Chapter 4.7 ||
Steve arrives at the station long before the rest of the team makes it back. With Bucky and the three other detectives crammed into one police cruise, it mustn't be a very nice trip. Not for Bucky or the rest. Steve thought that maybe he could be reasonable about this. It would make a lot of sense that they would arrest Bucky sooner or later. After all, with all the evidence they have, it's a miracle that he hasn't been arrested earlier.
Looking at it now, as he sticks photos to a whiteboard, it is a lot more distracting than he thought it would be. Is Bucky okay? Is the rest of the team questioning him now? He scratches the back of his neck before slapping on the last photograph. When everything is laid out, on as big a whiteboard as they have… It does not feel like it is enough. At all. Even with the annotations copied over, written like they were Steve’s and not Bucky’s, the board is empty. And it doesn’t get much better than this.
Steve used to like doing this. Being alone in their part of the station, working out cases long after the others had gone home, or long before the rest of the gang got there. He’d put on some music, grab a new cup of coffee and try and figure out the kinks in old cold cases. Growing up with ‘Cold Case’ gave him the idea that this would be backbreaking work, but rewarding work; that no matter how old the case, no matter how long it took, new evidence would emerge and they would find the killer. Steve's never actually found anything new when he went through old case files, but he hasn't lost hope just yet. Not all of it, anyway.
Now? The empty station only reminds Steve of what might be. Only reminds him that if he is very alone, right now. He still gets his Bluetooth speaker from his desk drawer and plays a song, to lift his spirits. America’s Sweetheart by Ellie King is a no-brainer. He plays it on a loop whenever he’s upset and knows it better than any other song, at this point. Steve doesn't intend to get pulled into the song like this, but if there has ever been a song Steve can't help but sing along to then it is this one.
"You try and change me you can go to hell! Cause I don't want to be nobody else! I like the chip I got in my front teeth and I got bad tattoos you won't believe," he sings full of conviction and without realizing he is very much not alone anymore. Steve turns around when he hears Clint’s unmistakable chuckle, and blushes at once. He isn’t a good singer or dancer and having anyone else see it just causes unnecessary awkwardness. Bucky has heard him sing, but Bucky is Bucky. The rest… he would have rather no one actually heard him.
“Sorry,” he mumbles, and rushes to turn the music off. “I didn’t realize that you were back yet.”
“Obviously,” Clint replies, smug. “Which bad tattoos, Rogers?”
“Shut up,” Steve mumbles, although he does have a tattoo, it isn't one that he thinks is particularly bad, or that he regrets at all. He has the words ‘You are more than what you have become’ written beneath his left collarbone. It is a reference to his dad with whom he must have seen ‘the Lion King’ hundreds of times. No matter how tough his father liked to act, every single time he would tear up when Mustafa died. Steve misses that more than anything. He does want a second tattoo and he knows where he wants it, but he hasn’t settled on a design yet. He keeps going back and redesigning it, each time he comes up with something wholly different, but he likes all of them. The only sort of design he keeps coming back to and really wants, is based around Bucky’s arm and well… Steve isn’t sure how Bucky would take that. He has yet to bring up the subject. Now is not the time.
“What? You have a tattoo?” Sam asks, surprise making his voice an octave higher. “We have been working together for years and yet you have never told me you have a tattoo.” Hasn’t he? Yet another thing that he just forgot to mention. He is really getting bad at keeping people in the loop lately.
“I do,” Steve replies. “Only one of them for now. Need to discuss the other one with someone first.” It doesn’t take them long to realize who someone is, but they’re letting the comment slide for now. Steve’s not sure whether he’s grateful for that, or just wants to bury his face into a pillow and scream. Both, probably.
Natasha has moved over towards the whiteboard, carefully taking it all in. Except for a ‘huh’ or a soft hum, she stays completely silent. It is nerve-wrecking to Steve, to see her do that. He can’t read her. At all. She might be thinking about how foolish Steve is to believe it, or maybe that his points are valid. She might be laughing at him without showing it in her face.
“Why isn’t this him?” she asks, and Steve startles just a little. At the very least, she sounds like she wants to give him the benefit of the doubt. If that leaves him long enough.
“The coat,” Steve replies, choosing the coat first, before the rest because that is the one that is the most easily explained. “Bucky never had one like that. It is too long and the arms are too slim. Especially the metal arm wouldn’t fit.” Natasha’s eyebrows rise slightly.
