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He's Got a Secret

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It was a lazy, rainy, November morning, and somehow, miraculously, neither Bucky nor Tony had anything immediately pressing to get to. They were taking full advantage, snuggling up in bed and just enjoying each other's company before facing the day.  

Tony was sprawled on his back, nestled into a mountain of pillows, with Bucky pushed up on his metal elbow, leaning over him to press gentle kisses over his neck and shoulders. Tony hummed, his eyes fluttering shut as he combed his fingers through Bucky’s hair, tangling their legs together.

“This is nice,” he mumbled, inhaling sharply at the faint drag of teeth over his collarbone. “Mmm… This is… this is really nice.” 

He could feel Bucky’s lips curl into a smile over his skin and he grinned in return, rubbing over Bucky’s scalp until the other man was practically purring. Tony opened his eyes again, feeling all warm and melty inside at the loving look that Bucky was giving him. 

“Hey baby,” Bucky purred, tilting his head to kiss the palm of Tony’s hand. Tony shivered a little at that, and Bucky waggled his eyebrows at him before letting his elbow drop again, snuggling into the pillows beside Tony. Tony beamed, rolling onto his side to face him. 

“Hey yourself,” he said, curling his hand over Bucky’s cheek and kissing him properly. 

“Mmm,” Bucky hummed against his lips, pulling back to stroke his fingers up and down Tony’s arm until he was shivering. “I love mornings like this.”

“You and me both,” Tony told him. He yawned widely and abandoned kissing in favour of snuggling into Bucky’s chest, grinning when Bucky wrapped his arms around him and rolled on to his back, taking Tony with him. Tony yawned again, tracing aimless patterns over Bucky’s bare chest, teasing around his nipple just to hear Bucky’s slight hiss. “What are your plans today, Bucky Bear?” 

Bucky grinned at the nickname, pressing a kiss to the top of Tony’s head. "Nothing major,” he admitted. “Promised Steve I’d spar with him this evening, although I’m looking for any excuse to get out of that. Sam’s moving his sister into a new apartment this afternoon, and he roped me into helping.”

He was grumbling and Tony laughed softly, placing a kiss over his heart. “You say that like you didn’t immediately volunteer, you big softie.”

Bucky shrugged. “I like his sister, she makes fun of Sam with me. Plus she makes real good cookies, so sue me.” He grinned, tightening his arms around Tony. “What about you, sweetheart. Anything exciting?” 

“I’ve got a conference call with Hong Kong,” Tony said with a sigh. “But then I’m gonna be in the lab most of the day. The thrusters in my left boot were a little off yesterday, and I’ve been meaning to get to an upgrade on Clint’s arrows for like, three weeks, and Pepper’s been bugging me about a problem with the StarkPhone UI that R&D apparently can’t handle. So that’ll be me.” He leaned up enough to kiss the bottom of Bucky’s chin. “Want to get dinner tonight?” 

“Absolutely,” Bucky declared. “Lorenzo’s? At seven? It’ll give me an excuse to skip my sparring session,” he added cheerfully, making Tony laugh. 

“Seven it is,” he agreed. “Tell Steve he can spar with Natasha instead,”  he added, giggling when Bucky winced a little at the thought. He leaned up, kissing him softly on the lips. 

“Oh, Steve,” Bucky said when he pulled back again, making Tony blink. He shifted up on his arms so he could fix Bucky with an arched brow. 

“Not exactly the name I was hoping to hear, babe.” 

“Shut up,” Bucky drawled, and Tony squawked as he poked him between his ribs, right in a ticklish spot. Bucky grinned as Tony spluttered and collapsed against his chest again. 

“You’re the worst,” Tony told him, biting at his pec in retaliation. Bucky shifted a little at the feeling but folded an arm behind his head, just looking at Tony smugly. 

“That’s not what you said earlier,” Bucky reminded him, grinning wider when Tony just rolled his eyes. “In fact, as I recall, it was something more along the lines of ‘oh god, yes, Bucky, Bucky, I love you so fucking much, Bucky,’” he added in a fair imitation of Tony’s voice.  

Tony just huffed, biting him harder, and Bucky grunted a little, sliding his hand down to palm Tony’s ass. 

“Hey you wanna go again, we can go right ahead,” he offered, feeling Tony squirm as he stroked a finger down the cleft of his ass. “I’m good whenever.”

For just a minute Tony pushed up into his touch, moaning softly against Bucky’s skin. But then he heaved a sigh, rolling to his side to give Bucky a glare. “It’s hasn’t even been an hour, asshole. You know I can’t go again yet.” 

Bucky just laughed, pulling Tony in against his chest again to places kisses in his hair. 

