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Tuesday

I’m around this weekend is all the notice Bucky normally gets from Sharon, but it’s all he normally needs. Can I crash with you after?

When should I expect you? he texts back, already making a list. He needs food. He should clean up the apartment, do some laundry. Shit, he needs condoms. It’s been a while since Sharon last passed through town.

Probably late Friday, leaving Sunday or Monday? I’ll let you know when I know.

Sounds good :)

Sam would give him shit for the smiley face, but Bucky doesn’t care. Her messages make him smile, and he doesn’t see any reason why he shouldn’t let her know.

They’ve been doing this the last year or so, him and Sharon, just casually hooking up whenever they happen to be in the same city at the same time. She’s pretty, and they have fun. She works mostly in Europe, and he spends a decent amount of time on his own missions, so neither of them are looking for anything serious. But it’s nice to have someone who understands him and likes him and doesn’t ask him questions he can’t answer. It’s nice to feel good in his body and blow off some steam now and then.

And it’s nice how she never, ever says the name “Steve Rogers” to him.

She’s never stayed over at his place before. He’s been with her in hotel rooms in New York, Lyon, Volgograd, Prague, and a handful of other cities scattered across the globe. Their relationship has only ever existed in anonymous, temporary spaces. But this is his home, that he curates and cleans and cares for and relaxes in, his home base where he’s entirely safe, and she’s going to be inside of it for a few days.

He thinks he’ll enjoy the company, and he hopes she isn’t disappointed to see what he’s like for longer than a few stolen hours. They have fun together, and he likes who he is around her, what she draws out of him. But sometimes he can be serious, or quiet, or contemplative, and he hopes she isn’t expecting him to be something he isn’t.

 

 

 

Thursday

Sharon’s in meetings all day, but it doesn’t stop her from texting Bucky a few dozen times, mostly little messages about how bored she is or how criminally fucking dumb some of her superiors are. She sends pictures, too: a squirrel outside the office window, the videoconferencing set-up that looks like it might have been cutting edge a few decades ago, a selfie where she’s pointing to his name on the Wall of Heroes and smiling.

What food do you like? he asks as he wanders around the grocery store. He’s been practicing indulgence after so many years of being deprived, but to him, that means treating himself to things like really fresh fruit and vegetables, and he thinks Sharon might like something different. Most other people do, anyway.

Here’s my lunch, she sends back, alongside a picture of a clear plastic plate with two triangular brownies, a chocolate chip cookie, and a tiny portion of pasta salad. I promise whatever you have will be heaven after this buffet.

Didn’t realize you were a three desserts kinda gal.

No one else is eating them, and I felt bad. Everyone is just eating gross catering sandwiches and looking miserable. At least I’m enjoying my plate.

How’s the pasta salad?

Let’s never speak of it again.

 

 

 

Friday

It’s late when she gets in. She sends I’m downstairs, and then a minute later there’s a soft tapping at his door.

“Hi,” she says with a tired smile when he opens the door for her. “I like your beard. Hi.”

“Hi,” he says, grinning back at her. Her hair is pulled back from her face in a messy ponytail, and her suit is creased and wrinkled, but she’s here, right in front of him, so close and so lovely.

He reaches past her to grab for her bags, but she stops him with one careful hand to his face. She looks serious as she strokes her thumb over his jaw, ruffling the hairs growing in there.

“I mean it,” she says, looking at her fingers and not at him. “You’re so fucking handsome.”

She tilts his head up and kisses him right on the center of his chin, and her lips are warm and soft against his scratchy skin. He closes his eyes and lets himself be moved, lets her hands cup his face, palms brushing over his sideburns, and when she touches her mouth to his, he kisses her back. It’s sweet and brief and not trying to start anything. It’s hello.

“I’m glad you’re here,” he murmurs against her lips, and he feels her smiling. “C’mon, I’ll grab your stuff, get you settled.”

“Thanks for letting me stay here,” she says, and she lets him take one of her bags but she grabs the other two and follows him through the door. “It’s really nice to see you.”

“It’s always nice to see you,” he says honestly. “Just through here.”

She follows him into the bedroom, and he shows her the bathroom and the clean towels and the extra blankets in the chest at the foot of the bed. Bucky keeps a lot of emergency blankets close at hand; he does not like being cold.

“I like your place,” she says, looking around the room, running her fingers over a quilt that was handmade in Amish country, squinting at his framed prints of Coney Island in the 40s. “It’s cozy.”

“Thanks.” He can’t remember the last time he had a woman in this room. It’s unusual to let someone get this far inside his personal space, and he thought it might be uncomfortable, but he’s curiously okay with letting Sharon see him this way.

She yawns, stretching both her arms above her head, opening her mouth so wide he can see her tonsils.

“Sorry,” she says, blinking bewilderedly. “Long day. I’m beat. I think I’m ready to crash.”

“You’re all set for in here. I’m good to sleep on the couch if you want some privacy.” They didn’t talk about sleeping arrangements in advance, and he doesn’t want to be presumptuous.

“If I wanted privacy,” she says, a sleepy smile uncoiling across her face, “I would have stayed in the hotel. I came here to be with you.”

“Okay,” he says. “Yeah. Good.”

“Good.” She smiles again and walks up to him, brushes a quick kiss over his cheek. “I’m gonna get ready for bed.”

She gathers up a few things and then disappears into the bathroom. Bucky quickly strips down to his boxers and throws on a T-shirt, and then he stands awkwardly next to the bed, smoothing out every last imaginary wrinkle in the sheets.

When she comes back into the room, she’s wearing a tank-top and a tiny pair of plaid sleep shorts that just skim the tops of her thighs. Her face is scrubbed clean and make-up free, and her hair is loose around her face.

“Are you going to turn in, too?” she asks. “You don’t really seem tired.”

“I don’t know,” he says. He’s not tired, but if she’s in here, he wants to be here with her. “Just don’t want to stop looking at you yet.”

“Well, you can look at me horizontally,” she says.

She walks around to the side of the bed farthest from the door and slips beneath the sheets, and he slides in after her, rolling onto his side so that he can see how peaceful and relaxed she looks as her head hits his pillow.

“Cozy,” she murmurs again. “Are you going to tuck me in?”

“Yeah,” he says softly. “Yeah, I am.”

He runs his hands over her body through the blankets, making sure everything is settled nice and snug around her. Her eyes are shut, and she makes quiet breathing sounds, but she isn’t quite asleep as she snuggles tightly into his body, fisting her hands in his shirt and pressing her cheek to his chest. He lets his arms drape around her, and she’s so small in his embrace, just a tiny, solid beam of light, the perfect smallest armful. And he feels the way she drifts off, the way her muscles relax and her jaw slackens, the way her breathing and her pulse both slow. And the lights are still on, but there’s no way he’s going to get up and turn them off. He stays with her, stroking careful fingers over her back, and he lets her rest.

