Steve Rogers’ POV
Of course he hasn’t forgotten about his soulmates. Bucky is impossible to forget, not ever. But it was been quite a while since their third has crossed his mind (he was always a bit afraid of sharing Buck with this new someone; even after the serum turned him into a living Adonis, because Bucky is his and is precious and no one deserves, not even his memory after his 70 year nap); and he is totally unprepared for this. Tony Stark. He doesn’t think that he could ever be ready for a man that can cut as deep with his tongue as with a knife; who is always trying to look bigger than he is, sucking the air in any room with that arrogance and posture.
So, when he sees dark lines of writing on Stark’s right side, he reads them and he freezes. There, in between his ribs, a jagged scar barely missing the first letter, there’s a “Mr. Stark” and right under it another line “I wasn’t su-” that he can’t read completely. Stark sees him watching and laughs bitterly.
“Really original, hnm?” he mocks, still checking the ark reactor to see if the new one works fine. “You can’t imagine the amount of people that starts conversations with me that way, just to have a chance. My teenage self was so hopeful every time it happened, but after a while I stopped caring. If it is ‘meant to be’ it’ll happen, right?” Tony says with a bitter smile, pulling his shirt down, and leaving the bathroom.
‘I can imagine it…it was the same thing with me.’ Steve doesn’t say, thinking about the “Captain” neatly scrawled on his inner right thigh. He takes a few deep breaths and finishes drying his hands before going out.
He doesn’t tell Stark.
He doesn’t tell Stark because…because he doesn’t want Tony, and he is not ready to pretend to like him after the Hellicarrier; and Bucky is still fresh in his mind, so he shuts up and goes on his road trip, and doesn’t feel guilty. He does not feel sorry about hiding something so fundamental from a person that had his back on a life-and-death situation and proved to be a good man; because Tony Stark made pretty clear (in many interviews) that he doesn’t need a soulmate, that he is fine on his own. A man like that…well, maybe he doesn’t deserve a soulmate; he doesn’t deserve him or Bucky’s memory.
He doesn’t call Stark when he starts to suspect HYDRA, because that would be admitting that the man was right about SHIELD. He doesn’t use the number he knows can reach the genius because he is not prepared to owe him. And then Bucky comes back, like a miracle, and he doesn’t want him near his Bucky.
He keeps quiet about the soulmate thing because if he tells him now, Stark will know that Bucky is his soulmate too. And he would look hard for him, would learn everything there possible is to know about him (it’s too risky, with those HYDRA files out there and the information he and Natasha were told in New Jersey). Besides, Bucky is his, alright? Tony doesn’t have a right to him. Steve is the one that lost everything, he gets to keep this one thing to himself. He gets to keep his soulmate to himself, okay?
He is proven right when Ultron happens (he would never trust someone like Stark with Bucky, he is unworthy, with his secrets and his shifting blame and his lies). And if the trust he places in Wanda is more out of desperation to prove Tony wrong than empathy; no one needs to know.
And so, they move to the Compound; and it’s good to know that Tony won’t be poking around where he shouldn’t. (JARVIS being gone helps too; the AI was too used to tell Stark everything and keep looking even when Tony said stop…and wasn’t that a sign of how problematic and destructive Starks inventions could be?).
The team grows stronger. Wanda is a strong asset; the Vision is weird but eager to learn (and keeping him away from Stark’s influence is a good reason to let him in). Besides, having the Vision bond with Wanda (although it makes him heave a little every time he thinks about it) is a good thing; she’s part of his team and the Vision will follow her. Colonel Rhodes is experienced and a good pilot, even if he is way too loyal to Stark. Natasha is a great second and Sam is as loyal as ever and life.is.good. He is content. The only thing missing is Bucky, but Steve can wait if it means Tony won’t meet him anytime soon.
Then Lagos happens and it’s his fault, somewhat, for letting Rumlow live and get distracted. Wanda is the one to pay the price, poor kid, she gets crucified by the media. Then Tony shows up with these ridiculous Accords (named after his disaster; so obviously he had a hand (or two or three) on it).
He refuses, of course he does. It’s not the Governments’ place to tell them who and how to defend. They are the ones with the powers, so they get to decide that. They-he knows best. Their (his) hands are the safest there are. (Natasha siding with Stark hurts a little, but he knows she’ll come around).
