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Music, sort of happened organically.

There were lots of things the Winchesters had had to show him. Probably lots of things they’d still have to show him in future. But not music. It was a staple in this place. A constant. 

Though it had taken him some time to realize it.

The Bunker, as they called it, was almost never silent. Not the way he’d first thought it was. At first, he’d thought it was just the shush of air moving, or the click of an old machine. Largely silent, with occasional quiet interruptions. But, he’d come to learn there was more . There was always music. He’d already figured out that the three siblings had completely different tastes in music and volume level. 

Whether it was the whisper quiet, to his sharp ears at least, music from Charlie’s headphones as she bounced down the hall with her eyes closed and her arms in the air. Or Sam, hunched over a book or his laptop, his own music playing quietly from the laptop speakers. Or Dean, doing whatever it was he did out in the garage with the music cranked up so that Bucky could almost hear what the words were through the walls

If one of the Winchesters was near, there would be music. And it was… a reassurance . That people could still take pleasure in something so simple. 

And he wanted that simple pleasure back .

But how to get it?

In the end, he blurted the question out at dinner.

In hindsight, maybe blurting “How do I find music I like?” might have come off as a bit rude. He ducked his head, hiding behind the curtain of his hair. “... sorry, that… that was rude.” 

Please don’t be mad .

Dean slowly put down his fork. “Finding music shouldn’t be too hard. We can show you. But how do you want to listen? I use cassette tapes mostly because… well, because. I use an mp3 player too. So does Sam, as well as his laptop. And Charlie’s got everything on her phone and tablet. Are you wanting to use headphones? Or have it play open air? Or what?” 

Thinking of Charlie’s big ear phones, Bucky was already shaking his head. “I don’t…. I don’t want anything on my, on my head. It’d feel too much like…” Memories of lancing pain, muscles drawn too tight, and a throat hoarse from screaming flitted through the back of his head. His throat closed and Bucky dropped his eyes back to his plate. “No. I can’t.”

“That’s fine.” Sam soothed. “We’ve all got our hangups. What about these, think these’d work?” He pulled coiled wire from his pocket and pushed it across the table. Bucky hesitantly took them. They had a jack on one end, and little phones on the other. He’d seen these before. Lots of people used them. And they wouldn’t feel restrictive. Not like Charlie’s big set. These would be incredibly easy to pull off if he started to panic.

“These could work.”

Charlie's smile could've lit up the room as she beamed at him. She was always happy for him when they figured out a way past his troubles. She fished a small device from her pocket and slid it across the table to him. "That's an mp3 player. I can get one for you if you like. Most people like to keep their music on their phones, but this way if you have to ditch the phone you don't lose all your music. I had to learn that one the hard way. And these things'll hold a lot of music."

Which… yeah, that made sense. 

It would suck if he had to start over from scratch again and again. He gave a grateful little nod and pushed the player back to her. He liked how compact it was. But…

"...but how do I find music? I don't, I don't even remember what I… what I liked before…" 

Charlie grinned. "I can help with that."


 

Two hours of music yielded nothing but frustration. 

They had started with music from the thirties and forties. Which he had liked! But, at the same time, it made him feel as if he was wrong somehow. Like his skin wasn't fitting properly. So, Charlie had tried playing some of her music. It was alright, he supposed, but after listening to stuff from his own time he was antsy, and her music was too lively to be soothing. He'd called it quits after just thirty minutes.

It was not a very heartening start to his quest to reclaim music for himself.

But, the one positive thing that had come from it was that Charlie had introduced him to youtube. Now he could look for music on his own. She’d helped him set up an account so that he could favorite songs he liked and make playlists. A little bit of googling gave him genre names. So… he methodically started looking through them one at a time. 

And… they all made him feel

But they made him feel different things. It was confusing. Some made him feel like dancing. Though he wasn’t sure if he even could dance, but some songs made him want to at least try. Some just made him sad. Some brought a sense of... fondness , but he couldn’t fathom why . He’d never heard the songs before so what was there to be fond of? He couldn’t understand any of it! 

And it was frustrating

For days he didn’t touch the laptop they’d gotten for him. Too frustrated and disheartened to try. But slowly the frustration outweighed the sadness. He would not quit. 

