Stucky is back in town, because I said so
Okay, picture this
Steve, Sam, Bucky trapped under that forklift thingy in that abandoned storage building, Bucky waking up after being dragged there by Steve. Sam is still on edge, Steve is nervous as all heck because he wants to know if Bucky is still here or his body is just entirely a shell for a different person now. He's optimistic, but bracing for the worst.
And then he starts to wake up, for a hot second he looks panicked, trying to move but then suddenly gets calm as he sees Steve ahead of him. The way his shoulders relax. Sam doesn't miss the way his pupils dilate.
He's quick to ask "What did I do?" And the regret is thick in his voice. The grief for a horrible act he doesn't even know all the gruesome details of yet. Sam is honest. Tells him what happened. Steve takes a more delicate approach, let's him know how he got there and that he was safe. "God, I knew this would happen" he laments, a thick frown on his face, even if the frustration wasn't in his voice. Defeat took residence where a much more cool, kind tone used to be in his voice. A crack here and there, fatigue or grief was anybodies guess.
Steve drops in front of the brunette and looks at him tenderly. "Which Bucky am I talking to?" He wants so desperately for him to remember. To say his name and have something familiar on his tongue. Something sweet in his voice. Something home in his eyes.
"Your mom's name was Sarah." He says, a deep croak in his voice. And Steve softens, his eyes pricking. That was right. And after she passed away, they lived together for years. And then that letter came from the government, at first they thought it was an eviction notice, only to find it was worse. It hurt, because only Bucky was drafted. Steve wanted to go with him but he couldn't. And he'd be alone out there, fighting the Nazis.
"And you used to wear newspapers in your shoes." He adds, a smile pulling to his face, his features softening back to a familiar mold. Someone he knew. Someone he loved. He looked warm and autumn and tranquil all at once. Like that boy who didn't make fun of him for being small. The boy who stood up for him when other kids did. The guy who set him up on any and every date he could. The guy who took him in when he had nobody. They guy who took extra shifts at a factory to get Steve inhalers and medicine for his endless illnesses.
Steve didn't realise he was crying until he saw Bucky, God, his Bucky, the real one, frowning at him with that worried line between his brows, reaching for him. In that tender way he always used to when he came home with bruises and cuts from whoever was having a bad enough night to take it out on Steve. The way he'd look at him after he'd woken up from having an asthma attack in the night. The way he'd done so when he just needed Steve. Because he did sometimes. And being held by Steve then, was about as safe as he'd ever felt.
But he couldn't reach him. The forklift, just barely light enough not to crush his left arm kept him in place. Tugged him back as he leaned forward. His dripping hair, swinging around his head as he looked back at the rusted thing. He seemed a little panicked by it for a moment. Not in an obvious way, in the way only Steve saw. Only Steve.
He got up quickly to light it off, Sam protesting, of course worried for Steve. What if he's messing with you? You know what he's capable of. And God, wouldn't that hurt.
But Bucky takes the hint and pulls his arm free under the space Steve gave him, wrenching himself free. And for a tense moment, Sam looked at Bucky. Looked at Steve. Bucky looked back at Sam. Steve never took his eyes off Bucky. And then Bucky stared right back. And then they broke. Both at once. The moment their eyes locked, they were reaching for eachother, Bucky had the same desperation and longing Steve had had since he knew Bucky was still alive.
Steve caught Bucky and they collapsed to their knees and held tight enough to bruise. And this was as home as either had felt. Steve looked to the ceiling in silence, trying to take in the smell, the touch, the sound. "I know you" the brunette sobbed, said it like he was confessing to murder. Like he'd only just realised. "I know you, they- they couldn't take that away" he mumbled into Steves shirt, shrill breaths between stammers and pauses. Steve buried his head into Buckys neck, not minding the wet hair, for smell or texture.
"James Buchanan Barnes" Steve sighed. Like he'd been waiting to greet him again all his life. Like fate was cruel enough to keep them apart but they beat the odds. "You are Bucky Barnes" and Steve had no idea if he was saying this for Buckys sake or his own, but by the way Bucky trembled all over at the mention of his full name, he knew it sunk in. Resonated in all the right places. And he said it again. Bucky. Over and over again. Bucky. Like a mantra. Bucky. "Bucky, I missed you so much" he cried.
