- “I’m with you to the end of the line.”
- —Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes grew up together in Brooklyn, New York. They met at a young age; Bucky, inspired by Steve's resilience despite his frail body, came to his aid while he was getting picked up on by bullies. The pair became inseparable best friends. Throughout their childhood, Bucky was there for and stood by Steve as he got into fights, standing up for what was right.
After Steve's mother, Sarah, died of tuberculosis, Bucky offered his help, telling Steve that he was with him "to the end of the line."
Captain America: The First Avenger
Bucky rescued Steve from a losing fight. He informed Steve that he had received orders to go overseas with the 107th Infantry Regiment, and would be leaving the next morning. Steve expressed regret that he was unable to go with him, having been rejected from enlistment in the army for the fifth time that day. Bucky attempted to cheer Steve up by taking him on a double date to the Stark Expo. Steve quietly split off from the main group after spotting an enlistment office. Bucky, noticing Steve's absence, found him at the office and tried to dissuade him from attempting to enlist again. Steve stood his ground, and eventually Bucky relented. The two hugged and parted ways.
They did not see each other for months, until Steve arrived in Italy to perform with the USO after receiving the serum. After a disastrous performance, Steve learned that almost the entirety of Bucky's unit had been killed or captured. Unwilling to accept the possibility that Bucky was dead, Steve set out on his own for the facility where the prisoners had been taken. Peggy Carter enlisted the help of Howard Stark to fly Steve to the facility.
Steve infiltrated the facility alone and rescued the prisoners, though Bucky wasn't among them. Steve eventually found Bucky strapped to an experimentation table, dazed and disoriented. Steve quickly freed him. Upon seeing Steve, Bucky expressed confusion about his new physique. The two tried to make their way out of the facility, but found their exit blocked by Arnim Zola and Johann Schmidt. With the facility set to self-destruct and their main exit gone, the only way out was across a narrow steel beam. Steve insisted that Bucky go first; he barely made it to the other side before the beam broke and fell. With no other options, Steve tried to tell Bucky to go on without him, but Bucky angrily refused. Steve, seeing no other choice, ran and jumped across the gap.
After the 107th's arrival back at camp, they were brought to England for debriefing. Steve, who had been given permission to create a team to take down HYDRA facilities, met with some of the men he had saved to invite them to the team. When Steve asked Bucky if he was willing to follow Captain America, Bucky told him that he would not follow the captain, but his friend. Peggy then arrived at the bar to inform Steve that Howard Stark wanted to meet with him the next morning. Bucky tried to flirt with her, but she expressed interest in Steve only. After she left, Bucky complained that he was "invisible" and "turning into [Steve]."
Steve led his new team, the Howling Commandos, on numerous successful missions. In 1945, Steve, Bucky, and Gabe Jones boarded a HYDRA train to capture Arnim Zola. Steve and Bucky were attacked by a soldier with a powerful HYDRA Assault Rifle. Steve managed to a block a shot from the rifle with his shield, with the ricochet blowing a hole in the side of the train and the force of it knocking him off his feet. Bucky grabbed Steve's shield and attempted to shoot the soldier. The soldier fired back. The shot once again hit the shield, the force of it throwing Bucky back several feet off the train, leaving him hanging precariously onto the damaged side. Steve quickly dispatched the HYDRA soldier and desperately tried to save Bucky, but the damage on the train was too great. The rail that Bucky was holding onto snapped, sending him plunging into the icy mountains below.
Though the mission was a success, with Jones capturing Zola, Bucky's apparent death left Steve grief-stricken. Back in London, he attempted to soothe his pain with alcohol, but quickly learned that the serum had rendered him unable to get drunk. He was joined by Peggy, who tried to comfort him, telling him that Bucky's death wasn't his fault. The next day, Steve, determined to avenge Bucky's death, devised a plan to take out the last remaining HYDRA facility. He boarded Schmidt's plane, the Valkyrie, in order to stop him from dropping bombs on the world. After Schmidt was seemingly vaporized by the Tesseract, Steve took control of the plane. Seeing no other way to stop the plane, Steve crashed it into the Arctic, sacrificing his own life to save the rest of the world.
