#this scene is so sad cry with me #the foreshadowing hahah b y e #the way he delivers that line with this sort of defeated humility like dam n seb #the scene wasn’t just a punch line for him and you could feel that
Those tags. Perfect
But what I don’t get is why we don’t see more of this in fic. Because even knowing the circumstances, for Bucky to say something like that to Steve is straight up mean, and he knows it. He has to know how personally Steve took his perpetual failure to be noticed; Steve didn’t really make much of a secret of it. He knows that this is one of Steve’s insecurities, and he goes right for it, because he wants Steve to hurt as much as he’s hurting right now. For him, it’s not even about Peggy — it’s about the fact that for the first time, their roles have been reversed, and he hates it. He’s realising how tough it must have been for Steve to be treated the way he was, but instead of empathizing, instead of following Steve’s lead, he lashes out. He doesn’t accept his new role as the invisible one; he tries to put Steve back in his place.
And I think it’s really telling, too, that Steve doesn’t rise to it. Bucky’s being an asshole, but it’s probably not the first time. He recognises this meanness in Bucky and he turns it back on him. I imagine that Steve might even be parroting back to him something Bucky’s said to him before — “don’t take it so hard; maybe she’s got a friend.” If Bucky’s pushing against the new order of things, Steve’s pushing back. He’s not going to let Bucky put him back in his old place, because that’s not how things are anymore. And Bucky can either take it or leave it, but Steve’s just not going to take the bait, not anymore.
I kinda think that this is what Sebstan’s getting at when he says that you can see hints of the Winter Soldier even in TFA. It’s not just about his coldness or his ruthlessness; it’s about his hard edges, where he comes up against his own best friend and even his own better judgment. It’s moments like this where you can see that he’s not a good man, at least not the way Steve is. Neither one of them can just let things go, but the difference is that the fights Steve picks are with people who (at least in his own mind) deserve it, while the fights that Bucky picks are with people who don’t. Both of them are impulsive, but there’s a hard-edged cruelty to Bucky that makes him almost thoughtless — that if he just thought about what he was saying or doing, he might be more careful or even caring, but it’s only afterwards, when he has time to reflect, that any of this occurs to him.
So… all of this is to say that I don’t really buy the characterization of Bucky as someone who is avowedly and self-consciously protective of Steve. Bucky is mean to Steve, albeit not always in ways that he doesn’t deserve. (See also: when he calls out Steve for feeling like he has to prove something by enlisting.) Of course, he’s mean in ways that betray long years of friendship; he wouldn’t be able to get under Steve’s skin so well if he didn’t know him so well. But it’s clear that the long years of intimacy between them haven’t just wrought affection, but darker feelings as well: jealousy, resentment — and they go both ways.
Bucky may well protect Steve, but I don’t think it’s a conscious decision. If anything, it strikes me more as possessiveness than it does protectiveness. Steve is his friend, which means he’s Bucky’s to joke with, to scheme with, to boss around, to pick fights with, to be mean to. If he pulls Steve out of fights, it’s because if anyone’s going to fuck with Steve, it’s going to be him. But if anyone’s going to fuck with Steve, then they better also laugh with him and cry with him and drink with him and be with him, and no one’s going to do those things better than Bucky. So if Bucky’s protectiveness — possessiveness — whatever — comes from anywhere, it comes from a place of jealousy, because Steve makes him feel good about himself. He makes him feel good and strong and capable, and Bucky needs him around to keep doing that because Bucky doesn’t feel those things about himself on his own.
And Captain America already makes Bucky feel diminished.
And that’s where the Winter Soldier comes from. If you take away Steve, Bucky’s left with only the bad parts of himself in his own mind. The good parts are still there, but he just can’t see them. He becomes invisible inside his own head.