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The Other Birthday Fic

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It was hot and Steve was miserable.

“I hate summer,” he groaned as he hauled himself up the stairs of Clint and Natasha’s apartment building. Bucky was waiting on the next landing with his arms crossed in a posture that spoke of impatience. But Steve wasn’t all too concerned about it; he was smiling in that bright and lazy way he always seemed to when he was amused.

 “You know,” Bucky leaned against the banister, eyeing him. “You’ve said that twelve times since we left my place.”

Yep. Amused.

Asshole.

Completely unaffected by the Glare of Death that Steve sent at him--hell, that grin widened, if anything—Bucky continued.

“Seriously,” he said smugly. “I’ve been keeping count. Four were before we even left my place, and two of those were while you were putting your shoes on.” His chin stuck out just a little as if challenging Steve to fight him on it--and Steve probably very well would have, if it wasn’t so damn hot that his glasses kept threatening to slip from off his nose.

He looked at the brunette; he didn’t even look the slightest bit warm, and Steve loathed him for it something bad. Wearing those stupid tight black jeans, those big dumb heavy boots that he loved so much…“I’ll die in these, Steve” He’d said one day when Steve had sworn up down and sideways about him wearing them all the damn time after his big toe had gotten squashed.

Stopping with a dramatic huff, Steve crossed his own arms, mimicking the other stubbornly. He felt like a bratty little kid but he didn’t care because when did he ever get to act up? Never. And it was so hot...

“I. hate. Summer.”

That earned him an eye roll. “Thirteen. C’mon,” Bucky threw his head at the last flight of stairs that loomed before them. “We’re almost there.”

 

 

Steve stopped short at the sight of a piece of paper taped to the faded white door, nearly causing Bucky to crash into him. In neatly scrawled writing—Natasha’s, because Clint’s was literally just some lines with some slight bends—it said one word; roof.

Letting out another groan, Steve’s head hit the door with a pathetic little thunk at the realization that they’d have to go back outside and climb four more flights of non-air-conditioned stairwell to get to it.

Yippee.

“I hate summer.”

“Four-“

Fourteen, I know, I know!”

 

 

The old building didn’t have any sort of lobby, but the rooftop area made up for that during the summer. A small beat-up barbeque had been set up in the far corner--which Steve didn’t want to know if that was technically legal or not—in an area cordoned off only by a dozen or so upside down bright orange milk crates that doubled as counter space to make an improvised kitchen. Someone had strung up several sets of patio lights around the seating area of old second-hand couches, and mixed in among them your traditional Christmas lights as well as one lonely seen-better-days Halloween themed strand that’s harmless little ghosts peered down at them through aged yellow sheets and forever-fixed expressions of surprise.

Steve would have cried if it wasn’t for the cool breeze that came through every so often, carrying with it the sounds of traffic and muffled voices from the streets below. The cold beer that he tightly gripped in his fingers helped too, of course, but he would have been much happier down in the apartment curled around the air conditioner and praising modern technology.

Bucky and Clint were over at the grill pretending to know what they were doing. Steve was mildly worried about the two being so near open flames more than about their cooking, but the fire extinguisher that was set on the floor nearby made him feel a little better about it.

Besides, like hell he was going to go over and supervise. He didn’t know how they could stand it, being next to that heat and still laugh over whatever they were talking about.

The ratty grey couch he was sitting on shifted, the cushions sinking next to him. Natasha had seated herself with her own beer in hand.

“So,” She started off, a knowing glint in her eye. “Has Bucky told you what he’s got planned for your birthday next week?”

He shot her a puzzled look. “No…?” he said slowly. “He’s got something planned?”

A flash of annoyance crossed the woman’s face, but it Steve knew that it wasn’t directed at him. She rolled her eyes and held her bottle up to her lips. “Of course he does.” She took a small sip. “He knows how big of a deal your birthday is to you.”

He shrugged, taking a drink of his own beer to hide the crooked smile that broke out on his face. She wasn’t wrong about that. Steve loved celebrating his birthday. The reasons had changed as he had gotten older, as most people’s did, from the typical innocent and naïve kid reasons of presents and cake to now just being happy that he’d made it on this planet another year and had friends to celebrate that with.

Bucky approached and set a plate of well-done hotdogs down onto the chipped and scratched coffee table, mindful of the bottles of condiments and bags of chips. He cast a curious glance over them as he seated himself opposite onto the pea-green monstrosity that had the nerve to be called a love seat.

“Ok, I’ll bite. Why does Steve have that goofy grin on his face?”

Natasha raised an eyebrow. “We’re talking about his birthday.”

The man froze in mid-grab for a bun, and shot her a wide-eyed look. “You didn’t.”

“No, I didn’t. Give me some credit,” she replied coolly. “I like ruining Clint’s surprises, not yours.”

Steve snickered and took another drink of his beer. She wasn’t wrong about that, either…

Bucky pouted and grabbed the ketchup bottle. “But now he knows something’s up and I wanted to wait until it was closer!”

“I’m sitting right here you guys,” Steve reminded aloud, more to himself than to them as he took the offered bottle from Bucky’s outstretched hand now that he had finished with it.

“Closer?” Natasha echoed incredulously. “It’s less than a week away, Barnes. What were you planning on doing, throwing him in the back of the car and just explaining on the way?”

Steve perked up. “Car? Are we going somewhere?”

The brunette nearly drowned in the drink he’d taken from his can of soda, throwing his free hand out in a wild gesture at the red head as he coughed the liquid out of his lungs. “Natasha! Damnit!”

She blinked with a false innocence as she popped a potato chip into her mouth. “Oops.”

