Steve doesn’t go back into the room to call, but goes back to his desk. No listening ears might be best right now. Peter picks up his phone almost at once.
      “Steve!” he says. “Long time no see. How are you?” Peter spends a lot of his time up in the sky, flying passenger jets around the world. It is pretty rare when he isn’t flying so much, but he must still be on vacation.
      “Hey Peter,” Steve says, trying to keep his tone vaguely civil. “I’ve been better. Where are you right now?” There’s a lot of background noise.
      “JFK,” he replies. “Got a flight to Prague in an hour or so. A co-worker is sick so goodbye vacation day I had saved up. Why? Is something the matter?” Steve swallows, not sure how to address this. Even worrying one Barnes (who isn’t Bucky) will lead to the whole family worrying and that is just one thing no one wants to deal with. Worried Winifred Barnes is a force to be reckoned with.
      “Nothing’s wrong. Not per se. I just need you to confirm something for me. It has to do with Bucky.” The line stays silent for at least half a minute, nothing coming through but sharp breaths.
      “Yasha? Okay, tell me what’s wrong,” Peter says, focused. “And how I can help.”
      “You need to confirm his whereabouts,” Steve breathes. “Was he with you yesterday morning?”
      “His whereabouts?” Peter exclaims. “Jesus. What are you guys convicting him of?” He knows bad news when he hears it, just as surely as Steve does.
      “Nothing yet, nothing yet,” Steve replies quickly, “and we can probably keep it that way. Was he with you, yesterday morning or wasn’t he?” The noise of people in the background only gets louder, Peter getting tougher to understand as more of the flight crew arrives.
      “He was. He arrived around a quarter to four? Left around fifteen past four, I think. I got the text about the sick coworker just before he left, I can look at the exact time if you want,” Peter says, voice uneven. He is too much like his mother; he can’t hide his worry either. “Oh, God… This is about those murders, isn’t it? Damn it, Steve. You know Yasha can’t do that.”
      “I know,” Steve says, defensive now. He has to control his voice. Anger won’t go over well. “Of course I know! But my word just isn’t good enough for the rest of the team. We need hard proof, to keep him from being convicted. And I can’t show them I know him, or I’ll be kicked off of the investigation. I need to be kept in the loop.” Peter sighs, resigned.
      “Just take care of him, Steve,” Peter says. “You know how he is. And he was a wreck yesterday. Everyone is, after all those hours in the plane. But damn it. It was bad. I don’t think all of us combined would’ve looked quite as bad. He wouldn’t tell me anything about it.” And that is so Bucky. Suffer in silence, don’t tell ‘em a thing. Except, that didn’t use to include Steve. And it bugs him. Bugs him to hell and back.
      “I get that,” Steve replies sadly. “He didn’t come to me about it either. And my partner might be dragging it out of him right now, so I really need to get back to the interrogation. Don’t you worry about it too much. We’ll get Yasha out of here in no time.” He wishes the case was as easy as that. That he had enough evidence to get Bucky out of the interrogation, no questions asked.
      “You better, Rogers,” Peter replies half-hearted. Not angry or sad but just… lost. “Defend him.” Steve laughs but it is a forced, unhappy laugh.
      “You know I will. Safe travels, Peter. I’ll talk to you once you’re back in New York. Won’t keep you out of the loop, promise.” The line goes dead and Steve hurries back to the interrogation. Bucky looks as agitated as he’s ever seen him, almost fuming.
      “Do you recognize these people?” Sam is asking as he pushes another beige envelope towards Bucky. It has pictures of the victims, before they were killed. All of them happy and smiling with the sun shining down on them. Bucky taps the first photo of a graying Father Lawrence, the photo is old, Steve never quite saw Father Lawrence before he was full-on grey. Steve’s phone buzzes, it’s Peter: ‘Got that text at 04:17 AM’.
      “That is Father Lawrence, he preached in a small church. We used to attend mass a lot, when I was a kid,” he says, mock resignation clear in his voice. “Those last two are Lauren and Mike. Lauren works in the hospital with me, Mike is her fiancé. I don’t know who the rest of them are.” Sam stares straight at Bucky, obviously not believing that. “I don’t.”
      “What did the brother say?” Clint asks Steve, when Steve doesn’t say anything of his own, just watches Bucky squirm with a growing feeling of dread, a dread that he can’t shake.