 

 

 

Saturday

He wasn’t sure he’d even be able to fall asleep, but it’s more than eight hours later that he finds himself waking up, sated and relaxed and serene in his body.

“Good morning,” Sharon murmurs, her head on his chest, her fingers teasing at his chest hair where it peeks out from the vee of his t-shirt.

“Hi.” He smiles at her in a way that probably looks silly, but he’s just waking up, guileless and happy and so pleased to see her. His arm is slung loosely around her back, and he pulls her closer, cradling her against his body and ducking his head to press a kiss to her temple. Her hair is so soft against his cheek, and her body is so soft and small against his, and he doesn’t resist the urge to brush another kiss to her forehead.

“You’re sweet in the morning,” she says softly as he brushes the hair back from her face, running his fingers so gently through the soft waves.

“Aren’t you glad you stuck around for once to find out?” he teases her, and she chuckles quietly and abruptly rolls him onto his back and straddles him, her thighs warm and tight against his ribcage.

“Can’t fuck and run if we don’t fuck first,” she says, quirking a smile at him, running her palms over his pecs, up to his shoulders, then cradling his face in both hands, holding him in place. She shifts her weight slightly, and he groans as she drags her ass over his half-hard cock.

“This is not the worst way I’ve ever woken up,” he says, staring up at her. Fuck, she’s so pretty.

“C’mon, let’s fool around.” She leans over him, hair falling around her face like a veil, and she kisses a coaxing line along his jaw.

“Can I go brush my teeth first?” he asks, smiling to himself at the frustrated noise she makes.

“Fine, but be quick.” She slides her fingers behind his neck and pulls him into a kiss that’s a little too dirty for first thing in the morning.

“Can you brush your teeth first, too?” he asks against her mouth, and she snorts and lightly smacks his shoulder before moving off of him.

“Let’s both be quick about it,” she says, flipping her hair over her shoulder. “I’ve got plans for that body of yours, and I’m anxious to get started.”

He gets out of bed and follows her into the bathroom. They’ve never gotten ready together in the morning like this, and he wonders if it should be awkward, because it just...isn’t. He squeezes toothpaste onto his brush, then onto hers when she extends it to him. She shoves the brush into her mouth and then vaults herself onto the counter to sit in the tiny space beside the sink, legs swinging like a little kid as she enthusiastically brushes her teeth.

He spits, then she spits, they rinse, he thumbs away a spot of toothpaste at the corner of her lips, then he steps into the space between her legs, crowding up against her, and she wraps her arms around him and pulls him down for a minty fresh kiss.

“You’re sexy in the morning,” she murmurs, rubbing her hands appreciatively over his chest, and he shudders at her lingering touch. She slides closer and hugs his torso with her knees. “God, I could just climb you.”

“Yeah?” He slides his hands under her ass, just barely lifting her from the counter, and she squeals and holds on tighter, crossing her ankles behind his back, letting him take her weight.

“Fuck, I’m not normally like this,” she says breathlessly. “I don’t normally get this silly, but you just have a really nice dick.”

He snorts and finds her lips for a searing kiss as he carries her back into the bedroom, dropping her onto the bed unceremoniously. She giggles as the mattress bounces under her weight.

“Get on me,” she says, eyes bright, dramatically flinging her arms over her head in a way that makes the hem of her shirt rise up so that it’s barely covering her breasts.

He’s not going to turn down an invitation like that, so he gets on her, climbing onto the bed and hovering over her on all fours. She runs her fingers through his hair, scratching at his scalp and holding on tight to the short strands, and he ducks down, kissing her quick and dirty before moving lower and diving under her shirt, sucking a kiss to the warm skin beside her navel. She squeals and squirms beneath him, and he feels her legs kicking even as her hands are cradling his head to her body, keeping him close. He kisses her body languidly, tasting her, dragging his stubbled cheek lightly over her tender skin just to feel her shiver.

“Don’t tease me,” she says breathlessly.

But he’s not even trying to. He just loves the smell and the taste and the feel of her body, loves the way the skin of her stomach is so smooth and velvety beneath his tongue, loves the noise she makes when he scrapes his teeth over the edge of her ribcage, loves the way her body just seems to welcome him, open, waiting, impatient, ready. He rolls up the hem of her shirt, and she just blinks at him, breathing heavily, her lips parted and her eyes dark as she lets him reveal her.

Bucky loves her body. Fuck, but he loves her body. He pushes her shirt up to her armpits and then kisses his way up her chest, nosing at the undersides of her breasts. Her body stills, like she’s holding her breath, but he doesn’t want her to hold back, not anything at all. He flicks his tongue over her nipple, and she makes a soft, pleased sound. She tugs sharply at his hair, but she knows he likes that. It’s encouragement, not a rebuke. He makes his tongue soft and just laps at her until he feels her nipple hardening, and then he keeps going until he feels her squirming beneath him, feels one of her hands slip from his hair and travel down her own body.

“Where do you want me?” he asks. He feels her pushing down her sleep shorts, feels her kicking them down her legs, and he fits his teeth gently around her nipple, tugging lightly until she whines.

“You feel great right there,” she says, raking her fingers restlessly through his hair.

So he stays where he is for now. Sharon isn’t shy about putting him where she wants him to be, and he fucking loves that about her. He wants it to be good for her, always, and if he’s not quite hitting the mark, she helps him get there and never makes him feel stupid about it.

And it’s only a minute later that she’s pushing his head down and spreading her thighs to let him get between them, and he goes where she pushes him, dragging his tongue over her soft skin, licking her where she’s wet, sucking at her clit in a way that makes her dig her heel into his back to hold him in place while she rocks up against him, frantically seeking her pleasure against his mouth.

Bucky doesn’t remember too much about relations he’d had in his past life. He gets fragments here and there, enough to know he wasn’t exactly lacking in experience, but if he had a bunch of wild tricks and technique back in the day, that’s certainly long gone from his memory. But still, he’s pretty sure that even the most aggressive women he’d made time with back then were never so bold as this, never so at ease putting him exactly where they wanted him to be. And he loves it. He loves it. Sharon takes control so naturally, and he submits to it, and he loves how hard they can make her come together.

It’s not too much longer before she’s whimpering and thrashing beneath him, and he’s just along for the ride. She gets so wet, and his mouth and chin are slick with her, her thighs clamped down tight over his ears as she rides his face until she comes with a broken mewl that has his cock twitching in his shorts.

“Fuck, I needed that,” she says as she tries to catch her breath, legs falling open again. He rubs his wet face against the soft skin of her inner thigh, and she wrinkles her nose at him, but she’s smiling. “Do you have a condom? I just need, like...two minutes.”

“Take as long as you need,” he murmurs, nipping at her sensitive skin, palming his cock through his shorts just to take the edge off.

“Two minutes,” she says, dragging her toes lazily up and down his spine. “Good to go in two.”

