It was early afternoon when Bucky slipped out of Avengers Tower and began his daily wander through New York. While he normally headed out early enough that he could find somewhere new and interesting to have lunch, he'd slept in for once, just because he could. He still occasionally had issues with making spontaneous choices like that, but he'd been so comfortable wrapped up in his fuzzy blankets that he hadn't felt more than a tiny twinge of guilt when he rolled over and went back to sleep.
Besides, it wasn't as if he had any sort of schedule to keep. He wasn't ready to join up with the Avengers, even though the others had all told him that he'd be welcome once he felt comfortable. He definitely didn't want any part of the newly rebuilding SHIELD, no matter how much he trusted Steve to keep an eye on things. At the moment, he had enough on his plate working out how to be a mostly functional human being again.
His daily rambling and shopping trips were actually a big help with that. Bucky felt a lot more comfortable out in public than anyone had thought that he would. But it was nice to just be a random face in the crowd, and one thing that the Soldier had always known how to do was blend into the background. No one remembered Bucky unless he wanted them to, especially when he wore the high-tech arm cover that Tony had made him to hide the shiny metal of his left arm.
He couldn't wear the cover all the time or the arm would overheat and start to malfunction, but Bucky didn't care. And it wasn't even the way it made his arm look like his other that he loved the most. It was the fact that the cover was completely waterproof.
It hadn't taken Bucky long at all to decide that his favorite thing about the future, and especially about living on Tony Stark's dime, was the fact that he could soak up to his neck in water as hot as he could stand for as long as he wanted, as often as he wanted. At least until his metal arm got waterlogged and started to short out. When Tony had paraded the new arm cover out and mentioned that he'd added a newly developed waterproof coating, just because, he'd become Bucky's favorite person for the next week.
Then Natasha had introduced him to bubble bath, and she'd overtaken Tony as Bucky's favorite person ever. That discovery had also turned his random rambling shopping trips into rambling shopping trips for bath products. There were a few small, locally owned shops that had made their way onto his list of favorites, but Bucky was always on the lookout for new ones.
Besides, he'd decided that shopping for bath things was actually fun.
He started with a couple of his very favorite shops, picking up a few things in each that he'd loved while choosing a few other things to try. Then he headed for a small shop about a block further down that he'd heard good things about on the internet. There were a few things that looked interesting, though it turned out that most of the store's inventory wasn't quite what Bucky was looking for. He was about to leave empty-handed when he saw them.
For a long moment, all he could do was stand and stare at them. One was a themed set of six Avengers rubber ducks, and they were absolutely adorable. The Captain America duck was even holding a little duck-sized shield, the Hawkeye duck had a small quiver on its back, and the Thor duck held a small hammer. The Black Widow duck had red hair, the Iron Man duck had a faceplate that actually came off, and while the Hulk duck was solid green it was still wearing Dr. Banner's glasses. They were absolutely amazing.
But it was the second set of ducks that nearly had Bucky blinking back tears. Because it was a set of Howling Commandos ducks, complete with Dum Dum duck's bowler hat and Bucky duck's blue jacket. And instead of a star-spangled Captain America duck, there was a Steve Rogers duck in regular army uniform with the original shield on its back. There was even a Peggy Carter duck in uniform with a little gun on its side.
They were perfect.
Bucky didn't even bother looking at the prices for all of the ducks, just gathered up both sets, marched to the cash register and pulled out the credit card that Tony had all but forced on him when he and Steve had finally moved into the Tower. Then, once his ducks were safely stowed with his earlier purchases, he headed back to the Tower even though it meant cutting his shopping trip a bit shorter than normal. His duck discovery had him a little emotionally off-kilter and he knew he'd feel more comfortable if he could get back on an even keel in private.
It wasn't long before he was back in his rooms on the floor he and Steve shared, even with the stops he'd made sneaking into the other Avengers' living quarters to drop off the appropriate duck on each of their beds. The majority of the Howlie ducks he sat in a row on one of his bookshelves to show Steve once the other man got back from wherever he'd gone for the afternoon.
The Steve and Peggy ducks, however, Bucky took with him into his bathroom, along with one of the new bottles of bubble bath that he'd bought to try. Time to see if Sesame Street was right and rubber ducks did actually make bath time fun.
Half an hour later Bucky had decided that Sesame Street had indeed known what it was talking about. The bathroom was full of steam, there was hot, pine-scented water nearly up to Bucky's chin with a thick layer of bubbles on top of that, and the Steve and Peggy ducks were running through a variety of increasingly absurd infiltration plans in their duck attempts to breach the bubble castle that Bucky had constructed near his feet.
It was the most fun that Bucky'd had in quite a while.
Steve and Peggy duck were just about to finally sneak into the bubble castle when there was a soft knock at the bathroom door. "Buck, you mind if I come in for a minute?"
"Sure thing, Steve. Make yourself at home." Bucky smiled as the door opened and Steve slipped into the bathroom, closing the door behind him and slumping onto the stool near the side of the tub. Bucky still found it amusing that Steve was the only person in the Tower who was perfectly comfortable having a conversation while Bucky was in the bath, and always had been.
For a moment, Steve just looked at him with his lips twitching in an obvious attempt to keep from smiling. Then he held up the Cap duck. "Where on earth did you find this, Bucky?"
Bucky grinned. "New store I wandered into earlier. They had a rubber duck for each of you." He paused. "Did you see the ones on the bookcase?"
Steve frowned and shook his head. "I saw this one on my bed and came straight here. What other ones?"
"They made Howlie ducks." He held up the bubble-covered Steve and Peggy ducks, then handed them to a shocked Steve. "There's a rubber duck for each of the Commandos."
Steve's hand shook slightly when he took the other two ducks, and he flashed Bucky a somewhat wobbly smile. For a minute he just looked at the ducks, then he glanced back up at Bucky. "These are amazing, Buck."
Bucky smiled. "I thought maybe we could share custody of the Howlie ducks. Besides, it'd give me a chance to teach you what you're supposed to do with bath toys."
Steve snorted out a laugh, then handed the Steve and Peggy ducks back to a snickering Bucky. "Sounds good to me." He pushed himself back to his feet, glancing at Bucky over his shoulder as he headed for the door. "And if you don't mind, I think I'll take custody of the Bucky duck right now and make use of my own bathtub." He grinned. "Suddenly, I feel like a good, long soak."
As Steve left the bathroom, Bucky chuckled. Once he got Steve hooked on the whole bath idea, he'd take the other man shopping with him. It'd be fun, and maybe they'd even find more amazing themed rubber ducks.