Peggy dies, and he dies a little with her too. She (besides his soulmate) was the only thing left of his in this time; he’ll miss having her with him. He wishes Bucky was standing beside him, saying goodbye to her. But Sharon’s there, and she’s as good a company as anyone.
Vienna is bombed and Bucky is framed; thus Steve convinces Sharon to help him; and together with Sam he leaves for Bucharest. Bucky is innocent, and he won’t die with a ‘shoot on sight’ order, like a dog. He is sorry for hurting those officers, but they wouldn’t stand down and let him take Bucky away. And he’s willing to sacrifice a lot to keep Bucky; he will sacrifice everything.
They run, crash a few cars, destroy a few things, but eventually get stopped by a cat-man (who turns out to be the new King of Wakanda) and War Machine. They get arrested (what?) by the UN and their gear gets taken away (like he’d need it to get out of here if he wanted to). Bucky gets restrained and is shown off like a circus animal. Tony offers him a deal (he knew Stark had wrote the Accords, how else could he offer such a thing? He was obviously waiting for something like this to happen, so he could pressure them into signing those papers; manipulative and slippery like rich people always are).
And he would have; if it wasn’t for how Tony treated Wanda. She is not a criminal to lock her up! Less of all on her home, where she is supposed to be safe. He refuses the deal (when he thinks back to it, he is sure Sam would have supported his decision).
Then something happens to Bucky and he tries to stop him from running off and disappearing; he stops a fucking chopper and they somehow end up all wet, again (always water and ice with them, right?). Sam finds them and together they manage to get Bucky out and hid him; securing his metal arm in case he is ‘hostile’ (as Sam calls it) when he wakes up.
When he does wake up, it’s worse than what Steve could have imagined. Another five winter soldiers? This is why the Accords are a crappy idea! Before, he’d had the Avengers ready for battle in hours. Now, with Tony and his Accords, he can’t trust half his team nor use their own resources. He has to wait for Clint and Wanda (and that guy Sam vouched for); and stay out of sight until they arrive. Only then they can snatch a plane or helicopter or something and go stop the bad guy.
So, because he can’t trust Stark or Natasha, he calls Sharon. She is a good girl, a nice dame. Not near on the same level as Peggy, but she gives them what they need; so he gives her what she’s wanted since DC (a kiss that means nothing to him, because he has Bucky back and Peggy’s kiss was far better) as a reward.
They meet with the team (plus this guy that calls himself ‘Ant-man’ and is obviously new at the hero thing) in an Airport somewhere in Germany and they get ready to go. But the airport is evacuated and with that their chances of a no confrontation route. They need to get to Siberia now. He needs to prove that Bucky is innocent and he needs to stop the other soldiers so that everyone will believe they can be trusted; that the Avengers will protect them. Tony and his Accords can’t stop them, even if he doesn’t want to help them.
The battle is a mess: friend fighting friend, and the team hurting each other and he hates Tony for doing this to them, to him. This is (was) his family and now it’s broken; because of secrets and lies and guilt. He resents a little the trust that Tony puts in this kid he is sure he just met (such intel like how to take him down could be very dangerous if his opponent was someone more powerful), but won’t listen to them.
His team splits up in the fight and they (he and Bucky) are chosen to go and stop the threat. It feels like losing. But Natasha lets them go, and Steve knew she would eventually come to her senses; that she wouldn’t be persuaded by Tony for much longer. She is a smart woman, Tony can’t control her like he tried to do with Wanda.
They get to the Quinjet and nobody catches up to them. Bucky wonders if he’s worth it, and how can he even ask that? He is worth everything Steve has.
They get to Siberia, and Steve tries really hard to make Bucky remember why all of this is worth it; to be together again, like they were back in Brooklyn and in then in the war. Their freedom is so close. They just have to stop this mad doctor and prevent the soldiers from leaving the base.
Tony finds them, somehow, and although he doesn’t give them a proper apology; Steve is kind of glad to have him as backup. Like Natasha’s report said: Iron Man yes. He will be useful. Steve is suddenly concerned about what Bucky might say to Tony, so he signals him to keep quiet. When Tony sees that Bucky is still pointing at him and says “At ease, soldier. I'm not currently after you.”; he feels his heart stop. He remembers now why he was so terrified of Bucky leaving him behind back in the 40’s: what if he met their third and left him? But Buck doesn’t react to the words and Steve chokes back a sigh of relief. Maybe HYDRA took the words away? Or made him forget about them? It’s an awful thing to think about, but…perhaps it’s for the better.
