Chapter 1: Prologue
It was the knock on the old wooden door on a Sunday evening that made the eyes of Steven Grant Rogers glisten with tears of joy. The truth was, Steve did not expect to see him standing there, with that smirk on his face and his army cap neatly tucking his hair underneath it.
He looked somewhat similar to what Steve remembered him to be. There were of course some slight differences that escaped the blonde’s eyes but none of that had mattered at that moment. All Steve could think of was grabbing the older man and to not let him go.
“Hey there, punk.”
And to Steve, there wasn’t anything as sweet as hearing that deep, Brooklyn-accented voice after 6 months. Reading silenced words in the voice of his beloved in his head sounded nothing as close as to the real thing, he realised.
The distance between them was reduced as Steve hugged James Buchanan Barnes, his thin frail arms wrapping around the uniformed waist while resting his head against Bucky’s chest. Bucky lowered his head, nuzzled it against the soft, neatly combed blonde hair. He positioned his arms around Steve’s neck. He could smell the light musk of Steve’s sweat, a scent that he took some time to recognise.
Steve didn’t hear a reply from the brunette when he said that, instead he could feel a smile forming against the nook of his hair.
Slowly as Bucky lifted his head, his hand moved from Steve’s neck towards his delicate, flushed cheeks. Steve could feel the rough, calloused palms slowly grazing against his skin, giving it a gentle burn. They were rougher than what Steve had remembered, but he didn’t say anything. He opened his eyes, locked them with Bucky’s.
“You’re beautiful, Stevie.”
The blonde smiled, before moving his hands to meet those belonging to Bucky and slowly pulling them lower. Their fingers interlocked for a brief moment.
“Come on, let’s go in. It’s freezing out here. Wouldn’t want you to catch a cold before we even start anything.” Bucky gave a small chuckle. Being inside the walls meant that he had the freedom to love. Bucky felt like he was being watched, but he didn’t say a word about it to Steve. You see, it’s not safe outside, especially not with prying eyes.
It’s Steve. It’s home. You’re safe here. Bucky assured himself and looked back at the blonde.
Steve smiled, shook his head and pulled the brunette gently inside with one hand. Little did Steve know that the man that he brought inside their home was not the same one that had been drafted a year earlier.
Steve pushed the door open, letting himself inside before Bucky. There was a small green bag with Bucky, Steve assumed that it contained his belongings, stuff that he used while in the service.
“Does it look like what you remember?”
“I think so.” Bucky had let go of Steve’s hands as he came to a halt. “I’m gonna put these in the room.”
“No, no, don’t go in there. The place is messed up, I hadn’t had the chance to clean up.”
Bucky didn’t hear the end of Steve’s sentence. As the evening sky approached, Bucky rubbed his hands against the wall of their old room to find the switch.
“On the right wall.”
Bucky followed the instruction given out by Steve. “Oh, alright. Found it. It’s dark, couldn’t see.”
He couldn’t remember where the switch was actually. He didn’t remember anything about home.
It was ironic, Bucky thought to himself. He remembered how he looked forward to the comfort and familiarity of home, only to feel estranged and not actually having any sort of deja vu-like experience. He expected to feel like he knew the whole place like the back of his hand.
It was as if he was looking at everything for the first time. It was as if he did not remember anything about how the hard the floorboards were or how dim the whole house was lit.
But this was better than being in the battlefield, anything was better than war.
Bucky placed the bag on the floor, beside the bed. He about to continue unpacking when something caught his eye. “You drew these?”
Steve stood at the door, crossed his hands against his chest with, with a proud smile. “Yeah, whadaya think?”
“Good. Comic book covers?”
“I wanted to tell you about them but I was waiting for the right time. I wanted it to be a surprise.”
Bucky pursed his lips together. His eyebrows furrowed. It was a look of disappointment, one that Steve had noticed. He placed the papers gently back on the working table, before resting his weight on the bed.
