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Rattle My Brain; Return My Memories

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Bucky stared at the screen, trying to absorb every piece of information. It was him, he knew that much, but what he read, he couldn’t recall. It hurt his head, attempting to make heads or tails of everything that he managed to find. It was amazing the amount of records that had been kept in the years since the war- since he had become a robot of the Russians… Hydra… Whoever it truly was. The memories would flash at the most unlikely moments, the smell of a deli on an unfamiliar street in Brooklyn, a song on the radio, a book on a shelf. All of this in front of him. Nothing new. Nothing from the dozen or so times he had made his way through the exhibit in the two months since he’d become free of Hydra.

It wasn’t the escape he wanted. He wanted answers, he wanted the feelings of familiarity and the possibility of a history to come to him easier than it was. He couldn’t- wouldn’t  track down the man whose name had started to pluck a string of familiarity, Steve, who- according to the videos and screens, had been his best friend up until the end.

Till the end of the line.

He could remember saying that at some obscure point- the familiarity had been in his mind since that last fight. Details slowly pouring out of the woodwork. A camera. France. The rest darkness. But the way that Steve had said it, the emotion, the honesty, the need for something that Bucky had no ability to give him- had brought him a level of comfort, behind the anger and angst that seeped through every muscle in his body. That one phrase, that was the reason he lugged the punk out of the water, not leaving him to die, even though every order running through his mind told him otherwise. Orders that drove him insane for the next week, as he drove himself into isolation out of fear of going insane.

The orders, the words, the commands- they eventually subsided, but not until he had made it clear to himself- a promise- that he would not pursue his old friend until he had answers. Until he could form the slightest bit of a story, and be sure that it wasn’t some figment of his imagination that had been programmed and implanted into his head. Instinctually- at least at the basic emotional level, he didn’t want to hurt anyone else if he didn’t have to. That included those who may or may not have once been his friends.

His jaw tightened as he forced his eyes to read the screen just one more time, following the words slowly, praying to any God that would listen for even a second worth of memories. No luck.

His feet pulled him away into the next room where a reel of videos played. The man on the screen looked like him, but nothing was familiar. His mind wandered, listening to a child get scolded by a security guard. A minute later of the child whining and crying, a voice soft, more familiar than anything else he had been able to recall.

“Here kiddo, now you can be a hero. Those grouchy guards are a bit stuffy, huh? Don’t mind them.”

Bucky’s eyes followed the voice, coming from a brunette- a museum employee- who had just handed the young boy a small shield, immediately ceasing his crying with the nod.

Had he seen her before? Sure, she had probably been around during his previous visits, but what was it. Something about the way she looked, the curvature of her body, the small features. But something more. Something about the voice, the words. A bit stuffy, huh? His eyes glazed over as his mind processed.


 

Russia. St. Petersburg Underground. 2009.

A soft smile pulled across the brunette’s face as soon as the door slammed shut following the exit of the scientists and officials. He could have sworn that she was still a child- though his perception of time and age had slipped away, causing him to question even that base assumption that she appeared barely 18.

“They’re kinda stuffy, huh?” Her voice was kind, soft- the complete opposite of what he had become used to over the years. He was sure he could sense a bit of laughter, perhaps a way of breaking the tension that had been building in the room for far too long, yet managed to linger even after the instigators had left. She was, possibly, American, though she spoke with perfect Russian inflection when the situation warranted it- that much he could recall.

He returned a slight nod, his blue eyes connecting with her hazel ones for the slightest fraction of a moment before returning his gaze straight ahead. The feeling was one of discomfort, he wasn’t sure what from. The contact was new. She was new, the first female researcher that he could remember.  As much as he could recall from what he had overheard, she was there as a favor to one of the long time officials, a niece or granddaughter with skills that she needed refining, and a project that needed brains like hers. Something horrible had happened to the man she was replacing, though as much as he strived to recall, the memory was blank, like so many others.

The smile remained on her face as she moved around the room, grabbing equipment. Again that feeling- it was her skirt, tan-khaki- he could see it under the snow white lab coat. Familiar from a time and place that was just outside of his mental grasp.

“I’m just going to place these on your temples,” she said, holding up electrodes attached to a machine by the wires.

He nodded once more and sat up straight, a moment later, her warm fingers brushed aside his outgrown hair. Gentle. The word stuck in his mind, it was an action so unlike what he was accustomed to. Even the way the scientists and officers did the slightest actions- hand him food, push him faster down the hall, speak to him- it was so crude, brash and angry.

She sat eventually sat down on a stool in front of him, computer rolled next to her. “Alright, you can relax.” He obliged, leaning back, preparing himself, instinctively, for the pain- physical and mental- that usually accompanied these tests. “I just need to establish a bit of a baseline to work off of. So all I am going to do is list off some words, just to take a look at the activity in your frontal lobes.”

There was silence. He nodded, looking straight ahead, wondering why she seemed to act different from everyone else.

“Would you prefer I speak the in English or Russian?”

His choice? He shifted uncomfortably in his seat; the options were always made for him, never consideration to any preferences that may have been tucked deep down into his scarred and suppressed mind. “English, please,” his voice grated through his dry vocal chords. When was the last time he spoke? He couldn’t recall.

“That works for me,” she offered with another smile,” No need to respond, just relax.”

He watched her turn back to her computer, fingers clacking away. He braced for pain. None came. Just the words she promised.

“Caterpillar. Rain. Car. Strawberry. Run. “ A paused between each word, accompanied by the clacking of the computer keys. This time her hand left the keyboard, she faced him, “Slipper,” his head twitched to the right side, an uncontrollable action. She was silent; turning slowly to the computer, her typing had slowed. He watched as she drew in a deep breath, her puffed up chest slowly decompressing. Their eyes met, she knew something, and the twitch- was it not normal? Her smile had completely vanished, she looked almost pained.

“Mission,” his muscles tightened, the mechanics in his left arm shifted, the fingers tightening to the arm of the chair, one by one sending the sound of sharp cracking of slowly splintering wood into the air. He was suddenly filled with anger, yet unsure why. No one had told him what he was meant to be angry at. There was fire in his eyes; his muscles shook with unprecedented ire. And the girl- she looked terrified- eyes wide, turning back to her computer typing even faster than she had before.

“One last one, Sgt. Barnes,” A pause, a lifted eyebrow and a hopeful look on her face,” Banana,” All the anger, the need to attack, kill, wreak havoc vanished. Muscles relaxing, the fire vanishing, clear headed His eyes met hers, a look of disbelief on her face, she nodded before breaking eye contact and turning back to type again.

Her feet shifted onto the floor, standing after a moment of hesitation,” Good Job.”

“That’s it?” His scratchy voice reaching the airwaves once again. It seemed so simple; he’d been expecting much worse.

She nodded, hand on her hip, eyebrows raised,” Yes Sgt. Barnes, that’s it.” He sat forward as her warm fingers found his skin again taking the devices off, returning them to the hook on the side of the machine.

“You know my name, I don’t know yours,” the words slipped out of his mouth with little thought, he braced himself for lash back. He couldn’t recall them ever referring to her as anything but ‘the girl’ or ‘devushka’ by the Russians.

She sat back down on the stool, back straight. No lash back came. “That was rather rude of me, huh? Sorry. I’m Colette Tsvetkov, Sgt. Barnes.”

“Nice to meet you,” he was sure that he’d now spoke more in the last half hour than he had in the last year. The conversation, what little of it there had been with the tiny brunette, was nice.

She smiled before she turned back to her computer, “Nice to meet you, too.” He shifted in the chair. Her eyes stayed plastered on the computer screen,” Look, I’m done. You can go if you’d like. However, I’m going to be in here doing some stuff for a while,” she over at him for a moment eyebrow raised,” You’re more than welcome to stay in here while I am.”

He sat for a moment, taking consideration of both options. It was a dead giveaway. He’d choose the lab with the kind company, over the cold, lonely cell of a room, any day of the week. As Colette clacked away at the keyboard, Sgt. Barnes- Codename: Winter Soldier, leaned back into the chair. He could have sworn he’d seen her smirk.


 

The memory surfaced- one of the few that didn’t need much other context in order to make things understandable.  He shook himself out of his daze, finding the brunette employee flashing him a quick smile- that too so familiar- and then walking off as he offered a quick one in return. His feet pulled him from the spot, out of the museum, somewhere- anywhere to process it all. He managed to get to the convenience store down the street before his mind changed. The plan was no longer to dwell on the recollection, but to collect more answers.

She had been one of those who had messed with his mind. They had answers- they knew what had been done, so logically, they had to know what needed to be done to fix him. Buying a newspaper with funds he’d found tucked away in the oddest location a memory had driven him to, a cabin in the woods- he headed back to the museum.

He knew it was wrong, that there were better ways to find answers. But he couldn’t help himself. No one gave him a second glance, it was just the scruffy an in a baseball cap, sitting on a bench and reading.

The paper hardly got any attention from him; it was nothing more than a prop. The news was… different than he was used to. So much hate, anger, violence. No support for soldiers and the war they were fighting, and so little respect for everyone, from the President to the kid down the street. It turned his stomach. He longed for the days past, and constantly wondered when the country took a turn for the worse. His daily wandering through the museums hardly gave way to an answer- any answer that he was looking for.

But she had them, he was sure of it.

The night came upon him quick. He hadn’t realized just how much of the day he had squandered away in the museum. And before he knew it, her familiar face- Colette- was bounding down the stairs of the museum, headed down the same streets Bucky had been haunting.

A deep breath pulled through his lungs as he followed in the shadows, as quiet as death. Her face was the same, he could see it as the neon lights in the windows flashed against her pale skin as she walked briskly past them. Every so often, he could see her look back, as if she knew that there was someone following her. Barely a thought passed through his determined mind. She had answers, she knew, he knew she knew. His muscles tensed, closing in. Chest tight, a struggle to pull a breath into his anxious lungs. Predator and prey.  His own personal mission. He had been away from it too long, what seemed to be written his genetic codes was taking over. She was closing in on his opportunity. The alley he knew he could grab her and slip down, no prying eyes, just a clear shot to his hideaway.

His toe caught the sidewalk, the sound of shoe scraping against the gravel caused her to stop and turn back, and he turned into a shop. He lingered for a moment then took back to the sidewalk. His eyes scanned the area, it amazed him how empty it seemed, though he was sure many families were settling down to dinner. He sped up, shoving the newspaper into his back pocket, his feet almost silent on the ground beneath his feet. He closed in, mentally counting the yards till he needed to make his move and then there it was.

Left arm around her waist, right palm over her mouth. She fought, kicking back at his shins, wiggling and struggling to get away as he backed them into the alley, the brute strength that had been natural to him for what seemed like forever, feet taking them where he needed them to go.

Chapter Text

Bucky sat down hard on the couch, the old piece of junk creaking under him. It was all wrong what he did, snatching the poor girl out from the street. He hadn’t been that careful either, such tunnel vision, he hadn’t realized until after he had made it back what mistakes he might have made. Perhaps the largest mistake was the strength of his grasp around her- or the fact that he used his palm. She’d passed out along the way- a block or so from his apartment, he’d felt her go limp. Stupidity. The momentary panic that he may have killed her had been short lived after finding her pulse moments after he locked his basement apartment door.

He had tied her to the one sturdy chair in the whole apartment. A fair amount of duct tape and ingenuity- sure it was going to hold- her wrists taped to the arms of the chair and ankles to the legs.. He’d been a mercenary, not an interrogator, and he suddenly felt a bit lacking in his capabilities.

He sat on the couch, staring at her, playing with his hands, nervous that this was the wrong approach. But what else did he know? He could have talked to her, but what if she was hunting him down, trying to drag him back him for them to wipe and manipulate again. But the back of his mind kept reminding him of the other side of the coin. What if she had gotten away- after all, what he could remember, she hadn’t been there for the longest time. What if she was trying to blend back into the world and forget all that had happened in that lab. A villain, trying to get away with her crimes.

She moaned behind the duct tape gag as she came to. A nod came with the agreement that she wouldn’t scream if it came off. He stood up, took it off gently and found himself sitting at the chair next to his kitchen table.

He watched as she glared him down, jaw locked, trying so hard to look strong and unbreakable, though there was the hint of fear- no- terror, in her eyes. “Sgt. Barnes-“

Anger overwhelmed him lifting him off of his chair, his metal arm bashing down on the rickety old table, denting the wood- rendering the piece of furniture useless. “It’s NOT Sgt. Barnes.” His mind switched between Bucky and the Winter Soldier with such ease that it caught him off guard sometimes.

“Then what the hell do you want me to call you.” Her voice was angry, yet tinged with regret, throwing Bucky off kilter. “Mr. Barnes? Mr. Buchanan-Barnes? James? Winter Sold-“

He cut her off again, this time sinking into his chair, muscles still tense,” Bucky. Just Bucky.”

“Okay, Bucky,” her voice was soft, almost as if she was trying to talk a suicidal jumper down from the ledge, though he could see her eyes starting to well up,” I wasn’t there to hurt you.”

“You messed with my brain.”

“I was there to get intel.” Her voice rattled, she could see the flooding of her eyes starting to spill over.

“You DESTROYED MY MEMORIES.”

“Do you think I wanted to do any of that?” Her voice came as more of a whimper than a bark, she was shaking. He was shaking. Her eyes flooding. The flood breaking over. Guilt struck at his gut. Had he been completely off base?

“What do you know about me?” He changed the topic, unwilling to linger on her emotions. She was playing with him- a pity game. Yes, that was it. He wouldn’t fall.

Her eyes closed, jaw cocked to the side for a moment before she spoke, slowly, precisely,” James Buchanan Barnes, Alias, Bucky. Code Name: Winter Soldier. Born March 21, 1917, Shelbyville, Indiana. Education: High School dropout, military training. Drafted, not enlisted. Father: Barnes, George M.- Deceased. Mother: Barnes, Winifred C. nee. Blanke -Deceased. Sister: Proctor, Rebecca, P. nee Barnes.”

“What, are you reading my file?”

Her eyes shot open, startling Bucky,” Yeah, yeah I am. What I remember. What I saw each and every time I opened the file trying to find the one thing that could make all the difference.”

He could see her trying to calm down. He was sure if he had been in her place, being tied down to a chair, asked a these questions, he would have reacted similarly. But he knew he would be screwed as soon as he cut her free. He’d never get any answers and would be thrown into another cell- something he knew he wouldn’t be able to handle.

“You messed with my mind, I don’t want a file, I want answers.” He growled.

Her face had fallen, still pained, her voice escaping her lips now weaker than even before,” I was there for less than a year. I did what I was told. You have to understand, right? The importance of missions, orders. Your file was all the answers I had” The words were muffled in his ears, words she had said lingering.

“Becca’s still alive?” His tone softened at the prospect.

The girl across from her silently nodded, “She was as of 5 or so years ago when I was still working in the lab.”

He closed his eyes, trying to control the anger and confusion, yet much to his surprise, his thoughts swung to a woman, who looking startlingly like him, same burning blue eyes, cleft chin, and hair much like his, pinned back, hiding the long curls out of the way. His mother, his sister always looked to be one in the same, one just visibly younger than the other.


 

Christmas Eve, 1942. Brooklyn, NY.

Bucky had always hated working at the newspaper factory. He always came home, reeking of ink and metal. But the pay was good, good enough to take care of his sister, and Steve- even if the kid didn’t want the help. The hours were long, but he always managed to make things right. Kids just getting by in the mean city. They’d lost their mother a few years prior and their father less than a year before to the war. They pushed on though, Rebecca was in school, unlike Bucky who had pushed everything aside after his mother’s death to stand up and step in as their father had been called off to war. It was for the good of the family, it was for the good of his sister. A girl who, at sixteen, was much too smart to be pushed off into an eternal punishment of factory work and scraping by every day.

Becca’s face said it all from the kitchen as Bucky walked into the apartment. Either she was in trouble or something was wrong.

“Homework, kid?” Heading into the one bedroom of the postage stamp sized apartment to change- they shared the closet, he insisted she take the bedroom while he camped out on the couch. A good night’s sleep is conducive to success- a weak argument, but enough of one to get her to relent.

“No school, Christmas break- spent the day helpin’ out down at the library,” he heard her call out from the kitchen. It had become routine- the questions.

“An’ Steve, I thought he’d be here already?” He slipped out of his ink covered clothing and into a pair of dress pants and a shirt. Becca was making an effort, he’d caught a glimpse of her as he’d come in the door. Decked out in one of their mom’s old dresses, modified to be even slightly more fashionable; Nevertheless, it made Bucky feel, if even for a moment, like things were the good old days again when his parents were still alive and Steve was their third kid. It all seemed right then.

“He’s comin’, runnin’ a bit late, passed him on my way home. He’s campin’ out here tonight, too. Like old times.” Bucky padded out of the bedroom, not bothering with a tie or shoes, his smile countering her frown,” Buck.” His heart stopped, her voice nearly killing him.

“Hmm?” He tried to brush it off. It was Christmas Eve, it was meant to be nice family time. Happy? Good things?

“Buck, there is a letter from the Induction Office on the table.” He stared at her as she stirred the pot, shifting things from the stove to the good dishware; Family tradition, dinner Christmas Eve, brunch Christmas morning, and leftovers for days. Even though he’d told his sister she didn’t have to, she insisted on keeping up with the tradition. But the Induction Office; it was enough to ruin one holiday, if not more.

He took a chair, grabbing the letter, tearing open the envelope, eyes taking in the words in front of him.

ORDER TO REPORT FOR INDUCTION

To James Buchanan Barnes

Order No. 557

Greeting:

Having submitted yourself to a local board composed of your neighbors for the purpose of determining your availability for training and service in the land or naval forces of the United States, you are hereby notified that you have now been selected for training and service therein.

You will, therefore, report to the local board named above at Brooklyn Public Library at 7:15 A.m., on the 4 day of January , 1943.

 

He couldn’t take in another word. He knew what it said; he had seen many people get them, the factories losing workers, slowly replacing the men with women.

“Is it-?” He heard his sister’s voice fade off as she walked towards the table with a dish of steaming hot mashed potatoes.

He nodded, silent, face hard. He could see her heart breaking, as if she had known that it was coming but was actively refusing to believe it until he said the words.

He stood up, she knew better than to say anything- that silence was the best policy at this point. They alternated, bringing things in from the kitchen, putting them onto the table; Ham and veggies, food that would last them for days. They wouldn’t start till Steve got there, they never did. Bucky sat down, burying his head in his hands, trying to work through his brain, every possible situation. After all, he was responsible for his sister, and he couldn’t abandon Steve.

“Bucky, you know they’re gonna take you,” Her voice was soft as she sat down on the chair across from him, setting down a basket of biscuits, it amazed him how much she looked like their late mother, the way that worry was painted across her face, as if an artist had spent hours trying to recreate the looks they received in their childhood.

“I gotta take care of you, take care of Steve. They’ll understand that, they gotta, right?” Desperation was clear through his voice, across his face. He was sure the terror was visible. There were reasons that he hadn’t offered himself up for voluntary enlistment. He couldn’t leave the people he loved.

“What if they don’t, Buck?”

A deep breath pulled in through his nostrils, still fighting to remain calm and not let all the anxiety flowing through his veins appear on his face,” Then Aunt Ida will take care of you. She said her offer was open ended after Dad’s death. You’ll check on Steve and I’ll make sure that he’s set.”

“Of course I will.” He watched as her hands dropped into her lap, forlorn look on her face,” Buck, what are you gonna tell him?”

Bucky’s jaw locked in concentration, eyes meeting his sisters, he shook his head,” No. I won’t say anything. The punk tries every name and lie in the book to try to get in. If they take me, I’ll tell him I enlisted- that I beat the government to the punch. He’ll never know what I was keeping something from him and everything will be fine. It has to be.”

As if on cue, Steve’s familiar knock came at the door. Becca nodded, watching as her brother stood up, walking over to her, slipping the letter into her hand, the silent understanding that she needed to hide it, as her hand slipped it into the pocket of her apron. “It’s going to be alright, Little Bit,” he planted a kiss on the top of her head, eyes squeezed shut, trying to push the fear out of his system,” Let’s just make the best out of this Christmas. I love you.”

“I love you, too.” Her voice was soft, small. He knew she’d break as soon as she closed her bedroom door that night. He’d make sure the radio was just a notch higher. They’d deal with it later.

Another knock at the door, Bucky stood up straight, pressing his charming smile across his face as he opened the front door, his best friend there- cheerful and clueless of everything that was happening. But it was better that way. It always was. It was his job to protect Steve.


 

She’d given him and Steve watches that year. He remembered as clear as day. He’d been so happy but so furious that she’d been working behind his back when he had been working his rear off to make sure that she didn’t have to work. He couldn’t stay mad at her for long. They had other issues to deal with. But in reality, he was never able to stay mad at her for long about anything.

He could remember that he fought with the enlistment office; they’d given him 28 days to get his affairs in order, a week longer than most. And off he went, 4 months of boot camp in New Jersey, a week to say good bye back home, then off to England where the rest was history. Rebecca there to see him off, tears in her eyes, breaking his heart- the last time he ever saw baby little sister, though they exchanged letters up until the end.

Bucky shook himself out of his daze, his breathing had calmed but he could feel the heat in his cheeks, the pain in his chest. These recollections sometimes were easy, but ones like this just wanted to send him headed for the hills- or in a corner till the feelings of loneliness and pain went away. His eyes shifted from the table to the girl. She’d been silent, yet crying the whole time he was in his memory. Out of fear or understanding, he was still unsure- the Winter Soldier and Bucky were at odds, an internal battle of safety or danger sitting in front of them. Enemy or Ally.

“Where is my file?” He asked, anger no longer in his voice- just flat and emotionless.

Her eyes were wide, confused,” It was with you, never left the same vicinity as you. Always by the lab or your cell. God only knows where it is now.”

“What do you remember from it?” His eyes met hers, almost pleading. At that moment, the good guy was there, not the Winter Soldier. He wanted answers, not blood and answers.

“Untie… err tape me, and I’ll tell you everything that I remember.” Colette said another sniffle, an attempt to bargain. He knew it. He merely raised an eyebrow and rested his elbows on his knees, eyes still on her. No answer was the only answer. “Alright, it was worth a try. You remembered something there, though. Didn’t you? You used to get that look on your face, even when it was something so little as remembering someone you’d met in the red room. That was the first sign that they needed to wipe you.”

“SHUT UP.” He was getting angry. He didn’t want to hear about the wiping. He wanted to hear about his past, he wanted to get answers.

She looked terrified again; he could swear her body was shaking in its tape restraints.

“Look, I’m just saying that there is a lot of stuff that was in your file that you might be better off if you didn’t remember.”

“Like?”

“Assassinations.”

“That’s nothing new to me.”

“Fifty something of them? Men, women… children?”

He was silent. He could only total them from memory on his two hands, and barely even that.

“Fine.” Her eyes closed again tears still finding their way out , “ I think the first I can remember from your file was some doctors notes from May of 1945. I think it read: Tomorrow we will begin the process of allowing the subjects body to regain its heat, in the hope that his blood will still be viable for testing. We are using an approach for this that one of our spies smuggled out of Hitler’s most secret laboratories-

“Stop, just stop.” He interrupted. His stomach had turned as she spoke. Maybe she was right, maybe he didn’t want to know about this. The memories he had from the time were enough, they haunted his nightmares. “Zola, it was Zola.” His eyes opened to meet the girls. Fire was on the brink of pushing out, though Bucky was doing all he could to hold it in. Catch bees with honey not vinegar.

