Bucky is not waiting up for Steve. Just because he knows Tony is going to propose to Steve tonight, doesn't mean Bucky has to wait for him. He makes dinner for himself, he browses the internet and finally settles down to play some Witcher 3.
He does not obsessively check his phone.
He isn't even sure why he’s so nervous. Steve and Tony have been together for years, it was only a matter of time before Tony got his head out of his ass and committed. And Steve was head over heels for him, so of course he was going to say yes.
Bucky had even helped Tony pick out the ring.
He jumps when his phone rings. “Hello?”
“I said yes!” Steve shouts.
“Congratulations!” Bucky replies, unable to stop the grin on his face.
“How long have you known?”
“Too long,” Bucky replies, leaning back in his chair, “way too long.”
Steve laughs. “I just thought you’d like to know how it panned out so you can go to sleep.”
“I was not waiting for you.”
“Okay,” Steve says, disbelieving, “and how far did you get in Witcher?”
Bucky puts a hand over his eyes. “Not far enough.”
“Go to bed,” Steve insists, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
They say their goodbyes and Bucky heads to bed. Things are going to change, but some things never change.
“I hear congratulations are in order,” Bucky says, walking into work the next day, coffee tray in hand.
“Like there was any doubt Steve was going to say yes,” Natasha counters.
He shrugs. “I was holding out for a last minute miracle.”
Tony throws a dirty cloth at his direction from where his head is resting on his desk.
“He didn't get much sleep last night,” she mock whispers.
“Too busy celebrating?” Bucky asks monotonously.
Tony winces. “I knew I should’ve done it on Saturday instead of Sunday.”
“Didn’t we warn you?” Natasha asks.
“I feel like we warned you,” Bucky replies, teasingly.
“We definitely warned you,” Natasha says.
“Okay thanks Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum,” he says, “don’t you have work to be getting on with?”
Bucky places a giant cup of coffee on Tony’s desk. “Compliments of your fiancé,” he says, “he says he used that caramel syrup you love.”
Tony looks up and grabs for the cup as Bucky hands another to Natasha, and takes the last for himself.
“You should’ve opened with this, Barnes,” Tony says, practically inhaling the coffee.
“I like to see you suffer,” Bucky says, grinning as he walked away, “I have designs to work on.”
“That’s what I’ve been saying,” Tony says, resting his head on the desk again.
They all go out for dinner the next weekend. Before the food even arrives, Steve turns to him seriously. “Bucky,” he says, “I want you to be my best man.”
“Well, I am the best man you know,” Bucky says, and Maria and Sharon laugh.
“Ha ha,” Tony replies sarcastically, then turns to Natasha, imitating Steve’s serious tone, “Natasha,” he says, “I want you to be my maid of dishonour.”
She punches him in the arm but she’s grinning. “I wouldn't have accepted anything less.”
“We were thinking of getting a wedding planner,” Steve says, “we’re just shopping around-”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Natasha cut him off, “we’ve got this.”
“Are you sure?” Steve asks, looking doubtful.
“A planner can be expensive,” Bucky says, “we can do this.”
“You’ve taken care of me my whole life,” Steve says.
“Exactly,” he says, “I know what I’m doing.”
“I can’t ask you to do this.”
“You’re not asking, I’m offering,” he says, “you can’t trust a stranger with this.”
“We want to do the cake,” Sharon cuts in.
“I don't know what to say,” Steve says, looking between them.
“Say yes,” Tony says, his hand on Steve’s, “yes, you guys are amazing.”
“Okay, but if things get too overwhelming you have to let us know,” Steve says.
“Promise,” Bucky says.
The next day Bucky has some serious regrets. He doesn't know anything about planning a wedding, what was he thinking?
He texts Natasha while he’s still in bed.
‘Relax,’ she replies, ‘I’ve got this. I already have an appointment with a florist, make sure you’re ready by 10.’
He groans. That's in half an hour. He drags himself out of bed and into the shower. By the time Natasha saunters into his and Steve’s apartment he’s just running product into his hair.
She holds up a brown paper bag and he grins, grabbing for it.
She pulls it just out of reach. “You can have it in the car,” she tells him before giving it to him.
“Maybe you should be the best man,” he says, following her out and locking the door behind him, “does Steve know you’re borrowing his car?”
“Please,” she scoffs, “I’m better than a man. And yes, I texted him and everything.”
Bucky nods as he gets into the car, but he’s too busy biting into his pastry to talk.
They drive in silence and by the time they reach their destination Bucky is just finishing eating. “Why are we at work?” he asks her, looking into the tattoo parlour, locked and dark inside.
“We’re not,” she says, “we’re going across the road, I just figured I’ll use Tony’s parking space since he’s not using it.”
The florist is a lot bigger than he was expecting, almost as big as the tattoo parlour, but with less walls and bigger windows so that the sunlight seems to fill every corner.
Natasha approaches the desk and smiles at the woman behind the counter. “Hi,” she says, “we’re here to see Sam Wilson?”
The woman nods and turns behind her. “Sam!” she calls, “someone is here to see you.” Then she turns back to Natasha, “he will be out in a moment.”
She sweeps her long hair behind her and turns back to the bouquet she is arranging.
It isn't long before a man comes out of the back office and smiles at them. “Hi, I’m Sam,” he introduces himself, shaking their hands, “why don't you come into my office.”
He leads them behind the counter and into a small office with a desk that takes up half the space and a huge window on its left that overlooks a small garden.
They sit down and he pulls out a huge folder, but before he opens it he looks up at them again.
“So what kind of wedding were you guys thinking of having?” he asks.
“Oh,” Bucky says, surprised, “it’s not - we’re not getting married.”
“Oh, of course,” Sam replies, looking away, “sorry, are you…” he trails away looking between them.
“Best man,” Natasha says, “and maid of honour. We actually work just across the road at Tony’s Tattoos. It's his wedding.”
Sam grins. “Oh!” He says, “so you’re planning the wedding for your friends, have you got any idea what they’re thinking of doing, theme wise?”
Bucky looks at Natasha. “I know Steve would want something simple,” he says, “But Tony-”
She nods. “Tony would want something extravagant.”
Sam laughs. “I see what it’s like,” he says, “how about I show you a few pictures, some ideas of what we can do and then build it from there.”
“You can do that?” Bucky asks. He’s trying to sound normal, he really is but something about Sam just draws him in.
“Yeah,” Sam says, smiling, “I can do almost anything you want. Now, have you picked a location yet?”
Bucky shakes his head no.
“You’re the first person we’ve seen,” Natasha tells him, “you came highly recommended.”
Sam grins proudly then opens the folder. They get down to work. He shows them some samples of other weddings he’s done, and some possible color palettes they could go with.
“The colors will also depend on the season,” he explains, “obviously some things bloom better at certain times of the year, but you have to think of the surroundings, the atmosphere, like if it’s an autumn wedding you’d want crisp colors, something a bit more rustic, or if it’s on the beach you’d go with something a bit paler, but anything and everything is doable.”
Bucky nods along and turns to Natasha, who seems to be taking it all in. “We’ll have to talk with the grooms I think,” Bucky says.
“See if they had any preferences,” Natasha says, nodding.
“Okay, no problem,” Sam says, “you have my number.”
She nods again and they both stand up.
“Thank you for your time,” Bucky says and walks out.
They walk to the car in silence but when they get in Bucky can't help but ask. “How did you know he’d be any good?”
“Like I said,” she says, pulling away from the curb, “he was highly recommended. Why?” She grins slyly at him.
“You know exactly why,” he says.
She laughs. “I liked his work,” she says, “you might be in luck.”
He rolls his eyes, but doesn't say anything. He has to admit, even if just to himself, that he’s already looking forward to seeing Sam again.
~ sunflower ~
A week later, he goes with Steve to look at locations. The first few are nothing special. Bucky is starting to lose hope when they park outside another non-descript building.
“This is the last one,” Steve promises, “if it’s not what I’m looking for, we can go home and I’ll owe you one.”
“You'll owe me a bear claw,” Bucky corrects.
Steve laughs. “First thing on Monday morning.”
Bucky nods in satisfaction and follows Steve into the building.
When they made it to the office of the guy they were supposed to meet Steve hesitates, looking at the name on the door once again before knocking.
“Steve?” The man who answers says, surprised, “Steve Rogers!”
“Bruce!” Steve replies, just as enthusiastic, “What are you doing here?”
“I’m the event manager!” Bruce says, “You’re my 3 o’clock?”
“Looks that way,” Steve says grinning, “we want to look at the rooftop event space.”
“Sure, sure, give me a second, I’ll find the keys,” he says and wanders back into the office.
Steve turns to Bucky. “I knew him from culinary school,” he explains, “what a coincidence.”
Bruce shuffles back out, and they make their way to the elevators.
They ride the elevator in silence but when they step out Bruce waits by the doors while they wander into the space. “So what are you using it for?” he asks.
“My wedding,” Steve says, looking up at the glass ceiling.
“Oh, wow congratulations,” Bruce says, looking at Bucky.
“Not me,” Bucky says, “him and someone else, I’m the best man.”
