it was one of those nights. a night for staring at the ceiling and talking about the important stuff. a night that was made merely for passing the hours until he had to let bucky go. but, truth was, steve wasn't ready. wasn't sure if he'd ever be ready.
a pause. a rattle of lungs drawing pained breaths.
"do you ever, y'know, regret things? not doing things earlier, or better?"
bucky smiled in the dark. he sighed, the sound wheezing harshly in the silent (save for the monitors beeping) room.
"stevie, i'll tell you something now, and I want you to remember it for as long as you can. I have absolutely no regrets. not one. because regretting means that I would want to change things that have happened, and god, steve, my life (or what I remember of it) has been perfect. you have been perfect. even we were young, and stupid in Brooklyn, I wouldn't change a thing.
if this is my last breath, right here, right now, I could leave happy. because of you, my beautiful steve. it's all because of you."
bucky broke off, interrupted by a lingering cough that had been plaguing him for months. although of course, it had turned out to be much more than a cough. he reached for his water on the nightstand. his hand shook. it was hard to belive it was the same man who had killed a Nazi with a single shot from half a mile away.
steve couldn't watch. his heart was breaking with every half smile, drowned out by coughing fits. all he could do was gather bucky's hand in his and wait. it won't be long now.
"I love you more than anything, bucky. remember that."
"I love you too, my steve. more than I've ever told you."
bucky's eyes slid shut, the ghost of a smile hung on his lips.
"my stevie. i love you."
bucky's chest heaved with the effort of breathing. and even though steve's heart was breaking into a million peices, he whispered the words bucky needed to hear.
"it's ok, buck. let go. i love you."
he kept whispering that into the darkness, long after bucky's breathing had slowed and stopped. he was past tears. he was just empty, filled with longing for someone who wasn't coming back, no matter how hard steve wished he would.
god, he would give anything for bucky to open his eyes one last time and call him a punk, anything other than this horrible stillness.
when the sun started filtering in through the thin hospital curtains, steve planted a kiss to bucky's temple.