The world is ever changing, turning and turning without a sign of vertigo. The skies are changing too, every year it seems. The light of the stars is joined by the cold glimmer of satellites, provided the lights and pollution of the megacities even allow an unhindered view up at the sky. Bucky had watched the world change around him, but he himself had never really changed. He had remained the same, forever young and confused, ever since the 40ies, and the small part of him that had changed and grown, had turned bitter and desperate. This part of him, the cold one that knew no mercy, had been used by Department X. It had become the phantom of the Cold War, the infamous Winter Soldier that could kill without remorse.
Steve had brought Bucky back though, but he hadn’t gotten rid of his dark side, and this dark side was now a steady companion and both blessing and curse. On the first day of being himself again, Bucky had seen this side of him as a huge, looming shadow. He had called for it by the name of the Daemon he’d known before his fall. “Winnie? Winnie is that you?” he’d called out, but the only answer he’d received was a low growl. Back then, Bucky had felt disconnected from himself, from the world and even from life. He’d felt lost without his Daemon and both emotionally and physically crippled, but like always, he’d adjusted. The world is ever changing and Bucky decided he had to keep up somehow.
In between attempting to somehow redeem himself and saving the world, Bucky had learned about world history, he’d acquired a smart phone and a Facebook account (which he was constantly neglecting) and he’d tried to reconnect to his Daemon, which was constantly changed shape and seemed to remain distant and unapproachable. Bucky could feel that this was still Winnie, in a way, but what happened to both of them, all the years of torture, brainwashing and being used as a weapon, had unsettled her and forced a wedge between the two of them. There was, however, a person who’s been through something similar, who’d been stripped of his own personality and whose Daemon had been unsettled to the point where he and said Daemon could hardly understand each other. Bucky had met this person, Clint, in a time of turmoil, but while they had viewed each other as rivals, their Daemons recognized each other as kindred spirits and things had progressed from there.
Now, as Bucky was sitting on the roof of the building that, apparently, belonged in its entirety to Clint, he watched as his Daemon was huddled together in the shadows and growling softly. Winnie had changed shape a lot ever since Bucky had regained his memories, but as of late, she seemed a lot smaller than the way she’d been before the fall. She no longer looked like a bear, but it was hard to say what exactly she was.
“So…” Clint said, handing Bucky a can of beer and a slice of greasy pizza. “Yours is no longer listening to you calling her by her name?”
“She hasn’t since Steve brought me back. I’m pretty sure that in a way, she’s still not back. She’s…I dunno. It’s weird.” Bucky shrugged and took a bite of his slice. He made a face though, and threw it back into the carton. “Shit Clint, you can’t tell me this is actual food. Tastes like you fished it out of the trash.”
“Nah man, it’s good. Tastes the way it’s supposed to taste. You gotta appreciate 21st century New Yorker cuisine.”
They both laughed and Clint’s Daemon, a tan kangaroo rat, was hopping up Bucky’s shoulder, chattering agitatedly to express their agreement with Clint.
“But joking aside, I guess I know what you and your Daemon are going through. It’s been a bit like that for me and Waif, y’know, after the whole chaos in Manhattan in 2012. She was unsettled, changing shape all the freakin’ time until neither of us knew anymore who we actually were. It was pretty damn bizarre but we worked through it. Turned out that…that Loki-” Clint paused abruptly and looked up at the sky, and Bucky knew what was going on.
It was difficult talking about Loki for Clint, just like it was difficult for Bucky to reveal anything about what happened to him. They understood each other though and ever since they’d found out how well their Daemons seemed to feel around each other, they’d started meeting frequently and opened up a bit. In a way, they had created their own support group for brainwashed individuals, which Natasha would join every now and then, and it worked for them.
The pause stretched and started getting a little uncomfortable, so Clint sighed and finally forced himself to continue. “See, Loki wasn’t actually brainwashing me. He just made me take the back seat, I guess. Waif was in control of my body, Waif was the one being brainwashed and Waif was the one killing all these people. We’re the same though, and their guilt and sorrow are my own. It took special SHIELD-issued medication to make Waif remember who they are and ever since we’ve been trying to come to terms with what happened. To be honest, talking to you…” Clint paused again and shrugged. “I guess it kinda helps. You’re a good guy, Buck. I know you wouldn’t agree but…”
“Shut up, Barton. You’re blushing and we decided to not get all feelsy.”
“Your ears flushed as red as the strawberry slushie you bought me the other day.”
“Man Buck, you’re getting old. I suppose you should see if your new SHIELD insurance covers glasses.”
“You know I’m right, Barton. You were about to say I’m a good guy and that you like me. Nothing to be ashamed of though. It’s cool with me. You’re helping me and I guess I like you too. Doesn’t mean I’m not judging you hard for your taste in pizza though.”
There was a moment of awkward silence while both Bucky and Clint were just staring each other and then looking away like stupid teenagers with stupid crushes.
The wind started picking up, making Clint shiver and Waif’s fur bristled as they ran down Bucky’s arm and curled up in under Clint’s sweater. The weather had been crazy warm for the last week, but it seemed as if fall was finally on its way. Bucky shrugged out of his warm coat and tossed it over to Clint, who stared at it for a moment and then decided to put it on.
“Gay.” Clint said.
“That your way of saying thank you?”
“My ass isn’t raised yet so nope.”
