An Interested Party

Well. This is the first fanfiction I've published in literally… years. After The Winter Soldier I was craving a fanfiction with Bucky and Loki, my two favorite characters, so I typed this up on my phone when my insomnia got the best of me last night. Hopefully someone other than me was intrigued by the idea. Anyway. I did the best I could, hope you guys enjoy it.

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Every couple of mornings, they'll go running. Whenever they've had a good night's rest and could afford the time to fit in some exercise, they will, which lately hasn't been too often. This morning is one of those times. It's always around eight—sometimes before, sometimes slightly after. The man is one of routine, apparently, but not overbearingly so. The man, his last target, the man he failed to kill. The man who gave him a name. The man who threw a wrench in his reality—the one who wouldn't fight back.

Why wouldn't he fight back?

The Winter Soldier, safely tucked under a dark hoodie and jeans, watches the two silently from a nearby rooftop. They joke and attempt to keep in high spirits, Rogers saying something every time he would pass his partner, what with his impeccable speed.

"On your left," is what he says, and the other humbly accepting this and saying something witty in reply, always something different.

He should have died.

Why didn't he? Why did the Winter Soldier decide to dive into the water after him, to be sure to keep the man's head above water as he swam them to safety with only one working arm—why did he care so much for that gasp of air Rogers took once they made the shore? Why did he feel relief that the man survived?

Who is he?

Captain America, Steve Rogers, friends of Bucky Barnes. A man he has no memory of.

Something keeps tugging at the Winter Soldier after encountering him. The very subject of Rogers, his last target, brings back flashes of things, either fragments of memory or feelings and emotions that he doesn't understand.

The Winter Soldier doesn't have emotions. The Winter Soldier shouldn't have emotions or independent thoughts. He shouldn't be anything except what they want him to be.

But why?

Pain. That's what happens when he expresses independent thought and emotion. He remembers that much. Even after they shock his memory away, even when he wakes and remembers nothing else but kill, kill, kill them all, he remembers to never be anything that they don't want him to be. He is not his own person; he is not free. Nor should he want freedom.

But he does, and now he has it. It feels good. And what is he doing with it?

Watching Rogers. Following him, everywhere—watching, constantly torn between striking and approaching him. They are looking for him, and he doesn't quite understand why. They are not friends—they have not been friends. Perhaps this man, this Bucky Barnes, was, but not him.

"You know, you could just go speak to him."

The Soldier whips around, hand on his knife in less than a second, ready to attack. But the man behind him raises his hands, seemingly unarmed. "There is no need for that—I am not here for chaos."

"Who are you?" the Soldier demands.

"An interested party, is all. I am Loki, of Asgard."

The Soldier doesn't relax in the slightest. In fact, he slowly draws his knife from its sheath and holds it tensely by his side. "Is that supposed to mean something to me?"

This Loki tilts his head. "No, not necessarily. I wouldn't expect you to know, after all that you've been through… James."

The Winter Soldier freezes, recalling his real – previous – name that he was called—at least, according to the man going running behind him, and the supposed proof in the Smithsonian of the life he once had in World War II. He takes a breath, almost shaken, and he doesn't understand why. "How do you—"

"Oh, an enemy of SHEILD rises out of the ashes, after being there all along—how could I resist doing a little digging?" Loki regards him bemusedly. "This… Hydra… Who knew mere mortals were capable of such dark intentions?"

The Soldier narrows his eyes. Mortals? Who is this man?

"Although, after all this time, it is discovered that the infamous Winter Soldier, turns out to be simply another broken man." Loki sits down on the edge of the building, glancing down at the two men below. "Then again…" he turns back to the Winter Soldier. "Aren't we all?"

The Soldier's glare doesn't fade in the slightest. He doesn't know who this Loki is, or how he knows all of this, and he doesn't think for a moment if Loki is just 'another broken man.' He doesn't like this one bit, and it takes all of the self control he can muster to refrain from sticking a knife in Loki's chest.

"What do you want?" the Soldier demands.

"Nothing, truly," Loki replies smoothly, mischief and a sense of superiority gleaming off of every word as he stands and makes his way around him. "I simply wished to introduce myself. And, I suppose, to explain that I understand, in a way, what it is you've been through."

"No you don't," the Soldier snaps all too quickly, but the tone is calm. Dark.

