“You’re sure you’re alright with this?”
Bucky sat beside his sister, Becca’s, hospital bed, one of her grandchildren, Kimberly, seated beside him. He held a tiny box, nervously shuffling it between his hands.
Kimberly nodded with a little smile. “It was left to my dad after Great-Grandma passed, but he’d already gotten an engagement ring for my mom, so it hasn’t been used anyway. I think she would’ve wanted you to have it.”
“She certainly would have,” Becca said in agreement, “You got her hopes up with those letters about the German girl.”
A soft chuckle passed over Bucky’s lips. “I forgot I told her about that,” he said, wiping a hand over his face slowly, before opening the little box. Inside was his mother’s engagement ring -- an antique by now, but it must have been polished recently, because it looked just as he remembered it. It was as if it hadn’t aged at all.
“Do you think she’ll like it?” Kimberly asked.
Bucky looked up at her. “I guess we’ll find out.”
He stood, closing the box and tucking it safely away in his pocket. He was dressed nicely -- collared shirt and tie, a good jacket, shoes that weren’t sneakers or combat boots. “I should get going. I’m meeting her for dinner.”
“You had better tell me how it goes,” Becca said as Bucky leaned down to press a soft kiss to her wrinkled forehead. “And don’t forget the farmer’s market this weekend. We promised Mom we’d get her those apples she likes... what kind was it?”
“McIntosh,” Bucky said, looking at his grandniece with a sadness that looked all too familiar on his still young face. Turning his gaze away, he stepped around Kimberly’s chair and towards the door. “Don’t worry, Becca. We’ll get the apples for her.” He only paused once more on his way out to thank Kimberly again, and then promptly removed himself from the Alzheimer’s hospital.
Of course, he didn’t even make it to his car before a shout for help caught his attention. Looking around, he caught sight of a middle-aged woman struggling with a younger man who’d taken a firm hold of her purse and was attempting to wrestle it free of her grip.
As he began running in their direction, Bucky checked the clock on his phone -- he still had some time before he was supposed to meet Natasha. He could take care of this and still get to the restaurant early, no problem.
Natasha was busying herself with a second coating of red paint on her fingernails when her ringtone for James began to play.
Careful not to touch her wet nails to the screen, she tapped the answer button and set the phone to speaker. The Andrews Sisters' voices abruptly stopped, and she quickly returned to painting her nails. “Hello, James.”
“Hey,” he said, and her brow furrowed. He sounded slightly out of breath, like he’d been running. “I might be a little late to dinner.”
“What happened?” Natasha asked, “I thought you were just going to visit your sister.”
“I was,” James said, “And on my way to the car afterwards I saw this lady getting her bag stolen. So I went to stop it, but the guy took off, so I chased him down. Turns out he had some buddies. Nothing I couldn’t handle, but one of them -- kinda stole something from me.”
“Stole something?” She sounded incredulous.
“Yeah, uh. One of them managed to trip me and it fell out of my pocket. They just grabbed it and ran, so now I’m running after them.”
“What did they take that was so important?”
“It was, uh,” he said slowly, as if struggling with whether or not he should tell her. Finally, he relented. “It was your present.”
Her shoulders slumped. “James,” she said in a tone that might have been scolding if she wasn’t so endeared to him, “Sweetheart. We said no presents.”
“I know,” he said, “But I wasn’t sure if this was gonna be that type of thing where we say we won’t get each other presents so that we surprise each other when we actually do get each other presents or not, so...”
“Well, don’t be too late,” Natasha said, smiling a little to herself. “We have reservations.”
“I’ll get there as soon as I can,” he said, “I promise -- but I gotta go, I’m gonna try to cut them off. I’ll see you there.”
“Alright, see you,” she said, and hung up the phone with a shake of her head. Her boyfriend was a bit of an idiot -- but he was pretty cute, and thoughtful, so she would keep him.
Blowing on her nails to help them dry a little quicker, she stood and moved toward her closet to find something to wear.
