"Hush, he's going to hear you!" Wanda hissed, waving her hand at Sam to be quiet as she glanced over her shoulder at the door.
"Scott is supposed to be keeping Steve way out of hearing range. Besides, this isn't exactly something I can turn the volume down on," Sam muttered, tapping the hammer a little bit more lightly as he helped tack streamers into place. "I still think we should have used tape."
"The humidity in the air will not let it stick for long, especially if you are going to have the balcony doors open," T'Challa replied, glancing up from where he was directing palace staff to arrange serving dishes around a banquet table. "Even more so with the weight of the cloth. It will stay much better if you nail it in place."
"You're almost done, just hurry," Wanda scolded, using her powers to lift the next bit of streamer into place and hold it for him.
"Whatever you say, kid," Sam sighed, fishing another little nail from his pocket. "Are Clint and Bucky almost done outside?"
Sam reached to grab the cloth as Wanda's eyes went red and her hold on it faltered, her concentration switching to reaching out for Clint with her mind.
"Almost," she replied a moment later, her tone distracted. "He said they have one more box and they'll be good. And something about killing a thieving monkey."
T'Challa snorted out a laugh from behind him, and Sam bit back a smile of his own.
"Tell him to quit arming them or we'll be re-living Planet of the Apes before Independence Day."
Wanda's nose wrinkled a little in concentration as she forwarded the message, and she blinked up at Sam a moment later.
"You aren't?" Sam grinned down at her.
"I don't get it."
"Gonna have to add those to your watch list," he muttered, gathering up another bundle of streamers to pin in place. "You and Steve both, cause I don't think he's seen those ones either."
"Tonight would be appropriate for a viewing of Independence Day, I believe," T'Challa said, crossing to stand at the bottom of Sam's ladder. "This is your country's Independence Day, is it not?"
"Sure is. Would figure that Captain America would be born on the Fourth of July," Sam smirked.
Before T'Challa could reply, one of his bodyguards entered the room.
"Your Majesty, the jet with your guests has entered our airspace. They are estimated twenty minutes out."
"Excellent. Mister Wilson, Miss Maximoff, I trust you have things handled here?"
"Sure thing, Your Highness," Sam said around the little nail held between his teeth, dragging the next bit of streamer into place. "We got this... Wanda? A little help?"
"Sorry," she said quickly, and Sam let out a breath as her powers took over holding the cloth in place. "How much more do we have to do?"
"Well, this is the last of the decorations, and the food's all about ready to go, so if Clint and Bucky are done arming the wildlife with Roman Candles, then we just have to track down Scott and convince him to return Steve."
"If you think that you can finish up here, I can round them all up," Wanda shrugged, crossing to sit on the bottom rung of his ladder. "How many more streamers do we have to hang?"
"Just another loop or two of this one, and then it's just releasing the balloons into the room. I think I've got this covered, if you want to go find everyone."
The girl debated for half a second before scampering to her feet.
"Right! I'll be back soon, make sure you're ready," Wanda grinned up at him before running off to find the others.
Sam turned his attention back to his task with a chuckle.
None of them had realized that Steve's birthday had been creeping up until Clint had mentioned a former Captain-America-Fan colleague of his that had always brought a birthday cake to Fourth of July celebrations in honor of his favorite superhero. It had taken Sam barely a minute to put the pieces together and realize in mild horror that they only had a few days to prepare, but with the rest of the team's help he'd managed to get the common area of their Wakandan hideout all decked out for a party. T'Challa had been more than happy to help, taking great amusement in the elaborate schemes that the others had used to keep Steve away, and providing use of the palace kitchens for the food.
The party was a rather small thing - just the team, King T'Challa, and a few special guests that were scheduled to meet up with them soon - but that didn't mean that they weren't going all out.
