Germany December 1942Steve reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a G.I. nametag and a few old shell bullet casings. One was red, the other white, and a third blue. But these casings had fishing line tied around each one. Steve ceremoniously clustered them one by one on the tree and then continued to stare at the tree as if he were in a trance.
"Hey! What's this?"
"It's your present, Captain! Open it up!"
Captain America was handed an military issued artillery container re-purposed with a cloth material wrapped around like a big bow. At first the Captain didn't know what to say and just looked surprised to the soldiers in his unit. It was getting to be Christmas time and the guys all wanted to show their appreciation to their fearless leader.
"Aw, shucks, guys. I didn't have any time to get you anything."
"It's okay, Captain." shouted the first lieutenant from the group. "You're already going to help us get home to our families. That's a gift in itself!"
Captain America just obliged the soldiers and removed the improvised wrapping from the artillery box. What trickled out were 3 modified bullets, one casing was colored red, the other white, and the third was blue. With it was a small torn paper which looked like it came from a German newspaper, but someone had crudely drawn a couple of soldiers with a Captain America figure standing in the middle. It had a caption: "Keep Fighting"
Despite the building's occupants passing by Steve and the patriotic Christmas display, there was one soldier-warrior who could relate to Steve. While Steve was in the Army, Diana served the country in the Navy department. She often looked at Steve with such reverence and respect. They've both lived out long lives and lost so much to time. Diana Prince, with her alternate persona as Wonder Woman, served to protect mankind in their battles with evil. Diana stood silently behind Steve watching his stoic stance.
"So, What am I going to do with these?" Captain America asked juggling the three bullets in his left hand.Diana also noticed the other field agents and passers-by not notice the living legend in their midst. Diana couldn't read minds, but she pondered on just how this society got in just such a position to overlook such things. Her Themysciran amazon sisters honored their heroines as well as the cycles of nature. It was moments like this that brought her to an even closer understanding of her Captain. She too was a displaced person in a time that was foreign to her. But with the Captain, even in his old-fashioned manners, she felt a kinship to him. Soon, she was aware of her own gaze upon him gazing on the Christmas tree.
"Ya plant them in the ground and watch it grow a beanstalk" blurted a soldier in the company. The rest of the soldiers either chuckled or let out a little laughter. But another soldier stepped forward and explained that they were the three bullets that he was supposed to use when he met up with Hitler.
"Alright guys, if I get there before you do, I'll just throw these at 'em." That got just as equal a laugh as the first joke.
It was often a little tension in the company, even though the guys felt safer knowing that they had the Captain America looking out for them, they knew that they could be killed in battle at any moment. So, it made them appreciate the smaller gestures while they were together. It might have even had been the last Christmas they spent alive.
Another soldier blurted out in tune to "O Tannenbaum" and the other soldiers in the company followed in.
When the moment was clear, she approached Steve. "It looks lovely, doesn't it?"
"It fits in here. I like the national colors all worked in."
"Yes, even with the sudden alterations," she said nodding at the dangling bullets that Steve placed on the tree.
"Oh, these were a Christmas gift from long ago. The soldiers in my company, during the war, gave them to me as a gift. So, every year, I take them out and look at them."
Diana let a brief moment go by in silence before choosing to speak again. "You know you're not the only one who's lost friends."
The sound of the particular gunshot stayed burned with the fuse of the memory of Dutch Sutton. He was bringing up the rear in the platoon that day, marching along the wooded path to the next safe point. They were only 120 yards away from an extraction point."This is a time for giving," Steve said while looking into Diana's eyes. "Some people gave everything they had." Steve again reached into his pocket and dangled a dog tag with the name D. Sutton on it. He then placed the dog tag on the tree next to the cluster of shell casings. They both looked at the tag twinkling along with the tree lights.
"Don't you die on me, soldier! On your feet!"
Sutton's eyes fluttered at a seizure pace. Following that, his body went into shock and started to spasm. Captain America held him in his arms and used the shield on his back to deflect any further attack. Sutton became a victim of a snipers bullet. The rest of the Army soldiers furiously whipped around to target any threat they could see. Further bullets started raining around them. Still, no one could identify the attackers. It could have been any of the the Germans or fascist allied Italians, or the more secret sect they began to gather intelligence on - soldiers with an ominous octopus logo on their uniforms.
Dutch Sutton struggled to speak, but he was determined to tell Captain America what he needed.
"Hey, Cap, we're almost there, right? We get to go home now?"
"Yes! All of us. We're going home."
"I can see it from here," said Sutton as he stared off in the distance. "It's got big pearly gates. I can see my family all waiting for me."
"He must have been a good soldier."
Diana reached out to Steve and pulled him closer. Instead of meditating on the seasonal icon, she then focused her attention on the indomitable Steve. She had three inches in height to him and she would often use her body language to not ever make him feel as if she was looking down at him. She adored him in moments like this. Diana subtly let Steve over to the side wall where a mistletoe was also slung.
"I'm still learning about your Christian traditions, Steve."
"And I'm grateful."
"What do you still want? What does the great Captain America want for Christmas?"
"I have everything that I need."
Diana stepped in closer to him while not losing eye contact with him. "Are you sure?" A smirk had formed in her lips.
"I want,... I wish... I could give more."
"See! There it is. That bottomless desire to give. It's okay, Steve, you can let people return your admiration."
Steve and Diana made eye contact at the same moment. Each of them felt the same feeling for each other. For Steve, all of the confidence in the world could still betray the stoic expressions he usually portrayed. Diana's more subtle powers of seduction were more of a mystery even to herself. Some say, they are a blessing from the goddess Aphrodite, but others would just describe that her own natural beauty shined outward. Steve became lost looking into her eyes. He had broken free of the haunting destructive memories of the war in favor of the current magic present in front of him.
"Let them go, Steve," said Diana as she grabbed him around the waist tighter. "And hold on to me."
The red blood started to soak the soldiers chest and uniform. Instead of an earthy green, the shirt and jacket were stained with a muddy red that came pouring out from the gunshot wounds. Dutch Sutton's life was the Army and it was literally seeping into the very fabric of what he stood for. If it weren't for his friend and field Captain, he also felt proud every time he saw his country's colors of red, white, and blue. His blood also splashed onto Captain America's uniform. In a small way, he too, became a part of the Captain America mythos.
"No! You're coming with us to the extraction point! You're going to make it, soldier!" Captain America pounded furiously on the wounded soldier's chest. His actions, though small, may have been trying to prolong the adrenalin momentum in the chance that the medic within the company would reach in time. Captain America hovered over the fallen soldier with his shield pointed skyward hoping that it would prevent any further bullets from doing their damage. "Hey, Cap. Remember me on Christmas next year?" Dutch asked as his voice and soul finally left him.
Diana's lasso she inherited from her Themysciran island was no match even for her feminine wiles, even when she wasn't aware of them, are her strongest weapon. The lasso revealed the Truth in the known universe, but even the hardest men would melt away just by being in her proximity.
"But, I'm not your Steve."
"I know. I've left him in the past. Along with the memories of the War."
Steve's loyalty to the love of his life was still so strong. Diana again increased her affections by pressing her majestic bosom into his sternum.
Finally, Steve let go and gave in. He was trained to be aware of his surroundings because so many looked to him for motivation. While under the mistletoe, Steve Rogers embraced Diana Prince in a passionate lip-lock. He let her be his most precious present to himself. He allowed her embrace to swell within him and be overcome with a healing compassion. The awful burden of just being both a man out of time and the enduring façade no longer mattered.
Once Diana's own satisfaction was reached she pulled her head away. "Merry Christmas, Captain."