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time's forever frozen still

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I.

Steve keeps a picture of Bucky at the corner of the mirror. He has since they defrosted him and he started living in this new world. At first it was the picture from the file, the SHIELD file. The one with Buck in his uniform and jacket--it was a blue jacket, Steve remembers, although you can’t tell from the black and white photo--looking so serious.

It wasn’t the Bucky that Steve had known, not really. That picture was the guy who’d shown up the night before he shipped out, who couldn’t crack a smile and who saluted crisply.

But then there’d been the videos. The old newsreels that the Smithsonian had running now on a continuous loop. The one with just the two of them, Steve in his uniform and Bucky, bruised and less than a day out of captivity, laughing together about the absurdity of the camera in their faces and unable to stop from smiling at their reunion. And another old reel reporting on Captain America and the Howling Commandos’ crusade against the Red Skull -- they leaned there against the car, looking at a map and miming a plan. Coulson had put him in contact with someone who could grab a picture (screenshot), could turn the grainy image into something as good as if Steve had taken a photo himself. He added those two pictures, two photos of Bucky smiling -- one dirty and bruised, the other clean and healthy -- alive and real.

Steve talked to those photos every day until his heart hurt.

II.

The photos are the first thing Bucky sees when he steps into Steve's room, but he doesn't say anything. He doesn't have anything to say. It means too much to him to see that image of himself to give Steve grief, to insist that man standing in front of him isn't the same guy here now. He's told that to Steve, and he's not sure he could take that discussion again.

So he says nothing, but he doesn't avert his gaze when Steve notices. Steve opens his mouth to say something but Bucky has other ideas and kisses him.

He looks at the photos later. Shifting his gaze between the black and white snaps of his old self and his reflection. There are changes, but he can still see in himself that guy that he was.

Steve says something to him, kissing the back of Bucky's neck before resting his chin on Bucky's shoulder.

"Hmm?" Bucky asks, looking at their reflections in the mirror.

"It's weird. Having you here to actually respond." Steve smiles and Bucky can't help but respond in kind. It's almost identical, in grins at least, if not era, amount of clothing, and hairstyles, to one of the photos in the corner.

Bucky wishes he had a camera.

 

III.

Steve keeps the pictures that used to reside in the corner of his mirror in a box on his dresser. There’s a strip of new pictures in their place now, a line of four photos taken in what was labeled a “retro” photobooth at Coney Island.

The first flash of photo caught them by surprise -- Steve’s eyes are closed mid-blink and his hand is gesturing and Bucky’s mouth is open in the middle of a word. Neither of them is looking at the camera.

They were ready, or at least more ready, for the second photo. They’re both facing the camera and Steve’s arm is slung with casual possessiveness around Bucky’s shoulder. And out of the view of the lens, Bucky’s hand is curled around Steve’s knee. Their smiles are easy.

By the third shot, Bucky’s hand has ruffled Steve’s hair and his arm is slung around Steve’s neck. They’re leaning against one another in a pose that is as familiar to them now as it was when they were kids.

The final shot, the favorite they both agree (even if neither of them have said so out loud), is almost a mirror to the first picture turned on its ear. They’re not looking at the camera; their heads are turned toward one another. Steve’s eyes are closed again and his hand is raised where it’s curved around Bucky’s jaw. And Bucky’s lips are parted not in a word, but in a kiss.

The photos--the old and the new--serve as tangible reminders of who they were, who they’ve become, and where they’ve been. But the best reflection has always been in each other’s eyes, in the bump of a shoulder, or the touch of a hand.

No picture could ever truly capture what’s between them.