"Going through what you did… the beatings, the torture, the electricity surging through every part of you until all that's left in that head of yours is the pain it took to get there—"

Enraged, the knife flies from the Soldier's fingers, aimed right for Loki's throat—and it would have made its mark, had it not suddenly stopped in midair merely inches away from its target. The Soldier blinks in confusion before pulling out his gun and aiming it at Loki's forehead. Something, however, stops him.

Loki tilts his head to the side. "Come now, there is no need to kill me." After a moment, Loki thinks over his actions and sighs, understanding. The knife suddenly drops from the air and clanks on the ground. "I do apologize. I suppose I wouldn't wish for anyone to be discussing my torture in this manner either."

"How could you possibly know about all of that?" the Soldier demands, quite sure that he will shoot the man in the head within the minute.

Loki smiles. "I was there." It vanishes as quickly as it came.

The Soldier's glare deepens. "You work for them."

"Oh, no," Loki replies, blinking away. "I don't work for anyone."

"Then how could you have been there?" The Soldier growls, calculating the fight that would ensue should his target fail to go down like a normal human if he fires. The man's performance thus far has surely proved his theory.

"I snuck in, the same way I do everything."

"There's no way," the Soldier replies, not believing the man's story for a moment. His finger curls tighter around the trigger. "Hydra's security is among the highest in the world. You'd be dead by now."

"Well then," Loki replies evenly. "It's a good thing I'm not from this world and don't need to bypass security."

The Soldier narrows his eyes. He doesn't believe the man—but lately, what defined what he did and didn't believe? He decides to abandon the subject entirely.

"Why were you there?"

He doesn't bother to ask why he didn't help him.

"I told you, it intrigued me. After doing a little digging, I had to see it myself. I know all about you."

The Soldier has to take a deep breath to refrain to avoid shooting the man right here. He doesn't know what's stopping him, but he forces himself to wait until he has answers he craves from the man.

"If you have come here, you either wish to take me back or you have some kind of death wish," the Soldier says. "I will kill you either way."

Loki tilts his head to the side and smiles, walking as he went, as if the Soldier is just some boy with a stick and a garbage lid pretending to be frightening. "Your bravery is admired, Barnes. Undoubtedly justified, and I do not doubt that you would try to kill me again. Only, you have decided not to, at least for the moment, and I am still standing here, antagonizing you. For which I apologize, I suppose—that was not my intention."

"Then what was?" the Soldier demands, noticing how his hand has relaxed albeit slightly on the gun.

Loki curls his lip upward. "You have good in you still, Barnes. You're valuable, yes, but I have no intentions of using you. I do not come to you as a threat. An ally, perhaps, should circumstances come to that. Otherwise, you have no need to kill me. And I have no desire to kill you, unless absolutely necessary."

"You want me to side with you now?" the Soldier asks, dumbfounded and enraged at this man's superior aura.

"Not side with me," Loki replies. "I simply wish that you would not consider me an enemy."

The Soldier narrows his eyes. "I suspect you already are, at least to someone."

"Aren't you?" Loki retorts, raising a brow. "Yet you remain sideless. Not on the side of the righteous, but not necessarily on the side of evil."

Loki takes a deep breath and glances at the two mortals below, who have now concluded their run and walk together back to their motel room. He turns to Barnes.

"Well, Rogers and Wilson ought to be on the road soon. You should be going."

He walks past the Soldier, rubbing his hands together to warm up his magic. The Soldier notices this, but doesn't understand and doesn't dwell on it long.

"Oh, and a word of advice, Barnes," Loki says, turning to him. The Soldier looks up at him, the want to murder him slightly less present. He puts the gun down slightly. Loki has an uncomfortable look on his face. "This isn't really my, area, so to speak, but. You know many answers about your past now, and I know you fail to understand most of them. But you still follow Rogers around, and you have yet to kill him, so you must want something from him. That can only be one thing, that you refuse to admit to yourself. I understand it. So, while I refuse to fix a similar problem myself, you don't have to. Your problem"—he gestures in the direction of Rogers—"still wants you. So go fix it, and talk to him."

The Soldier is speechless. The gun, he finds, is down completely, and he stands in front of this man, watching helplessly as his personal emotions are ripped out in front of him and left to dry in the cool morning breeze by this mysterious, potentially ex-adversary.

"We'll meet again, Barnes," Loki says, pulling the man from his thoughts with a grin. "Until next time."

With that, Loki walks to the edge of the building, puts one hand on the ledge and hops right off.