They'd managed to scrounge up three quarters of a Fourth-of-July picnic, with a few more traditional Wakandan dishes and one Sokovian dessert from Wanda to round things out, and Clint had insisted that the inside of the little round birthday cake be baked to resemble the pattern of an American Flag after seeing something similar on Google, so he and Wanda had spend a good couple hours the day before in the kitchen, struggling through Youtube videos and making a mess until they had something they were happy with. (The palace staff didn't mind the intrusion once they discovered that all of the tasty but off-pattern failed attempts were up for grabs.) Sam had scrounged up some decorations with T'Challa's help, while Scott had worked to rig them up a special surprise for the Captain.
Bucky had been taken out of cryo sleep for the occasion, reassured by Wanda that she was workably recovered from the Raft and could handle any Winter Soldier episodes before they became a problem, and the man had been sneaking around the palace all day to stay under the radar so he could surprise Steve.
The others had all taken turns sneaking into town to purchase birthday gifts, and Sam was rather proud of the present he'd managed to get. The Captain still took his morning jogs, even in Wakanda (Sam was so sick of hearing that cheerful "on your left" from him...) and so Sam had gotten him an arm band to hold the MP3 player that Scott was getting him, the gear sized for a super-soldier bicep and with an embroidered Celtic cross on the side because Sam remembered Steve mentioning that he had Irish in his background. It was simple but sturdy, and when paired with the nice set of headphones he was getting for him, Sam hoped that Steve would get some good use out of it.
Sam nailed the last loose end of the streamer in place, setting the hammer aside before turning to look over his handiwork.
The room looked quite festive, awash in reds and blues with decorations hung off of every surface. The first round of food was laid out across the table but still covered, and he could already smell the burgers and hotdogs cooking a few rooms over. It was all set to go.
He was just finishing up putting away the ladder when Clint and Bucky came in, the two of them talking quietly and grinning like conspirators. When he shot them a raised eyebrow, the two gave him enormous grins and thumbs-up, and Sam just shook his head with a laugh. T'Challa rejoined them a short while later with news that the jet was scheduled to land in ten minutes with their surprise guests.
Scattering the balloons around the room was a simple enough task, made infinitely harder by the archer and ex-HYDRA assassin who insisted on throwing them up in the air and making trick-shots at one another as the balloons drifted toward the floor.
Giving up on arranging that particular set of decorations in any kind of order, Sam let himself relax back against the wall, watching Bucky and Clint fool around as T'Challa checked something on his phone.
He jumped a little at Wanda's voice, looking around for a second before he realized that she was in his head.
What's up, kiddo? he thought in reply.
We're heading back. Scott and Steve and me. Get everyone ready.
"Okay everyone, shut up and get your ass hidden," he called over the ruckus with a grin. "The Captain is on his way."
Clint immediately leaped over the back of the sofa and dropped to a crouch, Bucky hot on his heels and equally graceful despite being down an arm. T'Challa tucked himself into a corner that was out of sight of the door, and Sam made sure that the curtains were all covering the windows before turning off the light and ducking behind the table.
For a long moment the room was silent, and Sam had to bite his tongue as a snicker tried to work its way out between his lips. Taking a deep breath and hoping for the best, Sam coiled his muscles and prepared to leap to his feet.
The seconds dragged by slowly, each one seeming to take longer than the last, until finally he heard the distant sound of voices, mid-conversation, heading down the hall toward them.
With a final "ssh" whispered to the room just to make sure everyone knew that this was it, Sam focused his attention forward.
It was Scott who initially opened the door, smiling as he chatted over his shoulder to Steve and Wanda. The super soldier was barely a pace behind him, nodding along to whatever Scott was talking about and keeping pace. Wanda was a step behind them, but only until they entered the room.
Sam smiled as he saw Wanda drop back a pace or two behind Steve, bringing her hands up as her fingertips and eyes both glowed red.
Steve shot Scott a confused look as the man led him into the room.
"Why is it so dark in here?" Steve asked.
And Wanda took that moment to strike.
