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Woke up from a Dream

Chapter Text

The first thing he notices when he wakes up is pain that devours all other sensations. Every muscle, every cell of his body feels like it’s on fire. But he knows this feeling. It’s not fire. It’s ice. Panic flows through his veins as he tries to move. Every muscle is frozen in place. Unable to move, paralysed. He can’t even open his eyes. He can’t swallow the bitter taste in his mouth, he can’t feel, he can’t do anything about this feeling numbing his whole body. But he knows what’s going to happen. He knows what to do. To swallow the panic, to breath as deeply as possible, to just wait. To wait for the words sending him back into this living hell.
When his hearing returns he can make out voices around him. Male, thick accent, but he can’t hear what they’re saying. Not that he’d need to. He knows anyways.
Longing
His heart starts to race as he clenches his fists.
Rusted
He bites down on his tongue, the taste of iron.
Seventeen
He doesn’t know why he doesn’t care why he still has control over his body. That has never happened before.
But he uses this single moment of advantage.
Daybreak
Ignoring the dull ache in his limbs he launches forwards. He can’t see them, it is too bright, but he can hear their voices. Panic, confusion.
Furnace
His cold metal arm finds flesh. An ugly crack, the breaking of a bone. With it, a certain kind of satisfaction. This is the first time he has as much as a chance to fight back.
Nine
Everything goes too fast. He still can’t see, he still can’t think, but suddenly he’s not in charge anymore.
Benign
Arms around his waist, around his shoulders, tugging on his arms, pushing him down.
Homecoming
He struggles, tries to get out of the iron grip keeping him on the floor.
One
A prick in his neck. He keeps hitting and kicking, but he can feel his energy drain away from his body. Leaving him weak.
It’s over. They won. Again. They always do.
With closed eyes, he waits for that one last word that seals his fate. For the one last word to send him back into the darkness.
But everything stays quiet.
Why aren’t they finishing what they’ve started?
Just as he tenses his muscles and prepares to launch at his tormentors again a calm voice cuts through the deafening silence.
“You are safe. No one will hurt you ever again.”