“Oh,” Bruce says, “you’re Bucky right?”
“How’d you know that?”
“Steve talked about you a lot in school,” Bruce explains, moving to stand next to him and watching Steve.
Bucky smiles. “Yeah, I've known him my whole life.”
“I think this is the place, Bucky,” Steve says, coming to stand with them, “I’ll have Tony come look at it too but I think this is it.”
Bruce grins. “That’s great news!” He says, “did you want us to cater as well, or did you have that covered?”
“Well, we don't have any caterers yet,” Steve says, grinning back.
“Good,” Bruce replied, “I can put together a menu for you, maybe you can bring Tony along and he can see the space, you can taste the food and come to a decision together.”
“That sounds great!” Steve says.
They go back to Bruce’s office and make an appointment for a few weeks’ time.
“You’re freaking out,” Natasha says, out of the blue, while they're on the train.
“No I’m not,” Bucky replies, much too quickly.
The train stops and there’s shuffling as people get off onto the station, but that doesn't deter her. “I can tell,” she says with narrowed eyes, “you have that look in your eye.”
“I don't have a look,” he says.
“You do,” she insists, “have you decided on what your next tattoo is going to be?”
“I’m not - how did you-”
“You’re freaking out,” she says, “I saw you messing with a new design that didn't match any of your clients.”
“You’re so nosy,” he snaps, looking away.
“But I’m not wrong,” she replies, “spill, what is it?”
He sighs. “Do you ever wonder how they got so lucky to find someone they want to spend forever with, and how we’re still - technically - looking?”
“No, I know how they got so lucky,” she replies, “you introduced them.”
“I know, but I didn't think it’d go like that,” he says, waving his hands, “no one would have guessed they’d get along so well.”
She shrugs. “I’m not looking,” she says, “and technically, neither are you, and neither were they. Things like that, you don't go looking for them, they just happen.”
“That’s terrible advice,” he says, “what am I supposed to do with that?”
“Nothing,” she says, “you stop worrying, you get on with life, and you ask out that nice florist we met a couple of weeks ago.”
“That’d be unprofessional,” he says, “I don't want to put him in a weird position at his work, and then I’ll have to see him at the wedding.”
“Suit yourself,” she says, “but he’s into you. Look, this is our stop.”
“Thank God,” he mumbles to himself, getting up and walking out as soon as he can.
The shop they walk to is small and dark. He lets her lead the way, she said she knows someone who works here.
A man comes out at the ring of the bell and his face splits into a grin when he sees Natasha. “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” he says and comes around the counter to hug her.
“Clint, no,” she says, “no one calls me that anymore.”
“Right,” he says, putting on a professional voice, “Ms. Romanoff, I’m sorry, you’re here to talk about a wedding.”
She smiles, amused. “Yes,” she says, “This is Bucky, he’s the best man.”
Clint puts out a hand and to shake Bucky’s. “Clint Barton,” he says, “Fury’s Photography.”
“Bucky Barnes,” he says, grinning, “Tony’s Tattoos.”
Clint laughs. “I think you win that one,” he says, “Let me just grab my folders and we can go have coffee next door.”
Clint’s work is excellent, but what really catches Bucky’s attention is Natasha.
So on the ride home, he fixes her with a look.
“Shut up,” she says, not looking at him.
He smiles smugly. “I didn't say anything.”
“I can practically hear you think it,” she says, her eyes fixed in front of her, “and no, shut up.”
His smile gets wider. “So when did you guys meet? When are you going to ask him out? Are you in lurrve?” He teases.
Her face is blank but she can't stop the blush.
He laughs. “No it’s great,” he says, “he does good work, and he’s going to be at the wedding.”
“He’s going to be working,” she says.
“In that case, maybe you should ask him out before the wedding,” he says.
She finally smiles but Bucky is suddenly filled with fear. He knows that smile all too well. “I’ll ask him out if you ask out that florist,” she says, “you didn't want to wait anymore, so stop waiting.”
He clenches his jaw, contemplating. “Okay,” he says, “no more waiting.”
She nods in satisfaction. “No more waiting.”
Bucky takes a bite of the salmon. “So me and Natasha agreed,” he says, “I ask out the florist, she asks out the photographer.”
Steve laughs. “If I’d known my wedding would have been matchmaker heaven I’d have started dropping hints to Tony a long time ago.”
Tony’s eyebrows shoot up. “It was my idea to propose,” he says, “there were no hints.”
Steve smiles indulgently at Tony. “I liked the salmon, what do you think?”
“I liked the chicken better,” Tony says.
Bucky rolls his eyes and looks at Bruce.
“The salmon might be a better main to follow the crab entree,” Bruce says, trying to defuse the situation.
“I thought we were going with the lamb entree?” Tony says.
Bruce looks between them. “We can always do two options for everything,” he says, “or set menus, where you can do one that’s seafood and the other can be lamb and chicken.”
They look between each other, and Tony nods. “I like it,” he says.
“Me too,” Steve agrees, “do we put options on the invites or-”
“Don’t worry,” Bruce says, “we’ve got it covered.”
The next time Bucky sees Sam, Steve is with him. They go into Sam’s office again and it’s much too warm for his jacket, so he takes it off before sitting down and rolls up his sleeves.
“Are those -” Sam says, and reaches for his hand, turning it outward to get a better look at the flower tattoos on his forearm.
“Red rose, blue lotus and tiger lily,” Bucky says smiling, pointing each one out, “one for each of my sisters.”
Steve clears his throat and Sam pulls away quickly. Bucky finds he misses the touch instantly. They get straight into work, looking at centre pieces, colors and themes.
In the end Steve leaves with a few samples to contemplate at home.
“So,” Steve says, in the car.
“Don’t start.” Bucky says, keeping his eyes on the road.
“I like him,” Steve says, “you know, as a florist.”
“Steve,” Bucky warns, his hands tightening on the steering wheel.
“And he seems really into flowers,” Steve continues, ignoring him.
“Oh my God.”
“He just picked up on those flowers on your arm,” Steve says, the epitome of innocence.
Steve breaks into a grin. “All I’m saying is there’s a wedding fast approaching and I think it’d be nice if you had some company.”
“I’ll have company,” Bucky says, “Natasha will be there, and so will Sharon and Maria.”
“Buck,” Steve says softly, “you know what I mean.”
“And if things get awkward?” Bucky says, “we’d have to find another florist.”
Steve shrugs. “So we’ll find another florist.”
Sam watches Steve and Bucky walk out and turns to find Wanda, smiling to herself.
“You have a crush,” she says, her hands busy with the arrangement she is working on.
“I’m not - it’s not a crush,” he says indignantly, “I’m too old to have a crush.”
“And yet,” she says, and smiles again.
The bell rings again and for a moment he finds himself hoping it's Bucky, but it’s just Pietro, coming back from his delivery.
“Don't look so disappointed,” Pietro says when he sees Sam’s face fall, “I made it on time I just stopped on the way back for coffee, I would have got you some but I know you have very strict caffeine rules.”
“Sam has a crush,” Wanda says.
“I do not,” Sam insists, “he just, has nice hair, and a gorgeous smile, and flower tattoos on his arm.” He looks up to see Wanda and Pietro share a pointed look, “it’s not a crush, it’s a - an infatuation, that’s all.”
“It sounds like a crush,” Pietro says, “in Sokovia we say волети”
“Voleti,” Sam tries to repeat the word.
“It means that you care for him,” Wanda translates.
“Yeah that sounds-”
“It also means love,” she continues.
Sam drops his head. “It’s unprofessional,” he says, “I don't want to lose the gig for a stupid, yes, crush.”
Wanda shrugs and puts the flower crown she’d just finished on her head. “He has a crush on you too, his eyes crinkle in the corners when he smiles at you.”
Sam looks back at the door. “You think so?”
She rolls her eyes. “момци,” she mutters and walks away.
Sam is having a bad day. It isn't as bad as it could get but it's slowly grating on his nerves. The delivery is late, and their cooler is making a sound it probably shouldn't and the guy who was supposed to come fix it said he was on the way two hours ago.
So when the bell rings he looks up and has a moment to panic. Bucky is walking in, wearing a button up with his sleeves rolled up and dark jeans and sunglasses. Sam turns to Wanda who winks at him and walks away, leaving him at the counter.
“Hey Bucky,” he says, smiling, despite his surprise, “we didn't have an appointment scheduled, did we?”
“No,” Bucky says, taking his sunglasses off and smiling. Wanda was right, his eyes crinkled in the corners. “I just dropped in to let you know we’ve confirmed everything and we’re going ahead with the 29th of August, and they wanted the blue thistle and white hydrangeas.”
Sam nods. “Come into the office, I’ll make some notes, do you want coffee or something?”
“No, I’m fine, thanks,” Bucky says, following him behind the counter and into his office. He sits down, making himself comfortable.
Sam pulls out his diary and starts annotating. “29th of August,” he says, “Blue thistle and white hydrangeas, and it’s going to be in the Tribeca Rooftop, right?”
“Yeah,” Bucky says, “you’re going to be setting up?”
