Chapter 4.4 ||
Bucky isn't in his apartment, when they make it down the stairs. They knock three times, Sam calls: 'Mr. Barnes? Police. Open up!' But none of that gets them any closer to entering the apartment. Just to get this over with, Steve grabs his keys. Maybe Bucky is taking a nap or a shower or something. Knowing Bucky, it is more likely he's taking out his feelings on the poor punching bag he keeps in his bedroom.
“Damn it, Steve. You and your faith in the guy. If Barnes ran, I swear I’ll…” Sam says, more annoyed than ever, but just what Sam will do, remains a mystery to Steve because the door to Steve's own apartment opens up and Bucky emerges, keys in hand to lock up. He looks surprised for just a minute, before every trace of emotion wipes from his face, replaced with a smooth little half-smile.
“Sorry,” he says, “I was just looking for my Henley and jeans. Wanted to get the laundry done already." He redirects his look to Steve, glazing over Sam like Sam is an annoying fly. "You're still wearing them. That explains why I didn't find either of them in your room." Oh…right. He hasn't paid any attention to the clothes he's been wearing, they're comfortable enough and feel familiar enough that he has completely forgotten about the fact that they're Bucky's, not his own. Their lives are so tangled together even clothes no longer feel like they're not his. When did that happen?
"I'll wash 'em, don't worry 'bout it. D'you need them soon?" Steve asks, when none of them speaks or moves. He hasn't actually planned to do laundry any time soon, there still is way too little laundry for him to even consider that. But he could make an exception, if Bucky needs his shirt back. A small purple streak across Bucky's left hand confuses Steve, though. Maybe Bucky has been adding on to the whiteboard. While Steve certainly doesn't mind that, he wonders how much of this investigation is in accordance with the regulations. They are probably crossing a lot of rules at this point.
"Nah, that's okay. Keep it," Bucky replies, and actually smiles at Steve. Not the little smile that is his default emotion, but the amused smirk. "Not forever. I like you, but not enough to give you my favorite Henley." While Bucky definitely means a wholly different kind of 'like' than Steve's brain jumps to, Steve still sort of smirks. "Don't mean that I'm about to steal the clothes off of your back. Any time in the next week or so is fine."
"You'd think that after all these years...." They shouldn't keep a playful banter like this up with Sam around. "These long, long years with me around, you'd be willing to at the very least share clothes with me."
"I draw the line at favorite shirts. And quit it. You sound like Grandpa Charles on a bad day. What're ya here for?" Grandpa Charles is the only grandparent of Bucky's that Steve has ever met. He lived a couple of blocks down from Steve back when he was still mobile enough to live on his own and in the winter, Bucky and Steve would go down there after school for a cup of hot cocoa and a Disney movie. More often than not, they took one of the other Barnes's along and even Alexander went with them on a few occasions. On those few days they didn't watch any movies, Grandpa Charles would tell them stories and every single story began with him saying just how many years ago the story took place. “Many, many years…” Steve, who never got the chance to meet his own grandparents, got taken up into the family without even a moment’s hesitation. He's always been very fond of Charles.
"No, I don't," Steve protests. "I sound nowhere near as long-suffering as he did." Bucky does not look convinced. At all.
"We need to talk to you about what happened this morning," Sam replies, before Bucky can reply. "And we've got a search warrant for the apartment. Well, detective Romanov has the warrant. She should be coming down here later." The smile on Bucky's face freezes into place, getting more forced by the second. Bucky closes the door to Steve's place behind himself and rushes over to unlock his own apartment. The lights are still on, probably still from when he ran to help Erin. This is too close to home. Why would Bucky, if Bucky were the killer, kill someone who lives this close to him? Anyone halfway smart leaves nothing that can be traced back to him. Killing someone in your own apartment building is just plain stupid. Unless you want to take the blame away from yourself… Steve shuts down that line of thought like it’s a venomous snake.
"Come on in, then," he replies. "Can I get you some coffee, Sam? Oh, be careful. Dmitri isn’t very fond of strangers." The warning about Dimitri is almost an afterthought. Dimka isn't around new people a whole lot, and he does behave well with people he's been around a lot, so Steve would have forgotten to mention it completely. Bucky doesn’t even need to doubt whether Steve wants that caffeine.
Steve walks into Bucky’s apartment after Bucky, Sam follows a little more hesitantly. Apart from the lights that are turned on, the apartment is empty and silent, it feels off. Generally there is a lot more noise, the TV or radio would be on, the humming of a computer, maybe even the sound of something cooking on the stove. Now even Dmitri is silent, sleeping in warmth of the full sun.
