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Missed By a Mile

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Steve wakes up thinking about Bucky. It’s not an unusual occurrence, even after a year and a half away from him. He dreams about him at night, thinks about him during the day. Maybe he spends too much time worrying about him, but he can hardly help it.

They’ve been in Wakanda for two years now, ever since their “Civil War,” as the media loves to call it, since Steve and his team were forced to become fugitives in order to stand up for what’s right.

At first, it had been easy to think that things would be back to normal soon. The Accords were going to fall apart, especially with half the people they were designed to control in the wind and refusing to cooperate. They took King T’Challa’s offer of sanctuary and relaxed as much as possible in the beautiful Wakandan building they were being hosted in, waiting for everything to blow over.

But it didn’t blow over. A week after they arrived in Wakanda, four days after Bucky had willingly gone back into cryo until something could be done about the triggers in his mind, Tony came on the news, telling the ravenous reporters that despite their split, the remaining Avengers were still determined to stand strong and protect the world the “right way,” by working within the Accords and listening to what people wanted.

He didn’t say it outright, but his condemnation of Steve’s side was obvious to everyone listening, and it made Steve seethe, watching it back in Wakanda. He wasn’t the type to wish hurt on someone, but he couldn’t wait until this whole situation came crashing down on Tony. He needed the blow to his ego, to be kicked down off the pedestal he’d put himself on.

Except it didn’t. They just went on as normal, and as the days passed, and then days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months, it became harder and harder to convince themselves that they’d be returning home any day. Not only did the Accords continue, but they strengthened. Tony was seen at several more summits and conferences discussing and amending them, alongside other superheroes from around the country and the world—some of whom Steve hadn’t even known existed—and world leaders, including T’Challa, a few times.

Steve had tried, after seeing an American news report about T’Challa’s dedication to the Accords, to go and speak to the King about it. After all, he’d welcomed them into his country, given them sanctuary. Steve had thought that he agreed with them, that he was starting to see the problems with the Accords.

It took quite a few requests for him finally to be granted an audience with T’Challa, which irritated him. It only got worse when he finally saw him.

T’Challa sighed, looking as though he didn’t even want to be having this conversation. “Captain Rogers, my father was one of the original drafters of the Accords. My country, my primary concern, stands nearly united behind them, as do I, personally.”

“Then why did you offer us sanctuary?” Steve said, feeling put off.

“I offered Mr. Barnes sanctuary, Captain, as recompense for my having attacked him for a crime which he did not commit. You and the rest of your fellows simply followed along. At the time, it did not seem to be an issue to allow you all along as well. I was not thinking clearly of the future, or my people.”

“So, what, you wish we were gone?”

T’Challa raised an eyebrow. “To be perfectly candid, I do. Allowing you all into my country has caused problems for not only myself, but my people. I have done them a disservice by continuing to host your presence here. However, at this time, allowing you to leave would reveal the poor decision I have made, which would only cause more trouble for my country. I cannot bring that upon them. So here you will remain.”

The dismissal was obvious, and though Steve wanted to stay and argue, two members of the King’s guard had come forward to escort him from the room, stern expressions telling him they wouldn’t tolerate him insisting on staying to discuss this further.

He hadn’t told the others about his meeting with T’Challa. They didn’t need to know that they were barely welcome here. After all, it seemed it was going to be their home for the foreseeable future, and he didn’t want to make it uncomfortable for them, not when they were already missing home so acutely.

While it was beautiful, Wakanda wasn’t home. They were restricted to their building and the grounds immediately surrounding it, and while it was a spacious and well-appointed area and all their needs were met, it was still limited. They missed the States. Clint and Scott missed their families, and Steve felt guilty every time they said anything about it, knowing he couldn’t get them back home.

A few weeks after his meeting with T’Challa, Natasha came striding into their common area, looking tired and dirty, but greeting them with a wan smile. She accepted embraces from Clint and Steve. She told them she’d been on the run since breaking the Accords, eventually tracking the others to Wakanda. When she crossed the border to find them, the Dora Milaje had arrived to bring her in. She told them that T’Challa had offered her a place to stay with her friends and protection from the rest of the world in which she was a fugitive. The others interpreted it as a kind gesture, but after his meeting with T’Challa, Steve could read between the lines. He wondered how frustrated T’Challa was that yet another “stray” had wandered into his country, and would now have to be hosted there to avoid bringing international pressure down on Wakanda for harboring fugitives.

