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Royal Holiday

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If it’s one thing Bucky hates, it’s diplomacy. Ironic, considering he’s currently neck-deep in a manifesto his father had dropped into his lap a week ago. Ironic still, considering he’s a bloody prince. Not a prince who prances around in jewels or silks, but a prince nonetheless - a prince with responsibilities and a duty to his country when the throne eventually comes to him.

 

It’s a mantra he’s heard his entire life, and it’s a mantra he’d really love to stop hearing before he takes a screwdriver to his eardrums.

 

He knows it’s unfair, knows he’s got it better than most, and he respects that - kind of. While he wants for nothing, he feels trapped, imprisoned by duty, regality, and nobility. Bowing under the weight of his future, the eventuality that he’ll be a king. He’ll need to command and rule and say goodbye to his freedom - however much of it he has.

 

He’s already damn tired of it.

 

And that’s why his unofficial-official bodyguard Sam finds him open-mouthed and snoring behind his desk in his office. The older man isn’t surprised by it really. Having been with the Royal Family for close to ten years now, he knows Bucky’s mannerisms, habits, quirks, and annoyances better than most, and while he wishes Bucky would grow up a little, he isn’t quite so strict as his Queen Mother over his behavior.

 

Sam purses his lips, rolls his eyes a bit, before he creeps to the desk. Reaches for the massive manifesto that sits open in front of Bucky, snaps it closed, the dark-skinned man’s gaze flits between the two for a few moments.

 

A little humming under his breath, he lifts the binder over his head above the desk, lets it drop with a loud slam that wakes Bucky with a jolt and a girlish yelp. He flies backwards and his weight shifting tips the chair. Trinkets and knick-knacks rattle as he and the chair hit the floor. Sam waits patiently, tipping a snowglobe on the shelf beside him, while Bucky splutters and curses him out.

 

“The hell was that for, Wilson?” he grouses, rubbing the back of his head where it hit the floor.

 

“Your mother is requesting you,” Sam responds with a pointed look, setting the snowglobe down.

 

Bucky feels himself scowl before he can stop it. He loves his mother, he does, but he knows what she’s going to speak to him about - it’s the same thing she always wants to talk to him about.

 

“Do I have to?” He knows he sounds like a petulant child, he knows , but if he’s honest, he’d rather play Baby Shark on repeat for the rest of his life than listen to his mother prattle on and on about how it’s time for him to find a wife. A suitable one, one of noble birth. One who’s proper and polite and graceful.

 

Bucky wants something different.

 

He admits he hasn’t thought much about marrying (clearly) or even falling in love, but as he gets older, grows closer to becoming a king and taking on more responsibility, the prospect of finding someone to share that with occasionally crosses his mind. He has no doubt his mother would find someone who’ll make him happy, but the idea of having his bride chosen for him, the risk of being trapped in a forced marriage, doesn’t sit well with him at all.

 

Sam gives him an exasperated look. Nodding sagely, he sighs and straightens his shirt, slightly wrinkled thanks to Sam. Following the older man out, he prepares himself for the conversation he’s heard a thousand times before.

 

She’s relentless, he decides, and he finally figures out where his stubbornness came from. She’s organizing a gala in his honor, a presentation of him as an eligible bachelor, and she’s taken the liberty of inviting every eligible heiress, princess, and everyone in between in a massive effort to get him to connect with someone .

 

She’s frustrated with him when he voices as much, voice growing higher with her irritation. “James Buchanan, it is your responsibility to marry. You’re nearly thirty, and you’ve yet to choose a wife! You’re not getting any younger and should you choose not to marry, your reign will be forfeited!”

 

Ah yes, the little wrench in the system. A decision made by the country’s parliament as a failsafe in case Bucky clutched his bachelor lifestyle to the vest. Clearly they hadn’t had much fail in him to marry and rule successfully, and a small part of him wants to shove their faces in it.

 

But only if it’s on his terms.

 

“Sounds like a dream to me,” he mutters back, just loud enough for his mother to hear him. She screeches, kind of like a hawk - or a banshee - and Bucky feels a little bad. But only a little. Gesticulating wildly, he exclaims, “What? Would it really be so bad if we just gave the crown to parliament? I’m sure Pierce would be happy to take it. After all, can’t have a thirty-year-old playboy bachelor ruling alone, can we? Bad for his family’s image, isn’t it?”

 

She opens her mouth to retort, offense written clearly on her face, but Bucky sweeps from the office before she can utter another word. Sam is waiting for him outside the door, and he straightens, tries to act like he hadn’t been eavesdropping on the loud exchange. 

