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Misdemeanor

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Bucky, as a rule, doesn't like working the holidays.

 

There are too many people around, for one. On the street, on the sidewalk, in the parks. In this day and age, with so many weird threats -- hailing from Earth and... like... space and shit -- it just makes occasions like Independence Day great, blaring targets for douchebags and jerks.

 

Bucky is allergic to jerks.

 

Bucky unleashes his best cop glare on some idiot crossing the street in a stars and stripes tank top who bumps into him, nearly spilling fresh coffee all over the front of his uniform. He receives a sheepish wave and a 'Sorry, Officer' for his trouble.

 

"Shouldn't be wearing the flag as clothing, anyway," Bucky mutters under his breath as he slides into his patrol car.

 

It's just after eleven, Bucky's got a bagel and coffee, and it's time to head out. His ten hour shift officially starts at eleven-thirty, when he arrives at the 88th precinct in Clinton Hill to pick up his partner. Then they'll head down to Prospect Park together -- which is absolutely full of people -- to take over from some of his fellow officers as crowd control and general peace-keeping.

 

Behind the wheel of the patrol car, Bucky checks his mirrors and is just about to pull out into the street when a motorcycle comes flying past, doing well over the speed limit.

 

Bucky shoves the bagel half in his mouth, biting out 'oh Hell no,' around it -- which sounds absolutely nothing like those words -- turns on the lights and sirens, and begins to follow.

 

It takes a few moments for the unhelmeted rider to flick a couple of quick glances around and realise he's the one being asked to pull over. He slows down significantly, before using his blinker to pull over at a safe spot at the kerb, even setting the kick stand down on his bike.

 

Bucky harrumphs in grudging appreciation and double-parks behind the guy. "Every fuckin' fourth of July," he grumbles, grabbing his hat off the passenger seat and wedging it on his head. Bucky gets out of his car and checks he has everything in order before approaching, paying particular attention to the man's body language, looking for any sign of trouble.

 

Now Bucky is the first to admit, he's not prone to getting distracted on the job, but there are already a few things at play, here. One is the fact that he's internally whining that his shift hasn't even started and already the fucksticks are out in force. Second is that the dude on the bike is big. Like, wide shoulders, probably at least six foot tall. And that's nice, he guesses, but it leads him to wonder if Tall, Fair and Speeding is going to give him issues.

 

But the engine is off and the guy is sitting with his hands clearly visible. Bucky's hands move away from his pepper spray and towards the ticket book in the front pocket of his shirt.

 

The offender is sitting there with his head hanging down a little, sneaking glances at his watch. He's got somewhere to be, clearly.

 

Bucky pastes a thin smile on his face. "How's it going, sir?"

 

The guy has a strong jaw in profile, the muscles twitching a little beneath his cheek. He looks familiar, but Bucky can't quite place it.

 

"Fine, thank you--" the dude flicks a quick glance to the chevrons on Bucky's arm, "--Sergeant."

 

"Got somewhere to be, I guess," Bucky drawls, and he shouldn't enjoy doing this, but he fuckin' does a little.

 

"I do, yes," he answers reasonably politely, voice a smooth baritone. "Don't want to be late."

 

"I'll bet," Bucky smarms back, cocking his hip to the side. "Did you happen to be aware of your speed?"

 

The guy flicks him a quick glance and wow, blue eyes. "I'm afraid I wasn't really looking properly, Officer."

 

Ahh, the ol' admission of guilt. Or at least, admission of inattention. Doesn't matter how hot you are, that'll always get you in the end.

 

And yeah, the guy's hot. Bucky's started to notice.

 

"License and registration, please," Bucky asks with something of a weariness to his tone.

 

"Um... no?"

 

Bucky arches one eyebrow. "Was that a question?"

 

"No." Hot guy's cheeks are starting to go pink. "But I still have to say 'no'."

 

There's lots of things that offenders on traffic stops can refuse, but showing their details is not one of them. "'No' because you don't want to, or 'no' because you don't have any?"

 

"The second one?" He winces, and looks unfairly adorable. And familiar, damnit. Maybe he's an actor, the good Lord knows NYC is teeming with them.

 

Bucky sighs. "Driving without a license is a misdemeanour offence under Section 509 of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Code. I could issue you with a fine, or jail time, or both. Add to the fact that it's illegal in the state of New York to ride a motorcycle without a helmet."

 

The dude's shoulders hunch up rest somewhere around his ears. "Sam is going to kill me," he mumbles under his breath, looking at his watch. Louder, he turns his entire upper body to Bucky and says: "I'm in the wrong, Sergeant. Whatever you think is best, I'll go along with."

 

Bucky looks at him. And looks at him. And looks at him some more. He's not sure what his face is doing, but it's making the guy look a little more alarmed. Well, tough shit.

 

Without breaking eye contact with the man he flips his ticket book open, pen poised. "Name." Because yeah, he's going to have to hear this now. His brain is telling him something really fucking stupid, and he'd like to disprove it.

 

"Steven Rogers," says Hot Guy, aka Steve Rogers, aka Captain Fucking America.

 

"Date of birth," Bucky continues somewhat calmly, although his voice is a quarter octave higher than it should be.

 

Captain Ame-- Rogers' cheeks go redder. "Uh. July four, nineteen-eighteen."

 

Bucky lets out a little strangled sound.

 

He has pulled over Captain Fucking America on Independence Day, which so happens to double as his birthday. He was probably rushing off to headline a parade or punch Nazis or some shit.

 

A bald eagle is going to fucking shit on Bucky's head, he just knows it.

 

"I should have a license," Rogers says sheepishly, giving him the soulful blue eyes treatment, "I have been meaning to get one, I just keep putting it off. And then when I think about it, the DMV is closed."

 

"That and I guess you're out catching assholes and stopping aliens," Bucky says without thinking.

 

That earns him a small smile that looks like the sun peeking over the horizon, or a new litter of puppies, or a perfect daffodil. Fuck his life. "Same as you, right?"

