Steve was not a happy camper, not at all. Rubbing a hand over his face, he watched Clint grin in undisclosed glee, then looked at Tony who was actually chuckling. Natasha’s lip twitched which may as well have been a roar of laughter. He hated the future. He was also a melodramatic old man.
Surely being Captain America held some clout in the team, but apparently not when it came to challenges and dares.
“What if I -”
“- no, I laid down the rules clean and simple and - well, you broke them.” Clint pointed out as he attached an explosive charge to an arrow before squinting at it, then shaking the whole thing, as if checking for a rattle. Steve wasn’t certain he should be doing that - especially in the team lounge, it didn’t seem like a smart idea.
“Technically I didn’t.” He tried.
“Cap-sicumble, you didn't even try. You can’t get out of this. Huh , that sounded like the English actor guy, right?”
Steve ignored Tony and tried to appeal to Clints sense of decency. Two seconds into that thought, he realised he was barking up the wrong tree. Clint was never going to renege on the challenge, and if he were brutally honest, he didn’t actually even try to complete it, had forgotten all about the dare, challenge, whatever you'd call it. But damn it, he was legitimately too old for this. He kept his mouth shut, because any time he tried to even voice his age, he was catcalled into submission - then silenced.
Respect for your elders was clearly a thing of the past.
“Fine, well actually it’s not, but what's the protocol? What do I have to do, wash your uniform for three months, get you coffee every morning, take Lucky for a walk? Though that won’t be a hardship - I love dogs.”
Clint smiled fondly at the mention of his dog, then a twinkle entered his eye and Steve felt the clawing of anxiety climb up his spine. He was a respected member of the community, he couldn’t do anything too overt.
“How about that Playgirl shoot they keep asking him to do? Cocktain America was the title right?” Tony was way too chipper for the two hours of sleep he said he’d managed to get in the last five days and Steve was going to throw his shield at him if he didn’t pipe down.
“I said no, and I will never ever capitulate. I am not getting my… business out for others.” He managed through clenched teeth.
“Oh come on, give the patrons what they want - I did.” Tony added with a wry chuckle and head shake as he whispered ‘business’ like Steve was cute or something.
“Tony, everyone sees your ass, and let’s be honest, everything else, on a weekly basis in the tabloids.”
“Hey, this is my bet, so it’s my choice on what I get Cap to do.” Clint finally said, lifting a hand and capturing his chin in exaggeration, as if he were in deep thought.
Natasha stalked to the couch and perched herself on an arm, watching the proceedings with way too much interest. Steve headed to the coffee machine, (the caffeine didn’t affect him, he just liked the taste), unsettled that Natasha was now actively participating in the outcome of Clints challenge and needing to do something with his hands. He had an idea it was not going to end well for him.
Months earlier, when Clint had casually asked if Steve was interested in a friendly ‘bet’, he was all in, thinking it would be similar to the bets he’d made with the Howling Commandos back in the day; putting up a cigarette as collateral for a dare, giving up your warm coat as a pillow at night, all in the name of a bit of harmless fun when bored out of your mind on the other side of the world waiting to fight a war.
He should have known that the future would have changed something as simple as a friendly challenge between teammates into something - more. Steve thought again, that he was too old for this type of shenanigans.
“So you bet Steve that he couldn’t find a date to Tony’s Halloween party, right?” At Clint’s nod, Natsha’s eyes swung to Steve’s in disbelief, he hung his head in shame. “Steve, how could you screw that up? I set you up with three different people for Halloween alone.”
“Yes, but that’s not finding my own date, now is it? Clint was specific - very specific.”
Natasha looked at Clint and raised a brow minutely, he smirked. “You know that look doesn’t work on me.”
Her look intensified and Steve watched in interest as Clint ducked his chin, “what on earth did you ask him to do?”
“Nothing out of the ordinary, just he had to bring someone who was nice, brunette and liked animals.”
Steve exhaled noisily, “what he is omitting to say is that they had to be specifically five foot four, their name had to be Karen or Kevin, their favourite animal had to be a moose and I had to ask them out when in uniform. My old uniform.”
“Why on earth did you take that bet? Especially when Clint didn’t give you terms on if you lost?”
“Well to be fair, he issued it in February and it is New York. I thought I would stumble upon someone. I didn’t think the terms mattered, I mean really, what could he get me to do?”
The scoff from Natasha was extremely unlike her, but Steve could now agree in hindsight how naive he'd been.
"Aha, got it," Clint exclaimed then held up his phone to Steve.
All he could see on the screen was a pretty blonde wearing a brightly coloured festive sweater, he crooked his eyebrow and spread his hands out in question.
“You want me to ask her out?”
“No. I want you to look closer at what she’s wearing.”
Steve held the phone up and angled it for a better view, ignoring the chuckles at his apparent ‘old-man’ way of looking at the screen. He did this on purpose, he’d gotten the hang of technology almost immediately - he just didn’t want his team to know, otherwise they would be sending him Snapchats and TicToks constantly.
He baulked as he read her sweater.
“Uh - Clint, that’s…”
“Perfect. I know.”
The knitted sweater showed Santa Claus, pants around his ankles, squatting over a chimney while reading the paper and Steve could only cringe at the crudeness dressed up in cheer.
“Your idea of perfect and mine are poles apart. Why are you showing me this awful sweater?”
“Because that's your punishment.”
“No, just no - I’m not wearing that. That’s just - wrong. Disrespectful.”
Tony had snatched the phone from Steve by this stage and chortled, “I’m ordering us all one now. What size should I get Bruce, Green Rage Monster or medium?”
Agape, Steve just watched Clint’s smile gain size. He would refuse, he would.
“Hey now Cap, you can’t back out of a dare. But I’ll go easy on you - in a way.”
Rubbing his eyes tiredly, Steve motioned for Clint to continue. He should have got JARVIS to find him a moose loving Karen or Kevin.
“Soooo I want you to wear a different ugly Christmas sweater from December first until Christmas day.”
“Not that one though, I -”
“- alright, alright,” Clint interrupted, “I’ll let you buy your own, but you can’t buy in bulk or online. I want you to go every day into the same store and purchase a different sweater.”
“But, I’ll look like an idiot, that's just ludicrous and time wasting...” He trailed off, then placed his hands on his hips tiredly. “That’s the point, isn't it?”
“Yup, should have tried harder. Now who wants to come with me while I scare pigeons off the roof with my new arrows?”
Everyone but Steve followed him out. He had a few days until December first, he wasn’t going to back out of this. “JARVIS?”
“Can you please give me a list of any stores that stock these ugly Christmas sweaters.”
“JARVIS, please make sure they aren’t…”
“Aren’t what, Sir?”
Steve sighed, “just make sure they’re not... rude.”
“I’ll do my best.”
The first three stores Steve entered didn’t hold the variety required to buy twenty-five different sweaters, and he idly wondered if he could get away with wearing the same one each day. He knew already Clint would frown with a look of disappointment and say, 'aw Cap, no’.
So he pulled up the list JARVIS had collated on his Starkphone, and scrolled down to the stores that were not major chains. He found one listed in Brooklyn. White Wolf Apparel claimed to have unique pieces and could custom make items too. Steve wondered if the store actually had a paid tailor on staff, which was pretty neat for this day and age. He felt a pull to visit Brooklyn anyway, which was not unusual, plus he wanted a coffee from Punky Brew-sters. They didn't raise an eyebrow at his 5 shot requests, and he didn't raise an eyebrow at all the plaid and beards (he genuinely fit in most days). It also didn't hurt they ignored who he was, and gave him a small shortbread cookie to go with his orders. Steve always tipped well.
It was worth a shot at least to check out the apparel store and see what sweaters he could find.
When he walked in, he found a neat, tidy store with racks of well priced mens clothing (he still couldn’t fathom that a shirt could now cost more than he paid in rent for a month) he also saw in the back corner, womens and mens formal wear. His assumption that there was a tailor on staff looked more and more likely. It was an unexpected, yet pleasant discovery.