“He was one of the scientists, yes. Programmed most of what they pushed into your head. It was crude, but the Russians refused to change it, no matter how much I pressed them.” She paused, shaking her head, a few more tears staining her bright red cheeks. Her body was shaking more.  He was sure that it was fear. He willed himself not to see it.

It was the pushing off of blame that threw him over the edge. Bucky rose from his chair, face tight lips pinched together. His feet were doing the walking, stepping to the chair, with each step the girl and the seat moving closer and closer to the concrete wall, adding emphasis as he spoke,” You. Had. Control. Of. The. Computer. The. Machine.” She was crying more, her shaking was rattling the chair, the back of the chair hit the wall. Nowhere else to walk. He leaned forward, the fire in his gut increasing burning through his whole body. “YOU. DID. NOTHING. TO. CHANGE. IT.” He was nose to nose with her. Eyes inches apart- hers grown wide as tears spilled out with no effort. “YOU DID NOTHING.” His mechanical fist slammed into the wall, a single crack in the concrete forming. She turned to look away, looking to her left. She wasn’t going to escape her reality that easily. His mechanical hand slithered through her hair, long since disheveled, pulling her face back to his, he wasn’t going to allow her the advantage of looking away while he told her each and every way she had messed up his life. Each and every thing she could have prevented. The Winter Soldier wanted answers. The Winter Soldier wanted her to pay.

Chapter Text

He glowered, he growled. What answers was he going to get? His fingers tightened, he was sure if they were tighter, he’d be able to scalp her in one felled swoop. And no matter how he internally battled, the bad guy was there staring down at the girl. “You don’t know what you’ve done. How easily I could make you pay.” His eyebrows rose. Cat and mouse, she was there so easily the prey, he had the chance to play. Why did it sound so enticing? “I want to make you pay. You deserve to pay. All of you deserve to pay. To steal someone’s life. Their memories.”

“I’m sorry,” her lips moved, but the words didn’t escape, just a silent plea.

Bucky’s free hand leaned against the wall, gaining him leverage to come closer, closing any gap that had been between the two. “I missed everything. 70 years, 70 years I could have been living, not killing.” She was in pain, pleading with her eyes, somehow he knew it was an apology. He knew that look, he’d seen it before.


 

Russia. St. Petersburg Underground. 2009.

“You’re not getting attached to him, correct. He’s not some sort of pet that’s going to stick around forever. Let me remind you, we send him on his missions; he comes back and goes back into cryostasis. Understood?” Yakob Orlov, the head of security for the location, spat at Colette as she stood up from her seat.

He’d caught them having a conversation, Colette laughed, Bucky smiled. And then they walked in. Hell broke loose.

“Understood, sir.” Colette replied with a shaky voice. Orlov didn’t even bother to address Bucky, but he had never really been worthy of that action to begin with.

“No, I don’t think you really understand.” The man was an oaf, oversized and angry- he’d be set off at the slightest thing, spreading the rage through the whole day. He’d seen others taken down in seconds in the Red Room when the man was in one of his moods. Something had to have happened. The man grabbed Colette’s arm and yanked her across the room, the scientists merely averted their eyes.

She didn’t say a word, appearing too stunned to even do so. Orlov backhanded her. Bucky shifted in his seat, sitting up, ready to pounce, but sitting still after a look from her.

Before he knew it, Orlov was in her face, screaming in Russian- threats, warnings of the things they would do to her. That she may have been an amateur but the man she was so kind to, was nothing more than an asset, a machine at their use- for whatever they pleased. Including destroying her, if they so wanted. That alone stirred the fire in his gut. Orlov smashed her cheek against the hall- far more violent than she deserved- than anyone deserved. Bucky wanted revenge, there was nothing he wanted more than to bound out of the chair and bash in heads. No one treated him that way, and no one treated her that way- especially since she’d never been anything but quiet and kind.

Yes, there had been a connection. He flashed her a smile upon his return from his latest mission. Cocky and full of himself, feeling almost like a playboy or a soldier coming home from war. If he couldn’t remember anything more than the moments that they had in the lab, that was fine. A least he’d have memories of kindness, and not feeling so lost and alone.

His hands gipped onto the arms of the chair, forcefully reminding himself that intervention, anger would just make things worse, Orlov’s yelling increased, turning back to order them to wipe Barnes. Bucky’s teeth gritted, furious, hurt that they were going to do this to him again when all he wanted was his past. Before he had even the thought of lashing back, the restraints closed down on his body, holding him back. He opened his mouth, forcefully barking at them to stop in English, then Russian, and then English again- a desperate attempt to get through to them at any end. His pleas were ignored as Orlov’s hand grabbed Colette’s hair, whipping her around to face Bucky. Tears were streaming down her face, bruises forming on the cheek that had taken a brunt of the assault. The mouth guard shoved into his mouth, not a moment for a fight, though his voice still raised up, he knew his words were incoherent.

“Miss Tsvetkov here,” Orlov said, looking around the room at the other scientists,” Miss Tsvetkov is about to learn the most important lesson. Why us Russians never make nicey-nice with the animals set for slaughter.” Bucky could see Orlov’s hand tightening in her hair, making her stand even taller- taller than he knew she really was. She was shaking, Bucky was furious.

Eyes met, hers apologetic, his pleading- though he knew that there was nothing that either of them could do.

He could see the pain in her face as the waves of energy rolled through his brain and his muscles, his eyes never leaving hers as every memory in his brain slipped away. His eyesight blurred, her face vanishing behind the sounds of his screams.

Then darkness.

His head ached, uncomfortable chair. Where was he? His eyes opened, the room was bright, too bright. Eyes squinted, he pushed himself up in the chair- something didn’t feel right. The blurriness cleared out of his eyes, something shiny caught his eye. His arm, replaced by a chunk of metal. Flex fingers. They moved just the same. Somehow he was okay with this. He couldn’t figure out why. A noise came from his right, his head whipped in the direction. Brunette, thin, tiny form.

“What happened?” His voice was strained. He felt like he had been screaming. The girl whipped around, her eyes red and puffy, though the hazel eyes still managed to show through. Though distraught, her voice was soft and seemingly unaffected.

“Sgt. Barnes, It’s nice to see you up and moving.”

He raised the mechanical arm, repeating himself,” What happened?”

Her lips pinched to the side, taking a seat on the stool next to him,” You were injured during a mission, replaced your arm with that mechanical one a while back. You signed the paperwork when you enlisted, do you not remember?” She sounded pained, yet the words were painted with professionalism.

He shook his head, he couldn’t remember anything.

She nodded,” Don’t worry; it’s a common reaction to the medicine. Sgt. Barnes, I’m Colette Tsvetkov, I’ll be taking care of you. Can I just check your vitals? Then I can walk you back to your room so you can relax- I know how this medication wears you boys out.”

He nodded, watched as she slipped a device over his right index finger.

He was confused.

So confused.


 

Tears were still pouring out of her eyes. His breathing heavy. His grip loosened as he stared into her eyes, eyes that were as terrified as he remembered.

He was a monster.

He was no different than those who destroyed his life.

His fingers opened, her hair dropped to a knotted mess behind her head.

Bucky broke eye contact, stepping away, hearing Colette trying to catch her breath, he was sure she had stopped herself from breathing. Her shaking rattling the chair against the wall, sending the noise through the apartment. Even the darkest side of him knew what he had done was wrong. At least to her.

“Why were you in Russia?” He was standing straight, eyes still locked with hers, though he was pretty sure that she was too afraid to turn away again.

She sniffled, still struggling to catch her breath,” I was undercover getting intel. God, I swear to God I never knew what was going on when I agreed to go in. If I did, I never would have done it.”

“Intel for who?” Could she have been working for someone worse?

“S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Not worse, but not exactly good. “So you are an agent.”

She shook her head emphatically,” I’m a scientist. They needed someone unsuspecting who knew how to remember and read the data. I fix things, program things. I don’t kill or hurt things, I swear.” More tears. There was no denying that they were real, that this was the furthest thing from an act.

“Why did you leave?”

“They pulled me. I didn’t want to go. I was almost done programming the failsafe. My S.O. was sure I’d been found out. I begged him, I begged him to let me stay and finish.”

“Colette Tsvetkov?”

She shook her head again, “Colette Mulligan. Tsvetkov was just an alias.”

He was silent, quick to turn and grab her purse, rifling through confirming everything, even the credentials that were tucked away in the bottom of the purse. Science. Research and Development.

“I didn’t know it was a Hydra cell I was undercover in, no one ever spoke of it,” she rambled, the words only tinging the edges of Bucky’s mind, “I thought you’d come to take me out- that I was a target. Everyone’s been dying since shit hit the fan.”

He heard the words, he knew the feeling- spending every day terrified that it was going to be his last. He turned back, leaning against the table. He was silent for a moment, eyes locked with hers. He couldn’t do it. She had been his escape, even if it was in the littlest possible way and for the shortest period of time, but it was more than anyone else had given him. He shifted to his feet, taking the switchblade out of his pocket, slicing each tape restraint open, freeing her- turning his back, struggling to make heads or tails of his emotions.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have- I didn’t mean-“ a pause, a huff,” I’m an asshole. You can go.” He sat heavy on the sofa, his head buried in his hands- he knew it was the beginning of the end.

He listened to her stand, grab her bag off of the table, followed by the slow, shaky, hesitant steps towards the door. A brief creak open, quick slam shut.

It was the footsteps back toward him, followed by the motion of another body occupying the sofa that he hadn’t expected.

His right hand left his face, glancing at the girl,” What? Shouldn’t the big, bad monster have scared you off?”

He could still see the fear painted on her face- second thoughts and regrets he was sure were coming from not running. She shook her head, wiping her face dry of tears with the sleeve of her blue cardigan. Bucky found himself digging into his pocket and pulling out a handkerchief, handing it over wordlessly. Contrary to what he had displayed that evening, he hadn’t forgotten how to be a gentleman- even if he forgot everything else.

“No, it’s not scaring me off,” She sniffled, her voice raw, nasally, “I’ll tell you this much- what they did to you was inhumane. I barely slept the whole time I was there- it STILL keeps me awake, makes me sick to my stomach- haunts me. As much as I would like to deny all involvement, I was there and I never stopped it.”

“You-“

He tried to tell her otherwise, but she cut him off. He didn’t blame her, he’d done it to her enough that night. “Let me finish. I failed in that regard. But I need to help you make things right. I want to help make things right,” She sniffled again, fingers rubbing along the edge of the piece of fabric, her eyes glued to it as she spoke,” When my dad died, he left behind a lot of Captain America crap,” she rolled her eyes and an emotional laugh escaped,” An unbelievable amount of Captain America crap. But in all of that, there are videos and documentaries that are filled with info and interviews. It might help. And the museum- If we can get you an ID that won’t trigger any alarms, national security-wise, I can get you in to take a look at the stored artifacts.”

His gaze turned from the floor to her face, staring while her own gaze didn’t move,” You knew who I was?”

She nodded, staring at the handkerchief, playing with the hem as if it was the only thing to focus on in the world, “Even before I got my hands on your file. Director Fury desperately wanted to send in an extraction team once I told him. But he couldn’t. Kept saying that something didn’t feel right. We just kept it quiet, only him and I knew.”

“Fury is the one I-“

Her hand rested on the top of his, cutting him off, a reassuring pat from warm skin, followed by a quickly retracted hand, it was enough. “Yeah, but to be honest. It was better that he didn’t see the organization that he lived for, dragged clear to hell- by no fault of yours, by the way.” There was silence.

He knew there was only one route, and if he had someone on that ride, he’d take it. “I’d really appreciate the help.”

She nodded and turned her head toward him, finally looking him in the eyes,” You got any plans tomorrow afternoon?”

“I spend my days wandering around the museums, trying to make heads or tails of things like when music changed, or how they fit music on those super small records. So no, I don’t.”

He could have sworn he’d seen her attempt to stifle a laugh,” Meet me outside of the Air and Space museum at 1. I have the early shift. I’ll bring some of what I have along with.”

She broke their gaze and pushed off of the couch, though he could admit that he was sorely disappointed in the loss of proximity. Those few minutes had added an added comfort. “I’ll be there. Colette?”

He watched as she slung her bag over her shoulder, “What’s up?” she said, turning around, eyes meeting again.

“I am very sorry.”

“Don’t be. Look, it sounds bad, but you’re emotionally volatile right now, and it’s completely understandable- at least to me. I’m just glad Hydra hadn’t sent you to kill me. So, so glad” her hand reached out with the handkerchief- an attempt to return it. She’d done nothing but play with the edge of it the whole time, like a child with a comfort blanket.

“Keep it.” He paused,” Thank you.” It was the most genuine thing he’d said in decades. He was sure that, had it been anyone else, they wouldn’t have even made the effort to understand. Perhaps it was the emotional scars of that lab.

She smiled, fingers still lingering on the edge of the square of fabric, lifting it slightly, a smirk pulling at the corner of her lips, a simple nod in response to his words. “So, tomorrow, one-ish?”

“I’ll be there.” Their eye contact broke as she turned, his eyes following her to the door. This time she left.

His body sagged under the weight of exhaustion. Still confused as to how he could mess up so much, et walk away ahead of where he had been. Frustrated that the other side of him, the angry mercenary could find his way to the surface so easily. He just prayed that the help she offered would pull through, to help bring him back to where he needed to be.

To fix him.

 

Stay tuned for chapter 4!

Chapter Text

Brooklyn, New York. July 4th, 1942.

Bucky’s face was flat in the cushion of the couch, he was sure he had been breathing in the dust for the last lord knows how long. He’d fallen asleep late into the night, after sitting up with Steve who struggled to shake an asthma attack. Way to start a birthday, huh. Steve had fallen asleep first, with sleepy eyes Bucky made sure of it. That was what friends did. It had always been like that.

Hushed voices played at Bucky’s ears, Steve’s and Rebecca’s coming somewhere from the proximity of the kitchen table.

“How ‘bout that?” Bucky could hear Steve say, the scratching of his pencil ceasing. His sister giggled, music to his ears.

“What about a moustache,” her voice was coming from the same place as Steve’s,” Oh, and a monkey hanging from his arm.”

“Which arm?” Bucky knew Steve would oblige, his drawings had always amused Becca, since she a little one, and even though her ideas of what to add got more and more ludacris over the years, Steve never said no.

“Left, definitely the left one.”

“You got it,” Silence, except for the scratching of Steve’s pencil, filled the room again. Bucky thought about turning over to try for more sleep. Working as much as he had been, he’d found it increasingly more difficult to sleep past the crack of dawn. Hushed laughter from the two of them crushed his intentions. He could tell they were struggling to keep it down. Steve’s laughter eventually stopped.

He listened to Becca giggle more, even more hushed,” He kinda looks like Howard Stark.”

A pause and a laugh in Steve’s tone as he responded,” He really does. Don’t let your brother know that or he’ll grow a moustache and try to use that to get girls.”

She giggled even more, it was music to Bucky’s ears, it had been two month since their father’s death, and while they had been coping, she had been taking it rather hard. “Yeah, he’d try anything. Better erase that.”

Bucky shifted his left hand from the floor where it had flailed over and rested on the floor at some point in the night. Face flat in the cushion, he turned his head to the side, lifting it up, seeing the two of them hunched over Steve’s sketchbook, pencil in Steve’s hand moving furiously across the paper. Right there, it was their family, all the family he had ever wanted or needed. “I heard that you two.”

He watched as their eyes shot up, staring blank faced at Bucky before breaking into laughter- Steve starting to close his sketchbook. “No, no, no,” Bucky pushed himself up off the couch, bare feet padding along the worn wood floor, “I really wanna see this.” His eyebrow rose as Steve rolled his eyes comedically and flipped his sketchbook open. A smile remained on Steve’s face while Becca’s had fallen slightly and her eyes had made a point of looking any place but at her brother.

Hands on his hips, he shook his head realizing that his hair was starting to get wet with sweat. It was going to be a scorcher of a day- but what New York 4th of July wasn’t. “You know who Howard Stark is?” The girl had her nose tucked so far into fictional books, that it honestly surprised him.

“Um, yeah,” He saw her face light up, he lifted an eyebrow at Steve who looked as if he was on the borderline of laughter. Becca had always been a point of comedy for the two of them, whether she realized it or not. They both knew Bucky was about to get his ass handed to him- it happened every time, “He was at the library a week ago, I helped him carry some things in. Some meetin’ for next year’s Expo. Oh, he’s so swoony.”

“You’re a bit young to be thinkin’ of boys like that, Beck,” Bucky teased.

“I’m fifteen, don’t you go forgettin’ that,” she bit back with a raised eyebrow.

“No, you’re still five,” he teased further,” Always have been, always will be.” He sat down in the seat next to Steve, grateful for the cooling power of the fan blowing in their direction- perhaps an effort to blow the heat of the oven out of the apartment. Bucky watched as his sister playfully stuck her tongue out at him, shaking her head before popping up from her chair at the sound of the kitchen timer going off.

“Don’t you usually bake later?”

Steve’s voice piped up as Becca turned her efforts to taking the cake out of the oven. “Blackout’s tonight, told her she didn’t have to,” Steve leaned back in his chair voice raising at the last part, trying to get his point across, seemingly unfazed by the possibility of change in tradition. Maybe that’s how things were going to be since this war seemed to overturn everyone’s lives. Hell, he and Becca had made it a point to start rationing sugar and the necessary supplies. The girl had even foregone her own cake a month before, without the slightest complaint. Though, Bucky was positive that she considered Steve to be as much of family as he did. There was a love there, protection- it was there for everyone.

His sister loudly rested one of the pans on a cooling rack, making her presence known,” And I told him that birthdays and their cakes are too important to ignore. Even for a blackout.”

Bucky raised his eyebrows, looking at Steve, “This is one of those rare occasions that Becky is right.” A dish towel flew from the kitchen with impressive aim and hit him in the face; he pulled it off, laughing with the other two, “What’s the plan for today? Same as every year?” Bucky’s eyebrows rose with excitement.  It had been the same thing since they were kids- since their parents had to accompany them to Coney Island.

“Nathan’s for the hot dog eating contest. Witching Waves-“

“The Cyclone,” he pushed, as he did every year.

He got the stink-eye from Steve, who proceeded to ignore the comment,” Helter Skelter.”

“Then Shoot-the-Chutes, then the Cyclone, then the beach-“

“To rub shoulders with the dames.” Bucky and Steve nodded at each other, sly smiles on their faces. Steve’s head stopped nodding suddenly, straight faced,” But seriously, no Cyclone.” A few moments of silence, Steve started laughing, a laugh rising from Bucky in return.

“You got it, it’s your birthday.”

“You’re right it is,” Steve smiled. It made his day, how, even though everything that happened in their lives, the many downs, and the few ups, they still had days like this- where everything seemed to be on an even playing field, no need to worry about anything. At least for a few hours. Steve’s head turned towards the kitchen, voice piping up a little to attempt to get it to carry, “You wanna come with us this year, Beck?”

He had to admit, the offer came up as a bit of a surprise- she’d never been invited along before, even at the younger ages, where Mrs. Rogers had watched Becca while their dad had taken Steve and him to Coney Island. Same traditions.

He could see her face redden, if only slightly, he was sure that the girl, at one point, had the slightest bit of a crush on Steve. Though, he wasn’t sure if it still lingered- he’d been slowly losing the ability to read that on her face,”Thanks Steve, but I’ve got plans already.”

Bucky’s gaze turned, head snapping towards his sister. This was the first he’d heard of anything, “This is news.”

“Buy a paper, Buck. It’s ooooold news.” She said teasingly.

“And what are these old news plans.”

She shrugged, “Goin’ to the picture show.”

“Soundin’ a bit short on the details, kid.”

Her eyes widened, an exasperated groan coming from her mouth, “Davey is picking me up,” she paused, craning her neck to look at the clock, “In half an hour, to take me to see Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

“Davey…” The name was new, however he was pretty sure that he may have actively tuned it out to avoid an unneeded rise in blood pressure. Had this been how his father felt?

“Davey Proctor. David Proctor Jr.” She said, her cheeks had reddened even more, matching the dress that she was wearing. How had he not noticed it before? She’d made a larger than normal effort to look nice. And was that makeup?

“As in Dr. Proctor’s kid?” Steve piped up. To which Becca replied with ‘an mmmhmm’

Bucky closed his eyes for a moment, fighting the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose like his father used to. “Be home before dark.”

“I was already planning on it, in fact, dinner will be ready by the time you guys get back,” she said, flashing a charming smile as she left the kitchen, walking past the table, only turning back when she hit the bedroom to stick out her tongue, and vanish- closing the door behind her.

Bucky turned to Steve, exasperated, “She’s still five, right?”

“And we’re still twelve. Might be time for you to accept the inevitable. Least it’s someone decent takin her out.”

Bucky nodded in response. “Yeah, you’re probably right, Jiminy,” he’d started using the nickname after the cricket from Pinocchio reminded him of Steve. “That’s a pretty good picture, you really should try to find a job drawin’- art direction or something.”

Steve raised his eyebrow, “Might be a good direction. But right now, we oughta go, otherwise we are gonna be late.”

Bucky nodded, pushing himself up from the chair, grabbing a set of clothes out of a chest in the hall and headed to the bathroom to change.

The day, while a scorcher, went seamlessly. Watching men gorge themselves on hot dogs had become a staple of entertainment every year, though the crowds seemed thin. The lines to the rides were shorter than years past. But the beaches were filled with women. One of the few benefits of being in the city while there was a war going on across the big blue ocean. Better male-to-female ratio, and better odds. They flirted, Steve even managing a number- that Bucky was sure he’d never call, and then headed back.

There were no fireworks that year, on account of the war. It was better that way. A better way to show support for those fighting. The air raid sirens blared 400 times at noon, another way. Sure it was loud, but it shook everyone to the core, a reminder that many people wanted to forget on that patriotic holiday. The lights went out that night for an hour- President’s orders. They camped out in the living room, fan on, candles going- enjoying the splurge of a meal, and the first real cake they had had since the rationing started. And though the damper of the deaths that the three of them had endured over the handful of years before, hung over their heads, they laughed for hours. And even after everyone else turned their lights back on, they left them off, the three of them eventually falling asleep on the couch cushions that had been moved to the floor. Reminiscent of days past, but a reminder that none of them were really ready to grow up yet.


 

He was awake but he wouldn’t let his eyes open. If he let them open, then he would be awake with no hope of falling back asleep, no matter how much he willed himself. The fact that he dreamed had come as a relief. Many were the nights that he found himself waking after an hour of restless sleep, in a cold sweat and reeling from the images that passed through his mind- assassinations, the lab, the red room, abuse, torture, brainwashing- all things that he wanted to go away. Things that were better off locked so far in the recesses of his mind that not the strongest manipulator could get them out.

The dream was a welcome memory, one of so few that managed to spring up. A sigh later, he shifted intent on getting comfortable on the couch again- he had tried the bed so many times, not being able to get used to it. He could recall that he had fallen out of favor with them even before his drop from existence. A shift onto his right arm, the sun beamed through the window, across his face. He groaned, cursing the daylight- though he was aware that it had been the first time he had slept till daylight in a good while. A soft sigh later, he was pushing himself up, swinging his legs over the side of the couch; eyes immediately greeted with the remnants of the nights events.

He’d hoped it was a dream.

