the long slide from kingdom to kingdom [steve/bucky]
There was this time when they were kids, fifteen, sixteen — Steve doesn’t know exactly when, just that it was after Bucky’s hands grew up all by themselves. They’d been small, Bucky’s hands, all through their childhoods; his fingers were delicate, nearly dainty, even after he started having to look down his nose at Steve. Then, one day, they weren’t anymore. One day Bucky reached out and it was a man’s broad palm encircling Steve’s thin wrist, and maybe Steve doesn’t know how old he was when it happened but he’ll never forget it. He looked up in surprise to find Bucky smiling at him, unchanged from the moment before but somehow a completely different person than Steve was expecting, haloed from behind in faded sunlight, smiling easy and too warm. Steve swallowed, and swallowed again, and wondered if Bucky could feel Steve’s pulse jumping against his lifeline, hammering out a confession Steve’d been holding close to his chest for years.
After that, there was this fight, this stupid fight that started the way all their stupid fights did, back then: with Steve opening his damn mouth. With Bucky snarling something protective. With the two of them throwing themselves into the fray the best they could, fists-first and always regretting it, after, Bucky nursing his bruised knuckles and Steve’s busted lip both; they were so predictable, really. They might as well have stayed inside, laid flat on the floor of Steve’s bedroom in the oppressive heat and simply imagined bloodying, or being bloodied. It would have come out the same in the end, with Bucky cracking ten jokes in a row to hide his worry and Steve hurting again, always, in trouble or out of it.