They all settled into life there, but they still missed home, every one of them. Many of them had taken to spending time alone, pursuing books or other hobbies on their own. Steve was spending a lot of his time down in the labs where they were keeping Bucky, staring at or talking to Bucky’s cryo chamber, missing his best friend more every day that he was gone. It felt like he’d just gotten Bucky back, only for him to leave him again. He knew Bucky had done it to protect himself and others from his triggers, but a small part of Steve still felt abandoned.

Four months into their stay, he went down to the lab as usual in the morning, only to find Bucky’s cryo tube empty. Seized with fear, he’d gone tearing through the lab, looking for someone to interrogate about what had happened to Bucky, only to find him in one of the back rooms with several Wakandan doctors and T’Challa, looking slightly groggy, but awake and talking to them.

The door had been locked and at his knock, one of the doctors exited to tell Steve that he would have to wait for the King to finish his conversation. Steve stood, arms crossed and tapping his foot impatiently. When T’Challa and the other doctors finally exited the room, Steve wanted to confront him, but was too focused on Bucky. He shoved his way into the room the first opportunity he had and nearly felt his eyes welling up at the sight of Bucky there in front of him.

Bucky was withdrawn, as he had been since Steve had met him again in this time, and leaned back and away from Steve’s touch. Steve tried not to be hurt by it, reminding himself that after what Bucky had been through—including the last thing he remembered, the fight with Tony where he got his arm blown off—he had every reason to not want to be touched. It wasn’t anything against Steve.

“You’re awake,” Steve had croaked, a wide smile practically splitting his face; it felt like he hadn’t smiled in weeks.

Bucky shrugged, which looked lopsided with his one metal shoulder and missing limb. “The King told me there’s been a change.” His voice was hoarse, probably from being in cryo for months and just waking up.

Steve frowned. “What do you mean? His people figured out what to do about your triggers?”

Bucky didn’t meet his eyes, looking vaguely at the back wall. “Not his people,” he said eventually, “back in the States.”

“What good is that?” Steve asked. “We’re wanted there. We can’t go back right now.”

Bucky shook his head, glancing at Steve but then looking away again. “King said they’ll let me go back. Got pardoned for what happened since I got away from HYDRA.”

Steve found himself smiling again. “Buck, that’s great! When can we go back?”

Bucky finally looked him in the eyes. “Just me,” he said quietly.


Bucky shrugged again. “King said it was just me. They gave me a pardon, not you. Not anyone else.”

Steve felt his stomach dropping. Just Bucky? That meant he would be going back alone. No, he couldn’t be separated from Steve, not like this…

A moment later, he felt anger welling in him. This must have been Tony’s work. Tony was pulling the strings back home, the one behind all the Accords crap—especially now that Ross had been arrested, they’d seen that on the news a while ago, so Tony had gotten rid of the middleman and just taken over himself, going on about promoting the Accords constantly—and he must have known about the potential pardon. By letting only Bucky be pardoned, Tony could ensure their separation, assuming that Bucky would go back for whatever treatment there was in the States.

The anger was replaced by fear just as quickly. What if this was all a trap? What if the pardon was fake, just something to lure Bucky back in so they could arrest him the moment he stepped foot on American soil and send him off to some dark prison cell for the rest of his life? Even if the pardon was real, what if this treatment, whatever it was, wasn’t really going to help Bucky? Steve needed to be there, to watch over it and make sure he was doing okay.

Thoughts of the treatment brought up another question, and Steve felt his eyes narrowing. “Buck… who’s going to take care of your triggers?”

Bucky looked blankly at him. “Tony Stark.”

Bucky flinched back a second later as Steve made an angry motion, snarling wordlessly. “Bucky, you can’t. This is a trick. Tony wouldn’t do that for you.”

Bucky clenched his jaw and looked back at the far wall again. “T’Challa said it’s already worked. Something he developed a while ago. Said it’s already helped veterans with PTSD. They think it can work on me too.”

Steve’s heart was pounding. “That doesn’t mean it’ll be the same thing they give to you. This could all be fake. I can’t let you anywhere near Tony, Buck. He’ll just try to hurt you. He’s already hurt you.” He gestured at Bucky’s missing arm.

