People tend to forget how young Steve actually is. Remove the seventy-something years in the ice, he is just a guy in his late twenties when he went to war, lost his best friend, died for his country and then set a foot on the streets of modern New York city again. Other people this age still go studying or start a job, maybe marry, have a family.
He's a symbol, a leader, a soldier, fighting an endless fight, but under the mask there is still a young adult trying to find his way.
Anger issues and moral standards
Due to his many bodily ailments, pre-serum Steve felt constantly the need to prove his worth to himself and the people in his life. Disabled people in the 1920/1930s weren't treated kindly by society; they were considered a burden. It didn't help his case much that Euthanasia advocacy in the U.S. peaked during the 1930s, and there were discussions about end-of-life measures for all those who were unable to look after themselves. Lucky for him, Steve had first his mother, then Bucky who took care of him whenever he fell ill and was unable to hold a job.
In addition to his constant anger and need to prove himself, young Steve had a high moral standard. He stood up for those who didn't want or couldn't speak up for themselves, despite his small and weak stature. That usually resulted in fights -which he often provoked- he didn't back away from; he'd been knocked out several times, had his nose broken a couple of times as well, not to mention other injuries, like broken bones and bruises, because he didn't want to back down. His mother, bless her soul, also had to pick him up at prison. No lecture or injury ever stopped him from believing in doing the right thing, even if his ways weren't exactly the smartest ones.
The fruit what they now sell under the name of 'bananas' desn't even deserve the name, in Steve's opinion. Because these aren't real bananas! The bananas he and Buck grew up with were a species called [b]Gros Michel[/b], but in the fifties, a banana plague wiped them out. Nowadays, people eat a different kind of bananas, which are, absolutely horrible; they taste like nothing and smell horrible too- in Steve's humble opinion. If someone wants to make Steve start ranting, they should ask him about bananas. According to some sources -the great internet- the Gros Michel is still available in Thailand, but Steve has yet to check if it's true.
Breaking the Law
Stealing food, pickpocketing, causing disturbances, working for the Italian Mob, giving misinformation on the enlisting forms, disobeying direct orders that would have gotten him normally court-martialled, destroying governmental property, helping a wanted criminal escape, being on the run from law and authorities, breaking out prisoners...
The list is surely still incomplete and will continue to grow longer.
Once his favorite sports team, Steve doesn't talk about them anymore. And he will ignore everyone who tries. Not after THE BETRAYAL when the team moved to Los Angeles. These traitors!
Before Bucky came along, Steve didn't really have any friends. Unlike other children, he couldn't run around much or play before he ran out of breath, and he spent the greater part of his childhood days confined to bed due to his weak immune system. Children can be cruel as well in their direct honesty, and Steve was often teased to angry tears because of his unstable health and fragile body. It made him even more determined to show them that he could, despite his problems, keep up with the best of them. No matter how often he failed, he stood up and tried again- but in the end he still was on his own.
The day he met Bucky, Steve had told just a couple of bigger boys off for cruelly teasing another kid. Said kid managed to get away, and Steve stood his ground first in a verbal fight that soon ended in an unfair fist fight. Steve had been knocked down to the ground repeatedly when Bucky came to the rescue and kicked the older boys' asses, in every sense of the word. Instead of being grateful, Steve had picked himself off the ground with "I had 'em on the ropes", which should become a standard sentence for whenever he couldn't admit that he had lost a fight.
Instead of disappearing again, Buck was there the next day, and the day after, and before Steve knew what was happening, they had become best friends. Steve, growing up as the only child of a single mother, never had any siblings, but he thought that Buck was not only his best friend but also became his brother as well.
No matter where one boy was, the other was usually close by, and they spent nearly every free minute together- getting into all kinds of troubles, like the time they stole apples out of the priest's garden, or when Steve fell off the docks and into the sea when they were trying to catch fishes for dinner.
Bucky also stayed close whenever Steve was bedridden and unable to go outside at all. He'd sit by Steve's bed, bring him homework, explain what he had missed at school, teach him all kinds of card games, how to carve wood or they'd practice picking locks.
