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Bucky Barnes

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The Winter Soldier

"I am ashes where I was once fire."

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«Я способен на любовь, которую Вам и не представить, и на гнев, в силу которого Вы не поверите. Если я не смогу удовлетворить одно, то я позволю себе другое.»

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"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."
Thomas Paine, The American Crisis
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"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."
Thomas Paine, The American CrisisRead more... )

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BUCKY BARNES )

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HISTORY


James Buchanan Barnes was born in Brooklyn, NY on March 10, 1917. His mother and father, George and Winifred Barnes, had known each other since childhood, but reconnected when she served as a nurse in an allied hospital looking after a wounded George. A newly married young couple, George and Winifred had not expected to start a family while the war was still underway, but were no less excited when they learned of Winifred's pregnancy. Tragically, however, the beginning of Bucky's life also marked the end of his mother's when Winifred Barnes died in childbirth, leaving him in the less-than-capable hands of his father. A drinker and occasional gambler, George was a typical salt-of-the-earth ex-soldier whose life experiences had aged him beyond his years. Without much formal education to fall back on, George worked mostly in manual labor, especially construction. A combination of his own demons and his shitty work schedule meant that Bucky was often left to fend for himself even before George's death.

But you know how they say it takes a village to raise a child? The nice thing about living in Brooklyn at that time was that you had a whole village worth of people within a single city block, and this was particularly true in Red Hook. The neighborhood was situated on an industrial waterfront near the world's busiest freight port, which meant that it was a hugely populated hub for industrial laborers and recent immigrants looking for a better life. Coincidentally, the boat traffic and its proximity to Manhattan also made it a big area for bootlegging, but that's a story for another time. Because the neighborhood was extremely multicultural and multilingual, Bucky was exposed to a wide variety of European languages from an early age, and retained some degree of fluency into adulthood. What was important to Bucky about this neighborhood was that he lived there, and that this was where he met his best friend, Steve Rogers.

At around the age of eleven, Bucky was walking home from school when he noticed a weak, scrawny kid getting beaten up by some bullies. (Well, actually, at first he saw the bullies, but further inspection revealed a skinny blond kid in their midst.) Bucky, who was bigger and scrappier than most boys of his age, stepped in and saved the kid, who introduced himself as Steve Rogers. They'd seen each other around before, which they came to realize was because they lived on the same block, and went to the same elementary school. And so they started taking their walks together, which let Bucky keep an eye on Steve, and which resulted in Steve's mom giving Bucky lemonade and sandwiches. And from then on, things went off like gangbusters.

With a mostly absent dad and no other family, Bucky imprinted on Steve and his mother like a lost baby duck, and Mrs. Rogers did her best to make up for the lack of affection he received at home through cookies and milk. Mrs. Rogers let Bucky stay with them whenever he wanted to, even before his father's death, but also smacked him a few times when he went too far and got into the wrong sorts of trouble. (Fighting bullies was understandable, but getting into macho fistfights was not.) And so it was that Steve and his mother encouraged Bucky to be a better person early on. And in exchange, Bucky refused to coddle Steve like everyone else did. He urged Steve to push himself, reinforcing the same ideals of courage and bravery that his mother promoted in her son, while also doing his best to prevent Steve from getting himself killed.

In October of 1930, when Bucky was around 12 years old, his father died from a sudden illness, turning Bucky into a proper depression-era orphaned street kid. While this could have left him destitute and alone, especially given that the stock market crash had left virtually everyone with too little to share, Bucky was very fortunate to have a network of people who wouldn't let him die in the street. He spent most of his time with Steve and his mother, or staying with older relatives and neighbors while trying to earn enough money to live on his own and stop being a burden. He was shuffled from place to place a lot, and occasionally ended up sleeping rough, but he knew Steve's place was available whenever he needed it, and that became his home. For a while, anyway.

