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Laughter Lines

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1. 

There were hundreds of things that Bucky could think of that he’d rather do, than spend a perfectly good Saturday evening spending time with sick kids. Maybe that made him an asshole, but he’d never deny it if someone called him that. He hated kids, he hated hospitals, and if he’d known when he’d signed up for that stupid ethics class with Natasha, that ten percent of his final grade consisted of doing community service, he would have dropped the course within the first week. But instead, he had not learned about that aspect of his final grade until just two weeks ago, conveniently the day after the add/drop period ended at NYU.

“I can’t believe you talked me into this mess. This is fucking bullshit, Nat. You swindled me,” Bucky hissed into the receiver of his cell phone. A feminine scoff echoed from the other end of the call.

“Jesus Christ, Barnes. Lighten up a bit would you? You’re going to help some kids, not being shipped off to a Russian prison camp. The last thing they need is for your brooding ass to show up and make them feel worse,” Nat said. Not a single ounce of sympathy in her voice. “Also, no one says swindled anymore, darling. Get with the times.”

“Fuck you, Nat. I didn’t even want to take this class to begin with, but you fucking begged me. This is all your fault. The least you could’ve done is come with me… Now I’m going to be alone for three fucking hours!” Bucky hissed. As he walked along the sidewalk towards the hospital he sidestepped puddles. So far, the month of October had been filled with constant rain.

“Don’t even go there, Barnes. You had to take this class either way for your major. You’ll thank me next semester when you’re actually graduated,” Nat said. In the background another voice started yelling, though it was muffled, “Clint says that you’re going to miss an epic party tonight. Apparently Stark’s throwing down.”

A long, angry groan left Bucky’s mouth. Tony’s parties were always amazing, and Bucky had always managed to bring home an incredibly hot girl after one. Only the best showed up at Tony’s parties.

“You are an evil, evil woman. You know that?” Bucky growled.

“Yes, I am,” Nat replied, and Bucky swore he could hear the smirk she most certainly had on her face. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a party to get ready for.”

“Fine… I’ll text you when I’m done. Maybe I can drop by if I get out early enough. Pray for me,” Bucky said.

“Oh, I’ll pray, but I don’t believe it will you do you any good. You’re too far gone for any hope of redemption, Barnes.” Nat said, the smirk still firmly in place.

“Love you too,” Bucky said and then hung up. After stuffing the phone back into his front pocket, he reached into the back and pulled out his carton of cigarettes and lighter. After lighting the cigarette, Bucky pulled up the hood of his black sweatshirt and continued walking towards the hospital. Hopefully the time would pass quickly, but Bucky had a sinking feeling that that wouldn’t be the case.

*^*^*

The hallway was bright, and smelled like antiseptic. Bucky’s hand clenched into a fist as he approached the nurse’s desk. Sitting behind the counter was an almost attractive woman in her late thirties. She had blonde hair and large hazel eyes. Bucky sighed and put on his most charming smile as the woman looked up from her computer at him.

“How can I help you?” the woman asked with a smile.

“Isn’t that a question that needs answering,” Bucky said with a flashy grin. The woman laughed and held up her left hand.

“Good try. I’m married, hon. Now what is it that you really need?” the woman asked. Bucky laughed lightly and shrugged one shoulder.

“Can’t blame a guy for trying… I’m actually here for my community service? I spoke with another nurse a few days ago about coming in and completing my hours,” he said.

“And what’s your name? I’m Regina, by the way,” the woman said.

“James Barnes. I go by Bucky, though,” he replied.

“Oh right! I remember Angela saying something about all that… Well, since it’s a Saturday, all of the kids are in the media room. They have their dinners and watch a movie together. You can go in and spend some time with them before their bedtimes. How many hours did you need to complete?” Regina said.

“I have to complete seventy five hours by the end of my semester,” Bucky replied. Regina let out a low whistle.

“What’s it for again?” she asked.

“It’s part of my curriculum. I’m a student at NYU, a business major, actually. Ethics is a required course, and as part of that my professor assigned community service as part of our final, so here I am,” Bucky replied.

“Right, well. The media room is just down that way. You’ll find it on your left,” Regina said, “Oh and Bucky?”

Bucky turned back around and looked at Regina’s face.

“A lot of the children in that room are terminally ill. Some have scars that you’ll be able to see, and some have them on the inside. I trust that you will be able to handle that situation delicately?” she asked. Her eyes were no longer soft and kind, but had a certain hardness to them. Bucky got the immediate sensation that he was being stared down by a lioness, whose cubs were in their den.

