Bucky Barnes loves Brooklyn. Bucky Barnes loves New York City.
However, James Buchanan Barnes is aware that there is more to life, and he wants to conquer it all.
You love Brooklyn. You love New York City.
But, you were okay living in your own little corner of the world, safe and sound with an everyday life.
And maybe, that’s the problem with this whole love equation to begin with.
You rummage around one of the lower bookcases before settling down in one of the small chairs with your favorite Dr. Seuss’ book. Ever since you could remember, you enjoyed coming to the Barnes’ Bookstore and spend some time there until either your mother or father got out of work to pick you up. Your parents and Mrs. Barnes had known each other for a long time, had even known Mr. Barnes before he passed away, so you all treated each other like extended family. It also helped a little that she had children around your age as well.
“You’re still reading those baby books?” a boyish voice ask, as you look up to see one Bucky Barnes with one of those longer novels that the middle school kids read for school. You frown, Bucky for being a year older than you always wanted to be the “big kid” as he tried to hang out with Rumlow’s when his mother wasn’t looking.
“I like them,” is all you said, before going back to reading. Bucky frowning like always at how easily you ignored him. So, he like always he takes a seat next to yours and open his book.
“I’m gonna sit right here, ok?” he declares, as his mother watches on with a bright smile on her face from the cash register.
“Okay,” you nod and go back to the story.
“An astronaut!” Bucky declares, “Going to space, exploring the planets, and bringing back cool stuff!”
“ Didn’t you want a be a gymnast last week?” you question from your place on the steps that lead to the apartments where you live. It was one of those chilly autumn days where for some of reason you found yourself hanging out with Bucky and his best friend Steve, an older, but sickly boy that he had saved from Rumlow, though not without its consequences -- you had been in the hospital all night with both boys.
“And a journalist before that?” the blond questions from his own seat, as Bucky turns to frown at the two of you. He puts down the book that he has been reading and huffs out in disappointment over you combined lack of enthusiasm.
“Don’t ya guys wanna leave and explore the world?” he questions in desperation and silent fury, and all you could do was shrug as Steve tries to pacify him. You had seen this side of Bucky more often after his fight with Rumlow. He wanted to leave, give his mother and sisters a better life than what they had in Brooklyn. Maybe it was a little pessimistic, but you often wondered if he would be able to achieve anything in the end.
“One day, Bucky, one day,” you declare and give him the softest smile you can muster, as he lets out a deep breathe to calm himself down. He gives you a boyish grin, and for a moment you swear that your heart skips a bit.
“ Have you seen Bucky?” Rebecca questions, as you look up from your book to see her worried face.
“No, why?” you ask, as she frowns because she knows that you already know. Ever since transferring into that high-end school for athletes and prodigies, Bucky had been hanging out and dealing with a lifestyle that clearly wasn’t what the rest of the Barnes lived in. It had made him more ambitious in what he wanted, but also angrier at what he couldn’t have at the moment. It lead to a lot more fights between the two of you over your lack of motivation and many other sore subjects that Bucky liked to pull at.
It isn’t until later that night that you see him. Busted lip and dirty clothes sitting in the corner of the sidewalk two blocks away from the apartment building. You question for a moment if you should even bother him, until blue eyes catch you watching him and all he can do is turn away. That’s when you get the courage to sit down next to him.
“Don’t ask,” is all he says you, as you nod in agreement while pulling out a packet of tissue and hand it to him. Bucky lets out an embittered laugh before throwing them on the ground. You frown and in annoyance decide to ask.
“Don’t you get tired of fighting?” you question with a strong sense of curiosity on why Bucky does all this, but his emotions and rush of adrenaline don’t let him answer in a logic way.
“Don’t you get tired of being so useless ?” is all he says, hitting on the one little fear the he knows all too well that you have. So you get up and leave without another word, Bucky doesn’t stop you and it isn’t until later, when he tries to apologize, that he realizes all the damage he has done.
You don’t talk to Bucky Barnes after that.
Unlike Bucky the year before, you were a bit more strategic in where you wanted to go for university. Your parents had agreed on your plan on going to a small community college to get your two years of general education before moving forward to transferring to a bigger university. Your goal was NYU, just like Steve who had gotten accepted into their arts program right off the bat. Bucky had gotten into all his choice schools, but had chosen to head West -- his dream was finally coming true.
