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Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

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Steve comes into their bedroom one night at the beginning of November and says, “So. Thanksgiving.”

Bucky, who has been planning their meal for several weeks already, a corkboard full of recipes that he keeps changing and tweaking in the kitchen, and which Steve has clearly noticed because he might be a dumbass but he’s not stupid, just turns his deepest, darkest scowl on him.

“Oh,” is all Steve says. He’s grinning now,the absolute jerkface. “You’re good on planning or whatever, then?”

As if Bucky doesn’t already have a turkey (and maybe a ham), or enough pie crust in the freezer for three pies. Bread already baked and frozen to make stuffing.

As if Bucky isn’t prepared for Thanksgiving.

Gentle ribbing from his boyfriend aside, Bucky is very excited for Thanksgiving. Like with most things, he doesn’t really have much in the way of memories of it from before. What he has are fuzzy impressions of comfort and warmth and good food.

He wants to make new memories of comfort and warmth and good food. Memories that are crisp and clear and involve Steve, and good food. And he’s gonna make all the food himself.

And it’s gonna be great.

Steve can keep his greedy little fingers out of Bucky’s plans. Or at least keep them on the kitchen table.

This is highly unlikely, but Bucky can dream. And also gripe at Steve when he’s stealing tastes of things as Bucky makes them.

--

The truth of the matter is, Bucky had googled ‘what are the most popular Thanksgiving dishes’ and based his menu off of that, at least to start.

Once he’d discovered what’s in green bean casserole, he’d nixed that one right away. He’s found an alternate recipe for green beans that sounds quite tasty, with onion and bacon and red wine vinegar, and a honey mustard glaze. He’s found a recipe that he likes the sound of for the sweet potato casserole, and he’s thinking about making sure they have some brussels sprouts on hand, if for no other reason than the roast to go with leftovers, after they’ve finished off the green beans.

Obviously he’s going to make stuffing and gravy and mashed potatoes, those all seem like no brainer choices. He’s cycled through a few different ideas for the rolls, but he thinks the Parker House rolls sound good and like perhaps a bit of an interesting challenge, so he’s pretty sure he’s going to go with those.

He’s more or less decided on his method for roasting the turkey--apparently there are a gazillion different ways to do it.

Maybe next year he’ll fry it. That could be interesting, although it makes it harder to make good gravy. At least it seems like it would.

There are going to be pumpkin and apple pies, and maybe some cookies if he’s feeling extra ambitious.

He is contemplating macaroni and cheese. It almost feels like an afterthought, but he likes a good mac’n’cheese, and well. They do eat an awful lot of food. It would help everything go further.

That’s why he’d bought the ham, too. Also, it had been on sale.

He thinks that covers just about everything. There’s still a few last minute things to pick up. Cranberries, for one. And a couple cans of cranberry sauce, because he doesn’t know how the homemade stuff is going to turn out.

He doesn’t remember if they had cranberry sauce when he was growing up, or not. He doesn’t ask Steve. He knows Steve’s Thanksgivings were different than his own, growing up. It’d been just him and his ma. He seems more wistful about it than outright excited, for all that he teases Bucky about it.

He’ll have to take care, so Steve gets to have warm and good memories of Thanksgiving, too. That is, after all, his real mission: good memories for and with Steve.

--

It’s a little more than a week out, and Steve says, “I thought about inviting Nat and Clint, for Thanksgiving.”

Bucky gives him a flat look. “Steven.”

Steve holds up his hands, placating. “I know, I know. But I talked to Sam yesterday and, well. His ma found out that they usually don’t do, um. Much for the holiday. And she invited them, so they’re going to Sam’s.”

Bucky pulls Steve into a hug, and Steve slumps against him. This time of year is hard on Steve, he thinks. There’s stuff there, in the years before they found each other again. There’s a lot of stuff.

“Sam invited us, too.”

Bucky hums.

“I told him that you’ve been planning for weeks, so we would have to skip it this year.”

“That’s probably good, because we woulda hadda have words if you’d accepted, sweetheart.” Sometimes he gets a little Brooklyn-y even when he’s not trying.

“Yeah, I know. I’m not sure I wanna go anywhere for the holidays this year, anyway.”

“Good. Me too.”

“It’d be nice to have them all over soon, though.”

“It would be. Invite ‘em up the weekend after, if they can.”

“Yeah,” Steve agrees. “I think I will.”

--

Steve comes to him the next morning, when he’s puttering in the kitchen after breakfast, trying to decide if he wants to bake something or if he wants to knit. Or perhaps read for a while. It’s a dreary day, wet and chilly and gray.

Or maybe he wants to suggest to Steve that they go back to bed and fool around a while.

He’s standing at the counter, sort of lost in thought, when Steve appears beside him and makes a “can i?” gesture. Bucky assumes he wants a bit of a snuggle, and nods his consent. Steve octopuses around him, and Bucky lets go into the embrace, holding Steve up and being held up in return.

“It’s called friendsgiving,” Steve mumbles into him, somewhere in the vicinity of his neck.

“What is?” Bucky mumbles back.

One of the advantages of being so symbiotic is neither of them has to raise his voice very often. It makes life more soothing. Bucky appreciates that.

Also the cuddles.

“Having your friends over for a Thanksgiving-type meal. Friendsgiving. Sam told me when I texted to ask if he wants to come over for dinner the weekend after.”

“Ah.”

“He said yes,” and Bucky can tell how pleased Steve is.

“What about Natasha and Clint?”

“I haven’t heard back from them yet.”

“I’m sure they’ll come if they’re able.”

“Yeah.”

“Wanna go back to bed?”

“Fool around a while?”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah, let’s do that.” Steve lets go, and they head upstairs together.

--

Later on, Bucky picks up his phone from the bedside table, and texts Sam. He’s already googled friendsgiving, and learned that it’s often done as a potluck. Potluck sounds good, as long as he knows he can trust Clint not to just bring pizza. ‘Bring a side dish. There’ll be ham, and rolls. And something for dessert.’

Sam’s response comes a moment later, and Steve momentarily lifts his head at the chime.

“It’s fine, just Sam,” Bucky reassures him, and Steve puts his head down again, on Bucky’s shoulder and snuggles close with a little hum.

‘Sounds fantastic, I’ll be there with bells on. Want me to let you know what I’m bringing Friday or Saturday morning?’

‘Yes, please do.’

Steve shifts a bit. “Everything good?”

“Yeah, sweetheart.”

“Good.”

Bucky settles for a bit, and then picks up his phone again. He texts Natasha, ‘You’re coming to friendsgiving, right? Saturday after Thanksgiving.’

Natasha sends back a thumbs up emoji.

‘Bring a side dish. Don’t let Clint bring pizza, please.’

‘I’ll do my best. )))’

Bucky snorts and puts the phone down.

“What?”

“Clint’s gonna end up bringing pizza.”

Steve laughs. “Well if he does he can eat it himself.”

“It probably won’t even be good pizza, Stevie.”

“Oh, sure it will. Clint might eat it old and cold, but he always buys decent pizza.”

Bucky giggles. “That’s gross.”

“I know, it offends your sensibilities.”

“Pizza should only be eaten fresh and hot. With that snap to the cheese.”

“I know, I know.”

“Now I want pizza, Steve. Pizza.”

“We can go out for pizza tonight, if you want.”

“That little hole in the wall place that’s so good?”

“Yeah, we’ll go there.”

“Good. Yeah, let’s do that.”

“OK.”

--

The pizza is excellent, and the sex after they get home is a perfect capper to the evening.

--

Thanksgiving dawns bright and cold. Bucky knows it’s bright because he’s been up for half an hour already, idling in bed while he trails his fingers up and down Steve’s naked back and listens to his breathing while he goes over his plans for the day. Now that they’re more intimate than they were before--

Actually, that’s not really true. It’s just that now they have sex, too. The intimacy was there long before the mutually assured orgasms--

Steve always sleeps shirtless. He’s also a goddamn radiator, so Bucky generally sleeps shirtless, too. And sometimes they wake up stuck together, both of them sweaty from how hot Steve sleeps and how loathe Bucky is to give up the comforting piles of blankets that he favors.

He thinks, still stroking Steve’s back, that he should get up soon. He wants their meal to be fairly early. More of a lunch than a dinner. That way they can snuggle up on the couch afterwards for a post-turkey nap, and then eat leftovers at dinner-time.

All he really has left to do, since he’s been prepping and putting dishes together since Monday, is start putting things in the oven, and let the dough for the rolls warm up and proof so he can finish them, and of course the turkey.

He needs several hours, but he doesn’t need to get up quite yet. So he doesn’t. Bucky stays in bed, with Steve asleep pressed against him, and he lets his mind wander for a while longer.

Steve is still asleep when he does get up, which is actually somewhat surprising, as Steve is usually an early riser, usually goes for a morning run. Normally Bucky is the one who sleeps in, who lazes about in bed while Steve goes off to run.