They search through the base following the armor’s readings and find the room where the soldiers were kept. But the soldiers are dead and the doctor is waiting for them after a door they can’t break through just yet. The man’s name is Zemo, he is a sokovian; and he plans to destroy the Avengers.
It works. His deranged plans work. The video they are forced to watch is bad; and he can’t help but look at Bucky, who has to watch his body (under HYDRA’s control) kill a friend. He looks at Tony too, and he feels for him, but why can’t he just accept the need to hid this from him? He could understand the punch he got, but there was no need to attack Bucky. It wasn’t him, he didn’t do it!
He tries to talk to Stark, but the man won’t listen, so he must be stopped before he can kill Bucky. Steve attacks with all he has, and almost loses. But Bucky has his back, and he manages to throw Iron Man to the floor.
Why? Why did Stark had to be their third? Why him? Why couldn’t he have died before Bucky showed up again? Why does he have to be so arrogant and loud and smart!?
He rips his shield out of the armor and helps Bucky get to his feet. Stark’s words about the shield and his father make him pause, but he lets them go; lets it drop, because he has Bucky and that’s all he ever needed.
They step away from the base, slowly walking into the snow. The King approaches them, but before any of them can do anything, he offers them sanctuary on his country. Steve is doubtful, but he guesses that if the King has heard Zemo and is ready to turn him in; then he understands that they were set-up and…well, he seems remorseful enough. So he agrees in behalf of all the team (he is sure they will be relieved to have a safe place to go to when he rescues them).
T’Challa asks him about Stark’s wellbeing; but he says that they got it out of their systems and he is cooling off; surely putting his pride back together after the defeat. The King gives him an odd look, but accepts his words as true (as everyone should).
They leave Siberia behind, and despite the fighting (he hates fighting his own people) and the injuries (he looks morosely at Bucky’s stump); he hasn’t breath this easy in a long time.
James Barnes’ POV
When he got into that plane he was almost in a catatonic state. He left Steve carry him inside and sit him in one of the seats (gentle, oh so gentle, like he was some fragile relic to keep safe). The blonde then went to talk to the king (and wasn’t he trying to kill him a few hours ago?) while he just sat there, like a puppet whose strings are cut. His head couldn’t stop re-playing the words he’d heard all over again.
At ease, soldier. I'm not currently after you.
Did you know?
I don’t care
He killed my mom
Do you even remember them?
Do you even remember them?
Do you even remember them?
He couldn’t entirely process it. Tony Stark was his other soulmate.
HYDRA never made a great effort to delete the words; because they thought the same thing that he did: that whoever his soulmate is was part of the war and that they would have died already. That and the constant wipes… he didn’t even remember what soulmates were most days.
And when he managed to break through the programming he was such a mess the only thing he wanted was to run away. Away from HYDRA, and SHIELD and all the agencies that were out for his blood. Away from the fragments of maybe-memories, of blood and death and screams and pleas that were never answered.
He got out.
He lost most of the people looking for him, and the others eventually stopped (except the stubborn blonde and his friends). He managed to rent a small place; not very safe and really old but his; and had written through a good number of notebooks (nightmares, memories, sensations, dreams…most of the time not even he was sure of what they were); patching up a bit of his memory every month.
And then, suddenly, his face was in the papers again; and he knew he had to flee. But he didn’t, couldn’t, because Steve was there and he wanted to talk when they should be running. The officers got in and his survival instinct kicked in. Still, he took his bag and jumped, trying not to hurt anybody else; but this cat-man came out of nowhere and it became a chase. And then an arrest, and then a prison, and then and then and then…
They got here, somehow. Abandoning the whole team they had put together, they got the jet and flew to Siberia. Stark followed them and he spoke to him (what had he said? He, he couldn’t have said that…right? Stevie would have said something…). But the clusterfucks continued, with this doctor and his vicious but brilliant plan.
The video…oh, god, the video. He would be lying if he said he doesn’t remember; because he remembers all his missions, they didn’t want him to forget that, would they? But it was the first time he had been working with a member of a family he had destroyed (and how hadn’t he known?); so, he got to watch Stark crumble as the footage played, before his very eyes.