“Yeah,” Sam says, making more notes about getting things delivered in and setting aside time to make the arrangements. “We’ll deliver, set up, make sure everything is perfect and then at the end of the night we’ll take everything away again, unless the grooms wanted to keep anything then we could help preserve it for delivery.”
He snaps his diary shut and looks up. Bucky doesn't seem to be in any hurry to leave though.
“Was there anything else I can do for you?” Sam asks.
“No,” he says, “that’s it.” He reluctantly stands up. “Listen,” he starts just as Sam says “I was wondering-”
The both stop and smile. “You go first,” Bucky says.
“I was wondering,” he says again, “now that the professional part is over, if we could go out together. On a date.” He clarifies when Bucky’s expression doesn't change.
Bucky grins, the expression making him look even more beautiful. “I’d really like that.”
Sam is nervous. He tries to convince himself that it’s just excitement but the rolling in his stomach is definitely nerves.
He should’ve picked something simple. Something normal. But he was really excited for the Fresco evening and he’s excited to spend some time with Bucky so there is no reason to be nervous.
He straightens his shirt one more time, and knocks on the door. Steve answers and for a second he feels like a deer in headlights, but Steve just smiles and lets him in.
“Bucky’s on his way out,” he says, “he’s just fixing his hair so it doesn't look like he fixed it. Do you want something to drink?”
Sam smiles and shakes his head. “No thanks,” he says, putting his hands in his pockets and trying to be unobtrusive about looking around. There’s art on the walls, and comfortable looking couches. It has a lived in look and Sam likes that.
When Bucky walks out Sam’s mouth falls open. “Wow,” he says, “you look amazing.”
Bucky smiles. “Thanks,” he says, “you clean up pretty good yourself.”
Sam grins. “You ready to go?”
Steve follows them to the door as they leave. “You kids have fun,” he tells them with a mischievous grin.
“I won’t keep him out too late on a work night,” Sam promises.
Steve laughs and Bucky rolls his eyes, but he’s still smiling.
The train ride to the Botanical Gardens is about an hour long but it’s comfortable sitting next to Bucky, sharing small talk about their day. They arrive to the gardens just in time for dinner and they’re given a small table near the window with the pre-fixed menu.
“I think I heard about this,” Bucky says, looking at the menu, “they’re having a Frida Kahlo exhibition!”
Sam grins. “Yeah!” He says, “I’ve been wanting to see it, and I thought it might be fun.”
Bucky is nodding. “Definitely,” he says, looking over the menu again and then turning to look outside, “I can’t wait to see the rest of it.”
Once they finish dinner, they make their way to the gardens. There’s a band setting up, so they go to the art gallery first, quietly strolling through the paintings. Then they meander to the conservatory, where the setting sun gives everything a golden hue.
Sam has been to the gardens before, of course, but usually whoever is with him would get bored and wander away. But Bucky seems just as enthralled as he is.
He sees a flash of color from the corner of his eye and realises there’s a dancer a few feet away. He slips his hand into Bucky’s and gently pulls him along, but when they came to a standstill he doesn't let go and Bucky doesn't pull away.
He feels a warm flutter in his chest and interlaces their fingers instead as they watch the woman twirl to the music.
The sun is mostly gone when they grab a blanket from one of the waiting staff members, they spread it out on the grass near the conservatory and watch the performance. He’s not sure who shifts first but by the end of the night they are curled into each other in defence of the cold.
“I really don't want to get up,” Sam whispers, “but my ass is numb.”
Bucky laughs softly. “I don't think they’ll let us stay here all night anyway.”
Sam presses his face into Bucky’s shoulder and sighs. “That’s a shame.”
Bucky makes an agreeing noise but he moves and they manage to pull themselves up. Sam folds the blanket before handing it back to the lady collecting them.
The ride home is just as quiet, but much more comfortable. Bucky leans into his shoulder and interlaces their fingers again once they sit down, and doesn't let go until they were walking up to Bucky’s apartment, to look for his keys.
“I had a really good time,” Bucky says, biting his lower lip and looking away.
“Me too,” Sam says, “I’d like to see you again, if I can.”
Bucky looks up at him and smiles, his eyes crinkling. “I’d really like that.”
Sam puts a hand on Bucky’s elbow and when Bucky looks up at him Sam leans in to kiss him.
His lips are just as soft and warm as Sam is expecting, he tilts his head and Bucky’s hand is on his cheek, grounding him more than anything. He pulls away but doesn't move too far back.
“Call me?” He asks Bucky.
Bucky gives a small nod and lets his hand drop. “Good night,” he says.
Sam smiles and pulls completely away. “Sweet dreams,” he says.
“You know it,” Bucky agrees.
Sam’s grin widens. He doesn't stop smiling until he falls asleep that night.
~ forget-me-not ~
“Well well well,” Tony says, when Bucky walks in the next morning, “look who it is.”
“Tony,” he says in greeting, “Natasha.” He nods at each of them in turn.
“So?” Tony says, “Spill, how did it go? Where did he take you? Did you kiss?”
Bucky can't help smiling. “It was really good,” he says, “we went to the Frida Kahlo Exhibit in the Botanical Gardens, it was a lot of fun, and that’s none of your business.”
Tony shares a look with Natasha. “They totally kissed,” he says, Natasha nodding along.
“But there’s no hickies,” she says, “and he’s here on time…maybe it wasn’t that good?”
“It was great and I’m not that easy,” he says.
Natasha snorts in disbelief.
“That was a long time ago!” He insists, “I’m a grown up now, a respectable adult who doesn’t put out on the first date.”
“But you wanted to,” Tony says.
“God yes,” Bucky replies, collapsing into his chair, “his hands were so soft.”
Tony rolls his eyes and Natasha turns to walk away. “You know we’re never going to hear the end of this,” she says to Tony.
“Ten bucks says he starts doodling tattoo ideas for him,” Tony says.
“Please,” she says, “he started last night.”
“You know I can hear you right?” Bucky says, but it's no use. They’re right of course, but he isn't going to give them the satisfaction.
“You are looking sunny this morning,” Wanda comments when she walks in that morning, closely followed by Pietro.
“It’s a great day outside,” Sam says, “isn't it a great day?”
“So your outing was a success?” Pietro asks.
“Yes,” he says, “very successful, he says he’s going to call me, and that there will be a second date.”
“Good,” Pietro says, “I am glad, you deserve some love in your life.”
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here,” he says, “it was just a first date.”
Wanda nods. “And you did not spend the night.”
“No don’t do any of your psychic stuff on me,” he says.
“Not psychic,” she says, “just intuitive.”
“He did not ask you to stay the night?” Pietro asks, brow furrowed, “I thought you said the date was a success.”
“It was,” he says, “I kissed him goodnight and went home, because I am a gentleman.”
Wanda nods again. “In time,” she says, thoughtfully.
“Wanda,” he warns.
She grins at him, the one she knows unnerves him. “I am going to start on arrangements,” she says, “busy day today.”
Bucky doesn't usually make personal calls on work time. But he's had a cancellation and lunch is just around the corner so he thinks he can make an exception.
“Hey Sam,” he says, when Sam picks up.
“Bucky!” Sam says, “it’s so good to hear from you.”
Bucky feels something inside him relax. “How are you doing?”
“I’m good,” Sam replies, “just trying to wrangle some stems that don’t want to cooperate.”
Bucky smiles. “I was wondering if you’d had lunch yet.”
There is a short pause and Bucky has a moment of doubt.
“I haven’t actually,” Sam says, “did you have anything in mind?”
“I was gonna go to that sushi place down the road, I was wondering if-”
“Yes,” Sam says, not waiting for him to finish, “I’d love to.”
He grins. “I’ll see you soon,” he says, and they say their goodbyes.
He grabs his phone and wallet and steps into the shop front. “I’m going out for lunch,” he tells Natasha and Tony.
“You’re leaving the shop?” Tony asks, scandalized, “in the middle of the day?”
“I’ll be back before my next appointment,” he says.
“Don't get lost!” Tony calls after him.
He crosses the road and walks into the flower shop, nodding at Wanda, who gives him a knowing smirk before going to knock on Sam’s door.
“Sam,” she says, “your lunch date is here.”
Sam practically burst out of his office. “Watch the shop,” he tells her, “call me if there’s a disaster.”
“Yes boss,” she says, “enjoy your lunch.”
Sam grins at Bucky and they walk out together. The sushi place is on the same block, just a couple of minutes away. It’s a small restaurant, but the staff are friendly and the food is good.
“So you have three sisters?” Sam asks him once they sit down with their food.
Bucky laughs. “Yeah,” he says, “Becca, Mary and Lilly.”
“Okay so Lilly is obviously the tiger lily,” Sam says, “namesake.”
“Yeah,” Bucky says, “I let them pick and she wanted tiger lilies because she has freckles too. She’s the youngest. Mary is the second youngest. She’s a nurse, did a lot of research on what flower she wanted before choosing the blue lotus. She said it represents healing.”
“So Becca chose the roses?”
Bucky nodded. “She’s always been like that, traditional, she reminds me a lot of Mom in that way.”