 

Ohhh he's done. Bucky snaps his ticket book shut quickly. "Okay. So you're clearly--"

 

--CAPTAIN FUCKING AMERICA--

 

"--you," Bucky waves his hand vaguely, "and you're probably on your way to somewhere important--"

 

"To Prospect Park," Rogers supplies helpfully. "I've got this veterans' lunch event, and some disadvantaged children meet-and-greets, before setting off some fireworks at ten tonight?" His cheeks get pink again. "I'm sort of the guest of honour."

 

Because of course.

 

Bucky presses his lips together and stands at his full height. "O-kay. Well, seeing as it's... a holiday, I'm going to let you off with a warning this time."

 

Rogers startles him by exclaiming 'No!'. He goes on to explain: "I really think you should at least give me a fine. I'm the one that fucked up--"

 

--CAPTAIN FUCKING AMERICA FUCKING SWEARS--

"--
and it will be a good reminder for me to go to the DMV." He smiles a little, and why wasn't it ever mentioned that Captain America's left cheek dimpled slightly? "Who knows? It might be fun."

 

Bucky shakes his head. "Pal, nobody has fun at the DMV, not even the cars."

 

It's a fucking shitty joke, but Rogers laughs anyway. Bucky laughs a little with him, and he doesn't feel quite so strange about the situation anymore. The traffic ticket book makes an appearance again, and Bucky flips to the blank page. He starts filling out the violation information and gets to write down Rogers' phone number, amongst other bits and pieces of information.

 

Not that he would ever use the number. Because wouldn't that be a major breach of ethics.

 

The way that he feels Rogers' eyes on him as he writes, though...

 

Bucky clears his throat and finishes the ticket with his name and badge information. Everything's done save for the amount of the fine. The minimum is seventy-five dollars, and Bucky almost writes that, except he gives Rogers a discerning look, who responds with a curious expression.

 

"What?" he asks guilelessly.

 

Bucky taps the birth-date with his pen. "Nineteen-eighteen, huh?"

 

"That's right."

 

Bucky writes '100' in the fine amount field on the ticket. "I figure you can afford one buck for every year, right?"

 

Rogers gives him a grin; bigger than the last one, and his dark lashes flutter down. Bucky wants to punch something. "Yeah, I can."

 

Bucky points his chin towards the motorcycle. "Can you lock that thing up somewhere safe? I can't let you drive off without a license."

 

"Oh. Oh, sure," Steve says and gets up, and damn. He's maybe an inch taller than Bucky, and all of him looks like perfectly sculpted muscle. "I'm going to have to call for a ride," he mumbles to himself.

 

It's the perfect response, really. "I can take you to Prospect," Bucky offers. "Just have to detour by the 88th to pick up my partner." He raises an eyebrow. "Will that make you too late for where you need to be?"

 

Steve shakes his head emphatically. "I'll tell Sam to stall. It'll be fine."

 

"All right, then," Bucky says. "Lock up and jump in."

 

Steve wheels his bike into the alley and makes sure it's unobtrusive and secure, while Bucky sits back into his car and makes sure the passenger seat is clear. He takes off his hat and rubs his forehead. Because how did he become Captain America's personal escort to Independence Day festivities?

 

Rogers slides into the passenger seat and gives him a big smile. Bucky wants to smile back and also shoot himself in the face. He can want both things. He settles for a polite nod, a hand raked through his hair, and they head towards the 88th.

 

It's a pleasant ride, and after Rogers calls his friend, Sam, they amicably chat along the way. If anything, the ride seems too short, because before Bucky knows it, they're at the 88th. Torres is waiting outside for him, frowning at his tardiness.

 

"You're going to have to jump into the back," Bucky murmurs, and Rogers looks surprised for a moment, before stepping out of the front seat and relocating to the back middle.

 

Torres walks over curiously, and unlike Bucky, identifies Rogers immediately. She gives Bucky a seriously suspicious look. "Did you arrest Captain America on Independence Day, Barnes?"

 

Both Bucky's and Rogers' cheeks go red. "No. I did issue him a fine for speeding, though," Bucky says with all the dignity he can muster, "and we're now giving him a ride to Prospect."

 

Torres takes lingering looks at the both of them -- and Rogers gives her a sheepish wave -- before bursting into laughter. She doesn't stop for twelve blocks. By this time Bucky and Rogers have joined in, because it's impossible not to by now.

 

"...You nearly arrested... Captain America... on his birthday..." Torres wheezes, and Bucky shakes his head.

 

"You're making this sound way worse than it actually is," Bucky gripes.

 

"To be fair, I really was speeding without a license," Rogers cuts in.

 

"Yeah, I'd probably not broadcast that too loud to any other cops," Torres suggests with a smile, "Bucky went easy on you."

 

"'Bucky'?" Rogers asks, curiosity piqued.

 

"Nickname, don't worry about it," Bucky dismisses.

 

They make it to Prospect almost on twelve. The officers they're to replace look mildly harried and annoyed, until they see Rogers exit the car with them. Suddenly there are a lot more smiles to be had. Torres goes over to talk with them, very obviously leaving Bucky alone with Rogers.

 

"Thanks for your understanding," the blond says sincerely. "I know you could've imposed a bigger fine, or even something worse. I appreciate it." Bucky tears his eyes away from Rogers'. He takes out his ticket book again and flips the page to the unissued fine. He scribbles a terrible drawing of a box present next to his signature and tears off the top part of the ticket. "Happy Birthday, Captain," he says with a flourish and hands it to Rogers. "Try not to speed anymore, and get your goddamn license and a helmet."

 

Rogers looks down at the piece of paper with amusement as he starts to back into the park. "Will do, Sergeant--" his eyes search the paper for a moment, "--Barnes."

 

Bucky lifts one shoulder in a shrug. Might as well. "Call me 'Bucky'," he offers, and Rogers grins.

 

"Steve!" Rogers responds, and gives a wave before jogging into the park amidst the other Independence Day merry-makers.

 

Bucky watches him -- Steve -- go, and presently, Torres rejoins him. She opens her mouth but Bucky cuts her off. "Not even one word."

