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the outside looks no good and there ain't nothing underneath

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She was exhausted. That deep bone tiredness that set into her so deeply she felt like the only thing left to do was collapse onto her bed and pass out. Sarah grabbed the last plates filled with salad and a couple of chicken steaks and turned around before beginning her journey to the kitchen. Sam was putting the boys to bed and she could hear the creaking of bedroom doors opening from upstairs so at very least she won’t have to do that. She would probably fall asleep right beside Cass and wake up with a hurting back.

Just as the kitchen came into her view she stopped in her tracks. It probably shouldn’t have felt so normal and usual to welcome somebody new in their home but maybe because of her exhaustion or the fact that Sam was so comfortable with the man she completely forgot about him. And now the infamous Bucky Barnes was washing the dishes in her small kitchen with a serene look on his face and humming so quietly beneath his breath that she almost didn’t hear it because of running water.

She knew that he heard her, how could he not. It’s not like she was quiet and the man did have enhanced senses. And also the whole trained assassin and spy thing which she tried not to think about since he will be sleeping under their roof tonight. Though the whole assassin thing didn’t seem so believable when he was scrubbing a plate with concentration and putting it on the already washed pile.

Sarah finally shook her head slightly and fully stepped into the kitchen. She put the salad plate down before grabbing the refrigerator door and opening it. He didn’t watch her, didn’t acknowledge her but she knew that in some way those eyes were following her every move. It’s like she could feel it. It was bizarre and she had no idea how Sam managed to actually live with those people for a certain amount of time.

“So, you’re the…?” she remembered the news. Remembered the shock of everyone and how people quietly whispered as it was revealed that a war hero James Buchanan Barnes is alive and now a terrorist of all things. To be honest, if she didn’t know that her brother has tangled himself up in all of that somehow she wouldn’t have even cared. Just another super-person to protect, or hurt, the world – welcome to the club.

“Yeah, I am,” his voice was a bit softer as he talked to her while he rotated a dark arm. Sarah grabbed the salad bowl and stuffed it into the only empty place in the refrigerator before closing the door and resting her shoulder against it. She wanted to take a closer look at those bright lines on the vibranium but didn’t dare to even insinuate that. She might not know him well but she noticed how the only times he was comfortable enough to even acknowledge that he had that arm was when it was needed for strength.

“Tough shit,” she muttered under her breath and watched how a smile spread on his face. He looked better when he was smiling. It made the lines on his face change somehow – as if they transformed from tiredness to something that resembled happiness. She also noticed how he smiled a lot more when Sam was looking at him. He also stared at her brother a whole lot more to the point where his eyes rarely left him. Sam mentioned that he’s a staring machine, I’m telling you, don’t take it personally, but he never let his gaze linger on her for too long. “You good to sleep on the couch?”

“Yeah, that’s perfect, thank you,” he was polite and not the same way Sam was when they visited their neighbors with a casserole. Sam said his thank you’s, was well mannered, smiled, and appeared pleasant but Bucky had that weird feeling around him. She couldn’t really describe it except for the fact that he felt old. Not in an offensive or ageist way but in the way where she could see how certain mannerisms and lisps in his speech didn’t fit into here.

“So what’s your impression?” he lifted those big blue eyes from the glass he was cleaning and looked straight at her. Sarah could see why Sam avoided looking at him with the way Bucky was staring – those fucking eyes, Jesus. They were light-colored and seemed bright in the dim lighting of the kitchen in the late evening when the sky was dark outside but something was lingering there.

“What?”

“The 21st century. What’s your impression?” she could feel a small smile on her lips as he continued to stare right into her eyes. She couldn’t help it since he was looking at her with a confused gaze while holding a glass in his metal arm without breaking the fragile material, and wow how much control that must have required, with his flesh hand holding a soapy sponge. A weirdly domestic image.

