It took Bucky longer than he liked to make his way back inside the house and upstairs to his dorm room. Every step sent a deep pain coursing through his stomach and ribs, and he had to stop several times to catch his breath. It was a wake-up call of sorts – he didn’t think they’d hit him that hard, or at least not that many times. But hell, for all he knew, they’d hit him harder and more times than he thought. Regardless, he was alive and moving, and Rebecca was safe (as far as he knew, anyway).
Finally reaching the wooden landing, he shuffled down to the first door on the right, knocking lightly before pushing it back. “Becca?” He cringed at the sound of his own voice, strained and with undertones of pain, hoping his little sister wouldn’t catch on and get upset.
“Jimmy?” Looking up, he saw a small head peeping out over the top of his bed, worried blue eyes fixed on him un-blinkingly. With a sigh of relief, he trudged over, resisting the temptation to keep a hand on his sore ribs.
“Are you okay?” he asked, sinking on to his mattress. “Sorry I kept you waiting.”
Rebecca climbed up next to him. “I’m alright now,” she mumbled, snuggling against his side.
Gritting his teeth as she jostled his injuries, Bucky lifted his arm and tucked her beneath it. “Good. They didn’t find you, did they?”
She shook her head. “Did they hurt you?”
He nodded. “Nothing I can’t handle though.”
They were silent for a long time afterwards, and now that there was no strain on his body Bucky found himself enamoured with the idea of sleep. He had his eyes closed when his sister spoke up. “Jimmy?”
“Tell me about the countryside again.”
Bucky looked down at her. “Why?”
She squirmed for a few (painful) seconds. “I couldn’t remember what you said it looked like.”
Rebecca was just eight years old, nearly half Bucky’s age. Eight years, and she’d never been outside Brooklyn, never beyond state borders. Then again, he’d only been the once. Letting his mind wander, he smiled. “Well, y’know Central Park? It’s like that, but bigger – grass as far as you can see, blue sky and clouds right above your head, and a lot of hills and animals. You can run for ages and ages, and still wouldn’t see a city.”
The little girl was watching him in awe. “What kind of animals?”
He shrugged. “Not really sure. Birds, sheep, cows I guess. ‘Cause there’re farms out there. Cows and sheep like the grass, see? So they can’t really stay in the city.”
“Are there lots of trees too?”
“I don’t think so. Not unless you go in a forest on the mountains. And then there are bears in there, and they’ll eat you up!” He tickled her, laughing as she squealed (despite the ache under his ribs), and after a minute of this he felt her settle against him once more. He let himself relax as well, combing his fingers through her hair like their mother used to do. “There’s no noise,” he continued. “You can sleep under the stars, in a tent, with as many blankets as you wanted, and no-one would bother you at all.”
Rebecca was quiet for a long time. “Can we go to the countryside one day, Jimmy?” Her voice was small, hopeful.
“Sure, Becks. Just you and me.” Bucky kissed the top of her head. “I promise.”