“No, thank you,” Sam replies and takes a seat in one of the couches. “I’m good.” Steve doesn't have eyes for Sam, only Bucky. And he is scowling. Because the knuckles of Bucky's right hand are suspiciously discolored and bruising rapidly. He must have taken out his feelings on the punching bag.
“Hope you don’t mind if I pour myself some,” Bucky replies. “Steve. Come here for a sec?” Sam rolls his eyes at Steve, who goes straight for the kitchen area. It is not that Sam will hear them any less, but it gives them at least a semblance of privacy. To Steve’s surprise, Bucky looks worried. Not for himself, but for Steve. Steve grabs Bucky's bruised hand to inspect the bruising closer; it isn't as badly bruised as it looked at first glance but it doesn't look good. Bucky drags his hand away from Steve's grip and just shrugs.
"Have you put ice on 'em?" Steve asks, ever the concerned Steve.
“Нет," Bucky says, slowly but surely. Damn stubborn kid. "Что не так?” No. What's wrong? Steve doesn’t turn around to see if Sam is listening in, because well... the chance that Sam can even understand Bucky is tiny. By now Steve is so used to being the tough one, the one who doesn't show that he's feeling hurt, that the question takes him by surprise. He hasn't realized that the hurt he's feeling is visible on his face, not at all. Over time he’s become so used to repressing the shock that he doesn’t even recognize them when it does hit him head on. And the images of Joshua this has called up? They hurt. They hurt more than he would like to admit, even to himself. The adrenaline coursing through him is working its way out of his system and it leaves a large, gaping hole for the regret and the hurt to slowly trickle in, drip by miserable drip. Bucky doesn’t look at Steve, but just pours the both of them a cup of coffee. He gets himself his favorite cup, the ‘Trust me, I’m a doctor!’ mug that Steve bought him for his uni graduation for his coffee. Steve gets his usual coffee cup, 'New York's finest'.
“Ничего,” Steve replies solemnly. “Всё в порядке.” Nothing. All's fine. He knows he mispronounces it, but Buck will understand him. His Russian is getting rusty, he barely speaks Russian now, not enough option to. He should speak it more often, practice with Bucky if he wants to go to Russia next summer. If they even have that possibility. Bucky clacks his tongue and shakes his head. There is a knock on the door, but Bucky doesn’t turn to look. Steve does. Clint and Natasha are standing in the doorway, looking somewhat confused. Bucky pushes Steve's cup towards Steve. He still looks worried, but there is a softness in that worry, a calm around the edges. The small smile on his lips an actual, true smile.
“Нет. Я не верю тебя,” Bucky says slowly, dragging out syllables a little, lingering on letters.No. I don't believe you. Then he seems to realize they’re not alone. “Он не может говорит по-русски, да?” He can't speak Russian, right? He is trying to make sure that they can’t listen in. While that is sweet on its own, Steve can’t help but wonder how that will go over with the others. Steve runs his hand across Bucky’s, when he grabs his own cup of coffee. Bucky just gives him a vague headshake.
“Она может,” he mutters, and Natasha’s eyes widen just a little in surprise. She does She wasn’t expecting Russian out of him. Steve’s never had any reason to speak Russian at the station, or show any reading comprehension. So this probably comes out of the blue, for them. He doesn’t even know why he never mentioned it.
“Well, look at that. Rogers speaks Russian,” she says smoothly. “Let’s stick to English for now, boys. Won’t leave anyone out of the conversation.” She makes a small nod towards the other two men in the room. Bucky turns around, the room suddenly a lot more crowded than even just minutes earlier. Clint has sat himself down next to Sam, obviously closer than they would have liked. Bucky does not have a big couch and while it fits three people in a pinch, it won’t fit them comfortably. It barely even fits Bucky and Steve if one of them is lounging.
“Ain’t that remind you of Sarah?” Bucky asks Steve, still muted but no longer trying to keep the others from hearing. “She even sounds like her.” Natasha isn’t the first thing to come to mind when Steve thinks of his mother, but the similarity in words can’t be ignored. Natasha doesn’t sound as fond as Sarah did though. No one can reach Sarah Rogers levels of fondness. Natasha does not look impressed with Bucky.
“Yeah,” he replies with a chuckle. “Kinda does. Except ma would like us talking Russian.” Steve sits down on one of the chairs in the kitchen, not to have to squeeze into the living room as well. It is busy enough as is. He turns his mug so that the text faces himself, though the others have probably already seen, with the way they are watching Bucky.
“Detectives, can I get you guys something? Coffee, water?” Bucky asks and his eyes narrow on Clint, who looks awfully close to petting Dmitri. “Don’t, he’ll scratch you if you wake him up. He isn’t very good with strangers. Especially if you just appear out of nowhere.” Clint backs away almost at once. Dimka still wakes up and hisses once, for good measure. Bucky smiles at his cat.
