It took Bucky a long time to realize what that tight, dark feeling was inside his chest. He’d felt it before, but only fleeting, and never when it came to Steve. But since he’d gone and gotten himself all vamped-up like something outta Bucky’s science fiction novels, Steve had been getting some attention.
Not just attention. Attention attention.
Who were these shallow people to get some of Steve’s time? They used to walk past him, completely indifferent to his existence… or worse, made it harder for him. Now they were all clamoring for a piece of American perfection.
That’s when he’d started to feel it, but hadn’t noticed yet.
No, when Bucky realized what the tight, dark feeling in his chest was, it was when he himself was a wreck and Steve was glorious, and they were marching back to camp in a caravan of triumph; when Carter was looking at Steve like she wanted to eat him alive… and when Bucky saw that Steve was looking at her the same way.
That tight, dark feeling in his chest made a home for itself right underneath his heart, wedged in his rib cage. It stayed there always, but threw a fit whenever he saw Carter and Steve making eyes at each other.
Seventy-something years later, the entire world was making eyes at Steve. Even worse than before, they all wanted a piece of him, thought they deserved a piece of him. Bucky may not remember a whole lot, but he remembered that once upon a time, Steve was his and his alone.
Sometimes he yearned for those days, the entire world be damned.
There were times when that tight, dark feeling felt like the only familiar thing in existence. It thrummed when Tony joked about Steve being property of Stark Industries; it thrummed when Thor clapped Steve on the back and declared them brothers-in-arms; it thrummed when Sam made Steve throw his head back and laugh; and it really thrummed when Natasha continuously and persistently tried to set Steve up with dates.
It made him positively violent when he saw yet another Carter making eyes at Steve, to the point where he had to leave the room, lest he cause some structural damage to the building.
“Buck! Wait up!” Steve called after him. He reached Bucky easily and tugged on his arm. “You okay? Something happen?”
Bucky clenched his jaw and willed himself to stay silent. But too many years, too many lives, too many incomprehensible things had happened and it cracked his resolve.
“You just…you used to be mine, you know?” he said, voice breaking a little. Steve’s brow furrowed in either confusion or concern, or both, so he kept going. “You used to be my Stevie, and I was your Buck, and it was us against the whole damn world. And now you’re Captain America, and I’m the Winter Soldier, and it’s still us against the whole world, but it’s different. They get to have you, and I don’t want them to. They get to have you, and I hate them for it, a little bit.”
Tears had started welling, and his brain told him it was an excess of biochemicals caused by an emotional imbalance, and he needed to get himself under control.
Steve, however, gently reached up and cupped Bucky’s face, wiping the tears away.
“You jerk. Don’t you know I’ve belonged to you, just you, my whole life?”
Steve was looking straight into Bucky’s soul with those intensely blue eyes, and Bucky felt naked.
“When I say ‘til the end of the line, I mean that shit.”
Bucky laughed wetly, Steve leaned in and kissed him, and that tight, dark feeling finally dissolved.
For the first time since he’d left home, Bucky could breathe again.