"They couldn't erase you. My mind maybe, but they can't taint a heart that's been with you since day one." He sniffed. And Steve laughed. Because he was so happy. So nervous and in disbelief. But he was happy. And nothing was taking Bucky away right now. "And it's yours until-" he choked. Steve lifted his head. Until when?
Bucky lifted his head too, a sad smile stuck to his face. "Until the-" he paused, his lungs suddenly needing so much air. Steve hushed him, pressing there foreheads together. He was happy to wait, but given the desperate look Bucly had, Steve knew he needed it to hear it more than say it.
Steve closed his eyes, took a breath. With the ease of having said this a thousand times but the momentum of it being at least 70 years coming, he smiled;
"Until the end of the line"
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Lost Days - Chapter 15: Finder’s-keepers
In the morning they returned to the Red Room base. Bucky helped Sherwood carry Olivia’s body to the back of the property where they buried her. He gave her some time alone – and went back into the mansion to search for any stray evidence.
He checked each of the rooms and stopped when he peered into one of them. One of the assassins from yesterday was half-hidden, propped against a wall, unconscious. They were covered in bruises and looked like they were healing from a broken leg and arm. Bucky scrunched his eyes closed trying to remember – he supposed Sherwood had done it. He frowned; had the other super-soldiers left them behind?
Bucky checked the room with the assassin in it once more to make sure they were still there before going back outside to give Sherwood an update.
She was sitting under a tree when he found her. “Hey, sorry to interrupt, but I got some news. One of the assassins is still in the house-”
Sherwood was on her feet in an instant. Bucky had to grab her by the shoulder when she tried to get past him. “I don’t think you should go in there.”
Sherwood glared at him. “I’m not going kill them.” she said, crossing her arms. Bucky looked at her. “I won’t!” Sherwood protested.
Bucky sighed. “I think we should stick around and question them-”
Sherwood interrupted “Interrogate. The word you’re looking for is interrogate, Barnes.”
Bucky eyed her “If we question them there’s a possibility – a small one - their memories might be intact, and they can lead us to the Salvager.”
Sherwood raised an eyebrow. “With the biochip implanted who knows how likely that is – even if we did torture them – which we won’t – I doubt they would so easily give up the Salvager’s location.”
Sherwood pursed her lips in thought when she heard a noise. Instantly she was on alert. “What was that?” she said, whipping her head around.
Bucky calmly pulled out his cell phone, which chimed again. “Relax, it’s my phone. It’s usually on silent, the ringer just happens to be on.”
Sherwood eyed it like a dragon admiring its horde of jewels. “Give me your phone.” She said, holding out her hand.
“Why?” Bucky asked.
“Give it. I have an idea.” Sherwood insisted. “What’s the idea?” Bucky pressed, holding the phone just out of reach.
Sherwood scowled. “I have an acquaintance near here - he is a mechanic of sorts – a genius when it comes to tech. He may be willing to help with the biochips and it is quickest to call him.”
Bucky handed her his phone. “You really need to get your own cell phone.”
“Never.” Sherwood replied, dialing the number. She waited until her acquaintance picked up and she spoke in Russian over the phone. She barked out a laugh and then got very quiet. Bucky eyed her and she stepped away from him and spoke quietly into the phone.
A few minutes later she handed the phone back to him. “He’ll do it.”
Bucky caught the look on her face. “Why do I get the feeling you’re holding something back.”
Sherwood avoided his gaze. “What aren’t you telling me Sherwood?” he asked, staring at her pointedly. She sighed. “Promise you won’t get mad?”
Bucky narrowed his eyes. “No,”
Sherwood groaned in annoyance. “Ugghh. Fine. The acquaintance of mine used to work for the Red Room…and Hydra. Was actually one of the ones who helped with the cryofreeze chambers…among other things.”
Now Bucky’s eyes widened in shock. “What?!”
Sherwood crossed her arms. “I knew you would get mad.”
“How do you even know he can be trusted?” Bucky asked seriously. “You’re missing what I said Barnes. I said used to. Used to work for Hydra – not anymore.” Sherwood replied.
“Still not hearing a reason for why we should trust him.” Bucky said.
Sherwood sighed. “First of all, Barnes we’re ex-Hydra-”
“Not by choice.” Bucky said pointedly, a touch of anger leeching into his voice.
Sherwood ignored his comment. “Second, I know because back in the day he helped a friend of mine. Well, she wasn’t a friend at the moment she was an enemy – but that’s not the point. The point is, he’s willing to help, and we don’t really have any other options.”
