faded storefront

Summary : While eleven-year-old Michael Jones may have spent his childhood pretending to slay dragons and save princesses, he never imagined that he was actually a wizard, and that the world that he thought only existed in make-believe just took looking a bit closer to find.

Warnings : None
Word Count : About 7000

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Collab between gubs (writing) and syd (that’s me) (drawings)

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Christmas Eve Night

It was dreadful learning you didn’t have enough eggs for your planned Christmas morning fritata. A Christmas breakfast that he would eat by himself, wishing for Nathan’s phone signal to hold out long enough to talk for a few minutes. Ulysses stood and eyed his reflection contemplatively in the clean glass of the refrigeration case. His hair was standing up, he looked tired, his jacket was buttoned wrong. Christ, he shouldn’t be allowed out of his flat when he was like this. It was Christmas Eve, and there was green tinsel garland shaped into a lopsided wreath and stuck to the case in front of him. It framed his reflection horribly. He was a hot mess, and not the fun kind.

Christmas Eve last year had been a drunken affair at some club in London that wasn’t even open anymore. He’d sent a few drunken texts to his relatively new boyfriend, who was of course up in Yorkshire with his family, and then they’d rather sweetly made plans to spend New Year’s Eve together.

This year he was standing in front of a picked over selection of egg cartons at 2 am (why was this shop even open?) wearing yesterday’s tee shirt and stubble while canned Christmas carols whined at him over the shop radio and a man who looked even more put out than he felt stood by the cash register leafing through a softcore magazine. The cover, which he didn’t even try to hide, had a woman wearing a “sexy” reindeer costume, complete with painted red Rudolph nose and shiny patent leather gloves and high heeled boots.

He opened the case and there was a little burst of cold air suddenly on his face. He remembered what Nathan had said on their call yesterday, standing out in the call to get enough reception to talk for a few minutes. It’s fine, love, I can mostly feel m-my face. It’s just m-my eyebrows that are frozen thus far. Ulysses reached for the egg carton and it felt somehow dry and horrible in his hand. He set it back down and closed the case, stepping back.

“I can’t stay here,” he said aloud. His reflection, surrounded by the shiny wreath, nodded back to him.

He pulled out his phone and quickly did a search to find the number of the place he’d hired a car from for the trip in autumn. Somehow, it seemed necessary to use them again, as though their cars would know the way better than any other would.

“Happy Christmas,” the man by the register intoned at him over the sound of the bell over the door as Ulysses beat his hasty exit. He didn’t even look up from his page, which Ulysses imagined by now must be a nude-ish sparkly snow-woman or a girl wearing a series of strategically-placed bells.

“It’s going to be,” the chemist muttered as he walked out. “I’m going to make sure it is for him.”

Two hours later saw him leaving London with a bag packed with mainly a jumper, two tees, his toiletries bag, underwear, and cologne. The radio was silent as though he needed total concentration to navigate the empty streets, fairy lights intermittently catching his eye in the fronts of closed shops and sleeping homes. This was likely one of the stupidest, neediest, most ridiculous things he’d ever done. And after he’d done so well. He hadn’t proposed a trip to South Africa after they’d dated a month. He hadn’t suggested they move in together after a week. It was here, more than a year in, with a planned flat together in their future and Nathan’s toothbrush in his bathroom. But somehow he could imagine Nathan in that house, mouth tight with his mother’s silence and his restless nights twisted up in whatever had happened to his brother. And he couldn’t bear the thought of his own Christmas morning, just Twiz and a carton of eggs and Dean Martin, who’d sound as drunk on the record as Ulysses would be wishing he was.

He was tired but almost startlingly awake. The lights along the edges of the road were as bright as stars and he found himself listing off constellations aloud as he drove. When he found weariness settling on his eyelids, he opened the window a crack to let the chill air in on his face. By the time he saw this sunrise, he was reminding himself to drive more slowly on these smaller roads. He was still the only car in sight; the land around him was sleepy and not ready for it to be Christmas yet. Which was fine for him as he checked his phone; he didn’t have a good signal either, but he had the address saved in his phone. He tried to remember Nathan’s voice from their last drive. Left, and then another left up there. Menston didn’t welcome him so much as yawn and let him pass by its closed up storefronts and faded signs.

And the Corona (no, it wasn’t actually Corona, was it?) house didn’t welcome him so much as watch him with expectant windows, and all he could think about as he clutched the keys in a nervous hand and walked up to the front door was Nathan’s dark eyelashes on his pale cheeks up in that bedroom, and what it would feel like to say “Merry Christmas” against his sleepy, surprised mouth.

Turn on the bright lights. Steve/Bucky. Post-Captain America: The Winter Soldier. 4291 words, rated T. Steve brings Bucky home. [Also on AO3.] 

The Winter Soldier wakes up.

Moving stirs dust; he’s still alone. Midday, twelve noon by the sun. Concrete floor, no joint pain but legs could use a stretch. Right arm nearly healed, mending nerves reconnecting. If he focuses, goes still as the humid air he can feel the million tiny processes natural and not that knit him back together. It reassures him. Is it meant to reassure him?

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