Ruby looked at the coffin covered with the Star-Spangled Banner.
She didn’t intend to speak – God be witness, there were enough speakers here. She accepted a personal invitation and sat in the first line during the sermon, almost near the grave, but if everyone who received a personal invitation said ten words, the funeral would last until midnight.
She just silently bid her farewell to a man who... no, he probably remembered her, he was said to have an absolute memory - but hardly she was for him someone other than... yet another person desperately in need of help.
How many of them were there?
And how many will be - and he will not come. Never ever.
Ruby took a drawing from her jacket’s inner pocket. Two drawings on the notebook sheets, pretty tattered on the folds, carefully pasted with adhesive tape. One was Mickey Mouse. The other - a handsome young man, combed in forties fashion...
Forty years ago, when she accepted them as a present, it had never, even for a moment, occurred to her that she would sit in the front row with millionaires like Stark, great scientists like Richards and the President himself. She, a black girl from the city of Maycomb, Alabama. The girl from the picture of great Norman Rockwell. The girl who went to school guarded by the Avengers.
...It had never occurred to her that she would bury Captain America.
The president folded the flag and put it in the coffin. The lid was closed. The lift came to life with the manager's nod, and the coffin slowly crawled down. The soldiers took the carbines to the ready.
It seemed that the sun shuddered from the volley.
…Choked sobs came from behind the door. Steve tapped gently. The door was not locked, the doors were never locked in this house, but entering the room without an invitation, especially now, would be extremely wrong.
"Ruby," he called cautiously. "We're late for the school."
"I'm not going to school anymore!" She shouted from her room. "Never, d’ya hear? D’ya hear me? Never!”
Steve sighed. He should’t have come up with the argument already worried by Ruby’s parents and grandmother. And the others, like "All the children are only waiting for you" and "The Avengers only wait for you". So, what to cook up for her?
He knew with all his heart what the girl feels. He himself went this path with her yesterday, and if he had a hard time, how could the eight-year-old child feel? With other children it was easier, they were older, even the twelve-year-old Billy understood the meaning of their struggle.
Steve pressed his forehead against the door. The crowd was rattling in the street. A successful compromise, the president said. It's better than bringing troops into Maycomb, as in Little Rock, the president said. Screw you, John, come here and try it yourself!
"All right," he said. "All right, Ruby. If you do not want to go to school, we'll have to teach you at home.
Mr. and Mrs. Rayleigh’s eyebrows crawled upward, but Steve made a sign to them to keep quiet.
Sobbing behind the door subsided. Well, that was the start.
“Really?” asked Ruby.
“What’s left for us? The President said that you must get education, this is the law. You do not want to go to school. So we'll have to teach you at home.”
"What can you teach me?"
"Well, I draw pretty well, for example," Steve said. “Dr. Banner can teach biology and physics. Mr. St... The Iron Man is good in math…”
"Don't hold your breath, Rogers!" hissed Tony from under his armor.
“D’ya you really draw?” asked Ruby.
Steve sighed again. Why is everyone so surprised?
"If you let me in, I'll show you."
The door opened slightly. Steve carefully squeezed inside and closed the door behind him.
Ruby’s room was a size of a small wardrobe in the Stark mansion. Steve was afraid to sit on the shabby bed, so he sat on the floor – and totally blocked the way to retreat for the girl.
"What do you want me to draw for you?" he asked, putting the shield on his knees and attaching a notebook on top.
"Mickey Mouse," the girl looked incredulously.
Steve snorted. Mickey Mouse he could draw with his eyes closed. A few worked out pencil moves - and...
“Voila,” from a piece of paper smiled a little mouse, known to the whole world no worse than a statue of Liberty.
“What is voila?” the girl asked.
"It's in French. Means "here you are!"”
“Do you speak French?”
“A little bit. Learned it during the war.”
“And what are you drawing now?”
Steve pursed his lips for a second. He was not sure that this was the right decision, but nothing else came to mind.
