Holding Fast

by Dira Sudis

Notes:
Thanks to fluffydeath for beta! Title is from Vienna Teng's "Atheist Christmas Carol."

Written for count-the-stars in the Sam/Steve Gift Exchange.


For a long time, it was the furthest thing from Sam's mind. During the endless days of imprisonment, he only thought about how to survive and keep the team together, biding his time until rescue or release or a chance at escape turned up.

He let himself think about Steve for a few minutes at the beginning of each of the arbitrary periods of darkness that served for a night aboard the Raft. When he did, he let himself think of Steve's hands on him, Steve's kisses, and the promises Steve had never had to put into words. I'm here with you. You matter to me. If I have to leave you I will always come back for you. I will not forget you.

A few minutes of that, and no more. Sam had to stay sane. He had to stay alive. He had to be strong for the others, had to keep up a solid front before the guards. After Tony Stark came and went, Sam didn't let himself even try to count the hours or days. He didn't let himself wonder what Steve was doing, if Tony had been telling the truth, if the information Sam gave him had been enough.

If Steve was never coming back, their captors wouldn't waste any time in telling them. And if Steve wasn't dead, he was coming for them. Sam knew that. He didn't need to think about why; he just had to know.

And then he didn't have to keep holding on to that knowledge, because Steve was stepping out of the darkness and silence that had followed a brief flash of alarms and emergency lights. He smiled, and Sam felt the bruises on his face pull as he smiled back.

Even then he didn't think of what this might change, even though there was a special, secret kind of familiarity in smiling at Steve over a fresh set of bruises.

He helped Steve get the others out, freeing Wanda from the straitjacket and yanking out the IVs, half-carrying her as they made the run for the Quinjet. Bucky was in the pilot's seat and Clint took the co-pilot's spot, so after they were safely in the air and everyone was settled in and secured, Sam had Steve by his side. It didn't take long before leaning into each other turned into a long, sweet kiss, and then another, and then--

"Whoa, guys, I don't know if Wanda's old enough to see this," Scott piped up. "I'm pretty sure I'm not."

"Shut the hell up, Tic Tac," Sam muttered, but he leaned his bruised face against Steve's shoulder. It still didn't occur to him, even then, that the way it felt familiar--the way it felt good, that low ache that sharpened a little with every tiny move either of them made--was something he had to think about.

When they got to Wakanda, and could get enough privacy to have sex, there still wasn't much time. They got each other off, kissing and clutching, while they shared their first shower in their guest quarters. The next time was in bed that night after Steve told Sam about Bucky's choice and Sam told Steve a little about those days in the Raft; that was a little slower but basically the same. They held on tight to each other, moving with too much blind desperation to think beyond skin and friction and heat.

It was only days later that it became obvious that the worst of the crisis had passed. The work they were doing now was shaping what their normal lives would look like from here on out. Steve was meeting with T'Challa and writing a lot of letters--actual letters, on paper, by hand. Bucky was in cryo. Wanda was resting, recovering, soaking up sunshine while she waited for her powers to bounce back from the combination of drug withdrawal and trauma. Clint or Scott stayed near her whenever Sam or Steve couldn't, and they all did their share of resting and recovering in between working with Wakandan lawyers and diplomats on sorting out their legal status.

Sam knew where all of them were at all times. He did everything he could to support Steve--sat in on plenty of the meetings with T'Challa, keeping up on the plans for their future and contributing what a regular human guy could to the discussion, which wasn't nothing. He talked to the lawyers, and wrote letters to his mom and sister to go off in the diplomatic pouch with Steve's stack of epistles and the messages for Clint and Scott's families.

Sam stayed On Top of Things, and he knew he was doing it almost from the beginning. He knew he was still trying to get his team through safely even though they were already safe. It was an impulse that got the better of him sometimes even under normal circumstances, and it was no surprise that it came out now.

It was all right. It was only a little bit pathological, and he could ask Steve to take charge as soon as they had some time free.

That was when it finally hit him. They'd been in Wakanda a week, and Sam was watching Steve write letters while they both ate from a tray that had been sent for them. Wanda was in the courtyard with Clint, where Sam could see them from the balcony if he looked; Scott was meeting with a diplomatic aide, hopeful that he might get to Skype with his daughter if his last letter had gotten through in a timely fashion.

