thunderboltsortofapenny said: Do you think Erskine would have chosen Bucky, if Steve hadn't been an option?
That’s an interesting question. I’ve sat on it for awhile because I wanted to school my thoughts about it, because I find that there’s more than one thing at play here, so I also had to rewatch Captain America; TFA before I could come to a conclusion, so bear with me.
The short answer is, no.
The long answer is, also no.
But that’s not to mean that Bucky doesn’t have greatness in him. In fact, Bucky’s ability to see Steve’s greatness, even when no one else saw it in him, and yet not let that knowledge make him jealous or bitter or resentful, is probably the greatest mark of Bucky Barnes’s innate goodness and strength of character.
But Erskine makes a very valid point to Phillips. He’s looking for qualities beyond the physical. He’s looking for someone who’s never had power, who’s never had physical strength; He says to Steve, “The serum amplifies everything that is inside, so good becomes great, right, and bad becomes worse. A strong man who has known power all his life, loses respect for that power. But a weak man who knows the value of strength and knows compassion…”
Bucky had to be a strong man, because all his life, he’s picked up after Steve. He had to be physically strong and imposing, had to make himself twice as big as he was sometimes, as Steve would pick fights with people twice Bucky’s size, for fuck’s sake. In an ironic, heartbreaking and foreshadowing kind of way, Bucky was already doing Steve’s dirty work way before their Howling Commandos days; Steve would pick a fight with some bully, keep getting up and swinging back even if he was hanging on by sheer stubbornness alone; cue Bucky having to swing in and beat the crap out of the bully before Steve could get seriously hurt.
Erskine wasn’t just choosing a good person. He was looking at a series of qualities, and Steve had them all —including his ability to say ‘fuck it’ and launch himself into shit no matter the consequences. Steve’s aggressiveness was motivated by his righteousness, by his desire to fight the good fight, and to make a difference. But Bucky? Bucky wouldn’t have gotten in nearly as many fights if it hadn’t been for Steve. The center of Bucky’s world, his north star, his moral compass, has always been Steve, not the greater good. Bucky fights for Steve. Steve fights because it’s the right thing to do. Bucky doesn’t need to prove himself; Steve does.
Which is why Erskine wouldn’t have chosen Bucky — not because Bucky wasn’t a good man, or would’ve become a bastardized version of his worst qualities; not even because Bucky had known strength, and would’ve used that strength to exercise power (he wouldn’t have, no matter how scared Bucky is of that after the factory in Austria).
Erskine wouldn’t have chosen him because the only thing Bucky would be willing to fight for was Steve. And that’s not what Erskine needed.