Everything was ready. No thanks to Steve, who had volunteered to throw the birthday bash. However, Natasha quickly realised that his idea of a party was six pack and a bag of open chips. So she came in, as she always did, a rescued his ass.
Decorations, easy. Nothing extravagant because Bucky was never one for anything more than simplicity. Black and gold streamers along the walls, no balloons after the New Years’ incident, and some matching disposable plates and cutlery. Easy. Well, for her.
And the cupcake. The second most important feature aside from the copious amounts of alcohol. She had thought of a cake but with this crowd, she doubted cutting it would be very feasible. Again, New Years had taught her many things. So the tiered display of cupcakes would ensure that they could grab and go and make a mess of themselves.
All but two guests had already arrived. Thor and his wrangler were as usual, late, and Bucky was due about five minutes before. The group huddled in the dark as they waited. As Sam swore he had told Bucky six times. As Peter made jokes about his aging mind and Steve resented those comments.
“Cupcakes,” Tony wondered as he knelt beside Nat. “New Years?”
“New Years,” She confirmed, “And they’re Bucky’s favourite.”
“They are?” Steve hissed.
“Yeah.” She scowled. “The kid said so.”
“Oh yeah,” Peter chimed in. “Right before he tossed me across the training room.”
“I really hope you were subtle,” Nat muttered. “Any sign of collusion and he’s sure to be halfway back to Siberia.”
“Shhh,” Wanda hushed as she grabbed Nat’s arm. “I hear someone.”
The group went quiet but for the soft rustle of their fidgeting. They all listened intently and the footsteps came clearer. The shadow neared the other side of the door and stopped just beyond. There was a sigh and the handle turned.
“Where the hell--”
The light flicked on and the guest interrupted Bucky as he entered. His irritation deepened as realised what was going on and he glared at each smiling face. His eyes settled on his oldest friend and narrowed.
“Steve.” He growled.
“No,” Nat stepped forward, “The man couldn’t organize a walk in the park let alone a party.”
“I tried.” Steve pouted.
“He brought a bottle of Heineken and a snack-sized bag of Doritos.” Sam chuckled. “Which I’ve already helped myself too.”
“Happy birthday, Bucky,” Wanda approached with one of the cupcake, a lit candle shoved into the icing.
“Really?” He groaned.
“What about Thor?” Tony whispered to Nat.
“You know Asgardian time.” She replied.
“And his escort?”
“A handful, even for her.” Nat regretted that she had the third woman on the team to attend to the God but she couldn’t trust Steve or Sam or Peter. Or really anyone else. “They’ll be here.”
Bucky dropped his shoulders and sharply blew out the candle. Wanda handed him the cupcake.
“I understand that it is custom to make a wish.” Vision said. “So what did you wish for?”
“I wished for this to be over,” Bucky shrugged him off and strode over the table. He set down the cupcake and grabbed an empty cup. “So, water or--”
“There’s a cooler underneath,” Nat pointed under the tablecloth as she followed. “Soda, Jack, Water. Whatever you want.”
“Don’t you want your cupcake?” Wanda asked.
“Not much of a sweet tooth,” He bent and lifted the table cloth. He fished through the cooler for a root beer. “Don’t mind a nice slice of apple pie but that stuff’s too sugary.”
Nat shot Peter a look and his eyes rounded. His face paled with genuine confusion.
“Well, enjoy, I guess,” Nat threw up her hands.
Sam came up on Bucky’s other side. Steve was close behind. The three of them would settle in for the night and try to appease the wintery birthday boy. Nat parted and crossed the room, grabbed the back of Peter’s collar as she dragged him to the corner.
“Peter, you said--”
“He said he liked cupcakes,” Parker swore. “I said ‘hey, what’s your favourite thing to have for dessert?’ And he just laughed and said ‘a cupcake’.”
Nat frowned and crossed her arms.
“He laughed... how did he say it exactly?”
“I don’t know, he just said it. Look, we were at the compound. There should be footage from the training rooms. He just... you know, looked past me as he does and then he smiled and I mean, tossed me against the wall.”
“Sounds like him,” She shook her head.
A booming voice cut through the rising din. Thor never entered without an announcement and this time was no different. Nat and Peter turned to watch him embrace Tony and the last guest entered behind him, looking less than impressed by him.
You were relieved to finally arrive if only to have Thor distracted by the others. The thing about Thor was that he was easy sidetracked and worse, he was utterly oblivious. He was likeable, sure, but he had no clue. He didn’t care about time or customs; just fun.
You followed him through the door and heard the soft whimper of Tony as the god nearly broke him in half. You had met the same fervent embrace upon greeting him and felt a flicker of empathy. You edged past the god as he began his buoyant reunions.
“Hey, cupcake,” Bucky’s voice drew you from your frustrated thoughts. The nickname had bothered you at first but you found he had much worse for others. You waved over at him as you slipped behind Wanda.