Seventy years later, the downed Valkyrie was found by scientists in the Arctic, with Steve still inside and, miraculously, alive, due to the serum putting his body in cryostasis while in the ice.
Back in the world, Steve found it difficult to adjust to his new life. He eventually found S.H.I.E.L.D. files of his old friends, including one on Bucky, which listed his status as Missing in Action, as his body was never found.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Steve continued to fight for S.H.I.E.L.D. After learning about Project Insight, Steve decided to revisit his past at the Captain America exhibit in the Smithsonian Institution. He lingered by the memorial that had been made to commemorate Bucky.
Steve arrived back at his apartment to discover Nick Fury hiding there after a mysterious man had attempted to assassinate him. The same assassin tracked Fury back to the apartment and shot him in front of Steve. With his last remaining strength, Fury handed Steve a flash drive and told him not to trust anyone. Steve chased after the assassin and threw his shield him, but the assassin caught it with ease in his cybernetic arm. He threw the shield back at Steve and disappeared into the night.
At the hospital, Fury was declared dead. Steve hid the flash drive in a vending machine before getting called back to S.H.I.E.L.D. for a briefing. After a meeting with Alexander Pierce, S.H.I.E.L.D.'s STRIKE team attempted to apprehend Steve, but he managed to escape and make his way back to the hospital. He was dismayed to find the flash drive gone from the vending machine, but Natasha Romanoff appeared, revealing that she'd taken the drive. As Steve angrily confronted her, Natasha revealed that Fury's assassin had been a man known by the intelligence community as the Winter Soldier.
Steve and Natasha went on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D. to investigate the flash drive. They learned that HYDRA had been infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D. since its inception, and that the Winter Soldier had been deployed to kill on HYDRA's command. After a missile attack failed to kill the two, they took refuge in Sam Wilson's house. They devised a plan to use Agent Jasper Sitwell's credentials to stop the launch of Project Insight's helicarriers, but before they could carry out their plan, the Winter Soldier attacked them on the highway. Steve fought the Winter Soldier and eventually knocked off the muzzle that had been hiding his face, revealing that he was Bucky Barnes. Horrified at the revelation, Steve said Bucky's name, to which he responded, "Who the hell is Bucky?" He then attempted to shoot Steve twice, stopped only by Sam kicking Bucky out of the way and Natasha shooting a grenade launcher at him. He then disappeared, leaving Steve in a state of distress.
The three were captured by HYDRA agents and forced into a van. Steve barely seemed to register his surroundings, still distracted by the fact that Bucky was alive. They were rescued by Maria Hill and taken to a secret base, where Fury was revealed to be alive. The five of them devised a plan to replace the Insight helicarriers' targeting chips with their own, which would list only three targets: the helicarriers themselves.
Bucky, meanwhile, was taken by HYDRA to the Ideal Federal Savings Bank, where scientists worked to repair his arm. Bucky was unable to stop thinking about the man he'd fought, and fragments of memories began to surface despite his heavy brainwashing. When Pierce arrived to obtain his mission report, Bucky asked who the man was and said that he knew him, indicating that he still had some faint memory of Steve. Pierce ordered the scientists to wipe his memory and subject him to more brainwashing.
Pierce then ordered Bucky to stop Steve and Sam from sabotaging the Insight helicarriers. He managed to disable Sam's wing pack and fought Steve in the final helicarrier. Despite Bucky's best attempts, Steve succeeded in sabotaging the helicarrier.
As the three Insight helicarriers fired on each other, a steel beam fell, trapping Bucky. Unable to see his friend in pain, Steve freed him, and pleaded with Bucky to remember him, refusing to fight him or even defend himself. Bucky refused to listen, and instead tried to complete his mission of killing Steve. He brutally beat Steve, insisting that Steve was merely his mission. Steve told him to finish it, and that he was with him "to the end of the line."
The words stirred Bucky's memory, and he began to look horrified as he stared at Steve. The glass beneath them then collapsed, sending Steve plummeting into the water below. Bucky, who had managed to grab hold of the metal frame to save himself, watched as Steve fell. He jumped in after Steve and pulled him out of the water, saving his life. He walked away, leaving behind his life with HYDRA.