“Fucking super soldiers and their fucking refractory periods,” Tony grumbled into Bucky’s neck before looking up so suddenly he almost smacked the back of his head into Bucky’s chin. “Oh yeah, so why exactly were you bringing Steve into our sex life?” 

“Gross,” Bucky said, wrinkling his nose a little at the thought. “I wasn’t. I was just gonna say, we should start planning for his birthday? Maybe we could brainstorm over dinner. He hates making a big deal outta it, so obviously we have to go completely over the top.”

Tony nodded, humming as metal fingers rubbed at his shoulders. “Yeah, sounds good,” he agreed, and then paused. “Wait, what?” he asked, leaning up to look at Bucky again. “I mean, I guess, but you’re getting a bit of an early start there, aren’t you?” 

Bucky frowned at him. “Well… we’ve got a bit of time, but not if we wanna get a good reservation somewhere or something.” 

Tony snorted. “Are you planning to rent out the Met? I mean, I’m not saying no, the look on his face would be hilarious. But otherwise, I think we can probably make whatever you want to do work with less lead time. We’ve got almost eight months, and I am very, very rich.” 

Bucky stopped rubbing Tony’s shoulder, ignoring his faint noise of protest. “Eight months?” he repeated. “What are you talking about?” 

Tony frowned at him. “It’s November.”

“Yeah.” 

“Steve’s birthday is in July.” 

“Steve’s birthday is when now?” 

“July. July fourth.”

Bucky blinked at him for a minute and then he burst out laughing. Tony sat up on in the bed, watching in concern as Bucky laughed until he was crying, wondering if his boyfriend had finally lost it entirely. Bucky laughed and laughed until he wasn’t even breathing, tears streaming down his cheeks as he clutched at his middle, trying to get control of himself. 

“Oh my god,” he finally managed to choke out, still holding onto his stomach with his eyes closed. “Oh man, I definitely don’t need to spar now,” he added, still snickering under his breath. 

“Okay, that’s good,” Tony told him. “And also, what the hell was that?” 

Bucky opened his eyes, and started laughing again when he saw Tony’s face, although fortunately he got himself mostly under control again after a minute. 

“Steve…” he snickered a little. “Tell me again when you think Steve’s birthday is?” 

“July fourth,” Tony repeated. “Everyone knows that. It’s like he was meant to be Captain America, from the day he was born. He’s every tour guide’s wet dream.” Tony stared as Bucky burst out laughing again, wiping at the tears streaming from his eyes. “Bucky, what?” 

“Steve’s birthday is not July fourth,” Bucky managed to choke out before snorting again, shoving his face into the pillow until he could get himself under control again. 

Tony blinked at him. “I’m sorry. What?” 

“Steve’s birthday isn’t July fourth,” Bucky repeated, this time managing to say it with a more or less straight face. “Not even close. He was born on December 3.”

Tony blinked again, his mind trying to connect the facts he already knew with what Bucky was now telling him. “That… That can’t be right.” 

Bucky grinned at him. “Trust me, doll. I’ve known that punk since we were little kids. Used to join he and his ma to celebrate Steve’s birthday, and it would always snow. It was definitely not July.” 

Tony just shook his head. “But… we’ve thrown him birthday parties! Every year we have a barbeque, and we all watch the fireworks from the roof of the tower, and make jokes about how there are fireworks for him, not America. One year I even paid to get a firework done like his shield, and I thought he was going to jump in the pool. He never said anything!”

Bucky’s eyes were sparkling now, looking like it was his birthday. “Probably because he knew he’d never hear the end of it from all of you. Tony, honey, this is the best. Do you know what we can do with this?”

“What is even happening right now?” Tony breathed softly, still trying to process this new information. There were certain things that were just facts, and one of those things was that Steve Rogers had the most American birthday possible. “I don’t… How?” 

“Probably some propaganda thing they came up with when he was doing those USO tours. ‘Captain America is so patriotic, he was born on the fourth of July. Be patriotic like Cap. Fight for your country.’ That kind of thing.”

Tony snickered a little, finally catching up. “So it somehow made it onto his SSR file, and when SHIELD found him… And it’s Steve, so of course he wouldn’t have said anything.” He started to laugh, and Bucky beamed now that Tony had caught up. “He probably spends the month of June in absolute terror that we’ll figure it out. This is the most Steve Rogers thing that has ever happened.” He shook his head at Bucky. “How did we not figure this out earlier?” 

“We missed Steve’s birthday last year, remember?” Bucky reminded him. “That hell mission? We were gone like three weeks. And then before that, I wasn’t really paying attention to birthdays.” He flapped a hand impatiently. “Doesn’t matter. Tony, how are we gonna tell him?” 