He was reclaiming this for himself, and he wouldn’t stop until he did!


 

He picked a genre from his list at random and played the first song that came up.

It was ok at first.

Then the man started talking. Singing? He wasn’t sure what to call that, if he was being honest. But it was fast paced and had a strong beat. Something stirred in his gut. Something nervous and uneasy. And it only got stronger. 

Bucky shuddered and clicked out of the song.

He tried another.

And another.

The uneasy feeling in his gut just got worse. It ballooned up inside until it was pressing at his lungs. Until Bucky could barely breathe with the pressure of it and his chest ached with it. 

Rap got crossed off his list.

 

Rap


 

The second he tried ‘Screamo’, memories assaulted him. 

Men standing over him. Laughing, jeering. Fists cuffed him almost casually as they talked amongst themselves. Boots caught his ribs. He remembered whips. Chains. 

Brutality.

Pain.

Bucky remembered begging for it to stop. Begging for mercy. But no matter how much or how “prettily” he begged, it never stopped. Never . Hell, sometimes it just got worse . But he always begged, because that was what they wanted. And it would only hurt more if he didn’t. And all the while, the music played from a boombox in the corner of the cell behind his tormentors.

“Death Metal” produced memories just as debilitating.

Both were scratched out with extreme prejudice, and he made a note of them in his journals so that he wouldn’t make the same mistake again. After some serious deliberation, he dutifully transcribed the memories the music had invoked. A memory was a memory. 

And his was too much like swiss cheese as it was.

Even if it was bad, he didn’t want to forget.

Never again. 

But he didn’t necessarily want to revisit them all that often either.

 

Screamo

Death Metal


 

The problem , he discovered, was that there were sub-genres .

There were a lot of them.

And he methodically plowed through them all one at a time. Some he liked. Some not so much. Some brought to mind images of smiling faces he didn’t know. Places he didn’t remember visiting. Gentle hands and vicious fists. Torture and pain, and anger and cold. 

Sometimes he had to take a break, because he would scream if he didn’t.

Or cry. 

Some days he thought he very well might do both.

And all of it, all of it, every single scrap of memory got jotted down as clearly as his poor mangled mind and shaking hand could manage. It wasn’t good. In fact most of it was shit straight from the darkest crevices of hell. Only occasionally did he have something good to write down. 

 

He filled an entire notebook.


 

Bucky started a list. 

A list of songs (or in a few cases, entire genres) that sent pain and terror shrieking through his head like deranged bats in a belfry. It was a dauntingly long list. And it set a curl of rage and frustration bubbling low in his gut every time he looked at it. 

Because it wasn’t fair .

Music was one of life's simple pleasures. Something Bucky wanted to take back for himself . And yet he couldn’t. Because that list was full of nothing but music that his tormentors used to play while they had their fun . Because there was so much pain tied to the music. Hydra tended towards certain genres, he noticed, but nothing was safe. Everyone had different tastes, and it ensured that he heard a lot of different music over the years. 

If you were going to go flay the flesh off a man’s back with a whip, might as well have music to listen to so you didn’t get bored.

 

It took a while, to learn that that list could be burned .


 

It was an accident, his revelation.

Bucky was pretty sure Dean would make that scrunched up face where he doesn’t know whether to be amused or offended if he knew that Bucky had ever applied that word to him. Even if it was just in his fucked up head where no one would ever know but him. 

Dinner was ready, and Charlie had asked him to go and get Dean from the garage. 

Bucky could hear the music before he even got there. It washed over him as soon as he opened the door, and it took a moment to register. 

“Taste me, you will see. More is all you need. Dedicated to how I'm killing you. Come crawling faster (faster). Obey your master (master). Your life burns faster (faster). Obey your. Master! Master!”

He froze. That song… that song ! It was one of the ones on his list! One of the songs that brought nothing but painPAIN PAIN

Raucous, sneering laughter and the rattle of chains skittered through Bucky’s memory. The smell of flesh burning stung his nose and the sense memory of electricity seared through his veins.

Cool cement bit into his shoulders and he curled into a ball on the floor.


 

For a millisecond, Dean mistook the yell for a part of the music.

