Chapter 19: Aftermath
AN: this is self-explanatory, and totally needed, because a big historical event happened and there is always an aftermath. This is Bucky's and Steven's, because this was their moment.
Fun fact: before I made it that Steven was born in the war, an earlier, as in first draft, of this was where Steven has just turned twelve and was actually a twelve year old physically. He had been born on September 10 1989. Yasha didn't exist, neither did Joseph. Bucky hadn't escaped, but got away just in time to give birth to Steven in a church just after a mission in New York. Bucky was there and comforted Steven like this. This was also were Steven got his powers originally. The trauma of the event triggered his powers to manifest and boom, powerful Steven like he is now, only a little kid. Fun! (Sarcasm) I'm so glad I went with this version.
My story: Okay so I was 9 when it happened, and I didn't find out until my sisters and I got out of school. When we were dropped off at my mom's work, she told us. It was the scariest day of my life. I didn't understand why someone would do something like that. I think that day might have broken my innocence to the world. Yes I knew there was evil, like Hitler and the Nazi's but I didn't realize that people could be as hateful and evil as to do something like that. I didn't know that evil like that still existed.
That's my story what's yours?
On to the Fic
When the dust finally began to settle, Bucky and Steven first heard the deafening silence, and then the wail of sirens. The pair stumbled out of the building after a fireman saw them huddled in the door. He knocked on the door-frame and startled the pair out of their stupor. Bucky untangled his arms from around Steven's frame but his son just clung ever tighter to Bucky's chest. So with care and gentle maneuvering, Bucky hauled them both to their feet.
"You two alright," the fireman asked, and Bucky numbly nodded. He opened the door and walked into the light, with his arms still holding his eldest son upright. The fireman grasped Bucky's shoulder and gave him a cursory examination, looking into his eyes, checking for wounds, before he moved on to Steven. The blond was still shaking and in shock when the fireman brushed his hair out of his eyes. "You gonna be alright?" Steven looked up at him and weakly nodded. The Fireman gave them a tired smile and moved on.
The pair walked further into the street and emerged into a battle zone. Stone and twisted rebar litter the ground, as do burning pages of paper, and concrete dust. There are shards of glass littering the ground and everything, from the buildings, to the cars in the streets, to the people themselves, is covered in a fine layer of ash and dust. Black men and women are turned ash white and covered from head to toe in the powder, and the only reason Bucky could tell they were black at all was because of the smudges on their cheeks from the tears running down them. The sounds of sirens are like a soundtrack out of a long forgotten movie, one Bucky has never been able to forget; or wanted to hear ever again. All around there are fires burning and Bucky could just make out the shouts of fireman over the din of wailing sirens and horns. Bucky turned toward the Trade Center and was stunned to silence by the sight before him. All that was left of the two mighty towers was a gigantic mound of rubble. It looked like something he had seen during the War; broken sections of walls had collapsed intact and others had been reduced to mere piles of pulverized concrete. Twisted sections of rebar jutted out of chunks of concrete in a visceral parody of broken ribs, and I-beams lay twisted around it like a cage right out of Hell. Bucky stared at the pile in shock. What had once been the gleaming jewel of this city, jutting up to the skies like twin swords was reduced in a matter of minutes to no more than twisted rebar and a tangle of broken and bent I-beams encapsulated by chunks of broken concrete and glass.
And through it all, the sun shone through the dust and debris, shining onto the Fireman and Police officers quickly moving to comb through the rubble for survivors. They shone like angels covered in the dust of war, ceaselessly working to rescue the living or dead. Bucky felt anger like nothing he had felt before, well up in his breast, but it soon died into sorrow at the realization that there were now hundreds, if not thousands dead. Tears welled up in crystalline blue eyes as the enormity of the situation finally set in, and Bucky shuddered with helpless tears before the mound of death before him. He silently shook with sobs as tears flowed freely again, before a shout from the pile caught his attention.
"I got a live one here," a fireman yelled, and in a snap Bucky was no longer a fellow New Yorker numb from the shock of this travesty, but a doctor; whose duties outweighed his own grief. So Bucky took a deep shuddering breath, and did what he had done for years in the War: he locked his emotions, his soul away in a box, and did his duty,
Bucky rushed to the pile of twisted metal and debris, and climbed on nimble feet over the precarious piles of bricks and metal. He reached the Fireman who was calling for help, and bent down to help him pull chunks of concrete and metal off a young woman.
"It's gonna be alright, sweetheart," he said, his thick Brooklyn accent coming out, "we gotcha." The poor woman was crying and whimpering, but looked at them like they were angels. (Little did she know Bucky really was an angel; or rather his current Vessel.)
Bucky heaved a massive chunk off the hole and saw the fireman deflate at the sight of the iron I-beam pinning the woman down. The brunette doctor gave the woman a comforting pat on her shoulder before he moved. Bucky gripped the beam with both hands and braced himself on the most stable part of the pile.
