“On your left,” Steve called out, running past a woman in black workout gear. Her blonde ponytail streamed behind her as she ran. He moved smoothly around her, past her, churning up the gravel of the path.
He ran on, turning at the looming white of the Lincoln Memorial. “On your—”
“Don’t even,” Sam Wilson gasped, and Steve grinned and slapped him on the back before sprinting past, out of clocking range, though Sam swung out with a long arm and really nearly got him.
“On your left,” Steve called out, and the man, blue sweatshirt, moved away, and then abruptly jerked back into his path. Steve smashed into him, knocking him forward. They tumbled onto the grass, and Steve tried to fling himself to one side so as not to land on top of him, but even so they crashed hard in a tangle of limbs.
“Sorry,” Steve said immediately, instinctively, moving to sit up. “Are you—”
“Act normal,” Bucky told him. “We’re being watched by one, two—at least three agents.”
Steve gaped at him. Bucky was unshaven, but he’d cut his hair like it used to—and then Bucky winced and reached for his ankle, and Steve was moving in to help before he realized that Bucky was giving him cover: some pretext for the look that must be on his face. Bucky was also giving him an excuse to scoot closer, and a reason to touch him. It had been ages, but it all came flooding back to him—this vocabulary of almost-innocent touches, an everyday life of deceit. Steve put his hand on Bucky’s calf and peered down at his ankle; Bucky’s head bent close to his.
“Bucky, is it you?” Steve muttered, chest tightening. “Are you all right? Do you—”
Bucky’s eyes met his. “Yeah,” he said. “It’s me,” and there was none of the confusion from the helicarrier. “I can’t get near you. You’ve got agents on you at all times, plus bugs in your apartment and a tracker on your bike.” Steve felt rage rising up in him—how dare they, who the hell did they think they—and Bucky’s gloved hand landed on his arm. “It’s me.” Bucky’s mouth twisted unhappily. “It’s me they’re trying to protect you from. Steve, I’m sorry—”
“It’s all right,” Steve said helplessly. “They don’t understand. I, it’s—we have to explain—”
“We can’t explain.” Bucky looked miserable. “They’re not gonna—they won’t ever—here, help me up, lever me up,” and Steve darted in to support him, stealing an almost-hug when Bucky leaned against him to put weight on his ankle. Bucky’s gloved hand clutched at his shoulder. He was good; Steve kept forgetting it was an act.
“Look, if they catch me,” Bucky muttered, “they’re either going to kill me or they’re going to put me in a box with a little window and—Steve, Ican’t.” Bucky jerked away and shifted his weight from sneaker to sneaker to show that he was fine, see, no problem. “Here, shake my hand,” Bucky said, and swung out his hand.
Steve reached for it without thinking. They shook hands like strangers.
“So what’s the plan? Tell me the plan,” Steve said, low and urgent.
Bucky hesitated. “Steve, I can’t ask you to trust—”
“Shut up. Shut the hell—I’m coming with you.”
“You can’t. Not—yet. But I have some ideas,” Bucky admitted. “C’mere, let’s throw them off,” and Bucky reached into the front pocket of his sweatshirt and pulled out a phone. “Selfie,” he said, slinging his arm around Steve and lifting the phone, and Steve actually laughed out loud because that was exactly what always happened when people recognized him. He disliked it, actually; the casual presumption of it; it made him feel even more like public property, a tourist attraction; the Washington Monument. “Thing is, we’ve probably only got a ten minute window,” Bucky said. “You go off the grid for ten minutes, they’ll send in a SWAT team. It’s not a lot of time—not if we want to get away clean. And it’s got to be clean if we want to—you know. Make a life somewhere,” Bucky mumbled, and then they both averted their eyes. They couldn’t look at each other; Steve’s throat hurt, he wanted it so bad.
“You’ve got to go,” Bucky said tightly. “Turn around and start running. I’m going to limp this off.”
Steve wasn’t ready. He couldn’t do it. He—
“Keep your eyes open. I’ll find you. And say yes to things,” Bucky said. “Just say yes, all right?”
“Yes,” Steve said immediately.
“Good. Make it a habit,” Bucky said. “Now hurry, go: it’s too long as it is,” and maybe he saw that Steve was still hesitating, because he said, “It’s mylife, Steve. Go,” and nothing else in the world could have made him, but now Steve turned and ran off, picking up speed. Behind him, Bucky began a slow, lopsided jog. The second time he looked back, Bucky was gone. The whole thing had taken maybe three minutes.
He burst into a sprint, torn between elation and despair. Three minutes and everything was different; his whole life was different; the future. He wanted to feel breathless, wanted to feel his lungs bursting, like in the old days.
Sam was waiting for him, impatiently, beneath the usual tree. Steve collapsed on the grass beside him, chest heaving. “What, did you pop up into Delaware? I hear their bagels are fresh up there,” Sam said.
“No, I—I ran into somebody,” Steve said and looked up at the wide open sky.
Read the entire story: 4 Minute Window on Archive of Our Own. This is part 1 of Speranza’s ongoing 4 Minute Window series including: 4 Minute Window, The Second Time as Farce, Yelp page for Coney Island Design & Construction, Scenes from a Marriage: The Kandinsky, Scenes from a Marriage: The Studebaker, The Third Time’s The Charm, Scenes From a Marriage: A Month Of Sundays, and The Tradeoff.
Rated: Explicit, Word Count: 24,127, AO3 Tags: Surveillance, It’s Like Grand Central Station In Here, Brooklyn Boys, Power Couple, People Are Sick of Conceptual Art
Need more Speranza fic? You can find Speranza’s many many awesome awesome fanworks on Archive of Our Own. If you’re not sure where to begin, try the Speranza Sampler which is a handpicked collection of her favorite works across numerous fandoms.