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First Place In The County Fair Of My Heart

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It all starts over yarn.

It’s the last skein on the shelf, ridiculously soft and bright blue and exactly the one Steve needs to finish the blanket he’s giving Sam’s sister’s wife for her baby shower.

It’s perfect.

He reaches up to grab it and out of the corner of his eye catches sight of another arm, snagging the skein right before Steve’s fingers can close around it.

Steve doesn’t gasp, not exactly, but he does whirl around on the man- fuck, the very attractive man- who’s just stolen Steve’s yarn.

“That’s my yarn.” Steve works hard to keep his tone polite, but he’s not sure he quite succeeds.

The man, instead of doing the reasonable thing and handing over Steve’s yarn, brings it close to his face and visibly inspects it, “Huh, funny, cause I don’t see your name on it.”

“I- That’s- I saw it first!” Steve splutters.

“Unfortunately for you you don’t get dibs on yarn just by being the first to see it.” The man says, still holding onto Steve’s fucking yarn.

“I need it.”

“Good for you. I need it more.” And then, like a dick, the man walks away with Steve’s yarn.  

Which is how Steve gets himself a knitting nemesis.

Steve ends up ordering the yarn online, paying out the ass for a rush delivery and manages to finish the blanket two hours before the baby shower. Sierra’s wife Reggie runs her hands over the blanket reverently and tells Steve it’s perfect, and just like that it’s all worth it.

 

The next time he sees his knitting nemesis it’s at the fiber arts exhibit of a county fair.

Steve’s a six year running first place champion, and sure it might be a little cocky, but he’’s submitted six pieces and he expects to have a first place ribbon on each of them.

One. Only one of his pieces has the coveted ribbon.

“How.” Steve asks, starring in baffled shock at the row of second place ribbons. The only thing to get first was a pair of socks. And sure, it’s a great pair of socks, but his wall hanging had been insane and his afghan had taken more time than Steve will ever care to admit.

“Man, I don’t know, maybe because your hyper competitive ass is up against a bunch of old ladies who have been doing it longer than you’ve been alive? It’s knitting, Steve.” Sam says, which is rude and also uncalled for. And also wrong.

No.” Steve says as his eyes fall upon the very soul that stole Steve’s yarn, the man who has now upset Steve from his spot as a fir st place winner, standing next to the pieces that beat Steve’s. “It was him .” He says, raising one accusing finger to point in the direction of James Buchanan Barnes, now a thief of both yarn and dignity.

“As, I’m assuming, the only marginally young males in this thing shouldn’t you two be like, I don’t know, friends? Or at least friendly?” Sam asks, clearly not understanding the seriousness of this very serious situation.

He stole my yarn.” Steve says like it’s a perfect justification. And it is.

“Yeah, okay, you know what man? I don’t know why I even ask anymore.”

 

Another county fair comes and goes, and so does another crippling defeat by James Buchanan Barnes. This time at least Steve has prepared himself with a corn dog, and he bites off a piece of it viciously as he meets James’ eyes across the room.

Natasha, who has insisted she get to come with Steve this time because she claims it’s unfair that Sam gets to see all the entertainment, shakes her head in disbelief at Steve.

“Rogers, stop castrating a hot dog in the poor guy’s direction. That’s just uncalled for.”

Across the room, James winks and flashes a horrible, smarmy grin as he pets one of his many first place ribbons.

 

The thing is, the really big thing is that Steve realizes this whole thing is ridiculous. It’s ridiculous to have a knitting nemesis, and it’s ridiculous to be so butthurt over losing to that nemesis. It’s not like Steve needs the ten bucks worth of prize money from winning at a county fair, and it’s not even like knitting is the only thing Steve’s good at. It’s just, well, Steve likes it. And he likes being good at it. And maybe, just maybe, the sick kid stuck home from school who picked up knitting out of desperation is still inside of Steve somewhere and he’s feeling a little sensitive about the fact that some random asshole just walked in and took Steve’s place.

 

“Fuck you.” Steve snarls when James corners him in the yarn section at the local craft store. It’s been a long day and he just wants to bask in the glory of the craft store without worrying somebody’s going to take the last of something he wants.  

“Would you?” James asks and Steve’s about to retort when the words catch up to him and he ends up spluttering.

He’s not contemplating it. It’s just, well, it’s certainly something to imagine. All that skin, underneath him. And that ass.

“You’re my nemesis .” He says, pretty sure that makes no sense to anyone outside of his head, but in his defense he’s a little thrown off by James.

“Ri- iight. That makes perfect sense and isn’t insane at all.” James says and Steve would argue, but he doesn’t exactly have an argument for that. He’s well aware that it’s insane. “Listen, pal, I never signed up to be your nemesis. All I wanted was some damn yarn.”

“My yarn.” Steve reminds him, even if the yarn is starting to matter less and less.

“If it helps, I’ve still got some of it left if you wanna come back to my place and get it.” Bucky says with what is a very unsubtle up and down glance over Steve.

“Are you trying to hit on me? Badly?

