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The news came down the channels a lot faster than was strictly appropriate. Colonel Philips hadn’t had time to officially ask for Steve’s presence, before the Captain had been told by at least four NCOs that the award was going to be given out. By the time Peggy had met him at the command center, painted lips already peaking up in the beginnings of a smile, Steve had started to believe that it might actually be true.

“Fancy seeing you here so early,” Peggy teased. Her smile was only growing, and Steve felt his heart thundering in his chest.

“Is it true?” he asked, half desperate and half pleading. He wanted this. More than anything else in the world. He wanted this.

“Is what true?” Peggy questioned in response. Her eyes were twinkling brightly as she turned and started to lead him inside. Steve was all but vibrating out of his skin.

“I heard-I heard-”

“Yes, Captain?” she pressed, still maintaining her professionalism despite the fact that her grin was finally prevailing. “What did you hear?”

“The Medal. Is it true?” Peggy’s lips widened enough to show teeth, and Steve felt his heart leap up into his throat. It was true! He burst forwards, wrapping his arms around Peggy’s back and lifting her up into the air. She gasped, a startled Oh my! that dashed passed his ear. He barely had the presence of mind to keep from squeezing too hard as enthusiasm coursed through him.

Her delicate hand pat his back knowledgeably and he laughed as he set her down. She was blushing. If nothing else, he’d made her blush and it was wonderful. She was beautiful and charming, and so perfect, and it was true!

“Rogers!” Steve’s head whipped around and he felt his own face go red as he noticed the entire command center was staring at him openly. He adjusted his uniform awkwardly, but the smile never left his face. At his side, Peggy was doing the same, flushing deep and sliding one finger to catch a stray strand of hair and returning it to its proper position. Philips was glaring at them openly, but Steve could hardly care. “Get over here!” his commander ordered shortly.

“Yes, sir!” Steve replied, sparing Peggy a vaguely apologetic look. He didn’t mean it. Not really. It was just proper behavior after you pick a girl up when she’s not expecting it. He trotted towards Philips and the man managed to maintain his scowl the whole time.

“Get in there,” he ordered, thumbing towards his office door. He hurried in, excitement rushing through his body and causing him to bounce on his toes. He could run a mile. He could run twenty miles. He could swim all the way across the ocean with Bucky and Peggy on his back and he’d still have enough energy to stand there and watch the ceremony.

“Who told you?” Philips asked gruffly, marching about and settling behind his desk.

“A few people,” Steve hedged. “Is it true?”

“Yes, of course it’s true,” Philips snapped. “A few people.” He snapped open a desk drawer and pulled out a cigar. “For a group of soldiers dedicated to safeguarding secrets of a confidential matter,” he slammed the drawer shut, “there’s enough gossip in this unit to fill a magazine. Sit down.” Steve sat.

“When’s the ceremony?”

“Oh, now you want to go to the ceremony? Didn’t matter when it was your Medal they were tossing about.”  

“No,” Steve shook his head. It didn’t. He hadn’t done it for a medal. He hadn’t done it because it was right. He’d done it to save one person, and happened to save a lot more on the way. He didn’t deserve that Medal any more than Schmitt deserved the serum, or Erskine deserved to die. “When’s the ceremony?”

“A week from Tuesday. I imagine you’ll want to attend? You and all your,” Philips lips pursed. He hated the name. “Howlies?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Suppose I could send you State-side. For a brief furlough. You’ll be back by Friday.” His eyes narrowed, as if daring Steve to complain.

“Yes, sir.” Steve’s leg was jittering. He knew it wasn’t appropriate, but he was going to hug Philips if he wasn’t allowed to leave soon.

“Go tell your boy,” Philips sighed, shaking his head and handing him a carefully folded document. Steve took it and barely had time to glance over the first few sentences before he was up and out the door without so much as a proper goodbye.  

It was an honest mistake, and Philips likely didn’t expect anything less. He may be a Captain, but he wasn’t exactly the most respectful Officer in the army. He’d had his training from show girls and stage managers. Clearly, they weren’t as thorough as they could have been.

Steve ran the whole way back from the command center to the army barracks his team had been remanded to. Bucky had been in and out of the medical tent for the past few days now, after a recent mission went awry, and the docs finally seemed to think he was fit enough to stay in the barracks. Dugan and Gabe all but swore they’d sit on him if he threatened to get up.