Days later, Steve met with Sam and Natasha at Fury's fake grave. Natasha gave Steve a file on the Winter Soldier. Sam, knowing Steve well enough, then asked when they would start looking for Bucky.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Steve and Sam continued to look for Bucky for two years, with no success.
Captain America: Civil War
During a fight with Brock Rumlow, Rumlow distracted Steve by mentioning Bucky's name. Rumlow attempted to activate a bomb to kill both himself and Steve, but Wanda managed to contain the explosion using her telekinesis. However, she accidentally threw the exploding Rumlow into a building, causing an explosion and the deaths of twenty-six people, eleven of them being Wakandan relief workers. Her actions directly led to the Sokovia Accords.
At the United Nations meeting where the Accords were meant to be signed, an explosion decimated the building. The attack was pinned on Bucky, who had seemingly been caught on security cameras around the building. Worried for Bucky's safety, Steve convinced his friend Sharon Carter to give him Bucky's location in Bucharest, Romania. He and Sam traveled there, with Sam keeping a lookout while Steve entered Bucky's apartment. He found a journal on top of the fridge and flipped through it, finding a picture of himself tucked in the pages.
Bucky, meanwhile, having learned that he was a terrorism suspect, returned home to find Steve in his apartment. He denied remembering Steve and pretended not to know why he'd saved his life two years ago. Steve then helped him fight off Joint Counter Terrorist Centre operatives and later the Black Panther, though they were eventually caught and arrested. They were taken to the Joint Counter Terrorist Centre in Berlin, and Bucky was separated from the others to be evaluated by a psycho-analyst. The psycho-analyst, however, was not who he seemed. While the building's power was out, he took the opportunity to reactivate Bucky's Winter Soldier programming, asking him for a mission report from December 16, 1991.
When Steve and Sam went down to investigate, the Winter Soldier attacked them and made his way through the building to the helipad on the roof. Tony Stark, Sharon, Natasha, and T'Challa tried to stop him, but he was able to overpower all four of them. He got to the helipad and prepared to escape, but Steve grabbed the helicopter as Bucky started to fly away, pulling it back down to the roof. The Winter Soldier crashed the helicopter down and tried to strangle Steve. The roof then collapsed below them, sending them both plunging into the river below. Steve managed to save Bucky, who had been knocked unconscious during the fall, and pulled him ashore to safety.
Sam and Steve took Bucky to a secluded warehouse and trapped his metal arm in a vice in case he was still in Winter Soldier mode. Luckily, Bucky woke up as himself, immediately recognizing Steve. When Steve asked whether he was talking to Bucky or the Winter Soldier, Bucky replied that his mother's name was Sarah and that he used to wear newspapers in his shoes. The three then discussed the latest threat, with Bucky informing them that there were several other Winter Soldiers, and the man who had impersonated the psycho-analyst was likely on his way to Siberia to activate them from cryostasis. Sam and Steve, who hadn't signed the Accords, were unable to ask their teammates who'd signed for help, and decided to deal with it on their own. They also enlisted the help of Scott Lang and Clint Barton, who rescued Wanda from the house arrest that Tony had placed her under.
At the Leipzig-Halle Airport, Steve and his team fought against Tony Stark's team. The battle wore on until Sam realized that they couldn't all make it out of there, and told Steve and Bucky to go while the rest of them distracted their opponents. Steve and Bucky successfully escaped the airport in a stolen Quinjet.
They arrived at the facility in Siberia to find that Tony had followed them, and was willing to help. The three of them made their way through the facility as a team. They discovered that all the Winter Soldiers had been shot while still in their cryostasis chambers. Helmut Zemo then revealed himself, explaining that he'd wanted revenge on the Avengers ever since his family had died in Sokovia. He showed Tony a video of Bucky killing his parents. Tony, in a fit of rage, went after Bucky. Steve fought against Tony to defend Bucky. Steve and Bucky worked in sync to try to defeat Tony, but he was relentless.