“I understand perfectly, Ma’am,” he said, and then turned and started down the hallway. His black boots squeaked slightly against the linoleum and he could see on his right, a darkened room filled with children. Pushing down the urge to groan at the situation, Bucky sighed and braced himself. It was only five hours, he could do this without any problem. And then when it was all over, he could go to Tony’s, drown himself in some whiskey and find a pretty blonde to suck his dick.

With a small smile on his face after his internal pep talk, Bucky quietly opened the door to the media room and saw every head turn to stare at him with wide, excited eyes. Then, all at once all of the excited expressions turned to confusion.

“You don’t have the popcorn,” one child, a girl with red hair that sat in a wheelchair nearby said brazenly.

“Uh, no… I’m Bucky. I’m here to do my community service with you guys,” Bucky said as he stepped further into the room. None of the children said anything that time. Most looked away from him, and some of the others glared a bit at him. Bucky clenched his hands, both the metal one and the flesh and blood one. If Bucky was a lesser man he’d say it was a nervous tick, but that was ridiculous because he wasn’t nervous. Especially not when standing in front of a giant room of children.

Suddenly from behind him, someone else opened the door.

“Alright then! Here’s the popcorn and— oh!”

The same someone that had come in had walked straight into Bucky’s back and stumbled backwards. Bucky turned and instinctively reached out a hand to grab the person’s wrist to try and help steady them. After the person was steadied, Bucky got a better look at them.

It was a boy, but he was a tiny boy. And although he was so small, there was no doubt that he was not a child. He looked as though a stiff breeze would knock him straight off of his feet. He was at least a foot shorter than Bucky’s six-foot-three-inches. The wrist encased in Bucky’s hand felt like a toothpick. He had pale, milky skin and plush pink lips that were parted in surprise. But the part that really made Bucky stare, were the kid’s wide, forget-me-not blue eyes. They were the most gorgeous eyes that Bucky had ever seen.

“James Barnes?” the boy spoke finally, and the words snapped Bucky out of his trance faster than a blink of an eye. He pulled his flesh and blood hand away from the boy’s wrist as though he’d been burned and took a step backwards.

“How do you know my name?” he asked. For some reason his voice sounded hoarse. Instead of answering, the blue eyed boy huffed and rolled his eyes.

“Figures,” he muttered, but did not elaborate. Instead he stepped around Bucky, leaving him incredibly confused by the door, and started handing out the bags of popcorn to the other kids in the room. All of the children seemed much more pleased with his presence than they had with Bucky’s. Still, Bucky couldn’t bring himself to care as he wracked his mind trying to place how he’d possibly known this boy. There was no way that he’d seen those gorgeous blue eyes before and not remembered them. He stirred around in his brain looking for an answer, trying to place this beautiful small boy, but nothing came to mind. When the boy was finally done handing out the popcorn, he’d taken up the remote and pressed play for the movie on screen. The familiar Disney logo splashed across the screen, but Bucky couldn’t bring himself to care as he saw blue-eyed-boy sit down in one of the unoccupied chairs against the back wall of the room.

The boy turned to look at Bucky once again and gave him a questioning look. It was then that Bucky realized that he was still standing by the door, looking like a complete idiot. As quietly as possibly, he walked over towards the boy and gestured to the empty chair beside him.

“Can I sit here?” he asked.

“I don’t know, can you?” Blue Eyed Boy replied. The response was as quick as a whip and startled a laugh right out of Bucky’s mouth. Several kids shushed him loudly, and Bucky was thankful that the lights in the room were dimmed, because his cheeks heated uncharacteristically. He sat in the chair and turned his eyes towards the TV screen, but that only lasted for a few moments before he looked at Blue Eyed Boy again. He was wearing a pair of light washed jeans and a pair of green converse high tops. His shirt was a soft looking white sweater that hung loosely over his tiny shoulders and on his head was a matching green beanie. Immediately Bucky wondered what he was doing his community service for. For a long moment Bucky thought about what this boy’s major was, and whether or not he went to NYU. Maybe he’d agree to get coffee or go to the library to study together. If Blue Eyed Boy was also doing his community service here, maybe they could do it together. The idea of getting to know him made Bucky’s mood brighten drastically.

“Hey, what’s your name?” Bucky whispered. Again, he was shushed by many different children. Bucky repressed the urge to roll his eyes. It wasn’t like they were missing anything, everyone knew that Beauty ended up with the Beast in the end. Blue Eyed Boy gave him a long look, but kept his mouth firmly shut. His lips even turned down into a small frown.

That wasn’t good. Usually Bucky was good at making people feel comfortable around him. It was one of the reasons why he was such a ladies man. He was the funny guy. He was the bad boy with a good heart. He gave the girls the edge that they wanted, while still retaining a slight gentlemanly attitude. It worked like a charm every time. It had even worked on the few men that he’d taken to bed with him. Bucky had been comfortable in his bisexuality for a long time, although the opportunity to fall into bed with boys was much more scarce than with girls. Thankfully, he wasn’t too picky when it came to whoever he was going to fuck. Male, female, everything was fair game. Natasha called him a whore, but Bucky liked to think of it as broadening his horizons.

