The sky was grey. It was cold and dark and the rain falling onto the pavement smelled dirty and hot. The air was humid and it felt as though each inhale of air stuck to his lungs, like he was drinking it. The rain looked much the same as the rest of the sky, grey, dull and lifeless. Emotionless.
It was dark, even when the sky was cloudless it still seemed faded, almost old, like the warn pages of a book. The gravel beneath his feet crunched and ground under the heavy tread of his combat boots, small bits of cement and rocks getting kicked out from under his even steps or wedged between the grooves in the bottom of his shoes. The sound mixed quietly with the sound of rain hitting the tin roofs above him, clicking and dripping off the edges onto the streets and crooked sidewalks, long overdue to be repaired. The water ran over the edges of the roofs and into the dips in the cement, pooling and splashing as he walked. His pants were damp at the bottom, much like his boots, the water soaking into the thin, black material of his clothes.
He paid little mind to any of it. The sound was easily drowned out in comparison to the loud buzzing in his head from his thoughts, the colors blurring together in a bland smear of whites and grey’s. Color had always been too complicated, it was easier to block it out. His eyes were focused forward, the direction of his current destination, that’s all he needed to focus on, where he was going.
A car passed by speedily, the wheels spinning and the engine startling enough to make Bucky cock his head to the side in a quick jerky motion, the dark circles beneath his tired and sleepless eyes contrasting poorly with his blue irises, not that he could tell them apart beside the slight contrast in brightness.
To Bucky's displeasure, he car sent wet, molded leaves and muddied water splashing onto the sidewalk in front of him.
He stopped and waited silently for them to pass before continuing, managing to find a way around the muck.
His face was near expressionless as he passed shop windows, nearly all wreaking of stale alcohol, something he wasn’t fond of, or with a simple and pathetic CLOSED sign hanging lopsidedly from their door or window outside. His reflection was hard to look past in the light and he found it rather difficult to look into the actual buildings instead of at himself through the glass. At least without stopping, something he didn’t want to do.
His eyes were dull and tired, his lips dry and seemingly most comfortable in an emotionless expression, his tongue darting out occasionally to try and dampen his lips, though his mouth felt dry even in the damp, humid air. His throat burned for something too drink but he'd finished his last water bottle yesterday and he didn't have any options other than to ignire it and keep walking, despite his heavy and tired legs. His hair was tangled slightly, long and messy, tied back in a sloppy ponytail. He wore a heavy, army green jacket, the sleeves rolled up to fit him, the pockets filled with wrappers, granola bars, paper, a pen, various things like that, mostly long forgotten and discarded there. Beneath it was a loose, red shirt, the fabric warn and stained but still holding up well enough. Finally, his only real possession besides his torn and weathered notebook, pages tearing and aging, was a backpack. It was large, just large enough that if he managed to pull back the rusted and broken zipper all the way he could fit his extra shirt, his notebook, food and water that were usually snack food and bottled water from a vending machine and then his map in it. It was heavy made and the fabric was rough and thick. He carried it over both shoulders, one of the straps starting to wear through, but not enough to be alarming, and then the two straps were brought together and clipped around his middle so he didn’t leave it somewhere, so someone didn't take it. It was safe like that. He was safe like that. It did give a sense of security.
Eventually he found himself on the right street, the sign confirming that, the sides of the road lined with tall buildings and business looming over him, casting long, dark shadows. It was quiet here and he was alone. There was thunder crashing in the distance to accompany the cool rain hitting his exposed skin and soaking his clothes, but besides that there wasn’t a single car passing, and not a single person on foot around him. It was odd, and unsettling but he kept walking anyways, still treading forwards.
The more he walked, his breathing only slightly elevated from walking so much so quickly, eyes scanning over the names and numbers of the buildings as he searched, it almost seemed as though the street was narrowing. The buildings seemed to only grow in height and the streets narrowing in width, slowly closing in around him. It seemed impossible at first but the more he walked the more that seemed to be the case.
He stopped after a moment, both feet tired and wet, planted firmly to the ground, staying put in the middle of the street as he looked down the winding road ahead of him. It didn't matter where he stood considering he was utterly alone. What had seemed to only be a block or two more before the end of the street, seemed now to wind on forever, a series of sharp and jagged turns, descending slowly into a darker place, too black to see. There were no street lights there like there were here, it was just purely black, there was less than the nothing that was here.