***

 

The rest of his shift is not nearly as exciting. Lost children, some illegal fireworks (sparklers, really, but they still count), and a few D&D's. Nothing a sobering up at the local station won't cure. Lots of clothes with the stars and stripes on them to annoy him. It's not a law that's enforced, it's just disrespectful, man.

 

Finally, finally, nine o'clock hits. Some more officers come to relieve him and Torres. It's time to head back to the precinct and then go home. Sure, they'll miss out on the fireworks, but Bucky's remarkably okay with that.

 

They're walking through the park to meet with their replacements, when someone yells Bucky's name. He looks around to spot Steve running towards him. Bucky's eyebrows approach his hairline as Steve comes to stand directly opposite. There's one lock of hair on his forehead that Bucky is finding it hard not to brush away.

 

"I'll wait at the car," Torres states to nobody in particular. She squeezes Bucky's elbow and walks away, leaving them alone. Again.

 

Well, alone as they can be in a park full of people.

 

"You're not staying for the fireworks?" Steve asks, after a moment.

 

"Shift's over," Bucky tells him, "got to head back to the 88th and then I'm on my way home."

 

"Oh." Steve chews on his bottom lip and it's unfairly distracting. He reaches into the inner pocket of his leather jacket and pulls out his carbon copy of the traffic ticket in Bucky's handwriting. Unfolding it, he points to the phone number on the top left. "I figured I'd tell you that you could use that number to give me a call sometime. You know. If you wanted to... do something?"

 

Bucky blinks once, twice, three times. "Yes? I mean, yeah. I could do that." His voice gets more confident as a slow smile blooms on Steve's face. "I couldn't have if you didn't give me permission."

 

"Well, I am," Steve returns. "Glad I ran into you again to give it."

 

Bucky nods abruptly. He has his own copy of the traffic fine, he'll just have to remember to copy Steve's number before he files it away. "Okay, well... I'll call you, then. Maybe," Bucky winces, wondering if it's too soon, "tomorrow? If you're not busy?"

 

Apparently not, because Steve nods enthusiastically. "Tomorrow would be great."

 

That's a promising response. He gives it a little thought, and arches an eyebrow. "Out of curiosity, what would you have done if you hadn't run into me, Steve?"

 

Steve gives an affable shrug and gestures to the ticket again. "You had your badge number on there, and I knew the precinct. I would've called the 88th and asked to speak with you."

 

Bucky whistles, impressed. "That's pretty good."

 

"Thanks," Steve grins. He looks over his shoulder to see a man waving impatiently at him. Steve shoves the paper back in his pocket and starts backing off. "Hey, so I have to go... call me?"

 

"Yeah, definitely," Bucky nods. Steve lights up the night sky with his smile better than any fireworks display and waves to Bucky, all the while walking backwards towards his destination. Bucky waves back, shaking his head in a mystified fashion when he finally loses sight of Captain America.

 

Maybe working the holidays isn't so bad after all.

 

Chapter Text

September 8 (Saturday after Labor Day)

 

The 88th loans Bucky and a few other officers from his precinct to Manhattan as crowd control for the annual Labor Day parade.

 

Fucking wonderful.

 

His job entails keeping people behind the barricades, watching out for undesirables in the crowd -- those who are there to cause harm to others, or just general nuisance behaviour -- and making sure nothing happens to the Labor Day marchers.

 

Oh, and get selfies with the general public.

 

Because apparently, that's what tourists do. They get fucking selfies with the NYPD.

 

Bucky hates working holidays.

 

He loses count after fourteen of how many photos he poses for. When his phone vibrates in his pocket, the home screen tells him it's an attachment from Steve. There's too much going on right now, so Bucky can't really open the message immediately.

 

He waits until one of the other officers relieves him for five minutes to go to the restroom. In the privacy of one of the cubicles, Bucky pulls out his phone and looks at the message.

 

It's a screen shot from Instagram, where people have been uploading their photos from the parade. The actual post is a split-screen picture of him on the parade route from further away, mildly glaring off into the middle distance, paired with a selfie of him and one of the many people who called him over for a photo. It's a teen girl that Bucky remembered having a distinctly midwestern accent. He did smile a little in this one, and apparently, this was a good thing.

 

Steve's drawn a circle around the hashtag '#NYPDhottie' on the post.

 

Fuck you, Bucky texts back, a smile coming unbidden to his face.

 

Steve sends back a photo of an empty deck chair with a bottle of beer on a side-table. The bottle is sweating, and there's a wedge of lime in the neck. Like many Americans, he's taking the opportunity to have one last barbecue to farewell Summer.

 

The picture is captioned with 'Wish you were here'.

 

***

 

November 23 (Black Friday)

 

Bucky's shift started at midnight and it's only been getting shittier from there. He and Torres have been charged with staying close by a shopping district where people lose their absolute minds on the hunt for bargains. He's worked a few Black Fridays before, it's never terribly pretty. Bucky can count on people being the worst-behaved they can actually be.

 

And for some reason, Steve Rogers decided he wanted to see the insanity first-hand.

 

Far be it from Bucky to dissuade Captain America from going out on the holiday to snatch up some bargains. If he can handle an alien army, he can handle Black Friday.

 

Probably.

 

Maybe.

 

It's a good thing Bucky's not far away.

 

Sometime after seven a.m., when Bucky and Torres are patrolling a mall, Bucky's phone vibrates. The message is from Steve, and it seems somewhat cryptic.

 

You'd better come find me. Outside Journeys.

 

Bucky snorts and shakes his head at the message.

 

"What is it?" Torres asks, and Bucky shows her his phone. She cocks her head to the side in confusion. "That's a weird message."

 

"Yeah, I guess so--" Bucky starts, before cursing.

 

He remembers who is sending the message. "Fuck. We'd better go."

 

It's safe to say Bucky runs to Journeys -- which is about five minutes away through the ocean of people -- Torres a step behind him.

 

He knows he's in the right place when they come upon a crowd of shoppers gathered into a circle. Bucky pushes his way through to the centre to find Steve. He's sitting on the back of a large, burly man who seems content to use what little energy he has to hurl insults.

