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By the Silvery Moon

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'By the Silvery Moon'

 

Steve wakes with a start. There is a presence in his bedroom, an intangible disturbance of particles, settled yet unsettled. A push of air, sketchbook pages fluttering, pencil rolling off his night-stand, bouncing on the hardwood floor. The noise like knuckles cracking--pop, pop. Steve's drowsy senses come on line sharp--sight, hearing, smell, and he sits up.

The window is open when it wasn't before, damp night air invading. A bath of moonlight washes over floorboards, walls, furniture. Shadows stark as if ink splashes across the room. It is a full moon. And he is being watched. The hair at the back of his neck prickles, palms sweat, as he peers around the room. Nothing, nothing and yet.

A shadow peels away from the wall and moves closer to the pale light. He can make out the height and breadth. The solid mass. A glint of metal but not a knife. Steve is almost certain. Or hopeful--fool's hope.

"You." The familiar voice is a low rumble, and it vibrates to his very bones.

Steve remains quiet, holding his breath, shoulders tense. He does not want to break the spell, the moment. He has searched for months, and now he is here in his room. And he is not prepared. Every practiced word, turns to dust in his mouth.

"Why?" The question pointed but not hostile comes from the shadow.

"Buck?" Steve asks, because he has to. His fingers dig into the sheets, the mattress, as if to hold on because the world is spinning too fast.

"Why are you... Почему ты здесь?" And Bucky walks into the light, dressed all in black--black cargo pants, black hoodie. His dark hair half obscures his face, eyes--stormy blue. He is unshaven, dark circles under his eyes, and smells of stale sweat. But he doesn't look any less dangerous, doesn't look any less than Bucky.

He comes closer, the brief shine of metal, his finger tips and thumb, made from the motorcycle glove he's wearing. Shining like five bright diamonds--like points of a star.

Bucky gets to the edge of the bed, boots never making a sound on the wooden floor, then stops. His face grim, jaw working.

"I remember."

"Remember, what?" Steve asks carefully. His heart is pounding hard against his ribs.

"The fire escape, a cold spring, someone sick, dying," Bucky says, his tone flat, metal fingers flexing.

Steve's breath lodges in his throat, because he knows where this is going. He knows who was sick. Bucky rests his knee on the bed, weight sinking in. Steve scoots over to make room, blood rushing in his ears, pulse pounding, as he watches him. Bucky's face gives nothing away what he is thinking. His eyes look down at the bed, then back at Steve. Time falls away, and Steve wonders what Bucky will do now.

"Go to sleep," Bucky says.

"I'm not tried."

"Yes, you are."

The words stretch over the years and boomerang back at Steve, knocking the breath from his lungs. Replaying something only they knew and no one else.

Bucky lies down on the bed, on the duvet, boots still on, and just stares at him, unblinking like a cat. Eyes dark, unreadable, but he isn't expressionless. His brows furrow together, lips pulling into a frown. One minute passes, two, and Steve loses track, because he can't believe Bucky is here. And all is quiet, but the steady rise and fall of Bucky's chest, so he knows this is all real. And not a dream. He isn't sure how much time passes when Bucky breaks the silence.

"Turn around," Bucky says and finally blinks.

And Steve's pulse speeds up, stomach knotting, palms prickle in sweat as he curls them into loose fists to stop the trembling. He tries to will himself to relax, to not spook Bucky, but he knows he is failing. He swallows, calming himself, and turns his back to Bucky to face the window. To watch the curtain drift in a breeze, the paper of his sketchbook flipping, flipping as if by invisible fingers, the moon--a perfect, glowing disc in the cloudless night sky. He catalogs all this as if these small things are worth remembering. And they are if these are the last things he sees when he is with Bucky.

Steve stills; he'd turned his back to Bucky so much a stranger now. One that tried to kill him (but one that saved him too). He doesn't know which Bucky is now lying in his bed. The killer or the savior. Or maybe both. And he doesn't know what to expect--a knife between his shoulder blades, cold fingers circling his neck or maybe...just maybe...

There is hesitation as Bucky's right hand touches his hip, feather light. It rests there a few seconds before easing around, sliding across Steve's chest to rest there, palm flat, pressed to his heart. The gap between them narrows as Bucky slides closer; the firm press of his body to Steve's back. He feels the power pulsing in Bucky's still body--a force of nature, contained--for now. And Steve is sixteen again--small, thin and cold, so cold, and Bucky, a solid, comforting, warm weight behind him. Then and now. He smells of fish brine, sweat and grime. And the smell isn't too unfamiliar to Steve.

Bucky's nose finds a soft spot just behind Steve's ear and breathes in deep.

"Stevie." He breathes out in a whisper, tightening his grip, curling more into Steve.

And, oh God! Steve is nearly undone when Bucky says his name; his eyes mist up, and he bites at his lower lip. He misses this, and he didn't even know until now. Because who is there to do this for him? Someone to hold him, comfort him, when he damn well would never ask, couldn't ask. Bucky's breath tickles his neck, his long hair falling over his collar bone, teasing his skin. It shoots shivers straight down his spine.

"Sleep. Ме́ньшезна́ешь--кре́пче спишь." It comes out more like a command, Bucky's voice rough yet soft. As if he doesn't speak often. The Russian just as quiet. But that just meant to Steve each word is important, like gold. Steve wants to protest, but that is what he would have done before with Bucky. In the past. But this is now so the words dried in his throat, and he just nods.