But today he has important work to do, so they can be gluttons later on.

He goes downstairs and gets the coffee started. That’s a necessity. He waits for the coffee maker to finish, and he pours his first cup and sits at the table in the kitchen to look over the recipes and his list of things still to be done, and he is pleased with the amount of work he’s already accomplished.

Bucky doesn’t linger too long though. There’s lots to do.

Steve shuffles in a while later, when Bucky is already in full swing. He’s got everything under control, so much so that he stops what he’s done and pours Steve a cup of coffee and takes it to him at the table.

Steve smiles up at him, sleepy and happy. “Thanks, Buck.”

Bucky just smiles at him, and kisses his forehead, and goes back to work.

Steve had offered once his help or twice earlier in the week, but he’s not real good in the kitchen, which has become entirely Bucky’s territory and domain since he’d moved in and learned how much he loves to cook and bake, and how soothing he finds both of those activities, so Bucky had declined. Not to mention the reason he’d started so early was so that Thanksgiving day wouldn’t be too overwhelming for him.

His planning is paying off nicely, he thinks.

He takes a break at about nine and pulls Steve into the living room, and turns on the parade. He has no memories whatsoever of the Thanksgiving parade, but he has the internet, and the internet told him that it’s a big thing every year. So they watch the beginning of the parade.

“I like to see the marching bands,” Steve says. “They’re neat. They all work so hard.”

Bucky nods. He’s a little thrown by all the commercials, but then everything seems to be a commercial these days.

“Maybe we should try to go to the parade one year,” Steve suggests, after a while. “I’m not sure I like watching it on TV.”

“It’s all commercials,” Bucky says.

“Do you think it’s always been like this?”

Bucky shrugs. “Well, Macy’s throws it, so yes? But also no.”

Steve hums.

When Bucky has relaxed for his mandated amount of time, he gets up and goes back into the kitchen; to keep things moving.

Steve wanders back in a few minutes later. “I turned it off.”

“OK. We can watch movies later, if you want.”

“That sounds good.”

“You wanna pick a few out?”

“Yeah, Buck. I’ll see what I can find. What time are you planning on eating?”

Bucky realizes that neither of them has had any breakfast yet, so he detours and rearranges a couple of things, and throws together toast and scrambled eggs and some fruit for both of them. He doesn’t have the time for bacon or sausage, more’s the pity. This will tide them both over, at least.

“Thanks, Buck. I’ll do these dishes, OK?”

“Thank you.” Bucky eats standing up, and gets back to work as soon as the last bite is in his mouth.

It helps though, having some food on his stomach.

He pours himself a third cup of coffee As Steve starts rinsing the plates in the sink.

--

In the end, where they’re sitting at the table staring at all the food piled before them, Bucky isn’t sure how he’d pulled it off. He puts it down to a lot of planning. He’s always been good at planning.

“This all looks amazing, Buck,” Steve says. He sounds a little awed, and Bucky wants to preen at that.

He wants to, so he does, just a little. Steve’s praise makes him feel good, and there’s no shame in letting Steve know that.

They proceed to eat themselves silly. After all, according to much of Bucky’s research, that’s what Thanksgiving is for. Family and togetherness and eating oneself silly.

Steve is still eating, albeit slowly, when Bucky puts his fork and knife down on his plate and sits back with a sigh. Steve looks over at him and smiles, and puts another forkful of turkey and stuffing and potatoes in his mouth, and Bucky smiles back.

He thinks about how he’s been feeding Steve for as long as he can remember. Not just because of how he’s developed a real love of cooking since he’d come back, since he’d remembered himself--more or less--but also in the before times that are more murky, more fuzzy. He knows that he used to eat less, take less, pretend he was full when he really wasn’t, just so he could try to get Steve to eat more food.

Sometimes it had even worked.

“Do you remember--” he starts to ask. Steve loves when he asks if he remembers, because Steve almost always does, and he loves when Bucky finds a clear memory.

“Remember what, Buck?” And Steve is smiling at him, that light of joy in his eyes, just like every other time.

“The way I used to feed you?”

Steve blushes a little. “Yeah, Buck. I remember. You were always trying to get me to eat more. Pretending you were full when I knew you weren’t.”

“You knew?” He doesn’t think he’s real surprised by that. Neither of them has ever been particularly subtle, at least not with each other.

He doesn’t remember if he was subtle with other people, either. Unless with a gun counts.

“Yeah, I knew. It was always a battle between my stomach and my pride.”

“Your stomach usually won.”

“Yeah, usually. But I appreciated you trying to spare my pride.”

“You sure were terrible at showing it.”

Steve makes an indignant noise, but he laughs right after. “Yeah well, I wasn’t awesome back then, in case you never noticed.”

“You really weren’t, but I still liked ya.” Bucky nudges Steve’s ankle with his foot.

“Yeah, you and my ma,” Steve says, but he’s blushing.

“God rest her soul,” Bucky intones. “I still like ya, you know.”

Steve smiles at him, puts his fork down and lays out his arm along the table. Bucky threads their fingers together.

“I still like you, too,” is what he says, but what Bucky hears, what he can see in Steve’s eyes is, ‘I love you.’

He blushes and ducks his head, and Steve finishes his food left-handed.

--

When they’ve both eaten their fill and have sat back to stare at the food still on the table, Steve says, “What are we going to do with it all?”

Bucky shrugs, but after a moment he decides. “There’s a few things that need to go in the fridge so they don’t spoil, but the rest of it is getting covered up and is staying right here for now.”

“For seconds later on?”

“For seconds later on,” Bucky agrees. “Help me put stuff away?”

Together, they make fairly short work of putting away the things that need to be put away, and covering up everything else. They dump all the dishes in the sink for the time being, and wander out to the living room to slump on the couch together.

“Ugh, I ate too much,” Steve groans.

“You’ll be hungry again in an hour, Steve,” Bucky points out.

“Ate too much, Buck.”

“You just want me to rub your belly.”

“Would you?”

“It’s a good thing I like you, Rogers.”

“Yeah,” Steve agrees. “It really is. What with the whole living and sleeping together thing.”

Bucky chuckles, but he shifts a little so Steve can sprawl out and he can rub his belly for a little while.

There’s not much either of them has any interest in watching on regular TV, so Bucky turns on Netflix and starts flipping through looking for something to watch.

“Is it too early for Christmas movies?”

He looks down at Steve, who looks comfortable and sleepy. Bucky can feel that he’s relaxed under his ministrations, and he is pleased. He is pleased that he can give Steve that relief, that Steve relaxes in his presence.

It’s still a somewhat new feeling for him, after so long in the dark, causing nothing but death and fear. And he really likes it. He wants to keep doing that: keep causing relaxation in Steve. That’s pretty much his abiding goal in life.

He thinks that, more or less, it always has been.

“No, sweetheart,” he says. “It’s not too early for Christmas movies. What do you wanna watch?”

Steve shrugs. “I dunno. Whatever you want is fine.”

Bucky flips through until he finds White Christmas, and decides to go with that. It’s from after they both died, but close to their time, and it seems like it’s still pretty popular. Plus singing and dancing. He settles in a little, slumps a bit on the couch.

Steve makes a noise, and then sits up, which makes Bucky frown.

Steve shakes his head. “No, I want to lay down together. C’mon.”

That gets Bucky to stop frowning quick. “Oh, OK.”

They stretch out together; Bucky takes the big spoon position, because he knows that Steve loves to be the little spoon now that he’s bigger than when he was younger.

They shift and settle together, getting comfortable. When they’re situated, Bucky starts the movie. He can feel Steve relax even more against him, and he relaxes in turn. He drifts while they watch the movie, and he’s pretty sure that Steve does too. But it’s a good movie, and Bucky enjoys it.

When it’s over, Steve sits up and looks down at him. “I liked that.”

Bucky nods, because he did too.

“Wanna eat some more?”

 

“Do you want dessert before we have more dinner?”

Steve shrugs. “Both?”

“I like your thinking, Stevie.”

So he gets back up and follows Steve into the kitchen. He pulls a few things out of the fridge, and they move around each other, making plates of food, heating things up. They gather at the table when they both have food, and tuck in again.

They don’t each as much this time, and they’re both eating more slowly.

“Are naps a Thanksgiving tradition?” Bucky asks, after a while. He’s been up a long time already, and done a lot to get all this food prepped and ready to be eaten.

Steve stifles a yawn. “They sure can be. We get to make our own traditions, Buck.”

“Good. Let’s take a nap when we’re through eating.”

“Do you want dessert first?”

Bucky shrugs. “Honestly, I can wait for a while.”

Steve nods. “OK. Me too.”

“You want pie now, don’t you?”

Steve shrugs. After a moment, he nods. He’s getting better at that, at feeling like it’s OK to tell Bucky what he wants, even when it doesn’t quite match up with what Bucky wants.

