One year and three-in-a-half months later…
“Now really isn’t the time for this discussion!” Darcy hissed through gritted teeth into her comm.
“Aw, come on, doll,” Bucky replied.
“Uh, Buck, I agree with Darcy on this one,” Steve’s voice crackled over the link, breathless.
“No, no, I think we should hear this, Cap,” Tony chimed in, quickly followed by a curse and Friday rambling off logistics.
Darcy told Stark to fuck off in flawless Japanese right before a fresh wave of gunfire stole her attention. Bucky watched through the eye of his scope as the team took down the newest threat, picking off any that got too close to them. It never failed to make him proud (and fucking terrified) to see his girl fighting alongside them. About a month after they’d officially become a ‘them’, Darcy had gotten a call from some uptight former SHIELD agent that had offered her a job. At first, she’d flat out turned him down. But somehow Natalia and Barton had convinced her that it would be beneficial to them all. Darcy seesawed back and forth for a while, and he’d dutifully listened to every rant. Natalia, ever the impatient, had ended Darcy’s wavering when she’d shown up one Tuesday morning in workout gear and dragged his girlfriend away from the coffee pot. He’d followed out of sheer curiosity and had gotten what he claims to be the best show of his life. (He swears only seeing Darcy naked for the first time had topped it.)
For four hours, Natalia and Darcy sparred. Bucky had been entranced. At first classical music had flowed quietly through the room while they’d warmed up, stretching and contorting into poses. Before long though, some angry beat had poured from the speakers to match the way they threw their bodies at each other. They held nothing in check, Natalia never softening her strikes, and to his surprise, Darcy had held her own. It had been a beautiful sight and made him want to take her up against the nearest surface. Barton had wandered in at the three hour mark and clapped a hand down on his shoulder, a knowing grin playing on his mouth. They’d watched them contentedly, albeit probably very turned on, (oh, who is he kidding, he was hard as a rock) and gave the women a round of applause when they finally called it time.
Over the next two months their lives had taken a turn. Steve moved up to the penthouse with Stark, Darcy moved in with him, began seeing a therapist to deal with her baggage, and she’d started working for Coulson. Seeing her so happy doing something that she obviously loved, Bucky had taken a second look at his own situation and decided he was ready to take the next step in mending his own psyche. So he’d joined the Avengers. Now if he could just get Darcy to—
“Okay,” Darcy grunts and he watches her shove a guy’s nose into his brain and glance up in his general direction, the sun obscuring her vision. “What did you want, Barnes?”
“Ooooh, ‘Barnes’. Someone’s in trouble!” singsongs Stark.
“Bite it, Iron Asshole.”
Bucky snorts at their banter and ignores the damn butterflies that fly helter-skelter in his gut. Clearing his throat, he talks over Stark’s reply. “I was just saying that I don’t see why you won’t make an honest man out of me.”
“You know why,” she says with a sigh.
“Yeah, yeah, but you know what I think about that.” Bucky bites down on his own sigh. He’d worked up the courage to bring up marriage in a conversation about a week ago and Darcy had shot him right down. Now Steve isn’t the only stubborn bastard around and he’d refused to take no for an answer, promising to win her over to the idea. He doesn’t care about her past (she doesn’t care about his) and he doesn’t plan on leaving her. He told her as much, that it would take God himself pulling him away from her, and she’d rolled her eyes at him and called him dramatic. (That night before they fell asleep, she’d whispered that Satan himself would have to snuff her out before she’d ever leave him.) Yes, they are both damaged, but their love is unconditional and absolute, so he doesn’t quite get why she won’t let him vow in front of anyone who will listen that he’s hers.
“Yes, dear,” her voice draws him from his thoughts. “I know what you think...”
Natalia mutters something then sighs loudly and says; “Can this soap opera not wait till we aren’t (she grunts and a bone snaps) in the middle of a mission?”
Darcy steps over the guy at her feet and leans back against an overturned food-cart. Bucky shoots a stray trying to sneak up on Steve and waits. He knows when Darcy’s working up to something and he’s learned to let her or risk making her angry.
