He wakes up and there's a shadow standing over him. Light glints off it at odd angles, spattering the walls, and it smells like cheap soap and city streets.
"Can I go back to bed?"
He doesn't go back to bed. He's tired and his eye stings and there are still coffee grounds in his sink, but he can't sleep knowing he's there. He wants to hate him. He wants to hate him and call him a monster and rip off the other arm so that they might be a matching pair, but he knows now how futile it is. It won't get Mom back. It won't hurt the people who truly wanted his parents dead that night.
So he sits up, stretches, and moves to the edge of the bed. "Can I help you with anything? Or would you like to continue your tour without a guide?"
Barnes doesn't say anything, he just offers out his flesh hand. He's still missing the one Tony ripped from its socket, but there's some sort of makeshift bandage there, now. It's pathetic and it's clearly not helping, but Barnes hasn't ripped it off. He assumes it belongs to Steve.
Tony shakes it. "Listen, I- I don't know how we are. I don't know how to feel about what you've done. One hand, you did it. Other hand, you were just their puppet, and fuck if I know how many more they have stored up somewhere, in some other abandoned Siberian shithole." He sighs. "So I'm just gonna pretend the elephant isn't in the room. What brings you here, Sargeant? I hope it's not the gourmet food, 'cause we're decidedly out. Or the pleasant room service, 'cause I'm not feeling that homely."
"Steve won't- he's got that look. Like someone socked him in the face. I can't have it like this."
"He's pulling the puppy eyes, now? Damn, and I thought his blows couldn't go any lower." Tony considers. "Why me? Why here? Aren't you two lovebirds supposed to be on the run anyway?"
"Can't run with him like this. Hide, sure, maybe. But you know it's not safe to hide anywhere anymore. They'll find you, they always do."
"Don't you know? Big Brother's watching me the closest, now. I signed the deal for it."
"They won't look at you. It's too obvious. Too risky for us. Besides, Zemo- he. He made Big Brother think me 'n' you weren't friends, and definitely not the kind that harbour each other, 'specially since we're all fugitives now. Plan's not perfect, but it isn't too shitty. Survived worse."
"You're a real glowing star of positivity, aren't you?"
"I'm a realist. If you want the idealist, talk to Steve."
"I would, but me and him aren't on speaking terms. Pretty sure we'd tear each other's throats out right now. At least, he'd tear out mine. God knows he came close enough."
"He's sorry about that. Real sorry. Stupid sorry, I mean. He won't shut up about it. Half the damn reason I came here, I just need him to stop."
"Yeah, well, I'm sorry, too. But that's not gonna solve much now. Damage is done."
"Steve forgives easier than me. And I'm not even mad. I hurt- no, executed your mom. I'd have gone farther than just an arm if you'd killed mine like that. It's not worth anything, but I'm sorry. Probably could'a fought harder. I didn't. Not at that point, anyway. Fifty years is a long time, and I'm not a man of Steve's calibre. I'm not strong enough to hold out that long."
"I'd know about that."
"You don't give up easy, Stark."
"Easier than you'd think."
"No. You came after us, even after you'd signed the deal. You looked hard enough to figure they'd been framing me."
Tony rubs a hand over his forehead. "I was wrong, when I signed. About you. About the accords. About this entire ordeal. This whole thing is one fucking hell of a shitstorm, and I just went with it. Hired a kid to do my dirty work."
"Me and Steve were kids back in the War. Not the first time it's been done. Not the last, either. A martyr complex will only make you more unbearable, Stark. No offence."
"Yeah, none taken."
"I just have this bad feeling. That it's only gonna get worse from here, and that we'll need all the help we can get. So, I'm getting it."
Tony stares. "I'll see what I can do."
Which isn't much. He has his hands tied behind his back, now. Hell, he even helped them do up the knot. But Barnes looks like a wet, bedraggled dog, and he's twitchy like one, too. Setting a mug down on the counter is enough to make him jump out of his seat. He's itching to leave. They're all itching to leave, feeling like ants are crawling on their skin. Not Lang's, but the government's. It's unsettling.
Barnes chugs the coffee Tony had made for himself earlier. He hasn't asked, of course, but at this point, there are worse things on this Earth. Worse men than ones who steal your coffee and go across half the goddamn planet to look out for their friends. "I can't stay here long," he says, chewing his lip like gum, fingers tapping against the wood of the table. He looks like he's going to be sick. Then again, Tony hasn't seen anyone who doesn't in months.