It’s more like six, but it’s worth waiting for the devastating, perfect way she gets him on his back and rides him. He’s propped up against the pillows, right hand on her waist, ostensibly to anchor her even though, like always, she’s in complete control. She braces herself against the headboard with one arm, with the fingers of her other hand tangling in his hair, tugging slightly to pull his head back so he can’t look anywhere but straight into her intense eyes.

“Touch me,” she mutters, and he doesn’t need to ask to know that she means with the metal hand.

He runs his left hand up her thigh, into her lap, and he crooks his thumb for her. She puts her fingers on top of his, shifting him to where she wants him to be, breathing out oh fuck yes when she’s satisfied that he’s in the perfect place to brush her clit every time she lifts off his dick and again when she sits down heavily against him, grinding her hips to keep him deep inside.

It’s crazy how much she loves his arm. He wasn’t sure she’d even want him to touch her with it at first, but she’s wild about it, and it changes how he sees himself, in some ways. His last arm was a weapon but this vibranium one is a tool, and he’s so gratified to learn that it can be used for giving pleasure. Sharon especially seems fond of the way it can store and release pulses of energy. Shuri certainly didn’t have that in mind when she was designing it, but maybe he can thank her for that particular feature when she’s older.

“Yes,” she hisses, and her rhythm stutters slightly. They’ve been going for a while, and she’s only human.

But it’s easy as anything for him to tighten his grip on her hip and hold her in place while he fucks up into her, and once he takes over and sets the pace, she almost seems to relax, to submit to him, letting him seek out his own pleasure with her body. She feels fucking amazing, so warm and tight, so fucking beautiful to look up at and see above him, her breasts swaying each time he fucks into her, her teeth digging into her lower lip, the sweat collecting in the curve of her neck, the way she keeps trying to hold his gaze but sometimes has to shut her eyes, like it’s too much. She tightens around him, drawing him out, and he just fucking lets go. He hasn’t had a partner in ages, and it just feels good to come inside her, with her weight in his lap, with the sounds of her gasping, with his beard still wet with her.

“Shit,” she says breathlessly. She holds the base of his dick, keeping the condom in place as she wriggles off of him, then gracelessly slumps to bed, curling up beside him on the bed. “Fuck, that was good.”

“Real good,” he says softly, licking his lips, trying to catch his breath. His heart is jackhammering in his chest. He came, but he doesn’t feel spent, still feels somewhat taut and ready. He gets like this sometimes when he’s with her, like he could just keep going forever.

“Is your shower big enough for two?” she asks coyly, pressing a kiss to his left shoulder as she drags her fingertips over his chest.

“You’re not subtle,” he says with a chuckle, and she grins back at him. Maybe a hot shower will help with this lingering tension he feels.

His shower is big enough for two, but just barely, and she keeps her body tucked right up against his as they soap each other up and spray each other down. She washes her hair quickly, efficiently, then does the same for him, and he loves the feeling of her fingers scratching at his scalp.

And when they’re all rinsed off and he’s reaching for the tap, she stops him with a gentle touch to his wrist.

“You still seem wound up,” she murmurs, stroking her fingers gently over his skin. “Do you want to come again? Do you think you could?”

“I think I could manage,” he says, watching the way the water streams over her naked body.

She pumps some conditioner into her hand then reaches for his cock, and he closes his eyes with a hiss. Jesus, he did need this. He doesn’t know how she knew.

“I’ve got you,” she says. “You’re okay. Just let me.”

And he stands there, and he lets her work his dick with a slippery hand while she kisses his neck and mumbles words into his skin that he doesn’t even understand. He feels the tickle of her breath and the insistent squeeze of her hand and the warmth of the water hitting his back, and he feels sleepy and safe and happy all at once. He tangles his hand into her hair, pulling her head up and clumsily seeking her mouth, kissing her forehead, her nose, her chin, before he finally kisses her lips. He’s still kissing her when he comes with a soft groan, and this time, he does feel spent and relaxed and a little bit dopey with it. She keeps working him until it’s almost too much, then rinses her hand off under the spray and turns off the shower.

“Better?” she asks, brushing his wet hair behind his ears, and he nods at her dumbly. “Good. Let’s get dressed and find something to eat.”

They dry off, and she scrubs at her head with a towel so that her hair gets all messy with static, and he is so endeared by this woman who is so many competing things to him, and he kisses her nose, and she scrunches it up beneath his lips, and he kisses it again, scooping her up and carrying her into the bedroom.

“Are you okay with Chinese?” she asks, swiping her phone from the bedside table.

“Whatever you want is fine with me.” He doesn’t eat Chinese food much, but he’s not picky, and he trusts her.

He gets dressed while she squints at her phone, cross-legged and naked at the foot of the bed, jabbing at buttons while she orders the food.

“Thirty minutes,” she announces, dropping her phone on the bed beside her. “Can I borrow a shirt? And do you have a hairdryer?”

“Yes and yes,” he tells her. “Shirts are in the drawers, hairdryer is under the sink. You want me to make coffee while you get ready?”

Fuck yes,” she says dramatically, and he rolls his eyes at her fondly as he leaves her alone for a bit. He retreats to the kitchen and grinds enough of the good beans for two cups, leaving the kettle to boil as he sets up his pour-over apparatus. He takes his time, focusing on his proportions and temperatures, humming to himself over the muffled whirr of the hairdryer. These days, he appreciates a good cup of coffee, and he’s not shy about indulging in that.

“Holy shit, I could smell that from the bedroom,” Sharon says when she finally wanders back in. Her hair is mostly dry, but still damp and curling at the ends, and her legs are bare and long where they peek out from under the shirt she’s wearing, which seems to be all that she’s wearing.

His black T-shirt is huge on her, skimming the tops of her thighs as she walks towards him, the neckline slouched to reveal her slender shoulders. The right sleeve is long, with her fingertips just poking out past the fabric. The left sleeve has been torn off, and the remaining armhole is huge against her small frame, revealing almost the entire left side of her torso, hinting at the curve of her breast just beyond where he can see.

“Jesus fuck,” he says, dumbfounded by how something so utilitarian on him can look so scorchingly sexy on her. She quirks an eyebrow as she picks up her mug, and he tries to recover. “Are you cold in that?”

“Not cold,” she says. “Cozy.” She closes her eyes as she inhales the steam from her mug, moaning softly as she takes her first sip, and he gets that. There are some noises that a human body can only make during sex and when having a really, really great cup of coffee.

“Wasn’t sure how you took it,” he says. It seems silly that after all this time, they’ve never even had a cup of coffee together.

“This is perfect,” she says. She takes another sip, makes another pleased sound. “Do you have any snacks?”

“There’s Chinese food on the way.”

“Yup,” she agrees. “Still wouldn’t be mad at a snack. What do you have?”

“I don’t really snack,” he says awkwardly. “I have a weird metabolism. You can help yourself to whatever you find, but it’s just going to be like fruit and nuts.”