He thumbed through a rack of jeans which seemed to not be covered in rips or crazy prints, almost an anomaly these days. Pulling out a pair, they were a solid colour, not mottled and his opinion of the clothing shop increased. Steve rarely wore jeans, not because he was a Grandpa, but because he couldn’t for the life of him find plain ones which suited his tall frame, and fit over his thighs - that was a problem too. He might actually try a pair of these on, so he grabbed his size.
“Oh hey, be with you in a minute,” a deep voice called from just below the counter.
“No worries, just looking, and... great. I’ve found what I need.” Steve replied, just as he spotted a shelf proclaiming to have Christmas sweaters, somewhat glad he didn’t have to ask for help. He knew assistants were only doing their job, but because of his ‘celebrity’ status (the downside of being an Avenger) some fawned over him and it was uncomfortable. It was why he shopped online for most items, and had a pile of ill fitting jeans to donate as well to show for it. He wasn’t being ungrateful, he just felt odd about the attention and would prefer to avoid it if possible.
“Sorry, pal, got caught looking for a pair of socks with dinosaurs eating pizzas on them. That just sounded weird as hell, uh, we stock a huge range of socks. Right, you found the sweaters then?”
Steve raised an eyebrow and turned, ready to say thanks but he didn’t need help; then ended up staring into the most mesmerizing slate blue eyes in all of existence. The man pushed a strand of brunette hair behind his ear and Steve gulped as a wide smile blossomed on the man’s face, instigating his heart to beat a rhythm so quickly he wondered if for some reason the serum was finally going bad after seventy years.
“Uh, yeah - you have a good range.” He quickly went back to looking at the pile, anything to distract himself from actually drooling over the man beside him, holy moly, when did modern men start looking like that? He placed the jeans down so he could move sweaters aside that weren’t going to be suitable, including many presidential parody ones, which just would not be fitting, as much as he might agree with them.
His physical reaction to the man was surprising, he usually had much better control over his body. Since he’d defrosted, and much to Natashas dismay, he’d not actively found anyone sexually attractive. Although that conjecture was relatively unfair; he’d thought people were good-looking, many people, but not once had he felt a visceral physical pull. He glanced at the gorgeous man again, now staring at him with a slight frown which dawned into realisation. Here it came - the usual stilted conversation as people figured out who he was.
“Yeah, unless you want a lot of extra attention, I probably wouldn’t wear the one you have in your hand with the Christmas tree on it,” he pointed at the sweater Steve held, surprising him by not immediately making things awkward. He was infinitely glad until he looked at the words the tree spoke.
“I don’t want your Balls on me…”
The man cracked up laughing and Steve held onto the sweater, grip tight as he took in the most marvelous sound on the planet. Oh boy, this was not how things went, he didn’t find attractive men in stores whose laugh he would pay to hear again and again.
“Honestly never thought I would hear those words out of an Avengers mouth.”
Steve frowned at the words, and the man seemed to deflate slightly at his reaction; Steve most definitely didn't want that, so went with what he hoped was humour.
“Well, maybe out of Tony’s mouth. Actually pretty sure he said that at our last briefing.”
Blue eyes widened slightly before he was graced with that laugh again. That was better.
“Oh damn, now I really want to know who he said that to. Ok, so I’m assuming you’re after a reasonably witty, yet inoffensive ugly Christmas sweater?”
“Uh, yeah. You have a great range actually - better than the department stores.”
“Of course I do, I make most of them.”
Steve stopped, dropping a sweater which proclaimed the wearer a Ho, obviously Santa related humour. “You make these?”
The man flushed red and Steve couldn’t help track the pattern of pink as it filled over his cheekbones beautifully; he wanted to reach out and graze his fingers over them, and if that wasn’t a creepy thought, he didn’t know what was. You couldn't just go around accosting beautiful men in clothing stores, although right in that moment, he wished it was something you could do.
“Yeah, this is my shop. I mean I don’t physically knit them all. I have a knitting machine hooked up to my computer out the back, so I can create my own designs and some others that are free to download, some are just prints transferred onto sweaters.”
Looking around at the store knowing his mouth was agape, he was trying to fathom the sheer amount of clothes in the store.
“The rest of the clothes? Yours?”
“Oh, no, not everything - I’m not that good.”
Steve disagreed, but the man kept talking.
“I focus on making formal wear and fun t-shirts and sweaters, I guess you could say I'm a tailor of sorts, the rest of the stock is ordered in. I have a few suppliers who I’m ethically aligned with…” he trailed off, the pink blossoming again as if he realised he was talking about something Steve wasn’t interested in. Steve could have listened to him all day reading out lottery numbers.
“ - so that’s my rather unexciting story.”
“No, that’s amazing, I mean that you work with your hands, creating. I don’t seem to find the time anymore, I used to paint - back in the… well, before.”
“Oh, my name is Bucky - seems ridiculous standing here talking about our hobbies and we haven’t been introduced properly.”
Bucky raised a brow waiting, and Steve could have kissed him for the kindness of being allowed to introduce himself, kinda really wanted to kiss him for a myriad of reasons. “Steve, I’m Steve.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Steve. Right, important business then - I can’t have you wearing just any of my dodgy Christmas sweaters.”
He rummaged around at the bottom of the pile before pulling one out with an ‘aha’, Steve on the other hand was watching Bucky enthralled. Bucky ... he tried out the name a few times in his head, deciding he liked the sound and feel of it on his tongue.
A light cough startled him from his musing and he realised he was standing slightly to the left of Bucky staring at him with a dopey grin on his face, this was ridiculous. He had to get back into his Captain America headspace. A sweater was thrust into his hand and the expectation on Bucky’s face waiting for Steve’s approval of the item made the Captain disappear just as quickly as he tried to enforce him.
Looking down into his hands, he spread the sweater out and grinned. It was red and green with the usual argyle sleeves, a small loaf of festive bread with baubles and tinsel was situated in the middle, while the words ‘let it dough’ crossed over the chest three times. It was punny, cute and Steve understood the reference.
“It’s perfect, Bucky.”
Bucky stared back for a moment, a faint tinge still to his cheeks and grinned, pleased. “Alrighty then, lets try it on, and those jeans too. I think I’ve got your sweater size right, but those shoulders might be an issue.”
Bucky paused, then looked back over at him, a shy smirk on his face, Steve’s heart stopped.
“Not that I am saying there is anything wrong with your shoulders, I mean they are pretty damn spectacular… and I need to stop talking - go on in and try them on.”
Bucky showed him to what was the biggest change room he’d ever seen, it had mirrors on almost all surfaces and a platform in the middle. It took him a moment to realise this must be where he took the measurements and made adjustments to his tailor made items. He idly wondered how much a suit would cost. Visions of Bucky kneeling before him measuring his inner leg, touching him as he pinned fabric was not helping Steve focus.
The jeans were the most comfortable pair he’d ever tried, and they slid perfectly over his thighs and were not too loose in the waist. They were probably the only pair he’d tried which didn’t make him look like he worked the docks. He slid the sweater over his head and it fit like a glove, a little taut on his biceps, but snug in a good way. Overall the image staring back in the mirror was decidedly not Captain America but Steve Rogers, albeit a very modern one. He liked it.
The other thing he liked was Bucky’s reaction to the clothes. Instead of fawning, Bucky eyed him critically, which was funny considering he was only purchasing a ready-to-wear jumper and jeans, not a suit (one which he was already trying to figure out how he could order without looking desperate). The brunette came closer and pinched and pulled the fabrics with no compunction or self consciousness, it was refreshing.
“Right, what are we working with here? The jeans are a tiny bit loose in the waist, length is good. How do they feel, some people like them tighter around the middle, but if you like belts, that’s not a problem.”
Steve smiled, “Yeah, I’m a bit of a belt guy. Residual from being told to never leave the house unless you’re fully dressed, I found it a little confronting not wearing a hat everywhere I went for the first year.”
Bucky inclined his head with a soft chuckle, Steve caught his breath, then held his arms out to test the sweater to distract himself.
