Title: Stories We Tell Ourselves
Fandom: Captain America (Movies) Star Wars (Movies)
Characters: Steve Rogers/Bucky Barnes, Rebecca Barnes, Beth Barnes,
Tags: A short scene from the Star Wars AU that no one asked for or wanted, this is like the happiest it gets for the next 40 years,
Warnings: blood mention, scar mention
"Steve," came a plaintive voice, dragging him slowly up from the depths of sleep. He rolled over on to his side, slinging his arm over his head to block out the sound, only noticing then that the other side of the bedroll was cold: Bucky was gone.
He blinked his eyes open enough to see the charcoal-smeared message on the wall - going up to fix the traps, back at sunsdown - before pulling the blankets more tightly around his thin shoulders and closing his eyes again. Maybe he'd get a few more hours sleep. These days it seemed like all they ever did was sit around and sleep.
"Steve," said the voice again, wobbly this time.
Steve sighed, and rolled over. "Yeah, Becks?"
Becca peered out from her huddle of blankets, eyes wide and blue and exactly the same shape as Bucky's.
Steve nodded towards the message on the wall, clearly Bucky's handwriting, and looked back at Becca to see her face crumple. He softened, gathering up the blankets around him and shuffling over to where she lay next to a still-sleeping Beth.
"It’s okay," he said, pointing at each individual word and sounding out the letters, feeling Becca relax against him as she repeated him and, after a moment, understood the message's meaning.
"Sorry," she said, wiping at her nose. "I just. I don't like it when he's not here."
Me too, Steve thought.
It had been happening more and more, recently; sometimes there would be whole weeks where Steve wouldn't see him at all, Bucky leaving before he woke and coming back after he'd fallen asleep, with only short messages to explain why: he was going up to the surface to keep watch for raiders, he was going down into the deeper quarters to scavenge more supplies, he was checking different parts of the buried wreck for structural integrity. Always on his own, because someone had to stay and look after the girls, and always without telling Steve beforehand, because that would inevitably lead to an argument, and Steve was tired of arguing, tired of not having Bucky around, tired of being trapped down here in this safe dark buried place, away from the light of the suns and the dangers of raiders and scavengers.
Becca spoke up, abruptly breaking Steve's reverie. "Will you -- tell me a story?"
"Sure," Steve said. "Which one?"
Becca ducked her head shyly, voice quieting to a whisper. "The one with the sky people."
Steve frowned. "You know how Bucky feels about that one," he said, and then, remembering the empty space in the bedroll next to him when he'd woken up, "but he's not here, so. You want the pictures, too?" When Becca nodded, Steve untangled himself from the blankets and walked over to the dwindling supply of charcoal sticks he'd made with Bucky a while ago.
They'd have to make more, soon, if they wanted to keep writing messages on the wall or, more importantly, making sure Becca and Beth learned how to read and write and do numbers.
The only time he used them was when Bucky's sisters asked for pictures to go with his stories, and that hadn't happened for weeks, maybe moons now. Bucky had said it was fine, that that was one of the reasons they'd made them, but after all the efforts they went through to make their limited supplies last it had seemed wasteful to use them for something so trivial. And there was another part to it, too: the urge to draw had faded. Every time Steve glanced over and saw the box sitting there he felt an ache, the faint echo of memory that it was something he'd used to love, before, that he used to spend hours scribbling down all the pictures in his head.
Steve opened the box and picked up a charcoal stick, rolling it between his fingers. Steve opened the box and picked up a charcoal stick, rolling it between his fingers. He gripped it gently, careful not to break it, and moved towards a section of the wall permanently darkened by many wiped-away lessons and messages and drawings.
"A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away," he began, sketching out the hulking shape of the wreck they lived in, how it might have looked when it was still in the sky, large enough to blot out the suns, "there was the Empire"; with rapid flicks of his hand he surrounded it with several smaller shapes each aimed towards it, "and there was the Rebellion."
He paused, drinking in Becca's awed sigh, the same noise of wonder she made every time Steve told this story despite all the times she'd heard him tell it before before. Steve smiled, and resumed talking, the rhythm of it coming easier once he got started: the small brave Rebel Alliance fighting back against the evil Galactic Empire. Slowly his drawings expanded across the wall: huge battles among the stars, the pilots in their ships - "the bravest of the brave" - and dark cloaked figures with blades of light that had secret powers.
Sometimes Becca - and Beth, who had woken up somewhere along the way -interrupted to ask questions, the most familiar of which was "Can I be a pilot, Steve?", to which he was always sure to answer seriously, "Yes, yeah, of course; you'd be a great pilot", but mostly they kept quiet, transfixed by the strange new worlds coming to life before their eyes, so different to anything they’d ever known.
By the time Bucky got back, the first sun had set a while ago and, judging by the faint orange-blue warmth reflecting off the vast metal expanse of the tunnel to the surface, the second sun was now dipping below the horizon too.
Steve's throat was dry, his words beginning to scrape against his tongue as he continued to talk, his hand aching sharply as he put the finishing touches on the last drawing. The wall was covered with them now, Bucky's message from this morning long since wiped away.