Bucky could feel the familiar jolt in his muscles throughout his hands, both reaching up to grip the straps of his backpack as his hands slowly began to shake, his fingers shaky and the palms of his hands slicked with sweat. His breathing echoed in his ears much like the thundering of his heart against his rib cage, like his voice bouncing off the walls of a cave. His legs were trembling too, though nowhere close to as bad as his hands. Still his feet stayed firmly planted, not willing to move, not able.
Panic was rising in his chest, causing his heart to race off beat and a lump to form in his throat like someone had stuffed something too large and hard to swallow down his throat. He never understood what caused that. Each blink, eyelashes brushing against the skin bellow his eyes and a heavy breath through his nose was seeming to close the space around him just a little bit more, still enough to make it terrifying. He shut his eyes tightly, as if the darkness enveloping him would protect him against the world around him, the things so desperate to harm him. It never rested, so neither did he.
His voice was cracked and dry like leaves being crushed over the heel of a boot after a warm autumn day, just before the snow. It was hushed too, trembling and soft like it was to fade into the sound of the cold and icy breeze blowing around him. “Go away, go away, go away,” he repeated the two, simple words repeatedly, never pausing, not moving, not opening his eyes. He grew louder as he repeated it, his words a ragged crescendo.
When he finally did open them, it was slow and suspicious, almost as if he wasn’t slow enough the world might catch him and swallow him whole. He forced his tired eyes open completely, body shaking and his lips still forming the words, despite the lack of sound falling from them. It only took a moment for him to realize the space was closed up around him, the buildings leaning in as if they were made of clay and they loomed over him like a cage, the bars too thick for him to escape and the gaps too small to let in the light he needed. The street seemed warped and almost, out of the corner of his eye like everything around him was sinking. Sinking down under a sea of ink black, reminding him of a newly paved street, the tar still drying and hot, melted.
His shoulders shook and he swayed slightly as the ground seemed to warp beneath him.
A hand touched his shoulder.
It was firm, though caution was clear through the feeling of the gesture and there was a voice to go along with the touch, distant, as if the person was trying to communicate from the other end of a tunnel.
The image around him crumbled. Within a few blinks it was as if nothing had ever changed at all, except there were people now. Not just one or two standing around or walking past him, but at least twelve or more, somewhat crowding him, staring. Then he saw the person in front of him, the person touching him.
He wore a worried expression, as far as Bucky could tell, though expressions and emotion never made sense to him, how a face could match something you feel when your thoughts are inside you and your expression was simply a skin. His brows were knit together and his lips were curved into a half frown.
“Um, Hello? Sir, are you okay?” The man asked, and probably not for the first time because Bucky's ears were ringing and everything still sounded odd and muffled.
Why would he be talking to him in the first place, why were there people staring at him, surrounding him? Did they want to hurt him? It seemed likely, the way they had appeared after a nightmarish event such as that, that they had followed him perhaps. Maybe they wanted to take him back, to where he used to be, where he left and swore to never go back to.
Besides the tremor running helplessly through his hands, clutching at the straps of his backpack, he was immobile. He was completely paralyzed in place, eyes wide and his breathing elevated. This happened often, though Bucky rarely remembered the entire thing after the fact, mostly remembering broken up pieces and scattered images and that odd, faint memory of being completely still. Joints stiff and aching. It was like watching a film and trying to get the character to do as you say, yelling at the screen despite the fact they'll never hear you.
His mouth gaped open, opening and closing somewhat like a fish, trying to find his words as breath escaped his lungs soundlessly. Eyes locked with the man in front of him, finally managing to take a step back in attempt to get away from this persons touch. He didn't like that this stranger had put his hand on him, that these people were most likely here for him, and that he wanted to keep him in place for them.
“Do you need me to call someone?” Another lady questioned from beside him. Call who? He didn’t like them looking, staring at him like he was on display, he wanted to be left alone, he wanted to slip by unnoticed and unbothered.
Another man walked closer and reached out to touch him and Bucky's heart raced, loud and uncontrolible. He let out a breathy “No,” before turning from the groups of people, varying in age, height and weight behind him as he took off running down the cold street, ignoring the shouts behind him as he headed the way he was aiming before. His legs felt light and shaky and his feet slipped up from under him several times under the wet and rocky ground beneath him, but he never stopped.
