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Nothin' You Can Prove

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“I'm serious, Stevie.”

 

“I know you are,” Steve said, but he had that stupid little grin that meant he absolutely did not know how serious Bucky was. “I'm sure you'll be very good for each other.”

 

Bucky scoffed. “No shit. I'm not marrying him on a whim."

 

“You're not even dating him yet,” Steve pointed out oh-so-helpfully.

 

Smug (not so) little punk.

 

“What, you think I won't?” Bucky challenged. “I'm going to date the shit out of him.”

 

The carrots on the cutting board didn't stand a chance. One of the orange circles flew off under the force of the blade and Steve caught it, popping it in his mouth happily. Bucky spun the blade to flick another piece of carrot-y debris at his friend. It hit Steve square on the nose, which cheered Bucky up considerably.

 

“What's his favourite flower?” Bucky tried to sound casual.

 

Steve snorted. “A bouquet? You're gonna buy the billionaire some flowers?”

 

“It's a classic courting gift, Stevie.” Bucky slid the carrot slices off the cutting board and into the food processor next to him, then reached for the bananas. They looked weird. Long and a little too pale yellow, but Steve had assured him that bananas had just changed since the 40s. Something about a fruit plague. It was weird. He started slicing them too. “You don't buy flowers for your pal, you buy them for your gal or your fella. It's romantic. A big giant 'I want to date you’ sign. Can't be misinterpreted. You remember that time with Masie?”

 

“Who?” Steve scrunched up his nose.

 

“That little brunette gal you liked. Got her a bracelet and--”

 

“She thought it was a swell birthday present,” Steve grumbled, looking suddenly glum. “Thanks for the reminder.”

 

“No problem,” Bucky grinned. “I know you got memory problems n’all that. What with the old age and--”

 

Thanks, Buck,” Steve growled. Bucky laughed.

 

Apparently deciding that he could actually be helpful for once, Steve lifted himself off the bar stool and cleared away the banana peels, chucking them into a flat green bin that had 'Compost’ scrawled across the top in Bruce's handwriting.

 

“Remind me again what sparked this interest?” Steve asked, and the tone was a little off.

 

Bucky frowned. “Why?”

 

Steve shrugged, grabbed a kitchen towel and wiped off his hands. “Curiosity.”

 

“Curiosity killed the cat,” Bucky warned.

 

“But satisfaction brought it back,” Steve said without missing a beat. “So spit it out.”

 

Bucky narrowed his eyes at Steve trying to figure out where the rigid posture and puffed out chest had come from. He mentally went over their conversation again, not finding anything that should've stepped on the man's toes but with Stevie? Who knew. Might be another one of those future things he'd have to research.

 

Well, in for a penny…

 

“Communal shower at the gym,” Bucky said with a wolfish grin. “Timed it juuuust right. That ass is a work of art.”

 

There it was. The disapproval that had been simmering since the topic had been broached. Bucky took a deep breath, trying to smooth down his instinctively raised hackles, and maybe not start a fist fight in the kitchen. It was only his second week in the tower, after all. No one needed to know how many issues between he and Steve got resolved by playing Bloody Knuckles. Yet, at least. Just seemed impolite.

 

“So you want to sleep with Tony,” Steve clarified in that same tone he used as Captain America.

 

Bucky rolled his eyes so hard it actually hurt. “No, I said I wanna marry him. Clean the gunk outta your ears.”

 

Steve frowned. “And you decided this based off of his ass?”

 

“Yep,” Bucky said, popping the 'p’ loudly. “Work of art.”

 

Steve's frown deepened into a full on disapproving scowl. “I don't think that's a good idea, Buck.”

 

“Oh?” Bucky widened his eyes with surprise and batted them as innocently as someone with a world class kill count feasibly could. “Why's that?”

 

“Tony's… been through a lot,” Steve started carefully.

 

Bucky nodded, the perfect picture of active listening, sliding the banana slices into the food processor and screwing in the plastic lid until it clicked.

 

“He may have a reputation for sleeping around but--”

 

Bucky turned on the food processor, drowning out the rest of Steve's sentence. The blond stammered mid-word then tried again.

 

“But he's actually quite sensitive--”

 

Bucky turned the food processor up from Grate to Grind, still watching Steve with wide patient eyes. Not much good came out of the whole Winter Soldier thing, but his poker face was solid. Steve squinted at him, trying to figure out if he was doing it on purpose. Bucky blinked back.

