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"How long have the two of you been dating?" Nat questioned, fingering the quality of the scarf in front of her.  She picked up the price tag and her eyebrows turned down, visibly unimpressed by the cost of the product for what she judged the design and quality to be. She dropped the scarf, leaving it to swing back into place, and moved on to the next one, repeating the process.  There was an upbeat pop holiday song piping through the speaker system, subliminally convincing people to purchase more presents, Bucky could only assume.  It didn't take much to convince him to spend money on things.  Nat, on the other hand, knew exactly what she wanted and what her budget was for it before buying anything.  

It was probably the responsible way to shop for gifts, but people rarely accused Bucky of being responsible.

"Two months," Bucky answered, leaving off the amount of weeks/days/hours over two months he'd been in a relationship while he stared at the scarves and wondered if one would be an appropriate present for Steve.  A scarf couldn't be the only present, could it?  Even one that cost $100 and was made of cashmere.  Steve was worth more than that.

Or was that something he shouldn't equate? Bucky had trouble with what conventional things to think and say were, sometimes.  Was it ok to put a monetary value on your significant other and use it to gauge the cost of presents?  Especially since the monetary value was 'priceless'?  He'd have to ask Steve.

"There's your answer," Natasha answered as though that was an accurate measurement for Bucky.  

Bucky stared at her with a questioning expression.

"Get him something that reflects two months together," she elucidated.  "Something small."  She'd shown up to their morning of shopping wearing a light fitted jacket, despite the fact it was snowing out and had reached temperatures a few degrees below freezing. Bucky was wearing a thick wool peacoat and a scarf.  He was dying of sweat and the thousands of people walking through the department store were not helping matters.  He felt more sour than usual at the idea that he might have sweat stains the moment he took his coat off.  He'd probably have to sit through their lunch wearing it if he wanted to maintain his sense of effortless fashion and chill.  Bucky felt like standing in the winter accessories section was Natasha's way of lowkey mocking him.

Bucky held up the scarf quizzically.

"No," Natasha responded, dragging it out of his grasp and putting it back on the display wall.  "$100 for a scarf is inappropriate."

"I can afford it," Bucky sulked.

"Can Steve?" she questioned in a casual tone, heading into the jewelry section.  "His job doesn't pay as well as yours does.  How is he going to feel if you buy him something expensive and he gets you a $20 gift card?  How are you going to feel?"

"Relationships are stressful," Bucky observed, doing his best not to kick his foot against the bottom of the ring display case. If he did that, the thing truly on display would be his own childishness.

"Yes," Natasha answered directly.  "Welcome to the world of trying."  

"I don't like it," Bucky pouted, and then mentally reeled back, feeling almost a panic for even coming close to implying what that implied.  "I just mean... I don't like not knowing what I'm doing.  I didn't mean Steve.  I love Steve."

Natasha pursed her lips and observed him.  "As you told him three weeks into dating."

"Don't make fun of me," Bucky responded, eyeing the expensive watches.  If a scarf cost too much, a watch would be ridiculous.  Bucky was capable of learning.  Sure, he'd told Steve he loved him ridiculously early, but he'd felt like it had been important at the time, like one of the defining moments of his life.  Bucky Barnes.  In love.  Who would have thought it was even possible?  No matter how many of his friends raised their eyebrows and tried to explain the difference between love and infatuation, and how he must have confused the two (easily enough to do, Buck, when you've never been infatuated before), Bucky still felt like being honest about his feelings was the right thing to do. 

"The jokes write themselves," Natasha said, showing Bucky a wallet insert for photographs that she plucked from a revolving accessories rack. "This seems your speed.  Print all those selfies I know you took of your dates."

"I don't think the jokes are funny," Bucky responded, but snagged her suggestion from her hand, because it was a terrible idea but would make for a hilarious and cute stocking stuffer.  It would make Steve smile, and that was worth doing something as cheesy as what she was proposing.

"Huh," Natasha observed.  "You must be in love with him if you consider that a good present."