You hardly heard from him anymore, though there were whispers here and there. Steve told you he was dating a pretty Russian redhead, social media confirm that. His mother and sisters got fancy gifts for their birthdays and holidays, though you knew they would all rather see him for the breaks he didn’t return for.
For a moment, you mourned the Bucky Barnes you once knew, but you moved on -- you had bigger fish to fry within the wonderful, blasted city.
“Don’t stay up too late!” Peggy yells from her place in the living room, as she and Steve head out for the evening. All you do is give her a salute before going back to reading the political theory book in front of you. It was finals week and you were a couple of hours and three more coffee cups away from your last one of the semester.
After transferring into NYU’s political science department, you had moved in with Steve and his girlfriend Peggy since they had an extra room and their apartment saved you a bit more on commuting from Brooklyn to the central campus than living with your parents did. They were going to celebrate the end of their finals with some friends, while you were still struggling over your own.
In the struggles and loneliness of it all, you thought of him . It was silly, but it had taken you some years to realize that you might have been in love with Bucky Barnes and sometimes the what-ifs killed you, but you knew he was happier out of this city than anything else, and you were alright with that. You groan in annoyance at the sudden shift of thoughts when you should be memorizing the dates behind rise and fall of Robespierre.
You get up and are about to get something to eat when your cell phone rings. It’s an unfamiliar number, but you can’t help but think that this one time you should answer it, so you do.
“Hello?” you ask in a loud voice, as there is some loud music playing in the back.
“God, I miss you ,” is all the broken, raspy and obviously drunk voice on the other line of the phone says before hanging up. You blink at the familiarity of it, but they’ve hung up before you can say anything. It bothers you, but you have to push it to the back of your mind and keep studying if you want to pass this class with a decent grade.
It isn’t until you’re back from your last final the following evening that you hear the whispers coming once more from Steve and Peggy’s room -- something about a car crash and Bucky.
“Where is the bouquet?” you question, as you run around different halls to find Peggy’s missing bouquet just a few hours before the wedding. Your flowy green gown and messy flower crown weren’t making it any easier to move through, though neither did the sleep deprivation that came with finals, graduation, and getting everything ready for two of your dearest friends’ wedding. And maybe, that why you almost trip in the hallway leading to the reception hall.
“Oh shit,” you murmur and brace for the impact, only to have a contrasting pair of arms grab you. The heat and cold conflicting with each other send a shiver down your spine, as you look up to see shocked blue eyes staring at you. He’s wearing a grey suit and the marigold in his jacket pocket that adorn your head. There’s a small stubble on his face and while his hair is the longest that you had ever seen on him, it was gelled to perfection. All in all, Bucky Barnes is still beautiful, even after all these years.
“S-Sorry,” you manage to squeak out, as he nods obviously taking in your form after years apart. He lets out a sigh and you feel his hands rubbing circles around the fabric of your dress. There is a look in his eyes that you’re too afraid to find out what it means as you slowly start to back away, “I-I sh--”
“Please,” he murmurs softly, trying to stop you in the most heartbreaking sort of way. And for a brief moment, you wonder if he ever made that realization you had all those years ago. However, then the moments breaks at the sound of two voices.
“Bucky!” you both turn to see the familiar face of one Rebecca Barnes, as she looks shocked for a moment before smiling at what she has just caught.
“Sweets, I found the bouquet!” the voice right behind her declares as Sam, Steve’s other best friend, smiles while holding the white and gold flowers in his hand. However, like Rebecca, he raises an eyebrow at the sight before him, clearly not aware of the history you two have.
“Thanks, Sam!” you remove yourself from Bucky’s grip completely and grab the bouquet before turning to leave the awkward scene, “I should hand it back to Peg. It was nice seeing everyone!”
You run out of the area as fast as you can and clearly avoiding Sam’s questions and Bucky’s regretful sigh.
You avoid the Barnes family for the rest of the evening.
However, you can’t avoid old family friends for long, especially when Mrs. Barnes is sick and asking for you. It’s the least you could do for the woman that practically watched over you most of your life, and it’s not that far away from your own shared Brooklyn flat. She is in the center of her bed, looking pale and gaunt as she tells you to take a seat closer to you. None of her daughters are there at the moment, so the silence of such a rowdy household scares you. She gives you a shadow of a smile, as she grabs your hand.