Except he knew it wasn’t. He knew these songs backwards, forwards, and upside down. Knew every word, drum beat, and guitar riff. That yell had no place here. He spun away from the workbench, hand already going for a weapon. And his heart stuttered in his chest.

Bucky was on the floor. 

The man was curled up like a pill bug. Pressed back against the wall and shaking so hard Dean was waiting for the cement to fracture with the vibrations. Dean stowed his weapon and edged closer. This wasn’t something a knife could help. 

He wasn’t entirely sure what would, if he was being honest. The shit that Bucky had been through… 

Dean winced. 

No one could ever understand, could ever even begin to fathom the torture and torment he and Sam had experienced in hell. It had brought the two of them closer. And it had placed yet another insurmountable barrier between them and the rest of the world because no one would ever understand . Not even Charlie and Adam, having died but never been through the torture of the pits; for which Dean was profoundly grateful.

But… even though he’d never gone through what they had… and they all prayed that Bucky never would, because the man had been through enough… Even though he’d never been to hell, had never truly died, he’d had the next best thing. Endured seventy years of torture and mind fuckery and the deepest depravity mankind had to offer… 

No one could ever understand the Winchester brothers and what they had been through.

It turned their stomachs because Bucky Barnes very well might .

He approached Bucky slowly. There’d been incidents where Bucky had reacted badly to sudden movements. He didn’t always handle touch easily either. But, when he could handle it… when he could handle touch, it clearly helped. It was painfully obvious, even to Dean, that the man was touch starved. 

So… maybe…

“Easy Buck…” He muttered. “It’s just me… just gonna…” He carefully edged a hand under Bucky’s head. He’d clearly smacked it off the concrete when he’d dropped, and the skin had split in his hair a little back from the temple. A trickle of blood was dribbling down onto his face. A whimper was the only audible response as he leaned into Dean’s touch. 

Not the reaction Dean was hoping for but, what were you expecting Dean, a happy little tap dance ? Still, he didn’t come up swinging, so that was something. Might as well see if he could push a little further. 

It was a risk, but if it paid off…

He bit his lip. “Ok Bucky, you’re doing good. I’m gonna get you up, ok? Don’t freak out and break my nose or something.” He worked his arm further under Bucky’s neck and shoulders. The other went under his knees. 

Bucky didn’t take a swing at him.

“ ‘preciate it.” Dean muttered, and stood with a grunt… and staggered under the weight. “Jeezus… You got lead weights in your ass pockets or something? ...shit.” He stumbled out of the garage, the music echoing out after him. Bucky barely stirred. Didn’t even seem aware of the change in surroundings. Just stared at nothing with glassy eyes, tears sliding down his face. 

“Hey, bout time you two…” Charlie leaned around the door from the kitchen, and trailed off. The blood rushed out of her face at the sight of them. “Shit! Sam, get over here, Bucky’s hurt!”

“What?!” The loud clang of a pan on the stove heralded Sam’s arrival in the hall. 

“He’s ok, he’s ok. He had an episode and clocked his head on the cement.” Dean stepped right past them. “Sam give me a hand, dude weighs a shitload! Help me get him to the living room. Charlie, don’t let dinner burn. Last thing we need is a kitchen fire right now.”

“Right!” Charlie raced back into the kitchen.

Sam looped his arms under Bucky and gripped Dean’s wrists. The sharing of the load was oddly smooth as they hustled down the hall. “You said he had an episode. You know what set him off?”

“No idea. Didn’t even see it happen. Just heard a yell. Turned around and he was doing a pill bug on the cement and pulling a thousand yard stare.”

“You’re sure he didn’t just slip and hit his head?”

Dean shook his head. “Nothing to slip or trip on. And from what Clint says, it takes a lot more than a little bounce off pavement to get a super soldier’s attention. Something’s wrong. Here, get him on the couch. Great... Damn, should’ve asked Charlie to grab the kit from the kitchen…”

“Way ahead of ya!” Charlie dropped the tacklebox on the coffee table and dropped into the recliner. “So, episode? Why?”

“Don’t know. Have to ask him when he’s feeling better.” Dean grabbed some wipes from the kit and started to clean out the split in Bucky’s scalp. “Shit, I left the music and lights on in the garage. Go shut ‘em off?”

