Fanfiction Fridays: miles to go before i sleep by Avelera

“I thought you might come here,” the target said. “You saw the exhibit?”

It was his turn to hesitate, but after a moment he nodded

“So you know now? That you’re Bucky Barnes?”

He realized he was shaking his head violently and stopped himself. “We share a face,” he said, a truth even he could acknowledge. There had been more too, a creeping sense of vertigo when he looked at the photos, a split-second where he could remember being on the other side of the camera. But they were only flashes, and could well be only his imagination. Still, he had to admit that the threat model for all of this being an elaborate trap was too high to be realistic. The evidence would have taken decades to plant, and he had always been too careful with his own face. Unless those who kept him had done this. He dismissed the possibility, acknowledging the far simpler possibility that there was a man with a face much like his.

The target nodded, not pushing further, laying out silence like a path at his feet.

“A face, that’s all,” he continued, and that anxious feeling, like something was crawling around inside him and trying to escape, rose again in his throat. He started walking.

The target stepped in front of him. Not stopping him, he could easily walk around, but he found himself arrested. “Where will you go now?”

“Away,” he said. He hadn’t thought that far ahead, though the word Brooklyn rattled at the back of his head, snatching at his attention like movement seen out of the corner of a sniper scope.

“You can stay with me, if you like.”

While the actual comic that Captain America: The Winter Soldier was based on is ten years old now, the success of the movie has skyrocketed the Marvel fandom back into the spotlight. If you’ve been around the fandom part of Tumblr at all recently, you know it’s impossible to escape the gifsets, fanart, and headcanons, and more impossible to not notice the obsession fans have developed for all things James Buchanan Barnes.

who the hell is bucky comicAnd given the tragic and legendary nature of the friendship between Bucky Barnes and Steve Rogers, it goes without saying that the two of them also make a very popular slash ship. Some fans see the two of them as having been in a relationship during their pre-WWII days, or as lovers during the war; some fans imagine that their feelings were unrequited, and presumed doomed until Bucky turned out to be not-dead. In any case, the Stucky bug has bitten MCU fandom hard, and some excellent fanworks have appeared in the weeks since the movie premiered.

post-credits catws museum scene buckymiles to go before i sleep by Avelera is one of these awesome fics. The story picks up right where the post-credits scene of CA:TWS lets off, as Bucky is leaving the museum. It’s written from Bucky’s point of view, sort of; that is, he is no longer the Winter Soldier, but has not yet accepted that he could be James Barnes, so he struggles to identify himself even in his own internal monologue. He eventually takes Steve up on his offer of a place to stay, but struggles both with moving past his conditioning and with accepting his memories of Steve and of his time as the Winter Soldier, which are gradually returning.

One of the things that I really love about fandom lately is that, in a hivemind sort of way, authors have realized the importance of including realistic depictions of mental disorders for characters who should ostensibly have them. In post-movie Captain America fandom, this means a lot of fanfic that deal with Steve going to find Bucky, and trying to help him deal with the trauma he experienced during his time as the Winter Soldier. It would be very easy for these fanfics to fall into variations of the “healing dick” trope, where Steve and Bucky hooking up has the magical ability to turn Bucky back into the person he was before he was taken by the Soviets. This is unrealistic in any case, but in Bucky’s it’s horribly dismissive of the decades of abuse he experienced and how they, for better or worse, shaped him as a person. This fanfic is no exception to this trend; Avelera portrays Bucky’s trauma as well as Steve’s handling of it realistically and respectfully.

Indeed, she manages to deliver a fluffy premise—“Bucky gets his memories back, remembers being in a relationship with Steve; they are finally able to be together openly”—while still being true to the fact that Bucky would have significant mental trauma. He has trouble trusting Steve, or even referring to Steve as anything but ‘the target’ for quite some time. He has trouble sleeping without nightmares, and even when his memories start to return, it’s more of a curse than a blessing; he was the Winter Soldier for significantly longer than he was Bucky, after all, and many of the memories that return are bloody and horrifying. Throughout, Steve is accommodating to Bucky’s fears and triggers, and never pushes him to be anything he isn’t.

miles to go before i sleep is a wonderful story and is complete at around 12k, and so it isn’t a particularly long time commitment. You can read it here at the AO3!