Bucky gets up and gets the pumpkin pie he’d made and brings it over, along with a knife and a fork. He cuts the pie and serves Steve a piece. Steve grins at him and takes a huge bite. He makes happy food noises through the whole slice, and when he’s finished he sits back.

“That was so good.”

Bucky smiles. “Nap now?”

Steve nods. “Let’s do it.”

--

Neither of them really falls completely asleep during their nap. Instead they curl around each other and get comfortable and rest.

Bucky has really come to value rest as a concept. It is only made better when he gets to do it with Steve, too. He’s not sure Steve has come to the same conclusions that he has, but he thinks maybe he has. More often lately, Steve has joined him when he wants to nap. Sometimes he comes into the bathroom when Bucky is taking a bath and just sits with him.

It can’t be comfortable, and Bucky has told him that he doesn’t expect it, but he does it anyway.

So they nap for a little while, just a couple of hours, and then get up again, heading back downstairs in comfortable clothes to go about the rest of their day. They play dominoes, which Bucky has taken a liking to lately.

Steve cheats. He cheats at everything.

But Bucky knows all of his tells.

He asks Steve after they’ve wrapped up a couple rounds of that if he wants to play Risk, but Steve just glares at him. He doesn't even answer.

Steve is a sore loser. He cheats, but Bucky still beats him.

Bucky cleans up the kitchen later on, with Steve sitting at the table with his sketchbook, probably drawing Bucky.

He’d offered to help, as he always does, but Bucky had demurred. He’s OK with doing this part himself. His purposes are two-fold anyway. He doesn’t mind doing the cleanup--after all, he’d made the mess--but he also wants to assess what’s left, so he can plan out what he still needs to get for their second Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday with Sam, Natash, and Clint.

When the kitchen is cleaned to his liking, and he’s got solid mental notes about the food, they go back to the living room. It’s where they spend the majority of their time.

This time, Steve puts on some music instead of the television, something low and soothing, and he gets his book before he sits on the sofa. Bucky sits in his spot and picks up his current knitting project, and they while away most of the rest of the day in mostly quiet companionship, reading and knitting and listening to music.

“Was it a good Thanksgiving?” Bucky asks later, when Steve comes out of the bathroom and gets into bed beside him.

“Yeah, Buck. It was a really nice Thanksgiving.”

“Will it be a good memory for you?”

“Yeah. Yes. For you?”

Bucky nods. “I think so. I like cooking for you. And we had a nice day.”

“Maybe one year we could try to go over to the parade. It might be nicer in person.”

“But cold.”

“True. It’s just a thought.”

“We’d have to eat later.”

“It’s not really the food I care about, Buck. It’s spending a good day with you.”

“I liked having a good day with you too, Steve.”

 

“Good. Are things OK for Saturday?”

Bucky shrugs. “It will be nice to have dinner with friends.”

“Yeah, I think it will be. I like the idea of friendsgiving.”

“I do, too. But regular Thanksgiving could be friendsgiving, too. Some people only have the families they’ve made.”

Steve gives him a soft look. “You’re my family, Buck.”

Bucky has to look away briefly. “Yeah, sweetheart,” he manages. “You’re my family, too.”

Steve presses a soft kiss to his lips. “I’m glad.”

“You sap.”

He chuckles. “Guilty as charged. A sap for you.”

Bucky makes an exaggerated face, but he also kisses Steve. “Gross.”

“So’s your face.”

Bucky smiles.

--

Steve is already gone when Bucky wakes up the next morning, the bed cool when he slides his hand over to Steve’s side.

Bucky curls up and pulls the covers up to his chin and stays right where he is. He has every intention of being right exactly here when Steve gets back from his run, cozy and hopefully enticing.

He’s dozing when he hears the shower turn on in the bathroom, and he turns his face into the pillow with a smile. Several minutes later there’s the sound of Steve walking down the hall, and then a soft noise as he sees that Bucky is still in bed. Bucky doesn’t move; he waits.

Sure enough, a moment later the covers on Steve’s side of the bed are pulled back, and Steve is getting in next to him, in only his underwear. Bucky kinda wishes that he was wearing less than that, but he can work with underwear. There’s still acres of Steve’s bare skin, and Bucky slides across the bed and presses himself against as much of Steve as he can manage. With both of them in just their underwear, it makes for a lot of skin to skin contact.

Bucky sighs against Steve’s neck, and he feels more than hears him chuckle.

“Need a cuddle this mornin’, Buck?”

“Missed you,” Bucky mumbles. “Woke up an’ you were gone.”

“Aw,” Steve says. “You trying to make me feel bad for going on my run?”

“Yes.”

“Jerk.”

“Punk.”

They both chuckle a little, and hold each other a little closer. Bucky draws in the scent of clean Steve and is content not to do anything at all, all day long, if it means he gets to stay here with Steve.

Steve probably has other ideas, though. He’s got more energy than Bucky does, most days. Hence, the run.

“You know I gotta get moving, some days,” Steve murmurs, proving Bucky’s point about energy.

“I know you do,” he replies. “You know I don’t really want you to feel bad, right?”

“I know,” Steve says.

They fall quiet again, breathing each other in. Steve seems just as content to stay put as Bucky is.

“Anything going on today?” Bucky asks, after a while.

Steve shrugs. “Well, we could go shopping.”

Bucky pulls back to give him a quizzical look. “The hell?”

Steve chuckles a little. “I’ll spare you the rant--”

“Thank you.”

“But today is considered the first official shopping day of the Christmas season.”

“Ah.”

“Yeah. You sure you don’t want to hear the rant? I’ve been practicing a lot.”

“From my registered socialist boyfriend? No, I more or less remember the gist of it.”

Steve laughs. “You remember the boredom you felt during my rants, anyway.”

“Yes, true.”

Some days, Steve is better at handling the fact that most of Bucky’s memories of before are just impressions and feelings, more than actual memories. Some days, Bucky’s not OK with it at all; it’s frustrating and infuriating. Those days are fewer and further between than they once were.

“Do we--” He stops, not sure how to ask. Not sure if he should.

“Do we what?” Steve asks.

“Do we cuddle too much?”

Steve goes stiff, and Bucky’s heart drops into his stomach. He hadn’t meant for this to be a scary thing, but now he realizes that he probably hadn’t worded that too well. He’d wanted to check in.

He looks up at Steve, and Steve just looks shocked, and embarrassed.

“I’m sorry, that came out very badly,” Bucky says.

Steve takes a deep breath, and nods.

“What I meant to do was check in, and ask if this is too much for you, or enough. Or if you want to cuddle more?”

Steve nods again. Bucky can feel it as he forces himself to relax, and he makes sure his hold on Steve is loose, so he can pull away if he needs to.

He wants to apologize again, but he stays silent. He should let Steve process before he says anything else.

Steve lets out a shaky breath after a moment, and looks at him, expression wry. “You scared me, Buck.”

“That’s not what I wanted to do. I did word that very poorly.”

“Yeah,” Steve agrees.

“I’ll work on my check-in questions more.”

He nods. “That might be good.”

“I used to be suave, Steve.”

“I’m pretty sure you weren’t, but OK Buck.”

“You lie. I remember.”

“You had all the ladies fooled, but I knew better.”

“I had you fooled.”

“I was a dumbass.”

“You’re still a dumbass, Steve.”

“Your dumbass.”

“And a sap.”

“Your sap.”

Bucky chuckles, and Steve does as well.

After another moment of quiet, in which Steve very obviously snuggles himself closer to Bucky, tucking his head under Bucky’s chin and curling into him somehow pointedly, he speaks again. “I like how much we cuddle. We could probably cuddle more and I would not object. I would object, I think, if we cuddled less. Are you OK with the amount of cuddling in our relationship?”

Bucky thinks for a moment before he speaks. “It’s my favorite part of our relationship.”

“Not the sex?”

Bucky shrugs. “No? Not really. I mean, it’s nice. I like that. But I like the cuddling best.”

“Me too,” Steve whispers.

He squeezes him tight. “I’m glad.”

--

Saturday finds Bucky awake early, thinking about the possible disaster of Clint Barton bringing pizza to the friendsgiving meal later and how many ways he’ll have to threaten to dismember him for it.

Then he realizes that he can think like that, of idly threatening to dismember a friend, and not be sent into a blind panic at just the thought of violence, for all that he absolutely won’t commit any of the things he’ll threaten.

Steve comes up after his run, and Bucky sits up in bed, running his hands through his disheveled hair, quite possibly grinning like a madman.

“I was just thinking about all the ways I’d dismember Clint if he brings pizza,” he announces.

“Is it really the end of the world if he brings pizza, Buck?” Steve’s not really paying much attention, he’s too busy stripping out of his clothes bit by bit, drying his face and chest with his no doubt also sweaty t-shirt.