She squints at him, then rolls her eyes dramatically. “I can just wait for Chinese food this time, but I won’t stand for this. What about popcorn? Do you like popcorn?”

“Yeah, I guess so, but I haven’t had any in years.”

She stares at him for what feels like a full minute before aggressively typing something into her phone.

“I ordered you an air popper,” she says. “It’ll be here tomorrow.” Her phone dings. “And that’s the food!”

She scampers to the door, but Bucky stops her with a gentle hand to her wrist.

“If you go down dressed like that, the delivery guy is gonna get the wrong idea about what exactly you’re ordering,” he says.

“Do you want me to change?” she asks coyly, toying with the frayed armhole of the shirt.

Fuck, no.” Sharon wearing his clothing is one of the hottest things he’s ever experienced, and he’s not finished looking at her yet. “Just stay here and get plates, and I’ll grab the food.”

But when he comes back with the food, all she’s done is pour them each a glass of water.

“Plates?” he asks. She shakes her head. “Can I at least have a fork?”

“Nope,” she says with an easy smile. “We’re gonna eat right out of the cartons with chopsticks, the way this food is meant to be enjoyed.”

She gets them settled together on the couch, a carton of food for each of them, and she laughs at his first attempts to pick up the slippery noodles before she shows him how it’s done, and then they’re both savagely, inelegantly inhaling the food like they’re starving. it’s just easy. The noodles are salty and spicy and earthy and delicious, and she is a revelation beside him, so seamlessly integrated into his life that it’s like she’s always been there. He hasn’t been this happy in a long time.

He doesn’t know what would possess a man to leave this, any of it. To leave a world where you can order Chinese food delivered right to your door so that you and a beautiful woman can wrap your half-naked bodies in blankets and eat together on the couch in front of the television, shoveling cold sesame noodles directly into your faces, her head propped casually, intimately on your shoulder. Bucky’s lived a long time, and he doesn’t think there’s anything out there any better than this.

Later that evening, he’s back between her legs, sucking overindulgent kisses into her trembling thighs. He holds her in place with a gentle, sure hand to each of her hips, keeping her splayed and needy as he makes his way higher, taking his time. She impatiently rubs the soles of her feet against the bed, jerky repetitive motions that tell him she needs more. She needs him, and he’s never going to get enough of how that feels.

“How long are you staying?” he asks roughly. “When’s your flight home?”

“Monday morning,” she says breathlessly, thighs tensing, feet rustling through the sheets as she kicks out. “Really early. Fuck.”

“Stay with me,” he murmurs, letting his breath tickle her where she’s most sensitive. He licks a teasing path over her with his tongue, lapping up her wetness, savoring the taste of her as she keens and bucks towards him. “Change your ticket and stay.”

He uses his thumbs to hold her open, just getting a look at her before he creeps in close, wriggles the point of his tongue inside of her, licking her open, letting her work her clit against the bridge of his nose as she shakes apart with a strangled cry.

“Okay,” she says afterwards, her hoarse voice just a whisper. “Fuck, give me my phone. I’ll stay. I’ll stay.”

She changes her flight so that she’s leaving late Monday night, and Bucky falls asleep feeling smug and satisfied.

 

 

 

Sunday

Sharon’s still peacefully sleeping when Bucky wakes up with the sunrise. He leaves her there to rest while he quietly starts his day. He takes a shower, retrieves the delivered air popper from the stoop, and he’s just finished cleaning the kitchen when she sleepily wanders out of his bedroom and right into his arms, burrowing her face into his neck.

“Morning,” he says, and he smiles at her muffled, incomprehensible answer. “I was about to make some tea. Do you want some? Or coffee?”

“Tea would be nice,” she says, slowly unwinding herself from him and taking a seat at the breakfast bar. She immediately folds her arms on the counter and rests her head on them, and he smiles to himself and tries to be as unobtrusive as possible while he starts the kettle and spoons tea leaves into the pot. He sets up two mismatched teacups and teaspoons on the bar, and then he brings over the kettle and the pot with the tea concentrate and a small jar of strawberry jam that he keeps just for this.

“I have sugar or milk if you want,” he offers, but she shakes her head.

“No, I love tea with jam,” she says happily.

He pours the strong, bitter tea concentrate into each of their cups, then dilutes his slightly with hot water from the kettle. He spoons a small scoop of jam into his cup while Sharon dilutes and sweetens her own tea, and the only sound in the room is the clink of the teaspoons gently scraping the sides of the cup as they both quietly stir.

Bucky loves this ritual, even though he’s still not sure where he learned it or why it feels like his. But there’s something nostalgic and meditative about it. Something about the sweet strawberry jam cutting through the bitter tannins of the tea feels safe and comforting to him.

Sharon leans over her cup with her eyes closed, just breathing in the steam, both hands wrapped around her mug, and her complete lack of pretense feels safe and comforting to him, too.

She tastes a spoonful of her drink, and there’s a considering look on her face, like she’s trying to make up her mind.

“Sweet enough?” he asks her.

“Wouldn’t mind another spoonful of jam,” she says. “You want me to rinse the spoon off since I just had it in my mouth?”

He bites back a smile and tries to keep his voice even as he says, “I mean, you’ve had your tongue in my ass before, so I think at this point we’re comfortable enough with sharing each other’s germs for you to double-dip into the jam.”

She squints at him as she scoops up a heaping spoonful of jam, stirring it into her tea. “Oh, Athens,” she says, her face brightening. “Fuck, I’d forgotten about that.”

“I hadn’t,” he says, smirking at her. It’s one of his favorite memories, a night his mind often recalls when he’s jerking off alone.

“Apparently not,” she says with a sly grin. He feels her bare toes brush against his leg, slowly stroking up and down over his shin. “You know, we could do that again. You can ask me for stuff.”

“Yeah?”

“Of course,” she says. Her toes creep higher up his leg, and he gently catches her ankle and holds her foot in place against his thigh before she can get to his cock.

“Where’d you learn how to drink tea with jam anyway?” he asks.

She throws her head back to laugh and starts to tell him a story about some Russian ex-pat she was seeing for a few months when she was working out of Zagreb, and he runs his thumb along the soft arch of her foot while he savors the last few sips of his tea, sweet and thick with jam dregs.

He cleans the dishes while she opens the delivery boxes and inspects the new air popper, setting it up on the counter and testing a small handful of kernels. There’s a whirring sound from the machine, and then the arrhythmic pops of the corn, accompanied by Sharon’s excited clapping.

“It works!” she tells him, like there was any reason to expect that it wouldn’t. God, he’s so fucking charmed by her.

“I don’t think it’s going to fit in your luggage,” he says. “Might have to ship it back home.”

“No, it’s for you,” she says as they watch the fluffy popcorn pieces tumble down into the waiting bowl. “It’s a gift.”

