Chapter 3.6 || Brother dearest
That night, Steve pours over the case file like he never has before. His art easel gets converted into a white board stand. There are pictures of the victims in all the corners of the board, messily written objections underneath them, possible motives and objections to the motives. Times of death and Bucky’s timeline for those days. He burns through coffee faster than he can make replacements, hopping around and handwriting getting more and more messy. The print they’ve found on the shell casing should belong to Bucky’s left hand, the hand that now has no more prints but ridges and bumps. How could it even have ended up there… Old prints? He writes that down in dark blue marker underneath the picture. A web starts forming so clearly that Steve can’t neglect it. But it isn't perfect.
There is too little time in between Bucky landing at JFK, retrieving the gun and setting up to get there on time. Maybe, if Peter has looked through the bag, they can rule out that the rifle was even in there. That is only if Peter was curious enough to actually look, and Peter isn’t the most curious of the Barnes siblings, so the chance of that is pretty low. But still, he puts it down on his ‘to do’ sheet because if there’s even a small chance that Peter did check the bag.
He works the night away and while he finds another few inconsistencies – small ones, like too unclear footage to identify Bucky, timing that doesn’t quite match up, or too broad a description for the guy a witness had seen exiting a building – there isn’t enough to acquit Bucky. Not at all. He doesn’t’ give up, though. When has Steve Rogers ever known how to quit?
It takes a lot of self-restraint, not to run into Bucky’s apartment and ask him to verify everything and anything that goes on the board. Bucky needs his sleep as much as Steve needs his (although Steve doubts Bucky gets any either, he’s just choosing not to bother Steve with it). As soon as the grocery store opens at six-thirty am, Steve goes in to stock up on coffee. He’s doubting the merit of getting a bag of espresso coffee and not his regular coffee, when someone creeps up on him.
“Rough night?” Alexander asks, grabbing Steve’s shoulder and making him jump. Steve turns around and scowls at his brother and whatever Alexander sees in Steve’s face, it’s not pretty. “Damn. I’ve seen the drunks that come into the hospital that look better than you do.” He stares a little too intently at Steve’s face. “Cut back on the caffeine or the next time I see you is in a hospital bed, surrounded by IVs.” He intends for it not to sound judging, but Steve can’t help but feel judged all the same.
“Sure,” Steve replies as he grabs his usual roast and drops it into his shopping basket defiantly, “when I find another thing to keep me awake.”
“Try iced water,” Alexander replies, shaking his head. “It does wonders.” Still, Alexander grabs a bag of coffee grounds for himself and drops it in his shopping own cart.
“Try iced water,” Steve parrots. “It does wonders. Did you have a night shift?” Alexander rolls his eyes and stares intently at the coffee in Steve’s basket, the only thing in there. At least Alexander seems to be stocking up on everything.
“Do as I say, not as I do,” he replies smugly. “Besides. I won’t have time to go shopping next week, working the day shift. So I’m just stocking up. You came solely for coffee.” Steve is about to protest, but Alexander has a point. This is just a coffee run. “What is wrong?” Together they move towards the cash register, Steve grabs a pack of gum on his way out, at least trying for a little more dignity than the coffee crazed look he must get now.
“Nothing’s wrong, Alex,” Steve replies. “There’s this case I’ve been breaking my head over.” Alexander pauses for half a second and grabs both the gum and the coffee out of Steve’s basket, puts it into his own cart.
“All right then. Come on, put that basket away. I’ll pay, if that is all you need.” Steve stops in his tracks. Unexpected kindness from his brother. “Pay me back if you want, but this will only be easier. Just gotta help me transfer this all into bags. Maybe help me carry it home.”
“Okay then,” Steve replies hesitantly. Unexpected kindness from his brother. But very accepted kindness. He doesn’t mind it much when Alexander helps him out, they always find ways to pay each other back; one time Steve helped paint Alexander’s new apartment in exchange for Alexander helping Steve in putting new flooring in their mother’s house, another time Alexander had bought Steve the new book in a series Steve had let Alexander borrow. Just little things they’d been doing since their childhood and became so natural now that they hardly even doubt it, at least Alexander did. Steve’s a lot more stubborn when it comes to Alexander helping him out.