Things changed when Bucky was about sixteen, and Mrs. Rogers came home from work with a cough that didn't go away. The day they realized that she'd caught TB at the ward marked the beginning of the worst six months of Bucky's young life -- even worse than the months following the death of his own father. See, during those six months, Steve started staying home with his school work to take care of his mother, and refused to let Bucky visit to protect him from exposure. Bucky thought this was bullshit and wanted to help, but Steve is nothing if not stubborn. It was not a coincidence that his life took a sharp downward turn thereafter. From the age of 16 to 17, Bucky's life was a huge fucking mess. He spent his days hanging around with the wrong sorts of people, looking for affection in all the wrong places, and doing some shit that he doesn't like to talk about to scrounge up enough cash to keep a roof over his head.

Of course, Steve had tried to give him money to offset the cost of leaving, but there was no way in hell that he'd have taken Steve's money after all that their family did for him, certainly not when Steve's mom was sick. He loved helping Steve, and he'd never once thought less of him for needing some assistance. But he'd been self-sufficient for so long that he really hated asking for help, and almost preferred the really miserable solution that he came by on his own to a better one that would have required outside help. He found occasional work at factory or in construction, the sorts of odd jobs that sometimes provided just enough to scrape by without giving him a cent of disposable income, and skipped an awful lot of school to do so. He's always had a zero-tolerance policy for pity, so when he wasn't making enough to scrape by, he slept on the street and lied about it. He's never really been honest with Steve about what the months without him were like, and he's got no plans to be. No sense in having Steve feel lousy and blame himself. He's not little orphan Annie. He did what he had to do, and it's over now. Truth be told, when Steve's mother died, Bucky was sad, but also intensely relieved to have Steve back in his life. He just wasn't crazy about the version of himself that he became when he didn't have Steve around.

Shortly thereafter, the boys ended up sharing a room in a boarding house together while they finished high school. Eventually, Steve went to art school and delivered newspapers, and Bucky tried to find work. (And when he couldn't, doing what he had to do to keep a roof over their heads.) He had a real knack for languages, having grown up around a number of them, and ended up studying several of them on his own time after he got out. (A kid like Bucky didn't really have the money for college, but they lived in New York, and you could get a free education by hanging around in the right places and pretending you were supposed to be there.) The Great Depression was still going strong, but a rise in government projects gave Bucky something to do with his days. His nights, on the other hand, were mostly spent looking for something more. He'd wrestled in high school, and once out, he soon picked up boxing, a bit of a necessity given some of his extracurricular activities. Picking fights with strangers twice his size while nominally competing in a legitimate sport was the dose of reckless behavior that his life sorely needed, and as luck would have it, it was going to pay off a couple years down the road.

On December 9, 1941, Bucky was walking Steve to an art class when they learned that America had joined the Second World War. Steve was quick to sign up, though Bucky was certain that he shouldn't. Once they'd determined that there was no sense in trying to talk Steve out of enlisting, Bucky spent the next two weeks teaching Steve to box before they finally made their way to the US Recruiting and Induction Center in New York. Unfortunately, as boxing lessons are not a medically recognized treatment for asthma, Steve was predictably classified as 4F and rejected from service.

With Steve's offer (thankfully) declined, Bucky chose not to enlist. Sure, Bucky firmly believed in one's duty to protect one's country, but he had seen what war did to decent men, and he didn't want to be another one of its many casualties. Nor did he feel good about running off and leaving Steve to fend for himself. Not least because with Steve's mom gone, there was nobody to watch out for him. It looked, for a while, like he was going to get off scot free. That is, until the draft rolled around in late 1942, and Bucky was called up. He did everything he could to get classified as a conscientious objector, tried to claim that he had to stay home and take care of Steve, who had no other family -- but the army decided that they needed warm bodies more than Steve Rogers did.

So put on his best smile, walked back home, and told Steve he'd decided to enlist.

He burned the draft letter.

Bucky spent his last months at home trying to convince Steve to quit this enlistment scheme and go back to art school, offering him some of the money he was making to pay for tuition, but it worked about as well as he expected it to-- not at all --and Steve went right back to lying to the Feds five more times before Bucky had finished basic training. Steve never really believed that Bucky wasn't just trying to tell him he couldn't do something, and Bucky never really understood why Steve wouldn't take his money. But Bucky didn't mind having Steve mad at him if it would keep Steve safe.