Chapter Text

Upstate New York, 2018

Several months had gone by since what the media referred to as the ‘Civil War’ when Steve moved back into the Avengers Compound. It hadn’t been an easy decision, but both he and Tony had expressed their desire for conciliation and after long nights of talking, they had decided to propose a new version of the Sokovia Accords, one which both of them could live with.
Him moving back was only the first step on a long journey, but finally, there was a spark of hope again. It didn’t even take a week for Natasha and Sam to follow. They had invited Clint to tag along, but he had preferred to stay with his family. “To retire” as he said. Nobody really believed him.
It didn’t take long until normalcy was restored. Still, Tony and Steve barely talked to each other, also between the other team member the mood was rather icy, but at least no one was keen on picking random fights anymore as it had happened in the beginning.
For a time, Steve felt normal. Bucky was safe in Wakanda, there was no threat to the world for once, no one threatening to destroy the galaxy.
But it didn’t last long.
Going for a run with Sam in the morning had become a ritual. For Steve, it was a good way to release tension, for Sam it was the other way around. He would never be able to accept the fact, that he just couldn’t compete with Captain America’s endurance and speed.
About six months after Siberia, everything changed.
After coming back from their run, Steve changed and looked at his phone.
‘3 missed calls’ flashed over the display. ‘Caller: Unknown’ He furrowed his brows. Nobody had this number except for his fellow Avengers. Who else would want to call him?
He was just about to put it off as someone who had misdialled when the phone started vibrating in his hand. The same unknown number.
Without hesitation, he put the phone on his ear.
“Captain Rogers?”
Relief. He knew that voice.
“Yes, it’s me, Princess.”
“I’m sorry to bother you, but it’s important. I already left you three messages.”
Steve sighed internally. Of course, he could’ve just checked his Mailbox, but he still wasn’t quite sure how to.
“I’m sorry, I haven’t had the opportunity to look at them. Is Bucky alright?” Why else would she call?
“Yes, he is for the moment, but his vitals have started to decrease in the last weeks.”
His heart missed a beat.
“What? Why are you only telling me this now?”, he almost yelled at the telephone, before he realized to whom he was actually talking.
“I’m sorry, Princess Shuri, I’m sure you had your reasons.”
“It’s alright, Captain, he’s your friend, I know how you feel. But you’re right, I should have told you earlier, I thought I could manage it.”
“So you’re saying, he’s...” He tries to swallow, but there’s a huge lump in his throat. It’s difficult to even think in this direction.
“Dying?”, the Princess completes his sentence.
“No, not as long as I have a say. I’m still looking for the reason that caused this and I’m working on a long-term solution to get your friend back, but I’m afraid, we will have to wake him up soon.”
“How soon?” Steve rubbed his hand over his face.
“I can’t say for sure, but as soon as his vitals drop to a critical level we have to get him out of cryo. I will buy as much time as I can, maybe I’ll be able to finish the cure I’m working on.”
“Thank you, Princess, for everything you have done for him... for us...”
Silence on the other end of the line, as if she isn’t sure what to reply. But luckily she doesn’t have to.
“Just tell me before you wake him up, I want to be there.”
“Will do, Cap. Take care!”
With that, the connection is gone, leaving Steve behind, staring at the dark screen of his phone.
Only when Nat comes in, gently takes the phone from him and hugs him tight he notices, that he’s crying.

~~~

He spends a long time in a state between sleeping and waking. His eyes are closed, but he can hear voices around him he can’t quite make out. The pain is tolerable, it’s like music in a department store. It is always there but after a while, you can’t hear it anymore.
Pictures flash by his eyes. They feel like memories, but he can’t remember having seen those things. Fighting mostly, his metal fist clenching around the throats of soldiers, doctors, civilians, women, children. His fingers pulling the trigger of a gun, a machine gun, a grenade launcher. The memory of pain, of hands all over his body, attaching wires to his arm, his chest.
But that isn’t him. That’s a stranger. His memories somehow implanted into his brain. Filling him with horror.
The more he concentrates the clearer those pictures get. He can smell the mould in an old military base. Hear the screams on the battlefield. Slowly these memories start to make sense. They start to connect in his head.
It was all him. The innocent lives he took. The destruction he caused.
Horror and disgust grow within him.
Who is he? And why does he deserve to live?

When he wakes up, once again he can't move. But this time it's different. The pain is even more distant, only scratching at the edge of his consciousness. And he is warm. The cold is gone, instead, he feels a soft blanket covering his body.
But he’s tired. Too tired to wonder where he is. Too tired to even open his eyes.