During the fight, Bucky pinned Tony against a wall and nearly pulled the Arc Reactor out of his suit, but Tony fired a blast of energy, vaporizing Bucky's cybernetic arm. Steve then fought a losing battle against Tony, but never willing to surrender. Tony nearly won, but Bucky, who had been on the ground in pain, grabbed Tony's leg to distract him. This gave Steve the upper hand he needed and beat Tony's armor, disabling it and ensuring that he wouldn't be able to attack them again. Once he'd finished, he grabbed Bucky's arm and helped him stand and leave.
T'Challa, meanwhile, had followed Steve and Bucky as well. He'd heard Zemo admit that it was he who'd bombed the United Nations and killed his father. Regretful that he'd tried to kill the wrong man, T'Challa offered Bucky refuge in Wakanda. Bucky decided to go back into cryostasis until a method could be found to remove the Winter Soldier programming from his mind. Steve was unhappy with Bucky's decision, but ultimately he knew it was Bucky's choice, not his.
After several weeks in cryostasis, Shuri, T'Challa's sister and Wakanda's leading scientist, devised a way to essentially "reset" Bucky's brain to remove the programming. He remained in Wakanda for several years as he recovered.
Between the events of Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, Steve often came to visit Bucky, and they even Skyped with each other.
Avengers: Infinity War
When the Avengers arrived in Wakanda for the coming battle with the Black Order, Steve and Bucky greeted each other with a hug. They fought next to each other during the battle in Wakanda.
After Thanos snapped, Bucky was the first to die. He called out Steve's name as he realized he was disintegrating, and collapsed into ash on the ground. Steve was shocked by his death, and knelt down to run his hand over the ash where Bucky had once stood.
- Steve – “Just go! Get out of here!”
- Bucky – “No, not without you!”
- ―Captain America: The First Avenger.
- Steve – “You ready to follow Captain America into the jaws of death?”
- Bucky – “Hell no. That little guy in Brooklyn who was too dumb not to run away from a fight... I'm following him.”
- ―Captain America: The First Avenger.
- “Even when I had nothing, I had Bucky.”
- —Steve, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
- “Rumlow said Bucky, and all of a sudden I was a 16-year-old kid again, in Brooklyn.”
- —Steve, Captain America: Civil War.
- Bucky – “I don't know if I'm worth all this, Steve.”
- Steve – “What you did all those years wasn't you. You didn't have a choice.”
- ―Captain America: Civil War.
This ship has over 36,000+ fanworks on archiveofourown.org, meaning it is one of the most massively popular ships in the entire Marvel fandom. It also has over 400 fanworks on www.fanfiction.net. As such, there are many tropes and headcanons that avid shippers share about the pair.
There are many pieces of evidence from canon that support Stucky. The most prevalent may be the music choices for certain scenes in the first two Captain America movies. In Captain America: The First Avenger, during the scene where Steve asks Bucky if he’ll follow him into battle, followed by Bucky meeting Peggy, the song that plays is “There is a Tavern in the Town,” a classic drinking song with Steve sitting down on “where my dear love sits him down,” and Bucky meeting Peggy on, “he left me for a damsel dark.” The song is about a man whose male lover left him for a woman. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Steve walks into his apartment before the scene where he unknowingly sees Bucky for the first time in nearly 70 years as the song, “It’s Been a Long Long time” by Harry James plays. Had the song continued instead of action music starting, the lyrics that would have played as Steve and Bucky’s eyes met would have been, “so kiss me once, then kiss me twice, then kiss me once again, it’s been a long, long, time.” The song is about a World War II soldier returning home to his sweetheart.
The pair are frequently seen by fans to look at each other as only people in love generally look at each other. There are also allusions to unexplained vague events, such as, “I heard Bucky and I was that 16-year-old kid again, in Brooklyn” despite the audience not being told why 16 was a significant age for Steve. Moreover, the two are often given lines that seem sexual or romantic in nature such as, “you’re keeping the outfit, right?” or “I’m with you ‘till the end of the line." These lines are seen to run deeper than a platonic friendship.
