There’s no body there.
That’s why Steve tells himself he doesn’t go.
He doesn’t need to see an empty grave and a cold headstone to remember what he’s lost.
His office at the Triskelion overlooks Arlington. Steve rarely looks out the window, too focused on his paperwork, details about the last mission, plans for the next mission absorbing his thoughts.
Steve dreams of the war, of fire, of falling - his phone rings.
“Cap, it’s Tim Dugan,” the strained voice says. “Dad’s dead.”
Dum Dum’s funeral is on a beautiful Tuesday morning in late April. The public ceremonies are already over, the burial is for family only. Dum Dum’s wife, Betty Sue insists Steve is family and Dum Dum’s sons clap him on the back when they hug him, hugs almost too hard, just like Dum Dum’s, and their sons and daughters do the same. The great-grandchildren are somber but fidgety in the family waiting room as the cemetery representative, chaplain, military officers and Betty Sue and Tim see to the last second details, the list of honors Dum Dum received. For an instant Steve imagines Bucky’s family in this room, going over the same record of military service, his sisters wearing matching black dresses, small faces tight from crying.
Steve moves to the floor in front of the children. “Did your Great Grampa ever tell you the story of when we were out on patrol and got scared by a flock of chickens?” and his smile isn’t forced.
Dum Dum’s grave site is on a gentle slope under the shade of a cherry tree and the modest Captain America memorial. Colonel Phillips designed it - a simple marble rendering of his shield. Steve tries not to think too hard about how his own name is carved in stone underneath a metal plate that is obviously a new addition. He tries even harder not to look at the other headstone that stands to the left.
The funeral proceeds with precise military order and dignity. When it is over the tension hanging around the family releases slightly, Dugans always more inclined to smiles and laughter than tears. Then they all trickle away, heading to a lunch downtown, until just Steve is left with Betty Sue. She looks at him with eyes that understand more than Steve wants. “I’ll wait for you by the car,” she says, then grins, her smile conspiratorial. “I’m just dying for a smoke and I don’t think they’ll kick me out for having one if I’m with Captain America.” She pats his arm as she walks away and Steve is alone.
He squares his shoulders and turns.
Bucky’s headstone is plain, but it is surrounded by flowers and cards. Steve picks one up. The front is a black and white picture of the Brooklyn Bridge, and the inside simply says ‘Sergeant Barnes, Thank you for your service. I thought you might want a picture of home. From one Brooklyn vet to another - Jenny.’
“Hey Buck,” Steve’s voice cracks on the name he’s hasn’t said out loud in 70 years. “Look at you, still getting all the dames.”
There’s no body, Steve knows. He’s talking to a ghost. Even so, his hand reaches out and traces the letter B reverently before he walks away, pocketing the card.