      “Oh, he confirms the alibi. Bu-… Mr. Barnes was there until a little after 04:17 AM,” he replies, he really should stop saying Bucky. “He’d gotten a text just as Barnes was leaving, so that’s why he’s so precise. If we want to ask him more, we’ll need to wait. He’s on a flight to Prague sometime in the next hour or so.” Natasha nods. “Didn’t say when he’d be back.”
      “This brother, where does he live?” she asks Steve, who makes quite a show of pulling the piece of notepaper out of his pocket, though he wouldn’t be able to read it if he didn’t already know what it says.
      “Other side of the park,” he replies. That would put Bucky on the other side of the park around thirty-five, if he went around the park. If Bucky has cut through the park though. That would leave plenty of time for him to get into position. And the building where the shells were found is close to where Bucky was last seen. Damn it. This is not going to cut it, for an alibi.
      "Jane called, while you were talking to the brother," Clint says, and he actually seems happy with something. That happiness fills Steve with more dread than anything should. Because that means something bad. Really fucking bad.
      "Oh?" He manages not to sound like somebody is choking him, but that is exactly how he feels. "What'd she have to say?" Clint exchanges a glance with Natasha then says:
      "The shells came back a match to a type of Sniper rifle. The very same type that James Barnes has registered to his name." Steve holds on to his chair maybe a little too tightly, knuckles standing out against pale skin, stretched tight over the bones.
      "Could be a coincidence," Steve says, a lot surer than he actually feels. "He can't be the only one who has that rifle." Steve knew about the rifle, of course. Knows exactly where Bucky stores it, which duffle bag it sits in, hidden away in the kitchen cupboard that doesn’t look like a cupboard and requires a lot of fiddling to even try to open. Steve found the gun when he had to open that cupboard to fix a leaky sink, back when Bucky was still learning how to properly use his – back then new – metal arm. Though it is the same make and model of his old sniper rifle he used in the war, though not the exact same gun. It serves like a lifeline nowadays. It reminds Bucky of the past; Steve's seen him pull it out of the bag it is in some bad nights, lay it down on the bed and just stare at it, hold it maybe. It helps Bucky deal with things, sometimes.
      Only now, Steve realizes how messed up that might seem to his coworkers.

      "You don't think we've got our guy?" Clint asks, while he feigns surprise, it doesn’t really cut it. It’s so obvious he’d been expecting it.
      "I don't," Steve says firmly, choosing to ignore Clint’s feigned surprise. "Don't you think it is suspicious? We had nothing for so damn long, and now we get a new piece of evidence every hour. I'm telling you, something is off about this." 'I know Bucky, he wouldn't'.
      "He's an ex-sniper. He's got the skills needed to shoot the way our killer does," Natasha says. "He's got the rifle the victims were shot with, no motive for any of the murders and a temper. There were no murders for almost two weeks which incidentally coincides with the travel plans of Barnes. I'd say that is fair enough. We're getting the clues because this guy's plans are unraveling. He's making mistakes and that's costing him. How different is this case to any other case we've done? The killer makes a mistake and we get on his trail." Steve bites back a reply that's essentially a long rant with unnecessary and not so very creative cursing.
      "It is too early in the investigation to start focusing on one subject already," Steve finally bites back. "This can all be some kind of messed up coincidence. It has happened before, Natalia. You know it has." He's hardly paying attention to the interrogation now, though only the tone in Sam's voice says enough. Things have gotten tense. Bucky looks like he might just explode. Damn it. He’s going to have to fall back on that promise that he made to Peter. He won't be able to protect Bucky after all. Damn it.
      "Do we have enough to keep him in jail?" Steve asks, hesitantly though he knows the answer. With all this evidence, and Sam already blaming Bucky, it would be a fool’s errand not to keep Bucky in the precinct. At least for now. They can't risk him escaping, or going to another country where they can't reach him. But then again, they don't have enough to make a case against Bucky. Maybe they will just let him go home, with a 'don't leave the country' notice. If Bucky could possibly be so lucky.
      "Maybe," Natasha replies testily. "It all depends on how much Sam can get out of this guy." In the interrogation room, Sam’s finishing up the interrogation.
      “That will be all for now,” Sam says. “Please stay inside the city for the remainder of the investigation.” Steve gets out of the side room before the others can and intercepts Sam and Bucky when they come out of the interrogation room.
      “I’ll do that, Sam,” he says, looking at Bucky. Peter was right. He looks like he’s completely out of it. No jetlag can explain this.
      “Okay. He’s all yours,” Sam says, stepping back to let Bucky and Steve pass.

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