 

“And I think,” Steve practically shouted over the noise, “that stringing him along for sex would hurt him pretty bad. He's a good man--”

 

He pressed the Liquify button, willpower being the only thing keeping unrestrained glee off of his face. Steve's mouth snapped shut and he glared. Bucky bent his knees a little, leaning over to peer at the orange-y mush spinning around inside the food processor. He pretended to inspect it for a couple seconds before nodding approvingly. He pressed the off button.

 

Steve looked like he was ready to strangle him.

 

“Sorry Stevie, were you sayin’ somethin’?”

 

Steve puffed out a breath of air and honest to God closed his eyes and counted. Incredible. If only he'd picked up the skill in the 40s when he couldn't fight his way out of a wet paper bag.

 

“I'm saying that Tony is a good friend, Buck. He was my first friend when I woke up and…” His eyes gentled, looking down at the kitchen flooring. “I would hate to see him hurt. That's all.”

 

Bucky took the mixing component off the processor's stand and upended it slowly into the shiny metal mixing bowl that sat under a high powered mixing tool. Kitchen appliances these days were insane. He tapped the side, making sure to get all of it before putting the plastic in the sink.

 

“And I know you, Buck,” Steve said, that godawful 'please don't disagree’ undertone as blaringly obvious as the bright blue plaid stretched across his chest.”I know you can be a charming son of a bitch when you want to be--”

 

“Damn right.”

 

“--and if you pull Tony into a romantic relationship…” Steve floundered. “He puts his whole heart into things, is all. Even if he doesn't show it often.”

 

Bucky nodded slowly, considering. He pulled the fridge door open and grabbed two eggs, cracking them each into the mixing bowl before tossing the shells in the sink. He thought better of it then, fishing them out and shuffling towards the compost bin. Steve obligingly opened the lid for him, then handed him the towel after he rinsed his hands. He leaned against the sink, taking the time to make sure to get all the gooey bits out of the metal divots in his fingers.

 

Steve continued with a half smile. “So if you're just after a lay, I'm just saying that maybe he's not your best bet. Make sense?”

 

“Sure, yeah. Makes perfect sense.”

 

Bucky pulled a container of flour from one of the cabinets and carefully measured out two cups before dumping it into the mix. He could practically hear Steve's suspicion behind him as he worked and tried not to grin, adding a pinch of salt to the batter.

 

“Plus, folks these days don't make such a big thing outta casual sex,” Steve pushed his way through the sentence and the blush was audible. Jesus. “There are all these, uh. Apps.”

 

“That right?” Bucky said, because he couldn't help himself. “Apps?”

 

“Yeah,” Steve coughed. “Nat showed me. There's uh, Tinder, Grindr, uh--”

 

Bucky snorted, unable to hold back his laughter any longer. Steve spluttered to a stop, eyes wide and face red, spitting out protests as Bucky turned the mixer on high to drown out his words. The irritation that settled into Steve's face still hadn't changed from the first time Bucky had pulled his sorry ass out of a back alley dumpster. All righteous anger and pride.

 

He flicked the mixer off and pulled the motorized apparatus back away from the bowl. He let the batter settle as he fished around for a flat spatula, seizing his prize with a triumphant grin and waving it at Steve's face before getting to work scraping the less mixed batter around the sides the bowl into the center. Guess even with all the fancy equipment some stuff still needed to be done by hand. Pity.

 

Nah, Bucky thought with a smile. Tony could probably fix that.

 

He glanced over his shoulder and sure enough Steve was still staring at him petulantly.

 

“I mean it Buck,” Steve warned. “Don't hurt Tony.”

 

Bucky turned to face him fully, leaving the spatula in the bowl. He tilted his chin out challengingly, and gave Steve his best appraising look. Like expected, Steve didn't even flinch. Idiot.

 

“Yeah?” Bucky said. “Or what?”

 

Shock flickered over Steve's face, followed by disbelief, rage, and then finally suspicion.

 

“The hell do you mean 'or what?’ Or I'll kick your ass, that's what.”

 

Bucky rolled his eyes. “See you're missin’ somethin’ vital here, Stevie.”

 

“Yeah? And what's that?” Steve's eyes widened as soon as the words were out of his mouth, quickly morphing into a sharp glare. “The helicarrier don't count, Buck. I wasn't fightin’ back. I still think I could kick your ass--”

 

“No you couldn't,” Bucky said blandly. “Couldn't in ‘42, and that ain't different now. I don't care if you moved a hundred weight classes. You're predictable as shit.”

 

Steve let out an offended sounding noise but Bucky cut him off.

