This is only loosely a 5-things fic. It's mostly just angst and Bucky secretly being a hipster snob along the way.
Title: My Kind of Rain
Fandom: Captain America/Avengers
Pairings: Gen or Steve/Bucky if you read squint real hard.
Warnings: angst and grief
Word Count: 4558
Disclaimer: If I owned it, it would be heartbreaking.
Summary: 5 times Steve wanted to tell Bucky about the future and 1 time he needed to talk about the past.
Seventy years and Steve wakes up missing Bucky. His friend had always been there, through bullying and icy winters and most of a damn war, and he doesn't know how to live without that presence at his side.
Steve knows that Bucky is dead. He's not living in denial. But knowing it and feeling it are two different things entirely. It's only been a couple weeks from his perspective and he still expects to see his friend every time he turns around. Because the memories aren't the worst part. The worst part is forgetting and then being slammed in the face with reality again.
The worst part is knowing that Bucky would have loved this mad-cap future that he finds himself trapped in. All the weird machines and new technology would have made the other man as giddy as a kid on Christmas morning and maybe sharing their discoveries would have made Steve feel less out of place.
S.H.I.E.L.D. gave him a dossier to catch him up to speed – a list of everything that his new handlers think is most important. But it's mostly seven decades worth of politics; no one thought to mention the things that truly shock him, the little things that make him stare when he walks down the street. Because politicians haven't changed, not really, but women can wear pants now and the signs are all electric. The old tenements have been rebuilt as fancy new apartments and the metro has expanded; suddenly no one's worried about polio or cholera.
To be fair, it's not all pleasant. People don't communicate and no one seems to know their neighbors, too busy staring at their phones to say hello. No one ever looks up, not unless they're leering, and Steve just can't get over the clothes civilians wear.
People in the future walk around half-dressed: no hats, no coats, no tights, and enough skin on display to make the captain blush. Joggers of both genders run around in skin-tight neon outfits, men exercise bare-chested, and the first time he sees a mini-skirt, Steve almost trips down the stairs. He was not expecting that and he swears he can hear his best friend cackling.
Clothes have changed so much and with seventy years of fashions to discover, Bucky would have dived in happily. He'd always cared about his appearance: they may have been poor, but he'd made sure his clothes were clean and pressed before he went out on the town. Bucky had shined his shoes and slicked his hair and during the war, he'd been the most sharply dressed of any of the Howling Commandos.
So the other man would have adapted to the twenty-first century's new standards. He would have adapted and dragged Steve along with him, ensuring that both of them turned heads whenever they walked down the street. Even when the blond couldn't get a date to save his life, his clothes were not the problem; Bucky had taken care of him.
Indeed, Bucky would have loved this, is a driving refrain inside Steve's chest. New York is a city of bright colors and strange outfits and everywhere he looks, the captain sees a new style: punk and plaid and retro – apparently clothing comes in genres now – and that's not even starting on the hair. Without the need for hats, people's hairdos have gotten much more creative and he didn't know some of those colors were even possible.
The captain has been thawed out for three weeks when he asks S.H.I.E.L.D. about buying clothing and his first sight of a department store nearly brings him to his knees. There are too many choices, too many options, and he just can't deal with this. Not without his best friend; not when clothes were Bucky's passion more than his.
So Steve grabs the first outfit that looks familiar before running back to his apartment, almost losing his S.H.I.E.L.D. handlers as he flees that stab of grief.
After that disastrous first visit to the “mall,” the captain doesn't venture outside for a full week. Apparently these days you can get anything delivered and for once, he doesn't feel guilty about letting S.H.I.E.L.D. pay for everything. The future is ridiculously expensive and he just can't face the world right now.
When he finally gets his shit together, the blond still sticks to smaller shops. He finds things easier to process when they aren't as many choices and corner stores in New York haven't really changed. Other than the prices, bodegas are bodegas, and Steve is desperately grateful for the sense of familiarity.
So he wanders through his neighborhood when he needs a break from S.H.I.E.L.D.'s reports. He window shops and people watches and one day on a whim, he follows the sound of music into a nearby store.
