Ever since he met Steve on a jog in 2014, Sam Wilson’s life has been unexpectedly bizarre. But despite all he’s put up with since then, he doesn’t think anything he’s experienced has been quite as alarming as stepping off a Quinjet in Delacroix right after a mission, opening his phone, and seeing a text from a raccoon in his notifications.
Then he opens the text and it reads, Hey, your Cyborg friend is on our ship, and suddenly the situation is even more alarming.
The story is explained to him over the phone as he drives his truck out to the coordinates he’s been sent — though how they got a working phone in space, Sam doesn’t know. The phone must be on speaker, because Sam makes out seven different voices on the other end, and none of them are Bucky’s, which just makes his heart pound faster as he presses his foot down harder on the gas.
It’s hard to piece together what’s happening, especially when all the voices keep overlapping and one of them is just saying “I am Groot” over and over, but it seems that the gist is: Bucky was called to deal with an other-worldly threat in Houston, things had gone south, and once the aliens figured out Bucky’s role in the battle against Thanos, and his association with Captain America, they evidently decided it’d be a good idea to capture him and bring them on their ship to see what kind of intel they could get out of him.
Luckily, Bucky had at least had the sense to send out a distress signal, and the so-called Guardians of the Galaxy happened to be in the neighborhood, which is why Sam is now driving to pick his partner up from a space-ship inhabited by a talking tree and a raccoon, and at least five other aliens.
So, you know, just a typical Saturday.
The whole trip ends up being only half an hour, with the coordinates taking Sam to a large, open field only a few miles outside of Delacroix. He parks the truck underneath the shadow of the Guardians’ intimidatingly massive spaceship, nearly tripping over his own feet in his effort to climb out of the car and up the stairs leading inside the ship.
As he steps inside the spaceship, Sam expects to find Bucky bruised, injured, maybe even unconscious. What he isn’t expecting is to see Bucky lounging in one of the chairs of the cockpit, and looking up and beaming when Sam walks in, like he’s happy to see him.
“Hey, Sam,” Bucky says in the cheeriest voice Sam’s ever heard.
Sam blinks, and then turns to face the large group of aliens, expectant.
“Yeah, so, he’s been injected with truth serum,” says Peter Quill.
Sam honestly doesn’t know much about the Guardians of the Galaxy, or how they operate. He met them only once, and that was at Tony Stark’s funeral, where there was only enough time for brief introductions, and it’s not like people were sticking around to shoot the shit, afterward.
There’s Peter Quill, who Sam’s pretty sure is the leader of the team, and was born on Earth, so he isn’t technically an alien. Gamora is the green one, who Sam kind of recognizes from the fight against Thanos, but doesn’t remember seeing at Stark’s funeral. He’s pretty sure he heard she had died, actually, but she seems pretty alive from where he’s standing, so Sam decides not to question it. Then there’s the bug-looking lady, Mantis, and the big guy, Drax, who seem to share the same brain cell; and then Nebula, the blue cyborg, and Rocket, the raccoon, round out the group.
Surprisingly, they’re the two he’s heard the most about, mainly from Rhodey, who evidently got pretty friendly with them during the five years of the Blip. He knows Nebula and Rocket were part of the time heist, and therefore a big part of the reason Sam’s standing here right now. It’s a weird feeling, being indebted to a raccoon, but that’s not something Sam has time to ruminate on right now. What he needs to figure out now is —
“What’s wrong with him?” Sam demands. He’s standing in front of the small work-table in the cockpit, where the others have been sitting since Sam stepped inside the ship. He hates to talk about Bucky like he’s not here, but, well, judging by the far-off look Sam sees on Bucky’s face every time he glances over his shoulder at him, it looks like Bucky’s not exactly here.
“He’s fine,” says Gamora, steady assurance in her voice. “It seems the group he encountered wanted to obtain intel in a way that was less…”
“I am Groot,” Groot offers.
Gamora nods like she can actually understand what he’s saying. Sam is way out of his element here.
“And judging by the time we received the distress call and the time we intercepted, he hadn’t been in interrogation very long,” Gamora continues. “Plus, the dose he was given seems to be harmless.”
“Must’ve been pretty large, though,” Quill comments. “He’s been like this for an hour now.”
Sam’s eyes widen. “It’s been an hour and you just now got here?”
“Hey, it’s not like we were just down the road,” Rocket says defensively. “We were all the way over by A’askavariia. You got any idea where that is?”
“No,” Sam eventually admits.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.”