"It's a portrait. One of my friends. I want you to have it.”
Ruby did not ask the question he was waiting for, so he had to tell:
“His name was Bucky. Well, that is, his name was James, James Buchanan Barnes, but everyone called him Bucky. He was my friend, a soldier, although he was not yet seventeen...”
He sighed again. A sixteen-year-old boy should seem like an adult to Ruby.
"He was a happy-go-lucky fellow," Steve smiled, willy-nilly. The features that became become more and more apparent on the paper were painful to remember. It would not be harder now to cut them in his own flesh, but he continued to draw, sometimes correcting the wrong strokes with eraser.
"Handsome," Ruby said at last, and for the first time this morning, she smiled, showing a chisel in place of the upper canine and incisor. “For a whitey.”
"Yes, he was handsome," Steve agreed. “And very brave. He's dead, Ruby. Killed, fighting the Nazis. Do you know who Nazis were?”
The girl shook her head.
"We did not learn history yet."
“So, let’s have a history lesson. There were people in Germany who believed that they, Germans, were better than all other people. Especially than the Jews. Have you read the Bible, Ruby?“
“Not yet. But grannie told me about Moses and there is a song how he led the Jews from the house of slavery. Were they Negroes?”
"You could say that," Steve answered, touching his lips with a tip of his pencil. He had already sketched Bucky’s face in general, now he had to put shadings, and he imagined how the light fell. "That is, the Jews are white, but the Germans treated them as if they were Negroes. Even worse. After they banned Jews from studying in their schools and evicted them in separate quarters, they began to kill them. In thousands. And then the free people of Europe said: well, it's no good. And they declared the war on Hitler. Hitler was the top Nazi. So, they began to fight, but they did not took into account how Hitler was strong, and day by day they were losing their war. The Nazis killed the Poles, the French, then the Russians... And then President Roosevelt said that we Americans should go and help them. And we enrolled in the army, thousands of Americans, white and black, and yellow, and red... And all went together and together with the other nations we crushed Hitler!”
"You smacked him right in the kisser!" Ruby clapped her hands. “I saw a comic book!”
Steve blushed slightly.
“No, the comics bent the truth here, I didn’t hit Hitler in the face. But he had a faithful henchman, the Red Skull. Him, I beat.”
“The Red Skull was also in the comic book. Scary.”
"Not half as bad as in life," Steve slightly winced. “And the rest of them weren’t any better. Zemo, Strucker, even some broad - very much like the one we saw yesterday, the one that threw mud at us. So, one day reconnaissance told us that Zemo and his company on some island are building a rocket to fire it at New York or London, and kill everyone who lived there.”
“Every last one?”
"Down to every mouse, such a rocket it was. Well, at night we landed on that island with parachutes. We went to look for a rocket to destroy it, but it turned out that we ourselves fell directly into the hands of Zemo.”
"Have you beaten him?"
Steve drew the air through his teeth.
“No. Not right away. They outnumbered us. Sometimes they outnumber you and then they defeat you.”
“But yesterday they outnumbered us, too.”
“Yeah,” he looked into the girl's eyes. “But did they defeat us?”
She stopped smiling.
“What happened to you further?”
Further... Well, it made sense to be honest with her.
"They started to beat us. Beating is meat and drink to the Nazis, they are unhappy without it. They bashed us and called us names, and they were harder on Bucky. They knew that I am very strong, I would only laugh at them, and he was just a boy, so they thought he would be easier to break”.
"Did they break him?"
Steve shook his head.
"They didn’t. He laughed at them, too. Because, you know, they're funny. Scary, but still funny. When a person thinks he is the salt of the earth, just because he was born with the white skin... he is so ridiculous you can laugh your belly off.”
"Why didn’t you laugh yesterday?"
