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Meet Me Under the Mistletoe

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Bucky feels… Terrible. Absolutely fucking terrible. 

It’s two days until Christmas and Stark Industries is understaffed, to put it lightly. 

A bad bout of the norovirus has put a lot of people out of commission for the holidays. 

Their latest game release, Guardians of The Galaxy, was due a major online update, with all new downloadable content becoming available at midnight on Christmas Day. They need all hands on deck for it to work and not crash and most of the coders are out sick. 

So, that means Bucky’s got to tell Peter Parker he can’t fly back to New York tonight to spend the holidays with his aunt. And again, Bucky feels terrible . The kid’s been talking about this trip since August and he hasn’t seen his aunt since October and god, Bucky’s going to cry having to break the news to him. 

Bucky takes a deep breath rolls himself away from his desk, adjusting his suit before leaving his office to go onto the floor. He manoeuvres himself between the maze of desks, greeting his colleagues as he goes. 

He claps a hand on Peter’s shoulder. The other boy’s wearing headphones so he jumps at the contact, turning around as he yanks the headphones off of his ears. 

“Oh, hey Mister Barnes,” Peter smiles, chocolate eyes sparkling and oh god, that’s going to be gone in approximately ten minutes.

“Hey Pete, could you come by my office for a chat?” Bucky says. He tries to smile but can’t. 

“Of course! Just let me save my code and I’ll be there.” Peter chirps, “I’m gonna grab a coffee too; do you want one?” 

“Oh, uh, no - no thanks. I’ll see you in five?” Bucky asks and Peter nods. 

Bucky waits a long, agonising five minutes and forty six seconds for Peter to arrive. He taps keys uselessly on his keyboard, checking his mail; it’s dead, other than a few generic Merry Christmas emails from coworkers. 

While he’s making a mental note to send them equally as annoying and generic ones back, Peter knocks on the door before entering with a paper takeaway cup filled with coffee. 

“If you could take a seat, Peter.” Bucky swallows, gesturing awkwardly to the seat across from him.

Peter sits and takes a sip of his coffee and just stares at him like he’s the most important person on the planet. 

“So - uh, you know how we’ve had a norovius outbreak and everyone’s off sick?” Peter nods and Bucky’s stomach rolls with nerves, “Mister Stark has requested that you and a few others work over the holidays because of the update.”

Peter visibly pales and looks down to his hands. “Oh.”

“I’m really sorry, kiddo. I know - I know you’ve had plans for a long time and Stark’s said he’ll reimburse your flights.” Bucky says softly. 

“No - No it’s - It’s okay I -” Peter stops to sniffle and oh shit the kid’s crying , “I can - I can work. May I please be excused to make a phone call?” 

“Of course kid, use my office. I’ll - I’ll go and have a smoke.” Bucky says, awkwardly getting to his feet, “Take as long as you need.”

Bucky claps a hand over Peter’s shoulder before he leaves, “For what it’s worth – I’m really sorry, pal.” 

Peter chokes out a small thank you as Bucky leaves. He makes his way to the elevator and hits the ground floor button a little harder than necessary. Bucky scrubs both hands over his face and then rubs his temples. This year is going to be the weirdest Christmas ever. 

When he gets outside, he realises he should’ve brought his coat too. It’s chilly. Bucky grips a cigarette between his teeth and pulls it out, pocketing the packet and producing a lighter. He takes a long draw, letting the smoke twirl around in his lungs. 

It soothes Bucky to a certain extent, calming his nerves. He breathes out a puff of smoke with a contented sigh.

That is, until a few moments later when his phone begins to ring. A picture of Tony pops up on his screen and Bucky rolls his eyes and slides to answer. 

“Hey Tony,” Bucky greets, taking another short puff on his cigarette. 

“Buck, I had an idea. Have you spoken to Peter yet? Steve and I have a meeting in New York tomorrow and I was thinking because we have the jet… Happy could pick his aunt up and bring her to California.” Tony barrels on excitedly, “So, for this to work I need you to access his records and get her number. Call her; done and dusted.”

“That’s a lot to unpack, man.” Bucky says through a lungful of smoke, “But I did tell him and he was crying when I left.”

“Oh Jesus Christ,” Tony sighs into the receiver. “Okay, just find aunt hotties number and call her okay?”

“Okay, yeah. I will, I’ll send her number to Happy too.” Bucky sighs. 

