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Sam thinks he’s always been in love with Steve.

 

Well, not necessarily from the very beginning of their relationship – when Captain America blurred past him on his morning run, considerately shouting “On your left” so Sam didn’t get completely decked by his speeding form, he initially felt irritated. The second time Steve passed him, he felt the thrill of competition surge through him and he sped up his pace, a mischievous smirk tugging at the corner of his lips. By the third lap he realized that he would never catch up to Steve, and simply resigned himself to shouting back half-hearted retorts whenever Steve decided it would be funny to say “On your left.” As if Sam didn’t already know that Steve was on his left.

But when Sam, slumped against a tree, exhausted after his run, truly saw Steve for the first time - that might have been when he started falling. Hard. Steve stood above him, muscles rippling in a too-tight shirt, hair waving gently in the early morning breeze, an open expression on his face, and practically radiated sunshine. No literally – the morning sun rose behind him in such a way that he was backlit majestically against the sky. But when he clasped Sam’s hand in his and pulled him up, Sam fell a little bit in love with the feeling of Steve’s smooth, dry palm against his own. And when Steve smiled at Sam he smiled with his whole body, and Sam fell a little bit in love with the way Steve’s eyes crinkled when his entire face lit up with sunshine.

When Steve and The Black Widow showed up on his doorstep a few days later, covered head to toe in soot and looking worse for wear, he let them in. What else was he supposed to do? Memories of Steve’s radiant smile burst into his head and he felt the ridiculous urge to make Steve smile like that again. Sam pushed those thoughts into the back of his mind and got down to business. There were two injured, shaken superheroes in his kitchen that needed attention. Captain America and The Black Widow in his kitchen. What a day – and it was only 9:30 in the morning. He showed them to his bedroom (the only room in his house that had a bathroom with a shower) and the guest bedroom to change, apologizing for the small space (rent was high as hell in the D.C. area), and demanded that they tell him if they needed anything before he retreated to the kitchen. He leaned against the counter for a moment, accepting that his life would probably never be the same again after today, and then opened the fridge to pull out the eggs.

Sam had finished the eggs and bacon and was halfway through making toast when The Black Widow slid into the kitchen. He didn’t hear her – he just turned around and she was there – and he was proud of the fact that he only jumped a little. She was wearing the same black tank top and jeans as before, but she was dirt free and her bright red hair was now curly and dripping onto her shoulders. Sam had seen the footage of her on TV from New York, taking down aliens with her Widow’s Bites and dual pistols. He knew she was dangerous - as adaptable as a chameleon and as deadly as a – well, as deadly as a Black Widow. But she didn’t look that terrifying wearing normal clothes in the middle of his kitchen. And the TV footage couldn’t have possibly revealed that her eyes were such a stunning shade of green.

“Do you have a hair straightener?” she asked, the tone of her voice betraying that she did not in fact actually think Sam possessed such a thing.

“I actually think…hold on a sec,” Sam said, moving out of the kitchen and into the guest bedroom. He dug around in the bathroom closet for a second, vaguely aware of Natasha’s presence behind him, before he emerged with a slightly dusty flat iron.

He held the straightener up, triumphant, as Natasha rolled her eyes. Sam distantly thought that was the most emotion he’d ever seen her show.

“Why on earth do you have this?” Natasha asked as she took it from him. “You don’t exactly have long hair.”

“My sister accidentally left it when she visited me a few months ago and she told me not to bother mailing it to her.” He shrugged. “I figured it might be useful one day. Looks like I was right.” He grinned at her and she huffed back at him, the corner of her mouth turning upwards in a small smile. Natasha disappeared back into his bedroom (presumably to straighten her hair) and Sam returned to the kitchen to resume making breakfast. He had already finished the toast and was setting the table when he realized that he couldn’t get the image of Natasha smiling out of his head.

By the end of breakfast the three of them had discussed Sam joining them at length, as well as his work with the Falcon program. When they finished eating and no one made any move to get up and clear away the dishes, Sam started telling stories about his and Riley’s wartime shenanigans. Steve’s loud laugh and infectious smile absolutely lit up the room, and Sam felt his heart pang as he fell in love a little more. But what surprised him most was his own sudden desire to make Natasha laugh, and when he succeeded with a particularly ridiculous story he started falling for her too.

 

The next day when The Winter Soldier slammed his fist through the window of Sam’s car and tore the steering wheel right out of his hands, he honestly thought he was going to die. After seeing what the man did to Sitwell and Fury and everyone else he had hurt, Sam didn’t think there was any way he was getting out of this situation alive. But when Natasha threw herself on Steve to save him from a bullet to the head and shoved Sam out of the way with her feet to stop him from meeting the same fate, he thought he just might survive this after all.

 

After everything, Sam was surprised that Natasha was even still standing. She’d been shot by the Winter Soldier, shocked by Alexander Pierce’s technology, and forced to release all of S.H.I.E.L.D’s secrets onto the Internet. All of S.H.I.E.L.D’s secrets, all of Hydra’s secrets, and all of her own. When Natasha met Sam and Steve at Fury’s “grave,” he half expected her to look exhausted and worn down. After all, most of the United States wanted her arrested or worse for her work with the KGB. She was walking on a thin wire and she could hardly turn anywhere without being recognized. It was the exact opposite of her previous life, and anyone would be struggling to adjust.

