[Bucky Barnes; R] Uncivil War: Chapter 17 Character/Series: Bucky Barnes; Marvel Cinematic Universe Rating: R Notes: Title: Uncivil War- Chapter 17: Praying For An End Author:yuuo Word Count: 4784 Summary:"So what exactly are we looking for?" Steve asked, following just off to Bucky's left side.
they're just fightin' off the hunger tryin' to keep from goin' under but the wolves just keep on gatherin' 'round the door there's no place to run for cover so they're turning on each other 'cause there really ain't no winners anymore just victims in this uncivil war -Martina McBride
"So what exactly are we looking for?" Steve asked, following just off to Bucky's left side. Bucky, despite the distant feeling of annoyance at having to babysit Steve while he worked, felt more comfortable with him on that side than if he'd been on the other. That put Bucky on Steve's right and that felt natural.
Maria had taken up the other side as they slowly traveled down the first floor of the girls' dorm "Electromagnetic spikes," she answered. "If I understand right, unusual EMF activity can indicate a ghost."
Bucky frowned, watching the voltmeter on the detector. "That depends," he said. "The whole EMF equals ghost thing is kinda shitty science, but we don't have much in our arsenal to work with. There's nothing that has been shown that EMF anomalies are caused by ghosts. At least not at a rate better than chance. Some anomalies we can't explain easily, and those are the ones we're looking for. But..." He stopped and held up his left arm, then waved the detector by it. The needle spiked. "Electronics put off fields, too. My arm alone could confuse this thing."
"Then maybe one of us should be carrying that," Steve said.
Smart idea, Steve. The scientist in Bucky wanted to be as close to the detector as possible, but Steve made a point. He shrugged. "You want it?" He held it out to Steve.
"I just have to wave it around, right?" Steve asked, taking the detector.
"Not quickly, but yeah." Bucky waited until Steve had taken then lead, then looked at Maria and motioned with his hand for her to take his side. He didn't like that the change in formation had put him on Steve's left.
It didn't take more than that for Maria to get the message, switching places with Bucky. Despite the fragile state of their friendship, the instinct to cover Steve's 'weak' side was an old enough programming that even the Soldier's anger at Steve couldn't override it. He shut up and left Bucky alone.
Good. Don't need that headache right now.
"What do we do if we find something?" Steve asked.
Good question. He thought back to those dumb shows he'd only watched a few times. "Maria could take video or pictures of the area that set off the detector," he said. "There's reports of people taking pictures and then later seeing something odd in them that wasn't there when the picture was taken. I don't know how well that'd work with a smart phone, but I got nothing better to suggest."
Steve stopped and looked back at Maria. "Do you have your phone on you?"
She nodded, pulling it out of her pocket. "It's a decent clock and not all of us have the memory and art skills to paint our memories instead of taking pictures."
"It has enough memory left for this, right?"
Maria raised an eyebrow. "I don't know what you think I'd fill up my camera with, but yes, there is. It's a custom piece from Tony for my work. I have plenty of memory for this."
Before they could get moving again, Sharon hurried up behind them. "Recorder and picture's set up." She glanced at Maria. "Do we need my camera too, for whatever we're doing?"
"It would help, I think," Maria said. "A video on both sides of the hall. We're not sure what we're dealing with, but cameras sometimes pick up on things, at least according to Bucky."
"Which is according to shows that use poor science," Bucky said. "But I'm not sure what else to do, besides say we should've done this during the day."
Sharon got out her phone from her pocket. "Why?"
"Because I have a feeling a lot of the anomalies we pick up, if we pick up any at all, are more easily explained as the Earth's magnetic field interacting with the solar winds. The magnetic field on the dark side of the planet is more likely to cause odd happenings than on the day side. But it's a bit late for that, so we'll just keep video on the place and see if anything the detector picks up is something to worry about, or something to be dismissed."
"That's not exactly filling us with confidence in this, Bucky," Steve said, starting down the hall again.
"I know," Bucky said as he and the others followed. "But I don't know what else we can do. Bruce and I are shooting from the hip."
"We'll try this," Maria said, holding her phone up towards the rooms as they passed down the hall. "If it doesn't work, we'll see what else might be available to us."
"So another trip to town for me," Sharon said, videoing the blank wall on the other side. "And why am I keeping an eye on a blank wall?"
"Wires," Bucky said. "If our ghost lives in them, you might pick up something." He looked back at Sharon. He had nothing to do anymore, now that Steve had the detector up front, and Sharon was actually doing something related to their search. "Sharon, switch with me. I'll pull up the rear."