What he had done to that girl was far from acceptable- he reminded himself. Hoping that he could get something through to the messed up corners of his mind that seemed to take over when stress rose. But she relented, never the less. He had an ally, more than he could have asked for – considering the circumstances- and precisely what he needed. Perhaps it was the little information that she had imparted on him that helped trigger the memories of that day. He could remember the heat from the apartment, the sun beaming down on his body, and the sunburn that he felt for days. And his sister- oh how he longed for those days. It may have been sad, so soon after their father had passed, but everyone was as happy as they could be, with the war looming at their front step, so close to taking everyone away.

His hands cupped his face, fingers massaging his eyes, wiping the sleep out of them. How had she been told? Had someone been there to take care of her after? To comfort her as she cried? His stomach dropped. Becca had been dropped into the world alone- by no choice of her own. He had sent her that last letter, promising to see her soon- the war seemed so close to an end at that point. He had promised movies and ice cream- anything that could make it up to her for leaving her in a lurch, leaving her with their horrid Aunt Ida. Apologies for trying to run off that boyfriend of hers. Promises that there was nothing that was going to take him away from her again- that once he got back, he was going to be the best big brother that he could be. To make his father proud- to make his mother proud. Did they say that he was killed in action? Or was it that he was missing in action? Or even worse, had she heard nothing- being left in the great unknown when everyone came home, and he never turned up at the doorstep?

Tears pulled at his eyes. It had been 70 years. She had now surpassed him in age three times over. In physicality and memory.

And Steve.

He couldn’t remember when Steve became the man on the bridge- the one he pulled out of the water. The one who seemed to break him from the mental block with the single utterance of his name. When was he no longer the scrawny kid he used to protect, the one he bent over backwards for to make sure he was okay?

Sure, there had been more than enough information scattered across that museum, but he couldn’t REMEMBER, he just was. He was that scrawny kid, and then he was the man on the bridge. The man who told him to finish it, because it was with him till the end of the line.

Till the end of the line

It rattled in his brain, like it meant even more than the words that had been said. He wished that he could remember when he said it; perhaps he wouldn’t be so lost. He wouldn’t be so afraid to search out that man who was so different from the memories that were coming through.

Bucky pulled at his hair, right hand slamming down on the alarm clock as it started to blast music that his ears could barely tolerate.

Some days he wished that he was still blissfully unaware. It was less complicated. No holes to fill in because he couldn’t recall enough for them to exist.

Pushing himself off of the couch, he glanced at the clock, it was a little after 10:30. His aching body made its way to the shower, enjoying the range of heats that he could have caressing his body. Trying to push the aches and pains out of his muscles. Days like this, he swore he could still feel the aches straight down to the fingertips that had long since been replaced with metal.

Out of the shower, he stood in front of the mirror, staring long and hard, trying to recognize what he was seeing. His beard had grown out quite well, but it was never the right look for him. He had just gotten to the point of being so lazy and uncaring to make the effort to shave it. His hair, though wet, hung down to his shoulders, different, though he’d become rather impartial. It was when he caught a glimpse of the scarred tissue between his body and prosthetic, that he had to turn away- had to resist the urge to slam his fist into the mirror. His marred body disgusted him, the fact that it was done to him against his will, just reminded him of memories better left forgotten.

He tied back his hair and slipped into jeans and a t-shirt, throwing his sweatshirt over it, realizing that as time wore on, he was becoming less and less recognizable as the man he had once been.

His mind twisted, as his feet pulled him forward to his destination. This girl said that she was S.H.I.E.L.D.- an organization long since ousted. But what if they were out for him, what if she was Hydra and everything that she said had been a lie. What if this was a set up to get him? She had, after all, made the choice to stay instead of run off, after all that he had done. How could he know that the memories that had come across his brain, hadn’t been implanted in there?

His feet stopped on the pavement. He’d have to be on his guard. Pay close attention. He battled his internal mercenary. The downer part of his brain. She knew where he lived. Surely, a team would have been sent to take him in, rather that meet her in public. After all, snatching him in a crowd in broad daylight would raise some suspicions. And from what he could tell from the newspapers, the government had enough issues getting trust from their citizens as of late.

His feet propelled him forward again, the internal argument continuing the whole way, until he found himself back on the bench that he had spent a great deal of the previous day sitting on.

“So, you want to get some coffee,” Colette’s voice drew him out of his internal battle. Just how long had he been lost in his thoughts? She was standing there,  bright blue cardigan hanging on her arm as her bag slung across her crisp white shirt and rested on her black pants. Why was it now just striking him just how well everything hugged her body? He shook the thought from his head, gazing around the area, seeing nothing that he would be able to consider remotely suspicious.

He looked up to her eyes from under his hat and nodded, standing up. “Lead the way.” They walked in silence. He wanted to ask if she was alright, but had trouble getting the words off of his tongue.

He opened the door of the café from her, garnering a shocked thank you in return. He tried to pay, but she wouldn’t let him, as much as he argued. He shoved the ten in the tip jar, giving Colette a wide-eyes look of teasing as they picked up their coffee. He heard her chuckle, and mumble something about him being a cheeky bastard.

She led him to a table in one of the many recesses of the café. It seemed to be closed off enough, and at the same time, allowed him the advantage of seeing everything around him, lessening the edge that something was going to happen, at least without him seeing it coming.

“I wasn’t sure you were going to show,” Colette said after a few minutes of silence, as she focused on the process of adding cream and sugar to her coffee- perhaps a little more absorbed in it than a normal person would be. Bucky, he took his black, spending those few minutes slipping his hat off and watching the girl.

“Why is that?” He shifted in his seat, pressing the cup up to his lips. Coffee, as he had learned, was another thing that had changed over the years- though this one was for the better.

“After last night, I actually got a bit worried that you were going to head out of town. That I may have come on a little too strong and eager in helping you out, and you’d think that I’d have had an alternate agenda.”

“No, no,” he protested, his words a lie as they spilled easy from his mouth, as he rested his cup back down on the small café table,” It stunned me a little… a lot. But.” He paused again, his brain stopped, unable to find the words to continue.

He was relieved as she let his lack of words linger in the air for a moment before she spoke up. “I was just worried that since you knew where I used to work, it might have been a bad thing.”

His eyes scanned the space before resting on hers, “Honestly? It was a struggle.” He paused again, this time his lips opening up,” I think it was what I could remember from… from... the lab… That was helped ward off that anxiety.”

“So that is how you recognized me? Memories?” There was a bit of shock on her face. Was that really that shocking, Bucky wondered.

Bucky nodded,” Yeah, I remembered something with you asking me a bunch of random words.”

Colette nodded in response,” That was the first one-on-one.”

“Then last night,” he felt his face pale, what he remembered, what he did, it all made his stomach turn. “I remember them wiping me, and forcing you to watch. Then what convinced me that it was okay to trust you is that when I woke up again, you weren’t any different. Even though I was… nothing, again.”

As much as he knew his face paled, it was nothing compared to how much hers blanched. Had he drug something up that she had been attempting to forget. “That was a rough bit there,” was all that had escaped her mouth. Her gaze locked on the coffee in her cup.

“I’m really sorry about last night. I-“ his eyes flickered around the place one more time- this was his last time, he told himself. “Sometimes I feel like there are two different parts of me, one takes over and I can’t- I can’t control it that well.”

Her gazed moved up to his, her hazel eyes understanding yet concerned,” It’s fine. It’s actually something that you should probably expect for a while still. At least from what I… I read.”

“You,” he paused, struggling to change the topic, he could tell it was making her uncomfortable,” You uh, said my sister’s last name last night. She married. What was her last name?” His eyebrows furrowed, leaning back in the seat, shooting her a pleading look.

Colette nodded, voice lacking the energy that had been there a few minutes prior,” I believe it is Proctor.”

Bucky shook his head,” I’ll be damned.”

“You know him?”

Bucky nodded, laughing softly, leaning up against the table,” Before I was shipped out to England, I tried running the kid off-“

“Wow, big brother moves haven’t changed much in the last 70 years.” Colette offered up a raised eyebrow. Energy, excitement returning to her voice and face, “It’s pretty impressive that the guy stuck around. It’s a good thing.”

Bucky nodded. Intrigued, had she let loose a piece of information about herself? “So you have an older brother?”

He heard her take a deep breath in through her nose, “Two actually,” he could have sworn her gaze waivered as her focus drew to the purse by her side, digging in and pulling out a folder that seemed to be jam packed with papers many turned yellow from the years. “I don’t have a great relationship with them. I never really have.” Her fingers flipped through the contents of the folder. He had struck a chord with her, the guilt for it was overwhelming. The fact that he kept doing it unintentionally, made him feel even worse

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to dredge up-“

“No, it’s fine, it’s fine,” she cut him off,” You have no need to apologize for anything. You didn’t know.” She flashed a smile, though he felt as if it was almost filled with more pity than anything else. She closed the folder, had she been busying herself to avoid questions? She pushed it over to him, their eyes locked,” So this is what I have managed to find so far, a lot of it is replications, newspaper articles and fliers. Something may help though.”

Bucky merely nodded, hands reaching to the folder, opening and flipping through.

“I have more, videos and reels. There’s no chance you have a DVD or VHS player?”

He looked up from a flier for war bonds, eyebrows pinched together, ”A what?”

A half laugh pulled at her lips, he tried not to be offended,” That’s what I thought. I’ll,” she paused for a moment, fingers play with the stirring straw in her cup,” I’ll figure something out.”

Bucky quirked his eyebrows, “What are they?”

He watched as she grimaced,” They’re these devices that hook up to TVs and play movies. VHS came out in the 70s, I think, and DVD in the early 2000s.”

Bucky nodded, so much still managed to go over his head. “I guess I’m just still trying to get used to televisions being as big screen-wise, and so thin. Color. Clear.”

Colette nodded, a sense of understanding in her motions, “There is a lot to get used to. Just… don’t stress about it.”

He raised an eyebrow, “Experience?”

He watched as she shrugged, her chest rising and falling slowly, “Not to your extent, but I’ve known some who had been overseas fighting- and no matter how many magazines or movies, or whatever we sent over, when they came back a year, sometimes two later. They struggled to cope. Technology and everything just seems to progress so fast these days. And they struggle to cope over there too, everything is just so different. Yet nothing stays the same”

He nodded. It all made sense, not that the extent of it mattered. His fingers pulled through the papers, there had to be something in there. Anything.

Chapter Text

Bucky felt a lump growing in his throat.

The paper, a Missing in Action letter that had the words ‘Rescinded’ stamped in red across the paper.

It was a scab in his brain, he knew what was related to it, but he just couldn’t pull it hard enough. Though even the lightest jab made his head ache.

“This,” he spun the paper around to face Colette, “Missing in Action?” He would rather say he didn’t know at all, than admit to having an idea but not being able to access it. Something deep within him didn’t want to look even the slightest bit incompetent in front of this woman.

She was silent, and he sat there, face hardened- he could feel it, and in any other situation, he wouldn’t have cared. But again- it was something deep within him. He watched as her eyes scanned the paper.

“That was towards the beginning of everything over there,” she said, sympathetic smile on her face,” Your unit- and a few others- had been captured and you had been held with a thousand other men. They had done some-“ she stopped, rubbing her hand across her mouth. Was she trying to hold something in? Could such a simple action make it so? She was silent, and he waited. She broke their gaze, looking at the table for a moment, before her eyes met his again, “They did some experimentation- in fact that is why they- the Russians…” her voice softened, barely a whisper for a single word,” Hydra, thought you survived that fall. But before your friend- Steve- Cap- whatever you want to call him. Before he risked his ass to save all of you, they were about to send those out. Missing in Action. Never went out.”

“Do you know what happened in there?”

She shook her head,” Neither you nor him ever said anything about it. Not to the government, not to a camera, not to any of the guys who you worked with after- the Howling Commandos.”

The term sounded familiar, though it felt as if he was scratching at that scab again. A deep breath pulled into his lungs, trying to clear his mind. There were dozens of other questions. And more and more seemed to pop up as he made his way through the documentation. Transcriptions of interviews, articles, photos. Things he wanted so badly to remember but couldn’t. More pain in his head, the dull ache turned into a dull throbbing. Was he trying too hard?

“Steve- when did he become…” He pulled a picture out of the folder- it wasn’t Steve, it was Captain America,” That?”

“Big and bulky? Captain Muscle Man?”

Though she had laughter in her voice, he merely nodded in response, slight smirk pulling at his lip.

“In… June… of 1943, Rogers submitted himself into what we now call the ‘Super Soldier’ program. It was a serum created by a Dr. Erskine…” He listened as she recapped everything, from the program to the shows in which he was paraded around like a monkey.

He nodded. Wordless, wishing he could remember, yet grateful for the understanding of how he scrawny man had become

“Another question.”

“I’m here for any questions, I really do mean it.” She said with a smile.

“You know most of what was in my file, right?” he asked, voice soft as he considered whether he really wanted an answer.

She responded with a nod as she sipped her coffee.

“How long was I in cryo? I mean I still look like I’m still in my twenties.”

She looked very calculated and precise in the way that she set her cup down. “You were in a long time. In fact, the reason you still look like you are in your twenties, is because technically you still are. You may have been out for possibly 4 or 5 years worth of time. When in, time technically froze. No aging, no growth.”

“So I only aged when I was out.” It made no sense to him, but then again, he was never a man who under stood science.

She nodded.

“Then how did Steve… you know…”

“Similar, frozen for seventy years- crashed into the artic, was only found a few years ago.”

“So how long did they normally keep me out?” He was speed questioning, almost hungry for answers that had been dragging on his mind.

“Few weeks tops. Early on it was a month, maybe two.”

“And a couple months ago?”

She dragged a deep breath in through her nose, the noise seemed to echo off of the walls Her gaze waivered, he could feel the reluctance of the information,” It was the longest they had kept you out since the 50s- it had been about three years, but then you started filling holes back into your memory.” she said, her eyes everywhere but meeting his. “In the 70s you were sent over here to take care of some things,” her eyes went wide, using context clues to fill in the blanks- obviously worried about what those around them could hear,” You went off the grid. Two weeks. Eventually tracked you down to Brooklyn. They lugged you back, wiped you, and stuck you in the freezer. That was the first… and last time they lost track of you.” Finally something clicked. She must have seen it in his face,” You remember something?”

He nodded,” A couple months ago, right after.” He pulled a breath in though his nose,” I remembered this cabin, it was a pain in the ass to get to- over grown, run down. Didn’t look like anyone had been there for decades. My sister and I went there yearly with my father. I had,” he paused, hands held apart,” A huge sum of money and a bunch of stuff tucked away.”

“Explains the clothes- and apartment, I wanted to ask but…”

“-Weren’t really sure you wanted an answer?”

She shrugged,” That may be one way of putting it. Though, it’s a good thing that deep down you managed to remember that you had, in a way, given yourself a contingency plan.”

“I suppose it’s a good way of looking at things,” he finished off his coffee, lost in his own thoughts. Still confused as to how some things could come so easily to him, but the rest, so much of it, escaped him no matter how hard he tried.

 “Are you okay?” Her soft voice drew him out of his daze. Where exactly his mind had gone to, in those split seconds, he had forgotten. “I mean, it’s a lot to take in.”

He nodded, “Yeah, it’s just giving me a bit of a headache.”

Her hand reached forward and closed the folder,” You can’t push to remember everything at once. Little bits.”

He felt his hand slipping off of the folder, accepting the fact that came out of her mouth. He knew he pushed it. Going to the exhibit as often as he did, sometimes standing there, pushing his mind until he couldn’t bare it anymore. “I just want it all back.”

He watched as her lip pulled to the side slightly,” I know. And I wish there was a way, I really do.”

His gaze pulled from her lips to her eyes, lingering for a second before he spoke,” I know. I’m really grateful for what you’re doing. For this,” he tapped the folder with his mechanical fingers. “For being different than everyone else in that lab.”

Her face dropped, eyes pressed closed for a fraction of a second,” It doesn’t change what happened there. I’m just trying to fix it. What no one else there would ever do.”

He nodded,” And that’s what makes you different.”

A smile cracked on her face. It almost felt like an accomplishment. “Thanks for seeing it that way, Bucky.”

“No prob-“ He stopped at the sound of shattering glass. His whole body tensed, eyes darting around. He could feel the mechanics retract in his left arm, as his hand curled into a fist involuntarily. His eyes scanned the windows, frantic, feeling as if this was a bad nightmare that he had lived before. Was this the end? Had he let his guard down so long that they took advantage of the gap? Were they coming for him?


 

Lower East Side, NY- March 10, 1973

His head hurt, much more than it should have. His feet had taken him here. To Chicago by train. To here, New York, by bus. He’d stumbled around, managed to pickpocket and swiftly steal relatively large sums of money from people and businesses, triggering no alarms. A quick ride into the mountain to stash everything in place that mere gut feeling told him to go, he made his way back to the city.

He didn’t know where he was going, though by the recommendation of a man he’d come across at the bus depot, he’d managed to find himself in a flophouse- a small fee for a bed to sleep in. It was good for him. Everyone kept to themselves, no one asked any questions- then again, he didn’t have any answers to give.

He tried pushing himself, trying to get answers, but the harder that he tried, the worse the headaches became. And occasionally, the headaches were accompanied by a bleeding nose. He was sure something wasn’t right, but there wasn’t much that he could do.

He spent his days wandering around the city, feeling as if there was a reason that he needed to be there- that there had been a history hidden behind all the darkness of his mind.

He didn’t know who he was. A woman, who had to have been in her mid fourties accompanied by two teenaged children, thought that he was a man named Bucky, then quickly shirked away, apologizing- half in tears. Explaining that he looked startlingly like her brother who had died in the war. He felt pity for her, as she walked away in tears- the arm of the older child wrapped around her shoulder, but nothing more.

David. That is what he told them his name was, but then again, he couldn’t quite remember. His arm- a prosthetic, though only one had asked, and that was a child, quickly shooed away by his mother with an apology for her son’s lack of manners.

He had just settled down, relaxing on his bed, book propped open, more to look like he was actually attempting to accomplish something- while he put his efforts into trying to pry open more of his mind.

The window shattered. A man in a police uniform entering, while others came from every possible exit. They were there for him. He wasn’t going to make it easy. He swung, clocking the officer through the window with his mechanical arm.

More appeared. Grabbed him by every limb, managing a grasp though he struggled.

He lost track of how many it took to haul him to the car, but it was more than a few.

The door to the police car shut.

An arm snaked back, needle thrust into his arm and injecting something before he had a chance to relax.

His eyesight blurred.

Darkness coming as the car jerked forward. The officers cussing up a storm at him.

Coming to, he was back in the lab. Familiar lights, familiar grasp of the restraints around his body.

The man looked him in the eyes, white coat. Anger in his face.

He had completed his mission. Missed the extraction point, and the man made it clear that he had been a huge drain on their resources, all because he couldn’t follow orders. Now, he was told, he was going to pay dearly for that mistake.

That wipe hurt the worst of them all. Tearing his brain apart and putting it back together. Mindless enough that he walked back into the freezer to be kept until they needed him again.


 

Colette’s hands were on top of his; the sudden warmth pulled him from the memory and brought his eyes back to hers, his wide to her concerned. “It was just a dropped plate.” She nodded towards the front counter; somehow he had overlooked the shattered dish. His chest loosened, air flowed in and out of his lungs as he waited for the heartbeat in his ears to slow, for the tunnel vision to subside. For the shaking to stop so that he would feel alright letting go of the warm hand that he had grabbed onto instinctively as soon as it had appeared. “Just breathe Bucky.”

He didn’t understand, he was finding comfort in her voice, even though he was terrified out of his mind. He closed his eyes for a moment, and everything started to feel normal again, like the edge of the paranoia was fading out in his mind, yet still aching in his muscles.

“Maybe it’s time to head out of here,” he heard her say, though he hadn’t yet opened his eyes. “It’s almost five and the after work caffeine rush is going to be here soon.” There was a pause before she spoke again,” Is there anything I can do?”

He shook his head, eyes opening a few moments later, looking into her worried ones. “No. I just…” he paused, trying to sort out his thoughts; everything was a jumbled mess between reality and that day in the seventies. “Yeah, I need out of here.”

He watched as she sat their nodding, retracting her hand to put away the folder as soon as his grasp left hers. She was swift, folder back in the bag, standing from the chair- he followed her lead as they headed out into the fresh air- the traffic- the movement of the city.

Stopping a block down, where the crowds had lessened, Colette turned towards him, voice soft, caring, much of what he needed at that moment as his body and mind returned to a level of stability,” Are you alright?” The words were straightforward.

“I think so.” He nodded, finding his body lean against a wall,” The littlest things. I don’t even know what happens sometimes.”

“Triggers. Memories you may not quite remember, that are still tucked in the back of your mind. You just have to remember that it is all going to be okay.”

He nodded,” I’ll do my best.”

“And remember that I am here as long as you want me around. Do you have a phone?”

“Just the one in my apartment, and I don’t even know if it works. Don’t have anyone to call me,” he said, attempting a joke, knowing it was falling flat.

“Okay. Well, I will get you one, and get it all set up for you. Do you have any plans Saturday?” She asked as she shifted to lean her back against the wall next to him. He was still having a hard time grasping why she was doing this- being kind to him, helping him. Especially after all that he had done to her, and all that she knew he had done in the world. Then again, he wasn’t going to turn down the help.

“No plans. Everyone I knew is kind of… dead…”

He swore he saw her roll her eyes, laugh in her voice, “You’d be surprised how long people can live, Buck. Maybe I’ll have to do some research.”

“Good luck with that.” His eyebrows rose. Such pessimism.

“Alright, Saturday late afternoon maybe around 4ish, come by my place.” She was digging through her bag, the folder in her hand, jotting down something with her other on a spare piece of paper. “I have those videos, and I can get some that I don’t have on loan from the museum. I figure maybe we could try something more- visual.” She paused,” I mean, if you still want to try to do this.”

He nodded, taking the folder and the paper from her hand, the notes she had been jotting down, being her address. Surprisingly, he knew the area. “No, I really do want this. But,” he held up the folder briefly before resting it down at his side,” How did you get all this?”

“Like I said last night, my dad had a lot- it’s been in the family forever.”

“But the letters- the formal military ones. One’s that I am positive were supposed to be destroyed.”

He watched as a smirk pulled across her face. “A girl’s gotta have her secrets. I'll tell you one day- probably soon. But, the time has to be right, and your memories have to be in the right place. Right now, it’d just be words, and names, with nothing you can connect to. Will you trust me on this?”

Bucky took a deep breath, it added more frustration to his blank mind, but it was possible that she had a point. Not being able to place things could frustrate him even more. His head bobbed in agreement,” Alright. I haven’t had any reason to not trust you so far.”

The smile that peeled across her face was surprisingly rewarding,” And I don’t plan on giving you one.”

He smiled, for the first time in as long as he could recall, the stress- the anger- the confusion and anxiety had hit a low. He felt almost normal, hoping it would last,” Thank you.”

He watched as she pushed herself off of the wall, shoving her hands in her pockets,” It’s really no problem. It’s the least I can do. So Saturday- 4ish. I’ll even make dinner.”

“You don’t have to do that.” She was already doing so much, he hated the imposition.

Shaking her head, their eyes stayed locked,” I know. I like cooking though- and I rarely get a chance to do so for anyone but myself.”

“Alright, four," he seemed rather at ease about the idea. He still longed for more answers. He watched as she smiled, offering up a goodbye before heading into the crowd of people.

What was he doing, thinking? Hell he struggled to understand what he was feeling. The further she got, the more anxious he felt. Feelings popping up that he was positive that he hadn't felt since before his world turned upside down.

