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Between the Days for Years

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Sam likes grocery shopping, even though now that they live in the Tower it's no longer technically necessary. But Sam likes choosing produce, he likes seeing the food in front of him and planning his meals out for the week. And he likes getting his own things instead of relying on an annoying billionaire to do it for him, so he likes grocery shopping.

Bucky does not like grocery shopping. Bucky does, however, like closely following Sam during every waking hour whenever possible, and so they're both at the grocery store when they hear the crash of breaking glass.

Before Sam can react, Bucky has thrown him so that his back is pressed against a shelf and his chest is pressed against Bucky's back, covered on all sides. Bucky has a gun drawn and Sam is staring at the gun.

"…You're not supposed to have that," he says. "And also, let go of me, you drama queen."

The crash was simply somebody dropping a jar, causing a loud but harmless mess.

Bucky grudgingly lets Sam go and disappears his gun somewhere without further comment. Sam mouths 'we'll talk about this later' at him.

Meanwhile, the guy who dropped the jar says "Sam! I can't believe it's you!"

Bucky tenses up all over again, but in a completely different way.

"Sorry about the…" he waves at the broken glass and sticky strawberry jam all over the linoleum. "I was surprised to run into you so I kind of jumped. It's been years, I thought for sure I'd never see you again!" jar guy continues, walking closer like he's missing the basic survival instincts of every mammal on earth and can't tell that Bucky is emanating danger.

"Hi, um…Connor, right?"

"Yeah! I can't believe you remember me!"

"Yeah, man, how's it going?"

"Things are good, really good. Just got out of a relationship that was bumming me out, so, you know…I'm all wild and free now."

Sam isn't exactly oblivious to the implication he's throwing out there. He carefully says, "I'm out of the dating game myself, but I'm glad you're enjoying yourself."

Connor either doesn't take the hint or deliberately ignores it. "We should get a drink sometime. You know, to catch up and stuff?"

"You know, I'm pretty busy these days, I don't think—"

"Sam has to go now," Bucky interrupts firmly, clamping both hands around Sam's arms and steering him away.

"Okay, well, call me if you get the chance!" Connor yells after them.

Sam waves while Bucky mutters, "Should've let me shoot him."

"He's not one of the bad ones," Sam hisses back. "We only went out a few times, I barely know him, but he was always really nice."

Bucky narrows his eyes. "I'm telling Steve about this."

"Yeah, well I'm telling him you brought a gun out to the grocery store, so let's see who he makes his constipated face at first."

As they retreat, the overhead PA system calls for clean up in aisle three.

*

"Hey Cap," Tony says, "You know how you're always saying you wish you had an excuse to see Bali?"

"I have never said that in my life."

"Well good news! You're going to Bali! All of you are," Tony says, indicating that Sam, Bucky, and Natasha would be joining Steve.

It's a reconnaissance mission to a secluded beach in Jembrana, where escaped agents of Hydra are possibly trying to begin building a new secret base. Their job is to go undercover to confirm whether their new intel source is accurate, and to nip the problem in the bud if it is.

"I figured you would be thrilled with this assignment, since you keep not very subtly complaining about how much you hate being in New York."

"I haven't been complaining…" Sam trails off as he takes in all of Steve's facial tells that telegraph guilt. Bucky's face is totally impassive. Too totally impassive. Sam knows they both grew up in this city, have all sorts of positive feelings attached to it. He can only assume they've been complaining about a specific aspect of New York, perhaps one relating to his own history here.

"I love New York," Natasha chimes in brightly.

Steve and Bucky both pretend to be suddenly and very deeply engaged in reading the mission file, escaping Sam's narrowed gaze.

Twenty-four hours later, they're standing near the Rambut Siwi Temple, trying like hell to look like casual tourists definitely not armed to the teeth. Sam has a non-descript ball cap jammed firmly on his head. Steve's blank white t-shirt screams neutrality. Bucky's black hoodie isn't the most convincing in the Indonesian heat, but the sleeves do cover up his murder arm.

Natasha has flowers in her hair, and she mutters something about how she's the only one even trying.

Sam pushes his sunglasses up and reads a pamphlet about all the symbols of Hinduism carved into the stone wall and what each one means, but before long he's interrupted by someone who isn't Steve or Bucky or Nat calling his name.

"Dominic?" His brain has trouble computing that he's seeing an ex from five years ago in Bali, of all places. All he can really take in is that Dominic has grown a beard and isn't wearing shoes.

"Sam, wow, you look fantastic!" Dom says, trotting over to engulf him in a hug. Sam hears a rumbling sound that he can only assume is Bucky growling. "I go by Riversea now," Dom continues. "I feel like it has a better resonance with how I see my place in the universe."

"Are you fucking kidding me?" Steve says.

"Oh, you brought your friends!" Dom—or Riversea—says, trying to hug first Natasha, then Steve. He gives up before he gets to Bucky, which is good because homicide in broad daylight at a tourist hotspot would probably violate their mission parameters of lying low. "This temple has such a good vibrational energy, I'm really happy to see that you're sharing the experience with beings whose souls shine with you."

"Uh…thanks," Sam says. "Crazy coincidence seeing you here."

Dom (Riversea? Really?) strokes the wooden beads looped around his wrist and says, "Is it a coincidence? Or were we always meant to see each other again, right here, at this moment, exactly where our feet are?"

