The future has romance movies.
The future has romance movies and some of them are funny (”Rom Coms” Sam explains with an expression somewhere between exasperated and annoyed.) but some of them are not.
The future has romance movies and every. single. one of them has some man and woman kissing, some great misunderstanding, some hurtful longing, some sun soaked scene, a reuniting or the big forgiveness.
The big forgiveness for death.
The healing, the grieving, the moving on.
Natasha sorts them yes and no, Yes to Pretty Woman and No to Bridges of Madison County. Yes to You’ve Got Mail and No to The Vow.
Steve watches them all anyway. Watches any one he can find the same way the sick will listen to stories of people who got better and people who got worse.
Every one of them leaves a sickening bruise in the middle of him.
A dance he never got to, a hand he couldn’t reach.
And yet, none of them look like him.
The pining, the absolute, heart in your throat, can’t breath pining all while knowing it was wrong and dirty and saying a word would ruin you. Ruin everything for you.
Worse than Romeo and Juliet, he thought once, a million years ago, as a lonely man in shirtsleeves leaning over the railing of the fire escape in their coldwater walk up watching the sunset between the buildings, watching the dusk guide Bucky home from the docks.
Pretending he didn’t want to see length of Bucky’s legs, his one hand in his pocket, the swing of his shoulders and hips, the dirt on his face after a long day. Pretending it didn’t hurt in the exact way love is not supposed to. Pretending he wasn’t watching his world collapse he loved that silly boy so much.
Yeah, a little part of him is bitter for drawing that particular hand. For a dance with Peggy that never came and never having the opportunity with Buck and all these couples on the silver screen acting like their love hurts worst of all.
He doesn’t watch the ones that take place in WWII.
A heart can only hold so much.
“Don’t watch the queer ones, they’re worse than the straight ones,” Clint says after flipping through Steve’s netflix cue. Natasha hits him on the arm. “What? Oh, sorry, I mean the LGBT ones.” He rolls his eyes and Natasha hits him again.
Steve watches Were the World Mine and tries not to cry.
(He does but then never admits that Captain America lost that particular battle.)
And it’s Tony - Tony - of all people who brings it to the light. Smugly after an easy, but stupid battle, as the shit hits the news and action shots taken on cellphones go live on the web and cable news, Tony sits back and says, “You know they write stories about us?”
It’s like everyone else knows a train wreck is about to happen but no one is willing to stop it, too much fun to watch. Or maybe it’s just something about the future they’ve decided to stop hiding from Steve and Tony is the best at being blunt.
“All kinds,” Tony continues with a salacious smirk. Then winks. The bastard. “They even have names for relationship pairs they think would be cute, or hot together. They call us Stony,” he says and Steve is first unsettled by this knowledge but then…
Curious. Really fucking curious.
Yeah, after he gets over initially being squicked out over strangers writing porn of him.
Of him and Tony??
and sometimes even the Hulk??!?!?!
After that, he finds, well.
The good stuff, as he likes to call it.
Stories about before. Before the avengers, before the war, even.
Other lives. All that potential, never reached.
Stories about him, about them about–
They don’t get him right, of course. They didn’t actually know him and the few documentaries floating around out there about him are absurd.
But some, some of the authors are kind to him, gentle with him.
The way Steve wishes people had been with Bucky in life.
And that… That’s hard to look away from. Even though it hurts, so much, like doubling over in front of his computer when someone gets to close to the nerve, to close to the bone, to close to real.
That silly boy’s smile and Steve’s fawn heart stuttering in his chest, a literal lifetime ago.
They write about the longing. Watching Bucky’s long fingers play in the perspiration on a Coke bottle on a hot summer day, down by the coast, or a Christmas where they Magi gift each other, or curling up under a blanket on the fire escape to watch the stars and all of them…
All of them close enough to the truth that Steve can pretend, pretend just for a moment, that they are real.
That he can picture, sweetly and perfectly, exactly how Bucky would smile over some barely adequate dinner in their flat before the big confession, the thundering of Steve’s heart and the rush of blood in his ears.
Or picturing Bucky in dress uniform, hat just so and their dates having stood them up (because there was no such dates to begin with, but Steve didn’t know) and him confessing, after, on his knees at Steve’s bedside with his hands fisted in creases of Steve’s trousers, saying I didn’t want to leave with you knowing, without telling—
It hurts so bad, it hurts so good. He can’t stop reading them, can’t look away.
This is one train wreck he wants to watch, wants it to wreck him, wants to remember what this feeling was like, that they never touched it but it was real– oh god, it was so real–
Hundreds of strangers keep bringing him back to life. His blue coat, his uniform from the docks, his sunday best. Steve knew them all, has drawn them all, knows the smell and the way Buck really did once fist his hands in Steve’s uniform and look at him like they’d both just been raised from the dead.
He thought he might.
Just that one moment. That one time. After they’d been rescued, before they called themselves the Howling Commandos.
Back when they were just Steve and Buck and he still looked wild and haunted (died wild and haunted) and Steve was on his knees before him, checking him again for a wound he couldn’t find (a wound that ran too deep) and Bucky’s hands on his face, his shoulders, fisted in his jacket and his eyes flicking to Steve’s lips, to Steve’s hands, to Steve’s eyes.
They didn’t kiss.
It wouldn’t have been right, then. After he’d been damn near tortured to death (to this day, Steve can’t handle that he never found a wound–).
He read that fic.
That’s how he’d like to think it went down.
It should’ve gone down (that is, if Bucky had wanted, he looked like he’d wanted, but Steve was a coward, put him to bed and stayed up another hour to watch him sleep, fitfully–)
The movies are good, yeah, sweet or painful or silly.
Something mindless to keep him from wandering off to far.
But the stories are better. And the stories hurt.
Closer to the truth.
Lonely men in shirtsleeves, leaning out of windows.
There was way more at stake than anything those couples would ever know.
(Steve never tells Tony that he looked, but one day he gives Steve this look, a serious one, that’s what tips him off, before he gently squeezes Steve’s shoulder and goes back to work. Maybe Steve needs to have a talk with Jarvis about privacy among other matters.)
Besides, it’s nice, Always 1895 nice to think that there, in that strange place where everything is infinite, Bucky lives.