What If There Had Been No Captain America or Winter Soldier?

By Lizabeth S. Tucker

Sam Wilson, Bucky Barnes, and Steve Rogers were helping paint a homeless shelter in Brooklyn that was for children living on the streets. The shelter had the usual cots, kitchen, and showers, but also would have homework help for all ages, thanks to retired teachers who volunteered on a rotating schedule. There was even a guidance counselor who would be helping eligible students approaching graduation from high school to get scholarships.

Taking a break, the three men sat at a nearby cafe, just shooting the breeze.

Sam looked at both men, noticing how relaxed they seemed to be back in their part of New York. "Have you guys ever thought about where you would've wound up if you hadn't been put on ice?"

Steve frowned, still a bit sensitive about those type of jokes around Bucky. A quick glance at his friend shows no reaction, so he lets it go. "I would've been dead."

"Well, sure, probably by now..." Sam began.

"No, I mean back then. It was a miracle that I made it to 20. I doubt that I would've lived much longer. I had severe asthma, scads of heart issues, ulcers..."

Bucky chimes in. "...partially deaf, scoliosis..."

"Oh God, that brace Ma made me wear as a kid hurt so much."

"I still think eating raw liver was worse," Bucky commented, his face screwed up in disgust.

"What? Why would he eat raw liver?" Sam was turned off by the very idea.

"I needed the vitamins because I was anemic. Luckily we didn't have enough money to get the liver as often as I was supposed to eat or drink the juice from it."

"Mrs. O'Brian usually saved the juice for you," Bucky reminded him.

"I always hoped you or Ma would trip and spill it."

Sam's mouth dropped open in shock. "Jeez, Rogers, I didn't realize you were that ill."

Steve shrugged. "I was luckier than most. Between Ma and Buck, I made it. Then the serum fixed everything. Although, damn, it hurt when my spine was fixed."

Sam put his sandwich down, waiting for his stomach to settle. He saw that neither Steve nor Bucky seemed bothered. Taking a deep breath to settle himself, he turned to Bucky. "What about you?"

"If I had made it back from the war? I probably would've gone to work on the docks. I didn't finish high school. And other than dancing and flirting, I didn't really have talents that would translate to making money in the real world." He rubbed at his face with his flesh hand. "If Stevie wasn't around, I probably would've wound up in trouble."

Steve waved his hand in dismissal. "Nah, you would've done fine. I was the one always getting into trouble, you were the one getting me out."

"You? Captain America in trouble? Pull the other one."

"What other one, Sam?" Both men stared at Sam Wilson.

"It's just another way to say stop joking." Sam would always be pulled up short when he realized just how old these two men were.

"Oh. Okay. No, Steve's not kidding. He was a little shit his whole life. Even when he became Captain Spanglepants he was still a little shit."

"Excuse me, I was a much bigger shit by then," Steve corrected Bucky.

"Too true." Taking pity on Sam, Bucky leaned back in his chair. "Everyone seems to think Steve is this pure virginal choirboy. He wasn't before the serum and he definitely wasn't afterward. The stories I could tell."

"Do. Tell, I mean."

"Nah, we've still got too much work to do. Maybe later."

"Maybe never." Steve pushed Bucky out of the chair. "I have stories as well."