The sun began to set slowly over Delacroix, but the party was far from over. Still, the residents of the small town of Louisiana ate, drank and laughed, and it seemed that none of the adults would go to bed anytime soon. There was a cheerful atmosphere at the docks, the air filled with the laughter of happy people. It was peaceful.
Bucky breathed in the warm summer air as he sat on one of the benches on the docks, his eyes closed and his head reclined. He listened to the noise around him, smelled the delicious food in his nose and enjoyed the warm evening breeze on his skin. It had been a long time since he felt so at peace and secure.
"Already exhausted, old man?" An amused voice rang out behind him.
Bucky opened his eyes and found Sam standing above him, a slight smile on his lips. He, too, seemed completely relaxed, despite the fact that he had been bombarded by people all afternoon. Bucky knew that he had been very happy to give the people of his hometown a sense of happiness and joy. It was one thing to protect the whole world, but your hometown – that was much more important.
"Not exhausted," Bucky replied, giving the other man a lazy smile. "Relaxed."
Sam's eyes began to sparkle happily and his smile widened. He put his hands on Bucky's shoulders and squeezed them gently. "Looks good on you."
Bucky narrowed his eyes slightly and tilted his head slightly. Since Bucky first visited the Wilson family, Sam had developed this idiosyncrasy to want to make Bucky relax. He was always far too tense, Sam had said. That couldn't be healthy, Sam had said. Bucky always complained somewhat half-heartedly about it, but deep inside he bathed in that attention. For far too long, he had no one who cared for his wellbeing or wanted him nearby. There was Steve, but that was something else. Steve had been his best friend and Sam was...
Sam pulled Bucky slightly backwards by the shoulders, leaning his head against Sam's torso, and resting his forearms on Bucky's shoulders. He looked at their surroundings and watched the people around them as they still celebrated exuberantly. The crowd had gotten a little smaller as many parents had already brought their young children home, but it was still very crowded and lively at the docks. And no one spared them much of a glance. Yes, they were Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes, Captain America and the Winter Soldier, but they were also just a couple of guys who were at home in this city. They were part of this community and were treated as such.
"I'm glad you're here," Sam said in a soft voice, as he looked on at their surroundings.
Bucky tilted his head further back so he could look at Sam from below. The last remaining rays of sunshine framed his face and made his warm brown eyes shine. Bucky's heartbeat accelerated and a tingling sensation filled his insides. It had crept up on him, this feeling, so that he hadn’t recognize it for what it was at first. And when he finally realized it, all fight had already been lost.
Bucky didn't mind. He was content, happy even. There was no one better than Sam Wilson.
"I'm glad to be here," Bucky replied in an equally soft voice, his smile widening when Sam looked down at him. "I'm glad you want me here."
"Always," Sam said emphatically.
A moment passed before Sam slowly leaned down, a nervous glint in his eyes, before he put his lips on Bucky’s.
A content sigh escaped Bucky and he leaned further into the touch. It was a simple kiss, little more than a touch of their lips, but at the same time it was so much more. It was a start, it was an end and it was all in between.
After a few moments, the two broke away from each other and looked deep into each other's eyes. That was it. This was where Bucky wanted to be. There was no other place for him, no other time.
He smiled. Sam smiled back.
In silent agreement, they leaned closer again. But before their lips could meet again, loud voices rang out.
"Uncle Sam! Uncle Bucky!"
Sam and Bucky jumped at the loud noise and Sam backed away from Bucky, but stayed near enough to keep his hands on Bucky's shoulders.
AJ and Cass ran at them, beaming radiantly. AJ held his younger brother’s hand, while Cass stumbled after him. Both boys were obviously in a good mood, even if you could see the tiredness on them.
"Hey, guys. Shouldn't you be long in bed by now?" Sam asked, playfully strict, but smiling warmly at his nephews.
In answer to that Cass yawned before settling next to Bucky on the bench, where he leaned his head against Bucky's arm.
