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This is the place

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They flee. Well, they’re not actually fleeing, Zemo has worded it differently. They need a break from the world and he knows a place – that’s what he tells them. Of course he doesn’t tell them where the plane is flying them nor why Oeznik keeps talking in a language only Zemo himself can understand.

The team (yes, as much as Bucky despises the term, the whole operation’s been a team effort) managed to save what could be saved and, most importantly, those who still had a chance to redeem themselves. What's left of the rebels has been delivered to the authorities, no matter how disappointed Sam and Zemo were at the moment, and Sam is temporarily at peace with that. He’s the one who handled the political part of the deal, the one who bargained for it and took most of the responsibility for what’s happened in the last few weeks.

Bucky tried to persuade him into splitting with him but Sam is a stubborn man. Unshakable, adamant. Zemo defined him unyielding.

Sam doesn’t sleep. Private jet or not, they sit in those awkwardly comfortable seats for countless hours. Bucky loses track of time when the lights go off and all he sees then are the interiors’ silhouettes. They stop being mobilia and become black masses of void, the moon being the only entity capable of caressing their corners and curves, giving them volume.

Bucky thinks that it doesn’t get worse than this now that the government is trying to reach them while they’re crossing the sky to somewhere very far from home but he knows, in his heart, that their situation isn’t getting better either. What they’ve been through brought collateral damage and stirred up some issues none of the three is going to tackle on anytime soon.

He feels Sam looking down at him from the other side of the cabin and tilts his head.

“You should tell Dr. Raynor where you are when we get there.”

He’s tired. They both are, the difference stands in their voices. Sam speaks like he’s afraid of waking someone up even though he’s had a long, rough day and would benefit from screaming. Bucky notices Sam doesn’t really let his voice get tired unless they’re alone and nobody’s listening to them.

“What, y’ can’t stand watching me get arrested again?”

Sam hesitates. Bucky feels the urge to joke about it as Sam sighs, “No, actually.”

The feeling of inadequacy grows so arrogant Bucky considers switching the seat for the floor. It’s too late in the night, they have too many things to sort out and Bucky faces the sky, looks at the white tinted clouds under the plane. He thanks Oeznik’s age and Zemo’s expertise for the alone time they so kindly agreed to award them with.

It was very gentlemanly of Zemo to offer them his piloting skills and to grant the old butler a good night of rest, but sleep can’t fall on Sam. Or Bucky. They still don’t really trust the guy, let alone his butler or whatever he is.

It would be easier if this thing they’re doing – taking a break – felt wrong. It doesn’t and Bucky doesn’t have the strength to scorn himself for it. He would love to hate every bit of this, he would love to rejoice at the idea of getting back and fighting for the right cause, but he’s very surprised and confused by finding out that he can’t wait to get to where they’re going.

Disappearing for a week or two sounds nice. Right. Appropriate, bordering on essential even. And Bucky always reverts back to running. This time feels different, though. Now that he’s looked over by the moon and Zemo has given him a false name and a niche he can potentially crawl into to take a breath, his guard shivers.

Sam is trying to grab his bag from the overhead bin when Bucky meets him again. The morning light bathes him in radiant white hues, that kind of pervasive white that exudes warmth, and it fades the brown jacket Sam brought along. Bucky sighs, not so much of relief but of resignation, and watches Sam fiddle with the handles, yank the bag down and weigh it before letting it touch the ground.

“Do you ever blink?”

“No.”

They’ve had this conversation so many times before, yet Sam never grows sick of it.

“Get your ass up, man.”

Bucky’s never been a fan of airplanes but he must admit this Zemo-sponsored trip hasn’t bothered him with motion sickness or all the other problems a normal human being has to endure for hours while cruising through the sky. He feels the first turbulence, the rolling cart under his ass during take-off and his stomach does a little flip, like it always does, but his body's lucky to make it last for less than a second. Still, not an altitudes fan. He tolerates them if he has to.

He lifts himself up and off the seat with a groan and emulates Sam, grabs his own bag and waits for Zemo to show up.

The speaker crackles and then it’s: “Thank you for flying with us, enjoy your stay.”

They share a glance. They can’t stand him though they truly like the entertainment the guy brings to their table.

“I know,” Bucky says, as if reading Sam’s mind with nothing but his own eyes is a normal thing people do.

They’ve talked about parting ways and going to different places just to make sure their scent doesn’t lead to the same spot. This is a gamble – this whole idea of ditching the States in favor of a remote European location – but it charmed the two Avengers enough to make them stick with one of the most dangerous men on Earth, as the papers say. Zemo didn’t come with a price tag but they know that what they’re getting themselves into is going to have expensive consequences. Having a taste of living crammed up in a house with Zemo for one day or two is something but this, this could blow up anytime.

They had the talk in Louisiana and just as Sam had been about to decline, Sarah had closed the kitchen door and Bucky, who was standing and waiting in the middle of the living room like an idiot, had only heard muffled words and uncomfortable silence. And then a decision was taken and it involved Zemo giving the landing speech.

The pilot cabin opens up and Zemo elegantly comes out with a satisfied hum, stretching his arms up toward the ceiling, “Wilkommen in der Schweiz.”