Chapter Text

The days went by slower than Bucky would have liked. Sitting at his damaged table, flipping through the folder that he had been given, trying time and time again to remember something. Anything. Memories of his childhood, a few with his sister, Steve- a precious one with his mother. But nothing more. Nothing that could lend way to what happened after he had been shipped off.

When Saturday came, he was more that grateful for a chance to escape his dark, dank apartment. For the first time in three days he left the basement bunker and headed out- hair tied back, hidden under a baseball cap. With his black hoodie, grey tshirt, and jeans, he managed to blend into the flow of foot traffic that led him to the more residential area of town. He counted down the houses, eyes darting around to be sure that he wasn’t being followed. More habit than anything.

1599B. It was exactly as she had written on the paper, Light Grey Duplex, door on right side with tulips out front.

His feet pushed up the few steps that led to the door on the right side of the house, tucked between the building and a fence.

A deep breath, convincing himself that he wasn’t going to freak out or bail, he rapped on the door.

For a moment he hoped that there would be no answer. Closed quarters, and though he was sure it wasn’t true, the underlying thought stood that he could have been walking into a trap. He could hear a dog barking- lazy barks as if it was too exhausted to make the effort to run for the front door. He heard the padding of feet on the floor, and the sound of deadbolts unlocking- one- two- three. The door swung open, Colette standing there clad in jeans and a mint-green v-neck t-shirt, hair sopping wet.

“Sorry, I think I’m a little early,” he said, his voice soft and apologetic. Then again, for all he knew, he was late. He had attempted to remember that he needed to invest in a watch, but his mind was so cluttered at times, that it never happened.

A smile pressed across Colette’s face,” It’s no problem,” she pressed the town to her hair, trying to dry it- or at the very least, stop the stream of water droplets. She moved to the side,” Come on in, make yourself at home.”

Words easier said than done. He stepped through the threshold, struggling to keep his breathing steady. She shut the door, locking the deadbolts before skirting around him. “Three locks?”

“It was a risk staying here after S.H.I.E.L.D. went down, so rather than head into the unknown, I wiped my past from everywhere I could, and battened down the hatches.”

“Did you work at the one-,” he petered off. He never knew the name, directions to the location. Just coordinates which he had been driven or led.

She turned back, “The Trisk.” She nodded. “And I pissed off a large amount of people in my department when everything started happening. Found out that more than a few of the people I worked with had… Alternate views of where the agency should have been heading.”

“Hydra?” she merely nodded in response, before another question escaped their lips. “How’d you piss them off.”

A deep breath pulled in through her nose,” I deleted a large amount of data from experiments we had been doing- then smashed the hard drives to bits. I figured that I’d rather the data and hard work go to waste than into the hands of Hydra. My thought process didn’t go over too well with them.”

He watched as she lifted her shirt to reveal a handful of reddened scars on her stomach, still trying to heal, tapping on one of them with a slight smirk as she rounded the corner out of the room. They were stab wounds, he had seen enough of those through his lifetime to not even have to ask. He could feel anger building up in the pit of his stomach- the same feeling he recalled from when he watched them throw her around the lab all those years ago. “You’re okay though?” he asked, the concern in his voice obvious.

“Yeah, it aches sometimes now. The doctor said that I had lucked out, they missed all the vital stuff.” He merely nodded, taking comfort in the fact that she was alright.

“You’ve got a nice place,” he said as he found himself glancing around what had to have been the living room. It wasn’t what he would have expected. Homey and bright. Couches made it feel welcoming, one long, black leather taking up a wall, the other an outdated fabric- a love-seat, separating the entrance from the rest of the room. TV and stereo system was set up at an angle. One wall was completely taken up by bookshelves filled to the brim with books and what he had recently come to identify as DVDs. The top was picture after picture, all framed with care.

She had smiled then walked out of the room, voice piping up, “Thanks, I’m kinda stuck with the place till, like the end of forever.” He heard her laughing. He walked forward, feeling a bit out of place, finding a picture of Colette in a white dress, next to a man in Army dress blues.  

“Married?” He asked, pointing at the picture.

“Widowed." A half smile pressed on her face. He could see the pain hiding behind her eyes.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. It was… I knew it was a risk when I agreed to marry Riley. He was Army. Paratrooper. Special Forces."

“If it’s anything like back in the day, that is pretty risky.”

She smiled and laughed, “It was. He was struck by an RPG. But,” even though the smile was plastered on her face, he could still see the pain in her eyes, “He was doing something that he loved. It was his life.” He heard her draw in a deep breath, a brief smile as her dog, a black lab rubbed against her leg. Before moving over to sniff his hand, “That’s Bubba,” Bucky smiled and rubbed the dog’s head. “Anyway, Riley’s partner likes to keep a close eye on me. So if you decide to wander around the apartment, I’d avoid the back door if it is open.”

“Why?”

She pulled in another deep breath, head bobbing to the side for a moment, “You two,” she pointed at a picture at the end of the row, the man familiar. From the helecarrier, from the day on the bridge, he distinctively remembered yanking the man down from the sky- by one of his wings. Still a weird concept, but wasn’t everything these days. “You two have had a couple of run-ins, if what I have heard is correct.”

His face hardened, stomach turning- was it too late to bail? Had he walked into danger?

“Don’t worry. Sam doesn’t know.” His eyes met hers, there was something genuine in the way that she said those words.

She spoke again,” Look, I didn’t know how else to mention it to you without creating some unneeded red flags,” she paused, half-grimace, half-smile pulling across her face,” And I had to mention something or-“ she petered off, the half-smile shifting to a full grimace,” Please don’t hate me.”

His eyes held hers for a minute, contemplating, calculating risks. “I don’t.” He paused, “I won’t.” Another pause,” I’ll try not to.”

Her face remained unchanged,” I’ll take what I can get.”

His mouth opened, wanting to say something more, but unable to find the words- simply because his emotions were still lingering high up in the air. He left silence as he scanned the pictures, hoping she was truthful about it just being a way to get him there, and it not being a trap. Trust, he didn’t have much of it, though she had proven trustworthy in everything he had encountered before- at least that he could recall. “So what did you get your hands on?” He finally said after too long of silence. He turned to look at Colette, nervousness painted over her face, slowly turning into a smile.

“I managed to take out some films on loan from the museum, even scored a projector.” She said, pointing to a projector much like the ones he’d handled back in the day.

“You got that here by yourself? Those things aren’t that light.”

He watched as she laughed and shrugged,” Yeah- a little ingenuity, my car, and a bit of pouting for help from the boys at the museum. I may be tiny but I can still lift quite a bit, anyway.”

“And I wouldn’t doubt it for a second.”

“Wise,” she said as he watched her move across the room and pull film reels out of a duffel bag that had been tucked away under one of her side tables.

“I’m capable of catching the drift every once and awhile.“ he smirked with a hint of a laugh. He watched as she struggled for a moment, trying to get the reel onto the projector. Finally stepping forward, arms reaching around her to help shift everything into the correct position. As soon as he realized his proximity, he stepped back quickly,” Sorry.”

“No worries, “ She shot a smile over her shoulder,” Would you mind setting this silly thing up? I’m afraid my goal to set this all up was based purely on guessing.”

A smile pulled at his lips as he replied with a,” Sure,”  he was glad to be of some use.  Stepping forward, she stepped back while watching as his fingers, both human and mechanical , moved with kill. Muscle memory, he was sure. “I worked at a movie theater for maybe two weeks when I was a teenager,” he was content that the memory seemed to crop up so painlessly.

“Why only a couple of weeks?”

His fingers pulled deftly at the film, shifting it into place. He was silent for a minute, finishing the task and trying to pull the answer from his memory. It came was slow as molasses. By the time he looked up with the answer, Colette was standing there with a patient expectation. Was she a saint? She had to have been to keep dealing with all of the shit he kept bringing to the table. “I think- my dad wanted me to focus on school- not free films. And watching my sister- since my ma had passed and he’d been off at various military bases.”

“He was a military official?”

“A General. I think he knew war was coming before most people. I can remember being furious that he wouldn’t let me work. Then again, I wasn’t the best student, I should have probably taken advantage of it. Probably wouldn’t have dropped out.”

“Sometimes life provides more valuable lessons than sticking your nose in a book all the time,” she had a smile on her face, “It took me forever to learn that myself.”

“What’s the smile for?” it had piqued his interest.

“No, I’m just- I’m glad you’re remembering stuff- it’s a really good sign, especially the muscle memory of putting that film together.”

“Not as glad as I am,” he smiled back, content with the response, content with the fact that she was making the continued effort, content that she cared,” So, what is on these films?”

“Footage from the war, interviews from during the war- you and Steve. Interviews with the Howling Commandos, Peggy Carter, ranking officials, stuff like that.”

“Howling Commandos. The phrase sounds familiar.” He found himself sitting down on the smaller of the couches.

Colette sat cross-legged on the opposite couch,” Apparently you skipped that part of the exhibit,” she chided.

“Well,” he rolled his eyes, comfortable with the lighthearted mood,” I had more pressing matters on my mind,” he was overly snarky, but it elicited a laugh from the girl.

“I’ll give you that one.” She winked. “The Howling Commandos were a special forces team, consisting of you, Cap and five other men – a mix of British, French, and American. All but Cap had been held in Germany by HYDRA. You all were a task force that had a main goal of taking down HYDRA and their bases, but also were crucial in some of the Allied victories in Nazi run places.”

Bucky nodded, trying to take in facts, but nothing popping into his head,” Names?”

“Dugan, Jones, Falsworth, Morita, and Dernier.”

He shook his head, no names triggered any memories, as much as he had prayed for something,” Nothing.”

“Well I’ve got these films. It’s really important not to push,” she shoved herself off of the couch, flipping on the projector, both of them watching it flicker to life against the white wall.

He found himself leaning forward on the couch, elbows resting on his knees, hands tented over his mouth in a praying stance as he stared at the wall. Images out of his past that he couldn’t even recall. It was like watching a poorly made movie, trying to put himself in the character’s place but being unable to because it seemed too unrelatable. He was there, fighting in the background, sights that seemed all too unrealistic, perhaps making it better for at-home American Consumption. It was silent, all but the films and the accompanying audio. Rolling on and on, only pausing to switch to the next reel of film.

He finally broke, Bucky’s eyelids fluttered, pushing blurriness out of them, not realizing that he had been crying until the feeling of wetness triggered the nerves in his human hand. The dog had rested its head on his lap at some point in his recollections. Colette was there by his side a moment later, a box of tissues offered out towards him. It was wordless, he was grateful, taking the box with a nod, not even making the effort to make eye contact. In his peripheral, he could see her taking her seat back on the other couch.

He knew he should have been embarrassed- that instinctively he would have been embarrassed anywhere else. But something was right here. He pulled a tissue out of the box, wiping his face dry as he worked on getting the tears to stop. It rattled him to his core how he was unable to recall any of that before. How he had nearly killed the man who had been his best friend- a friend since childhood- a friend whom he had known the littlest things about that most would not have even cared enough to make the effort to grab.

His eyes closed as he felt the dog hop into the open spot next to him and then nuzzle closer to him. The proximity surprisingly comforting. Bucky wiped his face dry again and shoved the tissue into his pocket, taking the moment to gain control of himself.

“I can turn it off if it’s too much,” her voice was soft, barely more than a whisper.

He shook his head,” No, no.”

She took it with a nod, shifting back on the couch, watching the wall.

--

He stood, flipping to the next reel, standing watching as it flickered to life. The next reel was a whole new set of material. He was on the screen next to Steve, telling tales of their childhood- only a few that he could actually recall. Hadn’t even had a chance to sit down again when he heard it.

Till the end of the line. They each spoke on the wall.

That phrase, he knew it.

It had been something more than normal when he said it. That man- Steve.

With all that they had yelled back and forth during that time on the carrier, it was that one phrase that reverberated in his mind.

He was remembering it, standing outside of Steve’s apartment- the one Steve had shared with his mother until she died. It was the day of her funeral; they chased him down, not being able to find him to give Steve a ride home from the cemetery. He was standing in front of the door, begging Steve to come back to his place, his family had wanted him to- Steve was family after all. He was bending down, handing the scrawny man the key to the apartment. Hand finding the scrawny man’s shoulder, “I’m with you till the end of the line, pal.”

Then he was in France, some back alley of a war torn city that had fallen in the days before- won by the good guys, because they had Captain America there to help kick ass. They stood in front of the camera, laughing, smiling more than they had in the days prior- recounting things from their childhood. ‘Instilling more good faith for America’ Cap and his best buddy fighting to make the world a better place. ‘With you till the end of the line, buddy’ the words out of his mouth, a promise. A smile from the bulky man, still so odd to him, but it no longer mattered- while he didn’t have the man to protect, he still had his best friend, ‘Till the end of the line, Buck.’ A promise back.

Then it was two months ago. The memory that he revisited way too many times. He was angry. The man kept calling him Bucky. The man was his mission, but he kept claiming that he had been friends. He had to complete the mission- this was a test, right? Maybe if he did this, if he ignored the fact that something in the back of his mind wanted to accept that he may have actually known the man, they would let him be. That this would be his last mission. He was punching, fighting. He had the man pinned to the ground. He could see the Potomac under them. How easy it could be to just break through the glass, fall to the river and be rid of it all. If he admitted that he thought he knew it- they would just wipe him again, and everything would be gone once more. He couldn’t handle it.  With every word the man said, he attacked again. He couldn’t give, he couldn’t let this man know that the words he was saying, as much as his mind tried to fight- something in him said that it was true. His mechanical fist thrust forward repeatedly. His human arm and shoulder ached under him, he was sure there was, at the very least, a dislocation. It would have been a fatal blow, he had ramped up enough energy behind it. But then the man said something.  ‘Then finish it. Cause I’m with you till the end of the line.’ Those words. He couldn’t move his arm. Frozen in time as the carrier started to break way under them. And as the glass gave way, he hung there, mechanical fingers grasping onto the metal of the carrier, watching as the man, whose words reverberated in his mind- fell to the river, submerged. Something cracked in his mind. He no longer wanted to focus on that mission, the thought made him sick. Something wasn’t right about everything that they had done, everything that they made him do. And above all, the fact that the man he had just let fall, possibly to his death, wasn’t going to fight. The man who had seen Bucky as something other than the Winter Soldier, more than an asset. Was it proof that what little he could recall was reality and not something implanted into his brain? His fingers let loose, and he tucked himself into a position for the least impact into the water. He lugged the man out, leaving him on the sand, waiting- watching only a moment until he could see the breaths. That the man was still alive. That he could one day track him down and make things right- when he remembered. If he remembered. When he was no longer a threat. If he was no longer a threat.

His breath hitched, legs weak beneath him, emotions taking over. He didn’t even make it onto the couch, sinking to the ground as the images pass in front of his eyes blurred by the tears. He couldn’t breathe. His world collapsing in around him, body shaking, tears rolling off of his face, bouncing off of his arms, his shirt.

He didn’t know quite when it happened, but she was there. Legs straddling his, her arms around him, and he had managed to bury his face into the crook of her neck as he sobbed. His arms snaked around her, anxiety and guilt flowing through his body like needles coursing through his veins. His heart ached, his limbs were numb, and every regret he ever had pounded his skull.

And she just stayed there. Comforting him, whispering words. Telling him it was alright, to let it go, that it was all going to be okay. Her words were soft, he could feel the compassion, breaking through the aches that his past brought him. Breaking through every bit of inner conflict he encountered trying to remember his past.

He couldn’t remember the last time someone cared this much. Cared more than a couple of kind words. It had to have been before- back when things were still alright in the world. Before Hydra had taken him and screwed him over. Steve, the friendly pat on the back. Sitting up next to him, a comforting arm tossed around him when nightmares of his torture popped up. But that was 70 years ago. 70 long years, filled with mistakes and crimes all brought about by brainwashing that he never wanted. That he could never escape because he lacked the inability to remember otherwise.

“I killed so many innocents.” He could only remember a few, but the numbers she told him were different than his memories. Though the totals sounded right. He could remember murdering a whole family- clean shots each and every one of them. Not even giving a second thought as he took out the pleading children. Why had he never given it a second thought?

It was the mission.

Mission. The word rattled in his brain like the phrase the man said on the helecarrier. Something stronger, something more.

“It is not your fault.” Colette had moved, forced his face to shift up- forcing him to stare her in the eyes. Her hands were on his face, wiping the tears from his cheeks with her thumbs. Had she started crying too? “It is not your fault, Bucky. They… we…” he could see her jaw lock, conflict in her own body,” Messed with your mind. You were not in control. You did what you were told, but had no escape.” Her thumbs wiped more tears from his face, “You CANNOT blame yourself. I won’t let you.”

He sat there paralyzed, unable to move, unable to comment, unable to do anything but absorb the words that escaped her mouth. He wanted to believe. He wanted her to be right. He wanted everything that he had done to vanish from his past. He wanted to not remember the horrible things he did. The pain that he caused others. He wanted to go back to the days when everything was good. Before he was drafted for the war.

More tears slid down his face, and she just sat there, wiping away each and every one of them. It made his heart ache. His arms snaked back around her, and hers instinctively hugged around him. He needed the proximity. He needed to know that just one person on the face of the earth didn’t hate his guts.

And if it was her. That wouldn’t be so bad.

Chapter Text

It was completely dark out by the time that Bucky had come out of the mental daze that had enveloped him. Colette had left his lap and was now sitting, head rested on the couch, asleep- the dog having taken her place with his head in his lap. It was comforting, he would admit willingly, if asked. Shifting his leg, the dog’s eyes opened, head popping up locking eyes.

How familiar it all seemed.

----

Brooklyn, Winter, 1938

Becca’s head was in his lap, fingers running through her hair as he listened to the radio from the floor. She’d been sicker than ever before. Whooping cough- it was far to distinct a sound to deny and the doctor had confirmed it without even laying a single finger on her.  Her hair had long since soaked through from the sweat her fever was producing. His only saving grace for knowing that he likely wouldn’t catch the sickness, was knowing how many times he had been around Steve and still come out healthy.

She rolled her head to the side, another round of coughs wracking the poor girls body, leaving Bucky with nothing to do but hold her and pray she would make it through. He had more than enough experience- being forced to sit idlly by as Steve struggled with the inability to breath from the coughing. Nevertheless, it terrified him, having to go it alone.

The neighbors helped the best they could. Mrs. Lin dropped a plate of food off every night, enough for the two to share, though Becca’s portion went uneaten. They had lost a child of their own earlier in the year to the same illness, it was enough to warm Bucky’s heart.

Though the coughs, Bucky could hear a knock coming at the door, leaving it be, because he knew no matter how loud he yelled to tell them to come in, they would never hear. But the door opened on it’s own, the small woman that he had known as his second mother, coming in in her crisp white nurses uniform. It was startling how many traits Steve naturally took on from his mother.

“Oh, my darlings,” she knelt down on the floor next to the two of them, her hand brushing through Becca’s hair, before stroking across Bucky’s cheek, drying what may have been a stray tear or two. “Dr. Proctor told me to stop by, that it was probably just you here taking care of her.”

“I’ve called and left message after message at the base for my father, he hasn’t responded to any of them.”

“Well, it’s all right darling. I am here now and we’re going to get her all better. Well, rather, I will be getting her all better. Come, come,” she pulled Becca up onto the couch, getting her well situated, shooing Bucky off,” Go, change, Steve is sitting in the hallway waiting for you.”

Bucky merely nodded, knowing better than to argue with the woman- there was never any doubt that it was where Steve had gotten his hutzpah. He shuffled off into the bedroom, changing his clothes, feeling almost relieved at the chance to change before heading back out.

“Now you two go to the movies and to eat,” she shoved money into Bucky’s hand. As soon as he opened his mouth to protest, the woman shot him a look,” Bucky, don’t fight me on this. Now shoo. Rebecca is in good hands. And I will try for your father again.” Her hand patted his cheek before it shifted to his shoulder to lead him out the doorway, shutting the door behind him.

Bucky’s feet shuffled to the stairway, where Steve was sitting, plopping down next to him.

“How is she?”

Bucky shook his head,” Bad, it’s all bad.”

“She’ll pull through. She fights harder than I do. Plus, she wouldn’t dare leave you alone, who knows what kind of stupid you’d get into without her looking out for you.”

“You’re an asshole,” Bucky chuckled slightly, still tense, terrified. “I can’t reach my dad.”

“Ma said Dr. Proctor couldn’t either. What’s the plan.”

“Your mother decided we should go see a picture and then eat. I don’t quite agree” Bucky shoved the money Mrs. Rogers had given him into Steve's hand, he felt guilty just having it. They needed it so much more than they did- after all, his father had earned a stipend from the military for his work, and it tricked down to Bucky to care for his sister.

“Jesus, contrary to the rumors being spread around school. I’m not a prostitute.” Steve said, his chest rattling a slight laugh out.

A laugh broke through Bucky’s façade, the first moment of lightheartedness he’d had in days, “You coulda fooled me,” he nudged Steve’s shoulder with his own.

“Secondary plan?” Steve asked as their laughter subsided.

“Burgers at the diner?”

“Sounds good.”

Bucky smiled,” By the way, you’re paying,” he said before running down the stairs.

__

“You okay?” Her voice was soft, eyes glistening from the streetlight outside that basked the room in a dull illumination. He wasn’t quite sure when she woke up, he wasn’t even sure how long it had been since his memory started, she had shifted, sitting cross-legged facing him.

He shrugged. Was he? He didn’t know anymore. He wasn’t sure what his life was, what his emotions were, what he was meant to be doing there- in the current reality. It pained him, trying to dig for those memories, but even worse was dealing with them- as he was learning. They came like an avalanche, burying him in pain and facts that he was not yet ready to deal with. The man who had been his enemy for so long was now his friend- or had once been. He wasn’t sure how to react. If he wanted to react. At one point, months before, he had wanted to make an effort, to find the memories and go back. But now that time had passed, he saw the betrayal. HIS betrayal. The man who had risked his life to save him all those years ago, was the very man he had tried to kill- on more than one occasion.

“I’m so sorry. The videos were too much, weren’t they?” He could hear the guilt in her voice, see it on her face. He wanted to tell her that it wasn’t but he couldn’t find his voice. “I should have paced things out. I don’t know how to-“

“It’s fine,” his voice finally came, as his guilt built. He’d pushed her- he wanted every last second of the information all at once, it was too much, and it was all his fault. “I- I need to go.”

“Are you sure, Bucky, it’s almost 4 in the morning?” She was concerned, it was painted across her face and her voice as she stood up while he stood up.

He merely nodded,” I have to figure things out.”

He listened to her pull a deep breath into her chest, hesitation as she followed him towards the door,” Well, okay, I will be here, just let me know if there is anything more I can do. Bucky, I really mean it, day or night, you are welcome here.”

He nodded, slipping the hoodie that had been taken off earlier in the night back on, shaky fingers at the deadbolts opening them and then the door. “I know. Thank you, Colette.”

“Bye, Bucky.”

He could hear the reluctance in her voice as she said goodbye- and the hesitation as he hit the front porch.

She was concerned- something that shook him to his core. No one cared- she’d been the only one who had cared almost as far back as he could remember, even though it wasn’t that long.

He managed to find his way back home, with very little thought as to the direction. Passing the bank, his eyes glanced over the glaring red 5:28, followed by a reminder of how chilly it was compared to the daytime summer heat that was sure to return as soon as the sunlight hit the pavement and concrete.

His feet hit the pavement softly, still a habit that had not escaped him. He just wanted to be home- on his couch, where he could hide away and get his head straight. His body still shook from the memories that had taken him over. It made him feel sick- the knowledge there was, no doubt, many more of the excruciating incidences to come.

