It seems like a second ago that Steve was okay, he was safe. But when Bucky turns Steve is frozen, clutching his side and his face ashen and the whole world starts crumbling apart in Bucky’s hands.
He’s hardly breathing when Steve collapses, eyes wide with a familiar terror. Suddenly they’re back in Brooklyn, when Steve was so much smaller but just as fragile and Bucky wasn’t as fucked up.
Bucky falls to his knees, mind body and soul focused on the only thing that matters in the universe.
“God no, Steve,” He gasps out, his hands fluttering over Steve’s stomach, which is turning crimson far too quick. This is too quick, all of this is too quick and Bucky is trying to pick up the pieces before they’re unmendable.
“I had ‘em on the ropes.” Steve manages, chest heaving for air. A manic laugh bubbles out of Bucky’s mouth, and he laughs because this can’t be happening to him. It was supposed to be Bucky, not Steve. Not him.
“We’ll just-” Bucky presses his hands against the wound and Steve whimpers. “We’ll get you to a medic and they’ll fix you and you’ll live another fucking day, okay? Steve?”
But his life is gushing through Bucky’s fingers and he’s trying to remember how to fix this because he’s done it a million times over. And hell will freeze before he can’t do it another goddamn time, so help him God.
“Bucky, stop,” Steve’s steady hands cover his own, and Bucky is shaking. Everything is closing in on him and could oblivion just wait another day-
“Just,” A shudder runs through the both of them. “stop-”
“I’m not letting you die!” Bucky can’t help but scream. But if that’s what it’ll take to keep death away from his Stevie then Bucky would scream and scream until his voice was nothing.
“No, no, no, listen to me.” Steve’s words are rushed, tripping over each other in a desperate attempt to get out before his last breath.
“If I have to give you my air I will do it, you punk, so just shut your trap-” Bucky’s voice betrays him, breaking at the end.
“I’m at the end of the line, Buck.” Steve gasps.
“But not ours, Stevie.”
“You were always a sap.” A cough racks Steve’s body and red appears at the corner of his mouth and Bucky is breaking at the seams.
“Don’t talk like that, you idiot. You’re gonna live so just stop-”
“I’d rather die for you than die for anyone else, Buck.” Steve’s fingers- Bucky tries to ignore how cold they are- tighten around Bucky’s hands. A sob erupts from his body, a broken scream falling off his lips.
“Why? Why me?” Bucky asks hoarsely.
Steve lets out something like a laugh. “Because I’m with you till the end of the line,” His body rattles as he takes a breath. “Because I fucking love the hell out of you, Bucky.”
“Steve-” Bucky takes Steve’s body in his arms, watching as Steve’s head limply tips back. Yet his eyes are as steady as the sun, gazing at Bucky like he’s the only thing that’s ever mattered.
This is all too much, all of this is just too much and Bucky would rather tear the world to nothing than live without this punk.
“I love you, you jerk,” Steve’s voice is an angel’s hymn even through all the fire and blood and chaos, like it always has been. “God, I love you.”
“I love you too, Steve,” Bucky hardly answers back, his chest struggling for air and the weight of the universe crushing him. “But please don’t leave me.”
Steve has the grace to smile, the piece of goddamn fucking shit. “Our lives were never fair, Buck.”
“I don’t care if they were fair or not, you asshole. You fucking asshole.” They hold onto each other for dear life, fingers digging into each other’s skin to keep steady as they spiral madly into oblivion.
“Listen to me, Buck, just listen,”
“But I just got you back.” He whispers stubbornly.
“Keep going. Please. You deserve to live,” Steve says with such sincere conviction, and it breaks Bucky’s heart.
“You know that ain’t true, Stevie.” Bucky replies in a defeated whisper as his vision blurs.
“Yes, it is, so just- be good for me, alright? I love you, I love you so much. And I’m so sorry.”
“What are you even apologizing for?” The rage crashes through him and Bucky needs to break something, tear it to shreds and scream and yell and just make it stop.
“You-” Steve’s eyes flutter and Bucky screams at the excruciating pain of his heart falling to pieces. “You were always there for me, and I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you.”
His voice is slowing down, syllables slurring together and this is what the end of the world must feel like.
“Shut the hell up,” Bucky growls. “Just shut the hell up, Steve.”
“But be there for me one last time, okay?”
“You’re gonna live.” Bucky hisses through the vicious, white fire coursing through his veins.
“No, I’m not, and I’m scared, Buck.”
“Steve,” He manages, breathing it out over and over again because he needs a miracle. Just one more miracle.
“You’re such a jerk.” I love you so much.
“Punk.” Bucky replies for the last time before it all falls apart into fire and ash and oblivion and everything Bucky couldn’t protect him from. Steve falls with it too, the everlasting light in his eyes going out and his chest stilling.
And Bucky feels like he’s falling along with him.