Some time in the
past, the Winter Soldier was found in a hostel, curled around a small blond man
and fast asleep. The operative charged with collecting the Asset shot the blond
man with a silenced gun and pointed it at the Asset, who made a pained sound
when he saw the body and the blood.
“Fix it,” they
said of his degeneracy to the technicians. “This must never happen again. He
must never desire. He must never process that pattern. It is corrupted.”
They shocked him
until every memory of the pretty blond man who felt so familiar in his hands
lost its context and sweetness, until he forgot it like it was a mission.
He now remembers
that anonymous blond man, and a handsome Russian soldier, and a redhead who
he’d kissed as part of a mission culminating in the redhead’s assassination.
Moments of tenderness, tainted every time because the Winter Soldier was not
meant to caress.
And he remembers
from before, fixing up Arnie Roth after he got beat up for being a fairy and a
Jew, how Arnie had smiled with a split lip and said something about how we Jewish queers need to stick together and
Bucky just stopped, because I’m not a
(and Arnie had
looked away like he’d been struck and Bucky wishes he’d never said that.)
Now things are
different, but not enough that Bucky feels secure enough that he could tell
Steve, who never said a bad word about queers in the day but wasn’t like that, loved Carter like he loves Steve. On the
news, queer people of all stripes are defamed and killed, lose their friends.
Bucky can’t imagine losing Steve, even for the off chance that he doesn’t hate
him when he admits.
“I love you,” he said to the pillow that
doubled as Steve, fiddled with his sleeves, “I’ve always loved you, I want to-”
“I love you,” he wrote on a letter he would
never send, “I love you more than you can know-”
“I love you,” he said in the HYDRA lab,
staring through Dugan while he mopped Bucky’s sweating brow, “Love you, Stevie,
wanna tell you.”
(and Dugan had
been kind, later, when they met Steve. He pretended not to remember)
The words are
scaled against his cheeks at this point. He sees Steve and wants to admit
everything, like he’s been aching to, but the words are firmly stuck. The words
have disturbed him like a sore since he realized his feelings for Steve again.
“I want to tell
you,” he says to a pillow he’s designated as Steve. “I’ve wanted to tell you
for a long time that I…”
He freezes and
sits down. It’s so hard, and his time as the Winter Soldier has only made it
harder. Bucky throws the pillow against the wall.
“I love you,”
Steve says to him one day, over an innocuous breakfast of fruit and oatmeal.
Bucky considers bolting, but when he looks at Steve sees some of the trapped
animal that he feels in his ribcage.
manages to say, doesn’t want to sound too hopeful in case he needs to play it
off as a joke.
Steve says. “Out of all the things I regretted, not telling you… not telling
you sooner was one of them.”
know how to process this, has never run a scenario where it was Steve telling
him he loved him. So he just stays quiet until Steve reaches his hand across
the table for his, grasps it gently.
“Are we still
okay?” he asks, eyes betraying the fear that Bucky’s felt for so long, of
losing a good friend and a great love.
says. “We’re okay.”
And he smiles,
feels something other than horrendous anxiety and fright when he thinks about
how much he loves Steve.
“We’re okay,” he