And in that moment? He would have gladly asked Stark to end him, if it would bring the man some closure. But Steve had to get in the way, and he wouldn’t let Stark kill his soulmate, he just couldn’t. For Stevie, that little punk that he loved with all his heart, even if he didn’t remember the man very well; even if this Steve was so very different from that one, more than just physically.
As he lay there in the cold concrete, liberated from that metal arm that had killed so many people and listening to the ragged breaths beside him; he wanted it to end.
But Stevie wanted him back on his feet, so he followed him, like he always used to do.
Now he was starting to regret that decision. He was hurting everywhere. People had died. The teammates that had their backs were probably in prison. They are on a plane heading towards a mysterious country whose new leader wanted them death a few hours before. He had lost his arm and Steve had dropped his shield like it was trash. They had beaten their third soulmate half to death and just left him there.
So why is Steve smiling?
Bucky had been distant ever since they had come back from Siberia. He hadn’t wanted to share a room, or eat together more than once a day. He spent most of his days inside his room, writing on a notebook the palace staff had provided for him. Or outside in the open, lost in the jungle so that Steve couldn’t find him. He also had sessions with a lot of doctors and scientists, people that he thought could help with his memory and the trigger words.
It’s been a few weeks now, since the whole ‘Civil War’ thing; and Steve had finally convinced the King to let them break the others out of the Raft. Natasha had gathered the intel about where they held and along with Bucky they had being putting together a plan to break into the underwater prison. Bucky didn’t talk much either; he just listened to the blond tell his version of the facts to a pissed off Black Widow and anyone who would listen. The fact that they were soulmates or that the Winter Soldier had murdered Stark’s parents was never mentioned.
Rogers had been gleeful about integrating his soulmate to his team; but Bucky hadn’t really shown the same enthusiasm. Natasha was a little ticked off by it, but Steve often reminder her (as well as himself) that Bucky had go through a lot of trauma at the hands of Tony Stark (losing his arm a second time hadn’t been easy) and just needed some time to go back to his old self. To be the same soulmate Steve lovingly remembered.
Their mission, to no one’s surprise, was a success. They had gotten in and gotten out in a matter of minutes, without much trouble. But the mood inside the jet was dark; and not much was said during the flight.
Until Sam, when they were about to land, asked about Bucky’s arm, and if Stark had lied to him about going there as a friend.
When Steve had opened his mouth to say ‘yes’; the other super soldier had enough.
“No.” At Steve’s surprised look, the brunet continues “don’t you dare keep lying about this, Steve. These people know him, so don’t you dare.”
“Bucky” Steve starts, reaching out to touch the brunette’s shoulder.
“No” Bucky snaps, moving back to avoid the blonde’s touch. The rest of the team stares with wide eyes at the blatant rejection. “You didn’t tell me he was our soulmate, Rogers, you didn’t tell me. And judging by the way he flinched when I first talked to him, you didn’t tell him either. How could you do that? Why would you do that!?” the soldier’s breathing is fast and his fist is clench tight enough that his skin is white; but he is still dodging Steve’s eyes.
Natasha squints her eyes at that new information, and Sam swears in a whisper. Clint decides to take Wanda to the medical team at one side of the landing pad, not giving a damn in the moment.
“What, is he not good enough for you? Do you hate him so much that you decided to keep to yourself that you two are soulmates, that he has another soulmate and perhaps even more important, that I killed his parents!?” The hateful and disgusted shine in the brunette’s eyes make Steve wish he hadn’t made eye contact. Sam’s mouth is gapping and his eyes are wide open, incredulous; the Black Widow is clenching her teeth and her hands are at her sides, reaching for her weapons.
“Don’t call me that! I’m not Bucky anymore, I’m certainly not your Bucky anymore. I don’t know if I ever want to be your ‘Bucky’ again.” The blonde flinches at that, like he has been kicked in the stomach.
“B-please, just, let me explain-”
“Explain what, Rogers? That you have been lying to our soulmate since the day you met him? That you kept his parent’s murder a secret so that you wouldn’t have to…to what? Ask for his help? Be reasonable? Ask forgiveness? Listen to him?” James can’t deal with the blonde anymore, so he turns around to leave. But before, he says his last piece “You are not my Stevie anymore either. I am ashamed of being your soulmate; and your mother would be ashamed of having you as a son.” With those final words he leaves the hangar and goes to medical, to see if what he has in mind is possible.
He has a request to make to the king.
And it’s not to go back into cryo like he first wanted.