“Well, you know, if you hear a joke a hundred times, it becomes boring. Racism, Ruby, is a very dull joke. Well, when they got tired of beating, they threw us into a dark cell to hang in the morning. Only at first they wanted to show us how they launch a rocket, so that we know we fought and died in vain.”
"But you ran away, did ya?"
“Exactly. We ran away. But we could not run away from the island, leaving the rocket to kill so many people. We climbed on it, and began to think how to break it, so it could not fly up. While we were thinking, morning came, the Nazis got up - and saw us destroying the missile. Well, they launched it. They thought, when it starts, we'll fall off to our death. But we did not fall. We flew and continued to break the rocket on the go.”
"Why were you so stupid?" Ruby threw up her hands. "If it fell, you would perish!"
"Sometimes, Ruby, this is the only option. Sometimes... they just sell you a one-way ticket. So, we managed to break it so that it exploded in the air. Then I slipped and fell from it. But Bucky couldn’t make it. He was killed in the explosion.”
Steve yanked the sheet out of the notebook and handed it to the girl. She took it. Her fingers seemed fragile, like cinnamon sticks. A transparent drop fell on the paper and blurred.
"I fell into water," Steve said. "And I froze for almost twenty years. In the Northern Sea, water is damn cold.”
Ruby sniffed and looked with reproach.
"You said a bad word. D-letter word".
“Did I? Oh, really,” Steve scratched his head. "Do not tell your dad and mom, okay?"
Ruby nodded. Bucky nodded in her hand, too.
"Ruby, you know... I need a new partner. Do you want to become one?”
“Cross my heart.”
“But I'm ... black. And a girl.”
Steve put out his hand.
"So you'll be the first black female partner of Captain America."
"The assignment is today," Steve said. “Now. Are you ready or not?”
Ruby stretched out, sprang at attention on the bed.
"Sir, yes, sir!"
"Do not stretch like this, we're not in the army. We're just superheroes. Partner Ruby Rayleigh, the mission is to accompany the five students to the central school of the city of Maycomb, the county of Maycomb, Alabama. Names: Simon Bates, Elizabeth Ford, William T. Jenkins, Rachel Montero, Moses Knight. Wait for the end of the lessons, to accompany the students back. Roger that?”
Ruby dropped her shoulders and hung her nose.
"D’ya think I'm completely stupid, huh? D’ya think I donna understand that you jist want to entice me to the school?”
"Ruby." Steve took her hands and squeezed gently, but firmly, not letting her go. "You're an intelligent girl, but just now you said nonsense. This is the task the President himself bestowed upon me, and it is very important for the country. From me... that is, from us, partner, it depends which country we will live in tomorrow. Will it continue to turn into the Red Skull's country, where one can humiliate and kill people with a different skin color. Or will it be the land of the free and the home of the brave, black and white, yellow and red. Had Bucky survived, he would be walking next to me now. But he died, and I ask you to go with me. It's just as dangerous as infiltration to the enemy base - remember what they were shouting yesterday? But we can not back down. Are you with me, Ruby?”
The girl nodded slowly, and Steve opened his hands.
Ruby unzipped her school bag and put a portrait of Bucky in.
"Will you let me hold your shield?"
"Will you let me hold the school bag?"
Ruby flashed a gap-toothed smile.
"Niggers! Niggers are coming!”
"Turn yer asses back, black rats! This is a school for white kids!”
T-boom! The rotten egg clung to the shield, smelling as if someone had spoiled the air.
"Calm down, partner." Steve caught with his shield another projectile from the crowd. It seemed it was a boiled potato.
“Why d'ya wanna study?!” some woman in her house robe and sneakers screamed in the faces of the elder girls. “Why do whores go to school?! To seduce our boys?”
Steve carefully and firmly moved her aside.
“A shame!” she screamed, splashing saliva in his face. "And ya call yarself Captain America?! Captain Africa, that’s what who you are! Lover of niggers!”
"God," Stark the atheist said under his breath. “The average IQ in this city equals to the average annual temperature on the Spitsbergen. No offense, kids, but even mine and Banner's presence raised it no more than by three points.”