In a move that she'd been practicing for the past few hours, she used her powers to fling all the curtains open at once, flooding the room with light as Sam and the other three leaped out from hiding.
Steve was left standing in shock for a moment, but his startled expression quickly melted into a happy laugh as he looked around in wonder.
"What's all this, then?"
"It's your birthday, silly," Wanda scolded, stepping up behind him and slipping an arm through his to guide him over to the sofa.
"Didn't think we were gonna let you gloss that over just cause we're in hiding, did you?" Clint asked, stepping around the couch to greet the Captain with a firm hug. "Happy birthday, Cap."
"My turn," Sam grinned, opening his arms for a hug as well.
"You guys got all of this set up for me," Steve said in wonder, returning Sam's hug. "I...I'm speechless. Thank you. Thank you all."
"You deserve some nice things in your life," Bucky grinned. "You may be a stubborn, troublemaking little ass, but you've got a heart of gold. We're just letting you know how much you mean to all of us."
"C'mon, Buck, don't get sappy on me," Steve laughed, pulling his best friend into a hug as well. "Thought you were on the ice?"
"Today is special. Besides, Wanda said she's got things handled."
The little witch shot them a wink when Steve glanced over his shoulder at her, tapping a finger against her temple before going to hug Steve as well.
"Thank you, Wanda."
"No trouble at all. Anything for one of my most favorite people."
Steve let out a light laugh, giving the girl a little squeeze.
"You all are going to make me cry."
He straightened up, turning to find Lang fidgeting impatiently behind him.
"Happy birthday, Cap, sir!" Scott chirped, and with a grin Steve pulled him into a hug as well.
Steve released the man a moment later, turning to the final person in the room.
"Oh, come now," T'Challa grinned when Steve awkwardly offered a hand out. "Everyone else gets hugs but me?"
Steve stepped in with a laugh, embracing the king.
"I'm never quite sure of the protocol with royals."
"To you, I am not a king. I am a friend," T'Challa reassured him, patting the man on the back before releasing him.
"Let's start in on the snacks!" Clint grinned, but before anyone could move, T'Challa held up his hand. The man drew out his phone once more, flicking through something, before shooting Steve a smile.
"We are expecting a couple more."
"A couple more...?"
"In about three...two..."
"Where's the birthday boy?" a familiar voice called, and everyone looked up to find Natasha standing in the doorway, a bottle of champagne in one hand and a little cardboard box in the other.
"Tasha!" Clint grinned as Steve turned to face her with a disbelieving smile.
"Brought a friend, too," the assassin grinned, and she stepped out of the way to reveal a familiar blonde woman standing behind her.
"Sharon!" Sam laughed. "Well, I'll be damned."
"Now it's a party," Scott grinned.
The girls both smiled as Steve crossed over to them, and Natasha was the first to step forward and greet the Captain.
"Natasha, what are you guys doing here?" Steve asked gently.
"We figured you might run out of candles before you hit your age," she replied with a grin as she gave the little cardboard box a shake, stopping to give Steve a hug and murmuring "Happy birthday" before planting a kiss on his cheek and making her way to greet everyone else.
"Thanks, Nat, love you too," Steve called after her with a wry smile.
Sharon stepped up next, giving Steve a big hug and a little kiss on the cheek as well.
"Ignore her," she smiled, nodding after Natasha. "You don't look a day over twenty-five."
"Flattery," he accused with a grin, to which Sharon just offered a little shrug. "Glad to see the both of you doing well."
"Glad to see you looking so happy," Sharon countered, giving him a little nudge with her shoulder. "I'll let you introduce me to the rest of the gang."
"Let's get this party rolling," Bucky announced, starting to hand out plates, and everyone moved to cluster around the table as Steve started official introductions.
The servants had brought out the main course while they had all talked, and Sam loaded up his plate with a little bit of everything, trying to keep it all balanced as he followed Steve over to the sofa.