“Absolutely not, but Steve. I thought about dismembering him. And I’m telling you about it. Like it’s no big deal. Because it’s no big deal.”

 

“Oh. Oh,” Steve says. “Buck, that’s great! Are you OK?”

“I’m. Fine. It’s no big deal.”

“Buck, that’s great. I mean, please don’t dismember Clint, but--it’s progress. It really is.”

Bucky nods. It is progress, and he’s proud of it, that he can have idle thoughts of threatening violence on his friends in a friendly way, and be certain that he doesn’t mean it. It’s only idle thoughts, silliness. Not a big deal.

But for now, it’s not something to be dwelled upon. He’s got stuff to do, rolls to bake, the ham to glaze.

It’s not nearly as much cooking and baking as he’d done on Thursday, but he still has a solid plan for the morning, and he’s still going to enjoy every bit of it. Except perhaps doing the dishes afterwards, but Steve will help with that if he asks nicely.

--

Clint does not bring pizza.

Thank god.

--

Bucky absolutely gives Natasha a very meaningful ‘thank you’ glance over their appetizers in the living room. She just smiles back at him, enigmatic as always.

Sam is actually the last one to show up, coming in with a swirl of chilly air and arms full of food. “My mama heard I was eating with superheroes--like I’m not one myself!--and insisted on sending extra food, I hope you two white boys know how lucky you are.”

“Oh my god,” Clint pipes up. “Sam’s mom is the most amazing cook.”

“I’m not bad,” Bucky mutters, obscurely hurt.

Steve nudges him. “You’re a great cook.”

Sam gives him a shrewd look. “You are a good cook, Buck, but my mama could probably show you a thing or two.”

Bucky contemplates that for a moment, and everyone lets him, busying themselves helping Sam unload himself of the food he’d brought, getting him a drink and some appetizers.

“I’d like that,” he eventually says, when he’s had time to think it over. He is a good cook, a good baker, but he’s still pretty new at both things. If Sam’s mom is such a good cook, he would certainly like to learn from her, if that was something she was willing to do.

Sam nods at him. “I’ll talk to her, maybe we can set up a date for you two. I think you’d like her.”

Bucky nods, pleased, though he would understand if Sam’s mother didn’t want to meet an ex-assassin. A lot of people wouldn’t.

Sam settles himself into the gathering easily, telling them about Thanksgiving even though more than half of their number were at Thanksgiving dinner with him.

Before he even realizes that the time has passed, it’s time for Bucky to put the ham in the oven to warm. He gathers more drinks for everyone before he heads back out to the living room.

--

Later, after they've eaten too much food, and played dominoes for a while--it’s harder for Steve to cheat at dominoes than it is with a lot of other things, so they play that--and everyone has finally gone home, Bucky goes into the kitchen to find Steve loading the dishwasher.

“You can leave it for morning,” he says.

“Nah, it’s fine,” Steve says, glancing over his shoulder.

Bucky sits at the table, and watches him work for a bit. Steve is graceful in this, as he is in most things. He moves economically, loading the dishwasher quickly and efficiently. Bucky enjoys just watching him do it.

It’s like watching him paint. It’s soothing. Peaceful.

“I liked that,” he says, after a while.

“I did, too, Buck.”

“I think we should do it again, sometime.”

“Next year, maybe.”

“I just mean, dinner. With friends. We should do it again.”

Steve looks over his shoulder again, smiles at him. “We could play cards, next time.”

“No.”

He pouts a little.

“You’re a cheat, Steven Grant, and we are not playing cards with you.”

“Aw, come on, Buck. I don’t cheat.”

“You do. You cheat and you lie. I may have a brain like swiss cheese, but I remember that you cheat and you’re a sore loser.”

Steve keeps pouting, as he shuts off the faucet and starts the dishwasher, dries his hands on the towel.

“You’re no fun, Buck.”

“None at all, sweetheart. You should know that by now, you’ve known me long enough.”

“Killjoy.”

“Punk.”

“You ready for bed?”

“Yeah, getting there. You?”

“Maybe read for a bit first, but then bed, yeah.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Bucky stands up and holds out his hand. Steve crosses the kitchen and links their hands together, and they head upstairs to get ready for bed.

--

They meet up again in their room, both prepared for sleep, Steve with the book he’s reading and Bucky with his current knitting project. He’s been on a hats kick, so both he and Steve are set for knitted hats for the rest of their possibly unnatural lives.

Maybe he’ll make hats for Natasha and Clint and Sam as well. That might be nice. It would mean fewer hats for himself and Steve but does anyone truly need more than ten different knitted hats?

They settle in bed next to each other, propped up on pillows for their respective evening hobbies. Like an old married couple.

He should get Steve some reading glasses, to really complete the look.

“We’re like an old married couple,” he says.

“Hmm?” Steve replies, obviously not really paying attention. He is clearly engrossed in his book.

“Nothing,” Bucky says, and goes back to knitting, smiling to himself.

A few minutes later, Steve speaks again. “But we’re not married, Buck.”

“That is true. But also not what I meant.”

Steve blinks, pulling himself out of the book and looking at Bucky. Bucky gestures at them, side by side in bed, both propped up on pillows, Steve with his book and Bucky with his knitting.

“You see?”

Steve smiles at him. “No other way I’d rather end my day, Buck.”

“Sweet-talker.”

“Always for you, Buck.”

“Well that’s the damn truth.” He does remember Steve’s sharp tongue, and being the only one who ever saw his sweet side after his mother died.

Steve leans over and kisses his cheek, grinning at him, and goes back to his reading.

Bucky smiles at him for a moment, feeling soft and gooey, and then returns to his hat. He wants to finish it tonight.

The next day, Bucky does what he usually does when confronted with something new about the world: research.

Christmas is not what he remembers it being. Not that he remembers much, but as usual he has impressions. He has the feelings of Christmas, and vague notions of spending time with his family, the joy of seeing his little sisters happy, oranges in stockings, and scrimping and saving to try and get something nice--or at least nicer than usual--for Steve.

It does still purport to be about spending time with loved ones, but it seems. Awfully commercial on top of that.

He can hear Steve ranting about late-stage capitalism in his head, but he doesn’t really disagree with him.

On the other hand, he has money. They both have money.

He can buy Steve presents.

That thought bears some thinking.

But first, he turns away from it. It’s early days, yet--still thirty-some-odd shopping days until Christmas!--so he has plenty of time to decide what to buy for Steve.

There are other things to consider. Decorations. A tree. What they’ll have for Christmas dinner, Christmas Eve dinner.

Cookies.

Bucky loses the entire afternoon to cookie recipes and planning.

All in all, it’s a good day.

--

He broaches the subject with Steve that night in bed. They’re post-coital and sweaty, a little out of breath. It’s nice. It’s a good time to bring it up. If Steve will ever be amenable to Bucky buying him things, it’s now.

“So, Christmas.”

Steve tilts his head and squints. “Are you canceling Christmas.”

That’s not what he expected. “No.”

“Oh. OK.”

“Why would I cancel Christmas, sweetheart.”

Steve shrugs and hides his face in Bucky’s neck. Bucky pulls him close and strokes his back. After a while he asks again.

“What’s up, Steve?’

Steve shrugs again, but he also moves so he can look Bucky in the eye. “I haven’t had the best Christmases since waking up here. I guess I'm just worried.”

Bucky thinks on that for a minute. It’s a valid fear. He doesn’t have any good memories of Christmas later than the beginning of the war, so maybe he wouldn’t want to do it this year.

Of course, that’s not true, he absolutely wants to do Christmas this year. He wants to do it with Steve.

“All I have are impressions, Steve. Scraping for a good Christmas meal, to get you something nice, something for my sisters. Spending time with my family, with you. I want more of that.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, Steve. I want to remember Christmas. Let’s make some good memories.”

Steve smiles. “That’s really cheesy.”

“Yup.”

“C’mon, let’s get cleaned up and go to bed.”

--

There’s nothing pressing that he needs to really get started on in the next few days, but he feels like if he waits, he’ll look around and December will be half over already. So it’s best not to waste any time.

He makes a few lists before he starts the grocery shopping that week. He needs to stock up so he has plenty of ingredients for cookies, and breads, and maybe some cakes and pies, too.

It’s a time for indulgence, so they’re gonna indulge.

He gets lost looking for more cookie recipes again that afternoon, until Steve drags him away from the laptop and the spread of cookbooks he’s gathered in the kitchen.

When he comes back to himself, he has a list of fifteen different types of cookies. Everything from bog standard chocolate chip cookies and shortbread, to lemonade cookies, to chocolate potato chip cookies.

He’s going to have a lot of fun making cookies this year.

But there are other things to do, and to make.

He goes back into research mode for other holiday traditions, not sure what he and Steve should do, other than be together and hopefully enjoy their first Christmas together in way too long.

