I debated posting this because fanfiction is a guilty pleasure of mine, and also considered by many to not be a legitimate form of creative writing. Obviously, I disagree with this opinion. I wrote this on a lark one night with no real intention of going anywhere with it, but I really enjoyed how it turned out. It’s set in the Captain America (MCU) fandom.

A distant crunch of gravel was what first alerted Steve to the presence of someone else on the property. He’d been chopping wood out back because the rainy season was encroaching, and the nights were already getting chilly. Soon, the damp would set in and he’d be glad to have the extra firewood stacked up. Truthfully, he didn’t feel the cold much, but this was something to do since the weather wasn’t right to start work on the roof that day – something to dispel the anger that started crawling under his skin whenever he stopped paying attention.

The easy rhythm he’d picked up of grabbing the next log and swinging his axe halted at that tiny noise that stuck out like a sour note in wildlife in concert around him. Steve hated how his whole body immediately snapped taught and alert, senses dialled up to eleven at the barest provocation. The sound could’ve been anything. Wouldn’t be the first time a deer had skittered across his drive, but he still felt the unmistakable presence of another person nearby.

When he woke up this morning, Steve distinctly remembered not expecting any visitors today, or any day really. No one ever came to visit him here because no one knew to visit him here. That was the whole appeal to buying this property in the remote reaches of nowhere. He just wanted the world to leave him alone. He’d fucking earned that much, at least. So that left the question of who exactly was strolling up to his work-in-progress cabin without any kind of advance warning.

Letting his grip on the axe slip to just below the blade, he held his arms loose at his side as he slowly circled around to the front of the house, unsure of what he might encounter, but not wanting to present as overly threatening in case it was just one of the neighbours popping by.

It wasn’t one of his neighbours. The figure trudging up the gravel path was tall and lean, with lank brown hair hanging down around his face and a pack that had seen better days slung over one shoulder. Even with the overcast sky, the metal prosthesis gleamed where it was exposed by a pushed up sleeve. Steve found himself frozen in his tracks as he tracked the man’s progress toward the house. His combat booted feet didn’t make any sound on the loose rocks, but of course James Barnes had always had a preternatural ability to be silent when he wanted to be, even long before sniper training had honed him into a deadly shadow. That Steve had heard his approach at all was entirely because Bucky had wanted him to, which was probably for the best. Steve had no idea how he’d react to someone sneaking up on him on his own goddamn property. He’d a done a fair amount of damage to the drywall in his house just being startled awake by unfamiliar noises in his first few months here. As it was, he felt like he was staring at a ghost. He hadn’t seen Bucky in years, not since –

Steve firmly clamped down on that thought before it could go any further and focused instead on ungluing his feet from the ground. Taking measured steps, he reached the stairs up to the front porch by the time Bucky came to a stop a dozen feet away. Silence hung as they stared at each other. Steve still had no idea what to make of this whole situation. He’d never expected to see the man again in his life.

“You know, I was honestly expecting to be greeted at gunpoint. The axe is kind of a let down,” Bucky said after the silence had stretched out for a solid minute. 

Steve looked down at the beat up old hatchet he’d entirely forgotten he was holding and let it clatter to the ground.

“I was chopping wood,” he stated flatly when he looked up. “What are you doing here?”

Bucky gazed up at him with that sardonic almost smile he’d been famous for back in the old neighbourhood.

“Some of your weirdo friends broke into my place wanting to know what I’d done with your body.”

Steve crooked an eyebrow at that. It wasn’t entirely outside the realm of possibility. 

“Seems no one’s seen or heard from you in over a year. Would it have killed you to write a letter?” The light tone of his voice belied the serious set of Bucky’s jaw and in that moment he looked older than Steve had ever remembered seeing him.

“So you just thought you’d come all the way out here from – wherever it is you’re living these days to what? Check up on me?” Steve asked, sounding a lot more bitter than he’d meant to.

“Yeah, well, didn’t have anything better going on and don’t want your friends in the habit of invading my privacy.” Bucky’s words were accompanied by a glare sharper than the tactical knife no doubt tucked away somewhere on his person.

Steve let out a long sigh through his nose in an attempt to reign in his frustration. His friends were exactly that level of intrusively persistent.

“I’m sorry. Didn’t think they’d know to look you up. I will reach out to them. It won’t happen again,” he said firmly, already dreading the phone calls he was going to have to make. For his part, Bucky merely tipped his head forward in acknowledgement.

That left them staring at each other in silence again. Bucky hadn’t made any moves toward the porch and Steve was at a loss at how to move forward from here. They hadn’t spoken to each other in years for good reason.

“Did you walk all the way out here from town?” Steve finally asked, clearing his throat awkwardly.

Bucky shrugged one shoulder. “It’s not that far a walk.”

“It’s almost seven miles.”

“Like I said.”

Steve shook his head. This was typical Barnes.

“You might as well come in for dinner. Won’t be getting far before dark. I’ll give you a ride into town tomorrow.”

“Sure,” Bucky replied in that same emotionally devoid tone he’d been using this entire time. Steve didn’t say anything else, just turned around and headed inside. What the hell was he supposed to do with James Barnes in his house for an entire night?