Moses Knight, a black, bulky bespectacled lad, laughed at his joke. Despite the non-heroic appearance, his composure was excellent.
“Shame! Shame! Shame!” the group, apparently, of some local church parishioners. Before the group stood a priest holding a poster: "Integration is a moral sin! Ezra 10:10". At least he did not yell.
"We do not want to learn with black!" a covey of schoolchildren passed by. "This school is for people, not for apes!"
"Then go back to your cages," sometimes Stark just could not help himself.
"Iron man," Thor said. "It's not good to engage with the rabble."
Fortunately for the Maycomb citizens, Thor was now in the image of Dr. Blake. Fortunately for the Avengers, the good citizens of Maycomb did not know about this. Wide-shouldered and blond, Blake scoffed at them just by his physical presence: well beer bellies and cockroach moustaches, tell me something about the white race superiority. I am listening carefully.
“Lynch! Lynch them!” shouted somebody from time to time, but none of the crowd dared to jump from something in mind to something in kind. The four Avengers with the bandages of deputy sheriffs looked quite menacing. Steve smiled encouragingly at Ruby. Another step. Two and three more. Here it is, the school porch, very close.
The porch was occupied by some ladies with a placard "Equal, but separated! We are against integration."
"Ladies," said Steve. “You violate the constitutional rights of these students. Please stand back.”
"No, our constitutional rights are violated!" the lady in a green hat was, apparently, the head of this company.
“My child has the right to be among the racially similar children.”
"I do not remember that I blocked your child's entrance to this school, ma'am. Amendment Fourteen holds true throughout the whole country. Or you think Alabama is an exceptional state?”
"You understand perfectly what I mean."
“Yes. I wonder if you understand what I mean? Move aside. Or you will be moved.”
She lifted her chin proudly.
"If you threaten a lady, you are not a gentleman."
"We're all gentlemen here. Except for Hulk. Do you want Dr. Banner to get angry?”
The lady stepped back.
Steve led Ruby into the school lobby and only there let go of her hand.
Only now, he felt how dry his mouth became on this blasted southern sun.
“Well, my partner. For now, half of the task is completed. I'll be waiting for you here after classes to complete the mission.”
"Yes, sir!" - Ruby joined the rank of second-graders and went after the teacher.
"It's a bit easier today than it was yesterday," Blake said as the students went to their classes.
"They're getting tired," said Banner. “No one can writhe in hysterics for whole days. And many people in the crowd are not from around, they will soon run out of money and return home.
"I hope so," Stark said, throwing back the visor. “You know, I have a business to run. If the mission drags on...”
"We'll manage it," Steve held at Stark’s steel wrist. "You can go back to New York, if you want."
"Fuck you," Stark closed the visor. He opened it again. "But if I melt down in this tin, I'll send you the funeral bill. Banner, how can you not to get green before such a crowd of idiots?”
"Oh, I'm used to the sight of a crowd of armed idiots," Bruce grinned.
"How long before they get armed..." Blake said under his breath.
They agreed that Steve would be the first to keep watch on the porch while the others relaxed and drank coffee. Then he would be replaced by Stark, Stark - by Blake, Blake – by Banner, well, and then the children will have to be led home.
Steve went out onto the porch. High porch made of red brick, like the whole school - a beautiful modern building, worthy of a rapidly developing industrial center.
The crowd did not dissolved. Only the ladies' committee got out of the porch, beyond the fence, but they still stood there with their large poster. At the sight of Steve, several people whistled and booed, but supported by no one else, they quickly fell silent.
That was something new. Yesterday they bawled tirelessly. He tried to talk, but it was like making a speech in front of a dog kennel.