The day before he shipped out to England was the last time he saw the skinny kid he'd grown up with, still trying to enlist despite Bucky's protests. He didn't stick around long enough to see Steve's 6th 4F, but the two said their goodbyes and went their separate ways. Bucky and his unit the 107th then shipped to England the next day. And unbeknownst to Bucky, Steve soon followed.

In the army, the numerous natural talents that Bucky had fostered on his own were quickly discovered and given a chance to flourish. Soon, Bucky want from a scrappy, precocious former street kid to a valued member of an elite paramilitary unit. Hell, it wasn't long before they had him designing rockets, jabbering in Russian, and doing kick-ass sniper barrel rolls like Jason fucking Bourne. Basically, for about a year, the army was everything Bucky had wanted it to be. Except of course with shittier living conditions, and the constant threat of death. Until HYDRA came along, and changed the war in a pretty significant way.

A year after he said goodbye to Steve, Bucky and his 200-man unit went up against against HYDRA, a Nazi subgroup lead by Johann Schmidt. Of the 200 that fought, only 50 escaped, with the remaining 150 men either captured or killed. Bucky and the Howling Commandos were among the captured. Bucky was taken to a prison where he was forced to work to design rockets called Valkyries, but it eventually became too much and he was taken to an isolation clinic to try out some enhanced interrogation techniques. This was also where they started injecting him with some weird shit he couldn't identify. At first, he assumed they were given him something in an attempt to make him talk, but given that the usual result of the process was Bucky screaming himself into unconsciousness, he's pretty sure that wasn't it. Fortunately, he never actually got to figure out what the fuck they were doing: Steve Rogers has damn good timing.

A few days after they were captured, Steve (who had since put on about four times his original weight) infiltrated the base, freed the prisoners and eventually found Bucky. During the escape Bucky and Steve encountered Schmidt and Zola, but were able to escape them and the facility before it blew, leading the rest of the captured unit on a 30-mile walk back to base.

They spent the next days, weeks and months getting used to each other and figuring out where they stood. That, and making Steve regale him with tales of the glories of being Captain America. It took a lot of convincing before he got Steve to sing The Star Spangled Man with a Plan for him, and he never did convince him to introduce Bucky to Ingrid Bergman, but it was good to have him back. Even if the guy he got back wasn't really Steve anymore. Not like he knew. They went on missions together, busting up HYDRA bases, and engaging in various displays of old school masculinity. He saw some horrible things, made some pretty careless jokes about them, and nearly got himself killed several times, but that was the job. You get captured and tortured, you walk it off. There were days he thought about running, but Steve wouldn't run, and Bucky wouldn't leave him behind.

His last day as Bucky Barnes wouldn't have gone much differently if he'd known it would end in his death. Well, his strategy might have changed a bit, but nothing would have kept him from zip lining onto that HYDRA train and shooting at everyone who tried to lay a hand on Captain America. He probably should have known better than to think he could keep his balance while holding onto Cap's shield, but there's no sense crying about it now. A hit to the SHIELD knocked Bucky out of the side of the train, and with Cap unable to save him, he fell into an icy river below. American forces never found Bucky's body, and he was presumed dead.

“He has stayed with me. I’ve never forgotten him. Dare I say I miss him? I do. I miss him. I still see him in my dreams. They are nightmares mostly, but nightmares tinged with love.”


As Winter Soldier...

But as it turns out, you have to do a lot better than that to get rid of Bucky Barnes. Unbeknownst to the Americans, Bucky (minus one arm) was found and revived by HYDRA scientist, Arnim Zola. While Russian groups were liberating Germany, a HYDRA cell, lead by Zola, came across the preserved body of Bucky Barnes. When Bucky awoke, his head trauma meant that he had sizable gaps in his memory - gaps which were, of course, immediately exploited and worsened by some intensive soviet brainwashing. The combination of brainwashing and head trauma gave Karpov an opportunity to reprogram Bucky as a Soviet assassin using his new codename, the Winter Soldier.