He didn’t like people, mostly because he didn’t understand them and more importantly he didn’t understand exactly what it was that separated him from everyone else. He never understood why he was treated differently because when he looked in the mirror, he thought he seemed the same as everyone else. He didn’t look any different, so he didn’t understand why everyone wanted to hurt him.
His eyes locked on a door once he recognized the sign and number outside. Here, he was supposed to be safe, at least for a few days, until one of the bad people showed up again.
It was large, the building looked like a series of small apartments built off the side of a large, stone church. The stained glass in the windows reflected the pattern into the puddles on the ground, rippling in the dirty water. There were seven stone steps that lead up to the building, cracked and chipped but clean. There were only four leading to the church, he noted absentmindedly. He had a special kind of fascination for detail, he managed to generally ignore or miss the large, and usually more obvious things, such as emotion and obvious characteristics and instead went straight to the smaller things, like the way they spoke, the way they walked, the way their eyes followed him, what was to him, important.
The building was lined with paint chipped tiles, a strange grey painted onto it, the Windows were all mostly drawn shut and only a few lights seemed to be on. He could feel a draft slipping by under the large, iron front door, it was cool but still significantly warmer than outside.
He hesitated before climbing the steps slowly, water cascading from the roof, running down the sides of the steps in small streams. He looked for a mat by the door to wipe his feet but found none so instead, he carefully pushed open the door, letting the heavy wood creek loudly, echoing in the narrow corridor leading to yet another door. A gush of air rushed past him as he stood there, his hair covering his vision for a moment.
He walked across the wooden floor cautiously, trying to memorize each spot for future reference. His shoes tracked in water and mud but he still found nowhere to clean them so he tread on. There were no lights in this room, only a small window from the door ahead of him, an odd light flooding through it onto a patch of floor Bucky minded to avoid.
Once he made it to the other door, he opened it with a click and let his eyes spill over the room before him. There were people in here, unsurprisingly, and no one seemed to shout in his head for him to get away from these people, so he managed to ignore the chattering in the back of his head warning him, and he continued to walk down a trail laid out down the center of the large hall. There were black, metal stairs in various places in the room, leading up and up to a series of doors and halls, undoubtedly leading to the apartment rooms he’d seen outside.
A few of the people looked at him but no longer than a second, none dressed better than himself. Most were playing chess or reading a book, but some simply sat there, alone or talking quietly to the person beside them. He avoided eye contact either way.
Bucky let out a shaky breath as his eyes scanned the room for someone of authority, he didn’t much like the idea of having to talk to these strangers, not after the group in the last place he stayed.
“Hello, you’re not currently staying here, are you?” Chirped a cheerful voice from behind him, causing his hands to snap to the bands of his backpack and him to turn quickly to face the girl, eyes wide. She was short, long blonde hair pulled back in a loose ponytail, her shirt cut a bit too low and she wore tight black pants, her skin was littered with small scars and freckles, her eyes bright and exciting, though Bucky was mostly filled with a sense of dread at the persistence and eagerness of her behavior so far. These were the kind of people that made him most nervous, usually. These were the people that had a knack for drawing attention to themselves and anyone around them.
He shook his head, eyes still wide but his lips stayed tightly pursed.
She giggled lightly and waved a hand for him to follow her to the front, that gesture he could understand at least, he hated the way people expected him to understand these cues, instead of words.
“Okay, come right this way, I’ll see what we can do for you darlin’,”
Bucky breathed out heavily through his nose and followed behind her, not wanting to be heard until absolutely necessary, he didn’t like being noticed or remembered, it made it hard to disappear when it all got to be a bit much. Overwhelming and loud and terrible.
She held up a clip board for him to see as she began to speak, her voice was high and squeaky and she spoke quickly. “Okay, so we don’t require pay but if you’ll be staying more than one night, we do require you pitch in to help around the place, t'keep it in order an such,” she explained with a proud grin. “Dishes, sweepin’, cooking, that sorta thing.”
Bucky whimpered tiredly at the idea of having to venture through these halls full of people with backgrounds no one knew and be made to interact. It made his heart pound at the thought alone. He nodded anyways. The one thing more terrifying than having to interact was saying no.