And all the time Steve was just waiting for the moment when Bucky decided that he had enough of him. But it never happened.
And even today, after everything that happened in the war, with HYDRA, Steve still can't believe how lucky he is to have his best friend and brother Bucky back in his life.
The title of Captain America is a symbol. A symbol created by the US government during WW II, used to sell war bonds and make money. Steve himself had felt like a fraud in the beginning- a mascot, a puppet. There he was dancing on stages, reading scripted speeches while the soldiers out there in the real fights risked and lost their lives.
Only later, after Steve disobeyed direct orders (see also illegal activities) and went on a one-man-mission to save his captured best friend, who he had been told was dead, out of the hands of HYDRA, Captain America became a real symbol of freedom and justice. But even though, he remained only that, a symbol. Something Steve was able to give up when he realized that the ideals connected to captain America were no longer his own. He dropped the shield, the persona of Captain America, and chose to go the way of a criminal when he chose to follow his heart.
Cheating & Acting
Steve loves cheating in games and playing pranks, and not only when he is comfortable with someone; he cheats at card games, at board games or acts like a complete idiot when he is anything but. During the war, for example, he learnt how to use different weapons, could hotwire cars and trucks, improvise whenever he didn't know something and was often learning by doing. If something went wrong? He'd just try again. That's why it was hilarious for him when people thought he'd have troubles with modern mobile phones or the internet after being unfrozen. He often acted like he had no idea, put on his innocent 'Aww, shucks' expression, and everyone believed it.
The truth was, he didn't have any troubles at all. Adjusting to the new times was one thing, but learning the new devices or how the internet worked, something completely else. The serum certainly helped, because it improved the way he could memorize things and turned him into a fast learner. It was just that people didn't seem to realize that and thought he was dumb. And he played along, because Steve Rogers has always been a punk.
He also once won more than ninehundredthousand dollars during poker games against Bucky, so yes, he always enjoyed cheating a lot.
Outright lies to gain an advantage, no matter the situation, are a strict no-go for Steve though. He prefers honesty, no matter how much it hurts, but he believes that a foundation built on lies will only crumble. (It's another reason why it's so easy for him to drop the mantle of Captain America: the lies of the politicians and the governmental institutions. How can he represent something or someone when there are mostly lies? It's not something he wants to be connected to.)
The list of illnesses Steve suffered from befor he received the serum is pretty long.
o flat feet
o heart palpitations
o heart trouble
o high blood pressure
o partial deafness
o rheumatic fever
o stomach ulcers
(list from Tumblr and Marvel Wiki)
From early on, Steve was in constant pain, couldn't breathe, had problems with his immune system. When other children were outside, playing, he had to stay in. It was impossible to make friends this way, and hardly anyone wanted to be friends with the small and sickly boy anyway. It's a miracle Steve even survived long enough to meet Dr. Erskine. Only thanks to his mother, a nurse, and the friendship to Bucky, he made it so far. Growing up poor didn't exactly help much with his conditions, and more than once, especially during winter times, he nearly died after catching a nasty cold or the flu.
Due to his many issues, Steve always wanted to prove himself and everyone else that he was still able to do everything a "normal" healthy person could do.
Death has always been a close and constant companion since Steve’s birth and has accompanied him throughout his life. He’s nearly died a couple of times while growing up, the priest even read the last rites at least two or three times for him, and his mother has sat by his bed, telling him stories of Heaven and how beautiful it is up there, with all the angels, without hunger, pain or fear.
Being as stubborn as he is, he somehow always managed to make it through, no matter how unlikely it had seemed. He thinks that he is not afraid to die, but it might look different when it’s about time to go for him. Mostly it will be the fear of the unknown, the fear of just ceasing to exist. It’s something that makes him wonder sometimes when he can’t sleep. Will he just be gone without any trace? He is not sure that he believes in God and an Afterlife anymore, but he hopes that there is something.