 

Steve looks up brightly when Bucky approaches with trepidation. "Officer Barnes, Officer Torres! Thanks for coming."

 

Torres bites her lip savagely, and Bucky has to take a long moment to compose himself. "Captain Rogers," he begins, proud that his voice doesn't do that thing where it sounds so very done, "what seems to be happening here?"

 

Steve gestures down to his erstwhile cushion. "This gentleman here--" and Bucky can practically see the inverted commas around the word, "--decided to try and get rough with some of the other shoppers, taking their items and then using threatening and intimidating language. So I had to calm him down."

 

The man swears and pounds his fist on the floor, but Steve frowns at him and rests a hand between his shoulder blades, applying what seems to be from his perspective, the tiniest bit of pressure. Captain America's Cushion lets out a laboured huff and stops speaking.

 

"Is that so," Bucky says neutrally, willing himself not to laugh. He knows for a fact Torres is pinching her own thigh to quell the smile.

 

"It's true!" One of the bystanders agrees. "He was grabbing shit and getting all up in people's faces until Cap stepped in."

 

Torres takes out a notebook and approaches the young man. "You witnessed the incident?" she asks, and he nods profusely.

 

Bucky sees a lot of cell phones in waiting hands. "Did anyone get anything on film?"

 

Approximately twenty hands go up. Bucky gives an internal sigh. That's a lot of statements and evidence to collect if someone wants to press charges. Either way, the dude's got to go.

 

Bucky gets on his radio and calls into the station, telling them the situation. While Torres corrals the witnesses, Bucky heads over to Steve, unclipping the handcuffs from his utility belt. Steve helpfully makes the perpetrator's wrists available so Bucky can cuff him as he reads the guy his Miranda rights.

 

"I'm walking him out, another patrol car's coming to pick him up," Bucky announces.

 

"Need help escorting him?" Steve asks.

 

It's a little unorthodox, but he should have an extra set of hands for safety's sake, seeing as this guy probably outweighs him by about fifty pounds, and Torres is with the witnesses. Technically, Steve is a government agent...

 

"... Yeah, okay, Captain."

 

"Great." Steve hefts the man up onto his feet as though he weighs nothing, but still lets Bucky physically steer them in the direction of the Mall exit. They make a spectacle for a little while, before the majority of the shoppers get more concerned with their own greed and avarice.

 

Or, you know. Bargains.

 

"See anything you wanted to buy?" Bucky asks conversationally as they make their way out.

 

"Found some nice Chuck Taylor Converse in Journeys I liked. They have my shield on the side."

 

"That's kinda cool. You gonna buy them?"

 

"Not sure," Steve says. "Think it would be too gauche if I did?"

 

"Wait," the angry, angry man interrupts, stopping in his tracks. "Do you two know each other?"

 

"Shut up," Bucky says helpfully, pushing him forward, and Steve snickers.

 

***

 

January 21 (Martin Luther King Jr Day)

 

Monday means work for Bucky. Even if it's a holiday, he's still on duty. Thankfully, he doesn't have to be out on the beat today; he and Torres are back at the 88th, and Bucky is getting the more menial -- but infinitely less trouble -- paperwork side of his job squared away.

 

He's making reasonably good progress, too. Especially after he asks his precinct desk officer to hold any calls for him that aren't deemed an emergency.

 

The silence is peaceful.

 

He's just about to finish one of the more niggling reports he's been avoiding for a while, when that peace is shattered by his desk phone's shrill ring.

 

With an exasperated puff of air from his lips, Bucky reaches over to pick up the receiver as he continues to write notes. "This is Barnes," he says in a clipped tone.

 

There's a pause at the other end before Annette speaks. "Hey, Barnes, I have a Sergeant Juanita Castillo on the phone for you from the 71st."

 

Bucky screws up his nose. He's never really had any contact at all with anyone from Crown Heights. He doesn't have any cases that have ever overlapped with them, either. "Is it urgent? I'm kinda busy."

 

"She sounded a little impatient," Annette tells him.

 

What the hell. It can't be anything terribly important, and he shouldn't ignore a fellow officer's call. "Okay, put her through."

 

The call connects almost immediately. "Sergeant Castillo, this is Sergeant Barnes. What seems to be the trouble?"

 

There's another lull, and Bucky is definitely getting suspicious of the amount of pauses in this conversation.

 

"Barnes, I'll cut to the chase," she says immediately. "Steve Rogers--" and doesn't Bucky's stomach just drop, "--has asked me to call you."

 

Bucky drops the pen onto his desk and his head into his hand. "Uh-huh."

 

"I presume you know exactly who I mean?" Castillo queries, "Captain Ame--"

 

"I know who you mean," Bucky interrupts, already feeling something pulse behind his left eyelid. "Why isn't he calling me? Why you?"

 

"He can't on account he's under arrest."

 

Bucky's forehead joins his pen on the surface of the desk. "Is he at your station?" he asks presently.

 

"Yes. We uh, haven't put him in lock up, he's just sitting with our desk sergeant. He's no trouble."

 

"No trouble my ass," Bucky mutters. "I'll be right there."

 

Bucky fumes all the way on the drive to the 71st. He knew Steve had been attending some MLK celebrations and commemorations in Prospect, as a civilian. He can't even begin to speculate what might've happened that's ended with Steve being arrested.

 

He finds a space on the street and marches into the precinct with a grim expression. As it turns out, he doesn't need to look too hard for Steve; he's sitting talking with the desk officer, charming smiles out of her and nodding politely. Bucky walks up to the counter and clears his throat obviously.

 

The desk officer -- Stanley, her badge reads -- gives him the stinkeye for interrupting, but Steve just grins brightly. He has bruising around his eye socket. That's something that Bucky doesn't expect.

 

Officer Stanley's face changes at Steve's response. She casts a quick view over Bucky's uniform and swivels her chair towards him. "Can I help you, Sergeant Barnes?"

 

"Sergeant Castillo called me at the 88th about--" Bucky flicks a glance to Steve, "--an individual you have under arrest at this time."