He took the familiar turn down his street- enjoying the fact that no one seemed to have woken. An eerie peacefulness for a city filled with too many politicians with bog mouths.

Calm- for the first time, he felt calm. No need for paranoia, no need to check over his shoulder. Just him and his own overbearing thoughts. It was almost peaceful.

Bucky pulled a deep breath in through his nose, cherishing the fresh air, feet leading him home like he’d lived there for years.

Rounding the corner to his door, the calm he was feeling melted away as quickly as an ice cube in a hot box. His door had been busted open, and even as he stood a distance from the entrance, he could see his few belongings strewn about- grateful that nothing could ever lead to the fact that it was him living there.

He stopped dead in his tracks, did he dare go in there? He lived everyday as if they were looking for him, and this was proof after so long of total radio silence.

Bucky’s eyes closed, trying to focus on the area, noises were nothing out the of ordinary, but it was his gut that drew him back- that forced his feet to double back into the street- escaping the ally, the tight confines feeling borderline claustrophobic. The sun was starting to rise- the mere 10 minutes the difference between the silent streets and the beginning of the wok day. The peaceful streets were slowly starting to fill with cars and noises that were making it difficult to focus on the important noises. He found himself stopping, eyes closed, breathing strained as he focused on pushing the stress out of his mind- struggling to loosen his clenched fists- trying to figure out his next move. He didn’t have a safe house- that was his safe house. His body shook, the last thing that he wanted was to end up back in their clutches. He could not be thrown into that place again- he could not have his mind wiped, he couldn’t be forced to be suspended in time. He needed to preserve his freedom. But where?


 It was his only option. The only person he had any trust in these days; His body shook, eyes opening as his feet led him to their destination- back-tracking every step he’d taken earlier, though the emotions were reversed, becoming more frantic with each passing moment. The sun started making its way up and he found it easy to hide into the landscape, hood up, passing those out and about with very little noise.

He figured it was nearing 7 by the time he made it back to Colette’s. Having moved through back alleys and even doubling around just to be safe. To try to escape the overwhelming paranoia that he was being watched and followed even though he didn’t hear or see a single thing. Just a feeling in the pit of his stomach, that he was sure was the result of the fear of being dragged back into the unknown and having his mind erased.

His feet pushed up the stairs to the porch, two at a time, feeling as if there was no time to waste, holding onto a hope that he could push past the panic attack that seemed to be threatening to pull at his lungs.

He knocked firmly on the door, feet managing to bounce as he waited- listening for any sound that the woman was in there.

“She left for work about 20 minutes ago, sweetheart,” a voice came from over the fence behind him. He turned quickly to see where the voice came from, on edge and comforted at the same time. An old woman, newspaper in hand- quick calculations, there was no way that she could be a risk.

“Oh, alright, I’ll go find her there,” he flashed a brief smile at the woman before doubling back down the stairs.

“You know,” he heard the woman saying,” It’s good to see a nice young man around- she’s a good girl, bout time she got back out there- it’s been far too long. She shouldn’t waste those looks, heaven knows I-“ the woman faded off as she made her way back into her house.

He shook his head, wondering if he would have been like that if he’d aged normally. His feet took the stairs back down to the sidewalk a little slower this time, focusing on pulling the hood of his sweater over his face the best he could.

“Hey man, you seeing Collette?” A face came into sight, the same man that he had a run in with that day on the carriers. The man’s face and tone seemed to be asking the question out of pure concern. Sam. Sam. That was the name that Colette had put to the face the night before. Sam, another man he had been hell bent on destroying only months ago.

He shook his head, terrified that a single movement, anything would give way to who he was. Who he was hiding- trying not to be. Especially in front of a man who had seen his face before- a man he had pulled down out of the sky. A concept that still eluded his understanding. “No, she’s just a friend helping me through a rough patch, I gotta go” Bucky said as quickly as possible, stepping around the man to get on his way. To attempt to get away from the situation. To avoid the risk. He trusted Collette- he had to, he had no other choice. But he didn’t trust this man, he didn’t know the man.

The man didn’t follow. Though Bucky was sure a look of confusion passed over his face as Bucky rushed off. There was a relief associated with it all. A “Just take care of her,” was hollered after him as he made his way around the corner.

As he turned the corner, he focused on trying to determine the best path to get to the museum, finally deciding that a straight shot was his best option.

He had to focus- get to point .He saw her the second he stepped into the exhibit, surrounded by a gaggle of school kids, pointing things out. He could see it in her face- she genuinely enjoyed what she was doing. He wandered through the exhibit, just like before, hopes that just a single memory could be triggered to pile onto the small accumulation that he had. Finally sitting on a bench in front of a projector, showing some film about the heart of the war.

“Everything okay?” her voice startled him from his trance, weary eyes meeting hers- he could see the dark circles under her eyes.

“I got back, my place was trashed, door in splinters-“

“You didn’t go in, right?”

“No, I think they tracked me down,” his whisper was almost frantic as he scratched his head, pushing the hood down,” I went to your place-“

“Then realized I was here.”

He shook his head,” Your neighbor mentioned you left for work,” he paused, a moment of consideration,” Among other things,” he finished, a laugh in his voice- a needed break in his own tension.

He watched as a furious blush pulled over her cheeks, hand finding her forehead,” Oh, Mrs. Hudson, what did she say?”

Bucky shoot his head, intent on saving her any more embarrassment,” I forgot already, it had just been rambling anyway.”

“Well, okay. I am glad that you came here, at least.” There was sincerity about the words that escaped her mouth.

“It was amusing watching you try to not kill those kids,” and unsure laugh left his lips, trying to break the tension- trying to lighten the mood in one of the few places that he had managed to find some semblance of sanity and security.

Colette nodded and laughed,” Most kids I can deal with. Some kids are little shits. Today is the day for the latter. School is just starting, so it should be quieter.” She sat next to him on the bench, hand resting on his forearm- a welcome action,” You okay? Were you followed?”

“No, I’d have never gone to your place if I’d been followed. My head is just-“ he stopped, he didn’t have words for what he was feeling,” I’m a bit lost, confused. I don’t know what to do.”

Colette’s voice softened,” Look, I’m off at 2- still a few hours- you can camp out here till then, or I can give you my house keys and you can let me in later.”

Bucky stared at the carpet; he didn’t want to seem weak- though she must have sensed his hesitance.

“Stay here- we have a back room you can hang out in, or you can stay out here- whatever you want. I can try to get out a little early.” He nodded, grateful for the offer, the decision being made for him. “If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll witness some kid actually drive me up the wall,” she added with a laugh.

He laughed in return, appreciating her attempt to lighten the mood. “I think I’ll check out the rest of the museum for a change.”

“You haven’t been through before?” Colette asked, sounding almost shocked.

“Priorities.”

Colette nodded, digging into her pocket, pulling out a map and a pen, her eyes had brightened- he realized just how calm she made him- his muscles didn’t seem as tense as they had once been and his breathing was normal, relaxed,” Alright. 205, upstairs at the far right end, it’s World War 2 aviation, but 207 is one of my favorite exhibits- planets, and the Planetarium across from it, you’ll definitely want to go to the show. Oh, and then-,” his eyes fixated on her, her mouth kept moving, hand making notes on the map, circling places, finally looking up, catching his eyes and fumbling into a silent smile, not realizing that he hadn’t heard most of what she had said,” The whole place is amazing. Just… have fun.” She folded up and held out the map.

He took the map, smiling, thanking her only moments before she was called away. She waved her hands and said “Go, go,” as she ran off towards another group of children.

Bucky wandered the museum for what seemed like hours, realizing just how crazy he must have been to not have ventured out of the single exhibit that had once been his life. Collette found him in the Sea-Air Operations exhibit, reading some

“It’s amazing,”  Bucky said, looking over at the girl,” Just amazing that  people learned how to make things fly.” He managed to say with as straight of a face as possible.

Colette just stared at him for a minute, until a smile cracked onto his face, him unable to keep from revealing the joke. She pushed at his shoulder laughing,” Yeah, I thought outside of everything, I might have friend some common knowledge. You’re a jerk.”

Bucky laughed, smiling wide,” It’s a gift. You ready to go.” She nodded a response and then he followed her out of the building.

It was a relatively long trek through the parking garage, Colette having forgotten where she parked, though they eventually arrived at her car, a red Ford Fusion. It wasn’t until she’d revved up the vehicle and pulled into traffic that any words had hit the air.

“Did you go in?” He caught her glance over as she spoke.

“No- it didn’t feel right,” it wasn’t a lie- he didn’t trust the feeling he’d gotten in his gut.

“Did you have anything that would have given anyone belief that it as you there? Any documents, writings, even fake ID’s?”

He shook his head,” All the things there were clothes, food, maybe a grocery list, the rest I keep on me, safer that way.”

“Did they leave anything?”

“Not from what I saw, but I didn’t get too close.”

“You weren’t followed?”

“Took all precautions. Thought for a second your neighbor recognized me. But he just asked if I was seeing you and even after I mentioned that you were just helping me out of a jam, he insisted that I take care of you anyway.”

She chuckled and shook her head,” Oh, He’ll be by later to pester me,” she paused,” I keep to myself- and working where I did, I wasn’t home that often but he has always seemed to want to make sure I was taking care of myself and those around me were taking care of me.”

“You put all in there, didn’t you?”

She nodded, glancing over briefly,” It was my dream job. Very little in this world made me happier,”

“You look far from miserable working in that museum.” His eyebrows rose.

“Oh, I love it there. It has always been my second choice job. My grandpa took me there all the time growing up. I knew 90% of the exhibits by heart when I started there.”

“Did you grow up around here?” Bucky asked, traffic seemed to be a beast, but it was somehow alright, as he hadn’t really gotten to know the woman that he had kidnapped a week earlier.

“Naw, I grew up in Bayonne, moved here right after high school.”

“Ooph, Bayonne, I’m sorry.”

Her head rolled back and a long laugh escaped her lips, before becoming slightly serious,” Ahh, New Jersey jokes are timeless, and not funny, just like every single New Yorker. Ever.”  He caught her throwing a wink his way before laughing again.

“Oh,” he teased back, surprised at how at ease she was around her,” I see how it is.” There was a few moments of silence as their laughter died down. He finally broke it,” Why did you move down here?”

A soft smile pulled at the edge of her lips, “The main reason, Riley. School, SHIELD, certain family member’s ego problems and I needed to get away- take your pick.” She had stopped speaking, her lips still remained parted, appearing hesitant,” I married Riley 2 days after my 18th birthday. It didn’t go over well with most of my family, so I moved here right after high school and, for the most part, never looked back.”

“But why the disagreement with your family? I mean 18 is normal right?”

She shook her head,” Not really anymore- trust me, only my grandparents had that frame of mind. Riley was 3 years older than me, though in my defense, I had known him since I was 2. For- for the most part they didn’t like the fact that I was marrying him a week before he shipped out to serve. We didn’t want to risk something happening and never being able to get married. Most of my family thought it was a risk actually getting married. They didn’t want me to get too attached in case he…” Bucky had seen her face fall, a forced smile painted on their for a brief second. “I don’t regret any of it.”

“You shouldn’t.”

She smiled briefly, their conversation ensued, talking about little things, nothing more than likes and dislikes and changed from the past until now. Bucky a little afraid to dig deeper, not wanting to open wounds , perhaps because he wanted his own wounds to remain closed.

 

The door shut behind the two of them, and as he heard each of the deadbolts lock, his anxiety levels slowly lowered. Something about the place, even though he was staring at the spot of his breakdown the night before, something felt right- felt safe, made him feel at home. Even more so as Colette led him to a spare room, telling him that it was his as long as he wanted- needed. That- more than anything- she owed it to him, and she was dead set on reversing the damage that she had been a part of creating.

Chapter Text

One month, Bucky stared at the calendar that he had been marking every day since the day he’d lost his apartment. Since Colette’s had become his home. It had been 2 weeks since he stopped feeling like he was imposing. 1 Week since memories started coming with ease and 4 days since the last memory-induced migraine.

It was a success, everyday was a success, or at least Colette tried convincing him on a regular basis. He would smile and play along, still not sure, at least not sure of much. He knew though, that the words were as much of a comfort for her to say them as she meant them to be for him.

Some days the memories came fast and furious, giving him barely any time to sleep, let alone eat. Other days, there was radio silence, coming as both a blessing and a curse. Sleep was starting to become easier- the bed in the guest room- his room- firm enough that he found comfort. Colette told him that Riley had gotten it for that reason.

The nights had become easier for him, though he quickly learned that the woman helping him didn’t have it so easy. He had easily brushed off the comment the night that he kidnapped her that the events in Russia still haunted her, kept her up at night. But night after night of listening to her pace and busy herself reminded him that he wasn’t the only one battling demons. He didn’t say anything- he didn’t even know what to say.

His fingers slipped away from the calendar, eyes searching the room to settle on the time on the clock. 5:52pm. Colette was bound to be home soon. He’d spent a bulk of his day sitting in front of the TV, appalled and oddly addicted to a marathon of Jerry Springer. A total train wreck that he couldn’t manage to pull his eyes away from. He had to wonder just what happened in the world to make such things a reality. The day had been on the less productive side. He’d put together a bookshelf and sat, hoping for more memories to appear, holding the realization that they probably wouldn’t. That there was no trick that could make them appear.

He heard the familiar sound of the car door shutting, followed by the soft footsteps up the side stairs- the locks opening followed by the door opening and an exasperated sight as Colette appeared.


“Then let him eat the damn pudding, and spend the whole day on the damn internet, he’s a grown man, not a child,” the door shut behind her, hands fumbling with her phone, a bag, and half a dozen other items that were on the verge of spilling onto the floor. Bucky’s feet were swift, pulling him up and over to relieve her of some of the items as she locked the door and juggled the phone. “No, no, I don’t pay you to treat him like a child; I pay you to make sure my grandfather gets his meds on time and doesn’t wander too far off into the city. He’s 95, not 9. I’ll put it this way, nice and clear for you, you either get your act together, or I will make it my goal to find a new facility for him to reside in.” there was a pause as she tossed her keys onto the table, a loud huff,” I’ll make this clear too, either my grandfather is content the next time I visit- and every time I talk to or visit him after that, or the enormous amount of money I pay your company every month WILL be going elsewhere. End. Of. Story” A loud huff escaped her lip, as she slammed her finger on the end call button.

“Everything okay?” Bucky asked as he made his way into the kitchen, setting down a KFC bag onto the counter, his stomach grumbling, reminding him that he hadn’t eaten all day.

He heard Colette’s soft footsteps entering the kitchen and watched as she pulled her cardigan off,” My grandfather- he’s in a retirement home- he called because they determined that there are some things that he is doing that he needs to cut down on- like eating absurd amounts of pudding and spending all day on the internet. Apparently the new administrators at the home don’t subscribe to the belief that he should do whatever he wants, so long as he is happy. It makes for long arguments.”

“Why a home?”

“He forgets things sometimes, like his meds, where he is in the city. At the time, the place seemed like the best fit, now, not so much. I want him to be happy, and I owe him that much.”

Bucky smiled,” It’s nice of you to take care of him.”

“It’s the least I could do. I spent maybe 90% of my childhood with my grandparents- Anyway,” she forced a change of conversation as she pushed herself into sitting on the counter, pulling a potato wedge out of the KFC bag,” I got KFC for dinner, I hope you don’t mind.”

“Not at all, I was going to cook, but I started watching a Jerry Springer marathon this morning, and then you got home. Not sure where the rest of the time went,” he watched as Colette struggled to hold back a laugh,” You need to watch some decent TV. I’ll hook you up.” She shifted on the counter, reaching into the cabinet, pulling plates out and setting them on the counter,” After I came home from St. Petersburg, I swear I spent weeks watching all the atrocious shows that I missed, that was one very wasted sabbatical.”

“Well, I have decades of them to catch up on.” His own laugh drew another, louder one from Colette.

“Springer was the worst one to start on. I will forever feel guilty for your mind being corrupted with that crap.” She smiled, as she skillfully put food plates together without ever leaving her spot on the counter. “I’ll just narrow down the good- bad shows from the last 50 years and save you the pain. Sound like a plan?”

He smiled and nodded,” Definitely.”

“Grab the silverware,” she said, as she slipped off of the counter, Bucky moving to pull the utensils out of the drawer, turning around to find out that she had already headed into the Living Room. He followed after her, sitting on the couch, grabbing the plate that she had set down from him. “So, to rid your brain of that show,” he watched as she moved around the living room, fingers dragging over the titles on her DVD shelf, finally pulling one out,” I believe it is time to introduce you to Firefly.” She seemed excited. “It’s awesome, but I may be a bit biased, it is one of my favorites.”

They’d managed their way through a good portion of the first episode when the sound of three car doors shutting came from through the cracked window. A noise that, Bucky had come to notice, was not usual, as she never had company.

Bucky watched as her eyes shot up and a feeling started to build in the pit of his stomach. He watched her closely and could almost see the moment she came to a realization- a look of terror shot across Colette’s face. He watched as her food fell to the floor and she was onto her feet and running to the front window in a matter of seconds. Her fingers pulled apart two of the slats on her blinds are she stared out, her body going from motionless to a frantic shaking within seconds.

She was frantic, it was the terror on her face when she turned around that he could only recall having seen once- when she’d been caught and forced against the wall to watch them wipe him. Only this pained him worse. Something was wrong.

“Bucky?” she asked, her voice rattling with fear and anxiety, though he could tell that she was doing her best to try to calm herself down,” Bucky, do you trust me?- Trust that I’d lead you to the better of two options though you may hate me for it?”

He nodded- she’d never given him a reason to believe otherwise,” Why?”

“The feds are here. I was too wrapped up on my call,” she was already walking, waving for him to follow as she headed into the kitchen, frantically unlocking the kitchen door that hadn’t budged since he moved in,” I barely registered the unmarked and the monitoring van outside.” The door swung open and she pushed through, hopping over the waist high divider between the two porches, pounding frantically on the door, screaming fearfully, almost to the point that he could hear the tears in her voice. If it hadn’t been for that factor alone, he was sure that he would have run, vanished. His feet treaded after her, following dutifully.

She stopped pounding with her fist, her hand opening, slapping the door,” Sam, for the love of God, open the door, please open the door.”

Bucky had jumped the barrier, determined to do whatever Colette had planned. Her knocking stopped, he could hear the lock mechanism opening followed by the door and then the face of a man he never much wanted to encounter again. Sam- he recalled the name- looked from Colette to Bucky and back to the girl, face paling,” Colette?”

She backed up, pushing Bucky towards the door, rambling,” Sam, this is the biggest favor I’ve ever asked- close and lock the door, keep him away from the windows.”

Sam backed into what appeared to be the dining room, Bucky’s feet reluctantly entered at Colette’s force.

“What’s going on?” Sam asked, listening, closing the blinds- concern obvious on his face.

“The Feds, FBI probably, whoever is investigating SHIELD employees this week. Sam, just keep him safe.” Her voice was even more frantic,” I’ll explain when they’ve gone.” She didn’t even wait for a response, Bucky watched as she was over the barrier, and in her kitchen, vanishing from sight for a moment before reappearing, loading a gun and then shoving it into the back band of her shirt, hand on the door. “Close the door, Bucky. Everything is going to be fine.” She said, a loud pounding at the door, echoing across the duplex. “You are safest there.” The door started to close, Colette’s head popped out, he could see the regret in her face,” I’m sorry, Bucky.” Her door closed.

His hands lingered, but not choice was given as Sam appeared, hand on the door,” We gotta close the door now, man.”

Bucky nodded, silently pressing it closed, fingers at the lock, turning it, sick feeling in his stomach. What did she need the gun for? Why did she seem so afraid even though he was tucked away, out of sight? Something seemed sorely off- there was a fear that ran though his head- that it was Hydra- someone, anyone determined to harm the woman who had made it her mission to help him, to keep him safe. He could hear noise coming from next door, things banging against the walls, falling to the ground, the shattering of glass and a stream of words from Colette that would make even a sailor blush. His hand reached for the lock, but a voice piped up behind him, familiar, too familiar.

“Don’t do it, Buck. You’ll just make it worse. She can take care of herself.” Steve- it wasn’t hard to place the voice. His hand dropped from the lock to his side.

----

France- January, 1944

It had been weeks since he’d slept, the memories of his captivity hung heavy on his shoulders. The nightmares, memories of experiments that they had performed on him kept him away for hours. When sleep did come- when his body reluctantly gave into the exhaustion- it was short lived. Waking up, unable to catch his breath, fingers white and clenching the blankets around him, body drenched in sweat, struggling not to emit a sound- he didn’t want to wake anyone, let alone Steve. He didn’t want to admit the realities of the tortures that he’d endured. He didn’t want to explain it to Steve, who’d seen the state he was in when he’d been tied down to the gurney- completely out of sorts and under a drug induced haze.

Steve, as far as Bucky was concerned, was going to remain unaware of the trauma he’d experienced. He knew his friend, he knew the man would feel guilty and pained that he hadn’t been able to stop- would have never been able to stop it.

He listened as Steve’s breathing steadied from the cot next to him- it was barely audible under the deep echoing snore of Dugan from across the room.

A creak came from the cot as he sat up, pushing his feet out from under the covers, feet pressing to the floor, the cold French air penetrating his wool socks. His feet slipped into his boots, fingers tying the laced quickly, pulling his coat on, and slipping out the door into the bitter, snowy streets.

The freshly fallen snow crunched under his boots as he made his way a few doors down to the oly lighted building on the block. A small bar that they had frequented in the days since they had rescued the city from Nazi possession.

“Whisky- double,” Bucky said with a shaky voice as he slipped onto the barstool, upon acknowledgement from the bartender.

“American, yes?” the bartender asked, thick French accent making him barely understandable.

Bucky nodded, fingers pushing his hair back,” Yeah.”

“How you say- on the house?” he said, pulling the bottle from behind bar, pouring the whiskey,” You saved our town, so many thanks.”

Bucky shook his hand at the man, his head shaking,” Juste faire mon travail.” The man smiled, pushing the cup towards Bucky, who held it up, saying,” Merci,” with a shaky voice before he downed it in one shot.

“Ah, you sleep French. Good language, good language,”  he said with a laugh, the jovial Frenchman filling Bucky’s cup as soon as he downed it,” Whole bottle is yours, friend,” he set the bottle down,” You look like you need it,” he slapped the bar with another laugh before stepping away to attend to his few customers on the other side of the bar, not giving Bucky a chance to protest.

Bucky’s eyes fixated on the wall, a wall that had seen better days. He was sure that they had- at least these walls were still standing, a mere mile away the buildings had been blasted to slivers.

He downed another glass, fingers slowly reaching to pour more into the short glass. How he longed for him, where the worst thing around was the death of a parent or a neighbors child dying from an incurable illness. He missed the long days at the factory and the longer nights on the dust-filled couch. His sister- his family- Steve not being a shock every time he looked over and expected to see the small kid that he’d always known- not the man that was taller and outweighed him.

He wasn’t jealous, it was just an unexpected change. He didn’t have to look out for his friend anymore. Steve had saved him- dragged his weak, broken body from the Hydra prison- and hadn’t spoken a word of the equipment he saw since.

The tables had turned.

Another glass down his gullet. His sister, dear Becca, they had never been this far apart before. He hoped she was alright, though her letters, nearly daily, indicated that she was, he was skeptical. If he couldn’t see it with his own eyes, he couldn’t feel it, feel safe about her.