“Black? Or do you take sugar or milk?” Bucky asks. “C’mon, Dimka. Come bug Stevie. You know him.” Surprisingly, Dimka listens. He comes over and takes a single sniff of Steve trousers, then jumps up on the dinner table. When Steve moves his chair back, the cat settles down on his lap and sniffs some more. Steve just sort of chuckles. Dimka must have smelled the kittens, even if they weren’t there. Probably some hairs stuck to his clothing. Steve gently runs a hand over Dimka’s back. Bucky’s frowning as he brings Clint his coffee, in a plain, dark blue mug. No funny quotes for him.
“I smell like Sasha’s kittens,” he explains when Bucky cocks his head to the side curiously. “Dimka’s just claimin’ me again. Aren’t ya, boy?” Dimka meows. While Steve would never refer to Alexander as Sasha to his face, it’s become a habit to do so with Bucky. Just why he has picked it up, he’s got no clue. Bucky began calling him that and then it just spiraled out of control.
“The three little troublemakers? Were they around?” Bucky turns to the rest of the team, who’s been sitting there eying each other all the while. Like they don’t want to speak up. “Jesus. You guys got a search warrant? Then search the damn place. I ain’t stopping ya.”
“We will get to that later,” Natasha replies coldly. “For now we’d like to ask you questions. Can you give us a rundown of what happened this morning?”
“I can’t tell you much,” Bucky says, shrugging. “I was fixing my shower, it has been leaking for days and I couldn’t find out where it was leaking from. It was a crack in the casing, apparently. Duct tape does wonders until the replacement part comes in. Anyway. I had my music turned up pretty high. I had already heard something off a couple of times, so when I heard Erin scream, I turned my music off and I ran up to see her. Same thought Steve must’ve had.” He nods his head towards Steve. "The rest you know. Well, I went to pick up Steve's cell and badge after that."
"And then you decided to pick up the laundry?" Sam doesn't sound very convinced at all. "That seems very odd to do." Bucky scowls at Sam and shows him his fists. The left fist remains uncolored and in a way this accentuates just how bruised his other hand is. Steve gets up from his spot by the kitchen table, making sure to transfer Dimka to his arm first and walks over to the fridge. The top shelf is a freezer compartment, and it generally at the very least holds a bag of frozen vegetables, if not a bag of actual ice or an icepack.
"No. I took it out on the punching bag in my room, then I did the laundry," Bucky snaps. "Steve. Come on. I said 'no'. Stop it." Steve still grabs the bag of frozen soup mix and shoves it onto Bucky's still outstretched knuckles. He forces them onto the skin maybe a little too harshly.
"And I already told you to put ice on it," Steve says stubbornly. "What're you gonna do if you need to do a surgery tomorrow and your hands look like a stormy painting? Operate with left? You're not that ambidextrous." Bucky scoffs.
"I can operate with left just fine," he says. "I haven't broken them. They're just bruised a little." A little definitely does not do the bruising justice. At all. The tops of the knuckles are already starting to turn darker blue and Steve has had plenty of bruised knuckles to be able to tell just how much they will bruise. It is going to be bad.
Steve sighs. "I am sure they are only bruised, but it won't be my fault if you snip someone's artery because you aren't used to operating with left. Now ice 'em. You are a doctor, damn it. You know you should put ice on them. Isn't that what you spent half your internship doing?"
"Fine," Bucky says exasperated. He pushes the vegetables down onto his knuckles, still scowling. Steve goes back to his seat at the dinner table.
"Dmitri, your owner is a very stubborn one," he mutters absently. "Good thing he loves you." Bucky smirks and takes the vegetables off of his hand to pet Dimka. The cat has never liked Bucky's metal arm, not one bit. It doesn't feel right, and Steve can imagine that it must hurt to have that scratching over his head. So, Bucky goes out of his way not to use the metal arm to take care of the cat. Dimka purrs contentedly and Bucky goes back to leaning against the kitchen counter, bag of vegetables back where they belong.
"Oh, he knows," Bucky mutters, then stares at Sam. "I did my laundry because I had to do something. Haven't you ever gone on a cleaning spree because you just need to do something to keep your mind occupied?" Sam nods, vaguely.
"You were alone?" Bucky pinches his forehead with his metal hand.
"Unless you count Dmitri; yes, I was alone," he says. "I am not in the habit of being with other people when I embarrass myself pretending to know what is wrong with a leaky shower. I know. Can't prove it." Clint nods and gets up from the couch, his coffee still in hand.
"Let's get the crime scene guys in here to search."
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