Monty met Steve at the door, smoking a cigarette and leaning against the building in feigned patience. The man rose a brow at him, clearly expecting an answer, and Steve still couldn’t keep the grin off his face. “Well, quite the honor then,” Monty approved, stepping to the left and letting Steve hurry inside.

Bucky was in bed, propped up on pillows and scowling down at the bandages on his arm and torso. He was picking at them unhappily while Gabe and Dernier chatted back and forth in French. Dugan and Morita were discussing the best type of gun to use in an assault, and Steve all but skipped to Bucky’s bedside.

“What’s got your panties in a bunch?” Bucky asked, looking up at him. He was doing better. The bruises on his knuckles had all healed, and the cuts he’d gotten crawling under the wire had neatly started to stitch together. He was going to be fine.

The other Commandos looked towards Steve expectantly, and Steve listened as Monty joined them. Unfolding the letter, Steve cleared his throat and read:

“The White House, Washington,” he began proudly. Bucky frowned. “The President of the United States takes pleasure in awarding the Medal of Honor to Sergeant James B. Barnes, Company A, 107th Infantry, United States Army, for service as set forth in the following citation-”

“What?” Bucky pushed himself so he was sitting upright. His eyes were wide and everyone in the room was staring between him and Steve in shock.

As set forth in the following citation,” Steve pressed on, lips pulling back into a broad smile. “For extraordinary heroism in action on 5 and 6 January 1945, near Viareggio, Italy. Sergeant Barnes demonstrated outstanding courage and leadership in destroying enemy installations, personnel and equipment during his company's attack against a strongly entrenched enemy in mountainous terrain. When his company was stopped by the concentration of fire from several machine gun emplacements, he crawled to one position and destroyed it, killing three Germans. Continuing forward, he attacked an enemy observation post and killed two occupants. With the aid of one of his men,” Steve was proud that his involvement had been kept as a side note, barely worth mentioning and hardly relevant to the true hero of the hour, “Sergeant Barnes attacked two more machine gun nests, killing or wounding the four enemy soldiers occupying these positions. He then covered the evacuation of the wounded personnel of his company by occupying an exposed position and drawing the enemy's fire. On the following night, Sergeant Barnes voluntarily led a battalion advance through enemy minefields and heavy fire toward the division objective. Sergeant Barnes’ fighting spirit and daring leadership were an inspiration to his men and exemplify the highest traditions of the Armed Forces.”

Steve had nearly throttled Bucky more than once during the attack. Even afterwards, when the adrenaline had started to fade and reality had begun to settle in, Steve had damn near killed him himself. Bucky was battered, bruised, and shaking from exertion, and they’d had a shouting match the size of Pittsburgh while the doctors were patching Bucky up.

In the end, when the numbers had come in, and Steve was struck by the realization of just how much good Bucky had done, he’d quietly returned to his friend’s side. No one was there to see him put his arm around Bucky’s shoulders and tug him close, telling him how proud he was and how sorry he was that he yelled at him. He was scared, he admitted to Bucky. “All my life you’d been the one pulling me out of harm’s way, and when I saw you in it...I thought I was going to lose you.”

“I ain’t goin’ nowhere, punk,” Bucky had told him, hugging him back.  

Now, Steve couldn’t help but grin over the top of Bucky’s letter, watching as Bucky’s eyes grew more and more wide. His mouth had fallen open and he was staring at Steve like he couldn’t quite believe the words that came out of his mouth. He handed over the letter, and Bucky reached for it with trembling hands. He held it between his palms and stared at the black words on the faded white page.

“Philips is giving us furlough to return to the States and pick up your medal,” Steve told him brightly. “Everyone’s coming.” Bucky looked back up at him, still struggling to process what Steve was saying. “Betcha I can get a telegram out to your folks and have them meet us in Washington.” His eyes fell back to the letter, then back up to Steve.

“We-we’re going back to the States?” Bucky asked him.

“Yeah, yeah, and I’m going to get Becca and your ma and pop and we’re all going to have a party Mr. Medal of Honor!” Bucky’s mouth opened and closed a few times before he looked back down towards the paper in his hands.

Finally Dugan broke the silence the group had respectfully maintained, laughing loudly and going to give Bucky a huge hug. He wrapped his arms around Bucky and pat him on the back. He ruffled his hair and called for one of the privates outside to find them all the booze in Italy. They were going to celebrate Gosh darn it, and they were going to do it right. Gabe and Morita were quick to offer their congratulations, Dernier and Monty soon after.