Another drink poured, another few gulps to empty it. His head started to lighten, just like the bottle. He was downing it too fast, but he couldn’t stop, he was growing ever closer to being able to black out and get some sort of sleep. Some time, no matter how little, that he could create a void in his mind to escape the memories that tormented him.

His hand grabbed at the bottle, cold wind at his back as he filled the glass again, struggling to get the aim correct. Shaking hand as he set the bottle down. He picked up the glass, thoughts starting to get hazy. Glass to his lips, a familiar voice piped up from behind him,” That’s probably not a good idea.”

Bucky pulled a deep breath into his lungs as he set the glass down on the bar and let out a deep sigh as Steve slid onto the stool next to him. He eyed the bottle, not realizing he’d finished nearly three quarters of the contents.

Steve clapped his shoulder, reaching over the bar, grabbing a glass after a nod from the bartender. He filled the glass, sipping at it in silence. Bucky didn’t look, he avoided all eye contact. There was some level of pride in which he couldn’t find it in himself to let Steve see how broken he was- especially since he’d been letting everyone believe that he’d been coping just fine.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Steve said, Bucky finally looking over, seeing that Steve’s eyes were plastered on the same wall that his own eyes had been.

“Not really,” he said slowly, trying to enunciate the best he could. A small, failed attempt to pretend he was sober.

“Okay,” Steve finished off the contents of the glass, steady hand pouring the remains into the two glasses.

There was silence from the two again, silence ensuring as they both dragged out the contents of their glasses- slow sips, alcohol only effecting one of them.

“Steve, if something happens to me,” he broke the long silence, having been wrapped up in his own worried thoughts. Suddenly his drunk brain had decided that he needed to have plans in place for his sister, something that hadn’t really happened, that he should have done before he left for the Army,” if something happens, you’ll make sure Becca is taken care of, right?”

“That’s not going to happen, You’ll  be back to taking care of her soon enough,” there was a pause, he could feel Steve’s eyes upon him,” You know that, right?”

Bucky shook his head,” Just got a bad feeling. Probably lack of sleep.”

“Yeah, I’ve noticed that you don’t sleep much. What happened there?”

Bucky stared at the contents of the glass for a moment, before swallowing them, shifting off of the stool onto his unsteady feet,” I’mnot talking boutit,” his words slurred together as he struggled to stay upright on his feet. Steve was there in a split second, keeping him from falling over.

Bucky stumbled onto the street, Steve next to him trying in vain to keep Bucky from falling over.

“Yannow, I didn’t even sign-up for this. I never had yourrr guts. They dragged me into it, stupid draft. Then they,” he stumbled into the building they’d made into their barracks and makeshift communications center,” I tried to die, tried to… will myself to die,” he knew his voice was loud, echoing through the rooms, though try as he might, he couldn’t get quieter.

“Buck-“

“You’d’ve been fine, never wouldda given up,” Bucky stumbled, hand catching on a wall for a fried moment- Steve the only thing keeping him from falling to the ground.

He could hear the pain and fear in Steve’s voice,” Bucky, what I saw, I couldn’t have done it either.”

“It was worse,” it was taking everything in him to keep from devolving into tears.  Steve shuffled him into the barracks, he was somewhere near his cot.

“It’s over, it’s over,” Steve helped Bucky past more cots of their fellow soldiers,” Sit,”

Bucky plopped onto the cot, already feeling his eyelids slowly starting to get heavy,” ‘snot over. Every night, every night  I see it.  Feel it, Steve,” tears pulled at his eyes, finally giving in,” Steve, it doesn’t end.”

There was silence in the room- no snoring, no sounds of breathing- he was sure everyone was awake and had been listening to the grown man break down like a child.

“I want to make it all end,” it was pointed drunk speak, insinuating that he could somehow silence his mind for good.

“That’s not a good idea, Buck, it’ll make it worse,” Steve’s voice had a level of sincerity that seemed to make everything feel alright, for just a moment.

Bucky laid down, eyes closed, drunk,” Okay, Jiminy.”

----

“Okay, Jiminy,” his response came with ease, but nothing more than a sad tone, as if it were programmed into his mind, a common response. He struggled to turn around. It had been weeks ago that he had determined that he wouldn’t come face-to-face with Steve until he remembered more, until he felt more like himself. Until he knew that he would be able to be in the same proximity without wanting- needing to kill him. That the part of him that had been so horribly programmed was gone.

Never the less, he had no option now. The bearded man who had long since let himself go, turned to be eye to eye with his once best friend, his once mission. Eyes meeting, he was frozen. Steve was so well put together, jeans and a plaid button up shirt, while Bucky was unkempt, a t-shirt for a band he’d never heard, black pants that were severely wrinkled from sitting around during his TV marathon earlier that day.

“Bucky,” there was concern in Steve’s voice. How much he missed it- the simplest reminder of home- of before everything happened- before the war.

“Steve,” the response was simple, a bit of happiness mixed with pure fright. He didn’t know what his body was going to do, if it was going to take over and destroy everything like he’d wanted to do months before.

Chapter Text

Bucky stared at Steve, unwilling to move, feeling suddenly, very self-aware. There was no escape, he had determined, that would allow for both his and Colette’s safety as much as he wished. He didn’t want to be standing there, as broken as he was, in front of the man he struggled to be strong for in their youth.

“We’ve been looking for you,” Steve said, pity and concern in his voice. “Here, sit,” he motioned at the table, but Bucky stayed in place.

It was by the door that he had an escape plan- that he wouldn’t feel boxed in, that he could control himself; because, if he couldn’t there was a door, a window to escape through and as long as he had that, he was sure that he would be alright.

There was silence, Bucky could feel their eyes burning into his skull as he looked at the ground- listening carefully to every movement through the shared wall, stomach dropping at each moment of prolonged silence. “I’m fine right here,” he finally said, unaware that 15 minutes of deafening silence in the stranger’s home had passed.

“Wherever you are comfortable,” Sam replied having already positioned himself at a seat at the table. Bucky could see Steve and Sam share a look of concern.

“Do you suppose it’s all about him?” Steve’s voice broke the silence, yet quiet and directed at Sam. It was a relief to Bucky that they were seeming to ignore his existence.

“Don’t know. I know she worked for SHIELD, but I’m not sure in what capacity. I heard that Talbor was running raids on those who did anything even remotely important.” Sam replied, a creak in the chair as he leaned back.

“And how do you know her?”

Sam shrugged,” She was Riley’s wife. She’s a good kid, I can’t imagine it’s anything too horrible.”

“But what side is she on?” Steve had asked the million dollar question.

“She got stabbed to all hell during the attack, I don’t know why though. I guess I’ve never asked.”

“Her department was full of Hydra agents and when she realized, she started destroying their data, and that’s why she was stabbed,” there was silence, he could feel their eyes on him even though he hadn’t dared to look up, a moment more of silence, Bucky felt as if he had to explain himself,” She and I talk.”

“There’s your answer,” Sam said bluntly.

Bucky’s focus turned back to the floor as Sam and Steve went silent.

--

France- January, 1944 Continued

“Hey, Cap, the request to stay put another day has been approved,” Jones’ voice traveled across the temporary barracks, the voice ratting in Bucky’ head like the vibration of a speaker- shaking too fast; creating vertigo induced nausea.

Why?

He wracked his brain, slowly settling on a vague memory of a bottle of whiskey downed with ease, followed by darkness. Bucky couldn’t recall the last time that he’d drunk that much.

“A courier is bringing plans, they want you to radio in when they are received.

“Got it,” Steve’s voice was close, a shuffling of papers accompanying his voice.

Bucky’s eyes opened, glancing to the rafters, grateful for the dull light that was illuminating the windowless room, rather than the sun light that was trying to peak in through the rafters. He pushed his arms out from under the blankets, unsure of how he’d managed to get back. A groan escaped as he sat up, every muscle in his body screaming at him to lay back down- stomach aching at the change in position.

“Good Morning, Sunshine,” Dugan’s booming voice piped from across the room, sending a stab of pain through Bucky’s head,” Or should I say afternoon?”

He massaged his temple with his hand, shifting his wrist to see that he’d slept well past one.

“You okay?” Steve asked, voice soft, a welcome tone to his throbbing head.

“Just a bad hangover,” he groaned, wiping his hands down his face,” Stupid. It was a really bad idea.” He could feel the eyes of others on him. With a quick glance he could see the pity. What had he done the night before? What had he said?

“You look like hell. I’d probably recommend not trying to finish a bottle of whiskey by yourself again.” Steve said, looking up from the sketchbook in his hands.

Bucky attempted a laugh, head pounding behind his eyes,” When did you become a doctor?”

“About the time that you became a genius,” Steve laughed out a response.

Smirk on his face, he threw his feet over the side of the bed, boots hitting the floor – realizing that he hadn’t gotten out of them the night before- and he only half-managed to get out of his jacket. “Last night-“

“Don’t worry about it-“

Bucky cut in,” No, I don’t remember any of it? What did I di? Why do they keep looking at me like that?” he asked softly, trying not to draw attention, thrusting his head towards the guys, most who were wrapped up in a card game.

“Buck,” Steve shook his head, Bucky stared him down, unrelenting,” Fine- you were going on about what they did- your frame of mind,” the memories of the night before were starting to peek through the darkness as Steve spoke words that Bucky wasn’t even hearing. The very edge of everything had managed to break through. He’d been a grown man who’d had an alcohol-induced emotional breakdown. He could remember the tears and the words, staying how he’d tried to die, how it had been worse than even Steve could have imagined. Though he never spoke of the trauma that he’d endured- he never would- he promised himself that much. It was wrong to punish people with the same nightmares he had

“I didn’t mean to unload on you,” he said as plainly as he could. He’d, in all sincerity, done his best over the months since the defeat of that Hydra camp, to keep the truth- the reality of what had happened and how it had affecting Bucky, from Steve.

Keeping his best bud safe.

It was all he ever really wanted to do. But since Steve’s “Big Change” the ways that Bucky could accomplish that had diminished. He could no longer chase off the assholes in the back alleys, or come to the rescue with the emergency inhaler that he used to keep on hand. Steve was capable of handling it on his own. A fact that a small part of him, deep down, despised.

“This was at least something that he was still capable of protecting his friend- his brother- from.

“Buck?” Steve’s voice drew him out of his thoughts.

“Hmm?” his eyebrows rose as he looked up to Steve,” Sorry, I didn’t hear what you said”

“I asked if you wanted to talk about it? About what happened there?”

Worry pulled at every corner of his being, stomach churning, he shook his head, thoughts and memories being suppressed like he was fighting to do with the contents of his stomach.

He was on his feet, darting across the room, grateful to his stomach, as much as it was rebelling against him, for getting him out of answering that question.

At least until he had a clearer head.

___

The slamming had ceased next door, the dog barked from the back yard, and Sam had since found a seat at the table and the slight tittering of conversation had petered off long before they remained there in total silence.

The term lingered in his mind, right next to friend, target, and mission. It was unsettling but he knew he could trust the guy- it was a gut instinct.

It was a knocking at the door behind him that got everyone moving. Bucky shuffled into the kitchen with Steve as Sam took to the door.

“Where were you, Buck?” Steve asked, concern lacing his voice.

Bucky could hear Colette’s voice- anxious but it till brought a level of relief to his bones,” Places,” he muttered under his breath, trying to listen to Colette from the next room.

“Sam, I’ll explain everything- just.” There was silence as she came into the room, her wide eyes quickly locking with his, an apologetic look on her face,” Bucky, I’m sorry. I-“

“It’s fine, you did what you had to do,” he said, pushing on a sad smile. It was the conclusion that he had come to- he had to. After all, it was in the line of fire of the lesser of two evils that she’d thrust him into.

He watched as she signed and smiled back, the wright of the world seeming to lift off of her shoulders.

“You need to answer my questions, Cole,” Same said, arms crossed over his chest as he filled the gap at the kitchen entrance, coming between the two of them.

“Fine, easy enough,” she said, he could see the nasty look she shot Sam,” I worked for SHIELD up until the attack. Your,” she looked to Steve,” announcement probably saved my life. I destroyed all of the data my department had stored- and also discovered that EVERY person who worked under me was Hydra. Fun, huh?” She looked back to Sam,” There were some projects and undercover mission,” she looked at Bucky briefly, he knew which one she was talking about,” that remained as paper files. The government wanted them. They came here, tore my house apart and couldn’t find them.” She shrugged non-chalantly,”  Mainly because I converted them, destroyed the copies and the disc they are on is…” she paused as if she was trying to determine the best words,” safely stowed away.”

“How do we know you’re not Hydra,” Steve posed the question, anger behind his voice.

“She couldn’t be-“ Sam said, looking from Steve to Colette,” Her- your grandfather,” he aid almost with a sudden understanding. “That’s what – this- is,” he pointed at Bucky,” Some mission to fulfill something your grandfather didn’t do?”

Bucky saw Colette turn, slowly putting together words from his memory and what she said nearly every morning, Good Morning, Sunshine, the same afflictions,” No Sam,” she said, fury in her voice,” It’’ not. None of this is your business.”

“Grandfather?” Steve piped up, the man moving a step towards Sam and Colette.

“You two didn’t know?” Sam spoke up, cocky grin on his face, countering Colette’s scowl,” Colette here is the granddaughter of a Howling Commando.”

“Sam, seriously shut. The. Fuck. up,” Colette was furious.

“Denier?” Steve asked.

Bucky shook his head, already having connected it,” No,” a smile spread across his face, all eye in the room turning on him,” Dugan.”

Bucky watched as Colette’s eye widened,” How?”

“The uh, the way you say Good Morning, Sunshine.”

She smiled and nodded, he felt almost proud that his memories had developed enough that he could make that connection. He watched as she turned back to Sam,” So, NO, it’s not finishing something. It’s a lot more complicated than I can explain.”

“I can understand complicated,” There was a stern look on Sam’s face.

Colette easily brushed off the comment, rolling her eyes.

Bucky could already see a softening in Steve, an understanding and a willingness to give up the interrogation. “How’s your grandfather?” Steve asked, breaking the tension between Colette and Sam- or at least reducing it.

He watched Colette roll her eyes, he remembered the trouble she’d been having on the phone earlier that day. “He’s doing alright, his memory is starting to fade, much quicker than I’d like.”

“Do they think it’s Alzheimer’s?”

“Just age, and the unfortunate delayed side effects of either SSR or SHIELD trials from the 60s.”

“He here in DC?”

She shook her head,” He’s in an assisted living home in New York.  Try as I might, I can’t convince him to leave the city-“ The discussion continued on, it faded off in Bucky’s mind, his focus shifting to what was in front of him. How they’d been searching for him. They were open about it. Steve had seemed peeved that he was right under their noses most of the time. It had been in hushed tones, assuming that Bucky couldn’t hear or wasn’t paying attention. His breathing slowed, worried about how things would change. He was perfectly content being off of the radar of most everyone- just the one person he had complete faith and trust in. His knees shook a little, a worry that there would be more expect of him- that they wouldn’t accept that he needed time to himself. He needed to be left alone to recover. That they wouldn’t accept the gaping holes in his memory. It was almost an overpowering thought.

“Bucky? Bucky?” Colette’s voice was there at the edge of his thoughts, it was her hand on his right arm that pulled him out.

“Hmm?”

“You alright there?” Her voice was soft and gentle, he’d noticed that it was her default tone when she was concerned.

“Yeah,” he said, yet he shook his head- mouth telling the lie, body telling the truth.

“We ought to go back. You think?” Her eyes met his, relief met his bones.

He merely nodded in response, standing up straight from resting on the counter, feet pulling him out of the room much to Steve’s protests.

“Colette, we need to talk about this,” Sam said, as Bucky stopped in the dining room.

“What is there to talk about, Sam?” Bucky could hear the annoyance in her voice.

“How it’s not safe,” Steve said.

“How he’s not safe,” Sam added in.

“You realize he’s been next door to you for over a month. Not so much as a peep. Maybe some night terrors, but with all he’s seen, who wouldn’t/”

There was an uncomfortable silence, yet he stood there, door to the patio open.

“Colette- Colette goddamnit, don’t walk out of here.”

He could hear her footsteps stop,” What Sam?”

“How are you even remotely involved in this?”

She huffed, instantly Bucky was grateful that he couldn’t see Steve’s face,” Steve,” there was a pause,” Two times you said something and his behavior changed. Correct?”

“Yes,” Steve sounded skeptical.

“Bucky and I’m with you till the end of the line, right?”

“Yeah- how did you-“

“Five years ago, after Riley died, I went undercover in a KGB cell- under SHIELD.  They’d wanted me to do it a couple years earlier but I declined because I had Riley and didn’t want to risk my life at the time with him risking his.  But that’s besides everything. I did it for SHIELD- hell, not even really SHIELD, more for Director Fury- to mess with programming for a soldier they’d been keeping on ice since the 40s. Bucky. Those two sentiments, loaded into promo videos and stories my grandpa used to tell. I used that as a failsafe.  But in the wake of the Incident in New York, I got pulled before I could finish programming the ultimate failsafe. But it was a blessing that you used those two phrases.”

There was silence, a long silence.

Sam finally spoke,” Colette.”

“What Sam?”

“You know Riley wouldn’t be okay with this.”

There was an exasperated groan,” Jesus Christ, Sam,” her footsteps started up again,” If Riley didn’t want me dealing with this, then he shouldn’t have FUCKING DIED. But no, he’s not here, so you, FUCK OFF,” Colette came around the corner, an apologetic look sweeping her face. Bucky merely nodded with an understanding, pushing past the door, jumping the barrier, only hovering to lend a hand to Colette who, after a look of exhaustion, reluctantly took his hand and used his help to hop over. He followed her into the apartment, shutting and locking the door, turning only to find the whole apartment in shambles, all of her belongings on the floor.

“They sure know how to make a mess of things,” he said, following the sound of items being tossed into an empty drawer in the living room.

“I suppose I should have anticipated this happening sooner or later,” Bucky watched as Colette sat on the floor, sifting through things, putting items into what he’d come to identify as the junk drawer.

He stood there watching her, unsure of what to say. It was a moment before he found himself sitting on the floor, amidst the DVDs, finding a task in matching the cases with the disks that had been separated from the cases.

“You were waiting until I had more memories to tell me about your grandfather?” he finally asked, breaking nearly half an hour worth of silence.

She looked up, apologetic,” Yeah, I figured it would be less complicated that way.”

“Thank you,” he appreciated not having everything thrown onto his lap while trying to pull memories at the same time.

He watched as a smile briefly flashed across her face,’ You know, I’m just super glad that you didn’t say it was the moustache.”

Bucky looked back at Colette who was laughing slightly, before he joined in. “I considered it,” he said with a laugh and a wink. His eyes lingered on her as she chucked and went back to cleaning.

“You know,” Bucky said again after another long bout of silence,” Dugan had a sense of humor and a persistence much like you.”

He listened as Colette closed a drawer, her footsteps growing closer, finally appearing next to him, sitting on the floor,” Yeah?” she finally said, the clicking of cases and disks being matched.

“When we were held captive in Germany, there was a point, maybe 6 or 7 hours in, he decided, much to everyone else’s dismay, that he was going to annoy our way out of there. And by annoy, he decided he was just going to sing, constantly, just hours of ‘Over the Rainbow’ and ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’.”

“How long did that last?” She asked with a chuckle.

“Maybe a day- they took our watches, there was really no way to keep time. All I know is that most of us had tuned it out by then. Jones- not so much. Drove him up the wall. He was the one who ultimately dropped it- threatened to shove the hat down Dugan’s throat. He shrugged it off. It was when Jones’s threatened to find a way to shave his moustache off that he became quiet than anyone had ever seen him before. He pouted like a child. No witty comeback- which I think was probably a first and a last. Just pure silence.”

Colette laughed, pulling a chuckle from himself as well- trying to brush off the slightly uncomfortable feeling of suppressed memories lingering right behind that wall of whatever happened next.

“He is definitely one for comebacks. Even more- it drives the staff insane. Used to drive me insane, they just make me chuckle now.” Bucky watched as she put another DVD case on the completed pile, looking up,” When I was 13, I lived with him for a while, while my parents were… working through things. I got mad about something and, bag in hand, I told him that I was running away to join the circus. He told me to wait while he packed a bag because he had a bunch of friends from before the war that he’d been meaning to check in on.”

“Dear God, That’s priceless.” Bucky said, flashing a smile at Colette.

Chapter Text

Sleep didn’t come easy that night, no matter how much he stared at the dull white ceiling and prayed for it. It wasn’t memories consuming his mind, though for once he prayed for it- it would have been less painful, less uncomfortable.

There was an almost unbareable weight on his chest, his legs shook, and his mind raced. He wanted to run, protect Steve, protect Colette, but at the same time, he knew he couldn’t go. He’d sunk everything into where he was. He’d allowed himself to feel comfortable- at home for the first time in decades. He couldn’t lost that. But he was a risk, to everyone. And so the vicious cycle of anxiety progressed.
He didn’t have that option- or really, he didn’t have the guts to leave and risk falling into a trap. To risk getting recognized.

He pushed himself out of the firm bed, feet half hitting the hardwood floor, half hitting the carpet. He shuffled to the door, cracking it open, and once seeing the darkness of the house, slipping out headed towards the back porch. He stepped outside and a wave of relief hit his chest, having escaped the all too confining house. As he sat down on the edge of the porch, legs hanging off the side, there was a soft breeze pressing through the trees, hitting him, breaking the hot, humid air that seemed to linger. A brief relief, reminiscent of his youth and all the nights they would spend trying to escape the heat that even seemed to build in the darkness. The hammocks that they would fashion out of blankets on the roof of the dilapidated building and the long talks that would get them through the night. Steve, Becca, and him.

He heard footsteps, all too familiar, that he didn’t even need to look back to see whose they were. There was the creak of the body sitting down on the other side of the barrier.

“Couldn’t sleep,” it was more of a statement than a question, but perhaps the same was true of both of them. Steve’s voice seemed so familiar, a guilt lingering in the undertones, but that persistent curiosity still ever so present in his voice.

“Look, you don’t have to say anything Buck,” the way he said his name, a warmth and familiarity pushed a warmth through his chest. “Look, I’m very glad that you’re safe. I’ve been trying to find you for months. Sam and I scoured Brooklyn, thought we may have found a lead to you a few miles from here. I just can’t believe you were right here the whole time.”

“When did you think you found me?”

Steve seemed shocked at his speaking,” About a month ago. A little basement apartment.”

“A lot of destroyed furniture and nothing else?”

“Yeah. Figured you’d been caught or fled.”

“The door was left open- I saw it and bailed,” he admitted, a wave of calm hitting his chest, his shoulders sagging slightly as his muscles relaxed. The thought that he would want to do nothing but attack, kill hadn’t surfaced. “Didn’t really have anything there. Good to see that you still got that keen ability to track my ass down,” Bucky laughed, garnering one in return.

“Apparently not as keen as back in the day. I can’t believe you’ve been under my nose this whole time-“, Bucky looked over, a look of amusement painted Steve’s face.

He suddenly felt a pang of guilt, “Yeah I-.”

“Buck- I’m just glad that you’re safe. If she’s helping- then I’m perfectly okay with that. It’s all that matter’s to me.”

“She uh- she understands. There’s no pressure here. I trust her and I trust myself around her and I don’t trust myself around anyone.” He wouldn’t hurt her- not again, he wouldn’t admit it to anyone, but that night he tracked her down, almost killing her, still weighed heavy on his mind, ” She’s a saint.”

