels so fucking perfect in his hand, that it sends a shiver up his spine. He can't wait to have that inside of him, but that's for later. Right now, it's all about Steve, cherishing him, adoring him, making his body thrum with pleasure. Sam pumps hims slowly, lightly, until Steve's breathing hard against his lips, hips thrusting upward into Sam's fist, hands clutching at Sam's shoulders.
With one last peck, Sam leans away again, hand still moving slowly around heated flesh, and Steve moans at the loss. He blinks fast, looks at Sam with eyes darkened by want. Sam offers a smile, and then he moves his fingers lower, just as he hooks a knee around Steve's leg to pull it open, runs the tips of his fingers over Steve's entrance.
He's rewarded with a hitch of breath so delicious, that his own cock twitches where it's pressed against Steve's thigh.
"You want this, right?" he asks again, just to make sure.
Steve nods fast, "yes, yes."
"All right, baby," he whispers, "I got you."
Steve's pliant when he arranges them on the bed, and Sam kneels between his open legs, pulls them closer with long caresses to Steve's thighs. He's nervous again, Sam can see, but he's still hard, and fuck. Sam can't wait to sink into him.
Clint better not have lied about the lube, he thinks as he leans over to rummage in the drawer of the nightstand. He's not disappointed, when he retrieves a fresh bottle and a box of condoms. Steve's hands tighten in the sheets with a low noise, and Sam shushes him softly.
He's expecting Steve to be tense, but his muscles relax around Sam's finger, and it slides to the third knuckle in one go. Sam has to take a deep breath. He pulls out, adds another finger, and again the muscles yield, drawing him in.
"Fuck, Steve," he rasps, voice shaky.
Steve lets out an exhales that trembles along with the scrabble of his hands as he grips at Sam's shoulders. "Gotta relax, right?" and his voice breaks.
"Yeah, baby," Sam says, fingers already scissoring slowly, pushing and pulling, "you're doing so well."
Steve goes even more lax at the words, and Sam smiles at that. He leans closer on top of Steve, nudging in a third finger.
"So fucking good, Stevie, so fucking hot, can't wait to be inside you, baby."
And Steve's so responsive, that Sam's breath lodges in his throat in tandem with Steve's low moans, heart beating as fast as the fluttering of Steve's eyelids. He keeps up a steady stream of praises, until Steve's back arches off the bed with the touches Sam presses inside of him. His nails are digging into Sam's skin, deliciously painful.
It's a breathy 'please' that almost drives Sam over the edge, untouched, and he has to grip tightly at the base of his own cock. His hands shake a little too hard as he rolls the condom on, and then he's there, he's ready.
He lifts Steve's hips with both hands, and he pushes in, one long slide that he cannot stop until he's bottomed out. The sound that leaves Steve's throat as he arches off the bed vibrates all the way through Sam's bones, and he slides his thighs under Steve's ass, keeps himself lodged inside while he grabs at Steve's hands to press them high on the mattress. He stretches forward, intertwining their fingers, until his lips are right above Steve's.
Sam kisses him again, pouring in everything he wants to say, everything Steve's awakened in him, everything he feels. And he moves, out and in with a snap of his hips. The small shout Steve releases into his mouth is enticing, so Sam does it again, and again, until they're both shaking.
Time stops, as he moves inside Steve, long minutes drifting into each other, drawing him closer to the edge. Sam swallows each and every sounds Steve makes, thrilled at the way Steve's body shifts against him, to pull him closer, and closer, and closer, until Steve's cock pulses where it's trapped between their bellies. His release is so hot against Sam's already heated skin, the low whine Steve lets out turning into a gasp, and Sam's gone as well, burying himself deep with one last thrust.
He lays on top of Steve, catching his breath with Steve's arms around him for long moments. But he has to move off, slide out of him, and then he lets the tied up condom fall to the floor next to the bed.
"Gross," Steve says from where he's lying on his back, hand caressing Sam's arm.