The last time Steve saw Bucky struck speechless, Connie Miller had kissed him full on the lips in third grade. She’d declared they were going steady and Bucky had nodded dumbly staring at her like she’d brought him to heaven right there on the swing set. For years, Steve had truly believed that Bucky had given his first kiss the kind of immortal dedication it deserved, preserving it forever as the only time he’d ever been stupefied.

Steve supposed, as far as things went, receiving the Medal of Honor was reason enough to be struck dumb. Bucky didn’t say much for the rest of the night, but he stared reverently down at his letter the whole while.

Good, Steve thought. Steve would be damned if he wasn’t there to make sure that Bucky was honored good and proper. He may have joyfully skipped his own ceremony, but he wouldn’t miss this one for the world.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

It seemed Bucky couldn’t go five feet without a soldier appearing out of the woodwork to shake his hand. He was mystified by the attention, blinking rapidly and shrugging it off, frowning when people insisted that just being in the same room with him was a true honor.

When they were kids, Bucky had always gotten sports awards and little toys that celebrated his time in school. He proudly displayed them on his desk in his room, and Steve had always looked at them enviously. Bucky shrugged at them more often than not, not really taking note of their presence.

The real things in life, the things that Bucky was proud of, he never had an award for. He never had a medal to pin on his chest that told him he was a good man. That he was a good friend. Steve had colored him one once, and ever time he saw it front and center on Bucky’s shelf, Steve flushed darkly and swore he’d burn it. “Don’t you dare, Rogers!” Bucky had warned. “Ain’t your place to be gettin’ rid of things I like. I’ll do that on my own if I want to, and seeing as how it’s still here, that’s where it’ll stay.”

The Medal of Honor was different. Of course it was different. It was the Medal of Honor. Bucky seemed so overwhelmed by the possibility of being awarded such a thing, that for days he just nodded and gave a half hearted shrug of his shoulders whenever it was brought up. The soldiers he spoke to all told him how humble he was, and they all celebrated his humility. Steve just couldn’t get over how gobsmacked his friend was.

“You’re the best man I know, Buck, of course you’d get it,” Steve told him easily.

“It’s not that simple,” Bucky replied. He shook his head. “It can’t be that simple.”

“Look at what you did. Look at how many lives you saved. You got beat up, and cut up, but you made it out - and so did everyone else. That was you. That was you, Buck.” Bucky looked at him and bit his lip.

“Yeah, yeah it was, huh?” he still didn’t seem to believe it, and Steve grinned.

“It really was.”

They packed up their bags swiftly when the time came. Bucky’s dress uniform, barely used after so much time in his preferred blue jacket, was neatly pressed and cleaned. He had it placed in a travelling bag and he clutched it to his side. Steve didn’t need to ask to know that the President (the President’s) letter was tucked into Bucky’s coat pocket, pressed against his heart.

Peggy met them at the boat, luggage nowhere in sight. “Apologies, Sergeant, that I won’t be able to attend.”

“Uh...nah, it’s fine. Don’t worry about it, Agent.” Bucky never did seem to know what to say to Peggy. He glanced between Steve and her like he was a fifth wheel. He licked his lips and then went to make an excuse, but Peggy pressed on.

“I have business in London, a new report’s come down the channel. Hydra activity in Switzerland. We should be able to know more by the time you come back, so be prepared to head into the field, then. I imagine it will be quite cold in the mountains, so do enjoy the early spring weather while you have the chance.” She kept her eyes on Bucky as she spoke, and he shifted uncertainly at the words. “In any case, I did want to extend my apologies. It’s not every day a man you know is given the Medal of Honor, let alone two, and yet it seems I haven’t been able to attend either ceremony.”

“It’s probably going to be boring,” he offered honestly. She smiled.

“Most assuredly. I did want to pass on that Senator Brandt will be there.” Bucky’s eyes widened and he glanced towards Steve, and Steve grimaced at the reminder.

“He’s the one who put Rogers in tights?” he asked, still looking towards Steve. His expression had turned all too sly and mischievous, and Steve felt a blush starting to grow on the back of his neck. He resisted the urge to rub at it, and instead forced himself to maintain perfect military discipline in front of a lady.

“Indeed. I’m sure you’ll have...much to talk about.” Peggy was grinning widely now, and Bucky matched it.

“Sorry you couldn’t be there to introduce us, ma’am,” he told her.

