“So where is the little guy from, actually?”
Steve’s breath catches in his chest. There was one more thing Steve had lied about on his registration form. He lied about it most of the time. He had even lied to Bucky about it until Bucky walked in on him in that bathroom. But unlike everyone else, Bucky didn’t care when he found out. If anything, Bucky and Steve became closer because of it. Only his mom and Bucky had ever known, and Steve was very careful to make sure it stayed that way.
Technically he hadn’t even lied. They just assumed he was a guy since he was trying to enlist and all. His chest was small enough and he pitched his voice low enough that people just assumed he had some baby fat and a higher voice for a guy. He already had so many ailments, assuming that puberty didn’t hit him that hard wasn’t usually much of a stretch. And it really wasn’t because puberty didn't hit him very hard so he was lucky enough to have a small enough chest that no one suspected the truth about him. He had hoped it would let him pass the first parts of the exam, but it seemed like, once again his fucking asthma had stopped him from even having a chance.
So now, he just said “Brooklyn,” knowing Dr. Erskine would find out soon enough and he’d be kicked out yet again. Instead of asking any more questions, Erskine stamped his form and handed it to him. Steve opened it and stared at the 1A, knowing it wouldn’t last. He steeled himself, forcing his own, inevitable decline.
“Dr. Erskine, there’s something you should know.”
“What is it, little guy?”
“Um, could we talk in private?”
“Why? Are you having second thoughts? You don’t seem like the type to back down, Steven.”
“No, Dr. Erskine, I just need to make sure you’re not.”
The doctor raised a single eyebrow, “Steven —”
“Could we talk in private? Please?”
The doctor’s eyebrows furrowed, and Steve got ready to ruin everything. There was no way he’d recover from this; no way that he’d be let into the army once they knew the truth. He could hear his heart pounding in his ears as Erskine simply nodded, turning back to the curtained-off area where they had met.
The doctor gently closed the curtain behind them, looking at Steve expectantly. Steve opened his mouth, and suddenly he couldn’t talk. He swallowed, took a deep breath.
“I’m actually a girl. Or I’m not. But people think I am. I’m sorry, I’ll just —”
He was interrupted by a friendly hand on his shoulder. “Steven, if you think you were chosen for what you are on the outside, you’d be... misled, to say the least. I’d advise you keep this between us and —”
The doctor paused. Steve was ready for his world to fall apart. Despite the doctor’s seeming nonchalance about the whole affair, Steve knew he wasn’t natural, wasn’t normal. Bucky and his mom had only accepted him because they had to love him — they were family. But this was a stranger.
The doctor continued, not noticing Steve’s world imploding as he spoke.
“— I think, if everything goes to plan, there’s a chance you’ll be very happy…”
Steve just blinked at him. He knew he was supposed to say something but nothing would come out.
“Yeah — Yes. Thank you, doctor. I can’t tell you how —”
The doctor cut him off with a wave of his hand, opening the curtain once more, walking out with a,“Congratulations, soldier,” to Steve over his shoulder.
Steve couldn’t move. He stared at the A1 on the form. His world hadn’t ended. Instead, he had one more person on his team. Not that he had anyone left on his team before, what with Bucky gone and his mother buried. Now there was one whole other person in New York fighting with him for Steven Grant Rogers.
Steve quickly learned that that was painfully accurate. Exactly one other person was willing to look out for him. None of the other guys were interested in giving him the time of day; they certainly weren’t about to commit treason for him.
They’re all standing in a line when she walks in, hair perfectly done, devastating in her military greens. This is what Steve should be. What he might’ve been if he wasn’t so messed up in every way possible. As she, with good reason, punches one of the recruits in the face, he wants nothing more than to be like her, to be normal, to be unafraid of anything. But he is the way he is. Fucked up in every way imaginable.
This doesn’t help during their training. He struggles through exercises the others breeze through and, as the runt of the team, is often sabotaged in more difficult ones. But he fights through it — not to prove anything but because he knows he’ll never have this chance again. He should be fighting for his country, and if pushing through the pain and the sweat and a couple almost asthma attacks is going to make it happen, then that’s what he’ll do. He’s no better — if not a thousand times worse — than any of the other men training, so he’s ready to do anything to fight for his country. But the longer the training goes on, he begins to doubt that he really is all that much worse than the rest of them. They’re going to to be making a super-soldier, right? Why should it matter how far he can run before it happens?
From what he can tell, he’s passing all of the non-physical tests. From getting the flag down from its pole to the final test, jumping on that grenade, he starts to think he might actually be the one they choose.
When he finds out he is, it doesn’t really feel real to him. Not only is he not too sure about why, even after his talk with Erskine, but he doesn’t really know what’s going to happen. Erskine said it would “amplify whatever’s inside” of him. What does that even mean, on a practical level? He’s not like Schmidt. He’s not like any of the other guys who were almost chosen. He’s a girl . What would the serum do with that? Was he going to lose everything that made it easier for him to live in this stupid body in the first place?
They said the serum was going to give him a perfect body. But if it was a woman’s body, he didn’t know what he’d do. He didn’t know what Erskine would do. He’d be ruined. There’d be no way to argue he didn’t know the truth about Steve, no way to not be the man who wasted millions of dollars on a girl . Not like some other girl couldn’t’a worked out. Steve was pretty sure if Peggy Carter got this serum the war would be over in a matter of days. She was a force of nature. Steve tried to hate her — she was everything he couldn’t be — but not only was she one of the few people who was actually decent to him, but she was just an all-around good person. If Steve was any other guy, he’d probably be at least a little bit in love with her. But he knew who she was and who he was, so he stuck to his envy of her normalcy.
Steve tried to go to sleep, but every time he closed his eyes he just saw himself before he knew who he was. But he was different. Instead of pigtails and an innocent smile, he had curves and long blonde hair swept away from his face. Maybe the one benefit of being so sickly and poor was that he was too malnourished to have those curves. But tomorrow anything could happen. He gripped his pillow tight under his head and willed himself to sleep.