Sam clicks his tongue, “Oh, great, here we go again. We won’t understand shit, will we?”

Zemo smiles and Bucky knows he’s about to mock Sam about how awfully American he is, so he turns on his heels and tilts his chin to Sam, who gladly moves to the airlock and lets them free. The fist thing getting to them is how cold the air is. Sam isn’t used to it and lets a muttered curse out of his mouth while Bucky, on the other hand, knows that kind of cold pretty well: it doesn’t stick to the skin, it rather stings it and there’s a prickling sensation that slithers under their sleeves and makes its way up to their chests, where it settles. Bucky shakes the iciness off and follows Sam down the air-stair.

Bucky’s expectations shatter when his eyes get used to the light and define his surroundings: Sam and him have crashed at Zemo’s more than once and they’ve seen the stained-glass windows reflect blues and oranges and yellows on the wooden floors. They’ve also kind of eaten from his pantry; all those sweets and dried fruits, every jar labeled and left there for someone to pick at it. The house they run into is something from a fairy tale. Bucky doesn’t really understand this different kind of beauty though he’s sure he’s already seen lots of it. It feels familiar in the worst kind of ways. He’s been all over Europe during his hit and run time, he’s already destroyed the life of such places but the memory of them is so faded and washed out that he can’t get a proper grasp on it.

Bucky feels dizzy, his worries now keeping him from appreciating the smells and the noises he makes as he walks on fresh grass.

Sam turns to him and smiles: “Damn me, did we just touch ground on paradise or something?”

Bucky’s tension instantly dissipates. His shoulders fall and he takes a deep breath. Takes in everything. There’s a lot of green. It’s not a framing green, it’s the focus of the whole picture and it’s vast and calming and the trees look like brushstrokes. Bucky pushes his distress down. Sam doesn’t look like he belongs there, he doesn’t merge with the forest or the white mountains peeking behind it. He looks new in the same way a stranger looks new. Bucky's never seen Sam like this. And it’s the urban life, Bucky tells himself, it’s the grey buildings and the Louisiana docks, it’s the bullets and state of the art suits, it’s the realness of Sam’s stance, formal ties and patent-leather shoes.

They leave Oeznik with the plane as it powers down until there’s no more whirring and all Bucky hears is the birds chirping and Sam stepping on gravel. A slim path of stones and damp dark earth leads to a set of wooden stairs but Bucky hesitates and waits for Zemo to point in their direction just to climb the first pair. The house is something completely opposite to the Riga’s one but it’s the perfect mirror of Zemo’s taste, as far as Bucky knows. It’s modest, rather rustic, but it has a touch of daintiness that makes it easy on the eyes. Most of it is stones and wood, three stories building themselves up from the harshness of the stony porch up to the second floor, lighter and brighter, entirely circled by a balcony with black railings made of flower-shaped drawings, just to finish on the third floor, a single window looking out on the garden and lots of warm browns, open and weightless.

There’s green all around and even if Bucky concentrates on the darkest swirls on the first floor’s walls, it calls him from the corner of his eyes. It’s ever-present, annihilating, and Bucky accepts it, lets it swallow him whole. He doesn’t need to look for enemies hiding behind the trunks or under the foliage, no one's waiting for him to make the wrong move. He just needs to keep walking and following Sam to the door.

“I’m glad you like it, Sam.” Zemo has a spark in his voice, not the malicious kind.

Bucky doesn’t really understand much of (super) human empathy since he’s trying the get back the little he knew about it ages ago, but he’s getting really good at reading through Zemo’s lines. Zemo is actually enjoying Sam’s excitement. Then he looks at Bucky with anticipation.

“It’s fine,” it takes more than a well-dressed house to impress Bucky Barnes these days. He’s seen Stark’s accomplishments and Zemo doesn’t really get to cross that line.

Zemo nods. He understands, that’s the problem. Even though they know very little about each other – like their favourite dish or sound – Zemo knows the complications of Bucky’s mind, what he lacks and what gets him going. It’s more than enough, in fact it’s annoying and upsetting. Bucky doesn’t fully know himself and Zemo understanding some intimate sides of his personality feels like an itch that never goes away. Doesn’t matter how much Bucky scratches it or how deep his nails dig into his skin, it still itches.

“I won’t tell her where I am,” Bucky says, and something about the volume of his voice (so low, like he doesn’t want the others to hear him) sends red alerts all over Sam’s face.

“Sure,” Sam is suspiciously, mockingly compliant. “we’ll work something out.” A pause. “Can’t believe you're still thinking about that.”

It doesn’t end there, Bucky's sure of it. He wishes it could but he also knows Sam and what he did before becoming the Falcon and eventually taking up Captain America’s mantel.

A metallic jingle makes them both turn to Zemo, who’s holding up a bunch of keys. “Gentlemen please, let me do the honors.”

They let him pass without ceding to the snarky back-and-forth that would make Zemo’s day and watch as he shuffles the keys and unlocks the door. Bucky stalls outside, an impeding sense of there’s no turning back loming over him and paralyses his body down. Sam disappears inside and the green closes up on Bucky. The wind pushes him from behind. He chooses not to fight it and, stepping inside the house, closes the door behind him.

“So, this is the place.” Sam sighs.