“You want to what ?”
“I want to read poetry. At a speakeasy.”
Steve looks baffled. “Poetry?”
“What?” Bucky ruffles up. “I can do it. The Winter Soldier was very dramatic.”
Steve gapes for a moment. “True, but not usually on … a stage?”
Bucky waves a hand dismissively. “Different weapons. No less lethal.”
Well, the self-confidence is good. Steve wants to absolutely encourage this, whatever the hell “this” is, because although Bucky’s been back and recovered for a while, he still isn’t as outgoing as he used to be. Steve knows he is never getting the exuberant Bucky of the forties back, and he adores the Bucky of today with a fierce and unquenchable love. He can’t deny, though, that this imperious and theatrical Bucky is even more enchanting than usual, and if going to incomprehensible arts performance is the key to that then sign Steve right the fuck up.
Bucky spends the next week stalking around the apartment with his murder prowl, muttering cryptic phrases. Steve can’t quite make out the words, nor does he ever get a chance to decipher the written scribbles that Bucky snatches away whenever Steve tries. Steve’s tempted to sneak one out of Bucky’s thousands of pockets – even in civilian garb he’s retained a fondness for the tactical – but shoving hands into Bucky’s pockets is always rather a lucky dip in self-perforation.
Admittedly, Steve can’t imagine that the Winter Soldier regularly got deployed at slam poetry events, not unless said poetry readings involved rather more, uh, terminal forms of audience critique than Steve expects. But hell, what does Steve know. In this baffling future perhaps it’s normal for artistic gatherings to degenerate into gladiatorial combat. “Should I bring the shield?”
“What? No!” Bucky looks incredulous. “You need to look stylish , Rogers, Make an effort.”
Steve looks blankly at his wardrobe, and starts getting into the tight jeans laid out for him. Natasha had managed to forcibly wrestle him away from the old-man plaids and khakis, but he still finds the fashions du jour a challenge. Bucky seems to have had no such trouble, currently wrestling his way into skintight black jeans and a black polo-neck. Well. At least his color scheme’s familiar.
They get there early. It’s a dark basement full of solemn people in beanies and suspenders. There’s a low stage with a single chair under a lone lightbulb.
“This is, uh, nice?” tries Steve.
Bucky snorts, and heads with determination to the carefully-languid girl who seems to be making a list of performers. Then they take their seats among the solemn and suspender-ed audience.
The first performer is a girl with bright blue hair and clothes that Steve assumes must be ironic, unless people usually wear lavender sweaters tucked into a black embroidered skirt, knee high orange socks, very thick shoes with giant buckles, and glasses with such thick rims there is barely room for her eyes.
“Damn the corporations.
Screw economic oppression.
Fuck multinational finance.”
Steve approves completely. Rock-solid socialist sentiments. He's fully on board. When he glances around, everyone looks refreshingly relaxed at the revolutionary ethos. Tension builds for the finale.
“Damn craft beer.”
The whole audience flinches. Hmm. Clearly particular priorities prevail.
Once she stops, the audience click their fingers in approval. No clapping, then. Steve and Bucky join in. The other performers all have similar delivery and varying degrees of subversion. Steve quite likes the one which riffs on the current president being a tangerine.
Then it’s Bucky’s turn. He stalks to the chair, takes the seat, drops his chin to his chest, and pauses for a tantalizing moment. Steve has to admit he cuts a striking figure, an all-black silhouette of honed perfection under the bare bulb.
Bucky lifts his head slowly and casts a death glare around the audience. It’s an effective death glare – the hipsters ahead of Steve visibly blanch before recovering their studied cool.
‘Can I sharpen my knife with a piece of ceramic tile?’
It’s an unusual beginning, sure. As topical questions go, it’s only gonna catch a particular niche audience.
‘It’s a Gerber Mark II.
Incredible heft and balance.
I don’t wanna fuck it up with sub-par sharpening devices.
-- another death glare --
“The sheep need to be sheared, lambs to be led to the altar."
Huh. It’s a safe bet that’s meant metaphorically. Steve can’t see Bucky letting his Gerbers be used for improvised wool acquisition. Steve tried to use one to peel an orange the other day and Bucky got him in a headlock.
Bucky seems to be gearing up for the final punch. He stands and tilts his chin, his bone structure shadowed and beautiful under the stark light.
‘So will the tile work? Yes! ’
Bucky’s delivery is savage, dramatic, and he flips his dark hair back from his face. God, he’s gorgeous, even when inexplicably declaiming about weapons maintenance strategies in a puzzling basement club. Steve stands and claps ferociously. That’s his beloved up there and he’s damn well gonna make his admiration clear. After he glares at everyone in the vicinity they hurriedly respond with enthusiastic finger snapping.
Bucky was the last performer, and as everyone stands and shuffles to the bar, Steve overhears one say, “The last one was a scathing critique of capitalism, man.”’ Grave nods of agreement seem to bear out the consensus. Probably for the best really.
He sidles over to Bucky. “Hey, Buck.” Steve knows he’s glowing with 3,000 watts of palpable adoration and he doesn’t care. “I loved your poem.”
Bucky looks at him, and that’s definite mischief. “You did.”
“Yeah, it was -- “ Steve considers what he overheard. Uncertainly, “it wasn’t a scathing critique of capitalism, was it?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Right.” Steve pauses. “Does this mean I can use the Gerbers to –“
The Winter Soldier effortlessly slams Steve up against a wall, metal arm against his throat. His eyes are gleaming with amusement. “Don’t even think it, Rogers.”
“Sure,” squeals Steve. He’s thinking something else, though. Who thought skintight jeans were a good idea when Bucky is this beautiful and fierce. “Damn, Buck. Uh ... shall we get out of here?”
They do. Bucky’s performance half an hour later is even more aesthetically matchless.