Bucky is sitting in the chair when Steve comes home.
It is Tuesday afternoon; he is watching The Great British Bake-Off. Everything is as usual, except - the chair. We haven’t always had a chair there, he thinks as he puts his keys on the little table by the door. Have we?
As if hearing his thoughts, Bucky looks up and flashes him a heart-stopping grin. “Do you like it?” He wiggles his feet, kicked out on the extended footrest. “I love it.” He rocks back against the chair, forcing it to recline further, and motions for Steve to come sit in his lap. Steve wants to, he really does, but -
“Where did it come from?”
He’s trying to imagine Bucky shopping for a chair. Paying for a chair in cash. Bringing the chair home on - his bike? The subway?
Bucky’s smile widens, and he says, “You’ll never believe.”
“It was just sitting on the sidewalk! It was completely free. The future is not all bad.”
Steve shuts his eyes. He is debating whether to lead with bedbugs or mold spores when he has another, more terrifying thought.
“Buck. How did you know it was free? Did you - you didn’t - was someone moving -”
Bucky laughs delightedly. “I didn’t steal someone’s furniture, you jerk. There was a sign. They very much wanted it gone.”
Steve says, “What do you mean, they very much wanted it gone?”
Bucky’s eyes flick back to the TV and he murmurs, “That fondant’s not setting right,” about a fraction of a second before the man on the television says the same thing.
Steve says, “Buck.”
Bucky jerks a thumb over his shoulder at the hallway into the kitchen. “Look at the sign.”
He walks into the kitchen and sees a cardboard corner, peeking out from where Bucky has tucked it behind the recycling bin. He feels a goofy surge of love for him, the small conscientious things he does, the fact that he brought home a fucking velour-upholstered chair that he found on the street. The future is not all bad.
He pulls the sign out from behind the bin.
FREE, it says in bubble letters. Sparkly bubble letters. So far, so good.
Also in bubble letters. Like it’s a fun thing.
GHOST INCLUDED (WE HOPE).
He stands there staring at the sign like it’s going to suddenly speak to him, start making sense, and Bucky calls from the other room:
He walks back into the living room in a bit of a daze, and there it is. The chair. The haunted chair, sitting there underneath his boyfriend, glaring at him in all its purple, plushy glory.
“What…” Steve trails off, gesturing feebly with the sign.
Bucky grins ferociously, raises his eyebrows. “Were you gonna say ‘what possessed you’?”
He has to laugh, a little. “I was.”
“The spirit of the chair,” Bucky intones dramatically. “They say a man died in this chair centuries ago.”
“Did they actually say that?” Steve winces at the sharp note of curiosity - verging on panic - in his voice.
Bucky catches it. Of course he does. He folds the footrest in, leans forward and hooks a finger through one of Steve’s belt loops.
“Stevie. Do you believe in ghosts?”
“Don’t call me - no, I don’t - I just-” He snaps his mouth shut, trying to save what little dignity he has left. Bucky is doing his level best not to laugh, his mouth pressed into a tight line as he regards Steve with what he thinks is a serious expression.
“I don’t believe in ghosts,” he says at last, too forcefully. Bucky’s face does some strange things as he fights for control. “I just… I mean, why invite the… the… why invite it into your life?”
Bucky is kneading Steve’s hipbone with his thumb, which isn’t helping him form sentences.
“How did I not know this about you?” he muses, looking up at him. “Didn’t we go to that haunted house at Coney Island?”
Steve sighs. “Eyes shut the whole time.”
Bucky barks out a laugh, his dark eyes dancing. “Is that why you held onto me the whole way through?”
“Sure,” Steve says. “That, and I could feel your back muscles through your shirt.”
Bucky’s eyes get a little darker then, and he pulls Steve closer, bringing his other hand up to his waist. “Still can’t believe you never said anything.”
He kisses him just below the hem of his t-shirt, then slides his hands to the backs of Steve’s thighs and pulls him down onto the chair. Steve sinks into it for a moment, leans in and kisses Bucky soft and deep, and then his brain yelps haunted chair and he pushes away so fast that he rolls straight over the armrest onto the floor. Bucky leans over the side of the chair and pouts.
“The best way to get over your fear is to have sex on it,” he wheedles. “That’s what they always say.”