He carries two grocery bags while Alexander carries the third one, they’re not exactly loaded up to the brim, but it is obvious this is a whole week’s worth of food. The walk back to Alexander’s apartment is a long, but pleasant one. They’ve got shadow for the most part, and there is a little breeze picking up.
“So, what’s bothering you about this case?” Alexander asks. “You’re not usually this…” he just gestures towards Steve. It explains enough.
“I firmly believe our suspect is innocent,” Steve replies, neglecting to mention it is Bucky. “There’s evidence there. But it isn’t all solid. There are little mistakes. Things that don’t quite fit, you know. I got the feeling that maybe, maybe we’re meant to...”
“You’re thinking someone set him up?” Alexander asks pensively. “Does the rest of your team agree?” Steve shifts the bags in his arms uneasily.
“No, they don’t share my beliefs. I’ve got to find a way to convince them somehow. But…” He sighs a long suffering sigh. “But I’ve got no idea how to do that. I’ve got only half a reasoning and even that’s faulty to some degree. Relies too much on might-be’s.”
“You’ll get there,” Alexander reassures Steve. “You convinced Ma to let you join the army, then you can definitely convince a few coworkers that they need to take a step back and look at other options. What if you’re wrong?” Steve pauses in his tracks.
“I’m not,” he just replies. “I’m not wrong about this. I can’t be.”
“What if you are?” Alexander persists. And Steve knows that Alexander means it well, he really does. But that does not mean that Alexander can really know how difficult this is going to be, he can't know. Because... Well, Steve doesn't know why he doesn't want to tell all of this to Alexander. If would be nice to be able to tell someone all of his worries without having to leave bits out or have things that he just can't say.
"You know, I think at this point it would be easier to conquer Russia in the middle of winter, dressed in a pair of swimming shorts," Steve replies. "Yeah. That's definitely easier than this." Alexander rolls his eyes at Steve.
“I’ll supply the shorts,” he replies. “Mom has never been this dramatic. You must've gotten it from dad. Hey, you’ll stay for a while, right? You still haven’t met Vanessa and she’s been nagging about meeting you for ages now. You just keep being too busy.”
“I know, I don’t mean to be, it just happens,” Steve replies, a sad little smile on his face. “I can’t stay too long. Is she home?” He doesn’t know what to expect from Vanessa. After all, while Alexander keeps mentioning her, and there already is the occasional photo on Alexander’s Facebook, but he hasn’t been able to figure out just what kind of woman this girlfriend of Alexander’s really is. He didn’t really want to meddle, it is Alexander’s first serious relationship after all, but after over half a year, maybe it is time to meet her.
"Yeah, she is," he replies, happily. "She’s got the day off. She'll be happy to finally meet that troublemaker that she keeps seeing on childhood photos, and keeps hearing about but never actually sees." Steve smiles at his brother, an actual warm smile. God. Alexander really is head over heels with her, isn’t he? It is so obvious, in the way that he gushes, the smile he gets all over his face when he does.
“Like you haven’t been talking about her every single chance you get,” Steve teases and Alexander blushes. Not a fire red, like Steve tends to do, but he blushes all the same. “Just what have you been telling her about me?”
“Nothing too bad,” Alexander replies, he searches his pocket for the key to the small apartment he rents with Vanessa, but then stops and just rings the doorbell. “The basics. That you’re a cop. That you used to be like a little Pitbull, fighting everyone that has enough of an attitude. She knows you used to be a soldier. Think that is it.” After a short buzz, a woman’s voice says at them, over the speaker:
“Xander, did you forget your keys again? I swear to God, if your head wasn’t screwed on straight it’d...” But she doesn’t get the chance to finish her sentence before Alexander cuts in.
“I brought home a stray,” he says, amusedly. “I got my key, but there are a lot of groceries.” Steve frowns at his brother, he’s been called a lot of things, but a stray hasn’t ever been one of them.
“You’d better not have brought home another kitten,” Vanessa says, and sighs once for good measure, but opens the door for them. “You know we’re not supposed to have more than one small pet.”
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