“Would’ve gotten here faster if I’d flown us,” Quill grumbles.
“Yeah, keep telling yourself that, pal,” Rocket says with an eye-roll.
“He was a little out of it when we first picked him up, but that is not unusual when it comes to these serums,” Mantis interjects quickly, evidently sensing an argument about to break out.
Sam looks over at Bucky again. “He looks out of it now. ”
“He is fine, we promise,” Mantis says, with a gentle smile. “We ran tests, and I checked in on him, as well. His emotions are stable.”
“He got lucky,” Nebula acknowledges, arms crossed in front of her chest, a dark tone to her voice. “There are worse methods of obtaining intel.”
Sam thinks about the Winter Soldier reports he’d pored over in all those years he spent trying to find Bucky, thinks about all the things he learned about what Bucky had been through that he knew he could never tell Steve.
“Trust me,” Sam says to Nebula. “I know.”
Bucky gives Sam a small smile when he goes over to stand in front of the cockpit chair. He looks surprisingly comfortable, all things considered, and Sam lets out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding.
“Hey, Buck,” Sam says. “How you feeling?”
“Really weird,” Bucky says matter-of-factly. “Feel better now that you’re here, though.”
Sam feels his face burn at the earnestness in Bucky’s voice, at the same time as he feels his stomach churn with guilt. He’d been in Munich with Torres this weekend, responding to a potential threat from the Flagsmashers, and with the Spider-kid, Dr. Strange, Lang, and Van Dyne all dealing with some sort of multi-verse mess or something, Bucky was probably the only one SWORD could call, not to mention that Louisiana is already so close to Houston, anyway. Still —
“I should’ve been there,” Sam tells him. “I’m sorry.”
Bucky’s brows furrow and he frowns, the same face he always gets whenever he thinks Sam is being too hard on himself, made all the more intense this time by the big, sad eyes Bucky gives him.
“Hey, no, don’t,” Bucky says. “You were all the way in Germany, Sam, you can’t blame yourself for this. And I’m gonna be fine.”
“He sure has been irritating, though,” Rocket interjects, and Sam glares at him. “He hasn’t stopped complaining the second he stepped on our ship. ‘It smells weird in here,’ ‘No, I’m not letting you have my arm,’ ‘Where’s Sam, I need Sam,’ blah, blah, blah. You’re lucky we didn’t eject him into space.”
“I don’t understand what all the commotion is about,” says Drax. “He seems to be acting perfectly normal to me.”
“That’s because you voice every single thought that’s ever entered your tiny pea brain,” Nebula mutters.
Mantis giggles, and Drax frowns. “Hey — ”
“How long is he going to be like this?” Sam interrupts.
“Hard to say,” Gamora admits. “As we said, he was given a hefty dose, so it’s likely the serum will linger in his system for a little while longer. It’s unusual for any truth serum to last more than 24 hours, though. He should be fine by morning.”
Sam sighs, long and frustrated, and once again wonders how this is his life.
“Well. Thanks for responding to the distress signal,” Sam tells them.
“I was kinda hoping for Danvers,” Bucky mutters to himself.
Quill overhears and winces. “Yeah, that’s fair.”
Sam bites back a laugh, and Bucky smiles at him, looking a little pleased.
“You ready to go home?” Sam asks Bucky, and he nods, so Sam gently loops an arm under Bucky’s, pulling him to his feet. He sways into Sam just a little, but he doesn’t move away after he’s finally found his footing, and Sam tries very hard not to think about the gentle pressure of Bucky’s weight against his side.
“Uh, well,” Sam says to the Guardians, feeling a little awkward. “Nice meeting you guys again, I guess.”
“Sure,” Rocket says. “Just message us your routing number and we can cover the cost of the pick-up that way.”
“Uh, I’m not — ” Sam starts.
“He’s kidding,” Quill says quickly, giving Rocket a dirty look.
“Worth a shot,” Rocket sighs.
“How do you guys even have a phone out here, anyway?” Sam asks.
“It’s a spaceship,” Quill says, like that explains anything.
“And you guys just happen to have Captain America on speed dial?” Sam asks, lifting an eyebrow.
“Nah, the Cyborg over here gave us your number,” Quill says.
“Of course he did,” Sam sighs, then says, “Well, I hope my phone plan covers intergalactic calls. Else I’m gonna have a hell of a bill this month.”
Sam’s never spent time with someone who’s been injected with super serum before, but this is Bucky, so Sam assumed he knew what he was getting into. After all, Bucky is a pretty truthful guy to begin with; he doesn’t often hold back his honest opinion, especially when that opinion is a negative one.