He saw a brief flash of something in Bucky’s eyes. “S’my life,” Bucky said, then immediately hunched in on himself like he couldn’t stand to be assertive. “If there’s a chance I can be fixed, can’t be controlled by HYDRA anymore… I have to take it, Steve.”

Steve reached out to put a hand on Bucky’s shoulder. “I understand, Buck, I really do. Of course you want to be free. But you can’t trust Tony. We’ll find another way.”

Bucky didn’t answer, still looking away. Before he could say anything more, Steve was interrupted by a knock on the door. A doctor came in the room, telling Steve that Bucky needed to rest, that coming out of cryo was hard on the body. Steve wanted to stay, but Bucky really did look tired, so with one last reassuring squeeze to his shoulder, Steve left.

He didn’t see Bucky for the rest of the day, but he couldn’t stop thinking of him. He spent hours worrying about the supposed pardon and solution for his triggers, but eventually moved on to just thinking about Bucky himself. He didn’t want to let him go back into cryo, even if there wasn’t a treatment for him yet. He needed him here with him. Bucky was his best friend—or, just maybe, something more than that.

Despite what many people seemed to expect, Steve wasn’t appalled or even surprised by the openness of modern sexuality. Gay people had, in fact, existed back in the 40s, they’d simply had to be a little more discreet about some of their activities, and there was no social media or constant communication to make those sorts of things visible the way there were now.

As a sickly, skinny kid, Steve had never really attracted anyone, of any gender. He’d looked at girls, of course, but never had any actual experience with them. Having no personal experience in his younger days, sometimes it was hard to distinguish feelings of serious friendship and romantic attraction.

He’d known even back then that Bucky was just as sweet on boys as girls. Bucky could get practically anyone he wanted, and though he mostly stuck to women, Steve had seen him sneaking off with a few men back before the war as well.

It wasn’t until after his transformation with the serum that Steve had really started to delve into what he felt for Bucky, and realize that it might be more than just brotherly friendship. Of course, at the time, things had been moving too fast. He’d barely gotten Bucky back during the war, barely felt that sharp relief that told him he really needed to tell Bucky some things when they had a moment, before he’d lost him.

Seeing him again in the modern day was a miracle and a breath of fresh air. No matter what had happened, what HYDRA had done to him, he was there, and he remembered Steve. They could figure it out. That they had found each other again in this time, against all odds, only increased Steve’s determination to address what he felt between them.

They’d never really gotten the time, yet, but this could be it. Now that Bucky was awake again, and things were relatively calm in Wakanda, they could finally sit down and talk. Nothing had to happen right away, of course—Bucky was still confused, trying to recover physically and mentally—but just telling him would be an important step.

But when Steve went to find him the next morning, he found Bucky with a packed bag, talking to one of the Dora Milaje, looking like he was preparing to leave.

“What’s happening?” he asked, throat feeling dry.

There was guilt in Bucky’s eyes, but also determination. “I’m going back, Steve. T’Challa said this pardon, and this therapy, they’re real. I need to do this. Not just for me, for everyone around me.”

“What? No!” Steve tried to protest, taking a step forward, but another of the guards materialized and stepped in front of him, keeping him a fair distance from Bucky, like Bucky needed protection from him. He wanted to just shove them out of the way, but he’d seen those women in training. They could put him down and he knew it.

“Don’t try to stop me, Steve. I’m going,” Bucky said, meeting his eyes.

Steve sagged in defeat just as T’Challa entered, handing a second bag to Bucky and announcing that his jet was ready. Bucky thanked him and the others in the room, took his bags, and walked to the door. As he passed Steve, he stopped. “Sounds like I won’t be able to contact you once I’m there, could be a risk for T’Challa. I don’t want to put him in a bad spot. So I guess this is goodbye for now, Stevie. I… I’ll try to let you know I’m okay. Somehow.”

Steve watched him go, chest tight and heart thumping, but there was nothing he could do to stop him.

That was almost a year and a half ago. Bucky hadn’t directly contacted him since then, like he’d said—Steve was resentful for a while, surely there were ways to contact him that wouldn’t risk revealing where they were, and after all, Bucky had had to get from Wakanda to the US, didn’t they notice? But Steve didn’t try to confront T’Challa about it, knowing he’d face the same attitude as when he’d tried to talk about the Accords and their stay there.

He had gotten some glimpses since then that Bucky was okay. They had access to American news and a lot of other media even in Wakanda, and Steve tried to keep up for a few months, wanting to see if he could catch a glimpse of Bucky. After all, he was supposedly going to be staying near Tony. Maybe the reporters that constantly swarmed around Tony like flies would catch him.