“So how did you get into tattooing anyway?” Sam asks, “it seems a bit…” he hesitates, making a face.
“Sadistic?” Bucky supplies, grinning.
“Well, a little?” Sam smiles ashamedly, “you're inflicting pain.”
“It's not like that,” Bucky explains, “it's art, and it's memories, I guess for some people it’s about the pain, but that's not why people get tattoos, that's not why we give them. It's like, when you make bouquets for weddings.”
“I don't think that’s the same thing,” Sam says, grinning anyway.
“Maybe it’s not,” Bucky replies, “but my first tattoo helped me accept things about myself, and I like being able to do that for other people.”
“Oh you know I’m going to have to hear the rest of that story,” Sam says.
Bucky smiles and looks away. “Maybe another time,” he says, “what about you, is there a sort of florist school you go to?”
Sam laughs. “Nah man,” he says, “my mom was a florist, my dad was a priest. I’m not sure how I feel about religion but I know flowers. I used to watch my mom when I was a kid, and there’s just something about it you know, it’s like a representation of love.”
“I never thought about it that way,” Bucky says, “we are doing the same thing, just in different ways.”
Sam smiles. “I guess we are.”
“A second date, huh,” Steve asks, the moment Bucky walks into Captain’s Coffee so they could go home, “in less than 24 hours too.”
Bucky considers asking how Steve already knows but he figures he knows the answer. Tony really can't help himself.
“It wasn't a date,” he says instead, “it was just sushi.”
“Uh huh,” Steve says, untying his apron, “and did you kiss at the end?”
“Date,” Steve says, hanging his apron up.
“So it was a second date,” he concedes, “I really like this guy, Steve.”
Steve smiles. “I’m glad, Bucky,” he says, “I’m happy for you.”
Bucky sighs and trails after Natasha. “But why do I have to be here?”
“You need to get something to match the dress,” she says, picking one up and eyeing it.
“You can’t just show me the dress when you buy it?”
She doesn't answer him, picking up another dress instead, a different shade of blue and comparing them.
“The one on the left,” he says, absently, “more your style.”
She puts the other one down and lays the remaining dress over her arm. “This is why you’re here Bucky,” she says, “I need a second pair of eyes, and you know Tony would be insufferable.”
She’s right of course, Tony would be the worst person to take on this particular trip. “But what about your other lady friends,” he says, almost whining, “why not Sharon or Maria?”
“They’re busy baking the cake we’re going to be tasting after this,” she says, “face it Barnes, best man means you have duties to keep.”
He sighs again, louder this time, then takes the dresses she’s amassed. “I’ll take these to a dressing room,” he says.
He finds an empty dressing room at the other side of the store and has to stop. There’s a dress on a mannequin that is perfect.
“Tasha,” he calls to her as softly as he can across the mostly empty store.
She turns to look at him with a raised eyebrow. He gestures for her to get closer and when she does, with more dresses over her arm, he shows her the dress. “You have to try this one.”
“It’s the wrong color,” she says.
“I’m sure if they can’t get it in blue for you Tony would be able to swing something,” he says, “I know he doesn’t do fashion anymore but he’s bound to still have contacts.”
She contemplates the dress a little longer and finally nods.
Natasha tries on all the dresses, but with their luck, the one Bucky saw is the one they like best. And it didn’t come in blue. They call Tony.
“You know I don’t do that anymore,” he says, “Skin, not fabric.”
“You need to see this dress Tony,” Bucky says, “It’s perfect, even you will find it hard to fault.”
“Take a picture,” he says, sighing, “I can’t promise anything, but I’ll have a look.”
Steve is just closing up when they make it to Captain’s Coffee for the cake tasting.
He’s arranged some tables together and Tony and Maria are already there. “Just in time,” Steve says, locking the door behind them.
They sit down opposite Tony, and Steve helps Sharon bring out a couple of trays full of mini cakes, each intricately decorated.
“You have outdone yourself,” Bucky says, looking between Sharon and Maria.
“Oh no,” Maria says, “all the decorating was Sharon, I just baked the things.”
Sharon smiles at her. “I’m sure they taste delicious,” she says, “now, let’s start with cake number one.”
As they dig in, trying to pick a clear favourite, Bucky hands his phone to Tony to look at the dress. He raises his eyebrows as he flips through the photos.
“You’re right,” he says, “hard to fault, I’m just not sure it’ll look good in blue.” He hands the phone back to Bucky, then turned to Maria. “This one is delicious.”
“Orange,” she says, smiling proudly, “with chocolate icing.”
“You sure you can’t add chilli into the icing?” He asks.
“We’re not having chilli in our wedding cake, Tony,” Steve says, looking at Natasha’s dress on Bucky’s phone.
“I like it in red too,” he says, “are we sure we need it to be blue?” He looks at Tony who shrugs.
“I guess not,” Tony says, “It’s our wedding which means we could do what we wanted.”
Steve nods. “Get it in red. Bucky can wear a red bow tie or something.”
Maria shares a look with Sharon and they try not to laugh.
“What is it?” Steve asks.
“Your wedding colors are going to be red, white and blue,” she says.
“How very patriotic of you,” Sharon says, “it’s not bad enough you were born on the fourth of July.”
“Tony’s right,” Steve says, “it’s our wedding, and look at the dress,” he hands her the phone, “it has to be red.”
Sharon looks at the pictures and then hands it to Maria. “I guess we could do something with the cake,” she says, “to match.”
“Please don't say you’re going to make the flag cake,” Steve says.
Maria laughs. “No,” she says, “I was thinking red velvet?”
Sharon nods. “With white cream cheese icing and blue accents, right?” She looks at Bucky, “that’s what your boyfriend is using.”
“He’s not my boyfriend,” he says, trying the red velvet again.
“You’ve been out together how many times now?” Natasha asks.
“And lunch at least three times a week,” Tony interjects.
Bucky covers his face with his hand. “But it’s only been four weeks,” he says.
“Almost a month,” Steve says.
“Is he coming to the wedding with you?” Natasha asks.
“I don't know, I haven’t asked,” he says, “and he’s going to be working.”
“He has employees,” Tony says, “He can take a night off if he wanted.”
“Okay, okay,” he says, “jeez, I’ll ask him.”
“Can you ask him if he can get us some edible lavender,” Sharon says, “or oh, Borage.”
Maria gives her a thoughtful look. “Borage might fit the color but don’t you think lavender might be closer to thistle in shape?”
“I guess it depends on the hue,” Sharon replies, “tell him to make sure they’re extra blue.”
He rolls his eyes. “I’ll see what I can do.”
She nods once. “Good.”
Bucky doesn't get a chance to ask Sam to the wedding, let alone about edible flowers at all. In fact, they’re out on a double date with Natasha and Clint a few days later when Natasha is the one to bring it up.
“You’re coming to the wedding, right?” She asks, leaning her elbows on the table.
“Well, I’m working the wedding,” Sam replies, “so I kind of have to be there.”
She turns to Bucky. “You didn't ask him.”
“I was trying to figure out the best way to phrase it.”
“How about,” she says, turning to Sam, “Sam, Bucky would like to take you to Steve and Tony’s wedding as his date.”
“Would he now?” Sam asks, turning to look at Bucky.
“Yes, I would like my boyfriend to come with me to my best friend’s wedding,” Bucky says.
“Hmm,” he says, “I’ll have to check my schedule.”
Bucky crosses his arms and lets out a huff, so Sam leans in and nuzzles at Bucky’s temple. “I’d be honoured.”
Bucky’s facade falls and he smiles, turning to kiss Sam softly on the lips.
Clint clears his throat loudly, and when they break apart he looks between them. “You guys are disgusting.”
Natasha rolls her eyes. “You don't have to spend your working hours with them, it’s unbearable.”
“Hey, this was your idea,” Bucky says.
“I didn't think you’d be so…” she waves her hands between them, “like this.”
“What was her idea?” Sam asks.
“She wanted me to ask you out, so I said she had to ask Clint out.”
“But I asked you out,” Sam says.
Bucky grins. “That you did.”
Sam laughs. “Are you telling me that if I hadn’t asked you-”
“I would have asked you,” Bucky says, “but I don't think I’d have done better than that first date.”
“Are they really like this all the time?” Clint asks.
“Unbelievable,” he says, but Bucky doesn't miss Clint’s hand making its way to Natasha’s under the table.
“Oh and there’s something about edible flowers for the wedding cake,” she says, turning back to Sam, “might be best if you talked directly to Sharon about that.”
Sam laughs. “Sounds good to me.”
“So how are the grooms doing?” Clint asks, “nervous yet?”
Bucky shares a look with Natasha.
“The thing with Steve and Tony is that they’re always arguing,” Bucky says, “if they’re not arguing you know something is wrong.”
“And?” Clint asks.
Natasha tilts her head. “You know,” she says, thoughtfully, “they’ve settled down a little since they got engaged.”
“Maybe they’ve finally found their groove,” Clint says, “you know, a routine.”
Sam shrugs. “Makes sense,” he said, “they’re getting married.”