“Sam insists that she’s a good kid. He trusts her- you trust her- so I’ll trust her,” there was a sincerity to Steve’s voice.

Bucky smiled,” Thank You.”

There was mere silence between the two of them, reminicient of their youth, sitting outside to avoid the stifling hot apartments, breathing in what little cool breeze there was in the air.

"How much do you remember?" Steve asked, his voice softly breaking the long silence.

"Bits and pieces here and there. Not enough.” He paused again, sighing,” I can remember the last Christmas with you and Becca. I can remember being black out drunk in France. I don’t remember how I met you. Our childhood- though I know there was one from what I was told. I remember what my mother’s perfume smelled like but I don’t remember her dying.” His voice choked a bit, his emotions had been finding him easier, though mostly he was able to hide it in private, Colette seemed to have a sort of intuition about when to give him a wide berth and when to stay near, though her dog, Bubba, stayed close no matter what.

“First day of school.”

“Hmm?”

“When we met. It was the first day of school. We were 8, you’d just moved with your family from Indiana. You hated it, you were hardly shy though. Chris Miller was hassling me on the side of the school. Yet another instance I had gotten in well over my head- but you know I’d never give up. He gave me a black eye, you broke his nose. There was blood everywhere. Chris cried, like I’d never seen anyone cry before. But it wasn’t because of his nose, it was because his shirt was stained and it was his Sunday shirt and his mother was going to be furious, and he didn’t want to be banned from going to the pictures that weekend.” Bucky could feel Steve’s gaze on him, he didn’t want to relent, he didn’t want to give the chance that his emotions could fail him. “You told me that you only wanted to even the playing field, Miller and his goons versus me has hardly fair. I told you that I hand it handled. You laughed, slapped my shoulder and told me 3 on 1 is never fair and then told me that I had gumption and we should be friends.” There was a moment of silence,” Somehow you never got in trouble for that, you’ve always been all charm with the ladies, teachers, dames, all of em.” There was a few minutes of pure silence, even the crickets seemed to quiet in hope that the memory would flood back into Bucky’s head. “You don’t remember,” Steve said, though it was more of a pity-filled statement than a question.

Bucky shoot his head,” No, it doesn’t really work like that.”

“What works?” Steve asked, Bucky could see his cocking his head through the corner of his eye.
He let a long sigh through his nose,” It could be anything. A face, a word- series of words. The dusty couch I crashed on reminded me of the birthday you had that you invited Becca along.”

His eyes stayed firm, staring into the dark back yard- no fence splitting the neighbors, just one around both parcels of land, he didn’t know how he never noticed it before.

“Was that the one when I drew the picture of you that ended up looking like Howard Stark?”

The name- a pang of pain shot through the center of his head. His eyes pressed closed, it was familiar but try as he might, nothing surfaced. “Mmm hmm”

“You know, Stark was an ass, but his kid is worse”

“Really? Had many run ins with him”

Steve nodded,” Yeah, he goes by Iron Man-“

“In the red metal suit thing, right?” He was easily able to recall from news stories,” Tony, right?”

Steve nodded again.

“I saw him on the news, him and that huge eyesore in the middle of the city.”

“It really is atrocious, nice inside, but I can’t get past the outside.”

“The whole Avengers thing, right?”

“What do you mean?”

“How you know him?” He turned to look at Steve, his questions moving faster than his full thought process.

He watched Steve nod,” Yeah, I got thrown into it. Didn’t really have time to process everything, let alone the tech I’d been thrown into. Even more, let alone the snarky Stark comments which only seemed to evolve with the addition of a generation.”

“He really wasn’t half bad once you got past the fact that he as competition for almost every woman we came into contact with.” Bucky stopped, bits and pieces of memories coming to him. The brunette that was head over heels for Steve. “Well, except for Peggy. That dame only ever had eyes for you.”

He could see a smile on Steve’s face from the corner of his eye.

“Thought you said you didn’t remember much.”

“I can recall enough. More and more most days. I remember how she didn’t even give me a second glance, which was a huge blow to my ego, by the way.”

“Far as I remember, that blow didn’t last too long.”

“Never did,” he flashed a smile, finally looking over at his friend,” You seen her? I mean is she still…”

“She is. Like Colette’s grandfather, her mind is slipping. I suppose it helps that I don’t look like I’ve aged any. But her…” Steve faded off, he let out a deep breath, and Bucky just let him have the silence, the thought. A minute later he looked over at Bucky, their eyes meeting,” I get stuck thinking how things could have been different. What it would have been like raising a family with her. Aging with her.”

A frown grew across Bucky’s face. It was a sadness that he couldn’t fix. All he could do was offer a pat of comfort on Steve’s shoulder. An action that felt familiar yet foreign.

Steve shook his head, Bucky could only assume he was trying to shake off the emotions. “To be honest, I don’t think I could deal with it- lost memories. I have to give it to you.”

“Honestly,” he said, “The lost memories aren’t the worst part of it all. It’s the worrying about that nagging in the back of my head that makes me want to kill.” He paused, waiting for Steve to run, or that feeling to surface even though it had been buried so far down that he didn’t even know if it existed anymore. “Even right here I worry about it.” Another brief silence as he contemplated whether he really wanted the words to escape his mouth,” I didn’t search you out, after I pulled your ass out of the Potomic, because…” He took a deep breath, holding it in his chest, then exhaling the words,” You’ve been the only friend I can remember. And I remember enough to know that. To know I could never want to kill you, yet I put bullets in you, and for a moment, standing on the edge of that helecarrier, there was such a pull from my mind to not jump down there and pull you out.”

“But there was enough of the real you in there.”

Bucky nodded and shrugged. It was still that part that pulled him back that worried him,” It was just so strong, it was a full on battle in my head.”

“Buck, you were brainwashed. I saw the files. What they did to you was completely messed up. There is a heck of a lot that you are going to have to overcome. And, from what I can tell, a lot that you have overcome. Take the successes, worry about the failures when you face them, and take things one day at a time.”

Bucky let the words seep into his mind, it all made sense, all that he had heard before but hadn’t really wanted to accept. Words that he had fought while he stayed cooped up in Colette’s spare room day after day, barely even eating. He nodded, meaningful words failing him,” Captain America: Motivational Speaker. You know if the saving the world thing falls though, it’s good to know you have something to fall back on, Oprah.” He raised his eyebrows up with a smile and a laugh, the whole action feeling familiar in the vague sort of way that he had gotten used to.

“You never could keep things serious for more than a couple minutes,” Steve laughed in response.

“It does feel more natural,” he chuckled.

“She’s trustworthy, right?” Steve asked, his head nodding towards Colette’s house.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t trust her.”

“I don’t get how she ties into all of this.”

Bucky nodded, “She was there, in Russia. Undercover. I remember that much. I remember her speaking to me in English. Letting me know she was trying to help. I remember the shit she took. Them hurting her, and I mean it was awful- while she looked at me, mouthing at me not to intervene. I remember trusting her when I couldn’t trust anyone else, and still, somehow trusting her even after they wiped my mind clean. The cringing on her face when they would wipe me, almost as if she was being hurt every time. I remember going over words, and programming for responses. She said it was something you said on the bridge and then a different thing you said on the helecarrier that triggered the brain stuff to like…” he raised his hands to his head, waving them around, unable to find the word for it. “Like, break through what had been put in my head. Gah,” he put his hands down in frustration,” It’s all so hard to explain because… I don’t remember all of it. But the feeling of it all is so uncomfortable.” He sighed, trying to calm himself, his hands running through his long, unkempt, unwashed hair.”

This time Bucky found Steve patting his shoulder instead, the action surprisingly comforting, as he slumped back down from his frustration. “It’ll come to you… eventually.” There was a mix of unsurity and optimism in Steve’s voice.

“Just not soon enough. I’d give anything to wake up one morning and remember everything.” There was a moment of somber silence, a yawn eventually pulling at Bucky’s mouth, the whole conversation having been more therapeutic that he thought it would ever be. “I’m sorry about everything. The shooting and the attempted killing and everything, I know you know it wasn’t me. But I can’t help but feel horrible. I have so many deaths on my hands, knowing that yours could have been one of them. I’m just… I’m really sorry.”

“Don’t feel guilty for what you were forced to do by some sick monster. But if it makes you feel better, I forgive you and I forgive what brainwashed you did. Alright?”

Bucky nodded.

“She seems nice?”

Bucky smiled,” She is.” He paused,” So, let me talk to her, maybe you and Sam could come over for dinner one night. I think I need to help fix that giant crevice that I put in their relationship.”

Steve nodded,” They’ll figure it out one way or another. Sam said he had made a promise to her late husband that he would keep an eye on her and make sure she was safe if anything ever happened to him. Sam said he and Riley had been best friends for years before Riley was killed. To top it off, Sam was right there when it happened, and I think that’s why he takes his promise so seriously. Mayyyyybe a little too seriously,” Steve relented. “I think he just needs to see that you’re not the… Bucky… he met in the Triskelion.”

“Will you put in a good word for me?” He asked softly,” It’s just, she’s done so much for me, and I don’t want to be the cause of anything bad happening to her.”

“Of course.”

“I should probably try sleeping. It doesn’t exactly come easy these days, and I actually feel exhausted for the first time in a long time.” Bucky said as he shifted backwards, pushing himself up to his feet, Steve doing the same thing.

“I get that too. Try Melatonin. Works wonders.” There was a brief silence,” Buck, I’m glad you’re okay. And I’m glad we could talk.”

Bucky nodded, the situation feeling weird to him, “I’m glad too.” He pushed a smile onto his face, unsure of how to proceed. A scratch came at the door behind him, followed by a wimper from Bubba, who he had a sneaking suspicion had been watching out the door the whole time. “I should probably check on him.” He said with a smile and a wave. “I’ll talk to Colette tomorrow, and then reach out about plans, alright?”

“Sounds good.”

Bucky stepped inside, waiting until the patio door swung closed behind him to crouch down and rub his hands on both sides of Bubba’s face. “”Hey Buddy.” The dog licked his face, and he smiled before heading to bed, the dog trailing behind him. Knowing that he was going to sleep well for the first time in a long time. Or at least he hoped. He sure as hell needed it.

Chapter Text

Rattle My Brain; Return My Memories Ch. 11
Summary:
Two months after the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, James “Bucky” Buchanan Barnes finds himself in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, trying to find memories, one more time. When someone unexpected triggers one- sending him on a mission to get the answers he needs.
Chapter: Eleven
Summary: Chapter 11, Making Strides
Author’s Note: So if you remember the notebook I lost a few chapters back, I thought I left it in a past duplex in Wisconsin, at a family members house in Iowa, or at a hotel in Tennessee (we were moving at the time) 3 moves later and I finally found it when we settled down in a house and started opening boxes. Yeah it was in a box of my now husbands random shit. Don't get me wrong, I'm stoked. And this chapter you're about to get- it's 3 years old but fricking amazing. New chapters coming soon, I have chapters 12-21 just waiting for editing and a little review and then
====================

Inviting Steve and Sam over had sounded like a great idea to Bucky in the darkness of night, when he had felt most comfortable, and in reality more emotionally vulnerable than he had been in a very long time. But as the days passed and Colette coordinated plans, the worse the idea seemed to him. The days passed and the dread and anxiety of all of his progress reverting, grew in the back of his mind. He was getting worse and worse at hiding it as the days went by.

The conversation with Colette trying to bail on the whole situation didn't add much to it. She was determined to not let him out, a positivity that he was just psyching himself out. And the blunt words of "It wasn't Steve's best friend that watched him fall into the Potomac. It was the Winter Soldier. The Winter Soldier did those things. The programming that was forced into your brain did those things. You- Bucky Barnes- Steve's best friend. You didn't kill him. You drug him out of the Potomac. You chose to try to remember - to fight those memories no matter how much it destroyed you, how much pain it caused you. You have put in more effort to remember and try to cope with things than most people would. Hell, your focus has been more on trying to remember than trying to take care of yourself."

Realizing just what Collette meant, he looked in the mirror after wiping the fog from the shower off of the glass- for the first time he actually looked- and he didn't recognize the man in front of him- beard full and unkempt- like something a bird would nest in. His hair far past his shoulders, 9*something he'd not really realized as he perpetually had it tied up.

Stepping out of the bathroom, sweat pants hugging his hips, he sheepishly searched the home, finding Colette in the kitchen, just back from work. She looked up, and he could have sworn that he saw her blush slightly as she looked away for the briefest moment. " What's up, Buck?"

"Umm, any chance you have a razor?"

She nodded and replied with an "Mmm Hmm." before a moment of silence, seeming to shake herself out of a daze," Oh- your beard?

"Yeah, I think it's time for a new look. Maybe one that a bear won't hibernate in," he cracked a smile, and let out a laugh to accompany Colette's.

"You'll need a beard trimmer first," she shifted with a smile and started walking, passing him, headed to the hall closet, pulling an electric razor out," It's all I've got- besides the razor- razor is in the cabinet, top," she squinted her eyes, he had come to recognize this as the face she made when she was thinking but not 100% sure," left side. They're new. Old, but new."

He took the trimmer from his hand as she vanished back into the heart of the house, and then headed back into the bathroom. Plugging it in, it rose to life, shaking in his hand, startling him slightly. He found a button, shutting it off. "Hey, Colette?" his voice rose out of the bathroom, the confusion evident in his voice.

A moment later, she appeared, head peeking around the corner "What do you need?" He held the foreign device up, a hopeless look on his face, a half smile pressing across his lips. Colette laughed and took it into her hand, clicking it and letting it buzz to life, “They’re a bit confusing, here,” She pushed up onto her toes, Bucky feeling her hand on the seam between his shoulder and his prosthetic, uncomfortable for a moment before the feeling of the trimmer distracted him, feeling the hair falling off of his face as she deftly moved the device around his face. He didn’t even mind the close proximity- someone, as Colette had once put it, in his bubble. He suppressed a long forgotten feeling in the pit of his stomach.

Soon enough she shifted to the other side and before he even knew it, she was clicking off the trimmer and brushing the loose hair off of his face. For a moment they made eye contact, and as her hand pulled away he let out a soft,” Thank you.”

She smiled in return,” No problem,” she said as she turned around, setting the trimmer down and reaching into the cabinet, turning around, razor and shaving cream in hand, his own hands taking them from her,” Razor and shaving cream- just push the button on the top. And let me know if you want me to do something with that mop of hair,” she said with a laugh, squeezing out from between him and the counter.

“Actually,” He said with a smile.

He garnered a smile in return,” After you’re done shaving I’ll take care of it- I’ve gotta get dinner into the oven.”

“That works,” the smile stayed on his face as she vanished. He turned back to the mirror, barely recognizing himself, before taking to the razor and shaving his face clean.

It only took him a few minutes to and a few nicks to transform himself into someone he didn’t even recognize anymore. It was a new feeling to him, for the first time in months, his face was smooth, cooler. He cleaned up, putting everything away, tossing on a shirt, and then headed into the kitchen. A pair of shears on the table as Colette stood at the counter. He stepped closer, leaning against the counter a few feet from her,” What are you making?” He hadn’t even thought to ask. He never had requests, just at the food she put in front of him, grateful for a meal that didn’t consist of the mush that he’d been fed in Russia.

She jumped as she turned, her hair flying in the same direction,” Jesus, you’re quiet,” she laughed,” Uh, Shepherd’s pie.”

“One of those few foods that I actually recognize.”

“As compared to…?” Colette responded with a raised eyebrow.

Bucky laughed,” Ramen, sushi, sloppy Joes, quesaritos.”

“Yeah, I get it,” she joined in the laugher as she spooned the potatoes on top of the mix,” I also get that I don’t exactly feed you the healthiest food.”

“Nah, don’t get me wrong, the food is good. I mean, everything used to be boiled.” He laughed as he watched her crinkle her nose,” It was as awful as it sounds.”

“I can imagine… Actually, nevermind, I don’t want to imagine that,” she shifted, putting the food in the overn, shutting it. She shuffled to the sink, washing her hands,” What do you want me to do with your hair?”

“I actually like putting it back.”

“It’s a good look for you. Not that I – I mean,” she stumbled through her words, he did his best to ignore what he was positive was blushing,” Sit down, I’ll trim it up.”

He shuffled over to the seat, listening as her hands moved deftly, wrapping a towel around his neck, finally grabbing the shears, cutting his hair, listening with each stand becoming shorter. “Where did you learn to cut hair?”

“My mom, when I was younger and I went home to spend time with her. She was-is- a hairdresser. I watched, caught on. I mainly cut my own hair, occasionally my friends. Mastered the high and tight with Riley though, it was kind of an Army wife requirement.” She chuckled.

He smiled, forcing himself to keep from nodding,” You didn’t live with your mother?” He asked, finding himself surprised that he hadn’t delved into her life before this moment. He had been so wrapped up in his own lost past that it hadn’t even crossed his mind, and suddenly he felt ashamed.

“No, my grandparents raised me. My dad always worked, my mother is really my step-mom. My biological mother never really wanted me around. SO when my parents got divorced when I was 4- my dad went to work and I got shipped off to my grandparents. Though it worked out to my advantage,” She shifted to the front, smiling softly as she worked,” My brothers, who stayed with my mom, turned out to be complete assholes.”

“What do they do?”

“Well there is Tim—err, TJ- he is in the Navy- it pissed my grandpa off something awful. Cooper is in Ohio with my mom, probably stull freeloading off of her. He’s a lazy SOB.”

“Do they know what you do- did?” He said, realizing mid statement that her life’s work was in rubble.

“They just knew I worked Research and Development for the government. Dad always told us he worked for the CIA and couldn’t discuss his work. It wasn’t until I was 16 and started doing work with SHIELD that I found out the truth. But I just pretty much used the same party-line that I grew up hearing.”

“How did you get work there?”

“A project I did at a summer science camp caught their eye. Pretty much set me up for that career path, having my dad as an agent there was definitely a bonus. I didn’t even really consider any other career path so now that I’m sans SHIELD, I feel a little lost, you know?”

She pulled the towel from around him, folding in the hair as she did so.

“Looking good. You can man-bun it up or leave it down.” She said, patting his shoulder as she walked past him with a smile.

He watched as she glanced at her watch before dumping the towels contents into the trash bin. “You know, you could probably make a living helping Hydra brain-washees. Maybe open an orphanage of us.” He flashed her a smile as she looked back, eyebrows raised.

“You think you’re joking,” he caught a wink before she tossed the towel into the corner.

“I’m special”

“You’re very special,” she said, turning back with a big smile, “You’re the one I could help because I had been hands on when you couldn’t remember. I don’t have the ability to help anyone else like that”

“I get it.” He said with a smile as he stood up, pushing back in the chair, grabbing the few locks that fell onto the floor and tossing them into the trash bin. “I appreciate it, you know that right? Everything that you do for me, all my shit that you put up with. I’m sure the last thing you expected was having a broken man living in your guest room.”

She smiled at him,” I know. And all of it… I mean, I owe it to you. I could try not to, but I do.”

They saved each other. Neither of them had to say the words, but it was there, hanging in the air between them. They needed each other as much as they needed to be fixed from the horrors of their past- joint and separate.

He knew the hells that she had faced trying to help him, just as bad as his own. His luck was that he was able to forget them, or at least pretend to. For her, they were always there. He could only hope that, like she was to him, he was the bright light in the darkness that was St. Petersburg.

He reached his arms out, pulling her in for a hug. Finding that with each passing day, it was getting easier and easier to accept and ask for physical contact. It no longer made his skin crawl, as if there was something hidden waiting to stab him in the back or drag him back into that darkness.
___

Dinner started as a surprising success, he found that he had more in common with Sam than he thought, he could see the looks of contentment between Steve and Colette as they listened to the two of them talk. By the end of the meal, Bucky was relatively confident that Sam now trusted that Bucky was up to nothing that would hurt the wife of his late best friend.

They found enough in common for enough conversation and laughter through the meal.

“Hey, man,” Sam said as they got up from the kitchen table and towards the living room, Colette waving them off as she started cleaning off the table.

 

Colette plopped down on the couch next to Bucky, the dog stretching from Bucky’s lap to rest his head on hers. Bucky watched from the corner of his eye was Colette mindlessly

“Cole, an amazing dinner as always,” Sam spoke up in a lull in the conversation.

Bucky could see a slight blush on Colette’s face as she waved her hand in front of her,” It’s no problem.”

“This girl, man,” Sam looked at Steve,” She used to send food for the whole unit. And have everyone over a couple times a month. Riley used to say that she could make the most delicious food appear out of thin air.” There was a chuckle from everyone in the room,” I can’t think of a single bad thing she made.”

“No, no, no. There was the meatloaf,” Colette said with a knowing smile, nodding her head.

“Oh my god, that meatloaf. I forgot about the meatloaf.” Sam’s eyes widened as he shook his head with a mild look of horror on his face.

“You didn’t forget about the meatloaf, you attempted to purge that meatloaf out of your mind. You can never forget the meatloaf.”

Bucky opened his mouth to inquire, but Steve beat him to it,” You have to tell us about to meatloaf.”

“Colette gets the honors.”

Colette let out a soft groan,” I was tight on time so I bought a meatloaf from the grocery store- one of those uncooked ones you toss in the oven. Made it, made all the fixings, baked potatoes, corn, cheesecake. Pull the meatloaf out of the oven.” Bucky watched as Colette scrunched her eyes,” It was so bad that when I put it out back, minus the three bites- because god, you both had to try it too- the raccoons outside wouldn’t even eat it. Like seriously, we watched them go towards it and then run away. Never again.”

“The cheesecake though.” Sam said with a huge smile and a laugh,” the cheesecake was perfect though. Has she made you her grandmother’s cheesecake Bucky?”

Bucky smiled, it was one of his favorites,” Yeah, quite a few times. I think I saw one in the fridge.” He let out a small chuckle as

“So who did your grandfather end up marrying?”

“My grandma,” Colette replied with a wink,” He met my grandma in Russia while he and the others were doing work after the war. They were in a small bar in St. Petersburg and they both said it was love at first sight. It was her father’s bar and she was tending bar. They both said that they knew each other was the one that night. Grandpa and the other guys had to go but he promised that he would come back for her and a month or so later when they were heading home, he took a detour through St Petersburg, stayed for a couple months and wooed her and got my great-grandfather’s permission. America had more potential for her anyway so I am sure it was more family stubbornness than anything else,” she said with a smile, Bucky could see the fondness of the story in her eyes.

“I am very happy for him, all of the guys deserved the best.” Steve said with a sad smile, Bucky knew there was pain in his eyes over Peggy. Though from what Colette had

“Actually that reminds me that I have a question for you all,” Colette said with a smile, shifting under the dog, crossing her legs under herself,” So I have to go to New York to take care of some things for my Grandpa, and to visit him later this week, and I was wondering if you would like to come along. My grandpa would really like to see you. He mentioned it. He really wants to see you, Bucky.” She said with a smile in his direction.

Sam and Steve each quickly agreed, and in the spur of the moment, Bucky found himself agreeing too. Feeling comfortable in the presence of people who he knew he was safe around. Feeling almost normal for a second, not even second guessing himself in light of the last time he found himself in New York with his memory coming back slowly.

Chapter Text

Bucky found his feet bouncing on the floor as they waited for their train to arrive at the station. 2 and a half hours. That was all he had to make it through. 2 and a half hours in a moving metal tube. Similar yet very different than the one he had fallen from all those years ago. More people, less cargo, and significantly less weapons. But there was Colette, Steve, and Sam. There was no reason he should be worried. At least that was what each of them had told him multiple times. He had to put his trust in them.