“Alright then, I’ll let you fill this out, just give me a holler if you need anything,” she giggled again, turning and leaving him after he accepted the clipboard from her hand, noticing her abnormally sharp fingernails.
He filled it out carefully, reading each question at least twice before answering, cringing slightly as he got to the question asking for his name.
He was Bucky. Bucky Barnes.
He hated having to write ‘James’, the name made him feel cold, his skin raising with goosebumps. It meant too many bad things. But it was the name he was given when he didn't remember things yet and it was scrawled out somewhere on some official document. He wrote it anyways.
He left it on the counter where the lady–he never got her name–had taken it from. After a while, the overly bubbly lady took him to a room. Second floor of four, only three vacant for housing though, and showed him to the door.
“It’s not huge but I’m sure it’ll be fine with you, let me know if you need anything, one bed, bathroom, table and chair, the simple accommodations, oh and breakfast at 6 AM sharp every morning.” Bucky nodded again, thanking her quietly before slipping into the room.
It wasn’t large, it was true, but he had it to himself, unlike the last place he stayed. There he had four other men, loud and intimidating men with a large builds and low voices that made him flinch nearly every time. He hated loud things.
The floor was wood, a different wood than downstairs and it wasn’t carpeted like the halls had been, which he didn’t mind since it had smelled like dirt and cigarettes and the smell of them always made his fingers tremble and his mind try to slip in that place he locked up in his head so he wasn’t hurt again, so those thoughts and memories wouldn’t overwhelm him like they liked to. The walls were light, but still dull with one window at the back, close to the bed, which he liked. It was shut and covered with musty and tattered curtains. The bed was a twin, with mismatched sheets and pillow covers. There was in fact a small desk-like table in the corner with a small lamp and a black office chair, the kind that had wheels.
He wandered around, mapping it out in his head, though there was only so much wandering he could do in his confined space. The bathroom reminded him of a cheap motel, there was a dirty tub with a leaking shower head, each drip splashing to the bottom of the tub with a quiet plop. The floor was tiled with various tiles, few matching and most broken, and the toilet never stopped running. There were two towels hung on a shelf by the sink right outside the bathroom, a hand towel and a bath towel and right now a warm bath wasn’t the worst idea that had struck him today.
The place made him uneasy and on edge, but it was still better than outside in the open. He didn’t want to spend a second night out there, he couldn’t. He could deal with the people, with the musty smell, the general anxiety of the place, if he had to, which for now, he did.
He sat down at the chair across from the desk, the wheels and gears making a squeaking sound in protest. He unclipped his backpack and swung it onto the table with a soft thud, dust spiraling upward off the table. He dug through it until he found three cheap plastic water bottles and his map. He re-folded the map neatly, working out the creases as best he could before setting it down next to the dusty and small lamp in the center of the desk. He then collected the water bottles and carried them to the sink, turning on the faucet handle with a C printed neatly on the side, it made several loud and awful clanking noises before it sputtered, the water tinted slightly from rust as it dribbled and spit from the spout, little water actually coming out. Bucky frowned, heaving a sigh as he lined the water bottles up on the sink and went to test the water in the tub. It too made an awful noise that made him cringe but the water came out full and clear so he moved to the tub, filled the bottles and went back to the desk, repacking them in his backpack and then checking his map of New York, several places marked in different widths and sizes of lines and shapes, some crossed out. He knew what each one meant and no one else did, so he was safe.
It didn't take long before Bucky was repacked and settled in, making sure it was all easily accessible if he needed, as he slid into bed still fully clothed. He had odd things he did to make himself feel safer, this was one of them and it didn't take long before he drifted to sleep, limbs heavy and tired and his heart steadying.
Chapter 2: Tiles and Ink.
More of Bucky interacting with people, but more from his point of view, how he sees, feels and expresses himself and his feelings toward people. Plus Steve.
The hall was long and winding, never ending, spiraling downwards, cold. There’s mold hanging heavy in the air, clinging to the walls and water dripping onto the floor from the damp atmosphere surrounding him. The floor is cold and rough against his bare feet, the busted up concrete scraping at the pads of his feet, blistering and bloodying them.