“Is it working if I am?”

 

Which is how he ends up fucking James “No really, call me Bucky” Barnes in Bucky’s shitty studio apartment.

Steve’s not sure what he expected his mid twenties to be like when he was a kid, but he’s pretty sure it didn’t involve this.

He means to leave, he really does, because not staying to cuddle is pretty much basic one night stand protocol and he’s pretty sure that’s what this is, but Bucky’s spread out in a boneless heap on his stomach and he doesn’t so much as twitch when Steve ends up spread out over his back so clearly he doesn’t mind.

In fact, he does the entire opposite of seeming to mind, and reaches back to pat at Steve’s hip blindly. “Good job Rogers. A plus plus. You win first place in the county fair of my heart.” He mumbles before his arm flops right back down onto the mattress.

“Clearly I’ve managed to actually fuck the sense out of you.” Steve says, letting his head settle into what is a surprisingly comfortable spot right between Bucky’s shoulder blades.

“Steve?”

“Yeah?”

“Go to sleep.”

And, well, Steve is comfortable. He really might as well.

 

When he finally wakes up it’s to an experience that can only be described as being aggressively spooned.

Bucky’s pressed up along Steve’s back, his face smashed hard into the back of Steve’s head, and a firm grip around Steve’s waist. When Steve attempts to wiggle away to start the morning after process his arms squeeze tighter, pulling Steve even closer into Bucky and Bucky’s admittedly very nice chest.

“I’ve gotta-” Steve tries, attempting half heartedly to lift Bucky’s arm off of him.

“Nope. Stay awhile.” Bucky says, sleep soft and muffled by Steve’s hair.

“Yeah. Okay.” Steve says and twists around in Bucky’s arms until he’s facing him. Then, he smashes his face into Bucky’s throat and drops right back off to the feeling of Bucky’s hand moving up and down his spine.

 

“So, I might have lied,” Bucky says once they’ve woken up and are sitting on his couch drinking coffee.  His mug is chipped and has the NASA logo and ‘I NEED SPACE’ on it. He gave Steve the one that says ‘Knitter? I prefer the term Yarn Goddess!’ on it.

Steve has a lot of questions. First and foremost being, “What did you lie about?”

“I don’t have any of the yarn I ‘stole’ left.” Bucky says, making air quotes around the word ‘stole’ like they aren’t two adults here who are in fact, adult enough to have just had a one night stand.  

“So what you’re saying is, you brought me here on false pretenses?” Steve asks, grinning at Bucky over his mug despite himself.

“I don’t know, I think I was pretty damn clear about the pretenses.”  

Steve rolls his eyes before he’s getting to his feet and gesturing for Bucky to do the same. “Show me your stash.”

“What? Why?” Bucky asks, though even as he does he’s getting up and opening a cabinet, revealing two large rubbermaid containers filled to the brim with yarn.

“You have a serious yarn problem.” Steve tells him, digging through skeins of yarn and tiny balls of leftover yarn until he finds what he’s looking for. “This’ll do as a replacement for the yarn you stole.”

“Oh god, are we doing this again?”

“Quid pro quo,” Steve says and waves the yarn at him. It’s a nice multi colored slub yarn. Steve’s already picturing it as a slouchy hat.

“I’m not sure you’re using that right. Unless you just exchanged sex for yarn? Because if that’s the case I got the best end of the deal here considering that yarn was like twelve bucks.”

“It’s yarn for yarn. You steal my yarn, I steal yours.”

“Technically you never paid for the yarn I stole.”

“Technically we don’t need to bring semantics into this conversation.” Steve says and doesn’t feel proud at all when Bucky tips his head back and laughs hard.

 

Steve, despite his best intentions, doesn’t leave after that. Bucky postmates bagels, and well, he can’t exactly leave when there’s bagels being offered. Of course then Bucky queues up netflix and Steve sticks around for that, and somehow they end up on the couch together, Steve’s feet in Bucky’s lap while they knit.

Steve wiggles his toes a little against Bucky’s thigh, enjoying the socks Bucky had thrown at him when he’d said his feet were cold. They’re nice socks is all. Soft and thick and a really nice shade of red. Steve might even say that they’re almost as good as his own. Not quite, but almost.

Steve then proceeds to slide his foot up Bucky’s thigh and towards some merchandise much more valuable than yarn. Bucky drops a stitch, swearing.

Some people might say that knitting isn’t a competition, but they’d be wrong. Steve’s going to win.

In the end, no one really wins, but Bucky does end up stabbed in the ass by a knitting needle when the competition somehow and through absolutely no fault of Steve’s turns into having mid morning sex on the couch, and really, that’s victory enough.

 

The one night stand turns into a two day stand, turns into a three night stand, and then into something they just keep doing while Steve convinces himself that that’s perfectly normal.

Then it turns into dinner out. Bucky texts him with things like ‘I’m at a Thai place and I’m pretty sure that crazy grandma who runs the intermediate knitting classes is here, come quick’ or ‘help i got too much chinese food, i need your freakish ability to pack in twice your weight in food.’