 

Stanley sits up. "Oh. Oh. Yes. She asked if you could meet her in her office." She then moves to get up from her seat, but Steve waves her down.

 

"That's all right, Officer Stanley. I can escort Officer Barnes there, I know the way."

 

"Technically, he'd be escorting you," she smirks.

 

Steve gives her a little grin back. "Yeah, but he doesn't know the way. Thanks, Karen."

 

Officer Stanley allows Steve to lead Bucky through the precinct, and Bucky has to wonder what the hell kind of protocol allows someone under arrest to just... do anything they want.

 

The rest of the station doesn't seem concerned with Steve walking around. "Are you going to tell me what the hell happened?" Bucky asks in an undertone.

 

"Best let Sergeant Castillo do the talking. I promised her she could go first," Steve replies. Bucky wishes for some kind of solid wall he can smack his head against.

 

Sergeant Castillo is no-nonsense and gets straight to the point. "It seems at the MLK celebrations in the Park, some--" she curls her lip slightly, "--white nationalists showed up to disrupt the proceedings. They carried confederate flags and were harassing the families there."

 

Brilliant. Fucking Nazis in his city. Bucky's brows knit together. "What happened?"

 

"Some of my guys are going over cell phone footage now. They were allegedly taunting a young African-American family when Captain Rogers stepped in to break up the harassment. A scuffle followed, wherein blows were traded."

 

"Is anyone pressing charges?" Bucky asks immediately.

 

Castillo sits on the edge of her desk, smiling ironically. "Some of our white nationalist friends allege that Captain Rogers beat them up. They are making a complaint."

 

Bucky sighs.

 

"I admit I was... rough with some very undesirable elements in Prospect Park," Steve admits, and Bucky has to give it to him, the way he so diplomatically puts 'punching Nazis'.

 

Bucky looks to Steve and gestures to the bruising around his eye socket. "What's with the black eye, then?" Because if Bucky knows anything about Steve, he knows a bunch of racist neckbeards can'tve gotten the jump on him.

 

Steve's mouth twitches. "Well, I had to let them get one free shot in."

 

"Probably good he did," Castillo puts in. "He wasn't seen to instigate the altercation, that just might work in his favour."

 

All of a sudden, Castillo's phone rings on her desk. She answers it and has a few abrupt replies before hanging up. She turns to face Steve and Bucky.

 

"You're in luck. Enough witnesses were around -- including the family being allegedly harassed -- to confirm that Captain Rogers was doing his best to diffuse the situation, and was definitely struck first before subduing the antagonists. The men we have in custody have been told there is a lot of contradictory evidence, and they've decided to drop their charges." Castillo looks to Steve. "You're free to go, Captain."

 

Steve beams and Bucky lets out a sigh of relief. He thanks the Sergeant and ushers Steve out of the precinct, and doesn't give him enough time to do more than wave to Officer Stanley at the desk.

 

They get into Bucky's patrol car, Steve a little subdued, Bucky silent.

 

Presently, Steve speaks. "We still on to catch up later?

 

Bucky flicks him a glance; the bruise around his eye looks lighter than it had been fifteen minutes ago. He deliberately schools his face so that it doesn't smile. "Yeah."

 

***

 

May 27 (Memorial Day)

 

Bucky's on patrol on a beautiful day where he'd much rather be kicking back at home, or spending time with his nephews. But this is his life, working holidays.

 

He should've actually had this one off, but Martinelli wanted to go to the Memorial Day Parade to support his veteran grandfather, and Bucky offered to swap with him, take his beat.

 

Which is fine, until some dickbag zooms past on a motorcycle without a helmet.

 

Bucky presses his foot on the gas a little to catch up, buzzes the siren just enough to get his attention. The rider half-turns and--

 

Yep. Bucky was sure he recognised those shoulders, but wanted to be fair and impartial, and give the rider the benefit of the doubt. You know, even though he was illegally riding without a helmet.

 

The rider and Bucky both pull over, but Bucky takes a moment to steel himself in the driver's seat of his patrol car before getting out.

 

He stalks over to the motorcycle and stands next to it with arms folded across his chest.

 

"Are you," he begins slowly, "fucking kidding me, Steve?"

 

Steve looks like a dog who has gotten into the treat jar. Embarrassed, but not sorry. Not fucking sorry at all.

 

"Hey, Bucky. How's things?" he asks cheerfully.

 

Bucky mulishly doesn't answer the question. "At least I know you're finally licensed," he bites out in a low voice. Louder, he says: "Do you know how fast you were going?"

 

"I was going a couple of miles over the limit, I'm sorry about that," Steve sounds genuinely contrite now. "I'm trying to get downtown to the Parade for the ceremony, and was running really late."

 

A few miles isn't something to get terribly bent out of shape about, but there's still the matter of the helmet. "Why were you running so late, I thought you had all your shit sorted yesterday? And where's your goddamn helmet?"

 

Steve presses his lips together. "Ah. Y'see, I'm running late because I was looking for my helmet everywhere and couldn't find it. In the end, I had to just leave without it otherwise I was going to be too late."

 

From anyone else it might've sounded like some kind of line, but Bucky knows Steve well enough to know it's not an excuse, he really must not've been able to find his helmet. Bucky's trying to think of the last place he saw it when his hands go cold and clammy.

 

"Damnit," he whispers.

 

"Bucky?" Steve asks, an expression of concern flitting across his face.

 

"Stay here," Bucky warns, before going back to his car. He looks into the back seat and sees nothing at first. It takes a moment of manoeuvring and opening the door to catch sight of a sliver of navy blue on the car floor, passenger seat.

 

He bends over and pulls Steve's helmet out of his patrol car. Steve looks over to him, face lighting up like a goddamn Christmas tree.

 

"Not a fucking word," he says as he passes it to Steve.

 

Steve mimes zipping his lip, before glancing quickly at his watch. "Sorry to do this to you, but think I can go now?"

 

The Memorial Day parade really is a big deal, and Steve does have to go. "Yeah, in a second." Bucky takes the notebook from his pocket, and Steve tracks his movement.

