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the Steve Rogers problem

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“Here,” Becca said, dropping a pile of DVDs on the couch next to him. They landed on his half-finished sandwich, and she wrinkled her nose at him like he was a huge slob for eating on his own couch.  “This is what I do when I need a pick-me-up.”  She was wearing a knitted sweater, fingerless gloves over her hands, and Bucky resisted the urge to squint suspiciously out the window.  He’d been under the impression it was still summer, but that was Brooklyn for you.  It was summer up to the point where it wasn’t.  He didn’t want to admit that maybe the seasons got away from him a bit.   According to his phone it was now… oh, October.  That explained the sweater.

 

“Watch television?” Bucky questioned, because that’s what he had been doing, thanks Rebecca.  He nodded, rather sarcastically, towards his paused TV.  Kim Kardashian was in the middle of blinking and it had stopped at a really unflattering moment, and Bucky hated his life.  This wasn’t who he was.  He wasn’t someone who watched television all day, every day.

 

Except, it turned out, he was, and he hated himself for a lot of things, but the fact that Becca thought a new television show would cheer him up was in the top three things he hated about this month.

 

Becca huffed.  “Not this crap, I watch Steve Rogers’ TV show and think that if he could get the hell out of Brooklyn, I can too.”

 

“I already got the hell out of Brooklyn,” Bucky muttered pointedly, gesturing around him with his right hand.  “Now look where I am.  Brooklyn.”

 

“Boohoo,” Becca answered him sarcastically, arms crossed over her chest.  She looked done with his shit, which was a marked improvement over sympathy and smothering pity. Bucky guessed that she was probably at the end of her patience level.  She’d lasted longer than he would have expected. “I don’t want to leave Brooklyn, I like it here.  That doesn’t mean I don’t want to stare at Steve Rogers's face and think of the possibilities.  It’s way better than sitting on this butt ugly couch and sulking about the fact you're back home and living in the parents’ basement like huge sad depressed lump.”

 

Bucky threw a pillow at her.  “You used to be nice.”

 

“I still am,” she told him with a grin that reminded him of a shark’s, too many teeth and with the intent of bite.  “I’m letting you near my DVD collection.  You used to smell like someone who bathed, because you used to know how to use a shower.”

 

“People don’t even use DVDs anymore,” he muttered as she left the room to putter around his fridge.  Ostensibly, she was looking for a drink, but he knew she was checking to see that he had food.  His mom did the same thing to him every second day.  Either checking to see if he had food, or checking to see that he was eating it.  Mother hens, the lot of them.

 

Subtly, he sniffed at his shirt.  Yeah, alright.  Point to Becca.  His physical therapy regime pushed him hard enough to break into a sweat, and he was able to do most of it from the comfort of his own living room these days.  There weren’t many reasons in Bucky’s life to take a shower afterwards, certainly not his nosy sister poking through his stuff like it was her right.

 

If Bucky had known what would happen when he picked up that first The Howling Commandos DVD and put it into the DVD player, he might not have done it.   He might have stuck to being slightly bored and a little resentful towards the addictive quality of the Kardashians and then got on with his life. 

 

But that was a fallacy, wasn’t it?  Getting on with his life?

 

Before his accident Bucky had three main loves: his body, his job, and his condo.  His sister liked to joke that he was one origin story away from being Patrick Bateman.  Before his accident, Bucky hadn’t understood that reference.

 

After the accident, he was slowly rehabilitating his left arm, but it would never get back to the same kind of fine motor skills he had before.  He could no longer do his job, and he sold the condo before his disability checks ran out and he’d have to figure out how to continue making payments on his mortgage.  He thought that would make it easier to move on, but without any sense of normalcy, he was having a difficult time adjusting.  He ended up watching a lot of Netflix, and when he got too stir-crazy he went for long, rambling walks around Brooklyn.

 

After the accident, Bucky unintentionally fell head first into the Howling Commandos fandom.  He hadn’t even known what the word fandom meant; the first time he saw it, he googled an episode in season two as he was lying in bed, attempting to convince himself that sleep was more important than watching just one more episode, and he accidentally read through half a fanfic before realizing it wasn’t an episode summary.

 

It was way better. 

 

It helped that Steve Rogers was the epitome of everything Bucky looked for in a man. He’d watched the first episode skeptical of the plot, but went on to episode two because he could definitely spend hours waiting for Captain America’s shirt to come off again.  The fanfic he read certainly seemed to agree with him on that level, and Bucky didn’t know it at the time, but he was already hooked.

 

The next morning the episode turned out to be boring in comparison.  It was difficult to come back from the kind of hot porn Bucky had accidentally read without being slightly disappointed, and he ended up going back to read the fic twice before he realized there were more out there, that they author had done a series of porny stories for each episode.  Bucky read them in bed at night, his phone in front of his face with the episodes fresh in his mind.  It didn’t take him long to realize how hot it made him, how his mind would go over the fic as he touched himself and his brain would edit in his own likes until the story carried less similarities to the fic or the original episode. 

 

He didn’t really give it much thought when he moved on from those fics and started reading everything he could get his hands on, developing a pairing he liked above all the others, and figuring out there were certain types of stories he gravitated towards.

