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beggars and choosers

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“Barnes,” someone calls from outside, someone distinctly male, American, and unexpected. “You haven’t got this place booby-trapped, have you?”

Bucky lowers the mug of tea in his hand, then sets it on the tabletop and springs to his feet. By the time Bucky has reached the front doorway, Sam Wilson is still talking, his voice carrying a good ways. “I’m not coming any closer until you give the go-ahead. And you better be in there, or else I’m going to feel real stupid.” 

Bucky peers out into the midday sunlight. Sam is standing about twenty yards from the house, eyeing the nearby goat pen speculatively. “Booby traps?” Bucky calls back. “What am I, Wile E. Coyote?”

“Can you blame me for wondering?” Sam says, muttering this out of the side of his mouth, still distinctly loud enough for Bucky to hear. 

No, Bucky can’t blame him for asking; he did consider it when he first got this little house, but mostly out of habit, as no one here has given him reason to mistrust. He doesn’t dwell on this, though, too busy trying to tamp down a sudden, unaccountable buoyancy that rises in his chest as he watches Sam trudge closer. He can’t help what tumbles out of his mouth next: “Doesn’t matter what you’re thinking, at least you’re thinking about me, Wilson.”

Sam’s eyes are blocked by a pair of sunglasses, but the look he gives Bucky is distinctly wry. He comes to a stop about ten feet away, looking almost unreasonably handsome in jeans, a black t-shirt, and dusty boots. He’s grown a full beard since Bucky saw him last—that was, of course, some months ago. He’s sort of lost track, actually, of how many, but it’s been a while. 

Bucky is glad he can’t see what is undoubtedly an appraising look in Sam’s eyes. “Where’s your jetpack?” he asks.

“In the jet,” Sam says. “And it’s not a jetpack.”

“If it walks like a duck,” Bucky says mildly. “Or a falcon, I s’pose.”

“Anybody ever tell you you have a way with words?” Sam asks dryly, and Bucky wants so badly to grin that he feels almost lightheaded. “Cap sends his regards. Says he’s sorry he couldn’t make it.”

Steve, oh hell, Steve. Bucky had almost forgotten, though it’s always been Steve before, not Sam, that comes for these random check-ins. “Is he alright?” Bucky asks.

“Taking some much needed R&R,” Sam says, and the way his mouth quirks tells Bucky a great deal about what Steve probably thinks of this. “You gonna invite me in, or what?”

Bucky steps aside from the doorway, beckoning Sam in, and Sam comes, his boots crunching over the soil. He takes his sunglasses off as he steps into the dim coolness of the house, tucking them absentmindedly into the pocket of his jeans, and Bucky blurts, “Christ, Sam, who blacked your eye?”

Sam makes a little moue as if to say c’est la vie. His left eye isn’t badly swollen, but the skin from his eye down to his cheekbone is the tell-tale reddish-purple of a shiner. “The same folks who ran into Steve with a truck,” he says. “He’s fine, I’m fine, everyone’s fine.”

It’s not like Bucky doesn’t know the kind of thing Steve gets up to, and presumably what Sam and Romanoff get up to as well. It’s just that it’s vaguely unsettling to be reminded that while he’s milking goats, Steve and his crew are God knows where, running God only knows what kind of black ops. Bucky does his best to ignore the strange, vague itch of guilt he feels as he looks at Sam’s eye, as well as an unexpected lurch of jealousy. He’s never had a moment’s interest in joining Steve on the run, and can’t account for the feeling at all, but it’s there.

His attention lingers long enough that Sam notices and raises his eyebrows. “Well,” Bucky says, finally remembering to back away from the entryway and give Sam some space, “I’m glad to hear that. Come on in.” 

Sam takes a few steps further into the house, looking around with polite interest. The dwelling and everything in it is deliberately simple, with none of the gadgetry Shuri would have him use. Bucky’s cup sits on the table next to the plate he’d had his midday meal on; in the far corner, his pallet is still mussed from where he slept the night before. “Sorry,” Bucky says, reaching up to run a hand through his hair and then remembering, belatedly, that it’s all been pulled away from his face. “I wasn’t, uh, expecting company.”

“Trust me,” Sam says, “you don’t have to worry about impressing me.”

Bucky huffs a laugh. “You sound like you been roughing it,” he says. “You don’t look like you been roughing it, though, except for the eye.”

Sam’s eyebrows shoot up again. Bucky feels hot in the face but doesn’t avert his eyes, doesn’t change his expression to one of apology. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”

You should, Bucky wants to say, you’re the best thing I’ve seen in months, but he thinks that might be laying it on a little thick. Nevertheless, it feels good to see Sam, to talk to him and, childish as it may be, to fuck with him, to watch his eyes go a little squinty as he tries to ascertain whether he’s being made fun of. Shuri is funny, a good kid, but she’s so young, and Steve is here so rarely and even their jokes have an edge now that neither of them can quite shake; Sam might as well be a breath of goddamn fresh air.

“You want anything?” Bucky asks. “Water? I have some tea—it’s really good. Hot or cold.”