They did indeed; there was a lot of news on Bucky. At first, it was simply the sensational return of James Barnes and his story. It made Steve itch to see it, but they released the truth about the Winter Soldier and Bucky’s past, including that he was now being treated for it. Not all of the details, of course—like his victim list—but the basics. Maybe they’d thought it was necessary over there, seeing as Bucky was going to be living in the States, but it still seemed like an invasion of his privacy.

A month into his stay, he had a press conference to announce that his therapy was going well. Tony appeared next to him on the stage, looking sharp as always, and maybe Steve was imagining it, but a little smug. Bucky made a speech praising Tony and his technology and the chance he’d been given, and Steve wanted to sneer at it—obviously one of Tony’s people had written it for him. The press ate it up, of course, they loved Tony these days. But at least they seemed accepting of Bucky’s presence. At least he looked healthy.

He appeared at another press conference several months later, sporting a shining new arm. It looked beautifully crafted, and Bucky looked lighter just standing there, like his weight was no longer off balance, like he didn’t hurt all the time. It helped that he looked healthier than ever, and had a real smile on his face. The arm was no doubt Tony’s work, and though Steve was wary of it, he had to admit, Bucky seemed comfortable with it. It had been nearly five months, now—surely if Tony was going to attack or sabotage Bucky, he’d have done it by now.

His concerns about the arm were swept away when it came time for Bucky to get up and announce that he had been completely cured of his triggers, cleared in court of the damages he’d done while still trying to recover from his HYDRA conditioning, and that he had signed the Accords and officially joined the Avengers.

Steve gaped at the screen, unable to believe it. Not just that things seemed to be going in Bucky’s favor, that Tony had allowed that and actually stood there to the side once again, looking at Bucky with a smile and something like pride, but that Bucky would have chosen to become an Avenger, to go back to fighting without Steve at his side. It hurt.

But Steve and the others were still stuck in Wakanda, with no pardons for them in sight. He tried to be happy for Bucky, putting his life together and trying to be happy. Bucky couldn’t just wait there for them forever and not do anything, not when he had no idea when they’d be returning. And they would. Eventually, Steve would return to him, he had to. The world needed the Avengers, and Bucky and the few other new people Tony had added on weren’t enough. The world would want them back, he just had to hold on to that, and when they did go home, Bucky would be waiting for him, already integrated into the Avengers and ready to welcome Steve back.

For the next few months, he tried to continue following news of Bucky, but eventually gave it up, disgusted. Other than the few official press conferences, it was impossible to sort any real information out of the rest of the mess of modern media. Back when they’d been a team, been friends, Tony had told Steve all about tabloids and how the modern world was full of fake news and sensational stories, spread for no reason other than getting attention and heightening emotions. Tony had shown him some of the ridiculous things they’d printed about Tony himself, including dozens of supposed children, secret marriages and divorces, and wild conspiracy theories. At the time, Steve had secretly thought that maybe some of them had some merit, but had to admit that not all of them could be true.

Now that he was in the public eye and officially an Avenger, it seemed the same thing was happening to Bucky. Steve had to give up on following him through the media when it was impossible to find anything of substance among all the rumors. They ranged all over, covering every aspect of Bucky’s life, invasive and rude and ridiculous. There were theories on the internet, with tons of false “evidence,” showing that the government had been taken over by HYDRA and that Bucky and all the other Avengers were just Winter Soldiers waiting to be activated. There were stories printed about how he hadn’t actually been cured after all, and that the Avengers were just using him as a puppet—that one hit close to home, but he’d seen Bucky in Winter Soldier mode, and there was no way the smiling, active man at those press conferences was being controlled by his triggers.

They went on. He’d seen theories that Bucky was dating every single one of the other Avengers—he and Tony dating seemed to be the most popular, probably because Tony was the face of the Avengers now, and after all, he was the one with the playboy reputation. Steve saw at least two separate articles claiming that Pepper Potts was pregnant with Bucky’s child and was pretending it was Tony’s. Eventually, he gave up completely on following Bucky through the media. He looked up official press conferences featuring Bucky when they happened, which wasn’t very often, and other than that, avoided anything about him on the internet. He couldn’t avoid occasionally seeing things, but he tried to ignore them. Whatever he saw just made him angry, jealous, or sad.