Bucky is pretty sure that no matter what he does or does not do, that will be the outcome.

They always enjoy each other’s company, and Christmas really shouldn’t have much bearing on that. They’ll just… enjoy each other’s company with extra sweets and with presents.

Presents. Oh. Presents.

He can work with that.

--

Steve seems amused and maybe a little bewildered by the research hole he’s fallen into, but he indulges Bucky’s long rambles about cookies and plans without much interjection. He just smiles and nods and makes interested noises at the right places, and Bucky loves him for it.

Bucky loves him for a lot of things, and this indulgence is one of them, perhaps the top of the list at this particular moment.

--

After breakfast the next morning, he sets up for his first set of cookies. Briefly, he considers not going completely overboard.

He discards the notion quickly though. They know plenty of people that he can give excess cookies to. Steve’s whole team, for one. The man who owns their bodega, their mail carrier, Mrs Bittman down the street. If he thinks it through, he actually needs to make an ungodly number of cookies, so that they can give a lot of them away.

Tis the season, according to his research.

Plus, Bucky enjoys baking. He spends the morning and a good chunk of the afternoon in the kitchen, baking cookies. Steve wanders into the kitchen a few times, snags a cookie to try each time. He makes approving noises about all of them, and Bucky is glad of that.

It’s nice to feel appreciated.

When he decides that he’s finished with baking for the day--surveying the products of his labor, he thinks he might be done for the week--he thinks maybe it’s time to appreciate something else. Someone else.

He washes his hands and starts the dishwasher, and heads out of the kitchen in search of Steve.

He’s not in the living room, or in the home gym upstairs, or their bedroom. He’s not even in Bucky’s old room. He’s in there when he hears the creak from above, and realizes that Steve is up on the third floor.

They still haven’t done much with the space up there. Sometimes Steve mutters about property values and apartments, but Bucky is pretty sure that he has no real intention of turning it into another apartment, if for no other reason than how much it would freak Bucky out to have someone living above them.

He finds Steve in the back room. It might’ve been a bedroom at one time, or something else entirely. But it gets great light, just about all day long. And that’s where Steve is, with a couple of pillows and his sketchbook and a couple sets of pastels.

Bucky can tell that he’s been working for a while. He crosses the room and sits down next to Steve, careful not to jostle him or, hopefully, startle him. He sits down and he waits for his presence to filter through Steve’s art fugue.

It takes a while, but Bucky is OK with that. He’s used to that. It takes less time for Steve to become aware of him these days than it did when they were both younger and had fewer cares, less weight on their shoulders. He doesn’t know if that’s a product of time, or if it’s just that Steve wants to be more aware of him these days than perhaps he used to.

Still, he makes himself comfortable while he waits, and he tries not to look over Steve’s shoulder at what he’s working on. Steve doesn’t always like to share works in progress, and Bucky respects that.

Steve looks up at him and smiles, when his presence has filtered through his consciousness, and Bucky smiles back at him, leans forward and presses a quick kiss to his lips.

“Hi,” Steve says. “You done baking for the day?”

“Hi. I am. How goes the art?”

Steve looks down at his sketchbook, and then angles it to show Bucky. It’s a riot of colors. A sunset, Bucky thinks. Or something like one.

“I like it,” he says.

Steve surveys it. “I think I do, too.”

Bucky leans into him. “I’m glad. Do you want to eat soon?”

Steve’s stomach rumbles in response, and Bucky smiles. “Let’s order in, I’m done in the kitchen for the day. No cookies until after dinner, don’t want to ruin your appetite.”

“Yes, Ma,” Steve says. He smiles, and Bucky chuckles.

He gets to his feet and holds out his hand to help Steve up. Steve leaves behind his sketchbook and the pastels.

“I like it up here,” he says, as they head downstairs. They’re both going to need to wash their hands now, Steve’s hands are covered in pastels, and Bucky hasn’t let go of him yet.

“Seems like it has good light,” Bucky agrees.

Steve nods. “Yeah, the house faces north so there’s sun all day back there. I think I might make it my studio, eventually.”

“I think that sounds good.”

“We could combine the two back bedrooms, maybe?”

Bucky nods. They’re in the kitchen now, and he washes his hands before standing aside so Steve can do the same.

“We could look into doing some of it ourselves?”

Steve glances at him. “No contractors?”

Bucky shrugs. “Maybe not. Undecided as of right this second. Still, better than converting it and having someone move in up there.”

Steve nods. “Yeah, I only considered that for like, two minutes.”

He smiles. “What do you want for dinner?”

“Subs?”

“Sounds good.”

Bucky gets busy ordering food for them. He’s not paying much attention to Steve, so it takes him a moment to realize that Steve has more to say. He looks up, and Steve smiles at him again.

“Was thinking we could make it partly like, a room for you too?”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. We could get a comfy chair and a couch, and you could have somewhere to keep yarn and stuff, for your knitting.”

Bucky smiles. “I’d like that.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Steve blushes, so pretty, and lets Bucky get back to ordering dinner for them. He takes care of that, and they go to the living room to wait for the food to arrive, sitting on the couch together, curling up and getting comfy and close.

They chat quietly while they wait for the food to arrive. Steve has turned on the couch so he can really wrap himself around Bucky, and Bucky fully leans into it, enjoying the warmth of him.

“Do you want to get a tree soon, maybe?” he asks after a while.

“Yeah, Buck. That sounds good. Maybe this weekend?”

“OK. Is it too early?”

“I don’t think so. I mean, we never used to get a tree until Christmas Eve, but people do things differently these days. Some folks put their tree up right after Thanksgiving.”

“Really? Won’t it be really dead by Christmas if you put it up that early?”

“I think those folks mostly use fake trees.”

Bucky sits up and turns to look at Steve. “We are not getting a fake tree.”

“No, I agree with you on that.”

“Good.” He sits back again, shudders a little. “Fake trees, jesus.”

Steve chuckles. “Yeah, pretty much.”

Their food arrives, and Steve goes to the door to get it and tip the delivery person. When he returns they set the food out on the coffee table. Bucky goes to the kitchen to get them drinks, and they turn on the tv to something innocuous while they eat. They jostle each other as they eat their food, sitting too close together for it to really be comfortable for either of them.

Neither of them moves away, though.

When they’re done and the food is all cleaned up, Steve sprawls out on the sofa and makes grabby hands at Bucky. Bucky can’t help by laugh at him, even though he’s pretty sure he’s blushing as well, and he’s certainly carefully stretching himself out on top of Steve and settling in for a solid cuddle before they go to bed and snuggle some more.

His conviction to foist as much physical affection on Steve as humanly possible has turned out to be a rousing success, and it has only benefited the both of them.

He’s happy.

Not sure how he’d managed it, but he’s happy.

There’s still plenty of darkness in his head, and he’s sure in Steve’s as well, but they’re doing pretty good.

“What do you want for Christmas?” he asks after a while.

“Aw, Buck. You don’t gotta get me anything.”

“Are you going to buy stuff for me?”

“Well, yeah. You deserve nice Christmas presents.”

Bucky shifts enough to poke Steve in the side. Just once, not too fiercely. “Then you’ll get presents too, and you’ll like it, Steven Grant Rogers.”

Steve is silent for a minute, and Bucky can imagine him working through that. “Sir, yes sir,” he says eventually.

“Damn straight.” But he knows that he won’t be getting any hints from Steve about what to get him, so he decides: softness. He’ll be getting Steve soft things for Christmas.

That’s a goal he can work with.

“What do you want for Christmas, Buck?”

“Just you.”

Steve goes quiet again for a moment, and Bucky knows he’s processing and emoting and working through the emotions. He can almost feel the little sob of happiness that wants to come out of Steve’s mouth, and he gives him the time to work through that.

“You’ve already got me, Buck.”

He has no option but to bluster at that, else he’ll break down in tears, and likely won’t be able to stop for way too long. It’ll worry Steve, even if they’re happy tears.

“Well, I’m sure you’ll come up with nice stuff, Mr I Will Be Buying You Stuff Even Though I Think You Shouldn’t Buy Me Stuff.”

“Touche.”

He laughs a little, and settles in again.

Steve lifts his arms and says, “OK with a hug?”

“Yes, please hug me.”

“You got it, Buck.” And he lays his hands on Bucky’s back, holding him close, rubbing his hands slowly up and down his back, over and over.

It’s soothing, too soothing by far, and Bucky is soon dozing. He stays like that for a long time, until Steve speaks again.

“Buck?”

He opens his eyes. The TV is turned off, and Steve’s hands aren’t moving on his back anymore. Somehow, they’re more or less stretched out on the sofa, and he has no idea when that happened, or how.

“Hmm?”

“Time for bed, I think. You ready to head up?”

In all honesty, he has to think about it for a moment; he must’ve fallen more asleep than he thought he had. He’d felt like he was awake the whole time, just supremely relaxed.