"We can't have this right now," Steve says, meaning that they're on a mission, but unable to say that because the mission involves pretending they aren't on a mission.

Sam looks at Steve and Bucky, and then he looks at Dominic, and then he looks at the throngs of people taking pictures of the temple, and he does a few quick mental calculations. "We can work with this," he says.

"What are you talking about?" Steve hisses. Bucky looks like he's beyond the capacity for language at this point.

"I mean the whole Riversea vibe. It fits. And we want to fit," Sam says, looking meaningfully at them. He's never quite perfected the art of having whole conversations with just his eyebrows the way Steve and Bucky often do, but they're both seasoned veterans, it shouldn't be that hard to pick up what he's putting down. And if they really have that much trouble then Natasha can explain it to them.

Sam turns to Dom. "Call me John instead of Sam," he says, putting a friendly arm around his ex's shoulders, the crook of his elbow casually cradling the back of his neck.

"Are you casting off the identity that society forced onto you to explore the potential of who you really are, too?" Dom asks, beaming at Sam.

"Sure," Sam says.

Steve takes a deep breath in, holds it for four seconds, then exhales steadily. He does this a few more times while pretending to walk around the temple with them. Meanwhile, Bucky is straight up not trying to hide the fact that he's fuming.

"You know, this is all just so interesting," Natasha chirps while nibbling on a skewer of chicken satay that she has somehow procured from somewhere.

"Yes, the beauty of Balinese history astounds me," Steve says in a dead monotone.

"No, I meant your reaction to Riversea. It's so interesting that you and Barnes are still so jealous, even though Sam is clearly in it for the long haul with you. He even lives with you. I just find it so interesting."

"I'm not jealous," Bucky grinds out, jealously.

Bucky and Steve only get one afternoon to explore their completely convincing lack of jealousy while Sam walks around with his arm around Dominic's shoulder and, more crucially, with Dominic's arm around his waist. They spot a known Hydra operative early in the evening and they drop into work mode shortly after.

If Bucky seems overly enthusiastic at working out his aggression on both the few Hydra agents and the equipment at the secret base, well, Sam leaves that out of his mission report.

*

Sam decides he wants to cook for Steve and Bucky, a full family dinner with mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables and fried chicken made from scratch. He also decides he doesn't want to carry any groceries, so he gets them both to come with him to the store.

It figures that they run into Connor again. It's not even the same store they saw him in last time.

"Hey," Sam greets him, with a very big and very fake smile. He's so tired, he just wanted to get his things and then spend all day cooking with Marvin Gaye turned up on the little Bluetooth speaker they keep in the kitchen, not talking to a damn soul. He doesn't want to do this whole song and dance again.

"This is Steve," Sam says.

Connor laughs and says, "Yeah, I know. I watch the news." He shakes Steve's hand and Sam can see Steve physically fight the temptation to squeeze overly hard to assert his dominance.

Sam reintroduces him to Bucky as well, since their last interaction wasn't exactly civilized enough for handshakes.

Connor is perfectly nice. He barely even flirts with Sam, but something sets Bucky off and before Sam knows it, he's standing in an overly lit aisle holding five pounds of chicken legs and a whole sack of potatoes getting screamed at by a security guard while Steve uses his very large chest to push Bucky backwards off of a bewildered and frankly blameless Connor. It's the exact opposite of what he signed up for.

They get home with their groceries because Steve works a minor miracle with his charming Captain American smile and convinces the store to let them pay for their things before tossing them out. Sam hasn't said a word since the store, and Bucky almost manages to look contrite. They're smart enough to leave him alone in the kitchen and he cooks most of his anger out. The potatoes may be excessively mashed.

As though they can hear some sort of supersonic signal announcing Sam's mood, Steve and Bucky slink into the kitchen right when Sam decides he's not so mad anymore.

"So…" Steve says, when no one breaks the silence.

Sam is very busy grinding fresh peppercorns over his beautifully roasted veggies.

They shut up until Sam is good and ready to talk.

"I didn't date assholes exclusively, you know," he says, shoving a stack of plates and cutlery into Steve's hands. "I have okay taste in men. I mean, you wouldn't know it looking at you two, but sometimes I dated actual gentlemen." He puts their only set of nice cloth napkins into Bucky's hands, because they aren't breakable.

They take the hint and start setting the table. Sam continues his rant. "Just because some of them were really intense and maybe slightly too persistent doesn't mean you have to try to kill every last person I gave my number to. Because if you're going to keep doing this dumb avenging my honor thing, we can't keep living in this town. There are…a lot of people you'd have to kill."

Steve's eyelid twitches, but he says nothing. Bucky makes a valiant effort at biting his tongue, but he can't help saying, "Not just this town, apparently. Can't even throw a rock in Bali without hitting one of your exes."

Sam slams a platter of freshly fried chicken down in the middle of the table, sending really mixed messages. He's pissed, but he's also lovingly slaved away at the stove for hours to make some of their favourite foods. Bucky pulls his chair out for him. Steve gets the rest of the food from the kitchen.

"I've dated a lot of good guys, some of them way better catches than you two blockheads," Sam says. "But I didn't end up with any of them, remember? I chose you. Now sit your asses down and eat."

Bucky and Steve don't need to be told twice.