“It looks a little tight here,” Steve inhaled sharply as Bucky spoke while touching his biceps, “but a fairly good fit considering your shoulder to waist ratio is slightly ridiculous.”
“Oh, Christ - in the best way possible, I meant, yep - I’m tapping out of this conversation now, for self preservation in the face of all of… you know what, if you’re happy - I’ll ring you up.”
Steve chuckled, and knew he was not going to have any issues returning as he followed Bucky to the register, staring at the way his black skinny jeans hugged his thighs. No issues at all.
The next morning he walked back into White Wolf Apparel with a slight sense of trepidation. Maybe he’d imagined the interaction the day before, maybe Bucky was absolutely nothing like how he remembered.
Steve spun, and he had no reason to fear anything. Bucky stood only a couple of yards away, smiling with uncertainty at him. He was absolutely gorgeous in his jeans, and long sleeved grey t-shirt.
He couldn’t help rub the back of his neck, feeling self conscious, “Uh, yeah - I am.”
Bucky’s face fell, “Oh, the sweater - was it no good - sorry?”
“No!” Steve almost shouted and noticed Bucky start a little. “Sorry, no, it was a hit, perfect in every way.”
“Ok, so…” Bucky gestured at Steve, eyes crinkling at the corners as he smiled finally. “How can I help you?”
“I need another one?” Steve blurted.
“Is that a question, or do you have a Christmas sweater fetish?”
Laughing, Steve noticed the pleased look which settled on Bucky’s face. “No fetish, well not for sweaters anyway.”
At the choking sound Bucky let out, he realised what he’d just uttered, oh lord , have pity on him and his ridiculous social ineptness.
“Sheesh, sorry that was not what I meant. Right, so it appears I lost a bet with uh, Hawkeye and I can’t get out of it,” he tried again. Better this time, at least he didn’t out himself in the first three sentences, but anything could still happen.
“OK, so what was the bet?” Bucky looked highly amused and leant on the counter comfortably.
Steve felt his face flush, he didn’t really want to look like an even bigger dork than he already did, so he ducked his head and said, “I’d rather not say how I lost it, but suffice to say I am stuck wearing a different ugly Christmas sweater every day until Christmas day.”
Bucky eyed him a moment, lips tilted in a half smile, “okay then, secret Savenger business.”
Grinning at his terrible joke, Steve smiled back. He’d not felt this light in years.
Steve went back to the display, not wanting to take up any more of Bucky’s time than he had to, yet also wanting it all. Another customer came in as he browsed, and Bucky went out the back to collect their order. Steve wasn’t sure how he felt when Bucky gave this customer a wide grin and spoke to them openly and with a joke. Pull it together Rogers, he wasn’t a special case, he was a paying customer. Bucky was a genuinely nice person, granted Steve wanted to know how his lips tasted, but that was normal when you met someone nice - right?
Steve pulled out a sweater, it was a roaring fireplace, stockings hung off the mantle, and the fire actually lit up and made it appear like it was flickering. It was a nifty gimmick.
“Ah, going technical this time?”
Startled, Steve spun seeing the other customer had left and they were alone again. Why his heartbeat increased at this knowledge he didn’t know. He was clearly in full repression mode.
“It’s different, so Hawkeye will appreciate it.”
Bucky smiled, “If you need a lot of sweaters, I can custom make some you know?”
“Oh, I couldn’t ask you to do that.”
“No trouble at all, I won’t charge you any extra, it’ll be good to see if certain designs work.”
“That’s really nice of you, but I don’t want to put you out.”
“You’re not, but I do have a question though, if you don’t mind.”
Was Bucky about to ask to take his measurements, he would rip his top off in an instant if he asked. That reaction probably beared more thought. At the shake of his head Bucky continued.
“You’re Captain America, right? So don’t you have someone to do your shopping for you?”
Steve exhaled slowly through his nose, trying not to feel disappointment and he could see the moment the man realised he'd said the wrong thing.
“Sorry pal, it's just unusual to see someone of your… calibre shopping here. Didn’t mean to insinuate you can’t do your own shopping, I mean, I think it’s great you’re out alone and not being hassled, unless I missed the cameras out front.”
“I like to do things for myself, always have, plus I think it's a great store.”
The man beamed at the praise and Steve’s breath hitched, Bucky was absolutely breathtaking. Today his shoulder-length dark hair was pulled back into a bun at the nape of his neck, and Steve should not be noticing how hot it was. He was going to buy his jumper and beg Clint off the rest, less he make an absolute idiot of himself.
“Thanks man, glad you like my little slice of Brooklyn. This all today then?”
Nodding, Steve met him at the counter to pay.
“Oh, and we are totally revisiting the fetish thing next time you’re in, I haven’t forgotten that.”
He was dead, Steve Rogers was officially dead.
“You’re a menace Rogers,” Clint slurred face down on the ground, shot glass rolling away from his body.
Steve cackled as Tony slumped next to Clint, equally as inebriated. The sweater Bucky made him, the best thing he’d ever worn. At first Steve was hesitant, but Bucky promised him that if he was having dinner with the Avengers that evening, it would be perfect. He wasn’t wrong.
“Why can’t I hit the bullseye - I’m a perfect shot.” the blonde bemoaned. “Where's Lucky, I need attention. Lucky!”
“You left Lucky home tonight,” Natasha smirked then looked at Steve, “I want to borrow that sweater.”
Steve grinned, “Absolutely, after tonight. I’ll have a new one tomorrow.”
The jumper was dark red, black and green with a huge bullseye on the front, each ring a festive velcro colour, including a golden velcro ball. The back stated in large writing, red, share a drink, white, give a drink, green, I drink and bullseye, everyone drinks. Steve had the best time darting around, shifting just so, that everytime Tony or Clint threw a ball it would land on them having to drink. He hadn’t laughed so hard in, more years than he’d like to think about.
Bruce was the most accurate which surprised everyone, for all of his calm demeanor, he was a crack shot, almost knowing exactly where Steve was going to move and when. Pepper had declined playing with a smile, and Sam and Thor ganged up on him tackling him three minutes in to shove the ball on the bullseye.
Smiling fondly at his team, he couldn’t help but send a silent thanks to Bucky for his part in making this night so much fun. It was only five days into his Christmas sweater visits and he was already unnaturally attached to the brunette who owned his clothing store.
“Where did you. You get that awfully sass... sassy jumper?” Tony asked, tripping over his words. He should have stuck to shots of cheap vodka, not the $400 bottle of scotch he’d opened.
“I have a guy.” He replied, wishing that he actually had the guy.
“Are you blushing?” Natasha asked, incredulously, before a satisfied smirk took over, oh no. “You are. Oh my - where are you going? Who have you met?”
“No one, really.”
Natasha hummed and he had to be careful, she was too smart not to figure him out. To be fair she probably knew already.
The rest of the night was full of laughter, sweets and an impromptu game of Charades, at which Steve had improved exponentially since his last game, three years earlier. At least this time he knew Darth Vader was a movie character and not a German car. Scott still hadn’t let him live that one down.
He couldn’t believe that a silly sweater had bought them all together on a cold blustery December evening. He wondered what Bucky was up to, was he also somewhere warm, laughing with friends or someone special? Steve’s smile faded at the thought, and he retreated to his floor soon after, begging off another round of Charades.
Three days later and three more teasing interactions with Bucky; Steve turned up with a piping hot coffee for what he was now calling ‘his little slice of Brooklyn’. He wasn’t even embarrassed that he wasn’t talking about the shop.
“God yes, you’re a lifesaver.” Bucky exclaimed as he took a long drink of his sugared-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life vanilla latte, while Steve sipped his long black.
“People have actually said that to me before, funnily enough.”
Bucky laughed wonderfully again, Steve’s heartbeat ticking up a beat. “Ha, that’s what we call a dad joke, Steve. But seriously, thanks. I have a few big orders before Christmas so I’m practically working 24/7, and even with the help from Darcy, it's all a little overwhelming. I’m finding it hard to relax when I get home, you know, wind down - when I actually manage to make it there. Thank God I'm not dating anyone, else I'd be disowned."