Steve watched the older man unpack, his eyes scanning the things that Bucky had taken out from the bag carefully and placed on the floor.
There were some disposable razors, a comb and a bottle of recently opened hair product. There were still some other things in the bag that Steve didn’t actually notice. He was rather fixated at the handsome brunette in front of him.
Probably got them before heading back, Steve assumed. It was usual of Bucky to dress himself up. Especially if he had a date or if he was going to an important event.
He reminded Steve of his old man, Joseph Rogers, a lot. Even watching Bucky coming back reminded him a little bit of his father. He remembers his mom kissing his father at the doorway, he remembers how he hugged his dad’s leg before being carried by him. His dad had planted a kiss on his forehead before saying, “Have you been taking care of mommy for me?” He remembers nodding yes and being brought back into the comforts of their home. He remembers the family dinner that they had and how t had been a long time since all of them sat down together as a family.
But, that was a long time ago. Remember only the good things, Steve tells himself.
“I still have all your letters with me, kid.” The memory of Joseph’s words remained as crisp as ever in his mind.
The harder Steve tries to forget, the more he remembers. Steve turned his head away from Bucky. There was a slight fear in his eye, hiding his expression from the older man seated in front of him.
He’s heard of stories, where nobody actually comes back from war. It was always a ghost in an empty, cracked shell.
I shouldn’t be doing this now, not in front of Bucky.
Besides, Bucky was stronger than most people, Steve consoled himself. He wanted to believe that the man who returned, was exactly the same person that he remembers him to be.
“I’m going to the kitchen, gonna whip something up for the both of us.”
“I thought we could go out, ya know? Somewhere nice. You know, just like we used to, when payday comes?” Bucky didn’t look up, he was still busy trying to sort out his stuff.
Steve replied with an okay, his head still turned away. He walked slowly out of the room, his hand placed over his eyes.
It took a while before Bucky had realised that Steve was no longer standing in the same place that he was earlier. “Hey. What’s wrong?”
“No, its nothing.”
“You look like you’re having a headache.”
“I-I’m just glad to see you.”
“Me too. But I’m also hungry as fuck.”
“Language, Bucky. It’s like you go to war and you come out like a swear bucket. ” Steve replied. Bucky just gave a small chuckle while gently nodding his head.
“Don’t change too much, okay?”
There was something about that light hearted comment that was somewhat frightening to the brunette.
“Yeah.” Bucky pursed his lips.
It’s gunshots and explosions. Loud noises and gory views.
It wasn’t something Bucky expected as soon as this. He’s barely prepared, barely ready to go through all of this again.
He’s hidden in a foxhole beside Morita and Happy. The grenade that was aimed a little too far behind had sent shatters, lodging sharp jagged particles towards them.
The helmet on his head was then shot off. He hides a little deeper into he only to subconsciously curse at the fact that the bullet had missed him. It was usually at times like this that he prayed that he was dead, that he didn’t have to go through all of the pain anymore.
His arms mechanically adjust and aim the rifle, like it was part of himself. All he knew was that he had to shoot, or he’ll be shot. Survival of the fittest he reminds himself.
And then there was a scream, it was loud as if it was coming from right next to him. As he turns his head, he sees Morita crying in agonising pain. Before he could help him, he felt a sharp pain himself. He shouted out Steve’s name, calling and crying in hopes that it’ll keep the pain away. He hears another scream and all he sees after that were two large figures coming towards them. He assumed that they were looking for survivors, and noticing that Bucky was the only one left, the bigger one of the two grabbed him roughly and placed him over his shoulders. Bucky tried fighting, he knew he just can’t go back to that hell hole. Once was enough. “Let me go! Let me go, let me..”
He then opens his eyes.
Steve is propped up beside him, watching him in horror while clutching the blanket.
“Oh Steve, thank god.”
