After Project Insight, they razed Hydra to the ground, burning everything and salting the earth with extreme prejudice. Bucky was in the wind, so Steve went back to New York. Tony welcomed him into Avenger’s Tower and Steve slowly integrated back to a normal(ish) schedule.
Part of that schedule included an Avengers charity event at a children’s hospital. They had brought in truckloads of educational games, toys, and soft dolls. The others were handing them out and doing meet-and-greets, so Steve took a few up to the rooms where children couldn’t leave their beds.
One child burst into tears at the sight of a new toy. The boy reached both arms out towards his mother, where she was holding a stuffed cat plush. Between crying and hiccups, Steve could make out the words “want” and “tiger.”
The boy’s mother tried her best to explain that Tiger was too fragile to hold, and indeed, there was stuffing escaping a torn seam, loose buttons, and an arm barely hanging on.
Steve cocked his head. The cat was in bad shape, but it wasn’t fragile. “I could help.” He looked to the attending nurse. “Could I borrow a needle and some spare thread?”
Sure enough, they provided packets of sutures. By now, there was a small crowd assembled by the door.
Steve found himself conducting the stuffed animal operation on the edge of the bed, with an eager boy as his assistant and a spellbound audience.
“My mother taught me how to sew,” Steve explained. “We didn’t have much, so it was important to take care of what we did have.” He held up the needle. “This won’t hurt your Tiger,” he assured. By the time Steve had finished mending, the child’s eyes were wide with wonder.
Steve gave Tiger a parting squeeze before relinquishing the plush into the boy’s waiting arms.
It had felt good to hold something precious and restore it. It felt right in the way his shield hadn’t after Insight.
He looked up to see phones pointed in his direction.
Tony hovered nearby. “Did you know there are teddy bear hospitals for that?”
“People who repair childhood toys. On the internet, Cap.”
The hospital visit went viral. There was an explosive demand of people who wanted their stuffed animals mended by Captain America. Some of the toys mailed to Avengers Tower looked like they had been intentionally ripped apart, and there were already fake “Sewn by Captain America” toys for sale on eBay.
Capitalizing on the timing, the Smithsonian planned a special exhibit of World War 2 teddy bears, and the main attraction was- it was-
- Bucky insisting Cub keep Steve company, because Cub couldn’t get sick
- Bucky pushing Cub into Steve’s hands after Jimmy the Rat broke his nose
- Steve hiding Cub in his trunk on the USO tour
- Steve clutching Cub after the train, after Bucky-
Steve was livid. How dare they? How dare-
“Cap, they can’t just give it back, they made an exhibit around it.”
“It’s not theirs.”
“It’s not theirs.”
“Okay! Okay! I’ll get my people on it. Put the shield down!”
The next morning, Steve woke to find Cub in a small box on his kitchen table. He had been preserved remarkably well, looking just like Steve remembered, down to the patchy fur, mismatched eyes, and the uneven seam on the ear.
Steve rested his forehead against Cub, imagining he could catch a lingering scent of Bucky.
He tried not to cry.
Steve set Cub down on what he always considered Bucky’s side of the bed. It was a comfort, to have something there.
After nightmares, he reached for Cub and desperately wished Bucky would come home.
And then Bucky did.
“I have something to show you.” Steve shifted his weight, unsure. Bucky’s memory was spotty, but Cub had been around all their lives.
Steve brought out the bear.
Bucky froze. He made a wounded sound and reached out reverently, hands trembling.
Bucky held Cub and-
- He was eight, pushing his bear into the arms of his crying baby sister
- He was thirteen, pressing his bear into Sarah’s hands so Steve wouldn’t get lonely
- He was seventeen, turning his bear to face the wall so Cub wouldn’t see them kissing
- He was twenty-six, not feeling so raw over the dame in the red dress, because his fella had brought his silly bear all this way and-
“What a sight, huh?” Bucky scrubbed at his eyes. “A grown man crying over a teddy bear.”
Steve hummed. “A nurse said it was okay.” He inched closer and recalled the phrasing she used. “Children who keep stuffed animals into adulthood are more adaptable to change because they have something consistent and soothing in their lives. It symbolizes safety.”
“Is that right?” Bucky looked thoughtful, and then mischievous. “You never had a bear, what’s that say about you?”
“Why would I need one? I had you.”