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Winter's Heart

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"In every winter's heart there is a quivering spring,
and behind the veil of each night there is a shining dawn."  — Khalil Gibran


Part One.

1.

Steve sat quietly, the gun held across his lap, as the wheels shrieked against the icy tracks and the corrugated metal wall rumbled at his back. He breathed slowly, trying to stay calm. They were flying through the Alps at high speed; too fast. The weight of the armor was oppressive, though it was the same dark gray as the walls, and its helmet and goggles gave anonymity. 

The disc strapped to his wrist made him giddy, not just from its quiet surge of power, but from the freedom it offered him. He had time, now—all the time in the world—and time was the one thing he'd never had. When he was a boy, they'd told his Ma that he'd never make eighteen; later, Colonel Phillips had taken him aside to tell him, man to man, what those boffins out there wouldn't: that there was a damn good chance he'd come out of the Vita Ray machine fricasseed.  Steve had said yes, sir; he understood that, sir, having decided it was a reasonably good use of his (brutish, short) life. The experiment had worked, of course, but even then he still hadn't had enough time: five more seconds and he might have gotten to Bucky before he fell.



2.

Now , though. With time on his side, he could save Bucky—had to try, anyhow, whatever Bruce said. Bruce kept talking about clipping branches , but from what Steve had seen, time wasn't like a tree at all. It was like a river , a torrential flow with a strong forward current, and the "branches" they'd made by stealing the Infinity Stones didn't so much have to be clipped as, well, dammed. And the time current was strong enough to withstand small changes—little rocks, leaves, and branches would be swept along. So couldn't he dive in and pull Bucky out of that terrible flow?  

He thought he could, but the question had been how—or more precisely, when. Bucky was just one man, but if waking up after seventy years had taught Steve anything, it had been the historical significance of the Howling Commandos. The subject had been thoroughly explicated in books, movies, and museum exhibits. If Bucky hadn't been drafted, Steve might not have lied his way into the service; if Bucky hadn't been captured —well, Steve's acting chops might have improved, but most of the 107th would have died in that POW camp. And if Bucky hadn't been on the train ...Christ, Steve had played events over and over in his memory. If Bucky hadn't been there, Steve would probably have been killed, and then the Valkyrie would have reached— 



3.

There was a soft thump overhead, and Steve looked up. Here we go. Another thump—Bucky.  Steve thumbed the safety off his revolver. That third thump was Gabe. Now that it was actually happening, Steve felt a bone-deep panic—had he made the right choice? He was risking it all on this one throw.  But he couldn't see any other way—gunfire, now, further down on the train. The pneumatic door shushed open, and two HYDRA guards barrelled through without sparing him a glance. Steve let the first one go and then shot the second—this wasn't his fight, but he wasn't above putting his thumb on the scale. Then he was up and running in the opposite direction, away from the fight, toward the back of the train. He had to get on top before HYDRA blew out the wall, before Bucky fell. He found a hatch and climbed up into the cold air of the Alps, then crouched down and held on tight. He needed to see without being seen. 

It was his best chance. If he intervened before Bucky fell, he might risk all the millions of lives that he and Bucky had saved during the war, so he couldn't do that. But after the fall, Bucky had disappeared from view for nearly seventy years—long, terrible years of captivity and suffering and violence. Steve could certainly intervene in those years; that was what he had to stop.



4.

The explosion peeled back the wall of the train car like a sardine can. Steve felt it like a stabbing pain—did he really have to live through this again?  He wasn't sure that he could. Which was ironic: he'd dreamed of this moment a million times, had sworn that he'd give anything for a second chance at this. But now that the second chance had come—  He tightened his hands on the icy metal bar below him to steady himself. Stay calm. Focus. It would be any second— 

It was his own ragged voice he heard, and when Steve peered over the side of the train it was his own frantic, waving hand he saw.  That poor bastard there was crawling along, desperately trying to find a foothold on those whip-thin bits of metal, arm outstretched and reaching down. He didn't know he was doomed. But Steve knew, and he sucked in a few quick breaths of frozen air to keep his stomach where it was, because if he threw up now he might miss—

Bucky's scream was much, much worse than he'd remembered, and Steve's eyes blurred with tears. But the poor bastard down there was similarly blinded—blind and frozen with grief to the side of the train car—so after mentally whispering one-one thousand, two-one thousand, Steve did what he had been preparing to do all this time: said a quick prayer, and jumped.



5.

