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Photo Booth

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"We gotta go, Steve!"

Steve, tired from the stifling July heat and aching in his joints from the humidity, gave Bucky a cranky look over the top of his drafting table. "What's so great about it? It's just a photographer, Buck. Gonna be the death of art anyhow, photography," he muttered, mostly to himself, because Bucky had heard Steve's rant about photography killing the ad illustration industry a few too many times already.

"It's not a photographer!" Bucky insisted, leaning on the top of the drafting table. "It's all mechanical! There's no person at all. Not even like the attendants at the photomatons. Totally automatic. And nearly instant!"

Steve narrowed his eyes. "That's even worse," he declared, but he put his pencil down and wiped the graphite off his hands on a rag that had once been one of Bucky's shirts (and then one of Steve's nightshirts, before being consigned to the rag heap). A walk would help his joints, true, and there would probably be a breeze at street level.

Bucky, perhaps sensing he was winning the battle, circled around and wrapped his arms over Steve's thin shoulders, carefully cradling his chin in the dip of Steve's collarbone.

"Come on, boss," he coaxed. "It's two bits for four pictures. I need some pictures of my fella."

"You don't need pictures of my beaky mug," Steve sighed, but he let Bucky gently drag him off his stool.

"I got a whole dollar to blow on pictures of your beaky mug and a banana cream Twinkie and a cold Coca Cola after," Bucky said, letting Steve go so he could smooth out his shirt and pull on his shoes. That was low; he knew Steve had a sweet tooth for banana cream.

The street was a little cooler than their apartment, and the trip to the arcade where Bucky had found the "photo booth" wasn't too awful. And Steve had to admit it was pretty nifty; the little closet with the privacy curtain looked very impressive.

"So you put the quarter in," Bucky said, leaning into the booth as Steve settled on the hard wooden bench inside. "There's the camera, see?"

Steve nodded, wondering how the mechanism behind the camera functioned.

"Once you push the button the camera goes off four times, there's always a click before it goes off," Bucky continued.

"You wanna get in here and take the picture, too?" Steve asked pointedly. Bucky grinned at him and handed him a quarter.

"Smile for me, huh?" he asked, and Steve nodded, charmed as always by Bucky's easy way. He gave him a push to get him out of the camera's line of sight and then slid the quarter into the slot, listened for the click, and smiled.

Click -- Flash!

For the second one, thinking fast, he crossed his eyes and stuck his tongue out.

Click -- Flash!

He gave the camera a solemn look, trying for sultry but probably just looking like a starving eagle, the way he always did.

Click -- Flash!

"How's it goin'?" Bucky asked, leaning in.

"There's one more, you nutball!" Steve said, leaning forward and around him, and Bucky turned his head just in time for the final

Click -- Flash!

Bucky jerked backwards, Steve following him out. There were a series of thunks and clicks and clatters inside the machine, and then a thin slip of paper spat out into the tray on the outside.

Steve nicked it out from under Bucky's fingers, studying it. Yep. Starving eagle, for sure.

The funniest one was the last one, though, Steve with his mouth open in protest, Bucky with a comical look of surprise on his sideways face. Bucky looked over his shoulder and burst out laughing.

"That's rich!" he said. "Come on, let's go again. I bet there's room for both of us if we squeeze in close."

Steve rolled his eyes, but he let himself be pushed back into the booth, sliding over so Bucky could sit down as well. Bucky looked around, pulled Steve close with a comradely arm over his shoulders, and said, "There, it'll get us both now."

Steve started to smile for the camera as Bucky put the quarter in, and they got one good photo

Click -- Flash!

before Bucky turned and made a face at him, and Steve burst into helpless laughter.

Click -- Flash!

He was just recovering, going for another sober-and-serious pose, when he felt Bucky's hand drop to squeeze his ass, and his eyes went wide.

Click -- Flash!

He turned to say something, but Bucky grabbed his chin and held him still, kissing him like they weren't in the middle of an arcade in Brooklyn Heights.

Click -- Flash!

Steve burst out of the booth, anxious, and stood in front of the tray, ready to snatch the photo strip the second it emerged. Bucky, ducking out more slowly, gave Steve a satisfied grin.

"What'd you do that for, where anyone could see?" Steve asked.

Bucky looked smug. "There was the curtain. Where else am I ever gonna get a picture of me and my fella?" he asked, but at least he said it in a low voice.

The photostrip emerged and Steve grabbed it, but he couldn't help looking. The first three were fine enough, but then --

He'd never actually seen them together, not in the reflection of a shop window or a mirror or anything. There...the tilt of his head, the curve of Bucky's smile into the kiss, the way they fit...it took his breath away.

"One more, Steve," Bucky said.

Steve nodded, a little unsteadily. "Yeah, okay," he agreed.

Bucky went back into the booth and Steve followed; he carefully tucked the curtain all the way shut before Bucky pulled him down onto his lap, arms around his chest. He held up the coin and Steve dropped it in the slot, then settled back and smiled.