Bucky was only running about five minutes late when he parked in the lot behind the restaurant where he was supposed to meet Natasha. He was... well, he was sort of a mess. His white shirt had been stained by the dirt when he’d fallen and half of it had un-tucked itself from his trousers, his tie was eschew, and his hair was tousled -- and there may have been a twig, or something, in it.
Rushing around the corner to the front, Bucky managed at least to brush whatever was in his hair out and tuck his shirt back in -- but Natasha already spotted him before he could fix his tie, and there was really no hiding the dirt. In one hand he held a heart-shaped box with a red ribbon tied around it -- something he’d picked up quickly on the way home.
Her green eyes widened as he approached, still slightly out of breath and a complete mess, and she raised a hand to cover her mouth. There was something in her other hand, but he wasn’t paying much attention to it. “Oh my God.”
“I know,” Bucky said, stepping up to kiss her temple. “Sorry I’m late.”
“You’re a mess,” Natasha said, pulling away to stare at him, eyes searching for injuries. “This is all from a few dumb kids?”
“A few,” he said, waving her off, “A dozen or so. What’s the difference?”
“James,” she said with a laugh, reaching up with her free hand to brush the dirt off of his shoulders and out of his hair. Her fingers paused on his face, and her eyes narrowed a little. “Did one of them actually manage to hit you?”
“Listen, when there’s twelve punches coming at you at once, there’s only so many you can dodge.”
“Oh, darling,” Natasha said, and leaned up to kiss his cheek. “You left them in one piece, right?”
“Deposited at the steps of the police station,” Bucky said, smiling down at her, “A little banged up, but not too bad...” He trailed off as he finally noticed what she was holding. “Did you get me flowers?”
“Well, you got me something, so I figured...” She held up a bouquet of about a dozen red roses, her gaze entirely affectionate. “Do you like them?”
“I love them. Thank you, Tasha,” he said, chuckling as he took the bouquet and leaned in to kiss her. As he pulled back, he handed her the heart-shaped box with an almost shy, sheepish grin.
She eyed the box questioningly, taking it from his hands with care. “Chocolate?”
“I -- I assume so. I didn’t actually check,” Bucky said, reaching up to rub the back of his neck with a soft laugh. “I was a little short on time.”
“As long as this isn’t what you chased down a bunch of dumb thugs for,” Natasha said, an amused gleam in her eyes. “You didn’t get it back? Whatever they stole from you?”
“Uh, no,” Bucky said, tucking his other hand into his pocket, where the little box was once again safe and sound, the ring inside unscratched. “Whoever had it must’ve dropped it, and I just didn’t notice.”
“What was it?” Natasha asked. She didn’t look or sound disappointed -- Bucky knew she didn’t care much about gifts -- but genuinely curious. “If you don’t mind me asking.”
“Just jewelry,” he said, “I’m sorry I couldn’t get it back. I can just get you something else another time, I guess.”
“It’s alright,” she said softly, “How about we skip dinner, get you cleaned up, and just watch a movie and order a pizza? And we can try out these mystery chocolates, while we’re at it.”
Although he knew she wasn’t upset or disappointed with him, Bucky still grinned apologetically at her. “Yeah. I’d like that.”
As if to prove to him that she wasn’t upset, she leaned up to kiss him one more time before saying, “Okay. I’ll let the host know, and we can meet at home. Deal?”
“Deal,” Bucky agreed, “See you at home.”
As he watched her go, she turned over her shoulder and added, “You’d better not start the shower without me.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” he said as she disappeared through the door. Turning, he started back towards the car, lifting the bouquet to his nose to breathe in the sweet scent of the roses.
He would give the ring to her eventually -- with the chasing and the mess, it didn’t feel like the right time. But, as he patted the little box in his pocket and vendors along the street sang sweet, “Happy Valentine’s Day!”s to passerby, he wasn’t worried. There’d be a right time.
There was a bounce in his step as he returned to his car, and as he headed home, his smile could almost rival the city lights.