It’s not like he looked like the guy in the pictures that occasionally graced the television screens as other worse guys popped up, making him the lesser of the evils that needed to be found. The beard was gone and the hair was in what Colette kept referring to as the hipster bun. Paired with a pair of sunglasses, a flannel shirt and jeans, no one was any the wiser. He managed to fit right in with the money-saving masses.

It still didn’t calm his anxieties. He was sure it would be the death of him. Death by anxiety. It was a real thing. The tight chest, the inability for is muscles to stay still. But that’s what happens when one barely leaves the house. He thought it was safer but it was just destroying him. He made a mental note to try to make trips out more often. He was sure that the others would be glad to help. But eventually he was going to have to give in and go out on his own. Like before he met… kidnapped… Colette.

But he still had to keep an eye on his surroundings. He was so afraid to let his guard down. Even there. He kept looking over his shoulder, glancing at each person that came and went in case he recognized them. How easy it would be to bail now but once on that train. There was nowhere to go. Nowhere to run and hide.
Colette’s hand patted his hand, drawing his attention away from watching people and his restless legs stopping in their tracks,” You okay?”

He nodded, right foot starting to bounce again. “Nerves. Lots of nerves.”

“It’ll be fine. Someone is more likely to recognize Steve than you. His ugly mug is all over the place. T-shirts, lunch boxes.”

“He is quite the media whore isn’t he?” Bucky laughed softly, not even realizing that his legs were relaxing and feet calming down.

“Yup.

“Excuse me,” Steve said sitting down on the other side of Bucky, Bucky and Colette chuckling.

“Just chiding you – kind of…”

“Yeah, those things just appear out,” Steve said, eyes rolling,” I have no say apparently. We better get on board” He finished, standing up, obvious trying to get rid of the conversation.

 

Bucky relaxed into his seat, he had quite reluctantly taken the window seat. He wasn’t sure what would have been worse, the inside seat where he could potentially be identified or the window seat where he could relive what he thought was going to be his death.

With a deep breath he sunk in, sliding down in his seat, pulling his glasses up. More trying to remain calm than trying to hide. Steve slid in next to him, “You good”

Bucky nodded,” Not exactly my favorite mode of transportation. But Cole said that we couldn’t walk so here I am.”

“Driving up there blows. As bad as everyone drove back when we were kids, it’s a billion times worse. I take this train to and from the city. I’ve got a bike down here and a bike up there.”

“Ahh, Mr Moneybags, huh,” he said with a laugh, elbowing his friend.

“Exactly, just rolling in the dough. All those t-shirts, lunchboxes..” Bucky watched as Steve raised his eyebrow, smirk on his face,” Don’t you know it. God, when we were kids I never imagined that either of us could live somewhere as nice as places are now. You should meet Stark’s kid, the place would blow your mind.”

“Ugh, I thought we agreed the place was an eyesore.”

“It is, but inside, holy cow, I can’t even explain how nice it is.”

The train lurched forward, his muscles tensed for a moment, eyes focusing on the seat in front of him. Steve’s mouth was making words but he wasn’t grasping any of them. If his eyes could burn fabric, they would have bored holes into the seats clear to the front of the train.

He took a deep breath in through his nose, trying to sink into the seat even more, eyes closing as he did. Feeling as if all of the eyes in the whole cabin were on him. Eyes that he didn’t want to cross his face ever again.

 

He was there again, it was a memory that he’d had since almost the beginning. Fingers grasping as hard as they could to the bar on the train as the wind passed his whole body, rattling it side to side, making it increasingly difficult to get even the slightest grasp. His fingers slowly slipping. Nothing he could do but reach out to his best friend and pray that there was little enough space for him to grab him. But deep down, as his fingers stretched as far as they could in the bitter cold snow, there was no luck. There was no hope. And as his last two fingers slipped, his body plummeting downward, all he could do was focus on his friend and not his impending doom. The hope that his sister would be looked after and that his friend could accomplish everything without him.

And then he was there, in the cold ground, the force rendering him unconscious in no time. He knew he wasn’t dead, he wished he was. His arm hurt worse than anything he felt before, and he could have sworn that he had broken his back. And the snow, as it fell from the sky, added to the numbness that was taking over. And while his mind slowed, his heart slowed and soon enough. He couldn’t feel or see anything.

 

He woke up with a startle, sitting up straight, catching his breath before glancing outside and seeing that rather than the snowy terrain from his memory, it was flat, dry land. He glanced around. No eyes on him while Steve was busy talking across the aisle to Sam.

“You okay?” Colette mouthed from behind Sam when his eyes met hers, in a moment of slight panic.

He held out a finger. Took a deep breath and then exhaled, instantly feeling better, before nodding.

There was still so much regret on choosing to come. There was so much regret with not trying even harder. Who knew what his future would have been if fate had him a few inches closer. A few inches further from the door. But what could he do.

He slid back down in the seat. Hand reaching for the pamphlet in front of him, trying to distract him from the remainder of the trip. Trying to not make his suspicious of the three different men that he had seen walk past multiple times as if pacing the train, but glancing at him in the process. Did no one else see it?

Maybe it was paranoia. Maybe it was nothing. The dining car was at the back of the train- maybe that was it. Back and forth for a family. Yes. That had to be it. Colette had told him about how she and her grandfather had taken the train at least once a month to visit the sights and museums in DC, while he had used it to commute back and forth to the main SHIELD facilities before the Triskellion had even been completed.

He settled back in his seat, not allowing his eyes to close lest he be forced into another memory of his fall. Though the lull and rocking of the train made that hard. Memory replaying in his mind like a movie that he knew he had once lived, yet felt like it was ages ago.

 

He couldn’t lie, the second he stepped off of the train onto the platform, a huge sigh of relief escaped his chest. It was one step down and a bubble of excitement and success filled his stomach. He did it. He survived it. And still no one knew who he was. Not a single person gave him a second glance or a prolonged look. He was as invisible as he hoped that he could have been. After all, as Colette had repeated multiple times, no one could give two farts about a hipster.

Steve’s shoulder bumped up against him, the two giving each other a quick smile.

“You good?” Colette asked, sliding up beside him.

He smiled and nodded,” Better now that I’m off. Will you uh,” Bucky shifted slightly as he walked, leaning closer to Colette, feeling bad about what he was about to ask, especially in such close proximity to Steve,” Would you sit by me on the way back? I mean, if you don’t mind. I just-“

Colette’s hand raised up, a soft smile on her face, he knew she understood without her even saying a word,” Of course.” They shared a smile, a flutter in his stomach, as he quashed feeling he wasn’t yet too sure of. “You still okay with all of this? I mean we can rent a car and drive back now if you want.” She said softly, he was sure that only he was able hear.

“I’m okay now. I think I can handle this,” he said as they breached the exit of the train station, stepping into the early morning sunlight, eyes temporarily blinded, before they adjusted.

Colette smiled, her hand resting on his shoulder for a minute, before sliding down his prosthetic arm, stopping at his elbow,” Then I guess we’ll head this way, it’s about a block down.” She pointed down, Sam and Steve craning their necks,” It’s Shady Acres, on the corner.” They started walking in the direction.

“So DumDum, I mean your grandfather likes it there?” Steve asked.
“The building is worn down, which is his only gripe, but the staff, for the most part is the greatest there could be. And if there is a dud in the staff, they get rid of them quickly.”

“Like the one who wouldn’t let him eat pudding.” Bucky recalled.

“Turns out he had been hoarding it, but yeah.” She said with a laugh, she poked her head around Bucky to look at Steve and Sam,” I got a call from a newer nurse who had a problem with him wanting to eat copious amounts of pudding, which he had apparently been nicking and hoarding, and then spending the whole day on the internet. I buy him a tablet and he becomes a Reddit fiend. He says the trolls keep him sharp.”

Laughing ensued.

“Just beware, he does have bad days, I’ve been texting his nurse, and she said he’s pretty with it,” she said as they neared the building, circling up by the entrance,” SHIELD did a lot of experiments, which he signed himself up for, his memory can be crystal clear one day and non-existent the next. All for the love of the job, right?” Bucky watched her shrug, the pain hidden behind her eyes,” But hey, I’d have done the same thing for the love of the organization, before- You know. So he may or may not remember you having visited Steve, or even having met you back with Riley, Sam. We talked about you,” he watched as she smiled at him,” Yesterday, so he’ll probably remember you. It’s just a fair warning, ya know?”

They all smiled and nodded, no one could bring themselves to address the elephant, the question of the old man’s togetherness. But Bucky, deep down, needed the man to remember, so that he could remember. Anything. Just a single moment in time, even if it wasn’t anything much.

The realization hit him as they slowed down, watching Colette turn into a room, that Dugan was probably experiencing something similar on some days. He most likely understood better than anyone else what Bucky was going through. Except, Bucky thought, he was likely to retain those memories, whereas DumDum wasn’t. Not for long anyway.

Bucky watched, stopping in the door, Steve and Sam behind him, all giving Colette a moment. A smile spread across her face, her voice perking up, eyes wide with excitement.

“Hi Poppa.” Bucky watched Colette walk into the room, pressing her lips against the man’s forehead, his eyes lighting up to match hers. “I missed you.”

“I missed you too, kiddo. You keeping safe?”

She nodded,” Always.” She paused, shifting slightly, allowing the path between him and Bucky to be opened. “I bought some visitors. Sam, Steve, and Bucky.”

“Well I’ll be damned. I may be losing my mind but I know those faces anywhere,” Bucky watched as Dugan stood up. The years had been rough on him, his once red hair had faded to white, where it hadn’t fallen out. Wrinkles covered every part of his body. It was obvious that time had done their share on his body, the way he stood, Bucky could see an attempt to hide the pain of the movements, his feet shuffling instead of stepping.

Face to face, he was shorter than he once had been, body slumping and shortening with age. But, Bucky thought with a laugh, he finally managed to be eye to eye with the guy.

“I think I may be taller than you now,” he said with a wink, a giggle instantly coming from Colette as she stood slightly behind her grandfather, the resemblance now absolutely uncanny. She had the same exact smile.

A mighty laugh came from the man, throwing him back to a dozen memories, where the laughter filled the room just like this. Though beer and liquor was more involved in those memories than at the moment. The laughter settling, the old man’s hand patting Bucky’s cheek,” The last time I was this happy to see someone, was that bucket of muscle behind you. I never thought I’d get to see you again.”

Chapter Text

Bucky and Steve managed to find their way into chairs in the room, Colette pecking her grandfather on the cheek with a smile, softly telling him that she and Sam were going to do a quick run to the VA to swap some materials for their PTSD groups.

“With all that girl’s been through, she still manages to help others more than herself,” Dugan said, Bucky watched a smile cross his face.

“She’s had Bucky here looking out for her.” Steve said with a smile on his face, eyebrows raised.
“And Bubba,” Bucky quickly, eyes wide looking at Steve. The slow change in feelings must have been more obvious to others than it had been to himself. A raised eyebrow from Dugan, and he quickly sputtered out more explanation,” We watch out for each other. I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have her help.”

Dugan smiled and nodded,” She’s got a good heart. She went in to all of that knowing who you were and doing what I would have done if I had been younger. I don’t think she even batted an eyelash. But do you know what it did to her?”

“No.” Bucky said, suddenly feeling a ball of guilt in the pit of his stomach.

“I’ve heard rumors.” Steve said, leaning back.

“She lost her mind a bit when she came back. She was sent off on a sabbatical- forced sabbatical. I think she latched onto helping you to distract herself from Riley. Which wasn’t necessarily bad. She spent so many nights here. When they pulled her back after the battle here, she was furious. And it broke her by the time that they managed to get a extraction team. Slept on the couch there for weeks, the nurses saw how broken she was and let it go. She helped out here but you could tell she was in quite the daze. Just as bad as after her husband died. And so soon?”

“What do you mean?” Steve asked, shifting on the couch.

“Riley passed right after Colette graduated college, I think it was that July. She went on sabbatical. Literally went on a road trip to find herself. Came back a month later, helped me move in here, avoided going back to their home as long as she could. In November she came back here, picking my mind, asking questions about you, about what had happened- everything. Turned out Nick- Fury, had asked her right when about when she graduated if she would be willing to go undercover to help you. She’d turned him down because of Riley. Not wanting him to worry while being off fighting. But her time without him left her without anything to focus on and the idea of going to help you became something for her to focus on. All in all it was 6 months between his passing and her heading to Russia. Fury was so sure that he was setting her up for success. Though no one could have ever anticipated the battle. Though it sure got your ugly mug all over the television,” Dugan said with a laugh, looking at Steve. The old man feigned a southern female voice, “Captain America saved my life. I’m head over heels for him now. He can save this southern belle any day.”

“I was just doing what I had to do to help people,” Steve said.

“You need the national anthem playing next time that comes out of your mouth.” Bucky said with a chuckle, drawing ones from his counterparts as well. “I didn’t mean to do that to her.”

“You didn’t do anything- you couldn’t have. They had you brainwashed. She eventually had to live with the idea that one day, what she had put in your head- in that…” He paused, “I think coding was the word she used, would work. She called me from the hospital that day, having seen you, it didn’t even seem to faze her that she’d been shot and stabbed, she was just so happy that there was a chance for her to finish what she started.”

“You know we all kept our promise to you,” Dugan said, shifting in his chair, sipping from the cup next to him,” The one where we’d keep your sister safe.

 

Bucky pressed himself up against the edge of the cage, hands covering his ears, sick to death of Dugan’s rounds of songs.

“I’m going to beat that hat and moustache off of your head if you don’t stop soon.” Jones piped up after the millionth round of Over the Rainbow,” No, in fact, I’m going to shave off your moustache.”

All the guys watched as Dugan’s eyes went wide, before his face fell into a pout. “Fine,” the man plopped to the floor, quieter than any of them had ever seen them before.

“I’m breaking every single one of those records as soon as we get out of this god-forsaken place.”

“I’ll help,” Bucky said, hands dropping from his ears as a chorus of agreement came from the men around them. They’d all been subjected to the torture. He was only partly convinced that the men who had been dragged one by one into the depths of the building were enduring less torture than they had been with Dugan’s singing.

Bucky chuckled as he watched the man pout, before silence broke out amongst the men. The protesting of another man the only sound as they plucked him from the cage next to theirs, the Germans dragging him past, at the instruction of a short man in a white jacket, whom he had heard be called Zola, in between the broken German he was able to make out from the hushed voices.

There was silence for a long while as everyone realized, once again, that the man was not going to be brought back in. Like every man who had been taken before, and surely every man who would be taken after. And he was sure their grouping was next. It was one or two of every cage. Sometimes there was debate as to who to take, as he had been able to extract from their hushed words. When that was the case, it was one taken and then hours, or days later, they would be back for the other. But the cage next to them- wasn’t the case. One of them would be next. Bucky looked around at their mismatched crew. An uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach, sure that he was the only one who had derived this. Jones had never listened too closely, from what Bucky could tell, to when the soldiers came around. Dugan had been too busy with his protest, and the others were always deep in a card game that they had derived with the incomplete deck that Morita had on him- not that the rest of them were very well versed in German- after all, as Dugan said far too many times, they didn’t need to know the language to put a bullet through their Nazi skulls.

“Can you guys make me a promise?” Bucky said, words bubbling to his throat before he even had a chance to suppress them,” If anything happens to me, can you look after Becca? I’m the only family she really has left besides our aunt and that woman was knocking on death’s door when I was just coming into this world. I want to make sure she’s always got a family she can turn to, even if it’s not blood.” He knew Steve was there, but he also knew his friend’s health had always been an area of concern.
There was a moment of silence, perhaps the men realizing their own mortality for the first time since their capture. Perhaps realizing that the thoughts needed to be shared.

“You know your family is my family. All of your families are my family. They have to be when we’ve been this deep into the trenches together, right men?” Morita was the first to break the silence, the statement a deep relief to Bucky as the men all agreed, offering up the same to each other’s families. Bucky joining in.

A deep sigh slipped out of his lungs, nodding along and resting his head back on the bars, enjoying the relative silence and the moments of peace knowing his sister would be taken care of without him.

Bucky came out of his memory and Steve and Dugan were talking about Peggy and Sharon.


“How about you? I mean Colette has a grandmother, obviously.” Bucky said, trying to find his way back into the conversation.

“Married a girl I met on my tour through Russia after the war. She was the barmaid at a bar her family owned, flashed that pretty as pie smile at me once and I was hers. I kept detouring back there for months. If I was even a whiff away from her, I would find a way to get back to that bar. Me with my minimal Russian, her with her minimal English, we managed to find a way. When we were pulling out, I asked her father for her hand,” the man leaned back in his seat, pulling out a wallet, pictures tumbling out in their plastic casing, he tapped on the top one, a black and white photo of him and a woman that had the same eyes and hair color as Colette. “ Galina Tsvetkov. Her father was over the moon. Probably not about me, some schmuck from New York, but about her getting a chance at a life not bogged down by Socialism and away from the anti-semtitism of the Stalin regime. I couldn’t have asked for a better, more patient partner.” A smile was pressed across the man’s face, as he stared into the void between him and Steve.

“She’s beautiful.”

Dugan smiled, turning the picture back toward him, gazing at it lovingly. Time seemed to march on, he seemed absorbed in the picture, but Bucky couldn’t find it in himself to break the silence. Not with the man seeming as happy as he was. It was only a few minutes later that it became apparent to both himself and Steve that Dugan was having a lapse in memory. Confirmed as the man looked up, confused for a moment, before muttering, “Has my dear Colette been by?”

Bucky and Steve shared a sad look before Steve piped up,” Colette and Sam went to the VA to drop off some stuff.”

“Yes. Sam, he’s such a sweet boy. I’m so glad he looks out for Colette. What happened to Riley was such a shame. He was such a good kid, had real potential. But that’s the problem with war, not everyone makes it back. Like Barnes and that train.” Dugan’s eyes moved from Steve to Bucky,” Barnes… I mean…” the man stumbled.

“It’s a long story,” Bucky said, not wanting to delve too far into his past, not in a place he wasn’t too comfortable with.

“I remember. I remember,” the man replied almost defensively, busying himself with folding the pictures back into the wallet and shoving them into his pocket,” Colette told me. Nick told me. They wanted my help with sending her over to help. Yeah, that’s what happened.” He looked back up at the two of them, Bucky’s eyes meeting his,” Sorry, my brain wanders sometimes. Experiments in the 60s. Gotta do what you gotta do for the company, right? Sorry, what I was I going on about?”

“You were telling us about Galina.” Steve interjected.

“Yes, the best woman a man could ask for. Gave me 2 wonderful kids, who in turn gave me Colette and a couple other shitheads.”

“Tell us how you really feel, why don’t ya?” Steve said with a laugh.

“Colette’s brothers are real pieces of work,” Bucky said.

“Cooper went to live with Celeste- Colette’s mom, he has some drug problems, so does she, TJ went into the Navy. Little shit was stealing stuff slowly from my house thinking I wouldn’t notice. They’re dead to me. Tim- Colette’s dad, still works for what little SHIELD there is. I don’t really hear from him much. I don’t think Colette ever does. Once he got divorced, he pretty much surrounded himself in work- not that he hadn’t before. I think that is one of the reasons the marriage didn’t work out. Didn’t take my advice. I always made it a point to take time with my kids, and that was something he didn’t ever really do. Maybe a weekend here or there. But it was Galina, the grandkids and me most of the time.”
“That’s why Colette adores you.”

“Yeah. I like to think so. I also taught her to fight back. Never let anyone keep her down. Like her brothers. Being the youngest has their downfalls. Those boys never wanted to include her. Would rather throw out their comics when they were done than share with her. They never let her into their little club. That’s how she met Riley, actually. Digging through a dumpster for the comics those boys tossed. Best friends from then on. It wasn’t a surprise when things got more serious when they hit high school. Galina called it years before. She was always a shadchan though.” He paused,” A matchmaker. Because of her I have this weird mix of English, Russian, and Yiddish in my vocabulary. Had to learn Russian really quickly, though I swear Galina and I had our own butchered languages. But we figured it all out.”

“Yeah, trying convincing your teacher that frivoslennyy is a word.” Colette said from the doorway, laugh in her voice, “Frivolous or legkomyslennyy, make up your mind, geeze.” Bucky watched as she moved swiftly to her grandfather, pecking him on the forehead before sitting on the edge of his bed.

“You were trying to convince your teachers of a lot of things kid, you got all that fight in you. Just like-“

“A Dugan should,” Colette finished the statement in unison with her grandfather, laugh in her voice. Bucky caught her eyes and flashed a smile at her, one that was quickly returned. “Look, I hope you don’t mind my interrupting, but Sam and I were talking on the walk back and I wanted to check in and see if you would want to want to go to the old neighborhood- my old neighborhood. Um,” she stumbled on her words,” Look, your sister lives there still, a few doors down from where I grew up, would you-“

“Yes, yes,” Bucky interrupted. The thought of looking for her hadn’t yet crossed his mind, but he knew he was becoming more and more sure of his ability to function around people he didn’t know- and people that he did know. He rarely worried about how he would react to Steve, and there was, as far as he knew, no danger to his sister in what was programmed into his head. “Would you mind? Steve?”

“I’m alright with that. Mind if we cut out of here Dugan?”

“I would like nothing better- it’s almost pudding time.”

“Snatch them again and we’ll have a problem old man,” Colette interjected, eyes wide and eyebrows high.

“Now that they let me eat what I want, I don’t anymore, kid.” Bucky watched as Dugan reached over and stroked his granddaughters cheek. “No more trouble, just for you.”

“Thank you Poppop.” She stood up, wrapping her arms around the man, pecking him on the cheek. “I love you. Stay out of trouble and I’ll be back to visit again soon. But I’ll call tomorrow.”

“I know you will. Keep an eye on the troublemakers over there, especially Foul-Mouthed Steve.” The old man winked.

“Yeah, total potty mouth,” Colette clapped her hand on Steve’s shoulder as he stood up.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Steve said, shaking Dugan’s hand,” Good seeing you Dum Dum. I’ll drop by again when I’m in town next.”

“Sounds good to me.” Steve slipped out into the hallway behind Colette and Sam who waved their goodbyes.

“Thank you for taking care of Bec, for everything.”

“There is nothing I wouldn’t have done. If we’d had the intel when I was younger, I would have been there in a heartbeat- all of the commandos would have.” The old man pushed himself up, hand out,” Keep working on yourself. You’ll get there.”

“Thank You,” Bucky shook the man’s hand with a smile, then helped him sit back down before heading for the door.

“Hey Bucky,” Dugan piped up, stopping Bucky dead in his tracks, turning around to face him, “It’s tough, but you have to try to get back to normal any way you can. Coming back, even with Galina, everything had changed, it was a new country. You know I came from the circus, I didn’t have anyone, anywhere to go, I just had to pick a place and build. You’ve got that foundation. Build on that foundation. And if you don’t feel like it’s a solid foundation, you go and find another one.”

The words sunk in, every single word resonating within him. It was the truth he needed to hear, the truth no one wanted to give him. Sure, they gave him bits and pieces of it, but not the whole thing. Maybe out of fear that he couldn’t handle it. That he wasn’t ready to move on and figure out more than the past. “That’s some gold you got right there, DumDum.”

The old man smiled,” It’s all in the moustache,” his smile grew wider and he winked, “You better get going, or I’ll feel more like I’m talking to some kid than someone I served with. I wish I aged that well.”

Bucky turned around with a laugh,” Thanks Dugan,” headed to catch up with the rest at the front door.