Title: Unknown Brother
Disclaimer: I sooooo own nothing related to the Avengers! If by some miracle I did they would be the Org-vengers and I'd make them do it with each other. All the time. Anywhooo…
Summary: Steve's friends take time to help him remember a fallen hero
A/N: Okay so it's not really a song-fic, more like, a fic inspired by a song? I was listening to Unknown Brother by the Black Keys (great song, btw) and then this fic happened. I'm sure this has probably been done before, but I hope it brings enjoyment anyhow.
The first thing that surprised Steve as he walked into the main living room of the newly renovated Stark Tower (nicknamed 'Avengers Tower' by certain members of the team-i.e. Tony) was a poster-sized portrait of Bucky's service photo hung up on the wall, After mentally reeling for a moment, he blinked and took in the rest of the room, and found himself more confused than before. The furniture had been moved off to the side and a podium had been set up in from of the room, a small table in front of it. On the table were a few framed pictures of Bucky and Steve, a candle and a small but elegant bouquet of lilies. Across from the display a few chairs were set up, and Steve recognized his team-mates sitting quietly, waiting. Natasha turned and saw him first, and got up to welcome him into the room with a smile.
"What is all this?" he asked, looking from one person to the other, taking in their dark suits and sober attitudes. Natasha herself had forgone her skin-tight uniform in favor of a more modest, simple black dress. Tony got up and joined the two, looking impeccable in his charcoal grey suit.
"We're having a wake for Bucky," he began to explain. "I know that you…never really got a chance to grieve for him, and I know what it feels like to lose someone you were close to." He could barely meet Steve's eyes, and he could tell that Tony was remembering those that he had lost.
"It was Tony's idea," Natasha spoke to fill the silence, but only succeeded in making the billionaire more embarrassed.
"Yeah well, my first idea was an Irish wake, but since you can't really get drunk anyway, there didn't seem like much of a point to it." He met Steve's eyes for a moment, and his slight smile said what his casual, deflecting joke could not.
"Thank you Tony," Steve said sincerely, clapping a reassuring hand on his shoulder.
"It's time for us to start," Natasha broke in gently, guiding Steve to the seat next to her on the front row as Tony went to stand behind the podium. Steve sat down and looked up at Tony, wondering what he was going to say. Tony cleared his throat and began.
"We're here today to remember the life of Private James 'Bucky' Barnes. I didn't have the pleasure of meeting Private Barnes in person, but ever since I was young I've looked up to him. One of my favorite bedtime stories, when my father was around to tell them, was the story of Bucky's last stand. I didn't understand until I was much older the sacrifice Bucky had made, and I didn't understand why he had to give it all up when he was such a good man. But now I've learned a few things about sacrifice, and more importantly I've had the honor to meet the man that he laid down his life for. Bucky knew that sometimes in order to save someone else you have to let go of yourself. So I just want to say thank you Private Barnes, for your loyalty to us and your country, and for influencing a man that I greatly respect and am glad to call my friend.
Tony walked down from the platform and took the seat behind Steve, shaking his hand and clapping him on the shoulder before doing so. Next to Steve, Natasha got up, squeezing his hand before stepping up to the podium herself.
"From what I've read of Private Barnes' files," she began, "He was an exceptional and loyal soldier. Before I came to America, I was taught to regard anyone outside of my circle of comrades as enemies. We prided loyalty among all else, and a loyal foe was a challenging one." At the end of the row of chairs, Clint shifted uncomfortably in his seat, more from a general uneasiness about Natasha talking about her pre-S.H.I.E.L.D. days rather than a desire not to be there. Natasha seemed to catch on and redirected.
"When you're a part of a unit, they become like your family. Before I joined S.H.I.E.L.D., I had no family of my own, and as a little girl I remember wishing that I had a brother. Steve had that in Bucky, and I feel that I've found a brother in Steve. I'm going to stay loyal to your memory Bucky, and protect him in your absence."
Natasha finished her speech and went back to hear seat beside Steve. He intercepted her before she could get past him and hugged her. He could feel her tense up for a few moments, before somewhat awkwardly bringing her arms up to return the gesture.
By the time they sat down, Clint had replaced Natasha on the podium. "Ah, I'm not too good with this kind of thing," he started, rubbing the back of his neck, "but when I was in the third grade I did my hero project on Bucky Barnes. Everyone else was doing their projects on George Washington, JFK or Captain America," he paused as some of the team chuckled. "But I was flipping through a book and Bucky's smile caught my attention. I remember thinking, 'what is he smiling about, wasn't there a war going on?' But doing that project, and learning about him made me realize, sometimes, you have to smile, in spite of the crap flying at your face. I was kind of a lonely kid, ya know, I got picked on a lot. I looked up to Bucky because of that smile I still look up to him, and I feel like it's more than fate that I got to cross paths with Steve. I know that's why he was smiling in all his pictures, because he had a friend to keep it on his face. I'm glad he sent me that friend, and I know he's looking down on us smiling now."
Clint got down and shook Steve's hand, and when Steve smiled back at him and said "Thank you, Clint," Clint just nodded and took his seat. Steve sat down and quickly realized that the eyes of everyone in the room were watching him expectantly. He took his cue and walked up to the podium, stopping to admire Bucky's photo before facing his friends and team-mates.
"I…just want to say thank you all for your kind words about Buck. For a long time, Bucky was my only friend. We joined the service together, and he stuck by me, even though I wondered every day what worth he found in a scrawny kid from Brooklyn. I remember one day when we were kids and he had just knocked some guy's lights out for beating on me. When I asked why he risked getting hurt for me he just said, 'Somebody has to. Steve paused, trying not to get too choked up in front of his friends. "That was when Bucky became my best friend. He taught me so much about life and being a man, and because he believed in me, I gained the confidence to believe in myself. I think about him every day, and I sometimes feel like he should be here instead of me, because he always dreamed big, and this world I've woken up to is even bigger than he could imagine. I know he's up there watching though, and I know he's proud of me, and the people I feel privileged to call my friends.
At this, everyone broke into applause, causing Steve to flush red in embarrassment. He got down off the podium and Tony met him at the bottom step. "There's one more thing, if you're up to it?"
"Sure, I'm game," Steve replied smiling.
About an hour later, their small group was trudging through a veteran's cemetery, with Tony leading the way. Steve wasn't really paying attention, just enjoying the companionable silence his friends provided. He'd love to be able to just stop and draw this, soldiers marching in respect for the fallen. He closed his eyes momentarily, trying to burn the image into his memory.
"Okay here." Tony said, stopping at the headstone that Steve could see was Bucky's. Nothing was there, but Steve turned to see Tony with the bouquet of lilies from the house, but didn't remember seeing him take it at all. Each person took one from him, and laid it next to Buck's grave. When there were two left, Tony placed his down and handed the last one to Steve.
He crouched down in front of the headstone and didn't even notice the rest of the group retreat a few steps back to give him some space. Tracing his fingers over the name, he gave a small sigh. "Here's to you Bucky. Thanks for giving me a second chance." He placed his lily and rather than linger, Steve felt ready to go. Sure he was in a world that had changed enough to almost be a different planet, and he was without his best friend. "I may be lost," he thought as he rejoined the group and put an arm around Tony and Clint, ruffling each of their heads affectionately, "but the one thing I'm not is alone.