Steve picks a movie and dinner for their double date.
It's Friday night and Sam has had a long, tiring week, so honestly it doesn't even sound like a bad idea. He's down for something chill, like sitting in the air conditioning for two hours and then eating good food with his boyfriend and his best friends.
But of course Bucky is Bucky, and his mission in life is to not let Steve live. "How original," Bucky laughs in his face.
"It's a classic!" Steve says, immediately defensive.
"We're doing this stupid thing in the first place to be 'more romantic,' not more boring." Bucky's voice is dripping with implied scare quotes.
"Classic things are romantic!"
"We are four exceptionally attractive people, you couldn't think of something a little more exciting on a Friday night?"
"What the hell did you want me to do, Buck, arrange a four-way?"
"Steven," Sharon warns, while simultaneously Sam says "Don't be disgusting." They say it with the exact same intonation in their voices, at the exact same time.
Steve and Bucky make eye contact with each other and burst out laughing.
Sharon swats Steve on the chest, while Bucky slings an arm across Sam's shoulders. "We always did have similar tastes in dames," Bucky says, and it's a miracle Sam doesn't try to sock him in the face.
Even more of a miracle that the four of them manage to leave Sam's house without getting into any kind of tussle, and make it all the way to the movie theatre in time to catch the inspirational sports biopic Steve got tickets for.
They get popcorn and soda, but no candy because life is too short to spend it listening to super-powered senior citizens complain about how it's not as good as it used to be back in the day.
Fifteen minutes into the movie, it becomes abundantly apparent that it's not a cheesy inspirational sports biopic, but rather an Oscar-bait inspirational sports biopic, so Sam starts getting bored. Luckily, Bucky has the same idea, and soon enough he slides his hand up Sam's thigh beneath the hand rest between them.
Sam and Bucky spend the rest of the movie making out like teenagers, their range of motion limited by the awkward theatre seats and the need to not completely disturb the other good folks who've spent their hard-earned cash to see this cinematic masterpiece. It's probably extremely inappropriate to have Bucky's tongue that deep in his mouth while onscreen, a mother sobs inconsolably about the possibility that her son may never achieve his dreams, but Sam has a grand ole time.
Sharon isn't all that entertained by the movie either, but she pays attention because she knows Steve will want to talk about it.
Afterwards, they go for a bite to eat at a diner down the street. Sam and Sharon ask for a decaf coffee and a glass of water respectively, while Steve and Bucky both get chocolate milkshakes because they are disgusting man-mountains of pure muscle and hyper fast metabolism. Bucky loudly declares that the movie was boring before their drinks even arrive.
"How would you know?" Steve scoffs. "You were glued to Sam's tonsils the whole time, you didn't even see it."
"I was glued to Sam's tonsils the whole time because it was boring."
"Can we please not talk about my tonsils like this while everyone in here's trying to eat?"
"They're good tonsils," Bucky argues.
Sharon makes a noise that one might call a snort if one weren't afraid of her death glare. "There's nothing more attractive on a man than a really nice pair of…tonsils."
Sam sits back and lets them continue to talk nonsense. He's suffused with a warm sense of belonging, like he's exactly where he's supposed to be, and he thinks to himself that this whole double date thing might be a good idea after all.
* * *
"Just trust me on this, Wilson, I'll make it good," Sharon assures him, which is how he and Bucky end up doing brunch for their next double date.
It turns out that Sharon means brunch at her house, where Steve will cook for all of them.
"But Steve can't cook for shit," Bucky says as they step in her front door and hand her the bottle of knock-off champagne and carton of orange juice that serve as their contributions to the meal.
She has a wicked gleam in her eyes when she replies, "Exactly."
They make mimosas with Bucky and Sam's beverage offerings and sip them at Sharon's nice little dining table, right in front of a sunny window that casts a cheery glow over the whole proceedings. Sharon has the kind of kitchen that opens directly into the dining area, which is great because it gives them a completely unobstructed view of Steve trying to make pancakes and using every curse word he knows.