 

“Let’s go Sam,” Bucky orders, “I need to get out of here for a while.”

 

Sam doesn’t hesitate - he calls for a car and fetches Bucky’s winter coat. “Yes, sir.”

 

You resist the urge to slam the phone down into the cradle, opting instead to gently place it back where it belongs. But you do give it the middle finger as you scribble out the order you’d gotten halfway through before the customer decided she didn’t want to spend fifty dollars plus delivery on a floral arrangement.

 

Tossing the paper in the trash, you walk around the counter to straighten out the displays of vases, each holding stems of various flowers. Casting a glance out the window, you sigh at the people who walk right by your shop, despite the inviting fairy lights, the floral displays and boxwood trees in the windows, and soft Christmas music playing from the speaker system.

 

It’s a month until Christmas, and your orders are down - again. You’re not sure why, but there’s been a steady decline in sales for the past six months. Dejectedly, you chalk it up to people losing interest in sending flowers to people, with the exception of funeral arrangements if only because people die every day. In New York, it’s unheard of that people can’t afford flowers - most can. They just don’t send them. The classic gesture is being swept under the rug in favor of material things - new electronics, vacations, jewelry. 

 

It saddens your heart to think it, but it’s true, and if sales don’t pick up, you’ll be forced to sell the building you left everything behind to buy. Tail tucked between your legs, you’ll plant yourself behind a desk for the next foreseeable future, working overtime to pay off the expenses from the flower shop.

 

Misty-eyed, you sniffle and clean the stamens from the stems of stargazer lilies. A little unusual to carry them this time of year, but they’d been a special request from someone who’d never showed to pick them up. Usually it’s easy to lose yourself in the pretty colors and scents of flowers, but now, you can’t even be bothered to make new arrangements for fear they’ll go to waste - then it’s more money down the drain.

 

Instead, you clean the shop from top to bottom, rearrange the displays, open the door despite the chilling air and display a boxwood tree - handmade - out in front. A couple slow in front of the shop, eyeing the boxwood tree. The woman smiles, pointing happily to it, remarks about bringing it for Christmas dinner.

 

To your joy, the husband agrees and they step inside to order one with red and gold decorations. It’s a steep sale - $100 plus tax - but it’s not quite enough to cover your rent for the month just yet. A few more boxwood tree sales and you’ll be covered. Surprisingly, you catch the woman taking a photo of the boxwood tree outside as the husband places the order.

 

“I’m going to send this to Sue! I’m sure she’ll love one for her house!”

 

You smile gratefully, hoping like hell this Sue woman indeed places the order with you. The couple waves pleasantly, offering their names - Jack and Michaela - and then they take their leave. A few more people trickle in, place orders for both Christmas and for Thanksgiving centerpieces, and you take a couple of phone calls - one to actually order, one for general information. It turns into a fairly successful afternoon, and as you get ready to close, you feel a little hope blooming in your chest.

 

Hope that you might not lose your dream.

 

Outside on the busy streets, Bucky is blown away. He’d insisted on getting far, far away from the royal house despite Sam’s initial reluctance. Bucky was a prince, a known prince, and both paparazzi and people could be unpredictable. Not to mention, he’s sure there would be people willing to hurt Bucky, ransom him or something to make money off his family - okay, Sam knows that particular scenario might be a stretch, but it’s what he’d been trained for.

 

Bucky’s like a kid in a candy store, weaving in and out of the crowd, ducking into this store and that, experiencing regular city life like he never got to. It had always been schedules and propriety and rigidness that he’s relishing a bit in the freedom to just be . He buys Sam a new winter coat, one that blends in a bit better with the public, and he settles on a peacoat, scarf, and paperboy hat for himself. He feels...normal, and on the street, no one recognizes him.

 

As he strolls down the sidewalk in the fading light, he catches a glimpse of fairy lights across the street. A woman stands outside the door, beige coat and burgundy hat in place. When Bucky crosses the street, he realizes she’s staring at the building, which he now notes is a florist shop. There’s a longing in her gaze, a shininess that suggests she might be on the verge of tears.

There’s a pull deep inside him, compelling him towards her. It’s like she’s pulled him into her orbit, and Bucky doesn’t think he’s ever had this kind of reaction to a woman before. He doesn’t even know her and yet he desperately wants to, needs to know her. He’s entranced by the look on her face, an expression of sheer yearning paired with sadness trapped within it. He wants to kiss it away, and his reaction should startle him.

But it doesn’t. It only forces that tug to pull harder, and he takes a few steps forward. Before Bucky can approach her, he’s swept up in a crowd and loses sight of her. When he steps out of the throng, he searches for the woman, but she’s gone.