- Dark Themes
- Canon Divergent
Sam hated that the change to his and James relationship now. Everything had additional meaning now, had the potential for misunderstanding. He could not help but resent Shuri, Ayo and Nareema somewhat. Which was stupid, of course, they had been right to tell them what was happening to them. It might be because James was struggling the most of the two of them. He seesawed between seeking the closeness they had shared before the revelation and keeping his distance. It broke Sam’s heart to see it. At least the three women understood and had kept their distance.
Bucky spent more time away from their rooms now, working not just on repairing the damage HYDRA had done to his mind but also learning the full range of his senses now and how to control them. Meanwhile he was reading all the information on Sentinels and Guides, especially on bonding, that he could get his hands on. They could not deny that there was attraction between them, that be thought of James as his Sentinel.
Not that all that reading had been overly helpful. All sources he had been given seemed to agree that a bond was vastly preferable and easier than trying to control it on their own and that the bond was formed through shared intimacy. But that made no sense to him. James could hardly be the first asexual Sentinel. Surely there had been others or other Sentinels with no sexually compatible Guide around. What had happened then?
He closed the folder with a sigh. This was the last information they had been given. Still nothing useful. He wished they were not fugitives, that they could reach out to the experts on Sentinels and Guides who were working with the UN, the experts who unfortunately happened to live in the US.
But he was not going to give up. James deserved better than to have to make do without or, worse, to have to suffer through sex with a Guide against his will. He just needed more information.
It was what finally made him seek out Nareema. Shuri would have been far easier to find, perhaps, but he would rather not bring up sex in a conversation with a 16-year-old.
“Do you have any further information?” he asked.
She shook her head. “We have given you both the accounts we have from back when there were Sentinels and Guides in Wakanda and what we have been given through the UN.”
He slumped, disappointed yet not surprised.
He perked up.
“However I can ask among our neighbouring countries. There have been Sentinels and Guides coming online there for generations, though the hid the extent of their abilities from the general public. We can reach out to them, ask if any of them would be willing to answer your questions.”
“We would be very grateful.”
James hated it. He hated leaving the lab after the sessions and not finding Sam waiting for him. He had been the one to suggest that it was not necessary, that Sam could spend the time researching. And no matter how much he hated it, he needed to get used to it, used to making do without Sam. If they could not bond, sooner of later another Sentinel would show interest in Sam. And why would Sam stay when he could not offer him a true bond, a true partnership?
Perhaps they would at least be able to salvage their fledgling friendship. Sam certainly seemed to want to keep it going. After dinner, he kept insisting that they sit down together and take a look at resources on asexuality online. James had been surprised to see that there truly were others like him, others who wanted love, who wanted a romantic relationship, yet had no interest in having sex.
“You see? There is nothing wrong with you. You are not defective,” Sam kept insisting.
Perhaps it would not have been a problem if he weren’t a Sentinel. But surely there must a mistake in his case. Why would the Winter Soldier, a serial killer, come online as a Sentinel? Why would someone incapable of bonding come online? If not defective, then that had to at least be a mistake.
Sam sat down across from the man and the woman, then inclined his head slowly. “Thank you for agreeing to come and answer my questions.”
“Not at all,” (NAME1) said. “We understand that it is hard for those who are now suddenly coming online, with no prior knowledge that we even existed. We are glad to help.”
“From what I understand you have questions regarding the bond,” (NAME), his Guide and wife said.
“I do, yes. It’s about… well, about how you form it, if there’s a certain ritual.”
“There is no one set ritual, no,” (NAME1) said. “Then again, the bond is also something that has to be nurtured.”
(NAME2) nodded in agreement. “You don’t just come together once and then go your own way again. It’s a process. Some might need to share intimacies regularly before the bond forms, others might be able to form one sooner. There is not one right or wrong way.”
“Regularly?” Sam did not like the sound of it, not for James. The idea of him forcing himself through one encounter had him homicidal already. His having to do it repeatedly, regularly… He hardly knew how to contain his fury. Hadn’t he been through enough? “You have to have regular… you have to share intimacies repeatedly?”
“Yes,” (NAME2) confirmed. “The kind of intimacies a pair share vary of course depending on their preference, mood or circumstances.”
If it could vary, then surely there had to be a way for him and James to bond, or for James to bond with another Guide, if he preferred, a way that did not involve James having being raped. Fate could not be that cruel to him.
(NAME1) smiled at his wife. “I am rather partial to our little ritual after dinner, when we’re surrounded by those who are part of our territory, of our tribe.”
Sam reared back. “You have sex in front of an audience?” He really hoped that was not mandatory.
They straightened up, looking just as shocked. “Of course not.”
“We would never…” (NAME1) shook his head. “There are those who might enjoy exhibitionism but we don’t.”
“But you said that you are one ritual you do among others.”
“We do, yes, but we don’t have sex there.” (NAME1) sounded scandalized.
(NAME2) rested her hand on his arm. “Not least because Sentinels tend to be far too territorial where their Guides are concerned to consider it.”
Sam shook his head. “Wait, I don’t understand. You said that you regularly share intimacies and then talked about that ritual.”
“Yes but that doesn’t mean it’s sexual,” (NAME1) said.
Her eyes widened suddenly. “Oh.” She looked right at him. “You did understand that intimacies is not a euphemism for sex, right?”
“It’s… it’s not?”