"Alright, Buck."

And Steve's heart does stop when Bucky's dry lips brush over his neck. He bites back a tiny whimper as a light kiss presses to the base of his neck.

"Why are you here?" Bucky asks. Steve feels each word on his skin.

"What do you mean?" Steve frowns.

"You are dead." Bucky's breath hitches, then evens out. "They told me you were dead."

"I'm here." Steve risks placing his hand over Bucky's, both over his heart. Bucky's hand doesn't move and it feels strong, scarred, secure. "I'm alive." And Steve wants to pound his fists into the ones that hurt Bucky, tormented him with a truth. Because he did die, he died to the world when he crashed that plane. And he left him, left him to suffer. He read that damn file! He wants to dig up and burn their bones and spit on their ashes. Steve's free hand clenches into a tight fist, his heart aches with sudden rage and guilt, which Bucky neatly dampens with three simple words.

"Yes, you are." Bucky's breath is moist and warm on his neck, as he nuzzles his nose more into that tender spot behind his ear. "You smell the same."

Steve closes his eyes, relaxing his fist, allowing his lips to curve into a small smile. "So do you."

A huff of air, between a cough and a sigh, stirs Steve's hair. "I smell like shit."

"So?" The brief exchange between them is natural to Steve. So much said in so few words as if time froze, and they are the last two people on this earth. And Steve is okay with that. More than okay.

"Humph..." Is all Bucky says, as he rests his chin on Steve's shoulder, the hush slide of metal plates adjusting in his left arm as he slips it under the pillow.

They lie there together, long minutes pass. Breaths and heartbeats adjust to one rhythm, one tune. A missing harmony that fills Steve's soul when it was so empty before.

"Bucky?" Steve asks, after he watches the moon rise. The shadows growing darker, as less light pours in, until the moon drifts behind the upper window frame.

"Shhh...You need to rest. Your mind's workin' so hard, steams coming outta your ears," Bucky says, his Brooklyn accent slipping in and out.

And Steve wonders if Bucky is here or somewhere else, reliving the past; and he doesn't want to intrude on that, even though he has a thousand things he wants to say, to ask. "It can wait until morning."

"Punk..." Bucky's quiet voice trails off to nothing, as he gently rubs his lips into Steve's hair, before settling again to his shoulder. His lips mimic a kiss there, or maybe it is one. Dry, chapped lips pressing quick to his skin then away. And it burns, in that tiny spot. Burns.

"Yeah, morning," Bucky adds, his breathing picking up a choppy rhythm, while his hand clenches more to Steve's chest, fingers grasping, twisting into his undershirt, five points branding, bruising into his skin, but Steve doesn't flinch at Bucky's tight hold. He swallows back a moan instead. His emotions bleeding out the same as Bucky's.

"Goodnight, jerk," Steve finally says, low, a little sarcastic, but it is real, and it is Steve, the real Steve. The one that only Bucky saw.

Bucky doesn't answer, but Steve feels his breath even out, slow, steady. And Steve finds himself drifting off, despite himself, under the strong protective embrace of his oldest friend, best friend, and maybe he will be again one day. Because he feels safe, safe, and to hell with everyone else, because nothing could take this away from him, from them. He wants to be selfish. And hold this close to his heart, forever.

Morning arrives. The sheets tangled, duvet half on the floor, half still clinging to the bed. Dust motes dance in the morning light. Steve glances over to the window. It's shut. He rolls over--and Bucky is gone. But the impression is still there, dirt from his boots flaked and grounded into the duvet. And he fights the urge to gather the duvet to his chest, to bury his nose in it to capture Bucky's scent. He runs his palm over the bed where Bucky was. It's cool, no body heat left.

And it is the same--same as that night when he was sixteen. In the morning, Bucky was gone--out the window, down the fire escape--and they never mentioned that night. He'd held him all night long when he was gravely ill, when they gave him last rites. And now it is replaying itself. And Steve's insides knot, his chest hollow, heart scooped out, and he gasps from the loss, fighting back tears, tearing his fingers into the bed-sheets. So close, so close.

Steve notices the sketchbook, the pencil not on the floor, but stuck in between the pages. Sitting up, he grabs it, hands shaking as he opens the sketchbook to the bookmarked page. There...there, he stares at Bucky's neat script. The same careful penmanship the sisters rapped rulers on knuckles over. Words, some crossed out as he wrote it, but it is clear and the words shear into his brain.

Stevie,

I just had to see if you're really here. That you're alive. That it wasn't my head making it up. I can't stay. Don't look I can't be the person you want me to be. I am not who you think I am. I'm not a good man. The terrible things I've done. I remember so many things. Mostly bad, but It gets confusing in my head. I see you and remember not all my memories are bad. Some are good, pure. I didn't want to ruin it. I'm not ready. I won't

So Stevie, take your medicine and I'll see you in school Brooklyn on that bridge I couldn't sell.

B.

Steve's lips tremble when he reaches the end of the short note, brushing at his eyes, to remove sleep, not tears from them. Dammit, he is fooling no one, especially himself, when he looks down at his wet fingertips.

They will meet in Brooklyn again. Steve knows this, swears this to the bottom of his soul. He will not stop searching. And when they are finally together again, they can come home.