Sam settled himself on the cushions next to the Captain, letting him finish introducing Sharon to Wanda before he cleared his throat to get everyone's attention.
"All right, Steve," Sam said with a smile. "Let's have the official count. How old is Captain America turning today?"
Sam took a large bite of his burger as Steve glanced up at the ceiling, his lips moving as he calculated dates in his head.
"Technically I believe it would be ninety-nine...although I have only really celebrated thirty birthdays," he shrugged. Whichever one you all want to go with.
"Thirty one is a lot less impressive than ninety-nine," Sam grinned. "Though you're looking damn good for such an old-timer."
"I'll second that," Clint grinned. "Gonna need to borrow some of your genetics before I start losing hair."
"Oh, please...you're more child than man," Wanda scolded the archer with a fond grin.
"That's rich, coming from the youngest of the group," Bucky teased.
Wanda stuck her tongue out in response.
"Why don't you open presents while we're all eating, Steve?" Natasha suggested mildly.
"Great idea! Mine first!" Clint grinned, dropping onto the other side of the sofa with a bounce and passing a wrapped box to the Captain. The man watched with a large grin as Steve pulled the wrapping back, the Captain's eyes widening as he found himself holding a Star Wars box set.
"Figured I'd help you check off some of that bucket list of yours."
"Thanks, Clint. You'll come watch them with me, right?"
"Oh yeah, I wouldn't miss that for the world. Hell, I'm gonna record it."
Steve shot him a questioning look as the archer and Scott exchanged trouble-making grins, but didn't question it. The next present he picked up was small and boxy, with a bow stuck on the top that was bigger than the actual package.
"That one's from me," Scott grinned, all but bouncing in his seat.
Steve carefully unboxed the MP3 player, his face lighting up as he realized what it was.
"Thank you, Scott, this is fantastic!" Steve grinned, looking the device over.
"Mine next," Sam interjected, shoving his stacked pair of presents in Steve's direction before turning and taking another huge bite of his burger.
He watched Steve, chewing through his grin as the Captain peeled back the paper.
"Headphones! To go with this, I assume?"
Sam nodded, swallowing.
"And the other one."
Steve raised an eyebrow in question, turning to tear the paper from the other present.
"An arm band...?"
"Music player slips in there, head phones thread through that hole. Weather-proof, sweat-proof, machine washable, and stretchy enough to cover your massive biceps," Sam smirked. "So you can listen to music while you jog."
"Aw, thanks Sam," Steve grinned, and Sam leaned in obligingly as the Captain reached to clap him on the back.
"What about you, Bucky?" Natasha prompted.
The man blinked in surprise for a second, looking down at the table before picking up a bow, giving them all a shrug, slapping the decoration to his chest, and turning to Steve with open arms. The Captain let out a laugh, pulling Bucky into a hug.
"Best gift I could ask for."
"No, really though, I did actually get you something."
The man dug for a moment in his pockets, and Sam leaned a little closer in curiosity as he pulled out a wrapped package. Inside was a little charm, made of a glossy, dark wood and with symbols etched into it and painted in white.
"It's supposed to mean friendship and protection," Bucky shrugged, looking away in embarrassment. "Keep your ass out of trouble when I'm not there to do it."
"Aww, thanks, Buck," Steve smiled, bumping shoulders with the man.
"Mine next," Wanda said, glancing around the table for a moment before pointing at a wrapped gift that was long and cylindrical, with two circular lumps at the bottom.
The package looked a bit like a dick once he'd picked it from the pile, and Steve raised an eyebrow as he glanced at the little witch with a barely-hidden smirk.
"Clint wrapped my gift for me," Wanda said, shooting the grinning archer an exasperated look. "I promise you that there is nothing that shape in there."
"Oh come on, how could I not?" Clint asked, giving Wanda a nudge. "It was too perfect a chance to pass up."
Steve carefully peeled back the wrapping, his eyes going soft with affection when he saw the smooth wood hidden by the colored paper. A few seconds later he'd revealed a beautiful baseball bat and a pair of shock-white baseballs with red stitching.