Steve tried not to let out a whoop at hearing Bucky was unattached, he filed it away for later. “Glad I could help, even if it is just for a caffeine hit. Can I help you with anything at all though, around here?”
Bucky looked up and his face softened, “Nah, but thanks for the offer. Not sure I could afford you.”
“I’m sure we could arrange some form of payment.” At Bucky’s sharp look, which Steve tried to read but couldn’t, (he was great at hiding his thoughts) he realised he was practically flirting with the poor man. He rubbed the back of his neck and took another sip of coffee. Tone it down, Rogers.
But, Steve did have a desire to help Bucky in some way, maybe he could offer to relax him in a more… physical kind of way. Tampering down his wild imagination, he leaned against the counter, looking his fill as the brunette packed up boxes and unpacked others. Bucky was one of only a handful of people who’d not made a fuss over who he was, it was precious and he loved every second of their interactions. He was lucky to have this fragile friendship of sorts, he couldn’t go and mess it all up with propositioning him, even if he somehow found the guts to do something so - unlike him.
Bucky sipped at his coffee in between tasks, shaking Steve from his musing, a blissful expression on his face each time he drank. Warmth spread through Steve at knowing he was the one who’d put the smile there.
“Why don’t you buy a couple of sweaters at a time?” Bucky asked as he shook out some pants which were packed tightly and were full of creases. “Not that I don’t enjoy seeing your chiseled jawline each day.”
Steve positively beamed at Bucky’s words, but schooled his features when the brunette looked up in question. “Well, part of the bet was I had to come in every day to the same store, so as to make a fool of myself, but also, I’m hoping Hawkeye will relent and let me off the hook.”
“Pal. it’s been eight days now - I don’t think he's going to.”
“Yeah I know, but I guess it’s giving me an excuse to leave the apartment.”
“Uh…” Steve trailed off, he was in full training mode, but there really hadn’t been any major disruptions in the world, only a few small day missions, nothing to keep him from visiting Bucky everyday at any stage.
“Oh, I guess you can't speak about it, right? Sorry, I forgot for a moment what you did for a living.”
This man was not real, he could not be a walking, living breathing human who was now in Steve’s life, no matter how fleeting. He’d never felt so seen before, which was stupid, people knew him, noticed him, talked to him all the time. But Bucky, he made Steve feel - normal, it was a heady realisation. Steve had to suddenly pull himself back from the urge to grab hold of Bucky by both shoulders and devour his lips him until he couldn’t think, then keep holding for as long as he was able. He should not be feeling this way after such a short period of time. He shouldn't be surprised though, he always did jump first without looking.
“Yeah, I can’t, not really. Sorry.”
The quiet which fell wasn’t awkward, but Steve really wanted to share a little more of himself and his life than he could with Bucky. Pepper would have a conniption over him not signing an NDA, and wondered if he could get Bucky to sign one, or if he’d even want to, was that fair to him though? Could he draw this wonderful down-to-earth man into the ridiculousness that was his life? He wasn’t sure if he could, as much as his entire body screamed at him to ask.
“Alright then, well here’s today’s monstrosity. I mean ‘masterpiece’.” Bucky pulled a sweater out with a flourish and a cheeky grin. Steve watched his face a moment too long before his eyes dropped to the sweater, he felt himself frown.
“Oh no, I can’t wear that.”
“Why not?” Bucky asked, eyebrow raised.
“A little extra.”
Steve was never going to ever get sick of that laugh. “Who on earth taught you that saying?”
“Spiderman. Why, did I use it wrong?”
“No not at all, but I think I have an idea on how old Spiderman might be now. So, anyway it may appear extra but it's going to amuse Hawkeye to no end to see you wearing it.”
The large Christmas tree with the words, ‘Get Lit’ above it mocked him and his Captain America sensibilities. Should he be condoning this? It was just a tongue in cheek sweater, he’d be fine.
“You’re a chicken then, don’t like trying new things?” Bucky asked with a twinkle in his eye and a quirk to his mouth. Steve was being mocked, so he grabbed the sweater with a little glare and ripped off his shirt right there in the store and stopped dead as he glanced at Bucky. The brunette’s attention was snagged on his chest, mouth slightly open and a flush staining his cheeks, before his eyes slowly rose and met Steve’s, then averted to the side. Damn, he forgot he wasn’t wearing an undershirt. Whoops.
Bucky coughed as Steve finally pulled the sweater over his body, intrigued and pleased at the reaction.
“Do you need me to explain the meaning to you?” Bucky husked.
“No, I’m good.” He knew what it meant, he had a Netflix account. Now he just had to figure out if he should ask Bucky around to chill.
"Steve. Are you pimping my store out to the Avengers?"
"What?" Steve responded to the question Bucky threw him only a second after they’d started to eat the sandwiches Steve picked them up for lunch.
"Pimping is probably not the word, but yeah, I mean if you are, it's okay, but a heads up would have been cool."
Steve couldn't tell if Bucky was annoyed or just asking. He took another bite to think it over, then swallowed, knowing he was about to lie and trying to ignore Tony’s voice saying a Bald Eagle died every time he did. "I… don’t think so..."
Bucky gave him a wry smile, "when Pepper Potts comes in looking for me to make her a gown for the Stark Industries ball in February, well I figure she didn’t pick my small Brooklyn store out of a directory."
"Oh," Steve rubbed the back of his neck, and watched as Bucky cocked an eyebrow. “I may have mentioned it to her.”
“Just to Pepper hey? Also Thor came in - I’m making him a wool coat for these ‘below adequate warmth’ New York winters. Also he called me ‘Steve’s sweater friend’, which is kind of weird and makes us sound like we wear each others clothes.”
Steve was mortified, and made himself busy by eating the rest of his sandwich, which didn’t take as long as he’d hoped. He also had to erase the images of Bucky wearing his clothing, how on earth did he not realise he had a kink about that? Bucky was still watching him, waiting for a response. Taking in a deep breath he exhaled slowly then looked directly into Bucky’s eyes, and that was a mistake. He wasn't going to be able to look away now.
“I, err, okay, maybe I mentioned it to a few people.”
Bucky chuckled and leant over to pat him on the shoulder, it was wonderful, he craved more touch, much more. But he had to remind himself they were just acquaintances, even though each time he came in, he was here for at least an hour. The poor man must think he had no life.
“Honestly, it’s fine, I appreciate the business,” Bucky looked down at his sandwich and Steve could tell by the set of his shoulders he was about to say something serious, “but you know you don’t have to tell anyone you come here. Not just the Avengers, but anyone. I can keep your secret.”
A flush of pure warmth started from Steve’s toes and spread throughout him at his earnestness. It had only been eleven days, but he could not imagine living his life without his daily visits to Bucky. Which he knew was ludicrous. He was a superhero, he had obligations, he was usually busy beyond comprehension and still was, but he’d made it a priority to carve out an hour a day to visit. Could he picture attempting to stay in contact in the future? Sure, he’d try, but would Bucky be happy with someone who couldn’t pick up the phone some days, not being notified of missions and Steve going missing for weeks at a time, hell - months? The tailor with kind eyes, quick wit and hands-down sexiest laugh deserved more than Steve could give him. But he was selfish and would take what he could get, while he could.
He almost melted when Bucky handed over his own Captain America ugly Christmas sweater after lunch.
Was love at first sweater a thing?
Bucky wasn’t working when Steve came in after a few days of cute, sappy sweaters in a row. He tampered down the feeling of disappointment he felt. He knew Bucky couldn’t work every single day, but still. He felt like seeing kind blue eyes and sharing a smile. Especially as time was running out. Darcy smugly handed over the sweater packed up in a bag, a note with neat sharp handwriting sitting on top. He itched to read it immediately but deferred.
“I helped picked this one out, yule love it.” Darcy said with an up and down look at Steve’s body.
He grinned back. Darcy was wickedly sharp and intelligent, she reminded him of a modern Peggy, no nonsense and a bit of a ball-breaker in the best way.