He'd worried about the timing, but thought he was plummeting almost precisely in Bucky's wake.  Steve had had a lot of practice, jumping from impossibly high places—off buildings, out of planes—but he hadn't understood the particular brutality of this jump. Their slide on the zipline to the train had been controlled, but now, the wind sliced at him like a razor, and he couldn't get enough of the thin air into his lungs. That was before the tree branches beat at him, and then there were stones and rocks and the cold slide of ice, battering him without slowing him down or breaking his fall. Reality started to flicker—black, white—he was, perhaps, passing out in brief flashes, and then the ground came hurtling up at him, hard and endless.



6.

The pain dragged him back up to consciousness. Steve groaned, scrabbled in the snow, tried to struggle to hands and knees. His right leg wouldn't hold him, and the shrieking pain in his left arm told him that something was wrong there, too: a dislocated shoulder, maybe. He took a few, slow breaths and sensed a couple of broken ribs, but nothing too serious.  All right. First things first. Sweat broke out on his forehead as he sat up and gripped his left arm with his right hand. One deep breath and—the sharp pain rolled off as his arm went back into place. Better. His head started to clear as the fog of pain dissipated. He gripped his right leg, gritting his teeth. Something was broken in there—he couldn't remember the last time he'd broken a bone—but he thought he could manage with a splint. He half crawled, half dragged himself through the snow to a twisted black tree. He hauled himself up and snapped off one of the lower branches, which he strapped to his leg. Then, still holding on, he surveyed his surroundings.

The tree line here was sparse, the ravine blanketed white with the occasional dark outcropping of rock. They looked like the jagged backs of beasts crouching in the snow, and it was only when he saw the spreading pool of red that he realised that one of those dark shapes was Bucky, crumpled into something inhuman and bleeding out fast. Steve pushed off the tree toward him, limping but staying upright. He collapsed beside Bucky in the snow, already fumbling for his medi-pack; Christ, he'd known it would be bad, but it, it was so much worse than— he had to shut off that part of his brain, like in the war. It was just the war again. Bucky's arm was gone, leaving shattered bone and red-pink flesh, and blood, so much blood, and this was just Azzano again, he thought, frantically applying the tourniquet, Bucky was just one of those guys in the 107th who'd had an arm blown off or a leg, and all he had to do was call for a medic, get Bucky to a field hospital…but there wasn't going to be a medic or a field hospital, because they were 1800 feet above sea level and 75 miles behind enemy lines.



7.

It was the barest exhalation, "Stt…" and Steve saw Bucky, glassy-eyed and staring up at him. Relief shot through him like a jolt of electricity—"You're okay, it's gonna be okay," and that wasn't a lie; he wouldn't let it be. He took Bucky's remaining hand between both of his. "I'm here, we're gonna figure this out, I'm—" and then the words were spilling out of him, heartfelt and familiar, "—with you to the end of the line," and beneath his terrible pallor, Bucky smiled.

"I think…" Bucky breathed: trying, but he had no breath left, "this is…"

"It's not," Steve burst out, "it's not, Buck, just hang on, just…" but Bucky'd already drifted into unconsciousness. "Shit!" Steve had never felt so desperate in all his life.  Steve gritted his teeth and gave his right leg a stern talking to, then got painfully to his feet. Then he bent down and carefully hauled Bucky's limp and bleeding body up and over his shoulders in a fireman's carry. The pain in his leg was dizzying, but he forced it out of his mind and began slowly picking his way across the snowy mountain, moving slowly through the trees.



8.

Steve nearly fell twice, his broken right leg buckling, each time managing to keep himself upright by sheer will. But the third time he stumbled and went down, twisting violently to keep Bucky aloft and above him, taking the brunt of the impact. When he finally, carefully, rolled Bucky onto the ground, he had the sudden, almost childlike certainty that Bucky was dead. Bucky seemed smaller, somehow, and pale as the snow, his lips blue. Steve saw the trail of bright blood drops in the snow leading back the way they had come, down the mountain.

Then he heard voices—bored soldiers on patrol, asking each other what kind of Fashistskie Gady or Hitlerovtsy would be stupid enough to be hiding up here—and the black humor of enlisted men was so familiar it took Steve a minute to realize they were speaking Russian.  Well, of course —Steve had been calculating the odds of reaching the American lines, either General Patch in the north or the Fifth coming up through Italy.  But the Russians had been doggedly making their way east, down through Romania and through Yugoslavia.  So he'd been wrong about their chances of finding a medic or a field hospital. He could get Bucky to— 

A Russian medic.  A Soviet field hospital.  