"Wanda..." he started, running his hand gently over the bat.
"You talk about baseball a lot," she shrugged. "I figured that you should have something to play. Maybe teach the rest of us."
"God, we haven't played ball since we were kids," Bucky said with a soft grin, and Steve glanced up at him with a smile before returning his attention to the little witch.
"Tomorrow we'll try them out. I'll teach you how to hit a baseball."
Wanda beamed at him, and Steve gave her a one-armed hug before selecting the next present.
The gift was a square box, big and wide but not very tall, and it looked like it was rather heavy.
"That one is from me," T'Challa said. "Although I think once you open it, that fact will be rather obvious."
Steve carefully tore away the paper and peeled up the tape that held the cardboard closed, lifting the lid of the box to reveal an exact replica of the Captain America shield.
"It's..." Steve said softly, trailing off in wonder.
"I had it made to the exact specifications as your own shield," T'Challa explained. "Down to the smallest detail. I realize that the sentimental value will not carry over, however, so long as it services you well, I have done my job."
"Thank you," Steve said, gently running his fingers over the shining surface in wonder. "It's beautiful."
"One hundred percent high-grade vibranium. It shouldn't even scratch," the king said with a hint of pride.
"My turn!" Natasha announced, tossing a little wrapped package to Steve and leaving the man scrambling to catch it.
The super soldier carefully set the shield aside before turning his attention to Natasha's gift, peeling the paper back to reveal a worn, leather-bound notebook with a scrollwork "S" on the front. Steve carefully opened the cover, his eyes going wide.
"Howard Stark's plans. Along with a lot of his other notes and designs from the war. Back before he had to start inventing weapons," Natasha shrugged, getting up to clear her empty plate away. "Tony already got the design plans he wanted from it, so I figured that instead of letting it get thrown out, it should go to someone who would appreciate it. Someone who knew Howard as a friend."
"There's even the design for the flying car," Bucky said, leaning to see over Steve's shoulder as he flipped through the pages. "The one with repulsors instead of wheels."
"Well I'll be damned," Steve muttered, impressed.
Natasha paced up behind him, reaching to ruffle his hair as she leaned over the back of the couch.
"I'll forgive your language cause it's your birthday," she grinned, and Steve tensed his jaw, tilting his head a little to the side as an open-mouthed smile crept across his face.
"Swear to God, Romanoff..."
The Captain was quick to grab Natasha and flip her forward over the sofa, the assassin rolling with the motion so she landed seated in his lap, and she laughed as Steve gave her a big hug before shoving her off onto the cushion beside him. Sam obligingly scooted over to make room for her.
"Is that everything?" Scott asked, glancing around.
"Last one," Sharon said, leaning over the side of the couch and offering Steve a rather large wrapped package with a sweet little smile. "Happy birthday."
Steve shot the blonde woman a smile as he began to carefully remove the wrapping paper, revealing what looked like a white shoebox, the surface yellowed with age and speckled with little dust and water stains. The super soldier examined the box for a moment in curiosity before carefully opening it, and Sam leaned to see what was inside as Steve went still, his mouth opening in shock.
Inside the box was a neatly folded army uniform in dark green, covered in medals and ribbons. Lying on top of it were a few small things - a pocket watch, a picture, a hat, some little trinkets in a grayed bag that Sam couldn't make out...and on top of it all was a dried and preserved flower, and a card with a lipstick kiss on it.
It took Sam a long moment to realize that the tag on the jacket said "Rogers."
"Aunt Peggy, she...she kept everything," Sharon said with a little shrug. "After the war. She didn't want it getting lost in with the other unclaimed personal items, or getting stuffed in some museum basement, so she took it with her. Kept it safe, preserved it. We were cleaning out the attic...I figured it was about time it got returned to its proper owner."
Steve closed the lid on the box near reverently, turning to envelope Sharon in a long hug.