Steve has to attempt the pancake batter three times, because the first time he somehow manages to put in too many eggs, and the second time he burns most of it.
"It's basically like going for a movie and dinner all over again," Sharon comments, as they continue drinking and nibble on some fresh cut fruit that she's set out. Steve comes up with brand new curses heretofore unknown to man, as he finally finishes his pancakes and then realizes he has maybe ten minutes to fry up some bacon before the pancakes start going cold.
"Hey Steve," Sam calls.
"Yes?" he answers in a slightly hysterical tone.
"You gotta marry this girl."
Steve's response is some kind of indecipherable spluttering.
Bucky snickers, nudging Sam's foot with his own. Sam nudges him back, and of course it doesn't take long for it to devolve into sharp kicks under the table and a furious scramble to win the traditionally non-competitive game of footsie. Sharon narrows her eyes at them when a particularly well-placed jab puts the blade of Bucky's foot into the soft meat of Sam's inner thigh, causing him to jolt away and slam his knee into the underside of the table. Bucky rubs his foot into the sore spot in apology, tender and suggestive, and there's a serious danger that it will turn into something else Sharon definitely wouldn't approve of at her nice dining table.
Sam clears his throat and stands up, walking towards the kitchen where Steve has burnt bacon several times already.
"Move aside, old man," Sam says, shouldering him away from the stove. "You have to start with a cold pan. Let the breakfast king handle this."
"The breakfast king, really?" Steve mocks, but he makes absolutely no attempt to get the pan back and quite happily settles down to join Sharon and Bucky for drinks.
"It's only because I'm hungry and I want something decent to eat before the end of the century, not because I'm doing anyone any favours," Sam says, pointing his spatula at them to punctuate his point as the bacon begins to sizzle and produce a delicious and not at all burnt aroma.
"Yeah right," Bucky says, draining his champagne flute like it's a shot. "It's actually because you love us."
Sam plates up the bacon and brings all the food to the table without confirming nor denying Bucky's accusation.
* * *
"Listen. Listen. A single black man does not often get the chance to creep around with binoculars at sundown without getting detained," Sam retorts. "If I have you three fine-looking upstanding citizens with me, I'm gonna take advantage of it."
"It makes sense," Bucky says, bullishly defending his man despite the fact that Sharon most definitely did not say that it doesn't.
They have a fun little pre-date date at the sporting goods store, equipping everybody with binoculars and galoshes. Sam tells them they'll need warm, thick socks to go with those galoshes, since there's a high chance they'll be traipsing around wet areas.
"There are eighteen nesting pairs of peregrine falcons in Maryland," he explains as they all pile into his car, "and we are going to try like hell to see at least one of them tonight. They like nesting on bridges, and there've been reports of sightings near the Bay Bridge recently."
"Falcons? Babe, it's so sweet that you're taking us all to meet your family," Bucky says, putting his hand over the one Sam has on the stick shift.
"Fuck off," Sam grumbles, slapping his hand away.
They get to the coast right before sunset and Sharon has to eat her words because it's really fucking romantic, the sky aflame with pinks and purples while a cold mist settles in, making them huddle close to each other and creating a bubble of illusion that it's just them in the world, no one else. They pick their way through the wet grass and sand, Steve and Sharon holding hands and not really paying attention to what Sam is saying about the cliff swallows flitting above their heads.
Bucky, however, seems rapt with attention, hanging on Sam's every word.
Sam shows off by pointing out that the group of crows to their left, which look like all the other crows Steve has ever seen, are in fact fish crows and not American crows. "It's hard to tell them apart because they look basically the same—fish crows are a little bit smaller and have a slightly slimmer beak, but you can only really tell that if you're comparing the two side by side. The trick is in the call. Fish crows don't caw, they sound like they're saying 'nuh-uh.' We birders have a little saying: 'Ask him if he's an American crow. If he says no, he's a fish crow.'"
