In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy.
Before the snap, before the other snap, before the highway, before Odessa, before the Red Room, before the Alps, before Zola, before the draft, before the Great Depression...there were just two kids. And whoo-boy, those kids knew how to get into trouble. Which...taking that into consideration, it's kinda no surprise that we're here, the end of the world getting undone, way beyond our time on this earth. But you've gotta put things into perspective.
You see, it was when I was a teenager and kinda grew into my features and looks that people pegged me as the troublemaker. But really, most of the smarts was Steve. He's a master tactician, ya know. Not saying I did too shabby in school or anything, but Steve is what you call an instigator. He started all of it...I just...enabled it a little bit. Alright, a lot. But not until later! I had 3 girls to look after, after all. You see, my ma died when Becca was real young, and then pops died in a pararescue mission when I was 14. My sisters and me grew up on base, and they kept care of us seeing that the orphanages were so full, and it wasn't too far from where Steve and his ma, Sarah, lived in a little apartment...
The exhibit in the Smithsonian barely touches the surface of who James Buchanan Barnes is, and in some ways, Steve's furious with that fact. Bucky gave everything, and more, and the Smithsonian had deemed it adequate to sum up everything the man was in 163 words. 163. In other ways he's pleased, knowing that those little intimate pieces are just his alone. He remembers a quote he saw somewhere, on the internet, about how if you love someone they're never really gone. But Steve thinks that is half the problem. Bucky was never gone. Even as Steve mourned him, carried on with a couple more missions with the Howlies before crashing that plane, Bucky was still alive. Suffering. It's that fact that causes Steve to lash out and break the glass exhibit in the Smithsonian when he visits after the Winter Solider pulled him from the Potomac, trying to piece together the last 50-odd years and his place in the whole thing. He let Bucky fall. He didn't go back after the body. There was square footage devoted to Steve and his exploits in the war, but Bucky was the better man who only got 163 words. Faced with burning death in Azzano, Bucky wouldn't leave him. And Steve left that man to his fate for the next 50-years. He would never be able to get his hands clean.
Security guards come quickly due to the commotion. Ashamed and embarrassed by his actions, he follows them to the administration, explains who he is, and offers to pay compensation to get a new plaque remade. He has more than enough in his back pay anyway. Even makes a sizeable donation to sooth the sharp edges of the indignity of the curators. He has more money than he knows what to do with anyway. Maybe they can buy more words.
Steve walks home alone, his thoughts turning in his head over and over. He knows that Sam will want to talk about it all eventually, but the man seems to be giving Steve some space, considering everything that happened over the last couple of years. He's appreciative of it, even though he knows the bags under his eyes are beginning to show the lack of sleep he's getting, despite how the serum makes him look. He's not eating as much as his metabolism needs either, his thoughts more consumed with "Where is Bucky? Is he safe?"
He watches the streets while he walks back to his little apartment in Brooklyn, so much different than the Brooklyn he remembers though the bones are still the same. It's gentrified now...there's no way Steve and Bucky could have afforded something here now, just two guys trying their best to live through the Depression. But back then, Brooklyn was the "depraved slums" of poverty and queerness. It had been hilarious, the way S.H.I.E.L.D. had tried to get him updated to this century. Sure, technology was different. Communication was different. But better or worse, people were the same. They've demolished the bathhouses but the St George Hotel is still standing, and while Steve never had the courage to visit, he knew what was going on in those rooms in the 40s. The mooks at S.H.I.E.L.D. had tried to approach turn of the century queerness with Steve vastly uneducated that the correlation to queer culture and artistic pursuits spanned centuries. Bucky and Steve had been poor, but had pretty much lived as close to a bohemian lifestyle as you could get without tipping off the cops and Committee of Fourteen. Not that...not that Steve had ever acted on such desires. Not until... Steve swore at himself in his head, still trying to piece together the last 2 years, and how he had screwed everything up so badly.
While he missed some of the Brooklyn he knew, he couldn't deny that some of the changes were good. Like the Thai place 3 streets down from his apartment, which he stopped into before continuing on his way to his apartment. And just to think...if he hadn't stopped, if Steve had continued on shaving off those precious 10 minutes, he might have found the Winter Solider standing in his living room, taking in everything before stepping back out through the window and closing it without so much as a sound.