Chapter 3: the First Avenger
“You know, sometimes, I think you like getting punched,” Bucky says to Steve as he picks himself up off the ground. Steve looks down at himself and sees the mess his clothes are in. He feels a trickle of blood on his face, and wipes his nose and mouth. Right now he feels absolutely lousy. Four times; the army had rejected him four times. He never felt like a failure before, but with each new 4F, he started to feel like one. Bucky got in on his first try; sometimes life wasn’t fair.
All he wanted was to do what was right: stop the bullies, live up to his family name, make his mother and his Dad proud; wherever they were. He wanted to be someone that could help; he wanted to do something to help stop the bloodshed. Maybe it was the elvish blood running in his veins that did it, but he felt he was meant to do something in this war; he didn’t want to stay at home while Bucky and other good men were sent away to war. He didn’t want to stay behind, while other men were laying down their lives; it wasn’t in his blood to stay behind other men and let them fight. He wanted to be right there with them, shielding them from harm; urging them on, when they felt they couldn’t go any further. He was meant for more than this.
“I had him on the ropes,” Bucky heard Steve reply, and he signed. He heard those words almost a thousand times by now, and no matter how many times Bucky pulled Steve out of a fight, they never got old.
Bucky shook his head in exasperation and no small amount of despair and his eyes caught sight of a piece of paper on the ground. Bucky signed and went to pick it up; already having a sneaking suspicion as to what it was. Yep, an enlistment form; ‘Damn it, Steve!’ he thought.
“How many times is this?” he asks as he picks it up. His eyes widen when he looks at them, half exasperation, and half shock. “Oh, you’re from Paramus, now. You know it’s illegal to lie on your enlistment form,” he says and then with a half disgusted twist to his mouth, he looks at Steve and says, “and seriously, Jersey?” Bucky sees Steve look at him, and his face go blank with shock. Bucky resists the urge to roll his eyes. ‘Of course he would see the uniform first.’
“You get your orders,” he asks with a slight worried lit to his tone. Bucky sighs looking Steve up and down. He really doesn’t want to get into another fight with Steve. He just wants one last night out with his best friend, before he ships out in the morning. Bucky straightened his shoulders, throwing them back and pulling his head up with no small amount of pride. The pride is slightly hollow when in Steve’s presence, so his voice is slightly tired and morose, when he answers Steve.
“The one o Seventh: Sgt. James Barnes, shipping out for England first thing tomorrow.” Bucky sees Steve’s self-depreciation and knows what’s coming out of his mouth next.
“I should be going,” Steve says, his shoulders sagging a little, as he sighs a little in dejection. Bucky doesn’t want to argue so he looks at Steve for a moment before smiling.
“Come on, man!” he grins, and throws his arm around Steve’s left shoulder, pulling him in to a one armed hug. Steve seems to relax a little after that, and seems more willing to have some fun. “It’s my last night. Gotta get you cleaned up,” he says as he looks Steve over and sees the mess he’s in. He lets go of Steve and walks ahead with purpose.
“Why? Where are we goin’?” Steve asks. Bucky tosses away the falsified enlistment form, and holds the paper he had in hand, with the front page article on the World’s Fair of Tomorrow, out for Steve to take.
“The Future,” he responds with a swagger in his steps. ‘This is going to be a fun night,’ he thinks, as he walks ahead of Steve to take them to get ready. Bucky heard it’s going to be quite a show.
Seeing Steve gone after watching the big presentation, Bucky’s heart dropped. He signed and looked around to find out where his little buddy could have gone. His eyes landed on the “Uncle Sam” poster, and he knew; just knew, without a doubt, that Steve was at the Recruiting stand again. A little mad and even more disappointed, Bucky smiled at the girls and told them that they were going to go dancing; but first he had to find his little punk of a friend. Not in those words, mind you; he still wanted the blond, (Candy was her name, he thought) to like Steve. Steve was a likable guy; he just had no idea how to act around or even talk to women.
Bucky left the girls outside the steps and marched up to find Steve. After looking around a minute with purpose, sure enough, he found him; right at an enlistment poster. Shaking his head and laughing off his anger, Bucky walked over to try and entice his friend away from the enlistment station again.
“You really gonna do this again?” Bucky said with no small amount of anger in his clenched jaw. He didn’t want Steve going to war. Steve was good, and pure, and all that was right with humanity; he didn’t want to see that goodness ruined by the horrors of war. He didn’t want Steve’s eyes to lose their bright innocent light, and shine; like so many men from the first War had. Like Steve’s Father had, before he died; snuffed out by the same gas that killed almost his entire unit. The war would ruin Steve, and he didn’t want that to happen. So he put every bit of anger and determination in his voice to get Steve to see reason and Stop trying to enlist. Steve’s weak excuse of luck really got his blood boiling, so he called him out on it asking where he’d say he’s from this time.