“Yeah. Bed.”

“Sleepy?”

“Yeah.” He takes a moment, and then he levers himself to his hands and knees, and sits back, and gets to his feet.

On the couch, Steve stretches out a bit, and yawns, and then stands as well. He holds out his hand, and Bucky takes it, and they head upstairs to get ready for bed.

--

The next week or so is quiet. Bucky has started looking for things to buy for Steve, but he hasn’t bought anything just yet.

He lays off the baking, but just a little bit, because he wants to put together some freezer meals for the next week, and get some bread baked as well.

Steve has been spending a lot of time upstairs in the newly annointed future studio.

He doesn’t want to wait too long to order Steve’s gifts. He wants everything to arrive in time. And with Steve wrapped up in his art because he’s had good light, Bucky has plenty of time to start ordering things and not worry about being spotted.

He’s not positive, but he thinks that Steve might’ve snuck his own laptop upstairs with him that morning, so Bucky is not the only one doing some online shopping.

--

Bucky wakes up. It had started snowing the previous evening, and the room is chilled in the morning air. He has the covers pulled up to his ears; he twitches a little and the fold of the comforter shifts and covers the rest of his head, too. That’s better.

Steve is close, but their bodies are only touching in one or two places, a crossed ankle here, fingers brushing there.

He’s too far away. Bucky makes a noise that sounds petulant even to his own ears, and he shifts.

Steve chuckles. Just a little. Just enough that Bucky knows that he’s at least somewhat awake, too.

“Too far,” he mumbles.

“You could just flop around until you’re closer,” Steve murmurs back, close to his ear.

“Mean,” he mumbles.

“A complete tyrant, I’m sure.”

“Too far,” Bucky mumbles again, more insistent.

Steve laughs again, and finally does what Bucky’s been wanting him to do. He reaches for Bucky and hauls him closer.

“Better.”

Steve is still laughing as he wraps himself around Bucky, arms and legs. He presses his face into Bucky neck and breathes him in deep. Bucky stretches out so he has more neck available, ever accommodating.

He drifts off again wrapped up in Steve’s arms, content.

Steve is still there when he wakes up again, and they’re in more or less the same position. There’s something resting on Bucky’s back though, and he figures that Steve is reading, either a book or the news or something like that.

“‘Z’it still snowing?”

“Yeah. Couple feet already, I think?”

“Is that all?”

“No, sorry, couple feet since sunup.”

“We live in New York.”

“Yeah, and climate change isn’t a thing, et cetera.”

“You didn’t go for a run.”

“No,” Steve agrees. He pauses and Bucky hears him turn a page. “I’ll get on the treadmill later. Will you make stew for dinner?”

Bucky has to think for a few minutes, figure out if they have everything he would need for it. Not only for the stew itself, but for biscuits to go with it. Or bread. He’s certain he can manage that. “Yes. That sounds good.”

Steve hums, pleased, and they go quiet for a while. Bucky is content to stay as he is, pressed against Steve from head to toe, with a book of some kind resting on his back, and Steve turning the pages as he reads. Steve seems in no more of a hurry to get out of bed than Bucky is.

“We could just stay here all day,” Bucky says after a while. It sounds nice.

“Does that mean you want to get up?”

“No, I meant we could just stay here all day. Do you have anywhere to be?”

“In this? No. It’s a mess outside. I’ll help the neighbors start digging their cars out tomorrow, but I don’t want to go anywhere today.”

“Good. We’ll stay in.”

“Sounds good, Buck.”

Bucky lets himself drift for a while longer, but his bladder forces him out of bed eventually. They both make unhappy noises when he starts moving to get up.

“I’ll be right back,” he says, and he’s true to his word. He feels chilled to the bone by the time he’s finished in the bathroom, and he is grateful to curl up in bed again.

“We should eat,” he says against Steve’s chest.

“Probably,” Steve agress. “But it’s so far away.”

Bucky hums his agreement, but now that he’s fully awake, he’s pretty sure it’s time to eat breakfast. He is, in fact, pretty sure he’s hungry.

He’s learned to minimize his issues with normal bodily signals as best he can, but it’s still pretty significant that he is actually feeling hungry and knows it.

“Steve, we gotta eat. Lemme up.”

Steve grumps about it, but he does let Bucky get up again. This time, he girds himself against the chill in the house--and wishes that they had a fireplace in the bedroom--and puts on socks and slippers, and a sweatshirt and bathrobe before he turns to Steve. “Pancakes?”

“Mmm, yes please. Do you want a hand?”

Bucky shrugs. “You’ll just slow me down, Rogers.”

Steve laughs. “Yeah, leave the dead weight behind. Coffee?”

“C’mon, sweetheart. Who you talkin’ to right now?”

Steve smiles again, tugs him in for a kiss. “Thanks, Buck. You sure you’re good?”

“Yes,” Bucky answers, clearly. “Keep reading, Stevie.”

Steve lets him go, and goes back to his book.

On his way down to the kitchen, Bucky detours to the thermostat and turns the temperature up a couple of degrees. Just enough to take the chill a bit out of the air. He also stops in the living room and builds up a nice future-fire in the fireplace. They can come downstairs at some point, and all they’ll have to do is get it lit and crackling.

Maybe they can fool around on the couch for a while, in front of the fire.

He doesn't know where that thought came from, but it carries him through cooking up a whole bunch of bacon and making a big batch of pancakes for both of them. He piles everything on a tray along with a carafe of coffee, half and half and sweetener, and heads back upstairs with everything. He even remembers the butter and syrup for the pancakes.

Steve looks up and grins when he comes into the bedroom again, bringing all the food and good smells with him. Bucky hands over the tray and shucks his robe and slippers before he climbs back into bed. They arrange the tray between them, passing things back and forth without conscious thought or conversation, pouring coffee, and tucking in.

It’s a lazy day. Bucky naps for a while after breakfast. When he wakes up, the tray of demolished breakfast is gone, and Steve is more or less on top of him, also asleep. He’s snoring a little bit, and Bucky smiles. Smiles and thinks about fooling around with his boyfriend again.

It’s probably a sign. He nudges at Steve, just a little. Just to see if he’ll wake up.

Steve snorts a little and shifts. “Too heavy?” he mumbles.

Bucky wraps his arms around Steve so he won’t go anywhere. “No, you’re fine. Was just wondering if you wanna fool around?”

That wakes him up. “Yeah?”

Bucky nods, and Steve kisses him.

--

They both help the neighbors dig out over the next couple of days. It’s nice, getting to chat a bit more with the people who live around them, and getting to actually use some of the crazy amounts of energy they both have, especially after spending the previous lazy snow day inside and mostly in bed.

After they’ve done some shoveling and helping, they walk around the neighborhood. Mostly the city is still at a stand-still, under several feet of snow. It’s that particular sort of quiet that only comes after a major snowstorm.

Their bodega is open, somehow, so they stop in and pick up sandwiches, as well as a couple other odds and ends that Bucky decides they need. They walk back home hand in hand.

On their way, Bucky announces, “We need to get a Christmas tree soon.”

“Yeah,” Steve agrees. “Maybe this weekend? Do you think the lots will be open again by then?”

Bucky thinks on it a moment. “The church one probably will.”

Steve nods. “We can check there first.”

“It’s a plan.”

“You’re a plan.”

Bucky gives him a look. “What does that even mean?”

Steve shrugs, grinning, cheeky shithead that he is. “It works.”

“Your face works.”

Steve just grins all the more. “Sure does, thanks Buck.”

Bucky shoves him into a snowbank, and takes off running.

The tree lot at the church closest to the house is indeed open again by the weekend, so they go there to look for a tree. It’s close enough that they can just carry the tree back home once they’ve picked it out, so Bucky is pretty determined to get a tree there. It’s a Methodist church, and Bucky watches Steve’s silent debate with himself over buying from a not-Catholic church.

It’s a quick debate, thankfully. And Bucky is pretty sure the deciding factor is not only that Steve hasn’t been to Mass in months, if not years, but also he more or less doesn’t believe in God anymore. Not with a capital G, anyway.

Bucky’s right there with him.

He slides his arm around Steve’s waist when he sees that the debate is over, and Steve gives him a rueful smile, and they walk into the lot together.

Bucky had expected it to be quick, picking out a tree. But somehow he’d managed to forget that his boyfriend is an artist at heart. He has Opinions, so they spend almost an hour comparing and contrasting the different types of trees, and then narrowing things down to just three, and finally picking a winner.

The price is outrageous, but Steve hands over several twenties without a peep, and has the tree draped over his shoulder before Bucky has a chance to do more than blink in appreciation.

It’s not until they get home that they both realize that they have literally nothing to put the tree in, and no more than that to put on the tree.

They exchange a look, and Steve says a wholehearted, “Fuck.”