"Thank you," he murmured into her hair. "You have no idea how much this means to me."
"I think I have a pretty good idea," she laughed, her voice wavering on the edge of tears, and Sam gave them another moment before gently clearing his throat.
"So...Who wants to start in on the cake?" he suggested, laughing when Clint and Natasha scrambled eagerly to their feet, Natasha digging the little box of candles out of her pocket.
Steve and the rest of the gang made their way over a bit more slowly, Scott and Wanda darting around collecting empty plates and crumpled wrapping paper.
It took the assassin duo a long moment to stick all the candles in and get them lit (Clint nearly managing to light himself on fire in the process) but soon the cake was merrily blazing away like a little bonfire in the center of the table and T'Challa was moving to turn off the lights.
Bucky started in on the first syllable, and the others joined in immediately (save for Wanda and T'Challa, who looked immensely confused for a moment but picked up on the tune rather quickly) and Sam felt himself grinning as he saw Clint stuff a hand into his pocket.
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday dear Steve,
Happy birth day to you!
On the last syllable, before the voices had even died away, Clint pressed the little remote in his pocket, and a second later light flooded into the darkened room from the window. The bang of gunpowder going off made most of the people in the room jump in surprise, and Steve whirled around with his eyes wide in wonder to find the sky behind him lit up with fireworks.
It wasn't a very long display, only lasting for a minute or so, but it was quite impressive, and Sam shot an approving nod at Scott as the man beamed. The room was silent for a long moment as the banging echoes died away, all eyes on Steve.
The sight had left the Captain speechless, and for a long second he didn't move, just staring out the window in absolute wonder. A moment later he seemed to recover and let out a laugh, turning back to them all with an enormous grin - a genuinely happy expression that Sam hadn't seen on the man in what felt like ages - to hug the nearest team members tight.
Bucky and Scott both laughed as they found themselves swept into Steve's embrace, patting him on the back and wishing him a happy birthday before Steve turned to the next closest teammates and hugged them as well.
Sam grinned as he watched the Captain look around, trying to get his thoughts gathered enough to turn them into words.
"Thank you...all of you...this was..."
Steve trailed off, speechless, and was saved by Natasha giving him a nudge.
"You're not done yet. Blow out the candles and make a wish!"
Steve turned to the cake with a gentle laugh, taking a deep breath before carefully blowing out the dozens of candles that the assassin had insisted on covering it with.
T'Challa presented Steve with a knife to make the first cut, and Steve carefully pressed the blade down through the center, stopping as soon as it was fully in.
"Sam, would you?" Steve asked, indicating the knife. "It's bad luck for me to take it out."
"I got you," Sam smiled, carefully drawing the knife out before making a second cut and extracting a piece.
The first slice of cake came out displaying a perfect American flag, and Clint and Wanda high-fived in the background as Steve laughed in surprise. Sam peeked a bit closer and let out a low, impressed whistle when he saw that the blue part even had little star-shaped sprinkles scattered in it. Those two hadn't held back at all.
He carefully began serving the cake as Wanda slipped in beside him, a stack of plates at the ready, and began handing them out.
As they all lazed about the common room afterwards, chatting and laughing and eating cake, Sam shot a glance at Steve. The Captain was smiling, laughing with Sharon and Scott and Clint as he enthusiastically plowed through his slice of cake, looking truly relaxed for what must have been the first time in weeks.
Sam allowed himself a little smile, moving to re-fill his drink.
It was great to see Steve so happy.
The poor man had been through so much lately, and Sam loved that they could all get together to do even something small like this for him. Just a little something to let him know that he had friends here, and they all loved him.
It may not have been the best birthday the man had ever had, but Sam was sure that it would be one of the most memorable ones. And he could live with that.
Author's Note: A little late for the 4th of July, but here you go. Will continue to post some of the other completed stuff I've written while I bang my head against updates for Conjugal Visit.