What he was capable of learning was how to think of Steve and consider how it would feel to him.  He'd learned to censor himself as part of what it was to feel more and more into someone the more time passed. There were better moments in time than others to blurt out life-changing epiphanies than the first instance the realization struck him.  

Such as NOT blurting out 'I love you' as Steve was visibly bristling at the conversation the people sitting across from them on the subway were having on politics.

It had at least distracted him from punching a skin-head, though Bucky wasn't sure there was pride in that.

Mostly what he'd learned was that he loved his boyfriend and that moment of freaking out in the bathroom, wondering to Steve if a relationship could ever be worth it, where Steve had responded that it wasn't easy but it was worth it, had mattered more than either of them had known at the time.  Bucky hadn't known yet that he would learn to understand that advice for Steve, but on reflection, it was only right that Steve turned out to be the one.  It seemed obvious to Bucky that Steve had inspired him into wanting a relationship, into wanting that person Steve described as his ideal – someone with a similar moral backbone, who considered it important to tip the waitstaff, literally or metaphorically –  and that it had turned out to be Steve himself.  

Bucky had been oblivious at the time to what seemed so obvious in retrospect.

x.x.x.x. 

Steve was singing a Christmas carol loudly as he pulled an artificial tree out of the box. He hadn't noticed Bucky yet, and Bucky was able to enjoy one of the rare moments of observing his boyfriend while awake without Steve observing him back. It was rare because Steve seemed to be able to tell he was being watched and the moment he realized it was Bucky, he always smiled and observed him in return. Now he was singing too vociferously to hear anything over his attempts at a tenor.  

He was beautiful. Steve couldn't sing for crap, was struggling to get the tree to stand in the ancient base with a stubborn sense of willpower against the odds, and it looked like he had lost a war with a bag of flour at some point in the last hour. Looking at him made affection well beneath Bucky's breastbone, warm and consuming.  He couldn’t help but smile, his fingers twitching with the need to reach out and touch.  He wanted to, absolutely needed the feel of Steve’s skin beneath his hands, his warmth seeping into Bucky’s chilled skin.

But Bucky also wanted an extra moment or two to see Steve as he was without Bucky.

He was a pretty hopeless case, truth be told.  Bucky liked that, more than anything.  When Steve thought he was alone, he was kind of a trainwreck.  There was the underlying realization that Steve was still trying to impress him, even in the little things, but it struck Bucky as being adorable.  Two months, two weeks, and four days in and Steve still would have felt the need to change his shirt if he knew Bucky was coming over.  Even after all the embarrassing things Bucky had done in front of him.

It was something.  Something good, his brain told him.

Steve took a step back to observe the tree, grabbing a string of lights out of the box. He segued into a different song as he worked and Bucky wasn't able to keep his mouth shut any longer. "It's gonna fall over, you know," he said, smiling through the way Steve jumped at the sound of his voice and spun on his heel, lights clutched in his hand like they could shield him from the intruder.  “It can’t even stay upright now, and I just watched you tighten the bolts as far as they go.”

"It's been like that for years," Steve answered, regrouping pretty quickly in response to Bucky’s sudden appearance. "No mishaps yet. I just have to make sure to strategically lean it against the wall.  Come here," he requested with a wide smile, holding his hand out for Bucky to take. "I'm glad you're here, I wanted to share this with you."

Bucky bit his tongue and didn't comment on the teetering house of cards that Steve was drawing him closer to. He felt bad for taking so long running his errands and not answering Steve to say he was on his way.

"Every year," Steve continued to say, handing Bucky one side of the lights, "mom and I would put this tree up the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We'd wake up and make cookies, and then while they were cooling we'd trim the tree. When I was younger my allergies were more severe, so she bought this artificial tree even though she loved the scent of pine.  It’s almost as old as I am."

Bucky could definitely believe it, but he didn't say a word, just helped Steve wrap the lights around the circumference of the tree, smiling whenever Steve looked at him. "Traditions are important." Bucky said, and genuinely meant it, but it sounded flat to his ears.  Bucky had eschewed most of his family’s traditions, instead focusing on creating ones that adapted to his lifestyle.  It made him feel a little ashamed that his first thought had been that Steve should replace his tree and get something new.