Sam felt the edgy tension in his shoulders and calculated whether there was time to play, among the rest of the evening's demands. He thought about what they could use, since all of their toys were still in a certain duffle bag back in Sam's apartment at the Avengers Compound. He would miss his favorite fleece-lined blindfold, but Steve could improvise with a shirt or--

Sam froze. A sharp, cold bite of panic hit him at the thought of having his wrists secured, his eyes covered. Being on his knees, being hit without fighting back.

No, no, no.

"Hey." Steve's voice was pitched low, warm and closer than Sam expected. Steve's hand settled over his where Sam had it pressed flat to the tabletop; Steve had come around the table to kneel next to him. Sam glanced automatically toward the papers; they were all safe, but he'd dropped his pen on his plate and his chair was pushed back at an untidy angle.

"Sam, come on, you know this better than I do," Steve said softly. "Take a breath in for me, honey."

Sam let out a frustrated noise--the panic wasn't the problem, the problem was the problem--but his throat was too tight to speak. All the anxious busy tension in his body had clamped down at once. He needed Steve to make him let go and he couldn't let Steve make him do anything and he had to calm the fuck down so he could tell Steve that.

Steve rubbed his hand over the back of Sam's, leaning his forehead against Sam's shoulder.

Sam squeezed his eyes shut and curled to the side, resting his forehead against the softness of Steve's hair.

Steve tilted his head enough that they were both breathing into the same tight little space between their bodies. "Come on, Sam. Breathe in, follow me."

That worked, like always; following Steve was the one thing that cut through every other bit of bullshit his brain pulled on him. Sam breathed in and out, letting Steve count and coax until Sam was curled down into his arms.

"There you go," Steve murmured, pressing kisses to his temple and cheek. "I haven't been paying attention, have I? You need me to be in charge tonight, Sam?"

Sam sucked in a shaky breath. "I want--" his voice got away from him, trailing off to nothing. Steve shushed softly and tugged Sam down to the floor so he could slump against Steve's chest without contorting himself.

He flinched after he was already safely in Steve's arms, and Steve went still around him. "Sam?"

"That's," Sam squeezed his eyes shut. "I was thinking about it. But I can't, Steve. Not--not like we--they put a bag over my head, man. They had me in shackles, knocked me around, and now I can't--"

Steve moved a little, getting comfortable with Sam held firmly in his arms. Sam couldn't help holding himself tight, but he realized after a second that he was anticipating the panic coming back; he wasn't actually scared right now, not of Steve holding him like this. He took another careful breath and managed to relax enough to rest his head against Steve's shoulder.

"Okay," Steve murmured, as if there had been no pause at all. "So we have some new limits to work with. No hard restraints, no blindfolds. No impact. That doesn't mean I can't take charge, does it?"

Sam shrugged stiffly, then tried to make his shoulders relax as well. "I just--I don't know if... If I can get there, if you're gonna go easy on me."

"Oh, I didn't say anything about easy." Steve's voice took on that low teasing tone that sent Sam's blood rushing south. He felt himself unbend a little more just hearing it, but he still couldn't see how it was going to work, really work, if Steve didn't make him.

"Come on, Sam," Steve added, his voice turning a little sterner. "You really think I need toys to get you where I want you? You think I can't figure out a way around a roadblock?"

That was challenge accepted Steve. There was no way out of this but through, now. Sam tried to keep the delighted eagerness out of his voice as he muttered, "Oh, shit."

"Sass all you want," Steve said, standing up under Sam like it was nothing, lifting him right into the air. "You're all mine now, Sam. I'm gonna take good care of you."

Sam opened the eye that wasn't hidden against Steve's shoulder as Steve carried him over to the bed. "This isn't gonna involve rose petals and ca--" Steve dumped him unceremoniously onto the bed and turned away, and all the joking went out of Sam's voice as he sat bolt upright. "Don't."

Steve turned back to face him, only a yard away, with a startled look that made Sam clutch at the covers. He wasn't supposed to be able to surprise Steve, dammit. Steve was supposed to know, to handle everything.

Sam quashed that stupid, unhelpful thought, and said more calmly, though his hands were still clutching tight at the covers, "Sorry, just. Don't leave me alone. That's a limit."

Steve's expression softened, and he came back to the bed, pushing Sam down to lie on his back and getting down on all fours to kiss him while barely touching otherwise. "Got it. Anything else you can think of?"

Sam shook his head. "Probably just gonna stumble into it and say ow if there's something else. Sorry."

Steve smiled. "I'll take my chances if you will. And speaking of saying ow..."