“Oh,” his eyes dropped back to the dishes. “Loud. Like really loud, I’m not even kidding. I thought that Brooklyn was loud in 38’ since I can still remember those couple drunks who were always yelling below our windows but now it’s like I can’t take a step without feeling like my ears are gonna bleed. All of those cars, planes, phones. Fucking exhausting,” and wow it felt weird for a second. Realizing that she’s a child compared to him – the man in front of her was in his roaring twenties in the 30s. Fucking Christ. “And bright. Back in the day, everything was so dull. And now even the nights are bright.”

“Yeah, that’s why I didn’t move to the city,” she muttered as her eyes followed how he washed the soap out of the sponge, washed his hands, and turned off the water. A tranquil quiet fell in the kitchen as Bucky turned around and grabbed a towel from the back of the chair as if he knew that it’s going to be there. She had no idea how much he actually knew and how much he observed. She was probably better off not knowing.

“You can ask me questions, if you want,” Sarah startled and lifted her eyes once she realized that she was staring at the man’s hands as he dried them before opening up the cabinets above his head and beginning to dry the freshly washed dishes.

“Oh no, I don’t mean to-“

“It’s okay, Sarah. I’m the one imposing in your home and I can only imagine how weird it must be since I’m… well, me,” he started by drying the largest plates and his eyes left her once again. She hadn’t even realized that he had been staring – is this what Sam meant when he said you get used to it?

“So, how old are you really?” she pushed back from the fridge and opened it again before grabbing a bottle of orange juice from the door. She slammed it closed and took a couple of steps forward allowing herself to step into Bucky’s personal space. She tried to watch his reaction as she grabbed a couple of clean glasses right under his nose but she wasn’t him – his face wasn’t a blank mask which she noticed happen a couple of times during the day but it also wasn't open. It terrified her, especially when one moment he was smiling brightly at her brother bathed in sunlight and looking carefree, and the next his face was hidden in the shadow of the open cabin door and it felt as if the whole life was sucked out of him.

“Give or take about 100. I was born 106 years ago so that’s probably how old.”

“Wow, you’re old. Sam’s never gonna hear me complain about my own age, anymore,” his laugh was quiet but it still felt nice. They barely knew each other and she probably shouldn’t trust him so easily but that man presented himself as non-threatening as possible. Even him lifting shit out of the boat or truck, the type of heavy shit which usually required at least three strong people, with his bare hands was more impressive than threatening. “If you hate the loudness and brightness so much why stay in Brooklyn?”

Sarah could see that he didn’t expect such a question. Bucky pondered for a moment as his hands mechanically cleaned a plate and put it in its place before grabbing another.

“During the war it was loud. And after…” maybe that wasn’t a good idea. Sam didn’t tell her much and she didn’t read the leaked SHIELD files because back then she just didn’t care enough but she knew the gist – a lot of bad shit happened to him and some of the stuff was gut-turning. Sam used to get so pale and he got that haunted look in his eyes whenever he dwelled into the more gruesome details but never too much. He said that he could see how Steve’s losing himself into all of that and I need to keep a certain level of level-headedness, we can’t both lose our minds. So she knew it was bad and could only imagine how bad this man’s bad got and yet here he was standing in her kitchen on a Tuesday at ten pm cleaning her glasses with a dishtowel. “It was quiet and sterile in a way. I remember a lot and I thought that maybe being away from the quiet will help but I guess it just doesn’t work that way.”

She didn’t want to imagine it and for a second she regretted not reading those files. But she didn’t want to lose herself to that madness and Bucky clearly didn’t seem like he enjoyed talking about it which she understood.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to-“

“Hey, it’s fine. I know that people want to know about it, at least until they understand the extent of it,” there it was. Sarah dared to take a look at his face when she finished pouring juice into two glasses and noticed it. That blank look.

It sent shivers down her spine as she watched how no warmth seeped into those big blue eyes. They looked so empty she couldn’t see anything in them – it’s as if the desert took over and no life was left. Those lines around his eyes and mouth no longer presented happiness or exhaustion. They seemed like anguish and agony engraved into his face. It was terrifying how quickly Bucky’s whole persona closed off and was tucked away somewhere safe where nobody could see it.

