Bucky woke up to concrete and the sound of someone muttering. Probably not good.
The darkness stuck around even after his eyes were open. No windows. Also not good.
(There were a few tricks you picked up, once you'd been brainwashed a time or three -- he ran through them all and still couldn't put together anything more than diner, tranq dart, waking up. It didn't feel like anything was missing, but it never did, at first.)
He wiggled his toes, just in case the mutterer had a twitchy trigger finger and eyes on his hands.
“You’re awake! Finally. I would make a Sleeping Beauty joke, but I've been informed that princess jokes are not appropriate for all occasions. Consider yourself lucky you woke up now, because another hour of boredom? That joke would've been coming no matter what."
Great. A talker.
He sat up anyway. Not like he could see any better sitting, but it was a psychological advantage, right?
"I don't know you," he said, just in case he was supposed to.
"I think we're a little past the point where stranger danger's gonna do any good. But if it makes you feel any better, I'm Jake. Not that anyone's believed me on that so far."
Bucky hmm-d, since he couldn't actually see anything. "James," he offered in return. (No need to be too truthful.)
Jake snorted. "Uh huh. You were unconscious for a while, pal. Some of it while the lights were still on. I'd say it's an honor, but I'm pretty sure this is your fault, so it's feeling a little less than awesome right now."
So the other guy recognized him. That — might not mean anything, since he kept getting rounded up for PR photos with the rest of the team. “Should I know you?" Bucky asked.
"I hope not," the other guy said.
He thought about that for a minute. Huh. “Don’t suppose the door is unlocked."
"There is no door, actually, which is why I'm blaming this on you and your crew’s brand of crazy. Magic, seriously, what the hell is that all about?"
"They didn't take any of my stuff,” he said. That was either a really good sign, or a really bad one.
“Yeah, mine either, but I didn't have a magical door finder in my pocket when I got grabbed. And while I would normally be all in favor of the shoot it till it does what we want technique --"
There was a rustling sound, like Jake was pulling something out of his pocket. "Listen." Something rolled across the floor. It pinged on the wall -- then on the opposite wall, and back again. Frictionless?
It pinged another seven times with no discernible decrease in speed before Jake stopped it. "So there's that," he said. "I'm not even going to try to explain it, but I sure as hell don't want a bullet doing that in here." There was a pause before he added, "Plus, what if we're in space?"
It was incredibly unlikely that they were in space. (But not, technically, impossible.) "Right," Bucky said.
There was a sigh, and then more talking. "Really? I wait all this time for you to wake up, and you're not going to give me more than that?"
"Got a flashlight?" He thought maybe he should go back to carrying his phone. If their captors were going to leave them with the contents of their pocket, it would have been helpful to have the tracking device, even if he couldn't get a signal.
"There's nothing to see, but yeah." Something lit up and rolled across the floor in his direction.
He didn't even get a chance to pick it up before someone appeared in the room. "Shut that off," they said frantically. "No lights. Just -- stay here, we're working as fast as we can."
They disappeared again, taking the flashlight with them.
"Well, that was totally weird. That was weird, right? That's not, like, a normal thing during kidnappings for you?"
“It’s not the weirdest thing to happen to me, but no. Not normal.” It hadn't looked like any of the matter transporting tech he'd seen before, and it hadn't felt like a teleporter. That, he conceded (in the privacy of his own mind) was pretty weird. "You said the lights were on before."
"When I woke up, yeah. Ten minutes, maybe fifteen? I used the flashlight when they first went out and didn't get anyone popping in and out like that. But seriously, don’t you have some kind of advanced communication tech, or something? Someone's got to be looking for you by now, right?"
"I was on vacation."
"Yeah, sure, me too. Sort of like a vacation. No communication tech, huh? No problem, we’ll just sit here in the dark a while longer. We can get to know each other. I’ll go first. Vacationing in Canada? What’s that about?”
"I don't like beaches." (This was true. It was also true that he and Steve hadn't just been taking some much-deserved time off.)
"Me, I love beaches. I think it's all the partial nudity, though I guess if I worked with people who wore spandex as a career choice, that might not hold as much appeal. Which isn't to say Canada doesn't have its own special qualities, as a vacation destination."
Bucky was trying to decide if silence would be taken as a sign of encouragement when the lights came on and the walls dissolved. The weirdness level was definitely increasing. He had a gun out and pointed at the room's occupants in seconds. Two women, both with their hands up. Neither looked as worried as he wanted them to -- remembering the transport tech, that was probably yet another bad sign.
