“Y’know, I had a kid walk up to me the other day when I was in Prague,” Steve says, fiddling with the seed from his recently eaten plum. “Didn’t say anything, just… stared. Finally their mom caught up with them and apologised and carried them away, but as they were leaving the kid turned and waved at me, and it made me think- it’s funny how they know. Even with the whole beard and the hair,” he waves a hand at his face, “There’s no fooling them. They’ll pick you out in a crowd no matter the circumstance and it makes you wonder how they do it.”
M’Baku gives a soft little chuckle. He leans his head back onto the tree he’s resting against, raises his own plum to his lips and takes a bite; the fruit of many months of hard labor on Bucky’s part, Vibranium rich soil to grow them juicy and plump and delicious.
“Children are mysterious things,” he agrees, wipes a trail of juice off of his chin with him thumb. “My cousin just recently had one; I can already tell she’ll be a handful with the way she keeps her mothers up at night. But, it is a joy to watch them grow.”
Steve nods along. He tosses the seed from one hand to the other, absentminded, and tilts his chin up to squint at the sky.
“It’s odd to look them in the face and know you’re looking at the future of an entire generation,” he says. “It puts a- a pressure on you, I feel like, knowing you’re in charge of that future. You’re the one that makes the decisions that are going to shape the rest of their life. It’s terrifying.”
“But it’s an honor at the same time.”
Steve drops his head and sends M’Baku a smile, finally putting the seed down on the ground beside his outstretched leg.
M’Baku flickers back a little smile of his own, takes notice of Steve’s empty hands and leans forward to grab another plum from the pile in front of him. He offers it with his free hand, and Steve takes it with a soft “Thanks.”
“Congratulations to your cousin, by the way,” Steve adds a moment later through half a mouthful. He swallows, then continues, “Motherhood is a hell of a thing.”
M’Baku snorts at that, bobs his head a little in agreement. He’s spent his entire life in awe of the women around him, and watching his baby cousin with her daughter only serves to strengthen that admiration; wonder at the way they can hold whole villages on their shoulders and not topple with the weight.
“She’s learning that the hard way, I think. Three weeks old and that child already has more of a temper than a man over half her size. And then here my cousin is, looking at me with exhaustion on her face and telling me she already can’t wait to have another.”
Steve flicks his brows up and lets out a high whistle, shakes his head and says, “I don’t know how they do it. Y’know, Bucky had three other siblings besides him, and his ma practically raised those kids all on her own in a little shoebox apartment barely big enough for two. I’d watch her wrangle them all when I’d stay over, keep everyone in check and orderly, and it was just… superhuman. She always had more than enough love to spare for every one of us, no one ever went hungry or without a set of clothes for the day because of her. She was a force of nature, that woman. Her and my ma both.”
M’Baku nods along, chewing thoughtfully. He swallows, sits up against his tree and holds out his plum.
“To all the women in our lives, eh? And everything they’ve given to us.”
Steve grins, huffs a soft laugh.
“Hear, hear,” he says, and knocks their plums together. It makes them both chuckle, and they bring their fruits back to their mouths for messy bites.
M’Baku lets his gaze wander, clocks Bucky near the goat pen where he said he’d be and watches as he tosses a haybale one armed over the fence. The little huddle of children near him yell and cheer, edging him on as he picks up another and repeats the action.
His strength never ceases to impress, even for M’Baku himself, who’s become well versed on all the many limits Bucky can push himself to and beyond. The kids love it too, constantly clamoring for him to pick them up and climb around on him like a living jungle gym, much like they’re doing now. He’s got an arm outstretched, lifting up three of the kids latched around his bicep while the rest watch in hysterics. Bucky’s grinning pretty big himself as he lowers his arm and then suddenly lifts it up again, jerking to kids into the air and sending them all back into belly deep fits of giggles.
The scene brings a soft smile to M’Baku’s lips, and when he finally moves his head back around to find a place to discard his plum seed he finds Steve watching as well with a nostalgic glint in his eyes. M’Baku hums, tossing the seed in the direction of where Steve’s rests.
“So, three other siblings? I suppose that explains why he’s so good with children,” he says a beat later, breaking the silence.
Steve blinks and looks back M’Baku’s way, then nods.
“Yeah, three sisters. I say his mom took care of them herself, but he had a big part in helping.” He rolls his lips, pauses for a second before continuing, “He really loved them. He’d act like it was a hardship, being the only boy in a household of girls, but truthfully he wouldn’t have it any other way. He was a good brother.”
M’Baku nods again and looks to the ground; he doesn’t doubt it for a second, not with the way he sees Bucky handle the village children. Gentle and kind and patient, always ready with a story or enthusiastic to join in on a game. He sees where he gets it from, now.
M’Baku moves to open his mouth and speak, but someone else beats him to it.
“Look who’s over here having fun without me. Don’t I get an invite to the party?” Bucky asks as he walks up behind them.
He squats down next to M’Baku once he’s close enough and leans forwards to peck a kiss to M’Baku’s cheek, ignoring the way the children by the goat pen shriek and laugh and pretend to gag at it behind him. M’Baku ‘Mmm’s and moves his head to turn that cheek peck into one on the mouth. He delights in the way it flushes the apples of Bucky’s cheeks a delicate pink. Bucky lingers for a moment before he pulls back and clears his throat.
“What’re you two talking about?” he asks.
“Kids,” M’Baku and Steve answer together, and Bucky looks confused for a split second before the color abruptly drains from his face.
“You mean, like, having them…?” he staggers out, turning to M’Baku for clarification. M’Baku breathes a little chuckle through his nose and runs a hand down Bucky’s arm.
“Just in general,” he tells him.
“Oh,” Bucky says, and lets out a slow breath. “Okay. Sorry, not that- not that that’s not a possibility, I just don’t think I could, you know, do that. Well.”
“Relax, Ikooko ,” M’Baku says, wrapping his arm around Bucky’s shoulders and pulling him close. “But, for the record, I do think you would make an amazing father.”
“I know you would,” Steve chimes in.
Bucky lights up red, squirms a little in M’Baku’s hold.
“Flattery will get you everywhere,” he mumbles, and lets his eyes flutter closed when M’Baku places a kiss to his forehead before adding, “Maybe in the future, yeah? Right now I’ve got those little knuckleheads over there to deal with, and they’re a more than a handful already, which is a lot for a guy with only one hand.”
It makes M’Baku snort, and Steve barks out a laugh, looking almost startled at the volume.
“We have time,” M’Baku hums, calm, and Bucky lets himself slump loosely against his side.
They have all the time in the world.