Kids’ TV is so bad. Bucky can remember cartoons from when he was a kid, and he’s really positive it used to be better until he decides to give his little angel an education and looks some of them up on YouTube and holy christ they’re even worse. (There’s a moment of black humor where he considers the possibility that the shit TV and mind-numbing books are the whole sum of the reason Becca’s mom left, but he would never in a million years say such a thing out loud.)
Out loud, Bucky resigns himself to pretending to be enthusiastic about the creepy-ass puppets and the even weirder cartoons and to sitting at the computer with Becca in his lap afterward to look up information about whatever Actual Real Life Thing had been featured. (Actually, that part’s not so bad. If only Bucky didn’t have to, you know, watch the shows to find out what the topic of the day was.)
Becca’s about six when she stumbles into the science show Stark Naked Science, on a recommendation from a friend at school. The name of the show is, of course, part of its appeal, in a playground-giggly sort of way that Bucky’s long since learned to just roll his eyes at, but just in case, he keeps his thumb on the remote for the entire first episode they watch together.
And it’s… not bad. In fact, it’s actually really good.
The set design is obviously built to appeal to kids with its bright red and gold color scheme and funky angles, but it’s not eye-searing or babyish. The science is all introduced via real-world situations that are relatable for kids Becca’s age and seems to address kids of all genders and races and cultures, which is a nice change of pace. The experiments look dangerous and fun and cool, and the show seems to touch on a pretty wide variety of fields to keep little interests riveted, and drops in some slightly dated pop culture references to keep parents amused. Best of all, it doesn’t talk down to the kids at all – in fact, at one point the host, Tony, pauses in the middle of a ramble that Bucky was having trouble following, looks right at the camera, and says, “Whoops, did I get a little overcomplicated there? Don’t worry, everything’s explained in more detail on the show’s website!”
Becca’s an immediate fan. What’s more, so is Bucky.
It doesn’t hurt in the slightest that Tony is smoking hot. Bucky keeps that observation to himself. He can remember his oldest sister’s crush on one of the Wiggles, when her eldest had been little, and does not need to give her any excuse to throw his mockery back into his face. But if he re-watches a few of his favorite episodes after Becca’s long since tucked into bed for the night, well, that’s no one’s business but his own, right?
Stark Naked Science becomes a fixture in the Barnes house, and it’s not until six months later when Bucky catches himself talking to Tony’s slightly manic grin on Becca’s lunchbox as he spreads peanut butter on her sandwich that he even thinks to question how far down the rabbit hole they’ve gone. Hey, Bucky is a single dad; he’ll take his social interaction where he can get it.
So when Natasha swings into his cubicle at work and says, “Hey, Barnes, those tickets you were trying to get for that kids' show, what was it? Stark Naked Science?” she immediately has Bucky’s full attention. Because of course he and Becca had been hoping to go to the live show when they’d found out it was coming to their town, and of course it had sold out pretty much instantly. Becca had moped around the house for three days after Bucky had broken the news, and he hadn’t been able to cheer her up much, because quite frankly he’d been feeling nearly as cranky himself.
But Natasha… Natasha has a way of getting her hands on things. No one’s quite sure how, and no one quite dares ask. She’s been known to ask for some crazy favors in return for her talents, but at this point, Bucky would be willing to sell his left arm for those tickets. “Natasha, don’t tease,” he begs.
She smiles, slow and predatory, and holds up an envelope between two perfectly-manicured fingers.
Bucky’s pretty sure she could kill him with just those two fingers. “What’ll it cost me?” he sighs, already knowing that whatever it is, he’s going to pay it.
Natasha regards him for a long moment, measuring, and Bucky tries really hard not to let her see that he’s starting to break out into a sweat, when finally she says, “Set me up for drinks and dinner with your buddy Steve over in Graphics.”
Bucky nearly chokes, because Steve has done nothing for weeks but wax poetic about Natasha when they go out together after work for drinks. He’s so relentless about it that Bucky’s been practically contemplating throwing himself off the train to get away. There would literally be nothing easier than to set Steve and Natasha up on a date. Nothing. Bucky would even pay for it himself, if only to shut Steve up, never mind the tickets.
Wait, back up, do mind the tickets, because Bucky needs them.
“Yeah. Yes. Done,” Bucky blurts, and holds out his hand, not even caring if Natasha knows how desperate he is.
Natasha hands him the envelope with a quirky smile that says she already knew. “There’s a little something extra in there, too,” she tells him. “Call it an early birthday present.” She’s gone before Bucky can ask what she means.
He opens the envelope with shaking hands. Holy fuck, front-and-center tickets? Natasha is the best. And behind them… Oh my god, Becca is going to scream so loud they’ll hear her in Russia: they have passes to the post-show backstage party.
Bucky doesn’t get a damn thing done for the rest of the day, because he’s alternating between imagining Becca’s reaction to the news and trying to decide what to wear that might – just might – catch Tony Stark’s eye.