Time seems to be more of an abstract concept now. He can't find a grip on the seconds, minutes, hours passing by. It feels like an eternity, but it could also be mere minutes he is laying in this soft bed, unwilling to fully wake up, unable to dive back into unconsciousness. There are voices. Distant, like they are coming from the other side of a glass panel. Only incoherent mumble, but sometimes he can make out words or pieces of conversation. But nothing makes sense to him.
There is one voice above all others. One that he almost recognizes.
"I'm sorry, so so sorry."
He doesn't know what there is to be sorry for, but he wants to reach out, to say it's okay. His body isn't able to move.
Without a feeling of time, it's difficult hanging on to reality. The soft voice by his side is his only connection. But eventually, there is only silence left. He doesn't know why, but the absence of words makes his chest ache. He misses it. He knows there has to be a memory linked to that voice, but every time he concentrates it seems to slip away further and further.
When he slips away into a warm and comforting darkness he's almost relieved not having to think anymore, not having to wait anymore.

After drifting in and out of consciousness for what seems like weeks, it's a shock when reality comes back. It's not a slow transition, but more like someone rips away all the cotton wool he has been wrapped in.
A thousand sensations crush down on him. Dazzling, cold light blinding him, making him squint. The sharp smell of various chemicals and the too heavy scent of flowers making him want to retch.
The feeling of various tubes and needles attached to his body.

"Sergeant Barnes?" A woman's voice, right next to his right ear. He flinches away. He hasn't sensed anyone so close to him.
"Sergeant Barnes, can you hear me?" A thick accent he doesn't recognize makes him curious, but no... it's too loud. He wants to sleep. To dive back into the abyss of sweet nothing.
But the voice won't leave him alone.
"Sergeant Barnes!" It's too close, too loud, too pushy.
"Shouldn't he be responsive by now?" Another voice, this one belongs to a man, it's deeper, calmer with the same thick accent.
"Give him some time, brother."
“It’s been two weeks...”
“He’ll come around eventually.
"Well, I'll leave you to it. I have other things to tend to."
Movement as someone leaves the room.
The person next to him remains silent. He knows that she knows that he is awake. But he's not ready to open his eyes and to face the world.
For a while, he and the stranger just breathe next to each other until Bucky decides to no longer push the inevitable. "Bucky."
His voice is almost inaudible, hoarse, his throat is dry and sore.
She seems confused, probably due to the lack of context. "Come again?", she blurts out.
"It's Bucky, not Sergeant Barnes," he croaks. Speaking is exhausting, he already wishes he hadn't said anything.
"Well, Bucky then. Nice to meet you. I’m Shuri. How are you feeling?"
He shrugs his shoulders as an answer, not more than an inch, he doesn’t bother to find out whether she saw the movement.
"Could I have some..." His voice dies and he tries to point at his throat, but his arm is tied to the bed. He yanks it away from the mattress, but restraints hold his hands down.
His eyes fling open, ignoring the bright light stabbing right into his brain.
"It's okay. Chill! I'm going to remove those if you promise not to hit me!"
For the first time, he looks at the girl standing next to his bed. She is young, almost a kid, with ebony skin and a face on which there is always a hint of mischief no matter how dire its expression.
Carefully, almost shyly she grabs the restraints around his wrists and opens the buckles. "Here you go. Please, don’t hit me."
Bucky shakes his head, his throat still doesn't feel like it's capable of talking. But luckily the girl seems to know what he needs
"Have some water." A plastic cup nudging gently against his human hand. He takes it, his hand is shivering. He doesn't know why.
He's still lying flat on the bed, not a perfect position for drinking, so he doesn't move. He has the feeling that sitting up wouldn't be the best thing to do right now. The girl next to him doesn't comment, but he can feel her eyes resting on him.
He feels uncomfortable being watched like that, being seen in this state of utter helplessness by a stranger. His hand starts to tremble even harder and he feels cold liquid pouring down on his stomach. "Whoah, here, let me..."
It feels like an electric shock when her cold skin touches his for the first time. His body reacts automatically sitting up, pushing the girl away with the full force of his enhanced metal arm. She gasps as she stumbles against the wall.
Panic explodes in his head. He wants to get away, to run. He tries to scramble out of bed, but his ankles are still tied down. Adrenaline gives him enough strength to rip them open violently. He looks around. There is nowhere to run. So his body decides for him and lunges at the threat, his metal fist closing around her skinny throat. He doesn't hear the door open, or people storming the room. He doesn't hear the shouts and stamping boot. He only hears his heart pounding in his chest, a high ringing in his ears. He struggles, hits, kicks, bites as strong arms grab him from behind. He's stronger, but they're calm, composed. Their grip is relentless.
