So I did the thing, and it’s stupid and terrible, but here, have it:
Bucky’s an EMT. Normal guy, just living his life, trying to help where he can. And then one day, all of a sudden, the aliens are invading NYC, and Bucky’s out there helping, right in the middle of the danger zone because of course he is.
There’s a fight going on, and a bunch of freaks in weird suits seem to be fighting the aliens, but Bucky doesn’t have much time to focus on anything other than all the people in dire need of medical attention. He does what he can to help, grabs the first metal bar he can find and fights only the aliens getting in his way, and works himself to exhaustion. Then there’s a blast, and it sends a man flying right into the wall next to him.
“Hey, you okay?” Bucky asks, rushing to help him, and though Bucky could’ve sworn the blow was hard enough to crush anyone’s ribs, he’s surprised to see the man–who must’ve been on his way to a costume party–stand up practically unscathed.
He’s got broad shoulders and a strong jaw and eyes of the prettiest shade of blue Bucky’s ever seen, and even with his face covered in soot and grime and blood, Bucky’s heart skips a beat.
For a few seconds the man seems a bit disoriented, then he finally registers Bucky’s presence. “What are you doing here?? Get out of the streets!”
“I was–” Bucky starts, and is cut off by an explosion right above their heads and a bunch of debris raining down on them, and a hand shoving him aside.
When he comes to, which is a surprise in itself, the dust has started to clear, and the man who’s clearly saved his life is carrying him as if he weighed nothing, concern in those beautiful eyes and a big, warm hand pressed tenderly against Bucky’s neck, checking for a pulse.
He locks eyes with Bucky and sighs in relief, the hint of a smile on his plush lips, but the hand remains where it is. “Hi,” he says. “You all right?”
“Y-yeah… Thank you,” Bucky replies, but he doesn’t move to free himself of the man’s arms. His stomach is doing something weird, and the man surely has other people to rescue, but for a few seconds they both just stay there, shell-shocked and staring at each other like the world around them has stopped.
Then something blows up nearby, and the spell is broken.
Carefully, the man helps him to his feet, makes sure Bucky’s in one piece, and then says, “Find shelter, okay? Stay inside.”
Bucky’s not planning to, but he can’t find it in him to tell that to this incredible man, so he slowly licks his lips and nods. Before turning around to leave, the man offers him a small, shy smile.
- - - - -
During the next few weeks after the Chitauri attack on NYC, every single piece of footage of the Avengers fighting against the aliens and helping civilians goes viral. Phone videos, security cameras, blurry pics.
The most popular, by far, is a snapshot of Captain America carrying a guy, who can be seen fighting aliens and helping people in other videos, bridal style, thumb caressing his jaw, and both looking like lovestruck teenagers.
Bucky can’t go to the grocery store or even do his job without being stalked by the paparazzi or Cap’s groupies or just random people wanting to know what his Avenger name is, and for how long he’s been dating Captain America.
- - - - -
“You’ve ruined my life!!” Bucky tells him, because of course, of course Captain America would pick Bucky’s park for his morning run. Of course Bucky’d slip on wet leaves on the pavement precisely this morning, and of fucking course Captain America would just happen to be around to catch him at just the right time. Bucky’s seeing red.
“I’m sorry,” Captain America says, and it’s extremely unfair just how genuine and how much like a kicked puppy he looks.
Christ, Bucky wants to punch him.
- - - - -
Steve’s been living in PR hell.
He’s spent the past weeks “saving” girls and boys alike from getting hit by a bicycle, or fainting, or a fuckton of equally stupid shit.
The second anyone spots Captain America, there’ll suddenly be some kind of dangerous situation going down, and someone hoping Cap will carry them bridal style to safety and maybe fall head over heels in love with them in the process.
Steve is tired and done and ready to get back in the ice for another few decades, and shares Pepper’s worries that someone might actually put themself in real danger soon.
“We should handle this before it gets worse,” Nat says. And Steve agrees, of course, but he just doesn’t know how.
“Just marry the guy,” Clint suggests.
Steve almost chokes to death on his own spit.
Clint shrugs. “Why not? Half the world already thinks you’re dating…”
“Clint, he hates me…”
“Only cause people keep pestering him about this. If you two get married it’ll be a circus, but then it’ll blow over. He can’t even do his job right now, right? So you pay the guy for the trouble, yadda yadda, then when this is over you two get a quick divorce, and that’s it. Problem solved.”
For two minutes, no one else opens their mouth. Then:
“He’s got a point…”
“Tony, no,” Steve whines.
“You saw the footage, how he was helping those civilians… If you have to marry someone, he’s not a bad candidate,” Nat says, and then smirks. “Plus, he’s cute.”
Steve already knows he’s lost this battle, but that doesn’t help him feel any better about this. Yes, he’s cute. Yes, he’s a brave and kind and smart guy. Yes, Steve could very easily pretend to be married to him for a while and yes it’d help them both. None of that’s the problem.
The problem is that he kind of really likes the guy.
In 2016, a public school in Gardendale, Alabama stamped the words “I Need Lunch Money” on a child’s arm because of an unpaid bill – adding a smiley face, because the words alone didn’t convey the “Fuck you” well enough. It’s only a matter of time before the school starts weighing the cost-effectiveness of making these children wear shirts saying “I am a poor, hate me” as a uniform.
Gardendale is far from the only school district to turn lunch into a Philip K. Dickian nightmare, however. Plenty of states, like Pennsylvania and Utah, will take hot food from children unable to pay and throw it in the trash. They could feed another child with it, but it was served to a commie freeloader, so that food has lost all of its capitalist nutrients. Other children get threatened with “The Sandwich,” which sounds like a humiliating frat initiation but is in fact two pieces of cold bread with maybe something cheap in between, easily marking out these hungry unfortunates for efficient bullying. Administrators do assure that The Sandwich meets the minimum federal requirements – because when it comes to human decency, some schools gladly settle for being D students.
The Department of Agriculture is trying to get states to cut these practices out, on the basis of America still pretending it isn’t a dystopia, but they’re ultimately leaving the burden up to the states. So far, only New Mexico has tried to ban lunch money shaming entirely, reducing the amount of school-based shaming statewide by a full 6 percent. For everyone else, though, we can do nothing but hope that The Sandwich doesn’t eventually devolve into The Bowl of Gruel, which students have to work off in the textile mill after class.