He closes his eyes gently, not registering much at first. It was only a nightmare, he told himself. Bucky then could feel the effect of the night breeze on his sweaty body. He opens his eyes slowly after hearing Steve calling out his name, asking if he was alright.
“Yeah I’m ok. Just a nightmare.”
“You want to talk about it?”
“Nah I’m good. You know what time it is right now?”
“I’m guessing three.”
Bucky asked Steve to go back to sleep while he went to the washroom to wash his face. It seemed like the right thing to do, to wash away the thoughts that troubled or scared you. He stood by the bathroom sink, only to carefully look at himself at the cracked mirror.
He moved his hands over the small scar across his neck. He remembers how he got it and how it had placed the faith of God right back into him.
All he hears next were the squeak of the bathroom door, where Steve was standing there, just waiting for him.
“I said I’m alright.” Bucky reaffirmed. He didn’t like the idea not being able to handle a nightmare.
Bucky just kept quiet and nodded.
It was later Steve who turned off the running water when Bucky walked out absent-mindedly. The blonde continued staring at him as he laid his body onto the bed, with his partially wet face.
Steve sat next to him, handing a towel over to Bucky, asking him to wipe his face.
“My face isn’t wet, you can’t trick me, punk.”
Steve looked back at Bucky in confusion, and reaffirmed his statement. “No, I’m not lying. Your face is wet.”
Bucky then proceeded to touch his face, and upon realising it was slightly damp, he looked at his hand, just to make sure he wasn’t imagining the whole thing.
The brunette just nodded his head and took the towel to wipe his face. He did it ever so slowly, feeling every inch of his brushing against the rough cloth.
Steve kept quiet after that. He pretended to fall asleep. He tried stealing a look or two over at Bucky’s side. Steve saw how the older man’s eyes were wide open, looking at the ceiling. He saw how Bucky moved over and over , trying to fall asleep once again.
Bucky didn’t notice the way Steve flinched when he felt a sudden shift in the weight on the bed, as Bucky woke up and walked out of the room.
For all he knew, Steve was asleep. He was terribly shaken up by the whole nightmare that he was still a little doozy.
He goes to the kitchen to get a glass of water to wash away whatever it was that bothered him.
The older brunette did not sleep after that, he was wide awake. Steve who had the day off only saw him late at night. The older brunette told him that he would be working the docks, and if Steve ever wanted to find him, he’d be there.
When Steve told Bucky that he should be using this opportunity as his time off, Bucky told him that if he had too much free time, he’d end up thinking about stuff he didn’t want to. He also convinced Steve that an extra provider would allow them to live at least with a small luxury.
“I wanna give you all the best as long as I’m alive.”
“Jesus Buck, don’t talk like that.”
“Talk like what?”
“You know, like, like you’re dying or something.”
Bucky just gave a false smile and told him that he doesn’t have to worry about it, he asks Steve to give him time to readjust himself.
“Just don’t take too long, Buck.”
The place where Steve worked wasn’t that far from the docks, roughly a 10 minute walk if Steve paced himself with fast footsteps.
“Godammit Steve, you don’t have to come up here every day. And look at you, you’re …”
“I.. am alr..right.” Steve paused between breaths, He was bending, and panting. His hands were on his knees as he tried catching his breath slowly.
Steve didn’t mind all of this, the struggle or the stress he’s putting his fragile body into. He didn’t mind putting up with a fever for the night, if it meant that he could see Bucky over and over again.
What Steve didn’t know was how afraid Bucky was, if something bad happened to Steve. He wouldn’t be able to live with himself, let alone forgive himself. Thus, Bucky promised that he’d find Steve instead, with the excuse of not wanting his asthma to get worse.
Steve complied. It wasn’t like he had a choice anyway, right?
And Bucky did keep his promise. He’d meet up with Steve everyday, where they would have lunch together. Bucky slept less and less each day, and with the extra time he had, he would whip up something for the both of them to eat.