"Any reason why?" she asked. "We're not expecting to be attacked by anything from behind, are we?" She switched places with him anyway.
"Maybe a cat," Bucky answered. "But back there isn't a good angle to get proper video from. I'd be in the way. Puts my arm farther from the detector, too. It was setting the damn thing off."
Maria kept her phone up, taking video as they passed by the dorm rooms, nearing the end of the hall. "If Kitty is hostile, does that put your arm in danger of getting shut down?"
Not a pleasant thought. "Maybe," he said. "I don't know. If we find out she's hostile, I'll get the hell out and contact Tony. But we don't know if Kitty's a threat or not." He glanced behind him for signs of Bruce or one of the cats. "Steve, anything up there?"
"Nothing," Steve said, sounding frustrated as they hit the end of the hall. "The dorms were a waste of time."
"Better to waste our time than to not bother and find out we missed something," Maria said. "Let's go back the other way, meet up with Bruce. Bucky, will you take the lead, please? There shouldn't be anything popping out at us from behind now, and you know how to handle the cats better than any of us if one decides we're snooping where they don't want us to."
"What am I, the cat whisperer?" He did as he was told, though, turning to take the lead. It felt nice to not be in charge beyond being the science explaining guy, though.
They met up with Bruce at the end of the hallway. "Camera's set up," he said. "Anything down that hall?"
"Not a damn thing," Bucky said. "We don't know if the girls caught anything on video, but the only thing that the detector picked up on was my arm before I passed it to Steve."
Bruce frowned, tapping the frame of his glasses on one hand. "We could check the classrooms for the elementary children, but if the dorms where she would've lived revealed nothing, I'm not sure we'd pick up anything in the classrooms."
"As I said to the others, it may be a waste of time," Maria said, "but better safe than sorry. We'll check the classrooms next, and if we get nothing, we'll retire for the night and let the camera and the recorder do the work. We'll check over all our video and audio footage tomorrow in the morning."
The classrooms proved as fruitless as the dorm hall had been. They'd even taken the extra time to hit both classroom wings, and both floors in each, and nothing. Not one damn thing. Everyone was cranky and frustrated with the lack of results. With no results to work with, they decided to just call it a night. Bucky returned to the work room to put away the detector while the others took care of dinner's dishes, now that they would be licked clean.
Bucky stayed a few minutes extra in the work room. Nobody in the kitchen would notice how long it was taking him, they'd be busy with cleaning. He needed a minute to think, now that he was away from a mission and entering a rest period. Now that things would go back from the old normal to the new normal with Steve. Now that Bucky would be retiring for the night to Maria's room, not because he wanted to, but because he didn't share a room with Steve anymore.
He didn't like this new normal. But he couldn't see a way around it, not yet. Steve still needed time to separate the Soldier from Hydra. And the Soldier needed to relearn to trust Steve. So did Bucky, for that matter. There was more to those thoughts, Bucky could feel it, but nothing wanted to take shape into something comprehensible, so after taking a few minutes to just breathe and brace himself, he headed back down to the cafeteria to meet up with Maria.
Maria was in the kitchen, along with the others. They must've decided that a group effort would make cleaning go faster and everyone could go off their separate ways.
Something in his body language when he entered must've signaled the return to the new normal, because Steve picked up on the change immediately and abruptly refused to look at Bucky. The tension in the air suddenly felt thicker as the others found themselves between two unstable men on unsteady ground with each other.
That was probably the reason they might've had for wanting everyone to go their separate ways as quickly as possible.
Before Bucky could open his mouth to offer help, Steve folded a towel and placed it on the counter. "Kitchen's done," he said, then brushed by Bucky, out the door, and out of the cafeteria.
"Steve?" Sharon set down the box of dishwasher soap tabs in her hand and hurried after him, only pausing to look at Bucky helplessly. He wished he could offer her that help, but now that the mission was over, the problems between Steve and himself couldn't stay buried. There was nothing to stand on that coffin and keep it nailed down.
Bucky rubbed his forehead. "What exactly did I do this time?" Maybe he was wrong. Maybe it wasn't anything on his part.
"Circumstance," Bruce said. "We all know that the team cooperation is over for the moment."
"It's also bedtime," Maria said. "Which means he's going to bed alone. It was just a mutual awareness on everyone's part that the problems remain."
