"And he can see the light that means he's made it out of the forest, and he can see his house sitting on the hill. And just as Steve thinks he's gotten away from the monster, a set of claws as big as your arm sink into his leg and yank him back into the woods. He screams an' screams, but all the farmers getting up at dawn to feed their animals just think it's somebody else's hog getting whacked. Pretty soon he stops screaming. Anybody passing by would only hear the sounds of chewing–"
"Aw, cut it out, Walter, Janey's cryin'."
The storyteller, Walter Foley, flips his hat up and glares at Martin O'Malley. "Well, maybe you shouldn't have brought your baby sister out in the freezing cold to hear scary stories, genius."
Bucky nudges Steve, who, swamped inside Bucky's old coat sitting on the old log and invisible save his nose and eyes as he is, resembles a fat brown bird. It's a shockingly brisk night for the middle of summer, and Mrs. Barnes insisted he wear it, just to be safe.
"Whaddya know, a streak o' good luck," Bucky says, just loud enough for Steve to hear over the other boys having a full-on yelling match. "If the story'd gone on any longer you'd'a been dead for sure."
Steve rolls his eyes. "I was already dead, case you weren't listening. The Soldier got me."
Bucky shrugs. "He didn't say in so many words. Maybe you got the Soldier. Would'a made for a better ending, anyway."
They laugh about it, bumping shoulders. Old Mr. O'Malley, Martin's grandfather, had brought out logs from the stack next to his fireplace and set them out for the boys to perch on, and Mr. Barnes had lit them a fire. It was as close to a camping experience they'd probably ever get in Brooklyn.
"Hey, someday we're gonna have ourselves a campfire for real," Bucky tells him. "We'll sleep under the stars out in the woods like wild men. It'll just be you and me. You think, Stevie?"
"Yeah, sure, we will, Buck. Hey, I turn thirteen next week. Maybe that's what I'll wish for."
Bucky shoves him, face aghast. "You're not supposed to tell anyone, dumbass. Now it won't come true."
"Since when do you buy into old wives' tales? Besides, you're Bucky 'n' I'm Steve. I figure you already know what I'm thinking anyway. And since it's for both of us, it's your wish too."
Bucky beams at him, and that's the only reason Steve doesn't notice the figure crouched in the shadows just beyond them, watching.