Sam patted Dean’s shoulder. “Got it. You look after him.” 

“Course.”


 

“...Everywhere is misery and woe. Pollution kills the air, the land and sea. Man prepares to meet his destiny, yeah…”

Singing.

Someone was singing. But… why? Bucky’s brow furrowed. For that matter, who? Where was he? Why was…?

A hand carded through his hair. It was rough and calloused, but strangely soothing despite it. And that tenor voice was warm and smooth above and behind him. It rolled on, thick and mellow and sure in the song. “Rocket engines burning fuel so fast. Up into the black sky so vast. Burning metal through the atmosphere. Earth remains in worry, hate and fear…” 

...Those words...

That song! That was one of the songs on the list! It, it was… 

...no flashback? 

The memory was there . Every painful , terrifying second of it. But… the warm voice sucked some of the fear away. There was no drum beat for the lash to fall to. No guitar to hum with the lighting crackle of the cattle prod… 

“...Freedom fighters sent out to the sun. Escape from brainwashed minds and pollution. Leave the earth to all its sin and hate. Find another world where freedom waits, yeah…”

“...Dean?” He craned his head back.

Dean was seated at the head of the couch, an earbud tucked in one ear and a laptop balanced on his knees. One hand clicked through whatever was on his screen, while the other kept carding through his hair. The hunter’s voice trailed off, and he looked down at Bucky with a smile. “Hey, there he is. How’re you feeling?”

“... like shit. But that’s par for the course… What happened?”

Dean shrugged and went back to clicking at his computer. “Not sure. I was working in the garage. Don’t know when you got there, but you couldn’t have been there long.”

“No… Charlie. She, she sent me… Dinner was ready.” He pushed himself upright, a hand coming up to cradle his aching head.

Dean let him. “Yeah. All I know is I was jamming out and working on one of the bikes, and the next thing I know there’s a shout and you’d cracked your head on the garage floor… wanna fill me in?”

Bucky ducked his head. “It… it was the music.”

Dean sat up straighter. He pulled the bud out of his ear and set the laptop aside. “The music?”

“Yeah.” Bucky curled in on himself. He’d heard Charlie describe embarrassing situations as ‘wanting the earth to open up and swallow’ her’, but hadn’t ever really understood the sentiment until now. Now he got it. “I… they used to… to to to to play music… they, they played it while they… while they…”

“...while they hurt you.” Dean finished. “... Yeah, I could see where ‘Master of Puppets’ would appeal. I’m sorry. I didn’t know. I won’t play it again.”

“But… you love your music.”

“Yeah. But it’s not worth you gettin’ hurt. Any other trouble songs?”

Bucky winced. “...yeah. I… I have a, a list.”

“Could you show me?”

A delicious smell tickled his nose and his stomach gave a loud rumble in answer. Bucky ducked his head, his cheeks coloring. “After dinner?”

Dean snickered. “After dinner. Come on, Charlie and Sam have been keeping it warm for us.”


 

Bucky scowled.

Dean had gone back to the garage after dinner. With a copy of Bucky’s list of bad songs in hand. And it’d been quiet . Dean in the garage was never quiet. It’d be like saying Captain America was meek and wishy washy. An impossibility. 

Bucky had finished putting away the dishes, and gone to check.

Aside from the occasional click or clang of tools on metal, the garage was silent as the tomb. The boombox stood mute sentry on the end of the workbench. Dean’s prize collection of cassette tapes neatly stacked in a cardboard box and stowed under a shelf. And Dean...

“Son of a bitch!” Dean carefully unhooked the ear bud wire from where it’d gotten caught and shoved the bud back in his ear.

Bucky turned on his heel and stalked back down the hall to his room. There he paced, unable to dispel the nervous energy. He finally skidded to a stop and threw himself down on the bed, reaching for his laptop. 

It wasn’t fair.

Dean loved his music. And like hell was Bucky going to let those complete and utter bastards take the music from Dean too.

He was gonna figure this out if it killed him.


 

Could it really be so simple?

 

It couldn’t be…


 

...yeah, apparently his brain really was that stupid. 