Zola, the American-recruited HYDRA scientist, recognized Bucky as the subject of wartime HYDRA experiments to replicate the Super Soldier Serum, and was able to continue their work under the patronage of the newly formed HYDRA-SHIELD. Soon, he was outfitted with a replacement bionic arm after a Soviet spy had recovered schematics for cybernetic appendage, which was to be replaced by a newer and more advanced one every time there was an improvement in their technology. And while he had no memory of his past, Barnes still had considerable physical skill. He was indoctrinated to hate the West and with a combination of training and dangerous experimental drugs, the Winter Soldier was soon mission-ready.

He was sent all across the globe, committing political assassinations with huge effects on the Cold War. (However, his brainwashing caused mental instability, and he was kept in stasis between missions to prevent rebellion.) He was also used to train another group of Winter Soldiers that were expected to be newer and better than he was, but this mission was ultimately unsuccessful, as the new crop where even more prone to instability than he was.

Over the next 50 years, the Winter Soldier was responsible for numerous assassinations, killing various sorts of targets, from scientific minds to political figures, including U.S President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Due to his expertise on the field and the shadowy nature of his existence, the Winter Soldier became something of a ghost story, with intelligence agencies doubting he even existed.

While being kept on ice in a cryostasis chamber, Winter Soldier was held in the HYDRA Siberian Facility alongside other Winter Soldiers. Eventually, he was defrosted by Vasily Karpov who, once his memories had been wiped yet again by the Memory Suppressing Machine, ensured Barnes was loyal to HYDRA by using trigger words to activate his training. With his mind clear of his past life, the Winter Soldier once again became just an empty shell of a man simply awaiting his mission orders. Karpov informed Barnes that they needed him to steal a supply of the Super Soldier Serum from the car of Howard Stark, assassinating Stark in the process. As Barnes had no memories left of his time serving in World War II alongside Stark, he agreed to take on the mission without any hesitation. The specifics of the story are pretty brutal, but suffice to say, he accomplished the goal. And set up the events of the last 20 minutes of Civil War.

Captain America: Winter Soldier to Civil War

We've all seen the movies.
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"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."
Thomas Paine, The American Crisis
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Other images: comic, gif.

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WINTER SOLDIER
JAMES BUCHANAN BARNES • AVENGER
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Winter Soldier

Bucky Barnes


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PERSONALITY
If Steve Rogers was forged standing up to bullies on the streets of Brooklyn, Bucky Barnes was forged protecting him. From early childhood onward, Bucky spent most of his time protecting the small, wimpy kid who lived on his block. A scrappy, skinny asthmatic who was always painting and who clearly didn't know better than to pick fights with guys twice his size. And for whatever reason, something about that stupid kid resonated with Bucky in a way that nothing else had. He was instantly drawn to the way Steve rushed into battle, firing on all cylinders and biting off more than he could chew. It was like Bucky had finally met someone who was just as dumb and reckless as he was, but differently so. As Bucky got to know Steve better, he started to realize that yes, Steve did crazy things, but not because he didn't think about the consequences. Steve did crazy things, knowing full well that there would be consequences, because it was the decent thing to do. So it was that Bucky came to provide the necessary brawn to support Steve's noble tendencies. And in exchange, Steve provided the companionship and moral direction that Bucky sorely needed.

His father was a good man, but he was frequently absent, and because an army stipend isn't much for a family to live on, Bucky was often left to fend for himself. He managed to keep himself alive, but in doing so, he made a habit of getting himself into trouble. Not the sort of do-gooding trouble Steve did, either. Petty larceny, truancy, trespassing, playing ball in the house, those sorts of things. The kind of stuff that they'd call "boys being boys" back in his day, even if it earned you a smack. And though he couldn't stop getting into trouble, he could usually charm his way out of it: being handsome, clever and quick on the draw lent itself pretty well to that sort of skill/personality defect. And it was one that served him well.

