This is a birthday ficlet for hils, who asked for either traditional hurt/comfort or total fluff where everyone is happy. Since she seems to have the h/c covered on her own, here is some fluff.
I’m maintaining the tradition of using her Sebastian Stan images as fic prompts. This is one we were talking about and plot-bunnying a long time ago. What a gorgeous dope.
When Tony Stark asked Pepper Potts to marry him the whole world knew about it. The stage at the Stark Expo’s annual extravaganza was lit by fireworks, a blaze of colour and light and confetti. He wore the suit, and she wore an expression of growing exasperation. There was a hundred-person choir, and a thousand people holding their breath while they waited for her answer.
The proposal wasn’t Tony saying: Will you marry me? It was Tony saying: This is me. I’m loud and obnoxious and thoughtless, I will always go one step too far, there are going to be so many times in my life when I mess up worse than this. Will you marry me anyway?
So, despite the glitz and the schmaltz and the showmanship, it was what it needed to be. It was honest.
Bucky wants to be honest. What he wants to say is this: I know you, Steve. They tried to make me forget, but I know you and I love every single piece of you the way you deserve to be loved.
He doesn’t want to make a huge production of it. He just wants to make it special. Not nice-restaurant-ring-in-the-champagne-flute special. Something that’s special for Steve. Something worthy of Steve, that shows Bucky knows exactly the proposal he would like best. It’s gotta be romantic as all hell.
And Bucky’s got nothing.
When Pepper walks into the rec room, Bucky’s poking moodily at Google Maps, trying in vain to find a suitable location. He and Steve don’t have many special places left in New York. Their old home in Brooklyn’s now a gas station, Coney Island looks nothing like it used to, and none of the traditional places like the Empire State building or the Statue of Liberty are special to them.
On Pepper’s finger, the very tasteful diamond ring she had substituted for Tony’s actual offering sparkles in the sunlight.
“Pepper?” he says.
She smiles at him, as kind as ever. “Hello, Bucky.”
“Uh…” he says, awkwardly, “do you… you know who Steve’s favourite artist is?”
Even as he says it, he realises it’s a terrible idea. He thought he could propose at a museum after hours, just the two of them, with candles maybe, and music. But Jeez, he can’t even remember the kind of art Steve likes. Maybe he knew, once, before. Maybe he just never paid attention. It’s a shitty romantic gesture, anyhow. Hey, you know our teammate’s fiancée? She knows you better than I do.
“He likes Cezanne, off the top of my head,” Pepper says, “but he has quite eclectic tastes. Would you like me to make a list?”
"Never mind," Bucky says, and shoves himself out of his seat to go hide in their room until life doesn’t suck quite so much.
On YouTube he watches videos of people proposing all kinds of ways. With singing, with surprises, at ball games with the question up on the big display screen. He and Steve go to ballgames now and then. The problem is, no ballgame’s really gonna be romantic unless it’s the Dodgers playing on their home ground in New York, so that’s a big fat zero of an idea.
Maybe he could hire one of those skywriters and have them write, “Until the end of the line,” in red, white and blue smoke on the sky. That would bring back lovely happy memories of Steve’s mother’s funeral, and that time when he had just shot Steve repeatedly in the stomach and beaten him half to death.
Even with the whole internet at his disposal, he can’t pick out a ring.
It’s Saturday, and he’s sitting in one of New York’s infinite diners, running through ideas in his mind. These days it feels like he spends half his time obsessing over the proposal. In one sense, it’s stupid. Either Steve wants to marry him or he doesn’t, and the proposal itself isn’t going to turn a no into a yes. But it feels like it makes a difference. There’s no explaining it.
At the tower, everyone’s probably having brunch. Steve’s not there, though, so Bucky’s not there either. Steve has an interview thing, one of those annoying chores that the PR team keep setting up for him. The interviewer will have been given the usual caveat, of course: “Say one word about Sergeant James Barnes and you will never work in this town again.”
Steve is protective. He says that the media have everything they need to know about Bucky. There’s the public record of what happened with HYDRA, and the official statement saying that Bucky’s home and that he and Steve are together. Anything else is none of their goddamn business. Reporters also know better than to approach Bucky directly. It happened once. It didn’t end well.
Apparently this interview is a live broadcast, because when one of the servers in Bucky’s diner flicks channels on the little TV over the counter, there’s Steve. Glowing, beautiful Steve, busily charming the pants off the interviewer and the American public both at once.