But, of course, she looked as put-together as ever. Her eyeliner was sharp, her flaming hair was perfectly straight and swingy, and she was wearing what looked like a black leather pantsuit. Steve approached Natasha and they chatted for a moment, Natasha passing him manila file before pressing a kiss to his cheek.

Sam stared. This had to be a dream. The two most beautiful people on the planet, the two people Sam was more than a little in love with, were standing in front of him underneath the shade of a giant blossoming tree, so close that they shared breath. When Natasha pulled away from Steve with a smirk and Sam saw a blush creep up the back of Steve’s neck, he felt weak in the knees. What did he do to deserve this? And when Natasha turned to wink at him before sauntering away, he fell in love with her just a little more.

 

Sam and Steve went on a road trip to try and find The Winter Soldi – Bucky, Steve’s childhood friend - Sam had to remind himself. They were unsuccessful, as Sam had expected, but that didn’t make it hurt any less to see slumped line of Steve’s shoulders when he decided they should give up. Sam returned to D.C. fully expecting Steve to move back to New York now that S.H.I.E.L.D had fallen, but instead Steve moved in with him. Having Steve around all the time - wearing sweatpants and drinking Sam’s coffee in the morning – definitely did not help Sam’s infatuation. In fact, it made it much, much worse. Then, about a month later, Natasha showed up on their couch and never left. So Sam’s house became SamSteveNatasha’s house and before he even knew what was happening Sam was in a relationship with two superheroes. They fit together in a way that Sam had never experienced in a previous relationship and every day his love for the two of them grew stronger and stronger.

Sam and Steve would go on runs in the morning before Sam went to work, and they shared quiet moments together over steaming cups of coffee, the sunlight filtering in through the curtains. When Sam got home from work Steve was usually out training at the Avengers facility, but Natasha would be there waiting for him. They'd cook dinner together, Natasha being entirely unhelpful prancing around the kitchen stealing bites of chopped vegetables, but her bright smile made up for it. They fell into a comfortable routine, with only occasional threats drawing Steve and Natasha away to the Avengers, and Sam never felt happier or more loved in his life.

 

Then Ultron happened, and Sam spent every waking moment half-terrified that he would never see Steve or Natasha again. He tried to avoid watching the news – it only made him more anxious – but it was almost impossible. The violence in Sokovia was all anyone would talk about and every bit of information Sam heard from his colleagues at work or from strangers trying to make small talk made his heart clench. He hadn’t expected Steve or Natasha or any of the Avengers to be able to contact him while they were trying to subdue Ultron (he wasn’t an Avenger after all), but as the days ticked by with no news from anyone he grew more and more worried. And even when the media started broadcasting that Ultron was defeated, that Sokovia was utterly destroyed but safe from alien threats, even then, Sam couldn’t relax. He couldn’t take a deep breath, he couldn’t sleep, he couldn’t function properly until he knew for certain that Steve and Natasha were safe.

 

Three days after the defeat of Ultron they showed up at Sam’s door. Natasha had a scrape on her forehead and a bruise painted across her cheekbone and Steve looked worn out but there they were, alive. Before they could say anything Sam pulled them into a bone-crushing hug. He clutched them desperately for a second, allowing himself this moment of weakness, before he pulled back. He didn’t ask them not to endanger themselves like that again because this was their job, he knew that, but he wished he could. God, he wished he could. When they had sex that night, it was slow and sweet and desperate. Sam rode Steve like it was the last thing he would ever do and he ate Natasha out so carefully and reverently that she came apart at the seams. Afterwards they lay there together on the bed, panting and sweaty and tangled up in each other so tightly that nothing could have separated them.

 

Because of Barton’s retirement and Banner’s disappearance, the Avengers were a little short staffed. Sam knew this, and he knew it was up to Steve and Natasha and the other members to fill the spots. But he didn’t except the two of them to ask him to join the team. They expected him to want a few days to decide, but it took him all of two minutes to accept the offer. He’d do anything to get back in the game, to be close to Steve and Natasha, and to be able to have their backs in the field.

 

And then the UN conference in Vienna happened, and Bucky Barnes’ name and face were suddenly plastered across the news. Sam wasn’t sure how to act around Steve, or how to help him, or how to comfort him. When they were chasing Bucky across the country after the collapse of S.H.I.E.L.D, Steve’s sole emotion was determination. He’d pushed everything else into the back of his mind; his overwhelming anger at Hydra, his desperation, his crushing love for Bucky. Yes - his love for Bucky. Steve tried to hide it, but it was written plainly across his face every time Barnes’s name was mentioned. The flash of guilt, the shadow of pain. Steve had been in love with Bucky Barnes since he was a bruised, skinny kid in Brooklyn, and seeing him accused of killing so many world leaders at the UN conference drove Steve back into a mindless determination. He was going to find Bucky, protect him from those trying to capture or kill him, and he was going to figure out what the hell was going on. And because he went wherever Steve went, Sam was going to do his damnedest to help.

