The worst part is, this is all his fault.
Steve has plenty of time to think about this when he’s
supposed to be sleeping. He lies in his cramped little cabin on the Bus,
breathing in the recycled air and waiting for sleep to come, and praying for
sleep to come; but dreading it, too, because it will bring nightmares with it.
At least he’s no longer waking up Bucky every time. He’s set
the Bus like an alarm clock to wake him with a Glenn Miller song whenever his
heartbeat gets too high; and how creepy is that,
that the Bus can read his heartbeat?
But it’s his own fault if it creeps him out. He’s the one
who rejoined SHIELD. It all goes, he
had said to Nick Fury. And a few months later he signed up again, like a dog
returning to its vomit; so stupid, such an idiot, a fucking moron, one of Bucky’s favorite phrases –
“Chattanooga Choo Choo” begins to play. Steve’s heart rate,
already too high, spikes. He chose Glenn Miller music because he used to find
He turns off the music. He sits up, head between his knees,
A knock on his flimsy plastic door. “Steve?”
“What?” Steve snaps.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes.” He’s not going to be a burden on Bucky. Bucky is in
Coulson’s clutches entirely because of Steve; and he had to put up months of
Steve yammering on about how SHIELD was different, was safe, and God only knows what Coulson was doing to him – what
Coulson might do to Steve, if Steve doesn’t get a hold of himself, go to sleep,
at least calm down –
“Steve,” says Bucky. “Can I read to you?”
The silence that follows is so long that Steve thinks maybe
Bucky has followed this command. But then there is a rustle of cloth, of paper,
and Bucky begins to read: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”
His voice is so soft that Steve probably wouldn’t be able to
hear him without his serum-enhanced hearing. Steve sits in the darkness staring
at the closed door for the next two paragraphs. Then he summons the energy to
lean across the cabin – he doesn’t even need to get out of bed – and open it.
Bucky practically falls in Steve’s cabin when the door opens.
He must have been sitting with his back against the door.
“You realize this makes us both look insane,” Steve tells
“Come out so I can read to you in the common room, then.” Bucky
is lying on the floor, head tilted back to look at Steve.
Steve rubs a hand over his eyes. He is so tired. “Why do you
put up with me?” he asks.
Steve didn’t mean to say that. Talk about burdens; that
question must weigh a thousand pounds.
Bucky has his hand around one of Steve’s ankles. He tugs.
“Lemme read to you,” he says. “C’mon, Stevie. I can’t sleep.” When Steve doesn’t
respond, his voice sharpens. “Dammit, Steve,”
he says, and drags Steve out of bed by his ankle.
“Sorry,” says Steve, even as Bucky says, “Oh, fuck – ” And they both fall silent at
the same moment.
“Sorry,” Bucky says, soft-voiced, and he hands the book over
to Steve. “Maybe,” he says, and there is a faint tremor in his voice, “you
could read? If you don’t want me to.”
So Steve reads. It’s the least he can do, he thinks; because
on top of everything else, he thinks he has made Bucky cry.