He’s talking about Tony’s goddamn wedding. Of course. Talking about how great it is that the two of them are tying the knot, and Bucky can see the interviewer itching to ask whether there might be wedding bells in Steve’s future too, but that, thank god, comes under the heading of Don’t Mention Bucky Barnes.
So, Mr Stark went all out with his proposal,” the interviewer says. “What do you think about big, romantic gestures like that?”
Yeah, she’s walking a fine line.
But Steve doesn’t clam up the way he usually does when someone pries. Instead, he gives a little self-deprecating laugh, and shakes his head. “I don’t think it’s really my style,” he says, playing the boy-next-door for all he’s worth. “I figure if I wanted to propose to someone I’d just ask. That’s what I’d want, if it was the other way around. If someone was gonna propose to me I’d want them to just come straight out and ask.”
“Just ask?” says the interviewer, and now she’s practically squirming in her chair, probably chomping on the inside of her cheek to keep from breaking the Bucky Barnes rule.
“Just ask. If they knew for sure it was what they wanted,” Steve says, and the smile slips a little. He looks worried.
Bucky can’t have that.
He jumps to his feet, grabs the giant daisy thing decorating his table, and negotiates the obstacle course of chairs and people at top speed - which for a semi-supersoldier is pretty damn fast.
“Hey!” a voice calls behind him. “You can’t just take the flowers!”
“Sorry, pal,” Bucky yells back as he runs, “I gotta go propose to Captain America!”
When he arrives at the studio Steve is innocently signing autographs for the television crew. Bucky unceremoniously grabs him by the shoulder and drags him into the dressing room, clicking the lock shut behind them.
“Hey Bucky,” Steve says. He’s all warm, soft smiles and gladness despite the way Bucky’s glaring at him. “I thought maybe you’d come. I hoped you would.”
“You punk. You knew.”
“Mighta noticed some stuff.”
“I wanted to do a whole thing.”
“You were taking too long, dummy,” Steve says. He cups Bucky’s cheek, resting his fingertips in the soft hollow between neck and jawline. “I don’t care how you ask, so long as I get my chance to say yes.”
“You gonna say yes?”
“You gonna ask me?”
There’s an obvious answer to that one. Bucky draws in a deep breath and drops to one knee, holding out the dumb droopy flower. “Steven Grant Rogers,” he says, “wouldya make an honest man of me?”
“That’s a tall order, Buck, but I’ll do my best.”
Steve takes the flower. The way his careful fingers encircle the stem you’d think it was just as precious as a gold ring.
The video starts to go viral less than an hour later.
Bucky and Steve walk back into the tower to find the Avengers plus Pepper clustered around a tablet. When they look up every one of them is wearing some variation on the theme of a smile – from smirking to delighted to something that can only be described as ‘Awwwwww’.
“Okay,” Steve says, “how the hell do you already know?”
Bruce holds out the tablet.
The clip is amateur and slightly shaky, probably from a phone camera, and in the background is the clatter of cutlery and plates and the hum of conversation. The picture is just one guy in a dark hoodie and a baseball cap, a plate of pancakes untouched in front of him, staring upwards at an out-of-shot TV screen.
“It is. I swear that’s him. Aw… he’s watching Cap on TV, that’s so cute…”
And then the guy scrambles to his feet in a rush, grabs the flower from the vase, and runs, yelling very audibly that he’s gotta go propose to a national icon, leaving the customers and the servers staring after him.
Bucky groans gently, because that right there? Possibly the most embarrassing thing ever.
Then Steve looks up from the screen, puts his hands on his hips and says, “You stole my engagement flower?”
So that’s how the Winter Soldier ends up traipsing sheepishly back into the diner, digging in his wallet for a twenty and telling the flabbergasted owner, “I’m sorry I stole one of your flowers, wouldya let me pay for it so Captain America will quit grousing at me?”
The owner’s eyes flick disbelievingly from one to another of the various Avengers who have just invaded his place of business. “Uh… it’s on the house,” he says.
Bucky shoves the bill into the tip jar. “Happy now?” he asks, turning to Steve and possibly pouting just a little bit, because they’re wasting time that could be better spent having newly-engaged sex.
Steve’s still holding onto his flower, and now there’s a gigantic, goofy smile all over his face. “Yeah, I’m happy,” he says, reaching out his free hand to Bucky. He smiles even wider as Bucky takes it and uses it to pull him in close. “I’ve never been happier in my life.”