Fandom: Avengers (movieverse)
Summary: Steve's New Year's Eve.
Disclaimer: The characters and situations in this story belong to Marvel Comics, Fairview Entertainment, Dark Blades Films, and other entities, and I do not have permission to borrow them. No infringement is intended in any way, and this story is not for profit. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any. The opinions expressed by characters in this story may or may not be those of the author.
Unbeta'd. Happy New Year!
Steve had to admit, it wasn’t quite the same.
He looked down at the mass--yes, it was seething--of humanity packed into Times Square. There were more people down there now than he’d ever seen at previous celebrations, and to his mind the oddest thing wasn’t the modern clothing (an overcoat is an overcoat whatever the era) or the brilliant moving signs. It was the constant sparkle and flash of cellphone screens and cameras spotting the crowd as people moved back and forth in that unsearchable pattern of close-packed humanity.
He sighed, and settled his arms on the railing of his hotel room’s balcony, thankful for his own coat even though the serum kept him from taking damage from cold--he didn’t actually enjoy getting chilly. His smoking breath caught color from the never-sleeping lights, and for a moment he felt a pang of alienation; this world was so far from the one he’d grown up in, and the height just seemed to emphasize it.
It was easy to remember the last New Year’s Eve he’d spent here. He and Bucky--of course--had mingled with the rowdy crowd of 1940 to watch the ball drop, shivering and shouting in glee. Steve had contracted bronchitis as a souvenir, but it had been enormous fun, and only a family emergency on Bucky’s side had kept them away the next year.
Now the buildings were taller, the crowds were bigger, and Steve sat outside a hotel room he could never have afforded then.
You don’t have to be, dummy. He had a standing invitation to join Sam and his family for holidays, and he had a half-dozen more specific ones for parties up and down the East Coast, mostly from SHIELD people. Nat was still off seeing to her own reimagining, but Clint and Bruce were holding a quiet observation in Stark Tower, the owner and his lady being off to somewhere warmer and more private.
But though he counted them all firm and growing friends (except for Tony, on bad days) and he was learning to live in the modern world even without Fury’s prodding, Steve had chosen solitude.
Maybe because it had always been a holiday for him and Bucky together, even before Steve’s mother had died. It had meant sneaking off for firecrackers and root beer, singing and boyish mischief, the thrill of being up past one’s bedtime and of feeling the new year sweep in to start things afresh.
Seeing Bucky alive, damaged and suffering as he was, had raked up swathes of memories that Steve had relegated to the past. Reluctantly and with mourning, true, but past. Knowing that Bucky wasn’t dead was a wondering joy; not knowing where he was or in what condition was a wound that couldn’t heal.
So why are you here? Steve chided himself. You could have stayed home and watched this on television, in comfort, without spending an obscene amount of money on a room. Or you could have gone to bed early and let the year change without--
His breath caught.
In the constant surge and ebb below, one point was holding still. That in itself wasn’t unusual; nor was the tilt of the figure’s head to look up at the buildings walling in the Square. No, it was the fact that the gaze, tiny at this distance, was fixed on Steve’s balcony.
A faint creak had some part of Steve’s brain relaxing his grip on the railing. The figure was all but anonymous in a parka and cap, but the set of his shoulders and the width of his stance was unmistakeable.
Steve found himself on his feet. His first wild impulse was simply to jump, never mind the fuss it would generate, but the crowd was too thick, there was no place to land. He flung out a hand instead, a desperate gesture, and shouted even though there was no way for Bucky to hear him over the cheerful roar of the crowd. “Stay there! I’m coming down!”
The figure didn’t move, and Steve waved again. “Stay there!”
Fifteen stories of stairs had never passed so slowly even if he was leaping from landing to landing, heedless of the racket bouncing off the stairwell walls. Steve tore through the lobby without a thought for the exclamations in his wake and burst out into the Square, diving through the crowd with as little courtesy as he could manage.
But the lone stiff figure was gone.
He spent almost an hour quartering the space, eeling past people with muttered apologies, ignoring the speculative looks and the occasional attempts to catch his attention. There was no sign of Bucky anywhere; he had vanished as completely as he had after the fall of the Triskelion.
Finally Steve trudged back inside, fingers cold if not numb, and feeling a chill that had more to do with the past than the weather. Did you even really see him? whispered the back of his mind, but Steve shut it away.
He was there. Bucky was there.
The elevator was stifling after the open air, but his suite was comfortingly dim when he reached it--and cool, since he hadn’t bothered to close the balcony door. Steve crossed the room without turning on the lights, put his hand to the door--and with a weird sense of familiarity, realized that the place wasn’t empty.
The Nick? on his lips died when the figure across the room moved hesitantly out of shadow. Steve felt his eyes widen, his breath halt; he froze in place, afraid that the slightest motion would scare the intruder away.
Bucky’s eyes were equally wide, almost as terrified as those last moments aboard the helicarrier. His gulp was audible over the distant crowd noise, and Steve wondered frantically what to do or say that wouldn’t chase him away.
“I know you.” The words were hoarse and quiet and frightened, and the gloved hands clenched as if to brace against some retribution, but there was no doubt behind them. And something in Steve relaxed, letting loose a spring of hope, warm as summer.
“Yes.” He kept his own voice low, but made it as firm as he could. “Yes, Bucky. You know me.”
He slid the door closed and took a slow step forward, and Bucky didn’t move, though the hands clenched harder. Steve didn’t bother to wonder how his old friend had bypassed hotel security and the smart-card lock on the door; the only important thing was keeping him there.
The haunted eyes widened further still, but Bucky held his ground as Steve got closer. “And I know you,” Steve added, held his breath again, and...slowly, slowly...held out one hand.
This has to work. He came here to find me--it has to work--
Equally slowly, one gloved hand unfolded, rose uncertainly. When it halted, Steve bit his lip and reached just that much further.
The leather was cool to the touch, but the grip was firm, as if some old confidence were being remembered. “Steve,” Bucky said; a revelation.
“End of the line,” Steve choked, and never could remember the next moments clearly; a blur of tears and a hug harder than it used to be, the smell of leather and metal and smog, the disbelieving, overarching joy of a friend returned from Death.
In the end he got Bucky settled on the couch, fed with corned-beef sandwiches from room service and wrapped in a blanket stolen from the bed. Exhaustion had Bucky nodding, though he would start awake every time the cheers outside peaked, and Steve asked no questions. There would be time enough for that later.
When the cheers swelled and the singing began, Bucky stirred again, looking across to where Steve sat guard in an armchair. “...What?”
Steve shook his head, smiling. “The ball dropped.”
“Oh.” Bucky’s eyes closed. “Happ’ n’year,” he added muzzily, and fell asleep again.
Yes. Yes, it is.
Steve grinned, and hummed along.