 

For instance: Peggy/Captain America?  Didn’t really do it for him.  Howard/Captain America?  Really, really did.

 

Once he finished all the fic available on the internet he realized there wasn’t enough being produced to satiate his need.

 

That bothered him for about thirteen days.  Thirteen days where he incessantly refreshed AO3, reread his favorites, and stared at dismay at the lack of new fics or updates.  He ended up reading an author whose works he avoided because they never seemed to spellcheck their fics, and by day nine he didn’t even care anymore.

 

He was going insane for new stuff to read.

 

Bucky could do better than half of the things he’d read in his dire state of impatient anticipation for someone, anyone, to post something new.

 

Bucky could do so much better.  He knew he could.

 

He was lying in bed, scowling at the screen of his phone, when he thought that if he wanted new fic, he’d just have to write them himself.

 

It was like an epiphany and like he’d been hit over the head with Becca’s DVD collection all at once.  He could write his own fanfic!

 

It felt like the first original thought he’d had for ages, something he was doing just for himself, something slightly illicit.  It was like having a secret, and it felt surprisingly good after spending months with his life as an open book to anyone who looked at him with his arm brace, sitting on the ugly couch in his parents’ basement, scowling back at them for the pity or judgment or compassion in their eyes.  He sat at his computer, nervous and excited and feeling so alive with the idea.

 

Then came the hard part.  He had no idea what to write, or how to write it.

 

His first fic was mostly meta and got 200 hits and 3 comments.  Comparatively, the most popular fic in fandom had just over 900 comments and 120k hits.  Bucky was competitive.  It mattered.  Bucky was also someone who didn’t know how to fail at something, so he threw himself into studying the fics he read rather than passively enjoying them.  He looked at what was most common about the popular fics, which themes ran through them, and what he personally enjoyed.  He took a look at how the authors promoted themselves outside of their writing skills, at how much came down to friendship and loyalty, how much to talent, and what was done through gimmicks. 

 

He took notes.  Actual notes.   He forced himself to reread that one fic in fandom that everyone seemed to love but that Bucky felt ambivalent towards, and he took more notes filled with observations and question marks.  Bucky was trained to be observant.  He knew how to recognize patterns and to translate them into a call for action.

 

One of the things it came down to was sex.  Sex was important.

 

His next attempt at a first story wasn't clever in its originality, but he thought that might be part of the point. It was almost cheap and dirty the way he used the tropes and clichés he noted worked for fellow writers, but he threw himself into writing until he was 4 chapters and 30k in, had almost 300 comments, and realized it would be easier to keep people updated on his progress if he had a blog.

 

Most of his constituents had something called a Tumblr.

 

Picture Alice falling down that rabbit hole.

 

Bucky was already in Wonderland. 

 

He made sure to match his blog name to the pseudonym he already picked because he’d observed how well branding oneself worked.  The email came through a few moments later.

 

Welcome to Tumblr inforawildridey.

 

And that was the end of Bucky’s ability to deny that he hadn’t fallen in too deep already.  He was too far into fandom, and too far into his extreme attraction for Steve Rogers.  His sister had said she looked to his face for inspiration, but Bucky was far more inspired by the man’s butt.

 

(and what he could put in it)

 

(he would not apologize for that)

 

(yet)

 

*

 

[Interview with Steve Rogers, 2013. Spain.]

 

“What do you look for in a date?”

 

“I don’t know!” Steve said with a laugh, eyes directly on the camera. Bucky felt a little warm at his laugh, and even though Steve wasn’t looking directly at him, personally, he liked that he could see Steve’s personality shining through.  Steve’s, not Captain America’s. “I haven’t been very successful with dating lately.  I haven’t gone out with anyone in a really long time.  I think the last successful date I had was just me and my motorcycle driving across New York State.  At least I was aroused.  That counts, right?”

 

Wow.

 

Mind. Melting.

 

The interviewer answered Steve in Spanish, but Bucky was able to follow the gist without subtitles.  She wanted to know what aroused Steve besides motorcycle engines.  Bucky was outright goggling at his computer screen.  He was going to fic this.  There was no way he couldn’t.  Captain America and his motorcycle would be his secondary OTP.

 

“Bravery,” Steve decided.  “Uh… Loyalty.  Intelligence, maybe, but not necessarily book-smarts.  The ability to take a stand against things they see as wrong,” he shrugged, and smiled uncertainly.   He was incredibly charming in his inability to answer.  Bucky was in love.  “I don’t know.  It depends on the person.  A person is more important than a checklist, and with the right person, that checklist becomes a list of their traits.  That’s how it should work, isn’t it?”

 

[end interview]

 

*

 

Bucky had been a talented kid, one of those people who could pick up new skills with enviable ease.  He took up art one summer when he had a broken ankle and continued to dabble with it enough that he wasn’t terrible.  He wasn’t necessarily good, but he could get by whenever he found himself in a position to use his skills.