"I am so sorry," one of them said. "You can have your flashlight back now?"
"It's mine, actually." Jake had moved closer, guarding his back.
"Where's your gun?" Bucky asked him.
"I didn't have one on me. Why do you have one? I thought you were on vacation."
"I was. What does that have to do with anything?"
"He has a gun. Maybe it is him," one of the women said quietly. So far they hadn't done anything threatening. (Usually by this point he'd be expecting some monologuing, or at least some decent threats.)
"It's not," said the other one. She gestured with the flashlight. "Obviously not. I can't believe you grabbed the wrong guy."
Bucky glanced at Jake, who shrugged.
"You said one was a blond guy with loud shirts and the other was a dark-haired sniper that didn't talk much! What was I supposed to think? They were at the same diner!"
More flashlight gesturing. “I said long hair! Cowboy hat! Are you seeing either of those?"
Ha. “Not my fault after all,” Bucky said — quietly, in case the women decided to start paying attention to them again.
Jake shrugged again. “Sorry, man. Canada — who’d have thought?”
The first woman said, “I thought he was hiding! Shouldn't changing your hair and distinguishing wardrobe choices be part of being on the run?"
“This one has a metal death arm!"
Everyone turned to look at him. He waved. "Hi. Can we go now?"
And then they were back to ignoring him. "I thought you didn't mention it because you were trying to be sensitive. Clearly I should have known better."
Something beeped on the counter behind the two women, and the one still holding the flashlight said, "Dammit, I thought they’d be back sooner.” She addressed them directly. “We really are very, very sorry. But if you could try not to escape for like, another hour or so, that would be great."
"Two hours, tops," added the other one.
"Hell no," Bucky said, and Jake was right there with him as he advanced on the two women.
Naturally, that was when Steve burst into the room. "Don't shoot," he yelled.
"Steve," Bucky said. "We've talked about this. You're hard to miss; I'm not going to shoot you by accident."
"I was talking to Cougar," Steve said. “Also, you did shoot me, two weeks ago."
Probably not the best time to mention that hadn't been an accident.
"Cougar's here?" Jake said. He looked around like he might have simply missed the entrance of another person.
Recognition clicked in his head. "You're Jake Jensen," he said.
“Uh, yeah. And you're James 'Bucky' Barnes, aka the Winter Soldier, aka didn't we just do this ten minutes ago?" The finger quotes were audible.
Steve gave him the all clear sign, so he said, “Just Bucky’s fine. It was dark. And I thought you might be a plant.”
“If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that. Actually, no, I’d have, like six dollars. Really, you thought I was a plant?”
“You kept asking if I had a way to contact people. It was suspicious.” Mostly, he just defaulted to suspicion when he woke up in a locked cell. There were a limited number of reasons to put two people in the same cell, and it hardly ever turned out to be about saving space.
“Huh,” Jake said, and didn’t startle at all when a man dropped down from the ceiling at his shoulder. Long hair, cowboy hat — presumably this was the missing sniper. They really didn’t look anything alike.
(Their presumed captors started arguing again at this latest development, and he glared in their direction. Seriously, first vacation in decades, and it was interrupted for this?)
“Seven,” the new guy said.
Bucky had no idea what he was talking about, but Jake threw up his hands. “What? No way, Cougar, you can’t count that time with the crates. He didn’t think I was a spy, he thought I was an actual plant. With foliage. Like a ficus. It’s totally different.”
Cougar shrugged. Bucky resisted the urge to roll his eyes, and headed over to Steve. “What have you got?” he asked.
Steve looked frustrated. “Well, they both say their name is Sarah, and that there’s been a misunderstanding, but other than that, nothing. There seems to be some confusion about who, exactly, they were supposed to be capturing. You?”
“It was those two,” he said, gesturing over his shoulder. “Pretty sure.”
“Well, sort of,” one of the Sarahs said.
“Really, we could explain much better if you could wait and talk to the boss,” the other one said.
“Not gonna happen,” Bucky said.
Steve shuffled his feet. “Bucky…”
“No. We are on vacation. We are going to call SHIELD and let them sort this out. I’m supposed to be sitting on a deck chair right now, staring into the middle distance. With loons. Bird loons, not crazy people who have problems with abductee identification.”
“SHIELD?” Jake said. “Oh, there is no way we’re sticking around if SHIELD is going to show up. Can’t we just shoot these two and go?” Everyone turned to stare at him. “With tranquilizers, obviously! Come on, they did it to us first.”
