It's been a long day over at the Wilson's.
But the cloudless sky is slowly making way for an endless blanket of stars, and Sarah's rope lanterns are starting to light up the docks where everyone's pretty much still partying. Most of them are just getting started; what kind of party would it be if they didn't celebrate the new Captain America right into the next morning?
Bucky's been watching from a little way off, slowly picking through a plate of deep-fried shrimps. The kids that had been hanging off his arm are now playing baseball on the grass; the old ladies who had stuffed their numbers into his pockets are now bugging Joaquín and actively looking for something to write on.
And the younger ones, all the pretty girls, are gathered around Sam.
It's kind of amusing to watch if he's honest, really gratifying seeing Sam be showered in the attention he deserves. Best part is he knows what they all feel right now. He knows the giddiness in their hearts like it's his own, knows the dizzying warmth in their chests, and that starry-eyed look when Sam smiles.
They are him. The stupid smile he can't help when Sam's near is still on his face now and he's caught red-handed when Sam's eyes slide from the girls and land right on him.
He drops the shrimp he'd been eating and salutes in Sam's direction like an idiot. His heart beats dangerously quick when Sam doesn't look away, excuses himself from his beautiful entourage and comes over to where Bucky's sitting instead.
Bucky fumbles with the plate of shrimps: puts it down next to him, then back on his lap, then next to him again, and clears his throat.
"Hi," he says, swallowing.
Sam grins at him, slaps his hand down on Bucky's knee, "Hey, wanna take a walk? Wanna show you something."
Bucky nods and jumps off the beam he'd been sitting on to follow Sam. He leads them down the pier, almost to the end, to where the shabby old fishing boat is docked. The new paint job looks good. She looks brand new in the pretty glow of dusk.
Sam hops onto the deck and holds his hand out to help Bucky over, too, despite Bucky being precision personified and deadly accurate, which just makes him smile even harder.
"Watch your head," Sam says, then tugs on a metal cord dangling from the roof, and a dim little light comes on in the confined helm cabin.
Drearily he lets go of Sam's warm fingers and watches him dig for something in his pockets.
Sam pulls out a pair of keys, jingles them once with a sharp, stunning smile, and sticks them in the boat's ignition.
Just like the other times they've tried to get her going, Bucky expects silence, but instead, she roars to life. A deafening sputter, a solid vibration underfoot. Bucky laughs, stunned, puts his metal hand against the boat's side. He feels her hum beneath his fingers, and turns to smile at Sam.
"You did it?" he says, "Jesus."
"Sarah's guys helped." Sam grins, looking down, "Important part is she's running now."
Bucky runs his fingers along the helm, steers it testingly. He feels Sam's eyes on him; he's felt it all day. And all day, he's been thinking about what it means, what it's all meant since the start, and god, he's thought about just taking the dive, risking it, and doing something about the way they keep dancing around each other—doing something instead of just looking, admiring from afar.
But he's no hero; he's barely brave. "You, uh, take her out yet?"
Sam shuts her down again, leans back, but there's no space to really put any distance between them, so he's still devastatingly close.
"Nah. Sarah said no."
Bucky laughs, a pleasant burst of joy and fondness all bubbling to the surface. "Thought she's not the boss of you."
Sam looks over his shoulder and out the window, slaps Bucky's arm, "Hey, shh. If she hears you…"
Bucky rests against the hull, watching Sam with amusement that just never falters. Every day there's something the new Captain throws at Bucky; every time he thinks he knows the basics of Sam Wilson—what makes him tick, what gets him going, what scares him, what he doesn't give a shit about—he learns something new.
"Thought you were the older sibling."
"Man, you met my sister. That girl don't play."
"Aw, come on, she's nice."
"Yeah, I bet you think she's nice. You about two seconds away from becoming my brother-in-law."
Bucky snorts out loud, starts laughing; Sam joins him in absolute hysterics as the sun finally sets on the horizon. Bucky's jaw aches, and he's not even sure why he's laughing anymore, but seeing Sam so happy and carefree for a change, fucks him up in the best way.
"I meant she's nice to me, to everyone. She's cool." They're quiet for a beat, nowhere to look but at each other, the air practically crackling with tension between them.
"The, uh, yeah, the people really like you 'round here." Sam inhales long and hard, frowns, breaks his eyes away from Bucky to stare out the window, "I do too."
Bucky's heart leaps the fuck out of his body, "You do?" he says, also casting his eyes away now. But that goddamn persistent smile refuses to leave his mouth. And that'd be terrible if he couldn't see Sam grinning, too, while they do their absolute best to avoid eye contact.
"Yeah. Like," Sam snickers quietly, "A lot."
Bucky's brain is fuzz. It's just fuzz, like the kind of shit you find on a really old sweater or your favorite blanket, just lots of stupid, useless balls of fluff that do nothing but grin stupidly.
"Wow," he says, then dumbly, "Are you sure?"
Sam laughs, a quick and surprised giggle rather, "Yeah. I’m sure, man."
"Shit," he laughs too, manages to look at Sam again, but his cheeks are burning up, which is ridiculous because Sam is no stranger. They're not strangers; why is he blushing? "I, uh, I like you too. Oh god. So much."