Change the voice, or the music. Change something about the song. And his dumbass brain didn’t… it didn’t not see it as a threat per say. But it gave him just enough distance that he didn’t screech to a complete mental shutdown in half a second flat. 

So there was that.

It wasn’t much. But it was something .

As Stevie used to stay, ‘it’s a start’.

 

...At least, he was pretty sure Steve used to say that.


 

Google was a godsend .

Bucky defied anyone to say otherwise. Well… ok, the company pulled some shady shit, but being able to find any information he needed in a matter of minutes was fantastic . Granted, he’d had to wade through a lot of crap after typing in ‘song variant’ and ‘song with different artist’. Once he started refining search terms though?

Oh, that was a different ballgame. 

He’d learned more about music than he’d have ever thought possible. ‘Covers’ had been an exciting discovery. Absolutely perfect for what he needed. Some of them even changed the style! The less like the original the voice or style was, the more distance he had. 

He actually liked ‘Enter the Sandman’ and ‘Nightrain’ when he wasn’t having a flashback or having a fucking panic attack. 

‘Mashup’ was another term he learned. It was actually kind of neat, seeing the way two different songs could be melded to make something new. And ‘Medleys’ ! Medleys pulled together even more songs! So many songs that shouldn’t have blended as well as they did as they went smoothly from one to the next. Which was how he discovered one of his favorite new words. 

Acapella ’. 

Singers who sang without accompaniment. Who used their voices in place of instruments, and wove tight harmonies reminiscent of barbershop quartets or the Andrews sisters. Which probably had something to do with why the style made the trigger songs less threatening. He had good associations with those styles.

He still liked the Andrews sisters, even after all these years. And barbershop quartets? Singing with Stevie and two other fellas now and again was one of the good memories. On bad days, he liked to go back to those pages in his journal and re-read them. Someday, he’d work up the courage to talk to Steve. And one of the first things he’d ask was what those other two fellas names had been. ‘Cause they deserved to be remembered. It pleased him to no end, to know that barbershop was still around.

Sometimes, he wondered if Steve had found a new quartet to join.

Probably not, the stubborn punk.

Bucky smirked as he put another song on the player Charlie had gotten for him. Then he put a single, heavy line through another song title on his list. He took an almost vindictive glee, putting a strike through those triggers. They weren’t gone. Not by any means. But he’d found a loophole.

He could work with that. 

Now he just needed a little help. 

“Dean?”

Dean looked up from the cutting board and paused. Bucky had edged into the room. He was dressed in his most comfortable pair of jeans, and a dark navy blue hoodie; hiding behind his hair. 

Dean had been skeptical, when Charlie had insisted on getting that hoodie for Bucky, because “...it’s got a sherpa lining Dean! Trust me! If we get this in, like, three sizes bigger than he needs? This will be his favorite thing to wear for sheer cuddleable-ness !” She’d been right. Bucky wore it a lot . To be fair, that sherpa shit was soft . Oversized like it was, it was like he was wearing a blanket or something. What did they call those things…? Snuggies?

Off topic.

Focus Dean. 

He’s waiting

TALK DEAN!

“Bucky? What’s up?” Great, ok, that was alright. Bucky even looked like he relaxed, just a bit. Good. Keeping his head ducked, the assassin shuffled closer and… offered him a box? 

Dean set the kitchen knife aside and grabbed up a towel to wipe his hands. “What’cha got there?”

“Sam… Sam helped me, helped me make them…” Bucky peeked from behind his hair, then held the box out again. But a little more insistent this time.

“Ok…” The box was a shoebox. A little beat up but still serviceable. It wasn’t sealed. Dean checked Bucky, just to make sure, then flipped open the lid. His eyebrows shot up his forehead. It was filled with neatly stacked cassette tapes. All of them were clearly homemade. All in a nondescript generic plastic case, a tidy handwritten label on each one. 

He could feel Bucky’s eyes on him.

“Bucky… what are these?” He plucked one of the tapes out, his eyebrows shooting up again at the list of songs on the case. “Buck?! ...why are you giving me a cassette tape full of songs from your list?”

Bucky ducked his head lower, scuffing his foot. “Because you love them.”