Cougar hefted his gun , and it was probably for the best that the door opened again. “Don’t shoot!” someone yelled from the other side. “Friendlies coming in!”
It sounded like Darcy. Who should have been safely back at the cabin, not holding the door open for — he blinked, but nothing changed — it was Darcy, plus a teenage girl and a wolf. The room was suddenly full of the startled silence that usually preceded yelling, though he thought the Sarahs actually looked relieved.
“Seriously,” Darcy said, looking back and forth between him and Steve. “No one takes that long to get breakfast. At first I thought you were just off fighting crime, or something, but then I remembered we’re in Canada.”
She switched her attention to the Sarahs, and started ticking points off on her fingers. “Okay, one, never kidnap someone during breakfast; it’s rude. Two, there were five people in that place working up their courage to ask for an autograph, and four of them managed to get a picture of you. Three, definitely never kidnap someone whose niece is in the bathroom, because that was just plain poor planning. And four, did you ever think of just asking? They’re called heroes for a reason; helping people is kind of their thing.”
Bucky didn’t laugh, but he wanted to.
Then Steve said, “Are you all right?” and that time he did laugh, because Darcy just rolled her eyes.
“Yes, I’m fine,” she said. “We’re all fine. There’s no one to fight here.”
“They were waiting for someone,” Jake said. He looked like he was having an intense conversation all in eyebrow tilts with the niece. (She was ignoring him.)
Darcy pointed at the wolf. “Someone,” she said. “We ran into each other on the way here. That would make a good number five, actually — don’t become regulars at a diner right near your secret hideout. We got directions. There was a path.”
The situation seemed to be rapidly headed for ‘you’ll never hear the end of this’ territory. The teenager was still ignoring them all. The wolf was lying down, making sad eyes at the two Sarahs.
Luckily, Darcy was still in explanation mode. “Also, it turns out that magically-induced werewolf-ism is hereditary. And doesn’t exactly come with a training manual.” She wiggled her fingers at the wolf. “Surprise.”
“Oh,” Jake said, like understanding was dawning.
“What?” Bucky asked. Without saying a word, Cougar handed his gun to Jake and transformed into a wolf. “Oh.” He looked at Jake. “‘Cougar?’ Really?”
“‘Howling Commandos?’” Jake said. “Really?”
“It wasn’t a secret,” he insisted.
Darcy cleared her throat. “About that. Apparently, the whole thing was hushed up after you two were out of the picture, but it’s not like there weren’t still a bunch of werewolves running around. They got out, they got married, had kids — like I said, surprise. Not all of them were great parents. These three were looking for those two to see if they could get Werewolf 101.” She gestured between the wolves.
“Which makes it kind of ironic that they ended up with you instead,” she added. “But there it is.”
“How do you know all that?” Steve asked.
She shrugged. “The diner’s close, but it’s not that close. I had plenty of time to call Phil and get the details straight.”
Steve sighed. “We really need a better system for this sort of thing.”
“I’ve got some ideas about that, actually,” Darcy said. “Well, that and a moon base.”
“No,” Steve said automatically.
“No moon base? Clint thinks it would be cool.”
(As pass phrases went, “moon base” was far from the most ridiculous one he’d ever had to use. He was pretty sure Darcy really did want a moon base, though, and with Stark on the team, who knew what they might end up with.)
Still, it was good to know Coulson and Barton were close by. “So basically what you’re saying is everything’s fine,” he said.
Darcy gave him a thumbs up, and Steve nodded. The two wolves were nose to nose, and he could hear Jake and the Sarahs comparing notes by the computers. One of them saw him looking and offered a sort of ‘so sorry we kidnapped you away from breakfast, please don’t ask about our fancy tech, no hard feelings, right?’ kind of smile-wave-shrug combo. He shrugged back. As far as he was concerned, they were good to go.
“Call Barton,” he said, heading for the door. “Tell him to meet us at the diner for lunch. He’s buying.”
“Clint says mistaken identity kidnappings don’t count for a free meal,” Darcy reported, as the rest of the group trailed after them towards what was, in fact, a relatively well-marked path. “But he says Phil’s covering it — he won the pool, apparently.”
And that was that.
(And if he knocked up against Steve’s shoulder more than was strictly necessary on the way back, well, it was a narrow path. Steve just grinned, and said, “And here you thought you’d be bored.” Bucky pushed him into a stream.)