1965-01-19 - Court of Nevers: Story III - Bucky: Epilogue
Summary: What you want isn't what you always get.
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black-widow bucky rogue 

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He's utterly bewildered…..and it only hardens the conviction of brainwashing. Fanya gets a glance, but he turns that cold stare on Natasha, as the only adult present likely to know what's going on. "What have they done to him?" he asks her, and his voice has gone airless, dry, even as he leaves a hand on the arm of the chair. "What did you let them do?" Anger rising like an icy tide behind his voice.

Fanya clutches the arm of the wheelchair, careful not to apply any pressure that would send the wheels rolling forward. Not much distance separates Steve from the wall or the window, and knocking his blanket-wrapped legs against the solid surface might surely hurt. Her protective hackles are up, as much as the much older blond, still shrouded in perpetual prime of life, extends that same kind of quiet aegis to her. But then, who hasn't been under the wing of Captain Rogers in some way or another?

"Buck. I may be injured, but I'm not senile." His tone is gently chiding, a contrast to the frown from the young effigy. The Captain is not someone he keeps in his line of sight, focused on the wall ahead of him rather than facing his best friend. That deliberate choice lies flat. Remaining still, he doesn't fidget. But when has he ever? The smile creases his mouth for a moment. "Kind of the opposite. It is what they let me do. Anything I wanted, no expectations for the first time in a long while. Good for me to have a chance to recover without rushing in. Others are still dependent on me. Maybe just the one, but that has to be enough."

Natasha stands there, a blank expression on her face as Bucky doesn't answer her question, but instead charges with accusation. She remains silent, allowing Steve to answer himself, and once he does, Natasha offers, "I'm only here to support Fanya…Steve does as he pleases. You should ask him any questions you have about why he choose to stay here."

He gives her an incredulous look, turns to Steve…..gets in front of him, in fact, inserting himself into the original Captain's field of vision. "Steve," he says, more gently. "What is wrong with you? Why are you in a wheelchair? ….and if you need care, what are you doing in Russian hands? Do you even know where you really are?"

Steve turns his face away, the scar running down his jaw still. Bucky attempting to force the matter earns her to bear her teeth in displeasure. A reason: going too far for him pushes a concise warning in the new Captain's direction.

His hand shifts on the arm of the wheelchair. "Liberty never came free. I was hurt on the mission, real bad. The building came down." He holds entirely still. "They nursed me back rather than leave me for dead."

"Steve, look at me," it's a plea, rather than an order. "C'mon. What're you talking about? When you had to put the plane down in the ice?" A glance at Fanya, the silent Widow, as if in hopes of further explanation. "They've kept you here, like a prisoner. We didn't know what happened to you ….and there's better care to be had in the States, if you still need it." He makes an impatient gesture with the metal hand. "They want to do to you what they did with me. Use first as a tool, and then as a subject of experimentation. Because I bet you dollars to doughnuts that you didn't get Fanya the way most fathers get a daughter….more like how I've got more sons than I ever expected."

Steve shuts his eyes, letting out a breath that rattles in his chest. Some congestion there, the remnants of far worse done. Fanya hovers beside him, wound tight as a spring, prepared to leap away and find whatever he may require to once more be eased into comfortable respite once more. His brush of her clenched fist is far from accidental, one of those construed movements requiring minimal effort for maximum outcome. "When I came to the Soviet Union, hunting down the last of the scientists in the woods. The rails went live? The house that came down on me while you were running with the children. How long I was down, I don't know." He clenches his jaw at the memory, old ghosts floating through an expression wrought in iron-firm resolve to endure against many shadows.

The wounded expression shows such betrayal, all Fanya can do not to look at Bucky in total pre-teen anguish. Any bonds there are in flames.

He keeps breathing in a few more times, out a few more times, just to get his balance. "No one bothered me after they stabilised and settled me here. You got free. Everything you needed. You don't think I considered going back though things went south and stayed there? All the time. Got in the way of fixing everything, and only when I stopped… really stopped…" There's a ghost of that old smile, wounded but there. "It was okay for someone else to shoulder the burden. She needed me like I needed her. Someone to take care of who wouldn't break my health or a promise."

"Sitting here like a broken old man? Relying on Russian medicine?" The anger….it's like a sunrise over an icefield, brighter and brighter, colder yet. "Steve, no one is going to make you do anything, but you need to be back in America. YOu'll get better treatment than they can give you here, I guarantee it. And if she's really yours, if this isn't a charade to keep you here and quiet, let her come with you. She's clearly made from you - and citizenship goes down through the father." He clenches his hands behind his back for a moment, to avoid any sudden gesture. "I needed you, Steve. I still do. You're my friend. You're the one person for whom I'm still Bucky - not the Winter Soldier, not Captain America. I'm not trying to dump the shield back in your lap; if you're done, you're done. But what life is this, a shadow in a prison - if you reached out to let us know you were alive, we never heard. Most of SHIELD thought I was insane when I went looking for you"

How do you make someone understand? The man's heart must weigh of a stone, and the burning sadness in his sea-blue eyes would well fall upon the tortured world if he dared open them. "Not words you will want to hear, but they are true. No one keeps me here against my will," Steve says, his tone as even as they come. "I chose it. There is a beauty to people not really knowing me and accepting us as we are. Hardly a prison. I can go to the cinema, get books from the library, draw in the park if I like. Things go plenty slower but compared to what I was, this is an improvement." It's an almost wistful reflection out of him upon the significant growth and improvement.

Fanya is still practically welded to his side, and she receives a hand over hers, enclosing it. "Others need you more. Isn't that the problem? Sometimes we needed one another too much. Defined who we were and were not. You are always my friend. But you have your responsibilities and who else is going to teach her the right way to grow up? You know me. You know I cannot let that responsibility fall to someone else. Not going anywhere, Buck. You need to live your life."

