A gloved hand reached out to grasp his. He was almost there - and then it slipped out of his grasp. Bucky's screams and the train whistle's screeches drowned out any other sound. With a slam of his fist the vision was gone. The bar table shook from the blow; an empty beer bottle rolled off and shattered with the force of it. Steve looked at the shards of glass scattered across the floor. He felt as if his soul would imitate them. A sob racked through the soldier's body as he laid his head down on the scratched-up, dust-covered wood.
It's all my fault.
His helmet and uniform slipped off his chair and fell into a crumpled heap on the ground, worthless.
Just like he was.
Sure, he could save the guys in the 107th, come up with successful strategies, wear the uniform, play the part, but when it came to saving his best friend? Absolutely worthless.
He sniffed, and an ugly four-letter word escaped his lips. All the insults, all the ridicule, all the memories of bullying he thought were gone came flooding into his mind, drowning him alive because Bucky was no longer there to keep him afloat. This time, it wasn't the thugs from Brooklyn pushing him around. It was himself. The pain in his chest was his own fault. For once, he didn't block the sneers Bucky told him to ignore. This time, he agreed. When it came down to it, he was nothing but a suit. A trained monkey. A failure. A straight-up liar. He had promised himself, his friends, his country that he would do everything in his power to protect them. But he couldn't even save the most important man in his life. Bucky...the brother he never had.
His name caused Steve to choke on the cry gathering in his throat.
Peggy's words echoed in his mind. "He must've thought you were damn well worth it."
Well, I'm not. Bucky was worth ten of me.
As he sat up and wiped his swollen eyes with his shirt sleeve, Steve gazed at the ruins of the dimly-lit building. A chilling wind swept through the deserted bar and stirred up the dust, causing the man to cough. He ground his teeth, gathered his uniform off the floor, and clenched his fists, forcing himself to step out onto the lonely street.
There was only silence.
"You're a punk." Steve's only real farewell to his friend replayed in his mind as he paused outside the bar. He closed his eyes on the new stream of tears that spilled onto his already soaked collar.
I would've given anything to die in your place.