Work Header

Death & Taxes

Chapter Text


This is a story about a man named Bucky Barnes (and his wristwatch).
Bucky Barnes was a man of infinite numbers  endless calculations and remarkably few words (his wristwatch said even less).
Every weekday, for 12 years, Bucky would brush each of his 32 teeth 76 times. 38 times back and forth. 38 times up and down.
Every weekday, for 12 years Bucky would tie his tie in a single Windsor knot instead of the double thereby saving up to 43 seconds (his wristwatch thought the single Windsor made his neck look fat  but said nothing).
Every weekday, for 12 years  Bucky would run at a rate of nearly 57 steps per block for 6 blocks barely catching the 8:17 Brooklyn bus. (His wristwatch would delight  in the feeling of the crisp wind rushing over its face).
And every weekday, for 12 years  Bucky would review 7.134 tax files as a senior agent for the Internal Revenue Service, only taking a 45.7-minute lunch break  and a 4.3 Minute coffee break  timed precisely by his wristwatch.
Beyond that, Bucky lived a life of solitude.
He would walk home alone.
He would eat alone.
And at precisely 11:13 every night, Bucky would go to bed.
Placing his wristwatch to rest on the nightstand beside him.
That was, of course, before Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Bucky's wristwatch changed everything.

If one had asked Bucky, he would have said that this particular Wednesday was exactly like all the Wednesdays prior. And he began it the same way he--

Bucky stops brushing his teeth, looking around in confusion before resuming. 

And he began it the same way he always did.

He stops brushing again, staring at his toothbrush, 'hello?” he holds the toothbrush to his ear and shakes it slightly then shakes his head and resumes brushing. 

He began it the same way he always did. When others' minds would--

He stops brushing again, looking around the bathroom in consternation, “hello? Is someone there?” he resumes brushing, a baffled look on his face. 

When others' minds would fantasize about their upcoming day  or even try to grip onto the final moments of their dreams  Bucky just counted brushstrokes.

As the voice continues, Bucky looks more and more lost, before spitting into the sink. “All right, who just said, ‘Bucky just counted brushstrokes’? And how do you know I'm counting brushstrokes? Hello?” 

It was remarkable how the simple, modest--

Bucky pauses mid tying to glance around his bedroom. 

It was remarkable h--

He paused and glanced again. 

It was remarkable how the simple, modest elements of Bucky's life so often taken for granted  would become the catalyst for an entirely new life.

Bucky ran for the bus, his stiff leather shoes making a terrible squeaking sound--

Bucky stops in the middle of the crosswalk to look at his squeaky shoes only to quickly resume running as his bus pulls up to the stop. 

--as they flexed against the asphalt. And though this was an extraordinary day  a day to be remembered for the rest of Bucky's life-- 

As he approaches, the bus pulls away. He turns to the only other person, a short elderly man with a thick moustache wearing square-rimmed aviator sunglasses who has also just missed the bus, and throws his hands up in annoyance at its receding form. 

--Bucky just thought it was a Wednesday.

Bucky turns to the other man, “I'm sorry, did you hear that? The voice. Did you hear it? ‘Bucky thought it was a Wednesday’?”

The man turns to him with a warm smile, “don't worry, it is Wednesday.”

“No, no, did you hear it? ‘Bucky just thought it was a Wednesday’?”

“Who the hell is Bucky?”

“I'm Bucky.”

“Bucky, it's okay, man, it's Wednesday.”

“No, no, I. Never mind.”

He walks through the office cube farm, one co-worker tries to stop him for a question and he doesn’t notice-- 

Bucky couldn't concentrate on his work. His thoughts were scattered. His mind elsewhere.

--then he runs into another almost knocking the overstuffed manila folder out of his hands. As he passes by two men talking, one reaches out and taps his shoulder, “--hold on a second. Hey, Buck, what's 3039.31 times 107.12?” 

When a coworker asked the product of 3039.31 and 107.12--

He glances up and glares, “you know what? I can't think while you're talking.”   

--he drew a blank.

The two men look at him, dumbfounded, “What?”
Bucky shakes his head to try and clear the confusion, “What?” 

Bucky quickly answered, '325.570.38'

“Oh, nothing. 325.570.38”. 

Despite the answer really being 325.570.89.

“Wait, wait, wait, 325.570.89. Sorry.”

In the file room, where Bucky has been standing, staring off into space for who knows how long, a handsome black man with broad shoulders and a lovely gapped tooth smile approaches.

“Dude, I just totally caught some insurance adjuster claiming his jet ski as a work vehicle!” the man laughs, “it is a shame that they don't give out an auditor of the year award.” As he approaches, his humor turns into a look of concern, “Dude? You okay?”

Bucky blinks out of his reverie, “Sam, I'm being followed.”

Sam looks around in confusion, “how are you being followed? You're not moving.”

Bucky, nearly whispers, “It's by a voice.”


“I'm being followed by a woman's voice.”

“Oh. Okay,” Sam looks bewildered, “What is she saying?”

“She's narrating.”


“She’s narrating.”

“Oh.” his eyebrows go up, “Bucky, man, you're staring at boxes, what is she narrating?”

“No, no, no. I had to stop filing. Watch. Watch. Listen. Listen,” he begins sliding the files, one by one, into the box.

The sound the paper made against the folder  had the same tone as a wave scraping against sand. And when Bucky thought about it  he listened to enough waves every day  to constitute what he imagined to be a deep and endless ocean.

Bucky stops filing and looks at Sam expectantly, “Did you hear that?”

“You mean you filing?”

“No, no, no, the voice!”

Sam crosses his arms, worry etched on his features, “No.”

Bucky’s face takes on a wistful look, “frightening part is sometimes I do imagine a deep and endless ocean.”

“What ocean?”

“The one made by the sound--” Bucky looks down at the files then shakes his head, “forget it.”

A woman approaches with two files, one is very thick, the other looks to only have a few sheets of paper. “New audits. Have a good day.”

“Thank you.” Sam takes the files from her, “all right, we got a baker and a securities trader.” He glances up at Bucky before holding out the thinner file, “maybe you should take the baker.”