He wondered what wasn't being said about those problems. Maybe nothing. Maybe something. Maria wasn't being personal with that statement, merely observational, which meant she probably had something else to add that he wouldn't hear until they were back in her room.
Bucky decided to sidestep that thought for the moment. "Speaking of bedtime, is the kitchen done so we can go, or is there anything I can help with?"
Maria grabbed the box of dishwasher tabs that Sharon had left and put it back in its place in the cupboard closest to the dishwasher. "No, we're done. Four people made short work." She turned and put a hand on Bruce's arm. "Make that tea you mentioned, take it up to your room. You need the relaxation."
Bruce gave her a very mild expression of agreement. "Relaxing probably would be a good idea. I'll see you two in the morning."
With a good night from both of them, Bucky and Maria left Bruce in the kitchen and headed for the dorms. Bucky hoped- if he were a believer, he'd be praying -that Steve had gone straight to bed and they wouldn't cross paths. Bucky wasn't interested in more of the new reality that day. Sleeping in Maria's room was going to be enough as it was.
Fortunately, Steve's door was shut tight when Bucky and Maria got to the dorms. Bucky paused to look at it. Steve usually left his door cracked when he wasn't in there. Good. No potential for arguments or hurt feelings.
That didn't stop the urge to go in and at least check on Steve before going to Maria's dorm.
Bucky let Maria have the bathroom first, changing while she did her pre-bed routine. He sat down on the bed to wait his turn for the sink to brush his teeth and stared off at the door. Steve was probably doing the same as Maria, getting ready for bed. Bucky wondered what was going through Steve's head. He had to feel bad for the lie, Bucky knew that much. Knew Steve well enough.
But then there was where Hydra had gotten in. There was his inability to separate the Soldier from Hydra and trust Bucky to stay under control.
That was okay, Bucky wasn't entirely trusting himself to stay under control. Maria's role in the one mission he'd gone on with her was under his authority. The only controller the Soldier had ever acknowledged since detoxing and deciding to take the chance of going to Steve was Steve himself. And that was old programming- Steve had always been the one in charge. Captain America was the guy in charge.
Maria Hill was... unknown. A partner, but not a leader. Not a controller.
Bucky hated that word. That was the Soldier's word, the only way the Soldier could understand deferring to a mission leader. That word probably caused more problems in that little fight in the training room than almost anything else said or done.
But it stayed stuck in his brain.
He grabbed the envelope with the Winter Soldier Project files off his nightstand and set it down on the bed in front of him. He didn't open it, just stared at it, not sure what to do with it. Maybe there was something in there that he'd missed in all the times he'd opened that folder, something that would tell him how to get rid of the Soldier, or at least remove certain words and needs from him, make him something more palatable for Steve to deal with.
The absence of the sound of running water in the bathroom alerted him to the fact that Maria was done, and he pushed the envelope aside.
"Your turn," Maria said, stepping back into the room. She paused, looking at the envelope. "Did you need a minute?"
He shook his head. "No." He waved at the envelope rather vaguely. "If you were curious, though, there you go."
Maria walked to the bed with slow and hesitant steps. "You're sure about that?"
"Yeah, I'm sure," Bucky said, getting up and going around the bed to get to the bathroom.
Maria was sitting on the bed, holding the closed envelope on her lap when he returned. She looked over at him. "I haven't looked," she said. She turned her gaze down to the envelope. "I was waiting for you."
He sat down on his side of the bed. "Scared of it?"
"A bit." She reached over with one hand and took his. "I know these files are personal to you. Are you sure about letting me see them?"
He gave her hand a squeeze. "I'm sure. Maybe you can see something in them that Steve sees that I can't."
She nodded once, studying the envelope, before taking her hand back and carefully unlooping the thread that held the envelope shut. She pulled out the folder inside. She treated it like it was made of fine glass as she opened to the first page. She unclipped the picture of him in uniform and looked at it with a faint smile. "That's a good look for you. You have that smile still." She looked at him. "I like your longer hair better, though." She squinted. "It needs cutting, though."
Bucky reached behind him and pulled down on his hair, grimacing when he realized it hit between his shoulder blades. "Yeah, I know. It's starting to get ridiculous."
"Maybe Sharon can cut it?"
"We'll ask her tomorrow," Maria said, going back to the folder. She tucked the military personnel photo back under its clip and looked at the larger picture behind it. She ran her fingertips over the frozen image. "That was the only time you really slept, isn't it?"