Steve took the time to explain the significance behind some of the ornaments, from the homemade popsicle stick reindeer to the set of vintage balls, a fond, nostalgic expression on his face.  He finished with a porcelain angel tree topper that he told Bucky was his mother's favourite item.  

It was obvious that Steve’s mother had been a religious woman, because only someone devout would look at that thing and not be terrified.

"Since she died, I've been doing it by myself," Steve told him, reaching out and grabbing Bucky's hand again. Bucky didn't just let him, he actively reached back for Steve, offering him what comfort he could with his presence.  Bucky knew more than anyone how sometimes not talking about something for a prolonged period of time made the words all that more difficult to say out loud. "I'm glad you're here.  This is the first time in a long time that doing this alone didn't feel necessary."

Sometimes Bucky found himself surprised all over again by the depths of his feelings for his boyfriend. 6 months ago, if someone had described this scene to him, he would have noped out of the conversation so hard, he'd be picking floor splinters out of his feet for days.  3 months ago, Steve had hinted at it being a possibility on one of their phone calls, but he hadn't considered it one for him except as a long term goal.  Now, he didn't want to be anywhere else.

"Thank you for including me," he said instead, humbled by Steve's capacity to open himself up to another person. "I still think the tree is going to fall over."

"Shh," Steve answered as though Bucky's suspicions in the 25-year-old tree were due to lack of holiday spirit and understanding of the miracle of the Rogers Family Holiday rather than an understanding of the fundamentals of physics. "You'll see."

With a great amount of fanfare, making Bucky give him a drum roll and everything, Steve plugged in the twinkle lights. He stood back and observed the tree with his hands on his hips and a satisfied expression on his face, looking at it like it was the most beautifully decorated tree he'd ever seen.  

All Bucky could see was a lopsided artificial tree, obviously made with plastic needles that had been shedding for the last two decades years so it was bald in places and with a scent like a storage facility, but then Bucky was far too attached to material things, so he didn't voice any of that to Steve.  He didn't mention he thought the angel was frightening or that Steve's handmade ornaments were tacky because Steve was so obviously proud of his oversized Charlie Brown tree and Bucky was not a complete asshole.  Not only did he understand nostalgia but he also understood having blinders on about something that was personally priceless.  "It looks lovely," Bucky said, lying through his teeth.  

Steve beamed at him.  "Thanks for lying to me.  I know it's a little mangy, but it's important."

"I know," Bucky responded, leaning forward and brushing his mouth quickly over Steve's cheek.  "Do you need any help with those cookies?"

“I could use some help eating them,” Steve responded.

x.x.x.x.

"I don't know what to get Steve for Christmas," Bucky said, turning to Sam on the couch while keeping an ear out for Steve emerging from the kitchen.  If his own friends weren’t helpful, he’d just have to ask Steve’s. "I have ideas, but my friend Nat told me it has to reflect how long we've been together, so I guess technically I don't have any ideas that aren't... overboard."

"Are you asking me what you should buy Steve?" Sam questioned, and his mouth looked like he was trying to take Bucky seriously but couldn't.

"I guess what I'm asking," Bucky responded slowly, trying to put it into words as he rotated the warm cup of hot chocolate in his hands.  Steve’s ugly Christmas tree was casting the reflection of alternating colored lights on the window, and he’d like to claim that it was distracting him, but really he just didn’t want to say what he was about to. "Is what appropriate gifts are for this stage of our relationship?"

Sam barked out a laugh.  "I don't know.  I'm not sure I understand what stage you are in your relationship.  How long you've been together might be a good measuring stick if you didn't condense the first three months into the first week.  By this point, Steve is probably expecting you to go overboard."

That was the opposite of helpful.  "That's not advice," Bucky scowled.  "You're copping out of answering my question."