“Thanks,” he says, feeling oddly touched by the gesture. He can’t remember if they’ve exchanged gifts before, of any kind. He can’t recall any.

“Go long,” she says, and before he can understand how she wants him to react, she’s launched a piece of popcorn at him. Her aim is low, and it hits him in the chest, clinging tenuously to his shirt.

You go long,” he says with a chuckle, and when she opens her mouth expectantly, he retrieves the popcorn and flicks it neatly into her mouth.

“Lucky shot,” she says, eyes shining. She takes three huge steps backwards. “Bet you can’t do it again.”

But he does. Again and again, he flicks pieces of popcorn into her mouth one after another until she’s standing clear on the other side of the apartment, and he only misses then because she’s laughing too hard and won’t hold still.

“Do you want to stop showing off and get dressed?” she says when she’s finally composed herself, picking stray popcorn pieces from her hair. “It’s supposed to be nice out. Maybe we could go for a run.”

“I try not to run when I don’t have to,” he says. “How about a walk?”

“Yeah,” she says with a small smile. “Yeah, that actually sounds really nice. Let’s go for a walk.”

One thing Bucky loves about where he lives now is how many places he can walk to. There are quiet coffee shops and bustling cafes and tucked away bookstores and bright international markets, all full of people just doing their best, just like he is. Sometimes, it’s nice to see a friendly face, nice to stop in somewhere and share a smile with someone he only knows through proximity. And other times, he can’t stand his own company one moment longer, and it’s so easy to just step out the front door and slip into a crowd somewhere and vanish completely, one foot in front of the other, an anonymous face in a busy city.

Walking the streets with Sharon feels different, he finds. She’s wearing a simple sundress and white tennis shoes, hair pulled back in a ponytail, no makeup, but she has such presence, such a commanding energy as she slips her hand into his and tugs him over to check out a stall. There’s a local market that pops up here on the harbor every weekend, and it’s crowded this time of day, and there’s no reason for the two of them to stand out amongst all the other shoppers. But every time she flashes her smile at him, Bucky doesn’t know how anyone could be looking at anyone but her.

“This place is awesome,” she says, giving his hand a squeeze. “I want to eat everything.”

“Whatever you want,” he says, and she pushes up onto her toes and kisses him right there in the street, and he drops his hands to her waist, holding her close as he kisses her back.

“Let’s see what they have,” she says when she pulls back, smoothing her hands over the lapels of his coat for a bit longer than necessary. “Let’s try it all.”

They wind through the market, trying small samples of cookies made from cereal, miniature samosas, carbonated soups, tropical fruit salsa, bite-sized chicken and waffles, maple smoked bacon crisps. Everything is good, or at least interesting, and their kisses turn sweet, savory, smoky, spicy as they sample the wares.

Sharon finally decides that she wants ice cream, and he holds his cone in one hand, her hand in the other, and they walk along the harbor, her shoulder brushing right against his as they stroll and chat, watching the ships sway in the water.

It really is a beautiful day. The air is crisp and bright with just a slight breeze, and the city is alive with the sounds of birds and children and the slap of the water and the occasional rumble of the boat engines. Sharon looks so happy to be here with him, and he’s happy, too. They’ve never done anything like this, never been out together, never really done anything that wasn’t just having sex and getting off, and this is...perfect. This is really just perfect. He knows it isn’t possible, but still, just for a moment, he thinks about how happy he would be if he got to have this all the time.

“You’re melting,” she murmurs.

“What?”

“Your ice cream,” she says, shaking her head with a smile. Her cone is gone, but he’s barely touched his, just so mesmerized and distracted by his own contentment, and the ice cream has started to drip down over his hand.

“I’m a mess,” he tells her. “You can’t take me anywhere.”

“I can take you somewhere,” she says, lightly grasping his wrist and pulling his hand close to her mouth. He bites his lip as she delicately, deliberately licks the drips of ice cream from his skin, lapping up each sticky trail until he’s clean. She looks up at him coyly, and when he leans down to kiss her, she tastes like strawberry.

“You done walking?” he asks roughly.

“Yeah,” she says. “Yeah, take me home.”

When they get back to the apartment, he lays her out on the breakfast bar and gets his mouth under her skirt and between her legs, really taking his time with her, savoring the taste of her impatient pleasure on his tongue, inhaling the heady smell of her, tangy and slightly sweaty from their walk. He keeps the heel of his palm pressed to his cock keeping himself on edge while he plays with her. Christ, he loves taking her apart, loves how easy she is for his mouth.

Being good for her turns him on, always, and he’s so hard by the time she drags him into the shower with her legs quivering and her thighs sticky. She sucks him off slowly, lazily under the spray, taking him to the edge over and over without letting him come, but it’s worth it when they finally make it to the bed and she does things with her mouth so filthy that it makes Athens feel like a positively quaint memory.

He loses track of how many times they each come, but they’ve always been good at this part. It’s always fun to have sex with someone who enjoys it so much and likes trying new things. They each get off on pleasing their partner, and they both like to take their own pleasure, and this side of things has always worked for them. The gentler kisses and holding hands in public and having a simple cup of tea is all new for them, but that’s working, too, in a way that makes him ache.

They can’t...be together. Even if it’s good right now, even if it works right now, they don’t live in the same city, and they lead complicated, dangerous lives. If the situation was different, yeah, maybe he’d ask her to be his girlfriend. But it’s not different, and they both know that, and they don’t owe each other anything. He doesn’t really go out with other women much, doesn’t want to bother with explaining the arm, too much baggage in his head to skirt around, but he doesn’t mind waiting for Sharon to come around when she can and keeping to himself when she can’t. And he knows Sharon sees other men, and he’s okay with that. He’s not a jealous person. He’s always been good at sharing, and if he can’t be the one fucking her to sleep every night, he’s glad she has other people to make her feel good.

And for now, he has this, the two of them in the dark, ready for bed. Sharon’s on her side with her back to him, nestled up against his body. His soft dick rests in the cleft of her ass, which might have been arousing a few hours ago but he came so many times tonight he doesn’t think he could get hard even if he wanted to. She’s playing with his fingers in the dark, and he’s lazily kissing the nape of her neck, and they’re both tired and on the verge of sleep, and it’s not sexy, but it’s intimate.

“What do you want to do tomorrow?” he murmurs. She’s kissing each of his vibranium knuckles in turn, and the warmth and pressure of her mouth feels really nice.

“More of the same, I guess,” she says, and her voice is soft and sleepy. “Coffee, lunch, fuck your brains out a few more times before I leave.”

“Sounds like a good agenda.” He pulls her a little closer and noses behind her ear, trying to find a comfortable position to fall asleep in while still keeping her nearby.

He’s nearly asleep when she speaks.

“Your door code,” she whispers.

“Yeah.” His heart rate picks up a little.

“I keep meaning to ask, and then not wanting to.”

