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Winter Comfort

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         [1:30pm] To: Steve
         Stevie. Black & red yarn. That craft store I like.

         [1:31pm] From: Steve
         On it.

         [1:31pm] From: Steve
         Wait. Yarn?

Bucky grins at his phone screen as he walks out of their bedroom, closing the door behind him.

Steve’s confusion is palpable even with the New York miles between them.

It’s understandable, really. As far as he knows, Bucky has no reason to need yarn. Knitting is a fairly new hobby of his, one that he hasn’t yet shared with Steve. One that he’s very purposely hidden until he could get the hang of it, felt comfortable enough to show Steve what he’s been up to when they’re apart.

Bucky has it now, that confidence in his new craft. Enough to be able to stop hiding, start sharing, and this seems like the easiest way to do it. Steve’s used to the odd requests by now but he never seems bored or annoyed with them or with the way Bucky jumps from one hobby to the next.

He types out a confirmation but momentarily forgets to send it when he gets to the living room. Outside, there’s a veritable winter wonderland being created by Mother Nature. The floor-to-ceiling windows that serve as the outermost wall of their apartment depict a low-hanging sky, soft and gray, and thick tufts of snow falling from it at a steady rate.

Tossing the bag with his knitting supplies in it onto the couch, he backtracks and heads to the kitchen, hitting send as he pulls out their saucepan.

         [1:31pm] To: Steve
         Yarn.

         [1:32pm] From: Steve
         ...okay.

The lack of question accompany this assent brings a warm, full feeling to his chest. He smiles widely at his phone as he sets the pan on the stove and pours milk into it. It feels a little foolish, being so affected by Steve’s easy acceptance.

Not like he has reason to be surprised, really.

A year ago, one of his therapists suggested “arts and crafts” as a recovery tool. At first, Bucky had balked at it. He balked at the idea that he needed to play around with glue and scissors like some kid to make himself feel better. He was a war vet and a rescued POW, not a snot-faced brat.

But Steve, when he’d heard these thoughts, well. He frowned. He frowned and his eyebrows furrowed and Bucky knew that expression, he knew it so well. His memory might have holes bigger than Stark’s ego but damn if Steve wasn’t so deeply ingrained in his life that Bucky could read him by instinct alone. No memories needed, though he still had a few that supported his theory.

The point is: Steve had frowned in that way that said he was upset, disappointed with the dismissal and Bucky broke. Agreed to give it a shot; would’ve agreed to anything, really, just to get that look off Steve’s face.

         [1:33pm] To: Steve
         Thanks, doll.

         [1:34pm] From: Steve
         Jesus, Buck, don’t call me that.

         [1:35pm] To: Steve
         You blushing? Say yes.

Thing is, peace of mind has been hard to come by since his programming had been destroyed. Hell, if he’s being truthful, peace of mind has been hard to come by since the Stark Expo of ‘43. Maybe even before then.

In the beginning, they told him that recovery was a slow process, that it would take time. They weren’t lying.

But the crafts? They help. More than he ever could’ve imagined, they help.

First time he made something - the very first time he created instead of destroyed - a sense of relief had washed over him. A painful sort of happiness that he could never, would never put words to. It had only been a bit of origami. Simplest thing he could find, the directions on how to make a paper swan.

He’d sat there holding that damn bird after it was finished for God only knows how long, looking at it like he thought it would disappear, fall to ash right there between his palms. Hadn’t even bothered to wipe away the tears until Steve found him and panicked.

Turns out he’d been wrong. Bucky can admit that, gladly. In fact, he did admit to it, multiple times and in front of both Steve and his therapist. That was one instance where he was glad to eat his own words. Glad to find he’d been wrong.

He’s been hooked ever since.

In his hand, his phone buzzes again, pulling him from his thoughts. Bucky adds cocoa to the milk as he reads the text and then he has to find a rag to clean up the mess he makes when he starts laughing.

         [1:40pm] From: Steve
         Fuck you, Barnes.

         [1:41pm] To: Steve
         Definitely a yes.

Steve’s cocoa is left on the stove to keep it warm but his own portion, Bucky pours into one of their coffee mugs.

He’s a simple guy, Bucky Barnes, doesn’t need anything fancy with his hot chocolate. None of that marshmallow bullshit Steve likes or the whipped cream Barton prefers or the sprinkles on top of  that  like Natalia favors. Just a cup and some cocoa, that’s all he needs.