"I am not," says Steve, as haughtily as he can from the floor, “afraid of the chair.” He gets to his feet, carefully not using the chair as leverage. “I just - have to -” He gestures in the direction of the kitchen, then changes his mind and waffles toward the bedroom.. “I’m - um -”
Then, a stroke of genius. “Nat needs help.”
Bucky raises an eyebrow. “With what?”
Shit. “Um,” he says, and then before he can think too hard about it he crosses the room and leaves the apartment.
He can hear Bucky’s laugh all the way through the door.
“A haunted chair.”
Sam’s voice sounds the way it always does when he talks to or about Bucky - a strangely parental mix of resignation, fraying patience, and somehow-affectionate rage. “I can’t say I’m surprised, but Cap, what’s the big deal? I mean, I understand the bug concern, but I feel like you’re leaning pretty hard on the haunted part. That could just be me, but-”
Steve sighs into his phone. “No, it’s not. I don’t know, Sam. I don’t think I really believe that it’s haunted, but I don’t… it makes me feel uneasy, knowing that someone thought it was.”
“Maybe you gotta talk to those people,” Sam says. “Find ‘em and ask why they decided to get rid of it. Maybe it was just a cute sign, something to catch the eye. Appeal to the hipsters.”
He sighs again. “Don’t say the word ‘hipster’ to me.”
“I’m just saying. People in Brooklyn are weird-”
“-and they might have thought that would appeal to some people. Like, ‘Ooh, a haunted chair, let’s take it home.’”
He has a point, which Steve will never admit. He can see Kate saying something along those exact lines, clapping her hands gleefully. Plus, the damn thing is purple. Maybe he can just get her to take it, now that he thinks about it-
“Cap,” Sam says into his ear.
“Sorry, Sam. Do you think Kate wants a chair?”
“Do not give that child a haunted chair, Steve Rogers. It’s bad enough she has Barton for a mentor. If she gets possessed on top of that-”
“Fine,” he huffs. “She would love it, though.”
“Yeah, but you won’t love it when Barton crashes on your couch for the rest of his life because her head’s spinning around like a top.”
He actually stops walking at that point. “What?”
There is a loud crackling sigh of exasperation. “The Exorcist, Steve. You haven’t seen The Exorcist?”
He digs his notebook out of his pocket, flips through it. “It’s on the list, actually. But it’s behind - mmm - something called Back to the Future and something that I think is music, maybe. What is ‘vanilla sky’? Wait, maybe it’s food, that sounds like food-”
“Who put Vanilla Sky on that list? Do not watch Vanilla Sky. Cross that out right now. Who did - who - why would you -”
Sam is sputtering at this point.
“It’s a movie, okay, good note. But you’re saying no Vanilla Sky.”
“I’m saying never, in this lifetime or any other. Never Vanilla Sky.”
“Nat’s not gonna be happy about that.”
“Yeah, not happy that her attempt to play a very cruel joke on you failed. Go home. Watch The Exorcist. Maybe that’ll convince Barnes to get rid of the chair.”
“All right, all right. Just this once. We can’t just skip around the list, Sam. I’ll never get through everything if I keep only picking stuff that seems interesting.”
“I’ll remind you of this conversation when we get to the late ‘90s.”
“Thanks, Sam. I’ll let you know how it goes.”
He leans against Bucky’s legs during the movie, very careful not to make contact with the chair. Bucky complains a little at first because he wants the footrest up, but he settles for trying to make Steve’s hair stand on end, running his fingers through it ceaselessly for the first half of the film. His hands drop away, down to Steve’s shoulders, as he leans toward the screen when Reagan starts speaking in the demon voice. “Cool,” he breathes.
Steve, meanwhile, is visualizing this exact scenario starring Bucky and himself, and he’s just not sure he can handle another trip to Bucky-not-being-Bucky-land. He elbows him in the shin. “It’s not cool,” he says testily. “It is a harrowing possibility.”
Bucky leans all the way forward at that, his face swooping in next to Steve’s.
“Are you worried I’m gonna get possessed? Is that what this is? I thought we weren’t skipping around the list anymore. Bad form, Stevie.”
He closes his eyes. “It’s not - Sam told me we should skip Vanilla Sky. We’re basically right on track.”
Bucky makes a disbelieving sound in his throat and leans back just a little, metal fingers kneading Steve’s neck. They watch the rest of the movie in a comfortable silence.
“So?” Steve says when it’s over. “What did you think?”