Bucky shares a look with Natasha and he knows she’s thinking the same as him. Better keep a close eye on them, just in case.
Sam can’t believe he gets to run his hand over Bucky’s tattoos now, anytime he wants. “Tell me about them?” He asks Bucky one morning, still half asleep and dragging out the time before having to get up.
“What do you want to know?” Bucky replies, shifting slightly to look at the tattoos himself.
“Which one was your first?” He asks.
Bucky lifts his right arm and shows Sam the inside of his wrist. Sam runs his fingers over the intertwining lines of the two gender symbols linked in a circle.
“Bisexual,” Sam says.
Bucky hums in agreement. “It took me a long time to accept it,” he says, “that maybe my feelings were not-” he stops, as if trying to get his thoughts in order, “it’s not what was expected, let’s just say. My parents weren’t too happy about it but my sisters were accepting, Steve was, Steve’s mom.”
“Yeah,” Sam says, “My parents never knew I’m gay, I think my mom suspected but,” he shakes his head, remembering his dad, “I knew they’d never approve. Tell me more, the nautical star on your elbow is for Steve?”
Bucky smiles. “Yeah,” he says, “mine is red, and his is blue, I’m guessing you’ve seen it.”
Sam nodded. “I thought maybe you guys had something.”
Bucky shakes his head vehemently. “No, God, he’s like a brother to me,” he says, “I couldn’t, I love him but no.”
Sam laughs. “Tell me how you really feel.”
“Nah, he needs someone like Tony,” Bucky says, “to help balance him out.”
Sam nods, and runs his fingers over Bucky’s bicep, where there was a metal plate on his shoulder and thick wires in the shape of muscles and tendons. “And these ones?”
“Tony did that one for me. That’s how we met. I was in an accident when I was 21,” he says, “I lost control of my motorbike and my arm took most of the fall. I broke the humerus and the collarbone,” he says, pointing at each one in turn, “epic road rash all over my forearm, nerve damage near my elbow, not to mention the concussion and the bruising on my hips and thighs.”
“No, can’t forget those,” Sam says, trying to sound light but he didn't quite make it.
Bucky smiles reassuringly at him. “The doctors said I was lucky,” he says, “they had to put metal pins and plates and stuff to hold everything together, and there was a lot of physiotherapy, and lots of scars in the end, but it’s a miracle it still works.”
“So the tattoos cover the scars?” Sam asks, watching to see if he can make them out, running his fingers over them again, wondering if he’ll be able to feel anything.
“Sort of, I mean, that’s how it started, but I kind of like the idea that I - it got a second chance?” he says, watching Sam, “I’m gonna make damn sure everyone knows it too.”
“Like wearing your heart on your sleeve,” Sam says softly, and presses his lips to the plate on Bucky’s shoulder.
Bucky lets out a huff of laughter. “Something like that.” He tilts Sam’s chin up and kisses him soundly on the lips. “Time to get up,” he says, grinning at Sam’s dumbfounded expression.
He gets out of bed only for Sam to throw a pillow at him. “Tease,” Sam calls out after him.
That day the drive home is quiet. Steve is gripping the steering wheel as if he’s ready to rip it off.
“Do you want me to drive?” Bucky asks tentatively, “if you just want to pull over…”
“I’m fine,” Steve grits out, “I’m just- let’s just get home first, let me process.”
Bucky nods and leaves him to it, but Steve’s hands loosen slightly on the steering wheel, his scowl becoming less prominent. But when they get home they have dinner in silence and Steve barricades himself in his room.
Bucky lets him fume for 30 minutes before knocking on his door. “Come kill zombies with me.”
Steve opens the door slightly. “I’m not really in the mood, Buck.”
“We don’t have to talk,” he says, “process while we slay, but the game is no fun with just one player.”
“Haven’t you finished Witcher yet?”
“Two weeks ago,” he says, “come on, please?”
Steve only contemplates it for a second more before opening the door completely and following him to the living room.
They play for two hours before Steve finally says something.
“Do you think Tony is cheating on me?” he asks, not even pausing the game.
Bucky is so surprised he doesn't do anything to stop the zombie that’s approaching him and he dies in the game. “No,” he says, while he’s waiting to respawn, “how could you even think that?”
“He’s been acting distant,” Steve says, eyes focused on the game, fingers moving furiously, “too quiet.”
“He’s the one who asked you to marry him,” Bucky points out, going back to the game as his character appears again.
“I’m telling you,” Steve says, dropping a hand from his controller and looking down as he dies in the game, “he’s keeping something from me.”
“It might be something to do with the wedding,” he says, “maybe he’s getting you a wedding gift. That’s a thing people do right?”
“He’s not having second thoughts?” Steve asks, picking up his controller again as he respawns.
“Definitely not,” Bucky says.
The next day everything goes to hell. It starts out alright, Bucky is booked all day and everything is humming along smoothly. In the afternoon Tony leaves and just before he gets back Bucky gets a text from Steve telling him that he’s going home early and Bucky should take the subway home.
Then, when Tony gets back he locks himself in his office without a word or second glance.
Bucky leaves the moment he can, and despite the air-conditioning and the short trip, he can't sit still.
“Steve?” He calls from the door, leaving his keys on the side table, “you home?”
Steve storms out of his room. “The wedding is off.”
“Tony is an insensitive asshole,” Steve says, “and I can’t believe I ever thought I could spend the rest of my life with him.”
“Okay,” Bucky says slowly.
“Cancel everything,” he says, “Tribeca, the flowers, all of it.”
“Maybe we should take a moment,” Bucky says, “to calm down first, think clearly.”
“I am thinking clearly,” he replies, “for the first time, I can’t believe I didn't see it before.”
“No, Bucky, I’m serious.”
“Okay,” Bucky says, “okay, I’ll make the calls, have you had dinner?”
Steve shakes his head tightly.
“Good, I think this calls for pizza and beer.”
Steve nods at this.
“Go take a shower, cool off,” Bucky says, “I’ll order, and it’ll be here by the time you’re done.”
Steve walks away and Bucky drops his shoulders. He orders the pizza, making sure to get all of Steve’s favourite toppings and then texts Natasha.
‘Tony say anything to you?’
She replies lightning quick. ‘wedding off???’
‘Steve says that too, lets hold off on cancelling for now’
‘yes.’ then directly after ‘tonys taking tomorrow off :(‘
He imitates the emoji, his lips drawing downwards. ‘Steve is furious’
‘tony is heartbroken’
‘we’re having pizza and beer’
‘burgers and soda’
Bucky winces. He forgot about Tony’s sobriety.
‘maybe call rhodey?’ Rhodey is Tony’s sponsor, and really should’ve been the first person Tony talked to.
‘already ahead of you babe’ she replies.
He nods to himself, satisfied that Natasha knows what she’s doing.
The doorbell rings and he lets the pizza guy up. As he takes the pizza inside he hears the shower turn off and he prepares himself for a long night ahead.
The next day Steve still won't tell Bucky what happened exactly, but as Steve drives them to work he gathers that Tony isn't cheating, at least.
He resists the urge to ask Natasha. If Steve doesn't want him to know, it wouldn't be fair for him to go looking at other sources. If push comes to shove, Bucky knows where his loyalties will lie. But it hasn’t come to that yet.
So he goes into the shop, and tries to focus on his work. When lunchtime rolls around, Bucky goes to find Sam, and embraces him once he’s within reach.
“Whoa, you okay?” Sam asks him, wrapping his arms around him nonetheless.
“Fine,” he replies, his voice muffled by Sam’s shirt, “Steve and Tony are idiots and everything’s fucked up.”
“Okay,” Sam replies, “let’s go to lunch, and you can tell me about it.”
Bucky nods, so Sam takes his hand and they walk to the deli around the corner. Once they’re seated and Bucky explains everything to him, Sam take a long minute to mull it over.
“So you’re saying I should cancel the order for hydrangeas?” he says finally. Bucky gapes and his eyebrows draw together, but before he could say anything, Sam grins. “No I’m sorry,” he says, “it’s a very serious matter and I’ll try to be serious.”
Bucky smiles back. “No, you’re right,” he says, “they’ll get back together, I know they will, it’s just this time in-between that’s going to be agony.”
“Well, you know if you need to talk some more, I’m only a text away.”
Bucky’s smile is more sincere this time. He leans over and pecks Sam on the lips. “You’re the best.”
When Tony finally walks into work later that week he meanders to Bucky’s desk before he even puts his things down.
He collapses into the chair opposite him and leans on Bucky’s references and sketchbooks.
“Morning,” Bucky says carefully, watching his own reflection in Tony’s sunglasses.
“James,” Tony says seriously.
“Tony-” he starts, looking away.
“No listen,” he says, taking his sunglasses off, his eyes were red and puffy, like he hasn’t slept, “I really appreciate everything you’ve done here but he’s your best friend, so I’ll understand if you want to leave.”
“Tony, no,” Bucky says, “you’re my friend too, and this is my job, I’m not going anywhere.”
“It’s gonna get sorted out,” Bucky says surely, “just give him time. This is you and Steve, you were arguing the first morning you met and making out that same night.”
