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The Lost Bet

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Bucky was pretty sure he had endured torture at the hands of evil dictators that was worse than this.  He groaned, leaned back in the uncomfortable chair, and shot death glares at his partner.  Not that Steve noticed, too caught up eating those stupid Swedish meatballs.  Bucky huffed and took in the area again.  Most people seemed oblivious to them, too caught up in shopping, but Bucky still wasn’t completely comfortable in settings like this.

“You’re taking your time on purpose,” Bucky finally said.

Steve glanced over at him, a glimmer in his eye as he ducked his head and shoveled down another meatball.  After a second, he shrugged and said, “Not my fault you made a bet you couldn’t win.”

“You cheated.”

“Not even a little,” Steve replied with a smile.

“You were always a little shit. I should’ve known better,” Bucky replied.

“Woulda, coulda, shoulda, pal.  You lost and so here we are.”

“You make a decent living now.  Why are we even shopping at Ikea?”

“Because it seems ridiculous to me to spend a fortune on a bookcase and Sam got me hooked on the meatballs.”

Bucky grimaced and said, “I wonder about you sometimes, Rogers.  And then I wonder about myself for loving a punk like you.”

Bucky pretended not to be at all affected by the huge smile that Steve shot him.  Bucky sighed, more to remind himself that he was annoyed for being dragged to this place, and Steve pushed his plate aside.  He leaned back, staring at Bucky like he hung the moon, and Bucky wasn’t sure he would ever deserve Steve Rogers, but god, he loved the idiot.  Steve said, “I want to look at some of the framed art they have.”

“No.”

“And there are probably some things we can use in the kitchen now that you’ve started cooking.  I never kept much around when it was just me.”

Most people wouldn’t notice it, but Bucky could hear the whisper of sadness that crept into Steve’s voice.  Bucky leaned forward and covered Steve’s hand with his own.  He said, “It’s because you’re a terrible cook.”

“I am not.”

“You once burned water.”

“I got distracted.”

“You nearly burned down our old place back in the day.  You nearly gave yourself an asthma attack from the amount of smoke in the room.  We had to sleep with all the windows open in the middle of January.”

Steve laughed and said, “You kept threatening that if I got sick you were gonna let me die, but you still made sure I got all the blankets.”

Bucky rubbed his thumb over the top of Steve’s hand and said, “You knew I was all talk.  Wouldn’t know what to do without your stupid ass around.”

Steve lifted Bucky’s hand and squeezed.  He said softly, “Love you too, Buck.”

Bucky never tired of hearing those words or the effect they had on him.  He motioned around them and said, “If you really loved me, Stevie, you’d put me out of my misery.  I’m not sure how much longer I can handle Ikea.”

“I don’t know.  We could probably use some plants too.”

“We’re not home enough for plants.”

“Fair enough.”

“You’re doing this on purpose,” Bucky whined.

Steve stood up, moving into Bucky’s space, and said, “Yep.”

“I’ll get you back for this.”

Steve chuckled.  “Probably.”

“Fucking Ikea,” Bucky muttered as Steve dragged him off toward the paintings and pictures.  Bucky wondered what the world would think of the Winter Soldier being hauled around the store to look at terrible wall décor.  He would hate to have his reputation in the field marred by this trip, but he couldn't deny that Steve seemed happier than he had in awhile...so if losing a bet and being forced to shop for crappy bookcases put a smile on his boyfriend's face, Bucky would manage.  Didn't mean he wouldn't give Steve shit for it though, possibly for the rest of their lives.