WHO: Bucky Barnes WHAT: Bucky gets some new memories… WHEN: 3rd October, around midnight WHERE: Ruined Store, Freeside WARNINGS: Memories of Assassination, Brainwashing, Cryofreeze RATING | STATUS: Medium | Completed Narrative
The last month had been complicated. This whole place was messed up from the moment he had gotten brought here forcibly, but being trapped in what the locals called New Vegas was a special kind of messed up. On his end, he’d woken up in a lean-to that reminded him of the war… a time when it had all been much simpler, and they’d all known who they were fighting.
It wasn’t quite like that now.
Later on, Bucky had found out what his connections apparently were to this place. A lady that he had happened upon outside of the strip, Elizabeth Kieran, had chewed him out something fierce over disappearing for days. He hadn’t bothered to argue anything she said, knowing there would be no point, and those circumstances were better than whatever alternatives Steve had planned with the Avengers. Bucky had nothing against most of them, but he wasn’t one of them. And even though Steve wanted them all to get along, Bucky was going to keep his distance from Stark.
So he’d gone along with it. The work was easy, it gave him something to do and helped him keep under the radar. It also meant he had three meals a day and a cot to sleep in, which was more than most had in this messed up place. Sleep was still hard to find, but there were less people to ask questions around here, so he tried a little more. It was easier to concentrate on trying to sleep, then trying and failing to find out why and where Natasha and Wanda and Alex had vanished to all of a sudden. Wanda and Alex were his friends and he was concerned about them, even if he didn’t say it in so many words, and Natasha… where they stood was a lot more complicated, but her not being around at all felt really strange and unwelcome.
Even after a long day of searching with Steve for Natasha and Wanda and Alex, and helping Elizabeth with the store in-between, Bucky didn’t feel tired when he settled onto the cot late that night - but it didn’t take long before he fell into a very deep sleep.
“Get out of here!”
Steve’s shout echoed off the walls, making it even louder, and Bucky felt fresh energy surge into his limbs. His feet were pounding against the ground, trying to help him put as much space between himself and Stark as possible, while the shots flying past his head and impacting with the wall reminded him of the constant danger. He knew the quickest way out and that was where he was headed, even though he could hear Steve fighting with Stark and wanted to stop and help his best friend. But he knew the best thing was for him to get out of there.
“He’s not gonna stop. Go!”
Steve’s words echoed in Bucky’s ears while his hands moved quickly from grip to grip, scaling the rocket silo as quickly as possible. He was almost at the top, he could get out and away from Stark… the sound of a flying rocket whistled through his ears, then the colours of an explosion at the top of the silo snuffed that hope of escape out. Stark had blown the door. His hands let go of the grip he had on the wall, falling to a ledge a few feet down. He could hear Steve climbing up the silo as fast as he could but, for now, it was just him and Stark.
“I remember all of them.”
His vibranium shoulder collided with the ledge first, taking most of the impact out of the fall and helping him to roll over quickly. His own words hung in the air, a reminder of everything he had done and how much he hadn’t wanted to Steve to end up in the middle. Then he saw Steve’s shield, its distinctive colours a stark contrast to the dull gray of the Soviet facility, and he went for it without considering potential consequences - just like the day that he’d died. He and Steve fought together, using both the shield and their fists, as if it the last time had been only yesterday.
Bucky could feel the smooth metal of Stark’s helmet under his flesh and blood fingers, though it was only an afterthought as his vibranium fingers dug into the front of Stark’s suit and took hold of the reactor. Getting rid of that would make Stark unable to fight them on even terms; it would stop Stark from hurting Steve. Even when a noise began to come from the reactor, Bucky didn’t stop trying to yank it out… and he was blown backwards by a powerful blast of energy.
Pain crashed over him as he fell to the ground, automatically trying to get to his feet a moment later. His gaze shifted to the left and took in what was left of his vibranium arm, the sparking wires and mangled metal still glowing bright orange. The feeling of shock was barely able to take root before a blast hit him square in the back, sending him flying forward and making his back collide with the concrete floor. Bucky could hear Steve and Stark fighting, but the pain and shock clouding his senses and overwhelming his system made him unable to help Steve.