That’s how it feels to him, so that’s how it looks sometimes, other times it’s just a house, a dirty, cramped, cigarette bitter air, beer cluttered house. Funny how his head works. There’s a clock ticking in his head, it’s a timer really, the numbers cascading down quickly, that’s how long he guesses he has until the man returns home. Until his hands are all over his skin, until his lips are sucking and pulling at his own, until his voice is hoarse from screaming, and until his eyes burn from the never ending trail of tears streaming down his face. But, he never listens, he’s made it clear that he doesn’t care, because no matter what, Bucky's the least important thing here. He does not matter.
Bucky’s eyes snap open early, long before the sun had risen over the tall buildings shadowing the one he currently occupied, his heart was pounding fast and hard in his chest and he felt dizzy with panic.
It took him several moments to remember where he was. Desk, chair, lamp, single window, bed, home. He sunk back down into the stiff mattress, listening nervously to the springs creak beneath him like they might give out suddenly. Luckily, the sheets were warm and fairly soft because right now he felt absolutely frozen. His hands were trembling again even though he was trying to stop it, he couldn’t ever stop them once they started, he’d tried. There were bumps covering his arms as he shook, an odd and uncomfortable shiver wracking his body. He could feel the way his chest heaved with each shallow breath, eyes wide and his head throbbing.
He tried to find something safe and comfortable to hold onto but he hadn’t found anything to ground himself with in so long. Time and dates never made sense to him, but he liked numbers, he just simply didn’t understand the point of specific dates, much like a lot of things he didn’t understand and never had, things other people easily grasped.
He still never understood why he had been chosen to be so different, so targeted and hated and scared. He was scared. He was scared of people, scared of his dreams, of loud noises, of things he couldn’t understand or couldn't explain, scared of being noticed as someone different.
He’d given up on the idea of there being a God a long time ago. It seemed almost cruel for there to be one, he didn’t want to think about things worse than what he’d experienced, which would be someone that let it happen to him, that watched it all happen, that chose Bucky to be this person. Why would God do nothing? He didn’t see how one person should have to suffer so much and feel so utterly alien in a world he was born into when there was supposed to be a God giving forgiveness and being so pure and righteous. It wasn’t right, it wasn’t possible.
His eyes looked to the clock on the desk across the room, his vision was blurred from tears stinging his eyes, welling at the tear ducts and threatening to spill over and run down his soft skin. Still, after a moment of blinking the salty tears away he was able to focus enough to read the clock. 4:17 AM. He felt restless, he’d hoped it would be late enough he could do something, go to breakfast, clean, anything, instead he felt trapped.
Claustrophobia began to overtake him as he rocked himself back and forth on the creaking and shaky bed. He knew he wasn’t trapped, not really. There wasn’t a lock on his door keeping him in, he could move freely about the room if he chose to, but he still felt trapped, residue from his nightmare making it impossible to shake the feeling. He then turned to the only thing that ever helped him calm down from his dreams, the odd glistening memories, altered and twisted as they came when he slept. He counted.
He looked to the ceiling, something he’d yet to’ve looked at as he slowly sunk further down into bed, pulling the sheets up around him with shaking hands. He began to count the tiles on the ceiling, out loud so he was sure he was actually doing it, but just above a whisper. “One, Two, Three, Four,” Bucky took a deep breath in and held it with each pause.
He heaves out the breath through his nose, rushing the next three words as his eyes trace above him. “Five, six, seven,”
He continues like this for sometime until his hands are steady and his mind has settled and focused on one thing, and one thing alone.
Eventually, he’s counted all 45 tiles, several times, precisely enough that he manages to will himself back to sleep, something that only comes rarely and is overly welcome when it does.
When his eyes open again, it’s a tired and languid motion, sleep heavy eyelids struggling to stay open. He wakes up slowly, but aware. This time he’s not panting for air, he’s not rocking himself as he sobs, this time he knows where he is, what’s going on, and now what time it is as his eyes dance over the clock again.
His limbs feel heavy, but a good heavy, not a panic heavy. His muscles feel like jelly, sedated and wonderfully rested. He’d needed sleep more desperately than he needed real food, though now the gnawing pang of hunger ripping at his stomach was next on the list.
He sat up slowly, hair falling in his face, he could tell it was a mess. Once he wasn't so dizzy, like he sometimes gets, he swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood.
He tries to build himself a retinue whenever he can. If he has control, no matter what it’s over, it’s easier to handle.
