Is This What Life Is?

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Sam disappears on a classified mission without Bucky.

⤌ ✺ \ 🌌 / ✺ ⤍

It’s already a bad day before Sam disappears after breakfast, with no explanation other than a ‘classified mission.’ Why aren’t you involved?

You’re a grumpy hundred-and-six-year-old man with chronic pain, but there’s a reason Sam keeps you around. Why else do you live in Sarah’s house?

What are you supposed to say to Sarah when she emerges from her day-off coma in a few hours? Dealing with one irritable mood is bad enough.

The mission is simple, and Sam will return for dinner. He says.

—–

In a never-ending cycle, days drip through the hourglass. Each weighs you down more.

Sarah has sense not to ask where Sam is.

Why should she when she’s as worn down as you most nights? With debts to repay and kids to feed, who talks about feelings?

You help as best you can. Teachings from your unconventional mother, buried in the back of your mind for decades resurface.

Sarah’s delighted when she finds out you can cook. Your mom wouldn’t have you growing up without being able to fend for yourself.

Measuring out the perfect herbs and stirring to the right temperature is a welcome distraction. Sarah scoffs at your limited knowledge. 

You’re defensive, but who thought there were so many options?

You learn other things too. 

It’s mortifying when Sarah catches you half-heartedly dancing with the kids one warm afternoon. 

No amount of protesting about your age and trying to please her sons can remove the wicked gleam from her eye. Embarrassing as it is, you enjoy it. 

You always dragged a reluctant Steve to the latest ball.

Music keeps the Wilsons afloat.

From Cass aspiring to be the next rapper with his complicated rhyming to AJ’s insistence of putting on a record whenever required to do the chores. 

They get it from their mother, who’s always humming. They live and breathe melodies. They become your air, too.

Sarah has a rush of blood, and one night, she drags you to a swing class. The lively rhythm reminds you of the Charleston, so before you can catch yourself you’re lost in it.

Sarah is thrilled, yet doesn’t miss the opportunity to tease you.

You shock yourself by asking to attend next time. The months are a whirlwind of song and dance.

You let yourself live. Sarah unleashes a version of you that scares you. Gone are the utilitarian gray and black, and those ‘dreadful’ small T-shirts. 

They’re replaced with deeper green and blue, which Sarah insists bring out your eyes. You let your hair grow out, pierce your ears, and get your first tattoo.

The world wasn’t ready for you when you were born. You went through so much, and survived.

You settle into Delacroix with your characteristic unsure smile, and they welcome you with open arms. You make friends, who for the first time in your history don’t judge you for past errors. 

Life goes on, and you grow and change with it. You’re better off than you have been in decades.

Still, Sam’s absence tears at you from the inside.

—–

“Bucky?” His eyes are wide as the you standing there refuses to match up with the one he left behind.

“Who else?” You quip, folding your arms across your chest. You should be happy, no, thrilled to see him. Rage fills your torso, pulling at your ribcage, stifling your breathing. 

You push a finger against his collarbone so hard he winces. “No contact, no nothing, for six months!” Your voice is a low growl. “You show up expecting a welcoming party?”

“Buck, I can explain-“ he tries to launch into a weak excuse.

“Enough with the baloney. I don’t want to hear it.” Your finger is still on his chest, and you give him a further jab. “What were you thinking?”

He steps away, shaking with hurt. Good. “Do you think I had a choice? Captain America has to take orders from someone!”

“Did you argue your point? Convince them of how you need your partner?” You shoot back, and it twists your stomach further when he can’t form a reply, hanging his head. 

“Real inspiring, not going against authority for the greater good,” you scowl, the old Brooklyn drawl more present. It comes out more when you’re furious.

Sam clenches his fists, turning away. “Buck, I would’ve. You know that.”

“Why didn’t you?” Your façade is breaking into pieces, getting smaller with each glance at his defeated frame.

“I didn’t think it would take that long. Seeing you with Sarah and the kids, you were a changed man. Thought you deserved rest.”

“I’m your partner,” you say, placing so much emphasis on the last word it hurts. “We work together.” Does he have any idea how missing him sucks the life from your old body?

“I know, Buck. It won’t happen again.” He has the gall to offer a wry, cracked smile. “Had a few rough spots where I could have used that arm of yours.”

You groan, not knowing whether to hug him or deliver another insult. You fold your arms again, glaring down your nose, grateful for the couple of inches of height you have on him.

He throws up his hands. “Fine, you bionic staring machine. I’m sorry.” Sam pauses and bites his lip. “Never thought I’d say this, but I missed you.”

That does it. You rush forward without thinking, and wrap your arms around him, shuddering with relief.

Sam rests his head against your shoulder, giving a disbelieving huff. “Does this mean I’m forgiven?”

“Don’t count on it.”

He chuckles into the lapels of your pleather jacket, and for once, lets you hold him.