 

Those occasions usually coincided with doodling in the margins of nearby paper while attending staff debriefs and HR seminars. He didn't consider himself an artist by any means, but his friend Sam could always guess what his drawings were. He was also good enough to serve as an emergency FBI sketch artist, thanks a lot for voluntelling him to do that one, Sam

 

He didn’t really practice his drawing skills, but he didn’t not practice either.  It just happened sometimes.

 

Bucky decided around the age of 8 that he wanted to be right handed like his sister, so he taught himself to be ambidextrous.  It was a useful skill, one he took for granted a lot of the time.  He may or may not attribute it to his sexual competence - Bucky could rub his tummy and pat his head.  Easy peasy.  It also made him an incredibly effective member of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team if he could draw a weapon with either hand.  This he did practice because there was always the possibility it would come down to life or death.

 

In high school, sports were his bitch and he made any team he tried out for, whether he'd played the game before or not.   As an adult with a job in a field like his, being able to move with athletic ease was important, as was adapting quickly.

 

Bucky was talented, and he was skilled, and he just understood how his body moved and needed to move.

 

The catch with spending a life where things came easily was that he wasn't used to a situation that took more than a little effort and sheer willpower for almost instantaneous results.  Physical therapy took far more.

 

Physical therapy took everything he had to give, and some days it felt like it wasn't giving anything back.

 

*

 

For Bucky's second story, he looked at what holes there were in fandom that he could fill.  He thought, 'why isn't there a story that deals with this?' and then he wrote it.  It was easy enough to come up with a story about Captain America being leader of a highly specialized modern day task force and Howard Stark as the crazy bomb expert they occasionally worked with.  It was something Bucky was familiar with, but it hit a little too close to home for his comfort and ended up only being a 10,000 word one-shot. He hated it with an intense, burning passion that rivalled the passion he was trying to write between Captain America and Howard Stark.

 

It did solidify him as being the author to watch in fandom.  One successful story was a fluke, but two within a one-month period gave other fans a reason to recall his pen name.  He might hate the story, but everyone else seemed to think it was amazing.

 

He knew almost immediately after posting it that his next story needed to be better, it needed to be bigger if it was going to cleanse the palate readers seemed to have developed for the plot of the second story.

 

Go big or go home.

 

(and Bucky was already stuck in Brooklyn – there was nowhere else to go)

 

*

 

Once in a debrief that seemed to be dragging on for hours, Sam had suggested Bucky draw the Iron Throne or Khaleesi, and Bucky was only able to shrug in that hopeless way people who didn't understand a popular culture reference seemed to have. 

 

"Oh man, watch more TV, you loser!" Sam had griped, leaning sideways in his seat so the Special Agent in Charge couldn’t hear him.  His shoulder brushed up against Bucky’s as he tapped his finger on the blank margins of Bucky’s page.  "You're making yourself look bad."

 

Game of Thrones hadn’t held much interest to Bucky when he did get around to watching it somewhere in month two of his recovery, but that might have been his mindset at the time.  Very little held Bucky’s interest in month two of his recovery. Christmas was coming up so he found himself spending hours on a picture of Khaleesi on the Iron Throne with the blood of her enemies below her.  At the last moment, he added Sam as a guard standing sentry by her side.  He had it professionally printed and mounted, and shipped it off with time to spare.

 

Who looks bad now, Sam! there was a certain smugness that came with the gift, like Bucky was thumbing his nose at Sam for not having his art skills and like he was bragging that he’d seen the show, now he could draw anything he wanted to if he so chose.

 

And he chose to make Sam a present.

 

Sam was the only one from the unit that still regularly texted him, and Bucky couldn’t express how much he appreciated that in words, despite the fact he was apparently very good at getting fictional characters to express their feelings (according to some of the comments he received).  He hadn’t really thought of it as fanart until gave into the itch to sit down again to do a companion piece for Sam’s birthday before the first had even arrived at its destination, knowing Sam would shit himself if Bucky made a battle image of him with the dragons.

 

"What the fuck, man!" Sam exclaimed once Bucky answered his phone, Sam’s incredulousness echoing down the phone line along with his delighted laughter.  "What the actual fuck?  Did you do this?"

 

"I've watched Game of Thrones," Bucky answered.  A month ago he might have added something like 'I have nothing better to do with my time' but he wasn't viewing his new hobbies as negative headspace anymore.  Bucky might not have the same things to do with his time as he had before the accident, but he was learning that it wasn't necessarily a bad thing.  "It was good, but it's not my favorite."

 

"It's not your..." Sam sputtered.  "What is? Lemme guess, Breaking Bad?  You seem like a Breaking Bad type."

 

"Nope," Bucky grinned.  "Happy Holidays."

 

*

 

It had been years since Bucky made it home for Christmas.  The holidays were a busy time for Hostage Rescue, and Bucky had always felt it was right to stay on call so the people with children or devout Christian beliefs could take the time off.  Bucky had neither, and it had always seemed wrong to do something as selfish as booking the time off to see his parents.  Take that Patrick Bateman.

 

Sitting on the floor of his parents’ living room, his father’s favorite holiday album playing in the background and the aroma of his mother’s baking scenting the air with cinnamon and apple, Bucky felt time pause for just a moment. 