“Pretty good,” Bucky allows. “The stairs, when she came down, that was-” He purses his lips, raises his eyebrows. “Woof.”
“Yeah,” Steve says, getting to his feet. “I’m gonna order Chinese, what do you want?”
He squints at his phone, composes a text to Sam. He liked it.
Bucky groans. “I want you to let me cook, Rogers. If you tell me the day before I can actually make anything you could order.”
Blip. Not scared?
Nah. It’s gonna take more than movies, I guess.
“I didn’t know I wanted Chinese food yesterday. What do you want?”
He gets only a wounded stare in response as he goes into the kitchen. He digs a menu out of the secret menu drawer, which is actually just a junk drawer that he hides takeout menus in, and flips it across the room into Bucky’s lap. “If you don’t pick something, I’ll pick for you.”
Blip. Ugh. Assassins.
He sets the phone down. “Buck. Don’t make me get something with tofu.” A lot of the food of the future unsettles Bucky, and tofu is high on the list. Why does it look like that, Steve? Why doesn’t it taste like anything, Steve? You shouldn’t have to put your food in a vise before you cook it, Steve!
He scowls. “Fried rice. Like, a lot of it.”
“That’s what I thought.”
“Even though I could make it myself in ten minutes if you’d just wait for me to go to the store.”
Steve stands in the doorway, arms folded, gazing at him. “By the time you get to the store I’ll be halfway through a container of shrimp.”
Bucky heaves a sigh. “Fine. Fine. I’ll just sit here and wait for the chair to possess me. You’ll wish you let me cook then.”
“Not funny,” Steve grumbles as he dials. Bucky just kicks the footrest out and smiles lazily at him. His stomach flips - those fucking teeth - and then the restaurant picks up and he fumbles his way through an order.
“You sure you don’t want to, uh, break this baby in?” Bucky asks, arching an eyebrow, rocking his hips a little. He knows how Steve feels about that smile. Steve puts the phone down on the counter and walks toward him slowly, purposefully, and then continues past him, into the bedroom.
“Cruel,” Bucky calls after him. “Very cruel.”
He comes into the room a moment later, though, looks at Steve lying on the bed and says, “We’ve got, what, ten minutes before the delivery guy shows up?”
Steve says, “Eh, give or take,” and then Bucky pounces on him.
He slides a hand under Steve’s shirt, dragging his thumb down the ridges of his hipbones, touching him gently, lightly, fingers drifting across his skin like butterfly wings. He keeps his mouth just out of reach, lips brushing feather-light across Steve’s, the heat of his breath, the barest flick of his tongue before he pulls away. Steve says, “Oh no you don’t,” and reaches up. He winds his hands into Bucky’s hair, changes his mind and grabs his hips, pulls him close, fingers dug into the dimples at the base of his spine, and Bucky laughs and says, “Alright, alright,” and kisses him for real. He makes a sound in his throat that is somewhere between a whine and a growl, a hungry sound, and Steve is just slipping his hands under his waistband when the buzzer crackles.
“Delivery,” the voice says.
Bucky presses his forehead against Steve’s, nuzzles his nose like a cat. “Fuckin’ delivery food,” he murmurs against his lips. He reaches into Steve’s pocket, making his breath catch, and pulls out his wallet. He manages to say, “Less cooking time means more time for other things,” as Bucky slips out the door.
“I’m gonna get you in that chair, Rogers,” he says when he returns a moment later, laden with plastic bags. “I’m gonna throw out all the secret menus, cook something elaborate, use all the pans in the house, and then we’re gonna have sex in that chair. All your worst nightmares.”
Steve laughs. “Did the delivery guy see -” He gestures at Bucky’s hips.
“Who cares,” Bucky says contentedly as he puts the bags on the dresser. “He was distracted by the arm. You have a metal arm?” he says in a falsetto. “Yeah, kid, I do, and I can snap you in half with it. Gimme my food.”
“Interesting that you say ‘gimme my food’ when you’ve left it over there,” Steve remarks as Bucky moves toward the bed, pulling off his shirt.
“Mm. You know you only had six bucks in your wallet?”
“You didn’t ask me how much I had on me before you took it.”
“Yeah, well. You owe me. You didn’t take your pants off while I was gone?”
“You were gone for a minute. And I thought we were going to eat.”
The food is cold by the time they finally get to it. Neither of them complains.