Bucky can’t help but laugh. “Leave it on the porch, Steve. I’ll go find a hardware store.”

And he does. A quick internet search nets him the nearest hardware store that claims to have a tree stand in stock. It’s a few subway stops away, or a very long walk. Bucky has to think about that for a few minutes.

Is he up to the subway today?

“How you feelin’?” Steve asks, knowing what he’s thinking about.

“I think I’m good.”

“We can get a cab back if we need to.”

“Yeah,” Bucky agrees. “That’s good. I’ll remember that.”

They leave the tree on the front porch and head to the subway.

They return a couple hours later in a cab, laden down with a tree stand and lights and some ornaments. Bucky had wanted to get everything in one fell swoop, but Steve had protested that the ornament selection at the hardware store was lacking. The tree is still waiting for them on the porch.

Getting the tree in the house and in the stand goes about as well as Bucky had expected, which is to say that Steve ends up frustrated and impatient, stomping around grumbling to himself while Bucky finishes getting the tree up and straight while trying to hide his smile.

Steve calms down quickly, and he’s in his element when Bucky just gestures at the tree and the ornaments and lights and plops down on the couch.

He gets up again a few minutes later to start a fire and go make them both some hot chocolate. Something cozy feels appropriate for tree decorating.

Steve happily spends ages getting the lights just right, and then the placement of the ornaments just right, and Bucky watches and offers zero input, because Steve doesn’t want it anyway.

He does get up when the afternoon has worn on and puts together food for both of them, something simple because he wants to keep watching Steve.

Steve is so deep in the aesthetics of the tree that he clearly doesn’t notice Bucky handing him a plate of food. He eats everything on it while he’s working on the tree, completely unaware of anything around him. Bucky is pretty sure he’s only peripherally aware that he’s actually eating. His concentration can be a little too total, sometimes.

He would probably fiddle with it all night, if Bucky let him. But he is not going to do that. For one thing, they don’t even have enough ornaments to actually fill the tree yet.

For another, that would just be mean.

So when it’s getting late, and Bucky knows that it’s time for them to be thinking about going to bed, he banks the fire so that it can be left, and he goes around checking the doors and windows, and starts turning out the lights.

Finally, he takes a spot next to Steve, and slowly insinuates himself into Steve’s space. He does it as gently as he can, not wanting to startle him or jar him out of his reverie. But it’s time for Steve to be done for the day.

“Steve,” he says, soft. Gentle. He slides his arm around Steve’s waist.

Steve still comes out of his fugue with a start, and looks around at the darkened house, the drawn curtains, and then down at Bucky.

“Whoops,” he says.

Bucky smiles at him. “You’re fine. It’s just getting late. Finishing the tree can wait, yes?”

Steve nods. “Yeah, it can wait.” He sounds a little dazed, and Bucky supposes he probably is. Maybe he shouldn’t have let Steve get so lost for so long, but it’s such a harmless thing to get lost in, and Bucky knows that Steve wants a perfect Christmas this year.

It won’t be perfect, but he can let Steve try to get it as close as possible. He can do his part to get it close enough, too.

“We’ll get some more ornaments for it tomorrow, OK?”

“Yeah, that sounds good.” Steve turns and wraps himself around Bucky, briefly, hugging him close and tight.

“Let’s go to bed,” Bucky murmurs into his neck.

“Yes,” Steve agrees. “Thanks for not letting me get too bogged down, Buck.”

“Anytime, sweetheart. I’m with you.”

Steve takes a step back, and Bucky slides his hand into Steve’s, and they head upstairs.

--

Steve goes off the next morning to find some more ornaments. Bucky wishes him well and tells him to be back by mid-afternoon or else.

He’s hoping that keeps Steve from spending too much time at it, but time will tell.

While Steve is out of the house, Bucky finishes his Christmas shopping for Steve. He tries not to go overboard with it, because the presents really aren’t the important part, but also he could never afford to get Steve the nice things he deserves when they were young. And it’s not like Steve spends money on himself—except for art supplies, Bucky has noticed that Steve does buy the best quality he can afford these days—so Bucky is going to do it for him.

He finds a couple of handmade ornaments that he thinks Steve will like. And then he finds a really nice kit to make your own heirloom-style ornaments.

He doesn’t remember if Steve was any good at mending, Before, but he buys it anyway. Perhaps they can make them together.

After that’s taken care of, he goes back to work on the handmade things he’s making for Steve, and spends the rest of the time Steve is out working on that.

He forgets about lunch, and finds himself starving when Steve gets home. Starving and with no desire to cook anything, so they order takeout and camp out on the couch for the rest of the day, eating and watching Christmas movies.

The holiday creeps up on them, more quickly than Bucky had expected. Before he knows it, all of the cookies are baked, the things he’d ordered for Steve have been delivered and wrapped and stashed under the tree, their meal planned, and all the prep work done.

And it’s Christmas eve.

“Should we go to Mass?” Steve asks over breakfast that morning.

“Sweetheart,” is all Bucky says.

“Yeah, I know, you’re right. It’s just.”

Bucky waits.

“This is the first real Christmas I've had since waking up, since finding you again. We used to go to Mass on Christmas eve.” Steve shrugs, blushing down at his breakfast.

If he’s being honest, Bucky doesn’t really care one way or the other about going to church, but he also knows Steve will just tie himself in knots over it if he does go.

“Sweetheart,” he says again. He waits for Steve to look at him.

“Do you actually want to go, or do you just feel like you should want to go?”

Steve sighs. “Probably the latter.”

“Then let’s skip it. We can start a new tradition. Watch that one movie that’s on for 24 hours or something.”

“Okay,” Steve agrees. He sounds relieved.

Bucky is glad.

It’s another cozy day for them, not really any different from other days when Steve doesn’t have to do avengering or go into the city. But it feels different. It feels special because it’s the day before Christmas.

They finish the day with sandwiches in front of the TV. Bucky is doing more cooking on Christmas day, so he hadn’t wanted to do too much the day before. He brings out all the cookies that are left, and they gorge themselves on those before going to bed at their regular time.

“Are you going to get up and run in the morning?” he asks, when Steve is curled up at his side.

Steve shrugs, then speaks. “Probably not? I can get on the treadmill after breakfast if I need to. Why?”

“I was just wondering,” Bucky replies. “Not planning on getting up especially early.”

“But don’t you want your presents?”

“Of course, but they’ll still be there even if I’m not up at the crack of dawn, like some people.”

“I can sleep in if I want to.”

“Sure you can, pal.”

Steve rolls towards him and throws an arm over him. “I can, Buck. Just you wait. You’re gonna be begging me to wake up so we can open presents. You’ll see.”

--

Steve is already awake, when Bucky wakes up on Christmas.

“Told you so,” he mumbles at him.

“Shut up,” Steve intones. But he snuggles down into the bed, wrapping himself around Bucky more firmly and sighing.

“What about presents?” Bucky mumbles. He’s already half asleep again, immensely comforted by the weight of Steve against his back.

“They can wait,” Steve says. “We’re sleeping in.”

“OK.”

A couple hours later, Bucky wakes up again, this time for real, all the way awake. Steve snuffles against his back when he stirs, and he knows he’s awake, too.

“Time to get up?” Bucky mumbles.

“Yeah,” Steve agrees.

Bucky shifts and turns over; Steve moves off of him enough that he can do so, and drapes himself right back over Bucky when he’s settled again.

“Did you sleep anymore?”

Steve shrugs. “A bit.”

“That’s good. Let’s go do Christmas, huh?”

“Ok.”

It’s a few more warm and comfortable minutes before Steve stirs, and Bucky is more than content to let him have his cozy morning, to let him soak up all the comfort he can.

Today’s gonna be a good day, for both of them. Especially if Bucky has any say in the matter.

Steve turns and sits up, rubbing his face with his hands. Bucky does the same, stands and pulls on his bathrobe. He waits for Steve at the door, and they go downstairs hand in hand.

They bypass the living room entirely at first, heading into the kitchen, where Bucky gets the coffee starts and gets their breakfast dish out of the fridge. He sets the oven to the proper temperature, takes the foil off the dish, and sticks it in, setting the timer for the lower end of what the recipe had recommended. They wait together for the coffee to be finished, leaning against each other and the counter, yawning here and there.

When they both have full mugs of coffee, they head into the living room. Steve turns on the lights on the tree, and Bucky gets a fire started in the fireplace.

They sit down on the couch and look at each other and the tree. For a few minutes, it’s nice to just take everything in. In the kitchen, the oven beeps that it’s reached the set temperature.

“Do you want to go first?” Steve asks.

Bucky shrugs, but he puts his coffee on the table, and gets up to grab a gift for Steve, and one for himself. He hands Steve’s to him and sits down again.

“You go,” Steve says, and Bucky smiles at him.

