Separating eggs was a delicate matter. He’d seen this done before countless times around the holidays. Cracking the fragile egg in two and using the shell to carefully scoop out the yoke and plop it into the waiting glass bowl. Steve was on egg six and quite proud of himself. He sucked on his lower lip in deep concentration.
And Steve crushed the eggshell in his hand, the sticky contents dripping down his fingers.
Christ! He didn’t even hear the footsteps or sense Bucky’s presence, but then he was absorbed in what he was doing—but still. He breathed out a heavy breath to steady himself. He wasn’t annoyed, more surprised than anything else.
“Nothing.” As he tossed the ruined egg into an empty bowl while he spared a glance at Bucky over his shoulder.
Leaning against the door frame, scratching his head, Bucky had that sleepy cat-look, eyes barely open. He didn’t have his hair tied back and it hung loose and careless just brushing his shoulders, covering part of his face. In sweat pants and a loose white muscle shirt, he looked like he just rolled out of bed, which he might have, because it was 6am in the morning.
Bucky strode up to him like a lazy lion, all graceful and sleepy. And Steve couldn’t help notice the smooth play of muscles under his skin. He stood close, leaning his chin on Steve’s shoulder, his chest brushing against his back, a light touch with his metal hand on his left hip. And Steve could feel the quiet power thrumming through Bucky’s body, an electric hum, pulsing silent, contained but there. Always there. It made Steve flush and his blood supply go south.
“Don’t look like nothing, pal. Is it cookies?” Bucky’s breath tickled at his neck, his teeth nipping at Steve’s ear before pulling back, the scent of mint remaining from Bucky’s toothpaste.
“It’s…a surprise.” Steve managed to choke out. Because, Jesus Christ, he was aroused! He ducked his head down grabbing a towel to wipe his hands. Needing something to do with his hands, or he was going to turn around and grab Bucky and kiss him stupid. And then one thing will lead to another and the eggnog will not get done. Not that is wasn’t a bad idea, but, no, he had a plan and he was sticking to it. It just was going to take more willpower than he thought.
“You don’t say,” Bucky said, before pressing his lips to Steve’s shoulder in a quick kiss.
“It is…” Steve was twisting the towel in a big knot, heart beating faster.
Bucky gave a chuckle. It vibrated straight through Steve’s body as Bucky pressed full against it, his lingering hand on Steve’s hip, the thumb starting to press soft circles there.
“Alright, I won’t ask, but you got to tell me—is it eatable?” Bucky brushed his lips against his neck, and Steve swore he felt the damp flick of his tongue.
“Yes…” Steve somehow strangled out. And the heat of Bucky’s body receded as he pulled back and away. And Steve shouldn’t have felt a little bit colder, but he did.
Bucky palmed the bottle of rum sitting on the counter.
“Drinking so early?” Bucky said, smirking.
“No and don’t take that.” Steve turned toward him.
And it was as if Steve said the exact opposite; why was he not surprised? He should know by now not to dare Bucky. Just like Bucky shouldn’t dare him.
Bucky unscrewed the cap and took a swig, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he swallowed.
“Mmm…not bad. Spiced…” Bucky licked his lips to catch the golden drops of alcohol on them.
“Bucky…” Steve wasn’t whimpering. He wasn’t. His bottom lip trembled and he pressed his lips together in a grim line, the towel he was twisting started to rip as his knuckles whitened. Bucky just had to stop teasing, because now all he could think of was of last night and how they both broke the bed.
“Remember France, the farmhouse? Dum Dum’s homemade spiced rum? We hunted all over to get the ingredients he needed. The orange was the hardest to find. Christ, that stuff was a little bit of heaven in hell.” Bucky smiled at the memory. And Steve had forgotten.
Bucky set down the bottle and opened a cabinet over the counter. Taking out a box of energy bars, he fished one out, ripped it open and bit into it. Then Bucky snagged a water bottle from the fridge.
Seeing Bucky in the kitchen like this brought back memories of the past in their small Brooklyn apartment. Bucky moved around the kitchen with familiar ease--relaxed, munching on his bar between gulps of water. It had Steve’s heart ache for a different reason, because it seemed so natural to be together again. Before the war and everything else that followed that altered their lives. And Steve had to admit Bucky looked the same yet not.