“Sergeant,” she nodded and held out her hand. He took it, and shook it politely.

“I’ll-uh- leave you two to say goodbye.” Steve gaped at Bucky’s back as he made a hasty retreat, blush growing even more when he heard Peggy laugh brightly.

“You have quite the friend,” she told him.

“Yeah, yeah I do.”

“So,” she waited for him to say something, and he had no idea where to start.

“I-um- I was hoping you could come,” he admitted. “There’s gonna be a party. It woulda been a nice time, to...maybe try out that dance?”

“Yes,” she agreed. “It would have been lovely.” Pausing for a moment, she leaned towards him and kissed him on his cheek. “Please do give my regards to Sergeant Barnes’ family. Their son is the reason that all of this was made possible.” He nodded.

“Yeah, I know.”

“Stay safe, Steve. I’ll-we’ll need you when you get back.” She tipped her head towards him, then turned to walk away, and Steve pressed his fingers to his cheek. He could still feel how warm it was from her lips’ caress.  

One day, Steve promised himself, he was going to marry that girl.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Washington, DC was amazing. Steve led the way, marching the Howlies down streets he’d wandered during his USO tour, and pointing out all his favorite places. They went on walks about town, and they talked to residents, they sat in pubs and they marveled at the people on the streets. Photographs were taken, laughs were exchanged, the Medal of Honor was discussed more and more.

Bucky didn’t see his family until a few moments before the President (the President!) had him turn so he could wrap it around his neck. Steve grinned, never more proud of any man in his life, as Bucky faced the collected audience. His eyes traced over the faces of those who came to celebrate his courage, and Steve saw the exact moment that Bucky found his family in the crowd.

Becca with her hair in ribbons and curls, Emma with her dress all prim and proper, Elizabeth looking far too young and uncomfortable at her parents’ sides, his Ma and Pop were on either end of their daughters. Winifred Barnes was dabbing her eye with a cloth, and Steve could see how proud George was of his son. Bucky’s face broke, his eyes widened and his composure slipped.

He hadn’t seen them in over a year, and even standing up on stage with the President of the United States couldn’t seem to keep him from warbling a little at the sight of his loved ones. When the ribbon was finished being hooked on, he thanked the President, and was given a pat on his shoulder. Steve couldn’t hear what Roosevelt said to him, but whatever it was encouraged Bucky to shake his hand, then descend from the stage and walk briskly towards his family.

The audience clapped proudly as Winifred pulled her son to her chest and hugged him close. George wrapped his arms around Bucky and his wife, clutching them both tightly while the girls stood about watching with wide eyes. Roosevelt said something else, but Steve wasn’t paying him any mind. In a week’s time, Roosevelt would be replaced with Truman, but he’d done this one last act to honor Bucky before stepping out of office. It was the single most touching thing Steve could think of, and he couldn’t give the man his full attention because the Barnes’ family had it all. He’d feel guilty about it later, but right now, he couldn’t be bothered.

He watched as Bucky fell into his parents’ embrace and held them tight. It took ages before Winifred pulled back and cupped her son’s face between her palms. She was crying. Her hand moved, tracing over the medal on his chest before she stepped aside and let Becca wrap her arms around him.

At twenty-two, Becca was well on her way to becoming a proper lady. She and Bucky were closer than any of the siblings, and he held her tight to his body. Steve wiped a tear from his eye. He knew he was going to cry. He wasn’t even going to pretend that he wasn’t.

Emma and Elizabeth both got their turns next, and they talked to Bucky rapidly. They asked him about the war, about how he got the Medal, about how long he was staying. Steve stepped forward then, knowing the exact moment that Bucky was about to become overwhelmed with the sudden clinging familiarity of siblings and family.

“Steven Rogers, is that you?” Winifred gasped, hurrying around and pulling him into a hug as well. He heard the snap of a camera somewhere, but he didn’t pay it any mind as he hugged Bucky’s Ma. She’d been like a second mother growing up, and he hadn’t seen her since he’d left Brooklyn. She was so small now that he’d grown. It felt strange. “Look at you, and you-your matching Medals. George, George look!”

It was military protocol, and as much as Steve hadn't wanted to wear his own Medal, feeling it distracted too much from Bucky’s moment, he had to put it on. Bucky seemed grateful, though, for the attention to be off him for just one moment of respite. He took a deep breath, hugging Elizabeth still, but managing to evade the chaos for one breath of respite.

