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I Will Fight No More Forever

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He still isn't used to the quiet.

He's lived all over the world in the long stretch of time he's been alive, and everywhere he's been before this there's been noise. Even in Brooklyn, which was hardly the city it is today, there was traffic and loud neighbors, the party upstairs or the crying baby a floor below. In Wakanda, there's is only the bleating of the goats to wake him, and sometimes muted voices when Shuri stops by to check on him. Not that they talk that often, but he answers her questions when he can. She undid the knot of murderous intent Hydra put inside his brain, took away the power of The Words. A few halting responses now and then isn't a huge price to pay, though there's nothing easy or even agreeable about it. In his past life, he was likable, quick with a joke or a smile. Charming. In the life he has now, he's hesitant, slow to talk, slower to act.

T'Challa doesn't visit. Bucky doesn't expect him to. The new king of Wakanda ascended to the throne through a cloud of smoke and broken glass, and though that's one thing he didn't do, he knows why it was so easy to make it look like he did. There are so many bodies in his wake that he keeps expecting the girl to ask him about them, but she never does. He's her project, he knows that, but she's only shown interest in rebuilding what Zola and Hydra were so careful in dismantling. His real self, whatever that is now.

"Good morning, Sergeant."

"Good morning, Your Highness."

It's his one attempt at humor, because she's just about the most unroyal princess he's ever seen. Her brother is formal, even serene now that he knows the man he's given asylum to didn't murder his father, but Shuri just seems so young in comparison. In comparison to Bucky too, because they stood side by side by side once and looked at the landscape from the edge of his little farm; the trees and the way the sky meets the land, the smell of water, the call of birds neither of them could see. It puts an ache in his chest, the thought that he could have had this at one point, had it before he became a monster. He should have been allowed to grow old. Steve should have been allowed to grow old. No one's meant to live forever, not when it means having no past left and a questionable future to look forward to.

"I could look at this view a thousand times and always find something I've never seen before."

He turns, looks down, and she's looking at the gently swaying trees with a soft wonder. He tries to remember being that young, that innocent, and he can't do it. Those memories are gone, lost in a tidal wave of electricity and pain and blood. Not always his pain, not always his blood. Sometimes he'll get a flash of something - the way ice cream tastes, the view from the top of a Ferris wheel, watching a baseball game - but mostly it's just blank. Unless he's asleep, and then he'd rather have the blankness.

Steve tells him he's not responsible, that none of it is his fault. They've talked long-distance since he and the others left, and Bucky pretends he believes it, but Steve isn't the one with the dead screaming at him when he's dreaming. Because he told Tony Stark the truth, he remembers all of them, and that's why he rejected the replacement arm when it was offered to him. The arm is a weapon, makes him into a weapon, and even without The Words he wants no more to do with weapons or fighting. He's tired. So tired, and he wants peace. Steve tells him he isn't to blame and he acts like he believes it because Steve wouldn't lie on purpose. But he knows better.

He's been there a month when Shuri finds the Walther among his things. It's unloaded and he hasn't cleaned it in a long time, but he kept it. He may want nothing else to do with guns, but some self-hating part of him wants that reminder. Even needs it, as if forgetting would be too much of a kindness. She only finds it while looking for a book he requested, and she studies him for a long uncomfortable two minutes before not asking about it, handing him the book. But she takes it away with her when she leaves without asking permission, and he's too embarrassed to get angry. Or ask her to give it back. After that, he never takes her for naive again, though the innocence remains.

It's not a bad life. He stays to himself, and even with only one arm the goats give him little trouble. He watches the sun come up and go down, rising above the dense trees to sink below them at the end of the day. Tries to get used to the sound of no sound when he wakes up and goes to sleep, because the noise nature makes is so different than everything else. Tries to figure out who he is now, even as he regrets the things he did and that he can never make up for them. Lets the dead scream until he wakes, then does his best to shake the echoes of their railing during the day.

He's not going to fight anymore. He stayed here instead of leaving with Steve, who has been his best friend for so long that he's the one memory that sticks even through the static, because he's done with all of that. He doesn't know if he's 'James' or 'Bucky' or even 'Sergeant Barnes' now, or he might even be some amalgam of all three. But he isn't the Winter Soldier anymore, a boogeyman right out of a story to terrify children into behaving. He wants quiet, even if he isn't comfortable with it yet.

Maybe he's found it.