you know, it’s funny that fandom has such a dear wish for steve and bucky’s relationship to center around this overprotective, overbearing steve guiding bucky slowly back into functioning society, treating him like glass. because steve? is….really…not about that life.
like, in tws, when steve stops fighting back in the helicarrier… he’s not all solicitous whispers or “bucky please remember me,” he’s “YOU KNOW ME,” *PUNCHED IN THE FACE* “YOU’VE KNOWN ME YOUR WHOLE LIFE,” *PUNCHED AGAIN* “YOUR NAME IS JAMES BUCHANAN BARNES,” *PUNCHED IN THE FACE EVEN HARDER* “I’M NOT GONNA FIGHT YOU. YOU’RE MY FRIEND–” **REPEATEDLY SLAMMED INTO GROUND* *THROWS AWAY SHIELD* “SO FINISH IT. ‘CAUSE IM WITH YOU TO THE END OF THE LINE.”
guys. guys, i know what we want to read into this. but think about how steve sounded. how he looked. this isn’t steve letting bucky whale on him because he’s willing to endure whatever pain to see his beloved best friend remember him. it’s steve being a stubborn little shit and refusing to give up. this isn’t steve protecting bucky from anything, and it’s not steve pleading for anything from him (beyond his initial “please dont make me do this,” after which HE DID THIS.) it’s steve challenging bucky. it’s steve taunting bucky to remember. it’s steve being the same little guy from brooklyn who never knew when to back down from a battle. “im not gonna fight you,” THAT’S RICH, STEVE!!!!! he’s fighting bucky even as he’s throwing away the shield, setting new terms to this battle, his terms. bucky wants a mission? too bad! steve’s a friend. bucky wants to engage in fisticuffs? too bad, he’s gonna have to punch this talking pile of meat instead. bucky wants to be a mindless assassin again? too bad, too bad, steve’s with him to the end of the line AND IT’S NOT A PROMISE, IT’S A THREAT. truly. the way steve says it, bloodied and battered, steve’s not going for sweet nothings here. he’s saying, in all his desperation and resignation, in all his defiance, “you’re not getting rid of me now. live with it.”
and then! and then! civil war! all of steve’s conversations with bucky are so stern!!!! like steve! please lighten up! if youre brainwashed friend wants to pretend he doesn’t know you, you’re supposed to beg and plead for him to remember, not say, you LITTLE SHIT, “i know ur nervous and u have plenty of reason to be but UR LYING!!!!” omg no chill at all. steve’s relationship with bucky in this movie is half about his friendship and half about protecting an innocent man from a death he doesn’t deserve. that means he’s constantly backed into a corner, constantly clawing for whatever scraps he can get from bucky that confirm what he’s fighting for is even still there. he softens a little when bucky talks about those newspapers in his shoes, but even then, he’s like, “I DON’T REMEMBER ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH,” when bucky is struggling to remember about the other winter soldiers. fanon!steve would’ve cajoled, would’ve snapped at someone else trying to get bucky to remember. canon!steve is like, “you’re my buddy and all but your brainwashing is super inconvenient, and pretty selective, so give up the goods!!!!!” he brings bucky along because he is the best poised to end the other winter soldiers, not because he wants to keep bucky close and protect him. he defends bucky not because bucky is his friend and therefore automatically worthy of defense, but because bucky doesn’t deserve death for something he wasn’t in control of at the time. and these attitudes don’t come at the expense of friendship-motivated reminiscing later, either. steve can be pragmatic and sentimental in turns with bucky, and that’s–
that’s great. a steve that makes allowances for bucky, allowances that aren’t grounded in his own ideals of right and wrong, allowances that aim at infantilizing or taking away bucky’s agency, is not a good steve at all. i love that their relationship is this uncertain dance of memory and nostalgia mixed with violence and hard choices, i love that steve makes no apologies for bucky being his friend, but doesn’t try to defend bucky just for that reason. steve’s protection of bucky, by bucky’s own admission, isn’t worth it unless it revolves around steve’s most enduring character trait: his unbudgeable commitment to doing what’s right.
anyway. lots of rambling thoughts on this. i just want to see more of steve and bucky where steve is a stubborn shit and isn’t treating bucky like glass.