After hours of being chased, after running without time to rest, after desperation and fear; they were finally on the road looking for a place to hide. Sam was driving the car, actually that wasn't a surprise since Steve was too busy on the back with a very tired and very asleep Bucky all over his shoulder. Sam didn't miss the little smile that appeared on the Cap's face while he was running his fingers through the other man's hair.
Sam would like to say that he had called it, that he knew what was going on the first time Steve told him about his plan to search for Bucky, but he didn't. He wasn't fully aware of the situation until he saw them interact that first time; when Cap asked, almost afraid, if Bucky remembered him. And when the man gave that tender and hurtful answer the expression on Steve's features was so clear that Sam almost face-palmed himself for being so stupid.
And when he did finally notice, everything made sense. It made sense the way his friend's eyes shine every time he looked at Bucky, when he was watching him with that comical and sad worried look on his face, even when he was speaking to him.
Suddenly, Sam remembered when the soldiers hit Bucky unconscious and put him in that helicopter. He had never seen Steve act like that before; he was so desperate and afraid of losing him again. He ran to the helicopter and clung to it like his life depended on it. But he actually stopped it, he made the helicopter lose his balance and return to ground.
At least they were safe, for now.
"I'm glad I finally got my answer, you now", Sam started; because he was tired and he needed a distraction also because he wanted Steve to know that he supported him.
"What do you mean?" Steve asked, though he didn't look at him, his gaze was completely focus on Bucky.
"Remember the time I asked you what made you happy?" he smiled. "You told me you didn't know. But I think we both do now."
Cap caressed Bucky's forehead tenderly; a soft grin spread across his face. He didn't look at Sam, but he nodded.
"You love him", Sam said then and Steve didn't answer to that, though he didn't need to, because that actually wasn't a question and also because it was pretty obvious at that point.
She knew it was pointless, but she had to try at least. So when that familiar voice came out from her phone, Natasha let herself smile just one more time. The only thing she actually wanted was for all her friends to be safe.
"Cap", she said, like she used to do when they were about to start their training. She liked to tease him and she actually thought she was going to miss that part of their friendship.
"Romanoff", he replied, like it was everything back to normal, like nothing was wrong and they weren't about to start a war against each other.
Natasha signed and reminded herself that was not the time to get distracted, that she needed to focus in order to resolve the conflict before it got worse.
"I know how much Bucky means to you", she let out, whispering, being perfectly aware that was a tricky line to start a conversation with Steve Rogers, but it was the most effective one to make sure he'd listen. "Stay out of this one, please. You'll only make it worse."
"You're saying you'll arrest me?" Steve asked and Natasha signed, because she could tell there was no smile on his lips this time.
"I'm just trying to stop my friends from fighting each other", she replied and though her voice was soft and quiet, her words had the strength of a yell.
"Please", she insisted, interrupting him. He was her friend and she didn't want anything to happen to him.
"I'm sorry but I can't", was the answer. "He needs me."
And Natasha knew at that moment that she was just wasting her time, because there was so much hidden among those simple words. She didn't need to use her skills to know what he was really saying. I need him. I can't lose him again. I would do anything for him.
"You love him", the last words came out of her lips quickly. If the circumstances were a bit different she would tease him about it and she would be really happy for him, and, well, a part of her was actually happy, but she knew there was no time for that at the moment.
"I gotta go", Steve said before he hung up.
Tony knew it was their last chance. They were standing in that solitary room, both of them wearing the suits they only use against their enemies and, from now on they would use against each other. Because if Cap got out of that room in the same terms they were right now, the moment of peace would end and the war would begin.
That room was a neutral place; they decided they wouldn't fight in there. Not before they talk about it again, not before they knew what they were going to do.
Sadly, nothing seemed to work. Tony tried everything to convince Cap to put an end to all of this. But he was stubborn enough not to listen to him.
"I'm sorry, Tony. You know I wouldn't do this if I had any other choice", Cap told him, and though he looked sad, he didn't seem to hesitate. And then, there was that odd look on his face, a determined one, a look that was containing so much emotion in it. "But he's my friend."
"So was I", Tony replied but just when the words came out of this mouth he realized how wrong he was. Not because the Cap wasn't his friend, he certainly was; but because the Cap wasn't talking about something like that at all. It was something deeper than that, something stronger.
Because Tony finally recognized that look; he had seen it so many times before, in the mirror, when he discovered himself thinking about Pepper. So he knew nothing would convince Cap. And, well, he couldn't blame him because he would do the same for Pepper.
"You love him"
"Goodbye, Tony", was Cap's reply. He got of the room and Tony let him, knowing that only war would follow after that.
It felt like nothing had changed between them. They were about to fight, side by side, as always, as it was supposed to be. Because there was no universe in which Steve and Bucky wouldn't be together.
Steve smiled and grabbed his left shoulder and, suddenly, it hit him; Bucky knew that face, he remembered it, he knew what was behind that expression. So he grinned back and leaned in, kissing, softly, those beautiful lips.
He blinked so many times, surprised, before his face turned bright red. And Bucky couldn't help but smile again; thank God his shy and adorable Stevie was still in there, just as he remembered. But the shock was something that disappeared quickly, because Steve's arms were around him in seconds, and the blond man closed the distance between them one more time.
"You love me", Bucky smiled over his lips.
"I do", replied Steve even though he didn't need to. "I'm with you 'till the end of the line."