"Only time I slept alone," he said, not having to ask how she guessed. He'd been a weapon, with missions to focus on, and she knew how focused on a mission he could get even now, free of Hydra's brainwashing.
She looked over at him. "That's why you and Steve would sleep on your couches at the Tower sometimes."
Bucky nodded, a slight movement. "Yeah. That's why he dragged my bed into his bedroom back in DC, too. I couldn't sleep alone. Sleeping alone meant I was in the cryo chamber. Too cold, too silent. Loss of time. I don't know which scared me more, the chair or the chamber."
Maria slowly looked back at the folder. "I'm not sure I'm ready for this," she said in a hushed tone. "I've never had a problem looking at an ugly report before, but... but this is you. Someone I love. I'm not sure I can get through this without wanting to hit something."
"We can put it away."
At first, she didn't answer, fingers hovering just over the picture. Finally, she shook her head. "No, I need to read this. I want to help you and Steve, I have to have all the information I can get at my disposal. He saw something in here that he hadn't before Hydra's drug." She looked at him. "You've been over it so many times, you might be missing something. I'm coming to this information fresh. Maybe I'll see what he did."
"You'll probably still want to hit something," he warned with a bit of a wry smile.
She took in a deep breath. "I'll hit some punching bags in the training room tomorrow."
"Mm. Would you rather wait to do this until tomorrow, then? Rather than sleeping on that?"
She shook her head. "No, I'm okay." She picked up the first page of the report, reading over the words, her eyes sometimes pausing to study words, like she wasn't quite fluent in the language the report was written in.
"Need help translating?"
Seconds passed, and a lump in Bucky's stomach formed with each page she read through. The first few pages were fairly harmless, just the basic information on the 'test subject' and the designs of the experiment itself. It could've passed for a paper in a peer reviewed journal, those pages.
She hadn't gotten to the real stuff, and the closer she got to that, the bigger the bowling ball in his stomach. She knew about the Soldier, knew some of his habits, knew some of the leftover programming in his brain that may or may not ever go away. But she'd never seen the transition between just Bucky to the Soldier to understand where those habits came from.
She lifted two pictures from the folder, looking between them. "They took part of your arm."
He leaned over, having tuned out where she was in the file so he could focus on her reactions. The picture in her left hand, closest to him, was a picture of his arm stump in a torn and messy state; the second picture showed a cleaner cut. "Yeah. The rock that tore off my arm didn't do a good job of making it easy for them to connect the wires in the mechanical arm to my flesh nerves."
Maria looked back down at the pages that were still on the bed. "It says they used only a mild sedative." Her eyes showed a warring of horror, disbelief, and raw anger when she looked back up at him. "You were awake for this?"
Christ, how to answer that without sending her off the edge into a seething rage fit or a crying jag. Deep breath. Think. Remember. "No. Between the sedative and the shock of the injury, I wasn't really aware. I-" Hesitation. Continuing meant risking the very reactions he didn't want, but he wanted to be truthful with her. Give her more than just what the papers were giving. A dirty little secret he'd never even told Steve. Maybe that would help her efforts to play peacemaker. "I have a vague memory of hearing the bone saw, and seeing it, but I was pretty far gone. I don't remember any pain."
That didn't seem to pacify her much, as she swallowed tightly, then set the pictures down. She flipped pages. Pages and pages of notes, all in fading script, line after neat line of chemicals and experimental steps and reports on successes and failures.
He watched over her shoulder, occasionally glancing at her to watch her lips move as she read, her eyes darting faster across the page the more she silently spoke the words she was reading. There were several times she stopped, closing her eyes with her expression on the verge of crumbling, followed by a series of shallow breaths that eased into deeper ones before she'd continue.
She finally had to stop at the first report of the effects of the mindwipe chair. "I can't do this," she whispered, closing the file. "Not all at once. I don't know what Steve's seeing, but it's not what I'm seeing."
Bucky slid the folder over to himself and put it back in the envelope before Maria changed her mind. She was likely to have nightmares now as it was, he wasn't going to add to them by letting her change her mind and push herself more. "They're not an easy read," he said quietly. "I don't know how Steve even got through them. If he ever did."
After setting the envelope back down on his nightstand, he turned back to her and wrapped his arm around her shoulders. She looked like she might either cry or throw up or both. She had a hand over her mouth and her eyes shut tightly. She didn't protest when he pulled her into a hug.
"Easy," he said, rubbing her far arm and petting her hair with his metal hand. "I'm here now, aren't I? I wouldn't be without this. I'd be dead without the Soldier."