Sam snorts at that. "It is what it is."
"Oh my god," comes next, and Steve screws his eyes shut.
"What," Sam startles. Did he do something...
"You had your fingers in me," Steve groans.
It drives a full laughter out of Sam. "We'll take a shower later, it's fine." But he remembers seeing wet wipes in the same drawer, so he looks again. "Here," he says as he rubs at his fingers, then at Steve's hands. The tissue comes away clean, but Sam gets it, the first time he's done this he's had the same reaction. "Better?"
"Yeah," and Steve pulls him down, wraps himself around Sam, burying his face against his neck.
"Are you embarrassed?"
"Shut up," Steve mumbles, and Sam kisses his temple
"My dick was in your ass," he adds with a light laugh.
"Shut up," Steve grits.
"Well, you can put your dick in mine later if it's gonna make you feel better."
Steve's head snaps up at that, and he chews at his lips. "Can I put yours in my mouth first?" he asks and it makes Sam's eyebrows shoot up his forehead. "After a shower," Steve adds.
Another bout of chuckles leaves Sam. "You can do whatever you want, baby."
There's a wonderful flush on Steve's cheeks, accompanying his small smile, and Sam parts his lips easily when Steve kisses him. It's short, though, before Steve breaks off to rest his cheek against Sam's, and Sam caresses the back of his head.
"This is..." Steve whispers, "we... I..."
"I know," Sam stops him, pushes at Steve until he can look him in the eyes, takes a deep breath. "I'm in love with you and I want us to work, want everything with you," he says, words he's been holding back finally tumbling out of his mouth, "you have no idea, Steve. This is it, for me, you're it. I love you, wanna grow old with you."
It scares him, how much he wants to have with Steve, because he hasn't allowed himself to think about all these things, always pushing them back. But now they're out there, and Steve's watching him, eyes wide. Fuck, too much, too soon.
But then a fat tear plops on his cheek, and there's a sob mingled with laughter, relieved laughter.
The tightness in Sam's chest doubles and his eyes fill, too, until he's smiling with the tears, laughing in Steve's mouth, as they squeeze each other tightly.
It's only later that Steve finds his voice again, as they lay entwined on the bed, voice gravelly as he rasps against Sam's collarbone.
"Me too, I love you, too."
"Wow, he really is loud," Clint says with a smirk.
James rolls his eyes where he's sitting on the edge of the bed, towel around his waist. He's been waiting for Clint to finish his own shower.
"Close the door and come here," he flicks his wrist impatiently.
Clint raises his eyebrows at him, face impassive. "But this is like live porn," he says, blinking slowly. "You got anything better to offer?"
James manages to turn his impending chuckle into a growl. Clint's so fucking adorable sometimes, and he's sure Clint knows it, given by the way he can't really keep a straight face for much longer.
"I was gonna ride you," James says, "but--"
He's on his back in less than a second, Clint warm and heavy on top of him, and this time James laughs with it, pulling Clint along.
"We're awful," Clint chuckles.
"Yeah," James agrees, and caresses the side of Clint's face before drawing him in for a kiss.
"Still wanna ride me?" Clint asks when they pull apart.
James wiggles his eyebrows, and it makes Clint laugh again.
It's always slow, between them, this build up, between soft touches and light caresses, small pecks and longer kisses. It's slow, but comforting, a sort of satisfaction wrapping around James that even if they'd never reach completion, he'd still feel fully sated. By the time Clint finishes stretching him open, James is already hazy with it, chest tight and lips numb.
Clint shifts up the bed to lean against the headboard, and James follows. His towel's still around his hips, and somehow this makes everything a little bit sexier, like a sensual secret ready to be shared. And Clint waits for him, fingers wrapped around his own shaft as he stretches a condom on, licking his lips in anticipation. James makes his way there, towel covering enough that he doesn't see beneath him anymore, only feels Clint nudging at his entrance, and he leans with both hands on the wall next to Clint's head.
