“I think they’re both wounded warriors who don’t bleed on other people. Cap has no one to bleed on. I think Sam knows how to handle people like that. … Sometimes when things are bad, trusting a stranger is the way to go.” - Chris Evans.
"All the boys in my barbershop quarter are dead," Steve quips at the start of the movie, and by the end he’s got a wingman at one shoulder and a broken old ghost to hunt down (what do you think Bucky is, their alto?).
This was about building—or rather, about breaking bones and resetting them to heal straight. They break Steve, and they break SHIELD, and they dare them both to build something worthwhile out of the wreckage.
Steve heals, that’s what he does—no blemishes, no scars—but he’s not built to last, he’s built to keep fighting and those are two very different things.
(Steve heals—but so often it’s other people. Giving Sam something to fight for, someone to catch when he falls (parallels to Banner and Stark, anyone?). He tells Natasha he trusts her with his life, in Sam’s back bedroom, says he’s always honest and he is. She’s been on shifting sands all her life, and he’s offered her steady ground, someplace to lay down her roots no matter how far she ranges abroad).
We break Steve, here, but he was already broken. He needed this, this loss, this resetting of crookedly healed bones. Finding Bucky breaks him again, shatters his careful functionality on the freeway asphalt, beats him open and drowns him.
But Bucky carries him back to shore, hauls him dripping onto the steady ground Steve offered Natasha in his open hand. Steve has Sam, now, a warmth at his back; he has Natasha and the trust that, wherever she is, if he calls for her help she will come. Steve has pieces of himself now, a mission in the service of a friend lost but not forgotten; he has something to rebuild and finally reasons to want to.
Addendum: My mother, reading over my shoulder, pointed to Cap’s “A” and joked, “Adulterer?”
But i wonder if Steve ever read the Scarlet Letter and felt a connection with Hester Prynne, not because he’s an adulterer, but because he knows what it is to have something on his chest that sets him apart,
or maybe because he does feel like an adulterer—or a cheat at least, a skinny split-lip victim in a hundred back-alley brawls who now towers above his enemies in a body he’s still learning to own; every time he takes an easy breath he feels like he’s given a blow to an asthmatic Brooklyn kid who fought so hard to get where he was.
Steve is a soldier who outlived his war, who saw men fall and fall around him, but when he fell, he came out of the ice without a scar—except for how every bit of him is marked with scar tissue only he can see: here, a bully broke his arm, here he coughed so hard he fractured a rib once, here Nazi shrapnel tore up his side (he healed in a half hour). With this hand he gripped his mother’s withering fingers. Bucky threw a broad arm around these shoulders once—no, not these shoulders, the bruised and bony things they used to be, the ghosts of a slenderer body Steve can still feel living inside his bones some days (good days? bad days? is it worse to remember things you can’t have, or to lose even the barest connection to your self?). Here a bully broke his nose. Here his mother gave him a damp cloth to clean up the blood. Here is the fist Bucky taught him how to punch properly with, taught him how to shake properly with. Here is his thawing heart. These are his scars.