If Steve ever asked why Bucky was awake, he would say that he couldn’t sleep, because he has gotten use to having little to no sleep.
He doesn’t tell the blonde about how his nightmares had gone worse. He doesn’t tell Steve that whenever he wakes up, it is mostly at the same part of the dream, where he’s captured and that the enemy is breaking his will over and over again.
He doesn’t tell Steve that he’s at the verge of giving up when he wakes up. It iswhen he’s seeing some white light and the pain is unbearable. It is when his shirt is filled with old blood and most of his limbs are broken.
And every time he wakes up, the pain that felt so real would eventually fades into the distance and he’s left in a state where going back to sleep was not an option he could accomplish.
But Bucky didn’t know that Steve was aware of the nightmares that he had. Steve would wake up in the middle of the night, when he hears Bucky screaming his name. He would wake up when he hears Bucky pleading for his life. He would wake up when Bucky struggles, as if he were fighting for his life.
If Bucky ever got into a temperature higher than Steve himself have ever gone through, he would rush to the bathroom, only to come back with a wet washcloth. And he’s seen Bucky doing it for him so many times that it’s almost natural for Steve to know his way with it.
It was about a week later when Bucky first got drunk. Steve knew something was wrong the moment that Bucky didn’t reach home as he usually did. After waiting for several hours, he went out looking for the older brunette, much like how Bucky used to do the same for him.
But Steve never did have to find Bucky, it was always Steve that picked fights with everything that moved and got beaten up in various back alleys, seven ways to heaven. Bucky always managed to find him, even if he was shoved behind a different dumpster or if he was covered in trash.
Steve finds him eventually. It was almost midnight when he saw Bucky being asked to leave from a bar as they were about to close.
He lets Bucky hang onto him.
It was the first time Steve actually knew how heavy Bucky was, especially when the brunette couldn’t walk straight without tripping over after every few steps that he placed.
And when they reached home, both covered in small bruises, Bucky lies flat onto the couch, pinning Steve underneath him.
Steve grasps for his breath, but Bucky did not wake up. Steve slowly lost his consciousness, and passed out under Bucky.
And when Steve sees light again, it’s after he hears Bucky saying that he’s sorry repeatedly. Steve flashes that stupid grin of his again, asking if Bucky had slept well.
Bucky then learnt that if there’s one thing that helped it sleep, it would be alcohol. All he had to go was to drown himself in something strong, and the rest was history. He’d be able to sleep without any nightmares.
He’d buy a few bottles before walking back home.
He opens the first one after dinner, and the second one after Steve falls asleep. By the time he’s done with the third, he’s passed out on the couch.
Bucky made sure to get completely only after Steve had slept. He remembered how blue Steve’s lips were, how his body lost its rosy pink colour when Steve passed out under him.
Steve only raises a word about this new habit that Bucky’s picked up after a week of sleeping on their bed alone.
“It’s the only thing that helps me sleep, Steve.”
Steve doesn’t bring it up again.
If he wakes up in the middle of the night and sees Bucky fast asleep on the couch, he’d bring over his blanket and squeeze in beside the brunette. The smallest of space next to Bucky’s warmth was better than having all the space on the bed knowing that the one person you longed to be with is not beside you.
It was 3 weeks later when Bucky stops drinking. And it wasn’t because Bucky realised how bad it would be if he became a hard core alcoholic.
All those weeks of drinking had built Bucky’s tolerance and they weren’t doing the job as well as they did in the early days of his alcohol binging habits. Bucky had gone from his 3 bottle limit to now 5 in a day. And that still wasn’t doing the job as well as Bucky wanted.
It was on a stormy Tuesday that he bought as many bottles as he could find, and drank as much as he could without stopping. He went on and on until he was too full to drink anymore.
It was perfect.
That was, until he woke up with a raging headache and a terrible nausea.
