Auld Lang Syne
December 31, 2016
Barnes stared out at the island of Manhattan, sipping his drink and listening to the faint scritch of pencil on paper as Steve sketched and the soft drone of the television reporting on Times Square. He kept his back angled against the arm of the couch so that from the corner of his eye he could see the entry hall into the apartment, but his tension was already less than it had been at any of the safe houses in the last six months. Stark’s AI kept constant, tight surveillance and gave Steve access to any of the public areas and exterior feeds. Given the sheer number of cameras, Stark was almost as paranoid as Barnes. That helped him to feel more secure, that and the comforting Irish lilt of Friday – so similar to dozens of other neighborhood women that he could vaguely recall from his youth.
Even feeling like he had a defensible position, Steve at his side, and excellent ground preparation, he still calculated the cosine angles of the six best sniper positions for hitting the apartment window.
Distance: one thousand, four hundred, fifty-one meters. Wind speed: seven point two meters per second, ninety degrees, cross sheer at eight point nine meters per second within twelve meters of target. Spindrift-
“Not a bad way to end the year,” Steve commented, interrupting Barnes’ thoughts. It was probably for the best. Wilson said there was nothing wrong with being aware of his surroundings and assessing vulnerabilities and exit strategies, but that he shouldn’t let that take over his ability to experience the present. Wilson was kind of a stilted asshole sometimes.
That didn’t mean he was wrong. Just that Barnes wasn’t going to admit it.
“Better than last year.” As 2015 had closed, Barnes had been returning to his bedroll in a condemned building in Ostrava, covered in blood, and anticipating digging a slug out of his thigh. He had been desperately holding onto a vicious satisfaction over the death of every person he had found in the latest HYDRA base and the destruction of assets there – all so that he wouldn’t fall into a rage- and fear- fueled catatonic state. The files he had unearthed there had nearly set him back to the beginning of his recovery. A video image of him being waterboarded for some less than perfectly achieved goal while a soldier carefully stripped the layers of skin from the soles of his feet. It had been difficult, during parts, to hear the scientist droning on about healing factor over Barnes’ own screams.
Steve didn’t need to hear about that right now.
“Food here is okay.” Barnes looked at the empty pizza boxes, delivery from someplace that would put damn near anything on a pie – the sunny side egg was better than he thought it would be – but the crust was that perfect mix of chewy and crisp and the red sauce had a hint of spice to it that only came from homemade. A far cry from the IV of saline he had self-administered and flavorless jerky he had eaten a year ago.
Steve snorted, “Just okay? Don’t let Natasha hear you say that. This is her favorite place. Though she likes the one with the bacon and kale.”
Barnes got a vague memory of a little girl, perhaps ten or eleven, but too thin for her age. Her eyes were huge in her face, red hair scraped back in a ponytail. The other girls, the few who also had done well enough for a reward, were eating so quickly he was sure they would be sick. In contrast, Natalia had bitten each strip of bacon precisely, chewing carefully and savoring the flavor. He had wanted to wipe the blood spatter off her face. She had done the best. He had been proud.
He took another slow sip to help clear his mind and sat forward to pull a brownie from the nearly empty plate Steve had made up earlier. His friend made a face – Steve didn’t think whiskey and chocolate mixed – and Barnes took an obnoxiously large bite to prove him wrong. It wasn’t the best combination, but it was still pretty good.
“Your girl coming back soon?”
Predictably, Steve cursed and chucked a balled up paper at his head. Barnes had to shove the rest of his desert in his mouth to free up a hand for catching.
“Ain’t my girl, jerk. Knock it off.”
“Could be, if you’d ever work up the balls to ask.”
“Could be you could end up with your face on the floor, calling ‘uncle’.”
Barnes widened his eyes, “And whose goin’ to be doing that?”
Barnes snorted, “Yeah? And what army?” He tossed the paper back and Steve caught it just as deftly, smoothing it out and tucking it into his notebook.
“She’s upstate,” Steve answered. Barnes was a little surprised, he had expected Steve to try and bluff longer. “Thor left today, so she was going to stay with Dr. Foster until Tony comes back on Monday.”
Barnes did not want to talk about Stark, so instead he said, “She’s a good friend.”
“Yeah.” Steve was smiling a little bit. Barnes knew that smile, the twitch at the corner of Steve’s mouth and the worried wrinkle between his eyes.
His best friend was a great huge idiot most of the time – before that he’d been a great little idiot. Steve threw himself into danger without a thought for a plan until it was almost too late, and never cared more for his own safety than he did for standing up for what he thought was right. Steve deserved Darcy. God help him, that might be both a blessing and a punishment. As his best friend, Barnes wouldn’t tease him too much, and he’d try to help Steve out, although every saint in heaven probably wasn’t enough to make Steve smooth. Assuming they would listen to the prayers of someone as certainly hell bound as Bucky Barnes.
But he still had to tease some. It was his responsibility.
“Finally you can start pulling your weight around here. Let me know if she’s got a pretty friend. You owe me a double.”
“Only pretty friends of hers I know are Pepper and Dr. Foster,” Steve grinned suddenly, and Barnes wondered if the Smithsonian had anything in their exhibit about Captain America’s malicious streak. On the tv, the ball dropped and New York rang in 2017. “But I’ll make sure to bring up your burning desire to settle down and meet a nice girl with Darcy at the first opportunity.”
Darcy Lewis, beautiful motor-mouth and ball buster, interested in Barnes’ love life, or lack thereof? He scowled, this time chucking a brownie. Steve, the asshole, caught it in his mouth.
“Fuck off, Stevie.”