“You know,” Natasha said loftily as she topped off Sam’s coke. “This could be easily solved if you all just moved in together.”
Sam avoided answering by quickly taking a long drink while Steve just chuckled next to him, bumping Sam’s shoulder companionably. If he was bothered by the suggestion, he didn’t show it. Since they had arrived separately it meant Sam wasn’t drinking and Steve was Bucky’s ride home.
“You haven’t met Redwing, Nat.” Steve answered solemnly, sliding a look over at Sam. “I think he could be a difficult roommate.”
Sam rolled his eyes and put his glass down. “Redwing is an absolute gem. You’d be so lucky to share in his living space.”
He glared at Steve, but could only hold if for so long before they both burst into laughter. Natasha scoffed at them both, but there was a pleased glint in her eye. She’d spent her share of time listening to all of three of them waxing poetic about one another before they’d figured the relationship out. The redhead glanced down the bar to see her partner leaning over the counter, locked in discussion with Bucky.
Pursing her lips she commented. “They’ve been gossiping all night.”
“We noticed.” Steve said, leaning back to look around Sam at his best friend. “Any idea whats up with that?”
“Hmm.” Was the only thing Natasha provided before sliding down the bar and slapping Clint on the shoulder. He whipped his head around an indignant look on his face. Whatever Natasha said, it made him roll his eyes and he gestured once to Bucky before waving Natasha off.
It was an odd interaction, but Clint and Bucky only spoke for a moment longer before Bucky grabbed his beer and headed toward Sam and Steve.
He looked a little tense around the shoulders, but didn’t hesitate to climb up on the stool next to Sam’s and lean in to kiss him on the cheek. He glanced over at Steve with a small smile before turning his attention back to Sam.
Then the counter. Then his beer.
Something was up. He kept glancing between all three of them, never really quite focusing. Eventually Sam looked over at Steve and the smaller man shrugged.
Steve chewed on his lip, contemplating for a moment before he slid off the barstool. “Hey, I’m gonna run to the bathroom.”
That got Bucky’s attention, his head shot up. Steve just smiled at him and turned to head toward the restroom, leaving Sam and Bucky alone together.
Sam turned to look at his boyfriend, leaning over into his space, trying to determine exactly what he needed. Red/Hawk’s wasn’t particularly busy at the moment. But sometimes after being at Stucky’s all day, just being out anywhere could be overstimulating.
Bucky took in a deep breath, putting his beer on to the counter. Sam was surprised to see him trembling, just slightly.
“Are-you-free-tomorrow-afternoon?” Bucky asked in a rush, not quite able to look up at Sam. “Around 3?”
Sam blinked owlishly for a moment, not expecting that question. “Um, yeah. I usually close up at 2:30 but I could ask Lang…”
Bucky breathed out a sigh of relief and all the tension seemed to leave his shoulders. A tentative smile appeared on his lips and he finally looked at Sam. “Great. I’ll pick you up at yours.”
“Oh-kay.” Sam wanted to ask more, but Steve announced his presence as he returned. He could see the slight shuttering in Bucky’s eyes, and it was clear that whatever he was up to, Steve didn’t know about it.
Sam wasn’t sure what to make of it. But Bucky seemed more at ease, reaching around Sam to punch Steve lightly in the shoulder. They relaxed into easy conversation and Sam tucked the information in the back of his mind to be dealt with tomorrow at 3pm.
x x x x
Bucky was quiet in the truck after he picked Sam up. Other than a short greeting, he kept his eyes on the road and let the radio play to fill up the silence. He seemed tense, reminding Sam of the first and last out of town date they’d ever been on. It was sort of making Sam nervous to be honest, because he really wasn’t sure what to expect.
Sam checked his phone, having to resist to urge to text Steve and ask him if Bucky had been acting odd lately. He couldn’t do that to Bucky though, it would be a huge breech of trust. It was obvious from their interaction last night that whatever this was, Bucky didn’t want Steve involved.
The road suddenly got a little rougher and Sam looked up, surprised to see that they had turned onto a familiar dirt road. Sitting up a little straighter, he realized they were heading toward Clint and Natasha’s place. He recalled last night, when his boyfriend and the bar owner had been conspiring together.
“We’re visiting Nat and Clint?” Sam asked, turning to look at Bucky. “Not that I mind, but…”
Bucky just shook his head, his flesh hand flexing on the steering wheel. He stared straight a head as they continued on the road as the big farmhouse got closer. Suddenly though, he turned to look at Sam. There was a crease between his brow and he looked a little apprehensive.
“Trust me, okay?” The request was so earnest. Bucky’s eyes were gentle, and pleading.