Tony’s face softens, the stress lines disappearing for a moment. “We were more than-”
“I don't need to know,” he says, quickly, “but you get my point?”
“Can you tell him-?”
“I’m not going to play messenger, Tony,” Bucky says.
Tony nods. “Of course,” he says, “time, I can do that.”
Bucky has serious doubts, but Steve loves Tony, for better or worse. This is just the worse side of things.
Bucky almost rejoices when the weekend rolls around. He waits until it's a reasonable time in the afternoon and then drags Steve out for a night at the bar.
“I’m not really in the mood,” Steve says, trailing behind him.
“I’m not going to say it’ll make you feel better,” Bucky says, “but it’ll make me feel better.”
“Bucky, I really think the timing could be better.”
“What you need is a rebound,” Bucky says.
“I don't think I’m ready for that,” Steve says.
“Okay, at least a celebratory drink?” Bucky says, “you’re a free man again?”
“Why are you doing this Bucky,” Steve says, stopping in his tracks, just outside the subway entrance.
“Okay, that last one was pushing it.”
“This whole thing is pushing it,” Steve replies, not moving.
Bucky trudges back to stand face to face with Steve. “I just think you’ve had enough time to mope,” he says, “and you really need a breath of fresh air.”
“It’s too hot for that,” Steve says, “and a bar isn’t going to make it any better.”
“We’ll pick one with air conditioning,” he says, “and when I say fresh air I meant something cold and possibly alcoholic.”
“To drown my sorrows,” Steve says.
Bucky makes a face and decides against his first reply. “I just hate seeing you like this,” he says, instead, “I thought a change of scenery might help. We don't have to go to a bar, we could have a dinner or- or go see a movie or I don't know, something else.”
“Don't you have plans with Sam?” Steve asks, but he finally starts walking again, entering the subway, “it’s Saturday night.”
“I cleared out my schedule just for you,” he says.
“I’m flattered,” Steve says, deadpan.
“You should be,” Bucky says, and grins at Steve. This is good. It’s already working.
The end up in the East Village, in a little bar that's out of the way. It's air conditioned, and there's a live band playing softly in the back.
Bucky waits until Steve relaxes a little before bringing up Tony. “Have you talked to him since-”
“No,” Steve cut him off.
“I don't really want to talk about it Buck,” he says, shoulders hunched, not making eye contact.
Bucky sighs. “Fine, but you need to do something about this,” he says, “you can’t mope around forever, I’m calling it, today the tables turn, okay?”
“No, Steve,” Bucky says, “you need to start working towards getting better, from now.”
Steve nods, but before he can reply there's a yell from the bar. “Leave me alone, you creep!”
They both look up to see a guy leaning into a woman’s space. She's leaning back, a disgusted look on her face.
The guy says something they can't hear but it doesn't matter, Steve is on his feet and approaching them with a few easy steps. He puts himself between them, the woman behind him and chin tilted defiantly at the man.
“She said to leave her alone,” Steve says.
Bucky wants to cover his face with his hands. He should’ve known this was going to happen.
“Look at that piece of ass,” the creep says, “don't you just wanna fuck her-”
“No,” Steve says, his jaws set and Bucky knows shit is going to go down.
“Steve,” he says warningly.
“What are you, his boyfriend?” the guy says, turning on him, “is that why you don’t wanna fuck her, you’re a couple of fags?”
Bucky sees Steve take a breath as if in slow motion and he realises he’s swinging before Steve can get the chance.
The guy is much bigger than him but he sees blood and has a fleeting moment of triumph before the retaliating punch makes him see stars.
Everything speeds up to normal again, like in a cartoon, and Steve is on top of the guy, punching him over and over. He reaches out to pull Steve back but finds he's being attacked again, this time the punch meeting his cheek bone.
He turns to meet the guy's friend head on, dragging him close to knee him in the groin, and when he curls in on himself, he grabs him in a headlock, and punches at his side.
He’s pulled back so he turns to find that Steve is on his back now, grappling with a different person, and the original douchebag is trying to get at Bucky again.
He goes for the guy's neck, pressing his thumbs into the guy's throat. The man’s eyes bulge but he manages to get one of Bucky's hands loose and he gets another punch in before there's sirens outside and they're breaking apart.
The bartender doesn't press charges, but he tells them to leave. The douchebags crowd into a car and drive away. Steve takes three steps outside and then leans on the wall.
Bucky looks at him, bruised and bleeding. “You going to be okay?”
“Just dizzy,” he says, “I’ll be okay in a minute.”
They wait for a while more but when Steve tries to move again he shakes his head and leans back against the wall.
“Don’t move,” he tells Steve and goes back inside.
He catches the attention of the bartender. “Hey is there a doctors that’s still open around here?”
The bartender frowns at him but gives him directions to an urgent care clinic close by. “It’s about a 10 minute walk from here,” he warns.
“We’ll be fine,” he says, and walks out to find the woman from before fawning over Steve.
When she sees Bucky she smiles at him and walks back into the bar, but not before slipping a napkin into Steve’s hand.
Bucky rolls his eyes. “When I said it’s time to move on,” he says, sliding an arm under Steve’s shoulder and helping him stand properly, “I meant in a calmer way.”
“I couldn't just stand there,” Steve says as they start walking.
“I know,” Bucky replies.
“And you took the first swing,” Steve points out.
“It’s all a bit blurry now,” Bucky says.
Steve snorts, but doesn't dignify that with a response. It takes them twice as long as it should have but when they stumble into the brightly lit clinic, Bucky deposits Steve in a waiting room chair and checks him in.
They give him a form to fill and Bucky answers all the questions for Steve. They don't have to wait long, and they let Bucky wait by Steve’s bed while they take Steve for an x-ray. A nurse tries to check him over too but he waves her off with a smile.
“At least keep the ice pack,” she says.
He takes it gratefully and thanks her until she finally walks out. He uses the time to text Sam, to let him know what happened, and then texts Natasha to let her know they might need a ride at some point.
He’s just sent the text when his phone starts to buzz.
“Sam,” he says, placing the phone on the side that doesn't have an ice pack pressed to it, “I’m okay, I promise.”
“I’m coming over,” Sam says, sounding worried.
“No, seriously, I’m okay, just a couple of bruises,” he says, “but Steve is in x-ray.”
“We got in a fight with some assholes at the bar,” he says, sighing.
“I’m sorry babe,” he says, “I know you were hoping to make him feel better.”
“Yeah,” he replies, tilting his head back, “but I should’ve know this could happen.”
“I’m coming over,” Sam says again, and Bucky can hear him moving, keys jangling in the background.
“Really,” Sam says, “I want to see you, so either I meet you at the clinic or I could wait outside your apartment until you come home, and who knows how long that’s going to be.”
“Alright, okay,” he says, “I’ll text you the address.”
“Okay, I’ll see you soon.”
“Bye,” he says and hangs up.
He’s barely sent the text when his phone buzzes again. Natasha this time.
“I hope you know that we have a panicking Tony now,” she says, without any preamble.
“Steve’s okay,” he says, “Just a mild concussion they said, they think his ribs are bruised but they’re doing an x-ray to make sure they’re not broken.”
“Steve’s okay,” he hears her say away from the receiver, presumably to Tony.
“You should see the other guy,” Bucky jokes.
“That’s not funny, James,” she says.
“No, I guess it’s not,” he replies.
“Tony wants to come over,” she says.
“That might not be the best idea right now,” he replies, “I promise, we’re both okay, but I’m not sure a walk to the train station in this heat is feasible, especially if they want to keep him overnight.”
“Okay,” she says, “I think I still have Steve’s spare car keys, just let me know and I’ll come drive you guys home.”
“Thanks, Tasha,” he says.
“You owe me,” she says, and hangs up.
He smiles at the dial tone before pocketing his phone.
The nurse brings Steve back and for a few long minutes they sit in silence.
“I spoke to Natasha,” he tells Steve, “I asked her to pick us up so she’ll be taking your car when we call her.”
Steve nods slowly.
“I think it’s time you tell me why Tony is probably fighting tooth and nail to come see you and you refuse to even talk about him.”
Steve is quiet for a long time, but Bucky waits him out.
Finally, finally Steve speaks. “He bought me a car.”
“What?” Bucky asks, honestly surprised. Of all the things he thought it could be, this isn’t it.
“He says it’s to replace, and I quote, ‘the old wreck’ I’m driving,” he says, staring fixedly at the ceiling, “he says it’s a health hazard.”
“Just because it’s your mom’s car-”
“Look, I know what it looks like,” Steve says, “but I panicked, if I sell the car-”
“You don't need to sell it,” Bucky says.
“What am I going to do with two cars?” Steve says, turning to him, “so when I refused the gift Tony got upset, he says I shouldn't hold onto the past, that we're going to move into the future together, and that only made things worse. My past is what made me who I am.”
“Oh my God, Steve,” Bucky says, exasperated, “you realise he just meant that-”
“I know what he meant, okay?” Steve says, “I know, but this whole thing just shows I’m not ready to get married.”