Steve's not expecting what he finds. There is music everywhere – at least, he thinks it's music. The captain doesn't recognize three-quarters of the products but he knows what vinyl looks like. Although no one in their building could afford a record player, there had been a shared one that traveled around the neighborhood. People would borrow it for birthdays and other celebrations, the same few worn out records sending strains of jazz and swing through the warm air.
On other nights, Bucky and Steve would huddle around their radio, listening to the stations that played the “next big thing.” His friend had adored music. Once you got him going, the other man could talk about swing for hours and the blond had never minded listening.
Bucky would have fit in here perfectly. When Steve stutters out a request for records from the thirties, the store clerk's eyes light up. The woman gives him a tour of the whole section while chattering on about enhanced sound quality and this place really does have everything: The Man From Harlem, New Tiger Rag, all of Bucky's favorites plus several dozen more that he'd never had the chance to listen to.
There's Glenn Miller and Louie Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Rudy Vellee sorted alphabetically. Steve has never seen some of these records, never knew that they existed. Several are live performances – restored and remastered, whatever that might mean. His friend might recognize them; Bucky used to visit the clubs in Harlem whenever he could spare the money. He always claimed live swing was better and promised that he'd take Steve dancing someday, someday when he was well enough to Lindy Hop without passing out.
Before the Serum, that had been a pipe dream, but Bucky had made him practice anyway. Despite his two left feet, his friend was determined, running him through the basic steps to their crackling radio. Swing had been king on the big stations so they had lots of options, though Bucky always complained that those versions were just covers, cleaned up for the audience without that same pure joy. Finding a recording of real Harlem swing had been impossible in those days and so the other man would have loved this place; he would have loved to introduce Steve to all the music he adored.
“Do you sell record players?” the blond chokes out and when the clerk nods, he goes on a shopping spree. S.H.I.E.L.D. keeps telling him he's rich now and if that's true, he can't think of a better way to spend his money. The weird plastic card his handlers gave him seems to work at least and so the captain leaves the store with a brand-new record player and two dozen of the best records ever made. At least that's what the clerk had promised him.
When Steve gets back to his apartment, he clears a space to practice and then listens to every album without pause. His Lindy Hop is rusty but his lungs can take it now and he tries to remember everything that Bucky showed him way back when.
With Louie Armstrong in his ears, he can almost pretend he's back in Brooklyn. He can almost pretend his best friend is right there with him listening.
Slowly, Steve adjusts. He stops freaking out whenever he looks at a price tag and sometimes he even manages to sleep through the whole night. But the blond still spends more time destroying punching bags than is probably healthy and he's relieved when Fury says that Captain America is needed once again, even if the uniform they give him is just plain ridiculous. Someone clearly watched too many USO film reels, but at least if he's in combat, he doesn't have to think.
Yet once the fight has started, Steve only misses the Howling Commandos even more desperately. That had been a team. Fury's Avengers are a joke; barely even pointing in the same direction against their enemies.
S.H.I.E.L.D. itself is keeping secrets, Stark is just an asshole, and Steve isn't surprised when everything goes FUBAR from the start. He's more surprised that they manage to cooperate enough to scrape out a victory. But they do; somehow this fractured team stops an alien invasion and the captain doesn't think about his best friend for whole hours at a time.
But the respite doesn't last. After finishing his schwarma, Steve heads back out to help look for survivors and he swears that he can hear Bucky grumbling. The other man always complained that he worked himself too hard. Of course, if Captain America had worked hard, his friend had worked himself even harder to keep up. He would've been right here with him and that's part of why the blond keeps pushing. Because Bucky isn't here to take up the captain's slack and every person that he rescues is one who might not have made it otherwise.
Steve returns children to their parents and husbands to their wives, thought most are handed off to EMTs to treat their injuries. He works for hours without pause, moving from one building to the next in a grey haze of exhaustion. The captain barely even registers the people that he's helping, not until he drags a pair of young men from their basement and they start kissing desperately.
That stops Steve in his tracks. These kids are much too young to get arrested and throw away their lives so he looks around to make sure there are no cops in sight. So far the coast seems clear but the pair should know better than to do that where anyone can see.