Now, nearly a year and a half after Bucky left Wakanda, Steve still finds himself waking up from dreams of Bucky. Though he rarely sees glimpses of his best friend even on the news, he still thinks of him every day. With their situation still stagnant and the others appearing to have settled into life in Wakanda as much as possible, Steve tries not to dwell too much on Bucky. They’d spent decades apart. They would find each other again. No matter how long it takes, eventually, Steve will find his way to Bucky again.

He’s up early today, makes himself breakfast on his own and goes for a run around the outside of their building. It’s a rare day in Wakanda, slightly cooler than usual, perfect for some heavy exercise outside. After coming back in and showering, Steve sits down to finish his latest book. Despite the technology they have access to, their building also has an extensive library, which Steve appreciates. He’s always preferred reading a physical book to one on a tablet.

It’s early afternoon when he finds himself walking toward one of their common rooms, looking for the others. He hasn’t seen any of them all day. Though some of them drifted away and kept to themselves for a while when they’d first come to stay in Wakanda, by now, they’ve all formed a fairly cohesive group again. He usually makes it a point to at least greet everyone each day, even if it’s just in passing.

He hears voices as he walks toward one of the lounges, Natasha, Sam, and Clint from the sound of it. They’re nothing but background noise until Steve catches his name and stops, interested.

“—Steve find out about this,” Clint is saying, “he’s going to blow a gasket.”

Steve frowns, standing in the hallway. What could have happened?

“I can handle him.” That’s Natasha.

“How?” Sam says. “It’s everywhere. He’s going to find out.”

“Yes, but not immediately. It could be a few hours, at least. That’s enough time to figure something out. We can work out a way to tell him.”

Realizing he’s lurking in the hallway, Steve steps into the room, crossing his arms. “Tell me what?”

Natasha just looks over at him, but Clint and Sam jump, Sam reaching for the tablet next to him and hurriedly tapping it. The music Steve suddenly realizes was coming from it cuts off, and Sam halfheartedly hides it behind his thigh on the couch.

Suddenly concerned at the alarmed looks on their faces, Steve takes a few more steps into the room, uncrossing his arms. “What is it? What happened?”

Clint and Natasha exchange glances, having a conversation without words, while Sam looks away guiltily. Steve’s concern levels rise a notch as he waits for an answer.

“It’s… Bucky,” Clint says finally.

“What?” Steve manages, heart in his throat, mind already constructing a dozen different possible catastrophes. Is he dead, killed in action? Triggered and went on a Winter Soldier rampage?

Natasha gestures at the chair next to the couch they’re sitting on. Steve walks over and sits down, practically vibrating with anxiety. “What happened to Bucky?”

Sam holds his hands out immediately in a placating gesture. “He’s fine,” he says, and Steve sags, letting out an explosive breath.

“Then what—?”

Natasha actually grimaces slightly, holding out several magazines she’s been clutching. Steve takes them, glances down at the cover of the top one, and snorts. “I’ve seen this,” he says dismissively.

The others look confused. “So… you knew?” Sam says cautiously.

It’s Steve’s turn to look confused. “Knew what?”

“That Bucky was engaged,” Clint says.

Steve shakes his head, glancing back down at the magazine again. “What, because this said so? You can’t trust any of that stuff,” he says, but frowns harder at the wary looks on the others’ faces. “You can’t trust anything the tabloids say,” he continues, suddenly feeling unsure. “What?”

“That’s People, Steve, it’s not exactly a tabloid,” Natasha says gently, gesturing to the magazines in Steve’s hand.

Steve feels something cold spreading through him. “What are you saying?” His own voice is starting to sound like it’s coming from far away.

Clint is giving him a sympathetic look. “The stuff in there is true, Steve. They got married yesterday.”

Steve is frozen for a moment, the words just echoing in his head. Married. Bucky can’t be married. That wasn’t… Steve hadn’t known. He didn’t know Bucky was even engaged. He’d seen claims over the last few months, even when he wasn’t actively looking for them, that Bucky was dating or secretly married to at least six different people. “How..” he finds himself saying, his own voice sounding like it’s coming to him from underwater. “How do you know?”

Sam cringes, but reaches behind himself for the tablet he was holding when Steve entered the room. He taps and swipes a few things, and the video he was watching pops up on the giant screen along the wall across from them, sweet orchestral music flowing through the room as the video begins playing. The title above the video says “Clips from the Avenger Wedding!”

