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Lessons, Roots, Signals

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Scott isn't comfortable in the palace; he knows where he belongs, and "the corridors of power" is not it. He spends most of his time outside the palace, exploring, taking pictures to eventually share with Cassie, someday, when he can. They do phone calls, but he can't say much. Which is okay, most kids want to talk about themselves anyway.

He talks to ants, avoids peoples' eyes, and takes pictures for Cassie. Once in a while, Steve comes to find him and they sit quietly together until one of them says something awkward. It turns out Steve is super awkward, which makes Scott feel better about hero-worshiping the guy, in a weird way.

"I wish I could do what you do," Steve says.

"Be really small?" Scott asks, confused.

"Be...clever. Be sidelong. I know how to fight a battle. I don't know how to have a fight. Definitely don't know how to win one."

"Ah," Scott says. "Well, speaking as a divorced man, I wish I'd listened more than I talked."

"Huh," Steve says. "Thanks."

Wakanda's all right. Scott misses Cassie, but he's learning a lot, too.


Clint's used to long deployments, and so is his family. He always says goodbye to his kids knowing it could be the last time he sees them. Laura knows it too. So he does okay with regular phone calls, and will for a little while.

Clint keeps away from the king, because there's no real reason for T'Challa to bother with him, and anyway Clint's not a man of many needs. He's got a bunk and regular food and the internet, so once he's settled in he goes looking for ways to be of use.

He's thought about doing some warrior training. He knows there's some to be had around here somewhere. But he's too old to learn new tricks at this point, and he's not sure he'd be welcome. Wakandan combat is tangled up in Wakandan history and identity and he doesn't wanna be That White Guy.

Instead he slowly develops a circuit: an early morning run of the palace boundaries, a perimeter-check that nobody really needs, followed by breakfast with Steve and Sam and Wanda in the morning ( sociable, but not social, at least not here). He catches the tail end of a combat class's target practice each day, then does a little himself. He times it so that as he's going one way to lunch in his quarters, a few classes of little kids are going the other way to the dining hall, because they think he's funny-looking and he likes to make little kids laugh.

Afternoons, he spends tracking Scott (entertaining) or down in the city below the palace, learning the streets (tactically important) or with Sam, learning Wakandan. Clint sees the advantage in knowing the local language; Sam just likes it, he thinks.

In the evening he calls the kids. What did you do today, Daddy? I bought a yam as big as Nathaniel! What did you do today, sweetheart? I got an A in spelling...

And he sleeps, and he dreams of the farmhouse, and he wakes up in Wakanda and wonders just how long this deployment's gonna last.


Sam misses home, sure, but when he looks back he thinks he didn't really have much tying him to where he was. He had friends, but after he lost Riley and joined the VA, most of the close ones drifted away. What family he had wasn't really close, not since his folks died, and while he won't admit it to himself, he thinks he might've been looking for something as self-destructively exciting as Steve Rogers to walk into his life.

More than anything he misses the Avengers, as a concept and a family, but Clint and Wanda are here with him. Scott's, you know, he's around at least, and there's Steve.

And then there's Wakanda. Boy, Wakanda.

Wakanda wants him in a way it doesn't want the others, at least that's how it feels. People in the palace and the city know them all, but they make a point to greet Sam with friendly smiles, and it feels a little like coming back to a home he didn't know he had. One of the councilmembers who advise the king says she's sure he must have some Wakandan blood in him, and Sam's pretty sure that's just kindness, but he feels it. He feels it.

So he starts learning Wakandan, and he goes down to the city with Clint to explore, and he pesters the chefs in the royal kitchen about how they cook Wakandan food, and he does maybe a little combat training (not a lot -- it's not really his gig) with T'Challa.

Clint and Scott want to go home. He gets that, they got kids. Wanda hasn't had a real home in a long time, and never really cared one way or another about America as a home, but he can tell there's a nervousness in her to be off, different from the others but not entirely dissimilar. He doesn't know what Steve wants, other than vaguely to fix what's gone wrong.

"You seem settled here," Wanda says to him over breakfast one morning. Steve glances at Sam, curious.