Steve was on top of him when he woke up. It was the first time that he’s seen the blonde sleeping right next to him. Bucky was usually sleeping soundly as a log to even notice anything. Steve was always awake before him these days and he didn’t think much of it.
He nudged Steve gently, waking him up in the process before rushing to the washroom.
Upon realising that Bucky did not return after 5 minutes Steve walked after him. He could tell that it wasn’t just a casual visit to the latrine in the necessity to release oneself. He stood by the door as he heard Bucky vomiting inside. He called out to Bucky asking if he was alright and if he needed anything, but there wasn’t a reply.
When Bucky came out, he looked terrible. His eyes were bloodshot, and the wife beater that he had worn for the night were wet with sweat, to the fact that they seemed almost translucent. There were droplets of sweat at the tip of his messy hair, like dew on grass in the early mornings.
Bucky walked past Steve quietly. He didn’t really notice Steve asking him again if he was alright. His steps were still not well placed and when he did trip, he knocked over one of the bottles that he had finished earlier that night.
He didn’t know that Steve was trailing behind him.
He didn’t know that Steve had picked up a broom and tried cleaning up the mess as fast as he could because the blonde was afraid that Bucky might hurt himself stepping on any of those glass fragments.
He didn’t know that Steve wasn’t careful and that he had stepped onto a piece of the shattered glass himself.
Bucky only realised that Steve was injured when he heard a shout in pain.
His headache was still clouding his judgement at the time where he tried paying his uttermost attention to where he guessed the sound was coming from. In his head, he felt like he was at war, as if someone had ambushed them at night during their time of fellowship.
Adrenaline was pumped throughout his body and when the blood rushed to his head, his headache got worse. His eyes were desperate for some time out. His limbs were not firm and he had no control over them.
“St-Steve?” he called out, while dropping his head over and over again.
And when there was no reply, he forced his eyes open, only to scan around.
He saw the blonde sitting at the corner of the room, seated in between a hastily placed broom and dustpan. He was leaning against the wall, while his head was docked upwards as if he were looking at the ceiling.
His hands were holding tightly against his right leg, towards the ankle to be specific. And as Bucky’s eyes move toward the lower end of the blonde’s right limb, he notices the patch of red stain against Steve’s skin.
Bucky tried to rush over to Steve, but he stumbled a few times along his way. And when he was close enough to see the severity of the injury, he knew he had to do something.
The was a piece of glass stuck in Roger’s feet and even with half a head Bucky knew that pulling it out will cause him to bleed more. Steve was already anaemic and if he did lose too much of his blood that could make things worse for the blonde.
“It hurts. Buck. God, it’s so painful. You need to call-”
“I’ll help you, let me just help you. I can help you. I’ll grab a piece of cloth and I’ll tie to stop the bleeding, hang on, Steve.”
“No, you don’t understand. You’re not ok. We need help.”
“I’m telling you I can fix this.” Bucky snapped back. And when he realised that Steve was breathing softly and had small, soft cries escaping his pale lips, Bucky tried to find a cloth he could tear to tie it around Steve’s leg as fast as possible.
But Bucky wasn’t stable and when he did reach the kitchen, he fell to the ground, after losing complete control over his limbs. “I’m coming Steve, hold on.” He said as he tried standing up despite his fuzzy vision. “Just hang on..”
Bucky blacked out.
When he wakes up, his head was flat against some white cloth. He smelt anaesthetics and he knew immediately that he was in a hospital. His eyes scanned the area around him, only to see Steve having his head flat on the right side of the bed that Bucky was lying on.
“You’re awake?” He hears Steve whispering to him.
“You feeling better?”
Bucky nodded his head, but he could feel a headache marching its way in his head. However it was bearable than most days.
“You don’t remember?”
“I just remember drinking and that’s it. Why am I here?”
Steve smiled and said that he was here because he had too much to drink. Bucky looked back at Steve in disbelief but he didn’t prod the blonde any further.