“How have you been, sweetheart?” her voice is soft and delicate, as it slowly fades away towards the end of the sentence. You sit a little closer to her, as the autumn breeze comes in and her body shakes like a leaf.
“Good, good. Working and such,” you explain some of your data analysis work for the city, something that she had always said showed how much you loved your birthplace and you guess that in a way it was true. You loved that it reminded you of a lot of things, even if they weren’t there anymore.
“You’ve always been like my fourth daughter,” Winnie lets out a watery laugh as she pats your hand, “I only wish he wasn’t such a fool and made it come true.”
You cock an eyebrow at this, but never question her as she goes on to tell you of all the little things you have ignored for the years: Bucky dropping out of university, going into the military, the car accident, and moving from place to place like he was searching for something he couldn't find. You wonder why she tells you all this, but you let her because maybe in a way she misses him, like you miss him sometimes -- that bright eyed boy that dreamed too big for his own good.
When Winnie does get better, the girls decide that Lizzie should take her to the West Coast where the climate would be better for her condition. However, with the idea of Barnes’ Bookstore being sold, you step up and say you’ll buy the lease or deal from them in the most desperate sort of way that they had ever seen from you. They agree and you become a part-time consultant and data analysis researcher in order to keep the store open certain days. Rebecca ends up moving upstate as her family grows and Millie moves to Boston to finish her graduate work.
Brooklyn without the Barnes is something you thought you would never see, but here you are and while Steve and Peggy, Sam, and your other friends are still in the city -- something about being in the city just isn’t the same anymore. But, if you were truthful to yourself, Brooklyn hadn’t been the same since you were 18. And maybe, something out there somewhere decides to be kind to you.
The bell chimes to announce a new customer, as you look up from your laptop to see a man with long brown-hair hidden by a baseball cap and wearing a jacket and red henley. You greet them absentmindedly before going back to your work on the laptop, especially since it’s due in a couple of hours, as the man’s heavy boots echo loudly within the small store. You briefly wonder what he might be looking for, as you hear books being moved and pages being rummaged through. Nothing else is done, until you see a familiar Dr. Seuss placed on the countertop. It surprises you, as you glance up to see bright blue eyes and a timid smile.
“Bucky,” you whisper softly as said man gives you a tight smile. He looks a lot different than from the last time you had seen him, and you had no idea where he has been all this time since you hadn’t seen Steve in awhile either. It was strange, but in a good sort of way to see that he was all right. You ring up his purchase and that’s when he decides to talk.
“ It’s always been you , huh?” he says in some sort hypnotized way, like he had been carrying this revelation in his chest for who knows how long and was finally coming to accept it. Maybe, it’s that same feeling you’ve been feeling the majority of your life. You look at him with wide eyes, as his smile grows a little more.
“You’ve always been home, waiting right here ,” he explains, like he somehow knows your heart better than you, and even if that might be true the self-confidence in his statement, and maybe the hidden love within it almost make you want to lash back. However, those blue-gray eyes looking at you in the certain way --like back in the wedding, like when you were young again-- makes you pause that stubbornness you’re so used to.
“Did ya find what you were looking for?” you ask softly as you place your hand over the Dr. Seuss book, wondering about all the places he had gone, all the people that he had meet and maybe even loved. That self-righteous anger builds up in your chest again as you give him an embittered smile. Surely, he wouldn’t be here, in Brooklyn (in this small, useless bookstore), if he had found whatever it was.
“All I wanted was here all along,” he murmurs as he places his hand hesitantly over yours, a timid smile on his face as he rubs your knuckles with his thumb, “Home’s always been right here. Just been too…”
He can’t seem to finish his sentence, too afraid of the rejection years in the making, but you just let out a light laugh, relief bubbling in your chest as your grip on his hand tightens a bit. Blue eyes twinkle a bit brighter than before, as he leans in and runs his gloved hand over your cheek. You hum in acknowledgement and look straight into his eyes.
“Welcome home, Bucky.”
He lets out a shaky sigh and in the silence of your stuffy little bookstore, you wordlessly reaffirm a couple of things that seemed like constants in your life.
You love Brooklyn. You love New York City.
And you surely did love Bucky Barnes as well.