“For your information I was gonna tell him as soon as we all got sat down!” Bucky frowned accusingly as Clint plopped down next to him, the couch scooting back a few inches at the sharp impact.

“Tell who what now?” the co-host asked curiously as he shifted into the cushions, getting comfortable.

 “Apparently they’re in cahoots about my birthday,” Steve explained drolly as he took a handful of chips from the bag and dumped them onto his plate.

Clint snorted. “Cahoots?”

Steve frowned defensively. “What? It’s a word.”

 “A dumb word that no one uses anymore.”

Anyway,” Natasha interrupted, casting a stern glance at the two of them, then setting it onto Bucky. “We’re all here now, maybe you shouldn’t keep him in suspense?”

“Uh, right,” Bucky cleared his throat, setting his plate down. “So, Steve. Your birthday is next week.”

The nervous way the brunette was looking at him was contagious, and Steve set his own plate down to rest onto his knee. He risked a quick glance to Natasha for some support, but he found no backup there as she was busy keenly spreading diced onions onto her hotdog.

Bucky continued. “And I know how much it means to you and all, so….” he paused for a beat, licking his lips. “ I thought that we could go up to my family’s cabin for a few days. You know, just get away from the city for a while. It’ll be a lot cooler up there too.” A jab. “What do you think?”

Steve was grateful that he wasn’t eating; his mouth had dropped open as his brain processed the words, and ‘family cabin’ was the major focus because that little tidbit of information had never come up before. “You have a ca—”

Clint cut him off. “A cabin? Man you're loaded, aren't you!” The bartender pointed an accusing finger at the brunette with all the conviction of a Puritan accusing someone of witchcraft. “I fuckin’ knew it!”

“My parents were,” Bucky corrected as he looked back across the coffee table to Natasha oddly. “You didn’t let him know?”

 She gave him a dubious look. “You know how big of a mouth he’s got.”

Steve was more confused now than ever. “What are you guys talking about?”

“He meant ‘we’ as in all of us,” She answered smartly. “We’re coming too.“

“Really?!” Steve heard his exclamation echo with Clint’s; he was suddenly overwhelmed, too many questions running through his head. He’d have to ask for time off work. Would there be enough time for Bruce to change the schedule? And what if--

Clint made a noise. “Wait, Bruce is gonna let us all go at the same time?”

For a brief moment, Steve wondered if he should be concerned that he and Clint were actually on the same wavelength for once.

 

 

They spent the better part of an hour after the big reveal talking excitedly about the upcoming trip. As things were discussed, it was admitted that Natasha was only able to manage the last two days of the long weekend off for herself and Clint--then they would have to leave right after Steve’s birthday at some ungodly hour of the morning to get back to the city in time to work their evening shifts.

The inconvenient and annoying kink in the plans had made Steve get the sneaking suspicion that it was more of a seventy-thirty on Natasha trying to be crafty and allot time for him and Bucky to be alone on this little vacation, versus actual scheduling conflicts; because Bucky’s surprised and slightly disappointed reaction had been very real.

Regardless of the real reasons, Steve was appreciative of it. He and Bucky got to see each other most of the week, but schedules made that time rather limited and strained and almost solely restricted to evenings. It’d be nice to have the uninterrupted one-on-one time. At least for a little while.

Everything was going along smoothly after that, until the hosts had begun to argue about who exactly was going to do the driving of the rental car that Natasha had booked. Steve and Bucky had taken that as their cue to start cleaning up--each grabbing an armful of bottles and food to take back down to the apartment before their lungs burst from holding in their laughter at the old-married-couple-style fighting that was happening before them.


 

 “So,” Steve started casually, shooting a look over his shoulder as he entered Clint and Natasha’s kitchen. “A cabin.”

Bucky flashed him a grin as he dumped the empty beer bottles into the sink, turning on the faucet on to rinse them out. “Yep. Surprised?”

“More like…” Steve searched for the word as he opened the fridge door with his foot, nearly dropping the bottle of mustard that no one had used. “Blind-sided.”

The brunette’s eyes went wide. “Blind-sided? Why blind-sided? You know my parents left me and Becca everything,” he pouted defensively.

“I know, but I just didn’t think that…well, I didn’t know what I thought,” Steve admitted. He shoved the ketchup next to a half-empty bottle of soy sauce. “You just never talk about that stuff. Which is fine,” he backtracked quickly as he peered over the door of the fridge, seeing the other’s brow furrowing slightly. “I mean it’s really none of my business I guess, so…”

A pained look crossed Bucky’s face. “Steve, c’mon, don’t say that.” He shut the tap off, drying his hands on his pants. “It is your business.” He shifted his weight and leaned back against the counter. “Just…talking about it makes me uncomfortable sometimes, ya know? In more ways than one.”

Steve nodded quietly, knowing what one of the ‘ways’ was. Bucky didn’t talk about his parents, just like Steve didn’t talk about his mom. Both of them were far past grieving, of course, but it did still hurt. So he didn’t push. Bucky didn’t push. And so all of the information concerning the matter that Steve had to go on was from the rare occasions the brunette would actually bring it up, or just filling in the blanks on his own or with some help from Becca.

Sighing, Steve ran a hand though his hair. “Yeah, I know.” An awkward and uncontrolled laugh escaped his throat. “God I’m sorry. I’m sorta ruining this surprise, aren’t I?”

“Hell no,” the brunette assured, pushing away from the counter. “But you are excited about it, right? I’m not gonna have to go back up on the roof and break Clint’s heart into a thousand pieces and say it’s off?”

Steve laughed. “Yes, I’m excited. Totally excited. Thank you.” He reached up and put his arms around the taller man’s neck, tugging him closer. “And impressed, too, if that was what you were going for.”