Whether he will die in combat, to an attack or in a bed of old age… he never really thought about it. His sometimes crazy stunts like jumping out of planes without a parachute or diving the plane into the ocean might have attempts to die, but if asked, he will likely deflect and not answer. With Bucky’s return things have become different. He is still reckless, because he knows his body can take it, but now he has someone else to think of and this means he will not actively seek out death anymore (not that he’d ever admit doing ‘that’ in the first place). The only thing he is really afraid of is to watch all the ones he loves dying before him and being all alone when it’s finally his moment (the serum makes it possible that he ages slower than most people.)
Steve's parents were Irish immigrants who left their home in the hopes of finding a better life across the ocean. Steve never knew his father, Joseph, who died due to a mustard gas attack in WW I, and grew up as an only child raised by his mother, Sarah, who worked as a nurse and part-time house maid. Being a single mother in these times wasn't exactly a scandal anymore in their neighborhood, but the people still talked behind her back, especially since she never re-married again.
After she died from TB, which she had caught in the hospitel, when Steve was a teen, only Bucky was left of his family.
In the Avengers, Steve found, after some struggles, a new family, but no matter how much he cared for them, when forced to make a choice, he chose to take Bucky's side (Civil War), who had been a friend and brother from the beginning. So, for Steve there are never any doubts to where his loyalties would be: real family looks out for each other. Bucky had looked out for him first, and now it's Steve's turn. It's as simple as that.
Fears & Nightmares
Failing the ones he cares about, his friends and family, the people who trust him- it's one of his biggest fears, especially after he already did fail Bucky once when he'd let him fall to death. In Steve's mind Bucky's capture, the torture he went through, the Winter Soldier, is his fault. If he'd just caught him, been a bit faster, if he'd just gone back to him, then his best friend would not have been forced to endure decades of endless torture.
It's something that will haunt him for the rest of his life no matter how often Bucky tells him that he is not to blame.
He also dreams of dying, of drowning in the ocean, of freezing in the ice. Maybe that's one of the reasons he is jumping out of airplanes with no parachute- he wants to overcome his fear, while, at the same time, forcing himself to go through something he hates and fears, because when Bucky fell, he didn't have any choice. Steve didn't go after him, so he is punishing himself by jumping and facing death again and again.
Before the serum, food was in short supply. Meat, vegetables, bread- everthing was expensive. Being raised only by his poor mother who worked meant that he often went to bed hungry. It also meant that Steve, when he was not in bed thanks to his bad health, was trying to earn a penny or two by taking every job one would offer a sickly guy like him. At other times, if the opportunity arose, he and Bucky would go and try to steal food; apples out of a garden, old bread from the bakery. Bucky often brought the money he had earned to buy groceries for Steve and his mother. It was something Steve didn't like much, but he was grateful nonetheless.
Grocery shopping & Household
Unlike most men of his time, Steve actually knew how to cook -more or less well- and do household chores. He was often stuck at home and wanted to support his working mother the best he could, so he did the "women's work" a "real" man would not touch. Cleaning, scrubbing, taking out the trash, buying food and preparing it. It's hard work and he would start arguing with everyone who'd ever dare to belittle what women have to do in the household.
While he still isn't a great cook or doesn't like cleaning very much, he will still do it. It's just work that needs to be done.
There are many things Steve feels guilty about and wishes he could change them, even though he is often and constantly told to let go. It's easier said than to be done though, but he is working on getting better at forgiving himself, but only thanks to the help of his friends - which often includes a kick in the ass or two from Buck.
-His mother: If not for his bad health, his mother would not have been forced to work overtime at the hospital and even accept the more risky work at the TB yard where she was infected with tuberculosis and died.
- Pretending to be someone he isn't. Especially in the beginning, during these damned USO tours, he feels like a fraud, like someone who doesn't deserve the serum and the powers it gives him. He only wanted to fight for the right causes, and ended up being a dancing monkey for the government. But thankfully, Peggy has helped him there and has made him realize that he is more than that if he chooses to be.
- Bucky: If Steve had never asked Buck to accompany him on the dangerous missions against HYDRA and Schmidt, he would not have fallen from the train but returned home with an honorable discharge. But he ended in HYDRA's claws instead.
- Every innocent person that falls victim when a mission goes wrong.
