SO glad some of you got the Dr. Strange cameo :D It's okay if you didn't, but I highly recommend the Doctor Strange animated movie on Netflix because it was really good and my best friend Ryan demanded I watch it so that he could be Bucky's doctor, hence the change from Tony's doctor to Strange. There will be another cameo next chapter that you all might not expect. I was gonna have it at the beginning of this chapter but decided to wait because I want to space out the cameos a bit…


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Chapter 16

The medication put him into a shallow but dreamless sleep. To him, it felt like he blinked and he was waking up again. But he felt cold. So, so cold. Numbness stretched from his left arm across his chest and down his back. Like when he was pulled out of cryostasis, the familiar feeling haunting him.

Bucky's eyes flew open, the light stinging for half a second, focusing slowly. The first thing they focused on was a crude cartoon drawing of what could only be him—a peachy blob with dark hair and a silver left arm, smiling ridiculously with a thumbs up.

'Not at Hydra. Please don't break things. -Clara' it read beneath in both English and barely readable Russian.

A chill of relief flooded through him and he felt his eyelids fall just as the dark haired woman appeared above him. He felt safe for the first time in a long time. Tired, but safe. Clara's mouth was moving but he only heard white noise as he drifted into a deep sleep.

When he opened his eyes again, he was on his stomach perched just over the ridge of a hill in the woods staring down the scope of a rifle. He took a breath and held it, aiming carefully so as to not accidentally nick the man in red, white, and blue.

With a snap, the rifle went off and another Nazi fell at Steve's feet. He remembered this, helping Steve take down Nazi's from the shadows. Letting Steve take all the focus, all the praise, while he did the dirty work from the trenches in the shadows.

He didn't mind that part—that's not where the intense bitter emotions stemmed from. Because that was the type of stuff the army trained him to do. No. He was bitter because his kind, loving, gentle friend was out here tossing people around, killing them. This was what Bucky was afraid of. They turned his gentle friend into a weapon.

Steve saluted him from afar and scoped out the rest of the area, taking off when he was sure it was clear of enemy soldiers. Bucky pressed his lips together and stood, gathering his equipment quickly and quietly, following after his friend.

He let out a deep breath and opened his eyes. The sign that had been taped to the ceiling was still there. He heard a page rustle and turned his head towards the man sitting in a chair in next to his bed. Bucky noticed they had moved him from the room in the basement back up to the room he'd been staying in before.

"How are you feeling?" The man shut his book and scooted to the edge of his seat.

"Weird being in the opposite position isn't it," Bucky grunted. Steve said nothing, but his eyes danced around the room. Bucky tried to lift his hands to his face, but only the flesh one moved. A bit taken aback, he looked down at the shoulder.

"Tony just disabled it during the procedure for safety reasons. He wanted to wait until you were awake to reconnect it."

"Who's safety, yours or mine?" he muttered, using his flesh and blood hand to poke around at the bandages.

"Both," Steve replied firmly. "How's your head?"

Taking a moment to assess before speaking, he ran a tongue between his lips. "Brain function is fractionally slower, and response to arm is malfunctioning. There is no pain."

Steve took a breath slowly and Bucky realized he'd responded like he would have to one of his handlers at Hydra—short and to the point, listing out every problem to be fixed.

"Dr. Strange said it would be a day or two before your accelerated healing picks up again," Steve explained. "I'm not too sure what he did—he explained it to Tony, and he understood."

"I'll be fine."

"You will, Buck. Hydra can't find you now, and even if they did, you have friends here to back you up," Steve tried to assure him. "You're not going to be forced to do anything—"

"Zola didn't make me a killer, Steve," Bucky pressed quietly, eyes zoned in on Steve's. He moved to sit up, pushing the pillows against the headboard. "I was already a killer."

"There's a difference between a soldier and a trained assassin," Steve ground out.

"Is there?" Bucky asked simply. "Is there a difference? I killed people in the war and I killed people over the last seventy years."

"I killed people during the war, too, Bucky. So has Bruce. So has Natasha and Clint and the hundreds of thousands of soldiers since the war we fought in," Steve argued.

"We're going in circles," Bucky sighed. He pulled a hand down his face. "Where's Clara?"

"She's down in the cafeteria getting something to eat and talking to one of her clients over the phone." Steve paused, hands gripping the armrests of the chair as if he were going to stand. "Do you want me to go get her?"

"No, no," he said. "Don't bother her." Bucky paused then looked back at Steve. "Where do I go from here, Steve?" His voice was quiet, but his heart was loud in his ears. "What now?"

"We take it day by day," he replied easily, calmly. Bucky wasn't sure if Steve had already thought through this or not—if he hadn't, it didn't show. "You can stay here in the tower or come back with me to DC."

Back to DC? Clara was going back to DC, he could—the thought halted in his mind instantly. No, he couldn't bother her more than she offered. But did he want to stay in this tower with Tony and Pepper?

"We don't have to figure that out now," Steve interrupted his thoughts. "Like I said—we'll take it day by day, play it by ear. I won't make you do anything you don't want to."

"What did you do?" he finally dared to ask. "When you woke up after…"

Steve shook his head slowly. "I had Fury. Fury helped me…adjust. I'm not gonna lie, Buck, it's gonna be hard."

"I'm not looking for easy," he ground out. "I'm looking for….I don't know, meaning? Redemption."

Steve stood and wiped his palms on the front of his jeans. "Like I said, you have a few days to decide what you want to do, and even then you can change your mind. You're free now."

"It doesn't feel like it," he grumbled, dropping his head back into the pillow.

"Fury called it acculturative stress or something. Ask Clara. It's a psychological term," Steve explained. "It's normal—normal for us."


"Yeah, I've always got your back, Bucky." He patted Bucky's leg firmly and headed for the door. "I'm gonna go find us some food. I'll be back soon."

Bucky licked his lips and slid back down into the bed, rolling onto his side, holding his metal arm close to his chest. Everything was changing, and he was scared.