“Bucky, you home?”
After a moment of silence Steve glanced at the clock and realised that Bucky must still be on his way home from his appointment. Months of tedious arguments had finally resulted in his friend reluctantly agreeing to visit a therapist.
Discarding his coat and shoes by the door, Steve moved into the kitchen and living room area, opened the fridge and frowned in disappointment. Beans on toast would have to do. Growing up without much money had made him resourceful, but even he couldn’t conjure up a meal out of wilted spinach, ketchup and an egg. Bucky had obviously forgotten to do the weekly shop again.
Since it was still quite early, Steve grabbed his sketchbook and decided to form a rough idea for his next painting that had popped into his head during the walk home. Meeting Tony and seeing his work had inspired him to create an industrial scene with large silhouettes of buildings contrasting with a background of soft colours and delicate scenery.
Getting carried away, he only stopped when the light suddenly flickered on and he found himself blinking from the unexpected brightness.
“Bucky! Where have you been?”, he asked with a quick glance at the clock. He should have returned at least an hour ago.
His friend grinned and held up a carrier bag. “Can’t have the artist starving can we? I hope you like Indian- it was the only decent looking place I passed.”
Sitting down at the small table, they dished the takeaway onto plates; he couldn’t stand eating from foil boxes.
After a few moments Bucky spoke up. “How was Stark? As obnoxious as he usually is?”
Steve frowned slightly and shook his head. “He wasn’t actually bad at all”, he replied, “In fact, he was rather helpful”, he added, thinking about how much time the artist had spent there.
The other man snorted in disbelief and carried on eating. Steve wanted to explain how Tony had helped him and how the tabloids had exaggerated his behaviour, but kept quiet. A small disagreement would escalate into an argument, and he really didn’t want to spoil the relaxed atmosphere, so they continued dinner in a comfortable silence.
As they parted later that evening after cleaning up and chatting about the upcoming week, Steve gently touched Bucky’s arm with a smile that received an eyeroll in return.
He couldn’t quite believe how far his friend had come. The man he saw today had come a long way from the wounded soldier who had refused to leave the house after an IED had caused him to lose his arm. Paranoid, withdrawn and angry, he had been almost unrecognisable. The signs of PTSD had been obvious, but Bucky had refused help, insisting that he was perfectly capable and didn’t need anyone to interfere.
As the years had dragged on it had become almost unbearable to watch his friend deteriorate, and so he had made a deal. Steve knew that it upset Bucky greatly when he had carried on with his military training, so he had agreed to stop to pursue a career in art, and in return the struggling man would promise to seek professional help as well as to let his friends support him again.
Now that Bucky had that a support system, a part time job and friends surrounding him, Steve felt as if he could finally relax and focus on himself.
As he lay in bed, he found himself thinking about the preview the next day, and couldn’t help the nervousness that bubbled up. The thought of lots of people criticizing his work almost made him regret the whole exhibition. However, another part of him was looking forward to showing off his creations, and maybe he would get another chance to talk to Tony.