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a rock rattling in a tin can

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The sheepskin appears on the futon by magic (that is, by Steve being an easily entertained twelve year old about this kind of thing) while Bucky's in the bath and was probably instantly colonized by the kitten. She's definitely there now, kneading it with kittenish bliss and rattling her purr around like a rock in a tin can while Bucky stands and frowns slightly at it.

Steve keeps cleaning up breakfast dishes while doing the worst job ever at hiding how he's just waiting for a reaction. Any reaction. Or at least, he'd tell himself it's any reaction. It's not any reaction.

(Sometimes Bucky figures it's a good thing Steve didn't successfully date much between thawing out and the Insight cluster-fuck: he really isn't any more guarded or shielded than he used to be around that kind of thing, and Christ are there women, and men, who'd shatter him without even meaning to.)

And actually, yeah, it does look stupidly soft, and comfortable, and the kitten's definitely a fan, but some part of Bucky refuses to let Steve have it all his own way, so he reaches down and scoops the kitten up and flicks the sheepskin over with his left hand. Then, as Steve comes to the doorway, Bucky points at the seam and says, "I knew that couldn't be just one sheep."

"Jerk," Steve says, but he knows how to read that and he's pleased and smiling. Then he frowns at the stretch of wall between the other door to the kitchen and the corner and says, "I think I'm gonna knock the top half of this out."

Bucky flicks the sheepskin back flat and drops himself onto it. He aches today, fuck knows why, mostly wants to lie flat for a while so his hips'll shut the fuck up. Maybe. "It's probably structural," he observes, settling the kitten by his head, where she goes back to kneading the sheepskin.

And okay, yeah, it's soft, it's pretty nice, and it does seem to take the pressure off his hip-joints a little.

"Yeah, so," Steve says, shrugging, "I'll stick a pillar here or something. There's no reason the kitchen needs to be a cave cut off from everything else. Have a wrap-around counter-bar, and it still defines the space without isolating."

Bucky tilts his head back and says, "I have no idea what the fuck you just said," because he refuses to learn to speak interior decorating, and Steve rolls his eyes at him.

"Besides, maybe you'll start sitting to eat if there's a high counter and stools," Steve adds, pointedly, moving back into the kitchen.

"Don't count on it," Bucky says, raising his voice a little and getting his cheek sniffed by a wet little nose for his trouble. He realizes he forgot to grab either a book or the tablet, thinks damn, and completely fails to get up and do anything about it because there's nothing appealing about moving right now.

"Eating standing up is bad for your digestion," Steve calls from the kitchen, in his best purely-informative voice.

"Everything's bad for my digestion," Bucky retorts, and then when Steve comes back and hands him a coffee mug he adds, "Especially coffee. Not that I give a shit." He rests the mug on his chest while Steve sort of half perches on the opposite arm of the futon. "It's nice," he admits, grudgingly. "What the Hell gave you the idea?"

"Pepper had slippers last time Tony wanted to pick a fight," Steve replies, sipping his coffee. "Figured the kitten'd like it even if you didn't."

"S'a bit big for the kitten," Bucky observes, amused. "You know," he adds, reaching behind him to put the coffee on the nearer futon-arm, because he doesn't feel like sitting up enough to drink it yet, "I hear you're s'posed to actually fill out all this paperwork and shit before you go knocking out walls, when you share a building."

Steve shifts his weight around enough to kick Bucky lightly in the ankle, manages not to fall off the arm he's perched on no matter how awkward he looks; Bucky's mildly impressed. "I do," he replied, with mock-dignity.

"Except for the bathroom," Bucky needles and Steve tries for more mock-dignity.

"I did so," he says. "I just happened to imply it was something I was going to do, rather than something I'd done already."

"You already did the kitchen once," Bucky tells him and Steve shrugs.

"Everyone needs a hobby. Besides, knocking out the wall won't change much I've already done, I already moved the fridge to the other side, after all, and it's not like we really need those cupboards. Can get one of those nice plate stands or something."

"Could even get new plates to go with it," Bucky says, "and then Romanova can stop giving you pitying looks over the state of the crockery every time she visits."

"Yeah, you laugh," Steve says, but looks amused in spite of it, "but apparently we're going gallery hopping next week because it's a travesty that I have boring prints on my walls."

The kitten finishes her kneading and curls up in exactly the right position to stick her tail in Bucky's ear, so he shifts and resettles himself, and asks, "Does she do this to Hill and Elizabeth and Potts, or are you just special and specially incapable of looking after yourself?"

"Apparently she does, actually," Steve says. "Do it to everyone else, I mean. The slippers were because Pepper got another lecture about shortening her Achilles tendon."

"Another one?"

"Apparently," Steve explains, "they started when Pepper still thought she was Natalie Rushman, although since Natasha was playing a nice PA at the time they weren't so much lectures as suggestions."

"The woman needs a hobby. A different hobby," Bucky observes and then nudges Steve's knee with one foot. "Exactly how long are you gonna hover there before you just fucking lie down? Because you're gonna fall off that thing soon."

"You know," Steve says, shifting down onto one knee on the futon to reach over and put his coffee beside Bucky's, "for that I should just leave you here without the tablet or the remote or anything." It's an empty threat; he settles himself on the opposite side from the cat.

"I got legs, they work," Bucky says, placidly. "You're the one who gets all worked up if I'm wandering around when I hurt."

"That," Steve says, leaning on one elbow and pulling Bucky's right arm out straight so he can put some careful pressure in and around the shoulder joint, "is because for some reason only God could possibly know, you've decided sickly me was some kind of role-model and started emulating all the stupid shit I used to do, so I figure if I'm not at least matching you for reciprocal fuss I'm not trying hard enough - that hurt?" he asks, cutting off Bucky's reply.

Bucky gives him a sardonic look. "As compared to what, Steve?"

Steve gives him just as pointed a look back and replies, "As compared to something that doesn't hurt, Bucky," mimicking Bucky's tone exactly, so that Bucky twists his arm around to shove Steve's shoulder.

Then he sighs. "Yeah, it hurts," he says, trying and probably failing to keep the irritation out of his voice. "It and just about everything else."

"Nn," Steve says, non-committally, and straightens Bucky's arm out again, digging his fingers carefully in and around Bucky's shoulder. When the ache recedes, a little, Bucky frowns at him.

"What'd you do?" he demands and Steve looks pleased with himself. And like he's going to be a smart-ass little shit for a while.

Which is borne out when he says, "I don't think I should even tell you. You'd try doing it to yourself and break your shoulder."

"Y'know," Bucky says, conversationally, "I could throw you and your smart mouth off this thing."

"Nah," Steve replies, serenely. "You'd upset the cat."

"I can move the cat," Bucky tells him.

"But you won't," Steve counters. Bucky mock-rolls his eyes.

"Smart-mouth pain in the ass little shit," he mutters, as the kitten yawns in his ear and turns over.

"Arrogant bad-tempered jerk," Steve replies, comfortably, reaching for his coffee. "And I'm taller than you now."

"You have inner littleness," Bucky says, riffing off some old commercial a trawl through YouTube had dragged up, from mid-century when it was still a new idea that computer shit could be small and still work better than bigger stuff.

"Yeah," Steve says, "drink your coffee and stop being a grouchy old man."

Bucky could respond to that, but actually now that he thinks about it the coffee sounds good, so he reaches over and flicks Steve's ear instead and then pushes himself up to sitting, and picks up his mug.