He opens the gift carefully, to find a set of books that he’s had his eye on. It’s a really nice set. He smiles at Steve, excited about them, happy with the gift, and gestures for him to open his gift.

Steve’s first gift is the cashmere sweater Bucky had found for him.

Bucky gives him all the clothes gifts he’d bought and made first. There’s another sweater, and some of the t-shirts that Bucky has found and loves--they’re so soft--sweatpants, socks, the hat and mittens and scarf he’d made. By the time he hands Steve a gift that is clearly not clothes, Steve is grinning, amused at all the soft clothes Bucky had bought for him.

“You want me to be as cozy as you, huh?”

Bucky just nods. What else is there to say? Steve doesn’t wear soft enough clothes, a lot of the time. It makes Bucky vaguely itchy to see him, vaguely uncomfortable in a way that he doesn’t particularly want to examine right now. Not on Christmas, anyway.

Bucky has a nice pile of gifts too, a few cookbooks along with the fiction he’d opened first, an insanely expensive Le Creuset dutch oven and skillet (“It’s a nice color, and you should have the good stuff, Buck. Besides, this benefits me just as much as you. It’s a selfish gift, really.”), socks, a new hooded sweatshirt, a whole bunch of lovely soft yarns, a set of circular knitting needles that Bucky can’t wait to get a project on, and a box of macarons.

Bucky’s never had a macaron before--not that he remembers, anyway--so he’s excited to try them. And then maybe try to recreate them. They’re supposed to be challenging to get right, which is the kind of goal he likes to have these days.

Steve still has a few gifts left. There’s the paints that Bucky had gotten for him, along with some new brushes and a really nice sketchbook, as well as the ornaments and the ornament kit that he’d picked up.

Bucky has one last gift to open, he thinks, and it’s a doozy when he sees it. It’s a small painting, of Steve and himself. Clearly Steve had painted it himself, and gotten it framed. At first glance, he is a little afraid that Steve might’ve painted them the way they were, but he should’ve known better. Steve has painted them as they are, and Bucky loves it.

It’s gorgeous. They’re both soft around the edges, but it’s clearly them. They look happy, and Bucky has to sniffle a little, looking at it. Steve sees him, really sees him how he is, and loves him for it.

“Thank you, sweetheart.”

Steve shoves the stuff around him away so he can move down the couch, close enough to Bucky to wrap his arms around him. “Do you like it?”

“Yeah. I do.”

“I’m glad. It felt a little arrogant to paint it, to give you a picture of us, but I thought you’d get it.”

“I do,” Bucky agrees.

The timer on the over dings, and he lets out a shaky little laugh. “I have to go check on breakfast.”

Steve lets him go, reluctantly, and lets Bucky use the trip to the kitchen to check on their breakfast to gather himself. The casserole needs a little bit longer in the oven, so he sticks it back in there, and heads back to the living room.

“I have one more,” Steve says. “It’s for both of us, but I want you to open it.”

Bucky sits down next to him, and Steve hands him a card. Bucky just raises his eyebrows at Steve as he takes it and opens the envelope.

It’s a bon voyage sort of card, and inside is a little hand-drawn map of the US. There’s a green line drawn sort of haphazardly across it, with a star down in Arizona, and another one on the West Coast.

Bucky stares for a few minutes, and then looks up at Steve.

“I thought. We could go on a road trip?”

Bucky nods. He’s gathered that.

“We could go to the Grand Canyon. We always wanted to go, do you remember?”

He does have sort of vague memories of that, only a bit more fully-formed than the rest of his memories. What he does really remember is the way it had felt, talking to Steve about going west. They’d hop a train, and work their way across the country. See the whole thing, together.

It had been hopeful, exciting.

It still is.

Steve is watching him closely, and Bucky slips his hand into Steve’s and leans against him. “This sounds great, Steve.”

He thinks he probably doesn’t sound as excited as he feels about it--that’s still an issue sometimes--so he does the best thing he can think of to show Steve how he really feels. He kisses him, pulling him in close and licking into his mouth with all the emotion he can’t quite convey otherwise.

Steve kisses him back, and Bucky can feel his relief, his joy that Bucky really does love the gift.

They keep making out on the couch until the oven dings again, and Bucky tears himself away, tugs himself out of Steve’s grip and stands up.

“Can’t let it burn, Stevie.”

Steve groans, but lets him go get their breakfast out of the oven.

The casserole has to rest for about fifteen minutes before they can eat, so he pours them each a second cup of coffee and heads back into the living room. They curl up together on the couch with their mugs and turn on the tv. The 24 hour marathon is still on, so they watch that for a bit while they wait on their breakfast, and then keep it on while they eat.

Bucky picks up the map again, smiling at it.

“You really do like it?”

“I do,” he says.

“Good. I haven’t really planned anything yet, I thought you would want to help.”

“Or take over for you?”

“Well, you’re better at it.”

“Always was,” Bucky agrees.

“Yeah, yeah, you impugning my prudence here, Buck?”

Bucky snorts. “You’ve got no prudence to impugn, sweetheart. I may not remember a whole lot concrete, but I remember that for sure.”

Steve scoffs, but he doesn’t disagree either.

They eat their breakfast on the sofa, watching tv and enjoying the fire crackling in the fireplace.

After breakfast and some tidying up,Bucky gives in to Steve’s puppy dog eyes and they get out a deck of cards and board games, and play games for a while, with the TV on quietly in the background.

Steve is still forever and always a dirty cheat at cards, but Bucky knows all of his tells and his usual cheating ways without being quite conscious of knowing them, so he’s able to counteract it, at least a little bit. Enough so that Steve doesn’t win outright every hand.

It aggravates the shit out of Steve, which is all Bucky had really wanted, to poke at him a little bit, get him riled up.

Around the second or third hand, when Steve is squawking indignantly that Bucky is the one who’s cheating (he is, but not as much or as blatantly as Steve), Bucky realizes that he’s doing this on purpose. He’s doing it for a purpose.

It’s OK, because Steve is fully aware of what Bucky’s doing, and is happily playing along. His indignation is mostly put on.

It makes for a fun morning, both of them getting het up with each other and, perhaps inevitably, perhaps it’s what Bucky had really wanted all along, fooling around on the couch before lunch (it’s definitely what Bucky had wanted all along, even if it took him a few hands to realize it).

After lunch, Bucky picks up one of the books that Steve had bought for him, and Steve goes upstairs to get his book, and they curl up together and spend most of the afternoon reading.

Bucky has a nice dinner planned though, so at some point he needs to get up and get started putting that together. They’re having crab cakes, along with salad and fresh bread and mashed potatoes. He’d ordered the crab cakes special from a place in Maryland that says they’re the best.

They do end up being very good, although they do fall apart a little bit when he’s trying to get them out of the pan.

They take dinner to the living room, as they often do, and build the fire up again, and turn out all the lights except for the tree, and enjoy the soft light and the crackling of the fire while they eat.

It is, all in all, the most peaceful Christmas Bucky thinks he’s ever had. Just the closeness between himself and Steve and a quiet day. They stay like that for a long time, long after they’ve finished their meal and put the plates on the coffee table, holding each other and enjoying the peace.

--

Later, much later, they clean up the dishes and put out the fire, unplug the lights on the tree and head to bed.

“Was it a good Christmas?” Bucky asks. He is fairly sure he knows the answer, but he wants to hear it from Steve anyway.

Steve sighs happily. “Yeah, Buck. It was. It was just about perfect.”

“Good. I thought so too.”

“Hey, the cards earlier though.”

“Yeah?”

“Was that meant to be foreplay?”

Bucky laughs. “I mean, not until about the third hand, but. Yeah.”

Steve laughs, too. “OK. Just checking.”

“OK.”

They get into bed and settle in. Steve grabs his book. “You OK with me reading for a while longer before going to sleep?”

“Yeah,” Bucky replies. He drapes himself over Steve, and Steve settles with his arms around Bucky and his book resting on Bucky’s hip. He shuts his eyes and listening to the calm, soothing rhythm of Steve’s breath, the beating of his heart.

“Should we invite people over for New Year next week?”

Bucky lifts his head. “Should we?”

Steve smiles. “Yeah, I was thinking I would ask Natasha and Sam to come over for New Year’s Eve. We could get pizza or whatever and watch all the crazy tourists in Times Square or something.”

Bucky shrugs. “Yeah, OK, if you want.”

He has no real feelings about New Year’s Eve. Maybe he used to, but he doesn’t remember anything about it.

“OK, I’ll let them know tomorrow. Want to go for a run with me in the morning?”

“No. Steve, c’mon.”

Steve chuckles again, and Bucky feels the kiss he presses to the top of his head. “Worth a shot.”

Bucky makes a disbelieving sort of noise, and puts his head back down on Steve’s chest. He goes back to listening to Steve’s breath, to his heart, and he thinks that it was a very nice Christmas indeed, and he falls asleep like that.