Steve had never been ashamed to be American. He’d occasionally felt weird about proclaiming his nationality as a second name, but he’d always been proud to represent American values. He knew America rarely lived up to its own standards, and he’d also never had trouble pointing that out to anyone who’d listen. But something had changed. He felt more conflicted about the name “Captain America” than ever. Whenever he was abroad, people would comment on the things his country was doing, and he had no defense for them. He was ashamed to be so blatantly associated with his own country.
To make matters worse, there was still a public perception of him being associated with this administration. He might not be able to control much, but he could change that, at least. So he set about proclaiming his opinion as loudly and as often as possible.
He got in trouble every time he did.
He didn’t care.
Where Steve was professional and at least managed not to cuss on live TV thanks to years of media training, Bucky was...less refined. Once upon a time, it had been Buck who was the wordsmith between the two of them, but several wars had stripped him of the finesse he used to have. Now he just said whatever came to his mind, in whatever colorful language he felt like using.
They were attending a protest in DC, for the umpteenth time this year. But they couldn’t stay quiet. Not when the government was ripping children away from their parents, some of them infants, and kept them locked in cages. Steve had watched the reports with growing outrage, had seen how some decided the relevant thing to do here was to debate whether they were really kept in “cages” or if being allowed to watch Moana somehow made up for being taken away from your parents. Bucky had said “motherfucker” a lot.
So here they were, once again trying to make the government listen. Steve wasn’t one of the speakers at this protest, but the press found him anyway. He was surrounded by reporters eager to record his comments.
A few reporters realized Bucky was standing a little ways away, watching Steve answer questions. They shoved microphones in Bucky’s face, deciding that if they couldn’t get to Steve, Bucky was the next best thing. Steve saw it happen out of the corner of his eye.
“What would you like to say to this administration?” one of them asked.
Bucky grinned, his eyes twinkling in that way that spelled trouble. Steve turned his attention back to the reporters in front of him. He’d notice the fallout of whatever Bucky was going to say soon enough.
The news cycle exploded. Bucky’s response was played on a loop and went viral on Twitter. Steve couldn’t stop watching it.
“You know, I have a lot to say to those fuckers, but I’ll try to be concise. Tearing babies and children away from their parents is fucking despicable. But I’m not surprised that this administration would stoop to such a low. It’s in line with every other bullshit thing they’ve done. They don’t give a fuck about the people they’re locking up. They don’t give a fuck about the well-being of children. Which is funny, because I remember when Steve announced our relationship to the public, there was a whole lotta hand wringing from conservative corners about Captain America being queer and what kind of example that sets for the kids. The thing is, Steve’s always been the idealistic one. I’ve never been that optimistic about this country. It’s nothing but a bunch of despicable assholes making a grab for power and using these so-called ideals in service of that. So I don’t actually give a shit about America. I do give a shit about the people who live here and who want to build a life here. I’ve fought Nazis before and if history cares to remember, that didn’t go so well for them. I’m not gonna go down without a fight and neither are any of the thousands of people present here today.”
“So, are you saying this is a Nazi administration?”
“They’re putting kids in fucking concentration camps with the explicit purpose of on the one hand deterring others from seeking asylum and on the other hand to deport all undocumented people, and there are reports of people with the proper documentation being deported anyway, too. The damage they’re doing to these kids is going to be felt for the rest of their lives. They’re going to be traumatized for the rest of their lives. They’ll be more likely to develop heart conditions and mental illnesses. That’s a form of ethnic cleansing. This administration is buddying up with people who are explicitly and openly affiliated with Nazis. So you tell me. What part of that doesn’t sound like Nazis to you? You can call them the alt-right, you can call them white nationalists, I don’t fucking care for the proper terminology here. What I care about is that they’re racist, they’re practicing ethnic cleansing, and it’s way past time we call it like it is.”
Bucky entered the room while Steve was watching the clip for the hundredth time. “Have I told you lately that I love you?” Steve asked.
Bucky laughed. “How much trouble are you in?”
Steve shrugged. “They want me to go on CNN tonight. It’s the ‘I don’t give a shit about America’ part that’s really got people upset.” Bucky opened his mouth to say something but Steve cut him off. “If they’re expecting me to distance myself from what you said, they’re in for a surprise.” He set his jaw, determined.
“You think Captain Canada works?” Bucky asked.
“Do you care to comment on Sergeant Barnes’ words?” the reporter asked.
Steve took a deep breath. “First of all, I’d like to say that Bucky is a grown man and he can speak for himself. I’m not responsible for every word that comes out of his mouth. Secondly, I agree with everything he said. Let’s not forget that this country is mostly made up of immigrants. My mother immigrated from Ireland. President Trump’s own grandfather was an immigrant. His wife is an immigrant. This country is only great if the people in it strive to be the best they can be, if they welcome newcomers with open arms and hearts, if they cherish humanity. Without that, these United States are nothing but a mass of land. It means nothing if we don’t at least try to uphold the promise of America.”
He could see the reporter was about to interrupt him. “Hang on, I’m not done,” Steve said. “So yes, while Bucky put it in crude terms, I agree with him. America has failed in so many ways to live up to its own ideals, and it has been failing to do so for a long time. That’s what Bucky was talking about. If America is only big ideas that are never put into practice, if all we are is a people telling the rest of the world that we care about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, while ripping those very things from people - from children - in search of the promise we made them, then what does that make us, exactly? Our national identity should be formed by the people around us: the hard-working, kind, empathetic people who cross our borders, who show us what it means to love so fully that you’d risk a dangerous journey for the chance at a better life for your family. That’s what America should be. Not greedily protecting what’s ours and trying to limit those privileges to as small a group as possible. If that makes me unfit to represent this country as Captain America, I’ll gladly turn in the shield. I wouldn’t want to be associated with a country that worries more about the bullies’ feelings being hurt or about foul language than they do about children in concentration camps.”
A familiar feeling crept up on Steve: it was that same feeling he got whenever he got into one of his fights in some shitty alley. The victory might not be apparent right now, it might be far off, but there was something empowering in standing up for what you believe in all the same.
He came home to a Trump tweet about him, questioning the legality of Sarah Rogers’ immigration and suggesting it was time to examine Steve’s past. He wasn’t surprised.
“Hey Steve?” Bucky began, and Steve could see he was up to something. Contrary to popular belief, Steve wasn’t the only one who came up with hare-brained ideas. “We never did get to go on that honeymoon. How do you feel about south Texas?”
Steve grinned. “You know, I’ve never been much for a lazy vacation.”
“I’m sure we’ll find plenty to do,” Bucky said, taking Steve’s hand and with the other, grabbing the already packed suitcase.