the quickest light

26.

Bucky pretends to eat Tiny Princess Thor’s tiny princess fingers to the sound of her shrieking laughter, which is, y'know, totally fine. Clint didn’t actually need his heart, anyway, so it’s not a problem that it’s flopped out of his chest to land with a sad splat at Bucky’s feet. Clint grins for the seven hundredth Super Selfie - $5 a pop, all proceeds to the local children’s hospital - and then heads over to the grill. Apparently there’s a space inside him to fill.

It turns out hotdogs do not, actually, cure all ills, no matter the amount of relish. So Clint finds a spot that’s quickest to lose the light that’s slowly fading out of the sky, tilts his head back against the trunk of a bunting-wrapped tree, and sighs the sigh of the world-weary and love-lorn. It’s a tune that comes easy to his lips.

(Bungee cord is maybe what he needs, ‘cos he always gives his heart away too quickly, and it’s never particularly timely about coming back.)

“Hey,” a low voice says, and Clint hitches a grin into place with a block and tackle.

“Tired of the adoration, Barnes?”

Bucky shrugs, his shoulders loosed from the tension they normally carry.

“Not sure it’s deserved,” he says, taking his share of the tree. Clint elbows him in the side.

“Sure it is,” he says, matter-of-fact enough to build a university on. “You’re a gold-standard genuine hero, Buck, nobody doubts that but you.”

Bucky shifts his weight, turns to the side, rests his shoulder against the tree. Clint figures it’s safer to keep staring up at the stars.

“You’re a goddamn prince, Barton,” he says, “and you don’t get told that nearly enough.”

Clint risks a glance right, regrets it immediately. Mentally kisses his heart goodbye, 'cos he’s not sure this time he’s getting it back.