 

He felt content.  Home didn’t feel like an albatross around his neck that he had to fight to escape.  It felt, in that moment, like home.

 

He looked down at the gift in his hands, up at his family, and realized how much he missed this.  Maybe he was recovering, and maybe his therapy sessions were finally getting through to him, but he thought there was also the possibility that he was really beginning to reclaim his ability to enjoy the little things, the things that got lost and shuffled beneath the huge mounds of crap he’d been dealing with.

 

“I knew this guy named Justin, and a tablet seemed to help him draw,” Becca shrugged.  “Thought you might like to try it.”  She’d watched him struggle with his art supplies while he’d made Sam his gift, teasing him that she had a lot of characters she’d like to see herself with too, if he was looking for a gift.

 

Bucky tried not to think too hard about the fact he could picture exactly what kind of image she meant, and there was no way he was drawing his sister with Cap.

 

“Did you just reference Queer as Folk to me?” Bucky asked incredulously.  There might be huge holes in his popular culture knowledge due to a lack of interest before his accident, but he’d been watching Queer as Folk back in High School when shows about his sexual identity were rare and precious, even though it hadn’t been kind to bisexuality.  Bucky had been secure enough in who he was back then that the show had hardly made him blink.  What did make him blink was the fact that it was more than a decade later and he still hadn’t seen something with decent bi-representation.

 

Possibly he was just watching the wrong kind of television.  He hadn’t realized it was something that could even bother him until… well, it bothered him.

 

“Absolutely not.”  She winked.  “Merry Christmas, loser.”

 

*

 

His third story?

 

Bucky finally got it right on his third story.  He found something he acutely wanted to write, and not just because he knew it.  If anything, a romantic comedy was not something that came naturally to him.  Fandom was a funny thing that he had quickly learned to enjoy, because if there was one thing he needed in his life, it was the ability to lose himself in different realities but with the stability of characters he was familiar with.  His interest was based in the fact that he was attracted like hell to Captain America, and identified well with Howard Stark, but it was more than that.  He liked the idea that in alternate universes, the same people could fall in love in coffee shops and bakeries, meet in clubs or during different points in history.  They could be anyone and still be themselves, and for someone who didn't know his identity anymore, that wasn't a small thing.

 

For his third story, Bucky made them into superheroes who met as normal people outside of their superheroing.  He found himself sketching out Captain America's superhero costume and just kept going until he had a series of images to go with the plot.

 

There wasn’t really a reason not to post them.

 

His Tumblr follow count jumped from 47 people to 184 overnight.

 

*

 

New text from Sam Wilson:

The Wire?

 

*

 

"Are you in love?" Becca asked, a teasing lilt to her tone after Bucky had grinned at the waiter, had been friendly, but hadn't responded to clear openings for flirtation.  Bucky had two default settings: flirty with intent or ignore completely to the point of being abrupt.  He looked at her questioningly before realizing that she was commenting on the fact that he’d delicately touched the petals of the flowers on the table in front of them, smiling as he thought that he’d have to find out what kind they were so Cap could give them to Howard.  

 

Valentine’s Day was coming up and romance and sex seemed to be the topics of the day.  He wasn’t completely immune, but that didn’t mean he was interested either.  So of course Becca would look at his behavior, look at the red candle on their table, and put two and two together to get five.

 

"No," Bucky answered, but smiled.

 

"Oh come on Buck, something has changed recently.  You're happier now, and I'm glad for it, but you can tell me."

 

"I am happier now," Bucky answered, flexing his left hand around his fork.  He was able to bring his food to his mouth without his hand shaking, and it made him smile outwardly at his success.  Becca sat back in her chair, watching him take another bite of food.

 

"Good," she answered with a nod, looking profoundly relieved.  "Good."

 

He knew how worried his family was for him, not just his physical recovery but also his mental health, but it didn't strike home until something like this happened, where they reacted to something small, such as Bucky smiling, as though they were overwhelmed by him.  The other day Bucky had laughed at one of his father's jokes with a belly laugh that had him clutching at the kitchen counter, and his mother had started crying.  Becca wasn't in tears, but it looked like some tension was eking out of her shoulders.  Bucky smirked, thinking of what her expression would be if he told her that he was in love with a fictional couple, and that she was the one who introduced them.  It made him mentally chuckle a bit and grin at her again.

 

He still had a third of his food to eat when his hand started to shake and he had to switch the fork to his right hand.  It felt more like an accomplishment than a failure.  "I just needed a change of perspective," he told Becca.  “Someone to be inspired by.”

 

“That sounds like love to me,” she pointed out, but didn’t ask.

 

That was good, because Bucky didn’t know how to explain to her that Captain America was his inspiration.  He thought that out of everyone he knew, she’d be the one to understand, but he still didn’t know how to say the words.  What he felt towards The Howling Commandos show wasn’t love, not in the romantic sense she’d been quizzing him about, but he wasn’t sure he could say the same about Steve Rogers.  He’d watched every interview, deleted scene, and shaky camera recording of the man that he could find on YouTube, and there was something about his demeanor, the way he answered questions fairly but never took shit off anyone, that really, really, really appealed to Bucky.  It wasn’t just his abs or face or ass that Bucky paid attention to anymore.