“Did you just throw a Christmas pun at me?”
Darcy grinned, “can’t let Barnes have all the fun with you, man hogs you like a quilt in winter.”
Steve did not need to think about Bucky under his quilt, he would let him have all the blankets, so long as he could share space with him. The thought Bucky monopolised his attention put a happy thrill in his chest.
Steve went to the change room, and put the sweater on, ignoring Darcy when she yelled he could change out in the shop. He pulled the note out to read first.
Hey Steve, sorry for bailing on you today, family emergency. I hope the sweater passes muster, Darcy helped design this one… look forward to catching you tomorrow - lunch again if you can?
Grinning Steve read the note a few times, hoping the family emergency was minor and judging by the tone of the note it was okay. But he still wanted to know every facet of Bucky’s life. Then he saw the kiss after his name, did he mean that? Was it a slip of the pen?
Before he looked down at the sweater on his body, his communicator started to blare. Putting the earpiece in, he double tapped it.
“Cap-in-a-hat, need you downtown, Doombots everywhere.”
“I don't have my suit, do I have time -”
“No time. I have your shield, you'll just have to come as is.”
Steve leapt into action, leaving a giggling Darcy behind as he ran out the door and jumped on his bike which was out front. Barreling through the traffic, he wound his way through the busy streets until he came to a building swarming with basketball sized Doombots.
Steve really hated Doctor Doom and his ridiculous need to out-robot Tony.
Tony flew past, his shield flung directly at his head a second later which he caught with ease, then began to fight the bots in earnest.
“Where is everyone else?” He grunted as a robot splintered into pieces as he sliced through it.
“Nat and Clint are in Eastern Europe hunting down a lead on Taskmasters latest ridiculous plan. Thor’s off world, Sam’s in DC and Bruce is at a retreat, getting his bunions filed. Most of the others have their own troubles to attend.”
“Hang on, Bruce is at a retreat?”
“Yeah,” Tony growled and Steve heard a crash through the comm, “early Christmas present from Pepper.”
“Right, why doesn’t Pepper ever give me a massage voucher?”
“Don’t stress, you'll like your present, just not getting it until Christmas day though.”
Steve flushed, he really needed to get his Christmas shopping sorted. He'd been too busy mooning over Bucky to make a start.
Suddenly a burst of laughter filled the comm as Tony in his Ironman suit landed before him.
“Tony what in God's name are you doing?” He took out another three robots with his shield who'd followed Tony.
“Oh, Iceman, no need to get me a present, I have just what I want right now.”
Steve heard the distinct sound of a camera shutter then Tony was off again, blasting robots as he went. What was that about?
A small red and blue figure swept past the building, kicking robots, releasing a web before shooting a new one.
“Afternoon Mr America, oh, nice jumper, it's on fleek, very conversational.”
“Wha…?" Steve glanced down. "Oh god, no.”
He was going to die of shame. Then kill Darcy, because surely this was more of her than Bucky?
The sweater should never have seen the light of day, especially as his plan was to go straight to the tower before heading to his apartment after picking it up. Maybe there was no family emergency, maybe this is why Bucky wasn't there to give it to him in person, the sneaky sneak.
The upside down snowman had a knitted carrot which jutted out from just below Steve's belly button, it wore a fluffy green hat with two baubles hanging symmetrically off it. He just hoped like anything no one but Tony and Peter saw.
Later that night as Steve heated up some leftover lasagne, starved after finally defeating the Doombots, he received a photo from Clint on his Starkpad. He clicked it open without thinking.
Nice, Cap - you took this to a whole new level, proud of you.
The lowbrow article had a picture of Steve, front and centre wearing the snowman jumper, his shield smashing through a robot with a headline of, ‘Captain America, he’s not dicking about’ .
He was going to throttle Clint. But he had to admit Bucky's work was hardy, he only got two small cuts through the wool and one single singe mark.
Maybe he'd get Bucky to make him a proper sweater, one without a giant cock and balls on the front this time.
“It was Darcy, not me.” Bucky held his hands up laughing in defeat as Steve stalked into the store the next day, trying to hide the relief on his face that Bucky was there.
“It was on the internet, Buck. The internet.”
“I plead the fifth. I’ve sold out of them, just saying - you’re the poster boy for Christmas sweaters now.”
“I am going to murder Hawkeye, then Darcy too.”
“Hey, good help is hard to find.”
“Okay, I will look at her sternly then. Give her a disappointed look.”
Bucky’s face split into a warm grin, and Steve melted into a puddle at his feet, hopefully his face was not conveying any of his desires.
“Robots hey?” Bucky remarked as he pulled out a sweater, but didn’t hand it over just yet.
“My favourite,” Steve drawled, “Hey, family emergency, everyone okay?”
“Oh, yeah, my nephew - sprained his ankle at school and my sister and her husband couldn’t go due to a meeting with… you don’t need to hear all of this. Everyone is cool.”
Steve wanted to argue, he wanted to ask more, what was his sisters name, his nephew, how old was he. But, it really wasn’t his place. “That’s good, glad you were there for him. You’re a good egg, Buck.”
The flush was partially hidden as Bucky ducked his head. “Uh, I have a new design, want to try it on you first if that’s ok.”
He followed Bucky to the change rooms and couldn’t help but notice how much more intimate it was behind the closed curtains in a confined space. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea.
The jumper seemed innocent enough, the words ‘feel the joy’ were written in the middle, and there were two hands on either side. He shrugged off his jacket and pulled his t-shirt by the scruff and stood half naked once more in Bucky’s presence.
The brunette, spluttered nervously and Steve hid a grin. He may be a paragon of virtue in the eyes of the world, but here in this small room, with Bucky’s so close, so touchable, he was not thinking pure thoughts. Jeez . He pulled the sweater on and spread his hands out, showing off the design.
If he thought Bucky was nervous, he was wrong, suddenly he was all up in Steve’s space, hands spanning across his chest, cupping his pecks.
“Wha…” Steve choked.
Blue eyes glinted wickedly up at him and Little Steve decided to join the parade, feeling heavier in his jeans.
“The design is actually perfectly on target, I wasn’t sure - thanks for being my guinea pig.”
Buck gave another tight squeeze which almost dropped Steve to his knees before he looked down to his chest. Bucky’s hands fit perfectly over the hands knitted into the sweater.
“Do you test out jean pockets too?” he couldn’t help garble.
The shocked bark of laughter from Bucky a salve, something to focus on other than the loss of warmth over his pecks. Was Steve Rogers touch starved? He thought he was most definitely Bucky starved.
“Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?”
“Well I used to.” He replied easily.
“Oh, shit - I’’m -”
“It’s fine Bucky. Was a long time ago.”
“Yeah, but I feel like an ass now. Can I buy you lunch in apology? Darcy should be here in ten. Only if you have time.”
Steve had to quiet his brain from yelling that he had all the time in the world for Bucky. Craved his company, his smile, his everything.
“Of course, Pasta?” He replied instead, voice now steady.
And that’s how Steve got Bucky to leave the store with him for the first time together. He couldn’t help wonder the whole time if it could be classified as a date.
"- and that's how Luis managed to get us free tacos for the next four years." Scott finished with a chuckle. "he can be painful, but damn handy to have around."
Steve agreed even though he’d only met Luis once, he could probably pass interacting with him on a regular basis, but for unlimited tacos, he might make an exception.
"Your sweater tonight is great by the way." Natasha chimed in.
Steve looked down and smiled fondly. Bucky had outdone himself on this one and he wasn't at all sure his heart was as unaffected as he'd hoped.
The brunette looked nervous when he handed over the knit and Steve could only imagine what rude caricature was emblazoned over it. What he got instead was something that made his chest tight in gratitude and a fluttering sensation in his stomach as he looked into Bucky's eyes.
"I don't even know if it's something you were into, I mean, back then. But with all the pop culture stuff on the sweaters nowdays, I thought it might be nice if you got one with something from your day, but also people would still get now."
