Bucky sighed as he stared out over the city before him. Heavy smoke was melting into the midday fog that clung to the buildings and street lamps. The streets were empty; across the world, every television and radio owned was turned on to the local news station as the anchors replayed the chilling video from earlier that day and waited for any official statement from their government. Phone calls were being made to loved ones and allies. Those current enough to remember the events of New York were weeping with fear. Millions of scared civilians were evacuating the major cities, dumping themselves all over the smaller towns that posed less of a threat to an agenda-led invasion. While, at the same time, families were uprooting their lives and moving closer to the military compounds, hoping to receive some sort of protection from their soldiers and generals.
But no one could protect them, not from this other-worldly madman.
Not like the Avengers could.
"They're coming, Buck," Steve said as he stepped up beside the Winter Soldier. But his words were pointless; they knew that that maniac's army was coming. They had all seen the message. They had all heard the threat hissing out from behind his arrogant grin. They had all witnessed the panic and uproar that the dangerous glint in his glowing eyes had caused – even among the disassembled Avengers.
Bucky's jaw tightened and he lowered his chin, eyes set on the bleak looking future before them. But he refused to accept it without a challenge. Thanos, whoever he was, was coming. He had made that clear. He was coming and wasn't expecting a fight. And, truthfully, Bucky wasn't sure they – Earth's Mightiest Heroes – could stop him.
Next to him, Steve shifted, gripping the handrail in front of them.
"They're coming, and you've got to stop them," he patiently reiterated.
Slowly, Bucky exhaled. He knew why Steve was here. Why, after all these months of hiding and lurking in secret, he had waited until now to reappear. But it, too, was pointless. Bucky was no leader. He was only a soldier. A gun that someone else aimed. What he knew, what he had been desperately running from for the past five years of clenched-jawed nightmares and white-knuckled trauma, was how to kill. How to destroy. How to tear apart, dismember, and erase. He was a weapon of destruction, not a uniting force.
But, Steve, golden boy Steven Grant Rogers, was right.
Bucky looked at him. Golden boy Steven Grant Rogers, the perfect soldier and model man, was clad head to toe in black, his jaw set in a determined, stubborn way. He was right, and he knew it. And he knew that Bucky was too smart not to know what had to be done.
If the world was going to be saved, the Avengers would have to do it. And they would only follow one man.
"You can do this, Buck," Steve said, staring confidently into his fellow soldier's dark, heavy eyes as he shifted, handing something to him.
Bucky saw what he was being offering and had to stop himself from throwing up.
It was too much, what he was being handed. It was too much for an ex-assassin like him, a broken man who couldn't even trust himself, to handle.
But it was necessary.
Steve continued: "Someone's got to save the world. Might as well be you."
Finally, the Winter Soldier met Steve Roger's eyes and the two men, tortured and trained, looked at each other, the indestructible vibranium shield shining between them.
The Avengers would only follow one man.
And the world needed Captain America.