And of course, that was what had happened the first time. These same soldiers had likely stumbled across Bucky on patrol and taken him back behind their line: to safety.  And then somebody higher up—someone from HYDRA or the KGB—must have realized who Bucky was and whisked him deeper into Soviet territory—and then back to Russia, the base in Siberia.

But what choice did he have?  None, Steve thought blackly. The Soviets were Bucky's only hope of survival—had always been Bucky's only hope of survival, and he'd been a fool to think otherwise. Steve looked down at Bucky's drawn, bloodless face and forced himself to consider the other, terrible alternative: that survival wasn't Bucky's best option. He could spare Bucky— this Bucky—seventy years of pain by killing him here, now. There would be no Winter Soldier in this timeline.There would be no mysterious assassin in this timeline, no ghost in the machine. 

He even thought he could find the strength to do it, if that was his only choice—except it wasn't.

Steve bent down to press his lips to the cold, pale skin of Bucky's forehead. "End of the line," he murmured, then sprawled out on the ground beside him.  He began to shout for help, first in English, then in French, then in Russian, straining his voice, pretending to be weaker than he was. Hidden strength was one of his two assets: the other was the fact that he'd read the Winter Soldier file cover to cover, over and over, and he had a pretty good idea what to expect.

Because he was going to have to let HYDRA take them—take both of them. 



Part Two.

9.

"Seven. Confess. Machine. Miracle. Schoolyard. Breathing. Sunrise. Children. Weapon. Time," and Steve came soaring up out of the blackness, the words an invisible hook.  He was in a steel medical chair in the dark, dank cavern of the Siberian lab. The wall of computer screens and medical monitors was missing, however; there were no sensors, only wires and tubes leading to IV stands. The place reminded him of nothing so much as the SSR facility in Brooklyn. 

A thin man in a red beret was standing over him, peering down approvingly.  "Good morning, Soldier," and Steve groped for the right words in Russian before dredging up what he was supposed to say:  "Ready to comply." He'd always been bad at remembering his lines.

The man looked down at his clipboard. "You are scheduled for training today," and Steve jerked a nod, trying to appear calm even as his brain was screaming with panic. What day was this, what year? Everything was blurry since the mountain. Had he had experiences he'd been made to forget? Was he in control of himself? He thought he was, but that would be a hell of a thing to be wrong about. Most importantly: where was Bucky? 



10.

To his relief, his most important question was answered first, because when he stood and turned, he saw that Bucky was also in this part of the lab. Bucky was unconscious, shirtless, strapped to a gurney, a mass of tubes snaking back to tanks and bags of fluid.  A line of shiny, white-pink scar tissue ran down his chest, brighter than the metal arm they'd attached—when had that been? Bucky's hair had grown shaggy, covering his eyes, and Steve slid fingers through his own hair and felt his forelock flopping in the old familiar way— so it had been a while, but not that long.

In 2016, there had been six towering cryo-chambers ringing the base's central cavern, enormous tubes of glass and steel. But now, there were only two small freestanding units made of riveted metal.  They looked more like the iron lung that had terrified him as a child than like those glass chambers, let alone the sleek modern machine they had in Wakanda. Steve looked around the small lab: the man in the red beret was talking to one of two white-jacketed doctors, and just beyond the metal doorway, Steve could see an armed guard in duty posture, machine gun slung across his chest.  Nothing he and Bucky couldn't handle if they wanted to try making a break for it, except…

Except Bucky wasn't going anywhere; not yet. Steve drifted over to him, waiting to be stopped, but nobody stopped him.  Bucky looked better than he had on the mountain, but that wasn't saying much: he was a man who'd been brought back from the edge of death and he looked it. His color had returned, but there was a ridge of red, angry flesh where the metal was fused with his skin. They were giving him oxygen and fluids, which was good, and at least a couple of these IV drips had to be dispensing painkillers, but the chemical formulas on some of the bags looked...worrisome, to say the least.  Steve studied one of them—C17H21NO5—and when he traced the tube back to Bucky's body, he saw that the blue eyes were open, pupils blown.



11.

"Hey," Steve whispered, bending low. "Buck, it's me, do you know me?"

Bucky looked doped up and confused, but his lips shaped out, "St—" and then, to Steve's delight, finished, " —tupid punk," and Steve had to stop himself shouting out in delight. 