 

There was someone out there who refused to put up with his coworkers being asked misogynistic questions, who called people out on ableist bullshit, and who once walked out on a studio interview that took a sudden homophobic turn.

 

Becca was right.  It sounded a bit like love to Bucky as well.

 

*

 

(the thing was, the thing even Bucky hadn't foreseen was this: typing thousands of words a day helped those fine motor skills he hadn't been seeing improvement in.  It was a slow process, he hadn't sat down at his keyboard and immediately noticed a change, but eventually typing didn't seem so insurmountable and he started practicing using the pen for his Wacom tablet for short periods at a time until ten minutes without a tremor or cramping became twenty and twenty turned into half an hour.

 

What he hadn’t foreseen was that when he was doing something for the enjoyment of it and not with the focus of rehabilitation, the rehabilitation seemed easier.

 

Seemed easier, he understood, didn’t mean it was easier.  It just felt that way.)

 

*

 

Bucky's most popular story wasn't the superhero one.  It wasn't the 5+1 pornfic, though that came in as a close second.  His most popular story was the one he wrote about Captain America's past, exploring what his known disabilities and canonical-based truths would have meant to a kid from Brooklyn.  Bucky wrote a 60,000 word fic that rang true to so many people, a celebration of overcoming obstacles, exploring sexuality, and tearing down barriers with sheer fortitude.  It wasn't a story about coping, it was a story about pushing back, about claiming life with both hands and pulling.

 

When he finished it, Bucky sat on the floor of his basement apartment, his back pressed against the ugly patterned couch, and cried for the first time in years.

 

He hadn't given it much thought until it was done, but it was the therapy he needed and the answers only he could find for himself.

 

*

 

When his Tumblr hit 5,000 followers, Bucky started to get an ego.

 

No, Bucky always had an ego.

 

When his Tumblr hit the 5,000 follower mark, Bucky realized that he could apply his ego to his new online life.

 

In short, Bucky was the shit.

 

*

 

New text from Sam Wilson:

Dude, it's Sons of Anarchy.

 

Bucky texted back: Not my fandom.

 

New text from Sam Wilson:

WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

New text from Sam Wilson:

No srsly!! WTFfffffffffff

 

New text from Sam Wilson:

Where did you learn that word?

 

Bucky grinned and answered: Tumblr.

 

New text from Sam Wilson:

I think you just out-nerded me.

 

That was kind of big, because Sam had a Dalek desk defender he liked to make patrol his desk when he couldn’t think.  It used to drive Bucky nuts.

 

Now, Bucky kind of wanted one for himself.  Doctor Who had been what he watched during month 3, and now that he was familiar enough with the mindset, he understood his affinity towards Nine, his favoritism towards Ten, and the way Twelve grated like a sore tooth across his consciousness.  Maybe he’d ask Sam to list his favorite companions sometime.  That would really freak him out.

 

*

 

Rebecca insisted that they watch the mid-season premiere of The Howling Commandos together. 

 

Bucky insisted that if she was going to sit on his couch, drink his beer, and watch his television, she was going to sit there with the cheap cardboard Captain America cowl masks he'd found at a party store a few blocks from the house.  Becca thought he was punking her, but did it anyway.

 

Bucky insisted on getting a selfie that he then posted on Facebook so that all their friends could see it.

 

Becca never watched The Howling Commandos with him again, which suited Bucky just fine.  Bucky had habits for watching The Howling Commandos that were not safe for company, including teasing himself into hardness over the span of the hour and making notes if something came up that was relevant to any of his plots.  It was a very personal hour for him.

 

No sisters allowed.

 

*

 

New text from Sam Wilson:

HOWLING COMMANDOS?

 

New text from Sam Wilson:

that show handwaves all military procedures, time-appropriate technology, and common sense!

 

New text from Sam Wilson:

Never woulda guessed, dude.

 

And it was true, those were a lot of the same criticisms he had when the two of them saw Pacific Rim.  Sam hadn't talked to him for a week for sucking the joy out of the movie for him. 

 

Bucky texted Sam back a pic of half-naked Steve Rogers.

 

Sam called him back immediately and just laughed in his ear for 50 seconds before gasping and hanging up.

 

Bucky hadn't been sure Sam even knew he was bi because it wasn't something he went around telling his coworkers, but not something he actively hid either.  Obviously he didn't have to worry.  Sam didn't care if Bucky liked guys, he just thought it was hilarious that Bucky was so into a guy that he was willing to watch a television show that went against everything Sam remembered Bucky enjoying.

 

Sam was an asshole.

 

(but not the biphobic kind of asshole)

 

Hey! Don’t laugh at our love! Bucky texted back, knowing that it would probably send Sam over the edge again and hoping the jackass received it while in a meeting.  Steve Rogers is my boyfriend.

 

*

 

One of the things Bucky had always been terrified of was that Rebecca was somewhere in THC fandom with him.  He imagined that she was reading all the Captain Carter fics she could get her hands on, but he wouldn’t be surprised if Captain Stark also appealed to her.  His own sister might be reading his fic, judging his porn, and leaving comments about how hot it was.