He was known as something of a ladies' man during his younger years, though this reputation was not nearly as earned as he'd have liked to pretend. Ultimately, he spent a lot more of his time patching up Steve than he ever did romancing anybody. He grew up in a day and age when traditional masculinity was highly valued, and he is a product of his time in many respects: he was certainly no stranger to starting fights, or kicking a guy's ribs in. But then, growing up around a kid like Steve Rogers means that you really don't get to have too many antiquated opinions.

Ultimately, a lot of his more destructive behaviors were mitigated by the positive influence of Steve Rogers. Steve was the kid who'd balk at the idea of stealing something nonessential, but would happily give you money he didn't have so you could pay the vendor back. If Bucky was Aladdin: the well-meaning street rat who frequently resorted to stealing, Steve was Cinderella: the hard-working orphan girl who never complained about her lot in life and gave freely to others despite having very little herself.

And that was the thing about Steve Rogers that so appealed to Bucky Barnes. Steve was good in a way that most people didn't know how to be. In a way that most people didn't even understand. That was why Bucky felt like he needed to protect him. Not just because Steve needed protection (although he obviously did,) but because Bucky saw something there that was worth preserving. There have always been things that Bucky didn't like about himself. Some of them were necessary for a parentless child growing up in Brooklyn, a task which required street smarts, selfishness and savvy to ensure survival. But within Bucky, there was always a belief that ultimately, he wasn't really a good guy. But Steve was. Steve was a symbol of everything the world could be, and damned if Bucky was going to let the world beat those out of him.

Bucky and Steve are two halves of a whole. Steve is the cornerstone kid of the American cities. Steve, the earnest goodness one has come to expect in someone who wants to protect and serve - and someone who derives meaning from that. Bucky, on the other hand. Bucky who doesn't understand why he is or what he does - only that he must. Even when he was a kid beating up bullies for Steve on the streets of Brooklyn, there was a darkness in him. A darkness he didn't always understand, that let him pull the trigger where others wouldn't, that felt a private thrill at the flash of a knife or the sound of gun shots. A darkness that had always been there, that he couldn't will away. So he did what any not-good man who valued goodness would do: he decided to use his darkness to help the light shine brighter.

His desire to protect Steve didn't go anywhere when Steve quadrupled in size. Bucky has always had Steve's back in a fight, and that didn't change when Steve stopped needing backup as much. Although their tendency to play off each other -- and their desire to impress each other -- certainly found a new and dangerous outlet in the battlefield. They spent a little time testing each other out, trying to navigate the weird new dynamic between them, but they didn't have long to work things out before they were off to fight some Germans. Bucky had some reservations about the new Steve, but he never let it interfere with their relationship in any way that others would have seen.

Though it's best exemplified in his battlefield persona, that streak of darkness in Bucky has always been visible in other areas as well. Bucky is a good deal more naturally dry, snarky and cynical than Steve ever was. As a soldier, he developed a taste for black humor, finding things to laugh about in the bleakest of situations, but it's not a habit that always translates well outside of those circles. His jokes -- especially those made at his own expense -- can sometimes elicit a wince from those who don't know him well enough to recognize this for the coping mechanism that it is. Karl Marx once said, "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce." And Bucky has long since recognized his own life as the perfect illustration of this principle.

All that said, Bucky was a good soldier, but he didn't like it. He never wanted it. He didn't want to fight or die for his country, and he didn't particularly understand what was going on overseas that meant he needed to. After he got captured and tortured, his reluctance was amplified, and only some of that can be attributed to the experimental Hydra serum fucking with his brain. What Bucky really wanted was always to live an ordinary, boring life with Steve, maybe a family. What he got was a whole lot of miserable bull shit.

Here's where it gets complicated.

The Winter Soldier is a Bucky Barnes stripped of history and context, devoid of empathy, removed from everything he once held to be true and dear, but a Bucky Barnes at times recognizable as the man underneath the programming. Which is why he finds it so difficult to forgive himself for everything the Winter Soldier did.