The perfect snack to pair with a snowy winter day.

Mug in one hand and phone in the other, he makes his way back to the living room. Without any prompting, their non-wood fireplace - and ain’t that nifty? it’s the simple things about the future, really, that delight him the most - flares to life. It says a lot about how far he’s come, how much progress he’s made that it doesn’t scare him or put him on edge. He just smiles.

“Thanks, JARVIS,” he says to the empty room.

“My pleasure, sir,” replies the disembodied voice of Stark’s butler.

JARVIS, he’s a conundrum of a fella. Artificial intelligence, they call him. Talk about him like he’s somehow less because he was born as a computer program from Tony Stark’s brilliant mind instead of from the womb of a living, breathing human. Hard to consider him as such when Bucky’s never met a person more attuned to their needs.

He’s possibly the most considerate person among them but Bucky doesn’t mean that as a slight against his teammates.

Cradled carefully in his metal palm, Bucky’s phone vibrates again. And then twice more. It’s a strange awareness. He hears it more than he feels it, the buzz from metal connecting with metal, but the pressure sensors in his hand definitely know that something is afoot. They’re just not sure what.

         [1:49pm] From Steve
         I’ve never seen so much yarn in my life. How am I supposed to know what to get?

         [1:50pm] From: Steve
         Nevermind, Natasha made “an executive decision.”

         [1:50pm] From: Steve
         She looks smug about the yarn. Something I should know?

         [1:52pm] To: Steve
         Jealous?

         [1:52pm] To: Steve
         And tell Natalia to mind her own business.

He sets the phone down on their coffee table along with the mug.

They’ve got more furniture in this one room that they ever had in their entire apartment back in the day. It strikes him at odd times, how much they have now compared to back then. It leaves him standing in awe of the life those two knuckleheads from Brooklyn somehow stumbled across.

His favorite spot is one of their chairs; a humongous, soft monstrosity of a thing that even Steve can comfortably curl his entire body into when he has the mind. Not an easy feat nowadays, not by any means.

This is the chair that Bucky pushes across the room, situating it perfectly between the fireplace and the window. There, he sits comfortably, able to keep warm and still admire the snowfall.

There are so many things he still can’t remember about his life before the fall but he remembers this. His complicated relationship with winter, with the snow; how much he both loved and hated. Loved the beauty of it, when everything was covered in white and made pure again by its touch. But also hated its lingering presence, the way it accumulated again and again, how it made the wheeze in Steve’s tiny chest more pronounced, his cough harsher and deeper.

It was always his fate to fear the cold. The reasons have just changed over the years.

But for the first time in his life, Bucky is allowed to appreciate the snow without any of the fear, the doubt. He is warm and safe inside Stark Tower and Steve is no longer susceptible to illness, his heart and lungs strong and healthy forevermore.

Bucky picks up his phone again.

         [2:10pm] To: Steve
         You bundled up before you went out, right? Don’t lie, Rogers, I’ll ask Natalia.

         [2:11pm] From: Steve
         Not as bundled as you’d like, probably. And yes, I’m jealous. How can I compete, Buck? You know I can’t fill out a dress the way she can.

         [2:12pm] To: Steve
         I’ll gladly take that bet, sweetheart.

         [2:12pm] From: Steve
         What?

         [2:13pm] From: Steve
         Christ, Bucky. You’ve thought about it, haven’t you?

It's far too easy to imagine the stunned look on Steve’s face, the way he probably missed a step when he read the message. He’s blushing like crazy somewhere between the craft store and home and Natalia is probably teasing him mercilessly because of it.

It’s still a novelty, knowing these things. Knowing Steve so well, knowing anyone so well. Being able to remember his life the past few years, predicting movement and action based on memory rather than detached calculation. It’s -- well. There aren’t words, not really. But it’s certainly not getting old any time soon.

His thumb caresses the screen of his phone, a tender gesture given to the thought of Steve since his fella isn’t here to receive it properly.

Bucky misses him, suddenly and viscerally.

         [2:16pm] To: Steve
         What a man dreams of is between him and his right hand, Rogers. Where’s my yarn? I’m getting bored.

         [2:18pm] From: Steve
         Arriving soon, Your Highness.

         [2:19pm] To: Steve
         Finally, getting the respect I deserve. Where was this attitude back in ‘38?