Tony grinned wider. “I’m thinking surprise party?” he asked. “Do you think he’ll faint when he walks in and realizes that we all know?” 

“Yes,” Bucky agreed, nodding definitively. “Absolutely. But please let me tease him a bit first.” A wicked look crossed his face, and Tony couldn’t decide if he was terrified, or turned on. “I want to see his face when he realizes I can ruin everything with one word.” 

“Only if you promise to record it so I can see too.” 

***

Steve had had a pretty much perfect morning. He’d woken in the dark to go for a run. The air was cool, and crisp, and by the time he was headed back to the tower, the sun was up, promising to be one of those gorgeous, unseasonably warm, late fall days. Now he was freshly showered, and enjoying a second cup of coffee while he flipped through a newspaper.

And then Bucky walked in. 

“Hey Stevie,” he drawled, making his way over to the coffee maker, and Steve glanced up at him over the top of his paper. Bucky had a bounce to his step and was humming under his breath; today was obviously a good day, and Steve grinned at him. 

“Hey Buck,” he said, eyeing Bucky a moment longer before turning back to his paper. He didn’t actually have any particular preference for print newpapers, except for the horrified look Tony got whenever he saw him reading one, but really, what other reason did he need? He and Bucky fell into a comfortable silence, interrupted only by the occasional flick of paper as Steve turned to next page and the easy, domestic sounds of Bucky moving around the kitchen, making himself some breakfast. 

“Hey, Steve?” Bucky asked suddenly, jolting Steve out of the daze he’d let himself sink into. He blinked a couple times before looking up to find Bucky frowning out the window, looking more perplexed than upset. 

“Yeah, Buck?”

“Am I…” Bucky trailed off, looking like he was counting in his head. He laughed softly at himself. “This is gonna sounds nuts, but… Am I missing a holiday?” 

Steve arched an eyebrow at him. “You mean Thanksgiving? You were here for Thanksgiving.” 

“No…” Bucky rolled his eyes at him. “I remember Thanksgiving, punk. It was just last week…” He trailed off again, chewing at his lip as he thought. Steve took an encouraging sip of his coffee. “But isn’t there something else? It feels like we used to celebrate something extra special this time of year.” 

Steve inhaled his coffee, choking and spluttering and sending liquid spraying everywhere. Bucky came over and pounded him not-at-all-helpfully on the back as Steve tried to catch his breath. 

“What?” he gasped when he could breathe again, a little grateful that the choked sound of his voice would maybe hide the fact that he couldn’t lie for shit. “I think you’re thinking of Christmas, Buck?” 

“Definitely not Christmas,” Bucky told him, apparently believing Steve. He grinned fondly. “I definitely remember our Christmasses growing up. You and your ma would come over for dinner, and you, me, and Becca would have a snowball fight outside.” He shook his head again. “This was something else. Something… more special. Seemed like you, me and your ma would always celebrate together, although that can’t be quite right, can it?” 

Steve stared intently at his coffee mug. “I don’t know,” he mumbled. 

Bucky didn’t seem phased, shrugging instead. “That’s okay,” he said, apparently misinterpreting Steve’s quietness as feeling maudlin about Bucky’s messed up brain. He patted Steve on the shoulder before collecting the plates he’d made up for himself and Tony. “See ya later,” he said, before hesitating in the doorway. “Don’t worry, Stevie,” he added reassuringly, and if Steve hadn’t been staring at his coffee so that his face didn’t give anything away, he might have noticed the glint in Bucky’s eyes. “I’m sure it’ll come back to me.” 

As soon as the elevator had dinged, Steve collapsed against the table with a faint moan. Somehow, in all the time that Bucky had been back, it hadn’t actually occurred to him that of course his real birthday would be buried somewhere in his psyche. He was glad that Bucky was recovering more and more of his memories, of course he was. Just… Did it have to be this memory in particular? 

***

Upstairs, Bucky rushed into the bedroom where Tony was sprawled across the bed, watching the live feed of the common area kitchen that JARVIS was projecting on the wall. “What’s he doing?” he asked, bouncing on the bed and leaning over to kiss the top of Tony’s head, beaming when Tony pressed into the touch a few seconds longer than necessary. “Anything good?” 

Tony tilted his head as he eyed the stream, lips twitching into a grin. “He’s just been lying there with his face squished into the table,” he said. “I think he might be muttering ‘why me?’ over and over.” He giggled, making grabby hands for the plate of food. “I’d almost feel bad for him, if it wasn’t so hysterical,” he added around a mouthful of bacon. 