"The only person who can answer your question is you," Sam informed him, pretending to be all sage and shit, but Bucky saw right through him.  Sam just didn't want to get involved, despite the fact that he'd been full of observations and insights two months before, just after they met.  Bucky was almost sure Sam had warned Steve not to date him, and the kicker was that Bucky couldn't even disagree with that assessment of his character.  Not living up to it was a good motivator.  Bucky liked proving people wrong about him (when they were), but if Steve wasn't the person he was, Bucky probably would have proved Sam right long ago.  Bucky didn't change for Steve, he just learned how to accommodate another person into his life.  That was challenging enough.

"Buck," Steve said, sticking his head out of the kitchen.  "I can't find the mini-marshmallows."

"Did you eat them all?" Bucky questioned, looking towards Steve.  Somehow the asshole had managed to get powdered cocoa on his shirt, because Steve was secretly a mess at life sometimes, and Bucky found himself grinning at the sight.

"Maybe," Steve answered sheepishly, ducking his head.

"I don't need marshmallows," Sam answered, reassuring Steve that it didn't matter.

And it probably didn't.  To Sam.  Steve thought that anyone who didn't use mini marshmallows in their hot chocolate was a heathen or something.  It said a lot to Bucky that Steve had chosen to give Bucky his drink first when he'd emptied the bag.  He gave it to Bucky ahead of his guest and himself.

Steve might be a mini-marshmallow loving asshole, but Bucky loved the fuck out of him.

Bucky sighed in exasperation, but it was fond and pleased.  "Good thing I hid a package in the crockpot," he said, rolling his eyes towards Sam as Steve flashed him a grateful smile and went back to making hot chocolate.  "I swear he doesn't even realize he's doing it.  We opened a package on Thanksgiving and the next day I went looking for it and it was empty.  What up with that?  I've had to start buying three at a time: one for Steve, one to hide from Steve, and one for whatever we're using them for after I tried making rice crispy treats for my niece and had to run back to the store at 10 pm in my pajamas to finish them."

"I heard that!" Steve said, carrying out two mugs for himself and Sam.  "You didn't have to go in your pajamas.  That was your choice."

"I've made condom runs with less desperation," Bucky answered, taking a sip.  "I'd rather disappoint someone in bed than show up empty-handed to a jamboree potluck."

x.x.x.x.

Bucky didn’t have a sudden epiphany of something to get Steve for Christmas.  Instead he had mounting anxiety and a possible ulcer.

Bucky stared at his computer, all the contents of the website he was on merging together.  Would Steve appreciate a gaming console?  Would he like a framed print?  Nothing good was worth less than $100 and even the things that were more expensive had stopped appealing to him to the point where he knew he was overthinking it, but he also couldn't clear his mind and focus on doing what needed to be done.

Fuck this, Bucky realized.  He hadn't been this panicked over Steve since the first time he had Steve over to his apartment for the night, worried Steve would think they were incompatible because Bucky's apartment was all modern lines, leather and chrome, and Steve had an old Brooklyn walk-up with exposed brick and temperamental pipes.  

He had his phone to his ear before he really understood what he was doing.  

"Buck?" Steve questioned, and hearing his voice was an instantaneous relief.

"I need guidelines on this gift thing," Bucky said, zero preamble.  "Give me restrictions.  Tell me what's normal or you're going to receive something that someone would only give their partner of three years.  You know me," he said with a self-effacing laugh. "If you don't stop me, I might get you a ring."

"I love you," Steve said easily after a pause, and it still felt like a small electric jolt to the system to hear him say it.  Steve had waited until he was sure, and it had been excruciating for Bucky, even though he understood that it was a torture of his own creation.  Two months wasn't a long time to develop those kind of intense feelings. Bucky's three weeks was ridiculous.  "In part because you're so open about how you're feeling.  You're genuine, and if you want to get me a ring, we'll talk about it when it happens."

"Do you want one?" Bucky questioned curiously, because he hadn't been seriously thinking about it, but he felt like he could if he wasn't trying so hard not to cause Steve extra stress for being in a relationship with someone who treated relationships like an enthusiastic fifteen year old.  Relationship-wise, Bucky had zero chill.

"Someday," Steve told him.  

