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march tenth

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It's been a pretty good day.

Natasha showed up with pastries, three books and a set of sheets that Steve did notice were technically still in the packages - but in packages whose labels and inserts were completely lacking, implying that Natasha really doesn't trust him not to look them up and goggle at her about what they are and (probably) how much they cost.

"Just try them," she said, in her sweet and patient voice, which actually has a surprising amount in common with the same kind of voice when put on by the women he grew up around, although he hasn't told her that yet.

He's been saving it for a special occasion, and Natasha showing up mostly-unannounced (that is, unannounced until about five to ten minutes before she arrives) is by now more of a regular occurrence.

The first time she did it, he'd worried: Sam coming by the condo has more or less always been fine, but otherwise, Steve doesn't ask people here, for what should be obvious reasons. But Bucky'd taken her showing up with a kind of irritated tolerance Steve hadn't seen before but is starting to find kind of endearing, and by now he figures that Natasha not asking first is, in fact, the point.

That way, Steve still isn't asking anyone over, and isn't making home the kind of place people can invade. It's just . . . Natasha, being Natasha, calmly and outrageously ignoring the bits of propriety (anyone's version of propriety) she doesn't currently care for.

(He always thinks of they're vintage; he's very proud when he thinks about this, only now he can see the affection in reflexively needling someone who wasn't even actually there to hear it. Someday he might ask her about Phil Coulson. But not now.)

But basically, Natasha is Natasha, and special rules apply. Bucky seems okay with that, and tentatively asking had gotten Steve a patient look that could have walked right out of 1939; Bucky'd changed the subject while Steve was off-balance.

Today, she deposited bedding and breakfast, ate some of the latter and breezed back out the door calling, "Happy birthday, James," back behind her and not audibly responding the irritable Russian retort that no one would ever find her body.

Steve hopes that Natasha realizes that eventually Bucky's going to get tired of the equivalent of throwing stuff at her head and start actually hitting back when she pushes like that. He knows that if he tells her that, he'll just get a Patient Look, but he's actually considered texting Clint. He's just not sure how much of an idiot he's willing to look for the cause. So to speak.

He hasn't said anything about the date, and he's not going to. Bucky only has a very slight sense of prickly defensiveness - there before Natasha's swipe and subsiding down to the previous level shortly after - and hasn't mentioned it or gone out of his way to avoid Steve or anyone else.

And now it's ten, and the sun's down, and food went okay, and they'd sort of half-argued, half just expounded on just how much of a mess the The Wizard of Oz movie was, almost eighty years on and now that colour's an old, old trick. (Bucky's not quite as hard on it as Steve is, but he's never been as hard on the technique behind filming).

Bucky's actually asleep already, which might be a minor miracle or might be from the effort of being fine about the part where it's his birthday and the last thing he wants to deal with is any of the human baggage that goes along with it, from thinking about the passage of time through to the question of whether anyone else notices, or cares, and skating over a Hell of a lot of tangled ground in between.

People are tangled, and tangled up in these things. And Steve figures that Bucky not being able to deal with a lot of that yet is only worse when you know how much he wants it back.

And he'd know it best.

He's asleep with his head just by Steve's shoulder and his left arm tucked under his pillow, his right arm across Steve's waist, and there are two hours of the day left. And that's fine.

There are a lot of March 10ths left in the world.

Steve rests his hand on Bucky's forearm and closes his eyes, so he can sleep.