Bucky rolled his shoulders lazily. “Well, no…but that’s definitely a perk I didn’t consider,” He grinned as he settled his hands onto Steve’s hips. “So how impressed are we talkin’ here? On a scale from one to ten.”

Pretending to think for a moment, Steve let out a small hum. “Seven and a half?”

“A seven?!”

“And a half!” Steve reminded with a cheeky grin. “We have yet to actually go. But I have a feeling I’ll be giving it a ten out of ten,” He leaned up and gave the brunette a peck on his frowning mouth before moving away. “So don’t worry too much about it.”

“Worry?” Bucky scoffed. “Who’s worried?

 

 

“Hey, did you remember your inhaler?”

Steve glanced over at the man in the driver’s seat, getting free of his thoughts. He smiled. “Isn’t it a little late to be asking that?”

Bucky shrugged, eyes glancing up into the review mirror before back to the road as he switched lanes. “There’s no rule saying I can’t turn around and go back if we need to.”

“I packed it,” Steve assured him as he looked back out his window. He had even gotten another prescription filled for a backup, just to be safe. Because the moment they’d gotten home after Bucky told him about the surprise, Steve had Googled the place they were now on their way to— and while it seemed like a nice area, the nearest hospital was going to be almost an hour away and that had made his brain kick into overdrive. He’d even gone out and purchased a small first-aid kit.

Of course, he didn’t tell Bucky any of this--the other man would never let him live it down. He had already gotten a lot of good-natured teasing when he slipped up and made a passing comment that he had never even been out of the city before.

He sighed quietly, so that he wouldn’t be heard over the music that was playing. “So,” He started slyly. “Are we there yet?”

 

 

They stopped for gas a few hours later, and James ‘it’s an adventure!’ Barnes had decided to forsake the clean-cut processed fast food restaurant that adjoined with the station’s store in favor of the roadside diner across the street. 

Steve had voiced his cynical concerns over his growling stomach that the place couldn’t possibly have passed their last health inspection, but Bucky had only laughed and held the squeaky door open with a flourishing bow.

He knew right away that he was going to have a hard time keeping a positive outlook for the entire experience. The waitress--an older woman that went by ‘Nan’, according to her name tag, who may or may not have been in denial about her age, what with her blonde orange-tinted back-combed hair and too-red lipstick--had called him and only him ‘hon’.

He’d tried to brush it off. He really did. But three more ‘hons’ happened before they’d even sat down and Steve as already feeling his eye twitch. Bucky had clearly taken notice of because he had fought back a hard laugh that he had cleverly altered into a cough to which Nan assured she’d come back with some water right away.

The rest of the place was rather empty, aside from one middle-aged couple in the far corner booth, and a couple of truck-drive types at the long counter. Steve pretended to look at his menu as Nan returned with the glasses of ice water, and rattled off the specials a little too eagerly. He waited until she left before he inspected the silverware with a scrutinizing and professional eye.

“Steve, relax, would ya?” Bucky smiled as he flipped his own mystery-stained menu open.

Steve wasn’t sure if he was talking about the ‘hon’ thing or the OCD thing. Or maybe he meant the ‘I might die from spewing my guts out’ thing. But he’d certainly give it a try.

 

 

“I can’t believe you got an entire side of those things,” Steve eyed the massive pile of tater tots sitting next to the brunette’s elbow, then the hamburger with everything on it that was still oozing grease. “You’re gonna have a heart attack by the time you’re forty.”

Bucky said nothing, locking eyes with him as he placed another crisp golden piece of potato into his mouth and then began to slowly chew in defiance.

With a roll of his eyes, Steve went back to his own plate; he had settled for the chicken strips accompanied with fries. It wasn’t bad, for diner food. But of course the real test would be later on if he was throwing it all up or not. He didn’t say that out loud though, because Bucky was clearly in seventh heaven and he didn’t want to spoil it for him.

A rattling noise of plastic on plastic, and Steve’s phone lit up, vibrating on the table.

“Ooh, Mr. Popular,” Bucky teased as he re-adjusted his hold on his burger. “I bet it’s Natasha making sure we haven’t died yet,” He guessed before he took a big bite.

After checking the screen, Steve shook his head. “Nah, Sam just tagged me in something.” He flicked his thumb over the screen, pulling up the tab. “’60 All-Too-Real Things Every New Yorker Has Done But Would Never Tell You’” He read aloud, the skeptical smirk on his face slowly dying as the presented list became increasingly more and more horrifying and disgusting as he scrolled through it. “Good Lord. Who wrote this thing?”

“That bad?” Bucky grinned. “C’mon, lay it on me.”

“I would, but we’re eating,” Steve replied skeptically.

Bucky snorted. “That coming from the guy who watches gore films to relax.”

Steve sighed and looked up across the table. “Ok, fine. Uhm….” He flicked back up towards the top of the list. “’Quietly and discreetly vomited out the window of a cab because there’s no way in hell you’re willing to risk making the driver mad at you by barfing inside it, no matter how drunk you are.’”

He didn’t even hesitate.

“Yeah, I’ve done that."

“What?” Steve leaned back in his seat, eyeing the man carefully. “You’re lying.”

The brunette popped another tater tot into his mouth. A little shrug, a chew and a swallow. “Maaaybe.”

Letting out a huff, Steve didn’t pursue it any further. He looked back down at his phone to choose another scenario off the rather long list. “’Given a tourist directions confidently when you actually have no idea where you just led them.’”

Bucky slapped the table, and pointed at him. “Yes. Totally yes. Just the really annoying ones though,” He added on seriously. “You know, the ones that wear those ‘I heart NY’ shirts or wear socks with sandals. Or even those stupid little wallet necklaces. Or fanny packs. Oh my God, the fanny packs… They deserved to be mugged if they’re wearing that shit.”