But nothing could’ve prepared Sam for what Bucky would be like on truth serum.
It turns out, Bucky has a lot of opinions, about everything. On the drive back home, Bucky talks non-stop: about how outrageously high the price of coffee is, about how ugly cube-shaped cars are, about how he doesn’t understand why the ice-cream machine at McDonald’s always seems to be out of order. He jumps from topic to topic erratically, spurred on by things they pass on the street or, sometimes, seemingly nothing at all. It’s like listening to a toddler. Who drinks.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Sam asks finally, because he honestly didn’t think Bucky was capable of saying this many words at once.
“I’m mostly okay,” Bucky says, sighing. “I just feel really weird. And tired.”
“Yeah, getting abducted by aliens will do that to you.”
Bucky wrinkles his nose, because it turns out he’s a lot more expressive under truth serum, too. “I don’t like space.”
“You don’t like much of anything,” Sam points out.
“That’s not true,” Bucky argues. “I like fishing. And sushi. And you.”
Sam clears his throat and pointedly ignores this statement. “What’s so wrong with space?”
“It’s big. And dark,” Bucky grumbles. “And I can’t stand that raccoon.”
“Yeah, well, you’re lucky he didn’t try to steal your arm while you were incapacitated. He was eyeing it pretty hard.”
“I could take a raccoon,” Bucky insists.
And sure, Bucky’s got Super Soldier Serum and a metal arm, but Sam thinks a fight with a regular raccoon would be a close call, much less one that knows how to use a gun, so he’s not quite convinced.
The Winter Soldier vs. A Raccoon, Sam thinks to himself. He’d pay to see that.
Their house in Delacroix is only ten minutes down the road from Sarah’s. They’d bought it about six months ago, only a few months after everything went down with the Flagsmashers, because Sam and Bucky were doing pretty much everything else together by that point, anyway, so living together only made sense. The house they got was nothing much — just a small two-bedroom in desperate need of a paint job — but pulling into the driveway as the sun’s just starting to set and staring up at the house, their house, after the day Sam has had, it feels like the best thing he’s ever seen. Bucky must think so, too, if the sigh of relief he lets out when Sam puts the truck in park is any indication.
Bucky must be feeling a little better, too, because he only stumbles once when they head towards the front door, Sam hovering around him the entire time, just in case. Once they’re inside, Bucky heads straight towards the couch, and Sam digs a sweatshirt and pair of sweatpants that might actually be his from the basket of clean clothes next to the dryer.
“How was Germany?” Bucky asks, propping himself up from where he’s sprawled across the couch as Sam enters the living room.
Sam laughs in surprise. “You just got abducted by aliens, and you want to know how I’m doing?”
Bucky looks confused. “I always want to know how you’re doing.”
Sam chooses to ignore this statement as well. If his face feels hot, it’s just a spike in the temperature, that’s all.
“Put those on,” Sam instructs, tossing his sweats into Bucky’s lap. “You’re not falling asleep on my couch in your gear.”
“It’s our couch,” Bucky reminds him, but he does what he’s told, and Sam turns away politely to give Bucky his privacy as he wriggles out of his gear and changes into the sweats.
“Smells good,” Bucky comments after he’s fully dressed, and Sam turns back to the couch and watches as Bucky lifts the neckline of Sam’s sweatshirt and sniffs.
“That’s ‘cause I use the good laundry detergent.”
“No, it smells like you,” Bucky says, and then he smiles, again. Sam has never seen Bucky smile this much in his entire life.
Sam clears his throat. “So, uh. Do you need anything?”
“Could I get some water?” Bucky asks, then adds, “And a blanket. You keep the A/C way too high in here. It’s racking up our electric bill.”
“Alright,” Sam says after a moment. “Good to know.”
So Sam heads into the kitchen to pour Bucky a cup of water, and when he’s back in the living room, grabs the fluffy blanket from the basket next to the TV, the one Bucky always grabs when they’re watching Netflix together.
Sam hands Bucky the blanket, first, and Bucky beams up at him when he takes it. He’s still sitting upright on the couch, but his eyelids look heavy, like he was a second from passing out before Sam walked in.
“Thanks, Sam,” Bucky tells him, wrapping the blanket around his shoulders, still smiling, and then, “Love you.”
Sam drops the cup of water he was holding, hears it splash across the carpet as the plastic cup bounces away. Then he stammers out, “What?”