 

“But that ain't what you're missin’. I mean, you are missing common fucking sense apparently, but that wasn't what I was getting at.” He paused in his improvised lecture to start digging through cabinets for a baking pan.

 

Lots of cookie sheets, a couple cupcake tins, did they not have a--oh, there it was. Bucky's metal hand clinked around the side of the bread pan as he pulled it free. Steve was still going on about how he had plenty more experience now or some shit, like it could at all compare to seventy goddamn years of professional assassinations. He grinned. Some things never changed.

 

“Steve. Stevie,” Bucky interrupted, raising an eyebrow at his friend. “Deep breaths, pal.”

 

“I don't have asthma anymore, Buck--”

 

“You're still turnin’ bright pink.”

 

Steve scowled something fierce. “Y’know what, Buck? Go right ahead. Sleep with Tony. But don't expect me to help or support you in this. It's cruel and I can't believe you would--”

 

“Stevie, Jesus Christ, would you take a goddamn breath for a sec? Lemme speak.”

 

Steve crossed his arms over his chest, somehow managing to look just as annoying as he had in the 40s. Bucky fought off another grin. It was hard to stay mad when he was finally stable, finally able to participate in this insane future world he found himself in. Living the impossible where Steve was taller than him and they both recently celebrated their hundredth birthdays.

 

Same future where a man in a metal suit could soar through the air, leaving birds in the wake behind him.

 

“You seem to be forgetting that part where I said I'm gonna marry him,” Bucky mirrored Steve's pose, meeting his gaze evenly. “I ain't exaggerating.”

 

Irritation left Steve's face slowly, but the suspicion was still there. And honestly, it was a little relieving to be suspected of toying with someone's heart rather than stabbing it. Felt more normal.

 

“I don't get it,” Steve finally said. “You said you made this decision when you--”

 

“Communal showers, yep,” Bucky nodded, affirming. He chewed the inside of his cheek a little, doing a little suspicious staring of his own. He sighed loudly. “You really gonna make me talk about my feelings right now?”

 

“Yep,” Steve said evenly, popping the 'p’ extra loud in his best imitation of Bucky.

 

What a punk.

 

He groaned loudly, scuffing his feet on the floor as he moved, taking his sweet time dumping the batter into the bread pan. Steve could just sit there and wait. It wasn't like they were getting any older.

 

When he finally slid the pan into the oven and set the timer Steve had slid back over to the kitchen stools, perched there and waiting like an overgrown and judgmental bird.

 

“Well?”

 

Bucky scowled. He stalked across the kitchen, stopping at the sink so that he could stare Steve down properly, and let the humour leave his face. He sure as hell wasn't going to be having this conversation twice.

 

Steve flinched, looking behind Bucky towards the door. He opened his mouth, “Uh, Buck--”

 

“No, you want me to talk feelings? Let's talk about my goddamn feelings,” Bucky snapped.

 

Steve winced.

 

“Tony ain't just a mechanic with a suit. Sure, it's incredible, like somethin’ outta those sci-fi books I used to get. I mean, a guy flying outside of a plane on its own is something for the records, but he makes it look graceful. Effortless. And it is for him,” Bucky shook his head, reaching down into the sink to flick bits of debris down the garbage disposal. He didn't want to see Steve's reaction yet. “Everything is. That mind of his is somethin’ else, Stevie. But it doesn't stand a chance against his heart.”

 

Steve's eyes widened more, and he glanced at the door behind Bucky again. Bucky snapped his fingers to get Steve's attention back on him, feeling marginally more satisfied when Steve cringed and obliged.

 

“I dunno if you all just got used to it, or if there's somethin’ I'm missin’, but he pours his whole goddamn soul into the Avengers. And I don't just mean funding.” Bucky stepped to the side to open one of the closer cabinets and gestured to all the various and weird cereals, snacks, and internationally imported treats that were stocked in meticulous order. “He takes the time to know you. Figure out how to turn a tower into a home. I know for a fact some of this shit was discontinued, and Nat's weird chips are definitely illegal by FDA standards. But that doesn't stop Stark.”

 

A small smile crossed Steve's face and maybe he was finally getting it. Bucky closed the cabinet and shook his head.

 

“Thing is, Stevie, the world can't be saved. No matter how ready your heroes are, no matter how good your tech is. You put one fire out and it starts another.” He held up a placating hand before Steve could interrupt him. “I ain't sayin’ that that means it ain't worth tryin’. But it's just a fact of the business. For every Captain America, there's always gonna be a Winter Soldier.”

 

Steve's smile faded into a pressed grim line. So Bucky pushed past it.

