The first time it happened, it was genuinely an accident. Bucky’s attempt to brighten up his kitchen windowsill with some cute bottle-brush tree decorations, ended up with two of them plummeting out of the open window.
Groaning at his clumsiness, Bucky stuck his head outside, leaning on the sill as he peered down to the courtyard below, the trees lying morosely on the concrete. It wasn’t his fault he hardly felt the cold. He was just made that way, and he wanted some fresh air. Sue him.
The December wind whistled through the air, and Bucky was about to retreat inside, resolving himself to collect the decorations later, when movement in the courtyard below caught his eye.
Someone had exited the downstairs flat, wrapped up in a navy coat and a knitted hat, a little bobble on the end. Bucky watched curiously, wondering he was the new neighbour that had moved in a week or so ago. The man was tall, and well-built, and- fuck, really attractive.
Blonde hair poked out from beneath his hat, cheeks already reddening from the chill. Bucky felt a sudden urge to button his coat up higher, protect him from the weather.
Picking up the decorations, the man studied them for a second, before looking up. Panic overtaking him, Bucky attempted to duck back into his flat, but bashed his head, hard, on the bottom of the open window.
“Motherfucker” he cursed, hand flying to the back of his head.
“Are you alright up there?” a voice asked. Deep, attractive, concerned. Shit. Shit. Sticking his head back out of the window, tentatively this time, Bucky saw his neighbour staring up at him, the two little trees held in one hand.
“Yeah” he called, cheeks beet-red. He’d made a fool of himself before he’d even gotten the guy’s name – that had to be some kind of record. The man grinned up at him, squinting against the bright winter day.
“You’re Mr. Barnes, right?” he said. “I’m Steve. I just moved in downstairs”.
“Hi” said Bucky, resisting the urge to wave. “Please, call me Bucky”.
“Okay, Bucky” said Steve easily, before holding up the trees. “You want me to pop up with these?” he asked. “I’ve been meaning to introduce myself for a while anyway. You should know your neighbours, right?”.
“It’s okay” said Bucky, “I can come get them, I don’t want to trouble you”.
“Oh it’s no trouble at all” said Steve, already heading for the gate. “Unless” he paused “you’d rather I didn’t?”. Bucky smiled, shaking his head.
“Come on up”. Shutting the window, Bucky had approximately 60 seconds to fix his hair and make his hallway presentable. He did it in 45. And from the butterflies that gathered in his stomach when a knock sounded on the door, Bucky had an inkling that this would go beyond retrieving his decorations.
The second time, it was less of an accident. Yes, Bucky had been placing more decorations than usual on the kitchen windowsill, and yes, he had been leaving the window open more often, but it was wind and gravity that sent the little felt robin over the ledge, not him. And if he didn’t attempt to catch it? Well, that was nobody’s business but his.
His hunch from the previous week had been correct. Though he’d only spoken to him for an embarrassingly short amount of time, Bucky was rapidly developing a crush. Ever since Steve had brought back his decorations, he hadn’t been able to get him out of his head, replaying the few short minutes of conversation they’d shared over, and over, at work.
Steve was kind, funny, had laughed at Bucky’s stupid jokes, and petted Alpine when she’d come to the door. Maybe it was something about the holiday season, when everybody else seemed to be finding that special someone, leaving him all on his lonesome, but Bucky found himself wanting to speak to Steve again almost immediately. Apart from the fact that he was impossibly handsome, though he hadn’t known him long it was also immediately clear that Steve had a good heart. Maybe that was what Bucky had been missing.
Enter: the robin. Gifted by his great-aunt Edith many Christmases ago, Bucky watched as the decoration fell to the ground, bouncing a few feet away.
It was unharmed, of course, but the way the beaded eyes were glinting in the fading light made it look like it was glaring at him. Tough, Bucky shrugged, closing the window.
Not certain if Steve was even home, or if he’d see the robin right away, Bucky went about his evening as usual, putting the finishing touches to his Christmas wrapping, and surreptitiously checking his hair every now and then, in case Steve chose that moment to appear.
It was over an hour later when the knock came. Bucky was surprised, resigning himself to the fact that it was too dark now for his neighbour to even see the decoration, but he opened the door, and there Steve was.
“Hey” said Steve, cocking his head, an easy smile on his face. He looked good, really good, still in a suit and tie from work. He was a teacher, for God’s sake. How was Bucky supposed to resist that?
“Hi” he said, feeling a little shy now that Steve was actually there, and curling his toes inside his fluffy Christmas socks. What if he was bothering him?
Alpine chose that moment to wind her way through his legs, and Steve immediately knelt down to pet her, cooing as she head-butted his hand.
Bucky bit his lip, watching the most attractive man in Brooklyn cuddle his cat on his doorstep, his dumb felt robin clutched his hand. He was so gone.
For all his ridiculousness, Steve did end up asking Bucky questions, first about Alpine, but then about anything, and everything, soon falling into comfortable conversation that went beyond small-talk. Bucky ended up sat in the hallway too, Alpine reluctant to move, and they talked and laughed for well over an hour before they’d realised the time, Steve having to rush off to prepare for his classes the next day.
“Oh Alpine” said Bucky, once the door had closed behind him, leaning against the wood. “What am I going to do?”. Alpine picked up the robin in her teeth, blinking at him before taking it to her bed, disappearing inside. Bucky grinned, supposing he’d have to find a new decoration if he was going to try the tactic again. Which he definitely, definitely would be.
The third time, it was planned. Bucky knew that Steve was home – had heard the door slam, and from the light spilling onto the courtyard outside he could bet that he was in the kitchen, thus having a perfect view of the string of tinsel Bucky had just thrown out of the window.
