Steve looks at his wrist, same as he's done every day his entire life and sighs. It's true, some people have vague words, while others have long, intricate messages. No way for them to miss when their words are said. The others might have it harder. Those with 'hey, how ya doin'?' or 'Can I help you today?' are going to have it a lot harder than someone with ‘But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?’. Which actually happened to be the words on Steve’s mother’s wrist while on his father’s were ‘You’ve gotta be fuckin’ shitting me’.
Sometimes, people’s words aren’t even the first thing they say to each other either. They can be anything within a couple’s first conversation together. The words usually said something about the person saying them.
So much simpler than Steve. Steve, whose wrist has remained empty even past puberty.
It happens sometimes. Some people's words take longer to appear than others. But no one's takes longer than thirteen or fourteen. Steve waited and waited and waited. Nothing. Nothing put pale, white skin.
Not everybody has words, Steve knows that but it’s rare when they don’t, and he hates that he doesn’t. It hurts down to the very depth of his soul. He'd already been born so different. Too small and scrawny. A heart that barely worked right. Lungs that worked against him. Crooked spine, flat feet. Ears that didn't work properly and colorblind. Sometimes, it still amazed him that he shot up a foot his junior year of high school and, with the help of a trainer at the gym -- Carol, who kicked his ass every freaking day -- built up muscle to go along with it.
But even when he gained height and weight, he still didn't get his words. No, Steve's wrist remained blank.
For a while, he thought he could deal with it. Go on as if he was the same as everyone else. But, recently, two of his friends happened to find their soulmates. Tony, who had the words Just pull! Represent! and thought they were the best things ever, met James Rhodes, who everyone calls Rhodey, at a convention being held at MIT. Apparently, they'd been asked to participate in a challenge for a charity and, it happened. Natasha had Depends on where you're standing on her wrist and when her new colleague, Sharon, asked if she was married or dating anyone, she replied Love is for children which just happened to be on the inside of Sharon's wrist.
And Steve is happy for them, really, he is. It's just... he wants that. That thrill of waiting for someone to happen to say those words etched in memory. Waiting to see if the other person has the words spoken to them on their skin. Steve doesn't have that. He never will.
Steve tries to keep himself busy by getting a degree in Art History. It's time-consuming enough, but that doesn't stop him from seeing people everywhere with the one thing he doesn't have. Even if this particular day is kicking his ass.
It's a Friday. Steve started off by missing his alarm and then stubbing his big toe on the corner of the wall in his rush to get ready and make it to class on time. Which he did not. He hasn't had any coffee or breakfast and since he's missed his first class he decides to just go to the campus coffee shop. Which, of course, the place is unbelievably crowded. He practically has to fight his way to get in and once he gets his coffee and muffin, he goes outside to find a bench. There's a guy sitting on it. Cute as fuck. Brown hair pulled back in a messy bun. Big, beefy arms sticking out of a dulled, red Henley. He's clicking his pen opened and closed as he reads something. Looks like a psych book.
"Hey," Steve murmurs when he approaches. "Mind if I sit here?"
The guy just glances up at him. Blinks. He opens his mouth like he means to say something, but not a sound comes out. Nibbling on his lip, he ducks his chin down and brushes some hair behind his ear.
"Is that... a no?" Steve asks. "It's just... it's really crowded in there."
He looks back at Steve again. Then glances at the empty spot next to him. For a few seconds, he looks confused before once again lifting his eyes to meet Steve's gaze.
Steve sighs and stretches his neck out. He's not about to be bated into an unnecessary fight with some asshole over a place to sit. He holds his palm out and shakes his head.
"Fine. Fuck you then. I don't need to sit here anyway."
The guy's eyes go deliriously wide. It looks like he's suddenly trying to do a million things at once, but Steve's too busy trying to get away so he doesn't blow a gasket. He's pissed off and hasn't had his cup of coffee or his muffin and he just doesn't want to deal with this. He turns and storms away.
