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Barometer for Measuring Immortality

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“What if I’m immortal?” Steve suddenly asks, breaking the soft silence of their dark bedroom.

Bucky sighs and rolls over, putting his pillow over his head, because he cannot deal with Deep Thoughts Steve at―he lifts his head to squint at the clock on his nightstand―three-fifteen on a Sunday morning. Deep Thoughts Steve is a menace. He is Bucky’s bane. Bucky loves every other iteration of Steve: Broody Steve, Reckless Steve, Dramatic Gesture Steve, even Weirdly Embarrassed by Public Displays of Affection Steve. Those are all facets of Steve that Bucky can handle through an impressive array of corrective behaviors that could only be known by someone who grew up with skinny little Steve Rogers and his complete inability to act in ways compatible with his continued life and health, such as it was.

The one version of Steve that Bucky cannot, simply cannot, handle is Deep Thoughts Steve, who only rears his melodramatic, introspective head between the hours of two and four in the morning. Aloud. Loudly. Typically on weekends. Usually when they’ve just come off a long mission and Bucky so very desperately needs to grab a night of beauty rest.

“Do I age?” Steve says into the darkness. Bucky groans and curls up into a ball. “Buck. Bucky.” Steve nudges Bucky’s shoulder. “Do I look older to you?”

“You look like an idiot who won’t shut the fuck up and go to sleep,” Bucky grumbles from under his pillow.

“Buck!” Steve says, in wounded disappointment. Why he’s still shocked that Bucky can’t give a non-cranky response to this sort of early morning navel-gazing, Bucky can’t even begin to fathom.

“Go to sleep, Steve,” Bucky says, grabbing him by the arm and hauling him close to spoon against Bucky’s back. “It can wait ‘till actual morning.”

Steve doesn’t answer, though his huffed breaths against the back of Bucky’s neck suggests he’s not going to let the subject lie for good. As long as he lets it lie until the alarm goes off, however, that’s enough.

 

Over breakfast, Deep Thoughts Steve makes an unusual daytime appearance. Bucky, who had up to this point been occupied with the making and eating of waffles, looks up just in time to see the glazed-eye look wash over Steve’s face. He sighs and braces himself.

“Well?” Bucky prompts, while Steve’s face slowly reddens at the force of keeping his angsty inner thoughts to himself. “May as well get on with it.”

“What if I live forever and everybody I know dies and I’m all alone and still look like I’m in my twenties?” Steve asks in a single rush.

“Hmm.” Bucky spears another bite of waffle with his fork and pops it into his mouth, chewing in a manner he hopes communicates his serious deliberative thinking on the subject.

“What if Sam gets old? What if Nat gets old?”

Bucky nods thoughtfully.

“What if you get old?” Steve adds, when Bucky doesn’t answer. “What if you get old and die and I’m left here all alone?”

“Hey now,” Bucky says. “If you’re immortal, I’m immortal.”

“How do we know that for sure?” Steve asks.

“I’d like to think it’s obvious, on account of how we’re both in our hundreds and look pretty damn fine, if I do say so myself,” Bucky says.

“You were in cryostasis, though. That could’ve slowed down the aging.”

“Yeah, and you were in an iceberg, so the same general principle.”

Steve shakes his head. “I thought I’d have a wrinkle by now, at least. Crow’s feet. Maybe a couple of grey hairs.”

“You do realize that’s the complete opposite of what most people are hoping for,” Bucky says, gesturing at Steve with a waffle-laden fork.

“Everyone we used to know is dead,” Steve says dully, “and it could happen again.”

“You’re a regular ray of sunshine on Sunday morning,” Bucky points out.

“I just can’t stop thinking about it,” Steve says.

“Obviously.”

“What do you think I should do?”

Bucky drops his fork onto his empty plate and sits back in his chair. “I figure sex could probably stave off the horror of the gaping void of immortality for an hour or so, at least.”

He is correct. It does.

 

“Bucky!” Steve yells from the bathroom early on Monday morning. Bucky’s alarm doesn’t go off for another forty-five minutes. Steve awakens naturally an hour before dawn.

“The only thing keeping me from murdering you is the fact that I'd have to get out of bed to do it,” Bucky mumbles into his pillow.

“Buck. Bucky, come here!” Steve says. He sounds like he’s on the verge of losing his mind, so Bucky decides he should probably get up and see what the fuss is about. If whatever is happening doesn’t kill Steve, Bucky can, now that he’s out of bed.

“What’s the matter?” Bucky asks, as he stands blearily in the doorway into the bathroom. Steve is in front of the bathroom mirror, leaning in close to look at something.

“Look,” Steve demands, pointing to his own forehead. Bucky looks, but can’t see anything out of the ordinary.

“You get a spider bite on your face or something?”

“No. Bucky, look,” Steve says, wagging his finger at his hairline. “It’s a grey hair. A grey hair, Buck!”

“Should we alert the Pentagon? You know, at a slightly more reasonable hour?” Bucky asks.

“Do you know what gives you grey hair?”

You give me grey hair.”

Age gives you grey hair,” Steve says, beaming. “I have a grey hair and that means I age!”

“Oh. Good,” Bucky says. “Glad we cleared that up.”

“Buck, you have no idea how relieved I am,” Steve says.

“‘Cause of one grey hair?”

“It’s a sign. It’s proof I’m not immortal!”

Bucky shrugs. “If I’d known you were gonna get so excited about it, I would’ve told you about the dozen grey hairs you’ve got back here,” he says, ruffling the hair just above the nape of Steve’s neck.

Steve slowly turns from the mirror to look at Bucky. “What?”

“Yeah, you’ve got a whole patch of ‘em back here,” Bucky says. “Didn’t realize that was your barometer for measuring immortality.”

“I’ve been worrying about this for two days, and you’re just now telling me?”

Bucky grins. “Let’s just call it a lesson on not getting all existential on me at three in the morning.”