Chapter One: Nick Fury's Cabin
The cabin is quiet as Steve stands in the small kitchen, blue eyes trained on the view outside of the window. It's too early for the sun to be shining through, but the moon reflects off the lake, penetrating the blanket of darkness of the early morning. He's not sure exactly what time it is; although, he has a feeling it's encroaching close to four A.M. He's been awake for at least an hour already.
He couldn't sleep.
If asked, the blonde would probably make some quip about having already slept for seventy years, but his time in the ice has nothing to do with his sleep issues, and yet everything to do with them, nonetheless. It's been a couple of weeks since he woke up in New York City, and he hasn't gotten a full night of sleep since. His mind keeps running, faster and faster the harder he tries to close his eyes and relax. Memories constantly pull and tug at his mind, taunting him of the world he can no longer go back to and the people he no longer has. Bits and pieces of the war find home in his thoughts, and he has to keep reminding himself that the war is over—the Allies had won, and he no longer has to prove himself, no longer has to fight. The only enemies he has now are time and his thoughts.
Birds begin chirping outside, and Steve lets out a soft sigh. Nick Fury's cabin is quiet and isolated, secluded in a small forest and free of the humming and buzzing of the city, but Steve's not sure that's what he needs right now: the quiet. It's like giving his thoughts a megaphone, allowing them to be louder than everything around him. At least in the city, he could drown them out in the noises of the people and the cars, but there, the chances of being overwhelmed by everything that's different is higher. There, the visual reminders that he is no longer home in his own time, you are not here with him, and he will never see you and Bucky again are loud and clear.
His hand picks at the locket around his neck.
The bacon in the pan in front of him starts to sizzle, and he grabs a pair of tongs and begins to flip some of the pieces of pork over. The greasy smell brings him back to early Sunday mornings in Brooklyn at your apartment: Sarah and your mothers—yes, your mothers, although to the outside world one of them was known as your aunt, because even though your family and the Rogers clan had been more progressive that didn't mean the rest of your neighborhood was—in the kitchen, cooking pancakes and bacon before church, while you and Steve picked through the newspapers for the comics. Eventually, Bucky had joined in the ranks of the Sunday morning breakfast tradition, but that hadn't been until one fateful afternoon at school.
You were stuck inside the school building, finishing up a test you had missed the day before. You had been out sick, just a small case of the stomach flu, but Steve hadn't had seen you since you had been sent home by the school's nurse. His mom had kept him from going over to visit you, not wanting to chance him getting sick. His immune system was not as strong as yours. So, there he sat outside, waiting for you to finish your test, excited for the chance to catch up on the walk back home.
It was there, flipping through a handful of baseball cards on the playground swing, that he met Bucky Barnes.
But not before trouble called his name first.
The short and scrappy blonde looked up from the deck in his hand to find a couple of boys from his class walking towards him. Steve was a friendly boy, but he still had a tough time making friends. Your friendship had been a guarantee, given the friendship between your mothers and the closeness of age between the two of you, and there was a couple of other boys in his class that he talked to at school but not many others. He wasn't sure if it was just because he wasn't around as often as the other children, frequently home sick for this and that, or if it was because he was so small and easy to pick on. He figured that latter was more likely.
"Hey, Tommy, Frank," he greeted back. His smile was uneasy, and he fiddled with the cards in his hands. Tommy and Frank definitely weren't his friends. They were always getting in trouble at school, whether for simply making a ruckus in the classroom or being caught picking on some of the kids in the younger grades. As he glanced down at his watch, Steve was pretty sure that's why they were still hanging around school this late in the afternoon. Detention usually let out around this time.
"Whatcha still doing here?" Tommy asked, arms folded as he and Frank stood in front of Steve, who stayed put on the swing. The two seemed to loom over him, intimidating. They weren't overtly tall for their age, but Steve was so short, and given he was sitting down, he seemed even smaller.
"Waiting on a friend."
"What friend?" Frank mocked. He titled his head as if in thought before speaking again. "Oh, you mean your littlegirlfriend?"
"She's not my girlfriend." Steve defended. You two were not dating. You were best friends, you hung out all the time because you were neighbors and your mothers were best friends. You were both interested in baseball and drawing, among other things. You were best friends, but you were not dating.
The both of you were too young to be dating anyway.