“Oh Jesus,” Bucky says, “did you actually say that to him?”
Steve turns back to the ceiling. “I might have.”
“You really are an idiot, Rogers,” Bucky says.
“You sound like Nat,” Steve says.
“Sometimes she makes good points,” Bucky replies.
“She’s with him now isn’t she?” Steve asks.
“Yeah, she is.”
Steve doesn't speak any more, and Bucky leaves it alone.
Sam shows up about half an hour later, looking worried.
“You said you were fine,” he says to Bucky, his hand hovering over his shoulder.
Bucky puts his hand over Sam's and lets it rest there. “I am,” he says, trying to sound reassuring, “It’s just bruising, I promise.”
“And how’s Steve?”
“He’s alright,” he says, “the doctor came in a while ago and told us there’s nothing broken, but they want to leave him here overnight because of the concussion, for observation.”
“And how are you holding up?” Sam says, now with a hand on each shoulder, “I don't mean the bruising, I mean with everything else.”
Bucky can't look Sam in the eye. “I’m frustrated,” he says, “he told me why they’re fighting and it’s so stupid. They’re both idiots.”
Sam smiles and pulls him in for a hug. “You’re staying with him.”
“Yeah,” Bucky answers, “but you go home, I’ll text you when we get out.”
“I’ll do you one better,” Sam says, “I’ll go to your apartment and wait for you there. It’s closer anyway.”
“But you hate sleeping in my bed,” Bucky says, almost whines.
“Sacrifices have to be made,” Sam says, smiling.
Bucky pulls away and takes out his keys. “Don't wait up,” he says.
“I get that you’re staying for Steve but make sure you look after yourself too,” Sam says.
“I will,” Bucky replies, “I got my ice pack, the chair is cushioned.”
“Bucky,” Sam says seriously.
“I know, I’m sorry,” Bucky replies, “I will let you look after me all of tomorrow.”
Sam laughs softly. “I’ll hold you to that.”
Bucky bites his lip to stop the smile so Sam runs his hand over Bucky’s mouth to release his lower lip and then leans in to kiss him gently.
“I’ll see you at home,” Sam says quietly.
Bucky nods and lets Sam step back, and with a last wave he’s gone. Bucky sighs and turns back to Steve’s room. It’s going to be a long night.
He eventually does sleep. The lights are still too bright but he’s so exhausted he can’t help but doze. He gets woken up every once in a while when a nurse walks into the room to check on Steve, waking him up and checking his vitals before walking out again.
Around five in the morning he wakes up to find Tony sitting on the chair opposite him, holding onto Steve’s hand. He’s glassy-eyed and looks just as exhausted as Bucky feels.
“You should go home,” Tony whispers, “I’ve got it from here.”
Bucky looks from him to Steve, who is still sleeping, and nods. He’s too tired to argue, and he knows Tony will take care of Steve. Hopefully they’ll sort everything out in the process.
He walks through the mostly empty street and makes his way to the station. He waits until he’s on the train before he calls Natasha.
“You let him escape,” he says when she answers.
“Oh no,” she replies, not surprised at all, “did I?”
He laughs and shakes his head. “You’re unbelievable,” he says.
“I’m just letting nature take its course,” she says, “Steve is going to be just well enough to let Tony stay but not to walk away on his own, and Tony just needed a chance.”
“And if this blows up in our face?”
“It won’t,” she says, surely, “but if it does, we’ll know it wasn't meant to be. So you won’t need me to pick you up?”
“No I’m on the way home on the train, and I’m guessing Tony drove, so if anything happens you’ll know because Steve will need someone to get him.”
“You know Tony won’t let that happen,” she says.
“Yeah,” he replies, “so you should probably get some actual rest.”
“I will,” she says, “you too.”
They hang up and when the train stops at Court Street he walks the short distance to his apartment. He knocks and hopes Sam hears him.
The door thankfully opens a few moments later and Sam drags him inside. He hears the click of the door locking behind them as Sam doesn't let go, pulls him to the bedroom.
“Steve?” Sam asks him.
“Tony,” Bucky replies, and Sam nods as if that explains everything.
He slides back under the covers he’d obviously just vacated, and pulls Bucky in after him. They somehow get Bucky’s shoes off and the covers go over them both.
Bucky sighs comfortably. “Let’s never leave this bed again.”
Sam hums in agreement, already mostly asleep.
Bucky presses a soft kiss to Sam’s temple. “Love you,” he mumbles and promptly falls asleep.
~ no take-backs ~
The enormity of what he’d said doesn't hit him until he wakes up, sometime in the afternoon.
He’s alone in bed so he curls into the pillows and groans. His only hope is that Sam hadn’t heard him. He checks his phone and is glad to see that Steve went home with Tony, despite his grumpy texts asking why Bucky left. He sends a quick reply asking how the make-up sex was, and gets out of bed.
Unfortunately when he walks into the kitchen he finds Sam leaning on a bench, coffee cup held in both hands, smiling smugly at Bucky.
“Good morning,” he says happily.
“‘Morning,” Bucky mutters, going for the pot Sam had made.
“So,” Sam says and Bucky makes a face, “you love me, huh?”
Bucky sighs. “Can we pretend I didn't say anything?”
The smile on Sam’s face fell in an instant. “You’re taking it back?”
“No, no,” Bucky says, urgently, “I do, I just,” he rubs the back of his head, “I was hoping for better timing.”
Sam’s smile is back and Bucky relaxes a little. “I think your timing was excellent,” Sam says, “no time like the present.”
“I just wanted the moment to be memorable,” he says, “not after I’d spent a night at the hospital, and coming home with a black eye. Anyway, it doesn't have to change anything, I know it hasn’t been long, but I guess now you know-”
Sam puts his cup down and steps forward to stop Bucky’s rambling with a kiss. “I love you too,” he says and Bucky feels a rush of relief wash over him.
“Why didn't you start with that!” He says.
“I like seeing you squirm,” Sam says, grinning.
“I think you promised to look after me today,” he says, “I don't think this counts as that.”
“Oh, I will look after you,” Sam says, “I am going to make you the best two in the afternoon breakfast you have ever had and then I’m going to make you squirm in a whole other way,” he winked.
“You really do love me,” he says, and Sam laughs.
Despite everything that’s happened, Bucky feels lighter than he has in days.
In the upcoming weeks, Bucky sees less and less of Sam, but not for lack of trying.
Between Bucky trying to finalise plans for the wedding, and the end of summer approaching they're both inundated with other commitments.
They still meet up for lunch but oftentimes Sam sits at Bucky’s desk and watches him sketch, or Bucky takees his work with him to Sam's office because Sam can't leave for a proper lunch hour.
They part too soon, with quick kisses before they leave.
Eventually though, Sam declares that enough is enough and tells him to clear his schedule, if for just one evening.
“Just for the evening?” Bucky asks quietly into his phone, not wanting Tony or Natasha to hear him.
“Yeah you can go home at the end if you want,” Sam replies, a smile on his voice.
“I guess it depends on what you have planned,” Bucky says.
“Just trust me on this,” Sam says, “do you trust me?”
“Sure,” Bucky says, “do you need me to bring anything?”
Sam is quiet for a moment, thinking it over. “Can you pick up milk on your way here?”
“Milk?” Bucky asks, baffled.
“Yeah,” Sam says decisively.
“Any kind in particular?” Bucky asks, trying to get a hint of what Sam has planned.
“The kind you like to drink?” Sam replies, like it's obvious.
Bucky laughs. “Okay, okay, I see you’re not gonna let anything slip, I will be there, with milk.”
“Good,” Sam says, “see you tomorrow.”
When Bucky shows up to Sam’s place with an overnight bag and, as promised, a quart of milk, he doesn't know what to expect. When the door opens though he’s surprised to find the smell of food wafting through the air.
“You made dinner,” Bucky says.
“I made fancy dinner,” Sam says.
“And the milk?”
Sam grins. “You’ll see.” He takes the milk from Bucky, kisses him softly and turns back to the kitchen, Bucky trailing behind.
He sets the table while Sam is putting the last touches on the roast and they have dinner in easy silence.
They clean up together and then Sam leads Bucky to the couch. They put on a movie and squeeze into a corner of Sam’s couch, Bucky curled up and leaning into Sam’s side.
Half way through, Sam gently lifts Bucky and gets up. Bucky whines half-heartedly but Sam doesn't stay gone too long. A few minutes later the smell off cookies fills the house.
“You’re baking?” Bucky asks him.
“Yup,” Sam says.
“It’s way too hot for that,” Bucky says incredulous.
“My life really is so difficult,” Sam says, “but these cookies are worth it.” He gets up again as the oven starts beeping.
He comes back with a plate of chocolate chip cookies on a tray with the milk that Bucky had brought and two cups.
“They’re still a little hot,” Sam says, “so be careful.” He places the tray on the coffee table in front of them and pours out the milk as Bucky goes for the cookies.
They are definitely too hot, still soft and chewy, the chocolate melting on his fingertips. He lets out a moan and Sam raises an eyebrow at him.
“You like them?”