"But not today.  I'm not ready to marry you," Bucky reassured him.  "I have a lot of catch-up to do."  It was easier to say it over the phone instead of to Steve's face.  "I know teaching me how to be in an adult relationship is inconvenient and not something that you signed up for.   I'm trying to not keep making you uncomfortable."

"That's not what I want.  You're not an inconvenience, never think that.  I know you've been trying, but I don't want you to feel like you have to hide yourself from me.  Who gives a shit about societal expectations?  Up to this point I thought Bucky Barnes had better things to worry about.  Are you going to prove me wrong?"

"I might, you asshole, because I'm not that good of a person.  I cave to societal expectations all the time.  That's a bar I'll never be able to meet."  Bucky tapped his pen against his desk, but he was smiling.

"Ok," Steve admitted.   “Feel better?”

“Yeah, love you.”  He listened to Steve return the sentiment before hanging up.  He might not have an answer but he felt more relaxed about it.

x.x.x.

"We should sleep at your apartment tonight," Steve said as Bucky picked at his sad low-calorie wrap.  He hated when places advertised 'low-calorie' and all they did was take out all the fattening things without replacing them with anything.  He was basically eating a piece of lettuce in a flat bread.

"Sure," Bucky answered, pouting down at his lunch and pushing it away from him.  It wasn't worth finishing.  "I want real food for supper.  Do you have to stop at home for anything, or should I pick you up from work?  We can swing by that fusion place by the laundromat if we're going your way."

"You're the only person I know in the city who even bothers owning a car," Steve answered, and Bucky knew that his words were still tinged with the surprise and bafflement Steve had first treated the revelation.  “I might need your help.”

For as long as Bucky had known Steve, he had never heard those words out of his mouth before.  “Would you rather I leave now?”

“It’s not that important,” Steve answered in a dismissive tone.

x.x.x.x.

Bucky should have figured out that Steve was lying.  He stared at the broken window and resisted the urge to sigh.  Most times, he considered Steve the responsible adult in their relationship, and then things like this happened where Steve had zero idea how to function beyond the level of ignoring the problem and hoping it went away.  Bucky wasn't sure how that was supposed to work. "Did you call your landlord?" He asked.

Steve's expression was even more sullen than his tone of voice. "Of course I did," he said in his best indignant voice. "It won't be fixed until next week."

So Steve had just put a sheet over the window.  At least he'd swept up the glass. Bucky was suddenly reminded of their first conversation where Steve complained about his toilet being backed up. A portend of things to come. Steve could be the most decisive person Bucky knew until it came to living space maintenance. He'd probably walk in one day to see Steve microwaving aluminum foil.   "OK," Bucky said, "an overnight bag isn't going to cut it. I'll go pick up plastic to cover the frame so your neighbors don't hate you for letting all the warm air escape and when I get back we can shove your tree into the back of my car and relocate to my place."

Steve looked relieved.  Whether it was because Bucky was taking over or because he was offering to bring the mangy tree, he didn’t know.

x.x.x.x.

Natasha laughed when she saw it, looking even more out of place with Bucky’s leather and chrome furniture than it did at Steve’s place.  “Wow,” she said to him.  “I hadn’t been sure if you were serious before this point, but that?” she pointed.  “That is a sign of love.”

“Shut up,” Bucky griped.  He wouldn’t have offered to hide her gifts away from prying eyes if he’d known she was going to come into his house and mock him.

“I’m serious.  It takes either a secure man or a besotted one to have that thing lit in front of the windows, and you are not a secure man.”

But, with the way Steve curled against him on the couch, a peaceful expression on his face as he looked at the tree lit up, Bucky seriously did not give a shit what Natasha thought.

There was something infinitely different about having Steve over on a semi-permanent basis, in knowing that he would wake up in the morning and Steve would be there, which had been a constant promise between them since that first moment after Steve had brought him home from the bar.  The difference rested in the idea that there wasn’t the option for Bucky to return from work and have to figure out if he was going to be home alone for the evening, over at Steve’s, or attempting to talk Steve into spending the night. 

