In the modern history books Steve was always portrait as a hero, as some kind of saint. And even though there is no doubt that Steven Grant Rogers is a good man, maybe, probably, even one of the best, he definitely isn't a saint.
Truth be told, Steve just did what had to be done, even if it wasn't a nice task. Even if it was brutal, even if it meant that he had to kill someone.
This is something most people choose to forget because it doesn’t match the squeaky clean boyscout persona they had forced on Captain America.
But before Steve was a national hero, before he was Captain America, he was a soldier. And part of a soldiers job is to kill if necessary, so others wouldn't have to. So other people, people who couldn't protect themselves, would be safe.
That's why it had seemed like a good idea at that time.
Well, actually it didn't, but it was the only realistic solution.
Everyone knew that the infamous Winter Soldier couldn't be stopped as long as he was alive.
So he had to die.
And Steve had to be the one who had to do it, there was no other match for the genetically enhanced super soldier than the only other existing genetically enhanced super soldier.
Steve didn't like killing, but, if he learned one thing in the war, it was that it didn't matter what he liked or didn't like. He had to do whatever was necessary to protect others, so he did it.
So he did it.
He did it.
Oh God, what had he done?
It had been a crucial fight that had Steve closer to death than he liked to admit.
The Winter Soldier clearly was highly trained, fast, strong and determined. And for that, Steve couldn't help himself but admire him a little bit for his skills.
It was a pretty even match but Steve was the one who walked out of it alive.
The media was going to spurt some bullshit about the reasons of that later, about how this was because he had the power of justice and rightfulness on his side, but in reality it was pure luck that he was able to grab the Winter Soldiers disregarded pistol and shoot him several times until the magazine was empty and the only thing that came out were little “click click click” sounds when the bolt hit an empty chamber.
Luck. As if.
You see, whilst the media was wrong about the reasons why Steve won, they were right when they sad that Captain America has a good heart. And said heart made it impossible for him to just walk away after he killed an enemy, because even if he didn't approve of their actions, he still recognized them as an human being and therefor deserving basic respect.
So he couldn't just walk away, save himself and let the corpse of the Winter Soldier fall into the Potomac. Instead he shouldered the dead body and carried him when Nick, Natasha and Sam came with the helicopter to pick him up.
Steve didn't pay much attention when Natasha started to take of the Winter Soldiers mask and watched what was left of “Project Insight” crashing down all around instead.
He only turned back around when Natasha drew in a sharp breath, preparing himself for another fight. But there was no enemy to be seen, at least no living one.
“What's wr-”, Steve started to ask when the words died on his lips as he saw the Winter Soldiers face.
No, not the Winter Soldiers face, Bucky's face.
He looked up to Natasha, who was watching him already with concern written all over her face.
“Please tell me this is a joke. Please, this has to be some kind of sick, disgusting, horrible joke”
Once Steve started to actually check on the edges of Bucky's face if it was a mask, warm big hands close over his, Sams hands.
“Steve”, is all he said, pity clear in his eyes.
But Steve didn't want his pity. He wanted his best friend, his lover, his Bucky back and nothing else. He couldn't breathe, it felt as if Bucky's metal fist was clenched around his heart and lungs, preventing him from getting the much needed oxygen.
“No, no, no,no, no, please, no, please, please...”, he was chocking out between shallow breaths, begging no one in particular and everyone, God and the universe at the same time to just do something already.
Steve didn't seem to realize that he started to pull on his hair until someone (probably Sam again) tried to lose his grip on his normally so neatly styled hair.
But Sam shouldn't touch him, no one should ever touch him again, because he got blood on his hands, Bucky's blood and the blood of so many others. He didn't deserve the comfort of a hug or of any other human comfort.
The rest of the flight was like a blur, only one long, ugly blur of pain, guilt and self-hatred.
Steve still couldn't believe it and Sam and Natasha didn't dare to come too close to him, in case he would lash out in his pain like a wounded animal. Because that's what Steven looked like: a wounded animal. He was kneeling down, cradling Bucky's head in his lap and making low, guttural and incoherent sounds of pain from deep within.
Several guards and an anesthesia strong enough to knock out elephants were needed to calm Steve down enough to pry Bucky's body from his hands and escort him back into his apartment.
All Natasha and Sam could do was watch their friend being led away with hunched shoulders, as if the weight of the whole wide world lasted on them and, as his fellow Avengers realized, maybe it did.
Bucky Barnes funeral was a quiet affair, with only a handful of people in the church.
Nearly all of his friends, the people who had known him before and in the war, were already dead and he never got the chance to make new ones in the 21s century.
The case was closed, because his body had been the subject of several tests and experiments of people still trying to decode the serum.
The damn serum.
Whilst Steve was pretending to listen to the priest going on and on about forgiveness, he imagined what their lives would have been like if he never met Dr. Erskine, if Bucky never would have gotten his orders, if they would have stayed in their flat in Brooklyn.
Granted, it wouldn't have been a very long life for him with all his illnesses and the lack of medicine and money, but it would have been a happy one.
Bucky would have worked on the docks, maybe even get promoted, and Steve would draw sketches for the newspapers and for whoever else who was willing to pay for them whenever he was healthy enough. In the evening, Bucky would come home from work all tired and exhausted, but he would smile at the sight of Steve's sad attempt of making him dinner.
“You really can't cook for shit”, he would say with a fond smile and then bend down to greet Steve with a kiss.
Over their food they would talk about their days and Bucky would make Steve laugh so hard with his imitation of the people he met, that it would get hard to breathe. Afterwards Bucky would insist on cleaning up the dishes, because “You already prepared the food Stevie, let me do this, my Ma has raised me right. Go and sit on your bony ass”
In the night, they would share the bed, cuddled close together for body warmth and comfort, because both of them would know, that no one could ever know about their relationship, about what they get up to once the windows and doors are closed. But at the same time they would know that this right there, was perfect, sharing a bed, bodies still damp with sweat after their silent sex beneath the blankets.
Maybe they would even make enough money between the two of them to properly support Bucky's family, to make sure that his sisters would never have to go bed hungry.
Right then and there, Steve longed for this life he'll never have so badly, that a lump formed in his throat and his whole body ached.
Bucky got buried in the empty grave right next to the one that was going to be Steve's one day, because “I'm with you till the end of the line.”