Bucky broke off with a shrug and a second later Steve had enveloped him in a hug. It was a hug borne of necessity, because if he didn't grab this gorgeous man and hold him close at that exact moment, he would have dipped him backwards and kissed him to within an inch of his life. Steve wasn't sure if that would be welcome.
The issue with hugging Bucky became apparent a second later. Smokey wood with a hint of spice, warm and inviting infiltrated his nostrils, Bucky smelt good, he smelt amazing and Steve couldn't help the tightening of his arms as he nosed the brunettes hair, inhaling deep.
A small gasp and Bucky's arms reaching up to cling to him had Steve freeze for a different reason. The brunette wriggled to deepen the embrace and it went directly to his dick.
Not wanting to fling Bucky away, he awkwardly let go, face flaming and a want vibrating deep under his skin. He wanted this man so badly he was losing all the reasons on why it would be a bad idea.
"I loved this comic growing up. It's probably the nicest thing anyone's ever done for me."
Bucky's eyes softened, "Pal, it's just a sweater, you really need someone to look after you better."
Steve wanted to ask if he'd like the job, but instead looked back at the sweater, heart feeling full.
"So that's the detective guy, right?" Scott asked as he pointed to Steve's chest, pulling him from his thoughts.
"Uh, yeah, Dick Tracey." Steve mumbled.
"Did you know that Dick Tracey started in 1931…" Clint began to spout facts and figures to the group about the comics and Steve was glad he had a moment to recalibrate before more questions were asked.
The sweater had the usual argyle sleeves, but in yellow and black. The picture of Dick on the front one of the most recognisable, wearing a yellow trench and hat, shooting a gun. The words, 'I buy the presents around here' coming from a speech bubble. It was thoughtful and one of a kind and Steve realised he may just be a little bit in love with Bucky.
He looked up wide-eyed straight into Natasha's and he was sunk. Her eyes softened as she realised what he himself just had, then motioned him over to the kitchen in the guise of making hot chocolate for Scott, Sam and Clint who were still in deep discussion on early century comic book influencers.
"Took you long enough." She stated quietly as she rummaged for marshmallows.
"To be fair, I only figured it out literally three seconds ago. I've only known him twenty one days Nat. Is that too soon? How on earth did you know before me?"
She raised an eyebrow and filled the kettle. Right, he really didn't need to ask.
"So, what are you going to do about it?"
"Uh, probably nothing."
The eyebrow rose further, how on earth she got so much menace and disbelief in a crook of skin, he didn't know.
"Ok, well is it fair?" He asked instead.
"I mean, I don't live a normal life and he does. How can I possibly ask him to potentially put all of that in jeopardy - just to date me?"
" Have you asked him?"
At his lack of answer she threw a hand in the air, "You're unbelievable, you should let Bucky make his own decisions, don't you think?"
"Well, maybe… I don't know."
The amount of chocolate she put in his mug proportionate to her annoyance at him. He got half a teaspoon when everyone else got four. He made a whining noise and grabbed the tin from her, she huffed in response.
"Fine. I'll say something. I promise."
" Before the end of the year."
His heart stalled in his chest at the thought of breaking this friendship, this connection they had. Bucky could say no, throw him out. But what if he didn't?
"Yeah, okay - before new year."
Natasha smiled blindingly, giving Steve whiplash, then grabbed the tin back and added an extra five spoons of chocolate for him.
It was the day before Christmas and Steve hovered outside White Wolf Apparel, hoping he wasn't coming across like a stalker.
"Are you stalking Bucky?"
Steve was proud of his resilience in battle, his never wavering front in the face of an enemy. He was less proud at jumping a foot in the air and spinning to see Darcy's wide smirk.
"No… not at all… why would I, I mean, how would -"
"- chill out, Cap." She paused then huffed out a breath, "Too soon? Nope, that joke went straight over your head didn't it?"
Steve blinked once, "I think it did."
"No one gets me. So you coming in or just going to stand out here practising your proposal?"
"What? No, that's not what... That was a joke right?"
"He can be taught!" She exclaimed throwing a hand in the air. "Come on then, today's sweater is a Darcy special."
Steve baulked, after the last 'Darcy special' he ended up looking like an oblivious idiot, and the picture was now framed in Tony's hallway. It made him twitch every time he saw it.
He forgot to be worried about the design when he walked in and his eyes met Bucky's. Everything fell away and as corny and old fashioned as it was, Steve just knew it in his bones that Bucky was special, was the one for him. And he was not ready in any way shape or form to tell him at all. He needed more time, Natasha was going to kill him, or at the very least, maim him. Maybe he could just wait and see how he went.
The trouble with his grand plan on hovering and hoping against hope that he'd somehow find the courage to blurt out how he felt was, the shop was busy. Really busy. He'd never seen it heaving like this.
Glancing at his watch, he noticed he was in a little later than usual, then realised most people were doing last minute Christmas shopping. He wasn't really going to get any quality time with Bucky and a sharp pang of disappointment hit him.
"Hey, Steve. Sorry, it's crazy in here today, I won't be able to have lunch. But Darcy will kill me if I don't get you to try on the sweater here so she can, 'quote' make you blush like a virgin seeing a big… well you get the gist."
Steve laughed, but also pushed down the lead weight in his gut that he'd not get to spend time with Bucky.
"We're not open, it's Christmas Day. And I'm not sure the sandwich shop would be open either." The indulgent smile Bucky gave him crinkled his eyes adorably and Steve wanted to reach out and smooth them, but before he could make any decision he was jostled by someone grabbing a pair of jeans behind him.
"Oh, right. Christmas Day," he laughed self deprecating. "Forgot."
"You have twenty three jumpers depicting every facet of Christmas and have worn each and every one, and you've forgotten?" The fondness in Bucky's eyes followed by a hand grasping Steve's bicep as he manoeuvered him through the crowd nice, comfortable, right.
"I'm concerned, Darcy is looking way too smug."
"She had every right to be." Bucky answered cryptically.
When they had a small modicum of privacy, Bucky handed him a package wrapped up and Steve raised a brow in question.
The brunette ducked his head, "it's tomorrows sweater, just…" he paused and ran a hand over his face, "just don't open it until tomorrow, okay?"
"Sure," Steve replied puzzled as he held up that days sweater, then choked on his saliva.
The burst of glee from his counterpart made him feel squiggly inside.
"The verdict? Man, I should have got this on camera."
Steve gave Bucky his patented Captain America stare, he just grinned harder.
"I draw the line at this one."
"I personally think it's perfect."
Steve's face flushed with all Bucky could mean by that. The jumper had a picture of Santa laying on his side, one leg cocked up in a classic lounge pose, naked. A present covered his most private of privates and the words, 'I have a big package for you' took up the rest of the space. Steve's face could not be any redder, it was an explosion of heat and embarrassment. He shut his eyes a moment then opened one to look at Bucky as he let a deep chuckle escape.
"It's because you're so tall , I mean."
"Oh, is that what this means then?" Steve asked hopefully.
"Not at all, but I thought it might make you feel better."
"You're a shit Bucky Barnes. Tony is never going to see this."
Bucky hummed in response then snapped a picture quickly, Steve didn't think just reacted and went to grab the phone. Bucky was quick and held it back as Steve barreled forward directly into the other man’s personal space. They jostled a minute, laughing and grabbing at the other until Bucky cried 'truce'.
Steve watched as Bucky blinked slowly, licking his lips and he suddenly realised he was pressing his entire body against the brunettes, leaning into his heat trying to grab the phone hidden behind Bucky's back. He was practically holding him. It felt marvellous.
"Buck?" Steve questioned as he watched blue eyes darken before him.
"Boss! Need help."
Darcy's yell shook them out of their trance and Bucky stepped back, wiping his hands on his pants in what Steve thought might have been nervously.
"Right, gotta go, you know help. Oh, don't forget this." Bucky handed him a second larger pack, "your Christmas shopping."
"Oh right, thanks." Steve had almost forgotten he'd put an order in for the team. He didn't want his arms ladened up with packages, he wanted Bucky back in them. He was a sap.