Childhood Tropes and Headcanons
These characters have lived for around 100 years in canon, which leads many MCU fans who love history to gravitate towards their early years. In the comics, they did not meet until later in life. However, in the MCU, they met at a much earlier age and were “were inseparable on both playground and battlefield,” leading many to headcanon a much earlier first meeting than that of even the MCU canon prequel comics. Many Stucky shippers disregard the prequel comics due to the fact that the Bucky depicted is far ruder and less gentlemanly than the one Sebastian Stan portrays. The age that the two met is unclear, though many shippers headcanon their first meeting being sometime between the ages of 4&5-7&8. In many fan fictions, they are depicted as meeting while Steve is standing up to a playground bully or some older neighborhood kids tormenting an animal. Many fans also headcanon that Steve gave Bucky his nickname, though many also believe it may have been Becca or another family member.
Another aspect of the pair’s early years that shippers enjoy speculating about is their family lives. It is known that Steve grew up with a single mother, Sarah Rogers, after his father, Joseph Rogers, died in World War I serving in the 107th. He had no siblings, and his mother was a nurse. While Steve’s family life is fairly well established in canon, Bucky’s family life is more ambiguous. His parents were named George and Winifred Barnes. He was the oldest of four children, and the language used leads most fans to believe that he was the only boy with three younger sisters. This is generally how the Barnes family is depicted in fan fiction and fan art. In the comics he has a sister named Rebecca who goes by Becca; she is the eldest girl in almost all fan works concerning the Barnes family. The remaining two siblings are generally OCs and are usually both girls. In many works, the Barnes and the Rogers are close because of Steve and Bucky's friendship, and many shippers headcanon that the two families even spent holidays together.
Ethnicity and religion are another topic explored in the Stucky fandom. While it is known that Steve is Irish, it is heavily debated whether he is Catholic or Protestant in the MCU. Bucky’s ethnicity and religion are unknown. Popular theories include; black Irish Catholic, black Irish Protestant, Jewish, and Romani.
Adolescent Tropes and Headcanons
In Captain America: Civil War, Steve tells Wanda that when Rumlow said Bucky's name, "all of a sudden, [he] was a sixteen-year-old kid again, in Brooklyn." Due to this line, many shippers believe that something significant happened between the two when Steve was 16, whether that be Steve discovering his feelings for Bucky or the two of them getting together. While it is widely believed that Steve graduated high school, some believe Bucky graduated, and some believe he did not.
Young Adult Tropes and Headcanons
Steve is generally considered bisexual by fans due to his interest in women despite their having no interest in him, and because of his relationship with Peggy. Bucky’s sexuality varies depending on personal headcanon. Many believe that Bucky may be bisexual as well, as it is widely accepted that he was a skirt chaser. Although, some believe this may have been a front to conceal the fact that he was gay and in a relationship with his best friend.
It is widely believed in the Stucky fandom that Steve and Bucky lived together after Steve’s mother died. According to canon, Steve and Bucky grew up in a rough neighborhood with a lively gay community, and so many shippers who accept the headcanon that Steve and Bucky lived together believe they stayed in that same neighborhood. Many non shippers as well as post-war shippers also believe they shared an apartment for money purposes, as this was during the Great Depression. Many post-war shippers also headcanon that Steve and Bucky shared a bed for warmth and/or to save money on a second bed.
An extremely popular subject in the Stucky fandom is the topic of Steve and Bucky in the gay community that was thriving right near by. Most agree that since they grew up right in the heart of the gay community while it was thriving in the 1920s, that once they were grown and realized they were a part of it, that they would take part in the gay community of Brooklyn. Another aspect of canon that fans believe play into this is the mention of Coney Island, as this was a major spot for the LGBT community in the 1920s and into the early 1930s, while Steve and Bucky would just be coming into themselves and their sexualities. Steve and Bucky grew up right near the redlight district, which meant they grew up very close to a hotspot of homosexuality and prostitution.
Another aspect of Steve and Bucky’s pre-war life that fans frequently examine is where they worked. Most have Bucky working at the docks to provide for himself and Steve while Steve does odd jobs, makes art for money, or works at a grocer's.