"When I lift this up, you get her outa there. Okay?" Bucky ordered. The fireman nodded and waved over some more police and Fireman to help. "On three," he ordered, and the fireman reached down to grab hold of the woman's shoulders. "One… two… THREE!" Bucky heaved with all his might, and slowly pulled the beam, inch by inch off her form. Bucky's legs quaked, his muscles trembled, and the servos in his arm whirred and clicked as they recalibrated for more strength, as he pushed his enhanced body to the limit. Other Fireman and Policeman grabbed hold of the beam and added their strength to his own, and soon the beam had been lifted enough to pull the woman out of the hole. Once she was free, Bucky dropped the beam with a clang. The group looked up as the pile gave a shudder and shifter further down under their feet. Bucky collapsed onto the beam and gasped with exertion, before he composed himself and began to coordinate a triage center.
"Alright," he ordered to the EMTs and fire rescue, "I want nurses on priority cases. Fire and rescue you bring 'em right here. I need EMTs to gather as many stretchers as you can find, if you don't got enough, make some." Bucky pointed over at a nurse and motioned her forward, "I need somethin' to write with. You gotta marker or eyeliner or somethin'?" the nurse dug through her pockets and came up with a single tube of mat red lipstick. "It'll have to do. If any of you nurses or women have lipstick, bring 'em here." Firewomen and EMTs started pulling out tubes of lipstick or markers out of their pockets or purses, and brought them over to the impromptu triage station. Once piled up in front of him Bucky excluded any that were too light or skin toned, sticking to the vibrant reds, and even a blue. "Okay, grab a stick. Ladies this is triage, which means that serious cases get priority. I want you to mark every person that is brought over to us on his or her forehead, like this," he said and bent down over the woman he helped rescue. With the red lipstick Bucky placed a big red "s" on the wounded woman's forehead. "S for serious but Stable, C for critical and in need of immediate medical attention, and M for mortally wounded or dead; ya got me?" Bucky asked as he turned around to his triage nurses. The group of men and woman nodded, and Bucky stood up. "Okay, let's get to work." and with that the group disbursed to help with the rescue and recovery.
Bucky coordinated with the rest of the emergency workers, and relief and for a brief moment he felt like he was at Pearl, helping with the wounded and the dead after and during the attack. Bucky sighed and pushed that out of his mind. He needed to focus now, and he couldn't have a flashback; these people needed him.
Hours later, Bucky has finally gotten a chance to rest, and process the enormity of what has just happened. Somewhere in those long hours, after moving to a more secure sight and away from the burning rubble, someone, a policeman or just a regular Joe, Bucky couldn't remember, broke the news that the pentagon was attacked as well. Bucky had paled and swallowed back his fear before turning back to the task of treating his patients. But now, with the sky darkened and the only light coming from flashlights or lanterns, Bucky had the chance to process. Four planes had been taken and all four had crashed; three at their targets and one in a field in Pennsylvania. Bucky's white lab coat had been lost in the chaos, and his once clean blue scrubs were now splotched with blood and dirt. His hand was raw from all the scrubbing and sanitizing he had done to keep it clean and his metal hand had blood clinging in between the groves of the plating. He gave up cleaning it and put on two layers of sterile rubber gloves to stay clean.
So when he collapsed on the steps just outside the outdoor triage, it was no surprise he looked like a complete mess. Bucky put his hands between his knees and sighed. The sigh turned into a shudder and the shudder a sob. Bucky quickly put his face in his hands to try to regain composure, but once he released control, he found it hard to wrangle back. For several minutes Bucky sat there with his hands laced behind his neck, his head between his knees as he tried to stop himself from falling apart. A cry broke him out of his grief and he looked up to see a familiar form running up to him. It was Arion, his suit a mess and his shoulder length hair only braided out of his face at the temples and the top. This was the most elvish he had ever seen his husband in years, and the graceful look was shattered by the distraught look on his beloved's face.
Bucky stood up and, in two long strides; he was enveloped into Arion's arms. Arion used his taller stature to wrap his arms around Bucky's shoulders and tucked his chin over Bucky's head. Bucky buried his face in Arion's chest and wrapped his arms tightly around the Vanya's middle. The minute his face was hidden from view, Bucky shuddered and began to sob. Ugly visceral wails were buried in his lover's chest, as he fell apart in Arion's strong embrace. Bucky's strength finally failed him and his knees buckled under his form. Arion slid down to the ground with him, and rocked Bucky in his arms as they sat on the cold concrete steps.
Steven found them like this not much later, tears in his own eyes as he tried to remain strong before his colleagues. Arion looked up and saw Steven staring mournfully at his parents, before Arion reached out his arm and invited him in. Steven crumpled into the embrace and was soon enveloped in the arms of both his parents. Bucky pulled his son closer and kissed his brow. He had seen too much today and he was ever so thankful that he still had his son. He didn't even know when he started or who even started, but soon they began to pray.
"Oh lord," Bucky said with a shuddering breath, "please protect all who are still living today. Please keep our men and women safe as they search. Please comfort the families of those that have died. We ask only for comfort and strength to last the night." Bucky shuddered and buried his face in Arion's chest.
"Why," Steven asked, "why? Why them, why today?" he prayed, "why couldn't I stop it?" he sobbed and kept praying, "please don't let this be my fault. That I could have done something and didn't, please let it not be that! I'm sorry, I'm so sorry!" Arion shred silent tears, and softly began to sing.
