“Bring a date, Bucky,” Winifred warned him in that tone - the mother tone she liked to haul out under special circumstances, like when she was trying to guilt trip him into doing what she wanted. It went well with the expression on her face. It was no wonder he was best friends with Steve Rogers if he was so accustomed to that tone and that facial expression. As though reading his mind, his mother narrowed her eyes and continued with the edict that would make all of their lives miserable. “And not Steve.”
“Bu…” Bucky had no idea how she knew he was planning on bringing Steve. From the age of 12, Bucky had been the person who found it easy to bring a plus-one to everything, including things that didn’t need a plus-one. The few times Steve had been his date had been when it was something Steve really should have been invited to but hadn’t been. Usually, Bucky brought the person he was seeing at the time, or he would just walk up to someone who caught his eye and ask.
It had been as easy as that to him.
Enviably, really, or so Steve told him.
How could he sit through his mother's wedding without Steve by his side? Steve deserved to be there. Winifred was practically his second mother, Steve thought he was going to the wedding. They'd gone in together on a gift already and everything.
“Steve has his own invitation,” she continued, still reading his mind.
It was a mom-power.
Or maybe she was reading his facial expressions. “The two of you have been inseparable from such a young age that I can’t imagine him not at my wedding, but I also know the type of things the two of you get up to together when you’re asked to sit still, so please just honor my wishes this one time. On my wedding day.” The mom-look intensified. He never should have taught her how to FaceTime. “Bring someone who isn’t your best friend. Anyone.”
She said ‘anyone’ with the kind of desperation of someone who had given up on meddling with their son’s love life ages ago. His mother wasn’t the type of person to want grandkids so badly that she considered it in every potential relationship Bucky had. She wanted her children to be happy. Unfortunately for her, Bucky had spent a long time thinking he had to have a plus-one in order to be fulfilled by his life, and that turned out not to be the key to his happiness.
For one thing, he picked the wrong people. He had a long list of names of the wrong people, chosen by him, just because he wanted to be in a relationship, felt attraction for someone, or was inspired by them in some way, and committed himself for a while.
It was a problem with him, not with any of the people he’d seen over the past decade and change. So a few years ago he'd thought it was time to try something new, time to try not committing himself and see what happened.
New didn’t work for him either.
The problem was that Bucky didn’t want to bring someone, anyone to the wedding. After more than two years of serial dating without trying to go deeper than surface level, he was finally taking time to himself. It felt good. He’d found his happiness, and that happiness was with Bucky Barnes. He knew and understood himself now better than he ever had before, and it felt freeing in a way.
It also showed him that not only did he not need a significant other, he was doing both himself and the other person a disservice when his heart wasn’t really in it. Bucky was the kind of guy who fell, and fell hard, or became increasingly disinterested. It wasn’t kind to become increasingly disinterested with someone when they were possibly doing the opposite, and then had to face the reality of Bucky pulling away, until eight days had passed without talking and Bucky was breaking up with them in a Starbucks close to their work.
Or, as Bucky liked to think of it, the point he realized that not only was the relationship not working for him, but the way he thought about relationships wasn’t working for him either. The coffee all over his white shirt hadn’t been the epiphany, it hadn’t been the pivotal moment, but having all those eyes on him watching the scene play out had given him pause to reflect. It was as though creating a spectacle gave him the ability to see himself from an outsider’s perspective, just for a moment, and he didn’t like what he saw.
So while he understood that his mother was saying that she didn’t want a repeat of Bucky’s Aunt Phyllis’s wedding, where he and Steve had grabbed one of the bottles of champagne chilling on a table during the reception and disappeared just long enough to drink it, Bucky didn’t think he could bring anyone. Bucky was cleansing himself of the idea of anyone.
Maybe someday he’d be ready to face the possibility of a singular person being the someone he’d be with for the rest of his life.
That wasn’t going to be today.
“What if I’m dating Steve?” Bucky asked, sulking a bit at her tone and the pressure of obligation. He didn’t want to bring a stranger, he just wanted to spend his mother’s wedding hanging out with his best friend. Claiming that he was dating Steve seemed rational in Bucky’s mind. If: 1. he had to bring a date for romance purposes, and 2. he just wanted to bring his best friend, then 3. it only made sense to question ‘well what if my BFF is the person I’m romancing?’
The problem with arguing with his mother was that Bucky had to have inherited his obstinate traits from somewhere.
