"You sure about this, Buck?" Steve crossed his arms over his chest, making Bucky try to hide a smile at Steve's obvious worry.
"It's safer for yo-- everyone." Bucky corrected, shifting on the medical bed. The Wakandan cryo-pod was only a few feet away, like a looming threat to Steve. Bucky was obviously confident with his choice, but Steve couldn't share that feeling. He could only think about how much he would miss Bucky.
"I'm going to miss you, Buck." Steve steadied a hand on Bucky's right arm. There was a small black pad covering the stump were his destroyed metal arm used to be. Bucky smiled sadly up at him.
Steve had realized weeks ago that he loved Bucky, in a way that differs greatly from the way a friend loves a friend. He would do anything for the sixty year-old former Hydra assassin. But he would never put that much pressure on an already fractured mind.
"I'll miss you too, Steve." Bucky's sad smile hadn't vanished.
"Is something wrong?" Steve raised a suspicious eyebrow. Bucky shook his head and tried to grin.
"You're an awful liar, Barnes. Spill." Steve looked around, signaling the few Wakandan people in the room that he would like a moment with his best friend. The exited gracefully.
Bucky sighed as he watched the Wakandans leave. "Steve..."
"C'mon. I'm here for you." Steve winked playfully.
Bucky sighed, defeated. He looked up, meeting Steve's gaze. "I will miss you, Stevie."
Before Steve could stop himself, he returned Bucky's sad smile. Steve felt tears threatening to escape his eyes.
Bucky's face twisted with worry. "I'm sorry, Steve-- I didn't mean--"
"No, Buck, don't be sorry. I..." Steve spluttered, holding back his tears becoming harder and harder.
Bucky's sad eyes twinkled with moister, too. Holding his only arm out, pulled Steve into his embrace. Steve melted willingly into the hug, wrapping his arms around Bucky's waist and burring his face into Bucky's neck.
"Oh, Stevie..." Bucky muttered. He brought his hand to Steve's neck, cracking his thinning control. Tears flowed unbidden from Steve's eyes, wetting the strap of Bucky's singlet.
"I'm sorry, Buck...." Steve sobbed. Bucky stroked Steve's hair.
"Oh, Stevie, you big softie." Bucky pulled away, looking straight into Steve's eyes. He moved his hand onto Steve's face, cupping his cheek and brushing away his tears with a thumb.
"Don't cry." Bucky tried to smile. "I'll be out before you know it."
"I know it." Steve attempted to joke, but failed. "Listen, Bucky. I don't think I can stand to let you go again without telling you something."
"What is it?" Bucky asked, hand slipping from Steve's face. Steve caught the hand before it could leave him.
Steve took a breath in. "Remember that time I got into a fight with that jerk who was bullying a younger kid?" Stalling.
"I needed to save your ass after he gave you a black eye. I yelled at you to quit getting into brawls with kids ten times bigger than you, because you scared the death out of me. You didn't speak to me for a week." Bucky recounted, squinting to capture the memory. He kept his gaze on their interlinked hands.
Steve grinned. "Well, I was a jerk to you, but that was when I realized." The words were on the tip of Steve's tongue, nor would they budge. But Steve had decided to speak out, knowing that if he didn't, he would regret it forevermore. And Steve Rogers was the Captain America; if he could fight an army of Ultrons on a hovering Sokovian city and win, he could tell Bucky Barnes that he loved him. Right?
"Realized what?" Bucky shifted on the medical bed, noticing the Wakandans starting to grow impatient outside the room.
"I love you." Steve blurted as the Wakandan medical team filed back in and returned to their posts. The ruckus was almost defining as fifty plus people scrambled back into the small room, but Bucky wasn't listening. His ears had started ringing with the words Steve had just said. Steve Rogers obviously looked shaken, but his intense gaze was still locked on Bucky's eyes. The world around Bucky seemed to cancel out, the only thing visible to him being Steve.
I've waited so long to hear you say that, punk.
He must have said that out loud, because Steve's face lit up like New York at nighttime. Steve leaned into Bucky, who's face imitated Steve's grin.
Bucky lifted his hand out of Steve's and cupped it gently around Steve's neck, closing the distance between their lips.
Steve tensed for only few seconds, before melting into the kiss. Steve wrapped his arms around Bucky's waist and closed his eyes.
The kiss was sweet while it lasted. When Steve ran his hand through Bucky's hair, the Wakandans must have realized what they were doing, because a collective gasp slithered through the room. Steve couldn't help but smiling when they separated.
"That was late." Bucky whispered into Steve's ear.
Steve smiled softly.
"Oh, and Stevie?" Bucky stood from where he perched on the bed.
"I love you, too."
The cryo-pod hissed shut, canceling out the rough edges of James Buchanan Barnes' figure. Icy mist clouded the chamber and James' eyes closed. The bulk of his figure looked angelically at peace. Steven Grant Rogers shed his last tear of the day.
When I see you again, Buck, I will cherish every moment we're together. I love you, I wouldn't dare lose you ever again.
My Winter Soldier.