A/N: This story was inspired by this wonderful Tumblr post:
Eli could barely believe it himself. Some…time traveler from the future had shown up at his door, out of the blue like something from a comic book. Nate Richards, (that was his name right?) Had come searching for a super soldier.
"I need Josiah Bradley." He said, the guy looked like he was going to pass out at any moment. "It is imperative I find him."
Well, he was out of luck. Josiah had gone missing years ago, he couldn't tell this guy where he was even if he wanted to…and Eli wasn't sure he even wanted to.
Iron Lad had explained that he needed a super soldier. Something about a threat that would engulf everything if left unchecked.
A super soldier. Growing up Eli had learned of his grandfather's story. The tale of the forgotten Captain America. The soldier who protected his country, even when it did everything it could to bury him in the dirt. Yet, he still fought to uphold rights that were never his in the first place. He was a soldier, in every sense of the word. Something Eli aspired to be. Someone who could live up to his grandfather's legacy, bring the tale out of the darkness and into the light. A hero's welcoming into a world that had forgotten him.
"You need a super soldier?" Eli smirked and clasped his hand against Nate's shoulder. "You've found him."
"Jeff, I don't know why you want to do this." Namor said as the old soldier donned his costume one last time. "This will kill your legacy. The name of Patriot shall forever be a pariah."
Jeff Mace knew the risk, but he also knew an injustice when he saw one. A dear friend of his, one of the finest soldiers who ever help to defend the country from Nazi terror, had been discharged from service. Jeff remembered the look on the poor guy's face as he was handed that Blue Ticket.
Now…it wasn't a discharge, not officially…but it might as well have been. And why? Why? Because he was suspected of homosexual activity?
"Namor, you know Casey just as well as any of us. Regardless of who he falls into bed with you know he's a swell guy."
Casey didn't deserve that…no one did.
And soon after, Casey died.
Eli looked up at the pictures that decorated his home's walls. Pictures of family members, leaders, and strangers Eli had never met. When he was a kid, Eli would point up to all the smiling faces, begging for stories about them. Who were they? Where are they now? Can they come visit? Did they fight with you in the war?
His grandfather only shook his head. "All the men in my platoon died years ago."
Those words made Eli's blood boil.
They're dead. Not from enemy fire, or the flames of Nazi wrath. Not from the battlefield, or the storm of bullets that tried to claim them. They died from a faulty serum that their country tested on them. Their bodies deformed into states that not even their families would be able to recognize.
And then, one by one, the serum took hold of their minds. It sapped away at their reasoning, killing them slowly, and now, that same defect was claiming his grandfather.
America…home of injustice.
Eli opened his laptop and began searching. If he was going to do right by his grandfather, he was going to need a code name. One that resembled his grandfather's sacrifice and one that would help bring his legacy out of the darkness.
"Did you guys hear about this?" Jeff asked…he almost screamed. He held up a newspaper that stated that the dishonorable Lt. Casey would have his funeral today, and the media would be there to cover every bit of the man's burial. They hoped Casey's death would be a cautionary tale for those who pursued the shameful act of homosexuality. "Not only is the man dead, but the media is perfectly content to spit on his legacy!"
Every soldier deserves a decent burial with pride. He laid his life on the line, and this is how they repay him? If Cap were here, he wouldn't let this stand.
But Cap was here. It had only been a short while since Jeff had taken up the old Captain America identity. Even if the original, Steve Rogers, was still lost, the ideals that he stood for could still be found. Yes. If Steve were still here today, he'd agree. The whole point of Captain America was to fight injustice wherever it was…
"Everyone," Jeff said. The Invaders stood around him, each with their own expression. Namor stood to the side, his arms cross over the other. Miss Patriot looked on with concern, Toro's smile faded over his face. "I have an announcement. Surely, you all know of Casey's funeral, and the circus the media is planning to make it. I don't think any soldier should have to meet his maker with a sendoff like that." He took a deep breath…he was shaking. "So I've decided to attend his funeral as Captain America. Maybe show a little piece of good ol' America rights of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
He breathed out, and the room fell silent.
"Mace, have you lost your mind?" Namor was the first to speak…as always.
"I know some of you might not agree, but this is what I need to do. I know Steve would approve."
Toro was the next to speak. "Look Jeff, that's all well and good, but thinks about what it'll do to the Captain America name. Think about it."
Captain America, the sentinel of liberty, a supporter of homosexuality?
"Trust us Jeff—If you go as Captain America, you'll destroy Captain America. No one will wear that uniform ever again."
In one single swoop he'd destroy Cap's legacy.
Eli searched through old teams that had protected America during the war. All white men and women who were exalted as heroes. Honored as protectors. Miss America. Toro. The All Winners Club. The Invaders. Bucky. He went through news clip after news clip, picture after picture. Headlines of "We are Thankful" and "Greatest American Heroes."
It was all a lie to Eli. A large wall of fabrication…
Jeff went to the funeral. He wanted to pay his last respects. Casey was his friend, he was one of the greatest soldiers he had ever known…he deserved a decent sendoff, and if Captain America couldn't see to that, then the Patriot would.
Jeff had dusted off his old uniform, it had been ages since he had seen that old eagle emblem grace his chest. There were reporters, shocked faces, whispers, and even groans of disgust, but Jeff never let any of that bother him, he knew what he was here to do.
This is what he was. This is what his country stood for. Not circuses that marred a man's name, but the dream of a world where everyone could be united. That's what his uniform had stood for. That is what Cap had stood for.
That is what he stood for.
"I am a patriot."
Eli looked at the old clip that flashed on his computer screen. Someone named the Patriot, an old defender of American liberty, had made an appearance at the funeral of a dishonored war vet.
"News of the Patriots surprise appearance and speech spread quickly, and due to the questionable nature of Casey's discharge, was just as quickly denounced by numerous groups and individuals."
Eli's heart began to pound.
"Photos of the Patriot are now conspicuously absent from veterans' and political offices."
Why did that story sound so familiar? Forgotten amongst a thrall of heroes.
After his infamous appearance, the Patriot was never seen again.
Patriot. Eli closed his eyes. It was the patriots that helped build this country, the men and women who took up arms to protect their own liberties, some of them were even black men and women who stood for what this country could be, rather than what it was.
But was that something he could really be? Was that something he could fight for?
Eli closed his laptop and looked to the walls of his grandfather's house. Pictures of a story no one wanted to remember. He clenched his jaw. It was a patriot's job to fight for his country, but it was also a patriot's job to defend what he believed in, no matter what his country said. A long uphill climb that could mar his body, but wasn't that what patriotism was? Wasn't that what his grandfather stood for?
Wasn't that what his struggle was for?
He closed his eyes. This Patriot guy…had the right idea. This country was fucked up…in more ways than one, but being a patriot meant owning up to that and working to make it better. That was something his grandfather knew, and something Eli had to learn.
He nodded his head. He had made his decision.
"I'll be a patriot."