“No. No, not at all. Sharing intimacies, it’s about opening up to your partner, it’s about forming a connection.”
“You know how you can have sex without someone without really connecting with them as a person?” (NAME1) asked. “The same applies between a Sentinel and a Guide. They can have sex but if they don’t connect during the act, if they don’t let the other in, there won’t be a bond.”
Sam groaned. He was so stupid. “So if a Sentinel or a Guide can’t or doesn’t want to have sex…”
They shrugged. “Then they don’t.”
“Many find it easier to connect during sex,” (NAME2) said, “but that’s because it’s often the easiest of intimacies for two adults to share. Especially men.”
That certainly fit with his own experience and observations. “Would you mind telling me what your ritual is?”
(NAME1)’s smile at his wife was full of love and affection for her. “We sit close and I get to shut out everything around us for a few moments while our friend and family keep watch. Instead I focus all my senses on her, on the comfort she offers me.”
She leaned against him. “And I get to surround myself with his emotions. Nothing but his love and sense of safety.”
“That sounds beautiful,” Sam said softly.
“It is. It feels…” He sighed contently. “
“I believe I get what you mean.” Sam smiled at them. “Thank you. For answering my questions. For explaining.”
“We are staying a few days,” (NAME1) added, “perhaps you can introduce us to your Sentinel before we leave?”
“I certainly hope so.”
James just could not settle. Sam wasn’t there. Even now that he was not longer picking him up after his sessions, he always made sure to be there in their living room when he got back, in case he needed or wanted to talk. But he wasn’t here. His hand tug into his thigh. Twenty minutes already and no sign of him. His breathing picked up as all the possible scenarios flashing through his mind. He knew that Sam wasn’t helpless, of course. He’d seen that in Washington. (Why was Sam even willing to be friends with him, after he’d almost killed him more than once back then?) Surely Shuri would have mentioned if something was wrong. (Would they really trust the Winter Soldier with such delicate information?)
He needed to calm down. His control over his senses was always worse if he was agitated. After just a moment’s hesitation, he slipped into Sam’s room and snatched his pillow, then quickly retreated into his own room. He laid down on his bed and pulled the weighted blanket up over his shoulders, then burrowed his face in Sam’s pillow. It would be even better if he could hear his heartbeat but it helped some, at least. Certainly enough for his stomach and breathing to settle.
He would have to give that habit up soon, he knew. Whichever Sentinel Sam bonded with would certainly not want another Sentinel using him as focus. But just for now, he allowed himself to breath deep, enjoying Sam’s scent.
He startled. He’d been so lost in the scent that he had not noticed Sam’s return. He stared down at the pillow in his arms, trying to come up with a way to return it and to hide it in the meantime.
“James?” There was a knock and the door.
James quickly pushed the pillow under the blanket. “Yes?”
Sam opened the door, the stopped and looked at him for a moment. “Hey,” he said gently. “Bad session?”
James shrugged. “There have been worse.” He did not want to admit that it had not been the session but his not being there that had set him off.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t here.” Sam sat down on the edge of the bed. He smiled. “But I have good news. I talked to a bonded Sentinel and Guide pair about bonding. Seems we all misunderstood something.”
James listened to him recount his conversation with them. It sounded too good to be true. He could have it? He could really have a bond? Without having to have sex?
“So I guess the question now is what you want,” Sam finished. “Do you want a bond? A bond between the two of us?”
James shifted so he could see Sam’s face better. “I should be asking you. You know that I can’t… that I won’t ever want sex with you. Can you live with that?”
Sam shrugged. “I have a working hand.” He smirked. “Two even.”
James poked him in the side. “Asshole.”
Sam’s expression softened again. “But seriously, I want this bond. I want it more than I want sex. I want you, you and this life you won’t admit to yourself you’re planning here. With the kids and the goats.”
“You don’t want to return to the US, to being a superhero?”
He sighed. “No, I have enough of the superhero life. And not just because I don’t think my job or the Air Force will take me back. After everything that happened, after what still awaits us… I think you have the right idea. A fresh start, a new life, without all that.” He waved a hand in the direction his first room here in Wakanda had been in.
“So a new life here, if T’Challa agrees and if we survive the fight?”
“When we survive,” Sam corrected.
“When,” James repeated obediently. They couldn’t know, no one could, but for the first time in a while, he wanted to survive. He wanted to get the opportunity to build that life with Sam. “What do we have to do?”
Sam pointed at the bed. “May I join you?”
James nodded. Only too late did he remember the pillow. He felt his cheeks burn when Sam pulled back the blanket and saw it laying there.
Sam looked startled for a moment, then he smiled. “I think we are already more than halfway there. Just… let go. Reach back to me.” He shifted closer slowly. “Okay?”
“Okay.” James’ eyes drifted close when Sam leaned their foreheads together, relishing the closeness. He was torn between staying still and leaning into Sam’s hand when he started running his fingers through his hair. It took him a moment but then he allowed himself to loosen his tight grip on his senses. He could smell Sam, stronger than the pillow had been and even more soothing. He could hear Sam’s heartbeat, steady but also a bit quicker. He playfully nudged their noses together, surprised to find himself enjoying the intimate contact.
Then he suddenly felt as if Sam’s presence intensified, as if he was somehow reaching for him. He pressed into the sensation, this strange awareness. He sighed softly, feeling and hearing Sam echo it, when something settled between them. He smiled, settling in the enjoy the feeling.