Bucky was taller now by a few inches, because he was almost Steve’s height. He knew Bucky was shorter during the war when he fought alongside him and the other Howling Commandoes. That Bucky was scrappy, tough, lean muscle, and now he had that same muscle but more of it, corded, sleek, heavy.
Steve watched Bucky finish off the energy bar in just a few quick bites--like he thought someone would steal it from him. And maybe he’d picked up that habit during the Depression or maybe much later. And Steve wasn’t sure anymore, his own memories of his childhood clouded in sickness and cold. But there was a constant in his life back then, Bucky. He knew Bucky, yet he didn’t anymore. The discovery of all the little things that made up Bucky now was his new goal. And making a Christmas surprise was a part of it.
“Are you sure that’s enough?” Steve asked, wondering about Bucky’s small breakfast, especially after all the energy they spent last night.
“I’m good,” Bucky said, finishing off the last of his water.
Steve did worry that Bucky wasn’t getting enough food to fuel his Super-Soldier body. Steve’s own was like a coal furnace. He had to keep feeding it fuel. One peanut butter and pecan energy bar was not going to cut it for breakfast.
But Steve kept quiet. Bucky had learned to survive on less than he needed and he imagined the bite of hunger that gnawed at Bucky might be normal for him. Steve frowned at that. He was going to make a big pasta salad for lunch, enough for two Super-Soldiers. Also Bucky did like his sweets. Which reminded him he still had that homemade fudge and peanut brittle to make before Christmas. That was his gift to Bucky—all wrapped up in fancy paper with a red ribbon.
“I’ll leave you to your ‘not making cookies’.” Bucky ‘air quoted’ with his fingers. And that was Clint’s influence; Steve was sure of it. “Gotta meet Natalia for a morning workout.”
He turned to go, then just as quickly turned back, took two strides and firmly smacked Steve on the lips with his. ”See you later, sweetheart,” Bucky said as he pulled back and winked.
Steve said nothing as he gripped the counter behind him trying to swallow back a moan, watching Bucky leave. And he wished the sweat pants were tighter so he could see Bucky’s perfect ass.
After three days of letting the eggnog mixture age in the fridge, Steve unthawed the egg whites, whisked them up until stiff and folded them into the lemon-colored mix. He poured two big mugs—sprinkled nutmeg on top and placed a cinnamon stick in each. Steve set the mugs down on the dining table alongside the brightly wrapped fudge and brittle.
Like a little kid, Bucky ripped the Christmas paper to get to his gift.
“Chocolate fudge and peanut brittle…” Bucky said in amazement. “I remember this.” The way his eyes rounded with excitement and mouth gaped, Steve knew Bucky meant it. “You made this. You remembered.”
“Yeah, I remembered, Buck.” Steve might have forgotten somethings, but he remembered the peanut brittle they shared after a baseball game along with a first kiss. And the fudge Steve’s Mom made every Christmas, him sneaking Bucky some every time. And Bucky ate his fill until his stomach groaned.
Now Bucky groaned for another reason, biting into the fudge. It was nearly orgasmic. And Steve’s pants became a little tighter.
“This is sooo good!” And he kissed Steve just to share the candy. It was sweet and gooey and the kiss just made it even better. Steve thumbed the fudge off Bucky’s parted lips when he pulled back.
“Glad you like it. Merry Christmas,” Steve said as he smiled.
“Oh Jesus! I nearly forgot.” Bucky bolted up from the table. “Wait here!”
And Bucky hurried to the front hall closet. Steve peered out of the kitchen after him and saw him rummaging in his leather jacket’s pocket. Steve wasn’t sure what Bucky was doing. Could it be a gift? For him? Steve wasn’t really expecting anything at all. Having Bucky here for Christmas was enough for him. But he could feel a tingling in his body and his breath catching in his throat from anticipation. Steve wondered what it was?
Bucky turned around and proudly waved two pieces of paper at him. Steve frowned in confusion.
“Two tickets to the Nutcracker at the Lincoln Center Plaza,” Bucky said, grinning in delight.
“Buck…” Steve's brow furrowed in puzzlement than wonder.
Bucky walked up to him and slapped both the tickets and his palm on Steve’s chest.
“I’m finally asking you out on a proper date, monkey suit and everything. Merry Christmas, you big jerk!” And Bucky pulled him into a crushing hug, rubbing his back. He turned his head, lips grazing Steve’s ear. “I won’t take no for an answer.”