 

It probably should bother him more.  He had no illusions that Becca could figure out it was him if she did happen to come across them.  There were far too many moments of his life in his writing, stories she would remember as happening to Bucky, and even worse, stories she would remember because they happened to her.

 

Maybe Bucky included some of them as a test, to see if Becca really was reading his fic.  If she was, she never said anything, even after he blatantly stole all the ridiculous drama that happened to her on prom night for his high school au gift-fic.

 

Bucky started to really draw on life the more he wrote, seeing new situations for the potential to be worked into a plot.  He wrote about the couple he witnessed falling on ice in the park, about the way the baker in the store that made his mom’s favorite pie crust gave away cookies to small children, and even drew influence from his doctor’s waiting room.

 

Some situations?  Some situations he just couldn’t fic.

 

Like the awkward experience of going along with Becca for lunch with old friends of theirs from the neighborhood.  Bucky had been hoping he could write a 10-years-later meet cute, but he wasn’t sure he’d be able to look directly at the experience for the next month.  He hadn’t even reached the table yet and he knew how awkward this was going to be. “This might be my Patrick Bateman origin story,” he hissed at Becca.  They were about ten minutes late and there were only two people waiting at a table for eight, and those extra spaces were obvious to Bucky. Becca reached over and grabbed Bucky’s arm the moment he noticed that the only people who had shown up were Becca’s BFF Brianna and Brianna’s long term boyfriend.  The hand on his arm effectively cut off his strategy to just turn around and leave and Bucky looked towards the entrance mournfully.

 

Damn. He knew better than to telegraph his intentions like that.

 

“Please, Bateman didn’t have an origin story. He just was,” Becca hissed at him.  “Now sit down and don’t insult my friend like a total douchetool.”

 

Alcohol.  Bucky needed alcohol.  He thought he was doing really well by accepting Becca’s invitation to get him out of the house and instead he was regretting the fact that he’d showered that morning.

 

Or any morning.

 

He’d been lured by false promises that everyone from the old gang wanted to see him, Becca pointing out that he was doing so well and everyone wanted to know how he was doing.  Well, Bucky was never letting Becca guilt him into anything again.

 

Ten minutes later, and Bucky was considering all the ways he could use the accident as an excuse to bail on this misery.  He flexed his shoulder and winced, bringing his hand up to rub at the area with a pained expression on his face.  Becca narrowed her eyes at him.

 

“I once dislocated my shoulder,” Dude told him, looking like he was trying to commiserate with Bucky.  Bucky could not remember Dude’s name, but he looked like the archetype from their corner of Brooklyn, so Bucky was going with Frank.  Almost everyone and their dog were named Frank where Bucky was from.

 

It took him about thirty seconds to realize Frank was drawing parallels between his dislocated shoulder and Bucky’s injury, the injury that had taken so much from him and left the consolation prize of still having an arm that would eventually have almost full mobility.  It had taken Bucky a while to even see that as a consolation prize.

 

Wow there was not enough alcohol in the bar for this.  Bucky shot Becca a look to express that, and she mimed that he was a big baby.

 

“I’m sure that was very traumatic,” Bucky answered in a dry tone, not even flinching as Becca’s heel came down on his foot.  He rolled his eyes, and stared down at his drink, knowing that no beer was worth this kind of annoyance and wondering if appetizers would give him something to look forward to.  He didn't really care if none of his high school friends wanted to spend time with him.  Bucky didn't exactly want to socialize with most of them either.  For a long time, he'd considered himself better than most of the people who hadn't gotten out of the old neighborhood, and it was one of the reasons it had bothered him so much when he returned home.  He still thought he was better than most of those people, but it wasn't because they were still living in Brooklyn, it was just because Bucky was awesome and still an egomaniac.

 

None of them had 10,000 followers on their blog or a fic with over 1,500 comments.  The only good thing about this entire lunch was that he had an amazing view, and it wasn't Becca's best friend. 

 

It was the giant billboard of Captain America right outside the window.  Bucky ended up wondering if maybe he could make that into a fic.

 

"Can you believe cousin Stevie grew up to look like that?" Brianna casually mentioned, stirring her drink with a straw.  Her chin pointed towards the large billboard for the season finale of The Howling Commandos.  Bucky was already staring at it, his mind numbed to a point of only half-listening to what was happening around him.  He was on the verge of coming up with a plot, and it was going to be a good one if he could just slot those last pieces of the puzzle together.  "I still think of him as that scrawny asthmatic kid chasing after Frank for stealing that girl's lunch container at the park.  What was her name?” she asked her boyfriend, rubbing his thigh absently.  “Frank had this total crush on her and kept making her cry, and Stevie always got so indignant.  Remember how his face would turn so red?"

 

A younger Steve with a red face was…

 

Wait. 

 

Wait.

 

WAIT.

 

Bucky’s head lifted so quickly that Becca looked like she got whiplash jerking her head towards him, her drink half-spilling across the table.

 

SERIOUSLY BRIANNA STOP TALKING.  Bucky couldn’t process this and take in new information at the same time.  It was overloading his brain. WHY HADN’T HE BEEN PAYING ATTENTION?

