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October 15, 1985

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"Buck," Steve says in lieu of a hello. "What are you doing here?"

Bucky looks up. Steve's smiling – Steve's the only kid who can sound disappointed while smiling. "Finished my homework and had nothing else to do," he says. "Figured a drive down to Safeway would be more fun than sitting in my room."

"I need to stop giving you my work schedule," Steve replies, laughing. His hands are stuffed deep in his pockets, trying to keep warm.

Bucky wonders if he should offer his gloves, if that's something Steve would accept. It can't be too comfortable pushing metal carts left standing empty in the parking lot back to their stations on nights like this. He makes note: Leave Steve a pair of gloves in his locker sometime next week.

After a moment, Steve must realize Bucky doesn't have a response because he just nods his head, a silent gesture asking Bucky to follow him. "I'm gonna get written up one day because of you, you know."

Bucky rolls his eyes. Anyone who’d fire Steve is an idiot. "No, you aren't."

"No," Steve says, "I won't."

Their conversation fades again as they settle on a bench located furthest from the front entrance. Sitting here still gives a visual of people who's coming and going the store, but it's sort of difficult in reverse. It makes a good spot for these unapproved breaks Steve takes during his visits.

Bucky leans back as Steve pulls out his Walkman and a well-worn Fahrenheit 451 from the pockets of his work apron. He keeps the book but hands the cassette player over to Bucky.

"Here, listen to this," Steve says. "Natasha let me borrow some of her new cassettes last Thursday. You might like them."

He doesn't ask who 'them' are, figuring it'll be easier to open the player itself than to ask. "And what are you going to do exactly?"

"What do you think, Buck? Gotta catch up on this reading."

 

 

 

It had been raining for days; this morning was the first the sky had been clear. When asked, Bucky says the fall showers were what he missed the most while his family were away. There's a familiar comfort in brewing hot tea for his siblings – and sometimes Steve whenever he stayed over those nights – knowing they're stuck in indoors for the time being.

He's glad to be outdoors again, though, even if he's just sitting outside the Safeway where Steve happens to work.

Bucky looks down. His vision is blurred by his fatigue, and he squints at his watch. Surprisingly, it isn't that late – a quarter to ten, so Steve's off soon – but it has been a long day.

Steve is clearly tired. He has migrated down a bit from reclining on Bucky's shoulder to resting his head on his lap, eyes closed. If Bucky listens closely, he can hear the telltale signs of sleep: wheezing snores, mumbling nonsense, and hints of restlessness that can't seem to escape. Fahrenheit 451 is simply left unopened on top of his hips.

Steve will catch up later. He always does.

Bucky tangles his fingers in Steve's hair, afraid to wake him. He's overdue for a trim. In all his life, Bucky's never seen Steve wear it longer than a neat cut that hits just over his eyes, swept aside. Steve is the type of guy who wouldn't look too out of place in a 1940s photograph once they give him a change of clothes.

He hears a Sam, don't – don't forget, I can trust you won't, which momentarily shakes him out of his thoughts. It's cute, so frighteningly cute the way Steve talks in his sleep.

Steve's cute, he thinks.

Not that Bucky will tell him that. Not any time soon, that is. But it overwhelms him sometimes how much he loves Steve. He sighs and sinks further into the bench. His sister called him a coward the other day, albeit jokingly, but it still burns a little. She's fourteen. What does she know?

She only wants to help, he reminds himself.

Natasha's tape fades into a stop. He reaches over carefully, not to wake Steve up (how could Steve be worried about getting fired when his supervisor hasn't checked in since Bucky's been here), and switches Low-Life back to side A.

Bucky will do anything for the kid. He always does.

 

 

 

Five minutes later, Love Vigilantes ends, and Bucky figures it's time to start heading back. His parents aren't the worrying kind – he's a good kid, they're always quick to remind him – but he doesn't want them to. Tuesdays are still technically school nights.

"Hey, pal," Bucky says. He pulls Steve up and squeezes his shoulders before dropping his arm back down his side. He shoves his hands into his coat pockets for warmth. Gloves aren't made just for Steve. "What time's your mom off?"

Steve yawns and blinks rapidly. He's always been a slow riser. "She's working the night shift, Buck." He pulls a face, suddenly remembering. "Won't be back until six or seven. Why?"

"Wanna make like we're kids again and stay the night?" he asks.

Steve smiles. "Sure. Let me sign out."

And Bucky smiles too.

 

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