“Tell you what, Barnes, when Stark gets the balls to put a ring on it and make an honest man out of our Captain, then I’ll consider it!”
Three things happen at once; Steve makes a noise that Bucky’s never heard before, Stark and Barton burst into laughter, and another van of ninja’s (seriously, what the hell?) come squealing into view.
* * *
A month after that…
Bucky sips at the whiskey sparkling in his glass, the Christmas lights strung up everywhere making damn near everything sparkle. This was really the only part he didn’t like about being on the team; obligation to attend all functions. That unfortunately included Stark Industries’ annual Christmas party. Draining his tumbler, he pours another three fingers from the bottle that he’d stolen from behind the bar and turns to survey the crowd.
Barton’s head adorned with gaudy, red reindeer antlers, Doctor Banner’s shockingly bright green sweater, and Natalia’s hair fastened up in some complicated looking twist woven with sprigs of holly. The twins with their matching, striped elf hats, Steve’s hideously ugly Christmas tree tie complete with tiny flashing lights, Thor done up in a burgundy suit with Jane on his arm in a deep green dress, and Stark with that utterly dumb Santa hat sat crooked atop his equally dumb head. Vision had been squeezed into a suit along with Sam, and Hill was sporting a daintier pair of antlers as well.
Then there’s Darcy.
She’d chosen a dress the same shade of red as her lips and a pair of golden, sparkly stilettos. Her hair was artfully curled and hugging her cleavage lovingly and she’d topped it off with a wreath (It’s a festive flower crown! Where’s your spirit, Barnes?) of Christmas-y flowers. She was absolutely the most beautiful dame he’d ever laid his eyes on. And he was maybe a little smug that she would be going home with him. Taking a swig of his whiskey, he sighs at the warmth it brings. She hadn’t been able to get him to show any ‘spirit’ other than the red flower pinned to his lapel. He didn’t think he looked that bad considering when he’d walked into the common room kitchen, (she’d gone to Nat’s to get ready) Darcy had choked on the water she’d been drinking. There’s a slight chance that he’d neglected to tell her that morning that he was going to get his hair cut.
Bucky had been warring with himself about getting it chopped off for a long while, and he’d finally gotten tired of dealing with it (along with Stark’s constant jokes). So, after he’d said goodbye to Darcy that morning under the ruse of going out for breakfast with Steve and Wilson, he’d actually made his best friend go with him to the barber. He was glad that Stevie still had some old habits and that one of them was going to a tiny little shop in Brooklyn, run by an equally tiny, white-haired man. Sitting in the chair with Steve at his side and the sound of their rambling conversation had been enough to let him relax a fraction. When they’d emerged a good hour later into the brisk December air, for the first time, Bucky felt more like his old self than he ever had.
If they both got a little misty eyed, well, they blamed it on the wind and were both secretly glad no one else was there to see it.
“I’d think you were brooding but you’ve got a goofy smile on your face.”
Bucky rolls his eyes as Stark sidles up next to him, hand clutched around his own glass. He spares him a look and the man just grins, his cheeks glowing. Love, man, it makes fools of us all.
“How many have you had? Didn’t Steve tell you to dial it back?”
“Hey! It’s Christmas and it’s my party,” Stark says, but a second later his shoulders slump. “It’s only my second.”
Arching a brow at the engineer, Bucky silently curses and turns to face the bar. When he speaks, it’s in a hushed tone. “I was only joking… And, if you repeat what I’m about to tell you, I will murder you in your sleep.” Tony angles himself a little to show him that he’s gathered his attention and hums in acknowledgment before Bucky continues. “You’re doing a lot better than I thought you would and you make Stevie happy. I dunno how, but you do. And I just wanted to thank you… you know, for being there for Darcy. She’s, ah, she’s lucky to have you, I guess.”