“A piece of advice though. Don’t look into it, Sarah,” he meant well, of course, he did. How could he not when Sam looked at him with those big Wilson inherited eyes of his and couldn’t look for too long because those brown eyes betrayed everything.

She collapsed into a chair and pushed one of the glasses towards the man. Sarah knew that she’s going to follow his advice – she wasn’t trained like Sam and even he couldn’t handle the reality of what happened to this man whom he didn’t dare to call his friend but who was so much more. It’s so easy to get lost in his overwhelming trauma when he only needed someone to know that it existed.

“You have my word,” it passed like it did all those times before. That warmth swept in those big blues again and he regained control of his body to continue drying the last forks and knives. “Do you know how to use a phone? Cause Sam said you didn’t pick up his calls or answer his messages before this whole mess,” Bucky snorted and Sarah smiled as her hand grabbed her glass.

“It never occurred to him that I’m just pulling the ignoring the problem until it goes away act?” she couldn’t contain her quiet laughter as Bucky closed the cabinet doors and folded the towel before draping it over the back of the same chair. He leaned against the sink and took her offered glass.

“Don’t let him hear that. He’ll just sulk about it while pretending that he’s not,” they both sipped the cold juice and now she noticed him staring. She didn’t really mind it because he truly had beautiful eyes and since she didn’t harbor any deeply rooted feelings for the man as her brother did she could look back at him and not feel like a teenager with a crush.

Sometimes she wondered how in the hell she and Sam were related. Sarah liked to consider herself as someone who is quite smooth when it comes to such business and she used to think that Sam was too but turns out that he's like a drowning chicken. She didn’t want to butt her nose into his uncharted territory because those boys had a lot of repressed feelings, traumas, and shit that she wasn’t equipped to deal with but she wanted to know. Sam’s feelings were as obvious as the sun in the afternoon shining brightly on them but this man wasn’t as readable. He probably molded himself into it and she was pretty sure that he’s not going to let anything slip past the non-existent cracks.

“Sam said you had a staring problem,” she mused and watched how a small smile formed on his face.

“Of course he did. It’s just that you’re really beautiful and I was observing you,” and no tact whatsoever. Sarah couldn’t remember when was the last time someone straight-up called her beautiful to her face but couldn’t recover a memory. It may have lacked any finesse but still brought a smile to her face because Bucky wasn’t embarrassed nor nonchalant about it. He still hasn’t stopped staring.

“Is that why you stare at him?” that got her desired reaction. For a second Sarah couldn’t believe her own eyes when she saw a light blush spreading on his cheeks. It was so light that if he wasn’t standing right underneath a lamp she wouldn’t have been able to see it.

“Well, it must be the good Wilson genes,” he leaned over and grabbed her empty glass, and turned his back to her just so he could rinse them. Once the water sounds filled the kitchen again and she leaned her chin on her fist with a smile on her face as she watched the man she could hear footsteps coming towards the room. She didn’t need to turn around to see who it is and neither did Bucky who just put the glasses upside down on the towel and turned the water off before drying his hands once again.

“Did I miss a bonding moment or something? Why’re you smiling like that?” Sam nudged her shoulder lightly as he came to stand next to the fridge and noticed her expression. His eyes drifted to Bucky who was looking at her and smiling. She felt silly and after such a hard day it felt nice – to feel stupidly young with the oldest man she ever got an honor to know who also seemed to have the biggest crush on her idiot brother but who was she to judge.

“Or something,” she quirked back and got up from the chair. Her back was killing her and she could feel a slight headache forming behind her eyes which told her that if she didn’t go to sleep right now tomorrow it’s going to be a pain in the ass. She left the kitchen with a half-murmured goodnight thrown over her shoulder and the sounds of bickering behind. Sarah’s ears couldn’t make out the words said but she didn’t need to – she had been listening to those two idiots bicker as if they were married and lived together for at least fifteen years the whole day today. She had quite enough and was excited to witness it again tomorrow.