He's blind with panic, his brain tells him to fight, to resist. He isn't aware of the things happening around him. He doesn't notice that they're trying to talk to him, trying to calm him down. Only danger, pain, panic. It feels like hours, but eventually, he stops fighting. His muscles are burning, his breath is ragged, the only thing keeping him upright are the arms still clasped hands around his bare chest. All energy is drained from his body.
"It's okay, Sergeant Barnes. No one is going to hurt you." It’s the girl. The girl he had just tried to kill. Had he? Or why had he pinned her to the wall?
“It’s alright, you’re safe.
Why was she still being nice to him?
"Nothing is okay. Get away from this man. He's dangerous."
Another voice. A man, his eyes squinted in anger, not leaving him out of sight for a second.
“No, he...”
“I SAID GET AWAY FROM THIS MAN!” His voice is like thunder making everyone flinch.
It’s too loud. It pierces through his brain and makes him wince.
“Look, he’s calmed down. He’s not...”
Not calm, but is drained of all energy, he’s just hanging limply in the strangers’ arms.
“I don’t care. This man is a threat after all. Lock him into a cell until we decide what to do with him.”
This sentence should have evoked some kind of reaction, but deep inside Bucky is relieved. He still doesn’t understand what exactly happened just now, but he knows he tried to hurt someone, hell, he would have even killed her if it wasn’t for the men restraining him.
When he first made acquaintance with the Winter Soldier, he swore to himself never to let the Winter Soldier take over his human side. He had always held the two entities of himself separated, had always locked him away safely. He swore to never hurt anyone. It hurts deep inside having broken that promise to himself. It feels like there is no turning back. The Winter Soldier has invaded him and he doesn’t think he’s going to leave anytime soon.
A cell will keep him away from innocent people, keep him from hurting anyone else ever again.
To his surprise, the girl from before speaks up again. There is a certain kind of determination glittering in her eyes. It reminds him of someone...
“You can’t do that!” She stands with her hands on her hips and stares grimly at the man she called brother earlier. The thin trace of blood trickling down her brow makes her look even more fierce.
But there is no emotion on his stone-cold face.
“I can. I am the King and you will say no more.”
Then his expression softens as he softly brushes his thumb over his sister’s cheek.
“I am sorry, but I cannot have anyone hurt you.”
She slaps his hand away with a choked grunt, turns around and leaves the room, almost running and not looking back.
A heavy sigh escapes the King’s lips. He straightens his shoulders and takes a deep breath before turning around to face Bucky.
“You will be kept in confinement until any further decisions are made, whenever that will be.”
The stone face has returned, making him unreadable.
He is much more composed than his sister when he nods towards the guards who are still holding Bucky in their iron grip, turns around and leaves the room.

Chapter Text

Three weeks.
Three weeks and not a word from Wakanda.
Steve had tried calling Princess Shuri over and over again only to hear the beep of her voicemail over and over again. But he hadn't brought it over himself to leave a message. He was sure they would let him know if something happened. Then wasn't it a good thing that he hadn't heard back from Wakanda?
Natasha had agreed with that theory when he had shared it with her, but still, he couldn't stop making up worst-case-scenarios in his head. What if...
What if Bucky had died and they didn't tell him?
What if only the Winter Soldier had come out of cryo?
What if Bucky Barnes didn't exist anymore?
These thoughts began to eat him up.
He couldn't eat, he couldn't sleep, every step he took was haunted by the fear of losing his best friend.
As well as he had adapted to the modern age, Bucky was the only thing connecting him to his former life. Reminding him of who he had used to be, of where he had come from.
Getting Bucky back after all this time had been wonderful. It had given him back hope, had given him something to hold onto in this rapid new world around him.
Of course, he had missed Bucky even before Princess Shuri had broken the bad news to him, but back then, he knew he was safe in Wakanda. Sleeping, waiting to be cured. Not to die.

Steve was consumed by these thoughts and even though he hadn't told anyone but Natasha about Bucky's state, the other Avengers eventually began to notice, that there was something very wrong with Steve.
He stopped running with Sam in the morning.
He stopped having dinner with the team.
He stopped attending their regular meetings.
He made himself scarce from the communal lounge, now rather spending time in his room, always eyeing the mobile phone on his desk, waiting for someone to call.