- His apparent inability to help his friends when they need him most.
- Disappointing the expectations people put on his shoulders.
During his search for Bucky (after what happened in "Captain America- The Winter Soldier") Steve and Sam have come across many HYDRA facilities, most of them deserted and abandoned, but every now and then they find a couple of remaining loyal HYDRA goons inside these facilities. Whenever these people put up a fight, they either end up in prison or on the cemetery. More often than not the trails end up being dead ends, with no traces of the elusive former Winter Soldier, but sometimes they find something. Old files, pictures, encrypted records and old reports, often in Russian, and they take it all with them, back to their hotel room to check.
Steve isn't fluent in the many Russian dialects, but with the help of dictionaries, he'd spend hour upon hour pouring over whatever it is they have found. And most of the information he can decipher is just too horrible. The one time he reads a detailed report about the torture and abuse the HYDRA handlers have put Bucky through, and Steve has lost it and destroyed the hotel room in an attempt to get rid of the terrible pictures created by reading the file. But no matter how bad it is, he forces himself to read every word, to watch every video that is available, because he feels that he owes it to his best friend. After all, Buck would have not ended in HYDRA's hands if not for Steve's failed attempt at saving him.
Thanks to his good memory, Steve can't forget what he has read, and even today, he remembers. But not even Bucky is aware that Steve knows more than he has ever admitted, and it's a secret he will probably carry with him for the rest of his life.
While Captain America is seen as a paragon of virtue, Steve Rogers is anything but. In his childhood/youth he got into fights, broke the law by stealing food, maybe even was a pickpocket. The Italian Mob was big in New York at this time, and Steve did one or the other small jobs as courier for one or the other mobster family. He knew the risks, but the jobs were easy and the money good, and he needed to support his mother the best he could.
In addition, Steve would break any law if it was in conflict with his own beliefs. He'd rather break the law than turn his back on his friends and family, because that is where his loyalty lies.
Lies & Deception
(See above, cheating and acting) One of my HCs is that Steve did lie at least one time during the events of Civil War: it was this tragic moment when Tony Stark asked him if he knew about the Winter Soldier killing Stark's parents. Steve hadn't known, and how could he if these news were not made official on the HYDRA databases. If not even Tony Stark had been able to find out the truth before watching this video, then how was Steve supposed to know it?
He still replied with 'Yes.' Why did he do it? To direct Tony's anger at himself and away from Bucky. This way, so he'd hoped, Bucky might have a chance to escape while he himself kept Stark's focus on him- on the team-mate and shield-brother who had, apparently, betrayed him.
Loneliness & Social Awkwardness
As a child Steve had felt quite lonely most times; he didn't have any friends and no one to spend his time with -until Buck came along. Whenever he wasn't at school or working or taking care of the household for his ma, he'd read, draw, get in trouble, and he'd do it all alone. He never really learnt to interact with other people, took his clues from Buck and his ma, but other than that, he didn't have many opportunities to learn. He'd watch Bucky, for example, at the dance halls later, when he was easily talking to girls, but he could never use any of these "methods" himself. Other children ignored or teased/bullied him, when he grew up, girls mostly ignored him and later, he never knew how to talk to a woman, because he simply lacked the experience.
Things changed after he had the serum. Suddenly, people noticed him and wanted to befriend him, but while the serum improved his health, it couldn't magically cure his social awkwardness, and he didn't, by any miracle, suddenly turn into a womanizer or someone who could easily interact with others.
This inability is still there, in the modern times, and while it got better and he learnt how to interact, he still had troubles to feel included. And now, as a man out of his time, it felt even more difficult to connect to people, their morals, standards and modern ways of living. Despite the Avengers, Steve felt alone. He is good at pretending though, and it's easy to hide how lonely he still feels in midst of a crowd.
Old habits die hard
Steve grew up in a time when the role of man and woman was a different one than nowadays. Men were taught to be tough, strong, in control of their emotions and never showed any weakness. Growing up without a father figure, Steve learnt a lot on the streets, the school yard or from the few and occasional meetings with Bucky's father- a very strict soldier who looked down on him because of his weakness.
