The first time that Steve Rogers get into a fight is the first time that he gets a rush of adrenaline. From it, he’s invincible. But then the fight’s over and he’s short, sick, and skinny.
The first time he kisses Bucky, he’s bruised and battered, coming off that rush. But it all surges back when their lips meet and doesn’t leave until they pull away.
He lives for those moments when everything is heightened, all of his nerves are alive and singing and he is unstoppable but yet still so fragile.
Then comes the serum and he’s strong and healthy. He still can get those rushes but a traveling performance monkey doesn’t get many thrills. When he finds out that Bucky is captured, his blood sings and he feels so, so alive again.
He’s alive as he jumps out the plane, he’s alive when he sneaks into the complex. But Steve comes crashing to earth when he sees Bucky on that table. His blood thrums with emotion, but not the roar of invincibility. It comes back when he jumps to Bucky across the mouth of hell.
But invincibility comes with a cost.
It isn’t adrenaline that rushes through him as he lunges to Bucky’s hand on the train. If anything, it’s the opposite, the antithesis of adrenaline. His body feels dead, weak, in a way that he hadn’t experienced even when he was little and sick and dying. He isn’t invincible in that moment. He isn’t even close.
Steve fights Schmidt’s men and lets himself be captured. Even as he is on his knees his blood simmers and screams it’s glorious fight song that it is alive, so alive. The problem is that the body that holds the blood doesn’t want to be alive anymore.
The rush of Peggy’s looks, of her kiss, stay with him as he jumps onto Schmidt’s plane. But it’s the lingering anthesis that helps him guide the plane towards the ice, not redirect the course as he hurtles out of the sky, to the cold collision that he embraces like how he wishes he could someone who is gone.
Waking up is a rush. Not of adrenaline, but of sounds and colors, unknown places and people.
He’s numb. He fights, he sometimes sleeps, tries to eat, fights some more. It isn’t the same. Until…
And he’s alive, so alive even when he all feels is dead.
Fighting Bucky is so wrong, so foreign to Steve. He used to fight with Bucky, with him at his left, with him having his six with his gun. Not this. Not cold metal and colder eyes and a dead heart.
The antithesis is back and helps him drop his shield. Refuse for the first time to not get up. To not fight back.
“Cause I’m with you til the end of the line,” he says, his body screaming in pain and sorrow and all he can do at that point, after seeing the horror in Bucky’s, his Bucky’s eyes, is fall.
And then he feels nothing.
Not the impact, not the coldness, not even the hand gripping his shoulder.
He just feels numb.
The rush comes back, just a little, as he looks at the Winter Soldier’s folder. He still doesn’t feel everything. He might not again. He doesn’t search out that feeling anymore. He doesn’t relish feeling strong because he knows what it is to feel weak.
At this point, all he wants is not feel numb.
Maybe someday, he and Bucky will reach that point together.