 ~~~

He is drained by the time they arrive at their destination.
His vision has become blurry, his muscles ache, his eyes won’t stay open.
He registers the guards throwing him into a room. The electronic beeping of the lock as the door closes behind him. He is too tired to observe his new surroundings. Too tired to do anything but sink to the floor and pull his knees to his chest.
It takes a long time before sleep takes him away. Before the cold, hard floor vanishes under his sore body, before his mind relaxes and allows him to drift away.

He is back in Brooklyn. A skinny, dirty boy, with holes in his trousers and dirt all over him. He's in the street with his sisters, drawing on the sidewalk with chalk one of them stole from school. On the other side of the road, there are boys, fighting with sticks, laughing, running around. He'd love to be with them, but he promised to look after his sisters. To stay with them. There is a boy that catches his eye. He's skinny, tiny compared to the other boys. He's the only one without a stick, his back against the brick wall, fierce determination on his face, his fists raised, ready to fight. But he doesn't even get the chance to land a hit. The other boys are stronger, bigger and they know it just too well. The boy doesn't even scream when sticks hit him, poke him, when the others start to call him names, to laugh at him. He grits his teeth, struggles against their grip, kicks and bites. But he doesn't stand a chance.
Bucky is distracted when one of his sisters tugs his sleeve.
"Can you draw a dog for me?"
He ignores her, muttering "I'll be right back, you stay here."
Before they know what's happening he's running across the street.
"Leave him alone?"
A moment of silence before they slowly turn to face him.
"What are you going to do?", the biggest one of them says mockingly.
"Are you going to draw on us with your stupid chalk?"
They laugh. He hadn't even noticed that he was still holding a piece of chalk, his hand tightly wrapped around it.
"Just piss off and pick on someone your own size!"
"Well, you're just perfect for that!"
The boy raises his fists, directing his first punch straight at Bucky's face. But he doesn't get that far. A metal arm grips the little hand and bends it back. The boy howls in agony, but can't escape the grip.
"I told you to let him go!", Bucky snarls.
His hand finally lets go, just to grab the boy's neck. A loud snap, a thud as the lifeless body falls to the ground.
The world seems to stand still. The boys look at him, sheer terror in their eyes.
When the world starts to move again, they are all dead, their lifeless eyes staring at the cloudy sky, blood over their young faces, their limbs twisted and broken. The only one still standing is Steve, looking at him with his big blue eyes, not believing what he just saw.
"What have you become?", he whispers. "What have they made you?"

His heart is pounding in his chest, his fists are clenched, hot tears run down his cheeks.
He can't do anything else but scream.
The scream comes from deep within, it is a mix of fear, pain and despair.
He doesn't know how long he's there, cowering on the floor, screaming his lungs out.
Eventually, he feels soft hands on his back, gently rubbing in circles. A voice, not saying anything but humming a tune, almost like a lullaby.
When the scream finally dies, looks up, flinching away, when he sees the Princess cowering next to him.
Quickly he scrambles to his feet, getting away from her as far as possible, his back against the wall, his metal arm raised in front of his face, not to fight, but to protect him.
"It's okay! It's just me!" She raises both of her hands.
"What are you doing here?" He keeps his arm up, still not trusting her
"I wanted to see how you're doing."
"But your brother..."
"My brother doesn't know I'm here." She smirks slightly.
"I never introduced myself properly. I'm Shuri, I'm the one who looked after you while you were... well, frozen. We met briefly before you went into cryo."
He tries to recall that memory, but he can't find it.
"What's happening? I don't remember..."
"That's okay. I was afraid that that might happen." Suddenly she seemed awkward.
"I kind of tinkered around with your brain, trying to heal all the damage Hydra has caused, but well..." She pulled a funny face. "It kind of didn't work out the way I wanted it to..."