Steve was in the training room in the Avengers tower. His emotions flowed through his veins like hot lava. Today wasn’t a good day, in fact, it was an awful day. His skin crawled with self-hatred as he watched the 8th of Tony’s special reinforced punching bags slam against the floor, the sand inside spewing out like a firework. He kneeled down to hold some of the sand in his hand, watching the sand slip through his fingers. Except he didn’t see sand, he saw the blood on his hands dripping down, all of his sins coming back to crush him.
Steve dug his fingernails into his palm and kicked the bag across the floor as he stood. Fuck. Fuck. He felt choked like his guilt clawed at his gut, a thick black fog that choked all the words he would never speak. He was spiraling, he swam in his anger. He needed something else to destroy, but he wanted to scream when he realized there were no intact punching bags left. He looked at the other training equipment, He probably shouldn’t, but in this moment he wasn’t in his mind, it wasn’t the twenty-first century, it’s 1943 and he feels the sharp stab of penicillin before— the wall let out a loud crack as he throws a weight across the room. He couldn’t think about that.
He couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t breathe and this feeling was leaving him raw and restless. Like he was bleeding out on the floor. He felt very little regret when he plunged his foot through a treadmill, pieces of it slicing his skin. Steve watched himself bleed, and this. This is what he needed. Pain. Such a rare thing for him, his body almost never hurt, and when it did it faded too fast. Reminding him that he, he wasn’t really human anymore. Sometimes he wondered if they had turned him into a monster. He felt it, digging out his insides and hollowing his bones and trying to get out. It wasn’t 2016 anymore, it was 1943 and Bucky is leaving and Steve decides to follow. God, he was stupid, so fucking stupid.
He remembered, he had his shield with him. He slid it out of its case, this wasn’t the room that was modified for him to practice with his shield in but his mind was nothing but static. He briefly wondered if he could scratch the paint off. It mocked him, it was all a lie. He wasn’t Captain America and Captain America wasn’t America’s Hero, he wasn’t perfect. He could damn well pretend, though, but sometimes… sometimes, it was too fucking much.
How can he pretend he’s a great captain? A good leader? When he knows what’s behind the uniform, what’s behind the shield. A stupidly confident 90-pound kid from Brooklyn who had snapped so many necks with this shield it was a wonder it wasn’t stained red. Behind that fucking shield was Steve Rogers, too small, too big, too much. Cocky, and blissfully ignorant. This wasn’t his time he didn’t belong here, sometimes he wished they’d left him frozen in the arctic, wasn’t it cruel? To pull a man into a fight, a war, when he’d just ended one? When he let the love of his life fall off a train, and left his friends behind to crash a plane full of bombs into the ocean.
Had he not given enough? Things blurred from there, plaster and metal trailing behind him as he rampaged on. All he felt was guilt, thicker than molasses down his throat. The despair that left him empty. Anger that made it feel like there was a fire was under his skin. It wasn’t the twenty-first century anymore it’s 1944 and he leaps over a sea of fire to save the man he loved but at what cost? At what cost? His shield was stuck in a wall somewhere and he was bleeding. He ripped it out of the wall and didn’t notice in his stupor, someone had entered the gym. The gym that was barely a room anymore, the disaster mirrored what a mess Steve felt like he was.
“Steve?” It was Bucky, of course, it was Bucky. He flung his shield directly at him. Bucky caught it with his metal hand and it wasn’t 2016 it was 2014 and someone has just killed Nick Fury. He’s in his apartment in D.C, scrambling to chase the gunman. The gunman catches his shield and when Steve looks up he is frozen by the hauntingly familiar eyes, why were they so familiar?
“Steve,” Bucky repeated, dropping the shield and approaching Steve cautiously. It wasn’t a question, this time, so Steve lunged. Of course, Bucky dodged him and caught his wrist. Steve froze.
“Steve, come on. It’s 2016 and we’re in the Avengers tower and I need you to stand down. I’m not going to hurt you, Steve.” Bucky’s eyes bored into his. The words were hauntingly familiar. Steve realized in that moment hot tears were streaming down his face, How long had he been crying? He lunged for Bucky again, but Bucky dodged and blocked him again. He wasn’t fighting back and god damn it, wasn’t Steve supposed to be the noble one? As quick as the thought flew into his head, he was pinned to the floor by Bucky. He let his face slam directly into the floor, as he was pinned on his stomach, and his gut curled in sick satisfaction when he felt blood drip out of his nose.
“Stand. Down. Captain Rogers, that’s an order.” Bucky said firmly. He hated saying that to Bucky, he wondered if Bucky felt the same when it was Steve who was broken. He felt bile rise in his throat, his whole body felt like it had been dipped in acid and he was disintegrating from the inside out.
“Get off of me,” Steve replied trying to throw Bucky off. Bucky did and he slid to sit on the floor next to Steve. Steve slowly brought himself to a sitting position as well, his whole body feeling like it was weighed down with bricks. Steve wondered if he could drown, if he tied bricks to his feet and just disappear into the ocean again. So there they were, sitting in what used to be the gym. It looked like a hurricane had stormed through. Steve was still bleeding. He had various cuts and bruises splattered throughout his body. He laughs bitterly when he thinks he may have actually broken his wrist. How had he not noticed? It didn’t matter, though, it would heal before the day was over.