As the Winter Soldier, he was a cold, unerring, and ruthless assassin who eliminated his targets without fear or mercy, who showed no qualms about killing in cold blood. Some of it was brainwashing, certainly. But some of that was just Bucky. There was a reason he was chosen for the project - his marksmanship, his experience as a military sniper, his years of combat training, his multilingual fluency, and his calculating battlefield efficacy were all factors, but it was an inborn quality that set him apart. It wasn't that he was cruel, exactly. He didn't derive pleasure from the suffering of others. But he was ruthless. He had always been ruthless. His first kill as the Winter Soldier was far from his first kill.

Brave, efficient and cunning, he was a natural spy long before he donned the red star. HYDRA didn't teach him to lie, cheat, steal or kill. The army did. His father did. His life did. He was always a dagger, and HYDRA wasn't the first to discover and exploit it. He is calculating and meticulous in the field, and it is exceedingly rare to get a glimpse behind the mask. Coupled with an utter lack of personal connections -- after the ice, he really couldn't remember anything about who he was or where he came from -- these traits made him the ideal assassin. There's nothing more dangerous than a man who has absolutely nothing to lose.

Traumatic brain injury, along with subsequent brainwashing and repression, all but destroyed his episodic and autobiographical memory. However, his semantic and procedural memories were left untouched. (That is, though he could remember nothing about himself or his life, he retained his knowledge of facts, meanings, and concepts about the external, and he could remember everything he'd learned without knowing why or how he learned it.) This depersonalization made Bucky an excellent undercover operative, up to a point. Having a blank slate to build on made it simple to craft a cover identity, especially one that spoke to Bucky's skills. However, his lack of a well-established identity would eventually become a liability in the field. Without a "new" personality to supplant his old one, constant exposure to familiar environs sometimes brought out elements of Bucky's old self. This problem ultimately led to a ban from stateside missions, and long-term cryostorage between assassinations to halt the spread of his mental deterioration.

In all of his myriad forms, Bucky is a pragmatist, and he excels at making the best of bad situations. His pragmatism is most evident in combat -- he is far quicker to resort to less dignified forms of fighting than most of his fellow fighters, especially the more "just" and "fair-minded" ones. He would have no qualms about playing possum and unloading a full clip in someone's face, pulling someone's hair, or trying some other stunt that most would consider a little unsportsmanlike. (Hey, it's only a bad idea if it doesn't work. It's only cheating if you get caught. And there's no crying in baseball.) He's very confident in his skills and abilities, carrying himself with the weight and severity of someone who knows exactly what he's capable of. But his arrogance is practical rather than delusional. He's sure of his strengths, but he also has the self-awareness to recognize his shortcomings.

His goodness errs on the side of chaotic, but he's actually quite decent and noble. Despite his distaste for authority and his fondness for gaming the system, he's devoted, selfless and patient when the cause (or the person) is right. Having come from nothing, he doesn't need much, and he's generous whenever he can afford to be. But he'll still smack your hand away if you try to snag a bite of his sandwich without asking. He's known for his unfailing loyalty - to America, and to Cap, and he would die rather than allow any harm to come to them.

And he has, in fact. So you know. Put up or shut up.

There's a lot of guilt, shame and regret that he feels about what this duality means for him going forward. He recognizes that it wasn't his fault that he was kidnapped and brainwashed, but he still feels responsible for the lives that he took, and whatever satisfaction he derived from being good at it. And ultimately, he isn't so sure that his acts as the Winter Soldier were materially different from his acts as Bucky Barnes. He had killed before. He had once liked to believe that he'd never killed an innocent, that everyone he killed needed to die, that he was doing right by his country and his men. But he's not so sure anymore. He understands now that our beliefs and values are fashioned by the circumstances of our birth, and that morality is often far more relative than the history books make it out to be. He believed that he was doing the right thing when he worked for the US. But he believed it when he was working for HYDRA, too.
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