While George and Winifred fussed, the Howlies introduced themselves to Bucky’s sisters. Becca and Falsworth seemed immediately smitten with each other, and Bucky scowled at the Brit for the remainder of the meet and greet. There was a party and a fancy dinner arranged at a suitable club down town, and Steve answered all of Winifred's questions and nodded his head when he promised he and Bucky were taking care of each other on the way over.

“We always have and we always will, ma’am,” Steve swore. Bucky rolled his eyes towards him, and was almost immediately cajoled into giving Elizabeth a piggy-back ride to the club. Steve bit his tongue from saying Bucky was too hurt to do so, and watched as his friend lifted his sister up and onto his shoulders without so much as a wince of discomfort.  If there was one thing that Steve was grateful for, it was Bucky’s ability to heal quickly. Even his cuts seemed to close faster than usual, and Steve was grateful for it. It meant that his parents and sisters couldn’t see what a mess he’d made out of himself lately.

They walked to the club together, in good cheer and good spirits, proudly wearing their uniforms and celebrating their triumphs. Bucky’s hand kept moving to touch the medal on his chest, and Steve hoped he got used to the feeling of it. He was a Medal of Honor recipient. He was the a holder of the highest honor in the land. Bucky Barnes. Kid from Brooklyn.

Bucky dropped Elizabeth at the door of the club, and helped her smooth out her dress. He straightened his uniform and pulled off his hat, still stunned and dumbfounded by the sheer magnitude of the experience. They were ushered to a table, and were assured that their meal would be covered for free in thanks to their service.

“You all right?” Steve asked him quietly.

“Nazis are less intimidating,” Bucky muttered back. “And their knees aren’t as bony,” he grumbled, rubbing his sides in protest. Steve snorted.

“How could you deny a lady like that?”

“I didn’t, but she keeps at it I might not be worth much to any lady at all.” He said it a touch too loud and his mother looked over, scandalized. “Sorry, Ma,” he ducked his head in contrition.

“We’re a bit of a bad influence on him,” Dugan piped up. That, Steve was willing to admit, was probably true.

Even as Bucky placed an innocent expression on his face, Steve knew for a fact that these days Bucky cursed more, made more filthy jokes, and had a tendency to chase skirt more than any good Christian man should.

Bucky’s parents shook their heads fondly as Dugan started to roll into stories. Most were silly tales that involved all the bickering between Steve and Bucky. The Barnes clan chimed in with anecdotes of their own. They drank, they ate, they made merry.

Senator Brandt truly did make an appearance, and Bucky couldn’t help himself from ribbing the man hard about Steve’s costume. Steve handled it with the kind of grace and exasperation that he’d grown accustomed to as Bucky’s friend, and he rolled his eyes whenever Bucky pressed a little hard. Brandt gaped, though, looking between them like he wasn’t sure what to say. It seemed as though without a prepared speech or a target to manipulate, Brandt was incapable of forming a sentence. Steve had never liked him better.

But in terms of speeches, Steve had worked on one since he’d heard the news. He tapped a knife to his glass and the room fell silent as all eyes turned towards him. “Despite my career in show business,” that got him a few laughs, “I was never that good at speeches.” He’d puked in sixth grade when he’d had to talk in front of the class. The kids at school never let him forget it either. “I found though, that if I truly believed it - it was easier to say. So I’m going to say something that I’ve wanted to say since I found out about the Medal.” Bucky looked up at him, eyes wide and expression confused. “Bucky, my ma always said that you deserved a medal for putting up with me.” Winifred made a strange sound, half sob-half laugh. George put an arm around her shoulders as she dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief. “She was right. You did deserve it. You always will.” Bucky’s eyes went wet. He rose his fingers to trace along the points on the star, the eagle’s wings, the blue ribbon. “You’re my best friend, and you’re the best guy I know. Now the whole world knows exactly what kind of hero you are. I’m only sorry it took twenty-seven years for them to figure it out. You deserved that thing a long time ago, the politicians just didn’t know it yet.” He rose his glass. “To Sergeant James Barnes!”

“To Sergeant James Barnes!” the crowd chanted back.

If nothing else - Steve had successfully made Bucky cry in front of fifty guests.

The night was flawless, and every sacrifice they’d made to get there had been more than worth it.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Bucky left his dress uniform with his parents, and he gave his Medal to Becca. His badges he kept with him, but only because he had to. He kissed his sisters on the cheeks. He hugged his parents; he promised he’d be home soon. Steve watched as he said farewell to his family, and he grinned when he saw Monty press a kiss to Becca’s cheek and promise to write her a letter when they got back to the front.