Christmas was only two days away now, and before Bucky travelled to his parents’ house and endured another year of inquisitive questions about his love life, he had to at least give this a shot. Ask Steve in for a drink properly, when they were both on holiday and somewhat free from the stresses of work.
He’d been trying to hang the tinsel above the window – that was his excuse, if Steve asked. Some people decorated late, okay? It was perfectly ordinary.
Hoping to have the next few minutes to play with his hair in front of the mirror, Bucky was rather startled when a knock sounded almost immediately. Hastily running his hand through his short fringe, he kicked aside a jumper that had been abandoned on the hallway floor, and opened the door to reveal Steve, Bucky’s tinsel wrapped around his neck like a scarf.
“Happy Christmas Eve Eve” he said, smiling. Bucky laughed, leaning on the door as he took in Steve’s appearance. He had on a red and white apron, striped like a candy cane, and there was, adorably, a sprinkle of flour on his nose.
“I hear it’s the fashion these days” said Steve, unwrapping it and handing the tinsel to Bucky, who was half-hoping he’d use it as a lasso to pull him in.
“Thank you – sorry, I’m not sure how it keeps happening” he said, hoping his excuse would slide. Steve nodded, though there was a small, knowing smile on his face.
“You been baking?” said Bucky hastily. Steve nodded.
“Mince pies, gingerbread, Christmas cake” he listed, ticking them off on his fingers. “Mum does the savoury stuff; I handle the desserts”.
“Woah” said Bucky, impressed. “I turn up with a shop-bought yule log and some crackers”. Steve laughed.
“It’s not for everyone, I know” he said. “You been up much, today?”.
“Just last-minute Christmas prep” said Bucky, trying to muster up the courage. C’mon Barnes. “You er-, you wanna come in for a drink?” he asked in a rush, winding the tinsel in his hands nervously. Steve’s face twisted apologetically.
“I’ve still got mince pies in the oven” he said. Bucky quickly waved away the offer, conflicted between how damn wholesome it was that Steve baked his own mince pies, and the disappointment that was settling in his gut. “But you’re welcome to come over and have one?”. Wait, what?
“Really?” he asked, too excited to school his eager expression.
“Of course” said Steve, a matching grin on his face. “I’ve got wine”.
“You’re speaking my language” Bucky said, and Steve laughed.
“And we could watch a film too, maybe? I’ve got a load of cheesy Christmas ones on my watch list, if you want”. Resisting the urge to clap his hands in excitement, Bucky nodded.
“I do want” he said. “I mean- yes, I’d like that” he said, and Steve beamed.
What was this, wondered Bucky, as he grabbed his keys to lock up. A date? A neighbourly drink? An evening between friends? He pondered the question on the way downstairs, though when Steve fitted his key into the lock, he had a mischievous look in his eye that made Bucky pause.
“Just so you know, you don’t have to chuck decorations out of the window to get my attention” he grinned. “My door knocker works just fine”. Shit.
“How did you know?” Bucky asked, feeling a bit like a fish out of water as he gaped at Steve.
“I could see your shadow in the light from the window” he said innocently. Bucky’s eyes widened, and he slowly pressed the heel of his palm into his forehead.
“Oh God”. This was…incredibly embarrassing.
“Hey, it’s okay” said Steve, taking Bucky’s hand away from his face and leading him inside. “I’m just joking, yeah? I don't mind being your delivery boy”. Bucky looked up, swallowing at the closeness between them, before rolling his eyes.
“Jerk” he retaliated, causing a bark of laughter from Steve as he closed the door.
A few glasses of wine and some excellent homemade mince pies later, and with a Christmas classic playing on the TV, Bucky settled fully into Steve’s side on the sofa, comfy and safe. He was buzzing with just the right amount of alcohol, still in control of himself but with an extra boost of Dutch courage.
Steve hummed, wrapping his arm a little tighter around Bucky, before pressing a kiss to his forehead. Bucky stilled, his vaguely wine-addled mind silently cheering while his still-sober brain cells tried to formulate an appropriate response. Was it weird to thank your downstairs-neighbour for forehead kisses?
“Sorry” said Steve, moving away a little, a furrow in his brow. “I didn’t mean to presume at all”.
“No, no” said Bucky quickly, grabbing his hand. “Presume away”. Steve grinned, visibly relaxing, and pulled Bucky close again. They attempted to continue the film for all of two minutes, before Steve nudged Bucky’s side.
“Look up”. Bucky did, dropping his head back onto Steve’s shoulder. He wasn’t sure what he was looking for at first, but it was then he spotted the mistletoe, hanging from the ceiling. A grin spread slowly across his face, and he turned back to face Steve, feeling a little giddy.
He was even more handsome up close, and Bucky could see little flecks of green in the blue of his kind eyes.
Bucky vaguely wondered what kind of schmoopy loved-up expression was on his face as Steve leant in, but decided it didn’t matter. It was Christmas, and if you couldn’t be cliché at this time of year, when could you be?
The kiss was slow, and sweet. Steve’s plump lips were soft, and Bucky let him set the pace as his thumb stroked across his cheek. It deepened, just a little, Bucky letting out a little happy sigh as his fingers curled in Steve’s hair. They pulled apart, barely, after a few moments, foreheads resting together as they smiled.
“Merry Christmas, Bucky”. Bucky grinned, gaze dropping back to Steve’s lips.
“Just so you know, you don’t have to put up mistletoe just to kiss me” he joked, in a poor imitation of Steve. He laughed, dropping his head onto Bucky’s shoulder.
“Is that a fact?”.
“Yep” said Bucky.
“Is it okay to take you to dinner in January, then?” Steve asked. Bucky sealed his acceptance with a kiss, sure in the knowledge that Christmas had brought him someone special after all. Christmas, and wayward decorations.