“Don’t,” Bucky told him cheerfully. “Steve deserves this. One time for his birthday, he decided he absolutely had to try gin for the first time. Long story short, we nearly ended up in prison because of that little punk. He deserves this.”

Tony blinked at him. “Okay, no. You can’t ‘long story short’ that. How even?” 

Bucky just shook his head. “Trust me, babe. You do not want to know.”

“If you say so,” he said with a shrug, stealing a slice of bacon from Bucky’s plate this time. 

“Hey!” Bucky protested, trying to grab it back and missing when Tony shoved the entire slice in his mouth at once, stuffing his cheeks like a chipmunk. “Whatcha stealin’ my bacon for? You’ve got a whole plate of your own.” 

“I know,” Tony answered, voice muffled as he crunched. He carefully slid his own plate to his far side, in case Bucky felt the need for retaliation. “But I’m gonna eat all mine, and yours might be gone by then, so I figured I’d eat yours first!” He smiled cheekily at Bucky, like that was actual logic, and Bucky had no choice but to tackle him to the mattress, pinning him down so he could ruck his shirt up and blow a raspberry above his belly button. “Oh my god,” Tony shrieked, giggling at the sensation. “What the fuck’s the matter with you? Are you six?” 

“That’s what you get for stealing my bacon,” Bucky retorted, letting Tony up because he was actually hungry. 

“Yeah, I’d like to steal your bacon,” Tony muttered, in a voice that implied it was supposed to be an innuendo, but Bucky just snorted into his scrambled eggs. 

“You’re ridiculous,” he informed him. 

“Yeah,” Tony admitted cheerfully, digging in. “But I’m your ridiculous.” 

It didn’t make any goddamn sense at all, but Bucky couldn’t help beaming at him anyway, nudging up close against him until their shoulders were brushing. “Yeah, baby. You are.” 

***

A few days later, Tony stepped off the elevator into the penthouse to find Bucky sprawled across the couch, watching a random action movie on the television. Tony beamed at the sight him, his smile growing even larger when Bucky spotted him and returned it in kind. 

“Hey honey.” Tony yawned and then scrunched up his face, brushing a hand through his hair to shake the snow out of it. “‘s snowing,” he added unnecessarily. 

Bucky huffed out a laugh. “I can see that.” He watched as Tony peeled off his suit jacket, revealing the band t-shirt underneath before he moved over to the couch, flopping down with his head on Bucky’s lap. Bucky settled his hands on Tony’s head, carding his fingers through the thick curls until Tony was humming. “Long morning, baby?” 

“Dumb morning,” Tony grumbled. “I hate paperwork.” He stretched his legs out on the couch, kicking his shoes off. Despite being a billionaire, he had a hole in his sock, and Bucky snorted at the sight of his big toe sticking out through the black cotton. “You laughin at me?” Tony asked Bucky’s thigh. “So rude. What a terrible boyfriend.” 

Bucky could hear the smile in his voice and rolled his eyes, watching Tony’s toes curl as he scratched over a particularly good spot. “Yup, life is really hard for you, huh? You should probably leave me.” 

“Never,” Tony declared, rolling onto his back so he could look up at Bucky, giving him a dopey smile. “You still going to the movies with Steve tonight?”

Bucky nodded, brushing a stray curl back from Tony’s forehead. “Yep. He’s pickin’ me up here around six.” He grinned then, eyes sparking. “‘s been a few days since I mentioned my missing holiday, so I think I’m gonna be in the mood to bake a cake.” 

“Niiice,” Tony crowed. “I like it.” 

“How about you, baby? Still got that thing this afternoon?”

“I mean... technically yes, but it is snowing...” Tony yawned again, snuggling in tighter against him. “Might be safer to stay home, you know, just in case.” 

Bucky could have made fun of him for Iron Man being afraid of some snow, but instead he just cheered. “Yeahhh. Snow day, sweetheart. Stay here all cozy with me, we can watch this dumb movie together, and then I’ll make us some lunch.”

“Well...” Tony snuggled in closer to Bucky, all but purring when the other man grabbed a blanket off the back of the couch and covered him up in it. “If you insist.” 

By the time Steve arrived to pick up Bucky, they had eaten and shared a nap and a very distracting shower. Steve stepped off the elevator to the familiar sounds of their good-natured bickering, which he followed to the kitchen. He found Bucky in boxer briefs and an apron, baking while Tony lounged in a kitchen chair, balancing it on two feet with his feet up on the table and offering completely unhelpful suggestions. 

“Oh, hey Cap,” he drawled when Steve wandered into the room, eyeing him with a slightly mischievous glint to his eyes. “Fancy meeting you here. Come on in, have a drink.” 