They hovered a second more, words on the tip of his tongue when Darcy yelled out again.
"Right, well, Merry Christmas, Steve." Bucky looked up at him, mouth opening as if to say something before shaking his head. "Enjoy your new sweater, and… don't be a stranger."
"You too Buck." He said softly as the brunette smiled in apology and went back into the store.
Steve inhaled the now familiar smells of fabric and clothing, finding comfort in this space.
He left soon after with a little wave and a resolve that he'd be back to ask Bucky out on a proper date. If he'd have him.
The next morning found the Tower in chaos. Tony had gone all out for Christmas morning and frankly it overwhelmed Steve who was used to small gatherings which were low-key. He’d been told in no uncertain terms that he was to spend that night in his rarely used Tower rooms before being allowed to head back to his own cozy apartment. Tony wanted to make it a new tradition, early breakfast, presents and then anyone who wanted to stay could, or alternatively choose to leave for family engagements. Steve at first protested to Natasha, until she quietly said it was nice for people who didn’t have family outside of the Avengers. That shut him up immediately and he was the first one making eggnog the night before, much to Clint’s delight. Apparently the ‘old-boy’ had a heavy hand when it came to the rum portion of the drink. Steve shrugged, it was how his mom always made it.
“Ugh, how are you so happy, didn’t you have the eggnog last night?” Clint moaned into his elbow, hiding from the lights.
“Super Soldier serum, bud, no effect.”
Clint side-eyed him and huffed, “I’m finding your cheerful demeanor extremely off-putting. Coffee.”
Steve handed him one with a chuckle. Then dished out a second one as Sam blearly walked past in a haze, hand outstretched for caffeine. Steve really did love his odd-ball mixed family.
Tony strode in a moment later wearing a t-shirt with a screen print of Steve’s unfortunate news article, the word ‘dicking’ right near his face. Steve lamented that between the huge print and shirt, surely Tony couldn’t use that stupid picture of him on anything else. Steve definitely loved some family members more than others.
“Present time!” Tony exclaimed as Pepper shook her head fondly at him.
“He’s been up since two.”
“To be fair Peps, I didn’t actually go to sleep.”
They opened their presents, the team loving the ensemble of quirky socks Steve had purchased from Bucky. Clints reaction to the bright purple socks with dogs in judges wigs chasing aeroplanes his favourite, the ones with fat cherubs in tactical gear shooting lasers his second. Tony laughed in glee at the socks Steve picked out for him, it had miniscule writing on it so you had to get really close to read. The words ‘nosy little fucker aren't you?’ written in cursive. Apparently it was the best present ever, because although Steve never said fuck in front of Tony, this was a perfect placeholder. Steve secretly smiled, Tony had no idea that his potty mouth was horrendous and he had to bite his tongue constantly to stop swearing. He was waiting for the perfect moment to let loose with a string of profanities - then he’d capture Tony’s reaction all on camera.
He himself had scored a coffee machine for his apartment, Bruce, Nat and Thor putting in for it, and wondered how long until they all started to congregate at his house in the mornings now. Sam outdid himself with a rare book on painting from the 30s, and he smiled at the hand knitted scarf from Scott. It had dropped stitches throughout and seemed to fluctuate between thick and thin, but he loved that it was handmade. The rest of the team also received the scarves, Scott ducking his head explaining that while on house arrest, he didn’t really know what to do for people and he wasn’t a fan of online shopping.
The last package was addressed from Santa, and contained industrial sized lube and more condoms than he could poke a stick at. He didn’t stop blushing for about an hour, especially when Tony took another photo of him unwrapping it, declaring that next year’s print for the living room was decided. Clint and Tony were the biggest dicks.
“Hey, Cap - where’s todays sweater?”
Steve looked down and realised that in the haste to get to breakfast before Tony broke into his apartment, he’d not opened Bucky’s last sweater. “Huh, I completely forgot, it’s back in my room.”
Clint raised a brow, then frowned “Aw, headache, go away. Better go get it Cap, you don’t want to re-lose the bet and have to buy a different sweater every day with an assortment of memes that I pick out, do you? Chop, chop.”
Horrified at what Clint would pick out for him, he hightailed it out of the breakfast area and headed for his rooms.
Sitting on the end of his bed, he grabbed the wrapped parcel from Bucky and wondered what the sweater for the big day would be. He had no idea if it would be rude, cute or touching, maybe even an amalgamation of all three.
As the last of the wrapping fell away, Steve grinned in happiness. It was what Tony would call an ‘old man’ cardigan, but Steve loved it. The traditional colours of reds, greens and whites in the classic argyle knit, but the front was squares forming an advent calendar for the twelve days of Christmas, complete with little flaps he could undo. It was nifty and he loved the design idea.
Before putting it on and heading back to the others, he opened the first door. A number 7 was knitted in, the second one had a 1 behind the door, followed by an 8. By the time he’d undone the first ten flaps, Steve was a little puzzled. The last two doors revealed the words, ‘call me’ and ‘Happy Christmas Steve’ consecutively.
The tension slid out of Steve as he realised that Bucky had succeeded in doing the one thing he couldn’t, he’d taken the first scary step, and by god was Steve going to take the second.
He grabbed his Starkphone and dialled with no hesitation, hope welling up inside of him.
"Hello, James speaking."
Steve stopped a moment, caught out at hearing Bucky call himself James, how did he not know his first name? Bucky though, sounded content, happy even, and Steve wondered what he was doing today, who he was with. He could hear voices in the background, clinking of glasses and laughter. He’d never desired to be anywhere more in his life than with this man he’d known just under a month. Instead of the thought scaring him, he relished in it.
"Err, hello? Anyone there?"
"Oh crap, uh, hello, Buck? It's, uh Steve."
A soft huff of laughter greeted his bumbling opening.
"I see you figured out the cardigan."
Steve chuckled, "Well, I am a world renown tactical specialist after all."
"And yet you didn't figure out I'd been flirting with you for weeks now."
His mouth went dry at Bucky's teasing words, "you were?"
"Oh god Stevie, you are just too much." Steve's stomach swooped as the nickname slipped out. "Yes, yes I was flirting. Figured I had to take matters into my own hands. Well especially after Black Widow came in looking for a leather duster to be custom made earlier this week."
Steve halfway wanted to throttle Natasha for getting involved but also wanted to hug her tight for forcing their hand.
"She can be quite…"
"Persuasive." Bucky finished with a smile in his voice.
“That's probably the most flattering way to put it,” Steve agreed with a huff of laughter. It went silent for a moment.
“Are you spending the day at the Tower with the others?”
Steve exhaled as he lay back on his bed, looking up at the ceiling, giddy at speaking to Bucky on the phone, like they were proper friends now, like they could be something more. The anticipation and longing growing deep inside of him.
“Yeah, having the feast of all feasts according to Thor who’s cooking the meat, though Tony is feeling competitive so we are having two turkey’s. One Asgardian and one pure American Bird, honestly I’m just here for the hasselback potatoes.”
Bucky chuckled low in his throat, making Steve shift on his bed. God, he had a sexy voice.
“I’m at my parents, it’s full of Aunts, Uncles and cousins I see only yearly and of course Becca, her husband, Simon and my nephew Charlie. It’s been good, but I’m thinking about begging off this afternoon and heading home for some peace and quiet, watch a dodgy Christmas movie, make some eggnog and crash.”
Steve hummed at learning some new information about Bucky, then saw an opening.
“I make a mean eggnog. I mean, well half the Avengers are still hungover, so it can’t be terrible.”
“Really? What exactly are you saying?” Bucky teased.
“I also have a list of Christmas movies I’m yet to watch…”
“Why Steven Grant Rogers, are you asking to come over tonight to watch movies and get me drunk?”
“Oh, no - not at all, I mean -”
“- Steve, yes. Yes, I’d love you to come over - I’ll text my address, Seven thirty okay?”
“Yep, perfect,” he strangled out, excitement on his impending night alone with Bucky thrumming through him. “See you then.”