Click -- Flash!

Bucky rested his chin on Steve's shoulder again, and Steve saw his eyes close in his peripheral vision. He turned his head just in time.

Click -- Flash!

He closed his eyes too, settling his forehead against Bucky's.

Click -- Flash!

And leaned in and kissed him, waiting for it, feeling like it took forever and not even minding.

Click -- Flash!

He still got out of the booth double-quick, though, and snatched up the photo strip, only giving Bucky a brief look before tucking it away in his shirt pocket. "I'll give it to you later."

"Yeah you will," Bucky said with a grin. "Come on, let's get those Coca-Colas."

***

The day before it ended -- the day after Bucky fell -- Dugan came up to Steve in the hallway at HQ.

"Phillips asked me to clean out Barnes' things," he said.

"Yeah...thanks," Steve said, grief and humiliation rising in him. "I -- didn't think I could. Should."

"Wasn't no trouble," Dugan told him. "Got it boxed up to ship back to his sister in Brooklyn. But I figured you oughta have..."

Steve didn't want anything, didn't think he could handle having anything of Bucky's after seeing him fall, but he automatically put out his hand to take what Dugan offered. A cheap little Bible, which was strange. Bucky wasn't that religious, and Dugan knew Steve wasn't.

Dugan's fingers flicked the cover open, and Steve slammed it shut again quickly on the three little worn, faded photostrips. He looked up at Dugan, but there was no disgust or mean temper in his face. Just sadness.

"I thought -- those got lost," Steve said. He'd thought Bucky had destroyed them when he went into the army. Steve might have. It was a prison offense, what those photos showed.

"Looks like Barnes wanted to keep ‘em close," Dugan said, his voice carefully neutral. "Pinups are one thing, y'know, but when you got...someone special, you keep that close."

Steve nodded, looking down. Bucky had hauled those pictures across an ocean -- stupid, really, even if almost nobody would have recognized Steve anymore. Dangerous to keep those with your kit as a soldier. Charming, foolish Bucky, kissin' where he oughtn't, keeping these so close. Steve's eyes stung.

"I'm sorry for your loss, Cap," Dugan said, and then left quickly, mercifully.

***

Steve hadn't even thought about the photostrips when he woke. He'd had them on him, tucked in his old journal, when the plane went down, and in that kind of ice and water, he figured nothing much survived. It was weeks before he even thought about that, as overwhelmed as he was. Not much of any of his old stuff had come through seventy years, and what little there was had been put on display in a museum.

When Fury came to offer him active service in SHIELD, he showed up and he laid the little diary down on the table in front of Steve.

"Ice preserved it, same way it did you. I opened it," he said, without bothering to ease his way into the conversation. Steve kind of liked that about Fury. "Just to see if it was too waterlogged to recover. Didn't get very far. Didn't see anything much."

Steve turned the pages of the book, stopping when he found something slick and oddly-shaped. He took the three photostrips out, fanning them between his fingers. They'd been carefully placed in a slick, transparent sleeve of some kind.

"For safekeeping," Fury said quietly. "There are scanned copies in your encrypted server folder."

"I hear it's not a crime anymore," Steve said.

"No. But it's not anyone's business either, unless you want it to be."

"My sergeant back in the war, Dugan, he said something similar, in his own way," Steve said.

"I'm sorry for your loss."

"Yeah, he said that too," Steve sighed. "Peggy said Buck made his choice, and I had to give him the dignity of that. I appreciate you doing the same."

Fury nodded.

"I'll report on Monday," Steve said.

"I look forward to seeing what you can do," Fury said.

***

In Wakanda, a week or two after assaulting the Raft to break his teammates free, Steve got a package in the mail, no return address. Inside was his journal (the new one filled with sketches of the 21st century and his list of things to look up) -- and the photostrips.

Natasha then, probably. She'd known, in an unspoken kind of way.

He sat down next to Bucky in the clean, somewhat sterile little bedroom he'd been given, and opened the journal on the photos. Bucky looked down.

"You were a skinny little scrapper," Bucky said.

"Starving eagle," Steve agreed. Bucky barked a short laugh.

"I used to like this," he said, tapping the strip with Steve on his lap. "I liked this, too," he added, poking Steve's bicep. "Better now, for you. But it was nice for me, the way you were. These were nice," he said wistfully, studying the photos.

"You're going back in cryo tomorrow," Steve said. "They'll do fine in the cold, and I have copies. You can take them with you if you want. So you remember."

"I'll be asleep."

"So you have good dreams, then," Steve said. "And remember it all when you wake up."

Bucky looked thoughtful. He picked out the strip with Steve on his lap, and then the one with just Steve. The other strip, of them next to each other, he handed back.

"You keep that one," he said. "So you remember too."

Steve leaned in, waited for Bucky to startle or pull away, and then kissed him when he didn't. He felt Bucky smile into the kiss.

"I'll be waiting when you wake up," Steve said.

"You better. Those photos cost me twenty-five cents, I want 'em back someday," Bucky told him.