Bucky blinks. “Shit,” he finally says. “I don’t think I was supposed to say that out loud.”
“I…you… what? ” Sam says unintelligibly, a million thoughts running through his head, before he finally settles on, “Since when? ”
Bucky tilts his head, trying to remember. “Uh, I think I figured it out at the cook-out. But it’s probably been longer than that.”
“Wait, which cook-out?”
“The one we had on the dock, after you officially became Captain America.”
“Bucky,” Sam says in disbelief. “That was...a year ago, almost.”
Bucky frowns, like he’s confused. “Yeah, so?”
The floor feels unsteady beneath Sam’s feet. He needs to sit down, or something, so he does, with a giant thunk, on the empty space next to Bucky on the couch.
“I don’t — ” Sam starts, and then stops, at an honest loss for words. “You wouldn’t be saying this if it weren’t for the truth serum.”
Bucky winces. “Yeah...I’m probably gonna regret this in the morning.”
Sam shakes his head. “I don’t even — I can’t even believe this. I’m pretty sure this entire day has been a fever dream. I’m going to wake up tomorrow and none of it will have ever happened, or maybe I’ll realize this was all a prank for some Captain America-themed reality show, or something.”
Bucky laughs at that. Sam notes that Bucky usually doesn’t find him this funny without truth serum in his system. “What, it’s that hard to believe I’m in love with you?”
“Honestly?” Sam says. “Yeah, it is.”
“Why?” Bucky asks, and Sam shrugs, looking away. “Come on. Are you serious?”
“What?” Sam asks.
“Sam,” Bucky says, sounding more serious than Sam’s ever heard him. “You’re the most incredible person I’ve ever met.”
Sam swallows, and feels his face get very, very hot. “Shut up.”
“No,” Bucky says, looking both very tired and very stubborn. “I mean it. You’re way too stubborn, and you listen to your music too loud in the mornings, and if you drink the orange juice straight from the carton one more time, I’m going to spit in it. But you’re also kind, and brave, and you care so much, about everyone, and you’re incredible.”
This is a lot to process. Sam tries to respond with something intelligent, but what comes out is, “Uh, wow. Okay.” Bucky blinks slowly, looking amused. “So. You love me, huh?”
“Yep,” Bucky says with a nod. “A pretty embarrassing amount, actually.”
Sam looks away, unable to meet Bucky’s intense stare and the honesty in his voice, and instead looks down, watching the water slowly staining the carpet beneath his feet.
“Bucky,” Sam says finally. “I don’t know what to say.”
For the first time all night, Bucky doesn’t say anything at all, so Sam finally looks up, only to find Bucky lying down on the couch, head against the pillow, fast asleep.
Sam can’t help it. He snorts.
He debates taking Bucky to bed, but Bucky is really heavy, and Sam is really tired. Besides, he looks comfortable on the couch, and after the day he’s had, and the lack of sleep he gets even on a good day, Sam hates the idea of waking Bucky up. So Sam stands up, draping Bucky’s fuzzy blanket so it rests right beneath his chin, and heads to his own bed.
Sam spends more time staring at his ceiling than he does actually sleeping. Because, really, if he thinks about it, the thing that gets Sam isn’t that Bucky is in love with him, and has been for some time now. What really gets him is the way Bucky had told him, quiet and sure, and all because Sam had handed him a goddamn blanket.
And of course, Sam knows Bucky can’t help but say the things he thinks right now, knows Bucky never would’ve admitted it without the truth serum. But Sam does little things like that for Bucky all the time — cooks two servings in case Bucky’s hungry, throws in Bucky’s clothes with his in the wash, picks up coffee when he’s out the way he knows Bucky likes it. These are things Sam does without thinking, for no other reason than that he cares, and every time, Bucky smiles, and says thanks. And every time, beneath the smile and the small expression of gratitude, Bucky has loved Sam, and never said it.
This should be an overwhelming realization. It should be a thought that upends his entire world, makes him rethink every interaction he’s had with Bucky in the last year. It should be scary, maybe even terrifying.
But the thing is, it isn’t. And when Sam thinks about it for a little longer, it’s not even that surprising. It just makes sense.
In the morning, Sam finds Bucky still on the couch. Sam thinks he’s still asleep at first, but when he passes by the couch on his way into the kitchen, Bucky stirs, glancing at Sam and then just as quickly looking away.
“Morning, Buckaroo,” Sam says from the kitchen, pulling two mugs from the cabinet. “How are you feeling?”
“Like I’m having my first hangover since 1945,” Bucky says shortly.