“I could do this all day.”
Then Stark stopped nearby, the sound of his weapon powering up, and Bucky reacted as fast as he could - though it wasn’t as fast as he wanted. Rolling over onto his side, Bucky grabbed Stark’s leg with his right - well, his only hand in an effort to distract him. It worked for a few seconds, and pain slammed into Bucky’s system again as Stark’s boot connected with his face, but it was just enough to give Steve the upper hand again.
It was hard to focus, equal parts of pain and shock flooding his system, but Bucky held onto consciousness with everything he had. The noise of the fighting sounded far away but eventually it stopped altogether, and Bucky tried to sit up in order to find out what was going on. Steve’s hand appeared in front of Bucky and he took it, climbing to his feet with Steve’s help, and slung his arm across his Steve’s shoulders as they started to walk away. He could hear Stark shouting at Steve and they stopped walking after a few moments, Bucky knowing that Steve was thinking about what Stark had said. The shield dropped to the floor next to them, and Bucky heard and saw it in the few seconds before Steve began walking again, taking himself and Bucky to safety.
“I can’t trust my own mind.”
The soft laugh that escaped Bucky’s lips offset the weight of his words. The white room that they were in was a complete opposite of the facility, clean and almost welcoming. He shared a smile with Steve, despite knowing what was about to happen. Unlike the facility and its cryo freeze chamber in Siberia, this one was almost comfortable in comparison. He closed his eyes and let the familiar feeling of the overwhelming cold wash over his skin, memories playing in the back of his mind, as he took a slow breath in and out… and then there was nothing.
A shout left Bucky’s lips as he came back to full consciousness abruptly, surging up into a sitting position on the cot. His right hand moved across his body quickly, searching for what he thought wouldn’t be there, but it was. His flesh and blood fingers wrapped around the vibranium limb, the cold and smooth metal that lay under his sleeve an unnerving comfort in that moment, even while his heart pounded against his rib-cage relentlessly. A light sheen of sweat covered his skin, which was entirely normal when he’d had one of his nightmares - but this hadn’t been.
The dream slotted so easily into the last thing that Bucky remembered when he had first arrived here, and he knew that the dream was his memories. The dream was what happened afterwards - the outcome of the fight between himself, Steve and Stark, he and Steve in Wakanda… and his decision to return to cryo freeze until his brainwashing could be undone. It was as if he’d had the memories before the dream, they were so real. It was unnerving, to sit there knowing that he hadn’t done any of it - yet have such vivid memories, both physical and mental, of doing all of it.
Then Bucky wondered - did Steve have the same memories? Would his best friend have had the same dream Bucky did? He shifted into a sitting position on the edge of the cot, reaching for his phone where he’d put it on the table next to the cot. Bucky went to his frequent contacts, which happened to be a very short list, and scrolled down with one swipe to get to Steve.
Except Steve wasn’t there.
Bucky’s brow knitted together briefly and he went to the default contacts list, scrolling down the list in order to get to Steve’s number. Bucky hadn’t trusted technology for a very long time and thought that maybe the phone had messed up, trying to ignore the feeling that was growing in his chest with each second that passed by. But again, Steve wasn’t there. There was another man with the same first name, but it wasn’t Steve Rogers. It was exactly the same thing that had happened the mornings Bucky had realised that Natasha and Wanda and Alex had disappeared.
All the people that had disappeared, their names vanishing from the phones as if they had never been there, had yet to be found and not for a lack of trying. Bucky knew that well; he and Steve had been looking for Natasha and Wanda and Alex, but it was as if they had simply vanished into thin air. A lot of people were choosing to believe that those who were missing would show up again and it would all be fine but, even while he never said a thing, Bucky believed that those people were doing their best to avoid the painful truth for as long possible.
The people were gone. They weren’t coming back. Whoever was responsible for all of this had returned them to wherever they had come from before all of this had started. And despite how much Bucky wanted to be wrong - to have none of it be true, he knew what it meant.