And that whisper sent a shiver down his spine, making Steve hot all over.
Steve pushed him away. “Punk.” And he cuffed at Bucky’s ear in affection. This was a big step for both, going out together as a couple, and Steve couldn’t wait. He knew a silly smile was crossing his face. “You know that answer.”
“I’m just that irresistible, ain’t I?” And Bucky leaned in close, resting both hands on Steve’s chest, giving him a chocolate smeared kiss.
Back in the kitchen, they both were sitting tasting the eggnog. Bucky sipped at it carefully. And Steve was wondering what memories where going through Bucky’s head. So many times Bucky surprised him; he was remembering more every day, the good with the bad. He hoped Bucky was having pleasant memories now.
Bucky’s eyes closed, his lips quirking. He opened them and whistled.
“Oh man, are you trying to get me drunk, Stevie? ‘Cause this has some kick.”
Steve frowned. “No, the recipe said…”
Bucky cut him off by smacking his lips to Steve’s. “Naw…don’t worry about it. ‘S good.” And downed the mug in three long gulps as if to prove his point.
Jesus! That was the most erotic thing he’d seen Bucky do—well since three days ago just before the bed broke. Steve should not be staring at Bucky’s throat when he swallows things. He’ll try to remember that. He removed his own hand from his mug so he wouldn’t shatter it in his grip.
Steve refilled the mug and Bucky drank this one more slowly. “You have to make this more often.”
“It was special for the holidays,” Steve said, smiling. “Thor might have given me a little of his Asgardian liquor for an early Christmas gift to use.”
“It’s special all right,” Bucky agreed, as he licked the thick liquid from his lips and smiled.
Steve had to admit the extra ingredient of Thor’s ambrosia had him feeling a warm tingle all the way to his toes. And the knotted tension he always seemed to carry in his shoulders, loosen. Steve had to remember to book an appointment with Bucky’s masseuse. He said she did wonders--made Bucky feel like a cat stretched out by a radiator, is what he said. And, no, Steve didn’t need that image of Bucky in his head, but there it was.
Bucky stirred the cinnamon stick in the mug, then licked off the creamy eggnog.
And nope Steve’s mind wasn’t going there. Bucky hadn’t given him the official okay that he was ready for sex right now. And Steve went on Bucky’s cue. Steve just wanted Bucky to relax and enjoy himself on this Christmas day, and not be forced into anything he didn’t fully want.
They both curled up on the sofa. Steve leaning back, Bucky resting against his chest, totally boneless after downing three and a half mugs of eggnog. Steve’s arm curled protectively around Bucky’s waist, his hand sliding up under Bucky’s shirt, to rest on the warm, firm muscle of his stomach. Bucky placed his right hand over his to trap it there, lacing his fingers into his. Steve’s other hand held the TV remote and was cueing up Netflix. There was a movie playing five times on Christmas day and he thought—why not?
“Never seen this before, 'It’s a Wonderful Life.'" Bucky turned his head, planting a small kiss on Steve’s collarbone, lips curving into a smile.
“Me neither.” Steve smiled back, kissing the top of Bucky’s head. “It’s on my list, but never got to it.”
“You have a list?” Bucky quirked an eyebrow at him.
“Yes, I have a list. I keep track of things I want to try or to learn in this century.”
“Oh really? I want to see this list so I can add something to it.” Bucky was tracing a light pattern on Steve’s chest with his metal fingers.
“Make your own,” Steve said, giving out a short laugh.
“Hmm…maybe…maybe, my list will be what new ways I can have sex with you?” Bucky smirked up at him.
“Mmm…I like that list.” Steve placed down the remote and pushed back Bucky’s hair over his ear, scratching behind it like Bucky was a big cat.
“Thought you’d might, pal.” Bucky gave a content smile and sighed as he burrowed more into Steve’s chest.
But Bucky nodded off before Clarence got his wings. Before George gave up all his dreams for his family and friends.
No man is a failure who has friends.
And as Steve quietly combed his fingers through Bucky’s hair as he slept, lightly snoring, and breathing deep, he thought maybe—maybe—he didn’t have to give up his dreams to have a wonderful life—if they included Bucky. Steve’s heart was calm, his insides becoming feather light. Because right now as he looked down at Bucky—right now—life felt good.