“Helped an enemy of yours.” Bucky repeated. “How reassuring.”
Sherwood sighed. “What faith you have in me. You’ll see when he gets here. In the meanwhile, we might want to restrain the assassin – make sure they don’t escape.” Bucky had to agree with that assessment. “I have an idea – but you may not like it, though.” Sherwood added, wincing slightly.
Bucky furrowed his eyebrows at her. “Just…Follow me.” Sherwood said, leading the way back to the mansion.
Sherwood was right, he didn’t like her idea.
“Are you sure this is completely necessary.” Bucky said, looking at the unconscious assassin as Sherwood strapped them down to an operating table.
“I’m sorry Barnes, but yes it is. You know how dangerous a brainwashed super-soldier can be – and the damage they can cause if allowed to go on a rampage.”
Bucky sighed. He knew from personal experience that she was right, but it didn’t make him feel any better. “I’ll be in the hall.” He turned and left the room.
Sherwood looked after him, feeling slightly guilty. But she knew logically that this would be safer for them. When Bucky had showed her the assassin she had approached cautiously, checking to make sure they were still unconscious, before nodding at him. Bucky had carried the assassin as Sherwood led him to the basement where a small medical ward was held. He had narrowed his eyes at the secret back room she showed him and stiffened when she had asked him to place the assassin on a metal table. There were restraints already attached to the table and Sherwood was quick in utilizing them. She sighed and checked the restraints once more before moving back.
She sat by the door and waited. It was a few more minutes before the assassin woke up. They took stock of their surroundings and began hyperventilating. They jerked against the restraints, but Sherwood was prepared for that. She would be across the room to knock them out well before they got the chance to escape. Besides, they shouldn’t break – they were made of metal and she had clamped them down tightly on the assassin’s wrists and ankles. For an added measure, she had used a leather band and placed it around the assassin’s neck to keep their head in place.
The door behind her opened, stayed in place a few seconds then closed just as quickly. Sherwood pursed her lips and decided the restraints would have to hold – for now.
She left the room and locked it from the outside. She turned a few corners before she found Bucky. He was facing away from her and had one hand pressed against his abdomen. The other – the metal one – was shoved against a wall. His fingers had cracked through the old plaster and dug into the molding. He was retching and didn’t notice her approaching. Sherwood stepped into his line of view so he could see her, then placed a hand on his shoulder.
“Barnes…James. I’m sorry. I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think it was necessary.” Sherwood said quietly. Bucky had his eyes scrunched shut. He gave a quick nod before gasping and resumed heaving. Sherwood gave him a pensive look and moved her arm to rest on his back so she could run her hand in a slow circular motion – in what she hoped was a soothing gesture – between his shoulder blades.
Sherwood stayed with him and Bucky exhaled in relief when the nausea finally began to subside. Extracting his hand from the wall that he dug his fingers into, he grimaced as a part of it came away.
Sherwood patted him on the back. “You okay?”
Bucky groaned in response and shook his head, one hand still clutching at his stomach. He pressed his head against the wall and tried to breathe through the pain the memory brought. His cell phone rang, and he pulled it out of his coat pocket, wordlessly handing it over to Sherwood.
Sherwood answered it, keeping one hand on Bucky’s shoulder in the hopes of steadying him and spoke with her friend.
“You are here? I will come meet you outside.” She spoke in Russian, then turned to look at Bucky. “I’ll be right back Barnes.” Bucky gave her another quick nod and she went upstairs to meet the mechanic.
Sherwood exited the mansion and was greeted to the sight of a short, stocky man. He was dressed like a college professor and was balding on top. Thin wisps of white hair swept across his forehead. He adjusted his glasses and squinted at her. “Ah, Ms. Alice. I am sorry about Olivia.”
Sherwood nodded. “Thank you, Ivan.” She said curtly. They had more pressing matters to attend to. “Please, come with me.”
He nodded and she led him to the mansion, explaining the situation on the way as best she could. “I also have a flash-drive containing some information from Hydra – it could prove useful.”
“I will look at it then.” Ivan replied. He used a cane and Sherwood took his things so he could more easily walk down the stairs. “Ach, I remember saying there should be an elevator here. I still think they should have put one in.”
Bucky was where she had left him – though he was leaning against a different wall.
“Barnes, this is Mr. Sisk.” She introduced them.