“Why, Frosty, were those compliments for lil ole me? Two whole ones? It’s a Christmas miracle!” Tony snarks and Bucky rolls his eyes so hard he’s surprised they don’t pop out of his head. Taking another sip of his drink, he wishes he could get drunk like in the old days. He goes to reply to the idiot but Stark turns fully to him and throws an arm around his shoulders. Bucky tenses at the contact. “Since you said something nice, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret.” Stark drains his glass like he needs the extra courage and it hits the bar with a snap when he slams it down. “You remember that little trip Cap and I went on last June? Yep, that one, well, we made a pit stop in Vegas…”
Bucky’s brows furrow in confusion at this information. Steve had obliged Tony (read: gave in so he’d shut up) and gone on a road trip with him all the way to his place in California. From what Steve had said it was uneventful and Bucky really didn’t care to hear any details of how boring it was because he wasn’t keen on knowing what they got up to under the sheets. It takes all of thirty seconds for a light bulb to go off over his head like a cartoon character. His eyes widen and he straightens, Stark’s arm sliding off his shoulders as he faces the other man.
“You and Stevie…you…?”
Grinning from ear to ear, Tony shrugs looking nonchalant. “Jewelry doesn’t really go with either of our suits.”
“But… He would have… Seriously?”
“License is hanging on our bedroom wall if you want actual proof. I’m very good at hiding things, Barnes. Don’t get your panties twisted, he’s been trying to figure out a way to break it to you for months.”
Bucky swallows hard as Darcy’s words from that day a month ago ring through his head. He grabs the bottle of whiskey and takes a deep pull right from it. Steve and Stark are married. Well, doesn’t that just change things? He has a sudden hankering for a cigarette. Gently placing the nearly empty bottle back onto the bar top, he wipes his mouth oh-so politely on a napkin and takes a deep breath before speaking.
“Anyone else know?”
“Is there anything Romanoff doesn’t know?”
“We decided to announce it before New Years.”
“That’s just… that…” Bucky turns back around and easily finds Steve among the guests, hands gesturing as he speaks, cheeks flushed and grin beaming. It takes him even less time to pin Darcy. She’s tucked into Barton’s side, standing in front of the massive Christmas tree, and smiling up at something Pietro’s saying. The twinkling lights make her shine. It’s as if something in his chest evaporates, fingers loosening their grip and retreating from his ribs. He can breathe. Everything is brighter and—
“Go get her,” Tony whispers.
Bucky glances at him and his grin is growing, he can’t stop it. He nods, straightens up to his full height, and moves to stand in front of the shorter man. “Stark, you’re a good man,” he states then gives the billionare a heart attack. He grabs his face in between flesh and metal palms and plants a kiss square on the man’s lips. He pats a scruffy cheek a little too hard with a smirk as Tony splutters, and then spins on his heels and squares his shoulders.
“I… You have to run a threesome by Steve! I know I’m attractive but I don’t—”
Bucky flips him off with a silver finger over his shoulder and tunes out his rambling, his mission now crystal clear. It’s by instinct alone that he catches the object Natalia aims at his head, his focus centered on his girl. He pockets whatever it is without missing a step. Whether it is his rare, genuine smile or his determined (predatory) gait, people scurry back out of his way opening up a path right to her. Although his eyes are on her, ever observant, he notes how Pietro’s stance tenses upon noticing his advance. He notices the way Wanda places a hand on her brother’s arm and shakes her head with a small, warm smile. It isn’t until Barton removes his arm from Darcy’s waist and takes a not so subtle step back that she spots Bucky.
Darcy’s brows tip down in confusion and unlike everyone else, she takes a step forward. In that moment he loves her more than he’ll ever be able to explain. He forgets that they aren’t exactly public with their relationship just yet, that she was worried it’d bring him more attention than he already received as the ‘refined’ Winter Soldier. He forgets that there are reporters (cleared by Pepper Potts, of course) among the guests. Everyone and everything fades around him as he reaches for her.
“Bucky? You okay?” she questions.
Instead of answering her, Bucky slides his left arm around her waist, tugs her left arm up around his neck, and pulls her intimately flush against him. If there was any speculation about them, he blows it all to hell in that moment. Slanting his mouth over hers, he swallows her gasp when he dips her deeply over his arm in a show of his old fashioned talents. Her mouth is warm, tasting of beer and peppermint, and he happily kisses the living daylights out of her before righting them.