"Hey, man, hold up!" someone calls from behind, clapping a hand on Steve's shoulder. "Wait a second!"
Steve spins around to find that he's been called down by a cute, gap-toothed black guy. Shaved head. Built. He might even put a smile back on Steve's face if not for who comes racing up behind him, all out of breath and trying not to drop twenty books.
"Look, I don't want any trouble," Steve mutters. He's ready for it though. He'll throw down if he's got to. Fuck it. It's just one day of classes. "I just wanted a fucking seat, okay? Not my fault your man isn't polite enough to fucking answer a simple--"
"No, no!" This new guy waves his hands out. "It's not what you think, he couldn't answer you."
Steve pauses. "What?"
"He was... he wanted to. You surprised him. He couldn't answer, he..." He sighs. "I'm Sam. This is Bucky. Bucky is…”
Sam pauses and turns back to his friend. He leans close to murmur something to him. Sounds a little like you’re sure about this, but Steve can’t be positive. What he does know is that this Bucky guy nods like crazy and rolls his hand to get him to hurry up. Sam sort of chuckles, sort of sighs, but does whatever it is he’s been asked.
“Bucky has PTSD,” he explains. “He's got select mutism from it, h-he can't really talk here. He couldn't answer you."
Bucky, still trying to catch his breath and with tears in his eyes, forgoes trying to balance all his books with one arm and shoves them at Sam. He immediately pulls the sleeve of his shirt up to his elbow. On his wrist are the words Fine. Fuck you. I don't need to sit here anyway. Steve gets out an amazed, tearful laugh as he shows Bucky his own, wordless wrist.
"I'm Steve," he says. "I'm sorry I yelled at you, I shouldn't've done that."
Eyes still shining, Bucky simply shrugs as if to say it's fine.
“Today’s my white boy’s birthday,” Sam says, clapping Bucky on the shoulder and sort of pushing him toward Steve at the same time. “His favorite food is Indian, so take him to that little place on Court Street. He doesn’t like scary movies, so don’t bother, he’ll just cover his eyes. There’s that new romcom out, though, he’ll like that.” Bucky, in response to that, rolls his eyes and jabs Sam in the shoulder. Sam chuckles but keeps going. “He drinks Pinot and is a sucker for anything chocolate, but don’t let him have too much cause he will eat until he’s got a stomach ache. Have him home by eleven.”
With that, Sam assures Bucky that he’s got his stuff and his phone’ll be on and to text him if he needs him.
“Have fun, you two,” he calls over his shoulder as he leaves. “Not too much, it’s only your first date!”
Bucky scoffs but then brushes some hair away from his face, tucking it behind his ear. He gives Steve a shy smile. Nibbled on with a blush kissing his cheeks.
“So,” Steve says. “It’s your birthday, huh?”
Still smiling, Bucky nods.
“Well,” Steve says, and then with his hands signs, “Happy birthday.”
Eyes going wide, Bucky quickly signs back a thank you and grins hugely when Steve starts signing to ask him how old he is. Steve, swept up in that smile, watches him sign that he’s now twenty-four. Steve asks if he’d indeed like to get dinner and, if he does, that he’d be happy to take him to his favorite restaurant.
I’ll even let you eat as much chocolate cake as you want.
That makes Bucky giggle and he signs back, I’d love to have dinner with you.
They start walking together and as they do, Steve sees that Bucky’s looking at the words on his wrist. He’s smiling at them. Touching them. Steve looks at his own wrist. Where there’s still nothing written, but there’s nothing blank about it now.
"Bucky," Steve whispers, wiping moisture from his eyes. "Bucky, it's... it's nice to finally meet you."
Hand gently taking hold of Steve’s wrist, Bucky has him slow down and then stop. From out of his pocket he gets a black Sharpie and pulls the top off with his teeth. With it, he writes on Steve's skin, right where most people's words are, You too, Steve.