Sam twitched a little, then rolled his eyes as Steve's mouth attached to his throat, sucking hard. "I'm not gonna say--"

Steve's teeth dug in, pinching enough to make his breath catch, and then he went back to that fierce, stinging suction. Sam couldn't help squirming a little, thinking of the ways Steve had left marks on him before. Nothing like this; this was kid stuff.

But when Steve lifted his head and pressed against the spot, it ached just like a bruise, and Sam's eyelids fluttered.

"Just another way to get there," Steve murmured. "Don't have to hit you to leave a mark on you the way you like, and I don't have to tie you up and cover your eyes to make you know you're mine. Do I?"

"No, sir," Sam said automatically, then added, "You gonna just dom me through inspiring speeches, then?"

Steve raised an eyebrow. "You saying you think I couldn't?"

Sam licked his lips and shook his head slightly. He raised his fingers to press against the hickey on his neck, still damp from Steve's mouth and hot with the rush of blood under the skin.

"Good," Steve said. "Because I'd probably have to stand up to really get the tone right, and I don't want to move you off the bed right now."

"Yeah," Sam agreed. The mental image was surprisingly clear. "Yeah, okay."

"Give me your hands," Steve said, kneeling up. Sam was bracing himself again, but he did it. He trusted Steve.

Steve took each of Sam's hands in his, palm to palm and fingers interlaced. "Now, come here for me..."

Steve tugged Sam up the bed by his hands, guiding with his knees on either side of Sam's body until Sam was grinning and shaking his head at the unnecessary clumsiness of it. "I didn't mean you had to stay physically attached to me every second, Rogers."

"Well, where's the challenge in that?" Steve replied, grinning right back. He leaned down, pressing both of Sam's hands to the mattress above his head. "This okay?"

"So far," Sam agreed.

"Gonna be good for me?" Steve asked, moving lower over him, settling some of his weight on top of Sam, his face a breath away but not making contact yet. "Gonna let me take good care of you?"

Sam closed his eyes and nodded.

"Tell me, Sam," Steve prompted, his lips brushing Sam's ear.

"Yes, sir," Sam agreed. It wasn't anything like saying it to anyone else. Steve's warm weight holding him against the soft bed wasn't like any other kind of restraint. "Yes."

"Good," Steve murmured. "Then that's all we need."

Steve kissed him then, and kept kissing him, controlling every second. Sam only had to open up and let him. Steve's hands kept pressing his down, and Steve stayed heavy and solid on top of him, rocking into him a little from time to time. Any time Sam tried to push up against him Steve pressed him down, reminding him that they weren't just lying around and making out--although it wasn't like they took the time to do that often, either.

But this was different. This was Steve taking charge. And it was true; it wasn't as fast and dramatic as the other ways they played, but the longer he lay there, just letting himself be held down and kissed, the more Sam could feel himself slipping into that place where he let Steve handle everything. The tension ebbed from his body bit by bit. Every time Steve's hands tightened on his he felt himself letting go a little more.

Steve ended a kiss by biting down hard on Sam's lower lip, making him gasp. He lay still as Steve's teeth dug in, panting through the startling pain. Sam's eyes closed as the hurting turned sweet.

"Good," Steve murmured, licking over his bitten lip. "That's perfect, honey, you're being so good for me. Here, bring your hands together for me."

Steve guided their hands close together, and then he tugged his fingers free of Sam's and closed his hands around Sam's. Sam laced his own fingers together like he was praying, and Steve kissed him softly again. "That's right. You're gonna hold on to your hands for me, and I'm gonna get on with taking good care of you, how's that."

Sam nodded. Steve kissed the bridge of his nose, and Steve's hands ran down warmly over his arms and down his sides to the hem of his shirt. He tugged it up so quickly that Sam felt the burn of friction all up his back, but by the time he registered what was happening the shirt was already up over his head, puddling loosely around his wrists.

"You need it all the way off?" Steve asked, nuzzling at his temple. "Or you wanna keep holding on to your hands for me?"

"Okay," Sam mumbled, squeezing his own hands tight. The fabric around his arms was soft and loose, nothing bad. His face was uncovered, he could breathe easily enough.

"Good," Steve agreed. "You tell me if you need it off, honey."

Sam nodded, raking his teeth over the hot soreness of his lip. Steve kissed him again, harder and hotter this time, his hands on the back of Sam's upper arms, pressing them down to the bed. When Steve's teeth just touched his sore lip, Sam cried out against his mouth, pushing up under him. He wasn't trying to get away this time, just trying to get more.

