Steve needs to talk about Bucky. He wants to talk about Bucky. Not the Winter-Soldier, not who he became but who he was. No one seems to understand why he's not afraid. They keep telling him it's not his friend, it's something dangerous wearing a dead man's face.
It's all he can do to keep from laughing because, really that's not so different from how Bucky was after they'd dragged him out of the lab.
He'd been the same on the surface only their was something jagged peaking through those teasing taunts, something which before had been covered up by the bright shine of charm and youthful swagger. Bucky never swaggered after they pulled him off of Zola's table, and though he tried to charm there was still something broken in his smile.
It's not that he was different from before, it's just that he'd worn himself differently.
Bucky had always been dangerous.
Bucky's family wasn't any richer or poorer than Steve's but they'd been tougher. Mr. Barnes used to drink away his pay sometimes, and Bucky's mother had gotten the birthing-blues after his sister was born and didn't do much of anything most days. So where Steve was sent to school perfectly pressed in clothes more patch than shirt and no lunch, Bucky had shown up in pants several inches too short, with dirt across his face and a lunch of bread with pork drippings that he'd fixed himself.
Everyone had laughed at both of them, but Bucky had stopped their laughing.
Bucky knew exactly where to hit so it would hurt the most and never show. After the first day no one laughed at him again. After the first week no one laughed at Steve where Bucky could hear.
But those moments when Bucky would smash a bigger boy's face into the wall or knock his teeth loose with an elbow jab were quickly forgotten by Steve, smoothed away by an arm slung around a shoulder and the stiffled delight of shared sweets.
With Commandoes Bucky wasn't second in command because he was Captain America's best friend, he was second in command because he was damn good at what he did (does?).
Maybe that's what seems so off about the Smithsonian exhibit. It's funny how people forget. They see the chorus girl. Not the soldier. They see his back-up dancers, not escaped POW's too angry and too stubborn to take the leave on offer and go home. They are a troupe that had not, officially, existed during the war done up in bright eyes and noble jaw lines.
Sure, Captain America would routinely get trotted out for photo ops and newsreels and they'd all smile for the cameras after daring missions, but what they'd actually been doing had been top secret.
They were Commandos, they committed lightning raids on Hydra, working behind the lines.
Somehow, in that pretty exhibit they put on at the Museum they managed to forget the fact that the Commandoes took no prisoners. And not in the way that expression is used now, meaning they are ruthless and impressive and unstoppable (which they were). In the way that it truly means, they took no prisoners because they killed all of the men they found, even the ones who surrendered.
Bucky was always the best at it. That doesn't make it into the museum either.
The way that, sometimes when the rest of them just couldn't- not any more, Bucky would come up, stonefaced, take the gun or the knive from their hands and tell them to take a walk. It would always be done when they got back. The corpse tossed for valuables and the blood cleaned up. Bucky would give them back their weapon and no one would talk about it. Ever.
Steve looked the other way. It was war. There was no other way of doing things. Bucky was the sniper, and everyone said he was the toughest son-of-a-bitch they'd ever met.
People have forgotten who they really were. They've dressed it all up in pretty colours, patriotism and justice. And it was patriotism and justice, but it was a lot of other things too. That's why Steve had always liked Fury, because Fury seemed to be the only one who'd watched the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan and realized that that was the same war Steve had fought it. The Commandoes had been chasing Hydra, that was true, but they still were getting shot at, crawling around in the mud, and most importantly killing people.
Captain America had killed a lot of people.
Steve wants to tell someone this. He wants to tell someone that his best friend had always been a killer and it'd never sat heavy on his conscience or Steve's. He wants to tell them that Hydra hadn't taken as much of Bucky's personality as people assumed.
He's not sure who to tell. Natasha maybe? But she wouldn't understand. Or she'd understand too well. He's not sure which.
He's not sure what possesses him to leave a message with Stark's secretary's secretary, other than the notion that maybe he's looking for a fight.