"You can't do that at home, in the US? Steve, I don't believe you. YOu've been brainwashed, like I was. Just….they've done a better, gentler job than they did with me," he says, quietly. "They know who you are. Don't fool yourself. They may not strap you down and stick you full of needles, but they're using you just the same. Against us. If I'm no longer someone you listen to, what about your country, your homeland? This isn't better than being Captain America."

"Brainwashed by who, exactly?" He raises a golden brow, his mouth hardening a little, starting to measure up a volley of anger. "Hooked up to a machine? Subjected to a little girl and a procession of friendly faces? None of that. I remember what Hydra and the Third Reich used, and no one pulls the wool over my eyes." Steve shifts in the seat, earning another worried noise out of his erstwhile nymph of a companion. Her eyes are welling up, anger flickering at war with that confession of distrust. "Your worry isn't misplaced. I know why you worry, Buck, but this is me telling you I've made my choices open-eyed. They might not be yours. But you're asking me to uproot a child and come blitzing back into America, broken and shrouded in suspicions, hoping everything with settle just right? You know that won't happen. Peggy will want answers. The President will want answers. Someone will start up a roster. There won't be a sunny bedroom and a garage for the motorcycle for me. Half of them would be convinced like you just said yourself. She isn't mine, or I somehow ended up working with the Reds."

"By who? The Russians. Or maybe you've forgotten the Winter Soldier, the monster they created. And back home…they want answers now, Steve. You're a casus belli, sitting here, the first Captain America, broken and captive. So….let's think this out. The Reds aren't going to just let me walk out. They didn't let me walk in. They tried to kill me, and they're going to try when I leave. The only reason that they haven't come in and jumped me here is that they don't want you to see…..but say I get out. And I go back to Peggy Carter and tell her that 'Oh, Steve is just fine, he says he wants to be here, this is just the retirement he was dreaming of - nevermind that he's crippled in a wheelchair, which shouldn't be possible, after Erskine. And he has a daughter they made from him out of a test-tube' Do you think they're just going to shrug and go 'oh, well, tell him to send a postcard now and again?'" He shakes his head. "Steve, you can't stay here. I don't think you get it. Whatever dream you're living in, it won't last. You can pretend this is a choice, but it isn't."

Fanya shakes her head. "He isn't captive. Any time, we can go." Right, take the word of a girl not even fifteen tops. Though her seriousness is severe.

"Crippled? Whole lot better than what came out of the ground to get me in that blasted forest, Bucky. It's a small miracle that didn't kill me outright." Steve grimaces at the mention, the memory covering as much poisoned ground in the vault of the mind. "Think for just a second. No one came here until you." Brief silence follows, hesitation only to allow him to collect his thoughts. In some ways, Steve isn't wrong. "Seeing that little other choice is left, then moving on is probably in the best interests of everyone. They haven't been bad hosts." A hand slides down to the left wheel, which he turns to rotate away from Bucky, back to the shield and the uniform and the man. Pure coincidence, especially as he needs to face the teary blonde girl. "Go get your bag. Remember, only your important things. Aunty Lia's going to clean up but let's make sure your room is tidy."

Obviously reluctant, the girl gulps a soft sob and nods. She dashes out the door to comply.

"It's time you got going. Anyone can sneak past, you are the man for the task," Steve says. He pushes the blanket aside, needing no help getting up. Moving to the nightstand ends in collecting a few papers from within. "I'll be seeing you."

This wasn't the plan, not remotely. Down to him, no backup. No help from Steve. The weight of it comes down on him little by little, like snow made of lead. He's alone. He can't carry Steve out without help, especially if Steve fights…..and even if he makes it out, by the time he can get info to SHIELD, they'll've moved him again. This is a wash. Buck shakes his head again, hoists the shield, and turns to go. It's going to be a long, hard fight to get out of here, and there's Fitz and Clint to help.

Goodbye. It's the word they don't say and Steve cannot bring that to be said. He moves a bit stiff and wooden as he collects his things, still bearing the signs of some terrible thing done. Injuries that don't heal straight are a rarity in their world, true, but not an impossible situation what with all the oddities experienced, endured, and escaped in their lives.

He sighs quietly, when presumed not to be overlooked. The most he can give, lines hard on his face.

Fanya waits outside, clutching her go-bag.

Now it's time to move, and fast. There'll be hue and cry from Widow in a moment, more men converging. For Winter's legions of memories are many, and as deadly as he is, himself. More so, for they have none of the compunctions he carries now. The little flat's a rat trap, and he bursts out, shield before him, counting on it to bear him through the initial hail of bullets that has to be coming.

Transition five. Winter.

Orel tilts his head, kneeling below the crest of a forgettable wooded rise. This far into the hinterlands, relief in the landscape is next to nil. Trees abound at the very least, something to be grateful for, coverage.

His smile is a thing of summer, and these lands belong to Ded Moroz, frost and snow and biting chill. The absent expression takes its toll; Bravo team, Delta somewhere in motion to give coverage. "Where is he?" The question is so simply that. "Why does he not come back? This is not home."

A long, long look burns into the distance. «Genya…»

«Brainwashed,» says Buck, bleakly. «Him and Steve. Of course they'd be improving from what they did to me, did to you. They'd have more care with Steve, there's only the one of him. Now we go back. We don't have enough men to pry him out.»

Orel drags his hand back from his hair, about ready to throw something. What choices remain are slim, especially for him. He shoulders his pack and turns, awaiting the departure. «Home then.»

«Home,» he agrees. That's that, as soon as Fitz and Clint are well enough to travel. He doesn't have the wherewithal to say something encouraging. One more thing that came so naturally to Steve that remains out of his easy reach.

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