It only spurred Steve on to be better, to be tougher, stronger and in control of himself. He barely cried when anyone could see it, no matter how sad or close to despair he felt. Men weren't supposed to show emotions. And this attitude is deeply ingrained in his brain. Until today. He will never let anyone see when he has a bad day, he will put a smile on, say 'I'm fine, everything is fine' while breaking apart on the inside. While he knows that he is allowed, he still can't make himself show emotions or burden anyone else with his problems, because he thinks that they aren't as important or as grave as the problems of other people. He endures in silence, and Bucky is probably the only one who can see right through him.
Outer Space & Aliens
Steve is a fan of stories about space, space ships, aliens and different worlds in the stars. When being confined to bed as a kid, he’d often read when his health allowed it, and it was often cheap and old science-fiction paperbacks and second-hand comics. During hot summer nights when the air inside their apartment was too stuffy, he and Buck would lie on the rooftop of the building, share a lemonade and stare up to the stars in the night sky, pointing out star constellations and making up stories.
That was why he’s been kinda exhilarated when he’d heard about aliens being real – not about the fact Loki’s alien army wanted to invade and destroy Earth, of course. Meeting Thor has been a highlight, the same with Cad and later Javic as well. And even though he doesn’t show it, he’s still as easily excitable about space nowadays as he has been as a kid. Movies like Star Wars and Star Trek are his favorites for exactly that reason.
PTSD & Survivor's guilt
Steve suffers from PTSD, and how could he not? He went to a war, is still fighting more often than not. He saw fellow soldiers die, lost people to the enemy, Hydra, had to face death more than once, even before he went to war. Back in the day, there was no counselling for veterans, and many soldiers who returned from the war tried to drown their sorrows and nightmares in alcohol. Steve might have been one of them, but he never made it out of the war alive. Nowadays, he had been made by SHIELD to see a therapist, but never really spoke about what was going on inside his heart and mind. Like the men of his time, he bottled his emotions and hid them away. Nightmares, guilt, the feeling not deserving any of the good coming his way. He throws himself into work to try and distract himself, but this isn't coping but repressing.
The guilt of having failed his best friend by letting him fall is still the worst feeling of all. Bucky had forgiven him, but despite that, Steve will always feel guilty until the end of his life.
Risks and challenges
Ever since coming back Steve had willingly accepted dangerous missions and taken more and more dangerous risks to ensure the positive outcome of said missions. Some might think that he is an adrenaline junkie who is trying to prove something to himself and others, and maybe this is true. Taking risks makes him feel alive- jumping out of planes, storming an enemies' stronghold by himself with no backup, fighting against someone with his bare hands- it's sometimes courting death.
Until Bucky's return Steve didn't have much reason to fight for his life, everything and everyone he had known was dead and gone, so why should he stay? Taking his own life has always been out of question, of course- he is only alive thanks to Dr. Erskine, his ma and Bucky, and he would never betray them like this. But if something bad happened during a mission that might end with his death, he would not have felt sorry about it.
Things are different now though, he has Bucky, he has Sky, Darcy, Sigyn, and also other friends to look after. He is still taking risks, but these days, he is more careful about it- after all, he has someone to come home to again.
Teasing and jokes
Steve is usually a good sport and can easily take teasing and jokes directed at him when they come from people he knows, trusts and where he can be sure that they don’t mean it in a bad way. He also gives as good as he gets; sassy and sarcastic comments and practical pranks.
It’s different with strangers or people who try to rile him up on purpose. These will learn the hard way that Steve can turn as prickly as a porcupine (see also “The serum” and its effect on his emotions.) He will reply and react accordingly and won’t hesitate to use the ‘have some respect-card’ of even his fists to get his point across if necessary. The little guy who always went into fights without hesitation is still there, just inside a bigger package.
The serum did more than just healing Steve from the countless ailments he was suffering from. It changed his body completely, from the ground up, so to speak. He is bigger, faster and so much stronger than he has been before.