“Remind me to toss my pants at you next time. Maybe that makes you raise your ass and say thank you.”
Clint, who’d just taken a sip of his beer, nearly choked on it and had to spit it out while laughing harder than he had in months. The shadow belonging to Bucky’s Daemon raised her head and edged a little closer.
“Anyway, “Clint continued, clearing his throat, “maybe your Winnie is still kind of Winter Soldier-y. Maybe she was the Winter Soldier, in a way.”
Bucky was silent for a while, watching his Daemon who seemed as lost as he felt himself. He hadn’t been able to talk to her for a long time now, but she seemed to be listening to Clint and Waif and, in a way, this was comforting. “If she’s still the way we were before Steve got us back, I’m not sure I want her talking to me again.” he said, feeling his heart breaking. “I cannot accept and won’t concede that this is what we are now…that this is the way she will remain now.”
“And there you got your problem, Buck. See, I’m feeling all philosophic and shit now and I got this great phrase for you so better listen up.” Clint said and looked straight into Bucky’s eyes. “You’re looking back when the only path left leads forward. Sounds all wise, doesn’t it? It’s true though. What we both gotta do is accepting our pasts and moving on. You gotta forgive yourself and your Daemon and everything will be peachy again.”
To everyone’s surprise, Bucky’s Daemon was coming even closer now and started taking shape. She still seemed to be mostly black and made of shadows, but she was looking like a dog now, a tall one with a narrow muzzle and floppy ears. “Winnie?” Bucky asked, but she didn’t reply.
“Guess your Daemon seems to agree with me.” Clint said. He reached out for Bucky’s Daemon and she allowed him to pet her. “She’s a good girl. It wasn’t your choice to do bad things, Bucky. Wasn’t mine either, or Waif’s…or hers. “
Bucky snorted and both Clint and both Daemons looked up. “Shut up, Barton. Last week I picked your sorry ass up from that sleazy club and you were shitfaced because you tried to drown your sorrows and guilt again. Don’t pretend you’re over all this shit when I know you aren’t.”
That hit a nerve. Clint was looking down at the can of beer in his hands. He was gripping it a bit too tightly to hide how much his fingers were shaking. “At least I’m still able to communicate with my Daemon.” He mumbled defiantly. He felt like running away and like punching Bucky in the face at the same time, but he did neither. Bucky’s Daemon was flopping down in his lap and pressing her warm head against his chest. Clint really wanted to be angry and to fuck things up again, but instead he wrapped his arms around the dog Daemon and nuzzled her soft neck fur. “She still has a heart Buck, and without her, you’ll never heal.”
Now it was Bucky’s turn to look away, but Clint wouldn’t have it. He got up, lifting the dog Daemon with relative ease, and carried her over to Bucky only to put her down in his lap again. “There. Now talk it out, you idiots.” From Clint’s pocket came a small squeaking sound, indicating that Waif was very much agreeing with Clint.
Bucky was at a loss for words and simply watched Clint leave. He was alone on the roof now, with a big, shadowy dog in his lap and for the first time in what felt like ages, he tried to communicate again.
“So…hi there. This is difficult for me. You’re so different. We both are. I’m not the Bucky I used to be and you…you’re different all over. Maybe Clint’s right and we really have to stop looking back. Maybe we really need to start over so…hi, I’m James Buchanan Barnes. People call me Bucky. What’s your name?”
On the next morning, Clint woke up to the scent of freshly brewed coffee and Waif tickling his nose with their tiny paws. “Mh? Wha…?” Clint mumbled, articulating as perfectly as every morning. Waif didn’t answer though and instead jumped off his chest and over to the kitchen. His interest peaked and lured in by the delicious scent of coffee, Clint followed Waif only to find Bucky in the kitchen, cursing in Russian as he tried to get a burned waffle off the waffle iron. By his side was a large dog, probably a Doberman, and there was nothing shadowy about her anymore.
“You still here, Buck? I figured you’d still be stuck on the roof arguing with your Daemon.”
“She and I made up but I think this waffle isn’t exactly edible anymore. Coffee is good though so have a seat. I raided your kitchen, by the way.”
“Did you actually sleep?” Clint asked, scratching his butt cheek and sitting down at the table, where a cup of coffee was already waiting for him.
“Nope. My girl and I had a lot to talk about.”
Cursing again, Bucky finally gave up fighting with the waffle iron and got out yogurt for himself and Clint instead. It was better than nothing.
“I can imagine. Guess it helped. I mean, she looks like 200% less Silent Hill now.”
Bucky raised his eyebrow at Clint.
“Never mind. It’s a video game. I like it, okay.”
Bucky shrugged and sat down across from Clint while his Daemon was playing with Waif on the floor.
“She told me her name last night, her new name. Bucky said, peeling an apple to add to his yogurt while Clint was ignoring food in favor of delicious, if not nutritious, coffee.
“So? What is it?”
Instead of answering, Bucky put down apple and peeler, leaned over the table and kissed Clint’s lips. They were warm, a bit chapped and tasted of coffee, and Bucky had to admit to himself that he’d wanted this for quite a while. It wasn’t all that surprising that Clint kissed him back and got really into it. They’d kind of danced around each other for a while anyway, but Bucky was glad to have finally done it.
“Her name is November.” He breather against Clint’s lips, “and she suggested kissing you might be a good way to thank you.
“I guess she’s right. If you really wanna thank me though, you better drop your pants.”