When Steve Rogers woke up, the very first thought his sluggish brain crafted was about Bucky. A unique, obsessive thought he couldn't – and refused – to shake off.
The freshly-painted pale walls, the smell of the disinfectant and the new mattress he was lying on all seemed strangely unfamiliar to him as he opened his heavy lids. The sound of applause and the voice of a cheering man coming from inside the room caught his attention. He rose and sat on the edge of the bed, trying to shut off the sound from the radio to focus on figuring out where Bucky was.
He was alive, he had survived the crash God knows how, but all that mattered at this moment was to find his best friend.
'I see you're awake, captain Rogers,' a woman's voice pulled him out of his thinking.
He turned to her with a confused frown on his face, looking her up and down, his brain registering every familiar detail of her perfectly-pressed uniform, perfectly-combed hair and makeup style, and yet finding them all remarkably foreign to him. He had seen this military uniform a hundred times, knew it very well, and yet, the more he looked at it, the more curious it looked.
'Where is Bucky?' he voiced out softly, not out of physical weakness but in fear of the kind of answer he could get.
'You should have some rest first,' the agent replied. The wrong kind of answer.
'Where am I?' he asked. This could be useful information in case he'd have to resort to finding Bucky by his own means.
'You're in a recovery room in New York,' the lady recited.
'Tell me where my friend is,' he said, putting more energy and determination in his tone.
'The Dodgers take the lead, 8-4. Oh Dodgers, everyone is on their feet!,' the sports announcer shouted in the radio.
Steve allowed his brain to drift its attention away for a few seconds as he listened carefully to the commentator's unexpectedly familiar words.
'What a game we have here today, folks.'
'Where am I really?' he asked again, suspicious and, should he confess, slightly afraid. He felt a lump in his stomach and his first internal cry out was for Bucky. Hydra had taken him once for experiments. They could have taken him again for the exact same purpose.
'I'm afraid I don't understand,' the impostor tried to answer as calmly as possible after a barely visible gasp. The woman sounded every bit of American but he trusted Hydra had infiltrated agents everywhere.
'The game,' he spoke more hardly, not liking this whole sham in the slightest, expecting soldiers to barge in the room any second. He stood up to put himself in a defensive position then walked slowly up to her, daring the agent standing in front of him to break character. 'It's from May 1941.I know cause I was there. Now I'm going to ask you again: where am I?'
'Captain Rogers,' armed soldiers dressed in the strangest stealth outfits shouted warningly, stepping in the room at once. At this point, it wasn't really a surprise although the agent who had just spoken had the accent and the look of a fellow American, just like him.
'Who are you?' he asked astonished, looking at the unfamiliar rifles pointed in his direction that didn't look anything like the German models he had seen before. He didn't ask for their identities, he asked for their backgrounds.
Listening to his survival instinct (certainly the little guy in him), he attacked first. He bounced at his opponents and threw them against the wall which literally burst open with more easiness than he had expected. He jumped through the hole the impact had made and was hit with the striking surprise of a spacious, dark room used as a mere decorum, a stage for the masquerade in which he was the main protagonist.
He sped to the exit and ran along corridors his eyes had never seen of this kind before. He didn't have time to put much though into it that he found other funnily-dressed soldiers awaiting ahead with their weapons but somehow not showing real signs of readiness to use them for real. He dodged them anyway and barged through the door on his left which led him to the backstairs.
He bolted down the steps, carried by the electrifying confusion of moving about in an environment which was totally obscure to him. His plan – if he had one – was to escape and find Bucky.
'Get the hell out of here and find Bucky. Get the hell out of here and find Bucky,' he chanted in his head. He wished he knew what 'here' was, though.
He reached the first floor much faster than any other normally-constituted person would, faster than he had realized. He smashed the door open, looked right and left until he saw the light of the day at the end of the corridor. He ran down to the main hall then through the exit.
The deafening noises of the city hit his eardrums and invaded his mind in an instant, forming a heavy fog. He kept running though not to reduce the distance he had taken on his abductors.
He made his way through the overwhelming crowd, ran across the wild roads and slipped between the strange roaring vehicles that drove past him as his eyes accustomed themselves to the high intensity of lights coming from the shops, from the screens, from the signs. From everywhere.
He would have looked like a mad person to anybody if somebody had bothered to look at him. All these people he ran by, bumped into or grazed all went on their way without a glimpse, enthralled by an unmissable apathy.
'Get the hell out of here and find Bucky,' his mind repeated again, this time with the deepest fright he ever felt in his life and the inflexible determination to go back home.
He was stopped in his running by a strange van-looking car which drove in in the utmost silence for such a massive vehicle and cut his way. He spun around to run the way back but found a similar car pulling over.
Officially surrounded and at their mercy, Steve halted and finally allowed himself to take a look at his surroundings. The avenue, the architecture of the buildings he had drawn for many hours, many times before, but that looked irreparably altered. As hard as it was to believe and comprehend it, he was on Times Square (for there wasn't any decorum big enough to fake what he had before him); he was in New York City. He was at home – even if it looked nothing like it. How could the safest place in the world turn into this disfigured jungle?
'Captain Rogers,' a man called him with confidence and composure as he stepped out of the vehicle, dressed in a long black coat and wearing an eyepatch. Steve identified him as a senior officer from the army. He had never seen one of his kind before but he could still recognize a soldier when he saw one.
'Where is Bucky?' he asked defiantly, desperately.
The colonel raised his hand and slightly shook it in a soothing way. 'He's with us. I can take you to him if you accept to cooperate and follow me.'
'We-we crashed,' Steve breathed out, his heart pounding in his chest. 'How is he?'
The Colonel looked at him understandingly (but still with authority).
'Captain Rogers, I can assure you your friend is safe and sound.'
'If I agree to follow you…you have to take me to him right away.'
The colonel's face twitched a bit as if visiting Bucky was not initially part of the procedure. His features relaxed and he looked at Steve calmly.
'Alright. You have my word,' he said solemnly and something told him that solemnity was a great deal to the colonel. 'Look,' he went on. 'I'm sorry for that little show back there.'
Well, at least he was being frank and honest. This detail was enough to unconsciously let his guard down and listen closely.
'We thought it best to break it to you slowly,' he finished.
Steve paused, panting, dreading the revelation to follow.
'You've been asleep Cap…for nearly seventy years.'
The grave look, the solemnity (again), the undeniable jungle of lights and technology around him. The colonel had just spoken the truth.
'You and Barnes,' he clarified, anticipating the next series of questions.
Steve looked at him dully, confused, but comprehending the whole situation for the first time since he had woken up. As irrational as it sounded, it was the explanation that made the most sense for all this.
Amidst the turmoil of feelings, memories and regrets that was whirling inside his head, it took a few seconds for his brain to craft a second clear thought that dominated all the others now that he had been assured that Bucky was safe. This second thought flung him straight into the past and concerned another person. He felt sorrow and sadness grow inside him as the colonel voiced the next words.
'Are you gonna be okay?'
He turned to stare blankly at the indisputable reality standing in front of him.
'Yeah…,' he trailed off. 'It's just…someone promised me we would meet again.'
He died a little inside knowing this promise was to roam around in oblivion forever.