“And I told you, I won’t play them. My liking the songs aside, it’s not worth fucking you over every time I get an itch.” He flipped the lid closed and offered it back with a smile. “I appreciate this. I do . But I won’t hurt you.”

Bucky took a deep breath. “Dean… please... Trust me?”

Well… shit. 

Ok then. He opened the box again, looking through the tapes to see what all were in there. There were all of his favorite bands. All his favorite songs. Lots and lots of songs that were on Bucky’s list.

“Alright. What’d you have in mind?”

“Your player… it still in the, the garage?”

“Yeah. You want me to toss one in?”

“Please.” 

Dean grinned and tucked the box under his arm. “Well alright then. Let’s go.” He took the lead, Buck didn’t like having someone at his back. Sam said he’d confided in him once that his handlers liked to stand behind him, just outside his peripheral. Talking in his ear. Bucky never said it, but odds were pretty good his handlers had probably hit him from behind too. 

The boombox was still where he left it.

Dean picked a tape at random from the box. A quick check, to see which side it’d been wound to, and popped it in. His finger hovered over the play button. “You sure?”

Bucky motioned for him to go ahead.

Dean hit play.

“Hey hey mama said the way you move. Gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove…”

It was ‘Black Dog’, but not any version he’d ever heard. The vocal artist was female for a start. She had a good set of pipes though. Really did justice to the song. ‘Black Dog’ wasn’t exactly a song you could just half-ass…‘Black Dog’ was also on the list!

Dean’s head snapped up.

Bucky was still on his feet. Was still watching. He seemed to be waiting for Dean’s reaction. And the tiniest smile twitched his lips at Dean’s surprise. He nodded towards the boombox. 

“I don’t… I don’t panic . Not, not, not if… if it’s, it’s different.” He gestured at the box. “Those are… are safe… I won’t panic.” His jaw hardened, and his head took on a defiant tilt. “ Fuck them. They, they took it from me... I won’t… I won’t let them take the music from you too.”

Son of a bitch, this guy

Dean grinned. “That’s the spirit.” He jerked his head, motioning him closer. “Wanna hang out? Raise the roof off this place?”

Bucky ducked his head. “Just...just for a little bit…”


 

The music was soothing.

Bucky tipped his head back, his eyes drifting closed as he listened to the soft instrumental coming through the headphones. Instrumental covers were another happy discovery he’d made. They were even less threatening than the usual covers. Scott Davis’ covers were particular favorites. He liked ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and ‘Hotel California’. At the moment, he was listening to a song called ‘White Wedding’. He’d never heard of it before, he’d just downloaded the album because he liked the renditions of some of the other songs he was familiar with. He’d have to look up the original later. See what it sounded like. 

Who knew, maybe he’d like it.

Another advantage he’d found to wearing earbuds, was the added situational awareness and the flexibility it afforded him. If he kept the music turned down, he’d found he could be out in the public areas. So long as he had a wall to his back, at least. So long as he could hear his surroundings over the music.

Baby steps. 

Faintly, he could just hear the pounding of Dean’s music down the hall. Not loud enough to tell what song was playing, but enough to know Dean was rocking out in the kitchen. 

A particularly loud crescendo almost got him to an understandable level.

Across the room, Sam sighed and put his book away. Muttering about ‘noise ordinances’, he stalked off towards the kitchen. But he was smiling as he went. So he couldn’t be too annoyed with Dean. It was just more of the brother’s usual sniping. 

Charlie snickered. “They argue like an old married couple, don’t they?”

They did. They really did. And it was all the funnier because of it. Bucky ducked his head to hide a grin as he made a note in his music list. 

The music from the kitchen had been turned down. But the bickering had picked up to make up for the lack. The sound was almost as comforting as the music. And he liked it. All was right with their small little world again. After all…

… the bunker was never meant to be quiet.


 

Steve Rogers frowned at his email.

It was an email address he’d never seen before. And he’d almost deleted it as spam. But… the sender. Something about the sender’s address was so familiar, and he just couldn’t put his finger on it…

JB32557038NY@WVL.Net

The connection hit him like a bolt of lightning from the sky. 32557038! That was Bucky’s serial number! JB for James Barnes and NY for New York! Holy hell, had Bucky finally opened up a line of communication?!