“They’ll catch you. Or worse, they’ll actually take you!” Fear leaked into his heart at the thought of little Steve Rogers; weak, frail, can’t-catch-his-breath, always-sick Steve Rogers with a heart of gold but a bad back, heart, and lungs out there on the battlefield. Steve wouldn’t last two seconds out there.
Steve had the gall to say that he didn’t believe in him. He did! It’s just, Steve didn’t understand that in war, if you go down, the guy hitting you won’t stop until your dead. He believed in him just fine, but Bucky wouldn’t be there to get Steve out of scraps and fights. He couldn’t take care of just him, if he was there; he had men to look after, not just the skinny little punk that didn’t know when to back down from a fight.
“This isn’t a back alley, Steve. It’s War!” Bucky glared back at his friend, his voice raising just a hint to tell him he’s mad. More than mad; he is furious: Steve doesn’t understand. He wants to understand why Steve is doing this, so he finally asks.
“I know it’s a war. You don’t have to tell me,” Steve says looking confused and irritated. Bucky huffs in exasperation, and confusion.
“Why?” he finally asks, “Why are you so keen to fight? There are so many important jobs,” Bucky knows this, and so does Steve. Work is more plentiful these days, since the factories started pumping out planes, tanks and trucks. Steve didn’t have to beg for work anymore; factories were practically begging everyone that couldn’t fight to help. The factories needed more workers than they had.
“What am I gonna do? Collect scrap metal…” Steve says, and Bucky rolls his eyes; begging God that Steve finally gets it.
“Yes!” he interrupts.
“…in my little red wagon?” Steve asks sarcastically. Bucky’s shoulders drop.
“Why not?” he asks back, and he feels that he is going to lose this fight. Steve never gives up once he feels he has to do something.
“I’m not gonna sit in a factory, Bucky,” he says, and Bucky feels Steve’s reasoning winning him over. But still, let it not be said that Bucky Barnes, doesn’t go down without a fight.
“I don’t…” he starts and Steve interrupts him.
“Bucky, come on!” Steve says, and for once Bucky actually stops to listen. “There are men laying down their lives,” he says like Bucky doesn’t already know that, and his shoulders droop a little more. He’s lost this argument; no doubt. Steve is in full “Joe Rogers” mode, and once he channels his father, or god forbid, his mother, there is no stopping him. “I got no right to do any less than them. That’s what you don’t understand. This isn’t about me,” and Bucky sighs, shaking his head in defeat. He still wants one last jab before he gives in.
“Right,” he asks, shaking his head and looking a little sad. “‘Cause you got nothing to prove.” Steve looks back intently, and a bit wounded; Bucky hit a sore nerve there and he knew it. He was aiming for it. Bucky feels sorry for it a second later. The girls finally break up their last glares of the argument and Bucky gives them a big reassuring smile; all charm and debonair, when he says they are going dancing. He turns back to Steve and looks at him for a long minute. Shaking his head and beginning to walk away he says: “Don’t do anything stupid ‘til I get back.” He heard Steve’s huff of laughter and can practically feel the mischievous smile on his face as he turns away.
“How can I? You’re taking all the stupid with you,” Steve says and he turns back to look at his friend one more time. He doesn’t want his last memory of Steve to be an argument, so he smiles and walks back up to wrap him in a warm hug.
“You’re a Punk,” he says before he does, and feels Steve pat him on the back and answer with his customary response.
“Jerk,” he says and pulls away; worry and concern in his expression. “Be careful,” he warns, and Bucky smiles. Steve always cares, that is why he can’t go to war: he won’t care after it’s over, and a light from the world will be lost with it. A few steps down from the station he hears Steve call out, “Don’t win the war ‘til I get there!” Bucky just can leave without a response to that. He turns around and gives Steve a sarcastic salute, before walking off to take the girls dancing. Something about that salute felt right, like one of those premonitions he would get sometimes; feelings about things to come, good and bad. This one felt like a good one.
As he walks off with an arm around his girl for the night, he can’t help but wonder if this is the last time he’ll see skinny Steve Rogers from Brooklyn; the kid too dumb to run away from a fight. He feels a bit sad at that thought, but lets it drop in favor of good memory making with the girls.
TBC Unfinished Chapter