         [2:20pm] From: Steve
         You’re such an ass.

Laughing quietly to himself, Bucky tucks his phone away and dedicates his focus to finishing the last of his cooling cocoa.

Not ten minutes later, the elevator chimes to signal its arrival on the floor. When the doors open, it’s Steve standing there, snow-covered and - just as he’d warned - not wearing nearly enough clothing for the weather, in Bucky’s completely unbiased opinion.

“Don’t know if you’re aware,” Steve says, perfectly serious, as he steps out of the elevator. “But it’s snowing outside.”

He stomps in place, ridding his boots of the excess snow as he shakes the last vestiges of it from his hair. Most of it has already melted and made him damp, stray strands flattened against his forehead. The area around him is now covered in melting snow and Bucky knows that he’ll be the one to clean that up. His fella is a messy one.

Bucky snorts. “No shit.”

“Be nice,” Steve complains, his face scrunching up in a way that probably looked a lot more pathetic when he was five foot nothing. “Or I’ll take this back where I found it.”

He holds up a bag that has the logo for Bucky’s preferred craft store blazoned on the side. The plastic bulges in such a way as to make it obvious what’s inside; skeins of yarn.

“You do that,” Bucky says, “and you’ll be answering to Natalia. C’mon, Rogers, hand it over.”

The bag is thrown his way and Bucky stands to catch it, hefting it under his arm as he retrieves his knitting supplies from the couch. He thinks about going back to his chair, his spot, but then thinks better of it and flops down where the bag was once perched. The couch is bigger and Steve will join him if there’s room.

“The hell do you need yarn for, anyways?” Steve asks, watching Bucky with curious eyes as he shrugs out of his too-thin jacket. He throws it over the back of the couch and Bucky knows he’ll end up picking that up, too. “Last I checked, it wasn’t on the list.”

The list. The one kept with his craft supplies as a reminder of what he’s running low on when they run errands.

“Need it for this,” Bucky says, pulling out his loom. It’s a jarringly bright green color, too bright for their decor and certainly too bright for Bucky. But he supposes that’s half its charm. “Natalia wants a scarf.”

It dawns on Steve, then. Bucky watches as each piece visibly falls into place; the requested colors - her idea of a joke, probably - and her smug attitude when the two of them made a detour on their way back from lunch to get it.

Steve doesn’t ask how or why Natalia knew when he didn’t. He doesn’t even look upset by it, simply happy in the knowledge that he has all the information now. That’s one of the things Bucky loves about him; one of the things he’s learned about this new version of Steve in this new, strange place.

As long as Bucky is happy, Steve is happy.

Just as predicted, he flops down next to Bucky on the couch, sliding in close to watch as he ties off some of the yarn on a loom peg.

“You learned how to knit?”

“Yeah, taught myself a few weeks ago,” Bucky replies as he begins to weave the yarn around the loom. “Couple-a YouTube videos gave me the idea. Been practicing since then, finally got good enough to start makin' stuff I don't wanna unravel.”

Steve grins, that impish smile that says he’s about to be a little shit.

“Oh, yeah?” He says. “And your favorite person, she gets first dibs, is what you’re saying?”

“Damn straight,” Bucky tells him without looking up. “And don’t you forget it, Rogers. The favorite always gets first dibs.”

“I see how it is.”

Steve laughs and it’s a beautiful sound, one that seems to vibrate in Bucky’s chest, leaving him with a rapid pulse and the inability to breathe. He pushes close to kiss Bucky’s cheek before heaving himself off the couch again.

“I’ll leave you to it, then,” he says. “Gonna go change and see if I can’t get feeling back in my fingers and toes.”

“Wear gloves next time, dumbass!”

Bucky watches him as he goes and as soon as Steve is in the hall, he sets aside his loom and darts to the kitchen. It only takes a moment to turn off the stove and pour Steve’s cocoa into a cup, adding a handful of miniature marshmallows just the way he likes. When he carries it down the hall, he finds Steve standing in the doorway to their bedroom, frozen.

On the bed, just as he left it, is Steve’s scarf and hat; a simple enough design made up of blue and silver, the same shade as his stealth suit. The bright colors belong to Cap but Steve? His fella prefers the darker tones.

“Told ya, didn't I?" Bucky says.

He hands over the mug of cocoa so that he can wind his arms around Steve’s waist, press a kiss to his neck.

“The favorite always gets first dibs.”