He undresses in the bathroom with the light on and the door shut and locked. He carefully folds each piece of clothing and lines them up on the back of the toilet so he can easily reach them without getting them wet from the shower.
Both socks, shirt, jacket, pants, boxers, boots, two gloves.
He turned on the shower carefully, flinching at the loud rattle of the pipes before cold water poured from the shower head. He fiddled with the singular and rusty knob before getting it warm enough.
The water felt like heaven against his back, working out the aches in his muscles and most of the tension. The water pressure is harder than he’d expected but it’s not unwelcome.
Once he’d washed away the sweat and the dirt from his skin and the knots from his hair, he stepped out from under the spray and turned off the water. He dries himself off and wraps his hair in the towel as he dresses. He clips his backpack last.
Once he was done, he headed downstairs. He passed several people in the hall, a few say hello or good morning and Bucky tried to remember to be polite and at least nod at them in response but he still never makes eye contact.
The main floor, where he’d entered yesterday was nowhere near as quiet as it had been before. The rows of tables lining the room where now packed full of people, loud people, laughing and talking as they ate. Bucky felt overwhelmed by the noise alone and stood back by the door as people moved around him, all headed to get a plate and breakfast, pancakes, eggs and some form of a porridge, he noted.
He was starving and the smell of food, real food was nearly enough to make him run towards it, if it wouldn’t draw more attention to him. Eventually he managed to go and get food, seating himself in the most secluded spot he could find where he didn’t speak to a single person. He ate silently and quickly and excused himself as fast as possible.
He slipped past the two main doors nearly unnoticed and stood on the top step, overlooking the street as he let himself breathe. It wasn’t as safe outside as it was inside, but it was significantly less crowded and right now that’s all that mattered. There was a lady standing across from him, a cigarette lit and hanging between her fingers as she looked at him with a raised brow, making Bucky shrink back. Luckily, she didn't say anything so he was mostly able to pretend she wasn't there.
The air, unlike yesterday was bright and void of humidity, there was a soft breeze blowing, rustling his hair but other than that it was warm and still. The sun, beating down onto the pavement dried up any trace that there was ever any rain yesterday at all, and it vaguely made him question himself. It smelled warm out and vaguely like flowers, honey suckle, it was relaxing, really. He let himself close his eyes and just listen to the sound of people walking and carrying on gentle conversations as they shopped around the corner. He remembered seeing a few shops down town when he’d been walking yesterday but he’d payed them no mind and none had been open before so it had hardly mattered.
Bucky nodded politely to the women despite the nerve wracking look she was still giving him as he descended the steps. He tried to be polite whenever he could of course, it just tended to slip his mind when it seemed like the world was buzzing and that most the earth's population wanted to harm him, stop him from being different. Not that he understood what it was that made him different, not that he wanted too be different. Bucky tugged lightly at the straps of his backpack to check and make sure they were secure before continuing down the road, just a precaution. He knew he had a five dollar bill in his pocket, that was the only thing in his pants pocket and it was the only money he had. A crumpled, dirty piece of money he'd found in the street. Still, it was something and something was more than the nothing he'd had before, and despite all the rest he got last night, his eyes still felt heavy, and it felt like there was a weight strapped to each leg as he walked.
He walked in silence for the most part, humming softly on occasion as he turned a corner, some were things he'd heard over the radio, others he couldn't quite remember. The air felt nice and cool against his skin, warm from the soft sun. He checked each turn before continuing and once he arrived at what he could only assume was downtown, he stopped. His eyes searched the street across from him, settling on a small coffee shop in between a cramped pawn shop and an empty apartment complex that, according to the sign was for sale. He figured that caffeine might do him some good, and he never minded the taste of coffee, so long as it was sweetened, he always liked sweet things, the way they left a sugary feeling on his tongue.
As he headed towards the nearly empty coffee shop, he watched a group of children leave with their parents, they each had a smoothie in hand and they were chattering excitedly about some movie they'd just seen. He smiled a little. He'd never seen the joy in watching a movie in a theater, he remembered trying once, sometime when he had money he supposed. He remembered hating the loudness of it, the way it shook the walls, the way it didn't bother anyone else.