“Capsicle! There you are!”
Steve spins around at the call and lets out a sigh when he sees Stark marching toward him. The other man may have come through in the end, but that doesn't mean the captain likes him. That doesn't mean he trusts Stark outside of battle so he shifts to block the young men from view as best he can.
Stark is chattering about something, running his mouth like usual, and the blond just lets the words wash over him. But he can't stop him from coming closer without seeming very strange and when the other man looks over his shoulder, he feels his stomach drop. Stark wouldn't smirk like that if the kids had left the way they should.
“Bet that was a shock, wasn't it, Cap?” the man asks smarmily. “I know back in your day, you probably beat boys like that silly, but being gay isn't illegal anymore.”
The words take a second for Steve to translate and even then, he can't believe what he's just heard.
“Wait, it isn't?” he replies, glancing back at the young men. The two of them have stopped kissing, but the way they're wrapped around each other makes their feelings obvious.
“Sorry to disappoint, but they can be together free and clear. Some people still don't like it, of course; hicks and hate crimes go hand in hand. But it ain't illegal and they can even get married in some states now. The joys of wedded bliss and divorce for everyone.”
“Oh.... That's good. That's good to hear,” Steve tells him quietly. Stark seems confused by his reaction but he has no desire to explain.
All Steve can think about is the fear on Bucky's face the day he caught him kissing a fellow in their kitchen. The blond had come back early and hadn't bothered to announce himself when he walked in the door. Why would he? His best friend was supposed to be at work and he'd never even hinted that he liked gents as well as dames. Bucky had stammered out an explanation as his fella ran off without a word, leaving him to face the music on his own.
The way his friend had looked at him...
They'd known each other forever, almost their whole lives, but the other man had still been terrified that Steve would hate him anyway. It had taken weeks for Bucky to believe the blond still liked him. It had taken months for him to trust enough to bring a fella home again.
Maybe Steve should have cared; sodomy was illegal after all. But he knew Bucky better than anyone. If the other man said that he'd always been drawn to dames and gents then he wasn't lying and Steve refused to believe that God had built his best friend wrong. Bucky was a good man; he had no doubt of that.
So the captain walks away from Stark without a word, ignoring the string of questions that the man shouts after him. Apparently he'd just assumed Steve would be outraged and that only makes him feel worse. He can't deal with Stark when it's already taking all his strength to hold back tears.
Because things may not be perfect now but Bucky had deserved this. He'd deserved to court both men and women without being thrown in prison for who he dared to love. His friend was a romantic, throwing himself into every relationship without hesitation and it always killed him when he couldn't share his feelings with the world. Bucky had admitted on one drunken night that he usually courted women for that reason even though he really preferred to lie with men.
“I like 'em both, don't get me wrong,” the other man had told him. “I'm better off than some folks. But there's just something about a fella...”
Bucky had sounded wistful then, so aching that it hurt, and Steve had never had the heart to ask too many questions after that. He didn't want to poke a sore spot just for curiosity. But sometimes talking seemed to help and so he'd always listened carefully. He wanted to help his best friend any way he could.
“I wish you were here to see this, Buck,” Steve murmured. “I wish you could have had the chance to be yourself more openly.”
S.H.I.E.L.D. moves him to Washington D.C. a few weeks after the Chitauri's failed invasion. Fury has plenty of work for Captain America and so he spends a lot of time on missions and in training. However, he still explores his new home as often as he can. It's easier in D.C. There aren't as many ghosts to haunt him here.
Of course, that doesn't stop him from going to see Peggy. Her presence is a comfort, even though it hurts to see the confusion in her eyes. She's still a taste of home and the love of his damn life, someone who understands just how much the world has changed. She's someone who knew both Bucky and the Howling Commandos and the two of them spend hours trading memories.
However, Peggy also pushes Steve to build a new life. She tells him to find new interests, hobbies outside of working, and the captain tries to follow her advice. He “borrows” one of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s motorcycles and spends hours simply driving. He attends all the museums of art and history, catching up on seventy years of innovation. Some of the new techniques make his hands itch for a pencil, while found art and pop art just confuse him mightily.
