Hello friends, I have returned! It's been a while, sorry, because I was really busy with school. It's all good now. Yay summer! I have made up for it with an extra super long chapter. So, as you probably know, this story was originally a one-shot, but I just couldn't stop. I now have four chapters in the making and can't wait to put them up. There's less Loki in this chapter (sadly), but we do get some interaction with Steve and Bucky! Enjoy.
The morning is hazy, to say the least. Steve and Sam don't get any more than four hours of sleep to add on to their record of sleep deprivation, and it is beginning to show clearly on their faces now. Steve wakes first, the crack of dawn just peering into the windows, whispering her arrival into the hearts of slumbering citizens. It is a dreamless sleep, Steve has—the kind of sleep that leaves you in a quiet and dull state of mind to start out the day full of unknown variables. Throwing his legs off the side of the bed, Steve stands, the thoughts of going back to sleep throbbing in the back of his mind, but he forces it aside. He gets ready rather quickly—not because he's in a hurry, but because he knows that soon, possibly today, he'll see Bucky.
It has taken up until a few days ago to realize that they aren't following Bucky at all: Bucky has been following them. Of course, he has never directly seen him—Bucky is far too skilled at concealing himself for that—but perhaps it is just the occasional feeling of being watched; seeing something shift in the shadows, on a rooftop or around a corner. Steve has never said anything or approached, but that is the likes of which he intends to pursue today.
Down the street, merely a few minutes later, the man in question sits at a café. It has been three days since the Soldier's encounter with Loki, and meanwhile, he has done his share of research on the man. If Loki would even fit under that title. There is little he can get his hands on regarding the Loki that talked to him the other day, what with all of this Norse mythology in the way. There is one loose thread that Bucky cannot find much information on—simply the mention of a Loki in an apparent battle that occurred in New York nearly two years ago. He had stopped short in his research at what he read.
"After the events in the extraterrestrial attack from a species unknown, ending the lives of thousands, the group known as the Avengers go underground in their whereabouts."
The Soldier had scrolled to the bottom of the page to see it posted a year and a half ago. He sat back in his seat, the information swimming through his head.
Extraterrestrial attack? From another species?
Even with the limited memory and humanity the Soldier has, the thought of aliens attacking New York is just bizarre.
In his research, he also looked into these so-called "Avengers," only to find that Steve Rogers is one of them. Him, and someone named Thor.
Thor—didn't he hear that in the Norse mythology page? He traveled back. Thor, brother of Loki. Both from Asgard. A voice echoes in his head from the other day: I am Loki, of Asgard.
The Soldier struggles with the thought of whether or not these two men are the people from legend (legend, according to the internet, of course). Assuming it is true, the man who talked to him, Loki, is the brother of Thor, an Avenger rumored to be from a planet called Asgard. And Loki was somehow included in the battle. He couldn't have been an Avenger—there is much information on each one of them (hell, there are even bloody action figures), while Loki is simply not listed. Was Loki sided with the aliens? He technically is one, but his brother was fighting with the Avengers. Bucky had recalled something else Loki said in the conversation. Not on the side of the righteous, but not necessarily on the side of evil. Did that apply to two years ago?
Shaking his head, the Soldier looks away from the tan wall he's been staring at for the past few minutes and looks down at his coffee. The café isn't loud, and it actually somewhat calms him, to his surprise. His coffee is black, with two packets of sugar mixed in. It's fairly bland, but Bucky had been confused by all of the options of flavoring and didn't want to look as bewildered as he felt.
The Soldier remembered something about himself when he made it—he has never truly liked coffee. He doesn't know why or who he came to remember such a thing about himself, a memory of James Bucky Barnes, but it is definitely true. Opinions aside, it gets the job done. He hasn't been tired in a solid thirty-two hours.
After making sure no one is looking, he pulls out a small stark pad and clicks it on. Every morning, one of the men looking for him (Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson) will go out to bring coffee for the both of them—he just has to be sure they don't come to the one he is at. Bucky figures they won't, since there is a perfectly decent coffee shop in an even shorter distance the opposite way, so he isn't too worried. That is, until he sees only one red dot on the screen.
Since day one, he's had trackers in their shoes, tracking them for a reason he doesn't even understand. One he "refuses to admit to himself," according to Loki. His heart races. One dot—that means only one of them is in the motel—the block?—the city? Where is the other one?
He finds his answer the second a man sharing a striking resemblance to Steve Rogers suddenly slides into the booth across from Bucky, and sits.