When he pulled open the door to the shop, a tiny bell chimed and he looked up at it. It was small, rounded and silver, with small, blue glass beads dangling by a string tied to it. The smell was amazing, coffee and chocolate and a minty cleaner of some type. It was relaxing and there were only two people in the shop besides the barista and himself. No one even looked at him.
He gazed at the menu for several minutes, comparing the drink and the prices. Luckily, nothing seemed too terribly over priced, but he still wouldn't mind having some money left over. It wasn't often he let himself spend money, assuming he had any, and he definitely wouldn't mind having some for later, if he needed it.
"Hello, do you know what I can get you today, sir?" The man asked from behind the counter, elbow propped up on the edge. His hair was long and jet black, greased back into a tight ponytail. His skin wore about fifty tattoos on his neck and arms alone and he had the urge to study each one, but he didn't let himself because he had to answer, he had to try and fit in.
"Uh, caramel mocha," He mumbled, wandering up to the counter as he added a quick, "Please."
"Sure thing, anything else?" He asked, sounding tired but not unfriendly. Why did they ask so many questions? He sighed softly and shook his head. "Alright, 3.75 is your total, do you need a receipt?"
He shook his head again and the guy crumpled the paper up and threw it away, leaving Bucky with a small smile to go make his drink.
He already felt slightly overwhelmed, considering the utterly pathetic amount of human contact he'd had since the last place he stayed, but he tied to stop it from showing. He took a quick look at the two people in the shop with him, but luckily, neither stood out as a threat. One, was a woman, dressed in tight, professional looking clothes and she was typing quickly with sharp clicks of her keyboard on some expensive looking laptop while she spoke quietly and quickly into a phone wedged between her ear and shoulder. The other person, a man, was wearing baggier clothes and had messier hair than the woman's tight bun. He was busied with a newspaper and his coffee and seemed completely unaware of anything and everything else going on around him. He was thin, but not oddly so. Still, neither payed him any mind so Bucky found himself a table and sat down, close to the door but where he could still see both people.
Again, he pulled out his map and looked over it until he found where he was, circling roughly where the shop was with a thick line. Safe.
He was busied with looking at the layout of the downtown area, circling and drawing lines, that he didn't hear the man when he called out his name saying his drink was ready, and he didn't notice that anyone was approaching him until he cleared his throat.
Bucky's eyes snapped up to meet the mans in front of him, holding out his drink, name clearly splayed across the cup in neat, black writing. Bucky. It wasn't the barista that was standing in front of him though, it was the man that had been sitting a few tables away before, the man he didn't know knew there was a world outside of his own drink and paper. He could see now this man's skin was littered with ink too. Various birds, symbols he wasn't quite sure the meaning of, and other various, little things tattooed neatly. They covered his arms in varying shades of blacks and grays, the sleeves of his shirt rolled up to his elbows to expose them. He was wearing a sweater, dark and baggy around his frame. He wasn't terribly short, but he was considerably smaller compared to Bucky. His eyes were bright and he wore a beanie that was slouched on his head over his short and messy hair. He was smiling, and somehow, Bucky didn't feel scared, or unsafe. He felt fine.
"Bucky?" He asked, smiling down at him. His hands were covered in paint and pen ink, faded but not successfully washed away. His name rolled off his tongue like butter and Bucky stared blankly at the man. He never spoke to people like this, and no one ever bothered him, but something about the way he seemed so gentle and kind and safe, it was settling. Normal people picked up conversations all the time, he'd seen it, but not with him. Why was he suddenly feeling normal? The man chuckled. "My names Steve, you left your coffee."
Bucky glanced at the counter and then back at this person. At Steve. "Oh, yeah, thank you." Bucky's voice was small, and he watched the mans expression brighten up, much like his eyes and he nodded quickly.
"Sure, no problem." He grinned.
Bucky waited patiently after he took the cup cautiously from Steve. He watched Steve's face and he seemed fascinated in him almost as much as he was in Steve. He waited silently for him to turn and leave, but he didn't.
"I like your bag," Steve chirped, gesturing to it. Bucky frowned and put a hand on it protectively but the man only grinned. "It's okay, I'm not gonna steal it, just lookin'." He assured.
Why did this stranger seem to understand? It should be considerably more alarming than it is, he's sure.
"Thank you." Bucky responds quietly, eyes cast down at the bag now.