At some point the excuses even fall away and it becomes simple ‘come out to eat with me?’ s, and ‘where do you want to go for dinner?’ s and well, that’s nice, and Steve likes to eat, plus the sex is great and the company isn’t half bad, so really, why would he ever stop it?

And then, somehow , over the course of nearly a year it turns into this. This being Steve in Bucky’s apartment, in Bucky’s lap, holding a takeout container of food that they’re both eating out of and Bucky saying “So, I have a thing.”

“What kinda thing?” Steve asks, grabbing a piece of kung pao chicken with his chopsticks and then shifting his hand out of the way so that Bucky can do the same.

“A family thing. Little sister’s getting married.”

“Becca?” Steve asks, because there’s three Barnes sisters so he kind of needs a little more specification than that.

“Nah, Becca’s already married, you know that. I’ve shown you pictures of her kids. This time it’s Alice.” Bucky says like it’s some sort of tragedy.

Steve reaches for the last egg roll, leans over to dunk it in the sweet and sour on the coffee table and gives half of it to Bucky in sympathy. Normally they’d fight over the last egg roll, but clearly Bucky deserves it more in his time of need.

“Isn’t she a baby? You talk about her like she’s a baby.”

“God, yes, she’s 18. Who the hell gets married at 18?” Bucky asks, like Steve could possibly have any sort of answer to that.  

“How on earth would I know? This is the longest anything I’ve had since college.” Steve says and oh god, he knows the moment he says it what he just opened himself up to, because Bucky’s expression spreads into something that’s all at once pleased, and soft, and unbearably smug. Steve has absolutely no idea how he makes his face do that.

“We’re an anything huh?”

“Nope, I take it back. We’re arch nemeses with benefits.” Steve says as firm as one can be when they’re sitting in their arch nemesis’ lap, thoroughly enjoying the little back and forth movement Bucky’s hand has been doing over the base of Steve’s spine for the past ten minutes.

“Uh-huh, okay. Does arch nemesis-ship usually come with your toothbrush in my bathroom or am I just a special exception?”

And oh god, this is a relationship . Steve spends at least three nights a week in this apartment. Bucky spends the others at Steve’s. They go grocery shopping together . The people at Trader Joe’s know them as Steve&Bucky. They do brunch. Their friends have become their friends and not two separate entities that occasionally come together because of them.

“Oh my god, we’re dating.” Steve says, pointing his chopsticks at Bucky accusingly.

“I feel like I should be offended that you’re just now noticing this, but at the same time I one hundred percent knew what I was getting into when we started this.”

“In my defense, I’m kind of an idiot.” Steve says mostly just because he knows it’ll make Bucky laugh at him.

“In mine, I’m the idiot who’s into it.” Bucky says, which is true. Bucky loves when Steve does stupid shit. “So you’ll come with me to Alice’s wedding.”

“I guess.” Steve says, sighing like Bucky is asking the world of him. “You can even tell people I’m your boyfriend if you want to.”

“Well that’s good, considering I’ve been doing that for at least six months. You’re a little slow on the uptake Rogers, it’s a wonder you’ve survived so long.”

“Ass.” Steve says with a wave of his chopsticks.

 

Steve goes to Alice’s wedding. Alice is glowing and Bucky insists he isn’t crying during the ceremony and through it all the entire extended Barnes family refers to him as ‘Bucky’s Steve.’

Steve finds he doesn’t mind it even a little bit.

 

For Christmas a year later, Bucky gives Steve a handmade pair of socks to replace the worn out ones Steve stole from him over two years ago. He also gives Steve a ball of bright blue, soft as hell yarn that he insists Steve unravel right then and there.

When Steve gets to the end of it there’s a box and Bucky’s on one knee.

“We should tie the knot.” Bucky says, smiling like a goddamn lunatic.

“I will burn all of your yarn if you propose to me with a pun.” Steve says, the words coming out on automatic as he white knuckles the ring box.

Bucky gently unwraps Steve’s fingers from the soft velvet box and takes it in his own hands, popping it open.

“Steven Grant Rogers, you-”

“Wait, I take it back. The pun is fine. I’m saying yes. You know I’m saying yes. Of course I’m saying yes.” Steve says, something light and so fucking happy he feels like he could float with it bubbling up.

“Good. That’s good. ‘Cause I was about to talk out my ass a whole bunch.” Bucky says as he slides the ring onto Steve’s finger, lit up and happy and so damn gorgeous that Steve can’t do anything other than take Bucky’s face between his hands and kiss him senseless.

“You talk out your ass at least half the time. It wouldn’t be anything new.” Steve says, strangely soft when he pulls back.

“Hey, it got me you didn’t it?” Bucky asks, his forehead tipped forward against Steve’s.

“No, you refusing to be a good samaritan and stealing my yarn got you me.”

“I think that’s just proof that sometimes the ends justify the means.”

“Nothing justifies yarn stealing Buck. Nothing.”