Becca and Beth had lapsed into silence, half-asleep after sitting still for so long. Every so often Becca's head would droop and her head would jerk back up, blinking sleepily. The faint clatter of metal on metal had her waking up properly, the only warning they got before Bucky was suddenly there, face flushed from both the suns and the exertion of making his way down from the surface, brushing sand from the folds of his pale clothing.
"Bucky!" Beth and Becca chorused, getting up and running to greet their brother like they hadn't been dozing just a few seconds ago.
"Hey, hey," Bucky said, grinning as they crowded around him, "give a guy a second."
Quickly, he pulled the goggles from his head and eased the heavy pack from his shoulders before stooping down to pick up Beth, settling her on his hip and reaching out to ruffle Beth's hair.
"Hey, Steve," he said warmly, turning to where Steve was hanging back out of the way, and there was a brief moment as their eyes met that he looked happy, almost. Then his gaze slid over Steve's shoulder, to the pictures on the wall, and his face changed.
"What's this?" he asked, but his faint smile no longer reached his eyes.
"I, um, asked Steve to do it," Becca cut in before Steve could say anything. "I wanted to hear about the, um. The sky people." She trailed off, voice quiet. "I'm sorry, Bucky."
"Hey, no," Bucky said, crouching down. "It's okay, don't apologise," he continued, but when he pulled her in for a one-armed hug his brow was furrowed.
After a few moments he pulled back, setting Beth down again and stepping out of the room, heading for the room at the blocked-off end of the corridor where they kept their supplies and spare clothing. Steve followed.
When they were out of earshot of the girls, Bucky spoke.
"I thought we agreed not to talk about that anymore," he said quietly.
"No," Steve countered, hackles rising, "You said we shouldn't talk about it, and then walked out before we could talk it through."
"Because I knew you'd be like this about it!" Bucky shot back, stepping into the supply room and pulling his shirt over his shoulders, exposing lean muscle, broadened by days on end of phsyical labour.
Steve turned his back, and took a deep breath, barely audible over the sound of water filling the bucket as Bucky stripped down. "Look, it's not a big deal -- it's just a story, Buck."
"We both know that's not true." Bucky soaked a cloth in the water and began to wipe himself down in quick efficient motions.
"It is for them. They don't remember--"
"And apparently neither do you," Bucky accused, cutting him off as he dried himself off and pulled on some pants. A noise of anger bubbled up Steve's throat: of course he remembered. The sight of dark shapes flying in the sky overhead as their village burst into flames was a difficult one to forget.
"It was the Empire," Steve said firmly. "And if we'd stayed around longer, the rebels would've found us, and--"
Without warning Bucky slammed his fist against the wall, sending a hollow metallic echo shuddering along the walls around them. Steve flinched at the the violence of it, too shocked for words as he turned around in time to watch Bucky do it again, and then a third time, leaving a smear of blood where his knuckle split. By the time he stopped he was breathing heavily through his nose, his face flushed and his eyes bright. He brought his hands up - mismatched, now that one of them was bloodied - and scrubbed them over his face.
"Damn it, Steve," he said, voice muffled, but he didn't move away when Steve stepped closer and reached out, putting a careful hand on his shoulder.
"Buck, Bucky, I -- look, I'm sorry for bringing it up.
"You want to join the Rebellion, huh?"
"I want," Steve said, hesitating as he tried to figure out how to put the dull ache in his chest into words, "to be useful."
Bucky turned to look at him. "You are useful. You're good with the girls, good at teaching them, good at taking care of them -- of us. I mean," he paused, "your cooking skills could use some work, but--"
He was interrupted by Steve's mock-indignant "Hey!", and smiled for a moment, before his face grew serious again.
"But if you really want to go, then," Bucky gestured to the small packs lining the shelves, unearthed from the parts of the wreck they could reach, "we've got supplies to last you to the nearest town, and money to get you transport, so--"
"No," said Steve, stopping him short. "I want to stay here. With you and the girls," he added. "Okay?"
Bucky gave him a long look, like he was searching for something in Steve's eyes. Whether he found it or not, Steve didn't know.
"Yeah," Bucky replied after a moment. "Yeah, okay."
And that was the end of it, Steve would have thought, if not for later: the two of them curled up in their bedroll - the girls already asleep, Bucky’s hand bandaged - and the rustle of blankets as Bucky turned to him, voice barely louder than a whisper as he said, quietly: "I want you to stay here, too", and then the quick warm brush of skin as Bucky leaned in and pressed his lips to the scar at the corner of Steve’s mouth, before turning over and going to sleep.
Steve lay awake for a long time.
Okay, I am aware that this is a very, very loose interpretation of the prompt, in which I chose to view 'fairytale' as a story of magical/mythical events (at least in terms of how Steve himself perceives the story and the way he frames it in the retelling to Bucky's sisters), which in this case does also happen to be true, though none of them know that yet. I did debate not posting this, but since technically I did write it in response to the prompt, I figured I might as well put it here anyway.
Tumblr username is the same as here (recently moved from neenaroo)!