After making sure she’s steady, he steps back and drops to one knee like a throw of silk pooling to the ground. The hush that had fallen around them is broken by titters of shock but Bucky ignores it. Darcy stares at him with big eyes.
“Now, you know I’m not big on speeches, but it’s Christmas, right?”
Stark laughs somewhere close by.
“You’re it, doll. You are what I used to ramble to Stevie about back before the war. Hell, you’re better than the dame I imagined then. You’ve seen every side of me and I still haven’t scared you off. Darcy, you anchor me down and I wanna do the same for you till we’re both ninety.” He smirks when she snorts and switches hands, wrapping silver fingers around hers while his other hand fishes in his pocket. (Thank you, Natalia.) Pulling the black box out, he flips the lid open and plucks the simple, yet exquisite sapphire solitaire from its bed. “Darcy Marie Lewis, would you make me the happiest man alive and marry me?”
He watches her bite her red lip, fat tears rolling down her flawless face as she blinks uselessly to clear her vision. His heart hammers with every second that passes and his insides riot with nervousness. He’s still as stone as she raises her right hand and cups his jaw, her palm clammy.
“James Buchanan Barnes, you are such an idiot,” she breaths out on a laugh and he grins so hard it’s a miracle his face doesn’t crack.
“What was that? We didn’t hear what you said!” Stark hollers and Darcy barks out a laugh while Bucky rolls his eyes.
“Yes,” Darcy says staring into his eyes as she speaks, her voice strong and steady despite her tears and shaking hands. “YES!” Bucky slips the ring onto her finger and surges up, lifting her into his arms with a happy yell of victory. Her arms go around his neck and he buries his wet eyes against her neck as he hangs onto her for dear life. “Yes, a thousand times, yes,” she whispers to him as everyone cheers.
“Guess now would be a good time to let everyone know that I bagged Captain America, right?”
Darcy, Bucky, and Steve groan in unison.
Two years after that…
“Stole your thunder? Okay, calm down there, Monica!” Tony grumbles and pinches Darcy’s toes making her squirm and upset the popcorn bowl in his lap.
“You did! Bucky had just done the unthinkable and you had to go and one-up me with the whole ‘I bagged Captain America’ thing!” Darcy digs her heel into Tony’s thigh and elbows Bucky for rolling his eyes.
Steve meets Bucky’s eyes over their spouses’ heads and smirks at him. It’s the same old argument and by now he and Buck have learned just to stay out of it. So he just stuffs his mouth with more of the buttery treat and watches their banter like a ping pong match. Darcy, on a roll now, pushes off of Bucky’s lap and rounds on them all. Steve arches a brow in suspicion when Nat, who up until then had had her nose stuck in a book, closes said book and straightens in her seat giving Darcy her full attention. Steve also notes the minute smirk that’s threatening to bloom on her mouth. Something’s up. He tunes back in to Darcy’s rant.
“—and you’re an asshole, still! You know what, it’s my turn now!”
Darcy reaches up and jams her hand down her shirt and yanks something out of what he presumes is her bra. Steve’s eyes go wide at her hiding place, still not used to all of her quirks. She tosses whatever it is into Bucky’s lap and grins like she does when she beats them at poker.
“I’m pregnant!” she proclaims with a flourish. “Top that, Stark!”
The only sound in the room after Darcy stalks off is the echo of Nat’s pleased applause. Steve glances to the left where his husband sits, mouth gaping open in utter shock, and where his best friend is eyeing the little stick on his thigh like it’s a bomb about to explode. He can’t help the grin that attacks his face or the laugh that escapes his throat. He’s going to be an uncle!
It takes a full three minutes and sixteen seconds before Bucky grasps the stick with stars in his eyes and takes out of the room at a dead run.
However, it’s another four minutes before Stark’s system reboots and his ‘DAMMIT!’ resounds through the tower.