Bucky is shocked still. His eyes are fixed on Steve—how did he get here, why isn't your tracker on, how did I not see you walk in, I can see the entire café from here—and Steve only smiles slightly. Bucky's hand he used to touch the stark pad slowly curls into a sign of defeat as his eyes stay on the man. What do I do
"So, a tracker in my shoe," Steve says, holding a rather broken looking chip in between two fingers. "Not a bad idea. Does Sam have one too?"
When Bucky doesn't say anything, Steve goes on. "It took me a long time. To realize all of this. You're good." Still, Bucky says nothing, so Steve cuts straight to the chase. "So why are you following us? We're supposed to be following you."
Bucky takes a breath, deciding to reply, unintentionally taking hold of the situation. "Why are you following me?"
"I just want to talk," Steve says, breaking eye contact, suddenly looking and sounding much less threatening.
He's an enemy.
No, he's a friend
"Is that okay?" he asks.
Why is he asking for Bucky's permission?
When Bucky doesn't make any kind of response, Steve takes a deep breath and goes on. "Do you remember anything? About me, or yourself?"
Yes. You're the enemy and I was supposed to kill you but you were my friend once and I want to know I need to know—
"No," he replies almost harshly, his eyes glaring. It's a lie. He takes a deep breath, the lack of sleep finally beginning to weigh down on his shoulders, a single blink being slightly more effort than it should be. "Why do you care? Why aren't you trying to kill me already?"
The last sentence comes out before he can stop it, and he knows if he were back at Hydra, he would probably be punished for speaking out or asking questions or even thinking at all.
Steve blinks, and holds his gaze. "I'm not following you to kill you, Bucky. I want to help you."
Bucky narrows his eyes, at the name and the mention of Steve helping. "Why would you want to help me?"
After a moment, Steve looks down slightly. "We… used to be friends. You and I."
"'Best friends since childhood, Bucky Barnes and Steve Rogers were inseparable on both school yard and battlefield,'" Bucky quotes. Steve falters, and Bucky shrugs. "I saw the footage."
Steve is perplexed by the fact that Bucky went out in search of this information, and found it, on both Steve and his past self. He figures that likely wasn't the only thing he found out. "It's true. And I would give anything to go back to then and save you from all you've been through."
Bucky narrows his eyes, unconvinced. It satisfies him that he is beginning to be the one in charge of this conversation, but he suspects it won't last long. Steve takes a breath.
"The fact that, after all these years, you are alive and out there and suffering is more than enough to get me looking for you. You want to know things, don't you?"
"No." It comes out rushed, and for a moment he is worried, but is then confident that it gets his point across. The satisfaction is gone, and is replaced by his defensive mode. "I don't. I don't want to. And I don't want your help."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because the last time I allowed anyone to help, I was turned into the Winter Soldier," he replies, surprising even himself. Bucky suddenly becomes incredibly self-conscious, as if a Hydra agent—Pierce, Rumlow, Garrett, anyone—is right behind him, even though he is against the wall in the furthest booth from the door, and they will hear him. They will know he said that, spoke out against them, demeaned them to his last target. He will suffer—he probably deserves it anyway.
Steve is silent, and Bucky shifts uncomfortably, hiding his hands under the table to stop them from shaking.
"You do know I'm not Hydra, don't you?" he asks finally. Bucky looks at him like he's a complete idiot.
"The realization has crossed my mind, yes."
"I don't know what they told you," Steve continues. "But I don't want to be your enemy. I don't want you to suffer."
"I deserve to suffer," Bucky retorts, completely serious, looking the man hard in the eyes, and he pinpoints the very second the expression in Steve's eyes crack, like a glass ball.
"I'm sorry that you believe that," Steve says, breaking eye contact to look back down. Bucky knits his eyes together slightly—what's that supposed to mean?
"You aren't the first person to tell me we should be friends," the Soldier says, crossing his arms. "Which means you only need me as a weapon."
This is a statement Steve did not expect, from the small look on his face. He struggles with his reply, so Bucky takes advantage of it. "Why would I—"
"It makes sense," the Soldier interrupts. "Your agency has fallen—you are low on resources and you are this close to a weapon Hydra used for decades, apparently."
"I don't want you as a weapon, Bucky."
"I—" what? "Why wouldn't you? That is what I am and the only thing I'm good for."
"Bucky," Steve says, the concern dripping from his voice and his face, although he tries to mask it. The entire statement makes the Soldier shift uncomfortably, looking around in obvious discontent. No one else has ever called him that before.
"I don't want you as a weapon," he says. "I only want to help you. You want to be away from Hydra, right?"