“I’ll try some, thanks,” Sam says, still giving Bucky a slightly suspicious look. There’s a light sheen of perspiration on his forehead, presumably from the sun beating down on him as he walked from the village. Bucky notices things sometimes now, attractive things like a broad, muscular back or the curve of a friendly smile, which he supposes is a good sign; rarely has he found the gleam of sweat on skin so appealing, though.

“How long are you here for, birdy?” Bucky asks, as he pours some sweet, reddish-brown tea from the pitcher on the table into a fresh cup.

Sam openly gawks at him, still standing a few feet from the door like he needs an explicit invitation to come sit down. “Okay, first of all, absolutely do not call me that,” he says. “Second of all, I’m here till I finish checking on you, I guess.”

“It’ll be a short trip, then,” Bucky says, and sits the pitcher down so he can gesture vaguely around the room. “I’m an open book.”

“Yeah,” Sam says, skeptically, as he finally takes a few steps towards the table. “You’re a real page-turner.”

Now Bucky does grin, then watches as Sam takes the cup and sips from it. Sam tries to cover his pleased reaction, maybe just to avoid paying Bucky any semblance of a compliment. “Thanks,” he says mildly, lifting the cup slightly to indicate his meaning. “It’s nice.”

“Glad you like it,” Bucky says. “I could make you some food, if you want.”

Sam raises his eyebrows again, and Bucky relaxes his expression, wary of seeming overeager. This is more casual conversation than he’s had in—years, actually. But this is also Sam, who’s still visibly unsure what to make of Bucky—who probably doesn’t want to be here, and who maybe even doesn’t like him, still. 

Bucky knows it was never about dislike, of course, at least not real dislike. He knows that Sam looked for him without Steve when Steve was occupied with Avengers business, and he knows that Sam got close a couple times entirely on his own. He’s not fool enough to think that wasn’t just about Sam being a good person, interested in doing the right thing, but it at least implies that Sam finds some value to the idea of Bucky’s continued existence. Bucky is rapidly realizing he’ll take that if it means keeping Sam around for a little while longer.

“I’m alright, thanks,” Sam says. “So what’ve you been up to, Barnes? Tending goats and catching up on Looney Tunes?”

“That was when I had semi-regular access to TV,” Bucky admits. He’d had a certain fascination, post-Hydra, with watching old-fashioned things, things he remembered and things he didn’t. It was like pressing on an old bruise and finding a strange, morbid pleasure in the discomfort. 

Bucky lapses into a brief pause, just standing there looking at Sam standing there looking at him, then asks, “Say, if I’m the coyote, does that make you the Road Runner, Wilson?”

“Enough with the damn bird jokes,” Sam says, but the corner of his mouth twitches.

Bucky starts to ask him to sit down at the table already, but Sam continues, “So you’ve been feeling alright?” This is spoken so easily, so casually as he lifts his cup to his mouth again, that Bucky almost marvels at it. “Figure it might get kind of lonely, out here.”

“Sure, it might,” Bucky says. “But I’m okay. What happened to your wrist?”

“Hmm?” Sam says. A healing wound wraps around his wrist, thin and circular, part bruise and part laceration. His watchband hides the other wrist, but Bucky wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a matching cut there. “Oh. Me and some zip-ties had a disagreement.” 

“Zip-ties,” Bucky repeats, although he could’ve guessed as much.

“Yeah, I got tied up,” Sam says dryly. “And no, not in a fun way.”

“Is there a fun way to get zip-tied?” Bucky asks, deadpan.

Now Sam waffles, mouth opening and closing quickly, maybe worried that he’s caused offense. He’s not used to being caught on the back foot, if the expression of strangled irritation that crosses his face briefly is any indication. “But you—well,” he says, before mastering his expression and casting his gaze around the room again. “Anyway. Sorry.”

“No, it’s alright,” Bucky says, watching Sam’s face with amusement. “I have been flirting with you, you’re right to notice.”

Sam looks at him, aghast. “You,” he says, “are a pain in the ass, has anyone ever told you that?”

“Once or twice,” Bucky says.

“A menace,” Sam says, plunking his cup down on the table, “and a pain in my ass—”

Sam’s kiss is unexpected, but not unwelcome; something goes off like a solar flare in Bucky, a pulse of heat from the inside out. Sam pulls away slightly after a beat, his brow furrowed and mouth open on a question, but Bucky doesn’t let him get far, reaching out to grab hold of his t-shirt. Sam’s caution is genuine, touching, but Bucky doesn’t want it, not right now. Right now he wants the snarky Sam, the plainly unimpressed Sam, the only goddamn person that doesn’t spend half his time around Bucky walking on eggshells. He wants to get up under Sam’s skin and stay there, maybe leave a bruise that Sam wants to press on later.

“A pain in your ass, huh,” Bucky muses. “I’ve been called worse.”

“Barnes,” Sam says, “do you ever shut up.”