"Mom sends us," AJ explained, who also seemed to struggle with his fatigue. "She said it's time for bed, but she can't leave yet, so we’re supposed to ask you."
"Yeah, of course, you two should be tucked in bed already," Sam said, straightening up.
"Hey, Sam!" another voice rang out from a little further on. Sam looked around and saw the old Mr. Frances and some other fishermen waving at him. "We need Captain America's help here, boy!"
Sam opened his mouth to protest, but Bucky beat him to it.
"Just go," He said, rising from the bench and lifted little Cass onto his left arm in the motion. The boy seemed to have already nodded off and snuggled closer to Bucky, burying his head in his neck. "I can bring the boys home."
Sam stared at Bucky for a few moments, his eyes wide and his mouth slightly agape. Bucky stared back, his head tilted slightly to the side. "What?" he asked confused.
But Sam just shook his head and smiled. "Oh nothing," he replied. "That would be great, thank you. I'll come home as soon as possible."
Bucky nodded with a smile and then looked down at AJ. "Ready to go?"
The boy nodded eagerly. Sam pulled AJ to him and kissed his head. "Well then, buddy, sleep tight. I see you two tomorrow morning."
AJ hugged him back and nodded, "Good night, Uncle Sam."
Then Sam stepped closer to Bucky and stroked slightly Cass's back. The boy then opened his eyes sleepily. "Good night, Cassie. Bucky is bringing you both home now."
Cass yawned only in response, before closing his eyes again and snuggling back into Bucky's warmth.
Sam looked up at Bucky, who looked down at Cass smiling. Sam's heart pounded wildly at the sight.
It looked so right.
"Here," Sam said, handing Bucky his set of keys. "Take the truck. Sarah and I will drive back with someone later on."
Bucky nodded and put the keys in his denim jacket. "See you later."
Sam hesitated for a moment before leaning forward and giving Bucky a kiss on the cheek. Bucky blinked in surprise before a light blush crept onto his cheeks.
"I'll see you at home," Sam muttered, before he stepped back.
Bucky nodded dumbfounded before looking at AJ, who watched the adults with exhausted eyes. "Ready, buddy?"
AJ nodded wordlessly and reached for Bucky's right hand.
Bucky gave Sam one last smile before turning around and leading the two boys to the truck, Cass secured in his arm and AJ in his hand.
Bucky parked the truck in front of the Wilson house and looked to the passenger seat. Cass hadn't woken up when he put him in the passenger seat with his brother and by now AJ had nodded off too, his arms safely placed around his little brother. Bucky smiled before getting out, rounded the truck and opened the passenger door. Bucky gently stroked over AJ’s cheek, to which the boy’s eyes fluttered open.
"We're home, AJ," Bucky told him. "Can you still walk?"
The boy nodded yawning, but made no attempt to get up. Instead, he cuddled closer to Cass. Bucky chuckled slightly before loosening the seatbelt around them and pulled the two boys easily into his arms.
"That's so cool, Uncle Bucky," AJ muttered sleepily and buried himself closer to Bucky's chest.
Bucky's heart clenched at this.
He carried the two boys over to the house, unlocked the front door and walked up the stairs to the boys' bedroom. Since Sam moved back in with his sister, the boys shared a room, which was ideal at that moment. Bucky put AJ and Cass in the lower bed of the bunk bed, took off their shoes and tugged them in. Briefly he thought about pulling Cass out of AJ's arms, but he feared it would only wake the boys up. Bucky lingered for a moment, kneeling next to the children and stroked AJ’s dark curls. AJ briefly opened his eyes again and smiled happily at the older man.
"Good night, Uncle Bucky," he whispered.
Bucky smiled and felt a slight burning sensation in his eyes.
"Good night, little one. Sleep well, you two," he whispered back.
Finally, he took off the children's glasses and put them on the desk before walking to the door. Before he closed it, he took one last look at the boys, who were already sleeping soundly.
He was home.