“You can ask.” Of course she can ask. Of course she’s been wanting to ask. Fuck, how could he have been so careless?

“It’s his birthday, isn’t it?”

“It’s biometric,” he says, his mouth dry. He’s telling her the truth, but for some reason, it still feels like a lie. “You can type in any code you want. Numbers don’t matter, it just reads your fingerprint.” Fuck, he doesn’t know if he can do this. If he can have this conversation with her, today.

“But that’s the code you told me to use,” she says, her voice wavering slightly, and he is so glad that they’re having this conversation in the dark, that he can’t see the look on her face and she can’t see the look on his.

“It’s the one I use,” he says. He didn’t even think about it when he told her. It barely even registers as a date to him anymore, it’s just… “It’s just easy to remember.” Impossible to forget. Stuck to his memory like a stain.

“We never talk about him,” she says hesitantly. “We don’t have to start now.”

And in some ways, she’s the last person he’d ever want to discuss any of this with. And in other ways, she’s the only person he’d ever want to discuss any of this with.

“You can tell me anything,” he says hoarsely. “You don’t have to, but you can.”

Bucky doesn’t really know what was happening between Sharon and Steve. He knows something was happening, but he was in Wakanda, dealing with his own recovery and his own burgeoning secret relationship with a nice girl from the Border tribe. Her father never would have approved, but they’d had fun, and he’d learned a lot from her about how to be a good, gentle man. She married someone else when he disappeared for five years, and he thinks it was easy to move from one relationship with no future straight into another with Sharon.

He doesn’t know the details of Sharon and Steve’s relationship, and he’s never needed to. He just knows there’s something broken in her, like there’s something broken in him. They both had hidden depths of grief when they started up together, and they’d both agreed never to talk about it.

“You know, he never promised me anything,” she says quietly in the dark. “It’s not like he betrayed me. He never promised me a thing, even if I wanted him to. It’s stupid that I’m still so mad at him for something that never even happened.”

“It’s okay,” Bucky says after a minute. “Sometimes I get mad, too.”

“I don’t have the right to feel betrayed about it.”

She does, though. He thinks she does have the right to feel betrayed. Bucky does, too. They did everything right, and they still got left behind.

“It just made me feel special,” she whispers, and he squeezes her hand to let her know he’s listening, and he understands. “Having this secret part of him. And I think it mattered to me more than it mattered to him, and when I look back, I just feel foolish. I made it into something it wasn’t, and it’s embarrassing how long I let myself be hurt by that.”

“It’s not your fault,” he says, to her, to himself, but she shakes her head.

“It’s okay,” she murmurs. “It doesn’t have to be all me or all him. It’s okay that we both handled it wrong. I was mad at him for a long time, and then I was mad at myself, and now it’s just something that happened to me once. I’m fine, really.”

He’s pretty sure she’s crying, but he’s also pretty sure she doesn’t want him to acknowledge it, so he doesn’t. He tightens his arm around her, and she clings to him with both hands, fingertips digging hard into his flesh, and he touches his forehead to the back of her neck and holds her while she quietly cries in his arms.

Bucky Barnes is not a jealous person, and he is not a vengeful person, but right now, he thinks he could tear a man in half for hurting this woman.

She sniffles as she composes herself, and he kisses the back of her neck, trying to reassure her, trying to remind her that he’s still here, that he’s not going anywhere.

She’s confessed something to him, and it feels only right to offer something in return.

“I hurt you,” he says quietly. He’s carried this for so long, so scared to address it directly with her.

“No,” she says. “I’m a little sore, but I’m fine.”

“Not this. Not now. Before.” What happened in Berlin is hazy, fragmented in his memory. But he knows that after he was triggered, he hit her. Threw her through a table. Hit her, he hit her. It’s been years, and he couldn’t have controlled it, but he still hates himself for it. “I...we fought. I hurt you. And...and you helped me anyway.”

“I did it for him,” she says after a long pause. “I didn’t know you. I did it for him.”

“I’m sorry I hurt you,” he says, and he feels her shaking her head. “No, please. You have to let me apologize. I fucking hate that I ever hurt you.”

“Honey, no,” she murmurs, and he thinks she’s crying again, and he’s pretty sure he’s crying, too. “You didn’t hurt me. They hurt me, and you were the weapon they used to do it. It wasn’t your fault. I’ve never blamed you for that.”

“But-”

“No,” she says again, firmly. “No. You’re carrying around too much guilt and sadness as it is, and I won’t let you carry this, because I’m okay. We’re okay. You can put this down. You don’t have to carry this anymore. Not for me.”

“Okay,” he says softly, and he squeezes his eyes shut and feels the tears trickle out. This has hurt him for so long, and it doesn’t stop all at once just because she said so. But her compassion in this moment is a gift he hasn’t earned, and he is going to try and try to be a man who could deserve such a kindness.

“It’s okay,” she murmurs, again and again. “You’re okay.”

“You helped us get away after,” he says. “Even if you didn’t do it for me, you saved my life that day.” He kisses her bare shoulder, and she shivers as his messy tears fall on her skin. “Thank you for saving me. Thank you.”

“I didn’t even know you,” she says, her voice thick. “I did it for him, because I didn’t know you. But...but I know you now.” She pulls his hand to her face, and he feels the hot tears running down her cheeks. “I know you. And if I had to make the call now, if I had to do it all over again, I’d do it for you. A thousand times, a million times, I would save you.”

“He’s a fucking idiot,” Bucky says suddenly without actually meaning to, although he really doesn’t know what else to call a man who would leave behind someone like this.

She lets out a startled laugh. “He is a fucking idiot,” she says, turning in his arms to face him. He cradles her face in his hands, holding her like she’s something precious, and he kisses her breathlessly, licking his tears from her lips until they stop falling.

 

 

 

Monday

Bucky wakes up to Sharon on top of him gently kissing his neck, her upper leg grazing his cock. He blinks at her sleepily. They’re both naked, and she’s straddling his leg, and he can feel that she’s wet against his thigh. He crooks his leg to brush against her, and she pulls back with her eyes closed, lips parted in a silent moan, then she leans back in and bites his neck, a little less gently this time. He fits his hands to her slim waist and pulls her down against his leg, shifting her back and forth over his thigh, and she swivels her hips and follows his lead, lazily grinding against him.

Without a word, she clambers down and rolls over onto her front, pressing her hands into the pillow by her head, looking expectantly at him over her shoulder. He fumbles the last condom out of the box, nearly shredding the packaging in his haste. He sheathes himself and climbs on top of her, and then he pushes into her from behind.

He doesn’t get much leverage to build up a rhythm this way, but it’s fine, because even if he can’t go fast, he can get so deep into her. Her hands are still clutching the pillow, and he fits his palms to her wrists, pushing her down, keeping her in place. She doesn’t say anything, just lets out these breathy moans and clenches tight around him each time he fucks into her, snapping his hips and grinding in deep. He usually gives her something to help her along, his fingers or his mouth, but she’s face down and working herself off against the bed, and she starts to come sooner than he would have expected, but he’s right behind her, fucking her through it and coming shortly after she does.