Steve sniggered. “You’re horrible.”

“Oh and I’m sure you’re a saint when it comes to tourists,” Bucky rolled his eyes. He held his hand out in a grabby motion. “Gimme.”

“Fine,” Steve handed the device over without another thought, realizing that he wasn’t even halfway done with his food whereas Bucky had nearly cleaned his plates already.

The brunette flicked through the list, lips pursed thoughtfully as he decided on one to ask before settling on one.

“’Gently and discreetly tripped someone in a crowd after they were rude to you.’”

Steve froze in mid-chew. He swallowed, and looked away guiltily.

The other man let out a surprised laugh, brows raising up nearly to his hairline. “Steve,” he admonished playfully. “I’m shocked!”

“Oh shut up.”

Bucky shot him a grin as he returned his attention back to the phone. “How’s about…” he hummed, flicking through the list. He stopped suddenly, and he scrolled the opposite way, clearly seeing a good one.

Cringing inwardly, Steve braced himself for one of the grosser ones, recalling there was more than one about vomit and even one about urinating in public….

But Bucky didn’t choose one of those. Thank God.

“Ok.” He cleared his throat dramatically. “’Fallen in love with someone on the train and made up a whole cool story of your affair in your head, without ever actually walking over because you don’t wanna be weird’?”

 “No,” Steve snorted. “We can throw a ‘hell’ in front of that while we’re at it.”

The brunette looked positively insulted. “Excuse you?”

Steve laughed at the face, nearly losing the food from his mouth. He grabbed his napkin quickly. “What? Have you?”

“Duh!” Bucky threw one of the pickles he’d taken off of his burger across the table at him. “Did you even notice me?”

“Of course I did!” Steve puffed as he peeled the piece of food off his shirt. “I actively avoid scary people when I’m on the subway,” he teased lightly.

The air seemed to deflate out of the other at that statement. “I’m not scary.”

Steve grinned. “Please. All dark and brooding—“

“Brooding!? Who the hell was brooding!?”

“You’re pretty intense-looking, Buck. Ask anybody.”

Bucky shifted in his seat. He didn’t say anything, only grabbing his plastic cup of root beer to take a sip from the provided straw as he clearly mulled it over.

Steve smiled. He needed to do some damage control to sooth the ego of the man, but it was true. Back when he had first set eyes on him, Steve had chalked up the intimidating aura the other had was because of the way he had looked. But he had quickly found that even if the brunette shaved on the regular and had his hair cut to a respectable length--which helped, sure--it didn’t exactly matter. Bucky carried himself the same way whether he was wearing a tux or his leather jacket. Serious, somewhat detached and a determined pace.

Granted yeah, sure, he was a giant doofus under it all, but not everyone needed to know that.

He nudged his contemplating boyfriend’s leg with the toe of his sneaker playfully. “Does it help that I still thought you were hot?”

Blue eyes ticked up to meet his. The straw left Bucky’s lips, and he licked them carefully, thoughtfully. Steve saw the hint of a smile; it obviously did help. But the brunette was not above playing it up a little for his advantage.

“Well, a little…”

 

 

A short time later, Bucky settled up the bill as Steve make a quick stop to the restroom. Upon returning to the counter, he was informed by Nan that his ‘friend’—he’d had a little laugh at that--had gone out to the car to wait for him. As he exited the restaurant the woman called out goodbye to him, and, to Steve’s irritation, she slipped in one more ‘hon’ to make the grand total of the word a twelve.

He approached the passenger side of the SUV and Bucky was already behind the wheel, buckled in with the engine running. As Steve’s fingers began to tug on the handle of the passenger door, a click sounded and the force he’d put into the motion of pulling the door open was stopped short, making him stumble.

He was confused for a moment until he saw Bucky laughing. Then he figured it out.

“Are you kidding me?” He asked loudly as he glared through the glass at the man. He tugged on the handle again with no results. “Bucky!”

The click sounded again, and Steve pulled the door open before he could lock it again. “You jerk. Are you five?”

Bucky grinned. “Sorry hon, I couldn’t resist.”

“Oh my—No,” Steve strangled out he climbed into his seat, heaving the door shut behind him. “Nope. You are not calling me that.”

“How about ‘sugar’? Or ‘sweetie pie’….”

Steve grunted, ignoring him as he reached around his shoulder for his seatbelt. He heard the creak of the leather seat next to him, and a hand was on his cheek, turning his head awkwardly so that a kiss could be planted onto his lips.

It was quick and sweet, just enough to make the annoyance wan.

Well, until Bucky spoke again.

“How about ‘baby doll’?”

“Just shut up and drive.”

 

 

 

“So how long you gonna stay mad at me?” Bucky grinned over at him once they were several miles down the road. Steve had said nothing since they’d left the restaurant parking lot, his arms crossed as he looked pointedly out the window.

“Steve?”

Steve didn’t look over. The music filled the silence that was beginning to get just a little boring, and his arms were beginning to ache by being in the same clenched pose for so long….But his stubbornness was far greater than either of those things.

Far. Greater.

Plus, the silent treatment was driving Bucky nuts and it was hilarious. He could tell that the brunette was squirming, getting legitly worried and looking over at him with an overly dramatic wounded pouty face trying desperately to get him to crack.

He just knew. He could feel it.

Tilting his head just a fraction of an inch, Steve looked over to confirm it. But Bucky returned his eyes back onto the road in that split second.

Fighting back the grin, Steve turned back to the view outside of his window. They passed another mile marker and Steve could feel him looking again.

Bucky had been once again anticipating the reaction, his head whirling back to look out the windshield like a responsible driver as soon as Steve’s gaze ticked over to him.