The moment the question was out of his mouth, he realized that he was going to stand by it. He was going to continue insisting that he and Steve were dating right up to the point where he was waving his mother away on her honeymoon, if it came to it.
For better or for worse.
Winifred snorted. “You and Steve aren’t dating.”
Bucky clenched his teeth. “Why not?” His gaze was direct and demanding. Defiant. He and Steve could be dating.
Bucky and his mother had a standoff of wills over FaceTime, all narrowed eyes and intense looks. He knew that she knew that he was lying, but hell if he was going to cave first.
What was the worst that could happen if he tried to out-stubborn his mother when it came to her wedding day? While the answer should be obvious to Bucky, he was also mid-argument and there was no one around to make dire faces at him. So, really, anything that happened from the point where Bucky tried to find a loophole to his mother’s edict by claiming he was dating Steve was all Steve’s fault for not being home.
Life would be so much better if Steve never left his side.
Probably not. Steve also had a unique ability to get Bucky into a shitton of trouble, too.)
Why not? His mother considered his question and he watched her warily. He could see the moment she stopped thinking of arguments for why Bucky and Steve weren’t dating and really looked at him. For a second, he thought that maybe she was convinced, and he smiled like he’d won.
The smile was a mistake.
“By all means, if you and Steve are dating, bring him!” his mother snapped back at him. She looked done with Bucky and this conversation, whether she believed him or not. The sulky tone and smug grin probably had not helped matters.
Bucky would feel guilty if it didn’t also mean he had gotten his way.
“Fine, I will!”
“Fine! But if you do and it turns out you’re not dating Steve, I’m allowing Becca to stay with you this summer. All two months.”
Eugh. No. That would be horrible.
“Do you hear me, Bucky?” she continued. “From the moment you hang up this phone, if you’re still insisting on this ridiculous…” she took a breath and cut herself off, rethinking her wording. “If it turns out that you’re not dating Steve, Becca is your responsibility this summer.”
Bucky was starting to see the risk of going toe to toe with his mom.
He would just have to work extra hard to convince her that Steve + Bucky = dating. What would be something that would weigh the scale in his favor? “Steve and I are totally dating,” Bucky found himself blurting out. “I’ve seen his dick.”
I’ve seen his dick? He repeated to himself in his mind. What was that? If he wasn’t on video call, he’d be mouthing ‘what’ and making a face right now. Bucky did not respond well to ultimatums.
At least half of that wasn’t actually a lie, except in context.
Winifred rolled her eyes, the very definition of unimpressed. “We’ve all seen Steve’s dick. Keeping pants on that boy was impossible up to the age of six.”
“Recently,” Bucky responded in exasperation.
Recently as in Steve sometimes still hated pants if he was drunk enough. Being Steve’s best friend was the most amazing thing in the world, for all the trouble Steve got him into. Bucky was pretty sure the champagne debacle had been Steve’s fault.
Steve. Drunk off champagne. At a wedding.
Bucky's Aunt Phyllis had also seen Steve without pants. Luckily, his stripping had stopped at just the pants and he hadn't gotten around to his boxers yet.
“Well I hope you have,” his mother told him in a triumphant tone. Warning. Warning. There were blaring claxons of warning going on. “For your sake. Becca is going through a rebellious phase. She’s a lot like you were at that age.”
Terrifying. The only thing worse than Becca acting out like Bucky had was the fact that his mother thought she'd already won. Bucky took offense to her tone.
“Steve and I are in a relationship, mom. Goodbye.” Bucky jammed his thumb on the call end button, and then did it twice more for good measure before tossing it on the couch. “Fuck,” he groaned helplessly, shoving both hands into his hair and tugging a little bit. It did nothing to ease the pressure on his brain.
“Fuck!” he yelled at the black screen on the television. It didn’t respond with anything except for a distorted view of his reflection.
That was about right.
Bucky had never responded well to ultimatums. At least, there was a minor amount of comfort there knowing that Steve responded to them with even less grace.
Oh god, what was he going to do now? He was such an asshole. He had plenty of acquaintances he could have brought to his mother’s wedding who would have said yes for the free food and alcohol, and the promise of Bucky owing them a favor.
Clint would have done it for the first two alone.
But no, Bucky had to get stubborn and all high and mighty against his mother. His mother, the woman who was getting married in a month and experiencing a lot of stress, and who was one of the most stubborn people he’d ever met.
Bucky was well aware that he’d just made his bed and now he’d have to lie in it.
And lie he shall!
Step 1: tell Steve that Bucky was his boyfriend now.