He doesn’t want to move, wants to stay here forever on top of her, crowding her down into the bed, buried to the hilt inside her tight, perfect body. But he releases her wrists and eases himself out and rolls over onto his back, and she brushes the hair out of her face and smiles lazily at him and curls up under his arm, her head on his chest. He reaches for her hand, traces over the marks on her wrist.

“Too hard?” he asks softly, but she shakes her head.

“If I wanted you to stop, I would have told you to stop,” she says, and she’s certainly never been shy about that before so he has to believe her.

“What do you want to do today?” he asks.

“I don’t know,” she says, snuggling in closer. “We don’t have to do anything special. Just want to spend some more time with you before I go.”

“You can’t stay longer?”

She shakes her head. “I’m already pushing it. I should’ve been in Utrecht yesterday.”

“Am I gonna get you in trouble?”

“You always do,” she murmurs, tipping her face up to kiss him. “You’re the worst kind of trouble, Bucky Barnes.”

He relaxes into her lazy kiss, savoring the weight of her body on his, the brush of her hair as it falls into his face, the soft, satisfied sounds she makes as she kisses him. This time together has been such an unexpected windfall, and he’s going to soak up every last second of it.

“Well,” she says breathlessly when she finally pulls back, rubbing her thumb over his lower lip. “Is today the day you finally cook for me? You have that nice kitchen, and all I’ve ever seen you make is coffee and tea and popcorn.”

“I didn’t even make the popcorn,” he says, and he feels a goofy smile stretching across his face. “What do you want me to make for you?”

“Just something you’d make for yourself. Just whatever you’d want to make anyway.”

“Are you picky?”

“I have high standards,” she says, quirking an eyebrow. “In all areas of my life. But I’m an adventurous eater.”

“Oh, I’m aware,” he says, pitching his voice low and suggestive, and she laughs so hard she ends up giving herself hiccups.

They shower and get dressed, and then they head into the kitchen. She immediately hops up onto the counter as he gets set up. He’s not sure what’s he’s going to make, but a lot of his meals start the same way. He has ice cubes of stock in the freezer, so he gets a few of those in a pot on the stove to melt. He cranks up the oven to preheat, and then he looks in the fridge to see what looks good. He decides to go with the white and purple carrots, rinsing them off in the sink while she swings her legs and watches.

“You planning to help?” he asks, setting up his cutting board and selecting a chef’s knife.

“Nope,” she says serenely. “Just gonna supervise.”

“I defer, as always, to your command,” he says, quickly cutting the carrots on an angle.

“Why are they that color? Do they taste different?”

“Dunno. Just thought they were pretty.” He pops a chunk of raw carrot into his mouth and hands one to her, and they both crunch consideringly.

“Think it tastes normal,” she says after a minute, and he nods. “Definitely pretty, though.”

He cuts a yellow onion into wedges, tosses all the vegetables with olive oil and salt, then sets them roasting in the oven. The stock’s boiling on the stove, so he gets some farro cooking, then he snips a few handfuls of fresh herbs from his window box, giving the mint and dill and parsley a rough chop.

“So you’re like...actually a good cook,” she muses, watching him work.

“You haven’t tasted anything yet,” he says, whisking lemon juice and olive oil and a touch of honey in a bowl to form a dressing. “It might not work.”

“But you like cooking, right?” she says softly. “It looks like you’re really enjoying it.”

“Well, yeah,” he says. She parts her legs slightly, and he moves to stand between them. “Feels good to put my energy into something...nourishing.”

“I am extremely ready to be nourished by you,” she says, dropping a quick kiss to his forehead. “Those carrots smell incredible.”

In the end, it’s just simple food: farro with roasted carrots and onions with a lemon vinaigrette, loaded with fresh herbs and chopped pistachios. He loves the fresh, clean taste of vegetables prepared simply. He likes making things with his hands. And he’s never really cooked for anyone else that he can remember, but he discovers that he likes that, too. It is so satisfying to make something for Sharon, something they can both enjoy together, sitting on the couch with bowls perched on their thighs as they watch a movie together.

She gets up when the film ends, and he moves to follow her, but she keeps him in place with a gentle hand to his chest.

“You stay put,” she says. “You cooked, so I’ll do the dishes.”

And honestly, he doesn’t even really mind doing the dishes, actually kind of likes the methodical nature of making dirty things clean. But something in her tone tells him this is important to her, non-negotiable. So he reclines on the couch while she gathers up the dishes from the table and gets the kitchen in order.

“All done,” she says about ten minutes later. He starts to sit up, but she presses him back down to the couch and climbing on top of him.

“Thanks,” he says. “You didn’t have to do that.”

“I’m not very domestic,” she says, “but I’ll plan better next time. What are you into, French maid’s outfit?” She’s straddling his thighs, and her hand creeps down his chest. “What about totally naked, nothing but a pair of heels and a smile? Is that a fantasy for you?” She gently starts to rub him through his pants. “Oh wait, I know what you’re into.”

“What am I into?” he asks breathlessly, because he’s pretty sure he’s into everything about her.

“You just want to see me in one of your T-shirts with the arm cut off and nothing on underneath. Am I right?” She gives his cock a squeeze, and he bucks helplessly into her hand with a groan. “Yup, there we go, that’s it.” She leans down over him and kisses the corner of his jaw, whispering hotly into his ear, “You’re so easy.”

And he is, he is, he’s easy for her slithering down his body, her nails just barely scratching at him through his shirt as she mouths at his cock through his jeans, and he’s helpless, helpless, helpless for her. He has a whole life outside of this, and it all just fades away to nothing as she nuzzles into his crotch, her pink tongue swiping at the denim. This is everything he’s ever wanted or needed from another person, this perfect oasis they crafted together this weekend.

“You like that?” she murmurs, and he shivers as the words from her mouth vibrate against his dick.

“Yeah,” he croaks. “Fuck, Sharon.”

“I wish you would,” she says, starting to unzip his pants. “Christ, it’s embarrassing how wet I get just thinking about having your cock inside me.”

And now he’s thinking about it, too, laying her out on the bed and getting her all worked up and desperate before he finally pushes into her, when he realizes--

“Shit,” he pants, “shit, we’re out of condoms.”

“No way,” she says, brow furrowed. “The whole box? Seriously?”

“We had a lot of sex,” he reminds her, and she groans dramatically.

“What time is it?” she asks, squinting at the digital clock on the TV. “Shit, we don’t have time to run out for more before my car gets here.”

“Shit,” he repeats. He severely underestimated how much sex they’d be having. And even though it’s been plenty, he was hoping to have just a little more before she left. “Sorry.”

“I was really looking forward to getting railed,” she says with a pout, resting her head on his thigh.