“Would you knock it off?”

“Knock what off?” Bucky scoffed innocently. “If I wanna look at your grumpy widdle face, I’m gonna look at your coot gwumpy widdle face, Rogers,” He pursed his lips in a kissy pout, pleased he was finally getting him to talk. “Just try and stop me. But…uh, yeah, really don’t, because you know, I’m driving and everything and that could possibly send us to a fiery explosion-y death.”

Explosion-y?” Steve shook his head fondly. “I hate you.”

“Well too bad toots,” Bucky said smartly, looking over at him with an affectionate gaze. “Because I love you.”

Steve’s ears suddenly rang; a rush of white noise overpowered the song on the stereo, dulling it into the background.

The words weren’t said in a playful jest. Not something fired back automatically in response to his own. Well not entirely, anyway. Bucky had made it serious. That look made it serious. The warmth, and the emphasizing of it...

He swallowed, his mouth having gone dry. Say something. “Uh…Yeah?”

Smooth, Rogers. Real smooth.

“What do you mean ‘uh yeah?’” the brunette mocked--playfully, to Steve’s complete relief.  

Giving a little shrug, Steve let the corner of his mouth tug into a shy smile. “It’s just that...we’ve never said it before. So...”

Bucky got quiet for a moment. “I know,” he said carefully. He scratched at his ear nervously with one hand, keeping the other on the wheel. “ I’ve wanted to say it…not like that obviously, but….” He glanced over as he awkwardly rambled on. “Not that I mean I’ve been waiting for you to say it or somethin’. ‘Cuz I know you’re not the mushy type. So if you don’t wanna say it, that’s cool, I don’t care. I mean-” He stumbled. “I care, but I don’t want you to think t…“

Steve watched with amusement as the other babbled his words, almost spitting them out in an effort to convey exactly what he meant without digging himself into a hole.

But Steve knew what he meant.

So when Bucky was just at the part of explaining that he knew that ‘actions speak louder than words anyway’, Steve decided to put him out of his anxiety-induced misery.

“I love you too.”

It felt weird to say it aloud. But good. Damn good. And he felt like a complete idiot for not giving Bucky those words sooner; the reaction he got was something Steve wouldn’t mind seeing on a daily basis.

Bucky had clamped his mouth shut in mid-sentence, and then seemed to glow. It surprised Steve because he had ever seen him blush before…Had he? He couldn’t think of a time, anyway. He watched as the other tried to regain some composure by pulling his shoulders upright, giving a nod as he looked out at the road.

“Good,” Bucky shot him a grin that radiated with what could be properly labeled as elation. “Ok. That’s…that’s good.” He nodded again.

Steve chortled, shaking his head as he turned back to his window with his own smile plastered on his face.

The music paused as it switched to the next track of the CD. The silence that descended between the two of them again was comfortable, placid.

But Bucky just had to go and open his mouth again.

“I’m still gonna come up with an awesome pet name.”

Steve nearly choked as he head snapped around to look at him. “No, you are not.”

“I got it. How about ‘sassy pants’?”

“Stop.”

Fancy Face?”

“James Buchanan Barnes I swear to God I will punch you.”

“’Snuggle bu—shit, Steve!  I’m driving!”

Chapter Text

 

“Steve, wake up.”

He didn’t even realize he’d been dozing. Definitely dozing. Not sleeping. Because Steve had been listening to the music playing and how Bucky’s voice had softly sung along with the entire song of ‘American Pie’-- which had made him realize that the song was damn long and that he’d never heard the entire thing before until just then.

Yawning, Steve looked out the window and saw that they had left the interstate at some point and were now traveling down a two-lane road, surrounded by lush forest with the late afternoon sun filtering through the branches.

He shifted in his seat to get the kink out of his neck. “Are we close?”

“Yeah. Just about fifteen more minutes or so.”

Steve felt the car slowing down then, the roadside signs they passed alerting them to a speed zone as they approached the town. It was almost a lethargic feeling; they had been driving non-stop since lunch and to now be able to focus on anything for more than just a few short moments made Steve’s eyes cross.

 

The town was in full gear for the upcoming holiday--Red white and blue banners hung from the gutters of the buildings and the lampposts that lined the streets. It was cute, something that Steve had only seen in pictures of Americana or in movies.

“How long has it been since you’ve been up here?” He asked as he watched a cute family of four go by in his window.

Bucky clicked on his turn signal as he stopped at the small intersection. “Couple summers ago?” He thought aloud. “Or maybe it was the year before last. I hadn’t visited for a while and Ali really wanted me to come. And you know me, can’t say no to her…” He made the turn and continued on down the next street, passing more shops.

Steve smiled. “More like she never lets you say no.”

“Yeah,” The brunette chuckled. “That too.”

 

 

 

Nearly ten minutes after leaving the main street of the town, the road began to slope and Steve finally spotted the lake. It was a pretty blue, surrounded by green. Not too large but nothing small, either, dotted with boats and swimmers. Rows of houses ran along the shore opposite and even from the good distance Steve could tell they were all rather impressive-looking.

Bucky then turned onto a narrow dirt driveway, which lead up into the hillside and away from the water. The foliage and undergrowth rattled up against the sides of the vehicle as they drove along and Steve peered out into the trees, seeing…nothing. It seemed that across the lake was where most people stayed, and he voiced the observation to the brunette.

“Oh no doubt,” Bucky replied, keeping his eyes on the narrow road. “The other side has a lot of newer places because of some real estate deal that went down a few years ago. This side’s still safe.”

“Safe?” Steve asked, amused.