Bucky swallowed, then nodded. The man wasn’t just old – he looked ancient, and he hobbled over to stand in front of Bucky. He squinted up at him in thought, before turning back to face Sherwood. “A candidate for the Winter Soldier program, I presume?”
Sherwood nodded and Bucky jolted, alarmed. Mr. Sisk removed his glasses. “You have that look about you…. I am very sorry young man. For everything you endured. For everything you were made to do, and the memories that followed.”
Bucky watched as he turned around and hobbled beside Sherwood and disappeared into the room. Sherwood turned and gave him a nod – she didn’t expect him to return to the room. He could wait elsewhere if he wished.
A while later Sherwood exited the room and had to do a little searching before she found Bucky. He was on the main floor, sitting on one of the staircases. Sherwood sat next to him.
“Ivan is working on the biochip, and he will let us know if anything can be done for the soldier.”
Bucky nodded a hand perched on his chin in thought. He turned to Sherwood. “Can you tell me more about him? What he did that made you trust him?”
Sherwood sighed. “To tell you that I would have to tell you more of his history with Hydra and it is not my place to say. You may ask him if you like. But back when I was travelling, trying to track down former Hydra assassins – before the blip – I got a letter from someone, a former target I was supposed to kill: A Red Room assassin by the name of Sakura Ito. I did not do as I was ordered to, and she lived. She wrote to me – she had caught onto my whereabouts and knew what I was trying to do – and she told me of Ivan. Back in the eighties, I believe, he decided to start helping some of the Red Room recruit’s escape. He had seen the Red Room’s training in person and did his best to undo it, before smuggling them out of the country. Sakura Ito was one of them. That is why I believe he can be trusted. He is trying to recompense for the mistakes of his past, even still to this day. I highly suspect he will do so until he dies.”
Bucky listened in silence. “Hmm.” He said.
“I am not asking you to understand, or even to forgive him, Barnes. I am simply asking you to trust me. At the very least let’s see if he can help with the biochips.” Sherwood said, standing up. “I will go ask for a progress update. You may wait here if that is more comfortable.”
Bucky sighed and watched as Sherwood walked away back to the basement. He sat there a while thinking, then got up and followed her. When he entered the room, Sherwood had looked up at him - surprised. “Barnes…are you sure you want to be here?”
Bucky nodded. “Yeah, might as well be. Don’t wanna miss any important information anyway.” He looked over at Ivan who was busy standing behind the metal table. It had been pushed upright so the super-soldier they had found was practically standing up, except for the restraints, which held them in place. Bucky also noticed they were unconscious again. He raised a questioning eyebrow at Sherwood.
“Removing the biochip is more akin to surgery. I thought it best that the soldier was unconscious as we have no anesthesia on hand.” She explained. She turned as Ivan called her name.
“Ms. Alice. Would you happen to have a phone on you?” Ivan asked. Sherwood looked at Bucky. He sighed. “I do. Why?”
“I want to try something. Hand me your phone.” Bucky looked back and Sherwood, who shrugged. Somewhat reluctantly Bucky handed his phone over and watched as Ivan fiddled with it. He pulled out the sim card and handed it to Bucky. “Keep ahold of that.”
Ivan carefully rinsed the blood off the chip and cleaned it before inserting it into Bucky’s phone.
“Ah. I see. How interesting.” Ivan said. “What is, Ivan?” Sherwood asked.
“Come here, both of you. It will be easier to explain.” He replied. Sherwood shrugged again and she and Bucky stood over his shoulders as he explained.
“The chip contains information.” He showed them as he went through a server and onto something that looked like an app – at least to Bucky. “I believe the chip is a sort of neural link to the brain. My theory is it is acting as a barrier – the soldier’s real personality is still there underneath, but it is clouded by false implants. Much like the Red Room does to its recruits.” Ivan removed his glasses. “Back in the day, Electroshock therapy – if you can call it that – was used as a means of control over Hydra’s soldiers and the Red Room assassins. They would wipe minds this way to make sure the soldiers did not remember what they had done. Taking a life is hard on the conscious and they did not want the mental strain or emotions of guilt to block the soldiers from completing their missions. My guess is this is simply an updated format for the current times.”
“And its possible for them to easily destroy the chip or to wipe it clean. They can extract data and still have a blank slate.” Sherwood surmised.