“How long have you been coming here?” Bucky asked quietly. Instead of getting shushed, a boy in front of them turned around and glared at Bucky. Bucky resisted the urge to stick out his tongue at the boy.

“Why do you want to know?” Blue Eyed Boy whispered back. Bucky smiled internally, at least he’d gotten the boy to speak to him.

“Curiosity? Today’s my first day doing community service. I figure we can come together if you’re up for it?” Bucky whispered. Blue Eyed Boy’s lips twitched upwards for a moment before staying firmly in a line again.

“I’m only on this floor,” he said.

“That’s fine! I don’t mind sticking around here… Do you usually come on Saturdays?” Bucky whispered.

“I’m here most days,” the boy replied in a hushed tone. Bucky’s eyebrows raised a bit on his forehead. This kid was really into his community service. Maybe he was a goody two shoes.

“Well I’ll probably stick to weekends, you know? Have to keep up my social life and all!” Bucky smiled. This time nearly all of the kids complained and shushed him.

“Shut up!” one of the girls said, to which Blue Eyed Boy snapped to attention.

“Rachel, we don’t say shut up to other people. That’s rude,” he said. His face and tone held no room for arguments.

“But he was being loud!” the girl, Rachel whined.

“I don’t care. I don’t want to hear you say that to anyone. Got it?” he asked. Rachel nodded and slumped back down in her seat. For the rest of the hour and a half that the movie played, Bucky did not say anything else to Blue Eyed Boy. It wasn’t until the movie was over and all of the kids were moseying out of the media room and back down the hallway that Bucky realized that Blue Eyed Boy didn’t plan on saying anything to him at all. He passed by Bucky without saying a word and grabbed the handles of the little red head’s wheelchair. He started pushing the girl down the hallway while Bucky followed behind him feeling uncharacteristically pathetic. Usually he was the one that had people following him around. This was an entirely foreign concept to him.

“I’ll have Regina or Maggie come and get you ready for bed, alright?” Blue Eyed Boy said to the girl. She nodded and smiled at the boy who closed the door and turned back towards Bucky. Bucky looked down into the gorgeous sapphire eyes and let a small smirk curl his lips.

“So, you want me to walk you home?” Bucky asked. Blue Eyed Boy regarded him for a moment and then let a smile flit across his own pretty pink lips.

“Sure, I’d appreciate that,” he replied. Blue Eyed Boy started walking down the hallway, back past the media room and the nurse’s station, towards the elevators.

“Great, so where do you live? I’m assuming that you’re a student, but are you on campus or off? I’m off campus in an apartment. Actually, you know if you aren’t that tired I know there’s a great party going on at one of my friend’s places and… What’re you doing?” Bucky’s words came flying out of his mouth all at once, and in his rush to speak he barely realized that Blue Eyed Boy had stopped walking. Looking back at the delicate boy standing under the harsh light of the fluorescents, Bucky couldn’t figure out if he’d said something wrong. Blue Eyed Boy’s face took on a slightly sad expression and he crossed his thin arms tightly over his pigeon chest. Jutting a thumb over his shoulder, he pointed at the door behind him marked 1107.

“Thanks for walking me home,” Blue Eyed Boy said softly, his forget me not eyes staring down at his shuffling feet. A cold feeling started to drip through Bucky, down his spine and into his very blood. His brain whirred into action just like his metal arm as it came up to run the metallic fingers through his long, dark hair.

“Wh-what are you talking about?” Bucky asked quietly.

Blue Eyed Boy huffed a laugh, but there was no humor in it.

“I think that’s obvious… I’m not a student like you… I’m a patient here,” Blue Eyed Boy spoke. However the words didn’t seem to register in Bucky’s head. There was no way… But then he looked a bit closer and realized that all of the signs were there. He just hadn’t seen them. The thin, tiny body. The pale, sickly pallor of his skin. No eyebrows. A hat covering what was most likely a bald head. Bucky’s Blue Eyed Boy was a hospital patient.

Seeming to realize that Bucky was not going to speak anytime soon, the Blue Eyed Boy smiled once again. The same sad smile as before.

“Thank you, for walking me home, James Buchanan Barnes. I hope you have a good night.”

And just like that, Blue Eyed Boy had disappeared behind the door marked 1107.

Bucky stood there for what felt like hours before he moved towards the elevators. The entire journey home, Bucky felt a bit numb, and it had nothing to do with the increasingly cold weather that October was providing.