Steve clicked on it without hesitation.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BH2CqE5mNQ

 

That was all it was.

Just a link. Nothing else. Steve almost clicked on it before common sense stayed his hand. Much as he hated it, he had to think logically. Bucky’s name and serial number weren’t common knowledge, but they were a part of public record. Anyone could find it if they were really intent on it and willing to do the legwork. And he’d gotten a lecture more than once about clicking on links and the viruses they could lead to.

“Friday, could you check this link please? Make sure it doesn’t lead anywhere bad?”

“Sure thing Captain. One moment.”

The seconds ticked by at the usual rate, but to Steve they seemed to drag. He put a hand on his knee to remind himself not to bounce it. Not that it seemed to help, but he got points for trying right?

“The link is clean Captain.”

“Thank you.”

He clicked the link… and then stared in confusion when it led to a Youtube video. It featured a… a barbershop quartet? Steve hadn’t even known barbershop quartet was still a thing! But, there they were, apparently at some sort of competition. And having the time of their lives from the looks of things. 

Steve snickered at the crack about Gandhi. Then barked a laugh when the group sassed the judges as part of their routine. And the crowd was eating out of their hands. He’d be interested in knowing how they did in the competition. He’d have to ask Friday. 

It felt good to laugh.

And it felt good, knowing Bucky was still out there. That he still remembered. How much was something of a question, but he did. Steve had made a throwaway comment once about his barbershop quartet. But none of the Avengers had taken it seriously. They’d thought he was joking. He hadn’t been. The quartet hadn’t met up often, but they’d had fun when they did, and were well received in various businesses around Brooklyn. 

But Bucky? 

Bucky would know, because he’d been part of it. He’d know how important it had been to them. How singing with Liam and Elijah had been a bright point in an otherwise hard life. They’d… hell, they’d sung with him at his Ma’s funeral. Toora Loora Loora. The same lullabye she’d sung to him for as far back as he could remember. 

And it was the song he’d sung to her when the TB had taken her to her bed. He’d had to keep his distance, his shitty immune system putting him in danger of catching it. But he’d sung to her from a distance. And they’d sung with him at the funeral when he sang to her for the last time. They’d also been the ones to drag him out to sing again when his grief threatened to overwhelm him. 

He owed the three of them a lot. He’d never been as close to the other two as he’d been to Bucky. They were friends. Bucky was a best friend and brother. But they’d all had a hand in his life and who he’d become. Bucky’s life had been somewhat documented due to his connection to Captain America. He didn’t even have any photos of Liam and Elijah.

And no way to get one, it’d been so long ago.

But… still. Why had Bucky sent this? And why now? He picked up his tablet again and started drafting a reply to the email. God, there was so much he wanted to say…

“Captain, you should be aware that that email address is no longer active. The email was sent, and the account was deactivated immediately after.”

Damn it. “Can you tell where the sender was when they made the account and sent the email?” Steve asked. 

“I’m afraid not Captain. Not without a lot more digging. Whoever it was went to a lot of trouble to hide their tracks. Would you like me to pursue this?”

It was on the tip of his tongue to say ‘yes’. 

But… if Bucky had wanted to talk, he wouldn’t have deactivated the account. Steve needed to respect that, much as he didn’t want to. It was enough that Bucky remembered. That he’d acknowledged that and his connection to Steve. Steve had to be patient, and wait for Bucky to be ready.  But god it was hard.

He switched back to Youtube, and played the video again. 

The account that had posted the video was completely dedicated to barbershop quartets. So far as he could tell, it was the official account for the contest. He started clicking through videos of other songs the group had done, and then other contestants. 

With the music playing in the background, Steve settled in to sketch. He hummed as he worked, familiar eyes took shape in the graphite. Familiar hair. Smiles he hadn’t seen in decades. Old patched clothes, and arms looped around shoulders. 

 

...if said sketch looked suspiciously like his old quartet, well, that was his affair.

 

"...Over in Killarney, many years ago. My mother sang a song to me in tones so sweet and low. Just a simple little ditty, in her good ould Irish way. And I'd give the world if she could sing that song to me this day. Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Too-ra-loo-ra-li, Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral..."