'Where have the eagles gone/ where are the white gulls crying/ they are silent in mourning/ they weep for the loved ones lost,' Arion sang. Some nurses heard him and felt tears fall at his mournful voice, and he continued. 'Oh Eru, our Lord/ Our maker, our God/ please usher this souls/ to your house un-trod/ speed on their spirits/ past the great Gate/ and guide them home /to peace and rest; For you are king of the souls of Man/ you've taken them in/ you gave them your hand/ you loved them forever and strong/ so now take them home forever!'
Tears streamed down the faces of the nurses and workers, and even the patients cried at the mournful sweet music and lament of an Elf. Somewhere in the crowd a voice rag out and began to sing a new song. One long remembered, and used: Just as I am. And the crowd took it up and sang tears flowing, voices breaking, but to the ears of an Archangel sleeping in the mind of an old Soldier, it was the most beautiful choir on all the earth. When that song was finished they took up Amazing Grace, and even the doctors still working on patients would hum and sing; their eyes misty.
And in front of this throng, Bucky and Arion held their eldest child, as he begged and pleaded forgiveness that wasn't need. Yasha found them still holding each other, tears long since dried out, but sorrow still fresh in their hearts. Bucky looked up from his husband's chest and saw Yasha standing before them in his combat uniform, bag in hand and cap on straight and square. A lance of fear shot through him and he looked at his son's haggard face and knew: Yasha was leaving.
"I've been put on alert," Yasha said softly. He sat down his bag and sat on the stone steps beside his family. His face was sad but also calm and Bucky didn't know what hurt more: the fact that he looked so much like Steve in that moment, or that that he was so proud of it. Yasha looked at his callused hands and sighed. "They canceled leave, and my whole unit has to report in in a little under an hour. I think… I think they might be shipping us out soon." Bucky lunged out of Arion's arms and pulled Yasha into a fierce embrace.
"I'm pregnant," Bucky said a watery smile on his face. Steven and Yasha look at him in shock. Yasha pulled back with a bittersweet smile, and laughed.
"Really," Steven asked, and looked between his parents. Arion nodded and smiled.
"That's what we were gonna tell you today," Bucky said with a bittersweet chuckle. Steven tucked himself back into Bucky's chest and tried to let his pain go, but it was hard with the knowledge he knew.
"We had warning," Steven said suddenly, "we didn't do anything. I feel like this is somehow my fault." Steven sobbed, and Bucky squeezed him tight. "I had it right on my desk yesterday, and if I'd just taken the time to actually look at it, maybe…" Arion shook his head.
"There was nothing anyone could have done, Steven," he said, "not you alone. It's not your fault." Arion sighed and dropped his head onto Bucky's shoulder. "We had the same breakdown with my agency too, Steven."
"It was bad communication all around, Steven," Bucky said, "the agencies could have talked to each other, but didn't. We just have to learn from this mistake, and grow better from it."
Yasha deployed the next morning; six months in Iraq. It was with frayed nerves and many tears that Bucky watched his currently youngest son march away to war.
"Good luck," he told him, after he pressed a kiss to Yasha's forehead. "Be safe!"
The day was grim and dreary and was made even more so when the phone rang with even more bad news. Bucky dropped his glass when he heard and numbly thanked the man on the other line before he hung up.
"Ada," Steven called and skidded into the living room. Bucky sat crumpled up on the couch, his face in his hands as he cried. "Ada, what happened?" Bucky set his hands down and looked at his son with the most miserable look of grief he had ever seen.
"Gabe died, Stevie," he said. Steven dropped onto the couch in shock, stunned and confused. Gabriel Jones may have been old but he was a strong man. Steven honestly expected Jim to die first.
"How," he asked once he found his voice again. Bucky sobbed and wrapped his arms around his middle.
"His heart gave out," Bucky told him, tears running down his face, "he had a massive heart attack, yesterday morning. This grandson thinks that the shock of seeing… it… happen was too much for him." Bucky snuffed his nose and swallowed past the lump in his throat. Steven sat in shock, too numb for it to really register.
"We're all that's left," Steven whispered. Bucky looked up and the realization dawned on him as well.
"We're all that's left of our old Unit," Bucky breathed. "You, me, Morita; we're all that's left." Steven looked old and so very sad for a moment before he leaned into Bucky's chest and began to sob again, grief hitting him in a double punch. The Howling Commandoes were almost gone. There was almost no one left that remembered Steve Rogers, Captain of the Howling Commandoes and the dearest of friends. Peggy was slowly losing her mind, and Howard couldn't look for him anymore; so when she died, there would be no one but Steven and Bucky to bring Steve Rogers home. And for some reason, that hurt even more.
End Note: again: I am so sorry for putting you all through that, but it had to be done. Please tell me how I did. I think I did this chapter even better than the last. The event feels numb to me now, but the aftermath still makes me cry.
Gabe is very hard to deal with. I know he died at some point, but didn't know when, so I thought, if he had a massive heart attack because of the shock, it would be one of the better ways of handling it.
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