It’s when visiting hours are over and when Steve heads home that Bucky knew he had to do some sleuthing of his own.
He smiled at the next nurse who came to check up on him. It was nearly midnight, but he still could see her name tag and make a name out of it. Night vision was very valued during the war, and never for once he thought that it would come in handy in his ordinary life.
“Miss Patricia, right?”
The nurse who was shocked to see a young man, and that too a rather attractive one, probably a year or two older, calling out to her.
“Is there anything I can help you out with, sir?”
“I just wanted to thank you for your job. I’m pretty sure you have been taking really good care fo everyone, including me,” Bucky ended that sentence with a smile. A wink might scare her off for now, he thought.
“I’m just doing my job, sir. Just like everyone.” She replied. She blushed as he looked at her wide eyed.
“Yeah. I wish I could go back too. To do my job you know. I don’t know what am I even doing here, ma’am”
“Well I’m pretty sure that the doctors wouldn’t keep you here any longer than they’d think it was necessary, considering we’re really crowded these days.”
“Oh, really? So do you have any idea why have they got me here then?”
“I’m not really allowed to talk about the patients to anyone, sir.”
Bucky looked back at her, pleadingly. “Well, it’s not like you’re telling me about someone else, right?”
She thought for a while and looked down.
“I just want to know what happened and I don’t have any idea what’s going on. It almost feels like I’m losing control. You got to help me understand, please.”
She looked back at the young man in front of her. His eyes darted right at her, as if they were taking a peak at her soul, begging for help. She looked at her watch and promised to drop by later at night.
And the lass did keep her promise, as she sat by Barnes that night.
“Your brother called the hospital, I think. See, he had a shard of glass in one of his legs and and he couldn’t really walk either. He was in for a day or two before he was discharged.”
Bucky listened attentively, and a look of worry was beginning to take it’s form on his face.
“You were rather lucky to have him by your side. The doctors were quite surprised that you were still alive when you were brought here. You were so intoxicated that the doctors were afraid that you would have asphyxiated in your own vomit or that you’d have gotten alcohol poisoning.”
“I don’t remember any of that.”
“Yeah, I did overhear some of what the doctors said to your brother. See, when we placed you under IV, you started to panic. You pulled out all the wires and you asked us to let you go. You even had a seizure or two, so we had to put you under restrains so that you wouldn’t hurt yourself.”
“So the memory loss is like a side effect of the seizures?”
“That’s what we’re assuming so far. Your brother said you just came back from war?”
“Yeah about a few weeks now..”
“Well, it’s consistent then. We’ve had similar cases of soldiers being admitted by their spouses with similar symptoms of memory loss and violent behaviour. The doctors have this weird theory of shock and stress, but I don’t really know much about it. What I do know however is that you’re one of the worst cases we’ve had so far.”
Steve comes in early the next morning, when the visiting hours start. He had a few days of his medical leave and has been using the past 3 days that he had to stay with Bucky.
He remembered that his ma used to give him tones of plum juice when he was a kid; he remembers how she always mentioned that they would help him in school, that it’ll make his memory good and that he’d learn faster than the rest.
Steve wasn’t really a fan of plum juice, and neither did he believe in the miracles that his ma used to tell him about them. But with Bucky constantly forgetting things that happened earlier in the day or the day before, he’d be willing to try anything.
“Drink this up, okay?”
“I wanted to um..”
“And here’s some fruits, we need you to be dehydrated and have all those vitamins in your body.”
“And I’ve spoken to the doctors, they said that you were doing much better and that…”
Bucky grabbed Steve’s hand and held them tightly.
“You okay, Buck?”
Steve looked back at Bucky, not really sure about what the brunette had meant upon saying those very words.
“For everything. For this. You’re not supposed to be looking after me. I’m supposed to do this for you. I promised ma.”
“Steve just plastered a smile over his face. “I’m also with you until the end of line, Buck.”