"Listen," Tony says. "Tell Cap I know places. I can get you places they won't think to look anywhere near."
"What about you?"
Tony reels. "'What about me?' Are you fucking serious?" He swallows. His throat clicks. "You're worse than Steve. What about me? I can't just drop everything and leave. I'm the face of the U.N. now. I've got diplomacy to be working on."
Barnes actually snorts, face contorting into a vicious sneer. "Shit like that ain't never been about diplomacy and you know it." It's thick Brooklyn, and Barnes looks surprised it's even come out of his mouth.
Tony raises an eyebrow. "Well," he says. "Can't fault you on that one. True. But Tony Stark's disappearance? That'll be news, and that's not my ego talking. Alright, it is, but there's a pinch of realism in there, too. Cross my heart."
"Who gives a flying-" Barnes sighs. "You want to kill me and Steve. Steve doesn't deserve it, but me- well, turnabout's fair play. But you're the head of the Avengers, who are scattered and on the run themselves, now. You're the only one left in this building, Stark, besides the government."
"So you do want me to drop everything and leave?"
"I want you to head the only team that can stand up to the bullies around here anymore. Steve and I can't do it alone now. Things got bigger and better while we were away. But there are-" Barnes pauses to count his fingers. "More than my one hand's worth of remarkable people willing to follow your lead. Why are you still here?"
"They'll think you kidnapped me."
"Now, I've always told the old man where to shove it, but this is a little excessive, and that's coming from me. They'll go after you."
"You said you got places."
"I didn't mean it like that. I meant go in and stay in. Grow a beard. Live low. I didn't mean 'go outside and beg them to send their best drones'."
"Not begging. They couldn't find me two years ago and they won't find me now."
Something in Tony's stomach twists. He's so unbelievably tired. He just wants to leave, throw it to the wind, send a 'fuck you' fruit basket to the government office. And here Barnes comes, strolling up and casually offering just that, dropping it on him like a tonne of bricks. "Why the fuck am I considering this?" he asks, more to himself.
"It'll be a statement. That we're not letting them go on stepping on us like dirt. I'm saying it's a fair point."
"And I'm saying it's a stupid one. Hell, it goes against everything I believe in, against actually picking up the pieces-"
"We're still picking up the pieces," Barnes says, slow. Then, firmer, "We're still picking up the pieces, Stark. I know why you backed it. Steve told me. You think it's gonna stop something worse. It's not." He shrugs. "Working with us could. Or it couldn't. Either one is better than sitting on your ass feeling sorry for yourself. No offence."
"The more you say these things the less I think you actually mean no offence."
"You're right. I probably don't. But only because nobody else can do it. Nobody else has as little to lose as I do. World already hates me. Doesn't matter I was framed, still a killer. There're tapes to prove it. You saw them yourself."
Tony tastes bile. "If you want your other arm, don't bring that up."
Barnes snarls. "I'm a shit person and I've done shit things. You better face it or you're gonna end up like them. Too blind to notice how corrupted the system's gotten while they've been scared shitless and twiddling the thumbs they have up their asses."
"You said you remembered it. All of it."
"Yeah. I did."
"Do me a favour. Tell me what she said? When she-"
"Nothing. She was too busy- her nails were in my hand. She was... a fierce woman. She was shaking but she wouldn't let go."
Tony blinks. "Damn straight."
"I wouldn't have. I tried not to. But they-"
"Brainwashed you? I got that part. Scary Soviet bunkers tend to drive the point home."
"Steve's wrong. It was me that did those things all those years. It's what I'm capable of. Always have been. But it's not what I wanted. None of it."
Tony says nothing. Then, "I'll go. One condition: we find everyone else. We need them."
"It's just me, Steve, and Sam. Don't know where Natasha is. Don't know where Lang is, or Maximoff, or the rest. Saw T'Challa in Siberia, but he didn't stay long."
"But we're going to find them if I agree to come on your little Jason Bourne-inspired roadtrip. That's the deal."
"Even the kid? The sticky one in ridiculous- was it leather?"
"I don't know. If he wants to. I'll keep an eye on him."
"If we keep a low profile. D'you know how to do that, Stark?"
"Hey! I take offence. There's nothing I don't know how to do."
Barnes doesn't laugh. He looks serious. Contemplative, even. "We'll see."