Instead, he gripped Bucky's hand and muttered, "I'm gonna find a way to get us out of here, just as soon as you're well. So you gotta hang on, buddy, okay? Hang on tight and stay with me."

Bucky was drifting off now, his tongue sliding over his dry, chapped lips. But he nodded and rasped out, "...to the end of the line," which was the best answer Steve could have hoped for.



12.

" —Sunrise. Children. Weapon. Time. Good morning, Soldier,"  and Steve opened his eyes and said, automatically, "Ready to comply."  The mission— He turned to look for Bucky, but the red light on the other cryo-chamber was glowing, and Bucky's pale face was visible through the— 

The blow came hard across his face, and Steve was a second away from grabbing Volkov's arm and flinging him across the room, except then backup would come and while he might get out alive, he'd never get Bucky out of the cryo-freeze machine in time. So he held back his fist.

The mission was a sanction, in Warsaw, and after they dressed him and armed him he was given the rest of intel to read in the helicopter. He'd been planning to simply fail at sanctioning— killing— whoever it was and accepting the consequences, except it turned out that Steve actually knew this bastard. Kurt Bruns had been the Rapportführer of the Majdanek camp, which the Soviets liberated in late 1944. But Bruns, a mousy looking man who'd given some of the most brutal orders of the war, had shot both his guards and escaped. The Soviets had been enraged, and the Howling Commandos and every other Allied special ops team operating in Europe had been given a briefing memo very like this one, just in case. And now, the bastard had surfaced, in Warsaw in all places, looking for a black market passport to the West.

Well, he wasn't getting one; not on Steve's watch. Steve understood that there was an agenda here: HYDRA wanted Bruns dead not only because many current HYDRA officers were former Soviet soldiers who hated him, but also because a public but anonymous killing like this would sow additional discord between East and West. The Kremlin wouldn't be looped in, so they'd think it was a CIA hit; the CIA would assume it was the KGB or the Stasi in East Germany, and secretly wonder if it was MI5, who of course would deny it, stirring further suspicions.

But those concerns were above his paygrade. Steve had seen pictures of the Majdanek camp in 1944, and he wasn't going to let Rapportführer Kurt Bruns slip back into the sewers. Steve made a nest on the roof of a building overlooking the park where Bruns was scheduled to meet his contact, and shot him at 2:24 p.m. He was back in Siberia by dinnertime, where instead of punishment, he instead had to endure a series of maudlin speeches by his handlers, about how he was the fist of HYDRA, savior of the century, bringer of order to the masses, blah blah blah.

Behind him, Bucky's face, gaunt and unshaven, was visible through the window of icy glass.



13.

"Voskhod. Deti. Oruzhiye. Vremya. Dobroye utro, Soldat," and he opened his eyes and said, "Ready to comply."  The other cryo-chamber was empty, its metal door hanging open. "Da," Volkov said, following his gaze, "your comrade requires assistance," and so he was rushed into uniform, eyeblack, faceplate, goggles, and given a grenade launcher and a snowmobile.

The Winter Soldier was encamped on the icy ridge at Oymyakon, and barely spared him a glance when he scrambled up: just pointed down at the snow field, where an airplane—an American plane, a Douglas A-20—had come down in the snow.  Beside the plane, there was a small black line, a body, a man—the pilot; the Winter Soldier had shot him. But the A-20 was a three-man— a three-man— His head was starting to pound. A three man-aircraft.  

He looked at the Winter Soldier— at Bucky— Bucky Barnes—who raised his scope and muttered, "Net dvizheniya iz kabiny."  No movement in the cockpit .  He put a hand on Bucky's arm, and Bucky turned, his features concealed behind a mask and black lenses. Steve realized that he was presenting an equally blank face, and scrabbled to tug off his own facemask and goggles, heedless of the cold. "Bucky," Steve said, feeling suddenly desperate.  "Bucky, what are we doing? We have to get out of here. This might be our chance to get out of h—"



14.

Bucky jerked back in a spray of blood, the shot ringing out. Steve shoved him down hard and whirled in a single motion, braced the gun on the hard-packed snow, and fired, four times. He knew that plane, knew just where the men would be huddled. He was half turned back already.  Bucky had ripped off his mask, blood streaming down the side of his face. He looked furious. It had caught his ear—too close—but he was all right. Bucky swung his own gun around toward the plane, but Steve knew— He was sure that— 

He hadn't missed. They were all dead.  

