There are certain pairings that are just meant to be. Familiarly, platonically, romantically; it doesn’t matter. They don’t always meet, not in every life time, but when they do, oh boy, when they do the universe sings.
Death was not what Bucky was expecting. And he had put a lot of thought into death.
Before the war, it had been something he was always protecting Steve from. Back then it seemed like he was always one asthma attack or bout with the flu away from it. (And Bucky thanked whatever gods were listening that Steve was such a fighter, it had been too close, too many times.)
Then, when Bucky went to the war, it was something that was all around him, only ever one wrong step or one bullet away. (He thought he knew what hell looked like then. But then he got captured and he realized he had had no clue.)
During his Winter Soldier days, when he was aware of his own mind he prayed for death, rather than to be the one bringing it upon Hydra’s enemies.
But no, this death wasn’t anything Bucky could have imagined.
It wasn’t the pearly white gates and floating clouds of the heaven his mother taught him to believe in.
It wasn’t the fire and brimstone of hell he had been expecting because of his crimes as the Winter Soldier.
No, this was something different.
This was memories. This was him reliving memories that he didn’t even know he had. He was reliving memories from this life and all the ones he had had before. (Or, perhaps he was just vividly remembering them, but they felt real enough and at this point, he wasn’t sure the distinction really mattered.)
Steve’s with him in most of them, always as scrawny as he was before the serum. (Seems like this life is the only one where his body matches his spirit.) And in the ones he’s not with him, Bucky feels an indescribable loneliness. An emptiness that the version of him accepts and carries because they don’t know any better.
Bucky lives tens, maybe even hundreds of different lives that were, and some that maybe might still be. There are memories of them living as peasant farmers and Steve being sick with the plague. Memories of Bucky being a knight and riding a great war horse into a battle he doesn’t think he makes it out of (and he’s not sure that version of him cares if he does or not, if it means the emptiness will be gone.) Other memories of mobs and things burning, the smoke burning his lungs and knowing it would be worse for Stevie.
He’s reliving (remembering?) another gunfight, this one in an alley in some city when he feels it. The engulfing feeling of his whole body being set on fire and doused with ice water all at the same time.
This was how he felt after the Snap.
But is this a memory, or is this happening? He doesn’t know. Time moves weirdly wherever he is and there’s no telling how long he’s been there. This may just be the memory of it happening.
When he opens his eves, there’s a Steve in front of him. A Steve who’s body is finally big enough to match his heart. And he’s staring at Bucky like he’s not sure he believes what he’s seeing.
Bucky isn’t sure either, to be honest.
“Steve?” Bucky reaches out with his metal arm, that is metal once more, not the flesh and bone of the memories.
“Buck,” Steve says, almost as a prayer, ducking under Bucky’s arm and wrapping his own around him, needing to convince himself, to convince both of them, that they are real and solid as they cling to eachother, “We did it.”
Bucky just holds him tighter.
Later, there will be questions and answers, theories and explanations, but for now, this is enough. They’re together.
And the universe sings.