This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
Bucky sat flexing his flesh and blood hand to ease the pain of having typed almost five hours straight while Steve stood reading his finished product. He watched his best friend’s face run through a myriad of emotions, his breathing picking up pace as the climax arrived and then Steve let out a high whine of pain as he skimmed over the last few lines. He looked up at Bucky, his face contorted with anguish and real sadness. He shook the pages at Bucky.
“Buck! How could you make me do this to you!” Steve cried. Bucky rolled his eyes and took the pages from his hand. He looked to the upper level of the shop and flapped the pages at the dark skinned young man who was grinning down at them.
“Will you read it and let me get proper feedback Sam?” Bucky asked, “This drama queen over here keeps thinking that just because the main characters are named after us, that I am writing about us.” Sam laughed, climbed over the bannister, leaned down to get the pages and settled down on the bannister’s edge.
“You know you love that he gets so involved in your stories,” Sam replied, as he began to read, “Don’t think I don’t know how much you like the attention.”
Bucky snorted but didn’t say anything. Steve was still ranting about the scene where the character that he was patterned after also called Bucky, falls off a train after his best friend; that was patterned after Steve called Steven; fails to save him. Bucky patiently waited till Steve paused to take a breath and then grabbed Steve by the shoulders.
“I know that you will never let anything happen to me as far as you are able to protect me from it,” Bucky said, “We’ve been through hell together, you and I. And I know that you are here for me as much as I am here for you. Till the end of the line, right punk?”
Steve’s face softened and he reached up to take hold of Bucky’s prosthetic hand.
“Till the end of line you jerk,” he smiled. Bucky felt his own face stretch into a smile.
“Awwww, look at you two love birds,” Sam crooned from over their heads. Bucky flipped him the bird. Sam laughed.
“Real mature there Barnes. Real mature.” Bucky looked up to stick his tongue out at Sam just to prove a point. He looked back at Steve to find that his friend’s eyes had taken on that far-away look he got when the creative juices were pouring out into that thick skull of his.
“I got it Bucky,” Steve said in an almost dreamy voice and wandered off as if a daze. Bucky looked up again to catch Sam smiling fondly at Steve’s retreating back. He sent a matching fond smile as he moved away to power down his laptop and do the night rounds around the shop.
As usual he started with clearing up the Reading Couches of their stray books and then making his way along the walls, putting the books away and neatening up the book shelves. He fluffed up the handmade pillows that Clint had given to them for Christmas and tried to smooth out the wrinkles from the cushions but with little progress made. He sighed and abandoned hope, moving to gather up the trays with the white, ceramic coffee cups from the coffee table that Steve had chosen to match the dark wood décor of the walls. He turned to see Sam slide off the bannister and drop lightly to the floor.
“I like it,” Sam said, setting the pages down on register counter and coming over to take a tray from him.
“Sam, I spent countless hours of work trying to get that ending just right. You have got to give me something more than ‘I like it’,” Bucky dead panned. Sam rolled his eyes.
“It was evoking,” Sam said, “I felt like I was really there with them on that mountain top, in the snow, rappelling down onto a moving train. I felt the connection between those men. I felt rush of the gun fight, the thrill of the mission. The horror and pain of Steven’s loss when Bucky fell. It…” Sam looked away from him. “It reminded me a bit of what I used to have. What it was like to be involved in a mission, to be a part of something bigger than yourself surrounded by people that you care about. It reminded me of Riley.”
Bucky swallowed hard and was about to say something when there was a cracking noise. He jumped and looked down to see that his metal arm had broken the tray.
“Oh man,” Sam sang, “Steve is going to read you the riot act over that. He just bought those trays two weeks ago.”
“Shhh,” Bucky hissed, despite the fact that he knew that Steve could not hear Sam. Sam laughed and walked through the little concealed entrance to the back of the shop. The corridor opened up into their living quarters which was a huge loft area that mimicked the shop; with the bedrooms up top and the kitchen and living area downstairs. Steve’s door was ajar and they could hear his favorite tunes wafting down.
“Hey, I didn’t mean to jog painful memories for you,” Bucky said as they began to wash up.
“Put a glove on over your arm,” Sam said. Bucky complied.
“I know man. I told you that I liked it, didn’t I?” Sam resumed the conversation, “It’s fine. It’s painful yes, but that doesn’t mean I don’t even want to think about it. Loss is not something you shove under the rug, you gotta deal with that and grow stronger from it.”
“Spoken like a true VA,” Bucky smiled at him. Sam jostled him with his shoulder.
Steve was still at work when they were done so they started up a late night snack while Bucky worked on his apology about the tray.
Two hours later Steve woke them up from where they had fallen asleep in front of the muted television.
“You ate all the tacos,” he whined.
“We put your share of stuffing in the oven,” Sam muttered, rubbing his eyes. Steve gave them a brilliant smile and returned with the bowl of stuffing mixed with crumbled taco skins.
“Steve, that is blasphemy,” Bucky said grimacing as Steve began to shovel food into his mouth. Steve paused and chewed with his mouth open for a few seconds then said,
Bucky shoved Sam back down into the couch and took off for the stairs. Sam screamed at him, eyes flaring red and in one swift motion; he leapt from the couch, up to banister, claws gripping tight and hoisted himself over.
“No fair!” Bucky yelled at him as he topped the stairs, “I didn’t use my powers!”
“You shoved me back into the couch to gain an advantage,” Sam yelled back, yanking the door open, “A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do!”
“Sam, don’t!” Bucky yelled as Sam made to step through the door.
“You guys are idiots,” Steve’s voice came up to them. Sam grinned as Bucky caught up with him. He bowed at the waist and motioned through the door. Bucky smacked him on the back as he got up and slung his arm across Sam’s shoulders. Together they entered Steve’s room almost reverently and stood before the easel.
It was the scene of Bucky falling off the train.
Bucky’s breath caught in his throat. He tried to say something but nothing came out. The scene was uncannily realistic as all of Steve’s drawings tended to be but it was the facial expressions and body language of Steven and Bucky that made the picture feel even more real. He managed to capture all the fear, horror and false hope on both their faces. Bucky felt his eyes blur and suddenly an arm draped over his shoulder.
“What do you think?” Steve asked.
“It’s utterly amazing,” Sam whispered. Bucky nodded slowly.
“I’m sorry I made you go through this,” he said to Steve. Steve shrugged.
“Like you said, this isn’t us,” he replied, “This is just fictional characters.”
“But you painted them like it was us,” Bucky said, “You lived this moment out over and over as you drew this. You had to live letting me fall, over and over, in order to do this for me.” Steve leaned his head against Bucky’s.
“What are brother’s for?” Steve said, “You know how far I would go for you. For both of you.” He leaned his head against Sam’s. They both nodded.
“Now,” Steve said suddenly business, “What happened to my tray?”
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