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November 15, 1985

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"You tell him yet?" Sam asks when the bell rings.

Bucky tears a corner from his notebook and slides it in his weathered copy of Their Eyes Were Watching God, marking the page their class had finished discussing, before glaring. "Wilson," he says, voice on edge.

Sam sighs and stands up, swinging his backpack over his shoulder. "You should tell him, Barnes."

"It's flattering you care this much," Bucky says, eyes wide with annoyance, "but don't you think this fixation on my love life is a little unhealthy?"

Bucky shoves his things into his bag. He doesn't want to talk about this – he rarely wants to, especially not right now with so many still lingering, eavesdropping into conversations while waiting for the halls to clear.

He must be radiating discomfort because Sam shakes his head, heading towards the classroom door. Bucky follows, staying a couple steps behind. "Did you know when we first met I didn't understand why you two were friends? I get it now," Sam says as they walk. "You're both stubborn smartasses who refuse to let anyone in."

"Proud words for someone who couldn't ask Romanoff out," Bucky replies.

Sam raises an eyebrow. "Did Steve tell you that?"

"He didn't have to," Bucky lies. "I've seen her in action."

Sam leads him to his locker, only stopping to utter a thanks, man or yeah, you, too to the random classmates keen on congratulating him for making it onto the varsity basketball team. The roster was announced this morning. Sam had beamed brightly when he heard the news.

Reaching their destination, Sam opens his locker door with a couple well placed hits. Bucky watches as he shuffles the contents around. His locker is decorated with a few pictures of Natasha and him at various locations around Washington and what appears to be a handwritten schedule of the upcoming season and practices taped up top. Bucky smiles as Sam pulls out the books and binders he'll need this weekend into his bag. Sam has always been on top of his shit.

Once satisfied he has everything, Sam closes his locker and leans against it. "I know what you're doing, Barnes," he says, nonchalant.

And, well, Bucky can play it one of two ways: he could feign ignorance, but Sam is very perceptive – he doesn't know how Steve found these guys; it's a startling trait all his friends share – so Bucky knows he wouldn't get very far before Sam calls his bullshit, or he could plead the fifth.

That's always a gamble, but what he likes most about Sam is his predictability. If Bucky doesn't want to talk, Sam drops it. He moves on to a safer subject without making things awkward. It's something that entertains, like sports or did you hear what Pepper said in middle of fourth period? Just enough to lighten the mood with a hey, man, sorry left implied.

Sam's warm, helpful, and easy to trust in a way that sort of reminds Bucky of Steve. If you add the self-preservation Steve lacks, that is. Bucky's genuinely glad he can call Sam one of his best friends now.

So, instead, Bucky makes an effort, opts for honesty, surprising them both. "Planned on it a couple days ago when he was over, but Steve left before I could build up the courage." Bucky laughs, trying to make light of his failure.

Sam reaches over, squeezes Bucky's shoulder, smiling. "It doesn't need to be dramatic. No one's telling you to show up on his doorstep and recite Shakespeare."

"Stark has suggested that more than once. He even picked out verses that 'suits my cadence,'" Bucky replies, rolling his eyes.

The most recent time was two weeks ago in Calc BC. Tony had caught his attention, abruptly saying before class started, "I know you turned down my last three options, but I think we finally have a winner. Have you considered Keats instead?"

Bucky shut him up by asking if that worked on Pepper. Tony deflated, answering, "No, it didn't," then turned around before their teacher began roll call and Bucky could get a good glance at his disappointment.

"See, that's why no one ever takes his advice," Sam says, laughing hard, when Natasha joins them seconds later.

"Hey," Natasha says, sliding off her headphones. She takes her backpack off to unzip the smaller compartment, reaching inside to turn off her cassette player. Then sets the bag down against her feet. "What I miss?"

Sam steps forward and wraps his arms around her, squeezing tight, before pushing a section of disheveled hair behind her ear, pressing a light kiss on her forehead. "I'll fill you later. Thought you had some club activity today?"

"Got cancelled," she says as they break away. "What's the plan for tonight, then, boys?"

"Beats me," Sam answers first, and Natasha tilts her head to one side, listening. "I used the phones in the quad to tell my parents the good news. Mom told me we'll have a celebration dinner on Sunday when my granddad's in town. Until then, I got the weekend free."

"I got nothing," Bucky says next, lips set in a grim line.

Bucky typically spends his Fridays with Steve, but for the past three weeks he's been taking extra shifts at Safeway. On the nights Steve works, he leaves the building right when the final bell rings to give himself enough time to do a little homework before he clocks in.

It's making Bucky a bit restless. He has any other friends in the area, has plans to catch up with Dugan and Jones at some arcade in Springfield on Saturday, but that isn't the same. No matter how much he loves them, they're incomparable to the quiet nights spent walking around with Steve. Bucky misses him as irrational as that sounds.

Natasha's voice draws him back. "Let's hang at my place?" she asks, popping her gum. "Mom has a hot date, so she'll be out late, and I fixed the VCR. We could rent a movie, microwave popcorn, order pizza."

"That works," Sam says, agreeing. "I'm in."

Natasha looks at Bucky. "Game?"

"I should really get home," Bucky starts saying but as Natasha glares him, he tacks on, "but I've stayed in two Fridays in a row. They won't mind if I hang. I'll let Becca know where I'm at."

Natasha smiles, lips tight, nodding once. "You can moon over Rogers some other night."

"I don't moon over him." Bucky crosses his arms, eyes shut. He looks at Sam, pleading he backs him up.

"If you say so," Sam laughs, putting the conversation to rest.