Sam could never say no to that look and he let out a long sigh and he nodded.
They pulled up in front of the house along side Natasha’s jeep. Bucky was so quick to turn off the truck and get out that he was there to open the passenger door and help Sam down. After locking up, Bucky took Sam’s hand and led him around the back of the house toward the impressive acreage that their friends owned.
Sam tucked himself close to Bucky’s side, the air crisp and his ears a little cold. He regretted not bringing a hat with him, but he hadn’t exactly been sure of where they were going.
When they rounded the corner he was surprised to see three large targets set up along the back of the house. Sam had seen this sort of thing before, large round colorful foam pads set up on tripods. Even from a distance, he could see that they were absolutely littered with holes. Someone had drawn out lines with white paint in the grass, which he guessed marked the proper distances to shoot from.
Sam looked quizzically up at Bucky, only to see his boyfriend waving in the opposite direction. He looked to see Clint coming out of a small shed maybe thirty yards away. He was carrying two bows over his shoulder and a black quiver bristling with arrows in the other. He didn’t seem to notice anyone had arrived until he looked up and saw them.
Clint waved for a second, before making his way over to them. Despite the relatively cold temperature, he was dressed in sweatpants and a purple t-shirt. Clint dropped the bow and arrows at the farthest line of the archery field before approaching Bucky and Sam.
“Hey Clint,” Sam started, but then noticed belatedly that the other man had started signing to Bucky as he approached. Sam let go of Bucky’s hand so that his boyfriend could respond as he tried to follow along.
Whatever they were talking about was far too quick for Sam to follow and before long, Bucky was patting him on the shoulder.
“I’ll be right back.” Bucky said before heading off toward the shed that Clint had just come from.
Sam nodded mutely before looking at Clint. He bit his lip a little sheepishly and signed along while speaking. “Hi Clint.”
The blonde smirked a little, but his eyes were kind. When Sam had moved to Hopeway six years ago, he’d been at a party during Lake Day and he’d mentioned that he had started learning sign language in High School. It had been six beers in that Clint and Sam had found themselves huddled around a campfire while Clint drunkenly quizzed Sam on how much he knew and tried to add words to his vocabulary that would never be used in polite conversation.
Of course, after that, Sam had legitimately asked Clint if he could help him study and he did. He had learned during that time that at home, Clint preferred not to use his hearing aid and both he and Nat mainly used sign at home.
“Have you been practicing?” Clint asked, slowing down for Sam’s benefit.
Sam could feel his face heating up and he shook his head. “No,” He paused for a moment. “I’m out of practice.”
“You need to come over more often.” Clint responded, and Sam smiled.
Eventually Bucky returned to the archery field, he was pulling a wagon, covered in a tarp behind him. Clint said a quick goodbye to Sam before going over to Bucky, saying a quick word and heading off.
Sam watched from a distance as Bucky pulled the tarp back from the wagon, unsure if he was supposed to come closer. Whatever Bucky had brought seemed a little bit more complicated than the bows and arrows Clint had dropped off.
Sam’s eyes widened in surprise as he watched his boyfriend take off his coat, fold it and then place it to the side. He only walked over when he realized Bucky was removing his prosthetic next.
“Uh, Bucky?” Sam asked, just a little concerned. Clint might walk around half-dressed in the cold, but that didn’t mean Sam approved of the same thing for his boyfriend.
Bucky flashed him a quick, reassuring smile before he placed his arm in the wagon. Sam watched as Bucky picked up a white fabric sleeve and pulled it over his nub and up his arm, and then picked up what looked like a partial prosthetic that stopped at the wrist. Sam had seen some of Bucky’s other prosthetics, old ones or just ones he used for different tasks but he hadn’t seen this one.
“So, um,” Bucky muttered, fiddling with the prosthetic. Sam could see it had straps near the top to keep it secure. “Always stay behind the shooting line, I’ll let you know when I’m done shooting. Ah-”
He sounded so nervous that Sam wasn’t about to question it. He stood well enough back, and watched as Bucky notched the arrowed in the wagon bed first before using his right hand on the bow grip and the prosthetic’s tiny hook to hold the string. With practiced easy, Bucky pulled the bow up and aimed at the middle target.
After a moment, he released, quicker than Sam was expecting and the arrow hit inside the blue area of the target. There were a million things on the tip of Sam’s tongue, but he squeezed his hands together to keep himself from blurting something out. He watched, marveling as Bucky shot five more arrows, each one getting closer to the center yellow bullseye. The last arrow made it just outside the inner yellow ring and Sam let out a slight groan.
