A/N: Final chapter! I usually edit and post after work, but I'm not going to be around this afternoon, so I figured I'd post it earlier rather than late :) Thank you again for all the reviews and followers! I really appreciate it. I am contemplating a sequel as well as a side project set during the movie, so please keep an eye out for those. Enjoy!
14. I am trying to believe
He stands on a balcony in Brooklyn, looking out across the city. It is early morning. He slept in an alley. Well, sleep is not the correct word. He dreamed of his past. He waits now, for the city to awaken so he can find where he wants to go. He knows it will be easier to get in during the day, when security is less automated. Where he plans to go would be considered a suicide mission amongst burglars. He is not a burglar, though.
When he sees the world waking up, he leaves his perch. He walks down to a bus stop and waits. Others join him. They all wait patiently. He boards the bus and selects a seat. It is early and many are empty. No one sits beside him, even when more passengers board and some must stand.
An hour later, he stands below a tower. It was Stark Tower, he knows, until the Battle of New York, as they are calling it. Now it is known as Avengers Tower, and the A is the only part of the huge letters that once spelled Stark. He knows that Steve, Captain America, is there. He is dressed in the uniform of a maintenance worker. He knows no one will give him a passing thought. People can be cruel sometimes.
He enters the building and makes his way upstairs. He is questioned. He is allowed to pass. He supposes that security does not need to be so very tight here; they have a Hulk, after all. No wonder they feel secure. So many of them are just men, though. They can die. They are skilled, but not special, not gods. He is skilled, too.
It takes him some time to bypass the access points and get to Steve's room. He must move through the hallways in silence, and is grateful that his supple boots allow him to do this. The door on Steve's room isn't locked. He isn't there. That suits him fine. He searches the room and settles down to wait beside the door. His mind drifts as he waits.
The chip fell, and both of them jumped after it. They fought the whole way down. When they hit the glass of the dome, he clung to the chip with his right hand. It would be better in his left, but the man fought him with too much intensity for him to be able to switch. Somehow, he found himself in a headlock. The target choked him as he tried to wrest the little piece of technology from his hand. He reached to defend himself with his left arm, but the man pinned him down more thoroughly. He could not move, could barely breathe. Finally, he let go of the object as things were becoming black. The target grabbed it and left him lying there.
He rolled over slowly, throat aching and arm throbbing. He can't move the latter. Unsteadily, he got to his feet. His mission was not over. With some difficulty, he found his pistol on the glass floor. Bending over to pick it up was very painful. He had to use his left arm. He straightened and looked for his target.
He fired his weapon, hitting the man. He held his likely-broken right arm close to his chest in order to reduce the pain. The target fell, then dragged himself upward and onto the platform. He shot again and again. But whatever the man's goal was with the chips, he was apparently successful. He heard him talking to someone over a radio, giving orders. Then, suddenly, there was mayhem everywhere. The other helicarriers have targeted this one. They were firing, smoke filling the air as the metal structure of the ship began to fall.
Without warning, he found himself trapped. A huge beam knocked him down, the wind escaped his lungs. When he had caught his breath, he could see that a twisted piece of wreckage had fallen and pinned him to the glass dome. He struggled, but to no avail. Something like panic began to flit around his mind. This was not a situation in which he had found himself before. Where was his support team? Where were his handlers? He didn't know, couldn't expect them to come for him. He had failed his mission. He was a defective weapon. There was no reason for anyone to rescue him.
A thud nearby brought him out of his thoughts. He looked over and saw the man he had shot bending double nearby. The man straightened and walked closer. He eyed him warily; struggling again as he considered what he might do when he reached his helpless opponent. He thought of what he would do. To his consternation, the man lifted the beam off the floor, growling with the effort. He slid out from under it, watching carefully.
"You know me," the target said, almost impatiently.
"No, I don't," he snarled, swinging his arm toward the other man. The force caused him to drop to his knees when he missed.
"Bucky. You've known me your whole life," he insisted. He struck again, making contact this time.
"Your name is James Buchanan Barnes," he said.
"Shut up!" he cried, making contact with the man's shield.
" I'm not going to fight you," the man told him. He let his shield fall away into the water below. "You are my friend."
He attacked. He didn't know what else to do. "You're my mission," he snarled, leaning close, then backing up to repeat the statement, punctuated by blows. The man did not defend himself.
"Then finish it," he said resignedly. "Because I'm with you until the end of the line."
He stared down at the man, his left arm poised to strike. But there was something familiar about him; he knew he'd heard that phrase before. But when? He racked his unresponsive brain for answers. There were none. But he was convinced he knew him. His superiors were the only men he had ever recognized; who was this man? Why did he not leave him trapped and helpless?
The room is dark. It is fifteen feet by twelve feet. There is an attached bathroom. A bed, a desk with a chair, a dresser, and a television are the only furniture. The room is spotless. There are no clothes lying around. The bed is made. There isn't any dust. The clutter on the desk and dresser is carefully arranged. He has checked the closet and found it equally in order. He waits in the darkness. He is patient. He knows Steve will come back – this time.
He has removed the uniform. Under it, he wears his mission gear. He did not want to wear any of the clothes he had stolen. These are comfortable and useful. While he waits, he practices knife moves. His right arm is feeling better; he is almost back to his old speed. His ribs no longer ache. He is sure they will break if struck again, though. He doesn't care.
Footsteps are audible in the hallway. He freezes, pressing his body against the wall beside the door, where he can quickly disarm anyone who enters. Voices can be heard, chatting calmly. They walk by. He does not know who they are. Steve's voice could not be heard, though. He waits.
"How about that cute girl from where you got those pants?" a female voice asks, muffled somewhat by the wall.
"I don't know," Steve says, long-suffering. "Are you ever going to leave me alone?"
"You are alone. That's your problem," she replies. Natasha Romanov, he remembers suddenly. Five foot six, one hundred twenty pounds, age unknown.
"Nat, can we talk about this some other day?" he says with a sigh.
"Fine, go hide in your room like a coward. You know where we will be," she teases. There was a pause and he tensed. "You did everything you could, you know."
"Yeah, I know," Steve mumbles.
The handle turned. He had moved to the other side of the door, so it covers him when it is opened. Luckily, Steve does not open it all the way, and pushes it closed without a glance around. He walks over to his desk chair and drops into it with a heavy sigh. He leans forward and puts his head in his hands. Watching him defeated, he does what he came here to do.
"I know you," he says stepping forward.
Steve jumps, looking up in surprise. Several different emotions cross his face after the initial shock. "Yes," he says slowly, then more adamantly. "Yes, your whole life."
"I'm older than you," he replies, cocking his head.
Steve smiles tentatively. "Just a little older. We've been friends since we were kids, and all through the war."
"You do?" he asks, surprised.
He shrugs. "Some of it. It's messy," he adds, motioning towards his head.
"It's wonderful to see you, Bucky," Steve begins.
"Not Bucky," he replies sharply. Steve stares at him, deflated. "Bucky isn't here anymore."
"Alright." He runs his hand through his hair. "Do you want me to call you Winter Soldier?"
"No!" The word rings out and they are both silent for several moments. He takes a deep breath. "Call me James," he offers.
Steve stands and steps toward him. He resists the urge to jump away. Steven extended his hand. "Welcome to Avengers Tower, James."
He tentatively reaches out, then clasps his hand and gives it a good shake. "Thank you, Steve." They smile.