 

"You still going to ticket me?" he asks curiously.

 

"You'd better fucking believe it, pal," Bucky scribbles furiously. It was a sad state of affairs when Bucky knows Steve's license information off the top of his head. "Vehicle and Traffic law, Section 381(6) was violated, and you're paying the maximum fine, in case you're interested."

 

The maximum fine is one hundred dollars, Bucky knows Steve can afford it.

 

He rips the ticket and hands it to a smiling Steve. "Thanks, Buck." Leaning over, he presses a swift kiss to Bucky's cheek. "I've really got to go, call me when your shift is over?" Steve jumps back on his motorcycle and kicks the engine over nearly before getting off to a rolling start.

 

"Put your fucking helmet on!" Bucky yells irately, to see Steve smash it on his head as he's already riding away.

 

Bucky resolutely ignores the looks from any passers-by. Only tourists are staring, the New Yorkers are going about their business as usual.

 

Steve is going to give Bucky a goddamn aneurysm.

 

***

July 4 (Independence Day)

 

In a move that shocked even him, Bucky has Independence Day off. It's such a pleasure not to set his alarm, or have to worry about being somewhere, or holiday hooligans. The only thing he has to worry about is his own family.

 

In the morning he lazes around and does his own thing. By lunchtime he's driven to his parents' place to participate in a family cookout. Bucky helps his dad set up the grill, keeps his mom from stressing about whether her walnut and date loaf is too dry, and becomes the flavour of the month adult to pester for his two young nephews.

 

It's surprisingly relaxing. After all that, when they boys are napping, and everybody's having a mini-break from indulging to digest before they eat again, Bucky finds a blanket and lays it in the backyard. There's a patch of shade that is quite comfortable near the house; warm and quiet. He lies down with a beer and enjoys the peace and quiet.

 

He's not sure how long he's lying there when a figure obscures his cloud-gazing vision. Bucky half-props himself up on elbows, pulling his sunglasses down.

 

Steve crouches to sit down with him on the blanket, careful not to disturb the beer and plate he brought over. He must've just arrived, but Bucky marvels that he cant've been in the house two minutes before he's handed a huge slice of Bucky's mom's apple pie.

 

Bucky slips the glasses back over his eyes. "How'd the celebration go?" he asks.

 

"Good," Steve says, pushing a fork into the pie. "There was a group of teens that were meant to sing America the Beautiful, but they launched into Happy Birthday, instead." Steve grins a little, and Bucky can't help but smile back. "It was pretty cute."

 

"Nice." Bucky shifts his head so it's in Steve's lap.

 

They talk privately for a while longer, before the nephews wake up and disturb everything. The rest of the family who hadn't realised Steve'd arrived yet accost him with loving intensity, the grill is fired up again, and more food is eaten.

 

After the afternoon darkens to evening, after dinner and socialising and fun, Steve and Bucky take to the blanket again. Sure enough, right on ten, the sky starts to explode with colours. They're close enough to Prospect that the fireworks are decently visible.

 

Bucky looks over to Steve lying next to him, his eyes trained on the distinctive profile even as Steve watches the fireworks with rapt attention.

 

"Happy Birthday," Bucky wishes him softly, and Steve's lips part in a gentle smile, head turning towards him. He bridges the gap between them and plants a soft kiss on Bucky's mouth. Bucky returns it with quiet enthusiasm before breaking away. Steve continues to press sweet kisses to his cheek and jaw.

 

"Just so you know," Bucky says in a voice pitched low and sexy, "if you so much as step out of line today for any -- and I mean any -- reason, I'm gonna haul your ass to lockup."

 

Steve stops kissing for a moment, the smile he sports pressing into the sensitive flesh of Bucky's neck. "Understood, Officer Barnes."

Chapter Text

December 23 (Christmas Eve Eve)

 

The mall just before Christmas is a special kind of hell. Yet, here Bucky is, patrolling with Torres, making sure everything is running smoothly.

 

This is the last shift of work before a short break over the holiday period. He hasn't had a break between Christmas and New Year's since before the police academy. It'll be a nice change.

 

Steve is at the mall today as well. He'd (stupidly) promised Bucky's nephews he would take them to see Santa. So Steve and Becca and the boys are around... somewhere. Hopefully nowhere that is going to spontaneously break out as a hotspot of trouble.

 

Because shit like that happens around Steve. A lot.

 

So far, so good. Bucky and Torres have already stopped a couple of teen shoplifters, talked to a self-styled preacher who began ranting about Armageddon (or was it Whamageddon? He couldn't say for sure) in the food court, and helped a lost boy find his dad.

 

Meanwhile, the Christmas Carols are pumping through the speakers, there's a constant smell of gingerbread and cinnamon permeating the air, and people -- for the most part -- are bustling around with smiles on their faces, arms and shopping carts full of packages.

 

Knock on wood, it's going to be a good shift.

 

"You know Starbucks is doing a gingerbread latte?" Torres says, apropos of nothing.

 

"No shit," Bucky says with a small smile. "It sounds horrifying and amazing at the same time."

 

"I know," she grins back. "I'll go get us some. My treat." She squeezes Bucky's shoulder and doubles back to the Starbucks they passed not long ago. A hot drink would really hit the spot right about now.

 

Bucky's still smiling faintly at the thought when two burly mall security guards run past him with intent, heading towards the centre of the mall. You know, where Santa is.

 

His brain flicks into gear almost immediately, and Bucky takes off after them. "Please please please please don't let it involve Steve," he chants under his breath, catching up to the rent-a-cops, who are pretty out of shape.

 

In the dead centre of the mall is a little cottage set-up, with a red and white striped pole, reindeer pen, and Christmas tree. Candy canes line a path that leads straight to the front of the cottage, where a gilt chair sits. There's a line of adults with children snaking down the fake cobblestones, all looking with various levels of concern to the Big Man's chair.

 

A chair that is currently vacant, because Santa is out of it, arguing heatedly with the mall cops, before turning around to point a fat finger squarely in Steve's broad chest.