How did it happen, Bucky? How did we turn into this? Oh, Lord, no. We never turned into anything, we were always like this - just now, when the Russians flew into space, and we are eagerly competing with them, these cave atavisms began to look especially wild. Here, in the South, they can no longer pretend that blacks are just cozy domestic animals. And we, in the North, can no longer pretend that everything is in okay here. The South was a purulent abscess, an uncleaned wound left after the Civil War. And now it opened and pus flowed, and it's useless to turn away and hold your nose, because it hurts and stinks unbearably...
Some well-dressed, though a bit old-fashioned man of pleasant appearance went through the crowd. He looked much like Gregory Peck, only twenty years older.
It was definitely something new.
Climbing on the porch, the man took off his hat and held out his hand. Steve had not seen any shit from him yet, so he shook his hand.
"Atticus Finch, a lawyer."
Something snapped and buzzed in the back of Steve’s head. Something connected with the name "Atticus Finch". Not the most common of the names. If he was a lawyer - then, it had to be some trial. Hence the lawsuit – thus, newspapers. New Yorker Steve Rogers had nowhere to learn about the affairs on the South, except newspapers...
“Steve Rogers, freelance artist.”
"Wow," Mr. Finch put his hat back on and smiled generously. "I have not heard of Captain America's paintings."
“The story of my life: I do not want to sell paintings of Captain America, people do not want to buy paintings of Steven Rogers. I live on advertising. While in this country people sell things, I do not starve.”
Atticus Finch laughed heartily and sincerely. Steve liked him. The first white man in this city, whom he liked. There was something about it.
"You hardly went through this crowd to discuss my professional failures, Mr. Finch. Or just chat with Captain America in between of two rotten tomatoes.”
Finch sighed, leaned against the railing. Steve almost automatically took the same pose.
"Mr. Rogers, can I take an advantage of my age and call you Steve? And would you like to take an advantage your rank and call me just Atticus?”
“Thank you. This conversation will not be easy, Steve. I ask you to forgive me, but ... I represent the citizens’ council of Maycomb.”
Ah. Here it is. Maycomb decided to talk not with the tongue of spittle and rock, but with a voice of reason. In less than three days.
"Do they need you to represent them, Mr. Finch? Atticus? In my opinion, they represent themselves perfectly.”
“Not all of them.”
“Yes exactly. I don’t see blacks. Except of those kids that we have to protect.”
Atticus took off his glasses, wiped with a clean handkerchief, put it on again.
"Steve, I understand that Maycomb did not turn out to be the most pleasant party, but believe me: not everyone here is a lyncher."
At the word "lyncher", the buzzing in Steve’s head stopped, some contacts came together, the bulb flashed and lit up the right corner of memory: 1935, Maycomb, Alabama, black man Tom Robinson, charged with the rape of a white girl.
"You certainly are not," Steve smiled, wondering where are the other nine righteous men, because of which Maycomb is still spared from the rain of fire and brimstone?
Atticus Finch answered his smile with a very sad look.
"Definitely not," he said. "But you seem to have misunderstood me, Steve. I did not come to support you and these children. I came to ask you, Avengers, to leave.”
It was like a punch in the guts. Is this man too…?
“Why?” He asked after the endless pause.
"You know why. You understand it in your heart of hearts. You are making things worse, to the entire city, and these poor children as well.”
It was not like just a punch in the guts. It was like a knife stab with a turn.
"Let's play bingo," Steve said. "I'll guess what you're going to tell me. And you say "Bingo", if I guess correctly.”
Steve made a fist and untucked his thumb.
“The decision of the Supreme Court in Brown's case contradicts the Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution.”
Steve unbent his forefinger.
"We, the four northerners, do not know diddly-squat about the southern specifics, the southern character, the southern this and that. We are unable to climb into southerner’s skin and walk around in it."
Finch lifted his eyebrows slightly over his spectacles.
“I would have formulated it differently, but ... bingo.”
“Until we got into this business together with the NAACP, everything in Maycomb was fine between blacks and whites. Well, sometimes there were minor troubles,” Steve just could not resist an urge. “The black guys were accused of raping white women, their lawyers and children of lawyers were threatened. But in general, everything was fine.”