“A coat?” she asks, incredulous. “You are going off of a coat?” Steve sighs and grabs the picture he’s been keeping in the drawer of his desk. It is a picture of Steve, Alexander and Bucky; Steve is wearing his NYPD uniform, right after his first day of work. His mother had insisted on taking the picture of her ‘three sons'. It’s too close to see properly, but it is the only picture of Bucky Steve has on hand that has the coat that looks like the one in the picture. Unless he wants to go through the pictures on his phone, but there is something telling him that it is really not a good idea. He also takes the picture from the whiteboard and puts both pictures next to each other on the table. Laid out side by side, the difference is clearer than without. At least that is something.
“I'm not only going off of the coat, nut it is the clearest difference. Look,” Steve replies. “Look at that. This is the only coat Bucky has that looks remotely like that one. And it is inches too short. Look at angle of the nose as well, the shape of the jaw. It’s not him.” Clint comes closer to look at the pictures, squints at them. “Weight doesn’t match up either. This guy… he’s skinny. Bucky isn’t big, but he’s got muscles. Got to have muscles to counterbalance the weight of the arm.” Natasha doesn’t look very convinced yet, but at the very least she doesn’t look as annoyed as she was before. Maybe Steve does have a shot.
“That is a longshot, Steve,” Sam replies. “I can see it. It is inconsistent. But if you want to convince a jury, we need more.” Steve sighs and he shifts his focus to the photograph of the ring.
“I asked him about this. This ring is apparently very expensive and very exclusive. Bucky a) doesn’t have one, and b) the only one he has ever seen or touched, belongs to a guy on the second floor of the building. That’s where it must have gotten the fingerprint. I don’t know how it got onto the crime scene, but maybe we should ask the guy on the second floor that, rather than Buck.” Steve taps the second photo, the one of the print of the bullet. “This is a match to the left thumb, a thumb that is now made entirely of metal.” Sam shakes his head. “And before you say it, the cover he wears isn’t fingerprinted at all. It is some type of special material that allows for him to hold onto things without needing the ridges.” There still are folds in the ‘skin’ of course, but they are there for realism’s sake. He doesn’t really need them to take a hold of things. Earlier versions of the cover all worked with different materials, different kinds of folds and they all looked extremely weird. One of the first versions was bright blue and anything but flexible enough for use. With it, Bucky looked like an overgrown Smurf. Steve knows that they're lucky that Stark could find something to cover the metal, even luckier still that Stark felt guilty enough to make the actual arm. At the very least, this way Bucky has a choice. He has a semblance of normalcy. Sometimes Steve wonders about that. Wonders if maybe Bucky would have found it easier to come to terms with a stump. The metal only seems to make him feel like a freak. There are days when he has the metal arm and is okay with it. But they are far too rare.
"These could be old prints, Steve," Natasha replies. She steps away from the desk and sits down on her office chair, a bright red one she brought from home. "Especially if the silicone cover doesn't make any prints. Any handling of them wouldn’t even have left a mark."
"I know," Steve replies, a little hopeless. "I have thought of that. But, an old print wouldn't be so clear. It would have faded over time. This one... It is like someone left it there. And it is only a partial match too. Besides, Bucky is right-handed. He never loads his gun using the left. Not even during the war. I’ve seen him load right with a gushing wound all over his right arm. It does not match up. Just doesn’t." Sam scowls at Steve, or maybe he is just trying to take it all in, trying to see it the way Steve does.
“You’re saying is that someone is setting him up?” he asks and runs both hands through his face. “Steve, come on. Why would someone target him?” This was to be expected, really. He’s asking a lot out of them. A hell of a lot.
“I don’t know, okay? I don’t know who is or why they would target him. I’m just saying that there are so many little flaws and mistakes. Give him the benefit of the doubt here. At the very least until the rest of the evidence gets processed.”
“Steve. You promised us earlier that you would stay impartial,” Natasha replies. “Is this impartial?
“It is,” Steve replies. “I am impartial, as much as anyone can be in this situation. Look, I can see you doubt me or don’t believe me. Just let me go down to Bucky. Then you guys can decide whether you want me here or not without me being here to make you tiptoe around subjects. Do what you think is best. If you decide, you know where I will be.” He grabs one piece of evidence from the bag they brought with them from the crime scene: an old, creased letter.
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