Bucky jolted at the sound of Steve’s name, spinning to stare at him and then blinking back and forth between Steve and the clock on the stove. 

“Shit!” he said, wiping a streak of flour across his cheek. “Is that the time already?” He tossed a tea towel at Tony, the fabric landing perfectly over his face. “Tony! You were supposed to tell me when it was time for me to stop and get ready!” 

“I know, honey, but you just looked so happy there cooking up a storm.” Tony blinked at him, all faux wide-eyed innocence. “Plus your ass looks real cute in that apron. I couldn’t stand to interrupt you.”

Steve snorted at him. “It’s no big deal,” he promised, helping himself to a glass of water before settling into the seat opposite Tony. “We can always catch the late movie.” 

“Ohoho,” Tony said, winking at him. “I’m on to you, Rogers. You’re just hoping Bucky Bear here’ll share.” 

“I mean...” Steve shrugged unashamedly, grinning back at him. “I certainly wouldn’t turn it down. Whatcha making anyway, Buck?” 

“Umm.” Bucky paused them, staring down at the mixing bowl with a slightly vacant expression, and if Steve had been looking, he would have noticed Tony’s lips twitching before he was suddenly fascinated by something on his tablet. “A cake?” he offered, and Steve tilted his head in confusion. 

“You don’t know what you’re making?” 

Bucky shrugged, apparently not bothered. “I dunno. Something about the snow, and the wind, and New York this time of year got me in a certain mood, and I just started throwing ingredients together.” He started mixing again, humming some big band music under his breath. “It’s got oranges in it,” he added, after a minute. 

Tony, watching Steve surreptitiously over the top of his tablet, noticed the way he went completely still. “Oranges?” he repeated, just a touch too casually. “That sounds good.” 

“Yup,” Bucky agreed, popping the p. “Some kind of orange cake.” He stopped then, turning to face Steve. “Hey, wait! That sounds familiar. Did we used to have this when we were kids?” 

“Uhh...” 

Tony had to drop his tablet under the table so that Steve wouldn’t see him laughing; dear lord, he was a terrible liar. 

“We didn’t have oranges a lot growing up, Buck,” Steve pointed out, not quite answering the question. 

“No, no, that’s right. I know,” Bucky waved him off, and Steve relaxed a little. “Oh, but was it a special occasion cake?” Bucky burst out, just as Steve was taking a sip of his water. “For a party or somethin’?”

Steve choked on his water, spluttering and coughing, and Tony crawled out from under the table to smack him on the back a couple times. 

“Jeez, Stevie,” Bucky drawled when he’d caught his breath again. “You alright?” 

“Yup,” Steve choked out, voice a little hoarse. “Yup, I’m fine. But, uh... I just remembered. The late movie is... sold out. Yup. So we should probably get going if we want to get tickets for tonight.” 

Bucky glanced at the cake mix and shrugged, tugging off his apron and sticking the mixing bowl into the fridge. “Cake’ll keep, I guess.” He pointed at Tony with his mixing spoon. “Don’t eat all the batter before I get back,” he threatened, busting into a smile when Tony just fluttered his eyelashes at him in his best ‘who, me?’ expression. 

Tony just waved him off. “Yeah, yeah. I’ve got to go downstairs and finish some stuff for Pep anyway,” he promised, giving Bucky a kiss on the cheek. “Have fun tonight, and stay out of trouble.” He paused on his way to the elevator, watching Bucky root around for his wallet and keys. “And don’t forget to put on pants, baby!” 

***

The closer they came to the day of his actual birthday, the more twitchy Steve got. He was constantly on edge, waiting for the moment when everything would come back to Bucky in a rush when he would make a big birthday announcement and give him away to everyone. But that moment never came, and Bucky stopped mentioning things about missing holidays. 

He was two days out from his actual birthday, and just beginning to relax a little. He was sprawled across a couch in the common room, watching a movie with Nat and Sam, when Bucky came into the room. 

“Oh, hey Stevie! I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”

Steve looked over at him expectantly, and his eyes widened when he saw the envelope he was brandishing in his hand, the size and shape of a birthday card. Bucky waved it in the air. 

“This is-”

Steve panicked completely, and before Bucky could get more than two words out Steve was launching himself at him with a terrifyingly accurate rendition of an Asgardian battle cry. Bucky yelped in surprise as Steve flew through the air at him, knocking him to the ground. 

“Stevie, what the fuck?” Bucky managed to get out, planting his feet firmly against Steve’s chest to kick him off. 