Ivan nodded. “Yes. I am guessing the false implants are likely similar…give me moment.” He started pressing buttons and looked up at Sherwood. “Ms. Alice, do you happen to have a laptop by any chance?”
Sherwood nodded. “I will fetch it.” She and Bucky had checked out of the hotel that morning; they were determined to find the recruits before sendoff.
Sherwood returned shortly and handed the laptop to Ivan, who transferred the data from the phone onto the laptop. He adjusted his glasses every few minutes and Sherwood and Bucky nearly jumped when he shouted “Ah-ha!”
“What did you find?” Sherwood asked, appearing over his shoulder.
“I have good news and bad news. The good news is the neural link is attached to an interface – a connected hub if you will – which means I can track it. The bad news is that removing all the chips will be tricky; each super-soldier has their own code – see here? That means that I will have to decrypt it each time without interfering with the neural link less I fry their memories.” Ivan said quickly. He hummed as he worked. A few minutes later he called them over again, pulling up a map.
“Is there a problem?” Sherwood asked when she saw the look on his face.
“Well, the location I pinpointed on here is a cluster of dots – I’m guessing that’s the holding facility for the rest of the new soldiers. But there is a second location that I traced through the interface. All the soldiers listed in the database are accounted for – but in two separate places.”
Sherwood narrowed her eyes. “What is the Salvager playing at?”
Bucky spoke up. “He must know we’re coming. He managed to track us here before and probably knows we’re really only after the super-soldiers.”
Sherwood gave him a look. “You think he’s using them as a distraction?”
“More like bait.” Bucky answered. “These dots coordinate to the soldiers’ location, right? Then he must have a few of them with him.” Sherwood gritted her teeth in frustration. “He’s trying to cut his losses and make a getaway.”
Bucky saw a flurry of emotions cross her face. Sherwood sighed, coming to a decision. “We’re here for the soldiers, not the Salvager. They should be our top priority.”
Bucky put his hand on her shoulder. “Then we might need to split up. One of us can get to the super-soldiers at the warehouse and the other will need to get to the soldiers the Salvager is keeping with him.”
Ivan cleared his throat. “If I may, Alice. If your intention is to rescue the recruits, you will need my help. Perhaps if I can decrypt the biochips then the soldiers will have a better chance at survival and recovery. I can handle the recruits, while you two go after the Salvager.”
Sherwood looked at him sideways. “Are you sure that is something you can handle?”
Ivan scoffed. “I may be old my dear, but I still have my uses.”
“Then shall we test your theory?” Sherwood said, gesturing to the unconscious assassin. Ivan nodded. “Be my guest.”
Sherwood picked up a bucket she had filled with water and approached the assassin, dumping water on them. The assassin spluttered and coughed as the icy water shocked them awake. They gasped and looked around wildly. “Wh-where am I?” the assassin asked once they got their bearings. “Who are you people?”
“What is your purpose?” Sherwood asked. The assassin thought about it for a moment. They shook their head and looked confused. ”I…I’m not…sure?”
“What is your name, recruit?” she asked. An emotion flickered across the assassin’s face. A sort of recognition, like a memory being dredged to the surface. “Alistair…” Bucky and Sherwood shared a look. It was a start. Sherwood asked them a few other questions – where they had been, what had they been doing, what was the last thing they remember and more.
Alistair scrunched their eyes shut in concentration. “I…remember a room…like this and a man. There were others…it was cold.” They said, gasping in pain. “I’m sorry. It’s...painful to remember.”
“It’s alright.” Bucky reassured the assassin. He knew that the memories would likely be fuzzy, and it might take a while before they remembered much of anything. But they had recalled their name, and it seemed with the biochip being removed, memories came more easily.
Sherwood stepped forward and turned to Ivan “We need to get to the other soldiers.”
Ivan nodded in understanding. “Of course. But first, what do we do with them?” he asked, jerking his head towards Alistair.
Sherwood thought about it. “I know someone. They will be willing to help.” Bucky raised an eyebrow. “Another old friend?”
Sherwood shook her head. “No, a new one.”
Sherwood climbed back into the car and shut the door. “It’s done.”
Bucky gave her a skeptical look. “And your sure your therapist is going to be okay with you just dropping off a former Hydra agent on her doorstep?”
Sherwood shrugged. “She has no choice. Besides, she will know what to do with the information I left her. Now, let’s go. We are running out of time.”
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