“Good boy, Buck. You’re second in command for a reason. Steve wants to know if you are bringing anyone to Christmas dinner?” Tony asks, a hint of mirth in his voice. 

“I gotta go back to work, asshat.” Bucky grouches, using the wall to stub out his cigarette. He tosses it into the bin by the door and starts to head back inside. 

“Yeah, holding down the fort yadda, yadda. Speak to you soon, Buck.” Tony says, “Oh, and don’t tell the kid!”

Goodbye Tony!” Bucky smirks as he hangs up. 

Okay, yeah this is a good idea of Tony’s. This could work. Peter could have a good Christmas instead of being alone ; the thought itself is almost enough to clear Bucky’s conscience. 

When he gets back to the coding floor, he checks and sees that Peter’s back at his desk with his headphones perched on his head. His head is bobbing to whatever he’s listening too; it’s pretty cute. Unruly tawny curls moving to their own beat, and ugh. Bucky’s so screwed.

Back in his office with a fresh coffee, he opens the employee personnel files. He searches for Peter’s and finds it easily. There’s a few emergency contacts stored under his file: an Edward Leeds a Michelle Jones …  Bucky scrolls a little more and... ah ha! Next of kin: May Parker. 

Bucky punches the number into the landline on his desk. The line trills for a few seconds and Bucky might have started to sweat a little. He’s about to hang up when a soft voice picks up on the other end. “Hello?”

“Hi, my name is James Barnes, and I’m looking to speak with Miss Parker?” Bucky says almost just as soft.

“This is she.”

“Hi, I’m actually calling from Stark Industries. I believe you spoke to your nephew about a half hour ago?” Bucky asks, twirling the phone’s cable anxiously between his fingers.

“Uh - yeah, I did.” She sniffs, “What is this about, Mister Barnes?”

“Well, Mister Stark realised that he’s going to be in New York tomorrow for a meeting and he would like to arrange for you to come with him back to California so you can be with Peter for Christmas.” Bucky explains and there’s silence for a few seconds, “Hello? Miss Parker?”

“So - Sorry, that - that is very kind of Mister Stark to offer but I don’t - I don’t have that kind of money for a last minute ticket.” May’s voice is uneven and Bucky’s chest tightens.

“I don’t think you understand Miss Parker – it’s a private jet. You wouldn’t need a ticket. It’s a free trip, and Mister Stark will arrange for you to get back to New York whenever you need.” Bucky smiles, hoping she says yes. 

“Oh – Oh, Mister Barnes – I - I couldn’t, that’s too much! I couldn’t ask him to do that for us.” May squeaks on the other end.

“It’s no problem, and boss did offer,” Bucky replies. “Look, Peter is one of our best, if not the best, coder we have and we were all pretty torn up about him missing Christmas with you. I mean, the kid’s been talking about it for literal months.”

May lets out a shaky breath, “I guess I better go get packing then, huh?”

Bucky grins, “Yes, I think you better. Our driver Happy Hogan will pick you up tomorrow. I’ll pass him along your details and he’ll be in touch.”

“Thank you, Mister Barnes. I - I don’t know how to repay you.” May sniffles and Bucky chuckles.

“Don’t you worry about tha - well, actually...” Bucky ponders for a second, “I heard you make the best Christmas cookies on the East Coast?”

May laughs too, it’s watery but it’s happy, “I think I can arrange some Christmas cookies for you guys.”

They say their goodbyes and hang up, and Bucky sends a quick message to Tony to let him know that May’s in and he’ll forward all the details to Happy for picking her up tomorrow afternoon. It doesn’t take long for Tony to send back a bunch of emojis with… Sunglasses on? Bucky doesn’t question it too much. 

Bucky’s stomach grumbles as he closes his phone. Feeling in the Christmas spirit, Bucky decides to treat the coders to lunch. He opens up the messaging app for only employees, sending a mass message to all of them. 

Since it’s been a shitty few days and it's about to get a little shittier, I’m buying lunch. Sushi from that place that we love down the street. I was gonna get a few different platters? Thank you for all your hard work, now and every other day of the year! - Bucky.

It doesn’t take long for an influx of heart emojis and “ thank you, Bucky! ”’s to come in. He grins at the screen. It’s great being able to do this for his employees. When he orders the platters and a few different bottles of soft drinks, he doesn’t even use the business credit card. 

Alright geeko’s, grubs up in 30 mins. Be there or be sashimi! - Bucky.