Steve buys himself a sketchpad and spends hours at his local coffee shop, drawing portraits of the people who walk by. Although S.H.I.E.L.D. finally announced that he'd survived in one very awkward press conference, a change of posture and a baseball cap do wonders and if anyone in this shop has recognized him, they're kind enough to keep it to themselves. In return, Steve makes sure to order something at regular intervals.
At first, he sticks to coffee, drinking it black with no additions just like he's always done. But the more time the captain spends here, the more curious he gets. There's all kinds of fancy drinks now: half-caf, half-soy, something called a frappacino, most don't even sound like English to his ears. He's also not the only one who spends hours in this shop – there's a whole community of businessmen and students, writers and other artists – and when someone orders drinks that come in five separate colors, Steve just has to know what that's about.
So the captain starts at one corner of the menu and goes down the board in order, trying everything. Some drinks he likes, some drinks he doesn't, but all of them make him wish that Bucky could be here.
His friend had hated coffee. Before the war, he'd only drunk it because he'd needed energy for those long shifts at the docks. He'd gulped the stuff like medicine but he'd made the disgusted faces the whole time.
Indeed, Bucky's grumbling about coffee had been a great source of amusement to the other Howling Commandos. Every morning they'd take bets on what swear words he'd use next and the first mouthful of some too sweet iced concoction makes Steve choke back tears again.
Because Bucky would have loved this and the blond would have loved watching him. He knows his friend wouldn't have shied away from asking the blunt questions such as “What's up with the weird sizes?” and “Why is that drink green?”
Steve could have helped him find a favorite, something he could actually stomach happily. They could have discovered all the joys of modern coffee shops together and Steve aches for that lost opportunity. The other man would have tried the entire menu with him even though he would have hated most of it.
Bucky would have also hated television. Although the technology is fascinating, his friend had been picky about his entertainment. He'd grumbled about the news reels that played before the pictures; commercials would have driven him insane. They're so in-your-face, always occurring at the worst moment in the program, and some of them are cryptic beyond belief. Even Steve finds them baffling and he used to paint ads for extra money when he could.
The shows themselves are just as strange and after the captain stumbles onto Storage Wars and then Toddlers and Tiaras in quick succession, he avoids standard programming for weeks. Some things about the future he doesn't need to understand.
DVDs, however, are something else entirely. Those would have kept his best friend glued to the television and Steve is drawn in just as well. He never imagined watching pictures in his own apartment and a quick search on the internet gives him a long list of classic films he needs to see. The captain knows enough to Google now and recommendations from S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Strike Team add a few more titles that he missed.
So Steve spends months on this new project, passing every evening with a movie on his couch. Some are better than the others, but on the whole he's left spell-bound.
Jaws and Star Wars leap off the screen with effects he never dreamed of and he spends most of Jurassic Park wondering if scientists had actually cloned those dinosaurs. Blade Runner is the sort of dark dystopia that Bucky used to read and when Natasha tells him that Disney made more movies, Steve spends an entire weekend binging princesses.
The blond remembers Snow White; he'd gone with Bucky and his sisters to the show when it came out. His friend had complained about watching a kid's picture, but once the film reel started, he'd been enchanted soon enough.
The art in the new films has gotten even better and Steve finds himself wishing he could tell his friend about his favorite scenes. It's not like he can talk to anyone else about animation; S.H.I.E.L.D.'s agents mostly look confused when he mentions drawing – let alone perspective shading – as though the thought that he has interests simply doesn't register. They don't see him as a person, just a symbol, and Steve can't invite them over to watch Beauty and the Beast.
Bucky would have joined him. He would have watched every movie and listened to the captain ramble about these new-fangled film techniques. They could have learned together, comparing animation vs. computers vs. practical effects and arguing about which of them was best. Bucky would have lived and died on the hill of miniatures until they agreed to disagree and gone with him to the IMAX to discover what that means.
Captain America can't spend an entire day at the pictures. Captain America doesn't fill all his shelves with DVDs. But Bucky never cared about his rank. With him, he'd just be Steve and every film he watches now is one more his best friend would never get to see.