“You want my mouth?” he asks, smoothing her eyebrow with his middle finger.

“I always want your mouth, but let’s do something that’s fun for both of us.”

Eating her out sounds like plenty of fun to him, but before he can protest, she’s standing up and swatting at him.

“C’mon, bed. Let’s go.”

“Bedtime already?” he asks facetiously as he stretches and stands up. “What, are you tired?”

“Tired of you wearing all your clothes,” she mutters. “Move it, buddy.”

She stalks into the bedroom, and he’s only a few paces behind, but she’s already naked by the time he gets there. Fuck, she looks so good in his bedroom. He’s already far, far too used to this.

“Stop gawking at me and take off your pants,” she says primly, and he rolls his eyes and obeys, climbing into bed with her after he disrobes.

“What do you want to do?” he murmurs, palming her breast, feeling her nipple harden against his palm as he teases her.

“How about like this?”

Sharon rolls onto her side and wiggles backwards towards him, crowding him, and then she reaches for his cock and situates it between her thighs. She crosses her ankles, and he groans as the pressure increases. It’s not the same as being inside her, not really, but it’s warm and tight, and she smells so good. She reaches for his hand, and before he knows what’s happening she’s slipping his fingers into her mouth, licking and sucking at them.

“C’mon,” she says breathlessly, rolling her hips backwards, nipping at his fingertips. “Fuck me.”

And so of course he fucks her, thrusting between her soft, muscular thighs, punching breathy little sounds out of her each time his body rocks into hers. She’s so wet that he’s slicked up in no time, and the space between her thighs feels like warm, slippery silk. She’s still sucking on his fingers, teasing them with her tongue with the same intensity she uses for his cock, and he moves his other hand to her hip, holding onto her for a few thrusts so he can really grind into her before he moves his hand lower. Sometimes, he just holds his fingers in place for her, gives her something she can work herself off against, but he wants to drive her pleasure today, and he slips over her, his fingers so wet from her that it takes a minute for him to find her clit, but then he’s merciless, working her off until she’s frantic, wrenching an orgasm out of her and then pulling back just enough for her to catch her breath and mewl for more before he’s on her again, relentless. He finds a soft place on the back of her neck to set his mouth, and he pants his hot breath against her, kissing and sucking the salt from her skin as he slips one, then two fingers into her, his thumb circling her clit while she wriggles against him. She’s twitching and sensitive after she comes again, and she keeps squeezing his cock every time she tries to push towards or away from his touch. And he wants to come, Christ, he wants to come, but he doesn’t want this to end. He wants to live forever in this perfect, ephemeral moment, hazy from pleasure, delirious from how fucking crazy he is about her, teetering on the verge of ecstasy.

He holds off for as long as he can, until he can’t any longer. And he comes, hot and blissful and inevitable, and it’s a perfect moment, and he gets to keep it no matter what. Sharon is warm and alive in front of him, she gasps as he sucks needy kisses to the back of her neck, his fingers are safe in her mouth. No matter what, this is theirs.

She gingerly releases his cock from between her legs, rolling onto her side and grinning up at him. He kisses her, twice, three times, just a lazy, sensuous press of mouths. He feels wrung out, but she is so beautiful and so present, and he can’t stop kissing her, because as soon as he does, she might vanish.

Finally, he reaches for a tissue, wiping off his fingers and then hers, and she reaches for his hand and squeezes it, and he can’t stop smiling, and she says, quietly, “This weekend was fun. I always have so much fun with you.”

He just nods and looks at her, because he doesn’t know how to say all the things he’s thinking, and he doesn’t know if she wants to hear any of it.

“I….” She closes her eyes, slowly breathes in and out, and her voice is so soft when she continues speaking. “I don’t want to go. I want to stay.”

He touches his forehead to hers, and then he closes his eyes, too. It’s exactly what he wanted her to say, but it’s still not possible. It’s almost worse, knowing that she wants this, too, and he still can’t give it to her.

“We’ll run away,” he whispers. “Your bags are already packed. They’ll never find us.”

“Where are we going?” she murmurs, squeezing his hand. “Some island oasis?”

“No, somewhere remote.” He runs his thumb over the fine bones of her wrist. “Middle of nowhere. A farm somewhere.”

“Are you gonna be a farmer?” she breathes.

“Maybe.” It’s not the first time he’s had these thoughts, but it’s the first time he’s ever, ever said them out loud.

“I can see it.” Her breath is so tentative against his lips. “You’ll grow things and cook them for us.”

“What will you do?”

“I’ll raise the chickens,” she says, and he smiles. “Maybe I could be a teacher. I wanted that, once. I could teach and...coach softball?”

“I think you’d be a real good coach,” he says, and he means it.

“Yeah?” Her voice is uncertain. He’s never heard her sound like that before. “Thanks.”

“Just you and me,” he says. “And the chickens.”

“And maybe...maybe a cat,” she says. “You and me and a cat and...and a porch swing.”

“And a pie cooling on the windowsill.”

“Do you make pie?”

“I’ll learn how to make pie,” he says, and he wants this life with her so bad that he aches.

“That sounds perfect,” she says. And it is. It’s perfect.

And then her phone rings, and the car will be arriving in twenty minutes.

It’s a scramble for both of them to clean up and get presentable. He brushes his teeth and pretends not to see her slip his shirt into her suitcase. He spits and rinses, and then he feels her arms encircle him, her cheek pressed to his back.

“Listen,” she says softly. “I had a good time.”

“I did, too.”

“I’m not...going to do this job forever.”

Bucky holds his breath and waits for her to continue.

“It’s not fair for me to ask you to wait for me,” she says haltingly.

“Ask me,” he says immediately, heart hammering. “Ask me.”

“Would you wait for me?” she whispers. “Am I someone you could wait for?”

He spins around and takes her in his arms, lifting her so he’s supporting her weight and her toes aren’t even on the ground. And he looks into her eyes, wet at the corners, and he kisses her deeply, intensely, fingers digging into her back as she wraps her legs around his waist and kisses back as good as she’s getting. And her phone dings, and they ignore it, and he kisses her, and he kisses her, and he kisses her.

“I’ll wait, Sharon,” he says hoarsely. “I’m really patient. I can wait a long time.”

“Okay,” she says, nodding frantically. “Okay. Please, I want that.”

“I’ll wait,” he promises, and he kisses her again, and he keeps kissing her until her phone starts ringing.

“I have to go now,” she says, her eyes searching his. “But I’ll come back.”

“I’ll be here.”

She is offering him everything he’s ever wanted, and he has to believe her. He has to.

He takes two of her three bags, and they step out into the hallway. He turns towards the door, touching his fingers to the keypad to lock it, when something occurs to him.

“Hey,” he says softly. “Hey, Sharon, when’s your birthday?”

And she smiles at him, serene and hopeful and honest. And she fits her fingers over his on the keypad, and they press the numbers together.