 

The three of them pretended it didn’t, but Natasha joining Tony and the new governmentally regulated Avengers put a strain on their relationship. Sam completely understood her reasoning; it was good for someone still loyal to Steve and the Avengers’ old ways to be close to the situation, and she had worked for an organization or government for her entire life – she wasn’t sure how to be a spy or a superhero or whatever she was without one. But being apart from her and seeing her publicly support Tony and his “Bucky hunt” hurt Steve more than he let show. They both knew that she wouldn’t ever purposely hurt either of them and that she was only doing what she thought was best to mediate the situation and keep everyone safe, but it still hurt.

 

And then time passed like a whirlwind. Steve and Sam were brought in, Bucky was captured, and then his brain was twisted and pulled and The Winter Soldier pushed Bucky Barnes out of his own mind. He smashed through walls, trained guards, assassins, and super soldiers alike and he almost got away. But Steve, trusting, determined, loyal Steve, wasn’t going to let Bucky out of his sight again, especially in this state. So he dragged Bucky back to the ground from the helicopter and him and Sam carted an unconscious Winter Soldier off to an abandoned warehouse to wait it out.

When he finally woke up, Sam was surprised by the regret and pain behind Bucky’s eyes and the slouched, burdened line of his shoulders. And when Steve told Bucky what happened, he impossibly seemed to sink into himself a little more. And that was when Sam realized that this man - this broken man – just wanted all of this shit to end. He looked exhausted, and defeated, and like he just wanted to be able to trust himself and for others to trust him. And in that moment Sam’s heart clenched just a little, and he felt so much emotion for the ex-Winter Soldier that he had to turn away. And that was when Sam Wilson fell a little bit in love with Bucky Barnes.

 

As quickly as the Civil War seemed to have started, it ended. Steve broke Sam, Clint, Scott, and Wanda out of The Raft and the five of them (plus Bucky and Natasha) ended up confronting Tony about the Sokovia Accords and his plan for the Avengers. They managed to come to a reasonable agreement with the U.S. government that allowed them to have a decent amount of freedom and say in where they got to go as a team and who they were allowed to help, and an uneasy deal was struck between the two groups. They were allowed to return to their secret Avengers facility and train together, and T’Challa graciously offered to send some of his best psychiatrists and doctors over from Wakanda to help Bucky.

“It is the least I can do after hunting and wrongfully trying to kill Mr. Barnes,” he admitted to Steve over Skype with an apologetic smile.

When Bucky suggested wanting to go back under the ice, Steve almost had a heart attack. Nat and Sam had to very calmly suggest that they talk this through before making any rash decisions and after a three hour conversation during which everyone cried, Bucky and Steve shared their first kiss since Bucky fell, Bucky and Natasha shared their first kiss since the Red Room and Sam kissed his second super soldier ever, they decided that Bucky wouldn’t go back into the cryogenic chamber after all.

 

Months passed and everything settled once again into a comfortable routine. Sam woke up on an average Thursday morning pressed close to Steve’s chest with Natasha curled against his back and Bucky’s metal arm resting on his shoulder and he couldn’t have been more content. He carefully extracted himself from in between Natasha and Steve and crept into the bathroom to get dressed for his run. By the time he arrived in the living room, Steve was sitting on the couch tying his running shoes. Sam loved this part of their morning routine, and he kissed Steve gently on the forehead before they began their jog around the Avengers facility.

When they got back about an hour later, Bucky was frying bacon in a pan and Natasha was unsuccessfully trying to steal the bits of finished bacon from the plate next to the stove. The air smelled like coffee and Bucky’s expensive shampoo and Sam breathed in deeply. It smelled like home.

They ate breakfast together, bickering affectionately and stealing food off of each other’s plates. Natasha’s hair was still fluffy from sleep and after Sam finished eating he grabbed her hairbrush and a couple ties from the bedroom and started working. Natasha went boneless almost immediately when Sam started brushing, and he smiled as he manipulated her silky red hair into a French braid. Bucky gave him puppy dog eyes when he finished Natasha’s braid, so Sam rolled his eyes and started running his fingers through Bucky’s hair. When he finished Bucky and Nat had matching French braids and Steve almost died from the cuteness when he came back from cleaning up in the kitchen.

They didn’t have team training until later that day and no one felt much like working out or doing anything, so they curled up together on the squashy couch in the living room and played video games for hours. Natasha kept accusing Bucky of cheating, claiming that his metal arm gave him an advantage, and when he stopped using his left hand and still beat her, she didn't talk to him for a solid twenty minutes. Steve, who was surprisingly terrible at video games, spent his time sketching while the rest of them yelled at each other and wrestled for the controls. When it was Bucky and Natasha’s turn to play, Sam sat at the end of the couch, fondly watching his family.

He loved the way Steve’s brow furrowed and the way his eyes squinted slightly when he was trying to get his drawing just right. He loved the way Natasha laughed with her whole body – the way she let all of herself shine through when she was with them. He loved the way Bucky stroked Natasha’s hair with his metal arm and was relaxed and calm and happy in a way that he hadn’t been able to be two or three months ago. He loved them, all of them, and they loved him. His family.