 

Because of course. Bucky's brows come together in a frown and he sets his jaw.

 

Steve draws himself up but ignores the offending finger to talk instead to security. Santa seems fit to try and interrupt him at any stage, but Steve stays calm. Bucky only needs to get within a couple of feet of Santa to get hit in the nose with the scent of spirits.

 

Drunk Santa on Christmas Eve Eve. Thanks, Brooklyn.

 

Bucky steels himself to enter the area. "What seems to be the trouble here, gentlemen?" Bucky asks, commanding, but not aggressive. The mall cops look relieved to see him, and Steve flashes him a brief smile.

 

"Tell these idiots to unhand me!" Santa demands. His insistence is punctuated -- and somewhat undercut -- by a drunken little sway.

 

Bucky's eyes dip briefly, before coming back up. "They're not touching you," he replies dryly. Steve stifles a snort, and Bucky does his best to not look to him.

 

"They're stopping me from doing my work," Santa continues, and dear Lord is his breath bad.

 

Steve folds his arms across his chest. "I'd say the alcohol's probably the more likely culprit, and you smell like the New York Distilling Company." Steve turns to Bucky. "I was waiting in line, and watching parents come away grumbling. Santa was being fairly loud and abrasive, and slurring his speech. Of course, when one of the children remarked about how bad he smelled, Santa told her she wasn't going to get anything for Christmas anyway, because she had a single mother."

 

"What's it to you?" Santa retorts, "Who made you Christmas police?"

 

"Wrong," Bucky puts in with a mean smile. "I'm Christmas police, he's Captain America."

 

There is a moment of absolute silence where nobody says a thing, and the only sound that can be heard is the excessively cheerful carol currently playing over the speakers. Then the line of assembled parents and kids starts talking furiously amongst themselves.

 

Apparently, Christmas was enough to mentally block the possibility that Captain America might be at their local mall.

 

"I'm also from a single mom," Steve puts in, and Santa winces at that. Even the security guards flinch.

 

"You picked the wrong dude to mess with," one of them says, shaking his head. Santa seems to disagree, and is gearing for another altercation.

 

By this time, a lady in a suit runs over and starts conferring with security. Her tag reads 'Helen Givings, Duty Manager' and Bucky would bet Ms Givings is wishing she had the day off.

 

Santa becomes rowdy again. When he does, one of the security guards puts a firm hand around his velvet-clad arm, but that only exacerbates the situation. Bucky takes a quick scan of the crowd to see lots of worried parents and stressed kids -- including his sister standing with her boys off to the side -- and needs to make a few quick decisions.

 

"You guys have holding here?" he asks the guards.

 

"Yeah, down in Admin," the one with his hand around Santa's arm replies.

 

"Take jolly ol' Saint Nick down there. I'm gonna call this in and have a unit come pick him up asap."

 

"Why won't you do it?" The other security guard asks. Not rudely, with genuine curiosity.

 

Bucky looks back to the assembled people. The line for Santa was long, but now there's not only the line, but other shoppers milling about at the disturbance. Even more now that he dramatically outed Steve as Captain America for the sake of making a point. Damn him. And they're starting to encroach on Santa's North Pole cottage.

 

Santa's getting forgotten in favour of a real-life superhero in their midst. Nevermind Steve making a problem; Bucky's made his own security issue. Motherfucker.

 

Some of the parents applaud rowdy Santa being taken away, but they're drowned out by audible grumbles from adults that have been waiting in line, or quiet sniffles from children who are asking why Santa's leaving before he's seen them.

 

Bucky turns to the crowd. "Listen up, everyone." He casts an eye to his nephews, twin bottom lips quivering, and chooses his words carefully. "Santa's has to go have a break. He was up late last night making toys, and was still a little tired and cranky because he hadn't had a nap. He's going to have a really good rest, and be right as rain soon."

 

A chorus of voices from children and parents alike begin asking 'how soon?' and 'when will he be back?'. Ms Givings looks pale under her makeup. "This is the last shift for Santa for the day. Our other Santa has gone home, and we have no-one else to call."

 

"You can't call the company?" Steve asks in a low voice, eyes scanning the fretting crowd.

 

"Not at five-thirty on a Sunday night," she says, aggrieved, "nobody would get here in time." She looks like she's about to hyperventilate. "I don't know what I'm going to do."

 

All of a sudden, Steve startles, looking down. Bucky and Ms Givings look down, too, to see the little girl that had last sat on Santa's lap tugging on Steve's hand. Steve immediately kneels down in front of her.

 

"Can I tell you what I want for Christmas?" She asks in a sweet voice. The Santa line has dipped into silence once again, everyone straining to hear the exchange over the carols.

 

"What's your name?" Steve asks.

 

"Jillian Marie Stafford," she says with curtsey and a gap-toothed grin.

 

"Jillian," Steve says in the softest voice, "I don't mind, but I'm not Santa Claus."

 

"I don't care," Jillian says with as much authority as her tiny body can muster, "You're Captain America."

 

She pulls Steve's hand, getting two-hundred-plus pounds of bulk to move towards Santa's chair, which she manoeuvres him into. Then, with a determined set to her chin, begins climbing up into his lap in her best dress.

 

Steve looks panicked for a moment, and flicks a glance to Jillian's mom, but he needn't have worried. Her mother is beaming, with suspiciously dewy eyes, and recording it on her cell.

 

He shoots a glance towards Bucky with a furrow in his brow. Bucky gives a little shrug, coupled with an expression that reads equally as 'don't look at me, you got yourself into this mess' and 'what are you waiting for? Humour her'.

 

Steve clears his throat with a curled hand in front of his mouth, before gazing down at the little girl seriously. "Okay, Jillian Marie Stafford. What would you like for Christmas?"

 

This starts a long rambling sentence that includes some storybooks, a new outfit for her favourite doll, and more crayons. Bucky's impressed with little Jillian; not an electronic gift request in sight. His nephews already want iPhones. They're seven, for fuck's sake.

 

"And have you been a good girl, this year?" Steve asks seriously, after listening intently. He casts his eye to Jillian's mom, who nods firmly.