"Just enjoying learning something new," Sam says. But yeah, he does feel settled here. To the point where maybe, if Steve manages to untangle this and send Scott and Clint home, Sam might stay.

The Barbary Falcon is an African bird, and it makes its home on cliffs. Looking out over Wakanda from the observation deck of the palace, Sam can relate.

But he also knows that if Steve needs him, he'll go.

You form a bond with someone when you spend as much time together in a VW as they have.


Wanda is just tired. Mostly she's tired of old men using her for their own purposes.

Wakanda's fine, really, but she's waiting for the moment T'Challa wants something from her. Not like rent money or food money or whatever. Something big. Something powerful. Because there is so much power in her and she's just now understanding that most people only want one of two things: to put a collar around her neck, or a noose.

So she's waiting for the king to come to her, like she's the court wizard now (the poisoner, perhaps), and ask her for help. But what "help" will really mean is "obedience".

She goes down to the city and explores it. She goes further than the boys, learning ways out of the city, learning ways out of Wakanda. There aren't many and all of them are dangerous, but she's a witch. The scariest thing in the forest is her. (Tony did introduce her to Terry Pratchett, so there's that.)

Wakanda doesn't eat many processed or preserved foods, but she builds a little stash of shelf-stable food she can take with her. She has a bag with a few things in it, things vital for survival. She's not going to stay in Wakanda. She's just waiting for the signal to leave.

Feels like she's spent her whole life waiting to leave, one way or another. Just once she wishes she could have a signal to stay, instead.

A trick of hers, one she never told anyone about, is the ability to feel the presence of those around her. Steve's presence is like a boulder, all stubborn strength. Sam's these days is a deep settling, like a plant in new soil. Clint and Scott are never more than three-quarters here, their lives waiting for them back in America. T'Challa is sunk into his country like a tree with deep roots; not quite peaceful, not when he mourns his father so deeply, but solid and unmoving.

And Bucky, a deep well of pain and hope, is sleeping but not silent. He's like a freshly-cleaned wound, a bared nerve, agonizing but already healing despite the pain. She remembers it. It's how it felt when Pietro died.

She feels like she comes from nothing and goes to nothing. She thinks she and Bucky might be friends.

The king still hasn't come to her the way she expected he would. She's set that as her signal, so she supposes she can wait, and maybe they'll wake Bucky up before she goes.

Maybe he'll be the one who won't want anything from her; maybe he'll be the one who understands.


Steve tries not to dwell on Bucky; he tries to let the Wakandan scientists do their work. He tries not to upset the others by dwelling, either, because Steve might not be the most emotionally self-aware man on the planet but he knows his fixation isn't healthy. And he knows they look to him for how to behave, so he has to be strong for them.

He figured out just how unhealthy all this was when he was in a stairwell in Bucharest, trying to simultaneously protect Bucky from the soldiers and protect the soldiers from Bucky. It's just that he can't help it. It's Bucky. And he misses him, so much, more than he did when he thought Bucky was dead.

Steve misses Bucky with all the grief for Peggy that he didn't have time to work his way through, he misses him with all the missing that he might otherwise expend on Tony because he knows that together they screwed up a pretty good friendship. He focuses his grief and anxiety and pain on this one thing, missing Bucky, because otherwise he'll just fall to pieces.

So some nights, when he can't sleep and he's already walked the dark palace halls, he'll end up in front of the chamber where Bucky's been frozen. The monitors are dark, the alerts silent. Just him and his best pal, separated by two inches of plexi and seventy years of sleep and torment. Sometimes T'Challa or one of the scientists passes the doorway, and sometimes they stop, but they never come in.

Steve fills his days, pretty much. He must, because they keep passing. But his nights are quiet and empty and at least here, there's a state approaching calm to be had.

He knows this is a holding pattern. He has to help Bucky, he has to solve the rest of his goddamn life, he has to fix things with Tony and get his people back where they belong.

But for now he's tired, and homesick, and this is his last scrap of home.

Which, of course, is when the phone rings.

"Tony," he answers, and then, with a final look at Bucky, he turns to walk to the windows, to look out on the shadowed nightscape of Wakanda. "No, I was awake, I'm not busy. I'm glad you called."