“I’ll take you over there at some point before we leave,” The brunette said dryly. “It’s like some weird form of suburbs. Manufactured homes and shit, It’s gross. I mean the whole point of coming out here is to get away from the city, right?” He glance over at Steve.

 

 

 

“Well,” Bucky unclipped his seatbelt as he put the SUV into park. “We’re here.”

Giving the door a shove, Steve stepped out of the car, feet landing on pale clean gravel as he looked up at the structure before him. When bucky had said ‘cabin’, he had been fully expecting something a little more…log-like. (Shut up, he was a city kid.) Instead, it looked more like an average older home, one level, painted rustic-looking greens and browns to blend with its surroundings. Large front windows peeked out from under the awning of the wide and welcoming front porch, the wooden chairs arranged in just a way that it seemed to outright promise a good view if one were to sit in them.

They loaded up with their bags, refusing to make more than one trip and then climbed up the stairs. Steve began to get antsy as the brunette fumbled with the lock of the door for just a little longer than needed, because the other man was too stubborn to put down anything he was carrying to make it easier on himself.

Just as Steve was about to offer his help—again--Bucky shoved the door open with a triumphant ‘ha!’ and waddled inside, bags knocking against the doorframe in such a way that it made Steve wince and check the surface to scratches on the way by.

 

It was a sea of sheet-covered furniture that greeted them. Noting the exposed beams in the high ceiling as he roamed the room, Steve then reached out and yanked off one of the large dust covers to reveal a slightly worn in beige-brown chair with dark wooden arms. The next pulled sheet uncovered a couch, similar in style and color.

 There was a piano in the back corner, next to the doorway of the hall that he guessed led to the bedrooms. It was a small thing, compared to Bucky’s one back at his house--an upright that looked older than anything else in the room. It was lovingly re-finished and it gleamed in the lights that Bucky was flicking on.

The next thing he noticed as Bucky tugged back the curtains to let natural light in was the massive fireplace. Stacked natural stones that were cut into slabs and stacked in a hap-hazard pattern, it took up nearly all of the west wall of the room.

“That’s an original of the house,” Bucky motioned to as he continued pulling sheets off more tables and chairs, bundling them up in his arms as he moved along. “My parents remodeled pretty much everything when they bought the place, but they fought like hell to keep it.”

For a place that wasn’t occupied full-time, it was far from bare. The coffee table that the brunette had just revealed in front of the fireplace had a pretty lace doily, and a small decorative bowl with photo albums stacked neatly next to it. Throw pillows graced the couches and chairs, lamps on the side tables. Even the large shelf that was set against the patch of wall between the kitchen doorway and the hallway was filled with books and knick-knacks, and the sideboard under one of the large windows held a sparkling vintage-looking decanter set.

Steve moved to inspect the contents of the mantle as Bucky disappeared down the hallway, opening doors, his footsteps sounding on the natural finished wood flooring. Random objects that probably all held some special memory or significance littered the long shelf; a massive pinecone, several colorful or oddly shaped rocks, and the crowning attraction being collection of framed pictures of scenes that had taken place in or around the property that showed Bucky’s family throughout the years.

“Becca said to help ourselves to whatever we find up here,” Bucky called over his shoulder as he dumped the collected sheets into a chair in the area as what served as the dining room before going into the kitchen. “They’re coming up here in a couple weeks, she’ll restock.”

“Well we bought enough stuff to be here for a month, I doubt we'll dip into their food, too,” Steve called back, not looking away from his perusing. It looked like Becca had added pictures in the more recent years. The newest photo Steve spotted had Ali and her dad standing next to a boat, holding up a small fish. Next to it, there was one of Bucky and Ali asleep in a hammock that looked to be out on the front porch.

He held up the picture with the hammock to show his discovery as he heard Bucky coming over. “Cute.”

Bucky smiled. “I like that one too. But I think…” he trailed off, eyes scanning the mantle quickly before selecting one. “That this one is my favorite.”

Steve took the frame carefully so he could have a look. Bucky had to have been around five or six at the time, covered in mud with Becca looking angrily at the camera. If his hunch was right, it was because Bucky had shared some of his mud by dumping a pile of it onto her head.

 

 

As Bucky took a moment to call his sister, Steve decided to check out the rest of the house. He did a quick glance through of the simple off-white kitchen, discovering the laundry room attached to it (with a washer and dryer unit that probably cost a year’s worth of what rented his apartment) and then he moved back out into the living-dining room and down the small hallway.

There was only one bathroom--rather spacious, and vastly more modern looking than the rest of the place, all white walls and pristine ceramic tiles with stainless steel fixtures. Two bedrooms were located across the hall, and then one large closet filled with everything from extra life jackets to board games.

Entering what was obviously the master bedroom, Steve toed off his shoes and kicked them to the side, not caring as they tumbled under a sheet-covered chair in the corner. He eyed the bland and generic artist-less nature themed prints that graced the walls for a moment before opening the heavy maroon drapes. The large area rug that squished under his toes matched them in shade and pattern, and he reasoned that they were probably bought from the same catalog. Just like the way all the dark-finished furniture in the room matched.

He then turned his attention to the bed, removing the sheet; he wasn’t surprised to find that it had been stripped down to the bare mattress.

The very, very large mattress.

He had a full-size bed back at his apartment; normal for someone living on their own, right? Bucky had a queen-sized, and that was normal for someone that liked sleep, comfort, and just plain spoiling themselves. But this thing? Steve  wondered if there was a size bigger than a king. He didn’t want to know what a good set of bedding cost to cover the excessive piece of furniture.

Heaving a sigh, he left the room to go find said bedding. He had a hunch it was going to be in one of the cabinets in the laundry room.