The first shot shows the venue, Steve doesn’t recognize it but it’s beautiful, decorated simply but elegantly with natural accents, vines and flowers twisting around the furniture. A young woman draped in light fabrics that remind Steve of the ocean stands at the front, smiling serenely out at the audience. When the camera pans to them, Steve catches sight of Rhodes, Pepper, and Vision sitting near the front, along with the newcomers to the Avengers he’s read about, and dozens of people that Steve doesn’t recognize. He doesn’t see Tony there, and his mind is too preoccupied with the fact that this is apparently Bucky’s wedding to spare any irritation for the fact that Tony wouldn’t show up.

Then the scene switches, clearly partway through the ceremony, as Bucky steps up at the back, preparing to walk down the aisle. He looks transcendent, in a soft, perfectly fitted white tuxedo with elegant black accents. He stops, waiting for someone, and Steve holds his breath, wondering who the bride—or groom?—could possibly be, the person in the spot Steve so desperately wants. But when they step up and the camera moves to show both of them, Steve’s brain short-circuits.

He’s staring without taking anything in. Beautiful music washes over him, and he finds himself focusing on the details of the walk down the aisle: the way the people are turning to look at the couple, how the plants at the edges of the seats seem to move as they go by—magic? Anything to avoid having to process what he’s actually seeing, but eventually, his brain forces him to catch up.

Because it’s Tony, Tony looking equally gorgeous in white and gray, the soft, genuine smile on his face making him look ten years younger. Tony with his hand entwined with Bucky’s, walking perfectly in step with him, stepping up to the front together where the young woman is speaking. Steve still can’t quite accept it, can’t believe what he’s seeing, until the woman waves a hand and the very air swirls around Tony and Bucky like they’re in a movie, creating a scene that looks too perfect to be real. They lean forward to kiss and something in Steve breaks. Bucky wraps his arms around Tony, pulling him in close, kissing him like Steve’s never seen him kiss anyone, like a man in love.

The rest of the video goes by in a blur, several minutes of clips from later in the ceremony and some kind of reception, Tony and Bucky listening to Pepper and Rhodes speak, then dancing together, energetic and wild and then slow and intimate. On a last, lingering shot of a slow dance, Bucky leans in to whisper something in Tony’s ear, one hand on his back and the other in his hair, and Steve closes his eyes.

He becomes aware that the video’s ended and it’s silent in the room. Forcing his eyes open, he’s met with Sam’s sympathetic look, which he turns away from. Natasha is watching him carefully, and Clint is looking at the floor.

Steve just sits, unable to speak or even move. Slowly, the others murmur apologies, standing up to leave, give him some kind of privacy. They can’t know what Steve has lost. Or maybe they can—they were always perceptive, he wouldn’t be surprised if Natasha at least knew how he felt about Bucky—but their sympathy means nothing to him.

When he finds himself able to move again, he manages to look down at the magazines he’s still clutching. Stories he’d dismissed as rumors and falsifications. The cover of the one on top features Tony and Bucky, sitting next to each other on a park bench, shoulder to shoulder and smiling like they’ve just shared an inside joke. The headline over them proclaims “Superhero Romance: how Stark and Barnes started on the path to love.”

Numbly, Steve looks at the other two. The first is a picture of Tony and Bucky with their arms around each other, holding up their right hands to show off matching wedding rings, under the headline “Avenger Engagement.” Throat tight, Steve moves it aside, and is caught by the last one in the stack.

This one is a close up of just Bucky, looking healthy and clean, dressed in a simple fitted shirt, with his hair pulled back into a bun. What catches Steve’s attention, though, is his smile, the most genuine, delighted smile he’s seen on Bucky’s face since the 40s—or possibly ever. The quote to the side of the picture says “Barnes: ‘I never knew I could be this happy,’” and below that, “James Barnes on recovery, redemption, and what it’s like to fall in love,” and Steve aches.

He drops the magazines and collapses back into the chair. When he puts his face in his hands, he feels something wet and realizes that he’s been crying.

He was worried that Bucky wouldn’t be safe leaving without him, but it turned out there were more ways than pain and sabotage for Tony to take Bucky away from him. Steve sits alone in the room and cries for everything he’s lost.

Pardons or not; it won’t matter now. Tony has won.