“Shit Steve, you’ve hurt yourself pretty bad. What happened?” Slowly Bucky cupped Steve’s cheek and he slid closer to examine Steve’s face. Steve sighed, his face wrenched into a frown that made him look like he had aged all those 70 years instead of being frozen in the body of his 25-year-old self.
“How did you know to come down here?” Steve pushed Bucky’s hand away but didn’t protest when Bucky slid his arm around him and pulled him tightly into his side.Steve let his head rest on Bucky’s shoulder.
“JARVIS, he told me you were having a meltdown and Tony unlocked the door. I’m the only one who you can’t hurt, anyway. No one else could stop you from tearing this whole building down without Hulk tranquilizers. Figured I’d try first.” Bucky shrugged slightly.
“I was so stupid, I was so cocky and I had no idea where I’d end up. I was so idealistic, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, I didn’t realize how many lives my decisions would impact.” Steve took a deep breath. He wrapped one of his arms around Bucky’s waist and just stayed there for a moment. For a moment he could pretend none of this was happening. Bucky waited for Steve to continued.
“I… I never thought I’d end up here. I never thought that I’d end up here, I never thought what the consequences would be. That’s the problem I never thought. My ignorance changed the world, and that tiny artist from Brooklyn dreamed big, but never this big. Never knew what he was getting himself into. He finally got himself into a situation he couldn’t get out of, except he was supposed to be stronger. He was supposed to be a lot of things but…” Steve shuddered out a breath, trying not to break down. Bucky’s hand tightened on his shoulder.
“Behind the bulk and strength was that same kid. Behind it, my hands were dripping with blood the second I stepped out of that machine. The second my ego and my heart won over common sense. I had to fight, if you were then so was I. But… I wonder sometimes was it worth it?” Steve hated himself, he hated thinking like this. He continued.
“I shouldn’t say this, I shouldn’t even think this. It’s selfish, but I honestly had no clue what I was getting myself into when I let them inject the serum. I saved so many people, we won the war. But no one’s ever asked me if I regret becoming Captain America.” Steve was shaking, barely holding back from sobbing.
“Do you?” Bucky asked quietly.
“… Sometimes, yes. I was so fucking stupid, I was too reckless for my own good. I didn’t know war, I didn’t know how much blood I would get on my hands. Sometimes I hate Captain America. Should I have really been so righteous? I thought I knew what was right. If I had never gotten serum, maybe you’d have come home. Maybe people wouldn’t be creating monsters trying to recreate what they did to me. I wouldn’t have hurt so many people. I know that in the end, we ended up back together, and I’m so thankful for that. But what if we had never been separated in the first place?” Steve was actually sobbing now, Bucky was holding him tight.
“There’s a lot of maybe’s, Stevie. No one could’ve known what was going to happen. If you want to trace the blame, you could go back so far. What if Erskine’s parent’s never met, would the serum have not been created? What if we had never met? Steve, you don’t have to carry the world on your shoulders.” Bucky kissed the top of Steve’s head. Steve didn’t respond this time. He was too far gone, it felt like he was being ripped apart from the inside out.
So they stayed that way for god knows how long. Bucky held Steve while Steve cried like Steve had done for him so many times before. Eventually, the tears slowed, and Steve pulled back to look into Bucky’s eyes.
“I love you,” Steve whispered as he leaned in to kiss Bucky passionately. Steve felt some of the clouds clear, and he didn’t feel so heavy anymore.
“I love you too, so much,” Bucky smiled lovingly. Steve smiled a little too.
“So… I guess Tony’s gonna have to figure out a way to make the gym even more super soldier proof.” Steve grimaced as he looked around the room.
“It’s okay, I’ve done this a couple times too.” Bucky stood and offered his hand to Steve.
“Ow, fuck!” Steve said as he tried to pull himself up but his right wrist protested. Bucky frowned down at him and tried to help him up again.
“Did you really break your wrist? It’s probably healed wrong by now.” Bucky’s frown deepened as he inspected Steve’s wrist when Steve stood. Steve shrugged.
“Don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll let you re-break it,” Steve smiled lightly, Bucky rolled his eyes as he slung his arm over Steve’s shoulder as they carefully walked towards the door.
“You’re such a fucking punk,” Bucky smiled back.
“Yes, but I’m your punk.” Steve slid his arm around Bucky’s waist.
“Good, I don’t know anyone else who could put up with you.” Bucky quipped.
“Jerk.” Steve countered. They stopped for a second to look into each other's eyes. They burst into giggles the next second. Bucky pulled Steve back into a kiss. He felt Steve smile against his lips.
“I love you so much,” Bucky whispered, looking directly into Steve’s eyes.
“I love you too,” Steve replied, and god did he really love Bucky.
“Okay, no time for being sappy, Tony’s not gonna care you broke his gym he’s just gonna want to know how you broke it so he can make it stronger, and I’m sure Sam’s ready to give you the 'I’m disappointed in you” look for not using your words… and Tasha’s probably waiting to give you meaningful silent glares.” Bucky joked.
“Oh great, I’m so excited,” Steve said sarcastically as they left behind the remains of just another one of their bad days.