Many popular headcanons arise from the existence of Steve’s many health problems. An example of this is the asthma cigarette headcanon; where Steve smokes asthma cigarettes, which were filled with belladonna and oftentimes cannabis, due to his severe asthma. These caused some wild hallucinations and can make for an interesting fan work. An extremely common trope found in almost all pre-war Stucky fanfics that are longer than one shots, in addition to many one shots, is the idea that Steve got last rights twice before the serum. Another common trope is Bucky taking care of Steve throughout his illnesses.
Many fan works portray Steve in art school due to the prequel comics, in which both Steve and Bucky were in art school during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Many fans do not, however, agree that Bucky is also an artist; many believe he was more skilled with writing or playing piano.
War Time Tropes
Because of his serial number, many fans believe Bucky was drafted, though many disregard that idea and instead accept that he enlisted in the war.
Letters between the pair are also an area shippers explore. It is unknown canonically whether or not Steve was permitted to send letters to Bucky while at basic or on tour with the USO. As such, this is a topic frequently covered in fan fiction. Some believe they exchanged many letters, and that they were forced to hide the truth of the topics of conversation as many gay couples writing to each other during World War II were. Others believe that Steve was unable to write to Bucky once he became part of a top secret government experiment. Letters or no, almost all shippers agree that Bucky had no idea about the serum before Steve rescued him from Hydra.
Another popular headcanon is that Bucky told his war buddies about his sweetheart back home, pretending that Steve was a woman. There are many fan fictions about Bucky telling the rest of his platoon about his sweetheart, “Stevie” or “Stephanie,” occasionally even “Stella” a tiny, fiery blonde back in Brooklyn. Oftentimes this leads to the Commandos who were part of the 107th to discover the truth about the pair once Steve becomes Captain America.
Another question on many shippers minds is whether or not Peggy and the Commandos knew about the relationship between Steve and Bucky. Oftentimes they do know and are accepting of them, and agree not to tell anyone. Other times, they know and deal with a moral struggle due to this information, sometimes with these kinds of fan fictions one of the Commandos tells Col. Phillips who covers it up. Other times still, the pair are very good at covering up their relationship. Because of the fact that Steve is the CO of the Commandos and Bucky is his second in command, they share a tent in most war time fan fictions, which can also cause suspicion with the Commandos. In fan fictions where the Commandos know or suspect about Steve and Bucky’s relationship, they attempt to comfort Steve after Bucky falls to his apparent death.
Most fans believe that due to the non-canon nature of the ship, Steve kept his sexuality and relationship to himself after coming out of the ice. Though some fan fictions have him coming out to the world as bisexual before the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Many fans, however, do not believe Natasha knew about Steve’s sexuality before The Winter Soldier because she kept attempting to set him up with only women.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier Tropes and Headcanons
One popular trope is “Up All Night to Get Bucky," in which Steve and Sam are searching for Bucky after he leaves Steve by the river. This trope focuses more on finding Bucky than life after he has been found. The recovery trope generally deals with the hard truth and angst of Bucky’s de-programming and memory recovery, as well as rekindling his relationship with Steve.
After The Winter Soldier, an extremely popular trope was the Avengers family trope where Steve lived in Avengers Tower when they find Bucky, or when Bucky comes to Steve or another Avenger for help. These fan fictions generally follow the Avengers as they help Bucky and learn of Steve’s relationship with the ex-assassin. Within this trope there are many popular headcanons and tropes, such as the banana trope, where Steve and Bucky discover that bananas are different than they were before the war. Movie/game night with the Avengers is another popular trope. Coming out fan fictions are another popular trope, as there are many directions it can go.
All of the fan fictions using these tropes became non-canon compliant after Captain America: Civil War was released. This does not mean that people stopped writing or reading them; they simply exist as Alternate Universe fan fictions.
Captain America: Civil War Tropes and Headcanons
After Civil War, many fan fictions dealt with the Steve/Sharon kiss, because many were outraged by it. An even more popular trope, though, was getting Bucky out of cryo. Oftentimes this included a reunion. Many times Steve would stay in Wakanda while Bucky was in cryo. Many of these fan fictions are no longer canon-compliant after the release of Black Panther. Many fan fictions including Shuri’s friendship with Bucky became popular as well.