Bucky falters slightly. Yes. "N—" Yes, oh god yes, more than anything don't let me go back—
It isn't that bad
Yes it is
"I am—" Hydra, I am Hydra, I am Hydra, aren't I? I was, but am I now?
"I am Hydra"
The words wisp from his lips, meaningless and empty.
"Do you want to be?" Steve presses. Bucky narrows his eyes, suddenly focused once more.
"I don't want anything. I shouldn't want anything. I don't need anything."
"Bucky." Steve's words slice through Bucky's train of thought and Bucky looks to him, eyes broken. "You don't have to be Hydra."
Bucky looks away, heart racing. I know. I know. But what else am I supposed to do?
"You can come with me and Sam," Steve continues, as if answering Bucky's thoughts. "We won't hurt you. We'll help you get your memories back, if you want them, and we'll find some place to lay low for a while and figure out what you want to do."
Bucky feels like crying. Screaming. Breaking. Shattering, like a mirror, all over this café floor, left simply as pieces for the poor waitress to clean up.
"I don't know what I want to do" Bucky says quietly, the words barely passing his lips.
Steve smiles kindly. "We can figure that out."
Bucky's heart continues to race as he actually considers this offer.
No, no, no, you belong to Hydra stop this
No, I don't belong to anyone
Yes you do. Your mission is to eliminate Rogers
Don't hurt him
Don't listen to him
Listen to him
Talk to him.
Your problem still wants you!
Then come more voices.
You're property, son.
Don't you dare begin to think you have a choice in this
Fine, then wipe him.
Put him on ice.
Don't start getting all human on us
You don't have a choice.
This was never about you!
Look at you. Pathetic.
When he looks up, he looks past Steve and at other people in the café. Laughing, talking, drinking or eating from the items they bought here, utterly oblivious to the drama that is unfolding inside of Bucky. They all go about their business, not paying attention to either of them—except—
He sits at a table quite a ways away, but can probably still hear them if he listens. He wears a gray hoodie with a black leather jacket over it, so the hood comes out, and Loki glances inconspicuously at Bucky, a glint in his eye and a smirk on his lips, before looking away.
Gritting his teeth, Bucky looks back at Steve. Before he can even think over his answer, words come spilling from his mouth. "What do I have to do?"
A few minutes later, the two men are walking back to the motel, Bucky just a step of two behind Steve. The man in front glances at Bucky every once in a while, with a look in his eyes Bucky can't quite understand. He wants to ask what it is, but can't get himself to do so.
Finally, Steve slows his pace so he walks beside the Winter Soldier. "Hey, I'm sorry if you don't trust me enough to answer this, so I understand if you don't." Bucky narrows his eyes, daring Steve to go on, and he does. "Do you really not remember anything?"
Bucky looks away. His black backpack, which consists of a few snacks, water, a stark pad, and a notebook, begins to weigh heavily on his shoulders. He tugs at the sleeve on his metal arm. "I do remember a few things; just little ones. People I killed. Some of the war. You, when you were smaller."
Steve's eyes shoot upward hopefully. "You remember that?"
"Just a few things," the Soldier replies sharply, trying not to let Steve get his hopes up. It doesn't work.
"That's still better than I hoped, even if it is just a few."
Bucky says nothing.
After a moment, when they enter the motel parking lot, Steve speaks again. "Anything else?"
Bucky shakes his head, beginning to get—what is that?—nervous. Like Alexander Pierce is standing before him, demanding details of his previous mission.
A hit to his face when he didn't see the point in who it was who saw him.
Another man would hit him. Twice. A third and he would taste blood.
Once, he remembers, when there as less patience on Hydra's plate than they could afford, they injected him with some type of serum that made something under his skin burn and crawl like nothing he remembered feeling before, and he screamed and hyperventilated and writhed against the restraints until his voice wouldn't scream anymore. He remembered that day two days ago when he relived it in a dream.
With a sudden breath, he pulls back to the present and forces himself to reply quickly and honestly, his skin crawling from the memory.
"Nothing important." Details, says the Pierce inside his takes another breath. "Useless facts or feelings. A flashback every once in a while. I don't"—don't say I don't know, that's worse—PIERCE ISN'T HERE—stop—"I don't know," he breathes quickly.
Steve looks at him sidelong, a crease of worry in his eyes. "Okay. Are you alright?"
They are now standing in front of the Steve and Sam's motel room. When did that happen? Steve was reaching for the door knob, but has suddenly stopped at the odd behavior of his friend. Waiting for an answer.
