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Portrait #70

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It had been exactly one year since Bucky Barnes agreed to go back to the States with Steve Rogers. Six months since he hopped back on the quinjet, met with cold stares and snide eyes, looked at Steve Rogers and said “I’m glad I’m doing this,”, with Steve Rogers smiling softly and saying back, “I’m glad that this is your choice, Buck.”

Steve lifted his hand to Bucky’s neck, and squeezed it lightly, initiating physical contact. They turned to look out the window of the quinjet, Wakanda slowly fading away, as the ocean overtook the landscape.

*

Bucky sat on the couch in his Brooklyn apartment. He flipped through the journal that he had read thrice over, and looked at the clock, again. The place was empty, only to have the sounds of New York filter through the rooms from the thin warped windows that were placed right in front of the brick building.

The apartment had always technically been Steve’s -  since the beginning, since Sarah Rogers wrote it in her will. It sat there for those decades, with old notebooks underneath the floorboards, being hidden from the ever changing tides of time. When Bucky came back, that day three-hundred and sixty-four days ago, Steve handed him a worn leather journal.

“It was yours,” Steve sighed. “I, uh, was doing some renovations after the attack in New York. Found out they had been wanting to turn this place into a museum, and if Fury hadn’t told me that it was still standing, we would probably be standing in some gift shop, honestly,” Steve shrugged. “Anyway, this was underneath the floorboards. Your old bed was here, and I guess you hid this thing right before you went to bed...or before you went to war.”

“Thanks for keeping it,” Bucky held the book in his flesh hand - felt the dry fabric cracking onto his skin - feeling that it was real.

“I didn’t look in it,” Steve quickly said, like it was something that he made sure to remind himself.

“I didn't accuse you,” Bucky bounced the book in his hand, laughing slightly.

“Just want to make sure you know. Not sure what type of stories are in here,” Steve laughed.

“Even with the shit memory, I completely forgot about this. Thanks, Steve.”

“Anytime, Bucky.”

Bucky kept the journal by his nightstand for months, letting the suspense grow of what exactly was in the book. After five months living in the apartment, practically alone, Bucky was fed up with the incessant anxiety of not knowing. One night, he found himself gently untying the journal. He flipped open the cover slowly,being sure not to open to fast to break anything. The pages were browned, and crinkled from moisture, but the ink and pencil scratches were still there after all those years. Bucky dragged his metal fingers across the page, longing for the feeling of normalcy.

Bucky started to read, and read, and read, flipping each page carefully. Afternoon turned into evening, which turned into night, and soon, the only light that was filtering though his windows were from the street lamps. Bucky tensed when he heard the front door jiggle, and he immediately reached for the small pocket knife stashed in his shoes. The door turned and it was -

Steve.

For the past six months, Steve didn’t live in his apartment. Most times he stayed in Sam’s new place. It never felt like home to him, granted nothing really did. For Steve to be honest with himself,  home was sometimes seventy some odd years back, or sometimes in the middle of nowhere.

Sometimes it was with Bucky, after he came back from the presumed dead.

It was hard to say.

Steve felt bad staying with Sam for a good portion of the week. Sam tried to argue that it was better for work for their jobs as Not-Avengers they could just go from apartment to quinjet - however, no matter how many times Sam insisted it was okay, Steve felt like he was intruding.

“I agree you gotta give him space, but you also can’t abandon your friend. He’s not quarantined,” Sam shrugged as he sat down on his couch, changing the TV channel to some lackluster baseball game.

“So, should I just hang out there, like I do with Natasha?”

“Yeah, Steve, it’s not that difficult,” Sam cocked an eyebrow. “Hang out. Watch TV. Talk about the girls you used to...what’s the phrase? Cut a rug with?” Sam laughed.

Steve sighed in frustration. “We didn’t really use those phrases. Stark’s father did, but I was pretty outside the crazy slang game.”

“Okay, back on the topic at hand. Don’t abandon him. He’s been abandoned before, so we don’t particularly want that.”

Steve nodded his head, and sat down next to Sam. “Yeah, I just. I just don’t know what to do.”

“Not for you to figure out, man.”

“Hand over the remote,” Steve took a sip of the seltzer.

“What’s wrong with the Nationals?”

“They suck. Choose any other team that is playing, and at least they can score better than .”

“I liked you better when you only semi-recently knew that the Dodgers moved to L.A.”

*

Steve made it so that he could see Bucky three or so times a week. Agreed upon by both parties.

“You sound like those assholes in Washington,” Bucky said, as he set up plates on the kitchen island for the both of them. Steve barked a laugh, as he swirled the sauce in the pan, letting the steam rise and the fresh smell fill the apartment.

“What are you making tonight...and for what occasion? This all seems too fancy for just another one of our ‘ agreed upon visiting hours ’” Bucky sat down on the stool, sipping on some water.

“First of all, that sounds like you’re in prison, which you are not. You just choose to stay in this place all the time, only going as far as a one block diameter around this neighborhood. You should come with me to Sam’s one night. He’ll be fine. He knows you.”

“He knows me as the guy with the metal arm who ran around an airport with him battling a kid.”

“That’s bonding time well spent, I think.”

“Barely,” Bucky rolled his eyes.

“I’m making sautéed brussel sprouts with honey, and I’m going to garnish it with goat cheese, and in the oven I have a roasted pork going in the oven. For your 6 months back in the States.”

“When did you learn all of this?” Bucky leaned onto the counter.

Steve took the hot pan off the stove and left it on the pan holder to cool off slightly, and he sprinkled some goat cheese over the greens to let the cheese melt softly. “After the Battle of New York, and most likely before, I felt empty. I stood at my window, looking down at the city moving on by, and...I needed to do something with my hands. Needed to make myself feel as though I was engaging with the world. So,” Steve put the pan on the kitchen island, and opened the oven, letting the smoke plume out. Steve coughed slightly, and waved at the smoke to try and let it disperse.

“Did you burn the pork?”

“I didn’t burn the pork.”

“You absolutely burned the pork.”

When Steve left for the evening, after the slightly burned pork and the perfectly cooked brussels, Bucky sat down at his desk. He wanted to do something he hadn’t in a long time.  

A blank piece of paper, some sharpies, some watercolors. He let his metal arm work with the fine lines, and his flesh to take up the more creative aspects. He felt at ease. Taking a break, Bucky opened up the window, letting the air drift in, catching the back of his neck every once in a while.

It took him around an hour to complete what he drew. He forgot he was able to - in all honesty - draw. The technology that Wakanda offered was nothing short of a miracle, but sometimes he felt as though his own brain was stopping things from coming through. There was something stopping him from remembering, but even though he forgot how to draw, he didn’t forget to place the phrase “#70” in the bottom left corner.

He leaned back in the wooden chair, closing his eyes slightly. The wind picked up just enough to float through his window.

Just enough wind to pick up his loose drawing, and let it slip into the alleyway of Brooklyn.

*

Bucky forgot about the drawing, but didn’t forget about well, drawing . Steve was correct in the assumption the need to do something. That night when he drew, he forgot about the loneliness, his empty apartment.

His tired life.

Bucky collapsed on his couch, pulling up the messaging app on his phone, and hovered over Steve’s name. He was going to text him. Going to ask what he can do, but he knew Steve and felt as though that he would just tell him those open ended statements that he tells his fans all the time.

Do what you think is best.