“Where are you headed now?” George asked Steve as they prepared to board the ship out.

“Switzerland, I think. Heard there was movement in the mountains, maybe we can finally get a prisoner or two that could turn the tide of this war.”

“You’ll look after him, yes?”

“Yes,” Steve promised. George nodded. He put an arm around Steve’s shoulders and drew him close.

“All those stories I used to tell you about the Great War, about soldiering and being on the front. Never imagined that it’d make Medal of Honor recipients out of you two. Never imagined. Your father would have been proud of you, Stevie.”

“You know,” Steve murmured quietly. “I don’t much remember my father, but I remember growing up on your knee and in your home. I can’t speak for my father, but if I made you proud - I’d be a happy man.” George nodded. He pulled back and tapped Steve’s cheek.

“Don’t question it, son. I’m proud of you every day. Proud of you, proud of my boy. Proud of the work you’re doing. I’ll be proud of you both until the day I die. My brave, brave boys.”

“You cryin’ Rogers?” Bucky asked, falling into place at his side. Steve sniffed and wiped his eyes.

“‘Course not, Barnes,” he replied. He stepped away and let George give his son one last farewell hug. He squeezed Bucky close, and he breathed him in.

“You’re coming back soon? For good?” George asked.

“Soon! War’s almost over, I can feel it Pop. One romp through the snow - and Gosh I hate snow - and we’ll be done. It’s almost over. Promise.” Bucky was grinning bright and George nodded.

“You boys get on now. And come back safe. You know how your mother-” he glanced towards Steve nervously. “Frets,” he finished.

“You tell her not to worry. We’ll be back before you know it,” Steve swore.

“Don’t start lamenting us being away too much, we’ll be home and mussing up your lives soon enough- don’t you worry!” Bucky continued.

The boat let out a loud bellowing noise, and Steve watched as Bucky’s shoulders slumped. He sighed, shook his head, then fell into military attention. He saluted his father, who returned the gesture, and then he nodded his farewell to his family.

Becca still had Bucky’s ribbon around her neck, and she traced it with her hands. “See you soon,” Bucky promised, and then together - they climbed the wooden plank onto the ship.

“Goodbye!” Becca called, waving.

“Goodbye!” They waved back.

“We’re gonna make it,” Bucky said quietly, as the ship started to pull away from the dock. “Right?”

“Of course,” Steve told him. “Of course.”

“The Congressional Medal of Honor,” Bucky breathed out, as though the shock of it had finally settled and he was finally free to enjoy it. “Can you believe it?”

“Sure can,” Steve told him, grinning wide. “Just you wait, Buck. You come home and you’ll be able to do anything you want. You’ve got the Medal of Honor. Think about that. People will bend over backwards for you - they’ll give you free meals, cheap housing, and all the courtesy in the world. And did you hear about the retirement benefits? You’re going to be set for life.”

“I could settle for a nice little place on the river, close to the market, and a view of the bridge,” Bucky mused thoughtfully. “And a dog. Maybe one of those scrappy strays in London.”

“You deserve it,” Steve told him again.

“You did too,” Bucky told him. “You know that, right?” Steve shrugged.

“I didn’t do it for any reason...I went in looking for you. I came out with those men because...because I went looking for one person.”

“It was enough,” Bucky told him. He turned and stepped closer, reaching to grip Steve’s arm. “Even if I was the only one you got out. You walked alone through enemy territory, you destroyed that base, you found military intelligence to get us in an offensive position against Hydra, you saved my life, you-you got me out. That alone, Steve, that alone would have been enough. You did all that, and you saved the lives of four hundred men too. You deserved it. You did.”

“Yeah?” Steve asked, breathless.

“Yeah,” Bucky promised.

“Guess I deserve a little apartment too,” he joked, choking as emotion welled within him.

“And the dog - don’t forget that.”

“I like the one on Bridge st.”

“The one that bites everyone? That thing’s a menace!”

“He’s a good little scrapper.”

“That’s for sure.”

“She'll keep you on your toes,” Steve teased. Bucky grinned.

They may be going back to war, but there was a sense of peace at the thought of life after. They were going to make it through. Both of them. And all the good things waiting for them on the other side? They deserved it. Steve couldn’t wait.

Life after the war?

It was going to be amazing.