It was simple.  Steve was going to be spending the night at Bucky’s because there were no other options, and Bucky found himself really, really liking it. 

“I want to give you my present now,” Steve told him in a sleepy voice on Christmas Eve.  They were always going to spend it together because Steve had no one else and Bucky’s family wasn’t really into celebrations.  He got up, his pajama bottoms hanging low on his hips as he rummaged through his drawer in the dresser.  Bucky appreciated the view when Steve walked away, and he appreciated it as Steve came forward, paying less attention to the wrapped item in his hands and more on the gift in his pants.

So he was distracted by Steve’s warmth settling in beside him when he pulled off the wrapping paper to find a small box.

"What?" Bucky questioned, staring down at the matching rings in shock.  "What?  Steve?"

"I know you said you're not ready," Steve said softly, his hands clasped gently around Bucky's to hold them still.  "I'm not asking you to say yes immediately.  I want you to stop feeling guilty about how quickly you decided I was the one and if this evens the playing field, then... think about it.  Take a year if you have to.  Take two.  Never give me an answer," Steve shrugged with one shoulder, a self-effacing smirk on his face.  "But know that I'm sure.  I want you to always be in my life, so Bucky Barnes - will you marry me?"

"Jesus Christ, Steve," Bucky answered, not wanting to pull his hands away even to wipe the suspiciously not-inconspicuous tears on his face.  Comparatively, the drawing tablet he’d gotten Steve was nothing, but Bucky knew this wasn’t a competition.  "You're an asshole, you know that?"

"I know," Steve answered, stupidly smug about this whole conversation.  "And the fact that you can recognise that right now tells me I made the right choice about you."

"Not yet," Bucky answered honestly, laughing in a shocked sort of delight as he closed the ring box.  "But someday, sure.  I'm all in," he shook his head with wonder, still laughing.  "I don't know how you did it, but that was exactly what I needed."

"I understand you now."  It was a simple response, but it was also everything.

x.x.x.x.

Bucky, in his hindbrain, stopped thinking that he and Steve were together and started to think of them as together.  Where his brain used to trip over the idea of having a significant other, it was now becoming familiar with the concept of being not-quite-engaged-yet to Steve.  He needed that settling point after all the adapting he’d done since October.  Steve, in saying he understood Bucky, had really given him something he needed and hadn’t realized he needed.

The reminders of Valentine’s Day in the restaurant Bucky had chosen were subtle, in that classy way that places that didn’t have to try had.  There were red accents on the tables, boughs of twinkle lights in the shape of cherry blossom branches providing most of the lighting.  Their table didn’t even have a centerpiece of roses, and it was exactly the type of romantic environment Bucky wanted to treat Steve to.  It was costly, but not the most expensive place in the area, so it was clear that he was treating Steve but not outside of affordability.

Bucky had made sure the restaurant had stellar reviews based on their food.  Steve’s weakness for culinary cleverness was the only reason Bucky ever got away with treating him with nice things.

But Steve’s shoulders weren’t relaxed as he sat across from Bucky.  He looked at the menu with a stress line appearing between his eyebrows.

“Hey,” Bucky said, reaching across the table and covering Steve’s hand with his.  “I wanted to treat you right.  Valentine’s Day is a big deal for relationships, isn’t it?  I’m supposed to show you I care with personal gestures and chocolate.”

Steve’s eyes softened as he looked over the table at Bucky.  “You already have me, you don’t have to impress me with things, you know?” It was quietly said, Steve ducking his head at the end and looking down at his menu, and for a moment Bucky didn’t know what to say, upset coiling in his stomach at the idea that he’d fucked up again, even though Steve hadn’t meant it like that.

Then he really considered what Steve said.  “Hey, no,” Bucky said in a sharper tone than he meant to.  The couple at the table next to them looked over.  “That’s bullshit Steve.  I love you, but that’s bullshit.  I’ll never stop wanting to show you that, whether it’s by impressing you or through the little things.  I don’t… I don’t think that just because I have you that means that I have to stop trying, you know?”