The plane was tilted to one side, but it didn't look irreparably damaged; Steve thought they had a decent chance of getting it into the air again. At the very least, there'd be supplies: food, maps, a radio.  "Bucky, this might be our chance," Steve said, but as he said it, he felt sick—the hook in his mind yanking hard. "If we can get her working… We have to try. Are you with me?"

But Bucky was still wearing the Winter Soldier's blank stare. Steve felt a flutter of panic and said, urgently. "Bucky, I'm Steve—I'm your friend, you've known me your whole life.  We've got to get out of here, and if we're gonna make it, you have to trust me. Are you with me?" 



15.

He waited, but the words didn't come. It felt like an ache, a yawning emptiness; the end of the world.  And then something changed on Bucky's face, shifting flickers of feeling. Bucky's mouth moved, shaping words that didn't come, like he was trying to remember some old catechism.

"T—"  There was confusion on Bucky's face, and fear in his eyes. Steve reached out helplessly to cup Bucky's face, kiss his cold, cold mouth. Bucky leaned in and the kiss was their old kiss, familiar, an instinct that couldn't be beaten out of them, whatever the cost. When it ended, they pressed close for warmth: cheeks, nose, touching. "To the end of the line," Bucky muttered; thank God.



16.

But they couldn't get airborne.  The damage to the plane was worse than it looked, and the radio had been shattered in the crash. But Steve had been right about the supplies: the crew's three crashkits were still in place, so now they had rations, heat, medical supplies, and survival gear—all the things that HYDRA didn't want them to have. HYDRA only gave them weapons.

Bucky had done several missions in this area, so he was the one who plotted their course.  They crouched over their maps in the belly of the plane, protected from the elements. Steve tried to ignore the accusing stare of the American crew: corpses, now.  "They'll be expecting us to go south, because only a crazy person would go further north—so we should go north," Bucky said. "I've only been as far as the second mountain - Big Dog, they call it, bol'shaya sobaka , for the shape - but beyond that there are villages, and the Barents Sea. A million tiny islands to hide on," Bucky said, looking hopeful for the first time in forever, "or we can wait for the weather, try sailing to Norway," and Steve smiled, remembering the location of New Asgard; he imagined carving a message for Thor to see when he arrived there seventy years later.

But imagination was all it was; they didn't even get all the way through the pass in Big Dog mountain. They were making good time when Bucky suddenly stopped short like he'd hit a wall, and just as Steve realized that something was seriously wrong, Bucky keeled over and began seizing. Steve dropped to his knees beside him: a red light on Bucky's arm was rapidly flashing. Goddamned bastards had installed some kind of perimeter sensor, and Bucky'd just stepped over the line. It was obviously agonizing, and without thinking, Steve dragged Bucky back the way they had come, back and back until Bucky sagged in relief and took control of himself.

"You go," Bucky said immediately, which was ridiculous—but Bucky's metal hand was seizing him, grabbing and shaking him. "Jesus Christ, Steve—I'm on a leash here: you're not. You could get out. I wouldn't make you stay in hell with me just for the company. "

"I'm not going!" Steve shouted, sounding angrier than he meant to.  "Not without you!" He took a breath and added, more calmly, "There'll be another chance, a better one," and Bucky was thin-lipped but didn't protest when Steve followed him back to the base.



17.

" — Voskhod. Deti. Oruzhiye. Vremya. Dobroye utro, Soldat," and he opened his eyes and said, "Ya gotov otvechat." The mission was a destabilization, three key negotiators to be killed on the Korean peninsula. He was allowed to choose weapons, and took three knives, two Sig Sauer automatic handguns and a Colt M4A1 m4a1, which he liked better than the Barrett sniper rifle. 

The Winter Soldier was waiting at the cargo plane when he arrived with his support team, and they boarded and strapped themselves in.  A moment later, the pilot came over the comms to announce takeoff, and he leaned back against the vibrating metal wall and closed his eyes.  They were flying south over the tundra when something in the air changed, and his gun came up just as the deafening blam-blam of shots rang out in the enclosed space.  But he held his fire: the Winter Soldier was standing in the circle of bodies. 

"Steve," the Winter Soldier said, and when he didn't lower his gun, the Winter Soldier reached up and pulled off his goggles and his facemask—and then slid his right hand down his left arm, seeming to drag the silver off. The arm beneath was made of some darker metal threaded with gold. The bicep no longer bore a red star to match the one on his black uniform. On the back of his hand there was strapped a blue fluorescent disc. It was glowing—

He looked down and saw an identical disc strapped to his back of his own hand.