Not to be deterred, Steve jumped on him again, wrestling Bucky right out of the room and not stopping until they were a safe distance from Nat and Sam. Bucky gave as good as he got, and they were both breathing hard when he let up. 

“Hey Stevie?” Bucky asked, leaning against the wall, hand against his chest as he caught his breath. “Full offence, but what the actual fuck?” 

“Umm...” Steve gave him a hopeful smile. “What’s in the envelope, Buck?” 

“There’s something wrong with you,” Bucky muttered, which Steve had to admit was probably fair. He shoved the envelope at him. “Here. Tony asked me to drop that off. It’s the specs for the new tac gear you two were talking about.” 

Steve blinked at the envelope. “It’s not a card?” he asked blankly, and Bucky stared at him like he had three heads. 

“What the fuck would I be giving you a card for, you dumb punk?” He hauled himself to his feet. “Freak,” he muttered, limping his way toward the elevator. Steve winced; that thigh kick had probably been unnecessarily hard. 

***

Tony was waiting for Bucky when he stepped off the elevator onto the penthouse, and he burst out laughing at the sight of him. “Oh my god, honey, that was perfect,” Tony told him, wiping tears from his eyes. “JARVIS showed me the whole thing. I think he would have thrown you out the window to keep you from giving him a birthday card in front of Nat and Sam.” He beamed at Bucky. “I liked the limp on your way out, by the way. That was a nice touch.” 

Bucky winced, rubbing at his leg. “Not an act,” he bit out. “Wasn’t an act. Fuck that idiot can kick hard.” 

“Oh shit,” Tony’s smile dropped, mirroring Bucky’s wince as he moved over to him. “You alright?” 

“I think he broke my thigh bone,” Bucky grumped. “Nah, I’m alright. It hurts like a bitch, but give it an hour or two and I’ll be fine.” He was still frowning though. “We got any frozen peas or somethin?”

Tony gave him a dry look. “Do I like like the kind of person who keeps frozen peas on hand?” he asked, huffing out a soft laugh at Bucky’s pout. “Luckily, I do have plenty of ice for my fully stocked wet bar,” he told him with an unnecessarily ridiculous wink. “Here, you go get comfy on the bed, I’ll bring you some ice for your leg.”

Bucky nodded and headed off, yelping when Tony gave him a swat on the ass on his way by. “You gonna stay with me?” he asked hopefully. 

“I suppose that can be arranged,” Tony called after him. “I’ve gotta make a call to Tokyo in a few hours, but nothing urgent before then. I can hang around till then. See if I can’t help you... feel better.” 

Bucky grinned, pleased, as he stripped down to his boxer briefs. There was a huge bruise on his outer thigh, a sick looking dark purple, and he examined it in the mirror, pressing on it a couple times and wincing at the pain. 

“Don’t poke it!” Tony protested, coming in behind him. “Honestly, what’s wrong with you?” He gave Bucky a shove that was mostly ineffective, but was enough to get Bucky to crawl carefully onto the bed, stretching out on his back with a low groan. Tony tossed him the ice pack, and Bucky applied it to the bruise, hissing at the touch of cold. 

“Such a baby,” Tony told him affectionately, stripping out of his own clothes to join Bucky on the bed. “Hey, you know what I’ve heard is the best cure for super solider-induced bruises?”

Bucky rolled his head to face him with an arched brow. “What’s that?”

Tony smirked at him. “Orgasms.” 

*** 

Though he’d caught a couple strange looks from him, Bucky thankfully hadn’t mentioned the Incident again. There’d also been no further hints of Bucky suddenly remembering that Steve was the biggest fraud in the universe. Steve had spent the next couple days feeling sheepish (Bucky was his oldest friend. He should be grateful he was getting his memory back) before accepting that this particular memory had fluttered away from him, and Steve was probably safe - at least until the next fourth of July, but that was future Steve’s problem. 

On the day of his actual birthday, Steve woke with a now familiar pit of anxiety in the bottom of his stomach, which he quickly shoved aside. Everything was fine, Bucky hadn’t remembered, and he wasn’t going to get caught out. And, provided there were no last minute supervillain attacks, he could spend the day like he always spent his birthday: a little quieter than usual, and with no recognition beyond the little cake he’d bought himself (already sitting in the fridge) and the couple of hours he’d carve out by himself (usually accompanied by masturbation jokes from Clint and Tony, but that was fine) to think back on the last year and everything he’d accomplished and how he could do better. 

And then, because that sounded sad and lonely enough to make Steve wince even in his head, movie night with hopefully everyone, but at the very least Tony and Bucky and Sam. A little quiet, but all-in-all a pretty perfect day. 