Maybe Steve was just as dumb about relationships as Bucky was, because his expression went pleased and soft, like he didn’t think he deserved to be treated to supper.

“I don’t want it to be something I only do on special occasions,” Bucky continued, reflexively thinking back to the last month and a half since Steve’s proposal.  Had he done enough for Steve?  Had he been there?  Bucky was trying, but the concept of worry about failing niggled a bit too closely to the surface.  He didn’t want to lose Steve over little things.

“That isn’t how I meant it,” Steve answered, “but I’m glad to hear it.  Having large sums of money spent on me isn’t necessary.  I’m a simple guy.”

“I could have cooked for you.  Put on a candle.  Some music.  Maybe get you to dance a little.”

“Like we did last Friday,” Steve answered.

“Yeah.  But since we did it last Friday, I wanted to do something different.  Something nice for you.  Just for you,” Bucky finished with.  “Are you going to let me treat you?”

“Obviously I can’t stop it,” Steve answered.  “But let’s get dessert to go and eat it at your place.  We’re wasting enough time eating in public with our clothes still on.”

Bucky laughed, shocked and delighted.  “Well… I’m sure most of the people in here would appreciate the show if you decided to take your clothes off.  Maybe more than half.”

“I was thinking the same about you.”

x.x.x.x.

Steve leaned against the kitchen island, eating his dessert with a careful sort of delicacy.  Bucky had seen Steve decimate a piece of cake before, hell, he himself had a strange relationship with pies and plates, but there was something about the romantic atmosphere that lent itself to eating small bites at a time, savouring the taste of the chocolate on their tongues.

This.

This was Steve relaxed and happy, in love with Bucky and in love with being in love.  “You know what I want?” Bucky mused in the most seductive tone he could, just to watch the flush on Steve’s cheekbones as he thought about all the things Bucky had been whispering in his ear for the last two weeks.  He’d been so well-behaved in the restaurant not to bring any of them up, even when Steve was the one making the innuendos and trying to get Bucky to cave into getting the food packed to go.

He’d been planning this for a few weeks now.

“We’re overbooked if you want to get through all of the things you’ve promised for tonight.”  Steve observed him for a moment.  “But we’re definitely going to try to schedule them all in.”

Bucky felt his lips curl into a smirk, amused at Steve and also secretly pleased at what he was about to say. Steve was expecting Bucky to seduce him, to say all the things he wanted to do with Steve. It was tempting to derail the conversation to do just that, but Bucky had more important things on his mind.  “I want to move in together.”

Steve froze with his fork halfway to his mouth.  “Yeah?” he asked, a small smile appearing on his lush, chocolate stained mouth.

“Yeah,” Bucky echoed, continuing with the thought in a blithe rush.  He’d thought the scenario out far too much to really be rambling, but he definitely needed to say it quickly out of fear that Steve would interrupt him.  “We can both give up our places.  You think mine is soulless and yours doesn’t have enough space to accommodate me.  We’ll get something bigger, something with pre-war details and modern wiring.  Something for both of us, that we agree on.”

“Sounds great.  Sounds like you thought it out.”  Steve was smiling so widely he’d forgotten he was trying to be seductive with the chocolate, dropping the fork and leaning forward as though it would draw him nearer to the future Bucky was describing.

“Yeah,” Bucky responded.  “I.. uhm… I want us to experience what it’s like to always be in each other’s space.  It’ll be good for us.  A natural progression.”

“I want that,” Steve admitted.  “Maybe it’ll be better this way.  Then we’ll know for sure if we can live together before legally committing to each other, so we’ll know if it’s something we really want.  It feels like moving forward.”

“See, that’s what I was thinking.  But then I thought, you know, fuck that. I already know what I want,” Bucky answered, sliding to his knees and pulling out the ring set Steve had given him for Christmas.  “Steve Rogers, will you marry me back?”

“Oh,” Steve answered, genuinely surprised.  “Of course I will.”  Then, because he was kind of an asshole, “I did ask you first.”

“Great,” Bucky grinned.  “Do you want me to blow you while I’m down here, or…”