"Yeah," Bucky replies, finding no other quick solution to the situation. Steve still looks worried, but decides to let it go and open the door.
Sam stands on the other end of the room, back turned, packing his bag. He speaks first. You know, I was kinda wondering what was taking so—" he stops once he turns around, and his eyes land on the Winter Soldier. He looks to Steve, then back to Bucky. "Well, I'll be damned."
Steve enters the room, and invites Bucky to follow. After a moment's hesitation, he does.
The room isn't big, and rather enlarges Bucky's feelings of anxiety and panic.
"Sam, this is Bucky. Bucky, this is Sam," Steve says, a cool and collected kind of aura about him.
The Winter Soldier looks to Sam. The same man he battled briefly before—the one with wings. A previous enemy. Not to him anymore—just an enemy of Hydra.
"It's good to meet you, man," Sam says. "Well, on somewhat better terms."
Bucky nods, not knowing what to say. What does he even do now? What should any of them be doing?
"I'm sorry that I didn't ask you this before," Steve says. "Do you mind that I call you that? I don't want it to bother you if you don't remember."
Bucky blinks. Does he care? No one has asked him this before, not that he can remember. He does know that he doesn't want to be called the Winter Soldier, because it is a constant reminder of what he is—an assassin, property of Hydra. He isn't Hydra, so as long as it isn't that, it can be anything. So he shakes his head, a small smile just almost there. "I don't care if you call me Bucky."
Three minutes later, the three of them sit on the beds: Sam on his, Steve on the opposite one, and Bucky on the foot of Steve's.
"So, what now?" Sam asks.
"We help Bucky," Steve replies confidently. "We'll settle someplace for a while; make sure Hydra's off our tail. Then we'll see what we can do to help him."
Sam nods. "Okay. That isn't a very comprehensive plan, but we can work with it. That all cool with you, man?" he asks Bucky.
Bucky looks up, almost startled at the question. He is slightly late in realizing that this means he is supposed to answer. "Yeah," he replies simply, because it is the easiest thing to say.
"All right. So where are we going?"
"Natasha texted me a few days ago," Steve replies. "Said she has a safe house that's clean if we need it. I'll have to call her to get a place to meet up. Being tracked by Hydra is the last thing we need."
Steve looks at Bucky. "Do you need anything?"
He is startled, but doesn't let it show as much this time. He shakes his head.
"Okay. If you do, let Sam know. I'll be right outside."
And he leaves. It is quiet for a few moments, and Bucky slowly looks up to analyze Sam. His movements, his thoughts, his intentions. Nothing about the way he carries himself seems like he hates Bucky, or intends to harm him, physically or verbally. He takes his as a good sign, and relaxes his shoulders slightly. This doesn't stop him from being cautious.
Outside, the phone rings slightly longer than Steve is comfortable with. Finally, though, Natasha picks up. There is a shuffle on the other side, before Natasha breathes impatiently and speaks, her voice not fitting with her previous emotion whatsoever. Her voice is calm and collected, almost nonchalantly happy.
"Hey Steve. You decide to take me up on that drink?"
Her voice echoes, as if she is in a large hall, and in the background a man's voice almost laughs. Then, a whisper on the other line in a Russian accent, probably to someone else, says "Steve Rogers." Steve puts the pieces together very quickly—she is with someone, possibly a group of someone's (Hydra?) and she is referring to the safe house in code. Is she undercover—with Russians? No… hell, she's probably been taken hostage and is tied to a chair. That would explain everything about this call so far.
Steve forces himself to smile and act sincere since they are most likely being listened to. "Yeah, why not? I have a free day, and I'm finally finished with everything here. Decided I'd better live a little, you know…"
A piece of him shrivels up inside at the last sentence.
"Yeah, it'd be fun," she replies coolly. "What was that one place Tony went on about? Some sandwich place?"
He knows exactly which one, and knows that she knows too, but he acts otherwise. "Sunny's…? Denny's? Oh, I know the one!" Unreasonably happy, is what the voice in his head says. He feels stupid with a silly smile on his face to play the part.
"Yeah. Meet me there tomorrow at noon."
Steve looks around. They are in the middle of Oklahoma. "Great."
After a moment, with another scuffle on the other line, the call ends. There weren't any code words that Steve could detect—as would be expected. Natasha wouldn't ever ask for help, so he counts on the knowledge that she can take care of herself in whatever situation she's in.
Sam and Bucky look up when Steve enters the room, shutting the door behind him.
"What's the word?" Sam asks.
Steve allows himself to smirk. "You ever been to Shawarma?"