"Can I ask you a favor?"
Bucky looked at Steve with raised eyebrows. "And how much trouble will I get in for this favor?" He asked.
"Do you really think so little of me? You won't get in trouble. I swear."
Settling back on his elbow, Bucky took a long swig of his beer. The two of them had met at the bar after work, like they did every Friday. Usually they had a few beers, waited for Sam, Clint, and some of the other guys to show up, then migrated to Steve's house and ordered a pizza or three. "Well, if you promise..."
"Okay." The way Steve had to steel himself to ask the question made Bucky a little wary. "Will you be my partner for a lamaze class?"
For a few long moments, Bucky just blinked at him, not knowing which question to ask first. Finally he went with the biggest question on his mind. "What?"
"Okay, so you know my friend Sharon, right? And how she was doing fertility treatments? So she finally got pregnant and she asked me to be her partner for this birthing class and I said sure, so we signed up but then, you know, she's still working and stuff, and the first class is Monday night and she has to go to Dallas for the next three weeks but she already paid for it and I'm gonna feel stupid going by myself--"
"Let me stop you right there," Bucky said, holding up his hand. "You agreed to be Sharon's 'birthing partner'? Why would you do that?"
"She's my friend!" Steve said.
"Okay, so why don't you ask one of your other 'girlfriends' to be your partner?"
Steve sighed. "She's just gonna try to set me up with someone in the class. And you know she's been trying to set me up with Sharon for ages." It was Steve's eternal struggle – coming up with excuses not to date the legions of available women Natasha suggested. Bucky wasn't sure why exactly his best friend wasn't interested in dating... then again, Bucky never felt the need to date, either.
"How about Maria?"
"Maria is very firmly anti-kids. Have you ever hung out with her? Anytime there's a child around, she's gone."
"But these are not-born children."
"I feel like she wouldn't be able to stop herself from saying something negative. I don't want all the other moms in the class to hate me."
"Okay, what about Wanda?"
"Seriously?" Bucky laughed. "You'd rather bring a dude to your birthing class than have Wanda be her usual weird self?"
Steve smiled at that. "I mean, who knows what the fuck would come out of her mouth, you know?"
"Okay, let me get this straight. I'm going to come with you to this birthing class and pretend to be pregnant and no one's going to give you the side-eye?"
"I just... I—I don't know. You're my best friend? And we can laugh about it later?"
"All right, all right. If you're going to invoke the 'best friends' clause, I'll do it. I'll be your surrogate pregnant woman." Bucky grinned as a few of the nearby bar patrons gave them strange looks. "Because you know, I'm with you--"
In unison they said, "Till the end of the line."
They clinked their beer bottles together and drank to themselves and the stupid thing they'd been saying ever since they were teenagers growing up in Brooklyn. Bucky's stop had been the one before Steve's, which was the absolute last stop on the line, but when Steve tried taking on a few bullies who also got off at that stop and landed in the hospital, Bucky started riding the train to the end of the line too.
"Don't mention this to Sam," Steve said.
"Aw, is Sam gonna be butt-hurt that you asked me instead of him?"
"You know he is."
"He's a diva," Bucky said, then added, "You could have just asked him to do it. I wouldn't have minded."
"Yeah, but... then you would've been butt-hurt."
"No way," Bucky swore. But it was kind of true. He and Steve did everything together. They both worked construction together, ate lunch together, and often grabbed dinner together too, and Bucky spent most weekends at Steve's house, helping him fix it up. He had already been a little bit jealous that Steve was going to be doing this thing with Sharon. “Okay, maybe a little.”
Steve slapped him on the shoulder. "Diva."
"Who's a diva now?"
They turned to see Sam behind them, with Clint in tow. Clint had on his rumpled business suit – what his job was, none of them knew – while Sam looked more polished in a black long-sleeve tee and jeans. He was also wearing his aviator sunglasses inside, hence the diva jokes.
"Clearly, you are," Bucky said. "Are you hoping someone will mistake you for a celebrity?"
"Oh, I see how it is."
"Can you see?"
"I don't know, Steve." Sam rested his elbow on the shoulder of Steve's flannel shirt. "Which makes more of a diva: me and my sunglasses, or Barnes and his luscious locks?"
Steve raised his eyebrows and said, "Well...."
"Did you tell them to put the fan up in the corner there?" Sam continued, gesturing. "Just gotta have the wind blowing through your hair."
Bucky shook his head, laughing, but his face had flushed a bit. The guys were always ripping on his hair, just because he used separate shampoo and conditioner instead of the 2-in-1 that Clint and Steve both used. And sometimes he used a little mousse.
"Hey, Barton, how was work?" Steve called. Clint had taken the seat on the other side of Bucky, even though Bucky's back was to him. He'd already somehow gotten a beer and was drinking it, looking devastated.
"Eh, one of those days."
"One of what days?" Steve pressed.
"You know. The kind where you should have just gone back to bed."
"But at least it's Friday," Sam said. He nodded at the bartender, who knew his regulars. A few seconds later, he had a beer in his hand. "Right? TGIF?"
"Yeah," said Clint glumly.
"We could play some darts," Bucky suggested cautiously.
That perked Clint up. "For money?"
Steve and Sam groaned. "What have you done?" Steve said.
"He's unleashed the beast, that's what he's done," Sam agreed.
After three rounds, Bucky had lost seventy-five dollars and called it quits. "Double or nothing!" Clint crowed.
"Come on, aren't you hungry?"
"Hungry for money! Pay up." Clint held out his hand and wiggled his fingers while Bucky hauled out his wallet.
"Okay, now can we get some freaking pizza already?" Bucky demanded.
They walked outside. The setting sun was bright after the dimness of the bar. Bucky followed Steve to his truck and climbed in, while Sam and Clint got in their respective vehicles. "Are you ready for it?" Steve said, starting the engine.
"I'm ready," Bucky said.
The opening strains of "Convoy" started up. Steve started tapping his fingers along with the drum beat, and Bucky nodded his head until all three vehicles had made their way onto the main road, which was when the chorus finally hit, and Steve and Bucky started singing.
Come on and join our convoy
Ain't nothin' gonna get in our way.
We gonna roll this truckin' convoy
'Cross the U-S-A.
Bucky liked hearing Steve's smooth, belting voice alongside his own gravelly baritone. He liked how Steve laughed when Bucky decided to sing in a falsetto. He couldn't even remember when they had discovered that this song was the exact length of the drive from the bar to Steve's house, but ever since then it had only added one more item to their long list of traditions.
He hated thinking of a day when all this might change.
For so long, the two of them had been staunch bachelors. They'd both dated but nothing had ever quite worked out. Recently, though, Steve had talked about "settling down."
"Don't you ever want to find someone?" Steve asked sometimes. "Someone to grow old with?"
This thing with Sharon had bothered Bucky. Steve and Sharon had never dated, despite all of Natasha's hints that he should ask her out. Or he had tried to ask her out once, and she had politely refused, saying she was busy with work that night, and Steve had never asked again. And that was fine with Bucky.
He liked hanging with his friends. Girlfriends just complicated that.
At least, that’s what he told himself.