 

“Tony does it anyway. He ain't got powers, ain't got enhancements, nothin’. He's just a guy with a suit. An awesome suit, but,” Bucky conceded a little, “no obligation. And he still goes into it just like you lot do. But he goes in with his heart wide open.”

 

The blond’s eyes watched him thoughtfully, still occasionally seeking the door, but calmer.

 

“And I ain't sayin’ that you all don't care. M’not. Just that there ain't nobody on this horrible planet that still goes into hell with his heart as open and vulnerable as Tony does.” Bucky shrugged. “Don't gotta be close to the guy to see it.”

 

Steve nodded slowly. After a minute or so, his eyes found Bucky's again. “So you're serious about him then?”

 

Bucky rolled his eyes. “Christ, Stevie. I sure think so.”

 

Steve laughed a little, looking considerably more at ease. That whole 'fight me’ vibe had simmered and faded, leaving curiosity glittering in his eyes. Or trouble. Probably trouble.

 

“And you're gonna marry him, huh?”

 

“Yep,” Bucky said, popping the 'p’ extra loud. “So you better get on board, Rogers.”

 

“Oh, you got a plan now?” Steve grinned. “Know his favourite flowers yet?”

 

Bucky snickered. “I'll figure out the plan along the way. Tell you what though. In ten years? I’m gunna be Tony Stark’s second husband.”

 

Steve was giggling again in that way that only meant trouble. Bucky tried to look exasperated but his smile probably gave him away.

 

“What, punk? What’re you laughin’ at--”

 

“What happened to my first husband?” said a cheerful voice behind him.

 

Bucky froze. Steve's laughter was now generously peppered with wheezes and snorts. Of course. Of course.

 

Fuck it.

 

Bucky turned around and gave Tony his most charming grin. “Nothin' you can prove.”

 

He held up his hand over his shoulder and Steve high fived him instantly. Good to know Rogers was on board, at least.

 

Tony laughed, a little under his breath, and shifted his weight back and forth. Like he was nervous. Bucky tilted his head and waited. Eventually those big brown eyes were back on him and the grin he'd seen plastered all over magazines and TV screens couldn't have held a candle to the one in front of him. Bucky's heart gave a traitorous little thump.

 

“Yeah, alright. I'll bite,” Tony said with a nod, looking genuinely pleased. His brow quirked just a little. “Favourite flowers are red Columbines. Remind me of something I'm pretty fond of. You’ll know it when you see it.”

 

Bucky nodded, biting his lip to try and keep from grinning like an idiot. “Red Columbines. Got it.”

 

“You can pick me up at eight on Friday,” Tony informed him, trying to keep the playfulness off his face and only barely getting any traction. “Wear something nice. You know what, just let Nat pick it out for you.”

 

“Aw, you don't think I could charm you all by myself?” Bucky asked and thanked every deity he could think of (including Thor) that his voice didn't wobble. “And here I was going to put on my best hoodie and everythin’.”

 

Tony laughed again and Bucky couldn't help the way his grin widened.

 

“Friday. Eight o’clock sharp. Don't be late,” Tony said, wavering a bit where he stood.

 

“Anything for you, doll,” Bucky winked.

 

Tony gave an embarrassing little giggle snort that Bucky would treasure for the rest of his goddamn days, then turned on his heel and left the kitchen. Bucky didn't need to look behind him to know that Steve was grinning.

 

“I did try to stop you,” Steve offered, not even able to get the words out without laughing.

 

“You're such a punk.

 

Steve laughed at him some more and Bucky didn't bother trying to hide the dopey smile on his face.

 

“Though, he was probably coming to the kitchen to get food, not be proposed to,” Steve pointed out. “And I don't think he's consumed anything that isn't coffee in a couple days.”

 

Bucky's smile dropped off his face and he whirled around to check the timer. Fifteen minutes left of baking. Fifteen minutes to school his expression into something that wasn't gag worthy.

 

“I'll make sure to bring him some fresh carrot-banana bread. He likes all that healthy shit, right?”

 

“Mhmm.” Steve nodded.

 

“Good,” Bucky said, leaning back against the counter and trying to catch his breath. His heart was still hammering away worse than it had in years and he couldn't get enough of it. The dizzy feeling spread down to his knees as he realized Tony hadn't exactly said no to the whole accidental marriage proposal.

 

Well then. Ain't that somethin’.

 

“Good,” Bucky said again, the grin back in full spread. “Maybe I can cut down the plan to four years.”

 

Steve laughed and Bucky barely noticed.