“See you soon, Steve - enjoy your turkeys.”
They hung up and Steve lay back down, grin splitting his face. He was fairly certain he had the perfect idea for a present to take around. Getting up with a spring in his step, he headed back to the others, plan formulating.
Steve knocked tentatively on Bucky's door, shifting from one foot to the other, holding a bag full of items. After a moment he heard rustling and footsteps approaching, his stomach fluttered in nerves. Oh god, he didn't know what to do, what to expect. Did he shake his hand, give him a hug? Something more?
The door swung open revealing a soft smiling Bucky, escaping hair from his bun framing his face, and Steve had never seen anything as beautiful in his life. He was gone, so gone.
"Hey." He managed breathlessly.
They stood in the doorway staring at each other for way too long, before Bucky started visibly and grinned shyly before tugging Steve inside, shutting the door behind him.
Steve went to follow Bucky into his apartment but before he could move any further his arms were full of warm brunette, and he was not complaining. Dropping the bag, Steve pulled Bucky in even closer. It was heaven.
"Is this okay?" Bucky asked, a hitch in his breath.
Steve could only nod dumbly.
"Thank fuck…" then Bucky pushed Steve against the door - hard.
Bucky cupped Steve's jaw with one hand, thumb softly passing over his cheek, the sensation sending shivers down his spine.
"I've wanted to do this ever since you blushed so prettily at the bullseye sweater. You really are precious, you know."
Bucky leant into his space, lips capturing his bottom lip, before the thumb on his cheek pressed harder and his mouth opened slightly with a soft sigh, and Steve melted into it.
Steve had been kissed before, even recently, but nothing prepared him for Bucky's mouth. He was vibrating out of his skin as the brunette deepened the kiss, tongue flicking lightly over Steve's lips.
As unprepared for the kiss as he was, Steve didn’t take long to recover, fingers grasping Bucky’s belt loops, pulling him sharply against him, knee slotting between his leg. Christ it felt terrifyingly right and perfect having Bucky’s body against his. The brunette growled into his mouth, tongue pushing in, desperately seeking Steve’s, tangling them together in a hot, wet kiss.
The wrenching moan that escaped Steve’s throat only spurring Bucky to grind on his thigh and this was going too fast and not fast enough. Steve pulled off Bucky’s mouth to leave a trail of open mouthed kisses along his jaw before pulling back, a small adorable whine leaving Bucky’s throat.
“I uh, brought left-overs.”
Bucky hung his head until it rested on Steve’s chest and laughed. “You stopped that, to tell me you have tupperware full of food in your bag?”
Steve smiled wryly, “well, I don’t want it to go off or soggy. Hasslebacks Bucky, I can’t impress you on how important the reheating of these wonders of culinary delights are.”
Bucky looked up at him with an indulgent smile and Steve always wanted to be looked at in this manner.
“Plus, if you don’t stop, I’m going to pin you down and not let you get up until we’ve both come at least three times each.”
Bucky’s eyes darkened to almost black, breath coming in a little jerkily. “Well fuck, Steve - I don’t care if you have a ten thousand dollar turkey in your bag. I want you to keep going.”
Steve groaned, closing his eyes a moment, trying not to picture how Bucky would look underneath him, hell, on top of him, beside him, above him as he came undone. Shit.
“Compromise, let's put the food away, then I want to give you something, then if you still feel like it - we can revisit this scenario.”
The laugh Bucky gave, full of mirth, “ if I still feel like it. Pal, I’ve dreamed about this, awake and asleep for weeks.”
Flattered beyond belief, Steve motioned for Bucky to show him through the apartment, trying desperately not to lose his resolve. The lounge and kitchen areas exactly as Steve pictured, homey, full of knick knacks, photos and sewing paraphernalia. It was Bucky to a tee.
Steve placed everything in the fridge, looking forlornly at the potatoes, but knowing eventually he’d get them. He then took out a small parcel for Bucky who’d poured them a red wine, and was waiting on the couch. Steve took a second to look his fill.
Bucky was relaxed, a hint of a smile on his face as he leant back into the couch cushions, swirling his wine not realising Steve was watching him. The dark green button down over blue jeans, and bright orange socks with what Steve thought were trees on pogo sticks completed the homely picture. He wanted this, he craved this. Steve’s fingers itched to sketch the scene, but hopefully he would have ample time for that in the future.
Handing over a sheath of papers in a folder, Bucky cocked an eyebrow then opened it.
Steve rubbed the back of his neck, then reached over to sip his wine, it was good, bold in flavour and even though it couldn’t do anything to him, he enjoyed the explosion of flavour on his tongue. Bucky had continued to read then looked up, questions in his eyes.
“It’s an NDA. I had Pepper put it together this afternoon.”
“Okay…” Bucky drew out, then gave him a puzzled look.
“Right, so, here goes. My life is crazy, like beyond belief absurd. I don’t usually get a huge amount of downtime, nor a chance to foster any friendships - well - relationships, into something real or good. Haven’t ever had a reason to.”
He paused for another sip and Bucky slowly put the papers on the table and tilted his body so he was facing Steve, giving him his full attention.
“Until Hawkeye made a stupid bet and I met you. I have never been so glad to lose anything in my entire life.”
“Steve.” Bucky exclaimed, cheeks pink. Christ he was going to lose his train of thought and lean over and kiss him again.
“Okay, what I’m trying to say terribly, is - I would like to date you, for real, for as long as you’ll have me. I’m warning you in advance, it's going to be awful dating me, but I don’t want any secrets. So if you sign that, then I don’t have to omit any truths and also you’ll be on my list of contacts so JARVIS can keep you updated when I’m on missions. I know it’s not really a romantic gesture but -”
Bucky threw himself across the space, landing on Steve, knocking the air out of his lungs and silencing him with a deep long kiss.
“In case that wasn’t clear,” Bucky rasped once he pulled up, “I’m in. But, I have just one question for you.”
“Anything.” Steve beamed back, happier than he’d ever been in his life.
“If I sign that right now - can I finally take your pants off and suck you?”
Steve swallowed hard, then nodded slightly dazed. He’d not even seen Pietro move as quickly as Bucky did in that moment to sign the papers.
The next morning Steve woke with a shock of dark hair partially in his nose and mouth and he couldn’t have been more content. Bucky’s head was nestled on his chest as he breathed deeply in sleep, naked body pressed to his intimately.
He heard his Starkphone trilling from his pants pocket and disentangled himself from Bucky who harrumphed in displeasure at being moved but curled around a pillow a moment later. Steve smiled fondly at him and grabbed his phone.
A photo had been sent in the Avengers group chat of the team members who’d stayed on at the Tower for dinner. They held up a sign and Steve ran a hand over his face, letting out an embarrassed laugh.
‘Congrats on getting laid’.
Tony had also written a message, thanks for doing it on Christmas Day, now I’ll never forget the anniversary of when our Cap finally stood up to attention.
Arms wrapped around his waist as he sat on the edge of the bed, and a soft kiss was pressed to his hip a second later. Looking down he saw a sleepy Bucky curling around him and his heart just about burst.
“Whass up?” Bucky mumbled before placing another kiss, with a tiny lick on his back.
“Nothing.” Steve replied huskily at the nips Bucky was now placing on his skin, and shot off a text to the group, unlike Christmas, Tony, I come more than once a year.
Then ignoring his phone which started to blow up, he dropped it to the ground and spun, pinning Bucky to the bed. They didn’t surface from Bucky’s for three wonderous days.
The following year, everyone had tailor made ugly Christmas sweaters from White Wolf Apparel. Steve proudly wore one with Tony’s shocked face snorting milk from his nose, captured just as he read Steve’s group message reply the year before.
He owed Clint for that one, he actually owed Clint for a lot more than that. But he had a big enough head already and he didn’t want to make it worse.
As he hugged Bucky tight against him on the couch watching everyone open their gifts, Steve knew he had found his home, his family. He had everything he’d ever hoped for right in this room and he was never letting go.