18.

"Steve," the Winter Soldier said again, and...that was right, wasn't it.  He was Steve. He was Steve Rogers. The Winter Soldier was moving rapidly around the cabin, setting small charges:  sabotaging the plane. "We're getting out of here, you and me," he said,  "and then this plane is going down. You're about to be lost to history, pal, all over again—" and this was Bucky, this was his Bucky —from the present, from the future , come to rescue him. But what about…?

"No! I can't. You can't, " Steve protested. "Buck, you're still down there—he's— "

"Him I can't save, but you, dumbass, have been my personal problem since 1926," Bucky said. 

"But—"

"Shut up and listen to me, will you?" On the wall, the charges were flashing faster and faster.  "You can't save him. Because it's all already happened — I know, I was there. And right now we're still in the same timeline, but if I don't get you out, they're going to have you the way they had me all those years." Steve stared down at his black armor, the red star on his chest. "You're going to create a new timeline where they have both of us," Bucky said softly.  "And that's not going to be good for anybody—not for me, not for you, and not for the world, that's for sure."

Steve blew out a breath and let Bucky's words settle on him. It was true, they had him already. He'd been on his way to Korea to commit murder. He'd forgotten who he was, he'd forgotten what he was trying to accomplish. The only thing he hadn't forgotten was— Steve looked up, and Bucky was standing there, waiting to pull him out like he always did. He extended his hand, the one with the glowing fluorescent disc, and the disc on Steve's wrist lit up, as if in answer.  

A moment later, the plane exploded high over the tundra.



Epilogue. 

"Minor fuck up," Bucky told Bruce, when they appeared back on the platform. "Not a problem," and then he looked at Sam and said, bluntly, "He doesn't want to talk about it," and Sam made a face that said, clear as day, gee, you sure are an asshole, but raised his hands in acquiescence.  

It was so nice to see them getting along. 

But later, Bucky found him sitting by the side of the lake, and it turned out that Bucky did want to talk about it. "You know, I don't think you understand what happened back there," Bucky said.

Steve laughed hollowly.  "Oh, I understand it just fine," he said. "I nearly turned myself into a killing machine for HYDRA, and for nothing."

"Not for nothing," Bucky said quietly. "For me.  And you did save me, Steve, don't you see that?"

All he could see was Bucky's gaunt face, under glass. "How the hell can you say that?"

Bucky sat down beside him and said, "Didn't you wonder how I knew where to find you? In all of time and space, I knew you'd gone there, then. Rhodey said I must have the luck of the devil.  But you know I've never had any damn luck at all."  Steve jerked around to stare at him, and Bucky went on, softly: "I knew where to find you because I remembered you: I remembered that you were there. Later, I thought I was...crazy. Then I thought it was a dream. A good dream, where you would find me and know me and say my name. And tell me you'd be with me..."

"...to the end of the line," Steve said.

"Yeah."  Bucky turned to stare out at the lake.  "I don't understand the physics of it," he said.  "I don't know if there's some other me who—didn't come back when you called. I just know I knew you when you called my name."

Tears pricked at Steve's eyes, and he blinked them away.  "I'm glad for that," he said.

"I think you helped me hold onto myself longer than I would have," Bucky said. "I think if you hadn't been there with me at the start, they might have rooted out my memories completely." 

Not good enough.  "Goddamnit, Buck, there has to be a way to stop them," Steve said, low and angry. 

"Look at you, snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory," Bucky said.  "Typical."

"But we have a time machine. We can go back into past events and "

"Yeah, you know, I've never been much interested in the past," Bucky said. "It always seemed like a place where you couldn't get a good cup of coffee. I mean, say what you want about the 21st century, but the coffee's amazing," and before Steve could tell Bucky to fucking get serious, already, Bucky got serious: "I've been stuck like a bug in amber for seventy years, Steve. I can't go back, I've got to go forward. Listen to me, pal: the past is a dead place and—"   

There was a roar as the Benatar materialized over the lake, the force of its engines bending the trees and sending waves through the water. " —and there are spaceships here!" Bucky shouted gleefully, his hair whipping around wildly as the ship zoomed past them to the landing pad on the other side of the house. "Real, honest-to-God spaceships from other worlds! I rest my case, your Honor!" The little tornadoes of leaves whipped up by the ship began to settle around them, and Bucky's grin faded as they did. "Steve, I don't want to go to the future without you," he said.

"You don't have to," Steve said, and took the time-travel bracelet off his wrist.