Which was why he couldn’t help being disappointed when Tony tracked him down to the library later that morning, apologies written all over his face. “Hey, Cap. Do you mind if we rain check movie night?” 

Steve blinked at him a minute before forcing a (he hoped) somewhat natural smile to his face. “Uh, yeah, sure,” he said. “Of course. Anything I should know about?” 

Tony waved a hand, looking like his mind was somewhere else entirely. “Just the usual comedy of fucking errors. Sam’s feeling under the weather, I guess, and Buckster won tickets to a show or something on a radio contest, of all things. I know,” he added, apparently misinterpreting the look on Steve’s face. “Who the fuck even listens to radio these days, and what’s he doing trying to win radio contests when I could just buy him tickets to whatever he wants to see.” 

“That’s not actually what I was going to say,” Steve said, smiling despite himself. Tony just shrugged and winked at him. 

“Anyway. Next week work for you?” 

“Yeah, yeah,” Steve assured him, turning back to his book. “Have fun at your thing tonight. Try not to get caught fooling around in the bathroom this time.”

Tony narrowed his eyes at him. “That was one time!” he protested, eyes crinkling as he laughed. He headed for the door and then paused, looking back over his shoulder at him. “Hey, you’re sure you don’t mind?” he asked, more serious now. 

“Yes,” Steve told him. “It’s totally fine, I promise.” 

And it was fine, really. There were certainly far worse ways to spend his birthday. He’d spent a good seventy plus birthdays in a frozen ice coma, for instance. Those had probably been way less fun than hanging around here. (Although he couldn’t actually remember, so who knew? Maybe some polar bears had shown up with party hats.) At any rate, this was certainly better than the alternative of having them figure out he’d been lying about his birthday for the past few years. 

And so maybe there was a tiny part of Steve that couldn’t help wishing Bucky had remembered because even if it would be embarrassing as hell, it would be nice to have someone know what today was. Sure, he got to celebrate on the fourth of July, and in the end it was just a day and it didn’t really matter. But the fourth of July was a big day for everyone, and his birthday always got tied in with that until he didn’t even really know which part they were actually celebrating, and maybe it was just from his mother always telling him that his birthday was a special day just for him, but celebrating on the fourth always felt just a little empty.

***

Bucky hummed to himself as he moved through the aisles of the party store, blatantly ignoring the huffy sighs that were coming from behind him at regular intervals.

“Remind me again why I’m here helping you shop for party supplies?” Sam finally said when Bucky continued to ignore his attempts at telegraphing how unimpressed he was.

“Because Tony’s doing the food and cake,” Bucky replied, like it was obvious. He was considering two different sets of balloons, and didn’t see the way Sam threw up his hands because that meant nothing to him. 

“I’m s’posed to be eating pizza and watching movies right now,” he groused. “Why am I cancelling on Steve?” 

“He thinks you’re sick.”

Sam blinked at the back of Bucky’s head. “Why does he think I’m sick?” 

“Because that’s what we told him.” Bucky turned abruptly with a pleasant smile, apparently not at all surprised to find Sam three inches from the back of his head, and thrust a package of balloons at him. “Here. See if you can find more of these in the next aisle.”

Sam sighed wearily. “And why are we buying orange balloons for a party in early December?” he asked, not looking like he expected an answer that made any sense. 

“Because that’s Steve’s favourite colour.” 

“Oh, right. Of course,” Sam grumbled, following along behind him as Bucky headed for the streamers. “Wait, I thought Steve’s favourite colour was red.” 

Bucky gave him a shit-eating grin. “Nah. That’s just what the powers that be want you to think. ‘s more patriotic. But he couldn’t even see red growing up. His favourite colour is orange.” 

Sam didn’t bother asking why the balloons had to be in Steve’s favourite colour. 

***

“Okay, but really,” Sam said as he took the bowls of chips Bucky had handed him and set them out on the table. He glanced around the common area, messily decorated in orange and silver streamers and balloons with a Captain America piñata that clashed horribly with everything else. “Why am I cancelling on Steve? I’m right here!” 

Bucky was saved answering by the arrival of all the other avengers (minus Steve) in the elevator, Tony herding them into the room like an over-excited border collie, a maniacal grin on his face. 

“That’s not concerning at all,” Clint mumbled on his way by, Bruce snorting in agreement. 

Tony sidled up to Bucky, beaming as he eyed the decorations. They may have gotten a little over enthusiastic with the balloons. “Nice job, babe,” he preened, giving Bucky a kiss that earned them groans and protests and threats of leaving from the other avengers. “No, no, don’t go!” Tony said, pulling himself free of his boyfriend. “We’ve gathered you all here for a very special announcement.” He looked to Bucky. “Honey, would you like to do the honours?” 