Steve had taken a seat across from him now and he tensed, but he didn't really feel the need to move away. He just usually sat alone. "Okay, so this is gonna sound totally crazy, but I have a question to ask you, Bucky."
He acted like he'd known Bucky for years, but if he had, Steve surely wouldn't be seen as normal, right? Didn't he have that affect on people?
Bucky bit his lip before answering, trying to keep his thoughts and interactions balanced. "Okay?"
"So, I like to draw. Well, anything art related really, painting is, it's phenomenal," Steve chuckled, a huge grin on his lips and his words rushed and his face filled with something Bucky didn't quite understand. "But anyways, I like to draw-or paint, whatever-things that catch my eye, and when you walked in, you certainly caught my eye."
Bucky looked at him again, making eye contact with this stranger for the second time now. He didn't usually do that. He was asking to draw him? Bucky was still quiet but he felt an odd sense of pride and confidence swell inside him, and he was proud that he actually sounded genuinely curious when he spoke. "Why?" His emotions never came through with his words like they were now.
His grin widened more until Bucky thought the corners of his mouth might tear. "You have a complex kinda face, in a good way of course, but you're quiet as all hell and you seem pretty shy, so I wanna draw you. I wanna capture the real you, the complexity of the things you feel that show in your face."
Bucky's face contorted into an unamused expression, almost disgusted and Steve laughed, it was loud and bright but not terribly startling, the way it bubbled from his throat. "My facial expressions are not my emotion." Bucky mumbled, brow furrowed.
Steve smiled again but it seemed softer than before. "Well, technically the amygdala and hippocampus are what seem to be the main parts of the brain responsible for emotion. And seeing as how facial expressions are both voluntary and involuntary, because some are mirrored from someone else, or the emotion of a character in a book for example, but others are chosen by how you feel emotionally, so they are related." Steve shrugged, by now he was leaning back in his chair as he picked at a paper napkin. Bucky stared at him blankly. Mostly, because everything he'd just said made no sense, the big words and the confidence behind what sounded nonsensical. Then, second of all, he'd just told Bucky that he was only the emotion he expressed, and if that was true through some odd science, then why did his face always fall short of what he felt? "Ah, sorry, I'm a psychology student." Steve beamed, proud and practically glowing. Seeing him this way made Bucky feel oddly content, someone as genuinely kind and comforting, someone Bucky didn't feel scared and panicked around, they deserved to laugh and be proud of something he clearly knew lots about.
Bucky nodded, though he still felt confused.
"Anyways, if you'd let me, I'd love to draw you."
Bucky bit his lip again, nibbling at it lightly until the flesh became tender and metallic, finding himself flinching back as Steve extended his hand eagerly to show him a small, worn sketch book, the gesture wasn't threatening or malicious, but it had still scared him. Instincts, muscle memory. He regretted it the moment he'd done it. This was how people knew he was different, this was how people found out, maybe this is why people wanted to hurt him. Because things scared him and things in his head made it hard to function.
Steve pulled his hand back quickly, the glow in his expression gone. "I'm sorry," He apologized hurriedly, frowning.
He had nothing to say that could explain why he'd done it, but he figured normal people tried their best to explain, didn't they?
"You don't have to be, it just reminds me of things I try to not remember, somtimes."
Steve cocks his head to the side and it reminds Bucky of a dog. "Touch?" He asks simply, taking a jab at something so utterly complicated and buried even Bucky can't understand or comprehend it, especially not enough to answer.
Still, he feels prideful, he's talking to Steve like a normal person, and even though it isn't easy to explain and it isn't the most average conversation, he's trying and so is Steve. Plus, the way he'd seen it, Steve had said several odd things himself. "Sometimes," Bucky responded shyly.
"Do you know why?" Steve asked curiously and Bucky could feel his heart pick up with that familiar, intimidating off beat feeling of swarming panic. He knew why, but he pretended not to. "You don't have to tell me." He added after a moment, and he was smiling again. Bucky nodded and let his heart slowly ease back down as he slowly took a sip of his drink. It was cold and chocolate-y and perfect.
"You can draw me, if you want to." And when he said it, it wasn't because he felt pressured to, it wasn't because he was scared to say no, it was because he genuinely wanted to. He Wanted to be around someone who made him feel normal and happy.
So he tried to return the favor.