 

Stevie as in Steve Rogers?  Steve Rogers as in the boy from Brooklyn?  The same Steve Rogers Bucky had convinced himself had never been in the same circles he was, or else someone would have said something about it to him sooner?

 

The same Steve Rogers that Bucky had a radar for, his attention immediately snapping in the direction of anyone talking about (or even thinking about) that killer (sweet) smile and even more devastating body?  Bucky had almost yelled as a group of teenagers in the library for saying that they were his biggest fans.  Bucky was their god.  They had probably read his fic and wept.

 

Holy shit fucking fuck.

 

What the hell?  Bucky tried his best not too show too much interest in what Brianna was saying, but he felt like he was probably giving her a fake smile and incredibly creepy intent eyes.  This was his worst nightmare, he realized, starting to panic.  He knew someone who was related to Steve Rogers, the same Steve Rogers he had mentally pictured while writing two thousand words of underwater anal porn just that morning.

 

"I never met him," Becca answered, but she was smiling at the story.  If Bucky's thing was that he was good at everything he tried, Becca's was a steel trap of a memory.  She played it off all the time, pretending she didn't know what her first grade teacher's name was like most normal 20-somethings, but Bucky knew the truth.  If Becca said she never met Steve Rogers, then she never met Steve Rogers.

 

He relaxed a little. 

 

"Yeah, you did!" Brianna laughed.  "He was always around back then."

 

"The first time you and I played together was because you were sad that he moved away.  I never met Steve Rogers," his sister said.  “The only one who met him was Bucky.  Mom’s got a picture of Buck’s birthday party in first grade, and Steve’s sitting across from him.  It’s totally cute.”

 

What?  His head was doing a full exorcist turn to look at his sister. 

 

“What?” Bucky questioned out loud.  He wasn’t sure he was breathing anymore.  He didn’t need air.  He was surviving entirely off the growing realization that this just kept getting worse for his sanity.  He was having the PTSD breakdown like the one his therapist warned him was possible, wasn’t he?

 

Becca’s eyes cut to him and Bucky refrained from vocalizing his confusion out loud again.   "God, Buck, sometimes I'd swear you have brain damage too, but you were like this before the accident.  You can't even blame it on amnesia. I told you about the picture… are you ok?  You’ve gone really pale and kind of sweaty."

 

It was the first time she'd joked about the car crash, and Bucky couldn't even appreciate the dark humor of it.  "You really didn't," he told her, stumbling to his feet.  "I'm sorry, I need to... it was nice seeing you again, Brianna."

 

*

 

New text from Beck:

I’m sorry I joked about the crash.

 

New text from Beck:

Txt me if you end up somewhere you need a drive. Or txt mom if you’re mad at me.

 

*

 

Bucky didn’t need a drive home, he knew how to navigate the subway well enough, and it wasn’t like the accident had damaged his legs.  The way he was feeling, he probably could have run the fifteen blocks or so home fueled entirely by his horror at the situation.  In fact, he might have.  He was operating entirely on autopilot and wasn’t sure what happened between him standing up in the restaurant and sitting down in front of the bookcase his mother kept the family photo albums in.

 

He grabbed the appropriate year, thinking that Becca had to be wrong.  There was a weird buzzing in his head, and he thought he might throw up.

 

Becca wasn’t wrong.

 

Bucky’s mother did have a picture of Bucky sitting across from a very small version of Steve Rogers.

 

He was so tiny, smaller than Bucky was, but there was no mistaking his face, nose overshadowing the jawline he hadn’t quite developed yet.  Bucky would still recognize him anywhere.

 

Except in his memories, apparently.

 

He still couldn’t breathe.

 

Bucky had the album open on his lap, staring down at the picture of himself.  Across from him was a small blond kid, blue eyes staring at him while everyone else turned to look at the camera.

 

Steve Rogers, not a small blond kid, a little voice in his head pointed out in a horrified tone.

 

The more he looked at the picture, the more freaked out he felt.

 

(Steve Rogers). 

 

There was a buzzing in his ears and he regretted not finding a way to bring his drink back with him.  He really needed alcohol to cope with Steve Roger's familiar features so close to Bucky's own face.

 

He might throw up.

 

Well, fuck.  That was indisputably…

 

STEVE ROGERS.

 

There was a 75% chance Bucky was about to pass out.

 

*

 

It happened in a second. 

 

Count. One.

 

Almost everyone brought up time – Bucky had taken enough witness reports during his career and talked with enough survivors to know that.  It happened so fast, they’d say in shock.  It felt like time slowed down.  There wasn’t time to react.

 

For Bucky, it happened in a second.  There was a flash of lights on his left, too bright and too close, and he’d reacted.  He’d reacted the way his training told him to react, but a second was not enough time to change enough, to have any kind of impact besides the impending one with the truck.

