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an ideal world

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“Bucky,” he said, eyes pleading. “Bucky, it’s me.”

The Winter Soldier did not react. His eyes were as cold and distant as stars, the ones in the wintry nights that you reach up to brush against- but, alas, they are millions of light years away, and the illusion of closeness shatters when your fingers pass right over them.

“Your name is James Buchanan Barnes,” Steve said, his voice steady despite the metal hand clamped around his neck. “You’re my- my best friend.” He faltered there, for a brief moment. Best friend doesn’t quite seem to cover it. “You’re my best friend, and I love you. Always have, always will.”

The safety of the gun clicked off; the sound was deafening in the too-quiet apartment.

“You’re my best friend,” Steve repeated, “and I’m with you till the end of the line, Buck. Always.”

The Winter Soldier curled his finger over the trigger.

“Bucky,” Steve said, and then stopped. Started again. “Bucky, I love you. I forgive you.”

In an ideal world, Bucky would have remembered in time. At the last moment, perhaps, his finger poised on the trigger, he would falter. Blink. Blurred images would flicker in front of his eyes, memories upon memories upon memories. He would remember James Buchanan Barnes, he would remember Steven Grant Rogers. He would drop the gun as if it had burned him, stagger backwards with shaking hands, and Steve would gather him into his arms with murmurs of comfort.

But this was not an ideal world.

The gunshot tore through the silence.