 

"I have been very good this year," Jillian confirms as well.

 

"That's good to know," Steve says. "Thanks for telling me, I know that Santa will do his absolute best for you, okay? And remember, sometimes he can't always get you the things you want. Sometimes he goes for something you really need instead. Can you try and remember that for me?"

 

"Yes, Captain America," Jillian says solemnly.

 

Steve's about to lift her off his lap, when her mom asks if they can have a photo together. The teen girl in the elf costume hands Steve a spare Santa hat. Coupled with his red and white Christmas sweater, he doesn't actually look that out of place in the Big Guy's chair.

 

Bucky has to admit, it's pretty cute.

 

When Jillian's done, Steve makes to get up, but the next boy in line runs up to him and jumps up on to the chair. "Captain, Captain, my name is Nate!"

 

Bucky looks over to Ms Givings, to find her staring dewy-eyed at Steve. "Oh, this is brilliant. This might actually stop a riot forming."

 

And as stupid as it sounds about parents and kids rioting because they don't get to talk to Santa on Christmas Eve Eve, it's not the dumbest thing he's ever been witness to.

 

"Do you think he'd stay?" Ms Givings asks Bucky, voice tainted with hope and desperation, and Bucky frowns.

 

"He's not your employee, you know. I understand there's a problem with no Santa, but you can't just rope him into doing something like this at a moment's notice because--"

 

"I don't mind, Officer Barnes, Ms Givings," Steve pipes in from where he sits with Nate on his lap. "Santa probably won't make it back tonight, and I'd really like to help him out if I could." He looks at every kid in the line that he can make eye contact with. "I promise to pass on all the information to him."

 

He has an annoying air of integrity about him. And because he said it, everyone believe it. Suddenly all the glum and concerned faces at Santa's departure are lighting up.

 

Bucky looks up and down the line critically. "Are you guys really okay with meeting Captain America instead of Santa tonight?" The resounding cheer is deafening. Steve grins. Bucky pinches the inside of his arm savagely to stop from sighing aloud.

 

And this is how Bucky spends the rest of his shift; as crowd control for Steve to make sure they don't get too unruly. Ms Givings is vibrating into another dimension, she's so happy. Torres rejoins him and can't keep a straight face. Bucky wants to be annoyed, but Torres' laughter is stupidly contagious.

 

Instead, he sips at his gingerbread latte and watch one of the kids' moms adjust her position more than is strictly necessary on Steve's lap, throwing her arms around his neck. One of her hands drifts down Steve's back -- presumably to cop a feel -- when she makes eye contact with Bucky. Oh hell no. Bucky gives her his best frown and shakes his head. It's enough to put her off, at least.

 

Becca joins Bucky for a few minutes, and he promises that he will brave the mall again tomorrow for the boys, who still haven't talked to Santa. They're not necessarily interested in lining up to talk to Steve, which they get to do often.

 

It is fun to see Steve completely embrace the role of Father Christmas. The kids and parents are absolutely eating it up. Ms Givens organises drinks and sandwiches to be brought from the food court so Steve, Bucky and Torres have something to eat. Steve insists on there being enough for the mall security, who have come back to help with crowd control, as well as Santa's elvish assistants and photographers. Centre management is only too happy to comply, as Steve has quite literally saved their asses from a hundred complaints about Santa.

 

It's then that Bucky realises Steve will be here all night if he doesn't do something. It's already seven o'clock.

 

He leaves Santa's cottage for a minute to track down Ms Givings. "Captain Rogers has gotta leave by eight," Bucky tells her in no uncertain terms.

 

"Oh!" Ms Givings exclaims, "I didn't realise. Does he have somewhere else to be?"

 

"Prior engagement," Bucky says, because it's true. He has a fucking prior engagement with some spiced eggnog in Bucky's apartment at nine, thank you very-fucking-much.

 

"It's such a shame," Ms Givings says, "he's doing an amazing job."

 

"Yeah, he is," Bucky concedes, "but he's also been working through the evening without stopping for the regular breaks Santa would, and this isn't even his job. Besides, Santa's only advertised until 7.45. You're going to have to cap the line."

 

It's not the greatest job in the world, and Bucky's sure that there's still more children than Steve can adequately speak to in the time period, but it does get capped. There's still a fair number of people in the line, so Bucky sidles up to Steve, whispering in his ear that he's going to have to speed it up a little. Steve nods in response and goes back to bouncing the giggling baby on his knee.

 

He ends up finishing around quarter past eight. Those that couldn't join the capped line linger, dozens of smart phones and cameras pointed in their direction. As Steve finishes up, a little cheer goes up from the gathered Brooklyn shoppers. Bucky and Torres clear a path through the minglers, though it's slow going when Steve's stopping for quick Christmas selfies along the way.

 

The safest place to go is to Administration, which has sidewalk access. Torres goes ahead to bring the car around, trusting that Bucky can at least get Steve to Admin without incident.

 

Bucky squeezes the bridge of his nose and sighs. It's therapeutic, sort of. Steve is smiling happily, a spring in is step.

 

"I legitimately cannot take you anywhere near a holiday and not have trouble, can I?" Bucky bemoans. "Sometimes it's like I'm being punished."

 

"I dunno, Buck," Steve says as he sidles up next to him, voice low, "have you been naughty or nice this year?"

 

Bucky opens and closes his mouth a few times like a landed fish, to the sound of Steve's amused laughter. Once they're in Admin and no longer on display, Steve drops an arm across Bucky's shoulders and leans down to whisper in Bucky's ear, lips grazing the lobe. "I like you just like this; grumpy with a heart of gold."

 

Bucky slips a casual arm around Steve's waist, feeling his cheeks grow a little warm. "That's great, because guess who's coming with me to take the kids to Santa tomorrow?"

 

"Mission accepted," Steve nods, before turning brightly to Bucky. "Hey, maybe I can fill in for Santa when he has to go feed the reindeer." He laughs brightly. "That was fun."

 

Bucky hangs his head. It might be time to add a dash more brandy to his egg nog.