His theory had proven right; and the sheets probably weighed ten pounds alone, and the comforter that he’d had to make a separate trip for entirely (Bucky had disappeared outside for some reason and therefore was no help at all) had been sealed up tightly in a vacuum bag. A smart move, on Becca’s part, but he made a mental note as he fought with the plastic and he was going to make Bucky be the one to re-pack it.

 

 

The far corner of the base sheet popped off the edge of the mattress. Again.

Steve hung his head in near defeat. “Of course,” he muttered, giving the cotton a glare. “Of course I’d have to crawl all the way back up there.” With a grunt, he heaved himself up onto the bed and clambered over to it, tugging it sharply to get it around the edge again. It didn’t help that the bed was against the wall—the only possible location for the damn thing, otherwise there wouldn’t have been enough room to open the doors of the wardrobe or even walk around properly.

As he struggled and cursed, he heard Bucky come into the room. A loud thump sounded and he tilted his head to see their bags sitting on the floor. He smiled and then turned back to the task at hand. “Thanks. Thought I was gonna be a little faster at this…”

A playful slap was delivered to his ass. “No problem.”

Jolting, Steve turned his head again to send a look to the brunette, which he did not see as he was busy rummaging around in his suitcase that he’d hauled up onto the fancy-looking armchair Steve’s shoes were still under.

Shaking his head, Steve smiled and carefully climbed off the bed, mindful of the precarious way he’d stretched the sheet, and reached for the next layer of folded linen.

“Y’know,” Bucky announced thoughtfully, hands on his hips. “I think I forgot to pack shampoo.”

Steve smirked as he unfolded the sheet. “You did. Luckily I grabbed it,” He expertly flung the sheet out, watching as it floated down into place. “I didn’t want you getting into mine.”

He heard Bucky snort at that. “Like I’d resort to using your shampoo,” He teased. “It just smells like soap.”

“Well we can’t both stink like walking advertisements for that body spray—“

The brunette sailed past him as he launched himself onto the bed, bouncing only a little at the impact. He rolled over onto his back, folding his arms under his head as he regarded Steve with a wide grin. “Hey.”

Hi.” Steve tugged at the sheet that was now pinned under the other’s body. “C’mon, off.”

Bucky pouted. “But it’s comfy…”

“It’ll be even more comfy when it’s all made up,” Steve laughed. “Now move.”

All he got in answer was a whiny grunt. Steve rolled his eyes as he stood back, crossing his arms as his eyes ticked to the small patch of stomach that was showing thanks to Bucky’s shirt having ridden up. “You call your sister?”

The brunette’s eyes were shut now. “Yeah, but she didn’t answer.”

“So you thought you’d come and bug me?” He raised an eyebrow.

“For your information Rogers,” Bucky’s eyes slid open to fix on him. “I came in here to tell you a completely brilliant and amazing idea I came up with while you were sleeping in the car earlier. I just got distracted, is all.”

Letting out a small huff of a laugh, Steve nodded his head in a patronizing way. “Yeah, must be a pretty amazing and brilliant idea…”

The brunette eyed him from his position on the bed. “You wanna hear it or not?”

Steve grinned. “Do I have much of a choice?”

Bucky sat up sharply, raising his arms up; and before Steve knew it he was being hauled down onto the bed in what was most definitely not a graceful move. Elbows bumped ribs, a knee jammed against a tender area of thigh, and Bucky rolled them over awkwardly and nearly knocked their foreheads together.

Giving an annoyed grunt, Steve saw that Bucky had the decency to look a little apologetic about it all, but it didn’t stop him from carrying on.

 “So,” Bucky coughed as he shifted his leg to a better position. “Now that I have your undivided attention…”

Steve moved his knee to settle against the other’s hip as he let out a laugh. “I’m all ears.”

“Well,” Bucky said coyly, rising Steve’s suspicion levels to high alert. He knew that tone. “Before Nat and Clint show up, we should—“

A phone rang.

Specifically, Bucky’s phone--Steve knew that ringtone. Becca was calling him back. It vibrated against the wooden surface of the nightstand loudly.

“It’s your birthday,” Bucky tried again, not even looking in the direction of the noise. “So I was thinkin’--“

“A dangerous pastime for you.“

I was thinking,” the brunette repeated, giving Steve a leveled look that spoke volumes. “We should totally do it in every room of the house!”

The phone rang again, and it was just as ignored as the first time.

Steve blinked up at him dumbly. “You think we should….what?”

Bucky chuckled and he rolled his hips lazily against him. “It’ll be fun,” He sing-songed. “ And it’s not like there’s that many rooms…”

“No, there’s not” Steve agreed carefully as he did a quick mental run-through of the house. “But you know it’s not exactly comfortable when you shove me up against random surfaces, right? Remember Valentine’s Day?”

“Oh yeah, I remember Valentine’s Day,” Bucky’s laughed impishly. “I liked seeing you in a mirror. Hey--“ He paused and rolled his eyes as the phone rang again. Third time? Fourth? “We could do that again, you know. The bathroom here is like four times bigger than--”

“I nearly gave myself a concussion on that mirror,” Steve interrupted with a small huff.

“But you didn’t!”

Oh, if only Bucky used that oozing charm for good….

“Or how about when we came back from opening night on that first play you wrote for?” Steve accused with a raised eyebrow. That particular time had involved the piano in Bucky’s studio. “I had a kink in my back for like a week after that.”

Bucky grinned cockily. “Y’know,” He leant down, big blue eyes searching over Steve’s face. “You’re trying to make me out to be the bad guy here by remembering the not-so-good parts when I clearly remember you saying variations of ‘don’t stop ’more than once. And who was I to argue?” His fingers dipped under the waist of Steve’s pants, gaze never breaking. “When you get all bossy I can’t help but do what you want...”