Atticus squinted. Steve noticed that the lens on the left of his glasses is much more powerful than the one on the right.
"Now, you missed, Captain. I do not think that everything was good."
"But we're making it worse."
Steve pulled back his middle finger.
"Blacks are not ready for the integration. They lack the education, civic consciousness and other qualities necessary to become full citizens."
The ring finger.
"In some districts of your state, blacks form the majority. If the blacks are allowed to be elected, they will quickly elect their own, and then Sodom and Gomorrah will break loose".
The little finger - and the palm was now completely open.
"Somewhere deep down we are hypocrites. We ourselves do not want the border between black and white to be destroyed. We would break a Negro's head if he kisses our daughter or sister. And after that, what right do we have to meddle into your life?”
“Bingo, but only about the right to meddle into our lives. I do not think that you personally, Steve, are a hypocrite. Maybe now you sincerely think that you will calmly treat your daughter's bound to a black man... As long as the daughter remains purely hypothetical, it's easy to think so...”
Steve shrugged. His private life was in such a miserable state that the heartfelt affair of his potential daughter was the last to worry him.
“I had a black, a Japanese and a Jew in my squad. If I had a sister and she romanced with one of them... I would have warned her that Gabe was a womanizer, Cohen would expect her to wash dishes like his mother did, and Mrs. Morita could gently suck her brain through her ears. And the rest is for her to decide”.
Mr. Finch grinned.
“I have a daughter. And she believes that she does not distinguish colors. You are like her. Young, handsome and full of desire to change the world.”
Steve pointed to the next venture of the demonstrators: a symbolic gallows with six black dolls of distinctly childish proportions, hanging on it.
"Tell me that this world needs no changes. Look into my eyes and tell me, Atticus.”
Finch sighed and shook his head.
“World needs. And changes are coming, Steve. Sometimes too fast.”
“I was defrosted three months ago, I did not even get used to TV. It's hard for me to judge the speed of change.”
"Then take my word for it: it's too rapid. Maycomb has doubled its population in the past twenty years, save the suburbs. Once I knew all the adults in the city. I will not say that I could stop the mob of lynchers with a glance, but the fact I knew of everyone by the names, and Jean-Louise knew some of them, held passions at bay for a while. Now I know hardly a tenth of those gathered there, and those I know are, in general, not bad people. Thy are just…”
"They're just used to the idea that blacks are not really people."
“Yes. And what do you propose, to bash them on their heads with this shield, until the idea is beat out?”
"I have orders to strike only in response to direct violence. Do not worry. I'll use only a quarter of strength. Won't kill anyone.”
"And you vouch for you demigod friend and half-beast friend?"
"If I were you, I'd be afraid of Iron Man. This guy has a fierce allergy to stupidity, and he got an overdose yesterday.”
“Stupidity is not treated with fists.”
"Yes, it’s treated in these hospitals." Steve pointed a thumb at the entrance to the school. “While little Ruby finishes her school, her classmates would get the idea that blacks do not bite.”
“While Ruby reaches the graduation, she would have a nervous breakdown. Are you ready to defend your ideals at such a price?”
Steve felt liverish. He hoped that was from the heat.
"Mr. Finch, for me the war ended three months ago. Every day I remember how my friend, an age-mate of these guys, Knight and Montero, died. Yes, I sometimes blame my own commanders, that decided it was a good idea to set up a sixteen-year-old boy as my partner. But I understood very well that the main blame for his death was on the Nazis. Had your southern sun so baked your brains that you do not see your own fault? It's you who make Ruby's life unbearable. Her fellow citizens, not anyone else, yesterday and today screamed in her face things that I, the combatant officer, could not repeat. And you, clever and well-meaning citizens of Maycomb, were silent. And it’s me to blame for this, because I defend my ideals? Wake up, sir! There are no ideals here, there are children, alive, of flesh and blood. Children who are threatened with violence, torture, gallows just because they want to go to school!”