Sam looks at him again, too, face going serious for a moment, "Just, so we're on the same page… you don’t like me in a—friend way?" And he looks confident as hell, but that's one of the things Bucky has learned- the hesitant lilt in Sam's voice when he's terrified but playing it cool.
"Oh, no. No, no. In a… you know." He gestures between them, "Like that. You know. Right? That's what we're saying? Jesus," he mumbles softly, "That is what we're saying here, right?" Sharing Sam's worry now, he frowns and feels the life drain out of him for a second.
"Oh, thank god." Sam exhales dramatically through hollowed cheeks, and then the smile's back on his lips again, "Yeah, that's it. Wow. I, uh, didn't think this is how I'd tell you, to be honest."
"Well. I mean, is there ever the perfect moment with the kind of lives we live?"
"Not even a second," Sam says, shifting forward in the already cramped space, so they're fully facing each other now.
Breathing is somewhat difficult suddenly, this close, makes him think of them crashing into a flowery field and him getting completely transfixed on how long Sam's eyelashes are. He flexes his fingers at the memory, remembers wanting to touch his fingertips to Sam's lips and getting shoved off just in time to keep him from actually doing it.
His hand bump against Sam's, and in another generous bout of luck, Sam's fingers hook around his and holds on.
The only thing he can think of saying is, "You're so pretty, oh my god..." but it comes out like a nervous ramble and he immediately looks down, away from Sam, cheeks flaring again.
"Buck," Sam says so quietly, squeezes Bucky's hand.
"Hm?" Bucky says, totally thrown by this overwhelming feeling inside him, something too great to fit in his chest anymore. He keeps his eyes on the ground because it's too much.
"Buck, come on," he goads, reaches up, and tips Bucky's chin up.
And then they're eye to eye, open and honest and standing on the very edge of change. All the childish giddiness of before stripped away now, and what's left is reality. They've been making their way toward this moment for the last how many years. There are no detours anymore, though. This is it.
"Okay," Bucky whispers, letting his eyes slide down to Sam's mouth and catching sight of his tongue dragging over his bottom lip.
Then, before his brain gets to short circuit over that, Sam covers the gap and kisses him.
His first instinct is, of course, to die, but he brings his hand up instead, cups Sam's face, and kisses back. God, he kisses back so hard they stumble backward and into the cabin wall, but he doesn't let up even for a second. Presses Sam up against the wood, body to body, warm and solid.
Sam grabs him by the waist, squeezes, smiles breathlessly into his mouth, and pushes forward again so this time it's Bucky's back that hits the cabin wall.
He gasps at that, pulls Sam right against him for another hard kiss, lets his fingers slip beneath the hem of Sam's shirt to touch soft, hot skin, and feel Sam shudder in his hold.
Sam breaks away, ducks his face into Bucky's neck, and puts his wet, open mouth on Bucky's skin. Again and again, not biting, not nipping, just soft, way too tender kisses, then slowly makes his way back up again.
Breathless and wide-eyed, he looks at Bucky. His pupils swell, and he swallows, beautifully distraught in the low light, so completely ravishing, Bucky's never seen anything like him before. He doubts he ever will again, and maybe that's why he never quite looks away from Sam. Just like a shooting star, like the northern lights, like the seven wonders of the world, Sam's a different kind of extraordinary.
He brushes his finger over the high of Sam's cheek, his other hand still tightly holding on, keeping Sam right there.
"You're something else, Wilson," he says.
Sam's only response is a wild, offbeat thump of his heart, all hail super hearing, before he kisses Bucky again.
He's got no idea how long they make out for, but the sky's dark when they eventually hear Joaquín's voice calling for them down the pier.
"Shit," Bucky mumbles, wiping his mouth, "We bailed on your party."
Sam's straightening his jacket and t-shirt, "Can't say I'm sorry."
Which makes Bucky a blushing, giggling mess again. Jesus.
"You good?" he asks as Sam drops the boat's keys back in his pocket.
"I'm great," Sam says genuine and happy, seemingly struggling with the same die-hard smile as Bucky.
This time Bucky's the one who holds his hand out and helps Sam over the edge of the boat and back onto the dock. And to his surprise, Sam doesn't let go once they're level and heading back to the party; his touch remains an ever lingering presence for the rest of the night.
Once the fireworks start up, Sam's standing next to Sarah but his left hand's curled around the back of Bucky's neck. When they bring out a big ugly, red-white-and-blue cake, Sam is pressed to Bucky's side, eating his piece of it.
And much later, once they've helped with clean up and Sarah hands him a stack of sheets and pillows, he's ready to lay them out on the couch and settle down for the night.
But Sam gracefully lifts the linen stack out of Bucky's arms, instead takes his hand and leads him down the hallway to his room.
"You gonna let me sleep all alone? What kind of partner are you, anyway?" Over his shoulder, he glints a smile at Bucky, sharp and inviting in the moonlight.
"Wouldn't dream of it, Cap," Bucky says back, sounding equally sultry, he even winks.
But his brain's fuzz again; he's a mess, cheeks hot and heart beating faster than what's good for him.
He's got a feeling he'll never get any better, ain't really mad about it either.