Steve, Bucky, and Natasha’s Perspectives, Following the Canon Timeline
This is my headcanon for what would be going on in Steve, Bucky, and Natasha’s minds during the Avengers and Captain America movies if StuckyNat were canon. “StuckyNat” is the ship name for all 3 characters being in love with each other and wanting to form a relationship together. I’ve stayed within the timeline and plotlines of the movies. This could also work as a headcanon for each individual pairing (Stucky, SteveNat, BuckyNat) with only minor changes.
We follow the 5 movies Steve is in: the 3 Captain America movies, and the 2 Avengers movies. I have serious issues with Joss Whedon’s versions of Steve and Natasha, but I’ve done my best to reconcile them with the Russos’ superior versions. I treat the Russos’ versions as the true canon versions when they conflict.
This is part 1 of a 5 part series. Natasha shows up next week in part 2 which covers 1945-The Winter Soldier.
Part 1- Captain America: First Avenger
Bucky Barnes had been in love with Steve Rogers for as long as they had known each other, which might as well have been forever. Oh, sure, he liked girls just fine, too, went on lots of dates, but Steve was the love of his life. There was no getting around that. Bucky was no innocent, he knew it was possible for men to love and have sex with each other just the way they could with women. He’d accepted this about himself as he’d gotten older and figured out the birds and the bees, because, what else could he do? Steve was ingrained in his bones and heart; there was no getting him out. Bucky was a practical man, and he was the way he was.
Steve Rogers loved Bucky Barnes fiercely, but like a brother, or so he always told himself. He admired other men, but because he wanted to be more like them, he thought. Preserum, Steve had a huge need to live up to manly ideals in all ways, and he convinced himself that he wasn’t attracted to other men. He was a good Catholic boy. Those feelings did not exist within him. He was attracted to women, and only women.
Bucky and Steve would occasionally find themselves drunkenly kissing, or going even further, over the years. Sometimes they weren’t even drunk. Sometimes Steve, who had a hard time getting dates with girls, told himself that he just wanted the practice, or to find out what sex was like. Sometimes he and Bucky swore to each other that it was an accident and didn’t mean anything. They promised it wouldn’t happen again. Steve even believed everything they said.
Bucky didn’t. Bucky agreed out loud, but knew the truth. He never fooled himself. He tried to tell Steve a few times over the course of their youth and the war years how he really felt, but Steve deflected or changed the subject every time. He wasn’t ready to hear that Bucky was in love with him or to face that side of himself.
Then came the war, and the serum. Steve finally attained the manly ideal he’d longed for his entire life. The world was watching and a part of him reveled in being the successful, admired leader of the Howling Commandoes, even though he didn’t go around seeking the limelight. He had Bucky, his best friend, by his side, and he had Peggy, his girl, as well. Steve felt like he finally had a chance at being a normal man. It was the role Captain America was born to play.
Steve Rogers had a harder time of it, though. The fooling around between Steve and Bucky intensified during the war, because Bucky really needed the affection and closeness after Azzano. It was always in the field, in the dark, something Steve did to help Bucky through the nightmares and panic attacks. Or so Steve told himself. Almost losing Bucky like that really threw him for a while, and he needed to make sure Bucky was really still alive with his hands and mouth himself, more than once. It was a separate thing from his relationship with Peggy. That wasn’t really a real relationship yet, more of an understanding, while Bucky was the person who’d stood by him his whole life. If Bucky needed him, Steve needed to be there for him. He had to hope Peggy would understand.
Bucky needed to know Steve was still Steve, inside that very different body, and that Zola’s experiments hadn’t changed Bucky himself too profoundly. And then there was Steve’s relationship with Peggy, and what that might mean for Bucky in the long run. He was holding onto Steve while he could for dear life. Bucky always knew he’d have to give up their stolen moments of a physical relationship eventually, but he wasn’t ready yet. He vowed he’d hand Steve over to Peggy on VE day with a broken heart, but no hard feelings. He’d go back to Brooklyn to marry one of his old flames and pretend to be straight, if he lived that long. But Bucky needed Steve if he was going to get through this, and he’d earned it by being the only one to see Steve’s greatness before Captain America showed it to everyone.
Then Bucky died, and all of the lies Steve had been telling himself came crashing down around him. He realized Bucky was more than just a friend and brother. Not only was it too late, but he’d led Bucky to his death, after rejecting him over and over. Cause, yep, he spent that long night in the bombed out bar remembering all the times Bucky tried to tell Steve that he was in love with him. All the times Bucky had held him tight, all the times Bucky took care of him and watched out for him. All the times they fooled around and Steve stopped it and refused to talk about it again. All the times he chose other things over Bucky. And he damn near went and killed himself right then, but instead he made his vow to Peggy to avenge Bucky’s death and help end the war, because that seemed like the right thing to do. Still trying to live up to that manly ideal.
So, Steve went through with his daring plan, took down what could be seen of Hydra, and got rid of Red Skull. He conveniently found a way to commit suicide anyway, without it technically being suicide. If he wanted to be with Bucky and his mother in Heaven he couldn’t take his own life, couldn’t commit a mortal sin. Heroically going down with a plane full of bombs should definitely do it though, right? Even if his thoughts weren’t quite pure?
Flash forward 70 years. Steve wakes up to whole new world. Lots of things are okay now that weren’t before, but that’s going to take a while to get used to. He’s still worse than heartbroken over Bucky. He feels like he’s lost his soul.
Meanwhile, back in Nazi Germany, Bucky falls. He’s terrified for both of them as he watches Steve’s face disappear from view. Steve did one of the stupidest things he’d ever done the last time he thought Bucky died, and that’s saying something. Bucky’s not ready to die, but it’s been a possibility since he came to Europe. That possibility has felt very real since Azzano. Since he was captured, and experimented on with God knows what (that he can still feel coursing through his veins). He hits the ground thinking he’ll never wake up again.