The two boys laughed before rolling their eyes. "You sure spend a lot of time around her for her to not be your girlfriend."
Steve didn't respond and stood up from the swing and made to walk away, back towards the school building. He'd wait for you in the library instead. The librarian was nice, and she always had baked goodies left over from her lunch to share with the kids who stayed late to read. He'd bid his time there until you finished your test, and he could walk you home.
"Hey, wait! We ain't done talking with you yet," Tommy yelled out, but Steve kept walking. He felt a hand grab his shoulder and turn him around, the two boys standing in front of him once again.
"Well, I am."
"No, you're not." Frank pushed at Steve's shoulder, not a hard shove but enough to grab his attention. "See, you've got two options here. You can keep talking to us or you can give us your leftover lunch money and we'll leave you alone to wait on your little girlfriend."
"She's not my—"
Tommy rolled his eyes. "Yeah, whatever—look, you gonna pay or not?"
Steve's left hand clenched around his baseball cards, and he shook his head. "No."
"No?" Frank seemed a bit shocked at Steve's response. Who was this little guy to say no to him?
"No." Steve's words came out stronger this time as he got ready for the consequences of turning down the boys' offer, knowing sooner or later one of them was gonna start throwing punches. Two against one definitely wasn't fair, but neither was Frank and Tommy picking on someone so much smaller than them.
He just hoped you still packed a first aid kit in your backpack.
Tommy threw the first punch, hitting Steve in the stomach, and the smaller boy stumbled back before dropping his baseball cards onto the grassy ground. He curled his fingers into his palms, thumb sticking out. He had learnt the hard way once before to not keep his thumb inside his palm when throwing a punch. Steve's fist landed on Tommy's shoulder, but there wasn't much strength behind it, and the other boy let out a laugh.
Frank went next and managed to catch Steve right on the cheek, and Steve was about ready to throw another punch but stopped short when he saw Tommy being shoved into Frank by another boy, one taller than the both of them. Steve recognized him as one of boys in the grade above him.
"Get out of here, punks!" he yelled at the boys, shoving at them once more. He was stronger and older, and Frank and Tommy didn't need to be told twice before scampering off.
Steve relaxed, uncurling his hands and letting out a soft sigh of relief.
"Here," the older boy said as he picked up the fallen baseball cards off the ground and handed them to Steve. "You dropped these."
"Thanks," he mumbled. He fiddled with the deck, straightening the cards before shoving them into his jacket pocket.
"No problem." The older boy looked Steve up in down as if inspecting for any serious injuries. There wasn't much more than a blossoming bruise on his cheek. "Sorry about those kids. They're a bunch of jerks."
"I'm used to it."
"You shouldn't be." The older boy sighed before stretching out his hand. "I'm Bucky."
"Steve!" you yelled, running out of the building as fast as your feet could manage, stumbling a bit over the school steps. Your skirt billowed in the wind as you got closer to the playground where Steve and Bucky stood. When you finally managed to reach them, you were huffing but smiling all the same. "Sorry, I took so long. Mrs. Fisher made me wait until she finished grading the test before I could go, but I got an A, so I guess I can't complain—who's this?" you asked, as if only realizing the presence of the other boy. "And what happened to your cheek?"
"Long story," Steve muttered before gesturing towards Bucky. "This is Bucky."
You smiled at the dark-haired boy, waving slightly with one hand as you introduced yourself, before turning back to Steve. "Did you get into a fight again?"
"Again?" Bucky asked, and you simply nodded.
"He's always getting into fights. So often that I started carrying around a first aid kit to patch him up afterwards. Not that it's entirely his fault, but he could back down at least once in a while."
Steve scoffed, although he couldn't quite deny your accusations. "I don't like bullies," he defended.
"Well, they sure seem to like you." You turned back to Bucky. "Um—we were going to stop by the newsstand on the way back home to look at the comics. You're welcome to tag along if you want."
The brunette seemed surprised by your invitation, but a quick smile formed on his face. "Sure, why not?"
The popping of the bacon in the grease brings Steve back to the kitchen, and he grabs a plate, folding a couple of paper towels on top of it before using the tongs to pick up each piece of bacon and lay them out on the plate. The birds aren't singing anymore and the grease is quieting down as it cools off, and Steve is back in the silence once again.