“They're orgasmic,” Bucky says.
Sam laughs. “That’s the first time they’ve been called that,” he says.
Bucky leans in and pulls Sam into a kiss, cookie half still in his hand. “You really are the best.”
“You deserve the best,” Sam counters.
Bucky smiles and pulls Sam on to the couch. “Let’s finish the movie.”
Bucky ends up falling asleep before the movie ends, his head resting on Sam’s shoulder, legs curled up beneath him and arms tangled around Sam’s.
Sam lets the credits roll, and gently unwinds Bucky so he can slip an arm under his shoulders and another under his knees. He carries Bucky to bed and lays him down. Next he slowly undresses Bucky.
Bucky opens his eyes a little, shifts to try and help Sam. “We could-” he mumbles, “if you want-”
“No,” Sam says surely, “let’s sleep.”
“Yes, sleep, good,” Bucky says, closing his eyes again and curling around the pillow.
Sam’s lips quirk into a smile. He undresses and slips into bed beside Bucky, pressing a kiss to the back of his neck and goes to sleep.
When Sam wakes up the next morning he finds the bed empty and wonders if Bucky’s already gone to work and he’s slept through his alarm.
He checks the time but it’s still early, so he climbs out of bed and finds Bucky in his kitchen, still in his socks, shirt and underwear.
“Are you making eggs?” He asks, squinting at the frying pan.
“I figured it’s only fair,” Bucky replies, “you’re always cooking for me.”
“I’m not gonna complain,” Sam says, his hands up complacently.
“You might want to taste these eggs first,” Bucky jokes, splitting them in half and spooning them onto two plates.
“So, the wedding is in a couple of weeks,” Sam says as they sit at the small kitchen table.
“Yeah,” Bucky says, running a hand through his already mussed hair. “I think I have everything almost sorted.”
“And the thing with the fight…” Sam asks, voice trailing off.
“Tony’s returning the car,” Bucky says, “Steve is thinking about selling his mom’s car, or retiring it. It’s older than he is, I don't know if anyone would want to buy it.”
“Actually, Pietro’s been looking for something, I’ll mention it to him.”
“That’d be great,” Bucky replies, “one less thing to worry about.”
“What else you got?” Sam says.
“Well, I haven’t had time to look for a new flatmate once Steve moves out,” he says, “and I can only afford the place for a couple of months after he leaves.”
“I can move in with you,” Sam says, “next problem.”
“I can move in with you?” Sam repeats, “I mean if you want to. I get it if you don’t want to, if it’s too fast but it’s an opportunity and it is closer to work-”
“Yes,” Bucky interrupts.
“Yes?” Sam asks, “Yes it’s too fast or-”
“Yes, move in with me,” Bucky says.
Sam grins. “Next problem.”
“The bachelor parties,” Bucky says seriously.
Sam’s grin widens.
“Bucky, Bucky, Bucky,” Natasha says when he walks into work, and he tilts his head back in exasperation, “are you wearing yesterday's shoes?”
“I might be,” he says, approaching her desk.
“Good date night?”
“It was,” he says, “very relaxing, and I have some news, but first I need your help.”
She grins and leans forward onto her elbows. “What do you need?”
“The bachelor parties,” he says.
“Yes,” she replies, “did you come up with anything?”
“Poker,” he says, pointing at her, “and strippers,” he points at himself.
She sits back in her chair, fingers laced together. “It could work,” she says, “do you want to do it so that you get the boys and I get the girls?”
“Nah, Sam isn’t really into girl strippers, so he’d prefer poker, but I know Maria would probably like to join us, and Sharon?” he asks.
She shakes her head. “I think Sharon would be uncomfortable with that sort of thing, but you can have Clint,” she says, “that way it’s an even four.”
“You don't mind Clint going to a strip club?” He asks.
She raises an eyebrow at him. “We’re both adults,” she says and leaves it at that.
The bells above the door jingle and they jump apart to see Tony wondering in. “Plotting I see,” he says.
“No, just-” Bucky starts.
“Yes,” Natasha says, breaking him off. “Plotting.” She looks at him through her lashes and smiles, but instead of looking innocent it almost looks demonic.
Tony shudders. “Just leave me out of it.”
“Of course,” Bucky replies and goes back to his desk.
The bachelor parties are a huge success. Bucky makes sure Steve gets at least three lap dances, and by the end of the night, Maria helps Bucky get Steve home.
She says her good night at the door and Bucky half leads, half drags Steve to his bedroom and lets him collapse on his bed.
“Hey Buck,” Steve says, words slightly slurred, “I love you.”
“Yeah?” Bucky asks, pulling off Steve’s shoes and trying not to gag at the smell.
“Yeah,” Steve says happily, “but not in a sexy way.”
“That’s good,” Bucky replies.
“Yeah,” Steve agrees, “I love you so much, but in a platonic way.”
“I love you too, buddy,” Bucky says, thinking about struggling with the sheets and decides against it. Steve runs hot and it’s still warm at night.
“‘Night,” Steve says, and is asleep before Bucky can reply. He turns off the light and heads back to his room.
He texts Sam to let him know they survived, and Sam texts back to let him know Sharon cleaned them out.
Bucky grins to himself. He texts back saying 'it’s always the quiet ones', and then a 'good night' as he heads to his own bed.
The wedding goes off without a hitch. He catches Natasha’s eye past Steve and Tony at the altar and she winks at him. He grins at her and stands tall again as Steve and Tony exchange vows.
At the reception, he catches up to her and asks her for a dance.
“You did well,” she tells him.
“You’re not so bad yourself,” he says, “but where is your date?”
“I could ask you the same thing,” she says, raising an eyebrow.
“He’s on the way,” Bucky says, “he had to work, a wedding to set up or something.”
“Mine too! Can you imagine?” She says seriously, then breaks into a smile, “this might have been a bad idea.”
He grins. “Maybe,” he says, “but I’m so much happier because of it.”
She smiles back. “Me too,” she says.
He’s so wrapped up in the dance that he only catches sight of Sam when he taps on Natasha’s shoulder. “May I cut in?” He asks her.
She smiles at him and lets go of Bucky. “Thanks for letting me borrow him,” she says and steps back and off the dancefloor.
He takes Sam into his arms and continues to dance. “Did you get everything sorted?”
“Yeah,” Sam replies, “Wanda and Pietro can take it from here.”
“So you’re all mine for the rest of the night?”
“All yours,” Sam agrees, “for longer if you want.”
“I was actually thinking of getting a new tattoo,” Bucky says, “I was hoping you’d help me pick it out.”
“Another flower?” Sam asks.
Bucky shrugs. “Maybe,” he says, “or something else.”
“You know, I’ve always been fond of birds.”
“Birds huh?” He asks, contemplating it, “I think I can work with that.”
“Yeah?” Sam asks, looking hopeful.
“Definitely,” Bucky says, kissing him softly on the jaw, “for you? Anything.”
It takes two months to finalise everything about the tattoo design, but finally, he’s in Natasha’s chair.
“Are you sure about this?” she asks him, a smile playing around her lips.
“Just do it, Tasha,” he says rolling his eyes.
She smirks and starts working. Bucky lies back and takes a deep breath as he hears the loud whirring of her machine starting up.
She cleans his skin, places the transfer on his upper arm and picks up her gun. Bucky concentrates on the little pots of colorful ink lined up on Natasha’s table as she starts on the outline of the wing. He winces as the tiny needles flicker over his skin, but the stinging soon turns into a dull ache and he settles in.
Sam is sitting close by, watching warily. “You sure you don't want one?” Bucky asks him, “I can do it for you - or Natasha, as you can see, is an expert.”
“Nah, I thought about it a lot, and I don't want a tattoo, the only thing I want to keep forever is you.”
“Samuel Wilson,” Bucky says, “are you saying what I think you’re saying.”
“I’m thinking,” Sam says, licking his lips, “I love you, James Buchanan Barnes, and I would very much like you to marry me.”
Before Bucky can reply, Natasha stops working. “Really?” She asks, “this is how you’re going to do it? What happened to the big plan, the grand gesture?”
Bucky turns to her in surprise. “You knew about this?”
“There was a plan,” she insists, putting her gun down.
Sam grins and gets down on one knee. “I couldn’t wait,” he says and pulls out a ring.
“Holy shit, he has a ring,” Bucky cries.
“But we just moved in together,” he says, “what if you find out you hate me?”
“Please,” Natasha says, sitting back and crossing her arms, “you’ve been inseparable since you started dating, I don't think that’s gonna change now that you’ve made it official.”
“I can’t believe this is happening,” Bucky says.
“You know he’s still waiting for you to answer,” she says.
“Yes,” Bucky says, turning to Sam, “of course the answer is yes.” He grabs Sam and pulls him up for a kiss, tilting their heads and running his fingers over Sam’s short hair.
“I’ll give you guys a moment,” Natasha says, sounding exasperated.
“This is going to be such a weird story,” he says, “your timing is so weird.”
“It’ll be a good story,” Sam says, “you’ll see, and there's no time like the present.”
Bucky laughs softly and kisses Sam again.