Not around you, apparently, Bucky thinks, but kisses Sam again instead, lets Sam turn it dirty and a little mean, bruising force and nipping teeth. Bucky retaliates by crowding Sam up against the table; it bumps the wall with a muffled thump, the crockery rattling slightly. 

Sam tastes like tea and smells like recycled cabin air and faintly of sweat and leathery cologne, the scents mixed up into something vaguely earthy, deeply enticing. Bucky shoves his hand up under Sam’s shirt, nearly wild with possibility, with desire, of all things. He brushes Sam’s ribs and Sam flinches slightly. “Easy,” he says, barely pulling away from Bucky’s mouth to speak.

“Someone been treating you rough, baby?” Bucky asks. It’s half a goad, half a croon; he only knows how to make that question sound like a taunt, but he does care that Sam hurts.

“I’m not your goddamn baby,” Sam says, but he doesn’t look angry, his mouth falling open slightly when Bucky’s hand skims back down his chest, over the plane of his stomach and down to his belt buckle.

“Sorry, darlin’,” Bucky says, pressing this as a stinging kiss to Sam’s jaw.

It’s not easy to undo someone else’s belt one-handed, but Bucky has performed much more complex maneuvers under much more dire circumstances; he manages, only fumbling when Sam’s tongue flicks against his earlobe. Sam’s hand brushes against the nape of Bucky’s neck, catching at the hair that’s too short to be pulled up into a bun, then tugging firmly. Bucky surprises himself by moaning, loud and coarse in the relative quiet of his little house.

He gets Sam’s jeans undone and shoves his hand unceremoniously into a pair of plain black boxer-briefs, finding Sam half-hard and getting steadily harder. Sam lets out a little whoosh of air like he’s been punched in the gut, and Bucky’s own stomach drops with a swoop of arousal so profound it nearly floors him. He pulls his hand out of Sam’s pants, spits in his palm, and delights in the little moan Sam gives, like this is somehow more erotic than having his dick touched.

He puts his hand back in Sam’s underwear, strokes his dick firm and tight, doesn’t fuck around; the noise Sam makes might as well be a choir of angels. “Yeah, Wilson,” Bucky says, “you like that, is that good?” 

Sam gives an eloquent unh in response, wild-eyed, as his free hand comes up to grab at Bucky, clutching instinctively for an upper arm that isn’t there. He blinks, fingers grasping cloth instead, and says, “Shit, sorry—”

“No, it’s okay,” Bucky says, “you can touch me anywhere.”

Sam seems to remember himself then, or rather to remember Bucky. His right hand darts quickly downwards, fumbling briefly with the fabric of Bucky’s tunic and the loose knot at the waistband of his pants. Bucky doesn’t mind the dry grip, just to have Sam’s hand on him; his dick’s slick enough as it is, leaking just for this. 

Sam matches the rhythm of Bucky’s hand, and Bucky groans, loud enough that anybody that happened to be in the clearing outside could probably hear him; he doesn’t even care, can’t stop yammering now that he’s started. “You think I’m lonely, baby, but what’s this say about you?” he asks, feeling inspired, watching as Sam’s upper lip curls. “Can practically smell it on you, how bad you need it.”

“I don’t need a damn thing from you,” Sam says, but he ruins it in the next breath, moaning, his face going slack as Bucky starts twisting his hand just right on the upstroke.

Bucky’s losing the ability to talk, losing the ability to think, focused solely on the tug of Sam’s hand; a strong, calloused hand, the grip just right after ages of fucking nothing, not even his own hand. He tucks his face in Sam’s neck, wanting vaguely to be even closer, then bites him at his pulsepoint to see how he’ll react. Sam takes a shuddery breath and doesn’t protest, so Bucky bites him harder, digging his teeth in so that it’ll surely leave a bruise, a bruise that Steve and everyone else will see on him and have to wonder where it came from—

He eases off the bite when Sam makes a distinctly pained noise and sucks gently at the spot to soothe it. Sam manages an “oh fuck” and then comes, hot and slick, over Bucky’s hand.

Sam’s rhythm goes a little sloppy after that, but Bucky doesn’t mind, his hips jerking into it now, desperate. “Sam,” he says, half a warning and half just to say it, and Sam nods and licks his bottom lip, watching Bucky’s face closely. Bucky comes, shuddering, for the sight of Sam’s pink tongue, for the expression of fixed concentration on his face.

It takes him several seconds to pull away from Sam, wary as he is of his legs wobbling; he’s not sure he could ever live it down if his knees buckled. Sam seizes the opportunity to wipe his hand unsubtly on Bucky’s pants. Bucky takes a half-step back then, giving Sam some space away from the table, but doesn’t move too far away, still watching Sam’s face avidly. 

Sam allows this, meeting Bucky’s eyes with an expression of challenge, daring Bucky to say something, to question him.

Bucky grins at him. “Well, goddamn, Wilson,” he says. “Tell Steve to send you again next time.”

“Oh, fuck you,” Sam says, his tone outraged, but Bucky is standing too close, now, to miss the glint of amusement in his eyes.