 

Then the collision happened and Bucky awoke to his car upside down in a busy intersection, smoke heavy in his lungs and the taste of blood in the back of his throat. His memory got vague about what happened next.  He had been going in and out of awareness long enough to pull himself to safety through the passenger side of his car.  The motions had been an accumulation of years of training and sheer stubbornness.  Somehow, he’d made it with his arm still tenuously attached, though he couldn’t feel much more than a white shocky numbness settling over his entire body.  The fact that he made it out alive on his own had been a surprise enough to witnesses and professionals who had seen the scene.

 

The point was that Bucky was experiencing a lot of the same symptoms staring down at the face of young Steve Rogers.  He felt cold, numb like he couldn’t feel his limbs, shaky with shock and losing time as his vision went in and out of focusing on the image. 

 

This, he didn't know how to pull himself out of.

 

It was a total nightmare, the kind he didn’t even want to face the possibility of it being real.  Bucky had done a field dressing on his arm before the medics could reach him.  He’d probably lost more than a pint of blood at the time, maybe two.

 

All Bucky was losing now was his sanity, he reflected, laughing sharply as he fell sideways on the carpet with the picture still clutched in his fingers.  He couldn’t stop the hysterical laughter any more than he could put the picture back and forget about it.

 

HE KNEW STEVE ROGERS!

 

THE SAME STEVE ROGERS HE HAD A FIFTEEN THOUSAND NOTE POST FOR TENTACLE PORN FANART.

 

HE knew Steve Rogers.

 

He KNEW Steve Rogers.

 

He knew STEVE ROGERS.

 

WHERE THE HELL DID HE EVEN PUT THE EMPHASIS IN THAT SENTENCE?

 

He was freaking out so much that he couldn’t even breathe.  Couldn’t think.

 

All he could think of was that he had to hide the evidence somehow.  No one, besides him, could know about this.

 

He should eat it.

 

No. Wow. Bucky was a highly trained FBI agent with fantastic instincts and skills. He pulled himself out of his own burning vehicle with only one arm. He wasn’t going to eat the picture! Those instincts were bad.

 

He had a lot more sympathy for criminals who reacted stupidly at the scene of a crime.  Not much, but slightly more sympathy.

 

Eat it.  Christ.  There wasn’t even anyone around who could potentially see it.  The thought was enough to prompt him into getting to his feet.  He didn’t want to even imagine explaining this to his mother if she happened to come home and find him on the floor crying.  He didn’t even mean to cry, but there was definitely water on his face and he was pretty sure there was also snot.

 

Bucky laughed at the thought, curling over on himself and thinking about the fact that there was a half-drawn image on his computer of Captain America completely naked and prepped, looking back over his shoulder at the viewer with a smirk on his face, and his brain immediately conjured the very trusting smile on Steve Roger’s little baby face as he looked at Bucky.

 

This must be what going mad feels like, his brain quoted at him, and then also brought up the small factoid it was a Firefly quote, because obviously the right reaction for him to have to Steve Rogers’ tiny face was to sob in a ball and then be a total nerd about it.

 

In a horrified fugue Bucky brought the picture with him down to his apartment.  He set it down next to his computer.

 

He stared at it.

 

And stared.  Fuck.

 

Ten minutes went by.

 

Count. Six hundred.

 

He got up and went into his kitchen and retrieved a carton of ice cream from the freezer and a bottle of whiskey, bringing them back to his computer with him. 

 

Fifteen minutes later, he’d eaten the last of the ice cream and he was still no closer to digesting the fact that he was writing and drawing porn about someone who sang happy birthday to him when he turned seven. 

 

What the fuck?

 

*

 

No, seriously! Bucky reflected as he tried to sleep, staring at the ceiling for hours and feeling way too horrified for his customary masturbatory fantasy.

 

What the fuck?

 

*

 

NO SERIOUSLY. He didn’t even have sex fantasies that didn’t have Captain America’s familiar face in them anymore.  He didn’t know how.

 

He might cry again.

 

*

 

The worst thing was that he couldn’t even tell anyone.  The only people who would care were people he met online, and there was no way in hell any of them could know this.

 

Eventually he ended up texting the picture to Sam.

 

New text from Sam Wilson:

Cute.

 

Great, even Sam didn't realize the gravity of it.

 

New text from Sam Wilson:

Wait is this real?

 

New text from Sam Wilson:

Hahahahahahahahahahaha

 

New text from Sam Wilson:

Dude this is a cruel punishment. I'm in a debrief about a human trafficking ring.  People are looking at me like I think kidnapped children are funny.

 

New text from Sam Wilson:

Your life. 

 

 *

 

The only valid reaction was for Bucky quit fandom and his blog cold turkey.

 

That’s what he told himself, anyway.

 

Who needed a show that never bothered giving their main character a real name?  Codename: Captain America. Real name: ?????????

 

But these things had a way of dragging you back in, and Bucky hated receiving questions about where the next chapter of his WIP was.

 

HE COULDN’T WRITE PORN ABOUT A SEVEN YEAR OLD OKAY howlling4you!!  It was too weird.

 

But then the season finale happened and Bucky was weak.

 

Steve wasn’t that seven year old in the picture anymore, Bucky told himself.  It was probably ok.

 

It wasn’t like he’d ever meet Steve Rogers in person.

 

*

 

Bucky was an idiot and his life was shit irony.