Bucky rolled his eyes at Tony’s dramatics, even while he couldn’t stop himself from grinning. “We’re, uh... pranking Steve. So you know... Everybody duck, and when Steve comes in we’ll all yell ‘surprise!’”

Everyone blinked at them. 

“Uhhh... You know I love a good prank as much as anybody,” Clint started. “But this seems a little weak.”

“Seriously?” Sam added. “This is what you had me skipping movie night and going shopping for?”  

Bucky grinned at him. “Trust me. It’s worth it.”

The response was lukewarm, and met with a fair share of grumbling, but there was cake on offer, so they managed to get everyone hidden around the room. Bucky and Tony claimed a spot behind one of the couches, crouching down behind the cushy fabric, Tony giggling as they waited for Jarvis to send Steve down. 

“Shhh,” Bucky whispered, pulling Tony in and kissing his temple because how could he resist. “You’re gonna give us away.” 

“Sorry,” Tony whispered back, smothering another giggle into his sleeve. “I’m just picturing the look on Steve’s face.” 

At that moment the elevator dinged, door opening and emptying Steve into the room. “Um,” he said, footsteps a little tentative as he took in the dark space. “Nat? Jarvis said you needed me for something?” He heaved a sigh, scratching at the back of his head. “Said it was urgent?” 

Their execution was less than perfect, with Tony jumping up a split second before anybody else and the word ‘surprise’ coming out as more of a question from everyone, and the lights turning on somewhere in the middle of all the noise. But Steve didn’t seem to notice. He stared at them all, jaw dropping open and face going so white that Bucky was briefly concerned that he might actually pass out. His mouth opened and shut a few times, unable to actually form words, and then,

“Oh, fuck me.”  

The maniacal grin on Tony’s face faltered slightly, and Bucky shifted a half step toward him. “Stevie? Buddy? You okay?” 

Steve waved him off, collapsing into a chair with a groan and hiding his face in his hands. “How long’ve you known?” he asked wearily, rolling his eyes when their grins returned full force. 

“Couple weeks,” Tony told him cheerily. “Since Bucky casually mentioned that we should get started on planning something for the day.” 

“Okay, wait,” Clint said, looking back and forth between the three of them. “What the hell is going on right now?” 

He seemed to be speaking for the group and Steve stared at them with wide eyes before whipping his head back around to Tony and Bucky. “You didn’t tell them??” 

“Tell us what?” Sam asked as Bucky’s grin turned a little evil. 

“We thought we’d leave the honours up to you, punk.”

Steve glared at the two of them, but Bucky just beamed back, wrapping an arm around Tony’s shoulder and whispering something into his ear that had Tony laughing. He rolled his eyes before figuring what the fuck and turning to everyone else. 

“Today is my birthday,” he announced, before being met with blank stares all around. He sighed and threw up his arms. “My birthday’s not the fourth of July. Never was. So. Surprise back, I guess?” 

Bucky snorted loudly at that, and Steve rolled his eyes at him.

“Okay,” Sam said, looking back and forth between Steve and Bucky. “Lemme get this straight. You’re saying that your birthday is today?” 

“Yep.”

“And all these years we’ve been celebrating on the fourth of July instead?”

“Yep.”

“I... How?” 

Steve shrugged helplessly. “Propaganda, I guess?” 

Sam stared at him, the corners of his lips starting to twitch. “And all this time, you just let us go on thinking the the fourth really was your birthday?” 

“Also yep.” 

He wasn’t sure who started it, but then the entire team was laughing at him, and surprisingly... It wasn’t as bad as Steve had expected. It was all good-natured ribbing, and instead of feeling humiliated, he couldn’t help feeling accepted instead - especially when Sam cuffed him on the shoulder with an affectionate “only you, man.” Steve couldn’t help laughing too, after that, because really the entire situation was ridiculous. 

And after, when everyone had calmed down, there was his favourite cake, and his favourite snacks, and his favourite soda, and balloons in his favourite colour. Everyone was having a good time, and there were stupid party games that nobody won because they kept ending laughing too hard to finish, and he got to crack a poorly rendered piñata of himself in half which was weirdly cathartic. And best of all, it was just them. No fireworks, no extravagance, just his best friends - his team - and everything that he would have asked for from a birthday party. 

And when he apologized for letting them go all out for his parties in the past, and Tony told him not to be ridiculous, that they’d still be having those parties, but from now on the fourth of July was Cap’s birthday, and the third of December was reserved solely for Steve? Well, Steve felt warm right through. 

... Didn’t mean Bucky and Tony weren’t gonna get payback in the worst way though.