Bucky gasps in astonishment and breathes out a low "wow" as he brings up his binoculars to observe the crows in question. Sam looks pleased. Steve hides a yawn behind his hand.
"Are they called fish crows because they hunt fish?" Bucky asks, as though anybody could possibly care that much about crows.
"They'll pretty much eat anything, like other crows. But they do like to fish crabs and shrimp out of the shallow water with their feet."
Bucky and Sam walk on ahead of them, chattering about what birds eat. Steve watches as Bucky takes Sam's elbow and helps him step over a pile of driftwood slippery with algae, gripping tight in case he loses his balance. His heart clenches at the sight, but in a good way, like watching online videos of puppies so cute that it hurts—a thing he did a lot of when he first woke up and was learning about all the technology of the 21st century, and pretty much everything was painful and confusing but not that. He must make a noise, because Sharon squeezes his hand and looks at him with a knowing smile.
Steve makes an incoherent gesture at them with his free hand and widens his eyes.
Sharon just laughs softly and says, "I know," before putting her head on his shoulder as they walk behind their best friends.
They find a nest that night, but no sightings of the actual peregrine falcons, which is just as well because it means they'll be able to do this again sometime soon.
* * *
Sam is inclined to agree, but Sharon's straight in there telling Steve he's wrong before he can say a word. She is really into it.
"This isn't romantic!!!"
"Be quiet, Steve. You'll see how romantic it is when I win for you," she says, strapping on her paintballing goggles.
Bucky grins at Steve.
They're supposed to be playing couple vs. couple, but the whole time they're suiting up Steve complains about how he could never shoot Sam, not even for pretend, and he's so completely sincere about it that Sam can't even pretend he isn't fond, despite the fact that he rolls his eyes so much he may be in actual medical danger of pulling a muscle.
Bucky and Sharon are in full camouflage, melting out of sight as soon as they hit the field.
Sam finds a nice place to sit on high ground so he can see anyone coming, and kicks his feet up. For lack of anything else to do, Steve follows him and says, "I'm serious, I'm not shooting at you."
"This fuckin' guy," Sam mutters to himself, shaking his head, but he's also smiling because he can't help it. He pats the wooden crate next to him and Steve sits down.
They watch their partners go full commando warriors on each other, slinking in and out of shadows, taking incredibly precise sniper shots at ranges that should be impossible for paintball guns, probably scaring the shit out of the corporate teambuilding events and kids' birthday parties taking place in the next field over.
"I'm doing this for our honour as the better couple," Bucky tells Sam as he army crawls past them.
"I'm doing this to kick your best friend's ass," Sharon yells from somewhere they cannot see.
Sam has snuck a couple of beers into this joint in his deep cargo pockets, and now feels like a good time to pull them out.
"You can't have alcohol in here! There are children around," Steve admonishes him.
"Do you really think seeing a couple of adults drinking will be more damaging for children than hearing our dumbass friends?"
(Bucky is bellowing as loudly as he can: "STEVE, YOUR GIRLFRIEND IS GOING DOWN, AND NOT THE WAY YOU USUALLY LIKE."
Sharon yells back: "SAM, YOUR GIRLFRIEND IS GOING TO REGRET EVERY DECISION HE’S EVER MADE THAT LED TO THIS MOMENT."
"HEY, FUCK YOU, SHARON."
"YOU FUCKING WISH, JAMES BUCHANAN.")
Steve concedes the point, and reaches out to take a beer.
"Just for the record," Sam says as he hands one over, "I only brought two and they were both supposed to be for me. I'm only sharing because I like you so much."
Steve beams at him, all his Captain America pearly whites aimed straight at him, and Sam sits back so he's more comfortable. They take slow sips while they watch Bucky and Sharon take paintballing way too intensely, stalking each other like well-oiled killing machines.
Life is good.