“So close.” He said, but he sounded so clearly impressed. Bucky put the bow down in the wagon again and turned to look at Sam, his face was inscrutable and he seemed to be waiting.
“Bucky.” The name bubbled up, happy and pleasant on Sam’s tongue. He grinned wide, wanting to reach out for his boyfriend. “When did you take up archery? This is awesome.”
Bucky finally met his eyes, a small pleased smile playing on his lips. Sam watched as his hand drifted to the prosthetic, touching it like it was precious.
“Clint mentioned he put this up a while ago.” Bucky answered. “I did some research and I asked him if he’d help me out. He’s really good.”
Somehow that didn’t surprise Sam in the slightest. He looked around the field, looking at the six arrows imbedded in the target then back at Bucky. Sam wasn’t an archery expert by any means, but with only a few months of practice Bucky didn’t seem half bad himself.
“Don’t tell me you’ve been practicing for months just so you can show off.” Sam teased, smirking a little.
“No,” Bucky scoffed. “Part of it was just making this.”
He gestured to the prosthetic as though it weren’t a big deal. For a moment everything in Sam’s brain came to a halt and his eyes widened almost comically. His jaw worked open and closed for a moment before he stuttered.
“Bucky… d-did you make that?”
Bucky’s brows knitted together and he nodded. “I researched some ones other people used first.”
“Okay, but you built this. Yourself.”
“Clint helped a little.” Bucky’s face was turning a lovely shade of pink and it was not from the cold.
“Bucky, what the fuck.” Sam said, awed. “Your a genius. Holy shit, I’m dating a genius.”
“God, Sam. It’s not like it was hard.” Despite his protests, Sam could see how pleased Bucky was.
“It’s not like it was hard!” Sam barked out a laugh, grinning wide. “Oh my God, Bucky, I can’t with you sometimes.”
“But I’m glad you can most of the time.” Bucky quipped back, any tension remaining in his body quickly seeping out. He bit his lip, and shifted from foot to foot before gesturing to the bow and arrows Clint had left behind. “D’you wanna try?”
Sam nodded enthusiastically and without hesitation stripped off his own coat. All of a sudden the cold was of very little consequence when Bucky explained to him how to pick up the bow and crowded behind him to adjust his stance. Bucky very carefully went through how his arms should be held, touching Sam a lot more than was probably necessary before instructing on how to nock the arrow.
“Take your time.” Bucky whispered close in his ear, not at all helping Sam keep his composure. If he wasn’t trying so hard to focus, he would have glared at his boyfriend. “Make sure to look at the target, not the arrow.”
With Bucky’s body warm against his back, Sam pulled back, steadying himself and then released. The arrow hit the foam squarely in the black area and Bucky pressed a kiss behind his ear.
“Great job, Sammy.”
They spent the rest of the afternoon shooting arrows together. Sam improved with some tips from Bucky, and Bucky found every possible excuse to crowd into Sam’s space when he was taking his turn. Somehow, Sam was pretty sure all the touching and sweet murmuring would have been against the rules in a competition setting.
Eventually though, the sun began to set and Clint ambled his way around to them. This time he was at least wearing a sweatshirt, though had chosen to forgo shoes. He stood to the way side while Sam finished his shots, raising an eyebrow as he watched Bucky pressing kisses to Sam’s cheek when he was done.
“Interesting strategy.” Clint signed as Bucky went to collect the arrows from both his and Sam’s targets.
“I learn better hands on.” Sam replied without a second thought. As soon as he saw the glint in Clint’s eye he regretted it immediately and fumbled through a few of not-so-appropriate signs Clint had shown him by the lake several years ago.
The three of them cleaned up the rest of the bows and targets, moving them to Clint’s shed. Bucky changed his prosthetic, folding it up securely before placing it under the tarp. The sky was purple and blue by time they were done and they headed around the front of the house to say their goodbyes. Clint seemed surprised when Sam hugged him tightly, but just smiled and reminded him to stop by any time.
Once they were safely in the truck, heat cranked up, Sam couldn’t help but stare at Bucky. He was sure he had the goofiest, sappiest smile on his face but he didn’t care.
“Have you told Steve yet?” Sam asked. His other boyfriend would be over the moon if he knew about Bucky’s new hobby.
“Nah,” Bucky answered quietly, shaking his head. He seemed relaxed, exuding happiness. “Wanted to show you first.”
Sam felt warmth blossom in his chest, and he couldn’t resist reaching over and placing a hand on Bucky’s knee, squeezing gently. “I won’t say anything,” He promised. “As long as you don’t tell him that was the best date I’ve ever been on.”
Bucky glanced at him, his smile bright. “I can do that.”