Steve's body came down hard on top of his, and he could feel the hot press of Steve's cock through their clothes.

"Uh-uh," Steve murmured. "Everything else you get when I decide you need it, not before."

Sam whined softly, helplessly, but Steve was already moving lower. He bit down on the spot where he'd already left a hickey on Sam's throat, his teeth digging in to add a sharper, deeper pain to that first playful mark. His hands stroked down over Sam's chest, his thumbs circling Sam's nipples. His weight was on Sam's pelvis now, his ass grinding down firmly against Sam's dick, but Sam knew better than to push up into that sweet friction even if he couldn't help squirming as the pain of Steve's bite dragged on.

"That's it," Steve murmured when he finally let up, licking softly over Sam's throbbing skin. "That's good. You're so good for me, honey, you're taking it so sweet."

"Oh, were you givin' me something?" Sam managed, the words coming out a little loose and slurred around his sore lip and the molasses-slowness of his thoughts. "Didn't feel a thing."

Steve huffed against his chest and bit down just above one nipple, making Sam gasp and moan. Steve's thumb kept on sweetly teasing an inch away from the hard, relentless hurt that was so perfectly what Sam needed to surrender himself. He started making little high-pitched sounds, more urgent the longer Steve kept it up, and when Steve finally let him go Sam cut off with a startled gasp, his fingers digging in tighter against his own hands.

Steve moved lower down Sam's chest and belly, kissing and licking and every so often digging his teeth in and flooding Sam's senses with that sweet, hard pain that couldn't be confused with anything else. No one else had ever taken him apart like this. Nothing else had ever been like this. He couldn't remember anything outside this moment, anything but Steve's touch.

He gasped when his pants and underwear were tugged down, his achingly hard cock bobbing up. Sam opened his eyes, realizing for the first time that they'd been closed, just in time to see Steve's head dipping down. He still let out a sharp sound at the touch of Steve's tongue, the pleasure of it as startling as pain. Steve's mouth closed over the tip of his cock and stayed there, sucking softly, the same way Steve's teeth had closed on his flesh.

Sam squeezed his eyes shut again, gasping out little sounds as he gave himself up to whatever Steve wanted to do with him.

"That's it, honey," Steve murmured, and Sam had barely had time to register that Steve's mouth wasn't on his cock anymore when Steve's teeth dug in on the inside of his thigh.

Sam let out a sharp cry, the loudest yet, and Steve let up and kissed the spot, then went back to his cock, licking up the hard length. His hands were on Sam's hips, holding him steady--holding him down, but Sam hardly registered that at all. He was lost in the sensations Steve was giving him, a storm of pleasure and pain, one after the other until he couldn't think at all.

It seemed to go on forever, and then Sam was crying out again, not in pain but pleasure.

"Steve, Steve, I--"

Steve's mouth vanished from his cock, and Steve's body stretched over his. Steve pulled the shirt free of his arms and drew Sam's hands down, and Sam clung to Steve as Steve kissed him. Steve's hand closed on his cock, and Sam's mouth fell open as he came, pleasure sweeping his body and leaving him limp and breathless when the crest finally passed.

Steve rested more heavily on him, his kisses turning softer.

Sam squirmed under him, feeling the hard press of Steve's cock. "You gonna do something about that, man?"

"Mm, probably should, I guess," Steve murmured, a hint of a tease in his voice. Sam smiled a little, feeling too lazy and good to do more than that.

"Won't take a minute," Steve murmured, lifting up a little but still close, his lips dragging gently against Sam's as he jerked himself off between them. Sam's eyes were closed, but he listened to the hurry of slick sounds and parted his lips for Steve's darting kisses. Before too long Steve exhaled a long sigh against his temple and came, the wetness of it pattering down on Sam's skin.

Steve settled back down on top of him, and Sam wrinkled his nose because that was the routine.

"Sorry, honey," Steve said, sounding as unapologetic as ever as he pressed a quick kiss to the tip of Sam's nose. "We'll have a shower in a minute. Just want you to relax a little longer with me, all right?"

Sam nodded. He was in no hurry to leave this drifting place, cozy and close with Steve, with nothing else in the world that he had to worry about. He flexed his fingers, relaxing his grip on Steve just slightly. "Yeah. I guess I can do that."

"I never doubted it," Steve murmured, and Sam couldn't help smiling wider than he had in weeks.