“I don’t care who you were back then!” Tony yells, frustration in every tense line of of his body, hands curled into fists by his side so tightly his knuckles are starting to turn white. “I don’t care what you did!” His voice breaks on the last word, furiously blinking against the tears in his eyes.
Bucky closes his eyes as though the action might set him apart from this situation somehow, might make it easier, might make it hurt less. It doesn’t, and he would have opened them again a second later even if it had. Because this, doing this properly, is the least he can do.
”You can’t be that naive,” he says, forces the ugly truth out before either of them get the chance to pretend it isn’t there. Standing right here, between them. Separating them.
Tony flinches, but Bucky can’t allow to let that deter him. He’ll protect Tony, protect all of them. Even from himself. Especially from himself. That’s his job.
“There are things I’ve done, choices I’ve made that I’ll never…never be able to make amends for.” He drags a harsh breath in, ignores the burning in his chest, pushes on instead. “Pretending it wasn’t real? It didn’t happen? Wasn’t real me? Won’t help nobody. So…so if you ask me, I’m gonna tell you, Tony. Do you understand? I will. And ‘s long as you don’t ask I won’t tell. But you don’t get to brush it off and you don’t get to pretend it wouldn’t change anything.” Bucky grasps Tony’s forearm then, and even he doesn’t know whether it’s meant as a warning or an apology. “You don’t get to lie to me like that.”
Tony stares at him in silence, chest heaving. Bucky can feel the faint tremors where he’s still holding him, but Tony makes no move to free himself. Finally, he nods, just once, barely noticeable if Bucky hadn’t been waiting for it.
“If that’s what you want, then you’re free to leave,” Tony says eventually. His voice is calmer now, steady, a stark contrast to the wildness in his eyes. “You always were.” Then he leans closer to Bucky, a sudden, jerky movement that causes Bucky to tense reflexively as Tony places a gentle kiss on his cheek.
“It’s not my place to forgive you, so I won’t,” he breathes, “But if you think I’ll let you use your past as an excuse to push me away for long, then you really don’t know me at all.”
“You need to come back.”
“I’ve told you, Rogers, I’m done with that life. You’ll handle it.”
“Do you really think I’d call you if I thought there was another option? For fuck’s sake they’re going after Pierce, Barnes!”
“Has Romanoff lost her mind?!”
“The team needs you! We need you!”
“I’m a thief, Barnes. I don’t win a heart over, I steal it.”
Allura twisted her wrist out of Shiro’s grasp, laughing uncontrollably at his attempts to slow her down as they raced down the long castle corridor.
“You can’t beat an Altean at her own game! Nice try, mithnir,” She taunted, narrowly avoiding another one of his side-swipes.
“Who are you calling a mithnir, you mithnir?” Shiro grinned from ear to ear and his fingertips brushed her waist before she darted once more out of his reach. Allura bit off her giggle at the misinterpretation and put on another burst of speed. The two sped past the training room, where the other sparring paladins stopped short in bewilderment.
Pidge peered out the doorway, “Are they calling each other… cuties?”