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Star-Spangled Heart

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Steve is sitting stiffly in the chair for the interview. They have the set dressed like they are in a living room, except for the fact that they are twenty miles from his apartment in Stark Tower. This is supposed to be just a puff piece, an interview with the great Steve Rogers, get to know the man behind Captain America. It’s not working though, it’s been a tough month. He misses the way New York used to be, how his life used to be.

“Stories of you and Bucky predate the war, but what we want to know is who was Bucky Barnes to you?” The interviewer asks, Steve thinks her name is Cheryl, but he’s unsure. It’s not on her, not really, he’s just not here. Not really, he’s back in his tenement in the bad side of town in a time where the world seemed both larger and so much smaller.

He pauses at the question, the set lights causing sweat to bead on his brow. Thinking of Bucky soothes the ache slightly. The first thing he did when he finally got a moment alone and access to a computer were to look his best friend up. Bucky went down a war hero in the history books but was irrevocably another life lost in the war against Hydra. All the Howlies became, for lack of a better word, SHIELD agents after Steve went down in the artic, and all of them went missing on a mission five years afterward. They were presumed dead a few months later and laid to rest, empty caskets buried, just like his.

That fact aches in another part of his heart, mourning the loss of something more.

“Bucky was,” he starts, an excruciatingly small smile on his face. “Bucky was my best friend. The kind of person who had your back, even when the odds were stacked against you. I can’t tell you how many times my mouth got away from me, I’d have my back to the wall. No way out, and all of a sudden there Bucky’d be, fists swinging and mouth running. Usually saying something along the lines of “pick on someone your own size.” Steve shakes his head, lost in the memories. “You’d never know when anything was wrong either. The poker face that Bucky had. More than once we’d be out of money, I’d be sick, or my asthma was acting up and out of work because of it. And somehow Bucky would make it all fine before I had the energy to figure out anything was wrong in the first place.”

Steve shifts in the chair, eyes swinging to his knees as he smiles wide at a memory of Bucky bitching out a soldier in another unit. “Even in the war, Bucky didn’t change. That moral compass.” He trails off for a moment. “Everyone knows that mines rigid, black and white, good and evil. The wrong thing and the right thing. Bucky’s’ wasn’t like that, more like shades of gray. Something that helped more in the war than hurt, I think. Mine just got in the way, if I didn’t agree with something it wasn’t happening. Bucky just found a way to get it done that sat well enough, did what needed to be done and could still sleep at night.”

He stops, looking to Natasha. His modern-day moral support and read in on the situation more than the rest of the world would ever be. More importantly, a friend who knows just how much he has been struggling lately. She’s found him more than once in the communal kitchen just staring into his cup of coffee, willing to be an ear for him to talk to.

He has really good friends, even if he misses his old ones with every breath he takes.

She nods once, and the question he didn’t know he was asking is answered. “Bucky was everything to me. My best friend, my family, my second in command. Bucky was the love of my life.” He drags his gaze to stare pointedly into the camera. “But most importantly, Bucky was… Well, she was my wife.”

There is a murmur amongst the crew on set, none of them expected that revelation. All the history books had Bucky in there as a man. Natasha shifts slightly, more relaxed like the way the tight lines of his shoulders softens marginally. The slight curl of her lips is more telling, she’s happy for him.

Tony is probably shitting himself from where he is watching this, but also no doubt flooding the internet with the information needed to reveal this secret. Just like he said he would all those months ago when the genius had come to Steve with Howards files that most definitely had Bucky in there as a woman. Gave him some pictures that Steve didn’t know existed either.

The woman interviewing him, Charlene is her name, is sitting silently. Her mouth is hanging open, probably getting pointers from someone in charge through the earwig in her ear. Steve almost feels bad for dropping this truth on live television. Finally, after a long moment, she manages to ask her next question. “Well Captain Rogers, can you tell us about her?” She has a smile starting on her face though, so that’s promising.

Steve shrugs, “I can try. Just keep in mind that a large portion of what I know I learned second hand. Especially the parts of Bucky’s roll in the military before the Howling Commandos came together. But she sure was a spitfire, and she paved the way for a lot of women in the military. I guess you can say she got the ball rolling in a way. Bucky as a guy, well, that came about after the Howlies were officially a thing.” He sits up straighter in his seat, excited to actually be able to talk about his wife in public. To show that even today, all these years later, he worships the ground she walks on.

“Woman in uniform didn’t sit well with many people. It was already a political nightmare, so to preemptively soothe some feathers, on public record Bucky was a guy. The face in the pictures was going to be another soldier named James Neal, he was a fellow Brooklynite, and shared the same first name.” Steve settles in to give what is basically a history lesson, one that is entertaining for all. “Bucky had saved his life once apparently, and from what I’m told he jumped on the chance to help her in return. However, the question was raised about Neal being around at all moments that there could be a camera or something, especially since the injury he received made combat impossible for him. Bucky had worked down on the docks though, she learned to hide her gender to keep the wandering eye of sailors away. She was more comfortable in slacks and a baggy shirt anyhow. The only thing she refused to do was cut her hair, even though it was always pinned up. Either way, no one could tell that under the dirt and clothes was a woman unless they already knew.”

“Everything in the history books about us from before the war is true. We were childhood best friends, she got me out of a lot of scrapes. I wanted to serve my country. We got together in late 1940 and married a little over a year later. We had gone down to the enlistment office together, as her wedding gift to me. I went for the army, Bucky for the WAC. I got a 4F, she got her papers. She didn’t even have enough time to legally change her name. The Howlies jokingly called me Mr. Barnes for months after we told them the story.” Charlene gives a little chuckle.

He sighs, this part of the story is easy to tell, it’s the nitty gritty that get to him. “But she shipped out as Sargent, the W.A.C. was a recognized branch of the military by then, that’s why they had dropped the second A. And well, I kept trying to get in the military using fake names.” He shakes his head with a smile. “But this isn’t about me.”

“I guess you can say that Bucky’s real story starts in a hospital camp in 1942,” Steve says leaning back in the chair getting comfortable by crossing his leg over his knee and resting a hand on it. “Or, at least that’s where the story starts getting good anyways.”