He slides down in one heavy move, making Clint murmur a swear, eyes tightly shut.
"Fuck, kitty," he breathes and James grins.
He loves making Clint fall apart.
He clenches down, pulls himself up, and Clint's hands scrabble to grip at James' hips, trying to stop him.
"Fuck," Clint says again, eyes snapping wide open.
"That's the idea," James bites at his own lower lip, and Clint matches the motion unawares.
"Gonna come too fast," he rasps.
"You won't," James promises, and Clint shudders beneath him.
He sits back down until Clint's buried as deep as possible, then rolls his hips slowly, the tiniest of motions, but it makes Clint's fingers dig tighter into his muscles.
"Kitty," Clint breathes.
"Mhm," James hums against the shell of his ear.
He moves again, up and down and roll, and he knows it's driving Clint crazy. Hell, it's driving him crazy, the way Clint's already shaking all over, eyes closed and head thrown back. Clint oscillates between James' name and the endearment with every repetition, at the end of each roll of hips.
"Tell me," James whispers, voice heavy with need, "what do you want."
"Want," Clint gasps, just like all the other times James has brought him to this sort of desperate incoherence, "want you, kitty."
"Mhm," James hums again. "Want me to what?"
He knows exactly what Clint needs right now, whispered confessions one late night quite revealing of what drives Clint over the edge sometimes. He knows exactly what to do to cause that tightening ache that Clint enjoys so much around his chest, knows exactly how to bring Clint the most pleasure, and he takes such delight in it, he's almost ready to burst.
"Want you to love me," comes back on an inhale, "please, kitty, please..."
"I do love you, Clint," James slides down one more time, "I love you very much," he clenches around Clint, enjoying the feel of him as he comes, and lets his body go as well.
It's unhurried, like everything else they do together in moments like these, but so fulfilling, so intricately perfect that time slows down, until James can feel his heart thumping against his ribs in flawless echoes of Clint's.
His cheeks are flushed when Clint finally opens his eyes. His hands lift to cup the sides of James face, and he goes easily for a kiss when Clint pulls him down.
"Fuck," Clint exhales with a huff. "Can't believe that works every time," he mumbles.
James' smile is wide. "Works for me, too."
"Yeah," Clint smiles back at him before squirming to re-arrange them on the bed, until he's on top of James. "Love you, too, kitty," he says, and James closes his eyes against the flurry of pecks Clint rains on his face, neck and shoulders.
He's got him. Clint's back.
James wakes first, and he places a kiss on Clint's temple before making his way down into the kitchen. He's just turned the coffee maker on when Steve shuffles in, looking well and utterly fucked. It suits him, the small smile that doesn't seem to go away, as he blinks sleepily against the morning sun.
"How'd you sleep?" James asks and Steve hums. "How's it feel, then?"
Steve lets out another hum, but this one sounds more like a moan, and James laughs.
"He loves me, Buck," Steve whispers, raising both eyebrows with wonder on his face.
James nods, wraps an arm around Steve's shoulders. "Told you."
"Yeah," Steve agrees, leaning into James as they both rest against the edge of the counter.
Quiet voices drift from upstairs and soon Clint is making his way in, arm wrapped around Sam's waist. He sits them at the table, eying the coffee maker as it drips into the pot.
"Morning, Sam," James says.
"Morning," Sam returns, an eyebrow raised at the way Steve's slumped into James, cheek on James' shoulder.
"You guys were pretty loud," James comments, shit eating grin on his face.
Steve lets out a grunt, hides his face better against James' t-shirt, and Sam shifts forward to rest his forehead on his bent arms. Clint pets at the back of his neck with a smirk, while James places a kiss on the top of Steve's head.
Clint's eyes lock with James' and it's warming him from the inside. The rustle of leaves is soft as it drifts against the silence, rays of sunlight slanting onto the floorboards.
James smiles, and Clint returns it.
And in this moment, he promises himself, to never forget.