The serum also increases his metabolism, allowing him to heal faster than a normal human, giving them enhanced durability. Along with increased durability, the increased metabolism also grants him immunity from nearly any poison, due to his body's ability to process it faster than the effects can cause harm to their body. This includes most known drugs and alcohol. Steve can even survive wounds that would have killed a 'regular' person.
All these advantages come at some price though. His cells divide at a much higher speed than the cells of a normal human being, that includes 'all' of his cells. He also grows older, just at a much slower pace. This means that, even if he wanted them, he probably could never have his own children, because his sperm cells would grow so fast that a 'normal' zygote would be destroyed from within.
He only learnt about this fact after coming out of the ice. He spent a lot of time in the modern labs where they tested him to see if the serum was still working; where they checked him thoroughly to see if he was stable, both mentally and physically.
He likes to tell himself that this isn't so bad, that he never wanted to have children anyway, that they would be at risk with his dangerous job, and that he could never settle down to have a normal life. Sometimes it even works.
But other times, when he enjoys a quiet moment, when there are no crises or wars to fight, when he happens to see playing children or happy families in the street, then he asks himself 'What if'. Those moments usually pass by quickly, but they are still always there in the back of his mind, just like the paper with the test result he keeps hidden in the drawer of his desk at home, is always there to remind him what he really is- a military experiment.
The serum did more than changing his body though, it also enhances everything he is feeling. Whether it’s negative emotions like fear, dread, despair, anger, hate, impatience or positive ones, like hope, happiness, contentment, love- everything is so much stronger. Maybe this is the reason he reacts in certain ways that make people call him ‘dramatic’. And for them, it might appear dramatic how he acts or what he says in this situation.
It’s just how it is now and he can’t help it, other than holding himself back and not expressing anything at all, just to make sure no one has any additional reason to make fun of him. Finding the middle way between how he is and what people might expect is always difficult.
Physical touch is something Steve has always connected to pain for as long as he could think. The rough handling of the doctors and nurses, cold and sharp needles and other treatments against his countless ailments, the constant bullying and being manhandled and punched by other children has made him wary of being touched. Casual and friendly touches was something other people did, and only his ma and later Buck have been an exception whengrowing up.
Later, when he is prepared for the serum and Dr. Erskine injects him with Penecilin, Steve is alread expecting something bad, knowing how painful needles can be, and he is pretty surprised when it doesn't hurt so much like it- probably- had in the past whenever someone had injected him with something. Most likely, it was Dr. Erskine being careful and considerate with the needles, something Steve wasn't used to from his earlier medical treatments.
Steve's negative experiences with touch don't end after the serum changed him. More needles followed, more tests and treatments when the scientists wanted to find out about the serum's effects and why and how it works now that Dr. Erskine was dead. In addition, people who would have never looked at him twice before and would only have punched his face in, now noticed him, and oftentimes were trying to touch and grope him without his consent. It makes him very uncomfortable, even though he tries not to let it show, because it seeme that somehow everyone thinks they had the right to come too close and touch him, just because of his changed physical appearance.
It doesn't really help that he still has not much idea about social interaction. Just because he has always been instinctively wary of touch doesn't mean that he doesn't crave it unconsciously. But the modern mindset of people for meaningless intimacy with strangers is not something he could ever see himself doing, for several reasons.
But hugs, slaps on the shoulder, casual and small touches from people he knows and trusts is something he cherishes. Touches come easier the better he knows someone, and therefore it had not been a hardship at all to, for example, let Natasha kiss him while being on the run from HYDRA.
At first glance, Wakanda appears like a place right out of a fairy tale. The combination of modern technology and nature, of modern knowledge and old customs is fascinating, especially since it all fits together so perfectly. The country has its own fights, and Steve is very aware if it, and yet it has become a safe haven, a sanctuary, where he and Buck, and whoever needs help can find a peaceful place to rest. Steve is extremely grateful to T'Challa, the King of Wakanda, for what he has done for Buck and how he has helped with his best friend's recovery. The King has also become a very good friend and ally, something that had seemed impossible at first, because they have been fighting on different sides.
(inspired by James Buchanan Barnes
More HCs to come. Questions/requests always welcome <3)