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Bucky spots Steve watching him, elbows on the boards, already wearing his skate guard vest, five minutes before practice is over. Bucky spends the rest of their last drill trying very hard not to look back and to ignore Steve's eyes tracking him up and down the ice. He's not quite sure if he succeeds and has to fight a shiver up his spine the whole time until they're finally, finally dismissed.

"Don't do it!" Steve shouts in his direction as Bucky is skating up to him and gaining speed, "I'm warning you! Don't!"

But when Bucky showers him with a spray of snow while stopping, Steve laughs like he always does and then tries pulling him down over the boards dislodging his helmet, also like he always does.

"I don't know, Stevie, I think white suits you," Bucky says while trying his best to squirm away without pulling something. Steve's arms locked around his neck are surprisingly strong.

"Whatever will you do to entertain yourself up in Guelph without me?" Steve says deadpan, and the lump that Bucky has to swallow past almost all the time these days is back in his throat.

"I'll start with not getting my spine broken by this punk stalking me during practices for a start," Bucky says after a beat too long, but whatever. He is doing his best here while trying not to think about what Steve just said, a chance he isn't quite sure he wants but should, and that will be reality in less than two months now. It feels weird to have Steve bring it up after weeks of uneasy silence on the subject, with Steve being quiet and wistful about a future his body disagrees on, and Bucky... And Bucky just wanting to ignore it all, and stay, in this time, in this city, in these moments with Steve.

Steve is gracious, or oblivious, enough to ignore Bucky's weird pause, and lets his neck go after one last squeeze that makes Bucky gasp with lack of air and absolutely nothing else.

"This punk you call your best friend!" Steve tsks, fake-offended, and Bucky feels out of his depth, having lost the thread of their conversation already.

"Well, yeah," Bucky says eventually because he can't think of anything else to say and it's the truth anyway. Steve's grin grows soft then, pleased like he still needs to hear what surely everyone on Bucky's (their) team, hell, everyone going to their stupid little rink, must already know.

The snow that Steve hasn't bothered to shake away is starting to melt in his hair, and Bucky has to clench his gloved hand around his stick to keep himelf from brushing his dripping bangs from his forehead. As a compromise he lets his eyes follow the water down Steve's right cheek. The quiet lingers and Bucky's breath feels loud without his visor between them.

"We're still up for this evening at your place, yeah?" Steve asks then, startling Bucky out of his thoughts, "You can tell me all about your news then."

Bucky frowns at the mention of news, unaware for a moment that he has any to tell. Steve must see the question on his face because he rolls his eyes before elaborating, "About the billet family you were assigned? Some Swiss ex-player and his wife? Ring any bells?"

And the thing is, of course he remembers what Steve is talking about, he's just always trying so hard to ignore it for as long as he still can that he almost manages to forget it completely, sometimes.

"Wait, how do you-" know he means to finish, but Steve cuts him off.

"Becca texted me," Steve says like it's obvious, and maybe it should be, considering both Becca in her small goalie pads and Steve with his volunteer job to watch kids slip all over the ice twice a week and his talent to get into scraps just about anywhere, are happier about Bucky's opportunities than he himself is. But that's fine, it's fine as long as someone is excited about it, no one said it had to be Bucky.

Bucky nods, half to himself, and feels the slight pressure through his glove when Steve lays his hand over the one Bucky has resting on the boards.

"It'll be great, just you wait, eh?" Steve says, with a bad Canadian accent but full of confidence in Bucky's future, and Bucky has to swallow past that lump in his throat again before agreeing.