She sniffed, pulling away and rubbing her eyes. "I don't know how Steve doesn't see that," she said. "I'll talk to him. Give me a chance to get through the rest of that, I'll talk to him. He might not even have read it all either."
Bucky never liked seeing Maria cry- she rarely did, unless her mother came into the conversation somehow -but the tears made her eyes shine a brilliant blue, open and vulnerable and trusting in him to be safe company for those tears. He rubbed his thumb under one of her eyes, wiping away the wetness that she hadn't succeeded in drying herself.
"It can wait," he said. "Don't push yourself. I can't even read that in more than small bits. I've done it several times, but I've had that longer, and I use it sometimes to remember on purpose."
He dropped his hand into his lap, looking off at the door as he tried to piece the answer to that into words. "Because I don't always understand some of my own habits, where they came from. Sometimes I forget and have to remind myself. Knowing there's a source for them makes me a little less weird. You've noticed, I have a lot of stray conditioning quirks, and I know a lot of them I can attribute to Hydra, but I don't know necessarily what it is they did to cause them. Some of them aren't explained by what's in there. Some of them I taught myself to survive."
"Like not thinking in words."
He snorted. "Yeah, there's that one. That was the Soldier's doing. What little was left of me hiding back in my own brain wanted to mouth off too much. Being the Soldier wasn't fun, but it's a good way to stay alive. Lots of survival skills I've hung onto that the Soldier learned from Hydra."
"Have you told Steve that?" she asked, pulling her knees up to her chest and resting her arms on them. "In words like that?"
She asked a good question. He blew out a slow breath. "No," he admitted. "Usually by the time I can get him to listen to me about the Soldier, we're both too riled up from everything else, and I just lose my damn mind. Talking's hard enough when I'm calm, trying to explain something like the Soldier and how I'm him and I only speak of him as a second person because it's the least confusing for me is impossible when I'm angry."
Maria rested her cheek on her arms, turning her head to face him as she did. "It's easier to talk about the Soldier like a separate presence in general. You act differently when you're inside his head."
She looked off to the side, quietly thinking. "You lose all your sense of fun and wit. You're just focused on the mission. Everything's about it." Then she smiled. "But your mission always boils down to protecting someone you love in the best way you can. He's just a way to focus in a situation that your normal way of thinking is distracting. I recognize that. I know Bruce does. Sharon probably does, too."
"Steve doesn't." He clenched his teeth. He hadn't meant to sound that bitter.
"He's never had reason to suspect that your focus came from the Soldier," Maria pointed out. "You never told him."
"I didn't think I had to," Bucky said, somewhere between a sulk and a growl. "He knew I had a lot of leftover hang ups that Hydra stuck in there, I don't see how it's a hard leap to get that at least part of the Soldier's still in here."
"I'll try to talk to him," she said. Then she patted his arm. "Come on. Sleep. We have some work to do tomorrow with all that audio/video recording."
Ah, the mission named Code Kitty. Right, rest period. "All right," he said, scooting back to pull the covers down from under his ass. She followed suit, settling down against him, head tilted slightly against his shoulder. He draped his metal arm across her waist. A kiss goodnight later, and they both closed their eyes to drop off to sleep.
Bucky noticed when he started to dream. The Soldier did not. The Soldier only knew to return to base, to walk through the pharmaceuticals building. Behind him, the building decayed and people who once worked there disappeared. Over his shoulder, the words 'father why have you forsaken us?' scribbled themselves in red spray paint.
He went down the stairs. Bucky wondered when the Soldier would wake up.
Test rooms and training halls. Never was the Soldier in any of them. The halls slowly wilted and filled with cobwebs, noises and sounds silencing as if they'd never been.
The labs were cold. They always were. The noise of saws and electricity and screams met him; then, as if the place emptied behind him, they ceased.
At the end of the hall was the final lab. There was no sign of his own ghost, the images of scientists that he recognized fading away like he was walking past their time and the space they occupied.
The cryo unit remained operational. There was someone in there.
He wondered who the replacement was. Maybe that's why he was the ghost. He was no longer needed.
His footsteps echoed hollowly against the chilly cement floor, boots leaving thumps too loud in the silence, as he approached the cryo unit.
There was someone inside. A face he recognized. His new replacement. The reason he was a weapon that was being abandoned. The reason he had to be destroyed.
With nothing he could do or say, he turned and walked away, leaving Steve Rogers in the cold.