When Steve hears that the Smithsonian is creating an exhibit on the Howling Commandos, he can't decide if he's embarrassed or simply mad as hell. No one asked him if he wanted his whole life put on display. No one asked if he had anything to say.
So the captain throws on a cap and jacket and attends on opening day. The exhibit is far more popular than he expected and Steve barely has the courage to walk through the front doors. He's afraid of what he'll find there and the very first display nearly brings him to his knees.
Because that's them, that's Steve's friends in living color splashed across the wall. The mural was painted in exquisite detail behind a set of mannequins wearing their old uniforms. Every button, every pocket, every loop, and lucky pin has been recreated perfectly. The captain's old outfit is on the center mannequin and Bucky stands at his side where he belongs. Even without the mural, Steve would know him by the coat, that ridiculous blue jacket that his best friend used to wear.
Bucky had loved that coat. He'd bought it back in London on their final shore leave and he'd worn it constantly. That's what he was wearing when Steve lost him and for a second, all he can see is Bucky stretching his hand out desperately.
Steve can't forget that image. It's burned into his memory and every time he thinks about it, he feels like he can't breathe. But eventually he manages to blink his vision clear.
The captain almost wants to leave now. He knows that this will hurt him and yet... this is his chance to see his team-mates. The only photos that Steve has are from S.H.I.E.L.D.'s dossiers and while he's drawn them all a thousand times, it's just not the same. The blond could never capture the curl of Dum Dum's mustache or the precise angle of Morita's head when he was concentrating. He'd forgotten the way that Bucky always laughed with his whole body, his eyes crinkling as he threw back his head in glee.
Steve watches that video for almost half an hour, trying to embed the sight into his memory. He and Bucky look so happy then and his heart breaks a little more every time that it repeats.
The captain misses his old comrades; he misses Dernier's weird jokes that Gabe always failed to translate and Falsworth's impersonations. He misses Morita's bilingual cursing and Dum Dum's booming laughter, and knowing that Bucky had his six.
Now it's simply Steve, Steve and the Avengers, who claim to be his team-mates but have gone their separate ways. He hasn't even heard from them in weeks.
The blond watches these old films until he thinks he might start crying, broken by the weight of memory. He has to take five minutes in the bathroom to recover and he holds the sink so tightly that it cracks beneath his hands.
Steve leaves the broken pieces and moves to the next exhibit. There's displays of information for each of the Howling Commandos but he only feels more shaky with every word he reads. Because the stories are just wrong enough to make him question everything.
Morita never drank tea and Falsworth didn't speak French. Dernier's family was from Toulon, Dum Dum wasn't Irish, and Bucky had been drafted, he didn't volunteer. The number on his dog tags had been 32557038; sometimes Steve still hears him repeat it in his dreams. But this sign has the wrong prefix – a one for willing soldiers – and the rest of his friend's story is no more accurate.
The museum claims they met at church but Bucky wasn't Catholic; he'd pick up shifts on Sundays to help them make ends meet. There's no mention of his siblings even though he had adored them, three people simply written straight out of history.
Steve knows that they existed – he remembers all their faces – but what if his memory is wrong? The historians who wrote this must have done their research and so maybe what he knows as truth isn't true at all. What if the blond had dreamed a different life while sleeping his away?
The idea staggers him and he has to leave right now. Steve stumbles to the exit, shoving his way blindly through the crowd. He feels like he can't breathe, like he's pre-transformation and his lungs are failing him. The captain staggers down the steps, his only thought a panicked, Why isn't Bucky here?
He needs to see his best friend. He needs to talk to Bucky and compare their histories.
But the other man is gone. Steve's friend is dead and his life has been rewritten, either by the world or by his memories. In truth, the captain is afraid to learn the answer and he wishes that he could go back to his former certainty. But Steve can't stop dwelling. He can't stop visiting.
If only, he keeps thinking. If only Bucky was here with him, life would make sense again.
Steve has never been more right and wrong.
A long time in the future, two friends sit with each other.
One asks, “What do you remember?” and the other answers, “You.”
“I have so much to show you,” the first man continues and the second smiles, “Yeah, pal, I missed you too.”