“Yeah, that sounds about right,” Sam says, putting two scoops of sugar in his mug, and none in Bucky’s, the heathen. “So, how much of last night do you remember?”
Bucky’s quiet for a minute before he admits, “Unfortunately, a lot.”
“Including the part where you admitted to being embarrassingly in love with me?” Sam asks carefully as he pours the creamer.
Bucky winces so hard it looks painful. “Feels like you’re exaggerating some parts of that story.”
Sam bites back a smile as he pours the coffee. “Well, I definitely remember you throwing the word ‘embarrassing’ in there, somewhere.”
Bucky sighs, long and loud, and slowly sits upright on the couch. He doesn’t look up when Sam enters the living room, not even when Sam passes him his coffee. Just takes a long gulp, then sets the mug down on the side table next to the couch.
“That was still hot,” Sam points out.
Bucky just shrugs, and doesn’t say anything. That’s fine. Sam can do the talking for now.
“So,” Sam says. “Any thoughts on the matter, now that the serum’s out of your system?”
Bucky sighs again, fidgets with a loose string of the blanket in his lap. When he finally speaks, it’s to say, “I’m sorry.”
“What?” Sam asks. “What for?”
Bucky just laughs shortly, rubbing his hands over his face. “Fuck, Sam, I don’t know, for making you take care of me like I was some sort of drunk teenager? For putting you in an awkward position? Take your pick.”
“Bucky, come on, you didn’t make me do anything,” Sam says, and Bucky lowers his hands from his face, but still doesn’t look up. “I don’t mind taking care of you. That’s what we do for each other. You take care of me all the time.”
“Yeah, well, someone’s gotta,” Bucky mutters to the floor.
“Bucky,” Sam sighs. “Can you just...look at me, please?”
Finally, Bucky looks up, his mouth drawn tight. “What do you want me to say? I told you I was sorry. If it’s too much, I — I get it. I can move out, give you your space, or — ”
“Whoa, hey,” Sam interrupts, eyebrows raised. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, alright? I never said I wanted you to move out. I never even asked you to apologize.”
“Then what?” Bucky asks, sounding exasperated.
Sam takes a deep breath, and then a step forward. “I just want to know if you meant it.”
Bucky blinks up at him from the couch. “What?”
“Everything you said last night,” Sam says, and Bucky’s gaze shifts away again. “Did you mean it?”
“It’s truth serum, Sam,” Bucky says tonelessly. “It’s pretty much in the name.”
“Bucky,” Sam says, stepping forward again. “I’m serious.”
Finally, Bucky meets his gaze, and his expression softens, and Sam finally sees the same open affection that had been on Bucky’s face last night, the same expression that maybe Bucky has had for Sam for a while now, if only Sam had bothered to look.
“Yeah, Sam,” Bucky says softly. “Of course I meant it.”
Like it’s obvious. Like it just makes sense.
“Okay,” Sam says with a nod. “Good.”
Then Sam sets his coffee mug next to Bucky’s on the table, takes a final step towards the couch, and kisses him.
Bucky makes a muffled sound of surprise against Sam’s mouth, but it doesn’t take him long to get with the program, half-lifting himself off the couch in his effort to kiss Sam back. Which is too much work, in Sam’s opinion, so he pushes Bucky back down towards the couch until he’s practically in his lap, and Bucky’s making a pleased humming sound against Sam’s mouth.
“I love you, too,” Sam says, when he finally has to pull away. “In case you were wondering.”
“I don’t know,” Bucky says innocently, even as he smiles, big and wide. “I might need some more convincing.”
“You know, the raccoon was right,” Sam tells him. “You really are pretty irritating.”
“I think that’s the rudest thing you’ve ever said to me,” Bucky says, and then promptly leans forward and kisses Sam again, so he figures Bucky doesn’t actually mind.
“So,” Sarah says the next time they’re over, pointedly gesturing to Bucky’s arm, which is flung across Sam’s shoulder as the two of them are sandwiched together on the couch. “Not that I didn’t see this coming from a mile away, but how exactly did that start?”
Bucky goes very red, and withdraws his arm from Sam’s shoulder so fast it’s as though he’s been burned. “You know, it’s not that good of a story actually — ”
But Sam’s face lights up. “Oh, Sarah,” he begins. “You’re never gonna believe this one.”
And so Sam spends the rest of the evening explaining how Bucky’s idea of making the first move is getting abducted by aliens and injected with truth serum, and Sarah laughs the entire time, as Bucky hides his face in his hands.