He yelled, no longer holding back, yelling ugly, because it was the only way not to cry from the acute guilt, stuck right under the ribs. Because he could not defend Bucky. He could not drag the boy to school by his ears, as he had planned after the war. This debt was a lead burden in his chest, and Steve doubted whether he could squeeze it out, even if these six students keep schooling.
"So it's personal for you," Finch said calmly as Steve stopped yelling.
"You bet," said Steve.
“Do you understand that these people, behind the fence, are not Nazis?”
“I try to see the difference the second morning in a row. Maybe you can show it to me, Mr. Finch?”
Folds at Finch's mouth went deeper and Steve realized that he was hurt, too. He also lost someone.
"They do not want blood. No matter what they yell here, no matter what effigies they make, they do not want blood. They are afraid of it.”
"They pretend pretty convincingly that they want it."
Finch did not look at him anymore. He looked at people behind the fence.
"I talked to them," he said. "I talked to them every day. To those I know, whose opinion weighs a lot in Maycomb. I said that the six specially selected schoolchildren will not drop down our educational standards. That the Negroes themselves realize they are out of their depth and leave. That mass protests, let alone threats, will only lead to increase of pressure...”
"That's why I won my bingo. Both the mayor and the sheriff sing with your voice.”
"Yes, Steve. But they are people, not puppets. And there, behind the fence, are people. Whom the government spit in the face. In fact, government told them that it sees the Nazis in them and therefore sends Captain America with his shining shield.”
"This gallows is a sure sign that the government is wrong."
"It's a sign that it's too hasty. Step by step, we would accustom the sourtherners to the idea that this is not a method. In our district there has not been a single lynching for the past ten years, and now the crosses on the outskirts are burning again.”
“Well, how much time do you need? With a step-by-step calculation: this year we will raise this much blacks to this a degree, next – this much to the next ... Ten, twenty, thirty years - I have nowhere to hurry, I'm retired. Just name the date when you are ready to accept the integration. And I'll get out. Six kids are not a problem, we'll find a place in New York or Boston, and Maycomb we’ll leave to you. But name the day, and the month, and the year, and the season, and the time, and the hour, and the moment, when will you open this school for blacks?
“It's hard for me to say…”
“Never. It's hard for you to say, because it means to admit honestly: never.”
"Never is too strong a word. I wanted to say - not with my life. Since I am already seventy-two, it does not sound so bad. It took Moses forty years to walk Jews through the desert until all who remembered the house of slavery died.”
“This is unacceptably long.”
"It's better than a new Civil War."
Steve threw back his head. That damned sun...
"The deuce a bit. There will be no Civil war.”
"I hope so, Captain. Because if it will, blood is on you.”
Not for the first time, Steve thought.
Finch took off his hat and fanned himself several times.
“So, I could not convince you.”
"I'm afraid you only strengthened me in the intention to continue, sir."
Finch nodded sadly and started walk down the steps. Turned halfway.
"Tell me, can your friend, the Thunderer, summon rain? It would be such a relief...”
...The rain was glorious. The crowd dispersed, the air freshened, and when they led the students to their homes, almost no one tried to block the path. Steve was carrying Ruby on his shoulders, she was carrying a shield over her head, and raindrops hammered at the metal like bullets.
Journalists caught Ruby at the cemetery exit. Well, she was ready for this.
“When I heard about the Registration Act ... I did not know whether to approve it or not. On the one hand, I always believed that jailing people without trial and investigation is a foul idea. On the other hand – Stamford tragedy... But when I found out that Steve Rogers did not support the Act, I left any doubts whether I support it. I know what it's like when you are hated and afraid only because you are different. I'm against the Act. I am against the police arbitrariness. And I'll never forget the day when Steve Rogers gave me his shield so that I could be brave...