The room was suddenly silent but for Thor’s deep voice recounting his trip to Midgard. It quickly died as the curious tension mounted and you crossed the room. Peter had a peculiar gape on his face and Sam was close to laughter as Steve’s eyebrows drew together.
“Cupcake?” You heard the whisper and ignored it.
“Happy birthday,” You said to Bucky as you neared. He looked at Sam then Steve and his smile fell.
“Thanks,” His tone returned to its usual grim meter. “Um, yeah.”
“Cupcake?” Sam snorted. “You’re cupcake!”
He broke into laughter and Steve quickly ushered him away. You were confused. You’d grown used the nickname but you supposed it was a bit cheesy. Better than Eight-Legged Freak or IronPrick.
“Mmm, cupcakes,” Thor nearly knocked you over as he moved behind you and grabbed a treat from the table. “I love cupcake.” He spun to face you and Bucky. “And she is as tiny as a little cupcake.” He waved his dessert in the air before Bucky. “Lady Cupcake.”
“Has he been drinking?” Bucky asked.
“No. That’s just him.” You laughed as Thor unwrapped the cupcake and shoved it all in mouth at once.
“Slow down,” Nat warned from a few feet away.
“Mmm,” Thor grabbed your shoulder as he swallowed. “Sweet cupcake! I like your midgardian treats!”
“And the sweet Lady Cupcake,” He swept you up into his arms at once and you gave up a holler in surprise. “She saved me from the metal beast.”
“Thor, you tried-- to jump in front of the--- subway!” You cried out as he spun you around. “Please, put me down.”
He continued until you were dizzy before he finally did as you said. You giggled and clung to him, forgetting the trip there which had soured your mood. The puppy-like god could make anyone forgive him.
As you vision cleared, you found it was only you and Thor. The rest of the party guest watched in amusement but quickly returned to their drinks and conversation. Bucky was gone. Steve was staring at the door.
“Um, Thor,” You touched your spinning head. “Maybe mingle a bit more. With someone else.”
“The spider boy!” Thor was quick to find a new target as Peter tried to reach into the cooler. “Oh, you know, I had a terrible fear of spiders as a boy but in Asgard, they can grow to be as big as me!”
“What--” You only heard part of Peter’s terrified response as you left them.
You went to Steve and Sam avoided your eyes with a smirk.
“What happened to Bucky?” You asked. “I didn’t get to give him his gift.”
“Said he needed some air,” Steve replied. “But I mean, he’s probably halfway home.”
“And without dessert!” Sam guffawed and Steve elbowed him.
“Oh.” You nodded and backed away. “Well, I’ll go see. Maybe I can catch him before... he goes.”
“You think he’s looking for something sweeter,” Sam commented under his breath and Steve nudged him again.
You shook your head at them and left. Everyone was acting so weird. You went out into the hallway and looked up and down. You neared the stairwell but heard a sole squeak further down. You followed the noise and found Bucky just around the corner, leaned against the wall with arms crossed.
“It’s a nice party,” You said. “Think they’re missing you.”
He shrugged but said nothing.
“Yeah, didn’t figure you were the type.” You stopped just across from him. “I warned Nat.”
He still didn’t look up at you. You sighed. When you’d first met him, he’d been like this. It’d taken you a long time to get him to more than grumble at you. In fact, the first year you’d known him, you were certain he hated you. And then he started talking, slowly.
Little things. Unexpected. One day you were talking to Peter about a program you’d watched on galaxies and then another on stem cells. Bucky listened intently and asked which show it was. You were surprised when the next time you saw him he started chatting about the episode on AI. You didn’t mind, it made your missions easier.
“Well, I guess your birthday’s already over,” You bemoaned. “And you didn’t even open your present.” You slid the envelope from your jacket. “Guess I’ll keep these for myself.”
He lifted his head and guilt washed over his face.
“You got me a gift?”
“Of course,” You held it out. “It’s still yours if you want it.”
His lips twitched and he reached out to take it. He opened the flap and peeked inside. His eyebrows shot up and then he slowly glanced at you.
“You could take Steve. It’s a great exhibition. All sorts of new tech. Most of its in beta but--”
“I don’t wanna take Steve,” He said.
“Oh, well, I’m sure Sam--”
“I wanna take you,” He pushed the tickets back in and closed the envelope. “Cupcake.”
“Um, yeah, I guess,” You accepted. “If you want, I could--”
“You don’t want to?” He asked, deflated.
“Well, of course, I’d love to but I just thought you’d wanna take on of them.” You said.
“Unless, you wanna go with Thor instead?” He said as he pushed away from the wall.
“Thor?” You blinked. “Why-- You don’t think--”
“He likes you.” Bucky said. “And he’s a lot nicer. A lot happier.”
“So?” You said. “Being friends isn’t a competition.”
He was quiet. He looked down and his metal thumb grazed the edge of the envelope.
“And if I don’t wanna be just friends?” He asked quietly.
You were taken aback. He peeked at you shyly as your surprise washed over your face.
“Well, then I think the exhibition would make a great first date,” You said carefully. “Don’t you?”