Bossy?” Steve repeated incredulously, flushing at the way his voice carried a little higher than normal. And because well, Bucky actually remembered things pretty decently, too…His hips arched into the other’s touch and decided to fight him on it anyway just for the principle of it.

“I am not boss—“ He let out a moan into the other’s mouth as it closed over his own, killing the urge to rebel; a rush of adrenaline shoot through him as he felt Bucky’s hand begin to toy with his belt buckle.

The phone rang again.

Pulling back, Steve panted against the brunette’s mouth. “Buck, just answer that.”

The response to that was muffled, as Bucky’s attentions had gone to his neck. Steve didn’t have to hear the entire thing anyway to know that it was some smart-assed remark and that he was going to be ignored for more favorable activities, say like finally getting the front of his jeans open.

The ringing stopped and the room was silent aside from the wet noises of Bucky’s mouth on his skin and the rustling of clothing.

Until a completely different ring emitted into the room--This time, it came from Steve’s back pocket, the sound suppressed as it was sandwiched between himself and the bed.

Bucky froze and pulled back, staring down at him with a scrutinizing look.

“Since when does she have your number?”

Steve shrugged sheepishly as he lay boneless against the mattress. “For emergencies,” He licked his lips and waited a beat as his phone rang again. Bucky didn’t move.

“C’mon Bucky, she’s gonna freak out if I don’t answer.”

The brunette coughed, as if insulted. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means out of the two of us, I’m the responsible one?” Steve needled playfully. He nudged the other’s chest. “Lemme up.”

“Hell no.”

Steve choked in startled amusement as the heavier body suddenly sank down onto him in a dead weight, air escaping his lungs in a small whoosh as he was pinned against the bed.

“What are you doing?”

“What does it look like? I wanna ruin your goody two shoes reputation!”

Letting out a strangled laugh at the childish move, Steve made a half-hearted attempt to roll the other off of him. As expected, it did no good. “Bucky, I mean it—“ He freed an arm that had become trapped between their chests and reached up to poke at the other’s side. He achieved the desired result when the brunette yelped and jerked back.

“Shit Steve! Not fair!” Bucky cried out as Steve’s fingers wriggled under his arms and against his ribs.

“Then let me up!”

“Never!” Bucky rolled them again, grabbing at Steve’s hands and only managing to catch one as the phone rang again.

Steve only needed one hand anyway. And now that he was straddling the other, he had perfect opportunity to reach his phone. He was nearly successful  at it until he was yanked down into a teeth-clicking kiss and was tossed back down onto the bed.

Well, he would have landed on the bed, if Bucky could have only just shoved him the other way.  But, things being the way they were, Steve missed the mattress entirely and landed down onto the floor with a thud.

The sound was much worse than the actual impact. He barely felt anything other than light annoyance as he lay against the thick rug, laughing. The look on Bucky’s face was priceless as he peered over the edge of the bed, eyes wide with horror.

“Steve! Holy shit, are you—“

“I’m fine,” Steve laughed, wiping the tear that had escaped from the corner of his eye. “Just—“ He reached under and pulled the angry phone from his pocket, jamming it up under the other’s nose. “Answer it.”

Groaning, Bucky took the phone and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. Steve smirked at the sight; his hair was all messed, his pants half undone. His shirt was twisted oddly around his torso and he was trying to fix it as he talked into the device he held to his ear.

Deciding to start unpacking since it seemed like Bucky was still not going to move off the bed, Steve climbed to his feet, wincing a little at the twinge that he got in his back from the action.

 

 

The music that came from the small set of speakers plugged into Bucky’s laptop floated through the screens of the opened front windows and out onto the porch. The air was comfortably warm, smelling mostly of buy spray and ointment; Steve had doused himself in it before stepping outside, not caring that Bucky had found the bug zapper the moment they had finished dinner.

Each now sat in their respective chairs looking down over the tops of the small strip of trees that separated them from the lake. The houses across the way were tiny beacons of light, a trail which continued on up well into the trees, giving away houses that were otherwise hidden from view during the daytime.

Steve leaned back and watched another bat come swooping in and then back out just as quickly. He’d finally stopped jerking his head in fear that one of the small furry creatures would suddenly end up in his face. Not because he’d finally learned that no, they were not going to hit or attack him, but because he was getting fed up with Bucky laughing every time that he’d flinch.

“God its quiet out here,” Steve mumbled quietly, not wanting to speak any louder to break the quiet serene calm that had settled.

“Right?” Bucky sighed as he leaned into his chair a little better, the wood creaking with the weight. “I love it.”

Eyes falling closed, Steve let his mind drift for a minute. “So what do you wanna do tomorrow?”

He heard the other picking up one of the bottles of beer that was set on the small table between their chairs. “We could go into town and check things out,” Bucky paused for a sip. “There’s a ton of nature trails around here, too. Or we could go swimming-“

“I can’t swim.”

Steve heard the chair next to him creaking again, and he cracked an eye open to look over at Bucky.

Bucky was looking at him, as if trying to figure out if he was joking or not. “Wha-really?

“Nope,” Steve smiled. Teaching a kid with severe asthma how to swim was a bad idea on all sorts of levels, even when he was younger he knew that. Now that he was older it was manageable of course but it’s not like he had much of a reason to go and learn. Well, until now anyway…

“Okaaay,” Bucky said slowly. “Swimming is off the list. ’Cuz the only mouth-to-mouth I wanna have to give you this weekend—or ever, actually,” He added on with a disturbed look. “Is most definitely not the life-saving kind.”

Steve chuckled. “Yeah, that’d be a pretty big turn-off wouldn’t it.”

“Steve I think near-death is probably the biggest turn off...”